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.
Broken Harbor by Tana French
Publisher: Viking/July, 2012
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!
As part of my Scare-a-Thon series,I’m so thrilled to have Bram Stoker Award winner Christopher Golden on the blog! He was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions, so please give him a warm welcome!
You’ve written almost 80 (!!) books, and won the Bram Stoker Award twice (with many more noms)! Did you always want to be a writer?
When I was in middle school I wanted to be a private detective. In high school, I wanted to be a filmmaker, but I always wrote. It was only during college, while I was honing my writing, that I realized it was really the only thing I wanted to do with my life.
You’re a master of the supernatural. What do you love most about writing the scaries?
I’m almost never trying for the scare. There are things I write to be unsettling, but mostly I’m trying to evoke an emotional response of some kind, some empathy with the characters. If they’re in jeopardy, then I hope you’re scared for them. Evoking an emotional response with words on a page is a home run for a writer.
You’re most certainly an inspiration for many writers, but what are a few of your favorite writers or novels?
THE STAND by Stephen King, which I recently reread and which had me near tears again. A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY by John Irving. LONESOME DOVE by Larry McMurtry. There are so many others, but those are the top three.
What’s one of the most terrifying books you’ve ever read?
SALEM’S LOT by Stephen King. Hands down the scariest. For something more recent, go and pick up THE GRIN OF THE DARK by Ramsey Campbell. I don’t think I have ever—and I mean ever—read anything that creates a sense of unease and skin-crawling evil better than Campbell does in that book. It freaked me the hell out.
How about movies? Any particular favorites?
If we’re talking horror movies…NEAR DARK, THE DESCENT, Carpenter’s THE THING, and everything Hammer. If we’re talking movies in general, I’ve done lists in the past and there are so many, including a ton of Hitchcock and Humphrey Bogart movies. But top of that list is always BLADE RUNNER, followed closely by JAWS and THE GODFATHER films. Skewing a little younger, I will always want to watch THE PRINCESS BRIDE and THE IRON GIANT again, no matter how many times I see them.
What are you reading now?
Nicholas Kaufman’s upcoming novel NOT DEAD YET, which I’m going to blurb. It’s great New York urban fantasy.
What makes you want to set aside a book in frustration?
If I know how it ends after thirty pages or if the characters annoy me. If I’m not interested in a book after thirty pages, I abandon it. Life’s too short and there are too many great books out there that I’ll never get to read.
If you could read one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY. No question.
You’ve also edited many anthologies. What do you look for when putting together an anthology?
Great writing, new ideas and approaches, and an eclectic mix of writers. I don’t want more of the same in an anthology, and when I’m writing a story for an anthology, I try to follow the same rules for myself.
You’re obviously a very busy guy! When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
I try to spend as much of my free time as possible with my family, even if it’s just cleaning the house instead of going out. I also watch way too much television.
Do you do anything special for Halloween?
We trick or treat in my town on the Saturday night before Halloween. On Halloween, I try to just watch some older horror movies that aren’t too scary and attempt to persuade my kids to watch—and then I save something nastier for myself (something I haven’t already seen).
Is there anything else you’d like to share about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
My latest work, a novella with Mike Mignola called FATHER GAETANO’S PUPPET CATECHISM, is a perfect Halloween read. I hope folks will check it out.
Keep up with Christopher: Website | Twitter
About Christopher (via his website):
CHRISTOPHER GOLDEN is the award-winning, bestselling author of such novels as The Myth Hunters, Wildwood Road, The Boys Are Back in Town, The Ferryman, Strangewood, Of Saints and Shadows, and (with Tim Lebbon) The Map of Moments. He has also written books for teens and young adults, including Poison Ink, Soulless, and the thriller series Body of Evidence, honored by the New York Public Library and chosen as one of YALSA’s Best Books for Young Readers. Upcoming teen novels include a new series of hardcover YA fantasy novels co-authored with Tim Lebbon and entitled The Secret Journeys of Jack London.
A lifelong fan of the “team-up,” Golden frequently collaborates with other writers on books, comics, and scripts. In addition to his recent work with Tim Lebbon, he co-wrote the lavishly illustrated novel Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire with Mike Mignola. With Thomas E. Sniegoski, he is the co-author of multiple novels, as well as comic book miniseries such as Talent and The Sisterhood, both currently in development as feature films. With Amber Benson, Golden co-created the online animated series Ghosts of Albion and co-wrote the book series of the same name.
As an editor, he has worked on the short story anthologies The New Dead and British Invasion, among others, and has also written and co-written comic books, video games, screenplays, the online animated series Ghosts of Albion (with Amber Benson) and a network television pilot.
The author is also known for his many media tie-in works, including novels, comics, and video games, in the worlds of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Hellboy, Angel, and X-Men, among others.
Golden was born and raised in Massachusetts, where he still lives with his family. His original novels have been published in fourteen languages in countries around the world. Please visit him at www.christophergolden.com
The Weird Girls (A Novella) by Cecy Robson
Publisher: Signet/Dec. 4th, 2012
Kind thanks to Signet and Cecy Robson for providing a review copy
Celia Wird and her three sisters are just like other 20-something girls—with one tiny exception: they’re products of a backfired curse that has given each of them unique powers that make them, well, a little weird…
The Wird sisters are different from every race on earth—human and supernatural. When human society is no longer an option for them, they move in among the resident vampires, werebeasts, and witches of the Lake Tahoe region. Could this be the true home they’ve longed for? Um, not quite. After the sisters accidentally strip a witch of her powers in a bar brawl, they soon realize the mistake will cost them. Because to take on a witch means to take on her coven. And losing the battle isn’t an option.
The Wird Sisters; Emma, Shayna, Taran, and Celia, have been traveling the states as visiting nurses and after discovering the beauty of the Lake Tahoe area have decided to make it their more permanent home. As they celebrate at a local club, the plans to have a few drinks and maybe even a few dances with the table full of cute guys nearby is blown out of the water when they’re attacked by a witch bent on destruction. Actually, destruction might be a mild way to describe it, considering it involves flinging lightning and a horde of rats. It’s definitely an original way to clear a dance floor. At first, Celia is livid when she finds out Taran started the fight, but soon cools when she finds out that Taran was defending the timid Emme. They’ve been taunted and teased all of their lives, since their parents were killed when Celia was only 9 (and the oldest.) Their wicked aunt cast a spell on their mom for marrying outside her race, and not only did it shorten their parents’ lives, it backfired, and instead of making the girls sickly and frail, as was intended, it made them very, very special, unlike any others on Earth. So much for the Wird sisters settling down and getting their bearings! They’ve ticked off a witch, so now they’ll have her entire coven on their backs. There’s to be a duel: three days, three challenges, and she doubts these witches will play fair. Is Celia up to the challenge? If she’s not, so much for settling down in lovely Lake Tahoe…
This introduction to Cecy Robson’s new series was just plain fun and gives a really good introduction to the girls’ powers, collectively and individually, with a focus on Celia, and as “head of the family”, she’s had to take care of her sisters since their parents died, and is a very strong narrative voice. She’s funny too, and is a good balance of strength and easy humor. The Wird girls don’t fit any one definition of supernatural. They each have varying powers and varying personalities. Celia is a labor and delivery nurse (each of the girls are nurses in different disciplines), and she’s constantly warring with her nurturing side and her more…animal side, and in spite of her strength, is very self-conscious about her otherness, although she will defend her sisters, and herself, tooth and nail…and then some. This was a strong introduction to what promises to be a great urban fantasy series. I’m getting hard to please when it comes to urban fantasy lately, but this hit all the write notes for me.
***Wanna win some great WEIRD GIRLS SWAG?***
Giveaway includes lip balm, magnet, and water bottle!
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About Cecy Robson:
Cecy (pronounced Sessy) Robson is a full-time writer, registered nurse, wife, and mother living in the Great Northwest. She attributes her passion for story-telling back to the rough New Jersey neighborhood she was raised in. As a child, she was rarely allowed to leave the safety of her house and passed her time fantasizing about flying, fairies, and things that go bump in the night. Her dad unwittingly encouraged Cecy’s creativity by kissing her goodnight wearing vampire fangs. Gifted and cursed with an overactive imagination, she began writing her first urban fantasy series, Weird Girls, in May 2009.
Keep up with Cecy: Website | Twitter
As part of my Scare-a-Thon series of interviews, I’d like to welcome 4-time Bram Stoker Award winner Lisa Morton! She was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer a few of my questions (and talk about her new book!), and I’m thrilled to have her on the blog!
Lisa, you’re a four-time Bram Stoker Award winning author (The Castle of Los Angeles, and more), editor, and playwright! Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us a bit about your journey?
I have always wanted to be a writer – I had my first piece (a poem about my turtle) published when I was in kindergarten. In college I studied to be a screenwriter, and I wasted – er, I mean, spent – about fifteen years on screenwriting before really taking the prose plunge.
What are some of your biggest literary influences?
As a kid I grew up reading classics and genre works, and my early favorite authors include Theodore Sturgeon, Ursula K. LeGuin and Harlan Ellison. Later on, I discovered Philip K. Dick and Dennis Etchison.
If you could read one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
Probably Dick’s Ubik, which amazes me every time I re-read it.
What do you like to see in a good book?
Aside from the obvious answers – good plotting and characters, real emotional investment – presentation is also important to me. I will put a book aside quickly if it’s full of grammatical errors, typos, punctuation problems, or even bad layout.
In your editing work, what do you look for when putting together an anthology?
Okay, this will sounds either obvious or smarmy, but here it is: FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES. If it’s a themed anthology, don’t submit something that is not apropos to the theme. It always amazes me that we have to say things like this, but we do. Beyond that, here are a couple of things I’ve seen over and over in slush piles: 1) Don’t start your story by giving me pages of background on the lead character; 2) be aware of clichés and avoid them; and 3) don’t pad your story out with information I don’t need to know. It’s enough to know, for example, that your character ate dinner; I don’t need to know where they bought the food, that they thought it needed more salt, how long it took to eat, their rituals for washing dishes, etc.
Halloween is right around the corner, and you’re known as a Halloween authority! What do you love most about it?
That’s hard to say, because I love it all! I love the crazy merchandising, I love the colors and tastes, I love the way people decorate their yards, I love all the talk about horror and history.
What do you find truly scary?
I’m fortunately not a person who suffers from phobias, but there are plenty of other things I find disturbing on a daily basis, and I wish more horror writers would address sociopolitical issues in their work. I’ve written about sexism and gender politics, racism, homophobia, abortion, poverty, institutionalization, extreme politics, pollution, child abuse, and (a theme that really obsesses me) the responsibilities of the artist.
You have a brand new book coming out soon, Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween. Will you tell us a bit about it?
It’s my first narrative history of Halloween (meaning it’s not an encyclopedic reference or a collection of source documents), and it’s the first Halloween book that looks at the festival on both a historical and a contemporary global scale. My publisher, Reaktion Books, really urged me to examine the recent global explosion of the holiday’s popularity, and I’m glad they did, because much of what I discovered surprised even me! Over just the last few years, Halloween has taken off in areas like Great Britain, South Africa, even China and Ukraine. I also got to put forward a few of my theories regarding the holiday’s origins in this book, which is something you can’t really do in a straightforward encyclopedic reference. I talk at length, for example, about an eighteenth-century British surveyor named Charles Vallancey who I believe set up many of the mistaken notions of Halloween that have filtered down to modern times.
How do you celebrate Halloween?
My partner Ricky and I have a clear agenda: We love to pass out candy to trick or treaters for a while, then take off and visit our favorite haunted attractions and yard displays. Being the home of the entertainment industry, we get some of the most astonishing home Halloween shows in the L.A. area – they involve everything from projected animations to audioanimatronic figures and “Haunted Mansion”-style ghost effects. It’s like supernatural performance art in the front yard!
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events?
I’m pleased to be part of an exciting project from JournalStone called “Double Down”, that pairs established writers with up-and-coming talents to produce matched novellas; my novella will share page space with oneDavid Konow signing Reel Terror: The Scary, Bloody, Gory, Hundred-Year History of Classic Horror Films (TPB 18.99) on Sat, Oct 27th 11 to 1 pm at Son of Monsterpalooza by Eric Guignard, a wonderfully talented and hard-working SoCal writer who I think will really impress everyone. Any chance to help new writers is always gratifying to me. And I will make an unequivocal promise here: I will have another novel out in 2013.
Keep up with Lisa: Website
Purchase Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween: Amazon | B&N
Trucker Ghost Stories: And Other True Tales of Haunted Highways, Weird Encounters, and Legends of the Road edited by Annie Wilder
Publisher: Tor/August 2012
In a uniquely entertaining book by a rising star, here are uncanny true tales of haunted highways, weird encounters, and legends of the road.
It may have happened to you; it’s happened to almost everyone who’s ever driven down a highway at night, or in the fog, or snow. Something suddenly appears: a flash of movement, a shadow…what was it? It could be, as the true stories in this book attest, a ghost.
These are true stories from the highways and byways of America. These firsthand accounts are as varied as the storytellers themselves—some are detailed and filled with the terror and suspense that made people feel they had to share what happened to them with others; others are brief and straightforward retellings of truly chilling events.
Here is a chupacabra attack on the desert highway between L.A. and Las Vegas; ghost trains and soldiers; UFOs; the prom girl ghost of Alabama; a demon in Texas, and other accounts of the creepy, scary things that truckers and other drivers and passengers told to editor Annie Wilder.
With so many different stories, Trucker Ghost Stories moves beyond the usual haunted house to offer stories to entice any ghost story reader…and anyone who’s ever wondered….
Most of us have at least one family member that tells really good ghost stories. For me, it was my paternal grandmother. I think she maybe had all of five in her arsenal, but my 9 year old self didn’t care, and I probably heard each of them 20 times, at least. I loved all things ghost (still do), and when she told those stories, she had my full attention. As I matured, so did my level of ghost story sophistication, and even though I’m somewhat of a skeptic (I want to believe!!), there is, and always will be something about classic ghost stories, and especially those involving a long, dark, creepy stretch of night road. To this end, Trucker Ghost Stories is a pretty varied collection focusing on eerie happenings by truckers, obviously, however, if it has wheels, it’s also fair game here. Some are very short, and others are a bit longer, but all of them are pretty creepy. The editor, Annie Wilder, has plenty of ghostly experience, and she’s put it to fun use with this collection. Some of the highlights, for me, included “Skinwalker in Arizona”, which features a creature that scares the pants off of a half Hopi half Navajo little boy, enough that he remembers it years later; “UFO Encounter in Wyoming/US Highway 26” about a man that witnesses something very unusual happen to a fellow trucker; and “The Man in the Rain” about a woman who receives some ghostly assistance when she breaks down on the side of the road.
In Trucker Ghost Stories, Annie Wilder has compiled more than 60 stories of eerie happenings, and each is told in a unique voice, and also covers a pretty wide range of territory, from the deep south to clear across the world. Some will give you chills, others might even make you smile, and you’ll find yourself wanting to read just one more. Whether you are a true believer or a skeptic, Trucker Ghost Stories is the perfect way to fill a spooky October afternoon, and will certainly get you in the mood for Halloween!
Please welcome DJ McIntosh to the blog! DJ is the author of the historical thriller, The Witch of Babylon, which just came out! She was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, and we’ve got a copy of the book up for grabs, so be sure to check out the details at the bottom of the post!
Your first novel, The Witch of Babylon, just came out in the US this week! Will you tell us a bit about it?
An original engraving of The Book of Nahum, seventh book of the twelve minor prophets in the Old Testament, has been looted from the Baghdad Museum at the outset of the Iraq War. A childhood friend lures John Madison into a deadly game, daring him to find the engraving. As his quest deepens, Madison learns the engraving leads to a shocking revelation about the origins of alchemy, an ancient treasure cache and the truth behind a famous story the world believes is just a myth.
Did you always want to be a writer? Will you tell us about your journey?
I always wanted to be a writer but it took a long time with lots of detours on the way. Although armed with a university degree, English major, my first career was as a city planner. After my daughter was grown, I left city planning and went back to my first love – writing.
I spent those first years networking with other authors, and joining organizations like Sisters in Crime. After hearing much doom and gloom about slush piles I decided to short circuit that and entered the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger competition. It was truly a euphoric moment when I learned The Witch of Babylon was chosen as a finalist. I got an agent soon after that and in 2009 Penguin Canada bought the first rights. We then went on to sell the book to nineteen other countries – and just last summer it made the national bestseller’s list in Canada. It’s been an amazing ride!
Mesopotamian history and culture were big influences in writing The Witch of Babylon. What was one of the most fascinating things you discovered during your research?
