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New Life for “Under the Skin” [Nov. 29th, 2016|12:57 pm]
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all-american-horror

Once upon a time, back in 2012, a small publisher in Chicago called Wicker Park Press put out a comprehensive horror anthology, edited by Mort Castle, called All-American Horror of the 21st Century: The First Decade: 2000-2010, which included a reprint of my story “Under the Skin.” Then mysterious things happened behind the scenes, and suddenly Wicker Park was no longer publishing it and the book went out of print.

Now Alessandro Manzetti’s Independent Legions Press has stepped in to publish the anthology anew, along with freaky new cover art (above). I’m excited that readers will have another chance to discover “Under the Skin,” which as far as I know is the only (fictional) horror story to take place at a Passover seder!

The new edition is available now as an e-book, with paperback coming soon. Order your copy today!

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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Young Frankenstein: The Story of the Making of the Film [Nov. 26th, 2016|09:26 pm]
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Young Frankenstein: The Story of the Making of the Film: A Mel Brooks" BookYoung Frankenstein: The Story of the Making of the Film: A Mel Brooks’ Book by Mel Brooks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A real treasure for fans of the film, this delightful book is rife with Mel Brooks’s distinctive voice and lots of great behind-the-scenes photographs — but not nearly enough behind-the-scenes stories! Most of the input from the cast and crew is only about how great it was to work with everyone, but I was hoping for something a little more in-depth. Still, this isn’t a film study, it’s a coffee table book for people who love YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, and if you adore the film as much as I do you will definitely cherish this book. It’s a must-have for everyone who can’t hear the song “Puttin’ on the Ritz” without at least privately chuckling.

View all my reviews

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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The Morning After [Nov. 9th, 2016|08:56 am]
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Alexa and I are going to be taking the temperature of the nation over the next weeks to decide whether we’ll stay. We are Jewish. Though we’re not on the top of the list this time — that dubious honor belongs to the Mexicans and the Muslims — with a president-elect supported by the KKK and the anti-Semitic “alt right,” we’re definitely still on it. We’ve seen as much through Trump supporters going after Jewish journalists on Twitter, calling them kikes, telling them to get ready for the ovens, etc. So we need to see if it will remain safe for us here. Trump’s campaign gave voice to something terrible. My concern is that his election has legitimized it.

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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The Scariest Part: Stephanie M. Wytovich Talks About THE EIGHTH [Nov. 8th, 2016|07:00 am]
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the-eighth

This week on The Scariest Part, my guest is author Stephanie M. Wytovich, whose debut novel is The Eighth. Here is the publisher’s description:

After Paimon, Lucifer’s top soul collector, falls in love with a mortal girl whose soul he is supposed to claim, he desperately tries everything in his power to save her from the Devil’s grasp. But what happens when a demon has to confront his demons, when he has to turn to something darker, something more sinister for help? Can Paimon survive the consequences of working with the Seven Deadly Sins — sins who have their own agenda with the Devil — or will he fall into a deeper, darker kind of hell?

And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for Stephanie M. Wytovich:

Writing about Hell was hell for me, and I don’t say that lightly or in jest. When I made the decision to sit down and write this novel, I knew that I was going to be tackling some of my biggest fears, and then on top of that, I was not only going to be submitting it for publication, but presenting it to the thesis committee at Seton Hill University for completion of an MFA degree, too.

Talk about real life horror.

But nevertheless, into the flames I walked.

For me, the scariest part about writing The Eighth was that it put me on a journey where I explored, accepted, and rejected sin in all of its many forms: lust, wrath, envy, greed, sloth, gluttony, and pride. I had to ask myself what these sins meant to me, how I viewed them, and what I was taught to believe that they encompassed and demanded if acted out. As someone who was raised Catholic, and who has since been struggling with her faith, writing a book about damnation felt blasphemous, and it gave me horrible reoccurring nightmares that led to night terrors and bouts of insomnia that were so bad that for almost three years, I did everything in my power not to sleep.

The more I fleshed out the character development of Paimon and Rhea, the more the face of sin — not to mention the face of Lucifer — became real to me. There is a scene in the novel where Lucifer masks himself as Rhea’s father, and this is after an especially terrifying moment where Rhea questions her sanity — not to mention the possibility of the thing that is speaking to her against slaps and screams in a dark hospital room — and I can vividly remember sitting in my bedroom and shaking while writing it. To me, good horror is something that makes one question everything he or she thought was an absolute: faith, love, morals. Writing this scene made me confront the fact that on a very real level, my biggest fear was/is putting my belief in someone only to find out that he/she was masquerading as someone else: an illusionist, a deceiver, a con-artist. The idea of trusting someone so much, in believing in them with all your heart and soul, so much so that you would die for them — sin for them! — only to have that faith and love stripped away?

That unmasking of false character is my definition of Hell.

And it’s something that Paimon, Rhea, and I all had to learn the hard way.

Stephanie M. Wytovich: Website / Twitter

The Eighth: Pre-order the book through Dark Regions Press website in e-book, trade paperback, and deluxe lettered, signed, slipcased hardcover edition. They will be shipped in November.

Stephanie M. Wytovich is an instructor by day and a horror writer by night. She is the Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press, an adjunct at Western Connecticut State University, and a book reviewer for Nameless Magazine. She is a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and a graduate of Seton Hill University’s MFA program for Writing Popular Fiction. Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated poetry collections, Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, An Exorcism of Angels, and Brothel earned a home with Raw Dog Screaming Press, and her debut novel, The Eighth, is simmering in sin with Dark Regions Press.

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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The Secret History [Nov. 7th, 2016|12:00 pm]
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The Secret HistoryThe Secret History by Donna Tartt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this novel, and I’m sorry I waited as long as I did to read it! It’s hard for me to put into words the deep familiarity I felt with Tartt’s setting and characters. Though the novel takes place in a fictional small, Northeastern liberal arts college (a thinly veiled version of Bennington) so much of it reminded me of my own alma mater, Sarah Lawrence College, that I found myself struck by the universality of experience that seems to be shared by all small, Northeastern liberal arts colleges. Every drum circle, every performance art piece, every empty paint can passed around the cafeteria to collect funds for a party, every drugged out co-ed sniffing coke off a dorm desk, and every student desperate to convince others they come from a background wealthier (or sometimes not as wealthy) than they actually did was instantly recognizable to me.

Tartt wisely takes the time to etch her characters indelibly into the reader’s mind through their interactions, until you very nearly loses track of the fact that these are terrible, terrible people. And yet, on some level you want them to get away with their crimes and feel a sense of nervous suspense when the trail of clues leads too closely back to them. Speaking of, the inclusion of an unusually strong plot for a college-based literary novel is another thing I loved about it. I’m tempted to call THE SECRET HISTORY a crime novel in disguise, one worthy of comparison to some of the best works of Donald E. Westlake, but that feels reductive. THE SECRET HISTORY is more than the sum of its parts. Brilliantly written, precisely executed, and a surprisingly fast, engrossing read for a novel of its length and density, I urge anyone interested in reading it to pick it up. Don’t wait like I did. This is a novel you’ll likely want to talk about for years to come — and if you happened to attend a small, Northeastern liberal arts college, it’s a novel that will likely hold up an uncomfortable (and at times nostalgic) mirror to your own experiences.

View all my reviews

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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The Scariest Part: Tess Makovesky Talks About RAISE THE BLADE [Nov. 1st, 2016|07:00 am]
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raise-the-blade-front

This week on The Scariest Part, my guest is British author Tess Makovesky, whose new novella is Raise the Blade. Here is the publisher’s description:

Like a spider wrapping flies…

When psychopath Duncan leaves a trail of duct-tape-wrapped bodies scattered across the suburbs of Birmingham, there’s nothing to link the victims except his own name and address, carefully placed on each new corpse.

Six very different people follow his clues, each convinced they can use Duncan to further their own selfish or naïve ends. Is there a reason Duncan’s driven to target these particular individuals, or does their very nature contribute to their fate? Will any of them be strong enough to break the cycle and escape a painful death? Or will Duncan reel them in and rearrange them to his own insane ideal?

And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for Tess Makovesky:

I couldn’t for one moment claim that my novella Raise the Blade is horror. It is, however, psychological noir, and like many books of that type it contains parts that are disturbing, unnerving, or even downright upsetting: so much so that I found writing some of them very hard work.

The book was partly inspired by the Pink Floyd track ‘Brain Damage’ (lyrics by the brilliant Roger Waters), and in particular the chilling lines:

You raise the blade
You make the change
You rearrange me till I’m sane

which have given me the shivers ever since I first heard them thirty-odd years ago. They gave me the idea for serial killer Duncan, who follows to the limit his own cold, logical (and totally insane) belief that rearranging people will cure them, with horrific results.

There are several sections which troubled me — more so as the book went on, since the structure works in reverse, revealing a little more of the killer’s methods with each new (previous) victim. However, easily the worst to write, and quite possibly the hardest for other people to read, was the chapter about Muriel.

There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, Muriel is Duncan’s first victim, but the last to feature in the book. I saved up the full, shocking details of his M.O. for her, so you get to see exactly how and when she dies. I’m not going into details because that would spoil the surprise, but let’s just say that the prologue quotes Cat Stevens for good reason.

The first cut. Not the deepest, in spite of what Cat Stevens says. Just a little scratch, through the tape, barely enough to mark the skin…

Even though I don’t linger on the gore, I found it hard to write since I have a ‘thing’ about suffering, and find it really difficult to cope with books, TV programmes or films which show people going through long-drawn-out physical pain, fear, or mental or emotional anguish. It’s the main reason I don’t actually like horror books or films. I don’t find the effects particularly frightening; I just get upset because the people are suffering so horribly.

But it was the second reason which really got to me. Muriel is Duncan’s mother, well into her seventies or early eighties, and like so many people of that age these days, suffering with dementia.

It was getting harder to leave the house. Every so often she had the oddest sensation she didn’t know where she was; that every familiar landmark had suddenly been swept away, leaving her on a lonely foreign shore…

This was particularly hard for me because my own mother went through the sheer hell of Alzheimer’s, eventually dying from the complications it caused. Although Muriel’s character isn’t remotely based on Mum, the details of her illness are very much taken from my own personal experience. The sudden lapses in concentration. The escalation of the mental decline during times of great stress. The flashbacks to a husband she knows existed but barely remembers. The touching but ultimately flawed emotional dependence on people who are still familiar to her. The bewilderment of both the sufferer and their loved ones as things get progressively worse. I lived through pretty much all of that, and writing about it, although probably cathartic, was also really, really tough.

Because that’s what mothers did. Buried their fear, buried their pain, did whatever they could to make their sons’ dreams come true.

I tried to push my own emotions to the back of my mind, for fear that I might get so upset I’d never actually write the scene. However, that then proved impossible, because without that emotional connection to the characters, I felt it was becoming stiff and uninvolving. It’s as though the author has to be right there with the people they’re writing about, in order to make the scene come to life for their readers. So then I had to tear down the protective walls I’d built and actually experience Muriel’s suffering and eventual death for myself. I’m hoping it makes for a gripping and involving scene, but boy, was it hard. I wrote the whole chapter flat out in about half an hour, totally engrossed, and resorting to a box of tissues whenever things got too bad.

I like to think it worked. I still find that chapter the hardest to go back and read, and I’m hoping that’s a sign that I got the emotional impact right.

The saddest and scariest part, though, is that no amount of rearranging could ever cure Muriel — or my Mum. And that really is tough.

Tess Makovesky: Website / Blog / Facebook / Twitter

Raise the Blade: Amazon US / Amazon UK

Liverpool lass Tess Makovesky is now settled in the far north of England where she roams the fells with a brolly, dreaming up new stories and startling the occasional sheep. Tess writes a distinctive brand of British comédie noir and her short stories have darkened the pages of various anthologies and magazines, including Shotgun Honey, Pulp Metal Magazine, Drag Noir (Fox Spirit), Rogue (Near to the Knuckle), and Locked and Loaded (One Eye Press). Her debut novella, Raise the Blade, a psychological noir tale involving a serial killer in Birmingham and a lot of Pink Floyd references, is available from Caffeine Nights Publishing now.

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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Interview at Wag the Fox [Oct. 31st, 2016|01:59 pm]
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Gef Fox interviewed me about In the Shadow of the Axe over at Wag the Fox. Here’s a snippet (you can click through to read the whole interview):

With IN THE SHADOW OF THE AXE, the small German mountain village of Helmburg is isolated and agrarian and lives in the shadow, at times literally, of its difficult and tragic past. Its isolation has left it steeped in tradition and superstition at a time when the rest of Europe is shedding the cloak of irrationality and progressing toward scientific reason, which makes it the perfect setting for a story that’s really about the clash between old and new generations, between the fears of the past and the desire of the present to move past them.

Also, you’ll definitely want to check out my remarkably astute answer to his question, “How have you found your progression as a writer thus far?”

Haven’t ordered a copy of In the Shadow of the Axe yet? There’s no time like the present!

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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IMPORTANT ALERT!!! [Oct. 27th, 2016|09:02 am]
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If you’re planning to come to the HIP Lit salon tomorrow to hear me, Chandler Klang Smith, Daniel Braum, and John Langan read — and I hope you are! — there’s been an exciting CHANGE OF VENUE for this event. From the HIP Lit organizers:

“Tomorrow’s salon will be held at the very cool and very spooky warehouse space, The Muse, where the circus lives and the ghosts from the many nearby graveyards haunt. It’s located in Bushwick, in between the Halsey and Wilson L stops (closer to the Wilson), on the border of a beautiful swath of cemeteries. Don’t be afraid! It’s going to be a super fun and thrilling evening… well worth the fear. Also, if you feel inspired, we’d love to see you in your scariest costumes. Can’t wait for tomorrow night!”

Click here for more information.

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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From the Better Late Than Never Department [Oct. 24th, 2016|03:21 pm]
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Black Gate has published a rave review of Chasing the Dragon! Here’s a snippet (you can click through to read the whole review):

A tight, focused narrative…Chasing the Dragon is unlike any other novel I’ve read, and easily one of my favorite reads of 2016. It is definitely worth checking out if you like fantasy, horror, stories about the darker side of things (cuz heroin addiction is pretty dark) and deep, unique character work.

Still haven’t read this Thriller Award-nominated and Shirley Jackson Award-nominated book? Grab a copy today!

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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Presented Without Comment [Oct. 24th, 2016|10:57 am]
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devils

(Photo by Jonathan Lees, taken at the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival this past weekend.)

 

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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