Monday, August 12, 2019

Book Review: The Serpent's Shadow by Daniel Braum

I've been away from this blog for a long time, especially when it comes to reviews, which I've had little to no time for unfortunately. However, when the (hopefully one day) legendary Daniel Braum sends you his new book to review, and it's released by Cemetery Dance, you make exceptions. Because you know you're in for a treat.

Before The Serpent's Shadow, Braum has proven himself to be a master of dark magical realism in the short story form. I'm always disappointed when certain writers are only masters of this particular form, and the novels they release end up being a tad lackluster. Though this tale is more of a novella than a novel, it's longer than Braum's other work, and the point I'm trying to make is that he is still able to pull of the vibe he's become known for, yet he manages to concoct a few surprises along the way. 

Set in Cancun in the mid-80s (those familiar with Braum's work will certainly not be surprised by the setting), a young, naive, inexperienced American named David is on vacation with his family. He meets a young woman named Anne Marie at a club, and as their relationship grows, so does the mythology of the story, which relies heavily on Mayan culture (whether the impetus for this story is based on actual mythology or is a creation of Braum's, I am unsure and too lazy to look up). Pyramids are explored, visions are had, and a dreaded killer known as the White Lady stalks the land. You know me...I don't discuss plot much in these reviews, and that's really all you need to know before diving in. Whether you're diving into the clearest water at one of Cancun's beaches or something far murkier, Braum is reticent to share. Which is a good thing. I always appreciate a little ambiguity in fiction.

One of the major pluses of Braum being allowed to spread his literary wings a little more in these 100+ pages is that the character development is much deeper than could be managed in a shorter story. Braum has always managed this better than most lesser writers in his shorts, but the characters in The Serpent's Shadow are given plenty of breathing room, and with David telling the story in first person, we are really able to get inside his head.

The greatest surprise of this book is that, at times, it is a smidge more violent than what I'm used to from Braum (especially the climax of the story). It never goes overboard, as that would be a major tonal shift from the rest of the book, but it still shocks when it occurs. Though much of Braum's work walks a fine line between magical realism and horror, it is in these moments that the latter prevails.

There's a lot to love about this book thematically, and I've got plenty of thoughts about that element of the book, but this isn't a literature class, so I'm going to let you read this and make up your own mind as to what those themes are (I believe there are more than a few). Your assignment is to write a paper exploring these themes and turn it in to me later.

If you think magical realism begins and ends with South American authors such as Márqez and Borges, think again. Try a little taste of Braum's interpretation of this genre, and you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Reading/Signing for Sexy Leper ay Mysterious Galaxy April 6th 2PM

Hey, if you're in San Diego, please come to my event for my new novel Sexy Leper, coming up in a few weeks! I'll be reading an excerpt from the book, there will be a Q & A, and a signing after.

Mysterious Galaxy 
5943 Balboa Ave #100
San Diego, CA 92111

Friday, January 18, 2019

Sexy Leper Available for Pre-Order

Hello all. My second novel, Sexy Leper, is available for pre-order from Bizarro Pulp PRess/JournalStone. It's a wild one.

You can check it out here:

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Book Review: F4 by Larissa Glasser

Upon first learning about this book, I saw it described as something along the lines of (and pardon my paraphrasing) “Kaiju trans porn.” And, well, that should give you a good idea of what you’re getting into here. However, let that be just a starting point to the madness that lies within this very brief 142 pages.

Carol is a trans woman who is bartending on a cruise ship that also happens to be a Kaiju, one of a handful that has managed to destroy a good chunk of the world. In fact, there are many trans chicas working upon this sleeping giant, and a few are also involved in some deviant side gigs. Something within the Kaiju causes some of the crew and passengers to transform into inhuman creatures, and really all you need to know for now is that you’re in for some bizarro body horror (though not solely that). Anyone who reads my reviews knows I don’t like to get into the plot too much, but rather some other elements.

Despite of the strangeness that takes up the bookends of this novella, I think the strongest moments are in the middle, when we get to go back in time a bit and find out about Carol’s life before the current events of the story, from being a reluctant “band mother” to a witness in court who also happens to be lambasted by the media. Here we really get to know her character a bit more, and I began to care about the internal turmoil she dwells on throughout the book, usually via sarcastic remarks.

Which brings me to my favorite element of the book: Glasser’s penchant for sarcasm. She’s never afraid to let it fly, and it makes up a large amount of Carol’s personality, which feels true to form considering the pain she feels. Sarcasm is a common deflection method. Seriously, though, the writing is quite humorous at times, and there were several lines that made me laugh out loud. (When describing a pair of eyebrows—“They were really grey and bushy, as if he’d grown them with the pride-maintenance of a ZZ Top beard.”)

