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Festivus Book Pimping – Fathomless by Greig Beck

 

The countdown to Christmas is well and truly on, but pimp on I must! Today, it’s multi-award-winning author Greig Beck and his wickedly frightening Fathomless. Yeah, we’re all gonna need a bigger boat.

Duuun-dun… duuun-dun… dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun…

What?

fathomless

Okay, so from the cover alone (‘nother shout-out to Dean Samed of NeoStock), it’s clear we’re talking shark story here – think Megalodon. Yep, you know, that’s been instinct for millions of years… but have they?

That’s the premise of Fathomless (Cohesion Press), and Beck kicks it out of the park with his tale. Now before we go further, full disclosure. As I’ve mentioned, my reading for pleasure took a back seat to work this year, so a lot of what I’ve read has involved novels I’ve worked on, and Fathomless was one of them. But here’s the thing, it’s not often that I’ve had to get up from my desk and take a breather because the story was freaking me the hell out. With Fathomless, I did that three or four times. Nope, can’t handle the tension, time to take a break and calm the hell down. Three passes I made of this story, and each time, even when I knew what was coming, my pulse quickened and the voices in my head (yes, there are many) were yelling at the characters to swim faster, dammit! (Actually, there were a lot more swear words, but you get the picture.)

So despite me having edited Fathomless, it’s one of my picks of the year for horror books.

From the back cover:

Jim Granger is searching for a place of legend. Known as ‘Bad Water’ by the island’s elders, it’s reputed to be home to many dangerous creatures. Through a seam in a cliff face, Jim finds what he seeks. He also finds, too late, that the water demon he was warned about is horrifyingly real.

Today, Cate Granger is following in her grandfather’s footsteps. Along with a team of scientists and crew, she accidentally releases a creature from Earth’s primordial past into today’s oceans. Nothing is safe on or below the water.
The story essentially has two parts. The first being Cate and her crews trek deep beneath the Earth’s crust to an immense underwater ocean that’s been suspended in time. Traversing the sea in a damn small sub, they discover marine life once thought extinct. They also discover the Megaladon.

Beck uses that instinctual fear that’s been loaded into our DNA from the beginning of time – fear of Alpha predators (and boy, is the Meg one hell of an Alpha), and added a touch of claustrophobia into this first section, because… why not? And there’s no natural light down there, so much of what’s happening does so in complete darkness.

There are at least three scenes in this section that had me freaking out. Yeah, sharks are one of my biggest fears. Living in Australia can do that to a person. The second part takes place once the Megalodon has been released into today’s oceans, with Cate and part of her crew (plus some newbies), going out to hunt the shark. Not all goes according to plan.

This is a killer book, and if you’re looking for a tale that will amp up your tension, and have you questioning whether you really should go back into the water, then Fathomless is the book you need to be reading. Or gift it to someone who loves that spinchter-clenching form of thriller and terror.

You can read a review of Fathomless here.

Recommended for lovers of horror, suspense, thrillers, and plain ol’ ‘holy crap, swim faster, swim faster!’

 

 

 

Guest Post: Hollow House by Greg Chapman

Today, good friend and fellow scribe, Greg Chapman, is here to talk about his debut novel Hollow House, and the characters that call Willow Street home. I was lucky enough to get an advance read of the story, and Greg’s nailed the use of grey characters (my favourite kind). Add an abandoned house with a checkered history, nosy neighbours, and an up-and-coming serial killer… well, you’ve got quite the cauldron of chaos.

*hands over mic* You’re up, Greg!

There’s a saying that goes something like, “For evil to thrive, good men need do nothing.”

Which begs the question: if evil were to appear in the form of a creepy old house, in a normal everyday street in today’s era, how many of the people living there do you think would care? And how many would have the courage to take on that evil?

This, is in essence, the crux of my debut novel ­– Hollow House.

Hollow House

Morally ambiguous characters fascinate me, especially in the horror genre. I mean, honestly, no one is perfect, right? We all have flaws, and some of us even choose to do bad things. These types of realistic characters are perfect for horror novels, and perfect for evil entities looking to return to the real world.

There are thirteen main characters in my novel: there’s a dysfunctional family of four (the Campbells), the old Markham couple (Mr Markham being a veteran of World War II), the Cowley family (divorcee Alice, her son Dale, and her suicidal daughter Amy) journalist Ben and his lonely wife Megan, and of course, Darryl Novak, a rookie serial killer who follows in the abusive footsteps of his dear-departed mother.

Any of these characters could live on your street, and any street could have a creepy house on the corner. What do you think their chances would be of combating the evil within – and without – if they aren’t willing to face their own demons?

When I started writing Hollow House, I knew it wasn’t going to be your typical good versus evil tale. It’s going to be hard for readers to find any heroes in my tale. Sure, there will be some you will sympathise with, or even relate to, but like? I’m not so sure.

horror novel greg chapman hollow house

If there’s a novel that you could compare Hollow House to, it’s probably Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, a modern retelling of the Dracula story, but set in a small town. The people who live in the town are the focus in King’s novel, as they are in mine. And I, too, choose to put my characters through hell – a relentless downward spiral they find more and more difficult to escape.

It was a lot of fun to write, but unless you love horror fiction, you might not find much light within its pages. My only hope is that you recognise these characters enough – and care about them enough – to see if they survive.

Check out the trailer for Hollow House here.

Hollow House is published by Omnium Gatherum Books, and made its debut July 25, 2016.

Get yourself a copy!

Guest Post: Subverting the Tropes by Alan Baxter

Too long I have been waiting for this! When the Alex Caine Series was released a couple of years back, it was only the first book – Bound – that was released in paperback (reviewed here). As a life-long lover and reader of print books… well, <insert sad face here>. But my happy face has been smacked on as Harper Voyager is re-releasing the series in print and with kick-arse new covers that far better represent the stories and themes of the books.

With this upcoming re-release at the end of June,  I asked the effervescently-barmy Alan Baxter to stop by and tell us a little about his creative process.

So without further ado… *hands over mic*

I’m very grateful to AJ for offering to host a spot on my blog tour for the re-release of The Alex Caine Series. AJ asked me to write a post about the tropes I explored in the series, and that’s quite exciting, because when she says explored, I think subvert.

Caine-Bound-book-page

With these books I set out from the beginning to turn some old ideas upside-down. The first book in the series, Bound, was originally going to be a standalone novel. The idea was to take two things that don’t normally go together and fuck around with them. In this case, I had an idea to write a novel about a career martial artist who maybe had a little bit of magic in him of which he wasn’t really aware. And I had this evil book idea, that I really wanted to find a story for. When those things came together I realised I had the opportunity to mess up a big old trope. I’ve always wanted to write what is essentially a big fat fantasy epic quest, but have it set in the modern day, in our world, paced like a thriller and full of dark and monstrous twists and turns. As you can imagine, with the martial artist and the evil book, I had a great scaffold for that exercise. And Bound was born.

By about halfway through the book I realised I had a much bigger story on my hands. The quest and all its associated elements meant I had to have a strong backstory. So, of course, the backstory had its own history, elements of the story I was telling were going to echo and reverberate, and I wanted to tell more of the story. So I had a much larger arc in mind and I started to think about how I was going to tell that.

Caine-Obsidian-book-page

The first book was very much the classic epic quest. I decided that the second book, Obsidian, would play with the old idea of the lost city. And the city in Obsidian is really lost. And then, by the third book, Abduction, I had characters and situations that had grown well beyond their humble beginnings, and I found myself with a real “Clash of the Titans” trope to play around with and subvert. I may have indulged my love of superheroes a little obliquely with book 3 too.

So while it’s all one story across three books, every individual book is a complete novel and a complete story as well. And, as I didn’t tie up every single loose end, I have all kinds of ideas for future Alex Caine books if the opportunity presents itself. With any luck the current trilogy will do well enough that I get to write more. There are so many tropes to subvert!

The Alex Caine Series – Bound, Obsidian and Abduction – is available in paperback and ebook now.

Caine-Abduction-book-page

Alan Baxter is a British-Australian author who writes dark fantasy, horror and sci-fi, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog. He also teaches Kung Fu. He lives among dairy paddocks on the beautiful south coast of NSW, Australia, with his wife, son, dog and cat. He’s the award-winning author of several novels and over sixty short stories and novellas. So far. Read extracts from his novels, a novella and short stories at his website – www.warriorscribe.com – or find him on Twitter @AlanBaxter and Facebook, and feel free to tell him what you think. About anything.

So if you’re looking for a supernaturally good read, get on these!

 

Art of the Cover

Covers matter. They do. That old adage: Don’t judge a book by its cover, if taken in its absolute literal sense, is utter bullshit. Covers are your visual selling point; it’s the first thing a potential reader (and buyer) sees. And if it’s terrible and/or amateurish… Behold, I will judge with all my judgey judginess! I will slam down my imaginary gavel, and I won’t buy your book.

But wait, I hear you say, what if the story is brilliant? Then invest in good cover art, dammit. Invest in it like you invested in your story. All those hours you agonised over words and plot and characters, of the sleep you sacrificed, eating at your desk, of wondering whether you showered today… or was it yesterday… (No? Just me then…), invest that same excellence in your cover art. Don’t just slap any cover on your work (and for the love of all things holy and unholy, unless you’re an artist, don’t do it yourself!), ’cause I will judge your book by its cover, and so will a lot of others.

I read a lot, and as a buyer of print books, a beautiful and/or interesting cover will draw me in as much as a shitty one will repel. And with the amount of both print and electronic books on the market, a good cover is half the battle won. I’ll pick it up, and if your blurb is good (that’s fodder for another post), then that’s a sale. When it comes to my hard-earned cash, I’m particular on how I spend it, and I’m more likely to spend on a book with a beautiful cover, than I am on one with a shite one.

For someone with a mountain of ‘to read’ books who also can’t walk past a bookstore without venturing into its delicious depths, I’m always looking for new authors to read. A cover is where it all begins. It led me to Mark Lawrence and his Broken Empire and Red Queen series, and now I’ll read anything the man writes. Seriously, go to his website and buy the man’s books. Go. Now. I’ll wait.

prince-of-thorns

<insert Muzak here>

Back? Excellent.

Another thing I often hear is that bad covers are the domain of the author-publisher. Again, I call bullshit. The advent of author-publishing and the (now-diminishing) stigma attached to it, has shown authors know the value of a great cover. There are self-published authors whose books have gorgeous covers – this tells me they’ve thought long and hard about their finished product, about their reader. And covers should reflect the content, the world and atmosphere of a book. Take a look at Devin Madson’s The Blood of Whisperers – the story inside is as beautiful as the cover. Another author whose work I will now always read.

BoW

As an editor, I understand the importance of covers, how they work to sell the story/stories inside. If you can excite a potential reader by the cover art alone, then you’re looking at sales. Sales are good. Sales mean the author (or authors, when an anthology) will be read, and those authors may begin to get a fan-base – and there’s not a lot better than that. As an editor for Cohesion Press (an Australian small press), their mantra is to always source kick-ass cover art. Great cover art gets readers excited, it builds interest, it builds sales. But more than that, it’s the finished product. Readers will appreciate the effort you put in, and they’ll remember your name.

Into-the-Mist-194x300

I know there’ll be those out there who will bemoan the cost of cover art. That good cover art is unaffordable. Well before you do that, how would you feel if someone bitched about the price of your book? Good cover art costs, just as good editing and proofreading – all essential parts of the publishing process. You want to put your best work out into the world, right? Right?

The reason I decided to write this post was the cover artist for Cohesion’s books, Dean Samed (check out his work) just yesterday had his site go live, and his cover-work is just astounding. Each piece grabs you, it takes you places, and it defines what’s on the inside pages. The last thing any author wants is a horror book (for instance) with a decidedly romance cover. That’s a betrayal no reader will tolerate.

There are amazing artists out there who love creating cover art for the books you love creating. Check out Deviantart, get onto artists’ sites, and if you like the style of a book cover, the artist is usually mentioned in the front-matter. Social media is a great way to get recommendations for artists, for those who specialise in covers, who can put the best ‘coat’ on your baby.

Do a little research, chat to artists, find great art. Your book will thank you for it.

Tusk

Review: City of Wonders by James A Moore

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a book here, but as the current word count on reading for work sits at 2, 148, 400 (that’s right, over two million words so far this year), I can be excused for my slow reading-from-my-bookcase rate… and why it took me way longer to read this book than it should have.

So… grab a battle axe, or any self-forged weapon you have handy, wrangle a pra-moresh and mount up – it’s time to make war.

City of Wonders is the third book in the Seven Forges series by James A Moore, and it carries on beautifully and brutally from the first two books. And brutal it is. The kingdom of Fellein is at war with the Sa’ba Taalor – grey-skins born for battle. There’s no pussy-footing around when it comes to war, and Moore doesn’t shy from the savagery of it.

City of Wonders

Now we’re really getting into the meat of battle (can I get a ‘hell yeah!’). The Sa’ba Taalor are ferocious opponents, not given over to fear or mercy. The Fellein are woefully outmatched. Too long they’ve sat comfortable, idle, and they’re paying a damn high price for it.

While there are a lot of players in this series, and the story is told from multiple viewpoints, this only adds to the understanding of both sides of this war. That’s the thing with Moore’s writing, and why I am enamoured with this series – you can’t pick a side. There are no essentially ‘bad guys’ in this war; each side is fighting for their gods; each side has their story and you when you’re in the mind of one of the storytellers, you wholeheartedly understand why they’re fighting – be they Merros Dulver, commander of the Imperial Army, or Tarag Paedori, the King in Iron; or Andover Lashk, Swech, Drask Silver Hand, or Empress Nachia… you side with them, no matter which side of the war they sit.

There’s magic here – sorcery and necromancy. And you can’t forget the gods. The seven gods of the Sa’ba Taalor are one of my favourite parts of this series – so different from anything I’ve read, and while we see more of them through Andover Lashk and his trials, there’s still mystery surrounding them and I’ve no doubt we’ve yet to see the power they can truly wield. Through their gods, the Sa’ba Taalor have had a huge advantage (well that, and they’re a fearsome bunch – even the children are fierce warriors, able to disembowel a soldier with an adept flick of their wrist and weapon), and have destroyed a large portion of the Fellein empire and its people.

The Fellein put their faith in their (mostly) well-trained army, and that of their sorcerer, Desh, but City of Wonders brings the Fellein’s gods to the fore in the form of The Pilgrim. Enigmatic leader of a the faithful he’s collected on his journey to the city of Canhoon, the City of Wonders.

Gods fighting gods, monsters aplenty, warriors pitted against soldiers, and within it all, individuals just looking to survive. Through their eyes we see this looming apocalypse – there can be only one winner. That’s the thing here, though, I don’t know whose side I’m on. It’s Moore’s ability to get the reader inside the head and heart of those telling the story that makes it difficult to pick a side. And there’s a beauty in that – it shows that war isn’t a thing of the masses, but that of the individuals that make up the world and the battle, what they risk and why.

Seven Forges

Moore’s writing completely transports, his characters are fantastically fantastic, and the tension he weaves through it all is expertly done. Oh, and the twists? You’ll love those too. There are few authors I read where I wish I could write as well as them, but James A Moore is one them.

I can’t recommend this series enough. If you’re looking for fantasy on the darker side of things, and a magic system and gods that mess with any preconceived ideas you have, then you can’t go wrong with City of Wonders, let alone the whole Seven Forges series.

 The Blasted Lands

Special shout out to the cover artist for all the books, too. I don’t at all subscribe to the adage: Don’t judge a book by its cover. That’s bullshit. If you’re a print-reader like me, covers are what make you pick up a book, and the covers for all the books in the Seven Forges series are just gorgeous, and perfectly capture the characters they depict, and the world in which they live.

Book four, The Silent Army, has just been released, and while I’m desperately looking forward to reading it, part of me wants to hold off, to prolong this series for as long as I can. The world Moore has created is one I’d happily spend a long, long time in. And if that’s not the mark of a great storyteller (and books), I don’t know what is.

On a Goodreads scale, I give this five stars… big gold ones ten feet high.

five stars

It’s a Win!

Two days on from the Australian Shadows Awards, I’m still riding the high of the win. Yep, that’s right, The Road to Golgotha, won the inaugural award for ‘written works in a graphic novel/comic’. Excuse me while I Snoopy dance. (Look away now if you’d like to keep your food down…)

The ‘Shadows’ are the premier horror awards put together by the Australian Horror Writers Association. Judged by those who know and are passionate about the genre makes a win even more sweet – getting the nod from those within the industry, within the genre you love, that your work is top notch.

The Road to Golgotha

The Road to Golgotha is two stories within the one tome: His Own Personal Golgotha penned by GN Braun, and my story The Road. So I get to share this win with my mate Geoff. Not only that, I had the pleasure of telling him we’d won (he was making coffee at the time; can’t fault him that), and then a good five minutes convincing him it was true.

This is my second Australian Shadows Award win, having won for the short story category in 2011. What makes this win so amazing is the amount of work and effort that went into writing the comic. It was a totally new medium for me and Geoff, a damn steep learning curve, and I’m not ashamed to say it almost broke me. But… challenge accepted. I was determined to write the best damn comic I could, to take the reader to a very dark place and stride along with Riley as she owned every decision she made for what she wanted. To be rewarded with the Shadows Award… yeah, that’s pretty damn sweet.

