|Posted by Leslie on December 26, 2012 at 11:55 AM||comments (0)|
Solstice List: Books and Short Stories Not to be Missed 2012
by Malina Roos on Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 8:01pm •
I have read a lot of books in the last two years. Well, I have always read a lot of books but in the past eighteen months I started tracking just how many I read. I am up to 623. There were a lot of good books and a few great ones. Fortunately only about a dozen or so were bad, really, really bad. This year I also joined the Horror Writers Association and with that honour I nominated a few great stories. Don't know if they made it all the way through, but I guess we will find out in a few months. The only down side to this is books can only be nominated in the year they were published. That left out a lot of great books. Books that people read a year or more after publication, or books that were written by authors unsure of the HWA and were not members. So I decided to publish my own list of great reads.
I also write book reviews for my own page Only Five Star Book Reviews as well as for Hellnotes. Some of the books on the list you will find have been reviewed on both sites, but others have not. Not enough time in the day right now, to do all I want to do. But I will get to them.
All of these stories touched me in some way. Either the way the author used prose, the depth of characters, or the story. I only had a couple of rules; the story must be edited, no typos, gramamtical, or punctual errors. I don't care about style. If an author chooses to write about a character with a speech impediment, or accent, so be it. But to publish something that has numerous errors makes my teeth itch. If I get to chapter two and already have enough highlighted areas on the pages to make a black and white page look like it is printed on yellow paper, I toss it. Did that to about a dozen novels. Irritated the heck out of me. If you as an author, spend time and energy creating a story, spend some time or money or both, editing it. Please.
Second rule was it had to make me think or engage me in a way to let me get lost in it. That brings me back to rule number one.......if I am reading a story, I want to become lost. I want to wander down the trail of well-spun prose and sharp descriptives and I don't want to trip over poor editing and fall on my face.
That was it. Now the problem......I wanted a Top Ten List. I have 40......so, since this is my list I took the liberty of separating the stories and books into categories, cause I can. I have the Solstice Top Twelve (?) Short Stories and Long Fiction, Solstice Top Novels (20), and Solstice Anthologies.
On this list you will find a myriad of authors, writing styles and publishing dates. You will also find a variation on theme, voice, tone and style. One thing they all have in comon though is brilliant writing, great storytelling and a way to stick in your mind. Keep in mind these tomes have not all been published in 2012. These are the stories I have read this year that I believe are top notch.
Best Short Stories and Longer Fiction
1. Flesh & Blood Jerry McKinney
2. Tears of Love Jerry McKinney
3. Prison Planet Billie Sue Mosiman
4. Mourning Mansion Billie Sue Mossiman
5. The Girl Bryan Hall
6. Pisswidget Franklin E Wales
7. Mama Said Lee Allen Howard
8. Unleashed: Tail One Lori R Lopez
9. Feed Jerry McKinney
10. Frankenstein Billie Sue Mosiman
11. Labour Pains David Tanner
12. Severed Relations Lee Allen Howard
Best Anthologies of 2012
1. Zippered Flesh: Tales of Body Enhancements Gone Bad Weldon Burge*
2. Dark Blessings John Paul Allen
3. Dead in the Trunk: A Short Story Collection Craig Saunders
4. Midnight Hour Neil Davies
5. World's Collider: A Shared-World Anthology Richard Salter
6. Nightsound: Terrors of the soul collection Jerry McKinney
1. Scars on the Face of God Chris Bauer
2. 100 Unfortunate Days Penelope Crowe**
3. Apparition Michaelbrent Collings**
4. Gifted Trust John Paul Allen***
5. Seven Point Star Craig Saunders
6. Requiem for Dead Flies Peter Dudar
7. Nightwhere John Everson*
8. Selection Event Wayne Wightman
9. Wishbone Brooklyn Hudson
10. Shining in Crimson Robert S Wilson
11. Don of the Living Dead Robert DeCouteau****
12. Critique Daniel I Russel**
13. Pressure Jeff Strand
14. The Vampire Club Scott Nicholson****
15. One Night Stan's Greg Sisco****
16. Zomblog Todd Brown
17. The Plauge Lisa Hinsley
18. Widow Billie Sue Mosiman
19. World Mart Leigh M Lane
20. Anon Pete Giglio
1. Chronicles of the Vampire Hunters: Creation (Book 1) Judgement (Book 2) Extermination (Book 3) Dustin Palmer
2. Scrolls of the Dead Legions of the Dark, Rise of the Legen, and Hunter of the Dead Billie Sue Mosiman
*Dark **Disturbing ***Dark and Disturbing ****Hillarious
Do yourself a favour and read these books. Read all of them. If you are a writer, read them and see what makes these great. If you are a reader, read them for entertainment and pleasure. I know I will be reading them again and again and again.........
|Posted by Leslie on September 25, 2012 at 6:45 PM||comments (0)|
“Getting myself out there”. I can promise you, I am definitely no expert and we all keep learning every day. But then again, I have been proceeding along with my “career” in writing quite well, taking into consideration I probably spend actually about six hours a week writing. Yes, I said writing. With a full-time job working 12-14 hours a day, it really limits your ability to just sit down and pound out a novel; hell, even just a story. And the rest of the time is divided into sleep and, err…Facebook.
Yes, the ultimate time-waster is also one of the best tools I can think of as an independent writer. Promoting your work and yourself was never easier, if you get into the right groups. Some frown upon “pimping” your work in their hallowed halls, but that’s their choice. And guess what? You can make your own. Spend time in the established groups and comment on posts and be positive. Always positive. Invite people to your group and they will come. And why not? It doesn’t cost them anything. Be pleasant and thank them for joining and try to keep a good base of people in the group. Appoint some friends to administrate the group. And most of all, post about yourself, your works and hell, even your friends’ work. They always seem to reciprocate. Spread those posts around, get them seen. Get yourself seen.
One tale won’t make you rich. Write, write, and write. You can have the best reviews on the web on a book. Then the reader moves on. You need to try to keep a consistent flow of stories for the market. Build that fan base, be remembered. Which brings me to another point: don’t be remembered for poorly edited stories. Sure, some reviewers will rant on about how they found a misplaced comma in a tale. These aren’t the ones we are talking about; they read the story looking for errors and couldn’t possibly have enjoyed it to the fullest. But the average person, who has a hard time finishing it because of the grammatical mistakes. Proper editing is so important; I cannot stress this enough.
When Amazon started the KDP program last year, I dragged my heels. I had a hard time removing my work from a market with mediocre sales and making it exclusive to one I was struggling in. I understand that some authors did well with this program. By the time I decided to try it, the market was glutted with freebies. Kindle users were filling their memory card and going to the next. Like I said, I heard it did well at first.
Nobody said it’s easy. Every small victory must be followed by another. I have invested in business cards for my website. I sign the backs and leave them on bulletin boards and café tables. I send them to my friends around the country and even the world and ask them to do the same. We must strive for success; it won’t look for us.
|Posted by Leslie on August 30, 2012 at 7:50 PM||comments (0)|
(I am stealing Jerry's blog for a minute.....)
I have been thinking about the relationships I have developed on Facebook. I am lucky enough to have collected a number of friends there that I truly cherish. I have friends that I absolutely love. I was asked, though, “How can you call people you have never met friends?” Well, that made me think. Does meeting someone in person make them a better friend then someone I have met on FB? In thinking about this, for me, I can say that yes, I can call these “friends” true friends. If I have a friend who has moved away and we only talk by email, does that make them any less a friend? Sure, people can easily lie and be completely dishonest about who they are, but can’t they do that just as easily in person?
I have had some very in-depth conversations with some of my online friends that have endeared me to them as much as if they were standing next to me. I feel for them when things are not going well and I celebrate for them when they have victories in their lives.
I think about, if I physically met this person, would they like me? Would I like them? I’m not sure if it would matter. I have met wonderful people all over the world, which I would not have met without Facebook. And for that, I am truly grateful.
|Posted by Leslie on June 20, 2012 at 1:25 PM||comments (0)|
You never know when having to go back into the house for something, could have made you late and out of the way of that speeding car....
