July 03, 2017

REVIEWING A LIGHT BEYOND BY STEVE WEDEL

A LIGHT BEYOND
Steve Wedel
Moon Howler Press
June, 2017
Reviewed by Rick Hipson


Deciding to take publishing matters into his own hands, author, Steven E. Wedel, recently launched his own publishing house called Moon Howler Press. MHP hosts a library of titles showcasing the author’s cross genre appeal, with A LIGHT BEYOND being one of the newest additions and, coincidentally, the one I’m reviewing for you now.

While easily labeled a coming of age story, it would be an overly simplistic way to describe a story that is much more than its relatively short length might have you believe. While A LIGHT BEYOND employs several unapologetic strokes of terror and general discomfort to make you cringe and squirm, its also apt to have you pondering the implications of any past transgressions you may have of your own long after the last page in the book has been read.

The true beauty of A LIGHT BEYOND is found within the relationship between young Robert and Alia, his older, sexy neighbour from when he was a child. No matter how tough things got for him like when his folks used to fight or the bullies got another win on him or even when several years later things got far worse, Alia and memories of her were a beacon during the darkest of time.
A LIGHT BEYOND explores various facets of love, hope, despair and the consequences of ruining anything of value that tries to get close. The nature of Steve’s writing bonds us to his characters in such a way that by the time we reach the final chapter, we’re forced to look inside ourselves much like Robert is forced to search his own soul. Once read, it’s hard not to feel a lingering multitude of emotions from what you’ve just experienced.

To say much more about A LIGHT BEYOND would make me feel as though I were cheating you out of the full experience of enjoying the ride with as little knowledge and assumptions going in as possible. Hopefully, that doesn’t make this a crappy review. Either way, I‘m sure you’ll thank me later if you’re not already too busy catching up on the latest creations  from Steve Wedel and
Moon Howler Press.

P.S. Not to sound like a used car salesman, but if you act now and click HERE, you’ve got until July 5th to enjoy a kindle copy of A LIGHT BEYOND for free. Try and get that from a used care salesman.


A LIGHT BEYOND by Steve Wedel now available for FREE on Kindle until July 5th

Whether you're a long time fan of his work or only now just stumbling across author, Steven E. Wedel, for the first time this is the perfect opportunity to snag yourself a copy of one of his newest books, A LIGHT BEYOND.




SYNOPSIS:



SUMMER OF LOVE


Something magical happened in the summer of 1978. Thirteen-year-old Robert Prince fell in love with Alia, a mysterious older woman who lived down the street.


SUMMER OF HORROR


Something horrible and deadly happened between Robert, Alia, and his friends Scott and Tim. Something that would leave Robert scarred for the rest of his life.


LIFETIME OF PAIN


Unable to forgive himself or to love anyone else after what happened when he was thirteen, Robert sinks into a world of masochism and despair, seeking redemption for the sins of his past



Watch this blog for a review of  A LIGHT BEYOND plus a DARK BITE exclusive audio interview with the author coming to these pages soon 

Until then, fellow readers be sure to stay hungry...and stay dark.


A LIGHT BEYOND

June 12, 2017

Reviewing THE RESURRECTIONIST By Wrath James White

THE RESSURECTIONIST
Dorchester Publication, 2009
By Wrath James White


**Warning: The following review contains some plot points which are key to the over all story. **

You might be wondering why I’m bothering to review a book some eight years past its initial publication date. It really boils down to me not wanting you to make the same mistake I did and leave this little meat grinder of a novel on your shelf any longer than you must, and I’m here to tell you why.

Wrath James White wastes no time getting to work on what he does best and quickly introduces us to a domestically troubled household where we bare witness to a young boy watching his father rape, torture and murder his mother. We watch as young Dale does what any little boy who has just watched his mother get brutally killed by his dad would do; he tries to resuscitate his mom even as her innards spill from her body. When his mom surprises him by actually coming back to life, fully healed and all put back together again, she remembers nothing of the event up to and including her own rape and murder.  Clearly, God took pity on poor Dale and replaced his many shortcomings with the ability to resurrect the dead without suffering his victims the added burden of remembering any of it.

