Guest Post with B. D. Bruns: “How to Make a Monster”


I have been repeatedly asked how I come up with my stories. I don’t have a particularly twisted imagination or way of looking at things. It’s just that if I do get a passing thought I blow on it until it catches fire. And besides, there’s no new stories out there: only new ways of presenting age-old ideas. But one thing I’m known for is my unique creatures, especially the Finger People. So how does one make a monster?
According to rock musician Rob Zombie, making a monster likely involves a teenage werewolf and a possessed cheerleader making out in the back of a car. My process isn’t nearly that exciting, but certainly more plausible. In the aforementioned example of the Finger People, I started with a subject that fascinated me. This is important because passion comes through. I focused on a specific moment in the Civil War, all the better to reveal the grisly details without overwhelming the reader with too much history. My initial thought was to have ghouls gathering up the fallen soldiers. Ghouls, while not generally the fodder of mainstream horror, are well known to us horror fans. Certainly I didn’t want any ghosts of fallen soldiers—that had been done to death (please pardon the pun). So what kind of monster could ‘realistically’ come about during a Civil War battle? It would have to be something we haven’t heard of yet.
What evolved from this exercise was a new type of fully developed beastie, the Finger People. They act like ghouls, sure, but why? What motivates them? Do they collect the dead bodies to eat them like scavengers or for some other, more sinister reason? The latter would be far scarier. And how do they interact with their environment? And there’s a war going on—how do they handle that strain? In short, how can I skip the magic and apply evolution? Applying deep reasoning and logic to monsters is what separates them from the fantasies of childhood.
I guarantee you’ve never seen anything like the Finger People. Maybe they are why The Gothic Shift—my book containing their novella The Swamp Hive—won the 2014 International Book Awards’ Best Short Story Collection.

“I wouldn’t think that any author could come up with anything more brutal and scary than the Civil War, but this he did and he did it well. I will be dreaming of The Finger People for a while to come. *shudder*” – Horror After Dark

Book News: Literary Mortar Boards, Nightmare Fuel & Your Favorite Agatha Christie


Literary Mortar Boards: It’s graduation time, which means you need to get creative with your mortar board.
Nightmare Fuel: Five recommended horror books from Book Riot that will scare the socks off of you.
Selfie Book Club: What if celebrities taking selfies had books photoshopped in place of their phones; yep, it’s as dumb and funny as it sounds.

“A Better World” by Marcus Sakey (Thomas & Mercer, 2014)

A Better World

It’s not easy to make a sequel as good as the first book in a series, especially not when the debutBrilliance – is nominated for an Edgar Award, but A Better World is another great thrill ride that will keep you forgetting about the world for a while and fully believing in this created one.

With a number of “brilliants” now exerting control over the United States, people are starting to get on edge about these superior beings and in congress a bill is on its way to being passed that would require every brilliant to be registered and monitored. Meanwhile a terrorist group, the “Children of Darwin,” led by brilliants, has crippled three cities, hitting them where it hurts and limiting their supplies and abilities to survive as a functioning city protecting and providing for its people.

Nick Cooper takes a new and daring assignment as advisor to the President of the United States. It’s up to Cooper to get himself dropped into the independent heart of brilliants country to get to the people he needs and find out what is making this terrorist group tick and how he can unravel it and shut it down.

Blending thrilling science fiction with action and great plot, A Better World is a great follow up to the very strong start that opens the world more but also makes things that much harder for the “good guys.” Readers will be solidly hooked and left wanting more.

Originally written on April 8, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of A Better World from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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A Personal Post on HBO’s Game of Thrones

I don’t normally make personal posts about my life and choices on Bookbanter, as I like to keep it mostly about my work, books and writing. But I feel this post needs to be done.

I have been enjoying HBO’s Game of Thrones since its first season. The look of the show is incredible; the detail that goes into the sets and costumes and design is enriching and engrossing. The writers have done a decent job of keeping to the story from the books. Because it’s HBO, they’ve naturally added extra scenes of nudity and sex and even a whole new prostitute character. While this added material hasn’t felt crucial to the story for the most part, because it’s HBO, it’s to be expected. One particular scene comes to mind involving a monologue from Littlefinger gazing out a window, while he has two prostitutes pleasure each other.

Nevertheless, overall I have enjoyed the show and with this new season, because little happens in the concurrent book, they deviated from the story, adding new material that kept the show fresh and interesting.

Except for a couple of particular incidents, unsurprisingly all involving rape.

The first is between Daenerys and Khal Drogo consummating their marriage. In the book, Daenerys is understandably terrified, but Drogo is kind and gentle with her. The TV show chose to make it a disturbing scene of Drogo raping Daenerys.

The second is between Cersei and Jaime Lannister, who are deeply in love with each other, but the writers decided a rape scene between them was necessary.

The third rape scene was in this past Sunday’s episode between Ramsey Snow and Sansa Stark, while Theon/Reek is made to watch, and in fact is the character who is the focus of the scene, as viewers see his reaction with little face-time on the girl being raped. This scene served absolutely no purpose except to abhor viewers. The character of Ramsey had already been established in the previous season with his incessant torture of Theon/Reek, and we already know everything that Sansa has gone through being married to Joffrey. It was so unnecessary.

I didn’t watch the episode, but started hearing about it shortly after it aired, and when I learned what the scene actually was – as I had been somewhat suspecting it in the previous episode – I decided almost immediately I was completely done with the show, and no matter how much they might apologize and admit their error in their terrible decision to do this, they won’t be able to get me back.

Rape seems to be the one conflict male writers turn to when they want to challenge their female characters, and seeing how omnipresent it is becoming both in real life and in entertainment media, it’s a sad telling on our current reality. And I feel the only way to start exposing this as something so very wrong and horrific and to change it is to make a strong and final choice, such as not watching the show anymore, even though there was a lot about about the show I liked.

When I tweeted on Sunday about quitting the show and my reasons for this, I soon received support and other people either doing likewise or those who had been planning to watch the show now choosing never to. There were also other comments and discussions on the events of the episode on social media and the following day The Mary Sue announced its decision to no longer promote the show in this great post.

And over the week there has been more reaction to the episode, from all areas, including TV critics. IO9 made this post addressing the episode. And then there was this fantastic post from Robert Jackson Bennett which I feel is the right note to end this post on.

Book News: Bookstore Secrets, Tyler Durden Returns, Coolest Spaceships & More!


Bookstore Secrets 
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Poehler Vinyl 
With the success of Amy Poehler’s book Yes Please, the publisher is releasing the audiobook on limited edition vinyl, as author recordings used to be released.

Feminist Friendly Romances 
Sometimes you don’t know what you’re going to get with a romance, and finding one with a favorable female protagonist can be hard to come by, which is where this list comes in handy.

[read more . . .]

“Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances” by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins, 2015)

Trigger Warning

In Neil Gaiman’s third short story collection, fans can expect a similar collection to the last, Fragile Things, with an introduction explaining the origin and history of each of the works, a wide selection of short stories and poetry they have likely not read before, and a nice thick novella set in the world of American Gods. The title, however, may have been in poor choice for, while he does talk about it in his introduction, the more correct and appropriate meaning of the term has little to do with being scared and/or entertained with some stories.

The collection runs the true gamut, showing Gaiman’s breadth and spectrum as a writer, and would make an ideal introduction to the author for anyone wanting to read him for the first time. “The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains” is the haunting story of a dwarf in search of a guide to take him to a cave where riches lie. “The Sleeper and the Spindle” is a fairytale that blends Snow White with Sleeping Beauty. “Nothing O’clock” is an original Doctor Who story from Gaiman. “The Case of Death and Honey” looks at an aging Sherlock Holmes looking to solve one last mystery.

No two stories are alike in Trigger Warning, which is what you really want in a short story collection. The stories here cover all the genres and take the reader to interesting and unusual places. There is joy and sadness and everything in between.

Originally written on April 18, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Trigger Warning from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Time Traveler’s Almanac” Edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (Tor, 2014)

Time Traveler's Almanac
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If you’re any sort of fan of time travel, whether it’s Back to the Future, H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine, or even Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure; or perhaps you enjoy discussing, debating and at times lambasting the possibility and impossibility of time paradoxes; then you need to get yourself a copy of The Time Traveler’s Almanac.

Well-known editors Ann and Jeff VanderMeer do a magnificent job of grouping the many time travel stories together into categories, and breaking them up with nonfiction articles on different aspects of time travel. The greats are of course included in this fantastic anthology, including Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, H. G. Wells, George R. R. Martin and Ursula K. LeGuin. But there is also a plethora of other, lesser known authors all with their own individual and unique stories on time travel.

There’s the one about a person who travels through time in New Delhi seeing its many forms and the variety of inhabitants throughout its history. The story about a cheap, wonderful apartment in a fancy area of San Francisco, the catch is you have to live in it in the past. One of the most moving stories is “Red Letter Day” set in a world where you receive a letter from your future self on the day of your graduation about how you should lead your life; and what it means for those who don’t receive a letter.

The Time Traveler’s Almanac features 70 stories and has a little bit of everything that can be sampled slowly over time – as I did – or gobbled up as quickly as possible. You’ll be taken to many different worlds, in different times, and no one will be like the other.

Originally written on February 11, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Time Traveler’s Almanac from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.