Friday, May 20, 2011
I was impressed by the story of the first chapbook published by Spectral Press, What We Hear in the Dark by Gary McMahon. Creepy, moody, thought provoking, and brooding—I love those types of stories. So when I was asked to take a look at the second Spectral Press chapbook, Abolisher of Roses by Gary Fry, I was excited, but I also expected a bit of a letdown because I figured the best story was probably published first. I’m very happy to say that was not the case.
What purpose does art serve? It’s just a waste of time, right? Peter is a businessman, a self-made man. He has always worked hard and likes to enjoy the fruit of his labor: nice clothes, an expensive car, financial stability, and even a mistress. So when he accompanies his wife, Patricia, to a different kind of art exhibit, he feels he’s simply doing his duty of being a good husband. He quickly notices that he doesn’t fit in with the arty types that are attending the “art trail” exhibit, and he begins to wonder if this art “fad” is more than just a fad for his wife. As he begins to question his wife about the use of art and what good it is, he unknowingly starts a journey to a place he won’t like. It’s more than a physical journey along the art trail he takes. . . .
This is a truly creepy story that pulls the reader in deeper as it moves along. Though this is a diminutive story, it packs a powerful punch that will challenge the reader, and it will leave an impression long after reading. Fry's writing is top-notch, and the story is relevant and thought provoking; there is not much more you can ask for. Spectral Press has started something special and, in my opinion, needed: a line of stories that showcases quality writing and causes the reader to think. I’m looking forward to further installments of this line.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Before I begin, I’d like everyone reading this to know that Neal Hock, the Big Dog of Bookhound’s Den, did the final proofread for Reunion. He found the little things, the details hidden inside of that eighty-five thousand word manuscript, which is now receiving five-star reviews. Thanks Neal. You did a great job.
Power at Your Fingertips
By Jeff Bennington
There comes a time in every writer’s life when he or she must decide how they want to use their gift. After producing dozens of short stories, articles and blog entries, you’ve come to a point where you look at what you’ve penned and wonder what it is you are really trying to accomplish. What is your purpose?
If you write novels, you cannot avoid the fact that your work is filled with themes and inner struggles and conflict of all kinds. Many of those ideas spring from your own experiences and wonderings and interests; many are purely fiction. Yet amid the perfectly planned plot and character sketches, there is a deeper meaning, the true intent of your work—the reason for the novel.
My question is, how does the purpose of your novel fit with the purpose of your life. Are you hitching a ride on the indie gravy train, seeking nothing more than profit, or are you writing with passion and intent? What matters to you? What do you care about? Are you writing only to entertain?
Nothing wrong with that, I’m just asking.
I’m asking because I believe authors have the capacity to do more than entertain. We have a magic wand called a pencil and it has the potential to transform! When I think about it, those tiny little keys that we punch every day, hold the power to heal, the power to challenge and the ability to inspire. Perhaps this is a strength that you have never considered to be part of your literary arsenal. Maybe, you’ve only thought of yourself as a storyteller, a humorist or literary creationist. But I’m here to tell you that your readers, like all people, love to be inspired and encouraged through stories both fact and fiction. It is a trait common to all men and women. Those that choose to spend their time reading rejoice when they close the last page of a book feeling inspired, hopeful, motivated or emboldened.
True stories like The King’s Speech and Pursuit of Happiness became blockbuster hits, not because the plot was out of this world, but because they showed us that the most common and flawed personalities could do great things against incredible odds. And who doesn’t like to hear that? I mean, when’s the last time you searched for a book that you knew would bring you down, make you feel stupid, or completely demotivate you? The answer? Probably never.
With that said, have you considered using your gift, your magic wand, your power to be the spark that ignites a fire in the hearts of your readers? If you answered yes, then I applaud you. If you answered no, maybe this blog post could be your inspiration to make something more of your life, to make it worth more than the cost of your tombstone, more than a few bucks.
As an author, you can do so much more than simply tell a terrifying tale. In fact, I never imagined that I’d do anything more than create entertaining books until the day I received an email from a reader who told me that she never reads, that is, until she was encouraged to read Reunion, my supernatural thriller. In her email she told me how much she loved the book and that after reading it, she discovered that she truly enjoys reading, and planned to continue doing so because of my work. Ahhhh, I can’t tell you how good that felt. Hearing that meant so much more than hearing “A great read.”
There are lots of great reads out there, but to be able to actually impact someone’s life, now that’s powerful. Who knows, maybe that lady will continue to read, grow as an individual and be something greater then she imagined because of me. That might be pushing it a bit, but hey, stranger things have happened…you know, like a homeless guy becoming a wealthy entrepreneur and a stammering king learning to deliver some of the most powerful and inspiring words ever recorded.
Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, use your talents wisely. You never know how much time you have to leave your mark on the world. Will you write about the power of fear, demons, or a lunatic with a bloody ax? Or will you write about the power to overcome and defeat the weaknesses of mortal man? Whatever you choose, it will be a lasting mark, an eternal epitaph of your greater purpose.
If you’re a writer or a reader, I’d love to hear what you think.
Author of REUNION and the blog, The Writing Bomb.
Thanks for reading. Be sure to follow Bookhound’s Den, comment, and then go get your copy of REUNION and email your receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org to win a Kindle on May 15th. Go to jeffbennington.com for details.
Kindle: Print (Amazon):
Nook: Print (B&N):
Monday, May 2, 2011
I'm thrilled to have a special guest reviewer here today: author Anthony Neil Smith. Smith is the author of Yellow Medicine, Hogdoggin', The Drummer, Choke on Your Lies, and Psychosomatic. Fans of hard-boiled and noir should run and buy his books.
Smith doesn't do many book reviews, so I'm especially honored that he offered his support to help keep the reviews coming while I play catch-up. Here's Smith's two-for-one special, his reviews of two of Danny Hogan's books:
I don't usually do reviews, but I like what the Hound is doing over here, and when he said he wasn't able to fill up the space on this here blog for whatever reasons, I chimed in with some support.
So, Danny Hogan. I'm reading his stuff on Kindle, but as I do, I keep wishing I could line them up as cheap paperbacks alongside my Hamiltons, Prathers, and Hallidays. They feel like they belong on that shelf. And I'm thrilled to see that. One of the best things about the new Kindle publishing explosion is that I'm finding a lot of work by people who, like me, I think, would've been great back in the 50s and 60s cranking out potboilers and exploitation pulps. Danny Hogan is definitely one of those great new finds.
The Windowlicker Maker and Jailbait Justice are tasty pieces of meat and a lot of fun. That's exactly what you want out of pulp. Neither of these are perfect, sure. There are some formatting mistakes and comma errors that, were I his editor, would make me slap the back of his head. But so what? The one word that came to mind while I was reading was “propulsive.” The damned things move.
Windowlicker is really a long short story, and it's in the voice of an old tough guy who had settled down, only to have his life disrupted in a miserable way. So then it becomes a story of revenge. That's one sweet genre, revenge. You know punishment will be doled out, but you don't know how much, how bad, and if the hero will get out alive. But the one surprising thing here was how touching it was. It seemed as if our wronged man might not have the balls to carry through. He's a bit scared, which sold me on the whole thing. Then there's the final straw. You'll have to read it yourself for that one. And to find out what a “Windowlicker Maker” is.
At the end of WM is a short story featuring Jezebel Misery St. Etienne, protagonist of Jailbait Justice, and I've got to say that Hogan packs a wild-assed story into a small package. Jezebel is a small package, too—short, but with a big chest, a crazy three-way mohawk, and a .44 nearly as big as she is. The Austin of Jezebel is postapocalyptic, which means Texas has reverted to what it knows best—wild west lawlessness. Jezebel's got a mouth on her, and it gets her into trouble. It's almost as if she goes looking for it. Lord, does she ever find it. The short story is a bloody, operatic blood sport.
So what can he accomplish in a longer story? A fucking massacre of good taste, that's what.
I don't want to spoil the fun of Jailbait Justice, because it's just packed with insanity. The “Apocalypse as Old West” trope is a fun one, and Hogan's Jezebel is a welcome warrior on the scene. Get it, alright? Just get both of these and be glad we've got Danny Hogan out there making sure the genres—all of them—don't get too respectable.
Links to the books:
The Windowlicker Maker