Some stories require us to create our own ‘Big Bang’, so to speak. In fiction, it’s your world and your rules, but it’s always interesting to make these rules viable. A book can be potent and meaningful if it displays a believable reality, or resembles one. Resonation is an important word. If my novella Screams The Machine connects with a single person and speaks to her or him, it would be a great honor.
Screams The Machine probably started brewing whilst reading about some mind-expanding quantum physics, socioeconomic concerns, technological advancements, existentialism, and the figurative blender of the human condition. I began wondering about the ebb and flow of progress. There’s plenty of material there to pull from, which made me feel all sorts of strange ways about the ‘powers that be,’ and some organizations that have sway over humanity’s future. I came to understand a certain mindset for what it was, ‘Own the resources, own the people.’
Various books kept me busy to the point of cerebral overload. House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski blew my mind. The Holographic Universe, by Michael Talbot, was intensely interesting. The Hellbound Heart, by Clive Barker. The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers. Will Storr Vs. The Supernatural, by Will Storr. Stephen King’s Danse Macabre. The list could obnoxiously go on during that time period.
Playing an older video game called FEAR helped influence Screams The Machine. The game is a great mixture of horror and science fiction. It’s a first-person shooter, and the world is dark, ominous, and you feel the direness of its plot. The game engine might be outdated now, but playing and beating FEAR amplified some internal noise to accomplish some writing goals.
There were also some raw, basic facts I began realizing about existing. I wanted Screams The Machine to display these facts either directly or symbolically. For example, some realizations were as simple as eating. Whether anyone is vegan, vegetarian, paleo, omnivorous, or whatever they choose to be, we destroy things and consume them—table manners and silverware are very nice, but they don’t change the fact we’re eating the death of something. Then again, I just might be unconsciously repeating what I learned in Humanities class, years ago. For the record, I love a good medium-rare steak—I’m not attempting to take any moral high-ground.
A psychological sense should haunt Screams The Machine as well, an aspect pertaining to incorporeal matters. It’s important to figure out who we are as individuals. What if an advanced organization figures you out first? They know everything, even your thought process. What if they monitored your darkest secrets, dreams, and fetishes? What if we live in a self-aware universe?
I’d completed a few tales before, but Screams The Machine was the first one that felt imperative to write. It seemed like the story was actually happening, and I was a reporter telling you about a perilous reality. I felt visited by a muse, if you will, in all of her badass glory, and she cranked up the mental tunes like a rock ‘n roll champ. A primal fire sparked, and it became impossible to prevent Screams The Machine from happening, for better or worse.
Cash carries a disease; one that’s already killed a large majority of the population and something needs to be done. To stop the crisis from escalating, The Solution (a worldwide organization) is formed and rises to great power. They monitor people’s dreams and shape reality to fit their own wants and needs. In an effort to control existence itself, The Solution is searching for what they believe to be the ultimate tool; a person with the ability to master a deep connection with the mysterious, pervasive energy known only as The Ultimate Reality.
Watching her neighborhood decay, her friends and family perish, Elizabeth Reznik needs to find meaning in her life. She discovers her existence is more meaningful than she could ever have imagined. Operatives of The Solution seek her out, take her from her home and perform brutal experiments on her. Their conclusion? Elizabeth is the one they have been searching for; she is the key to gaining complete power.
The stratagem of The Solution is single minded – own the resources and you own the people. And the last resource available is free will. They will own your thoughts, they will orchestrate your dreams; they will dine on your fears. But there is always a cog in the machine… or in this case, a scream.
Sam Mortimer has worked the graveyard shift in law enforcement, attended film school, and has been writing strange stories since age eleven. He loves reading, music, and strives to meet the demands of his five cats.
Every movie has a soundtrack. Each scene is brought to life by the tunes playing in the background during a fight, a love scene, or the climactic ending. Books can be the same in that regard. When I write, I have my headphones on and I’m rocking out to whatever metal song comes out of the shuffle. There may be some rock, but metal is my poison.
When I wrote The Calling, I had to step back and think about the time period I was writing in. The novella isn’t set in the present, so I had to try to go with what the sounds of the time were. Most of the year was dominated by pop and the birth of Nu Metal, but here are the ten songs I put on a track list and why they helped me to set the mood for The Calling.
So, if you have some of these tunes handy, listen to them while you read the book and see if you agree with how they were used in my head. Maybe someday we’ll be able to watch the movie adaptation together and listen to the same songs on the big screen. I like soundtracks…
The Calling – Brent Abell
Carl Volker has a problem. After waking one morning with a hangover to find his wife gone, he notices a crow stalking around his yard. As days go by with no word from his wife, more and more crows gather.
Frank Hill is sheriff in the seemingly pleasant town of White Creek. Up until recently, his job has been fairly mundane but after a recent spree of murders, bodies are beginning to pile up and Frank has no clue as to who the killer may be.
White Creek has kept its secrets hidden well over the years but the sins of its past are coming to light; the town harbors an evil and the bindings that keep it in check are beginning to unravel.
As Frank and Carl’s friendship is tested and their destinies are revealed, the dead accumulate while the crows watch and The Calling begins!
Brent Abell lives in Southern Indiana with his wife, sons, and a pug who sits around eating the souls of wayward people. His stories have been featured in over 30 publications from multiple presses. His work includes his novella In Memoriam, collection Wicked Tales for Wicked People, and novel Southern Devils; which are available now. He also co-authored the horror-comedy Hellmouth series. Currently, he is working on the second book in the Southern Devils series and the next book with Frank Hill in the White Creek Saga.
Facebook: Brent T. Abell
Musical Inspiration for the Wild Weird West
Writing takes me down many paths through the tales I spin. Each dusty trail taken was influenced in a different manner. Sometimes, it is something as simple as a grouping of trees around a large sandstone boulder. Other times, an old film sparks a flame of creativity. Many things activate the part of my brain that manufactures the stories I write. However, music is one of the most important tools used for inspiration.
A particular song can put me in the saddle in the middle of a cattle drive. Often, a tune can make me smell the leather of the saddle beneath me and feel the sun on my forehead, or a cold rain slapping my face. Music can remove my mind from my body and teleport it through space and time to an era when vigilante justice was meted out quickly with a gun or a noose.
In my collection of Wild West collides with horror tales, Eerie Trails of the Wild Weird West, music was instrumental in nearly all my yarns. Though most of the stories in this collection were not directly inspired by a particular song, listening to a special song put me in a proper frame of mind. On some occasions, I listened to the same song repeatedly as I weaved the fabric of a tale.
Take the story, Willows of the Mourning Dove; I listened to Running Bear by Sonny James several times, as I penned the tale. Though the character of Mourning Dove was very loosely based on the female love interest in the song, little else about the story resembles the tune. Still, the music and lyrics inspired me as I wrote. Had I listened to another song while I put words to page, the story would have most likely taken a different path.
While inking The Jonah Herd, there were two songs on my playlist, Stampede by Chris Ledoux and Rawhide by Frankie Laine. Other than both using a cattle drive as the subject matter, nothing about the story suggests a tie to either tune. Nonetheless, both kept my mind firmly planted on a trail drive. Both brought me to a place where I could feel the mud from the hooves of horses and cattle hitting my face and see the rain as it dripped from the brim of my hat.
