I Totally Read (And Loved) These Books!

Recently I talked about a bad experience with an anthology of short stories. If you didn’t read that post you can read it here or just read this tl;dr – it sucked. Moving on.

To make up for that, I’m going to leave reviews for the three most recent short story anthologies/collections I’ve read. Not because I want to make myself feel better for not finishing the other book, but because these were all incredibly awesome and worthy of a bit of praise. Without further ado, and in the order I finished them, on to the reviews!

MADHOUSE-front-cover-600px

Madhouse is a shared-world anthology from Dark Regions Press. It includes stories from Jeff Strand, John Skipp, and Mercedes Yardley among others. The basic premise is this: a bunch of people (inmates and non-inmates) get trapped in an asylum because of a crazy-ass sandstorm. Along with them is a super creepy (and also crazy-ass) inmate who everyone thinks is magical. Either that or he is magical. Or both…you never can tell with these things. Anyway, there is a wraparound story that follows a doctor and a security guard interspersed with individual stories about various inmates and how they fit into the larger wraparound story. Make sense? Good.

I’ve read more than a few shared-world anthologies and I’m generally a fan. The downside is there’s always (yes always) at least a story or two that either doesn’t fit in with the wraparound story or the writing style is so vastly different that it feels out of place. That’s the case in Madhouse, but even with that being stated, for me this is easily the best one I’ve read. The stories are all well written and engaging, they all move the story along toward conclusion, and none of them felt like a throwaway tale. Plus, as with most Dark Regions titles, the artwork is excellent.

It was difficult for me to pick favorites because all the stories (more or less) feed into the larger narrative of the shared world. Some could survive as stand-alone tales, I’m sure, but I feel the book is better treated as a whole. All in all this is a fantastic book well worth the read, especially if you like your horror a bit on the crazy side. You know, because it’s an asylum? With crazy people? Ahem, moving on….

img_0022

Stacey Longo’s Secret Things is a short story collection published through Books and Boos Press. It’s big on character and even bigger on tone. It’s not often that I read an entire collection that maintains such a dark, almost uncomfortable feel without being outright graphic horror. The stories in Secret Things exude a sense of loss, pain, even sadness. Many deal with interpersonal relationships that have gone bad…or worse. It’s a sobering reminder that relationships can bring out the crazy in all of us.

Highlights for me include the zombie love story Love Stinks and the snowpocalypse tale Trapped, with the creepy-ass cemetery visit of Mother’s Day being my favorite. Secret Things is one of the most consistent collections I’ve read in a long time, if not ever. I have nothing bad to say about any of the stories, as they all deserve their place in this fantastic collection. Plus, many are set in her (and my) home state of Connecticut, which is pretty damn cool.

e_grant01large_360x540

I had high expectations for Taylor Grant’s The Dark At The End Of The Tunnel. The collection was published by Cemetery Dance (ebook) and Crystal Lake Publishing (print) and it was recently nominated for a Bram Stoker Award (as was the included short story The Infected). Based on overwhelmingly positive feedback, I picked up a copy. It’s an understatement to say I was not disappointed, as reading this book is an impressive experience. It doesn’t read like an author’s debut collection, rather it feels like a master who has honed his craft through years of experience. It probably doesn’t hurt that he’s been writing in various other forms of entertainment for years, and yes, he’s had short stories published before, but this is his first book (first of many, I truly hope).

Highlights for me include…hell, all of them, with Show And Tell being not only my favorite story in the collection, but quite possibly my favorite short story of all time. That’s saying a lot considering how long I’ve been reading horror fiction. I’m glad I got a paper copy of the book, because I found myself actually gripping the pages on more than one occasion. I don’t think my Kindle would have appreciated that. The book is that good. No shit.

 
This is how it’s done, folks. These three collections are all fantastic in their own right, yet different enough to take you on completely different journeys that will entertain, frighten, amuse, and just plain creep you out. Links are embedded in the text above, but here they are once again because they all deserve a read.

Madhouse on Amazon

Secret Things on Amazon

The Dark At The End Of The Tunnel on Amazon

I Stopped Reading! (this one book)

So this week I felt compelled to stop reading a book.

“Who cares?” you may be asking. Well, I care. I hate when it happens, and not just because I know how much effort goes into the process of creating a finished product. In this case we’re talking about a multi-author short story collection with some “big small press” names attached, and I was really looking forward to reading it. Plus, I spent money on it.

all-the-things-burn-all-the-money

It’s been in my “to read” queue for a while and I finally decided it was time. According to my kindle, I made it to 32% before quitting. Half of that time was slow and painful (it took me a few weeks just to get that far!). So why did I stop?

Was it poorly written? Not at all, this is a collection of fine authors, some of whose work I’ve read and enjoyed in the past.

Was it poorly edited? Sloppily put together? Nope. It was published by a reputable (and at the time fairly well-known) small press…that’s no longer in business for some odd reason….

So why did I stop? It crossed my number 1 red line: —————– It’s boring.

I’ve read bad stories that were still entertaining in their own way. I’ve read books where the editing wasn’t great (although it’s a HUGE turnoff for me), because a good enough story can shine through a sloppy presentation. I’ve read stories that made little to no sense but still loved because they were a fun read (I’m looking at you, Bizarro writers!). But one thing I just can’t stand is a boring story.

Books are entertainment. Sleep is not. I pay for books because they entertain me. I don’t pay for sleep because I don’t want to sleep (it takes away from fun time). If I find myself bored to sleep by the very thing that’s supposed to stimulate my mind and make me want to read more, well…that’s the very definition of THIS BOOK SUCKS as far as I’m concerned.

Did I really write this entire post just to complain about a boring book? No. I did it as a caution to writers the world over. Even your perfectly plotted and immaculately edited word-child can fail miserably if you don’t add the one thing that draws in a reader – excitement. Sure, there are exceptions (someone has to read boring-ass literary fiction, am I right?), but as far as this reader goes, bore me and I’ll stop reading.

And do you think I’ll ever be back? With all the incredible books still to be read, you think I’ll take another chance?

Yeah. Hold your breath for that….

Congratulations to Books & Boos Press!

Big Congrats to the folks at Books & Boos Press. Their collection Tricks & Treats was recently named Best Anthology in the Preditors and Editors Readers Poll 2016!

antho

I’m honored to have my story What About That Daughter Of Yours? share the pages with such an incredibly talented group of classic and modern authors, all from the great state of Connecticut. If you haven’t checked out Tricks & Treats, don’t be scared! After all, there’s no better judge than your fellow readers.

51Yp5cANWWL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Tired of 2016 Politics?

Join the club, we’re all tired! So…….

Politics, politics, politics. There we go, got that out of our systems, yeah?

Wait, it’s still stuck in that cranium of yours? Well don’t fear…I’ve got something to take your mind off things. This Tuesday, November 8th (that’s tomorrow, if you’re reading this on the post day), All three Kindle volumes of Tales From The Underground will be totally free.

tales-123z

I know I can’t wait to stop thinking about this batshit insane political cycle, so I’m going to spend election night engrossed in some serious editing. Got a submarine novel to (finally) release, don’t ya know? I thought I’d share the love and give away something to help you pass the time as well. I bet you could have all three volumes read before we even have election results, and you would have something better to do than stare at CNN (or whatever your preferred news bias) for hours listening to the same assholes argue about the same opinions and make predictions that will likely change like the weather. Or not. Nothing’s been very clear this cycle. Throw your hands up like the rest of us….

Instead of all that mess, I give you fifteen stories of monsters, serial killers, zombies, pissed off cats, creepy dolls, and a little bit of insanity for good measure. Plus some other stuff.

Volume 1 can be found here. Volume 2 can be found here. Volume 3-Z can be found here.

The paperback compilation is not free, but if you prefer reading a physical book you can of course find that here.

Of course, nothing’s really free, right? So I do ask for something in return: if you’re an American, please remember to vote. I don’t care who you vote for, honestly. That’s your business, and I respect it. But as a veteran it means a lot to know you’re you’re making your voice heard. Not everyone in the world has that right, and lots of folks have died defending it. Family. Friends. Good people willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for something we all take for granted. Yes, that’s a bit dramatic, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

If you’re not an American, no worries…I’ve got much love for all! The promotion is for election day here in the U.S., but it’s free November 8th no matter where in the world you are. 

If you enjoy Tales, perhaps some of you would do me the honor of a review. It doesn’t take very long, but it does mean a lot to us indie writers. I hope you’ll give Tales From The Underground a shot, and I truly hope you get out and vote.

I’ll see you on the flip side….

Meet Duran!

