Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Aging ungracefully, set to music

Since I live in Florida, I'm surrounded by people decades older than I am. This has become more so since our move to the 55+ gated community. The rest of the world is reminding me that I'm getting older. I could be the mother of a good portion of my coworkers, and then there's social media. Aaaargh, social media.

On Facebook, Greg Kihn posted a query to people of what their favorite song in high school had been. Everyone answered with 1980's songs, since that was Kihn's heyday. I didn't really have one; most of the music on the radio was disco. I love any song with a beat, but none of them stood out as a favorite. The only album I owned when I went to college was Billy Joel's Glass Houses, released in 1980 - at the tail end of my senior year in high school.

A friend then posted a survey on what the worst song they'd ever heard was. Those rude little whippersnappers had the nerve to tell me my choices were too old! Not sure if that means they believe all older songs are good (I can attest otherwise), or that I wasn't allowed to participate in music surveys any more. We did find some common ground on "We Built This City". Not even Toni Basil's "Ricky" or Charlene's "I've Never Been to Me" made me grit my teeth as hard.

So, I would like to conduct my own survey. What do YOU think is the worst song you've ever heard?

Don't tell me 'modern music' or 'hip hop' or 'anything by Lady Gaga'... we will not insult the whippersnappers, who need better behavior modeled for them. Remember that your own parents said the same about your music once upon a time. Plus, not liking a genre means you probably lack the judgment to identify a truly bad song within it.

I'm asking for song titles and, preferably, performer as well. Go.

Mine is still "We Built This City".

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Museum of Witchcraft Diary: Book Launch to be held at the Museum in October

You may remember that I interviewed Anthony Crowley last year. He will be launching his new book at the Boscastle Museum of Witchcraft in Cornwall this October.

"Doomsday Over Cornwall"

Museum of Witchcraft Diary: Book Launch to be held at the Museum in October:

The Museum will be the location of a book launch for the author Anthony Crowley this October.
Click the link above for more information!

Thursday, June 04, 2015

David Dunwoody: A Grin in the Dark

I'd like to welcome our guest blogger today, David Dunwoody!

Born in Texas and currently wandering somewhere in Utah, David Dunwoody writes subversive horror fiction including the EMPIRE series, HELL WALKS, THE 3 EGOS, and the collections DARK ENTITIES and UNBOUND & OTHER TALES. His fiction has been published by outfits such as Gallery, Shroud, Dark Regions, Belfire, Evil Jester, Permuted and Chaosium.

In this post, Dunwoody takes on a subject near and dear to my heart: humor in horror fiction.

About a decade ago when I was first published, I wanted to be known for dark, dark fiction. An eight ball at the bottom of the ocean at midnight, that kind of dark. I wanted readers to come away from my novels feeling drained. And I still do, but I’ve come to realize that there’s such a thing as balance, even in a realm of writing where doom and gloom pervade. Especially then.

There are few involuntary responses which we all share. Two are the belly laugh and gut-twisting dread. Though they may seem strange bedfellows at the onset, humor and terror often complement one another quite nicely in fiction. When thinking back over some of the darkest, scariest works I’ve ever read, I can’t help but notice that many feature moments of black humor and even laugh-out-loud bits. Some of the funniest people I’ve ever met are horror writers (they’re also by far the most normal, but that’s another blog). So how do scares and chuckles work together without being jarring?

Sometimes the jarring effect is exactly what works. The levity of a humorous moment, followed by a radical shift in tone, strikes one hell of a contrast. That may sound like the anatomy of a cheap scare, but I think it’s all in the execution. Perhaps the main thing to consider in such a case is whether you’re doing it for the story or the future reader. Are you in the moment? You’re not a short-order cook, after all and you, of course, write for yourself first.

While you don’t want to manufacture forced scares in service to your prospective audience, you don’t want to stand in your own way either when it comes to humor. Follow your gut on these questions of tone. Most of my novels are apocalyptic in  nature and there are many tremendously dark moments, unrelenting moments when I am unable to step back and catch my breath. When they have their place, bits of levity can be a welcome respite and a chance to explore other aspects of my characters.

With regard to characters, humor can also work well when following terror, or a scene of intense sadness or hopelessness. In life, we often deal with such feelings by cracking wise. It’s a coping mechanism and one of the things that makes us human. It makes characters human too. (Or let’s say relatable, for those non-human ones.)

Just as fear takes different forms, and encroaches by varying degrees, so too does humor. From outright absurdity, to inside jabs between friends, to the all-too-true sentiment that elicits a sardonic smile, there is a lot to work with.

I’d never say that everyone should always try to inject humor into their dark fiction – but I will say that, if your muse is suggesting you do it, don’t shy away. Don’t worry that it’s going to water down the product. Follow your gut! A grin in the dark only makes its surroundings that much darker.

Learn more about David Dunwoody's work at http://empirenovel.blogspot.com/ . See the trailer below to learn more about The 3 Egos.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Memory: Carrie

CarrieCarrie by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a real landmark book for me when I found it. I loved the notion of telekinesis - even had a set of the Rhine ESP cards - but the language and sexual content of this novel took me out of the realm of kiddie books.

It was the mass market paperback release, and I was twelve when I found it in my local bookstore. I was immediately gripped by the opening because a few months before, I had started my own cycles, and it's a bit of a shock even when you're expecting it. You may consider this TMI, but if that sort of stuff bothers you, you're not going to like parts of this book.

