A change on the way

Cover art is a huge deal when it comes to selling books. The fact is, people really do abide by that old cliche and judge a book by its cover. Insufficient cover art can kill a book’s sales, despite the content found therein. And so with that in mind, a change is in order.

Since the publisher for MUSCLE MEMORY never was enamored with the art I originally acquired for the book, I was encouraged to keep looking for something different. Something better. A piece of art that will jump off the cover and draw the eye, that will demand a longer look and suck in the reader. I think I found just such a piece of art. This image entitled ‘Vapor’ by artist Heather Nunnelly was the only piece I found that matched the book I wrote. I am proud to unveil this new artwork and can’t wait until new editions of MUSCLE MEMORY come out with this art adorning the cover.

Of course, that means that the original version will soon disappear. It’s still in stock and ready to ship from Amazon.com, but not for much longer. When those last copies of the first version are gone, that’s it.  If you like the yellow cover art you see on the Amazon page, then you’ll want to hurry and grab one before they’re gone. You could be one of a very select group who got their hands on the original version before it went out of print. It could be worth some money one day when I become rich and famous, like those fancy rich assholes Matthew Revert and William Pauely III.

Can you afford to miss out on such a chance? Of course you can’t.

Book review: The Egg Said Nothing by Caris O’Malley

I got this book at BizarroCon last weekend. I randomly selected it out of the six books that I had purchased and began reading it in the Portland airport. I continued to chew through it during my Denver layover, but intended to stop so I could get some sleep on my flight to Chicago. I had a 90 minute drive still awaiting me after I got to Chicago, and I really needed the rest.

It didn’t happen that way. I wasn’t able to sleep because of this damn EGG. Every time I lay my head against the side of the airplane and closed my eyes, they would pop open again moments later, and this damn book would be in my hands once more. Only when I got to the end, which really isn’t the end for the main character Manny, nor will ever be the end for him, was I able to sleep. Caris O’Malley cost me almost two hours of rest and put me in danger of nodding off on I-94 before I finally got home at 1 AM. He should consider himself lucky I survived.

And you should consider yourself warned: if you begin this book, you too will find it difficult, dare I say impossible, to put it down. THE EGG SAID NOTHING is addicitve, romantic, violent, and both paternal and maternal in equal measure. It is a time-traveling, head-spinning, gender role-challenging, and thought-provoking story that I simply had to finish once I started. In a way, it reminded me of the Michael Keaton movie MULTIPLICITY, except O’Malley’s EGG has an intelligent plot, believeable and interesting characters, and actual entertainment value. Unlike his EGG, Mr. O’Malley does have something to say. It would be worth your time to discover exactly what that is. Just cancel your afternoon plans first.

What Would Kirk Cameron Do?

MUSCLE MEMORY  is now officially on Amazon.com and ready for pre-order. I’m not sure when the books will begin to ship, but the link is live and we are open for business. CLICK THIS SNAZZY ALL-CAPS SENTENCE TO BE WHISKED AWAY TO AMAZON…

Here is the back cover description and what some fine folks had to say about my first book:

Billy Gillespie wakes up one morning to discover his junk is gone. In its place is his wife’s junk. Billy is now Tina, and Tina is dead. That’s because Billy’s dead. His lifeless body is still in bed and empty beer bottles and a container of antifreeze litter the kitchen counter. Over the next 24 hours, Billy and an odd assortment of neighbors, all experiencing their own bouts of body switcheroo, try to figure out what happened and why. Can they do it before the Feds find Billy’s body? Was it aliens that caused this, or God, or the government? And did Edgar Winter really sleep with his sheep? Pro football Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw has those answers in a story that asks, What Would Kirk Cameron Do?

“A fast-paced story that is hilarious, poignant, and weird. Sort of like VICE VERSA meets THE INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. Very well-written. Lowe doesn’t waste a single word.” – Jordan Krall, author of FISTFUL OF FEET

“A short, sharp book with exciting, compelling momentum with characters you can’t help but like. It has both emotional resonance and sly humour in abundance. I recommend it very highly and can only assume that Lowe has a very bright future ahead of him.” – Matthew Revert, author of A MILLION VERSIONS OF RIGHT

“MUSCLE MEMORY is funny, quirky and sensitive in a way I wouldn’t have expected from bizarro fiction.” – Lincoln Crisler, author of MAGICK & MISERY

“Hilariously disturbing! Lowe bends gender roles into a noose and unravels it on an emotional roller coaster where nuclear families explode.” – S.D. Hintz, author of BLOOD ORCHARD and CHARNEL HARBOR

Also, check out Colleen Wanglund’s review on Monster Librarian.

