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Another Writing Contest: Earn Cash and Publication Alongside Jack Ketchum, Jonathan Maberry, John Everson, Alison Littlewood, Tim Lebbon and MORE!

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Our new anthology, Pieces of Everything features a lot of top notch authors, including: Jack Ketchum, Jonathan Maberry, William Meikle, John Everson, Tim Lebbon, Hunter Shea, Alison Littlewood, Frazer Lee and a whole lot more.

It is, to date, our greatest anthology thanks to a group of wonderful authors willing to support us just as much as we’re willing to support them. And we appreciate that greatly, and find genuine satisfaction in being able to continue pushing their work in the direction of the masses.

And now, it’s time to run another contest, which will differ significantly from past contests.

Let me share all the details:

 

Topic/Theme: OPEN! You can write about anything you’d like, just so long as it incorporates a bit of the macabre, outlandish or science fiction.

Word Count: Do not exceed 4,000 words.

Formats: Submit your stories in either .doc, .docx or .rtf files ONLY.

Deadline: May 10th.

Prize: Publication alongside all of the amazing authors listed (and more amazing authors not listed), as well as a $50 take (you must have paypal) and two paperback copies of the book.

Where to Send your Story: hnrcontests@live.com (if clicking the link doesn’t work, you may need to paste the address in your email). Subject line should read: Pieces of Everything Submission – (story title) – (author name).

ALWAYS INCLUDE YOUR PAYPAL ADDRESS! SHOULD YOUR STORY WIN, I’D RATHER NOT SPEND EXTRA TIME TRACKING YOU DOWN.

The Winner: Only ONE author will win this contest. Craft your greatest piece of work, because you’ll be toeing the line with a lot of eager authors chomping at the bit to emerge the victor and place in this collection alongside these superb talents.

Censorship: No worries on the censorship. I could care less if you’re cursing like a sailor, decapitating dogs, impaling evil children; it matters not. You’ve got a field to run free about!

Winner Announcement will be made May 31st on the site. I will NOT be sending out emails (that’s to keep you returning to the site on a regular basis, obviously!).

And that about sums it up. This is our grandest release yet, and you’ve got a chance to add enough moolah to grab a few cases of beer as well as add an amazing credit to your résumé.

If you have any other questions, drop them right here. Otherwise, get to writing your best stuff, because this is going to be an amazing collection, and I’ve got a feeling the competition this time around is going to be fierce.

SPREAD THIS CONTEST EVERYWHERE! FB, TWITTER, GOOGLE+ – you name it. Get the word moving, Prove you’re the best by decimating competition, but give others the chance to shine!! An easy victory after all, is a victory worthy of little pride!

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Author Mike Robinson Speaks: ‘Between the Interstice: On Lovecraft and Weird Fiction’

Written by: Mike Robinson

Between the Interstice

On Lovecraft and Weird Fiction

 

“Back then, with the visions, most of the time I was convinced I’d lost it. There were other times, though, where I thought I was mainlining the secret truth to the universe.”

———— Rust Cohle, True Detective

 

Behind the wide facade of Speculative Fiction twist the hedge-mazes of fantasy, brood the catacombs of horror and gaze the far-seeing floors of science fiction. Among them, between them, are the closets and crawlspaces of the niche, one of which — a relatively bigger one — is the place of Weird Fiction, a dark storage of many souvenirs from fantasy, horror and science fiction, though dusted with its own special charms.

The former subtitle for my new book, Too Much Dark Matter, Too Little Gray: A Collection of Weird Fiction was actually, A Collection of Speculative Fiction. As one prone to appreciate sprawling ambiguity, to resist specific categorization, it’s a little ironic that I wanted to specify further. But there was a reason for that, besides the stodginess of “speculative”, which has none of the zany, fluid charisma of “weird”.

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Too Much Dark Matter, Too Little Gray cover

While using “weird” may sound like a proud judgment, a literary outcast chest-thumping his identity as such, it’s more a direct homage to the tradition of Ambrose Bierce, Robert Chambers, H.P. Lovecraft and many others. Going further, it’s an accurate classification given my vision of Weird Fiction, a subgenre that, perhaps more consciously than other fields of speculative fiction, stirs together elements of the metaphysical, cosmological and horrific to grimly honor the Big Questions, remind us of our insurmountable ignorance, to pin down our squirming selves into our rightful position in the child’s seat, to whisper, maybe in some alien, mud-packed voice, that, hey, the world is slippery and you won’t ever, ever catch it. The world, in short, is weird.

And past all the horror, the strangeness, that to me is a nourishing thought. Let me explain.

The moment I cemented my decision to not pursue an M.F.A (or any academic training) in writing is vivid. While enrolled at Otis College of Art & Design, I found in my mailbox a little perfect-bound literary booklet featuring work by the graduate students in fiction. I flipped it open to a random story. After wading cautiously into the second paragraph of a painful scrutiny of eyebrow-plucking, I was done. Other entries weren’t much better. Too many of them seemed concerned with stereotypical, high-literary minutia, unfortunately the focus and baffling preference of innumerable professors, awards, journals, and workshops (cough-Iowa-cough).

 

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My first sale, the story The Hand of Spudd in Storyteller Magazine

Personally, I have little interest in quaint journalistic accounts of Malaysian transvestite violinists at the turn of the century (yes, I made that up), or the endless slew of aptly-termed “McFiction” featuring some cocky narrator coming of age amongst his or her overfed, dysfunctional family. No, I prefer going head-on at the Big Questions, going at them, as George Carlin might say, with no less than a sledgehammer. Give me ballsy confrontations with Life, Death, the Cosmos, with Existence, with God.

