A Couple of Quickies: Reviews of “Ad Nauseam” and “Living Dead at Zigfreidt and Roy” collections

What’s news for horror writer Paul D. Dail?

As I mentioned two weeks ago, I’m finishing up edits and getting ready to publish my short story about a young man obsessed with flies.  I’m hoping to have it out in the next couple of weeks.  In the meantime, here is a draft of a cover I came up with.

Thoughts?  Especially about the fact that I put “A Short Story” on the covers of all my shorts. I want to be as upfront as possible (even though it’s also in the product description) but am I losing potential readers before they even get to the product description?

What does the future hold?

Next Friday, as part of his Dastardly Bastards book tour via Penumbra Publishing, I’ll be posting my “Seven Questions with Horror Writer Edward Lorn.”  As I’m writing this, I’ve just received his answers, and there are some good ones.  A good peek into a horror writer’s mind.  You might be surprised.

But without further ado…

A bit of trivia about my family.  My mother often reads the books I review here on my blog.  Don’t be too surprised.  As I’ve mentioned before, if memory serves me correctly, she was the one who gave me my first Stephen King book.  Followed by Koontz and Saul.

Having said that, I’m probably going to tell my mother she probably shouldn’t read these two collections.  Which isn’t to say that I didn’t like them.  But these are not the fun-but-scary Stephen King stories that you hand off to the kiddies when you think they’re old enough.  In the case of Ad Nauseum, there are four words on the back cover of the book: “Exotic, Erotic, Gruesome & Gory.”  And in Axel Howerton’s collection, well, he has a story called “Henry Rollins and the Better Butter Bacon Burger.”

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So NOW without further ado…

Ad Nauseam: 13 Tales of Extreme Horror from CW LaSart.

From Amazon: Exotic, Erotic, Gruesome and Gory! What if your Muse really was a twisted bitch, and she lived in your spare bedroom? And how far would you go to improve your station in life? In this premiere collection by C.W. LaSart, you will find 13 gruesome tales of the macabre, from a simpleton who forms an unnatural obsession with his own backyard to a lonely woman whose suitor is not heaven-sent. These stories, ranging from the supernatural to the darkness that lives within the human heart, are sure to send a chill down your spine and a flush to your face. Certain to disturb and delight, Ad Nauseam is a walk through the twisted imagination of one of horror’s rising stars.

I picked up Ad Nauseam when I was at the World Horror Convention in March.  I had limited funds for buying books and had met Caren at the conference (as well as hearing one of the stories at a reading).  She seemed pretty cool, so it seemed like one of the right ones to spend my money on.  And besides, I couldn’t resist that cover.  Kudos to Whendy Effendy and Stan Swanson.

Then there’s the content inside the cover.

“Exotic, Erotic, Gruesome & Gory.” the description reads.

Yup, that about covers most of them.  These are the stories from the dark side, the R-rated and above category.  I’ve written a couple like them myself in my time, but I ended up putting them under my more nefarious pseudonyms, partially because they came from somewhere I keep mostly hidden and partially because… well, I have my mom to think about 🙂

LaSart is apparently not as concerned about her mother.

Reading Ad Nauseam, there were many moments when I found myself cringing a little at the gore, or per the book description’s predictions, blushing a little at the more erotic content.

However, beyond the splatter and the sperm (yup, I said it), each story kept me hooked until the end.  LaSart has a strong voice and manages great tension in her stories.  Things happen quickly and usually end up bad (well, for at least one of the characters in the story).

A few standouts:

“Micah’s Muse” about a writer struggling to get his big break.  Things turn around for him when he meets an old woman going by the name of “Muse,” but there is a definite price to this success. [Pretty serious “eww” factor]

“Carnality” about a jealous friend who is given an invitation to an after-hours night club by the strange proprietor of a pawn shop with just one warning: “Don’t partake of the flesh.” Nice twist at the end. [Blush and “eww” factor]

“Lunch Date with Loa Loa” about a wildlife photographer who wakes up one morning to see a small white worm just under the surface of his eye.  Apparently he didn’t just bring home pictures from Africa. [Probably the tamest of the 13 stories, but a good “eww” moment at the end]

My only disappointment was “Bone Phone,” a story about a editor/publisher who receives a mistaken package containing a… you guessed it… Bone Phone.  I can’t go into too many details here without giving up spoilers, but I will just say that it started out with great promise and then turned kind of gimmicky at the end.  It felt more like an inside joke between writers when I was hoping to see it go somewhere else.  If you want the spoilers, comment below and I’ll respond.

