September 09, 2017

DARK BITES PRESENTS:  QUICK LICKS

A BRIEF CONVERSATION WITH 

~ JACK KETCHUM ~



Familiarity is certainly a mileage which varies so the mention of Jack Ketchum is bound to conjure up various images and meanings depending on your personal experience, be it first hand or otherwise. To some, the name reflects a thirty-five year span of literary prowess which includes several award, nominations, films based on his work and countless accolades of the highest order from the masters of his craft of which he is one of. Others might envision a chiseled philosopher, a world traveler or a life long student of the human condition. For others still, the name Jack Ketchum stirs up a century’s old image of a gritty gun slinger hung dead from the gallows for crimes most foul. This final image is attributed to the infamous Tom "Black Jack” Ketchum, the murderous train robber from the late 1800's from which Dallas Mayr, the man, borrowed the name sake from to give to his alter ego. This alter ego fast became synonymous with terror as Jack Ketchum, the author, rose to become, as Stephen King aptly put it, the scariest man in America.

Despite his alter ego, Dallas also happens to be one of the most accessible, supportive writers in the business and recently, gave the scares a pause long enough to chat with me about the 35th anniversary of his debut novel, OFF SEASON, his perspective on where humanity is heading, his battle with cancer, and more.

First of all, Dallas, congratulations and a very happy 35th anniversary on your debut shocker, OFF SEASON. Although 35 years worth of published writing, awards and well deserved accolades and still going strong is almost reward enough for you and us fans, it’s great to see an anniversary edition of the book coming out. What does this milestone mean to you and how might a snapshot of your current writing career compare to the picture you may have drawn for yourself upon publication of that first novel 35 years ago?

By the time I published OFF SEASON I had about four or five years under my belt writing professionally -- more if you count ad copy.  My first published story was called THE HANG-UP, in the December issue of Swank Magazine.  For those archaeologist among you, you can find it in my collection BROKEN ON THE WHEEL OF SEX.  It was always a kick to get a magazine in the mail with my story or article in it, and of course I was very happy to cash the checks -- even if it was only thirty-five bucks for a record review in Creem.  But a published book was another animal altogether. I did, as they say, The Happy Dance.  Back in '81 brick-and-mortar bookstores were still thriving and OFF SEASON got pretty good distribution, so it was amazing to walk into one, check out the horror section and see a Dozen copies on display.  Or, as happened several times, to see somebody reading a copy on the subway.  Alas, brick-and-mortars are rare as honest politicians now.  And who the hell knows what's being read on those tablets and blueballsberries or whatever on the trains.  But it's still enormously gratifying to know that people are still reading me -- and reading that book in particular -- after all these years.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, I guess the book started something, hit a nerve among other writers as to how far they could push the envelope in terms of realism when it comes to violence.  Call it a dubious distinction, but hey, it's mine own.  What's come along since has pretty much shredded that envelope completely for both good and ill, but I like to think that the book still packs a punch and it's still well worth reading.  I'm delighted to have this great new edition.  It sort of proves its staying power, you know?

I love it when my favourite genre pulls together for a great cause such as with the new anthology called Now I Lay me Down To Sleep, which benefits the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and features your short story, Mother and Daughter. What can you tell us about this anthology and of your experience in contributing your story, and what it meant for you?

As we speak, I'm just halfway through my first series of immunotherapy treatments, following several months of chemo, against my own throat and neck cancer.  And this is my second time around -- the first was hard palate.  So as it happens I take this shit personally.  But if you're in a position where you can contribute something meaningful to a cause as important as fighting cancer you're an idiot and a boor not to jump at it.  If having my story in a book and my name on the cover can sell some copies, by all means deal me in.  The bonus is that you get some good reading done as well.  A no-lose situation.  So get out there, folks, and pick up a copy.

Speaking of recent scares, I see you’ve done it again and teamed up with your co-master of splatter, Edward Lee for another terror filled story, this time to round out the collection of splatter lore in D.O.A. III: Extreme Horror Anthology (Volume 3) which was released earlier this summer. You’ve written several stories now with Ed so I have to ask: what is it about two of horror’s most formidable writers that, when combined, makes for such a well tuned nightmare generator?

