Books That Will Open Your Brain Basket, Part I

By Reverend Bob

As an ordained minister in the Universal Life Church, I feel comfortable saying that we are living in especially godless times. Everyone is a heathen nowadays…except for me. I am pure, for I soar with the owls and humbly acknowledge the felines.

Of course, it takes more than Bible thumping or kneeling and standing to make yourself righteous. If you want to be truly righteous like I am, no amount of church-going or back lashes will get you right in the eyes of the Lord. Particularly because no one knows what lord we’re even supposed to be talking about.

Is it the New Zealand songstress Lorde or that gloomy egoist Lord Byron? Your guess is as good as mine.

It’s a tough one to answer because there are just so many lords to choose from. The raw balls of it should be obvious—there is more than one way to become truly enlightened. Despite what your parents told you, atheists can be good people too. Or, like their Christian counterparts, they can be cunts.

But when one familiarizes themselves with the poetic passages of books like The Gnostic Gospels, it becomes more difficult to practice routine cuntiness. As you will soon discover, the right reading material can really blow your lid back and once it has, it will root around in that musty attic you call a brain until it straightens some things out.

A person’s moral character may, in some ways, be determined by inherent factors, but external stimuli plays a vital role in our development as sentient bipeds. The following volumes are but a few examples of literature that has the power to open our minds, expand our horizons and contract our sphincters with the full breadth of its collective wisdom.

Read on for all the answers to the meaning of existence, my brothers and sisters!

The Dhammapada

Unlike so many poor fucks in this country, I never had religion thrust upon me like an uninvited cock. I was raised in a relatively secular household by two non-practicing Protestants. While my cat-lick friends were getting pelted by rosaries and learning to resent the God that was shoved down their throat, both figuratively and literally (see: body of Christ), I was free to discover shit on my own.

As such, I went through the obligatory angsty stage where Antichrist Superstar was the official soundtrack of my day-to-day life and the only god I concerned myself with was the self-proclaimed God of Fuck.

Then one day I was in a used bookstore and came across a little pocket size book bound in green leather, its yellowed pages meticulously folded and annotated by whichever crunchy theology major owned it first.

Soon, I was turning to the book’s many concise aphorisms whenever I needed some reassurance. The Dhammapada is ostensibly the collected works of the Buddha, but it also functions as a guide to living in general. Its messages are delivered in a simple and easily digestible fashion, but this doesn’t take away from their substance. What one finds when reading it is that all world religions share fundamental values and messages of love in common.

Where The Dhammapada differs from other religious texts is in its bedrock compassion for all human beings, regardless of faith or lack thereof. An agnostic can read its words, and find meditation and purpose in them just as any monotheist could.

Excerpt from The Dhammapada:

“Those who have high thoughts are ever striving; they are not happy to remain in the same place. Like swans that leave their lake and rise into the air, they leave their home and fly for a higher home.”

The Quran

Hey kids, it’s not just for terrorists! You, too, can become a Muslim…or, ya know, just dig on the gorgeous language used to compose this handsome tome. Conceived as the final, definitive iteration of the Bible, The Quran is said to be a revelation from God or Allah.

Despite what sensationalist news outlets have led you to believe, The Quran is not an incitement to violence, rather it is a list of guiding principles divided into chapters of ornate verse. Far from a terrorist manifesto, the book actually proves that all or, at least, most monotheistic religions believe in essentially the same god, they just call him by different names.

The Quran has been demonized by the Western world because radical extremists have used its Sword Verses to indoctrinate suicide bombers and the like, but the wrath of those verses is small taters compared to the far flung carnage and near-pornographic imagery of the King James Bible.

Consider this: The Sword Verses account for just 149 of a whopping 6,236 overall verses. To stigmatize an entire book for such a small portion of its text is like banning all obese people from a food court just because a couple fat guys loosed their bowels at the soda dispenser one time.

The Book of Lies

Speaking of shitty people, Aleister Crowley is arguably the reigning king of the cunts, having fleeced celebrities and easily malleable morons with his magick theory and Tarot card sleight of hand. Still, there’s no denying his influence on pop culture and modern literature.

