The Mad Mind of Author Thomas S. Flowers

Book Review

Come to the Feast

What would you do for family? I’d say most of us would do anything for family. However, we can imagine of certain situations in which we couldn’t do everything for family. We couldn’t betray our core values, or moral obligations, or our principles…or could we? I think for the most part we follow something similar to Issac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics when it comes to the lengths we’ll go or will not go for family. The law is as follows, with some tweaking on my part to adjust to our question of family.

A family member may not injure another family member or, through inaction, allow a family member to come to harm. A son/daughter must obey orders given by their parents except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. A person must protect their own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Something kinda like that, though not perfectly fitting, of course, this is just a thought exercise. And in actuality, the First and Second Laws typically conflict with each other, as demonstrated in the cartoon on the side.

And why do the Laws come in conflict? Because people are beautifully horrifyingly imperfect. Imperfection invites conflict. Anyone with mothers or fathers or brothers or sisters or really close cousins know all too perfectly how imperfect people can be. And yet, we cannot escape our families, though I am sure some have tried and succeeded in some measure, but overall our love remains for our sisters who are still our sister, our brothers still our brother, etc. etc. This brings us back to my original question: What would you do for family?

This question over the lengths we’re willing to go for family is what inspired the story in my latest book. FEAST is the story of a family, dysfunctional perhaps, but in the end, still family. Titus Fleming is a father and a businessman, and as the story progresses his dual nature between the two conflict. Is he a father more or is he a businessman? His surviving son, Luke, is going through a transformation in his life, becoming who he has always been, Lavinia. but when tragedy and scandal-beset his family, an arrangement will be made that will conflict with who Lavinia (Luke) really is.

And then there is the barbarous Lange family. Tamora and her two sons, Chad and Drake, and her employee Aaron. Who are they in this story? Victims? Perpetrators? Accomplices? Allies? What are these sons willing to do for their mother?

FEAST will ask those questions.

I am very excited for this release! FEAST is an extreme horror story inspired by Shakespeare’s play Titus Andronicus, one of my favorites from the famous playwright. Maybe a bit twisted to admit, but I had a lot of fun writing this book. The story and the characters pushed me into worlds and situations I have not dared to go before. While I do enjoy conjuring fantastic creatures, FEAST reminded me of the most horrifying of all horror monsters, humanity. Big shout out to my friend Travis Eck who came up with the design for the cover. I simply gave him a concept and he ran with it. Producing his own creation and artwork. Totally blew me away, as always, with his work and talent. Also, some thanks are in order for Jeffery X. Martin for editing my horrible use of the English language. Shout out to my favorite Canadian, Duncan Ralston, for not only helping me with the formatting of this book but also inspiring me to delve into a subgenre of horror I have only previously flirted with.

To help introduce the characters in Feast, here are some “character cards” that will provide a sort of visual representation:

FEAST

What would you do for family?

Between the rural Texas towns of Bass and Sat is one of the most popular barbecue restaurants in America. Big Butts Bar-B-Que has been the seat of power for the Fleming family since the Great Depression, but when tragedy and scandal-beset Titus and his surviving transgender son Lavinia, deals are made to keep control of the restaurant. An arrangement that will put a father at odds with his legacy. As the table is set, is it just the keys to the barbecue kingdom some are after, or something else entirely?

An extreme horror story inspired by Shakespeare’s play Titus Andronicus.

Get YOUR copy today!

$2.99

Thomas S. Flowers is the published author of character-driven stories of dark fiction. He resides in Houston, Texas, with his wife and daughter. His debut novel, Reinheit, is published with Shadow Work Publishing, along with The Incredible Zilch Von Whitstein, Apocalypse Meow, Lanmò, and his newest release, The Hobbsburg Horror. His military/paranormal thriller series, The Subdue Series, including Dwelling, Emerging, Conceiving, and Converging (coming soon), are published with Limitless Publishing, LLC. In 2008, he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army where he served for seven years, with three tours serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2014, Thomas graduated from University of Houston Clear Lake with a Bachelors in History. He blogs at machinemean[dot]org, where he reviews movies and books on a wide range of strange yet oddly related topics. You can keep up with Thomas and all his strange events by joining his author newsletter, at http://goo.gl/2CozdE.

 

 


Dark Designs: Tales of Mad Science

 

Science without limits. Madness without end.

All proceeds from the purchase of this ebook will be donated to Doctors Without Borders / Medicins Sans Frontieres.

This is a warning. What you are about to read violates the boundaries of imagination, in a world where science breeds and breathes without restraint. A world very much like our own.

Within these shadowy corridors you will discover characters seeking retribution, understanding, power, a second chance at life—human stories of undiscovered species, government secrets, the horrors of parenthood, adolescence and bullying, envisioned through a warped lens of megalomania, suffering, and blind hubris. Curious inventors dabble with portals to alternate worlds, overzealous scientists and precocious children toy with living beings, offer medical marvels, and pick away at the thin veil of reality.

You can run. You can look away. But don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Witness our Dark Designs.

David Cronenberg, infamous director and storyteller of body-horror movies such as The Fly (1986), Shivers (1975), and Videodrome (1983), once said, “Everybody’s a mad scientist, and life is their lab. We’re all trying to experiment to find a way to live, to solve problems, to fend off madness and chaos.” This statement of Cronenberg’s is a rather optimistic one. And not altogether inaccurate, we are after all trying to find ways to live in harmony and in doing so we must solve problems that arise to get there. But that’s not really the genesis of the purpose of mad scientist stories. The notion of “mad science” is self-explanatory, that there is something strange or “mad” in the unknown realities that surround us. Even today, quantum theorists are often seen as “mad” scientists, practitioners of metaphysics more than actual provable science. And in some ways, there’s some truth in that metaphysics and quantum mechanics often overlap, which brings us to one of the most exhilarating and equally terrifying aspects about science, that is, it’s never ending, always searching, constantly discovering something new, something previously unknown, beyond us.  In part, our understanding of science; or more to point, our misunderstanding of science has become the inspiration over centuries for what has been deemed the quintessential “mad scientist.” Not for reasons given by Cronenberg above, that we are all in the same pursuit, but out of fear, fear bred from the unknown, and fear of what all these discovers, these advances, will bring us. And even more alarming, how far are we willing to go to achieve the impossible?

My first impression while surveying the history of “mad science” was that Victor Frankenstein, created by the imagination of a twenty-one-year-old Mary Shelley, was the first of the mad scientists to be conjured into the literary world. I was wrong. It was actually Dr. Faustus, written in 1604 by Christopher Marlowe, that should be credited as the first “mad scientist.” Dr. Faustus was perhaps more alchemical in nature than traditional science, but still the story serves as asking the proverbial question all mad scientist stories ask, “How far are we willing to go…?”  Some of the more popular “mad scientists” who defied boundaries and terrified audiences with their audacity against “nature” include, Dr. Moreau, an H.G. Wells story penned in 1896, and Danforth & Dyer in “At the Mountains of Madness” by H. P. Lovecraft, published in 1931. These stories are typically told from the perspective of a layman looking into nightmarish worlds, boiled in a cauldron of obsession and forbidden knowledge. H.P. Lovecraft would go on to create a few more characters in this realm of unrestrained science with Dr. Herbert West, one of my personal favorites, and Charles Dexter Ward.

Growing up, the one “mad scientist” story that ignited my imagination and kept me glued to the edge of my seat was Steven Spielberg’s science-fiction epic Jurassic Park (1993). Even in my pubescent years, the memory still rings clear today, the duel realities of science, that in the wonder of watching a baby dino hatch or Dr. Grant’s first realization of what was going on as the Jeep drove through the part to the Visitor’s Center, first realizing that those massive tree trucks were moving and were not in fact trees, being held prisoner in a sort of child-like spell, and then suddenly seeing it all go wrong, demonstrated the dangers of unrestrained science, that even now the question of trust must be asked. Ian Malcolm, played by a black leather clad Jeff Goldblum, has one of the more illuminating statements in the film, a statement that has rung in the minds of audiences for over four-hundred years, when he says, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

Today, “mad scientist” stories have for the most part found themselves kicked to the kid’s corner, in such books as Meet the Creeps or Franny K. Stein. Sadly, there isn’t much being offered in way of adult entertainment. This was the prime motivation for raising the question to my Shadow Work Publishing cohorts of collaborating on a mad scientist anthology. While science continues to evolve and new discoveries are being made every day, the question posed in 1604 still remains relevant today, “How far are we willing to go” in the pursuit of said discover what consequences, if any, will we face? We landed on the title, Dark Designs, more or less on the alluring sinister quality, but not just that, also, as our quote says, “Science without limits. Madness without end,” there is a certain amount of ambiguity regarding science, that without limits perhaps we could possibly go “too far,” and in reaching such limits, madness is sure to follow. Here, as you turn the page, you’ll find yourself in a world without limits, where science breeds and breathes without restraint. You’ll walk these corridors with characters seeking retribution, understanding, revenge, and perhaps for some a second chance on life. These are human stories through the spyglass of mad science, of undiscovered insects, government secrets, horrors of parenthood, adolescence, and bullying, about curious inventors dabbling in portals to alternate worlds, of ambitious biologists and overzealous children tinkering with things they probably shouldn’t, and stories that stretch our understanding of the boundaries of life.

From Shadow Work Publishing, and the sixteen authors of which contributed to this charity anthology for Doctors Without Borders, thank you and bid you welcome our Dark Designs: Tales of Mad Science.

You can get YOUR copy of Dark Designs: Tales of Mad Science for $0.99!!!


First Blood: Book in Review

“First came the man: a young wanderer in a fatigue coat and long hair. Then came the legend, as John Rambo sprang from the pages of FIRST BLOOD to take his place in the American cultural landscape. This remarkable novel pits a young Vietnam veteran against a small-town cop who doesn’t know whom he’s dealing with — or how far Rambo will take him into a life-and-death struggle through the woods, hills, and caves of rural Kentucky.

Millions saw the Rambo movies, but those who haven’t read the book that started it all are in for a surprise — a critically acclaimed story of character, action, and compassion.”

FIRST BLOOD: published in 1972 by David Morrell

I’m ashamed to say that I had no idea First Blood was a book before it was made into a movie. Not a single clue. But, I’m glad to finally have this error corrected and was even more glad to have gotten the chance to read this amazing book. Now, there were some definite drastic changes from film to print or print to film more like. And that’s okay. I never expect the movie to be just like the film. There have to be differences, so long as the essence remains intact. For example, I had read Stephen King’s IT before attempting to watch the made-for-TV movie starring Tim Curry. I made it maybe 30 mins into the film before turning it off. TV movie IT was too far removed from the source material to be enjoyable. Whereas, as another example, Hellraiser was based on The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker, and it not only expands the story, it diverges from it regarding Cenobite leadership and other details. However, the difference between why IT as a movie failed and Hellraiser succeeded is that Hellraiser kept the essence of the original source material.

And for the most part, the essence of First Blood, be it Sylvester Stallone or just the imaginative projection from hearing how David Morrell describes John Rambo, is beautifully captured, more so I would say in the book because we are given the characters internal thoughts. The director and Stallone for his part did a great job conveying through action and struggle Rambo’s internal conflicts, but in the book, it becomes, even more, clearer. Did you know that when Rambo arrived in that pinewoods mountain town (called Hope in the movie), he had been kicked out, or “pushed,” as he calls it, at least a dozen times before? That is where the “pushed” thing comes from during the movie that doesn’t make much sense, but in the book it does.

No spoilers here, but the end is veeerrryyy different, and I’m not sure which one I like the most. I feel for Rambo in both scenarios, and I love that end scene monolog he has with his old unit commander in the movie. But in the book…dang…it’s just… I’ve said enough.

As far as veteran issues go, both film and book appealed to me and wrung the gauntlet of emotions. More so in the movie than the book, despite the benefit of reading Rambo’s internal thoughts. The movie seems to focus more on Rambo as a veteran, whereas in the book he’s more often referred to as “The Kid.” The book did, however, add a level of polarity to the conflict between the sheriff, a Korean War veteran, and Rambo, a Vietnam veteran, and how each of them refuses to surrender to the other, way more than what the movie offered. In the movie, the sheriff is more of a chump and doesn’t know what he’s walking into, and just seems to be a dick for no reason. In the book, he is more clearly defined. Especially with what happens during the first hunting party. DAMN is all I can say about that!

