Wake the Wicked: Thirteen Twisted Tales, by Christian Baloga

448836415_640Christian Baloga is an artist, and able to take the reins in nearly all aspects of production unlike many horror authors today. I was impressed by his body of work and multi-faceted nature. As such, Wake The Wicked: Thirteen Twisted Tales leads us beyond a plain spooky read. On realizing the labour in writing, packaging, and creating the visuals and teasers that surround the launch of this horror fiction gem, Baloga is able to do it all with frightening finesse. The book trailer intrigued me, and I had the suspicion the author was behind the creative drive for it as well. Soon enough, I confirmed my suspicions, interviewed Baloga, and reviewed the trailer on dreadfultales.com. Then, it was to wait anxiously for the book release.

Included in the paperback only, there are additional illustrations which I was lucky enough to see beforehand. Yet another skill this artist holds; bringing print stories to life in more ways than one.

Stand out favorites of mine include; Flesh Boots (I have an affinity for the German, dogs, and cleaning), Psycho Pharm (so terribly distressing and beautifully written in the tradition of Plague Dogs), Tremble For Me (which struck me as the most violent while being a commentary on popularity in the digital age), Savage Games (if anything, as a child, I avoided being monstrous and this lesson reminds me why), Dusk to Dust (fascinating visuals of powerful and wonderful women that remind me of the Soskas, Canada’s Twisted Twins), and Ripped to Ribbons, where curiosity caught the cat, but you will have to read on to see what dies.

Without going overboard too often into visceral or grotesque horror, Wake the Wicked dips in and out of terror, letting us peek around shadowy corners into nightmarish landscapes. In delightful dark moments the reader is plunged headfirst into brilliant gore and at times relentless brutality. All the while, an air of tenderness whispers through the prose making every moment personal and vividly imagined. Intensely descriptive, it’s easy to take walk in his characters shoes, though the faint of heart may try to stop or run away from what they face.

Wake the Wicked: Thirteen Twisted Tales will be available in paperback soon. Get the ebook or check cbaloga.com for updates.

Dreadful Tales Book Club – October 2013 Edition

Thanks to my Darkness, Mark Brown a.k.a. Dark Mark for the lovely banner

Thanks to my Darkness, Mark Brown a.k.a. Dark Mark for the lovely banner

Happy October, my wonderfully spooky lil Dreadites! I’m sure for all of you, as for all of us here at Dreadful Tales, October is simply the best month of the year. Suddenly, we’re no longer the weirdos. Every man, woman, and child is obsessed with monsters and any marketing exec worth his weight in cufflinks is catering to our every desire. Today is the first day of this blessed month and already I’m drunk off the fumes of pumpkin spiced lattes and candy corn…. Perhaps drunk on a bit of witches brew too.

Because this month is the greatest of all the months, we hope to keep our dreadful cyber pages jam packed with book reviews and whatever other spooky treats we can come up with.  To kick off the month, I have our October Book of the Month announcement.

Whether it’s a book that has collected dust on the shelves for far too long, a celebrated classic that never quite made it into the to-read pile, or a favorite author’s latest release, every Book of the Month is worth getting excited about. Still, I have to say that October’s title has me particularly pumped. So pumped in fact, that I must abandon September’s book Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, despite being an oft favorite among King fans and a title that I have neglected since I can remember. I’ll level with ya, I didn’t even break page 100. Nothing against the King, but work, family, and all that good life stuff has wreaked some serious havoc on my reading time. Normally, I would just keep chugging along, at a snails pace if I have to, until I finish every last word of the book I’m reading. But, after a vicious Dreadful Tales board meeting in which hair was pulled, flesh was clawed, and relationships were damaged beyond repair, the October Book of the Month was chosen!

I’ve kept you waiting long enough, so without further adieu (assuming you didn’t catch it in the banner) - the October Book of the Month is John Everson’s Violet Eyes! John Everson holds a special place on my bookshelves because he was my first taste of modern horror fiction. Several years before Dreadful Tales, Colum sent me 3 modern horror fiction titles, one of which was John Everson’s The 13th. While it sounds hyperbolic, that book changed the course of everything for me. It was horror pulp like I had only experienced in late night B movies. Everson gave me boobs, blood, and beasts. He offered just the right mix of eroticism and gore and it is a delicate balance I’ve loved in his work ever since. I’m sure the sex and blood is rampant in his latest novel Violet Eyes as well, but what I’m most excited about is the sci-fi element. Everson is no stranger to the supernatural, but a straight up sci-fi novel about murderous spiders!? Everson was born to write this! Just take a gander at this synopsis:

The small town near the Everglades was supposed to offer Rachel and her son a fresh start. Instead it offered the start of a nightmare, when an unknown breed of flies migrated through the area, leaving painful bites in their wake. The media warned people to stay inside until the swarm passed. But the flies didn’t leave. And then the radios and TVs went silent.

 

That’s when the spiders came. Spiders that could spin a deadly web large enough to engulf an entire house overnight. Spiders that left stripped bones behind as they multiplied. Spiders that, like the flies, sought hungrily for tender flesh… through Violet Eyes.

I am thrilled to read Violet Eyes with you all, some Everson virgins, some long time fans. While King’s classic vampire tale can wait, my heart will not rest at the promise of a sci-fi pulp yarn spun (haha!) by my favorite, ever romantic, erotic horror author John Everson.

Hopefully my rambling did not scare you off. Please join all us crazies here to discuss John Everson’s Violet Eyes throughout the month of October. Pick up a copy of the book here and for more about Everson and his work visit his website here.

-Meli

Calling on Fans to Help the Rick Hautala Family

rickhautalaOn March 21st the horror community lost a special literary talent, Rick Hautala. Many fans were simply in shock while others shared their happy memories and experiences with the author via social networking sites and online forums. Although Rick will be dearly missed by his fans and friends, no one suffers more greatly than the family. They not only have to learn to cope with their emotional loss, but figure out how to survive the financial burden that comes with death. I can’t speak personally about the the struggle the Hautala family is dealing with, in particular Rick’s wife Holly, but when I came across Brian Keene’s call for help (originally posted March 24, 2013) to the fans and authors inspired by Hautala I had to share. In his post, he pulls from Christopher Golden’s website which expands on Ms. Hautala’s situation.

From Christopher Golden:

Unfortunately, Rick’s sudden death could not have been more untimely. The life of a freelance writer is often one lived on the fringes of financial ruin, and Rick struggled mightily to stay afloat in recent years. Just within the last couple of months, that struggle became difficult enough that he could not afford to continue paying his life insurance bill, and allowed it to lapse. Though he could never have foreseen it, the timing, of course, could not have been worse. Then, just this morning, Holly discovered that the social security benefits she might hope to receive as Rick’s widow are not available to her until she turns sixty, three years from now. Efforts are under way on projects that we hope will earn some money for Rick’s estate, but meanwhile there are costs involved with his death to consider, and then, for Holly, the struggle will continue.

If you can help the family cover these costs you can donate via PayPal to holly_newstein@hotmail.com.

Meli

Meli Goes to HorrorHound!

HHW_Cincy_Samhain

I’m almost 32 years old (turning the big three-two April 3rd if you want to flood my Facebook with birthday wishes) and I’ve been a horror fan for as long as I can remember yet I’ve never been to a horror con until now. This past Friday I rectified that blaring omission from my horror fan resume and made the trek from Bowling Green, OH to the beautiful city of Cincinnati, home of my beloved Bengals, the Cincinnati Reds, Samhain Publications (apparently, I had no idea), and the great people of Night of the Living Podcast.

Drive time: 3 hours. Time spent waiting in line: 3-1/2 hours. Cost of a Friday day pass: $25. So, for a six hour round trip and a line stretching back to Dayton you may wonder what all the fuss is about. For thousands of women with hearts in their eyes there was Norman Reedus, a.k.a. Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead, signing autographs and taking pictures. There was also some dude named John Carpenter. For horror lit fans like us there was Samhain Horror up front and center with a few authors on hand to chat with readers and sell great horror fiction.

At the Samhain booth were Jonathan Jaz - the Samhain author I am most familiar with having read both The Sorrows (review here) and House of Skin (review coming soon) - Brian Moreland and Kristopher Rufty, both authors whose work I am anxious to get better acquainted with. Besides Elizabeth Massie at the premier of Abed - the short film by Ryan Lieske based on Massie’s short story by the same name - I have never met an author in real life! Still, all the interactions I have with horror writers online are exceptionally pleasant. They’re always passionate about their craft, willing to share that excitement for the genre with fans, and characterized by a humble and friendly disposition that strongly contrasts with the baddies in their stories.

Daryl

I didn’t get a photo with just Janz and I, but I got a photo with the Daryl lookalike. Check out me cheesing!

Meeting these three Samhain authors face-to-face was just as thrilling as corresponding with them virtually and left me feeling completely reinvigorated with a passion for this small but growing community. In this horror microcosm you can boil it down even further to the very specific part of the genre you love most. For many it is film, for others it may be art, fashion, sculptures, toys, or music and for me (as well as my new friends Erin from Oh, for the HOOK of a BOOK! and Tim) it’s horror fiction. The opportunity to be a freak among like-minded freaks was overwhelming. I had no idea what I was missing. Not only did I make a bunch of new friends, I was struck by how hard these authors work. Their love for the genre and the fans of their work is unparalleled. While they may not have the glitz and glamour of a crossbow bearing zombie killer, these are my rockstars.

As I mentioned, I am most familiar with Jonathan Janz’ work and was excited to meet him in person after corresponding via the internet for more than a year now. His debut novel from Samhain, The Sorrows, offers an impressive introduction to his work and the man couldn’t be any more grateful to his fans. Standing at 6’4” Jon is a gentle giant that chatted excitedly with fans about horror and worked diligently to spread the good word for his fellow authors as well. He is a fanboy just like you and me – hell, they all are! – even trying to suppress the urge to chase down a Daryl Dixon lookalike for a photo op.

The Darkest Lullaby out April 2013!

The Darkest Lullaby out April 2013!

I remember when I wrote the review for Janz’ The Sorrows I boldly stated that “You shall know thy name Jonathan Janz!” With a growing fanbase and a number of projects lined up for twenty-thirteen, I can stand confidently by that statement. There is a 5 part serialized novel Savage Species, the first installment will be released 6/4/2013 with the subsequent 4 entries coming out in bi-weekly increments. The Darkest Lullaby will be out 4/2/2013, but you can pre-order the eBook for only $3.85 here. I picked up a tpb copy at the con and I can’t wait to check it out. We can also expect Dust Devils (western meets vampires!), no release date that I know of yet, and possible sequels to earlier work. If you haven’t read his stuff yet, you gotta gotta gotta! You can look him up on the Samhain website or check him out at http://jonathanjanz.com/, follow him on Facebook, and Twitter.

Moreland

Me, Brian Moreland, and my signed copy of Dead of Winter. Success!

I also met Brian Moreland, author of Shadows in the Midst and Dead of Winter. While I haven’t read his work yet, I picked up a copy of Dead of Winter per Moreland’s recommendation. We talked a bit about written horror versus horror film and it turns out he studied screenwriting but shifted his attention to novels to avoid the obvious constraints of making movies – budget requirements for effects, etc. Moreland traveled the furthest to HorrorHound Cincy making his way from the state where everything is bigger and better, Texas! Like Janz, Moreland too will be having a busy year at Samhain with a short called “The Girl from the Blood Coven” coming out the first week in July 2013, a novella called The Witch House to be released in early August 2013, and the novel The Devil’s Woods coming out in December so be on the lookout for those. As I mentioned, I haven’t read his work yet, but based on our discussion I would expect cinematic writing with historical underpinnings. Find Brian Moreland via Samhain, or his website http://www.brianmoreland.com/ and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Rufty

Rufty, me, and his better half Angie. Below that are my signed copies of PillowFace and his movie Psycho Holocaust.

Last but certainly not least, I met Kristopher Rufty who was there with his lovely wife Angie. With the second longest commute after Moreland from Texas, Kristopher and Angie made the trek from North Carolina, about an 8 hour drive. Still, they came fresh faced and wide eyed ready to meet fans and at other times be fans. Rufty has written a number of titles available. His short “The Night Everything Changed” is available for free at Samhain here, and you can pick up Angel Board, The Lurkers, and A Dark Autumn from Samhain as well. His next novel Oak Hollow will be out August 2013. Rufty had advance copies of Oak Hollow for sale at HorrorHound, but I opted for a copy of PillowFace (Lazarus Press) along with his film Psycho Holocaust instead. The killer in PillowFace is drawn from a psycho of the same name in Rufty’s movie so I had to have them both. Something about the Texas Chainsaw Massacre inspired pulp fiction that I was drawn to. When I got home from HorrorHound Friday night at about 2am I immediately popped my copy of Psycho Holocaust into my DVD player, cracked open a beer and braced myself for the mayhem. As Rufty put it before we parted ways, “It’s super violent and super low budget.” That’s an apt description, but I think the movie deserves more credit, so I will save my thoughts for the Dreadful Tales review. I will tell you that after all the excitement of my day I fully expected to pass out 5 minutes in, but I just couldn’t stop watching. Based on the depravity I witnesssed in Psycho Holocaust, I have high expectations for his horror fiction where he has an unlimited budget for practical effects that depend on the reader’s own imagination. To follow Rufty in his book writing / filmmaking adventures you can find him on the Samhain website, his blog Last Krist on the Left (pretty clever, huh), Twitter and Facebook.

While the time spent at HorrorHound was short, it was certainly sweet. It was great to meet everyone in person and make new friends in the process. Thanks to Samhain and their authors for not only making great horror fiction but going out of their way to connect with fans.

Meli

The Boys of Samhain

Don Henley has The Boys of Summer, but I got The Boys of Samhain.

In Memoriam – David B. Silva, James Herbert, and Rick Hautala

If you would behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life. For life and death are one, even as the river and sea are one.

- Kahlil Gibran

I have a soft spot in my heart for the words of Kahlil Gibran for some reason, and it’s times like this where I find he speaks volumes. Within the last few weeks, the horror community has lost some fine talent, and gained legacies we will not forget any time soon.

David B. SilvaOn March 13th, 2013, noted horror author and editor, David B. Silva, passed away at the age of 62. While probably known best for the trail he blazed with The Horror Show and Hellnotes, Silva was also the accomplished author of 7 novels, an untold amount of short stories, and a laundry list of edited works. He was a mentor, friend, and guru to many of the authors you call your favourite, and played a huge role in shaping the genre into what it is today. On a more personal level, he played a huge role in my yearn to start reviewing, the advent of my first review site, Paperback Horror (pre-personal “blog” format) and, by default, Dreadful Tales itself. He was a powerhouse in this community and he will be sorely missed.

portrait7 days later, on March 20th, 2013, we were levelled with yet another loss. News of James Herbert’s death, at age 67, cycled through the media like a tornado bent on tearing the genre apart. Herbert authored 24 novels from 1974 to 2012, 2 non-fiction works, a handful of short stories, and a graphic novel. His works were adapted into 5 films and, in 2010, he was not only made the Grand Master of Horror at the World Horror Convention, but he was also appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2010 Birthday Honours. His presence in the genre was one he, reportedly, never understood, as he stated in his book Faces of Fear: “I don’t understand why I am so successful. And the longer I stay that way, the better it’s going to be, because that’s what keeps me on the edge, striving if you like.” His contribution to horror in literature will never be forgotten, and most likely never equaled.

rickhautalaAnd then today. Today the news of Rick Hautala’s death swept the genre off its feet, rocking our scary little boat to a full on capsizing. At 64, Hautala leaves behind 27 novels – a whole whack of which were written under the pseudonym A.J. Matthews, and 5 co-authored with Christopher Golden – 6 novellas, 4 screenplays, countless short stories, 4 collections, and god knows how many other major contributions to the genre. To say his passing was untimely and shocking would be an understatement, and I can confidently speak for Dreadful Tales and the whole horror community when I say he will be missed. Our hearts are heavy tonight for Holly Newstein Hautala and family. Rick, who was recently given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the HWA last year, has left behind a legacy most of us could only dream to equal, and one that we, as fans and authors, should  always strive to keep alive.

One of my favorite quotes to ever come out of our community belongs to Rick, spoken during his Lifetime Achievement speech (video included below) – and one that I just had to watch and hear again tonight:

“We all know the difference between a pizza and a writer, right? A pizza can feed a family of four.”

It’s with much sadness that I say one final goodnight to David, James, and Rick.

Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.

- Khalil Gibran

View Rick Hautala’s HWA Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award acceptance speech below: