Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Dog Star Books will be releasing some interesting things in 2013. Coming in July...


By Matt Betts
Art by Bradley Sharp

Fighting for survival in a post-Civil War America overrun by zombies, Cyrus and Lucinda join a military group called the Odd Men Out, and together they face a terrorist army from the North in a showdown over a weapon of enormous power.

The Civil War went on far longer than anyone expected, prompting the North and South to call a truce to fight their common enemy: The Chewers – dead men come to life to attack the living. As a result, a peacekeeping force called the Office of Military Operations is created to watch over the tenuous peace.

Cyrus Joseph Spencer didn’t fight in the war and couldn’t care less about the United Nations of America that resulted from it. His main concern is making money and protecting his crew from all manner of danger. To escape a horrible tragedy, Cyrus and one of his wards, Lucinda, board a U.N. dirigible for safety. They quickly discover their situation has not improved as the U.N. team is chasing a group of rogue soldiers in hopes of stopping them from obtaining a terrible weapon.

They also have to contend with a larger threat - Drago del Vapore – a giant lizard attacking the West Coast and wreaking havoc on everything it encounters. As the two sides face off against each other and the huge beast, Cyrus feels more and more like an Odd Man Out and finds it harder and harder to stay out of the fight.
RELEASE: July 2013
LINKS: Dog Star Books - http://dogstarbooks.blogspot.com
Bradley Sharp - http://www.bradsharp.co.uk/

Friday, January 18, 2013

MORGAN SCORPION, the Voice of Darkness

I can't in all honesty tell you if light has taste nor claim to know whether it possesses scent. Darkness is a similar sensory mystery. Can it be felt? Smelled? Tasted? I couldn't say. But I do know that darkness has a sound, a voice in fact, and it is embodied in the wonderful speech and readings of a woman known as Morgan Scorpion.

I have a particular fondness for listening to ghostly and eerie tales, an indulgence that calls for blackness or candlelight or jack-o-lantern. Spooky stories were no doubt told around fires long before the written word and claim a lineage that spans from the tradition of the British Christmas ghost story and the offerings of old time radio on up to the present, which is where Morgan Scorpion comes in. Morgan has blessed the fan of spoken unearthliness with a range of recorded readings by authors such as Ambrose Bierce, Arthur Machen, H. Russell Wakfield, and H.P. Lovecraft. Plenty of Lovecraft! To name a few.

Her readings are a joy! She expresses the works in a way that is part reading, part performance, a potent, evocative blend that gives ghostly life to the stories she applies her talents to. And such an accent! I recently had the good fortune to have Morgan do a recording of my story The Company of Others from my collection Urn and Willow. I was delighted, of course, and I had quite a spell of chills when she sang part of a John Dowland song that is sung by a character in one of the scenes.

Morgan has done readings for Librivox, Lovecraft eZine, and has a YouTube channel stocked with hours of recordings by masters ranging from M.R. James to W.H. Pugmire. She has also applied her abilities on the metal record Nyarlathotep by the group The Old Ones.

About Morgan Scorpion

Morgan has a degree in theology from King's College, London and served as a civil servant before becoming disabled. Her fondness for the work of H.P. Lovecraft dates back to when she was 11, and she's been a fan of Sherlock Homes since she was 10.








Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Santa has apparently given up smoking. He did it without Nicorette gum, the NicoDerm patch, an e-cigarette or one of those scary drugs that pharmaceutical giants bribe doctors to push onto patients by handing out Madonna concert tickets. No, it was done with the strike of a delete button.Well-intentioned Pamela McColl, a 54-year-old Canadian entrepreneur, has taken it upon herself to sanitize the 189-year-old  poem Twas the Night Before Christmas generally attributed to Clement C. Moore. McColl, who is self-published, feels that showing Santa Claus smoking a pipe sets a bad example for children. 

The following lines have been removed from this new version of the classic work: 
"The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth. And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath."

The cover of the book tells us that this version of the poem is "Edited by Santa Claus for the benefit of children of the 21st century."

Another way of looking at it is that this is shameless censorship, the defacing of a historical piece of literature not unlike what Twain scholar Alan Gribben did when he replaced the word "nigger" with "slave" in a combined release of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer

This arrogant reworking of classic writings infuriates me. It scares me. It insults the very work that has come under the politically correct scalpel. Deborah Caldwell-Stone of the American Library Association sums it up succinctly when she says, "This wasn't a retelling. This wasn't a parody. This wasn't an adaptation. This wasn't a modernization. This wasn't fanfic. This was presenting the original but censoring the content. That kind of expurgation that seeks to prevent others from knowing the original work because of a disapproval of the ideas, the content, is a kind of censorship that we've always disapproved of."

McColl counters that Clement C. Moore was himself against tobacco. Well, apparently not so against it that he didn't choose to stick a pipe in the jolly elf's mouth. Why even present a thing if you so disrespect the creator's vision or creative will, I wonder? 

