Roadside Attractions is free

Go get a free book. To celebrate my impending freedom from KDP Select, Roadside Attractions is 100% free until Wednesday. You can’t beat that price.

A piece of hell is hiding in a tiny Arizona town…

During a not-so-routine investigation into a haunting, a pair of ghost hunters receive a strange text message beckoning them to Dragoon, Arizona. The message promises them a ghost unlike any they’ve ever met and riches galore for investigating the entity. They find the ghost, but more sinister forces are lurking in the town and soon the ghost-hunters – and the ghost they were sent to hunt – find themselves caught between a renegade devil and the hitwoman sent from hell to stop him.

With time running out and no one to turn to, they’ll have to dig deep into science, magic, and themselves to stop a great evil from awakening or the world will suffer an eternity of darkness.

A tale of good, evil, and everything in between is about to unfold at one of the country’s most mysterious ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS.

Get it here

Book Review – The Man Without Hands by Eric Malikyte

Traditional narrative structure follows a three-part process: Introduce the characters and the plot, drop the characters into the worst possible place, Salvage the situation just before everything goes completely to shit.

Both of you longtime readers out there know I’ve reviewed Malikyte’s books before. Both Echoes Of Olympus Mons and Mind’s Horizon were clever, well-executed books that took horror into some amazingly fun new places. Rather than simple hack and slash, put on the hockey mask and kill some teenagers having sex, both books added a sci-fi spin to horror. They both had a brooding sense of “something is terribly wrong” that lurked in the narrative like an overbearing lover looking in your window.

The Man Without Hands has some elements of Echoes and Horizon – you can sense the DNA in the stories – but is very different beast. While the celestial horror is still there, The Man Without Hands is more both more exploratory and more action-packed. This is Malikyte taking his time, building worlds and giving us hints at a lot of back story that hopefully will be fleshed out in future installments.

At its heart, The Man Without Hands is about rebellion. All the magic and action and high-powered fighting serves to emphasize the differences between the protagonist on one world and everyone else and the antagonist on a different world and everyone else. And through the threads of the narrative we see the similarities between the protagonist and antagonist and begin to wonder if our initial assessments of “good guy” and “bad guy” are accurate. Which, frankly, is no mean feat and shows that Malikyte has a big idea brewing in his head.

As usual, Malikyte spends time developing his characters. They’re not two-dimensional cutouts, there’s a richness to them that makes them pop off the page. Even the minor characters have enough quirks to make us feel something for them. For some of them, it’s concern. For others, it’s an undeniable desire to punch them in the nose.

The Man Without Hands is book one in a series. Book two, The Rise of Oreseth, is available now. The Man Without Hands serves as step one of the traditional narrative; we get a good idea of who the players are and what’s at stake. I’m expecting book two will take the characters we’ve come like and drop them into the meat grinder.

The last war is on the horizon…

On an alien world, beneath an alien sky, deep beneath the mountains, the last remnants of a doomed people are preparing to go to war. Their enemies rule the humans of the world above like gods and command the power to reshape the planet itself.

The High Elder has declared that all Sulekiel youth must enter the Trials, giving them months to prepare for a deadly test of strength and otherworldly power when they should have had years. For Sage, the son of a traitor, it is a chance to prove himself to those who never trusted his tainted blood.

But none of the Sulekiel are aware of the power sleeping inside of him—or that one of their brethren has traversed the veil between universes, traveling to a place called Earth on a reckless quest to fulfill a bargain with an Eldritch god, leaving a trail of death and destruction in his wake. As the consequences of this traveler’s doomed bargain reach across worlds, powers beyond comprehension stir. The fate of both worlds might just rest in the hands of the traitor’s son and a desperate small-town cop.

Get your copy on Amazon

Follow Eric on Twitter

Check out his website

Book Review – The Secret Six: The Red Shadow by Robert J Hogan

Okay, so here’s the thing: The Secret Six: The Red Shadow was published in 1934, so this isn’t going to be a traditional book review. After all, it’s not like an 84-year-old pulp novel really needs more Amazon reviews. The original pulp magazine that published The Red Shadow is long out of business and the author – Robert J. Hogan – died in 1963.

So, why bother reviewing this book at all?

The Secret Six was a short-run series of pulp stories about a group of people who get together and decide to fight crime. Think of them as the original Avengers without the tights and super powers. In a lot of ways, the pulp heroes of the 30s were the prototypes for the superheroes of today. Characters like King, the Key, Bishop, the Doctor, and Shakespeare laid the foundations for what would come later.

The 1930s was when the superhero was created, even if the term wasn’t commonplace at the time. Remember, Superman wouldn’t debut until 1938 (even though Siegel and Shuster had created him in 1933) and Batman wouldn’t don the gray tights and bust skulls until 1939. This was the era of Doc Savage and The Phantom and a panoply of other heroes both remembered and forgotten.

