I love hearing avid readers talk about their favorite books, always looking for my next favorite book or my next favorite author, so when Jay Wilburn asked if he could write about his favorites so far this year, I quickly said yes. Especially because it was Jay. I’ve read other books he’s called his favorites and haven’t been disappointed yet. Get ready to get your credit card out… or just have your Amazon app open so you can add to your cart easily.
I try to read as much as I can. I grab up the new hot books and then eventually read them. I find some of the most interesting and surprising stories among indie writers. That’s no knock on the bestsellers, but there is a wider range in some of these releases that don’t answer to big publisher marketing departments.
I’ve made a new rule for myself that I can’t buy a book until I’m ready to read it. So, if I’m not going to read it now, I have to wait to buy it. It makes me read a little faster. It keeps me from buying up everything. Friends stare at me like I’m insane when I explain this rule to them.
I will go back and reread older books. I’m still in the process of rereading Stephen King’s books in order. I’m feeling a strong temptation to go back and read Swan Song by Robert McCammon which I haven’t read in years even though I can’t count how many times I’ve reread The Stand by Stephen King.
All that to say my reading habits are a little sporadic. I have managed to read a few things this year that I enjoyed and feel strongly about recommending.
CARNIVOROUS LUNAR ACTIVITIES by Max Booth III is easily one of the greatest werewolf stories I’ve ever read. It is a great book even outside the werewolf subcategory. The dialogue in particular is exceptional in this story. It is great when the story is confined in a location. It is great when it breaks out of that confinement. I’m a huge fan of this book and the writer.
For fun, I contacted each of the writers I included in this list and asked them what they saw as their strongest book, excluding the one I had read and reviewed. Max said the new book he has coming soon might be his best. It’s going to be called TOUCH OF NIGHT. I’m looking forward to that. Of the ones that are out, he said THE NIGHTLY DISEASE is probably his best. Having read that too, I’d have to agree. That book is awesome.
HOUSE OF SIGHS by Aaron Dries is another great book I’ve read this year. The chapters are done in a countdown format like The Running Man. The story barrels forward from beginning to a gut punch of an ending. The characters in the story could have easily been flat stereotypes, but Dries makes them full and interesting. It hurts when they are hurt. Even when you sometimes secretly want them hurt a little bit.
He was a little taken aback when I asked him to name his best book. I imagine he has a little trouble bragging on himself. He finally settled on THE FALLEN BOYS. Based on the strength of HOUSE OF SIGHS, I’m excited to check this one out, too.
A PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS by Bob Ford and Matt Hayward was another great read. Two great authors making a great book is something to behold. This one feels like the story is crawling up out of the dirt and the trouble is building behind every turn. The story felt very tactile to me. Even when they weren’t specifically describing anything, I still felt like I could reach out and touch the scene and really feel the grit on the surface of things. The sequel is in the works and I’m looking forward to that.
When asked about best other books, Bob Ford said SAMSON AND DENIAL while Matt Hayward told me BRAIN DEAD BLUES is probably the best representation of his work. In the case of Brain Dead Blues, it is a collection of short stories which is the type of thing I love to read from a talented author. Short story collections sometimes make me feel like I’m getting a little bit more of the author and a wider range of work. Check out these two works, as well.
I also wanted to talk about a couple works on the way I’m looking forward to. In this case, both are nonfiction books. John Urbancik is a great writer. I’m particularly impressed with his short stories. He did a number of short story collections under the Ink Stains moniker. Now he has a nonfiction INK STAINS work on the subject of creativity in the offing. Review copies are out now and I’m going to grab it up as soon as it is available for purchase.
Tim Waggoner has a book in the works about the process of writing. There are a lot of this kind of book out there. I like the one Stephen King did. Others out there, I’m less impressed with. Considering the source on this one, I can’t wait to read this book when it is finished. From the classes he teaches, the information and questions he shares online, and the blog posts he shares on the subject of writing, his online presence alone contains so many pearls of wisdom on the craft. Having this compiled into a single work is a resource I intend to snatch up.
I feel strongly about the quality of the books mentioned in this article and believe you will likely enjoy them, too. Start reading!
Meghan: What are five things that most people don’t know about you?
Chuck Buda: Wow! A tough one right off the bat. I have to dig deep for what most people don’t know about me. Let’s see, I’m an Eagle Scout. I cried like a baby when the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup in 1994. I’m a momma’s boy. I’m a sucker for beautiful eyes. And I can hold my breath under water for ninety seconds.
Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.
