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Daniel I Russell - Writer of Horror Fiction

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Sunday, June 10, 2018

Review: Mechanisms of Despair by Gary Buller

Looks like I'm resurrecting the blog to post reviews, seeing that Amazon won't let me leave reviews there yet (and these will be transferred once I apparently spend enough. So much for spending my hard earned $ at Book Depository and getting more book for my buck). Could do with giving it an overhaul anyway, been a long time...

Anyway, today's quick review: Mechanisms of Despair by Gary Buller.

A short collection of stories and I didn't really know what to expect being unfamiliar with the author's style. Let's just say that the title is fitting, with a bunch of stories with the salient theme of loss and suicide. This really should could come with a suicide hotline helpline. 'If you have been affected by any of the themes of this book, please call...'

The standout of this book is the almost Lynchian nightmare scenes of bizarre imagery and the saturation of dread, like each story has been drowned in dread and emerged soaking wet and dripping from the page. Claustrophobic grief and hauntings. Even the more traditional style stories, featuring the tropes of zombies or a masked killer, are handled extremely well. The zombie story in particular, which is a flash piece and if I'm being brutal, doesn't do anything tremendously unique with the genre, leaves a lasting impression because of the images the author paints: silhouettes in the early morning fog, a war torn sky. Fantastically written.

To readers, I can recommend this quick read. To the author, where's a novel? 

Buy from Amazon US here...sales go towards The Alzeimer's Foundation in the US and Sarcoma UK.

Posted by Daniel I. Russell :: 3:57 pm :: 0 comments

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Come Into Darkness - behind the scenes...of aforementioned darkness

With my self-imposed writing hiatus ongoing (due to studies. I'm drowning in psychological lab reports and statistics right now), it's nice to see that my existing works live on, finding new readers with very little effort from this poor salesman. Like a pet or small child, they can be left alone to do their own thing.

A few months ago saw my re-release of the novella Come Into Darkness, to form an independent novella series alongside Critique and Retard. With a fourth planned in the same psychological style, I thought it would be great to see them as a more coherent set, complete with snazzy covers. Out into the world they went, and back to the journals and articles I went.

Still just 99c, folks.

One of those new readers is the delightful Frankie Yates, who chose to review Come Into Darkness on her new blog right here: https://krankieblog.wordpress.com/2016/04/16/come-into-darkness-by-daniel-i-russell/. Thank you, Frankie! And thank you for the share, the incomparable Messtress of Madness (mess as in severed eyeballs), Dawn Cano.

In light of this, and because I find myself stranded in a library while my car is being fixed (in a garage. This library isn't THAT accommodating) I was thinking about the birth of the novella, and hoped to share a few little behind the scenes thoughts and experiences. As any long term reader of mine will know, in particular those of you who have read through the quite substantial collection Tricks, Mischief and Mayhem, I view my stories as photographs in my own album of memories. While the plot might be right there in front of you, for me it represents subjective times, places and people. Strange sights and good conversations. As far as I know, while I have discussed Retard in this way, I haven't yet shared my stories behind Come. If you haven't read the book, this will probably make no sense, nor interest you! If you have...it probably still won't interest you. But I'm going to do it anyway. I have an afternoon to kill.

1. Origins

Worth: Having his job interview

My stories start with a seed every time. When I worked for my first law firm back in the UK, and this was around 2006/07, we'd hit the pub around the corner after work on a Friday. That sometimes led to a bus into town to hit more bars...and ultimately ended up at a club. I can't even remember the name of it, but it was up some stairs and was one of the most depressing drinking spots I've ever been in. Now this was in Southport, which isn't the classiest of joints. Yet every week, sticking out like the proverbial sore thumb, was this old man. You sometimes get older gents in clubs, trying to talk to everyone. He seemed nice enough, but damn, his appearance was just so bizarre. He had a messy comb-over and some kind of weird deformity down low, so it looked like he had a sack of spuds shoved down the front of his trousers. That wasn't the thing that stuck with me though. He always wore a dark crimson blazer, the kind of thing you see toffs wearing at the Boat Race with straw hats. It was just dusty and antiquated, yet worn by this old fella in a dodgy Southport back alley club, drinking WKDs and trying to chat up the fresh totty.

I thought, here's a guy who looks like a butler from a haunted house. I knew I had to use him. Worth. Who better for a guide through the nightmare of Metus House? (I just remembered Metus means...something important)

Just like his real life counterpart, Worth seems to be in an existential dilemma. He doesn't seem to enjoy his lot, but having done it for so long, is perhaps starting to try and like it, as he knows he can't escape it. He was originally a poet...but I don't think that fully took shape in the book.

2. More origins

I try to have fun, although that might be hard to believe at times.

While Come Into Darkness can never be labelled an intelligent, or even deep, story, I do hope it's a fun one. It was my homage to my favourite horror movies, mashed up, the choicest cuts sliced out and slapped together.

A man bored of the excess tasted in his life and a craving for more? Frank Cotton from Hellraiser much? A cackling, tormenting guide that can manipulate the world at a whim to punish you more? Is that a bit Krugerish, or am I dreaming? The various games and contraptions are a bit obvious...but then I love the SAW movies. Because of SAW I met my now fiancee and have a house full of kids! Of course I want to give it a nod in appreciation. The most influential story to my story was Dicken's The Christmas Carol. The past, present, and future approach makes for a great three act set up, plus the forced self analysis is a topic I realise I tread pretty regularly (looking at you, Critique!).

3. When SAW sent me into a tantrum

Remember this from SAW V?

I had to leave Come Into Darkness half finished as I moved to Australia. This was the first book I finished over here. I had literally finished the book THAT DAY and had the brandspanking new SAW V booked at the videostore to watch in the evening with a beer as a reward.

On seeing this trap close to the finale, I was nearly sick. It was so so close to a scene I had midway through the book. While there was a clear influence from the franchise, I straight away worried that I'd be accused of a direct rip off.

I eventually got over it. It helped that the poor sucker subjected to this abuse in the book gets even more later on...

On a further note regarding this particular scene, I was in my favourite pub back in Southport (there, again) with a coworker, sat in a busy corner, watching a band, and explaining the mechanism of how the torture device worked, obviously reveling in the grimaces and squeals of disgust I received in return. Little known to us, that corner was apparently the meeting point for swingers on that night, leading to a guy's wife trying to make out with my friend right there and then. Turns out we were in the wrong as we sat in the wrong corner of the wrong pub on the wrong night. We left shortly after.

4. Advice from Balzer and Hintz

The original title was Fear of the Dark, due to Mario's phobia following early incidents with his father. When the novella was picked up by the clean cut, take-them-home-to-meet-your-mother types, Balzer and Hintz (har!), it was pointed out that someone had already pinched that title:

While being lost among metal heads is somewhere I always aim to be, it wasn't such a good idea when it comes to book sales and search engines.

Following the glory hole scene (now you're thinking of buying, eh?), we renamed it Come Into Darkness, and tittered like schoolboys on hearing the world boobies.

5. And finally...

Before I start a book, I set myself goals to meet: things I haven't done before. I hope this stops me getting stale and writing the same book over and over. Gets me out of my comfort zone. 

With Come, I wanted to strip it right back: have the whole story occur in one night, and to only have one POV. That might sound easier, but after writing a few novels, I felt that it was more of a challenge. It made me think about pacing more, for one.

The real kicker was trying to write a book full of horrible people and still have the reader engaged. No one in this book deserves sympathy...apart from maybe one (and I'll admit, that came out of nowhere as I was writing the damn thing). Did it succeed in this regard? I'm hoping so.

On that optimistic note, I'm going back to my articles and research.

See you when I escape!

Posted by Daniel I. Russell :: 1:22 pm :: 5 comments

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The stories behind the story: RETARD

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Time to dust off the blog for a rare occasion.

I was asked by a reader over on my FB author page why I chose to write this book. I'm never one to miss an opportunity to talk about the story behind the stories so thought I'd jump on the blog to reveal just how this novella was written and the reasons behind it. Hopefully spoiler free!
On the practical side of things, a publisher put the call out for stories of 30k words in length based on the theme of childhood fears. Now I'd wanted to work with the editor who at the time was employed by the publisher, as he had edited many of my horror-writing idols, so was desperate to have something to submit. With nothing I'd currently written fitting the bill, I needed to come up with something brand new...but here came the first problem.
I like deadlines and appreciate the motivational arse rocket they can provide. This project would need to be submitted in a month. 30k words in a month is relatively generous, even including time for editing and proofing. My issue was that this would add yet another commitment on top of my family, full time day job and full time university course. Where there enough hours in the day?
I can't write in the evenings anymore. I've become a crack of dawn writer. If words are needed, get them down first before the day has the chance to wear you down. Therefore RETARD was typed over many lonely mornings at the kitchen table from 4-5am until the krakens awoke, and in the backroom of the local pub Saturday/Sunday afternoons with several pints of Carlton Dry, or word lubrication, as I call it.
It was getting close to the close of the submission window, and I realised that I'd made a grave error and got the date wrong! I had even less time, and even came close to jacking in the whole thing.
Anyway, it was eventually finished, edited, and submitted with hours to go. Then a few weeks later, rejected.
I'll admit: that particular rejection stung, and it took me a long time to get over it and to get into writing again. But hey! That's the business, folks. Get back on the ol' horse.
I didn't know what to do with it. The manuscript was very personal and not easily categorised, plus the word count was just awkward in terms of trying to find a market. I just left it to rot; moved on to other things.
Some of my writer friends came to the rescue when I lost my way a bit. At the end of the day, having created a body of work that you are proud of is the ultimate goal in this very trying industry. RETARD was just that: another book I'd written in challenging circumstances that I held very dear. I felt I was cheapening it by letting it gather dust on a hard drive. So I made the decision to release it myself. I'm not normally one for that, so treated it as an experiment, convincing myself that at least I could control the price, the marketing, etc.
And that was how RETARD was born! It's currently well in excess of 3000 paid sales with 67 reviews, and more importantly, while polarising readers, it's doing what I set out to do and pushing the intended buttons.
But what about the story? As I said, this was a very personal book...but how personal? Did I live through the horrendous events in my own childhood?
In my original consideration of the childhood fears theme, I wanted to avoid the common tropes of monsters in the closet, clowns, the scary man who lives down the street, etc. I fancied something more universal and grounded in reality.
The character of Christine Stephenson came to mind first. Nothing supernatural or otherworldly about this woman: just a young single mother with enough problems to push her right to the edge of breaking point. Her son. What could be more terrifying than having this loving parent start to unravel, and being unable to escape? Having other grown ups not believe you because you're just a kid and a trouble maker at that.
It all boiled down to this thought: Childhood fear? What about not knowing just how far your mother would go?
Young Wesley is a part of me, definitely. I was diagnosed with Asperger's a few years ago, which certainly explained a few of my childhood traits, some of which Wesley shares in the book. His knack for 'mixing potions' is something I indeed did in real life, including nearly poisoning my great grandmother when I mixed her a new medicine and replaced it with her actual one. I got in A LOT of trouble for that concoction...but nothing like in the book. My parents are definitely not Christine Stephenson.
What concerned me on my diagnosis was that when I was at primary school, my life might have been very, very different. In the early eighties, words like retard and spastic were common place and held that easy label/insult combination. As outlined in the book, kids with low academics or mental issues would be grouped together to complete menial group tasks with nothing idiosyncratic at all. Things have changed now with better understanding of educational needs and a certain political correctness of terminology. With my label, would I have been placed at the thick table at primary school?
This climate of the time developed in my head further, especially having completed units in child and family psychological counselling. There's a tendency with a problem child to dump them in counselling for 'fixing'. Any counsellor worth their fee should know that a child can't be put back together like a broken toy. We are a creation of our relationships, and the family history and networks need to be addressed to change a disruptive dynamic or rut.
In RETARD, under an uncaring Thatcher government, Christine struggles with her current economical position, the responsibility of being a single parent and Wesley's increasingly erratic behaviour. With no help and little intervention, the focus of her strife becomes more and more apparent. Rather than simply make Christine a monster, I tried to round her out. In fact, most of her decisions come from a lack of experience and her own emotional issues. For most of the book, Christine is convinced her actions are out of love, and what is needed to be a good parent. She knows she is doing the right thing.
The beauty of this character is the response from readers! Some despise her, while others take a more critical and environmental attributive approach. One reader (you know who you are!) even confessed to finding her a little bit sexy.
So there you have it! RETARD in a nutshell. Thank you to Jypsy for her interest and to hopefully indulging me all the way through this post. As nothing is truly original, here's some author Easter eggs from the book:
David's Birthday party is held in the Brownie hut. Every kid in my home town probably still have parties there.
The Fabled Four takes elements from my favourite early 80s cartoons: He-Man and Dungeons and Dragons.
The guy who delivers the toy is based on a similar character from Child's Play, which came out a year later.
While the events of book certainly didn't happen there, Wesley's sanctuary, the thick, thorny bushies at the primary school, certainly did exist in my childhood! Boys would be dared to run through them, emerging bloody on the other side.
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Top #100 psychological thriller for 4 months
"A mother and child, living alone, with the mother using physical means to discipline her child, would at least be heavily investigated and monitored today. Back then, it was par for the course, the situation attracting only gossip and disapproval, but of course everyone was too busy to intervene..."

December, 1987.

Single mother Christine Stephenson watches with envy as the Birthday boy opens his present. A Fabled Four action figure. Her special son is obsessed with The Fabled Four but how could she possibly afford such a gift?

Not that he deserved it. Wesley simply couldn't behave.

She'd find a way, being such a good parent.

Posted by Daniel I. Russell :: 1:43 pm :: 1 comments

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

On the Couch With... Rebecca Besser

It's been a while since I've had a visitor at the blog. My lonely rantings in the dark tend to put off outsiders. Anyway, as part of her blog tour, I thought I'd ask a few questions to my old friend Rebecca Besser following the rerelease of her novella Undead Drive Thru, a book I originally purchased in 2011.

We talk zombies (of course), life in general and intimate torture! We have also discussed via Twitter (@BeccaBesser and @danielirussell) the rules of nude Wednesday. And it is Wednesday. We live in the future out here in Australia.

So without further Apu, the return of On the Couch With...


1.       With the Undead Drive Thru release imminent, are you in a position to discuss the reasons why this novella has changed publishers?

Indie presses and their drama is what happened. The press I originally had the book published with had issues because of some of the shady dealings of the owner. A lot of people boycotted their books, and sadly, my book was stuck there until the contract was over. I managed to absolve my contract early.

I then had the entire series planned out when another indie press showed interest. This time, the owner of the press had a public fit about finances, insulting the authors they’d signed because they wouldn’t’ renegotiate their contracts to help pay for the cost of publishing their own books. I hear now that the press is going to revamp their business this coming year – hopefully they’ll figure out how to keep it afloat. And hopefully, there won’t be any more toxic outbursts from the owner. If those continue, even with the business end under control, no decent writer will want to be published there.

The decision to self-publish is established on the basis that I know how to edit, format, and produce books already from work I’ve done for indie presses in the past. I’m not going into this blind or stupid. I’m just hoping to do the best I can for my titles, knowing that there isn’t going to be this variable in another person who is going to do something stupid and cause people not to buy my books. I won’t have to worry about someone else’s actions affecting my sales.

The first release has a decent amount of great reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, so I’m hoping the book will sell itself once people read it and share their enjoyment of the title with their friends. And, obviously, I’ll do my best to reach as many new readers as possible.

2.       Originally published in 2011, and with the recent resurgence of zombie-themed entertainment currently in vogue, how do you think the book has aged in the last few years? Do you find it more relevant now?

I wouldn’t say it was more relevant; it was originally published just as zombies were starting to become popular in culture. As far as how it would hold up now, I think it still stands on its own as something entirely different than the “norm” of zombie literature.

Undead Drive-Thru is a step out of the normal zombie plague. The book contains only one zombie, and with only one zombie I can show people up close and personal how relationships and one’s outlook on life and emotions can be altered. The emotions involved with putting down a loved one in the zpoc are often visited, but I close in on that single emotion and magnify it with a character that will do anything not to killer her spouse.

3.       While reading Undead Drive Thru, it reminded me of true old school Point Horror books, in particular, The Waitress by Sinclair Smith due to the diner setting. With the lack of sex and profanity, what demographic was this originally written for, and has this changed since hitting the shelves?

The book was originally written for a YA readership, up to adult. The youngest readers that I know of that have enjoyed the book have been in the 5/6th grade. (13-14 years old). But the book has been enjoyed by many, many adults (as reviews on Amazon for the original release have clearly shown).

There is no profanity in the title, so it’s a book that a family can share. I’m not sure that the sequel will be AS clean, but I won’t go hog wild or anything.

4.       As a busy mother and wife, how do you find the time?

I do most of my work while my son is at school and my husband is at work. But, still, many evenings will find me on the couch with my laptop while we’re watching TV. That way, I’m still with my family, but still getting something done. Summer and weekends are harder, I just have to get pushy about getting some time to do what I need to do.

Basically, I do what I can, when I can.

5.       Write what you know, is what they always say. Have you had any experience in the food service industry that gave the story a distinct flavour?

I only worked as a waitress once, but have been employed in the fast food industry a couple of times. I know how the buildings are set up, etc., so I’m sure that helped.

6.       Have you ever been tempted to give up writing or at least lost a little faith in the business? What did you do to get through it?

Yes, I have lost faith – multiple times. It’s hard not to. But, I remind myself of the success I’ve had so far and tell myself if I keep going, I’ll only accomplish more. Besides, writing makes me happy. It literally changes my mood. If I don’t write for a long time, I get really grumpy. If I write a blog post, a chapter, or a paragraph, I’m instantly happy and feel balanced again. I couldn’t stop now if I wanted to. I’m a writer – it’s who I am and there’s nothing I can do about it. To me, that means I have no right to ever think about giving up, because I would be killing a small part of myself in the process.

7.       You’ve edited several anthologies over the last few years. Have you any plans to add to this list of titles?

I don’t know… Editing anthos takes a lot of time and that’s not something I have a lot of these days. I can’t say that I won’t, but there are no plans for an additional one in the near future.

8.       At my workshop, I like to discuss the intimacy of pain. Chopping heads off left, right and centre can lose its impact pretty quickly! I find that us horror writers have particular sensitive parts and fears of fears of specific tortures. What’s the worst thing we could do to Rebecca Besser?

Sharks scare me more than anything. So, don’t put me in a shark tank or anything like that. I guess that would be eaten alive with no hope of getting away, huh? LOL

9.       Have you ever, in your personal opinion, crossed a line in your writing? Or at least toed it pretty closely?

Yes. On a couple of occasions I’ve pushed things. I can write comfortable, and I can write graphic in-your-face stuff that will make you cringe. I can also write stuff that’s just…wrong.


10.   How can we get hold of you in a zombie-emergency? (Yup, the ol’classic sell your pages last question!)

I’m not hard to find. I’m on Twitter, Facebook, have a website, and a blog!

AND, if you’re a US resident and want to find out how buying an ecopy of Undead Drive-Thru can enter you for a chance to win two signed paperbacks, go here:

And here’s some direct links to Undead Drive-Thru:


Posted by Daniel I. Russell :: 6:02 pm :: 1 comments

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The journey continues...

Okay so largely writing for my own records at this point.

My last post was on the 5th September, wherein I state that for the novella, I had 8-13k to go with 14 days remaining. Bags of time, right? Wrong. Good job I checked the submission guidelines as I had the date wrong from the start. I only had 10 days to finish the thing, rewrite, edit, beta read, edit again and prepare to submit.

But only 8k to go? Shouldn't take long. I always over shoot. I think the first draft was 30k and I trimmed back to 29k.

Throw in my partner needing emergency dental surgery and then having a bad reaction to the antibiotics that week and you get a while lotta stress.

The novella sped to completion on Saturday, leaving me with little more than a day to get all the other stuff done. I edited all day Sunday and prepared my submission package on the Monday (ahhh, a synopsis to a book is a cheat code to a game). And off it went! Out through the digital doorway. Now comes the month of nail biting.

I dare say it will be a rejection. I'm a natural born pessimist so any acceptances come as a bonus. I'm looking to keep the blog posts following the novella's journey going, just to see, and record, where it ends up. Will it be published? Or simply end up as another virtual dusty file on my laptop?

Time will tell.

In other news...wait. There is no other news. This last book is all I've been doing of late. After writing the cover letter and sending last night, I finally had some time away and continued with the longest game ever, GTA4. I swear, Dark Souls didn't take this long.

Ah well. Sure there shall be some fun posts on the way, with darts finals, the Veruca Salt tour and my citizenship ceremony on the horizon. Maybe I'll even have time to get back to one of my other books inbetween.

Current condition: Tired yet restless. Been up since 4am after bad dreams.
Word Count: 29k. Final!
Words to go: None!
Days left: Done!
Opinion of book quality: I like it, actually. I hope the editor does too!

Posted by Daniel I. Russell :: 5:27 am :: 0 comments

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Friday, September 05, 2014

Things happened!

Yes! Things have happened over the last couple of weeks which is why I haven't been regularly posting. That changes now (temporarily as this is going to be about 30 seconds long until tonight when I have more time).

For those chasing my non-Nano-(up yours NANO!)-deadline-self-motivation-need-to-get-it-done novella, here's the update. As deadline is approaching, think I can start including time left.

Current condition: Getting on with it.
Word Count: 17k? Holy shit.
Words to go: 8-13k.
Days left: 14.
Opinion of book quality: Word coming easily. Is that a good thing? Also, concerns over rewriting, editing, polishing, beta reading time that will be remaining.

Posted by Daniel I. Russell :: 7:25 am :: 0 comments

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The greatest Xbox 360 games/franchises ever...by me

In my ecology class in uni back in 2001, we had to create a plant key for identification purposes. We went out, did the work and wrote up our projects. Most of us lost marks with the title. See, we called it PLANT KEY, not PLANT KEY ON PLANTS AROUND EDGE HILL, which was the university. Had to be specific.

But I learned things at uni, including the accuracy of a title. See, these are the greatest Xbox 360 games/franchises ever...by me. So it can't be wrong.


13 games that sucked away my time and took away my attention from my job, my writing and my family. Great games! In no particular order...

Red Dead Redemption

Beautiful vistas...and shooting people in the face.
My favourite game of all time and the reason I own a farm. I say farm, I mean five chickens! Great story, mechanics and so so good!

Dark Souls

"You're not very good at this game are you?" my mum. Seriously.

And she was stood in the way of the TV. Anyway, Dark Souls 1 and 2. I don't care what your FIFA ranking is. Show me the DS double, pussy.
Mass Effect
Epic. Even the ultra soft core sci fi sex.

Yes there was the ending, but you can't judge 24+ hours of intense play and many climaxes by the last few seconds. Just ask any lady I've made love to.

I'm sorry. My eyes just came on your shoes.
Bioshock is wet and dark and grim and awesome. Bioshock 2 is...alright. Bioshock Infinite is generation defining. When the 360 appeared ready for the trade in, in blasted Infinite. Didn't like the story? Then get back to the in-depth character development of COD: BO. These guys should be applauded for what they tried to do. Buy this game.
Forza Horizon
I have  sweet ride. The car's not bad either.
I'm not one for driving games since the original Mario Kart on the SNES, but FH brought the rock steady driving mechanics of the franchise with pumping music, an open world and sexy cars. I love this game.
What was that? What the fuck was that? (You'll say)
Early game for the 360, but by far the creepiest I've played on the console. The ONLY game that made me react like those youtube clips of people in the dark losing their shit. Buy decent gaming headphones too.
So you can hear the whispers..
Assassin's Creed
The original hoodies.
Fraught with bad story, unfair missions (why every fucker gets in my way when I'm trying to chase someone...and run! No don't run up the wall and fall down...no don't run up the wall and fall down...oh for fuck's-) and an almost greedy (did I say that?) attitude to the franchise...I still love this series. Even 3. Not so much Black Flag, although it was very pretty on the One. Assassin's Creed 2 though. Now that's a great game.
You're about to become his new meat bicycle.
My partner and I played this game TO DEATH. I 100%'ed the first one, even the collecting missions from the final DLC. Just...just go and play it. Having the best intro music in the gaming world justifies the crazy low prices you pay now for the entire GOTY edition. I hope you like guns.
Dead Space
Fight vaginas in a giant vagina with Aunt Irma.
In this day and age, I find it hard to have time to replay a game. I played the original bad boy through three times. As a horror novelist, I of course want gripping, atmospheric, limb-separating sci fi horror in my console. Those bastards bursting out of the snow in 3? Exploding babies in 2? Sold yet?
Fable 2
And they aren't.
What games should I have left off? What games should I have included? Do you want a dick length comparison with our Gamerscores? Leave a comment, gamers!

Posted by Daniel I. Russell :: 8:45 pm :: 0 comments

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The quicksandy sucking bog of research (how much is too much?)

Write what you know! That's what they say, and that's what I usually do.

Characters in my novels have often had old jobs I've had to endure myself, be it the newbie writer Donald Patterson in Samhane, physics teacher rank Harper in The Collector Book 1: Mana Leak and legal-type Guy from the extremely long at still not even halfway through at 60k words novel, Tainted Nature.

It takes the sting out of research. The level of detailed is there and yet I'm free to just write, write, write and let it flow. Even in my new interlinked fantasy worlds, set a little bit towards medieval times, research is required, but the beauty of it is the originality. It's my world, I can create most details from scratch, such as currency, religion, history, etc. A good personal example of this was in short story Nobody Messes With Venus, published in the Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine Birthday issue. A (maybe) post-apocalyptic bizarre world? That's definitely a clean slate to work on.

However, the current project, the novella in a month one, is my homage to the 80s. Now I was born in 1980, so was there for most of it, however, we're talking a very long time ago, and for the start, I was a baby. Forgive me if I wasn't up to date on the latest hits.
There's things I can remember that I've thrown in, and had lots of fun doing so. Children's parties, with mums fussing over the tape deck. The toy obsession - no iPhones here, just plastic action figures with authentic Kung Fu action. There's VHS. Perms. Dare I say it, people going to clubs in dungarees looking like a rejected member of Bananarama. It's that 80s.
Yet I find my character watching the news. Who read the news on December 21st 1987? Google it! Her son looks out of the window. What was the weather like?
One of my biggest writing disappointments of late was my novelette, God May Pity All Weak Hearts. The story was written after an invite to appear in Joe Mynhardt's book For The Night is Dark.
The story emerged exactly as I wanted it, despite writing in a more classical, diary based style from the turn of the 20th century. I was, and still am, very proud of it.
I just wish it had done a little better for itself, garnering more mention in reviews for the book or even a short story award nod. That's sounds awful and shallow, doesn't it? Hear me out though, it wasn't for myself that I wanted those things but for the story itself.
It had been a hard birth. Never have I researched to such a level. As the protagonist was a real person, I went so far as to find actual letters he'd written just to capture an authentic voice. History was delved, notes taken. Street maps from the Victorian age looked up. It felt like giving your kid the best education money could buy and then having him finish middle of the class.
If you fancy a look yourself, I'll post the link at the end, artwork by the incomparable Greg Chapman.
I noticed I was falling into the same trap with this novella, too much time researching the intimate tiny details and not enough words hitting the page. So I decided to call it off. No more research unless it was crucial to the movement of the plot. The Government cover up of child abuse cases? Important. The price of a pack of cigarettes? Not important.
You know, I've hit my word count targets these last few days too.
How do you handle research? Not enough, too much or make it all up anyway?
Current condition: Optimistic.
Word count: 9K.
Opinion of book quality: Light on horror but ante is about to be well and truly upped.

Amazon US 99c!: http://www.amazon.com/God-May-Pity-Weak-Hearts-ebook/dp/B00J0SDH4E/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&qid=1408403326&sr=8-11&keywords=daniel+i+Russell

Amazon UK 77p!: http://www.amazon.co.uk/God-May-Pity-Weak-Hearts-ebook/dp/B00J0SDH4E/ref=sr_1_19?ie=UTF8&qid=1408403441&sr=8-19&keywords=daniel+i+Russell

From Australian Shadow Award finalist Daniel I. Russell comes a tale of pure love and darkest night.

July 15th, 1905.

A reserved doctor travels by carriage to his newest abode, 39 Hilldrop Crescent, just off Camden Road. A dark house, a quiet house. Too much room for the doctor and his music hall entertainer wife, Cora.

What follows is one of history's most notorious murder cases.

Posted by Daniel I. Russell :: 7:12 am :: 0 comments

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Word to your Mother on how to sell a book.

Let's have a lookee at MB on this fine, wet morning:

On Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Mothers-Boys-Daniel-I-Russell-ebook/dp/B00IFSE0O6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408316211&sr=8-1&keywords=daniel+i+Russell

On Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mothers-Boys-Daniel-I-Russell-ebook/dp/B00IFSE0O6/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_kin?ie=UTF8&qid=1408316495&sr=8-1&keywords=daniel+i+Russell

Ah, look at that cover. Tentacle coming out of the pram, blood drifting through the sewer water. Fantastic.

In the middle of the 'writing a novella in a month' project, I also have to sell books. This my latest, from the great guys over at Blood Bound Books. The paperback is a sexy little tease to hold in your hands. If you want one, for FREE, signed, and inclusive of postage (which from Australia means the difference to making my mortgage payment this month), read on.

What makes a book sell? I think it's incredibly obvious yet hard to achieve (unless you have mountains of cash or a likeable personality, of which I have neither). It's allegedly the cover, but I've seen covers that look like clip art projects from when I was in high school, and that was in 1996, that sells. Secondly, the story and quality of writing. Hmm. I'm sure we all have horror stories in relation to that little gem, none of them written by King either.

What makes a book sell is word of mouth and getting it in people's faces. I like getting in people's faces.

Help me get in people's faces!

Due to the current project, blog hits have been on the up this week. All I humbly request is for the Mother's Boys links to be shared all over FB, the Twittersphere (whatever that is) and where ever else. Tag me in there! There's a free hardcopy of the book available to one lucky person and for anyone who wants it, a free spot on this here blog promoting...whatever it is you want. Your book, your band, that second hand Escort your trying to sell (only one previous owner), ANYTHING! It would be fun to try my hand at selling other...items.

Bonus credit to anyone who convinces their mother to buy a copy of Mother's Boys!

Posted by Daniel I. Russell :: 7:22 am :: 0 comments

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sunday (bloody Sunday)

After yesterday's misadventures, I had aimed to hit the manuscript hard and fast today. I left it at a convenient place to hit the ground running.

First obstacle was the all you can eat breakfast buffet at The Shamrock. Now I'd promised the kids this, so we went and really enjoyed it. I drank my body weight in coffee and my daughter ate so many plates of beans that we threatened to make her stand in the garden for the rest of the day until nature had run its course.

Home to write...right?

My partner needed to go shopping and had planned to take all the kids with her, so there you go, guaranteed writing time. Problem was that the kids said they didn't want to go. I mean, the baby can't talk, but if he could, I'm sure he too would have pleaded his case. Until then, the bub had to go shopping.

That's how we learn how to talk. We learn to say we don't want to go shopping.

My two eldest were out and about with the Greenbushes kids like a bunch from an Australian Lord of the Flies. Going from house to house, with me, left-at-home-dad trying to keep track of their movements, the kids are now a step closer to being chipped. Sure there must be an app out there to monitor their comings and goings.

Next kid down wanted to play more Skylanders...as promised.

Writer tip: To ensure your manuscript is completed, never make promises to your kids. You might think they won't remember, but they will. Every. Fucking. Time.

But hell, I always want to spend more one on one time with him. Parents with four kids and beyond will appreciate how rare one on one days can become. So we played more Skylanders (and this 33 year old's prowess with Skystones gained a four year old's respect) and then, after chocolate sandwiches, decided to watch Thor.

20 minutes in:

By Odin's beard, he didn't last long. My grumpy face is due to right arm being trapped and numb.

So what's the point of my overly explanatory post? I didn't get any writing done? As a writer plagued by procrastination I used my family as an excuse not to do it?


The point is that I sat my arse down and squeezed out another 1000 words just before bed, and I despise writing in the evening (one of my many Aspie traits. Damn this routine!). If I can do it, so should you.

ARSE! DOWN! WORDS! (Don't rearrange that. ... I said don't!)

Current condition: Very hot next to this fire and for some reason my knee hurts.
Word count: 6.1K.
Opinion of book quality: Too much dialogue in last part. Needs more arty padding.

Posted by Daniel I. Russell :: 9:25 pm :: 0 comments

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Okay...so I lied.

In the earlier blog post, I claimed that the new manuscript was at 5k words. It wasn't. I just assumed that it WOULD be at 5k words when I was done for that session...which was called off.

For those involved...yes.

My lawn looks fantastic, I have three meals cooked for the week ahead, I copped an aaaaaargh injury chopping wood (for details you need me on FB), I read some Feast for Crows (or as I call, 2nd grade characters drinking wine and talking), and also played some Skylanders Giants with the second youngest, favourite character being Wrecking Ball.

Anyhoo,  finally got to writing. Here's me writing:

Nom nom nom. Lovely fucking beer.

Just before friends came in and a blues band started to play.

So to clear the conscience, the manuscript is 5100 words long, but at least, in a fit of mutual sympathy for other artists, I managed to jump on stage and play some drums!

Current condition: fed and drank...somewhat guilty and wishing for the UK beer prices.
Word count: 5.1K. (honestly!)
Opinion of book quality: Could almost certainly be shit.

Posted by Daniel I. Russell :: 9:19 pm :: 0 comments

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The deadline (which sounds like a zombie novel set on a train. Ian Woodhead can have that gold title, gratis) is something I don't usually have to deal with but at the moment, there is a project I want to be a part of. This requires a novella to be written in a month.

It is a common complaint amongst both established and aspiring writers that there is simply not enough time in the day to get the desired word counts down. Sure we have things like NaNo for motivation (which I have never liked. If you want to be a writer, you can't go all out for one month in the year and potter around for the other eleven. I also hate the 'it doesn't matter if it's shit just get it down' attitude) but usually a writer's role is solitary, and we have to find the drive within ourselves to find the time.

Those who know me well enough in real life and social media are probably aware of my situation. I have a full time job at an Australian bank, a wonderful partner and four hungry mouths to feed (one of them an 8 month old no less!). Time and money are commodities that are constantly in short supply. I don't have the luxury to spend the day tinkering with this novella, nor be able to afford the time away from the soul destroying day job.

So time needs to be found! Time to prioritise. But then...

No one is depending on this novella. If I don't write it and just continue chipping away at my ongoing projects, the only person that misses out at this stage is me...and I guess the characters who want their story written. Publication is not a guarantee!

My family need me. My work...okay, I don't think they exactly need me but still expect me to show up. So what am I to do? Give it up due to lack of time? Or, you know, FIND THE TIME?

So after a million years of not using this blog (no one reads it anyway) I'm going to keep a sporadic journal of how this novella is going.

My method at this point is...4.30am starts. That's right folks. That allows me to do my daily admin (emails, lack of Amazon reviews anger, clips of people falling over on YouTube and twenty minutes choosing music for the morning) and get a couple of hours down.

I've done this since Tuesday (Thursday off as I had a late night previous) and the manuscript is 5k over the start line. Not a fantastic rate, I grant you, but I've had to do a buttload of research as I go, which always slows me down.

How am I feeling at this point? Not bad actually. There have been moments of feeling dead tired (Woodhead, seriously, I'm a title gold mine). The weekends you would think are a great time to get words down, but I want to mow my lawns and watch Thor with the fam. Is this unprofessional? Hell no. It's being human. Being Dad. 

Okay, so there's the start of my shitty journal.

Current condition: hungry and full of caffeine.
Word count: 5K.
Opinion of book quality: Undecided. Could be shit.

Of course, any motivational comment will greatly aid the output! Really, don't hold back...

Posted by Daniel I. Russell :: 8:39 am :: 1 comments

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013


We’ve looked at the dynamics of fear, but this means absolutely diddly squat without some other crucial elements. Again it’s all about the emotion.

Let’s imagine a car accident. Someone was crossing the street and a speeding car has struck and killed a person. Think about it. Picture it. How upset are you?

That poor tree...

Okay, now I’m going to add a few details to the scene. Apparently, the car hit and completely messed them up. The body bounced off the hood and the spine had snapped, so the hips were all twisted around. Poor thing didn’t die straight away either and just lay in the road screaming, blood everywhere, until the ambulance arrived some twenty minutes later. A horrible way to die. Horrible.

Side note, notice how often this happens in real life. I know I do it, but being a story teller I like to think that I have an excuse! If you’re given a macabre piece of gossip and don’t respond in a suitably disgusted or horrified way, how often will the person add additional detail, upping the ante? If they can’t shock you with the news and get the emotional result they want, they’ll exaggerate, or place emphasis on the nastier details. Horror writing psychology 101!

"And apparently the dildo was so big it ripped her a new one, Gladys."
"It wasn't, Hilda."
"It was massive, Gladys. Thought her son was trying out for baseball this season."

Okay, so back to the exercise.

You should hopefully be slightly more reactive to the news I’m telling you, as now it’s more than just a generic news headline of one killed in car accident. You have a few more gory details. You’ve been trusted with more intimate knowledge and are therefore a tad closer to the event.

Next part of this sad tale is that it you now get a phone call. It was your child that was hit by the car. Or your parent. Or brother or sister or best buddy.

Should this really happen (and I genuinely hope nothing like this will happen to any of you. I might create monsters but I’m certainly not one of them), the emotional reaction will be on such a level to eclipse your life for a varying time. Now I don’t believe a story, unless factual and based on someone the reader knows, can evoke a reaction at such an overwhelming level, but if you aim to write good horror, you have to try and tap into the same pool, if you will. This might call into question a writer’s motivation: do you want shock a reader or make them suffer?  I’ll leave that discussion for another time.

Right then. Back to square one, actually, negative ten. I’m going prequel on you.

Ten years ago, you had just moved into a new place with your partner. You were expecting your first child together and things were going great. Things were going perfect. One day, you came home from work early  and heard giggling from upstairs. You discover your partner in bed with a mountain of muscle with a cock bigger than a zucchini (and I don’t mean one of those small zucchinis, a mean the ones that look like huge cock zucchinis). Turns out the baby is his to boot. Rather than be allowed to mourn your loss and gather your thoughts, this dick pummels the crap out of you while your loved one watches with amusement.

Okay, bit of an exaggeration there on several fronts, but you get the idea.

Now, the aforementioned car accident victim, the one spread all over the road, is this guy (or girl equivalent. I tried to make this all sex and sexuality compatible but it became a glorified mess that read more like an angry orgy). How do you feel now?

I find this quite interesting. If this was true, the range of reactions to this news I feel would be pretty wide, from the this guy didn’t suffer anywhere near enough to the I hated him, but no one deserved this tribes.

Either way, to know the person, and either love them, hate them or merely have an interest in their fate in fiction is down to well written characters.

I’m sure that you can buy an extensive list of books that discuss character development, etc, as this is a fundamental part of any story. I’m going to try and keep it narrowed in on horror, the relationships between the character, reader and events in a horror story.

I think one thing we can all agree on is that in a horror story, bad things happen. We can be impartial to these bad things, for example, I can’t see anyone shocked and appalled by the death of a standard victim in a Friday the 13th movie, but if done right and if we’ve spent enough screen time with them, we might be invested in the protagonist and will them to survive.

If you have a strong, likeable and relatable main character, through which the reader is experiencing your world and the horrors you have placed there, the dread will seep through the story. The readers must feel danger and threat through the character.

On the contrary, if we write a character to be obnoxious, evil, cruel and a multitude of other negative traits, we’re invested in another way. We want the bad things to happen to this character! What satisfaction one can obtain seeing a villain suffer at the hands of karma. Again, for the reader to hate a character, the character needs to be fleshed out and three dimensional. Some fantastic villains of late that spring to my mind are the Mayor Big Jim from Stephen King’s Under the Dome, and Dick from Supernatural season seven. At times, I felt myself glued to the story just to see these guys hopefully get theirs in the end!

Fantastic villain!

There are no hard and fast rules with the dynamics between character and story. The hero doesn’t have to survive. The villain doesn’t have to fail and get a comeuppance. But for a reader to become emotionally involved in the horror, the development of the characters is key.

Posted by Daniel I. Russell :: 6:46 am :: 1 comments

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