Remember the Drunken Comic Book Monkeys? Now they have a blog. Hide your daughters.
Archive for the ‘Books’ Category
Tags: Brian Koscienski, Chris Pisano, Drunken Comic Book Monkeys, Fortress Publishing
Tags: Bad Ass Faeries, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, The Halfling's Court
Danielle Ackley-McPhail is an author and editor of the award-winning Bad-Ass Faeries anthologies. So what is Bad-Ass Faeries? Basically, it’s an attempt by Ackley-McPhail and her collaborators to revive the original depiction of fairies in old folklore, where they were far more likely to be dangerous and scary than sparkly and cute. I reviewed her novel The Halfling’s Court here.
Can you talk a little bit about your personal background, and how you got into writing?
I am the youngest of five children. By the time I grew up, most of them had already moved on to their adult lives. We lived in a brand-new housing development so there weren’t many kids. Consequently, I turned to reading for entertainment. I read anything and everything I could get my hands on … to my occasional detriment. Eventually I was so comfortable with the written word and storytelling that becoming a writer was a natural progression I didn’t even need to think about.
What exactly is the whole Bad Ass Faeries phenomenon, and how did it come about?
This series is our attempt to de-Disneyfy the faerie. Basically the concept came out of a chance encounter with an artist and a failed author event. I met Ruth Lampi at Albacon, where she showed me her sketches for warrior faeries. They were just pencil drawings, many of them on lined paper, but they were really good. I ended up commissioning Ruth to work on a number of projects with me. We had a local event at a friend’s store and the timing was bad. It conflicted with some other event going on and not many people showed up. We sat there for most of the day entertaining each other. During the conversation the question came up of how we met. That topic lead to speculating about the sad state of faeries in fiction, which lead to an anthology proposal of tough faeries that were more in line with the actual legends. From that, Bad-Ass Faeries was born!
Do you feel you’re correcting some mistaken perceptions people have about faerie lore? And could you talk a little bit about that lore?
Oh, most definitely! Up until very recently … say the last ten years, faeries had for the most part been pacified by popular media. Not by everyone, but by the majority. See, in traditional faerie lore and legend the fae were mischievous, malevolent, or warriors. Very few were kind or sweet. They were known for stealing children and tormenting livestock, for tricking travelers and murderous deeds. Yes, a few did helpful things, but the fae were to be respected because you never knew which way things would go. Literature and the media had for the most part lost respect for them.
What’s the reaction been to the Bad Ass Faeries books?
Oh my … talk about can-of-worms. They either love it or hate it … I get broad smiles or disapproving frowns, but seldom anything in between. It is by far our best-selling anthology to date, with thousands of copies sold just in the first year. It is the first book of mine that has a public awareness all its own.
In recent years, it seems fairies have become kind of a hot topic. There are festivals and even magazines devoted to them, and they’re popping up all over the place in speculative fiction. Do you think there’s any particular reason for this renewed interest?
Well, all things go in cycles and I think this just the faerie cycle. The primary genre characters never do go away, really, but the audience gets tired of it and moves to the next one in a perpetual circuit. The same goes with vampires and shapeshifters and zombies … anything with a cult following eventually gets another shot at the spotlight. Besides, people are rediscovering their sense of magic and wonder, and where best to turn than to the fae?
I know that some fairy aficionados prefer their wee folk on the benign and cuddly side. Has the Bad Ass series drawn any appalled responses from that crowd?
You know, I get more negative comments about it being too tame. Of course, I already mentioned those disapproving looks we get from time to time strictly in reaction to the title. But for the most part people either pick it up because it’s fun, or because it promises something they are looking for, so there has been a lot more positive response. Even the children’s education director at my church just thought it was funny, more than anything else.
When you’re writing about the nature and capabilities of the fairies, about how much of that is invention on your part, vs. elements lifted directly from the folklore?
For me it depends on the series. A lot of my fiction deal with the faerie folk. The Eternal Cycle series, which are my Irish novels, stick pretty close to the legends, with the inventiveness coming in just to fill in the gaps left by lost knowledge since the Celts had an oral tradition. On the other hand, my biker faerie novels, the Halfling’s Court and the Redcaps’ Queen, based on my short stories in the Bad-Ass Faeries series, are a bit more inventive since I’m not drawing on any particular legends there. Of course, I do use details from the myth and legend when I mention something specific, like Avalon. With everything I write, though, I tend to extrapolate from the information available and get creative from there. You would be surprised how often I find research later that substantiates things I thought I made up!
What are some of the things you’ve done to market your books?
Well, for the Bad-Ass Faeries anthologies specifically I commissioned faerie themed art for raffles I held at the launch party for each book. I also made faerie wings by hand for my street team to wear as they passed out flyers and tons of pixy styx. Eventually I created a dedicated website and a blog specific to the series and grab every promotional opportunity I could get. In fact, for about the last five years I’ve volunteered as a story teller at the Maryland Faerie Festival and I was a part of the very first Faeriecon, Faerieworlds annual East Coast convention.
Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to discuss?
Dark Quest Books just released The Redcaps’ Queen, the second of my Bad-Ass Faerie Tale novels, as well as Three Chords of Chaos, by James Chambers, the third book in the series that originated from stories that appeared in the Bad-Ass Faeries anthologies. Speaking of which, in the beginning of June we will resume production on the fourth Bad-Ass Faeries anthology, titled It’s Elemental, where the theme is all faeries affiliated with one of the five elements: Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit. That should be out sometime in 2014.
Tags: Doc Savage, H.P. Lovecraft, Henry James, Janice Gable Bashman, Jonathan Maberry, Kenneth Robeson, Ray Bradbury, The Turn of the Screw
So I’m reading this book called Wanted Undead or Alive: Vampire Hunters and Other Kick-Ass Enemies of Evil by Jonathan Maberry and Janice Gable Bashman. I intend to do a more lengthy review of it presently, so stay tuned. But I just wanted to mention one thing.
The book has a chapter on the pulp magazines from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which mentions “Doc Savage.” The Doc Savage adventures were really popular back in the heyday of pulp. They featured the titular square-jawed hero who traveled the world with a cadre of brainy tough guys, putting a stop to various evil-doers.
The author, “Kenneth Robeson,” was actually a rotating stable of writers. I read a few when I was a kid. They weren’t great in retrospect, in the manner of other pulp material from writers such as H.P. Lovecraft or Ray Bradbury. But they were a fun read. And to be fair, that’s no more and no less than what they aspired to.
But the books did have a lasting impact on me as a reader, in the form of one important lesson.
See, when I was about 13, I was reading one called The Sargasso Ogre. It features a scene where Doc Savage is interrogating a couple of criminals.
At one point, one of them defiantly answers Doc Savage’s questions with “Phooey on you!”
As a kid, I thought that was hilarious. This is a dangerous criminal. A very bad man, the story makes clear. And he says “phooey on you?”
When I thought about it at greater length, though, I realized what was really going on. The words “phooey on you” might as well have an asterisk indicating a footnote from the author. And that footnote would read as follows:
“Look. Both you and I know that the guy didn’t really say ‘phooey on you.’ What he said was ‘fuck you.’ But I’m writing this in 1933, and there’s no way in hell I’d get away with writing that. So I’m going to ask you, the reader, to use a little effort and fill in what he actually said in your mind, OK?”
That moment of realization comes back to me whenever I’m reading a book from a bygone era, and the writer has to obliquely hint at what’s going on.
I’m not one of these people who subscribes to the idea that graphically presenting something is akin to bad writing. I find that attitude naïve and a bit childish. Good writing is good writing, whether a faithful film adaptation would merit a rating of G or NC-17. And if the material calls for a lot of F-bombs, by all means get ‘em in there.
Still, there’s something impressive about reading – or watching, in the form of screenplays – writers from the past managing to convey through subtle suggestion what they can’t state overtly.
Case in point. I’m in the process of reading Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, published in 1898, for the first time. (SPOILER ALERT!) And the scene where Mrs. Grose reveals Quint’s nature as a sexual predator and pedophile is all the more disturbing for her unwillingness – and James’ inability, given the time he was writing – to state it overtly.
It’s all a bit more subtle than “phooey on you” in lieu of … you know. Still, I thank whichever incarnation of Kenneth Robeson penned “The Sargasso Ogre” for giving me that early lesson in reading between the lines.
Just goes to show that you can glean insights into literary interpretation from just about any source. Don’t agree with me? Go phooey yourself.
