Dreadful Tales Book Club – November 2014 Edition

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November is upon us, and how better to while away the buffer month between Halloween and Christmas insanity than with a good old yarn? You with me? Let’s distract ourselves with words while we silently dread the snow covered, stress raising, rage inducing month of December. Because Christmas is… just… around… oh god… kill me… please…

WHOA! Okay. Let’s do this properly, folks.

I’m especially excited about this month’s book for several reasons, the most important being that I’m a huge fan of Kevin Lucia’s work. Now, I know a fair amount of you might not know his stories, but you should. You really should. Based on his scholarly achievements (he is currently finishing his Creative Writing Masters Degree, and teaches High School English… *shudder*), his work as a submissions reader for Cemetery Dance, and his Podcast, Horror 101, you can rest assured that this is a man who knows his craft.

Lucia’s released all manner of short stories, some novella length work, poetry, and a bunch more. My first introduction to his work was Hiram Grange & The Chosen One which had so much incredible imagery and action in it that I devoured it in one go and became an instant fan.

With Devourer of Souls, a twofer of novellas, folk are saying that Lucia would be the bastard son of Lovecraft and King, if ever they spent a night together under the stars. I don’t disagree at all. Take a look at the synopsis:

Welcome to Clifton Heights, an average Adirondack town. It’s nice enough, really. Except after dark. Or on cold winter days when you’re all alone…

Sophan

An ancient game of chance and Fate. One boy’s smoldering hate, another boy’s need to make things right, and a father’s ghosts of Vietnam past. These are the key players in this latest tale of revenge and reparation performed on the stage of the strange Adirondack town of Clifton Heights, NY.

The Man in Yellow
 
Tahawus is a small, isolated Adirondack town just north of Clifton Heights. A quiet place filled with simple people of an ardent faith, nothing much ever happens there…until the man in yellow comes calling. He knows your worst nightmares, and he can offer your fondest wish. All you need is faith…and a mouth from which to scream.

That said, please join us as we blast into the cold month ahead, pick up a copy of Devourer of Souls, and join us at The Mortuary to discuss this cosmic tale of horror.

– C

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Dreadful Tales Book Club – October 2014 Edition

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ROCKtober is upon us, kiddies, and it’s time to get serious about our reading. Personally, when I think about the books I want to read in this, the best month of the year, I tend to cycle back to writers I’m familiar with – people who have scared or affected me in one way or another.

But this month is also a bit weird. The book that was chosen for the club this time around isn’t scheduled to drop until around October 14th (a day before this writer’s birthday… *cough cough* buy me all of the things…)

So the Midwest Monster (Meli) came up with a brilliant plan. Let’s read a novella in the first half of the month, and run out the Halloween season with a novel I know a few of us have been waiting for.

That said, here’s what we have on deck for the October Book of the Month Club at Dreadful Tales:

By Insanity of ReasonBy Insanity of Reason is touted as an unforgettable story by two of the genre’s favorite authors – John R. Little, and Lisa Morton. This little novella clocks in at 107 printed pages, and 74 in its digital format, and was released by Bad Moon Books and Crossroad Press (Digital edition) this past september. It looks to be a great first course to this month’s club reads.

Here’s the synopsis:

By Insanity of Reason is the story of Crystal, a woman whose life has been shattered by a chain of mysterious murders. Her husband, Richard, struggles to help…or is he working against her as she tries to regain her sanity?Told in a unique style, with each scene moving further back in time, secrets and plans are unveiled that have led to Crystal’s unfortunate state, leading to the final shocking origins.

You can pick up a copy at Bad Moon Books, on Amazon.

Frenzy WolvesWhich brings us to the second portion of our monthly meal – The Frenzy Wolves by Gregory Lamberson. This is the long awaited final installment into the Frenzy Cycle Series, and the follow-up to The Frenzy War – a book that Meli called a “…noir upgrade to the classic werewolf tale” and one of a few stories that sees this reader being slaughtered in a harrowing and gruesome way. Ask Desmond Reddick over at Dread Media about his cameo, too. Good times.

Here’s the synopsis:

With the aid of his elite squad of super cops, NYPC captain Tony Mace has defeated the werewolf slayers known as the Brotherhood of Torquemada. But now a new enemy has risen to persecute the peaceful Wolves, and Tony’s loyalty to Gabriel Domini, leader of the pack, places him at odds with his department.

Gabriel’s brother Raphael objects to Gabriel’s efforts to integrate the Wolves into human society, and seeks to start a war against mankind. When Rodrigo Gomez, the Full Moon Killer, escapes from prison, his quest for vengeance draws Tony into a battle for supremacy among the Wolves which could lead to a far greater war for both species.

– from Amazon.com

As I said above, this book drops in October 14th, and will be available from Medallion Press, and on Amazon.

So please join us as we usher in the Halloween season with TWO stories by masters in their field. And don’t forget to join us at The Mortuary to discuss these two stories!

– C

All Hallow’s Read 2013 (Day 21) – Johnny Gruesome

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I have an excellent, must-have, can’t miss FREEBIE! for you Dreadites today. It’s the perfect tale for heavy metal zombie heads in varying stages of decomposition, Gregory Lamberson’s Johnny Gruesome. We have quite a bit of virtual space reserved for Lamberson here at Dreadful Tales and I think the majority of his work has been reviewed here, including Johnny Gruesome a couple years back which you can read in full here. But the reason I’m resurrecting this “headbanger from hell” today is, as I mentioned above, the eBook version for both Kindle and Nook is available for a limited time for FREE! FREE! FREE! Sorry, I don’t mean to “yell,” but this is worth getting excited for. 

Johnny Gruesome is a leather jacket wearing bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks, returned from the dead to give his enemies the what for in often creative and always nasty ways. This is the ghoul I envisioned when I heard the old 60’s cut “My Boyfriend’s Back” by The Angels. The biggest difference is there is some kinda sweetness to “My Boyfriend’s Back.” He’s coming back to save his lady from what we can only assume is a stalker. Did I interpret that wrong? Anyway, there is no sweetheart tale in Johnny Gruesome, as much as I love a romantic story; this is a rebel yell revenge tale.

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I go into quite a bit of detail regarding the basic plot (sans spoilers) and characters in my review (again, you can check that out here), so I won’t rehash all the gory specifics again, but here a couple highlights of note: Johnny Gruesome is a back-from-the-dead revenge slasher story as opposed to the survivors vs. zombies ilk. Lamberson puts his filmmaking skills to work with his cinematic prose so the imagery comes easily keeping the pacing steady. Johnny Gruesome reads more like a comic book than a novel, without the pictures of course. There are some excellent illustrations by Zach McCain included in the hardcover edition from Bad Moon Books which you can try to track down here, but it will be for a pretty penny. I have my own copy and think it’s worth every cent, but if that’s not in your budget, you can pick up the free version. Just follow the links below and hurry because it’ll only be free for a limited time!

Kindle users can pick up their free copy here. Nook users go here for your free copy.

Check out the trailer for Johnny Gruesome here. And for more about the author visit his website at slimeguy.com.       

-Meli

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.

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Merry Axemas from Meli!

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Merry Axemas! Well, perhaps I’m jumping the gun a bit, but I’m definitely in the Christmas spirit. Christmas is one of my favorite holidays. In fact, I think I like it even more than (gasp) Halloween. It’s not just the shiny objects, sparkles, lights, cute little animals in Santa hats, and all the sweets people bring to work that I love; it’s the chance to reconnect with friends and family I haven’t seen all year. Of course, along with all the warm hot chocolate (or more likely eggnog) and cookies comes stress. For those who will be traveling like me, you have the headache of navigating through potentially dangerous weather conditions. Then there is the most nerve-racking part of the whole damn holiday, shopping! What the hell do you get for the mom, dad, grandma, and grandpa that have everything? What about your football loving brother-in-law? Do you get him gear marked by the logo of his favorite team, again? Or some cologne since he kinda smells funny? Well, I’m sorry, but I can’t help you with that. What I can do is tip you off to some lil’ goodies you can treat yourself to that will help eliminate some of that shopping stress. Isn’t rewarding yourself for navigating through crowds of evil shoppers to make your family and friends happy part of the fun of Christmas shopping anyway?

I’m going to break this out into a few different categories. While a horror fan is a horror fan, we are complicated people so I tried to include something nice (and maybe even something naughty) for everyone. Enjoy! Continue reading

2012 Stoker Awards DT Podcast

Meli did an absolutely kickass wrap up of the Stoker Awards, which you totally should read. Go ahead, I’ll wait. The staff decided to go into literary overdrive and tackle our first ever podcast/Skype chat immediately following the festivities. Be warned, there is cursing, drunkenness, opinionated conversation, and much to my chagrin, a few instances of technical difficulty. Podcasting is something that we plan to continue, and thus plan to get better at.

That said, join Meli, Colum, Pat and myself as we opine on the event that was the 2012 Bram Stoker Award Ceremony.

EDIT: We apologize for any inconvenience, but the file has been deleted to make room for other media. Rest assured, it was epic.

For more on the Bram Stoker Awards, please visit the HWA webpage. If you’d like to keep up with each of us, follow us on Twitter: Meli, Pat, Colum, and Jason. Don’t forget to bookmark Dreadful Tales, follow our Twitter, and “like” us on Facebook.

Durham DarkLit Fest ’11 – Report from Oshawa

Where: Oshawa Public Libraries McLaughlin Branch
When: December 3, 2011

Colum and I were fortunate enough to be in attendance at the 2nd (hopefully annual) DarkLit Fest, which featured authors from Mystery/Crime, YA (mostly Paranormal) and of course, our beloved Horror genre. Hosted by the unflappable and endlessly smiling Joel A. Sutherland, this event brought together publishers, authors, aspiring authors and one agent. Before I continue, you all know that we here at DT pride ourselves on horror for all ages, thus we’ll only be discussing the Horror and YA events. No disrespect intended to anyone involved in the Mystery/Crime events, just not our thing.

We began the day with the first panel: Terrifying Tropes: The State of Today’s Horror-ific Literary Landscape. Moderated by Enter, Night author and former contributor to Fangoria, Michael Rowe, the dais was rounded out by Dreadfully Approved author and honorary Canadian Gregory Lamberson, Beneath The Surface scribe Simon Strantzas, DarkLit co-organizer and Undertow Publications head Michael Kelly, and author of Things Go Flying, Shari Lapena. Topics discussed included the proliferation of “prime time” monsters, where it was agreed that TV has sterilized zombies and vampires, and even went as far as to say that what’s out there (True Blood, Walking Dead, Twilight) aren’t horror but rather corporate machines that are using monsters as a brand. Other topics included the rise of the small press “renaissance”, indie/self publishing, Christian horror and my personal favourites: zombie and werewolf sex. The audience questions led us through topics like desensitizing, 9/11, the somewhat puritanical attitude of TV, sub genres and a healthy bashing of Stephanie Meyer. Quote of the panel goes to Greg Lamberson: “Team Edward doesn’t care if Twilight is horror.” Other than a bit too much focus on television and Twilight, the debate and insights were an impassioned start to our day. Wanna see for yourself, you know DT has you covered. Look below for the exclusive videos.

We were then treated to brief readings from Greg Lamberson, Shari Lapena, Simon Strantzas (not shown) and ChiZine Publications co-owner Sandra Kasturi. Greg and Simon read from new/upcoming works, while Shari and Sandra read from their existing bibliography. I have to admit that I listened more than I wrote, please watch the videos for the titles and descriptions.

The day rolled into the next panel, one that offered help and insight regardless of genre. Deal Or No Deal: How To Sell Your Writing to Publishers, Editors and Agents was moderated by Sandra Kasturi. Panelists included Burning Effigy Press founder/editor Monica S. Kuebler, Scholastic Canada’s Jennifer MacKinnon, Carolyn Forde from Westwood Creative Artists Literary Agency, and the other half of ChiZine Publications, Brett Alexander Savory. The discussions centralized on best practices of landing an agent or publisher, traditional vs self publishing, the real vs perceived downturn of traditional publishing, roles of agents, the importance of self-marketing, and the absolute worst things authors have done while trying to sell themselves. The audience questions ranged from ebook quality, even more advice about pitching a story and the supreme “don’ts” of pitch letters/sessions. It’s a three-way tie for quote of the panel: from Sandra, “You could get a great indie film, or you could get badger, badger, badger.” From Carolyn (regarding a visitor to her agency) “Turns out he was a mafia informant looking to shake us down.” From Brett (regarding an author he’d met at an event) “He fell in the trash. Not over the trash, in the trash.” I was glued to this one as these folks didn’t hold back, and each one was genuinely happy to help any newbie authors out (of which there were quite a few in the audience). You have to watch this panel if you’re at all interested in publishing. You can do that below.

The day flowed into more readings, this time from Monica S. Kuebler, R.J. Anderson, Erin Bow, Megan Crewe and Alyxandra Harvey. Once again, I listened intently as YA is something I haven’t been familiar with since I was a YA, please allow the videos below to bring you into the experience.

While the next panelists took the stage, Michael Kelly took the opportunity to announce World Fantasy Con would be coming to Richmond Hill (suburb of Toronto) next November. Go here for all the details.

Our panel coverage wrapped up with a discussion geared toward our Kinderscares and slightly “older-scares” crowd. Why YA, Eh? How to Write Books for Children and Teens with Cross-Over Appeal featured moderator and author of Plain Kate, Erin Bow, Ultraviolet scribe R.J. Anderson, Give Up The Ghost author Megan Crewe, The Drake Chronicles‘ writer Alyxandra Harvey and multi-award winning author Richard Scrimger. Topics included reasons for writing YA, issues that arise when characters are put into adult situations, how parents should broach reading with their kids, morals, and the elusive “how does a book cross-over?” The audience asked about books being challenged due to content, sub genres, the cyclical nature of genre popularity, and a hearty dose of gratuity to Harry Potter. Richard Scrimger easily wins quote of the panel with his quip: “Apparently, teaching kids about cougars is too difficult.” He wasn’t referring to the animal. Now you know that you need to watch this.

Wanna know why Richard has won multiple awards? Check out the video of his reading.

That concludes Dreadful Tales’ coverage of DarkLit Fest. A Dreadfully huge “thank you” to Joel A. Sutherland, Michael Kelly, and Ian Rogers for bringing the event to life, and for allowing us the exclusive video privileges. Thank you to all of the authors, publishers, editors, and agent for dedicating yourselves to this, we Dreadfully Salute you. Another huge thank you to Joseph Sansalone and the Oshawa Public Library for letting the creatures of the night invade during the day.

For more information about any of the authors, click their names to be taken to their website.

To keep up with Dreadful Tales, make us your homepage, follow the site through WordPress, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter. You can also check out our YouTube page for move videos. To interact with us personally, find us on Twitter: Colum, Shelagh, Meli, Jason.