I don’t know about you, but here in Texas, it’s already getting HOT, and there are plenty of summer releases coming up to help you beat the heat! This is by no means an all inclusive list (I’ll do that in my June/July/August releases posts) but highlights some titles I’m especially looking forward to. What books are you excited for this summer?
Spellcrossed by Barbara Ashford
Amped by Daniel Wilson
Blood Kin by MJ Scott
The Taken by Vicki Pettersson
The Fear by Charlie Higson
Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch
Chasing Magic by Stacia Kane
This Dark Earth by John Hornor Jacobs
Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues by Diana Rowland
Geekomancy by Michael Underwood
God Save the Queen by Kate Locke
Kitty Steals the Show by Carrie Vaughn
Blood Before Sunrise by Amanda Bonilla
Odd Apocalypse by Dean Koontz
The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires by Molly Harper
The Wanderers by Paula Brandon
Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake
Freak by Jennifer Hillier
The Unnaturalists by Tiffany Trent
Chosen by Sable Grace
Romeo Spikes by Joanne Reay
The Iron Wyrm Affair by Lilith Saintcrow
The Constantine Affliction by T. Aaron Payton
Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig
Endgame by Ann Aguirre
Joan Swan recently got some great news about her book, Fever, and I’m happy to give her the floor to announce it today, along with an excerpt and a giveaway!
A big thanks to Kristin for allowing me to share my celebration at My Bookish Ways today!!
FEVER has been chosen by Amazon for inclusion in their Top 100 program! Why is this awesome? Because it means FEVER is sale priced at $3.99 for the month of May! Now you can try a new-to-you author (me) at very low risk!
I find choosing a new book to read terribly difficult. Deciding is always easier when I can take a novel that sounds interesting out for a test drive. You know, read an excerpt to get a taste for the style and feel of the story and meet the characters.
So, I’ve included an excerpt of FEVER here for that very reason! You can also read the entire first chapter on my website.
Celebratory Giveaway: For everyone (FEVER fans included), I’m happy to offer the chance to win 1 of 3 Amazon Gift Cards ($25, $15 and $10) for your help in spreading the word about FEVER’s inclusion in Amazon’s great promotion!
**Everyone can enter! All you have to do is follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter below.
Good luck & enjoy!
Blackout (Newsflesh #3) by Mira Grant
Publisher: Orbit/May 22nd, 2012
Kind thanks to Orbit for providing a review copy
Rise up while you can. -Georgia Mason
The year was 2014. The year we cured cancer. The year we cured the common cold. And the year the dead started to walk. The year of the Rising.
The year was 2039. The world didn’t end when the zombies came, it just got worse. Georgia and Shaun Mason set out on the biggest story of their generation. The uncovered the biggest conspiracy since the Rising and realized that to tell the truth, sacrifices have to be made.
Now, the year is 2041, and the investigation that began with the election of President Ryman is much bigger than anyone had assumed. With too much left to do and not much time left to do it in, the surviving staff of After the End Times must face mad scientists, zombie bears, rogue government agencies-and if there’s one thing they know is true in post-zombie America, it’s this:
Things can always get worse.
**WARNING** This review has inevitable spoilers if you have not read FEED and DEADLINE. Feel free to read my review of FEED if you haven’t started the series, and don’t say I didn’t warn you!
