Saturday, February 14, 2015
The legends were true. The creatures were real. And now they’re back!
People have whispered about the tiny humanoid creatures in the woods and cornfields of Doverton for decades. Three years ago a wildfire devoured much of the rural village, but as the ashes were cleared, more questions were uncovered—including abandoned houses, missing people and dead bodies. Since the fire seemed to wipe out the majority of the town’s woodland acres, the murmurs about the creatures have gone quiet. The residents have begun to rebuild their lives, trying to forget about the tragedy that nearly killed them all. Yet the mysteries remained unsolved.
Now a group of people will go there with good intentions, venturing into the dead heart of Doverton, thinking it’s safe. But they will find out that the legend was only sleeping. Now it’s awake. And ready to kill again.
Purchase the Kindle version or paperback here!
For Nook !
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
I first became acquainted with Russell James through Facebook. He sent me a wonderful email, introducing himself. His debut novel, DARK INSPIRATION was going to be released soon. In the email, he told me he was about to read my debut novel, ANGEL BOARD. I was tickled, because it was only the second time somebody had emailed me to tell me that. The first time was from my stepmother, so naturally I was pretty giddy. We kept in touch through FB for a long time after that. I'll never forget his encouraging email after Publishers Weekly released a not-too-kind review of ANGEL BOARD. I knew right away this was a nice guy, with a sense of humor that matched my own. We finally got to meet at Horrorhound, and our reunions are a huge part of my going back. I enjoy our conversations, though we're sometimes too busy to communicate during the event, it's the big dinner afterward where we get to cut loose and talk about writing.
Here's Brian Moreland and Mick Ridgewell--the meat of a James/Rufty sandwich.
I read Russ's second novel, SACRIFICE, and fell in love with, not just the story, but the way he wrote it. He writes in a style that shows his influences, yet is still all his own. As I read it, I was amazed at how natural it seemed to flow. To me, it felt as if he didn't have to struggle to explain something. He put words on the pages that easily transformed to visuals in my head. And since that book, I have been a Russell James fan. I've quickly devoured everything he's written. I'm equally hungry to dive into his newest release--DREAMWALKER.
When I sent out the offer to have him come on my blog, I was ecstatic that he said yes. Below is what he wrote, and in it, you'll see his personality and his dedication to writing. Something I admire wholeheartedly about the guy. Thank you, Russ, for stopping by!
Dreamwalker Took A Long Walk
Days. Months. Years. Once you accrue enough time, you need to change the unit of measurement. Each jump up adds gravity to whatever the endeavor is, or highlights a significant lack of progress. Someone asked me how long it took to write Dreamwalker, my latest release from Samhain Horror. I checked the start date of the first version, which was just the first electronic version. A handwritten version preceded that. I shook my head in wonder.
A decade. I’d been working on this novel for a decade.
Not a decade straight, of course. A big flurry of work for a year or so, another push a year later, then nothing, then another chunk over the past year. The latest file is named Dreamwalker 4.5, so it has been through a few revisions.
What took so long? Simple. In 2005, I didn’t know how to write.
Dreamwalker was probably my third attempt at a long form story. I finished it. My mother loved it. So did my wife. I mailed copies out (yes, it was that long ago) to agents and publishers, and got a collection of SASE rejections. Pretty humiliating to have bad news sent to me penned in my own hand, with my own saliva on the back of a stamp that I bought. One publisher did bite, provided that I shorten the 100,000 word story to 70,000 and pony up $10,000 to buy myself a garage full of copies. I passed, money aside, because I thought I couldn’t possibly make the thing shorter without ruining it.
A family connection got me in touch with an English college professor in California who for a reasonable fee would check my novel and provide some coaching. With nothing to lose and an income tax refund in the bank, off Dreamwalker 1.0 went. Months later it came back, with more scrawled notes than a wall in a truck stop bathroom.
Looking back, I’m embarrassed by the things she explained to me. Point of view. Passive sentences. Filtering. Showing versus telling. Basically, Writing 101. I sucked up the knowledge and made a new version. But it sat in a metaphorical drawer. New projects had my attention and enthusiasm. I had this haunted house story called Dark Inspiration I was really excited about.
That was the one that sold, as did three more after that. Out of curiosity, I re-read the synopsis for Dreamwalker one day. It sounded pretty good. The original enthusiasm I had for Pete Holm and his adventure in Twin Moon City reignited. I had the bright idea that I could pretty much check for typos and send this baby out to the world. A month to make a novel this time, instead of twelve. I called up Dreamwalker 3.0.
What a pile of crap. On every page, unnecessary words sprouted like weeds. One protagonist was unrealistically perfect, the other two-dimensional. A Swiss cheese of plot holes made me cringe. Apparently I’d learned a lot more since 2007. Two online classes and the real world had provided Writing 201. This rewrite wasn’t going to take a month.
It took nine. The story pared down to 75,000 words (maybe the scam publisher had one thing right.) Pete, the hero, had to struggle more to beat the evil voodoo spirit. Rayna, his girlfriend, had to be won over. The sappy happy ending…well, you need to read it to find out where that went. Don D’Auria, the horror editor’s editor at Samhain, bought Dreamwalker 4.5.
So the lessons here? Get some education about writing from a pro. Tim Waggoner’s college classes, RJ Cavender’s Stanley Hotel Writers Retreat, the Gotham Writers’ online classes like I took. All of these are taught by published, experienced writers who know what they are talking about. Even Luke Skywalker needed to listen to Yoda. Then be open to criticism and improve.
Second lesson: never toss any ideas away. Their time may come.
Visit Russell James on the web HERE
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
2014, can't say that I'm sad to see you go. A lot of hard times have been experienced this year, but as the year reaches its end, I can say things have definitely improved.
I've read a lot of books this year. Each January, I start off with a vow: I will read more books and comics than the previous year. Sounds like a pretty simple resolution, but sometimes I don't come close. However, 2014 blew away 2013 in the amount of read books category. I'm going to list a few I really liked down below. This is not a "best of" list, in the sense that I think these are better than everything else. I just really enjoyed these books. They've stayed with me and, to me, that means something. Also, this isn't a "What was released in 2014 only" list. Some of these books came out well before the others. And I didn't want to discriminate them because of their age. They can be on my list, it's cool.
Now, having written all of that, I will share my list.
Once Upon a Halloween by Richard Laymon (Finally got to read this book, thanks to a friend. It has been on my 'books-to-read' fantasy list for a very long time)
Dreadful Tales by Richard Laymon (Again, same list, and same friend made this dream come true)
Apartment 7C by David Bernstein
Wolf Hunt 2 by Jeff Strand
Spook Night by David Robbins (Loved this book. A great Halloween story)
Hell-O-Ween by David Robbins
Junkyard by Barry Porter (This might have been my favorite. Such a fun time. The kids in this book reminded me a lot of my old friends from my teenaged years)
Tribesmen by Adam Cesare
Feral by Berton Roueché
Dogkill by Al Dempsey
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
Witch Island by David Bernstein
Riding LawnMower Reunion by Alan Spencer
Wild by Gil Brewer (My first of his, and it won't be my last. I've really gotten into crime fiction, and this was a wonderful book)
Exorcist Road by Jonathan Janz
The Montauk Monster by Hunter Shea
December Park by Ronald Malfi
Pus Junkies by Shane McKenzie (My first read of 2014. And what a way to start it off!)
Fecal Terror by David Bernstein (My second read of 2014, and the perfect double-feature companion with Pus Junkies. I truly felt like I was a kid again, with old-school movies playing on my VCR!)
Dead Trash by Ed Kurtz
Fairy by Shane McKenzie
Bloody Mask by Alan Spencer
The Vagrants by Brian Moreland
Swamp Monster Massacre by Hunter Shea
Depraved 2 by Bryan Smith
Relic of Death by David Bernstein
So that's my list. I'm sure you saw David Bernstein's name was on there quite a few times. He put out a lot of books last year and I tried to read them all. I found great joy in each one, and I highly recommend that you pick them up. Also, we got to cowrite a book with Shane McKenzie and Adam Cesare. That book's called JACKPOT. If you're interested in complete madness that leaves the pages soaked in crimson, please give that book a try as well.
Happy New Year! I hope 2015 will be filled with wonderful excitement and peace for you all.
Monday, October 13, 2014
I know the saying is a tired one, but that doesn't make it any less true. Most horror writers are the nicest people. The majority I've met have been nothing but friendly to me. And I like to think I'm a pretty nice guy, unless you leave your beef jerky unattended in my presence, then I'll eat it. Well, not really. I'll ask first. If you tell me no, then I'll wait until you're gone and I'll take some. Not too much, just a bit. Wouldn't want to be a jerk and take the whole bag! See, I am nice!
