Album review: Threatpoint – R.I.P

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Hailing from Scranton, Pennsylvania, Threatpoint’s album R.I.P kicks you straight in the guts from the opening song, the punishing title track R.I.P. Vocally, Chris James has got a voice similar to Ivan Moody from Five Finger Death Punch and the bands sound also has that groove metal vibe to it, similar to their Las Vegas peers. The best way to describe Threatpoint is no-nonsense metal. The drums gallop along at a frantic pace whilst the guitars are crushingly heavy. The vocals are delivered with passion and aggression, much to my delight and the bass is tight.

I like it when a band breathes fire with their opening song and Threatpoint do that here. R.I.P is a straightforward face-melting blast of solid groove metal that features a catchy chorus. A very solid start to the album. ‘Deadend Machineland’ is another solid track, nice chorus and some great guitar, too. ‘Tombstones of my Enemies’ starts off with a brooding guitar then kicks on into familiar groove-metal territory. It is a song that reminds me a little of Chimera, which is no bad thing. ‘Thy Will Be Done’ is a punishingly heavy track that I can well imagine sounds intense and brutal in a live setting. ‘Light Bleeds Through the Black’ sees the bass guitar take centre stage a little with its rumbling intro. A spoken word verse is a welcome change in pace before the chugging chorus kicks in.

We are starting to get a real feel as to what Threatpoint are about by now. The band have a solid foundation of songs which are often bruising and brutal, though they do have their slightly softer moments also, both musically and vocally.

‘Bury the Wicked’ picks the pace up again, vocalist Chris James spitting venom through the verse, similarly with ‘Laugh Now, Cry Later’ – two solid metal tracks. ‘Writings on the Wall’ kind of reminded me of Amon Amarth, especially the chugging guitar riff and the vocal delivery of James leaning towards a more death-like growl. ‘One in the Chamber…One in the Chest’ is the albums shortest track and has some nice bass running through the verse. It’s a cool track and one of my favourites from the album. ‘Face Your Fear’ has a real old-school vibe to it, especially the chorus and ‘Angels with Broken Wings’ is again a little different with a catchy chorus featuring some cool backing vocals.

The album finishes with ‘Death Rides Again’. I always think the first and last songs on your record should be amongst your best. Leave the listener with a reason to come back, that’s what I think. ‘Death Rides Again’ has a little bit of a hardcore, Hatebreed vibe to it, with crowd chants during the chorus it’s a great way to finish the album.

All said, R.I.P has some slamming tunes on it, perfect pit-fodder and some nice variety, too. An impressive outing from Threatpoint.

Find out more about Threatpoint from here.

Book review: This Book Ain’t Nuttin to F**k With: Wu-Tang tribute anthology

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This has to be one of the best concepts for an anthology I have come across in some time. It is unique in that the Wu-Tang clan as a unit have created this whole martial arts mythology that surrounds them and their output…but, how does a book about the Clan represent?!

Well, largely this anthology is impressive. The stories are all quite short, some are great, some are good and I’ll be honest in saying there isn’t one particular story I didn’t like to some degree. The contributors and editors have come up with a wide variety of stories. From crime, to literary fiction and even some Bizarro as well. The book works because the writers are clearly fans of the group and embrace the mythology of the Wu. All Clan members get some stage time and there are numerous mentions of Wu solo albums and tracks. Good stuff.

It would be very stereotypical of you to expect a book full of gangsta stories, although ‘Big Ghetto Boys’ from Gabino Iglesias kicks things off with some hard-nosed crime fiction that feels like an episode taken from his ‘Zero Saints’ novel. It’s a no-nonsense Wu-inspired gangsta story that in less capable hands would feel forced. Fortunately Gabino keeps his flow tight, dropping a serious fiction tune, tiger-style! Charles Austin Muir also slams and has come up with one of the best story titles in any anthology I have read. ‘The Raekwonomicon’ is equally bizarre and brilliant and as far away from Gabino’s story as you could possibly get. Could it all be so simple? No, but the Ironman delivers and it’s two from two. Joshua Chaplinsky then draws his Liquid Swords for ‘Supreme Mathematics: A Cypher’ – It is short and sweet, but I loved it. Elsewhere, other highlights came from Andy Raush with ‘The Night Ol’ Dirty Ba****d Came To Hoboken’, very amusing, particularly the dialogue from ODB! Laura Lee Bar also delivers a solid track of Wu-goodness and I loved ‘HellRZA’ by Aaron Besson. ‘PCP & Meth & Molly & Alcohol & No Sleep by J. David Osborne was….weird, but fun and it provided something a little different.

Overall, ‘This Book Ain’t Nuttin Ta F**k With’ is a varied and thoroughly entertaining collection of hip-hop fiction. If you love the band, you will get a lot from this book. For fans with little or no interest in the Clan, it’s difficult to see whether or not they will dig it, such are the stories so rooted in the Wu-mythos.