Chuck Buda: I like to write different types of stories. My work ranges from psychological thrillers to splatterpunk, depending on the story. To date, I have written four series of books: The Debt Collector Trilogy (psychological thriller), the Gushers Trilogy (occult/splatterpunk), the Zombie Lockup series, and the Son of Earp series (supernatural western horror). I think my target audience is someone like me, a person who enjoys their horror in all kinds of flavors, shapes and sizes. The overarching theme in most of my work deals with the fact that humans are the most frightening monsters.
Meghan: Now, for questions that both of y’all can answer:
Meghan: I am obsessed with offices lately. What makes yours “you”?
Armand Rosamilia: My office has to feel like chaos, with papers and Post-It notes all over my desk. But I know where everything is and what everything is. When we have company over my wife yells at me to at least straighten it all up, but then it takes me a few days to get it back to stuff on the floor and on my bookshelves so I can work.
Chuck Buda: I work from the dining room table. It’s the only place in the house where I have enough room to spread out all my work materials. Someday, when my kids graduate from college, I will convert a bedroom into a soundproof studio so I can have a legit office space and a place to sing out loud without harming anyone. I’ve collected lots of cool art over the years, too, which I would love to hang on my office walls.
Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?
Armand Rosamilia: For me it starts with the characters. You can have a great plot but with so-so characters it falls apart, while a so-so plot can really be dragged along with great characters and is entertaining. Now, have great characters and a great plot and I’ll keep reading.
Chuck Buda: I think compelling characters with a plot that leaves the reader wanting more, each scene and chapter, is the best kind of story. Too much description loses me, pulling me out of the story. I like to feel as if I am sitting around a campfire listening to an entrancing storyteller.
Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?
Armand Rosamilia: Easily James Gaffney from my Dirty Deeds crime thriller series. He has the same quirks and sense of humor I have. He’s a bit overweight and not your typical hero-type and knows he has his limitations but makes the best of it. He might not be as sexy as me but he’s fiction.
Chuck Buda: It’s a tie between Michael Wright from my Debt Collector series and James Johnson from my Son of Earp series. Michael Wright is a semi-autobiographical character in a semi-autobiographical story. James Johnson is a younger version of me, when I was naïve and rebellious and full of adventure.
Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?
Armand Rosamilia: Finishing a story. It doesn’t matter the length to me. I get that sense of accomplishment whether it’s a flash fiction piece or a full-length novel. When I first started in this business thirty years ago, I wrote so many opening scenes or chapters and never finished any of them. You hear about and talk to so many fellow writers who never complete projects. Sometimes they never complete a single work. Getting a story started is the easy part. Getting to the end and knowing you’ve finished something you’re proud of is always my goal.
Chuck Buda: I feel more fulfilled writing novels but I am more satisfied completing short stories. Oddly, I find short stories much more difficult because you must convey the same amount of tale in an economy of words. It is really challenging for me and I struggle each time I work in the shorter medium.
Meghan: What is your writing kryptonite?
Armand Rosamilia: Depression. I know that’s kinda heavy and gloomy, but it’s the truth. Usually I am very good and getting my ass in the chair and writing something most days. But sometimes I get inside my head and it’s either because something in my life has derailed me or I get imposter syndrome and feel like a hack writer who will never sell another damn book. I mentor a few new authors and they always ask me when imposter syndrome finally goes away. I tell them when it happens for me I’ll let them know.
Chuck Buda: Hands down, self-doubt. As writers, we live inside our heads far too much. And our minds are always fighting imposter syndrome, second-guessing our abilities and questioning our self-worth. Many peaks and valleys in the writing life but we must keep doing it. To stop writing is to stop breathing.
Meghan: And now some “group” questions:
Y’all podcast together and do some writing together. Tell us about that.
Chuck Buda: I just do what Armand tells me to. He is my mentor and close friend. Everything I’ve learned and achieved in this craft is a direct result of his guidance. Every day we work together is a dream come true for me. I got to sleep with him once. Not like that. Or maybe it is like that…
Armand Rosamilia: She said Y’all. I love living in Florida, too. Chuck and I are like the same entity right now except one of us is slightly older and one of us is sexier. I’ll let the audience decide.
Meghan: What is it like working together?
Chuck Buda: When Armand and I are together, it’s like two best friends or brothers. We laugh, we tease each other, we fight (I always lose) and we share so many common interests. The Mando Method Podcast is really a chance for us to goof off each week. We talk for an hour before and after the show. During the show… it is all business… like our mullets in the 80’s.
Armand Rosamilia: Truthfully, Chuck and I clicked as soon as we met. It was a bromance and I knew he was someone who wanted to succeed in writing, took his work seriously and had a ton of ideas. He’s a dreamer like I am.
Meghan: Tell us a little bit about the latest release.
Chuck Buda: We published Keyport Cthulhu 2 earlier this year which was a wild ride. H.P. Lovecraft weirdness set in New Jersey! The book has so many Cthulhu tropes, yet it feels fresh and tossed gently in a New Jersey dressing. I really like the vibe and I believe we both did an excellent job of staying true to the first book.
Armand Rosamilia: Chuck just told you about Keyport Cthulhu 2, so all I’ll say is it was a pleasure writing this story with him and I think he treated the source material from Lovecraft as well as playing in my version of that world with respect as well as upping my game with some key scenes in the book.
Meghan: Why should we read it?
Chuck Buda: Cosmic horror is different than most of the monster and ghost tales one finds on the market these days. The setting and the mood are more like active characters. Readers will get a chance to peak into the Lovecraftian universe without having to sift through the original artist’s writing style, which I find interesting, but for some, it is an acquired taste. Our book is more relatable and digestible for the modern horror fan.
Armand Rosamilia: I really don’t remember giving you a damn choice. I mean…
Meghan: For anyone who hasn’t read book one, how would you get them to buy a copy?
Chuck Buda: I recommend buying the first paperback because the artwork is excellent and we’ve included collectible seaweed from the Jersey Shore between chapters. But the eBook will play nicely too!
Armand Rosamilia: You should really read the first book before the second, which is why I number the books. So it’s hopefully not confusing. But if you were just starting the series or thinking about it? I’d do it. This stuff is life-changing. Probably the best book you’ll ever read in your entire life, and I’m not biased at all.
Meghan: Can we expect another Rosamilia-Buda collaboration in the future?
Chuck Buda: I would love to collaborate with Armand in the future. We’ve been tossing around some ideas about a Viking/Black Metal series but Jay Wilburn is vying for dibs. I could see Armand and I working on a same-sex Romance novel based on a true story… Oh, and many more Keyport Cthulhu sequels!
Armand Rosamilia: I really hope so. The obvious goal is for Keyport Cthulhu 2 to do so well we write a third book in the series or at least in this world for next year.
Meghan: And now down to the nitty gritty (haha):
I follow Armand on Instagram just so I can see all the different foods that him and his amazing wife eat, so there has to be a food question in this interview – What’s your favorite sandwich?
Armand Rosamilia: Pork roll egg and cheese at a New Jersey diner at midnight.
Chuck Buda: Ditto. The only difference is I would be really drunk while eating it.
Meghan: Which one of you is the smart one and which one of you is the cute one?
Armand Rosamilia: I hate to say it (because I’m so humble) but I got the brains and looks in this relationship. Now, by any other standard, Chuck would be a smart good-looking man… but when you’re comparing him to me it’s no contest. Again… I am humble enough to tell you the truth.
Chuck Buda: Armand IS the total package. I’m fine with that. But what I lack in looks and brains, I make up for in extra effort (wink, wink).
Meghan: Who would push who down first so they could escape a hoard of zombies?
Armand Rosamilia: I would beg Chuck to knock me down and survive. The world deserves to have a living Chuck Buda and not a zombie Chuck Buda. I’d sacrifice myself for a true friend. Plus, who wants to live in a world without easy access to M&M’s?
Chuck Buda: I just have to outrun Armand, so I wouldn’t need to push him down. I would miss him after the zombies got him. But probably not for too long as I would get eaten, too. I’m like a Thanksgiving feast for the undead.
Meghan: How many third graders would it take to overwhelm the two of you in hand to hand combat?
Armand Rosamilia: Seven. Trust me, I already know this. It wasn’t pleasant, either. Those little monsters swarm like ants on a fallen praying mantis. In this scenario I was the fallen praying mantis.
Chuck Buda: I’m a Hungarian and we are known for being mad. I’d give the third graders the first shot and then I would obliterate them with my old-country rage and fists of fury. Then I would buy them ice cream cones and teach them my moves.
Meghan: I need some stalker links – where do you want people to find you?
Chuck Buda: I spend most of my time on Twitter. My new secure website is here. And like Armand said, come check us out on The Mando Method Podcast.
Armand Rosamilia is a New Jersey boy currently living in sunny Florida, where he writes when he’s not sleeping. He’s happily married to a woman who helps his career and is supportive, which is all he ever wanted in life…
He’s written over 150 stories that are currently available, including horror, zombies, contemporary fiction, thrillers and more. His goal is to write a good story and not worry about genre labels.
“The painting forced him to move back with such suddenness, he nearly fell over the side of the old wooden railing. It depicted a grisly scene, as if your worst nightmare had been splattered on canvas. Despite his mind screaming to look away, he could not avert his eyes” – Ancient
Set in the New Jersey fishing village of Keyport, where the Esoteric Order of Dagon has been planning for the awakening of the Deep One all these years…