Saturday, September 30, 2017
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
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
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
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.