Retrospective: Edward M. Erdelac’s Merkabah Rider

In 2010, I was made aware of a new book thanks to an old blog I was following at the time. The Weird West Emporium (which moved to Facebook but is far less active these days) had posted about the release of a book called Merkabah Rider: Tales of a High Planes Drifter. The concept hooked me immediately and, since I was really exploring the Weird Western at the time, I bought it and devoured it. That year, I’d also done a double review for the Emporium and decided I wanted to review this for the blog as well. This book was a starting place for several things in my life.

First, Ed saw the review and commented. I bought the second book and devoured it as well. When Ed released the third book, I was a fan-friend, asking him where would get him the most royalties. He offered to send me a signed copy for a little less than what I’d pay retail. When the fourth book came around, Ed was dissatisfied with the publisher, Damnation Books (a company that was later revealed to be utter garbage by a slew of other authors), and self-published it. By then, we were friends. Still are and I’m happy to know Ed. This was the beginning of my shift into the writing world, with a peer group of other writers.

Second, it crystallized some concepts I’d been chewing on for a series. In 2007-08, I was reading the Dark Tower. It had a profound effect on me and I knew I wanted to make a weird western story of my own. The first idea started off as a comic that didn’t go anywhere. The comic story shifted and I decided to try my hand with it in novel form. This, too, went nowhere. Reading Ed’s books made me realize what I could really do with a weird western. I’d also gotten into Lovecraft and Howard around that time, so by the time Merkabah Rider came along, I could see the things Ed was doing. I distinctly remembered thinking, “this is like Howard and Lovecraft had a baby.” It’s a description I still use. I’d had inklings from the Dark Tower but flat out injecting Lovecraftian entities into the setting clicked something in my brain.

In the very first Rider story in the first book, the Rider comes up against a demon. Later on, he meets a gaggle of them. He encounters several Lovecraftian entities, and even winds up using the modernish, star version of the Elder Sign to fight one of them. In another story, he comes up against the Crawling Chaos himself, in a scene that seared itself into my brain. It went on like that. And Ed sprinkled in various other references, including one that, to my knowledge, and to Ed’s knowledge, I was the only one to catch. By the end of the Rider’s journey, I had a lot of ideas cooking in the background.

The third thing to come out of all this came as I started working on writing more regularly in 2013. I tapped Ed for advice and he was happy to share. He gave me a bit of advice he got from Joe Lansdale. “One thing [he] told me is to treat your writing as if you’re exercising a muscle. Pick a certain time to do it and stick to that same time everyday, same amount of time, like two hours.” I’ve definitely not written everyday. But I made a schedule. I did my best to stick to it. I started off writing prose about my Skyrim play sessions (something I’ve shared before). In early 2014, I decided I wanted to write a swashbuckling orc story due to all the Skyrim…but there was a nugget of an idea sitting behind that. I talked ideas with a friend of mine, and he loved the swashbuckling idea but when I said I was also thinking about writing a gunslinger orc, he latched on to that. Suddenly Grimluk came into being. An orc who hunts demons with a six-shooter. I seized it and started work. Ed offered more advice, an especially critical piece of which was that when he felt stuck, he’d kind of block out bits of the plot to get going again. This turned out to be an immense help for me in the early days.

With those three things, I can say, without a doubt, that without the Merkabah Rider series, there would be no Grimluk. The ambience, some of the themes and tone, the entities. I took some ideas from my comic-turned-novel notes, and got to work on what would become A Demon in the Desert. I took inspiration from Ed as well. The Rider walks the lands, riding no horse but traveling with a donkey. Grimluk walks the lands, riding no horse unless it’s an absolute life-or-death emergency. One day, I’ll let him explain why. Grimluk, like the Rider, cares about people. True, the Rider seeks vengeance, but he has a heart. I don’t know how well I succeed at it but I’ve been shooting for that Howard/Lovecraft mixture that Ed has in the Rider.

If I hadn’t told him before, I’ll say it here for sure: Ed, thank you for writing what you did. Thank you for being a friend. Thank you for humoring my silly ass asking questions and the one or two critique requests. There are others that have helped me get to this point but you were the genesis, man. Thank you.

Some of you may be wondering if this post has anything else besides the word salad above. It does. See, I decided to do this as a means to help Ed. After all the fuckery of Damnation Books, Ed got the rights back to Merkabah Rider, five years after each was published. They’ve long since been out of print, but now? Now Ed has all the rights and is re-releasing them. The first book, retitled as just High Planes Drifter, just saw its return to print. Ed has new cover art, interior illustrations, and an extra short story. He’ll be doing the same for the other three books as well.

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The new cover for High Planes Drifter.

This series is a joy to read. If “Hasidic Jewish mystic seeking revenge against his former teacher for betraying their mystic order” doesn’t hook you right away, I don’t know what else to say. If you want some prime weird western action, I’ve yet to find better than this series. I’m fuckin STOKED to be able to hurl this recommendation at people again. Once again, I take up my mantle as unofficial Ed Erdelac Hype Man. And he’ll be guest posting on Friday!

Buy this book, y’all!

Review: Scott Oden’s A Gathering of Ravens

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This is going to be a bit of a different kind of review for me. Normally, when reading something by someone I know, mentioning that doesn’t matter. I am dedicated to giving honest reviews. It’s an important part of reading and writing. I expect honesty and give it in return. Scott’s a friend. He even sent me a signed copy last year. We both write orcs from different directions. We have similar political views. He was supportive of me in the early days and he’s someone I’m glad to know and call friend.

And that’s why I was utterly terrified I would hate A Gathering of Ravens.

See, this book gets pegged as grimdark. And I don’t really like grimdark. Grim and dark atmospheres are good and very necessary sometimes. I’m sure some folks could tell me my opinion on the grimdark genre is wrong and I don’t get it but I’m deep enough into the Fantasy community as a fan and a writer that I seem the various comments and reviews of grimdark works. I’ve seen reviews of this book that have decried it as a grimdark trash and grimdark gold. I was afraid to read this and hate it and hurt my friend.

But I didn’t.

Here’s the thing. Grimnir is an utter bastard. He wears that with pride. Scott wrote Grimnir to be the bastard child of Tolkien’s orcs and Howard’s Conan. He’s bow-legged and long-armed like the orcs, but built of corded muscle and iron like Conan. Grimnir revels in his monstrous nature. He is a reaver, a thief, a slayer. Again, Grimnir is a bastard. But he has honor. The first time we meet him is in a cave, his cave, where he holds to the traditions of Norse hospitality. If Grimnir swears an oath, no force on Earth can make him break it. If he says you’ll live, you’ll live. If he says you have until sunrise, mind your time.

The world Grimnir inhabits is based in history. The 10th and 11th centuries were dark times, yes, but there was good. Etain stands as a beacon in that regard. Especially the farther into the story you get. The more she learns about the real world, the more she grows. And she grows strong and stays true to her ideals. She keeps her hopes, sharing them.

I would even venture to say that the morality in this book is closer to black and white than shades of gray. Grimnir is the gray while Bjarki and Etain are the black and white respectively. And sure, there are sprinkles of gray in any character. If you’re writing people, even if your aim is black and white, you can’t escape some mingling.

Now, through all of that morality and through the historical aspects, Scott weaves in a plethora of folklore and mythology throughout. The “Oathbreaker” in the middle of the book was something of a surprise in that regard. And I loved it. I could’ve read an entire book where our dynamic duo deals with the Oathbreaker. The magical aspects that show up through the book sang to me. Dwarves, traveling the branches of Yggdrasil, the west elves, and the kaunur, Grimnir’s people. They were all wonderfully done and enjoyable. It felt both like a historical fantasy and a secondary world.

To further the aspect of this being a deep review by someone I call friend, I’d like to take a moment to hit some points I’d seen in other reviews. Some folks were put off by Grimnir’s language towards Etain, and women in general, but he’s equally as vulgar towards men. Grimnir is literally a creature kept alive by rage and movement. His behavior is to be expected. I’d also seen comments that Etain should’ve been a gay man. I don’t get that. In fact, Etain’s presence was a beautiful foil to Grimnir. And the fact that this beast would be befriended by a filthy “hymn-singer”, even be shown loyalty and kindness by another woman to boot, was something I felt helped the story quite a bit. That’s not to say a gay man couldn’t have done that, but Etain starts out as a small, fearful person in the way only an abused orphan woman could be. She just fit.

