Review: How to take the back roads to the frontal lobes and end up cowering under the covers.

51BVk9RHzoL._SS400_Back Roads and Frontal Lobes
by Brady Allen

A collection of 23 short stories
2012 Post Mordem Press
10/10 Arjays (because nothing is cooler than an Arjay!)
Since September, I’ve been doing a progressive hit-and-run reading through Brady Allen’s premiere collection of short stories. I worked on it in chunks, taking breaks between stories, and also tackling  two novels and a holiday collection.

Perhaps because of this approach, more than anything else, my sanity remained intact during the shocking, disturbing, and wonderfully gobsmack-tastic stories presented within (though I suppose some may tell me it’s not as intact as I tell  myself, but I digress).

The title promises to take you to dark places, and the collection does not disappoint. Honestly, as a ghost story and sci-fi reader, it goes to darker places than my recreational reading habits are used to. Paranormal romance readers and Twi “LIGHT” readers, consider yourself warned.

A "candid" photo of R.J. reading Back Roads and Frontal Lobes
A “candid” photo of R.J. reading Back Roads and Frontal Lobes

I gave this collection my highest rating. That does NOT mean that I absolutely loved everything here without reservation. In my opinion, few readers will fall in love with everything here. I didn’t “get” a couple of stories. Others crossed into the realm of “too much.” But I loved most of it, and more to the point, I love the ambition of all of it.

You see, this collection defines what the term “edgy” storyteller really means.

If there is one overused, abused, and burdened word in all of modern horror, it’s “edgy.” Though kicked around all the time in fallback market-speak (I’ve even used it referring to myself), readers rarely experience a writer truly on the edge.

In this collection, Brady Allen makes 23 attempts to take you somewhere unique and exciting. Someplace you have never gone before. A handful of those times, he won’t quite get there. Most of those times, he will. What Brady will never do is play it safe. Never. And that’s what I admire about even the attempts that fall short. Even when I read something that falls a little flat, he by-God went for it, doing the narrative equivalent of standing on the high wire hopping on one foot while juggling chainsaws. So even when a chainsaw falls to the ground, you can’t help but salute the attempt. And when he succeeds, it’s even more amazing.

This collection, more than most, relies on what you bring in with with you, but I can say with confidence you will enjoy much from this collection. You may not think as much of the bittersweet ghost story “Small Square of Light” as I did. You may think more of “Devil and Dairy Cow” than I. You may prefer the sci-fi over the horror, you may gravitate toward the rays of hope in some tales or prefer to bask in the tone of impending doom of others.

One thing is clear with every story. Brady loves people. Rednecks, working professionals, rich or poor, the practical and the dreamers, he loves their spirit, even when the shell has cracked and insanity has overwhelmed them, even when society has turned against them, Brady admires people in their everyday struggles, both in the familiar normal or the new normal his sci-fi tales spell out.

He loves the camaraderie in everyday public gatherings. Just try to count the diners, pubs, truck stops, bars, and other similar places. Each one unique, filled with people and their dreams, desires, so  many of them beaten down and overwhelmed by their own baggage.

Since it’s my review, I’m obliged to discuss  some of my very favorites. And if you’ll pardon the bad pun,  your mileage, and opinion, may vary during your own travel of these back roads.

I very much enjoyed the very insane observations of Ned, who thinks he’s got it all together when nothing can be further from the truth in “Not Over Easy”.

I got a huge kick out of the twin tales “Taste of a Heart” and “Burger”, both featuring Rose Holmes, redneck psycho or perhaps something far more sinister.

I loved the trippy psychedelic journey as “Bear Hogan Walks the Sky”.
I dug the Twilight Zone-esque twist of a hapless late-night traveler’s unpleasant stop for gas and snacks at a filing station where “It Lives and Breathes”.

I wept to his blues tales of “Blues Bus to Memphis” and “The Ballad of Mac Johnstone”. Blues Bus, in fact, hits upon a universal truth of any artist trying to pursue their dream. A highlight in the collection that still haunts me today.

I read while peeking between two fingers of my hand during the–for lack of a better term–“Deliverance fiction” setup of in “Sh**s and Giggles”.

“Praying” and “There Are No Hills” are both powerful presentations of perseverance in two possible distopia / post apocalyptic futures.

And more, but that’s enough for this  review.

But I wanted to give special kudos to “The ‘Ists After the Apocalypse”, what I feel is the best of the bunch. Part political commentary, part zombie thriller, set in a world populated with fantstically drawn characters and situations, a story which, for me,  ended way too soon and could easily be expanded into a larger work. (hint-hint)

Bottom line: Those brave enough to travel Brady Allen’s Back Roads and Frontal Lobes will return much better for it. This collection receives my highest recommendation for those who love dark, edgy horror.

Hoosier Horror for the Holidays

The Mooresville Public Library

and the

Indiana Horror Writers

Present

Hoosier Horror for the Holidays

A gathering of Indiana authors with: Vampires, ghosts, pirates, superheroes, fantasy warriors, wizards, and more!

Saturday, November 3,
1-3 PM

Mooresville Public Library
220 West Harrison Street
Mooresville, Indiana 46158
317.831.7323, mooresvillelib.org

Featuring:

Matt Adams: Indianapolis, Author of superhero prose, lives and works in Indianapolis. Long ago, I planned to patrol the streets as Batman, but ultimately decided writing was safer. www.mattadamswriter.com I, Crimsonstreak.

Maurice Broaddus: Indianapolis, co-editor of the Dark Faith anthologies (Apex Books) and author of the urban fantasy trilogy, Knights of Breton Court (Angry Robot Books). www.MauriceBroaddus.com King’s Justice, King Maker, King’s War, Dark Faith, Dark Faith: Invocations, and more.

Nicole Cushing: Southern Indiana, prolific author of horrific short stories. www.nicolecushing.wordpress.com Werewolves and Shape Shifters: Encounters with the Beast Within (anthology); and the forthcoming novella Children of No One.

Eric Garrison: Indianapolis, dark supernatural fantasies: ghosts, demonic possession and sinister fairy folk. www.ericgarrison.wordpress.com Road Ghosts (3-in-1), Blue Spirit.

Roberta Hoffer: Indianapolis, three words: Romantic Vampire Series. www.asilentheart.com Silent Heart, Silent Madness.

R.J. Sullivan: Camby, author of edgy ghost stories and paranormal thrillers. www.rjsullivanfiction.com Haunting Blue, Haunting Obsession, Contributor to Dark Faith: Invocations

Kathy Watness: North Salem, serial contributor to fantasy anthologies, such as the Blue Kingdom series, “Terribly Twisted Tales,” and The Crimson Pact, V.1.

Michael West: Indianapolis, prolific author of traditional horror and scares. www.bymichaelwest.com Cinema of Shadows, Wide Game, Poseidon’s Children, Skull Full of Kisses, and the just-released Spook House.

RJ Sullivan Publishing News Press Release

For Immediate Release
February 23, 2012

Seventh Star Press Announces Four-Book Deal with Paranormal Author R.J. Sullivan
Seventh Star Press proudly announces a four book deal with author R.J. Sullivan, making him the seventh author to come aboard the publisher’s main roster.

The addition of R.J. Sullivan comes close after Seventh Star Press’ strongest year yet, during which titles such as Jackie Gamber‘s Redheart and Michael West‘s Cinema of Shadows received excellent critical reception, and the artwork featured by the press also received increased recognition, as Matthew Perry recently won Top Cover Art in the 2011 Tor.com Readers Choice Awards for his cover art on Stephen Zimmer‘s The Seventh Throne.

The first title to be released by Seventh Star Press, Haunting Obsession, tells the story of Daryl Beasley. Daryl collects all things Maxine Marie, whose famous curves and fast lifestyle made her a Hollywood icon for decades after her tragic death. Daryl’s girlfriend, Loretta Stevens, knew about his geeky lifestyle when they started dating, but she loves him, quirks and all.

Then one day Daryl chooses to buy a particularly tacky piece of memorabilia instead of Loretta’s birthday present. Daryl ends up in the doghouse, not only with Loretta, but with Maxine Marie herself. The legendary blonde returns from the dead to give Daryl a piece of her mind—and a haunting obsession he’ll never forget.

A member of the Indiana Horror Writers, R. J. Sullivan resides with his family in Heartland Crossing, Indiana. His first novel, Haunting Blue, is an edgy paranormal thriller about punk girl loner Fiona “Blue” Shaefer and her boyfriend Chip Farren.

R.J. is hard at work on the next chapter in Fiona’s story, Virtual Blue, which will be released in 2013, followed by two more novels over the course of 2013 and 2014.

“I was with Michael West at several events last year, and I couldn’t help but notice the slick marketing materials he was handing out,” R.J. Sullivan commented as to why he wanted to bring his work to Seventh Star Press. “I saw how Seventh Star had a personal presence nearby to assist at the cons. I realized that having the publisher at those events changes the convention vibe, which can otherwise be an isolated experience. I love that they produce interior artwork as part of their product–it shows an understanding of the genre and its readers. It’s clear Seventh Star understand the modern publishing world, and does everything they can to open up opportunities for the author to succeed.”

Bonnie Wasson, whose cover art and illustrations are featured in Seventh Star Press titles such as D.A. Adams’ The Brotherhood of Dwarves series, will be creating the artwork for the R.J. Sullivan novels.