Overall, if you’re a fan of the movie, you may want to check out the book. I have few doubts you’ll be disappointed.

My rating: 4/5

David Morrell is the author of FIRST BLOOD, the award-winning novel in which Rambo was created. He holds a Ph. D. in American literature from Penn State and was a professor in the English department at the University of Iowa. His numerous New York Times bestsellers include the classic spy trilogy that begins with THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE ROSE, the basis for the only television mini-series to premier after a Super Bowl. The other books in the trilogy are THE FRATERNITY OF THE STONE and THE LEAGUE OF NIGHT AND FOG. An Edgar, Anthony, and Macavity nominee, Morrell is the recipient of three Bram Stoker awards and the prestigious Thriller Master award from the International Thriller Writers organization. His writing book, THE SUCCESSFUL NOVELIST, discusses what he has learned in his four decades as an author. His latest novel is the highly praised Victorian mystery/thriller, MURDER AS A FINE ART.

NEW RELEASE!!!

THE HOBBSBURG HORROR

$2.99


Book in Review: FEED by Michael Bray

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Tyler Matthews is desperate for change. Sick of his life and plagued by alcoholism, he makes the decision to divorce his wife, sell everything he owns and travel the world to try and find focus and rid himself of his addiction. Eventually arriving on the sun-drenched shores of Australia and still plagued by his demons, he has spent all his savings and is facing the prospect of having to return to his old life.

It is here that he meets two men with an outlandish story about a horde of sunken drug money in an area known as the Devil’s Triangle – Australia’s answer to its Bermuda namesake and said to be the lair of a terrifying monster of the deep. Offered a share of the fortune if he helps retrieve it, Tyler agrees to go with the men to the location, skeptical and thinking only of prolonging his journey of self-discovery.

He will learn, however, that this particular urban legend is real, and they encounter a giant of the seas, the previously thought to be extinct Megalodon which makes its home within the area of the Devil’s triangle.

Barely escaping with their lives, the three men wash up on an isolated island – no more than a rocky outcrop with no vegetation, fresh water of food sources. As desperation to survive intensifies, horrifying decisions will be made that will illustrate how man is sometimes the most violent predator on earth and when left with no option will do anything, even the unthinkable, in order to survive.

You may or may not know this, but I’ve got a bit of a phobia towards ocean water. I don’t mind heading to the beach, especially Flordia’s white sand, clear water beaches of Pensacola. That’s not really the problem. The problem is the deep. Or better yet, what lives in the deep, what’s hunting in the deep. Perhaps blame for this phobia can be placed directly on Discovery Channel’s Shark Week specials I’d watched as a kid. Seeing those Great White’s launching themselves, razor teeth and all, up out of the water to snag a morsel of meat. I also clearly remember watching another show on either TLC or Discovery about an old fisher man’s tale about being out at sea and hearing a thudding noise against the bow of his ship. Taking a lantern (because this is late at night, mind you), the captain goes to investigate. Peering over the side of the boat he stares down at something he doesn’t quite understand, and then suddenly it dawns on him…he’s staring down at a giant eye, the looks at him, and then disappears back into the deep. Most likely, the tale was about the infamous Kraken, a so-called giant squid with massive tentacles. Nonsesnse, perhaps, but still…these were the emotions I carried with me while reading Michael Bray’s new book, FEED.

FEED starts off with the main character, Tyler Matthews, who, as the reader will quickly discover, is tired of his ho-hum ordinary life. To escape he must exsponge his controlling misses (soon to be ex-wife), his banal job (of which she helped him get as means of controlling him), and all his meaningless worldly possessions. Tyler is set on exploring the world. His separated wife seems to think he’ll just burn all his money on booze. I really enjoyed the go between here, between Tyler and Amy (the soon-to-be-ex). And you can see where Tyler is at this stage, that they’ve been here before, and how he had failed to purge his life in the past, succumbing apparently to her controlling ways. I found myself easily rooting for Tyler and relieved that he finally stood up for himself. The one thing that stood out as odd was the separation and divorce, and perhaps seeing how Bray is an English chap and I a mere American is the hang up here, but I was questioning how Tyler ended up with everything from the divorce. He sold all his possession. His house, car, everything. And kept the proceeds…or maybe I missed the part where they were going to split everything 50/50. Amy did confess to having an affair, which drove this separation and eventual divorce, but still…

Throughout FEED we’re able to jump from chapter to chapter into various perspectives. Moving to where the majority of the story takes place, Australia’s Devil’s Triangle, I enjoyed the early setup between Scott and his “buddy” Karl, in which Karl informs Scott of an old legend of sunken gold, the only problem being that there’s a guardian of the gold, a giant monster that lurks in the deep. Scott doesn’t believe his stoner buddy’s story but decides to jump in and take a look anyhow. Why not, right? He soon discovers his friend was right, but instead of telling Karl that there is gold down at the bottom, he simply resurfaces to tell him there was nothing but sand, marking the GPS coordinates so he can return later and keep the prize for himself. This was a fun little scene, setting up what will be the eventual motivator of the story, getting that gold, but also being shown that getting said prize will most likely cost something, something very dear more like, as Scott definitely senses something down there stalking him. Or was it just his imagination?

ahab

 

Somewhere around here, we’re introduced to Nash, a very scarred, very “Ahab” trope character. His face and most of his right side of his body are in ruination. His flesh horribly drafted and pieced back together and over twenty years or so has healed in a not so pleasant on the eyes kinda way. Nash looking into the mirror is constantly reminded of what happened to him out in Australia’s Devil’s Triangle and has his heart set on revenge.

I don’t want to get into too many spoilers here. Understandably, reviews tend to reveal more than a few things about a book. Yet, we need to slow things down here, as around this point in the book, the pace begins to pick up. Needless to say, Scott returns to retrieve what he left at the bottom of Devil’s Triangle, and he brought his older, convict brother with him, Paul. I really enjoyed the go-between with Scott and Paul, and this highlights one of many awesome things about FEED, the dialogue is just about spot on, the reactions feel real, and the motivations, no matter how grotesque or horrifying, are justifiable. Even later on when certain characters are stranded on an “island,” which is basically nothing more than rock, with no food and no water. This scene with Scott and Paul also introduces us to the antagonist of the book, though Bray makes mention a few times, through his characters, that the shark is not malicious or anything, its particular species happens to be very dominate and very protective of its territory, and its territory so happens to cover the Devil’s Triangle. Due to the shark’s size, it needs to FEED quite often, which drives its more violent tendencies. Scott and Paul soon discover how real the legend is…

shark

Things progress, time goes on, and we catch up with Tyler in…you guessed it, Australia. He’s been all over the world now, adapted to his new lifestyle, and burning through his funds rapidly, mostly due to his alcoholism. He claims “near-alcoholism,” but come on, a spade is a spade. If Tyler wishes to continue his pilgrimage, he’ll need to replenish his bank account. And as fate would have it, he runs into the most unlikely of people, Nash and his son, Liam, as they discuss things over a few pints of bitter. He overhears their conversation and is quickly swept up in a bid for unimaginable riches. My only hang up here is how easily diving underwater seems. I liked the detail with the equipment, knowing the names of parts I’ll never look up, and though I’m not a “diver” myself, I would assume there would need to be some sort of training involved. I could be wrong here. I’ve only ever been snorkeling, maybe any joe schmoe can put on a wetsuit and some flippers and tread deep water. But regardless, this IS a detail easily ignored and doesn’t really effect the overall story. And so, Nash recruits Tyler to join him and his son, Liam, on a mission to get rich by finding the treasure left behind on the seabed of the Devil’s Triangle.

For the rest, you’ll simply have to read the book…

FEED works in many ways because it is and isn’t a traditional monster story. Sure, we’ve got the Megladon that is very protective of its territory. But we’ve also got a cast of characters that are not in the least two-dimensional. Tyler, the main protagonist, has his flaws, but he’s also very human and real and because of that, he is relatable. As are the many other characters, even the ones that don’t last very long on “screen.” Nash would be another great character I liked reading, a very “Ahab” prototype, hell bent on revenge, even at the risk of his own son and Tyler. Survival and the lengths we’re willing to go to survive are strong motivators of the story, some of which play out in very grotesque ways. This highlights that FEED isn’t just a story about a shark gobbling up people, in fact, for most of it, there are other predators and demons one has to watch out for. My own personal phobia of the ocean no doubt played into my reaction to the story Michael Bray has cooked up for his readers, but it also says something of the quality of the writing, to be able to play on those phobias, the isolation, and claustrophobia, the unknown aspects of what’s really out there in the black depths of the water. FEED is definitely a read fans of horror will not want to miss.

You can get your copy of FEED for $3.99 on Amazon!!

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bray

Michael Bray is a bestselling horror / thriller author of several novels. Influenced from an early age by the suspense horror of authors such as Stephen King, Richard Laymon, Shaun Hutson, James Herbert & Brian Lumley, along with TV shows like Tales from the Crypt & The Twilight Zone, his work touches on the psychological side of horror, teasing the reader’s nerves and willing them to keep turning the pages. Several of his titles are currently being translated into multiple languages and with options for movie and Television adaptations under negotiation for others, he will look to continue his growth as a full time professional writer long into the future.

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Interview w/ Leza Cantoral

cartoonsinforest

One of the wonderful things about writing dark fiction and horror is the many subgenres one can find themselves. So many avenues to explore. Pockets of strange ungodly things. Cosmic horrors and mutant creatures. Fantastic beasts of myth come alive. Haunted furniture and murderous toys. Not forgetting, of course, the most horrifying of all horror tropes and subgenres, the capacity of human indignity. Evil men and women bound to do insidious works. Where do writers come up with their ideas? Where do stories come from? These are two separate questions. Fundamentally, stories come from the same place they always have, that deepest part of ourselves that, though afraid, dares to look out into the unseen where shadows dance and blue razor teeth smile gleefully back at us. And though the core of every writer is the same, inspiration can come from an assortment of places and experiences. Today, we’ll be talking with Leza Cantoral, an up and coming writer that specializes in (but not limited to) the subgenre bizarro fiction. So, pull up a chair. Keep your tentacles to yourself. Take a seat. And give your attention to our guest.

Machine Mean: Let’s get some basic introductions out of the way, shall we? Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What got you into writing? What type of genre or sub-genre do you write in?

Leza Cantoral: I grew up in Mexico and my family moved to the Chicago suburbs when I was 12. I felt very alienated and began writing poetry to cope with depression. I think I got The Diary of Anne Frank for my birthday that year. I thought about her and what a lovely person and writer she was and what a shame it was that I could not read anything by her but her diary. I think that inspired me to chronicle my life through daily journaling. I also wrote a lot of poetry and a few screenplays.

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I did not really think of story writing as an actual point of focus until college when I met Garrett Cook. He was the strangest person I had ever met. We became friends when we took a Postmodernism class together. He slipped a story he wrote under my dorm door called ‘The Ashen Bride’ about a Cinderella with a Vagina Dentate and the story blew my mind. I worried that he was some kinda sexual deviant, but mostly, I was impressed with his style. Reading his stories made me want to write my own surreal and grotesquely twisted fairy tales.

At the time, I was mostly getting stoned and writing endless streams of consciousness, inspired by people like Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsberg. I think the Beat and the Bizarro kinda came together for me eventually. You can see it in stories like “Dope,” which is part angry drunken rant, part dream, and part really uncomfortable description of someone getting probed by aliens. Someone told me it reminded them of Harlan Ellison.

MM: What’s your favorite book and why?

LC: Alice in Wonderland, because it really captures the female psyche. I see myself reflected in it every time.

MM: What is your favorite Lovecraft short story? Why?

LC: “The Music of Erich Zann” because it makes me sad and excited and has a fabulous eerie atmosphere. Also, I find the metaphor apt for the artist. You do often go mad creating and it is hard to know where to draw the line between art and madness. It is a possession.

