The Scariest Part Turns Three!

Three years ago today I launched my blog feature “The Scariest Part.” In that time, I’ve had some truly amazing authors write guest blogs about their new works of horror, dark fantasy, dark science fiction, and suspense.

I’m happy to say “The Scariest Part” is still going strong! I’m always on the lookout for more guests, so if you’ve got something coming out soon that fits the bill please send me a query. All the information you need can be found right here.

P.S. The great majority of my guests so far have been authors, but I’d also love to host filmmakers, comic books writers, and game designers!

Lunacon 2017

Surprise! I’m going to be at Lunacon this weekend! Alas, I can only be there on Saturday, April 8th, but you can still find me on programming at these times:

10:30 AM – Reading (Dutchess). I’m not sure what I’m going to read yet. Maybe something from the novel in progress?

11:00 AM – Telling the Monster’s Tale, with Darrell Schweitzer (moderator), Elektra Hammond, Pauline J. Alama, Nicholas Kaufmann, Kate Paulk (Hudson). This is a writing workshop in which we’ll be focusing on writing from the monster’s perspective.

12:00 AM – Confronting the Monster, with Orin Davis (moderator), Bob Eggleton, Chris Adams, Terence Taylor, Matthew Shean, Rick Bowes, Nicholas Kaufmann (Grand Ballroom G). This should be a very fun and informative panel on “the monster within” and how it informs our work.

That’s a lot of monster talk for one man, but hey, when something’s in your wheelhouse… In fact, they also initially put me on a 7 PM writing workshop called Children Are Afraid of Monsters, along with the venerable John Langan and others, but I’ve had to let the convention know that unfortunately I won’t be able to stay late enough to be part of it. You’re in good hands with Langan!

This is my first time attending Lunacon, and I’m excited to see what it’s all about. If you can’t make it to any of my events Saturday morning, you’re sure to see me wandering around the convention until late afternoon. Come say hi!

Cold Skin

Cold SkinCold Skin by Albert Sánchez Piñol
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An alternately brilliant and frustrating novel, COLD SKIN reads like a fever dream. Piñol has lots to say about war, colonialism, the cyclical nature of history, and man’s inhumanity to man (and woman) in this allegory of a mostly deserted island being attacked nightly by strangely humanoid sea creatures. I enjoyed the novel very much, but I found myself stymied at times by two important elements. First, the prose is often too spare for its own good, which may or may not be a translation issue. Piñol is an excellent writer, frequently utilizing delightful or deeply profound turns of phrase. However, there are also times when I felt the thinness of the prose left certain important themes, actions, and motivations less deeply explored than I would have liked. The second is that our protagonist, a nameless first-person narrator, is no better than the antagonist, the madman Gruner with whom he is trapped on the island. It left me with little to root for other than the sea creatures themselves, which may have been Piñol’s point. I felt this way until the novel’s absolutely perfect ending, which to my surprise relies on this very moral disconnect to work so perfectly. In the end, COLD SKIN is one of those novels that stays with you and keeps you thinking about it for days afterward. It’s extremely well written, despite the spareness of the prose, and worthy of its praise from authors like David Mitchell and Yann Martel. Highly recommended to anyone interested.

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The Scariest Part: J. H. Bográn Talks About POISONED TEARS

This week on The Scariest Part, my guest is author J. H. Bográn, whose new novel is Poisoned Tears. Here is the publisher’s description:

Retired Dallas private investigator Alan Knox dislikes New Orleans so much he won’t even drink Abita, the local beer. It all goes back to the day his knee and his promising pro football career were wrecked in a Superdome game with the Saints. But when his estranged son calls and asks for help finding a missing fiancée, the guilt-ridden Texan heads for the Big Easy where he soon finds himself in trouble up to the tops of his snakeskin boots.

What starts off as a missing person case turns into a hunt for a serial killer who uses exotic poisonous animals to dispatch his victims. Painfully aware he can’t go it alone, Knox joins forces with an over-the-hill journalist and an unfriendly police detective as he navigates the dark streets and seedy bars in search of his prey.

And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for J. H. Bográn:

When I conceived the idea for a serial killer using poisonous animals to disguise the deaths as accidents, I knew I had to deal with creatures. I chose the ones that scared me the most! Although I can’t list them here, I can refer to the first one as the cover artwork already gives it away.

The structure scorpion usually appears on any top ten list of dangerous creatures, and I researched it extensively and it became the protagonist of the very first scene I wrote for my novel Poisoned Tears.

The scene shows my killer looking upon the first victim, a woman in her twenties, bound and unconscious lying on the floor. Then I go into the details of handling the scorpion and making the little animal sting the woman. Without emergency medical treatment she’s as good as gone. The killer makes sure she doesn’t get any.

Several of my writing friends commented on how ominous and scary the scene was, one even compared it to something out of a Stephen King novel — with my apologies to Mr. King.

The subsequent revisions included a change on the identity of the victim (which created a problem as they were from different places and even races). I also varied the length and various details that were cut, brought it back, cut again, rewritten, left unused, and then brought back again at the behest of my editor. As you can see, I played with all of its details except one: its placement. I was adamant about using that scene as the opening sequence for I deemed it the perfect attention grabber.

Later I showed the opening chapters at various writing workshops with publishing professionals, the feedback came in two extremes. There were ones who loved it, others not so much. A publishing professional shared her comments from the heart. “It’s a turn-off for me when I see women my age murdered on the first page,” she said.

The above comment made me realize that the scene, as polished as it was by that seventh draft, was the scariest part of the book. In an almost metaphysical sense, it scared me as well, when I feared the scene would stump the book’s road to publication.

Exceptional times call for exceptional circumstances, right? By the time I signed a contract with Rebel e-Publishers, I reached a compromise: Keep the scene, but in a different place in a later chapter. As it turned out, the first scene I wrote for Poisoned Tears became the one that went through the most changes before it saw the light of day. Now I’m just hoping readers, the ultimate critics, enjoy the book and that particular scene.

J. H. Bográn: Website / Amazon Author PageFacebook / Twitter / Goodreads

Poisoned Tears: Amazon / Barnes & NobleSmashwords

J. H. Bográn, born and raised in Honduras, is the son of a journalist. He ironically prefers to write fiction rather than fact. José’s genre of choice is thrillers, but he likes to throw in a twist of romance into the mix. His works include novels and short stories in both English and Spanish. He has also worked on scripts for motion pictures and domestic television in his home country. Poisoned Tears is his third novel in English and has already garnered positive reviews and recommendations. Jon Land calls it “a splendid piece of crime noir,” while Douglas Preston says it’s a first class roller-coaster ride. He’s a member of The Crime Writers Association, the Short Fiction Writers Guild and the International Thriller Writers, where he also serves as the Thriller Roundtable Coordinator and contributor editor for their official e-zine, The Big Thrill.




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