The English poet and occultist earned the title of the “Wickedest Man in the World” through no small amount of effort. A spy, a turncoat, a nympho and a drug fiend, Crowley was what apologists would call a renaissance man but what former acolytes would likely call a douchebag.

A notorious egomaniac, Crowley wrote many volumes about magick and masonic rites, but it was two particular volumes that most closely defined his persona. First, there was The Book of the Law, a Satanic treatise that formed the basis for his religion, Thelema. This book deconstructed the morals and values of Christianity, reducing them to one single principle: “Do what thou wilt, this is the whole of the Law.”

This simple rule exemplifies Crowley’s self-centered and self-serving philosophy, one that reflects his character as a man perfectly. After all, this is a guy who would flip on colleagues on a dime and piss off anyone who got too close to his inner sanctum.

The second volume is The Book of Lies, a gleefully pedantic and contradictory collection of rules and poems that serve as a sort of Complete Idiot’s Guide to Thelema. The book’s fallen idol, Frater Perdurabo (a stand-in for Crowley himself), is indicative of the Thelemic elders.

“The Universe is the Practical Joke of the General at the expense of the Particular, quoth FRATER PERDURABO, and laughed.

But those disciples nearest to him wept, seeing the

Universal Sorrow.

Those next to them laughed, seeing the Universal Joke.

Below these certain disciples wept,

Then certain laughed.

Others next wept.

Otherst next laughed.

Next others wept.

Next others laughed.

Last came those that wept because they could not

see the Joke, and those that laughed lest they

should be thought not to see the Joke, and thought

it safe to act like FRADER PERDURABO.

But thought FRATER PERDURABO laughed

openly, He also at the same time wept secretly;

and in Himself He neither laughed nor wept.

Nor did He mean what He said.”

Of all of Crowley’s published confessions, this one stands out as, perhaps, the most paramount to those considering the Thelemic religion. It appears to admonish the rube that Crowley and, by extension, Thelema is a shameless huckster peddling truths which he does not believe in.

As a teenager with what junkies used to call an “ice cream habit” or “chippie,” I would snort a bump of dope while waiting for my dealer to return from picking up and as the warmth hit me, I’d read from The Book of Lies as if its dictates were actually applicable.

Needless to say, you don’t want to have a head full of junk when you read something like, “The Abyss of Hallucinations has Law and Reason; but in Truth there is no bond between the Toys of the Gods. This Reason and Law is the Bond of the Great Lie. Truth! Truth! Truth! Crieth the Lord of the Abyss of Hallucinations. There is no silence in that Abyss: for all that men call Silence is Its Speech. This Abyss is also called ‘Hell,’ and ‘The Many.’ Its name is ‘Consciousness’, and ‘The Universe’, among men. But THAT which neither is silent, nor speaks, rejoices therein.”

It would be impossible for anyone to observe each of the rules the book calls for as they clash with each other on every page, and that was likely the point Crowley was trying to get across. If the whole of the law is that one should do what they want, so long as it does not hurt or encroach upon another person’s will, then of course a book of lies would try and say otherwise.

The Book of Lies holds up today, functioning both as an introduction to Crowley’s silly religion and a sterling example of his sinister wit.

Keep your eyes peeled for Part II…

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Trigger Warning and the Rig Warrior Series – Book Review

By Zakary McGaha

The Rig Warrior series by William W. Johnstone is one of my favorite things in the world. As of now, I’ve read the first two of the original trilogy as well as the 2018 ghostwritten release, Trigger Warning.

I’d been a fan of Johnstone for a while when I read the first installment in the series, simply titled Rig Warrior. His old Zebra horror titles had won me over as a collector and reader, and I’d been slowly getting into his westerns and men’s adventure books.

What I liked about Rig Warrior was that it mixed pulpiness with right wing politics. This is something Johnstone is notorious for, and I can’t say I think it’s a bad thing. While I’m typically against “preachiness” when it comes to fiction, Johnstone’s books break the mold because of how off-the-wall crazy they are!

In other words, it’s hard to call them out for being “preachy,” because they’re not really toting themselves as super-important, super-serious works that will change the landscape of modern thinking. Sure, the fact that I share a lot of the same views probably has something to do with my love of the author’s work, but I’d be willing to bet that just about anyone could read him and find enjoyment.

