January 29, 2018

A Tribute To Jack Ketchum R.I.P.

It might be a slight exaggeration to say I wouldn’t be the passionate reviewer and interviewer I am She Wakes, was the first book I ever reviewed. The author was the first pro writer I ever interviewed. That seems like a long time ago though sometimes it doesn’t.
today had it not been for crossing paths with Jack Ketchum. Then again, maybe not. His only supernatural novel,

When I read of his passing via social media last week, it was as though his one of his fictitious human monsters had hit me square in the gut. I knew he had battled cancer in the past and was undergoing treatment again, but… I was struck.

My first encounter with Ketchum was from when I was writing for a now defunct little publication called Insidious Reflections. Long story short, I volunteered to check out an equally now defunct online horror forum called The Red Light District where Ketchum was doing a Q&A session. This lead to me getting tasked to interview him for an upcoming issue of IR.  I remember panicking because this bestselling author who Stephen King referred to as the scariest guy in America was all but unknown to me at the time. It was bad enough I’d never interviewed an author before, but on top of that all I knew about Ketchum’s work was thinly stretched between his website and his reputation for creating gut wrenching stories that had a way of really getting under your skin.  The first of his books I read were The Lost, She Wakes, and The Girl Next Door. I was sold at once hooked by the writing. Scared shitless of coming across as some newb who would somehow offend and piss him off I figured for sure I would end up becoming the next doomed character he writes about.

As it turned out, Ketchum was one of the most humble, approachable and kind human beings I’d come across. He had nothing to gain by opening up his thoughts to a hack journalist like me, yet he had no hesitation in allowing me to ask him anything while he fired back with his personal style of wit and candid honesty. I’ve interviewed him a handful of times since, read reviewed more of his writing as well as covered his experiences with having some of his best known books adapted to the big screen. Along the way Jack Ketchum, the author, became Dallas Mayr, the man from which his pseudonym was born, and one I eventually came to call friend and mentor. Anytime I asked to access his creative process, either to interview him about recent projects or for my own personal gains as a budding writer, Dallas never failed to offer help. He shared his thoughts freely and offered advice on everything from my writing to reassuring me that my 30’s were going to be fucking awesome after I once mentioned a slight concern about leaving my twenties behind me.

I met Dallas in person during the Festival of Fear in Toronto back in 2005 or so. I blew my convention budget on his books which he was happy to sign. We shot the breeze for a while and at some point he asked me to hang out and watch his booth for him while he made a mad dash to the ‘loo. In other words, I got to be Jack Ketchum for about 15 minutes. Luckily, we look nothing alike and fans weren’t fooled when I offered to sign their stuff.

I remember when I threw a stag and doe party to have a bit of celebration and raise some funds for my upcoming wedding, Dallas provided two hand corrected book manuscripts for me to use as raffle prizes. His kindness struck again. That’s just who he was.

I last interviewed Dallas this past September for my blog. Within the interview he disagreed with a sentiment I had made about the world we live in being darker than ever before. He countered my perspective by suggesting that humanity, however slowly, is steadily moving forward, that it’s getting better. I like to think he’s right. I hope that he is and that he gets to watch it all from wherever in the cosmos he may be cruising along. I hope he still gets to enjoy his grandmother’s lentil soup  while
writing to eternity. I’ll always be grateful to have called him friend and for all the times I was allowed to dig around inside a truly gifted dark and curious mind of one of the most courageous, impactful writer’s we’ve had. Rest in peace, Dallas. Travel well, Jack. Thanks always for your kindness and most of all for creating brutal, entertaining worlds that won’t soon be forgotten.

If you want to help make a difference and enjoy some great stories, you can pick up a copy HERE of Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep: A Charity Anthology Benefitting The Jimmy Fund / Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (Necon Anthologies) (Volume 5).

From his friend and webmaster, Kev: If you wish to make a charitable donation in Dallas's (or Jack's) name, please consider a no-kill animal rescue or shelter in your area, or elsewhere, particularly for cats. Dallas donated regularly to these, and they are near and dear to his heart.

Feel free to enjoy this audio interview we did a while back in which the powers of that famous Lentil soup are first discussed.

December 29, 2017

DARK BITES Reviews LOVE CURSE by Steven E. Wedel

Love Curse
by Steven E. Wedel
Moon Howler Press 2017
280 pages


Love Curse is a coming of age story predominantly centering around four teens from the small town of Windy Acres, Oklahoma. We soon meet Ashley, a small town girl who keeps herself pretty well adjusted. A top achieving academic, she enjoys blending in with her school’s choir group though she wouldn’t really call any of them friends. She prefers to hang with her true besties, Jen and Anna. The three of them have known each other forever and their friendship and has always been a source of trust and safety, a sanctuary where even Anna, for all her gothed out angsty ways, is free to be comfortable in her own skin. They would soon learn, however, life has a way of taking best laid plans and turning them upside down. Ashley never thought she’d be dating the notorious pot smoking outcast, Keith who claims to have had an epiphany and is committed to changing his bad boy ways. Nor could any of them have expected something as unassuming as the little black spell book Anna found at an estate sale would prove to be so evil to so many.  

Ashley knows Anna can be morose and more than a little cynical at times, but even her worst nightmares couldn’t have prepared her for just how far Anna was willing to go to avenge all the boys who ever did her wrong. Between Jen and Anna cutting her out of their newly minted social circle of two and being forced to analyse Keith’s true nature and intentions, Ashley is left with way more questions than answers. By the time images of winged demons invade her dreams and those around her start to turn on each other as if pulled by invisible strings, Ashley must make the hardest decisions of her life. She can only hope it will be enough to save her loved ones and everyone else in Windy Acres before an ancient darkness consumes them all.

Alternating points of view between Ashley and Keith, author Steve Wedel has no doubt tapped into his own personal experiences as both teacher and father. The author accurately portraits the mindset and tribulations of a typical teen growing up in the new millennium. Keeping it as real as it gets, we’re met with honest depictions of awkward gestures, clumsy learning curves and some mild scenes of sexuality that manages to keep it above the belt. But make no mistake. Steve pulls few punches and when the story arch reaches its fevered pitch we’re forced to trust in the collective efforts of kids wise beyond their years who must struggle to survive and defeat an entity they barely understand.  

Love Curse is Steve Wedel’s second young adult novel following After Obsession, co-written with New York Times best selling author Carrie Jones. Considering how fast the pages turned right up until its heart pounding final act, I for one hope it won’t be his last. A fun, frenetic read for all ages.

You can order a copy of Love Curse now in your favourite format HERE.


October 11, 2017

Dark Bites Presents: The Horror Up North

 - A Conversation With G and Dean Italiano

Although plenty of Dark Bite readers are bound to know the names Giasone (G) and Dean Italiano, most of you likely have not, but that’s okay. It’s not your fault. First, they’re Canadian. Plus they tend to stick more to the Indie side of things when it comes to their brand of dark creations. Don’t let their humble Canadianism fool you though. Whether it’s a haunting song from  G or a raw and poignant passage from any one of Dean’s books, to enjoy either of their work for the first time is to know what you’ve been missing out on all this time. From G’s gritty rock n’ roll zombie soundtrack to Dean’s raw and merciless pen to their co-operative efforts on their newest CD From Skull Tavern, they’ll easily worm their way into your brain and have you coming back for more before your first helping is devoured.

Somehow, I managed to catch Dean and G in a rare moment when they weren’t working, making music, writing books or chasing a pair of twin boys around. I won’t say there was, and I won’t say there wasn’t, a whiskey shot or two damaged during the making of our conversation, but we did get the chance to discuss their creative life, the state of the Indie industry, the art of making beautiful horror together, and a few things in between including but not limited to their Russian hackers.

G, fans may best know your music from the
regular gigs you once played as a member of Brass Pear, a classic rock n’ roll bar band with a few originals of your own. I understand you’ve also enjoyed some success in various song writing competitions as well. For the sake of this blog and keeping the focus on the darker side of things, how did you go from playing the crowds at the local level to where you made the horror themed Johnny Gruesome CD to your most recent horror themed CD, From Skull Tavern? And what did this new - and revisited - direction in your music mean to you?

I have always loved horror themed rock music.
Alice Cooper has always been one of my favourites since I was a little boy. Even during the bar band days we would slip in a “Johnny Gruesome” original a couple times during the set. But while the The Johnny Gruesome stuff was happening at the same time and I would always have to re-focus and change my setlist for Johnny Gruesome promo performances as they were so different. I actually grew to get tired of the bar  cover based setlists as I really (really!) enjoy performing original music especially if it is horror or ghost themed. So, in a way, the Johnny Gruesome writing and performing indirectly led to me not wanting to do the bar  scene anymore.

Dean, you’ve been at this horror thing for a number of years and first broke into the deep of the writing business with Pain Machine back in 2003. No doubt it’s been a wild, winding and adventurous road inside and out of the horror business since then but, if it’s even possible, how would you summarize your creative journey as it relates to the evolution of your writing life between Pain Machine and your most recent literary offering, The Starving Queen?

Writing involves spending a lot of time floundering around in your own brain, which is
something a lot of people, rightfully, don't want to do. Horror stories pull the dark places into view. I'm sure I'm not the only author who ends up adding autobiographical elements even if it's unintentional. Pain Machine wasn't really a horror novel, it was a book about my horror. I was a few shades of green back then (quite a sight) and I learned many lessons from those that were honest enough to deliver them to me. Following that, Spirits and Death in Niagara was written on contract, a research-based book which took me in a totally different direction, as did the Katrina book (Katrina And The Frenchman: A Journal From The Street) for very different reasons. But with each book, each short story, all of the editors,  writing groups, and friends in the business
helped me clean up my work. As a person I grew as well, and my story changes. The Starving Queen was originally a short story, then a novelette, and finally a novel. It grew with me, and tells a story I grew up with. And it's definitely a horror novel, you'll see that from the first page. My work(s) in progress tell a vastly different tale again. ...Jack Ketchum once said to me that he never wanted to write the same thing twice. I loved the idea, and try to follow that advice myself.

G and Dean, although a lot of folks out there may still put their nose down at the notion of self publishing, there’s a lot of quality product being professionally presented and proving, much like your own efforts through P.I.C. Publishing, that self publishing can and does deserve to compete with the big ones. What has your own experiences taught you about the business and rewards of self publishing and how might it influence your approach to writing stories and music?

G: Putting out your own CD has a lot less stigma
attached then putting out your own book. But in reality a good product will find an audience and a bad product will get destroyed by critics or fans. In many ways small press (with some exceptions) is really just self-publishing in disguise anyways. Many small press publishers spend $0 on promotion and make their money off the expectation that each author will buy 50 copies of their own book at wholesale and sell them at conventions. So the whole thing can be a ridiculous argument.

DEAN: As G said, the two businesses are quite opposite. Indie music is praised. Indie writing? Well, it's getting better. But let me tell you what I
see as the biggest problem that people don't take into account. If you are an indie musician, and you have put out CDs or songs or play gigs, chances are you've practiced for thousands of hours and get regular feedback. What works, what doesn't work, fix that part, write a better riff... Not all indie writers get feedback, aren't sure what to fix, some don't have editors, and decide to publish too soon. Everything I publish has been edited, run past writing groups, and beta read. With both industries, the reward is delivering a quality product. Writing the contract book was restricting but, with fiction, where it's published doesn't change my approach at all. In music, if I thought we had to write for the radio? There's a formula, a set of rules as listed in the tune "Pop 101" by Marianas Trench. Google it. That's just not us.

What can you tell me about the collaborative effort that is From Skull Tavern and how this eclectic horror themed beast of a CD came to be?

G: Three years of piecemeal writing and
collaborating followed by three intense months at the end finishing the last two songs and then booking a week’s worth of studio time all at once. Having two kids and full time jobs really gets in the way sometimes.

We have a notebook that we would write song titles or general ideas in. Then one of us would get inspiration and record a melody or a music part and record it into our computer. Then we would show each other the ideas. When we were happy we would record a rough demo in our home studio and then book studio time a month later. We recorded half the album two years ago including drum and guitar parts, and then decided to change lyrics and melodies later. That was problematic as we had lived with the original parts for 2 years already. The last two songs written and recorded come the quickest. “Me and Vincent Price” was written in July of 2016 after meeting Mitch Markowitz at a horror convention and talking about Hilarious House with him. “Bad Hair Day” was all Dean and I added the guitars at the end near the end of the recording sessions in the spring of 2017.

DEAN: The Johnny Gruesome CD was done before we had the kids. Then, life stopped. Eventually we found a little breathing room, and wanted to work
on a fun project again. Remembering the Friday-night-with-martini writing sessions we used to have, inspired us to work together on music again.
But there were no martini nights. We tag-teamed, handed things back and forth when we found time, left edits and corrections and ideas for the next available moment. It was much harder to work this way. Now that the kids are older we have more flexibility. We can go back to scoffing at each others ideas in person. And speaking of beasts? Dark Halloween was a beast to work on, and I'm glad the damn thing is done. The rest was fun, choosing different styles like reggae and metal and pop, choosing topics like Frankenstein and zombies, we had a blast. We hope you like it.

And, as if From Skull Tavern weren’t well received enough in your own backyard, what’s this I hear about an unexpected popularity in Russia? Is there a world tour in the works that we should know about?

G: I think it is amazing that Russian metal fans
that have pirated the album, were complaining about the album they just lifted.

DEAN: That's friggin’ hilarious. Before fighting over whether or not a band can sustain fans using multiple music styles, you should find out if there is a band. We're not taking this on the road, people. Music is ten bucks, sarcasm's free.

What’s next on the horizon for P.I.C. Publishing and what’s the best way for us hungry fans to get more of what you’ve got?

G: This year we’ll be at Frightmare In The Falls November 11th-12th.

The JOHNNY GRUESOME movie will be coming out soon (we hope) as well.

Plus, you can find us at two to three Horror conventions (to be announced) in 2018.

DEAN: To add to what G said, musically I don't think we'll be working on full-length CD projects, but individual songs for release from now on. I've been creating more artwork this past couple of years, not horror related yet but ya never know what'll come next. Writing is writing, as trite as that sounds. Now that The Starving Queen is out in the world, I'll get back to the next brain-child. Stay tuned! You can check out our website at: picpublishing.ca for all things G and Dean.

September 09, 2017




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


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.  


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



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