Monday, February 27, 2012

WOOD a new novella by Robert Dunbar

“Blessed is the beast that knows its purpose.”
Something has begun to creep in from the woods at night … something that stalks a young girl along deserted streets …
by Robert Dunbar
$2.95 for Kindle or Nook
An excerpt from WOOD by Robert Dunbar:
      Boundaries shift.
      Towns and cities grow in spurts, sometimes encroaching upon places better left alone, areas that through a sort of negative geography remain neither forest nor park, neither rural nor urban. No proper designations exist. Unnamed and unclaimed, such regions appear on no map. They never have. Perhaps always they seemed too insignificant: half a lot, a strip of woodland, an acre of bog. Dead space. Easily overlooked or deliberately ignored. As though, all along, people knew … or at least suspected.
      Yet such places exist everywhere. In every village. Every suburb. Ask any child. They form the terrain of all the darkest fairytales, the landscape of nightmares.
      Alleyways through the worst sections of town inevitably empty into overgrown fields, scruffy and menacing and strewn with rubbish. Bad places. Dwellings on these outskirts slouch toward bitter soil. Boards splinter. Bricks crumble into gravel. So many futile walls loom, intermittent with tilting fences of all variety, a plethora of barricades (as though residents sincerely believed it could be kept at bay). Behind cinderblock barriers, chains rattle as dogs howl out their rage and fear. It is not wilderness that creeps up against these blighted neighborhoods.
      Perhaps someday mankind will invent a term for that which seeps in, someday when the cities have decayed and the suburbs have withered and the bad places have inherited the earth. Perhaps, at last, the survivors will know Hell when they see it.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Dana Fredsti reviews Where the Dead Fear to Tread

Self described  "Writer, swordfighter and crazy cat lady" on Where the Dead Fear to Tread

The first words that come to mind after reading Where the Dead Fear to Tread are "bleak" and "relentless." The world of William Chandler starts out dark and grim and M.R. Gott is not afraid to make it darker and grimmer with every page. The pace in the first half of the novel is slow but steady as Gott introduces characters and starts weaving various plot elements together with a careful eye for description. The third person present narrative is an interesting choice, something I found distracting at first. But it works and once I settled into the story, it definitely adds to the author's distinct narrative style. Lots of action and gore, monsters and creepy atmosphere (my favorite scene is in an old asylum and is one of the most disturbing and atmospheric things I've read in a long while), with a vigilante hero, a kick-ass female detective, and assorted interesting secondary characters. This book cries out to made into a graphic novel a la Sin City!

Four Stars

Dana Fredsti is the author of Plague City and Murder for Hire

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

M.R. interviews Kim Fielding

Please Welcome Kim Fielding

Stasis was written in 30 days, what was that like?

Crazy, but in a good sort of way! I’d forewarned my family what was coming and they gave me space to write. I do really well with challenges and deadlines, so having only one month to finish my first draft was a good thing. It’s also really freeing to just write really quickly without agonizing about things or spending endless time going back and self-editing. The words really flow and I’ve found that often passages were much better than I thought they were when I first wrote them. Of course, lots of editing still had to be done when the 30 days were over, but by then the skeleton and most of the flesh of the story was well into place.

Where did the idea of Stasis as a punishment come from?

Honestly, I’m not sure. I think my subconscious must be a strange place. I began with a very clear image of a man caught in Stasis, and then I began to think about how awful it would be to be stuck like that for centuries, so that when you were released everyone you knew was gone and everything had changed. I suppose I may have been inspired in part by the stories of real people who have been incarcerated for long years and then released after evidence has proven that they were innocent. Imagine what it would be to be sent to prison in your early twenties and then let out again when you were in your forties.

When you began your dark fantasy trilogy did you have a clear vision of how it would begin and end?

Only vaguely. I knew some of the themes I wanted to explore—power and justice and responsibility and family and love—and some of the challenges my heroes would face, and I knew approximately where they would end up. But I had very little idea how they would get there. I rarely plot things out beyond a bare outline when I begin, and I find that the story tends to evolve pretty naturally from the characters themselves.

What was the inspiration for the character of Ennek? 

That’s another mystery! He sort of popped into being and I was intrigued by his contradictions. For example, he grew up very privileged but was always denied the one thing he most wanted, which was love. He has the potential for immense power and yet he thinks of himself as useless. I also liked that his heroism isn’t foreordained; he has a dark streak in him that calls pretty loudly. He’s a little spoiled, a little headstrong, and often blind to his own best qualities. I’ve always preferred deeply flawed protagonists.

Do you find the fantasy genre to be liberating, or do you feel the archetypes can become too restricting?

Oh, definitely liberating. I like to read lots of different kinds of things and my writing often crosses several genres. I think fantasy is more forgiving of that kind of thing than many other genre. Sure, there’s plenty of boring stuff out there that follows the same old rules, but there is also so much room to bend those rules or break them altogether. I love the way fantasy allows me to play with place and time as well. For example, this trilogy begins in an alternate universe in the city-state of Praesidium. Praesidium is located where the real San Francisco sits, but the technology is roughly Gold Rush-era, the history is Roman, and the world itself contains wizards and magical creatures. I guess the best thing about fantasy is that it allows us to ask “What if?” without any real limits.

What was it like combing modern and ancient elements into the world you created?

It was great fun! Combining modern and ancient elements allowed me to create what I hope is a fresh and interesting world. It was a challenge, because if readers are going to enjoy a story the world has to be believable. I’d hate for people to get thrown out of the tale because the details just didn’t seem to work. But I love history, and I think if we look at all carefully we can see the ways that even ancient customs and events continue to color our modern civilizations. Maybe this is a little more obvious outside the United States, in countries where people are still living behind walls that were built centuries earlier. And because I do love history, I really enjoyed doing the background research for these novels, yet without being forced to be a slave to what really happened.

What Dystopian tale affected you the most?  Why? 

When I wrote this trilogy I thought a lot about the lengths that power will go to maintain itself, and the extent to which many of us acquiesce to that power because it seems safe. Old favorites like George Orwell and Kurt Vonnegut probably had the greatest influence on me from a literature perspective, but so did real life 
political events, both historical and present-day.

What are some contemporary authors you are following now?

I’ve been reading dark fantasy by authors such as Sarah Monette, Lynn Flewelling, Carol Berg, and Charles de Lint. Neil Gaiman is a huge favorite of mine as well. I especially enjoy authors who combine elements of fantasy and horror. But I’m a pretty eclectic reader, and I also love Christopher Moore, Bill Bryson, and Isabel Allende.

Anything new coming down the pipeline you would like to share with us?

In April, I will have a new novel published by Dreamspinner Press. It’s called Good Bones and the protagonist is a gay hipster architect—who also happens to be a werewolf. In April I’ll also have a superhero-themed short story in Dreamspinner’s Men of Steel anthology. I have a few other short stories in the works right now and I’m in the midst of writing a fantasy novel about a giant of sorts and a broken magician.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Double Shot Reviews Heather Faville Reviews

William Chandler "I loved this character!"

Heather Faville of Double Shot Reviews gives Where the Dead Fear to Tread her  Espresso rating: Triple with a splash of milk.  Click below for full Review

Thursday, February 16, 2012

M.R. Interviews... Pearce Hansen

Please Welcome  Pearce Hansen,

Gun Sex is a collection of your favorite short stories.  Within the collection is there a particular that you feel best represents you as a writer?

Probably a three way tie between The Storm Giants, Greater Than the Sum and The Day He Raised. If I really had to choose, The Day He Raised.

How did Markus of Stagger Bay come into creation?

Well, on one hand I kind of ‘channeled’ him – he popped up like some guy at the pub who button-holes you and insists you hear out his tale. On the other hand, many aspects of him are based on an actual person (no, NOT me, sorry) and I envisioned what this particular person would say think and do in a given situation. On the third hand (one hand too many I know) when it was done I realized that, if a move adaptation were ever made, the only person I could see playing Markus would be Danny Bonaduce – Danny’s a good actor, Markus would be a slam dunk for him, and the movie industry has recently had great success with older actors getting a second chance through off beat casting opportunities.

Your protagonists, Speedy of Street Raised and Markus of Stagger Bay are both recently released from prison.  Was this a conscious decision?

