Tag Archives: Sinister Grin Press

Exorcist Falls – Jonathan Janz

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Janz has done it again. I’ve been crowing about how great Exorcist Road was ever since I turned the last page two years ago. Much to my delight, Janz is continuing where he left off with Father Jason Crowder exercising young Casey Hartman’s demon from his teenage body. Unfortuanately, the demon didn’t go away. Neither did the Sweet Sixteen Killer. Now it’s up to Father Crowder to finish what he started and bring the killer to justice and dispose of the demon once and for all.

Exorcist Falls also contains the first story, Exorcist Road, between it’s covers. This makes it convenient for those that haven’t read it yet or who would like to reacquaint themselves with it since it’s original publisher, Samhain Publishing, closed it’s horror doors earlier this year. Janz’s writing is superb and you’ll find yourself amazed at the vocabulary this guy has. I’m not too proud to admit that I used the DEFINE feature on Kindle many times and I’d like to think of myself as well read. Not only is his word choices spot on, but his characters really make the story come to life. Danny Hartman is as despicable as they come and the demon, Malephar, is no cherub. I also enjoyed how the story had me guessing the whole way as it’s evolution was revealed one page at a time. And lets not forget the red stuff because Janz sure didn’t. There are definitely some scenes that will make even the strongest constitution weaken and cringe. All in all, an absolute blast to read and I’m happy to find out from the man himself that there will be a third installment in the Exorcist series. I’m all ready to hit the pre-order button just as soon as it pops up on Amazon.

5 Demons Controlling a Razor Blade out of 5
This ARC was provided in exchange for an honest review.
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Blue Demon – David Bernstein

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The Blue Demon is a cartoon character that Dan used to watch when he was a child. The cartoon only lasted three years, but when he stumbled upon the series many years later, he immediately wanted to share it with his son, Cal. Cal loved it and this became something that father and son could bond over. The Blue Demon exacted revenge on the enemies of those it protected, at least that’s how story goes. The rumor has it that the Blue Demon legend was around long before the cartoon came out. So, when Dan happens to find a limited edition Blue Demon action figure from back in the day, little did he know how true the legend was.

Bernstein’s story reads like an episode of Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories from back in the Eighties, except this one has teeth…and claws. He does a nice job keeping the story moving without becoming too hokey. The plight of Cal growing up is one that’ll tug on your heart strings and that breathes life into a story that you can figure out fairly easy what the outcome will be. With Bernstein’s wonderful characterization, you won’t care because the fun was in the journey and not the destination.

4 Amputations out of 5

This ARC was provided in exchange for an honest review.
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Dream Woods – Patrick Lacey

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Vince and Audra’s marriage is more than on the rocks, it’s on life support. Audra has already left Vince once in the middle of the night and then couldn’t go through with leaving her twin boy’s, one of which is diabetic, and her husband all alone and returned. Vince is looking for anything that can save their marriage. He turns to a mysterious billboard that he sees on his way to work one morning. Its advertising Dream Woods, an old amusement park that burned to the ground when he was a kid. Apparently, it’s opened back up and Vince is encapsulated with excitement at the prospect of being able to share the awesome experience he had as a kid with his family. But is Dream Woods really open for business? Especially, after what all happened so many years ago?

 

Have you ever woke up from a dream that seemed so realistic while you were sleeping that you’re left in a fog when you awake, half in reality and half stuck in the dream, and it takes you a little bit to clear the fog out of your head? At first, the dream feels so realistic and then, after a while, you realize how silly it was and you can’t believe that you ever thought it was real. That’s kind of how you feel when you start reading Dream Woods. You have to be ready for it. Lacey’s latest isn’t a straight forward story told in the realistic here and now, and that’s what tripped me up for the first 1/3 to 1/2 of it. It should be read as a messed up fairy tale. Think of it as if C.S. Lewis wrote about an old, Disney World-esque theme park in rural Massachusetts and then Clive Barker and Bentley Little got a hold of the first draft while tripping on acid and made some revisions. As you can imagine, you have to let your imagination go and have fun with it. It’s not meant to suspend your disbelief. It’s meant to steer you into an almost comic book/nightmare type of world. If you can get past that, you’ll enjoy Dream Woods. Lacey’s story is energetic and well written. But it’s kind of stuck in the middle. It’s not straight forward enough to be taken seriously and it’s not so over-the-top that it’s a pure fantasy, and maybe that’s what Lacey intended. The characters are well rounded for a novella length story. But, Audra comes across as more annoyingly ungrateful than a lost soul trying to find herself and that makes it hard to root for her. The gore is poured on by the bucketful, but the people that are being offed are the extras on the set. You don’t get to know any of them and it becomes kind of numbing when faceless people are killed by the trainload. I go back and forth on this book. There were parts that I could really get into and then there were paths that Lacey took that I wish he would’ve went a different direction. That doesn’t mean that I think it’s bad. Not at all. But, it’s kind of like being in the mood for a traditional pizza and then getting some version with broccoli, goat cheese and pine nuts on it. While that may not be a bad thing, it’s not what you had in mind when your taste buds were all primed for pepperoni and mushrooms.

 

 

3 Blood Stained Mascots out of 5
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Renovation – Sara Brooke

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The Brennier family have moved from their Miami digs to small town, northern Florida hamlet of Oak Shade. Soon after Mikey and his wife Barbara move into their new house, it starts raining and the roof starts leaking. Ah, the joys of being a new homeowner. As Mikey is out looking up at his roof, a construction van stops by and two greasy, non-assuming guys hop out and offer their services. Mikey, not wanting the damage to get worse, takes the guys up on their offer. Guess he should’ve checked some references first. All hell breaks loose as soon as the guys start work. The leaks get worse, mold is found, cockroaches, and Barbara starts acting funny and smelling like the stinky construction guys. Not good.

Renovation is my first read of Sara Brooke and it comes off as the bastard child of John Saul and a bad Lifetime movie. The beginning was so painful to read that I almost quit a few chapters in. Then it started getting better to only get ridiculous at the end. In fact, the story should’ve ended at 90%, but then it started all over again for no apparent reason. The dialogue was clunky and amateurish, especially when Brooke tried to ladle on the numerous sex scenes. In, what I take was her attempt at titillation, came out embarrassing to read. The same way it’s embarrassing listening to someone that thinks they’re a great singer and they end up sounding like a cat yowling on a fence.

It’s really too bad that I can’t give a better review. There’s actually a good premise here. The story had the makings of a horror tale out of the 80’s, like what J.N. Williamson used to write, and thats a good thing. Unfortunately, instead of fleshed out characters, we were given paper-thin ones that were amazingly unrealistic, bad dialogue, and horrible descriptions of sex scenes.
2 1/2 Goat-headed Devils out of 5
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Mayan Blue – Michelle Garza & Melissa Lason

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Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason are described as “The Sisters of Slaughter” and Mayan Blue is their debut. And a confused debut it is.

Four students and their assistant professor head for the mountains of Georgia where they are to meet up with their professor who feels he’s made a great discovery that will change the way history books are written. Once near the rendezvous point, all hell breaks loose. In what they think is the professor crying out for help, Wes and Alissa go off to find him. What they discover an open doorway to a Mayan underworld located deep within a cave inside the mountain. Mayans in Georgia? I like the idea. Unfortunately, that’s about as good as it gets.

Mayan Blue had some promise. The premise of a Mayan underworld in Georgia had lots of possibilities. Instead, it ended up being one long chase scene where way too little happens. The beginning of the story starts out as a B-horror movie style story. Annoying cannon fodder characters that scream I’m going to be killed before the story even gets going. Then it opens up into the Mayan underworld with good shapeshifting characters. Then the last 1/2 to 1/3 ends up being a murky chase scene where characters are introduced for no apparent reason adding nothing to the story. Our heroes get injured so many times that you start wondering why they haven’t dropped long ago from blood loss. Too little character and plot development dampens what could’ve been a great story.
You can see the talent is there. They simply need to focus on tightening up the story, spending more time on plot.

2 1/2 Sacrifices out of 5

This ARC was provided in exchange for an honest review.

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A Mixed Bag of Blood – David Bernstein

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A collection of short stories from David Bernstein. Here we go:
The Trojan Plushy –

Another revenge tale that combines the werewolf with witchcraft and the Trojan Horse. Has a Twilight Zone-kind of feel.

4 out of 5 stars

The Booglin –

You’ll think twice the next time you have a booger stuck and it won’t come out. Fun, silly story.

4 out of 5 stars

Eaten Un-Alive –

Life isn’t easy when you’re a vampire in a zombie apocalypse.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars
It’s Nice Not To Have To Share –

Georgia shares everything with her sister Gerri, but some things she wants to keep to herself.

3 out of 5 stars
Invasion –

Aliens plan to overtake earth by imitating a cockroach and using the neighborhood adolescent psycho.

4 out of 5 stars

Samurai Zombie Killer

A zombie contagion in the water supply of the local samurai warrior.

3 out of 5 stars

Small Town, Big Trouble –

The werewolf legend to help explain Sasquatch. I love it.

5 out of 5 stars

Bad Cutlery –

When good knives go bad. A fun possessed object story.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars
Potty Mouth –

This is one messed up story! I won’t even try to explain it. It’s simply something you’ll have to experience for yourself. Kudos to Bernstein for probably the most far out there original tale I have ever read! You need professional help, sir!

5 out of 5 stars

STD –

If you weren’t convinced to practice safe sex before, you will be by the time you finish this story.

5 out of 5 stars
All in all, a nice collection of macabre tales. There were only a couple that didn’t do it for me. The rest were fun and there were even some that I have to question Bernstein’s sanity or blood alcohol level. Good stuff.

Overall:

4 1/2 Bags of Blood out of 5
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Interview with Kristopher Rufty

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Lets get the vitals out of the way –

Name: Kristopher Rufty
DOB: July ‘79
Birthplace: NC
City of Residence: TBD
Marital Status: Married
Children: Yes
Pets: Yes
Into The Macabre: When did you first start writing?

Kristopher Rufty: I dabbled a lot as a kid, writing my own comics that I had drawn on folded typewriter paper. But the first story I completed was in the 6th or 7th grade. And it was TERMINATOR 3, after I’d just finished watching T2 and decided to write my own sequel. About ten pages long, I got to the point rather quickly.

Into The Macabre: What drew you to horror? What/Who were your inspirations?

Kristopher Rufty: What first drew me in was Friday the 13th. I was put in front of the TV when I was five years old. My mom wanted to do some canning and she mistook the guy in the superhero costume on TV, telling jokes as being a child-appropriate babysitter. Turned out the show was Commander USA, and he was a horror host. He aired FRIDAY THE 13th and I was hooked. I drew pictures in crayon of scenes I’d seen in the movie. My mom, always the supportive one, hung them on the fridge.

Into The Macabre: Describe the process it took for you to become published.
Kristopher Rufty: It was a lot of falling on my face, relearning everything from the ground up. And then submitting over and over. Getting a lot of rejections, then rewriting the book and submitting again. Luckily, I had a lot of support and guidance from some very talented writers along the way. Then, thanks to Ronald Malfi, Jeff Strand, and Don D’Auria, it finally happened.

Into The Macabre: If you could turn back the hands of time and go back, what about the publishing process would you do differently?
Kristopher Rufty: That’s a good question. One thing, for sure, would be to not be so quick to submit. ANGEL BOARD was my first published novel, and I submitted versions of it two years prior to it finally being acquired. The final version was completed after a lot of advice from other writers, and had I been stricter on the writing itself, it might have made for a better book earlier on. But, everything happens as it’s supposed to and that was a learning experience for me. I honestly wouldn’t change it in any way.

Into The Macabre: They say its not about what you know but who you know. Would you agree with this statement? Who helped you along the way and what did they do?
It does help, especially if the “who” is someone you can depend on. But if the who you know can’t teach you anything new, then it really doesn’t matter.

Kristopher Rufty: There was a lot of people who helped me along the way. Ronald Malfi and Jeff Strand were very supportive and encouraging, still are. They actually read ANGEL BOARD early on and gave their suggestions on what they thought needed to be worked on.Others who’ve helped me are Heather Graham, Edward Lee, Brian Keene, Ray Garton, Gary A. Braunbeck, Al Sarrantonio, Wrath James White, Aleka Nakis, Kathleen Pickering, Traci Hall, Blake Crouch, and JA Konrath. There are so many more. I could keep naming names.Not all of those helped me before I got published, but most of them did, but they all still help me to this day. I still hold their teachings close to my heart.

Into The Macabre: What would you say are the biggest challenges you face today as a writer?
Kristopher Rufty: Challenges I face are sticking to a word quota when the day acts as if it won’t allow it. That’s why I’m grateful for a wife who understand that I have to write. I know other authors that don’t have supportive spouses and it breaks my heart. But I do get to write, no matter what, and it’s good to have that.

Into The Macabre: What role has social media played in your successes?
Kristopher Rufty: I’m rarely on Twitter. Rarely. Facebook is fun. I enjoy the interaction with readers and other writers on there. Seems so much more intimate. I’ll do giveaways and sometimes when it’s somebody’s birthday, I’ll give them a free book. It’s fun. I plan to get more involved with Twitter, but not allow myself to become married to it.I think it’s played a decent role in what success I’ve had because I’m very approachable and feel that I’m easy to talk to. I wish there had been something like this when I was getting started. I’d have lost mind had I been able to communicate with my influences as I was growing up.

Into The Macabre: My first exposure to your work was through recommendations on Goodreads. What would you say is your level of interaction through fans on GR and other sites?
Kristopher Rufty: Not much at all on GR. I need to get better at it. Some of my author friends have great success with interacting on GR, but I do not. It’s really because I don’t know how to. It’s on my list of things to change this year. I plan to be more active with it. I like GR because its readers and writers talking about books. So I could easily see myself becoming absorbed.But I interact quite frequently on Facebook. I try to always respond to comments and messages whenever somebody reaches out to me.

Into The Macabre: Which one of your stories are you most proud of?
Kristopher Rufty: DESOLATION is definitely one I’m proud of. A DARK AUTUMN is a story I read after I’d finished writing it and couldn’t believe I was the guy who’d written it. I think I crossed a barrier with that one, to an area that I was too scared to infiltrate before. Had I not written A DARK AUTUMN, I don’t think I would have had the guts to attempt THE VAMPIRE OF PLAINFIELD and DESOLATION. I wouldn’t have dared try to write the book I’m about to finish up now, SEVEN BURIED HILL.
I’m very proud of THE LURKING SEASON and PROUD PARENTS as well. These two books just don’t really seem to get a lot of notice, for whatever reason. But I wish they would. I think those books helped me realize how much I’ve grown as a writer. I tried new things in those stories and tapped into areas that I hadn’t yet.

Into The Macabre: So tell me about Diabolical Radio. What’s the status of that?
Kristopher Rufty: I was a guest on The Independent Corner, a podcast hosted by Jonathan Moody. He had me on to discuss CUTTING ROOM!, a very low-budget movie I’d made. I liked the idea of having the time to talk with people about things you admire. I wondered what would happen if I started a show, invited people I would love to sit down and talk with. Not only am I fan of these people, I admire them, RESPECT their work. Just imagine what I could learn by talking with them. Just imagine what others, like me, could learn hearing us talking. I knew there were people out there that would like to ask these guests the same questions. So I asked legitimate questions about what I wanted to know about, which were things that the listeners also wanted to know.

We had so many great guests come on. I don’t know what it was about our show, but somehow we became a hit. Very high listener ratings. Not at first, but during the first year, we were trying to discover what were as a show. We found a format that worked. And by the second year, people were contacting us about coming on. I couldn’t believe it. We ran for almost four years.

As a writer, I got to learn from some of the best: Joe Lansdale, Ed Gorman, Edward Lee, Brian Keene, F. Paul Wilson, Heather Graham, Ronald Malfi, Jeff Strand, Wrath James White, Ray Garton, John Russo, JA Konrath, Blake Crouch, Gary A. Braunbeck, and so many more.

As a filmmaker, I got to learn from Herschell Gordon Lewis, Kevin Tenney, William Butler, Charles Band, Tom Towles, and the teams behind many great movies I’ve loved all my life.

It was so much fun. So much fun.

The status now? Well, it’s dormant. But I’m asked, a lot, to bring it back. I wonder what it would be like now? I know Faith, one of my cohosts, is up for it. Steve is up for it. I’m even up for it. I left the show to devote my time to writing. I’ve met a lot of great folks since then that I’d love to talk with more, and I’m sure Diabolical’s listeners would love to hear from them.

Maybe it’ll come back one day. Maybe sooner than anybody expected.

Into The Macabre: I’ve found that many writers have a routine that they like to follow when writing. Give me a breakdown of your day and how you create the next Kristopher Rufty masterpiece.
Kristopher Rufty: It changes from day to day now. Being self-employed, I used to write in the mornings. I still prefer to write in the morning. Something about starting your day like that just sets the rest of the day in a positive motion. Now we have a baby, and I write at night. I wrote at night for years while our older two children were younger. I’m back to the night shift. It seems that my stories get a little darker when the sun isn’t out. I wonder if it’s related to my nocturnal writing schedule.

Into The Macabre: I see that your story, Jagger, is on quite a few Top 10 lists for 2015 and getting quite a bit of love. What can you tell me about that? How did the story come about?
Kristopher Rufty: JAGGER is one of my favorites. It did make a good number of Top Ten lists, but it also got me a lot of hate mail. There are a couple scenes involving animals that were very tough to write, but I felt were crucial to the book that angered a lot of people, which wasn’t my intent. I didn’t set out to write an animal cruelty story, though it was meant to bring focus to the kind of things that happen.

The idea first sparked in my head when I had taken our large dog to the vet. A guy came in with a much bigger Fuzzy Mastiff. I’d never seen such a large dog in all my life. But he was the sweetest animal. Just like our dog. He’s close to 150 pounds, and intimidates a lot of people, but is very sweet and loving and protective. I wondered what would happen if that guy’s dog turned on him. That was where the idea began, and it just went wild from there.

Into The Macabre: Tell me about the filmmaker side of Kristopher Rufty.
Kristopher Rufty: Not much to tell these days. I enjoy making the movies, but would be happy writing for the rest of my life. I still have the bug to get behind the camera with a good team and make something special. I’ve been blessed in the past to work with a lot very talented and dedicated people. We’ve done some work that I’m very proud of. Hopefully, one day it’ll happen again, but if it doesn’t, I’ll be okay.

Into The Macabre: Stephen King has the spooky house in Bangor surrounded by the wrought iron fence with gargoyles on it. Do you have anything crazy at your house that makes your neighbors clutch their children when they see you coming?
Kristopher Rufty: I wish I did! Maybe someday. I think during the Halloween season people will think we’re a bit obsessed with the decorations and jack-o’-lanterns, but other than that, nothing to really talk about. Hopefully we’ll be those neighbors sometime soon.

Into The Macabre: What are you reading these days?
Kristopher Rufty: Been on another Ray Garton kick. I tend to read a cluster of books by the same author before moving onto something else. I love Ray Garton’s work. I also read a lot of crime fiction and westerns, and I have a pile of those to get to. I still prefer to read paperbacks over eBooks, but I read a lot of eBooks. I also read a lot of comics and horror magazines, and newspapers.

Into The Macabre: Your Top 5 horror movies?
Kristopher Rufty: Man…that’s so hard. I watch them all over and over, but I suppose the few I watch more than any are:
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Friday the 13th 1-6
Fright Night (Probably my all-time favorite movie)
Halloween, The Thing, Prince of Darkness, In the Mouth of Madness (I binge-watch Carpenter movies)
Phantasm 2 and The Evil Dead tying.

Into The Macabre: Desolation has been released here in January. How has the response been, so far? How did the story come about?
Kristopher Rufty: The response has been amazing. My most well-received book, by far. The story came in a dream. I dreamed I was watching a movie and the select scenes I saw in the dream-movie inspired the entire story. This idea has been with me for ten years. It has been a screenplay, a couple of abandoned novels, and many rewrites before finally becoming the book that was released. I’m glad it took as long as it did. This was the version that needed to be read.

Into The Macabre: Do you do horror conventions? What’s your thoughts on those?
Kristopher Rufty: I love them and will do them any chance I get. I’ve enjoyed going to Horror Hound since my first time way back in 2008. Last year, I was a guest at Scares That Care and really enjoyed it. Not just the convention, but what they strive to accomplish by doing it. I’ll be a featured guest this year and can’t wait to go back.

Into The Macabre: What can us fans expect coming down the pike in 2016 and beyond?
Kristopher Rufty: As many books as I can get out. I have three coming through DarkFuse over the next couple years. The first, SOMETHING VIOLENT, will be released in December. I have a horror-western almost ready to go. And a book due to Sinister Grin Press this summer. I will continue to work with SGP for years to come. Thunderstorm Books will be releasing special, hardcover editions of DESOLATION and A DARK AUTUMN this summer, with more titles to follow. I also signed with Festa-Verlag, a German publisher. I have a short story coming in an anthology they’re putting out, plus JAGGER will be released this year through them. There will be more short stories in other anthologies, but I can’t announce them yet. And there will be more audiobooks coming this year.

Into The Macabre: I really appreciate you letting me grill you for my blog and look forward to chatting with you in the future. Take care, my friend.

Kristopher Rufty: No, thank you for having me on. I really appreciate it. Thank you for your support and kindness!