‘Yard Sharks’ Now in Corvus Review

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I’m excited to announce my horror/bizarro short story “Yard Sharks” is now available online in the latest issue of Corvus Review.

You can read it here for free.

This story was previously only available in print.

I’d like to thank the editors and staff of Corvus Review for selecting my piece to publish in their magazine along with a slew of other great, weird, short stories.

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Book Review: “Popsickle Heart” by J. Peter W.

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Popsickle Heart is bizarro fiction.

If you’re not familiar with the genre, here is Wikipedia’s definition. It’s important to grasp what bizarro is to give you a frame of reference for this review.

I’ve read numerous bizarro books and stories, and some of my own work has even been classified as “bizarro” by editors. I had seen some buzz about Popsickle Heart on Twitter and decided to check it out. While not without problems, I enjoyed the book.

Like most bizarro books, I’d classify Popsickle Heart as a novella. It’s brief and can be finished in one or two sittings. I enjoy novellas because they tend to strip away a lot of the extra fluff and get right to the point, which is especially important when you’re dealing with strange subject matter. So if you dig short reads, that is already a bonus.

Popsickle Heart is a story about Edgar the clown. He meets a girl, The Wheelchair Spot, and immediately falls for her. When he finds out she has lost her heart, Edgar undertakes a quest to retrieve it. Weirdness ensues.

The surreal suburban/carnival fantasy that J. Peter W. lays out is wonderful. Edgar drives a crappy old ice cream truck, with perpetually peeling paint, around a town full of skinless and eyeless people. Children torment him, demanding ice cream from a van with empty freezers. His home has been assaulted by some kind of weird ooze and a bunch of cigarette smoking toughs that have been hired to box up and move all his belongings with seemingly no explanation. Even his candy peg-legged neighbor Rod doesn’t know anything about it.

Along for this insane ride is Edgar’s sock puppet, Lumbee. Easily my favorite part of the book, Lumbee is a brilliant character. He is angry, brash, and well personified. The dialogue between Edgar and Lumbee is great, and you often forget it is a crazy clown talking to himself…or is it?

Edgar and Lumbee find themselves transported into a parallel dimension of sorts, the Carn-Evil, where cardboard clown cut outs and statue people wage war against each other over cupcake eyeballs. Yes, you just read that correctly.

He meets a mysterious Pink Woman who will lead him further into this realm of strangeness, and ultimately to what he seeks.

I don’t want to go into more plot detail as it would spoil what is a fairly short book, so lets talk a little bit about mechanics.

J. Peter W. does a solid job with characterization in just a few pages. Edgar, Lumbee, and Rod are standouts that probably get the most detail. Some of the other characters a a bit flat, literally and figuratively. His prose is great, and often poetic in some free-flowing sentences. However, I had one major gripe. He repeatedly ended a number of paragraphs with similes and metaphors. Some of the worked, while others were just way too strange and nonsensical, and seemed “weird for the sake of weird” which pulled me out of the story.

I will recommend Popsickle Heart to anyone who enjoys bizarro fiction, or absurdist/surrealist works. It is a quick and fun read, and the relationship between Edgar and Lumbee elevate it beyond its flaws.

What I Liked:

  •  The strange plot, juxtaposing banal suburbs with an insane carnival
  • The existential horror of eyeless children demanding ice cream
  • Lumbee

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Repeated similes and metaphors that fell flat
  • Some characters needed to be fleshed out just a little more
  • The book could have been about 20 pages longer and explored more of the Carn-Evil

Author Interview with Ben Thomas

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Happy Friday!

Thriller and literary author Benjamin Thomas sat down and interviewed me as part of his “Getting to know Authors” series.

We discuss horror & weird fiction, a bit about my writing process and books, and the Toxic Avenger.

You can read the full interview here on Ben’s site. Hope you enjoy it!

So, welcome, thanks for stopping by the virtual hang space. Can you give us a bit of background on you, your work, and the genres you write in?
I’ve been described as a horror, bizarre, and weird fiction author. I like to think my work straddles the line between scary and ridiculous, because while I enjoy traditional horror, I love throwing elements of dark humor and absurdist nonsense into my stories. I’ve been published in a number of anthologies and literary magazines, and my first book DETROIT 2020 that I co-authored, was described in a review as “if Robocop and The Toxic Avenger had a weird baby.”

Thanks to Benjamin Thomas for reaching out to me to do this interview.

15 Most Anticipated Horror Books of 2018

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credit: LitReactor

I wanted to post this excellent list of upcoming 2018 horror releases that I found over on LitReactor.

I liked this collection because it eschewed all mainstream stuff, and incorporated some lesser known authors, as well as a few Bizarro titles! You get everything from a Stephen King release all the way down to some obscure indie stuff. It’s a nice spread to add some chilling variety across the calendar year.

What do you think? Are any of these already on your “to read” list? I’m particularly excited about Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman, and Danger Slater’s He Digs a Hole. Slater is, in my opinion, one of the more talented authors to come out of the Bizarro scene.

The Mysterious Stranger

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Claymation is scary sometimes.

That is my response to “The Mysterious Stranger”, a segment from 1985’s The Adventures of Mark Twain.

This clip weirded me out when I first saw it many years ago, and it still does. The premise is this: Mark Twain takes unsuspecting children to meet Satan in some in-between nether realm, and creepiness ensues.

Try to resist watching. I dare you.

Keep in mind, this passed as “edu-tainment” for kids back in the 80’s, along with that Rankin/Bass animated version of The Hobbit that still occasionally gives me nightmares.

I think this weird gem speaks to the level of unshackled creative output (drug abuse?) from that decade. This would never pass focus-testing today, and be cast off into the bowels of YouTube. Rather than being celebrated…in the bowels of YouTube.