MM: This is a hard one…but, what is your favorite horror movie? And why?

LC: That is really hard. I’m gonna go with Phenomena, by Dario Argento, starring Jennifer Connelly. This movie is pretty low key on the horror, for an Argento film, though there are some incredible, sensual kills, as well as some grotesque imagery at the end that will never wash out of your mind once you see it. I love it because of the atmosphere and the cool psychic insect powers and the chimp. It is a very sweet movie and it is also wonderfully haunting.

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MM: Leza, I have to admit, you are certainly one of the more interesting persons I’ve ever met through social media. You are very vocal and passionate about your art, which is very awesome and refreshing to see in up and coming authors. What kind of inspiration do you draw from? Do you have a mentor of sorts?

LC: I draw inspiration from many places. Mostly poetry and pop music. I love both Sylvia Plath and Lana Del Rey. I love them so much I am editing an anthology of stories inspired by them for CLASH Books.

I grew up in Mexico and learned French in high school. I think this affected how I write. Spanish and French have a certain rhythm, texture, and cadence. There is a softness, a rawness, and a voluptuousness to the Latin languages. The French Surrealist poets had a huge impact on me in college. I have been trying to write like them ever since.

I have had a few mentors. My first was Garrett Cook. I met him in college and I fell in love with his short stories. I learned by shadowing him and watching his process. I adopted some of his techniques such as handwriting first drafts. There is a magic to having the pen to paper. A computer will never have that raw immediacy for me.

I recently took a class by Juliet Escoria on LitReactor called “Taboo Topics.” It was an incredible experience and she was the perfect mentor. She gave us assignments that pushed our comfort zone boundaries and then gave incredible feedback to keep our writing simple and honest. Two of the pieces I wrote in her class made it into the collection.

My main mentor is Christoph Paul. He has been working with me for the past two years. He gives me honest feedback and is a master of story structure. The main thing that I have gotten from working with Christoph is his work ethic. He is one of those people that feels really guilty if he is not working on at least five things at the same time. I work harder because he raises the bar for what is normal. He is great at balancing praise with criticism. He never kisses my ass.

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MM: From the sounds of things, you seem to be keeping busy, with book signings and various traveling and publishing articles with Luna Luna Magazine, I think my head would spin taking on so many projects! Do you have a writing method that helps you keep everything grounded? A schedule of sorts? Do you have a special place you like to do your writing?

LC: I have an office and that helps keep things organized, though I tend to do most of my writing in bed while listening to pop music or watching movies and TV.

My schedule is: post stuff on the CLASH Media website in the morning, do other business and publishing-related things, promote, edit, etc. Then after dinner, I focus on writing.

When I work on short stories it kinda derails my schedule, though. I will get totally obsessed and manic and go a little insane for like a week or so, watching or listening to music and movies on repeat that is putting me in the zone. My technique for short story writing is pretty much a self-induced trance. Once I am done it takes me a day or two to come back to reality and I usually feel dead inside until I do.

MM: According to the all-knowing and all-powerful Amazon, your last publication was Baum Ass Stories: Twistered Tales of Oz, which was a collection of short stories and poems based in a sort of twisted version of Oz. Can you tell us a little bit about this book and what compelled you to dabble in this particular sub-genre? Is it a sub-genre you fell into or came by naturally?

LC: I was asked by Zeb Carter to write a story for it. I grew up reading and loving the Oz books. I had a dystopian Nazi Disney world that had been brewing for a while in my head and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to start exploring it. My main character is a cross between Eva Braun and Princess Langwidere. She is really fucked up and insane. This story mostly arose out of my fascination with Eva Braun and Adolf Hitler’s relationship. It just seems very twisted and sadomasochistic. She was very much in love with him and it seems like he kinda took her for granted. In my own twisted way, I kinda gave Eva the ending I felt she deserved.

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MM: Okay…let’s talk about your new book that just released, Cartoons in the Suicide Forest. The cover looks stunning, BTW. Can you tell us a little bit about what kind of stories readers can expect from this collection? What genre or sub-genre would you label it as?

LC: The stories in this collection span many genres. Bizarro, surrealism, splatterpunk, speculative, strange fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, literary horror, body horror, experimental metafiction, slipstream, stream of consciousness. Some of the stories read like surreal prose poems, some are straight up horror stories, and some are twisted fairy tales, like Planet Mermaid (The Little Mermaid), Beast (Beauty and the Beast), Eva of Oz (Ozma of Oz).

I would say that the stories in this collection are all pretty dark. My characters all want things: validation, satisfaction, release, escape, love. The general tone is tragic. I use colorful language to deal with sad themes. The happy endings are bittersweet if they happen at all.

MM: In the description, it sounds like readers are in store for a unique experience. One reviewer said that Cartoons in the Suicide Forest is “mesmerizing, sexual and grotesque, often at the same time.”  They also gave the book a five-star rating. Did this reviewer hit the nail on the head more or less for what you were going for?

LC: I love directors like Dario Argento, Alejandro Jodorowski, and David Lynch. I try to create an eerie and dissociative experience for the reader; something that will take them outside of themselves.

When I write stories that are of a sexual nature it is because sex sometimes is the only way to describe a certain psychic state. I often explore the feeling of being violated against one’s will, or of being outside one’s body as other people are using it. This is metaphorical of loss of self. Holding on to my sense of self is actually something I struggle with. It might surprise people, or not. Writing is the only way that I can honestly express myself. Selfies are lies. You see my face but you don’t know what I am really thinking or feeling. If you want to know my heart, read my stories.

MM: The book cover looks freaking sweet. Can you tell us a little bit about that? Who designed it? Did you get any say in the creative process?

LC: The cover is by Matthew Revert, who is a genius. I gave him the titular story to draw inspiration from and I cried when I saw what he came up with. That cover truly captures the soul of this collection.

MM: Before we go, can you drop a little hint on future projects you may have cooking?