But one of the absolute nicest guys I've met in my short writing career is Jonathan Janz. A few years ago when Samhain Horror was about to release six books to debut its new line, I pulled together the last Diabolical Radio to this day with as many of us newbies I could get. Janz's The Sorrows was going to be released the following month, but we had gotten to know each other pretty well on Facebook, so I asked him to come on. Listening to him talk about his passion for writing and sharing his natural love for older paperbacks and the pulpy gore-filled pages of Splatterpunk, I felt I'd found not only a cool guy to chat about writing and horror with, but I'd found a kindred spirit. Of course, we all love King, Barker, Koontz, Little, and Saul. But there weren't too many people out there that I'd met who loved Laymon, Ketchum, Lee, White, Smith, and Skipp nearly as much as I do.
We finally got to meet at Horrorhound Cincinnati last year in 2013 when we were at the Samhain booth with other super-nice authors Brian Moreland and David Searls.
Here's a picture of our third venture at Horrorhound, last March, when we returned to Cincinnati. He's only a couple inches taller than me, another thing I like about the guy. He knows what it's like to constantly bonk your head on nearly everything.
Below is an interview I did recently with Janz. We talk about a lot of things, but mostly about his newest novella, Exorcist Road, which was the first book in years to give me genuine gooseflesh.
KR: Most writers have a certain style they're known for, and with EXORCIST ROAD, you took a first person point of view and strayed a bit from the Janz voice. I would've thought this was a genuine confessional and not a work of fiction. It was something completely different. Was this a decision you made early on, or did it come to you later as the book progressed?
JJ: Wow, man, thanks! I’m glad the voice was authentic for you. It certainly flowed out of me without any sort of extra effort. I think I wrote it in eleven days (though the editing took more than three times as long). I did believe the first-person narrator would work well for this story. Being a novella, I didn’t want to go into multiple viewpoints like I sometimes do (like with THE SORROWS and SAVAGE SPECIES). There just isn’t enough space in a novella for me to inhabit, say, five different POV characters and do them all justice. So I knew I wanted to limit the perspective to one person, and I knew a young, inexperienced priest could bring with him a great deal of interesting facets in a story like this. He’d be terrified, first of all, and because he knows something of evil, his terror is even deeper than a layperson’s would be. Also, by limiting the perspective, I thought I could keep the other characters a little more oblique with regard to the central mystery. I drew them as well as I could, of course, but I could hold back just enough to maintain their status as suspects in the serial killings. And I think Jason (the young priest) is a suspect too because of his many issues.
But thanks for your “confessional” comment. That makes me happier than you know.
KR: Was there any research involved beforehand? If so, how much time did you spend educating yourself on the subject matter?
JJ: The research I did was mostly the several exorcism books I’ve read over the past couple of years (both fiction and non-fiction). The most influential books were William Peter Blatty’s THE EXORCIST and LEGION, as well as John Farris’s criminally underrated masterpiece SON OF THE ENDLESS NIGHT. Since I read those without knowing I’d be writing EXORCIST ROAD (which was brainstormed and written very quickly), I was able to internalize them like I would any book instead of being on the lookout for facts I could utilize. I’m thinking that’s why the exorcism stuff seems organic to the story—precisely because I wasn’t just learning it just to recapitulate it in a story. It always annoys me when I can see where an author is just showing off the new stuff he’s learned. That kind of information regurgitation jerks me right out of a story. So even though I did do some research while I wrote it, most of that preparation came well before the book was conceived.
KR: What is your usual writing routine when working on something new? Do you have any weird traits or habits that you have to do while working?
Hah! You know I’m a weird dude, so nothing would probably surprise you. In fact, I considered making a bunch of stuff up just to see if you’d believe me. Of course, nothing I could do would compare to your habit of building a small chapel out of pastrami and hanging upside down in it by your big toes all night before you start a new book.
But to answer your question, I’d say that I go for total immersion when I’m “in the zone,” and that helps me fully invest in the writing process. When I’m not with my family or teaching, the story and the characters hold my mind hostage. I think about them in the car, when I’m walking somewhere, when I’m standing at the urinal. I think about the story as I try to sleep at night. And when I shower.
When I actually write, I listen to baroque music, sit in my favorite chair in my upstairs library, place my mug of coffee next to me, and get after it. There’s nothing quite like that feeling of discovery, as you well know, Krist.
KR: What are three books that have stayed with you throughout your life?
JJ: Awesome and difficult question. Okay, here are three (with the caveat that I’d give a different answer tomorrow):
1. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. I think of that book as love on paper. It’s beautiful and should be required reading for the human race.
2. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. A classic that exceeds its billing, I love this one for its endless capacity to make you think while it entertains you.
3. Ghost Story by Peter Straub. I had to include one horror novel, right? This one transported me when I first read it and transports me still when I revisit it. A towering achievement.