I felt a strong connection to Carrie because I was also unpopular and very much the misfit. King's frank portrayal of what we would now call bullying, without sugarcoating or moral lectures, felt more honest than the books I'd been reading. I won't spoil the ending for anyone who HASN'T seen the movies or read the book, but it was satisfying and dismaying at the same time.

I still have this beat-up paperback among my books. It's been... a lot of years.

View all my reviews

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Cover Reveal: Nightmare Noir by Alex Azar!

Presenting the cover of Nightmare Noir, the newest publication from Mystery and Horror, LLC. James S. Peckman is a former police detective turned paranormal private eye after the suspicious deaths of his wife and daughter. When clients come to his agency, it's not to find the Maltese Falcon.

The cover was done by TJ Halvorsen, a talented artist in St. Petersburg. The book comes out on April 13th, but three copies are being given away this weekend. One is being given away at Goodreads (enter below), but we're giving the others to two lucky people who comment on this blog and/or the other blogs participating in the reveal. Check the MAHLLC blog for other pages participating in the reveal. You will get as many entries as the number of blogs you comment on.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Nightmare Noir by Alex Azar

Nightmare Noir

by Alex Azar

Giveaway ends April 30, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Life Imitating Art

Last summer, my wife and I moved into a manufactured housing community. That’s a trailer park with more expensive lot fees. But it has a pool, a hot tub, and a view of the water. It’s also… drum roll… a gated community with a homeowner’s association. Yes, I’m finally living in a setting with some resemblance to my first novel.

I didn’t realize how close a resemblance it would bear till we attended our first HOA meeting. In February, they'd had board elections. We got the voting info beforehand, same as everyone else. Four slots open, four candidates retired from occupations where they earned more money than I’ll ever see. We work all day and part of the night; we don’t know many people there yet, so we didn’t attend. It seemed to be a done deal.

I was wrong. The March meeting began with the usual reading of the past minutes – the ones from January, which I thought a bit odd. Next, a brief bit about last month. The treasurer gave a report on the HOA finances. Then… people began reading their resignation letters from various committees. Apparently, there was a hostile takeover at the February meeting. The mood took a definite downturn and the crowd got ugly. We left when the name-calling started.

You have not lived till you’ve heard a 70+ year old person call another 70+ year old person an asshole. You know they’re accurate, because they’ve had time to learn what a real asshole is.

For obvious reasons, I’m not going to identify the location here. But we won’t be attending any more HOA meetings for a while.


Friday, February 06, 2015

History and Mystery, Oh My: T. Lee Harris and the Seer

I've done some research on the Bronze Age, but it is mostly confined to Greece and Turkey. When I received T. Lee Harris' story, I had to look up a few things. I learned about the Burnt City - but, more importantly, what had recently been discovered there. I'll let her tell you about the discovery, and I think you'll understand why it inspired a story!

When did you know you wanted to become a writer?

That would be in the second grade when the teacher caught me writing and illustrating poems during a lesson in another subject. Thought I was dead because she was sort of strict -- well -- okay VERY strict. Actually, we kids firmly believed she was an escaped Nazi SS commander. Anyway, instead of putting me in front of a firing squad, she stapled the poems into book form and put it on the classroom reading table. Suddenly, kids who had been bullying me and calling me names were telling me how much they liked the poems. What? People actually LIKED what I did? I was doomed then and there.

How did you come up with the idea for your story in History and Mystery, Oh My?

I read archaeological news stories every morning and frequently, one of the articles will really grab my attention. One item that I've been following with great interest is the excavation at Shahr-e Sukhteh in present day Iran. The Persian name roughly translates to the Burnt City. It was a bronze age settlement that was burnt to the ground three times. It was rebuilt after the first two fires, but was abandoned after the third. It seems all the archaeologists have to do is stick a trowel into the ground and something amazing pops up like a 10-centimeter ruler with an accuracy of half a millimeter and a painted bowl that might be the world's oldest example of animation.

Many of the burials at Shahr-e Sukhteh were unusual, too -- including that of a very tall, muscular woman who wore her hair in beaded braids. She also had the oldest known artificial eye: a bitumen orb, covered in gold and held in place with fine gold threads. Her grave goods indicated she might have been a seer. Close by were the graves of an archer and a professional rider -- likely a courier. That was all my storytelling gland needed to kick into gear.

What are you working on now?

Currently, I'm working on finishing up the first full Josh Katzen novel. Josh is a former military intelligence agent who is trying his best to retire. Josh is an artist and photographer who specializes in ancient art and artifacts -- I just can't seem to get away from history even in my work set in present day. After that, it'll be back into the past for the first full-length Sitehuti and Nefer-Djenou-Bastet mystery. Sitehuti is a scribe at the time of Ramesses II and Neffi is a rather opinionated temple cat who has adopted him and drags him into all sorts of trouble.

You can read T. Lee Harris' story, "The Scent of Anger", in History and Mystery, Oh My!, now available at Smashwords and Amazon. I think you'll find K'Natu Golden Eye as interesting as I did. 

You may also enjoy her most recent release, New York Nights, Book 2 in the Miller & Peale Series. The series is a paranormal thriller -- think Lethal Weapon meets Dark Shadows.