Monday, October 31, 2016

Horror Review: Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

In honor of Halloween, I thought I'd dust off the shelves review something from the master of Horror, Stephen King himself. In fact, I'm thinking this might become a seasonal thing. Full Dark, No Stars is a collection of five long stories that do a fantastic job of demonstrating the breadth of King's talent.

The first story, 1922, is vintage King - dark, disturbing, and something that could very well have come from the tabloid archives. As he does so often, King plays with the traditional family dynamic, pitting husband against wife, and placing their son directly in the middle. It's no surprise that murder is the result, but this isn't a story about murder, it's a story about guilt, remorse, and consequence. There are some wonderful touches of the macabre, along with some truly gruesome moments, and an ending that you know is coming . . . but which hits hard all the same.

Big Driver, the second story in the collection, is an extremely dark tale that reminds me of King's era of Gerald's Game, Dolores Claibone, and Rose Madder (an era I didn't like at the time, but suspect it may be time to revisit). It's the story of a mystery writer who falls prey to a serial rapist. It's a graphic tale, and one that's likely to disturb some readers, but it's also probably the best of the bunch. Tess is a wonderfully strong heroine, and the way in which she transforms is as powerful as it is empowering. Here we get a talking cat and a talking GPS to help alleviate some of the tension (courtesy of Tess' fractured psyche), and a mystery that's almost more horrifying than the rape itself.

As a huge fan of King's earliest collections, Night Shift and Skeleton Crew, I absolutely loved the third story, Fair Extension. It's a relatively short story, relating a new twist on the old deal with the devil. Every time you think King has pushed things far enough, though, he pushes them even farther. It's a cruel tale, but also one that leaves you giddy with shared euphoria. If you've ever had that 'perfect' friend you love to hate, you'll find the ending cruel and heartless, yet happy at the same time . . . absolutely classic King.

The last story, A Good Marriage, is so twisted I'm not sure where to begin. It's a story of secrets, confessions, more secrets, and repercussions. Somehow, in King's hands, being a bondage obsessed serial killer is actually something to be pitied . . . and being a faithful wife, one who wants to believe there's still a good man insider her husband, is something to be very scared of. The scene where Darce images her own daughter bound to the kitchen table, ready to become Daddy's next victim, is one of the most chilling scenes in the whole collection. As for the ending, you kind of see it coming, and know it's how the story deserves to end, but somehow it still surprises you.

If you happen to pick up the paperback, we also get a very short bonus story in Under the Weather. This one is sad and creepy and entirely too disturbing. You suspect from the very first page what's really going on, but want so desperately to be wrong. When the end comes . . . well, it's a fitting end for a night spent in Full Dark with No Stars to light the way.

Paperback, 560 pages
Published May 24th 2011 by Gallery Books

Trick or Treat - FREE Horror for Halloween!

In honor of Halloween, my favorite holiday of the year, I have decided to invite everyone over for a little trick or treating. I have the usual poisoned candy, razor blade apples, and ladyfingers (at least, she said she was a lady) for those so inclined, but like that house with full-sized candy bars, I have a full-sized tale for you.

For today only, Asanserophobia Infidelity, my darkly erotic tale of bizarre fetishes and extreme revenge, is FREE on Kindle. 

We're talking 60+ pages of what one reader called "a claustrophobic, death trip of extreme fetishes and sickness all lashed out inside an elevator."

5 people. 1 box. A 27 square foot coffin, trapped between floors. What they discover about one another will disgust them . . . but what they discover about themselves will destroy them.

Dirty little secrets, bizarre fetishes, and a thirst for revenge will make for one very long holiday weekend indeed.

If you do happen to give it a read, please consider leaving a short review. Aside from the ego boost, the more reviews a story gets, the better its chance of discovery. Thank you in advance, and Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

From the Shelf to the Page: This Week in the Ruins

In case you missed it, here's what happened in the Ruins this week . . .


WTF Friday: Dangerous Urges by Konrad Hartmann

Horror Review: Thing Bailiwick by Fawn Bonning

The Dilemmas of Erotic Horror guest post by Konrad Hartmann

The Voodoo and Hoodoo that You Do guest post by Gail Z. Martin

When is a Trilogy Not a Trilogy? guest post by Rob J. Hayes


Coming up this week, we'll be hosting visits from Rowena Cory Daniells and Andrew Joyce, so be sure to stop by for that.

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Stacking The Shelves and Mailbox Monday are a pair of weekly memes that are about sharing the books that came your way over the past week, and which you've added to your shelves - whether they be physical or virtual, borrowed or bought, or for pleasure or review.

As much as I've vowed to stop requesting review titles myself, the books keep pouring in, and there have been a few I just couldn't refuse:

Willful Child: Wrath of Betty by Steven Erikson

The Feast of All Souls by Simon Bestwick

Blood Fiends' Bane by William Stacey



In the Springtime Everything is New All Over Again by Esmerelda Q. Jones

Six Out of Five Box Set by Marc Richard


I also made a few late night purchases yesterday. I've been in the mood for a more traditional (i.e. non-grimdark) epic fantasy, so The Sleeping King by Cindy Dees & Bill Flippin caught my eye, and I'm extremely excited about a re-imagined edition of Headhunter, the first Special X Thriller, by Michael Slade - we're talking elite Mounties and the darkest of serial killers here.


And, of course, Foster tossed a few new titles into the WTF Friday dungeon:

Deadman's Tome Book of Horrors II by Mr. Deadman

The Triad and the Innocent Maidens by Reed James

Something Good, Something Bad, Something Dirty by Brian Alan Ellis

The Lost City of the Dinosaur Women by Chamo Silver





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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is another weekly meme, this time focused on what books are spending the most time in your hands and in your head, as opposed to what's been added to your shelf.

It's all paperback editions this week with the new Librarians novel, the latest Jack Ryan adventure, and a The Lord of the Isles pick of the dusty old shelves.



What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, October 28, 2016

WTF Friday: Dangerous Urges by Konrad Hartmann

Well, another WTF Friday is upon us, which means we once again turn the Ruins over to my dark half. As regular visitors will know, Foster Medina has a passion for messed up literary diversions - books that are bizarre, twisted, grotesque, and kinky - and he's only too happy to splatter them across the page.



Pardon my profanity, but Dangerous Urges by Konrad Hartmann is some really dark shit. I'm not just talking about a little edgy or teasingly taboo, but dangerously fucking perverse. This is a book that will challenge you, shock you, disgust you, and offend you. It will also intrigue you and - yes, let's be honest - arouse the hell out of you. You'll feel damned guilty for enjoying it, and will vehemently deny having done so in polite company, but the moment you're alone again you'll spread the covers, crack the spine, and hit it one more time.

The anthology wastes no time getting started, going straight for the jugular with Hunter's Tree, a disturbing story about troubled souls who pay to relive their fears. We're talking an abuse victim being chased through the woods by a man in a wolf's mask, complete with the very climax you're dreading - or, perhaps, desiring. Primal and raw, it works as well on a psychological level as a physical one.

Next up we have a necromantic slice of erotic sword and sorcery in Tomb Brides. The opening scenes of sexual sacrifice and undead resurrection are as erotic as they are terrifying, and the story just gets darker from there. I expected that to be my favorite, but then I waded into the shark-infested waters of All Consuming. Holy shit! There's so much I want to say about this one, but what you need to know is that is involves a lonely young woman, a fetish for shark-bitten carnage, an alcoholic lesbian lover, and the slow reveal of painful secrets. Powerful and perverse, it takes the concept of love bites to a whole other level.

Lot's Sin was a bit of a stumble for me, despite its blasphemous desecrations, but Frogger Says was a hell of a lot of fun. The story revolves around a childish young woman who carries on conversations with stuffed animals who secretly urge her on to dark, self-depreciating acts of sexual excess. It's darkly comic, but sadly tragic at the same time, with a violent threesome that isn't half as shocking as the tiny twist that infects the reader with Hannah's madness.

Probably the most straight forward tale in the anthology, Glad Rags is the story of Sheldon, a selfishly perverse young man who wants his lovers to be completely unresponsive. Yes, I know what you're thinking, and it absolutely goes there (and beyond), but not before exploring the potential of sleeping girlfriends and heroin-induced comas. The final story, Arena Breed, switches things up a bit, trading depravity for decadence, and passion for perversion, in an exciting tale of sexualized violence and violent sexuality.

Dangerous Urges holds absolutely nothing back, and never apologizes for its perversions. It is the very epitome of erotic horror, complete with the conflicting emotions the genre arouses, distinguished by a narrative flair that critics will suggest is wasted on the material . . . but which is absolutely fucking perfect.

Kindle Edition, 282 pages
Published October 25th 2016 by Fantastic Fiction Publishing Publishing

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Horror Review: Thing Bailiwick (A Collection of Horror) by Fawn Bonning

Offering up a healthy mix of surreal creepiness, psychological weirdness, and physical terror, Thing Bailiwick is a collection of well-written horror that deftly demonstrates Fawn Bonning's literary skills.

I won't run down all the stories - to do so would be to spoil the thrills and chills - but let me share with you some thoughts on the first few.

The collection opens with a story of a sad, lonely, emancipated dog, found dying alongside the road . . . or is it already dead? You'd think it would be a simple question to answer, but not so much for one young mother, who tragically finds out that no good deed goes unpunished. A bloody, unsettling tale from start to finish.

Next, we're introduced to a group of young punks who foolishly choose to torment an old man who wants nothing more than to sit and feed the birds. It's a story comprised largely of dialogue, but there's some character development along the way that makes the supernatural twists at the end all the more powerful.

From there we turn to a darkly humorous tale of two young thieves and the sarcastic old woman they make the mistake of robbing. This one is a more traditional a narrative, complete with some skin-crawling descriptions of disembodies eyes, but the banter between the old woman and the thieves is what makes it so entertaining.

A group of young men are at the heart of the next story as well, but there's no torture or thieving involved here, just some innocent bullying . . . and, well, a whole lot of fear. As soon as the challenge comes to spend the night in the forest fort, you know it's not going to go well, but they way the claustrophobic terror builds here is very different from the first few stories.

I'll leave you to discover the rest for yourself, but suffice to say Thing Bailiwick is a surprisingly strong collection that delivers consistent chills. There's an air of mystery throughout, with certain details left off the page, and many of the conclusions somewhat open-ended, but that's part of what appealed to me. Leaving something to the reader's imagination is key to effective horror, and loose ends are what keep the fear alive.


Paperback, 452 pages
Published October 1st 2015 by Createspace

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copyof this title from the author in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Dilemmas of Erotic Horror by Konrad Hartmann (Dangerous Urges)

The Dilemmas of Erotic Horror
by Konrad Hartmann
Author of Dangerous Urges

Writing erotic horror consists of a trade in secrets. Authors of the genre have a choice to make in this matter: should they divulge their own kinks, interests, and speculations; or should they seek to fulfill the wants of the market? The latter risks timid commercialism, the former, masturbatory self-indulgence. I think that writing a good erotic story involves a bit of secret telling, in that you reveal at least your ability to conceive of a given scenario being exciting.

For Halloween, people decorate their properties with all sorts of horrific things, including fake severed heads, plastic-wrapped bodies hanging from trees and so forth. Some people complain about tastelessness, but that’s about it usually.

Erotica gathers a bit more stigma, with a number of variables. More people find it distasteful, but degree of explicitness and type of kink probably determines to what extent. Saying that you read erotica offends more people than saying that you read horror. Still, depending on the social circle, people may perceive it as being adventurous. Erotica needn’t be sleazy or degrading or otherwise negative, and the reader and writer may be perceived as pleasantly naughty.

If people aren’t offended by sex or violence, the combination of the two may cause discomfort. Erotic horror involves the violation of boundaries. A great deal of nastiness often occurs in erotic horror, things that simply won’t do in other genres. Actions neither sane, safe, nor consensual tend to occur in the genre.

Consider a slasher story, with a killer targeting attractive women, murdering them in a manner with many sexual overtones. He uses a knife, penetrating her body, and perhaps she is nude or partially dressed. Maybe the killer wears a fetishistic mask. Despite the horrific and erotic elements of the story, we still wouldn’t call it erotic horror, and it would still be acceptable to many horror fans. Add sex to it, however, and things change.

Saying you like slasher stories is one thing. Saying you like erotic slasher stories, well, that may be different. The erotic slasher story openly addresses the issue of titillation. Readers of the ostensibly non-erotic slasher may be excited by the dark sexuality of the story while still identifying as simply a horror buff. The hypothetical erotic slasher story, however, forces something out in the open, that this story is of sexual interest, if not openly arousing. At least in the U.S., we live in a culture in which, on a Saturday morning, a basic cable television show can show dismemberment without much controversy, while an exposed female nipple remains forbidden.

But let’s return to literature. When we deal with erotic horror, we now work with dark subjects mixed with sex, typically sex in negative contexts. We see a number of boundary violations here. Sex taints the genre of horror. Negativity taints the genre of erotica. And we approach other boundaries. Is the story titillating, and, if so, intentionally or incidentally so? Intentional titillation incriminates the writer, incidental excitement, the reader.

Erotic horror may be written with very different goals. Sex sensitizes people and heightens emotions, and can be used to enhance feelings of revulsion, rather than to sexually excite the reader. The giant slimy monster killing you may be less horrific than the giant slimy monster sexually violating you first. The erotic element, in this case, seasons horror with disgust and revulsion.

Another path involves presenting stories that may titillate, or at least illustrate what a character finds arousing and pleasurable. Maybe the reader takes a prurient interest in reading about the above giant slimy monster violating a character. Or perhaps the story reads from the monster’s perspective.

I won’t argue for the superiority of one perspective over the other; I happily use either, depending upon the story. But either way, we’re dealing with primal urges towards sex and violence, elements central to our identity throughout evolutionary history, posing immense complications and adding intricacies to our modern, social existence.

John Vaillant, in The Tiger, discusses the view that much of our fixation on predatory creatures, whether sharks or vampires, stems from our adaptive wiring to recognize predators. We are, perhaps, alive, because our ancestors were good at recognizing and responding to creatures that hunt us. And so that predator recognition response may transfer to other things, including horror fiction.

I would add that we are obviously also alive because of sexual instincts. Erotic horror games our systems by reverting us to a pre-human, pre-mammalian perspective, from which fucking and dismemberment by slashing jaws lie on very similar grounds. Erotic horror is paradoxical, because it returns us to a simpler form; at the same time, it plays with the ciphered language of the unconscious. In writing or enjoying erotic horror, we expose truths about ourselves, or we bury truths in symbolism.

We fiddle with dangerous formulae, toying with combinations of the mercurial emotional states of fear, lust, aggression, and shame. The readers and writers of erotic horror visit a place with very few rules. This state presents both benefits and cost.

Benefits include freedom to read or write with greater freedom. Costs include the fact that more people will read (or write) the genre than will admit to doing so. Secrecy brings isolation. People are less likely to discuss that necrophilia story they just read, less likely to admit finding it stimulating. Such things tend not to go viral on social media. The genre exists on the margins of marginal genres. Readers have to go looking for it, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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About the Author

Konrad Hartmann writes erotica mixed with horror and action. Intending to write the sort of material not easily found in the world of sexual literature, he feels comfortable working in genre fiction to tell his stories. He accepts the human soul and the unconscious for what it is; he sees no duty to present justification. Hartmann enjoys learning about a broad range of topics including history (at the moment, 19th century U.S. and medieval European), folk magic, folklore, ichthyology, historic songs, mining, railroads, and all things maritime. He works under the influence of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard.

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About the Book

Dangerous Urges
by Konrad Hartmann

There are twisted alleys and dark corners in the world, the sorts of places most people never go, much less go looking for sex. But some people have urges light just can’t satisfy. From the master of horror erotica, Konrad Hartmann, comes Dangerous Urges -- an anthology of seven stories about the kinds of people who can only get what they need from shadowy places.

Dangerous Urges starts with a modern tale of abuse, primal lusts, and recovery and ends with ancient Roman nobles with tastes more depraved than Caligula’s. In between these, you’ll encounter grave robbers, shark fanciers, mad patriarchs, eldritch abominations, and even a relatively ordinary necrophiliac. Follow Konrad Hartmann down a dark alley, and see what he has to show you back there. We promise you an unforgettable experience. Beyond that… You can’t say we didn’t warn you.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Voodoo and Hoodoo that You Do by Gail Z. Martin

The Voodoo and Hoodoo that You Do
By Gail Z. Martin

My Deadly Curiosities dark urban fantasy series of books, novellas and short stories is set in Charleston, SC. Charleston is a beautiful city with a bloody past, one of the oldest cities in the United Sates, and one of the most haunted.

I draw on a broad range of magic in Deadly Curiosities—everything from Cherokee shamans to Voodoo (some practitioners prefer Voudon) mambos and houngans, and root workers along with a secret society of kick-ass Episcopalian priests, witches, a necromancer, supernatural hit men, a paranormal special ops guy, clairvoyants, a psychic medium, and more.

Many of the characters associated with magic are recurring cast members for the series, showing up in both books and throughout the short stories and novellas. Lucinda is a Voudon mambo and Caliel is a houngan, both descendants of Mama Nadedge, a mambo who lived in the 1700s and whose ghost still haunts Charleston’s alleys. Father Anne is an unorthodox Episcopalian priest, a member of the secret St. Expeditious Society, and a friend to the Alliance, always happy to help come kick some demon ass. Ernestine Teller is a root worker and a weaver of sweetgrass baskets. She and her daughter, Niella, use their abilities with Hoodoo to help Cassidy and the team take out the bad guys. These are just a few of the magic-wielding allies that Cassidy, Sorren and Teag call on through the Alliance. You’ll meet more, but I don’t want to give anything away!

In addition to the inherent hauntedness of Charleston, I’ve added a lot of magic and supernatural traditions. Most people connect Voodoo (or Voudon as some practitioners prefer) with New Orleans, but forget that slaveholding families would have moved back and forth between Charleston and New Orleans to visit relatives, or slaves would have been sold between plantations. That makes it reasonable to me that Voodoo practitioners could have been in Charleston, and that their descendants might be there today. Voudon plays a big role in the Deadly Curiosities novels and in a lot of the short stories, and the Loa—powerful spirits—are very active.

Hoodoo (sometimes called ‘conjure’) is another folk tradition with strong African and Caribbean roots that came with enslaved individuals. Hoodoo is particularly well-known in the Lowcountry region of South Carolina and is often referred to as ‘putting a root’ on someone. Practitioners are known as ‘root women’ or ‘root workers’. Spells, powders, rituals and potions abound for blessing, cursing, bringing good fortune or warding off evil. Conjure workers often deal with attracting love, happiness and wealth, or causing misfortune to someone who did somebody wrong. Even today in the South Carolina Lowcountry, it is no idle threat to ‘put a root’ on someone!You’ll see more of Hoodoo and Voodoo in both Deadly Curiosities and Vendetta and in the ‘extended episode’ short stories and novellas.

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My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for my stories and for books by author friends of mine. You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Get all the details about my Days of the Dead blog tour here: http://bit.ly/2eC2pxP

Let me give a shout-out for #HoldOnToTheLight--100+ Sci-Fi/Fantasy authors blogging about their personal struggles with depression, PTSD, anxiety, suicide and self-harm, candid posts by some of your favorite authors on how mental health issues have impacted their lives and books. Read the stories, share the stories, change a life. Find out more at www.HoldOnToTheLight.com


Book swag is the new Trick-or-Treat! All of my guest blog posts have links to free excerpts—grab them all!

TrickOr Treat excerpt from my book Ice Forged http://bit.ly/1oCHuNP

Treat! Try this excerpt from Collector, a Deadly Curiosities story http://bit.ly/1t8XMy7

Use your free Audible trial to get my books! DeadlyCuriosities https://amzn.com/B01IITFPZE

Enjoy this excerpt from Bad Blood, a JonmarcVahanian Adventure http://bit.ly/1uQXtVd

Sweet! An excerpt from StuartJaffe’sSouthernBound MaxPorter ParanormalMystery: http://www.stuartjaffe.com/mp-sample/

Halloween reader loot! DoubleDragonSampler#3 http://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/sample/DDPSAMPLE003.mobi

Spooky! An excerpt from JohnHartness’s BubbaTheMonsterHunter story Hall&Goats http://bit.ly/1Lok7PC

Have you seen the Vendetta video? https://youtu.be/u72GIQlBAoU

Read free excerpts from all of Falstaff Books’ new releases! http://bit.ly/2eoLwJu

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About the Author

Gail Z. Martin is the author of Vendetta: A Deadly Curiosities Novel in her urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC (Solaris Books); Shadow and Flame the fourth and final book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (Orbit Books); The Shadowed Path (Solaris Books) and Iron and Blood a new Steampunk series (Solaris Books) co-authored with Larry N. Martin. A brand new epic fantasy series debuts from Solaris Books in 2017.

She is also author of Ice Forged, Reign of Ash and War of Shadows in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, Dark Lady’s Chosen); The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn, The Dread) and the urban fantasy novel Deadly Curiosities. Gail writes three ebook series: The JonmarcVahanian Adventures,The Deadly Curiosities Adventures and The Blaine McFadden Adventures. The Storm and Fury Adventures, steampunk stories set in the Iron & Blood world, are co-authored with Larry N. Martin.

Find her at www.GailZMartin.com, on Twitter @GailZMartin, on Facebook.com/WinterKingdoms, at DisquietingVisions.com blog and GhostInTheMachinePodcast.com, on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/GailZMartin and free excerpts on Wattpad http://wattpad.com/GailZMartin.

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About the Books

Predator
Deadly Curiosities Adventure Book 18

Shifters are vanishing in Charleston and the packs are too mistrustful of each other to work together. Sorren, Cassidy, and Teag step in to stop the killings, only to discover that dark magic and obsession lie behind the disappearances, and someone has them in the crosshairs.



Bloodlines
Deadly Curiosities Adventure Book 17

Vengeful ghosts rise at a historic mansion, revealing family secrets, dark ambitions and old bloodshed. Cassidy, Teag, and Sorren battle a centuries-old spell before it can claim new victims and paint the walls red with blood.



Trifles and Folly
A Deadly Curiosities Collection

A collection of nine adventures: Buttons, The Restless Dead, Retribution, Coffin Box, Wicked Dreams, Collector, Bad Memories, Shadow Garden, and Spook House.

Cassidy Kincaide runs Trifles & Folly in modern-day Charleston, an antiques and curios shop with a dangerous secret. Cassidy can read the history of objects by touching them and along with her business partners Teag, who has Weaver magic and Sorren, a 600 year-old vampire, they get rid of cursed objects and keep Charleston and the world safe from supernatural threats. An extension of the Deadly Curiosities book series.

Monday, October 24, 2016

When is a Trilogy Not a Trilogy? by Rob J. Hayes

Hailing from all over England; north, south, and everything in between, Rob J. Hayes is the author of the dark fantasy series The Ties that Bind and also the steampunk caper series It Takes a Thief... He's also an avid card gamer, reader of books, watcher of things, and player of video games.

The second book in the It Takes a Thief... series, It Takes a Thief to Start a Fire, is available October 25th from Amazon. You can find out more at www.robjhayes.co.uk.


When is a Trilogy Not a Trilogy?
Star Wars Vs Indiana Jones

I'll start this blog by saying I will be talking about the original Star Wars trilogy (that's episodes 4, 5, and 6) and the three Indiana Jones films (3!!!)

Trilogies are a thing. I don't know why but there's probably some scientific basis behind the number 3 and how it effects our primitive human brains. Honestly, think about how many things come in threes. Stories told across multiple books/films are most often done so with 3, so much so that I recently wrote a duology and people kept asking me what the 3rd book would be called. At this point it's almost become social conditioning (especially within the fantasy genre) to expect books to be trilogies. The mighty De La Soul taught us that 3 is the magic number. A comedian friend of mine recently told me that when using examples in jokes, they always use 3 because 2 doesn't quite hit it home and 4 is where it starts to get old. There's no way around it. There is something about the number 3.

But trilogies don't always come in the same format. I point back to the aforementioned Star Wars and Indie trilogies. Both are excellent series of films and consist of 3 films but deliver in very different ways.

Star Wars contains 3 (mostly) complete stories. From A New Hope, to THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, to Return of the Jedi. Each film follows its own narrative and feels complete (even Empire which quite blatantly sets up Jedi). When looked at as a whole, however, you can see a much wider story arc coming into play. The films work on their own but they also function to tell a grander story that simply wouldn't fit into the usual confines. And it works brilliantly. Try watching them back to back some time and the progression of the universe and the characters really hits home.

On the other hand we hand stories like Indiana Jones. While still considered a trilogy, Indiana Jones does not have an over branching story arc. Each film is considered a stand alone adventure and each is really only tied together by the main character. They can be watched in any order without detriment. In fact, Temple of Doom was the first Indiana Jones film I ever watched... and it's technically set before Raiders of the Lost Ark... despite being the 2nd film in the trilogy. Confused? No need to be. Watch them in any order you please and they work just fine.

Here's the bit where I tie this is in to my latest book release.

So when you write a trilogy it's important to decide what type of trilogy you're creating. A series of books with a strong narrative thread tying them all together, or a series of adventures with only a cast of characters tying them together. For my It Takes a Thief... novels I decided on the latter. Chronologically speaking they do have a timeline, but they can be read in any order with only mild spoilers (if the characters are alive in book 2, you can be pretty sure they survive book 1).

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About the Author

Rob J. Hayes was born somewhere south of the cockney wastelands in a small town called Basingstoke. He grew up with all the usual boy toys including Lego, Star Wars figures (complete with working lightsaber action) and plenty of Transformers. Playing with these toys inspired his imagination and as soon as he was old enough he started playing with swords wooden sticks.

At the age of fourteen he started writing but, like most fourteen year old boys, everything had to be either a vampire, a werewolf, or have superpowers. Thankfully, like most fourteen year old boys, he eventually grew up... a bit.

After four years at University studying Zoology and three years working for a string of high street banks as a desk jockey/keyboard monkey Rob ran away to live on a desert island in Fiji for three months. It was there he re-discovered his love of writing and, more specifically, of writing fantasy.

Now based in Derbyshire, UK, Rob has a variety of hobbies when he’s not madly scribbling his next epic, that, unsurprisingly, are fantasy themed. He regularly plays card games based on the A Game of Thrones and the Netrunner universes and attends tournaments throughout the UK. Rob also enjoys Airsofting: the act of running around a forest with fake guns shooting (being shot by) his friends.

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About the Book

It Takes a Thief to Start a Fire (It Takes a Thief... Book 2)
by Rob J. Hayes 

Following hot on the heels of the events of It Takes a Thief To Catch a Sunrise, ...To Start a Fire sees Jacques Revou and Isabel de Rosier adapting to life in Great Turlain while competing against murderous fences, shadowy secret police, and a group of thieves who can control the very elements.

“We started our lives together with barely a coin to our name. We have won fortunes and lost them. We have stolen the un-stealable, survived plots and schemes determined to see us fall, and saved a Queen from certain death.

But sometimes a fresh start is exactly what is needed and here we can have just that. Free from devious machinations and troublesome reputations alike. Here we can go back to our roots.

A good thief gets out without being caught. A great thief makes it look as though they were never there. But we are neither good, nor great. We are the best.”

Kindle Edition, 274 pages
Expected publication: October 25th 2016

Saturday, October 22, 2016

From the Shelf to the Page: This Week in the Ruins

In case you missed it, here's what happened in the Ruins this week . . .


WTF Friday: Body Rides by Richard Laymon

Horror Review: Deadraiser Part 1 by Stephanie & Wayne J. Keeley

Waiting On Wednesday: Exercise Bike by Carlton Mellick III

Horror Review: Cthulhu Armageddon by C.T. Phipps

Kenneth Brown talks Lovecraftian Horror in Coolant


Coming up this week, we'll be hosting visits from Rob Hayes, Gail Z. Martin, and Konrad Hartmann, so be sure to stop by . . . and stop by often!

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Stacking The Shelves and Mailbox Monday are a pair of weekly memes that are about sharing the books that came your way over the past week, and which you've added to your shelves - whether they be physical or virtual, borrowed or bought, or for pleasure or review.

While I've pretty much cut myself off for new 2016 titles (with one exception below), I couldn't resist a pair of review titles hitting shelves in the new year:

In Calabria by Peter S. Beagle

The Dead Seekers by Barb & J.C. Hendee

Wise Phuul by Daniel Stride



I did shell out the big bucks this week for The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost, which is nearly double price in Canada, but still looks to be worth every penny, and picked up an early copy of Commander in Chief, the latest Jack Ryan novel.


And, of course, Foster captured a few new titles for the WTF Friday shelves:

  

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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is another weekly meme, this time focused on what books are spending the most time in your hands and in your head, as opposed to what's been added to your shelf.

With the Halloween season in full swing, I'm continuing my tour of the darkest corners of my review shelves . . .



What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, October 21, 2016

WTF Friday: Body Rides by Richard Laymon

Well, another WTF Friday is upon us, which means we once again turn the Ruins over to my dark half. As regular visitors will know, Foster Medina has a passion for messed up literary diversions - books that are bizarre, twisted, grotesque, and kinky - and he's only too happy to splatter them across the page.



To borrow the oft-quoted cover blurb from Stephen King, “If you’ve missed Laymon, you’ve missed a treat.” Seriously, if you’ve never had the pleasure, I urge you to pick one up one of Richard Laymon’s books (One Rainy Night remains my favorite). His books are the literary equivalent of watching a low-budget slasher flick while riding a dilapidated old roller coaster – a deliciously enjoyable thrill ride that doesn’t require much from the reader, other than to strap in, hold tight, and enjoy.

Body Rides is pretty much your standard Laymon tale, but still more fun than anything else you’re likely to read this Halloween season. The basic premise, as is often the case with his work, is deceptively simple. After rescuing a beautiful woman from a vicious serial killer (this happens a lot with Laymon), a young man finds himself rewarded with a magic bracelet that allows him to leave his body and hitch a ride in anybody he chooses.

While outside his self, Neal experience the thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations of whomever he chooses to occupy. What he can't do, however, is control their speech or actions - he's just along for the ride. It's during his first long-distance ride that Neal discovers that not only is the serial killer he left for dead very much alive (again, this happens a lot with Laymon), but he’s come to finish the job - and there’s absolutely nothing Neal can do but watch from inside the body of the victim. Chilling, creepy, claustrophobic stuff.

A large portion of the book is dedicated to Neal’s frantic flight, along with establishing his relationship with a pair of women who become key to the eventual resolution of the story. By the end, all three of them have used the bracelet for various voyeuristic, investigative, erotic, and frightening body rides. Personally, I would have loved to share more in Neal’s experiences riding along in either Sue or Marta’s body, but we certainly get our fair share of Sue experiencing Neal, and the novelty/curiosity aspect is certainly handled very well. Laymon always incorporates a creepy, voyeuristic sort of eroticism with his books, and here it works exceptionally well.

Realistically, the story could have been a good 100 pages shorter, but Laymon’s books are always as much about the experience and the atmosphere as they are about the plot, and that narrative excess is part of the thrill. As for the ending, it's one of Laymon's best, a total WTF moment that completely betrays everything you expect from the story.


Paperback, 534 pages
Published March 1st 2004 by Leisure Books

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Horror Review: Deadraiser Part 1 by Stephanie & Wayne J. Keeley

Although I found the telling a little awkward at times, with some jarring transitions between journal and narrative points of view, Deadraiser: Part 1: Horror in Jordan's Bank was an effectively creepy horror story with a nice twist at the end.

Stephanie C. Lyons-Keeley & Wayne J. Keeley poke a bit of gentle fun at small town stereotypes and clichés, but make good use of the somewhat backwards town where cell reception is spotty at best, where news and gossip are still printed each morning, and where bumbling sheriffs, crotchety old docs, elderly priests still play an essential role. Like most small towns in these kinds of stories, there's something rotten at the heart of it, and the tendrils of evil spread throughout to ensnare Frankie and Chris.

Nightmares, ghosts, and demonic possession all play a role here, as does the concept of being chosen or foretold or chosen to play a role in the battle between good and evil. Human monstrosity plays just as big a role, however, with everything from greed and arrogance to tragic birth defects casting a shadow over the small town of Jordan's Bank.

An effective old school horror story, Deadraiser has some really powerful scenes that are sure to captivate fans of the genre. The characters themselves don't get a chance to really shine in this first installment, but they're established well enough for us to care about what happens. Personally, I would have preferred the cliffhanger twist at the end to be a little less definitive, but it certainly cranks up the tension for the next chapter.

Kindle Edition
Published September 5th 2016

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Waiting On Wednesday: Exercise Bike by Carlton Mellick III

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Exercise Bike by Carlton Mellick III
Expected publication: January 1st 2017 by Eraserhead Press

There is something wrong with Tori Manetti's new exercise bike. It is made from flesh and bone. It eats and breathes and poops. It was once a billionaire named Darren Oscarson who underwent years of cosmetic surgery to be transformed into a human exercise bike so that he could live out his deepest sexual fantasy. Now Tori is forced to ride him, use him as a normal piece of exercise equipment, no matter how grotesque his appearance.

Set in a health food dystopia, "Exerice Bike" is an absurd horror tale of domination and submission, power and obedience, desire and desperation, from Wonderland Book Award winner Carlton Mellick III.


Keeping with the Halloween horror theme, Mellick is the granddaddy of bizarro horror, and I love how twisted this one is. Should be a fun, mind-melting, read.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Horror Review: Cthulhu Armageddon by C.T. Phipps

Cthulhu Armageddon is a book that blends the elements of several genres, and does so with some surprising success. There's definitely some Mad Max insanity behind it, but what struck me most strongly was the way C.T. Phipps pays a sort of homage to Stephen King's The Stand, while taking a page out of Brian Lumley's book and swapping the awkward biblical mythology for the far more satisfying (and terrifying) Cthulhu mythos.

This is the story of John Henry Booth, a stone-cold exterminator of threats to the remnants of humanity. A loyal solider and respected leader, he is forced to question his very existence when a mysterious encounter leaves him branded a traitor. Declared dead, he sets out with a disgraced torturer to find the truth, seek his revenge, and continue his mission - but only after his wife's monstrous attempt at betrayal goes awry,

There's so much to like about this story - action, horror, humor, and some heavy emotions. It's an incredibly fatalistic look at humanity's future, but it's Booth's interactions with the women around him give us a reason to keep going. From his affection for a cursed child and a solider thought lost, to his awkward trust for both a torturer and a cult leader, Phipps keeps the monstrous from completely overwhelming the humanity.

For those wondering about the Cthulhu aspect, it is a significant part of the story - not just window dressing. This is a book that gets very trippy at times, complete with dream world encounters, gods and old ones, magic, and inhuman power. More than once I had to stop, go back, and reread a section just to appreciate how much was going on. The opening discovery of "a genuine, honest-to-god cathedral with soaring towers and architecture" in the middle of nowhere, constructed of "stones seemingly formed from the very night itself," sets the tone for the story, and the climax deep within that same alien temple delivers on every level.

Comprised of equal parts horror, science fiction, and weird western, Cthulhu Armageddon is that rare book that delivers on them all, and which should appeal to a wide audience. It's dark, grim, and deeply unsettling, but unlike its subject matter, never entirely alien.


Kindle Edition, 267 pages
Published August 22nd 2016 by Crossroad Press

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Kenneth Brown talks Lovecraftian horror in Coolant

First allow me to thank the great folks over at Bewitching Book Tours for making this possible and Beauty in Ruins for allowing me to yammer about.  It is not often I get the opportunity to prattle about myself in some form or another.  Really though what is it that I can discuss that won’t make my insides start tying themselves in knots of anxiety?  At this juncture the only thing that comes to mind is one thing, one tidbit of talk that I hope to expand to a reasonable word length for the pleasure of the reading audience....

And that is the question that has been asked to me:  “Why are you inspired by Lovecraftian Horror?”

Sure, aside from the tentacles and writhing amorphous monstrosities people may not associate much else with Lovecraft horror or cosmic terror.  I believe there is a disconnect with the major populace and the breed of terror spawned by the cacophonous mind of H.P. Lovecraft.  Aside from big squid monstrosities most people see little else.  But for myself there is something more that harken the eldritch terror in these stories.  For me it is that void of hopelessness that cracks a human being’s sanity that is key.

Why are Cthulu, Hastur, and the other Old Ones so terrifying?  For me it is that not only are they giant monster gods of a terrible and foul and design but also they are alien in their intent and formidable in power.  This leaves mankind little to nothing we can do in their wake.  It is this hopelessness that spawns the true terror in cosmic horror.  It is that spiral of no return that leads to the path of insanity.  It is more than ghouls, zombies, and vampire demons simply out to suck blood and devour souls.  This is where I find inspiration.

I take this hopelessness that dances with madness and that is where I try to write.  In that regard I do my best to mix the things that have led me down that road of despair.  It is the mundane and everyday things that jab and prod and my brain and what I try to convey.  Broken relationships, a job that turns an everyday person into a drone, the isolation of being outcast or different, through these aspects is where I can see the real tethers of madness be pulled and brought forth.  Not to fret, as those who have read, I still utilize forbidden lore, the elder signs, and big monsters filled with tentacles and teeth.  But doesn’t the dread intensify when we get that hopelessness in there?  I know it does for me at least.

I thank you all good folks who have taken time to read my little attempt at a guest blog.  Please give “Coolant” a read and see what I am trying to convey.  There are other tales out there as well along with some new releases just around the bend.  I am hopeful at least that some of you, will see that hopelessness in the same ways that inspired me to work in Lovecraftian terror.

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About the Author

Kenneth Brown was born in the Philippines and somehow arrived to the backwoods of Kentucky riding atop of a three-legged burro. From there Kenneth was in and out of chicken coops and barn houses until being snatched up by local pest control workers who had mistaken him for the Pope Lick Goat Monster.

Kenneth learned to read and write, and not to bite the other children, before making a grand escape from the local psychiatric ward, even though he checked himself in. His writing wavers between the macabre and disturbing, when it is legible and not written in crayon.

At this time, Kenneth's biggest achievement is remaining in the neighboring farm house for three weeks without being noticed. He dreams of bringing steam powered monstrosities to life and wearing ridiculously long top hats and brass goggles.

In his spare time, Kenneth enjoys writing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, cock fighting, and staring at the summer camp across the lake while wearing a hockey mask. The burro is still hanging in there.






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About the Book

Coolant
Kenneth Brown

Genre: Horror/Lovecraftian Horror
Publisher: Gorillas With Scissors Press
Date of Publication: 05-01-1986
ISBN: 978-1533272034

Number of pages: 244
Word Count:  25,000

Cover Artist: Gypsy Heart Editing

Book Description:

Reeling from the recent struggles in his professional and family life, Ian Marshall attempts to bring things around. He has a new job, new home, and an outlook for a better future.

But after discovering a box filled with the belongings of a stranger, Ian’s world begins to spiral out of control. Nightmares and reality collide into a twisted amalgam that threatens to encompass Ian.

Before long all that’s left for him is the strange project he is determined to complete, no matter the cost.

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Excerpt

“Eli? Was that the guy who quit?” Ian asked being led further back into the workshop. The two entered a hallway and turned into a locker room.
            Barry turned to Ian. “What did you just say?”
            “Eli. That’s the guy who quit, right?”
            The eyes on Ian’s coworker grew wide and his jaw dropped. “No one told you?”
            Inside the locker room the noise of the machines and yelling of the workers were drowned out. Ian turned to the older man, the question still fresh in his mind. “Told me what?”
            Releasing a groan, Barry leaned against one of the old green lockers that had occupied the workshop locker room longer than most of the employees.
            “Steve didn’t tell you?”
            Ian shook his head.
            “God dammit. No, Eli didn’t just quit—the cops had to drag him out of here.”
            “Did he get into a fight with someone?” Ian imagined a blank-faced man in a uniform slinging punches with another foul-mouthed machinist. A smile appeared as he thought about Tony taking a hard right hook.
            “Nah,” Barry answered shaking his head. “Damn fool lost it. After eight years here he finally lost his mind.”
            “What do you mean? Was he on drugs? Drinking?”
            Barry shrugged his shoulders. “Beats the hell out of me. He came in, started ranting, and gave me two to the gut and one to the face. Then he took a swing with a torque wrench at Lutz. Broke the fucker’s jaw and kept him out for weeks. Eli just kept on ranting and screaming. They had to empty out the workshop and call the cops in to come and drag him out.”
            “I guess his loss is my gain,” Ian answered with a labored chuckle. He hoped he had not offended the man about the termination of a longtime peer.
            “Ah, screw it. Never liked the guy to begin with. He never drank or smoked. I think there was one time we got him to go to the titty bar with us. The son of a bitch acted like we were wasting his time.” Barry moved away from the lockers, eager to hightail it out of the shop and away from Ian.
            “You’ll be working ‘til four in the morning. Boss-man wants you on overtime, taking in special orders and touching up parts. Around midnight, the last second-shifter’s will be out of here and it’ll be just you late-night boys—you, Reggie, Mark, and Tony.”
            “Another Tony?”
            “No, same jackass who’s out there now.” Barry laughed. “Like I said, give it some time and you guys will be fine. He’s just pissed he had to come in and take care of some project he’s working on.”
            “I hope so.”
            “Anyway, you’re allowed to work on side projects. Langer wants us to pay for the steel but that’s one perk you guys on graveyard shift have. You can just use it. Don’t go crazy and the boss won’t get pissed. Tony and Reggie have the keys to close up shop, so you don’t have to worry about that.”
            Barry moved over to the locker adorned with a fist-sized dent. From his pocket, the machinist pulled out a key. “This one’s yours,” he said, handing the key over to Ian. “Nobody’s had the chance to clean out Eli’s crap out of there yet, so that’s your first job. All right?”
            “You want me to throw his stuff out?” The idea of taking the man’s possessions and trashing them after such a breakdown didn’t sit well with him. “Could I just have it sent to him or his family?”
            “Jesus, you boy scout,” Barry said, rolling his eyes. “Throw it out, keep it, build a memorial to the crazy asshole for all I care. Anyways, I don’t think he had anyone. Never talked about having a bang-piece. Just get it done and then look at your blueprints. And oh yeah, your equipment is the closest to the locker room.”
            With a pat on the shoulder Barry moved away from Ian and towards the exit. “All right guy, that’s me. I’m done for the night. Take ‘er easy.”
            Ian gave a farewell wave to Barry. The other man did not notice as Barry was focused intently on leaving the job for the day. Now alone, Ian ran his fingers across the dent smashed in to the metal. So much force had been applied in the punch that each knuckle had individually dented the locker. Using the key given to him, Ian unlatched the lock and opened the storage locker that was now his.
            A pungent odor wafted into Ian’s nostrils. No doubt the stench came from the dripping, brown paper bag.
            “Well, that’s the first thing to go.” Ian gagged, tossing the rotted food into the nearest waste bin. With the trash gone, Ian felt free to explore the rest of this unknown man’s life.
            Inside the locker door were several photos of a pudgy, tanned man. The Latino man’s face stretched as he smiled back at Ian from the picture. Next to who must have been Eli was the shape of another person. Marker scribbles and scratches marred the image of the other person, leaving Ian unable to make out any facial characteristics. Though obstructed, the second figure held a lithe and curvy outline. The way in which the man held the other person had Ian assuming it must have been his significant other.
            “With a group like this, its no wonder you didn’t talk about your ex-girlfriend,” Ian muttered, taking the photos down.
            Aside from the sentimental trinkets, many of the items were standard and worth keeping for Ian. A couple of pairs of calipers and a digital micrometer set were neatly stored in their cases. Blank notepads were placed on the upper shelf. Ian even found a pair of wearable work boots, like new and fitting, if maybe a little big. Putting the items he could use off to the side, Ian disposed of the rest in the trash. Finally, at the back of the locker, buried under a pile of work shirts that were too large for him and reeked from weeks of being unwashed, Ian felt the top of a metal container.
            Throwing away the old shirts, he discovered an old-style toolbox underneath. Packed away behind the boots and discarded clothing, the pail must have been forgotten by the former occupant. With a labored grunt at the full weight of the box, Ian prayed to not find any more rotting garbage. With the toolbox pulled out into the light, Ian flipped the top open.
            “What the hell?” Ian muttered, picking up a steel cube out from the large, tin box.

            The steel felt heavy in Ian’s hand. He guessed it possibly weighed close to eight pounds. It was nearly symmetrical in length and width, with each side close to eight inches. Ian’s fingers ran along the edges of the metal, feeling each sharp angle. Instead of the shine a project gets after being finished on a surface grinder, the cube was rough and incomplete. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

From the Shelf to the Page: This Week in the Ruins

In case you missed it, here's what happened in the Ruins this week . . .


WTF Friday: In the Arms of Love by Bryce Calderwood

Giant monsters are f*cking cool guest post by Justin Stewart

Cover Reveal: Whitechapel Paranormal Society by E. J. Stevens

Waiting On Wednesday: The Feast of All Souls by Simon Bestwick

Horror Review: Baker (Demons and other Night Things) by Terry M. West


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Stacking The Shelves and Mailbox Monday are a pair of weekly memes that are about sharing the books that came your way over the past week, and which you've added to your shelves - whether they be physical or virtual, borrowed or bought, or for pleasure or review.

A great selection of review titles once again this week:

The Last Sacrifice by James A Moore



The Librarians and The Lost Lamp by Greg Cox

Treachery's Tools by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

Unhonored: Book Two of The Nightbirds by Tracy Hickman and Laura Hickman


A used bookstore haul from my trip across border with some out-of-print Jerry Ahern,William Barton, Robert E. Vardeman, and Victor Milan; as well as some mass market editions of Jacqueline Carey, Fiona Patton, and Janny Wurts:


And, finally, a handful of Kindle freebies to stock the WTF Friday shelves:

   

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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is another weekly meme, this time focused on what books are spending the most time in your hands and in your head, as opposed to what's been added to your shelf.

With the Halloween season in full swing, I'm continuing my tour of the darkest corners of my review shelves . . .

 

What's topping your shelves this week?