Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Horror Boxes: How I Review Books

In a recent review, I was fervently typing out my feelings when I noticed I had said this line,
"This book lacked something for my heart. It checked all the horror boxes and all the technical merit boxes but there wasn't anything for my heart box."
I was reading the review to my husband and he noticed it too. He asked me about these "horror boxes" and after we discussed it awhile, he suggested I develop the ideas into something more tangible that I can use for future reviews.
So that's what I did. I carefully considered what these "boxes" might be so that when I'm reading a horror book, I can think critically and logically about them and make concrete judgments about them.
So my Horror Boxes, when you stack them up right, look like a body.
The Head: This box is for all the technical aspects. The biggest box. I ask a lot of questions that get dumped into this box for me to unpack during a review: Was the plot a fully formed idea? Were there plot holes? What was the narration style? Is the writing compelling? Could I follow the story? Did parts ramble, lag, move too quickly? Too many characters? Not enough. Big info dumps? This is an important box simply because so much stuff goes in here.

The Heart: This is a very important component and it's one that if I peer inside of it at the end of the book and the box is empty, it will weigh heavy on my overall score of the book. For me personally, horror is only *really* good if the author invites me into it. The author must give me something to invest in. I want to give my heart over to the book and have it be squeezed or manipulated or broken. This is the risky behavior that I've come to enjoy when reading this genre. It's where the SCARES come in! You want me to be scared right?? This is HORROR! SCARE ME! This doesn't happen unless I've filled up this heart box. Otherwise, I'm just an observer--I'm just watching. So many books are like that for me. I'm just standing on the sidelines and the book is just throwing all kinds of violence and gore at me and I'm getting dirty but my heart isn't in the game and at the end of the day, that's not going to do it for me.

The Hands: This box is just skill and skill alone. Did this book make me feel like I was in capable hands or not? Different than the Head box because there aren't any questions other than that and it's based on my personal connection with the writing so it's super subjective. It's all feel.

The Teeth: I read a book recently where I felt like the author was dancing around the horror. It never really went there and I wanted it to tip the scales and just rip it open. No horror fan wants to read a book that won't deliver. It's why we show up. We're looking to hit pay dirt and if the author pussyfoots around with the violence or the gore or the stakes aren't raised, then it's not really horror and I'm bored. Give me teeth. BITE.  I want to be like, "Oooooo there it is!!"

The Eyes: Just like with my food, I eat with my eyes first. I like a good cover on my physical copy. I like pretty title pages. I like a good font on the title. Bonus points for illustrations, deckled edges, fancy, dancy dazzle and pizzazz. Also, the Eyes box holds space for setting & mood. The atmosphere and the aesthetic. I'm very impressed with all of that. It's not everything but it accounts for the extra icing on the cake.

~Sadie Hartmann

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Author Interview: Jeremy R. Johnson

I saw this cover on a friend's #bookstagram feed on Instagram and I knew that I wanted this book. Not only does the design speak to me but I'm a rabid fan of short story collections.
Lucky me, my friend sent it to me! Thanks Emily!
So I put this on the top of my "nightstand reads" and continued with my regularly scheduled TBR. But that cover! It kept calling to me.
So I finally gave in to temptation and picked it up. The first story hooked me in and I couldn't put it down until I binged the whole collection. Each time I finished a story, I'd flip to the back of the book and read the author's notes for it (I love when authors do that!). Even though the notes aren't long, a reader gets a glimpse into Jeremy's casual voice and I decided he would make a great interview for the blog. So here we are!
I've been recommending this book to fans of dark, strange fiction and eagerly anticipating Jeremy's email back to my set of questions. Yesterday, the eagle landed (his words) and now you get to enjoy getting a personal look into the life of a writer:

Photo cred: Christopher Cleary 2017
1. First of all, thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule to do this interview. For me, personally, it’s just an enormous privilege to be given this opportunity but I think for the reader population in general, author interviews are a way we get to know you apart from the fiction you write. It’s really exciting. I’m excited. First question!
I see in your bio that you are from and currently still live in Portland, Oregon. I recently moved from California to the PNW and I love it so much. Literally everybody I knew in Cali gave me some kind of warning or wise ass remark about gray skies and rain. I’m curious to hear your thoughts about Portland—the pros and cons.