After the shocking ending of Feed and the intensity of Deadline, are you ready for more? Hope so, because Blackout is just as good, and it was so good, I didn’t even think about the fact that it’s the conclusion to the trilogy (well, I didn’t think about it much.) Shaun and company are at Dr. Abbey’s remote lab helping to gather subjects (aka zombies) for her studies of Kellis-Amberlee, and Shaun’s mental state isn’t getting any better. That’s to say, not only is he still hearing George’s voice in his head, he’s starting to actually see her. Little does he know that George is alive at the Seattle CDC. Well, sort of. A clone of Georgia Mason is alive and being held by the lovely folks at the CDC, who plan to use her as a tool for their own nefarious means. For all intents and purposes, she is Georgia Mason (97% of her, at least). They’ve found a way to transfer memories as well as clone someone physically, and the new Georgia is about as much like the old Georgia as she can be, and being held in a white room, deprived of her beloved internet connection is not the way to win points with her. That’s not even taking into consideration the constant medical tests they’re running on her to prove her “viability.” So, Georgia needs to get out of her new prison, but how? Knowing who to trust is a shell game, but it seems that she may have some friends on the inside. Well, more like “the enemy of my enemy…” Anyway, she must find a way out before they decide she’s little more than a practice model. Then there are those KA infected mosquitoes…
In Blackout, Mira Grant returns us to the post apocalyptic, zombie ridden world of Feed and Deadline with a fierceness, made all the more poignant because of our affection for Shaun and Georgia. These books don’t take place in a wasteland, but rather in a world 20 years out from the outbreak that started the zombie apocalypse, and it’s a world a little like the one we know, but with some important differences. Like, the blood testing units at nearly every entrance and exit, and the vast amounts of land that has been declared uninhabitable, overtaken by zombies. The CDC is a rather nefarious entity too, when they should be a bastion of safety, and conspiracy abounds. When Shaun and his crew are sent to bargain with his adoptive parents, the Masons, for help gaining entry into Florida to save Alaric’s sister, they get a little more than they bargained for, and I’ll admit, I was on the edge of my seat waiting for Shaun and Georgia to be reunited. They’ve also been tasked with finding out the truth about the KA infected mosquitos that have begun spreading the virus all over again. I wouldn’t consider this series funny, except for some excellent banter between characters, but a high point in Blackout was a series of meetings with The Monkey and his crew, who are known for providing bulletproof fake IDs and papers. The Fox is a homicidal delight, and you’ll chuckle (some seriously dark humor here) and cringe in equal measure.
The focus is not on the zombies in Blackout (it never really, truly was), although there are zombies and some zombie action, even a zombie bear. Rather, the focus is on finding the truth of the Kellis-Amberlee virus and where it originated. And you know how Shaun and George feel about the truth, don’t you? Alternating between Shaun and George’s narratives, the author keeps the tension tight, and the action nonstop. I mean, cloning, zombie bears, conspiracy, kidnapping the president: it’s all in a day’s work for these guys, right? I promise you’ll be up late with Blackout, and you’ll love the explosive and satisfying ending. This superb series is absolutely not to be missed!
I’m so happy to have the lovely Gemma Files on the blog today! Gemma is the author of The Hexslinger Series (A Book of Tongues, A Rope of Thorns, and the upcoming A Tree of Bones), and much more! She was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about her writing, horror, how she likes to spend her free time (when she can get it),and she totally has the same taste in movies as me, so please welcome Gemma to the blog!
Gemma, you’re the author of the Hexslinger series and numerous short stories. Have you always wanted to write? Can you tell us a bit about your journey?
I have, indeed, always wanted to write. More accurately, I guess, I’ve always dreamed, always told stories, always sung and made up poetry, and eventually started to write it all down. My first professional sale was at age nine, to Cricket magazine—a poem called “Earthquake!”, for which I received a copy of the book Bunnicula. Throughout high school, I continued to write and put on plays, as well as starting a bunch of extremely unsuccessful novels which all gave out about thirty pages in. My journey towards writing “for a living”, though, began with me going to see Michael Mann’s Manhunter in 1986 and, as I walked out, suddenly thinking: “Hey, I could be a journalist.” (Since the only reporter in Manhunter is a tabloid hack who gets his lips bitten off by the Red Dragon and is then tied to a wheelchair and lit on fire, you can see how this would be a somewhat odd connection to make, in context.) I think it probably came from having been raised around people who were all freelancers, and wanting some sort of “steady”, “real” job with security and an office to go to. Which totally isn’t what being a journalist is about, as I found out.
At any rate, I went to Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, got a BAA in Magazine Journalism and graduated straight into a recession, where I ended up working security, working in a high-end sex store, etc. Eventually, I was able to get in as a stringer on the bottom floor of a then-new arts and culture magazine called eye Weekly, where I spent two years as a stringer before drifting into full-time film criticism. I did that for roughly eight years, during which I also started to teach, first at the Trebas Institute, then the Toronto Film School. Throughout this period, I continued to write and sell short stories, then novelettes, then novellas. I also sold five stories to Showtime’s The Hunger, an erotic horror anthology TV series, and adapted two of them into teleplays myself, which got me a Writer’s Guild of Canada membership.
