Thursday, November 16, 2017

Reading This Saturday

If anyone lives in or near Vista or just wants to make the trek to Standards Record Store, I'm doing a reading there this Saturday at 7pm. 216 E Broadway Vista, CA

Pick up a copy of Secrets of the Weird, the limited Civilized Cannibals tape, and buy some sick records from one of the best shops in San Diego County. See ya there!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Reading This Friday!

Whoah...two posts in one night! Just wanted to share that I'm doing a reading this Saturday at Heartwork Coffee Bar. They are celebrating the release of their zine Extraction, I'll be reading a very special chapter of Secrets of the Weird (seriously, don't miss this!), followed by a Misfits cover band. Should be a hoot...see you there!

HWA Poetry Showcase Vol. 4 Available Now

The 4th volume of the HWA Poetry Showcase is out now, featuring my poem "Skin to Scales." Check it out here;

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Signings for California Screamin' at Warwick's and Dark Delicacies

A couple of upcoming signings for the new California Screamin' anthology, which features my short story "The Perfect Playground." Myself along with various other authors for the book will be at Dark Delicacies in Burbank on Saturday November 4th from 4pm to 6pm, and a few of us will be signing at Warwick's in La Jolla (the info is in the flyer above). Hope to see some of you there!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Book Review: The Dark at the End of the Tunnel by Taylor Grant

After seeing Taylor Grant read at two StokerCons in a row (one of which I was graced with the privilege of sharing the reading slot) and being quite impressed each time, I knew I needed to pick this book up at some point, so I finally ripped it out of my mental to-do list and bought the damned thing. And it does not disappoint.

Throughout this collection, Grant proves his talent as a short story writer. Writing short stories that are satisfying for both the writer and the reader can be a challenging task. Grant mentions in his introduction that he wrote the majority of these stories for his own personal enjoyment with no real yearning to have them published. Thankfully his senses were slapped into him and he pursued publication, because it would be a shame to have these tales rotting in some dank drawer, whimpering to be read by the craving eyes of the horror public. These are no self-indulgent, masturbatory tales. Quite the opposite. They deserve to be read and enjoyed.

The book starts out strong with “Masks,” which deals with a man who doesn’t quite feel like himself anymore. This is immediately followed by what is likely my favorite piece in the collection: “The Silent Ones.” Such a depressing story that addresses the topic of loneliness in a way I’ve not seen done before, and it gets pretty damned weird along the way. “Dead Pull” is a fun and satisfying story, especially for someone such as myself who loves animals dearly and abhors those who mistreat them. “The Infected” takes a clever approach to tackling the drudgery of being a working stiff versus following your creative dreams, which intersects with a peculiar “fiction” manuscript passed down from grandfather to father to son that begs to be completed. There are no stinkers in the bunch. It comes as no surprise that this book was a finalist for a Bram Stoker Award.

Grant has an enviable command of language, his stories and the ideas that spawn them are unique, and he doesn’t stick to one type of horror. Some of these stories could be referred to as “quiet horror,” while others are far more brutal. Some have a sci-fi edge, and there are occasional hints of the black humor you might find in a classic E.C. Comics story. Being able to hop genres while maintaining quality and style is a commendable feat, so pick up this book and see how it’s done.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Cover Reveal: California Screamin' Anthology

There's a new anthology coming your way this October called California Screamin'. Alongside stories from quite a few awesome other authors will be a reprint of my short story "The Perfect Playground." More info to come...

Friday, September 1, 2017

Book Review: Baby Powder by John C. Foster

I always love a good single-author short story collection (not bad ones, though…keep those far away from me pretty please). I especially enjoy collections in which each story stands apart from the next. Welcome to the latest perfect example of this, Baby Powder by John C. Foster.

There’s a lot to dig into here. This does not mean the collection is dense and/or difficult to get through. In fact, it’s a fairly quick read despite being 300 pages. But the ideas, and very often the well-crafted language, will stick with you in way flavor-of-the-month genre books will not. A good mix of horror and science fiction-ish pieces here. I’m not going to go over every story in the collection, but I would like to highlight a few faves.

The opener, “Highballing Through Gehenna,” comes out swinging. A very bleak and strange tale, leaving most of the facts to the imagination, letting the mind get used to an apocalypse of a different sort. Stressful on the level of Train to Busan. However, the threat these train passengers face is not of the zombie variety.

“Talk to Leo” is an unsettling piece about ventriloquism. Sort of. The creeps don’t let up much during this story, and I believe it’s because Foster doesn’t over-explain the situation. I love when authors make this choice. Sure, things can still be a bit scary if you know exactly what you’re facing, but I believe frights you can’t conveniently put in a box are far more powerful.

“Meat” is killer. Trees that eat people. ‘Nuff said.

I’ve always wondered why there aren’t more horror stories that deal with the death penalty, and “A Lamb to Slaughter” does so beautifully. It will make you think without feeling like you’ve been preached to. It also heads in unexpected directions.