KR: Are there any newer authors out there that you frequently read?
JJ: You mean other than you? Because I’m a big fan of Kristopher Rufty, in spite of the bizarre pastrami fetish. Other than him, I love Hunter Shea and Brian Moreland. Anything those guys do is excellent. Also, Russell James has a great voice, as does Mick Ridgewell. To be honest, I don’t read many new authors despite how incredibly hypocritical that is. But most of my reading is by guys who came before me from whom I feel I need to learn before I move on to more contemporary writers. That’s not really logical or fair, but it’s the way my twisted mind works.
KR: What are you working on now, and what can we expect next? We need more Janz now!
JJ: Thank you, Krist. I finished a novel recently that no one knows about except me, my family, my agent, and a handful of pre-readers. I’m not sure what I’m doing with that one yet, but I can tell you about my two (probable) Samhain Horror releases. One is called THE NIGHTMARE GIRL, and it’s coming in January. In that one, I really channeled Joe R. Lansdale, and the result was a cool mix of horror, mystery, and suspense. It’s very different than my other stuff, but I’m really proud of it and excited for folks to read it. The other Samhain Horror novel will likely be a werewolf story. The contracts aren’t signed on that one yet, and I’m not done writing it, but it’s moving along nicely and should be a very interesting book once it’s completed. Every writer feels this way, but I believe I can say with complete sincerity that no one’s ever done a werewolf book quite like this one before, which has made it both fun and challenging to write.
Thanks for having me on your blog, Krist. And if any of you are reading this and haven’t yet checked out Rufty, I suggest you get on that ASAP. This is just my opinion, but I’d start with THE LURKERS (though Krist might have other suggestions).
THE LURKERS sounds great to me!
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Proud Parents was released yesterday from Samhain Publishing's horror line and I couldn't be more excited. I wrote this book while I was on bed rest from liver issues. My future was unknown at the time, so I chose to write a book about a family whose futures were also unknown. Actually, their present was just as unknown and a constant risk, so it made for an exciting and heartbreaking adventure. This book poured out of me, finishing a draft in a little over six weeks. I couldn't STOP writing. And I honestly believe it helped keep my spirits up during all the medical tests and treatments I had to go through at the time. There were many moments in that span where I felt like poor Gabe from the book.
The root of the idea has been with me for many years, and was almost shot as a movie a few times with some pretty cool people. The movie never happened, but the idea remained. The book changed so much that it hardly resembles that old screenplay, but I believe the changes were for the better. I am so very proud of this book. I hope you all enjoy it, too.
I have been very pleased with all my covers, but this one is probably my favorite of them all.
You can pick it up from Samhain's website HERE! If you use the coupon code PAPERBACK50, you can get the paperback for around 8 bucks. Can't beat that price anywhere!
To purchase on Amazon click HERE!
I am also registered on Authorgraph, a neat website that allows me to autograph my e-books. If you have any on your Kindle or any other e-Reader, click the box below and send me a request. I'll be more than happy to sign anything.
Thank you so much for reading my books!
Monday, July 7, 2014
I came on the horror scene with Hunter Shea during Samhain Horror's launch almost three years. In fact, he was the first fellow author to reach out to me and offer congratulations. I will always remember that. Since then, we have become close and I am happy to have him as a friend. His books have influenced my own writing as heavily as some of the classics I grew up reading. I enjoy how he writes, the stories he tells. He's also somebody who can match me on horror trivia.
Hunter is in the middle of a big tour for the Pinnacle release of his book, The Montauk Monster. To find where he's already been and where he's going, be sure to check HERE!
Hunter was kind enough to stop my little blog and chat about writing, his new books, and more.
KR: Reading THE MONTAUK MONSTER reminded me a lot of those ‘70s Roger Corman, nature-run-amok movies that would have played to packed crowds at the Drive-In. Were those movies an influence to this book and your writing in general? They are with mine, for sure. There was a great AIP (American International Pictures) town-in-peril vibe as well, and that’s a compliment from me.
HS: That is scary that you said that. And by that, I mean scarily intuitive. When I was working on the idea for the book with my editor, Gary Goldstein, we talked about bringing a classic Roger Corman movie to life in book form. That’s right. We specifically wanted to pay homage to the man who has entertained us for decades. Having you bring it up really makes me feel like I accomplished exactly what we set out to do.
My two-book deal with Kensington specifically states that they involve ‘nature gone wild’. With The Montauk Monster, I initially planned to have just a few of the beasties hit the shore. You all can thank my editor for making it dozens and really amping up the scares and action. You know me and how much I love my monsters. Writing this book was about as close to heaven on earth as I’m going to get.
