Thursday, December 30, 2010

Guest Blog: We love it! We can't use it! What is it?

It was a long, strange journey from my final draft of Haunting Blue, my first novel, to its eventual publication through Damnation Books. Nothing proved stranger than the series of rejection letters and emails the book collected during the hectic three years my then-agent (she’s such a sweet woman) sent it off to pretty much every major publisher on the planet, and seeing the various “reasons” for its rejection. What follows is a fictionalized conversation with a character representing all these various publishers.

Pub: Haunting Blue is well-written, tightly plotted, and I couldn’t put it down until I finished. We love it!

Me: So you’re going to publish it?

Pub: We don’t love it THAT much!

Me: Oh, sorry for being presumptuous.

Pub: I love the book, I just don’t love it…for our readers! You understand me?

Me: Yes. Uh….no.

Pub: For us to use it, you’d have to change it.

Me: What parts?

Pub: Well…all of it. We wanted an edgy thriller for young adults.

Me: I can edit the adult language if that’s the….

Pub: No, we can do that. The biggest problem is that it gets too exciting at the end.

Me: I was going for mundane, but I got a bit carried away.

Pub: Look, kid, books with strong female protagonists are flying off the shelves, but then your punk girl’s not girly enough. The tweens won’t relate to her.

Me: You want me to make Blue a girly rebel punk?

Pub: And what’s with all this arguing with the parent? What teenager can relate to that?

Me: When you’re right, you’re right.

Pub: And if you alienate teenagers, who’s going to read it? Our marketing clearly shows that adults won’t read books about teenagers.

Me: What about Carrie and Christine?

Pub: Are you comparing yourself to Stephen King?

Me: I’m sure it would be career suicide to compare myself to Stephen King.

Pub: Besides, this is a supernatural thriller, but all this “stuff” happens before it gets supernatural.

Me: it’s a slow burn. Like Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. The town itself is kind of a character.

Pub: So this is like Ray Bradbury?

Me: I’m sure it would be career suicide to compare myself to Ray Bradbury.

Pub: And what the hell is up with your structure? You swap back and forth between first person and third person. That’s going to confuse the reader!

Me: William Faulkner did it in As I Lay Dying.

Pub: Who? Listen, is this Bill Fauker or Folker or whoever a current bestseller?

Me: I defer to your expertise.

Pub: I was so excited when this hit my desk.  Teenage girl! Monster! Like Stephanie Meyer with a ghost instead of a vampire! Now she knows how to write bestsellers!  Why’d you make that face, kid? Don’t you like Stephanie Meyer?

Me: It would be career suicide to compare myself to Stephanie Meyer, but for a vastly different reason than the other two.

Pub: Look, you’ve written a young adult too dark for tweens, but not dark enough for  horrorreaders, a chick lit novel not particularly girly and a southern gothic that takes place in the Midwest. Who the hell cares about Indiana, anyway? What exactly is this thing you’ve written?

Me: It’s a damn good story, sir. I’m sure we’ll find a terrific home for it elsewhere.

And eventually, my agent punted it back to my control with her regrets, and I found a terrific home for it through Damnation Books. Please enjoy this edgy urban punk chick-lit Midwestern gothic Hardy Boys for Big Kids ghost story novel, also known as Haunting Blue.

R.J. Sullivan and his family live in Heartland Crossing, Indiana, south of Indianapolis. He’s published short fiction in Midnight Graffiti and Strange Weird and Wonderful eZines. He’s composed dozens of articles for local magazines and newspapers, and “ghost” writes newsletter content for several companies. Join the R.J. Sullivan fan community at 

Monday, December 27, 2010

Haunting Blue Book Review

Title: Haunting Blue
Author: R.J. Sullivan
Publisher: Damnation Press
Pages: 300
ISBN: 9781615722747

Haunting Blue is the debut novel from author R.J. Sullivan, published by Damnation Press.

Where to begin with this novel?

It was so much more than I expected, in so many ways.

Haunting Blue is the story of Fiona, a goth chick from Indianapolis, who is forced to move to a small town in the northern part of Indiana, when her mother takes a new job. From the very beginning of the novel, the reader begins to learn about Fiona, and her life, as the newest chapter in her life unfolds. Immediately she's thrown into small town drama, that's right: high school. She quickly realizes what it's all about, making friends and enemies as she goes. Including Chip, a geek/nerd/dork who loves all things computer related. The two soon strike a friendship, until it turns in to something more serious. As the story progresses Chip explains to Fiona -- who Chip nicknames Blue (the name stuck) -- that there's buried treasure at the local theme park, and he wants her to help him.

While Blue's story is unfolding, Sullivan does a remarkable job with flashbacks, taking the reader all the way back to 1973, to when the buried treasure had been stolen, and the group of men involved with the armed robbery.

I found the storytelling in Huanting Blue to be surreal at times, and often frustrating, and here's why: with a title like Haunting Blue, I kept finding myself wondering when the haunting part was going to occur. It wasn't until the very last second, and the most unpredictable moment that it happened. It kept me on the edge of my seat, from there on out, until the last sentence was read.

I'd like to say that I knew what I was in for when I first picked up Haunting Blue. At times I thought I was reading a coming of age story, or a romance. At other times it felt like a thriller, or maybe it was a ghost story after all.... I'm still unsure.

If you're looking for a good read, pick up a copy for yourself or a loved one. That way you can argue with them after you've both finished it.

Because Haunting Blue kept me guessing on the edge of my seat, it's earned 8.5 out of 10 TARDIS's.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Very Black Christmas.

Christmas came early this year, in several forms including two boxes of review copies from Black Library Publishers, who specialize in Warhammer Fantasy fiction, as well as Warhammer 40k (40,000).

Look for several new reviews of some of the pictured titles above in the next several weeks. Until then: Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!


Monday, December 20, 2010

Shotgun Sorceress Book Review

Title: Shotgun Sorceress
Author: Lucy A. Snyder
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 330
ISBN: 9780345512109

Shotgun Sorceress is the second book in Lucy A. Snyder's Spellbent Trilogy published by Random House.

Very few sequels ever, in my opinion, manage to be as good as the first book in a series, but Lucy A. Snyder's Shotgun Sorceress easily earns it's place as the second book in the projected three book series, dealing with her protagonist Jesse Shimmer's newly founded abilities, her familiar Pal.

Shotgun Sorceress picks up only hours after Spellbent, and carries the torch of full-throttle amazingness found at the end of the first book, to all out increasingly strangeness within the first one hundred pages of the second, including one of the best opening scenes to grab my attention in a long time.

After returning from her boyfriend, Cooper Marron's version of hell, and defeating a powerful magic wielder, she's left with powerful magic that she can't seem to get rid of. With her giant half-spider/half-ferret familiar, her boyfriend Cooper, and Cooper's brother The Warlock, the four set out on an adventure to a little town in Texas. A town isolated in more ways than one. With her father's help, Jesse must find a way back to the real world, out of the clutches of a gorgeous and powerful witch, and find her brother.

Shotgun Sorceress is a marvelous sequel, continuing the breakneck pace begun in Spellbent, and reassuring the reader that this series isn't your average Urban Fantasy. That's why I'm giving Shotgun Sorceress 8.5 out of 10 TARDIS's.

If you're looking for a good Urban Fantasy series that's not your typical run-of-the-mill, then pick up a copy of Spellbent, and while you're at it, pick up a copy of Shotgun Sorceress, you won't be disappointed.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Apex Day 2010.

Saturday, December the 11th was Apex Day.

For those of you who don't know, Apex is a Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Publisher, based out of Kentucky, and owned by the awesome Jason Sizemore. Some of Apex's authors include: Alethea Kontis, Lavie Tidhar, Fran Friel, Maurice Broaddus, Jerry Gordon, R, Thomas Riley, Wrath James White, and Gary A. Braunbeck. They also produce Apex Magazine, (Issue 19 for December, 2010 just came out).

To Each Their Darkness
December the 11th was also the release date for Gary A. Braunbeck's non-fiction book: To Each Their Darkness, a reworking of an earlier account on writing that had been published several years ago, called Fear in a Handful of Dust: Horror as a Way of Life. Braunbeck has stated many times in the past, and in the introduction of To Each Their Darkness, that at the time of writing Fear in a Handful of Dust, he hadn't lived enough in order to pull off the things that he wanted to convey. And that's why To Each Their Darkness was written.

Although I plan on doing a full review for To Each Their Darkness for the blog sometime in the future, the best way I can explain To Each Their Darkness, is this: take Stephen King's On Writing and amplify it by 12.

Yeah, it's that good...

Saturday was an early day for me, having to get up and meet the rest of the IHW (Indiana Horror Writers) so that we could carpool to Lexington, Kentucky. On the way down, I inquired as to where Apex Day was going to be held, to which I was told: Joseph Beth Booksellers. I had never heard of the bookstore, but was excited to find out that it was a two story bookstore, filled to the roof with books of all kinds. As soon as I walked into the store, I was blown away. The Architecture of the place was absolutely gorgeous!
They even had an escalator!

Overall, my first impression of Joseph Beth Books was one of awe. However, on closer inspection of their books, I found just about every Lansdale book that I didn't want to have to order from my local B&N (that means a lot). But, because of finances, I had to talk myself out of picking them up, much to my chagrin. And when I looked lost and (I'll admit it, still awestruck with the place) confused, a nice sales-boy stopped to help me find my place before the IHW would have to send a search party to find me.

Chatting with the guy (unfortunately, his name escapes me as of the moment, I'm sorry) I was surprised to find that he knew, and had read almost as many horror books as me, including Jack Ketchum, Richard Laymon, Brian Keene, John Skip, Joe Hill, and even, yes, you guessed it... Joe R. Lansdale!

I digress... Back to Apex Day.

Gary reading from To Each Their Darkness, Apex Day 2010.
 Coming in late, we (the IHW) found some seats and sunk into them to absorb the second and third readings that Gary was giving from To Each Their Darkness. Afterwards there were giveaways... lots and lots of giveaways. In fact, everyone who came in before and during the reading ended up landing a book. However, only the first ten or so actually landed a book either by, or with Gary in it. Those who received a Braunbeck prize, also received a burnt copy of a short film called One of Those Faces, which was based on Gary's short story "Rami Temporalis." I happened to walk away with a copy of Future Net (look for a future review of this book as well), and a copy of One of Those Faces.

Future Net and a DVD copy of One of Those Faces
After Gary's reading it was time to buy books and get things signed, and time to just chill out and talk with people. Outside of the Apex authors in attendance, there were several other authors there as well, including: Michael West, RJ Sullivan, Stephen Zimmer, Michele Lee, Debbie Kuhn, Lucy A. Snyder, and Nicole Cushing.

After my explorations of the store, I returned to find that I had more books than what I had originally intended to pick up, which shouldn't have been a surprise, considering it happens to me every time. There were several titles I had been looking for, that I knew would be my only chance to pick up for a while, most notably Braunbeck's In the Midnight Museum (Tansmaniac Publications), and Lucy A. Snyder's Sparks and Shadows (HW Press).

From left to right: The Exodus Gate, To Each Their Darkness,
Sparks and Shadows, and In the Midnight Museum.
 I also managed to pick up To Each Their Darkness by Gary, and the first book in Stephen Zimmer's Epic Urban Fantasy series: The Exodus Gate (Seventh Star Press). I also received a bunch of promotional items for The Exodus Gate, including a couple of cover flats and two bookmarks, thanks to Stephen who was kind enough to give them to me.

December 11th, 2010 is one of those days I won't soon forget. Call it an early Christmas... Okay, one of many. Look for reviews for these titles to pop up within the coming months. And if you can't wait for the reviews, might I suggest going out and picking up a copy of one, or all of these titles for yourself, or maybe add them to your Christmas List... it's never too late for Santa!


Monday, December 6, 2010

Huffer Book Review

Title: Huffer
Author: Michael J. Hultquist
Publisher: Gravside Tales
Pages: 320
ISBN: 9780980133875

Huffer by Michael J. Hultquist is the newest book from Graveside Tales Publishing. What if you had the ability to see "evil" people, and had the power to do something about it? When a mysterious figure dressed in a hawaiian shirt appears to Gus Gerring after a stint of huffing paint in the middle of a cornfield, "Satan" as Gus refers to him, begins to show him things about people that no one would ever want to know about another person.

When the girl he loves doesn't return the affection,Gus spirals further into depression and begins huffing even more. But that's just the beginning. Soon, his world begins spiraling out of control: his mother and her boyfriend who are hiding a secret about his dead father, an uncle who has a particular affection for having his way with prostitutes and then offing them, a dream of the love of his life, and the local police who are after Gus for the winning Lotto numbers, and a man who wants to use Gus's special abilities to his advantage.

Gus quickly realizes that he can't control everything, even with Satan's help.

Huffer is an ambitious novel with some rather wonderful characters, such as the aforementioned Uncle Ham who has a taste for the macabre, -- having his way with prostitutes and then killing them -- and the mysterious figure which Gus refers to as "Satan": the indentity behind the visions that propels Gus's life into a Dive-Bomb.

Hultquist seems to have a firm grasp on the location in which the novel is set (always a good thing for an author), often times describing scenery with an outsiders eye effectively, drawing the reader in and keeping them there.

Characters and settings aside, nothing defines a novel more than the ending. And unfortunately Huffer suffers from a sloppy ending. As I read and grew closer and closer to the ending, I was expecting a climactic event that would leave me dumbstruck, and tie up all of the loose ends that were left hanging. However it didn't. In fact, I felt like I was reading an Indie Film: written with a sloppy, loose ending, intentionally written for the purpose of making the writer look smart; making the audience think for themselves, wondering what happens next.

For me, the mark of a great story teller is the ability to effectively be able to tell a story that leaves the reader still thinking about the events of the story longer after the books been put down, rather than dwelling on one or two major flaws that stand out like a sore thumb. For me, the ending was a sore thumb.

Just because the ending wasn't my cup of tea, it doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy reading Huffer, that's why I'm giving it 6.5 TARDIS's out of 10.

One last note: with Christmas fast approaching, I'd like to point out that right now Graveside Tales has a sale on for those with a Kindle and are interested in picking up a digital copy of Huffer, that the publisher currently has Kindle Editions of their books for only $2.99, so if you've got the pocket change to spare, download it and read it for yourself.