4MK is a gruesome thriller

the fouth monkey

 

The four wise monkeys of ancient oriental myth — hear no evil, see no evil, say no evil, and do no evil — give the killer in The Fourth Monkey by J. D. Barker (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, June 28, 2017) his name. The 4MK abducts women and sends an ear to the next of kin. Two days later, the victim’s extracted eyeballs arrive in the mail. Then the tongue. Two days after that, 4MK positions the victim’s mutilated body where easily discovered.

Hear no evil, see no evil, say no evil, do no evil. Those are the rules.

Detective Sam Porter, on bereavement leave following his wife’s tragic murder by a convenience store robber, receives a phone call from his partner. The Four Monkeys Killer was accidentally run down this morning  by a Chicago bus on his way to mail an ear of his latest victim to Arthur Talbot, one of the richest men in the city.

Sam’s chased the 4MK for five years. Seven dead girls he couldn’t save. Now it appears Talbot’s illegitimate daughter Emory will be 4MK’s next victim. The clock’s ticking as Sam assembles his task force and tries to find Emory before she dies of dehydration.

The killer’s diary found on the man hit by the bus tells what it’s like to be raised in a family of psychopaths. Barker effectively rotates POV among Porter, Emory, task force members, and the diary. The burning questions become: Is the diary real? Is the dead man the 4MK? Will Emory survive? What did Talbot do to warrant punishment by 4MK? Who killed Heather, Sam’s wife, and what will happen to him?

Set in metropolitan Chicago, the action delves into underground tunnels once used by bootleggers where thousands of rats thrive and Emory may be sequestered. Will she be eaten by rats, die of hydration, or have her eyes and tongue plucked out before 4MK is through with her?

Suspense builds as time runs out. Sam, who was neither able to protect his wife nor the seven previous 4MK victims, is desperate to reach Emory before she perishes.

The Fourth Monkey is as much a great horror novel as a mystery or thriller. Very highly recommended for readers with strong stomachs, insatiable curiosities, and time on their hands because they won’t be able to stop until the very end.

Supernatural Noir

the corpse and the girl

 

John Urbancik’s style is spellbinding. He’s a consummate craftsman. His writing seems like a cross between Raymond Chandler and Stephen King, with maybe a little Richard Thomas thrown in. Maybe some Lewis Carroll, too, to make it even more surreal.

The Corpse and the Girl from Miami (Dark Fluidity, 2017) is a mystery within a mystery. It’s noir and a supernatural thriller all in one.

And, despite everything else, it’s also a love story.

It’s set in Boston, MA, not in Miami. There are some displaced Floridians (Ofelia, Mr. Maker, Armando Luis Salazar) prowling the New England darkness one unusually stormy night, but they have no special love for Bean Town. Neither does The Corpse.

Imagine waking up in a cemetery with three bullet holes in your chest and no pulse. You have no remembrance of who shot you or why. You can’t even remember your name.

Piecing together his identity and solving the mystery of his murder turns into a herculean task for the dead man. There’s another walking dead man and a burgeoning cast of characters, some of whom may be aligned with powerful supernatural forces, to complicate the plot.

No one tells the truth. Ferreting out who killed whom, who is working for whom, and who’s a good person and who’s a bad person keeps the reader turning pages.

If you like a good mystery in an urban fantasy with supernatural elements, you’ll love The Corpse and the Girl from Miami.

Who are the Halloween Children?

 

Halloween Children cover

The Halloween Children by Brian James Freeman and Norman Prentiss (Random House Hydra, June 2017) works by building suspense, by gradually increasing the sense of impending dread. Readers know from the very first page that something went terribly wrong Halloween night and lots of children either killed or were killed. Dread builds as you discover how really weird and totally dis-functional everyone in the entire Stillbrook apartment complex — especially the entire Naylor family — has become. You know all hell is about to break loose, and you can’t wait for it to happen. But, like waiting for Halloween or for Christmas, wait you must.

Good horror builds expectations. There are a lot of little boos that set the scene, but you know right from the get-go that the big fright comes on Halloween. Everything else is a warm-up or a red-herring.

