Matthew Johnson’s new collection of stories, IRREGULAR VERBS, just came out last week, and he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about them, and more!
Congrats on your new collection, IRREGULAR VERBS! Will you tell us a little about it?
IRREGULAR VERBS collects my favourite stories from the fifteen years or so I’ve been publishing in places like Asimov’s Science Fiction, Fantasy & Science Fiction and Strange Horizons. I chose the title partly because it’s the name of one of my best-regarded stories, but also because the stories are all different from one another, ranging from epic fantasy to military SF, magic realism and superheroes.
Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us more about yourself and your background?
I’ve thought of myself as a writer for as long as I can remember. My parents are both academics who have written quite a few books (in fact my father just published a new one) so I grew up thinking that writing was just a thing that people did. My mother is a big SF fan who would put Arthur C. Clarke and John Wyndham books in my hands, as well as sitting me down each Sunday to watch Star Trek; she’s also one of Canada’s most important feminist scholars, which definitely had an influence on me as well. had a pretty typical upper-middle-class Canadian childhood that involved a lot of comics, Dungeons & Dragons and bad TV cartoons, but one of the great things about growing up when I did was that I got to see my hometown become one of the most multicultural cities in the world. It’s been an amazing process and a real inspiration for me in my writing.
Do you have a few favorites from Irregular Verbs?
They’re all favourites, though I probably like them for different reasons than readers do. I like “Jump, Frog!” because I think I did a pretty fair job of capturing Mark Twain’s voice, and I’m proud of “Heroic Measures” because even though none of the characters are given names (for reasons that become obvious about halfway down the first page) there’s never any confusion about who’s talking. I also have some sentimental favourites, stories like “Written by the Winners” that didn’t get their fair share of attention because of where they were published, and ones that accumulated piles of “great, but not for me” rejections. And, of course, there are the ones like “Lagos” and “Public Safety” where I just look at the finished story and say “How did I do that?”
Here’s your Friday list of Kindle titles under $5, and also note at the bottom a few Strange Chemistry titles that are also under $5. If you haven’t read those yet, get ‘em while they’re hot, because, as many of you might have heard, Angry Robot’s Strange Chemistry and Exhibit A imprints have been shuttered, effective immediately, and this is a great way to support the authors that published under these awesome (gone, but not soon to be forgotton) imprints. Go forth and download!
Please welcome Laura Benedict to the blog! Her new book, the creepy BLISS HOUSE, just came out and she was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about it, and more!
Will you tell us a little about your new book, BLISS HOUSE, and what inspired you to write it?
Thank you so much for having me here, Kristin! I used to have an obnoxious writer friend who was so impressed with her own work, she would say, “Enough about me, let’s talk about my book!” But since you asked, I will go right ahead, happily, and not feel the least bit shy about it.
I open BLISS HOUSE with a chapter about a young woman who is held prisoner in a terrifying, windowless room. Her story begins a generation ago, decades before Rainey Bliss Adams and her daughter, Ariel, move into Bliss House, which sits just outside Old Gate, Virginia. Rainey is a widow. Her husband, Will, died in the same explosion that burned and disfigured 14 year-old Ariel. Ariel, who is too often cold to Rainey, quickly forms a strong attachment to the house, and even believes the ghost of her father has appeared to her there. But in the dark hours after the grand housewarming party, a woman dies mysteriously, and Ariel is the sole witness. Someone in Old Gate is a murderer. The town is full of secrets and ghosts, just like Bliss House, itself. And don’t forget that story of the girl in the secret room, because it’s part of the mystery.
I have wanted to write a haunted house story every since I first read Shirley Jackson’s perfectly perfect novel, THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE. But my passion for the gothic started long before with JANE EYRE, REBECCA, and, of course, NANCY DREW Mysteries. And then there’s the strange 1945 Dorothy McGuire/Robert Young film, “The Enchanted Cottage,” that really got me thinking about mysterious houses that have a habit of changing the personalities and even appearances of their inhabitants. Finally, there is my obsession with architecture—I couldn’t resist the idea of creating a massive, fascinating house on paper. It was practically a storm of inspiration that brought all these elements together.
Lucky you! I have an extra copy of A BARRICADE IN HELL by Jaime Lee Moyer to give away, so check out the book and the giveaway details, and good luck!
About A BARRICADE IN HELL:
In Jaime Lee Moyer’s Barricade in Hell, Delia Martin has been gifted (or some would say cursed) with the ability to peer across to the other side. Since childhood, her constant companions have been ghosts. She used her powers and the help of those ghosts to defeat a twisted serial killer terrorizing her beloved San Francisco. Now it’s 1917—the threshold of a modern age—and Delia lives a peaceful life with Police Captain Gabe Ryan.
That peace shatters when a strange young girl starts haunting their lives and threatens Gabe. Delia tries to discover what this ghost wants as she becomes entangled in the mystery surrounding a charismatic evangelist who preaches pacifism and an end to war. But as young people begin to disappear, and audiences display a loyalty and fervor not attributable to simple persuasion, that message of peace reveals a hidden dark side.
As Delia discovers the truth, she faces a choice—take a terrible risk to save her city, or chance losing everything?
Looking to take your TBR pile to new (digital) heights? Of course you are! All of the titles are under $5 (with the exception of RITUAL, which is $5). As always, doublecheck the price before you hit the Buy button!
The Fever by Megan Abbott (Little, Brown, June 17th, 2014)-Megan Abbot is a master at writing fiction that, from the first word, begins to slowly stir up a quiet unease, building dread until it’s nearly unbearable, and The Fever is no exception. Teen angst is alive and well in The Fever, and it goes a little like this: Deenie and Gabby are best friends. Gabby is very popular. The girls want to be friends with her and they want to be her. In fact, “girls hung from her like tassels.” Gabby Bishop, Deenie Nash, and Lise Daniels are the “Trio Grande.” Lately, though, another girl, the rather scary, free spirited Skye, has encroached on their little group, and Deenie isn’t happy at all about the time Skye and Gabby spend together, without her. When Lise has a seizure during class and falls into a coma, the rumors start to fly, and there’s no more fertile ground than the fetid, hormone rich halls of a high school. Events turn very serious when other girls begin to suffer “attacks”, and Deenie has the uneasy feeling of knowledge just on the edge of her consciousness, of what can lead to the truth about the episodes and what led to Elise’s coma. The adults have their own ideas of vaccinations gone wrong,toxins in the air, even contagion, and before anyone can get to the truth, the school, and indeed the small town of Dryden, are whipped into a frenzy of fear.
In The Fever, Megan Abbot revisits the sometimes dangerous world of teen girls that she explored so well in Dare Me and sets the considerable drama against a background of paranoia and panic. At the center of the story is Deenie and her older brother, popular hockey star Eli, who live with their father Tom, who is a teacher at their high school. Tom loves his children fiercely but is increasingly aware of his maturing daughter slipping through his fingers. Seemingly overnight, the girls who used to spend the night in whimsical pajamas are beautiful, ethereal, and confounding things, and Lise’s unknown illness is like the flame that lights a potentially explosive fuse. Deenie is dealing with her own issues. Her mother moved out a while back, and Deenie is at a time in her life where having her mom around might ease some of her worry. A first sexual encounter has her on edge, as does the rift between her and Gabby. Eli is having growing pains himself, and is mystified about a picture of a girl in her underwear (taken below the neck) that he received on his phone and rumors of a sexual liaison that he supposedly had.
Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell (Mulholland, May 2013)-Thomas De Quincey, a protagonist of Murder as a Fine Art, was a real person, and he wrote a very scandalous book in 1821 called Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. It was a sensation at the time, because it was the first time that the dangers, and pleasures of, drug abuse, were discussed frankly and without restraint. He also published an essay called “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts” which examined, in all their bloody glory, a series of 1811 killings that were dubbed the Ratcliffe Highway murders, two separate attacks on two entire families that included children. It’s on this basis that Murder as a Fine Art is so skillfully built. In the book, it’s 1852, and De Quincey, and his daughter Emily are in London to promote a collection of his essays, of which “On Murder” is a part. This is both a fortuitous, and calamitous trip for De Quincey and Emily, since it seems that someone is mimicking the murders of 1811, in a gruesome display that shocks and panics the populace, and stumps DI Sean Ryan and his newly minted assistant (and hopeful detective), Constable Joseph Becker. Ryan and Becker, and more importantly (and unfortunately for De Quincey), Henry John Temple, know as Lord Palmerston aka one of the most powerful men in the world, if not the most powerful. Palmerston is convinced that, based on the excruciating detail in the “On Murder” essay, De Quincey must have something to do with the new killings. Ryan and Becker are soon convinced otherwise, but they’ll need to find the real killer in order to convince everyone else. What follows is not only a hunt for a seemingly cold blooded, calculating killer, an artist of death, if you will, but also a look at the life of one of the most interesting historical figures I’ve read about in a long time.
I’ve been a fan of David Morrell since the days of First Blood and The Fraternity of the Stone (one of my absolute all-time favorite books. That is all.), and I was definitely intrigued to find out how he would handle a gaslit historical. I should have known that it would be with the same intricate detail as he handled the Crusades in Fraternity of the Stone, and really, in all that he writes. This book isn’t just an effective suspense novel. Above all, it’s about Thomas De Quincey, a diminutive man passionate in everything he does, with memories of a prostitute, Ann, who saved his life as a young man when he was destitute and homeless on the London streets, and who he hopes he will connect with again. This forthcoming man, whose laudanum addiction all but consumes him, and his equally forthcoming, and fiercely protective daughter, are both conundrums to the much beleaguered Ryan and Becker, but it’s soon evident that events from De Quincey’s past may be the key to catching a killer that shows no signs of stopping his bloody reign.
Here are the books that I’m especially looking forward to in SFF for July (click on the covers to pre-order)! Note I took out the Top 10, because I never (ever) can keep it to just 10. These are in no particular order.
Synopsis-Ambushed. Blindfolded. Kidnapped by vampires. Edie Spence must race against time to save herself and her baby—from the nightmare that flows through her veins…
As a nurse in the hospital’s secret Y4 ward, Edie has seen her share of daytimers. Once-ordinary humans who’ve tasted vampire blood, daytimers are doomed to serve their nighttime masters. Forever. And now Edie has to face something even more horrifying: she’s become one too…
Abducted by the vampire Raven, Edie is taken to the catacombs beneath the Catacombs, an ironically-named L.A. night club that supplies fresh blood and other favors for its vampire Masters. Edie has no intention of swapping her nurse’s uniform for a cocktail dress—not when her newborn infant needs her. But if she and Asher—her shapeshifter fiancé—can’t figure out a way to bleed Raven’s power, they may never get out of this plasma-soaked pleasure palace…undead or alive.
The Girl With All the Gifts by MR Carey (Orbit, June 10th, 2014)-Melanie is very much like every other 10 year old girl; she loves stories, especially myths and fairy tales, she loves going to school, and she especially loves Miss Justineau. However, this is where the similarities end. Melanie lives in a lockdown facility, 20 years after a plague ravaged the world, and every day after class, she is returned to her cell until the next day where she’ll be strapped to a chair and wheeled to class. For Melanie, though, it’s not too bad. She has her very active imagination to keep her company, and of course the anticipation of seeing Miss Justineau. So what if a few of her classmates have visited Dr. Caldwell and never come back. Surely they’ve gone to a better place, right? One day, Dr. Caldwell, who has been working to find a cure at any cost, calls for Melanie, and as Melanie is being strapped down to a table, the dangers that have lurked outside the gates for years breach their supposedly secure sanctuary, and a small group of survivors, including Melanie, set out over a ravaged England to hopefully find safety in another secure outpost, called Beacon. In reality, although they knew things were bad, things are far worse, and survival will be the least of their worries.
Melanie, in spite of her similarities to other children, is different in one very fundamental way. She is infected, as were the other children in the facility, but unlike most infected, she retains her cognitive and emotional functions, and if anything, Melanie functions at a higher level than most children her age. However, to her constant shame, her urge to eat human flesh always threatens to overwhelm her. It’s partly this physical isolation that makes Melanie so sympathetic (other than the fact that, regardless of anything else, she’s still just a kid), and when Miss Justineau touches her hair, or holds her hand, it’s like a revelation. There is a salve that hides the odor of their pheromones and helps to keep Melanie’s hunger in check, but it’s a constant struggle. Among the escapees, besides Melanie and Miss Justineau, there’s Sergeant Parks, who’s always tried to keep strict emotional distance from the kids, Private Gallagher, so young he doesn’t even remember the start of the plague, and Dr. Caldwell, who is still determined to find a cure, and she wants to use Melanie to do it.
Here are the books that I’m especially looking forward to in Mystery, Suspense, and Fiction for July (click on the covers to pre-order)! Note I took out the Top 10, because I never (ever) can keep it to just 10. These are in no particular order.
Synopsis (all synopsis are from Amazon or B&N)-It’s a sweltering summer in Hull: gray storm clouds gather ominously over this small English city, yet refuse to break. Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy and the rest of the Serious and Organized Crime Unit are being pushed to the brink by the local drug trade as a sadistic new boss takes over and violent crime escalates. But it’s not long before McAvoy and DS Trish Pharaoh are distracted by something deadlier: a serial murderer with a taste for the grisly and macabre. McAvoy comes to suspect these are actually copycat murders, committed as revenge for mishandled police investigations conducted years ago. But when one of McAvoy’s fellow police officers is blackmailed by the local drug kingpin, McAvoy’s life—and that of his wife, Roisin, and of the couple’s two young children—is suddenly in fearful jeopardy.
The third installment in David Mark’s critically acclaimed series, Sorrow Bound brings us deeper into Aector McAvoy’s dark, suspenseful world. As the vicious monster lurking in the shadows creep closer and closer to home, our imposing, stoic hero must figure out a way to protect his family at all costs.