My Bookish Ways

Scare-a-Thon Q&A (& Giveaway): Jesse Petersen, author of the Living With the Dead Series

I’m always thrilled to catch up with Jesse Petersen, author of the Living With the Dead series (and more), and she was kind enough to let me grill her for the Scare-a-Thon event.

We also have a Kindle copy of In the Dead: Volume 1 to give away, but if you don’t have a Kindle, I’ve got a shiny new copy of Married With Zombies (Living With the Dead #1) to give away, so be sure to see details at the bottom of the post!

Please welcome Jesse back to the blog!

Jesse, I’m so happy to have you back on the blog! Can you catch us up a bit on what you’ve been up to? I heard you have new book coming out in January called The Zombie Whisperer. Will you tell us a bit more about that?
I’m so excited to be here again! Thanks for asking me. The Zombie Whisperer is the 4th (and probably final) book in the Dave and Sarah series (Living With the Dead series) that started with MARRIED WITH ZOMBIES. In it, Dave and Sarah are trying to live a quiet life in Montana when everything falls apart, they’re asked to save the world again and they have to decide what their future should look like. Look for fun, zombie hijinks and the usual “self-help advice” chapter headers. Right now I’m shooting for January release (I’ll be self-publishing), but it may not be until February. I’m getting that finalized right now. Early 2013, though, for sure! Before CLUB MONSTROSITY is out.

Speaking of Club Monstrosity… Care to dish?
Absolutely! This book starts a new series for me about a group of monsters who live in New York City. Their stories have been co-opted and twisted by authors and moviemakers for hundreds of years, and now they just want to be left alone. Be normal. They meet once a week in the basement of a church in a support group. But when they start getting killed off one by one, the same way they have in their various stories, they have to figure out who is doing it and if they want to be monsters after all. If you liked the dark, sarcastic humor of MARRIED WITH ZOMBIES, there’s a lot of that in this series, too. My main character is Natalie, a Frankenstein’s Monster (or Creature) and my hero is a Wolf Man named Alec. There are mummies and swamp dwellers and vampires and it was sooooo fun to write.

Obviously, you like zombies (Living With the Dead Series, In the Dead), but what other creepies do you like?
I love scary stuff, maybe because as an imaginative child they gave me nightmares and I wasn’t given permission to watch them. I find that I like psychological thrillers more than monsters when I want a scare. I’m sort of an Investigation Discovery channel junkie. Lots of people killing people they know and it’s awful and I can’t look away. The idea that you’d know someone, love someone, and one day they’d do something so heinous is just… bad.
As far as creepy stuff in fiction, I love the weeping angels in Dr. Who. They are terrifying. What a wonderful idea!! Wish I’d had it…

What are some of your favorite scary reads?
I’m a fan of Stephen King, especially THE SHINING and THE STAND.

How about movies?
28 Days Later, Zombieland, Shaun of the Dead, Paranormal Activity, The Crazies (remake 2010), Silence of the Lambs… there are a lot.

Does your family do anything special for Halloween?
We don’t have kids, so we don’t really have a lot of Halloween traditions. We sometimes go to a party, we give out candy, we watch horror movies. It’s pretty low key. I do love Halloween in theory, but it’s gotten so expensive to get a great costume and all the ones for women are kind of… um… whore-ish. It’s too bad women can’t be just a fairy, not a slutty fairy. Or just a cop, not a slutty cop. Eh, I just want to dress us, not have to figure out how to cover up my butt in a super-short costume… I’m apparently getting too old for this.

Anything else you’d like to share with us?
I’m just so excited about all my upcoming projects. I hope readers that have enjoyed my previous works will come and check out the new books. Oh, and I just redesigned my website, a total overhaul on the look, so please stop by and take a peek!
Keep up with Jesse: Website | Twitter

1. Leave a comment on the post with your preference (In the Dead for KINDLE, or if you don’t have a Kindle, Married With Zombies)
2. Make sure you leave your email address when you fill out the comment form (no need to leave it in the body of the comment if you do this)
3. Giveaway is open US Only (for both books)
4. Giveaway ENDS 10/27/12

About In the Dead:
When the Zombie Apocalypse began in Seattle and spread within days to almost the entire western half the country, the survivors had to figure out how to deal with the plague and live one day at a time. These are their stories.

If you liked Jesse Petersen’s zombie comedies Married With Zombies, Flip This Zombie and Eat Slay Love, these nine stories are set in the same world, but from the perspective of other survivors.

About Married With Zombies:
A heartwarming tale of terror in the middle of the zombie apocalypse.

Meet Sarah and David.

Once upon a time they met and fell in love. But now they’re on the verge of divorce and going to couples’ counseling. On a routine trip to their counselor, they notice a few odd things – the lack of cars on the highway, the missing security guard, and the fact that their counselor, Dr. Kelly, is ripping out her previous client’s throat.