I moved to Portland in my twenties because I was driving here for shows and events every weekend anyway. Just made sense to set up camp. So in the beginning, it was all about having easy access to the arts culture and writing scene in the area. Rent was nowhere near as hellacious as it’s become, the California condo infestation had yet to transform some of the sleazier territories, and Gus Van Sant/Chuck Palahniuk/John Callahan-spottings were a-plenty.

 Also, and always: Powell’s is here. My favorite bookstore on Earth, and they support independent writers like crazy.

 Now I’m here as a father and husband, which means I don’t really have the time for the “see a concert per night, then go out drinking, then eat a human-head-sized burrito from a cart at 3AM” thing. But we still love Powell’s, and my kid digs the vintage arcades, and we’re relatively close to the beach and mountains, which is great. Schools ain’t bad either. And I know it’s kind of a writerly cliché—the whole booze and coffee thing—but if do you happen to be a beer and coffee enthusiast, Portland has some of the best.

(My note on this: Powell's was totally overwhelming to me. It has multiple stories, new books, used books, out-of-print books...EVERYTHING. I kind of stood in shock and wandered around aimlessly)

2. I just finished Entropy in Bloom and I’m still blown away by the diversity you gave us in that collection. You have such a wide range of narrating styles and a talent for mashing up genres. What would you say is your favorite genre to write in, your most comfortable narrative—like first person or third, etc—and which story from that collection is your personal favorite (why)?
Favorite genre to write in: Fictionalized personal trauma and deepest fears rendered through the tropes and techniques of horror/crime/absurdism.
Most comfortable narrative style: First person, because it’s the most forgiving. The deep subjectivity of it, the speed of moving in a stream of consciousness, the ease of conveying emotion—it really feels like you’re creating a ride out of an empathetic experience, and it lets you take people to very strange places which might feel overly-bizarre in other narrative forms.

 Favorite story from Entropy in Bloom: “Persistence Hunting” because it feels like I mostly got that one right. I can’t really see the forest for the trees with my work, but every once in a while I get lucky and write something I actually like. “Persistence Hunting” is one of those rare birds I feel okay about, and it’s generally a reader favorite, even with people who dislike a lot of my other stuff. Esquire almost published it back in the day—the fiction editor at the time tabled it, but in the end they decided it was too long and I was too unknown. A few months later they ran new fiction from some guy named Stephen King, and painted the opening line from his story on a supermodel. To be fair, that was probably the wisest use of their fiction budget.
(My note on this: Persistence Hunting was one of my favorites as well. You can read my whole review HERE)
3. Obviously I couldn’t help but notice all the amazing (favorites of mine) authors that provided review quotes for your book. A forward by Brian Evenson; blurbs from Chuck Palahniuk, Craig Davidson *AND* Nick Cutter, Paul Tremblay and Jack Ketchum, just to name a few. It got me curious about the writers that inspired you, the books that you would call favorites and what you currently have on your nightstand right now? So basically like three giant questions all smashed into one and I expect you to fully address all of it.
Well, the writers you listed above are pretty obvious inspirations, and like most writers who grew up during the 80’s horror boom I was raised by King/McCammon/Straub/Barker/Lansdale/Skipp & Spector/etc. And Alan Moore’s run on Swamp Thing was an absolute, mind-blowing game changer to me. Then I went to college and had to pretend I wasn’t a philistine and I became semi-literary and my favorites from that era are Selby and Atwood and Burroughs and Welsh. I know DFW and James Ellroy and Mailer are divisive authors, but they always figured large for me too. I like big, bombastic books. Then, since leaving college, I’ve just read whatever the fuck I want. I try to cover a wide spectrum, though I’ve probably read more horror fiction than anything else.

 The nightstand stack right now:

 Perfidia by James Ellroy

Strategies Against Nature by Cody Goodfellow

 Ecstatic Inferno by Autumn Christian

 and a bunch of ARC’s for blurbs that I really needed to get caught up on.
4. Some rapid fire questions:
*Mountains or Oceans? Mountains, easy. No sharks.
*Music or Movies? Movies, which contain and subsume music to amplified emotional effect.
*Favorite meal to eat out? Anything spicy with a good, cold beer.
*Ideal snack while reading? Wheat Thins (ingrained since childhood). Pepsi on the side, though now I drink that mutant Zevia junk because high fructose corn syrup fucks up my triglycerides.
*Spring or Autumn? Spring. No huge holidays looming.
*Best Restaurant in Portland? Podnah’s Pit BBQ comes in at #2. Not going to tell you my #1 cause it’s starting to get too busy.
*Favorite Stephen King Book? Dark Tower series as a whole (though I’m especially fond of books 2, 3, 7, and Black House). But goddamn does The Shining come close to the top spot.

(My note on this: I love when people say Waste Lands is a favorite. It's one of my favorites too. Blaine is a Pain)
5. Do you have a Man-Bag, a Murse? A book bag you carry around? If so, dump it out and tell me what’s in it. If not, just describe what’s on your desk or the top of your dresser. Please and thank you.
No bags, but here’s the desktop rundown: list of home improvements to do this summer, running calendar, school district calendar, letter from my dentist saying they’ve dropped my insurance provider, aloe plant, photos of my kid, art by my kid, a heavily marked-up print out of my next novel, and one sugar ant (soon to be deceased).
6. A weird bird told me that you were finishing up a novel. I love that bird. Can you confirm this salacious rumor and tell us a little more about it? When can we preorder it?
The rumor is true, but the thing is so poppin’ fresh it’s still sitting with my agent and not to the point where I have a final title/publisher/pub date to announce. Fingers crossed for that, though. Some very serious editors are waiting on the novel thanks to the surprise success of Skullcrack City, so I’m hugely excited to see what happens next.

 I can say that fans of Skullcrack City who are looking for another fast-paced, borderline insane horror/sci-fi/romance/comedy/conspiracy thriller are going to have a fun time with the new book. If you always felt like Dazed and Confused needed more Cronenberg-style body horror and class warfare, this will be your jam.
(My note on this: That book sounds amazing. *already standing in line waiting* also, I need to buy Skullcrack City right now.)
7. In reading reviews of your work and various blurbs on your website, the word gross or grotesque often comes up. Tell me about what fascinates you, what scares you, what turns *your* stomach?
The fear and fascination are intrinsically linked, and I’m obviously obsessed with parasites, nuclear war, sharks, and all the different paths we take toward self-destruction.
The interesting phenomenon I’ve noted recently is how being a father has changed my fears. Everything used to be about self and identity and expectations, but being a dad kind of shifted the gears in my ego, and now I worry way more about the health and safety of my son, and the future we’re heading into together. Related to that, it’s been very interesting to look back through the work of my favorite authors because I can spot when the same phenomenon happened to them—their books suddenly fill up with dead kids, fears of dissolution and disappointment, etc. And writing along those themes hits me differently now—I re-read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road last year, from a father’s perspective, and it fucking melted me.

 As far as stuff that turns my stomach, the one thing that still guarantees a cringe out of me is a good compound fracture. The arm-wrestling scene in The Fly hit me harder than any of the rest.
 (My note on this: Sharks are the worst. Why are they even here?)

8. If an ice cream company said they would make YOU a flavor of ice cream and slap your face and name on the label, what flavor would you be?
Andre’s Cold Duck Sparkling Wine Sorbet with Rainbow Sprinkles and Oxycodone.
9. What’s the worst thing that happened to you in high school?
As a clearly exploitable asset for future work, I cannot divulge that anecdote here.

 Here’s Worst Thing #83, though: Once, at lunch, a bully spit a yellow-green loogie down my half-consumed Capri Sun straw when I wasn’t looking. You can formulate the rest of that story yourself.
10. What five movies would you recommend to me right now off the top of your head?

Sexy Beast, In Bruges, Closer, In the Loop, and Under the Skin.

 Typed that up without stopping to think and in review it’s clear I’m a pushover for stage play levels of dialogue (except for that last film, which was so singular and unsettling that I find myself attracted and repulsed by it in equal measure). 

