Monday, December 18, 2017

Widow's Point - A Review - Richard and Billy Chizmar

Widow's Point is a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat ghost story. Billy Chizmar and Richard Chizmar take you through one man's psychological torment as he locks himself inside a lighthouse with a tragic, horrific, evil past. Accidents while building the lighthouse were mysterious. Murders happened on the grounds. A family has been slaughtered within the walls. Ships have broken upon its shores and children have gone missing. Some have even gone mad. Satanic rituals and strange carvings have been reported. Legends, as legends are apt to do in a small town, of a curse on the land.

The origin of the curse is debated, but the town pretty much believes this lighthouse is an evil place, and they have walled it up behind razor-wire and huge fences.

Enter the well-written character of Thomas Livingston, the best-selling author of many non-fiction volumes of the supernatural. He plans to stay a few nights, explore the lighthouse, and hopefully come away with a story worth selling. What lengths would a man go to for a best-seller? Would they stay, even in the face of danger or worse? Or would they cheat, make up some stories about moving chairs or floating ghosts? Would they fake photographs or cry wolf to sell a few extra copies?

And what would that person do if the stories turn out to be more than just a campfire tale or a town's over-active imagination?

The writing in this novel is top-notch. Some of the choices concerning limitations of how Thomas was reporting made the story move very fast, almost like reading a movie script. I read through this novel in a night, and I usually read slowly. The fast pace was a nice, refreshing style, which leaves me wanting to read more stories written in this format. The atmosphere of the story made for a chilling read.

The novel is written as a collaboration between Billy Chizmar and his father, Richard Chizmar. I haven't read Billy's work, but Richard's work has been excellent, and this is no different. You couldn't tell where any one person wrote, and writing with two heads gave the story some unique twists and developments.

The writing was easy to follow. The novel was about 160 pages, but I am not sure how long that will be in the final edition.

I would recommend this book for people who like horror, casual fan or not. It wasn't too gory. Look for it next year.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Long December, by Richard Chizmar - A Review

A Long December, by Richard Chizmar, is one of the few collections I have read in a long time. I usually stick to novels or anthologies, but I was so impressed by other fiction of Richard’s (Gwendy’s Button Box); I researched the reviews, which were all good, so I dived in and bought this fantastic set of 35 stories and a novella.

First, wow, the novella was very good, layering each page with suspense. You are always waiting for the shadow to jump out, for the twist to happen. As always, Richard doesn’t disappoint, offering a whirlwind ending that I had not seen coming. The main character was very believable, even while making some very risky decisions. I loved the use of paparazzi, with the press really ruining life. This short novella was a psychological ride that left me feeling everything was worth the price of admission.

The short stories throughout the collection are short (perfect for me and my short attention span), but the stories are packed with character background, and you grow to know the characters and their tragedies. Every story has a unique twist or a final moment where you can set the book down and just go: “Damn, I wish I wrote that.”

This won’t be the first time I read this collection. As a reader, I was entertained. As a writer, I was amazed.

RICHARD CHIZMAR is the founder/publisher of Cemetery Dance magazine and the Cemetery Dance Publications book imprint. He has edited more than 30 anthologies and his fiction has appeared in dozens of publications, including Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and The Year’s 25 Finest Crime and Mystery Stories. He has won two World Fantasy awards, four International Horror Guild awards, and the HWA’s Board of Trustee’s award.

Chizmar (in collaboration with Johnathon Schaech) has also written screenplays and teleplays for United Artists, Sony Screen Gems, Lions Gate, Showtime, NBC, and many other companies.

Chizmar is the creator/writer of Stephen King Revisited, and his third short story collection, A Long December, is due in 2016 from Subterranean Press.

Chizmar’s work has been translated into many languages throughout the world, and he has appeared at numerous conferences as a writing instructor, guest speaker, panelist, and guest of honor.

You can follow Richard Chizmar on both Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Short Interview with Crystal Lake CEO, Joe Mynhardt

Interview with Crystal Lake CEO, Joe Mynhardt, publisher of such titles as Where Nightmares Come From, the Tales from the Lake series, Pretty Little Dead Girls, Cracked Sky, and so many more, all of which I would recommend. If you are looking for a new publisher of some of today’s best horror, look no further.