Lee and I complement one another well I think.  It's a good fit.  Not all are.  He's strong on stuff that I'm not, and vice versa.  But mostly it's that we enjoy one another's writing and respect it.  And there are no big egos involved.  We're both perfectly content to use the scissors and it doesn't matter whose material we're cutting or reworking, we're just interested in servicing the story.  Most of our output together, like the piece in D.O.A., falls into the category of black comedy and we have very similar senses of twisted humor.  So we try to elicit those nasty grins in one another.  We have fun!

Considering your only supernatural novel to date is SHE WAKES, you’re an author who prefers to take his inspiration, if you will, primarily from the evils of modern man when exploring the real life monsters next door with your work. In this day and age, with information and technological conveniences so readily available to us, it seems our world is filled to capacity with self entitled, hate mongering animals more so than ever before. As it relates with your writing, do you feel it’s more important than ever to provide a safe and entertaining escapism from such evils through your words, or do you lean more towards exploring every facet of modern terror you can so that we may best understand it and perhaps even eradicate it? Or do you have a totally different stance on how your writing might relate to our current world at large?

I have to disagree when you say that the world's more full of "hate mongering animals" than ever before -- though they're certainly out there, pissing in our well.  My problem is with the more than ever part.  If you take a look at history, even fairly recent history, seems to me that the human race is on the gradual upswing.  Think Spanish Inquisition, Genghis Kahn, good old Henry VIII chopping up his wives, Hitler, Stalin -- then think a doofus wimp like Donald Trump.  Dangerous though he may be.  Not very long ago women couldn't vote, kids worked in sweat-shops, there was no Civil Rights Movement, no Gay Rights Movement, no Animal Rights...there was...good grief! PROHIBITION!!  I believe we're perfectible as a species,  That however slowly we crawl into enlightenment, we're still crawling, still trying.  That's not to say there isn't evil in the world.  There is.  Plenty of it.  So that what I like to do is to identify those evils, pin them down, take a good close look at the creatures among us who perpetrate them.  Contrast them and us.  I think that's salutary.  If what I write helps us to deal with that in some small way, writing's worth doing.

And, for old time’s sake, I gotta ask you: when’s the last time you enjoyed a hot bowl of your great-great-grandma’s famous German lentil soup, and what was the occasion?

For my great-great-grandma's stick-to-your-ribs terrific lentil soup you don't need an occasion.  In fact right now, right this very moment, I'm getting out of this chair, and you know what?  I'm heading for the kitchen...

And rather than wait for him to return from the kitchen to find out where you can get all the writing updates and special appearances you can handle, but were afraid to ask for, you can head over to http://www.jackketchum.net for everything Jack Ketchum.






September 06, 2017

~ Exclusive Live  Interview ~

A Streaming Conversation With Author

 Steven E. Wedel



One simply can’t - and damn well shouldn’t - discuss top ranking horror writers, particularly in the world of small press, and not mention Steven E. Wedel. An inner city school teacher by day, a terror of plot and char actors by night, Steve’s breakout series, The Werewolf Saga, all but re-engineered an entire sub-genre. His stand alone books such as Amara’s Prayer, Seven Days In Benevelence, Little Graveyard On The Prairie and more demonstrate the ease at which Steve seems capable of entwining his readers into worlds in which everything is up for fear and contemplation. Steve is one of those rare writers who moves with ease between genres. Whether it's straight ahead horror, western, paranormal or a whimsical young adult book, Steve creates worlds in which escape from the real world is pure pleasure even when forced to question our own morals as we bare witness to the many, often unsettling, possibilities Steve puts before us as only a master of his craft can.  


 
Steve keeps style lean, mean and straight to the heart within several full length novels, multiple short stories and a handful of novellas, including the one I caught up with him about most recently, A Light Beyond, A Light Beyond is part of a collection of literary works being brought into the world through Steve’s self publishing banner, MoonHowler Press. 

Readers of this blog not yet familiar with Steve’s work, be warned: letting this interview be your first step to catching up on Steve's library of literary creations will likely induce many a sleepless night. Just hope it isn't during a night while the moon is at its fullest. 

Click the play button below and enjoy.











September 03, 2017

DARK BITES PRESENTS: QUICK LICKS

A Brief Conversation With Author 
~ James Newman ~



James Newman has a large and loyal following for good reason and it all started with his coming of age gem, Midnight Rain. He’s the kind of southern author who somehow transcends all distance and barriers and gives the reading experience the added layer of feeling as though the tale was being told from across some deserted bar with only the reader and author present. Several novels,chap books, short stories and other such projects later, and I had to chance to catch up with one of the most humble guys in horror I have ever met, James Newman.


Dark Bites: James, some of your stories such as Midnight Rain,
The Wicked and Animosity serve as a kind of allegory to the fragile design of youth. In these stories, at the heart of it all, is an innocence lost all too soon to the treachery of an awful circumstance beyond their control. What do you think it is about seeing things through a child’s eyes that makes for such a haunting premise?

James Newman: First and foremost, the world is so much bigger when we’re children, which makes it so much scarier.  It can be a pretty horrifying place now, and I’m 43 years old!  Imagine what it must be like through the eyes of the helpless, the innocent, the ones who expect the grown-ups to protect them.  Adults, even those with the best intentions, are still human . . . which means they don’t always do the right thing.  Sometimes, in fact, they do the complete opposite.  Sometimes they’re the bad guys.  I can’t think of anything that’s much scarier than that, when they’re the ones we’re supposed to look up to.


As a man who’s faith is clearly an important part of his life, how vital is it for you to ensure that your religious beliefs and spiritual side are represented in your craft with the stories you tell?

Believe it or not, I probably steer things in a different direction than you think, in regards to my beliefs.  While I try to refrain from beating my readers over the head with any overt message, I think if there is any “moral” to my stories it’s about talking the talk but failing to walk the walk.  Some might say that I’ve not been very kind to religious folks in the tales I’ve written that have touched on this topic.  I couldn’t argue with them.  Look at the wife in THE WICKED, who’s a devout Christian but in the end that blind, self-righteous worldview of hers turns out to be her downfall.  HOLY ROLLERS (from People Are Strange)?  Those guys were just batshit crazy.  I walked a fine line with the way I handled believers in my most recent release, ODD MAN OUT, as I wanted to have a religious character (in young preacher-in-training C.J. Sellars) to spout some scripture now and then about the topic at hand.  But I didn’t want C.J. to be another proselytizing, anti-gay Bible-thumper.  That’s not to say that he was necessarily likeable, but C.J.’s sin was going along with the meanness perpetrated by more despicable characters because he didn’t want to rock the boat.  You remember the whole “WWJD” thing?  Seems like C.J. should have been the first to stand up for what’s right, if he truly believed those words printed in red in that holy book he was constantly reading.

Short answer:  To me, more often than not, if there’s any message to be found in the way I handle religion in my fiction . . . I’d have to say that it’s usually an exaggerated version of the kind of Christianity that bothers me.  We see it all too frequently today -- folks who claim to be Christians, but instead of helping others and loving everyone like Christ did they use the Bible to berate, bully, and hurt those who are “not like us.”  It’s disgusting.


You’ve enjoyed a variety of outlets for your creative juices to
flow over the years to say the least. Starting with a respectable volume of outstanding novels both solo and co-written, you also earned credit as assistant director for the work you did on a stage adaptation of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. You also had a short film made from your short story Cold Black Heart (which by the way I still have emblazoned onto a special edition coffee mug from way back). If you could have it your way, which form would you most enjoy seeing your words speak out in next?

Videogames.  I can see it, can’t you:  those little bee-baby things chasing the protagonist around the city of Morganville, stinging away at his diminishing health bar . . . maybe ole’ George Heatherly pops up every now and then to help you out a bit with your weapons inventory . . . until you finally get to the big boss, Mr. Moloch.  (laughs)


It seems a lot more small press authors these days are taking
marketing matters into their own hands and becoming self-publishing machines on their terms. James, where do you currently stand on the notion of doing it yourself, and how might such a thing impact the business of your own creative work?

Honestly, I have a weird hang-up about self-publishing.  It works for some people, and that’s fine.  But I can’t seem to get over that “anybody can do it and there’s a lot of shit to wade through to find the good stuff” stigma that’s attached to it.  I admit that it’s my hang-up and I need to get over it, because there is some great stuff out there – some of it by my friends and peers who are much stronger writers than yours truly -- but I’m just being honest.

That said, I’m a walking contradiction.  It’s very possible that you might see a self-published project from me soon.  A collaborative novel.  I might try something I’ve never done before with this one . . . proving that you should take everything I say with a grain of salt.   (laughs)


And finally, perhaps the most important question of all, when was the last time you laughed so hard you cried?

Probably some anti-Trump meme on Facebook.  There are some really good ones out there and the best ones never fail to crack me up (because, God, I loathe that man).
 
My personal fave:  “IT’S LIKE AMERICA GOT DRUNK AND PASSED OUT AND SOMEBODY DREW THIS DICK ON ITS FACE”, over a photo of our pouty-lipped orange POTUS.  

Perfect.

For more about James Newman and how to catch up on all his available writing you can check out his website over at Skinny-Dipping The River Styx






September 02, 2017



- Upcoming Interviews - 

  In a strange twist of fate, I've somehow ended ahead of the ball as far as future posts go. There's no guarantee how long this may last and dates and details are always subject to change, but as long as I'm on a roll, here's what you can expect over the next few weeks:

Sunday, September 2nd:

Quick Licks - A brief conversation with James Newman in which we discuss childhood, religious insanity, and when it's okay to draw a dick on a face.

Wednesday, September 6th:

Exclusive interview with author Steven E. Wedel, in which we discuss the challenges of doing it yourself, rats in the subway, and the importance of nailing down the end.

Sunday, September 9th:

Quicks Licks - Another brief conversation, this time with Jack Ketchum where we chat about kicking cancer's ass, what 35 years of scaring the hell out of readers means to him and the evolution of evil and goodness in humanity.

To be announced:

Quick Licks - Continuing my series of brief conversations, this time with Dean and Giasone Italiano, the dynamic duo from Canada who talk about creating music with a frightful twist, that thing about hackers in Russia, and what to expect from Skull Tavern.

Until next time, stay hungry and stay...Dark.

August 27, 2017

DARK BITES PRESENTS:  QUICK LICKS

A BRIEF CONVERSATION WITH AUTHOR JEFF STRAND


Jeff Strand balances the sharp line between terror and laughs like none other in the business and has over 30 published books to prove it, four of which have been previously nominated for a Bram Stoker award. At any time while reading Jeff’s work, he can have you laughing out loud in public one moment, then gripping the book tight in dreadful tension the next moment. Jeff has also made regular appearances as MC of the Bram Stoker Awards ceremony as well as master competitor of the always anticipated and often talked about official gross out contest. As a man who enjoys plying his creative talent in as many places as he can, Jeff has also dabbled in film work with the support of his film making better half, Lynne Hansen. After having followed Jeff from Florida to Georgia (at least virtually) Jeff was kind enough to grant me a few minutes of his time to pick his brain and see what kind of scares and shenanigans he has in store for us.

DARK BITES: I understand you recently made the transition from Florida to Georgia, effectively trading your oranges for peaches. If I may ask, why the change of scenery and how might the new environment affect your writing if at all?

Jeff Strand: In this case, I was the supportive spouse. My wife,
Lynne Hansen, had gotten into film making in a big way over the past couple of years, and the opportunities were far greater in Atlanta than Tampa. Since I'm a full-time novelist, all I need is my laptop and an Internet connection to do my job, so my reaction was pretty much, "You want to move to Georgia? Sure, why not?"

Of course, the process of moving suuuuuuucks, so the effect on my writing was that I wasn't doing any of it! But now that we're finally settled in, I'm back to work, and the effect of the new environment will be that I get to become part of a whole new writers community.   

As much as fans of yours, including me, enjoy your mix of terror and humor, there are a few of your books such as PRESSURE and DWELLER, where any humor is reduced to a few fleeting scenes in favor of a steady stream of genuine scares and dark atmosphere. Do you tend to set out writing specifically one way or the other when a new story begins to formulate? Which do you find most rewarding to write?





Yes, with PRESSURE I purposely set out to try to write a "serious" novel. That was originally published by Earthling Publications, but Leisure acquired the mass market paperback rights with the caveat that they wanted future books to be in that style, and not my goofy horror/comedy stuff. So DWELLER was specifically written to be one of the "serious" ones. The lines kind of blur after that. WOLF HUNT was supposed to be Leisure Book #3, but they closed their horror line shortly before it was published. It's a nasty, gruesome book that's unquestionably a horror novel, yet it's also funny from beginning to end. Is it a horror/comedy, or just a horror novel with lots of humor? I dunno. BLISTER is one of my funniest books, but I'd put it into the "serious" category. KUTTER has a silly premise (sadistic serial killer finds a Boston Terrier, and his love for the dog turns him into a better person) but I tried to write it without any jokes.