The Rig Warrior series focuses on…the Rig Warrior! His uncool name is Barry Rivera, but everyone just calls him Dog. He’s basically a trucker who fights crime. Dog is everything you’d want in an action hero: tough, morally righteous and predisposed to being a loner. Plus, he says a bunch of cheesy shit.

Both Rig Warrior and Wheels of Death, the second novel in the series, are simple, action-packed reads that scream 80s. They, along with the third one (Eighteen-Wheel Avenger), were written by Johnstone alone (as opposed to being ghostwritten) and are all favorites among his fans…which is saying something, because, damn! He wrote a lot of series and many of them have numerous entries. Rig Warrior sticks out because it only has three…

…Until you get to Trigger Warning, which was written by a ghostwriter as are, obviously, all of Johnstone’s numerous releases each year, given that he’s no longer with us. It’s got a kind of V.C. Andrews thing going on: the Johnstone “feel” is easily identifiable among pulp books, so a lot of the newer stuff has all the elements heavily in place. Trigger Warning is no exception—the politics assault you right when you see the book on the shelf!

The plot follows a veteran, Jake, who’s going back for a master’s degree at a super-liberal, private college. Needless to say, an Antifa-like group is stirring stuff up, along with politically-motivated terrorists, and it’s up to Jake to save the day. As mentioned above, there are connections to the Rig Warrior series that pop up later on in the book, but I won’t spoil those.

What Trigger Warning ends up being is a pulpy, action-packed thriller flavored with politics…like most of Johnstone’s work. Despite agreeing with said politics, I felt that they took me out of the story because they were so “modern day.” The first two entries in the series took place in the 80s, so there was a fair amount of distance. It was far easier to get into the swing of the escapism.

The depiction of college life is exaggerated, of course…well, maybe not for U.C. Berkeley…but so is everything else in the book. The action, however, was a bit tamer than what I was already used to with the original works. This was probably due to the fact that most of the novel is a set-up for larger events, which, again, I don’t want to spoil.

In short, I didn’t enjoy Trigger Warning as much as the older Rig Warrior books, but hey, it’s like a soft reboot, so hopefully it’s the first of many new books.

What really boggles my mind is the reception this book got BEFORE IT WAS EVEN RELEASED. One article that was brought to my attention did a piss-poor job of convincing me to be triggered by it as the article’s author obviously was.

Trigger Warning goes after “snowflake” culture and provides a jest-filled alternative to mainstream, left wing ideals. If that gets under your skin so much you have to write an article slamming Kensington Books for publishing it and asserting that Johnstone’s niece is riding the coattails of her beloved uncle, then the book has obviously done its job.

Not all fiction is meant to cater to any one person’s ideology. I’ve read, and enjoyed, a ton of left-leaning fiction, and I don’t plan on tailoring my reading list to fit my politics. If you’re going to shame publishers for putting out stuff that doesn’t adhere to what you deem acceptable, you’re only going to succeed in making yourself look narrow-minded and reactionary.

The William W. Johnstone brand is doing exactly what it’s been doing for decades. It’s not going to stop when it still sells millions of copies and draws internet attention. But, let us not forget, internet attention is a fleeting sort of thing while great books can live forever.

People are still finding old Johnstone books in used bookstores. I can’t tell you how many “booktube” videos I’ve seen devoted to him. His legacy lives on because the fiction under his brand has a fun, action-packed quality that is perfect for endless hours of being glued to the pages. It’s that type of magic that transcends politics.

Despite Trigger Warning being my least favorite book in the series, I still think it deserves a solid 3.5/5.

Zakary McGaha is a writer living in Tennessee. Books, movies, and dogs are his favorite things. His horror-comedy novella Locker Arms is available from Kensington Gore Publishing.

Bandcampology, Episode One: Khonnar & Impressions of the Morning Star

Welcome to Bandcampology! I’m your Bandcampologist, Justin.

This segment is intended to celebrate the delightfully weird, undeniably wonderful, and tragically underappreciated music platform, Bandcamp. In a world where music streaming services tend towards interchangeability due to the fact that any cool, new feature immediately gets implemented across board by all the major companies, Bandcamp is a welcome burst of colorful individuality–it’s free to use, with limited streaming designed to encourage the listener to an album purchase (don’t worry, many “album purchases” let you name your own price, and others are much cheaper on Bandcamp than on traditional distribution sites).