“I think the environment in our apartment complex had everything to do with what happened,” Harris Naylor admits. “Not just our management policies and our neighbors, but maybe even the issues that had been swimming within our own family.”

Is the apartment complex haunted? Just when you think it is, a logical explanation pops up. But then something else weird happens, and the suspense builds until you’re sure the place is haunted by evil spirits.

Or maybe by crazy people: not just the children but adults, too.

Harris again hits the nail on the head: “If a place is going to be haunted, it’s more likely to be an apartment building, since there’s a high turnaround in tenants and folks from a variety of backgrounds will bring different quirks and neuroses and illnesses with them. Going with the odds, an apartment building simply has more opportunities for crazy, haunted people to live there.”

Or die there.

Heh heh.

So who are the Halloween Children really? Mattie and Amber? Ghosts? Evil spirits?

Read the novel and see with your own eyes.

Heh heh.

Angels Versus Angels

lostness

When fallen angels live amongst humans, there’s always hell to pay.

I’ve been a fan of Billie Sue Mosiman’s stories since the 1980s, and LOSTNESS (January 2017) is no exception. A sequel to BANISHED and ANGELIQUE, this tale is set in 1940 with many of the same characters from BANISHED. Angelique returns, still in a child’s body. Nisroc (Nick) travels in Europe with Jody, the midget. Henry, the shape-shifter, is back, too. But fascinating new characters are introduced in LOSTNESS—Ladina, Jules, Tina, Will, Graham, Duma, Monty—to complicate the storyline. The great battle between angels—between the fallen and the unfallen—is about to begin.

My only gripes with the novel are the mention of the CIA and a few minor things a good copy editor would have corrected. The Central Intelligence Agency didn’t exist in 1940. The closest thing was the FBI, or Military Intelligence, or possibly the OSS.

I love Mosiman’s images of angels allowing their wings to expand. I love being inside Jules’ head when she dream-travels.

Once again, Mosiman shows there’s more in heaven and earth than dreamt in our philosophies.

 

Kirkus Reviews of The Girl Who L

 

 

 

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THE GIRL WHO LIVED

Megan’s Story

Paul Dale Anderson

2AM Publications (306 pp.)

$14.95 paperback, $3.95 e-book

ISBN: 978-0-937491-19-5; January 5, 2017

BOOK REVIEW

After spending years in a mental institution, a woman has revenge on her mind in Anderson’s (Claw Hammer, 2016, etc.) dark thriller. Megan Williams was institutionalized five years ago after she killed one man and castrated three others who raped and disfigured her. She earns her freedom by telling her psychiatrist that she knows right from wrong—just what the doctor wants to hear. However, she still plans to murder the survivors of her last attempt at vengeance, which occurred after she’d spent one year in a coma and another undergoing reconstructive surgery and physical therapy. Shortly after her return to Twin Rivers, Illinois, cops find the body of a castrated man and suspect Megan of the crime. Newspaperman Tim Goodman, however, connects the new murder to five of the dead man’s associates, who are all inexplicably missing.

With police watching her, Megan puts her retribution on the back burner. Meanwhile, she’s leery of her older sister Susan’s new beau, Harry Berg. The mob-linked drug dealer hopes to launder money in Twin Rivers, and he’s also in the process of meting out payback to those who’ve wronged him. Soon, the dead bodies are stacking up, and Megan is in danger of arrest. Anderson rivetingly presents his protagonist from a first-person perspective, which clearly shows her instability. As she reveals more details of her attack, it seems as if she’s continually reliving it, which gives the book’s title a sad twist. As a result, readers will initially have sympathy for Megan, but it may subside as the story progresses; at one point, Megan says that she tortured multiple men, all strangers who picked her up at bars, as practice for her revenge; after butchering them, she says, she “showed them mercy and slit their throats to make certain they died.” Still, the story’s intensity rises with each new murder victim, as each puts Megan or someone she knows in potential danger. Anderson, meanwhile, does add glimmers of hope, as when he shows that Megan regrets at least one of her killings.