As I sat writing The Guns of Clay Allison, the tune Big Iron by Marty Robbins played almost exclusively. There is absolutely no link between the song and tale, but I knew I needed to listen to it if I was to pen the story. It gave me the sense of using a primitive six-shooter and filled my nose with the scent of spent gunpowder.
In the story Collateral Winds, the song Seven Spanish Angels by Willie Nelson and Ray Charles inspired and influenced the story. A tale of a path taken leading to regret and remorse, the impact the tune had on the storyline is evident. Sometimes, decisions made affect not only the people in our sight, but also others we fail to notice. Both the story and song depict the ramifications of a life lived by the gun.
The Devil’s Herd was inspired by two songs, Ghost Riders in the Sky by Johnny Cash and to a lesser extent, El Paso by Marty Robbins. Elements of this story are derived from the lyrics of both tunes. Though I listened to the latter more often, the other had more influence on the path the story took. The imagery created by both songs helped set the tone of a long ride across a barren landscape in brutal heat to an unknown destiny.
As you read the dusty tales in Eerie Trails of the Wild Weird West, feel free to play the forementioned songs or create a playlist of your favorite cowboy tunes. Let the music and the stories take you back in space and time to a rowdy era where vigilante justice was the law and guns ruled the land.
* * * * *
Eerie Trails… of the Wild Weird West
In this collection of fourteen strange tales from the wild west, Cowboys and Indians face down supernatural beings of all varieties – from vampires and werewolves; to ghosts and vengeful spirits; to mythological creatures.
Saddle up cowboys and ladies alike, once the journey begins, Eerie Trails of the Wild Weird West will take you down a strange and bizarre path though the old west that you’ve never been on before.
About the Author — Maynard Blackoak is a freelance writer living in the backwoods of Pawnee County, Oklahoma. He draws upon the sights of neglect and unusual sounds around him for inspiration. A bit of a recluse, he can often be found strolling through an old, forgotten cemetery or in the woods among the twisted black oaks and native elms under the light of the moon.
Facebook: Maynard Blackoak
Music to Write Horror By
Jessica B. Bell
When I write, I always have music playing, sometimes just ambient instrumental music – Brian Eno has several great soundscape albums that are great – but often I want a certain mood to write by. When I was writing a lot of the stories in Viscera I would often have these on in the background.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor – F#A#(Infinity) : This is an album by a Canadian band known for its long, experimental soundscapes, combining live music with soundbytes and spoken word. It’s dark and atmospheric, and is my go to when writing. If you’ve seen the brilliant film 28 Days Later, you may recognize their song East Hastings/Dead Flag Blues. It has a spoken word piece at the beginning of the song about being trapped in the belly of a machine that is bleeding to death that gives me chills:
King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King: Someone once said that this music was the sound of the apocalypse, and they might be right. The title track has been used in the dystopian film Children of Men and is instantly recognizable. If I’m ever writing something with some sort of demon or elder god in it, this is the record I put on. It’s grand and cinematic, and if you’re going to be writing something bleak, this is the track you want to be listening to.
Tom Waits – Mule Variations: When I was writing CHUK – a novel set in the Louisiana bayou – this was on my turntable nearly constantly. It’s a great album altogether, but Low Side of the Road could be the theme song for the HBO adaption of CHUK (it’ll happen, you’ll see). There’s just something about Tom Waits’ gravelly voice and Kurt Weill-esque musical sensibilities that make his music excellent for creepy writing.
Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral: Nobody does anger quite so eloquently as Trent Reznor, and if you are writing something intended to make the skin crawl – or if you’re just writing something bloody violent and angry, then you want to throw on this album, beginning to end. The industrial noises in the song Reptile sound like Godspeed’s horrible machine, bleeding to death. If they ever made a film out of my story Paraxenogenesis, this would be the soundtrack.
Sigur Rós – Ágætis Byrjun: I have no idea what this Icelandic band is singing about , but it is dark and lovely. It’s actually very soothing, and puts me in a mood to write. There’s a short story in Viscera – my new collection of strange tales, published by Sirens Call Publications (and available now) called The Queen is Dead that could definitely be read with Sigur Rós playing in the background.
Finally, Pink Floyd’s near-instrumental Careful With That Axe, Eugene was the inspiration for the story Banshee (also in Viscera). The song just sounds like a chase across barren, icy tundra. Listen to this song before (or while) you read the story, and I think you’ll see what I mean.
What music do you listen to while writing? Is it just your personal favourites, or does the music you listen to influence your writing, and if so, in what way?
Jessica B. Bell is a Canadian writer of strange fiction. It is rumoured that she lives in a damp, dark basement, writing her twisted tales in her own blood on faded yellow parchment. Her stories have been published in various anthologies, the most recent of which is Voices. She also writes under the name Helena Hann-Basquiat, and has published two novels on the metafictional topic of Jessica B. Bell, titled Jessica and Singularity. A third and final novel is planned for 2017.
Find more of Jessica’s (and Helena’s) writing at whoisjessica.com
Viscera — Jessica B. Bell
Viscera is a collection of short stories full of all the things that make you squirm, cringe, and laugh when you know you shouldn’t. You’ll remember why you’re afraid of the dark and experience an abundance of weird creatures: witches, ancient gods, and all-too-human monsters – the scariest of all.
Indulge your twisted sense of humor with stories about unconventional werewolves and a woman with a frog fetish. Know what it’s like to arrive too late to save an unusual alien abductee, or giggle with sick delight as a woman serves up a special Hasenpfeffer dinner to her pig of a husband.
Settle in for bedtime stories fit for monsters.
Viscera will grab you by the gut and squeeze, making you cry for mercy—or laugh like a fiend!
I posted over at Jay Wilburn’s blog. We wrote a book together. It is good.
I used to post a lot. All the damn time, in fact. I’d average 2-3 posts and 2-3 guest posts a week. Tons of information I thought would be helpful, amusing or just something for me. I could also rely on the posts getting shared and commented on and people wanting to join in on the fun. When I started this blog way back in 2009 or thereabout, it was as a struggling part-time author trying to make the leap to full-time author who is so wealthy I never wear the same pair of socks twice.
I’m a full-time writer but the pair of socks I have on has way too much wear for my liking.
I podcast. Two podcasts, in fact… (shameless plug time in 3…2…1…)
Arm Cast Podcast – new episode every Friday
Arm N Toof’s Dead Time Podcast – new episode every Wednesday
Both on Project iRadio
I get a ton of interaction when a new episode goes live. I used to post about a new episode on this very blog but no one really seemed to care enough to read it, yet I have a very strong listening base. I guess they listen but don’t read about podcasts.
Is blogging and having a website no longer viable to reach the masses? Do we simply worry about Facebook and Twitter and the next Big Thing and keep connected there?
