My mom reacts to Game of Thrones’ first episode


game of thrones reactions
They were all so young then.

Do you like Game of Thrones? I’m a huge fan of the show. But then again, I started reading the A Song of Ice & Fire book series that the show is based on almost twenty years ago (old!). I’ve been living with these characters for literally half my life. I was curious to see how someone brand new to the world of Westeros would react to the show, especially someone who hasn’t really tried reading or watching fantasy. So I asked my mom to watch the pilot episode of the show and then interviewed her about her thoughts.

Jeff: First and most important question: what would you name your direwolf puppy if you found one?


Jeff: What did you expect going into the show? How much had you heard about Game of Thrones?

Susan: I knew that Game of Thrones is very popular and violent. Other than knowing that this is a medieval fantasy, I did not know what to expect.

Jeff: How did it compare with the level of violence you’re able to tolerate in other shows?

Susan: I watch a lot of violent crime shows so I was able to tolerate the gore and mayhem.

Jeff: What were the most memorable moments of this episode for you

Susan: The scenes of extremely violent and wanton behavior were quite memorable, particularly when Jaime had sex with his sister. I also found it interesting when scenes of affection between the Starks were juxtaposed with scenes of murders.

Jeff: Do the Starks remind you of your own family at all?

Susan: Wasn’t there some competition between the older brother and the bastard brother?

Jeff: Yes, and also Theon.

Susan: Who’s Theon?

Jeff: How about the Lannisters?

Susan: Oh my God. Oh. Those siblings were nothing like my siblings.

Jeff: Which character or characters do you have the most sympathy for right now? Anyone?

Susan: I have the most sympathy for Daenerys because she wants to go home and was forced to marry a creepy barbarian.

Jeff: Let’s talk about that wedding for a minute. What did you think of the entertainment they chose to include in it?

Susan: It was X-rated. Nothing like either of my weddings.

game of thrones reactions
I only had an accordion player at my wedding.
Jeff: If you were the director of this episode, what would you do differently?

Susan: I might have inserted an opening crawl at the beginning, like in Star Wars, to explain what was going on. I also might have skipped Catelyn’s warning to Bran not to climb, as I immediately assumed that at some point Bran would fall off a wall.

Jeff: What do you think are going to be the consequences of Bran “falling” off that wall?

Susan: I think it will lead to war between the Starks and Lannisters.

Jeff: As someone who hasn’t read the books, did you find the episode confusing?

Susan: Yes, I found the first episode to be a little confusing because in the beginning I didn’t really know what was going on. Also, there are many interesting characters, but their names are so unique that I had trouble remembering their names and keeping track of them.

game of thrones reactions
Who was this guy again?

Jeff: What do you hope will happen in the next episode?

Susan: I want to find out what happens to Eddard’s family after he leaves to become the right hand of the king. I would also like to see the demise of Khal. I want to know more about the White Walkers.

Jeff: If you lived in the world of Westeros, what kind of job/position do you think you would have?

Susan: I might have worked in a shop or market. It doesn’t appear that there are any social workers or customer service agents in this world, nor female bankers.

Jeff: What would your shop sell?

Susan: Yogurt, coffee, and Cheez-Its.

game of thrones reactions

Game of Thrones makes its season 7 debut on Sunday, July 16. If you need to catch up, check out HBO GO; also, the first six seasons of the TV show and the first five books are on Amazon. Warning: the most recent two books in the series are a little meandering, and the sixth book may not be released until spring of 2032.

Five speculative fiction books about empires coming out in May

Just like in human history itself, the concept of empire has always played an important part in speculative fiction. It’s a recurring theme in both science fiction (Asimov’s Galactic EmpireDuneStar WarsBujold’s Barrayaran Empire, etc.) and fantasy (Lawrence’s Broken Empire trilogy, Sanderson’s Mistborn series, Final Fantasy, etc.). Here are five speculative fiction books about empires coming out this month, across various genres: alternate history, science fiction, and fantasy.

1. Eagle and Empire by Alan Smale – May 16

speculative fiction books about empiresEagle and Empire is the final book in the Clash of Eagles trilogy, an alternate history in which the Roman Empire invades North America. In this book, the Mongol Horde threatens to shatter the fragile truce between the Romans and the Native American League. Interestingly, Clash of Eagles is also the title of a previous alternate history novel by another author, Leo Rutman.

2. The Empire’s Ghost by Isabelle Steiger – May 16

speculative fiction books about empiresIn The Empire’s Ghost, a dictator is seeking to rebuild the once-mighty empire of Elesthene. Only an alliance of commoners and nobles from kingdoms scattered across the continent can hope to stop him. The author’s debut, this fantasy novel received a favorable review from Publishers Weekly, though apparently much of the book is a setup for the sequel.

3. The Caledonian Gambit by Dan Moren – May 23

speculative fiction books about empiresIn The Caledonian Gambit, the galaxy’s two biggest powers, the Illyrican Empire and the Commonwealth, are embroiled in a cold war. Commonwealth spy Simon Kovalic and Caledonian refugee Eli Brody must work together in an audacious attempt to bring peace to the galaxy. Here’s a blog post by the author about the long road to publication for this book, a reminder not to give up!

4. Free Space by Sean Danker – Available now

speculative fiction books about empiresIn Free Space, the sequel to Admiral, the Admiral has brokered peace between the Evagardian Empire and the Commonwealth (this seems to be turning into a theme of its own; apparently empires and Commonwealths just do not get along) but then gets kidnapped. However, he has a secret weapon at his disposal — a female super-soldier from the Empire.

5. Vanguard by Jack Campbell – May 16

speculative fiction books about empiresThe author of the Lost Fleet series begins a new military science fiction series with Vanguard. The Alliance, an intergalactic band of colonists, is fighting for survival after pirates from another world threaten the colonies. Two growing interstellar empires are heading into inescapable conflict. Campbell uses his own experience as a naval officer to heighten the military realism of his books.

Which books coming out this month are you excited about?

News from Jeff Deck: Look for my story, “Making the Transition,” in the new anthology Murder Ink 2: Sixteen More Tales of New England Newsroom Crime. It’s a peek into the world of my upcoming urban fantasy series, The Shadow Over Portsmouth; I’ll be releasing the first book in the series this summer, City of Ports. Also coming up: I’ll be reading during “Wyrd: A Horror Reading Event” on Thursday, June 8 in Salem, Mass., along with several other authors including the Stoker-winning Tom Deady.

Interview: Horror author Tom Deady

horror author Tom Deady

Horror author Tom Deady’s 2016 novel, Havenhas just been nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. In this interview I ask Deady about Haven, his new novel Eternal Darknessand influences on his work. But first, here’s a quick bio from his website:

horror author Tom Deady
Tom Deady (left)

Tom was born and raised in Malden, Massachusetts, not far from the historic (and spooky) town of Salem. He has endured a career as an IT professional, but his dream has always been to be a writer. A passionate Red Sox fan, Tom and a friend created Surviving Grady at the start of the 2004 season. Ten years and three World Series championships later, he still blogs about the Sox. Tom has a Masters Degree in English and Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University, and is a member of both the Horror Writers Association and the New England Horror Writers. Tom’s first novel, Haven, was released in 2016 by Cemetery Dance Publications. His new release, Eternal Darkness, was released in 2017 by Bloodshot Books. As always, he is actively working on his next novel.

Deck: You received your masters in creative writing from Southern New Hampshire University. Were you working on horror projects during that time, and if so, did you find that your peers gave you helpful feedback?

I had just finished Haven when I started my masters program. I was writing a “zombie virus” type novel along with a few short stories. I think I was the only horror writer in the program, so I’m not sure how receptive most people were to my work. I try to take whatever feedback I get and use it to become a better writer.

Your publicist mentioned that your new book, Eternal Darkness, is “reminiscent of the paperback horror days.” What are some works from that time that have been the most influential for you? Do you think the genre is making a comeback?horror author Tom Deady

Deady: The late seventies and eighties were a gold mine for horror readers. Salem’s Lot is the one that really got me started, but there were so many greats back then. The Keep by F. Paul Wilson, Ghost Story, of course, all the rest by King and Koontz, The Cellar by Richard Laymon. I could go on and on!

Your book is set in the fictional town of Bristol, Massachusetts. How has living in Massachusetts influenced the setting of this book?

New England has a rich history in horror. The Salem witch trials, Lizzie Borden, the Boston Strangler, the Bridgewater Triangle…how could it not be influential! I grew up in a small neighborhood in Malden, MA. If you visit there now, it’s almost as city-like as Boston, but when I grew up, it felt a lot like Bristol.

Deck: What do you think is the strongest selling point for readers to check out Eternal Darkness?

Deady: I know the vampire sub-genre is a well-worn trope, but I hope I’ve added something new to it. It’s a classic vampire tale with some attempts to legitimize the vampire through science. Make no mistake, they are brutal creatures, but what I’ve tried to do is make the reason they could exist more believable. That, to me, makes it scary.

horror author Tom DeadyDeck: What do you think you learned during the writing of your first novel, Haven, that had an effect on Eternal Darkness?

Deady: Well, Haven was written in fits and starts over a fifteen-year period. I wrote a lot of scenes out of order and with a long novel like that, it was very frustrating putting it all together. Obviously, I learned NOT to do that! I still don’t outline, but if I do write a scene out of order, I at least have an idea of how I’m going to get there.

Deck: You had different publishers for Eternal Darkness and Haven, and you self-published your novella Grando’s Traveling Sideshow. What are the advantages of taking these different approaches to release your work?

Deady: I’m not sure if there really are any advantages, it’s just the way it worked out for me. I self-published Grando’s and a short story called The Lake just to get my name out there and start building a platform. When Cemetery Dance offered me a contract for Haven, it was a dream come true. I saw the open call for Bloodshot Books just as I was finishing Eternal Darkness and decided to give it a shot. My intention was to publish a book in between the two because I think they have similarities – both coming-of-age, small town boys, set in the seventies – but the timing worked out and I wanted to work with Bloodshot.

Deck: What keeps you up at night? Do you think that confronting the weird and monstrous in fiction helps us confront the mundane terrors of the real world?

Deady: The only thing that used to keep me up at night was worrying about my kids. Since November, a lot keeps me awake at night. To answer the second part of the question, I think any fiction reading or writing is a form of escapism. That being said, I do find writing horror to be cathartic.

Deck: Do you face any challenges or misconceptions from the general reading audience when writing in the horror genre?

Deady: Absolutely! I think it’s a stigma that all horror writers face. People seem to associate the entire genre with the worst or goriest horror movie they’ve seen and just assume that all horror is like that. I’ve seen writers label their work as “thriller” to avoid the bias against horror.

Deck: What’s next for you?

Deady: I am negotiating a contract for a new novella that I’ll be announcing soon. It’s still horror but doesn’t have any supernatural elements…maybe I should call it a thriller? I also have my first attempt at YA horror with my editor, I’ll be looking for a home for that one next.

Deck: We all know the big names in horror and dark fantasy — do you have any recommendations of books by current writers in the genre who may not (yet) be well known?

Deady: Two years ago I would have said Rio Youers, Josh Malerman, and Paul Tremblay, but now everybody knows those names. Ben Eads is one to watch; his debut Cracked Sky was a Stoker finalist. John McIlveen’s Hannahwhere was just brilliant. Same for Bracken MacLeod’s Stranded. There is a lot of talent in the horror genre these days!

Deck: What do you love to do in your spare time that has nothing to do with dark fiction?

Deady: Other than spend time with my family, running is what I love. Aside from the health benefits, it really clears my head. I’ve worked out many a plot while on the treadmill.

You can connect with Tom Deady through Facebook, Twitter, or his website,

Interview: Horror author Matthew M. Bartlett

horror author Matthew M. Bartlett

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing horror author Matthew M. Bartlett, whose books such as Gateways to AbominationThe Witch-Cult in Western Massachusettsand the 2016 release Creeping Waves center on a terrifying Massachusetts town. Good works to check out now that we’re officially in autumn and thoughts turn toward Halloween . . .

First, a bit of background info, taken from Bartlett’s bio on Amazon:

horror author Matthew M. BartlettMatthew M. Bartlett was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1970. At an early age he was given as a gift the novelization of The Omen; not long after that, he inherited a worn copy of Christine by Stephen King. He began writing poetry while in the English program at Central Connecticut State University. An abiding interest in horror fiction led him to start a Livejournal page whose posts were his first forays into fiction: bite-sized tales accompanied by doctored daguerreotypes and his own photographs taken in Leeds and Northampton, Massachusetts. These posts centered around a long-dead coven using radio waves to broadcast disturbing and dangerous transmissions from the dark woods of Western Massachusetts. He continues to write dark and strange fiction at his home in Western Massachusetts, where he lives with his wife Katie and an unknown number of cats.

Deck: How long have you been writing horror, and what kind of training or study did you have? Do you have experience in other types of writing?

Bartlett: I’ve been writing horror since late 2004, with a few minor attempts here and there before that. I was an English major in college in the late eighties and early nineties, but during that time I wrote mostly poetry. When I look at that stuff now, I see that a few poems had a strong horror component.

Deck: You mention in your bio several authors who have influenced you, among them H.P. Lovecraft. Given the central importance of Western Massachusetts in your work, I can’t help but think of what some call “Lovecraft Country”: the author’s fictional towns that were mostly located in Eastern Mass.: Arkham, Innsmouth, etc. What is it about Massachusetts that so richly inspires horror fiction? Do you hope to create a “Bartlett Country” legacy in the western part of the state?

horror author Matthew M. Bartlett
Leeds, MA. (Courtesy Wikipedia)

Bartlett: The city where I live is basically a small downtown of very old buildings, surrounded by farmland and woods. Just walking down the street looking at the old houses and the edges of the forests can inspire ideas for writing. I don’t know that I have a particular need to create a legacy based on the locale; it’s more that when I picture the settings for stories, I picture them in places I see and have been. I’m pretty provincial that way; I just don’t have it in me to write stories that take place in, say, Brazil or Vietnam or Michigan or somewhere.

Most everything I write is set in Western Massachusetts, but I use parts of Connecticut where I’ve lived and worked as well. I just say they’re in Connecticut, or that other areas in Western Massachusetts are in Leeds, when they might actually be in Montague or Hatfield or West Brookfield or New Salem or Fitchburg.

horror author Matthew M. BartlettDeck: 
Of course, your story setting of Leeds, Massachusetts, is an actual town (or rather, a village that’s part of the city of Northampton, Mass.). Have any of the real-life residents of Leeds taken exception to you implying that they belong to a diabolical witch cult? Are there any challenges involved in setting horror stories in a real (smallish) town? As opposed to, say, using New York as a fictional setting.

My mother-in-law lives in Leeds proper, and she frets about the idea that people might be annoyed with me, or with her, because of my using Leeds as the name of the city. I have to explain to her that I and my books are nowhere near that well-known.

Deck: Besides the setting of New England itself, what other aspects of your life tend to feed into your dark fiction?

I think that I have a wide morbid streak, and I tend to worry. Worrying is essentially a creative exercise: you sit there and think of all the terrible things that might befall you. Writing deals with that worry so that it doesn’t become all-consuming and have deleterious effects on my day-to-day existence. It’s better than any drug. And, like many horror writers and readers, I love the autumn in New England, graveyards, horror movies, dark music, all that stuff. It’s a true inspiration.horror author Matthew M. Bartlett
Deck: You recently released Creeping Wavesa follow-up to your 2014 horror work Gateways to Abomination. What was your inspiration for returning to Leeds, rather than heading for a new corner of Bartlett Country?

Bartlett: I had ideas to further and expand upon the small mythos I’d started up in Gateways, and a few stories that trailed off in Gateways I wanted to continue in the next book. There will be more, most definitely.

Deck: What kind of advantages are offered by telling the story of Creeping Waves through smaller, mostly self-contained narratives rather than one main plot arc? Do you think that horror works best through shorter tales, or is that the approach that simply seemed to suit this particular material and setting?

Bartlett: I wanted to keep it entertaining, and to use different storytelling methods to further the overarching story. Though there are some stories that are of traditional length, I’m conscious of not wanting to bore myself, and not wanting to bore readers. I try to find the fine line between art and entertainment, I think.horror author Matthew M. Bartlett

DeckThe Witch-Cult in Western Massachusettsyour 2015 release, tells some of the back-stories of characters encountered in Gateways to Abomination. Do you recommend readers use this book as a kind of breather between your two main volumes? How did you get connected with your illustrator, Alex Fienemann?

Bartlett: People can use the book as they like. It connects up with stories in Gateways and Creeping Waves in what I hope are interesting ways, and I think it bears the occasional reread. I put out a call on Facebook for an artist, and a friend of mine put me in touch with a mutual friend. Her art was more whimsical and fantastical, so this allowed her to stretch, and I think she’s a natural for horror art, though she hasn’t returned to it, to my knowledge.

Deck: And you have a story in the horror anthology Lost Signalswhich just came out this summer. Its theme of transmissions and signals seems to be a perfect match for the evil radio station (WXXT) conceit that informs your Leeds stories — did you have any influence over the anthology’s theme? Or was the collection inspired by the recent popularity of audio horror like Welcome to Night Vale?

horror author Matthew M. BartlettBartlett: 
Ultimately I’m not sure what inspired the collection, but I don’t think it was me. When the submissions call was announced, I was up to my elbows in writing Creeping Waves, and hadn’t any time to spare. Later, after the deadline had passed, one of the editors, Max Booth III, sent me a message. He’d heard from a lot of people that they hoped I’d have something in the anthology, given the theme. At that time, my plate was clear, so I wrote a story, and then immediately thought it wasn’t good enough. So I wrote a second story, and Max read both and liked them enough to ask to buy both of them. I was very happy with this development, as I really wanted to be part of the book.

Deck: What keeps you up at night? Do you think that confronting the weird and monstrous in fiction helps us confront the mundane terrors of the real world?

Bartlett: My fears are awfully drab: I fear being unemployed, illness, loss, and death and nonexistence. I think fiction helps externalize those fears, or use them as metaphors. It’s therapeutic. Or it can be. I think both real-life fears and horror are ways to face having the metaphorical rug pulled out from under us.

Deck: Do you face any challenges or misconceptions from the general reading audience when writing in the horror genre? Do you try to target readers who already “get” the genre?

Bartlett: I don’t really try to target anything. I follow the muse. Anyone going in looking for werewolves or zombies or serial killers will hopefully read the previews available on Amazon and proceed with caution. I think people tend largely to think of horror in terms of movies, and consider horror books to consist of shock value and vampires. I don’t know, though, really, what people think. Those were guesses. I just kind of get on with it and hope that the books will find their people.

Deck: What’s next for you?

horror author Matthew M. BartlettBartlett: I have a story in a wrestling-themed chapbook with three stories in it [3 Moves of Doom, newly available as an e-book – J.]. It’s one of my favorites of my own stories, actually. It’s called DARK MATCH, and it introduces the seaside Massachusetts town of Hulse. I’m thinking more and more about Hulse, and what might be going on there. It’s exciting to get out of Western Massachusetts for a while and look at the ocean.

Also, I’ll have a new short collection called The Stay-Awake Men and Other Stories coming in early 2017 from Dunham’s Manor Press, a limited edition hardcover to be illustrated by the terribly talented Dave Felton. The stories are a departure from the Leeds mythos. I’m interested to see what people think of them.

Deck: We all know the big names in horror and dark fantasy — do you have any recommendations of books by current writers in the genre who may not (yet) be well known?

Bartlett: Tom Breen is a new writer (and publisher) who is doing very exciting and groundbreaking work. I also recommend seeking out books and stories by Adrean Messmer and John Boden.

Deck: What do you love to do in your spare time that has nothing to do with dark fiction?

Bartlett: I spend my spare time lounging with my wife and the cats, and seeing friends, sharing meals, talking. Nothing terribly exciting. But it makes me very happy.

You can connect with Matthew M. Bartlett through e-mail, Twitter, or his website,