Of films seen in the last year, Benson and Moorhead’s The Endless stands out as being really lovely and sweet and weird.
Thank you Jeremy!
 Follow Jeremy on social media:
Buy Entropy in Bloom

Thursday, April 5, 2018

My Ten Favorite Fictional Characters

Ben Hanscom- IT, Stephen King
The kid hung out in the library for fun. Of course I love Ben. Plus he was the underdog. I love his grownup character. Big Ben fan, here. I'd love for Chris Pratt to play him in Part 2 of the IT movie.
Miriam Black- The Miriam Black Series, Chuck Wendig
So Miriam is the only character in fiction that has made me laugh out loud more than once or twice. She has such a horrible temper, a sailor mouth, a sarcastic & biting wit and she's overly rude or sassy when it would benefit her greatly if she kept her mouth shut. She does *not* give one shit about self preservation.  I love her.
Sansa Stark- A Song of Ice & Fire, George R. R. Martin
I know I'm in the minority here with this one, Sansa starts the series off as such a shallow, prissy princess but by A Dance with Dragons, she was my favorite character and I loved reading her chapters the best. I'm in love with the actress, Sophie Turner, who plays her character in the show.

Jake Chambers- The Dark Tower Series, Stephen King
I love Jake with my whole heart. A large part of it is his instant kinship with my favorite animal character of all time, the Billy Bumbler, Oy. Jake is so brave and loyal. My mom-soul wants to adopt him and keep him safe forever. 
Cassandra Mortmain- I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith
I have an affinity for sharp, witty females that love to read and write and who are sassy AF, what can I say? Cassandra is one of the best.

Cory Mackenson- Boy's Life, Robert McCammon
A new favorite character, I read Boy's Life last month and it was a huge game changer for me. Cory is so lovable, I almost couldn't stand it. This magical, coming of age tale is my favorite glimpse into the life of one of the best young boy characters ever written. Truly the best.
Jay Gatsby- The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
Jay Gatsby is a man with many flaws; most notably: his irrational, blind love/obsession with socialite, Daisy Buchanan. But it's this obsessive, self sacrificing love that makes Jay so endearing. Who can help not falling in love with such a die-hard romantic?

Lisbeth Salander- The Millennium Series, Stieg Larson
I fell in love with Lisbeth almost immediately. She is one of those flawed characters who have beaten impossible, stacked odds but didn't roll over and play the victim. In fact, quite the opposite. She takes what life dishes out like a bad ass. The relationship between her and Mikael Blomkvist is one of my favorite, unlikely pairings in literature.

Samwise Gamgee- The Lord of the Rings trilogy, JRR Tolkien
The legendary best friend and sidekick to Frodo, how can you not be in love with Samwise? He is so adorable in his perfect, unflinching loyalty. My eyes get all glassy with tears just thinking about him.
Harry Potter- The Harry Potter Series, JK Rowling
How can I not pick Harry Potter?? I wasn't lucky enough to have been a child when these books came out and I didn't even read them when all the excitement was going on over the books as they came out. I'm a new fangirl, having only read the series after all the books had been out awhile and I could find them all at the thrift store. I devoured them back to back in 2013. I loved them all and my heart belongs to Rowling for creating such a magical, wonderful story. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Mother Horror's Top Ten List of Literary Villains

It's a well known fact that I don't watch horror, I read it, so I can't pick villains from movies or book adaptations--I'm just picking the villains I loved to hate in the books I've read. So the criteria is books that I've read and based on the actual hate I felt while reading the book. In no particular order:

Joffrey Baratheon- A Song of Ice & Fire Series, G. R. R. Martin.
Has there ever been a bigger asshole in fantasy fiction? The rage I felt during certain scenes was boiling point hot. I lusted for Joffrey's death so hard, it was distracting to my reading--it was all I thought about.
Henry Bowers- IT, Stephen King.
It would be an easy choice to pick Pennywise but the ancient, evil demon clown didn't give me hate fantasies quite like Henry Bowers did. I remember the first time I read IT, Bowers scared me more than Pennywise because I was young and I could feel that tension between the bully and the bullied as though it were my own. Later, as a mother, I thought about a kid like that carving his name into my son's body and I could lose my shit--you know that feeling? It made me cry with frustration and anger. I hate Bowers and his Goons. Burn them with fire.
Aunt Ruth-The Girl Next Door, Jack Ketchum. 
I know I didn't finish this novel (seriously too much for my soul to contend with) but I read enough to have an everlasting hatred of Aunt Ruth. Especially because she is based on the real life psychopathic torturer, abuser,
Gertrude Baniszewski. Of real or fictional villains, Aunt Ruth holds my number one place for most vile creature and I hope there is justice in the afterlife for her. Look at that face! The face of unbound evil.
The Man in Black-The Dark Tower Series, Stephen King
He goes by many names. He works for the Crimson King. If you are a die-hard fan of Roland Deschain than your natural-born enemy and most hated villain for life is the sorcerer, Randall Flagg. One of my favorite books where he appears is in the Eyes of the Dragon. I read that book when I was like 13 and I think I had a villain crush on him because of this illustration: He's kind of wickedly attractive.
"Momma"-Brother, Ania Ahlborn
One of my favorite horror books, Brother is one of those books you binge read in one setting. My burning hatred for Michael's whole family gave me the nightmare fuel to finish this book strong, but nobody was more foul than Momma. There were so many times I wanted to supernaturally reach through the book and throttle her with my own hands. She is one sick, bitch.
Jack-The Lord of the Flies, William Golding
JACK. That POS! I hate that kid. I seriously hated on that kid from the moment he starts rebelling against Ralph. The constant questioning of order and rules, the systematic teasing and bullying of poor "Piggy" and gentle Simon. This book is just a bully finding that he has no accountability or authority and takes it to the worst possible extreme. I wish someone would have pushed him off a cliff or stabbed him with a bamboo spear. Stupid Jack.
Daisy Fay Buchanan-The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Man, Daisy is the worst woman in all of classic literature. First of all, she says the stupidest things,

