Toronto FanExpo 2013 – Day One

*Sorry for the delay on this one, folks. Colum and Kendra’s coverage will be coming up in the next few days. (mostly Kendra’s, though. Colum is super lazy these days.)Fan-Expo-Canada-994x350For those of you living under a rock or who are… you know… not Canadian, FanExpo is the great white North’s answer to New York Comic-Con, San Diego Comic-Con, and all the rest of them.  Picture the standard cosplay, panels, and celebrities, but with an extra dash of people saying “Excuse me” while drinking a double-double.  While not the only Canadian con, it is most definitely the largest, and this was by far its biggest year yet.

FanExpo began as the Canadian National Comic Book Expo way back in 1994 by Hobby Star Marketing Inc., but has since grown to become the 4-day event that it is now.  No longer just comics and sci-fi/fantasy, you can now find sections dedicated to anime, gaming, horror, and, new this year, sports, all clustered around a ton of vendors designed to joyfully take all your money while you try to figure out why exactly you thought you needed a $500 Death Star throw rug.

Colum and I were on hand for 3 of the 4 days and, in true back-to-school spirit, I put together a guide of what I learned while standing in lines and eating $8 hot-dogs that tasted like cardboard. Continue reading

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Soft Kiss, Hard Death by Tobin Elliott

It’s always wicked to me to see how a particular type of character can have so many different faces when taken on by different creative minds. Think of the original Hulk vs the two subsequent film portrayals. Hell, look at vampire fiction and werewolf fiction, or even mystery and suspense. They all broker in folks who stalk the pages of uniformity, and create a recipe or formula that gives the reader what they want.

And then you have something like the Truman Mysteries – now 3 books into the series. The series is in its infancy, really, but you can tell right off the bat that the character at the forefront of the books is going to go through massive overhauls throughout the series’ span, but always land back on square one. Now, what makes this different for me is who’s writing the damned thing. Kurtz gave us a gravel voiced, love lorn hardass; Zuern came at the reader with a funnier, more slapstick kind of lead character, and now Elliott (the only author so far without a “z” in his name) is giving us a brick-punching, hard as nails, tough-man who might just make my top pick for frustratingly obscure Halloween costume this year.

Elliott’s version of this story starts with a bang (no pun intended) and, unfortunately, ends with a whimper.

From Amazon:

Sam is hired by a man whose extramarital dalliance has resulted in a lot more than he bargained for when the girl in question deposits something horrible inside his body and then promptly dies. Now Sam finds himself chasing the dead girl’s doppelganger all over the City, from seedy bars to the city morgue, in an effort to discover what she is and how he can stop her before she can spread her bizarre brand of lovemaking to another poor sap!

I’m sorry. I’m totally giggling about that pun. hahahahaha. Seriously. Go read the book and then reread that. Heh heh heh. Sorry.

Though it’s been said around the water cooler that, if (when) the Truman series sees a print version, the reader will be in for a brilliantly brutal ending that I’m quite positive Elliott can only deliver. See, of Elliott’s work that I’ve had the pleasure to read, one similar theme kind of jumps up and kicks me in the face every time. This is an author who likes to make people suffer. And no, it’s not because his writing is crap – it’s very much the opposite. Elliott has a command of the language in such a way that he is able to make use of less in order produce more. The man’s style is blunt and visceral, a tour de force of grotesque, jarring, and mentally scarring visions that will remind you at once of both Ketchum and Brandner. It’s not hard to make that comparison once you’ve read Elliott’s chapbook, Vanishing Hope, and, if you can get your hands on it, his short story, Stealing Cory.

Elliott has a flair for the flesh… meaning that he really likes making his characters deal with things that they really shouldn’t have to.

Truman is no exception to the rule. Elliott whoops him a-plenty, but it’s the supporting cast that get got in all manners of shuddery grossness. I… ugh… I don’t even want to tell you. Let’s just say that our male readers are going to cringe, and our female readers, especially those who’ve passed children through their southern gates, will… well… yeah, they’ll cringe too.

Now, anyone who remembers me before I lost my mind and went traipsing through the tulips of insanity, knows that I love me some gruefully gross monster-things. The gnarlier the better, is what I say. Elliott offers a hideous platter of sick things in this story that remind me of a period in history when a younger Donald Sutherland had a reason to scream, and something came spew-lunking straight outta Craig T. Nelson’s mouth. Extra points if you can name the references there. If you can’t… what the hell is wrong with you? Seriously? Get out of my house. Now.