Everything has a reason. We never know because it didnt happen. So, when life's distractions come along....just smile. It may have saved your life..
|Posted by Jerry McKinney on April 25, 2012 at 2:00 PM||comments (0)|
First of all I am going to state I am writing this without an editor. I never claimed to be an editor and I make multiple errors, as I'm sure you will point out by the end of this statement. I just have issues with folks that post work and get upset when someone points out a mistake. Hey, we're here to help each other, not have a online rant when we are shown we are human. And we are human, most of us anyway. Sometimes thanks would be better than another online blog. Keep your head out of you ass and breathe, trust me, it's the same air. Really!
Halloween. Knocks on the door bring us endless rounds of miniature ghosts and demons; ghouls who don’t have eyes for our brains or souls, just the candy. A vast multitude of costumes that children use their minds to construct a unique perspective of horror for a night to walk amongst the dead. Some spit out their plastic glow-in-the-dark vampire fangs to dine on the tasty innards of chocolate nougat. Others hoard their loot and squirrel it away for many nights of midnight snacks, under the sheets. Hidden from the world.
A nighttime library of Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella were always best to be read under a blanket with a flashlight. Comic books are a great source for horror stories. Stephen King realized this when he put out the Creepshow movie and book, both formatted in a comic-book style. The popular Walking Dead television series was created from a graphic novel. (That’s what us grown-up kids call comic books.)
Our society has embraced Horror Fiction as commonplace life. We watch some great icons of terror being mass-marketed so even our small children know them, without fear. We ride roller coasters for the thrill of safely escaping death. It is fiction just as much as the written word. A single movie, and actually not a very memorable one, catapulted an ordinary hockey mask into another face of horror. Actors typecast into roles make a living at conventions, autographing stills of their heyday for twenty dollars. We flock to see them, because we remember them in our fears. We enjoy the way they made us feel.
Many writers attempt to scare and thrill us every day; most miss the mark. But when the one piece truly creeps us out, it’s in our hearts forever. The torment of the young family isolated in a cabin with an undead horde pounding on the door is easily forgotten by closing the book or turning off the television. But we don’t want to forget, we turn the page to the next chapter to see what happens. Many nights as a child, I remember huddling on the couch to watch Creature Features armed with a bowl of popcorn and the safety of my parents. I finished watching many movies between splayed fingers. After Trilogy of Terror, I shook in fear listening to small footsteps on the tile floor.
I hate poodles.
|Posted by Jerry McKinney on January 22, 2012 at 1:00 AM||comments (0)|
The wind whispered through the long grasses. Frank lay on his belly as car headlights passed. A spotlight lit up the ground near him. The breeze blew harder and the grass hissed a tune as it danced above his head. The car moved on. Frank looked up and saw the light-bar on the vehicle in the distance. Cursing himself for wandering out into a field where there was no cover, no place to hide, he looked skyward. The shadows of the clouds playing off the ebbing sun cast a slight yellowish hue to the grayness of the oncoming night.
He’d been lucky this time.
Only if that old bastard had just given him his money, but he felt the need to be a tough guy and fight. Frank had to stick him with the knife. The only thing his father ever gave him had been a few broken ribs and that knife. Now he used it to get a little bit of cash to wash away his problems with a twelve-pack of beer. It had worked well until this feeble old man decided to become a hero to his wallet and got six inches of steel in his gut for the trouble. Frank could still feel the hot blood spurt out onto his hand. He was still staring at the knife when a lady screamed.
The clouds raced across the sky on a trek carried by the strong winds that had been building. Frank put his back to the breeze and followed the course of Nature’s breath. The squall of air pushed him onward, howling in his ears. Then the wind stopped abruptly. He raised his eyes. A half moon silhouetted a large figure before him.
“Oh my God,” Frank muttered.
The figure chuckled and then spoke. Each word seemed to be carried upon a gust of air. “Pray to your deity if you must. It will be unanswered. There are no gods or demons, although that does not mean evil doesn’t exist.” Its breath blew across Frank’s face with the stench of the grave. “It is scattered on the earth waiting for some luckless bastard to stumble upon it to do its bidding. But there are times when the wind collects the evil from the area, and it howls as it gains form …” The words echoed in the moving air.
Frank drew out his father’s blade once again. With shaking hands he lashed out at the figure. The knife met no resistance.
A small whirlwind began at Frank’s feet. He screamed as he felt it using the grasses to tear away his clothes then his skin. The air howled with him in a horrific chorus. When his ankles gave way, he fell as the figure embraced him.
Standing with knife in hand, Frank’s lips parted in a deep exhale.
“… and becomes pure Hell on earth.” The words trailed off in the night breeze.
|Posted by Jerry McKinney on January 22, 2012 at 12:55 AM||comments (1)|
I can hear them moving in the dark. I close my eyes and try to drift away to the point of unconsciousness, the moment of uncaring. Sleep evades me still.
They are in the walls, you see.
My wife tells me I’m imagining things, that there is nothing moving around in our home except a few ants on the counters and a small spider that continuously builds webs in the corners of the bathroom.
These are no bugs— they whisper. Not loud enough for me to make out what is being said, but voices nonetheless. I am treated to muffled sounds of a quiet conversation amid the insulation and wiring of the master-bedroom wall every night. I bury my head into my pillow until the pounding of my own heartbeat echoes through my skull.
I need to sleep! God, I need to sleep …
How does she not hear? I just want to shake her awake and yell, “ARE YOU DEAF?” But she slumbers beside me, her breathing mixed with light snores. How I envy her. Many nights I watch the swell of her chest slightly illuminated by the outside streetlight filtering in through the curtains and count her breaths. It keeps my mind off the sounds, until the scratching began.
I had to concentrate to hear it at first. No more than a slight scraping on the backside of the wallboard. I sat up at the edge of the bed and listened. My ears have become fine-tuned to even the smallest sound. It was growing. Standing up, I silently crossed the throw rug on the hardwood floor. A misplaced step had my toe bump the molding and the scratching stopped. I held my breath with my ear turned to the wall. Not a single sound did I make. My wife’s breathing seemed so loud from the bed. She turned on her side and the sheets played a symphony of sounds sliding across her skin. She issued a light moan and cleared her throat before falling back into the dream world.
The things on the other side of the wall giggled with glee. My heart pounded in my chest and I stumbled backwards.
“There’s always room for more,” something chortled with a deep gravelly tone. Then, after a hideous round of laughter, it was silent once again. I closed my eyes and screamed. I felt claws grip my arm and putrid breath on my face. “Welcome.”
I know you are awake. I can hear you.
We’re in the wall, you see.
|Posted by Jerry McKinney on May 15, 2011 at 1:04 PM||comments (2)|
I can almost see my friend Linda cringing as she sees I am writing a new blog. Generally my words are wrought with grammatical errors and punctuation mistakes. Yes, I'm human, but trying to get better. Only if I had an editor in life that was so helpful. Perhaps I wouldn't have gotten into all the trouble I did. Perhaps I would have a little better student. Perhaps I would have known better than to use the word "perhaps" this many times in a row. Ok, you can stop cringing Linda.
We all make mistakes, whether it be on paper or in our lives. There are always "editors" who will hold your hand along the way. They might be a parent, sibling or even a friend. But trust me, that guy who wants you to try that crap in the baggy is no life editor or friend. I just want to take this moment to thank editors I have. Truly my friends ... Smile, you know who you are. Geez.
|Posted by Jerry McKinney on May 11, 2011 at 10:52 AM||comments (2)|
I'd like to give you a treat. A small tale I call Paperwork. So put your feet up and enjoy. Don't work too hard.
“Yeah, I tell you I found Jake that way,” Chet proudly stated over the phone.
Feet on the desk and swinging the chair to and fro Chet continued. “Mmmm hmmm, yeah, choked to death and a full sized stapler sticking right out of his ass. Must’ve pissed someone off big time.”
He reached for his coffee and downed the last cold few drops. His eyes scanned the room until he found what he was looking for. Chet balled up a piece of paper and tossed it across the room, where it struck a thin, sickly-looking man straightening up a desk. Ernst looked over as Chet tapped his empty coffee mug with a pencil.
“Be a pal and get me some coffee, Ernst … and oh … cream, no sugar.”
Ernst loped over and grabbed the mug and turned toward the coffee station.
“Yeah, PAL … Personal Ass Licker. “ Chet snickered in to the phone. A muffled laughter could be heard through the earpiece that rested against Chet’s ear as he continued swaying in his chair. “You should see this guy, thin as a rail, and about as nerdy as they come.”
Chet unfolded a paperclip and started bending it into a little wire piece of art. “I don’t know, it seems he’s been here forever. Doesn’t do anything but gopher work. I don’t think they pay him much, but he keeps showing up. Must be about fifty and still rides a bicycle to work every day. Not a nice modern bike either. Geez, I think he stole it off of the Flintstones.”
Another round of laughter made Chet move the phone a little from his ear.
“The police have been here interviewing everyone for the last week.” Chet listened intently as his eyes stared at his fingers bending the little wire.
“No, no, nothing at all. They had me in the back office for at least an hour drilling me.” He paused as he listened again. “Yeah, I think it was because I was next in line for his job. Between me and you, I’m glad he’s gone ‘cause it’s a freakin’ sweet job.”
He jumped a little bit as Ernst set the coffee cup down on his desk. Chet looked up at Ernst and gave him a smug grin. “Thanks pal.” Yet another round of laughter could be heard muffled out of the earpiece as Ernst shuffled away.
“Had everyone in that back room for at least half an hour, except Ernst. He had only been in there a couple minutes before he came strolling back out. Jake had been a big guy.”
Another pause. “You know the type, went to the gym every day before work and the smart bastard billed it all to the company, and they paid it! Do you believe that ballsy son of a bitch? Well, the cops figured it took at least two guys to handle ol’ Jake. I know I wouldn’t have wanted to fuck with him.”
Chet looked over at Ernst, who had moved to straightening another desk.
“I’ve got a few more things I need to look into,” Chet said, glancing up at the wall clock, “and damn, it’s already almost six.” Chet put his feet on the floor as he listened. “Mmmm hmmm, I’ll be there in an hour, save me a seat. Later, dude.”
Hanging up the phone, he looked over at Ernst. “Damn, everybody gone?”
Ernst stopped his paper shuffling and looked over to Chet. “Yes Sir, the place clears out at five mostly.”
Up until two days ago, Chet would have been already perched on a bar stool at the sports pub with a cold beer by this time. “ How late you stay?”
“About six, sir. That gives me time to clean up. Mother is coming by to pick me up, we’re going out to dinner.”
“Hey, do you think you could find another place to park your bike? It’s kinda embarrassing chained out front like that. It looks like we are hiring the homeless.”
Chet picked up his cup and took a swig, instantly spewing it back into the cup and getting a few drops onto his shirt.
“Son of a bitch!” Chet howled. “ This is a Forzieri god dammit! Thing cost me about two hundred bucks! It’s Italian!”
Ernst came running over with a paper towel. Snatching it from Ernst’s hands, Chet demanded, “ Gimme that! What the fuck did you put sugar in my coffee for? I told you no sugar. No sugar! Are you fuckin’ stupid? You better hope it doesn’t stain. I’ll make sure it comes out of your check!”
“I’m sorry, sir. I thought you said sugar,” Ernst wheezed.
“Just get away from me, please! Why don’t you get on your Yabba Dabba Doo bike and get the fuck out of here. We’ll discuss if you have a job tomorrow with the higher-ups. Incompetent piece of shit!”
Ernst backed off, his shoulders stooped, and walked away.
Chet went to the water cooler, dampened the paper towel and dabbed the widening coffee spot. Then he decided to leave the stain to a professional. “Old Man Wong should be able to get this out.” He chuckled lightly at the thought of Wong saying, “No ticky, no shirty.”
Settling back at his desk, Chet reached into the basket on the corner and grabbed the short stack of papers. He began separating them into three piles. “What do we need him around here for anyway?” he mumbled to himself. “Get rid of him and make everybody clean their own stations. Hell, they’ll probably show me a little more respect for saving them money.”
Picking up a stack, he tapped the edges until they lined up and he clipped them together. Likewise with the second stack. As he tapped the third stack, he realized he was out of clips and looked over at the small gallery of wire art he had created over the course of the day. Reaching beside the basket for the stapler he found it empty.
“Where the hell’s the stapler?’ Chet muttered.
“Right here,” whispered a voice from behind him.
Ernst reached for the phone and called the police. He was distressed to find Chet this way. He would have to call Mom and tell her to cancel their dinner plans. She would be upset. Second time he had to cancel. He had thought he heard her come in earlier, but that was before he had found … well, it wasn’t his fault she was late again.