Leisure Horror Fans Rejoice! Samhain Horror Is HERE!

How many of you remember how awesome it used to be to be able to count on two Leisure Horror titles every month? I remember discovering names like Jack Ketchum, Richard Laymon, Brian Keene, Bryan Smith, John Everson, Tim Waggoner, and too many others to mention through Leisure. I also remembering, many years ago, deciding I wanted to be published by Leisure and edited by the man behind the line, Don D’Auria.

Don D'Auria. Suspected of Vampirism. *If anyone has proof that Mr. D'Auria has aged in the past two decades, please contact the CIA.

Don D’Auria. Suspected of Vampirism.
*If anyone has proof that Mr. D’Auria has aged in the past two decades, please contact the CIA.

Then Leisure and its parent company, Dorchester Publishing, went under, and Don began a horror line at a different company (Don, by the way, had nothing to do with the company’s financial woes and always treated his authors with the utmost respect).

Enter Samhain Publishing. Already a red-hot seller of romance titles, Samhain was ready to begin a new line of books in a different genre, and when Don D’Auria became available, they snatched him up and created Samhain Horror.

Erotic Horror

Erotic Horror

What’s my point?

Before everything went bad at Leisure, you could count on two awesome horror novels every month. Now, at Samhain Horror, you can count on (at least) two awesome horror novels every month, plus at least one or two novellas.

Leisure’s book were affordable. You could grab a paperback for about eight bucks. Now, by clicking on this link and buying directly from the Samhain Horror website (and using the PAPERBACK50 code at checkout), you can buy a paperback for about eight bucks. The ebooks are reasonably priced as well, often selling for under four bucks in the first month of release.

Tim Waggoner. Rock Star.

Tim Waggoner. Rock Star.

Same editor. Same quality. Same affordability. Heck, Samhain even features some of the same authors (including the aforementioned Bryan Smith, John Everson, and Tim Waggoner). And I dare say you’ll love many of the new authors Samhain Horror has midwifed into existence (including Brian Moreland, Hunter Shea, Kristopher Rufty, a ton of other fantastic writers, and….*whistles politely*….*pauses out of respect for other authors or maybe just to add drama to his own name’s unveiling*…Jonathan Janz).

Bryan Smith Mayhem

Bryan Smith Mayhem

So if you were one of the orphaned Leisure Horror fans left in the lurch when that company—well, let’s just say it wasn’t pretty, you can rejoice. Samhain Horror has your fix. Monthly. For a good price.

That is all.

Oh, and buy the book pictured below. It’s a great place to start reading Samhain Horror.

A Wild Vampire Western

A Wild Vampire Western

Scares That Care, Part Four: Jack Ketchum and Brian Keene

Okay, confession time. I’ve been putting off writing this post because these are the two guys whose work I knew the best going into the Scares That Care Weekend in Williamsburg, Virginia, and it’s really difficult for me to set aside Fan Jonathan from Professional Writer Jonathan.

Then again, maybe I don’t have to.

Yeah, I probably embarrassed Bryan Smith and Tom Monteleone with my last blog post, but I meant every word I said, and I’m not very good at pretending to be something I’m not. I tried to be cool when I sat there signing books with Bryan Smith, but I kept thinking to myself, “This guy is one of the best writers working today. You’re sharing a table with him. This is happening.” When I talked to Tom Monteleone, I felt a similar rush of excitement and disbelief.

Basically, I have a hard time pretending I’m unexcited by interacting with people who helped mold me as a writer and who’ve given me untold hours of reading pleasure. Which means I wasn’t sure how to act around Jack Ketchum and Brian Keene. I think I did okay. I mean, neither of them took out a restraining order against me, so there’s that. And neither threw a drink in my face or ran screaming from my presence. So…how did they act?

Ketchum and Keene from the Stalker-Cam

Ketchum and Keene from the Stalker-Cam

Let’s take Jack and Brian in turn.

(*I’ve decided to call Jack Ketchum/Dallas Mayr by his real name at certain points in this post because, well, that’s how I think of him. I mean, I think of him as both Jack Ketchum and Dallas Mayr, so I’ll be using both names. Just to confuse you.)

Jack Ketchum is one of my primary influences as a writer. Stephen King calls him “the scariest man in America,” and I can’t disagree. In my humble opinion, he has written four classic novels (The Girl Next Door, Off Season, Red, and The Woman) and a whole lot of other outstanding novels and short stories. I wrote this post about Ketchum’s fiction a couple years ago and mean to write another one about his work soon. The title of that long ago post was “The Ketchum Blade,” so named because of how deeply his fiction cuts. I dare you to read The Girl Next Door and not be emotionally moved. Whether that emotion is outrage or sorrow or despair or something else, you will feel something when you read that book. More likely, you’ll feel a number of emotions, which shows how astute and versatile Ketchum is.

But what of the man?

Dallas Mayr, I’m happy to report, is extremely kind, intelligent, and…well, classy. You ever hear someone say “(Insert name) has It“? Well, that applies to Dallas Mayr. Most people couldn’t live up to the legend of Jack Ketchum. Cary Grant, for instance, never could live up to people’s expectations of him off-screen. But Dallas Mayr/Jack Ketchum does. Yet there’s absolutely no affectation to worry about with him, no elitism. He treats everyone with warmth and wit, and though I was deeply afraid of meeting him (you know, a guy doesn’t want to make a fool of himself in front of one of his heroes), his personality soon put me at ease, and I got to spend several wonderful moments just talking to him.

Standing with a Legend (the one on the left)

Standing with a Legend (the one on the left)

Did you know, by the way, that he was once Henry Miller’s literary agent? Half of you are gasping in shock, while the other half are frowning at your monitors. To the former group I say, “Yes, he actually knew and learned from one of the literary giants of the twentieth century.” To the other half I say, stop reading this blog post and pick up Tropic of Cancer. Now.

Anyway, hanging out with Jack Ketchum/Dallas Mayr was one of the biggest thrills I’ve experienced since becoming a writer, and I can’t wait for the next opportunity to talk to him again.

So what about Brian Keene?

I’ll just be honest. Brian’s public persona—at least as I’ve always viewed him—is that of a rebel, a fiery and outspoken debunker of lies, and a fiercely talented author.

After meeting him, I can say it’s all true. He doesn’t suffer idiots, he doesn’t do things the way the system dictates one should do them, and he is indeed fiercely talented.

But one of the highlights of my summer was seeing another side of him. And by the way, if you want to cling to the above persona as his only persona, I suggest you stop reading now.

Photobombed by a Grand Master

Me and Kelli Owen Photobombed by a Grand Master

Here’s the thing you might not know about Brian Keene: He has a huge heart.

He might not like my saying that, and like Jack/Dallas, he’ll probably be embarrassed by this blog post, but I think it’s important for people to know the human beings behind the words. And the human being behind The Rising, behind Levi Stoltzfus, behind too many incredible books to mention in this meager space, is one for whom I have an incredible amount of respect.

Samuel Johnson once said, “The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.”

Let’s be honest here. My writing career (hopefully) is in its early stages. I’m proud of what I’ve done so far, but I am far from a household name, and there are a great many more readers who haven’t heard of me than those who have. I do what I can for my favorite authors—I recommend their work to anyone who will listen, and I blog about their stuff here—but really, it’s highly unlikely that I’ll be able to bring more wealth or fame to a guy like Brian Keene. He has written books that have sold more than half a million copies (!), and along with 28 Days Later and The Walking Dead comics, he was the guy who started the zombie phenomenon that continues to dominate popular culture. More importantly, his work continues to get better because he is devoted to his craft, he continues to read actively, and he has the discipline and the drive to always strive to improve himself.

So why would someone like this take the time to a) add me as a celebrity guest at an incredible charity convention, b) treat me like I’m someone special from the moment I walked into the Doubletree Hotel in Williamsburg to the moment we parted on Sunday afternoon, and c) invite me to every meal and allow me to spend time with him, his girlfriend, her son, and several other of his friends?

I’ll tell you why. It’s because Brian has a sincerely kind heart, and he remembers what it was like to know no one.

But I think what I appreciate most about Brian is how sincere and real he is. There isn’t one ounce of artifice with him. He did give me advice about writing, but mainly what he talked about was the importance of family. Speaking of family, one of my favorite memories of the convention was the moment when he dashed into the celebrity room mock-screaming because he was being chased by two newly-painted little girls who turned out to be my daughters.

The Girls Who Terrified Brian Keene

The Girls Who Terrified Brian Keene

And lest you think we spent the weekend in hushed conversation as he earnestly divulged the secrets of writing success, I should also mention he has a fantastic sense of humor and shared stories that made me laugh and gape, sometimes simultaneously.

So after writing nearly fourteen hundred words about two of my favorite writers, I’ll leave you with this thought: If ever I achieve a tenth of what these fine writers and men have achieved, I’ll remember my first Scares That Care convention. I’ll remember that everyone has to start somewhere, and that those who have the ability to make a newbie feel accepted and valued should do so in every way they can.

So thank you, Dallas and Brian. You made me feel like more than a fellow writer. You made me feel like I belonged.

I Wore This Grin for Most of the Weekend

I Wore This Grin for Most of the Weekend

 

For My Daughter on Her Seventh Birthday: The Grub on My Chest

One of my older daughter’s nicknames is Sparkle, so we’ll go with that for now. A quick story about her…

When Sparkle was a wee baby, we brought her home from the hospital (after only a brief debate). I was prepared for the worst. See, my first child (my son) was Mr. High Energy and allowed us to sleep for no more than twenty-six minutes at a time over the first year of his life. My boy, as much as I love him, was a force of nature, his wails slamming into us like a neverending tsunami. A tsunami on steroids.

So we figured Sparkle would be insane as well, right?

I had everything set up. I had my recliner by the big picture window in the den, I had my portable DVD player, I had a pile of DVDs I could watch and listen to on my headphones. I was ready. It was the middle of summer, so I was shirtless. I mention that not to make you shiver in revulsion but because all the parenting books talked about how important skin-to-skin contact is for a baby.

I placed my newborn Sparkle on my chest, reclined the chair, donned my headphones, and started my first feature. I’d even been sure to avoid liquids for an hour prior so I could minimize urination breaks.

Like a human grub, my little Sparkle lay on her stomach, curled up her legs beneath her, and nestled into me with her fuzzy head under my chin and her tiny diapered buns pointed heavenward. She lay there and lay there, and even when the vicious cannibal in RAVENOUS began murdering and devouring people, Sparkle never stirred.

Ravenous_ver1

This is uncanny, I thought to myself. And amazing. My first child never remained this still for this long. I’m almost halfway through an honest-to-goodness movie, and she hasn’t begun to shriek at me like Donald Sutherland at the end of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS.

sutherland

I finished the movie, and the grub on my chest continued to slumber.

I replaced RAVENOUS with the original THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL.

Still no movement from Sparkle. For perhaps the sixtieth time since I’d taken my position, I craned my neck down to make sure she was breathing.

Yep. Still breathing. Just not crying or kicking or shaking her fists at me like Peter Finch in NETWORK (Hey, might as well stick with the movie references, right?). I got halfway through my movie and began to get seriously worried. Because Sparkle still wasn’t crying.

Crazy-Howard-Beale-Peter-Finch-from-the-movie-Network.

I licked my lips, debating. I was worried about her, but after all, this was what I’d hoped for, wasn’t it? I mean, had my son been this docile I might not have spent 2005 and 2006 sleepless. So I took a deep breath and tried to concentrate on the movie. Yet despite its quality, the only thing I could pay attention to was the barely-moving grub on my chest.

day_the_earth_stood_still_poster

I felt a mental chill. Panic gripped me. I reached down as quickly as I could without upsetting Sparkle and called the nurse.

ME: I think I’ve got a serious issue.

NURSE ON CALL (voice tight with apprehension): What is it, sir?

ME: It’s my daughter. She’s a newborn. We just got her home and…

NURSE ON CALL: Yes?

ME: She’s, um…not crying.

NURSE ON CALL: (silence)

ME: That’s bad, right?

NURSE ON CALL: Is she breathing without effort?

ME (glances at Sparkle’s back): I think so.

NURSE ON CALL: Does she appear to be in any discomfort?

ME: No. Not at all. See, that’s what’s worrying me.

NURSE ON CALL (bemused): I’m afraid I don’t see the problem.

ME: She’s not screaming at all. She hasn’t slapped me yet or peed sixteen feet in the air or punctured one of my eardrums with her shrieking.

NURSE ON CALL (another pause): Is there anything else you need tonight, sir?

ME: So she’s…okay?

NURSE ON CALL: (click)

Sparkle continued to breathe gently. I sighed and lay back, more relaxed than I’d ever been in my life. Then I put in RESERVOIR DOGS.

Daughter, you continue to have that same soothing effect on me. When I’m worried or unsure, you calm me. Your smile, your positive attitude, your assurance that Yes Daddy, everything’s going to be just fine all work to achieve the impossible. You help me relax.

Proof of the Sparkle

Proof of the Sparkle

When I’m sick, you always volunteer to help me. You bring me a warm, very wet washcloth and slop on it onto my forehead. You pour me the Sprite we always keep on hand for sickness, and you always remember to pour some for yourself as well. You caress my hair and talk, it doesn’t matter about what.

You’re my little angel.

Sparkle, I hope you never change. Oh, you can grow and all that stuff, but never lose the amazing, warm, nurturing heart that makes you who you are.

I love you forever, my little daughter! Thank you for being you!

IMG_3134

Author Jonathan Janz Defines Horror

Jonathan Janz:

Earlier this month, author Matt Manochio was kind enough to share some of my thoughts on his blog. See what you think about my definition of horror…

Originally posted on Scary Funny:

Today’s a big day for Samhain Horror authors Hunter Shea and Jonathan Janz, whose respective books, Hell Hole and Castle of Sorrows, hit shelves both physical and digital. I’ll be posting something with Hunter in a few weeks regarding both Hell Hole and his recent Kensington release, The Montauk Monster, which is already on my Kindle just aching to be read. Both guys have been supportive of me in my schlep toward publication come November 4, and I can’t wait to meet both at a yet-to-be-determined horror convention down the road.

But today’s post involves Jonathan Janz, which isn’t his real name and I’m still not sure how to refer to him when I write to him. But that’s another story. Isn’t this a kick-ass cover? (Yes.)

Courtesy: Amazon (Lord of Everything)

Courtesy: Amazon (Lord of Everything)

Castle of Sorrows is the sequel to Jonathan’s 2012 release, The Sorrows, which I read, and which involves the…

View original 381 more words

Scares That Care, Part Three: Bryan Smith and Tom Monteleone

Yo. Comin’ atcha from da crib straight up gangsta—

I can’t do it.

What I can do is talk about two individuals I met at the recent Scares That Care convention in Williamsburg, Virginia: Bryan Smith and Tom Monteleone.

When I saw I’d be sharing a table with Bryan, I had two simultaneous reactions. My selfish one was, Yes! This means a bunch of people who know and love his stuff will be gravitating toward my table, and after they buy his stuff, maybe they’ll buy mine! My second reaction was something along the lines of the famous WAYNE’S WORLD mantra, “I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy!”

Bryan Slash Smith

Bryan Slash Smith

See, Bryan is a well-known guy and for good reason. Plainly put, he’s a brilliant writer. And I don’t use that adjective lightly. I get the feeling folks think of him as a pulp writer, a guy whose pen squirts as much blood as it does ink, and yeah, it’s true that the stuff I’ve read so far from him does contain a good deal of violence. But man, what I don’t hear people talk enough about is how smart his writing is, how rhythmic. Bryan combines a razor-sharp intellect with an uncanny authorial ear. He’s like Guns ‘n’ Roses’s Slash with a keyboard rather than a guitar. I’m getting ready to finish KAYLA UNDEAD tonight, and I can tell you, it’s every bit as wild and wonderful as KAYLA AND THE DEVIL, a book I devoured recently and went gaga over last month.

KaylaUndead (1)

Bryan also happens to be a great guy. Thoughtful, soft-spoken, he really listens to what you say, and he treated me excellently all weekend, despite the fact that I probably annoyed the hell out of him with my constant chatter.

So buy his books. You’ll be supporting a great guy, but more importantly, you’ll be getting some of the best writing you’ve ever seen. Seriously, the guy is a virtuoso.

Which brings me to Tom Monteleone. I’d heard of Tom for years and had been aware of his importance to the field since, well…since my early-twenties. I’d read his short work and loved it, and I’d read books he’d edited and loved them too.

What I’d never done until fairly recently was read one of his novels.

Monteleone

Monteleone

See, I’ll be talking more about this in a bigger blog post soon, but I think the single biggest issue facing horror today is a disconnect between modern writers/readers and their heritage. Sure, there are writers my age and younger who know their stuff, who understand how important a guy like Tom Monteleone is and who regard him with the proper respect. But I also get the sense that many more writers and readers don’t know why Tom Monteleone matters, who don’t know how great a writer and editor he is, and who don’t understand that he’s a freaking legend that everyone needs to read and study.

Before I go too far down this path, let me just say, I’m not trying to eulogize the guy here. He’s only in his sixties, and I reckon he’s going to be kicking butt for decades to come. And if you don’t believe me, just sit at a dinner table with him the way I got to twice, or hang out with him at a convention. Then you’ll see that you’re the one—not Tom—who needs to get your butt in gear, who needs to up the ante on your zest for life, who needs to become more energized and excited about books and people. Tom is a walking, talking live wire.

My revelation about his writing came last year. My fourth novel SAVAGE SPECIES had just been released, and a very astute reader named Andrew Monge (who’s a regular at the best horror forum in the world, the Horror Drive-In) likened my novel to a book called NIGHT THINGS, which Tom had written several years ago. That comment served as a wake-up call for me, for despite the fact that I think I’m fairly well read in (and out) of the genre, I realized I’d never read a Monteleone novel.

Experience the Terror

Experience the Terror

Honestly, that fact was unforgivable.

How could I, a guy who’s ravenously hungry to become the best writer I can be, claim to know my roots when I’d never read a novel by Tom Monteleone, a man whose writing is legendary, a man whose editorial eye has helped shape the careers of too many writers to recount, a man who can, incidentally, tell a story better than just about anyone I’ve ever met (if you do meet him someday, be sure to ask him about Theodore Sturgeon—I promise your life will never be the same again).

So I read NIGHT THINGS. And realized that everything I’d heard about Tom was true. He’s a writer’s writer, a guy who understands and maximizes every square inch of a tale. The characterization. The plotting. The building of suspense. The carefully crafted backstory. The balletically choreographed pay-off. All of it was there in NIGHT THINGS. Once I’d finished, I realized what an incredible compliment Andrew Monge had paid me by uttering SAVAGE SPECIES in the same sentence with Tom’s novel, and I continue to be honored by those words.

Ferocious Thriller

Ferocious Thriller

I’ll be reading more Monteleone fiction soon. Both SUBMERGED and THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB are burning holes in my TBR pile, and I can’t wait to dive into them.

You should too. Monteleone is a guy every writer can learn from. And a writer who can thrill any reader brave enough to check out his work.

 

CASTLE OF SORROWS: Using a Zombie Trope in a Non-Zombie Novel

Howdy, all! The title of this post is a little misleading because the trope (you could also call it a theme in this circumstance) I’m about to talk about occurs in many non-zombie horror novels. However, I associate it with zombies because, well, they’re everywhere, and some of the best examples of what I’m talking about occur in zombie stories. And I’m also going to winnow down what should be a ten thousand-word essay to a fraction of that number because, as always, my time is short, and I’ve got things to do (mainly, being with my family and working on my current novel).

The Darkness Is Spreading

The Darkness Is Spreading

Consider these characters:

The Governor from THE WALKING DEAD. Colonel Schow from Brian Keene’s THE RISING. The soldiers in 28 DAYS LATER.

Colonel Schow Unleashed

Colonel Schow Unleashed

Aside from the military/governmental trappings that tie these individuals together, they’re also united in their ferocity, their cruelty, and their single-mindedness. But most of all, they’re connected by the dubious distinction of being just as bad—and likely worse—than the zombies.

Almost as bad as the soldiers

Almost as bad as the soldiers

Like I said, this concept is not unique to zombie stories. Other fantastic examples can be found in Dan Simmons’s THE TERROR (Hickey vs. The Terror), Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD (cannibals vs. the apocalyptic landscape), and J.K. Rowling’s HARRY POTTER series (in which Dolores Umbridge becomes even more despicable than Voldemort himself).

In other words, the danger is us. (I changed the predicate nominative form because it sounded weak. You know, kind of like an unnecessary parenthetical explanation.)

I'll never forgive him for using that sword...

I’ll never forgive him for using that sword…

So I warned you a few days ago about the darkness in my new novel CASTLE OF SORROWS. I didn’t specify what made the book so dark, but my very first reader review mentioned it (actually, an email from the reader mentioned it), so the effect I suspected the book would have seems to be occurring (that’s a good thing, by the way).

The main villain of both THE SORROWS and CASTLE OF SORROWS is a god named Gabriel. You can call him Pan if you’d like, but he’s older than literature and one of my favorite villains in fiction. I’m fascinated by him, and he certainly dominates my new book. His shadow loomed over THE SORROWS as well.

However, you could argue that the most despicable character in THE SORROWS is a handsome pilot named Ryan. He’s rich, ripped, and charismatic. He’s also one of my vilest creations.

Where it all began...

Where it all began…

In CASTLE OF SORROWS, you find Gabriel behaving even more maliciously than he did in the first novel. He’s twice as formidable, his “reach” has grown exponentially, and he’s frankly too powerful for any one mortal to handle.

Yet the characters I hate most in CASTLE OF SORROWS are two men. One I won’t reveal here since his true backstory remains concealed until very late in the proceedings. Another, however, reveals his sadism in his very first appearance:

Ray Rubio.

This character actually appeared in THE SORROWS as well. In that novel’s third or fourth scene, the heir of Castle Blackwood (Chris Blackwood) awakens to find someone in his room. Someone with a scalpel. After some ruthless persuasion, Chris Blackwood agrees to Rubio’s demands.

Now Ray Rubio is back in CASTLE OF SORROWS. And this time he doesn’t just have a cameo.

He’s center stage.

When you read this book, it would be wise to put up mental and emotional blinders whenever Rubio appears onstage. He’s sick, he’s depraved, and he’s cagier than he looks. As I wrote him, incidentally, I imagined the following character actor, a former boxer named Tami Mauriello (seen below and to the right) who appeared prominently in ON THE WATERFRONT (and who once lost to Joe Louis in a heavyweight championship bout):

Tami/Rubio is on the right

Tami/Rubio

So even though there are no zombies in CASTLE OF SORROWS (okay, so there are arguably zombie-like creatures at one point, though that one’s debatable), the notion of man’s shadowy nature equalling (or even surpassing) the sadism of an ancient god is a major idea. But sinking to those depths requires some unpleasant subject matter.

