My Bookish Ways

Bram Stoker Awards Spotlight Interview (& Giveaway): John Skipp

I’m thrilled to have author John Skipp on the blog. John has numerous editing credits to his name and is also the author of more than 12 novels, not to mention a Bram Stoker Award Winner! John was kind enough to answer a few of my questions and we’ve also got a copy of Psychos: Serial Killers, Depraved Madmen, and the Criminally Insane, an anthology edited by John, up for grabs!

Please welcome John to the blog!

I distinctly remember reading The Light at the End when I was a teenager and thinking I was getting away with something, and it immediately prompted me to attempt to track down everything you wrote.
Thanks! I’m glad you didn’t get caught, cuz they’ll kill you for that shit! (laughs) When I was a kid, I lived for the books, movies, music and art that filled in the blanks on the official whitewashed version of the world. And vowed I’d do my best to honor that lifelong rite of passage.

How do you think horror has changed from its heyday in the 80s, and what do you think of the changes?
1) Horror’s greatest cultural triumph is that it’s spread its impact into every other genre, for both better and worse. A staggeringly frankness with regard to violence, mental illness, and alarming things in general has replaced the genteel mannerisms of the good old days, in everything from crime to westerns to literary to you-name-it, upping the voltage across the board.

Meanwhile, monsters are the go-to metaphors in sexy romance (cuz we’ve all got a little monster in us that’s dying to get laid). Even our cartoons have become blackly-comic salvos of exploding-head festoonery, in ways that would have been unthinkable 20-30 years ago.

The bad news for horror as a genre is that it’s no longer the only place you can go for those kinds of thrills and information. But that just means you gotta step up your game. This is, in many ways, a good thing.

2) Past that, my favorite change is the rich influx of powerful female voices. It broadens the map by roughly 51%, and takes the boy’s locker room tang out of the air.

I’ve published some amazing women over the past couple years: books by Laura Lee Bahr (Haunt), Violet LeVoit (I Am Genghis Cum), Mikita Brottman (House of Quiet Madness), and Jan Kozlowski (Die, You Bastard! Die!), as well as shorts by Kathe Koja, Amelia Beamer, Angela Carter, Joan Aiken, Mercedes M. Yardley, Kim Harrison, Maggie Stiefvater, Mehitobel Wilson, Francesca Lia Block, Charlaine Harris, Justine Musk, Lisa Morton, Poppy Z. Brite, Elizabeth Massie, Danielle Trussoni, Athena Villaverde, Leah Mann, Leslianne Wilder, Livia Llewellyn, Margaret Irwin, Alethea Kontis, Tessa Gratton, Nicole Cushing, Melanie Tem, Alice Henderson, A.C. Crispin, Kathleen O’Malley, Marcy Italiano, and my own daughter, Melanie Skipp.

And in film, I’m very excited about the Viscera Film Festival, showcasing short horror films directed by women. This is a much harder glass ceiling to plow through, as witness the miniscule percentage of female horror directors getting features greenlit. But I can’t wait to see Mae Catt’s first feature, and am psyched for more movies by Kate Shenton, Hadas Brandes, Tyrrell Shaffner, Rebekah McKendrey, Karen Lam, and a couple dozen others I could name. Also loved Danielle Harris’ feature directing debut, Among Friends, which opened the festival this year.

You just won a shiny new 2011 Bram Stoker Award for your anthology Demons: Encounters with the Devil and his Minions, Fallen Angels and the Possessed! What do you look for when putting together an anthology?
I like to break it up, like a great mix CD. Some fast ones. Some slow ones. Sad ones. Funny ones. Stunningly violent ones. Whisperingly subtle ones. Totally fucking weird ones. All up and down the scale. That’s how you demonstrate the range of the literature.

Past that, I just have to truly love the story, and/or feel that it nails its part of the equation just right.

What do you like to see in a good horror novel?
I wanna be gripped from the opening paragraph, and not let go of till the punch of the last. I wanna go on a nightmare road trip with a firm, knowing hand at the wheel. I want surprises. I want my ass kicked. I want it to be great, and deliver as promised. I want to fall in love.

What makes you want to set aside a book in frustration?
In a word: tedium. The second I get bored, and start to skim, that book is in serious trouble. Redundancy – saying the same thing over and over – gets it tossed to the floor with a resounding thwunk. Predictability. Lack of passion or forethought. Shallowness. Joylessness. Pomposity. Cliched half-assery. Disrespect for the reader’s intelligence. Padding. Padding. Padding. Any and all wasted words.

There are 1,001 ways to screw the pooch. But bottom line? The worst thing a book can do is make me feel like I’m wasting my time. (Important note: genuine fun is not a waste of time!)

How about a few of your favorite authors?
Aside from the big list of women above? The authors who’ve had the most formative impact would be Dr. Seuss, William Goldman, Rod Serling, Edgar Allan Poe, John Brunner, John Gardner, Robert Anton Wilson, Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Joseph Heller, Hunter S. Thompson, Alan Watts, and Cody Goodfellow. Past that, the list of writers I love gets ridiculously long. But I could, indeed, go on all night.

I hear you’re transitioning from novelist to filmmaker? Will you tell us a bit about that?
Sure! This is totally my path, as of now. Bringing wild, provocative, original horror to the screen. Shooting the kinds of low-budget, high-octane movies that I think horror fans might be pining for, and that Hollywood will want to expensively remake almost immediately thereafter. (laughs)

I’m working with an amazing young director/film editor named Andrew Kasch, who I met when he interviewed me for his epic documentary Never Sleep Again: The Elm St. Legacy. And we are going to town, with several features in development, and an astounding team of techs, business people, and creatives behind us.

Our latest co-directed short film, Stay At Home Dad (from a jaw-dropping script by Cody Goodfellow) is currently picking up big laughs and awards on the festival circuit. (We just scored Audience Bronze at the prestigious Fantastia International Film Festival last month, and are competing at both Shriekfest and the L.A. Horror Fest over the next three weeks, with more to come.)

On top of that, my latest solo book is Sick Chick Flicks, a collection of fem-o-centric horror screenplays just released in trade paper by Cemetery Dance. These are three of my favorite movies-in-the-making (including Rose: The Bizarro Zombie Musical). But just the tip of the iceberg, in terms of what we’ve got planned.

And October 16th sees the release of The Dark, a new novel by Scott Bradley and Peter Giglio, on my publishing imprint Ravenous Shadows. I mention this not just because you should read it, but because – like the rest of the Ravenous Shadows line – it would make an awesome motion picture.

Bottom line: I won’t be writing any new novels anytime soon. My focus is on making films, and editing books. That sounds like plenty to me.

You seem like a pretty busy guy! When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
Walking the exquisite hills of Eagle Rock with my dog, Scooby Hamilton. No phone. No nothing but Scoob and the little things that happen around us. Those hour-long moments of quiet peace and equilibrium go a reeeeeal long way toward balancing life. Past that, eating and laughing and enjoying the people I love. Taking in the good shit. What else is there to love?
Keep up with John: Twitter | Facebook

1. You MUST fill out the form below
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of Psychos: Serial Killers, Depraved Madmen, and the Criminally Insane (anthology) edited by John Skipp to 1 winner.
3. Giveaway is open to US addresses only (would love to have done this one international, but the book is ginormous. Seriously. Huge.)
4. Must include a valid email address with your entry (no need to leave it in the comments, just include it when you fill out the rafflecopter form)
5. You must enter on or before 11/5/12
6. Giveaway book courtesy of Black Dog and Leventhal
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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Blog Tour, Interview, (& Giveaway): Darynda Jones, author of Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet

Please welcome Darynda Jones to the blog! Darynda is the author of the Charley Davidson urban fantasy series (and more!) and the 4th book, Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet will be out on the 30th. Darynda was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, and there’s also an excerpt of Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet, so be sure to check it out, and hey, there’s a giveaway too (right under the excerpt)!

Darynda, your story is a very interesting (and busy!!) one, and it’s led to five books in two years (with your YA release, Death and the Girl Next Door), four in the Charley Davidson series! Will you tell us a bit about Charley?
Absolutely! Charley Davidson series a female PI who was born the grim reaper. Since the age of five, she’s been helping the departed solve the mysteries of their deaths so they can cross. Now she does the same for the living as well. In the meantime, she has to deal with a being more powerful, and definitely sexier, than any specter she’s ever encountered. He haunts her every move and Charley discovers that dodging bullets isn’t nearly as dangerous as falling in love.

Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet will be out in just a few days! When you started writing the series, did you already have an idea of how many books you wanted to write?
All I knew is that I wanted it to continue, and my editor wants the same thing! (I’m so lucky, it’s unreal.) So the series is open-ended, just as I’d envisioned.

What do you love most about writing urban fantasy/paranormal romance?
The freedom. I love how a writer can mold her characters into absolutely anything. The only rules are those the writer creates for her world. Oh, I also love superpowers. :)

Have you ever thought about who you’d cast if your books were to become movies? If so, who could you see cast as Charley and the gang?
There are so many actresses I could see playing Charley, oddly enough, like Jessica Alba or Olivia Wilde. But Reyes is much harder. I originally based him on Jason Behr. He has become darker and rougher than my original image, but I still think Jason could play him. He is an actor with a wide range of acting abilities. I could definitely see Melissa McCarthy as Cookie and Jim Beaver as Uncle Bob. Oh! And Shemar Moore or Columbus Short as Garrett Swopes.

What are some of your favorite authors? Any major influences?
I read in just about every genre there is, but I do read a lot of paranormal. I love me some WARDen (JR Ward), probably most of all. I love Jeaniene Frost, Jackquelyn Frank, Kresley Cole, Kerrelyn Sparks, Julia Quinn, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Jane Austen . . . so so many. I could go on for days. My major influences were Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, Stephen King, Johanna Lindsey, Edgar Allen Poe, Anne Rice, and many more.

What are you reading now?
Right now I’m reading Storm Front by Jim Butcher, Kiss of Steel by Bec McMasters, and Killing Floor by Lee Child. I’ve actually started two of these on audiobooks. I LOVE audiobooks. James Marsters (Spike from Buffy) is reading Storm Front. I love his voice!!!

If you could read one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
Lover Awakened by JR Ward. I love Zsadist. Sigh….

When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
I read or watch TV. I love to go back and do marathons of my favorite TV shows. I study the character and story arcs, how the writers ratchet up the tension, how they make me cry. Even when I’m not writing, I’m working. LOL

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events?
Well, Fourth Grave Beneath my Feet comes out October 30th, and Death, Doom and Detention (the 2nd in the YA series, Darklight) comes out March 5th, 2013. Right now I’m working on Fifth Grave Past the Light which will drop July 9th, 2013. I’m loving this story!

Thank you so much for having me, Kristin!!!
Keep up with Darynda: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet EXCERPT
With renewed energy, I pulled back onto Academy— after hitting a
drive- through for a mocha latte— and had just started for home when
my phone rang.