The stuff that leans heavier toward the comedy side, like FANGBOY, is more fun to write. But ultimately it's more rewarding to have written something like DWELLER.

Speaking of humor and scares, what’s the funniest scene that comes to mind from an otherwise scary story that wasn’t yours?




The rabid squirrel attack that opens Joe Lansdale's BAD CHILI is the funniest scene ever written.

Considering your script work for the indie horror film, GAVE UP THE GHOST as well as a handful of other adaptations of your stories in the works, it’s safe to say you’ve dabbled in cinematic greatness and have enjoyed seeing your creative work taken in new directions. Considering all the media stages available for a writer to express themselves in this digital age, where do you see your creative efforts focusing on over the next few years given all the available media outlet options?

My focus will continue to be novels. Writing is my only source of income, and I've hit a point where if I write a book, I know that I've got an audience for it, and it'll generate some cash. With movies, there are lots of factors completely out of my control. I did multiple drafts of a PRESSURE screenplay with, ultimately, nothing to show for it but some files on my hard drive. The feature film adaptation of STALKING YOU NOW (in which I'm not involved except for moral support) will be awesome if it's completed, but right now it's half-finished due to factors out of the director's control. WOLF HUNT and DISPOSAL have both been optioned, and I will be positively elated if the movies get made, but to keep my sanity I have to compartmentalize them and focus on the stuff I can personally control. My wife is working to bring my forthcoming book COLD DEAD HANDS to the big screen. She wrote the screenplay and has total creative control. The movie is hers. The book is mine.

Which is not to say that I don't WANT to work on other things. I'd love to do, for example, a web comic. The problem is that, though I'm fairly prolific, I've never hit a point where I say, "Wow, I've got so many books in the pipeline that I'd better stop writing them for a while!" That's kind of the dream: to decide that I'm so far ahead that to put out more books will cannibalize my own audience, so I should work on other things. Not there yet.

What can you tell us about any stories or plans for world domination you may currently have in the works, and where’s the best place folks can stalk you to find out more about what makes your creative brain tick?

The digital edition of my horror/comedy novella AN APOCALYPSE OF OUR OWN will be out very soon (the hardcover limited edition came out a couple of months ago from DarkFuse). My fifth young adult comedy, HOW YOU RUINED MY LIFE, will be out Spring 2018 from Sourcebooks Fire, and I encourage people to start lining up at their local bookstore now. COLD DEAD HANDS will be published by Cemetery Dance but hasn't been given an official publication date yet. Right now I'm working on a couple of novels, SICK HOUSE (ghosts) and MILES OF NIGHT (vampire).

Stalkers should follow me on Twitter at @jeffstrand and visit my website at www.JeffStrand.com 



August 20, 2017


Dark Bites Presents: Quick Licks 

  👀   
 👅 

A Brief Conversation With Gregory Lamberson


In between Greg’s very busy schedule of writing scripts, making movies, finishing novels and being a husband and father, I managed to get lucky and corner the notorious Slime Guy long enough to pick his brain for a brief moment about what’s been keeping him busy of late. Some fans will know him from his award nominated Jake Helman novel series with Medallion Press, or his Frenzy Way werewolf trilogy or other stand alone novels and novellas. Some will know him from his midnight cult classic film, SLIME CITY, or any number of other films he has either made, been a part of, or helped promote. Others will know him from the horror convention circuit including the one he has founded and continues to grow each year with the Buffalo Screams Film Festival where budding horror film creators from all over the world come to compete for top spots in the award ceremonies concluding the weekend long event. No matter how you came to know of the hardest working writer and indie filmmaker in the business (or maybe this is your first exposure to him in which case you’ve get plenty to catch up on), there’s no questioning his support, passion, and contribution to the indie horror community. As always, I’m grateful for his time and its always a pleasure.

Karen (Aprilann), Johnny Grssom (Anthony De La Torre),
Eric (Byron Brown II), and Gary (Chris Modrzynski)
DARK BITES: I was happy to have read recently bout you making it to the final stages of your feature length film project, JOHNNY GRUESOME, staring Anthony De La Torre from the latest installment of the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN franchise. What can we fans expect from JOHNNY GRUESOME and what's next as far as promotion and distribution planning for the film goes?

GREGORY LAMBERSON:  Johnny Gruesome was a screenplay long before I turned it into a novel.  The movie is essentially the screenplay I wrote back in 1984, without most of the material I added to expand it into a novel.  I did include three scenes created for the novel because I love them so much, but a lot of stuff from the book didn't make it in.  I've already written the screenplay for a sequel which includes any cool stuff I had to leave out this time, so maybe they'll reach it to the screen yet.  The biggest difference is that the novel is set during the winter, and we shot the movie in July last year, so the climax plays differently.

I really can't say anything about distribution or promotion.  My plan was to be finished five months ago and have it out this October, but some last minute visual effects I added ended up taking a lot longer to complete than I'd hoped, which created sort of a domino effect of delays: the score took longer, and because of that we missed the window we had for our cinematographer to do the color grading, and he ended up having to work on it in his spare time while he was shooting a TV series.  So the only plan I have is to be 100% finished in the next week or two, and then we'll look into distro.  I think the film turned out well, much better than my other films, and horror people are really going to dig it.

Johnny (Anthony De La Torre) with creator Greg Lamberson
DB: You also made mention of completing a new script over the summer that you hope to direct and film in the near future. Given the early status of this project, what can you share with us about the content, storyline, or anything else regarding this one?

GL: I wrote a lot this summer since Johnny Gruesome was out of my hands.  I wrote an original screenplay which I hope to shoot this coming winter. I won't discuss the plot, only that my friend Craig Sheffer has agreed to star in it and co-produce it.  I also wrote numerous versions of a script adaptation of my zombie novella Carnage Road.  Craig and I spent a couple of years developing different versions as a possible TV series, but they didn't lead to anything.  The rights reverted to me and I plan to do it as a movie with Craig starring.  I've also been working for a couple of years with George Mihalka (My Bloody Valentine), developing another of my novels into a possible TV series.  I wrote a pilot script, which may or may not be used as part of his presentation, and now I've decided to write the next few episodes just for the hell of it, for fun.  None of this may come to fruition, or may wind up being something completely different than I imagined.  I could be cleaning offices six months from now.

DB: What else are you hoping to have available for mass consumption to feed your literary and film fans alike over the next couple of years?

GL:  I have no books on the horizon.  My regular publisher is focused on other projects, and I really only want to write novels about my occult detective Jake Helman. Most of my other novels - Johnny Gruesome, The Frenzy Way trilogy, The Julian Year - were written in a burst of creative energy that centered around writing Jake Helman as a series.  I wrote six of the novels I had planned, but didn't get to write the last one, the climax I had building to from the first book.  Medallion co-owns the rights, so far now, that's an unfinished project - sort of like Johnny Gruesome was for all those years.

Dyin Tonight Robby
DB: What's the last movie you saw that genuinely disturbed you in some unexpected way, and how did the movie manage to pull it off?

GL:  I was fortunate to see Night of the Living Dead, Martin, Dawn of the Dead, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in a theater the first time I experienced, and all of them disturbed me in some way, all though I would say they "thrilled" me.  I think just listing the titles says why.  Romero was my hero, really my hero, and inspired me since I was 12 years old.

DB: And, finally, I’d like to straighten something out for the horror community once and for all if I can. What in the actual Cthulhu is your secret to an obviously youthful exuberance for banging out multiple projects across various media platforms over the years as though it were an Olympic sport and you its sole competitor all while enjoying next to no sleep, ever, while simultaneously co-raising a family in the wilds of Cheektowaga, New York?

Gregory Lamberson and family
GL:  Well, youth has nothing to do with it, and I think "youthful" describes physical appearance more than attitude or energy.  I have a lot of friends younger than me who have similar ambitions as me, but they also like to party and do a variety of other things for recreation.  I don't party, and I don't do anything for recreation except watch movies and TV, except for my family.  I'm a storyteller, I'm driven to tell stories, and the way I look at it is that anytime I'm not telling a story in some form, I'm working against myself.  Someone once asked me, "What do you do for fun?" The answer is, I write and I make movies, and I spend time with my wife and daughter.  That's all I need.





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.