The Midnight Mix-Tape is Live at This Is Horror

So much has happened so quickly here. I’m reviewing books twice a month for This Is Horror, and now I get my very own monthly feature — The Midnight Mix-Tape!

Click though HERE, then come back and tell me what you think!

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My First Time … Doing a Book Review

Hey there, cuties.

(Several people just clicked away to something else. Ha!)

I just thought I’d drop in, keep this thing going, by saying that my VERY FIRST OFFICIAL BOOK REVIEW FOR THIS IS HORROR dropped this week.

That’s right. Jake Marley is an Official Book Reviewer. Having read a bajillion reviews all over the internet, I’d never once considered what writing a complete review entailed. I’ve written paragraph blurbs on Amazon and Goodreads, or I’ve talked about stories here by saying the literary equivalent of “Dude, check this out,” but I’ve never had to critically examine a book, even for 800 words, and then put my own stamp on it. I tried to write it as honestly as possible, which is kind of hard when you want to ingratiate yourself in a new community.

I think I did okay.

Check it out HERE, if you’d like. I’m totally going to link in any future reviews as individual blog posts on this site, if only so I have content here every month. It’s a little cheaty, but I’m a busy guy.

Love you all!

Jake

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The Art of Scaring the Hell Out of Someone: FRAGILE DREAMS by Philip Fracassi

front_cover_image_fragile_dreams

Horror is subjective, of course. It’s an emotion more than a genre. I’ve read horrific crime stories, horrific dramas, horrific comedies (take out the laugh tracks and prat falls in any comedy and the situations usually creep toward horror). But it’s a rare thing indeed to be scared by a piece of fiction. Grossed out? Sure. Unsettled to the point of sleepless nights? Yeah. But scared? Like visceral, heart-pounding FEAR? Rare indeed.

This brings me to Philip Fracassi’s Fragile Dreams. This novella, published by Journalstone, scared me, man. It put me in a claustrophobic nightmare and KEPT ME THERE for the whole ride. The horror built upon itself, and I found myself looking away from the page to gasp or to just take a breather before diving back in under the rubble.

Fracassi wormed his way into my secret heart, my safe place, and he found a raw nerve and started slicing away at it. Pennywise scared me in Stephen King’s It. The thing living at the end of the corridor in The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle scared me. The voices in the vents in Laird Barron’s “The Broadsword” scared me. And what happens during Matthew’s perilous job interview in Fragile Dreams scared me.

Thanks, Philip. I’ll be anxiously awaiting your next one.

Get your copy of Fragile Dreams DIRECTLY FROM THE PUBLISHER.

Or, find a local retailer to BUY FRAGILE DREAMS HERE.

Or, get yourself a copy from AMAZON.

 

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Flash Fiction, Novels, and Everything in Between

If April is the cruelest month, she should take some lessons from November. Man, this has been a fuckin’ ROLLER COASTER of a month. Every UP in my personal life seemed to coincide with a DOWN in the rest of the world. I’d get a bit of good news, and then I’d jump on Facebook to share it and see that another brutal, nasty tragedy hit someone close to me, so I tried keeping my mouth shut, tried keeping my cards close to my chest, and maybe slip a few morsels in between the chaos and madness of America, November 2016.

I’m heartsick about the world, but on that front I’m already doing what I can. I don’t have enough strength or patience, or emotional overflow to stretch myself too thinly, but I treat each new day as an opportunity to do what I can with what I’ve got. That’s personal life stuff. If I share it here than at best it sounds like bragging, at worst I’ll be judged for how little effect on the world it will actually have. No win, so scratch it. Moving on to other topics.

I wrote a flash fiction piece this month. 1000 words. It makes me uncomfortable to think that a story can be so concise, but if I start adding to it I’ll just fuck it up. Best to leave well enough alone. I’m going to shop it around, but if I don’t sell it by March it’s going up on the blog. I’m proud of it, and I’ll use it as a calling card.

I also worked on the novel. It seems everyone’s working on a novel, until you realize that you only THINK that because you surround yourself with writers. Turns out, most of the world doesn’t give a flying fuck that I’m writing a novel. They look at me like I say I’m training to climb a mountain, or that I’m really getting the hang of Latin. Outside of daily life, it seems like a ridiculous, pointless endeavor to a lot of people. They don’t know how to respond when I blurt it out, not realizing that I don’t really care what they say, I’m just getting used to the idea of admitting I’m a writer.

Do you know how fucking HARD that is? To do something so personal and private for so long, then stand up and say, “Yeah, I think that I put words together in pleasant and interesting ways to entertain others,” and NOT feel like an asshole? Seriously, do you? I’d love some tips.

But I get to say that. I get to put myself out there now. I’ve really worked hard at getting good enough at this to feel like the things I write are WORTH sharing, and even worth SELLING. I’m ready for what comes next. So I tell everybody I won an award for a story, even if I know they’re not readers. I invite the scrutiny, the odd-duck looks, the puzzlement. I also invite the over-enthusiasm of other folks who want to write, too, but they just don’t have the time. I get it, man. I’ve been there. We all have 24-hours, but I know I wouldn’t have time either if I tried to get enough sleep. (I’m a 5 hours a night kinda guy, if I’m lucky).

I don’t want to grow up to write short stories. I love them, and I’ll read them forever, and I’ll even write more of them in the future, but if I’m honest I know that I want to be a novelist. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about how horror stories can’t carry entire novels, and I tend to agree, but I know what makes me fall in love with certain books that ARE horror novels. (And usually LONG-ASS horror novels, too!) It’s the rest of the book. The characters. The world. The lives they have that are interrupted by the horror. A horror novel, in my head, needs to be built as carefully and as PURPOSEFULLY as an epic fantasy. You need to know your world, even if it resembles the one outside your door, and you need to twist the perceptions of that world to suit the story.

At least, these are the conceits I’m working with on MY book. I don’t really know. It’s a theory that I believe will pay off. I’m kind of counting on it, actually.

I’m a writer. I can say that now. I’m also 38, and I’ve kept all of my early attempts private and quiet. I’m ready to kick open the door and share every word that I’ve bled onto the page. Not just in 1000-word or 4000-word chunks, either, but in novels. In stories that suck a reader in and give them something resonant and (ideally) unforgettable.

Wish me luck.

JM

 

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Each Thing I Show You is a Piece of My Heart

The title of this post is a rip-off of an extraordinary short fiction title by Gemma Files and Stephen L. Barringer. I’ve changed the last word, because I want the ether of internet madness to know that the following stories have become a part of me. They’ve entered my heart and helped form, not just into the writer I am, but into the person I have become.

All of these stories are online, and free, and bring me great joy. As a post-Thanksgiving post, I’ve decided to share what I’m thankful for. Stories. They do more than entertain and pass the time. They alter perceptions of reality. They make the world a more interesting place. I hope you can find something here that you enjoy, and that some of them might inspire you to seek out the authors and support more of their work.

“each thing i show you is a piece of my death” by Gemma Files and Stephen J. Barringer

“Skullpocket” by Nathan Ballingrud

“The Hanging Game” by Helen Marshall

“Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” by Alyssa Wong

“Mr. Gaunt” by John Langan

“The Devil Under the Maison Blue” by Michael Wehunt

“The Ladies’ Aquatic Gardening Society” by Henry Lien

“Sing Me Your Scars” by Damien Angelica Walters

“The Thyme Fiend” by Jeffrey Ford

“Chapter Six” by Stephen Graham Jones

“Frontier Death Song” by Laird Barron

“The End of the End of Everything” by Dale Bailey

“The Loud Table” by Jonathan Carroll

“A Matter of Shapespace” by Brian Trent

“No Breather in the World But Thee” by Jeff VanderMeer

“The Night Cyclist” by Stephen Graham Jones

There are more stories that have changed or inspired me this year — there are ALWAYS more stories, as Uncle Stevie said in some book or another — but these were the ones I could find while procrastinating on my work-in-progress by writing this blog post. (Honesty, man.)

Thank you all.

Jake

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My Giant Bearded Face Makes the News

My first ever author interview, folks! Read it HERE.

There’s something a little unnerving about the experience of an interview, especially when your brain opts to go for full honesty over the way cooler lies of a rehearsed story. I just chatted away, then spent a day wondering if I botched it. Luckily, I think the article turned out pretty good. It reveals a few capital-T Truths about me (like — GASP! –I use a pen name!) and gives a weird shout out to my high school, but over all I’m happy.

Be well, y’all.

JM

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October’s Gone, But Not Forgotten

It was a small goal. It shouldn’t have been too hard to accomplish. After all, it’s not like I’m so busy I can’t just make a note or drop a line, is it?

Hurm.

I wanted to catalog all of the stories I’d read in October, but I blew it. I only lasted a week in my notes, so I’ll add them here as well as anything I can pull out of the trench of my memory.

“Binti” Nnedi Okorafor

“Of Sorrow and Such” Angela Slatter

“The Night Cyclist” Stephen Graham Jones

“Nesters” Siobhan Carroll

“Every Heart a Doorway” Seanan McGuire

“Eternal Troutland” Stephen Graham Jones

“The Supplement” John Langan

“Mortensen’s Muse” Orrin Grey

“Oblivion Mode” Laird Barron

“Laal Andhi” Usman T. Malik

The Shining Stephen King

Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction Benjamin Percy

“The Specialist’s Hat” Kelly Link

Ghost Story Peter Straub

14 Peter Clines

Nightwise R.S. Belcher (this may have been in September)

The Shining Girls Lauren Beukes

“The Ballad of Black Tom” Victor LaValle

 

and that’s what I can remember. Not great, with quite a few double- or triple-dips (or octuple, in the case of the Kelly Link story). I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but the Benjamin Percy book was so good, I know I’m going to probably run through it again before the end of the year. Full of SO MUCH information, I feel like it’s practically a lecture series.

November is here, and I’m going to catalog my stories a little differently, I think, so this time next month I should have a proper blog post, a little more evenly laid out like my earlier runs at it.

JM

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My Secret News, at Last Revealed!

Writers of the Future Contest 3rd Quarter Winners 2016

Writers of the Future 3rd Quarter

Congratulations to you all!


Winners:

First Place – Jake Marley from California
Second Place – Ville Marilainen from Finland
Third Place – C.L. Kagmi from Michigan

So, THIS HAPPENED! Yep, that’s ME! RIGHT THERE! FIRST PLACE!!!!

On September 16, the day before my 38th birthday, I got a call about being a Finalist for the Writers of the Future contest. I was stoked, but knew that there was no way my story was going to win.

Except…

Boom. Right here.

I am SO HAPPY I get to share the good news. If you’re reading this, then thanks for sharing in the happy with me!

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Uncle Stevie’s Opera Adaptation

Right now, should you want, you can listen to AN OPERA BASED ON STEPHEN KING’S THE SHINING! Go on, if you want. Link’s right HERE.

I feel like this may be the new standard by which a successful horror story is classified. Forget the hum-drum film adaptations. Comics? Who even reads those any longer? Nope, opera is WHERE IT’S AT.

I’m goofing a bit, but I really do think it’s incredibly cool that there are not only people who still perform opera in our jaded, hostile world, but that some folks are out there writing new ones. I’m not an opera guy per se, but I respect the passions of artists and musicians. In all seriousness, you should go back and click the link and take a listen. I sampled it, listening to snippets, but I was impressed as hell. It’s really opera, man. And even though it’s in English, I can’t make out what they’re saying half the time. I think that gets you extra points in the opera world, but maybe I’m thinking of something else.

If they do an opera of The Stand, though, you know I’ll give it a listen.

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What I’m Reading!

I’m a story hummingbird. A gigantic, six-foot-five hummingbird, flitting around sipping from three or four different books at a time, listening to audiobooks and podcasts as I drive, getting all those words caught in my beard.

That’s why this isn’t ever ever EVER going to be one book on a list.

I’m reading: Black Light by Elizabeth Hand. Hand’s Cass Neary novels (Generation Loss, Available Dark, and Hard Light) are among the best books I’ve read this year so far, and so I absolutely had to take a chance on her older works. She’s absolutely one of the best writers I’ve encountered. (Thanks Paul Tremblay for steering me her way!)

The Passage by Justin Cronin. This book, man. I’ve got a confession to make: I’ve tried getting through it no less than half-a-dozen times, and I haven’t been able to … YET! I bought the book in hardcover when it first came out, then I bought it on Audible, but I kept tripping over it and getting hung up when it jumps in time. But, thanks to Michael David Wilson at THIS IS HORROR and his conversation with Stephen Graham Jones, I’ve learned of a little button on the Audible app that lets you speed up the narrative. Instead of slogging through slow narration, I’m now listening to things at 1.25x or 1.5x speed, which helps immensely. At first it sounds chipmunk-y, but you soon get used to it. I’m hoping to finally find out what happens when I get to the end (because, FULL CONFESSION TIME, I’ve already bought the 2nd in the series, I just haven’t read it yet)

The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock. Woof. This is a sipper for me. Pollock’s the kind of writer who can kick your ass in a sentence and put you in traction by the end of the paragraph. I can’t live too long in the worlds he creates because they’re just too much for me, but I LOVE his writing.

Now, for my favorites: Short fiction!

The hummingbird analogy goes double for short stories. I’m reading online at Nightmare Magazine and Apex and Lightspeed, but I’ve also got a Kindle full of collections and anthologies waiting to leap into my brain. The ones I’m into right this moment are:

Sourdough and other stories by Angela Slatter. These are so fucking good it gives me shivers.

Children of Lovecraft, edited by (the amazing) Ellen Datlow. I’m half-done with this one, and it’s got a great number of my favorites working right now.

Eternal Frankenstein, edited by (the also amazing) Ross E. Lockhart. This one’s another great line-up of authors and I’m giddy about what’s to come.

Finally, non-fiction. I’m not really into non-fiction, but when I start one I generally slog away until I finish it. Sometimes I get on a tear (like last week’s reading of Thrill Me by Benjamin Percy) and sometimes I read a few pages and digest the work, trying to absorb it. That’s how I am this week with:

Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff VanderMeer. This book kicks some serious ass. It’s like a college course with guest lecturers and bizarre slide-show presentations. I’m loving every page of it.

If I was a better blogger, I’d put links, but I don’t have time. Maybe, sometime in the future, I’ll be procrastinating on a project and I’ll come do it retroactively. Until now, I’m sure you can probably just open another tab in your browser and Google anything you’re interested in. I BELIEVE IN YOU!

JM

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