Countdown to Smugglivus – Joel Sutherland

Countdown Day 1 (25 Days to Smugglivus and counting)

Who: Joel Sutherland, author of speculative fiction and the first ever author to contact us when we started the blog. So, who better than Joel to kick off Smugglivus?

Recent Work: Editor of Fried!Fast Foods, Slow Deaths (reviewed here) and Frozen Blood (to be reviewed later today).

We hereby give the floor to Joel and officially kick start the Countdown to Smugglivus!

Joel Sutherland:

Smugglivus. The very mention of the festival brings tears of joy to my eyes and waves of euphoria to my head. The mere thought of it makes me feel like a kid again, before (SPOILER ALERT) I knew Santa Claus was make-believe. It makes me want to hug all of God’s creatures, even tarantulas. It makes me want to change my name to Joel Smugglivusland. It makes me want to dance (and I’m no dancer). If I were on death row, it would give me hope, and if I were a newborn, it would make me dizzy at the thought of all the Smugglivus goodness that lay in store for me.

In short, it’s the happiest time of the year.

And yet, I know almost nothing about it.

Well, that’s not completely true. Just over a week ago I read the same post, right here at The Book Smugglers, that you did. Smugglivus is Coming: The Details! And boy, were there ever a lot of details. Guest bloggers. Reviews. Best of lists. Worst of lists (my favourite). Giveaways. More madness than you can shake an Arkham straight jacket at.

But still, what do we really know about Smugglivus? The one thing I’ve learned, during the past year reading The Book Smugglers, is you never know what Thea and Ana have in store. Their reviews are painstakingly thorough, honest and emotional. Their interviews are engaging, snappy and affecting. They sprinkle in enough geektastic news to make Harry Knowles jealous. Nothing they do is rushed or slapped together. Their website is the Shangri-La for book lovers. It should be obvious by now that I am a proud, card-carrying Bosmad—a Book Smuggler Addict. I doubt I’m alone.

I owe it all to chance. About a year ago, I was trolling the web for decent book review sites that might be interested in a collection of stories about gastrointestinal horror. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t find many. I had co-edited an anthology with my wife, Colleen Morris, titled Fried! Fast Food, Slow Deaths (the title pretty much tells you all you need to know about the type of book it is), for small press Graveside Tales. I typed “horror book reviews” into a Google Blog search and began scrolling…and scrolling…and yawning…and scrolling. There wasn’t much, and many of the hits weren’t actually horror book review blogs at all. However, somewhere around the tenth page I clicked on a link and ended up at this site. It was too good to be true. I wrote an email asking if they’d be interested in an electronic copy (remember, it was published by a small press—promotional budgets are as starved as the cast of the new 90210) of the book for review, and within minutes I had heard back, and the answer was an enthusiastic yes.

Less than a year later, by the way, The Book Smugglers pops up at number fourteen in that same Google Blog search. Not bad for a couple of self-described “completely obsessed, sad, sick addicts when it comes to books.” You think they’d be too busy, oh, I don’t know, reading, to post the amount of quality write-ups they do on an ongoing basis. I’m almost positive they have a team of blogging elves that post for them while they sleep.

The review of Fried! was posted on February 3, 2008. It pointed out the highlights and the lowlights (the latter blessedly fewer than the former), and for that I’ll be eternally thankful. A review isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on (or, in this case, the electricity it’s powered by) if it’s not honest and unbiased. Besides, readers are smart, and they’ll know when a reviewer is lying to them. When I read a good review on this website, I know the book is worth checking out. I doubt that The Book Smugglers would have lasted the year, gaining the readership that it has, if the two obsessed, sad, sick addicts who run the place had not written every single word with their hearts and their brains.

I’m honoured to have been asked to kick start the Smugglivus Countdown on the day that happens to be my birthday. I can’t think of a better gift. Maybe Rock Band 2, but this is a close second. I didn’t set out to write what ended up sounding like a lifetime achievement introduction speech (if the whole librarian/author thing doesn’t work out, I think I might have a career in politics, the Oscars, or guest blogging), but what can I say? When I love something, I want the whole world to know about it, and I want the whole world to love it with me.

In fact, I was actually asked to write a bit about my favourite books of 2008 (not necessarily published this year), and a bit about what I’ve got coming up in 2009. I fear that if I ramble on too much longer, I’m going to jeopardize my chances at landing that sweet guest blogging career I’ve got my eyes on, so I humbly offer you Joel Sutherland’s Book Reviews in Five Words or Less:

• The Taken, Sarah Pinborough: Ghosts, secrets, English ale. Yum!
• Johnny Gruesome, Gregory Lamberson: Rock/roll horror, overthetop fun.
• Fourtold, Michael Stone: Stories: four. Rating: ten. Hifive!
• The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman: ‘Nuff said.
• Victory of Eagles, Naomi Novik: Hurry, Peter Jackson. Make movie.
• Schulz and Peanuts, David Michaelis: Nobody picked on this biography.
• The Jigsaw Man, Gord Rollo: Gross cover, gross plot. Gross = 🙂
• Bark, George, Jules Feiffer: So funny, the parents laugh as loud (or louder) than the kids when I read it in Storytime at the library. So good, in fact, that I needed forty words to review it. Five words wouldn’t do. Just made it.

I don’t think Thea and Ana need to fear competition from me anytime soon.

As for myself, my first novel, Frozen Blood (Lachesis Publishing), is coming out on December 28, 2008. Here’s a Blurb in Five Words or Less (I’m on a roll): Hailstorm horror, perfect winter reading! I also have stories in four anthologies coming out in the coming months, and a children’s non-fiction proposal to work on. 2009 will also be the year I write a dissertation to complete my Masters in Library and Information Science. My wife would’ve killed me if I didn’t mention that—I often want to put off my studies for my creative writing, and she’s always been there to get me back on track. Do dissertations have dedication pages? They should. If not, a lot of spouses are going uncredited, and there’s nothing sadder than an uncredited spouse.

If you’re interested in more information about me or Frozen Blood, or if you’re dying to point out all the ways I cheated in the Book Reviews in Five Words or Less section to fit in more than five words, please visit

From this Bosmad to you, Merry Smugglivus to all, and to all a dark and stormy night!

You Might Also Like


  • Karen Mahoney
    December 1, 2008 at 1:53 am

    Joel, you should totally start a sideline career in guest-blogging. I snorted my coffee (very sad) at several points, because it was so damn funny.

    But! Not just funny – also, very true. I, too, am proud to be a Bosmad. We could maybe start a self-help group… 😉

    Good luck in 2009!

    Oh, and great start to Smugglivus. Well done Ana & Thea – you da men!

  • Ana
    December 1, 2008 at 2:12 am

    Aww Joel, this post made me completely bipolar, laughing and crying at the same time! THANK YOU for your kind words and HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!!!!

    Karen: you rock. And I snorted my coffee too. LOL

  • Thea
    December 1, 2008 at 8:25 am

    Joel, you are made of awesome. I’m laughing, blushing, and happy tearing up 🙂

    I love your book choices, by the way–The Graveyard Book is one of my picks for best of 2008 as well! And Fourtold remains one of the best short fiction collections I’ve read this year 🙂

    Thanks again for the great post and for everything you’ve recommended to us!

    And HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I have my fingers crossed that you get Rock Band 2 (so so so much fun). Of course, you can always celebrate by shredding out on Guitar Hero 😉

  • Wendy
    December 1, 2008 at 8:31 am

    Happy Birthday, Joel!

  • M.
    December 1, 2008 at 8:32 am


    Funny enough that I’ll go look at some of these recos – and horror food tales…

  • kmont
    December 1, 2008 at 11:10 am

    Joel, never hear of ya till Smugglivus, but that was an outstanding opening post to the countdown for Smugglivus! Bravo!

    And Happy Birthday. 🙂

  • Carolyn Jean
    December 1, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    Joel! What fun to read this! I love your little reviews. And your hailstorm tale sounds like great winter fun. Happy Smugglivus.

  • Michael Stone
    December 1, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Thanks for the favourable comments on Fourtold, Joel. I’m blushing, man.

    Oh, and Happy Birthday.

  • Joel A. Sutherland
    December 2, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    Thank you, all! I'm glad everyone enjoyed my post as much as you did — believe you me, I felt a lot of pressure to get it right, especially since I was the first one out of the gate. I had to live up to a year of solid blogging from the likes of Thea and Ana — no easy feat, that. At first I didn't know how to begin, but as soon as I started to focus on The Book Smugglers rather than, say, myself, everything fell into place. Many thanks to T & A (on second thought, let's make that A & T) for inviting me to crash their party. 🙂

    And further thanks for all of the birthday wishes. Sadly, Rock Band 2 doesn't come out for the Wii until later this month. Boo-urns!

Leave a Reply