Overall, though, if “Exotic, Erotic, Gruesome & Gory” appeal to you, you won’t be disappointed by Ad Nauseam: 13 Tales of Extreme Horror.  I certainly wasn’t.

And now for Living Dead at Zigfreidt and Roy by Axel Howerton.

From Amazon: A lone figure stumbles in from the dark, telling tales of terror and destruction… warning of the beginning of the end. The living have been twisted beyond recognition, into foul, demented creatures of fury and depravity. The dead are rising to join them. And the last diner at the end of the world is almost out of coffee…

The Dead are on the rampage in Las Vegas. A Pirate sails the halls of an uptown office building. An irate punk rocker visits a southern-fried eatery and gets nothing that he ordered. Chupacabras rain down guts and gravitas in West Texas. A janitor for the Galactic Empire goes job hunting. New and previously published stories from one of today’s rising stars of genre fiction, Axel Howerton, author of HOT SINATRA and co-founder of the annual Coffin Hop online horror extravaganza.

Of the five stories in this collection, the title story comes in the longest at about 19 pages.

I don’t know much about zombies outside of cinema (which I love).  This is actually my first zombie short story (outside of the occasional flash fiction pieces in the blogosphere).  But even with my limited knowledge, I’m pretty sure there aren’t many stories that have tigers in them, let alone the tigers of the real life ambiguously gay duo (SNL, anyone?)

Or wait, he said Zigreidt and Roy.  He must be talking about someone else 🙂

In addition to not reading much, outside of a haiku, I haven’t written anything zombie themed either.  I’ve only dabbled in the more visceral side of horror writing, and it’s not easy.  How does one depict what a flesh-eating zombie apocalypse would look, sound, smell (and even taste) like?

I think Howerton did it just about right.  The story starts when an old cowboy stumbles into a diner, bloody and with a story to tell in his own leisurely fashion while ambulances and police cars race past outside the windows.

Then the proverbial shit really hits the fan.

I’ve heard one minor criticism of this story in that there seems to be a disparity in something about the cowboy’s character from the beginning to the end of the story (again, if you want to know the spoiler, comment below), but while I had a couple moments of thinking this as well, I think that when it comes to Axel Howerton’s character creations, you can’t really expect to expect anything.  And this aspect of his voice breathes into almost all of the characters in his stories.

For a cinematic reference, I feel like many of them would fit well in movies like “Pulp Fiction” and “Natural Born Killers.”  Maybe a Coen Brothers.  I couldn’t help thinking of Sam Elliot from “The Big Lebowski” in a couple of points of Living Dead.  Howerton’s characters would border on caricature if they weren’t so damned real to so many extents.

Beyond the title story, I had already read (and chuckled at) Henry Rollins and the Better Butter Bacon Burger at his blog.  It’s an absurd, enjoyable, quick ride with the title character never actually named.  You just have to know… because the other characters don’t.

I also read Rosie’s Chicken and Biscuits (aren’t the titles great?) at his blog, and again, well-developed, interesting characters who find themselves in a serious shitstorm.  (I usually don’t swear this much on my blog.  These two must be a bad influence).  And this particular one involves a pretty scary version of the mythical chupacabra.

My least favorite (but still entertaining) story was “Dark Flush of the Sith,” about the janitor for the Galactic Empire interviewing for a job.  I dunno’.  Some funny moments, but you kind of have to be a Star Wars nerd to truly enjoy it, I think.  Otherwise, it just felt a little silly, for lack of a better word.  I like Star Wars, but the inclusion of this story felt a little out of character given the rest.

But that’s just a minor nick for me.  Otherwise, it’s a helluva handful of rides for just 99 cents.

What do I want from you?

Have you read either of these?  Your thoughts?

As always, links to your blogs are welcome.

I’ve linked to both of these books above, but if you want to learn more about these writers, for C.W. LaSart’s blog, click here, and for Axel Howerton, click here.

Don’t forget to check back next Friday for Seven Questions with Horror Writer Edward Lorn.