Your thoughts… if anyone is actually reading this, that is…
The Mechanics of My Writing Style
John Mc Caffrey
As far as I know, writing style isn’t taught in school. I’ve read of the various writing styles some writers utilize, but that was after I had already come up with my own. Mine seems to be a loosely based form of organized confusion. Typically, I get an idea and jot it down on a small notepad I carry with me. Later, I’ll transfer it to a spiral notebook and elaborate for a page or two and then leave it for anywhere from a week to as long as a year. The initial concept however, is never far from my thoughts, and I will pull out the spiral notebook jotting down more ideas. Some of these concepts never get written, but for the ones that do, I’ll sit at the computer and begin an outline. I try to break the outline up into scenes, much like a movie, and when I feel I have a good outline, I’ll once again, leave it for a while, working on something else. It’s only after I’ve separated myself from the initial idea that I will start writing in earnest. I don’t have a time frame, or some type of internal deadline I force upon myself. If the story isn’t working for whatever reason, I allow it to sit. I have one piece that I have been working on for seven years that I can neither walk completely away from, or approach it the way I want to. But when everything comes together, I’ll take the story to completion. This is what becomes my first draft.
Depending on the length of my first draft, I either start right away with the initial editing or wait for a few weeks. I’ll go through a manuscript numerous times, always finding something that needs to be changed, revised, or deleted. When I’m satisfied with what I have, (and I’m never truly satisfied—even after things are in print, I see what I could have done differently), I load it up on a Kindle and leave it with my wife, Karen, for proofreading.
She is amazing. She proofreads and edits what I was absolutely positive was an almost flawless piece of work and finds everything from punctuation mistakes to problems with syntax and continuity. I go back to the computer and once again revise, upload it to her Kindle, and only when I receive her thumbs up, do I consider it finished. Her support and continued eye for detail has been instrumental in the development of my writing. If not for her, it’s unlikely Nora’s Wish would have ever been published. After writing it, I was certain that it was too far outside my usual genre, and was uncertain there was a market for it. I loved the story, but it went into a folder where it sat for a few months. It was her continual urging, and in the end, outright demands that it needed to be published that I finally submitted it to the fine folks at Sirens Call Publications.
Nora’s Wish began with a conversation I had with my father, about how he wished he was able to change certain decisions he’d made when he was younger. That, and the thought that there are probably many elderly people who shared the same sentiment, and how awesome it would be if they all could magically have that ability, was the beginning of the story. The character of Ben emerged almost immediately, Nora soon after. It was their friendship, and shared forgotten isolation in Willow Manor that became the nucleus of exploring the possibility of changing their destinies. My father passed away before he could see how his simple comments to me grew into the published book, but I’m sure he would approve.
John Mc Caffrey
Ben Jameson is a bitter retiree residing at Willow Manor, a home for the aged or those in need of care, and has nothing more to do than await the inevitable conclusion of a life wasted. Forgotten by his family, his days are marked by the solitary existence of books, loneliness, and regret.
A chance meeting with a terminally ill resident named Nora, and her unshakeable optimism in the face of her eventual demise, rekindles emotions he was certain were gone forever. Nora reawakens his ability to love, and with her compassion and her companionship, he comes to realize that even a life as wasted as his own can be salvaged and, given the right incentive, is still worth living.
As Nora’s health declines, they both dare to hope that the magic of a strange pendant Ben purchased from an antique shop as a gift for Nora will overcome the odds, offering them more time with one another.
Nora’s Wish is available on:
Barnes & Noble (Print & eBook)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR — John Mc Caffrey writes tales of horror, the supernatural, science fiction, and fantasy. He was born in Illinois and grew up on the south side of Chicago. While still in grade school, he developed a passion for reading through the works of Tolkien, Poe, and Lovecraft as well as being addicted to watching Hammer Film’s at the local Saturday matinee. Today he lives in Northern Indiana with his wife where he writes in his spare time.
THE BOY WHO KILLED SANTA CLAUS
Seven year old Henry Childers crawled reluctantly under the covers of his bed. “But, Mom,” he whined, “I’m not sleepy. Can’t I stay up a few more hours?”
“It’s almost ten already,” his mother Tonya said with an indulgent smile. “If you don’t get to sleep, Santa won’t stop here tonight.”
“Do you think Santa got my letter this year?” Henry asked, sitting up against the headboard.
“I’m sure he did, honey.”
“’Cause I don’t want it to be like last year.”
Tonya sighed heavily and rubbed at her temples. She’d been hearing this same tirade from her son for an entire year now. “Henry, there was nothing wrong with what you got from Santa last year.”
“I asked for an XBox, and he gave me a Playstation. It’s not the same.”
“As I’ve told you a hundred times, maybe Santa was all out of XBoxes,” Tonya said, pulling the covers up to just under Henry’s chin. She and her husband had gone to every store in the city looking for an XBox last year, but they’d all been sold out. It had been a Playstation or nothing, but still it hadn’t satisfied Henry.
“I mailed my letter in October last year,” Henry said. “That gave him plenty of time to have his elves whip me up an XBox.”
“Henry,” Tonya said, a little more sharply than she’d intended, “you’re being awfully ungrateful. There are children in the world who have nothing. If you don’t start being more appreciative, Santa may decide to just skip our house altogether.”
“Okay,” Henry said, his lower lip poked out like a shelf. “I’m sorry.”
“Just get to sleep,” Tonya said, leaning over and kissing her son on the forehead. “When you wake up in the morning, you just might find that bike you’ve been wanting waiting under the tree.”
“You think Santa will like the cookies and milk we left for him?” Henry asked.
“I’m sure he’ll think they’re delicious. I’ll see you in the morning, sweetie.”
Tonya turned off the light, the small nightlight plugged into the electrical socket by the closet throwing a muted yellow glow throughout the room. She eased the door closed, leaving Henry to dream of Christmas morning.
* * *
“Do you think it’s safe to start?” Jonas Childers asked his wife. They were sitting in the living room, watching a SciFi channel marathon of the Silent Night Deadly Night films.
Tonya glanced at the clock, saw that it was just past one o’clock in the morning. “He should be sound asleep by now,” she said. “I think we can get started.”
“Good,” Jonas said. “It’ll probably take me ‘til dawn to get that bike put together.”
They went up to the attic, careful to avoid all the squeakiest boards, and brought down all of Henry’s presents. Tonya began arranging all the smaller gifts around the tree while Jonas unfolded the instructions for the bike and began assembling it.
“Shit,” Jonas cursed under his breath, trying to fit together two pieces that simply refused to fit together. “As much trouble as this is, Henry better like this damn bike.”
Tonya knelt next to her husband, took the uncooperative pieces and easily snapped them together. “Are you kidding? He’ll absolutely love it.”
“He better. I don’t want to have to go through another year hearing him bitch and moan like he did about that damn Playstation.”
“It did get a bit tiresome,” Tonya said with a giggle. “But Henry just wants what he wants, and he won’t settle for anything else.”
“Like mother, like son.”
Tonya swatted her husband on the arm. “That’s not true. I settled for you, after all.”
“Very funny,” Jonas said. “How about you settle for passing me those cookies.”
Tonya had baked a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies, half of which her family had eaten, the other half of which had been placed on a plate for Santa. She took the plate and handed it to her husband, who immediately scarfed down two of the cookies.