However, not everyone sees Dale’s ability as a gift, least of all his mother who loathes the amusement he derives from using such a unique gift as nothing more than a morbid play thing. The way Dale sees it, as long as he brings them back to life when he’s done with them – and he always brings them back – then what’s the big deal?

Fast forward to several years later, long after Dale’s mom sets the house on fire, killing herself and almost taking him with her, and we find Dale all but assuming an invisible existence in a quiet gated community in Las Vegas. Nestled among random families and foreclosed, empty houses, his ideal abode becomes even more perfect when neighbours from across the street, Josh and Sara, come to offer a warm welcome. Not unlike love at first sight, Dale has only to look at Sara to determine she’s the one who can please his every need. Dale had only to look at her to know that somehow she would never get away from him, no matter how often he had to kill her.

Even when Josh and Sara catch their new neighbour on nanny cam assaulting and killing them in their bed and show it to the cops, it’s written off as some elaborate hoax. With the limited help of a couple of cops gone off the grid, Josh and Sara must come to terms with their own definition of right and wrong while trying to evade an evil neighbour who seems hell bent on tearing their world apart.

Using the terror of a gifted madman as his backdrop, Wrath connects us with the torment of his victims while also managing to provide an intimate look into the unwavering love of our protagonists. This perfectly blended touch of humanity lends its self to a more organic fear once the adrenaline starts pumping, which it often does.

As the end of THE RESURRECTIONIST draws
Wrath James White
near and the shaky camera of your mind tries to focus on the dim light up ahead, you realize, despite the hell you’ve already endured, how ill prepared you truly are for what’s still to come. After all, so long as Wrath’s deviant imagination is pushing the pen, even heroes had best fear any sign of hope.


May 27, 2017

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR BARRY HOFFMAN


Many visitors to this blog are likely to recognize the name Barry Hoffman from his award winning,
specialty press called Gauntlet Press, which hosts the release of several legendary authors in the realm of quality dark fiction. Barry has also seen a side to our society that most fear to tread let alone teach in from within the inner-city streets of Philadelphia were true life horror stories were on the sleeves of the kids trying to make it through their school days. Through Gauntlet Press Magazine, Barry ensured that every word in every article, no matter – hell, especially - if the material would fire up controversy and gave a stage for voices to be
heard and perspectives to be shared. In other words, expect Barry to pull no punches with his point-blank narrative as an author who speaks from the heart on behalf of his experiences as a teacher, a father and a man with a razor-sharp point to make.

With his latest release, BLOOD SACRIFICE, which I reviewed HERE, readers are once again cast into the gritty streets of Philadelphia where the city’s very energy is a threat to itself. An artistic killer is preying on the city’s most vulnerable children while a brave few provide a slow pursuit while each battling their own inner demons.

Barry Hoffman was kind enough to sit down with me to discuss his latest, BLOOD SACRIFICE.

DARK BITES: You clearly pay tribute to your home town of Philadelphia through your characters, most of whom happen to work for the Philadelphia Police Department. Considering how central a role the police department lends to Blood

Sacrifice, was there much homework required of you by way of researching this world first-hand above and beyond the borders of your own imagination?

BARRY HOFFMAN: No offense to Philadelphia,
but my hometown is New York City and to this day I consider myself a New Yorker. Philadelphia is actually far smaller than NYC and there are parts of the city I am very familiar with. I worked at a South Philly school where if you walked one block you go from an all-black neighborhood to one that is 100% Italian. I also taught in Center City and was quite familiar with that area of the city. I did a lot of observing while I lived in the city (close to 30 years). I also interviewed two homicide detectives early on and was shown the offices they worked. That's where I got the description of the offices of the homicide unit of the police department. For my novel Born Bad I took my youngest daughter (who was in high school) on a tour of the University of Pennsylvania. I asked dozens of questions and the guide gave me some odd looks (some of my questions were unusual). I interviewed the head of the campus police at the U. of Penn, as well. And when I took my students on field trips and concerts at Penn I also learned a lot about the campus. The city could be considered a character in my novels.

DB: Even though Blood Sacrifice reads just fine as a stand alone novel, I love how you intertwine characters from previous books from the Eyes series with your current cast of Philly’s finest. Was there a process to this that differed at all from previous entries such as planning which characters would cross paths, how they may have evolved since the last book, etc.?

BH: I came to the conclusion early on with my novels that there would be just so many detectives and their sargents working in the homicide unit of the Philadelphia Police Department. I knew from my second novel in the series (Eyes of Prey) that
various characters would cross paths. Ariel, Thea's partner in Blood Sacrifice, is introduced in Born Bad. When I considered who Thea's partner would be Ariel jumped out at me. I was also able to tie up some loose ends dealing with Ariel from Born Bad. One character who appears in countless of my novels is Russ McGowan who is called The Teflon Man behind his back. He's a villain without having committed any crime. He's your typical bureaucrat. He wants to further his career advancement at the cost of all else. He was a nemesis of Ariel's because he felt female detectives were promoted over males for political motives. And, he's no friend of minorities or, in the case of Blood Sacrifice, lesbians. I've become used to having various characters appear, sometimes with a cameo appearance and other times as important secondary characters. I didn't do anything different with Blood Sacrifice. Once I chose Ariel as Thea's partner, their sargent Estefan Morales had to be included. And, Ariel's bad blood with McGowan resurfaces. Nina Rios, who appeared in Born Bad, is fleshed out in far greater detail in this novel. It's a lot of fun having these characters interact with one another as I introduce new characters like Thea. You get to feel the internal infighting within the homicide unit. I'm working on a novel now that traces the history between Morales and McGowan that spans thirty years. Both appear so often I felt it time to see what made them tick and why they end up becoming enemies.

DB: As with your previous works, beneath the horrors of urban tragedy you perfectly depict in Blood Sacrifice, is an undercurrent of social unrest. Your key players not only struggle with an elusive serial killer, but must also fight with inner demons of their own, particularly with their racial and social identity. How do you feel we, as a society, have been doing as far as being better connected with ourselves as well as those around
us the torch is passed from one generation to the next?
BH: In some areas there has been significant progress, but when it comes to race I think we're regressing a in recent years. The greatest strides have been the expansion of rights for the LGBT community. Now gays and lesbians can get married where twenty years ago it was unthinkable that it would be the law of the land. You see gay, lesbian and transgender characters appear on television shows as major characters. They're not stereotypes but layered characters the viewer can relate to. However, there is still bullying of LGBT students in high schools and a lot of cyberbullying I find horrifying. As for race last year almost every week there was another black male being shot by a policeman. And, the black community took to the streets to protest what appears to be pointless shootings. So, there has been backsliding there. Woman are still making less money than their male counterparts doing the same job. And while Hillary Clinton lost the election for any number of reasons (of her own making) all analysts mention her being a woman as at least one reason. In a close election that could have meant the difference between victory and defeat. In the senate now the Republicans have a committee to come up with a replacement for Obamacare. The entire committee is made up of white men. In this day and age I find that tragic. And that's not to mention the attack on undocumented Hispanics by Trump as well as his desire to keep Muslims from entering the US. Lastly, anti-Semitism is at a new high. We still have a long way to go.

DB: Which character did you find you related to or sympathized with the most while writing Blood Sacrifice and why?

BH: It's near impossible to pick one. But, put a gun to my head and the character I enjoyed creating most was Ali. She has so many layers to peel away which is what I love to do. Her personality is the polar opposite of Thea's. She's spontaneous, playful, an unrepentant flirt and pretty much lacks a filter. She says what's on her mind. I was really intrigued as I created the healing power she possesses (emotional healing) and how this takes a toll on her as she absorbs the pain of the person she is curing. I could see why Thea would be attracted to her, as I wrote the book, and how she could become the love of Thea's life.

DB: As the story unfolds and its final chapter draws near, it seems there is less and less time between chapters from the killer’s point of view and those of his hunting party. In the final chapters, the back and forth between POVs grows to such a frantic pace as to create a natural overall sense of panic. Were the final chapters written on a conscious level or did the effect come from somewhere more organic?

BH: It's organic to how the novel unfolds. In early chapters there is a lot of character development. Both Thea and Ali are new characters and the reader needs to get to know them. Thomas Samuels, the antagonist also intrigued me and I spent a good deal of time peeling away his layers. This is a genuinely good man who faced tragedy when he was young. He finds happiness and then it's snatched away from him. That was the last straw for him as he descends into madness. In those last chapters there is a frenetic race by Thea to save her lover. At the same time Ali is in mortal danger. The reader already knows the characters so those chapters are a race to the finish . . . more of a page-turner than the earlier chapters. So, yes, it was done on a conscious level.

DB: Not only do I feel this to be your most polished and mature novel to date - which is not to take anything away from your previous works by

any means – but your depiction of Thomas our serial killer gave what felt like an intimate examination of his inner workings that was downright unsettling. As much as any author hates being asked where he or she get their ideas from, what can you share in terms of what may have inspired such a monster to be born onto page?

BH: I love me my villains and spend a lot of time (from their POV) exploring them. Samuels may be my most personal villain because he's a teacher and I was a teacher. So, I was in really familiar territory when discussing his teaching philosophy and experiences. I, of course, exaggerated. I wasn't allowed the latitude he was accorded, though I did break rules myself and was called on the carpet by my principal numerous times. Thomas broke the rules to get his students to dig deep within themselves. While I broke the rules when I taught I was able to go to an extreme with Samuels I never entered. So, his being a teacher made it easier for me to identify with him. That's why I think you get a more intimate picture of him than some of my other villains.

DB: In a recent e-mail, you threw me a teaser about the continuation of your Eyes series. Care to elaborate on what you’ve got cooking for us?

BH: Actually, the teaser had to do with a sequel to Blood Sacrifice. I'm not writing another series, but I've found that when I've finished writing one of my novels my characters don't want to fade into the woodwork. And, in this novel there was just so much exploring of Thea and Ali I could do while giving the villain, Samuels, his just do. I had an idea of Ali seeing a killing in Rittenhouse Square Park as she was recovering from the climax of
Blood Sacrifice. She goes to emotionally heal the killer (thinking she was in torment after an "accidental" killing). She sees the same look in the teen's eyes as she saw in Samuels. Even without proof she knows the killing was premeditated and the killer is a sociopath. That's when Thea, the homicide detective, begins her journey to learn just who this girl is. The book takes flight from there and tackles the issue of human sex trafficking.

As for the Eyes series (which I've relabeled as
Shara Farris/Renee LeShay suspense novels), the new designation says it all. I thought the series was at an end as I had explored every layer of Shara. I don't like a series where after a certain point there is no growth in the main character. In the most recent book in the series, Blind Rage, Renee (who doesn't even appear in the first two
books) becomes the focal point of the narrative with Shara becoming a secondary character. Renee has a lot of layers to peel away and I do this in the 7th book in the series titled Born Again. I had also explored the "forest" that became a central party of the mythology as much as I desired, so I deal with the forest at the beginning of the novel and that's the extent of the supernatural. While I don't have an 8th book planned there is still a lot about Renee to explore so you never know when an idea may hit me and Renee drags me back to write another book in the series.

DB: Is there anything else you would like us to watch out for from you over the next little while?

BH: Well, I've sold a novella to Cemetery Dance
as part of their novella series. I have no idea when it will be released, but it deals, in part, with the aftermath of the 9/11 attack. I've never written a novel about 9/11 and an idea came to me that intrigued me. Families were obviously devastated by the loss of life as a result of the attack on the Twin Towers. As I often do I wrote about what happens when someone takes their grief to the extreme? One of my two main characters lost his wife in the attack, but he refuses to believe she was killed (her body was never found, just her cell phone). He goes on a search for his wife in a pretty horrific manner. I'd rather not give away anything more other than to say the book also explores the possibility of genetic evil. 

DB: Thanks, as always for your time, Barry! It was a pleasure discussing BLOOD SACRIFICE with you.

BH: It's been fun.





May 24, 2017

REVIEWING BARRY HOFFMAN'S BLOOD SACRIFICE

Barry Hoffman
2017
Next Century Publishing


This is easily Barry Hoffman’s most mature and polished novel to date which isn’t to take anything away from his previous works by any means. Barry has always been a champion of the minimalistic approach and with this latest offering his talent for packing a wallop with so few words has never been more evident. During the prologue alone we are taken on a journey much akin to an emotional roller coaster as we are cast into the backseat of a not yet practicing serial killer and the love of his life. Before the reader has a chance to register what’s going on, we’re careening off the road as an invisible passenger to bare witness to a scene which Barry orchestrates into something that’s as poetically beautiful as it is gut wrenching. And that’s just the first chapter.

Following the prologue, we hit the streets to join partners in crime (literarily), Ariel and Thea as they arrive on scene to investigate our killer’s first victim, a young runaway with an unspoken story to tell. From here on in, it’s a gritty game of cat and mouse. Its notable cast of characters and us, the invisible passenger, are soon questioning the limits of our morality not to mention the many perceptions through which we view the world around and within us.

Much like our primary characters, Blood Sacrifice represents several layers that account for the whole. It’s a suspense novel; a thriller; a supernatural; a crime noir. It could even lay claim to being an allegory for racial and sexual identity or for social commentary for the derelicts of an urban landscape. Barry also provides plenty of horrific elements as well. I’m not embarrassed to admit that even this diehard horror fan enjoyed a few squeamish moments of glee over some of the more brutal scenes along the way.

As the story unfolds, answers give way to far more questions.  Not only must detectives Ariel and Thea somehow utilize nothing but crumbs of evidence to track down an elusive serial killer with a penchant for the artistic side, they must do so while the top brass forces their backs against the wall. A former Lieutenant with a sharp bone to pick that goes way back wants nothing more than to take over the case and throw Ariel’s career under a bus from which there is no return. Add to that the prophecy-like inclusion of Thea’s “twin” who claims to have a supernatural interest in the killer – and in Thea – and it becomes clear that a killer preying upon the city’s discarded children are only the beginning of what’s in store for our detectives and the wild ride they take us on.

Blood Sacrifice provides a masterful depiction of the human condition and the psychology which is at the core of the choices we make and the consequences of those choices. A former inner city school teacher in the heart of Philadelphia, Barry has first hand knowledge of the darker effects of choices and how they can shape one’s identity. The author bleeds what he knows on the page without managing to be preachy about it by injecting just enough inner dialogue to capture us as a fly on the wall while still leaving plenty for us to draw our own conclusions. The effect is a relatable connection to the various points of view we’re presented with.


Overall, the story fires on all cylinders, eventually reaching a fevered pitch when it all comes together towards its final chapters.  Blood Sacrifice is sure to leave most of you feeling unsettled, maybe even disturbed or offended, but mostly searching for more within the archives of Barry Hoffman. 

April 07, 2017

REVIEWING RC MATHESON'S ZOOPRAXIS

REVIEWING  ZOOPRAXIS 

A Collection by Richard Christian Matheson




Written by Richard Christian Matheson
Published by Gauntlet Press




Whether you’re an established RC Matheson connoisseur or you’ve just discovered his work, Zoopraxis is sure to satiate any fan of raw, visceral literature. Waiting to oblige such cravings are thirteen brand new stories with nine more gathered from various years best anthologies and the like. With introductions from John Shirley and Chet Williamson, Gauntlet Press presents a macabre world full of Twilight Zone inspired chills with plenty of introspective twists worth revisiting.

 Helping to bring us closer to the heart of each tale is cover artist extraordinaire, Harry O’Morris. Harry’s black and white designs provides a cohesive yet subtle visual interpretation to kick off each story. As a bonus, the author includes a personal anecdote coinciding with the origin of each tale.  The additions of Harry’s artwork combined with RC’s introductions tied in well with the overall experience of what this collection clearly sought to do in the first place: to take your senses on a journey along the rugged mental terrain of a true master of terror.

 As with any literary collection, mileage will always vary and while this collection is unlikely to threaten that moniker, you’ll be hard pressed not to be impressed all the same with each entry read. Even those which didn’t quite work for me were so well written and from the heart they still managed to capture my imagination and desire for more.

 Reading through this collection, it felt as though RC wasn’t so much writing to be read as he was writing to explore the many facets of good and evil hiding beneath the surface of a complex, fascinating mind. Even when the author’s narrative hints of hope and goodness in the world he so flawlessly portrays, such underlying good is overshadowed by layers of ‘what ifs’ and ‘why nots,’ all presented as only a master of dark illusion can. Though some entries may come across as more musing than standardized story by way of length and style, each entry helps complete the spectrum of dark poetic to outright terror, in a language that’s as honest as it is captivating.  

 The collection aptly opens with How To Edit, a story disguised as an essay for minimalism. RC reels us in with a velvet rope then forces our eyes wide open as he peels back the skin of his narrator. We soon bear witness to a man so painfully aware of his own existence and the exact space it fills that we can only wonder how far he must go before his image of perfection can be achieved.

 My personal favourite of the bunch, Transfiguration (from 2011 The Best Horror of the Year Volume
3), provides the haunting tale of an ice trucker whose destination proves to be closer to himself than he could ever have envisioned, or feared. This one had a distinct Twilight Zone-esque feel to it, complete with an ending which resonated long after I’d read the last line. Another story, Slaves of Nowhere, offers a story that’s perfectly poised to strike at the heart. Much like the cognac drinking narrator of this dark gem, this one’s written to be savoured and repeated. But don’t expect to enjoy the outcome. Definitely one of the heavier emotional hitters in a collection where every piece is a fine contender. Stories like Last Words and Infomercial! RC
showcases his flare for the macabre while teaching us once again that not everything is as it seems no matter how eloquently dressed up it may be.

 Impactful, point blank and constantly daring, Zoopraxis provides a lasting adventure through RC Matheson’s collection of his inner most thoughts and demons. Suffice to say I can’t wait to see into which dark and fantastic world they take him - and us - next.



April 05, 2017

INTERVIEWING RICHARD CHRISTIAN MATHESON




The surname, Matheson, was one immediately familiar to me through the extensive, boundary pushing works of legendary Richard Matheson. I had only discovered hi eldest son, Richard Christian’s, work through my review of Stephen King’s Battleground and fast became aware of RC’s talent. Popping his name into Google and IMDB (Internet Movie Data Base) I fast became aware of how RC had, despite my previous ignorance, greatly contributed to a sizable chunk of my childhood media culture. The A-Team. 3‘OCLOCK HIGH. Three’s Company. Knight Rider. Tales From The Crypt. The Incredible Hulk. You get the idea. Hell, even his younger brother, Chris Matheson, helped shape my media influence with his BILL AND TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, which almost never got made, but I digress. You get the idea. The point is much like his father, Richard Matheson, RC Matheson has more than likely influenced your brand of entertainment to some degree as well while carving out his own path towards being referenced among the literary greats of our generation.

Zoopraxis is his latest contribution and RC was kind enough to sit down and discuss the makings and inner concepts with me in between his various film, television and writing projects.

Hell Notes: How did you end up with the current selection of stories that made the final cut for this collection?

RC Matheson:  There are twenty-two stories. I included everything I published after my last collection, Dystopia, plus thirteen brand new ones I wrote for ZOOPRAXIS.


