Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Book Reviews (January, 2015)

Being as it’s only 3 1/2 months since my last post, here are some latest book reviews! Each of the following books may be purchased through any large book store or online through www.amazon.com.

***

REVIEWED: Not for Nothing
WRITTEN BY: Stephen Graham Jones
PUBLISHED: March 18, 2014

Not for Nothing is a gritty, twisting detective tale set in small-town Stanton, Texas, where everyone knows each other and business affairs are conducted by the ghosts of high school cliques. In fact, one of the clever and most successful elements of this story is the yearbook-esque feeling of it; the protagonist, Nick Bruiseman, a disgraced ex-cop and now-drunk security guard fumbles his way through a series of double crosses and murders, and all the time every person he comes in contact with —either friend, enemy, ex-lover, etc.—is from his school or is the child from someone from his school.

The book is rather slow and leisurely to read, much like life in Stanton. The story is drenched in sadness and dejection, but also in humor and suspense. It has a hundred twists, and not all of them are necessary, but it’s a thrilling ride nonetheless. The narrative seemed a bit choppy at times, but that ties into Nick’s perpetually half-drunk take on the world around him. Then again, this style of writing seems to be a signature of the author, Stephen Graham Jones; reading him is as of someone verbally telling a story, with detours, hiccups, gaps, asides, and all other means of genuine conversation. Rather than polished-smooth, the writing is raw and legitimate and embodies an unfamiliar beauty.

As a side note, after reading the first couple of pages, my mind slowly recoiled in a double-take of reluctant, dawning horror. This book was written in second person point of view: The audacity! The inhumanity! The dread! It’s a rare-enough feat to pull off a successful short story in this POV, but I don’t know if I’ve ever read a full-length book in this way which has held my interest (excepting childhood Choose-Your-Own-Adventures!), and I was instinctively averse to continue. However, Jones managed to build a story filled with empathy, sadness, humor, insight, that in retrospect seems integral to having been 2nd POV.

Five out of Five stars


***

REVIEWED: The End in All Beginnings
WRITTEN BY: John F.D. Taff
PUBLISHED: September, 2014

“The End in All Beginnings” is a solid collection of novellas by John F.D. Taff, who’s been writing dark fiction for nearly a quarter of a century. Each of the stories is a thoughtful take, relating in some way to death and sorrow. Probably the least morose story happened to be my favorite, “Love in the Time of Zombies,” which was quite funny and with great content. “What Becomes God” is a long path into tragedy with a ‘killer’ ending. “The Long, Long Breakdown” was a gloomy, drowning post-apocalyptic ‘world’ that this author really needs to expand upon in future works. The other stories were fine in their own ways, but these listed were my top three picks from the T.O.C.

Four-and-a-half out of Five stars


***

REVIEWED: Motherless Child
WRITTEN BY: Glen Hirshberg
PUBLISHED: May, 2014 by Tor Books (originally in 2012 by Earthling)

Motherless Child may be classified as a vampire book, but it is not related to the well-worn tropes familiar to most readers. Glen Hirshberg’s writing is as literary as any classical author, filled with pathos, explorations of the human condition, and a contrast of the good vs. evil theme, but with unexpected outcomes. Two young mothers, Natalie and Sophie, who have been turned into vampires, must leave their beloved children behind to travel the country searching for answers, trying to fight the effects of what they’ve become, until the inevitable showdown with those who changed them forever.

Four-and-a-half out of Five stars




***


Midnight Cheers,

Eric J. Guignard




Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Recent Short Story Publications

I’ve had some recent short story publications over the past few months that I’m particularly excited about!

*****


The first is: Dreams of a Little Suicide, which I consider to be one of my best pieces of writing yet. This tells the story (urban legend... truth... ?!) of the munchkin that hung himself on-screen during the Wizard of Oz.

Here’s the movie clip showing the tragedy:
Hanging Munchkin (YouTube)
 
And the story is for sale in the anthology book, Hell Comes To Hollywood II: Twenty-Two More Tales of Tinseltown Terror (Volume 2) (October 1, 2014). Hell Comes To Hollywood II (Amazon)

*****

My next story, An Unpleasant Truth About Death, is my first contribution to a ‘shared world anthology,’ meaning each of the authors writes a story that interrelates into one story line. In this case, it’s a collection of tales about teenagers playing Truth or Dare on Halloween. Great fun to write!

This story is for sale in the anthology book, Truth or Dare? (October 31, 2014).
Truth or dare? A Halloween anthology (Perpetual Publishing)

*****

My southern humor/ Devil tale, Midnight and Jefe Bowman, was purchased and published online at Bad Dream Entertainment (September 21, 2014) here: Midnight and Jefe Bowman (Bad Dream)

I also read a seven minute excerpt of it at the CIA bar (California Institute of Abnormal Arts) in North Hollywood, part of the "Shades and Shadows" reading series. That reading is available here:
Reading Midnight and Jefe Bowman (YouTube)

*****
 
 My sci-fi/ western tale, Last Days of the Gunslinger, John Amos, was purchased and published online at Buzzy Magazine (July 3, 2014). This is a fast-paced tribute to western weird tales and available here: Last Days of the Gunslinger, John Amos (BuzzyMag)
*****

Lastly, my sci-fi story about Planck time and Zeno’s paradox, Living in the Moment, was published online at Bewildering Stories on April 21, 2014 here: Living in the Moment (Bewildering Stories)

 
*****
Including reprints, I’m up to about 15 stories published so far during this year. Not bad, considering I work full time (and more than one job, sometimes), plus continuing college courses, volunteering for various groups, and raising two small children!
And, as always, I’m also awaiting word of acceptance or rejection on many other stories that are under consideration with publishers and further awaiting publishing dates for purchased stories that hover in some nebulous back-office limbo.


Midnight cheers,

Eric J. Guignard

_________________________________

E
ric J. Guignard writes dark and speculative fiction from the outskirts of Los Angeles. Assorted stories and articles that bear his byline may be found in the disreputable publications reserved for back alley bazaars. As an editor, Eric’s published the anthologies, Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations and After Death…, the latter of which won the 2013 Bram Stoker Award®. Read his novella, Baggage of Eternal Night (a finalist for the 2014 International Thriller Writers Award), and watch for many more forthcoming books, including Chestnut ’Bo (TBP 2016). Visit Eric at: www.ericjguignard.com, his blog: www.ericjguignard.blogspot.com, or Twitter: @ericjguignard.
 

Friday, September 26, 2014

An Afternoon of Horror II at the Pasadena Central Library

Are you in southern California on October 4? If so, come visit: An Afternoon of Horror II at the Pasadena Central Library!

On Saturday, October 4, 2014, from 1:00 – 5:00 p.m., horror writers from all over Southern California will converge on the Pasadena Central Library for an afternoon of panels and book signings.

Co-presented by the library and the Southern California chapter of the Horror Writers Association, the event will begin at 1 p.m. with three panel discussions: “
Introduction to Horror Books, Including Recommended Reading”; “Comics and Graphic Novels in Horror”; and “Adaptations From Books to Film”. At 3 p.m., authors will sell and sign their books. Participating authors include:

Anthony Ray Bench (Stronger )
Hal Bodner (The Trouble With Hairy)
Steven W. Booth (The Hungry 1-6)
Robert Payne Cabeen (Fearworms)
Tim Chizmar  (Naked Alien Massacre)
Tananarive Due (The Living Blood)
Benjamin K. Ethridge (Bottled Abyss)
Michael Paul Gonzalez (Angel Falls)
Eric J. Guignard (After Death...)
Brad C. Hodson (Darling)
Janet Joyce Holden (Carousel)
Nancy Holder (the Wicked Saga)
Kate Jonez (Ceremony of Flies)
Kate Maruyama (Harrowgate)
Eric Miller (Hell Comes to Hollywood)
Roh Morgon (Watcher)
Lisa Morton (Netherworld)
John Palisano (Nerves)
Ian Welke (The Whisperer in Dissonance)
Terry M. West (A Psycho's Medley)
David Winnick (Sulfur)

The event is free and open to the public.

The Pasadena Central Library is located at 285 East Walnut Street, Pasadena, CA 91101. For more information on the library (including directions and maps), please visit http://cityofpasadena.net/library/central_library.aspx.

For more information on the Horror Writers Association, please visit http://www.horror.org. For further information on the event, please contact Eric J. Guignard at eric.guignard@gmail.com.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Book Reviews (June, 2014)

Book Reviews! Each of the following books may be purchased through any large book store or online through www.amazon.com.

***

REVIEWED: The Abominable
WRITTEN BY: Dan Simmons
PUBLISHED: October, 2013

I find that one of the greatest indications of talent in authors is the ability to write in entirely different styles and voices, and this Dan Simmons possesses in excess. He has the ability to weave tight narrative, to fill dialogue with humor and insight and fear, has the ability to create worlds set in the future, present, or past. Quite simply, he outputs vast diversity amongst his many stories. The downside of this talent is that the reader doesn’t know what to expect when beginning one of his new works. Perhaps my mind just had expectations of heart-pounding action or of supernatural mayhem, but reading ‘The Abominable’ was somewhat boring.

I love historic genre fiction, and I think Simmons is one of the absolute best in this field. His prose is beautiful and carefully crafted to convey the spirit of the era he’s writing in. Simmons knows every detail of every manufacturer, every geographic element, every slang in vernacular that his characters encounter. But in this latest book, he simply takes it too far. Tens of pages go into the detailed explanation of climbing shoes and chapters of description explain the ins-and-outs of scaling every type of ice, differences in toeholds, variations of granite, distribution practices of pack suppliers, etc.

The author has done his research and he seems to want to cram every footnote of those studies upon you. The story itself is a well-crafted drama, written in memoir fashion, but Simmons could have cut out half of it and the novel would have succeeded twice as well. Overall, it’s a rich and magnificent book, but entirely too slow-moving for my subjective taste.

Four out of Five stars

***

REVIEWED: Clean Freak
WRITTEN BY: Sean M. Davis
PUBLISHED: August, 2013

‘Clean Freak’ is the first novel written by author Sean M. Davis, and it’s certainly a freshman triumph. The main character, Clarence, suffers from OCD germ avoidance. Naturally his occupation is as a janitor, and he takes his job seriously. At first, the in-depth description of Clarence cleaning door handles and desk surfaces seemed to be a bit over-indulgent, but that sense quickly gave way to a dark humor mirroring the character’s actions and thoughts, which led to more than one out-loud chuckle; in the most unseemly moment of suspense or danger or development, Clarence’s thoughts invariably turn to fears of some strange germ or illness developing from said event. The protagonist’s back story slowly comes through, so his actions and motivations begin to make more sense. I never quite understood the reason why his fellow janitors obsess in their own way to include Clarence in their games, nor did I relate entirely to the boss who seemed to waffle one way then the other, making contradictory decisions. But all that didn’t matter so much, as the grabber of the story is the dream-like little girl, Lucy, whom he befriends when her voice begins to speak to him from the bathtub drain. Who she is and what she represents offer Clarence’s most meaningful obsession.

Four and a half out of Five stars

***

REVIEWED: Annihilation (Book One of the Southern Reach trilogy)
WRITTEN BY: Jeff VanderMeer
PUBLISHED: February, 2014

Ugh, so many trilogies these days! You get hooked into a story and have to wait several months to find out what happens next. Such is the case with ‘Annihilation’ which speaks credit to author, Jeff VanderMeer; I want more of this book, and I want it now. It’s a wonderful, strange tale of exploration by four women – each with their own specialty – placed in a coastal point of the country which is mysteriously manifesting unexplainable occurrences. The style of writing and mood it sets is part ‘X-Files’ and part ‘Lost’ in that there are so many layers of peculiar doings, of conspiracy, of monsters and violence, and confusion, that the reader will either dismiss it all as arbitrary or find themselves drawn inexorably into its mysteries. I happen to be in the latter camp, though find no fault with those of the former; this book is truly not for everybody.

I happen to love the unknown and I love to explore and I love mysteries, and ‘Annihilation’ is all these things and more. I questioned some of the characters’ actions as stray or not true to themselves, but in a story like this I soon found it easy to suspend my disbelief, as at later points the author adds touches of further information which then lends credibility to earlier actions. This is a psychological thriller as much as anything; characters’ thoughts have been implanted, hypnosis is abundant, and the protagonist is infected by a mind-altering organism, so truly, ‘anything goes,’ though VanderMeer is respectful of this self-granted license; it’s not a self-serving experiment, but rather a deep character study in grief and resolution.

Five out of Five stars


***

Midnight cheers,

Eric J. Guignard


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

I’m a Writer

For the first time, I finally told another living human that I’m a writer. To explain, I mean that I said those three words with full confidence and without any explanation about how I used to do ‘real’ business work and that I’m engaged in various other studies, projects, and endeavors. For the first time in my life, I said, “I’m a writer,” and I didn’t drop my eyes, or mumble about how I’m ‘aspiring,’ or quickly change the topic of conversation.