Haunting Obsession will be released in limited hardcover, softcover (trade paperback), and several eBook editions, including versions for Kindle, Nook, the iBookstore, and Sony-compatible devices.

For further information on R.J. Sullivan and the upcoming releases, please visit www.seventhstarpress.com or the author’s site at www.rjsullivanfiction.com

Seventh Star Press is a small press publisher of speculative fiction located in Lexington Kentucky

Interview: Lucy A. Snyder on Switchblade Goddess and Beyond

Interview: Lucy A. Snyder on Switchblade Goddess and Beyond

With the release of Switchblade Goddess by Del Rey in late December, Lucy A. Snyder officially turned her Jessie Shimmer stories into a trilogy. In this blog interview, Lucy reveals that we have definitely not seen the last of Jessie Shimmer.

I am a raving fan of the first two books, and look forward to digging in to SG as soon as possible (the reading stack here at home, were it not mostly electronic, would have collapsed one of my walls by now, but I digress). Her first book, Spellbent, was nominated in 2010 for a Stoker Award in the category of Superior Achievement in a first Novel.  (Check out my review of the first book here). Previously, Lucy’s collection Chimeric Machines won 2009 Stoker for Superior Achievement in Poetry. But enough from me.

Congratulations on the release of Switchblade Goddess. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

Thanks, RJ!

Did you conceive of the Jessie Shimmer stories as a trilogy, or did the development come after Spellbent?

Spellbent emerged from a short story assignment that never happened. Some years back, I got a heads-up that there might be openings in the anthology Apprentice Fantastic, so I started working up some ideas to pitch to the editor. I got the idea for a story centered on a young apprentice who loses her master when a storm-calling goes wrong and has to face down a demon with just the help of her familiar. The anthology ended up not having any openings, but by that time, I’d gotten excited about the characters and slowly started working on the story, which became a a novella, which became a novel.

By the time the story had expanded to novella size, I was already thinking ahead to additional stories I wanted to tell about the characters, and also about the overarching plot that would be carried out over the course of several books. Of course I had no idea if I could sell the book, or if whoever bought the book would want a series, so Spellbent was written with a more “closed” ending than either Shotgun Sorceress or Switchblade Goddess. Which consequently resulted in my adding the prologue and epilogue to Spellbent.

And ironically enough, I haven’t managed to get to the events implied by the prologue in the series yet, so really I might as well not have included it! I need three more books to carry through with the main plot arc. Said novels, unfortunately, will probably not be released by Del Rey. My agent and I are in contact with other publishers; one way or another, I will write the rest of the Jessie Shimmer series and make it available to readers. But at the same time, I do have to keep a roof over my head, so if I end up writing the rest of the series without the benefit of an advance, it’ll take me longer than I’d like.

One of the joys of the trilogy is your portrayal of the sorcerers and witches existing as an open secret in the mundane world. Is this just fun extrapolation or do you think there are secrets hiding in plain sight in the real world that the average person has conditioned themselves to ignore? (Author photo by Doug Dangler)

Mostly it’s a fun extrapolation. At the same time, we humans aren’t built to be able to sense everything that happens around us: x-rays and magnetic fields are invisible, very low and very high pitches are inaudible, quarks and gluons untouchable. So who’s to say that there aren’t secrets hiding from us in plain sight?

One of the things I love about the series is the character of Jessie Shimmer. She rides a fine moral and ethical line in ways that I think will surprise uninitiated readers. Did you have a clear understanding of where she makes her stand in most scenes? Did anything raise a flag with yourself, your pre-readers or you publisher that you had to reconsider?

As a character, Jessie is a good person who wrestles with her own darker impulses. She’s quick to anger and her first instinct is to jump in and fight when the people she loves are threatened.  So, she wants to do the right thing, but a calmer, more dispassionate person might question the prudence of the things she decides to do.

The main things as a writer that I’ve asked my editors and first readers for input on is the level of violence.  The violence and darkness in the books won’t be anything extreme to horror readers, but not all urban fantasy readers have been expecting it. Some people who read what’s marketed as urban fantasy are mainly romance readers, and they expect the urban fantasy novels they open to simply be a more action-oriented kind of paranormal romance. My books have a love story, but they are not romances and were not intended to be romances. Romance readers have a different set of expectations, and they often don’t expect the kind of violence that happens in my books.

And there’s issues with sex. Romance readers may usually expect sex scenes to mostly happen off stage. If the sex happens on stage, it’s supposed to fit with the plot, sure, but mostly it’s supposed to be hot. Some of the sex scenes I’ve written are supposed to be plotworthy and disturbing, or plotworthy and funny, or plotworthy and creepy. It doesn’t all titillate because it’s not all supposed to titillate.

Might we be seeing Jessie or the supporting cast of this trilogy in future stories?

Absolutely!  The story “Repent, Jessie Shimmer!” will appear in Apex Book Company’s 2012 anthology Southern Undead.  And there will be a set of new stories about Jessie, Cooper, the Warlock, and other characters in my forthcoming collection Orchid Carousals, which I hope will be out toward the end of 2012. I’m still working on the stories, which are all erotica; some of them may also be appearing in other anthologies, but that hasn’t been decided yet.

Thanks again, Lucy, and congratulations! I’m looking forward to checking it out.

Learn more about Lucy A. Snyder at these links.

http://www.lucysnyder.com
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lucy-A-Snyder/32362763073

Fiona Dodwell Interview 2–Obsessed!

Obsessed by Fiona Dodwell
(C) 2011 by Damnation Books
Launched September 1

So Fiona, welcome back! This is the second book release in 2011, with The Banishing having launched this past March. (Click here to read my first interview with Fiona.) Congratulations.

Give us the “elevator pitch” of Obsessed. The title conjures up an array of possibilities.

Well, Obsessed is essentially a story about a haunting. My main character, James Barker, witnesses a suicide on the railway tracks of London, and he begins to see visions of the dead man in his nightmares, in his home. He eventually visits a therapist who assures James he is experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder. However, James isn’t convinced. He believes he is being visited by a spirit, and, in order to find out why, James begins to look into the dead man’s past. What he finds there leads him into a spiral of obsession and mental disorder.

You chose to remain with Damnation Books for both titles. Tell us what you love about DB that kept you there for your follow-up novel.

I love DB because they love horror, they support horror as a genre, they support horror writers. They’re all about the fiction, and the love of scary books. I couldn’t have wished for a better home for The Banishing and Obsessed. The cover-art, editing, support and help I received was so valuable to me.

How did the editing process go a second time, coming into it with some experience? Was it still nerve-wracking, or do these sorts of processes get easier over time?

I’d say it was easier, simply because I knew what to expect. I wasn’t so nervous. I was able to approach it without the nervousness that preceded the release of The Banishing.

What did you learn from the marketing of The Banishing that you took with you in preparing to market Obsessed? What worked? What’s not worth an author’s time or investment?

Well, The Banishing had a lot planned for its release. There were full page ads placed in some magazines here in the UK. I did two radio interviews, had several successful and positive reviews. I took part in blog tours too. I tend to think an online presence works the best, which is my primary focus for Obsessed. Online is magic, because you can reach the larger numbers. One magazine ad, or one newspaper interview is great, but it only reaches its specific audience – at least online you can move about, spread the word in various places.

Part of the process of book promotion is building an audience which you take with you to follow-up projects. How do you balance the joy of hearing from readers with the pressure of knowing you have fans who now have “expectations”?

It’s difficult. The Banishing was a surprise to me, because it was my first novel, I was so nervous. I half-convinced myself nobody would read it, and then convinced myself that those who would probably wouldn’t like it! I was a mess. However, once it was out there, I began to get very positive reviews. People seemed to enjoy it. I had emails from random readers, just because they wanted to tell me they loved my writing, that they had loved the book. It was a fantastic feeling, and something I feel positive about. What comes with that is the hope that you can do it again. I’m approaching Obsessed with an open mind. I believe it’s a good book – or I would not have put it out there – but I am open minded and sensible enough to know that not everyone who reads it will love it. Some will love it, though, and that makes it worthwhile.

How will Obsessed play to your readers who have expectations from you? How will it confound them? When you write, do you concern yourself with such things, or do you just write to the story?

I just write. I try not to think too deeply, or worry what people will think too much. As I said in the answer above, some people will love my work, others will not. That’s life – that’s human nature. I can’t write a certain story or in a certain way to impress people. I have to be honest. I always do the best I can do, and that’s what I’ve done here. People who read it and come away happy, having enjoyed it, are what it’s all about.
I know in writing The Banishing, you dug pretty deep into subjects most people would find uncomfortable–an abused spouse who chooses to remain with her abuser. Did you do the same “digging” in this book?

Nothing makes me happier than exploring those dark places of human nature! The Banishing explored domestic abuse and demonic possession – two great twins of evil. Obsessed is no different – I this novel and I explored and studied suicide, post-traumatic stress, and spiritual hauntings. Really fascinating subjects. I love to write about such things. I can’t do light and fluffy, I’m afraid!
What’s next for Fiona Dodwell?

I have finished my third novel, The Shift, and am currently submitting it to publishers for consideration. My fourth novel – as yet untitled – is at the very, very early stages, but I’m excited about it!

Links:
WEBSITE: www.fionasfiction.wordpress.com
FACEBOOK: Search under “Fiona Dodwell Horror Author” and you’ll find me on Facebook.

Trailer for Obsessed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=malbnCYxAUk