Guest Post: D.W. Gillespie


Horror for the Kiddos

D.W. Gillespie

For some of us, horror is just in our DNA. With the release of my first novel, Still Dark, I can see how the progression of my life has all led to this point. It’s Universal Monster books in the grade school library. It’s scanning the Scholastic order form for anything remotely scary and perking up when you see a new Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. It’s Monstervision with Joe Bob Briggs, Tales from the Darkside on Saturday nights, and EC Comics in the dark with a flashlight.

It’s not exactly something you learn, though being exposed to it can certainly help it bloom. I was always drawn to the spooky side of things, and it’s no big surprise that my son is as well. Now that I’m a dad, I’ve seen the question pop up on message boards, in internet think pieces, and even occasionally in person.

How young is too young to start enjoying horror?

There’s no set answer of course. For starters, the world I grew up in is so amazingly different from the one my son is growing up in. If you’re interested in it, now is a remarkable time to be a fan of horror. You can walk into a Toys R Us and walk out with a Freddy Krueger plush toy and a RJ MacCready action figure. The most popular show on plain old TV is gorier than most of the hardest R rated movies I grew up with. There are cutesy, family friendly Pop figures of cinema’s greatest monsters, and kids born decades after the fact just eat them up.

In other words, it’s a good time to be a kid who loves this stuff. I can only imagine with our endless stream of content that this era will spawn the perfect storm of horror writer, somebody a lot like my son who is as well-versed in the history of horror as any seven-year-old has ever been. He’s already starting to write his own stories, and they’re pretty damn good.

My guess is, there’s always been kids like us, drawn to the slightly darker side of things. I can imagine cavemen huddled around a fire, taking turns telling stories to the children about all the awful things hiding out there in the dark, waiting just out of sight to get them. Those stories were warnings and promises, a window into how dangerous the world could really be, and most of the kids responded accordingly, leaning away in terror.

But I’d guess, there was one in every group, leaning forward with a smile.

Still Dark

D.W. Gillespie

When a thunderous explosion rocks an idyllic cabin resort in the Great Smoky Mountains, animals and humans alike begin to act strange. Jim, along with his wife Laura and son, Sam, are cut off from the outside world, but they soon realize the true nightmare is just beginning…

Deep in the snow-covered woods, something is waiting. The creature calls itself Apex, and it’s a traveler. Reading the minds of those around it, Apex brings the terrifying fears hidden in the human psyche to life with a singular purpose: to kill any that stand in its way.

Locked in a fight for their lives, Jim and his family must uncover the truth behind Apex, and stop the creature from wreaking a horrifying fate upon the rest of the world!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR — D.W. Gillespie has been writing dark fiction in one form or another since he was old enough to hold a pencil. He’s been featured in multiple horror anthologies, both in print and online. Still Dark is his debut novel, and his second book, a short collection titled Handmade Monsters, arrives in 2017. He lives in Tennessee with his wife and two children.

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Guest Post: Sam Mortimer


 

Amplifying Screams

Sam Mortimer

 

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.

 

Synopsis

 

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.

 

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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.

 

Guest Post: Brent Abell


The Music of Our Literary Worlds

Brent Abell

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.

  1. Aerosmith – Living on the Edge: I love Aerosmith and I felt this was a good song to listen to in the book’s opening chapter. Ashley has to come face-to-face with the entity she’d been running from, living on the edge since she escaped it the last time.
  2. Soundgarden – Fell on Black Days: I miss Chris Cornell already and this song is Frank Hill during the entire book. He never seems to be in a good spot as White Creek’s sheriff and the events of the book really fit with the vibe of the song.
  3. Slayer – Serenity in Murder: Something is killing people in White Creek and when I got to places where a death was about to happen, I put this on to set my mood. I can imagine the killer would like this song too. It is dark and moody with a good kick to the teeth.
  4. Tom Petty – Mary Jane’s Last Dance: There is a scene with some death and this is the song I heard playing in the car as people died. There seems to be a theme here…
  5. Nine Inch Nails – Hurt: This is another song I had in mind for Frank while he sits alone on Thanksgiving Day. Over all, I wanted the reader to feel the isolation and responsibility Frank puts on himself to protect White Creek and how those same feelings influence his decisions later in the book.
  6. BlackHawk – Every Once and a While: Telly’s sits on the outer edge of the town and is really a blue-collar bar where the workers of the town go to drink beer and listen to some country music on the jukebox. This was a song from around the same time and brought back all kinds of high school memories.
  7. Garth Brooks – The Night Will Only Know: This was the other song I picked for Telly’s and if you listen to it the second time Carl visits the bar, you get a sense of where things are heading. While released in 1993; this song was a favorite of mine too because of how dark the song is and really nobody has a happy ending in it either.
  8. Queensryche – I am I: The guys from Queensryche are another of my favorite bands and this song is a perfect one for the book. Who are we? Well, I am I and I can be nothing else but I. The book deals with identity and how we can only be what we are intended to be in the end. We can run and hide from our true nature, but somehow, the real us comes out in the end.
  9. Warren G featuring Nate Dogg – Regulate: When I imagined Prater being out on patrol in the book, I heard him listening to this song and trying to rap along with it. Of course, he does a horrible job, but it helps him get through those cold nights in White Creek.
  10. Megadeth – A Tout Le Monde: When they released this song in 1994, the video was banned from MTV because they thought the song represented suicide. The song is more about coming to the end of your life and saying goodbye with dignity and respect for those being left behind. There are many journeys ending in The Calling, but for Frank Hill, his life is only now beginning. I felt this was the perfect song for him to have playing in the background when he says his last goodbyes in the end.

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 CallingBrent 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!

Available on:

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iTunes

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CreateSpace (Print)

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

Twitter: @BrentTAbell

Blog: https://brentabell.wordpress.com/