After turnover at eye forced me out, I taught full-time until the TFS went bankrupt, which happened to be around the same time my son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. I then spent a year being depressed and writing very little except fanfiction, before finally starting to write that novel everybody always told me I should be writing, which became A Tree of Bones (Volume One of the Hexslinger Series). I started it in January of 2009 and sold it in April, on the strength of seven chapters and an outline. Three years and two more books later, here we are.
Book 3 in the Hexslinger series, A Tree of Bones, comes out at the end of this month. Do you have plans for more books in the series?
I do have another story I want to tell in the same ‘verse, but it would take place about ten years after the end of A Tree…, and concentrate around New York city—sort of like Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, except with magic. I don’t know if that too would turn out to be a trilogy, but given my track-record thus far, it’s always an option. Before I start work on putting that together, however, my editors at ChiZine think it would be a good idea for me to concentrate on writing something stand-alone, contemporary and straight-on horror, just so I can prove I’m not tied to the Hexslinger “brand”, so that’s what I’m in the process of developing right now.
Would you tell us a bit about A Tree of Bones?
Well, it’s the third instalment in what was always supposed to be one big book, so it’s probably not going to make a heck of a lot of sense if you haven’t read A Book… or its immediate sequel, A Rope of Thorns (Volume Two of the Hexslinger Series). Basically, at this point the feud between pistoleer-turned-avatar of an Aztec god Chess Pargeter with his former lover Reverend Rook, the hexslinger who threw him over in favour of a reborn Mayan goddess named Ixchel, has reached critical mass. The Rev and Ixchel have founded Hex City, the only place on earth where hexes can work together without constantly wanting to vampirize each other’s power, whose potential danger has attracted the attention of the U.S., Mexican and Texican governments; as we kick off, Hex City is being laid siege to by a battalion of U.S. Infantry, Allan Pinkerton’s Detective Agency and a network of normal humans and enslaved hexes using “arcantistric” anti-hex technology developed by Pinkerton’s pet expert Doctor Asbury. Another alliance is trying their best to pull Chess up out of Hell and re-insert him back into his body, which is currently being used by Ixchel’s rival, the Aztec Trickster God Tezcatlipoca. In other words, stuff’s about to hit the fan. Could it be a second Civil War, or the end of the entire world as we know it?
When it comes to horror, what draws you in the most and keeps you reading?
Characters come first, always. Horror is a genre which can be very easily derailed by an over-concentration on plot and/or mood, which is difficult, because mood and theme really lie at the heart of just what, exactly, makes something “horror”. You want people you can care about, but you also know going in that awful things are probably going to happen to them, so you fight that identification every step of the way—it’s a very interesting dichotomy to work with. But then there’s also the problem of despair: You don’t want people to just give up halfway through, simply because the outcome is probably going to be negative. In a way, good horror can turn nihilism into a sort of transcendence which comes out of story and character logic and builds operatically, to an inherently satisfying climax. Sure, there’s blood; sure, there’s dread; sure, bad things happen to good people. But as long as you give me a certain epicness to the proceeding, I’m happy. I’ve never been one of those people who thinks Madama Butterfly would be “better” with a happy ending.
What are some of your biggest literary influences?
Mythology and fairytales were my meat when I was a kid; one of the first books I remember really loving was the D’Aulaires’ Norse Gods and Giants, as well as their Book of Greek Myths. I also read a lot of stuff about archaeology, like Robert Silverberg’s Lost Cities and Vanished Civilizations. Amusingly, it then turned out that one of the first “adult” books I read was Silverberg’s Thorns, which started me off on a science fiction/fantasy kick. In my teenage years, however, I fell across Stephen King and Peter Straub, and realized where my true interests lay. I also love graphic novels, especially those produced by Vertigo in the 1990s and all of Dark Horse’s Mike Mignola titles. The clearest influences on my personal style today, however, would probably be Harlan Ellison, Michael McDowell, Clive Barker, Kathe Koja, Poppy Z. Brite and Caitlin R. Kiernan.
If you could read one book again for the very first time, which one would it be, and why?
Man, that’s hard. Uh…Kathe Koja’s Skin gave me incredible pleasure the first time I read it, because I couldn’t possibly believe it was going where I hoped it would, and then it did. The same with Marjorie Bowen’s Black Magic, and Michael McDowell’s The Elementals. But then again, I tend to re-read various books I love at least once a year, so it may be a moot point.
I read that your parents were actors. Did that have a big influence on your creativity?
