Ghosts & Chapbooks

It is wonderful to be able to connect with the authors whose works have moved me. That is one of the true gems of the internet age. At the end of last year, I read two works that moved me enough to write about my experience with them. I sent my pieces to the authors, and offered that – if they wanted – they could post them on their blogs. Both agreed! My delight is now threefold: the original story, the ability to express gratitude to the authors, and the honor of having my words appear on their blogs.

I read Hunter Shea’s latest work, ISLAND OF THE FORBIDDEN and was transported back to the time when I lived in a haunted house. Yes. You read that right. I believe ghosts exist, just as much as I believe in the chair where I’m sitting or the coffee I’m drinking. If you want to read some of the supernatural events I experienced, please visit Hunter’s post, A True Haunting in Belgium.

I had the rare and blissfully tactile experience of reading Mary SanGiovanni’s chapbook, NO SONGS FOR THE STARS. To quote myself, which is probably a first for me, “It feels good to feel, not just with our imaginations and our hearts, but also with our hands. Neither e-books nor mass produced pocket editions can provide the beauty I experienced sitting quietly and reading this slim chapbook.” The story is an enthralling addition to Mary’s (multi)verse. To read more of my thoughts about the chapbook medium and the story, please visit Mary’s post, Guest Post – Aniko Carmean – No Songs for the Stars.

Hunter and Mary, you are both amazing writers and wonderful human beings! I am so glad to have read your works!

-aniko


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The MONTAUK MONSTER Is Here!

Montauk Monster by Hunter Shea

I’ve been a fan of Hunter Shea’s writing since the publication of his first novel, FOREST of SHADOWS. When Hunter asked me if I would like to help him promote his thriller, THE MONTAUK MONSTER,  I was ecstatic! Imagine being able to ask one of your favorite authors a question. Now imagine him answering – on your blog, no less! Well, that’s what’s happening for me here today.

Hunter Shea

Hunter Shea

Hunter Shea’s Official Website: http://huntershea.com/

Hunter Shea’s Twitter Handle: @HunterShea1

MONTAUK MONSTER on Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/SheasMontaukMonaster

My Question:

Have you ever had a book that just felt stuck, or a time when you thought it might be “easier” to not be a writer?

(Okay, I really posed this question in about ten different ways in one breathless paragraph. I’ve abbreviated my intense fangirling it so you can get to the good stuff: Hunter’s answer!)

Hunter’s Answer:

I don’t believe in writer’s block. Not in the sense that you see in movies or read about where the world famous author just can’t come up with the next great novel. To me, writer’s block is a fancy way of saying a writer is either afraid (of rejection, success, criticism), tired or just plain lazy. By nature, writers have overactive imaginations. Truth be told, there isn’t enough time in a writer’s life to type out the ideas that float through our brains in a given month.

That in no way means writing is easy and consistent. It’s hard work, and sometimes, getting from start to end is a long, long slog. That spark of excitement you had at chapter one will most definitely begin to fizzle around chapter ten. Sooner or later, no matter how smoothly you think things are going, you’re going to get snagged by the mid-book-blues.

What happens during the mid-book-blues? For me, this is when the story takes on a life of its own, shaping itself into something I hadn’t quite anticipated. It’s at this moment when I realize I have written myself into some tight corners. It’s also usually when I start to lose faith in the entire endeavor.

Reading over the past several days’ work, I’m often known to mutter, “Oh Jeez, this is crap. What the hell was I thinking? Why on earth would anyone want to read this?” Confidence waning, I look ahead, knowing I have another 45,000 words to go. Are you kidding me? That’s 45,000 words to add to something that I’m dead sure is utterly worthless. I could be watching the Mets lose in extra innings, out with the kids at Starbucks or teaching my cat to stop peeing in our bathtub.

Since the publication of my first book, Forest of Shadows, back in 2011, I’ve written 7 novels. That’s seven times I’ve doubted myself and wanted to throw in the towel or tear my idea down and start anew. As nice as starting from scratch might seem, I have deadlines that don’t allow for a massive re-start.

So what do I do? I remind myself to stick with the instincts that got me started writing in the first place. Somehow, they were sharp enough to get me multiple book deals. The worst thing I can do is stop writing and allow myself time to lament. Lament is like Miracle-Gro for doubt. If you let doubt take root, the book is done, and quite possibly, your writing aspirations along with it.

Sometimes, I’ll head to the classics for inspiration, re-reading The Sun Also Rises or I Am Legend (a book every horror writer should hold near and dear). Great writing makes me want to write. And if you read great writing, your own writing will improve.

Rewards help too. It could be as simple as, “If you get through this chapter, you can sit back with a cold beer.” Or, “Finish the next 5,000 words and you can binge watch Orange is the New Black with the better half.” Just remind yourself that you are a writer, and writers write, which implies finishing what you started.

When I started writing The Montauk Monster last year, I was supercharged. This was my first chance to write a thriller that would be out in paperback all over the country. I plowed through the first 20,000 words like it was nothing. Then, my father passed away. The family was devastated. I kept at the manuscript but my heart wasn’t in it. I suddenly didn’t think my crazy idea could get me to the finish line. Worse, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to get there.

I thought of my father and how proud he was that I had become a writer. The man was the biggest reader I ever met and I always secretly believed he wanted to be a writer – and would have been a hell of an author. That lit the fire under my ass and infused belief in what I was trying to create. I attacked that manuscript with the same ferocity as the maniacal creatures I had conjured. I almost didn’t want it to end.

Every book will come with its own struggles. It’s up to you, the writer, to find the strength to plow through them.

My Reaction:

This amazing writer is a human being! He has a cat! He has a bathtub and watches television and likes one of my favorite books (THE SUN ALSO RISES). Hes’s also written an astounding SEVEN (7!!!) novels in less than five years. That is a lofty achievement, made all the more impressive given that Hunter endured – and overcame – the virulent doubt that plagues writers. Here, though, here’s what really speaks to me:  Hunter completed MONTAUK MONSTER despite suffering an intensely personal loss. He didn’t give up, didn’t break under the weight of his grief or the resurgence of doubt. Instead, Hunter found the strength to finish his book. When I read MONTAUK MONSTER, it will be in honor of Hunter’s father, a reader who raised an amazing writer!

xoxo,

-aniko

Publisher’s Weekly Praises MONTAUK MONSTER!

Publisher’s Weekly named THE MONTAUK MONSTER one of the best summer books of 2014! Not only that, they gave it an awesome review. Here’s a snippet:

The urban mythologies of the Montauk Monster and the government labs on Plum Island unite to cause staggering levels of mayhem when mutant animals with toxic blood descend on a Long Island town. This wholly enthralling hulk of a summer beach read is redolent of sunscreen and nostalgia, recalling mass market horror tales of yore by John Saul, Dean Koontz, and Peter Benchley. — PW

 

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Welcome to the Swamp! Monster! Massacre!

It was a Friday when I started reading Swamp Monster Massacre. The day hadn’t been stellar; I was supposed to meet friends for lunch, and I got so lost, I ended up missing lunch and just heading back to the office with a soggy sandwich from a nearby cafe. To cheer myself up, I decided to take a quick peek at Hunter Shea’s newest novella. An hour later, I remembered where I was. I sent Hunter an email telling him I was strongly considering spending the afternoon reading – even if it meant I got fired. Swamp Monster Massacre is that good. I can’t think of another book that keeps such a frenetic pace and still tells a riveting story that hangs together better than a band of angry swamp apes. I ended up getting back to work (and, yes, staying late to make up the time I lost driving around who-knows-where-Austin)…. but the story had me in thrall. Horror fans, rejoice! Swamp Monster Massacre is the action-adventure blood’n’guts fix you’ve been craving! 

Adopt a swamp ape!

Read a preview & get a chance to win a monster!

Swamp Monster Massacre Blog Tour Info – lots of blogs to visit!

He resembled every childhood nightmare of the bogeyman, except this one murdered the monster under your bed.

How bad do things have to be for the bogeyman to be the good guy? That is the question posed by Hunter Shea in Swamp Monster Massacre. The answer is a swift tour of an Everglades hell that includes violently severed limbs, a rotten stench, a masterfully disgusting combination of necrophilia and bestiality, and death. Lots of death. Swamp Monster Massacre is a breathless amalgam of action and horror with a higher than average gore content, but it is also an examination of the dark nature of revenge.

***

Rooster has a temper. A damn bad temper that’s caused him to put his fist through another man’s skull. Sure, it wouldn’t have killed the guy if he hadn’t done all that blow and rotted his own skull, but the simple fact is that Rooster killed a drug kingpin’s son. And what are drug kingpins notorious for if not avenging the death of their own? Rooster’s got a problem.

He’s also got a bag of money and a bigger bag of guns.

Rooster’s on the run in Florida, and he ends up on a pier. A amphibious tour plane is docked at the end, loaded up with tourists waiting to get a bird’s eye view of the Everglades. They get Rooster instead; Rooster and a barrage of bullets fired by angry drug dealers.

The passenger manifest is varied. There are two co-eds, blonde as the Doublemint twins and  trained in Marine combat technique. A pair of slickly groomed guys from NYC are tough talkers. A couple of empty-nest snow-birds are trying to rekindle their romance. There’s a dork, skipping out on a conference. The guest list is rounded out by the grizzled pilot, who is no longer captain of his airship. Throw in Rooster with his guns, and things are about to get wild.

All of these characters have names, but there isn’t any need to know names in this story. Not only are names meaningless when fighting for your life, they are also meaningless if you lose that fight. Lots of characters lose, but not because they mutiny against Rooster and cause the plane to crash.

They lose because they crash land in the territory of the skunk apes, reeking beasts eight-feet tall and twice a brutal. These are the titular swamp monsters, and they live up to their terrifying name and stench. They hunt the humans, employing amazing battle tactics that will leave you in  awe of both Shea’s inventiveness and his ability to make even the insanely bizarre believable.

(((( SPOILER ALERT: Read at own risk! ))))

(((( To read, left click and drag mouse over white space. ))))

The swamp monsters aren’t just picking on the humans because they have trespassed. They are attacking for revenge. When the plane crashed, it mauled and killed a swamp monster child. Mommy is mad, and all the child monster’s big brothers and sisters have joined Mommy’s hunt. This echoes the kingpin’s henchmen slavering to kill Rooster because he accidentally murdered one of their own. When it comes down to bloody revenge, no one in this book comes out looking any better than a monster. One of the NYC boys is taken by the swamp monsters early, and his friend becomes a blind instrument of revenge, taking stupid chances that cost him his life. Shea doesn’t sugar coat his view on revenge: it turns you into an animal. A stupid animal.

If you like monster stories, action movies, and some really fun lines, this is an excellent book for you. The point of view hops between characters, which prevents you from getting too invested in any one scenario, but that plays into the frenetic tempo of the tale well enough that it is a strength rather than a fault. Like the single-minded intent of revenge, Swamp Monster Massacre is a fast-paced read that doesn’t let up.

Click here to buy the book!

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.

Unveiling Evil Eternal with Hunter Shea

As a child, I read –  a lot. I would go so far as to categorize myself as an extreme reader. It was not unusual for me to climb trees to find a spot where I could read without distraction. Nor was it unusual for me to sneak out of bed after being tucked in, only to crouch by the door and continue reading by the light from the hallway. When I was a child, it didn’t occur to me to try and get to know the writer, or to ask him questions. As I grew older, though, the humanity behind the words became a source of fascination. Biography had its allure, but there was still that remove, that distance between writer and reader. The rise of the internet and social media has collapsed that divide; readers can now have authentic and meaningful relationships with both a book and a book’s author. It is a new joy for this erstwhile extreme reader: the pleasure of getting to know the writer of stories I love. Today, I have the fortune to talk to Hunter Shea, author of the new release, Evil Eternal.

Please join me in welcoming Hunter! We’re going chat about interstellar travel and writing, and then he’s going to share an excerpt from Evil Eternal with us. The tree right over there is perfect for reading in, don’t you think?

Aniko : Would you participate in colonizing another planet knowing you could not return to Earth in your lifetime?

Hunter: Wow, this wins for most original question I’ve ever been asked. I have 2 answers to this, each one vastly different. If you had posed this to me before I was married and had kids, I would have jumped at the chance to explore a new world and, sad as it may be, leave the world and all the people I knew in it behind. I mean, what can be cooler? Now, as a middle aged guy with a family, and a fear of flying (having kids robs your of your immortality and you start to develop all kinds of fears), I would have to respectfully decline and leave it to someone far more adventurous. However, I would see if I could land the job of writing the biography of the person that took my place and their adventures on a strange new world.

Aniko: Do you ever dream of your characters and, if so, have you ever incorporated a dream into your writing?

Hunter: Quite simply, yes. Some characters start off in my dreams and end up on the pages of a book or story. More often than not, though, when I’m really into a book, I will take those characters and plot twists into my nightly foray into my very active subconscious. If I’m lucky, I wake up retaining what I’ve witnessed in my dreams and flesh it out in the book. I don’t do outlines, so there have been times when I’ve painted myself into a corner and wondered aloud just how the heck I’m supposed to move on from my self-inflicted dead end. I’ve had quite a few cases where my characters acted out my escape in my dreams. It’s all part of learning to relax and trust yourself.  The answers are all rolling around the noggin.

Aniko: What is the hardest part about writing? Was there anything particularly challenging about Evil Eternal? What about your upcoming books?

Hunter: Hands down, the hardest part for me, or maybe just the part I dread the most, is editing. I love initially writing a story and seeing how it unfolds. Not long after you type THE END, it’s time to revise, revise, revise. This is the real heavy lifting when it comes to writing. By the time you’re done with your edits, you’ve read your book so many times you can almost quote it verbatim.

Evil Eternal was in a constant state of revision because of all the different permutations it took. It started as a short story that I wrote to test out a new computer, of all things. When it was done, I liked it so much, I wrote a follow up short story. Then, I had dreams of turning it into a graphic novel, so I made it into a longer form and had an artist start working on the graphics. When that didn’t pan out, I couldn’t shake the characters and story, so it morphed into a novella. When Samhain Publishing expressed interest in it, I had to expand it to make it a full length novel. A lot of work has gone into that book! If you like it, there are plans for follow up stories, novellas and another full length novel, so get ready to kick lots of demon butt!  I’m also putting the finishing touches on a follow up to Forest of Shadows, which should be out next year. All work and no play makes Hunter a dull boy!

Aniko: How funny, I love revision! I force myself through the initial draft and only feel good when I get to the revising part. What do you say we take a look at a bit of Evil Eternal?

Evil Eternal

Evil Eternal by Hunter Shea

Cardinal Gianncarlo walked briskly to Pope Pius XIII’s office, his black robe billowing behind him. The sound of his quick and heavy footsteps echoed across the vast, marbled hallway. The day was bright and filled with promise, in stark contrast to the roiling cloud that had descended upon his fluttering heart.

The email from the lone priest of a small Vermont parish had turned his skin the color of spoiled milk when he had been urged by his secretary to open it just minutes ago. With a knot of dread cramping his stomach, he sped off to the Pontiff’s study. Time was of the essence. Time and –

He reached the library that doubled as the Pontiff’s main office and study, and with unsteady hands rapped loudly on the massive oak door. Like the architectural design of the entire Vatican Palace, the door was a study in elegant simplicity. The wizened voice of Pope Pius XIII beckoned him to enter.

“Sorry to disturb you, but something urgent just came in that I think you should see,” Cardinal Gianncarlo said with a slight stammer.

The Pope looked at the Cardinal and knew.

Pope Pius XIII unfolded the printout with trembling, liver-spotted fingers and read the extensive message. When he was finished, he looked up at his old friend. Deep lines of great sadness etched across his brow.

“So, the inevitable has come back to hound us,” the Pope said.

“As much as it pains me to say, yes.”

The Pope shrugged, the weight of time and responsibility bearing down on his brittle, sagging shoulders. He had served the office of pope for over thirty years, no small feat. He recalled his days as a young man, fresh from the seminary in his first parish in Bergamo, Italy. That young man would never have even dreamed to be what he would one day become. And no one could have guessed the true secrets that lay in store for his discovery when he ascended to the papacy.

“Would you like me to get Father Michael?”

Cardinal Gianncarlo had to resist the urge to pull him close, offering comfort for a man who had dedicated his life to bringing peace and comfort to millions. They were different men the last time, when the beast within Jim Jones was sent to hell, but not before so much had been lost; terrible choices forced to be made, too many lives lost. It had changed them, added years and unbearable pain to their souls.

The old Pope shook his head.

“That is my duty. At my age, it will surely be my final call. Let the burden of the nightmares rest with me. I only ask that you sit and pray.”

The Cardinal settled into a plush leather chair and the Pope offered his hand across the large, neatly arranged desk. In silence, the two men prayed while life outside his windows carried on, ignorant to the dark shadows gathering at the earth’s edge.

You want to know more now, don’t you? Here are some links:

Thanks, Hunter! And … happy birthday to all those special May 7th babies!! You know who you are!

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