Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Writing Horror by R. Thomas Brown

So, why a horror novella?
Ever since I jumped back into writing, it’s been mostly crime fiction. That’s where my head was, and still is most of the time. From reading, novels and short stories, to writing, I’m still writing shorts, and am in the middle of a novel, crime fiction feels like home.
Sometimes, my head jumps to the supernatural. When I was writing Hill Country, coming next year from Snubnose Press, I kept having these ideas about forces lurking just behind the action. There is a thread in the book about a cult and the use of it and rituals to mask more grounded criminal activity. But, I wondered what it would look like if, at the same time, real forces were at work.
And so, Merciless Pact was born. Set in the same town, at the same time, the story follows a man trying to understand what has happened to him, and then forced to decide between power and responsibility. The goal here was to explore the choice and the consequences. It’s not a gross-out story, nor is it designed to have you locking all your doors.
So, is it horror?
The tension is driven by fear. Fear of losing control. Fear in others by what they go through due to choices. Fear of the unknown. These are the sources of the drama, so, yeah, it’s horror. It’s also about many of the things crime fiction is about to me. The reaction to a personal invasion of some sort. The struggle to either survive or thrive. But this story is more about the personal terror.
So, (yes I like that word) will there be more horror?
Probably. At least in short form. I’m doing a series for Trestle and the next in that line will be out soon. There will also be other genres. I’m working on a novel that feels like a mix of Scanners, Minority Report and the office setting of Joe vs The Volcano. That’s likely to feel more like crime fiction with exploding heads, though as opposed to horror.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Click x 8

Things I've recently purchased for my Kindle.

Old Man Coyote by R. Thomas Brown

Merciless Pact by R. Thomas Brown

Harry Truman v. The Aliens by Emerson LaSalle

Gallows Pole by J.D. Rhoades

Like A Bone in the Throat by Lawrence Block

Three in the Side Pocket by Lawrence Block

Kick It Again by McDroll

R. Thomas Brown will be stopping by the blog on Tuesday to share with us his thoughts on Merciless Pact and why he wrote a horror novella. And later this week I'll be back to review that very book and talk about some of his short stories I've recently read.

Hope you've had a lovely weekend, friends.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Turning Series by Dawn Kirby

Peaceful Moment

Nicholas tucked a stray strand of Alana’s hair behind her ear and smiled. She grabbed his hand and kissed the tips of his fingers one by one. Chills ran down his spine. It’d been so long since he felt anything real. She felt him shutter and smiled.

“Don’t even think about it,” Alana warned. “I’m fighting hard enough to stay awake as it is.”

“You misunderstand,” Nicholas said. “It’s your soul that’s done this to me. Not your body.” He ran his free hand down her side and smiled wider. “Not that it was at all unpleasant. In fact I found it very enjoyable.”

“Good to know,” she giggled. “I think I can safely say the same.” The truth was she’d never felt this exhilarated with anybody. “You made me forget.”

“When you’re happy and safe forgetting isn’t hard. It’s just been a long time since you’ve been either.”

 He crawled under the sheet and let her curl up beside him. The scent of her washed over him like a warm blanket. “Now that you have it I don’t want you to lose it.”

“I don’t either,” she admitted. She turned her face to look up at him. “But until Ben’s gone I’ll never really be safe. He may not know where this place is, but he knows where Matt is.”

“Yes, and he won’t hesitate to use that to draw you out again.” He pulled her closer, soaking up the warmth of her body.

“I can’t stay here forever, Nicholas. He will kill my brother and anybody else he thinks is in his way.”

“There’s no doubt in mind that he will.” Nicholas swallowed hard. She was already close to sleep. He had a solution, but it was one that would lead to a drastic lifestyle change for her. “Alana?”

“What?” she whispered running her fingertips across his chest.

“What if I could save you from him?”

“I thought that was plan.” She opened her eyes, curious.

“It always has been,” he conceded. “But what if I could offer a solution that would keep him from you forever?”

“Death pretty much guarantees that, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, from him. But what if another wants you. Vampire or not.”

“Somehow I doubt there are any more men out there as dangerous as Ben is right now. Besides, once this is over. Once he’s dead, we’ll still have one another. I’m certainly not going anywhere. Not now.”

A warm feeling spread through him. Those were the words he’d longed to hear. “And later? When you age and don’t?”

Alana raised up on her elbow and looked at him. She finally realized. “You want to turn me?”

“I have since the night we met.” Now was the time for honesty. He wanted her, but he knew she’d likely put up a fight.

“Nicholas, I don’t want to be a vampire. I don’t want to live off blood.” She wasn’t mad at him. 

Honestly she wasn’t even that shocked. It would be normal for a vampire to want to turn the object of his desire, wouldn’t it? Don’t women want to turn men into something else once they snag them? In a way, wasn’t this the same? “I want to be with you. I know that now. Can’t we just enjoy that for now?”

“We can,” he said solemnly. “But I want to protect you. Turning you would make you less vulnerable.”

“It might, but then again even you aren’t immortal,” she reminded him. “For now be my knight in shining armor. Slay my dragon and let’s get on with our lives.” 

Nicholas gently tucked her head back onto his chest. As he stroked her long, beautiful hair he thought hard about what she’d said. She had good points; he had to give her that. But could a relationship between them work as it stood right then? As long as she was human he’d never not worry about her safety. That was a given. Then again he had a secret…        

Friday, November 11, 2011

SMOKE by Nigel Bird

Okay, if you've been reading my reviews you might have noticed by now that I've had a troubled childhood. Look, I could tell you hundreds of stories of how I was wronged in my youth... but even with all the wrongs that I've encountered, I like to think I turned out to be a pretty decent person. I mean, I do my best at living a good life just like the rest of you do.

Yet, for many people, the way they are raised influences their entire  life. Due to their upbringing,  some never see the good that is hidden among the rotten filth that lies before them. And for others, even when they do see the good, they don't know how to leave their existing lifestyles behind to obtain it.

Which brings us to Smoke by Nigel Bird. 

At the beginning of Smoke by Nigel Bird, we read about a young man named Jimmy being humiliated at school by a boy named Sean Mulligan. Jimmy's been stripped down to his privates in front of a group of other kids, left to run home in the buff, and then forced to go back the next day only to find his trousers flying from the flag pole. Jimmy seeks revenge, but things don't go as planned... and I think Jimmy even develops a little sympathy for the bully and his living conditions in the process.  Eventually, Jimmy drops out of school, is attacked by a dog, and spends the rest of his life with half of his face hidden behind a mask.

And then there's Carlo.  He's obviously a guy with a troubled past... an odd past that left him tied to a railroad track and wheeling around the city in his wheelchair. Carlo happens to be in love with Jimmy's sister, Kylie. Apparently they were a thing before the railroad "incident," and now, Carlo has returned to his old stomping grounds with hopes of reclaiming his relationship with Kylie and making a happy family unit with their son.  But, things don't go exactly as planned for Carlo when he finds out that Kylie is still in a relationship with another man, and... he's not the father of her son.

Smoke is an incredible journey through a small block of time being told through the eyes of two unfortunate victims.  The lives of Jimmy and Carlo are, unfortunately, woven together through a series of separate events all connected to the same worthless group of people, the Ramsey's.  The Ramsey's are two brothers making their wealth by swindling people and setting up big wins in a dog fighting ring.  While Kris Ramsey is the meanest of the two, it would be wrong to not let his brother take any blame for past deeds just because he's capable of showing a little emotion at the right time. They're a ruthless twosome connected to an even more sinister group of thugs.

But there's a light at the end of this journey through time. A very small light. When Jimmy gets wind of some information on the Ramsey's money, he sets up a plan that seems rather foolproof in its simplicity. But, again, things don't go as planned for Jimmy and his decisions end up harming those closest to him. Oddly, those same decisions that cause harm, help restore broken spirits and relationships, and they also help Jimmy see what he needs to do to escape the life he's been living.

I think what I loved the most about Smoke, was the author's ability to make me care for all the characters in the story. From Sean Mulligan and his bullying ways to the Ramsey boys endangering the lives of animal for sport, I found myself caring about all of them. 

Smoke is a story about drug abuse, alcoholism, gambling addictions, children being failed by the school system, careless love, revenge, and a desire for new beginnings.  And it's also a story laced with sorrow, disgust, humor, love, and hope.

Yeah, Smoke by Nigel Bird, is everything a good story should be.

SMOKE is available on Kindle and Nook.

Nigel Bird is about to serve up a 9 course meal.  As an appetiser, there’s a morsel (‘Sebille’) at Flashquake.  The Starter, ‘No Pain No Gain’ will be in Crime Factory.  There’s something fishy in the form of a surprise.  A visit to France for mains at Voluted Tales.  If you’ve room, it’ll be time for Best Of British Crime Stories. For dessert, Pulp Ink, served up jointly with Chris Rhatigan and / or Blackbird Pie at Grimm Tales.  Digestif is a novel that has all the ingredients and requires a bit more time in the oven.

And cheese.

You can read more about Nigel HERE!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

White Fangs - Guest Post by Nigel Bird

Author Nigel Bird stops by the blog today to give us a look inside the creation of his novel, Smoke. I'll be back later this week with a review, but for now... let's give him a very warm welcome to My Friends Call Me Kate.

Humans are animals.

Nothing controversial in that statement, however splendid we consider ourselves to be.

We’re capable of great subtleties of thought and have the most intricate communication systems to share them.

In my opinion, one of the greatest creations of the human race is ‘White Fang’.

I don’t think there’s anything controversial there, either.  It’s a tremendous book on so many levels, but fundamentally as an exemplary piece of story-telling.

I first heard the story when I was 11.  Our ageing teacher, all leather face and tweed, read it as our class novel at some point in our final primary school year.  It’s one of those periods of life which remains vividly alive in my memory.

No wonder then that it has always been something I wanted to use in my work at some point.  I almost wrote ‘emulate’ there in place of 'use’; how crazy is that?

Anyway, to take you back a couple of years, I wrote a story called ‘An Arm And A Leg’.  I’d been aiming to submit something to Crimespree for a while and knew that this was it, my first real crime work.   I pressed the send button just before I went to bed.

Jennifer Jordan got back to me while I slept, bless her.  Accepted it there and then.  I’m indebted to the Crimespree team for effectively fanning the embers of my hope in a way that I’d all but given up on.

I was thrilled. Absolutely. Took my kids to the soft play that morning and sat drinking coffee in a daze.

It occurred to me that if the story was as good as it felt, I should use it as a springboard for a novel.  Made a lot of sense.  All I needed was a theme.

Back rolled in Jack London. 

Dog-fighting in Tranent!  Perfect.

All I needed was to follow the life of fighting dog from birth till death and I’d be on to a winner.

A good friend of mine also suggested having some kind of police story in there – let’s face it, pleasing agents and publishers may require compromise, or so I thought at the time.

The angle I decided to take was to look at a spectrum of the human race.  I’d have the dog-fighters and their obvious cruelty contrasting with the middle-class breeders aiming to create the perfect show dogs.  Perfect. 

Research showed me some of the crazy things dog-breeders have done in the name of beauty, creating grotesques who live in pain or are susceptible to illness and all sorts of disabilities.  Horrible.  There are good dog-breeders out there, so don’t flood the comment section in their defence, it’s not necessary, but there are some crazy things also.  Barbaric even.

Animal rights are something I believe in quite strongly in many ways.  There’s a touch of irony then, that ‘An Arm And A Leg’ has a description of the deep frying of a cat.  I could tell you that it was the character who took over or that it was essential to the plot (both partly true), but it was me at the helm.  Doesn’t mean I hate cats.

Anyway, I got to work and wrote my novel. 

From the beginning I was looking forward to describing the dog fights, not with relish for the violence, but as a major challenge to my writing skills. 

I considered reading White Fang for the third time, maybe focusing on the fight scenes to see how they were done. 

When it came to those sections, I changed my mind on that.  It seemed better to give it my best shot and see how it went.

I’m delighted with the result.

Sadly, the same couldn’t be said of the novel as a whole.

I had to get rid of the cop and the cop angle (I just hadn’t pulled it off).  I binned chapters and characters.  The dog-breeding work was all chopped.  The vet disappeared.  My bigger picture was gone.

Thing is, by chopping away so much to create this novella I ended up with a more profound piece, in my opinion.  Less can be more.

White-Fang was a product of his environment, like the characters in Smoke.

The folk who inhabit my stories have been brought up in a tough world.   Outsiders might describe it as hellish.  It’s no wonder they behave and express themselves in the way they do.

The sad thing for me is that it’s only the plot and my creations that are fiction.  The town, culture, environment, abuse and poverty really do exist.  Not just where I work, but around the world.

It can be overwhelming to be involved with.

Even so, Jack London managed to get his novel to sparkle with hope on occasion. 

White Fang was the best, meanest fighting dog there was, yet he was saved from that (and a great big bulldog) to become the most amazingly loyal creature going.

The idea of ‘saving’ people from the cultures and themselves is fraught with difficulty (think religious evangelism or colonisation), but it’s something I want to work with to make the world a better place.

Yes, if you read Smoke you’ll have had one hell of a ride.  It will be a tour of a brutalised folk who brutalise.  At the same time, I’d like to suggest that you’ll find something about the whole thing strangely uplifting; if you do, I guess I’ve passed my challenge.

Nigel Bird is about to serve up a 9 course meal.  As an appetiser, there’s a morsel (‘Sebille’) at Flashquake.  The Starter, ‘No Pain No Gain’ will be in Crime Factory.  There’s something fishy in the form of a surprise.  A visit to France for mains at Voluted Tales.  If you’ve room, it’ll be time for Best Of British Crime Stories. For dessert, Pulp Ink, served up jointly with Chris Rhatigan and / or Blackbird Pie at Grimm Tales.  Digestif is a novel that has all the ingredients and requires a bit more time in the oven.

And cheese.

You can read more about Nigel HERE!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Click x 6

Before I share my purchases from last week I want to announce the winner of the first four books in the Black London series by Caitlin Kittredge.  The winner is Mary B. I want to thank all of you for taking the time to visit the blog and for leaving comments.  I'll get the books to you ASAP, Mary. Congratulations!

Okay, my Kindle purchases last week contained some pretty great reads.

It looks like past sinister deeds come back to haunt University teacher, Jake Reese, in this incredible thriller by John Rector. If you click on the above link you will find a Q & A with John Rector on the Amazon site. Great stuff.

I met John Rector at Bouchercon. Okay, I didn't really "meet" him. We were never formerly introduced. But I did mistake him for someone else thanks to the mood lighting in the hotel bar.  I held his hand, made some conversation, and was in the process of sharing my deepest thoughts when I noticed his name tag.  Ugh!

Kick It by McDroll $0.99

Hey, lookie, my good friend Fiona has a book. This collection of short stories will introduce you to one of Twitter's favorite female short story characters, Gemma Dixon, a young investigator starting out at the bottom in her career. You'll be begging for McDroll to write you a novel when her character pulls you in with her subtle humor, tough-as-nails exterior, and heartbreaking case load.  Yep, this is just the beginning for McDroll's writing. 

The Lost Children: A Charity Anthology edited by Thomas Pluck, Fiona Johnson, and Ron Earl Phillips  $2.99

This anthology is what happens when people step outside themselves and give to the greater good. Prompted by a photo (see the cover) people were invited to write short stories... from there my good friends put together this anthology with all the proceeds benefiting children's charities.  Hey, for $2.99 we can all afford to give.

Beat to a Pulp: Hardboiled edited by Scott D. Parker and David Cranmer  $0.99
"BEAT to a PULP: Hardboiled is a compilation of uncompromising, gritty tales following in the footsteps of the tough and violent fiction popularized by the legendary Black Mask magazine in its early days." 

What's really great about this collection of stories - besides the cover - is that I know pretty much all of the contributors. I'm really looking forward to reading this one.

No Rest for The Witches: A Dark Mission Novella by Karina Cooper  $1.99

For my friends following Karina Cooper's Dark Mission series, you'll definitely want to snag her latest novella.  Oh, yeah, now would be a good time for you to pre-order the next book in the series, All Things Wicked, scheduled for release on January 12, 2012.

The Caretaker (Two Short Stories) by J.D. Rhoades  $0.99

"A couple of tales from the graveyard...

In "The Caretaker," William Cain doesn't know why only he can see the new arrivals in his cemetery, or why they tell him their stories--but he knows how to take care of their unfinished business. 

I've added some links to the side of the blog that will highlight some books available for pre-order.  I'd like to invite you to check them out and pre-order if you feel moved to do so. Also, for my coworkers, if you see a book that you are interested in and would like me to order it for you, just holler.  Nothing makes me happier than placing a book or two in your hands.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Turning by Dawn Kirby


Nicholas stepped closer to the house, careful not to let the leaves crunch beneath his feet. Alana had painted such a clear picture in her mind for him; he had been able to find Ben’s hideout before Matt had been able to recover from his wounds. A fact that suited him just fine. The less people he had to worry with at this point, the better.

Ben was under the delusion that being a vampire made him untouchable. No human was safe around a creature with that mindset. At times neither was another vampire. Thomas’s death had proven that.

He reached for the front door, calmly seeking out Alana’s now familiar heartbeat. It was quicker than normal. Her breathing was labored, frantic almost. Alarmed, his body faded from view as he hurried through the closed door and up the stairs. He could practically feel Ben’s cold breath on his own neck.

Quietly he crept through the open bedroom door. Alana’s hand was cuffed to the bed. Her legs pinned in between Ben’s as he lay beside her whispering his plans for their future in her ear. The urge to kill had never been quite that strong before. Common sense overcame emotion. Ben had fed. A lot. Nicholas hadn’t. If they fought now there’d be no way he could win let alone save her.

But her captor was distracted. So distracted he hadn’t even felt another presence in the room with them. Then an idea. He knew how to get her out, but it would have to be quick. Taking her cuffed hand in his, he closed his eyes and concentrated hard on his own home. It was the one place they could go where no one would find them. There she would be safe and he could regain his strength.

Alana felt something close around her hand and then there was a feeling of weightlessness. Suddenly Ben’s body disappeared. Wind and darkness swirled around her making it virtually impossible to see anything. Seconds later it died down and Nicholas was standing there, his hand in hers.

They were standing outside a Victorian style house. Trees surrounded the house in every direction. She looked around quickly; sure Ben had followed them there somehow. Getting away couldn’t have possibly been that easy.

“Here we’re safe,” Nicholas told her. “Here nobody can touch us.”

She closed what little gap there was between them, pressing her body against his, resting her head on his chest. In his arms she knew she was secure. He rested his chin on her head, content to let her stay right where she was. That’s when she heard it. She turned her head to look up at him. He lowered his eyes to hers.

“No, I’m not dead,” he said. “Not yet anyway.”

“I thought-” she started, but found herself unable to finish.

He brushed his fingers through her hair and smiled. “I’m sure an explanation would be nice, but I have none. I simply am what I am.”

“And that is?”

Her heart was racing. So was her mind. They’d been close before, but this was different. She saw him in a new light somehow. Hearing his heart beat, no matter how slow had brought forth emotions she’d been trying to ignore.

“A man.”

He wrapped his arm around her waist, pressing his lips gently against hers. She slid her arms around his neck, her fingers playing through his hair. Her lips parted. Passion took hold. Their kiss deepened. His hands moved up her sides, stopping just shy of the curve of her breasts. She broke away, her gaze shifting between him and house. The lustful look in her beautiful blue eyes was unmistakable.

“Show me.”