A relentlessly gloomy but memorable tale that explores questions of morality. — Kirkus Reviews, Feb 6, 2017

 

Available in trade paperback and Kindle editions. Order from http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-girl-who-lived-paul-dale-anderson/1125438993?ean=9780937491195

or from Amazon or Kobo.

 

The Birth of a Book

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After weeks of final revisions and consideration of comments and suggestions from beta readers and editors, I receive the page proofs of the typeset novel for one final review. I’m promised  ARCs shortly after the beginning of the new year, and then I can—at last–hold a printed copy of the book in my hands and feel, as well as see, the child of my imagination made flesh. I will sniff the paper and the ink, run my fingertips lovingly over the cover and interior pages, and cry real tears.

Birthing a book is a joyous occasion. The conception, as always, may be a labor of love; but the delivery is nothing but pure time-consuming painful labor.

Next comes the really hard part: introducing the child to the world and analyzing each ohh and ahhh or worrying when others don’t see the same beauty and potential in my offspring that I see each time I look.

Here are the vitals:

6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on White paper
340 pages

$14.95 for Trade Paperback; $3.95 for Kindle version

2AM Publications
ISBN-13: 978-0937491195
ISBN-10: 0937491195
BISAC: Fiction / Psychological

Megan Williams returns to Twin Rivers after five years in a mental hospital to take final revenge on the men who raped and mutilated her. But the tiny Illinois town has grown into a bustling Chicago suburb near the end of the Metra line, and Megan isn’t the only serial killer now leaving dead bodies littering the streets. Can Megan keep her sister safe and still exact her revenge? Or will Megan’s actions make Susan, Tim, and Elsie targets? The Girl Who Lived, the sequel to Spilled Milk, is a fast-paced psychological thriller unlike anything you’ve read before. Not for the faint-hearted or squeamish, this is the story of what happens when a girl who was brutalized and left for dead gets a second chance at life.

Her picture is at the top of this page. Isn’t she lovely?

I’ve named her “Megan’s Story.” Megan is The Girl Who Lived.

You’ll get a chance to meet her on March 2, 2017.

If I sound like a proud parent, it’s because I am. Although two major NY publishers asked to adopt her, I wouldn’t let them. I chose 2AM Publications to be Megan’s god-parent.

Until Megan is old enough and strong enough to survive in the world by herself, I prefer to keep her close to home. I know how cold and cruel the world can be.

If you read Megan’s story, you’ll meet unscrupulous people who’ll do anything for a thrill or to make a quick buck. You’ll see people cut into pieces and discarded like trash. You’ll witness seductions and murders and know what it’s like to be incarcerated in jail cells or mental institutions. You’ll feel a silenced automatic pressed against the back of your head and realize how horrible it is to feel hopeless and helpless.

But you’ll also discover love and, perhaps, even find redemption.

I know I shed a tear or two while reading Megan’s Story.  All of my beta readers claim they did, too.

When I wrote Spilled Milk, the prequel to The Girl Who Lived: Megan’s Story, I wrote it as an obituary. I wrote The Girl who Lived as a birth announcement.

Please welcome Megan to the world of the living.

And join me for her Christening on March 2, 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

Discovery and Discoverability

Discovery and Discoverability

This year has been, for me, one of both discovery and discoverability. Columbus had his 1492. I had 2016, and the year isn’t even over yet!

Interesting that I should write this the morning after returning from Columbus, Ohio, where I read, autographed and participated in a R. A. Lafferty panel at World Fantasy Convention 2016. The trip odometer on my ten-year-old Toyota turned over another thousand miles as I arrived back home in Rockford, Illinois. During the past five years since Gretta’s tragic untimely death, I have traveled more than a hundred thousand miles promoting myself, my new writing, meeting new people, and renewing old friendships. Is it any wonder I feel a little like Brian Keene on his current farewell tour or Richard Collier in Richard Matheson’s Bid Time Return?

Life has often been likened to a journey, and I suppose there is a passing resemblance. We, in the fiction business, send our heroes on impossible quests that involve actual or metaphorical journeys of discovery. Writers, like readers and protagonists, must journey from here to there in order to discover who and what they really are.

Here are some the important things I discovered about myself this year: I kill people for a living, I can never remember a pitch or an elevator speech when an agent or editor asks me what I’m excited about now, and I have lots of wonderful friends and acquaintances who actually do remember me despite all of my faults and foibles (or perhaps because of them).

Every writer needs a label (as, according to publishers and librarians, does every published book), and mine is “I kill people for a living.” I forgot to mention that I kill people for a living when Darrell Schweitzer asked me to introduce myself to the large audience at the Ray Lafferty panel during WFC. I mumbled something about being first and foremost a reader (as was Lafferty), a shy guy who doesn’t know how to promote himself at an SFF convention. I should have, instead, captured the audience’s attention by mentioning that I kill people for a living. I didn’t, and I regret it.

We live and learn. Don’t we?

Likewise, when an editor asked me in an elevator what I was working on now, I should not have mumbled “I never talk about works in progress because talking depletes the energy I reserve for my writing.” What a missed opportunity! I should have had a pitch prepared so the editor, before leaving the elevator, would have asked to see the completed manuscript. Does it do any good to kick myself after the fact?

But I was heartened by good friends who remembered my name and my characters from my stories which were published alongside theirs in anthologies or magazines or from panels we had been on together at Worldcons or Windycons or previous World Fantasy Cons. I got to spend some quality time discussing the business of writing with well-known authors I respect. What more can one ask for?

And a few friends even showed up to hear me read from Winds and Light, two of my supernatural fantasies in the Winds-Cycle.

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Just as valuable an experience, however, was the road from here to there and back again. I wrote in my mind an entire short story due next January for an anthology, worked out the next two chapters in my current WIP, and saw locations and scenery I want to describe in future novels. I drove the same I-70 Jack Maguire and Amanda Miller drove in my novel Executive Function to get from St. Louis to Washington, DC.

Now I am back at my keyboard and putting those experiences into words.

During the past five years since Gretta died, I have seen much of the country I never had the chance to see before. Oh, sure, I traveled a lot when I was a soldier. Even then I was a writer at heart and noted people and places for future fictionalizing. But looking at everything through the eyes of a working writer is different. You are on the hero’s journey of discovery.

Noting how tired and exhausted—yet exhilarated—I looked and we both felt, Stephen Vessels asked me in the smoking room at WFC as I prepared to depart for home: “So, was it worth it?” Stephen and I attended Thrillerfest in NYC, MidAmericon2 in Kansas City, and World Fantasy Convention in Columbus this year on book promotion tours and kept bumping into each other. We took time out of our busy writing schedules to promote ourselves and our books, spent our own hard-earned money, and traveled thousands of miles. Was it worth it? Was it necessary? Did it sell books?

The answer, of course, is still blowing in the wind. Was it worth it to meet fellow authors and readers in person? Yes. With so many titles being published these days, promotion is essential to discoverability. The more people who know your name and can place a face with the name, the more books you are likely to sell. That’s the theory anyway. But the reality is that the more books you write, the better you write, and the more people will want to read what you write. There is a direct relationship between quantity and quality, although it’s almost as easy to write lots of bad books as it is to write just one. What matters most, though, is what you’ve learned about the human condition that readers recognize as true in their own lives. If you are able to share your discoveries with others in a way that resonates with them, they will want to read more of what you write. It is really as simple as that. In the final analysis, it’s the writing that matters.

So next year I will stay home and write more. I was gratified when a Nebula and Hugo nominated writer I admire told people at his reading at Worldcon that Paul Dale Anderson is a fantastic writer and everyone should read Paul Dale Anderson’s books. I was thrilled when so many people showed up at my own readings at Stokercon and WFC. I was honored when readers asked me to sign copies of my novels for them.

But now it’s time to write. I have deadlines looming. I am happy to be home with my cats and my books and my computers where new works beg to be written.

I discovered a lot during my many travels and in my life’s journey from here to there and back again.

I invite you to discover me through my writings.