Meet the Zombies.

Now, Sarah and David are fighting for survival in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. But, just because there are zombies, doesn’t mean your other problems go away. If the zombies don’t eat their brains, they might just kill each other.

About Jesse Petersen (via her website):
Jesse’s life as a writer began when her husband made the brilliant observation that she was much happier writing than doing anything else. So she took the plunge and decided to do that full-time. After many years and many books in different sub-genres, she was bitten by the zombie bug (not a zombie, but the bug) and took off on a zany adventure into the world of Urban Fantasy. Soon zombies were not enough and now she is poised to take over the world with her not-so-normal paranormal stories which inject dark humor into uncommon circumstances.

When not coming up with stories about the weird and wonderful she lives in Tucson, AZ, with her high school sweetheart husband and two cats. She plays video games, hangs out with her favorite nephews, hikes in the beautiful mountains, watches wayyyyy too much reality TV (and some really good scripted TV), ponders all things geekish and madly scribbles notes on her next idea while she laughs at people who still have to shovel snow.

Oh and from time to time she even writes, which is still what she likes to do best. She loves chatting with fans of her stories and lovers of geeky things.

Scare-a-Thon Interview (& Giveaway): Tim Lebbon, author of London Eye

I’m thrilled to have Tim Lebbon on the blog today! Tim is a prolific writer and he’s got 3 books out this month, including London Eye, from PYR, his first solo YA. Tim took some time out of his very busy schedule to answer a few of my questions, and we’ve got a copy of London Eye up for grabs, so be sure to check the details at the bottom of the post!

Please welcome Tim to the blog!

You finished your first story at nine years old, and over 30 books, and a Bram Stoker win (and more than few noms) later, here we are! Also, you have THREE new books out this month, Coldbrook, London Eye (first solo YA), and Nothing As It Seems. Will you tell us a bit about your new releases?
Sure. COLDBROOK is published by Hammer/Arrow in the UK, and is a huge apocalyptic zombie thriller, in which not just this world is under threat… I think it’s one of the best books I’ve written, and as I so love apocalyptic fiction, this is my version of it.

LONDON EYE (book one in the Toxic City trilogy) is set in a near-future UK where London has been hit by a massive terrorist biological/chemical strike. The city is closed off now, supposedly toxic and uninhabitable. But there are survivors … and they’re changing.

NOTHING AS IT SEEMS collects my best short fiction and novellas from the past few years. It’s my sixth collection, and I think my most accomplished to date. It includes the hard to find ‘The Reach of Children’.

What are some of your biggest literary influences?
Willard Price from when I was a kid, who taught me to love adventure novels. Stephen King, because he’s one of the finest storytellers we have, and his characterisation is beautiful. Arthur Machen, whose interest in the shady link between humanity and the natural world reflects my own… and many, many more.

How about a few of your all-time favorite books?

  • The Stand – King
  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson
  • The Hill of Dreams – Machen
  • The Terror – Dan Simmons
  • The Road – Cormac McCarthy
  • Consider Phlebus – Iain M Banks

If you could read one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
The Stand, without a doubt. Probably the single book that has influenced me more than any other.

You’re well known for writing the scaries. What do you find truly frightening?
The dark … (product of a wild imagination, I guess), losing loved ones, fundamentalism, unfairness.

When it comes to horror, what do you consider off limits? Is there anything that turns you off personally when reading horror?
Well, I read all kinds of horror, but I prefer horror that goes for the heart, not the stomach. Books that describe how to dismantle a victim in grisly detail don’t really do it for me. Books that examine the mentality of someone who’d choose to dismantle a victim do.

If you could sit down to dinner with 5 people (living or dead), who would they be?
Chrissie Wellington — Ironman World Champion
Bill Hicks — the American comedian who spoke his mind.
Phil Lynott — Thin Lizzy’s lead singer
Jane Tomlinson — an amazing woman who, suffering from terminal cancer and given 6 months to live, then spent seven years running marathons, Ironman races, and other staggering endurance achievements to raise almost £2M for charity.
Eddie Izzard — a comedian of the surreal and sublime

You were born in London, but now live in the Welsh countryside. What do you love most about living there, and where would you take a first time visitor?
I spent my childhood in the Devonshire countryside, and although I then lived in a city for 20 years in South Wales, I was always a country boy at heart. That’s why I love where we live right now … a 3 minute walk in any direction and I’m out of the village and into the beautiful countryside. I went for a 7 mile run yesterday and ran through three woodlands, along a canal bank, and across fields. It’s beautiful. And as I’m heavily into outdoor pursuits (walking, running, cycling) I live in the perfect place. I’d take a first time visitor to the Blorenge, a mountain just a few miles from where I love and one of my very favourite places.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
Upcoming books include the new Star Wars novel I’ve just written, set in the Dawn of the Jedi era and called INTO THE VOID. That’s out next May. Also the second and third books in the TOXIC CITY trilogy will be out next year. And hopefully a few other surprises coming soon, too.
Keep up with Tim: Website