"They're such beautiful shirts," she sobbed, her voice muffled in the think folds. "It makes me sad because I've never seen such – such beautiful shirts before."
And second of all, she destroyed the finest man in all of classic literature--mostly because she's the most selfish, self absorbed idiot ever written. I have no idea how Fitzgerald was able to pen such a deplorable character but man, I hate Daisy with a passion.
Shelley- The Troop, Nick Cutter
Yeah, Yeah, the Troop. If you read it, you know that there is something released on an island that ends of terrorizing a troop leader and a small group of boys on a campout, right? Right. But that's not the real threat or the villain, the real villain is Shelley. OMG I hate this child. What is WRONG with him?? It's no surprise I hate this character because he's like Jack from the Lord of the Flies but like a billion times worse. I wanted him to die SO BAD.
Pazuzu- The Exorcist, William Peter Blatty
I had to have this demon on this list. Pazuzu, Captain Howdy, is a formidable enemy. The scenes in the book where this ancient demon is really going after it with the exorcist and Father Karras are so terrifying. I mean, who can look their own personal demons in the face as they are delivered to you from the malnutritioned, ravaged body of a possessed 11 year old girl. There isn't anything scarier than that.

The Judge- Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy
A huge, hairless, man with zero morality and maybe even immortality or some kind of supernatural ability? Maybe the devil himself? I don't know but this character freaked me out. This was a rough read, mostly because I had no idea what the Judge was capable of--answer: Everything and anything.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Danger! Horror Books Dead Ahead!

One only has to walk into my new, small house in order to learn a very important fact: There's a reader in this home. My husband built these amazing bookshelves for me that take up an entire wall and then even stretch across the top of the entryway into our kitchen. It looks like we live in a library (which is more than OK with me).
Upon closer inspection, one will notice that 75% of the books qualify as horror. People will say, "Oh, someone likes Stephen King!" to which I will tell them that I've been collecting his books since I was very young. I only had *all* of his trade size books by the time I graduated high school but then as I grew into more of a collector, I began upgrading to hardbacks as I found them in thrift stores, book & garage sales.
Often times, this will prompt one to ask,
"Why do you like horror books so much?" the sound of judgement thick in their voice.
 I tell them:
I like horror because it always makes me *feel* something. Think of it this way, in my real life, I'm a very cautious person. I don't do anything that could put my life in danger (except drive a car--because I must in order to be a functional adult). I don't have any desire to live life on the edge. I don't want to get in a shark cage to look a monster in the mouth. I don't want to jump out of an airplane or bungee jump off a bridge. I don't go on scary carnival rides or try exotic foods. I'm just not adventurous by nature.
Except with books.
Horror is the only genre that allows me to feel reckless.
Maybe this book will hurt me.
I might have nightmares.
This book could terrify me--it could make me never want to go camping in the woods! (I hate camping--too risky)
This horror book could insist that I sleep with the lights on or it could haunt me for the rest of my life. These horror books are dangerous and there's a part of me that likes to feel like I can take risks somewhere.
But don't ask me to watch the movie versions of these tales...
I have to draw the line somewhere.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Author Interview: Jason Pellegrini