Yes, definitely. They used to read to me a lot when I was little, everything from Shakespeare to Dylan Thomas and C.S. Lewis, and it really bred the idea in me that to the best sort of writing is the kind which lends itself to being read out loud. I remember writing most of my earliest stuff on the backs of scripts my Mom would bring home. Interestingly, she did a lot of radio work for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and one of those projects was an anthology show called Nightfall (about half original scripts, half adapted), which taught me a lot about pacing and creating shock effects by keeping things strictly off-screen, rather than on-. And while my Dad moved back to Australia before I was nine, he and I still share a lot of the same interests—not horror, though. Neither of them are big fans of that particular genre.
I also read that you’re a screenwriter. What are a few of your favourite films?
Favourite films in general, or favourite horror films? When I think of movies I could watch over and over, the ones which top the list are things like John Carpenter’s The Thing, Near Dark, Candyman, Angel Heart, The Invisible Man, Alien, Aliens…but then again, I also really do love Gangs of New York and the James Mangold version of 3:10 to Yuma (a big influence on the Hexslinger trilogy), as well as noirs like L.A. Confidential, Gilda and To Live and Die in L.A., freakazoid action movies like Con Air and Big Trouble in Little China, Criterion arthouse cinema like Black Narcissus, the Canadian punk rock road movie Hard Core Logo, or anime like Miyazaki’s Spirited Away and Satoshi Kon’s Paprika. I love movies from all around the world, like Japan’s Cure, Finland’s Sauna, Belgium’s Left Bank and Hong Kong’s The East is Red: Swordsman III, as well as big Hollywood blockbusters like The Dark Knight and The Avengers. A friend of mine once called me a populist, and I don’t think he meant it as a compliment, but it’s true that I can often find something to enjoy in (almost) anything. It’s all grist for the mill.
If you weren’t writing, what would be your 2nd choice dream job?
Much as teaching film history and screenwriting occasionally got under my skin, I really did enjoy it—particularly in terms of being a mentor and the relationships I formed with some of my students, which remain precious to me. It also forced me to explain myself more than I’m usually prepared to, and showed me my own opinions from an outsider’s perspective, both very useful experiences, if not always enjoyable. So if I ever got the opportunity to do that again, I’d be very happy.
When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
While I actually do enjoy spending time with my son, these days—especially since you can finally have a conversation of sorts with him, which took a while and a lot of hard work to cultivate—to be frank, he’s still kind of exhausting. So I guess the thing I miss most is having a large group of friends to hang out and discuss stuff with in real life, because the Internet really only goes so far, in that direction. In terms of self-care, the thing I do that’s probably literally healthiest is to work out at least three days a week, though I’d like to do it more. I practice yoga and do a martial arts blend class called BodyCombat at Goodlife Fitness, and I find it’s really useful in terms of getting both the blood and the ideas flowing.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
My official book launch will be on June 2, at Bakka-Phoenix, in Toronto. After that, I’ll be at Readercon in July, and I’ll be attending World Fantasy in Toronto in November. I’m also doing a film column for http://www.chizine.com every other week. Check out my professional blog at http://gfiles-musicatmidnight.blogspot.com, which also has a link to my TMI-inflected Livejournal (http://handful_ofdust.livejournal.com).
I’ve got 2 giveaway winners to announce today! Thanks to everyone that entered and congrats!
The Impossible Cube by Steven Harper
Congrats to Natasha
Overbite by Meg Cabot
Congrats to Amy K
*All winnners were chosen by Rafflecopter, have been notified via email, and have 48 hours to respond with their mailing addresses. Thanks again to everyone that entered!
Nightshifted (Edie Spence #1) by Cassie Alexander
Publisher: St. Martins Press/May 22nd, 2012
Kind thanks to St. Martins Press for providing a review copy
Nursing school prepared Edie Spence for a lot of things. Burn victims? No problem. Severed limbs? Piece of cake. Vampires? No way in hell. But as the newest nurse on Y4, the secret ward hidden in the bowels of County Hospital, Edie has her hands full with every paranormal patient you can imagine—from vamps and were-things to zombies and beyond…
Edie’s just trying to learn the ropes so she can get through her latest shift unscathed. But when a vampire servant turns to dust under her watch, all hell breaks loose. Now she’s haunted by the man’s dying words—Save Anna—and before she knows it, she’s on a mission to rescue some poor girl from the undead. Which involves crashing a vampire den, falling for a zombie, and fighting for her soul. Grey’s Anatomy was never like this…
Nurse Edie Spence is having a bad day. She’s assigned to unit Y4 at county hospital, and manages to obliterate a vampire servant (daytimer) by accident, getting bit in the hand in the process. He whispers the name Anna before he expires, and with the name, and his watch in hand, she’s off to find the mysterious Anna. What Edie finds is horrifying, evidence of a slavery ring involving vampires, torture, and worse. When she does finally manage to find and free Anna, she realizes she may be in over her head. Anna is not only a vampire, she’s much more. Just how much more Edie doesn’t know, but she’ll lead her down a dangerous path, and there’s no turning back. Edie needs Anna to testify on her behalf at a vampire tribunal for any chance of survival, but keeping track of the little vampire is a monumental task all its own.