Great question! I learned about so many fascinating features from that historical period but one of them would be discovering that Mesopotamians developed a rudimentary battery, possibly used to electroplate gold, more than a millennium before the modern battery was invented. This is just one of their great achievements. The Baghdad Batteries, as they came to be known, were stolen from the National Museum of Iraq in 2003 and have not yet been recovered.
How long did The Witch of Babylon take to write, from start to finish?
A little over eight years including all the research. This didn’t involve writing every day by any means rather, I wrote and researched in junks of a couple of months at a time.
What are some of your literary influences?
Hundreds of them sit on my bookshelves. My best teachers have been other writers and having spent so much time writing technical reports, it took ages to get that out of my system. A few of the writers who I could not hope to emulate but learned a great deal from were: Anne Michaels (Fugitive Pieces), Dennis Lehane (A Drink Before the War), Stephen King (The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon), Arturo Perez Reverte (The Club Dumas), Frank Herbert (Dune).
What are you reading now?
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
What makes you want to set aside a book in frustration?
A weak plot, where I can easily guess the ending. Conversely, a great writing style usually reels me in. Huge credibility gaps are non-starters too.
If you could read one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
Lord of the Rings
If you could pick the guest list for your perfect dinner party (among people alive or dead), who would you invite?
Well it would be dinner for eight not at eight. Edgar Allen Poe, Cornell Woolrich, Emily Bronte, H.P. Lovecraft, Susan Hill. Then I’d invite John Cleese just to lighten things up and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to sort out the inevitable mayhem.
If I was to visit you in Toronto for the first time, where would you take me?
One of Toronto’s highlights are its multi-cultural neighbourhoods. Great shopping and fantastic family run restaurants with menus that come from all corners of the world. Little India, Greektown, Chinatown and Little Italy are some of my favorites.
I read that a couple of your favorite things are museums and live music. What’s a favorite museum you’ve visited and which bands do you go out of your way to see?
I’ve spent many happy hours in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the British Museum’s Assyrian antiquity collection is unsurpassed. In both cases, the setting and architecture are inspiring too. While not strictly a museum, wandering through Central Park with its wonderful art work, sculptures, gates and bridges is always a high point of my visits to New York.
I’d go out of my way to see: Carlos Santana, Jeff Beck, the Tran Siberian Orchestra, Coldplay, and Alanis Morissette.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events?
The next in the series – The Book of Stolen Tales – is on its way and will be published in late spring of 2013. In this, John Madison hunts for a rare 17th century book – the first European anthology of fairy tales. The dark origins of these tales come to life as Madison is captivated by a beautiful but abused young woman and threatened by a man who seems more phantom than real. His search ends at the Mesopotamian underworld, a real archaeological site.
Thanks so much for the interview – it was fun!
Keep up with DJ: Website | Twitter
Today I’ve got another great Halloween Top 5 (Movies!) today from Will Hill, author of Department 19 and The Rising!
This was the film that gave birth to the slasher genre, but don’t hold that against it – it’s far, far better than any of the movies that followed it.
Made for a tiny budget, John Carpenter co-wrote, directed and composed the music for what became one of the most successful independent films of all time, and is still one of the scariest horror movies ever made – the killer, Michael Myers (clad in a distorted Captain Kirk mask!), is the original silent, unstoppable monster, hunting down teenagers on Halloween night in a small Illinois town. The opening first-person sequence is (rightly) legendary, and Carpenter delivers shock upon shock as night falls and the body count starts to rise…
Donald Pleasance stars as the doctor trying to stop the carnage his former patient is unleashing, and then-unknown Jamie Lee Curtis is the babysitter just trying to survive. If the hair on your arms doesn’t stand up every time the piano theme starts to play, I don’t know what’s wrong with you.
THE OMEN (1976)
There’s something fundamentally scary about biblical evil, about age-old prophecies coming true in modern, supposedly rational times, and The Omen taps into the oldest and scariest of them all – the rise of the antichrist.
Diplomat Gregory Peck’s son dies shortly after being born in a Roman hospital, and he is persuaded to take the son of a woman who died in childbirth at the same time, without telling his wife (Lee Remick). They call the boy Damien, and take him to England after Peck is made a US Ambassador. Then all hell breaks loose – suicides, satanic hounds, terrible warnings from a local priest, miscarriages, ‘accidents,’ and eventually murder, as it becomes clear exactly what Damien is, and what his father must do.
Richard Donner makes full use of the ultra-creepy setup, piling eye-opening deaths on top of creeping paranoia, and never allows anything to become unambiguous, right down to the very last, famously unsettling shot. Classic.
THE EVIL DEAD II (1987)
The Omen is a subtle, slow building horror, reliant on atmosphere and implication, as is Halloween, to a certain extent. The Evil Dead II is really, really not. It is flat-out, balls-to-the-wall crazy. And it’s absolutely brilliant.
It’s not really even a sequel – it’s a reboot of Sam Raimi’s micro-budget original from six years earlier, with the gore and splatter and laughs turned up to eleven. Ash (Bruce Campbell) and his girlfriend head to an abandoned cabin in the woods and play a tape of an archaeology professor reading passages from the Necronomicon, an ancient book of the dead that unleashes a monstrous evil force capable of taking over human beings. And that’s when the fun begins – decapitations, possessed hands attacking their owners, lustful tree vines, chainsaws used as body parts, and a giant swirling portal that leads to the film’s fantastic final gag, are all rendered in Raimi’s textbook hyper-kinetic style, as likely to make you cry with laughter as gag with disgust.
WOLF CREEK (2005)
Brutal. Punishing. Relentless. All words that accurately describe this Australian outback ordeal, although none are sufficient to do it justice.
Made for an estimated $1,000,000 and featuring a cast of unknowns, Greg McLean’s debut claims to be based on real life events (notably the Ivan Millat murders and the Peter Falconio case) and is all the more horrifying for it. Three teenagers drive out to a vast meteorite crater in the Australian desert, only to find their watches have stopped and their car will no longer start. A loud, friendly man called Mick appears, tows them and their car to his camp, an abandoned mine, fixes their car and gives them a drink around his campfire. When they wake up, they find themselves in the middle of a nightmare.
You won’t thank me for anything I tell you about the rest of this one, just as you probably won’t thank me for recommending it at all – it’s a hard, vicious film, and if you like a happy ending you’re in the wrong place. But if you think you can take it…
THE EXORCIST (1973)
There is very little new to say about this, William Friedkin’s classic shocker that has passed almost whole into the popular cultural consciousness. You probably know that many of the cast believed the production was cursed, that sets burned down for no reason and that priests were brought in to bless the studio several times. And you probably know most of the film’s iconic moments – the green vomit, the spinning head, the crucifix, the shocking fall down those Georgetown steps.
But if you’ve never seen the whole film, or not seen it for a while, what you may not realise is how slow and methodical it truly is, how it creates an atmosphere of such paranoia and terror that the big shocks fit perfectly into the story. Max Von Sydow, Ellen Burstyn, Jason Miller and Linda Blair do great work, keeping the film about a family confronting a horror they can’t believe and the men who try to come to their aid, and making it deeply frightening, and upsetting, to this day.
Keep up with Will: Website | Twitter
About Department 19:
amie Carpenter’s life will never be the same. His father is dead, his mother is missing, and he was just rescued by an enormous man named Frankenstein. Jamie is brought to Department 19, where he is pulled into a secret organization responsible for policing the supernatural, founded more than a century ago by Abraham Van Helsing and the other survivors of Dracula. Aided by Frankenstein’s monster, a beautiful vampire girl with her own agenda, and the members of the agency, Jamie must attempt to save his mother from a terrifyingly powerful vampire.
Department 19 takes us through history, across Europe, and beyond—from the cobbled streets of Victorian London to prohibition-era New York, from the icy wastes of Arctic Russia to the treacherous mountains of Transylvania. Part modern thriller, part classic horror, it’s packed with mystery, mayhem, and a level of suspense that makes a Darren Shan novel look like a romantic comedy.
Purchase: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound
About The Rising:
James Bond meets Dracula in this epic saga of one boy and a ton of weapons versus the world’s oldest evil—vampires as you’ve never seen them before!
Sixteen-year-old Jamie Carpenter’s life was violently upended when he was brought into Department 19, a classified government agency of vampire hunters that was formed to deal with a little problem . . . known as Dracula.
But being the new recruit at the Department isn’t all weapons training and covert missions. Jamie’s own mother has been turned into a vampire—and now Jamie will stop at nothing to wreak revenge on her captors. Even if that means facing down Dracula himself.
Purchase: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound
Please welcome Max Gladstone to the blog! Max is the author of Three Parts Dead, just out, and he was kind enough to answer a few questions about the book, and some other stuff too!
Also, there’s a copy of Three Parts Dead up for grabs, so be sure to check the details at the bottom of the post!
You only give us a few tidbits about yourself on your site (Yale grad, studied Chinese!), so tell us more! Did you always want to be a writer?
My parents say that one day, when I was two or three, they found me in the living room scrawling in a notebook they’d left lying around—chicken scratch, I didn’t even know how to read then. But the ‘writing’ stayed within the lines!
Who knows: if it hadn’t, maybe I’d be an artist now.
Beyond that: I moved around a lot when I was a kid, and on the summers we’d take these big long trips across country, camping out of our van. I wrote my first book when I was seventeen. I went to Yale, studied Chinese, sang in a choir where I met the woman I married. After school, I went to southern China where I taught English in Anhui province for two years, wrote a few more books, returned to the states, spent a year writing and doing odd jobs before I found work in a marketing / research firm in south Boston. I worked in the day, wrote at night, and now I’m here!
Will you tell us a little bit about your new book, Three Parts Dead?
Three Parts Dead is the story of Tara, a first year associate in an international necromancy firm, who’s been hired to help resurrect a dead fire god named Kos. Kos’s death has put his city in danger—without god to fire the furnaces, how will people keep warm in the winter? How will the city generate power? Tara’s working against time and her own prejudices (she doesn’t have a great deal of affection for gods) to save the city. And, as she works, she learns that the city’s current troubles stretch back to religious conflicts in the God Wars, which tore the world apart decades ago.
What are some of your biggest influences (literary or otherwise)?
Roger Zelazny and Terry Pratchett are both huge influences—they have marvelous gifts for language, for using humor while remaining sincere, and for building worlds via context and conversation. I also take a lot of inspiration from musicians—songwriters have many of the same challenges as novelists, but even more constraints. Bob Dylan’s ballads (Lily Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts, Black Diamond Bay, Isis, All Along the Watchtower songs like that) create vivid moral worlds with immense contrasts of character, all in the space of a few minutes. Other bands & groups that spring to mind: A3, Tom Waits, Josh Ritter, Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer.
If someone asked for you to recommend one book to them, what would it be?
Depends on who they were. Genre-friendly? Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light. Not so much? East of Eden, or maybe The Last Samurai.
If you could read one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles are an intense surprise when you read them for the first time. They do improve with re-readings, but I’d love to recapture the sheer joy of the first read-through.
What are you reading now?
A comic book about Neitzsche, and Dan Simmons’ Carrion Comfort. I just finished The Quantum Thief, by Hanu Rajaniemi, which impressed the hell out of me.
Will you tell us about your travels? What’s your favorite destination so far, and why?
When I finally get to Russia and Spain I’ll be able to trace a line around the world touching only countries I’ve visited. When I was a kid our family backpacked through eastern Europe for eight weeks, which started the travel bug for me. I wanted to learn all of the languages, and I started with Chinese only to discover that one does not simply ‘learn’ Chinese. Still, language study and work brought me to China several times throughout college and after; China’s also a nice home base for travel in that part of the world, so I got to SE Asia, Japan, Mongolia.
I loved the two weeks I spent in Mongolia. I don’t know how much of that came from my being on an adventure with two of my best friends, and how much came from Mongolia itself, but that trip shines gold in memory. We had an amazing ten day horse trek with Stepperiders, camping, galloping, eating goat, learning to wrestle.
If you could pack your bags and travel anywhere in the world tomorrow (that you haven’t yet been to), where would you go?
South America, probably. Peru, or Argentina. Hard to decide?
When you manage to get some downtime, how do you like to spend it?
Downtime? What’s that? If I had any, I’d spend it fencing, reading, or hanging out with friends.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events?
Yes! Lots of excitement in the works. My next novel, Two Serpents Rise, is due out from Tor next summer, and we’re working on two more books now. Other secret projects are developing more slowly, as I’ve had to focus on promoting Three Parts Dead this month, but I should have more news soon.
Keep up with Max: Website | Twitter
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! www.jessepetersen.net
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.