Sunday, November 9, 2014

Bloodbath (My new Death metal favorite)

The band I am have been listening to alot lately is Bloodbath: Martin Axenrot (Opeth), Anders Nyström (Katatonia), Jonas Renkse (Katatonia), Nick Holmes (Paradise Lost), and Per Eriksson Check them out. Full concert.

Book Review: Netherworld (The Chronicles of Diana Furnaval #1) by Lisa Morton

Netherworld (The Chronicles of Diana Furnaval #1)

by Lisa Morton

Paperback, 282 pages

JournalStone

It should be no shock to anyone who follows my blog, or my reviews that Lisa Morton out of Los Angeles is one of my favorite writers working today. In the last decade Morton separated herself from the pack with several amazing short stories in major anthologies often being the best story along side names like Clive Barker, Dennis Ecthison or Gary Braunbeck. These stories earned her several Bram Stoker awards and when she unleashed her first novel The Castle of Los Angles I was excited by the ghost story which was a personal spin that was totally Lisa Morton.

That is what I look for in a horror novel. It has all been done a hundred times, so what does a writer bring to a story that no one else can bring? This novel is very much a Lisa Morton story and I am not sure I see anyone else pulling it off.

Netherworld is the story of Diana Furnaval who just inherited the fortune of her husband's wealth and responsibility. Passed on in the form of journal that contains of maps to various gateways between our world and the netherworld. The family had become guardians who use magi from the journals to close the gateways. Through these gateways 80 or so of them around the come various monsters that make up the local mythology.

Diana is good hero, a woman who is progressive for her time. Haunted by the loss of her husband and wanting to complete his mission. This set-up is perfect a long running series (I believe a trilogy is planned) which has potential to send Diana on many swashbuckling adventures fighting various local monsters around the globe. Diana has two sidekicks a cat who senses the gateways named Mina and a Chinese martial artist Yi-kin.

Once Diana and crew start globe trotting we are treated to adventures in India, china and the old west. If there is a weakness to me these chapters could have been entire novels and I would have been happy. The China segment finally gives Morton ( a Hong Kong film-a-phile and Tsui Hark expert) a chance to write her Wuxia story complete hopping vampires.

The writing is simple but effective, the prose does a great job of creating a vivid setting. The 19th century setting is used create mood and I enjoyed spending time there. The characters are strong Diana is a good hero, and much like Kato in Green Hornet Yi-kin is a great hero that risks stealing the show.

Ready for more. I’ll be picking up book two for sure. This novel is a swashbuckling supernatural horror crossover with a historical vibe, big thumbs up from me.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Horror Nerds Check Out Mick Garris Interviews on Youtube

So one of the best ways I learned about writing Genre fiction in the early days was reading and re-reading interviews with the greats. Mick Garris is compiling years of interviews some old some new with the greats in the horror genre. Check it out. Also if you search my blog you'll find a review of his excellent book Development hell.

Book Review: The Specimen by Pete Kahle

The Specimen by Pete Kahle

489 pages Self-published

This review doesn’t make me feel great, I have only met the author through the internet but Pete and I have talked a few times and I think he is a cool cat. I was really looking forward to reading this because I like Pete’s taste in novels and film and thought the concept was cool.

The Specimen is a science fiction horror novel about a very SLOW alien invasion that has happened against the back drop of human history. For thousands of years these body snatcher like aliens referred to as Riders have been influencing our history and infiltrating our species. Most of the narrative takes place in modern New England after group of urban explorers find a jar with an alien rider intact in a closed insane asylum . The Asylum has a history that ties back to the ancient conflict that goes back to events that are explained in interludes.

There are moments of good writing and the story is very cool one. I loved the concept and think there is a good epic here. I give Kahle credit for being ambitious, but I don’t think this book ultimately does its job of telling the story. I finished reading it, but had I not been given a review copy I doubt I would have lasted past the first 150 pages.

The first warning sign should have been three page list of characters at the front of the book. I referred to it often because the characters blended together for me. I kept thinking of The Stand I don’t remember no matter how characters were introduced needing a list.

Many of the characters get their own narrative thread, infact that was an issue I had. This book never built up narrative steam for two reasons. New characters were added constantly and when it did swing around it was broken up with “articles”, journal entries or Classified files. It told the story sure but each non-narrative device (like articles or files) forced the reader out of the story momentum. The disjointed story in that sense never was able to grab my interest.

This review hurt me to write because Kahle’s dedication to telling this story bleeds off the page. I am sure this style works for some. It could be argued that the master Stephen King used this style in Carrie, but that was a shorter book and tactic was used much more sparingly.

There is sequel in the works, I think Kahle has a cool concept to work with but I personally didn’t like the style of writing. When He tells a straight story I enjoyed it. I could see the talent and ability. A more straight narrative in the sequel and the concept is cool enough I will give it a shot.

New At The Gates Album!

AT THE GATES - From Swedan is easily one of my favorite metal bands of all time. Broken up for almost a decade and they have a new album. While it is not Slaughter of the Soul (how could it match one of the best albums ever), At War with Reality is a solid Gates Record. The video is for the song that liked the best too.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Book Review: Three Chords of Chaos by James Chambers

Three Chords of Chaos by James Chambers
The Bad-Ass Faerie Tale Series

Paperback, 154 pages

Published May 24th 2013 by Dark Quest (first published April 21st 2013)

A few years back I went to the borderlands writer’s boot camp. I met several fantastic and talented young writers but the one who impressed me the most was James Chambers. I made sure I got his short story collection Ressurection House from Dark Regions. I was really excited to read this short book in the Bad-Ass Faerie series which I believe started in an anthology which these characters first appeared.

