Book Review: 21st Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

Synopsis:

A collection of short stories.

Imogene is young and beautiful. She kisses like a movie star and knows everything about every film ever made. She’s also dead and waiting in the Rosebud Theater for Alec Sheldon one afternoon in 1945….

Arthur Roth is a lonely kid with big ideas and a gift for attracting abuse. It isn’t easy to make friends when you’re the only inflatable boy in town….

Francis is unhappy. Francis was human once, but that was then. Now he’s an eight-foot-tall locust and everyone in Calliphora will tremble when they hear him sing….

John Finney is locked in a basement that’s stained with the blood of half a dozen other murdered children. In the cellar with him is an antique telephone, long since disconnected, but which rings at night with calls from the dead….

The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past…

My Review:

I love a good anthology, although one compiled by a single author usually defeats the purpose for me; I read anthologies to discover new authors to add to my ever growing reading list. However, I was recommended Joe Hill’s 21st Century Ghosts by a friend and thought the collection sounded interesting…and it was.

The stories are varied and creepy, covering a myriad of horror tropes. Some were scary, some were gross, and some were surprisingly poignant and heartbreaking; I particularly enjoyed ‘Pop Art’.

I must admit that as a horror writer myself I approached Joe Hill with a dubious sense of dread. As King of Horror Stephen King’s son, you’d be forgiven for thinking he has simply waltzed into a major publishing contract as a legacy author, something that could leave an old penny taste in the mouth of other writers that have struggled and fought for their place in the literary world. But I was pleasantly surprised. He’s talented and tells each story with expertise and flair; he deserves the hype (something that happens less and less these days)

The front cover is eye catching and has an expensive look to it, which is good as the cover is something that can go horribly wrong in this genre giving amazing books a cheap impression. Although, I’d expect nothing less from a major publisher such as Harper Collins.

Overall I’d give 21st Century Ghosts 4 out of 5 stars. If you’re already looking for a Halloween, read (I know I am, Halloween comes just once a year and preparation is key to wringing out every drop of wonderful creepiness) then look no further.

Find 21st Century Ghosts on GoodReads…

Book Review: Night Chills by Jeff Gunhas

night-chill-new-cover-7-3Synopsis:

Jack Tremont moves his family to the quiet mountains of Western Maryland hoping to leave behind a troubled past and restart his life. Instead, he finds himself caught up in a nightmare when his daughter Sarah is targeted by Nate Huckley, a mysterious and horrifying stranger driven by a dark power that will stop at nothing to possess Sarah. When Sarah goes missing, suspicion falls on Jack and he must uncover the secrets of the small mountain town of Prescott City and face the evil secret hidden there. As he digs further, he learns the conspiracy reaches more deeply than he could have imagined. Finally, he will have to face the question, What is a father willing to do to save his child? The answer? Anything. Anything at all.

About the Author: authorphoto

In addition to writing supernatural thrillers for adults, Jeff Gunhus is also the author of the Middle Grade/YA series The Templar Chronicles. (www.jacktemplar.com) The first book, Jack Templar Monster Hunter, was written in an effort to get his reluctant reader eleven-year old son excited about reading. It worked and a new series was born and recognized as a 2012 Forward Reviews Book of the Year Finalist. Jeff has been a Stephen King and Dean Koontz fan since he was a kid reading their novels under the covers at night. Seeing Night Chill next to King and Koontz on the Amazon Bestseller lists has been a surreal experience. He leads an active lifestyle in Maryland with his wife Nicole and five incredible kids. In rare moments of quiet, he can be found in the back of the City Dock Cafe in Annapolis working on his next novel.

 Website  Goodreads   Facebook   Twitter

My Review:

I’ve read so many romance novels recently that I’ve forgotten what reading a good horror novel can be like! Night Chill is, well chilling! It’s very suspenseful and puts forward an incredibly scary scenario. Very well written and really draws you in from the very first chapter.

The characters were interesting and well fleshed out. The plot was consistent and gripping. Both the antagonist and protagonist were carefully constructed and served the main themes of the book well.

From a writer’s perspective, there were a few info dumps in the beginning, however they were entwined nicely with a number of hints about secrets and mysterious to come, so I instantly forgave their presence. It was written third person and jumped from character to character which really added to the overall suspense. I must admit that it’s not my preferred POV, but really served to build tension and keep me hooked.