Tags: crime thriller, Dennis Tafoya, Dope Thief
Dope Thief by Dennis Tafoya is about a couple of guys who rob dope dealers for a living, and have to go on the run from some dangerous characters after they mistakenly pick up a big stash of organized crime loot.
Except it’s really not.
I mean, yeah, that’s the basic plot. But the book is really about how our past has a way of haunting us at every turn, and our attempts to escape from that. It’s also about the question of whether we can shed our family history. And whether — for all the emotional baggage and misery it can bring us — we’d really want to.
The protagonist, Ray, and his partner are a couple of bottom feeders in a criminal community extending into Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey. They make their living disguising themselves as DEA agents, ripping off small-time drug dealers, and making off with their money and dope.
In a clever twist, they’re able to get away with it because they provide a kind of service to the larger operations — getting rid of small-time dealers who might eat into profits.
Yet Ray isn’t a violent man. Or a bad guy, for that matter. He had an alcoholic father and a troubled youth that included some jail time. He just kind of went along with where his life was taking him, much the way another young man might go the college-and-career route without even considering other options. For him, the whole theft operation represents the path of least resistance — a chance to get money for a minimum of effort.
But he’s not getting any younger, and knows he can’t keep it up forever. Inevitably, that wake-up call comes when a job goes bad, people get killed, and he and his partner end up the unwilling possessors of some New England bikers’ money.
It starts out in pure thriller territory. An initial car chase from the scene of the original botched operation is particularly suspenseful.
From there, the story takes some unexpected directions. And I’m not talking about plot twists — though there are a few of those — so much as emphasis and pacing.
Tafoya doesn’t let up on the suspense. But for stretches, the central plot fades into the background as Ray comes to grips with the chain of circumstances that led him into this predicament. Sure, he knows he’s made some bad decisions. But he finds himself facing the question of whether his life experiences left him equipped to make any better ones.
More importantly, does he have it within himself to rise above those experiences and decisions, and make something better of his life?
Tafoya addresses those questions in a surprising extended coda, where minor characters and circumstances that would merely serve as color in another crime thriller turn out to be vitally important.
Crime thrillers often get criticized for piling on the slam-bang action, at the expense of characterization and deeper insights. With Dope Thief, fortunately, it’s not an either/or proposition.
Tags: Being Full of Light, Bram Stoker Award, Insubstantial, Linda Addison, poet
I’d be the first to admit I’m not a big “serious literature” guy. I love books, and I’ve read a lot of the “classics.” But I’m more into genre fiction. Give me a choice between, say, Camus and Elmore Leonard, and I’m going for the latter.
So I don’t read a lot of poetry – a literary form than doesn’t lend itself to depictions of shootouts or kung fu fights. That might change, though, since I’ve discovered a wonderful poet named Linda Addison.
I recently read a volume of her poetry called Being Full of Light, Insubstantial. When the very title of the poetry collection is gorgeous, I figure that’s a good sign.
She was a recent guest speaker at a group I belong to called the Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers, which is made up of writers of lots of different genres, but tends to skew toward horror and science fiction. (Great group, by the way. If you’re a writer anywhere in the vicinity of New Jersey, you ought to consider joining.)
I missed that meeting, unfortunately, because of a computer-related crisis. But I met the group for their customary lunch afterward, and had a chance to talk to Ms. Addison.
Man! Describing her as “charming” doesn’t do her justice. VERY cool person.
I was blown away when I found out the extent of her genre fiction creds. Her first poem was published in the seminal “Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine,” and her poetry’s won not one but three Bram Stoker Awards.
And I’ll admit, Philistine that I am, to being a little bit puzzled as to how poetry could be considered genre fiction. Horror poetry? How does that work?
But then I started thinking about it. How about Charles Baudelaire? How about Edgar Allan Poe? How about “The Erl King” by Goethe? Couldn’t they all be considered “horror poetry?” Hell, if I really dove into it, I could probably come up with a list a mile long. (more…)
Tags: Barnum's Revenge, Fur Face, Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers, Jon Gibbs, writing
Writer Jon Gibbs recently contributed a piece that I think is worth reading for any aspiring writer. He gave me permission to repost it here. And once you finish reading this post, be sure to check out his Website and his blog, both of which have a lot of informative and entertaining stuff.
