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Daniel I Russell - Writer of Horror Fiction

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

I won at the Australian Shadows Awards!

Yes, I'm using that meme I generated again. I like it, so what the hell.

Last night, I was poised at the computer screen (I say poised, I mean running backwards and forwards to the kitchen as I was cooking for the kids), beer in my hand, enjoying the announcement of the Australian Shadows Awards. of which I had a stake in the long fiction category.

I'm happy to say that I won.

What's that, Dan? Check the facts? Kaaron Warren won? Even Sean Bean says so?

That's right. Kaaron took the trophy home, along with a win in the collection category. Fellow West Australians Martin Livings took the short story award and Craig Bezant bagged the edited work (go team WA!). Kirstyn McDermott walked away with the award for best novel.

So what did I win...exactly?

Indulge me for a moment. Let's look back at my first novel, Samhane. 

Samhane was my first blast at a novel. I wanted it to be a fun, grisly ghost train ride, and it ticked all my boxes at the time. Now the book holds some great memories for me, had me cut my teeth in the business and I hold the novel very close to my heart.

Did it win any awards that year? No. Not a sausage. Was I outraged? Yes. Did I feel my hard work required more recognition? Certainly.

In hindsight, the book didn't stand a chance. It was written at age 24, was all about car chases and torture scenes and weird imagery. The book, while entertaining I feel, just simply didn't do enough

Now I'm older and wiser. You ever run at school? You ever finish a race and regardless of place, know - just know - that you'd pushed yourself? 

That was how I felt when writing Critique.

Samhane had the usual obstacles any novel contains: the motivation, the desire to push forwards, keeping track of events, character development, pace, etc. Critique was more. It needed to be carefully thought out. It had to say something. It had to come from the heart and not the trousers.

When Samhane was released, years had passed, and I'd developed as a writer. When no awards arrived, my thought was 'look at my quality! Why shouldn't my novel get consideration?'. A gulf existed between the writer I was then and the writer I was at 24.

Am I straying? Yes. I do that. So what did I win at the Shadows? I think I won the best piece of advice ever. I should have it engraved and mounted across the top of my monitor...

I dug deep with Critique. It made the last three with Kaaron Warren and Robert Hood, two writers I hold in very high regard. Did it win? No. Do I want to win? Of course. So here comes what I won. Just two very simple words:


I know what it takes to get this far. If I want to go the next step, I have to raise my game again. It's that straight forward.

To the other finalists and those that had works considered by the judges, hell, even you, winners, you think you sent your best in? I'd like to think no. Let's send our best in next year, and the year after, and the year after that! Hit those keys, spill your blood and tears and souls and bring your A game.We'll see this year as a warm up. ;-)

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank one man in particular. Robert Datson. This guy is the Shadows Award director and did a fantastic job this year. I have the utmost respect for all the work he did and the two fun filled evenings over the last month which he ran. Well done, Robert! If anyone deserved an award, it was you.        
  To quote Martin Livings, "Next year..."

Posted by Daniel I. Russell :: 1:36 pm :: 0 comments

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Sunday, April 07, 2013

On being a Shadows Award finalist

Been over a week since the Australian Shadows Awards finalists were announced. I've been so busy trying to get promotion for the other finalists that I haven't gotten around to talking about it until now! 

With winners announced on Friday, I have a few more days of living the dream, so if I'm going to post, I'd better post.

I've never been in the running for a major horror award. I've been a Tin Duck nominee before, and no discredit to that, but a national award is just so...well, national!

Before I rabbit on, allow me a moment to parade the book in the middle of all this. Critique, a novella from Dark Continents.

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Sandy Devanche considers himself to be a five star gentleman, although he never gives more than three.

As the harshest food critic in the business, he is feared and respected by the top chefs of the city. On a standard assignment, Sandy visits the experimental restaurant The House of Jacob, run by chef extraordinaire, Jacob Enfer.

What Sandy will experience is a journey beyond flavour and texture, a meal that will change his very existence. The worst thing about the food here is the person eating it.

Critique. It's here to make your life better… or much, much worse.

Click on the link to have a look over on Amazon. Go on. ;-) It's $2.99 on Kindle and a ridiculous $6.99 in print. Reviewers at Goodreads tend to like the book, and those that didn't were still affected by it. Some even demanded that the publisher should have included a warning.

Yet the book is far from a splatterfest. This has been on my mind quite a lot of late, and why I'm appreciating by the award inclusion, perhaps more than some. Read on.

When I first entered the Australian horror scene, I felt I didn't belong. The standard of writing over here is exceptional. While I certainly believe I have adequate writer tools in my box, my subject matter... I don't know. My particular brand of splatter and 'torture porn' didn't gel with the more literary horror scene. I felt a bit like a bogan at the opera.

Yet one thing I've always striven for: horror is meant to be horrific, to shock, to elicit a goddamn reaction. The finale of Laymon's Endless Night made me look up from the book and say 'oh shit'. Masterton has had me cringing and not wanting to turn the page and continue a graphic scene of dismemberment. This is what I want. I'd rather have a reader not recommend my book because it went beyond their boundaries than have the same reader admire my lovely use of similes.

But...why can't I have both? Write in a way that paints that picture and has the descriptive texture...yet still push those buttons, still toe that line. 


A goddamn reaction.

Critique was my first honest attempt at a deeper work; a novella that meant something more than just a satisfying horror romp.

I put the gore aside (almost all of it. By my usual standards there's hardly any! Honest!). Okay, certain items literally on the menu have disgusted readers, but for me, that's not where the horror lies.

It's the feeling of being powerless as the bully is walking across the schoolyard towards you. The crippling desire to have something you can never have. The things others force you to do, against your judgement, your conscience, your character.

That's why this Shadows Award placing means so damn much to me. My level of writing must have improved over these last few years if a book that has shocked and appalled a good many readers can stand (for the moment) shoulder to shoulder with two writers I place on very high pedestals. Rob Hood is AMAZING, and Karron Warren is quite literally Miss Australia when it comes to horror!

I was told today that Critque, simply, is horror. I can't think of a better compliment, and I was touched deeply. You know who you are.  

As I say in the blurb. Critique. It's here to make your life better. For me, it certainly did.

Go on... Click the link. $2.99 on Kindle. That's less than a coffee! ;-)

Posted by Daniel I. Russell :: 7:14 pm :: 0 comments

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Thursday, April 04, 2013

Out this week! For the Night is Dark.

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Released this week is the long awaited anthology from Crystal Lake Publishing: For the Night is Dark. What a line up!

From Amazon:

The Dark is coming! Call your friends over. You don't want to go through this alone. 

You will be taken back into the past, down to the depths of the ocean and across the borderline between our world and the next. You will see snapshots from the lives of small children, old-time cockney gangsters and aimless stoners. You will journey into the darkest house on the darkest street, wander hospital basements and take a flight in the comfort of first class. You will meet Mr Stix.

This tome includes stories by some of the best horror writers around: G. N. Braun, Carole Johnstone, Armand Rosamilia, Daniel I. Russell, Scott Nicholson, Gary McMahon, Joe Mynhardt, Kevin Lucia, Tracie McBride, Stephen Bacon, Benedict J. Jones, Blaze McRob, John Claude Smith, Tonia Brown, Mark West, Robert W. Walker, Jeremy C. Shipp, Jasper Bark, William Meikle and Ray Cluley.

Rather than simply post an advert, I got hold of my copy and asked the mighty Gods of Facebook for a number between 1 and 20. Fellow Bridgetownian Caitlen leaped in with the number 13. The TOC says to me that's This Darkness... by John Claude Smith (how apt!). Thought I'd read a quick story and give it a slight dissection! So here goes...

This Darkness... has such a bleak voice to it. Usually, when one counts a story as bleak, this brings forth images of specific setting: desolate landscapes, post apocalyptic cities, etc. Smith straight away strikes a note with the reader, as this taste of bleakness most of us have experienced at one point or another. For me, it was in my early to mid twenties, picking up hardly any work for six months and spending my days playing GameCube (remember them?) and drinking with my flatmate. The days blurred. Life just didn't go anywhere. Bleak.

Susie is in such a rut. Even the idea of driving out with her fella and a mutual friend to grab some beers to beat the smothering heat is something to break the monotony of life. The darkness starts to make her feel uneasy...

While the last third of the story is within usual horror trends (with a dash of Barker's The Damnation Game thrown in for good measure!), I enjoyed the set up and the thoughts of Susie in this one. It was very real and not obviously sympathetic, so much so that the highlight was when realisation of her plight hits home. 

Just as she feels she has something to live for, the darkness... demands she proves it.

Keen to see the different takes on the darkness theme after my first nibble.

For the Night is Dark is available in print and on Kindle at Amazon and is well worth your book spends! 

Posted by Daniel I. Russell :: 8:12 pm :: 0 comments

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Monday, April 01, 2013

Coming Soon! Blog Hop

 Happy Easter, folks!

