Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Madness of Frankenstein by Derrick Ferguson

Madness of Frankenstein
by Derrick Ferguson
PulpWork Press 2014

Doctor Peter Holden is sentenced to an insane asylum for following the work of Victor Frankenstein.  He arrives to find Frankenstein running the asylum under an alias.  If this sounds familiar, it's because it's deeply derivative of Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell.

And I'm totally cool with that.  I've always liked Hammer's depiction of the doctor as being the real monster, a complete sociopath with no regard for human life.  This was my favorite of the series, and I don't mind seeing a literary remake.

The doctor teams up with a seductress witch to give his creation a soul, while a zealous justicer gathers up a mob of angry villagers to raid the asylum.  Things start out slow, but get good and over the top once villagers and escaped lunatics face off.

There's a little bit of the kitchen-sink approach I've seen with some of the new pulp writers, here in the shape of witchcraft and a magic artifact, but not enough to be distracting.

Derrick Ferguson is a new pulp writer I've been meaning to check out, mainly known for his Dillon series.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Better When They Sucked - TSOL

But then, sometimes punks get artsy, put on eyeliner, and learn to play piano

This is the only good version of this song, and gets us as close as we'll ever get to a punk rock Meatloaf.  I so want there to be a punk rock Meatloaf.  This is also as close as TSOL gets to being listenable.  The rest of the album (including the album version of this song) is horrible.  But it get so much worse.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Sweet Dreams by William W Johnstone

Sweet Dreams
by William Johnstone
1985 Zebra

Alright, strap yourself in.

Our jumping off point is the phenomena of ghostly lights seen around Missouri.  I don't know if this is specifically the Missouri Headlights, I mean, Spook Lights -

There's also an archaeological dig at an Indian burial site.  A Manitou, or Indian spirit thingee, uses the light to travel in and rape women.  He rapes a doctor's wife and explodes her head with electricity, but it's ok because she was an evil harpy because she didn't like that he was cheating on her with his secretary.  Dames.

Said doctor performs an autopsy on his own wife then sleeps with his new psychiatrist girlfriend the same night.  This is our hero.  The two doctors befriend a couple of little kids who are special.  Special how?  Maybe we'll find out later, if Johnstone remembers (he doesn't).

We move into the Devil series template here.  The town is isolated, with people getting amnesia if they cross the border in either direction.  The townspeople inclined towards evil get superevil and work for the Manitou.  Of course, this includes all the teenagers.  A handful (the kids, the doctors, a preacher, and a couple of cops) stay normal.  Everyone else becomes a zoned out zombie, shuffling through a semblance of normal life.

The kids' parents have incestuous orgies while they're trying to sleep and the kids' toys come to life and start banging each other.  What's going on?  Luckily, there's a magic Indian man to explain everything.  And, yes, he's a drunk.

The Manitou is very dangerous and can't be stopped by Western Jesus magic.  Only another Manitou can stop it, or maybe the kids, or the medicine man's magic, or maybe he can't be stopped, but definitely not by anything God can do.

So, something something about being between two worlds.  We have to go to the haunted house!  The drunks, kids, doctors, and cops force their way through a storm to get to the haunted house.  The woman cop gets blown away by the wind, raped some, then teleports back to the house with a sore tush.

Yeah, the raping.  There's a lot of rape in this book.  Like, twenty or something.  Every character's backstory involves rape.  Child rape, monster rape, ghost rape, all the rape is in this book.  Never seen so many anuses get "bulled" into.

So the group gets to the haunted house and hit a time warp to 1890.  Their clothes change to old timey clothes, but they're invisible spirits so it doesn't matter, and they run into the evil man that lived there in 1890 who is also a ghost at the same time.  He rapes a bunch of kids.

They befriend a ghost dog and the Manitou starts confronting everyone with illusions of their darkest fears.  The evil man that is also a ghost says he works for Satan, who might be teaming up with the Manitou, but let's not go anywhere with that.  The cops fight a living wall of human flesh with pointy sticks.

We're three fourths of the way through, so let's introduce a bunch of new characters.  Some cops figure out how to get into town and keep their memories.  They team up with a priest and go to the haunted house.

There's a running subplot about a teacher (yes, she gets raped) who get's possessed by the Manitou, wears Indian clothes, and skins men alive.  The skinned men still live and she joins the evil rapey people on a raid on the haunted house.

The rapey people get shot, and the skinned people melt under holy water and crosses, because that works now.  That thing about Jesus magic not working?  Never mind, it works fine.  God just opens up an earthquake, the Manitou falls in, the end.

But wait...EPILOGUE !!!

The Manitou crawls out of the ground into a lake a couple days later.  So much for Jesus magic.  Only a few pages left, can we squeeze in a couple more rapes?  Because the Manitou babies grow fast, and in one year they'll be full grown and the Manitou will strike again.

How are the kids doing?  They're apprehensive, because they've got the feeling that in one year this will all happen again.

Johnstone was nice enough to even list all of his own plot holes and lost threads there at the end:

  • The kids were supposed to be special, didn't do anything.
  • The magic Indian was supposed to be special, all he did was give wrong information and die somehow.
  • The spook lights got forgotten.
  • So much was made about God not being in the same world as the Manitou, yet this couldn't be more of a deux es machina if it got wheeled down on ropes.
  • None of what anyone did mattered.  God could have zapped the Manitou whenever he wanted and saved the town a lot of rape.

But don't worry, all these loose threads will be tied up in one year in the sequel that Johnstone is shamelessly plugging that never happened.

There were no dreams, sweet or otherwise.

The Kindle edition was done by the Lyrical Press imprint of Kensington Books, an ostensibly real publishing company.  They evidently had an intern just scan in a paperback, complete with OCR errors and the original back matter.  I just sent Zebra my 50 cents for their catalog.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Operator #5 005 - The Cavern of the Damned

The Cavern of the Damned
Operator #5 005
by Frederick C. Davis as Curtis Steele
August, 1934

Operator #5 faces an insidious cult, whose tentacles reach into the Secret Service itself.  Worshippers of Zaava use the fumes of bhang (cannabis) to enslave victims to their will, including the head of the Secret Service itself.  Operator #5 is accused of treachery and runs fugitive from his own organization,

I've read references to Operator #5 picking up some Weird Menace traits, but this is the first time I've seen it.  Death traps involving freezing victims solid and hordes of killer ants, and the finale takes place in a hellish underground cavern.

A whole different vibe from the earlier issues - less military, more secret agent.  Fails to pick up a lot of the loose ends, like how or why the leaders face was projected into the sky, or what happened to an entire missing girl's college.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Friday, October 23, 2015

Better When They Sucked - Human League

I'm operating from memory, so forgive me for butchering the history here.  Human League started of as being a titch more artsy avant garde before the real musicians of the group left and they turned more pop.  Their first album under this incarnation had a little ditty described by frontman Philip Oakey as a "poor quality filler track", and ended up being:

Which, I don't care how cool you think you are, is one of the best pop songs ever.  So let's move all creative control away from the band to Janet Jackson's producers:

Friday, October 16, 2015

Better When they Sucked - We've Got a Fuzzbox and We're Gonna Use It

Now people try to sound this lo-fi on purpose.  Get a better contract, some producers, a professional studio, and...

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

TV Obscura - Half Nelson

Joe Pesci, Victoria Jackson, Fred Williamson, Bubba Smith, Dick Butkus, and Dean Martin as himself.  Just found out about this last week, and I used to go out of my way to find horrible TV.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Hitman 1 - Chicago Deathwinds by Norman Winski

The Hitman
Hitman 1
by Norman Winksi
1984 Pinnacle Books

Dirk Spencer is an idle playboy who finds meaning in life after his friend's kid gets Zimmermanned by a couple of corrupt security guards.  His mission - use his millions to go around murdering folk.  After the security guards, he turns his attention to Murdoch, a candidate for the Governor of Illinois.

Murdoch's campaign is anti-immigrant, pro-life, homophobic, anti-feminist, and anti-welfare.  In 1984, the middle of the Reagan era, this made him Hitler incarnate and a target for righteous murder for his views alone.  In 2015, that''ll get you into Congress.

It is kind of refreshing to see a left-wing lunatic to counterbalance the Joseph Rosenbergers and William Johnstones.  Kind of like a Bill Maher to Glenn Beck.

Spencer discretely shadows Murdoch in his personal helicopter and Lamborghini before launching his assault.  Did I mention The Hitman is kind of silly?  It's kind of silly.  Spencer is completely over-the-top - shooting Uzis out of his Lamborghini or flying upside-down in a stunt plane, all the while being the best at the sex.

This one took me a while to get into.  Something about the actual prose just rubbed me the wrong way, but I eventually got used to it and was breezing through by the end.  If you don't mind things getting a little stupid, this one can be pretty fun, with decent action scenes and large slices of sleaziness on the side.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Adventures in Self-Publishing - Updates

A few notes and updates:

Smashwords has been taking a full three days for their pre-screening before they even think about submitting to vendors.  Even cover changes are taking this long.  However, they are still my distant second largest storefront after Amazon.

Draft2Digital has a feature where it automatically generates and "Also by" pages with links that are specific to the individual vendors.  When you add a new title, it can automatically add it to the list and update all your previous books to include the new information.  The only downside to D2D is their automated screening for objectionable material for certain vendors.  I'm assuming its automated, as it can reject items with a couple hours of submission.  There is some inconsistency - recently it rejected four titles for iTunes and Kobo, but accepted a Collection with the same titles inside.  It rejected some titles with no keywords, so it must look at the actual content itself.  Either they have a program that looks at combinations of words to measure creepiness, or they have staff that skims the books for same - either way.

Draft2Digital gets the books in the stores quicker than Smashwords, even taking out Smashwords pre-screening process.  D2D got a book into Kobo in a few hours on a Sunday night - some of my titles never end up in Kobo via Smashwords, and I have no idea if they got rejected or it just never got delivered.  I'm in a place now where I submit everything to D2D, and only use Smashwords for their own storefront and the vendors I couldn't get into with D2D.

Twitter doesn't seem to be a particular fruitful avenue for advertising books.  If one already has a presence and following there, the occasional announcement of a new title can't hurt, but just dropping ads doesn't get much mileage.  Their analytics page is garbage.  I know there can be differences in the way the same data is collected, where the daily cut-off points are, etc, but the best you can figure from Twitter's own analytics page is whether one tweet got more clicks relative to another.  Maybe.

You can pull it up to show all your tweets on the left side, with the totals on the right.  On my particular page, I have maybe 3-4 link clicks on the left, and like 20 on the right.  And Amazon affiliates counts like 150 for the same links over the same period.

The more stats I see on ebook sales, the fewer reliable trends I'm able to develop.  The term "your mileage may vary" definitely applies.  I've collected some data on a variety of other folks' titles to account for the fact that my titles are flatlined.  Monday is supposed to be the biggest online shopping day, but it's my worst day for ebooks.  Friday nights and Saturdays are slow, but things posted Saturday get clicked on Sunday.

There are only two reliable trends I've noticed - there's a bump at the beginning of the month (paychecks?) and holidays are always slow.

There's a ton of data out there on ebook buying trends.  Will they apply to your book?  Depends.  A particular advertiser might work wonders for Romance but get nothing for Sci-Fi.  Mystery fans might be all over twitter, but maybe the Horror folks are all on Pinterest.  And this doesn't even begin to touch individual differences.  Some of the top selling writers work in the lowest level genres.  Horror sells well for Stephen King, not so much for everyone else.

The take away - if you like working with data, sign up for Amazon Affiliates and get a ton of tracking IDs.  I think you can get 100 of them.  Then develop your own data, do split tests, knock yourself out.  Otherwise, just concentrate on getting your next book out.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Better When They Sucked - Warsaw/Joy Division

Never got into Joy Division until well into the 21st century, and even then it was only due to seeing live performances on retrospectives.

I went back to listen to the official releases and was reminded why I didn't like them - Martin "the guy Dead Kennedys made fun of on Nazi Punks F Off" Hannett producing the soul out of everything.

But they were even better before, when they were Warsaw: