Category Archives: Books

Sewerville – now available in Audiobook!

In all the excitement, I forgot to mention on ye old website that Sewerville: A Southern Gangster Novel is now available on audiobook. Get it at Audible.com, Amazon, and itunes. I’ve listened to it myself and can report that the narrator (Kevin Clay, a true pro) did a fantastic job bringing the characters and story to life. Better than I ever could have imagined.

If you’ve never read the book, now is a great time to jump in. Sales have been great for the first week, so get a copy now and catch up in time for Sewerville Book II: The Gentlemen from Kentucky towards the end of 2016. I’ll also be giving away copies here and there through my social media pages, so make sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

On we go…

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Quitting?

I just posted this on another page, but it seems relevant as I sit here working on Sewerville II. It’s my response to one of those forlorn “writer questions”: Do you ever want to give up? And my answer is yes. Everybody wants to give up. But the thing is, you can’t. You can’t give up.

I know it sounds simple, but I think you just have to ask yourself, what do you want to get out of this?

I don’t sell millions. I barely sell thousands. Right now I am selling way more in the UK than the US, but they both pay so I don’t sweat it. I only know one language and I’m grateful people read it in whatever country.  I’m proud of what I’ve written and I’ll put my work up against any million seller or indie out there.

I’ll probably never give it up on a permanent basis, but I may take an occasional break to recharge my batteries. I think you have to do that, if sanity and balance are important in your life, anyway.

As long as I like what I’m writing, that really is all I care about. Sure, it’s gratifying when other people like the work, too, but more than anything it’s important that I enjoy the stories and the way they’re told. Otherwise, it’s grinding wheels and swinging pickaxes and that’s no damn fun.

The marketing is it’s own beast, too. A necessary evil. But, the marketing is the cart and books are the horse and I’m not about to let the cart control me. When that gets to be too much of a slog I just take a break from it. But I always come back to writing.

The new faces of Sewerville

As a follow-up to my last post, here’s a brief introduction to the most prominent characters introduced in Sewerville Book II: The Gentlemen from Kentucky. For what it’s worth, it was in that same last post that I changed the name of the novel from “Gentleman” to “Gentlemen.” One of the characters below was the original source for the title, but as I thought about it, it’s really all of these guys that make the whole story  – and throw Boone Sumner, Walt Slone, and John Slone in there, too. True gentlemen all.

While there are other new characters, these are the ones that figure most heavily in the action:

Stephen Bell. The true “gentleman from Kentucky,” the Commonwealth’s former senior U.S. senator and still a major Republican power player in the state, even in his twilight years. He’s  the character I mentioned a couple of days ago – the man whose deep ties in politics and the criminal underworld have provided cover for the Slone family for decades – and he’s also the main villain of this novel.

Ed Trawley. The murderous henchman of Stephen Bell. When we first meet Trawley, he’s disposing of yet another body left in the senator’s wake.

Mike Felder. An FBI agent who Boone considers his last point of contact to the saner world.

Randall Delacroix. Not technically from Kentucky, but Walt Slone’s Louisiana-based source for illicit merchandise. With Karen taking over the family business, Delacroix senses an opportunity to get her involved in one of the products her father would never touch: heroin.

Like I said, there are plenty of other characters but these four are really the legs holding up the new table. Stay tuned.

Sewerville: Book II – what is it?

So if everything goes as planned, Sewerville Book II: The Gentlemen from Kentucky will see the light of day at year’s end.

What’s it about, you ask? (I can hear you!) The  back-of-the-book blurb might read something like this:

Following the explosive events that ended Sewerville: A Southern Gangster Novel, Boone Sumner is on the run, headed for the state capitol and the safety of law enforcement. When he finds only darkness and danger in the halls of authority, he turns to the FBI in a desperate play to save his own life as well as that of his child.

Meanwhile, his estranged wife Karen sets about the task of rebuilding her family’s criminal empire from the bloody ruin that Boone’s assault left behind. Her father and brother dead, she seeks help from the only friend she has left — a sinister man with deep ties in both the political and criminal underworld, a puppet master whose strings dangle over Boone’s path in ways that Boone never could have imagined.

From the hills of Kentucky to the swamps of Florida and Louisiana to the marble halls of the state capitol, crime remains the business of choice. Money is greed, and greed is power. And for The Gentlemen from Kentucky, business is better than it’s ever been…

*

As I’ve worked on this story it’s occurred to me that while the book shares many traits with the first Sewerville, in other ways it stands alone. Foremost is the choice of central character. While Boone Sumner held the main stage in the preceding story, this time it’s his wife Karen who steps to the forefront. As Boone fights for survival, Karen fights to rebuild the Sumner gangster empire.

The Gentlemen from Kentucky is as much about her journey into the depths of human malevolence as A Southern Gangster Novel was about her husband’s struggle to break free.

The story casts a wider net this time, too. Where Sewerville: A Southern Gangster Novel takes place exclusively in the Appalachian foothills, The Gentlemen from Kentucky expands into state politics and beyond the borders of Kentucky. Karen calls upon her father’s connections to find Boone and also shore up her own business interests, and that introduces us to several new characters and locales.

The second volume of Sewerville will also explore themes that I left mostly untouched in the prior book – this time, politics plays a big role, and that gives me an opportunity to comment on a lot of things we’re seeing in today’s headlines. 2016 is an election year, after all. I’m not here to beat anybody over the head with my opinions but I’m not hear to stay quiet, either. You’ll just have to trust that I can weave everything together without lecturing – something I am really working hard not to do. Nobody likes a political preacher, right?

As always, I’ll turn loose some occasional excerpts as I move forward through the murky literary waters. I’m as excited as I’ve been about anything I’ve ever written, and later this week I’ll share with you the new characters that play big in The Gentlemen from Kentucky. Until then, consider this your introduction to the story. I just had to tell you.

The 5-STAR reviews are coming in!

adventures in terror _fullcover1LIGHTER_border3_real imageb
Got one of my favorite reviews ever today, for ADVENTURES IN TERROR: MOSTLY THE 1980s, which is out now in e-book and paperback. This reader came away with everything I’d hoped from the book. If you’ve read the story by now, you know my little secret: it’s not really a horror story. There are plenty of nods to the horror genre that I love so much, but deep down, this is a story about getting older. (And to the reviewer, I am sorry to leave you hanging but if you liked this one you will love the next one!)
All that being said, here’s this awesome 5-STAR REVIEW:
“Some of the best down to earth descriptions and metaphors I have read in years. ADVENTURES IN TERROR, even though a paranormal horror story, reminded me of A CHRISTMAS STORY that was written by Ray Bradbury.
Hidden subtly beneath the gore and fear is a delightful sense of reality and a sad, understanding humor. Grady Strange Claremont VII, now 100 years old and capable of time travel, tells the story of himself and Jasper Bohanon from when they first meet in elementary school in Whisper Hill, Kentucky until Jasper goes off to college. The next book in the series I understand will continue from this point. They are both loners with a love for scary movies. Grady is down to earth while Jasper’s mind contemplates infinity as every point in time.
The story is far more than banshees, ghosts, walking dead, and witches. It is a comprehensive look at small town rural life, from the controlling families to the modern plague of meth and pills and the erosion of small town values. My only complaint is that the book ended – the ghastly ploy of a book series. As an added bonus there is a list at the end of the book of the author’s all time favorite scary movies. Enjoyable read – great use of words with a touch of colloquialism.”

from the Author’s notes – ADVENTURES IN TERROR

So, my novel Adventures in Terror: Mostly the 1980s finally releases tomorrow (Wednesday, September 3).

Here’s a little introduction:

—–

Allow me to indulge myself with some self-important final discussion. Inside baseball, as they call it. I have always loved those “making of” documentaries that accompany so many movie discs, and I suppose the last few pages of this book are my version of that. If you’re not like me and you don’t care about “that shit,” feel free to close the book now.

But just know, if you do close the book right this very second, it’s your loss, not mine.

*

First off, a few words about my dear friend Steven Goldmann, to whom Adventures in Terror: Mostly the 1980s is dedicated, and who departed this Earth after a long fight against multiple myeloma on April 30, 2015 – just as I was finishing up the story you’re reading now.

From where I stand, he fought like a motherfucker. He told me enough stories about his battles with cancer to prove beyond all doubt that he was a numero uno badass. Steven would have made Jasper Bohanon and Grady Claremont oh so proud. He made a lot of people proud, I’ll tell you that much, which you can see for yourself through a quick search of the various Googles and Facebooks and Yahoos and whatever other mystical interwebs exist out there.

I’m sorry that he never got to read this book. He would have loved it. I held out hope that I could send him these adventures of Jasper and Grady and that it would cheer him up just a little, and I was writing hard in those last days for that reason if nothing else, but I came up short. Alas.

The day Steven died, I posted a short tribute on my website. It’s not likely that I could say anything better about my friend than what I said that day, so I’ll say it again here:

We always joked about how crazy it was that a Jewish guy from Montreal and a heathen from the hills of Eastern Kentucky could think so much alike, but we did. We really did. Politics, movies, music, Fangoria magazine. Whatever. We weren’t 100% on everything – he used to marvel at how much Ale-8 I drank and I used to marvel at how much time it must have taken him to get his hair ready in the morning – but we shared way more interests than you’d ever guess from our backgrounds. He was the first person outside of “back home” that ever stood up for my writing; I sold him the screenplay for The Rassler and even though that story like so many other great stories has never quite made it to the lighted screen, it was validation for me. It brought reassurance that I knew what I was doing. That meant a lot.

I worked for Steven for a year, and then I worked with him on myriad projects for 15 years after that, right up until his battle took its final turn in these last few months. He did so much great work. He was a real artist. He made movies, like Trailer Park of Terror and Broken Bridges). He made music videos – at his peak, he made some of the biggest in the biz, for superstars like Faith Hill, Alan Jackson, Shania Twain, and the Mavericks, among many, many others. One of our great unfulfilled projects was a movie starring the Mavericks, meant for release with their first greatest hits package and based on the Coen Brothers’ absolute masterpiece The Big Lebowski. (If you don’t know the Mavericks or The Big Lebowski, all I can say is obviously, you’re not a golfer.)

He loved stories and he’d do everything he could to tell them, in whatever medium would let him through the door just long enough to get a good hold. I’ve lost count of how many different ideas we kicked around, and I was just one person that he kicked them around with. There were so many others besides me, and I’m sure that’s because no one person could hope to catch all of the man’s creative energy in one basket.

But he wasn’t just a professional, and he wasn’t just an artist. He was a kind, intelligent, and generous man. He dreamed Big and he believed Big – I think I appreciated that about Steven Goldmann more than anything else – and when he talked about his dreams he had a way of making you believe Big, too. One of the last conversations we had, he wanted to take another run at a Sewerville television series with me and Alan Brewer. Giving me more script notes, talking up the idea, lending it all hope. Of course he was.

*

There are a few times that Adventures in Terror references Ray Bradbury’s classic Something Wicked This Way Comes, starting with the quote that opens the proceedings. (“It was in their friendship they just wanted to run forever, shadow and shadow.”)

I’m telling you that right now, so those who are familiar with Bradbury’s story of fantasy and friendship don’t think I was trying to slip a few fast ones by you fine folks. Bradbury is a bit of a jumping off point for Adventures in Terror and it’s not unintentional.

Jasper and Grady’s birthdays – born in the same year, one a few minutes before Halloween midnight, one just a few minutes after – are shared with Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway, the two friends in Bradbury’s book.