I had an epic blog post planned, one that would probably take me all afternoon to write. As I planned out the list of things I wanted to cover, I got to thinking... I have all this awesome stuff, including Australian Shadow Awards news, new book releases and reviews of a Richard Laymon book and Bioshock Infinite. Rather than mention them all in a few paragraphs in this post, I'm going to spread it out over the week and give each news item the space it deserves.

So what to do first?

Shout out to buddy and former Necrotic Tissue colleague, Doug Murano, who can be found at the vastly entertaining blog, Moving Parts . Doug had asked me to be part of the Coming Soon! Blog Hop, and now that I've had a chance to catch up with life over the Easter break (end of banking financial quarter, which means a very busy time for a banker like me!), it's high time I did the interview! So please visit Doug's blog and the blogs of the following, who I managed to coerce to keep the chain going.

Gerry Huntman at The Chronicles of Evyntyde Musings and bloggings of Gerry Huntman

Dave Jeffery at Dave Jeffery: Author and

Ian Woodhead at ianwoodhead.com  

Bring on the questions!

What are you working on right now?

I'm approaching half way in a new novel I write under my pen name, as this is a middle grade novel and I like to keep that completely seperate from nastier adult work.

This is the second book in the series and it was great to come back to my already established characters a year later. This is going to be a longer book than the first (which clocked in about 60k words) and will be challenge. Time to think about the plot through all the books and still give this current adventure its own stand alone story.
How does it differ from other works in its genre?

The series is similar to the fantastic work by Darren Shan, as it doesn't sugar coat the horror nor talk down to the target audience. Kids can like axe wielding maniacs too, you know. This differs by being very science based rather than the magic and ancient beings from Shan. My monsters are created by genetics and chemicals and experiments gone wrong.

Why take this science line? It's another thing that causes the series to differ from other pieces of fiction. Some of the science is fact. Using my background of a former high school science teacher, I can throw in tasty factual titbits. For example, the current novel features a new predator being released in the woods of Pennsylvania. How does that affect the populations of other species? Can biological control prevent the population from expanding? It's not written to be obviously educational, and I hope it doesn't come across that way.
What experiences have influenced your writing?

With these books, my former students influenced me greatly. All those questions science students have, like, what happens if you mix all the chemicals together? Can we turn this up all the way? These are fun little ways to have a set up for some experiments to go wrong and create monsters. 

They also wanted to read my work. I obviously wasn't keen for them to read books such as Samhane or Critique that don't shy away from the bodily fluids. So this was meeting them halfway. 
Why do you write?

For the money.

What is the hardest part of writing?

Seeing shit rise to the top. Man, that sounds awful, doesn't it? Like anything, what's popular makes the sales. Hard to stomach seeing a book that is poorly written or is a complete rip off of an existing book make waves and have readers clamoring for more.

And I say this not so much about my own work. I get more riled up when I read fantastic novels by amazing authors that should be getting the press, the accolades and the sales...but they don't. It's all a game at times. The hardest part is knowing that you have to at least roll the dice and take your turn to fight for that audience instead of just being able to do what you love: having your arse in a chair and WRITING. Wanting to quit...but being unable to. Trying to keep your output up following failure after failure. Yeah, there's plenty of hard things about writing. For me, the words are the least of them. ;-)

What would you like to try as a writer that you haven't yet?

I've always wanted to write a tv comedy script, preferably within a team or with another writer. I had one planned and wrote half an episode once. I'm still happy with it, but have struggled to find the time to return and finish it off. Plus, I wouldn't know what to do with it once it was finished!

Who are the authors you most admire?

Being in the industry for a while, I've grown to admire the authors that are successful and haven't let it go to their heads. I understand that once you have a reputation and a name, you'll be constantly hassled by every writer and his/her dog to read their manuscript, write them a blurb or recomend them to their agent or whatnot. True, some authors can come across as arrogant in their lack to do what you want out of them, and they aren't. There has to be a limit to how much of themselves they put out there.

It's those authors I've enjoyed for many years before typing a word myself and now that I've met them, prove to be the nicest guys that always try to make time for you. I would mention them here, as they deserve a nod... Ah, I'm sure they know who they are. Thank you for all the help.

What scares you?

Anything happening to my family. That feeling when your partner isn't answering her phone, or they're late back from doing the shopping, etc. That initial worry that grows in your stomach like a cancer. That's what scares me.

And sharks. 

How is this NOT terrifying?

Posted by Daniel I. Russell :: 2:47 pm :: 0 comments

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