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.

Interview with author of The Sorrows Jonathan Janz

Jonathan Janz had a much different road leading to his first published book, The Sorrows, than his fellow Samhain novelist Elena Hearty, author of Donor. While Hearty just needed to get the voices from her head to print, Janz dedicated himself to perfecting his craft for more than a decade. Luckily for Janz, all his hard work has paid off in his first published novel and the promise of a darkly horrific future at Samhain.

I ask Janz about his influences, his favorite authors, the arduous path to publication and his next projects beyond the break. Enjoy!

  Continue reading

The Sorrows by Jonathan Janz (take two)

At the start of twenty-twelve, I posted my review for Jonathan Janz’ debut novel The Sorrows which you can read here. While I won’t go through all the gory details again (of which there were many in this book), I want to reflect on my initiation into the world of Janz with you today.

I think we can all agree that the Samhain covers leave something to be desired. In fact, some of them are downright cheesy. For example, the lithe body lying still on a couch behind a handsome cartoonish figure with blood dripping from his lips on the cover of Elena Hearty’s Donor did little to whet my appetite for vampires. I will sing the praises of her modern vampire tale until I’m blue in the face, but if it didn’t have the Don D’Auria / Samhain Publishing stamp of approval on the spine, it’s highly likely that I wouldn’t give it a second glance. Of course, we’re here to celebrate Samhain this week, not bash their cover design, but my point is this: you can’t be sure of what horrors lurk in between the covers of a Samhain book. This publishing house really puts that “Don’t judge a book by its cover” phrase to the test.

Still, I do. We all do. It’s partly residual survival instinct I suppose. We have to process the images we see and there’s just not enough time to become acquainted with what’s inside, whether that’s regarding our fellow human beings or a book. I took one look at Janz’ cover for The Sorrows, skimmed the synopsis, and concluded that this would be a slow burning atmospheric story. The Sorrows is not a slow burner. It’s actually a well-paced crackling thunder roll of violent eroticism with beastly undertones. Sounds like a delicious wine, huh? Tagline: The Sorrows, it’ll get ya fucked up! Excuse my language, but this book really brings out the sass in me.  

When I started this novel, I kicked back with a glass of dry red, relaxed my mind, and let Janz lead the way fully expecting to be lulled to sleep. I don’t mind slow pacing necessarily and atmospheric is OK, but I really have to be in the mood for it. As I mentioned already, this book was full of surprises. Instead of a romantic trek on a well-worn trail, Janz was tugging me along through a dark overgrown path, my arm threatening to rip from its socket. He’s romantic like that. Did I mention that there were sex-deprived beasts in these woods? I’d bring protection if I were you, it’s a dangerous place.

I think all horror fiction fans felt like they would be in good hands with Samhain Publishing once Don D’Auria took the helm of their new horror line. Having familiar names like Ronald Malfi, Ramsey Campbell, Greg F. GiFune, and W.D. Gagliani made us all feel right at home. In addition to some recognizable faces, D’Auria has brought on new blood as well and these voices prove to be full of promise, including the aforementioned Janz.

There are publishers and small presses that boast amazing covers, but, ultimately, if you have a fat piece of steak sweating juicy butter on the outside and dry overcooked meat on the inside, it’s only window dressing. At this point, Samhain could put out a book with Sponge Bob Square Pants on the cover and I’ll give it a whirl. That’s how much confidence I have in Samhain and their team.

Of course, they can’t all be winners. Let’s face it, we all have our own peculiar tastes when it comes to horror fiction and every book you read can’t hit all the right notes everytime. However, it looks like Samhain is making a pretty ambitious go of it!

Come back tomorrow as we continue to celebrate the new home of horror, Samhain Publishing, as I probe one of the latest editions to the family, author of The Sorrows Jonathan Janz.

Dreadful Tales Giveaway: The Sorrows by Jonathan Janz

It’s a Friday Giveaway at Dreadful Tales and we’re gifting two ebook copies of Jonathan Janz The Sorrows! You can read my full review here. The quick version is you got an engaging story with plenty of sex, violence, a bit of music and a lot of mayhem! I am very anxious for people to read Janz’ first novel, so I decided to host this giveaway and hopefully get fans as excited about his work as I am. All you gotta do is leave a comment telling me one of the following:

(1)   Your favorite Richard Laymon novel and why

(2)   Your favorite ghost / haunted house story and why

(3)   What horror fiction release you most look forward to in twenty-twelve

Hell, you can even deviate from those three topics as long as it’s horror related! That simple. Leave a comment, enter for a chance to get a digital copy of Jonathan Janz The Sorrows.

I’ll choose the two lucky readers on Sunday evening so you have all weekend to enter. Tell your friends and tell them to tell their friends, tell your mom and dad even! But I hope they’re not easily offended because Janz is unabashedly gruesome to his poor characters which is just the way we like our fiction at Dreadful Tales.

Good luck!

-Meli

The Sorrows by Jonathan Janz

Twenty-twelve is gonna be an excellent year for horror fiction fans. I got that sense compiling the list of Dreadful Tales’ most dreadfully anticipated releases for this year, but also because I opened the year with a novel that really got my blood pumping. Jonathan Janz’ The Sorrows came out in December 2011 from Samhain Publishing, just in time to kick the doors off this mutha, giving every fiber of his creative being to make the reading community take notice. You might be thinking “Jonathan who?” “Janz what?” But I’m going on record to say that by the time this year is over, you shall know thy name Jonathan Janz!

Genre fans quickly made themselves at home with Samhain Publishing, especially with a trusted name like Don D’Auria at the helm of their horror line. While D’Auria brings macabre vets over to our new playground, he’s got some fresh meat for us to feast on as well, namely the aforementioned Jonathan Janz.

Lately, we want for nothing in the genre of speculative fiction – hell, did you see all those titles coming out in 2012!? Janz’ sophomore effort among them. But just when you thought you couldn’t be more enthusiastic about the promising future ahead, Janz shows up to the party with a breath of fresh air. Ok, maybe the air has a bit of a stench… and within it hides a slobbering beast, threatening to violate you in unimaginable ways. Still, for those that crave new blood, it’s here and Samhain has found him.

From Samhain:

Something is trapped in the castle, and it wants to feed!

The Sorrows, an island off the coast of northern California, and its castle have been uninhabited since a series of gruesome, unexplained murders in 1925. But its owner needs money, so he allows film composers Ben and Eddie and a couple of their female friends to stay a month in Castle Blackwood. Eddie is certain an eerie and reportedly haunted castle is just the setting Ben needs to find musical inspiration for a horror film.

But what they find is more horrific than any movie. For something is waiting for them in the castle. A being, once worshipped, now imprisoned, has been trapped for nearly a century. And he’s ready to feed.

You remember the first time you read Laymon? Of course you do. ‘Member years later, discovering a child of Laymon, someone a lot like you, someone a lot like him, carving their own niche in the horror genre? That’s Jonathan Janz! He’s no doubt influenced by other subgenres and horror forefathers, not to mention drawing from his own non-literary artistic influences, but the parallels between Janz and Laymon in The Sorrows is evident. He adopts the successful Laymon pace, a popping and crackling burn, with a writing style that reflects his own intimate passions and interests. The plot speeds along, like your father at the wheel on a summer road trip, determined to get from point A to B, refusing to pull over to give his desperate passengers a bathroom break.

The Sorrows has a Gothic influenced setting. A desolate castle on an isolated island off the coast of California gives this story all the makings of a dark atmospheric tale, but that’s where the parallels to the shadowy romanticism characterized by Gothic tales ends. While The Sorrows is often romantic in tone, you’ll hardly have time to coo over the scenery while you hold your lover’s hand because Janz will disrupt any tender moment with horrifying mayhem. Every soft reprieve is destroyed by a shocking assault. And for this reader, there is no better drug. Janz is a little trickster, perhaps not intentionally, in setting up the reader for a ghostly supernatural yarn when The Sorrows is really a vicious, sexy beast of a novel.

Not only can you draw strong parallels to the Dreadful Tales God ‘O Literature, Laymon, the violent eroticism is also reminiscent of Richard Matheson’s Hell House, which surely by no coincidence gets a passing mention. Even in the hands of a skilled writer, name-dropping a horror film can come off forced, like you’re trying to be cool, but Janz cleverly tucks it into just the right place with a wink and a nod to welcome you home. Since our main protagonists are film composers, working in particular on a horror film, Janz takes advantage of the opportunity to make that connection to his readers more than a few times.

Speaking of music composition, that is another very important, driving force of the plot. Janz scores his novel with the haunted notes of an unnatural beast, a supernatural force reciting its song with a humble ardor. He exhibits an intimacy with music in The Sorrows that can’t just be feigning interest. Another author that incorporates his music obsession into his work fluidly and with a piercing impact is John Everson, of course most notably in Siren (which I consider an Everson masterpiece). Based on this first book, Janz will likewise offer his readers the same aural stimulation in his stories.

Peppered throughout The Sorrows are diary entries from one Calvin Shepherd, inhabitant of this damned castle around 1925, who recounts his experiences on the island, which piece by piece reveal the secret of what preys on our four protagonists – Ben, Eddie, Claire, and Eva. Did I forget to mention them!? Janz has a strong past voice, another attribute I deeply love about Everson’s work. This anchors the story with historical context making it more horrific and disturbing, but also giving the author a chance to flex other literary muscles, i.e. introduce Gothic and poetic elements.

For all I reveal about Janz’ literary prowess, there is much more to discover. A terrible monster is waiting to leap out from the darkness, aching to dig its claws into your skin, never letting go, with an undeniable concupiscence that cannot be satisfied. (“Concupiscent” is a beautiful word I learned from reading The Sorrows. Who said reading horror isn’t educational!? Definitely not anyone at Dreadful Tales!)

For all lovers of the macabre and readers looking for a dark, sinister literary treat, gather ‘round, fiends, Jonathan Janz has a story to tell you.

The Sorrows is available in ebook format from Samhain Publishing, but for those who haven’t crossed over to the darkside yet, the paperback version will be available in March. Keep your eyeballs peeled for the release of Janz’ second novel, House of Skin, due out this summer. And don’t forget to stalk his Facebook page, Twitter feed, and website.