Deadly Ever After

Archive for the tag “Books of the Dead”

John F.D. Taff Is Probably Smarter Than Us.

TODAY’S BREW: Swill. This cup’s for you, Chynna-Blue Scott.

By Julie

John F.D. Taff is an old friend of mine from the days of The Nightmares Before Christmas. Now you can all have the pleasure of reading The Bell Witch, which I kinda freaked out about. I mean, look at this cover.

Also, John is just a class act of a guy. I’m proud he’s my friend, and honored that he considers my work to be good because he’s John F.D. fucking Taff. If you haven’t read his stuff, you don’t even know. Here’s a little bit about how his crazy mind works.

My Horror Manifesto

By John F.D. Taff

Julie is being the lovely person she is and letting me take up space on her blog to write about whatever I want to write about.  So, I thought, instead of plugging my new novel, The Bell Witch—$3.99 at Amazon, paperback to follow soon—I thought I’d share with you my manifesto.  Every writer should have a manifesto, I think, whether you’re pecking away in a Manhattan loft or in a tiny shed in Montana.  As I am a writer, here then is mine.

 You may not like everything you read from me, and that’s OK.  I have done this long enough to know that every story is not for every body.  I hope that some of the things I write speak to you, linger, make you uncomfortable in some way, even, I daresay, scare you.  That’s why I choose to dabble in this particular genre and not, say, westerns or science fiction.

Horror writer.  Mention the fact that you’re a writer these days, and you might get a half-interested response, akin to telling someone you make wine in your basement or host a local access cable show.  The fact is, unless they’ve heard of you, unless they’ve bought your book, unless you’re currently on the New York Times bestseller list, you’re just a member of a huge group of people who consider themselves writers…a list that grows dismayingly longer with every blogger, Facebooker, Twitterer (Tweeter?) and half-assed web journalist.

Mention the fact that you’re a horror writer, though, and even that slight regard vanishes in a puff of smoke.  Horror?  Like monsters and ghosts and gallons of blood?  That horror?  The mention that you’re a horror writer is sure to get raised eyebrows at cocktail parties or contemptuous sniffs from academics who view horror as the literary equivalent of snuff films.

Why is that?  Well, there’s a lot of contentious noise these days in the hallowed halls of horror; a lot of ridiculous (at least I think so) talk of what constitutes horror.

If horror even holds together as a serious, clearly defined genre in these modern times.

Even if it should.

And lest you think that we merry writers of horror fiction are shouldering this burden well, let me dissuade you from that quaint and curious notion.  Much of the current collective effort of horror writers today is spent denying that that’s what they write at all.  It’s as if many of them feel a need to explain or…good grief defend…what it is they write.

All of this meaningless mental masturbation sucks a lot of good writers in…and a lot of good readers.  They spend countless hours arguing their views on countless forums—on the increasingly annoying Internet, at conventions and conferences, at signings and in the column inches of the decreasing number of print magazines devoted to…ahem…horror.  All of this when their time might be better spent writing good stuff and reading good stuff.  Who cares what it’s called.

Horror.  Is it a true genre?  Should it be?  I mean, come on, it’s why you punched my dance card, so indulge me for a few more seconds before I let you loose.

Some dismiss horror because it’s become all about blood.  Well, in the movies, at least—or so it seems to me—this is true.  One of the most gorgeous turns of phrase has come out of this trend…torture porn.  Lovely.  But it’s true.  From Nightmare on Elm Street to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and everything in between, many of the movies referred to as horror over the years have been thinly disguised reasons to film outright blood baths.

The Saw series is this sub-genre’s current idiot savant; so wrapped up in the minutiae of the Rube Goldbergesque ways in which it slices and dices its victims, it has forgotten to nurture things like plot, characterization or even one of the more potentially chilling villains to flicker from a horror movie since…well since his brood brothers Michael, Jason and Freddie came along.

Let’s be honest here, though.  There is little more disturbing than violent death.  And if horror is to be a true, full-fledged genre, then there has to be room for a wide spectrum of nuances within its framework.  But I mean, come on, the needle has been pegged on “full-tilt arterial spray” for a few decades now.  There have been a smattering of good horror films that have managed to squeeze through with nary a dismemberment (The Sixth Sense springs to mind), but they are few and very far between.

So how can publishers synergize (excuse me, but that’s their word) with Hollywood?  Because, let’s face it, this is the atomic clock by which book publishers set their watches.  But who wants to write, much less read, a book that has a plot, say, similar to Hostel?  Not many, thank the lord.  But publishers have hitched their proverbial carts to Hollywood, so what to do here?

The answer for horror, then, is apparently not coming from Hollywood.

Conversely, some dismiss horror because it has become sanitized for your protection, like a hotel toilet with a paper band around the rim.  I’m in no position to criticize the author of the Twilight series.  And why should I, other than grinding jealousy or abject poverty?  Vast armies of people, most of them young and decidedly feminine, love her and love the work.  But in making vampires too much like us, some authors have removed what it is that makes them frightening.  Is any teenage girl truly frightened of Edward?  Really?

So, the answer is not necessarily going to come from some new monster or some new way of looking at an old one.

Some dismiss horror because it’s become de-supernaturalized.  Who can argue with that?  It’s a cyclical thing, but most of what is called “horror” these days tends to be of the psychological variety or of the twisted, real world variety—Silence of the Lambs and its innumerable pastiches.  Away with the ghosties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night.  Give us slashers and serials killers and maniacs with mommy issues.

Again, this is OK.  Some say these are scarier than the made-up monsters of our childhood, and while there may be some truth to that, it isn’t the whole truth.  The fear these madmen bring is the fear of the known or maybe the what could really happen…the guy who sneaks up behind you in the parking lot and conks you on the head in order to haul you away and do various unpleasant things to you in the relative privacy of the pit in his basement.

But our dear monsters represent the fear of the unknown, the fear of what is out there in the dark that is profoundly mysterious and strange. In the best horror stories it is this fear, the fear not just of the unknown but of the unknowable, that makes the reader’s heart beat faster.

Finally, there are those, and you doubtless know a few, who dismiss horror as being a sign of a juvenile mind.  Well, this is an old one.  I remember getting this creaky sentiment from college literature professors who agreed with Henry James that a taste for Poe, and by extension any of his ilk, is the mark of a decidedly primitive stage of reflection.  Well, that’s just utter bullshit, as Penn & Teller would say.  The things that make up horror—monsters, ghosts, violence, retribution, a dark underworld, fate, blood and guts—have all been part of the best of our literature since Day One.  They’re hardwired into us, part of every mythos, creed and religion in the world.

And yet, this is how a lot of people…smart people, literate people…think.  Remember a few years ago when Stephen King was awarded the American Book Award?  Remember the hue and outcry from the literary illuminati?  You’d have thought the Jewish League was presenting Adolph Hitler with its Humanitarian of the Year Award.

And why?

Is Stephen King a bad writer because he chooses to write about vampires and possessed laundry folders and gunslingers from other Urs?  No.  Is Stephen King, indeed, a bad writer at all?  No.

When horror is written well, as many authors do—as I aspire to—labels evaporate, and the reader is submerged in story.  And isn’t that what any writer wants of his work?  For a reader to be lost in the words, transported, lifted out of their life and into another.

It’s what I want of my work, whether it’s called horror or terror or suspense or whatever.

But let’s, for the sake of argument, call it horror.

Because I am a horror writer.

So, there’s my manifesto.  Now go buy a book from me, either my collection Little Deaths or my latest novel, the historical ghost story The Bell Witch.


Just…just go ahead. Nicholas has something to tell you.

TODAY’S BREW: Alcohol until I am drunk.

By Julie






August First, Bitches!

TODAY’S BREW: I shall make Kristen buy me Starbucks for driving her into the city and leaving me.

By Julie

Yes, today is the day Running Home  was supposed to come out. YES. YES, I KNOW.  And you have all been so concerned for my mental health since I told you it would be out late. Or maybe you have just been concerned that I would fucking lose it and there would be deaths. But, in all actuality, that is really not how I am though I come across as a goddamn lunatic.

First off, I have a new release date!


I cannot wait, but before that, my serious sentiment was that I am lucky as a motherfucker to have my book being published, and so I am not that upset that the release date got pushed back. I just don’t like telling people one thing, and having something else happen. But hey, such is life.

When I wrote the book, I just wanted to see it on a book shelf. That’s going to happen. So, really, I’m going to complain about the day it happens? No. No I am not.

I’m the kind of person who can have a good time at a funeral, be happy that I’m eating fucking nasty meatloaf because someone bothered to make it for me, and not be upset that I have to watch that awful show How It’s Made because it means I’m sitting with my family, who loves it. I’m sort of annoyingly positive in this way.

Regardless, I am also a bitch, and the bitchy wheel gets the grease, you summabitches. So August first it is! I’m very thankful to Roy and Books of the Dead Press for the urgency around my book, and even more so to all of you who have been waiting for it. Dream come true stuff, right here. Thank you all.

Running Home Release

TODAY’S BREW: Hot coffee. Still. It does not matter how hot it is when the flames of Hell created you.

By Julie

Soooooo, shit happens in publishing all the time.

Books of the Dead Press has a lot on their plate right now with a book a week coming out, and this makes for a schedule that is difficult to adhere to.

Long story short, Running Home will be delayed a bit in its release. There’s nothing wrong with the book, nothing wrong with me, or the contract or anything like that. Just shit happens occasionally.

You may wonder if this pisses me off. Sure. Sure it does. But this is what I remember:



As soon as I know the new release date….which will not be long, trust me. I’m not that easy going…you will all know.

He’s My Roman But I Will Share: Running Home Character Expos

TODAY’S BREW: Water. I went out in the sun for an hour & feel like Vampire Bill. HELP ME, SOOKEH.

By Julie


Running Home’s release is quickly approaching. Like, HURK every five minutes or so approaching. What I want to do until then is A) HURK B) Dance and drink C) give you guys, our faithful readers, some extra insight into the characters and where the hell they came from and where they will go. (Without giving away too much.)

I’m overwhelmed by the amount of love there is from my early readers for Roman. HoHWhen it started, I just didn’t want Nicholas to be alone. I loved him too much for that. So I needed someone I could love as much to share his company.

I was on maternity leave when this whole Running Home thing came to fruition. And I watched The Departed, basically every day. I fell in love with Leonard DiCaprio’s character, and loved that it was set in New England, like the book. So, here’s my boy.



He was the perfect companion to Nicholas; humble (not Nicholas), and reserved (not Nicholas). Roman’s heart of gold is exposed throughout Running Home, as is his heartbreaking story of family, loss, and ghosts that haunt his heart. He was much beloved in life, and still is as a vampire, but the sadness in him makes him broody (hot), and gives him a darker side that takes everyone, especially Eliza, by surprise. It’s the understandable kind of dark that comes from a difficult life and expectations, and some piss poor luck. (Chris Lynch is his walking, talking reminder of what bad luck can do for a person.) This is what Roman feels like when he has to deal with Lynch, as he does too often:

Nicholas admires Roman greatly for his generosity and quiet confidence. It gives Roman the protector he deserves, someone as strong and worthy as he is, who always has his back.

Roman’s committment to Nicholas has a darkness to it, as well, that you don’t expect.



I hope you readers love Roman the way I do, because wow, I really do. It’s not the swoony kind of love I have for Nicholas. It’s that he’s so real, perfect in his flaws, which I completely understand and don’t fault him for. And his undying loyalty for those he loves makes him the kind of person I want to give the same to. I’m glad I could create a family for him that did.

Thank you all for your support of Running Home and me. Being able to talk about this character who lives so deeply in me to people who want to know him fills me with love for you all.

Weston Kincade Does Books of the Dead Proud

TODAY’S BREW: Chocolate cappuwhothehellcaresjustgiveittome.

By Julie

So, this all around good guy, Weston Kincade, has given me (I like to think, me, personally), the beginnings of an episodic young adult series. Weston’s a former teacher, and his connection to kids is evident in the way he treats the YA genre. While A Life of Death is as heartbreaking and emotionally stirring as it is dark and thrilling. I read this sucker fast. I love the idea of this series being in “episodes,” that may NEVER EVER END.

Weston’s said that “A Life of Death still brings tears to my eyes at times and a strong confidence and pride in my heart.” Read it and agree. This is an order.

A Life of Death is the story of  homicide detective Alex Drummond, who is confronted with the past through his son’s innocent question. Alex’s tale of his troubled senior year unfolds revealing loss, drunken abuse, and mysterious visions of murder and demonic children. Is he going insane? With the help of his close friend Paige Kurtley, Alex must find the source of his misfortune and ensure his sanity.

Weston, where the hell did A Life of Death come from?

I was watching “Ghost Hunters” and “Medium” one night while visiting my parents’ place and the question came to mind about what it would be like to have such an ability evolve within you. Then the idea extended to more than just visions of the murder, but what if the person began getting the ability to relive the murder through the victim’s eyes, hearing, seeing, and feeling everything they felt. The concept nestled itself into a corner of my mind, tickling my thoughts every now and again. Scenes such as the main character encountering his father’s scrapped car after the murderous wreck played out in my mind. It was soon followed by the idea of what would happen to the boy if he stepped into a Civil War battlefield museum. At that point I was hooked and had to write the story. The Golden Bulls followed when people asked for more.

It’s easy to see the teacher in Weston come out in this book. I want him for a teacher, if I ever find myself in school again, so probably never, but I want that anyway.

As a teacher, some students came to me with family problems. I told the appropriate people to help them, but it was never over there. Some children have very few people they trust to turn to. A teacher can be that person and help them overcome life’s obstacles. I’ve heard enough stories and talked students through enough situations that I’m sure some elements made their way into the story’s themes and situations involving abuse and alcoholism. I know my past students were in my thoughts as I wrote, since I intended A Life of Death to not just be entertaining, but also help adolescent suffering through similar events realize they aren’t alone and that they can get through it. There are people out there willing to help.

Also, this is where and how he writes, making him cool on several levels.

It’s pretty simple. I have an L-shaped desk with a desktop and a laptop with a spare monitor for viewing my outline and the story itself I’m writing simultaneously. I have a dragon holding a giant sword for a letter opener, a desk lamp, and a window to look out. For music, I tend to go for things without words like Zoe Keating’s stuff or some acoustic guitars. I enjoy Bare Naked Ladies and a lot of classic and grunge rock from the 90s and earlier like Nirvanna, The Eagles, Smashing Pumpkins, The Beatles, etc . . . but they aren’t conducive to writing for me. The words and stories distract my mind, so I listen to things that allow it to go where it needs.

 Here’s where you find Weston Kincade!


Justin Robinson Makes Something New and Cool: Everyman

TODAY’S BREW: Chocolate cappu-who the hell cares it’s caffeine.

By Julie


Another ass kicking book has escaped the clutches of Books of the Dead.  Justin Robinson’s Everyman explores a being that we never see ever ever; the doppleganger. It seems Roy Daley has a knack for finding something completely different. It gives you some classic horror feel like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but with a really character driven feeling.

Also, I love Justin Robinson. For reasons like THIS: (when asked what the hell his book was about)

I felt like Stefon trying to explain some terrifying aspect of New York nightlife to Seth Meyers.  “This place has everything.  Doppelgangers, living cell phones, a woman with nothing left to lose, gestalt entities…”

“I’m sorry, ‘gestalt entities?’”

“It’s that thing where a bunch of people become one giant monster?”

“That’s not a thing.”

The initial idea of the doppelganger — the monster — as a sort of anti-hero, had legs, but then the entire book would be the adventures of a psychopathic little worm wrecking lives until… until what exactly?  He had nothing to do.  It wasn’t until I started thinking about his victims, and what it could mean to lose one’s identity so thoroughly, that I had the seeds of a plot.

Justin, about naming his critter:
So I talked to my friend, [who is knowledgeable of such myths], hoping he would tell me what to call it.  “Oh, that?  That’s a Morgendorfer.  Romanian peasants thought they came through villages at night poaching chickens and itinerant carnival workers.”  (I have no idea why I thought a Romanian monster would have a German name, or why it would be the same as Beavis and Butthead’s favorite classmate, but I digress.)  Instead, he said, “That’s not a thing,” and I imagined the boyish face of Seth Meyers locked in his patented mix of baffled amusement and frustrated horror.  I told my friend I had been referring to the monster as a gestalt entity in my notes, and he said, “Yeah, that sounds good.”

And Justin says this about his main character, Ian Covey:
Ian is a sad, weak little man who is dangerous because of his weakness rather than in spite of it.  He shares more than a little DNA with the protagonist of my other horror novel The Dollmaker, though while Stephen was broken, he was not destructive like Covey.  Both men gained their power essentially by taking it from the universe.  They were broken in precisely the right way and had enough willpower to work the universe’s cheat codes.  The problem is that everything has a consequence, and pushing things out of whack enough to make living women out of wood or steal people’s faces is going to create some blowback.

I love a character that thinks he’s a good guy, but he’s a sonofabitch, and vice versa, and I love the way Justin does this. He gives you an unexpected anti-hero, and that is something I can get behind. Everyman is the first of many things I’ll be reading by Justin Robinson, because the dude knows how to write original horror, with a compelling character who makes messed up choices. I love that shit.


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