Fellow Monster Man Jack Campisi is back, schooling all you monster dudes and monsterettes on the art of horror. So, turn down the light, sip the mind altering beverage of your choice and read on…
Now that the calendar has turned to October and Halloween season is upon us, it’s time to really dive into horror, and I mean headfirst. There are only 31 days, so let’s not waste any of them. Naturally, there’ll be plenty of scary movies and shows on TV, but it’s also a great time to pick up a good book.
Being good friends with a horror author has some great perks. Not only do I have a blast co-hosting the Monster Men horror podcast, but I also get exposed to a whole world of fantastic horror literature that I may not have found on my own. Reading is such a wonderful way to enjoy the genre. When you find a good book, you get sucked into a new world and your mind becomes your movie screen. You are much more connected with the characters and let’s face it, books can go to so many more places than any movies.
It got me thinking about how important books have been in my journey as a horror fan. When I was a kid, the school library and the public library were treasure troves of monster books. So, before I was even old enough to watch Dracula or Frankenstein, I was devouring books about monsters, ghosts and urban legends like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. Here are a few books that helped fuel my imagination and molded me into the Monster Man I am today.
First we have Movie Monsters and Monsters from the Movies by Thomas Aylesworth. These books were in my elementary school library and I made a beeline for them every chance I could get. The photos of Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the Wolf Man and all those other wonderful creatures grabbed my imagination and never let go. One of the reasons those books got such a prominent place on the bookshelves was that Aylesworth’s wife happened to be the art teacher at our school. Pretty cool, huh?
Another book that I owned, and still have today, is Horror Movies: Tales of Terror in the Cinema (The Movie Treasury) by Alan G Frank. This book is amazing. Way before I saw most of the Universal Monster movies or the Hammer horror films, I had this book. It has chapters on vampires, werewolves, mummies and every other kind of fiend you can imagine. There are some terrifying photos, particularly of Christopher Lee, that had me leaving a light on when I went to bed. Then, as I got older, I had a great guidebook for movies to seek out. This book covers everything from Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed to Vampire Circus.
Of course, as time went by, I graduated to more traditional books like Salem’s Lot and Pet Sematary, but it really all started with monster books like these.
So this Halloween season, I urge to turn off the TV once in a while and curl up with a good, scary book. On the latest episode of Monster Men, Hunter and I suggest a whole pile of excellent horror novels. This includes terrific books by Tim Myer, Brian Moreland, Jonathan Janz, Jamie Evans and Frazer Lee. (And Hunter Shea, of course.) If you have not read these guys yet, you really ought to check them out. Not only will you be supporting some great people, but you’ll also be in for a hell of a read.
I was recently at Monster Mania Con cruising through the vendor tables, checking out celebs and attending a screening of Frankenhooker when I ran into author Keith Rommel. His booth was tucked away between a couple of others selling tons of horror merch. Now, I’m a huge reader, so when I see books at a horror con, I’m all in. (On a side note, it’s depressing to watch people pay $40 for an autograph of Screech or a dude who played a Jawa, then walk past author tables like they have the plague. The best horror isn’t on screen, it’s in a book!!!)
I digress. At first, maybe because I’d had a few cocktails, his name and book, The Cursed Man, didn’t register. Once we got to talking, we realized we’d both spoken to each other through various social media over the past year. Small world. Keith was kind enough to give me a copy of his book, which is now going to be a major motion picture. Let me tell you, I read it in one day and it was time well spent.
Here’s the official description of this amazing book:
Alister Kunkle believes death is in love with him. A simple smile from friend or stranger is all it takes to encourage death to kill.
With his family deceased and a path of destruction behind him, Alister sits inside a mental institution, sworn to silence and separated from the rest of the world, haunted by his inability to escape death’s preferential treatment.
But when a beautiful psychologist arrives at the institution and starts offering him care, Alister braces himself for more killings. When none follow, he tries to figure out whether he truly is insane or if death has finally come to him in the form of a woman.
As a reader, I’m always on the lookout for fresh, original ideas. The Cursed Man is all that, a bag of chips and a bottle of grape Nehi. Writing like this is as delicious and hard to find as the favored beverage of my youth.
The Cursed Man is tight, suspenseful and at times, downright terrifying. Death follows Alister Kunkle like a loving shadow. The book flashes between the past and present with perfect transitional timing. The twists and turns in Alister’s story left me dizzy. I honestly had no idea what was going to happen next, to the point where I just sat back and let Rommel take me on a joy ride to hell and back. He does an excellent job sucking us into the mind of a tortured man, to the point where neither he nor the reader can discern what is real and what is fantasy. I don’t want to say too much or give away any spoilers. This book is too special.
The Cursed Man is part one of the Thanatology Series. Rest assured, I’m picking up a copy of the second book, The Lurking Man, right after I finish this post. I’m not saying this just because I met the author. I was truly blown away and can see why Hollywood snapped it up. Do yourself a favor and check it out. You can thank me later.
As long time readers of my blog and chain know, October – renamed Horrortober by yours truly – is my favorite month of the year. Over the past 11 months, I’ve been stockpiling horror books, movies, mags and places to go, so every day of Terrortober is nothing but horror, horror, horror.
So, what will I be reading? What should you be reading? Here is my complete list with links to purchase, or just plain peruse, each book. There’s a little bit of everything here by authors old and new. The one thing they have in common – they all kick some serious ass. Guaranteed to creep you out.
Bed bugs. They hide in mattresses. They wait till you’re asleep. They rise in the dead of night to feast on our blood. They can multiply by the hundreds in less than a week. They are one of the most loathsome, hellish species to ever grace God’s green earth. Thought to be eradicated decades ago, thanks to global travel they’re back. And with them comes a nightmare beyond imagining. Infected with a plague virus so deadly it makes Ebola look like a summer cold, one bite turns people into homicidal maniacs. Now they’re in Chicago and migrating to al points North, South, East and West. The rest of the world in a matter of time. The U.S Government and the CDC are helpless to stop it. Only one man knows what’s causing the epidemic. And the powers-that-be want him dead.
The year is 2009, and the world’s financial and publishing sectors are in chaos. In the midst of this disarray, a burned-out horror writer finds himself haunted by a variety of ghosts, both real and metaphorical. And as the ghosts increase their attacks, his struggle to make a living quickly becomes a fight to hold on to his family – and his very sanity.
In the spirit of such iconic horror classics as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Deliverance, Kin begins at the end and studies the possible aftermath for the survivors of such traumas upon their return to the real world — the guilt, the grief, the thirst for revenge — and sets them on an unthinkable journey… back into the heart of darkness.
On Pine Street, the houses begin to shake. The earth begins to move. The streets crack open and yards split asunder…and rising from subterranean depths far below, a viscid black muck bubbles up and floods the neighborhood.
In it are a ravenous army of gigantic worms seeking human flesh. They wash into houses, they come up through the sewers, through plumbing, filling toilets and tubs, seeking human prey.
Cut off from the rest of the town, the people of Pine Street must wage a war of survival or they’ll never see morning. As bad as the worms are, there’s something worse—and far larger—waiting to emerge.
Charly, Sam, Jesse and the others must do battle with the Children in the labyrinthine subterranean world that the creatures call home. But the situation grows bleaker when many of the survivors are captured and borne deeper into the lightless caverns…where a new and even more horrific species awaits.
In a desperate attempt to save their land from tax foreclosure, Delphus Fraley and his daughter open a camp for at-risk kids, with the goal of building character through experience in the Appalachian Mountain outdoors.
But a strange infection contaminating the camp’s mess hall soon triggers a violent rampage. As the isolated camp turns into a bloodbath, camp counselor Jenny Usher first fights to save the children, and then finds she must fight to save herself.
Because this infection doesn’t just kill, it brings the dead back to life…
A nightmare made real.
On Christmas Eve, six-year-old Tom McCrae witnessed an unspeakable atrocity that left him orphaned, his childhood in tatters. Now in his mid-thirties, Tom still has terrifying nightmares of that night. When Tom is sent to the remote Scottish village of Douglass to negotiate a land grab for his employer it seems like a golden opportunity for him to start over. But Tom can’t help feeling he’s been to Douglass before, and the terrible dreams from his childhood have begun to spill over into his waking life. As murderous events unfold and Tom’s feverish nightmares escalate, he will discover the hideous truth behind the villagers’ strange pagan ritual of The Jack in the Green.
I get asked to read self published books all the time. Over the years, I’ve grown a tad leery of self-pubbed works, unless they come from the minds of traditionally published authors who are taking full advantage of the changes in publishing today. You can find some great work out there by fantastic, long established writers like Scott Nicholson or J.A. Konrath. They take the time to create slick covers and, most of all, edit their books like the pros they are.
Well, my take on self-pubbed books was thrown on its ear after reading Tim Meyer’s In The House of Mirrors. This is a book I could see published by any of the big, medium or small houses. It’s his third book and proof positive that he’s a writer with a big future ahead of him.
When Ritchie Naughton, amateur photographer, stumbles upon a house in the woods, strange things start happening. His camera captures images that should not exist, things that cannot be explained. Soon, he’ll realize that the people of Red River, New Jersey are in terrible danger. A darkness grows within the house, threatening them all.
The House of Mirrors is open, and once you see yourself in, there’s no way out…
Let me start by saying that Ritchie Naughton is no hero. This guy is a true everyman; a man down on his luck with a newly diagnosed heart problem, no place to live and a writing career that’s firmly in the shitter.
He moves back home to live with his sister in New Jersey, and after a month of self imposed exile, goes out seeking a job, any job, to kick start his life. He finds one, as a photographer of all things, at a small town paper. Down in the musty basement, he comes across a camera to use for his new job – a Denlax. Never heard of it? Neither has he or anyone he meets.
It turns out, the Denlax has a dark air of mystery about it. It takes pictures, sure, but sometimes, there’s a little something extra, like black spots that cover people’s faces or an old man in front of a crumbling house that wasn’t there when the picture was taken.
Ritchie and his Denlax delve deep into the muck after he agrees to do some side work as a private eye for his uncle. He stumbles into a Satanic cult and falls in love (or lust) with a pretty new cult member. From here on in, things get very, very strange. We’re talking evil circus, netherworlds, black magic and demons from other worlds. Holy crap, this book has everything!
The best part is the writing. Meyer has a very deft hand at building his characters. You really feel for Ritchie and he newfound friend, Chris. The editing is far better than 99% of self-pubbed books. The tension and horror build with precision until you’re left reeling through the last 40 or so pages. I devoured this book and will go back to get his previous two, Demon Blood and The Thin Veil.
Tim Meyer also has a podcast called Splatter Chatter where he talks all things horror. Click here to visit his website, check out his books or listen to his podcast. It’s the perfect place to gear up for the Halloween season that will be here before you know it.
I am so happy to lease the space on this blog and chain to one of my favorite authors, Jonathan Janz. He has a serialized horror novel that just came out and let me tell you, this is one not to be missed! And in this case, you can judge a book by its cover(s). Totally kick ass. I’ll stop rambling and let Senor Janz take the stage.
How My Inappropriate College Friend Finally Came in Handy
The Genesis of a Savage Species Character
I had a friend in college we’ll call Teddy. Okay, maybe he was more of an acquaintance, but we had a couple classes together, and I thought he was a funny guy. Short, pudgy, prematurely balding, Teddy was smart, very nice, and in most ways ordinary.
Until he got near a pretty girl.
Then, under his breath, he would say things in this creepy Barry White voice like, “Ohhhhh, yeah. She knows it. Uh-huh. She loooooooooves it.” And I would stare at him in terror and take several large steps away so no one would think we were together.
I haven’t used that part of Teddy’s personality in a story yet, but at some point I’m sure I will. It’s too funny and offensive not to use.
