Saturday, 27 August 2011

CLAN by Harry Shannon

This is a short review I wrote for

I'm a chronic reader. Because of this, it can be difficult to find a book that will knocks my socks off. I was lucky enough to come across Harry Shannon's CLAN recently, and now I must tread barefooted.

All silliness aside, CLAN is a lot of fun to read. Case is an ex detective and recovering alcoholic. His sister is worried about her scumbag husband, who has disappeared. She has asked Case to look for him. Kelly is an assistant to a small movie production company who has just lost her boss's Russian mob money and is now on the run for her life. Both journeys lead these two dynamic characters to the small town of Salt Lick, where bodies have been recently found torn to pieces.

What fascinates me about this book is that the genre crossing is so well done, it all makes perfect sense and is very easy to suspend your disbelief. The characters are also so well-drawn that they feel like real people, and by the end of the novel it feels as though they've become close friends.

I love it when that happens.

Shannon is so good with characterization, in fact, that even the lesser characters get their moment to shine.

What this really comes down to is that if you don't read this book, you're missing out on a great time. I don't rave about books like this very often. As I said, I am a chronic reader. It's difficult to get me excited about a book. So do yourself a favor and lose your socks.

I also recommend his book of short stories A Host of Shadows. This book contains some of the best short fiction I've read in a long time.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

H. P. Lovecraft and Thomas Ligotti

Today was H. P. Lovecraft's 121st birthday. Not only that, it was also Thomas Ligotti's Un-birthday, as described by Matt Cardin. For it was on this day in 1970 when Ligotti had a psychic break, realizing that the universe is both meaningless and malicious, and a great artist was borne.

To celebrate this, below is the link to Matt Cardin's brilliant blog post, where he describes the meaning of all this much more eloquently than I can. Enjoy!

Celebrating Lovecraft's birthday and Ligotti's un-birthday.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Lamenting Blind Melon

As a teenager, the 90s were my years. They will be the years I will brag to my children about, if I ever have any, annoying them with the stories and books and the music of the decade. As though it’s the only decade that ever existed. Although I don’t think I’ll actually be that bad, I do know that I will always cherish the 1990s. It was the decade I became passionate about books and music. Throughout the years since, I have stuck with the books, always remembering my old favorites, but some of the music has fallen to the wayside. One such band is Blind Melon.

Now, it was easy for me to let Blind Melon go. Their singer, Shannon Hoon, died of a cocaine overdose while on tour in October 1995. I remember that the day I heard the news well, actually. I was a big fan of Blind Melon’s and I heard of the dark news while watching Much Music, Canada’s equivalent to MTV. I didn’t believe it at first. And the fact that nobody else reported it nearly stamped my belief that the singer was still alive, his death nothing but a terrible rumor. I didn’t believe it until surviving band members appeared on Much Music, talking of their experience of losing the singer and their plans for the future.

Finally learning of Shannon Hoon’s death was a massive letdown for me, and for good reason. Anyone who is or has been a fan of the band knows what I’m talking about. Blind Melon wrote music that was infused with passion almost unmatched by any other band. They used many different instruments, infused many different genres, and the singing along the lyrics, in my opinion, was always topnotch. I’ve recently had the chance to check out newer Blind Melon music, their 2008 release “For My Friends”, but I just can’t get into it. Not yet, at least. The music doesn’t have the same “umph” and the lyrics, and therefore the music’s arrangement, seems dry in comparison to Hoon’s.

I am smart enough, and know myself well enough, to know that I might be biased, though. I’ve only recently rediscovered Blind Melon, and I might just need some time to adjust to the newer sound the band has acquired. Some say that it’s a lot like the old stuff. But right now, I just can’t hear it.

All this just brings home the fact that Shannon Hoon’s death pissed me off back in the 90s, and it still does today. The man, along with the band, was highly talented. His death was nothing but a waste. At the same time, however, I am glad to have just reconnected with this band and their great music. And I hope that, in the future, I can forgive and forget enough to enjoy what is new and what ought to be appreciated for what it is. Music. Life. Passion and art. It’s all there. I just have to find it.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Divorce and the Black Cat

An interesting thing happened to me this week. On Monday, I learned that I had made the "panic list" for Title Goes Here:, a great new magazine that has published three of my stories. The panic list is for any story that they had planned on publishing getting pulled at the last moment before publication, therefore leaving a gap in their magazine or web edition. Well, this very thing happened to them this week, for whatever reason, and so they sent out the email to their list.

This was the first time that they had to do this, and I was proud to have made that list. I was even more proud to have had them accept the story I sent in: Divorce and the Black Cat, my retelling of Edgar Allen Poe's The Black Cat.

Even better were the words Inanna Gabriel said about me and my story in the web edition's editorial. My work has never received such a kind review publicly before, and so I was, and still am, overjoyed. It feels good just getting an acceptance, but to have your editor compare you to Clive Barker in the editorial makes one's skin tingle.

And to think that I almost shelved Divorce and the Black Cat.

I was writing it for an anthology based off Poe's style, and at first I hated the story. I thought nothing worked and that it had collapsed on me. Then, one night while watching the Masters of Horror episode of The Black Cat, I decided to pull it out and give it another look over. After a few adjustments, I gave it to my first readers. That lead to an interesting conversation on what else could be changed about some of the content. After that, the story, I felt, was good enough to send out.

Only problem was, who would want a retelling of a story? It would be a hard sell, I knew, so I almost shelved it again. When Title Goes Here sent me their panic email, I thought, "What the hell?" The worst they could say is no.

And now it is ready to be read, for free, on their web edition.

I'm proud to have worked with Inanna Gabriel and C. Bryan Brown, editors of Title Goes Here. I highly recommend the magazine, and not just because they've published my work. They put out consistently great issues, both in print and their web editions. And I thank them and my first readers, Jen and Richard, for all the help and encouragement! It's guys like you who offer the rewards of writing fiction other than the self-gratification: that buzz I get when I feel that I've written a well done short story and have trouble believing that I wrote it. Which, in itself, is rare.