Thursday, November 16, 2017

recent reads (listens) ; back to basics

I've been rather lazy about book reviews lately. Part of that is I've been reading older stuff by authors who have passed on - so they don't necessarily need the Amazon/goodreads review bumps.

I've surpassed my goodreads reading goal (65 books) for 2017. Yes, that includes some graphic novels but not nearly as many as last year. Audiobooks have helped - I listen to them on my daily commute.

Two recent listens;

THUNDERBALL by Ian Fleming, read by (actor) Jason Isaacs.

This was absolutely stellar. If you're a Bond fan, you should try this when you have time. I am going to press on with these and finish off the original Fleming books. This particular run of audios features British celebrity readers. Looking forward to more though I'm a little disappointed Isaacs didn't perform any of the others.

THE SIGN OF THE FOUR by Arthur Conan Doyle, read by Derek Jacobi.

A fun reading. Jacobi works solidly with accents, including Americans. I'm only getting to the original Sherlock Holmes tales now - largely thanks to the influence of Charles R. Rutledge (also responsible for my interest in Burroughs's original Tarzan tales, too.) My only complaint is that this story - like A STUDY IN SCARLET - features a second half prequel story set in America without Holmes at all. However, I didn't feel quite as cheated as with A STUDY IN SCARLET, because here the midpoint reveal doesn't come out of the blue.

Aside from audios, Rutledge is also responsible for kindling my interest in Solar Pons.

Pons was August Derleth's Holmes pastiche who went on to a life of his own, with Basil Copper continuing the stories in the 1970s. Recently, Copper's tales came back into print in paperback from PS Publishing in the UK.

Also, a Kickstarter campaign launched brand new stories written by David Marcum with the permission of the Derleth estate. Marcum is a Holmes/Pons aficionado. (The campaign was successful. If you missed out, the book can be ordered from Amazon.)

Because the original Derleth tales are now the ones out-of-print, I hope this campaign carries on to reprint the original Derleth stories in the near future.

Not sure how long I'll be deep diving on thrillers, mystery and crime but I might be here a while.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Autumn Leaves

Welcome the sound of dry leaves
Skittering o’er pavement
Crinkling underfoot
Rustling on their dormant trees

(ain't much but I came up with it on my lunchtime walk and had to write it down) 

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Twisted Book of Shadows

This is some exciting, hopeful news!

Christopher Golden and James A. Moore are taking the plunge - they want to start a horror anthology with blind, open submissions.
Anthologies were a vital, formative part of our development as writers — and as readers. We look back with love and wonder at the efforts of the legendary Charles L. Grant to bring the cream of the horror crop into readers’ hands. His eleven-volume SHADOWS series contained familiar names, but every installment also presented us with the unfamiliar, and often the brand-new. Other Grant anthologies — TERRORS, NIGHTMARES, MIDNIGHT, the quartet of GREYSTONE BAY books — provided the same. Charlie Grant helped move unknown writers into the horror community’s conversation.

There were other anthologies that contributed to the trend. Thomas F. Monteleone’s BORDERLANDS series. Kathryn Ptacek’s WOMEN OF DARKNESS. Stuart David Schiff’s WHISPERS series. Kirby McCauley’s legendary DARK FORCES. Skipp & Spector’s milestone BOOK OF THE DEAD. David J. Schow’s SILVER SCREAM. And on and on…

But those books were published during horror literature’s glory days. In the years since, it has grown more and more difficult to persuade publishers to invest in horror anthologies (or anthologies of any sort, really). If Golden wants to pitch an anthology to a mainstream publisher, it’s necessary to compile a list of contributors first. Which means that there’s little opportunity to bring in unknown writers.

Yet those memories remain. We have talked for years about the desire to present an anthology that is open to anyone...
They have chosen to go with GoFundMe on this, rather than Kickstarter.
...we’re doing this as a GoFundMe instead of a Kickstarter because we want to focus on paying the writers. No gimmicks, no fancy prizes … nothing like that. No incentives other than a great reading experience and a level playing field for authors. We believe that there are enough people out there who believe in this project that we’ll be able to meet our goal
Needless to say, an open horror anthology piloted by these two guys will be a huge opportunity, both for writers (obviously) but also readers who want to discover new authors and read top-notch horror tales.

They will be working with John McIlveen's Haverhill House to publish the book.

Please give their project details a complete read-through and contribute if you feel this a worthy endeavor. (There are no reward tiers but a $25 donation will get you a digital copy of the book.) Link below.


Friday, October 20, 2017


WICKED HAUNTED officially launches today!

I posted about this anthology in August when my story, "East Boston Relief Station," was accepted.

Note that the Kindle edition is at a launch sale price for the next week, $2.99! (regular e-price will be $4.99) Or, feel free to buy a print edition. Or both! ;)

Get yourself some groovy ghost stories!

Monday, September 25, 2017

recent read; The Mines of Behemoth


This is the second book concerning Nifft the Lean and is a full novel, unlike the first collection of novellas.

Nifft the Lean and Barnar Hammer-Hand are thieves fallen on hard times. They sail to earn money working a "sap mine." This is no ordinary venture - the "sap" comes from draining gigantic grubs - the offspring of even more gargantuan behemoths. These creatures nest in our world and burrow far into the demon sub-world to sustain their ravenous appetites. On their way to the task, Nifft and Barnar are offered a more lucrative enterprise. Despite growing dangers, their work yields more and more opportunities for wealth, which the two thieves cannot resist to exploit.

Shea seemed to love giant monsters. The creatures throughout the Nifft tales are mostly of giant proportions. It's an interesting take for fantasy novels, where - aside from dragons or frost giants - heroes often face things their own size or somewhat larger.

Shea's use of language in these tales borders on purple and flowery but it does convey and bring Nifft's world to life in vivid detail.

The Nifft stories are heroic fantasy but somewhat removed from classic sword-&-sorcery. The combat is negligible, often tossed off in a few words as monstrous limbs are hacked. No hard or long fought duels or grand armies in battle. There is more an exploration of the fantasy world and Nifft's character journey.

Speaking of which, Nifft does get greedy along the arc of this tale. To the point where I was afraid I wouldn't like him at the end. But Shea, thankfully, includes redemption in the conclusion of the story.

I enjoyed Nifft's journey through the behemoth mines. I'll be returning for THE A'RAK in the near future.

(p.s. - Technically, this was a "recent listen" not a "recent read" as THE MINES OF BEHEMOTH is out-of-print but available through Audible.)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

recent read; A Conversation in Blood


Egil and Nix are back.

The story started off a little slow this time. Egil spends too much time in his cups and Nix tries to pull his friend out of the downward spiral while feeling caged and edgy himself. Finally, Egil and Nix and their friends agree that Egil and Nix need to get busy with an adventure.

Spring-boarding from the previous story, Nix decides to investigate a mysterious treasure they secured on the their last adventure. As their luck would have it, the simple task of investigation blows up in their faces and they are soon on the run from wizards, unkillable creatures, and seeking sanctuary in the last place they want to go; the thieves' guild house - which they had assaulted in the previous novel.

Egil and Nix are their bantering selves and this time they are joined by a third adventurer, Jyme, who returns from their first story, THE HAMMER AND THE BLADE.

Kemp peels away a few more layers of the onion that is the history their world, too. Tantalizing tidbits.

Though the story is still very much (what I would call) sword-&-sorcery/heroic fantasy milieu, the stakes do get very high and large in scope by the climatic end of the tale.

Though events in A CONVERSATION IN BLOOD are initiated by events of the previous novel, the book can be read standalone.

A CONVERSATION IN BLOOD is another satisfying romp with Egil and Nix.

One complaint that has nothing to do with the story or the writing - the font of the mass market paperback. I am very disappointed with Del Rey. The font on this is just ridiculously small. Yes, I have glasses but I hate taxing my eyes as I get older. I find the use of tiny fonts with small presses, sometimes, and I assume they are cutting page count and cost. I still don't like it and I see no reason why a larger press like Del Rey needs to do such a thing.

Pay for the extra print pages!

Luckily, for my old eyes, I listened the audiobook.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

recent read; THE BONE EATER KING

THE BONE EATER KING by Steve Van Samson

When an author states that one of Robert E. Howard's stories was a direct influence and inspiration to his novel, my ears perk up. When the author then notes "Hills of the Dead," rather than the expected Conan nod, you have my rapt attention.

"Hills of the Dead," of course, features REH's hero, the God-driven Solomon Kane, striding through vampires in an Africa of the 1500s.

Though inspired by Robert E. Howard's "The Hills of the Dead," this story is no re-tread. Van Samson chooses Africa as his setting but he wisely uses current (near-future) Africa rather than a past, pulp styling of the Dark Continent. Van Samson's Africa, while a post apocalyptic wasteland, touches on modern Africa - poverty and success, wealth and knowledge, game reserves, poachers, industrial complexes and modern cities.
Once there were no more plant eaters, carnivores had to turn on each other for food. Lion preyed upon the jackal and the hyena upon the leopard, but all cowered before the new apex, the matsatsaku maza.

Welcome to Predator World.
The matsatsaku maza are monstrous vampires and Van Samson plays with traditional tropes and African myth to create his own unique breed of vampires.

The story tells of the red man, who we learn is in some form of vampire transformation. He is befriended by a hard warrior woman, with her own secrets and emotional baggage. They make their way through the deadly terrain, heading for sanctuary - of which there is little to be found.

Van Samson handles the narrative very well. Confusion and fear are palatable. The non-linear unfolding keeps the reader interested and engaged. The African setting is stellar - another intriguing facet of the story.

THE BONE EATER KING is a startlingly original horror action novel that grabs you tooth and claw and does not let go.

I'm already excited to read its sequel, MARROW DUST.