Wednesday, May 18, 2011

13 Questions With...Gerald Rice

1. You’re hosting a dinner party. What is the menu, and do you cook it yourself, or do you call a caterer?
I’d like to cook it myself, whatever it is we’re having, but my skills are pretty basic.  I look up a lot of stuff on the internet and for the most part it turns out pretty well.  Maybe I’d make a lasagna, some roasted thyme chicken, napa cabbage, and sweet potatoes with a nice Riesling.

2. What is your beverage of choice?
If it’s alcoholic, Jack and Coke.  Non-alcoholic… maybe cranberry juice.

3. Physical book Vs an E-Reader. Your preference and why?
Book.  I don’t have an e-reader.  Nothing against them, I love the emerging technology, but when the aliens come in 400 years I want something physical for them to be able to pick up and translate.  I don’t have any confidence that their technology will be able to interface with ours.

4. What kinds of books make up your personal library?
Horror, horror, horror.  My mother was a Stephen King fan and gave me a copy of Eyes of the Dragon back when I was in 7th grade.  She was a huge reader and lover of horror movies and it definitely rubbed off on me.  Other than that, I have a couple medical thrillers by F. Paul Wilson and some of his other stuff.  I love Repairman Jack and suggest it to everyone because it crosses over into just about every genre.  Ethan Black’s Conrad Voort series is insane and I’d love to see The Broken Hearts Club get made into a movie.  I’ve read the first four books in the Outlander series and maybe Rejar by Dara Joy.

5. How and when did you catch the writing bug?
Somewhere in high school.  There was a pack of four of us, heavily into comic books and my best friend who could draw came up with the idea of the two of us writing our own comic book.  I’d written a couple short stories, but honestly, back then, I sucked.

6. What is your writing routine?
I have to steal a moment where ever I can.  It helps that I have a Neo, a little three pound word processor.  I can store something like eight files in it and download into a Word file whenever I’m at a PC.  It’s less of a distraction than a laptop because there’s no internet or games.  But I probably write more heavily on the weekends because there’s more down time to take advantage of.

7. If you ever encounter writer’s block, what steps do you take to get past it?
I only have had writer’s block once.  I’d been working for this medical company for five years when they laid off a slew of people, including me.  I was so stressed out I couldn’t write a lick for about two months.

8. Do you have a hidden talent?
No.  I brag on all my talents on a regular basis.

9. What was your best subject in school?
Probably math.  Math and science were really fun for me at one point, although that couldn’t be further from the truth now.

10. As in any entertainment, there are current trends. How much do these “current trends” influence what you write?
I would say they do have an influence, but even if it’s something I like that isn’t trendy I’ll still write it.  I’d like to say I’ve been writing zombie story after zombie story because I’ve been really enjoying them.

11. Mac or PC?
PC.  This is the part where I should write some snarky remark about Mac users, but that’s silly, so I won’t.  PC works best for me.

12. Where do your ideas come from?
It depends.  I’ve gotten a lot of ideas from anthologies I’ve wanted to write for.  Like The Ghost Toucher—I came across one that seemed really interesting about a psychopomp (the word alone got the juices flowing—I had to look it up and everything) that looks like a pig.  I started putting together ideas, but the more I wrote, the more I realized it didn’t fit with what they wanted so I ran with it, combining it with several other ideas that never went anywhere. 
Once I was on my way to school, I think, and at a red light there was a old lady in a car behind me.  It surprised me when I saw a little pink arm shoot up and trace down the ceiling of the car to the window.  It was obviously a girl, but it disturbed me just enough to where I got a story idea that I cranked out that night.
After reading Konrath’s Draculas I was so enthralled I wanted to do something similar, but I didn’t know what.  Sometime late last year I was sitting in Borders and got an idea from looking at one of the book covers there.  I haven’t really started writing that one yet, but.

13. What advice would you pass on to an aspiring author?
Read, read, read (especially the types of stories you want to write).  A long time ago I had no idea how to come up with an original story and I had no clue what the market wanted.  But I read.  By reading authors and poets like F. Paul Wilson, Sylvia Plath, Zora Neal Hurston, Al Sarrantonio, Wallace Stevens I was able to see what the mechanics of my writing lacked and incorporate different aspects from authors I admired.

Friday, May 13, 2011

13 Questions With...Michael Forrest

1. You’re hosting a dinner party. What is the menu, and do you cook it yourself, or do you call a caterer?
I can't cook, so a caterer it is. And, depending on the time of year, I'd probably go with Mexican. If it's winter or spring, maybe the drier northern Mexican cuisine, summer or fall a wetter southern Mexican menu.

2. What is your beverage of choice?
Gatorade, or Cab.

3. Physical book Vs an E-Reader. Your preference and why?
Physical books, because I grew up with them, love the feel and the smell... unless they get wet and moldy.

4. What kinds of books make up your personal library?

5. How and when did you catch the writing bug?
Around about 20 years of age, early in my college career. I guess it was just the increased writing workload took hold after what had been, I admit, a pretty languid high school career.

6. What is your writing routine?
I'm not a fast writer, but I do try to write some every day. Depending on how a story is flowing and what my 'other' work schedule is, I can write at pretty much any time, day or night – though the time of day can affect the content.

7. If you ever encounter writer’s block, what steps do you take to get past it?
Just sit down, and write. You have to let yourself into the story and the world you've created. Do not fight it. I don't really get writer's block, rather I procrastinate.

8. Do you have a hidden talent?
Not that I'm aware of, unless its writing.

9. What was your best subject in school?

10. As in any entertainment, there are current trends. How much do these “current trends” influence what you write?
I tend to lag behind current trends. For instance, I don't often go to the movies. I'll generally wait until something comes out on DVD or pops up on Hulu. Same with TV series, I'm usually at least a couple of years behind the current season. Also, I was a teen in the 80s, so 80s music is my favorite kind. This pattern is just fine when writing these Mystery Shopper stories as the main character is a throwback himself.

11. Mac or PC?
I have both but currently use a PC.

12. Where do your ideas come from?
Wow, I don't exactly know. To reference question #10, I'm sure I am influenced by popular culture and its entertainments, just in a more roundabout way. I think I just take a lot of ingredients, pour them into my own peculiar imagination and hit blend.

13 What advice would you pass on to an aspiring author?
Try out different genres in your writing. You may have a favorite already when you start out, but could be surprised and benefit from some cross-pollination. And just sit down, or stand or whatever, and write. Remember, it's very possibly not 'writer's block,' you're likely just procrastinating. Let yourself get into your fictional world and the story should take you by the hand from there.

Review: Goners

5 Horror Shorts
Gerald Rice
Available as an e-book from Amazon

If you like horror short story collections that leave you wanting more from the author, then this book is for you.

Gerald Rice has crafted 5 short horror stories in this one volume, which I found to be very well crafted.  I read it in one sitting, which is rare for me, so that should give you some indication about how good the writing is.

The first story is "First Customer", and Rice builds a sense of urgency mixed with dread, leading up to a surprising ending.  Murray has achieved his dream of opening an outdoorsmans store and is all set for a first day of business.  We end up going somewhere I didn't expect and it sure wasn't where I thought we were headed.  I like that in a story and Rice didn't telegraph his conclusion.
The second story, "Goner", is a zombie tale that was completely compelling.  Written from the main character's point of view, we're along for the ride through a zombie-infested landscape.  We get to see how Terence handles extermination and elimination of said zombies.  There are some close calls and a satisfying ending.  I won't forget the stuffed penguin for a while.
"While You Work" is a gruesome excursion into the workplace, giving new meaning to "us" and "them".  My nose kept twitching after I read it.  You'll find out why.
"Mister Cumberland's Last Magic Show" was my favorite, even over the zombie tale. 
Floyd Cumberland is a stage magician unlike any other you've run into and I really wanted more. The enigmatic Malf, Mr. Cumberland's assistant turns into something quite a bit more by the story's end, and the story as a whole gives new meaning to "what you see might be what you get."
This story is crying out to be made into a full-fledged book, in my opinion.
The last of the five, "Things You Never Say" has us along for a road trip with a couple who may or may not be getting along as well as they should.  They come upon an accident and the tone of the story shifts somewhat.
It makes you think twice about being short with the ones you claim to love and care for.

Gerald Rice has a great writing style.  The stories move well, there are some terrific turns of phrase and they read quickly without bogging down.  Short stories are short for a reason and need to establish mood and setting fairly quickly to promote the action and Rice succeeds at juggling all these particular balls at one time.
He sites Stephen King and Al Sarrantonio as influences and I can see that quite plainly, though Rice has honed his own voice in these 5 stories.
Rice has written some full novels as well as Goners, and there is a second Goners volume as well.  I look forward to reading more of Rice's work in the future, and that's a great thing to say about an author just starting out.

For more information on Gerald Rice, please visit:
Facebook Gerald Rice Fan Page
The Ghost Toucher

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Review: Tales of the Mystery Shopper

Tales of the Mystery Shopper
Michael Forrest
Available through Amazon,
Borders Online and Barnes and Noble

If you like a quirky set piece which owes a nod to the tales of Sherlock Holmes, but has a flavor all it's own, and is entertaining and well written to boot, then this book is for you.

What started out as a college fiction writing assignment took on a life of it's own and went on to be Tales of the Mystery Shopper: Taken From the Mis-adventurous Casebooks of his Stupefied Apprentice

The stories contained in this erstwhile volume chronicle the adventures and mishaps of one Joe Lopp, mystery shopper, recounted for us by his assistant and friend, Stan Greene.  When I say mystery shopper, I mean just that.  You know what I'm referring to, the mystery shopper who graces an establishment, usually a retail outlet or restaurant, who puts the staff through their paces to gauge how well they treat customers.  Outrageous requests, being difficult on purpose, imagined slights, etc., are all but a few weapons in the arsenal of a mystery shopper.
Joe Lopp is an expert mystery shopper, taking on disguises to fit each assignment, making himself completely undetectable to both his employers (who sometimes show up to see what's going on and end up interfering) to the hapless person who ends up waiting on Joe.
Joe is accompanied on these excursions by his friend and ally, Stan Greene, Joe's Watson to his Holmes.

The stories are fast paced and entertaining. 
The first story has Joe going under cover to a Tony Roma's rib restaurant where he is laid low by running into an old paramour.  He veers off the rails and ends up pursuing her rather than the food and things don't progress well from there.

The second story places Joe and Stan at a college football game to sample the concessions, as the school is trying to decide which company to go with in handling refreshments at their football games.  There is more than foot long hot dogs and nachos afoot as Joe and Stan discover a grisly murder and must battle not only an elusive killer, but the dense fog that has enshrouded the stadium and it's environs.

There are five tales in all, my favorite being The Arch-Enemy where Joe locks horns with a competitor, ending in a fight to the finish, all-you-can-grab food marathon in a grocery store.

I enjoyed the book and clearly Michael Forrest can spin an entertaining, compelling tale, making his characters come to life.  My only complaint is two of the stories sort of went off road as far as recounting Joe's mystery shopper escapades, but I kept reading anyway.  For me, that's the hallmark of a good author; if they can stray down a path you the reader thinks is a boring, what-has-this-to-do-with-anything path, but still compels you to read it, because the writing is just that good.

Yes...I know this wasn't a horror/science fiction/fantasy/mystery (per se).  But it is a first time out of the gate author.  So I reviewed him.

I failed to find a web site for Michael Forrest.  I did however, find Joe Lopp's Myspace.
If I find more information on our author, I'll post it.

The Mystery Shopper