Gleefully Scheme of Malevolent Things

Early in May, I got an email from Michelle of Red Adept Press. She wanted to know if I’d be interested in participating in the blog tour for Edward Lorn’s horror novel, Dastardly Bastard. I opened the Reviewer Pack and read less than three paragraphs of the novel before I replied with an enthusiastic “Yes!”  My job was to read the book, write a review, and post it on the 28th of June – today! At this point, I can say three things with certainty:

1. Michelle  is awesome, organized, and friendly!

2. Dastardly Bastard should be on your To Read list. Now.

3. There is a giveaway with tons of cool stuff you can win! To enter, all you need to do is follow this link and scroll down to the Rafflecopter form. Like the Bastard’s Facebook page to unlock more options to earn raffle points!


Gleefully Scheme: My Review of Dastardly Bastard

Memory is emotional shrapnel. If you’re lucky, it causes only occasional discomfort. If you’re unlucky, a fragment breaks loose, tearing and damaging.

The characters in Edward Lorn’s novel, Dastardly Bastard, are haunted by memory.  Mark is a photojournalist, tormented by the deaths he has photographed. Donald is an author, who lost his beautiful girlfriend to an act of random violence.  Lyle has lost his father to illness. Jaleel has lost his job, and his mind. Justine has lost her grandmother, Nana Penance, but gained the love of her life, Trevor.

All of them are going to Waverly Chasm for a guided trail hike. They aren’t alone. Something in the chasm feeds off of the emotional energy generated by reliving bad memories.  Something in the chasm can create alternate realities, trapping people in their darkest memories. One by one, the thickening malevolence separates the hikers, eventually taking Trevor from Justine.

That was the bastard’s first mistake.

The second was letting Justine inside the darkness, because she isn’t going to loose the man she loves. Neither her own personal hell nor twisted visions of her Nana will keep her from Trevor.  Justine brings the fight to the darkness, and in the process learns the connection between the evil in the chasm, a boy’s soul trapped there, and her own abilities.

Dastardly Bastard does not want for either action or creepiness, and Lorn manages to include plenty of both with unique verve. If that’s all Dastardly Bastard did, it would be a good book. Lorn takes things farther, though, by writing characters so very human, so very fallible, that you can’t help but connect to the human drama.

Dastardly Bastard isn’t good: it’s very good.

In fact, my only complaint is a nitpick that boils down to personal preference. In one pivotal scene, a monstrous amalgam of hikers is used as a weapon against two of the characters. In comparison to the horrifying nature of being confronted with their own bad memories, the amalgam-monster feels less intense, and therefore less compelling. My preference would have been to nix the amalgam-monster, and yet Lorn puts the incident to such good use, I’m inclined to point out, again, my nitpick says more about how I like to be scared than about any true weakness in the book itself. In fact, there’s a laugh-out-loud mix up between “mouses” and “houses” that makes the amalgam-monster scene one of my favorite in the book.  Go on, get the book – you know you want to know what in the world I’m talking about here!

Memory is a dastardly bastard, but it is also our connection to how we became who we are. Lorn examines the damage memories do, but the point of Dastardly Bastard is that no matter how bad a memory is, there are other, good memories from which we can draw strength. If you enjoy your adventure stories spiked with darkness, then you don’t want to miss Edward Lorn’s Dastardly Bastard.

You’ll never see guided hiking trails the same again!

Bastard! Links!

Dastardly Blog Tour Page  –> Giveaway! Twitter follows unlock extra points!

Buy it on Amazon!

Buy it on Amazon, UK style!

Buy it on B&N!

Buy it on Smashwords!

Lorn! Contact!

Ruminating On:  (Lorn’s Blog) or on Twitter as @EdwardLorn!

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Summer Solstice in a Small Town

I like to take road trips, and the stranger the destination, the better. I like small towns that literally aren’t on the map. Breaker, Texas is one such town.

In Central Texas, scrubby trees grow up twisted from constant wind. The farther West you go, the hardier the stunted trees – at least, until you get to Breaker. There are no trees within the Breaker city limits, and no other vegetation of any kind: no grassy yards, no prickly pears, not even any potted plants. Breaker wasn’t always barren, but it is now.

That makes it all the more remarkable that the Makepeace Orchard survives at the edge of town. The peach farm has been continuously cultivated since 1822. Prior to that, a tribe known as the Cayalanzuvan grew sytra there. Urban legend links sytra to the bloodier aspects of atavistic paganism, and Goddess worship in particular. If that doesn’t compel you to put FM-6060 on your itinerary, consider this: a petrified tree stands just inside the gate. It is bone white, but certain sensitive people report seeing a black haze rise from the surface. Touch the tree, and those people say they hear a woman talking. Spooky? Perhaps, but even if you aren’t the type to enact your own personal episode of Supernatural, you can get a good deal on peaches. What’s not to love?

This is my fifth summer in Texas. I still haven’t made it to Treeletting, Breaker’s annual Summer Solstice celebration. Treeletting is a multi-cultural event held in the orchard, and gives prominent place to Cayalanzuvan ritual. The allegations of human sacrifice making the rounds of the tabloid circuit booked Breaker’s only hotel, The Gauss, for this whole week. I know because I tried to make reservations. Even without the (probable) journalistic embellishment of cannibalism, the true tragedy of 2007 is probably enough on its own to draw a certain kind of crowd.

Dubbed  “The Treeletting Tragedy,” the events of 2007 resulted in multiple deaths by fire and a possible abduction. Helena Makepeace, a mentally unstable young woman with ties to the orchard, is still on the Missing Persons register. You’ve probably seen her on those sad brochures that show up in the mail, the ones with a time-lapsed photo and information about what the missing individual was last seen wearing; she’s the one who would have been beautiful, if not for the accident that mutilated half of her face.

There is also bounty out for a father and daughter who disappeared shortly after the  ’07 solstice. The tabloids occasionally run with that, too, purporting that a small religious group known as the La Zaliites is behind the reward money. The La Zaliites think that the daughter, who was only three at the time of the incident, is the human incarnation of their Goddess.

If Breaker were on a map, it would at the epicenter of strange.

Happy Summer Solstice!

PS If you liked this post, consider adding Stolen Climates to your Goodreads bookshelf. You can also click Like on the book’s Amazon page. Neither costs you anything, but they mean something to me. Thanks!

Naming Myself, sans Animosity

In the evenings, Mr. Aniko and I cook dinner together. As the ingredients come together to form our meal, we share the stories of our days. We talk about work, about things we overheard, about the strange dude who always dresses like he’s planning to hike Mt. Everest and is never, ever sans black-rimmed goggles. We also discuss things we’ve read. It should come as no surprise that I read a lot about writing and publishing. One question I brought to a recent dinner-prep discussion was, “Does the term ‘indie writer’ confuse you or anyone you have spoken to about my writing career?” Mr. Aniko paused by the stove, wooden spoon in hand. “No,” he said. “Why?”

I gave him a quick recap of Jonathan D. Allen’s riposte to Sarah LaPolla’s assertion that calling myself ‘indie’ “only confuses people who want to self-publish and pisses off actual independent publishers.” According to LaPolla, the term independent is reserved for small presses, and that authors who follow the publication route I did with Stolen Climates should refer to themselves as self-published. That is not a new definition of either of those terms and, in fact, is not really interesting. What is interesting is that LaPolla’s main point in her post is that  there needn’t be animosity between the big publishing industry and those of us who go it alone. Yet in something that reads more like an afterthought than a legitimate part of her argument, LaPolla writes “AND STOP CALLING YOURSELVES INDIE [sic caps].” In both content and delivery, the phrase comes across as calibrated to provoke.

I don’t harbor any ill-will towards traditional publishing or agents or the entire money-plex that is publishing. I choose to publish my books myself, not out of desperation, but because I do not want to take the traditional route. I am not tired of waiting to get an agent or a contract – those aren’t things I even want.

No. I want full creative control. Independent self-publishing gives me that.

I don’t view myself as stigmatized, held-back, unprofessional, impatient, bitter, in a civil war with legacy publishing, or any of the other terms LaPolla uses to characterize some sub-set of non-traditionally published authors. I would like to think that if LaPolla knew my work, my ethic, and my honest dedication to the craft,  I would be one of the independently self-published writers giving her hope. Her hope, however, is ancillary. As a writer, I don’t want my words to confuse anyone:  not other writers, and certainly not potential readers.

Is it confusing when I say I’m an independent author?

I take full creative risk. I take full financial risk. I am an entrepreneur. I am sole proprietor of a legally recognized LLC that handles the business aspects of publication. I am a manager, contracting out and coordinating cover design, editing, beta reads. I choose to create something maybe only five people in this world will ever truly love, and I do it because I believe in my vision. I work weekends. I write in the pre-dawn dark. I skip lunch dates, happy hours, picnics, and movies – both to save money to put towards my editing fees, and to buy myself more time to write. I don’t ask anyone for permission to bring my dream to the world. I decide for myself. In every way I can see, I am as independent as the singers and the film companies that fly the indie banner. Independent isn’t an industry term that legacy publishing can demand I relinquish as if I am impersonating a small press. In fact, I am a small press; my LLC exclusively publishes works by Aniko Carmean.

You can call me what you want, but I’ll call myself indie.

In the very lengthy and active comments column, Sarah LaPolla acknowledges that maybe the term is changing. I quote her,

“I’m getting the sense that the “self vs. indie” label is one that’s currently in transition, and that I just haven’t made the shift yet. Like many others in the business who were only familiar with the traditional definition of “indie,” I probably won’t come around to it for a while. “

LaPolla isn’t alone. Big media of any type is not keeping up. That’s why we see indie artists producing break-out hits like The Guild web series and best-seller books like Ania Ahlborn’s Seed. Yes, both of these examples have led to contracts, but they started as people following their own dream, and working outside of the confines of their media tradition. The independents are agile in their response, and understand that the audience isn’t “out there,” but here – right here! – interacting on the web. Authenticity, agility, and direct human access to the audience are changing the shape of entertainment. Unlike LaPolla, I wouldn’t characterize this as civil war. I call it revolution.

Today Is The Adventure

My Uncle Ernie was the first grown-up I ever met who was a dreamer. His child-like sense of wonder shifted reality’s boundaries, and intimated that the magic of imagination need not dissipate with age. Uncle Ernie had the greatest, most sonorous voice and a wonderful, honest laugh. He wasn’t a parent, which probably explains why he was also the first grown-up to ever let me drink a beverage somewhere other than the kitchen. I thought that was unbelievably cool, not only because it’s convenient to have a cold glass of milk when you’re reading, but also because it made me feel grown up. I wasn’t, though, and in one of my innumerable fits of childhood clumsiness, I upended the glass. Instead of being angry that I’d made a mess, Uncle Ernie got me another and told me stuff like that happens to everyone. He understood my nature: not just the clumsiness, but the fact that I, too, was destined to be a dreamer.

Aaron was a friend of mine. He was always the guy that made me smile at work; if you met him, I’m sure he’d make you smile, too. He was very ill, but Aaron never let the harshness of reality – the incalculable unfairness – temper his joy of living.

Last year, within months of one another, Uncle Ernie and Aaron passed beyond this realm.

I was ill recently. Three AM on a Saturday, curled up in a little ball on the bathroom floor, in possibly the worst pain of my life, it occurred to me that I could die. Not someday: right then. I thought of Mr. Aniko, my sister, my parents, my nephews. I thought of my writing. I thought of how I would miss all of that, and how much would be left unfinished. My sickness forced me to acknowledge, in a deep and unquestioning way, that there is no placating ritual that assures longevity. I can’t know what is going to happen, but I do have a choice. I can choose to mark out the days of my life counting down, as if life were a sentence to be served. Or I could choose spend my time in in grateful pursuit of joy. In other words, I can live now, or hope that I’ll make it to a moment that might never come.

On a whiteboard in my kitchen, I used to track weeks until my projected retirement. I have replaced the countdown with my new mantra: Today Is The Adventure.  Life isn’t some magical moment in the future. It is right now. Today.

Aniko Gets Kreativ II:

I don’t believe in countdowns.

My inspiration for this post was Hunter Shea’s poignant look at his realization that life is precious and fleeting. Take a moment to read what he has to say. Then, congratulate him on his nomination for the Kreativ Blogger award! I am passing it along via  Kim Koning, who honored me with the nomination.

Here’s my first Kreativ Blogger post, in which I explain how I’m breaking the rules.