Friday, August 24, 2012

Ink by Isabelle Rowan

Roman centurion Dominic drew his last human breath during the time of Hadrian. In the centuries since, he’s seen much of the world change around him, but the vampire finds himself held captive in Melbourne, Australia, by his fascination with young, passionate, fun-loving, and alive tattoo artist Michael Chapman. Unable to resist the lure of Michael’s beauty, Dominic finds himself entering the parlor to get a tattoo he knows will fade.

The attraction he feels only grows, and despite Dominic’s extreme reluctance to get involved with a human, he and Michael form a bond—a connection that all too soon attracts the attention of a dark specter from Dominic’s bloody past. Soon, a dangerous game of cat and mouse threatens not only the budding romance, but also their humanity.

This is an expanded novel based on the novella Ink originally published in the Desire Beyond Death anthology by Dreamspinner Press.

I was admittedly a bit skeptical after being asked to review Ink by Isabelle Rowan.  The concept of a human falling in love with a vampire feels like it is everywhere, with diminishing results.  Within the first few pages of Rowan’s Ink however these feelings of apprehension dissipated into the world she perfectly crafted. 
Rowan is an incredibly atmospheric writer, and this is the gateway she uses to draw you into her tale.  The sense of heightened and almost surreal atmosphere works even within the story and characterizations, giving her readers a sense of how the vampires in Ink experience the world. 
Dominic and Michael also work against the growingly typical vampire mortal couples.  Michael especially is a welcome change from the whiny (Bella Swan) or annoyingly unsure (Sookie and Anita Blake) seduced mortals.  He is conscious of what being with Dominic means, and is able to reconcile the realities of this with the affection he holds for him.  It is refreshing to find a story about a mature grown up couple. 
The small supporting cast is used to incredible affect especially Abby the owner of the tattoo parlor Ink that is the title’s namesake. 
Despite these strengths I felt the final climax was a bit lackluster and overly optimistic for my taste.   The shadowy figure from Dominic’s past gave the story a needed sense of tension, but the manner in which it ended just didn’t work for me personally. 
Also the scenes of sex and violence felt like Rowan was pulling back.  Her incredibly vivid writing style became sparse during these sequences and made these portions feel like watching a censored movie on basic cable. 

In the end; 
While I am not the perfect audience for this book Rowan’s incredible prose and expertly realized characters drew me into Ink despite my initial hesitance.  It is refreshing to find a romantic story filled with adults not needlessly moping and unable to make the most basic decisions.  For those searching for a dark supernatural romance I can honestly not thinking of a better story that has emerged in the last few years. 

End Note;
Animals by John Skip and Craig Spector as well as Sacrament by Clive Barker are some of my favorite dark supernatural romances.  Just want you to have a sense of reference.  

Thursday, August 23, 2012

M.R. Interviews Die Booth and L.C. Hu

The Re-Vamp project began in October of 2010, how did you and L.C. Hu go about setting this up?

DB – Me and LC had worked together before on various little projects and had always talked about doing a proper horror project together. We met online in a horror writing community and it was a shared love of the genre that first got us talking. One of the things we found ourselves talking about increasingly though was how sick we were of paranormal romance and the angsty teenage vampires and buff young werewolves that were pervading books and film. It seemed that the truly frightening monsters of old had all but disappeared under a sheen of Hollywood dazzle and that was what made us decide to try and resurrect them.
At first we intended to just write a story per month each, but as we kicked ideas back and forth and came up with having a bi-monthly monster theme and maybe keeping a work-in-progress journal, the idea snowballed until it became a full-on audience participation journal where we posted each story as it was written, ran polls and discussions and competitions and invited guest writers to contribute stories to the final anthology.

Was the response what you expected?

DB – I think the response was far greater than we ever expected! The journal was initially just for us and we thought a few friends might leave a comment or two, but people really engaged with it – especially our Choose Your Own Adventure story that we wrote week-by-week for the Werewolves section.
LCH -Though we didn't get stories from everyone we solicited (alas) we were actually bowled over by the stories we did receive, and by the fact that many of the authors even wanted to write for more than one theme.  And the contest response was literally overwhelming; we expected a few stories from our friends and got many lovely subs from exciting authors we'd never met.

