Daniel I. Russell is the author of Entertaining Demons, Samhane, Retard, Come Into Darkness, Critique, The Collector Book 1: Mana Leak, Mother's Boys and the huge collection Tricks, Mischief and Mayhem. Daniel is a HWA active member and represented by the Tobias Literary Agency, NYC. Daniel has also been the vice-president of the Australian Horror Writers' Association, special guest editor of Midnight Echo, associate and technical editor for Necrotic Tissue, and Shadow Awards judge.
Review: Hollow House by Greg Chapman
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Sunday, December 20, 2009Free Christmas Fiction!
Should my story 'It Comes But Once a Year' have not made the shortlist for Festive Fear 2, I was entertaining the idea of this silly little Christmas piece. I wanted to do some new, free fiction for Christmas, so took an hour out to write it. Don't expect any Bram Stoker winning short here, just some Christmas fun. The ending sucks major balls anyway.
A VERY ENGLISH CHRISTMAS
Every year the same old bleedin’ shite.
Ken, lying in a recliner, popped the button of his jeans, opened the zipper and exhaled. The pressure on his gut subsided somewhat; the lashings of turkey, stuffing, pigs in blankets and roast potatoes succumbed by the slight extra room. Quite a meal, oh yes, quite a meal. The best thing about Christmas. He’d even eaten the traditional Brussel sprout or two, despite
He picked up the remote from the arm of the chair and flicked to ITV.
“Oi!” moaned Tansy. “We were watching that!”
“Were you balls,” Ken grumbled at his daughter. “You can’t mess with that thing and watch the TV at the same time.”
She sat perched at the end of the sofa, messing with some pink Japanese bullshit gizmo. An I-something. Everything had to have an I in front of it now. He’d joked to
“Haven’t you got it working yet?”
Tansy shrugged her shoulders.
No surprise there then. Even with the few apparent buttons the thing had, it was proving too much for his airhead daughter to understand. Ken studied her for the hundredth time, bemused by her denim miniskirt and tiny vest top. Snow flakes danced past the glass of the patio behind her. The house felt like a bloody sauna.
“Is it nearly time for her?”
He checked his watch and sighed.
“Oh it just makes the day,” his wife warbled. “Have you tried your present yet?”
Ken’s gaze dropped to the black plastic case in his shirt pocket. Darts. New ones.
“Haven’t you seen the snow? Be freezing out in the garage.” He wiped his nose with the back of his hand, checked the contents and then smeared it on the arm of the recliner. “It can wait.”
“Phew!” She gasped and fanned her face, dropping onto the sofa next to Tansy, who was frantically shaking the I-gizmo. “Like a greenhouse in here.”
“Then turn the heating down!” said Ken and stared back at the TV. Adverts. He watched out for any mentioning Easter.
“It’s been a tough year,” said
Ken frowned. “How so?”
“Well, watching the people of your country suffer and worry.”
He snorted. “This ain’t her country. All she does is bloody sponge of us workin’ stiffs.”
And that was when he could work. The building industry was on its arse. Not much demand for plasterers these days. Not like the blessed eighties. The money they’d had to scrimp and save just for Christmas. Tansy’s I-thing coast close to two hundred notes. She also wanted a download of this year’s X Factor winner, predictably, unable to think for herself. Ken had seen him. Some baby-faced whiney crooner. Shit show. Shit singer. Take any old thug off the street, shave him and give a bit of hair gel and put him in a suit. Viola. Frank fucking Sinatra. And a download? When he was a teenager, you had records. LPs. You could hold them in your hands because, guess what? They were real. At least Damien’s PS3 was real. His son had opened the package, grunted and taken it upstairs to his bedroom. They hadn’t seen him since, and that was about seven hours ago.
In hindsight, Ken wished they’d bought him one weeks earlier.
“It’s starting!” said
Ken grabbed the remote and turned up the volume for her.
“And now on ITV1, the Queen’s Christmas speech.”
Bollocks, thought Ken. At least Goldfinger’s on after this…
Onscreen, a cosy drawing from faded in from black. An open fire burned below hanging stockings. A grand piano stood to the left ready for carols, and to the right, the biggest Christmas tree Ken had ever seen, laden with decorations with brightly wrapped presents stockpiled underneath.
Glad to see the economic crisis has touched us all, Ken seethed.
The Queen stood by the fireplace, ever the short, harsh, sour-faced old bat she’d always been. The aunty that made you eat liver and onions and wrapped your knuckles with a spoon should you put your elbows on the table. She peered over spectacles.
"Christmas is a time for celebration,” she said, as wooden and miserable as the chick from that Twilight movie, “but this year it is a more sombre occasion for many. Some of those things which could once have been taken for granted suddenly seem less certain and, naturally, give rise to feelings of insecurity.”
“Amen to that,” Ken told her. “No
"People are touched by events which have their roots far across the world. Whether it is the global economy or violence in a distant land, the effects can be keenly felt at home.” Her eyes glimmered gold.
Ken leaned forward slightly, gaze fixed to the screen. “Did you-?”
“For the last time,”
The Queen winked, quite cheeky for a lady of her standing. Those eyes flashed golden, like two shiny pound coins, behind her glasses. Ken felt a little better and settled back down, transfixed by her kind, loving expression.
“But I have a solution,” she said, a little knowing, like Anne Robinson before she booted someone off The Weakest Link. In an instant, the tiny pensioner ripped a poker from the stand by the fire place and plunged it forward.
“Is this some kind of joke?” Tansy asked.
The camera angle slid to the side and plummeted. Viewers now saw a side view of a plush, elaborate carpet. A bloody hand – the cameraman? – flopped into the picture.
“It has to be,” said
Ken remained in the recliner, watching nonchalantly.
Two pairs of feet emerged from the right, circling each other like they’d waltzed in. A gurgling choke, and another body fell to the floor, a man in a light blue shirt with large earphones clamped over his head. A boom, a guinea pig on a pole, fell from his hand. A knife, or perhaps a letter-opener, jutted from the scarlet geyser of his throat.
The Queen, still smiling and with her eyes still shimmering, leaned in close and leered out of the TV screen. “I have the solution,’ she said again, her grin amplifying the cracks in her ancient face.
The picture suddenly clicked off, immediately replaced with the ITV1 symbol.
“We apologise for the loss in picture and sound,” said the mellow announcer. “We’re working to rectify the situation, and in the meantime, here’s some music.”
The whiney X Factor winner again.
“It…it has to be a joke,” whispered Tansy.
“Or terrorists,” added
Ken reached for the black case, popped it open and removed his darts, poking the Union Jack flights into the tungsten stems. He forced the recliner to the upright position and stood, scratching his balding head.
“Jesus. Well…she had one thing right…”
Ken smiled. “I have the solution.”
The darts, clutched together in his sweaty right hand, slid through her eye ball like a cocktail stick pronging a pickled onion. The membrane popped and aqueous humour ejaculated from the socket.
Eye… he thought. Eye…I?
Ken, enjoying Christmas and full of festive cheer, spun to face his daughter. She cowered against the front door, which remained locked since the night before. Of course, her slutty miniskirt had no pockets. No pockets meant no keys, but the moron didn’t realise you needed keys to open a door. Her hand slid around the door handle in vain attempt to turn it.
In one fluid motion, Ken grabbed her I-thing from the I-sofa, and rammed it into her I-mouth, knocking out several of her I-teeth. She cried, her lips pulsating around her Christmas gift.
“Shhhh!” he cooed. “It’s Christmas. You know what that means?”
He stared at her. She whimpered.
“Do you know what that means?” he asked, louder, squeezing her throat.
She frantically shook her head, tears cascading down her cheeks. Her eyes bulged.
Ken leaned in close to her.
“It means…James Bond’s on the telly. Goldfinger this year. You gonna be quiet so dad can watch it?”
She sniffed, yet a trickle of clear snot escaped her nose. She locked eyes with him and nodded.
“Good,” he said, relieved. “Sing with me. Si-lent niiiiight…”
He smashed her head back against the door. Her body swayed in his grasp.
Blood marred the white paint of the door. It looked like a face.
“Alllllll is caaaaalm….”
He put a bit more effort into this one. Her skull cracked with the sound of breaking a hardboiled egg.
“Well it is now,” he said, out of breath and dropping his daughter’s lifeless body to floor. “Now. The solution.”
He approached the window.
A man ran past, a hand pressed to a bloody wound in his head. He left a delightful pattern in the snow. A woman ran after him, brandishing a rolling pin. Good old Mrs. Perkins, making mince pies again, Ken guessed.
Ah Christmas, he thought wistfully. My favorite time of year.
Humming Jingle Bells to himself, he strode over to his wife and plucked the darts from her face. Sighing in contentment and filled with Christmas spirit, he wondered if Damien wanted a game, and headed upstairs, unaware that his jeans had fallen around his ankles.
Monday, December 14, 2009Sucky sucky things, Festive Fear and good deeds by a bad writer
THE EMPEROR'S THUMB
Woke up this morning to find an email from Jerrod Balzer, one of the editors over at Skull Vines Press (and the artist of that stunning rendition of Vulva, the Albino Nympho Alien Lesbian from the upcoming Tabloid Terrors 3: Alien Perverts Wrecked my Pubes. How many of you can to this page to see what THAT was all about, eh? You sicken me.), requesting a meeting. We agreed 10am Aussie time, which gave me chance to help Sherie sort out the kids and the baby, all the time worrying about what he wanted.
See, there's quite a few presses having to cut down on the number of books they're releasing, due to the economic climate, work load, etc. They've had one of my novella submissions, a nasty piece called Fear of the Dark, for quite sometime. Taking on a few moderately big small press names like Shane Moore and Wrath James White, I was told to expect a decision sometime in 2010, due to their workload. I was expecting a NO decision, without them even reading all of the manuscript, for the same reason (nothing personal there, boys) as others: too many books, too little time to get them out without letting quality slide.
This ain't no cowboy operation. Yes, you presses that seem to release crappy anthologies every other week. I'm talking to you!
SOMETHING TO FIRE UP MY CHRISTMAS SPIRIT
Anyhoo, so I'm worrying about this upcoming meeting and then get another email, this time from Tasmaniac Publications (one of the very few horror publishers here in Australia. Trust me, I've looked). Tasmaniac have just released the horror anthology, Festive Fear, which is selling out FAST where ever it is sold (here's the review from the Australian Horror Writers' Association: www. ozhorrorscope.blogspot.com/2009/11/book-review-festive-fear.html. Festive Fear is available here www.horror-mall.com and here www.jeffnjoys.co.uk. Move fast, as it has SOLD OUT everywhere else!).
Submissions opened for next year's edition, and I was mad keen to get in. Well, I'm shortlisted with my horror/humour piece, It Comes But Once a Year (or as it's known by friends on Facebook, 'The Spunk Story'). I stand a good chance of getting in and getting my hands on that $50 payment, which can help to fund next year's Christmas splurge-athon. Honestly, with three kids, I think it was a choice between Christmas presents or a down payment on a beachfront 5 bedroom...
THE MEETING...(bites fingernails)
The editor in chief at SVP, SD Hintz, had read the novella and offered me a contract. Whoo hoo! The deal shits all over anything I've had previously, and is on par with my upcoming agreement for Samhane with Stygian Publications. Gonna be a good year in 2010. Great to be on the roster with Shane and Wrath as mentioned above, as well as Michele Lee, Garry Charles and L L Soares.
We just need to think of another title, as Fear of the Dark is the same title as an Iron Maiden song, which as Jerrod pointed out, means potential readers having to possibly search through the Iron Maiden stuff to find it. We felt that SD's suggestion, Fear of the bit you know when they go down into that dark room and there's slime on the walls and those sucky sucky things come out might be a tad long, nor were we keen on the abridged version, Fear of the Sucky Sucky Things, which I believe was the original title of the Twilight saga, which is a bit silly. I mean, to like Twilight, you're obviously not afraid of things that suck. Ah, you'll agree with me when you reach your twenties...
DANIEL I RUSSELL OFFENDS TWILIGHT READERS
And to top it all off, I just had an ice cream and have a cold can of coke chilling in the fridge. Bliss on a super hot day like today. Good times! It was 99 degrees here yesterday, so we took the kids swimming. I did the whole dunking Tobin under the water thing. He took it really well, but shot me a glare he could only have got from his mother (bless 'er. She normally has a joking go at the little comments I put in here about her. Yup honey, it was quite minor this week).
Off topic, I just looked out the window to see our motorbike post lady being chased by another motorbike. Hope she's ok...
What else has happened. Oh, Necrotic Tissue #9 is nearly ready to go out the door to subscribers and single issue readers. Interview with Joe R Lansdale is entertaining and insightful (when is the man not?) and R. Scott McCoy gives readers the inside scoop on what was this year's Context convention. Stuck for xmas gift ideas? Get a Necrotic Tissue subscription. A year for a mere $20! www.necrotictissue.com.
I also helped my father in law to scrub down and paint and elderly neighbour's house. While I can't agree on the colour (canary yellow?) it was hard, rewarding work. It's nearly Christmas. Can you think of a person who needs something doing and is unable to do so? Do a nice thing. Especially for the older folks.
TWILIGHT FANS FORGIVE DANIEL I RUSSELL FOR OFFENDING THEM IN LIGHT OF GOOD DEEDS
See you next week. Can Dan survive the stress? Can he cope with watching any more dvds in the classroom for the final week? (Although Howl's Moving Castle was great!) Can the purchase of yet more gifts bankrupt/kill him?
Monday, December 07, 2009...rising from the flames...
Like most human beings, I'm aware that some people don't like me (jerks), so this next bit is just for them. Sitting comfortably? Ready to rub your hands together, throw your head back and laugh like some comic book super villain?
This week, I experienced a very, very weird feeling in my career. Some of you writers will have heard about the Leisure Horror Fresh Blood contest. I entered this in July, as with my novels not having been released in print, I was eligible. The contest closed in September, with the ten finalists being announced in November. There was a few novels of mine 'out there' and any positive decisions needed to be kept quiet to keep me in the contest.
Needless to say, having my novels on hold for the last 5 months, I didn't make the cut. To be a novelist with Leisure is my ambition, so imagine your dreams being stamped on and you'll know how I felt not seeing my name on that list (and a tad unprofessional in my book. I saw the finalists on a guy's twitter update, and it was a few days before I got the official email).
You laughing, haters? ;-)
But then, this weird feeling swept over me. Excitement. Rather then have months of stress and canvassing for votes to stay in the comp, I don't need to! Plus (and yes, you may consider this sour grapes) a few things didn't sit right with me viewing the finalists. Most of them have no presence on the web, suspicious for an aspiring writer. Pen name, anyone? (This tactic was suggested to me. Curse my honesty!). There's a few other gripes I have with one or two other finalists (maybe if I sent my bio and published credits, I may have made a better impression) but get over it, Dan.
And now, I can resume the search for other publishers (yay!) and agents (boo!).
THIS IS THE NEWS
Here we go. Begone gloaters, for here comes the good news.
DO NOT BUY SAMHANE. That's right. Funny request isn't it, a writer asking you NOT to buy his book. I haven't been happy with my current publisher for a long long time. The book took 18 months to get through the editing process (a fact not helped that three separate editors did the job - no issues with them as individuals, they did a great job. Just the process was sooo frustrating!) and to this day has not been promoted by the publisher. The selected excerpt wasn't posted, rather, the first half of the first chapter, badly formatted to the point it's unreadable. My reviews (and they've all been good thus far. Check out Samhane at www.goodreads.com for example) weren't even posted on the site with the book. I've been trying to get out of my contract for a long time, but the publisher has stuck to their guns and the download is still for sale at their site.
However, they did revert the print rights back to me....so...
In 2010, I'm pleased to announce that Samhane will be released in paperback by Stygian Publications, the same folks that brought you the critically acclaimed Malpractice anthology and the force that supports our very own Necrotic Tissue magazine. I'm sure the book will be reasonably priced, look great and be widely available. Out of all my novels, Samhane has always been my baby, being my first novel and all. Sales haven't been great, what with the poor advertising and ebook version only, but I'm sure Stygian can change all that. Readers love it, and we hope to reach a lot more in 2010. Watch this space.
AND SPEAKING OF NECROTIC TISSUE...
All potential contributors be aware that submissions open again in January and for January only. This time, not only do all contributors get 1c a word as usual, and one story selected as the best of issue be awarded the pro rate of 5c a word...but check this out from the Stygian blog:
"As many of you know, NT already pays one writer per issue Pro Pay of 5 Cents per word. In cooperation with Quatre Con, we are having a horror writing contest for our January submission period. The winner will also receive 5 Cents per word and publication in our July issue along with 5 contributor copies and they will be announced as the winner at Quatre Con in Sacramento, Saturday, April 10th at 2 PM.
That's two chances out of twenty two stories we will select for July that will receive Pro Pay. What are you waiting for?? Oh yeah, January 1st. Submissions rules are the same as always, please check out our guidelines at www.necrotictissue.com."
"Stygian Publications is pleased to announce a fantasy for the Abyss Walker Anthology, a new joint venture with the creator Shane Moore. All stories must take place in the Abyss Walker world. You can write a story about your favorite character or create a new one and they may be set in any time.
Half of the stories will be by established writers to include Shane Moore, the creator of the Abyss Walker series, but the other half will come from this contest sponsored by Quatrecon. The First Place winner will receive publication in the anthology, professional pay of 5 cents per word, and five contributor copies. The 5-8 runners up (depending on length of stories) will receive publication in the anthology, 1 cent per word, and two contributor copies."
Guidelines at www.stygianpublications.blogspot.com, so there's plenty for you writers to be getting on with.
2010 also sees Necrotic Tissue go under a slight change in respect of the chief editor. R. Scott McCoy has done a sterling job over the last few years, but in 2010, he's sharing the wealth (or is that burden?) with his associate editors (or is that whipping boys?) John P Wilson and yours truly. We're going to get an issue each, July for John and October for myself with us in charge of the layout, articles, formatting, etc. The submission process will be the same (so no hate mail if you don't get into the October issue, please). Going to be a lot of work, but worth it and great experience. A big thank you to Scott for this amazing opportunity.
AND ANOTHER NOVEL...WELL...NOVELLA
My novella Fear of the Dark, a nasty little piece, like Alice in Wonderland on a bad LSD trip, is currently under consideration by the mighty Skull Vines Press. The boys are mad busy with the Abyss Walker series (again, see the comp above) and this might be another 2010 release if the final light is green. But I'm hearing good feedback, so fingers crossed. 2010 might be a good year!
You know what? I'm not going to bang on about goings on here at Manji Towers for once. Gonna keep this a 100% writing post! See you next week.