Obviously, not all of these pulp fiction heroes would be remembered down the road. The Secret Six falls squarely into that category. Of course, here it is 84 years later and I’m writing a review of their first adventure, so maybe they weren’t quite so forgettable.

Action stories are, in a lot of ways, all the same. Bad guys do bad things and good guys stop them. Like all pulp fiction stories, the bad guys in the Secret Six were completely over the top and the good guys were a bit less than angels. Even Doc Savage, who typically refused to kill anyone, had little compunction about letting the bad guys get eaten by giant ants or plunge to their grisly deaths off Aztec pyramids. So, next time you think of Batman’s anti-hero aesthetic as being unique, remember he was the natural evolution of people who were only slightly less anti-hero than him.

That’s why, at least from my point of view, it’s important to look back on the pulp fiction of the ’30s every now and then and remember where modern action stories came from.

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And now, for no reason whatsoever, bear knife-fighting

If you’ve never ready any of the pulp fiction from that era, it’s worth taking a look at. Don’t expect miraculous works of art, though. The people that wrote these stories knocked them out like machinery. As such, the quality is sometimes not exactly up to par with something crafted and honed over the space of months of years. Remember, a lot of these books were written in a couple weeks and it wasn’t unheard of for some of the pulp authors to write 10,000+ words per day in order to handle their twice a month book deadlines. That’s 60-70 thousand words each and every day and usually on mechanical typewriters. For those unfamiliar with word counts, a page is usually assumed to contain 250 words. At that level, people like Walter Gibson were writing 40 pages a day. It sounds easy until you try it.

The Red Shadow is fairly standard for most pulp fiction of its era. It’s just clever enough to keep the reader flipping pages, but while it has a lot to offer, it lacks multi-dimensional characters. In fact, some of the supporting characters could have been excised and no one would have noticed they were gone. The story itself was clever enough: A mysterious red force is killing people and it’s up to a rag-tag coalition of people to stop it.

By today’s standards, a red force that kills people doesn’t seem too outlandish, but in the 1930s the story must have bordered on science fiction. In fact, the term “death ray” is thrown around a couple times, even though it doesn’t turn turn out to be a death ray.

Take one part regular badassery, a teaspoon of action and gallantry, and a villain that’s still somewhat mysterious even after we find out who he is and you’ve got the recipe for a quality batch of cookies. Like a lot of the pulp stories of its time, The Red Shadow doesn’t offer a lot of depth, but that was never the point. Pulp stories like The Red Shadow were meant to be the Fast & Furious stories of that generation: they’re pure nitro-burning funny cars for a time when America really needed the escapism that can only come from mindless heroism.

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Say it with me: WOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

The actual magazine that printed The Red Shadow is, as noted above, long gone. Even the publishing house that purchased the rights to the Secret Six stories is gone. Fortunately, we live in the future, so finding a copy of The Red Shadow (and the rest of the Secret Six stories) is as easy as clicking a link.

Go get a copy, put your brain on screensaver, and have a little fun tonight. If you want to read a classic, you spend time with Ethan Frome or Ishmael (good books in their own right), or you can hang out with King, Bishop, and the Key, break out of jail, and bust up a budding criminal empire.

Get the complete Secret Six stories here.

Celebration Week Marches On

Freebooks

Today (6/1) and tomorrow (6/1 + 1) will be the last days of the celebration week, celebrating this week by giving away free ebooks on Amazon. I had intended to have the Complete Saxton free, too, but due to some error or another on Amazon’s end, that will have to wait for another time.

Still, you’ve got some time to get the latest and greatest in the Henchmen series: Transmute for the cost of absolutely nothing. You don’t even have to leave a review (but it would be nice if you did).

All he wants is a dinner date with his girlfriend, but there are jerks everywhere.
As if Steven doesn’t already have enough problems dealing with the Dreaming Lands actively rebelling against his rule, the freshly minted God of Dreams has to learn how to be a god, deal with overzealous followers, and generally get his head in the game. To make things worse, a powerful enemy has set its sights on Steven and Jessica, and the entire world could be at stake.
New god. New powers. New problems. At least he’s still got friends.

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Get your copy here

Pleased To Announce…

If you’ve been waiting for the chance to get a good look at Wilford Saxton on his own, the Complete Saxton is now available. The stories have been available for a while, but I know some folk prefer to read a series once it’s complete. Think of it as binge reading rather than binge watching.

The Saxton spin-offs filled a void between the events of Arise and Transmute, and covered the adventures of the on-again-off-again antagonist of the Henchmen series. Simply put, he became too interesting to let go of.

This short series compiles the four complete Saxton stand-alone novellas into one epic collection that reads like a shot of whisky and a punch in the gut. At the end of Arise we find Wilford running from Eve after she threatens to pull his spine out through his nose. He’s been shot with a serum made by neo-Nazis that makes him nearly invulnerable to everything and is packing a weapon stolen from one of the otherworldly minions of Fear.

How he goes from wanting to hunt down and kill every monster to focusing on going after The Brotherhood of the Sane takes him down dark paths where bogeymen stalk him, a poof of smoke teaches a young woman to kill, werewolves stalk the Navajo reservation, and he promises a favor to the spirit of the land. In the end, he comes face-to-face with his own monstrosities and learns to accept who he is.

This collection contains the following novelette and three novellas:

  • The Hunt
  • Uneasy Allies
  • Yee Naaldlooshii
  • The Brotherhood

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A unique blend of horror and adventure, the Saxton series follows the adventures of Wilford Saxton and his talking gun. He started out as a simple DHS agent, but found himself caught up in the events of the Henchmen series. After confronting gods, Nazis, and Valkyries, Saxton finds himself mutated beyond belief. Struggling to understand a world that’s not as simple as he expected, Saxton soon finds himself hunting monsters and wondering what he’s gotten himself into.
As if the monsters weren’t enough, Saxton has attracted the attention of the people that made him like he is and they’re willing to kill his only friends if he doesn’t accede to their demands.
This collection includes The Hunt, Uneasy Allies, Yee Naaldlooshii, and The Brotherhood. If you’ve ever wondered what Wilford Saxton was up to between the events of Arise and Transmute, here’s your chance to experience adventure with a new kind of hero.

Get your copy on Amazon or read it on Kindle Unlimited

Genres

Strangely, I’ve never been a huge fan of horror stories.  Some are good, some are bad, but it’s never been a genre that I went out of my way to read.  Of course, I’ve read a lot of Stephen King’s works and found his stories to be entertaining and well read.  It is a great book and I loved The Stand.  Thing is, though, while they were all good books I didn’t find any of them particularly scary.  I mean scary in the way that tingles run up and down your spine for hours after you’ve read them.

I’d like to say I’m immune to being scared but Poltergeist still freaks me out lo these many years later.  When I first saw it I was nervous for weeks and I still have a thing about clowns.  But, let’s be frank here, clowns are kind of freaky as Too Much Joy taught us back in the 90s.

Sleep well tonight.

Sleep well tonight.

Aside from Poltergeist and a handful of other movies, I just don’t find a lot of horror movies to be all that horrifying.  Maybe it’s because my mom let me watch Alien when I was 9 and it burned out any fear receptors I might have had.

Why the discussion of horror movies in a post titled Genres?  Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the forum.  I’ve had Henchmen and Arise set up freebies on Amazon over the past couple of days and both of them crawled into the top 10 in Horror:Occult.  I swear, I didn’t set out to write a horror story.  I honestly thought I was writing action/adventure.  So, I stopped and pondered it while I was grilling burgers tonight and wondered how either of those books would be considered horror.  Sure, the government captured a god who could control people with his shadows, there’s a monster guarding a secret installation, one of the protagonists is a Valkyrie, you’ve got guys who can flick in and out of reality, and a guy that just won’t die.

So, okay, there are some elements that you could consider horror-related, and those are just in Henchmen.  Arise ramps it up a bit further.  Still, it never dawned on me that I was writing a horror story.  I started out writing a story about a supervillain (Eve) and her henchmen (the rest of the folks).  I wanted to ground them a bit more in reality rather than having people running around in tights.  Once I placed a Valkyrie on the page, the rest just kind of flowed into place.

I’m going to digress for a moment, but I’ll do my best to wrap it all back together again shortly.

One of the earlier horror stories I read was Lovecraft’s The Statement of Randolph Carter.  It’s one of the few Lovecraft stories that has stuck with me over the years.  The story is pretty short and straightforward and recounts the death of Harley Warren.  In the story, Warren and Carter find a temple in the middle of a swamp and crack it open.  Inside they find a set of stairs descending into darkness.  For some reason Warren – armed only with a lantern and a length of telephone wire – decides to see where the stair go.

Climbing down the stair of a mysterious temple armed with a flashlight is the literary equivalent of this cartoon:

FarSideBears

In case you hadn’t guessed Warren finds a mysterious underworld filled with horrible marvels and meets his untimely demise at the hands of something really bad.

I always thought that it would be interesting to see what would happen if someone faced down the nameless horrors that twist reality and was actually somewhat prepared for it.  It covered this to a certain degree; but what if the horrors met a horror of their own.  That seemed to me to a pretty good idea.  Thus was born the action and the horror of Henchmen and Arise.  Start out with the idea that there are monsters out there and put together some characters that can face them down, mix in a bit of gun play, and shake gently.

So, there you go.  Accidental genre-bending fiction.  Or is it genre-defying fiction?

And a quick “Thank you” to everyone who has downloaded Henchmen and Arise.  I hope you enjoy(ed) them.

May cause unexpected awesomeness in readers

May cause unexpected awesomeness in readers

Has been known to grant readers nearly godlike powers (6)

Has been known to grant readers nearly godlike powers (6)