1. You MUST fill out the form below
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of London Eye by Tim Lebbon to 1 winner.
3. Giveaway is open to US and Canadian addresses only (No PO Boxes)
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 10/27/12
6. Giveaway book courtesy of PYR
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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Review (& Giveaway): Year Zero by Rob Reid

Year Zero by Rob Reid
DelRey/July 2012

Low-level entertainment lawyer Nick Carter thinks it’s a prank, not an alien encounter, when a redheaded mullah and a curvaceous nun show up at his office. But Frampton and Carly are highly advanced (if bumbling) extraterrestrials. And boy, do they have news.

The entire cosmos, they tell him, has been hopelessly hooked on humanity’s music ever since “Year Zero” (1977 to us), when American pop songs first reached alien ears. This addiction has driven a vast intergalactic society to commit the biggest copyright violation since the Big Bang. The resulting fines and penalties have bankrupted the whole universe. We humans suddenly own everything—and the aliens are not amused.

Nick Carter has just been tapped to clean up this mess before things get ugly, and he’s an unlikely galaxy-hopping hero: He’s scared of heights. He’s also about to be fired. And he happens to have the same name as a Backstreet Boy. But he does know a thing or two about copyright law. And he’s packing a couple of other pencil-pushing superpowers that could come in handy.

Soon he’s on the run from a sinister parrot and a highly combustible vacuum cleaner. With Carly and Frampton as his guides, Nick now has forty-eight hours to save humanity, while hopefully wowing the hot girl who lives down the hall from him.

“Aliens suck at music.” So begins Rob Reid’s Year Zero. Nick Carter (not of the Backstreet Boys), is an entertainment lawyer who gets the office visit of a lifetime from two alien beings, Carly and Frampton. Of course the voluptuous, smart Carly intrigues Nick immediately, but they’re not on Earth for extra-curricular activities. They’re here to deal. See, the Refined League, a confederation of brilliant alien societies made the decision that humanity would never make the cut. We’d just never achieve Refined status. However, after distant anthropologists happened upon an episode of Welcome Back Kotter, their initial assessment of us being a bunch of idiots changed once the end credits started and the theme music began. Yep, the theme from Welcome Back, Kotter convinced these superior beings that they had found most wondrous thing in the universe, in the form of human music (called the “Kotter Moment.) Decades later, after sampling every single song in the human playbook, they made a startling realization: they owe us a huge amount of money. Seriously, huge, and Nick must find away to make a deal since it’s starting to look like the actual planet may be in danger. So, Nick sets out with Carly and Frampton on an interstellar trip to settle up and possibly save the Earth.

Year Zero is told in Nick’s voice and while there’s plenty of adventure to be had here, it’s his observations of the many weird, wild alien life forms and environments that make this book such a blast. Usually I groan when I see footnotes in a book, but once I got into the swing of reading them (I’ll admit, I’m bad at ignoring footnotes, but you won’t want to ignore these), more times than not they made me laugh out loud and were always entertaining. Carly and Frampton are pretty jaded aliens and Nick’s absolute wonder at their spectacular world and technology is endlessly amusing to them. Rob Reid has a knack for setting up a scene and mining it for maximum laughs, and walking the line between so ridiculous it’s rather awesome and just plain ridiculous is tough, but he manages to do it, to fine effect. Music licensing is a serious (and lucrative) business, but serious really doesn’t factor into the equation here, and this razor sharp satire manages to make it fun (and actually kind of informative.) Inevitable comparisons will be made to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and that’s a good thing, but Year Zero is a romp all its own.

Nick is an affable hero who thinks on his feet and Carly and Frampton are brilliant, funny, and awesomely weird. Don’t forget the talking parrot, pluhhhs (not THE pluhhhs), various other gooey, slimy, space things, Purfuffinites, and Wrinkles (the main mode of travel for Carly and Frampton), and plenty of pop culture references. So, can Nick figure out how to help them pay their ginormous music bill, save the world, and get the girl (his lovely neighbor, Manda)? You’ll just have to pick up a copy and find out! I promise you’ll have a helluva time!

Purchase Year Zero: Amazon |B&N | Indiebound

1. You MUST fill out the form below
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of Year Zero by Rob Reid to 1 winner.
3. Giveaway is open to US addresses only (No PO Boxes)
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 10/27/12
6. Giveaway book courtesy of DelRey
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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Book News: October 19th, 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:


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!