Moving on…

When Elliott marries the point of contact for our monsters to start a-killin’, and introduces their final destination, and then brings us to the stinky underbelly of what they actually are – the reader is left with a yearn for a nice hot shower, and a brillo-pad towel dry just to get the yuck off. The descriptions Elliott laces throughout this story are thick with realism and made this reader want to gag. I don’t really even want to describe this anymore. It’s just gross. Good gross… but gross.

Another thing Elliott is aptly suited to describe, apparently, is women. My lord, what I wouldn’t give to have a look at the woman he talks about in this book. The effect that she has on poor ole’ Sam doesn’t end there. Eve doesn’t just play her wicked little seduction out on Mr. Truman, but instead radiates outwardly and into the minds of whoever is reading it, causing our fascination to grow, and our distaste for Truman to grow along with it. Call me deranged, but I was hoping the bastard got all sorts of killed, just in hopes that there would be more Eve to spread around. And then Tobin went and took my “spread around” comment and realized it fully, and I started feeling ridiculous because I was coveting a freakin’ character in a book.

Like I said at the beginning of this piece, I found the ending to be a bit lackluster, especially for what I’ve become accustomed to with Elliott’s work. The whole of the story is very well paced, the dialogue is fun, and the gore is glorious. To have it end in such a BLAM!-and-now-the-story-is-over kind of way just felt like reliving my love life in my teenage years – a lot of talk and no great finale. (How’s that for TMI?) And again, the water cooler gossip says that this ain’t gonna be the case for long, but insomuch that I haven’t read differently, this is the way the cookie crumbled for me.

A worthwhile venture, nonetheless, as The Sam Truman mysteries are always a blast and a wicked fast read to be enjoyed with a beer, or in my case a coffee, and the expectation that entertainment is secured for at least an hour’s time. Elliott has proven now, that he can swing his stick in a few different playing fields. Next up, hopefully, we’ll see the sequel to Vanishing Hope, and a few other stories from this Crazy Canadian Creep.

C.

Burning Effigy’s: An Evening With The Authors

Burning Effigy Press is unabashedly one of our favourite publishers here at DT, so when we found out about this event, we jumped at the chance to attend. This was an evening of wonderful people, conversation, and literature. An Evening with the Authors was an incredibly immersive experience, so please feel free to read the article and watch the video embedded below.

We began the evening as Burning Effigy founder/owner Monica S. Kuebler took the stage and thanked us all for attending, as well as expressing a very sincere gratitude for having made 2011 Burning Effigy’s best year ever. Monica hinted at new releases in 2012 from both Ian Rogers and Tobin Elliott, both of whom were featured performers this evening along with comedian/playwright Jeff Cottrill. Monica then recounted all of the books that B.E. had published in 2011 in chronological order:

THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MINE – Nate Southard
VANISHING HOPE – Tobin Elliot
AT LOUCHE ENDS – Maria Alexander
GROUCH ON A COUCH – Jeff Cottrill
BLACK EYED KIDS –  Ian Rogers
7 BRAINS – Michael Louis Calvillo

Monica then introduced us to our first author of the night, performing a scene from the hilarious one-man play GROUCH ON A COUCH, Jeff Cottrill. The scene is from the middle of the play, and rather than spoil it, please watch the video below and be on the lookout for my personal favourite scene – trash angels! Also, keep en eye out for a full review on the site in the coming weeks.

Upon completion of the scene, Monica joined Jeff on stage for a Q&A session. We begin with the obvious:

  • Why a play? Jeff has always loved theatre but had an affinity for numbers and was forced into things like math and business, until he admittedly failed himself out of York and begun to live for his passion.
  • What would he do differently? “Don’t listen to shitty advice.” Many people told him what he needed/didn’t need and he ended up getting conned, as a result he’s resolute to listen to his gut.
  • Will he ever do another play? Jeff will definitely write more plays, but is rather hesitant to perform again.
  • What is the backstory to GROUCH? Jeff wanted to mesh Avenue Q with Z Story. He also took elements of his personal life to apply to the character.
  • Current projects? Jeff is currently studying sketch comedy at Second City, where he’s nearly completed the course and will have his sketches performed live. (Please watch the video or listen to the audio for exact dates.)

After a brief intermission, Monica introduced us to VANISHING HOPE scribe, Tobin Elliott. Initially, Tobin hired Monica to edit NO HOPE but, after reading the manuscript, Monica decided that she wanted to publish it. She requested that Elliott write a sort of ‘teaser’ chapbook for quick release, and the author obliged, producing VANISHING HOPE in response. The novel, NO HOPE, will be available sometime in 2012. Tobin thanked Jeff, Ian, DT’s own Colum and Monica for their support. Before the reading, Elliott noted that the cover model lives in Russia and recently reached out to him via Facebook. Her name is Natalie. (Those who’ve not read VANISHING HOPE, the protagonist’s name is Talia.) Tobin’s reading begins on page 39.

After the reading, Tobin is joined by Monica for his Q&A which Monica begins with a burning question:

  • What took so long to break in? Tobin cites a lack of confidence in his work and his unwillingness to admit that he is a writer as his main reason for not pursuing horror fiction sooner.
  • Are there any stories yet to be told? The novel, NO HOPE is still taking shape, and Tobin does have preliminary ideas for a follow up.
  • How did VANISHING HOPE come about? The “squirrel scene” was originally a short story, and he expanded on that.
  • What can we expect from NO HOPE? Set in 1981, there will be new characters, a broader world, and more antagonists. Set in a school, Tobin exorcised some high school demons through the actions of his characters.
  • Why is a child (Talia) the protagonist? Tobin wanted to explore a loss and perversion of innocence, the character of Talia gave him those opportunities.
  • Did any research or medical study go into VANISHING HOPE? Absolutely none, Tobin happily admits that he “faked all of it.”
  • Will Talia be in NO HOPE? Only in cameos.
  • Current projects? Tobin is working on a murder mystery that he was asked to write, and has made one of his characters a writer working on a murder mystery.
  • Other appearances? None in the works, though Tobin will be at Darklit Durham as a fan.

After another brief intermission, Monica once again took the stage to present the final reader. She explained her love of long stories and epic series and the stark contrast between that love of long stories and the admittedly novella-favouring nature of Burning Effigy. When introduced to the Felix Renn series, Monica felt they’d be a perfect addition to the lineup. Ian Rogers then took the stage and read from BLACK EYED KIDS.

Prior to the reading, Rogers paused to explain the back story of Felix Renn and his world. Ian was once asked if the feel of dread in the books were a metaphor for 9-11, to which Ian understands the correlation, but did not write the books for that purpose. Ian then picked up a stack of printed pages, and read an excerpt of a completely new, unpublished Felix Renn story! Watch the exclusive footage of that reading below.

Ian remained onstage while once again Monica moderated the Q&A, which began with:

  • Where did Felix Renn come from? Ian loves to read detective, noir and horror stories, penned by the likes of J. Russell, Robert Parker, Jim Butcher and felt that the genres could meld quite nicely. Ian has coined his genre “supernoirtural”, where supernatural things exist as a matter of fact. Ian also believes that Felix is a “wiseass, like me.”
  • How did you build the world of the Black Land? The world is left very open and in the background, as Ian wanted to avoid over-describing the world and concentrate on plot, character and other fundamentals. Ian stressed that the world needed to be practical in order to maintain a suspension of disbelief.
  • How many Felix stories can there be? Ian noted that he has 3 or 4 novels outlined, and a spinoff brewing for another character. He believes that Felix’s world is centralized in Toronto, which will eventually come to an end, but the spinoff has the potential to go nation-wide.
  • Where else can readers find Felix? The story MY BODY can be found in Chilling Tales, while MIDNIGHT BLONDE will be found in and upcoming edition of British magazine Supernatural Tales. Ian mentioned the upcoming Felix Renn collection to be published by Burning Effigy will have at least 50% new material in order to keep readers sated.
  • From the unpublished story, who is the dead person? The interior decorator, though she’s not dead.
  • Tobin Elliott jumped in with a humourous request that Ian stop copying Tobin. “Kovac” is an integral character name in both BLACK EYED KIDS and VANISHING HOPE (though spelled slightly differently). The covers of both books feature creepy children. Monica chimed in stating that Tobin’s cover came first and the rights to the picture were purchased before Ian submitted his idea. Monica also assured us that Ian enjoys surprising her with plot details, and the initial drafts of both covers were virtually identical.
  • Where else will Ian be? Like Tobin, Ian will be attending Darklit Durham, but as an organizer along with Michael Kelly and founder Joel Sutherland. Ian also has a signing of his weird west novella DEADSTOCK coming up in Peterborough and he will be a guest at Wizard World Con in April.

After the Q&A with Rogers, Monica mentioned that, in addition to new offerings from Ian Rogers and Tobin Elliott, Burning Effigy will be publishing a novella by Gemma files in 2012. She then announced that her YA serial novel, BLEEDER, will begin on January 1, 2012 with the cover and synopsis being revealed exclusively at Dreadful Tales on December 1st. Monica thanked us all for coming, thanked the Black Swan for having us, and the show closed.

Colum and I personally would like to thank Monica S. Kuebler, Ian Rogers, Tobin Elliott and Jeff Cottrill for a wonderful evening, and for chatting with us afterward.

