I finished a couple of very good thrillers recently. First was Steven M. Moore's GAIA AND THE GOLIATHS. This was the seventh Chen-and-Castilblanco mystery, and it deals with eco-terrorism and murder. It takes the reader from New York to Europe and also involves Moore's Dutch Interpol agent Bastian van Coevorden on that end. It's a well-constructed mystery that presents a balanced picture of the world of environmental activism along with several little nods to what's going on in American politics today (the story is set a short time in the future, I believe). As I've come to expect from Steve Moore, this is a really interesting, thought-provoking read right from the beginning. Chen and Castilblanco are great characters, too. The second was Steve Richer's THE POPE'S SUICIDE. Like Richer's THE PRESIDENT KILLED HIS WIFE, this takes an unlikely crime involving a world leader and turns it around this way and that way. There are many layers of intrigue going on here, and I found it to be a can't-put-it-down type of book. When the Pope is found hanging in his shower, suicide is the apparent cause. But of course it can't be that simple, not to mention the complications that a Pope's suicide would cause for the Catholic Church. Detective Donny Beecher is going through a rough time of his own, marriage falling apart and teen daughter rebelling and getting into some things that Dad wouldn't approve of. And he's assigned as the lead detective for the investigation. Solid plotting and writing make this a top notch read. Now I have to go read THE KENNEDY SECRET. Last, I read CRYSTAL CREEK by William Malmborg. In this one, a paranormal investigator goes to a small town in Washington State where Bigfoot has been sighted, and a woman has disappeared. Crystal Creek barely exists anymore, but there is still an inn, a police department, a diner, and a newspaper. And everyone left in this little town seems to have a secret of some sort. It's a great premise and a good story. If I have a bit of a problem with it, it's that I didn't care about the characters too much. I don't know why, but they didn't make me feel that they were worth worrying about. Everything about the story is well done, and it's a good, fast read. (As an aside, is it horror? A thriller? Whatever it is, what makes it that?) So there you have it -- three good solid books by indie authors. Check them out! *****
I haven't disappeared. I just haven't had anything much to post on the blog. But I have been writing a bit, and reading quite a bit. So I thought that I'd just sort of list some of the things I've been working on, and give a couple of shout-outs to books I've read as well. I finished up a 27K horror novella called NEVER ENDING NIGHT. Actually, it's been finished for a while, but I finally went back and reread it and formatted it for uploading. I played with some covers but I'm not sure I like them. I've been writing on a post-apocalyptic tale that started life as a piece being written in Hugh Howey's WOOL universe. I finished the first part, about a group of college students who get wind of an upcoming "event" and try to build a shelter to wait it out. Then, as I wrote that part, one of the college kids up and left without explanation, then so did her boyfriend, so I wrote their story as they are invited to a shelter in Texas. Then I thought, nothing is 100% fatal except nerve gas, and so I made this one, like, 99.8% fatal, and another story I had started a while ago ended up being a story of some of the few survivors of this biological agent. I've been writing on that one. It's been fun to tell these stories. Also a while ago, I decided to expand ODD MAN OUT into a longer story, perhaps a novella or a short novel. So I've been working on that one somewhat diligently. I'm around 21,500 words now (the original story was something around 1800 words, I think). Then I started something set in the fictional upstate NY community of Addison Falls. The shared world comes from back in the 1990's when a bunch of us on a Delphi forum called The Horror Discussion Group created a bunch of common characters along with our own original characters in order to write stories set in this world. Well, the stories (for the most part) died when the forum became inactive after the host (Bookhound) passed away at a very young age. I have a story in my DIE 6 collection that was written back around that time in Addison Falls (THE GHOST TRAIN), and I thought that it might be fun to write a novel set in that town. I decided to once again do missing kids, but this time I am going to focus on a math teacher at the high school and his friend/something more(?) newspaper reporter. I've written about 18K words in that story, and I've been adding to it a little at a time. No end is in sight. Last, I started a story back in the late 1980's that was also postapocalyptic, set in a small Wisconsin town after a disease claims all the adults. I decided to expand that one as well, including three more settings, and bouncing back and forth between the four places to tell the story of kids coming together and conflicting in each. I now call it INHERIT THE EARTH, and I think it's pretty interesting. (I tossed out all the boring parts and rewrote most of it.) I think it stands at something around 20K or maybe a bit more. No end in sight on this one, either. Reading: I've knocked out some pretty good books. I read all of Kate Wrath's E series, five books in all. I finished Orson Scott Card's VISITORS and Paul Draker's NEW YEAR ISLAND (wish I would have tried that one sooner, because it was really good). I read William Malmborg's Halloween homage, SANTA TOOK THEM, and J. Stirling Robertson's SEPSIS. Then I finished two or three Robert Crais books, including the non-Pike, non-Cole book SUSPECT. Lots of good reads in there. Those are the ones I can remember off the top of my head and skimming the Kindle. I hope to be a bit more active here in the future. And I hope to have a new book announcement soon. Take care. *****
I was looking at the books I've downloaded on my Kindle and they are probably 95% by indie authors. That's pretty amazing, really, considering that a few years ago I didn't know anything about the field. I remember how I started downloading books by indie authors. The first one I did was a book called BONE SHOP by Tim "TA" Pratt. It is an urban fantasy, the fifth book in a series that had previously been published by a BPH imprint but was dropped after the fourth book. Why, I don't exactly know. Was it not selling? I bought the first four at Barnes and Noble bookstores, where they had exactly one copy on the shelf. I always looked when I'd go back in to see if they had anything else by Pratt, and once I bought the single copy of whichever they had, well, that was it. I was following a blog of editor Annetta Ribken on Journalscape back in the day, before she was an editor. She had a very entertaining blog, and she was working on a novel, which was released as ATHENA'S PROMISE. She decided to release it indie via Kindle and Createspace, and I bought the ebook of that one as well. Both of those ebooks costed $4.99, which, at the time, I considered a bargain. Now I consider it a premium that I'm willing to pay for authors I like. Even then, I think twice about it. "Just how much do I want to read this book right now?" I started thinking that if Annetta could do it that way, so could I. Another author-friend who I met at Chicago's Printer's Row Festival, Sean Hayden, was working with a small press, editing and writing his own fiction. He and his significant other, Jen Wylie, opened their own small press called Untold Press, and began publishing their own fiction as well as a few other authors. Yeah, it's technically a small press, but it started as a way of indie publishing their own works. Connecting the dots, I found the blogs of Dean Wesley Smith and J.A. Konrath, and then I found Hugh Howey. WOOL was, for me, a revelation. It was engrossing -- I couldn't hardly put it down when I purchased it as an ebook. Howey's story was almost as engrossing. He put the book out in shorter installments, five of them, at $0.99 each, then compiled them into the single edition at $4.99. And Hugh was making a killing financially, or so it seems. I found "The Passive Voice" and answered a submissions call for a SF anthology called QUANTUM ZOO, and lo and behold, mine was one of the twelve stories accepted for publication in the volume. If nothing else, it validated me in my own eyes as a writer. From Konrath's blog, I read a comment by author Steven M. Moore, and somehow realized that he wrote SF and thrillers, and I followed the link to his blog, and now I've read everything he's written save (I think) two books. (I'll correct that oversight this year.) I also found horror novels by Bryan Smith and by William Malmborg, which led me again to other horror novelists. Now I'm reading one indie work after another, generally. (I am trying to get a good run into Robert Crais' third Joe Pike novel, called THE SENTRY, but haven't found the time to get into it much.) I am in the midst of a series (starting with E) by Kate Wrath. I'm reading Mit Sandru's novels. I read Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant, John Ellsworth, Bobby Adair, and Edward W. Robertson. I've found tons of the fiction I want to read, and I haven't broken the bank buying all these books. Not to mention, I've become an indie author myself, with a bunch of short stories and collections out as well as two novellas. Buy indie. Cut out that middle man! *****
I finished up my final editing pass over the weekend, and I think it's time to post the cover for what will be my most recent and my longest published work to date: THE INN. THE INN is about a high school band who takes a school trip to a music festival in Alabama, and focuses on their student-teacher, a 22-year-old college senior named Kimberly Bouton. But this inn has some strange goings-on, and both the teacher and the kids experience that strangeness first hand. I haven't written the blurb yet, but I'm working on it. This is a serial-killer-horror type of novel (or is it still a novella at around 37000 words? Probably...) with the standard trappings of horror novels of this type. I wouldn't call it "extreme horror" -- there are no graphic descriptions of -- well, anything, really. But it's full of mature and disturbing occurrences, like most horror novels. I've alway been a fan of horror movies, even the slasher-type of movies (though I think it's been really overdone and I haven't seen many in the last several years), and I recently read some novels by indie horror writer William Malmborg , especially one called TEXT MESSAGE and one called NIKKI'S SECRET. After I read them, I thought that I could probably write something like those stories, and this is my attempt. I'd like to think that it has my usual level of character development (for better or worse) but I don't think it is for every reader. If you don't care for this sort of horror novel, take a pass on this one. OTOH, if you liked RED DRAGON or SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, you might not be totally put off by this one. THE INN, a horror thriller which clocks in at about 37000 words and contains a sample chapter of THE CAVE as well. Here's the cover: I'll be posting links to it on Amazon in a day or so... *****
