Tuesday, December 29, 2015

UPDATED - Pushing for Best Anthology: 2015 Preditors & Editors™ Readers' Poll

 *** Updated to include third anthology that I thought was in a different grouping.

Voting for the annual Preditors and Editors™ Readers' Poll has begun. I've played a role in three of the collections competing for the award.

The first: History and Mystery, Oh My! is an anthology of historical mystery stories. I had many, many good submissions for this book, so I chose a wide variety of detectives over a wide variety of years and cultures.
The second: Nightmare Noir, by Alex Azar, tells tales from the casebook of James S. Peckman, a detective who investigates supernatural crimes. I helped edit this noir collection. Peckman is a traditional gumshoe investigating some very nontraditional crimes.

The third: Strangely Funny 2 1/2, which grew out of having too many good stories to fit into Strangely Funny II. Sometimes you look at what the gods give you and say, "I want to print all of these."

I would be very pleased if you chose any one of these books.

Please go to:
http://critters.org/predpoll/antho.shtml to see the full list and vote.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Interview: Nina Mansfield

Nina Mansfield is a Greenwich, Connecticut based writer. Her debut novel, SWIMMING ALONE, a YA Mystery, was published in 2015 by Fire & Ice YA. Nina began her writing career as a playwright; she has written numerous plays, which have been produced throughout United States and in Canada, Australia, England, Ireland, Scotland and Peru. Her short plays are published by Smith & Kraus, YouthPLAYS,  Original Works Publishing and One Act Play Depot. Her short mystery fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Mysterical-E. Please visit her at www.ninamansfield.com.

You started as a published playwright. How does one become a published playwright?
I studied theater in college and read many, many plays. After graduating, I went to New York to pursue an acting career. It was during that time I started writing plays. Turned out, people liked them and wanted to produce them. My first produced play, NO EPILOGUE, was also my first published play. I actually wrote the first draft when I was still in college and interning at New Dramatists. I was really inspired by all of the amazing playwrights I worked with there. Each week I would read stage directions for a new play one of the member playwrights was working on, and I would witness their writing process first hand. It was an incredible experience. I guess the advice I would give to aspiring playwrights is to read a lot of plays and see as much theater as you can. Working in some other aspect of theater is also very helpful.

What drew you to writing Young Adult stories, and why mystery? Everyone else seems to be writing fantasy.
I have loved mysteries ever since I was a kid, and it is still my go-to genre. There’s something about figuring out who the culprit is that I simply cannot resist. I also taught high school English and Drama for nine years. It was actually after my first year of teaching that I decided I wanted to write a young adult novel. My students craved suspense, and I wanted to write something that would interest even the most reluctant reader.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I love starting new projects; it is a challenge for me to stick with them at times because I often lose interest. Also, I am not a particularly linear thinker, so sometimes I find it difficult to sequence the events in my longer works.

What do you do when you're not writing?
Right now, I spend my time caring for a very active toddler. This takes up most of my time. Other than that, I love to read, see theater, practice yoga, create scrapbooks and travel.

What is your current project, and can you share some details with us?

Currently, I am working on revising two projects. The first is a graphic novel script entitled FAKE ID: BEYOND RECOGNITION, which is a girl-power adventure. This project is illustrated by the amazing Leyla Akdogan, and will be out with Plume Snake in 2016. Without revealing too much, it involves a serious case of mistaken identity. I am also working on revising another young adult novel: a paranormal thriller.

http://www.fireandiceya.com/authors/ninamansfield/swimmingalone.htmlThanks for talking to us today!

The Sea Side Strangler is on the loose in Beach Point, where fifteen-year-old Cathy Banks is spending the summer with her aunt (who happens to be mystery writer Roberta McCabe).  Although thrilled to be away from her psychotic, divorcing parents, with no cell phone or internet access, Cathy is positive that her summer is going to be wretched. Just when she begins to make friends, and even finds a crush to drool over, her new friend Lauren vanishes.  When a body surfaces in Beach Point Bay, Cathy is forced to face the question:  has the Sea Side Strangler struck again? 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Stephen Zimmer: The Halloweens I Remember the Most. Plus, a raffle!

Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author and filmmaker based in Lexington Kentucky.  His work includes the cross-genre Rising Dawn Saga, the epic fantasy Fires in Eden series, the sword and sorcery Dark Sun Sawn Trilogy, featuring Rayden Valkyrie, the Harvey and Solomon Steampunk tales and the Hellscapes and Chronicles of Ave short story collections. Hellscapes, Volume II, is out this week.

Today, the handsome and prolific Mr. Zimmer shares his favorite memories of Halloween with us. It's a fun read, and don't forget to enter the raffle at the bottom of the page. Top prize is a Kindle Fire HD8!

Halloween is a holiday that brings to mind many great, magical memories from my childhood.  It’s always good to recall those lovely days when the world was a lot simpler, the heart a lot lighter, and everything seemed so full of wonder and adventure.

I remember those crisp fall days at our old house on Plymouth Drive, on Halloween when my mother used to help me and my little sister get ready in our costumes for the evening’s trick-or-treat foray.  My mom was very into sewing and crafts, and this meant that our costumes were made by her each year rather than bought, something I appreciate even more today when I look back upon it.

We always ventured out in groups with our neighborhood playmates and their parents.  For me, that meant an excursion with my two main partners in crime, John and Joey, who lived next door to me.  We were quite the trio then, playing soldiers using whiffle ball bats as our guns, or doing mock Kiss concerts using tennis rackets as guitars. John was always Gene, Joey was Paul, I was Ace, and poor Peter Criss was never represented!

During those Halloween excursions I carried a plastic orange pumpkin as the primary container for my loot. It had a nice handle and a smaller opening so it was easy to keep contents in while racing from one door to the next, while our parents trekked along the sidewalk. It never took all that long until the pumpkin was full, perhaps a few streets altogether. 
Those were truly great days and all the parents knew each other really well. My folks hung out often with John and Joey’s father, as well as the other neighborhood parents.  Looking back I can see where these Halloween adventures represented a time for my folks to spend time with friends in a shared experience with their kids.

When we returned after dark, there was always a tradition of a horror movie down in the den of our house, along with glasses of cool apple cider and glazed doughnuts for all of the neighborhood kids.  I couldn’t access the candy in my pumpkin container immediately. My dad was a stickler when it came to safety and he personally expected the entire pumpkin full of candy treasure, putting aside anything that could be unwrapped easily or had anything about it he thought could be tampered with.  I suspect he took a small cut of the loot to enjoy for himself too! 

Nevertheless, when the pumpkin was returned to me before I went to bed, it had not decreased in its contents by much. I always had plenty to sustain me over the ensuing couple of weeks. I tended to be very strategic as well, eating my less favorite stuff first and saving the things I preferred most for later.  As such, things like rolls of Smarties, Sweet Tarts, anything with caramel and the better chocolate bars tended to grow in concentration in my pumpkin as time went on.

I took on many guises during these Halloween forays, but I have to say my favorite attire was when my mom made me an Ace Frehley costume derived from the Love Gun/Kiss Alive II era.  I had discovered Kiss during the Love Gun album period and the record was the second rock record I ever owned (the first being Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, leading to my young crush on Stevie Nicks!).   They were my favorite thing in the world and Ace, the flashy lead guitar player with his sunburst Gibson Les Paul, was my favorite member of the band.

This has a really cool side note to it as Kiss donned the Love Gun era costumes when they did their 1997 reunion tour.  The Lexington show at Rupp Arena produced one of my most cherished memories as we were able to talk my father into going to the show, so my mother, sister, father and myself were all in attendance to see Ace on stage in the look that served as the costume I wore as a child during that Halloween I shared with all of them many years go.   In many ways, that night brought some of the magic full circle.

Everything about those early Halloweens, whether I was Ace Frehley or a werewolf, carried a real excitement and anticipation to it. I loved all of it, from the marshaling of our pack of friends, to the exploration of the neighborhood houses, some of which invariably had costumed hosts or a theatrical display, to the grand finale with a movie, apple cider, and glazed doughnuts, rounding everything out with an epilogue of receiving my candy loot in the plastic pumpkin before getting tucked in. All of it carried a wonderful magic, of a kind that I still remember the feeling of to this day.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, October 16, 2015

Review: Crimson Peak

The real reason you're going: Hiddles.

While we were attending Necronomicon Tampa, we got passes for a premiere screening of Crimson Peak. Waiting for the movie itself was a bit of an experience - we got marked on the hand when we entered, just like a bar stamp, and the audience was repeatedly ordered to shut all cell phones off if we wanted the movie to start.