Be warned.

Cover (and plot) Reveal! Welcome to EXORCIST ROAD…

I’ve been doing mostly novels for the past couple of years, but I enjoy writing novellas too. I got an idea for one and decided to write it. Here’s the (unedited) description:

Chicago is gripped by terror. Someone is brutally murdering sixteen-year-old girls, and the authorities are baffled. Dubbed “The Sweet Sixteen Killer,” the depraved madman is about to strike again.

Jason Crowder, a young priest, is visited in the middle of the night by one of his parishioners, a policeman named Danny Hartman. Danny tells Jason a shocking story. Earlier that evening, Danny and his partner received a call from Danny’s brother, who is panic-stricken by the sudden violent behavior of his fourteen-year-old son. For no apparent reason, the boy attacked his family and had to be chained to his bed. After seeing his nephew, Danny is convinced the boy is possessed by a demon.

Danny’s partner is Jack Bittner. Full of terrible brute strength and rage toward his ex-wife, Jack’s hardened heart has one soft spot: his teenage daughter, whose sixteenth birthday happens to be next week. Jack has been sent to awaken another priest—Peter Sutherland—Jason Crowder’s mentor. Who happens to be the only man in Chicago who has ever performed an exorcism.

But Jack Bittner has other plans tonight. He believes the boy isn’t possessed by a demon, but instead by an insatiable homicidal urge. Jack believes the boy is none other than the Sweet Sixteen Killer. And he aims to end the reign of terror before another teenage girl dies.

Two priests. Two cops. One terrified family. An adolescent boy who just might be host to an ancient evil. They will all collide one stormy night in suburban Chicago on a street that will soon be known as Exorcist Road.

And now, the cover:

Terror Comes to Chicago

Terror Comes to Chicago

Huge thanks to Angie Waters, a cover artist who never ceases to dazzle me. And, of course to Louise Fury (my agent) and Don D’Auria (my editor) for supporting the project.

This one looks like a September release, folks, so the wait shouldn’t be long. And while you wait for it, why not check out my brand-new beast of a novel CASTLE OF SORROWS?

My EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

My EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

 

CASTLE OF SORROWS: My EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

Okay, I know I omitted the the from the blog post title, but the rhythm was better without it, okay? And if you’re really so hung up on articles in titles, I’ll point you to THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION and ask you how often the the is uttered there, and—

You say the the?

Never mind.

A great movie, with or without the the

A great movie, with or without the the

Moving on, I guess now would be a good time to mention the fact that THE SORROWS will eventually blossom into a trilogy. I have a rough mental outline for how the third book will begin and end (as well as a title I like), though as always, I’ll keep an open mind and let the story find its way to a proper conclusion.

But what about this one?

My EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

My EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

It’s the longest novel I’ve written at 123,000 words. It was much longer than that, but I had to cut a great deal of material to meet the necessary word count. I mention that not because I’m mad or anything—I love the novel in its current state—but because there’s a whole subplot I had to omit. I won’t say much about this now, but I will say two things about the subplot: a) the novel is just as good without it—just different, and b) I still love the subplot because it was inspired by T.E.D. Klein’s amazing novella PETEY. But then again, a lot of what I write is inspired by Klein, so you could say his shadow still looms over CASTLE OF SORROWS even without the subplot.

One of the finest novella collections of all time

One of the finest novella collections of all time

But what’s in the novel is incredibly dark. It’s so dark that I sat there on many days and shook my head at what I’d written. I nearly cut several scenes and paragraphs because they were so violent or depraved or shocking in other ways (Do you read Code?), but then I thought to myself, Wimp.

And I left them in.