The “book” where Grady read that “no carnival comes after Labor Day… the carnival comes when it wants. On its own clock, at its own speed” and which also says that carnivals only come at dawn is, of course, Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Actually the entire chapter “The Carnival” is partially a tribute to that great book and author. I could never equal or even approach that masterwork and would never even try. What I can do is pay my respects and encourage everyone reading these words to put down this book immediately, go find a copy of Something Wicked This Way Comes, and enjoy. Read it for the first time. Read it for the hundredth time. Just read it. You’re welcome.

*

For me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of writing this first volume of Adventures in Terror is that it’s engaged me in a bit of universe building.

Obviously, the story is almost entirely set in fictional Seward County, Kentucky, the same Seward County where my first novel Sewerville takes place. Where Sewerville is real-world darkness and takes on topics that interest (and worry) me about this crazy little Planet Earth that certain members (?) of our dear human race have managed to turn into such a giant fiasco, it was always my intention that Adventures in Terror be the horror/sci-fi/fantasy flip side of that world. Grady and Jasper live on the “other” end of Seward County, and that’s no accident.

Just like the boys in this story, I spent my school years on the “other” end of my county (Powell County, Kentucky). There wasn’t any Whistle Mill-like town on our end, though – just some houses, farms, and the occasional country store all scattered about the wooded hills and hollows, with only a single two-lane (that sometimes was really only wide enough for one lane) highway snaking through to connect them. It wasn’t really that far from the county seat of Stanton – maybe six or seven miles – but to a little kid with no sense of the world’s true size, it felt like we lived in the hinterlands.

My friend Brinton Epperson and I grew up together out there. We hiked the hills from as long ago as I can remember. When we were second graders, we tore through the underbrush, swinging tobacco sticks as swords, pretending we were Greek gods. We spent most every weekend from elementary through high school at each other’s houses. There were countless conversations about philosophy and science, history and politics, the Beatles and Twisted Sister. (Brinton is a Beatles man. I’ll always be a hard rock guy.) Both of us even had the same car as Evie Fallon – the dreaded Olds Firenza. His was green, mine was brown. He got his a few years before I got mine but I don’t think either one of us would claim we drove a sex machine.

There’s an awful lot of Brinton in Jasper Bohanon, and when he reads this book I have to think he’ll recognize himself.

But, there are a few other people in Jasper too, and I want to make sure they know that. Michael Saylor (my brother), David Rogers, Daylan Kinser, Anthony Gabbard, Daxon Caudill, Kevin Hall, Cory Graham, Kelly Hobbs.

*

Yes, I am well aware that “me and Jasper” is not correct, grammatically speaking. But it’s the way I wanted it, it’s the way I wrote it, and it’s the way it stays until Jasper finally reaches the edge of infinity that intrigues him so.

Nyah nyah nya-nyah yahhhhhhhhh, grammar police. It’s how the characters talk. Leave us the hell alone.

*

Randall, in “Me and Jasper and the Little Red Pills”? You either get it or you don’t.

*

Back to the universe building.

There are several direct references to Sewerville – at least the town of Sewardville – which readers of that novel will recognize. It makes sense to me; the towns are in same county and I own all the real estate there.

In addition to those references, Adventures in Terror also exists at a crossroads with some other work that will be coming down the parkway soon enough. An older Jasper Bohanon appears in the second Sewerville book, The Gentleman from Kentucky. And the Peak family from “Me and Jasper and the Little Red Pills” are significant players in the novel Lords of the Dark. Both those books will likely be out within the next couple of years.

Why am I telling you this? ‘Cause I want to. I enjoy it. Plenty of writers cross-pollinate their different works; I’m doing the same. Maybe it just comes down to the fact that it’s plain old fun, having your own world in which to play. If you don’t believe me, give it a try sometime.

Anyway, the aforementioned books will be out before you know it, and when they’re all out there for your reading pleasure, please feel free to judge my little universe for yourself.

The next volume of Adventures in Terror is subtitled Mostly the 21st Century. It continues the story of Jasper and Grady in some ways you might expect and others that I am thinking you probably won’t. Time will tell. I expect the book will see release a year or so from now and then everyone can find out together. Until then…