“Careful,” Tonya said, reading over the instructions. “You keep that up, you’ll soon be fat as Santa.”
“This isn’t for me,” Jonas said around a mouthful of cookie, spewing crumbs like a fine mist. “It’s for Henry. Think how disappointed he’d be if he woke up and saw that Santa hadn’t eaten the cookies he left for him.”
“Don’t talk with your mouth full,” Tonya said with a smile.
“Hand me the milk, please.”
They did not leave out a glass of milk for Santa since that would curdle, but they placed it in a thermos to keep it cold. Tonya passed the thermos to her husband.
Jonas popped the top of the thermos and gulped down several swallows of the milk. Suddenly he retched, spitting milk into the air like a geyser, the thermos dropping from his hand and leaking its contents onto the carpet. Jonas clutched at his throat, making strangled gagging noises as milk and blood dribbled down his chin.
Tonya screamed and grabbed her husband as he collapsed onto her lap. His body was jerking with violent spasms, his eyes rolled up to the whites. He coughed violently, and more frothy blood sprayed Tonya’s arms, and she thought there were chunks of tissue mixed with it.
“Oh God, Jonas,” she screamed, crying. “What’s wrong? What should I do?”
“What’s going on?” Henry said, stepping into the room wearing his pajamas, rubbing the sleep dust from his eyes. “I heard screaming.”
“Henry, get the phone and call 911,” Tonya yelled frantically. “Something is wrong with your father; he needs an ambulance right away.”
“What is it?” Henry asked, wide-eyed, stepping further into the room.
“Henry, call 911 NOW!”
Henry started to turn toward the phone, but then he spotted the spilled thermos of milk and froze. “Did Dad drink the milk?” he asked, snatching up the thermos and waving it at his mother.
“What?” Tonya said, feeling her husband’s spasms tapering off, afraid to contemplate what that might mean. “Your father needs help.”
“Did Dad drink the milk?” Henry said again, his old stubborn self. “This milk was for Santa Claus, not for Dad.”
“Henry!” Tonya screamed, desperate tears of frustration and helplessness streaking her face. “This isn’t the time—”
“THIS MILK WAS FOR SANTA CLAUS, NOT FOR DAD!” Henry roared, throwing the thermos across the room.
A numbness began to spread throughout Tonya’s body, starting in her chest and reaching out through her limbs. Comprehension came slowly, and it made her feel cold inside. Cold and empty.
“What did you do?” she croaked, her voice raw and raspy. “Henry, what did you do to the milk?”
“I poured Drain-O in it,” he said matter-of-factly, as if stating that he’d brushed his teeth.
Tonya was on her feet in an instant, the still form of her husband stretched out on the floor. She grabbed Henry by the shoulders and shook him, shook him hard. “Why would you do such a thing?” she shouted into his face. “Why in the name of God would you do such a thing?”
“I wanted an XBox!” Henry shouted back, wrenching out of his mother’s grasp. “Not a Playstation, an XBox, and Santa knew that. He knew that, and he gave me the wrong thing anyway. I wanted to teach him a lesson, make him pay for giving me the wrong gift last year.”
Tonya stumbled back, hands to her mouth, and watched as her son turned and ran back to his room, slamming the door behind him. She snatched up the phone and quickly dialed 911 while Santa chopped up a topless teenager on the television behind her.
© Mark Allan Gunnells
If you enjoyed Mark’s story, be sure to grab a paperback or Kindle copy (available in Kindle Unlimited, as well) of his Flowers in a Dumpster short story collection – out now from Crystal Lake Publishing:
With the link to Crystal Lake, as well, please: www.crystallakepub.com
All Roads Lead to Terror (synopsis)
The horrors of the past meet the brutality of the present.
Four boys strengthen the bonds of their friendship, while taking their first hesitant steps into adulthood, as they face the brutality of an old, new world. They will be tested at every step in their journey, as they travel through a blasted land where the only hope is for a swift death followed by an endless sleep. Survival lay in the firepower they carried, coupled with their willingness to use it, and their ability to trust each other with their own lives.
The world had become a wild place filled with wild things, and into this new reality each of them had been born. Coming of age at the end of days, where savagery was the norm, and man’s inhumanity to man was on daily display. Where the only law was the firepower one carried and the only hope was for a swift death followed by an endless sleep.
Meat was born at the height of the Zombie apocalypse, upon his birth his mother took one look at him and pronounced him meat. He grew up in a reality where they were all nothing more than walking bags of meat, so in his mind the name fit perfectly.
Window, his best friend, is very quiet, and ever watchful with a quick hand. To him friendship was the most important thing in the world. His family had perished in the ruthless times after the awakening and his temperament had been forged in the fire that took them from him. His friends were all he had left so he watched over them with a jealously protective nature strengthened by that sense of invulnerability all boys his age embraced. Further backed up by a quick hand with the .44 he’d used to kill the men who had raped his mother.
The remaining members of this quartet are Einstein who had been born within the compound at Bremo Bluff after the apocalypse. Having spent his life behind the fence he had no first hand knowledge of how brutal the world has become. As his name implies he’s the smartest in the group, as well the most innocent. While that innocence helps to soften the ruthlessness of the other three, it will serve to drive a wedge into their friendship. On this trip he will discover just how terrifying the world beyond the fence has become.
The final member is Billie-Bob, one half of a set of twins who appeared outside the fence several years earlier. Your typical class clown whose mouth runs a mile a minute, if he isn’t sharing overused jokes about Zombies, he’s whispering the passages from a book his mother used to read to him when he was younger, a chant that provides him with a degree of comfort. Billie-Bob is unique in that at the tender age of eleven he has proven himself to be a natural born sniper with a willingness to use his special talent to protect his friends.
The trail they follow leads them East, into the Dreadlands, a mysterious land from which those who dared to venture in the past, never returned. For there are places where the fabric of reality is at its thinnest. Where nightmare creatures roam the shadowy corners of a well lit world. Having existed at the edge of man consciousness since the dawn of time, an indistinct blur briefly glimpsed in our peripheral vision. Their presence felt on a primitive emotional level that reached our consciousness as a faint whisper in the night. Their touch the soft caress of chilled fingers dancing along the spine like the half remembered terrors lurking within the childhood memories of every person who had ever feared the night.
In Richmond they will be confronted by a savage cult of children who worship a creature of the night. A creature that until the apocalypse had existed in the shadowy corners of a well lit world A beast of nightmares that feasted upon the fear of its victims, delving into their innermost secrets, revealing half forgotten terrors that lay like a rotting carcass at the heart of their souls. For these creatures, that were once considered nightmare imaginings, are now awake in a world where the population has been reduced.
Awake and very, very, hungry.
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B016MLXM32
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B016MLXM32
Richard was born in Frostburg, Maryland, in the winter of ’58’ and currently lives eight miles away. A five-year stint with the military allowed him to see what he wanted of the world. Married with four grown children and eight grandchildren, he and his wife provide a home to four pets that are spoiled beyond rotten.
In addition to writing daily he works a full time job in retail, and piddles around in his wood-shop making one mess after another when time permits.
Richard can be found online at:
Follow Richard on Twitter: @RichardSchiver
Written in Blood is Richard’s personal blog where he shares his thoughts on writing, and whatever else might strike his fancy. http://www.richardschiver.com
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Writing The Sequel: Demonkin
“How could the same [stuff] happen to the same guy twice?”
Somewhere during Die Hard 2, scrappy underdog John McClane delivers the (censored) line above as a wink to the audience. Yes, he says, we know this is the same story, but we hope you’ll like it anyway. That’s one method of writing a sequel. As much as I enjoyed Die Hard 2, I decided to go a different way.
When it came time to start Demonkin, the sequel to my first book, Glyphbinder, I wasn’t sure where I wanted it to go. My first book tells a complete story, and I debated how I wanted to develop a follow up. Characters must return and stakes must be raised, but how best to go about doing that?
Die Hard 2 knows exactly what it’s doing. It’s a decent action movie that takes the scenario from Die Hard, changes the location (an airport instead of a skyscraper) and raises the stakes. Rather than a single building of hostages, we have multiple airplanes full of them. It’s a fun movie, but it plays out just like the first Die Hard. Our scrappy hero wins, the bad guys lose, and McClane reunites with his gutsy wife.
As I went back over sequels to movies I’d enjoyed, I kept coming back to the same sequel over and over: The Empire Strikes Back. In my opinion, it’s a perfect follow up to Star Wars, building on the first movie while taking the series and characters in a completely new direction. ESB does everything I want in a sequel, so as an author, I decided to dissect what it was about ESB that I liked so much.
ESB expands the universe, changes the characters in permanent ways, and reveals the cost of earlier mistakes. ESB’s ending is bittersweet at best and sets up a third movie where I know many pieces will collide in a final battle — and I’m okay with that, because ESB understands what it is. It’s the second act of a three act play, rising conflict that sets up the climax of a trilogy. A complete story, if a brutal one.
ESB also refocuses on underdeveloped characters from the first movie. In Star Wars, Luke is the hero and the story revolves around him. Han and Leia support Luke and don’t change very much. In ESB, we go another way. Han and Leia have significant character arcs and while Luke’s still in the movie, he’s off learning from a Muppet in a swamp. Luke had his story. Focusing on Han and Leia kept me hooked.
ESB also doesn’t limit itself to the same cast. It’s not afraid to introduce new characters (like Lando and Yoda) who have roles equal to the original cast. Rather than raising the stakes by rehashing the first movie (what if the Empire fielded multiple Death Stars?) ESB raises the stakes by flipping the script.
The Rebellion fights the Empire (like at Yavin) but at Hoth, the Empire wins. Risky decisions that went fine in the first movie (like Han’s decision not to pay off Jabba so he could help Luke) become huge problems. Our heroes unite to rescue Han (like they rescued Princess Leia from the Death Star) but this time, our heroes fail. Luke arrives at Cloud City to save everyone (just like he blew up the Death Star) and this time, Vader defeats him. We see our heroes savaged and forever changed.
ESB ends with one hero captive and all the others battered by huge losses and costly victories. They’re safe, for the moment, but facing even bigger challenges. It’s because ESB resolves most but not all of its threads that it works as a middle movie. It’s a soft cliffhanger. The bad guys landed some big hits, and now our battered heroes must fight even harder to recover. I’m hungry to see them redeem themselves and finally defeat the Empire, which is right where I want to be after the second volume of any trilogy.
Once I figured all that out, I was ready to write my second book. If Glyphbinder was my Star Wars, then Demonkin is my Empire Strikes Back. It’s a complete story, just like my first book, but new characters take the lead, heroes fall, survivors are traumatized, and bad guys strike mortal blows. I tried to write an exciting yet brutal story that I hope satisfies readers of my first book and gets them excited for my third.
If you enjoy darker stories where the heroes might not always win, I hope you’ll join me for the ride.
Eric Bakutis is an author and professional videogame designer based in Maryland. The staff of Balticon selected his debut adventure fantasy novel, Glyphbinder, as one of eight finalists for the 2014 Compton Crook Award. Glyphbinder has since received positive reviews from Kirkus and other review sites.
Eric’s dark fantasy short story, Hunted, recently won second place in the Baltimore Science Fiction Society’s 2015 short story contest. Eric’s short fiction has also appeared in various markets and anthologies including Fairly Wicked Tales (from Ragnarok Publications) Superhero Monster Hunter (from Emby Press) and The Ways of Magic (from Deepwood Publishing).
You can read the first five chapters of Glyphbinder for free at Eric’s WordPress site, Tales of the Five Provinces, along with sample chapters of Demonkin (so long as you don’t mind spoilers). Glyphbinder is now available on Amazon Kindle (and compatible platforms) for $0.99, and Demonkin will be available on December 18, 2015. For the latest news, including pre-orders, please check out Eric’s Twitter feed.
From Combat Veteran to Horror Writer
By: Thomas S. Flowers
Before we start, there’s a quote from Michael Herr in his book, Dispatches that I’d like to share. It’s a long quote, so bear with me. Herr says, “I keep thinking about all the kids who got wiped out by seventeen years of war movies before coming to Vietnam to get wiped out for good. You don’t know what a media freak is until you’ve seen the way a few of those grunts would run around during a fight when they knew that there was a television crew nearby; they were actually making war movies in their heads, doing little guts-and-glory Leatherneck tap dances under fire, getting their pimples shot off for the networks. They were insane, but the war hadn’t done that to them. Most combat troops stopped thinking of the war as an adventure after their first few firefights, but there were always the ones who couldn’t let that go, these few who were up there doing numbers for the cameras… We’d all seen too many movies, stayed too long in Television City, years of media glut had made certain connections difficult” (Dispatches, 1977). My reasoning for sharing this quote from Herr is because, in more ways than one, it seems to sum up my feelings regarding my own experience in the Iraq War, OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom), and writing/living with those memories today. Allow me to explain.
There seems to be a surge of “war stories” finding their way into the media nowadays. I’m in no way saying this is a bad thing; I wish there were more veteran writers. However, I have to be somewhat suspicious when I see books marketed as “another action-packed heroic tale of contemporary military service.” Such as from a Navy Seal’s perspective or some high ranked officer sharing their “retelling” of command with low fidelity storytelling. I’m not trying to be quip here, nor am I trying to call out any one individual. What I am trying to call out is similar to what Herr stated in the quote shared above. There seems to be this carnivorous appetite for war stories, but not war as it really is, rather war from a heroic narrative, or worse, war where soldiers are nothing more than pawns in a Mad Hatter’s political chess game. I feel these kinds of stories are for people who do not have a genuine interest in the reality of war from the perspective of, say, Joe-Shmoe from Littlerock, Arkansas. These kinds of stories are for people who want to be entertained, not enlighten to the cruel banality of combat.
For a long time, I didn’t write much about anything. A few poems, here and there, but nothing I was willing to share with anyone, under any circumstance. Let me tell you a little bit about myself.