HN: Zoopraxis has a well balanced blend of published stories and never-before published stories. Had you ever considered splitting them up into two separate volumes?

RC: Either would have been too short. I am beginning work on my fourth collection.

HN: How did you arrive at the title of Zoopraxis? What’s the story behind the title?

RC: I fell in love with the word which is arresting and odd. I thought I’d use it somewhere since it refers to a device that has been around for awhile that creates visual movement, via a mirrored, circular design; individual images, rotating, implying  flow -- a hypnotic blend of the static and kinetic given objects not moving appear otherwise. As a title for a story collection, its metaphor suggests we see only what we think we see---that we are the narrative overlay, providing meaning or even life that may not be there. I also used the word in my magic realism novella, THE RITUAL OF ILLUSION. A little bit of a call back. 

HN: While you’ve created a respectable output of short stories, television and movie scripts, is there a reason we haven’t seen a lot of longer literary works from you?

RC: Time. My schedule juggles a prose and tv/film writing and producing career. To give you an idea, a guy who’s writing my biography told me I’ve published eighty-five short stories, three collections, a novel and novella, a cocktail table Stephen King book, written and produced hundreds of television scripts, drama and comedy, four mini-series, thirty pilots and forty movie scripts. I’ve also co-created a series, co-written all episodes and executive produced. Along the way, I’ve been fortunate to get fifteen films I wrote or co-wrote produced and currently have one in production. I also just finished a new novel and completed cutting drum tracks on two blues/rock albums. Along with my writing and producing, I run MATHESON ENTERTAINMENT, the production company my father and I started; developing tv/film/stage projects and selling and negotiating deals. I am forever fighting the clock and wish I had more time to write prose.

HN: No tale in Zoopraxis explains your mastery of minimalistic style more so than “How To Edit.” Is this a style that’s always come natural, or have you had to work to polish it over the years to get it to where it is now? 

RC: It comes, in part, from the rigors of writing scripts which demand prescribed page length, so you must compress and stay taut. Like a Hiaku, you only have so much space and must make the most of it.

Beyond that, I’ve also become more sensitive to how little I need to say in order to get ideas across. With a good piece of writing, script or prose, the reader should do half the work. Otherwise, its exposition; a dramatized instruction manual. I believe in providing dots, not connection.

HN: How might your first drafts compare with your eventual final drafts?  Has this changed much since you first began writing seriously?

Here’s an example. I published a story, “VAMPIRE”, where each sentence was one word long. The first draft was about twelve pages long and I felt it was too specific... I wanted something more impressionistic; far shorter. As I thinned it, I wanted to see if it would sustain with just the DNA of the story. In the end, each sentence became one word, assembled in a rhythmic way. Not verse or poetry. Not deliberately offbeat. Just edited to the marrow. I thought it had a strong effect but wasn’t sure it would track for readers. I submitted it to my friend, the marvelous Dennis Etchison, who’d invited me into his new horror anthology, CUTTING EDGE. To my delight, Dennis understood the story instantly, found it powerful and bought it. Perhaps some evidence for minimalism. I have certainly written long stories. But my prose tends to be skeletal, hinging on triggering readers thoughts, not explaining my own.    

HN: As portrayed in your story, How To Edit, even minimalistic tendencies have their limit. How do you decide when your writing is as compact and meaningful as possible or if there might be room for further trimming?

RC: There’s a point where further trimming would stop the heart. Exactly where is intuition.

HN: You’ve mentioned before how cohesive Harry O. Morris’ vision was to your own vision when it came to how his illustrations spoke of the stories they introduced in Zoopraxis. What added impact do you feel Harry’s illustrations gave to each story and to the collection as a whole? 


RC:  I loved Harry’s work the first time I saw it over thirty years ago. We are ironic and indirect, by nature, in the way we like to get ideas across and have always creatively agreed that the literal is more finely expressed via the figurative. Much can be interpreted; like Rorschachs. He has done the art for several of my books, both covers and interior, and we’re also dear friends. Harry’s extraordinary gift always lends further depth.