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24 responses to “A Couple of Quickies: Reviews of “Ad Nauseam” and “Living Dead at Zigfreidt and Roy” collections

  1. I would think that those of us who enjoy short stories, and who are busy writing would actually be attracted to a short story, love the cover!
    Best of luck!
    Catalina

    • Hey Catalina,

      Thanks for the kind words on the cover (I’m assuming you meant mine?). Yes, the shorts are great. I’ve said it before, but one aspect of the e-revolution that I really like is that it seems to be ushering in a rebirth of the short story form.

      Thanks again. Hope you have a good weekend.

  2. Thanks, Paul. I think Ad Nauseam would be more my speed, although Living Dead sounds intriguing.

    Love the cover of Flies On His Mind, btw. As far as whether to put “A Short Story” on the cover, I’d suggest dropping it as long as it’s in the product description, especially if you feel it may be affecting your readership. It’s not as if you’re trying to mislead anyone.

    Regarding your swearing, I assure you it doesn’t offend my delicate sensibilities in the least. In fact, it makes me feel right at home. 🙂

    • KG, thanks for stopping by and commenting. I’ll have to see some consensus. Even though it’s in the product description, I can see someone not picking up on that detail and then feeling like they got ripped off. People are funny that way, you know?

      But I may try it out to see.

  3. I like the cover for your short story. Simple, yet eye catching. I’m okay with leaving “a short story” on the cover. If you hide that information in the description, I might be annoyed to find out that I’m reading about a short story when I’m looking for a novel. On the other hand, if i want to put some short stories on my iPhone, I’d be grateful to be able to identify them quickly.

  4. Sam Elliot, yes! I was thinking of him too when I read Living Dead at Zigfreidt and Roy. Nice reviews, I might just check out Ad Nauseam.

  5. jillelizabethadmin

    I like the cover, a lot. I think you’ve struck a nice balance between creepy and intriguing… And the title is catchy. If someone isn’t familiar with your work, they could imagine it going in a dozen ways. If they are, well, they can imagine it going three or four dozen, all equally eerie… 🙂 Good luck with it!

    And I like that you put “a short story” on every cover too. There is nothing I find more irksome than picking up a book (or ebook) expecting a novel and getting something shorter… (I don’t read a lot of shorts, so the vice versa doesn’t happen to me really, but it would be equally irritating.)

    I have a feeling the LaSart would be a bit much for my tastes – the zombies though, that’s another story entirely, and I’m going to have to look for that one!

    Glad to see you’re back and nature didn’t keep you away for long. Try not to get swept up in any more natural disas-calypse type events, will you please? We miss you when you’re not here. 😉

    • Hey Jill, thanks for you two cents. I’ll be curious to see what other comments I get on this issue. I feel like since the cover is the first thing a potential reader sees, may as well not mislead them right at the beginning into thinking they’re getting something longer. Another question I guess I would have is what the general public’s vision of a “short story” is. I wonder if many readers think that short stories are only 7 or 8 pages. I have many that are 30-40 pages, but they don’t quite make it into the “novella” category. I feel like I’ve seen a few writers stretching that title (novella) definitely down to the lower end of the generally accepted word requirement to be such.

      For the Living Dead book, as I mentioned, I think you can still read at least a couple of the shorter stories on his blog to see if you like the style enough to buy the collection. Or hell, it’s just 99 cents. That’s not too much of a gamble. You’ll have to let me know what you think.

      Thanks again for checking in with me last week. We’re glad to be home.

      • I agree about novellas – way too many people calling long shorts that. To me, a novella should weigh in somewhere around 90-100 pages; much less and I personally think it’s just a long-form story…

        And to me, 99 cents isn’t a gamble – if I like one or two of the bits, it’s well worth it, and even if I don’t, well, at least it gave the author a sale! 🙂

  6. I did a search of short stories on Amazon. Some writers put “short story” on the cover and others don’t. After some consideration I think I’ll defer to the judgement of the majority here. After all, it’s probably best to err on the side of caution.

  7. Thanks for the awesome review Paul! My mother is one of my beta readers by the way, and she loves it 😉 She’s twisted like me.

    • Hey Caren, my pleasure for the review. I’ll be getting it on Amazon soon. Your mother is a beta reader, eh? That’s awesome. (I was hoping you would appreciate that line in my review :))

      Actually, my mother is a beta reader/line editor for me, too.

  8. Erik Gustafson

    That’s cool your mom shares your interest in horror with you! Both these collections sound pretty terrifying. I have been meaning to read both of these, I just wish my TBR wasn’t so out of control.

    • Hey Erik, both are worth your time. But I understand about that TBR list. It doesn’t help that so many people are giving away books. The backlog just keeps building up. Ah, to have more time for reading…

      Thanks for stopping by.

  9. My mom insisted she wanted to read my novel. I don’t think she made it past the first F-bomb. She’s a good girl. 🙂

    As for your cover for the short story, Paul, I am magnificently creeped out by anything that even *looks* like it might be a close up of human skin. I don’t know if the fly is on a man’s stubbly cheek or on parchment, but the texture hints at a close up of skin – and that’s enough to make me get the horror vibe. Not sure if this is a normal reaction. I can’t really watch the intro to Dexter, esp. the scene where Dexter is shaving and cuts himself. Queasiness!! Not because of the blood, but because of the enlargement of beard hairs, pores, eeewww!!

    I think the cover is great for a horror short. I also think you should leave the “short story” tag. Clarity in the product being sold is almost never a bad thing.

    I need to pick up a copy of LaSart’s collection. I’m very intrigued because it sounds like you had such visceral reactions to the tales. Thanks for sharing both reviews!!

    -aniko of http://anikocarmean.wordpress.com

    • Hey Aniko,

      Thanks for the great comments. Glad you liked the cover. I had fun with this one. And appreciate the vote on the “short story” tag.

      And yes, “visceral” would be a good word. If you pick it up, I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts as well.

      Hope you’re having a good weekend.

  10. Thanks for looking out for me, Paul! Truth be told, I’d rather read something with the gruesome and gory than just the exotic and erotic as in the seemingly very popular “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Even I might read that particular novel with a little horror added to the mix. Anyway, I’ll probably pass on the two collections you reviewed this week but, as always, I certainly enjoyed your reviews. As for the cover of your short story, I thought the fly was on grey matter and therefore perfect. I would also vote to leave “A Short Story.”

    • Hey, thanks for commenting, Mom. Yeah, didn’t think these would’ve been up your alley, but as always, thanks for supporting my endeavors and reading the blog. My mom, ladies and gentlemen 🙂

      And thanks for the vote on the “short story” tag.

  11. Myself, I prefer the exotic and erotic to the gruesome and gory. As the post by Mom implies, all this is predicated upon a good story line. Dunno, I’ve just lost my taste for the overdone disembodied limbs end entrails dragged across every page. And, a book can be plenty suspenseful and scary without overdoing the gore…take The Slab or The Imaginings as two good examples. Regarding the cover, I have felt deceived a time or two and paid too much for little more than a poorly written, misrepresented pamphlet. This issue kind of goes back to previous discussions about self-publishing and e-publishing. Those of you who are serious writers need to keep the bar high so that the consumers, like me, can continue to have confidence in what we’re buying.

    • Wow, comments from both Mom and Dad on this post 🙂

      Thanks for your thoughts (and of course, kind words about The Imaginings… although I was having a discussion with a non-horror fan who read my novel and said it was pretty horrifying in parts. This always surprises me because I never felt it was too horrific. Probably just a matter of semantics). There does need to be a good excuse for those disembodied limbs dragging over every page more than just shock value.

      Thanks again for stopping by and commenting.

  12. Hey, Paul. How have you been? I actually have both of these collections on my Kindle. I just need to hurry up and get to them… *sigh* There’s just never enough time in the day to get much reading done. I don’t know about listing that your book is a short story on the cover. As you rightly point out the reader is going to figure it out. Do people skip short stories? I like them, myself, especially when I’m trying to find time to get to the next author on my list.
    Talk to you soon,

    -Jimmy

    • Hey Jimmy, thanks for stopping by. And you’re preachin’ to the choir on that whole unfortunate lack of free time for reading. I have quite the back list of stories myself. With any luck, it’ll just mean a slow burn for those authors when we finally get the chance to get to a good one and then tell people about it… kind of like these two collections.

      And thanks for your vote on the “short story” tag… although I’m not sure what your vote is 🙂

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