For more on Burning Effigy Press, visit their website and follow them on Twitter. Monica S. Kuebler can be found via Burning Effigy, on her website, and the BLEEDER website.

For more information on the Felix Renn series, visit The Black Lands. Ian Rogers can be found at his website or via Twitter.

Tobin Elliott maintains a blog here, and you may also find him on Twitter.

Jeff Cottrill can be found and contacted via his website, and he also keeps a Twitter account.

To keep up to date with everything Dreadful Tales, bookmark us, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

Dreadfully Approved: Canadian Writers…

Welcome to the little corner of our library where we keep all of our favorite reads. It’s here you will find the folks who carry the Dreadful Tales stamp of approval – a label we bestow upon some of our favorite dark/horror fiction and non-fiction writers.

Now, keep in mind that these are OUR favorites. You may have your own choices and we encourage you to share your favorites with us in the comments. In fact, it’s that kind of action that will get you noticed, and help your fellow genre fiction fiends find the authors that they may come to cherish.

Take a look around. See if you can find anything you like. Our library is open all day long, come rain or shine. Just make sure to close the door on your way out. Wouldn’t want any of these beasties making their way out into the world…

Continue reading

Vanishing Hope by Tobin Elliott

Jesus… I wasn’t expecting this one from Burning Effigy Press – a micro press that I pride myself on having most, if not everything they’ve published. When Monica announced on Twitter that she would be releasing a book from a completely new and unknown author, I was very intrigued. After all, I’ve enjoyed just about everything that’s come out from this press. And I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy this chapbook. What I’m saying is… I wasn’t ready.

And I don’t think you are, either.

And that’s what makes Vanishing Hope so goddamned good.

The book knows your dark places. It knows your weaknesses. It knows your innermost desires. It feels your pain and knows how to twist it to its own needs. It knows how to become our best friend.

All the things we can do together…

Talia is nine years old. The book is ancient. Talia hates her life. The book explois hate. It shows you all the things you can do to those you hate. All the ways you can hurt them. Talia is powerless. The book is power. Now the book has found Talia.

With that synopsis, the reader only gets the slightest hint of the darkness yet to come. It seems as if you know the grand idea as to what’s coming down the pipe, but really… you don’t even know the half of it. This chapbook is incredibly visceral, agressive, and supremely effective at making the reader uncomfortable, all in a good way. In all honestly, this is an incredible story written by an incredible author, published by a fantastic press that is willing to take a chance and do something daring, and something you really don’t want to miss.

Vanishing Hope is the kick in the ass that the small press publishing world needs and, more importantly, something that I, as a reader, have been looking for all over the place. This is fresh, new, and unabashedly raw. It makes no apologies for what it is, and begs for no forgiveness either. What it does do, however, is provide the reader with a glimpse at the new blood of the genre. With our current sociopolitical and economic climates, we really only had to wait so long before someone penned a tale that matched the feel that is permeating the streets these days. What Elliott has achieved with Vanishing Hope is just that – a literary release of aggression and pain that forces the reader to face some incredibly uncomfortable situations head on.

Elliott excells at matching the ebb and flow of the main character’s feelings, starting out with a tone that feel somewhat innocent and unthreatening, all the way to the climactic scenes of the chapbook where her mental state and aggressive nature can only be described as frenetic and utterly pissed. It’s virtually impossible to retain any internal composure when reading this little story, and it seems that when Elliott wants to drive a scene home, he does so in the highest gear possible.

The main character, Talia, is a beautiful child, but exhudes a terrible mean streak that Icertainly hope my kids don’t harbor deep down inside themselves. It’s terrifying to think that something so small and innocent could be so damned malicious. The fact that Elliott took a chance with this piece of fiction and created this circumstance from the perspective of a child, well, that’s one for the books, folks. I haven’t seen something this daring since Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door.

At the end of the chap, way back there in the author bio, I found a shimmering ray of hope. It seems that this chapbook is essentially acting as a prelude to a full length novel featuring this subject matter, and even gives a quick little peek at who the major players may well be. Personally, I’m excited to see what Elliott can bring to the table in terms of longer fiction. His ability to capture the reader’s attention and use their emotions against them is phenomenal. I hesitate to call Vanishing Hope a “sleeper hit”, but really… you didn’t see this coming. Guaranteed.

Vanishing Hope was officially released just prior to the 2011 Festival of Fear. Elliott can be contacted at his website, and on Twitter. Burning Effigy Press can be contacted at their website and on Twitter, as well.

In related news, I’ve got 2 signed copies of Vanishing Hope to give away. Go hit up and “like” our Facebook page and hang tight. Leave a comment in the thread featuring this review, and we’ll see if we can throw this your way. I’ll let the winners know by the end of the week.

C.