I loved this book. What a breath of fresh air! You may think from the cover that it might be a semi-light urban romance. Not so. In fact, in many ways it’s darker then a lot of UF out there right now. Edie isn’t a happy go lucky girl. In fact, she’s got a brother who’s a junkie, and the Shadows (the denizens that keep Y4 in check) have her over a barrel. She works on Y4 and in return, they keep her brother clean. She’s afraid of making any real connections with anyone and unwinds by going to clubs to dance and bring home one-night stands. And Edie is very, very lonely. I think the diminutive Anna (she appears to be a nine year old girl), brings out a protective side in Edie, and her determination to protect her was endearing, especially since Anna isn’t exactly what you’d call “cuddly”. She’s very much “other”, as are all vampires in Cassie Alexander’s world. Nightshifted is a unique, fascinating trip into Edie’s world. Not only is the worldbuilding different, but I really enjoyed the nursing aspects as well (Cassie Alexander is a nurse, so she knows her stuff.) The book is filled with fascinating characters, including an enigmatic zombie firefighter (no rotting shambler here), which Edie finds herself increasingly drawn to, weres, shapeshifters, and of course, vampires. A memorable scene with a STD afflicted dragon (yup) had me on the edge of my seat, the budding romance with Ti (zombie firefighter!) is sweet and tender, and I just plain loved hanging out with Edie. Nightshifted is a very strong start to what promises to be a wonderful new series!
Getaway by Lisa Brackmann
Publisher: Soho Press/May 2012
Kind thanks to Soho Press and Netgalley for providing a review copy
Michelle is in sunny Puerto Vallarta, attempting to escape from her troubles, including the mound of debt her recently deceased husband left her (hey, the vacation was already paid for), and wondering what kind of life will be waiting for her upon returning to LA. Unfortunately, escape isn’t in the cards, since trouble manages to find Michelle in the form of handsome, mysterious Daniel. He’s everything her late husband wasn’t: lithe, sexy and definitely mysterious. Their first night together is a disaster, though, after armed men burst in on them in the middle of the night. Danny is injured, Michelle is scared, and when she goes to his apartment to return his belongings, a gruesome discovery leads Michelle to think that Danny may be part of something sinister. When an acquaintance of Danny’s threatens her unless she spies on him, she knows she’s in over her head.
If you’re looking for a fast paced and diverting thriller, look no further than Getaway. Michelle is very likeable, and the author manages to capture exactly how it feels to be on vacation, at least in the beginning. You know what I’m talking about: the I’m-on-vacation-so-nothing-bad-can-possibly-happen-to-me feeling? Unfortunately, that feeling doesn’t last for Michelle, as she spends time with Danny, becoming increasingly sure that he’s into some pretty nasty stuff. I’ve been to Mexico, and it’s a beautiful place to vacation. While I haven’t been to Puerto Vallarta, the author seems to know her way around and perfectly illustrates the devil-may-care feeling of a coastal tourist town. What she also shows is the darker underbelly of drug and cartel violence that has been ubiquitous lately. You can’t read the news without coming across an article on the cartel wars that have claimed thousands of lives, in increasingly gruesome ways. Her timing is perfect with this book, making it very relevant to current events and adding an additional layer of menace. Rapid pacing and tight plotting will keep you turning pages and even though it never manages a real romance between Michelle and the enigmatic Danny, the ending will leave you wanting more of this talented author. Lisa Brackmann is most definitely an author to watch!
