Herschell Gordon Lewis: June 15, 1926 to September 26, 2016

I believe we deserve to tip our hats, er, scalps, to Herschell Gordon Lewis, the “Godfather of Gore”. He shall forever be remembered for creating the horror subgenre of splatter films. Though he dabbled in many other types of exploitation films, he will always be remembered best for his unbridled blood-letting. His classic films, mostly made on less-than-shoestring budgets, include Blood Feast, Two Thousand Maniacs, and She-Devils on Wheels.

Many present-day film makers credit Lewis as an important influence on their own work, including Quentin Tarantino, John Waters, Wes Craven, and Tobe Hooper.

I can’t honestly say I loved his stuff, but I did enjoy the sense of cinematic abandon that nearly all of his films embodied. He was a unique voice that shook up the world.

Deadies, we have lost a pioneer of horror film-making.

Rest in peace, Herschell Gordon Lewis.

THE WITCH

witch1

The Witch was yet another film that hung around on my “To Watch” list waaay too long. Being the only horror fan in the house can be rough. Thankfully, after a recent bout of intestinal something-or-other (medical term – look it up) I finally got the chance to see this one.

And I’m glad I did! The Witch is an intelligent, well-conceived horror film set in 1609 New England. The film is based on real-life folktales and historical documents (much of the dialogue is lifted directly from letters of the period) and tells the story of a Puritan family, banished from a settlement over differences in the interpretation of the New Testament, who then establish a small farm on the edge of the woods far away from their former community.

With a couple of goats and a failing crop of corn, it’s easy to see right away that William, the family patriarch, is not a very skilled farmer. Or hunter, as we soon learn. Winter is coming, and the threat of starvation is all too real.

The family is about to face hardships of another kind as baby Samuel is stolen from the care of his teenage sister, the victim of a wolf, so the family thinks. As viewers, we know better, and soon the witchery and evil events of the story begin to unfold, and no one is safe from the devilry or the witch paranoia of the time.

I’d love to tell you more about what happens in this film, but to do so would ruin it. This is a horror film that you need to let unfold, to let wrap you in its embrace straight through until the end, where all your questions are answered in the “deliciously” superb conclusion.

Compared to other horror films you typically find in the theater or at home, The Witch is on the “art-house” end of the genre, but don’t let that intimidate you. The plot is straightforward and easy to follow, even though the language requires your attention and dissection – this is 1609, after all! But even if you can’t get your head around the ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ speak, it’s easy to follow just based on what you see on the screen. At only ninety-minutes, you can deal with the formality of the language.

I love the cinematography in the film, and combined with the keen eye of first-time director Robert Eggers, every frame is saturated with muted colors that marry well with the atmosphere of dread that hangs over every scene. If you’re looking for cheesy jump-scares, look elsewhere. The Witch defies this tired trend. As a result, you may not find the film that scary. Fair enough. This isn’t a problem for me because I haven’t been scared by a horror film in years. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy them, though, and I enjoyed the hell out of The Witch! It’s a fantastic work of dark fiction, and it executes on every level. Great acting, great directing, great writing all combine to make the perfect film for the Halloween season!

The Witch is available on DVD, and is currently streaming on Amazon – FREE with your Prime membership.

Until next time, Deadies…

Live deliciously!

 

STARBLOOD: The Graphic Novel

 

star2

Graphic novels, when they work well, are a marvelous way to tell a story.

Within the pages of the graphic novel, the character must be larger-than-life, enough so that he or she can be instantly recognizable and identifiable so as to guide the reader through the story. Combine this with a talented artist, (kudos to Starblood artist Anna Prashkovich – she absolutely nails it!) who plays an equally crucial role adding dimension and structure to the character quite literally with lines and shadow, and you have the makings of a story befitting of this format.

Enter Starblood, a dark fantasy story from author Carmilla Voiez. Right off the bat I have to tell you that this genre, while featuring horror elements, is not particularly my cup of potion, as it were. That being said, I am glad the author introduced me to her story in the graphic novel format, as I likely would not have enjoyed this book as a traditional novel. Why? Mainly because of the reasons stated above. It’s just not my genre, folks.