It isn’t the literary equivalent of ‘Enter The Wu-Tang’, It’s more like ‘Wu-Tang Forever’ where there are some moments of greatness sandwiched between other likeable bangers.

4/5 stars

Pick up a copy from here.

Interview with Thomas S. Flowers

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Thomas S. Flowers is a writer who resides in Houston, Texas. His work primarily lurks within the darker regions of fiction. A lover of both film and fiction, Thomas has a very busy blog over at machineman.org. His latest fiction release is ‘Conceiving’, the third book in a series of finely crafted dark fiction tales that follow a group of friends brought together by the trauma of war, finding themselves drawn towards a mysterious house in Jotham, Texas where malevolent forces stir…

Sounds cool, right?!

Anyway, I thought it about time I had Mr Flowers over for a yarn about books, movies and also to find out what the ‘S’ stands for in his name…

Read on, dear follower, read on…

TGR: G’Day there, Thomas. We know you’re a writer, but tell us something about who Thomas S. Flowers is outside of his writing.

TSF: Well, besides writing really awesome books, I’m a father and a husband. My family has been my biggest support base, both in my career and living a life outside of the Army. Our weeks are typically filled with various activities, but on the weekends we spend as much time together as we can. Taking trips to the Houston Zoo or the Natural History Museum. And as my wife and I are both bibliophiles, we hop around different bookstores around town, adding to our already impressive collection.

TGR: What does the “S” stand for in your name?

TSF: Sanford…I know, don’t say it…

TGR: Where does your love of fiction and film come from? Is it something that is passed down from your parents?

TSF: I’m not sure if it was passed down, though my dad and I share a love for action and science fiction movies, one of the few things we have in common. It’s hard to say when my love for horror came about. I like to say that my older sister helped. We used to have Friday night movie nights at the house growing up, just the two of us. We’d get popcorn, candy, pizza, soda, the works. One time she rented Night of the Living Dead and it blew my mind. I wasn’t huge into horror or movies at the time, but I certainly started to lean towards the dark after that. There was another time I had watched Child’s Play without permission. Well, my sister found out and began tormenting me by moving around this My Buddy doll my parents gave me and leaving notes beside it, “You wanna play?” Freaked me out. No one knows what happened to My Buddy, but I’m fairly certain it’s buried out somewhere in the yard.

TGR: When did you decide, you wanted to become a writer? And why?

TSF: It didn’t start with the notion of “hey, I’m going to be a writer now.” This writing business started more or less as a desire to tell a story. I’ve always enjoyed writing, even stuff most people find utterly boring, like history papers for school. I did some poetry during my deployments to Iraq, but never thought about publishing. When I got out and did the night school thing, finishing my Bachelor’s in History, I had this massive pocket of mental space that I was no longer using. I’ve been able to cope with a lot of the baggage from serving during war by keeping my head busy. I knew I needed to do something. My largest focus during school was on Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, taking survey classes and propaganda classes, and straight up Holocaust classes, around the same time of the immigration issues going on here in Texas. Children were coming up from South America needing medical attention. Immigration has always been a hot topic here in the States since the 1880s. But these were kids for fuck sake. You wouldn’t believe the paranoia coming out of people’s mouths around here, all the xenophobia, the fear of “the other.” Thinking back to what I’d just studied and devoted years learning, I felt compelled to tell a story. Reinheit, my first novel, came from this want, this need to say something. And the rest, as they say, is history.

TGR: Somebody asks me where to start with your fiction. What do I tell them?

TSF: I always like to guide people to my first novel, Reinheit. It’s not tiresomely long, or is it overtly preachy. But there is a message there, and it’s the first, which makes the rest that much better as I’ve developed (hopefully) as a writer.

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TGR: Since your first published story, how do you think you have improved as a writer?

TSF: With each story, novel or short or novella, is a chance to practice, to hone my craft. I like to think each book is an improvement from the last. Each book that’s published is my new favourite because I feel it shows my current progress as a writer.

TGR: Do you plan when you’re writing or is it more free-flowing than that?

TSF: I don’t really outline, so much. Reinheit was basically just an idea and then I started writing, allowing the characters to take control. The same with Dwelling and Emerging and Conceiving. All born from just an idea or notion I’d like to move towards. The characters more or less wrote the story. While I do not outline, sometimes I’ll stop in the middle of a work and try and write a brief synopsis, basically just to see where I’m going, if I’m still moving towards the original idea or if the idea has changed in some way. This is the way I write and everyone has their own method.

TGR: Do you edit your work as you go or wait until you have completed a few chapters?

TSF: 98% of everything I write starts out as longhand in a one subject notebook. This way, I can keep my stream of consciousness flowing without being tempted to edit as I go. When I transfer what I’ve penned into MS Word, I consider that stage to be my major edit. After everything has been typed up, I typically go through the story again, ensuring everything flows and makes sense. After that, it’s off to the publisher. When I story is accepted, the publisher will send the story to their editors for thus another round of edits. And still, after all this, the story then goes through a proof-reader. Even here, with all this, there will still be mistakes and readers are never shy to tell you about them.