Imagine all the times in your life you said, “I love you” to someone, and though the intent was there, the expression was more perfunctory, more socially or familially-expected. But then remember the first time you voiced those words, and you meant it more than anything else, when the emotion poured from your heart in flushing sincerity...

My experience wasn’t quite on that level, but close enough that I still felt like soaring away on wings of beatitude.

The consequential moment occurred this past Saturday, June 7, 2014. I was part of an ecological survey on bats, travelling between Palm Springs and the Salton Sea. It was early night, and I walked with a small group of strangers through a palm oasis in the desert, reading echo meters. One of the other men, as natural small talk develops, asked what I did for a living.

I said, “I’m a writer.”

His response was, “Wow, that’s really cool.”

And, yes, cool it was indeed. It was an occasion of self-validation, a flash of empowerment. I said those words and didn’t feel like a duplicitous charlatan, or that a bolt of lightning would strike for my false tongue. I’ve only been writing since about February, 2011 (three years, four months, but who’s counting?) and, though I’ve wanted it, could never honestly make that assertion with any degree of conviction. But the circumstance occasioned itself and I met it with courage and pluck, and now feel I have certain expectations to fulfill, less I’ll be discovered to be that fibber after all.

And, to qualify my trinal-worded declaration, I don’t make a living off fiction, but rather a combination of contract work in technical writing, copy writing, and now teaching writing (though each year I’ve made ever-increasing amounts of money off creative works... not that any of those are worth enough to buy a fancy coat, though the checks are on the upswing – but I digress). Some people may write a single story and declare to the world that they’re a writer, but I’ve not felt truth in that in my own experience. It’s a personal moment each person must discover, in any pursuit, and now I’ve had mine. Being a contract writer, I don’t know where my next ‘gig’ will come from, or that I’ll be able to survive lulls in employment. But I’ve been able to muddle along these past few years and I now have work set through next spring, so I finally found it time to proclaim to another those sweet three words:

I’m a writer.



*****

Midnight cheers,

Eric J. Guignard

_________________________________

E
ric J. Guignard writes dark and speculative fiction from the outskirts of Los Angeles. Assorted stories and articles that bear his byline may be found in the disreputable publications reserved for back alley bazaars. As an editor, Eric’s published the anthologies, Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations and After Death…, the latter of which won the 2013 Bram Stoker Award®. Read his novella, Baggage of Eternal Night (a finalist for the 2014 International Thriller Writers Award), and watch for many more forthcoming books, including Chestnut ’Bo (TBP 2016). Visit Eric at: www.ericjguignard.com, his blog: www.ericjguignard.blogspot.com, or Twitter: @ericjguignard.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Two Writing Industry Award Nominations For . . . Me!


 
 
There’s not much that speaks to the validation of a young writer doing something right as it is in receiving recognition from peers and affiliations that they admire.

In the past couple months, I’ve received TWO Industry award nominations I’m insanely proud of! Each nomination is from a different group and for a different work of mine.

On February 23, I was voted to the final ballot of the 2013 Bram Stoker Awards® in the category of “Superior Achievement in an Anthology” for my book, AFTER DEATH...

http://horror.org/the-2013-bram-stoker-awards-final-ballot/

The Bram Stoker Awards have been presented by the Horror Writers Association annually since 1987 and winners are selected by Active members. This is my SECOND year in a row, receiving a nomination in this category, and I consider it a great honor. The Horror Writers Association promotes and protects the careers of professional writers of horror and dark fantasy.


*****

And on April 6, I was voted to the final ballot of the 2014 International Thriller Awards in the category of “Best Short Story” for my novella, BAGGAGE OF ETERNAL NIGHT!

http://thrillerwriters.org/2013-thriller-awards-nominees/

The International Thriller Awards are presented by ITW (International Thriller Writers) an organization of 2,100 members, and winners are selected by a panel of board members and professionals. I only recently joined this group and was completely stunned to learn that my work had been selected as one of the top five nominations from over two hundred submitted entries including luminaries such as Dean Koontz, R.L. Stine, John Grisham, and Elmore Leonard. I don’t know what the criteria was that elevated me, and I’m certainly not a better writer than any of those Bestsellers, but I certainly feel blessed at receiving such a recognition!
 
Somebody's sure pulled some supernatural strings for me!
 
Midnight cheers,
 
Eric J. Guignard