But the real treasure of this collection is the final story, which also happens to be the title story. “Baby Powder” is where Foster’s true magic as a writer has comes together to create something special. The story focuses on a “haunted house,” for lack of a better term, but it goes much deeper than that. The prose is wonderful throughout, the characters are memorable, and the vibe of the whole story left me rattled for a couple of days after I read it. I don’t want to say anything else for fear of spoiling the wonder, but it’s worth buying this book for this story alone (plus, you also get a lot of other really awesome stories, so you really can’t lose.) Just one of those “wow” moments. I knew after reading Mister White that Foster was a good writer. After reading “Baby Powder,” I now see how great he is. His finest moment so far. No pressure.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

San Diego Horror Professionals Volume 3 Now Available

Volume 3 of the San Diego Horror Professionals anthology series (Grand Mal Press) is now available! The print version is ready to go, and the ebook should be available soon. This features my short story "The Heretic Lambs," stories by the other usual suspects from the previous 2 volumes, AND stories by a few new additions to the crew. Check it out here:

Monday, June 19, 2017

Book Review: The Insides by Jeremy P. Bushnell

A little over a year ago on this here blog I raved about Bushnell’s debut novel, The Weirdness, and it’s taken me a while to get my crapola together and review his second book (which actually came out not long after I reviewed the first book). But the important thing is that I AM getting to it, and that I’m sharing it with you. Better late than never, as they say…

I am happy to say that Bushnell does not suffer from the dreaded “sophmore slump.” However, The Insides is decidedly different in tone than his first book. The Weirdness was more of a dark comedy with some slight horror elements, but The Insides is overall a darker tale. This is not to say it is devoid of humor, as there are some great character moments that bring the laughs, but these moments serve to balance out the human drama and darkly fantastical moments that take up the bulk of this book.

The protagonist is a woman named Ollie who once dabbled in magic (and was apparently quite proficient in her craft), but eventually abandoned it and started a family (a family she is now estranged from). Her life mostly consists of working in a butcher shop, engaging in relationships that some might deem inappropriate, and hanging out with her long-time friend/now roommate Victor, yet she is soon thrust into a world of magic and strangeness again due to a coworker named Guychardson and a peculiar knife he possesses. Ollie can’t shake her attraction to the knife, and she soon learns it has powers that threaten the fabric of reality, powers that make her wish she had never known of its existence.

Meanwhile, a psychic named Maja has been hired to track down this same knife. And she’s teamed up with an ex-marine who wears a pig mask (and goes by the handy name of “Pig”) and seems to subsist solely on sugary candy. Though I think most of the primary characters are interesting and well fleshed out, it is Maja who I find most fascinating, for a couple of reasons. First, I love how she is so stoic and calculating about her abilities. And though she often abhors the guilt by association she endures to survive, her bottom line is earning her pay (though she is also haunted by a violent act she was involved in long ago, which gives her sympathetic depth). Secondly, I truly enjoyed her relationship with Pig, as their personalities couldn’t have been more different, and their scenes were often like that of a buddy cop movie gone terribly wrong. But I commend Bushnell for creating two women who are very strong and diverse. I’m certainly no woman, but it never felt like I was reading “male writes female characters.” I was invested these women and their motives and lives.

Though the magical world pervades the novel more and more as the pages turn (with a mind-bending and horror-ish climax being the highlight of the book), it is only one element of a complex story that is ultimately about relationships and regret. The Insides succeeds because it never sacrifices heart for strangeness but instead finds a happy medium between the two.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Reprint Story Available in New Anthology

A new anthology just came out featuring one of my short stories. This antho is full of dark and weird stories somehow related to the treatment of Mother Earth. My story is a reprint called "Acquired Taste," which was previously only available in electronic form. Now it's available in this print anthology release by Scary Dairy Press, which is perfect if you're like me and don't read e-books. Check it out here:

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Book Review: Yes Trespassing by Erik T. Johnson

Before you read any further—if you’re looking for popcorn fiction, head elsewhere. Yes Trespassing is not what you are looking for. Maybe it’s what you need somewhere down the line, but you’re not quite ready for it at this point in your life. However, if you have time to enjoy a 12-course meal of literary weirdness, welcome to this review.

It’s difficult to place Johnson’s short fiction in a convenient box, which is a good thing where I come from. Is it horror? Sometimes yes, and when it is operating in that territory (for instance, in the first couple of stories in this book), it’s unsettling. It’s essentially what I hope the future of horror fiction looks like. No cheap, convenient scares or cliché approaches. Just something that feels wrong. Something that slices a thin pouch in your flesh and slides right in, making itself right at home, scraping its claws from inside every chance it gets. Is it literary fiction? Without a doubt (at least based on how I define it), though certainly on the darker/stranger side. And it’s this unclassifiable strangeness that pervades every word Johnson writes.

Which brings me to my next point. I suspect Johnson is the type of writer who obsesses over each word and sentence to unhealthy degrees, perhaps losing far too much sleep until everything on the page is exactly as his warped brain sees it. If this is not the case, then I hate his guts because he shouldn’t have so many perfect sentences in one 400+ page book. It shouldn’t be legal. I could probably point to any page in the book and find a line that dumbfounds me. However, the story “Blumenkrank” begins with one of the best opening lines I’ve read in a while: “Because Brother hung himself from our chandelier with fine silk ties, mother and I had to take in a boarder.”

The stories are all over the place, from creepy to brain melting to hilarious. More than a few of these tales feature a private investigator named Martin Box, and they often evolve into the most bizarre of the bunch. My favorite story in the collection is “‘Do You Sing?’ Asked Xavier Steen,” a strangely poignant and touching piece of fiction, not something I ever thought I’d find myself saying about a story featuring a major plot point that involves the murder of a True Norwegian black metal band’s vocalist.

I must say, I really love the design of this book. Maybe this doesn’t matter to the average reader, but it matters if you care about the unlimited potential of art. The entire front cover contains a short story, several stories have been omitted but are apparently accessible via a QC code, there are many enigmatic handwritten notes throughout as well as brief conversations between writer and editor, and there is even a page you can tear out and use as a bookmark if you so desire.

I’m not going to pretend I understand what is happening in all of these stories. Some of them, frankly, went over my head, yet I was still engaged by the sheer force of the language. But Johnson has written a collection of stories that command attention, that demand multiple reads. I’m sure I’ll be returning to this book at least a couple more times in my lifetime, simply because I WANT to better understand the madness that is Erik T. Johnson.

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.