Either I have to stop reading anthologies edited by Michael Bailey or he needs to hurry up and produce more.
Every anthology I have read edited by BailEither I have to stop reading anthologies edited by Michael Bailey or he needs to hurry up and produce more.
Every anthology I have read edited by Bailey has some of the most gorgeously written stories in it. And I get seriously spoiled by the quality of written language in them — it’s difficult for me to find something to read next. Since I have finished THE LIBRARY OF THE DEAD, I haven’t been able to find something to pick up that grabs my attention in the same way.
THE LIBRARY OF THE DEAD is another themed anthology published by Written Backwards, only this time the theme surrounds a mausoleum in California where fascinating people with fascinating stories are interred when they die. Each story represents a person whose ashes are entombed within the crypt.
My favorite stories were (in no particular order):
“The Last Things to Go” by Mary Sangiovanni & Brian Keene: A woman forgets events in her life as her keepsakes mysteriously vanish. Halfway through this one, I caught an idea of how it was going to end, but the execution of the story kept me riveted to my seat.
Kealan Patrick Burke’s “I’m Not There”: A man stops seeing his own reflection in the mirror. Not only do I consider Kealan a friend, but I loved this story. And the final image will stick in your head for days afterwards.
“I’m Getting Closer” by J.F. Gonzales: A young woman is afraid that she’s being stalked by a serial killer. This is a story that could have been handed down for generations as an urban legend. As a huge fan of such stories, it pushed all the right buttons for me and made me keep the lights on.
Michael McBride’s’s “Tears of the Dragon” surprised me and reminded me that sometimes things aren’t always as they seem. In a tale told from both the past and the present, we find out that a gentle and generous man isn’t exactly the person he told his friends and family he was.
Every story contained within these covers, virtual or paper, is a story to be savored and read carefully. The stories listed above are my favorites, but as a writer, every story has lessons for me on characterization, dialogue, and most importantly, the execution of a great idea.
Other stellar mentions are “Cythlla” by two-time 2015 Bram Stoker Winner Lucy A. Snyder, “Night Soliloquy” by Sydney Leigh (a tale of corruption by magic), and “Phantom on the Ice” by Erinn L. Kemper (what do you see out of the corner of your eye?).
Michael Bailey is currently working on CHIRAL MAD 3, another anthology that I will be first in line to pick up. ...more
Out of all the books I have reviewed recently, Qualia Nous is right up there for me with Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy.
Qualia is defined asOut of all the books I have reviewed recently, Qualia Nous is right up there for me with Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy.
Qualia is defined as “instances of subjective, conscious experience; the internal and subjective component of sense perceptions arising from the stimulation of the senses by phenomena; the way it feels to have mental states.”
Nous is defined as “intellections; awareness; perception; understanding; reason; thought; intuition; the faculty of the human mind; having the ability to understand what is true or real; practical intelligence.”
Put them together and you have a mix of the psychological side of science fiction and horror, the latest anthology produced by Michael Bailey of Written Backwards. Bailey has put together a collection of thirty-one stories that is not only a complete pleasure to read, but to savor every word. This wasn’t a book that I wanted to skim through quickly and throw on a shelf to collect dust.
The anthology starts with a short story entitled “The Jaunt” by Stephen King. Yes, THAT Stephen King. The story is about a family getting ready to go on their first interplanetary journey by teleportation. It’s a simple story, as most King stories are, but the twist at the end will send chills down your spine.
Several other people I’m familiar with are in the table of contents as well: Gene O’Neill, Max Booth III, William F. Nolan, Erin L. Kemper, Lucy A. Snyder and Gary A. Braunbeck. But Bailey’s introduced me to a good number of authors that I want to keep my eyes peeled for in other anthologies and other works and for that, I’m thankful.
What really stands out for me, as a writer, is the care and precision it feels that each author used when writing their stories. If you’ve ever questioned whether science fiction and horror can be literary — these stories are the answer to that.
Bailey’s instincts as to what constitutes a good story are spot on — each story in this volume is an absolute gem. One of these days, I hope to have a story in one of his anthologies....more
If you’ve ever wondered what literary horror was, and how horror could be literary, you don’t have to look any further. I’d say that Bailey’s work isIf you’ve ever wondered what literary horror was, and how horror could be literary, you don’t have to look any further. I’d say that Bailey’s work is the epitome of what literary horror is. With each story and poem in this collection, you can feel that Bailey has lovingly crafted the story, his mind choosing each word carefully and his hands shaping the story to have exactly the dramatic impact on you that he wants.
Here are a few of the stories that really stand out to me:
“Hiatus” is the first story in the work and deals with a subject that I’ve wanted to write about myself: what if time stops for everyone except for one man?
“Bootstrap/The Binds of Lasolastica” is about the transference of consciousness from one body to another — and what makes a mind whole? I saw a TED talk available about this very thing and the problems encountered in the story could very well be the same (or at least similar) problems found in reality.
“The Dying Gaul”is a combination of prose and poetry of jealousy and obsessive love for everyone involved with an ending you expect, but not exactly.
“Fireman / Primal Tongue” gives us a taste of what it’s like when the mystery of languages is swept away from us and we learn things we don’t really want to learn.
“Dandelion Clocks” is a story that bounces back and forth in time through the memories of a young woman who had a close friend die during 9-11.
Note: Make sure and read Bailey’s poetry out loud and savor each word, how the poems are formed as they come out of your mouth.
I’m always left speechless at the end of Bailey’s works because I feel that anything I say is inadequate in the face of what he’s done and the quality of his work gives me something to which I can aspire. ...more
I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book like this one before. I’ve read zombie stories (who hasn’t?) and I’ve read Christian horror novels (Frank Peretti aI’m not sure I’ve ever read a book like this one before. I’ve read zombie stories (who hasn’t?) and I’ve read Christian horror novels (Frank Peretti and the like), but I’ve never read both together at the same time. Ok, I must also admit – I’m really not a huge fan of zombies. For me, the whole zombie apocalypse is over. Seriously. And I haven’t even read any of Jonathan Maberry’s books either.
It’s just over.
Until I read WHAT OUR EYES HAVE WITNESSED by Stant Litore.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Stant’s not a Christian writer. And with books out like THE ANSIBLE SERIES, it’s difficult to pigeon-hole him or to put him in a box with neatly defined edges, because that’s not what he is.
WHAT OUR EYES HAVE WITNESSED is a retelling of the story of Polycarp, a 2nd century Christian martyr, burned at the stake, then stabbed when the flames didn’t touch him (thanks, Wikipedia). The story is set in Rome and deals with the early Christian sects that had to hide in order to share the word of god.
However there’s a twist. Polycarp, the deaconess Regina, and his followers share the Eucharist, the bread and wine that Jesus has told his disciples to share “in remembrance of” him. The sacrilege of worshipping another god instead of following Roman traditions is supposedly what is bringing the dead to life again.
I can’t do this book justice in a review. It’s not a book about Christianity, however it is a story about one of the early sects of Christians, when Christians had to hide their beliefs for fear of being called blasphemers.
It’s not a straight-up zombie story, one that will scare you into the middle of the night where you’ll have to sleep with the lights on, for fear of shuffling and moaning sounds beating at your door.
It’s a full-on zombie Christian story (jokes about Zombie Jesus aside).
Now that kind of sounds like a joke. Something you used to be able to find in the B-rated section at the local video store. Now, maybe on Netflix or Amazon Video-on-Demand.
Instead, what we have is a deep look into the early Christian church with zombies and Stant gives pretty valid reasons for zombies to exist. There is gore, as one would expect in a book with zombies, but it’s not the focus.
No, the focus of the book is the characters – all of them. Stant’s characterization defies description – it’s been a long while since I’ve read anything so beautiful with the ability to drag you down into the lake and to keep you there by using description, deep point-of-view and characterization. (You can learn more about the way Stant creates and writes his characters in his book for writers, Write Characters Your Readers Won’t Forget: A Toolkit for Emerging Writers.)
Regina was my favorite character — she reminds me of me in a way. My past is not all that… spotless… yet when I became Kari Wolfe and had my daughter and moved away, I could become whoever I wanted to be. Still working on that, but she gives me hope it can be accomplished.
And as Stant told me, it wasn’t all that easy for Regina to change, and in the book, you see her turmoil from going from what she was to who she decides ultimately that she wants to be.
It’s a very touching book with a message that came straight from the story, but is not trying to convert you to Christianity, but to give you hope, hope for your own future.
Bill Hodges is a retired policeman who has recently taken to watching daytime trash TV and playing with his father's revolver. As a lot of retirees feBill Hodges is a retired policeman who has recently taken to watching daytime trash TV and playing with his father's revolver. As a lot of retirees feel at first, he feels out of place and useless. But all that changes when he receives a letter in the mail.
Months earlier, a grey Mercedes drove into a crowd of people, killing eight including a woman and her baby. The driver was never caught. Hodges and his partner were the lead detectives on the case.
The letter Bill receives is from the driver of the grey Mercedes, a man they took to calling Mr Mercedes.
The first half of the book doesn't feel like Stephen King to me at all. His voice is different for this one and I'm not sure why. But when I went back to the book that evening, it turned around in a snap and I simply couldn't put it down.
So what changed?
For me, I think it was the fact that Hodges stopped reacting and actually started DOING something. He's not necessarily the most passive person in the first half; he just doesn't really DO anything that I found... interesting? It could also have been the way it was written -- which is what I'm thinking -- but again, I haven't had time to go back and reread it to see what the differences were.
The first half did not feel like a Stephen King novel. The second half did, albeit not as strongly as his other novels. It felt like a watered-down version of what King can actually crank out.
It wasn't until the ticking clock started that I really became interested. The characters felt... bland. Boring. There's nothing wrong with everyday people however there has to be something for your readers to connect with. Perhaps if I was a cop, I could connect more with Hodges. or if I were retired. You've got a black whiz kid who's good with computers. You've got the sister of the woman who owned the killer Mercedes falling in love with the cop who harassed her sister because he thought she was holding back. You've got an alcoholic abusive mother and a son with a desire for glory.
King didn't make me care enough about his characters to love them. Towards the end, yeah, I wanted to know what happened -- but that was the race against time, the ticking bomb that all suspense writers know and love. Whether the characters themselves survived, I didn't really care all that much. It didn't matter.
I love Stephen King's work -- well, most of it anyway. And I wish he had written this novel to be more of HIS voice rather than aiming for a tamer version, perhaps to appeal to more people. It's not that King can't write crime -- he can. He just needs to remember what it is that readers enjoy about his work and not lose the edge that makes his work so much more enjoyable.
As for me, I'm now ready for Revival which is out in September. Hopefully it will be more King-like. But I'm also hoping that King doesn't just give up on the crime genre. As I mentioned before, this has the feeling of a debut novel. I want to see what King does with what he's learned from writing it....more
I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about Mr. Burke and his work, but this was the first time that I have read one of his novels.
His novel, The TurI’ve been hearing a lot of good things about Mr. Burke and his work, but this was the first time that I have read one of his novels.
His novel, The Turtle Boy, won a Bram Stoker Award in 2004 and you can get a copy of it at Amazon for FREE. After reading KIN, it is definitely going on my TBR shelf.
Burke’s newest novel, KIN, has been described as “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets Deliverance.”
It’s the story of a girl who escapes from being kidnapped by a deranged family who tortured and brutally murdered the friends she had been traveling with.
It’s the story of a young man who wakes up to the realization that all is not always right with the world, that there are bad people, and that sometimes those bad people and good people cross paths.
And it’s the story of those bad people from their own perspective, where in their own world, they’re doing what they think is right: they live by their own rules and there are consequences for stepping outside of them.
It didn’t take me long to be drawn into the story and to that point of near obsession with what was going to happen next. But it wasn’t the story of the surviving girl that got me going. Nor was it the story of the young black man who assists her in her desire for retribution.
It’s the family themselves.
Hearing about Mama and her putrid room, her ginormous body riddled with fat and disease, Papa and his insistence that what they are doing, they are doing in the name of God and because God wills them to kill the nonbelievers.
That’s where Burke really excelled in this story. He brought me to care about one of the murderous family members and in doing so, he brings me into the family’s clutches where I want to know more about who they are, why they are the way they are, and ultimately, they are who I want to understand and to hear about. Everything else in the book feels as though it is there to bring me to find out more about this family.
Kealan, I loved this story. It’s one of the few books that have really caught my attention in the past few years. You know the books I mean — the ones that crawl under your skin and sit in the back of your conscious mind while you’re going about your day. The ones that make you pick the book back up because you know if you don’t, you’re going to be haunted by the characters and the story forever. I think this book is definitely one of those that — even if you DO read to the end — it’s still going to stick with you for a very long time. ...more