Overall, the book is both pulpy and refined. Scott really does love to ride that line between Tolkien and Howard. It’s grim in places, maybe a touch dark, but there remains cores of hope and good. I didn’t finish the book feeling like an empty husk. I can’t say I’ll particularly want to read the whole thing again but I definitely want to see more of Grimnir. I want to see how else he evolves as he moves through history.

If you’re like me and you looked at this book and wondered, “Will I like it? Will it be a grimdark mess with shocks for shocks’ sake?” The answer is maybe and no in that order. I enjoyed it but everyone’s different. Maybe Grimnir really is too much of a prick for your liking. I can’t say but I will say: give it a chance if you’re on the fence. Otherwise, carry on and find something else. Life’s too short to read something you’re not feeling.

Jack Bloodfist: Fixer Review

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This book is like the Dresden Files with an orc…and a more realistic libido. I stress the word “like” there too. Had a lot of fun with Fixer. Jack is a fun character, smart, tenacious, caring, and, being an orc, tough as hell. Like Dresden, he’s basically the only game in town for what he does. Unlike Dresden, Jack is not a wizard. He’s basically jack-of-all-trades, playing handyman, mediator, facilitator, things like that, for his family. Which is not, as I had originally thought, a mafia thing. It’s just a regular family…made of orcs and goblins. The story itself is interesting, engaging, and clips along nicely. Great pacing. I’m giving it 4.5 stars, ultimately, cause of a few minor text issues and a slight personal preference. Nothing read breaking, certainly, and things I’m sympathetic to with being an author-publisher as well. It’s really hard to edit and proof by yourself. As for the preference issue, the book is primarily told from Jack’s first-person POV, with third-person sections sprinkled through out. I tend not to like that kind of split but, again, that is entirely personal preference and it doesn’t break the read. Beyond that, everything else was great and I can’t wait to see where James goes with the next book.

Speaking of which, why isn’t the next book out already? I need it.

The Demons We See Review

My friend and fellow writer, Krista D. Ball, just released her newest book, and first in a new series, The Demons We See.

This book. This fuckin’ book. I knew it was gonna be good and I’m in love with the cover. Look at the cover. Love it. Anyways, my thoughts on the story itself. The narrative itself is lighter. That’s not a bad thing. It sets things up with its basic premise of “a rebellion is building among slaves.” From there, it delves into the lives and interactions of the main characters. The interactions between the characters is fun. Everyone has their own little quirks but all share a love of snark and sass (just a matter of how much). Friendships and romance build up in a way that feels wonderfully natural while this big war brews in the background. Lex and Dodd come into their own once they get their hats. Allegra has a nice arc that ends in the place you hoped for. And Stanton is there being wonderful and charming and heroic.

I’d say the two biggest aspects to note about the story is the use of various mental health conditions and the topic of identity. The effects of fear and anxiety are on full display, there’s talk of PTSD in a realistic way, there’s a huge point about gender identity with Lex and that was done very, very well and felt real. Choices and consequences and grief and all of it feels very genuine and well done.

And as I write this, the next two books aren’t out and it’s THE WORST. But if you like snappy dialogue and magic and want a world that feels familiar but different and a different sort of adventure in politicking, read this book. You will love it.

In addition, if you love anything Musketeers, you’ll definitely love Lex and Dodd and Stanton. And I know for a fact that if you like Dragon Age Inquisition, it will pique your interest. And seriously, the dialogue is so good.

Ghostbusters: A Film Retrospective

Something big is happening next month. The Ghostbusters reboot drops. Already, the collective wailing and gnashing of teeth of the nerds and geeks against it has been deafening. So, here’s what I’m gonna do: I love Ghostbusters. A lot. And I’m excited for the reboot if for no other reason than to see something new done with it. And leading up to it, I’m gonna review the first two movies.

The plan: I’m gonna do a reasonably in-depth review of Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters 2. Some of it will involve some reflections based on Movie Bob’s recent “Really That Good?” video for the first movie, because the man made some killer points and it’s stuck in my brain now. But mostly, it’s gonna be me giving my thoughts on how well these movies hold up, what worked, what didn’t, and their ultimate legacy. And while this won’t be a spoiler fest or anything, if you haven’t watched Ghostbusters before reading this, go watch it. I’ll wait. Done? Then, without further ado, let’s grab our sticks, make ’em hard, and see how they do things downtown.

Ghostbusters (1984)

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The Story: Most of us know the story by now so I’ll skip the long haul summary and stick to this: Ghosts are real and they can be captured and contained using SCIENCE. Also, gods are real and some of them want to destroy the world. Ghosts lead to the Keymaster and the Gatekeeper, who open a portal to another dimension and release the ancient deity Gozer upon our reality in the form of a 100ft marshmallow man, who gets roasted. Everyone lives.

What Works: The first thing we hear is some sort of spooky whistle, which begins to set the tone, followed by Alice, the librarian.

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Alice panics a little quickly but I fully admit, that could just be the years of seeing spooky stuff talking. I feel like most folks would gawk at the cards flying out of the catalogs for a minute or two instead of bolting off but it’s all for pacing so whatever. Alice runs into the Gray Lady and the title music and logo hit and the core tone is given with the theme song. Yes, there will be spooky stuff in this movie but it’ll also be bouncy and fun.

Now we can really get things started though and after establishing shots of the university, and we’re treated a fantastic set up and introduction to Dr. Peter Venkman. “Venkman, Burn In Hell” has been painted in red on the office door of our heroes, Ray Stantz, Peter Venkman, and Egon Spengler. The movie does a damn good job of introducing us to the trio. Peter is a conman and a lecher. The first thing we see him doing is using a “study” to try and get laid. And it looks like it’s probably gonna work. Ray interrupts, and we get to see just how excitable and into the paranormal he is. While Peter is skeptical to a fault, Ray enthusiastically recalls an unexplained mass migration of sea sponges. And while Egon believes as much as Ray does, it’s clinical and detached. It’s all numbers to him. Voila, our heroes. Time to investigate!

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I love the PKE meter. The prop guys built it out of a little shoe polish tool. You don’t know what it is to start with, other than it can track ghosts. As they round the corner, the arms raise up and the beeping gets more intense. We’re gonna have some fun gadgets on top of the supernatural. This scene illustrates a big theme of the movie: the supernatural is real but science can fight it. And the music is cuing us in as well. The whistle from the intro has returned as well as a playful bit of music meant to accompany their search. It’s spooky and fun. It works.

We’re also introduced to a few bits of worldbuilding. The first thing is ectoplasm. Ray calls it “residue” and it’s all over the card catalogs from where the Gray Lady interacted with it earlier. When they stumble upon the ghost itself, Ray calls it a “free floating full torso vaporous apparition,” which lets us know that the boys have studied and classified their ghosts as best they could. And then Ray, ever enthusiastic but not always full of good ideas, says, “Get her!”

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Between this and the firepole scene, we know that Ray is really just a big, nerdy kid. It’s something that sticks around right up to the end of the movie when our boy remembers his childhood and decides to use that to defuse Gozer’s destructor form. It, uh, doesn’t really help. A kaiju marshmallow is still a kaiju.

Likewise, we get a good idea of who Dana and Louis are, with Dana trying to sneak past Louis’s apartment only for him to catch her immediately. Louis clearly doesn’t have friends and wants Dana to like him but he’s kind of creepy and awkward and tries too hard. Dana, while very nice (especially true later on when she says she and Peter will try and stop by Louis’s party), she also has no problem slamming the door on Louis. She clearly makes enough money to have a nice place and she plays the cello for an orchestra. Louis is an accountant obsessed with good financial sense.

Something to consider with the character of Dana though is that in 1984, Sigourney Weaver had done Alien five years before and established herself capable as a leading lady and a hero. These days, a lot of her roles reflect on that but Ghostbusters didn’t really, outside of her being able to provide a great foil to Bill Murray. It works. Mostly. More on that later though.