Why stop with Santa's pipe if we're going to clean up artworks of the past? What about the part where Santa's belly shakes like a bowl full of jelly? Isn't that promoting childhood obesity? Is that line the next one on the chopping block? How about fixing that stuff in The Lord of the Flies where the boys turn into savages? That's too ugly a portrayal of human nature. How about the torture in 1984? Nasty! That's gotta go! We certainly can't be setting a good example by leaving all that S and M in the writings by the Marquis de Sade.

 Why stop with the written word? Why not put some clothing on those nudes that Degas painted and have someone Photoshop those women Reubens painted to get them down to a healthy weight? Movies sure could use a good scrubbing, like all the those Scorsese and Tarantino movies where the f-word is flying around, and speaking of Scorsese, that messy gunfight at the end ofTaxi Driver might be teaching kids to express themselves with violence. For all we know, an impressionable mind might find that the D-Day scene inSaving Private Ryan illustrates that war is okay. Snip snip! 

Should we edit all those old movies black and white movies where just about all the characters smoked like chimneys? Let's not forget drinking. Maybe we should send Elliot Ness after the Bible...all that wine business will make the kiddos think drinking is okay.

Hey, why stop with works of art and fiction? How about the unappealing parts of our history? Do history books really need to mention how blacks were lynched, or that we nearly destroyed the native populace of this country? Will we next be cleaning up photographs of dead soldiers dating back to the civil war? Put a Band-aid on the Zapruder film? 

Yes, I'm being smarmy. Yes, I'm disgusted. But works of art express the thoughts, feelings and observations of the those who create them. Unless the creator has agreed to modify them, no one else has a right to meddle, especially if the artist is no longer alive to defend the work that has come under attack. These self-righteous fools ought to realize that they cannot use the delete button to go back in time and change how people once spoke in the south or the fact that pipe smoking was once very popular. Pretending  doesn't change the fact that pipes used to be as common as iPhones. The works by Twain and Moore reflected the realities of the times when they were written, and trying to whitewash them is like trying to rewrite the history of our culture by hiding certain unbecoming details which people like McColl feel expert enough to choose to hide. Fucking with art and history is simply wrong. Oops! Did I say a bad word?

Thursday, December 6, 2012


It’s flu season, but that’s not the only thing that’s going around. There’s this thing called The Next Big Thing that’s also making the rounds. Basically, it’s 10 questions that give a writer a chance to talk about a work in progress or a pending book. An author answers the questions and then posts them at his or her blog along with links to the blogs of 5 other writers. The following week those 5 writers post their answers to the same questions along with links to 5 more authors and so on.

Well, I’m something of an iconoclast at times, so I’m not going to abide strictly by the rules of The Next Big Thing. I don’t imagine any Next Big Thing police will come banging on my door if I swerve a bit from convention. I mean, is anyone really keeping track? I’m not actually going to link to 5 others, because I have not bothered to approach any other authors with this thing, though 2 lovely folks have included me in their particular Next Big Things chains. I’m going to link to them here and also to the blog that includes the answers my brother Jeffrey Thomas came up with for the questions. Yes, it’s a bit of nepotism, but I don’t imagine the nepotism police will show up banging at my door, and if they do they might find that The Next Big Thing police have already whisked me off to writer jail.

I mentioned that two others were nice enough to welcome me into their Next Big Thing adventures. One of these is my wonderful friend Morven Westfield who used to make use of my artwork, poetry and articles back in the 80s when she published a splendid journal called Harvest. She is the author of two vampire books, Darksome Thirst, and The Old Power Returns. She also hosts a podcast called Vampires, Witches & Geeks. Morven is presently working on her third novel. Her blog, and answers to the viral questions, are here: 

The other delightful person who turned me on to The Next Big Thing is the fascinating David Rix, who is editing the anthology Rustblind and Silverbright. This gentleman has been known to spend a night among the ancient stones of a Dartmoor stone circle, has composed and played music, writes, takes amazing photographs, and is editing a book that promises to be a gift to lovers of intriguing and otherworldly fiction everywhere. Trains are the thematic link in the anthology Rustblind and Silverbright being conjured up in the mysterious chambers at Eibonvale Press.  David can tell you much more about it at his blog post, where he takes on The Next Big Thing questions.

I’d much rather be talking about my novel Fellengrey, that just came out from Raw Dog Screaming Press, but the conventions of The Next Big Thing seem to call for one to write about a work in progress rather than a work just published. My answers, therefore, will have to be vague, because the project I’m working on has not been formally announced, and the publisher has not even unveiled his publishing house yet, though he is a successful publisher. And, I’m not sure if The Next Best Thing is supposed to be for single author books exclusively or if one can speak of an anthology as I am going to do. Again, I’m being a rebel. So, here are my answers to the standard 10 questions that are making the rounds...