Almost coincidental – that is, no thematic connection between the two – but a reflection of my reality. When I was coming up, it was a rite of passage to do time – this was before ‘three strikes’ and mandatory sentencing, so most jolts were quite short – with good behavior you were looking at a year or less, maybe 18 to 24 tops unless you REALLY stepped on your dick. Multiple male relatives, LOTS of friends and associates were/are ex-cons. It didn’t feel unnatural. In fact, back in the day it was real common to get your glove box full of traffic tickets and FTAs, then turn yourself in, do maybe 90 days up in Santa Rita, and get out with a clean slate – doing the time to pay your fines.
Myself, I’ve never been to prison. Been frisked and cuffed and sat in the back seat more occasions than I can count; been arrested and booked and interrogated at the station a handful of times; actually incarcerated only once, and that was an EXTREMELY short stint. There was a time when I saw that as a lack – like I was missing some cred because I’d never been in. Now I know I was extremely lucky.

Your works are often labeled as noir.  Noir is debatably the most difficult genre to define.  Personally, what are the defining elements that separate it from simple crime fiction in your mind?

A good question, and one I’m unsure I’m qualified to answer. As I’ve told other interviewers, I didn’t choose crime, crime chose me – so I can’t offer specifics on WHY I write within this genre. I can hazard some observations however:
Crime fiction: you have police procedural, which is often written by ex-cops or cop groupies, and emphasizes the rule of law in our affairs – I include the Miss Marple/’tea room cozies’ as a subset: life has value, and justice is worth seeking. You have ‘heist,’ ala Richard Stark’s ‘Parker’ series: again, the score is the thing, the money and freedom are worthy goals in and of themselves.
Then you have noir, which is more existential and nihilistic. You look at David Goodis or either of the Cains (Paul or James M.); their worlds are bleak and meaningless, all action is futile, and the characters’ weaknesses draw them inevitably into the spider web of fate like a Greek tragedy. So I suppose noir has more potential for literary depth.
For my own works I have noir elements, and due to my own history my comfort zone is crime/suspense – but my novels are more melodramas in structure, or picaresque distillations from my youth in the late-20th-century East Bay underbelly.

What elements are crucial for a strong and true noir protagonist?

Damaged and flawed – so as to be unpredictable, and so they stick around in a situation that a ‘normal’ person would flee screaming from, probably about on page one. They have to have some competency that makes it believable they can contend within such a predatory milieu. They have to have a heart that opposes; else it degenerates into a story about a victim, which is hardly entertaining. The need a voice the reader can’t tune out, and be ‘real’ – i.e. three dimensional and believable. You need to care about them, if only enough to root for their destruction.

Neo Noir/Neo Pulp who working in the field today are you a fan of?

Josh Stallings. Raymond Embrack. Right now I’m reading Wolf Tickets by Ray Banks, and finding him enjoyable.

What does the term “hard boiled” mean to you?

I always think of Paul Cain’s ‘Fast One’ when I hear people mention hardboiled; anyone that hasn’t read it, I recommend they go out and pick up a copy – but I hear he’s hard to find these days. Laird Barron writes in what I consider a hardboiled style, but in the genre of horror – as you might imagine, it’s a startling though effective amalgam.
To me hardboiled = obsolete. Not the genre itself, but the manly values it predicates. Hardboiled means no complaints at the hand fate deals you, to laugh in the face of the unpleasant, and to speak up at those who try to roust you round rather than submit and take. In the value set of hardboiled, NOTHING is worse than to be a punk. But IMHO, in today’s New World Order, there’s no real room for manhood anymore, and the hardboiled ethos is no more than a dinosaur from another time.

What writer most influenced you as an author?  How?

Jack Vance. He had a laconic style, wherein the most scalding events and interactions were conveyed in a spare, restrained way, paradoxically amplifying and magnifying the emotional intensity. No one reads him anymore, and that’s their loss.

Anything else coming down the pipeline you would like to share? 