I am still in love with the toys in this movie. The proton packs, the traps, Ecto-1, the containment unit. I have wanted to make a pack and a trap for a long time and I lust after the Hot Wheels 1:18 scale die-cast Ecto-1 model. Everything looks sufficiently high tech, even now, but still low tech enough you believe someone built this in a garage. And few cars are as iconic as that 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor ambulance. Look at it. Sigh. Anyways, we the effects for the proton streams are still interesting and we get two bits more of worldbuilding: don’t cross the streams (“It would be bad.”) and don’t look at the trap. Only one of these actually matters. Egon looks at the trap and nothing happens and it’s never mentioned again.

Now, Movie Bob made a point I hadn’t thought of, about the effects of Lovecraft on the movie and after re-examining that angle, it’s pretty damn central, just updated. You have Tobin’s Spirit Guide and Spate’s Catalog, books that provide a wealth of information on names like Zuul. This is esoteric knowledge, sure, but far more available than the Necronomicon ever was. In The Dunwich Horror, a group of academics combat and contain a dimensional breech. Barely. And it’s made clear that the win was temporary and costly. Meanwhile, you have a group of supernatural exterminators who combat a dimensional breech in a last ditch effort to stop a “moldy Babylonian god” from destructinating the world. And the humans win and it’s NOT temporary. Like with Slimer, they came, they saw, they kicked its ass!

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Also, note the look of surprise on Gozer/Stay Puft’s face when the boys start crossing those streams. For the first time in eons, this god knows that it dun fucked up by stepping on that church. Or, ya know, threatening death to all. Either or. Little touches like that help make the movie that much better. When Peck and the ConEd worker go to shut down the grid, Egon motions to Peter for everyone to run, miming an explosion with his hands. Egon losing his cool and taking a swing at Peck is still one of my favorite moments of the movie, too, because it lets you know just how goddamn serious the containment breech is. “Your mother!” Egon shouts at Peck. No calculations, no spores, molds, and fungus, no Twinkie.

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What Doesn’t Work: I’m sure some of this could be argued to be full hindsight buuuut not all of it. Like any movie, there are little things that end up silly. “Listen…do you smell that?” What? That scene still makes me shake my head cause what the hell happened there, Dan?

Let’s talk the special effects first as a few points after this will be a little heavier. The Gray Lady holds up well but some of the other effects don’t. She floats and it looks great, tendrils of her old dress blowing while that lovely purple glow shines on everything. Then, when pushed, she transforms and that concept always stuck with me. You’ll see it in Demon Haunted, though probably turned up a little.

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Slimer is the weak link with effects. Honestly, I’m sure part of that is the fact that he’s green. He couldn’t NOT be green. It just fits, it’s iconic, but it presented a few issues with the compositing later on. When Ray takes his shot at Slimer, too much of the little spud goes transparent, and fully transparent at that. In the ballroom, he circles the chandelier and flits in and out of view when bits of him should still be seen. When Egon and Peter lasso him in the streams, everything surrounding him is noticeable green.

Speaking of the streams, sometimes they don’t wiggle enough. That mostly happens at the end when you see the long shot from the street up to the top of Central Park West. It’s understandable. For all the shit folks give CGI these days, it makes stuff like that WAY easier. And while I think creatures should be practical 90% of the time, things like energy and fire just makes more sense with a computer. But I’ll bet those beams were also designed for a much fuzzier screen too. It’s the same reason sfx work different in HD than SD. Everything was fuzzier. Ultimately, though, those effects hiccups don’t make the movie any less enjoyable.

Which brings me to an aspect of the film that I do find harder to enjoy at 30 than 10. Peter’s behavior. Now, sure, Dana starts off seeing right through him and calling his bullshit. That should’ve stayed that way. Cause Peter’s kind of a sleazebag. We love him cause he’s played by the ever charming Bill Murray but the character has his issues. You know there’s more to him. He has two PhDs, you don’t do that without studying or caring. When things get serious, he’s there, using his sleaziness to their advantage, reminding the mayor that if they can stop Gozer, he’ll have “saved the lives of millions of registered voters.” When Zuul tempts him with Dana’s body, he resists. He makes a joke about it to himself but he resists. Of course, the fact that he had thorazine with him is super weird. I get that his status as a doctor of psychology gives him access to it but unless he brought some on his date, he would’ve had to leave, find a hospital, somehow get signed off on getting the thorazine, and then back to Dana’s apartment. And up to that point, we’re shown all the important things that happen. That’s kind of important. And it leads to an incredible awkward kiss that basically signifies “I saved your life, now you have to love me.” Dana was a fucking demon dog and had her body possessed and used for a sexual act that she and Louis may or may not remember. Let the woman breathe for a week or two before you go kissing on her. I mean hell, she’s had Louis AND Peter chasing her. Come on.

