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.

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One Year Later: Guest Post by Kristopher Rufty

It seems like only yesterday horror fiction fans got news that former editor of the Liesure horror line, Don D’Auria, was moving over to Samhain Publishing. Hell, has it been a year yet? In that short amount of time, the Samhain / D’Auria match-up has proven to be the dream team macabre maniacs were hoping for with veteran fan favorites as well as fresh blood. Today, we have a member of the latter group, one of the latest editions to the Samhain family, Kristopher Rufty, to share his enthusiasm for the publisher from both a fan and author perspective.

It was a year ago in March when I got the email from Don D’Auria that changed my life.

Dear Kristopher,
I have finished reading Angel Board and enjoyed it so much that I would like to acquire it for our new horror line at Samhain…

After nearly four years of submitting that novel to other houses, someone finally wanted to buy it.  And that someone was Don D’Auria!  My eight year old son was sitting beside me when I read the email.  He saw the beaming grin on my face and asked why I was so happy.  I hugged him and told him the news.  Then he asked why I was crying if it was good news.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was twelve.  But with such a passion for horror movies, I devoted most of my time to writing screenplays.  Between every third screenplay I would write a short story, nothing longer than eight pages.  My early influences ranged from Stephen King to Bentley Little, plus every horror movie from the eighties.  I was also a dedicated fan of Troma movies.  I had attempted to write a novel a few times before and failed, but it wasn’t until Psycho Holocaust star Vanelle encouraged me that I seriously gave it a go.  She’d explained that my screenplays read like novels anyway and I agreed.  A standard screenplay is around 120 pages, but mine tended to run closer to 200 because of the inner-monologues and descriptions.  I wrote them just as if they were books, but in a script format.  Vanelle declared going from screenplays to novels should be an easy transition.

It wasn’t.

But with a lot of help from some other authors, I was able to eventually get a book that someone wanted to pick up.  Rejection letters hurt, it doesn’t matter how detailed or how vague they are, they hurt the author.  They can cause self-doubt.  At least they did in me.  It didn’t stop me from writing, but it put this cloud over me that made it hard to focus.  Eventually, the cloud lifted and I would submit something else, only to be rejected again, and the cloud would return.  Since I began working with Don D’Auria that cloud has not returned.  Whenever I feel the slightest off about my writing or storytelling, I recall what Don has told me and all the positive energy he’s put into me and the cloud is vanquished before getting the opportunity to manifest.

I’m often asked how I came to be a member of the Samhain family.  It started way back when I was I hosting Diabolical Radio.  The authors I’d invited on the show were authors I

Kristopher Rufty on the set of Rags

enjoyed to read.  It was a great way to pick their brains, to discuss writing with people you respect, and it helped me greatly.  To my surprise a few close friendships came from those interviews.  Three authors from the show that have helped me a great deal in my “career” are Ronald Malfi, Jeff Strand, and Heather Graham.  Edward Lee was also always standing by with much advice and a shoulder to vent on.  I can’t say enough kind things about them.  Once we all got Angel Board to a point where everyone felt confident it could be submitted to Don, we sent it over with fingers crossed and saying prayers.  A few weeks later, I got that email referenced above.

I was a member of the Leisure Book Club for five years.  Richard Laymon, Jack Ketchum, Edward Lee, Wrath James White, Ray Garton, Jeff Strand, Ronald Malfi, Bryan Smith, and Al Sarrantonio are a handful of my favorite authors, and I was introduced to them through the book club.  Knowing that the man who edited their books is now editing mine is powerful.  I can honestly say that even if I wasn’t being published, but still had Don editing my stories, I’d be a happy camper.  His input and encouragement goes a long way and I am extremely grateful to be working with him and Samhain.

As I raise my beer, I offer a toast.  Here’s to several more great years with Samhain and Don D’Auria.

You can keep up with Rufty’s happening at his blog, Last Krist on the Left, Facebook, and Twitter.

Samhain Publishing is lurking around all the same haunts as well – official website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Angel Board by Kristopher Rufty

Hey! Anyone interested in a novel that boasts not only only one of the best death scenes in recent memory, but also one of the most tenderly emotion suicides that you are ever likely to read?  Yep, I thought so.

From Amazon.com:

Not all angels are sane.

Someone saved David Barker’s life, but he doesn’t know who—or what—she is. Now he’s haunted by the image of that beautiful, nebulous vision with the features of a woman and determined to find out why she appeared when he almost died. David uses an angel board in hopes of contacting her, and unfortunately for him, he succeeds. This angel has loved him all his life, guarded him and protected him. And she’ll hurt anyone who interferes with that love. David’s guardian angel is obsessive, possessive…and homicidal. Her unyielding love for him will leave a trail of grisly “accidents” and murders as she eliminates all those who want to hurt David. Or love him.

Angel Board starts off with a bang!  The story hits with a series of quick jabs to quickly disorient you and then POW!, two devastating uppercuts and you’re almost out for the count…..almost.  The beginning of Angel Board finds the reader in David Barker’s bathroom as he gently and methodically attempts to take his own life.  Rufty describes the scene with such sympathy that your heart aches as David opens his veins and his life slowly slips away.  Rufty handles the intimate act of suicide with subtle prose as he draws the reader into David’s world of pain.  I knew from the get-go that I was in the hands of a truly talented author.

The story then lulls a bit before unleashing one of the most memorable death scenes I’ve read in quite some time.  The descriptive writing was nothing short of superb.  I cringed as a man was systematically reduced to a pile of loose tendons and barely recognizable extremities.  Again, Rufty’s prose reflected the situation at hand as he took on a more aggressive tone and his sentences seemed to come in quick bursts. This is one of the rare novels where the author can slightly alter their style to reflect the action unfolding on the page.  At this point in the story, I was all in!  Rufty had me hook, line and sinker.  Unfortunately, once I was drawn in nothing really happened.

Rufty can construct some truly genuine and believable dialogue and characters which really jump off the page but, even they couldn’t save a story that felt about 100 pages too long. The novel simply lost the momentum it had built over the first third. We tag along as those closest to David try to break him away from a malicious angel as the story simply becomes too over-the-top to truly be taken seriously.  This is not to say that the story is without merit.  There is some stark sexuality that will redden the cheeks of even the most hardened genre vet.  I also have to note that Rufty threw the word “rump” into the mix which will always score him big points in my book.  He certainly channeled the spirit of Laymon in some of these sexually charged scenes and it brought a smile to my face.  I guess at the end of the day, this is the contradiction that is Angel Board.

There are moments of absolute brilliance found in Rufty’s debut novel- the heart-wrenching suicide attempt, the ultra violent death-by-cardboard bailer, the titillating sexuality- but ultimately the story gets bogged down from the disjointed pacing.  Rufty gets your pulse racing but then spends two chapters describing a simple scene which simply brings the momentum to an unfortunate halt.  With that said, Rufty has a tremendous amount of talent and many of the pitfalls that he experienced with Angel Board are the same found with many debut novels.  Rufty has the talent to learn from his mistakes and get right back up and deliver a masterpiece in his next offering.  I, for one, am giddy with excitement at that thought.