But part of Teddy did indeed make its way into my latest novel, the serialized Savage Species. Teddy enjoyed a very specific type of…um…movie. No, not the kind a person would watch in a trench coat and sunglasses, but not the type of film you’d watch with your mother either.
No, these films were the ones shown late at night on Showtime and Cinemax (or, as Teddy called it, Skinemax). Not only was he a fan of these movies, he would go into great detail when discussing them, throwing around names like Monique Parent and Shannon Tweed the way most moviegoers would reference Morgan Freeman and Meryl Streep. Actually, it was sort of hilarious hearing him soliloquize about his unique obsession, unless of course we were walking to class or something, and in that case I again moved several steps ahead of him so folks didn’t think we were together.
I bring all this up because there’s a great character in Savage Species named Frank Red Elk. He’s a Native American of the Algonquian tribe. He’s a big, powerful man with a great deal of intelligence. He’s also a huge fan of soft porn.
So when you read about Frank Red Elk and blush at the things he says, you can know that my inappropriate college friend had something to do with that.
But hey, at least the embarrassment I endured because of Teddy was worth it.
I can’t count how many times I said those two words as I read John Everson’s Bram Stoker nominated novel, NightWhere. Now, I’m a guy who’s been around the block a time or two (or a thousand), and it takes a lot to make me cringe or jar my hardened sensibilities. As I delved deeper into Everson’s latest terror-tinged, super-sexed novel of BDSM gone horribly awry, I was tempted more than once to cover my eyes and read between the gaps in my fingers. It’s that unsettling. And yes, it’s that damn good.
I know this phrase has been used to death, but NightWhere is not for the faint of heart. If you’re a prude, run like hell in the other direction. This ain’t for you.
Rae and Mark are a happily married couple who have a little something going on the side. You see, Rae is an untamable woman, and no matter how much she loves Mark, well, I’ll be blunt, one dick just isn’t going to do it for her. And Mark, he’s a decent guy who loves his wife and will do anything he can to keep her. Plus he gets the side benefit of coupling with attractive women as they go from one swingers club to the next.
But Rae has an even darker side. The girl loves pain. Both giving it and receiving it in ways that’ll make you lose your lunch. Enter the mysterious club, NightWhere. In NightWhere, your darkest desires can come true. Wanna screw someone until they’re dead? Step right up. Does it turn you on to get flayed open like a fish? Well, we have a special room for you.
As Rae loses herself to her wonton and dangerous lust, Mark desperately tries to save her from the clutches of the club as well as her own damnation.
If one could truly glimpse hell within the pages of a book, this is it. The writing is crisp and fierce and totally unforgiving. You won’t be able to put it down, no matter how damaged your soul may be when you’re done.
Location. Location. Location. Real estate’s three most important considerations also apply to fiction. Horror writers need the right location for a creepy story. Well, forget the abandoned house, the derelict cruise ship, clown college (shiver!) As Hunter Shea’s SWAMP MONSTER MASSACRE and my new novel BLACK MAGIC demonstrate, head for the Everglades.
Everglades National Park takes up the southern tip of Florida. It’s a swampy savannah that stretches out flat as far as the eye can see. It’s sometimes flooded, sometimes not, and dotted with islands of trees. There are good reasons (other than Skunk Apes) to put the Everglades high on the horror locale list:
1. Isolation. Though it’s just miles from Miami, cross the park border and there’s nothing and no one out there. No cell service, no roads and once you trek a few miles in, no landmarks worth mentioning. Expect to get lost moments after starting your hike. Especially in the dark.
2. Scary creatures. I have an evil sorcerer in BLACK MAGIC to up the scare factor, but the Everglades has its own menagerie from Hell. Alligators, crocodiles, vultures, deadly cottonmouth snakes, literally tons of mosquitoes, plus stingrays, sharks and jellyfish where the ‘Glades meet Biscayne Bay. The last time I visited, I counted sixteen alligators and crocodiles sunning themselves at just one observation point. Who’d ever want to meander through that?
Recently anacondas have taken up residence, after being released by moronic owners when they grew to adult size at over fifteen feet and 220 pounds. These constrictors eat anything and everything and have no natural predators. In my novel I describe one eating a deer. I did not make that up. There’s a picture on the NPS website if you don’t believe me.
In BLACK MAGIC, sorcerer Lyle Miller summons all of these creatures (and razor-toothed killer rabbits) to defend him as he tricks unwitting boys to help conjure a hurricane over south Florida. Read this non-tourist friendly Florida tale and you may cross the Everglades off your bucket list, if SWAMP MONSTER MASSACRE didn’t already do that for you. — Russell James
Hunter here. I highly suggest you grab a copy of Black Magic. Perfect summer reading! You can pick up a copy by clicking any of the links below:
You can also tag along with Russell as he journeys into the dark and strange at his website.
Don’t you love paranormal protagonists, like Koontz’s Odd Thomas? I do. Any fictional character with paranormal powers—abilities that most readers consider supernatural—moves your story into one of the speculative genres. This could be sci-fi, fantasy, horror, paranormal, or magic realism. Actually, you can blend the paranormal with any genre, as I do in DEATH PERCEPTION, which is a supernatural crime cake iced with horror and sprinkled with dark humor.
In fantasy, a character’s abilities may be a given, established in your story’s genre ruleset from the very start. For instance, Tolkien’s Gandalf is a wizard, and there’s no explanation for him. In The Wizard of Oz, monkeys fly, and that’s that.
Other stories with a mooring in everyday reality require that a character’s supernatural abilities be explained. There must be a reason why the character can do the things she does, and this explanation encourages readers to suspend their disbelief. We often see this technique in books and shows that put the character through some accident or experience (in backstory or the present) that changes him and grants him supernormal powers.
It happens to Johnny Smith in Stephen King’s The Dead Zone, when he’s injured in an accident and revives from a coma after five years. It happens to superheroes (or antiheroes): Dr. Bruce Banner becomes the Hulk after he’s accidentally exposed to the blast of a gamma bomb he invented. The same for Peter Parker/Spiderman. Or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (it works for villains too).
In DEATH PERCEPTION, Kennet has suffered childhood abuse, making him hypersensitive to changes in mood energy. He’s also encountered an old Pentecostal prophetess, who lays her hands on him, prophesies his future, and imparts a gift to him.
Most characters who develop paranormal abilities go through a period of denial when they refuse to believe or accept their new faculties. That is, until they encounter a situation where their powers must be used, giving them no choice but to accept them, usually because a loved one is endangered.
Kennet discovers his psychic abilities in his late teens when he toasts marshmallows over the ashes of someone he’s just cremated. Later, after a near-death experience, his mediumistic abilities flower, enabling him to see and hear the dead—and solve murders. Kennet comes by his abilities both naturally through his past and supernaturally through the ministry of the prophetess. Through an accidental consciousness-expanding event, his prescient inklings develop dramatically into something useful in avenging victimized ghosts, a call he must accept based on what’s most important to him.
Whether a story is based in the realm of fantasy or the real world, the writer must establish the rules and then stick with them throughout the story. This entails giving the character not only extraordinary strengths (with limits), but human weaknesses too. If your characters have psychic abilities, keep them real and relatable, and readers will follow your story to the end.
DEATH PERCEPTION is available in trade paperback, Kindle (.mobi) and Nook (.epub) at http://leeallenhoward.com/death-perception/.
Lee Allen Howard writes horror, dark fantasy, and supernatural crime. He’s been a professional writer and editor of both fiction and nonfiction since 1985. His publications include The Sixth Seed, Desperate Spirits, Night Monsters, “Mama Said,” “Stray,” and DEATH PERCEPTION, available in various formats at http://leeallenhoward.com.
You can keep in touch with Lee on his Facebook author page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lee-Allen-Howard-author/117844011639457. Follow him on Twitter @LeeAllenHoward.