Interview (& Giveaway): Phillipa Bornikova, author of This Case Is Gonna Kill Me

Please welcome Phillipa Bornikova to the blog! She’s the author of This Case is Gonna Kill Me and was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. Also, we’ve got a copy of the book up for grabs, so be sure to check out the details below the post!

This Case is Gonna Kill Me just came out last month, and I loved it! What was your inspiration for this book?
I am a reformed attorney, and I realized looking around the urban fantasy landscape that not a lot had been written about the halls of power – law, finance, politics. It seemed to me that if supernatural creatures existed they would have a profound impact on our culture and economics. And there’s a tradition in the law to call very prestigious law firms “white shoe” firms. It just worked so perfectly for a vampire law firm to be a “white fang” firm.

For those that haven’t read it, will you tell us a bit about it?
It’s the story of a young, human woman who starts work at a prestigious vampire law firm. She soon finds herself involved in a series of bizarre murders, and while she’s handling the legal aspects of her career she begins to realize there is something bizarre about her as well.

What sort of research did you do for the novel?
My first case when I went to work at a law firm was a fight over a will that had gone on for almost two decades. That was the foundation for the plot of the book. I also manage a small natural gas company so issues of economics also interests me a great deal so I took a look at how humans would find ways to make money off the presence of supernatural creatures in our midst.

When you started writing, did you have a plan for a series, or did you just decide to see where Linnet took you?
I’m architect – meaning I plot like crazy so I have an arc for Linnet as she figures out things about herself. I also had a three book contract so I needed to have a plan on how the journey would lay out across those three books.

What are some of your biggest literary influences?
I love science fiction and mysteries which is one of the things that makes urban fantasy so fun. It’s a fusion of a number of different genres. It’s also what makes it hard. In terms of authors who I think have affected me – John le Carre, and Hemmingway. I tend to like short, to-the-point sentences over more elaborate prose.

If you could read one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
The Lord of the Rings. (which really is one book arbitrarily divided into 3) That story was simply breathtaking.

What are you reading now?
C. J. Cherryh the latest in her FOREIGNER series.

What’s next? Do you have anything to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
I am writing a movie for Universal Pictures. I have the third Linnet book to write, and I have a space opera I really want to write. I’ve got the 6 books plotted in broad strokes. Now I need to write some opening chapters of book one, and really get the plots nailed down.
Purchase This Case Is Gonna Kill Me: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound
Read my review of This Case Is Gonna Kill Me

1. You MUST fill out the form below
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of This Case Is Gonna Kill Me to 1 winner.
3. Giveaway is open to US addresses only (No PO Boxes)
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 10/27/12
6. Giveaway book courtesy of Tor
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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StoryBundle: The Halloween Horror Bundle

The Halloween Horror Bundle from StoryBundle is out! It includes books by Joseph Nassise (Riverwatch), Annie Walls (Taking On the Dead), Martin Kee (A Latent Dark), Patricia Fulton (The Drought), Weston Ochse (Blaze of Glory), and Jon F. Merz (Vicarious).

Here’s how it works: Go to, pay what you think the books are worth (if you pay more than $9, you get 2 bonus books!), download to your e-reader (compatible with most e-readers), and read!

Also, you can donate 10% of your purchase price to charity. Doesn’t get much better than that! Read more about the books below, and go snag ‘em!

Riverwatch by Joseph Nassise:
During a renovation project Jake Caruso and his construction crew uncover a hidden tunnel in the cellar of the old Blake family mansion. Exploring its depths, he finds an even greater mystery: a stone chamber that’s been covered up for hundreds of years — sealed shut by some long-forgotten warden.

When the ancient seal on the chamber is broken, a reign of terror and death consumes the town’s residents. Something is stalking them — something that strikes in the darkness without warning or mercy, leaving a trail of innocent blood in its wake — and Jake comes to recognize the nightmarish truth about what he has set free. It is an evil born of ages past. A creature of eternal bloodlust. And it has risen to continue its endless slaughter….


Taking On the Dead by Annie Walls:
Life for Kansas was perfect until the day the world changed.

She has been hiding out for four years in solitude. It’s the only way to survive. The only way not to draw the living dead. Helping a small group of people, she learns the new world might not be what she assumes. Venturing out of her refuge and comfort zone, she meets Rudy, who helps her find a greater purpose. She realizes that the world has moved on without her. Only it’s not what she expects. Her knowledge of the living dead grows and only makes her more curious as humanity continues to hang on by a thread. While on her search for answers she finds comfort in new friendships and love, but her past seems as if it will haunt her forever.

Kansas takes it upon herself to help other survivors, which would be easy if the famished were the only obstacles.

A Latent Dark by Martin Kee:
Skyla has lived secretly within the city walls of Bollingbrook for eleven years, playing among the airship factories and trainyards. As one of the Gutter District’s nameless destitute, it has gone undiscovered that she has a unique talent: when Skyla looks at a person’s shadow she sees through it and into another world. She can see people’s fears, desires, their past sins–all as swimming, living creatures. Her mother has never told her the real reasons why they must remain hidden, never explained the true dangers that exist outside the city walls. But when her mother’s past catches up with them both, Skyla finds she must flee out of the city and into a world still recovering from a second Dark Age, a world of adults with secrets only she can see. For a stranger has recently moved into Bollingbrook, a man some call the Pope of the South, a witch hunter to some and a hero to others. When more children begin to disappear, suspicions are raised and an unlikely search party is formed to find Skyla in the hopes that they aren’t already too late.

The Drought by Patricia Fulton:
Welcome to Junction, Texas Population: 626 and steadily declining Odd things have been happening around town. Hugh McManus went out to one of his grazing pastures and shot the better part of a fine herd before shooting himself. Luke Casteel crawled into a drainage pipe and never came back. A herd of wild javelina attacked and killed Rod Sawyer. And the thing is, the dying isn’t nearly done. Jared Riley knows there’s something sinister about the heat. It’s got people acting crazy and it’s got him hearing things. A voice keeps whispering, “It’s gonna get mighty hot. Yes sir we like our meatloaf and taters well done, served up pipin’ hot.” Convinced the heat is tracking them, picking them off one by one, he sets off to find help. Trouble is, the people who have the answers are more dangerous than the heat. Driven by strong characters and a twisting plot, THE DROUGHT delves into the supernatural world where ghosts roam the landscape and a voodoo curse floats on the wind.

Blaze of Glory by Weston Ochse:
For fans of Stephen King, David Gerrold, and Richard Matheson, picture this: the world is being eaten by monsters and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Everything seemed fine.
Life was as we knew it.
Nothing was out of place.

The first tiny creature, no bigger than a thumb, crawled out of the dark loamy earth of an Iowa corn field.

Creatures came from the ground in every country, from the smallest maggot-sized killer, to Cadillac-sized devourers, each one eating everything in sight, their apparent desire, to cleanse the earth of any vestige of mankind.

2 D A Y S A G O
Our hero, Buckly Adamski, watched the Governor of North Carolina start to dance and go crazy on the television, it wasn’t until the very end that the television announcer blew his brains out over the impossibility of it all.

Planes crashed to the ground, the Eiffel Tower crumbled, trains stopped running, the power went out, and the entire human race (what was left of it) paused to take a breath, wondering if it would be their last.

Buckley gathered those he could save in the penthouse of an old building in downtown Wilmington, North Carolina. Monsters are eating the city around them. They know they must leave. They know they have to make a run for it. But they also don’t want to die.

And there is an answer, but it will come from the craziest of places.

This novel also contains an essay called and The True Adventures of a Monster Screenplay in B-Movie Wonderland, which tells the tale of how the screenplay based on this novel was almost sold to Wesley Snipes, with many of the industry’s top horror movie stars attached to the film.

Vicarious by Jon F. Merz:
When disgraced ex-FBI agent-turned-Boston-cop Steve Curran finds a corpse with no practical explanation for its death, the nightmares start again. Convinced the serial killer that caused his expulsion from the Bureau is once again haunting him, Curran soon learns his theories are all wrong. When the sister of the latest victim, Lauren Fields, uncovers an old journal detailing the hunt for a creature known only as the Soul Eater, she and Curran must confront the very real prospect that the killer is not of this world at all – and that his motives have little to do with killing, but all to do with something far, far worse.

Interview: Chaz Brenchley (Ben Macallan), author of Pandaemonium

I’m very excited to have Chaz Brenchley on the blog today! Chaz (under the name Ben Macallan) is the author of Pandaemonium, out this month, and has also authored more than 10 novels in crime, fantasy, and children’s fiction. He was kind enough to take time out of his busy scheduled to answer a few of my questions.

Please welcome Chaz to the blog!

Chaz, your new novel, Pandaemonium, (under pen name Ben Macallan) comes out this month. Will you tell us a bit about it?
Pandaemonium is the sequel to Desdaemona. Both books deal with people who’ve been on the run for a long time, finally having to turn and face their greatest fears. In the first book, Jordan is tracked down by Desdaemona – Desi – with devastating results for them both. Pandaemonium is Desi’s book, where she has to face the consequences of her own choices and actions. All this takes place in an England sodden with myth, where their personal histories are played out in a landscape of risen legend.

Do you plan on writing more books about Desdaemona, or will you just see where it takes you?
I have one more book in my head – I actually try to avoid trilogies, but sometimes they’re forced upon you. This series started with three titles, in a triangle. I really need to write Daemonogamy, just to make that structure work. That said, though, “seeing where it takes me” is actually the way I work, so who can tell? What happens next depends on a lot of factors not under my control. Inspiration is not the least of those, but not the sole criterion either.

Your writing runs the gamut from urban fantasy, to fantasy, crime fiction, and even children’s books. Do you have a favorite genre?
Usually my favourite is the next thing that comes along, just because it’s new to me. I guess I’m a flibbertigibbet. My early novels were contemporary crime, and many of the friends I made then are still working – very successfully – in that genre, a quarter of a century later. Apparently I can’t hold still that long. There’s always somewhere else I haven’t been yet, another kind of story to be explored. Right now, I’m playing with steampunk. On Mars. Old Mars, Lowell’s Mars, with canals and atmosphere and Martians, overlaid with a little of what we actually know now.

What are some of your biggest literary influences?
I always used to say I read the best of everything. I love style as well as storytelling. I’ve just had to abandon two-thirds of my library, in a move from England to California; the books I’m shipping across the Atlantic include Peter Straub and Patrick O’Brian and John le Carré and Rudyard Kipling and Mary Renault and Tolkien and Theodore Sturgeon and Dorothy L Sayers and Georgette Heyer and Elizabeth David and M F K Fisher and and and. I’ve probably borrowed something from all of those and more.

If you could read one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
Heh. That’s a really interesting question – partly because I’m a great re-reader, and part of the pleasure of revisiting a book lies in knowing the shape of the story already. I’m not sure I’d actually want to give that up. On the other hand, the first time I read The Lord of the Rings, I don’t believe I did anything else but read it, for twenty-four hours cover to cover. I’d like to recapture that, perhaps – but I was a kid then, and I think it’d be a very different experience reading it for the first time as an adult.

What are you reading now?
Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles. For the first time, as it happens: people have been pressing these books on me for 35 years, and I’ve only just succumbed. I’m in the last quarter of the last book now. You’re interrupting me, damn your eyes…

In the spirit of the season, what’s one of the scariest books you’ve ever read?
Heh. That would be Stephen King’s The Shining. Which I very sensibly read late at night, by firelight, in a remote country cottage all alone. Yup. Good choices, all of those. Lord, but I was spooked…

On a personal note, you’re described as a notorious foodie. What’s one of your favorite dishes (to prepare or to eat)?
In a rather boringly traditional male macho kind of way, I love hot and highly-spiced foods; given a free hand, I tend to play with curries and dishes from further east. On the other hand, I also adore making bread. I have a sourdough loaf that I bake every week, with a mix of white, wholemeal and rye flours and just a touch of malt, which may be my single favourite thing to cook.

I read that you enjoy travel. Where would you like to go that you haven’t yet been?
Anywhere in mainland China, but Sichuan particularly (for the food, of course). Now that Burma is coming out of the cold, I’d love to go to Rangoon; my mother was born there. Hong Kong. Japan. All my thoughts are easterly, always.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
Steampunk!Mars – but I said that already. In a wholly different steampunk project, my wife and I wrote a story between us – The Airship Towers of Trebizond, by Mr & Mrs Brenchley – which will be coming out in Gears and Levers 2. I have various other short stories heading towards publication, and I’m slowly bringing my backlist back into print through Book View Cafe ( Dispossession is the next in line. Amnesia and a fallen angel, how can you resist? That’ll be out by the time this interview is published…
Keep up with Chaz: Website | Twitter
Pre-Order Pandaemonium: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

About Pandaemonium:
Desdaemona has done a thing so so terrible that she has to run away from the consequences. Again. Where better to look for shelter than with the boy she was running from before?

But trouble follows. And if it’s not Jacey’s parents who sent the deadly crow-men, the Twa Corbies, in chase of her, then who is it? Deep under London, among the lost and rejected of two worlds, answers begin to emerge from Desi’s hidden past. Answers that send her north in a flight that turns to a hunt, with strange companions and stranger prey. Dangers lie ahead and behind; inconvenient passion lays traps for her just when she needs a clear head; at the last even Desi has to beg for help. From one who has more cause than most to want her dead…

Scare-a-Thon Top 5: Paul Weimer, on Lovecraft and Carpenter

Since I joined the gang at SF Signal, I’ve gotten to know fellow contributor Paul Weimer (@PrinceJvstin) a bit, and not only is he one of the smartest folks I know, he’s also one of the nicest (his encouragement prior to my first podcast was much appreciated.) While Scare-a-Thon has focused on the scary in traditional horror, I thought Paul could also bring a sci-fi sensibility to the event, so without further ado, here’s Paul’s Top 5, which focuses on gems from Lovecraft and John Carpenter!