So take it away Jon …
Give Yourself Permission to Fail
by Jon Gibbs
For many writers, rejections are a bit like a trips to the dentist. We’ll do almost anything to avoid them, rather than risk getting bad news.
You can understand someone being afraid of dentists (I know I am), but why fear rejection? What’s so terrible about someone passing up the chance to publish your work?
I think it’s partly because, no matter how much we like to pretend we don’t care, it hurts to have a story turned down.
And so it should. If you don’t care if your story gets accepted, why submit it there in the first place?
But I believe there’s more to it than worrying about the sting of being told ‘No thank you’ by someone you’ve probably never met.
A rejection, especially when we’re starting out, is a hammer blow to our self-confidence. The bad news for would-be writers is that you’re going to get rejected, probably quite a lot. If getting published is important to you, those rejections are going to hurt.
The good news is that it gets easier. The more knocks you take, the tougher you’ll get, and if you make the effort to improve your craft, if you’re willing to recognize your mistakes and learn from them there’s a good chance that you will get published.
So go on, give yourself permission to fail. Take a deep breath and pitch that story.
One day, your dream will thank you.
Born in England, Jon Gibbs now lives in New Jersey, where he is the founder of The New Jersey Authors’ Network (www.njauthorsnetwork.com) and FindAWritingGroup.com, Jon’s middle grade fantasy, “Fur-Face” (Echelon Press), was nominated for a Crystal Kite Award. The sequel, “Barnum’s Revenge,” is scheduled for release in February, 2013.
Jon has a website: www.acatofninetales.com and a blog: http://jongibbs.livejournal.com. When he’s not chasing around after his three children, he can usually be found hunched over the computer in his basement office. One day he hopes to figure out how to switch it on.
Tags: science fiction, horror, Drunken Comic Book Monkeys, Chris Pisano, Brian Koscienski, Christine Czachur, Fortress Publishing, Trail of Indiscretion, Cemetery Moon, Scary Tales of Scariness
If you go to a book fair, horror convention or science fiction convention in the Central Pennsylvania region, you just might encounter a small collective of literary visionaries — made up of writers, editors and publishers whose mission is elevating speculative fiction to unprecedented levels of quality and craftsmanship.
You might also encounter The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys.
But seriously, folks. The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys are Brian Koscienski and Chris Pisano. I’ve run into them at a few events, along with their project manager and handler Christine Czachur.
They, along with editor and writer Jeff Young, comprise Fortress Publishing. I’ve become a big fan of their magazines “Trail of Indiscretion” (science fiction, fantasy, and horror) and “Cemetery Moon” (horror).
I also picked up their “Scary Tales of Scariness,” in which Brian and Chris pit themselves against a variety of adversaries, including Cthulu, zombies, vampires, and The Potato People (don’t ask). It’s really funny.
They’ve got a bunch more publications, including a sequel to “Scary Tales of Scariness,” that you can check out at their Website here.
Of course, the Federal Bureau of Nickname Registration would have long-since revoked their license to call themselves “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys” if they weren’t also a fun group.
So in the following interview, I try to convey the magic. The madness. The raw, unbridled sensuality that is … The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys experience. Read on. (more…)
Tags: Danielle Ackley-McPhail, fae, fairies, fairy, The Halfling's Court: A Bad-Ass Faerie Tale
See, this was about 1979, and vampires were still pretty freakin awesome. Animated corpses with diabolical powers clawing their way out of their graves, hell-bent on tearing open some throats? Come on. What’s in that scenario for a 12-year-old boy not to love?
Little did I know that pop culture vampires had already begun their steady decline into wussification (which I’ve previously touched on here).
Anne Rice — a guilty pleasure of mine, I must admit — painted them as a bunch of preening pretty-boys in “Interview With the Vampire,” published three years earlier. In subsequent decades, they would increasingly become the domain of black-lipstick-wearing goth types.
Then the “Twilight” series came along. And in retrospect, we might as well have dubbed ourselves the “Twinkly Happy Prancing Little Unicorn Patrol.”
But vampires aren’t the only folkloric creatures to make a pop culture transformation from scary and dangerous to twee and sparkly. In a previous generation, the same thing happened to fairies.
Yes, fairies. As in Tinker Bell. As in the gay slur referencing the (offensive, ignorant and untrue) stereotype of gay men as a bunch of mincing weaklings. As in the benign, childlike beings that have graced countless pieces of eye-searingly tacky home décor. Those things.
They used to be badass. (more…)
Tags: book of five rings, Bushi, Bushido, David Groff, Japanese, Miyamoto Musashi, Ninja, Samurai, sword, The Five Rings
David Groff is an American expatriate living in Japan, where he studies martial arts and translates classic samurai texts.
Wow. I feel like just typing that sentence made me cooler.
Anyway, I recently reviewed his translation of Miyamoto Musashi’s 17th Century work, The Five Rings. You can see that review here.
David agreed to a follow-up interview where he discusses his martial arts training, the challenges of translating a work like The Five Rings, and the always contentious issue of samurai vs. ninjas.
How did you end up in Japan, and handling this translation?
I came to Japan in 1997 as an English teacher. I’d been kicking around doing a variety of jobs since college, and did a brief stint teaching Italian at Penn State, where I realized I really enjoyed teaching. I thought about doing graduate study in Italian and pursuing teaching that, but then I thought, “Hey, my Italian is decent, but my English is really good. I bet I could teach that somewhere…” I’ve always had a bit of wanderlust, anyway, so I got an English-teaching certification and started looking for places to go, and I’d been interested in Japan for a long time… there were a lot of jobs here, and they paid well (I had a bit of debt at the time, and with the exchange rate a salary in Colombian pesos was just not going to make a dent in that); I had an interview in New York, and a few months later I was on a plane. (more…)
Tags: Richard Fellinger, short stories, Snake Nation Press, They Hover Over Us
A while ago, I did a review of Richard Fellinger’s excellent short story collection “They Hover Over Us” from Snake Nation Press (available on Kindle and all other e-readers). If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know I’m more partial to genre fiction than the kind of literary fiction that Mr. Fellinger writes. But these stories of regular folks in Rust Belt Pennsylvania really impressed me. You can see the review here.
Anyway, Mr. Fellinger agreed to an interview, so here goes:
Where do you live and what’s your full-time job?
Did you say full-time job? I’m a writer, which means I piece together jobs that aren’t quite full-time, or at least don’t pay full-time. I work at Elizabethtown College in two roles–I’m an adjunct writing professor and writing fellow in charge of the college’s Writing Wing.
How did you get into writing in the first place?
I was a newspaper reporter for about 15 years, and later in my newspaper career I began penning short stories and enrolled in the MFA program for creative writing at Wilkes University, which is a terrific program, by the way.
Was there any particular reason why you gravitated toward short stories?
Well, my first book was a collection of short stories, but I’ve been working on a novel for the past three-plus years, so I don’t gravitate toward short stories any more. Part of the reason I did, I think, was because as a journalist, my mind was trained in shorter mediums.
Where do you get ideas for stories?
Anywhere. A lot come from personal experience. My short story collection is entirely about people from the Pennsylvania Rust Belt, where I grew up, so that area was a big influence on me. My novel is set in a fictional Central PA town, where I live now. My fictional town is tidy, small and gossipy, a lot like my new home.
Who are some of your influences?
Raymond Carver was a big influence on me when I was younger, but as I matured I made an effort to be less of a minimalist, and writers like Tobias Wolfe and Richard Ford have been big influences on me lately.
As a writer, how much of your own marketing are you obliged to do?
In my case so far, almost all of it. My short story collection was published by a small literary press that publishes the winner of a literary fiction award called the Serena McDonald Kennedy Award, so it seems most of their effort goes into the award and they hand off all of the marketing to the writer. It’s a challenge, to put it mildly.
A lot of writers I interview for this blog do genre fiction. The advantage for them, it seems to me, is that the readership tends to be relatively easy to identify and reach. As a writer of literary – as opposed to genre – fiction, how do you identify potential readers and persuade them to read your book?
I don’t think a writer of literary fiction worries too much about identifying readers. When I was in grad school, for instance, some faculty members discouraged me from writing short stories because they’re hard to sell. And that’s true, believe me. But I think we plow ahead with our stories because we feel like they’re inside us waiting to come out, and we feel a need to write them regardless of commercial value.