I’m so thrilled to have Joseph Nassise on the blog today! Joseph is the author of the recent WWI zombie extravaganza By the Blood of Heroes (+ much more), was kind enough to take time to answer my questions, and also has great taste in authors. Plus, he’s one of the nicest guys in the biz, so give him a warm welcome, yeah?
We also have a copy of By the Blood of Heroes up for grabs, so be sure to check out the details at the bottom of the post!
Joe, you’re a super busy guy, with more than 10 titles under your belt, graphic novels, short stories, your brand new book By the Blood of Heroes, and at least one more upcoming title for 2012! You also offer coaching services to aspiring writers. Whew! How do you keep up with such a hectic schedule?
Um…one more title in 2012? Try three! (The Library of Gold in June, the King of the Dead in November, and The Staff of Judea in December. Never mind the paperback of Eyes to See in July. And the release of the fourth Templar Chronicles book, Infernal Games. Sheesh, I’m tired just thinking about it all!)
But back to your question. Writing is my full time job, so I do it five days a week, seven hours a day. I keep my coaching hours limited so that they don’t overwhelm the time I need for my own writing. I put aside a few hours a week for doing promotional work but most of my weekdays are spent writing.
Can you tell us a bit about By the Blood of Heroes? World War I?Zombies? I’m totally there, but what was your inspiration for starting this series?
By the Blood of Heroes is an alternate history novel set in World War one, with steampunk and zombies. I know, right? The Great War had been underway for three years when German scientists invented corpse gas, a battlefield toxin that resurrected the bodies of the dead and turned them into flesh-hungry ghouls. These “shamblers” are used as shock troops by the German army, which has slowly been pushing the Allies back off the continent ever since the first one got up and walked anew.
Into this setting comes Captain Michael “Madman” Burke and his Marauders, a team of misfits ordered to carry out a secret mission behind enemy lines in order to rescue an Allied flier with information crucial to the war effort.
From clockwork arms to armored war dirigibles, the story has a firm grasp on both steampunk and zombies.
What do you find most interesting about World War I and that time in history?
WWI is this terrible conflict that doesn’t get written about all that much. Battles with more than a million dead? Talk about a horror setting. It is practically unimaginable what the world went through at that time. I wanted to use that to tell a story about duty and personal sacrifice. The zombies were just icing on the cake.
Why do you think zombies are so popular at the moment?
To be honest, I have no idea. In fact, I always swore I would never write a zombie novel. But as I got underway with the story, things just fell into place so naturally that in the end, I just couldn’t walk away from it.
What are some of your favorite zombie novels or movies?
I’m a huge fan of The Walking Dead, both the tv series and the comics. I’ve enjoyed Joe McKinney’s Dead World series (Dead City, Apocalypse of the Dead, Flesh Eaters) as well as Jonathan Maberry’s Rot & Ruin series. Cherie Priest combined an alternate post-Civil War and zombies in her Clockwork Century books, which I also enjoyed. My favorite zombie movies are probably 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later.
Zombies aside, how about other fave authors or novels?
My reading tastes are extremely eclectic. John Connolly. Lee Child. Lilith Saintcrow. Tom Wood. Majorie Liu. Cherie Priest. Robert Crais. Caitlin Kiernan. Kevin Hearne. Kathryn Kristine Rusch. Jack McDevitt. You get the idea. I’m a big fan of urban fantasy and SF (one of the reasons I write them), as well as thrillers.
What are you reading now?
I just finished several books – Jonathan Maberry’s Dead of Night. Robert Crais’ Taken. Jack Campbell’s The Lost Fleet: Dreadnaught. I’m about to start Beneath Hill 60, a non-fiction book about the Australian tunnelers used during the Battle of Ypres in World War One.
When you manage to find a free moment in your hectic schedule, how do you like to spend it?
With my family. Simple as that.
What advice would you give for surviving a zombie apocalypse?
Walk softly and carry a really big gun?
How about advice for struggling writers?
Stop thinking about writing or researching the writing or talking about your writing – go write! Procrastination is the #1 killer of writing dreams.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
On Thursday, May 17th I’m part of the launch of a very cool new project called Unglue.it (yep- that’s the website too) in which we’ll be trying to “unglue” my debut novel RIVERWATCH and through a crowd-funding program make it freely available under a Creative Commons License the world over. Unglued ebooks will be free to share, free to copy, free to borrow and loan and lend, from everyone from your local library to your friend down the street.
There are different levels of reward for different levels of pledges (much like Kickstarter) and in the end everyone who pledges something, even if it’s just a dollar, gets a copy of the 10th anniversary edition of RIVERWATCH. Higher pledges can earn rewards from having your name in the acknowledgments to a video chat for your reading group to a full day’s writing seminar taught by me for you and twenty-five of your friends.
Join me at https://unglue.it/work/79399/ to check it out.
Keep up with Joseph: Website | Twitter
I’ve got my winner for the Spring Blog Carnival! Congrats to Doc Redbat who answered the question of what supernatural creature scared you as a child with: Barnabas Collins! As a child I had the Dark Shadows game and his picture would absolutely freak me out at night. Up for grabs was the 3 book Pine Deep series by Jonathan Maberry!
*Winner was chosen using Random.org, notified by email, and has 48 hours to respond. Thanks so much to everyone that participated! I loved reading all of the fun answers you guys gave:)
I’m so thrilled to have Peter Farris on the blog today! Peter is the author of the upcoming noir thriller Last Call for the Living (feel free to check out my review, we’ll be here when you get back!), and he’s here to talk about his new book, if there’s such a thing as “too dark” in noir, and a side of Mickey and Minnie that you’ve never seen before (and more.)
Please welcome Peter to the blog!
Peter, your first novel, Last Call For the Living (due May 22nd) is already getting great buzz! Have you always hoped to become a writer? Can you tell us a bit about your journey?
I didn’t get serious about it until I was 23 or 24. A friend of mine had recommended I read a Mississippi author named Larry Brown. Brown’s work turned my world upside down, and pulled the trigger on a compulsion to express myself through fiction. But I realized if I was going to write publishable fiction it was going to take years of work. I suspect you can make a life study of it and still never truly feel like you have a grasp on what you’re doing.
Another pivotal moment came around the same time, when I asked my old man for some recommendations. He’s a writer as well, and recognizing I was eager to read with more purpose, he gave me “White Noise” by Don Delillo, “Blood Meridian” by Cormac McCarthy, “A Deadly Shade of Gold” by John D. MacDonald and Barry Hannah’s “Yonder Stands Your Orphan.” Those four loaners opened the flood gates. From that point on I never read anything for leisure. Every novel or collection—“literature” or genre piece it didn’t matter—was like a text book to me. There was always something to learn.
As for my own path, the first novel to get the interest of an agent was a violent satire set in the world of NASCAR. As that manuscript kept busy collecting rejection letters, I wrote the first draft of Last Call for the Living in 2006. About 20 drafts later (and 3 more novels in the can) I was offered a contract.
How did you celebrate when you found out you sold Last Call For the Living?
Mexican food and Pabst Blue Ribbon! My editor made a pit-stop in Atlanta while on a business trip and surprised me with the offer. We stayed up till 3 a.m. and watched The Friends of Eddie Coyle. It was a night I’ll never forget.
Can you give us a bit of a teaser about the book?
Last Call for the Living is about the Aryan Brotherhood, a bank robbery and a kidnapping. It’s set in Georgia.
What do you like most about writing crime noir/suspense?
There is something really appealing (and addictive) about following a character around until something bad happens.
But I do love the possibilities with crime fiction. It’s a genre that to me is wide open, and just begging authors to break the rules.
Is there anything in particular that you need to have handy to write? Coffee? Booze? Lucky pen? (Queue black and white pictures of noir writer in smoke-filled study, gin and tonic in hand, or, more appropriately, Southern Comfort)
Not really. There was a time when I was caught up in that romantic cliché of the hard-drinking, chain-smoking writer burning the midnight oil. I wrote two book-length manuscripts in a haze of cigarette smoke and Jim Beam. Total amateur hour. Those “novels” are terrible and worthy of a burn barrel.
I quit smoking three years ago and look at an ice cold beer as a reward for a solid day (or night’s) work, and not a supplement to it.
But I definitely think every writer should have: 1) a good dictionary 2) a window to stare out of and 3) a friend in law enforcement.
I recently read your flash fiction short, Disney Noir (voted Best Short Story on the Web by Spinetingler Magazine), and having just booked a trip to Disney this summer, know that I, for one, will never look at Mickey and the gang the same way again. What made you decide to show the dark side of our favorite Disney characters?