What do you think is the greatest success of the Re-Vamp anthology?  What can readers expect from this collection? 
DB – I think the greatest success is the final print book. It’s such a beautiful book, with it’s gorgeous cover by Leah Jay, it’s illustrations and the sheer quality of the writing in it – it would be an achievement by any standards but we’re particularly proud of the fact that it was self published and brought together writers and artists from right across the globe who would otherwise maybe have never had contact with each other. That aspect, and the year-long online project that preceded the launch of the print and e-book anthology, really created a sense of community that I think can be lacking in these days of sitting staring at a screen - which is ironic really considering a lot of the contributors have only had contact via electronic means!

LCH - The sheer variety of takes we got on the various monsters and the passion evident in all the works.

What do you think the common trait for timeless horror icons or creatures is?  Why do they last through generations and various incarnations?

DB - That’s an interesting question and I think a difficult one, because there are so many different reasons that themes endure. The monsters we chose really are iconic creatures rooted in folklore but now made popular through books and film to the point where they’re ingrained in social consciousness almost. I think there are several common traits running between them – body horror, the fear of death and decay, or worse, decay before death with zombies and vampires. The fear of a loss of control – both in the sense of not being able to control yourself in the case of werewolves, but also the horror of the everyday world becoming an unknown quantity.  There’s a fear of the unknown too, of things totally alien to our understanding.

LCH -I think they speak to shared fears, taboos and longings.  For instance everyone's experienced creepy feelings they can't explain from time to time, or listened to strange moanings in the night, and inevitably started wondering what's out there.  Ghosts and spirits seem as reasonable an explanation in the dark of the night as the house settling.    And who among us doesn't have a part of themselves that is a little monster, a little uncontrollable burst of temper or a nasty impulse we want to disclaim--the secret werewolf?

What fictional character has had the greatest impact on you?  How so?

DB – Wow, I’m not sure.  In terms of horror? I’m having to really think about that - I do think that a lot of horror is situation rather than character driven, now I’m thinking about it. I think Nell from Shirley Jackson’s ‘Hill House’ is beautifully and subtly characterised, wishing for her own cup of stars. Her loneliness and desire to belong certainly stuck with me.
Likewise, Ambrosi from Susan Price’s ‘Ghost Song’ with his determination to be known by his own name, to follow his own dreams and to stick by those he loves despite all odds really struck a chord with me.

What was the first book you remember that truly frightened you?  Was your response to toss it in a closet and forget it?  Or seek out other dark tales?

DB - I was obsessed with ghosts as a child. One of my favourite books is still Lucy M Boston’s ‘Children of Green Knowe’ - re-reading my disintegrating 80s copy gives me a guaranteed cosy winter feeling. One scary tale I can remember clearly was a short story called ‘Nule’ by Jan Mark which still terrifies me to this day, the is-it-or-isn’t-it-real thing invading their house. There are a few more stories that really disturbed me but which I can’t remember the titles of. I remember one about a boy who was bullied and his bullies killed a swan and tied its wings to his arms – how horrible, and it had a great impact on me! Another was about a boy who built a long, skinny creature called Skin as a Bonfire Night Guy and I swear that thing still haunts my nightmares. Another story that gives me the raging heebs is ‘The Flat Man’ – which is a primary school book that I first read about aged 25 when I worked in a library and it scared the hell out of me then! Thinking about it, most of the books that have really affected me at any age are classed as children’s books. Very few adult horror books have deeply affected me in that way; I think they try too hard to be scary. The ‘grown-up’ stories that have scared me that spring to mind are Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Haunting of Hill House’, HG Wells’s ‘War of the Worlds’ and the short story ‘The Red Lodge’ by H. Russell Wakefield which, I don’t quite know what it was about it, but I almost had to sleep with the light on after reading it. It’s those quiet tales that seem innocuous at first but really take root at the back of your mind and only remind themselves to you when you’re alone with the lights off that I’m really interested in.