HN: Now that I’ve enjoyed Zoopraxis and will be looking for more of your work to read, where can I go to get more and what might you have in store for us next?

RC: My film and television DVD’s are available at AMAZON.  Also my books, including my novel “CREATED BY,” novella, “The Ritual Of Illusion”, first short story collection, “SCARS And Other Distinguishing Marks” and second collection “DYSTOPIA”.
As I mentioned, there’s also a cocktail table book I compiled and edited called “Stephen King’s BATTLEGROUND/A Commemoration of the Emmy-Winning Television Adaptation” that’s based on a short story Steve wrote which I adapted for his “NIGHTMARE AND DREAMSCAPES” miniseries. The one-hour episode starred the great William Hurt and has zero dialogue. Not unlike the radical editing of VAMPIRE I mentioned, as I was working on the “BATTLEGROUND” script, I began to think I could eliminate dialogue which didn’t contribute and finally got to the point where I’d cut it all; an effect I found strong. As with VAMPIRE, I wasn’t sure others would agree the effect worked.

I showed it to the network TNT and the producers and all agreed it could work. It was directed by Jim Henson’s son, Brian Henson, a very fine director, and won two Emmys. I found it such an interesting project, on many different levels, that I thought it merited a book about how it was put together. It includes fascinating interviews with William Hurt, the president of TNT, the Special Effects Wizards, the Composer, director Brian Henson and others. Also, has tons of cool set photos you can’t get anywhere else. It’s an intriguing companion piece for anyone who purchases the “NIGHTMARES AND DREAMSCAPES” DVD boxed set.

HN: Fantastic. Again, I really appreciate you letting me pick your brain, RC. Anything else you want to throw out there or add?

RC: Readers can keep an eye out for new anthologies I’m in. Every year, there’s a bunch. And a new novel may be on the way. Also those two rock/blues albums I played drums on will be released.



HN: Well, that’s what I like to hear. I’m pretty sure a lot of folks out there, once they get a chance to enjoy this collection they’ll be looking for a lot more of your work. I know I will be.



Be sure to keep an eye out for my review of RC's latest short story collection, Zoopraxis. Remember to stay hungry...And stay dark. 





January 03, 2015

REVIEWING STEPHEN KING'S REVIVAL


     Hell Notes hosts my first review of the year, which I hope you'll check out before doing yourself a favour and grabbing a copy of Revival to read.  I haven't given King a chance since trying to wade through From a Buick 8 way back when, but let's just say I am a happily revived King fan and can't wait to catch up on some of his other recent books to see what else I may have been missing out on.


     As any King fan knows, the man's work switches from the mainstream (Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon) to the deliberately horrific (Carrie, Pet Semetary, Cujo). While Revival veers more towards the former with its subtle depictions of madness and underlying fears, the overall impact will no doubt illicit a horrific response that ought to resonate down your spine until it rattles the entire believe system of whichever existential foundation you subscribe to.


     For Jamie Morton, the most important question he had ever asked himself was READ FULL REVIEW HERE



October 05, 2014

reviewing Barry Hoffmann's BLIND VENGEANCE



Barry Hoffmann, owner of Stoker nominated specialty press, Gauntlet Press, knocks another one out of the park with Blind Vengeance, his newest offering in his critically acclaimed 'Eyes series.

See what I thought of his latest book over on Hell Notes with this review.


September 28, 2014

REVIEWING OWEN KING'S DOUBLE FEATURE


If you're asking yourself 'that Owen King?' then yes, 'that' Owen King.  Son of Stephen, brother of Joe.  But don't be expecting a book of terror and cold shivers.  No, Owen King's work will very well be keeping you up at nights for other reasons entirely.  


Check out my review of his debut novel, Double Feature, as showcased over here at Hell Notes:  Double Feature reviewed


And while you're (hopefully) getting a copy for yourself to read, stay tuned for an upcoming interview with the man him self, Owen King.