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TGR: Your most recent release, Conceiving, is the third book in the subdue series. Can you tell us about it and did you always plan on this being a trilogy or has it just turned into a sort of runaway train?

TSF: Originally, there was only one book called Subdue. But it was rather long and my publisher suggested we turn it into a series. So we ended up with Dwelling and Emerging. Conceiving came about a few months after the release of Emerging, thinking to myself, “there’s more here, isn’t there? Am I ready to give up on these characters?” And the answer obviously was no. but I do not think this is a runaway train. There’s a bigger game being played here. Conceiving focuses more on just a few select characters instead of a swarm (insider joke if you’d read the books). We got a real good look at these otherworldly beings in the end of Emerging and with the way things ended, it didn’t feel right to me that they’d be so easily defeated. The Nashirimah are not from this world, or dimension for that matter, but I’m divulging perhaps too much. Conceiving follows that next step in the evolution of Subdue. In Dwelling and Emerging we witnessed what they normally do, their modus operandi, how they feed. But when that didn’t work, now we have to wonder, can they adapt to intervention? If there’s one thing we can say about insects, from Earth or not, is their keen ability at overcoming obstacles.

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TGR: I know you are an Army veteran. How did your time served impact on the creation and writing of the Subdue series?

TSF: My experiences in war directly influenced the structure and characters in both Dwelling and Emerging. And in way, will always have an effect on everything that I write. My experiences are a part of who I am. I can’t just cut it out of me. However, as Subdue continues, those themes are playing less centre stage. While Bobby, one of the original five characters, still struggles with PTSD and living with traumatic memory, the focus has shifted to other themes I find important, themes such as parenthood and the importance of family.

TGR: What can readers expect from the ‘Subdue’ series?

TSF: Expect rich characterizations. I pride myself, good or bad, on developing realistic characters with real motivations. In the first two books (Dwelling & Emerging), expect a heavy focus on veteran issues, but told, hopefully, in an entertainingly horrifying way. Conceiving drifts away from that, able to stand on its own really. There is also dribbles of history in my writing, so you can expect some foundation.

TGR: I can see from your blog that you’re a big movie fan too. What is your favourite movie, and how have movies influenced your writing?

TSF: My favourite movie of all time is John Carpenter’s “The Thing” (1982). I’m a fan of nihilism, especially in storytelling. Sometimes, there are no bad or happy (good) endings. Sometimes things just end with a whole lot of questions still left unanswered. A lot of really good horror ends that way, unanswered questions. But that’s not horror’s job, is it? Horror doesn’t give the answers, it forces the questions we don’t want to ask. As far as influences, just about everything plays an influence for me. For Conceiving, “Rosemary’s Baby” was a huge influence, as was H.P. Lovecraft’s mythos, and “Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman.”

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TGR: This is just a personal opinion, but a lot of horror movies these days seem to be leaning towards a more art-style horror. They look great, have killer soundtracks and tend to go for mood rather than out-and-out, in-your-face horror, I’m thinking of movies like The Neon Demon and even It Follows to a certain extent. For me, I always want to go back to the days of body horror movies like “The Fly” and “The Thing.” Simple movies, 90 minutes in length, plenty of blood and gore. What do you think of the current crop of horror movies invading our cinemas?

TSF: I remember when “It Follows” was coming out to only select theatres. It was a “big deal.” They had a showing not far from where I live so I went late one night and screened the movie. The beginning was pretty great and as you said the soundtrack was very Carpenter synthwave type stuff. And the message was very…obvious. But as far as storytelling goes, it was…okay. I liked it, but I wasn’t blown away, “It Follows” was far from anything ground-breaking as some trolls would make you believe. I think we’ll always have those art-horror films, they are in themselves a sub-genre almost. The cool thing about older horror movies, as you mentioned “The Fly,” body-horror, was very in your face, great practical effects, but those movies also had a message too, some far deeper than these art-horror flicks coming out nowadays. There are literally philosophical articles written on the existential meaning behind “The Fly” that could have been tackled in “It Follows,” if the director and story writers hadn’t been so crude with their delivery. Thankfully, that’s not all that’s being offered. In 2016, there were a few rather good horror flicks, including “Don’t Breathe,” “The Conjuring 2,” “10 Cloverfield Lane,” “Hush,” and “The Wailing,” among others.

TGR: Back to writing and the publishing industry is constantly challenging and changing. How has it changed for you since your first release? Is it getting more and more difficult to get noticed and what do you think the future has in store for small presses and Indie authors?