The front cover is also very creepy and relevant to the story – which, although sounds a no-brainer, some covers can be almost completely unrelated to the story within. Obviously the cover designer either read the book, or had a good conversation with the Jeff.

Overall, I’d give Night Chills 5 out of 5 stars – Reminded me why I started a love affair with horror literature in the first place!

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Interview with Tommy B Smith

T2007Tell us about your publishing journey.

The writing journey was longer than the publishing journey. Writing was something I’ve always wondered in and out of, but I actively began seeking publication around 2005. The next year saw my first short story sales rolling in.

One of my short stories published in 2007, “Living Poison,” provided an opening for a potential revisiting. In 2008 I set to writing more material revolving around the phenomenon introduced in that story, and this became the novella Poisonous.

The book contains graphic violence, which many publishers prohibit in their submission guidelines. Since the story is a novella, length was also an issue for some. My list of potential publishers was limited, but in 2011, I found a home for it with the newly-solidifying Rainstorm Press. The book was released in late 2012.

What part of being a writer do you love most?

Writing. I’ve heard some writers say that this is their least favorite part. I suppose everyone’s different. Although I enjoy the creative process, it isn’t always about having fun doing it; I don’t think “fun” is always the correct term in my case. It’s a different form and level of enjoyment. Am I making much sense?

I do hope my work can stimulate others and that people can appreciate it for what it is. It captures things which are real to me in some fashion but fictional in another, since it does happen to be fiction.

Which part do you hate most?

As with many things, the political side that occasionally rears its grotesque head. I’ve seen it and I don’t find it sexy. Stay in the swamp, swamp-beast. You’re not why I’m here.

What life advice have you been given, that you wished someone had given you sooner?

“Don’t listen to bad advice!”

That isn’t actually life advice as much as it is life experience. There are situations that would have turned out better if I had trusted my own judgment instead of taking some others’ misleading advice. Conviction doesn’t equal wisdom or experience.

If you could be a supernatural creature, what would you be and why?

A bulletproof, fire-resistant flying tarantula that can see in all directions at once.

Which paranormal creature scares you most and why?

None of them, really. I’m sorry. I did have some fear of that nature in my childhood, but most people don’t seem to have heard of the creatures that inhabited my world then.

What was your inspiration for Poisonous? Poisonous Art

Classic slasher horror movies were an inspiration. I also reached into some personal darkness for aspects of it.

Who are your favourite authors and why?

I have a lot of favorites. That would be a very long list. Lately I’ve been thinking of the old epics: The Odyssey(Homer), The Divine Comedy(Dante Alighieri), The Kalevala, and one of my favorites, The Epic of Gilgamesh. I just read Joyland by Stephen King and I’m looking forward to reading Doctor Sleep once I have the opportunity. Giving only a second’s glance, I have Washington Irving, Douglas Adams, Robert E. Howard, and Dan Simmons on my bookshelf. A variety.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m writing a story based in St. Charles, the city visited in Poisonous, but it’s a different story set in an earlier time period. Poisonous was a somewhat in-your-face approach, though not entirely, but this one is more of a sabotaging-your-brake-lines-and-watching-you-drive-into-the-river approach.

Where can fans find you online?

My author website is at http://www.tommybsmith.com. I can also be found on Facebook at my new Facebook author page at http://www.facebook.com/authortommybsmith

Interview with horror author Mark West

headshotWith me today is  fellow horror author, Mark West.
Tell us a bit about yourself…
My name is Mark West, I live in Northamptonshire in the UK, I work as a Finance Manager and I write horror fiction.
What was the first story you ever wrote, and what would you change about it now?
Wow, the first story I ever wrote was way back in the late 70s and was probably either an ‘homage’ to Star Wars or The Six Million Dollar Man.  The first story I had published was “Back Above The Clouds” in The Dream Zone magazine in 1999 and, reading it back, I’d probably edit it a little tighter but otherwise it seems okay.
A funny thing happened on the way to getting published…
I started out writing horror stories in the late 80s, then in the early 90s I shifted to contemporary drama.  I wrote three novels, between 1992 and 1998 and sent them off to London publishers and all of them were rejected.  A chance purchase – I was loitering in a shop, waiting for my wife – of Dark Voices 4 rekindled my love for short horror fiction and notes at the back introduced me to TTA Press.  Through them, I picked up their listings zine (kind of like Ralan’s is now, except this was a little mag) and discovered the small press and I haven’t looked back since.
Is there a book that you’ve read and thought, ‘damn I wish I’d wrote that!’
Loads of them.  The one that probably sticks most in my mind is “Boys Life” by Robert McCammon because it’s just beautiful.  It’s about a boy, growing up in the 60s in the American south and his adventures (and misadventures) along the way.  It made me cry twice, it scared me, it made me smile, it made me want to be Robert McCammon, I loved it.  In fact, I loved it so much that I read it in 1997 and I keep going to re-read it, then realise I can still recall it vividly!
What scares people can be subjective – what would you say is the universal scare factor?
For me, as a parent, the Achilles heel is kids.  The thought of something happening to them, the thought of being unable to prevent anything from happening to them, brings me out in a cold sweat.  Not that I haven’t taken advantage of it though and in several of my stories, a child gets put squarely into harms way (though more often than not they escape).
What makes you sleep with the lights on?
I can’t remember the last time I did.  Books and films nowadays can make me jump (they do quite often, in fact) but I can’t remember the last time I was scared enough to want to turn the lights on.
Tell us about your newest release…
My newest release is the story “The Bureau Of Lost Children”, which will appear in “ill at ease 2”.
What inspired this story?
Briefly losing my son in a shop.  We’d gone into Game, he didn’t hear me say to him that I was going to look at something, panicked and left the shop when he couldn’t see me.  I found him, a few minutes later, in HMV and it was the scariest five minutes of my entire life.  So I took that situation, those feelings and created a terrifying shopping centre out of it, that acts as a front for an operation you really don’t want to know about!
Who, in your opinion, is the ultimate horror author, and why?
It has to be Stephen King, I think.  Despite the naysayers, the man has been on top of the genre – and his game, for most of it – for forty years and at the same time, he’s really opened up horror for new fans whilst constantly acknowledging the past masters who guided him.
What advice would you give to new authors?
Learn your craft.  Don’t write a story, print it and self-publish it straight away – it’s nice, it’s immediate, but you’re not doing yourself any favours and you need to write a lot before you find your voice and you need to find it.  Get your work edited – even if it’s a handful of knowledgeable friends (join a writing group) – and present it in the best way you possibly can.  Be professional.
the-mill-mark-west
What is your favourite social media platform for authors, and why?
I don’t use any social media purely for my writing – I love Facebook but I spend at least 50% of the time, if not more, doing stuff other than talking about my writing and the same is true with Twitter.  My blog also appears to operate on a 50/50 split.  In fact that’s the other piece of advice I’d give to new authors – don’t go on and on and on and on and on and on about your new story that’s just been published.  People get fed up and, poison for your career, they tend to ignore it.
Where can fans find you online?
I’m on Facebook and Twitter @MarkEWest and I maintain a website at www.markwest.org.uk

Interview with author Angeline Trevena

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My next interview is with Angeline Trevena, who is the author of ‘No Smoke Without Fire’ which is included in the Tales of the Undead: Suffer Eternal Volume II anthology.

When did you realise you wanted to be a horror writer?

I’ve always been a big horror fan; my brother and I watching every old horror movie we could get our hands on, but when it came to reading and writing, it was all about fantasy. It was only a few years ago that I started reading horror. It all began with Stephen King’s On Writing which I received one Christmas. I read it in just a few days, unable to put it down. I went on to read Green Mile and Misery, and found I couldn’t get enough. They made me jumpy and
nervous, just like horror movies do, but they got into my bones in a way that a 90 minute movie never could. This started me writing horror, and with the publication of my first short story, a ghost story, I decided that this was where I wanted to be. I still write fantasy, and a mash-up of both genres, but I tend to class myself, first and foremost, as a horror writer.

Reveal.50Shades

What was the first story you got published? Is there anything you’d change about it now?

The first story I had published was ‘The Vincent Orphanage’ which was picked for the Mirador Fantasmagoria anthology in January 2011. It’s a ghost story about a girl who is forced to confront her past when a journalist wants to tell her story.
To be honest, I’ve not read it since; I’m too scared that I would want to change all of it because my writing has developed so much over the last two years. That’s what I love about writing – you never stop learning, or honing your craft. And I think, left to our own devices, us writers would never consider any of our work completely finished. We could probably tweak it forever.

What’s your thoughts on authors and social media? Which sites do you prefer?

I’m a big social network addict. I’m active on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr and Blogger. Largely, I don’t think I’m reaching readers that much, I mostly interact with other writers. But this has been brilliant for me. I am a member of a fantastic little critique group on Google+, and they have helped me to polish and tighten up my work, just as I’ve helped them with theirs. I hear about calls for submissions, interview and guest blogging opportunities, and chances to promote myself as a writer. I love the amount of encouragement, support and advice that’s on offer. Everyone’s so willing to help each other, and I, in turn, love to pass on tips and help other writers out where I can.

What’s your favourite horror monster and why?

I’m very fond of vampires. I love the huge variety of guises and attitudes they’ve been given over the years; from the sophistication of Interview with the Vampire to the animalistic brutishness of 30 Days of Night. I think we’ll always be fascinated by a creature higher up the food-chain than ourselves, superior creatures, creatures that represent the one thing we, as a race, seem desperate to hold onto – the beauty of youth.

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What is the worst mistake a new writer can make? And what advice would you give them?

One of the worst mistakes is info dumping, not just back story, but generally giving far too much unnecessary information. One of the reasons readers love to read is because they have great imaginations, and they love to use them. Don’t describe and explain everything in detail; let your readers fill in the gaps. Information should be drip-fed throughout a story, not crammed into the start of it. And it should be revealed through speech and action. Don’t narrate the story; let your characters tell it themselves.

Angeline’s website              Angeline’s Twitter:

Interview with Nathan J.D.L Rowark

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Nathan J.D.L Rowark

My first interview is with a fellow UK horror author. He’s also an editor and publisher. It’s, Nathan J.D.L Rowark.

When did you realise you wanted to be a horror writer?

I wrote my first horror novel when I was Twelve years old (unpublished – still have it), and continued to work on it until I was thirteen. I was influenced by emerging authors of the time (Clive Barker), and became a big fan of the work Stephen King produced when he was around 18. In those days we had no internet, no mobile phones, so I found it difficult when approaching publishers by snail mail. Once they found out how old I was, most wouldn’t entertain I was writing those works (Deckerland, A view of Heaven), so I found responses were laced with cynicism and suspicion. Coming from a working class background, my family were unable to support me in my chosen profession, and with little help available to me, I stopped writing  around my fourteenth birthday. I knew from early on that I wanted to be a writer, had my own table in the corner for poetry classes, so that I would remain undistributed, and was the only eight year old in my class whom was allowed to write his own work rather than read someone else’s. The teachers did their best for me, but the system required that everyone achieved to the same level so I found I was held back. It was almost twenty years before I started writing regularly again.

My love of horror originally stems from my mother’s love of horror. She would record for me the Frankenstein movies of Universal and the Dracula tales from Hammer; for me to watch before I went to school in the morning. Now that’s what you call a superior education :-) The first books I remember getting in to were King’s ‘Skeleton Crew’ and the works of Alan Garner.

What was the first story you got published? Is there anything you’d change about it now?

The first poems I wrote which were published came to me just after I decided to give my writing career another shot. I didn’t know if they were any good but submitted them to an online webzine anyway (in the hopes they could give me some feedback, more than anything). That webzine turned out to be highly prestigious, ‘The Horror Zine’, edited by Jeanie Rector. She read through them and decided to publish them on the webzine and in one of her anthologies (Sanctimonious Saint at the Sinners Ball, Cross but Shan’t, Unending Battle of Self). Later, I found out that I was extremely lucky to be included, and it gave me the push I needed to continue writing. My first short story was published by Static Movement Press, a little tale I like to call ‘Word of the Warlock’. It was a short story based on the misinterpretations associated with the name ‘Warlock’, and told the story of a man gifted, yet cursed by his heritage at the same time. I think it’s about to get a third outing in Static Movement’s ‘Gifted’ anthology soon.

Would I change anything about these pieces now? I don’t think I would. After spending so long away from the writing scene, I had to relearn a few skills; to then improve upon them, but no. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for ‘Word of the Warlock’. Maybe I’ll expand upon it, one day. In the story, I mention that the author character has his own book out called ‘Tribal Death’. Six months later I had another story accepted for an SM antho. It was for their ‘Western Ghost Stories: volume II’ collection. Guess what? ‘Tribal Death’ exists now :-)

What’s your thoughts on authors and social media? What sites do you prefer?