AMES: Tales from the Lake Vol. 4 was superb, with every haunting story infecting the reader with dread and terror. Sometimes the horror was subtle, and other times it was a frantic chase. The Folding Man and Whenever You inhale, I Exhale were some of my favorite stories, but there were so many good ones. What made you decide to tap Ben, who did an amazing job, to edit and select for this series? Will you be using him again in the future? What is unique about his tastes in selection, something that made this volume different from past volumes?

MYNHARDT: Thanks for the kind words, Draven. I try to use a new editor every year, using the Crystal Lake staff and authors to nominate possible editors for upcoming volumes. And, just as I keep an eye on authors and who’d be a great fit for Crystal Lake, I also keep an eye on editors (even artists). I sometimes feel like a literary talent scout, and I’ve been pretty successful so far at spotting rising talent.
With Ben it was a very easy choice, since I’ve been working with him a lot lately through our mentoring program and some editing gigs. His taste in short stories is quite similar to mine, and he’s a great editor and author. He is also very involved in the future outlook of Crystal Lake Publishing, and always does and advises what’s best for the company’s future, and thus the future of the Tales from The Lake series. It was a very easy choice. 

AMES: Who are some of your favorite authors, and what make their voice or style unique, compared to others? What authors would you recommend writers read as they try to grow as an author? Who should they study?
MYNHARDT: I’m a sucker for a good story. I don’t care if it’s in the format of a novel, short story, movie, or comic book. My favourite era of stories is definitely the late 1800s and early 1900s. Especially ghost stories. Stephen King was definitely a huge influence on me, since he was the first author I really knew about as a young boy. Until then I only concentrated on the book’s cover and title, not who wrote it. Lately, I enjoy Neil Gaiman’s imagination and child-like wonder. Other than that, most of my reading is related to upcoming or possible Crystal Lake projects.
For authors, I’d recommend reading the best authors in whichever genre (and especially sub-genre) you write in—those who have come and gone, those who are currently the best in the field, and those who are making waves. Then, you’ve heard this before, authors need to read wide into other genres. Non-fiction, as well. Read things that motivate you. Read books that’ll teach you the finer points of romance, comedy, suspense and so on, since you’ll use them all eventually. Enrich your mind so you can enrich your characters.

AMES: How does a writer build suspense in a story? You have heard the analogy about the bomb under a table, but what other examples from current writing could you point to as an example of how to build suspense correctly?
MYNHARDT: I love that bomb under the table analogy, which basically comes down to letting the reader know something the character doesn’t. Suspense is what turns a book into a page-turner. No matter how late it is and how tired they might be, readers keep reading because they want to know if someone will survive or escape etc. It’s about finding that right balance between what the reader knows, the characters know, and stretching out the drama without overdoing it. Make the reader wait, but don’t irritate them. Knowing when to show and when to tell. When to speed through a scene and when to slow it down. Choosing the best words, point of view and descriptions to draw the reader in. Making them care about the characters. That perfect balance comes from lots of reading and experience. And even more rewriting. 

AMES:: Where Nightmares Come From: The Art of Storytelling in the Horror Genre was a great collection of essays, interviews, and roundtable discussions. How did this come about? Tell us a little about the next volume.

MYNHARDT: I’ve been involved in so many great projects (still am) that I sometimes forget exactly how they got started. I believe Eugene pitched this idea to me, and since I’m always looking for ways to help authors and give back to the community and genre, I quickly said yes. When we looked at everything we wanted to cover in this book, it became obvious quite soon that one book wouldn’t be enough. I’ve been in the habit of releasing at least one non-fiction book a year, so it looks like this project will cover at least three years.

The 2nd volume will go more in-depth into writing techniques. Almost like a cheat sheet full of tips and tricks. Volume three will look at turning your craft into a business and earning a living. Building a career of the foundation laid in the first two books.

AMES: Thanks again for this short interview. I hope it helps some authors and readers see behind the curtain a bit.
MYNHARDT: Thanks for having me.

     Joe Mynhardt is a two-time Bram Stoker Award-nominated South African publisher, non-fiction and short story editor, and online-business mentor.

     Joe is the owner and CEO of Crystal Lake Publishing, which he founded in August, 2012. Since then he’s published and edited short stories, novellas, interviews and essays by the likes of Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Charlaine Harris, Ramsey Campbell, Jack Ketchum, Jonathan Maberry, Graham Masterton, Damien Angelica Walters, Adam Nevill, Lisa Morton, Elizabeth Massie, Joe McKinney, Joe R. Lansdale, Edward Lee, Paul Tremblay, Wes Craven, John Carpenter, George A. Romero, Mick Garris, and hundreds more.

     Just like Crystal Lake Publishing, which strives to be a platform for launching author careers, Joe believes in reaching out to all authors, new and experienced, and being a beacon of friendship and guidance in the Dark Fiction field. He recently started a coalition of small press publishers to support both each other and their authors.

     Joe’s influences stretch from Poe, Doyle, and Lovecraft to King, Connolly, and Gaiman (and so many more).

     You can read more about Joe and Crystal Lake Publishing at or find him on Facebook.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Interview with Ben Eads, Editor of Tales from the Lake Vol. 4 (He's Also a Writer)

AMES: First, thank you for your time during this short interview. I really enjoyed this volume of Tales from the Lake. I know you spent a lot of hours reading stories, so much time that you had to go to the doctor to check out your eyes. You really made sure that the best of the best made it into this anthology. Please walk us through how this all came about. Did Crystal Lake Publishing approach you? Have you done this before?

EADS: The pleasure is mine. Thanks for having me, and thank you so much for the kind words! Although I didn’t know it, I already had a pre-existing medical condition, so editing helped me get it fixed before it became a problem. Joe Mynhardt CEO and Founder of Crystal Lake Publishing asked me if I would like to edit Tales Vol: 4. I was over the moon! I said yes, and then we discussed where “Lake” should go, and what my vision was. I’m very pleased with the outcome. The contributors made my job easy picking the final TOC.

AMES: Some selections editors only read the first couple pages of a short, believing that a story has to capture the reader and never let go. When selecting stories, did you read each story all the way through before making a decision?

EADS: Nope. I’d still be reading submissions. Ha! An editor knows after reading the first sentence whether it passes or not. Hence the ten minute rejections you see writers post about on Facebook. To be fair, I read the first paragraph of each story. Then you know everything you need to make a decision. Some were really good in the first act and second act but either fell flat in the third act, or didn’t have a third act at all.

AMES: To you, what is the most important aspect of a short story? Atmosphere? Wordplay? Characters you care about? A twist? Or something else entirely?

EADS: A story can’t be a one-trick-pony, so you can’t focus on one aspect—the anthology would suffer, and so would my editing career. I was looking for power and resonance. Something that will take a reader through a harrowing journey and leave them haunted. Many things factor into what gives a story power. The quality of stories I was looking for was quite high. So all of those things you listed above and many, many more. 

AMES: How important is voice in the short story format? What short stories / novels would you recommend for lessons in voice?

EADS: Whether the fiction is short or long… voice is everything. You can have great characters, a nice flow, great arcs, but if there is no powerful voice to grab the reader, it’s a waste. Voice gives the actual story life, and so much more. Examples? Short Fiction: Pop Art, Joe Hill; Any story from October Country, Ray Bradbury; A good deal of short fiction by Kelly Lynk. Novel: The Girl Next Door, Jack Ketchum; IT, Stephen King; Swamplandia!, Karen Russell; 1Q84, Haruki Murakami. Novella: 1922, Stephen King; Old Man Scratch, Rio Youers. These are recent examples, of course. I could go on, and on, and on. Ha! 

AMES: What did you learn from this process that has changed your own writing?

EADS: I’m always looking to improve my craft and grow as a writer. It was just another reminder to raise my aspirations as a writer and author.

AMES: Thanks again for agreeing to this short interview. I look forward to the next volume.

EADS: Thank you, man! Deeply appreciated.

BIO: Ben Eads is a writer, author, and editor of horror fiction. A true horror writer by heart, he wrote his first story at the tender age of six. The look on the teacher’s face when she read it was priceless. Since then, his fiction has been published by Shroud Magazine, Crystal Lake Publishing, numerous anthologies, and his first novella Cracked Sky was published by the Bram Stoker Award-wining press Omnium Gatherum. He loves martial arts and is a student of the Japanese sword.

Would you like to know more? Check out these links: 

Amazon Author Page:

Book Links