And the cherry on the icing of an amazingly cool cake was the words from the judges:

“The Road to Golgotha provides an immediate escape into visual horror with the first turn of the page. Like a modern-day Dante’s Inferno, here we have two tales of two very distinct, yet similarly tortured characters on quests through unknown regions of the human soul. Expertly illustrated by Monty Borror, The Road to Golgotha is a gorgeous comic that left the judges spellbound and wanting more.”

road page 28    Golgotha

And the judges were on-point giving Monty Borror the kudos he deserves. ‘Expertly illustrated’ is right – Monty brought Geoff and my visions of the comic to extraordinary life, often seeing more in our scripts than we did. I can’t thank him enough for making Riley and her road and monsters exquisitely horrifying. (I’ll be scattering pages from the comics through this post, beware!)

This was also the first win of the night for Cohesion Press, with The Road to Golgotha being the inaugural imprint of Cohesion Comics. There were more to come. Next up was Alan Baxter’s In Vaulted Halls Entombed, which won the Paul Haine’s Award for long fiction. Alan’s story appeared in SNAFU: Survival of the Fittest, put out through Cohesion. This is a brilliant story, and deserved of the win.

The last in Cohesion’s trifecta was in the edited works category, with Blurring the Line (edited by Marty Young), taking out the win. This anthology is a superb showcase of horror that blurs the lines between what’s real and what’s not. And in the words of the judges: “There are some exceptional tales in this collection, gripping, compelling and haunting stories, the kind that stay with you for a good while afterwards.”

The wonderful thing about Aussie (and Kiwi) horror is that you’re bound to know pretty much all those in the industry down under. So I was chuffed to pieces that the short story category win went to amazing writer and my mentor, Kaaron Warren. If you haven’t read her work, you should. You really should.

road page 25.jpg

The collected works category was taken out by one of my favourite people in the world, Robert Hood. His gargantuan tome, Peripheral Visions (an 800-page collection of ghost stories and amazing artwork), showcases not only his remarkable work over decades in the genre, but Australian horror at its best.

So two days on, I really am still riding the high of winning the award, and being among some of the best writers in horror today. Huzzah! So if you’re looking for a horror graphic novel that pushes you past the comfortable, and takes you on a wild ride of monsters and oh-so terrible places, then The Road to Golgotha is just what you’re looking for. Trust me, I know the writers.

road page 28

Check out the list of winners below, and if you haven’t read their work, get thee to a bookstore! Or e-store! Or library!

Best Written Works in a Comic/Graphic Novel: The Road to Golgotha – GN Braun & Amanda J Spedding (Cohesion Comics)

Best Edited Works: Blurring the Line – Marty Young, ed. (Cohesion Press)

Paul Haines Award for Long Fiction: In Vaulted Halls Entombed – Alan Baxter (SNAFU: Survival of the Fittest, Cohesion Press)

Best Collected Works: Peripheral Visions: The Collected Ghost Stories – Robert Hood (IFWG Publishing)

Best Short Story: Mine Intercom – Kaaron Warren (Review of Australian Fiction)

Best Novel: The Catacombs – Jeremy Bates

Rocky Wood Award for Non-Fiction and Criticism: The Literary Gothic by Marija Elektra Ridriguez

Oh, and the trophy we’ll be getting? Yeah, it rocks!

AusShadows-trophy

Book Pimping: The Eschatologist by Greg Chapman

Happy 2016 all!

I’ve been meaning to write a post boring you all with my goals for the year, instead I’ve decided to use my first 2016 post to promote the work of another – something that benefits us all. I firmly believe that putting forward authors whose work you enjoy benefits us all. What better way than to give readers the opportunity to discover new worlds?

the eschatologist

With this in mind, I’d like to pimpity-pimp Aussie author Greg Chapman‘s new novella The Eschatologist,  put out through Voodoo Press. Here’s a little taste from the back-cover blurb:

David Brewer is trying to keep his family alive in a world torn asunder by a Biblical apocalypse. Yet there is salvation, in the guise of a stranger who offers survivors sanctuary. All they have to do is declare their faith in God’s final – and bloody – plan.

He had me at apocalypse.

For those not familiar with Greg’s work, not only is he a wonderful writer but a kick-arse illustrator, too (hogging the talent pool much?). He’s the artist behind the Bram Stoker award-winning graphic novel, Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times, penned by Lisa Morton and the late (great) Rocky Wood. 

So if you’re looking for something new to read, check out The Eschatologist, Oh, and take a look at the book trailer – it rocks!