Archive for September, 2015

JEA AWARDS 2015/WITH TOOTH AND CLAW/COLLECTION RUMINATIONS

I wrote a post about awards last year so I won’t go overboard on repeating everything I said then, I’ll just keep it succinct. Yeah, yeah I know, big ask for me, the guy who loves writing words…a lot of them.

J. Ellington Aston’s annual awards has happened for 2015 and With Tooth And Claw managed to pick one up for Collection of the Year. My bottom line in writing is that I do it because I simply love to write and my head is a constant churn of stories demanding to be written, but it is most definitely a cool thing to have other folks dig your work and enjoy the stories as much as you enjoyed writing them.

wtac award

With Tooth And Claw came out in February this year, and while it’s been a little more of a slow burner than Plebs, it has garnered several great reviews and moved well in several countries. It crops up every so often on the top 100 Sea Stories category on Amazon, which amuses me no end, since the closest to water any of the tales get is a thunderstorm in Cavedwellers.

Comprised of seven pieces (three of which are more novella length than short story-hey, I write long stories, long books…I love it) With Tooth And Claw is my first collection, and what will be the first of many. I have mentioned before that I intend to release a collection of shorts/novellas in between each novel I put out, so consequently, the majority of shorts that I’m writing at the moment, won’t be destined for specific anthologies as they have been in previous years, but will be solely for compilation in my own collections. Since the next book to be forthcoming from me is the black/death metal undead splatterpunk opus Undead Fleshcrave: The Zombie Trigger, it’s safe to say you can expect the ensuing book to be another macabre bunch of extreme horror tales. Then, of course the follow-up(s) to Plebs will follow.

For those who have read With Tooth And Claw, and enjoyed it, hated it, ambivalent about it, left reviews (cheers for that, I love reviews-good, bad and ugly) those particular stories are not all new. In fact, a couple of them are very, very old, written a long time ago and the concept for Cavedwellers is older still. For the most part though, they are newer works, not written for anything specifically, aside from taking up rental space in my twisted imagination, and needing to get spilled in gory ink splatters on the page. While any more collections to come from me will primarily be new and previously unpublished pieces, I might happen to slip in an older tale or two, and possibly some of those who have been included in prior anthologies.

wtac authors choice

I’m not overly fanatical about the idea of putting together a book of stories which have been previously published for the following reason.

If one is a fan of a particular author, it might be reasonably safe to assume that they’ve sought out the majority of works that particular author has written, or has read the various stories they’ve put out in different books. I know when I seek out a collection of a favourite author, I’m mostly interested in reading a bunch of new stories, or at least works which I’m not familiar with. To me, grabbing a collection of stories, only to find they’re all just reprints of stuff I’ve already read, is a little bit like cheating the reader. So, rest assured, any collection I put out is not going to follow that trajectory, bar perhaps one or two stories which will be derived from maybe lesser known, or not as widely read, anthologies. It’s the same ideology for me, behind writing big books. Give the readers something to really sink their teeth into and get immersed in, and give them new material. If they’re part of your fanbase, it’s a fair bet they’ve already read those stories you have in separate books, so don’t screw them by reselling the same shit they’ve already read. That’s just my own personal opinion on the concept and I’m sure plenty would see it differently, as in a ‘best of album’ or some shit, but at this stage in the game, something like that is not going to be in my plans. New books will mean new stories.

On a final note though, I have to give a massive shout-out to my brother in horror and metal, the incomparable Toneye Eyenot. This legend’s debut, The Scarlett Curse, won the Authors Choice Award for Book of the Year and it is thoroughly desevred. Nobody deserves success, acknowledgement and recognition more than this guy, and I’m extremely proud of him and everything he has achieved. He is going to be a major force.

scarlett curse

Brilliant cover artist and author Michael Fish Fisher (the man behind the entire Rejected For Content series cover art and myriad others) won Editors Choice for Book of the Year with DC’s Dead, while Kent Hill’s Straight To Video anthology picked up Editors choice for Anthology of the Year. Big congrats to all involved.

For those who haven’t yet read With Tooth And Claw, here’s the link.

http://smarturl.it/withtoothandclaw

And here is the link for The Scarlett Curse

http://www.amazon.com/Scarlett-Curse-Sacred-Blade-Profanity-ebook/dp/B00ZDPCNQ6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1442892536&sr=1-1&keywords=toneye+eyenot

DC’s Dead

http://www.amazon.com/DCs-Dead-Michael-Fisher-ebook/dp/B00N738A68/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1442892874&sr=1-1&keywords=dc%27s+dead

Straight To Video

http://www.amazon.com/Straight-Video-Anthology-Movie-Awesomeness-ebook/dp/B00X6QZLLI/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1442892943&sr=1-1&keywords=straight+to+video

In any case, before I start to make a liar out of myself with that ‘keep it succinct’ disclaimer at the start, I’m out of here.

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RICHARD LAYMON. THE KING.

Just about anybody who knows me, interacts regularly with me, follows or keeps up to date with what I’m doing, or even just has a casual interest in what I write, will be quite aware that I am a massive Richard Laymon fanatic.

After all, I’ve made mention probably forty or fifty times that he is my greatest inspiration and influence in writing, and there’s every chance I’ll say it at least forty or fifty times more. So, with that being said I’m going to talk a little here about the late, great Laymon, the influence he had on me and the impact discovering his work had, not just how I wrote, but how I viewed horror fiction in general. And potentially some random gibberish. We’ll see.

I discovered Richard Laymon’s books in the early 90s. A voracious reader of horror fiction, I was already well versed in the works of King, Koontz, Masterton, Herbert, McCammon, Barker, Simmons, Hutson, Strieber, Miller, Straub as well as the likes of John Saul, John Farris, Michael Slade, Gary Brandner and multitudes of others, whether they had a number of books or were just one hit wonders, at that stage and I read anything and everything by all the above. I came across these authors and others by either being intrigued by book covers or synopsis’s, or through other books.

For those who are unfortunate enough to never experience it, with this day and age being ruled by Kindles and ebook formats, back in the day many publishers and imprints used to include blurbs and teasers of other horror books by either the same author or different ones (,some still do and a lot don’t), and I would go through this and make lists of prospective horror authors to check out. For Kindle enthusiasts, or just for something to use as a comparison to the technology of an ebook replacing a paperback, think of it as akin to the Amazon ‘Customers also bought items by these authors‘ feature on an authors Amazon profile.

In any case, one of these blurbs was a book by Richard Laymon (I’m pretty sure the synopsis I first read there was for The Woods Are Dark), so that name went on my list with a host of others to investigate next time I was near a book store or library. The first Laymon book I ever came across was a 1991 Headline first edition paperback of Darkness, Tell Us. I still have the very same copy I first picked up and read; along with a copy of Clive Barker’s ‘Cabal’ and a poetry book with two of my favourite poems (and others)-Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ and T.S Eliot’s ‘The Hollow Men’-it is one of the few books that I’ve managed to hang onto the same copy I originally read. Check it out below.

Snapshot_20150919

I’d picked up a few other (non-Laymon) books along with this, but the cover art and the synopsis had me intrigued, so ‘Darkness, Tell Us’ was the first one I delved into. From that point on, I was hooked. I had to find and read all the other books he’d written. At this point, there was around fifteen or so other titles, which meant I had plenty to choose from and it was also at a stage where he was writing and releasing new books, so there was still loads of Laymon to be found in brick and mortar book stores, even department store book sections, as well as abundant older titles in second-hand book shops. I scoured and ransacked anywhere they were likely to be available to snap up anything Laymon I could find. Blood Games was the second one I read, and along with Darkness, Tell Us, still remains a sentimental favourite. I’ve heard a few folk say that neither of these are among his better, or stronger, books, but that’s a matter of opinion and everybody has differing ones. Personally, I love them both in different ways and initially, the next few Laymon’s I read, didn’t quite resonate the same with me. These were Beware, Night Show and All Hallow’s Eve. In retrospect, I suppose I was probably judging them against the earlier couple I’d read rather than on their own merits, so consequently, when I picked all of these up again and re-read them many years later, I enjoyed them much more the second time around,

It was in 2001 that Laymon sadly passed away, so between then and when I first discovered his work, there were ten glorious years of not just tracking down and collecting all the books he’d already written, but that excitement of waiting for a new release to come out, or knowing that one was coming, about to hit the bookshelves. Alarums, the ferocity of Endless Night (perhaps his most brutal work, along with Beware), the unique perspective of Savage, In the Dark, Body Rides, as soon as they all came out, I was getting my paws on them. For the most part it was a matter of between one or two Laymon novels released a year in that time-frame. Down in Australia, we had the UK Headline editions released, which to this day are still my favourite ones. These days, I will grab any Laymon I come across, whatever publisher it might be through, or whatever the cover art may be, but primarily I am an avid collector of the Headline editions, as I was back in the beginning.

To me, the cover art done by Steve Crisp and Mark Taylor, who between them, had a fairly even split of covers for these Headline editions, was almost as fascinating as the stories themselves, and were a big part of the attraction in collecting them all, and I spent plenty of time just perusing the artwork and examining each one. The one outsider of the bunch was the cover for what happened to be one of my all time favourite Laymon books, that of Funland. This Headline cover was done not by Crisp or Taylor, but by Dave Eastbury, It’s an iconic cover as it is, though there was an unpublished one for Funland which was done by Taylor. Check it out below, as well as the Eastbury one and see which you have a preference for.

This is Taylor’s

funland-unpub-c

And of course, the one most of us (at least in Australia or the UK) know best

funland

As I mentioned I was fanatical about collecting the Headline ones and hanging out waiting for the newest release, both for the story itself as well as checking out the latest cover art, and once upon a time my collection was entirely comprised of Headline editions, bar an obscure cover for Beware which I’ve never seen anywhere else around. I can’t even recall what publisher that was through, it wasn’t a Headline job; it was one I picked up in a cluttered little second-hand book store in Coffs Harbour. Unfortunately, I lost a vast majority of my collection (aside from several, including that prized Darkness, Tell Us) and have had to rebuild it all again. That’s a story for another time, but while my collection still remains largely Headline editions, there are a handful of titles from other presses in there too. Like I said, I grab any Laymon I encounter, in book stores of any variety that might have one sitting around, so Headline snobbery is not rife here. Any Laymon is a good Laymon, and that goes for all the stories themselves, regardless of whether it is one his books where he was on his A-game, or one of those less favoured by Laymonites.

There have been some interesting covers conjured up for the various other presses, along the American releases, but for me, nothing compared to those classic Headline covers. I’d be hard pressed trying to pick out any particular favourite, I dug them all, but here’s a handful of selections.

one rainy night

dark mountain

the-woods-are-dark

bloodgam

Essentially, I could post the lot of them. Endless Night, Quake, Island, they were all equally captivating to me, but anyway, moving on.

I’d already been writing for many years, before I even discovered Laymon, since I started conjuring up stories not too long after I learned to read and along with a handful of horror stories, I’d also written a novel. This entity, revolving around a high school being captured in the thrall of a bizarre blizzard and having the entire school population trapped inside for the storm’s duration, which led to the emergence of malevolent spirits, creatures and all kinds of things, was principally inspired by those authors I was deeply into at the time. Consequently, it was pretty derivative of all of them, a reasonable story I suppose, but not something that I will ever seek to get published in any shape or form.

Reading Laymon for the first time, not only blew my mind, but it completely tipped the concept of horror up on it’s head for me. It also helped to alter the way I wrote myself, it assisted in honing my writing and it showed me that trying to emulate the way others wrote (as I’d largely done with the ill-fated Spiritstorm) wasn’t a plan. So from that point on, I wrote the way I wanted, the types of stories that I personally love to read, without seeking to follow any preconceived notions or strict formulas, or ideas about what, or how, I should be writing. The second novel I ever completed, and a book I still one day have plans to get published, ‘In The Darkest Hour’, turned out to be a far better representation of the way I love to write, as opposed to trying to cobble together stylistic approaches others have made their own.

Laymon isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, that’s for damn sure and as is inevitable, his work has had its detractors, but the bottom line for me is that he was a master storyteller. As opposed to latter day shock merchants who might hurl blood, gore, violence and sexual content at the pages just in some garish, tawdry fashion to elicit shock or repulsion, completely sacrificing any semblance of a story-line, Laymon was a storyteller. He had story-lines, and characters, and while, shit you might have hated some of those more repugnant examples of characters in those books, you certainly felt something for them. He possessed the ability to make you care, one way or another, about certain characters and their fates, and while he didn’t shy away from sex and bloody violence that launched off the pages in lurid technicolour, those things weren’t just in there for the sake of shock value; these elements were aspects befitting of the stories and the pysches of the characters themselves.

His writing was pared down and lean, and for the most part, the pacing was snappy and quick. Stories weren’t an endless slog of brainless gore, or a constant parade of violence without meaning; they successfully married brutality with humour, poignancy with fear, and all in all, the aspects came together in a way to create a solid story. Laymon had his favourite recurring themes crop up throughout many of his books, but one thing was guaranteed; each book was going to be different. Bar the Beast House series, which of course all revolves around the same themes, no Laymon book is a cut and paste job with rehashed characters running through the same trials and tribulations experienced in another.

Ultimately, Laymon was a splatterpunk master and remains the number one, in my book. He may never have scaled the lofty peaks like Stephen King himself and others, but nobody else’s work has inspired me more, and if not for his tragic, untimely passing, perhaps he might have reached those levels, or even surpassed them, maybe still churning out books and still having the likes of me getting amped with excitement for that new opus to drop.

In his homeland of the States, he wasn’t as big as he probably should have been until after his passing, for an assortment of reasons (the original editing botch job on The Woods Are Dark springs to mind), but he was revered in the UK and downunder, and still is.

There have been many emulators, and indeed there are loads of excellent writers out there who could be heir to Laymon’s crown, but for now he remains the king.