Yet Starblood, I’m happy to say, works well as a graphic novel. The story lends itself nicely to a visual format, and the artwork is first-rate! And there are LOADS of horror elements that are skillfully illustrated, reminding me of the old EC comics that inspired publications such as the notable (and splattery!) indie anthology Gore Shriek.

In Starblood, Lilith, the “mother of demons,” is summoned by Satori, a Chaos Magician in an effort to reunite with his long lost love, Star. Lilith’s priorities differ from Satori’s, however, and upon arrival into Satori’s realm, Lilith is hell-bent on destroying the lad’s life – as well as the lives of pretty much everyone he knows! And Lilith is one mother of a demon – using her intentionally phallic blade to dispatch male enemies with a ferocity that makes Xena: Warrior Princess look like Dora the Explorer. Starblood reads like a feminist activist’s rage-driven manifesto. Some readers might find this approach too heavy-handed, but wasn’t a problem for me.

There were elements of the overall story and plot that confounded me, requiring some investigation and re-reading in order to resolve, not to mention the characters having more than one name. The latter is not uncommon in the fantasy genre, but the former is a problem for me, as any time spent outside of a story makes it harder to then re-engage with the plot.

Did I mention sex? There’s tons of sex to accompany the manhood-destroying violence, which is why Starblood is not for readers under eighteen. This combination of sex and violence reminded me of the animated Heavy Metal movie from back in the 80’s, and if you were into that, you’ll enjoy this foray into dark, gothic fantasy. It’s cool to see an indie graphic novel that looks this good, as they are very difficult to produce in a quality fashion.

Starblood: The Graphic Novel releases this month (September 30th, 2016). Look for it on Amazon. Click the image below to find out more about the trilogy.

sat

 

 

 

Save

The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Being an Indie Writer

I know I haven’t been around at all really the past couple weeks. Sorry, but I’m finishing up on the next book, polishing each story, formatting it, all while trying to write my next novel. Dale, though, has done a stellar job of keeping up with the blog while I’m bouncing off the literary walls. Thanks, man. So I know I owed a blog post, and since this is what has consumed me the past few weeks, I’ll talk about that.

There have been times the past few days that I’ve asked myself, why do I do this? And this is what I came up with:

I have no choice. For my own sanity, I have to be a writer.

Publishing has changed so rapidly and completely that it is unrecognizable from what it was even ten years ago. And the way we write and present our work has had to change.

I guess at this stage I consider myself totally an indie writer. I slave over the keyboard for hours each day, juggle a full-time job as well as family responsibilities, and generally tear my hair out with stress and frustration. I won’t lie.

There are a bunch of bad things about being an indie writer. I don’t sleep as much as some people. I neglect my household duties at times, all because I need to write. I fret over every story, every line, and every word, really, trying to be sure I get it right. Then comes the polishing until you can’t polish any more. Then I get back notes from the fearsome creature (I call her EDITOR!). I make changes to calm her. Then comes formatting the entire manuscript. Submitting it and making sure it’s right. And after all that comes the terribly difficult job of marketing. Writing is a difficult and lonely business.

I live day by day knowing that the only way for the story to be told is for me to get my ass writing it.

And the pay sucks. No, really. You don’t do this for the money, because there are thousands of other writers out there, many excellent, trying to do what you are doing, vying for readers’ attention. And the big pay day may never happen. Ever. That’s the reality. And yes, it sucks.

But let me tell you about the flip side, the great side of being an indie writer. Often I’m lying in bed nights, unable to sleep, because a story is forming. There are times that the story is just suddenly there, complete, and all I need to do is write it down. Other times the idea is a saucy tease, a tender seedling that burgeons into something more. And the idea, whichever way it has begun, grows and moves with a life of its own, tapping at my mind again and again all day in spare moments.

And then, suddenly, I can’t wait any longer. I have no choice. I’ve GOT to write the story. I sit and bang on the keyboard for as long as possible, trying to keep the excitement within me going. I try to write it as fast as I can. It’s at that point I am the only one who can write it.

Sure, I still get stuck in places, but I usually stare at the blank page until I need to stop. Usually that is when the story fills in the blanks for me. My subconscious, I guess, is always working on it, because I know I need to do it to get it right. And then I finish the first draft and put it away for two days or so. My mind, however, is still thinking about the story. Ruminating about plot and description, and what needs to be changed. Then I look at it again and fix it. Then I go back and do it again and again, until I have settled in my mind that the story is there, and complete.

To be quite honest, I don’t care which way the story presents itself, whole or in pieces. It only matters that the story is there, and I like it. You see, ultimately, I write for myself.

And that is why I’m an indie writer. I am able to write what I want and like to read, story ideas that are interesting and characters that matter to me. I’d write what I write if only to entertain myself. But I also know that the story is a harsh mistress, and demands to be presented to an audience. A story is not a story if no one reads it. So I force myself to market. This is the ugly part.

I truly and utterly suck at self-marketing. It all stems from my upbringing. My parents, though lovely people, raised me to never, I mean NEVER, brag about myself or my accomplishments. So naturally, I find it difficult, if not damn near impossible, to do proper marketing. Fortunately, for Deadsville, Dale Elster took most of that work, and did a cracking job at it. I know I’ll have to do the marketing all by my lonesome once Banquet of Souls finally comes out, and I guess I’ll just have to deal with it.

 

deadsvillecover

This is the joy of being an indie writer. I write what I want to read, and, if I’m lucky, other readers will enjoy it. I love it all. If I tried to get a short story collection published through the standard publishing house, it could take months, if not years, to ever have the stories get to the readers who want to read them. As long as I have an editor I trust (I do), I’ll take it and run with it. I do not have to follow the whims of what publishers believe is salable. I don’t have to emulate any other writer (Looking at you, Stephen King). All I need to do is to develop and refine my craft and be mindful that I’m only beholden to the master of my universe, the story.

That is my joy. I’m a lucky guy.

And, as painful as this is to me, Deadies…

banquet-of-souls-full-cover-2

All are Welcome to the Feast!

Banquet of Souls by T.D. Trask coming in October!

John Carpenters Lost Themes

1

 

I’ve been a fan of John Carpenter’s films ever since I saw Halloween back in 1978, which is to say I’ve been a fan of John Carpenter’s music since 1978, because the two go hand-in-hand.

Has there ever been theme music so perfectly suited to a film than Halloween? That main title, with its simplistic piano refrain, is a marvel of efficiency, immediately capturing the audience’s attention and setting the scary, suspense-filled mood of the film.

Sure, there have been a few truly unforgettable Hollywood earworms – the iconic JAWS theme, for example. Or Bernard Herrmann’s ingenious “slashing” strings that accompany Psycho’s infamous “shower scene.” But Carpenter’s brilliant theme is not only a cinematic classic, it has become synonymous with the holiday itself. Walk the street on the night of October 31st and you’ll hear that music piping out of every Halloween display worth its salt!

Carpenter has scored nearly every movie he’s directed, and while not all of his themes have achieved the kind of immortality the Halloween theme has, he’s come close. Who can forget the synthesizer-driven main title of Escape From New York, which sounds both futuristic and retro at the same time, perfectly capturing the mood of the film as well its gun-toting, eyepatch-wearing anti-hero Snake Plissken. Or the haunting piano that follows the ghost-story prelude in The Fog.

Sadly, after toiling in Hollywood for a couple of decades, John Carpenter seemed to have lost his passion for making movies. After a series of disappointing films, the Master of Horror retired to a fairly quiet life of video game playing and not much else, save for a few appearances at festivals honoring his past work.

Fortunately, his passion for making music did not suffer the same fate!

Although die-hard fans such as myself long for another (good) John Carpenter film, we’re always up for the man’s music. In 2015, John Carpenter released LOST THEMES, followed up by LOST THEMES II a year later. Both are fantastic – like soundtracks to movies the Master of Horror never made. Recorded with his son and god-son, the resulting tracks are not only worthy pieces deserving of the high praise heaped upon the themes of his classic films, they transcend them. What could have been a disastrous project filled with the musical equivalent of “deleted scenes” from Carpenter’s films, Lost Themes I and II are just damn good instrumental albums. Do you hear familiar riffs that remind you of Escape From New York or Big Trouble in Little China or They Live? Yes! But this is a result of Carpenter’s style, not mere retreads of his past work.

Some highlights from both albums for me are “Vortex,” “Night,” “Distant Dream,” “Dark Blues,” “Bela Lugosi,” and the phenomenal bonus track, “Real Xeno.” All of the tracks are great, though, and both albums are well worth adding to your collection.

If you’re a John Carpenter fan, chances are extremely good that you’re a fan of the man’s music. And this is some damned good music. Put these albums on, and let your mind serve as as the projector in your favorite theater.

A movie house showing twenty-one John Carpenter short films.

Happy listening, Deadies!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

HOAX

 

hoaxtitle

 

Horror short films are like those fun-size candy bars that are dropped into trick-or-treater’s bags every Halloween. They’re short, sweet, and if they’re done right, they leave you wanting more.

If you’ve seen my previous posts about horror short films (scroll through the BLOG heading on the HOME page) you know I’m a fan of the short form of this genre – on the screen and on the page. Given the fact that I grew up on a steady diet of Twilight Zone episodes, not to mention the great horror anthologies of the 80’s, which always featured stories by Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Dennis Etchison and countless others, it’s no surprise that this passion for short fiction has followed me into (gasp!) my fifth decade on this rock.

Imagine my delight when I discovered Hoax while scrolling through the titles on the Amazon streaming app! It’s a short film, and it’s based on a story by author Greg F. Gifune, one of the best scribes in the biz! Home run, right?

You’re damn right it is!

Hoax has a noir feel (another genre that I love) and follows the story of a bartender and her encounter with a mysterious stranger amid a quiet night at said bar. To say more would ruin it, suffice to say it’s a great little film worthy of The Twilight Zone legend, even if that may not have been the film’s intention.  The film is twelve minutes long but whizzes by so fast, you’ll swear it’s only a fraction of that length. Despite a moment or two where I felt the dialogue got a bit clunky, it was a real joy to watch.

I would have liked to include Hoax in my next post about horror short films, but I couldn’t find it listed on YouTube. It is available on the Amazon streaming app (FREE with your Prime membership!) and it’s definitely worth your time to check out.

Also, please check out author Greg F. Gifune’s other work. He has dozens of titles to choose from! Click on the image at the bottom of this post to check them out.

Thanks for reading, Deadies!

Now go get yourself some fun-size HORROR!

hoax

 

Savehoaxtitle

We Are Still Here

 

here

 

…aaaand we are predictable.

And comically dopey.

We Are Still Here is a period horror film (specifically, the 70’s) that, despite an interesting premise, falls flat on its ghostly, demonic face. As the film opens, a mother (Anne Sacchetti) is grieving the recent loss of her college-student son. As you would expect, her husband (Paul Sacchetti) decides that moving to a new house in the country will help her recovery. Also as you’d expect, said house is a creepy, nineteenth-century dwelling that was (surprise!) the scene of horrific events, and is now haunted to the eaves with no shortage of things that go bump-in-the-night.

Sure enough, Mom wakes in the middle of the night, convinced her deceased son’s presence has made the move to the new digs as well. Furthermore, she is convinced he is trying to communicate with her, but alas, Mom is not so fluent in ghost-speak. No problem – Mom’s BFF just so happens to be a psychic! How ’bout that!

Mom invites her BFF to spend a weekend with her and her husband, who brings along her stoner husband, a character whose sole purpose for being in the film is comic relief, most of which winds up being unintentional. You’re probably going to hate this movie, Deadies – but stick around for the seance sequence, which features the stoner hubby. That scene is so unintentionally hilarious that it alone deserves some sort of cult status! No spoilers, but that scene involves a sock, and summed up perfectly how I felt about most of this film.

Despite SO MANY scenes involving clueless white-bread folks doing clueless white-bread things (example: “What was that sound? Well – better go poke around that dark, creepy basement!”) and minor characters getting disposed of with such fierce predictability that it would embarrass even the most forgettable of the Friday the 13th victims, not ALL of it was terrible.

I liked the cinematography, in particular the second-unit material, which mainly consisted of shots of snow-covered countryside with the wind howling through barren trees. Those shots are gorgeous, frame-worthy moments in an otherwise forgettable horror picture.

Also, there’s the performance of veteran character actor Monte Markham, whose trademark smirk is well-suited to the film’s human villain, Dave McCabe. Mr. Markham’s presence is a welcome one, teasing a larger, potentially more interesting story behind the laughably inept spooks and scares. Sadly, that larger story falls short in its attempt to separate itself from the familiar tropes.

It’s a shame, too. We Are Still Here had the elements of a decent scary movie, had it gone in a slightly different direction. I’m confident a more skilled director could’ve delivered that.

Instead, we got an over-cooked hash of a horror film that winds up as a throw-away, rather than the throwback it wanted to be.

We Are Still Here is available on Netflix and DVD.

here1

Save

Save

Save

The Road Out of Town: Life After DEADSVILLE

banquet-of-souls-full-cover-2

On September 15th 2015, Deadsville was released.

With the one year anniversary fast approaching, I thought I’d take a minute to talk about some of the things that have happened over the past twelve months, as well as give you all a heads up on what lies ahead for Mr. Trask and Yours Truly.

As soon as Deadsville hit the shelves (quite literally – we were fortunate enough to have the book in an indie bookstore at the same time as it went live on Amazon) the marketing process began. Actually, the marketing officially started a few weeks prior to the release date, when we received the finalized cover from Gary McCluskey, the supremely talented artist who created it for us. Definitely look Gary up (garymccluskey.carbonmade.com) he’s richly experienced, excellent in all genres, and a helluva nice guy to boot!

So I began posting and tweeting. And tweeting and posting some more. The early response was encouraging. As the likes and retweets began to accumulate, and with our very first book signing scheduled, I felt confident we’d soon be adding some reviews to add to our growing collection of likes and retweets. Sure enough, we did just that. The incoming reviews were overwhelmingly positive (always a bonus!) and supplied me with plenty of quotable material to generate loads of new social media posts. Happily, that trend has continued, as the book recently reached that glorious milestone of 25 Amazon reviews (the point at which their sales-boosting algorithm supposedly kicks in) as well as glowing reviews on prestigious sites such as Cemetery Dance Online, Goodreads, Shotgun Logic, The Scary Reviews, and others. To learn more about Deadsville, click the cover image.

On average, I spend two hours a day marketing the book. In addition to posting on social media, I’ve also booked two additional signings over these past twelve months, (we now have the book in a total of three indie bookstores in upstate NY) in addition to a podcast appearance on THE NIGHT KEEP, (you can find the link at the bottom of the HOME page on this blog) guest post gigs on other blogs, held contests to give away copies of the book, shelled out a few bucks to have the book featured in online book clubs and a slew of bookworm blogs, with a total outreach well in excess of 100,000 readers.

Balancing the marketing with working on new fiction has not been easy. In fact, it’s been a real bitch! I find the time to write every day, but I’m not lighting the world on fire production-wise, not that I write very quickly to begin with. I edit new work as I write it, and I’m something of a perfectionist. Shooting an entire day on a single page is not at all unusual. And once my editor gets his hands on my manuscripts, the process starts anew, as the stories are broken down and rebuilt, hopefully transforming from attractive, practical transportation to bad-ass muscle cars!

From the beginning, my co-author Terry and I wanted to have a website. When we finally found the right person to do the job of building DEADSVILLE AFTER DARK for us, I deadsvillecoverwas excited…and a little bummed. In addition to all the other jobs I was doing for the book, now I was going to have to create a steady supply of content for the site! Having a partner like Terry who can contribute blog posts on here is great. He would share the marketing burden as well, but he’s very uncomfortable with self-promotion, something he’s currently getting therapy for.

Okay, he’s not getting therapy! BUT… he is learning to accept the reality of dedicated, consistent (hopefully not annoying) marketing, and the reasons why it’s crucial if your book is to stay afloat in the endless, treacherous waters of the Amazon ocean. And that’s a good thing, because his new solo jobanthology, Banquet of Souls, is set to release SOON.

Terry used Gary McCluskey, the supremely talented artist behind the Deadsville book cover (and the artwork on the HOME page of this blog), to create the cover you see at the top of this post, and once again Mr. McCluskey delivered!

“Blood Pressure,” a humorous vampire story from Banquet of Souls, will soon be performed on the forthcoming Season 7 of The Wicked Library podcast. In Season 6, TWL performed his Deadsville story, “A Job’s A Job,” and knocked it out of the park! From a marketing standpoint, having The Wicked Library perform your story prior to the release of your book is one helluva score. TWL does excellent work, bringing stories to life through professional voice acting. Click on the image to the right and give “A Job’s A Job” a listen!

As for me, I’m hard at work on Bone Deep and Blood Red, my first-ever solo anthology, as well as Thorn Man, a short novel. The cover for Thorn Man, created by Luke Spooner, another phenomenal talent in the art and graphic design world, is already done and appears at the bottom of this post. In one of my rare occurrences of putting the cart before the horse, I commissioned Luke to come up with the cover, at the time thinking that, as an in-demand and thus very busy artist, it would take him some time to complete the job. Little did I know that Mr. Spooner is one of the fastest artists I’ve ever seen. He completed the cover below in slightly over twenty-four hours!

Amazing! In a future post, I’ll discuss the artwork of Luke Spooner in greater detail.

At the time, I envisioned Thorn Man as a short story I could release as a single, with the thought that I could use the story to help market Deadsville. I would soon discover that Thorn Man was to grow well beyond the boundaries of the standard short story length of three to five thousand words. What was that saying about God laughing while we make plans?

If you’ve read my Deadsville story, “What Happened on Black Hill Road,” you’re already familiar with Thorn Man. This new tale is something of an origin story. Set once again in Rock Creek, this time in the 19th century, a young boy named Ambrose is terrorized by a dark entity he believes to inhabit the oak tree outside his bedroom window, manifesting itself as a pointy-shadowed menace determined to force him into serving some nefarious purpose.

Years later, having dismissed his supernatural encounter with Thorn Man as nothing more than the irrational fears of a child, Ambrose finds the past catching up with him as he discovers grisly signs around the farm marking Thorn Man’s return. Soon, he finds himself in a battle to save his family – and his own sanity – as the entity returns to stake a claim on his soul.

Currently, I plan on Bone Deep and Blood Red to be a mini-anthology consisting of around a half-dozen stories, released exclusively as an ebook sometime in 2017, with Thorn Man to follow – in both paperback and digital editions – soon after.

Will there be another Deadsville book? Terry and I have been discussing that. As soon as we get these other projects wrapped up and released, a return to Rock Creek with a fresh set of horror tales could certainly be on the horizon. Until then, Banquet of Souls will have stories set in Rock Creek, as will Bone Deep and Blood Red.

For now, Terry and I are riding out of Deadsville in style, eating up the highway beyond, cradled in custom-tailored bucket seats and accompanied by the throaty, high-performance growl of eight cylinders under the hood.

Watch for us, Deadies!

thorn-man-art-with-text

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

The Terrifyingly Talented Artist Gary McCluskey Helps Sell Books!

If you’re an indie writer, take note. You may have written a terrific book, but no one will read it if the cover sucks. Readers are first and foremost visual creatures and need to have something catch their attention, especially when there is an ocean of indie writers out there waving their arms, struggling to get their stuff noticed. Me? I don’t have the artistic chops needed to even consider doing this type of thing. My best artwork comes in the form of horribly disjointed stick figures and wobbly, supposedly straight lines. So when Dale Elster and I discussed the cover for Deadsville, he suggested an artist who had done great work that he had worked with before on an anthologies to which he had contributed. This is the cover:

I said sure, let’s see if he’s available.

Fortunately for us, he was available. And Dale and Gary’s noticeable cover to our anthology came to be. For those of you who don’t know:

deadsvillecover

The response to the cover was immediate. It got noticed, big time. Reviewers made a point to remark about Gary’s artwork in the reviews. So we sold some books.

Eventually we got to the point that we both figured we needed a blog to spout off and keep our viewpoints sharp and keep our book out there and also to act as a base forum for our future works.

We asked Gary if he could come up with a semi-humorous re-imagining of the Deadsville style, using a pipe-smoking skeleton relaxing and looking Hugh Hefner-ish. And this is, of course, what he gave us:

dvdad-small

 

This art was perfect for what we had in mind. So when I wrote my anthology Banquet of Souls (due out in October, shameless plug), I asked Gary to provide the artwork. I gave him the tiniest of direction. Given the title, I figured a place setting with a face screaming in agony on the plate. Gary grabbed that teeny idea, and then a while later came back with this:

banquet-of-souls-full-cover

 

Needless to say, I was thrilled with his work. I fully expect that the cover alone will sell some copies. It also continues the feel of the previous anthology and blog art, which was important to me since the stories are fairly similar in tone.

So this is my point. If you have written something, unless you have an art degree, get an artist. A good one. As good as you can afford. Don’t stoop to using stock photos and trying to do it yourself. Why? Because no matter what you do, it will ALWAYS look like a stock photo cover. It will always give the appearance that you don’t value the words between the covers enough to dress it up in the proper formal wear. Your book is wearing an off-the-rack, ill-fitting suit and rented shoes.

As for who you should get, I can’t tell you that. I just know who I like, because the artwork Gary McCluskey produces matches the tone and themes in what I write. He has a sensitive feel for the horror genre. His art is at times intense, yet playful, with a wry sense of humor. What he creates is a reflection of the types of stories I write.

If you know someone who does good work, check out their older works. See if the art speaks to that part of yourself from which you write. If impressed, talk with them, see if you are a good fit. If you know them well enough maybe they’ll give you a break on the price. But no matter what, they’ll usually be worth it. Finally, if the art they produce doesn’t work for you, tell them. Explain what you were looking for and press them about what the book is all about. If they are truly professional, they won’t be upset. They just want to do the best job possible since it’s their reputation on the line too.

So, Deadies, that’s my rant. If you want to ignore my suggestions, that’s completely up to you. But remember. I’m an indie writer too, and I’ve got some terrific artwork to boast my work.

For more information about Gary McCluskey’s beautiful artwork, go to: https://garymccluskey.carbonmade.com/

 

For some great bunch of cool tee shirts, coffee mugs, posters, and other neat stuff that has Gary’s artwork on it, go to:  https://www.teepublic.com/user/foggie32

 

Jedi Summer with the Magnetic Kid

 

jedi

 

 

That I would read not one but two coming-of-age books this summer is beyond rare.

That those books would BOTH be dark fiction coming-of-age stories is pure unicorn territory. They just don’t come along very often, Deadies.

You can find my review of Mongrels on this blog. The latest is Jedi Summer: with the Magnetic Kid, the semi-autobiographical short novel by author John Boden. If you’re a fan of Stranger Things (and why in the world wouldn’t you be?) you’ll love the nostalgic vibe of this book. Set in 1983, in the weeks before the release of Return of the Jedi, the story follows a teen boy and his little brother (nicknamed the Magnetic Kid) and their middle class existence in a tiny Pennsylvania town.

While the boys’ recently-divorced mother works two jobs to support her struggling family, older brother Johnnie is caught between surrendering a part of his childhood in order to look out for his little brother, while dreaming of and working toward a future as a famous author, just like his hero – Stephen King.

Without saying a word, author Boden hints at that dream being dashed on the rocks of adulthood. Having already given up a portion of his childhood to adult responsibility, the notion is doubly heartbreaking. And yet, there is promise here as well, the promise that young Johnnie’s future may not be so bad, despite his discovery of a body hanging in a tree, and his gut feeling that a mysterious supernatural force is to blame – not only for the murder (the body’s stomach is bursting with coins, the chest hollowed out into a grisly birdhouse) but also for his family’s seemingly endless misfortune.

Jedi Summer is a quick, fun trip back in time, with a story that lingers on your mind long after you’ve put it down. Even if you weren’t a child of the 80’s, you’ll enjoy the story, and the reasons behind it. The fact that you were ever a kid is the only ticket required here.

With the exception of the nostalgia, which is as thick and delicious as the retro lasagna of Stranger Things, Jedi Summer is a tapestry painted in subtle, ghostly strokes. It’s about surrender and acceptance. About regret, and retribution. As screwed-up as young Johnnie’s world can be, in the end there isn’t anything he would do to live there again for just one more day. Back when the movie theaters held the most magic, even though we now know that, despite the magic, there was always darkness at our feet.

 

 

 

Save