Friday, November 17, 2017

Judging A Book By Its Cover: The Art of Labat

When searching for stories on a site such as Amazon, many readers pass over titles without even reading the book's description, simply because of the cover. Whether it's an overused stock photo, or a lackluster illustration, a bad cover lowers the author's chance of making a good first impression. In a bookstore (yes, they still exist), where books are often faced out, the front cover determines whether the customer turns the book over to check out the summary and quotes on the back.

The cover is kind of like a snapshot of the story within...the first step in setting the mood for the reader. If the cover doesn't appeal to readers or connect with them in some way, some readers will approach a story with a bad attitude and possibly be more critical of editing issues, etc.. Regardless of genre, most folks will agree: illustrations capture the imagination better than a photograph.

With that in mind, periodically, I will be breaking from my reviews and interviews to feature some of the best visual artists I know...

New Orleans, Louisiana has a reputation of being one of the most unique cities in the U.S., with a history steeped in a rich blend of art and culture, so I'm not surprised that someone as talented as L.M. Labat comes from such a place. Labat has been previously featured as an author, here in the Lair, but her talent reaches far beyond the written word. Not only did she design her own cover for her book, The Sanguinarian Id, the novel also includes several of her illustrations within.

Whether inspired by her own struggles of a broken family life, her near-death experiences or just images sprung from the dark corners of her imagination, Labat has found a way to weave together her knowledge of medicine, psychology and the occult into visual artwork that captivates and enchants the minds of viewers, showcasing her various techniques. Her labors in literature and illustrations serve as a coping mechanism for her ongoing nightmares, as well as entertaining many horror fans.

If you are an author or publisher looking for an artist for your next book jacket, or just a collector of interesting pieces, you can contact L.M. Labat at her Facebook page for more information.

As always,

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Kings of the Dead

Kings of the Dead (Revised and Expanded) by Tony Faville opens with Zombie Hunter Cole explaining how the zombie apocalypse began nearly a year prior, with the swine flu mutating into a zombie virus. This character actually acknowledges the existing zombie genre, and describes how that affected the survival preparations of his group. The story is divided up by dates, so it’s easy to follow the timeline; Cole is essentially writing journal entries.

I love reading zombie novels by authors who pay attention to what the zombiephiles discuss in the realm of “What If,” but when the characters are so well-prepared as Faville’s, it makes for a slightly boring apocalypse scenario. The first two dozen pages didn’t have much action, so I began to resent Cole for rambling about how awesome his survival group was, until he mentioned they came across some zombies that were running just as fast the survivors. In the beginning, he had made it a point to say that they were shamblers – great hook by the author, but I felt like it took too many pages to get there.

Over a few months time, Cole’s group has to move their location, one of their members is displaying unusual behavior even though he does not appear to be infected, and they have reason to believe the military is actively using chemical warfare in an attempt to stop the zombie hordes. What begins as a slow trickle soon gushes into some gut-wrenching gore, and suspenseful battle scenes.

Faville has created an interesting balance between the struggle for survival, and the desire for a “normal” life, with elements of deviancy such as cannibalism. The story is filled with twists and turns, and his imagery ranges from breath-taking to repulsive. None of the gore was overdone, as is the case in some novels where it’s tossed in just to shock the reader. Slow to advance, the story does evolve into a more familiar horror thriller, complete with complex character relationships, and a bloody payoff for patient readers. (And, I LOVED the reference to “The Postman.”)

As always,

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

All Aboard

The last thing Dawn remembers is being alone on her bed, waiting for her husband to come home. Now she’s in total darkness, on a cold concrete floor. And there seems to be something with her.

Ghost Train by Joshua Scribner (an author who has been previously featured at the Lair here and here) is one of the best short stories that he has ever written, and the most original ghost story I've ever read. The suspense is perfect. PERFECT. Once the mystery behind the ghosts is resolved, Dawn's last moments are bone-chilling. I wouldn't mind the same story retold from her husband's perspective.

Ghost Train is a truly frightening ride.

As always,

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Choose Your Poison

It's been six years since the dead rose up from their graves to walk among us. In that time, the rules for survival have been altered dramatically. They are about to change yet again, as Alex and Eve, while scavenging for supplies, make a startling discovery that will forever change the rules of engagement between the undead and the living.

MUTATION by Michael J. Evans is one of the very best zombie stories I have ever read, period. The fantastic use of suspense had me sitting on the edge of my chair, literally. The two main characters, Alex and Eve, make a startling discovery while scavenging, which changes the rules of engagement between the undead and the living.

If zombies aren't your sub-genre of choice, check out my review of another Evans story, For The Preservation of The Species. Once you're familiar with the stories of Michael J. Evans, you'll realize he doesn't think much of the survival of the human race...however, horror fans will enjoy every sickening moment.

One of my favorite aspects about Evans' writing style is his ability to create scenarios that have never crossed your mind, but, once they have, his storytelling will leave you questioning your will to live, should you find yourself in one of his life-altering nightmares.

As always,

Monday, November 13, 2017

Never Text And Drive. NEVER.

Speed Bump by Sam Galbraith left me feeling so sick...nothing like real-life horror to bring the pain. In this case, the author had two layers of drama and suspense in the form of a bad relationship and a woman who texts while driving. One mistake leads to another. Poor Meatloaf.

I definitely recommend this story to all readers.

As always,

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Executioners Return

After one hundred years of silence, The Hand of Death is on the radar again – and Franklin is assigned to deal with the situation. Part of a team, they discover it’s not just Jorick who’s involved, but also the Tormentor, Kateesha. In a battle against legends, what can go wrong? Celebrate Shades of Gray’s eighth anniversary and read the attack on Oren’s den through the Executioner’s point of view. 

WARNING: This story contains spoilers for the novel Shades of Gray. Not recommended as a stand alone.

Franklin: The Promise by Joleene Naylor is another story set in the world of Amaranthine. This particular tale contains crucial spoilers, so, if you haven't read Shades of Gray, but you intend to, go read the novel first. Usually, it's safe to read Tales of the Executioners as a mini-series, but this is an exception. You have been warned.

After reading the other stories in this mini-series, I could appreciate the Executioners' roles even more. Naylor has put an incredible about of thought into the details of her Amaranthine creation. I've read a few other series with multiple full-length novels, as well as short story features, but very few can come close to the complexity of this vampire world.

Most of the time, the Executioner tales have been a mix of drama, suspense and even romance, but this time, the story is quite horrifying and the ending nearly brought me to my knees.

A cartoon vampire on the “haunted house” advertisement catches Greneth’s eyes. Then, a couples-only discount sweetens the deal, if he can find someone to take. Griselda seems the perfect choice, but when she starts asking silly questions – like just what is a haunted house, anyway? – and talking about so-called real ghosts, he wonders if he’s made the right choice.

Greneth: Halloween Hijinks by Joleene Naylor began somewhat light-hearted and slowly turned into a dark and guilt-ridden situation. I don't understand why the female vampires in these stories give the males such a difficult time about most everything. I'm thinking it has something to do with the time period they lived in as humans. The interactions between the Executioners give away more about the characters' personalities than their inner thoughts. A sociologist could have a field day in the Citadel.

I enjoyed the haunted house setting, rather than the typical assignment setting. I would like to see more origin stories about the female vampires.

As always,

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Is This A Joke?!

What is the most dire situation have you been in? Jaffrey Concoost is just starting to build a life in the city when an unlikely event takes place, he and the rest of the employees gets to be part of an act of crime. With only a single reason to hold on to dear life, will he be able to continue his journey, to buy a house, a new car, and make his dreams come true?

Three Dead Bodies by Damien Cords is another editing nightmare. I found this story looking using an Amazon horror search, but this is a drama at best. Impossible to relate to the main character in any way, as his thoughts are all over the place. Describing the antagonist as a "mysterious black man" over and over shows a serious lack of effort. I could go down a list of writing atrocities, but I'd rather move on to the next item on my list.

As always,