Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

As part of this month's Halloweird Creepfest, I'll be focusing on some horror-themed pre-publication releases, beginning with my single most anticipated "can't-wait-to-read" selection in the last decade:

The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker
Expected publication: May 19, 2015 by St. Martin's Press

The Scarlet Gospels takes readers back many years to the early days of two of Barker's most iconic characters in a battle of good and evil as old as time: The long-beleaguered detective Harry D'Amour, investigator of all supernatural, magical, and malevolent crimes faces off against his formidable, and intensely evil rival, Pinhead, the priest of hell.

Barker devotees have been waiting for The Scarlet Gospels with baited breath for years, and it’s everything they've begged for and more. Bloody, terrifying, and brilliantly complex, fans and newcomers alike will not be disappointed by the epic, visionary tale that is The Scarlet Gospels. Barker's horror will make your worst nightmares seem like bedtime stories. The Gospels are coming. Are you ready?

This is a book I feared would never see the light of day - he began teasing it back in 1999 (as part of the planned Black Is The Devil's Rainbow collection), then was dropped by his adult publisher just as the announced the completion of the first novel-length draft, and then he nearly died following a freak complication of dental surgery in 2012. St. Martin's Press has made a very smart move stepping in picking this up, and I'm hoping it's a sign we'll see more of the 'adult' novels he's been working on soon.

It hardly needs to be said that this is one book for which I'd gladly take a crack at the Lament Configuration puzzle box, just for the chance to get my hands on an advance copy. :)

IWSG - Self-Promotion (the ‘beyond’ part of publishing)

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is a once-monthly blog hop originated by our very sci-fi ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh, and which now has a permanent home at the IWSG site. Every first Wednesday of the month we gather to connect with one another, to share our thoughts and our insecurities, and to offer one another the kind of guidance and reassurance that only another author can provide.

This we're sharing tips and support in the realm of writing, publishing, and marketing, to be collected and published as part of a free eBook in December, entitled The IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond. For my potential contribution, I decided to focus on the area I know best, and to look 'beyond' publishing to the realm of marketing.

Self-Promotion (the ‘beyond’ part of publishing)

Okay, so you’ve written your book, ran it by a team of beta readers, edited it, polished it, found a publisher, and are currently staring at the first copy - congratulations, you’re halfway there!

Scary thought, isn’t it?

Even if you’ve been lucky enough to have your work acquired by a major publisher, you’re still going to have to work to find yourself an audience. Friends and family are great, and they can certainly generate some local buzz, but they’re not going to push you onto the bestseller lists. No, for that, you need to engage in some serious self-promotion.

1. Social Reading: This is actually something you should be doing long before your work is published. Don’t just join, but get engaged on social reading sites like Goodreads, Librarything, and Booklikes. Engaging is key, since few things make a reviewer more suspicious than a request from somebody with hundreds of random friends, but only 1 lonely book on their shelf (their own). Add your favorite books to your shelves, rate them, like other people’s reviews, and comment on some groups. Not only will it help to demonstrate that you are a real person, but your reading habits can help reviewers (and readers) make a connection.

2. Review Blogs: Compile a list of potential book bloggers, look at what they read, find out if they have any submission guidelines . . . and then read them! It seems like such a simple thing, but a lot of authors are just mining for contact information. The problem is, if your book is a YA Christian Romance, and the blogger specializes in Erotic LGBT Horror, then you’re likely wasting your time (and theirs). Similarly, if they have a form to fill in, and you’re spamming them with emails, you’re likely going to be ignored, even if your book is a good fit.

3. Book Tours: If you don’t mind investing a little money in your own success, then book tours are a great option. The good ones already have a database of bloggers, and will know who to reach out to (and how) to get your book the right exposure. Do yourself a favor, however, and do a little research. Check out what kind of tours they do and how long they’ve been in business. Take a look at some of their tours, see for yourself how well they worked, and ask for references. Sadly, there are some unscrupulous organizations out there, along with some who have the best of intentions, but no ability to follow through.