Prior to writing that flash fiction piece I actually visited Orlando with my fiancé and her family. I’m not sure who brought it up, but I remember a conversation about the park employees in costume, a rumor they all partied and did drugs and slept with one another—sort of like the culture at your local corporate chain restaurant. So naturally while strolling through the Magic Kingdom I assumed Donald Duck had been on a coke binge since Tuesday and Sleeping Beauty was treating a venereal disease and had a boyfriend in jail and felt guilty about cheating on him with the guy playing morning-shift “Mickey” in a bathroom near Space Mountain. Combine those wacked-out assumptions with the underground tunnel system that the costumed employees use to get around the park and, well, that’s where “Disney Noir” came from.
In your opinion, is there such a thing as “too dark” when it comes to noir?
First, I should explain that nothing offends me, so no subject can ever be too “dark.” Go on and kill the dog. Take some kittens out for batting practice or set the church on fire during a baptism, I don’t care. You’re not gonna make me flinch. But I think the way an unsettling or disturbing story/scene/character is presented is crucial when it comes to noir or crime fiction. You never want to be too coy, or by contrast too sentimental or too explicit. It’s a fine line to walk but if you do it right, it’ll probably make the reader put down your book and take a breath.
What are some of your favorite author or novels?
Joe and Fay by Larry Brown and Feast of Snakes by Harry Crews are three of my all-time favorite novels, and I’m hoping somebody will put a copy of Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood in my coffin. I’m also a great admirer of Jack London, Cormac McCarthy, Ron Rash, Tom Franklin, William Gay (RIP), Dorothy Allison, Chris Offutt, Rick Bass, Daniel Woodrell, Joseph Wambaugh and James Ellroy to name a few.
Also, in the past year folks like John Rector, David J. Schow, Grant Jerkins, Duane Swierczynski and Frank Bill have blown me away with their most recent releases.
What titles would you recommend to someone dipping their toes in the “southern noir” pool for the first time?
Boy, that’s a tough one. There are plenty of smarter people out there who could provide a better list so I’m gonna shoot from the hip here. If we’re talking about fiction south of the Mason-Dixon with crime and tragedy at its heart, I’d start with William Faulkner’s “Sanctuary” followed by Davis Grubb’s “Night of the Hunter.” Then any of James Lee Burke’s early Robicheaux novels, Karin Slaughter’s Grant County series (I really like Indelible), Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me, Daniel Woodrell’s Rene Shade novels (available now as The Bayou Trilogy), One Foot In Eden by Ron Rash, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin, Father & Son by Larry Brown, William Gay’s Twilight, The Missing by Tim Gautreaux, The Bottoms by Joe Lansdale, Dirty White Boys by Stephen Hunter and At the End of the Road by Grant Jerkins.
When you’re not busy writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
Between the day job and writing, I’m pretty much a homebody when the weekend rolls around. I played in bands for more than a decade so my passion for music runs deep. I still go to a few shows a year depending on who’s passing through town (the EARL in East Atlanta is hands down my favorite venue). I spend way too much money on vinyl and am a sucker for a good record store.
I also hit a pistol and rifle range at least once a month and you might catch me hiking Kennesaw Mountain, especially in the Fall when the leaves turn. Oh, and my fiancé and I love stock car racing so we usually make it down to Atlanta Motor Speedway or out to Talladega each year. There’s also an awesome dirt track not fifteen minutes from our house. A helluva lot of fun for $10 and the corndogs are deadly good.
If you weren’t writing, what would be your 2nd choice dream job?
A meteorologist or storm chaser. I’m fascinated by the weather, particularly tornados. I love watching the local weathermen work an outbreak. They’re like jazz musicians, but instead of tenor saxes they’re jamming with Doppler Radar while all hell breaks loose.
Is there any advice that you would give to a struggling writer?
Work intuitively. Read a lot and read outside your comfort zone. And it’s daunting but don’t give up. Even if the marketplace is shrinking and the number of writers out there keeps growing, don’t quit.
Regardless of a person’s background or education, almost anyone can write publishable fiction if they have a little imagination, keep their expectations in check and can commit to an apprenticeship period—meaning years of rejection and mistakes and frustration and despair. Every path to publication is different, but if the work is good and you go about getting it out into the world with some tact and professionalism, it will get noticed…and hopefully you’ll be rewarded with some of that validation we’re all after.
Anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
I just turned in my next novel. It’s set in south Georgia and about a teenage prostitute finding sanctuary with an eccentric bootlegger.
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