Crimson Peak presents itself as a gothic romance, and it is gothic in the old style - nothing cutesy or Addams-like about the setting or the story. Edith Cushing is a young New York woman who has been able to see ghosts since her mother's death. Her mother has warned her to beware "Crimson Peak".

She has grown into a wannabe author when she meets Thomas Sharpe, baronet of Allerdale Hall, and his beautiful but quiet sister Lucille. Thomas is seeking investors for a machine to harvest the clay at Allerdale, which is coming out of their ears. Edith's father sees the attraction his daughter has for the young lord, and pays Thomas to leave town. Their love seems doomed until Edith's father dies - oh, pardon me, he was brutally murdered. When I say brutal, I mean violent and gory. There is gore in this film, although it only shows up when the story demands it.

Allerdale Hall is no palace. Edith, now Thomas' wife, arrives to find that her cultured and well-dressed love lives in a shambles of a once-great house. The estate is built atop deep red clay, tinting the water in the house red (symbolism, anyone?). The rafters over the great atrium are exposed to the sky, ensuring an esthetic fall of dust in the daylight when the weather is good, and an equally lovely drifting of snow when it isn't. They didn't show what happens when it rains, even though this is supposed to be England.

Red clay even seeps up through the floorboards. Edith learns that, when the hill the manse sits on is covered with snow, the red stains it, earning it the name "Crimson Peak". Yep, this is the place her dead mother warned her about. Thomas spends his days outside, digging up the endless supply of bloody clay. Our heroine spends her days with Lucille, who has a touch (okay, a whopping load) of the crazy. Allerdale Hall is also full of ghosts, disturbing Edith's sleep and drawing her into the mystery of why so many disturbed spirits reside there (beside her sister-in-law).

Because many fangirls will ask: the sex scene between Thomas and Edith is mostly concealed in voluminous petticoats. We do see Loki's naked hiney, although it could have been a butt double. There is other sex in the film, but I will leave that for you to discover.

Crimson Peak is rated R, mostly for the violence. This isn't a splatter film, but some of the fight scenes will make you cringe in sympathetic pain. Overall, I enjoyed it and found it full of atmosphere.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Parnell Hall: A Fool for a Client (Stanley Hastings Mystery #20)

"Tell me about the girl with tits."
"How'd you know about the girl with tits?"
"There's always a girl with tits. She may not have anything to do with the case, but you manage to make her important."
Stanley Hasting's boss, Richard Rosenberg, is in big trouble. Richard's girlfriend, a law clerk, has been murdered and the negligence lawyer is the prime suspect. Richard is the fool because he's decided to represent himself. Why? Because he doesn't trust lawyers: they're sleazy pond scum, and he's proof of that. He wants Stanley's assistance, but it's going to be hard: he was the last person seen with the victim, DNA proves he had sex with her, and his fingerprints are on the murder weapon.

The victim, Jeannie Atkins, was assigned to a global banking trial, which seems unconnected to anything that would have led to murder. She clerked for the judge, and usually judges take a dim view to their assistants being killed. Stanley hopes to find a connection, though, and becomes a regular spectator at the banking trial, which is just as exciting as you think it would be: not at all.

Our hero perseveres through the boredom, though, talking to jurors, alternates, a clerk with romantic ideas of what detectives do, and the long-suffering judge for the trial. He also finds "the girl with tits," Juror Number Twelve. Stanley discovers that she was an alternate promoted after someone else was excused. He procures the address of the excused man and pays a visit - to a dead body.

I've often wanted to see Richard Rosenberg at work, and this book doesn't disappoint. Most of the cases he takes involve trip-and-fall or accidents on city property. Half the people at court are scared of him, and we learn why. He turns down the probable cause hearing and goes straight to trial. He accepts all candidates for the jury without questioning them. He insults the expert witness. He insinuates that no one is telling the truth about when he left the victim's apartment because the security guard slunk off early and his limo driver was padding the time for higher pay. He makes Denny Crane look like a paragon of discretion.

None of this is going to matter, though, because the evidence is against Richard. He was the last person seen with the victim, his bodily fluids were present at the scene, and his fingerprints are on the murder weapon. He has no clue who the murderer is. Stanley's occasional ally, Sergeant MacAuliff, is of the opinion that Richard will only escape jail if he can 'pull an O.J.' and create reasonable doubt.

Will Rosenberg dream up a great strategy, or will he go to prison? Will Stanley find the real killer after all, or go to jail after giving grief to the judge in the banking case one too many times? Read A Fool for a Client to learn the answer to these and other relevant questions, including how often a detective's wife has to explain to her husband what the information he's discovered implies for the case.

I greatly enjoyed the book, but you may need to keep a scorecard for some of the conversations. The repartee zips back and forth very rapidly with few conversation tags. It's still very funny. I was also pleased to see Alice (Stanley's wife) again, who creates order out of her husband's eccentric observations.

Disclosure: I was given an ARC of this book to read and review. You can also see this review at Goodreads.com .

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Call for Submissions: What Are You Afraid Of?

Courtesy of T. Fox Dunham:

What Are You Afraid Of?

We’ve all experienced messages from beyond the silver veil, whether we want to admit it or not. Some people take no notice, ignoring these outreaches. Others embrace them, seeing them as evidence of an expanded universe. Whether these stories frighten or comfort, we are reassured.

In my youth, I worked for various museums and gained a passion for the science of collecting folk culture. These personal experiences need to be recorded and added to this rich archive, presented for scholar and seeker. We’ve already established an archive of collected stories that have never been recorded before.

Our intent is to create and promote four podcasts with visual components over the month of October.

The content will be:

The reading of collected personal ghost stories as part of our outreach program to record folklore through social media, email and community events. Horror material including interviews with horror authors, the reading of classic ghost stories and discussions of the industry. And we will be producing interviews with ghost hunting groups. We will be recording this podcast from notoriously haunted locations.

The broadcast will be no longer than an hour, except for the last episode which will be transmitted around Halloween.

So we need true stories. They need to have been personally experienced by the author or someone close. The accounts should be in their own words as if telling the story to a friend or in an email. The stories work best when around 1,000 words, but we have done longer sagas.

We need help gathering stories, spreading the word so people will send us their accounts. We’d also be glad for any ideas for segments or general horror material for the show. We can offer promotion.

Email us your personal true ghost stories at whatareyouafraidof117@gmail.com

Twitter: @pfwhatafraidof


Sunday, August 23, 2015

My 10 Unfavorite Songs

Apropos of nothing. There are a lot of cheesy songs out there, but these provoke a strong reaction from me.

1. We Built This City by Starship
Poll after poll says this is the worst song of the Eighties. There's a reason.

2. I've Never Been to Me by Charlene 
Utter dreck by a failed Blossom Dearie. You are not a destination; you are the journey. There's your pop psychology.

3. Mickey by Tony Basil 

4. Hey Jude by The Beatles 
I love The Beatles, but this song is too fucking long.

5. The Girl is Mine by Jackson and McCartney 
I have a story about this one: I was visiting a friend in the dorms at OSU. The guy across the hall played this song six times in a row. When he started the seventh repetition, my friend loaded up some bagpipe music and turned the volume to eleven. Bagpipes FTW.

6. Never Be the Same by Christopher Cross
"It was good for me, it was good for you" is not a good description for a relationship that had any meaning.

7. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go by Wham 
I love George Michael... but, gaaaahhhh.

8. Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice 
Stole a riff from Queen and Bowie and denied he'd done it. I hate him for making me turn up the radio only to be disappointed.

9. Sara by Fleetwood Mac
I hate 90% of songs with my name in them. When it's sung by a voice that's always flat, it's going to be 100%. I don't care how much lace you wear.

10. Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears
Sorry, this pair always struck me as pretentious entitled pricks. Instant change of channel.

If you have a song you loathe, feel free to post it in the comments. I've probably heard it.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Review: Resistant

Resistant Resistant by Michael Palmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This final book of Michael Palmer's is one of his best. I've read most of his books, and he grew substantially as an author over the years. In his early books, the medical details were good (of course), but some of the side characters felt a little flat. Also, if the hero was male, there was a good chance that the girlfriend or wife would be one of the villains. Most of the plots revolved around greedy corporations. I think 'The Last Surgeon' and 'Fatal' were probably the best of the early books.

Later, he turned to conspiracies involving political figures, most notably the president. The story was about the doctor to the president, the president as a doctor, etc. In the midst of these was a gem of a book called 'The Second Opinion'. For the first time, the characters were more interesting than the medicine.