3COC is the story of Gorge who is a wizard thrown out from another realm called the Kingdom. He gathers magic by playing in rock/punk bands and taking energy from the audience. Other bands want to him to jam with them, record labels want to sign him. Using the tropes of classic Faerie tales Chambers does a fantastic job of spinning them in punk setting. I of course enjoyed his take.

The writing is evocative and does a good job getting the feeling of a live show. Chambers uses the structure of a song to plot this book. It is a neat gimmick that works perfectly. It has a couple cool bonuses like lyrics to the songs, a playlist and cool afterword. One of the reasons I write punk fiction myself is because punk is hardly ever depicted even close to realistic. Thankfully not a problem here.

Big thumbs up. It’s short but powerfully written and a fun read that is weird and like nothing else I have ever read.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Interview: John Shirley on his new historical western!

John Shirley is the author of several of my favorite novels and Collections, including Demons; Crawlers; City Come A-Walkin’; Really, Really, Really, Really, Weird Stories; and the classic cyberpunk trilogy A Song Called Youth: Eclipse, Eclipse Penumbra, and Eclipse Corona. He is the recipient of the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award and won the International Horror Guild Award for his collection Black Butterflies. Shirley has fronted punk bands and written lyrics for his own music, as well as for Blue Oyster Cult and other groups. A principal screenwriter for The Crow, Shirley now devotes most of his time to writing for television and film.

This interview done 9/29/14 over e-mail.

David Agranoff: John, can you give us the idea behind this novel?

John Shirley: Besides being a novel intending to capture something of what the frontier, the Wild West, might really have been like, it's also about providing a balanced view of Wyatt Earp.

People tend to vilify or deify him. He's either a villain or a hero. Recently Larry McMurtry published a novel that vilified him, based on very 1960s style prejudices. I am setting the record as straight as fiction can set it. I did a lot of research. He was a man with a dark side but he was always trying to work for the community--in his way. Except when he lost his way. We all lose our way. He was brave as any man in the old west, and as Bat Masterson said, "If you want to know the true story of the West, ask Wyatt Earp. But he's not telling."

DA: Have you always wanted to write a western? What was it about this real life historical figure that inspired you to tell his story? JS: I grew up with westerns. They are romances for males, in a sense. They tend to depict idealized maleness. I wanted to be more ideal than I was! But also Earp's steely eyed determination has its own strange poetry to it. And that drew me...And the people around him! Bat Masterson, Doc Holliday, the Earp Brothers. And others I reveal in this novel--colorful characters few know had connections with Earp...

DA: How did your ideas of the man change from doing the research?

JS: Earp lost whatever sainthood I might have cherished for him, but I also saw him as courageous, resourceful, always willing to start anew, never giving up, a true frontiersman who, as he matured, learned that *community* was worth fighting for. But he was a man who was, to cold fury and the desire for a reckoning, as a lightning rod is for lightning. And that is something that drew me. For there is little justice in the world.

DA: Did getting into the head of the man in writing further influence your thinking on the man?

JS: Of course. I thought of him as a human being, with a need for love, and acceptance, and with a desire for success, and a love of family--and above all, a man who knew regret. He regretted his early association with the prostitution industry. He also had issues with addiction--to drink and gambling. So he gave up drink. But never quite gambling.

DA: “The Land didn’t need Laws but the people did.” A line from the novel I liked can you tell me what this statement says about the period?

JS: It would have seemed obvious to people in the East but in the west, where laws were weakly enforced, it mattered more. It came galloping up in relevance! People are unaware of their true selves, barely in control of themselves--they need laws until they have an inner compass. Few do.

DA: The western style action is well done and adds to the tone can you tell us about how you approached it?

JS: I researched it --read a good many books about the wild west, joined the Wild West history association, researched guns at the time, read accounts by Bat Masterson--who was there!--and then used my imagination to try to sense how it would be in real life. DA: I remember You saying when you wrote your Batman novel it was like dressing up and playing batman as kids do. Did this feel similar despite the serious tone of a lot of the novel?

JS: No this is more serious than the Batman novel. I was more serious with the Batman novel than you imply really, but Wyatt in Wichita is trying to capture something real. The sweat, blood, determination, heat, cold, the fall of the cards, the staggering of the drunks--the wild west. Serious stuff to me.

DA: There is a lot of elements of weather and environment – something I think is important to Westerns what did you achieve the feeling of the old west?

JS: I live in the new west, have traveled through the midwest, have been to Tombstone, but most of all--research. Reading accounts of pioneers, newspaper descriptions, biographies of Earp and many others. Masterson and Wild Bill Hickok and many others. You get a feel for it. Also remember--they did not have air conditioning, or electric fans, or central heating or cars, or trucks. They had a few planks and a potbellied stove at best, on a winter's night; they had little shade and intemperate weather. But they felt the exhilaration of freedom...

DA: This is a less famous moment in the man’s life, what was it that inspired you to work on this period of his life?

JS: Because it hadn't been done before! And because it was the making of Earp the man, as opposed to Earp the reluctant gunfighter of Tombstone...Wyatt in Wichita is in a period that's closer to the origins of his character.

DA: Any chance you’ll write a purely fictional Western?

JS: This one is partly fictional--the murder mystery is fiction. I would love to write a western straight out of my imagination. If this one sells--that'll make it possible.

DA: What is up next for you?

JS: I'm planning a near future science fiction novel called STORMLAND. I've written part of it--an early version of which appeared in Interzone magazine late last year. But I'd love to write another historical fiction. I'm at least as interested in historical drama as I am in the future.