Thursday, October 31, 2013

Ashes to be featured at The Fussy Librarian

Ashes  is being featured Friday at The Fussy Librarian, a new website that offers personalized ebook recommendations. You choose from 30 genres and indicate preferences about content and then the computers work their magic. Find out more at

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

13 for Halloween

It's usually a surprise to friends and acquaintances to learn that, despite my love for the horror genre, I'm not a fan of Halloween. Mostly it's kind of an inconvenience, having to remember to buy candy which I don't want in the house anyway because of the temptation. Also, I am no good at all when it comes to coming up with costume ideas. Happily enough, these days my kid is perfectly happy to wear a store-bought costume, and my employer isn't interested in company Halloween parties.

But as I do have a great love for the horror genre, I should do what everyone else on ye olde internet is doing, and post some suggested scary entertainment. Following are 13 completely random stories and movies that have given me the chills over the years (ask me a week from now and you'll likely get a different list - like I said, it's random).

  1. "The October Game" by Ray Bradbury (short story) For Bradbury, October is usually a wondrous time, though not without its dangers. In this story, he turns his usual celebration of October on its head, as the season drives a man trapped in a loveless marriage and family to extreme measures. It's a great little tale whose horrors are deftly (and mercifully) understated.
  2. The Thing, directed by John Carpenter (movie) Carpenter's made so many movies that are fit for this time of year (including, of course, Halloween). But The Thing is not just a good scary movie, it's a good movie. There's genuine menace in every frame, from the isolation that takes its toll on the characters, the unforgiving Antarctic climate, and the alien that can masquerade as any living creature. 
  3. Under the Skin by Michel Faber (novel) Faber became well-known for his fantastic Victorian novel The Crimson Petal and the White, but his debut novel is well worth seeking out. On the lonely highways of Scotland a woman named Isserley prowls, on the lookout for strapping young men. We learn early on that her interest in the men isn't sexual, nor is it murderous (strictly speaking), but something much more disturbing. This is one that will stay with you for a while.
  4. "It's a Good Life" episode of The Twilight Zone  Adapted from Jerome Bixby's short story, "It's a Good Life" shows us a small town in the midwest that's isolated and completely under the control of an all-powerful being - who happens to be a young boy. It doesn't seem that scary at the outset, but think about unlimited power to bend reality and command life and death combined with a child's amorality and deadly sense of whimsy.
  5. Audition, directed by Takashi Miike (movie)  The best horror is often that which lulls you into a false sense of security. Think of Janet Leigh in Psycho, making the decision to return to her old life with the stolen money and then...  A similar thing happens in Audition, when a lonely, likable widower finds that the new love in his life is a bit unhinged. The audience learns this a bit before the character does, so much of the horror comes from knowing things are destined to end in a bad way.
  6. Suspiria, directed by Dario Argento (movie)  A fever dream in vivid Technicolor, Suspiria lacks much in the way of plot, but makes up for it with stunning atmosphere and the dread that comes from never knowing what's around the next corner (for both the movie's story and the freaky dance academy where the movie takes place). Think of Jessica Harper's ballerina as a heroine out of a fairy tale, up against some monstrous witches.
  7. Pet Sematary by Stephen King (novel)  I probably shouldn't include this one, for while it's arguably King's scariest novel, the horrors are a bit too close to home, particularly if you're a parent. Confronted with the worst when his child dies, a young doctor decides to play God and resurrect his child. Possibly the scariest part of this book is how its inevitable tragedy results from sorrow and good intentions rather than malice.
  8. "The Monkey Treatment" by George R. R. Martin (short story)  A comical horror tale that's yes, by the author of A Song of Ice and Fire. A chronic over-eater wants to lose weight but hates to give up food stumbles upon what seems like a foolproof method called the Monkey Treatment. No spoilers, but it's a nifty take on humor, horror, and pizza.
  9. The Changeling, directed by Peter Medak (movie) It's a trope I've often noticed in horror that there's nothing like some recent bereavement to put one in touch with the supernatural. That's what composer George C. Scott discovers when, several months after the death of his wife and daughter in a freak road accident, he moves into a gorgeous old house and soon makes contact with a ghost that lives there. It's a quiet film, full of creepy touches (anyone else notice that the ball is wet when the ghost tosses it back to Scott, after Scott has thrown the ball into the river?), creepy atmosphere, and a nicely restrained performance by Scott.
  10. "I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream" by Harlan Ellison (short story)  Aside from having one of the best titles in the history of fiction, Ellison's story of a murderous computer and the humans it tortures with every fate imaginable - save for death - also has one of the most horrifying endings ever.
  11. "The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe (short story)  The horrors of this story are more subtle than those in much of Poe's work. It's only afterward that you realize the protagonist condemned poor Fortunato to an appalling death just because Fortunato had insulted him once too often. Yikes.
  12. Witchfinder General, directed by Michael Reeves (movie)  The uneasiest horrors are those rooted in reality. This film finds a restrained, coldly malevolent Vincent Price as real-life witchfinder Matthew Hopkins, who roams the English countryside condemning innocent people as witches; in exchange he gets power, glory, money from bribes, and isn't above extorting young women for sex to protect their relatives from witchcraft charges. Also known as The Conqueror Worm (a title given to make it appear as one of the Poe adaptations popular at the time).
  13. The Getaway by Jim Thompson (novel)  It's not horror per se until its final chapter, though many horrific things happen along the way, from a person who's suffered so many grievous physical injuries in his youth that his chest bones have fused into a bulletproof shell to having to spend several days hiding out from police in a manure pile. But its final chapter is grimly poetic in its depiction of a place that seems to be heaven for its fugitives from justice, but is really hell.
There you have it! Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Looking for something to read? The Fussy Librarian can help!

Good news - you can get your very own librarian, for free. It’s true! Choose from 30 genres, select content preferences and she’ll send you daily ebook recommendations. It's better than a bookmobile. Just visit The Fussy Librarian

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Two of my favorite things!

I'm an advice column junkie, so imagine my delight when I learned that Book Riot now has a book-related advice column, Dear Book Nerd. The column's just started, but I can't wait to see what questions and answers it features.

Page added for Reckoning (Ashes #2)

In the very near future, I'll be publishing Reckoning, the sequel to Ashes.

In the meantime, click the tab above to take a look at the page I've just added for it, and to see what the book is about and read an excerpt. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Review: Carrie (2013)

They're all gonna laugh at you! My review of the Carrie remake is up at Horrorview.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Sponsoring a giveaway!

My novel Ashes is a featured book at Momma Says Read, and I'm sponsoring a giveaway of an Amazon gift card. Giveaway ends late Tuesday night, so take a look and enter while you can!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Day After Yesterday showcased at Clarissa Wild's blog

Over at Clarissa Wild's blog, she's showcasing The Day After Yesterday. Take a look, and spend a while visiting her blog and exploring her books while you're there!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Cover reveal for Reckoning

Reckoning, the sequel to Ashes, will go on sale in early November. But here's the cover - let me know what you think of it!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

It's National Cookbook Month!

I cannot believe that I only just learned that October is National Cookbook Month. Really, a month that celebrates two of my favorite things: cooking and books.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I love to cook. Some look at the big holiday feasts with dread, but those are my favorite meals to cook. Thanksgiving is when I'm particularly in my element (it helps that we usually have the feast on Friday and I have an extra day to prep).

I love cookbooks, not just because of the fine meals that can be the result, but because they're fun to read. I have a White House Cookbook from 1929 (I inherited it from my grandmother) that I'd never use for recipes (they all sound bland beyond belief). But it's fantastic as a curiosity piece and to get a glimpse into the mind-set for cooks at the time. For example, it's just assumed that one knows how to pluck a chicken. It also includes things like food for invalids (translation: gruel), as well as household tips on cleaning lace curtains and making your own perfume. This last item sounds good until you read the list of ingredients and realize you probably can't get ambergris at CostCo.

It's a cruel irony that, in my experience, cookbooks with the best food photography don't always have the best recipes. Probably my favorite cookbooks to use are the ones from Cook's Illustrated - I'm particularly fond of their Best International Recipes book. Pictures are relegated to a middle section of the book, which is a shame because some of these recipes are unfamiliar to Americans and it would be nice to see what the end product should look like (I'm still not sure if the chicken mole turned out the way it should have). But these books are invaluable for anyone who enjoys the process of cooking, for they include the trial-and-error process the cooks went through for each recipe.

Likewise, Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking books lack illustrations or photos. But her instructions are so detailed and thorough that you don't really need them. I recall making her French onion soup and worrying that the onions were not achieving the proper color when - voila! - right when she said they would be the perfect color, they were. (My only caveat with these books is to be very careful for the stovetop cooking - I think ovens in Julia's day had much less mojo and I've overcooked a few things.)

Cookbooks are like novels - technically the stories and recipes have all been done before, but there's always something new to discover. When I'm stressed or just don't have the mental energy for reading fiction, I often turn to cookbooks for reading. They entertain me, and my friends and family love it because usually I say, "You know, there's this recipe I've been wanting to try..."

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

99 cent sale for Ashes - for the entire month!

Good news! My novel Ashes, first in a two-book series, is on sale for 99 cents for the entire month of October. Click the tab above for reviews, buy links, and an excerpt.

Even better news: If you like Ashes, its sequel Reckoning will be available in November. Watch the blog for upcoming cover reveal and excerpts.