'Resistant' blends good characters with a vile plot and the most interesting terrorist group I've seen in a book. The One Hundred Neighbors, all string-pullers and conspirators worthy of a James Bond novel, follow the teachings of Lancaster Hill, a (fictitious) vehement opponent of FDR's social programs who preached resistance to the government. Each chapter opens with a quote from Hill, and the resemblance to Ayn Rand-type 'every man for himself' philosophy is striking.

Hill proposed the One Hundred Neighbors as a group of covert movers and shakers who would bring down the government and its evil social programs. The Neighbors unleash The Doomsday Germ, a nosocomial infection with chameleon properties.

Enter Dr. Lou Welcome, ER doctor and recovering alcoholic. Welcome's life parallels the author's life in some ways, and is probably the character closest to a Mary Sue Palmer has written. He has no problems hitting Welcome hard, though, and shows no special favors.

Cap Duncan, Welcome's AA sponsor, falls during a jog through mountainous terrain and breaks his femur. He is airlifted to the hospital and seems to be on the mend until The Doomsday Germ infects his wound. Welcome begins to investigate ways to fight the infection, and quickly draws UN-welcome attention from The One Hundred Neighbors and the FBI.

One of the government's top researchers into the bug has been kidnapped by a mole in the FBI. Welcome, who has been pointed in some interesting directions from an unlikely-seeming source (a pharm tech with severe spastic cerebral palsy), has been asking questions that are too well-informed not to seem suspicious. Soon, he is on the run from the Neighbors and the authorities.

The kidnapped scientist is being held in a cliffside fortress that, once again, makes one think of a James Bond film or, perhaps, The Eiger Sanction. Naturally, to save his friend Cap, Welcome winds up scaling the cliff with a renegade FBI agent to rescue the scientist (plus his pharm tech buddy, also kidnapped) and stop The Doomsday Germ.

There are a few moments that stretch credulity (my favorite was the six-story cannonball into a swimming pool), but overall the action was enjoyable. What I found more rewarding was the diversity of the supporting cast: the government researcher was a devout Muslim, and Humphrey, the pharm tech with CP, turned out to be far more important to the plot than a mere 'token'.

Palmer also managed to surprise me with one of the mole characters, one that was logical in retrospect but was easy to underestimate. I won't reveal who that was here.

In terms of scientific intrigue, characters, action, and clashing ideologies, I think this book was a real winner.

View all my reviews

Monday, August 03, 2015

Cover Reveal: The Bottle Stopper by Angeline Trevena

"Too much trouble, and you'll end up just like your crazy mother."

Maeve was six when they took her mother away, and left her in the care of her Uncle Lou: a drunk, a misogynist, a fraud.
For eleven years she's lived with him in Falside'
s slums, deep in the silt of the Falwere River. She bottles his miracle medicine, stocks his apothecary shop, and endures his savage temper.
But as his violence escalates, and his lies come undone, she devises a plan to escape him forever. Even if it means people have to die.

Not All Medicine is Good for You; Better Check the Label

 Never one to let a good character die, British horror and fantasy author Angeline Trevena has accumulated several characters from previously unfinished books, to populate the dystopian world of The Bottle Stopper.
Currently available for pre-order on Kindle, this tense adult horror tracks the story of Maeve, as she devises a murderous plan to free herself from her violent, abusive uncle.
Born and bred in a rural corner of Devon, Angeline now lives among the breweries and canals of central England, with her husband, their son, and a somewhat neurotic cat. She's been writing since she was old enough to hold a pen, and released her d├ębut novella, Cutting the Bloodline, in May.
The Bottle Stopper, the first book of The Paper Duchess series, is set 100 years after the world we know today, in a society where the birth rate of girls is at a catastrophic low. Desperate for protection, women turned to the state, but that protection came at a price. Namely; their freedom
Maeve lives outside of the overbearing administration, in the slums of Falside. Having been torn from the arms of her mother at six years old, Maeve, now seventeen, works in her uncle's apothecary shop, bottling his medicines. But these are not medicines that are going to make anyone better. In fact, once Maeve puts her plan into action, they may well be deadly.

“Angeline Trevena, with her ever fertile imagination, creates dystopian visions of the future that are both innovative and chilling. ”
-Tony Benson, author of dystopian thriller, An Accident of Birth


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.