LC: My next project is a Fantasy adventure called “The Ice Cream Girl Gospels.” I have begun outlining the book and drawing a map of Ice Cream Land. The story will be sweet and strange. It is inspired by Candyland, drugs, and pop music videos. After that, I have a novel called “Tragedy Town.”  It’s a dark romantic comedy about the danger and beauty of falling in love. Think if Charlie Kaufman directed an episode of The Twilight Zone. I also have two poems appearing in the upcoming Civil Coping Mechanisms anthology A Shadow Map: An Anthology of Survivors of Sexual Assault and a slipstream story about Jackie Kennedy, called “Saint Jackie” that will be appearing in the Bizarro Pulp Press anthology More Bizarro Than Bizarro.

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You can get YOUR copy of Leza’s latest book Cartoons in the Suicide Forest for $3.99!!!

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lezacantoral

Leza Cantoral was born in Mexico and moved to the Chicago suburbs when she was 12. She runs CLASH Books and is the editor of Print Projects for Luna Luna Magazine. She lives in New Hampshire with the love of her life and their two cats. ‘Cartoons in the Suicide Forest’ is her first short story collection. She is currently working on a YA Bizarro novella called ‘The Ice Cream Girl Gospels’ You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter @lezacantoral

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Book Featurette: Hunting Witches

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Mark and Nika Pendleton have just moved into the small town of Elders Keep. But the presence of the newcomers has awakened the evil that lives in the forest. Now, the Pendletons are in more danger than they’ve ever known as forces beyond their comprehension conspire against them. Pray for the Pendletons before it’s too late.

What readers are saying about Hunting Witches:

“An old time witch hunting story reminiscent of times in ancient history with a modern feel to it. It has scary parts and humorous parts. It has plenty of blood and guts when you want it. It is filled with emotion and a tale that will totally draw you into every printed word.” -Confessions of a Reviewer

“Elder’s Keep is the type of town you’d like to pass on by and never look back. Yet, some of us, including myself, can’t wait to return. In “Hunting Witches,” we meet Mark and Nika Pendleton, a modern couple who can’t wait to buy their old-fashioned, southern dream-home in Elder’s Keep- a seemingly sleepy town with a turbulent undercurrent. Familiar characters return, as the sheriff of the Keep struggles to maintain the balance between personal and professional, and struggles between the dark and the even darker forces at work in the Keep. References to witchcraft, folklore, Christian, Pagan, and even Satanic tradition, are woven throughout the work and are a pleasant surprise to scholars of folklore and/or religion. Five is a number oft-repeated … This is an engaging work, part of a series that I hope will continue. We get yet another glimpse into the mythology of the town of Elder’s Keep, and I hope that we get to dig in further.” -Lydian Faust

“I’m not usually a fan of horror but this story really captures some of the mysterious and creepy feelings that permeate the landscape and culture of West Tennessee. The romantic relationships are fun to read and entirely believable. Hope there is a sequel!” -Amazon Reviewer

“When a young couple moves to an idyllic Tennessee town, happiness ensues, right? This is a novel with roots in a collection of short stories by the same author. You’ve likely read the synopsis, and telling anymore would inevitably bring spoilers, and I will not do that. You must get this book, and help out an indie author who has a seriously twisted, and often humorous voice. It is speaking loud and needs to get louder.” -Chuck Knight

“King has Derry, Martin has the Keep. We all give things a second thought when they go “bump”. Read the anthologies for character backgrounds and just because they are great. Definitely worth the wait.” -Amazon Reviewer

You can get YOUR copy of Hunting Witches for $4.99!!

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jefferymartin

Jeffery X. Martin is the published author of several stories that are sure to shock, including those in the Elders Keep universe. He also published a fantastic tale in The Black Room Manuscripts. You can find his work, including his latest novel, Hunting Witches, on Amazon’s blood-soaked altar. When Mr. X is not writing creepy mind-benders, he’s the host and/or contributor to several podcasts and review sites, including but not limited to, Popshifter, Kiss the Goat, and the Cinema Beef Podcast. He is a frequent contributor to Machine Mean, reviewing for us The Wolf Man (1941), The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944), Revenge of the Creature (1955), and Squirm (1976).

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Book Featurette: Where the Monsters Live

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WARNING: contains mature content and violence not suitable for all readers.

When police fail to find the man responsible for raping a six-year-old girl, her father leaves home on a harrowing undercover journey into Miami’s sex offender colony under the Julia Tuttle Causeway to hunt down the “Rabbit Man,” and put him in the ground. Vengeance is a monster that lives within our own hearts.

What readers are saying about Where the Monsters Live:

“Efficient, powerful prose in a short story that delivers about as much emotion and punch as a book ten times its length. It’s a challenging character and his actions really need to be evaluated and thought over by the reader, which I think all good art should do. I have been a fan of Ralston’s work for some time now, and this one did not disappoint. Check it out if you are looking for a good, fast read.” -Chad Clark, author of Down the Beaten Path and Behind Our Walls

“Who knows what lies in the hearts of men? Duncan Ralston certainly does in this dark fast paced horrific read. Read it in one sitting.” -Amazon Reviewer

“While the subject matter, sexual abuse, may indeed be too traumatic for some audiences, this story tackles the difficult subject deftly. The protagonist, a man driven to hunt down a monster, must struggle not to become a monster himself. A quick and thoroughly engaging read.” -Lydian Faust

“I’ve been reading Ralston since Salvage. I feel that this is one of the best stories, he has told, so far.” -Kurt Thingvold.

You can get YOUR copy of Where the Monsters Live for $0.99!!!

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DuncanR

Duncan Ralston is no stranger to Machine Mean. He has previously reviewed for us The Invisible Man (1933) and Ash Vs. Evil Dead. Mr. Ralston is not just a wonderful human being, but also the author of gruesome tales like Salvage: A Ghost Story, and the horror collection, Gristle & Bone. He’s been published in a various of anthologies, including The Black Room Manuscripts, The AnimalEaster Eggs and Bunny Boilers, and VS: US Versus UK. His latest book will sure to knock your socks off, Woom. You can follow and chat with him at  www.facebook.com/duncanralstonfiction and www.duncanralston.com. You can read his review on Invisible Man here.


Book Featurette: Two Minds (An Extreme Horror Novel)

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My name is Samantha Brown, and I am 31 years old. I work in an office in the city. My older sister, Beth, went missing 3 weeks ago – disappeared without a trace. I’ve seen you once, but you didn’t see me. Or, at least, I don’t think you saw me. I saw you leaving my sister’s flat early one Saturday morning when I was pulling up in my car. Me and Beth had planned to go shopping that day, and she had forgotten about our arrangement. She was hungover and grouchy and refused to tell me anything about the mysterious man that I had just seen leave her flat. We never did go shopping, we argued and I left. I didn’t call her, and she didn’t call me. One week later, she disappeared. Ever since then, I have been obsessed with the man I saw leave her flat; call it women’s intuition, call it what you will, but I have a bad feeling about you. You were too good-looking, and my sister was cagey about who you were. That wasn’t like her. So three weeks later, I see you in a bar. I approach you, and there we have the beginning of our story….

“Two Minds” is told through the viewpoint of the two characters living the story. The woman – convinced the man she is talking to is responsible for her sister’s disappearance – and the man… Who is he? Did he have anything to do with the sudden disappearance of Samantha’s sister or is he nothing more than an innocent bystander?

Only one thing is for sure… After this night, neither of them will be the same again.

What readers are saying about Two Minds:

“I’ve been a fan of Matt’s for a very long time. When I stumbled across Sam’s work not very long after, the two people who introduced me to Matt said I’d enjoy Sam’s writing as well – (thank you Suzanne and Cathy!) – and they were right. IMO, Sam West’s stories have been getting increasingly better this year, and this collaboration came at the perfect time for both of them. I wish the ending were a little… ‘beefier’ (for lack of a better term, or perfect tongue in cheek?). But – I love how it was written. It’s a great style, and I bet we’ll see more authors experimenting with it. Authors… your introduction(s) made me laugh out loud at work. Thank you for helping convince my boss I’m a lunatic for sitting down to read ’50 SHADES OF F***ED UP’ on my break and giggling.” -Shadow Girl

“I enjoyed this book it had a lot of masochistic in it. I really thought it couldn’t get any better.” -Amazon Reviewer

“I’m no stranger to Matt Shaw and I’ve read a few things from Sam West so I was expecting something really good out of them. I was not disappointed. This book was pretty good, and Sam and Matt worked well together, each writing from a different character’s perspective. For me, the book is really in two parts. In the beginning, we have a cat and mouse aspect, but we’re not really sure who is which. Samantha wants to know what happened to her sister and is going after the man that might have done something to her. Is she the dangerous one? What will she do if she finds out he did what she thinks he did? Then, we have Jack. Did he do something to Samantha’s sister? Is he the dangerous one? It’s almost very Hitchcock-like in its concept. Then, there’s the second part. This is the extreme horror part, rather than the psychological horror in part one. I don’t really want to reveal how you arrive at the extreme horror aspect, but I assure you… It’s there. Great concept. Great execution. Great collaboration.” -Shaun Hupp

You can get YOUR copy of Two Minds (An Extreme Horror Novel) for the mere price of $2.99!!!

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Matt Shaw is no stranger to Machine Mean. He has reviewed for us The Invisible Woman (1940) and Don’t Breathe (2016). Mr. Shaw is the published author of over 100 titles – all readily available on AMAZON. He is one of the United Kingdom’s leading – and most prolific – horror authors, regularly breaking the top ten in the chart for Amazon’s Most Popular Horror Authors. With work sometimes compared to Stephen King, Richard Laymon, and Edward Lee, Shaw is best known for his extreme horror novels (The infamous Black Cover Range), Shaw has also dabbled in other genres with much success; including romance, thrillers, erotica, and dramas. Despite primarily being a horror author, Shaw is a huge fan of Roald Dahl – even having a tattoo of the man on his arm; something he looks to whenever he needs a kick up the bum or inspiration to continue working! As well as pushing to release a book a month, Shaw’s work is currently being translated for the Korean market and he is currently working hard to produce his own feature length film. And speaking of films… Several film options have been sold with features in the very early stages of development. Watch this space. Matt Shaw lives in Southampton (United Kingdom) with his wife Marie, his bastard cat Nellie and three rats – Roland, Splinter, and Spike. He used to live with Joey the Chinchilla and Larry the Bearded Dragon but they died. At least he hoped they did because he buried them. You can follow Mr. Shaw and delve into his work by following his site at www.mattshawpublications.co.uk AND on Facebook at  www.facebook.com/mattshawpublications.co.uk. You can read his review of the infamous Invisible Woman here.

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Sam West is a horror writer living in the UK. His stuff is hardcore, so be warned. He believes that horror should be sick and sexy and he is more than happy to offend a few people on his writing journey. He hopes there are other like minded souls out there that enjoy a good dose of depravity and perversion. Because that’s what rocks his world. That, and his wife and young daughter who do brilliantly to put up with his diseased mind. You can contact him at samwest666@outlook.com.


Hook of a Book

If you’ve been in the book writing and publishing biz for more than a minute then you’ve probably discovered that this journey of getting what you dream and scribe into the hands of readers takes more than fancy words. The creative process is but one step down a long road. At one turn you’ll need to edit. And you’ll need to format your work for both eBook and paperback. At another, you’ll need to promote through social media and other venues. Whether you’re pro or con regarding Facebook, Twitter, and all the other outlets does not matter. That is where the people are at. You might also want to think about advertising, either traditionally or through websites and blogs. You’ll need some graphics for those. So…perhaps you’re thinking how daunting this can be. Why isn’t publishing easier? Well, to be frank, publishing IS very easy. Tons of folks do it, but what they publish might not be up to snuff. Editing and formatting issues can turn away readers faster than a pizza disappearing at a Weight Watchers meeting. A boring crap book cover will have potential readers scrolling on to that other guys/gals novel. And the most fundamental headache of all? How are you getting YOUR work in front of people? Not just your friends and family, people you can con into supporting your dream, but actual readers, strangers, folks outside of your social bubble.

Now, you might also be asking at the moment how you’re supposed to find time for all this. Well…some writers fly solo and they work uphill. Some find success in this, some do not. No one in my humble opinion ever works truly alone. Even the loneliest of indie writers has someone they depend on. And some writers reach out to firms to help them on their journey. Hook of a Book is a mom and pop PR service that can help make your publishing goals easier.

Here’s some info about Hook of a Book:

Tim Busbey and Erin Al-Mehairi have a combined 40 years experience in creative writing, copywriting, communications, journalism, publicity, editing (editorial, copy, content, and line), marketing, social media, public relations, and media relations.

Services We Most Likely Offer (though we are all for trying anything new too):

Manuscript Development
Editing (line, developmental, copy)
Publicity/Book Promotion: Marketing or Publicist Duties, Media and Blogger relations, including what we call publicity tours, otherwise  known as virtual book tours, online book tours,  or we also do location book tours (or combine both!)
Media Kits and Packets, including press releases
Social Media
Book signings
Flyers
Book Covers
Advertising
Graphics and Copy for Ads, Social Media, Tours, Bookmarks, Postcards
Self-Publishing Set-Up
E-book Conversion
Print Set-up
Consulting with us: by 1/2 hour or hourly increments
Consulting with a best-selling author

E-mail us at hookofabook@hotmail.com to discuss your needs and budget.

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Tim is an award-winning newspaper writer and editor with a never-ending love of using and teaching AP style to unsuspecting young peeps who have yet to master the allure of details, however his fondness seeps over into proper use of the Chicago Manual of Style as well, so whichever one Erin is forgetting at the moment she only needs to look his way. He can most often be found posting grammar rules to social media and laughing hysterically to himself as his Darth Vader gum ball machine looks on in glee. He’s also a creative fiction author, but uses his left brain and right brain in unison many mornings to copy write and edit ads and marketing materials for an assortment of companies. On other mornings, he is helping to manage the minds of young journalists in the newsroom, while trying not to show how excited he is over breaking news. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from Bowling Green State University.

Connect with him on LinkedIn HERE.

 

 

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Erin has so many interests, abilities, and levels of experience that she is avoiding writing this biography and keeps adding to Tim’s. Probably she should just go to her corner and practice her Yoda origami while simultaneously still running her mouth cracking jokes that keeps Tim in stitches. Already he is proofreading her bio. But if we must be serious, Erin is a lover of words. She likes to write and read and offer advice to others who want to write and read. She likes to see others succeed at their dreams as much as she dreams of her own. With Bachelor of Arts degrees in the several majors of Journalism, English, and History, she’s studied great literature and the meaning behind great writing and writing styles, while within the next hour learning editing and media law. How she did it she doesn’t know, but she also studied history and has a fondness for all time periods. She loves being a journalist, a writer, and an editor most, but has a knack, as well as over a decade experience, for publicity and marketing as her passion is a driving force behind many projects. Erin has spent the last 19 years in the journalism, public relations, advertising, and marketing fields. She is a community activist and an award-winning businesswoman and poet. However, her claim to fame seems to be within her baking skills, at least according to her family.

Connect with her on LinkedIn HERE.


Book Featurette: Hexagram

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Their lands plagued by invaders, the Inca resort to an ancient ritual. By harvesting star dust from people, they hope to accumulate enough to raise the sun god, Inti, and reclaim their lands. Yet when the collection is interrupted, it sets in motion events which will rattle human history. Six stories. Six different time periods. One outcome. 

We are all made of stars.

When an ancient Inca ritual is interrupted, it sets in motion a series of events that will echo through five hundred years of human history. Many seek to use the arcane knowledge for their own ends, from a survivor of a shipwreck, through to a suicide cult.

Yet…the most unlikeliest of them all will succeed.

What readers are saying about Hexagram:

“A rip-roaring boy’s own adventure yarn. This novel contains multitudes, and the sheer scale and breadth of the story is exhilarating. A glorious unhinged thrill ride.” – Kit Power, author of GodBomb!

“Hexagram is a visceral journey through the dark nooks and crannies of human history. Lovecraftian terror merges with blood sacrifice, suicide cults and body horror as Bradshaw weaves an intricate plot into an epic tale of apocalyptic dread.” – Rich Hawkins, author of The Last Plague trilogy

“In an interweaving of horror, science fiction, metaphysics, and mystery, readers travel a path convoluted and purposeful, from the era of the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire, through the cleaning-up post-conquest (loading the gold and delivering it to Spain), pausing at the American Civil War, the Whitechapel murders of 1888, and continuing to the present, where the path and its purpose collide and all is revealed. Lest a potential reader might think that this novel is only science fiction, or perhaps New Age, I assure that horror resides as well on every single page, and the gore content is high and mighty.” -The Haunted Reading Room

“…a novel following various groups of people as they all try and achieve one goal across many centuries. A scary concept that could have delivered more for me on the horror front but makes up for that with the blood and literal guts. Either way, it’s Duncan P Bradshaw. You need to read it.” -Confessions of a Reviewer

“…an ambitious novel that jumps around a lot and because of this it could become Bradshaw’s Vegemite novel, meaning you either like it or you don’t. I did like it, a lot. The pacing is very good and I felt the short stories intertwined well, whilst being long enough without outstaying their welcome. The witty dialogue was enjoyable and there were some great scenes of gore. I read it in two sessions so it’s a thumbs up from me. Extra points to Bradshaw for mentioning the cricket, too!” -Adrian Shotbolt

You can get YOUR copy of Hexagram for the low-low price of $2.99!!!

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duncanbradshaw

Living in a hollowed out pumpkin, Duncan P. Bradshaw finds October the most troublesome of months, as people become intent on sticking flaming candles into the midst of his happy abode. In fact, the only good thing to come about from it is the copious amount of candy that he steals from passers-by. When they have all sodded right off, he retires to the tip of the stalk, which affords him excellent views of the neighbourhood. As the rest of the street slumbers, he writes down the weird and wonderful thoughts that have built up during the day, like the plaque. Find out what he writes down, by checking out his website http://duncanpbradshaw.co.uk/ or follow him on Facebook, where he does all manner of things https://www.facebook.com/duncanpbradshaw/

And as always, if you enjoyed what you’ve read here on Machine Mean, please subscribe to our mailing list by clicking on the image below to receive updates on sales and new releases, and also the latest horror news.

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