TSF: I’ve been doing this publishing stuff since 2014, just coming on 3 years now. That’s not a long time to really notice any changes. What I has happened in that short space, is how much I’ve been able to learn and experiment with. I started as a self-publisher, without much of a clue. Soon after, I got with Booktrope, which was a hybrid-publisher. They went under a year later, but while with them I was able to gain several contacts. I’m fortunate to have this really tight circle of peers since almost the beginning. And we’ve all adapted in different ways. Some taking similar paths, others different paths. I don’t think it’s getting harder to get noticed, I think it just takes a little longer for some. And I can talk all day on different marketing strategies and theories. There is no one formula, or one way to go about things. Each writer will need to experiment for themselves. Personally, I’ve got my thumb in more than one pot. I still self-pub, but I do so through my team with Shadow Work Publishing. I also have stuff with small press varying in different sizes, Limitless Publishing is the biggest of the small presses that I’m with. I do novels, novellas, and submit short stories with anthologies. And as you stated here, I run Machine Mean, reviewing horror movies and books, brining on other writers, all in an attempt to not only gain more exposure, but to have fun doing it, to be a content provider. If anything new writers or even old writers need to consider, it’s being versatile. Think outside the box.

TGR: What three books would you recommend to somebody who has never read a horror book before but wants to know of a good place to start?

Salem’s Lot is my favourite book and I will recommend this one any day of the week. Next, All Quiet on the Western Front, not technically horror, but filled with plenty of horrific imagery. Clive Barker’s Books of Blood collection. Short story collections are a great place to get a feel without having to commit a ton of time reading to see if you like the genre or not.

TGR: What three movies would you recommend to a horror newbie?

“Alien” (1979) is a pretty good place to start. Not overtly graphic. Just filled with fantastic scenery and characters and mood. “Dawn of the Dead” (1978) would be my second pick, as I would be amiss not to mention at least one George A. Romero film. While “The Thing” is my all-time favourite horror flick, for newbies, I’d have to go with “The Exorcist” (1973). If they can get through this classic and still want more, they’re as good as gold. Or as good as flies, projectile vomit, you get the picture.

TGR: What are you currently working on now and what does the rest of 2017 have in store for Thomas S. Flowers?

TSF: I’m really excited about 2017. I’m aiming at stepping up my publishing game this year. I should have a collection, my first, releasing sometime here soon, February I hope. In March, I plan on pushing out Dark Designs with Shadow Work Publishing, which will be my first anthology that I’ve taken lead on. The next Subdue book comes out in the spring. A short novel for a summer release, I hope. A few other anthologies, and that’s just within the first 6 months of this year.

TGR: Where can folk find you?

TSF: Come on by the blog, machinemean.org, we’ve got a brand new series going on this year, Creature Features in Review, and loads of other content, totally free. You can find me on Twitter @MachineMeanNow and on Facebook as Thomas S. Flowers. And if you want to take a look at my books directly, visit the great altar of Amazon under the name Thomas S. Flowers.

TGR: Thomas, you’re a gent. Thanks for your time and all the best.

TSF: Thanks for having me.

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Follow along the tour with these hashtags: #Conceiving #SubdueSeries #paranormal #HookofaBook

Conceiving, Synopsis

  • Print Length: 356 pages
  • Publisher: Limitless Publishing

Dark things are dwelling in Jotham, Texas. Malicious forces are seen emerging from the sinister house on Oak Lee Road…

With little memory of the events that took the lives of his friends, Bobby Weeks tries to move on with his life, and finds a job at a warehouse on Galveston Island. The evil in Jotham won’t leave him behind, though. Strangers from the cursed town find him, offering information about what happened to his friends. It all leads back to Baelo University…back to Jotham.

Luna Blanche has always been gifted, but now she must use those gifts to save Bobby…

Luna goes to the Mississippi Delta to take care of her dying grandmother. She misses Bobby, and when she attempts to see Bobby through her mind, all she finds is a deadly future. Fearing his life is in danger, she leaves the Delta and searches for him in Jotham.

Neville and Boris Petry want nothing more than the picturesque American Dream…

After Boris accepts a new job teaching at Baelo University, the Petrys move to Jotham to finally live out their dream. Following a drunken faculty party, Neville discovers she is pregnant. She should be ecstatic, but dreadful dreams lead her to feel as if something is wrong with the baby, her husband…and the school.

Four destinies bound on a collision course, a plot conceived in the shadows of Jotham…and an evil biding its time…waiting for them all.

Dwelling, Book One in the Subdue Series

A group of inseparable childhood friends are now adults, physically and psychologically devastated by war…

A horrifying creature emerges from a sandstorm just before Ricky Smith dies in battle. Forced to leave base housing, his widow Maggie buys a home on Oak Lee Road in the town of Jotham. Maggie is isolated in the historic house…and disconcerted by strange clicking sounds inside the walls.

Jonathan Steele attempts to drink the painful past away…

Jonathan was wounded in that fateful battle and now suffers from PTSD. He wants to put the nightmare behind him, but when Ricky’s ghost appears with cryptic warnings about Maggie’s house, he begins to question his sanity.

Bobby Weeks is a homeless veteran struggling with a lycanthropic curse…

Afraid of bringing harm, Bobby stays far away from those he loves. But after a full moon, a mysterious woman approaches him and reveals a vision about a house with a sinister presence, and he realizes staying away might no longer be an option.