I’ve found that Facebook and Twitter are great mediums to gather fans. Blogs are good too. It can be hard  sometimes, to grab people’s attention (there are so many people on the internet now), but if your work is good, chances are people will gather to find out more. Boy has the world changed.

 As well as being an author, you are also a publisher. Tell us a bit about Horrified Press.

Well, I started Horrified Press in September of last year after months of planning and preparation. Using my experiences working for companies that had me dealing with book distributors on a daily basis, and taking on-board my own experiences as a writer (over fifty works published), I decided I could help other authors get their works noticed too. It’s been going really well, so far. It’s a lot of work, hours and hours of it, but very rewarding when you see what comes from it all. Some authors, like yourself, are very succinct when telling a story. Others have the ideas and the creative vision but need help to refine them; so that the reader will see the sights the author wishes to convey. In both cases, I enjoy the process, helping other authors develop and showcasing already developed talents. It’s what I love the most about our horror anthologies, the way you can have a first published author side by side an established name. Aside from reading the authors bios after their stories, in some cases you’d never know which author was established and which one was new.

In the end, working together, I firmly believe we give our readership a truly frightening and original reading experience. The future of ‘Horrified Press’ is very exciting :-) Oh, and I’ll give you an exclusive, right here, right now. Check out our website (horrifiedpress.wordpress.com) and our facebook page for the announcement of major new developments from Friday (31st May).

 As an editor, what do you look for in submissions? Which stories tend to make the cut?

That’s a good question, Nicky. I try not to be judgemental. I read a submission as it’s laid out and then sit back and mull it over for a few hours. Did I enjoy it? More importantly, will other people enjoy it? Did it meet the submission criteria? What was particularly special about it? I look for emerging talent. Will I have the time in my schedule to give the author additional support, to work with them on their piece (if needed – it’s an extra consideration)? I needed tutelage when I first started back and there’s not enough of that literary support available. Finally, I’ll ask the most important question of all… Will our readers enjoy it? Many authors will probably disagree with me on this, but what we do has to be for our audience; not ourselves. We’re like creative public servants, in a way. Another aspect of our anthology collections I feel is unique, we have many writers contributing that normally wouldn’t write horror. It gives those tales a unique perspective, and some of those have been my personal highlights.

What’s your favourite horror monster and why?

I have many favourites, from the obscure to the obvious…

I loved the rabbit (Frank) in Donnie Darko, but he’s probably more of a victim than a monster. Freddy Kruger was a particularly clever creation (thank you, Wes Craven). I liked the old depiction of him, not the new one. It focused too heavily on the child molestation aspect which didn’t frighten me; more repulsed me. Remakes… hmm. In literature, Dracula – of course. Pinhead was a fascinating creation; so multi-layered.

What is the worst mistake a new writer can make? And what advice would you give them?

Creative writing is just that. There are no right and wrong answers. I would say that grammar is very important, firstly. If you can’t say what you want to in a way people can understand, you have a major brick wall to surmount, in terms of making it your career. I would also say (one of my great problems as a writer when I first started out) don’t over-complicate things. That’s not style. You need to replace those lines with hard substance. Another  thing I come across often (and was guilty of myself, back in the day) would be the use of ‘she said’ – ‘he said’.

“I’m going to the shops,” said Tom – not – “I’m going to the shops,” the excited, scruffy young man with blonde highlights and ripped jeans gushed to his displeased friend.

These things are time things, they disappear when you write regularly, read regularly and take stock of your own work. We’ve all been there.

Oh, last but not least, check out the latest horror anthologies from ‘Horrified Press’. Our writers work for royalties, so we need horror fans to support their awesome work and enjoy their amazing stories. Our e-books are $3, that’s the price of a small bottle of fizzy drink from a bad vending machine on the good side of town. Not to much to ask for over twenty gripping stories per pop, eh?

To buy the anthologies, click on the images below to be taken through to Lulu – for US and ROW please see www.amazon.com and search for the title.

Tales of the Undead – Suffer Eternal

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Tales of the Undead – Hell Whore

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 Tales of the Undead – Suffer Eternal: volume II

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