It’s also an open platform, where musicians and small record companies can bypass the typical domination of the music industry by the supermassive labels which, until now, have iron-fistedly ruled the music world. That means that a lot of music on Bandcamp is magnificently bold, experimental, and strange. Even better, these features also subvert another standard of typical streaming services–Bandcamp facilitates the PAYMENT of the ARTIST directly, and in much higher rates (thanks to their emphasis on album purchases) than the paltry percentages streaming monsters get away with.

In short, when I say “celebrate,” I really mean CELEBRATE, since there’s much to celebrate at Bandcamp. In the spirit of celebration, then, this segment will document my journey through the Bandcamp world with album reviews encompassing multiple genres, the scoop on badass discounts, and more!

If you haven’t already, go to Bandcamp and create a profile. It’s entirely free, and you’ll need one in order to follow our excursions here on Bandcampology.

The Rating System

  • Merchworthy (*****)–The highest of honors. This means that, not only do I think you should unhesitatingly buy the digital album, but you should grab a shirt, CD, or vinyl copy as well. In short, this album is one of my favorites on Bandcamp.
  • Buy it! (****)–this means, obviously, that the album deserves an unhesitating purchase, but doesn’t quite justify the lavish honor of a merch purchase, at least by my standards. This is the second-highest honor an album can receive.
  • Stream it and buy it cheap (***)–This means give it a listen, if you want, and if the price is right, I would probably bag a digital purchase. These albums range from “okay” to “worth a spin.” It’s not necessarily bad or unenjoyable, it just isn’t essential.
  • Stream it (**)–This means I’d give it a listen, but I wouldn’t go as far as to spend money on it. I’m a pretty voracious album purchaser, so if I wouldn’t purchase it, it’s not good. However, some albums are worth listening to, if only to experience how amusingly bad they are.
  • Ignore it (*)–It’s total shit. Leave it alone.


Khonnar by Deena Abdelwahed
Released: Nov 16, 2018
Genre: experimental electronic

Let’s begin with a bang. Tunisian producer Deena Abdelwahed took me by storm with her dark, moody, and chilling electronic offering, Khonnar. The Bandcamp album description says Khonnar “evokes the dark, shameful and disturbing side of things,” and I emphatically agree that this album leaves you feeling a little nasty–just check out the twisted chord progression that launches the track “Ababab.” You won’t be getting that insidious little lick out of your head for a while. You’re welcome.

I’ve never heard an Eastern album so laden with folk influences sound this contemporary before. Muslimgauze might be my primary reference point here, and although Bryn Jones (a Brit) might infuse his electronic music with heavy folk influences (not African, but Israeli-Palestinian), it never sounded this serious, or anywhere near this disturbing. Abdelwahed is destined to move some heads in the electronic music sphere, even given how the genre seems to be peaking in innovation and originality. Strangely, Khonnar remains consistently danceable while retaining a sonic depth that lends the album a deeply introspective character. If you’re dancing to this, you’re dancing somewhere in an unlit, Doom-esque dungeon of your own subconscious fears.

Khonnar is definitely one of the greatest dark albums I’ve stumbled across in 2018. That’s certainly saying something, since there’s been no shortage of incredible music this year. At 9 Euros for a digital copy (12 for a CD), this thing certainly isn’t cheap for Bandcamp, and it’s worth every penny. If you like dark electronic music with a seriously experimental bent, get this immediately.

Rating: Merchworthy (*****)

Impressions of the Morning Star by Entropy Created Consciousness
Released: Februrary 1, 2018
Genre: black metal, sludge metal, atmospheric black metal, experimental black metal

I came to this one-man-wonder late this year, but I’m glad I finally made it. Impressions of the Morning Star is a solid effort in the ever-changing forefront of experimental black metal. Released by Spain’s DIY label, Throne Records, this album definitely caught my ear as a unique voice in a genre that all too frequently tends towards anonymous uniformity. Although there are certainly more groundbreaking heavy-hitters in the field (Imperial Triumphant, Slugdge, and A Forest of Stars come immediately to mind), Entropy Created Consciousness admirably keeps closer to its atmospheric black metal roots than most of 2018’s black metal genre-benders. The Agalloch influence is strikingly prominent (although ECC’s pacing isn’t uniformly slow here), and I’d argue that Impressions of the Morning Star is a more interesting and diverse listen than most of Agalloch’s albums are (admittedly, however, I’m not a huge Agalloch fan).

The diversity here is laudable, and the passages are generally beautiful and moving. My main complaint is that Impressions of the Morning Star doesn’t transition between passages as seamlessly as it should. This still feels like an early effort of a potentially great musician (which I’m certain is the case) who hasn’t quite figured everything out yet. In this this way, it reminds me of Enslaved’s album Frost, although nothing here is quite as sloppy as Frost at its worst. It’s still an enjoyable album, and definitely worth a purchase for experimental metal fans, especially since you can name your own price. I’m keeping my eye on this one; after all, we all know how amazing Enslaved became.

Rating: Stream it and buy it cheap (***)


Ars Magna Umbrae by Lunar Ascension
Releases: Janurary 25, 2019
Label: I, Voidhanger
Genre: black metal, experimental black metal
Preorder price: 7 EUR or more

That’s it for now! Please let me know in the comments below what albums, news, or sales I should cover next time on Bandcampology. Look for part three of our “Darkest Albums Ever Recorded” list, as well as our “Top Twenty Albums of 2018” soon.

-Justin A. Burnett

Kindle Crack: Killer Deals for Weird Lit Ebooks

Welcome to our first edition of Kindle Crack! As broke-ass writers delighting in our hopeless book addictions, we spend a lot of time looking for ebooks suited to our severely malnourished bank accounts. Why not, we decided, share the fruits of our labor with our beloved readers? Here, you’ll find the latest deals in weird, horror, magical nihilism, bizarro, and dark literary fiction on Amazon. Be sure to snag these quick, however–there’s no telling when these deals expire! Be sure to check the price before you purchase–just because these books are on sale at the time of posting doesn’t mean they still are by the time you read this.  

A Brian Evenson titles for just under three bucks? Yes. There were more last week, which partially inspired this new segment. It’s Evenson–that should be all the convincing you need to scoop this up.

Dhalgren is a fucking masterpiece; the fact that it’s this cheap for kindle is almost a crime. This should definitely be on your bucket list for seriously weird reads. Why not get it while it’s affordable?

David Wong’s second installment of the John Dies at the End series is also on sale. This is a great place for weird fiction beginners to get acclimatized; if you’re a seasoned reader of the weird, then you already know about this. Either way, it’s cheap. Dive in.

While I’m not that familiar with McCammon, it’s still McCammon. One day I’ll finally get around to reading Swan Song; in the meantime, why not add this one to your collection?

Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me is a dark, twisted classic that you’ll definitely need to read at some point. It’s well worth more than the three bucks its going for right now.

Yeah, Tolkien may stick out like a sore thumb on this list, but it’s fucking Tolkien, and he’s weird and wonderful as all hell in my book. Besides, somewhere around six and a half bucks for a few solid month’s worth of reading material? Why not? His whole corpus seems to be on sale, but the complete Lord of the Rings trilogy, and his incredible translation of the Old English masterpiece, Beowulf, deserve special mention here as deals you really have no excuse for passing up.

The Night Shift Writer: An Interview with Christine Morgan

It’s our pleasure to introduce Christine Morgan, author of Spermjackers from Hell and a well-known figure in the world of weird fiction, to our author interview series. She’s set to appear in Silent Motorist Media’s first anthology, Mannequin: Tales of Word Made Flesh, and we consider it an honor that she’s gracing our site with her presence again. Without further ado, here’s Austin James and Christine Morgan:

“Everyone, writer or reader or fan… read. Read a lot. Read a bunch of things…. Words are my toys. Language is like Play-Doh, a complete sensory experience, get into it, the colors, the textures, squish it, sniff it… make whatever you want out of it. Yes, know the rules, but don’t be afraid to bend them and stretch them and even break them when needed.” -Christine Morgan

Austin James: First question: Star Wars or Star Trek?

Christine Morgan: Star Trek.

Surely you kid, you jokester you…

Nope … though Next Gen rather than Original Series.

Wow. I really wasn’t expecting that. What makes it better than Star Wars?

I just like it better … more characters, more interaction, more story and worldbuilding overall.

But less lightsabers.

Well, yeah … but less midichlorians, too.

Ah, straight for the jugular I see. Is that what kind of interview this is gonna be?

Hey, you asked.

Haha fair enough. Switching gears into the writing world, I really love your prose. It’s enchanting. How long have you been writing?

I’ve been the storyteller type as long as I can remember; my toys led complex soap-opera and epic adventure lives even when I was little. In school, when we’d get writing assignments, I was always the one to go off on imaginative stuff, was far more fun to write about talking animals than what we actually did over vacation. So, it was never a specific moment or decision, it just happened organically.

Very cool. Did your schools offer any type of creative writing programs or anything?

Not really, not until Creative Writing as a high school elective (and by then I was the weirdo writing about vampires or troops of Girl Scouts killing people, go figure). I got placed in some of the accelerated programs in elementary school, where they challenged us with tougher reading material, and appreciated that.

So, you’ve always kind of been naturally attracted to creating dark, weird fiction?

Yeah, lifelong interest in mythology, fairy tales, and folklore … very dark and weird stuff there … and my reading tastes tended toward the macabre from an early age. My grandfather had a shelf of horror paperbacks he kept in the garage (I think Grandma didn’t want them in the house) and when we’d visit, I’d sneak out there and read. Lots of nature-run-amok stuff, animals eating people, things like that.

That’s kind of a fun story right there, taking unsanctioned peeks at outlawed literature…

When I was ten, I found this paperback with a shiny silver cover out there, my introduction to Stephen King (The Shining) … one of my aunts told my parents it’d warp me for life and she was right. 🙂 I still have it. Poor book is in bad shape, but I still have it! I also discovered Amityville out there, and The Rats by James Herbert … JAWS … Shaun Hutson’s Slugs … fun stuff!

And that’s the inciting incident, the moment you went dark!

Probably didn’t help that, when I was in junior high, our local library somehow thought Flowers in the Attic by VC Andrews was what passed for YA back then and shelved it with Anne of Green Gables … wow, did we pass THAT one around!

What was the first story you wrote that got published?

My first published piece was a gaming thing in Steve Jackson Games’ Pyramid magazine, about a wacky old alchemist and his shop, to use as a setting for fantasy games. I had a lot of stories online and in webzines back in the late 90’s, but was mostly doing fanfic then and puttering with fantasy novels. My first official pro sale was “Dawn of the Living-Impaired,” to the zombie anthology The Book of All Flesh.

Nice. Was that when you knew you wanted to take writing seriously?

Well, my initial career path life plan thing had been to do what they say you’re supposed to do … major in English, become a teacher, and write … changed my mind to major in Psychology instead, but the writing goal always remained. I’d been gaming since I was 14 and figured for some dumb reason that, although horror was what I liked to READ, fantasy was what I was supposed to WRITE. It took me a while to convince myself I was allowed to try writing horror too, and I’m glad I finally listened.

Do you consider yourself a horror writer, then?

Primarily, and happily; though I can and do write other stuff as well, even that has a tendency to go darker places. I think that’s why the Viking stuff clicked so hard for me … it’s the perfect storm, combining all those elements of fantasy, horror, mythology, etc.

Do you think studying psychology also helped with your writing?

Oh, studying psych definitely helped! I even suspect (though don’t tell the professors) it helped more than having an English major would have done. It’s all about personality and behavior, what makes people do what they do, how they think and react … great for developing characters. Plus, you get all the Jungian stuff about archetypes, which ties right in to myth and folklore.

Now, looping back to your first question, I realize that may seem kind of odd, my preference for Star Trek, since Star Wars was so loaded with Jungian aspects, the whole Joseph Campbell hero’s journey blah-de-blah, but … well, there it is. Minds are weird. 😊

Tell me about your books?

My books … my books … all of them? Well, the earliest are fantasy, traditional fantasy in the elves and dragons sense, drawn from gaming campaigns (I know, but it was fun). I have two trilogies of those, plus a six-book series for younger readers that I wrote when the whole Harry Potter craze was taking off. I’m fond of them, but ow, those early ones are about what you’d expect. 😊

Yeah? So, they found little success?

Little success would be one way to put it. The very first fantasy book, when I was young and new and stupid, I fell in with a scam agent/publisher, and it soured me so that I ended up self-pubbing the second and third.

Then what, after the fantasy fiction?

Then I decided to just go for it and try my hand at horror, starting with Black Roses. It’s an incubus story, and the first of what I think of as the Trinity Bay books, all set in the same fictional north-coast California town. Gifted Children, the second, is about creepy kids and science experiments and psychic powers. In the third, Changeling Moon, I bring a couple of rival factions of an ancient shapeshifting race to town (that one’s particularly based on some of my old fanfics, with the serial numbers filed off).

What are your thoughts on self-publishing versus housing a project?

I’ve been glad to see the stigma fall away these past years, though I do admit there sure is a lot of self-pubbed dreck out there, poorly edited and with crappy covers, etc. So, it’s easier than ever for good stuff to get lost in the crowd, but I believe it’s possible to succeed and have seen some savvy authors do pretty well.

So back to your books. At what point did you feel like you were making progress as far as writing quality books and getting them published with “satisfactory” results?

Well, for a while I just stuck with self-pub; my husband at the time was good at the layout and design end of things and enjoyed it, so we did my pirate-themed reality show Tell No Tales, and my purse-snatcher-vs.-assassin thriller called Scoot, and his whole game-world book (that was a biggie!). But I’d also decided to try some small presses again, and luck began turning with His Blood (non-sparkly vampires) and The Horned Ones (cave monsters). Not that I felt anything close to being successful or a “real” writer … hell, even now with some bucket list goals checked off, I still don’t, and probably never will … imposter syndrome is one sly bitch.

Haha true. Since you brought it up, what does your bucket list look like? What things have you already checked off?

Deadite Press was the biggie. I know some authors have the six-figure advance or movie deal or world book tour, but that’s way beyond me … I’ve been such a fan of Deadite, love the extreme horror … being able to join that crazy family is one of the best things that’s ever happened for me. I’ve also gotten to work with Edward Lee (EDWARD-FREAKIN’-LEE), as a proofreader and he lets me play with his toys … my next goal there is to sweet-talk him into an actual collaboration.

I mean, sure, I wouldn’t mind a castle in Scotland like JK Rowling, but who would?

I’m still just surprised whenever anybody who doesn’t HAVE to actually reads my stuff; I may never get over that.

Fair enough. And yeah, I’m a big fan of the stuff Deadite publishes as well. To be honest, I’d want a castle in Transylvania but that’s just me.

I’d be torn … Germany/Austria, or Norway … but Scottish accents …

Let’s be honest, we’d both take a castle in Nebraska at this point.

True enough.

So how many books have you written and published?

I think for books written, I’m up to about two dozen, some now out of print … that includes the gaming and fantasy stuff too … I’ve also edited and published the Fossil Lake anthology series, which is up to four books now (got put on hold during my latest health mess but I still hope to resume them again eventually).

Fossil Lake?

It’s kind of a long sordid story involving an infamous internet pest … I started off as a contributor, then agreed to help edit, then ended up inheriting / taking over the entire project after the original publisher passed away and her company was dissolved.

Oh wow. But there are four of them, so it sounds like you enjoy it?

The first two didn’t have particular themes, but then I got a little crazy so the third is Unicornado and the fourth is Sharkasaurus … when I do a fifth, I want to call it “Were-What?” and have it be tales of unlikely shapeshifting.

I love reading and editing and working with authors; where I fall down is with the layout, design, technical stuff, so it’s a mixed bag. I’ve edited a couple of other anthologies for small presses and enjoy it a lot, as long as someone else does the ‘hard’ part. 😊

Haha, makes sense. With all the books you’ve written and anthologies you’ve edited, what has been your favorite project?

Oh, I hate those kinds of questions … it’s like being asked which is your favorite kid (though, only having one kid, I can dodge that one … except for when we used to tease her about her “attic sister” … anyway!).

I’m so very proud of The Raven’s Table, my Viking collection … that I managed enough Viking stories to put it together, that I was able to get a blurb from an expert I admire, that the book turned out just so damn gorgeous. I’m delighted with Spermjackers From Hell, my Deadite debut, so trashy and tacky. White Death, my pioneer blizzard book inspired by an actual historical event, came out on audio from just the most amazing reader. But right now, the biggie has got to be the upcoming Lakehouse Infernal (also from Deadite), because Edward-freakin’-LEE granted me permission to do a sequel to his Lucifer’s Lottery and writing it was the most fun I’ve ever had.

Wow, that’s really cool!

His only request was that he got to have a cameo in it, though I may have gone a bit further than just cameo; he turned out to be a fun character, and Lee himself really got a kick out of it.

Nice, looking forward to it! When does it release?

Not gotten the official release date yet, but 2019, possibly around Spring Break because that’s when the story’s set.

While we’re on the topic, what else can we look forward to seeing from you in the near future? I already know about a couple anthologies (including a dragon-themed anthology discussed in a previous SMM interview that I’m shamelessly plugging here), but what else?

Yes, I’ve got stories in several upcoming anthologies (Lovecraftian and such) … I’ve recently found homes for a zombie collection and a steampunkish collection … I’m currently working on a deep-sea chompy-chomp extreme horror to submit to Deadite, and my sister will strangle me if I don’t mention plans for a Murder Girls sequel.

Sounds like you’ve been busy. Do you have a routine or anything that you follow to stay both creative and productive?

I work overnights at a residential psych facility, so I do most of my writing there when things are quiet … the unpredictability of the job does make keeping a strict routine difficult, so I’m not one of those who can do X words a day or X hours a day diligently. I take what I can get when I can get it in terms of productivity. For the creative side of things, I’ve always got several ideas brewing at various stages, and even when I’m not writing, I’m reading and reviewing and doing edits and stuff like that. So, one way or another, it’s all words all the time. Health permitting. The past couple years have made things a little rough in that regard. But I keep pushing through!

Great way to make life work for you! Does your boss know that you do this, or are you also juggling a sense of secrecy with all this?

Nah, they know … that’s why I stay on the night shift … they’ve tried now and then to get me to do other shifts or advance in the agency to something other than residential, but I’m open about it … I want my night shifts and quiet down time so I can write. And, given it’s hard to cover that shift anyway, they don’t really complain. As long as I get my regular duties done and am there as needed for the residents.

Makes sense. Win/win.

I do, though, downplay a bit about WHAT I write … don’t mention certain titles, etc.

Hah, yeah that’s probably wise. So earlier you mentioned that White Death is out in audiobook. What’s your experience with that been like?

My only previous experience with audiobooks (besides listening to them on long drives, of which I am a big fan) was recording Black Roses myself with an indie audiobook producer way back years ago … fun experience, a little weird, taught me the hard way how sometimes we use words we’ve only seen in print and never heard aloud … to this day, I don’t know for sure how “cupola” is pronounced.


With White Death, the reader — Matt Godfrey, and he is excellent! — approached me, and I was just blown away by his work. There are a lot of characters in that book, a lot of accents and voices, and he nailed ’em all beautifully. He also tackled the most traumatic scene I’ve ever written, brief and sparse though it was, just tore my guts out to write and to read, and … yeah … he nailed it.

So what else? Anything in particular you want to talk about? Shameless plugs? Spoilers? Words of general wisdom?

Oh, just to urge people to read. Everyone, writer or reader or fan … read. Read a lot. Read a bunch of things. I see too many authors mention not reading within their genre for fear of being derivative or polluting their own work … or not reading outside their genre because of some snobbery or another … that seems so strange to me. Words are my toys. Language is like Play-Doh, a complete sensory experience, get into it, the colors, the textures, squish it, sniff it (okay maybe don’t taste it, yick, that was a cruel life-lesson to learn), make whatever you want out of it. Yes, know the rules, but don’t be afraid to bend them and stretch them and even break them when needed. Most of all, have fun!

Austin James writes obscure and uncomfortable fiction.