I certainly believe in restraint, but sometimes horror is best when there are no cutaways. In CASTLE OF SORROWS, the camera rarely cuts away from the action. And that action is sometimes really, really disturbing.

Which brings me to THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.

Luke and Vader…Ben and Gabriel

Luke and Vader…Ben and Gabriel

Those of you who are fans of trilogies know that the second story often contains several distinct elements. A fractured fellowship. A darker tone. A less triumphant resolution and the realization that the evil was never really vanquished after all. And, of course, a serious toll on the good guys.

All of the above holds true in CASTLE. So if you’re looking for something sweet or uplifting, this book ain’t it.

You can purchase CASTLE OF SORROWS here or here, but the best deal is right here at the Samhain store, where the ebook is only $4.55, and the paperback is $8.50 after you apply the PAPERBACK50 code at checkout.

Where it all began...

Where it all began…

I’ll tell you more about the novel soon, but for now, the above will suffice. I’m proud of it, I think it shows a progression in my storytelling, and above all, I think it’s really a spooky yarn.

Just don’t expect to feel happy when it ends.

Scares That Care, Part Two: Kelli Owen, Wrath James White, and Mary SanGiovanni

*Before we get to the main blog post, I feel compelled to mention my new release CASTLE OF SORROWS, which came out earlier this week. More on that soon, but if you haven’t read my smash-hit debut novel THE SORROWS yet, you can buy it here. Then go read the sequel. I think you’ll find them worth your while.

Back to Scares That Care.

The three people in this blog post title have three things in common:

1. They have big hearts; I suspected that going into the Scares That Care convention, but spending time with them all weekend confirmed it.

2. They’re excellent writers. If you’ve been involved in the genre for any length of time, you’ll have heard of all three of them. If you haven’t, it’s time for you to check out their work.

3. I hadn’t met any of them prior to June 27th.

So after spending a weekend with them, here are my thoughts:

kelli

Kelli Owen

Kelli is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. She’s extremely bright, and her sense of humor can be very caustic (in a good way). She spent much of that first afternoon showing me exactly how much I didn’t know about marketing, about setting up for an event, as well as my cluelessness about a dozen other topics. On Saturday she nearly murdered me for paying to get my picture taken with Chris Sarandon (aka Prince Humperdinck and Jack Skellington). But Kelli has a way of threatening your life while still showing that she cares about you. That’s an impressive skill. But having survived Kelli’s boot camp, I’m proud to call her a friend.

Many Bothans Died to Get This Picture

Many Bothans Died to Get This Picture

Wrath is bigger than I am. Like, a good deal bigger. I run nearly six-four, and I work out pretty frequently, but Wrath made me look like a malnourished hobbit. However, the coolest thing about him was how easy he was to talk to. It also turns out that we have a strong bond: fatherhood. Talking to Wrath about how it was raising his son (who is now twenty and is becoming a writer himself) was very heartening for me since Wrath did many of the same things I’m doing now (like assigning extra reading and math each day, despite the fact that my son thinks I’m insane for doing so). Anyway, Wrath is as nice as his work is ferocious.

wrath

Wrath James White

Mary SanGiovanni is one of the coolest people I’ve met since getting into the industry. She brought her son (a great kid) and was incredibly kind all weekend. I was lucky enough to eat dinner and lunch with her, Brian Keene, and others, and I also got to participate in a panel discussion with Mary (and Kelli) on Friday night. I guess the word that best describes Mary is thoughtful. She’s thoughtful and considerate toward others, and she’s thoughtful in every thing she says. I learned a lot just from listening to her, but most of all, I learned she has a great heart and a sharp mind.

Mary SanGiovanni

Mary SanGiovanni

So if you were hoping I’d have some horror stories to tell from my time at Scares That Care, I’m sorry, but the experience only served to confirm what I’ve already learned about the horror community. Sure, it has its wing nuts, but it’s mainly populated by awesome human beings.

Count these three individuals among the awesome ones.