F4 is not going to be for everybody, this is certain. And that’s okay. In fact, that’s great. Any art that is created with the intent of pleasing everyone is sure to be trite, forgettable trash. Instead, you get something disgustingly adventurous, unabashedly unique, and wholly fearless. Prudes and TERFs need not apply.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Teaser Art for Hag Comic Series

Here's a little teaser from my debut comic series Hag, coming in early 2019 from American Gothic Press. Illustration by Jon Clark. 
"It's the biggest flood Texas has seen in years...and Carl Simmons is caught in the dead center of it.
Unfortunately, he's not alone."

For the rest of the tease, go here:

Friday, September 28, 2018

Book Review: Night's Harbor by W.J. Renehan

Sometimes I forget how enjoyable straight-up old-school horror can be. You know, the stuff I grew up on? When it’s done well, as is the case with W.J. Renehan’s novella Night’s Harbor, it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

At first I was a little worried since this is a vampire story, and we certainly don’t need any more romantic fang-whores littering up our literary world. No thank you. Luckily, Renehan has opted for vamps of the vicious variety. I mean, no joke, these bastards are fugly inside and out, and they do some extremely nasty things to some of the characters that even shocked me a little. Yup, Renehan is not afraid to go to some dark, dark places many authors will not explore, which I can appreciate. I mean, this is horror, right? Not a happy-go-lucky skip through Candyland while holding hands with Santa Claus.

The setup to this story is very basic. Vamps taking over a town, slaughtering or turning its denizens one by one, seeking something that could allow them to essentially take over the world, and the town (most notably a former sheriff and an old vampire hunter) must fight to protect humanity, both their own and as a whole. What makes this novel work well and stand out is Renehan’s superior command of prose. Not only is it very tight, but he allows enough flourishes of language to solidifies him as a solid all-around writer.

If I were to complain about anything, it’s that I wish this were a novel rather than a novella, mostly because I would have liked a little more breathing room to further develop some of the minor characters. The main players are developed well, considering the space constraints, but I would have loved a few more chapters with some of the other characters, specifically those who fall victim to the vampires and have some seriously horrible fates. It would have made the already strong impact even stronger.

All in all, I was impressed and look forward to reading more of Renehan’s work, especially when I get the hankering for a primo modern take on classic horror.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Book Review: The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay

I know it’s a total cliché to say you just can’t put a book down, but screw it. Tremblay’s latest novel is the epitome of such a claim. Problem is, I was reading it during breaks at work, so I HAD to put it down. Gah!

I’ve been a huge fan of Tremblay since A Head Full of Ghosts (easily one of my favorite horror novels of the last ten years or so), and have been meaning to get to his back catalogue eventually, despite it not being of the same genre (I’m of the belief that authors this good generally excel at whatever genre they attempt to tackle. See Joe R. Lansdale for another example of incredible writing trumping genre). But in the meantime I’ve been moving forward. Despite it being a very different beast from AHFOG, I loved Disappearance at Devil’s Rock quite a bit, so I was rip-roaring ready for some more Tremblay to consume. Gimme gimme gimme.

I wasn’t ready for The Cabin at the End of the World.

Holy macanoli.

Allow me to give you just a quick setup, a taste if you will. A gay couple (Andrew and Eric) and their adopted Chinese daughter Wen set off to a cabin in northern New Hampshire to enjoy some alone time. Since this alone would not make for a very interesting book, naturally something has to foil their plans. And that something comes in the form of Leonard, Sabrina, Redmond, and Adriane, a group of intruders who show up feigning friendship but harboring something much darker. All signs point to cult, but something’s off. You see, these four individuals (who allegedly have never met before that morning) have all foreseen the impending apocalypse, and the only way to stop it is from coming (and it’s coming, like, really goddamned soon!) is for the happy family to choose to do something unspeakable. To share anything more would be spoiling, so I’ll leave it at that.

Tremblay employs a breakneck pacing I’ve not seen in his previous efforts, only taking a few brief breaths for reflective flashbacks, and it works well for this book. I was sufficiently stressed from the moment things turned bad until they grew much, much worse. And if you’re familiar with Tremblay’s love of ambiguity (which I also love, love, love), The Cabin at the End of the World is no different in the sense that you may think you have a handle on what happens by the time you hit the last page, but you can’t really be sure. One thing you can be sure of: this is a dark, dark book.

As is to be expected, the prose shines in a way that perfectly sates my appetite for language. To manage this while maintaining such manic energy throughout is no small feat. A brutal story, beautifully worded. As long as Tremblay keeps pumping out novels of this quality, I’ll keep shelling out my hard-earned dough.

P.S. Paul, you need to promise to come back to San Diego one day. I regret to inform you that, though you managed to personalize my book and leave a message, you never technically signed it! Haha!