In rode The Magnificent Seven

Upon a desolate and rather weird landscape they stride. They come armed with guns and eggs and bodily fluids. And words. These five men and two women arrive slinging words about like ninja throwing stars. Some of them also sling ninja throwing stars, so just watch yourself.

They are The Magnificent Seven.

Seven new bizarro authors, given a shot at world domination, about to be unleashed on the literary landscape. In a few days, their wares will be unveiled, books of such an unusual and diverse nature that you, the reader, will barely be able to comprehend. You will be compelled to buy them. How could you not? Stories about forbidden love between a monk and a dinosaur, a humanoid composed of vitreous humor who trains furniture to copulate, a Monty Python-esque romp through the world of Furries, a vengeful egg, and body-switching rednecks, among the offerings.

This can only be the New Bizarro Author Series from Eraserhead Press. Eraserhead is the leading outlet for Bizarro fiction, and editors Kevin L. Donihe and Carlton Mellick III have handpicked and lovingly prepared seven new titles for the second round of NBAS releases. I am proud to be one of those seven. The books will officially release at BizarroCon on Nov. 13(ish) during the annual convention of the weird in Portland(ish), OR.

The NBAS authors prepare for BizarroCon. (You'll just have to pretend that Robert Vaughn and Brad Dexter are women. Badass women who will jack you up, baby.)

Here is the full list of this year’s New Bizarro Author Series books and their creators (UPDATED with links to all books on Amazon):

Bucket of Face” by Eric Hendrixson

The Egg Said Nothing” by Caris O’Malley

Uncle Sam’s Carnival of Copulating Inanimals” by Kirk Jones

Felix and the Sacred Thor” by James Steele

Love in the Time of Dinosaurs” by Kirsten Alene

How to Eat Fried Furries” by Nicole Cushing

Muscle Memory” by Steve Lowe

All coming soon to an Amazon.com link near you…

2-Minute Drill: Cameron Pierce

Today’s guest on the Drill, youngster Cameron Pierce, redefines the word weird. His titles include ‘Ass Goblins of Auschwitz‘, the recently released short story collection ‘Lost in Cat Brain Land’, and the upcoming ‘The Pickled Apocalypse of Pancake Island’. These are facts.

Cameron Pierce also has six toes on his right foot, plays the mouth guitar and turned down a position with Scotland Yard so he could follow his true calling to Portland, Oregon to build miniature ships in bottles. When the miniature-ships-in-bottles bubble burst in the early 2000s, Cameron turned to writing. These are not facts. But it would be really cool if they were. Please read on to learn some more facts that may or may not be entirely factual.

The 2-Minute Drill is 5 quick questions and 5 quick answers from someone you probably haven’t heard of, but should hear from. This isn’t some rambling, long-winded author interview here. We dispense with the pleasantries and get down to brass tacks. We ask the tough questions and get the tough answers that you need to know. And if not, we’ll just make them up.

This is Cameron Pierce. He is 22 years old. He writes about weird things like butt people who drink cider made from fermented children and prisoners who make bicycles and sex dolls out of dead kids. (Reminds us of those Hardy Boys novels we loved so much  in our youth.) Here he is answering stupid questions posed by us. We have warned you ahead of time what is in store. We do not offer refunds. Thank you and enjoy.

2-MD: Do you mind if we call you Whippersnapper? Or would you prefer Young Fella? (Don’t make us pull out Snot-Nosed Punk, because we will. You have been duly warned.)

CP: I’m in my bedroom and the window is open. I just heard my neighbor say, “Shit man, I don’t know if I like it now.” That is how I feel about these names. Not really, though. I don’t mind them.

2-MD: Damn, we should not have started off that way. We always do that. Let’s try again: So tell us whippersnapper, what sort of fugue state does your brain have to be in to write books about Ass Goblins and Pancake Islands in such marathon bursts? And at what point in the process do the hallucinations kick in?

CP: Writing marathons can be helpful for first drafts, but for me, writing is about rewriting and learning to kill yourself again and again. I feel like I become a pathetic human being when I’m really invested in a book. I am no longer alive. I am never alive. With “The Pickled Apocalypse of Pancake Island,” I sometimes spent hours just learning about the French connotations of one word or something. I carried that book around like a fucking tumor.

Although the first draft of “Ass Goblins of Auschwitz” was written in three days in July 2009, I had been quietly freaking out in my mind about it since November 2008. I was writing other stuff, a lot of other stuff — you have to keep working no matter what — but I felt “Ass Goblins” in my gut every day. I didn’t know what it was for a long time. Finally, I got beyond being scared and pulled it out of myself.

Writing, for me, isn’t about hallucinations. I get enough of those in life. Sometimes writing makes me float off like balloon, but I feel like I would be floating no matter what, and without writing, I would pop. Under heat. Under atmospheric pressure.

Sometimes I feel like a big chunk of my brain is missing. It hasn’t always been missing. I don’t know who stole it or where it went. Putting words together is nice, though, and writing is basically the most spiritual thing I have. It kills me. I wish nobody ever said or wrote anything. I am a Catholic who knows that God is dead. I’m always halfway between a funeral and a pizza party. Don’t ever take anything I say seriously, or else I’ll punch you in the face.

2-MD: Let’s play a game called “If… then…” : If this statement is true: “With six you get egg roll” then (fill in the blank “______” ) is also true.

CP: Now my neighbor said, “I get the crappy jobs.” I want to lean my head out the window and say, “Life is a crappy job. Enjoy.” I feel pretty good today.

CM3's monster burns.

2-MD: How many times a week must you resist the urge to trim Carlton Mellick III’s sideburns with a pair of garden shears?

CP: Garden shears make me nervous. Anyway, the sideburns are a source of comfort. Carlton Mellick will survive the apocalypse. When I hang out with him, I like to think, “Yeah, if there were zombies around right now, we would totally win.” Not that you ‘win’ over zombies, but you know you’ll ‘win’ over them when you’re around Mellick. He’s resourceful and a good planner.

2-MD: Bradley Sands called you a “spineless douchebag” in a recent Drill. Would you care to pull out your white glove of revenge and slap him across the face with it?

CP: I was on the phone with Bradley a few nights ago, while I wandered aimlessly through a grocery store. I don’t even remember what I bought. (2-MD: Way to sock it to him. He’ll be stinging from that one for sure…)

Bonus question… 2-MD: Dude, can I borrow a buck? I’m good for it, I swear. There’s only one Whatchamacallit left in the vending machine and I’ve been craving one of those for like two years.

Bonus answer… CP: No dude. I need to drink that dollar. There’s a cat sitting to me left and it’s totally jacking all my fluids. It went straight from my coffee to my water. I’m dehydrated as fuck.

Crap. I really wanted that candy bar.

Book review: ‘Lost in Cat Brain Land’ by Cameron Pierce

Before randomly crossing paths with Cameron Pierce on Twitter more than a year ago, I had not been exposed to the term `Bizarro’ outside of Superman or Seinfeld re-runs. Then I learned that Pierce was not only a young writer, but he had a book coming out called `Ass Goblins of Auschwitz’. My (understandable) initial response was something along the lines of “What the hell is wrong with this freakin’ kid?” But then I ran across his name again in a horror anthology (Horror Library Vol. 2), with a story called `I Am Meat, I Am in Daycare’, and on other places like The Dream People. His stories were so surreal and wildly imaginative that I soon found myself looking for more. Cameron Pierce was my first exposure to a new brand of fiction that didn’t care what I thought about it, wasn’t trying to win my approval or pander to me or kiss my butt. In fact, it was more like trying to kick my butt. I loved it.

Fantastic cover art by Alan M. Clark.

Fast forward to now, and after sampling much more of what Bizarro has to offer, Pierce seems to me to embody what this burgeoning genre is about. His stories are surreal and dreamlike, some whimsical while at the same time disturbing, and often in need of multiple readings to sift through and decipher the meaning behind the words. I’ll readily admit that I don’t always succeed in the latter, but I still enjoy trying because, simply put, Pierce can write his tail off.

And that brings us to his new collection, `Lost in Cat Brain Land’. I can’t recommend it enough. Pierce has a real talent for blending his nightmarish landscapes and characters together on the page like a painter covering a canvass. At times, it flows and the colors mingle and complement each other; other times it seems as though they’re flung at the page in heaps and splatters and look like a jumble up close, but when you step back and see it as a whole, you recognize something more is there. His stories drift and flow and envelop the reader, like a fog. You feel lost, as the title suggests, and blinded by that fog, but still wrapped up in it, immersed and even trapped in his imagination.

As evidenced by these stories, which delve into subjects like a fascist mustache and a hunk of beef hanging out in a daycare, and touch on recurring themes like meat and loneliness, Pierce can write the weird, but he can also just flat out write, especially in the short form. Among my favorites were `Death of a Dog Eater’, the aforementioned `I Am Meat…’ and `How to Live Forever’. For a collection, this one earns its five stars, and now I’m looking forward to checking out `Ass Goblins…’

Book review: Fistful of Feet by Jordan Krall

Jordan Krall’s `Fistful of Feet’ is a bizarro tribute to Spaghetti Westerns and claims to be the “weirdest western ever written”. It does not disappoint. As this story unfolds, you can easily imagine the characters speaking poorly dubbed English as the onscreen actors mouth their dialogue in Italian. This book reads how TV re-runs of the film `The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly’ used to look before digital retouching came into vogue: gritty, dirty, violent, occasionally out of focus, regularly unsettling, but never, ever boring.