Five Frights from Lovecraft and Carpenter
-Paul Weimer

I don’t consume a tremendous amount of horror, although sometimes a turn into the dark side of horror is the only thing that will do, especially when the nights grow long and the air grows cold and fall turns into winter. There is a human need that I share to be frightened, but reassured afterwards that the fright was a passing thing, and that we have survived it. The adrenalin rush of the scare, or the cerebral creeping of impending doom are an experience exhilarating in the moment, and are then survived. Is it any wonder that visual and aural media are often much more effective in invoking that sense of horror in me than a book?

My taste in horror is much more toward the horror of the alien and the other, rather than the horror and fears of a serial killer or a murderer. I am not a fan of Saw movies or splatterpunk. I do not like the Friday the 13th series with Jason; however Freddy Krueger and his ability to manipulate dreams pushes my buttons far more effectively. That is the sort of fright that sends chills down MY spine. The integrity of my sleeping mind under threat is far scarier to me than a guy in a mask or a sadist who wants me to cut a leg off in a sick sense of social darwinism. The scene in the fourth Nightmare movie where Freddy transforms one of the kids he is tormenting into a cockroach, traps her in a roach motel and then crushes it and her gets me every time.

The idea of alien and eldritch entities, or the very boundaries of reality breaking down, or the prospect of being catapulted into a dimension that might as well be called hell are the frights and fears that get my pulse racing, get my fears rising, and give me that sense of relief when the roller coaster of existential horror is done. The works of John Carpenter and the works of H.P. Lovecraft, together, scratch that need for visual and aural frights that bring the alien, the other, the existential. And, most importantly, entertain.

So, here are five of the Lovecraftian and John Carpenter films I go back to again and again when I want the visceral feel of being frightened and scared, especially at this time of the year.

1. Dagon
Dagon is a 2001 Spanish horror film heavily based on the H.P. Lovecraft story “The Shadow over Innsmouth”. The story transplanted to the Spanish coast and the modern day, the story features a successful entrepreneur and his girlfriend, vacationing with their major financial backers on a yacht near the town of Imboca (“In mouth”, in the Spanish-like language of Catalan. Get it?). A storm wrecks the boat, injures the investor friends, and drives the young couple to the town to find help for their friends, only to discover the horrific rites that the town partakes in. Even more frightening, the entrepreneur discovers a hitherto unknown connection to the not so human inhabitants of the town.

2. Event Horizon
Continuing with the Lovecraftian elements and theme, Event Horizon brings those elements to a haunted, derelict space craft. The crew of the patrol and rescue ship Lewis and Clark have been sent to Neptune, where a long thought lost ship, the titular Event Horizon, has appeared in a decaying orbit around the gas giant. With the crew of the Lewis and Clark is Dr. Weir, the original designer of the Event Horizon, played by Sam Neill. The goals of the designer and the crew are relatively straightforward: determine what happened to the Event Horizon, and salvage the ship. The fact that Dr. Weir’s wife was one of the crew adds an extra incentive to the Doctor to want to explore the shop and learn its fate.

Sounds simple, right? However, once aboard, the aura of malevolence and malice aboard the Event Horizon slowly rises, and stranger and stranger things start to happen, until the horror of what has happened to the Event Horizon and what the ship intends is inescapable. And I just can’t resist a movie which has a plot twist based on a translation of Latin.

3. The Thing
The 1982 Thing by John Carpenter starts what has been called the Apocalypse Trilogy. The Apocalypse Trilogy is a set of three films by Carpenter that are really three end-game situations for the human race. In the Thing, an isolated polar base comes into contact with a murderous, shapeshifting alien, and the movie turns into a locked-room mystery of sorts, with the identity of the alien always a fluid and uncertain thing. Questions of trust and reliability are intermingled with action as the alien is seemingly flushed out again and again. The nihilistic ending is very much in keeping with the bleak existential horror of the movie as a whole. And the acting, starting with Kurt Russell,is top notch. We believe in these characters, even and especially as they start to turn on each other. And who wouldn’t be scared by the idea that your friends and colleagues are anything but human?

The new remake isn’t quite as potent as this one, but is worth seeing as well.

4. Prince of Darkness
Next up in Carpenter’s Trilogy, Prince of Darkness is a 1990 horror film that explores quasi-gnostic ideas of God and the Devil, pitting faith and science against an Anti-God seeking to return to our world. Like The Thing, it really works the angle of the characters being trapped in a small space with a malevolent force. In this case, instead of an isolated base in the Antarctic, the main characters find themselves trapped in a church as the Anti-God prepares to manifest itself, and the Anti-God has plans for those trapped in the church with it. Throw in a weird subplot involving messages from the future and you get a potent mix of science, fantasy, and horror.

5. In the Mouth of Madness
In the Mouth of Madness is a 1995 horror film that rounds out the aforementioned trilogy and combines the direction of John Carpenter, and Lovecraftian elements. John Trent, played by Sam Neill (yes, again!) is an insurance fraud investigator who is tasked to find the missing sensational horror writer Sutter Cane, a Stephen King with an emphasis on eldritch and alien entities more than simple small town horror. When Trent discovers that a fictional town from Cane’s stories is real, and that Cane is living in that town, his horror and troubles only begin, as reality itself seems to fray around him. The questions of what is reality and how it might be manipulated are juxtaposed against more traditional and threatening horror elements, to very visceral effect.
Keep up with Paul: Twitter | Blog

About Paul:
Not really a Prince of Amber, but rather an ex-pat New Yorker that has found himself living in Minnesota for the last 9 years, Paul “PrinceJvstin” Weimer has been reading SF and Fantasy for longer than Shaun has been alive. In addition to pitching in at Skiffy and Fanty, he can be found at his own blog, Blog Jvstin Style, SF Signal, the Functional Nerds, Twitter, Livejournal and many other places on the Internet.

Scare-a-Thon Interview: Gary McMahon, author of the Concrete Grove Trilogy

Please welcome UK author Gary McMahon to the blog, as part of the October Scare-a-Thon series of interviews! Gary is the author of 7 novels, including the Concrete Grove Trilogy and the Thomas Usher series, and his newest book Beyond Here Lies Nothing, just came out!

Gary, you’re the author of numerous novels, all of which delve into terrifying territory. Did you always want to write? Will you tell us a bit about how you became a writer?
I’ve actually only had seven novels published, but, yes, they all examine dark themes. I didn’t always want to write: I did always write. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing, even if it was just scribbling scenes or character descriptions on scraps of paper when I was a child. It’s something I’ve always done, and I never stopped hoping that one day someone would pay me to do it.

You just wrapped up your Concrete Grove Trilogy with Beyond Here Lies Nothing. What did you enjoy most about writing the trilogy?
Finishing it! I spent so long in that world, living with those characters in my head, that it was a relief to finish writing the third book and leave it alone for a while. There was a sense of loss, too, but that was tempered by the joy of being able to write about something new.

You’re known for your talent for writing chilling stories. What’s something that truly terrifies you?
Growing old. Losing my mental faculties. Losing my wife or my son. Dying. Pretty average fears, I guess, but that’s what terrifies me.

What, in your opinion, is one of the biggest differences between American and British horror?
This is a tricky question, and one that I’ve thought a lot about. To me it seems that a lot of English horror fiction is rooted in the traditional form – there’s a slow accumulation of detail, a focus on atmosphere and the psychology of characters. I’ve found that a lot of American horror is more situation-and-plot-based, and doesn’t spend a lot of time generating an atmosphere of dread. Neither style is right or wrong; both are valid. Also, this isn’t the case with all English and American horror – but it’s a handy generalisation to make because it illustrates a valid point.

What are some of your biggest literary influences?
Ramsey Campbell, Dennis Etchison, Joel Lane, Rupert Thomson, Charles Bukowski. Cinema. Music. My life.
If you could read one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski. Reading that novel for the first time was a revelatory experience.

What are you reading now?
I’m reading A Book of Horrors, edited by Steve Jones, Boneland by Alan Garner, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, and a few books and essays about Victorian mediums and Victorian social advances as research for a project.

When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
I don’t really have what I’d call free time. I’m either working the day job, spending time with my family, running, practicing karate, or writing. I do watch a lot of movies – I’m a big cinema buff. But that’s part of my routine; I see it as research rather than a way of filling spare time, and I write film reviews for a couple of websites.

What’s next for you? Is there anything else you’d like to share about upcoming projects and events?
I’m currently working on a novel called The Quiet Room, which is a haunted house story. Next year will see the release of a short apocalyptic novel called The End. I’ve also been commissioned by an award-winning US publisher to write a supernatural horror novel, which will be called The Bones of You. And, as always, there’ll be more short stories.
Keep up with Gary: Website  | Goodreads

Giveaway: The Earthsea Series (6 books) by Ursula K. Le Guin

I’m so excited to offer you (courtesy of the wonderful folks at HMH Kids) a chance to win the entire Earthsea series by Ursula K. Le Guin! You can check out the announcement page for the new editions, read the giveaway details below, and good luck!

About A Wizard of Earthsea (Book 1):
Originally published in 1968, Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea marks the first of the six now beloved Earthsea titles. Ged was the greatest sorcerer in Earthsea, but in his youth he was the reckless Sparrowhawk. In his hunger for power and knowledge, he tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tumultuous tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death’s threshold to restore the balance.

1. You MUST fill out the form below
2. Giveaway is for The Earthsea Series (6 books) by Ursula K. Le Guin to 1 winner.
3. Giveaway is open to US addresses only (No PO Boxes)
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 10/26/12
6. Giveaway book courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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