KR: Which three authors inspired you to become the writer you are now? Was it a certain book of theirs that led you to pursue writing?
HS: The very first ‘big people’ book that I read was Stephen King’s Night Shift. I’ve been hooked on and influenced by him ever since. I don’t think there’s a horror writer under the age of 50 who hasn’t been influenced by The King. The other two authors actually have nothing to do with the horror genre. First is Hemingway. I devour his books and short stories. Can you imagine totally reinventing the way books are written? Along with him is Elmore Leonard. Both taught me how to write lean and pack as much punch with an economy of words. Make every word count, have them move the story along without getting bogged down in unnecessary details.
KR: Do you have a particular routine you try to adhere to when it comes to writing or does your schedule even permit a routine? Are you a day writer or night writer, or both?
HS: When I’m working on a book, I write every day. That includes Christmas, birthdays, when I have the flu, you name it. I work a day job, so most of that writing is done at night, right after dinner. As long as I can get at least an hour in during the weekdays and about three on Saturday and Sunday, I’m happy. I’ve learned to write anywhere. The perfect writing space isn’t always available. Aside from my home office, I tend to write a lot in the kitchen in the midst of mayhem. I also work in libraries, airports, hotels, park benches and even, sometimes, my car. The key is to get something written every single day. My good friend Brian Moreland says he writes more like a sprinter, getting in large chunks over a short period of time. I’m more of a marathoner. I just took my first real break in 3 years this past month and it feels both great and weird. My mind is already writing the next book I plan to start very soon.
KR: If you could only read one book over and over for the rest of your life, which would it be?
HS: So far, that book has been Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. I’ve been re-reading it every summer for about the past 20 years. I’m envious of all the amazing artists he befriended (then turned on) during his time in Paris. If I feel my writing batteries running low, I pick up that book and recharge.
KR: Being a fervent paperback collector, I was very thrilled that The Montauk Monster was released in mass market form. Do you prefer the trade-sized paperbacks, or are you an avid supporter of the paperbacks you can carry in your pocket?
HS: Having The Montauk Monster come out in paperback is a dream come true. When I started out writing, that was my main goal. I grew up devouring paperbacks, and still do. I have a Kindle but just can’t get into reading books with it. That sucker is collecting dust on my dresser. To me, hardcovers are cumbersome. Trade paperbacks are fine, especially now that I’m older and appreciate the larger type. But paperbacks hold a very special place in my heart and life. I’m literally the guy that walks around with a paperback stuffed in his back pocket.
KR: What are you working on now? And what can we expect to find in bookstores from you in the near future?
HS: I just had my next book with Samhain hit the shelves, a horror-western called Hell Hole. It’s set in an abandoned mining town in 1905. There are cowboys, former Rough Riders, Teddy Roosevelt, black-eyed kids, wild men, ghosts and even the Djinn. It’s a crazy one. My father was a big western fan, so I wrote it for him. In January, my follow up to Sinister Entity will be out. It’s called Island of the Forbidden. It takes place 3 years after SE and I put Jessica Backman, our stalwart ghost hunter, in a very, very bad place. She’s still mad at me about it. :)
I also recently turned in my manuscript for my next paperback with Kensington. Right now, it’s titled Run Like Hell. I don’t want to give away anything. Let’s just say that if you crave action and thrills, this will satisfy your hungers.
Later this month I’ll start working on a new book that will be a statement on the sate of our country and its impact on future generations. As Marcellus said in Pulp Fiction, things are very fucking far from OK with our country. This is going to be a dark one.
I’m the product of a childhood weened on The Night Stalker, The Twilight Zone and In Search Of. I don’t just write about the paranormal. I actively seek out the things that scare the hell out of people and experience them for myself.
My novels, Forest of Shadows, Evil Eternal , Swamp Monster Massacre , Sinister Entity and The Waiting are published through Samhain Publishing’s horror line. A horror shorts collection, Asylum Scrawls, is available as an e-book, straightjacket not included. My first thriller novel, The Montauk Monster, will be released June 2014 as a Pinnacle paperback. I live with my family and untrainable cat close enough to New York City to get Gray’s Papaya hotdogs when the craving hits.
I’m also proud to be be one half of the Monster Men video podcast, along with my partner in crime, Jack Campisi. Our show is a light hearted approach to dark subjects. We explore real life hauntings, monsters, movies, books and everything under the horror sun.
Feel free to contact me any time at email@example.com. Writing is lonely work.