In their noble attempts at social redemption and inclusion, many contemporary teachers of literature treat writings in the framework of their political significance. To me, though, such attempts seem nothing more than new forms of division. It is looking at the grains and forgetting the shore. Does the world really need a Marxist reading of Huckleberry Finn, complete with ten-dollar jargon? Academics are on the lookout for the “next best thing”, the new trend in analysis, the new prism through which to see literary works of yesterday and today. I say: what about our shared heritage? Our shared — and uncertain — future? Not as any one ethnicity, gender, party, or faction, but as an entire civilization. A species. A collective piece of this vast Universe.

Of course, much of this material is studied, and much of it is exhaustively considered and written about. Enter Weird Fiction!

As any fellow devotee will know, H.P. Lovecraft — arguably the most esteemed and influential practitioner of the genre — cleaned out the catacombs with his pen, defying tropes of ghosts and vampires and expanding imaginations with interconnected tales of ancient civilizations antedating our own, of towering alien-gods, of unseen dimensions and humanity’s sanity-shattering smallness in an inexplicable cosmos. All this made more impressive by the fact that he wrote in the 1920s, when so much of that stuff was barely on anyone’s speculative radar, including scientists’. His unknowns are truly Unknown, and will forever elude explanation.

Certainly Lovecraft’s work has failings, failings probably more surface-level than those of other lauded authors. He was well aware of his own wooden dialogue (hence, quotation marks are scarce in his pages) and his prose sometimes gushes into the purple. Nevertheless, his voice, with its richly archaic, darkly celebratory cadence, stands alone, and will survive as long as we’re unsure what lurks “out there”.

 

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Me suited up, scoping “out there”

 

Sadly, Lovecraft, and especially his “Cthulu” mythos, have become somewhat franchised, relegated to corners of the market generally aimed at Dungeons and Dragons fans, horror enthusiasts, and nihilistic young adults sporting black fingernails and lipstick. It is a wide “cult following”, but nonetheless a cult following. Although some scholars have acknowledged his importance, many see him as a troublesome bridge from Poe to Stephen King. It is this identity that has, I’m sure, dissuaded many from giving him a serious go. “Lovecraft? Oh, no, I don’t like that horror stuff.”

But back up. Here we come back to the question of Weird Fiction itself, because I don’t necessarily consider the canon, or Lovecraft’s work, “horror”. Certainly there are horrific elements in his work, and his career does include several standard supernatural yarns. But in his treatment of cosmic mysteries, and the shadowed realms of prehistory, his is more a prying curious eye, forcing us to consider those Big Questions, to ponder notions of, and issues with, the likes of religion, biology, cosmology, archaeology, and psychology. He sets you on the outside looking in, a contrast to being in and looking further in to the point of navel-gazing. This exercise of outside-looking-in, one I believe most writers of fiction should undertake, helps in a kind of rounding out of thought.

No matter the genre in which one writes, I believe the best, most poignant stories have at least an undercurrent of  this “larger awareness”, a perception conveying authority and wisdom. So many stories feel constricted by their own world, characters or concerns. Yet to read Lovecraft is to confront directly that raw Unknown that surrounds us, that is us. To get a healthy dose of perspective: a shambling, roaring, behemoth upswell of perspective.

I mentioned earlier that I think such a perspective can be ultimately nourishing. In an era of economic, cultural and political tumult, when millions of Davids the world over shout in fiery voice against the few far-reaching, corrupt Goliaths, there is morbid comfort in knowing that, despite whatever the megalomaniacal egos of sadistic leaders, immoral bankers, or bribe-pocketing politicians might make of themselves, there are impenetrable forces beyond all of them that will cast mocking eyes towards their suited-up, gold-rimmed delusions, if they even care to acknowledge them. Lovecraft, and the general tradition of Weird Fiction, reminds us just how little power the powerful actually wield. After all, Goliath was, what, ten feet tall? When the mountain-sized Cthulu rises once more, those people will be nothing but scrambling ants — along with the rest of us.

 

 

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John Wisniewski Lands Exclusive Interview with Author Kathryn Meyer Griffith!

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Kathryn Meyer Griffith is a name well known author, and there’s a damn good reason for that: Superb talent. With well over a dozen novels to her credit, she’s gained a strong following as a result of strong product. And frankly, we’re happy to have her share a few words with us!

John Wisniewski: What inspires you to write? What scares the reader and holds their attention? 

Kathryn Meyer Griffith: Just something inside me makes me write. Don’t know what it is. I’m a born storyteller, I guess. I sit down at a typewriter or a computer and the stories just come out. I can’t help myself. I actually began writing at age 21, although I’d had a sixth grade English teacher tell me long before that that I’d be a writer someday after an oral story about when my brother and I rode some wild ponies as kids.  I’d always been an artist; wanted to be a singer when I was a teenager when I sang out with my brother, Jim Meyer. But I’d always loved to read and after reading a particularly bad historical romance in 1971, I decided to try to write one myself. Ha, I was so young and really didn’t know what I was doing. I wrote my first novel The Heart of the Rose, my only historical romance (as all my others are more horror, suspense or mystery), and sent it out to endless publishers. I couldn’t sell it, so I tucked it away and worked on it on and off for the next twelve years. But I had to grow up, go through a divorce, remarry and get a full time job in the real world before I gained enough maturity to revise and sell that first novel. Over the next forty-two years I kept writing, no matter what else I was doing in my life (like working full time as a graphic artist for twenty-three years), and I kept publishing. Ah, the horror stories I have of publishers, editors and agents! I ought to write a book on that. And, as of today, I’ve published eighteen novels, two novellas and twelve short stories. So, though I began my life wanting to be an artist and a singer, I became a writer instead…and now realize it was my ultimate destiny. I feel my most complete self, my happiest, when I’m writing my stories.