I signed up for the U.S. Army in Sept 2001 and was honorably discharged in February 2008. Roughly seven years of service, including three tours in Iraq, 2003-2004, 2004-2005, and finally 2006-2007. The last tour was probably the hardest, not only was my deployment extended for the great 2007 Iraq War troop surge (Operation Arrowhead, I think), but we took more hits than in any of my previous two tours, and on top of that, I had someone other than my parents waiting for me at home. My wife and I had just met a few months before I deployed. She stayed with me the entire deployment. We wrote dozens of letters to each other, we chatted on the phone and on the internet, if either were available. She supported me, on and off the field. Being away from her was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. For the first time I couldn’t imagine myself dying and not being afraid. Not just for the circumstance (bodily suffering) but for the recompense of leaving her behind (emotional suffering). I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want to be robbed of this imagined life we could’ve had together. I didn’t want to lose that. And I didn’t want her to suffer for my loss.
In 2008, after being hounded by family to get into college, I finally agreed. I’m glad I did. Slowly, through the course from 2008-2014, I began to “open up.” Soon, I started writing again. I didn’t really want to at first, again, back to the “glamorization of war,” I feared any attempt to recount my experience would be a cheapening of it, a cheapening of other veteran’s experiences by attempting to sale my own. I didn’t want to do that, but I felt drawn to write something. My first attempt was a short narrative story. For this assignment I wrote, “There will be Ghosts,” which was my ode to both my experiences and the movie, “Born of the Fourth of July.” From there I dove head first into fiction-writing. I began a little science-fiction piece which never came to fruition, and probably never will. I consider these first works to be a learning curve, not something I’d want published. A dabbling, if you will, in the creative cosmos. When I left community college to enter the university (University of Houston-Clear Lake), I had to put my fictional writing on the back burner and focus almost exclusively on my history studies. While this may seem like a setback, I do not see it that way. My studies focused on 20th century Germany, namely the Weimar Republic and Nazi eras. I also took classes on the Vietnam War, Texas history, and the Civil Rights Movement, each class taught from the ground-up. This is a somewhat relative new way of teaching history. Traditionally, history is taught from the top, that is, from famous generals and presidents or other such impressive folk. From the bottom-up, history is taught from the Joe- Shmoe perspective, the everyday lives of everyday people. It was fantastic. A new way of looking at our world and the people that fill it by giving them relevance. In 2014 I graduated from the University of Houston-Clear Lake with a Bachelor of Arts in History… so now what?
Finally, I was able to get back to writing for myself and not just for, say, a term paper. I wrote two short stories soon after graduating. “Hobo,” and “Are you hungry, dear?” Both are horror in genre. And before you ask, “why horror,” let me be brief and just say that I’ve always been a fan of horror fiction, ever since my big sister let me watch “Night of the Living Dead” one Friday night. It made sense for me to gravitate to the genre that I felt more akin to. And besides, horror gives us the most honest and straightforward morsels of social commentary.
Reinheit was my first novel, published under the Booktrope imprint Forsaken. While penning Reinheit, I was able to develop my, what authors call, “writers voice.” When you read a lot, which is a must if you want to write, you kind of take on the voice of the authors you are reading. You need to write to chisel away all those voices, and hopefully find your own in the process. The more you chisel, the more defined your voice becomes, until maybe reaching some point when your aged and withered and giving lectures to a new generation of writers. Obviously, I haven’t reach this milestone yet. I’m still having fun with everything. Needless-to-say, Reinheit helped define my own voice and gave me the necessary encouragement to take the next step, writing my “war story.”
Again, I couldn’t write something heroic, though I know a lot of whom I consider to be heroic. I didn’t want to pass the war off as some grand adventure. I wanted to rip the decorum off war, the shininess of it. I wanted to bring audiences into the preverbal trenches of “All Quiet on the Western Front.” I wanted to bring an air of hardnosed poetry as Philip Larkin had done for his own generation with his masterpiece, “MCMXIV.” And above all this, I wanted to be direct and honest, no matter how hard or depressing that may be. With my pile of one-subject notebooks (yes, I write everything longhand before MS Word), a set out on this endeavor. Dwelling and Emerging were inked in about nine months, from paper to MS Word, and has recently been picked up by my new publisher, Limitless Publishing, LLC, who has brought those pages to life in a full length series called, “The Subdue Series.” Within the story is something real, raw, and utterly difficult. While hopefully still entertaining, because of the relationships between the characters, it was not written to entertain, it was written to discuss the reality of war and living with the memory of war, I wanted to talk about PTSD, anger, war-guilt, and suicide because these are discussions that need to happen by getting away from the myth and disconnect of combat and focusing on the naked ugliness of it and how we can live with those memories through expression.
While there will always be “those” books that do not give much substance to the echoes of war, I’ve been seeing more and more veteran writers coming forward from the trenches. There was a recent Vanity Fair article called, “The Words of War” that included a few of these up and coming writers of poetry, novels, and screenplays. I felt encouraged reading it. Seeing fellow veterans picking up the pen and expressing themselves. I’m proud to be part of this “Lost Generation,” as Elliot Ackerman, one of the veteran writers mentioned above, put it, “it might have been better to be part of the ‘Lost Generation’ than the lost part of a generation.”
DWELLING by Thomas S. Flowers
Subdue Series, Book 1
Publisher: Limitless Publishing
Release Date: Dec. 8, 2015
: : : SYNOPSIS : : :
A group of inseparable childhood friends are now adults, physically and psychologically devastated by war…
A horrifying creature emerges from a sandstorm just before Ricky Smith dies in battle. Forced to leave base housing, his widow Maggie buys a home on Oak Lee Road in the town of Jotham. Maggie is isolated in the historic house…and disconcerted by strange clicking sounds inside the walls.
Jonathan Steele attempts to drink the painful past away…
Jonathan was wounded in that fateful battle and now suffers from PTSD. He wants to put the nightmare behind him, but when Ricky’s ghost appears with cryptic warnings about Maggie’s house, he begins to question his sanity.
Bobby Weeks is a homeless veteran struggling with a lycanthropic curse…
Afraid of bringing harm, Bobby stays far away from those he loves. But after a full moon, a mysterious woman approaches him and reveals a vision about a house with a sinister presence, and he realizes staying away might no longer be an option.
Minister Jake Williams lost his faith on the battlefield…
While Jake will do anything to reconnect with God, he turns to vices to fill the religious void. But a church elder urges him to take a sabbatical, and a ghost tells him to quit the ministry, and his life is more out of control than ever.
When Maggie wakes in a strange subterranean cavern, she can’t deny her home harbors dark secrets. Desperate, she sends letters to her old friends to reunite in Jotham, and events conspire to draw them all to the house…unaware of the danger awaiting them.
The friends have already been through hell, but can any of them survive the evil dwelling beneath the House on Oak Lee?
MEET THE AUTHOR: Thomas S. Flowers is the published author of several character driven stories of fright. He resides in Houston, Texas, with his wife and daughter. His first novel, Reinheit, was published by Forsaken. He also has a short story, “Lanmò,” in The Sinister Horror Company’s horror anthology The Black Room Manuscripts. In 2008, he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army where he served for seven years, with three tours serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2014, Thomas graduated from University of Houston Clear Lake with a BA in History. He blogs at machinemean.org, where he does author interviews and reviews on a wide range of strange yet oddly related topics.
LIMITLESS PUBLISHING: http://www.limitlesspublishing.net/authors/thomas-flowers/
What is Creative Writing?
Aside from writing books for both adults (the Essence series) and young adults (the Dragon Born series), I also run creative writing workshops for children. I myself was lucky enough to be exposed to the wonderful world of writing from a young age, both in and out of school. I wanted to give that same opportunity back to others, who like me when I was much younger, have found that same passion for telling a tale. I must be honest and admit that I get as much (or maybe even more!) out of my workshops than the children do. The enjoyment and renewed inspiration I get each time a child reads out their latest wonderful story or poem or article, that same glint of excitement in their eyes, is immeasurable. And the questions they ask… oh the questions! There is no one more direct and to the point than a child! Just yesterday a new girl in my workshop asked me “What are we here to do? What is creative writing?” And just like that the entire classroom came to a standstill, pens that had been frantically writing stilled and a sea of puzzled faces looked at the newest addition to the group.
You know a question is brilliant when it makes everyone stop and think – to look behind the ‘we’re here to write stories and stuff’ or ‘I’m here because my mommy made me’ (don’t worry, I always manage to infect them with the joys of writing until they no longer remember that they didn’t want to be there initially!).
So what is creative writing? It is something different for everyone, but for me it is the freedom to write anything you want with no limits, rules or restrictions – to take an idea, a feeling, and run with it until your story takes on a life of its own. The new girl could not get over her shock that when she was with me she could tell whatever story took her fancy. She couldn’t believe that I was not going to dictate a topic for her to write about or tell her that yes she could write a poem but only if it rhymed and was in iambic pentameter. ‘There really aren’t any rules?” she whispered in disbelief, “and you don’t mind if I write a comic strip?” I told her that I only had one rule – make sure you write what you enjoy, write to please yourself.
I use this advice when it comes to my own writing. When writing my first YA book Dragon Born I let my imagination run wild. No magical ritual or character was too fantastical – there were no limits to what races and worlds I could cook up. I stayed true to writing what I enjoyed myself and the story just flowed, the characters taking on a life of their own.
True creativity is born when limits are cast aside.
Far in the distant reaches of the universe is a world called Azmantium. A planet with lilac skies, jade green seas and fiery red suns. A planet where everything, from the tides of the sea to life itself, is rooted in magic. Children are assessed at an early age and trained according to their unique magical talents.
Lara, an orphan who has no memory of her true origins, is unaware that she has a vital role to play in the ancient prophesies that are about to begin coming true. Older than most who are just beginning their magical training, Lara will soon find out that destiny waits for no one, especially when the fate of the world rests on their shoulders.
With the help of her new friends, Lara will learn that in order to save the future, she must journey into the past – to a time when Dragons ruled the world!
Dragon Born is available on:
Barnes & Noble (Print & eBook)
About the Author — Ela Lourenco lives in Scotland with her two daughters and husband. She has been an avid reader since childhood and has long enjoyed mysteries, mythology and anything related to the paranormal/supernatural/mystical/science fiction. She loves nothing more than making up stories about faraway people and places (helped somewhat by a mind that just won’t grow up!). When she isn’t nose deep in a book or writing herself she can be found dancing around the kitchen whilst baking. Her biggest wish in life is to infect others with a passion for reading.
It was time for the Lords of the High Council to step in when the Grandmaster of Kryane is accused of murdering his own people. They had little choice but to prevent the collapse of the whole magicians order, so they sent Michael to investigate the allegations.
The people of the desert planet were an enigma, but none more than Andesine, the healer assigned to assist Michael. Why did she report the Grandmaster? Was she involved, or was there something more sinister going on?
The more people they interrogated the more they suspected that nothing was as it seemed. Not the murders, nor the Grandmasters’ motive as everyone thought.
Unable to resist the growing attraction between them, Michael and Andesine learn that they had to trust each other with their own secrets, and risking any future they might have.
Time and again the High Lords had to step in to prevent chaos on Kryane, but time was running out for Michael and Andesine. They had to get a new Grandmaster in place before the Kryane Order collapsed completely. And they had to find the who the true culprit was.
Fortunate to escape an attack from this monster once, they were risking the lives of many others in the process. Before the High Lords could formulate a plan, Michael and Andesine were captured, leaving the High Lords helpless to prevent it.
Kidnapped and imprisoned, Andesine was confronted with the realisation that if they were to survive their ordeal, it was up to her and her long suppressed powers. But as a healer she saved lives, would she be able to destroy the monster before he forces her to unleash her power to destroy the future of mankind?
Teaching herself to read before she went to school, it was the start of her life long love affair with books. Trained as an engineer, Linzé has worked as an export consultant and is presently a project manager. Although she still loves to read, she also enjoys counted stitch embroidery, archery, tai chi, fly fishing, painting, her husband’s medal winning photographs and watching Manchester United play.
She counts both novels and short stories to her publishing credit. Her fourth novel, Waiting for Adrian, is planned for publication early in 2016. Her story, The Vernal Equinox, was a finalist in a sci-fi flash-fiction competition in 2015.
Linzé Brandon lives in Pretoria, South Africa, with her engineer husband and German Shepherds who are convinced that the world revolves only around them.
If I had a dollar for every time someone told me, “I liked the book, but the movie was scarier,” I’d be a rich man.
Let me be clear about one thing. It is hard to frighten someone with the written word alone. I don’t care if your name is Ketchum, King, or Laymon. Scaring people with mere words is incredibly difficult and is only fleetingly accomplished, even by the most gifted horror writers.
The truth is that horror movies hold significant advantages over novels when it comes to delivering scares. While films, due to their brevity, cannot compete with books for character and plot depth, films take advantage of musical score, strong acting performances, camera angles, and innovative direction. And although cliche’, the horror movie can also deliver “jump scares,” momentary shock scenes – for example, the killer leaping out of the closet, or the false jump scare, where the hissing cat suddenly bounds across the set – which are almost impossible to replicate in printed form.
Yet authors have managed to frighten readers since the advent of horror fiction, and for my money, Salem’s Lot by Stephen King and Intensity by Dean Koontz are the most heart-pounding examples. But how should a writer attempt to frighten a reader?
The trend in fiction and film is to deliver action immediately, and while I don’t disagree with this methodology, I believe it is less than optimal when it comes to horror.
My horror fiction employs a slow burn, a creeping dread if you will, similar to the gradual builds of 1970’s horror films (think Black Christmas and The Exorcist). Similar pacing dates as far back as horror has existed as an art form, yet it was perfected by Alfred Hitchcock and leveraged by the classic horror films of the 1970s.
Everything begins with characterization. A book should contain characters which the reader can get behind and put emotional stock into, whether the characters are villains or heroes. The reader should believe in and care about the character. Then, when the character is put into jeopardy, the reader’s natural reaction is to become stressed. This alone isn’t enough to frighten the reader, but it’s a necessary beginning.
Read a Clive Barker or Stephen King novel, and pay particular attention to the author’s pacing during a frightening scene. In most cases, a slow burn is utilized. Nothing is rushed, and the scene is allowed to unfold gradually. When done to perfection, the horror broods and broods until the reader realizes she has been trapped and is without an escape route.
Let’s take the classic example of the monster or boogeyman hiding in the closet.
If I come right out and show you the boogeyman, I’m not likely to frighten you. Inside of a movie, I could use a cheap jump scare to get you to drop your popcorn, but in fiction I have no such advantage. In order for me to frighten you, the scene must unfold with near perfection.
For one thing, you’ll need to feel a sense of place. If the boogeyman is hiding in the closet, I haven’t done my job until I walk you from the kitchen to the bedroom and sit you upon the bed with cookie in hand. You need to feel the cookie crumbs on the bed sheets. You need to see the room – the lamplight pooling around the base of the nightstand and dying in the middle of the room, the Black Sabbath poster scotch-taped to the paint-chipped wall, the way the bed sheets and blankets covering your chest and legs won’t stretch past your neck.
And even then you won’t believe the boogeyman exists. But if I place you in that desolate room and make you hear the muffled rumble of the television through the floor, so that no matter how loud you scream, your parents won’t hear you, then I’m at least halfway home. Because once your closet door starts to creak open, and once those shadows start to spill into the bedroom like a black ocean, I need you to be that kid in the bed.
And then if I do everything right, and if I catch you in a receptive mood, I might just chill you to the bone with the written word.
Think about how expert directors like Hitchcock paced their scenes, allowing the disquiet to simmer before the monster was unleashed. The shower scene of Psycho didn’t open with Norman Bates holding the knife. We followed Janet Leigh through the dingy motel room, watched her peel her clothes off and step into the shower, and saw from her perspective the spray cascading down. Think about how you would write this scene, if you were constructing a Psycho novelization.
Two more excellent examples are the directions of Fred Walton’s When A Stranger Calls and When A Stranger Calls Back. The pacing of the brooding horror is tortuous. You cannot help but squirm as the babysitters are unknowingly stalked by madmen. In a bad slasher movie, the opening scene to When A Stranger Calls would last a few minutes. In Fred Walton’s direction, it lasts over twenty excruciating minutes in which the viewer is trapped inside the creepy house.
The best horror authors never allow their readers to run away before the monster gets them. They lure the readers in, then they lock the doors.
As authors of horror novels, it is important we slow down and allow our readers to immerse themselves in a scene. Slower is better. Go for a gradual build, and never rush the process. Writing for horror is incredibly challenging, and it is imperative we give ourselves every advantage.
Take your time with the scene. Then scare Jessica to death.
About the Author
Dan Padavona is a horror and dark fantasy author. Dan’s gothic vampire novel, Storberry, reached the top-10 among Amazon horror novels, and his post-apocalyptic series, Dark Vanishings, has been compared to Robert McCammon’s Swan Song and Stephen King’s The Stand. You can visit Dan at his website, danpadavona.com.
The underwater world of Natatoria is enjoying a long awaited period of peace — and with it, the merpeople’s very first chance to visit human civilization. Ash and Fin’s wedding marks the perfect opportunity for the mers to celebrate their newfound freedom. But when they return home to Tahoe to prepare, Ash’s absence from the human world has raised more than a few questions about where she’s been. When blaming fingers point to Ash and Fin as the culprits who burned down Fin’s home, even his mindjacking mojo hasn’t stopped the authorities from issuing the happy couple an early wedding gift—a matching pair of arrest warrants.
Instead of bringing their families together, Ash and Fin’s upcoming wedding drives a wedge between the very cultures they’re trying to bridge. And when their reality takes an unexpected twist, Ash realizes her dual existence comes with a hefty price. Neither her human nor her mer family understand the sacrifices they’re asking of her, and as much as she wants to please both her mer and human mothers, she knows she’s one misstep away from breaking two maternal hearts.
But while everyone is distracted in preparations for the big day, there are those who are intent on elevating their own bloodline, even to the point they’d risk exposing the mer secret. Ash and Fin must scramble to save their families, their societies . . . and their love. The only thing they know for sure is that when it comes to Natatorians, old habits die hard.
And a royal should never get too comfortable.
Gabriel is weary, hunting for a murderer.
Patience is adrift, her life a complete lie.
Nate is scared, hiding from his worst fears.
Juliet is frantic, her time is running out.
As four fragile lives collide, the truth is finally revealed.
And betrayal and death become inevitable.
Read an Excerpt:
Lake Tranquil was
vast. So much so that Patience couldn’t
see where it ended or began. Despite its
size, it was deserted. She was the only
human in sight and she loved the thought of being so alone, immersed in the
beauty of nature. An occasional bird
flitted in and out of the trees, or swooped down to land at the water’s
edge. In the distance, a rabbit ran
through the trees, its tail bobbed, flashing white as it ran for cover.
About the Author:
Chrissie lives in Devon, UK, with her husband and is a freelance Production Coordinator working in the TV, documentary and film industry.
Chrissie is also an Author. Her thriller Integrate was released in October 2013 and her historical fiction Among the Olive Groves was released in July 2014.
Other written work includes factual articles for the Bristolian newspaper and guest articles for the charities Epilepsy Awareness Squad and Epilepsy Literary Heritage Foundation. Chrissie has also written a book of short stories and poems, one of which was performed at the 100 poems by 100 women event at the Bath International Literary Festival in 2013.
Chrissie is passionate about Ancient History, Archaeology and Travel, and has completed two six-month Archaeology and Egyptology courses with Exeter University. She is learning to play the Ukulele and likes to read, collect books, listen to music. To find out more about Chrissie visit her WEBSITE
Eva Pohler teaches writing and literature at a university in San Antonio, where she lives with her husband Eva Author Pic 1and three kids. She’s the author of several novels for teens based on Greek mythology, including her bestselling six-book Gatekeeper’s Saga and three-book Vampires of Athens Series. She’s also the author of spine-chilling psychological suspense, including her Mystery Book Collection and The Purgatorium Series. The first is for mature audiences and consists of two books that are already out–The Mystery Box and The Mystery Tomb–and two others soon to be released–The Mystery House and The Mystery Daughter. Her other suspense series, The Purgatorium, is a trilogy for both the young and mature reader. Her books have been described as “thrilling” and “addictive.” A Kirkus reviewer said of The Gatekeeper’s Sons that it was “sure to thrill Hunger Games fans.”
A reader herself, Eva writes in multiple genres, but all of her stories blur the line between reality and fantasy, truth and delusion, and draw from Eva’s personal philosophy that a reader must be lured and abducted into complete captivity in order to enjoy the reading experience.
Ten original novellas, following each supernatural race as they fight an elusive enemy, are written by New Adult authors Lila Felix, Kristie Cook, Brenda Pandos, Delphina Henley, Julia Crane, Jamie Magee, Morgan Wylie, Kallie Ross, S.T. Bende, and Rebecca Ethington. Come join them for the hunt and discover hidden treasures inside