1 What is the working title of your next book?
Pardon my being secretive, but I don’t know that I’m allowed to divulge that at this time. I am writing two pieces for an anthology; my main contribution to the book, a longish short story, is presently called The Haunting at Atwood.

2 Where did the idea come from for the book?
I was having a phone conversation with a publisher friend and told him of an interesting feature about an old New England inn where I’ve stayed in the past. In our discussion we came up with the idea of using this particular feature as an interesting vehicle to use in a ghostly anthology.

3 What genre does your book fall under?
The book will be supernatural fiction. The Haunting at Atwood is a ghost story.

4 What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I hadn’t really thought about it, and I’m trying to rush this bit along, so I’ll just dash off to the next question. Sorry!

5 What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A fellow inherits something that calls for him to visit a spooky old house in Exmoor, England, where he and a pal and the daughter of a recently deceased friend are terrorized by a particularly menacing entity.

6 Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Neither. It will be published by a friend who is a seasoned publisher.

7 How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I’m still working on it. I don’t have a full drafted version or even a full synopsis. It’s developing. I began it last March (2012), but I haven't had much time to work on it, sadly.

8 What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I’d compare it to classic British ghost stories, because of kindred tones and elements.

9 Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My discussion with my friend got the ball rolling, and he urged me to be a part of the anthology once I’d come up with the general idea. Further inspiration came a bit after. I had already agreed to work on the project when I saw one of my favorite films, The Innocents, based on The Turn of the Screw, and that really filled my sails with a ghostly wind, a big gust of inspiration. It made me want to write a good old scary tale set in Britain, something I haven’t done in years.

10 What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
The format will be interesting and quite original, the way the stories are presented and framed and launched from within another story. It’s a nice idea for an anthology, and it might include some additional material from the authors involved (besides simply short fiction), but I shouldn’t divulge too much.

So, there you go. Sorry for being so vague.

This is where I should, according to the laws of The Next Big Thing, be listing links to 5 other authors who will be taking on the 10 questions I tackled above. Sorry, but I’m breaking the rules here. I’m linking (again) to the friends I spoke of above and to my brother Jeffrey who in his own clever way takes on the10 questions of The Next Best Thing.

Morven Westfield knocks the questions out of the park here:

David Rix kicks some question butt here:

Jeffrey Thomas defies (maybe that’s where I get it!) the Next Big Thing here:

Monday, December 3, 2012


Rituals are important. They anchor us, they give things importance whether we’re talking about a day like Halloween or the Fourth of July, an occasion like a wedding or birthday, or even the act of interacting with a book. This all came to me the other day when I played a poetry reading on YouTube rather than troubling myself to cross the room, open a drawer, take out a CD (that contains the same poetry reading) and place it in my PC. A click of the mouse was the only ritual needed.

This made me sort of sad. Why? I enjoyed hearing the poem of course, but in some way it felt as if I had rendered it amorphous and temporary, like fast food for the ear. Mouse click, heard it, off to the next thing, another mouse click. An element of intimacy had been lost, the buildup of fetching the thing, holding the CD case, seeing the cover art, feeling the disk, putting the disk into the machine that makes it play, knowing that I was interacting with something that speaks to me and thus has import in regards to my interests. Does this element of tangibility really matter? Isn’t it easier now that movies and songs and so many things can be plucked from the ether with just a few movements of the hand? It’s so incredibly convenient, and yet I’m sad or disappointed or worried.

My grandmother’s books about old New England houses are treasures to me. They are in a bookcase just to my right, not six feet away. But when I feel like looking at Colonial houses, I find myself using the mouse and the screen. What then becomes of the ritual of standing looking at the titles on the binding, selecting, feeling the weight, opening, smelling, hearing the hiss of a page, sitting with the thing in my hands, knowing that it’s something I have and own, that it’s not an electronically generated image that will be gone like a puff of smoke?

I wonder if our attention span is at risk now that we have so much so near all the time, so much we can pluck out of the air with a point and a click. Will this dehumanize us, devalue our connection to things, and will it turn all the things that we can make appear (as if by magic) just brief amusements that we glimpse before moving to the next thing? Will works of art and literature and music and film be reduced to flitting distractions rather than prized, treasured things we would handle lovingly, almost reverently, and keep on shelves or in drawers or cases?

 In some way, I think the ritual interaction with art is important. Does the delivery system or mode of presentation diminish a work, or does the act of touching and fetching and holding make the words of another seem more permanent, more real, more important to us? I think about these things in the age of dying books, when great works are consigned to an invisible realm until conjured, when the computer’s mouse moves more than the legs and my Nana’s books sit lonely on a shelf. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The end of November finds me venturing into uncharted territory. I have never had a blog before, or a website for that matter, so this is my first ever blog post. In addition to this new adventure, I also find myself a published novelist for the first time following yesterday's launching of my novel Fellengrey, from the wonderful Raw Dog Screaming Press.

Raw Dog has arranged for a promotional blog tour that can be found at this link: