Monthly Archives: May 2012

Fantastic Review for Little Deaths!

Michael R. Collings, a fellow writer and member of the Horror Writers Association, has left a fantastic review for my short story collection, Little Deaths.  If that’s not enough, Michael has been generous enough to allow me to reprint his review here on my blog.  But you can also read it at his blog, Collings Notes:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

John F.D. Taff, LITTLE DEATHS–Right on the Mark

Taff, John F.D. Little Deaths. Books of the Dead Press, 2012. Kindle edition.
Recently, one of my FaceBook friends made an astute comment about contemporary horror:
I hate to say it: Horror is boring. Authors seem out of ideas, out of approaches.
The stuff I’m seeing … is average, for the most part; a few things are spectacular, but are not really horror: they blend things together, and have a high level of craft.
In general, there is too much reliance on zombies, zombies, zombies… Or vampires… Or serial killers… Or Cthulhu… Or they try to make it gory, just to shock or disturb (which fails — I was a slasher film kid, come on! Savini, Romero, Cronenberg, etc).
Get with it folks! Have something to say. Dig deep. Study people other than King, Koontz, and the horror-boom guys of the ’80s. There’s more to life. Think differently.
This is not to say that there are no interesting recent takes on the conventional creatures—witness Joe McKinney’s energizing Dead World Series, Brett Talley’s Stoker-winning Lovecraftian pastiche That Which Should Not Be, and a host of other books that manage to invigorate older patterns.
But in some ways, horror does seem boring.
Having recently attended two cons that featured horror (I was a Special Guest at both, so perhaps got a closer look at things), I did see a surfeit of standards…especially zombies. But the others came into play as well. And having read manuscripts for a professional publisher of horror, I can attest to the number of neophytes that seem to think that more blood and gore equals better horror. Or, worse perhaps, a higher occurrence of harsh language (you know, the kind that used to be indicated in polite venues by d**n and now by f**k) equals better writing in general and, when used by particularly unappealing characters whose primary purpose in the story is—presumably—to be horrifically slaughtered by the maniac-of-the-hour, it constitutes good horror.
Good horror fiction is like anything else. Well-written. Carefully crafted. Thoughtfully conceived. And above all…imaginative.
Which brings me (finally) to John F.D. Taff’s neat collection, Little Deaths.
Occasionally, when I read a single-author collection, I leave with the impression that the author was straining to write enough stories to fill a book. The tales seem, as it were, of a piece. Something about tone, atmosphere, certainly about characters and settings make it clear that all of the stories came from the same imagination. And the collection seems limited by that sense.
Little Deaths is definitely not one of those collections. Nor is it merely another series of zombie stories, or vampire stories, or serial-killer stories.
In fact, there is essentially only one zombie, one vampire, and one mummy in the whole book…and they all appear in the same story, a quiet little gem called “The Tontine” that, in its own way, summarizes the history of horror as a popular genre.
Every tale seems intended to take readers into new dimensions of uncertainty, ambiguity, terror, and dread. Each—whether ringing a change on Lovecraft or Frankenstein or coming up with something entirely different—exists in its own little world, divorced from the rest; each is an individual, unanticipated journey of discovery.
Little Deaths is particularly well written. Taff uses words that might be outside many vocabulary ranges but always does so with a purpose. In one instance, the title of a story reveals itself to be a pun on two words—one typical for horror fiction, the other meticulously built from an obscure Latin root to support the entire narrative. (I’d identify which title, but that would in effect give the story away.)
Some favorites: “Bolts,” “The Water Bearer,” “Darkness upon the Void,” “The Mellified Man,” the above-mentioned “The Tontine,” “Box of Rocks,” and…well, just about everything in the collection. All well worth reading and thinking about.



Thanks, Michael.  That certainly made my  day!


Of course, you can pick up a copy of Little Deaths, in e-book or now in paperback, here:

Little Deaths, Now in Paperback!

My new collection, Little Deaths, is now out in paperback.  You can pick it up here for just $11.99

Or, of course, you can pick it up for the Kindle here, for just $3.99

Either way, it would help immensely if you would leave a review for it when you’re finished reading…and the more stars the better!

Thanks and enjoy!


Happy Memorial Day!

Happy Memorial Day for all Americans who gave their lives–even 5 minutes of it–to defend our country, most on foreign soil, sometimes for people who didn’t even care or actively resisted.  Sometimes, especially these days, I gotta wonder if it was worth it.  But they thought it was, and people like my grandfather, Robert Taff (above) who served in WWII and fought in France and Germany, in the Battle of the Bulge and in the Ardennes and the Bridge at Remagen, who lost his hearing to a German potato masher, deserve our full measure of respect and remembrance.

Into Ventriloquism? Pleasant Dreams…


I find ventriloquism alternately unfunny and creepy.  Even experts in the art of making dummies talk–Edgar Bergen, Walter Winchell, even Senor Wences–all have the creep factor turned up pretty high.  I mean, really, holding a small, creepy doll on your lap and making it seem to talk?

Anyway, saw this today.  Follow the link to see some terrific olde tyme ventriloquist pictures.

And good luck sleeping tonight…

I’m Appearing at CONtamination St. Louis, June 15-17

So, I’m appearing at CONtamination, the horror and pop culture convention, June 15-17 here in St. Louis.  I’ll be selling copies of Little Deaths, signing autographs and all sorts of authorial-sounding stuff.

The folks at CONtamination were kind enough to post my promotional stuff on their site.  You can see it here:

See you in St. Louis!

Little Deaths FREE for Kindle Today at Amazon!


Little Deaths, my premier horror collection is doing great!  It features 19 of my short horror stories, some new, some previously published.

The print edition should be out any day now, but if you can’t wait, it’s FREE today at Amazon.  I don’t how long it will be up for free, so grab it today:

Little Deaths is currently #7  in Short Stories and #30 in Horror at Amazon.

And Now, A Man With a Stoat Through His Head…

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