You know, in all honesty, as a reader/reviewer, it's always a little nervy when you read a book by an independent author that is very present on social media. I mean, what if I hate it?? What if I can't even finish it? (This has actually happened and the author was very gracious about it and I plan on reading more by that same author--just so you know.)
So when Jason Pellegrini asked if he could send his book, Booth to me in exchange for an honest review, I was a little hesitant. But I was intrigued by the book's synopsis:
"At dawn, on the day of his execution, Joseph Bateman finds himself reflecting on his life, one filled with poor decisions and evil people. Even his lifelong best friend played a pivotal role in earning Joseph his seat on death row.
A phenomenon occurs as the electricity meant to kill Joseph is sent through him, and his essence is ripped from the body he has known his entire life and thrown into a new one. Only the body he now inhabits isn’t new at all; it is the body of a person who lived over a hundred years before Joseph’s birth.
Now living in an unfamiliar era of history and trapped inside a foreign body, Joseph learns he has been sent back for a reason: to earn redemption for his damned soul and to find a sense of peace he has never known. All he needs to do to get there is to prevent one of history’s most infamous murders."
 I read and reviewed this book and I loved it! I also read his novella, The Cool Kids and loved that as well. Now, I'm very excited to say that I have both books, signed to give away to one lucky reader and that giveaway is being hosted on my Twitter! So go! Go now and Re-Tweet and follow both of us for a chance to win!
All that being said, here is my exclusive interview with author Jason Pellegrini:
Mother Horror: Jason, when did you know that you wanted to be a writer?

Jason Pellegrini: In 2007, a friend of mine released his debut novel. I had picked up a copy to show my support. Back then, I wasn’t much of a reader, but I decided I would give it a go. While reading his novel, I began to wonder if maybe writing was something I could do. I had a bunch of story ideas from a few years back, when my friends and I attempted to write a screenplay (we failed miserably at it), that I thought were really great concepts. I toyed with a few of them for a while. There was a lot of stop and go in the beginning. Also, I wasn’t very good at it back then. I eventually landed on a story idea that stuck. One that I could really sink my teeth into, creatively. That idea grew until it became a full blown novel. That novel would go on to be my debut novel, The Replacement.
 MH: Where does the inspiration for your stories come from? Specifically Booth—so original.
JP: Inspiration can come from anywhere. Literally anywhere. I’ve gotten inspiration for story idea from world events, or listening to a song. I got the idea for my last novella, The Cool Kids, because I posted a photo of my godchildren on social media and captioned the post ‘The Cool Kids’. The photo did nothing to inspire the story, but the caption I used got me thinking, and I developed an entire story from it.As for Booth, the inspiration for it actually came from Stephen King’s 11/22/63. While reading King’s novel, which is a story about a man who travels back in time to stop the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, I started thinking to myself that it would be cool if someone wrote a story involving Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Then I realized that I could be the person who wrote that story.I started brainstorming and coming up with story ideas until I had something I thought was really good. I almost put The Replacement on hold to work on it. Then I told a friend about my idea and he proceeded to explain to me how the story just made no sense. He also found a lot of holes in my plot, which immediately deflated my motivation to write this particular story. In hindsight, he was right and my original concept of Booth wasn’t very good and I think had too many similarities to King’s novel, which was something I did not want, because, despite being my inspiration, I wanted the two stories to be polar opposites.

The desire to write this story stayed with me, though, and I eventually went back to the drawing board. I soon came up with another idea I felt had potential to be a great story, and when I presented it to the friend who had shot down my original idea, he gave me the thumbs up and told me I had my next novel.
 MH: If you were an ice cream flavor, what would you be and why?
JP: My mind keeps going to Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked. But that’s just because it’s my favorite ice cream flavor. But if I, personally, was a flavor of ice cream, Half Baked would be the furthest from me!

This is actually the toughest question on this interview! So I turned to the internet and took a quiz! According to this online quiz, I am vanilla, which actually makes sense to me, now that I got my results. I don’t need any grand gestures in my life to fulfill my desires. It’s the little things in life that make me happy; friends, family, and a good book. That answer is spot on!

 MH: What scares you these days?
JP: Death. Recently, the concept of death petrifies me. I think it is natural thing, to fear death. We all think about it at some point. It has definitely influenced my writing, too. A major plot point of Booth is what happens when humans die, and even in The Cool Kids, where the themes of the story is pretty lighthearted, I touch on the subject. Those aren’t the only stories I am working on or have in my head that revolve around the notion of death.
 MH: Your novella “The Cool Kids” has such a great cover, did you draw it yourself? I saw on Twitter some sketches that you did, so I thought I’d ask—any stories with illustrations in the future?
JP: I came up with the concept art for it, but it was done by a wonderful artist, who turned my idea into a reality. She did have to put up with my OCD and probably super annoying critiques. She was a real sport about it, though. As far as future illustrations go, that’d be amazing and definitely something that is a possibility for future works. Assuming an artist wants to put up with me!

Rapid Fire Questions:

Jack Nicholson’s Joker or Heath Ledger’s?
Both were phenomenal, but I’m going to go with Ledger’s. His portrayal will never be able to be duplicated.
Chocolate or Candy?

Paperback or Hardback?
Paperbacks are probably my preference, but I own more hardcover books because they look nicer on my bookshelves. So I find myself reading more hardcover books.

Friends or Seinfeld?
Friends. I’m in the midst of my gazillionth watch through.

Take Out or Dine In?
Dining in. I find cooking (and baking) fun and therapeutic.

Coke or Pepsi?
Mountain Dew!

Music or Movies?
Definitely music.
 MH: If you could only read one author for the rest of your life, who would you choose?
Stephen King. No question.
 MH: You are a self published/indie author—do you want to keep it that way or do you also send query letters to agents/publishers?
As of this interview, and for the foreseeable future, my plan is to continue to self-publish. Now, if I was offered a big time deal by a big publishing house, I’m pretty certain I’d take it. But until then, I’m happy continuing down the path I’m on. I’ve found the entire self-publishing experience to be fun, actually.
 MH: Is there a work in progress coming that we can get excited about?
JP: There sure is!

Oh, were you looking for more in depth answer than that??

I’m not really ready to start giving out details at the moment, but I am working on a few different projects. Including my next full novel. Not sure about release dates yet, so that’s really all I can tell ya… for now.
 MH: What movie or TV series would you recommend from 2017?
JP: I don’t get to the movies that much. So the only recommendation there I have from 2017 is IT. Loved it! As far as TV shows go: Stranger Things Season 2, Godless, Big Little Lies and Mind Hunters.
 MH: Lastly, do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
JP: Never stop learning. It’s the answer I always give to this question. I’m a firm believer that the moment you think you have nothing left to learn is the moment you’ve failed at what you’re doing. Any person, no matter how long they’ve been doing what they do, can get better. Tom Brady, who is pretty much considered to be the greatest quarterback in football, just spent his entire offseason last year, attempting to perfect his long ball. At forty years old, and eighteen years at the top of his profession, he still works to better himself. I’m positive it’s no different for seasoned authors, like Stephen King. It should be no different for you, either!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Apart in the Dark by Ania Ahlborn

Apart in the Dark

Now available for the first time in a print edition—two terrifying novellas from bestselling author Ania Ahlborn, “a great storyteller who spins an atmosphere of dread literally from the first page” (Jeff Somers).

New York, 1977. The sweltering height of the Summer of Sam. The entire city is gripped with fear, but all Nell Sullivan worries about is whether or not she’ll ever make a friend. The self-proclaimed “Plain Jane” does her best to fit in with the girls at work, but Nell’s brother, Barrett, assures her that she’ll never be like them. When Nell manages to finally garner some much-yearned-for attention, the unthinkable happens to her newfound friend. The office pool blames Son of Sam, but Nell knows the awful truth…because doing the devil’s work is easy when there’s already a serial killer on the loose.

Maggie Olsen had a pretty ordinary childhood—swimming and sleepovers, movie nights and dad jokes. And then there were the other things…the darker things…the shadow that followed her home from the cemetery and settled into the corners of her home, refusing to let her grow up in peace. Now, after three years away from the place she's convinced she inadvertently haunted, and after yet another family tragedy strikes, Maggie is forced to return to the sweltering heat of a Savannah summer to come to terms with her past. All along, she's been telling herself, it was just in your head, and she nearly convinces herself that she'd imagined it all. But the moment Maggie steps into the foyer of her family home, she knows. The darkness is still here. And it's been waiting for Maggie's return….