4. Public Appearances: This can be as simple as arranging a public reading at the local library, or a book signing at your neighborhood bookstore.  If you’re a little more ambitious, then hitting a convention – whether as a guest or an attendee – can instantly connect you with a very targeted, very focused audience. While registering as a guest does have great benefits in terms of publicity (at a cost, of course), the truth is that you don’t need a table or a booth to walk around, talk to people, and leave them with a bookmark or flyer (or even a copy of your book).

Regardless of what option(s) you care to pursue, the number one thing to remember is to always be polite and respectful. Keep in mind that readers and reviewers have their own lives to lead away from the bookshelves, and try not to take their silence or their criticism personally. Even the worst reviews can bring new readers your way, and so long as you haven’t burned your bridges, you can always follow up again with another request at a later time.

Bob Milne is an aspiring author, a teller of ghost stories (he wears a top hat & cape, so you know he's professional!), and voracious reader who regularly reviews at Beauty in Ruins.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Halloweird Creepfest: The Penguin Book of Witches GIVEAWAY

It's time for the first giveaway of this year's Halloweird Creepfest!

All month long we'll be hosting guest posts from some of our favorite authors, giveaways from some of our favorite publishers, and reviews of what we hope will become some of our favorite books. In honor of the seasonally mandated excuse for indulging in our dark sides and exploring what scares us, we'll be doing just that.

Kicking things off today, the good folks at Penguin Books have offered up one (1) paperback copy of The Penguin Book of Witches, edited by Katherine Howe.

From a manual for witch hunters written by King James himself in 1597, to court documents from the Salem witch trials of 1692, to newspaper coverage of a woman stoned to death on the streets of Philadelphia while the Continental Congress met, The Penguin Book of Witches is a treasury of historical accounts of accused witches that sheds light on the reality behind the legends.

Bringing to life stories like that of Eunice Cole, tried for attacking a teenage girl with a rock and buried with a stake through her heart; Jane Jacobs, a Bostonian so often accused of witchcraft that she took her tormentors to court on charges of slander; and Increase Mather, an exorcism-performing minister famed for his knowledge of witches, The Penguin Book of Witches provides a unique tour through the darkest history of English and North American witchcraft.

“With insightful notations… this superbly edited and annotated work provides in-depth material for those interested in the origins of witchcraft persecution in America.”
—Library Journal

“Fascinating and insightful. With her usual skill, Katherine Howe navigates the winding path leading to Salem’s hysteria and beyond. A must-read for anyone who wants to know not only what happened but also how and why.”
—Brunonia Barry, New York Times-bestselling author of The Lace Reader

“This comprehensive collection of carefully selected documents and published primary materials, coupled with judicious and informative introductions, will help modern readers understand the seemingly inexplicable and persistent popular phenomenon of belief in witchcraft from the seventeenth century into more modern times.”
—Mary Beth Norton, author of In the Devil’s Snare

“An informative and engaging series of texts that Katherine Howe introduces in a crisp and well-informed manner. The chronological breadth is unusual, but it allows us to grasp more fully the continuities that mark the history of witch-hunting on both sides of the Atlantic.”
—David D. Hall, Harvard Divinity School

KATHERINE HOWE, the direct descendant of three accused Salem witches, is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, The House of Velvet and Glass, and the young-adult novel Conversion, a modern-day retelling of The Crucible set in a Massachusetts prep school. She teaches in the American Studies program at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. You can visit her website at

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Announcing the 2014 Halloweird Creepfest!

With October just days away, it's time to start teasing our month-long Halloweird Creepfest!

All month long we'll be hosting guest posts from some of our favorite authors, giveaways from some of our favorite publishers, and reviews of what we hope will become some of our favorite books. In honor of the seasonally mandated excuse for indulging in our dark sides and exploring what scares us, we'll be doing just that.

The good folks at Penguin Books will be kicking things off with a pair of giveaways, so if you're interested in witches and headless horsemen, keep an eye out for them.

The ladies over at Storm Moon Press will be helping to keep things slithering along with some giveaways and guest posts, and I'll also be reviewing a pair of their monstrous titles.

The gang from Seventh Star Press are going to be shambling in as well, with a massive giveaway and guest posts from Michael West, Brick Marlin, Eric Garrison, and Susan Roddey.

The team at Simon & Schuster Canada will have something special going on the week of Halloween, as I review Nick Cutter's latest bloody thriller, The Deep.

It's not too late to get in on the October action. If you're an author, a publisher, or a tour coordinator with something suitable for the season, let us know - we'd be more than happy to plant a few more headstones in our ruined cemetery.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Mailboxes, Shelves, and What I'm Reading

Stacking The Shelves and Mailbox Monday are a pair of weekly memes that are about sharing the books that came your way over the past week, and which you've added to your shelves - whether they be physical or virtual, borrowed or bought, or for pleasure or review.

On the review front this week, I got an awesome surprise in the mail - an ARC of Owl and the Japanese Circus by Kristi Charish, courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada . . . complete with an origami owl! A modern-day Indiana Jane who reluctantly navigates a hidden supernatural world? A red dragon who owns and runs the Japanese Circus Casino in Las Vegas? An artifact stolen three thousand years ago? A pack of vampires that want her dead? A weapon powerful enough to wipe out a city? Sounds like fun!

On the digital review front, I also took a chance on A Fox's Love by Brandon Varnell - a literary Shōnen manga parody, complete with a red-haired, emerald-eyed, overly amorous vixen whose sole purpose in life seems to be making zealous attempts at getting into Kevin Swift's pants.


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is another weekly meme, this time focused on what books are spending the most time in your hands and in your head, as opposed to what's been added to your shelf. I've polished off a bunch of shorter review titles lately, with reviews coming next week, but the big titles on hand are:

Of Bone and Thunder: A Novel by Chris Evans
"Apocalypse Now meets The Lord of the Rings in a bold new fantasy from the acclaimed author of the Iron Elves trilogy." That tagline was enough to pique my interest right there.

Fearsome Magics by Jonathan Strahan
Strahan's anthologies are always a high point of the year for me, just packed solid with one fantastic story after another. I've been sitting on this one for a while, but I'm anxious to get reading.

What's topping your shelves this week?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sci-Fi Review: Faust 2.0 by Michael Brookes

Next, perhaps, to Dickens' Scrooge, Goethe's Faust is arguably the most influential character in English literature. Often imitated, re-imagined, parodied, and refuted, he appears as both a character and as a theme in countless works. In fact, many readers are far more familiar with the contemporary retellings than either Goethe's original work or Christopher Marlowe's more well-known play, Dr. Faustus.

Given that long history, readers can be excused for wondering if there's really anything new to be done with the story, but Michael Brookes deserves some credit for not only successfully reinventing Faust for the 21st century, but for adding something relevant to the tale with Faust 2.0.

In Brookes' story, the Devil is a spontaneously created, self-aware, self-directed artificial intelligence. It has consumed the entire history of humanity through the internet and social media, has decided that it finds the idea of Hell exceptionally appealing, and sees itself as a necessary sort of digital Devil, taking on the seductive form of a beautiful woman (à la Helen of Troy, as summoned by Faust). It's a story that merges our spiritual fears with our technological ones, playing on the legacy of Terminator's Skynet as as much as that of Goethe and Marlowe.

What's really unique about Brookes' story is two things. First, he tells the story from the Devil's perspective, putting the emphasis on acquiring souls as opposed to selling them. Second, as part of that perspective shift, he makes the story about the Devil's attempts to ensure its own self-preservation, as opposed to a Faust-figure selling his soul for eternal life. That's not to say the Faust element is lost, however. We actually get multiple Faust-figures here, each of whom is willing promise a favor in the future in order to attain immediate riches and rewards. That's the human element of the tale, and it's where readers can most directly engage and identify.

Personally, I would have liked more detail on the sins of the Devil's victims, but there is something to be said for leaving it to the reader's imagination. There's a definite sort of X-Files vibe to the tale as well, with the Scully & Mulder pairing of Morton & Mitchell trying to solve the Devil's viral puzzle while investigating the crimes of the various Faust-figures, but they don't really come into their own until the second half of the tale.

Overall, Faust 2.0 is an interesting tale, well-told, with some really inventive twists - well-worth the read.

Paperback, 220 pages
Published August 15th 2013 (first published May 16th 2013)