Icebergs, Open Letters, and More Catch Up

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It’s been an eventful few weeks since my last post. And this one may not look like it’s going to be a long one, but it’s packed with content if you follow the links.

Today’s a good day because I get to announce something I’ve been keeping under my hat for a bit: the illustrious Cemetery Dance Publications has a new web-version of their magazine called Cemetery Dance Online. And I’m writing a monthly column for it!

It’s called Paper Cuts and it’ll be essays about horror cinema written by a dude who reads and writes horror fiction (me). The first installment is up now and you can read it by clicking here. It’s an extra-sized introductory post in which I wail on a defenseless Facebook meme and offer up a “Top Five” list that’s not ranked at all. Please let me know what you think in the comments section over there.

I’ve been a fan/collector of Cemetery Dance Magazine (and their hardcovers) for about as long as I’ve been a reader, so joining them in this new venture is a bit of a dream come true. Thanks to managing editor Blu Gilliand for having me.

Switching gears but still staying in the longass posts I wrote that I want you to read ballpark:

To help promote Mercy House, I was also asked by Random House/Del Rey folks to make an appearance on Suvudu. They run a series call “Dear Reader” and I had a lot of fun (and did some minor soul-searching) writing up my open letter to perspective readers.

Also on the Mercy House campaign trail was this discussion I had with Jonathan Lees over at HorrorTalk. Our discussion’s fairly wide ranging and he kept me on my toes.

I’m very happy with how both the interview and the “Dear Reader” thing turned out. And, yeah, they’re promo stuff, but I think there’s some meat on both those bones, entertainment-wise. But if they “worked” and you wanted to buy a copy of Mercy House and then rave about it in your Amazon review…nobody’s stopping you.

And, also, if you’ve found this page by linking over from Cemetery Dance: welcome! You can click around in the archives by hitting the “Older Posts” button on the bottom of the front page, that’s where you can dig up more of my movie thoughts. Click the covers on the sidebar to buy one of my books and see whether or not you trust my taste in lit and movies.

Thanks, all!

Mercy House is Open For Business

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Tell your friends, shout it from the rooftops, break down your neighbor’s door and carve it into their kitchen counter: Mercy House is now available everywhere that ebooks are sold!

I’ll probably do one more post towards the end of the week to wrangle all the press (interviews, reviews, and guest essays) that will be popping up soon. But, to recap, here’s the stuff that you need to know:

Is this a novella or a novel? It’s a full-length (about 90,000 words) novel!

Will there be a paperback? No! This is being released through Random House’s digital-only imprint Hydra. Coffee is for closers and Mercy House is for ebook readers. If course I’d love a paperback on my shelf but, sadly, I have no control over how the book is being released. If you don’t have an ereader but still want in on this action: Kindle, Nook, and most other reading platforms are available for your phone or computer for free.

Killer old folks? Sure that sounds good, but I’m still not convinced. What have other people been saying about Mercy HouseI’m glad you asked. Yesterday, HorrorTalk ran this very enthusiastic review. Huge thanks to reviewer Jonathan Lees (who I spoke to for an interview shortly after he read the book, so I’ll post that when it’s up). Add that to Wag the Fox and The Novel Pursuit and I’d say buzz is starting out positive.

And, of course, there are the blurbs. ROLL THOSE BLURBS!

Mercy House is 100% distilled nightmare juice. Adam Cesare notches up the horror to nigh-unbearable levels. Even my skin was screaming by the end of this book.”—Nick Cutter, author of The Troop and The Deep

“Adam Cesare makes his presence felt with Mercy House. A no-holds-barred combo of survival horror and the occult.”—Laird Barron, author of The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All

“Adam Cesare’s Mercy House is a rowdy, gory, blood-soaked horror tale guaranteed to keep you up at night. And if that was all it was, I’d have been a happy reader. But Cesare has a maturity far and away beyond his years. His characters are treated with a surprising capacity for understanding and empathy, giving them an unexpected depth rarely seen among the nightmare crowd.Mercy House is the kind of novel you sprint through, eating up the pages as fast as you can turn them, and yet it lingers in the mind like a haunting memory, or the ghost of a smell. Cesare is poised to take the reins of the new generation. Looking for the new face of horror? This is it right here.”—Joe McKinney, Bram Stoker Award–winning author of The Dead Won’t Die and Dead City

I like the cut of your jib, Cesare. How can I help? Well that’s very nice of you. Aside from the obvious “please buy the book!” there are a number of ways to help spread the word. Vendor reviews (posting your thoughts on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks) are some of the most effective ways to let people know what you think of Mercy House, but you can also share this post (or any link that leads back to the book, really) on Facebook, twitter, or any readers groups you belong to, and you can track your reading process and leave a review on the book’s Goodreads page.

Thank you all for your enthusiasm and your patience. I’m so damn excited to have this book out.

