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.

Storm Demon by Gregory Lamberson

stormdemonStorm Demon, the 5th instalment in the Helman canon, takes Jake further into the fire than ever before, and sees him face down a bigger and badder villain than he’s seen in… well… 4 books. Trust me when I say this: If you weren’t completely invested in this series by now, you’re doomed to become a super-fan from here on out.

And thus we commence my annual drool fest for another volume of the Jake Helman series: 

Jake returns to New York City, anxious to start a new live with NYPD homicide detective Maria Vasquez. But the supernatural forces making his life hell have no intention of leaving him alone. 

When Psychic healer Laurel Doniger disappears, Jake lays his life on the line to bring her back alive. With time running out, he must uncover the truth behind Laurel’s secret past. He’s drawn into a conflict with a being who has existed since the dawn of mankind. She’ll destroy New York City to take revenge on those who interfere with her plans. This beautiful creature is known by many names – Lilith, succubus, witch – but Jake and his allies will come to know her as the Storm Demon. And the world will never be the same. 

– from the back cover

The Helman files have been rife with huge baddies and epic plots depicting insane situations for our favorite ex-cop/detective to endure. First we had ‘the Cypher’, then we had Lamberson’s take on zombies with his drug induced zonbies, and then came Avademe and, in the next book, the Demon Kalfu… and now this. I won’t go into any detailed explanations because I’m just going to assume you’ve been following the series, but if you haven’t, you should at least know that the aforementioned bad guys describe a drastic escalation in craziness for our main character from book to book.

Jake has been through hell more than I could possibly imagine, and this installment is no different than the rest… save for the massive amount of action involved. Truth be told, Lamberson has always made his best efforts to keep the pace going at an even keel, but this particular story sees virtually no lull long enough to even refresh a coffee or, god forbid, sleep. 

Where the previous outing, Tortured Souls, took me a little while to get through, Storm Demon wouldn’t allow for that. Tortured Souls was a fantastic book, and I gave it a very positive review, but, in retrospect, I almost feel that setting the story in the midst of a political revolution, and moreover, in a foreign land, gave it a bit too much room to breathe, if you follow me. It’s understandable that the probability of pulling off such a dynamic and detailed plot would have been next to impossible on American soil (or North American soil, for that matter), but the claustrophobic, familiar setting of this novel made the suspension of disbelief that much easier. 

Given the fact that I, and many other readers, have actually been to most of the locations described in the book, it’s far easier to see a gigantic storm ravaging Manhattan, or a giant stone angel slamming through the garden of a beautiful Eastchester mansion (because that stuff happens for real … right?) as opposed to an army of political dissidents attempting to stage a coup in a war torn country that, despite all of my OCD-like 

And that’s where Storm Demon steps up and slams the ball out of the park. Every setting, character, and situation is accessible. There’s no room for tangents or speculation. It’s all go-go-go. Which is, as you’ve no doubt figured out by now, how me likes me stories.

Tight, fast-paced tales make for some of the best horror fiction there is, and especially when you’re talking about a series. Now, there’s something to be said for explaining a  back story and/or catching a reader up on a series through info-dumps, and if I’m going to be honest, it’s something I absolutely hate in genre fiction, but sometimes it’s necessary. Lamberson is undoubtedly guilty of this in the Helman series, and it’s understandable. What I really dug about this entry is the fact that it’s pulled off so effortlessly – it’s almost negligible, yet it’s definitely in there. An author always wants their reader to know what’s going on when and where in their novels, but sometimes it’s to the detriment of pacing or at the behest of an overzealous copy-editor. Not this time, folks. Storm Demon is one of the best examples of a balls-to-the-wall action/horror and how it’s done right. 

Not only is Lamberson on the top of his game with Storm Demon, but he delivers one of the best “YOU’RE FUCKING KIDDING ME!?” moments of recent memory, with a twist even I wasn’t expecting. And that’s saying a lot, given the years I’ve invested in this series. 

The author’s depiction of Lillith is also one of most brutal and sexy depictions set to paper that I have ever read. I would love to be in the company of this woman, but am also aware that I wouldn’t last a moment. Hell, nobody would, really. She’s a storm. A force to be reckoned with, in the truest sense of the phrase. 

Lamberson outdoes himself with every installment of the Helman files, leaving this reader exhausted, yet begging for more with the end of every book. Storm Demon is no exception. 

Like I’ve said a few times before – I can’t wait for the next one. 

C.

not only

Failure by John Everson

My first experience with John Everson’s writing was with the Stoker Award nominated NightWhere which I found to be a gripping plunge into erotically charged terror and depravity. Hoping for similar thrills from this earlier novelette I was delighted not to be disappointed. Originally published in 2006 and long out of print Failure has recently been re-released as an exclusive kindle edition.
Here Everson weaves a terse and cautionary story about a disparate trio of teenage delinquents who are willing to do anything for the promise of some elicit drugs or sex, including performing sexually for a depraved stranger Aaron. Little do they realise that Aaron is actually a wannabee warlock who is using them as part of a diabolical conjuration which will end in a welter of bloody screaming terror.
Told from the third person perspective of his characters Everson is insightful about their motivations and relentless when it comes to the terrible consequences of the poor choices they make. The real strength of this story was the way in which Everson allows the reader into the hearts and minds of his characters, they are a disparate group of desperate souls who have strayed far from the path but we are made to empathise with them and share their awful plight. This is no mean feat as none of the protagonists are particularly likable but the punishment they receive is so extreme that it is impossible not to feel some emotion for them. That said having spent much of my youth straying from the path of righteousness, I found these protagonists all too familiar. If you thought that unwanted teenage pregnancy was the worst consequence of youthful abandon then think again as far more dreadful penalties are meted out to these foolhardy teens and the wages of sin are a fate worse than death.
This story though short is an extreme and visceral experience which lingers with you long after you have finished reading it and has the power to make even a jaded horrorphile squirm. It’s a brutal and gruesome tale which is not for the squeamish but one that will delight connoisseurs of the dark. Some authors show us evil but John Everson believes in thrusting his readers headfirst, kicking and screaming into its terrible, stygian depths. If you missed this nasty little novelette the first time around I heartily recommend that you get it now.

I decided to ask John a few questions about Failure and what we can expect from him in the future.

Dark Mark: The vulnerable delinquents who feature in the story are very believable characters, are they based on anyone you know?

John Everson: They’re not based on anyone in particular, really. I went to a Catholic high school (30 years ago!), so there were a lot of “Raymond” kids there – people with plenty of affluence who still felt empty and suicidal. And there were girls like Cind who would go under the bleachers to score a nickel bag, and guys like Sal who would do anything to get both the girl and the nickel bag but felt that they were too homely to ever get the girl without a little “help.” In some ways, I think these kids feel things that we all felt in high school – displacement, wanting to just chuck it all, desperation for a score on sex or substances (alcohol or marijuana, pick your poison).

DM: Terrible things happen to the characters in your works. Is there any act of depravity that you have found too strong to write about?

JE: I generally don’t involve kids as victims in my horror stories. There are sacrificial things involving the unborn in The 13th, but I don’t dwell on that aspect and they are not “characters” in the story. I like to deal with characters who have enough maturity to potentially understand and escape from their situations (which their own flaws may have caused). Young children don’t have that maturity, and so I don’t put them in that mix, though their peril would certainly be disturbing. Kicking a young kid or a puppy is definitely horrible, but I just have no interest in using that as a focal device in my stories.

DM: Which authors do you admire and take influence from?

JE: I grew up reading a lot of science fiction, and discovered Richard Matheson, who worked both in the science fiction and horror milieu (both in print and on television, via The Twilight Zone). I loved the twist endings in his tales. Later, when I began reading horror, I found the character development of Stephen King an amazing, enviable thing. And then I discovered the gothic beauty of Anne Rice and the dark depravity of Clive Barker. Over the past 10 years, I’ve been enthralled by the work of Edward Lee, whose novels are among the only ones in my adult life that grabbed me so much that I’ve had to read a couple of them start-to-finish in one sitting.

DM: Is there any chance that we might see a sequel to Failure?

JE: I’ve always wanted to write a sequel to this story… but considering that a decade has passed since I finished it… I make no promises!

DM: What can we expect next from John Everson?

JE: My seventh novel, Violet Eyes, is due to be released from Samhain Publishing in less than a month! This is a fun arachnid novel in the tradition of Kingdom of the Spiders. I have also just put the last design touches on a re-issue of my very first short fiction collection, Cage of Bones & Other Deadly Obsessions. That book was originally issued by Delirium Books in 2000, but has never had a paperback release. I got the rights back to it earlier this summer, and reissued it in e-book via my own Dark Arts Books imprint. The trade paperback edition will be available (at last!) in about a week.

To find out more about John Everson check out his web page John Everson: Dark Arts and you can purchase Failure for the kindle from Amazon here.

Tatterdemon by Steve Vernon

Tatterdemon begins in 1861 as Preacher Fell is locked in mortal combat with a powerful witch Thessaly which leaves both of them dragged down in to the cold earth but not before Thessaly has laid a powerful curse upon the town of Crossfall. Flash forward 300 years where Maddy Harker murders her abusive husband Vic and buries him in the very same field, though you can’t keep a bad man down.
The evil lying in the soil is a palpable force of dread which appears to have seeped into the unfortunate souls who inhabit Crossfall. The story is populated by a diverse cast of characters each of whom holds within them sinister twisted desires and secrets. All of the people of Crossfall harbour a skeleton in the closet of indeed a body in the freezer and not one of them appears to be completely sane but this is nothing compared to the madness that follows.
Three days later Vic rises again as a terrifying revenant and all hell breaks loose in a delirious maelstrom of slaughter and chaos. The body count rises quickly and the dead walk again as a malevolent and implacable undead army which falls upon the town and carnage ensues.
Vernon weaves a wonderfully gripping tale told in his inimitably lyrical style and suffused throughout with a wicked sense of black humor. Tatterdemon is told by a master of his craft, the novel progresses rapidly and it is a real page turner which I found difficult to put down. Hold on tight because this is a fabulous dark hayride which leaves you breathless and in wonder at Vernon’s marvellous and mercurial imagination. I highly recommend this novel as it is a terrific barnstorming read that evokes some of the great horror fiction of the 80’s and 90’s.

I thought I would ask Steve a few questions about Tatterdemon and what we can expect from him in the future.

********

DARK MARK: Tatterdemon boasts a wonderful and diverse cast of characters are any of them based upon people you know?

STEVE VERNON: Now there’s a question.
The truth of it is that EVERY character in every one of my stories and novellas and novels are generally a compilation of people who I either met or know or heard about – or even watched in a movie or read about.
For the main character, Maddy Harker, I chose to model her after one of the toughest women I know – my wife.
Earl Toad was a combination of a pair of uncles of mine who were two of the toughest shortest men I ever met.
Wilfred has a strong streak of Matt Dillon – from Gunsmoke – in him, that is, if Matt Dillon had ever decided to put Miss Kitty “on ice”.

DM: I’ve noticed a delightfully dark sense of humor pervades much of your work. Does this occur naturally in your writing process?

SV: Funny just naturally goes along with scary.
How many times in a horror movie has that dude in the hockey mask jumped out of the shadows and you browned your skivvies just a little and maybe even went eek or oh-my-god or just a heartfelt “HUH!!!” – and then right afterwards you sort of giggled and let your breath slide on out.
Part of that was most likely you trying to manfully cover up your inadvertent display of the chicken-shitters – but the bigger part of it was a whole lot more basic than that.
Every scream starts with the seed of a giggle.
It’s like sunshine and shadow – you need one to find the other.

DM: The characters in this novel are I think defined by their secrets. Are there any skeletons in your closet or bodies in the freezer?

SV: We ALL have secrets.

DM: Which writers do you admire and take inspiration from?

SV: I’m inspired by the work of Joe Lansdale, Stephen Hunter, Robert Parker, Stephen King and Norman Partridge – for starters.
I’m always looking for a good storyteller – somebody who can spin a yarn that is so very compelling that you feel you have no choice except to pull up a rock to the campfire and give that story a long, hard listen.
A book – for me – is just that. It’s a story. When I sit down at my keyboard I don’t see a screen in front of me. I see a campfire – and people waiting to be entertained. The yarn-spinner inside my soul takes over from there.
The fact is – I read an awful lot of books. Fact is, if you claim to be a writer you NEED to be a diehard seriously addicted devourer-of-words. I’m a book junkie – I can’t walk into a bookstore without buying SOMETHING!

DM: What can readers expect next from Steve Vernon?

SV: Something different, I expect.
If you’re looking for a couple of suggestions I would DEFINITELY recommend picking up a copy of SUDDEN DEATH OVERTIME – a tale of hockey and vampires.
Fans of the weird west genre might want to pick up a copy of LONG HORN, BIG SHAGGY: A TALE OF WILD WEST TERROR AND REANIMATED BUFFALO.
If you want something more along the lines of end-of-the-world sci-fi, you might want to grab the first episode of my continuing series FLASH VIRUS. It’s the story of the end of the world as told by a teenager – and you can pick up Episode One for free on Kobo or Kindle.
I’m currently working on a young adult novel involving the Cape Breton Bigfoot, Coyote, the ghost of Sam Steele, a Spirit Bear, the Great Lakes Sleeping Giant and the great trickster Raven.
You know – just the same old thing…

To follow Steve Vernon check out his blog YOURS IN STORYTELLING… or friend him on Facebook.

The Girl from the Blood Coven by Brian Moreland

thegirlfromthebloodcovenEvery generation has experienced some level of satanic panic. From The Manson Family to the Son of Sam to a rash of bible belters claiming devil worship, we are always reminded that no matter how picture perfect things may look on the outside, there is always a great evil lurking beneath the surface. A sleepy town with a horrible secret seems the perfect backdrop to revive this oft used horror fiction trope. This may not be new ground, but Brian Moreland offers his own interpretation with an unexpected twist in a short story prelude to The Witching House (out from Samhain Horror this August) titled The Girl from the Blood Coven also out from Samhain Horror July 2nd for FREE!

Moreland’s The Girl from the Blood Coven teaser follows East Texas Sheriff Travis Keagan who is drinking at the local watering hole when a girl covered in blood stumbles in. When the Sheriff and his deputy drive her to the crime scene, the local hippy commune known as The Belvins House, it’s immediately apparent that this won’t be a simple case of mass murder (or as simple as that could be anyway). With an entire house painted in red, the smell “a mix of blood, wine and evacuated bowels,” victims with missing heads, and a young survivor singing in unknown tongues, this is no ordinary tale of Satan worship or devil sacrifices. Is this the work of a sick cult? Is the perpetrator of this violence even human? We’ll have to wait for the August release of The Witching House to find out.

We may not have any mysteries solved or questions answered in Moreland’s short story, but he offers just the right amount of blood, guts, and mayhem to give this pre-dinner killer cocktail bite. So sit back and sip on the pungent prelude to Moreland’s satanic summer story. The Girl from the Blood Coven is a vicious little short, it’s FREE! and besides, what says summer like a story about human sacrifice and Satan worship?

Get a FREE! copy of The Girl from the Blood Coven from Samhain Horror tomorrow July 2nd available in a variety of digital formats here. You’ll have to wait until August 6th for the full length novel The Witching House also out from Samhain Horror.

To keep up with all things Brian Moreland visit his website, follow him on Twitter, or like him on Facebook.

-Meli

N0S4A2 by Joe Hill

51783ed84aeda.preview-300I’m in awe of Joe Hill.

Few authors today continue to impress me book after book. Perhaps it’s  a cynical view, but I generally start each new book expecting disappointment. i’m going to have to rethink that approach.

If you have yet to introduce yourself to Hill’s writing, you have no viable excuse. His previous outings, including Horns, Heart Shaped Box, and the short story collection 20th Century Ghosts, have rightly secured him in the company of today’s strongest horror writers. Like his contemporary peers, Hill knows horror isn’t just about monsters – it’s about life, it’s about love; and it’s about characters we, as readers, gravitate towards – flaws and all.

It’s an approach he exercises well in his newest presentation, N0S4A2 (work it out, it’ll come to you).

A proper summary of this hefty tome’s plot is difficult, admittedly. Hill introduces one of his most likable characters in the form of Vic McQueen, a spunky kid with an odd ability to travel anywhere via and old, dilapidated covered bridge and her bike. That gift – if that’s what it is – seems more like a curse, lands her in the cross-hairs of Charles Manx, a notorious child killer who collects children to take them off to the mystical Christmasland. Manx is anything but a Jolly Old Elf as he travels the countryside along with his Renfield-like henchman, Bing, dispatching parents and killing kids. And once the kids are killed, they become creepy, soulless remnants of their former selves.

However, at its heart, N0S4A2 is an examination of dysfunction, mainly that of families. We watch Vic grow from that adventure-seeking tot to a recovering drug and alcohol addict who struggles not just with the demon that Manx is, but also with the personal demons present with addiction; an estranged son who joins her in her quest; and a marriage that seemed plagued with failure from its beginning.

It’s here that Hill shines. His depiction of a mother trying to reconnect with her son while also realizing a past she thought was nothing more than a twisted dread is, in fact, reality, is not only believable, but is also fraught with a raw emotion seldom seen in today’s fiction.

Don’t assume that means Hill has skimped on the scares in return for sentimental scenes, though. This man knows how to paint mental images that are burned onto your frontal lobe and will bore through your brain like a slow burn.

Bastard.

I refuse to get into Hill’s lineage and gene pool, but let’s say readers in the know – which should be just about everyone these days – may find themselves forgetting just whose book they’re devouring. That’s meant as a compliment, not a cop out.

Book are made to last, not just in their physical form, but in the mental state of the reader as well. Hill either knows this, or just has the knack for presenting his readers with a universe that fully envelopes them and sticks with them long after that last page is lingered over.

N0S4A2 won’t be leaving your memory any time soon and, let’s hope, Hill certainly won’t be exiting the horror scene in the near future if he continues to travel the path he’s on.

Savage Species by Jonathan Janz

Savage Species, the forthcoming novel by Jonathan Janz (The Sorrows, House of Skin) is a thrilling serialization in five parts. The opening of the Peaceful Valley Nature Preserve unleashes a terrifyingly rapacious evil that has lain dormant for over a century. The story has two branches one of which follows a group of young cub reporters dispatched to cover the grand opening of the park, who find themselves in the thick of the carnage that ensues, and the other which deals with a dysfunctional family whose child has been abducted by one of the titular creatures.

Having been privileged to read the first three parts, I can happily report that Janz has prepared a brutally ferocious banquet which opens with such a welter of savage violence that those with an appetite for bloody, shrieking terror will find it hard to wait for the next course. As the story progresses the tension and terror mounts and we are treated to a nail biting struggle for survival against a legion of seemingly implacable foes. There are a number of nasty surprises awaiting the hapless protagonists who have to increasingly draw upon their own untapped reservoirs of courage and ferocity in order to survive the relentless terror.

As with House of Skin one of the great strengths of the novel is the attention Janz lavishes upon his characters, it is something which grounds the story as the reader is thrust into a maelstrom of fantastic and dreadful, slavering terror.

This is hard, biting horror which grips from the get go and will leave you trembling in anticipation for the next enthrallment.

With publication imminent I thought I would ask Jonathan a few questions about his novel and what we can expect from him in the future.

********

DARK MARK: I think the eBook format lends itself well to serialization, what prompted Samhain to publish this as their first serialization?

JONATHAN JANZ: I couldn’t agree more, Mark. I think the eBook format is ideally suited to the serial for several reasons, not the least of which is the speed with which new installments can be acquired.

As far as Samhain and its decision to publish SAVAGE SPECIES as its first serialization, I think that has to do the collaborative relationship between the higher-ups at Samhain (including Don D’Auria, my wonderful editor) and my agent Louise Fury. Of course Louise works with several different publishers and editors, but she has a great relationship with the folks at Samhain.

Louise posed the idea of a serialized horror novel, and Don (and the rest of the decision-makers) loved it. They then approached me and asked if I had anything in progress that would lend itself well to the serial format. It happened that I was working on a novel then titled NATIVE that was quite different than the other novels I’d written. Previously, I’d worked with ghosts, demons, and other otherworldly villains, but in NATIVE I was working with something a bit different. There were supernatural aspects to the villains, but they were certainly more tangible than ghosts or demons.

Anyway, I felt the story was perfectly suited to the serial format. It was fast-moving, wild, and full of twists and turns. I’d written about sixty percent of it already, but even the stuff I’d written without thinking about serialization was ideal for the serial format. I told Louise and Don that the book I was writing would be perfect for serialization, and when they heard about it, they agreed. Then I completed the novel with serialization in mind. The five-act structure ended up working, in large part due to the gut punches and hooks that occurred near the beginnings and ends of those five acts.

Eventually, the title changed to SAVAGE SPECIES (thankfully, and with the help of honest opinions from Don and Louise), and I couldn’t be happier with the way everything turned out.

DM: The creatures in the novel appear to have stalked from native American mythology, how much of them is based upon the legends of the Algonquian peoples?

JJ: Mythology is fascinating. In preparing for SAVAGE SPECIES, I read voraciously of Native American mythology (especially Algonquian and Iroquois legends), as well as a great many other stories (most notably Algernon Blackwood’s “The Wendigo”). And while I owe a huge debt to those sources, what I tried to do—what I always try to do—is to take the existing myths in new and unexpected directions. The Wendigo is one of the scariest and most mysterious legends, which made it great fun to explore. The taboo of cannibalism plays a large role in many of the Wendigo myths, so I wanted to explore that concept too. Not everyone would agree with this, but there are aspects of the Wendigo myth that relate to some of the best-known subgenres of horror, particularly the zombie tale. So while I definitely and consciously utilized the Native American myths to which you’re referring, I also tried to add some new or different ideas to the existing mythology.

At the heart of the Wendigo myth, I think, is the fear of the known becoming the unknown, the fear that there’s something malevolent out there, and even worse, the possibility that it could carry away and change someone you know. The Algonquians and others explored those ideas long before I did, and I learned a great deal from them during my research.

DM: I find your characters to be very well fleshed out and believable, how important do you think this is to a work of fantastic horror fiction?

JJ: Thank you! I can’t tell you how much that means. If you ask me what matters in a story, I’d give you the generic answer: “Everything.” But if you put a gun to my head and tell me to pick one facet of a story that absolutely must work, I’ll say characterization. And as you sort of alluded to in your question, it’s as important and perhaps even more important for the characterization to be strong in a horror story.

We’ve all heard the phrase “suspension of disbelief.” For readers to suspend disbelief for a horror novel, the characters have to not only be interesting and unique—they also have to ring true. When faced with the inexplicable, how would a person react? If the writer has done his job prior to that point, his protagonist’s reaction will not only ring true to the audience, it will essentially write itself.

Joe R. Lansdale talked about this recently, and I couldn’t agree with it more: a writer doesn’t have to carry around a handy-dandy bag of mix-and-match character traits in order to make a character interesting. You know, throw in a physical abnormality here, toss in a childhood trauma there. Maybe give the guy an exotic pet and a bizarre hobby—collecting discarded bottle caps and fashioning them into a pornographic mosaic perhaps. These aren’t Joe R’s words, but I think they speak to his point. Characters must grow naturally. For me, it’s a matter of feel, experience, and most of all, my subconscious.

Mark, you and Meli and I have spoken about Frank Red Elk, one of the main supporting characters in SAVAGE SPECIES. He’s a great example of what I’m talking about. Most of Frank’s personality sprang forth from my subconscious in several powerful bursts of creativity. He existed as a shade in my mind already; I just had to coax him onto the page.

Frank was also forged by experience—and no, not my own experience! I had an acquaintance in college who was a lot like Frank. Essentially likeable, but wildly inappropriate and incapable of wearing a social mask. This acquaintance found the female form mesmerizing, and he spoke freely about it (often embarrassing everyone around him).

Another element that contributed to Frank Red Elk was my own experience with films and books that feature Native American characters. In many stories it’s like writers are too busy venerating their Native American characters to remember that these characters are still men and women with flaws and feelings and everything else that real humans have. To me, treating any character with kid gloves is an unintentional disservice. I detest caricatures—here I’m talking more about old television and film—and I hope my characters never fall into that trap.

So with Frank Red Elk, I wanted to stay true to what was in my head. He was big, he was blunt, and he was incredibly profane. He had some atypical character traits, but they grew naturally instead of being plucked from a grab bag. I’m proud of him and hope readers enjoy him too.

DM: The novel features monsters with terrifying and rapacious appetites. Do you worry that they may prove too much for some of your readers?

JJ: Ha! The Frank Red Elk stuff was a good bridge to this question, huh? Anyway, you make a good point about the extreme nature of the beasts in SAVAGE SPECIES. They’re powerful, sadistic, and vile. Like my other characters, they developed naturally from my subconscious, though I’ve no doubt that my reading and viewing influenced them too (specifically Richard Laymon’s BEAST HOUSE books, Tolkein’s THE LORD OF THE RINGS mythos, and the creatures from the film THE DESCENT).

But your question is a good one, and one that readers should consider before taking on SAVAGE SPECIES. If a reader is squeamish and doesn’t want a book with graphic violence and depravity in it, this is a book that reader should avoid. In some ways it’s my most extreme book. However, there isn’t a single word in the book intended for shock value or meant to elicit gratuitously cheap thrills. This is the story exhumed from my imagination, and I think it’s a heck of a yarn. I love the positive characters and loathe the malevolent ones.

I think the real world contains people who, like Charly (my female lead) and Sam (one of my male leads), act from the heart and do their best to live with integrity and love. There are others who, like Eric (Charly’s husband), behave like monsters, whose minds are cesspools of cruelty, perversion, and selfishness. I write the truth of these characters and all the characters in between. If folks are turned off by events that occur in SAVAGE SPECIES, I just thank them for reading my work. If folks are entertained by it, well, that’s even better.

But if a reader is searching for a good, cozy Amish romance, he or she might be best served by giving this one a miss.

DM: What can readers expect in the future from Jonathan Janz?

JJ: My first five novels are all original, unrelated (or barely related) stories: THE SORROWS, HOUSE OF SKIN, THE DARKEST LULLABY, SAVAGE SPECIES, and DUST DEVILS. After DUST DEVILS is released in February of 2014, readers will see me begin to sprinkle in some sequels along with additional original works.

DUST DEVILS is a vampire western, and it’s a story dear to my heart. It’s the first story I’ve told from a single point-of-view, which alone makes it different. It’s also set in 1885 New Mexico and very much a western. And while I’m excited about those aspects of the tale, folks should know it’s also a horror story featuring vampires that are both intelligent and endlessly vicious, a combination that makes for an exceedingly scary tale.

After that one, the summer of 2014 will see the release of my first-ever sequel, CASTLE OF SORROWS. In it I’ll return to the mythos of my debut novel THE SORROWS and pick up that story where it left off. I’ve begun work on it and should have it done by the end of September.

Some other projects I’m planning include a horror/revenge tale set in the 1930s, a young adult novel about aliens that’s about a third of the way done, an unannounced trilogy of novels I’ve been talking to my agent about, sequels to HOUSE OF SKIN and SAVAGE SPECIES, and an incredibly violent crime thriller (titled GARDEN OF SNAKES) that I finished and trunked but am strongly considering resurrecting and re-working.

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The first part of Savage Species will be unleashed in eBook format by Samhain Publishing on June 4 with further installments released fortnightly.

– Dark Mark