Dark Places 2, free for Halloween only

Remember I posted last week about a new anthology from Gryphonwood Press called Dark Places 2? It’s the second volume of Halloween short fiction from Gryphonwood Press authors. It features short fiction from Justin R. Macumber, Terry W. Ervin II, John E. Bailor, David Wood and myself. My contribution is The Seven Garages Of Kevin Simpson, a creepy story about a daughter who discovers, after her father’s death, that he had seven garages the family knew nothing about.

For today, Halloween, only, the anthology is free here at Smashwords with the following coupon code: VY29G

Go get some!


Dredd – movie review

Dredd is the second attempt to make a movie from the incredibly enduring 2000AD comic strip, Judge Dredd. The last attempt, with Sylvester Stallone in the title role, was such a smouldering pile of crap that I refuse to say any more about it. Does the new version make up for that? Actually, yes it does.

Dredd is the story of a future Earth where nuclear holocaust has reduced the vast majority of the planet to radioactive wastelands full of mutants, generally referred to as The Cursed Earth. The surviving, unaffected members of humanity live in massive, sprawling cities that cover thousands of square miles, called Mega-Cities. The biggest of these, covering the vast majority of the east coast of the US and home to some 800 million people, is Mega-City One. Most people live in Blocks, mega structures of some 200 stories each. As you can imagine, people crammed in those kind of numbers into that kind of space means crime and violence are everyday dangers. The only line between the people and utter chaos are the men and women of the Hall of Justice, known as Judges. They are judge, jury and executioner, dispensing justice and sentence wherever they go. Of all the Judges, Judge Dredd is the Judgiest. An absolute law man, with a perfect working knowledge of every aspect of Mega-City One’s fascist and brutal justice code and a black and white eye for resolution.

This is a world and a society that has grown incredible detail over the decades, so to tackle the subject in a single 90 minute film is daunting, to say the least. The makers of this film, however, were smart and, after some opening sequences through Mega-City One, they locked two judges in one block and the rest of the film played out there. It’s the story of one particular crime boss, known as Ma Ma, and her control of the new drug Slo-Mo. When you take Slo-Mo, you perceive the world as passing at 1% its normal speed, which gives the filmmakers an excuse for some awesome and beautiful super slo-mo sequences. Also some truly brutal ones, but we’ll get to that.

Judge Dredd is saddled with a new rookie judge, Anderson. The rookie failed her test to become a judge, but only just. She does, however, have a pretty powerful psychic ability and the Chief Judge tasks Dredd with taking her out for a day’s assessment to see if the slight fail can be ignored if Anderson’s psychic abilities prove her to be a good judge on the streets. On investigating a triple homicide in Peach Trees Block, they find themselves trapped in Ma Ma’s web and the crime boss seals off the block with war protocols and orders everyone inside to find and kill the judges. Thus begins a Die Hard-esque fight for survival while Dredd and Anderson try to stay alive and dispense justice.

Seeing as I’ve been a fan of Judge Dredd since before my age hit double figures, I was scared about how faithful to the comics this film would be…

Read the rest of my review at Thirteen O’Clock by clicking here.


Red Penny Papers Vol III, Issue 1, featuring my story “Crossroads & Carousels”, out now

Check out that brilliant cover (by artist C. Bernard). What a thing of beauty. This is the second anniversary issue of The Red Penny Papers and it features my story, Crossroads & Carousels. The full ToC is:

A Connection to Beyond by Cat Rambo
Breathing Room by Jamie Mason
Fearsome Critters and Friendly Giants by M. Bennardo
Crossroads and Carousels by Alan Baxter
The Extravagant and Venturesome Lives of Woman Pyrates by Katy Gunn

That’s a pretty great line-up and I’m very proud to be a part of it. On top of all that, the whole thing is free right here. The ebook version of this issue should be out soon and mini-interviews with all the authors are forthcoming.

Crossroads & Carousels is a story I’d been planning to write for a long time. I finally found the right framework for the story and I’m very pleased it found a home at RPP. The story is a homage to two things I’ve always loved – the old blues legends of the crossroads and the Dire Straits song, Tunnel Of Love. I have a pretty eclectic taste in music and, while I might be a blues and metal fan at heart, I’m into a wide cross-section of sounds. One of my favourite bands for years has been Dire Straits. Mark Knopfler’s blues inspired guitar playing is just sublime. In fact, it’s almost entirely due to Mark Knopfler and David Gilmour from Pink Floyd that I learned to play guitar myself.

It’s also the lyricism of bands like these that appeals to me so much. Both Dire Straits and Pink Floyd tell fantastic stories with their music. One of the stories that’s always appealed to me and fascinated me is Tunnel Of Love. It contains such evocative lyrics and such emotive imagery. I finally found my crossroads story through a short fiction retelling of the story behind Tunnel Of Love. So I hope my homage is as enjoyable to everyone reading as it was to me in the writing. I’ve changed the location and a lot of things about the song, of course, as it was inspiration for this story – I haven’t just written a short story version of the song. But you’ll recognise key motifs in the story if you know the song. I hope I’ve done it justice.

Go here, and read.


Dark Places 2 anthology out for Halloween

The publisher of my novels, Gryphonwood Press, has got a bit of a tradition going. Each Halloween there’s a new anthology featuring dark short fiction from Gryphonwood authors. The first one was last year, and now there’s Dark Places 2. That makes it a tradition. So shut up. You can get it in any ebook format you prefer right here from Smashwords.

Dark Places 2 features short fiction from Justin R. Macumber, Terry W. Ervin II, John E. Bailor, David Wood and myself. My contribution is The Seven Garages Of Kevin Simpson. This story was a Pseudopod original in episode 242 back in August 2011. That, of course, was a podcast. Now it’s available in text at last.

For the absolute steal of 99c, (buy it here, now!) these five stories should hopefully entertain and set a good Halloween vibe. I’ve read David Wood’s Aqua Zombie and it’s a great yarn. And yes, an aqua zombie. Think about it. Now go and get the book and read about it. You’ll also get my creepy story about a dead man with seven unexpected garages, plus stories from Justin Macumber, Terry Ervin and John Bailor. How can you go wrong with that?

What’s more, if you wait till Halloween to buy the book, it won’t even cost you 99c. It’ll be free on Halloween. Seriously, free. Nada. Zip. Nothing. But seeing as it’s only 99c anyway, you might as well get it right now. I’ll put a quick post up here on Halloween with the coupon code for the freebie, but I’m sure you won’t be able to contain your excitement. I mean, what’s 99c? You can’t even buy a newspaper for that kinda moolah. In fact, you’ve probably already gone to buy it and I’m talking to myself right here, aren’t I. Huh? Aren’t I? Hello?



El Orfanato (The Orphanage) – DVD Review

I’ve been a fan of Guillermo Del Toro for a long time and his films are usually well worth the time. In this case, the Pan’s Labyrinth director is a producer for director Juan Antonio Bayona’s gothic horror about an old orphanage that is being reborn under the care of an ex-resident. As a child, orphaned Laura lived in the big old house by the Spanish seaside and has fond memories of her time there. She was adopted and left the home. Now in her mid-30s, Laura returns to the dilapidated institution with her husband, Carlos, and their seven-year-old son, Simon, to reopen the orphanage for just a handful of special needs children.

But, naturally, there is something weird going on in the beautiful old house. Simon’s behavior begins to grow increasingly strange and Laura and Carlos start to think the boy is getting carried away with his imaginary friends. On the opening day of the new orphanage, Simon’s bizarre behavior is written off as a bid for attention until truly strange events occur and Simon disappears. The search for Simon leads Laura deep into her memories of the orphanage and she begins to uncover troubling things that occurred after her own adoption…

Read the rest of my review at Thirteen O’Clock.