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Disappearance at Devil’s Rock [Jul. 18th, 2016|10:47 pm]
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Disappearance at Devil"s RockDisappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another masterful novel by one of my favorite contemporary authors! Tremblay’s suspenseful suburban Gothic about a young boy’s sudden, unsolved disappearance reminds me of the classic film PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK, as well as the recent film LAKE MUNGO and the better parts of Tana French’s uneven disappearance mystery IN THE WOODS. The plot is actually more complex than in Tremblay’s previous novel, A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS, and admirably straddles the line between crime novel and ghost story. But as usual it’s Tremblay’s richly drawn characters who make the novel so indelible. We care deeply about Elizabeth Sanderson and her young daughter Kate as they deal with all the questions, doubts, and insecurities that come in the wake of Tommy’s disappearance. Tremblay’s deep compassion for his characters shows as he skillfully doles out clues to Tommy’s fate. Nothing in this novel plays out the way you think it will, and I mean that in the best way possible. Every new Tremblay novel feels like a gift. I can’t wait to read what he writes next!

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

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The Scariest Part: Kristin Dearborn Talks About STOLEN AWAY [Jul. 12th, 2016|07:25 am]
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9781935738848-Perfect.indd

I’m thrilled to welcome my friend Kristin Dearborn back to The Scariest Part this week with her new novel, Stolen Away. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Trisha will admit she’s made a few mistakes in her life but that checkered past is behind her. She loves her kids, even if it’s tough being a single mom. But her loyalties are put to the test when her infant son disappears in the middle of the night, and his big sister says a monster took him.

Now Trisha has to face the full truth behind the one-night-stand that produced Brayden in all its scaly torridness — Brayden’s father wasn’t human and isn’t interested in sharing custody. However, even though DEMON has pulled this stunt many times before, he made a mistake when he chose Trisha. The one thing she won’t do is give up her son without a fight. Along with her ex-boyfriend, Joel, Trisha is dragged back into the seedy underworld in a desperate fight to reclaim her son, only this time she’s got a lot more to lose.

And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for Kristin Dearborn:

I am not a mother, so I wonder if I’m even qualified to speak on the topic. I am a woman who lives in a culture where motherhood is valued above all else, and who has observed the cultural experiences of many mothers. For me, the scariest part of Stolen Away is the intersection of motherhood and one’s identity as a woman. And the demons.

Another light, fluffy post from Kristin Dearborn.

Let’s look at some of the premier examples of demon fiction over the past few decades. William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist. Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby. Paul Tremblay’s Head Full of Ghosts. There are going to be spoilers here, so if you haven’t read them, maybe stop now.

How often do demons target men? I feel like there must be some manly demon possession stories, but I can’t think of any off the top of my head. Most often, we read about and watch beautiful women reduced to something monstrous by a demonic invader. The trope relies on women being virginal and innocent (à la Regan in The Exorcist.). Also, lest we forget, women have the whole original sin thing hanging over their heads. Tremblay plays with all of these tropes in Head Full of Ghosts though in his case, there’s no demon there, just a mentally ill girl. His book works because we’re all so conditioned through decades of this trope that the family in the book and the viewers of the show within a book, The Possession. Movies more than books are guilty of this sin, I can name a dozen mediocre horror flicks where teen girls are cursing, over-sexed McGuffins while the manly men fight to bring them back to their virtuous states.

Motherhood in horror is another place where women get the short end of the stick. From evil mommy tropes (think Carrie), to body horror (Cronenberg’s The Brood) mothers have it rough in the genre. The mother in horror is either a demonic entity controlling the players, or someone without identity, existing only to keep her children alive (and sometimes both!). The titular character in Rosemary’s Baby highlights this: she is a brilliantly rendered character who struggles to come to terms with the changes of her body during her pregnancy, with the changes in her relationship with her husband, and the cult of Satan worshippers who have her primed as their vessel.

Trisha Callahan is a recovering addict. She never knew her father and her mother died when she was younger. She’s got two kids from two different guys, but never really got a chance to grow up herself. When a woman becomes a mother — becomes pregnant, even — everyone suddenly feels like they have the ability to weigh in. Wait periods on abortion. Unhelpful counseling. Uninvited touches in the supermarket. Questions. Once the baby is born, there are judgements on breastfeeding and how early they talk and what kind of food they eat (better be organic and growth hormone free) and do you read to them? How much screen time do they get? In some ways, every woman is Rosemary Woodhouse as the cult grooms her to be a host for their baby.

DEMON takes away Trisha’s choice when he drugs her and rapes her. There’s a moment early on in the book where Trisha is terrified the media will make another Casey Anthony out of her when her son goes missing. The scrutiny of women is bad enough without demon possession.

I tip my hat to all the moms out there, especially the ones who’ve had to raise kiddos on their own. Hopefully Trisha’s story rings true to at least some of you, less the demon bits and more the womanhood pieces.

Kristin Dearborn: Website / Twitter / Facebook

Stolen Away: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Powell’s / IndieBound / Raw Dog Screaming Press

If it screams, squelches, or bleeds, Kristin Dearborn has probably written about it. Kristin has written books such as Sacrifice Island (DarkFuse) and Trinity (DarkFuse), and had fiction published in several magazines and anthologies. Stolen Away was recently a limited edition offered from Thunderstorm Books, which sold out. She revels in comments like, “But you look so normal…how do you come up with that stuff?” A life-long New Englander, she aspires to the footsteps of the local masters, Messrs. King and Lovecraft. When not writing or rotting her brain with cheesy horror flicks (preferably creature features!) she can be found scaling rock cliffs or zipping around Vermont on a motorcycle, or gallivanting around the globe. Kristin’s latest DarkFuse release is Woman in White.

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

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My Readercon 27 Programming Schedule [Jul. 1st, 2016|09:04 am]
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Going to Readercon this year? Good, me too! Here’s where you can find me:

Friday July 08

7:00 PM    6    Sensuality and Exploitation. Gillian Daniels (moderator), Ben Francisco, Elaine Isaak, Nicholas Kaufmann, Vinnie Tesla. Sex in fiction, as in real life, is often fraught with questions. Our panelists will discuss sex in science fiction and fantasy and what they consider representative or exploitative. Where and when do you draw the line? Is someone’s trashy beach read someone else’s master’s thesis in 20th- and 21st-century courtship?

I’m psyched to be on a panel with my good friend Ben Francisco and talk about sexy stuff!

Saturday July 09

10:00 AM    5    Instant Communication in Genre Fiction. Nicholas Kaufmann, Thomas Olde Heuvelt (leader), Kit Reed, E.J. Stevens, Paul Tremblay. In a 2015 interview on Atlas Obscura, R.L. Stine said, “Cell phones are the worst thing for writing horror. Cell phones ruin almost every plot.” There are certainly a number of plots that rely on people being isolated and out of communication range, which is difficult to achieve these days. Other genres are influenced by pervasive interconnectedness: for example, fantasy novels often feature some sort of magical long-distance communication, perhaps because readers get impatient when characters have to wait a long time for news, and science fiction has tricorders and ansibles. How are genre writers working both with and against 21st-century reader assumptions around communication speed, expense, and accuracy?

I’m psyched to be on a panel with my good friend Paul Tremblay and talk about sexy stuff — I mean, cell phones!

3:00 PM    CL    Kaffeeklatsch. Nicholas Kaufmann, Jo Walton.

Come for Jo Walton, stay for my amusing anecdotes about doing kaffeklatches at the same time as far more popular authors!

Sunday July 10

10:30 AM    B    Reading: Nicholas Kaufmann. Nicholas Kaufmann. Nicholas Kaufmann reads an excerpt from a novel in progress titled The Scarred Man.

Just a heads up: I may or may not actually be reading from The Scarred Man. It might be a short story instead. Whatever, come hang out right before the Shirley Jackson Awards ceremony!

12:00 PM    6    What Libraries Can Do for Writers. Susan Jane Bigelow, Matthew Cheney, Nicholas Kaufmann, Jess Nevins, Emily Wagner (leader). Our panel of librarians and writers talk about the surprising hidden resources of libraries, and how your local library can help you with research, writing space, applying for grants, and much more.

I plan on talking primarily about how convenient their public restrooms are.

In addition, you’re sure to find me floating around the bookshop or hanging out in the lobby and/or bar area. I’m happy to sign books wherever and whenever, so feel free to bring ’em along and don’t worry about asking me. I’m always happy to meet my readers!

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

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Bird Box [Jun. 28th, 2016|07:57 am]
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Bird BoxBird Box by Josh Malerman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s rare I finish reading a novel so quickly, but this remarkable, compelling debut kept me turning the pages right until the end. As imaginative, original, and character-driven as the best horror novels, it’s hard to believe something as accomplished as BIRD BOX is Malerman’s first. The story is gripping, mysterious, and at times utterly harrowing. The tension and suspense are handled masterfully. The prose is unexpectedly spare, but it works. Somehow Malerman manages to get so deep inside Malorie’s head, even with an economy of words, that I felt like I knew her intimately and shared her anxieties and fears. I’m excited to see where Malerman goes from here. If his next novel is as good as this one, we’re witnessing the ascension of a new superstar within the genre.

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

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Through the Woods [Jun. 20th, 2016|08:57 am]
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Through the WoodsThrough the Woods by Emily Carroll
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This delightful graphic story collection is chock full of well-told spooky stories and charming, expressive art. Carroll is a talented storyteller as well as a gifted artist, and fans of horror and weird fiction will find themselves gobbling this up in one sitting, as I did. There’s not a lot of gore, but there is a lot in the way of doppelgängers, hauntings, body horror, and other classic horror concepts. Some of it is intense, but generally I think younger readers will enjoy it as much as adults. All five of the stories Carroll writes and illustrates are superb, but the standouts for me were “Our Neighbor’s House,” in which three sisters disappear from their home one by one, “His Face All Red,” a chilling tale of a murdered man who has seemingly returned home from the woods where he died, and “The Nesting Place,” a full-on weird, body-horror masterpiece. I can’t recommend this collection enough for fans of horror and illustrated narratives.

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

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The Magician’s Land [Jun. 16th, 2016|08:48 am]
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The Magician"s Land (The Magicians, #3)The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It could be said that Grossman’s MAGICIANS trilogy is as much in conversation with the fantasy genre as belonging to it. If the first novel, THE MAGICIANS, is a take on the portal fantasy, with its last third taking place in a magical land outside of our world, and the second novel, THE MAGICIAN KING, is a take on the quest fantasy, with its mission to collect seven golden keys, then THE MAGICIAN’S LAND, the third and final volume in the trilogy, takes on urban fantasy with its magical heist of a mysterious briefcase.

But like the two novels before it, there’s much more to THE MAGICIAN’S LAND than that. There are new characters (I found myself taking to Plum a lot faster than I took to Poppy in the second novel), new insights into Brakebills and Fillory, and also, most gratifyingly, the return of old characters that I had hoped to see again but was worried Grossman had forgotten about (he hadn’t).

I won’t spoil anything with too much detail. The fun of novels like these — indeed, of most narratives, I’d say — is taking the journey along with the characters. Grossman wisely leaves the ending open for further adventures should he want to write any, but there’s no pressing need for them. THE MAGICIAN’S LAND is a beautiful, satisfying, and perfect ending to one of the best fantasy trilogies I’ve read.

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

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The Scariest Part: Claudine Kapel Talks About A CHANCE OF LIGHT [Jun. 14th, 2016|07:00 am]
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A Chance of Light_Cover

This week on The Scariest Part, my guest is author Claudine Kapel, whose latest novel in the Ryan Cole adventure series is A Chance of Light. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Spaceships don’t just disappear…

When an alien spaceship vanishes after crashing in the Mojave Desert, Ryan Cole and his team are tasked with finding the craft and securing its cache of advanced technology.

The investigation proves perilous as others are also hunting for the ship, including arms dealer Antoine Drake and his alien allies.

When Cole agrees to help a woman from his past, it leads to a dangerous encounter with Drake and startling revelations about the alien presence on the planet. He finds himself in a race against time to uncover the location of the spaceship and the nature of its mission.

But discovering the secrets of beings from other worlds comes with a price. Because when humans and aliens collide, the truth can be deadly.

And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for Claudine Kapel:

Back in school, they taught us there are three types of conflict in a work of fiction: man versus man, man versus nature, and man versus himself. But science fiction introduces a fourth kind of conflict: human versus alien.

What makes such a battle notable is the clear lack of a level playing field. When push comes to shove, the aliens generally have the advantage — both physically and technologically. So whether they’re invading or just wreaking havoc, alien adversaries can yield a clash of epic proportions, one in which the likelihood of victory for humans — or even the survival of our species — seems unlikely.

That’s why science fiction can ignite a primal fear: that of being the hunted instead of the hunter.

What makes such stories so engrossing is our own acknowledgement — even if in but a whisper of a thought — that nasty aliens could be real, and could even be heading our way. Consider the significant amount of media attention that physicist Stephen Hawking garners whenever he speaks about the potential threat that aliens could pose to life on Earth.

Nevertheless, the possible nature of life elsewhere in the cosmos continues to be source of fascination for many people, scientists included. This has fueled the development of models that contemplate the existence of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, as well as scientific efforts to send signals into space in a bid to make contact.

In A Chance of Light, hero Ryan Cole lives on an Earth where aliens have already made their presence known to a select few. Cole observes that Albert Einstein, when asked what question he would pose to the universe if he could get an honest answer, said he would ask whether the universe was friendly.

Cole himself is initially unsure of what he thinks the answer to that question would be. After all, he has tangled with less-than-friendly aliens and has the scars to prove it.

Yet life has a way of bringing things into balance. So while Cole must confront formidable alien adversaries, he also garners help from beings from other worlds who become his allies and teachers.

But always the question remains for each of us to answer: Do we believe the universe is friendly? Einstein suggested it was a pivotal question, because our stand regarding this one transcendent issue can shape how we respond to the events that unfold in our lives.

It’s something that can be scary to consider, particularly the next time you’re looking up at the night sky and pondering what might lie out there, beyond the stars.

Given the vastness of the cosmos, it seems arrogant to believe that Earth is the only planet in the universe that sustains intelligent life. But the questions linger: If there is life out there, will it come calling? And what might that contact be like?

Those are questions that fuel the imaginations of scientists, writers and people in general who wonder about the place of humans in the cosmic order of things.

And as for when we might finally make contact with beings from other worlds, no one can really say.

But then again, perhaps they are here already.

Claudine Kapel: Website / Goodreads

A Chance of Light: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBook / Kobo

A Darker Rain is Claudine Kapel’s first novel. She lives in Toronto and enjoys books, music, and travel. When not working as a consultant, she can be found writing, reading, or contemplating what else may be out there.

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

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The Art for “Whatever Happened to Solstice Young?” [Jun. 7th, 2016|06:13 pm]
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IMG_0712

Behold, Greg Chapman’s spooky art for my new story “Whatever Happened to Solstice Young?”! (Click on the image for a bigger view.)

“Whatever Happened to Solstice Young?” appears in Dark Discoveries #34, which is out now and available to order!

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

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The Night Marchers and Other Strange Tales [Jun. 4th, 2016|11:34 am]
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The Night MarchersThe Night Marchers by Daniel Braum
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wrote the introduction!

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

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Last Chance to Sign Up! [May. 31st, 2016|01:37 pm]
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the-horror-5

There are only a few spots left and the class starts this Thursday! If you’ve been on the fence about signing up, now’s the time to do it, before it’s too late! Go here for all the info.

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

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