I started off thinking that I should write a post about why I write what I write. As anyone who takes a look at my Amazon page can see, I write mostly horror. My contribution to the anthology QUANTUM ZOO was NOT horror; it was science fiction, in that it was set in a far-off future where people don't really live on Earth anymore, except for those needed to keep the planet running. Earth is a sort of zoo-planet (hence the link to the zoo theme of the anthology) and without human interference strange and wonderful things happen. (I'm considering releasing it separately for $0.99 but for now the only way to read it is to get QUANTUM ZOO!) Also, two of the offerings in my collection DIE 6 are not horror: one concerns the possibility of uploading a conscience into a computer network, and the other involved time travel. But everything else is horror, or at least contains supernatural elements, even when the story itself isn't horrific. (SARAH'S PUPPY, THE MOMENT, and GHOST OF LOVE in the collection 14 DARK WINDOWS come to mind, as do BLOOD TIES and THE TOOTH FAIRY in DIE 6.) And the forthcoming novella THE CAVE is horror also. I also have another work tentatively titled THE INN (but that will change, I hope) and one called RECIPROCAL EVIL, both of which are a bit longer (38K and 45K respectively) and both are straight horror. Not gross-out horror, or splatterpunk horror, but definitely horror. So I started thinking about why I write in that genre, and what it says about me, and I realized that many of the things I write have a "damsel in distress." Why? I don't know. I think I can't imagine very much that is more frightening than a threat to a woman might be. Why is it always a woman? Why not a man? Again, I don't know. I don't think of a man being terrorized by a serial killer or something supernatural as being particularly terrifying, though when I read works by other authors, I see that it can be. When I think back on the things that really frightened me in my life, to a point that I lost sleep after seeing or reading such things, I came up with two examples. And no, it wasn't Jason or Freddy chasing around pretty damsels, which perhaps one might think I would find frightening after reading some of my stuff. It also wasn't something like JURASSIC PARK, or GODZILLA or any of those types of horror films. It wasn't SALEM'S LOT or THE SHINING, and it wasn't Richard Laymon's or Ed Lee's work. I found them to be (mostly) pretty interesting stories that grabbed me and made me keep reading, but I didn't stay awake at night thinking about them. What scared me was HELTER SKELTER. I think I read it in high school, in the late 1970's, and it really affected me back then, so much so that I still think about it today. The second thing that scared me was a movie called DRESSED TO KILL, which starred Michael Caine and Angie Dickinson and was directed by Brian DePalma. I don't know why it creeped me out so much, but it definitely did a number on me. I had dreams (nightmares?) about it. And the prosecutor's account of the Manson Family crimes scared me to the point where I couldn't fall asleep, certain that every sound in the house was some nutcases crawling around and preparing to kill my whole family. I don't know if I'd have the same reaction to that movie, or that book, today. Maybe I'm too jaded, too grown-up now to really be afraid of anything I read or see. I've seen films and read books that seem on the surface to be far scarier. But none of them bother me. My own stories don't bother me either; I hope they're entertaining but they don't scare me any more than Bryan Smith's works, or J.A. Konrath's or Blake Crouch's stories, or Tim Miller's or Matt Shaw's books, or John Everson's tales do. As I think about it, William Malmborg's works have made me think and creeped me out, if not to the point where I lose sleep over them. And one of the most frightening short stories I've read in a long time was J. Michael Major's "A Letter To My Ex" which was published in a SPLATTERLANDS anthology. Scary stuff. All-too-human horror on both counts. I think I've been influenced a lot by Malmborg's books, especially in writing THE INN. I have two topics to write about this week before the weekend release of THE CAVE: first is sort of a continuation of this post, a bit more about why I write horror instead of SF or mystery or thriller novels, and second is about how my writing career (such as it is) is going and why I'm lowering all my prices to $0.99. Probably I'll write and post them on Wednesday and Thursday, right before I formally announce the release of THE CAVE.