Click pic, buy book.

The triumph of Fistful of Feet, like Krall’s first book `Piecemeal June’, is the palpable mood that it creates in the mind. You smell and taste (and regurgitate?) FOF as much as read it. This story is a visceral, dripping romp through Screwhorse, Nevada, a town with hardly a redeeming inhabitant. Even the main character, the drifter Calamaro, has his issues and fetishes, though compared to the rest of the sorted cast, they’re minimal and downright normal.

The final 50 pages of FOF are like running a gauntlet of bizarre, outlandish, disgusting, and even hilarious imagery. An exploding wooden donkey flinging women’s shoes like flaming daggers, a horde of syphilitic men, split-open heads that spew two-tailed scorpions, and much more. Krall runs the reader through the ringer with his special, nearly breathless brand of weird, violent, sexual mayhem.

FOF, which recently made the short list for the Wonderland Award for novel of the year, is so full of wild bits and squishy pieces that the language is kept to a stark minimum, which suits the story well. There is no time or need for poetic description when recounting slopping sex scenes involving squid or tattoos that spread like a virus. Krall is at his best when the tentacles begin to fly, which is early and often in this one. Let the reader be forewarned.

Book review: HELP! A Bear is Eating Me by Mykle Hansen

This is very funny book, filled with a slew of excellent one-liners that made me chortle. Because it made me laugh, I wanted to like this book more, but there were a couple things that bugged me about it.

Click the pic, go to Amazon.

1. As the back cover tells me, the main characer, Marv Pushkin, is an asshole of the highest order. A drug-abusing, selfish, vain, rude, philandering asshole. I have no problem with that at all, but I was expecting something to change by the end. To set up such a character, and stick him in a situation like this (stuck under a broke down Range Rover in Alaska, a bear eating his legs, slowly dying…) I would think there would be an arc, that he would learn a lesson, develop a new perspective. Grow, change, be in some way different by the end. But that really didn’t happen.

2. I felt like the author was doing the old wink-and-nudge too often, especially by the end when Marv goes off on a pro-Capitalism and anti-terrorist screed that just didn’t ring true. It made him seem like a caricature, or a cardboard cutout of the ‘Ugly American’. Maybe I’m just reading this at the wrong time, maybe I’m being too touchy here, but it feels old and played out. Yeah, I get it, Americans are big, fat, loud, racist, obnoxious assholes who hate the environment and love themselves some guns and gas-guzzling cars and chicks with huge tits. But Marv is little more than a stereotype, and never really developed past that. There were portions where he could have, some intimate details about his life and insight into how he maybe got to be the way he is, but it’s too brief and not really explored. And because he doesn’t change or grow or develop into more than this stereotype, well, that’s what he remains.

The idea here is great, the cover art is awesome, and as previously mentioned, there are some really funny lines in this that definitely made it worth the read.

2-Minute Drill: Kevin Shamel

We could say this is a man who needs no introduction, but if we did, you wouldn’t have a clue who the hell we’re talking about. So, we’d like to introduce to you a man who normally needs no introduction, except for instances like these, when in fact, he does need an introduction … Mr. Kevin Shamel. He made the mistake of agreeing to a 2-Minute Drill. Poor sap.

The 2-Minute Drill is 5 quick questions and 5 quick answers from someone you probably haven’t heard of, but should hear from. This isn’t some rambling, long-winded author interview here. We dispense with the pleasantries and get down to brass tacks. We ask the tough questions and get the tough answers that you need to know. And if not, we’ll just make them up.

Kevin Shamel is a bizarro author whose first book came out last year as part of the Eraserhead Press New Bizarro Author Series. He also recently completed the first “Bizarro Boot Camp” – a 10-day experience that spawned his latest creation, a novel about… well we don’t know for sure yet. But that won’t stop us from speculating. This is the Internet, afterall. Read on to learn more…

2-MD: Your name (SHAY-MULL) sounds very Amish. If you really were Amish, would you be Randy-Quaid-in-KINGPIN-Amish, or Harrison-Ford-in-WITNESS-Amish? Explain your response, and please note: there is no right answer here.

Not Kevin Shamel, but pretty dang close.

KS: I would be full-on Randy Quaid Amish. Or like those kids from that reality show where they leave their Amish community and go out partying in the rest of the world to see if they really want to be Amish. I think that’s the coolest part about their religion. That and the beds they make. Those things NEVER break. No matter what. Or how many.

