High Noon with the Dust Devils – An Interview With Jonathan Janz

Jonathan Janz:

My very good friend Hunter Shea (who also happens to be one of the best writers in and out of the horror genre working today), interviewed me on his blog. Here’s what happened…

Originally posted on Hunter Shea:

Jonathan Janz is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. If you’ve never read his books, you might assume the mind behind the man is as unassuming as a Norman Rockwell painting. Thankfully, you’d be wrong. Dead wrong. This is a man who knows how to spin a twisted, pulse-pounding yarn. He’s been one busy dude since making his Samhain Horror debut a couple of years ago.

I’m both thrilled and honored to interview the man who conjures some of the finest books in the genre. His latest, Dust Devils, is a terrifying tale of Vampires in the old west. Grab a stake, crucifix and some garlic and read on, my children of the night….

Speaking as a fellow author who was writing his own western horror the same time as you, what made you decide to set Dust Devils in the old, wild west?

I think—at least at this point in…

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Book Review of Dust Devils by Jonathan Janz

Jonathan Janz:

New and very cool Samhain Horror author reviewed DUST DEVILS on his blog. Here’s what he had to say…

 

Originally posted on Scary Funny:

Courtesy: Samhain Publishing

Courtesy: Samhain Publishing

Jonathan Janz has a way with words (sometimes requiring me to grab a dictionary), but that’s okay! His story, Dust Devils, set in New Mexico in the 1880s, chronicles the journey of Cody, a vengeful young man whose wife is slaughtered by a troupe of vampires masquerading as actors.

Thank God Janz subscribes to the notion that vampires are evil creatures that torment and murder without remorse. Teenage girls looking for forlorn, pasty-skinned vampires who’ve never had a pimple and who attend high school to blend in will find no sanctuary here.

It would be simplistic and a disservice to say Dust Devils, released earlier this year by Samhain Horror, is a tale of one man seeking revenge on those who wronged him. It’s a story that touches on the definition of masculinity in a harsh world (harsh to Cody even before the vampires entered…

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The Weekly Janz Dance Party

Love This Song

Love This Song

We’re dancers, my family. Oh, I don’t have any skill at it. In fact, were one to drive by our big picture windows during one of our dance sessions, one would think I was being attacked by a swarm of Japanese hornets. Or suffering from demonic possession.

We jump, shake, twist, and perform our own patented move—a gravity-defying maneuver called the Spin Jump. And my kids (8, 6, and 3) don’t care (yet) that their dad is a complete dork, which helps a great deal. So here, without further preamble, was tonight’s mix:

The Lizard King

The Lizard King

The Black Crowes: “Hard to Handle”
Modern English: “I Melt with You”
Dexy’s Midnight Runners: “Come on Eileen”
The Charlie Daniels Band: “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”
The Doobie Brothers: “Listen to the Music”
Tim McGraw: “For a Little While”
The Doors: “Light My Fire”
The Beatles: “Ticket to Ride”
John Mellencamp: “Hurts So Good”
The Emotions: “Best of My Love”
AC/DC: “Back in Black”
Elvis Presley: “Big Hunk O’Love”
Prince: “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man”

Fellow Hoosier

Fellow Hoosier

So there you have it. Our dance mix for the week. If you drive by some night, don’t worry. I’m perfectly healthy. Or reasonably so.

I just can’t dance a lick.

My kids though? They absolutely kill it.

Artist

Artist

Horror Novel Reviews Gives “The Clearing of Travis Coble” Five Stars!

Hey, friends. In a deadline month, so gotta be brief. Reviewer Joe Hempel, whose thoughts are featured on both Horror Novel Reviews and Top of the Heap Reviews, just published a new five-star review of my novelette “The Clearing of Travis Coble.” Here’s how the review opens…

“The Clearing of Travis Coble is an exercise in excellence when it comes to short story telling. Jonathan Janz manages yet again, to create believable, yet terrifying, characters, and stunning, yet terrifying locations.”

You can read the entire, excellent review right here.

And if you haven’t picked up “The Clearing of Travis Coble” yet, the terror awaits you here.

Available now from Untreed Reads

Available now from Untreed Reads

Have a great night, friends. My kids and I just dropped off a wife-made cake for my grandpa, who turned 89 today. Now I’m gonna go hang with the kids, then the wife, then the current manuscript. And maybe call grandpa one more time before bed.

Bloodshot: A Violent Love Letter

When I first heard about Kindle Worlds, I have to admit that I didn’t see myself participating in the program. Sure, it sounded interesting, but the control freak in me recoiled at the idea of using someone else’s creation to fashion my own narrative.

Until I started thinking about Bloodshot.

Ready to explode onto your Kindle

Ready to explode onto your Kindle

He’s an anti-hero, a loner, a being who will forever exist on the fringes of society. Ordinary human relationships will always be a challenge for him, not so much because he doesn’t feel anything—as you’ll see in my novel, I believe he actually feels a great deal—but because he will forever be immersed in dangerous situations and can never truly grow comfortable in the world most of us know.

So in Bloodshot: Kingdom of Shadows, I explore these ideas and really try to examine the marrow of this iconic anti-hero. I also allow Bloodshot to do what he does best—dish out ultra-violent retribution to those who have it coming. But even the action sequences, I believe, illuminate the ongoing evolution of this character. Whether he’s battling mobsters inside a famous New York landmark or fending off supernatural creatures in the lightless catacombs beneath the city, Bloodshot is developing his own personal code.

In some ways, he is a uniquely innocent character—my story takes place only a year after his blood was replaced by microscopic technological marvels called nanites, which effectively means he was reborn—yet there is also a shady, violent past that haunts him and renders him unable to begin his newer existence with a completely fresh slate. The tension between what Bloodshot once was and what Bloodshot now is creates a supercharged conflict within him as he decides what he will someday become.

I find that fascinating.

My story is violent; there’s no question about that. Bloodshot is faced with ferocious villains who won’t scruple to destroy lives and to endanger innocent people to further their vicious agendas. And Bloodshot isn’t shy about dispatching these villains with his unique brand of brutality.

Bloodshot1coverB-780

But despite his lethal abilities, Bloodshot is far from an unthinking, unfeeling machine. Bloodshot has a heart, and he doesn’t want innocent people to suffer. No, he might not win any sensitivity awards, and at times his lack of sentimentality makes me cringe. But I believe he wants to do the right thing. He wants the world to be a place of light instead of shadow.

In Bloodshot: Kingdom of Shadows, he will confront the forces of darkness to save an old friend’s life. And I hope you, Dear Reader, will take that journey with him. Whether you’re a long-time fan of Bloodshot or meeting him for the first time, I think you’ll find the journey worth your while.

“It all builds up for an astonishing ending”: Fresh Fiction Reviews THE DARKEST LULLABY!

Hey, friends. I’m poring over the final edits of CASTLE OF SORROWS (coming in July!), editing THE NIGHTMARE GIRL (my January 2015 Joe R. Lansdale-inspired suspense-thriller), and taking a brief respite to post this great new review for THE DARKEST LULLABY, which was my third Samhain Horror novel (for those of you keeping score).

Check it out right here.

Creepy Horror

Creepy Horror

And within a few days, I should have some very exciting news to share about an upcoming signing/event that has me incredibly stoked. And for a guy who walks around in a perpetual state of stoked-hood, that’s saying a lot.

HorrorHound Cincinnati: Bruce Campbell, The Walking Dead, and Me

Ready to play the rapid-fire lightning round blog post game?

Scott Wilson--He and I Will Be Chilling This Weekend

Scott Wilson–He and I Will Be Chilling This Weekend

1. Deadline looming, stress rising, blog posts suffering. It’s okay though. It’s the kind of stress I want.

2. Heading to HorrorHound Cincinnati tomorrow night. I’ll be signing copies of my new vampire western DUST DEVILS as well as other novels at the Samhain Horror booth from 7-to-10 Friday and from 10 (AM)-to-1 on Saturday.

3. If I’m not reason enough to come, you should still stop by to see Tim Waggoner, Hunter Shea, Mick Ridgewell, David Searls, Russell James, and Kristopher Rufty.

4. If you’re still not sold, how about Bruce Campbell and about half the cast of The Walking Dead?

Bruce Campbell

Bruce Campbell

5. I got some fantastic news today about an upcoming event. I’ll be sharing this with you next week.

6. I’ll be bringing my family to Cincy for HorrorHound. Are my three children (8, 6, and 3) ready? Is my wife? Stay tuned…

Writing Advice #4: The Sydney Pollack Test

*The following article was originally published on the excellent THe GaL iN THe BLue MaSK blog.

Writing Advice #4: The Sydney Pollack Test

The following thoughts represent the fourth installment of an ongoing series of articles featuring writing advice from a man who knows far less than others do about writing and publishing. I’m not claiming to be an expert, but I do like to be helpful, and if I help one aspiring writer with my ramblings, it will have been worth it. Since I can’t go back and speak to my younger self, I guess helping others learn lessons I had to learn later on is the next best thing.

Let me tell you about one of my favorite movies.

Tootsie clocks in at #2 on the American Film Institute list of best comedies. It stars Dustin Hoffman and Jessica Lange, and was directed by the brilliant Sydney Pollack, who hails from a town only five minutes away from where I now live. So there’s that.

Classic

Classic

Anyway, Pollack is not only the director of Tootsie, he’s a supporting player. Hoffman plays Michael Dorsey, who is perhaps the most difficult actor on the planet. Pollack plays George Fields, Michael’s agent. In an early scene, Michael and George have an exchange that is more than merely funny; for me, the clashing dialogue signaled a transformative moment in my writing career (exchange courtesy of the Internet Movie Database):

George Fields: Where do you come off sending me your roommate’s play for you to star in? I’m your agent, not your mother! I’m not supposed to find plays for you to star in – I’m supposed to field offers! And that’s what I do!

Michael Dorsey: ‘Field offers?’ Who told you that, the Agent Fairy? That was a significant piece of work – I could’ve been terrific in that part.

George Fields: Michael, nobody’s gonna do that play.

Michael Dorsey: Why?

George Fields: Because it’s a downer, that’s why. Because nobody wants to produce a play about a couple that moved back to Love Canal.

Michael Dorsey: But that actually happened!

George Fields: WHO GIVES A SHIT? Nobody wants to pay twenty dollars to watch people living next to chemical waste! They can see that in New Jersey!

Okay, my apologies for the profanity, and from here on out I’ll write $&#% instead of the aforementioned curse, but I included the bad word for a reason. Essentially, George Fields’s bellowed “WHO GIVES A $&#%?” runs through my mind every day I edit one of my stories.

Sydney Pollack

Sydney Pollack

Here’s a fact: You aren’t objective about your own writing.

Sure, you might be more objective than other writers are about their stuff, but even so, do you really believe you can dispassionately look at your work and judge its quality better than, say, an expert editor can? I say no, but as I mentioned above, I’ve been wrong before.

Moving forward, though, where does this leave you? I think it leaves you with a need to become as ruthless as you can be with your own work. My own editing process involves (at minimum) eighteen slow and laser-specific passes through a manuscript, each time examining a different facet of the story.

But there are certain global, ubiquitous guidelines that I carry with me during each one of my eighteen rounds. One of them is the Sydney Pollack Test. In other words, I’m always ready to pounce on my own work with the bellowed question “WHO GIVES A $&#%?”

Dustin Hoffman

Dustin Hoffman

See, I don’t believe in rules for writing—I believe in guidelines. Because every single “rule” can be broken if it’s broken the right way by the right writer at the right moment in the right story. One size never fits all. But one guideline I try to adhere to is to make every one of my scenes (and I’m FREQUENTLY examining specific scenes and treating them as separate entities) either a) reveal character, b) advance the plot, or c) both (this is preferable).

What this approach helps me to do is to isolate scenes, paragraphs, lines, or even words that are there for some other reason than the aforementioned a, b, or c. Maybe a dialogue exchange was really snappy. Perhaps I like a specific sensory detail. Often it was just a matter of falling in love with my own use of language (I’m engaged in a passionate, lifelong affair with words, and that sometimes leads me to cozy up to a turn of phrase when that turn of phrase doesn’t really belong in the story).

But honestly, poetic passages are pretty pointless if they bog down the plot. Or if they create an aura of stasis around your protagonist. I’ve read books in which the author’s philosophies about cars, about politics, about yak husbandry in Tibet pop up for no other reason than that the author loves to ramble on about them. But if those ramblings have nothing to do with the characters, then those ramblings have nothing to do with the story. And anything that isn’t the story needs to go.

Or, to be less artful about it, “WHO GIVES A $&#%?”

No one cares (except you) that the 1967 Corvette was the best Corvette ever, so if you include a two-page dissertation on the 1967 Corvette, it better darn well be advancing your plot or revealing a fundamental truth about one of your characters. No one cares that a particular adjective is lovely if the adjective sticks out like a sore thumb. “But I’m really proud of that adjective,” you say. “It has a poetic ring!”

WHO GIVES A $&#%? your inner Sydney Pollack needs to shout. Cut the darned thing out before your reader nods off! 

And even fewer people care about the mating habits of Tibetan yaks. Unless they’re Tibetan yak owners. Or possessed of some weird yak kink.

