Annual Review (2018)

2018 was kind of a big year for me. I started 2018 in kind of a rut. I was feeling crappy about my skills as a writer. Not to mention my progress in my still very early career. It’s a silly feeling, but it’s a tough one to crack. Thankfully, I feel a little better now. I certainly made some good progress. I came out on the other side UNSCATHED.

NIC CAGE KNIFE

This Monthly Review will be a little bit different. I’ve tabulated the numbers and dotted the T’s to come out with this special edition of the Monthly Review. The last for the year (*cue dramatic music*). 

What am I proud of this year?

This blog!

I revamped and redesigned it. I started my Monthly Interview feature back in July, and I couldn’t be more excited about all the people I’ve interviewed so far. Writers and creators that I respect and look up too. Lovecraftian master Pete Rawlik. Dark horror maverick Kristi DeMeester. Michael Wehunt. Orrin Grey! Kelly (Nebula Winner!) Robson! I’ll continue to conduct these interviews, and learn about how the writing sausage gets made. It’s fantastic.

Three posts a month. That was my goal! I hit that every month, sometimes more. I wrote some pieces this year that I’m extremely proud of. If I had to pick a couple of favorites? I made-up a horror film festival and gave Richard Upton Pickman his very own profile. I also urge that you read every interview I posted. There is a lot to learn as a writer.

How about them numbers…

Submissions: 23

Acceptances: 3

Rejections: 18

Still Out in The Wild: 2

Those are some fun numbers! Look at that ratio! Three acceptances is lower than previous years, but I have gotten a bit more picky on where I send stories.

That was 2018! Thank you to everyone who chatted with me on Twitter or Instagram. Thanks to everyone who bought a book with one of my stories in it, or read any of my articles I posted here. We’re headed into 2019 right. Expect a writing goals article sometime in January.

My Favorite Things of 2018

2018 has been a wild year for entertainment. I watched a lot of brilliant movies, read some outstanding books/comics, and saw some TV shows that will stick with me for awhile. One of my favorite features that blogs do is talk about their favorite media from the year. The content that stood out above the rest! Instead of doing an individual article listing my favorites for each section of entertainment, I decided to just do a big article highlighting my favorites from each! I hope you enjoy this list and seek out some of these on here that you may not have heard of. Let’s start with a big one…

My Favorite Movie of the Year

Avengers: Infinity War

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Much like Thanos’ grand plan, my pick for my favorite movie of the year feels inevitable. Avengers: Infinity War is a massive beast of a film, cram packed with heart, humor and action. Marvel has been building to this movie for ten years and it shows. Thanos is the big villain we needed. He feels terrifying in a way no other MCU bad guy has before. This is some of the best work that this franchise has produced, and I can’t wait to see the next chapter.

Honorable Mentions: Hereditary, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Bad Times At the El Royale, Halloween

Some great horror, and the utterly break-taking new Mission: Impossible. Bad Times At the El Royale is the Tarantinoesque crime piece that I didn’t know that I needed.

My Favorite Video Game of the Year

God Of War

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This was the hardest decision I made for this list. We had several masterpieces that came out this year, and I did my best to play them all. Red Dead Redemption 2 is an utterly engrossing Cowboy Simulator with some of the characters of the year. Marvel’s Spider-Man is the best superhero game since Arkham City. Celeste is beautiful and stupidly tough.

But God of War beats them out. While it doesn’t have a massive open world or the ability to fly through New York City, it has a pitch perfect story and combat mechanics that have to be played to be believed. Kratos’ axe is the best video game weapon of the generation. Nailing a skeleton in the chest and then recalling your axe so the skeleton explodes had me grinning. Added bonus: my wife and I said, “Boy!” in a Kratos voice for months after I finished God of War.

Honorable Mentions: Red Dead Redemption 2, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Celeste, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

My Favorite Book of the Year

The Grip of It by Jac Jemc

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While I didn’t hit my lofty reading goal from last year, I still got a chance to read some FANTASTIC books this year. I got two new books by my two of my favorite authors (Orrin Grey AND Laird Barron) and enough novellas to fill up a potentially haunted house.

Speaking of which… What was my favorite book this year? It’s easily Jac Jemc’s The Grip of It. Jemc finds a whole new dimension to the haunted house story. It’s as much about the house as it is about the characters. The married couple of this story are destroyed by the terrors of their lives. Maybe? It’s not clear but that’s where the power comes from.

Honorable Mentions: Guignol and Other Sardonic Tales by Orrin Grey, The Human Alchemy by Michael Griffin, Blood Standard by Laird Barron

Happy 2018 everybody.

 

Author Interview: Gemma Amor

Chestnuts roasting over a horror fire…

Or something. It’s December, and that means it’s time for my final interview of the year! In case you’re new to the blog, every month I’ll be interviewing authors and creators about their newest works, their lives, and what influences them. This month’s interview is with horror podcast maverick Gemma Amor!

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I’m very excited to be doing this interview with you today! I like to start my interviews off with an easy question: tell us a little bit about yourself! Why did you decide to become a writer? What other hobbies do you have in your spare time?

I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. It was never really a conscious decision for me, but simply something I always did. I spent a lot of time by myself as a child, and writing was a natural byproduct of that and being a ferocious reader from a young age. Over the years I began to take it more and more seriously, and then, eventually, I realized I couldn’t live very comfortably without writing, and would feel anxious, frustrated and upset the longer I went without putting pen to paper. So it became my way of life, and is now my main source of income (which is why I only eat every other week).  All of this means I don’t really have many other hobbies, because I don’t get a huge amount of spare time. I am also a parent, which is tantamount to pouring any free time that remains into a vast, black hole. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You seem to have an affinity for spooky podcasts! I first discovered your work on a recent episode of the stellar No Sleep Podcast (the Halloween episode). I saw you’ve got pieces slated for several new podcasts in 2019! What can you tell us about your podcast work?

Podcasts are my addiction, and I found the podcast community to be an instantly welcoming and warm place full of like-minded people. I realized that although I love writing fiction, I also love hearing audio adaptations of my work. Once my first story was accepted by NoSleep, I was no sleep podcasthooked, and began writing more and more stories for audio. Writing for audio demands a lot of a writer in different ways to straight fiction, so I learned a lot as I continued to submit stories and reach out to other, similar shows such as Shadows at the Door, and the Grey Rooms. Most importantly, however, getting involved in podcasting meant that I built connections with actors, producers and mentors who possessed so much knowledge and expertise that I’m now producing two of my own shows, both of which are out in 2019. Calling Darkness is a horror-comedy show that I’ve co-written with NoSleep stalwart S.H. Cooper. It stars Kate Siegel, from Netflix smash-hit The Haunting of Hill House, as our narrator, and a whole host of other great voice talent from the world of audio-drama, including David Cummings, Graham Rowat, Dan Zappula, and many more. It’s an irreverent, female-led audio drama co-created by myself, Cooper and so many other talented people. Kate is just wonderful in it- I’ve listened to her raw audio for the first four episodes, and can’t stop smiling.

I’m also writing, producing and acting in forthcoming audio drama Whisper Ridge, which is again slated for release in 2019. It’s a serious audio-fiction series set in the post-gold-rush era of the American frontier, and follows the journey of a young Sheriff who comes to the town of Whisper Ridge only to encounter strange phenomena. It’s quite different to my other work, and I’m really excited to record the pilot, which will be out soon.

I saw your first collection, Cruel Works of Nature, releases in December of this year! I signed up for your newsletter so I can get eyes on it when it releases! How did this collection come about? What can we expect from the stories within?

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After buckets of blood, sweat and tears, it’s finally out! Which is so surreal, and it’s delightful to finally have something tangible and published that I can hold in my hands. I’ll be updating my mailing list very shortly with links to the book on Amazon. Cruel Works of Nature is a hand illustrated collection of short stories, some of which have been adapted by the NoSleep podcast, others which are exclusive to the book. Each story deals with some aspect of nature or the natural world that has gone horribly awry. I have a thing about the great outdoors, animals, flora and fauna, and skewed realities. I also have a thing about monsters, and so this book is a love-letter to the upside-down, as it were. Its been really well received so far, which is lovely, and has spurred me on to write the next collection, which I’ll release in 2019.

Let’s talk about books for a moment. What’s in your To Be Read pile right now? Any books you’re looking forward to in the future?

I’m reading so many books at the same time that I need to stop, and catch up. I have a collection of short stories by H.G.Wells to get through, and then I might revisit Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, which I try and read once a year simply because I love it so much.

A lot of young writers I talk to get discouraged with the grind (sending stories out on submission, etc.) and the constant struggle that is the publishing world. Do you have any advice for any writers looking to get published?

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 My advice would be not to give up. Even if you send one story to a thousand people, and it gets rejected each time, don’t give up. Do consider, however, getting beta-readers involved for constructive criticism, or a writing mentor who can help you learn and shape your words more effectively. There is nothing that cannot be re-written and improved upon.

And always, always, ALWAYS follow the submission guidelines, no matter who or what you are submitting to. Guidelines are there for a reason, and ignoring them will piss editors off no end.

You’re enjoying a cup of coffee in a crowded café when the door dings. Your favorite author walks in and asks if he/she can take a seat in the empty chair at your little table. You nod your head and they sit down. Who is that author? And what will you talk about? No subject is off limits.

Dear God, I could never choose one author, and I’m so socially defunct that I would never invite them to sit with me and make awkward conversation! But if I had to, at gun point, I would talk to the following:

Angela Carter, about female characters rooted in magic realism, about fairy stories, and about Bristol, where I live and she studied.

Stephen King, about anything he wanted, but primarily writing horror as a means of coping with your own personal demons,

Stephen Hall, about grief and allegory,

Hanif Kureshi, about short stories and love affairs,

Mary Shelley, about her utterly bonkers life,

Robert Jordan, about world building in the Wheel of Time series.

But it’s far more likely I would turn a deep shade of red, sweat a lot and mumble something incoherently about the weather!

 

Thank you Gemma! To find out more about her work, check out her website at gemmaamorauthor.com. This interview is the 6th I’ve done for my site, and I hope to continue going strong into 2019. Every writer/creator I interview offers a new perspective and excellent advice about their craft and lessons writers like me (or you) can truly learn from. Stay awesome everybody, and tune in next week for my end of year review.

Edge of That Abyss: Looking Back at Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

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The fact that Batman: Mask of the Phantasm turns 25 this month blows my mind. It feels like such a massive part of my childhood. Because I was born in 1993, this was obviously not a theatrical watch for me. I owned a beatdown clamshell copy that I spent a lot of time watching and re-watching with our dusty ole’ VHS. It was that and Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero that gave me Batman fever.

But I always preferred Mask of the Phantasm. This was the best Batman movie of the time, and it wouldn’t be matched until Christopher Nolan came along to change everything.

But why? For starters, it was a feature length sequel to the always incredible Batman: The Animated Series. Same voice cast, same writers, same wonderful world. It’s noir chic and German expressionistic influences made the show’s look iconic.

The Animated Series had some stellar episodes. I don’t need to tell you that.  But Mask is special. By giving us a big screen love story for Batman, we get to see the inner thoughts of Bruce Wayne. His fears. His regrets. Batman/Bruce is famously mopey. Thankfully, Mask gave us a reason for the moping other than, “My parents are dead”. The Phantasm is a formidable villain with an incredible design. Part Grim Reaper, part Dickensesque apparition. Over 76 minutes, we are given a heck of a Batman story. We’re shown his origins, his first doomed love, and a legendary battle with the Joker in a decrepit World’s Fair.

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It’s honestly all very impressive. This was our first big screen Batman that had dimension. Couple that with sterling animation and a cast that still remains iconic to this day, you get a super hero classic. This is a Batman film for the ages.

 

New Story: ‘Atmospherics’

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New story alert!

My story ‘Atmospherics’ is featured in Volume 3 of Déraciné Magazine. This is a story I’m very proud of. It’s very experimental, and plays heavily with images of the surreal.

This issue dropped today, and I’m featured with some very talented writers. The link here will take you right to where you can download it… Free of charge!

Monthly Review (November 2018)

It’s November, and there is snow in the air. This month was a festive whirlwind of dead leaves and lots and lots of turkey. I ate too much, and enjoyed a lot of time with family. What’s new with me? Well, let’s start with the obvious…

Story Submissions:

Submissions: 1

Stories Still Out in the Wild: 3

Acceptances: 0

Rejections: 0

While these numbers were dismal this month, I did put some finishing touches on a new story that I hope to send out soon. I’m also doing edits for a story dropping next month. More to come on that…

What else have I been doing?

An interview with author Kelly Robson!

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November’s Author Interview was with Nebula Winner Kelly Robson! She was just as breezy and fun with her interview answers as she is in her incredible fiction. During her interview we talked about her newest works, some stellar writing advice, and who she’d want to hang out with on a deserted island. You know… normal stuff.

A Review of Michael Griffin’s ‘The Human Alchemy’

The Human Alchemy

I read Michael Griffin’s new collection a couple of month’s ago and LOVED it. Here are some of my thoughts on the book.

I hope you enjoyed Thanksgiving! Next month is the last month of the year (!), and I’m not sure if I’m ready for 2019. But much like death or taxes, it’s coming anyway. Here we go…

 

Book Review: ‘The Human Alchemy’ by Michael Griffin

Written by Michael Griffin

Heralded as one of the leading voices in contemporary weird fiction, Michael Griffin returns with his second collection, The Human Alchemy. Here you will find eleven magnificent tales of the strange and sublime, the familiar and the disquieting, where dreamlike beauty and breathtaking horror intertwine. Featuring an introduction by S.P. Miskowski.

Plot summary taken from wordhorde.com.

The Human Alchemy

Michael Griffin’s fiction has a way of crawling under your skin. This collection—made up of 10 stories and 1 novella—accomplishes just that. Though the stories have been published elsewhere in magazines and themed anthologies, the Griffin D.N.A is ever-present. ‘The Human Alchemy’ is filled with horror unspoken, fears and motivations hidden behind every enigmatic terror. His writing is clean and clear, laced with cerebral prose at every turn. His stories often take their time, but never overstay their strange welcome. The further I got into the collection, the more I began to notice the themes. Unreachable knowledge. Disintegration of body and mind. The insidious geometry of madness. It’s a testament to Griffin’s talent that each story surprised and thrilled me, even when I saw the writing on the wall for his poor protagonists.

It’s easy to see the fingerprints of the horror masters of yore in the collection. ‘A Slipping of Stones’ conjures the unreal quiet of Aickman’s best. The unrivaled terrors of domestic life build a home that even Shirley Jackson would have shuddered at in ‘An Ideal Retreat’. ‘Fire-Dancing’ charts a course through Laird Barron country and into a very interesting party. Though the fingerprints of other writers exist, each story felt wholly original.

Bottom line: the people at Word Horde have delivered another masterwork of a collection. Michael Griffin’s writing is efficiently drawn, but packed with dream-like and unique horror imagery. The stories enclosed are rich and varied. ‘The Lure of Devouring Light’ (his first collection) showed us a talent to watch out for. ‘The Human Alchemy’ shows us that the talent has arrived.