2-MD: We read with great interest your accounting of the 10-day Bizarro Boot Camp experience, during which you apparently wrote a novel (?). The big question we have is, at what point during this marathon experience did your clothes begin to smell like cheese? And at what point did your clothes actually begin to develop cheese?

KS: No questions about it. I wrote 35,000 words in four days. It will be a novel by the second draft. As for my attire, I actually thought ahead and brought enough clothes for to change them every day. But then I spilled cheese on my bag. So the answer is: one hour. (2-MD: Good travel tip for everyone here – keep your cheese in a separate Ziplock bag, just in case of a spill. Rookie mistake, Kev. We shall now tut-tut you.)

2-MD: Follow up question: what does your Mohawk smell like right now?

KS: I’m not sure what my mohawk smells like. I shaved it off a couple months ago. I’m sure it either smells of garbage or Ginger Barbie if those scoundrels at the salon are still involved in the underground hair market. But good news… After Tuesday the ‘hawk will be back. And it will smell of roses. Roses and money. (2-MD: Rockin’ the Nohawk… workin’ it… alright…)

There's a Broke Back Bizarro joke here, but we'll let you come up with the punch line. Enter it in the comments below if you like. Best line will get a prize. Maybe.

2-MD: Several of your stories have themes involving nature and animals. If you were to marry an animal, what species would it be, and where would you go for your honeymoon?

KS: I would marry a vixen. Oh, wait, I did. I would go to St. Lucia for my honeymoon. And get wasted on the beach for ten days. Oh wait, I did. :) (2-MD: Dang it, NO emoticons allowed on the Drill! Didn’t you read the rulez?!?! What is this world coming to? OK, we’ll let this one slide, but no more.)

2-MD: Speaking of animals, you first book ROTTEN LITTLE ANIMALS ( <– read our review and buy this book!) was about talking, cussing, nasty (dare we say, rotten?) little animals. What will be the theme/focus/milieu of your latest book? (As a suggestion, we’ve got two words for you: lottsa boobs)

KS: You actually nailed it, Steve. There are lotsa boobs in my next book. Big, luscious, super-boobs. And there will be drawings of them. Yes. My next book will have illustrated super-boobs. I’m not lying. I think super-boobs are the best way to end anything. Thanks, Steve!

LOTTSA BOOBS: Shamel (center, carrot top) celebrates his graduation and near-completion of his next novel with the crew from Eraserhead Press. For safety and liability reasons, a real sword was not used in this photo.

This is the end, beautiful friends, of another successfully ridiculous Drill. Much thanks to Kevin for joining us, and we wish him much success with his newest book and his pending acceptance into the Amish community. One last piece of advice though – I don’t think the Mohawk will fly out there in Amish country. Just a hunch.

Book review: Piecemeal June by Jordan Krall

OK, first thing’s first, I mostly enjoyed this book. It is atmospheric and the writing clear and crisp, and chock full of enough weird to make fans of the weird stand up and cheer. But I’m giving it 3.5 out of 5 stars, because…

I don’t get the fascination with shit. That is, stories with graphic scenes or themes revolving around feces. Like snakes to Indiana Jones, when I read about defecation, I think to myself, “Why’d it have to be… shit?” This story has a lot of good, weird, whacked out, and interesting images and ideas, it’s got depth of character, originality, a grimy, sleazy mood, and some grimy, sleazy sex and fetishes to match… but then there’s the shit. A character with an opening in her back, like a portal to another reality, but it’s a swirling whirlpool of shit. There’s expolding toilets that release torrents of fecal water, a scene seemingly interrupted by two characters’ bouts with diarrhea, flying turds explained in graphic, splattering detail. Mind you, this is a relatively small part of Jordan Krall’s first book, but still, it’s a bit much for me. Call me a wuss, or prudish, or whatever the hell fits, but there it is.

A quick plot summation – Kevin’s cat Mithra brings home sweaty pieces of what turns out to be a sex doll, which comes to life when finally assembled. Kevin and June fall for each other, but there are some bad dudes out there who have lost her and want her back. There’s a subplot about Simon, God of Whores who lives in an alternate reality world that drips with pus and sex organs and such, a very intriguing world that I found mysterious and palpable, though by the end, Simon turns out to be a bit if a softy, which you wouldn’t have guessed from the prologue.

Since Piecemeal June, Krall has published two other books, Squid Pulp Blues and Fistful of Feet, the latter of which I have on my to-read pile and looks really good. As long as the turds are kept to a minimum, I can stomach just about anything.