LCH - I hate to say it but it was probably a religious text on demonic possession and how the "faithful" are tested by demons coming to harass them!  Or at least that's the first thing I can recall sticking in my head and scaring me for some time after.  Demons or malicious spirits have always been terrifying to me because there is nothing you can do to placate them.  They're just out to get you. Period.  And they're just vague enough to almost truly believe in...
But I love being scared so obviously I've kept seeking out scary tales!

What current genre authors are you following?

DB – I’ve already mentioned Susan Price and Chuck Palahniuk. I’m also a big fan of Martin Millar, who customarily writes more fantasy than horror but is currently penning a series of ‘Lonely Werewolf Girl’ books that have been labeled Young Adult . They’re very much the pulp style of writing – fast paced, lots of characters, deceptively simple writing style, but they’re so charmingly written, dry and witty and entertaining, like supernatural soap opera. It’s pulp done well.
I have to confess, I’m reading back over MR James and Roald Dahl more than I’m reading new horror, but I’m slowly finding my way around Goodreads so hopefully will pick up some great new literary horror recommendations there.

LCH - Die will probably laugh me out of the park but I love Stephen King actually.  Don't take my horror-lover credentials away! (DB - Haha, don’t, I sound awful! I read a Stephen King short story called ‘Gramma’ recently that I really enjoyed!)

What is your take on modern horror at this juncture?

DB – I think that, probably due to the influence of popular films, the genre of horror is a bit maligned. When people think ‘horror’ they think slasher films and lurid tales high on gore and low on quality and I think that can make horror a bit of a hard-sell to your average reader. Or people now associate the genre with paranormal romance, which again isn’t the whole story. It’s a real shame because there are so many incredible writers out there creating beautiful stories that could well get passed by because of the genre tag. Susan Price, who wrote the introduction for Re-Vamp, springs to mind. Her writing is classed as children’s fiction, however there are a lot of her stories that have given me the shivers like nothing else; they are beautifully written, subtle horror. And on the other end of the scale are writers like Chuck Palahniuk, who write guts and gore beautifully. Horror as a genre is not all terrible pulp (some of it is brilliant pulp!)

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

DB – Where do I start! I’ve got a few short stories due out soon, one called ‘Waifs’ in ‘Bloody Fabulous’ which is due out in October from Prime. My story ‘To be heard’ is going to be part of Crooked Cat’s two part ‘Fear’ anthology which is also due out in October and all proceeds from that go to charity (Barnardo’s and Medecins sans Frontieres) so I’m especially looking forward to that one. I’m also lucky enough to have a piece called ‘Phantoms’ in the next issue of ‘The Fiction Desk’ which is a quarterly anthology of new fiction which I can’t recommend enough – the quality of the first few issues is phenomenal and their ethos of discovering and sharing new gems is brilliant.
I’m also involved in a project that Sarah Grant, who edited ‘Art from Wonderland’ (another really fantastic DIY publication) is running, retelling and illustrating classic fairytales. I’ll be tackling Beauty and the Beast and hopefully doing it justice in time for the book’s Christmas release – and again, all proceeds from that go to charity, this time it’s the British Library Conservation Fund.
And finally I’m working on my debut novel, provisionally titled ‘Embedded’. It’s a very British horror-adventure romp centered around a hospital and I’m hoping to have it out in 2013, all being well.

Monday, August 20, 2012

In the grind house tradition...The Raid Redemption

The Raid Redemption is an Indonesian action film  that has some of the most unique and intense actions sequences in recent memory if not ever.  

While the plot is simplistic at best; 20 cops must enter a 30 story building to retrieve a drug kingpin; writer director and editor Gareth Evans adds small plot twists wherever he can.

The only real downside of The Raid Redemption are the characters.  Paper thin implies too much depth.  Literally all we know about one of the stars is that his wife is pregnant.  Even this information came to pass without dialogue in a training montage over the credits.  

The action and fight sequences are amazing.  Mele is the best way to describe them with a great deal of intricate close quartered combat.  Elbows and knees are used more than I have ever seen in a single film.  The movement of the actors with the camera allows the audience to see every blow and cringe accordingly.   

Friday, August 17, 2012

M.R. interviews...Qwantu Amaru author of One Blood

Please Welcome to Cutis Anserina Winner of the 2012 International book awards Qwantu Amaru

Where did the idea for One Blood come from?

Great question. It started as an idea about a group of middle-class black kids being tormented by a local gang who decide to challenge the gang to a game of basketball, the winner of which would run the neighborhood henceforth. This ended up morphing into an event that came to be know in my mind as the Simmons Park Massacre, where two rival gangs obliterated each other one fateful afternoon. I had the idea that one of the gangbangers would be there reluctantly, and this character became Lincoln Baker. Then I added the element of him accidentally shooting and killing his only white friend, Kristopher Lafitte. The question of what Kristopher was doing in an all-black neighborhood that day evolved into a horror novel about a supernatural curse tormenting a group of people unaware of their hidden connections!  

 How did the creation of Randy Lafitte come about?

People have said that One Blood is a political novel because of Randy Lafitte’s involvement. I didn’t intend to make any political statements, but when I began developing the character who would become Kristopher Lafitte’s father, it became clear to me who I should use as inspiration. When I was 16 and living in Lake Charles, LA, David Duke was running for governor. A white friend of mine and I were attending an annual festival called Contraband Days in Lake Charles and as we made our way into the festival, David Duke had a kiosk located out front. Two girls from our high school were manning the booth and called us over. The entire time I stood there with my friend, neither the girls, nor Duke acknowledged my existence. I would in later years read Ellison’s Invisible Man and could relate to the sentiment. As I developed the story of the Lafitte clan, I thought it would be interesting to set son’s against father’s, but in a way that I hadn’t read before. Randy was very fun to write. I knew right off I wanted to explore the idea of what might have happened had David Duke become the Governor of Louisiana, and Randy was my vehicle to do that. I even give a shout-out to DD in chapter 1! Another reason Randy is interesting is his overwhelming ambition and belief that he can survive anything. I wanted to challenge this belief. 

You grew up in Louisiana. How did this effect your decision to use this as the setting for One Blood?

I never considered setting One Blood anywhere but Louisiana. It did, however, give me a great canvas upon which to paint a supernatural story. There is an allure and mystery to Louisiana that is very seductive and attractive to me as a setting.

You began working on One Blood in 2000 and a hair over a decade later the novel is complete and available.  What was this process like?

Wow. Looking back on it, I made a lot of mistakes and grew so much during the early years writing One Blood. I really had no idea what I was doing and what I was getting myself into! Still, I read everything I could get my hands on, I re-read the classics and my favorite novels. I found inspiration everywhere. I spent months researching settings, the religion of Vodou, and other things I had no idea about before starting the book. It was a great process. Even receiving 18 rejections from literary agents was valuable. It forced me to hone my craft and refine the story until it could be as good as I could make it. I also created best practices and a process I can depend on now as I work on future projects. Hopefully, there will be no other projects that take this long to bring to fruition.

How does your work as a poet influence you as a novelist?

You are the first person to ask that, thanks! If it weren’t for poetry, One Blood would never have existed. I started writing poetry first, and in a desire to see if I was any good, enrolled in my first and only creative writing class back in the Spring of 2000 that spawned the idea that ultimately became my book. As a writer, poetry taught me the value of each and every word and to try to find fresh language and methods of describing things. I don’t think the language in One Blood is particularly poetic, but that background is the foundation beneath everything that I write.

One Blood despite the gritty and suspenseful nature has a social awareness.  Was this a conscience choice, or did it just emerge. 

It was a conscience choice. I was inspired by Richard Wright’s Native Son, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and Toni Morrison’s Beloved so I felt I had an obligation to do more than merely entertain. At a certain point I realized that I had the ability to make the story work on  multiple levels. I love books that challenge my thinking in addition to entertaining me and wanted to do this for readers as well. I designed the book to be the kind of story that gets better and deeper upon repeat readings. 

What fictional character has had the greatest impact on you?  How so?

Lincoln Baker for sure. I thought I was writing about a character who was my opposite, but when I read through everything, I realized that Lincoln was a stand-in for one of my older brothers. I was very disappointed and angry with him for certain events of our childhood and had been subconsciously judging him for years. It wasn’t until I crafted the story arc of Brandon and Lincoln, that I realized I had never walked in his shoes or lived his life so it was terrible for me to judge him. Writing One Blood helped me forgive.

What active genre authors are you following?
Stephen King of course. I also love Tananarive Due, Peter Straub, James Herbert, Ahnia Alborn, J.A. Konrath, Michael Rivers, J. E. Jones, Jeff Bennington, Brandon Massey, Gillian Flynn, and many others!
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?

The first book that truly frightened me was The Hobbit. I must have read it for the first time when I was 7 or 8 and some of the scenes scared the crap out of me. But I came back for more and more. Once I discovered Stephen King, I was done!

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

Thanks. Well, I’m working on a Kindle short story called Bath Salt Babies about a woman who has to choose between her lifelong desire of having children and the (literal) monsters to which she gives birth. I’m a third complete with my second novel, titled The Uneasy Sleep of Giants, I hope to release Q4 2013. Thanks for the fun interview!

One Blood is currently on sale for .99 cents at click below to purchase.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Bloodrush by Bryan Smith


In a fog David Rucker awakens in a wet dark pool of carnage.  Slowly his mind he makes sense of the images and sensations around him.  The body parts belong to his in-laws, and he does not know how this happened.
“A spray of blood and bone fragments sailed over the partition and splashed on the sizzling oven…”


Bryan Smith has created a visceral tale of seduction.  The seduction is not of a sexual nature, but to live a life without conscience or guilt.  The vampire Narcisa has offered an existence without the pains of guilt, and David has accepted. 
Bloodrush begins with David in a pool of carnage, and then as he remembers  how he came to his current location, the reader joins David on this journey.
Smith’s writing follows in the splatterpunk tradition, and the story is stronger for it.  Cutaways from the violence would lessen the impact of David’s emotional changes. Despite the graphic unrelenting violence Smith never loses the sense of his characters in this bloody mess.
Bloodrush also connects the appeal of violence as a manner to feel powerful and in control.  This is a basic psychological premise that is rarely explored in violent literature. 

In the End;

Bryan Smith’s Bloodrush is an elegantly straightforward horror tale of the seductive appeal of power.  The reader joins David Rucker on his journey from average decent human being to vile narcissistic creature.  Smith never cheats the reader and still manages to create terrific plot twists.  The end was perfect and added immensely to the entire reading experience.  

Janina Gavankar plays Famke Phoenix in Where the Dead Fear to Tread like a wild B-movie which, in the right hands, could be adapted into one hell of an RPG video game or a horror mini-series like True Blood, the book is a dark fantasy with a cast as big and as bold as its plot....It’s an interesting read that may get more interesting as the series continues, and who knows? It could be a future movie or video game franchise hit that you can brag about having picked up when it was just a humble indie e-book. Give it a chance and you may be surprised to find out Where the Dead Fear to Tread.
Robert Hibbs of Ravenous Monster

I recently noticed actress Janina Gavankar in True Blood and the b-horror flick Cup of My Blood and her distinct look and talent had me thinking of my character Famke Phoenix.  

"In a small cubicle, the boy William rescued looks forward. Without speaking, Jeffery Williamson searches Famke Phoenix’s face. Silently he takes in her Asian features, well complimented by her mother’s African heritage. Her long, carefully combed bangs fall to her eyebrows. The hair is arranged purposely to hide the jewelry resting on her forehead. Jeffery spent many hours in police custody before coming to Famke. Despite the best efforts of many officers, he would not speak. In clothes too large for him, Jeffery retains the disheveled look he had at the asylum."
From Where the Dead Fear to Tread by M.R. Gott

"At the garden’s outset Famke Phoenix watches the pair remembering this specific lesson from her own time as a student at the school.  Her parents, both magicians had brought her here to develop her abilities.  Despite leaving the school in disgust years earlier she was forced to return.  In a situation of desperation she had brought Jeffery here for protection.  The boy was being chased by ghosts that seemed to take physical form.  Famke had brought him to this place for safety, and to learn how to control his ability to convene with the dead.  In their time here she had located his parents, but not contacted them.  Until Jeffery had rudimentary control of his abilities it would not be safe for him to return home.  Jeffery had still not spoken a word since his arrival and because of this Jim tutored him privately." 
Special Preview of Where the Damned Fear Redemption by M.R. Gott