One Week

“Adam Cesare makes his presence felt with Mercy House. A no-holds-barred combo of survival horror and the occult.”—Laird Barron, author of The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All

“Adam Cesare’s Mercy House is a rowdy, gory, blood-soaked horror tale guaranteed to keep you up at night. And if that was all it was, I’d have been a happy reader. But Cesare has a maturity far and away beyond his years. His characters are treated with a surprising capacity for understanding and empathy, giving them an unexpected depth rarely seen among the nightmare crowd.Mercy House is the kind of novel you sprint through, eating up the pages as fast as you can turn them, and yet it lingers in the mind like a haunting memory, or the ghost of a smell. Cesare is poised to take the reins of the new generation. Looking for the new face of horror? This is it right here.”—Joe McKinney, Bram Stoker Award–winning author of The Dead Won’t Die and Dead City

Mercy House is 100% distilled nightmare juice. Adam Cesare notches up the horror to nigh-unbearable levels. Even my skin was screaming by the end of this book.”—Nick Cutter, author of The Troop

The countdown begins. I am stunned and humbled that these three authors offered such kind words, I’m a huge fan of all.

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There’s one week left to pre-order Mercy House. After June 9th, you’ll just be plain ordering it. If you’ve ever been into any of my work, I urge you to pick up a (digital-only) copy. I think this novel is some of my best (and undoubtedly my darkest) work.

If you want to help me out: please help spread the word on or around the day of release (Tuesday, June 9th) and if you like the book please consider leaving a brief review on the retailer site of your choice (amazon, B&N, ibooks, etc.).

If you’re waiting to check out some reviews before you take the plunge here’s a good one from Wag the Fox and a more conflicted (but still incisive and nuanced) positive review from The Novel Pursuit.

Thanks!

Guest Post: Matt Serafini Howls into the Ether

So today, as a break from me shilling my own stuff, I invited my friend (and sometimes collaborator) Matt Serafini over to the blog to talk about his new book, Devil’s Row.

Now, I haven’t had a chance to  read this far-flung prequel to Feral, but I have read the original and one of the things I like about the book is that Feral draws into focus an idea I’ve had percolating for a good long while: Werewolves and vampires, or whatever supernatural monster McGuffin you want to name, endure in storytelling because of their versatility. In the case of werewolves this is doubly true because they have a much more fluid canon (and internal mythology) than say, the Stoker vampire or the Romero zombie.

In Feral we get the Matt Serafini’s take on werewolves, and it only takes you a chapter or two to realize that these are not members of Lon Chaney Jr.’s pack, nor do they traverse the moors with David Naughton, although they do owe a combined debt to Gary Brandner and Joe Dante, the idea of werewolves come with so much conflicting cultural baggage that a good author can make them his or her own.

Which is good, because I’d like to take a crack at the hairy mothers one day and I want Cesare-wolves to feel different enough.

Okay, enough rambling. Here to put the guest in guest post, here’s Matt to try and sell you on Devil’s Row, out now in ebook and paperback from Severed Press.

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I hate talking about myself.

I know that probably reads like an attempt to dispel the inbound barrage of vanity blogging, but I swear to you it’s genuine. I’m never more uncomfortable than when I have to talk publicly about my work. But just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean I won’t do it. I did write a new book and I’d like for all of you to read it.

The whole concept of guest posting is kinda new to me, so I suppose I should begin with a few words about myself. I’m Matt Serafini, and Adam was kind enough to invite me over to his blog to say a few words about my new novel, Devil’s Row.

Devil’s Row is a werewolf story. It’s sort of a prequel to my first novel, Feral, although I’m hesitant to dwell very much on that concept. Yes, there’s some connective tissue linking the two, but Devil’s Row is better described as a game of cat and mouse between a werewolf and her hunters, where everyone has more to lose than they think. It’s also a period piece that uses real world historical settings and takes all kinds of liberties with them.

This is probably a good place for the blurb:

They came together for a blood hunt.

Sebastian and Timothy are thief-takers driven by the lure of money, while Garrick is a soldier pursuing malevolent forces that shouldn’t exist. All of them are eager to find the rampaging she-wolf, Elisabeth Luna.

Following her across the Holy Roman Empire and beyond, they clash on a mountaintop high above the Moldavian wilderness. Elisabeth is taken by surprise, mortally wounded and left for dead.

Both predator and prey must navigate a war-torn land where the servants of darkness have staked a claim.

For Elisabeth, it’s about taking revenge on those who’ve opposed her.

For the hunters, it’s racing toward a sanctuary that may already be beyond their reach.

Before FERAL consumed an entire town in lycanthropic fury, werewolves stalked DEVIL’S ROW.

What the hell’s Feral? you might be asking. It was my attempt at a small town horror story. The sort of thing I used to stay up late devouring in the late 80s/early 90s. It was written over a period of about four years, a tragic completion time, sure, but done throughout several job changes, a malfunctioning laptop, and a house purchase/renovation project that spanned several months and took more than a few years off my life.

To this day, it remains the only thing I’ve written that people email me about with any type of frequency. That’s not to suggest I’m constantly flooded with fan mail, but it’s nice to see the occasional “when do we get to find out what happens next?” question land in my inbox.

After my next novel, Under the Blade, was published, I felt compelled to revisit those werewolves. I wasn’t interested in repeating what I’d done before, but I’d invested too much time in bringing that world to life to leave it alone. Of all the character histories I’d written, I think only a fraction of them found their way into the completed novel, and only in the margins, so I knew there was more to say.

To me, Feral was about shifting and disintegrating friendships set in Anytown USA, and Devil’s Row is about as far away from that concept as you can get. I always told myself that if I returned to that universe, each book would have its own identity and feel. I like to think of Devil’s Row as a horror/western…if westerns could take place in Europe in the early 18th century.

Maybe Devil’s Row isn’t cowboys and Indians, but it’s definitely gunfighters, werewolves, and witches. I wanted it to be fast-paced and to stand on its own just as much as it compliments Feral. The main character of Devil’s Row, Elisabeth Luna, appears in both novels, but it doesn’t matter where you meet her. I only hope that you will.

Thanks so much to Adam for having me. And thank you for reading. And for buying all our books, because how could that not be your very next move?

In the Flat (Yellow) Light

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I like anthologies.

As a reader, they’re a Cracker Jack box that’s made up entirely of prizes. And none of those lame stickers, either. Anthologies are a great way to be exposed to the work of new authors in a low-investment (both monetary and time) setting. This is especially true when you’re young and getting your bearings in the genre, when even the most recognizable names on a table of contents are new to you and you’re trying to build a palate.

As a writer who started out the same way that a lot of writers do, writing (admittedly not great) short stories and sending them out to editors at magazines and anthologies: I’m less attached to the format.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love reading short stories and think keeping up with Nightmare and what editors like Ellen Datlow, Paula Guran, and Ross Lockhart are selecting is an essential part of keeping keyed into the scene, but I prefer writing longer works.

So up until last year I had drifted away from writing shorts. Then something weird happened, three quick lightning strikes:

First I was asked if I had a story for the awesome UK zine Splatterpunk. I didn’t. None of the reprints I had felt right for the market, and all the unsold stories I had in my “trunk” were locked away for a reason. So I wrote something new because I wanted to be in the magazine.

I was very happy with the results, it seemed like all that novel writing had limbered me up, made me better able to think about structure in the way the short story format demands (I would contest that short story writing is WAY harder than anything long-form, which is probably why I avoid it, because I’m a big baby).

That same week I was invited to contribute to an anthology in tribute to Herschell Gordon Lewis. How could I say no to that? The resulting story still hasn’t seen the light of day (the book is still coming, I have it on good authority, more news soon, but: publishing…am I right?), but I felt it was even better than the one for Splatterpunk.

A few weeks after that, I was tagged in a tweet between author Orrin Grey and Ross Lockhart, with Orrin lobbying for my inclusion in an anthology (thanks, buddy). It seemed Ross’s next antho after the awesome The Children of Old Leech (w/Justin Steele) was something called Giallo Fantastique.

An anthology of speculative stories taking cues from giallo? I. Was. Born. For. This. And with that sentiment I kinda bullied my way into a crack at submitting a story.

The result was “In the Flat Light” and it’s me going to the Italian director character well again (clearly it’s the best well), but a little differently this time. I didn’t even realize until they were finished, but, maybe because I wrote them rapid-fire like that, these three stories form a thematic trilogy (he said, polishing his monocle). I’m thrilled with how they turned out and can’t wait for people to be able to read them.

Giallo Fantastique streets in a few days, on May 15th, but I was sent an early contributor copy and I gotta give it to you straight: you need this. Look at that table of contents if you don’t believe me.

I haven’t finished, I’m taking my time and am 3 or so stories from the end, but what I’ve read so far has been aces. Anya Martin, Michael Kazepis, Nikki Guerlain and a host of others bringing their A game(some of the other contributors are friends of mine, how nuts is that? With the remaining ones people that I’ve been reading and admiring for years!).

You can order the trade paperback (which is bundled with a free ebook version) direct from Word Horde, the publisher, or if you don’t want to go that route then the ebook and paperback are up on amazon now.

AND. If you want more parenthetical-heavy babbling from me, you can check out this quick interview I did with My Bookish Ways talking about my story, among other things. Thanks to them for having me.

AND. If you’re a reader on the west coast, you should drop by the book launch event, happening May 20th at Copperfield’s Books.

Guest Post: Glenn Rolfe’s Top 8 Alien Movies

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One of the highlights of last month’s HorrorHound Cincinnati was getting to meet people I’d only known from profile pictures and pithy comments on Facebook. Author Glenn Rolfe was one of them. Glenn’s relatively new to the Samhain stable, but it took him no time to throw himself into the community and start making an impression (a positive impression, helping a lot of authors behind the scenes, liaising with Samhain staffers, he’s been a big help to many).

Since HorrorHound is a predominantly film-focused, in spare moments where I wasn’t trying to sell people books, conversation behind the table was often turned to movies.

Glenn will freely admit that he’s not as much of a movie guy as he is a book guy. And I will less-freely admit that I may have had a bit of fun at his expense when he fell out of the conversational loop and couldn’t keep up with nerds like Kristopher Rufty and I.

Flash forward to this week when he asked if I’d be interested in letting him guest here on my blog. I’m fairly easy-going with this kind of thing (I don’t have guests often, I’ve got to like an author’s work and like them on a personal level to let them come shill at my shilling place), so I just said: yeah, write up whatever you want and I’ll throw it up.

The guy who I’d been giving a hard time about not knowing movies wrote a movie post!

And it’s not bad! Not bad at all! I mean, I’d move Alien up to tie with The Thing and I’d certainly throw Mars Attacks!, Contamination, and  Galaxy of Terror on there (Signs out the airlock, for me), but ya know: not my list.

So find that below and enjoy. One last thing, before we get to that, is that Glenn’s here promoting his new novella, Boom Town. I haven’t read it yet (I do have it pre-ordered, though), but I know Rolfe can write and ain’t lying when I say I’m looking forward to what he does in this sub-genre. Book’s out April 7th and you can order it right here. And if you want to find out more about the guy (and punk singer!) you can find his website here.

Glenn, take it away:

8. Predator– Arnold takes on one bad ass body heat readin’ creature from another planet. This one creeped me out when I was a kid. I actually feared for Arnold’s survival.

7. Invasion of the Body Snatchers– Starring Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum, and Leonard Nimoy, among others. This one is a classic that had a hand in my Boom Town story. When aliens start wearing humans, it gets pretty damn scary.

6. The 4th Kind- I totally thought this was a real thing. I mean, I knew it was a movie, but I watched it late at night by myself and when I heard the alien speak in Sumerian…the hair stood on the back of my neck. I didn’t want to see another white owl again.

5. Alien– Another classic. My numbers 2-5 could all be tied. I actually never saw this from start to finish until I rented it like three years ago. It’s scary and gross in all the right places. Sigourney Weaver is awesome and I want to watch it again right now.

4. Close Encounters of the Third Kind– I’m sure this one had the effect on people of my generation that the early black and white movies had on kids in the fifties. Close Encounters…really made me want to know about aliens and UFOs. When Richard Dreyfuss is sitting in his truck and everything goes haywire and we see the ships fly by–it’s awesome. His obsession on the screen was absolutely palpable. I think we were all on this journey with him and up on the mountain, too.

3. Signs– M. Night Shyamalan was still riding high off The Sixth Sense (minus a slight dip with
Unbreakable) when Signs came out. The first time I watched it, I knew it would stick with me. There are so many things going on in this movie that I admire. For instance, the tragedy that Graham is dealing with raising two kids after a drunk driver hits and kills his wife. He is a reverend at the time of the accident and gives up on God in the aftermath. I love the scene where Graham and his brother are chasing the alien around the house thinking it’s the troublesome skull brothers. Another aspect that really resonates with me is his children: “Daddy there’s a monster outside my window, can I have a glass of water?” and the section when Graham is in the field and the sheriff says “what’s wrong?” and he replies, “I can’t hear my children.” I love the scene when he goes to the drunk driver’s house and finds the alien in the closet. I like the invasion, and the alien’s coming, and the family gathering to have their last meal. Pretty much all of it works for me…except for maybe the aliens just retreating, but I love the rest of the film so much I let that go.

2. Fire in the Sky– The true story of the abduction of Travis Walton. This is the best abduction movie. Period. Travis is abducted when he and his tree chopping co-workers see a red light spread out in the woods before them on their way home. When they see the source of the light, they stop dead in their tracks. Travis gets out, ignores his co-workers’ demands for him to get back in the truck, and gets hit by a beam of light from the ship in the sky. The police think one of the co-workers killed Travis, until Travis calls Mike (the foreman and Travis’s best friend) from a payphone. Travis is back, but he’s not the same. Traumatized and paranoid, Travis struggles to deal with the flashbacks haunting him, while at the same time trying to get back to his normal life. It’s in these flashbacks that we see the hell these beings put him through. These are some of the creepiest scenes I’ve ever watched. To this day, I flinch and squirm at the images on the screen: the goop they stick in his mouth and the instruments they use on his throat and his eyes. Then, there’s the weird casing they use to hold him in place. It’s a horrifying experience that perfectly, if uncomfortably, transfers off the screen to the viewer. I had nightmares after seeing this movie for the first time. Creepy. Awesome. And a word to the wise: If you see a large spacecraft overhead, DO.NOT. GET. OUT. OF. THE.VEHICLE!

1. The Thing– The ultimate in alien terror! What other movie could top the list? John Carpenter’s 1982 masterpiece is terrifying, suspenseful, and outright gory in just the right spots. The classic special effects in this movie are amazing. There’s something much more real, much more organic about effects done without CGI. I wish more modern, bug budget films would go back to the art of special effects. It seems everyone has watched this movie and has their favorite scenes. I’m particularly fond of the kennel scene, the part when they discover the weird two-faced, frozen man at the Norwegian camp, the scene where Kurt Russell’s character has the rest of the guys tied to chairs as one-by-one he checks their blood (the suspense!), and of course the nasty scene when the doc tries to use the defibrillator only to have it end HORRIBLY. The Thing’s secret is really the psychological horror that’s happening. No one can be trusted. People are acting strange, but in a fucked up situation like this, who the hell wouldn’t be? Combine the great screenplay, the terrific acting, and just the overall look of the film and this movie has everything you could ever want in a Horror/Sci-Fi film. Unless you’re looking for a hot chick alien thing…then I guess you can rent Species. The Thing is the best.

There you go. My top 8 favorite alien flicks. I hope you’ll all check out my new Horror/Sci-Fi novella, Boom Town, from Samhain Publishing when it comes out this Tuesday, April 7, 2015.

And thanks to my friend, Adam, for having me on his blog!

Cheers!
-Glenn

EXPONENTIAL Audiobook Giveaway!

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Exponential is now available as an audiobook!

This is a little bit of a surprise. I knew it was in the process of becoming a reality, but didn’t know when. For right now it’s available here, and I’ve been told it should be migrating to Audible (where I get my audiobooks, as I’m sure many others do) at some point soon.

Over the last couple days I’ve listened to the book and I’ve got to say that I’m very pleased with the quality. Kudos to Audio Realms and narrator David Stifel for doing such a great job.

Something else that’s cool: I now have three (3) free download codes to give away. So if you’ve been curious what exactly a crime/road novel mash-up prominently featuring a giant monster looks like, but haven’t read the book yet: now’s your chance.

Over the last few years I’ve tried all different ways of doing contests. I’ve used no purchase necessary models, I’ve done creative competitions that were labor intensive for both me and participants, I’ve done promotions to incentivize verified Amazon reviews, I’ve done Goodreads giveaways, I’ve done social media hashtag stuff, but for this one (partly because I’m pretty busy) I want to do something a little more straight-forward:

If you’ve ever bought a single one of my titles in ebook or print (yes, I’m even counting collaborations. And ebooks you bought while they were on sale for cheap. I mean, I’d prefer you buy one of the titles I’ll get more money for, but it won’t harm your odds of winning): you’re eligible to enter the contest.

BUT, if you pre-order my new novel, Mercy House, you’ll be three times more likely to win.

Here’s how to enter: if you want to redeem an older title for an entry, you can either dig out the proof of purchase email you got from the vendor or, if you bought the book in person at HorrorHound or a brick-and-mortar store, send along some kind of proof that you bought it: either a scan of your receipt, a picture of the book next to a local paper, selfies with you holding the book (along with your dog, I always like pictures of dogs), whatever, I’m not picky.

This method only counts as one (1) entry, regardless of how many books you own. For example, you might have The First One You Expect, Video Night, and The Summer Job, but providing proof of purchase for all three still only counts as one entry.

If you want three (3) entries, you need to go to this page, choose your favorite retailer (last I checked, Amazon and Google were the cheapest options), pre-order Mercy House in ebook, and then email me the order confirmation code/number so I can make sure it’s legit.

All entries should be sent in a single email (don’t forward me your receipt and then send along another email, it’ll cause confusion) to adamcesare [at sign] gmail dot com and have the subject “Exponential Audiobook” in the heading. I’ll use a random number generator to choose the winners on April 10th 2015 and will contact those winners via the address they use to enter.

Make sense? Sound fair? Cool. Good luck.

Now that that’s out of the way, a quick update:

Horrorhound Cincinnati was great, sold a lot of books and met a lot of new readers. Exponential was the first title to sell out, due in large part to the fact that people I had sold books to in September in Indianapolis came out to this show and wanted to pick up something new. There are few things I can think of that make me happier than that: the fact that I was not only able to sell people my silly books, but the fact that they liked them well enough to come looking for more. Helps me feel less like a snake oil salesman. I also had a great time hanging out with fellow Samhain authors (meeting co-author Kristopher Rufty for the first time was a real highlight) and staffers.

Alternate poster by Richey Beckett.

Alternate poster by Richey Beckett.

Upon returning from Ohio, I had a really good movie-going week. For the majority of my life I’ve been the kinda guy who tries to go to the movies at least once a week, but it’s recently gotten so that life has gotten in the way of that (with months-long dry spells where I barely have time to sit for a full movie on Netflix). Not last week, though, as I saw three flicks! All of them good! I took in the vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows, British war thriller ’71 (it’s not horror, but it’s the feature debut for Yann Demange, who directed all five episodes of the fantastic zombie miniseries Dead Set), and genre festival darling It Follows. I can honestly say that I loved all three movies, and seeing any one of them probably would have made my month under normal circumstances. If you’re near a theater playing any or all of these: get in your car and go now.

I feel like I may never be able to match the good luck of that movie-going run, but I will keep trying, for science.

The Waiting (Or, Why You Should Attend HororHound and Pre-Order Mercy House)

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Six months ago I wrote not one, but two posts about my experience selling books at HorrorHound Indianapolis. One was beforehand, kinda self-pitying and the other was after, in the triumphant glow of having moved a few of my novels to new homes.

During the show I kept marveling to the Samhain staffers and my fellow authors, telling them how surprised I was at how enthusiastic con attendees were to pick up some books. In response, all they kept telling me was that Indy was the smaller of the two HorrorHounds and that I should get a load of the Cincinnati convention.

This time next week I’ll know if they were right or not. I won’t say “I can’t wait” for March 20th-22nd because I am able to, that would be a lie, but I do know that waiting is hard.

If you’re within driving distance, I urge you to come down and check out the show. And if you’re going to be there: please stop by the Samhain booth and say hi. Of course I will be ruthless in giving you the hard sell*, but after that we can just chill and take selfies if you want.

If you need extra incentive, I’ll be joined by fellow authors Glenn Rolfe, Jonathan Janz, Tim Waggoner, Brian Pinkerton, Matt Manochio, and Kristopher Rufty (who I’m really looking forward to meeting for the first time!).

Even if you don’t pick up a book to put this remarkable bookmark in, if you come within swiping distance of the table odds are you’ll be handed one of these:

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That layout and printing was done by author Scott Cole and those quotes are 100% real pull-quotes from Goodreads reviewers who received an advanced copy the book via NetGalley and were not fans.

I’ve had the cover and link up on the sidebar for a few weeks now, but let’s back up and get a little info about Mercy House.

A year and a few months ago, I got a message from someone with an @randomhouse.com suffix on their email address asking if I would be interested in working on something with them. Needless to say, I did a standing backflip and then answered back in the affirmative.

The result was Mercy House.

Not that I’m a big enough deal to do a FAQ, but here are the answers to a few questions I’ve been asked more than once:

What’s it about?

Don and Nikki are bringing Don’s aging, deteriorating mother to an expensive rest home, the titular Mercy House. Upon arrival an unknown phenomena turns all of Mercy House’s elderly residents into monstrous killing machines.

What flavor of horror is it?

In interviews and on this site, I’ve talked about my desire to hop around to horror’s different subgenres and this book is no different. Just yesterday a reviewer (who liked the book) described Mercy House as “survival horror” which, despite being a genre I would normally associate with video games, is pretty much right on the money.

Although there are no zombies in sight, Romero’s Dead films were a clear touchstone for me, and they ended up being mentioned in my initial phone conversations with Random House. There are also DNA strands from sources as disparate as J.G. Ballard’s High-Rise,  Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon, Cocoon, Richard Laymon’s The Cellar, and Dead-Alive (for its splatschtick), so hopefully I’ve woven them into something worthy of your attention.

I think I have.

Is it a novel or novella?

Mercy House is my fourth full-length novel. In fact—if you’re one of those people that likes to buy their fiction by the pound—it is comfortably my longest novel by a few thousand words. What a value!

All wise-assery aside, I truly believe this is my best novel, and with the might of a big publisher behind it, MH could end up selling literally tens of copies.

Did you have to “tone it down” for a major publisher? (I know, this is a question that sounds like I made it up in a totally self-serving and humble-brag-y way, but no joke: I’ve been asked this exact thing by at least three different people on Facebook and twitter)

I guess I’ve somehow acquired the reputation of being a hardcore horror writer. I’m guessing it’s the online social circles I run in (God damn you, Shane), more than it is anyone actually reading my books, but I would contend that my most “extreme” titles (Tribesmen or Jackpot for content and The First One You Expect for general bleakness) would get me laughed at by fans of Edward Lee, Monica O’Rourke or Wrath James White. I enjoy the extreme sub-genre, but I certainly wouldn’t label myself among their ranks. I’m too tame.

That said, Mercy House certainly isn’t me “toning it down.”

If anything there are sequences here that are way more hardcore than any of my previously published stuff. While I was writing the first draft of Mercy House I had similar concerns about whether the editors would be cool with the “mature” content meant for the horror-faithful, but after handing in the manuscript the only recurring creative note I recieved was: “can we make this darker?” And I was more than happy to oblige.

That link in the sidebar is only for the ebook, when does the paperback come out?

Never, probably. This is an ebook-only release.

I realize that a lot of my readers are old-school and enjoy reading physical books, but there is no planed paperback release of Mercy House and, as much as I’d like one, I have zero influence over that. If the book becomes a runaway success then it isn’t impossible that one day in the distant future there will be a hardcopy, but I’m not holding my breath and there are no plans to do that.

Warning, here’s where I begin to grovel:

Unbeknownst to me, at the same time Random House Hydra was approaching me they were also getting in contact with bizarro legend Carlton Mellick III to do some work for the label. The result was Clownfellas and it’s already being heralded as Mellick’s best work to date (which is saying something, considering how much the man has done).

Look. You can be the reader who doesn’t like ebooks or you can be the reader who votes with their dollars and helps send big publishing the message that you want literary weirdness/sickness and are willing to pay for it.

If you are the least bit interested in checking out Mercy House (or CM3’s book), I urge you to pre-order.

I know it sounds counter-intuitive to pay for a book you’re not getting until June, but pre-ordering not only helps to show the publisher that there is interest for this kind of thing, it helps Mercy House become more visible to people who might not otherwise hear about it.

Here is a link that includes all possible pre-order destinations: amazon, B&N, Kobo, and even a few I haven’t heard of. Most of those places don’t charge you until the book comes out and will credit your card with the difference if the price should happen to drop before press time. A huge thank you to anyone who pre-orders or wishlists the book, I look forward to hearing what you think.

As I’m finishing wrapping up this post there are 2 months, 24 days and 54 minutes until the Mercy House is released. Not that I have a countdown clock on my phone or anything strange like that.

The waiting is the hardest part.

*Just a reminder that, since Samhain is hosting me at HorrorHound, I will only be selling copies of Video Night, The Summer Job, and Exponential. If you want any of my other books signed then you’ll have to bring them from home. Which would be amazing.

“El Gigante”: A Giant Short Review for a Giant Short Film

El gigante poster

Think of an author you enjoy.

Now, if applicable, think of a film adaptation of their work that badly missed the mark.

What did the filmmakers get wrong?

No, I don’t mean that unfilmable plot-point they had to change to make the movie work, don’t be so basic.

Yeah, you’re second answer was correct: sometimes adaptations just don’t feel right.

They can stick closely to the plot, even end up transposing whole swaths of dialogue to the screenplay, but something about most adaptations just doesn’t live up to the movie you had in your head.

In a little over ten minutes Luchagore Production’s “El Gigante” feels right-er than almost any film adaptation I can think of.

It would be very easy to describe McKenzie’s novel, Muerte Con Carne, as The Tex-Mex Chainsaw Massacre. Plot-wise Hooper’s film is an obvious touchstone for the book and McKenzie doesn’t hide that, but it’s the differences in tone and focus that makes Carne so great.

The title character of the short, El Gigante, is an attempt not to mimic the mythic status that culture has built around Leatherface, but to reproduce the phenomenon. The way he’s described in the book is as cartoonishly large (to give you an idea: he tangles with a car at one point…and wins). Although that doesn’t seem like it would work on film (or at the very least would make casting the part difficult), the Luchagore team takes that exaggerated feel of the character and builds a film around him, so that by the time the world is established it feels only natural that El Gigante and his family could inhabit it.

Directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero (with a co-director credit given to D.P. Luke Bramley), “El Gigante” is polished to the point of absurdity. It’s colorful and art-produced to the nines. These filmmakers went all out to replicate the gonzo opening to McKenzie’s novel and it’s the detail that makes the picture.

With minimal dialog and entirely in Spanish, “El Gigante” is the result of plucking the prologue off of the novel and filming it with very few alterations. With the exception of a new character, a creepy child in a monkey suit (the inclusion fits, in fact it retroactively seems integral to sell you in the heightened world), nothing else I picked up on is different here. The film was partly financed via Kickstarter, the stated goal of which was to have a short film that could be used to raise funding for a feature.

It doesn’t feel like test footage. The ten minutes of “El Gigante” are their own thing, complete with a (very bleak) arc for our protagonist. But I guess it does work wonders as a proof-of-concept reel because all I wanted to happen when it was over was for the rest of McKenzie’s novel to unfold onscreen.

It feels weird to be reviewing what could sound on paper like promotional footage, but the film really does stand on its own and I encourage you to track it down when it becomes available to the public. I’m sure the Luchagore team will let you know when that is on their Facebook and, in the meantime, you can check out the source material here.

*So. A disclaimer, I guess. I know Shane McKenzie and I’ve co-authored a couple of novels with him. Back in October of 2012, I was even a pre-reader on Muerte Con Carne (not usually a responsibility I relish but I remember that the book made it easy).

But believe me: if I didn’t like this movie I probably would have saved myself the trouble of typing up a review and just shot Shane a disingenuous: “Sure, man. It was really good. Loved the lighting…” via Facebook messenger and have been done with it.

A Big Night

I doubt that number still works but what's the harm in trying?

I doubt that number still works but what’s the harm in trying?

I was fifteen when Brian Keene’s The Rising came out and I’m pretty sure I read it within the first month the Leisure mass market edition was available.

I say this not to bolster fifteen year-old me’s street cred, that ship sailed a long time ago, but to give you some context as to how old I am (not very) and how long I’ve been into horror fiction (a good percentage of my life).

Without someone to show you where you’re supposed to be starting as a reader interested in this stuff, I imagine a lot of people my age took a similar path through the genre. It starts maybe a little precociously, with Stephen King when you’re too young to appreciate him.

Screw ‘appreciate’, I was too young to string a few pages of King together when the man’s legend first struck my interest. In grade school I took out a slim biography on King from the library (large print and lots of pictures, a biography clearly meant for younger readers. Which is really a bizarre target demo, if you think about it) and used it as the basis for a book report. How young was I? I don’t quite remember but the “report” took the form of a clothes hanger mobile, if that gives you an idea.

So, realistically, reading King was still a few years away but the great thing about the early-to-mid 90s for a kid with this specific interest was that R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series existed as a placeholder to guide that transition from The Poky Little Puppy to Cujo.

Not to knock Stine, but I remember feeling like I was outgrowing Goosebumps even while I was consuming (read: freebasing) them. It was both that magnetic pull of King and that weird inferiority complex that I felt as a young boy getting his books from the children’s section of Borders when I just knew that I was meant to be browsing the “grown-up” shelves.

When my ability caught up with my will, I started with the short story collections, taking little bites, experimenting with books on tape (Nightmares & Dreamscapes, I distinctly remember Whoopi Goldberg reading about a teacher shooting a roomful of little kids and it broadening my definition of horror), and wading into the pool.

Okay, I’m digressing a lot, we’ve got to move this along. Where does a young horror reader of my vintage go after King? Well if you’re like me and you have parents who were into reading but not into reading horror, you go for another big name: Poe. Which, again, proves difficult, even once you’ve got modern style and diction down and are blazing through King and a surfeit of tie-in paperbacks based on movies (I vividly remember reading the novelization of 1998’s thriller Disturbing Behavior and the passage beginning “[female character’s name] knew what guys liked”) and games (Warhammer 40k, natch).

Finally, once a few years pass and you gain an awareness of branding and publishers, you notice that two of the books on the “New in Paperback” endcap at Waldenbooks* have similar looking covers and boom!: you’re in deep with the Leisure horror books line. At that point, if you hit it at just the right time, you were set. Trying to keep a correct chronology is tough looking back now, but within a three to five year window those paperbacks exposed me to Jack Ketchum, Richard Laymon, Edward Lee (his “tamer” stuff which isn’t really tame at all), Ray Garton, John Skipp and Cody Goodfellow (which made me go back to the Skipp/Spector years, I guess I’m part of the first generation who can make that claim, which is cool because Goodfellow’s still kicking all the asses), Tim Lebbon (Berserk, mmmmm::Homer Simpson drool::) and, (I’m pretty sure) my gateway author into the line: Brian Keene.

Wait wait wait, why is this post called “A Big Night” again?

Give me a second, I’m getting there.

Photo courtesy of Scott Cole's dogged reluctance to turn his phone off during the presentation.

Photo courtesy of Scott Cole’s dogged reluctance to turn his phone off during the presentation.

Last night my buddy Scott and I attended a reading and signing at the Free Library of Philadelphia. The guests were Laura Lippman and Duane Swierczynski** and they were both excellent.

Since I’m such a class act and unwilling to perpetuate stereotypes about twenty-somethings, I turned my cell phone off during the presentation. By the time I turned it back on my Facebook messages were ringing off the hook.

“You’re on Brian Keene’s Top Ten of the Year list!” was the gist.

Whoa, back up (again).

So the night before this I’d been tagged by buddy (and generous, tireless pre-reader) Tod Clark into one of Brian Keene’s facebook posts. He alluded to the possibility that a few other authors and I would be getting a mention on the next episode of his podcast, The Horror Show. As someone who’s been listening to the show this bowled me over, as you can expect, but I figured the mention would be in passing.

For about as long as I’ve been reading Keene’s work he’s been making yearly top ten lists and (even if they don’t stretch back that far, his various blog posts and non-fiction pieces were quick to name-drop seminal works) I always take his recommendations seriously, especially in the time before I was thinking about writing and looking to broaden my genre reading.

It’s surreal to hear him (podcast link and full list complete with book links reprinted here) put Deadite’s 2014 re-issue of Tribesmen on a list with Bryan Smith (another Leisure author I was reading!), Stephen King, Laird Barron(!!!), friends John Boden and Jonathan Janz (dopey picture with Janz here), and a few other writers I clearly need to check out.

It feels real good, but still surreal, especially when taking into account the reverence with which Keene goes on to discuss editor Don D’Auria later in the show.

It feels weird because, well, throughout high school and college I wanted to be one of those Leisure authors. It was my main goal, while living in Boston I had discussed as much with Nate Kenyon (a Leisure author I tracked down and harassed into having lunch with me), and my first novel, Video Night, was written with that market in mind. It was a goal that began as a wouldn’t-it-be-cool-if? pipedream as a kid, worked its way into a vague well maybe when I’m a lot older… in my late teens and then became a schucks-I-guess-we-won’t-know-how-that-would-have-turned-out bummer when the publisher folded in 2010.

Things, clearly, turned out well (and much sooner than expected) in the end. I got to work first with John Skipp (still my spirit guide), then with Don D’Auria at Samhain, then everything came full circle as that first book with Skipp was re-printed with a rad cover and I’m on this list and oh my god I need to go lay down it was a big night.

Huge thanks to Mr. Keene.

*Whoa, bookstores in malls! Remember that? Ever notice how the spot that used to be the Waldenbooks in your mall is, like, cursed now? Mine was a Journeys shoes for a hot minute. I think it’s now an As-Seen-On-TV money laundering front.

** Yup, both crime writers, and if I’ve learned anything it’s that you’ve got to diversify your genre reading, yo!