And what scares my readers is what scares me…or any feeling human on this planet.  Fears of the unknown or survival, fears of losing those we love, fear of losing the comforts of the lives we have, fears of the end of the world, fears of pain…or fears of supernatural horrors such as vampires, demons, witches, insane murderers or real live hungry dinosaurs. All those things scare the bejesus out of me – along with fears of driving at night and not having enough money to live on.

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JW: Whom are some of your favorite horror authors?

KMG: The classic horror authors like Anne Rice, Dan Simmons, Stephen King and Dean Koontz. I also like Joe Hill, his writing reminds me of his father’s. Lately, though, I can’t seem to find any new horror writers I really love, but I’ll keep looking. I like the traditional horror where it’s the story and the characters that count, and believable motivation for what they do or don’t do…not profanity, graphic gore or sex. And I want excellent writing. Writers break the rules if you must, but keep me interested enough to continue reading. 

JW: Are you interested in occult subjects, or maybe just vampires and witches?

Dictionary definition of the Occult:supernatural or magic: relating to, involving,

or characteristic of magic, witchcraft, or supernatural phenomena.

2. Not understandable, not capable of being understood by ordinary human beings.

3. Secret or known only to the initiated.

KMG: Funny you should ask that question.  As I actually wrote a whole chapter on “Putting the Occult in to your Fiction” in a 2012 book of author essays by my publisher Damnation Books/Eternal Press titled Telling Tales of Terror. Yep, I wrote a whole chapter on that subject.

So the answer for me to your question would be: yes, I’m interested in other aspects of the occult. Early in my career (1989) I wrote about a demon-possessed Colt Python gun in my book Blood Forge. I’ve also written about demons in my 2010 book A Time of Demons. I’ve covered werewolves, ghosts, and almost anything else that goes bump in the night. So yes, I write about anything supernatural or magical. It’s the story that comes to me and if a ghost would be the best way to convey my concept then it’s a ghost I write about. If a live dinosaur (which is in some ways magical to me because they don’t/can’t exist) is needed, then I write about a dinosaur. The only thing I don’t write about in the magical realm are fantasy; fairies, dragons, etc.

JW: Are you a fan of horror films, Kathryn? Any particular favorites?

KMG: Yes, I love horror films. But they must not be slasher/sexy/mindless creations with no plot and no decent characterizations. I love the old-fashioned suspense/mystery/basic-good-versus-evil character driven films where the story is as important as the special effects. Movies like SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, GODZILLA, GHOST STORY and THE WOMAN IN WHITE.  ALIENS. I liked the earlier SALEM’S LOT and THE SHINING from Stephen King. I don’t like a lot of blood and gore or sex just for their sake. And I want to feel something for the characters before the plot starts putting them in danger, maiming or killing them off. Simple, I like a well-made, well-filmed horror movie with a heart. Happy ending not required. Oh, and I love a good ghost story movie. I wish they’d make more of these types of horror films. Lately, they’re hard to find.

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JW: Have you heard or read any true life accounts of Vampire Clans that exist in America?

KMG: No. And I don’t find people who believe/think they are vampires very interesting. There are no such things as real vampires…only people who are misguided enough to want to drink blood. I write about supernatural creatures, though I don’t believe in most of them. Oh, except ghosts…I have seen a ghost. Once. When I was sixteen I saw my great-Aunt Mary wandering my night time hallway the night before she was to be buried. Now that was scary.

JW: Why do you choose small towns as the locales for your stories, as places where anything can happen?

KMG: Well, not all my books are set in small towns. In my 2012 Epic EBook Awards Finalist, The Last Vampire-Revised Author’s Edition  I have my apocalyptic survivor vampire-woman starting in St. Louis and traveling all across the United States in her quest to find her sister and evade other less friendly vampires. My 2014 Epic EBook Awards Finalist Dinosaur Lake takes place in Crater Lake  National State Park. But on the whole, I set my stories in small towns because small towns are what I know. I’ve lived in small, quaint towns all my life and cherish their quirks and truths.

JW: Could you tell us about your projects for the future, Kathryn?

KMG: In over thirty years of being published I’d never had my books made into audio books. That changed last January. ACX made it possible for me to put all my novels into audio. Right now I’m finishing up the last seven of my nineteen audio books with ACX (where when they’re done they’ll be for sale at Audible.com, iTunes and Amazon). It’s taken over a year to get the first twelve out and I’m hoping my narrator/producers get the last seven done in the next five to six months.

I’ve began the sequel to my 2014 Epic EBook Awards *Finalist* novel Dinosaur Lake…Dinosaur Lake II: Dinosaurs Arising and I just self-published my revised sequel to my murder mystery Scraps of Paper, All Things Slip Away , with a stunning new cover by Dawne Dominique. After that I plan on finishing (I wrote half of it eight years ago but set it aside) the long awaited sequel to my 1994 Witches. Then I plan on writing the sequel to my end-of days horror novel A Time of Demons…and, hopefully, after those more horror novels and stories. If I have the time left.

JW: Has a film company approached you about a possible adaptation of one of your novels?

KMG: No. But I have high hopes that one day the representative for a film company or a producer will read one of my books and want to make a movie of it. I’ve had many reviewers say that they can see my Dinosaur Lake or my The Last Vampire-Revised Author’s Edition as a movie. It just hasn’t happened yet. I often wonder, though, how I’d feel if someone wanted to option one of them. Could I bear to see what they would do to one of my children? I’m not sure. I’d have to face that when it would happen.

Visit Kathryn’s Amazon page now.

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Our Poetry Collection, ‘Passages of Pain, Lyrics of Loss’ is Now On Sale for Just $.99!

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Valentine’s Day is in the bag, and so is HNR’s third official ebook release. Passages of Pain, Lyrics of Loss is a collection of poetry that includes roughly 60 eclectic pieces from authors such as Robin Dover, Vincenzo Bilof, Colin Smith, Matthew R. Davis and more.

Having contributed quite a bit to this collection myself, I can tell you first-hand it’s a profoundly personal collection that explores the darkness of the heart far more frequently than that of the haunted house, serial killer or monster. It was, for me personally, quite painful putting together, and I’ll openly admit my apprehension and anxiety during this entire process.

It’s been taxing.

But if you’ve ever battled with vices, or had your heart torn from your chest cavity, or engaged in mental warfare and the struggle to overcome poverty, then you’re human. And you’re likely going to find something that taps a nerve within this collection. It’s just not your typical collection of poetry.

There’s heart in this collection. There’s passion bleeding through every word. At $.99 it’s not a risk, but a worthwhile investment that’s going to remind you that poetry is pretty damn intense.

Here’s the link (you can also click the images for the direct purchase link) – let’s get the sales rolling in, continue our trend of high debut charting, and blow some unsuspecting fans away!

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The Top Ten Scariest Zombie Stories In History

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Written by: Emmet O’Cuana

8 As I watched, ligaments grew on them, flesh appeared and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them. [...] 10 So I prophesied as ordered, and the breath came into them, and they were alive! They stood up on their feet, a huge army!
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Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore’s The Walking Dead continues to gobble up morsels across the media landscape. The original comic series from publisher Image has been adapted into novels, video games and of course a television show, which despite some ups and downs is still one of the most-watched genre programs today. Game of Thrones pips it to the post, but then it also features those stubbornly off-screen ‘snow zombies’. Clearly there is an audience for this cult monster of video nasties and horror fiction that can trace its ancestry all the way back to the Bible and Gilgamesh.

This pop culture zombie apocalypse began in earnest in the wake of successful films like 28 Days Later and Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead. Many still claim George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead is the definitive depiction of the undead and the influential novelisation of his Dawn of the Dead has recently been republished to the delight of fans (in fact Romero has a cameo in one of the books listed below). Horror writers have done their best to meet demand, with a horde of new book titles that fit snugly into the Z-word genre.

Some depict a world overrun by the undead, while others prefer an otherworldly sideways universe of goblins and ghouls living comfortably just out of sight of mainstream society e.g. Mike Carey’s zombie hacker in his Felix Castor novels. There has been goldrush of zombie comics following The Walking Dead’s success – with Ian Edginton and Davide Fabbri’s Victorian Undead particularly fun, as it merges zombies, the London cholera epidemic and Sherlock Holmes!  The ravenous zombie has even chewed its way out of the cult horror book stacks to take on the literary set, courtesy of Colson Whitehead’s ponderous Zone One.

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Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett

Pratchett’s Discworld novels are a grab-bag of every fantasy trope you can think of mixed in with an uncannily apposite appropriation of contemporary satire. Undoubtedly one of the key humourists in modern writing, this loosely connected series – for those of you lucky enough not to have experienced them yet – are guaranteed to make you laugh like a fool.

Reaper Man takes that popular notion of Death taking a holiday – everyone from José Saramago to Family Guy have had a go – and neatly segues into the issue of undead rights. Whereas George Romero gave us the sympathetic zombie Bub in Day of the Dead, and Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies delivered on its promise of a zombie Romero and Julie, Pratchett gives us Reginald Shoe. Shoe is an activist who tries to motivate fellow zombies, vampires, ghouls and Boogeymen with irritating sloganeering like a supernatural pamphleteer. In a neat stroke Pratchett has lovingly pastiched the rising social consciousness of zombie fiction, with the undead standing in for any number of minority groups, and reduces it to absurdity.

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The Iron Hunt by Marjorie M. Liu

When I was eight, my mother lost me to zombies in a one-card draw.

As opening lines go, Liu’s is a killer. The origin of demon slayer Maxine Kiss has just the right about of family drama pathos and horror fiction excess, with the girl growing up to become a heavily tattooed avenger. The last of a line of monster killers known as Hunters, Maxine tackles the undead hordes raised by zombie queen Blood Mama, as well as demons trying to invade our world. The plot itself is both tight and neatly descriptive – Liu has a talent for offhand lines that stick in the memory -  and the mixture of horror and fantasy is well done. Maxine’s powers are connected to her elaborate tattoos, which come alive at night, introducing several inventive fight scenes. Then there’s the depiction of the zombie itself, here closer in kind to the vodun possessed form than the Romero-zombie popularised by The Walking Dead. A quick read bursting with ideas.

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The Nightside, Needless to Say by Simon R. Green

There was a vague uneasy feeling in my bowels and then a sudden lurch as something within made a bid for freedom.

The messy business of zombie body fluids tends not to be dwelt on by writers. After all, they are already a nasty, smelly, bitey lot. In terms of suspense, it is preferable to keep them off-side until the plot calls for a rush of violence and blood-letting.

Whereas Simon R. Green in this short story originally published in Powers of Detection: Stories of Mystery and Fantasy edited by Dana Stabenow comes up with an inventive way of conveying the plight of hapless protagonist Larry Oblivion, trusting to (very literal) toilet humour instead of maudlin descriptions of undead longing for life. Green’s story is set within a series titled The Nightside, depicting an otherworldly London of dark magic under neon lights. Poor Larry is trying to solve the mystery of his own death and accompanied by his former partner/vodon priestess Maggie, comes up against gangland mages and has a faerie wand in place of the trusty old shooter. Green knows enough about supernatural horror and detective to cherry-pick the best elements from both for this tight little tale.

Plus any questions you might have regarding the state of a zombie’s bowels will be answered.

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On Stranger Tides, by Tim Powers

The fiction of Tim Powers is strongly recommended for anyone looking for a heady balance of ideas, historical detail and prose style. While the use of this book’s title for the last Pirates of the Caribbean, along with several plot elements, no doubt represented a neat pay day for the author, it is a shame we will probably know never see the actual story on the big screen.

Powers in his wisdom delivers a plot that serves up Blackbeard, The Fountain of Youth and….zombie pirates.  This should come as no surprise to anyone who has read The Anubis Gates, which skipped from the poetry of Coleridge to time travel and werewolves, and here Powers is able to reinvest the swashbuckling style of nautical adventure with a more modern sensibility, as well as lashings of horror and suspense.

Again though. I feel we were cheated out of an amazing zombie pirates movie here.

Boneshaker

Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest

Seattle used to be an uncomplicated trading town fed and fattened by gold in Alaska, and then it had dissolved into a nightmare city filled with gas and the walking dead.

Priest’s steampunk Seattle has mad inventors, zeppelins, a mother fighting to rescue her son and…well yes, zombies.

The author’s worldbuilding here is part of the book’s strong appeal. This is no cheap Victorian knock-off with goggles attached to top hats. Her alternate history of America has a scientist scam the Russians, who still own Alaska, out of capital to create the titular Boneshaker, a device intended to help mine the regional tundra. Instead he uses it to rob a bank. In the process of committing the crime the conniving Leviticus Blue’s device sets off a terrible earth-quake that releases a poisonous gas which kills the citizens of Seattle and then reanimates them as carnivorous ‘Rotters’.

Warren Ellis and Max Fiumara’s Black Gas has a similar plot, with gruesome imagery to boot. Priest has fashioned up more of an adventure story, but there is a chase sequence involving the Rotters which alone is worth the price of admission. Protagonist Briar Wilkes endures zombies, zeppelin pirates – and even a 19th cyborg! – during her quest to rescue her son Zeke. A great romp, well worth a read.

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Herbert West–Reanimator, by H.P. Lovecraft

He was a loathsome, gorilla-like thing, with abnormally long arms which I could not help calling fore legs, and a face that conjured up thoughts of unspeakable Congo secrets and tom-tom poundings under an eerie moon. The body must have looked even worse in life–but the world holds many ugly things.

Ah racism. It goes with Lovecraft like butter on toast. Reading the 20th century’s true master of horror, the man who set in motion the careers of countless other writers down through the years, is always a troubling experience. It is difficult to set aside the race-hatred and resentment of immigrants bubbling away beneath the surface of Lovecraft’s often compellingly imaginative lyrical prose. To mount a defence of Lovecraft the man is a waste. What is most notable is how strong his influence still is on the writers who followed him.

Herbert West is a pulpy counterpart to Mary Shelley’s Victor Frankenstein absent any sense of honour or sympathy. West is a doctor whose experiments on corpses with the assistance of the narrator carries an echo of Edinburgh murderers Burke and Hare.  He uses outbreaks of typhus, as well as the First World War, as a means to obtain more bodies to experiment upon while also studying for his medical degree (fun fact – Shelley’s hero never completed his education).

Lovecraft’s description of the reanimated boxer Buck Robinson is contemptible though, a loathsome outpouring of middle-class privileged hatred for other races. In its own way Herbert West may not only be an influential zombie story, it is also be a hallmark for the ugly strain of racist language that appears in horror fiction.

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Pontypool Changes Everything, by Tony Burgess

If you have seen the excellent horror film Pontypool with the always reliable Stephen McHattie – drop your expectations. The original Burgess novel and its film directed by Bruce McDonald are only slightly related. In fact Burgess has included his thoughts on the adaptation process in recent editions of his horror novel, arguing that the film-makers were obliged to take his story in an entirely different direction.

Far more successful in its use of experimental prose than Colson Whitehead’s overwritten Zone One – a zombie novel for Martin Amis fans if there ever was one – Burgess makes language itself the method by which the zombie virus is contracted. The descriptions of people slowly slurring their words, then slipping into word salad before becoming murderous monsters is genuinely terrifying to read. It also is a far superior approach to horror, the sign of a genuinely talented writer, than the literary equivalent of a zombie film jump-scare. Main character Les Reardon, who is extremely mentally disturbed, not only makes for an unreliable narrator for this blood-soaked chaos, Burgess also refuses to treat him as yet another clichéd madman. Troubling and powerful writing, this book will creep into your mind like an ear-worm.

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Handling the Undead, by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Lindqvist has already proven himself – in both his native Swedish and through the English translations of his work – a master of horror. He takes typical tropes of the genre, say vampires in Let The Right One In and malevolent ghosts in Harbour, then delivers a touching love story that is also one of the most disturbing reads you’ll encounter or murderous spectres who really, really, like the music of The Smiths.

He’s a fascinating writer. Handling The Undead takes on zombies and marks a sharp contrast to the popular notion of an undead apocalypse. Instead Sweden’s government efficiently rounds up all the returned and makes use of that famous socialised state-medicine to care for the bewildered zombies and their families. To say any more would spoil this books many charms. Lindqvist trades more in existential dread here at the implications of a world where the dead come back than schlock gore, as well as fine character work to establish the psychological shock of those still alive who witness what unfolds. Essential reading.

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World War Z, by Max Brooks

The book of war, the one we’ve been writing since one ape slapped another, was completely useless in this situation. We had to write a new one from scratch.

You knew this was coming. Following on from a series of chapters advising readers how best to survive a zombie attack in the directly titled The Zombie Survival Guide, Max Brooks then introduced a series of short anecdotes about recorded zombie attacks. My favourite was the French Legion story, a clever take on the subgenre that made excellent use of its isolated desert setting. This book had somehow switched from a humorous take on survival guides to an actual horror novel. Then Brooks brought us his second book.

Famously Brooks based his ‘oral history’ on Studs Terkel’s The Good War, using this model to bring to life just how ordinary lives could be torn apart by a zombie epidemic, but also lending the events a brilliant global sweep. One of the major disappointments of the Joe Michael Straczynski script drafts was how localised and narrow its scope was – the eventual film actually improved on this slightly, but the great cast of characters Brooks had assembled were still missing for the most part. World War Z feels like a proper lived-in zombie world and also acts like a counterpoint to the heroic survivalist fantasy of zombie/doomsday fiction. Everything from the Battle of Yonkers to the nutrition starved Otaku fending off his turned neighbours; French sewer divers to the receding figure of a lone hitchhiker in the rear mirror; give a sense of scope to the cost of human lives lost.

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Feed by Mira Grant

This book is the business. It’s a seventies government paranoia thriller for the blogger era; a zombie horror novel with lashing of gonzo journalism. Though on reflection Hunter S. Thompson never got to behead a zombie….to our knowledge. Feed is the first – and arguably the best – of the Newsflesh series by Grant, positing a world where an experimental cancer cure creates the freak pathogen that leads to the zombie outbreak. Feed impresses not only in the depiction of how this effects the world – in contrast to Lindqvist’s benevolent treatment of the outbreak, here the medical industry becomes a tyrannical controlling influence over all aspects of everyday life – but its convincing appeal to a scientific explanation for how zombies come about.

In just over a century we have gone from Herbert West’s mysterious reanimating fluid to an almost convincing argument that an experimental virus could be at fault for the dead coming back to life.

Georgia and Shaun Mason, our zombie slaying blogger journos, are also compellingly realized, a brother-sister duo whose bond helps raise the tension when the shuffling horde attacks. The fear factor increases when the tropes of a conspiracy thriller are used to facilitate the conceit of a zombie viral outbreak along the campaign trail of an election. A fast-paced plot, combined with great characters and a fascinating innovation of how zombie biology works, make this an extra-special book.

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Order ‘When Red Snow Melts’ Featuring Joe R. Lansdale and Terry M. West for Just $2.99 Before Winter Bleeds Away!

Our first Christmas anthology, When Red Snow Melts has done wonderful, charting as high as #19 upon debut over on Amazon, and we’d like to keep the sales piling in before Winter has passed. The collection boasts more than 30 stories from some amazing authors including Joe R. Lansdale, Terry M. West, Ian McCain, Richard Barber, Glenn Rolfe and plenty of others! At just $2.99 it’s a bloody steal!

Head over to amazon and order this one up ASAP!

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Todd Keisling ‘The Harbinger’ Review

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Written by: Matt Molgaard

Felix Proust is one damn unlucky journalist. Not only does the poor chap have his ass ushered off nearly 1,000 miles for an interview with the CEO of a doll manufacturing company, he also gets stood up upon arrival. And then he notices how strange the town is. And the lack of children. And the abundance of eerie dolls that seem strangely alive. But those are only the early stages of a nightmare that will change one man’s life forever.

Todd Keisling’s final Ugly Little Things installment, The Harbinger, is arguably the darkest of the lot, and certainly the most disconcerting. To top it off, it may just be the most frightening piece of fiction he’s written, at least the most frightening piece I’ve personally read. It’s remarkably engrossing, immediately captivating the reader thanks to a relatable character in a position that’s not only believable, but highly plausible. Toss in the fact that there’s a very cinematic essence to the tale (at times it feels a bit like The Wicker Man, at times it feels a bit like Silent Hill; there’s even a hint of Village of the Damned and Dead Silence thrown in for good measure) and you’re examining a story that’s bound to appeal to a film buff just as much as an avid reader.

Todd’s been nothing but consistent with his ULT run. While some installments may lean closer to the dark side, each tale has been solid. But this one, this one takes everything to a new level. The manner in which he handles the story’s protagonist is near faultless, which is a fantastic quality. But the supporting players of this particular piece earn serious, serious attention as well, tying a mess of unorthodox personalities together as though their fate was long ago set in stone.

Keisling, at this point may have outdone himself. While I’m a massive, massive fan of A Life Transparent, The Harbinger is exponentially more terrifying. And it’s taboo (oh boy do I want to gush spoilers!) in a way that’s going to disturb a whole lot of readers. It’s not likely to turn the sensitive away in disgust, but there’s some touchy material here and it will indeed resonate. Controversial or not, the mechanics of The Harbinger are clearly refined, and the concept is about as alluring as they come.

If you’ve felt any trepidation in purchasing Todd’s previous work, it’s time to take a step out on a limb, even if you deem it shaky. This is the kind of tale that wins readers over, and potentially alters an author’s career. Good luck, Todd, despite the excellent work you’ve offered forth thus far, this short-near novella, could be the real game changer.

Order it here.

Rating: 5/5

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Cindy Hernandez ‘Cobwebs’ Review

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Written by: Wesley Thomas

A multiple offering of horror tales for the scare fiends among us.

If you love nothing more than to be freaked out, grossed out, and downright horrified, then this book is for you.

The very short tales poke at you, hard, fast, but leave a lingering pain.

It explores some classic horror monsters, as well as some inventive creations from the twisted mind of Cindy Hernandez.

Six stories, which means six ways to be frightened.

One thing that cannot be denied is her ability to grab your focus, pull your mind away from any worries or stresses, and fill it with fears of the fate of a fictional character.

I cannot put my finger to it, put she has a unique writing style, one that I’ve never come across before.

The description is clear, allows imagination, but it also has attitude.

I can’t fully depict this strange phenomenon, but I will explore each bite-sized chunk of horror, and attempt to uncover what makes her writing so special.

The first story explores a boy who is taunted by a remnant of an exploration with his friends.

His revolting mind, and apparent issues, lead him to take something home with him, from a discovery he makes with his young companions.

But this proves to cause more abhorrence than he had ever thought possible.

This one is for tingles, you have to read at night for the full effect.

A typical boy, in a not so typical situation.

One that is alike to the stuff of nightmares, but unfortunately for this young fellow, it is painfully real.

Then we move onto a bully who torments, upsets and inflicts pain on everyone and everything he passes.

Until he starts to pick on the village extrovert.

A woman who likes to talk to trees, an odd, unusual character who the bully sets his sights on.

But this time, he chose the wrong person to beat on.

It was common knowledge that the leaf lady, as she was referred to, was believed to be a witch, and behold supernatural powers.

The little antagoniser was about to become living proof of this theory.

Stage-diving into this next terror, is a very brief work of fiction, a rock concert with a grizzly conclusion.

Then we have a run in with death, literally.

Someone who lures the grim reaper into their grasp, after eluding it so many times.

But now they plan to deceive Death into a trap.

This was refreshingly original and the portrayal of the grim reaper was unique, showing him as a vain, fragile, easily swayed entity.

This catapults you into the tale of an unattractive man who is a cheese-maker and has some rather unsanitary and sick cooking habits.

After years of ignorance and rudeness from the town’s beautiful women, the cheese-maker concocts a sinister scheme to wreak his vengeance.

This one requires a strong stomach, clear forewarning in advance.

The concluding story witnesses a young girl discovering something strange about her toys.

She loves taking long baths and playing with squeaky toys, but hates that her mother seems determined to put an end to her fun.

So Casey makes an idle wish in the heat of the moment, in front of her toys.

This tale was very eerie.

But the story being told from Casey’s point of view makes for an interesting, but chilling atmosphere.

All in all, with a strange and highly enjoyable set of short horror stories, added with Cindy’s unique twang in her storytelling, you have a twisted, miniature collection that will appease to all horror fans out there.

I look forward to more from this talented writer, and her original, offbeat fiction.

Fancy something different? Fun? Creepy? Not got a great deal of time to read full length novels?  Cindy’s ‘Cobwebs’ is for you!

Order it here!

Rating: 5/5

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D.S. Ullery ‘A Double Shot of Horror’ Review

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Written by: Vitina Molgaard

“Now without further adieu, let’s turn down the lights, lock the doors and settle in. A storm is brewing beneath the bloated moon and the bogeyman is lurking somewhere nearby, ready to pounce.”

-D S Ullery

Let’s take a journey into the delightful mind of Mr. Ullery as he offers us two short stories that provide plenty of entertainment. The first is flash fiction, quick and creepy describes the titular tale here.

Blake, a small time thief has meandered into the Van Doren residence, but his poor planning has left him with a major problem when he runs into the tenant. He finds himself in dire need of escaping the premises, and he attempts to do just that. Unfortunately he does not notice those damn garden gnomes until it’s far too late. Tripping over these little decorations proves to be a fateful blunder.

The First Rule of Showmanship introduces us to Frank Baker, a magician who performs while wearing the guise of a clown. Lately he is anything but happy as he’s recently made some startling discoveries about his wife Harley and his best friend Cesar. Remembering the first rule of showmanship, Frank is conscious to never let your personal life interfere with a performance. That’s kept Frank focused and working efficiently as he prepares to do the popular disappearing then reappearing cabinet trick. And for the first time ever he has asked his wife to participate in this little “illusion”, an idea which thrills her. But this stunt isn’t going to unfold in typical fashion and his finale will leave the audience stunned as it will you, the reader.

The first story here is a straight up horror story, which is very well done. I thoroughly enjoyed it and believe you will also. The second tale does not deal with the supernatural but it is definitely horrific, as we deal with the monstrous side of human nature, and the physical torment that it can potentially lead to.

My recommendation …read these! If you aren’t familiar with D.S. Ullery, now is the perfect time to explore his imagination and the twisted concepts that roam about corridors only Ullery knows. If you’re already familiar with Ullery’s work, you’re going to love this.

Grab this one for free, right here!

Rating: 5/5

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James DeSantis ‘Killing Your Boss’ Review

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Written by: David Blackthorn

This story was not a long read, a novella or novelette, depending on your view of word count.

Killing Your Boss follows the adventure of three disgruntled employees who decide to exterminate their boss in his own home. Ben, Ron and Alisha sneak into his place at night, thinking they have it all planned. Of course, things don’t go as planned. What they find is a boss who has secrets if his own.

The book is not divided into chapters, it is divided into character points of view. Sometimes these points if view bleed into one another; when we are reading from Ben’s POV, for instance, he has feelings slipped in here and there from Ron and Alisha. Many readers won’t mind this so much. Diehard critics would pick it apart, whether it truly affects the story or not. For me, it was not really a huge deal.

The story itself is kind of predictable, even up to the end. I will say the concept was not bad, it just needed a good editor to clean it up a little and offer suggestions for a twist here and there that may not be as predictable.

Much of the story seemed to be related to the mutual affection that Ron and Ben had for Alisha.

Overall, it was an okay read. I did not see an editor credited and this book could have benefited from one.

Order it here.

Rating: 3/5

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C.I. Kemp ‘Demon Ridge’ Review

Demon Ridge

Written by: David Blackthorn

This was an interesting read, original and attention grabbing. In the very beginning and the very end we are taken back in time and given the background of the origin. The rest follows the main characters from childhood to adulthood with detailed character backgrounds.

The story itself is well written and, at times, reminded me of early John Saul stories, which I always enjoyed. There is a great attention to details surrounding each character, much like we expect from a seasoned writer. I’m looking forward to future books by Kemp to see where he goes from here.

The death scenes are not gory, focusing on the point of view of the victim. This gives a feeling of the terror they are going through instead just showing us blood and gore.

Another thing I noted was the slight change in writing style during the preface, or so it appeared to me. The scene was set back in time and the writing was slightly reminiscent of the wording of that era, though easier to follow quickly. When we enter the first chapters and meet the main characters as children, the writing is just as we would expect from a modern writer. This ability is something Kemp should use in future works. He also added a couple of scenes that did not make much sense at the time but make perfect sense later in the book, like the scene in one boys dream that later becomes a vital piece in saving another character in his adulthood.

Overall, I certainly recommend this book for any horror fan who does not require large amounts of gore to keep them entertained. If you like the works of John Saul and Robert McCammon, give Demon Ridge a read. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Order it here.

Rating: 4.5/5

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Pictorial: 7 Awesome Horror Novels That Might Make For Awesome Movies

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Written by: James Keen

I’m pretty certain most of you out there have a list of books that you’d dearly love to see filmed. This is currently my own. It’s in no way a comprehensive list but given the spirit of the holiday season I had two choices; write this or eat chocolate until my skin boils. I’d love to hear your own ideas as to what you’d think would make for a potentially splendid cinematic adaptation of something that got your gore-soaked mental cogs whirring. Just a side-note; author Todd Keisling would have made this list with his ‘Monochrome’ series -something that, to my mind, is ripe for a movie adaptation but it seems he’s taking his own sweet time with his final entry in the trilogy. With that said, I’m off before I’m gripped by the Cretins…

No1Snow

No2TheRitual

3Shadowland

No4Rivers

No5WorldofVacancy

No6FevreDream

No7SummerofNight

 

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Quan Williams ‘Godmode’ Review

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Written by: Matt Molgaard

Elijah’s got problems. After who knows how long he wakes, in a cage, surrounded by grotesqueries of epic proportions. He’s trapped in a building all too familiar, yet at a loss in regards to a means of escape. But that’s only the beginning of the man’s issues. His memories slowly begin returning, he’s learning of new enhanced physical capabilities, and he’s going to need those enhancements if he hopes to escape this Hell, which he soon learns is crawling with hideous, deformed monsters.

Quan Williams (now that is an awesome name!) crafts what equates to a video game on paper. Seriously, as I read this violent and bloody affair I couldn’t battle back the memories of Doom, on the PC, back in the ‘90s, when life seemed… right. As Elijah navigates the mysterious BAAL building, it’s entirely reminiscent of advancing stages of Doom… it might sound crazy, but I loved that about this book. It left an aging man who can’t locate his own smile these days fulfilled in a wondrous nostalgic fashion. Those experiences are rare, and given the turmoil I’m experiencing right now behind closed doors, I can say that Godmode was just what I needed. Somehow, for me, this display of ultraviolent hostility was almost cathartic.

Having said that, and noting that I did indeed get a thrill out of this one, it’s important to make notation of a few of its flaws. First off, while Quan is a good writer, he’s no wordsmith. His prose doesn’t truly captivate you, and the creatures of Godmode themselves can become a bit repetitive. The novel’s ultimate saving grace is the subplot, which unravels through a series of flashbacks and memories, in which we learn a lot more about Elijah, and who he was before man decided to play God.

Godmode is enjoyable, bloody and unforgiving, never wavering in its goal of shocking the reader. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. But the gradual unraveling of Elijah’s personality works as a fine glue to hold these pieces together. As a fan first, who looks for true depth, I quite appreciated the juxtaposing tale.

Will I read another piece from Quan Williams? You bet your ass I will. Not just because he’s got one of the coolest names I’ve ever heard, but because he’s got a ceiling that I can’t see just yet, which is a damn good thing!

Order it here.

Rating: 3.5/5

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