Minister Jake Williams lost his faith on the battlefield…

While Jake will do anything to reconnect with God, he turns to vices to fill the religious void. But a church elder urges him to take a sabbatical, and a ghost tells him to quit the ministry, and his life is more out of control than ever.

When Maggie wakes in a strange subterranean cavern, she can’t deny her home harbors dark secrets. Desperate, she sends letters to her old friends to reunite in Jotham, and events conspire to draw them all to the house…unaware of the danger awaiting them.

The friends have already been through hell, but can any of them survive the evil dwelling beneath the House on Oak Lee?

Emerging, Book Two in the Subdue Series

Traumatized by war, friends gather for a reluctant reunion…

A historic house in Jotham, Texas harbors a malevolent force, and as her fear grows, widow Maggie Smith pleads with three lifelong friends to gather in her home. But will their presence combat the darkness…or feed it?

Minister Jake Williams fears Maggie has had a breakdown…

Feeling he has no choice, Jake locates the other intended guest, Bobby Weeks, who agrees to go with him but struggles with keeping his lycanthropic curse hidden.

Jonathan Steele, a wounded veteran battling PTSD, arrives with his disgruntled wife. After drinking too much at dinner, Jonathan insults the homeless Bobby, and Bobby is missing from the house the next morning.

The dark past of Maggie’s home awakens in the present…

Jake, whose faith is in doubt, confides in a local priest while he and Jonathan search for Bobby, and Ricky’s ghost makes another visit to Jonathan, causing him to become fixated on saving Maggie from the evil that surrounds her.

As the danger intensifies, trust is elusive, and betrayal is certain…

Maggie might be lost, Bobby confronts a terrible choice, and Jake and Jonathan fight to save them all—before they become more victims of the horror emerging beneath the deadly house in Jotham.

Thomas Flowers, Biography

Thomas S. Flowers is the published author of several character driven stories of dark fiction. He resides in Houston, Texas, with his wife and daughter.

He is published with The Sinister Horror Company’s horror anthology The Black Room Manuscripts. His debut novel, Reinheit, is published with Shadow Work Publishing, along with The Incredible Zilch Von Whitstein and Apocalypse Meow. His military/paranormal thriller series, The Subdue Books, Dwelling, Emerging and Conceiving, are published with Limitless Publishing, LLC.

In 2008, he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army where he served for seven years, with three tours serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

In 2014, Thomas graduated from University of Houston Clear Lake with a BA in History.

He blogs at machinemean.org, where he does author interviews and reviews on a wide range of strange yet oddly related topics. You can learn more about Thomas and all his strange writings by joining his mailing list at http://goo.gl/2CozdE.

Praise for Thomas S Flowers III

“Thomas S Flowers is a fantastic writer. There is no other way of putting it. He writes a single book but has so many different writing styles within that single book that all come together beautifully to present you with a story that totally engrosses you.” – Confessions of a Reviewer

“Thomas S. Flowers has allowed this story to brew slowly, allowing the mystery and horror of the house on Oak Lee Road to reveal itself bit by bit. The author is a master of taking an everyday, normal object and twisting it into a horrific monstrosity—Greg at 2 Book Lovers Reviews

“A page-turning, emotional book with shades of Stephen King’s IT and the best parts of Peter Straub’s KOKO. Thomas Flowers has written an extremely personal book of friendship, loss, and trauma that deserves praise not just for its sharp characterization but also its brutal honesty.” – Duncan Ralston, author of Salvage, on Dwelling

Purchase Links

Conceiving – Book Three

Amazon

Dwelling – Book One

Amazon

Emerging – Book Two

Amazon

Limitless Publishing offers all three books in one digital boxed set for a low price as well or read with Kindle Unlimited!

Get it here!

Want to Feature?

If you’re a media site, blogger, or radio/podcast host, and you’d like to feature Thomas S Flowers or review Conceiving please contact Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail.com.

 

 

Book review: Black Static #56

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‘Black Static’ is a magazine that has been on my reading radar for some time. Time doesn’t always allow for one to read everything one wants unfortunately and it wasn’t until this current issue (#56) that The Grim Reader managed to peruse and enjoy its contents.

Suffice to say, ‘Black Static’ is indeed a high-quality publication, particularly from a fiction point-of-view. Let’s get a little negative out-of-the-way first and foremost. I wasn’t keen on the opening two non-fiction pieces. I quite enjoyed the article by Lynda E. Rucker but the second piece was more of a ramble and I soon found I lost interest. It was really the stories I was interested in and they certainly didn’t disappoint!

The fiction is, after all, where ‘Black Static’ will ultimately be judged. The editors have a reputation as being hard nuts to crack, from the point of view of the many authors that have tried (and often failed) to get published inside of its pages. Having now read the magazine I feel I am halfway to understanding the sort of dark fiction the editors are looking for. Each piece contains a shimmering dark quality to it. Not the in-your-face style storytelling, but a much quieter approach where tension and atmosphere take centre stage. ‘The Green Eye’ by Scott Nicolay was a very interesting way to get things going. A sort of weird coming-of-age tale that ends rather abruptly before Nicolay then goes on to tell his own personal tale and how some real-life influences impacted on the story. It shouldn’t really work, but it does, really well, and I actually found Nicolay’s own insights to be absorbing and interesting, even more so than the fictitious piece itself. The story by Eric Shaller is a fine, fine piece of supernatural fiction, one that oozes quality in an atmospheric and haunting story that is sure to be remembered once finished. Similarly, with the tale from Danny Rhodes, a story that broods and simmers with quiet unease as a father and son embark upon a camping trip. This story, whilst only short asks many questions. It’s beautifully written and I loved it. An emotional story by Eugenia M. Triantafyllou follows and I am beginning to see why this magazine is so revered.

The rest of the stories have an equal amount of quality to them, leaving this reader very happy indeed. Elsewhere, an in-depth interview with Stephen Volk and some book/movie reviews work well to break things up.

‘Black Static’ has cemented itself at the very top of the dark fiction tree with its impressive stories. As a whole the magazine is skilfully put together, well-edited and the accompanying artworks are superb. I just wish I hadn’t left it so long to discover this great magazine.

4.5/5 stars

Pick up a copy from here.

Book review: The Autumn War – Ani Fox

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‘The Autumn War’ by Ani Fox is a little bit like James Bond meets Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger. It’s high-octane stuff with a protagonist that is quick-witted but even quicker on the trigger. The body count is high and head shots are a regular occurrence.

There is a lot to like about this debut novel from Ani Fox. The pacing is frantic, there are some cool characters and a lot of ideas at play. There are factions within factions, these covert syndicates are playing a game of chess with each other and they care little about who gets hurt. Our protagonist is called Spetz. Spetz is on a mission, looking for answers after the death of his family his journey takes him far and wide, pitting him against a host of bad guys including crazy scientists, genetically engineered super-humans and more.

Like I said earlier, fans of Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger books will find a lot to like here. Spetz is very much in the Ledger mould; a fast-talking bad-ass with an itchy trigger finger and the uncanny ability to pull off a head shot with the utmost of ease. The action scenes are well-played out and the writing is sharp. Spetz is at times a little too good, bordering on indestructible and I’d certainly like to see other areas of his personality explored in further books. Similarly with Zeus – a character who I’d like to have seen used a lot more I think. Zeus sounds great but serves as more of a background character and I was real keen for an epic confrontation between him and Spetz. Still, these are only minor niggles in a book where it is easy to lose yourself in the intricate plot, brutal action scenes and fast pacing.

‘The Autumn War’ is definitely a timely book, given everything that has happened between the US and Russia during the election. It is a story with other stories running in the background and it keeps you on your toes! ‘The Autumn War’ is a full-on cyberpunk thriller and a shed load of fun.

4/5 stars

Pick up a copy from here.

The Grim Reader chats with S.T. Cartledge about ‘The Orphanarium’ and Bizarro fiction

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S.T. Cartledge is a writer of poetry and Bizarro/weird fiction currently sweating in Western Australia (it’s summer over here, and it is damn hot). His book ‘House Hunter’ was one of the NBAS (New Bizarro Author Series) books in 2012. Soon Mr Cartledge will have a new book published through Eraserhead Press called ‘The Orphanarium’. Check out the cover art below, it’s a doozy!!

Anyway, I thought it high time I caught up with the man to have a chat about writing, his forthcoming book and to ask him what are his top 5 Bizarro books and just what the hell is Bizarro fiction?

TGR: I live on the Gold Coast, it’s damn hot here at present but you guys in WA really cop some serious heat. So, how are you handling the summer?!

STC: Ducted refrigerated air-conditioning. I don’t know how I survived without it. My partner’s parents have a pool, so there’s that too.

TGR: Tell us a little about your journey to writing. Where did it begin? Were you a big reader when you were younger and who were you reading as you grew up?

STC: I’ve always been a reader. I remember reading Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights Trilogy at a young age. I read a bunch of children’s fantasy and science fiction, as well as a bunch of John Marsden books (the Tomorrow Series in particular), and when I didn’t know what to read I usually borrowed a John Grisham novel from my parents. I started writing as a hobby when I was about 17 and starting to read a bit of H.P. Lovecraft. I went through a phase where my writing attempted to echo the authors I was reading at the time, Lovecraft, Chuck Palahniuk, Bret Easton Ellis. Basically, what I thought was cool and edgy, I tried to be those authors. When I discovered Bizarro, all rules went out the window and I just started writing whatever I felt like.

TGR: Is there much of a writing scene over in WA? If there is, are you actively involved with it?

STC: When it comes to fiction, it’s hard to say. I haven’t found a thriving scene, but I haven’t actively looked for one. There are a few book launches that come up on my radar, but nothing that really rips me out of the house. I’ve kind of found my home in Perth’s poetry scene. There’s a strange mix of content and styles with many overtones of distance and isolation. There are a lot of good local poets doing some pretty great stuff, and I’ve been lucky to be involved in a bunch of it.

TGR: There are people out there who have no idea what Bizarro fiction is, how would you describe it to a newbie?

STC: It’s a genre which defies conventions. It captures your imagination in ways that are far less common in other speculative genres like sci-fi or fantasy. It embraces the surreal and the absurd. It takes your wildest dreams and runs with it. There are no limits.

TGR: What was your first exposure to the genre and how do you think it has changed over the years?

STC: My first exposure was a short story called Candy Coated, by Carlton Mellick III. It’s probably still up online at Vice. From there I picked up Satan Burger by Mellick, and Lost in Cat Brain Land by Cameron Pierce. Bizarro has expanded so much in the time I’ve been reading/writing it. I think the writers themselves have grown and evolved a lot. They’re either pushing themselves further as writers, going for more complex narratives, or their writing has matured on to more complex themes and topics.

TGR: Outside of reading and writing, what else inspires you? Are you a movie fan and if so what are your favourite movies?

STC: I’m an anime fan, so I find myself drawing inspiration from works like Neon Genesis Evangelion, Kill la Kill, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and directors like Hayao Miyazaki, Satoshi Kon, Mamoru Hosoda, and Shinichiro Watanabe. Some of my favourite anime films are Ponyo, Paprika, and Wolf Children. Some of my favourite live action films are Inglourious Basterds, Watchmen, the Big Lebowski, and Mad Max: Fury Road.

TGR: Tell us about ‘House Hunter’, your first publication through Eraserhead as part of the NBAS series. How did that one come together and where did the idea come from?

STC: I pitched a whole bunch of ideas to Kevin Shamel and he asked me to write House Hunter based on my pitch. I wanted to make something completely mundane into something completely wild and fantastical. I took a similar approach with Day of the Milkman. Right now I’m in a surreal sci-fi/fantasy phase, but I’ll probably go back to reinventing mundane things again in the near future. I wrote House Hunter in a couple of weeks and then spent ages trying to get through the editing stage. It was while I was working on my honours thesis, so the timing was really hectic.

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TGR: How have you improved as a writer since your first published story?

STC: I’ve got a lot more practice under my belt. I’ve got a lot more feedback on what works for people and what doesn’t. I’ve learned to focus on my strengths while keeping my weaknesses in mind. I’m never going to please everyone, but I’ve learned to be happy with my output, dedicated to my work, and open to criticism. Time and effort are the biggest factors to my improvement.

TGR: Your new book, coming soon from Eraserhead Press is called ‘The Orphanarium’, what can readers expect from it?

STC: It’s a story about a giant concrete city that’s completely enclosed. The creatures within (the orphans) know nothing about what lives outside. The creatures outside (elementals) take the form of all sorts of supreme powerful beings who manipulate the world around them in various ways. The story follows the orphan twins Daff and Dil, alongside their android friend Cyberia and their cyborg dog Killy. Together they find themselves thrust into battles which are far bigger than themselves. There is so much packed into the story, it’s difficult to boil it down to a linear hero’s journey or a simple sequence of events. This thing is huge.

TGR: The cover art is what drew me to the book. You must be stoked with it? Did you have any input into the creative process for the cover or did you leave it in the hands of the publisher?

STC: I discussed it with Rose O’Keefe, who edited the book. She was really passionate about the story and she came to me with an idea that she wanted to run with (a Howl’s Moving Castle type thing) and an artist she had in mind (Hauke Vagt). We discussed details, moods, colour schemes, and then she organised everything else with Hauke. I think it worked out so well because Rose had immersed herself in the story to the point that she understood what I had put into it and how the cover should not only represent the story itself, but also how it represents me as an author. Hauke did an amazing job translating that into art.

TGR: What did you find the most challenging aspect of writing ‘The Orphanarium’?

STC: The scope of it. The story began as a poem which turned into a 10,000 word short story, which then turned into a 43,000-ish word saga. It was a massive effort keeping the story flowing from chapter to chapter (it took me a little over 2 years to write). I wrote it in present tense with a simultaneous first-person/second-person narrator where “I” (Daff) tells the story of the Orphanarium to “you” (Dil), two characters who are active participants in the story. I also had these cactus spines in the story where they stab themselves in order to remember things that happened in the past, future, or present. I had a lot of unconventional techniques occurring simultaneously, and it was crazy challenging keeping them in line and making sure everything tied up well at the end. I was still tying up plot holes in the final proofreading stages, which was 2-3 years after I finished the first draft.

TGR: What do you think is the most important ingredient when writing a story? Is it character? Plot? Or something else?

STC: I’d say plot. Definitely. Plot and style. Books with interesting characters where nothing interesting happens just bore the hell out of me. I liked Bret Easton Ellis’ “Less Than Zero” considering its aimless plot, yet the sequel “Imperial Bedrooms” couldn’t keep me interested. I couldn’t have cared less for “the Great Gatsby” either. I like things to be fast paced or strangely compelling. That’s why I can like Blake Butler and J. A. Tyler where their works don’t exactly have a solid concept of character or plot. I guess that’s why some people read my stories and find that the characters aren’t as well fleshed out as they’d like or the plot was too fast. For me it’s about engaging with something unique. A story that cuts right to the chase or gives you an experience that you struggle to put into words.

TGR: If ‘The Orphanarium’ was picked up by Hollywood, who would star in the movie version?

STC: People often tell me that my books would work well as movies. I like painting visuals. The Orphanarium probably wouldn’t translate as easy. I haven’t specified ages for the characters, but I think Millie Bobby Brown from Stranger Things would make a pretty great Cyberia. Maybe Daniel Radcliffe and Elijah Wood to play the twins Daff and Dil? I’d probably be gunning for Christopher Nolan to direct.

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TGR: Bizarro, as a genre has been talked about a lot recently, for various reasons which we won’t go into here. How welcome did you feel when you first entered the community and has much changed since then?

STC: I’ve always felt welcome in Bizarro. Some of my first online Bizarro friends were guys like Mellick, Cameron Pierce, and Jordan Krall, authors I was reading at the time when I was just figuring out who was who. At BizarroCon I first met the Bizarro authors/friends/artists in person and they were very welcoming. I’d think if/when I go back, the reception I get from them would be the same, if not stronger than before. I try to conduct myself well in spite of whatever personal dramas come up, and I think it’s important to not let that sort of thing divide you.

TGR: How do you approach the promotional aspect of being a writer?

STC: I think it’s something I will always need to work at, but I feel like it gets easier with time. So long as I’m constantly writing and publishing, I’ll have news that people will want to hear about, rather than jumping on board with whatever opinions are hotly debated at the time. I’d like to think my writing does all the talking, and I just try to nudge it on up without being too self-absorbed. I try to support my friends in the indie publishing scene where I can as well.

TGR: Mystery author asks you to collaborate on a writing project. Who is it and why?

STC: First person that jumps to mind would be Carlton Mellick III, and some form of bizarro-anime novel. I don’t see either of us as particularly collaborative writers though, so it would more likely be someone like Michael Allen Rose, Michael Sean LeSueur, or Karl Fischer.

TGR: What are your top 5 Bizarro books and why?

STC:

Cthulhu Comes to the Vampire Kingdom, by Cameron Pierce

This book had me emotionally hooked on the first page. Pierce’s writing here is beautiful and surreal, filled with fantasy and wonder.

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Quicksand House, by Carlton Mellick III

This is the book I recommend to new readers. Mellick blurs the line between knowledge and reality in his worlds, and Quicksand House leads you on in ways that are devastating. It will break your heart.

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A Town Called Suckhole, by David W. Barbee

This is textbook bizarro. It’s got character. It’s raw, it’s ugly, it’s weird as hell.

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Motherfucking Sharks, by Brian Allen Carr

This book should be so absurd it’s stupid. It’s magical how a book called “Motherfucking Sharks” can be this brilliant. It’s the stuff that myths are made of.

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Basal Ganglia, by Matthew Revert

This book is just stunning. Beautiful and tragic, surreal, spellbinding. It’s so easy to get lost in the beauty of it all.

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TGR: What is your favourite flavour of Tim Tam?

STC: I used to eat the double choc and peanut butter ones a lot, but I don’t eat Tim Tams any more for dietary reasons.

TGR: What is your favourite book and why?

STC: I’d probably have to go with “In Watermelon Sugar” by Richard Brautigan because it is packed with beautiful, poetic language, while delivering a vivid and imaginative story with wonderful characters and settings.

TGR: Before you go, tell the readers about where they can find you.

STC: I’m up on Amazon and most of my stuff is available in print and on kindle. My stuff is on a bunch of other online websites too. I’m on facebook (with a personal account and an author page) and twitter (@STCartledge). I’ve got a blog at themanifold.wordpress.com

I’m also publishing poetry through Hawkline Press (on facebook/twitter/wordpress).

‘The Orphanarium’ is available from here. Go get it!

 

New video from post punk band ‘WEAK 13’

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“WEAK13 release new music video for “Obey The Slave”

British underground post punk band WEAK13 have released a new music video for their song “Obey The Slave” from their 2016 album They Live. The music video was filmed in a real English magistrates court and revolves around a theme of law and order. The song raises questions about authority and activism with thought provoking lyrics and proudly shouts “Don’t start a revolution. Have a revelation and share. Wake up”. Check out the video below.

The band is currently preparing to record their second as yet untitled studio album with producer John Stewart at FrEQ in Coventry, England. Speaking to the website, frontman and guitarist Nick J Townsend revealed “We were so impressed with the engineering by Stewart on the They Live album; it’s important news that we’ll be able to work with him again and we know already that he’ll do the new material the justice it deserves”. The They Live album contains the song “Obey The Slave” and is only available from weak13official.com

WEAK13 – OBEY THE SLAVE

Check out more from WEAK 13 here!