Greetings Internet…I’d like to introduce you to someone…

celery-hand-duran-cover

Meet Duran. Duran’s a dick. He’s a self-absorbed asshole who’s hatred for humanity is balanced only by his love of pornography. Also, one of his hands is made of celery. Not just any celery, but a mutated-yet-functional growth that gives him a telepathic link to celery. All celery, even the Vegemasters, a vegetable army that works for The Mother; an army that is set on destroying anything that doesn’t come from the ground. With the help of the Vegetable Annihilation Group (V.A.G.) and many (many!) hours of masturbation, hopefully Duran will be “up” to the task.

Advance praise for Celery Hand Duran:

“This is easily the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever written” – The Author

“What the hell is wrong with you?” – The Trusted Reader

“Dear God, why?” – The Editor

Coming Friday, October 28th for Kindle…just in time to be offended this Halloween!

Seriously though, I’m not kidding. This is some pretty offensive shit. Mom, you might want to skip this one….

Upcoming releases and shenanigans

Greetings Internet!

Happy October,I hope your autumn has been just lovely so far. I’ve been pretty busy enjoying the weather and getting some new things done. But, let’s start with a plug for Camp Hollybrook:

CH Cover

“A gory, fun-filled creature feature romp. There’s nothing pretentious about this one—just enjoy the splattery ride!” — Jeff Strand, author of DWELLER

Have you read it? Amazon tells me quite a few of you have, but to date there’s only one review. Big thanks to the reviewer, but if you have a few seconds I’d love it if you’d leave one as well. It means way more to indie authors than you could imagine. Unless of course you’re an indie author. Then you get it. Much love.

If you haven’t read it, check it out! There’s camping, swimming, hiking, butts, and a Bigfoot on a murderous rampage. What’s not to love? It’s available for Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. Oh yeah, it’s kind of funny too. In a sick sort of way. Like me. Ahem….

Speaking of funny:

celery-title

Celery Hand Duran is edited and formatted, the cover will be revealed next week, and it will be released October 28th. That’s coming up soon! Celery Hand Duran is easily the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever written. That’s even the first blurb I received!

“Easily the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever written.” — the author

It’s my first bizarro book and I’m really looking forward to releasing Duran on an unsuspecting world. I just hope the world is ready for him…. More info next week when I post the cover.

In other news, I have a new novella finished (told you I’ve been busy!). I’m pretty excited because it marks my return to reality-based horror in the vein of Stripped. There’s no monsters, magic, beasties, or vicious vegetables. Just people. Bad people. And guns. Lots of them. And a bank. Well, what’s left of one. And of course profanity. Because you know…

F**k.

As-yet untitled, I’ll have more info on this novella soon.  

Shifting gears a bit: Things are moving along on my music project. I’ve got scratch tracks for 15 original songs, but I’m shooting to narrow that down to 10-12, depending on time. That may also include one cover, I’m not sure yet. I’ll figure that out when everything is recorded and I pick the final set.

guitar.jpg

Once I’m done editing the new novella I’m going to start tracking drums and move on from there. I may post a snippet here for fun, who knows? I’m really hoping for a spring 2017 release, so it’s going to be a busy winter. More to follow on that.

bass

That’s all the news for now, check me next week for the Celery Hand Duran cover, and don’t be scared to pick it up on the 28th!

New Collection of Tricks And Treats!

Tags

,

This week saw the release of Tricks and Treats: A Collection of Spooky Stories by Connecticut Authors. Released by Books and Boos Press, it includes classics and modern tales alike.

51Yp5cANWWL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

From the Amazon Page:

Some of Connecticut’s finest authors—from the eighteen hundreds through today—showcase their spookiest tales in this collection. Discover some lesser-known works from literary greats Twain, Gilman, Stowe, and Brainard, and chilling stories from contemporary authors Crandall, Foley, Longo, Munson, Schoonover, Strong, and Valeri. This collection will make you proud to be a Nutmegger. “Connecticut authors, you scare the hell out of me, but I grow to love you—more and more, with every creepy tale.” ~ From the foreword by Rob Watts, author of AMERICANA and THE CROOKED ROADS THROUGH CEDAR GROVE

The book is now available in both print and kindle versions. You can also check out the book trailer here.

With fall and Halloween fast approaching, don’t be scared to check this one out!

Happy Almost End Of Summer!

Tags

,

Yes yes, we’ve been through this before. Many times. I hate summer. Moving on….

Speaking of summer, the first (and so far only) book I’ve written that’s actually set in summer was just released for Kindle this past weekend! After years of delay, the Bigfoot novella Camp Hollybrook has finally seen the light of day. It’s available here and is even free for you Kindle Unlimited-types.

“A gory, fun-filled creature feature romp. There’s nothing pretentious about this one—just enjoy the splattery ride!” -- Jeff Strand, author of DWELLER

“A gory, fun-filled creature feature romp. There’s nothing pretentious about this one—just enjoy the splattery ride!” — Jeff Strand, author of DWELLER

I’m really happy to have this book finally published, as I had a great time writing it. It’s set in South Jersey (where I grew up), and although it really could be set anywhere, I based it loosely on a summer camp my brother and I used to go to each year. I say loosely, because there wasn’t as much bloody dismemberment, nor was there a Bigfoot. At least I don’t think there was. Not that I remember. But there was an awful lot of woods….

That’s also why it’s set in summer. Summer camp is pretty empty in the winter, yeah? Still, even writing the thing made me sweat. That big ball of fire in the sky is a real bitch, am I right? Anyway, if you’re into Bigfoot and hungover camp counselors and blood and…dead counselors and…uhh…woods? How about this: check it out if you’re looking for a bloody good laugh. Then, if you’re so inclined, leave me a review. Reviews are to writers what stickers are to 2-year-olds. We just can’t get enough.

Oh yeah. For the record, the lengthy delay were due in no small part due to a huge challenge with the original publisher…a challenge that started in August 2014 and finally ended a couple months ago when I bought my way out of the contract. I’m not here to bad-mouth them, because that’s not my style. Of course, if you’ve read any of my posts over the past 2 years you’ve no doubt read the name(s) of the publisher(s) in question.

With that being stated, if you ever consider submitting to this group, please Google them first (with both names). There are plenty of other folks online who are happy to be less diplomatic than I am. Yes, sometimes I get a nosebleed from taking the high road, but that’s just me. However, I can honestly say a deeper search than the cursory one I performed in the summer of 2014 would have saved me 2 years of frustration.

Tl;dr – Just. Don’t.

Enough about that crap, it’s not worth your time or my space.

I’ve started getting busy with future projects I’d like to share. You may remember me on occasion mentioning Celery Hand Duran? You know, the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever written? Well it’s done and edited and currently in formatting. With time for tweaking and finishing the cover, I’m guessing an October or November release. More to come as we get closer.

Celery and blood...blood and celery.

Celery and blood…blood and celery. And maybe some semen.

I’m also working on sequels to both Camp Hollybrook and Celery Hand Duran. With both books being novellas, I don’t like the formatting or price point necessary for print editions. Since I’d already written outlines, I figure I’ll get them both done first, then publish double-feature print copies of CH/CH2 and CHD/CHD2. That means, for now, Kindle versions only. If I can have a productive enough fall/winter, sequels and print versions will be out next year.

I’ve got a few other projects in the works (as always), including a final (FINAL) edit on the submarine novel I thought I had finished last year. I’m also trying to balance my time between work, writing, and a new project I’ve started working on.

I'm gonna get yelled at for making such a mess, but at least it's quiet!

I’m gonna get yelled at for making such a mess!

This will take a while, but I’ve started recording scratch tracks for a full album of material. Between recording, mixing, and mastering, I’m just going to say “sometime in 2017”.

That’s it for now, but stay tuned for updates. Enjoy the rest of your summer!

So Long 2015!

Tags

, , , ,

Happy 2016!

So what exactly was 2015 good for? Well, let’s just say some years are better than others…but it wasn’t a total wash. I did manage to finish Celery Hand Duran, and I absolutely love the way it turned out. It’s still looking for a home, but I think when it sees the light of day you’re going to love it. Well, some of you will. Some of you might be horribly offended. Maybe not, we’ll see. It’s absolutely ridiculous, but in a good way.

I also managed to work on about a million other things without finishing a damn one of them. At least I have a lot of material in the works, yeah? Hooray for 2015! Onward to 2016!

So far we’re off to a good start. Coming up VERY soon (preorder is up at Amazon): the flash fiction collection 44 Lies by 22 Liars will be released by the good folks at Post Mortem Press (for those of you new to flash fiction: it’s generally considered any story 1,000 words or less).

44 lies

Edited by the very awesome Eric Beebe, this collection includes a whole bunch of authors who have been part of the PMP family: J. David Anderson, Paul Anderson, David Bernard, Max Booth III, C. Bryan Brown, Kenneth W. Cain, Brad Carter, Kyle Dickerson, Emma Ennis, Robert Essig, Teel James Glenn, Scott Goudsward, KT Jayne, Tally Johnson, MF Korn, Christian A. Larsen, Michael Matula, Josef Matulich, Jessica McHugh, P. Andrew Miller, Georgina Morales, Billie Sue Mosiman, g. Elmer Munson, Andrew Nienaber, Cynthina Pelayo, Nelson W. Pyles, Patrick Scalisi, Rob Smales, and Tim Waggoner. That many authors throwing rapid-fire stories at you is something you just can’t pass up. No really, go preorder it. I’ll wait…

Also coming soon is something you may have heard me mention a time or two:

 “A gory, fun-filled creature feature romp. There’s nothing pretentious about this one—just enjoy the splattery ride!” -- Jeff Strand, author of DWELLER

“A gory, fun-filled creature feature romp. There’s nothing pretentious about this one—just enjoy the splattery ride!” — Jeff Strand, author of DWELLER

Yes, Camp Hollybrook is finally on its way from the Damnation Books imprint of Caliburn Press. Wait…imprint, you say? Well, it’s a long story that’s a bit more dramatic than I care to share. The only important thing is this: Damnation has been sold to Caliburn and they’re working hard behind the scenes to make something great. I’ve been nothing short of thrilled with the editing and cover design, and I can’t wait for the final book to be released. More to come as we approach release date!

So what else does 2016 have in store? Hell, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll finally wrap that submarine novel that I “finished” like a year ago. Maybe Celery Hand Duran will find a home. Maybe my new WIP will come out as awesome as it feels like (yes, I’m writing something new). For now, let’s just take this year one day at a time and see how things roll. If that sounds good to you, then I’ll see you again soon!

Summer’s Over!!!

Tags

, , ,

Summer’s totally over, and I couldn’t be happier. I know autumn just started a few days ago, but when I walk into my local packie and see cases of Oktoberfest waiting for me to pull out my debit card, it’s just a matter of time until the leaves drop and I have to spend weeks mulching and bagging. That also means christmas decorations are in the stores and everything is pumpkin flavored, but I’m okay with that…because I hate summer. Did I say hate? Let’s try loathe. That’s better.

So what have I been doing during this horrible season? Aside from suffering, not much, but I did manage to get the final draft done on Celery Hand Duran. It’s easily the weirdest thing I’ve ever written, and I’m not 100% sure anyone in their right mind is going to want to publish it. I guess it’s time to find out, yeah?

Speaking of publishing, I’ve just started working with the editor on Camp Hollybrook, so I’m excited to see the final. Oddly enough, Camp Hollybrook is set in the much-hated (loathed) season we’ve just survived: summer. I know, I know, I almost never write stories set in summer. Well, it’s set in a summer camp, so I kind of had to keep it in the season. Winter camp might not be quite the same. More to follow as CH gets closer to release.

I also managed to attend one event, the Wadsworth Open Air Market & Festival in Middletown, CT. I try to make this event every year, because even though in some circles it’s not “cool” to do craft fair-type events I always have a great time and sell a decent number of books. This year was no exception, with my selling copies of Gothic Blue Book 4 (which contains my story “Family Business”) and Tales From The Underground as well as selling all but 1 copy of Stripped. That’s a good day in my book.

Other accomplishments should include completion of the synopsis for Under a Sea Of Red Foam, but as I was writing it I realized there was an inconsistency that I couldn’t ignore (and why on earth would I???). It wasn’t central to the plot, but it was something referenced often enough to cause a slight rewrite. I printed it out and am giving it another redline. Good news is it’s going very smooth. Bad news is it’s taking a while, it being a full length novel and all that. That and I’ve been working on the edits for Camp Hollybrook.

Why is it that books always argue over which one gets my attention? Let’s not even mention Death +5. Wait, I just mentioned it…but I’m not ready for that one yet. What’s it about? Too early. But I discussed it earlier in the year, so you might remember…

It's all about the dice...

It’s all about the dice…

Happy Autumn!