I’m 70k words into my third novel The Storm Giants, and will be finishing it as soon as I honor another couple obligations. My first novel Street Raised is of course available for the Kindle at -- it was blurbed by Joe Lansdale, Eddie Muller(Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir is a great book by Muller), and had a sweet SF Chronicle review (as well as a Borders book signing, which nobody’s gonna get anymore). My second novel Stagger Bay was just released at -- it has blurbs from Ken Bruen, Jason Starr & Anthony Neil Smith. 

Thanks to Pearce Hansen for taking the time...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Berserk by Tim Lebbon

Overview;  Tom and Jo lost their only son while he was serving in the Army.  After ten years their son’s death is still as painful as ever.  While at a local bar, Tom hears whispers of an Army cover up relating to his son’s death.   Needing to know the truth Tom searches for a rumored mass grave. In the grave he finds the body of a little girl among the decaying corpses, and she speaks to him.   

“Quiet, still waiting.  Her presence was like a hollow in his mind that he had never noticed before, a place begging to be filled.”   

Tim Lebbon’s Berserk quickly establishes a bleak tone with tinge of hope.  This allows his story to unfold at an incredible pace.  The story is well layered and the characters are all fully developed beings, not merely the movers of plot.  The sequence of Tom digging in the mass grave in a rain storm and sorting the body parts looking for signs of his son is unquestionably one of the strongest I have read in quite awhile.  It is the type of sequence I will always remember, even as other details of the book fade.  
One of the book’s strengths in Tom, who is so clear in purpose and expertly set against a series of shadier characters.  While the reader questions the motives of the little girl’s corpse as well as the soldier Cole, investigating the grave’s disturbance, Tom is constant and straightforward in purpose, despite anything that occurs around him. This helps the reader delve into a deep and mysterious story without becoming lost.  The characters around Tom have an intriguing moral ambiguity he does not share. 
The clearly written actions sequences in the novel are a refreshing change from grand heroics, and have a sense of plausibility that helps ground this story of supernatural horror.  Tim Lebbon communicates intricate series of movement that can be followed breathlessly.  I especially enjoyed a few old fashioned fisticuff sequences.   
Aside from some excessive flashbacks, Tim Lebbon’s Berserk is an emotionally rich horror novel. 

In the End;  Tom’s journey in Tim Lebbon’s Berserk is grounded in parental compassion and a well developed sense of loss.  Tom provides a strong emotional core, giving greater weight to the events that unfold around him.  I strongly recommend this book to anyone searching for an emotionally rich unique horror tale.  

Friday, February 10, 2012

M.R. Interviews...Rick R Reed

Cutis Anserina welcomes Rick R Reed

What were some of the particular challenges in creating the character of Joe MacAree in Obsessed?

Joe came to me one night when I was driving home from a job I hated, back when I was a young married man living in Chicago. I had had to work late, it was raining, and all of a sudden, I noticed how the colors looked almost neon in the rain-slicked pavement of the Eisenhower Expressway. For some reason, I thought of a man who had just murdered a woman, heading home to his own wife, and what was going on in his head. This scene, altered and fictionalized, became the opener for the novel.
Joe was obsessed: obsessed with killing, blood, and the sexual gratification it gave him. As we read the book, we learn of Joe’s disturbing background and one time a reviewer said he killed because he was the controlled becoming the controller. There was a lot of truth to that.
Once I knew who Joe was, he led me. He got deep into my psyche in ways I don’t even want to think about. So, I can’t say how challenging writing him was—once he was real to me, I just followed him.

In your novels Bashed, Tricks, and Blood Sacrifice you combine romantic elements within the context of the darker horrors that elements.  When crafting these novels is it difficult to find a balance between these polarizing elements?

I don’t really agree that horror and romance are polarizing. As I’ve said before, fear and love have a lot in common. Fear is a powerful emotion and I’m fascinated by how people react to terrifying situations, and what makes evil characters tick. Readers of horror want to be scared; it’s terrifying and fun all at once. Readers of horror want a satisfying ending, that’s the safe part. Fiction is a created world where things can be put to right, unlike the real world, where atrocity doesn’t necessarily have rhyme or reason and may go unchecked. Similarly, love is unpredictable and often terrifying. Good can turn bad very quickly. There’s a remarkable emotional vulnerability. Readers like romance because it’s also a controlled world. They can count on a happily-ever-after ending. Romance in fiction allows the reader to experience the thrill and conflict of love, in a safe way, because the reader knows it’s not real. I think that sense of emotional vulnerability applies to both romance and horror. Vulnerability is universal and that’s why people enjoy reading about it.”

Crime Scene has a very personal connection for you contained within the story.  Is this a common thread throughout your writing? 

My goal with Crime Scene was to write about a crime through the eyes of a distant witness. I was inspired by a picture in a book of actual crime scene photographs of a little girl who had been strangled and left on a women’s room floor. It was so disturbing that I wanted to capture what it would be like to go back to when the crime occurred and, in a way, change time and put things to right. That can never happen, but it can give the observer and sense of peace to imagine that things turned out differently than they actually did. 

A Face Without a Heart is a modern re-telling of Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Grey.  Was updating the work of Mr. Wilde a daunting prospect?

Not really, because I thought the story—about a quest for youth and beauty at any cost—was even more relevant in today’s times than it was during Wilde’s. It was also very liberating to have the ability to bring the gay elements of the story out in a more graphic way. The only thing that was daunting was capturing and retaining the wit with which Mr. Wilde wrote. I hope I have done him justice.

Blood Sacrifice is a vampire tale; are there any other classic monsters you wish to try your hand at?

I already have. I’ve written about a demonic force haunting a house in A Demon Inside, werewolves in The Blue Moon Café, and ghosts in Bashed and Echoes. IM features a diabolical serial killer, which is, to my mind, another “classic monster.” I think I have explored a lot of monsters, both real and imagined, in my work. The only thing I have yet to write about are zombies—we’ll have to see if that ever happens.

What is your favorite character that you created?  Do you love or hate him/her?

In Obsessed, there’s a wheelchair bound woman who becomes an accidental witness to one of the murders. But she’s a hateful woman, obsessed herself, and ends up entrapping the killer and using him for her own twisted sexual gratification. In her own way, she’s just as, if not more, evil than the killer. And that makes her kind of deliciously fascinating. The fact that she’s handicapped and that she overcomes her paralysis not for good, but for evil, makes her a very unusual character, one of the oddest I’ve ever created. Pat is certainly not sympathetic, but you can’t look away from her.

Supernatural or conventional horror, which do you find easiest to craft?  Which to you find to be personally more frightening?

The horror of real life is what I find the most frightening—and what I am drawn to writing about more. In IM, Obsessed, Penance, Crime Scene, Orientation, Bashed, Echoes, Deadly Vision, Tricks, and others, I write about monsters that could, and do, exist in the real world, which makes them infinitely more terrifying. The supernatural is more like a thrill ride and can be more “fun” as opposed to disturbing because there is a lot less chance you’ll wake up and read about a werewolf or vampire going on a killing rampage in the morning paper. Real folks, though? Not so much. That scares me.

What is the first book you remember genuinely being frightened by?  Was your immediate reaction to run out and find other similar tales, or stash it in your closet and block it out?

That’s tough. All my life, I’ve devoured books. I never take a break from reading. Once I finish one book, I’m on to the next. Writers who have affected me most and made me compelled to read more of their stuff include Patricia Highsmith, Flannery O’Connor and Ruth Rendell. All three of these women know what darkness lurks in the human heart and explore it in their work to fascinating result. I know that didn’t quite answer your question, but it’s impossible for me to pick one, or a first.

What are some of your current favorite genre writers working today?  What attracts you to their work?

I read a lot of thrillers. I love Brian Freeman, Harlan Coben, the Scottish writer Denise Mina, and, as I mentioned above, Brit author Ruth Rendell. All of them write books I can’t put down and that I can completely lose myself in. I love that.

Do you have anything new coming down the pipeline you would like to share with us? 

I am working on a love story right now that actually has no dark elements. It’s called Chaser and I’m about ¾ of the way through it. I don’t really want to talk about—I rarely talk about work in progress in any detail. It kind of spoils the momentum for me. I do look forward, though, to getting back to my darker side in the book I will write when CHASER is finished. Right now, I’m thinking of either a vampire story or a suspense/romance novel with elements of murder and multiple personality disorder.

Rick R Reed Can be found on the web at
For more information on his novels or visit his blog at