Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Reading/Signing Event at Mysterious Galaxy July 29th for Secrets of the Weird

More info to come on this soon, but I've got an event coming up in San Diego at Mysterious Galaxy. It'll be Saturday July 29th at 2:00 pm. If you're in San Diego, you should definitely stop by and pick up a copy of the book. It would mean the world to me to see as many of you there as possible. Old friends, new friends, friends I see on a regular basis, friends I haven't seen in forever. You get the idea...

Looks like Mysterious Galaxy has put up a link where you can pre-order the book now, then just pick it up at the event. Or you can just show up and buy one if you so desire. Also, I believe there will be the opportunity for out of town folks to purchase signed copies from Mysterious Galaxy after the event, but I haven't confirmed that yet.

I'm also working on setting up events in Los Angeles and Orange County around the same time, and hopefully the Bay Area and Portland and Seattle in August and September. I'll keep you all posted!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Review: Yeti. Tiger. Dragon. by Daniel Braum

Were I a lazy reviewer, I’d just tell you to not read any further and go ahead and buy this book immediately. However, not only do I try not to be lazy whenever possible, but it also appears this book is sold out on the Dim Shores website, so you might need to do a little hunting (and I assure you it’d be worth the effort).

Spend a few minutes chatting with me about my favorite contemporary writers, and Daniel Braum is bound to come into the conversation at some point. I’ve written of his greatness on this blog before (see my review of his short story collection The Night Marchers…you should be able to acquire that particular book with far greater ease than Yeti. Tiger. Dragon.). There’s something about Braum’s prose that hits the sweet spot between literary fiction and something decidedly “other.” Braum does not limit himself by adhering to the laws of convenient genre buzzwords, which I believe allows him the opportunity to have a wider range of potential readership. His work tiptoes around magical realism, and were you to attempt to put his work in a box, this would be the most comfortable fit. Some stories are filled with strangeness, dread, and loss, others with innocence, mystery, and wonder. Feel free to mix these descriptors as you see fit, as Braum certainly does.

This particular collection consists of three stories spanning Braum’s career (from 2004, 2008, and 2016) that take a cryptozoological slant, and the quality of the writing is consistent despite the wide gap in years, a testament to Braum’s skill. As is the case with many of Braum’s stories, these tales are set in “exotic” locations (I use quotes because the term is relative), transporting readers to places they likely don’t travel to on a daily basis.

Though I recommend this book to anyone seeking quality fiction, other writers should especially be reading Braum, as his style can serve as a crash course for word economy. Never a wasted word, and the language is lyrical without being remotely flowery. Nothing is over-explained, yet I’m never left feeling like I need more to be fully satisfied (naturally, I WANT more, but that’s a different thing altogether, a positive thing). I’d argue he’s a master of the short story form. Rumor has it Braum has a novel coming soon, and I’m very interested to see what he does with a longer piece.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Review: Angel Meat by Laura Lee Bahr

Where do I even begin with a writer like Laura Lee Bahr? If you’re unfamiliar with Bahr, it’s safe to say you’re missing out on something special. But do not fret—there’s still time to hop on this train and catch up. I first learned of the talented Laura Lee Bahr when I picked up her debut novel last year (Haunt, a brilliantly bizarre supernatural noir book published back in 2011). Next was another novel in 2015 titled Long Form Religious Porn, which is currently in my To Be Read pile, but I imagine it’s really damned good. Now, however, I’d like to focus on her most recent effort, a short story collection released earlier this year, enigmatically titled Angel Meat.

What I love most about Bahr’s fiction is that it isn’t easily classifiable. Depending on the story, it may be dark, funny, sexy, poignant, horrific, strange, or something else you can’t quite put your finger on. Often, it is some combination of these qualities. Ultimately, I’d classify it as literary fiction sans pretension, the type of fiction that can take you anywhere if you’re willing to embrace it, the tales where the language matters just as much as the story. Exactly the type of fiction that hooks deeply into my flesh and pulls it tight until I feel pain and pleasure equally.

These stories in this brief collection are all distinct in tone and tale, yet they are still united through Bahr’s consistent voice. Ranging from subtle science fiction (“The Cause’) to possible parable (“Rat-Head) to arguable autobiographical account (“In the Desert”), you never know what you’re going to get from a Laura Lee Bahr story. Though all nine stories are worthwhile, I’d like to focus briefly on my two favorites in the collection. First, “The Liar,” an uncomfortably dark tale that deals with a peculiar moral grey area surrounding victim and offender. A perfect blend of innocence and corruption. My other top was “Happy Hour,” which deals with the idea that there are strange and possibly horrible things we are willing to live with when the alternative is utter loneliness. Darkly humorous, but also tender in its on weird way.

There’s nothing else I can really say at this point except that you should buy this book (and all of Bahr’s other books). If you’re looking for something satisfyingly unique, you’ve come to the right place.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Secrets of the Weird Cover Reveal

It's been a bit since I've posted anything, but I've been a tad busy. However, I'm pleased to reveal the official cover art for my debut novel, Secrets of the Weird, which will be released by Grey Matter Press this July. More info to come, but in the meantime, here's a tease:

The fulfillment of your every desire...
That’s the enticing yet dangerous promise of Sweet Candy, the new designer drug making the rounds through the community of club kids, neo-Nazis, drag queens, prostitutes and punks who populate the mean streets of Sweetville.
With its chewable hearts and candied lips threatening to forever transform the delicate social balance and the very lives of each and every member of the city’s underground, Sweet Candy is poised to ignite the tenuous powder keg that is life, love and lust in Sweetville.

But could the enigmatic back-alley surgeon Julius Kast and his partnership with a peculiar cult be the spark that lights the fuse once and for all? And how will their actions affect the life of a young woman named Trixie who is seeking salvation through transformation?
Take a remarkable journey that’s equal parts irreverent social commentary, revisionist dystopia, dark fantasy and horrifying reality when you travel to the unforgettable world of Sweetville’s counterculture where a host of sometimes dangerous, often deviant and always dark secrets are waiting to be revealed.
Such secrets refuse to be confined to Sweetville.
But instead will come home to live with you.
Changing everything.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Book Review: Honky Tonk Samurai by Joe R. Lansdale

I first discovered Lansdale through his horror fiction, and he quickly became one of my favorite writers. In fact, he is without question one of the best living authors of any genre. Though he still writes horror, he does not limit himself by any stretch of the imagination. Some writers might have difficulty transitioning from one genre to the next, and thus the work suffers. This has never been the case for Lansdale. Whether it’s weird western, mystery, suspense, whatever, it’s all top-shelf. He could write a geometry textbook and make it interesting. This brings me to his definitely not horror (yet sometimes strange) Hap and Leonard series, and most specifically the most recent book in this series: Honky Tonk Samurai.

Is Honky Tonk Samurai the best (or least best) of the Hap and Leonard series? I cannot confirm nor deny this, as I have only read a few of them. Eventually I’ll have read them all…I swear! What I can say is that, much like the other Hap and Leonard books I have read, this is an enjoyable ride following the antics of some very entertaining and likable characters. Now, I’m not just talking about the two lead characters and the rapport they have with each other (I love the banter Lansdale writes between these two best friends as well as the banter with other characters). I’m also talking about the scum of the earth characters these guys are often up against (and sometimes in cahoots with, as is the case with the character of Booger in this book). Lansdale manages to make detestable characters funny and, yes, sometimes a little bit likable, though not to the point that you’re not glad if they end up kicking the bucket. I also still believe Leonard is one of the coolest and most unique gay characters in fiction.

I’ve managed to read many of the Hap and Leonard novels out of sequence, and what’s nice about the way Lansdale has written these books is that, for the most part, this doesn’t make a huge difference. Though there are certain minor plot threads and relationships that are referenced over multiple books, you don’t necessarily have to have read the whole series to enjoy how those elements weave themselves into the current book (though, naturally, I imagine they would be even more rewarding if you did read them in proper sequence). That being said, a cliffhanger occurs at the end of Honky Tonk Samurai that almost indicates this book could be the end of the series. However, I think a cliffhanger is all it is, and there will likely (hopefully) be another Hap and Leonard book coming in the next couple of years. I’d be really shocked if that wasn’t the case.

As a side note, if you haven’t watched the Hap and Leonard series on Sundance yet, you’re dropping the ball big time. It nails the vibe of these books perfectly, and the casting is spot on so far (especially for the two leads). Season 2 starts in March.

You can’t go wrong if you pick up any book by Lansdale. You’re guaranteed to be entertained, whether its due to the dark humor, action, violence, and/or sheer skill of storytelling. So why not start with Honky Tonk Samurai? Just make sure you start somewhere.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Book Review: Stranded by Bracken MacLeod

There’s a very special sort of desperation that accompanies being left helpless in an arctic setting. I believe I first encountered this sensation as a young lad while watching Carpenter’s The Thing. In more recent years, it was the central focus of The Terror, the wonderfully oppressive odyssey by Dan Simmons (and the book I initially I thought I’d be comparing Stranded to, but ultimately the setting and the ship trapped in ice are the only real similarities between the two).

Noah Cabot, a deckhand on the Arctic Promise, is the central character of the story. Cabot has few friends on the ship, due to being indirectly responsible for a crewmate’s death. His father-in-law, the ship’s captain, despises him more than anyone else. It’s bad enough to be stuck working on a ship where 90% of the people loathe you, but it’s certainly far worse when that ship becomes trapped in pack ice with no sign of it coming loose. Once the “stranding” occurs, the real story begins. The entire crew, save Cabot, come down with an unknown illness, and all of them (including Cabot) are seeing things in the corners of their eyes, things they can’t quite register. Days pass. They can’t radio for help, but they see something off in the distance. They’re desperate. They have no choice but to head off to this unknown shape. What they find when they arrive is certainly not what they expect.

Overall, this is a really strong novel. Tightly written, with its main strength being the tension and extremely stressful action scenes. There were more than a few moments when I wanted to yell “Holy Shit” out loud, and one scene on the ice that left me breathless.

There’s a bit of an existential slant to this book (at least that’s how I took it), but to say anything more would be spoiling the major horrific reveals in the book. There’s some weight given to “what-ifs,” which I’m sure anyone who has ever been in the center of tragedy and bad decisions can relate to. It’s not what I was expecting, which is obviously a good thing. I’m glad it ended up being a completely different approach to attempted survival in an arctic hell than The Terror. Many of the blurbs claim it has a Twilight Zone feel, and I honestly can’t disagree. I can’t predict this for certain, but I’m pretty sure MacLeod’s book is at least going to make the final ballot for the Stoker Awards this year. And I wouldn’t raise an eyebrow at that occurrence.

Friday, December 9, 2016

San Diego Horror Professionals Vol. 2 (Holiday Edition) Now Available on Kindle Version

The second volume of the San Diego Horror Professionals anthology series is now available on Kindle! This book, released by Grand Mal Press, features my story "Coyote Christmas" alongside 5 other dark and horrific tales with holiday themes and/or settings. The print version will be available soon.