Moving on from that, I would honestly bring up the lack of Winston but Ernie Hudson recently did an interview that better sums that all up. Go read it.

The last thing I’ll talk about is the EPA. Now, I understand in the 80s that the view on the EPA was probably way different than my view. I don’t know 100% without looking into it though but just going off the movie, Peck and the EPA kind of don’t get a fair shake. Peck is trying to protect the city in his own way. Yeah, he’s kind of a dick about it but when he explains what he wants to do, all Peter can do is taunt him and be a bigger dick right from the get-go. Peck says, “I want to assess what kind of hazards your business presents.” Venkman says, “Get a court order and I’ll sue.” And look, Peck GETS the court order because the Ghostbusters are breaking a major law by not allowing the EPA to inspect their work. Now, does Peck let his anger at Peter blind him? Hell yes and it damn near causes the apocalypse. Is he wrong though? No. The boys could’ve worked with him. The only real problem with that is that then we lack the plot point that causes the grid to fail and the End to come rushing in.

The Legacy: This movie is centered around three of the biggest comedians of the time, riding on a premise that sounds totally absurd as a comedy, with a fairly tight budget by today’s standards ($30M compared to $75M for the original X-Men, $139M for Raimi’s Spider-Man, and $140M for the first Iron Man movie). You can hear stories abound that Ghostbusters was a fluke, “lightning in a bottle,” and yet, here we are, thirty-two years later, with an army of franchise material and an impending reboot. The Real Ghostbusters started in 1986 and ran til 1991. There was an RPG, a slew of video game adaptations (all of them shit, yes that includes the 2008 game and yes I’ll bring it up at a later time), a second cartoon, a comic series based on the cartoon, comic series by three or four different companies (with IDW’s ongoing series being, without a doubt, the best and an absolute treat to read), toys galore, figures, models, theme park attractions, and a goddamn JUICE DRINK. And that’s not even mentioning the fan content. The legacy of Ghostbusters is undeniable and mass appealing. Most folks know about the 501st Legion for Star Wars, but damn near every state in the union has its own Ghostbusters group, some more active than others. And there’s been enough fan films to sate anyone’s appetite, including one that actually uses that “don’t look at the trap” line for its plot!

It was only a matter of time before a reboot got under way. Dan Aykroyd’s been trying to get a third movie going since the 90s. Evolution was supposedly originally either a script for GB3 or the studio testing the waters to see if folks had interest in that kind of movie again. But now, with Harold Ramis passed on, the closest we’ll ever get to Ghostbusters 3 is the 2008 video game. But ultimately, reboot or not, sequels to the reboot or not, the Ghostbusters legacy has nothing to worry about. It’s not going anywhere. Cause bustin’ makes us feel good.

A Demon in the Desert Reviews – Some Favorite Snippets

I figured that with a combined total of 8 reviews between Amazon and Goodreads that I’d share some of my favorite pieces of each. All but two at the moment are from kickstarter backers, but I’m still excited that anyone has taken the time to review at all. I’m giving a name, whether they were a backer, and where the review came from.

Steph Lehenbauer was nice enough to do a review for her column over at Rock and Hill Studio (and posted a short version on goodreads and Amazon). My favorite bit from her review says, “Grimluk, the main character, is an intriguing guy. He’s an orc, but a nice one. A friendly giant. I always love these sorts of characters. (Hagrid springs to mind.) He’s also plenty bad-ass. Early in the book is a scene in which he pistol whips some zombies, always good fun. He has a very honorable sort of character that I enjoyed; he’s kind of the anti anti-hero. He’s Captain America in the Hulk’s body, which was a fun combo.

“The supporting characters are a fun bunch, and you get a good feel for their different personalities and a bit of their backgrounds. I really enjoyed reading it, and the final battle had me with goosebumps and giggles (as an avid D&D player, I was picturing my group and I in the same situation and it was magnificent).” – Samantha, kickstarter backer via Amazon

“I have to say I found this a fun, action-oriented, pulpy read that’s great brain candy. It features a diverse cast of interesting weirdos, and the underexplored weird west genre is celebrated fully within it’s pages. I’m excited for the further adventures of Grimluk!” – Pope, kickstarter back via Amazon. This was also his entire review haha.

“This is Ashe’s first novel, and it’s a very promising first effort. I love the Grimluk character, and I love the setting. It’s a post apocalyptic wasteland loaded with monsters and demons. This fits into the ‘Weird Western’ genre, as it’s basically a western storyline. However, it’s also loaded with elves, orcs, and magic, so there are fantasy elements too. There’s also horror, so we get a blending of several genres.” – Quentin, backer via goodreads.

I can’t remember reading any Westerns before, but I’m glad that my first one was a Weird Western. The concept of this book grabbed me the moment I heard about it, so much so that it became the first project I ever backed on Kickstarter. Nice deconstruction of fantasy tropes. There’s orcs, humans, dwarves, and elves, and yet each of the characters felt like they had personalities of their own, independent of common fantasy race characteristics.” – Ariel, backer via goodreads.

Another aspect of the novel that I enjoyed was its general tone and subtle/dry sense of humor. No, it’s not a “comedy,” but there were some spots that garnered chuckles from me. I think my favorite line is still (the understated),”I hate ghouls. They’re so…tedious.” And I have to say that I can see that as being the truth, and I’ll probably consider that every time I see a ghoul in a story from here on out.” C, backer via goodreads (and better known as wilburwhateley for tumblr folks).

I really enjoyed the fight at the end. I was hoping there was something big to happen to warrant the amount of time spent on investigation. Ashe certainly delivered on that. I also really liked how everything was connected in the end and even though the ‘battle’ was won in the end, there was so much tragedy that it didn’t really feel like they had. I really like when books do that, because the ‘everything worked out and everyone is happy’ type of ending get a little boring sometimes.” – Heather, backer via goodreads.

The protagonist was likeable and interesting, being a Hellboyish “big scary guy with enormous gun that is actually very nice once you know him”. All the action scenes were cool and the little horror stories through the book were deliciously creepy.” – Felipe, via goodreads.

Most of the reviews have been 3-star, and I’m pretty pleased with that (couple of 3.5s, a 4, and a 5 as well). The full reviews were very constructive and I appreciated it a lot. I actually ended up talking with Heather more in-depth after she volunteered on facebook to read the short story I was working on for submission to a magazine and some of the perceived harshness of her full review was altered. The biggest thing I’m happy about is how well received the characters were and that, despite what could be counted as a rough start, everyone seems to be fully on board for seeing more of Grimluk.

And boy oh boy, you’re gonna see a lot more of him in the next one.

Site Update + Book Review

So, just a little update on the site. I added a Recommended Reads section. It’s mostly filled with authors right now, but there are a few specific books. I’ll add to it as I go along. I might add a section for Indie Books and one for big-name books as well, if anyone’s interested. For now, it’s all indie folks. And speaking of which…

I just finished Christopher Ruz’s Rust: Season One. It’s a horror serial series released in episodes and then collected into one volume once the season is finished. Ruz is currently working on the third season, with One and Two being out and available on Amazon. This is a spoiler-free review. And it’s pretty simple:

Rust Season One cover

It is amazing. It’s got this wicked Lovecraft feel, with a big ol’ side of the Yellow King, freaky disease and infestations, and disturbing, visceral, brutal violence. It’s weird and unsettling in all the right ways. You connect with the characters fairly easily. The shock and confusion Kimberly feels upon waking in Rustwood is quite palpable. And it’s so terribly, hideously clear that there is nothing natural or normal about the town. There are things hidden everywhere. Unseen horrors in every shadow and person. Ruz can go from creepy to squeamish in a heartbeat. The prose is great. The story is tight and beautiful. Absolutely amazing stuff. Must-read for any horror fan.