Posts Tagged ‘Apex Publications’


The Kraken Sea doesn’t stop. Its pacing only ramps up and spirals out of control until the very entwined ending. In fact, there are no chapters and it reads a bit like an epic ballad. There’s also no break once you starting reading this unique, novella in length story from E. Catherine Tobler. I finished it all in one night after a two or three hour binge, I’m not sure of the actual time. I lost track of myself and surroundings a bit while immersing myself in this story.

We follow a special boy named Jackson and his struggle to find himself in a world he is so different from. His character rapidly evolves in more ways than one, he grows up in mind to be a man, however he is isn’t truly human but something more.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one and being published by Apex, I wasn’t disappointed. My initial assumptions for the storyline were far off base, at the very beginning I was thinking this might have a Chronicles of Narnia relation. Tobler has an ability to grab the reader by their throat and shove them face first  into a muddied world of mythical creatures and territorial battles between rival houses. The author does all this by weaving beautiful prose in a blend of wondrous character descriptions and actions somehow simultaneously, it really is a very artistic writing style.

If I had to give a few basic descriptions to give the overall feel of this story, I would go with: dark, mysterious, and tantalizing. I felt like I was trailing the entire time on the rooftops behind Jackson and Mae, watching from behind a cloud of mist as their stories unfolded. I still have more questions than answers with this one but that didn’t stop me from enjoying The Kraken Sea.

If you are looking for something a bit unique, a bit thrilling, and something that will take your mind to another plane of reality, then you really should give The Kraken Sea a look.


Maia Station says it best when describing J.M. McDermott’s Maze at the very beginning of the book. She talks of everything being, “…disjointed, wrapped in silver gauze…” and also “…sand ground away at her mind…”  Maze is truly a piece of human art and each layer is peeled back like skin to show the bloody tissue and bone beneath the surface.

The stories of those living inside the maze are formed by what at first appears to be a jumbled mass of hodgepodge characters. Maia Station is a scientist from the future somehow sucked into this bleak and unforgiving world. Joseph lives in a similar time stream to us, just in a more apocalyptic world before birthing a Djinni from his flesh and then is dragged through pipes into the Maze. Wang Xin is a young boy turned fearless warrior, who sees all his paths laid out before him by the water Djinni splashed into his eye. Then finally, there is Julie Station, born inside the Maze by Maia and her closing chapter. This diverse group of characters and different periods of time, are all interconnected as we weave through the maze, one life at a time.

Life in the Maze is cruel, harsh, and only those with a strong desire to survive can flesh out a meager existence for themselves. Feast on maggots, berries, vultures, or even minotaurs and harpies to quench the ache of hunger in your stomach. McDermott knows the very depths humans can go to in order to survive. Joseph’s story is particularly graceful in his downward spiral for survival.  Just an average guy who finds love at a high school reunion, except for the ball of light he sucked into his lungs and births from his chest. A creature known as Jenny, who rips his life and that of his loves apart when it spits them out into the hostile world of the maze.

Each page you turn grabs hold of your hands and yanks you deeper into its clutches until you’re so far entrenched in the Maze you can’t find your way back out. Each of our characters hopes to carve out a better life for themselves and possibly gain some understanding of the maze along the way, all the while each of them are somehow linked together by a bond of blood.

I won’t claim to fully understand the circular closure in the novel, but I do appreciate McDermott’s story-telling prowess. Not often am I left in a dark tunnel with a glimmering light dangling in front of me and I totter after it on uneasy steps. Maze did that to me. If you want to lose yourself into a hostile world with only a small chance of survival and comprehension, then I dare you to step into the Maze.

Find out more about Maze and J. M. McDermott: Blog | Twitter

I Can Transform You by Maurice Broaddus is Book Two in a series known as Apex Voices. The first, Plow the Bones by Douglas F. Warrick, was a brilliant collection of Mr. Warrick’s short stories. Both feature two unique and outstanding authors and each book has a very different feel from the other.

I Can Transform You left my head spinning after the first read through. It has a distinctly apocalyptic/end-of-times flavor to it, one that I’m starting to get obsessed with. Here is the blurb Apex provides:

From the dust of The Trying TimesTM, corp-nations have risen up in place of failed governments, and twilight haze dropped down in place of the sky. The economy fell, and the Earth itself shot heavenward, transforming the very face of the planet into an alien landscape with towers punching past the new sky into one of many unknowns. Soon after, the jumpers started raining from among the blue lanterns that took the place of sun and stars.

Mac Peterson left the employ of LG Security Forces and now cobbles together a life in the shadows of the great towers, filling policing needs for people too unimportant for the professional corp-national security to care about. His ex-wife, Kiersten, stayed behind on the Security Forces, working undercover. When she turns up dead alongside one of the tower jumpers, Mac pairs up with Ade Walters, a cyborg officer, to uncover who would try to hide Kiersten’s death among the suicides. Searching for the murderer of one of their own, Mac and Ade discover plans to transform the Earth and its inhabitants…plans that only started with the great upheaval and The Trying TimesTM.

Mac is your typical, rough around the edges, old-school, take a punch like a champ kind of cop. Except for his one soft spot, Kiersten, and her death lights a fire in his belly that no drink could ever put out. Ade Walters on the other hand, is a much more mysterious figure. He is the Ying to Mac’s Yang and counters the bluntness that otherwise would have left Mac lying dead in a ditch somewhere.

I started reading I can Transform You right around the same time as the TV show Almost Human with Karl Urban and Michael Ealy began airing on Fox. While Maurice’s Mac and Ade are not exactly in the same vein as Karl and Michael, I Can Transform You filled a gaping hole left by the TV show with its impressive world building.

Mac Peterson and Ade Walters don’t waste any time in shaking down the underground gangs, but when that leads nowhere, they quickly follow another trail of breadcrumbs that leads directly up the food chain and even back home. As the duo’s investigation continue, they realize just how quickly the hunted becomes prey and the enormity of what a treacherous path is set ahead of them.

I Can Transform You is an eye-opening read that will leave you on unsteady feet, questioning the once solid foundation your life is built around.  Jason Sizemore is the managing editor for Apex Publication and his series creation of Apex Voices is built to showcase some of their outstandingly talented authors.  I Can Transform You exemplifies everything I think Jason aimed for in the creation of Apex Voices: A dark gritty world filled with wonder, gripping prose that leads to characters leaping out of the pages and climbing towards the stars, and a furious pace sure to leave your heart and mind racing until the very end.

As always, a huge thanks to the folks at Apex and author Maurice Broaddus for providing me with once again another thought provoking read. Another side note, don’t skip author Matt Forbeck’s introduction for this book!

Maze_coverTread carefully, today presents us with this fantastic guest post by J.M. McDermott!

Traveling through most major cities outside the East Coast on foot is a terrible idea. I lived in Fort Worth for a while and I tried to walk and ride a bike as much as I could, but it meant dressing in long jeans and a denim jacket even in high summer for the brambles and trickling weeds. There aren’t safe paths for foot traffic since everyone drives. Pedestrians are dangerous. They must be vagrants and criminals and folks that don’t belong.

We have forgotten what hills and valleys mean, mostly. Living in hills used to mean climbing them all day, every day. Living in mountains was a physical act, not just a view. The material reality of 40,000 years of human history isn’t lost completely for us, who ride the top of human slavery by any other name in this world of ours, but that is a topic for another day. I was watching a fantasy film too much, observing the way we imagine a more interesting world, with goblins and kings and a labyrinth of stone. The film was Henson’s Labyrinth. I have seen it so many times, I could play it scene-by-scene, line-by-line in my memory. But, materiality of things: If I set foot in such a place, I would die long before I ever found the goblin city.

Heroic heroes are actually very dull. Childhood is heroic and someone will win top of the class, a trophy, a race and a game. Adulthood is the realm of confusion, mixed blessings, failure, the long, slow decline. My book is more interested in the muddle and confusion of living, because my only hope in the maze is to find other survivors there, form tribes, hold what place we can against the monsters that are always around the next curve in the stones.

Maze is a book of survivors, lost but hanging on together. Most of them are human enough.

There is a material reality that is hard to imagine when every night we sleep on a full stomach in an air conditioned room. Imagine walking off into the dark where all doors and windows are closed against you, and every turn in the path is a mystery and a menace. Life is a maze, and we fight for our place in the known spaces, with what magic spells we muster to hold dominion where we stand.

 About the author: J.M. McDermott is the author of Last Dragon, Disintegration Visions, The Dogsland Trilogy, and Women and Monsters. He holds an MFA from the Stonecoast Program from the University of Southern Maine. He lives in San Antonio, Texas.

Maze is his new weird/dark fantasy novel published by Apex Book Company. It is available now.

J.M. McDermott can be found on Twitter and over at his Blog.


2013 has been an extremely tumultuous year for me reading and reviewing wise, so when I started out this list, I quickly realized these three strongly stood out from the rest. So in no specific order, here is my top three for 2013:


Fire Caste By Peter Fehervari (Black Library)

In the jungles of the Dolorosa Coil, a coalition of alien tau and human deserters have waged war upon the Imperium for countless years. Fresh Imperial Guard forces from the Arkhan Confederates are sent in to break the stalemate and annihilate the xenos. But greater forces are at work, and the Confederates soon find themselves broken and scattered. As they fight a desperate guerrilla war, their only hope may lie in the hands of a disgraced commissar, hell-bent on revenge.

Fire Caste was really a twist from your standard Imperial Guard novels previously released by Black Library. As a reader, you are truly thrown to the wolves and left concussed from the bombardment of war that is Warhammer 40k.



What Makes You Die by Tom Piccirilli ( Apex Publications)

In Tom Piccirilli’s new noir novel What Makes You Die, an unmedicated manic-depressive hack screenwriter seeks to recapture the hallucinations that crafted his masterpiece.

To see more is to find oblivion… Screenwriter Tommy Pic fell hard from Hollywood success and landed in a psychiatric ward, blacked out from booze and unmedicated manic depression. This is not the first time he’s come to in restraints, surrounded by friends and family who aren’t there.

This time, though, he also awakes to a message from his agent. The first act of his latest screenplay is their ticket back to the red carpets. If only Tommy could remember writing it. Trying to recapture the hallucinations that crafted his masterpiece, he chases his kidnapped childhood love, a witch from the magic shop downstairs, and the Komodo dragon he tried to cut out of his gut one Christmas Eve. The path to professional redemption may be more dangerous than the fall.

All of the books I’ve read so far from Apex Publications have a distinct edge to them, What Makes You Die by Tom Piccirilli is no different. If I had to recommend just one book for 2013, this might be it.


Three By Jay Posey (Angry Robot Books)

The world has collapsed, and there are no heroes any more.

But when a lone gunman reluctantly accepts the mantle of protector to a young boy and his dying mother against the forces that pursue them, a hero may yet arise.

My exceedingly high expectations for Three, crumbled to the ground as Jay Posey shattered those barriers, only to erect new ones. The sequel, Morningside Fall, has a pair of monstrous shoes to fill. To say I loved this book is a gross understatement.




Honorable mentions include:

  • Mephiston: Lord of Death by David Annandale
  • Dead West:  Those Poor, Poor Bastards by Tim Marquitz, J.M. Martin, and Kenny Soward
  • Generation V by M.L. Brennan
  • Iron Guard by Mark Clapham
  • Deathwatch by Steve Parker
  • Plow The Bones by Douglas F. Warrick
  • Wounded Prey by Sean Lynch


As always, a huge THANK YOU, goes out to all the authors and publishers who provide me with review copies.

I can’t really top Amber Benson’s introduction to the anthology, Glitter & Mayhem, edited by John Klima, Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas. She’s pretty much got all the eye-popping, funkadelic, trippy feel to each and every one of these stories down to the very bones. All I can really do is give you a repeat. These stories bend, twist, break just about every stereotype there is – gender bending, race bending, species bending, mind bending. It’s all in here. Between roller derby, roller skating, and disco balling, I began to wonder if I was back in the ‘70s on the planet Neptune. I really felt like I needed to dust off my groove thang’. So with that said, let’s take a look at all the kickin’ stories:

Sister Twelve: Confessions of a Party Monster by Christopher Barzak
What a great intro to this anthology! Disco dancing, amazing twist on the fairy tale story of twelve sister princess who secretly sneak out of the palace at night to go…where? And do what? And how does it happen? Loved this story.

Apex Jump by David J. Schwartz
This was such a fun spacey roller derby story, that didn’t take itself too seriously. The cover of the book seemed almost to animate this tale right out of the rink!

With Her Hundred Miles to Hell by Kat Howard
Complex and gruesome, this story was grim and hard to follow. However, the descent into Howard’s version of Hell was by far one of the most unique I have read.

Star Dancer by Jennifer Palland
Imagine MIB only the Agents J and K are lesbians and combine that with belly dancing aliens and here you have Star Dancer. Another fun, alien dancing story.

Of Selkies, Disco Balls, and Anna Plane by Cat Rambo
Sad, tragic characters bound together in a love triangle by magic and fate, Rambo has done a great job of baring the souls of these characters.

Sooner Than Gold by Cory Skerry
A gritty story of a man tethered to a chest and forced to perform thefts and other acts. If he fails he gets punished. This story was truly freaky and I really wanted to be able to cut the tether and free the main character.

Subterraneans by William Shunn & Laura Chavoen
Partying doesn’t usually end in death, but in Subterraneans it does where the ultimate high is swapping places with other partiers. Fascinating story of thrills gone wrong resulting in revenge.

The Minotaur Girls by Tansy Rayner Roberts
At its heart, The Minotaur Girls feels to me like the embodiment of the old “beauty is only skin deep” cliché. The glittery Minotaur roller club that just everyone wants to be a part of has something evil lurking beneath. A strong female lead gets to the bottom of it.

Unable to Reach You by Alan DeNiro
Julian is targeted by him own online computer service and not just by any creep, but by something far more dark and evil. Will he escape? Creepy and satisfying.

Such & Such Said to So & So by Maria Dahvana Headley
This story follows a cop into the depths of mystery, a woman, and alcohol. Great dialogue and voice, I felt I was in the middle of a ‘30s crime drama.

Revels in the Land of Ice by Tim Pratt
Imagine stepping into another world of partying, skating, dancing and never being able to leave. The party has lassoed you, even when you think you have escaped.

Bess, The Landlord’s Daughter, Goes for Drinks with the Green Girl by Sofia Samatar
What else would two party girls do in life after death, but party? An unusual take on haunting that Samatar only teases us with as we read to the end of the end of the story.

Blood and Sequins by Diana Rowland
Two cops get dressed up to go skating during Mardi Gras and there’s bound to be blood and sequins, right? And some supernatural glitter, too.

Two-minute Warning by Vylar Kaftan
It’s amazing how much depth Kaftan gets in just a few pages about a sister who tries to drag her brother out of a computer-like game.

Inside Hides the Monster by Damien Walters Grintalis
A siren who no longer has the charm ventures into the human world. Will she survive beneath the disco ball with the shrieking music and the grabbing human hands?

Bad Dream Girl by Seanan McGuire
Roller derby girls are dropping like flies under mysterious circumstances during matches. It’s up to the main character to discover if it’s just a coincidence or is there someone or something alien behind the accidents.

A Hollow Play by Amal El-Mohtar
Another complex story of unrequited love surrounding a triangle or in this case a quad of unique characters including a bird woman.

Just Another Future Song by Daryl Gregory
Mr. Jones wakes weakened and amnesiac. Is he here of his own free will or is he being held captive for some unknown reason? Scary and threatening, this story has a great ending.

The Electric Spanking of the War Babies by Maurice Broaddus & Kyle S. Johnson
When I speak of shaking my ‘groove thang’, this is the story that really yanks the chain. It’s a bit roadhouse and Foxy Brown disco all slammed into one epic about a young blood who transcends the earthly scene by way of the local skate rink.

All That Fairy Tale Crap by Rachel Swirsky
Honey, this ain’t your white gown and glass slipper Cinderella story. If Cindy was on crack, had sex with her foster-girl peers and stole from her foster mother to survive, well then, this is your Cinderella story.

Ok, so, if you like space aliens, the Hustle, wide lapels, roller rinks, girl-on-girl action, and really amazing stories, you’re probably gonna’ really like partying with Glitter & Mayhem. Get ready to get your groove on!

Sometimes before, after, or during reviews of books I scribble my thoughts down on pieces of paper or make a tweet about a book. Usually this notation is just some random interesting fact that I wanted to specifically point out at the time and catalogue, whether or not I come back to this in the review isn’t always the case. However, for the review of Plow the Bones, I want to come back to a tweet I posted:  “I was amazed at the continuous style and flow of the shorts within this novelized collection. While each piece is a wholly individual short story, it felt on some mysterious level as if they had always been intended to be published as one unique and brilliant collection.”

From the very first short, “Behindeye: A History”, to the sensory conclusion of artificial sentience, “Across the Dead Station Desert, Television Girl”, there lies a fine invisible filament, an inconspicuous strand, a fishing line woven through the very skin of Plow the Bones, that while it might not have been intentional at the time, this inconspicuous thread connects each and every short. By voice, style, pace, insanity, creativity, and brilliance, Plow the Bones was meant to be a collection of shorts. They all fit so seamlessly together it is astonishing, and yet somehow each one of them is so uniquely different.

Here I would normally go into dishing out fragment descriptions, teasers, and
review thoughts on each and every short within this collection, but I’m not
going to do that. WHY NOT? Well, because in all honesty, Apex Publication should
make each of these shorts available online in eFormat for $1.99, and after you
buy one or two of them, you are going to smack yourself in the head for not
purchasing the whole book in the first place.

So, let’s hit on a few of the absolutely fantastic shorts in Plow the Bones:

“Come to My Arms, My Beamish Boy” is one of the best fucking shorts I’ve ever
read! Sorry for the expletive but in certain instances, like in this case, it
is deemed necessary. No ifs, ands, or buts, this short will tear you apart.
Cotton, is an old man with Alzheimer’s, and is slowly having his life and memory
ripped from his outstretched fingertips. In the end, there is but a single
exclamation point he hopes to recall before his light is extinguished. Simply
put, this is a million dollars short and I can’t urge you enough to just read
this one if anything else. I’ve shoved the book under my wife’s nose and yelled at
her, “Read this, just this one, pleaseeeee. YOU WILL LOVE IT.” Yes, it works.

“Old Roses” – I’m not sure why I liked this one so much, but I did, something in
the undertone-currents of the story, about whether to believe the main
character’s father’s autobiography or not. Old Roses is captivating and has
intrigued me, I just wish we knew just a little bit more about some of the other
characters in this, but the lack of certain details is most probably
intentional to allow the reader their own interpretations.

I’m also adding, “I Inhale the City, the City Exhales Me”, to this group. I
liked it before and I still enjoyed it the second time around, it is a very
refreshing read, I also find it a little less dark and slightly more
entertaining than some of the other pieces in this collection. Also, I would be
interested in knowing the timeframe in which some of these were written, because I feel
the location/setting and design of this short had a correlating connection
directly with “The Itaewon Eschatology Show”, more strongly felt than with any
of the others.

Now for my least favorite, which was “Funeral Song for a Ventriloquist”,
expectations play a huge role for me when grading books and stories. The
potential in this one, simply by title alone, with this story is gigantic and I
wish the premise would have went in a few other directions than the path it
inevitably angled down. “Funeral Song for a Ventriloquist” isn’t the first I’ve
encountered that raises my hopes to unattainable peaks and it won’t be the last.

Another note worth mentioning is I think Mr. Warrick might have missed his
calling as a professional torturer, the first paragraph of Zen and the Art of
Gordan Dracht’s Damnation is something else entirely. I really hope when we all
die, that if we are to be judged for our sins, whoever is delving out the
punishment hasn’t read Plow the Bones or we are in for some serious trouble.

My quest to familiarization with Plow the Bones by Douglas F. Warrick started
with, “I Inhale the City, and the City Exhales Me” in the Dark Faith:
Invocations anthology, then turned into an author interview, and finally a
read/review of the aforementioned book. The path this has led me on was
something of a dark and emotion-filled trail of self-enlightenment. During points
in certain stories I found myself questioning abstract ideas, viewing
engagements and life choices differently, bathing with turmoil in emotions of
horror, curiosity, and sorrow. Books leave bits and pieces of themselves inside
you, like black grit beneath your fingernails you can’t scrub away. Plow the
Bones was more akin to a thin sliver of glass then dirt beneath the nails, it
was a shard that sliced and embedded a piece of itself in my head where it will
forever rest. 9 out of 10 Liams for Plow the Bones and this is one I will
proudly rest ownership on, in my bookshelf and memory.

Thanks as always to the fantastic folks at Apex Publications for this review copy.

A few months ago I had the privilege of reviewing Apex Publications’ fantastic anthology, Dark Faith: Invocations. One of the short stories in it was “I Inhale the City, The City Exhales Me” by an author I knew very little about at the time, Douglas F. Warrick.  I reviewed his short by describing it as: “…like watching the creation of a deranged anime cartoon come to life. Not normally my thing, but this short rocked and sums up my entire opinion of Dark Faith: Invocation. 5 out of 5 stars.” So what is the point of telling you all this? Oh yea, that’s right, I have that exact same author, Mr. Warrick, here today for a few interview questions. He also has a brand new collection of shorts, Plow the Bones, coming out soon which I will be reviewing.  Hopefully we can stir up some more deranged and fantastical creations, peaking your interests in the works of the writer that is Douglas F. Warrick.

Q: I noticed through social media that you have an affinity for tattoos, which I think is extremely awesome. Do these in anyway cross-over with any of your stories?

I do love getting tattooed.  No matter how much it hurts (and it frequently hurts a great deal, especially on the chest, which is where I’ve gotten my newest one; don’t listen to people who tell you “It didn’t hurt that much,” those people are liars).  I get tattoos for the same reason that I go to the gym.  I have an aesthetic goal I want to reach.  This goal is entirely personal, it doesn’t depend upon whether or not other people find the aesthetic compelling or repulsive.  I just know what I want to see when I look in the mirror.  In that sense, I have a certain amount of leverage over my body.  I can work toward sculpting the shape of it, and I can pay to have it decorated, and then I feel like it’s all mine.  I wonder how many people feel a sense of ownership over their body.  I don’t think any of my tattoos have a particular connection to my stories, though.  I’d love to write something about tattoos at some point, if I can find the right idea.

 Q: If you could sum up your upcoming book Plow the Bones, in just a few sentences to a complete stranger looking to buy the book, what would they be?

 Reading Plow the Bones is like walking through the world’s most melancholy freakshow tent.  If in your secret heart of hearts, you’ve always wanted to read about a punk band made of living clay or a girl whose happiest moment occurs when her head catches on fire, the purchase of this book will fulfill a lifelong dream for you.

 Q: What is it like being an author for Apex Publications?

 Heaven.  I couldn’t ask for a nicer group of people to work with.  Jason Sizemore, Janet Harriett, and Lesley Conner have split their time between promoting the hell out of the thing and coaching me through my frequent bouts of nervous hyperventilation in the lead-up to its publication.  I made my very first short story sale to Apex Digest back in 2006, so Apex feels a little like home to me.  There’s a nice bit of nostalgic symmetry at play.

Q: I have a great fondness for short stories that knock the wind from my lungs and leave me gasping for air. Am I going to suffocate reading Plow the Bones, and do you have a personal favorite within this collection?

 I can’t provide any guarantee that anybody will asphyxiate whilst reading Plow the Bones, unless they’re using it in terribly unorthodox ways.  Don’t try to swallow it or press it firmly against your trachea or read it with a plastic bag over your head.  I can’t afford the legal fees.  But yeah, I hope people are impressed with it.  I hope it breaks their hearts.  I hope it makes people want to write stories.  I think it will.  I’m very proud of this book.  As for favorites, that’s tough.  I think the story I’m most proud of in this collection is “Inhuman Zones: An Oral History of Jan Landau’s Golem Band.”  That was so much fun to write, and it’s the story about which I most often daydream.  It’s a story about live music and local bands and magic and isolation.

Q: I’ve read lots of anthologies and hundreds of short stories, however, I don’t think I have read an entire collection by one author in a single book in a long time. This fact that you have your collection of shorts getting published in a single book speaks volumes for your ability and talent as an author. I would love to hear your input on this?

I love single-author collections.  One of the reasons I love them so much is that they give the reader a chance to explore the recurring themes in an author’s work, themes of which the writer  him or herself may not even be aware.  And in a collection, that experience is more compressed and more immediate than it would be over the course of several longer works.  Pick up Love Ain’t Nothing but Sex Misspelled by Harlan Ellison or Theatro Grotesquo by Thomas Ligotti or Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges.  Each story obviously exists as its own entity, but over and over again, those authors tell us what scares them, what compels them, what angers them, what turns them on.  For a while after reading those books, the reader adopts those attributes into their own thought processes.  Your friends start to remind you of Ellison’s down-and-outers.  The city you live in starts to feel like one of Ligotti’s paranoid industrial wastelands.  Your dreams feel sexy and full of secret importance, like Borges.  If it is very good, a collection allows a writer to infect a reader.  I don’t know that I’m good enough for all that, but I want very much to be.  I hope that I at least get close.

 Q: Can you tell me a little bit about the inspiration behind your short story “I Inhale the City, The City Exhales Me”  ?

 Osaka is a very cool city.  I wish I could spend more time in it.  Maybe some day I will.  The coolest thing about Osaka is that it’s always awake.  There’s always something going on.  Parts of it (especially the parts about which I write in “I Inhale”) are pretty touristy, but that comes with its own bombastic charm.  I knew I wanted to write a story about it, about how bright and kinetic it is.  About a year after I visited Japan, I had a conversation with a friend of mine about the attitudes American men have about Asian women, and the depictions of women in some Japanese media.  Through the course of that conversation, I was faced with an interesting conflict.  I’m a feminist (or a feminist ally, if you prefer that nomenclature for male feminists, as I know some do), and I find myself angered by systemic misogyny, regardless of the culture from which it stems.  However, I’m also coming at my feminism from a deeply privileged perspective.  I’m a white heterosexual dude, and because of that privilege, the act of passing judgement on a culture to which I don’t belong feels icky.  So on the one hand, I don’t like the way some Japanese media treats women.  On the other hand, I don’t like the some way white westerners marginalize Asian cultures.  I still haven’t resolved that conflict.  But that was the seed for “I Inhale.”

 My last question:  Any particular reason you have been so successful with your short stories?

 Ha-ha.  It’s strange to read a sentence describing me as “successful.”  I don’t think of myself that way.  So thanks for that, it really does mean a lot to me.  In any case, I’m where I am because I work hard, I read a lot, and a lot of people believed in me.  People stuck by me when I was being obstinate or when anxiety turned me into a hermit.  People encouraged me or kicked my ass or waited patiently, and they were able to intuit when to do which.  If I have any success, I have it because of the support of those really great human beings.

 Interested in finding out more about Mr. Warrick ?

Douglas F. Warrick Bio:

Douglas F. Warrick is a writer, a musician, and a world-traveler.  His first published short story appeared in Apex Digest back in 2006.  Since then, Douglas’s work has been published in a variety of periodicals, websites, podcasts, and anthologies, and has grown progressively stranger.  Douglas originally hails from Dayton, Ohio, but his travels have taken him all over Asia.  Douglas has screamed Buzzcocks lyrics with Korean punk rockers in the neon alleys of Seoul, marveled at the oddness of Beijing’s masked opera singers and illusionists, piloted a bicycle through Kyoto on the way to the Golden Temple, broken up a fight between an Australian tourist and a Thai street vendor in Bangkok, and learned that the world is much weirder more wonderful than anything he could fabricate.

Purchase Plow the Bones (You can still get signed copies!)

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It’s not often I refer back to the author’s blurb before the book, but in this instance, it is necessary. No, not necessary, but required to give mention of it here in this review. The author explains who he wrote the book for and it isn’t your typical: Mom, Dad, Daughter, Son, Bother, Sister, Wife, bla bla bla. He explains that this book is for you, the undesired, the outraged, the outcast and neglected, the failures, fuck-ups, and misfits. (Do you see your proper category anywhere in there yet? If not you’re still included, too.) I bring this up, because I related to Tommy Pic, to his pain of failure, his want of achieving greatness for his films, his bouts of psychotic episodes.  I related to Tommy Pic and so will you to a certain degree; that’s what makes this book special.

I’ve read two books written from first person point-of-view within the last week and I’ve been shocked at how fantastic they have been.  I was especially stunned because while I had an idea that “What Makes You Die”, was going be good, I just didn’t know it was going to be this GOOD.  Tommy Pic is a screenwriter who’s met both brutal ends of the Hollywood spectrum, failure and success, a pair that always seem to be at hand and Tommy has finally reached the down-and-out category.  The premise of the story has us following in the faltering footsteps of a delusional, alcoholic, sick-minded, yet entertaining Tommy, in an attempt to recreate the final acts of a mysterious screenplay that he has no recollection of ever writing.

“Trying to recapture the hallucinations that crafted his masterpiece, he chases his kidnapped childhood love, a witch from the magic shop downstairs, and the Komodo dragon he tried to cut out of his gut one Christmas Eve. The path to professional redemption may be more dangerous than the fall.”

If this sounds insanely brilliantly, it’s because it is insanely brilliant. These are just a few tantalizing scenes we are gifted with, amongst so many others that will rear up and slap you in the face with a dousing of strongly mixed emotions. Ironically one of the characters in this novella, Bango the Clown would literally slap you in the face with a shoe. As for the other characters, Eva (Tommy’s witch/girl interest) is my favorite; she brings a refreshing aura about her that lends us a sense of clarity and feeling that maybe things can get better for Tommy. What Makes You Die is comprised of a rich cast that wouldn’t be complete without Tommy’s imaginary family members, Bango the Clown, his less than angelic agent Monty Stobbs, and, yes, the famous Komodo dragon, Gideon, living within Tommy’s stomach and leaving him Post-it notes everywhere.

I truly had an extremely difficult time putting this one down for even a few minutes to get some work finished.  Fail or succeed, author Piccirilli, does a masterful job of making us cling to every scene and page that unfolds in Tommy Pic’s quest to finish his unremembered script “What Makes You Die”. I’ve read Tom Piccirilli’s short, “Subletting God’s Head” in the anthology Dark Faith: Invocations and now after finishing “What Makes You Die”, I can say that I’m a big fan of Mr. Piccirilli’s work.The only qualms I had within this book arose at the ending.  All I can say is that some of the haze and fog which blinds Tommy Pic’s eyes doesn’t completely evaporate with the novella’s conclusion. I’m guessing this was the author’s intention.

9 out of 10 Liams for “What Makes You Die” by Tom Piccirilli. This is one of those rare books where if I’m asked to recommend something special, I’ll be shoving this down a lot of throats.

Thanks to Apex Publications for providing me with this review copy.

Liam aawhAn Agreement With Hell By Dru Pagliassotti caught my attention on Apex Publications Book Store for a multitude of reasons and in the end, it just wouldn’t leave me alone. The cover is a beauty but it is the storyline that wrapped me into its devilish embrace.

“In the divine struggle between good and evil, humans are hardly noticeable to the mal’akhim, but when an ancient seal is broken on the grounds of a California college campus, beings from dimensions beyond the balance of holy and unholy erupt from the earth. A retired priest and an ailing magickian must trust the mysterious Walker Between the Worlds and his skin-eating demon familiar as they step through Heisenbergian passages of probability and battle forces that are so far beyond demon they cannot be fully seen in earthly dimensions. Amidst the earthquakes and interdimensional intruders, the students and staff of California Hills University step across the boundaries of their knowledge and faith, revealing their true natures as the night erupts in earth and blood.”

This excerpt sums up the entire story to a tee and it’s why out of so many other enticing reads I went with this one! The retired priest, also known as Andy, and Jack, the ailing magickian, are a dynamic duo that could fill a couple more books with entertaining tales themselves. But the real show stopper is Todd, The Walker Between the Worlds and his familiar, Amon. Together they traipse through this story with an aura of mystic and astonishing power that really makes this novel congeal together.

Pagliassotti also works wonders with her portrayal of the devils and angels within An Agreement With Hell and even the entities in between. However, I found some of her descriptions of the college students a tad lacking or misconceived with how their intelligence and behavior is so greatly varied. If the entire side story with a few of these young adults would have been left out, it really wouldn’t have affected me much as a reader either way.

The biblical references and arguments in An Agreement With Hell are immaculately well formed and thought out; whether they are accurate or not I have no idea. (My old testament knowledge is severely lacking.) This book had a very Constantine (supernatural thriller movie starring Keanau Reeves) feel but with three star main characters that you can actually form an attachment with.

An Agreement With Hell turned out to be a blazing page turner that took me only a single day to finish. So needless to say I was riveted from start to finish and really enjoyed the read. I would love to see some spin offs in different settings with these three, Jack, Andy, and Todd. A little mix of Horror and a little Urban Fantasy is the perfect genre combination for this book. To fans of both I highly recommend finding yourself a copy and indulging in the pleasures you are sure to find tunneling through these pages. 8 out of 10 Liams.

Tons of thanks to Apex Publications for providing me with this excellent review copy!