Thursday, March 15, 2018

Book Review: Lovebites & Razorlines by J. Daniel Stone

On some level, I feel I’ve found a kindred spirit in J. Daniel Stone. I’d previously only read his (awesome) story in I Can Taste the Blood, which offered hints of Barker without resorting to pastiche, and now I’m finally getting around to reading more of his work. Thankfully, Stone is no one-hit wonder.

At the risk of making this seem like the All About Me Show, allow me to begin this review by touching on why I relate to Stone’s approach to dark fiction before I dive in and speak a little more specifically about his work. We clearly have at least a few of the same literary influences (especially the aforementioned Barker, as well as Poppy Z. Brite), and we both cannot resist incorporating the music we love into the fiction we give birth to. However, we use these influences in such distinct and different ways that the similarities are only enough to make a personal connection (which is cool in my book).

Oh, and get this—Stone has a character named Dorian Wilde. I have a character named Dorian Wylde. Methinks we are officially two sides of the same subversive coin. Either that or we share a very unhealthy brain.

Stone’s short stories reek of the streets of New York (though not always) as well as what goes on beneath those streets and in the cracks between, and they frequently (again, not always) delve into queer themes and/or use queer characters. And these characters, whether they are gay, straight, or somewhere in the void, are more or less all outsiders. The sorts of people who are attracted to the underground not because they are “cool” or attempting to be, but because they have no choice but to be there. They simply don’t belong anywhere else. The true misfits and freaks of the universe. Many of the stories in this collection reuse characters from his novels Blood Kiss and The Absence of Light and are intended to be companion stories to those books. I can’t help but feel that, though all of these particular stories were well written and interesting, they would have resonated with me a bit more had I been familiar with the novels. That said, one of my favorite stories in the book fell into the appendage story category (“The Tunnel Record”). Really awesome stuff that is essentially Stone’s personal stamp on C.H.U.D.s. I mean, really, how much more New York can you get than that?

The title story is definitely one of the standouts, a somewhat disgusting tale about a disturbed young man with a Frankenstein complex whose idea to make his own undead patchwork monster does not go quite as planned. My favorite, however, would probably be the closing story, “Ecdysis,” which involves a transformation that goes far beyond the limits of mere gender. But I feel the favorites might become fluid over time. This is the type of collection that if you like one story, chances are you’ll dig the rest. They maintain a fairly consistent tone, with a lyrical command of language that rarely wavers. Often sad, frequently strange, always so, so dark.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Winner of Best Graphic Novel Script at the Silver Scream Festival

I'm very excited to announce that I was the winner of Best Graphic Novel Script at the Silver Scream Festival this year! American Gothic Press will be publishing my 3-issue comic series Hag. Can't wait for this to come to fruition. More info as it develops...

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Book Review: The Wish Mechanics by Daniel Braum

I’ve sung the praises of Daniel Braum’s work enough both in person and on this blog at this point that some of my sentiments might come off a bit redundant here, but I’m not stopping until many, many more people convert to the Church of Braum. If you’ve yet to read my thoughts on the genius work of a writer who deserves to be far more well known than he is, this review will hopefully serve as a suitable introduction.

The Wish Mechanics is Braum’s second full collection of short fiction (his first being The Night Marchers). Unless, of course, you count the much shorter collection Yeti. Tiger. Dragon., which only features three stories. I’ve read enough of Braum’s work at this point that I’m guaranteed two things when opening one of his books: 1. I know what to expect & 2. I honestly have no idea what to expect.

Allow me to clarify. My first statement is regarding consistency of style. Some writers are chameleons, deciding their prose should take multiple forms depending on the story’s needs (I count myself as a member of this particular group). Others maintain a strong, steady voice so invariable it leaves you breathless at the ability to accomplish such a feat. Now, I don’t think one approach is necessarily better than the other, but Braum falls firmly in the second camp, and it works as nothing less than a major strength in his case. As for comment #2, despite having a pretty good idea of how Braum’s words will appear on the page (or how they will sound if read aloud), I never know where those words are going to take me. It is this combination that makes Braum a true visionary of modern fiction.

The quality of the stories never wavers, regardless if Braum is attempting magical realism (“Tea in the Sahara”), introspective horror (“Tetsuya and the Ranagareet”), science fiction (“Resolution Seventeen”), or whatever else he chooses to write. His stories are always threatening to transcend genre, skirting around the hallmarks one might expect and instead opting for an emotional rawness that cannot quite be described. Sometimes the tales are deceptively normal, then take a turn for the weird when you least expect it (“This Is the Sound of Your Dreams Dying”). There is always something not-quite-right going on, almost Twilight Zone-esque, but looking toward the future. In fact, I’d love to see one (or more) of Braum’s stories adapted into a Black Mirror episode (the title story, for instance, might be an especially great fit).

In this collection, Braum’s writing is (as always) earnest, poignant, dark, and moving. If you’re a fan of literary fiction that operates on a fantastical level, I can’t think of another living writer who pulls it off with greater finesse than Daniel Braum.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Bay Area Book Tour Coming Up!

Going to be in the Bay Area in a couple weeks for some Secrets of the Weird book tour events. Come out if you're in the area:

Saturday January 20th - QTY Treehouse 1684 7th Street Oakland 3pm

Sunday January 21st - Borderlands Books 866 Valencia Street San Francisco 3pm

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

New Novel to Be Released Sometime in 2018

I'm very excited to announce that my new novel, Sexy Leper, will be released sometime in this coming year by Bizarro Pulp Press. More information to come as it develops...

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Book Review: Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix

So I think this might actually be the first nonfiction book I’ve reviewed, but if I’m going to toss one of those in the mix it might as well be a doozy such as this one.

Before I get into the actual review, I have to mention I had the pleasure of seeing Hendrix do a presentation for this book at Mysterious Galaxy, and it was without a doubt the most entertaining author event I’ve ever been to. Words can not describe…but lets just say if I had randomly wandered into the bookstore that night not knowing a thing about this book I would have bought it after just a few minutes into this maniacally organized presentation. I’m not sure if Hendrix is still doing events for this book, but if he is, and if he’s coming to your town, you’d be a damned fool to skip it. Would I lie to you?

Quirk has done a bang-up job with this book. From the gorgeous embossed cover to the beautiful reproductions of the infamous covers throughout the pages, they weren’t skimping on the professionalism here. And these aspects alone would make this a good coffee table book. Luckily, the content is just as entertaining as the book is easy on the eyes. She’s got beauty and brains, folks.

The thing that immediately strikes me is Hendrix’s enthusiasm for the material. This wasn’t just sheer research (though, yes, there was much research to be done). This was a true labor of love. Hendrix seemingly knows every minute detail of practically every book he mentions, from the names of the people who created the cover art to (in the case of some authors) what happened to the “one-hit wonders” of horror fiction. And the best aspect of Hendrix’s writing is that he effortlessly speaks about these books with a keen sense of humor. I chuckled more times than I could count, and it’ll reel me in to read this book again eventually.

Though I’ve read my fair share of obscure horror novels, I realized after reading Paperback from Hell that I am just an amateur and have much catching up to do. There were at least a dozen books with descriptions that made my jaw drop at how full-blown bonkers they were, ones that I now must try to hunt down in some dusty old used bookstore (SO many books in the “Hail Satan” chapter, for instance. Yowza.)

If I were to voice one small complaint, it would be that I thought Hendrix was a tiny bit dismissive of Splatterpunk. I wish he had delved into the subversive elements of this sub-genre a bit more, as it’s a very important movement to me, and most of the first-wave Splatterpunk authors are my biggest personal influences. To be fair, he did name a few authors who stood out to him, so I could just be taking it personal, as Hendrix took plenty of digs at other sub-genres. I also thought Rex Miller’s Slob got the short end of the stick (despite giving it so much page space, which I do applaud Hendrix for). I just feel this novel deserves more respect, as it’s one of my all-time favorites. Really, though, at this point I’m just nitpicking so I don’t sound like I’m giving Hendrix a massage with a happy ending. Time for me to shut up.

You probably already know if you want this book or not. There’s a pretty specific audience for it. The average soccer mom probably isn’t going to be too into this. However, if you are within the target audience and were on the fence, trust me…it’s well worth your hard-earned cash.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Book Review: Disappearance at Devil's Rock by Paul Tremblay

After 2015’s brilliant A Head Full of Ghosts, Paul Tremblay quickly became an author I had to continue following. Though his next book sat in my to-be-read pile a bit longer than I’d hoped, I finally got around to reading it.

A teenage boy named Tommy Sanderson mysteriously disappears. The world his family and friends live in slowly crumbles. Various twists and turns appear, which I shall not begin to describe because I prefer to keep this a spoiler-free zone, so that’s all you’re going to get regarding the plot. Deal with it.

I noticed some people claiming Disappearance at Devil’s Rock was a bit of a disappointment after Tremblay’s last book, and though it does not reach its predecessor’s greatness, it is far from disappointing. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish. Tremblay’s main strengths are characters and language, two things that are immensely important to me both as a reader and a writer, and he beautifully weaves these elements into this story that I can’t help but love it. His characterizations of the children in this book are especially effective, successfully nailing realistic portrayals of young boys on the cusp of puberty and how quickly their innocence can go astray. He also deeply carves into the headspace of Tommy’s mother Elizabeth and his younger sister Kate, creating a strong emotional core. The sense of loss in this book is raw and exposed. And, God, so many sentences and turns of phrase that color me green.

A few loose ends throughout are likely the cause of some readers’ complaints, but I’ll defend this approach if I have to go down swinging. It adds an element of realism to a piece fiction that may or may not involve supernatural elements. And the less things are explained, the scarier they are, at least as far as I’m concerned. This is not to say that nothing in this book comes with an explanation, so don’t expect to be left completely in the dark. But you also shouldn’t expect to have everything wrapped up in a neat little gift box with a pretty little bow. Thank you, Tremblay, for taking this approach. It was a gift in its own way.

If your tastes in dark fiction lean more toward the literary, you really should be reading Paul Tremblay. I’d still recommend starting with A Head Full of Ghosts, but once you’re hooked on his work after that gem you should give Disappearance at Devil’s Rock a try. It’s a keeper.