Thursday, May 31, 2012

Guest post - Carole Lanham

“The Whisper Jar” is Carole Lanham’s debut collection of short stories, released last year on October, 31st by Morrigan Books in electronic format. Today, “The Whisper Jar” is released in print as well and on this occasion I have the opportunity to host Carole Lanham as my guest for a post on the blog.

How to Save Your Secrets in Glass
by Carole Lanham

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could whisper something you regret into the mouth of a jam jar, screw on the lid, and put that dark bit of history behind you forever?  The stories in The Whisper Jar collection all have one thing in common – secrets.  Not the sorts of secrets that incite giggles though.  Dark, treacherous secrets, the kind that tangle you up the more you try to bury them.  No ear may be trusted with the likes of these unsavory slips in good judgment.  Only a jar with a very tight lid will do.

By my experience, few things have the power to shape our souls or twist our hearts more than the things we hide. Unexplained bumps in the night don’t scare me much.  The thought of being haunted by the ghost of a black deed, however, leaves me shaking in my boots.  One might assume then that I'm a woman with a guilty conscience, and rightly so.  We’ve all done or said things we wish we could take back.  The unsettling feeling that comes with keeping a secret is a universal one.  Needless to say, when it comes to regret, I much prefer the fictitious variety.

For the shear reason that it adds an extra level of squirminess to the mix, the characters in The Whisper Jar are all, by necessity, heartbreakingly young.  Don't expect Wisdom to come galloping up on a white horse to save the day.  Any and all Mistakes must be sorted out with sticky fingers, and Innocence quite often plays the villain.

Likewise, gardens, orphanages, and nurseries are particularly terrible, mysterious places.  More often than not, Bad Seeds win the day.  For the record, I don’t believe teenage girls are evil, although The Whisper Jar may seem to imply otherwise.  They do hold lethal sway over the boys who admire them.  That’s just the honest truth.  If one were to take undue advantage, the results could be devastating.  It could even result in the making of a secret and who knows where the suffering of a secret might lead...

Be forewarned, The Whisper Jar is not for people who are made uneasy by children who do sneaky and/or dreadful things.  Please avoid the book if you don’t find the idea of young boys building a museum dedicated to torture devices to be an absolute delight.  Likewise, an appreciation for the questionable charms of locked rooms, blood-sucking sisters, and dirty book clubs is highly advised.  If you’re on board with all of these, please do stop in at Amazon and buy the book.  Feel free also to steal its handy suggestion for safe secret storage.

The instructions are easy:  Simply pour out those olives that have been hiding behind the maraschino cherries in the back of the frig for some five or six months now and rinse thoroughly.  Next, take your clean Whisper Jar in hand and level your mouth over the opening.  Whisper the words softly and clearly into the glass, making certain to seal well after finishing as it's vitally important that nothing foul be allowed to escape.  If done correctly, you should be able to store all those horrible little nasties away and move forward with a lightened heart.  Now don't you feel so much better?

Beginners Tip:  To avoid shattering or snooping by family and friends, mind where you put your jar.

Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead…
The Whisper Jar by Carole Lanham
The first time my sister did it to me, I was twelve years old and it hurt like Hades, even though she said it wouldn’t. “Lie down, Gidion, and don’t move. I promise it’ll be okay.” She put her hand in the middle of my chest as if I would jump up and run. And I might have. I wanted to.
“Good God, your heart,” she said. Her eyelids fluttered in a way that told me she wasn’t so sure about this whole business either. When she pressed my wrist against her mouth, it jerked away all by itself. “Don’t be afraid now, Giddy.”
In this collection of award-winning short stories by Carole Lanham, a boy struggles to deal with his sister's murderous affections, a dangerous friendship forms around a love of books, a student learns more than she was ever meant to learn in school, and the door to a mysterious room unbolts to reveal a terrible truth.
Brian Hodge, author of Picking the Bones has said of The Whisper Jar, “Carole Lanham is made entirely out of awesome. The Whisper Jar is packed to the lid with dark magic and whimsy, while bearing an ominously old-fashioned touch that might make Edward Gorey feel right at home. It deserves to be ranked as a modern classic.”
Open The Whisper Jar with great care. You might just find your own secrets hidden in there.
Available May 31 from Morrigan Books at &

Carole Lanham is the author of 24 short stories and one novella.  The Whisper Jar is her first full length book.  She lives in the St. Louis area with her wonderful, supportive family and a very large collection of aprons.  If interested, please visit her at,, Facebook, or Goodreads.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

2012 Ion Hobana Awards

On May, 26th at the Calderon Cultural Center in Bucharet in the organization of Romanian Society of Science Fiction and Fantasy and the Bucharest Writers Association the “Ion Hobana” National Colloquy was held. This is the third edition of the colloquy and with this occasion the “Ion Hobana” Awards were presented. The winners of the 2012 “Ion Hobana” Awards are:

The best 2011 SF book: “DemNet” (DemNet) by Dan Doboș (Media Tech) & “The Seagulls Island” (Insula Pescărușilor) by Mircea Liviu Goga (Eagle)

and Gheorghe Săsărman – for Opera Omnia

Congratulations to the winners!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Title spotlight - "The Year's Best Australian Fantasy & Horror 2011" edited by Liz Grzyb & Talie Helene

After an excellent first volume of Australian year’s best fantasy and horror published in 2011 Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene, the editors of this new series of speculative fiction released by TiconderogaPublications, have put together the final line-up for the second volume of “The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror”. If last year the collection gathered 33 stories this year Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene’s anthology offer to the readers 32 short stories and poems first published in 2011 in Australia and New Zealand. The first edition of “The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror” was a wonderful opportunity for me to discover new talented writers and enjoy the works of some of my older acquaintances, although the later were not numerous. But thanks to this collection the number of authors I am delighted to meet again through their fiction has significantly increased and this year I am eagerly waiting to savor their works again. Deborah Biancotti’s collection containing the story selected for 2011 year’s best was one of the best books I read this year, Lisa L. Hannett, Angela Slatter and Kaaron Warren are names already present in my personal library and will certainly prompt me to buy their future works, while Felicity Dowker, Kirstyn McDermott, Andrew J. McKiernan, Paul Haines, David Conyers and Pete Kempshall were nothing but pleasant surprises in my first experiences with their writings. As you can see I have plenty of reasons, but also a consistent curiosity, to await with great interest the release of Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene’s “The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2011” in July.

“Briar Day” by Peter M. Ball (Moonlight Tuber)
“Europe After The Rain” by Lee Battersby (After the Rain, Fablecroft Press)
“Bad Power” by Deborah Biancotti (Bad Power, Twelfth Planet Press)
“The Head in the Goatskin Bag” by Jenny Blackford (Kaleidotrope)
“Thin Air” by Simon Brown (Dead Red Heart, Ticonderoga Publications)
“Winds Of Nzambi” by David Conyers & David Kernot (Midnight Echo #6, AHWA)
“More Matter, Less Art” by Stephen Dedman (Midnight Echo #6, AHWA)
“The Hall of Lost Footsteps” by Sara Douglass & Angela Slatter (The Hall of Lost Footsteps, Ticonderoga Publications)
“Berries & Incense” by Felicity Dowker (More Scary Kisses, Ticonderoga Publications)
“Dark Me, Night You” by Terry Dowling (Midnight Echo #5, AHWA)
“Hunting Rufus” by Jason Fischer (Midnight Echo #5, AHWA)
“Letters Of Love From The Once And Newly Dead” by Christopher Green (Midnight Echo #5, AHWA)
“The Past Is A Bridge Best Left Burnt” by Paul Haines (The Last Days of Kali Yuga, Brimstone Press)
“Forever, Miss Tapekwa County” by Lisa L. Hannett (Bluegrass Symphony, Ticonderoga Publications)
“At The Top Of The Stairs” by Richard Harland (Shadows and Tall Trees #2, Undertow Publications)
“Face To Face” by John Harwood (Ghosts by Gaslight, HarperCollins)
“Someone Else To Play With” by Pete Kempshall (Beauty Has Her Way, Dark Quest Books)
“Heaven” by Jo Langdon (After the Rain, Fablecroft Press)
“The Soul of the Machine” by Maxine McArthur (Winds of Change, CSFG)
“The Wishwriter's Wife” by Ian McHugh (Daily Science Fiction)
“Love Death” by Andrew J. McKiernan (Aurealis #45, Chimaera Publications)
“Frostbitten” by Kirstyn McDermott (More Scary Kisses, Ticonderoga Publications)
“Wolf Night” by Margaret Mahy (The Wilful Eye - Tales From the Tower #1, Allen & Unwin)
“Interview with the Jiangshi” by Anne Mok (Dead Red Heart, Ticonderoga Publications)
“Wraiths” by Jason Nahrung (Winds of Change, CSFG)
“Reading Coffee” by Anthony Panegyres (Overland, OL Society)
“The Patrician” by Tansy Rayner Roberts (Love and Romanpunk, Twelfth Planet Press)
“Love In the Atacama or the Poetry of Fleas” by Angela Rega (Crossed Genres, CGP)
“The Coffin-Maker's Daughter” by Angela Slatter (A Book of Horrors, Jo Fletcher Books)
“Thief of Lives” by Lucy Sussex (Thief of Lies, Twelfth Planet Press)
“The Kite” by Kyla Ward (The Land of Bad Dreams, P'rea Press)
“All You Can Do Is Breathe” by Kaaron Warren (Blood and Other Cravings, Tor)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Cover art - "Avempartha" by Michael J. Sullivan (French edition)

I talked very often in praising words about Michael J. Sullivan, Marc Simonetti and the French publisher Bragelonne and its imprint Milady. Well, a little less about Michael J. Sullivan and his wonderful “The Riyria Revelations”, from which I still need to read “Wintertide” and “Percepliquis” and finally put the review of “The Emerald Storm” on paper. Therefore, in an attempt to avoid becoming tiresome in my praise for the above mentioned, I’ll let the cover artwork made by Marc Simonetti for the French edition of Michael J. Sullivan’s “Avempartha” (La Tour Elfique) due to be release by Milady on 22nd of June speak for itself.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Romanian speculative fiction - "Beyond the Night. 12 Faces of the Gothic" edited by Oliviu Crâznic

On the Romanian literature scene speculative fiction is seen rather as the poor relative than anything else. And going further deep horror fiction can barely receive the falling crumbs from the table. I am not aware of a Romanian author that can be defined in the full sense as a horror writer. The most recent attempt within the Romanian horror fiction was made by Oliviu Crâznic with the gothic novel “…and at the end remained the nightmare”, which was well received by the local speculative fiction community, but that is a pretty isolated event. This summer the Romanian speculative fiction scene in general and the horror genre in particular will be enriched with a new volume, an anthology of gothic fiction edited by Oliviu Crâznic, “Beyond the Night. 12 Faces of the Gothic” (Dincolo de noapte. 12 Fețe al goticului). The anthology gathers some of the heavy names of the Romanian speculative fiction, such as Liviu Radu, Dan Doboș or Florin Pîtea, but also new and emerging talents of the same scene. “Beyond the Night. 12 Faces of the Gothic” is due to be released by Millennium Press on June, 2nd at the National Book Fair Bookfest in the presence of the authors.

A doomed private detective on the trail of a serial killer, a communist assignment with occult motivations, time travelers in Jack the Ripper’s era, the victims of the charms and the consequences of resorting to witchcraft, American guests at a Romanian ancient cemetery, a medieval monk making a shocking discovery, a brother and a sister pushed towards crime and sin, a village haunted by wolves and legends, a she-devil surprised by the end of the world, a priest kidnapped by two mysterious men and forced to heal the wounds of a chained young woman, an avenger challenging a dubious corporation, a house in which ghosts are prisoners and victims… on the short, 12 FACES OF THE GOTHIC.

“The editor’s word: An epic with an expected (I hope!) end” (Cuvîntul editorului: O epopeee cu final (sper!) aşteptat) by Oliviu Crâznic
“Washed by the virgins’ blood” (Spălaţi de sîngele fecioarelor) by Ştefana Czeller
“The builders of churches” (Ziditorii de biserici) by George Lazăr
“Different shades of darkness” (Diferite nuanţe de beznă) by Liviu Radu
“Quicksilver” (Argint Viu) by Narcisa Stoica
“Violet” (Violet) by Dan Doboș
“The haunted deep” (Văgăuna bîntuită) by Florin Pîtea
“The brothers of Saint-Yves” (Fraţii de Saint-Yves) by Raluca Băceanu
“Under the night’s veil” (Sub vălul nopţii) by Cătălina Fometici
“Devil’s children” (Copiii Diavolului) by Laura Sorin
“The Charron Palace’s cellars” (Pivniţele Palatului Charron) by Oliviu Crâznic
“The hour of death” (Ora morţii) by Ana-Maria Negrilă
“The Redemption” (Ispăşirea) by Ciprian Mitoceanu

I am looking forward to grab a copy of this anthology and see what Romanian horror can produce.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Interview - Chris F. Holm

Chris F. Holm is an American writer, born in Syracuse, New York, who published his first novel, “Dead Harvest”, on February 2012 through Angry Robot Books. It is the first long fiction released by Chris F. Holm after the short stories he published in publications such as “Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine”, “Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine”, “Beat to a Pulp” and “Spinetingler Magazine”. He gathered some of these stories in a self-published volume, “8 Pounds: Eight Tales of Crime, Horror and Suspense”. His novella “The Hitter” was selected for “The Best American Mystery Stories 2011” edited by Harlan Coben and Otto Penzler, his short story “Seven Days of Rain” won the Spinetingler Award in 2008 and Chris F. Holm also was nominated for the Anthony Award and Derringer Award. The author’s second novel, “The Wrong Goodbye”, is due to be released on October also from Angry Robot Books.

Mihai (Dark Wolf): Chris, thank you very much for the opportunity of this interview.
You made your debut, let’s call it that for now, at the age of six. Why did your story sent you in the principal’s office? Did six years old Chris F. Holm dream of becoming a writer?
Chris F. Holm: The story in question was a lavishly illustrated picture-book titled “The Alien Death From Outer Space,” so my guess is the gory subject matter – and the gleefully rendered pictures that accompanied the text – were what landed me in front of the principal. Not that I knew that at the time. Both the principal and my teacher couched the trip as a reward of sorts for having done such a good job on the story – so that’s precisely what I thought of it. Now, of course, I realize that trip, and the pointed questions to which I was subjected, were aimed at ensuring I wasn’t some kind of burgeoning sociopath, but instead just a science-fiction-obsessed kid with a vivid imagination and access to a whole lot of red crayons.
As for whether six-year-old me dreamed of becoming a writer, I think the answer is, he didn’t dare. He loved books, to be sure, but it never really occurred to him that growing up to write them was even an option. No doubt he’d be pretty geeked to find out that it was.

Mihai (Dark Wolf): How much influence had your policeman grandfather on your choice of genre? What other influences do you consider to have made an impact on your writing career?
Chris F. Holm: A tremendous influence. He was a voracious reader of mysteries, and because of that, so were his children – my aunts and uncles. As a result, Sunday dinners were essentially a giant mystery book swap, where everyone showed up with an armload of books they’d read, and left with a stack they hadn’t.
That said, DEAD HARVEST – with its angels, demons, and undead protagonist – is far from a traditional mystery. The more fantastical aspects of the story are likely influenced by my childhood obsession with horror flicks and Stephen King, as well as the fantasy and science fiction my dad’s family tended toward. And though I’m not a practicing Catholic, the questions of free will and religion I find myself preoccupied with in fiction clearly stem from my upbringing in the faith.

Mihai (Dark Wolf): You wrote stories of crime, horror and fantasy with a definitive pulp touch. Although your bibliography doesn’t reflect it, do you consider yourself to be a writer confined to a certain genre? Do you consider that an author could develop more while writing in a particular genre or when stepping outside genre boundaries?
Chris F. Holm: I’d like to think I’m unconfined by genre, because I like stories that are more than one kind of thing. The best crime novels are often, on occasion, horrific, and a lot of fantasy and science fiction is draped across the framework of a mystery plot. But the fact is, when an author – any author, myself included – is writing to be read, they’ll always feel a certain pressure to conform, to deliver a salable story, and often that means adhering to genre norms. Where I feel that most acutely is in my short fiction. All markets have their guidelines, all editors have their tastes, and every publication worth a damn is so swamped with submissions, when they come across something that doesn’t quite fit, it’s easier for them to take a pass rather than a chance. That’s not a knock, mind you – consistent point-of-view is how a publication builds and audience. But it does make quirky fence-straddling stories harder to place. The stories I’ve had the toughest time selling are the ones that don’t fall neatly into any one genre.

M(DW): Your short stories were written exclusively in crime, suspense and horror genres, but you went for a pulp mystery/paranormal fantasy for your debut novel? Why the sudden change with “Dead Harvest”? Why the paranormal touch?
CFH: That’s an excellent question, but it underscores my point regarding the difficulty placing fence-straddling short stories. The fact is, I’ve written loads of quirky, fantastical short stories: a throwback time-travel sci-fi serial, a horror/adventure tale that’s equal parts George Romero and Indiana Jones, a ghost story about a hardened criminal tormented by his many victims, even a Christmas mystery with an elf PI. But it’s the straight-up crime stories that seem to attract the most attention. Come to think of it, maybe I should have taken the hint and written a book-length one of those.

M(DW): Before making your novel debut with “Dead Harvest” you were a published short fiction writer. How was the progression from short to long fiction? Did your experience as an author of short stories helped in the writing of your novel?
CFH: Actually, I’d finished a draft of my first novel before I ever considered writing shorts, but alas, despite landing me an agent, that novel never saw the light of day. In retrospect, though, I’m glad, because writing short fiction taught me a great deal about how to tell a story. Maybe that first novel of mine would have sold if I’d honed my craft on short stories first. Lord knows DEAD HARVEST was better for it.

M(DW): Do you feel more comfortable writing short stories or novels? Why?
CFH: There’s no more or less comfortable; it’s just a matter of figuring out which the story’s supposed to be, and then writing it. Short stories are quicker, that’s for sure, because you can fit a whole one in your head. Novels are wilder, woollier affairs. Both have their upsides. Both, occasionally, prove pains in the ass.

M(DW): You self-published a collection of stories, “8 Pounds: Eight Tales of Crime, Horror and Suspense”, before your novel, “Dead Harvest”, was released. What is the difference between a self-published book than a traditionally released one? Do you believe there is a difference in the way a writer is received depending on these methods of publication?
CFH: Oh, there’s definitely a difference. When I released 8 POUNDS – almost two years ago, this was – I did so as an experiment. I had a bunch of previously published shorts to my name, some of which had since gone out of print, and I’d been hearing buzz about the whole ebook thing, so I thought, “Why not put one out and see what happens?” What happened was I sold maybe 50 copies in the first two months. I got minimal coverage, and no reviews. But then a funny thing happened: bit by bit, momentum started building. Reviews started popping up. Sales soon followed. And much to my surprise and delight, the folks who read it seemed to really like it.
By contrast, the release of DEAD HARVEST was a crazy insane whirlwind of interviews, reviews, appearances, and guest blogs. It was all I could do to keep up. A little of that is due to the fact that I put in way more legwork hyping the release. A lot of it is due to the tireless efforts of the good folks at Angry Robot. But I can’t discount the fact that DEAD HARVEST is quite simply taken more seriously because it’s a traditionally released book. That implies selection, oversight, editing, the whole nine, and guarantees a baseline competency that some self-released stories lack.
And I’ll say this, as the author of a moderately successful self-published ebook: if you wanna do it right, it’s gonna take just as much work as going the traditional route. The only difference is, all that work – and risk, and possibly reward – will fall to you.

M(DW): I understand that “Dead Harvest” has a few influences of pulp noir novels, the title is derived from Dashiell Hammett’s “Red Harvest”, the main character’s name, Sam Thornton, makes references to the same Dashiell Hammett’s first name and Raymond Chandler’s middle one. What other influences does “Dead Harvest” hold? Does the upcoming novel in your “The Collector” series have similar influences or references?
CFH: I think oftentimes, when writers speak of references, it’s mostly wishful thinking. I’m sure I’m as influenced by Eighties slasher flicks and cheesy commercial jingles as I am by my beloved classic pulp. That said, pulps aside, there’s one clear influence I think I’m on solid ground citing for DEAD HARVEST: namely, Dante’s INFERNO. It’s from Dante that I take my opening quote, and from Dante my conception of hell springs.
As for future books, I’m trying to keep the crime-pulp-meets-fantasy flavor, but to also fold in additional elements as I go. THE WRONG GOODBYE is a road story with a touch of action-comedy and Lovecraftian horror thrown in for good measure. The third book, should I be lucky enough to get to write it, will feature my take on the classic Universal movie monsters, as well as a goodly dollop of secret history. (Yes, book three has a title, and no, I won’t say yet what it is, for fear I’ll jinx it.)

M(DW): You grew up in a Catholic family and you have some experience with Sunday Schools. How much influence did this aspect of your life had on “Dead Harvest”? How other personal experiences found their way on your debut novel?
CFH: I think it had a profound influence on the conception of DEAD HARVEST. As a kid, I was terrified by the notion the Catholic church drills into you that a decent person could easily wind up in hell if they didn’t play precisely by the rules, so in a way, Sam Thornton is the fictional embodiment of one of my most basic childhood fears.
As for other personal experiences working their way into DEAD HARVEST, I’m sure the book is chock-a-block with them, up to and including my smoking vicariously through my main character. I quit years ago – those things will kill you. Lucky for Sam, he doesn’t much have to worry about that.

M(DW): Your bio says that when you are not writing you are playing the guitar. Did your passion for music find a way on your writing as well? What music influences does “Dead Harvest” have?
CFH: First, let me be clear: I’m a terrible guitarist. I’m not being modest. I’ve played for over a decade now, and I’ve got a repertoire of maybe twenty songs that I can be relied upon to mangle. But I do so enjoy the mangling. I guess everyone sounds like a rock star to their own ears.
When it comes to writing, however, I confess I can’t work with music on. But that doesn’t mean music didn’t play a role in shaping DEAD HARVEST. I find my listening habits while away from the writing tend to tailor themselves to the scenes I’m working through in my mind. For DEAD HARVEST, that meant a lot of dark, propulsive hip hop for the action stuff – Massive Attack’s brilliant and creepy “Mezzanine,” for example. And for the scenes set in the past, Benny Goodman never failed to set the stage (Goodman’s version of “Sing Sing Sing” is one of my all-time favorite tracks). Of course, Sam’s also got a wistful side, so mellow, bluesy, melancholy stuff like Morphine, Sun Kil Moon, or Joe Henry proved handy for tapping into that.

M(DW): Sam Thornton and the characters of your short stories have a shady side. Does a mixed bag of characteristics make the personalities of a character more believable? Is a straight good or bad character weaker than the mixed ones?
CFH: I try to write people I can wrap my head around. People who seem real to me. Pure good and pure evil are abstract concepts, not human attributes, unless maybe you’re talking unrepentant psychopaths. And I’m not so interested in what makes an unrepentant psychopath kill, because as far as I’m concerned, their motivation amounts to nothing more than a neurological short-circuit. I’m far more interested in what makes your kindly old neighbor kill, or what might drive you or I to do so. I like characters that have moral strictures – I guess I enjoy batting them around to see what will make them break them. On the flipside, I like my bad guys to be redeemable, or at the very least able to justify their own actions to themselves. From where we’re sitting, we’re all the stars of our own shows. Nobody thinks of themselves as the bad guy in someone else’s story.

M(DW): The first thing that drew my attention towards your debut novel was the cover artwork for “Dead Harvest”, as well as for the following “The Wrong Goodbye”. How important do you consider the book cover to be? What role does a good book cover have for a writer who is unknown to a certain audience or is a debutant?
CFH: I can only speak from my own experience, but I’ve found my covers to be tremendously useful in attracting readers. I know for a fact you’re not alone in being drawn to my books because of their stunning covers. Said stunning covers, by the way, are the brainchild of my editor, Marc Gascoigne, and were executed beautifully by Amazing 15 Design.
Of course, once the cover draws someone in, the writing has to keep them, so a good cover that has nothing to do with the book would likely have limited utility at best. Luckily, my covers do an amazing job of selling my pulpy point of view, and injecting a little of the otherworldly as well. Then again, I may be biased.

M(DW): “The Wrong Goodbye” is the second novel in your “The Collector” series, featuring the very interesting character Sam Thornton. Do you have other novels featuring Sam Thornton in mind? Do you plan for a longer series?
CFH: Short answer: yes. I conceived of Sam as very much a series character in the vein of Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, or Block’s Matthew Scudder – someone I could spend a lifetime writing if given half a chance. That said, I think what I’d ideally like to do is tell a series of closed cycles – each one a trilogy, perhaps – that are sort of stories unto themselves, but leave room for later works as well. Maybe I’ll get my wish, and crank out a trilogy of trilogies. Maybe not. Really, it seems to me the audience, or lack thereof, will dictate how many Sam stories there’ll be.

M(DW): “Dead Harvest” comes with plenty of cinematic characteristics. Do you see your novel adapted for the big screen? What movie actors would see playing your characters?
CFH: I’d love to see DEAD HARVEST adapted to the screen – big or small. But I confess, I have a tough time casting my own characters. In my mind, they’re quite real, and I can’t picture them as anybody but themselves. That said, I hate to give a cop-out answer to a good question, so I’ll take a crack at casting Sam and Lilith.
I think Josh Jackson would make a decent Sam. In Fringe, he plays a sort of wisecracking, world-weary hero – a little sad, a little wise – and that jibes pretty well with the Sam I have in my head. Of course, for him to pull it off you’d have to do the whole Quantum Leap thing, where the audience sees him one way and the other characters another, since Sam’s always hopping bodies.
And the internet seems to think Christina Hendricks of Firefly and Mad Men would make a decent Lilith. Can’t say I’d object to that. My good friend Dan O’Shea thought a young Sophia Loren would be a better fit. Can’t say I’d object to that, either.

M(DW): It happened more than once for a character to be very popular and the series of novels centered on that particular character to be prolonged for financial reasons. Would you make a compromise and continue writing novels featuring Sam Thornton or other character just for the sake of financial reasons although you will not feel like working more on his adventures?
CFH: That depends – how much money are we talking?
Kidding. I think.
Fact is, I wouldn’t, and I don’t think that’s just me blowing smoke. When I decided I wanted to take a crack at this whole writing thing, I made a pact with myself to at every step do it the best way I knew how. I guess I felt – and feel – if I was going to chase my dream, I wanted to honor that dream by never cheating, and by never phoning it in. In fact, I have a tattoo to that effect on my forearm: it’s a typewriter and crossed fountain pens, around which is a banner that reads: “Write bravely.” And I’d say churning out words I don’t believe in to chase a buck hardly qualifies.
That said, I also want to be successful in this business, and that means sometimes, finances will factor into my decisions. I think the key there is to find the intersection between what you’re passionate about writing and what the market wants to pay you for. Anything less is bad art and bad business. You may fool someone into buying soulless crap once, but they won’t be coming back for more. So it’s best to never write it in the first place.

M(DW): Talking to the same point if the publisher feels that the novels should continue for financial reasons and you would not agree to write further on the same character how what would you think if another appointed author writes the adventures of your character? Would you be disappointed if such a case comes to pass?
CFH: This one’s such a distant hypothetical, I haven’t the faintest idea how to tackle it. Angry Robot and I have a marvelous relationship, and my characters are my own, so I can’t imagine a scenario in which this would happen. But I will say this: there’s a right way and a wrong way to do anything. Did I think the latter DUNE books sucked? Yeah, a little. But at the other end of the spectrum, there are truly marvelous additions to beloved characters’ canons, like Anthony Horowitz’s wonderful new Sherlock Holmes tale THE HOUSE OF SILK. I’m not vain enough to think my series will be as beloved as those of Herbert and Doyle, I only bring them up to make the point that so long as the baton is passed into the right hands, such endeavors aren’t always doomed to fail.

M(DW): You were nominated for a few awards and won a Spinetingler Award. Is winning awards an objective for you as a writer? The fact that your works are nominated for certain awards has an influence on your writing career?
CFH: Are they an objective? No. Writing toward the goal of winning awards is a fool’s errand; the best you can hope for while you’re writing is to serve the story. But do I want them? Yup. Awards and nominations serve as validation, recognition of a job well done. I don’t mean to say they’re the only form of validation that matters – online reviews, tweets, and emails from folks who liked my book are just as gratifying. But it’s important to remember awards aren’t handed down from on high, or spit out by that weird-ass computer program that decides all the college football bowl-game matchups – they’re voted on by fans, peers, and sometimes even idols. If I claimed the opinions of all those folks didn’t matter to me, I’d be lying.
As for whether my nominations (and one lonely win) have influenced my career, they absolutely have. Each one of them served to increase my profile within the writing community. Each one made me a little bolder in my artistic choices, because they encouraged me to trust my gut – to push myself. And each one has boosted my sales at least a little – no small matter when I’m trying to make a living from this gig.

M(DW): Besides “The Wrong Goodbye” what do you have in plan for the future? At what are you working at the moment?
CFH: Fame. Fortune. Ruling the world with an iron fist from the safety of my gold-plated moon base. Also, probably, some writing.
In all seriousness, right now I’m working on a straight-ahead crime thriller based on my short story “The Hitter.” It’s the first time I’ve ever tried to expand a shorter work into a novel, and I’m quite excited by how it’s turning out. It’s an entirely different beast from the story from whence it sprung.
After that, I hope to dig into the third Collector novel. Or maybe a country noir tale I’ve been jotting notes down for. Or this weird little alien-abduction conspiracy story I’ve had in my head for the better part of a decade. Point is, right now – thanks to my promotional obligations and day job both – I’ve got more ideas than time to write them. And, though it’s occasionally exhausting, I sure ain’t complaining. I’ve been damn lucky to get to where I’m at, and besides, nobody ever said chasing your dreams was easy.

Thank you very much for your time and answers.
Thanks for having me!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Book trailer - "Rasputin's Bastards" by David Nickle

A powerful mix of publisher’s pedigree, captivating synopsis and great cover artwork made me place David Nickle’s upcoming novel, “Rasputin’s Bastards”, high on my wish list. With the end of Cold War (or maybe not) plenty of ink flowed on the subject, but it seems that none of the results sounded more appealing to me as this novel. I did not need more convincing to buy David Nickle’s novel, but the recently launched website dedicated to “Rasputin’s Bastards” and the book trailer add new methods to pass the time more easily until this very interesting looking novel is released by Chizine Publications on June, 26th.

They were the beautiful dreamers. From a hidden city deep in the Ural mountains, they walked the world as the coldest of Cold Warriors, under the command of the Kremlin and under the power of their own expansive minds. They slipped into the minds of Russia's enemies with diabolical ease, and drove their human puppets to murder, and worse. They moved as Gods. And as Gods, they might have remade the world. But like the mad holy man Rasputin, who destroyed Russia through his own powerful influence . . . in the end, the psychic spies for the Motherland were only in it for themselves.

It is the 1990s. The Cold War is long finished. In a remote Labrador fishing village, an old woman known only as Babushka foresees her ending through the harbour ice, in the giant eye of a dying kraken–and vows to have none of it. Beaten insensible and cast adrift in a life raft, ex-KGB agent Alexei Kilodovich is dragged to the deck of a ship full of criminals, and with them he will embark on a journey that will change everything he knows about himself. And from a suite in an unseen hotel in the heart of Manhattan, an old warrior named Kolyokov sets out with an open heart, to gather together the youngest members of his immense, and immensely talented, family. They are more beautiful, and more terrible, than any who came before them. They are Rasputin's bastards. And they will remake the world.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

"The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse" by Fredrik Brounéus

"The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse"
by Fredrik Brounéus
Publisher: Steam Press
Review copy received through the courtesy of the publisher, Steam Press

What happens when we die?
This has been the third question on mankind's FAQ list since the dawn of time (numbers one and two being: Is this edible? and Excuse me, would you care to breed?).
I know what happens. Believe me, I'd rather not. But I do.
There is a lighthouse, and it guides our souls along the narrow path to being reborn as humans. It's the light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, as my undead granddad and the Tibetan special mission monk in my kitchen have kindly told me, there's a problem with the lighthouse. And if the world is to be saved, someone needs to fix it.
Which is where I come in: George Larson, eighteen years old. Who could possibly be better suited to save the world?
Well, almost anyone. Especially as being a teenage guy is nothing at all about question three but all about questions one and two.
And really, that's complicated enough as it is.

One of the latest and most widely spread trends in the literary world is that of the Northern European crime fiction. It is a praiseworthy trend to a certain degree, but not entirely, because while it opens the doors of the Northern European literature to the world it narrows the opening to a particular genre. That doesn’t mean that a reader should follow this trend to the letter, on the contrary, one should take it as a suggestion for an attempt to discover an entire new literary zone.

Following my own advice I went in search of Northern European writers and discovered a Swedish author, Fredrik Brounéus, who crossed the globe to New Zealand to make his debut in English with the science fiction novel, “The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse”. I say the debut novel in English because before moving to New Zealand in 2009 Fredrik Brounéus published a children’s novel and a young adult one and also a non-fiction children’s book in Swedish. The desire to expand my personal acknowledge of Northern European literature mixed with my love for speculative fiction resulted only naturally in my curiosity about Fredrik Brounéus’ novel, “The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse”.

However, I am facing a dilemma when it comes to reviewing “The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse”, because as much as I pushed myself forward I was not able to finish Fredrik Brounéus’ novel. I managed to reach its halfway point, but unable to continue reading it to its end. I say with all the honesty that I did try to read the novel in full, but for the past year and a half my personal schedule became even tighter and reached a point in which I have to cut things down. It also transformed me in a more impatient reader and if I can’t find enough reasons for reading a book entirely I tend to move from it faster than before. That is the reason for asking myself if it is appropriate for me to write a review, but then again I also need to explain why this particular novel didn’t work for me to its full extent.

I said that my patience tends to run thin quickly nowadays, but despite putting that patience to a test “The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse” did have a few things that sustained the reading until half of the way. Fredrik Brounéus’ novel offered me plenty of hilarious moments through good humor and amusing main character. George Larson leaves the impression of a teenager without fault, has concerns that reminded me in part of my high-school years and offers plenty of witty comments to brighten the reader’s mood. Besides this pleasant character Fredrik Brounéus also creates hilarious situation and dialogues that are a true delight and more than once reaped burst of laughs from my part.

Unfortunately, as much as I enjoyed all the humorous elements of the novel they were not enough to sustain the aspects that fell short for “The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse”. Close after the beginning of the novel it is clear that George Larson is one key element in a world-shattering upcoming event and has a great destiny ahead of him. The question is why? Well, I could not find the answer for this essential question in the first half of the story. As a matter of fact more things concerning George Larson’s destiny are revealed in the novel’s synopsis rather than the actual story. It is also clear from early beginning that another key element is the Lighthouse, but the question that arises again is why. And again more answers can be found in the novel’s synopsis than in the first half of it.

These speak of the novel’s pace and rhythm as well, which is a very slow one. Nothing much seems to happen to move the story forward, the characters move from a point to another in a crawling manner and the important details of the plot are kept in the dark just because George Larson has to adapt his mind to the sort of unusual information he has to receive. But that is put at odds by the fact that not even once George Larson questions the abnormal things that are happening to him, the majority of them as unusual as the pieces of information he should receive. Even more disconcerting is the point within the story that shatters the importance of George Larson’s mission to small pieces. If the main character and the lighthouse hold such a massive importance to the world’s existence at the time the story takes place than why George’s failure has no importance because he will get a chance in a next life and another after that and so on?

I am not sure how the second half of Fredrik Brounéus“The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse” is, but as much as I was entertained by the novel’s humor the pace and meaningless plot unfolded in the first half made me lose any curiosity I had in the story’s end.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Table of contents - Phantasmagorium #3

Phantasmagorium is a new arrival on the horror short fiction market, but this quarterly magazine already made an impression. With a strong first issue (for which I’ll have a review soon) and a stronger second one (reviewed here) Phantasmagorium found easily its way on my watch list. The first two issues of Phantasmagorium were edited by Laird Barron, but from the third issue, due to be released this month, the editorial position is taken by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. Laird Barron made an excellent job with the first two appearances of Phantasmagorium, but I am convinced that Joseph S. Pulver will maintain the quality of this notable magazine. My confidence comes from the previous encounters I had with Joseph Pulver’s fiction, in “The Best Horror of the Year Volume 3” and “The Book of Cthulhu, but also from the appetizing table of contents he assembled for the third issue:

“The Sour Aftertaste of Olive Lemon” by Cate Gardner
“Nature’s Mother” by Cody Goodfellow
“Blown Out” by Ann K. Schwader
“To Walk the Night” by Edward Morris
“Coptic Light” by Michael Cisco

The new issue of Phantasmagorium will be released on 13th of May.