“Yes?” I said, illegally talking on the phone while driving within the
city limits. Scoping for cops, I waited for Uncle Bob to stop talking to
whomever he was talking to and get back to me.

My uncle Bob, or Ubie as I most often referred to him, was a detective
for APD, and I helped him on cases from time to time. He knew I
could see the departed and used that to his advantage. Not that I could
blame him.

“Get that to her, then call the ME ay- sap.”

“Okay,” I said, “but I’m not sure what calling the medical examiner
ay- sap is going to accomplish. I’m pretty sure his name is George.”

“Oh, hey, Charley.”

“Hey, Uncle Bob. What’s up?”

“Are you driving?”

“No.”

“Have you heard anything?”

Our conversations often went like this. Uncle Bob with his random
questions. Me with my trying to come up with answers just as random.
Not that I had to try very hard. “I heard that Tiff any Gorham, a girl I
knew in grade school, still stuff s her bra. But that’s just a rumor.”

“About the case,” he said through clenched teeth. I could tell his teeth
were clenched because his words were suddenly forced. That meant he
was frustrated. Too bad I had no idea what he was talking about.

“I wasn’t aware that we had a case.”

“Oh, didn’t Cookie call you?”

“She called me a doody- head once.”

“About the case.” His teeth were totally clenched again.

“We have a case?”

But I’d lost him. He was talking to another officer. Or a detective. Or
a hooker, depending on his location and accessibility to cash. Though I
doubted he would tell a hooker to check the status of the DOA’s autopsy
report. Unless he was way kinkier than I’d ever given him credit for.
I found his calling me only to talk to other people very challenging.

“I’ll call you right back,” he said. No idea to whom.

The call disconnected as I sat at a light, wondering what guacamole
would look like if avocados were orange.

I finally shifted my attention to the dead kid in my backseat. He had
shoulder- length blond hair and bright blue eyes and looked somewhere
between fifteen and seventeen.

“You come here often?” I asked him, but my phone rang before he
could say anything. That was okay. He had a vacant stare, so I doubted
he would have answered me anyway.

“Sorry about that,” Uncle Bob said. “Do you want to discuss the
case?”

“We have a case?” I said again, perking up.

“How are you?”

He asked me that every time he called now. “Peachy. Am I the case? If
so, I can solve this puppy in about three seconds. I’m heading down San
Mateo toward Central in a cherry red Jeep Wrangler with a questionable
exhaust system.”

“Charley.”

“Hurry, before I get away!”

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Interview: Lee Collins, author of The Dead of Winter

I’m thrilled to have author Lee Collins on the blog today! Lee is the author of The Dead of Winter, coming up on Nov. 1st from Angry Robot Books, and he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Please welcome Lee to the blog!

Lee, your brand new book, The Dead of Winter, comes out Nov 1st from Angry Robot Books! Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us a bit about your journey?
When I was in the first grade, my school library hosted a local children’s book author who told us that the author’s magical question is “What if?” At the end of the presentation, I distinctly remember telling myself that there was absolutely no way I wanted to be a writer. I harbored a rather intense dislike for my grammar lessons, and the thought of spending all day writing sentence after sentence seemed repulsive. This mindset persisted all the way through high school, even as I discovered how much I enjoyed writing poetry. Once in college, I was briefly distracted by the siren song of a music degree until I discovered that such a degree is more reading sheet music (which I can’t do at all) and less jamming with other musicians. After reading Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, I decided that writing might be a fun thing to do after all, and not even a formal university English program could discourage me.

Will you tell us a little something about The Dead of Winter?
The Dead of Winter started out as a synthesis of a Warhammer Online character and a Morpheus Tales call for Western-themed horror. Cora (then named Miriam) and Ben Oglesby sprang into being more or less fully-formed, bounty hunters who specialize in eliminating other-worldly threats. After I wrote a short story for my Morpheus Tales submission (which appeared in Issue IX), they hung out in the corners of my mind, waiting on me to come up with something else for them to do. A year or so later, I stumbled across some American Indian lore about something called a wendigo, and The Dead of Winter began to take shape.

She Returns From War, the 2nd book in the series, comes out early next year. When you began writing The Dead of Winter, had you already planned on it being a series?
I hadn’t, actually. When I first wrote the ending, I intended the book to be a stand-alone title. I had a vague notion of how a sequel might end but lacked the in-between events to get me there. After The Dead of Winter reached the editors’ desks via Angry Robot’s Open Door Month, I realized I might need to have a sequel synopsis on-hand in case they came asking. They did, and I sent them my synopsis with fingers crossed.

You must have done something to please the Cover Gods since you scored covers by Chris McGrath! Do you feel like the covers do justice to your stories?
Absolutely! Chris did a fantastic job of capturing the mood of each book as well as the spirit of Cora Oglesby. Two things in particular stood out to me about them. In The Dead of Winter’s cover, I was absolutely blown away by Cora’s expression. I’m not one to precisely visualize my characters when I write, so to have a face staring back at me that so perfectly embodied her essence was almost eerie. The other thing that really grabbed me was ominous air surrounding the She Returns From War art. Instead of Cora and Ben fearlessly confronting their enemies, Chris evokes a feeling of creeping danger, a threat just beyond the edge of sight. It’s brilliant.

What made you decide to set the books in the Wild West?
The decision grew out of the Morpheus Tales call for horror-themed Western submissions. It seemed like a fun idea to me. With the semi-structured government, multiple threats to one’s life from both nature and man, and the diverse array of people, the Old West really is a great setting for all kinds of speculative fiction. Why more books don’t explore the possibilities of this rich landscape continues to baffle me.

What’s one of your favorite aspects of that time period?
I really enjoy the great expanses of the unknown that press in on the edges of human settlements. Even today, with all of the interconnectivity technology brings, there are still great swaths of land in the American West that can make you feel completely and utterly alone. To have that wilderness on the other side of your wall when you sleep at night gives rise to all kinds of imaginings about what may be crawling out of some unknown hole.

What do you like most about writing fantasy?
Quite simply, the fantastic. In my creative writing program, we weren’t permitted to write genre fiction. Every short story had to fall into the bowl of Literary fiction (yes, I’m pretty sure it was capitalized). One of my instructors even admitted that most of the stuff we read as examples of short stories was published by university presses for consumption by other universities. My senior year, I tried to incorporate some paranormal aspects into a workshop story and was told I had to rewrite it before the class could see it. The experience rankled.

What are some of your biggest literary influences?
For The Dead of Winter specifically, I must credit Larry McMurtry, Hirano Kouta, and Stephen King. In a wider shot, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Karen Russell, Orson Scott Card, and George R.R. Martin come into frame.

If you could read one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
I keep trying to come up with something profound for this one, but I always end up back at Stephen King’s Duma Key. I’m not sure what it was about that particular book of his, but it really resonated. The setting, the characters, the monster, the lore…all of it was spot on. I read it on the bus into work one winter, and the feeling has really stuck with me.

On a personal note, when you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
I have been an avid gamer since the age of four. I even took a month break from writing She Returns From War last January because my girlfriend’s parents bought my Skyrim for Christmas. Perhaps not the best arrangement of priorities, but the manuscript was still delivered by the deadline. I’m currently absorbed in XCOM: Enemy Unknown when I’m not playing The Secret World or another MMO with my girlfriend.

What’s one piece of advice that you would give to a struggling writer?
Struggle on. As the immortal President and First Tiger Hobbes once said: “Until you stalk and overrun, you can’t devour anyone.” Also, it helps if you find yourself some other pack members to help you on the hunt. Everyone knows that the bigger and juicier the wildebeest, the more help you need bringing it down.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
I have a few projects on the radar at the moment. One is a science fantasy set in Soviet Russia, and the other is a (probably) young adult urban fantasy with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon influences. Naturally, I’m also ready to move forward on a third book in my current series.
Keep up with Lee: Website | Twitter

Purchase The Dead of Winter: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

Bram Stoker Awards Spotlight Interview (& Giveaway): Nancy Holder

I’m thrilled to welcome Nancy Holder as part of my series of interviews with Bram Stoker Award winners past and present! Nancy was kind enough to answer few of my questions, and I have a copy of her new Teen Wolf book ON FIRE to give away, so be sure to check out the details at the end of the post!

You’re a 4 time Bram Stoker Award winner, including a 2011 win for The Screaming Season and are the author of a jaw dropping number of books (over 30!!). Did you always have an interest in writing? Will you tell us a bit about your journey?
I was always writing stories as a little girl–I wrote an entire fantasy novel in the sixth grade–but I wanted to be a ballet dancer. I’m short and not built like a classical dancer, but I pursued that dream until I had a bad injury. After that I decided to have a normal life with a steady career–and wound up dropping out of grad school twice because I was too busy writing! So it was meant to be.

Most of your novels deal with the scaries in one way or another. What are some things you find truly frightening?
I’m a huge chicken. When I’m writing horror/scary, I watch a horror movie every morning. I made a play list like a menu and select what to watch on what day. But I have to watch them as soon as I get up because it takes me all day to get over them. I can’t watch scary movies at night. They’re too scary! J-horror/Asian horror terrifies me the most. It’s just sooo creepy and it’s usually structured differently from American horror. And I love EL ORFANATO, a Spanish horror movie. The director, Juan Antonio Bayona, was scheduled at one time to direct one of the TWILIGHT movies. I wish that had come to pass!

You’ve written quite a few young adult titles. What do you like most about writing for teens?
When I write for teens, I write about people, same as my beloved Joss Whedon. Adults are just teenagers who’ve been around longer. For teens, it’s about discovery, learning, growing, changing. All potential scary topics!

What are some of your favorite writers?
Some of my favorite writers are: Leanna Renee Hieber, Suzanne Lazear, Gretchen McNeil, Stephen King, and my oftimes collaborator, Debbie Viguié.

If you could read one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
I would reread The Haunting of Hill House, my favorite novel. S-C-A-R-Y. And it holds up beautifully after multiple readings.

I read something about ballet dancing at age 16. Will you tell us a bit about that?
I dropped out of high school to move to Germany to study dance at a German music school (like a trade school for the arts–kind of like our performing arts schools.) My father died while I was gone so I came back and finished American high school, then went back to Germany. But eventually I became a writer!

When you’re not writing or teaching, how do you to spend your free time, when you manage to find some? How do you juggle a busy writing schedule with a busy family?
I cram in work whenever I can. I can’t wait for “the Muse” to pay me a visit. Example: my daughter switched schools and now I have an 80-mile a day commute. So I listen to audio books. That makes the time fly. A good thing about being so busy is that I can’t second-guess myself. I write more from the heart, and that’s a good thing!

Halloween is right around the corner! How do you and your family celebrate?
We just had a spooky sleepover blowout at Disneyland. My daughter’s birthday is October 28th and we look upon Halloween as a season, not a day/night. No one does Halloween like the Holder women!

What’s next for you? Is there anything you’d like to share about upcoming projects or events?
News: I have a lot of cool stuff coming out, including a Buffy tribute book called BUFFY: THE MAKING OF A SLAYER. That’s out in December. I’m part of a new publishing company called GothicScapes. Our first book, UNDEAD FOR A DAY, is out now. And HOT BLOODED, the next book in the Wolf Springs Chronicles series, comes out in December.
Keep up with Nancy: Website | Twitter

1. You MUST fill out the form below
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of On Fire by Nancy Holder to 1 winner.
3. Giveaway is open to US addresses only
4. Must include a valid email address with your entry (no need to leave it in the comments, just include it when you fill out the rafflecopter form)
5. You must enter on or before 11/2/12
6. Giveaway book courtesy of MTV Books
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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Book News: October 26th, 2012

Here’s my roundup of book news (and other fun stuff) around the web for the week! Sometimes I add stuff throughout the day on Friday, so be sure you check back over the weekend too!

Interviews and more:

News:

Excerpts and such:

Fun stuff (some book-related, some not):

Also, the October Scare-a-Thon is in full swing, so be sure to check out what we’ve got going so far,and keep an eye out for spotlights on more horror authors and Bram Stoker Award winners in the coming days!

What Scares Us Blog Tour with Clay and Susan Griffith!

Please welcome the wonderful Clay and Susan Griffith to the blog! They are the authors of the Vampire Empire series (and much more) and are here to tell us about their 5 scariest graveyards! Also, they’ve got an awesome giveaway going, so be sure to check that out too!

What Scares Us blog tour
Our Top 5 Scariest Graveyards
By Clay and Susan Griffith

It’s no secret we love graveyards. They play a supporting character in almost all our books. Our lead characters spend contemplative moments there, learn a bit of their history, fight to the death occasionally, and even fall in love among the ancient stones. Graveyards reek of danger and death at night, but by day they record lineage and offer a glimpse into life. To us that remains a vital reason for our continued fascination with them.

ONE:
Our favorite cemetery for so many reasons that it garnered a starring role in our Vampire Empire series is the one at Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh, Scotland. Its history is legendary, and it is a disturbing place no matter the time of day. The stones there are dark with age, going back to 1561.

Plague victims are buried there, thousands of them. No matter where you walk you are literally walking upon the dead. This is the place where body snatching became famous, where Resurrection Men dug up the recently deceased to deliver them to surgeons. Bodysnatching became such a thriving business people were forced to take drastic measures to ensure their loved ones remained interred, literally caging the body with mortsafes or placing guards at the grave.

Everywhere you turn your eyes in Greyfriars, they alight on something intriguing, something impressive, or something morbid. On a clear fall day you can see the shape of Edinburgh Castle as it crouches atop its great hill. We were married in its shadow at Greyfriars Kirk, and it remains a place of wonder and magic, and also a place of fright.

TWO:
There are countless cemeteries in heavily populated New York and New Jersey, each one unique in its own way. One that sticks in our memory is a graveyard of the Presbyterian Church in Westfield, NJ that opened its gates in 1868. The church looks quaint from the main road until you spy the cemetery with its worn wrought iron fence and flat faced stones.

The graveyard contains approximately 1,130 graves, including veterans of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and both World Wars, although burials date as early as 1730. As with many colonial cemeteries, the gravestones in those older sections all face east, perhaps to meet the resurrection of the sun each morning. The old stones jut up from the ground like angry spines, brittle with age.

 

 

THREE:
In the town of Saugerties, NY, the cemetery at St. Mary’s of the Snow is not very old, but it is changing every day due to the earth itself shifting tombstones around. Or perhaps something underneath writhes, trying to get free.

FOUR:
One of our scariest graveyards is the Old Burying Ground in Beaufort, NC. It is nestled in the heart of the small seaside town. Burials here date from before 1724, with more than seventeen varieties of undated cypress wooden markers. Archeologists found numerous unmarked graves from victims of an Indian battle in 1711. Skulls were noted to have been cleft from tomahawks.

It is a sad little graveyard since there are numerous small graves of children to remind us that times were very hard. One grave is simply marked “little girl buried in rum keg” and it is always decorated with small gifts and tokens of remembrance. The story is of a child who went on a voyage with her father but sadly died on the way home. Unwilling to bury her at sea because of promise to his wife, her father placed his daughter in a keg of rum to return her to the arms of her mother. She was buried in the keg at the little cemetery.

FIVE:
In our own hometown of Raleigh, we have a historic cemetery called Oakwood. It seems to stretch for miles. In Oakwood, old and new residents mingle from the Civil War era to the newly plotted. Which reminds me, we have an appointment this week to choose our own plots there. Scary mausoleum optional though preferred

Keep up with Clay and Susan: Website | Twitter

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Guest Post (& Giveaway): Sarah Fine, author of Sanctum

Please welcome Sarah Fine to the blog today! Sarah is the author of Sanctum, the new young adult fantasy just out on Oct. 16th, and the first of the Guards of the Shadowlands series. In this post, she gives us her dream cast if Sanctum were to hit the big screen, and we’ve got a copy of Sanctum up for grabs for one lucky winner, so be sure to see the details at the bottom of the post!

Hypothetically speaking…the cast for Sanctum
-Sarah Fine

Lela: Naya Rivera would be a lovely Lela. And I can’t take credit for this pick—I have to give a shout out to the Bookittyblog for coming up with this one!

Nadia: Another Bookittyblog suggestion, but really, I couldn’t think of a better one. Evan Rachel Wood is a perfect Nadia.

Malachi: Ah, he’s really impossible. But Drew Roy would be a good start. Malachi’s the one I most struggle with! Okay, honestly, in my head he looks more like this …

…but really. This dude’s a model, not an actor (it’s Garrett Neff, if you’re wondering).

Ana: Zoe Saldana for Ana. She’s a little old to be Ana, really, but truly, she’s as close to ideal for the part as they get.

Raphael: Eddie Redmayne

Juri: Goran Visnjic for Juri … well, Juri is hard to cast for reasons you’ll understand if you read the book, but Goran would be a start, I suppose.

Sil: Hiroyuki Shimosawa

And finally, I want to show you a character who doesn’t actually appear in this book, but who is so clearly developed in my mind that I can’t help but share him with you. He’s the only character whose physical appearance actually IS based on a real-life actor!

Takeshi Kaneshiro as … well, himself. Sort of. Takeshi. *sigh*
Keep up with Sarah: Website | Twitter | Facebook

About Sanctum:
“My plan: Get into the city. Get Nadia. Find a way out. Simple.”

A week ago, seventeen-year-old Lela Santos’s best friend, Nadia, killed herself. Today, thanks to a farewell ritual gone awry, Lela is standing in paradise, looking upon a vast gated city in the distance – hell. No one willingly walks through the Suicide Gates, into a place smothered in darkness and infested with depraved creatures. But Lela isn’t just anyone – she’s determined to save her best friend’s soul, even if it means sacrificing her eternal afterlife.

As Lela struggles to find Nadia, she’s captured by the Guards, enormous, not-quite-human creatures that patrol the dark city’s endless streets. Their all-too human leader, Malachi, is unlike them in every way except one: his deadly efficiency. When he meets Lela, Malachi forms his own plan: get her out of the city, even if it means she must leave Nadia behind. Malachi knows something Lela doesn’t – the dark city isn’t the worst place Lela could end up, and he will stop at nothing to keep her from that fate.
Purchase: Amazon | B&N

**GIVEAWAY DETAILS** 
1. You MUST fill out the form below
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of Sanctum by Sarah Fine to 1 winner.
3. Giveaway is open to US and Canadian addresses only
4. Must include a valid email address with your entry (no need to leave it in the comments, just include it when you fill out the rafflecopter form)
5. You must enter on or before 11/2/12
6. Giveaway book courtesy of Amazon Children’s Publishing
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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Scare-a-Thon Interview: Kim Newman, author of Dracula Cha Cha Cha

I’m so excited to have the awesome Kim Newman on the blog as part of my Scare-a-Thon series of interviews! Kim has a brand new edition of Dracula Cha Cha Cha (Book 3 of the Anno Dracula series) out, and he was kind enough to take time out of his very busy schedule to answer a few of my questions.

Please welcome Kim to the blog!

Kim, you’re the author of over 20 novels and your newest book in the popular Anno Dracula series,
Dracula Cha Cha Cha, is out this month! What can we look forward to in this installment, and what do
you enjoy most about writing this series?
This is the third book in the series – the second, The Bloody Red Baron, was set during World War I and was consequently fairly grim and bloody, so I wanted to relax a little in the third, which is set in Rome in 1959 at the height of the social whirl seen in La Dolce Vita. It has a murder mystery and a little more supernatural business than the earlier books, puts Dracula into a different role (exiled Prince) and picks up the stories of several of my continuing characters, at a later point in their careers. It’s also got Hamish Bond, vampire secret agent – who is enormous fun to write. To sweeten the package, there is an additional novella, ‘Aquarius’, set in swinging London in 1968, which fills in a historical gap in the series. I enjoy playing with other peoples’ toys in the series (mostly, Bram Stoker’s, but a slew of other pre-existing characters from history and fiction show up) and the challenge of creating an alternate, fantastical world which is still recognisably our own.

Would you say that vampires are your favorite “creature of the night?”
They’re definitely the most versatile. Which is why the sub-genre is a constant.

What’s one of the main differences you see between British horror and American horror?
I think horror’s too big and diverse a genre, ranging from subtle ghost stories to rip-your-guts-out gore, to be easily characterised in national terms. Certainly, there are specifically British and American voices in horror, but it’s not easy to make generalisations. The stereotype might be that British horror is more polite and refined, but just as British tabloid newspapers are more vicious than American equivalents, there’s a whole school of British mutant vermin paperback horror which makes the average Stephen King seem genteel.

You’re certainly a big influence on other writers, especially with dark and chilling subjects. What’s
something that truly terrifies you?
The usual things – disease, despair, loss, death. I tend to write more about things that annoy me – prejudice, totalitarianism, hypocrisy – than things that frighten me, which isn’t to say that these things aren’t scary.

What are a few of your biggest literary influences?
Raymond Chandler, R.L. Stevenson, Michael Moorcock, Philip Jose Farmer, Stanley Ellin, Richard Condon, Fredric Brown, Cornell Woolrich, H.G. Wells, Nigel Kneale.

What are a couple of your favorite scary reads?
To push a few lesser-known books – Marc Behm’s The Ice Maiden, Suzy McKee Charnas’s The Vampire Tapestry, Brian Stableford’s The Empire of Fear, Robert Graves’s Antigua Penny Puce (not scary, but creepy in its own way), George Gissing’s New Grub Street, GK Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday.

In the 80s, you wrote plays and musicals. Do you still enjoy going to the theater?
Yes, though I don’t get to it often enough. Recently, I’ve been doing theatre work again and have fallen in love with it anew. I’ve a play on in London in Oct-Nov – something I co-wrote and script-edited called The Hallowe’en Sessions – and my radio play ‘Sarah Minds the Dog’ is getting a live performance in New York this evening (as I write). The Hallowe’en project might well become an annual thing.

For a time you worked as a film critic. What are some of your favorite films?
I still work as a film critic. My top ten list for the Sight & Sound once-in-a-decade poll included Celine and Julie Go Boating, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, Citizen Kane, To Have and Have Not, Notorious, Mulholland Dr., 2001: A Space Odyssey, Duck Amuck, Apocaypse Now and A Canterbury Tale.

When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
Lying about, reading comics, seeing friends, watching old movies – most of which, I admit, feeds into my professional life.

What’s next for you? Is there anything else you’d like to share about upcoming projects or events?
My next novels are Johnny Alucard, another in the Anno Dracula series, and An English Ghost Story, which is exactly what it sounds like. I’m going to spend some time next year working on a couple of as-yet-unannounceable comics projects.
Keep up with Kim: Website
Purchase Dracula Cha-Cha-Cha: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

About Dracula Cha-Cha-Cha:
Rome. 1959. Count Dracula is about to marry the Moldavian Princess Asa Vajda – his sixth wife. Journalist Kate Reed flies into the city to visit the ailing Charles Beauregard and his vampire companion Geneviève. Finding herself caught up in the mystery of the Crimson Executioner who is bloodily dispatching vampire elders in the city, Kate discovers that she is not the only one on his trail…

Scare-a-Thon Top 5 (Books and Films!): Stephen Blackmoore, author of City of the Lost

I’m so thrilled that Stephen Blackmoore was game to do a Top 5 for me for the Scare-a-Thon event, ’cause his novel, City of the Lost, has been one of my faves of 2012, and I knew he’d have some great suggestions (he does.) So, without further ado, here’s his list of Top 5 books and films to get you in the mood for Halloween.

THE SHINING – Stephen King
I’m not a huge fan of the movie adaptation of the book. It’s okay and it’s creepy, but it feels sanitized to me. It’s not Stephen King’s story brought to the big screen. It’s all mental, it’s all Kubrick. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but the book is messy, visceral. The gore in the film is too stylized, almost metaphorical. The book has a weight to the prose that hangs onto you afterward. Take the scene with the dead woman in Room 217. It’s a lot more affecting in the novel.

***

PET SEMATARY – Stephen King
Like with The Shining, I prefer the book version of Pet Sematary. The movie was fun, but the only thing I really remember about that is the creepy kid running around with a scalpel and Fred Gwynne talking in his best New England accent. I always conflate him and the guy who did the Pepperidge Farms commercials so now every time I see the cookies at the grocery store I always hear “Pepperidge Farms. Sometimes dead is bettah.”

***

BOOKS OF BLOOD – Clive Barker
This collection is loaded with great short stories. It was the first I’d read of Barker and I still get a kick out of it. All of them imaginative, all of them incredibly twisted. My favorites are DREAD; SEX, DEATH AND STARSHINE and THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN. Oddly, I still haven’t seen the film adaptation of that last. I hear it’s pretty good.

***

ON THE FAR SIDE OF THE CADILLAC DESERT WITH DEAD FOLKS – Joe Lansdale
I’m not sure this is a horror story so much as it’s, well, a Lansdale story. It’s a post-apocalyptic, zombie western. Sort of. Here, let me give you a sample:

“After a month’s chase, Wayne caught up with Calhoun one night at a little honky-tonk called Rosalita’s. It wasn’t that Calhoun had finally gotten careless, it was just that he wasn’t worried. He’d killed four bounty hunters so far, and Wayne knew a fifth didn’t concern him.

The last bounty hunter had been the famous Pink Lady McGuire–one mean mama–three hundred pounds of rolling, ugly meat that carried a twelve-gauge Remington pump and a bad attitude. Story was, Calhoun jumped her from behind, cut her throat, and as a joke, fucked her before she bled to death. This not only proved to Wayne that Calhoun was a dangerous sonofabitch, it also proved he had bad taste.”

And if that’s grabbed your attention, check out the rest of the novella here. http://web.archive.org/web/20020803155914/http://joerlansdale.com/stories.shtml

***

THE THING – John Carpenter
This may very well be my favorite film ever. Spoilers ahead in case you haven’t seen it, which if you haven’t you really need to fix. It’s a masterwork in paranoia. Aside from it being truly gross and creepy with effects by Rob Bottin, it’s so well constructed that every time you try to figure out who the monster is you’ll come up with something new. Case in point, this analysis of the film by Rob Ager that delves into the seemingly simple question, “Was Childs infected?” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SppG-I_Dhxw

If you’ve seen the original film, THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1950), you’ll notice a few differences. Like, oh, all the science. In that one the monster is a giant, walking carrot played by James Arness before he made it big on Gunsmoke. It’s horrible. Apparently, playing up paranoia and trying to get across the idea of a creature that absorbs a person and takes their place was just too much to explain to a 1950 movie-going audience. Pity. Could have beaten Invasion of The Body Snatchers by a good six years.

This is not the case with the novella that both films are based on, John W. Campbell’s WHO GOES THERE? The 1982 film much more closely follows the story than the 1950 version. There is no giant, blood-sucking space carrot. Thank god. Instead there is a slow, inexorable dread as you realize that you don’t know who the monster is, who’s infected and what it’s going to do next.

I refuse to acknowledge that the 2011 version of the film exists. We shall speak of it no more.

However, I will give a shout out to this recent re-imagining of the 1982 story from the point of view of the beast, THE THINGS by Peter Watts. It’s not scary, but in a lot of ways, it’s very sad. http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/watts_01_10/
Keep up with Stephen: Website | Twitter

About City of the Lost:
Joe Sunday has been a Los Angeles low-life for years, but his life gets a whole lot lower when he is killed by the rival of his crime boss-only to return as a zombie. His only hope is to find and steal a talisman that he learns can grant immortality. But, unfortunately for Joe, every other undead thug and crime boss in Los Angeles is looking for the same thing.
Read my review
Purchase: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

About Dead Things (forthcoming):
Necromancer is such an ugly word, but it’s a title Eric Carter is stuck with.

He sees ghosts, talks to the dead. He’s turned it into a lucrative career putting troublesome spirits to rest, sometimes taking on even more dangerous things. For a fee, of course.
When he left L.A. fifteen years ago he thought he’d never go back. Too many bad memories. Too many people trying to kill him.

But now his sister’s been brutally murdered and Carter wants to find out why.
Was it the gangster looking to settle a score? The ghost of a mage he killed the night he left town? Maybe it’s the patron saint of violent death herself, Santa Muerte, who’s taken an unusually keen interest in him.

Carter’s going to find out who did it and he’s going to make them pay.
As long as they don’t kill him first.
Pre-order: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

Broken Harbor by Tana French

Broken Harbor by Tana French
Publisher:
Viking/July, 2012
Suspense
Dublin Murder Squad series
Kind thanks to Viking and Netgalley for providing a review copy

Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy, the brash cop from Tana French’s bestselling Faithful Place, plays by the book and plays hard. That’s what’s made him the Murder squad’s top detective—and that’s what puts the biggest case of the year into his hands.

On one of the half-built, half-abandoned “luxury” developments that litter Ireland, Patrick Spain and his two young children are dead. His wife, Jenny, is in intensive care.

At first, Scorcher and his rookie partner, Richie, think it’s going to be an easy solve. But too many small things can’t be explained. The half dozen baby monitors, their cameras pointing at holes smashed in the Spains’ walls. The files erased from the Spains’ computer. The story Jenny told her sister about a shadowy intruder who was slipping past all the locks.

And Broken Harbor holds memories for Scorcher. Seeing the case on the news sends his sister Dina off the rails again, and she’s resurrecting something that Scorcher thought he had tightly under control: what happened to their family one summer at Broken Harbor, back when they were children.

After the events in Faithful Place, Dublin Murder Squad detective Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy is ready for another big case, and he catches it in the form of two dead children, their father stabbed to death, and their mother also stabbed and in the hospital clinging to life. When Mick and his partner, the wet behind the ears Richie Curran, arrive at the house, it’s obvious right away that some things just don’t add up. The mother’s sister is hysterical at the scene, claiming she came to check on the family after she couldn’t get her on the phone. The door had to be broken down since two sturdy deadbolts were engaged, suggesting that either the husband or wife was responsible for the deaths. There are ragged holes in the walls of the house, belying the otherwise thoughtful and clean décor. If you’re a fan of Tana French’s, you already know that absolutely nothing in her novels is ever simple, and this case is no exception.

In Faithful Place, I came to mildly dislike Mick, but keep in mind, the viewpoint that he’s obnoxious, egotistical, and brash comes from a detective who he’s had some run ins with in the past, and you most definitely don’t get the full story about Kennedy. In Broken Harbor, told from his point of view, you get the full story, and frankly, while the terms “egotistical” and “brash” may apply, Kennedy is much more complex than these descriptions suggest. When this case is handed to Kennedy, he chooses a rookie partner that shows promise, and they seem to make a great team. Kennedy loves the chance to teach what he knows, and if Richie’s a little rough around the edges, he has a way with talking to witnesses and Kennedy is confident he’ll be a great detective. As Kennedy comes to the realization that this case may be way more than he bargained for, we get insight into his own background and a tragic history that involves Broken Harbor. For Kennedy, work doesn’t stop until the case is solved, and there is no such thing as overtime, but although he doesn’t have a wife and children at home, he does have a mentally unstable younger sister to contend with, and her manipulative ways could throw a huge wrench into what has become a complex and very sensitive case.

As usual, with most of Tana French’s novels, I thought I knew where the case was going in the beginning, but I was dead wrong. What Ms. French does best is family secrets, tragedy, and labyrinthine stories immediately grab you by the neck, and the heart, and don’t let go. The seemingly perfect family in question are not what they seem, and Kennedy must dig through layers of misdirection and seemingly contrary evidence to get to the bottom of what really happened the night the Spain children and their father were killed, and brought Jenny Spain so close to death. Things aren’t always as they seem, and the crumbling oceanfront neighborhood that once offered such promise to one young family is a metaphor for the decay that can linger so close to the surface, and by the time anyone notices, it’s too late. I’m a huge fan of Tana French’s, and she gets better and better with each novel. Wonderfully written, with just the right amount of dread, mystery fans can’t go wrong with this superb series. You’ll want to grab the hankies for this one, though. Highly recommended!

Purchase Broken Harbor: Amazon |B&N | Indiebound

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