Tootsie-HoffmanAndPollack

George Meets Dorothy

I remember watching the extras on the Extended Edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring DVD and hearing Peter Jackson talk about the agonizing process of turning what was a couple hundred hours of footage into a three-hour movie. There were beautiful scenes in Rivendell, powerful character moments with Gandalf, heartfelt and tender moments between Aragorn and Arwen.

Each cut was excruciating for Peter Jackson and his editor.

Until they experienced an epiphany. The story, at least in the first film, is really about Frodo. And don’t try to tell this hardcore Ringer about Aragorn’s destiny and Gandalf’s backstory and all the other aspects of the LOTR mythos because I know about them, and I geek out about every bit of that stuff. But despite my love for the other characters and their journeys, I have to admit that the tale really does depend on Frodo. Once Jackson and company realized this, their cuts became much easier. Anything that was not Frodo’s story became expendable, no matter how great the performance, no matter how fantastic the writing.

The Headliner

The Ring-Bearer and Story-Bearer

So when you edit, you must find the story, and everything that is not the story must go. One of the methods by which I determine this is the Sydney Pollack Test.

Lest you think I’m just spouting off here instead of speaking from experience, earlier today I opened a file called “DUST DEVILS Cuts.” For those of you unfamiliar with this title, DUST DEVILS is my brand-new vampire western. It is a story of which I’m extremely proud, and one that has garnered stunning reviews in its first few weeks on shelves. The “DUST DEVILS Cuts” folder is over eighteen thousand words long, while the novel itself runs about eighty thousand words. So, in essence, I excised about a fifth of the story I had written in my first draft over the course of my many edits. I also changed or altered the majority of what remained. And through it all, Sydney Pollack was perched on my shoulder, bespectacled eyes aglitter, always eager to bellow “WHO GIVES A $&#%?” to prevent me from intruding on my story, to curtail my desire to hotrod around showing off my vocabulary.

Most of all, to save me from myself.

So remember to be ruthless. Remember to be sure that someone other than you will care about a scene, a paragraph, a sentence, or a word. Remember to be like Sydney Pollack.

And if any of you are in the mood to watch the glorious exchange on which this blog post is based, it’s right here. If you haven’t read DUST DEVILS yet, you can check it out here or anywhere else books are sold.

Octane Loaded Second Review of Jonathan Janz’s Vampire Western, Dust Devils! Plus an Interview (Squeal All You’d Like)!

One of the coolest things for a writer is waking up to a great review. Well, here’s a WONDERFUL review from my good friend Erin Al-Mehairi at her awesome Oh, for the Hook of a Book blog. If you haven’t “followed” it yet, you need to. There’s consistently great quality there, and Erin examines a diverse array of genres. Anyway, here’s the review, as well as an interview with me:

Octane Loaded Second Review of Jonathan Janz’s Vampire Western, Dust Devils! Plus an Interview (Squeal All You’d Like)!.

2014 Appearances: Part One

Hey, friends! Can’t you tell how happy I am to see you? Didn’t the exclamation point at the end of the salutation fill you with a sense of warmth and adoration? If not…what do you want from me? A hash tag? An umlaut? A SCHWA? Well I don’t just hand out schwas to anyone who shows up at my blog, darn it, you have to EARN a schwa from me!

Anywho.

One of my unstated (until now) goals is to attend more and more conventions each year. In 2012 (my first year as a published novelist), I attended two. Last year I attended…well, two. But I meant to attend three, and that counts for something doesn’t it? Or are you still mad about the schwa thing?

So this year, to both accomplish my goal and to compensate for last year’s plateau, I’m planning on going to at least FOUR conventions. *puffs out chest and struts like Borat…”King in the castle, King in the castle, I have a chair”…*

boratI can’t talk about two of them yet because they’re not confirmed. The first, however, will be on Thursday, March 13th at the Public Library Association Conference in Indianapolis. I’ll be signing books from 2:00 until whenever they forcibly eject me from my chair.

pla-2014

The second will be eight days later at HorrorHound Cincinnati. I’ll be signing books and hanging out with fans from 7-to-10 on Friday night and from 10-until-1 on Saturday morning/early afternoon. There’ll also be some no-names there like Bruce Campbell and the cast of The Walking Dead, so once you’ve met me, you can grab some of their autographs.

horrorhound-weekend-
I’ll post more updates as I get them, including something fun that’ll happen this summer. But for now, I better go. My next deadline is the end of April, and I’ve got some big scenes to write. This one’s gonna be fun…