Ah, February. The month of love, thanks to Valentine’s Day. When I think of love, I think of the color red. And when I think of the color red, well, strange things come to mind.
The color red is seen quite often in werewolf movies. And sometimes, there is a bit of romance – think the shower scene in An American Werewolf in London. Scarily enough, it took the Monster Men 54 episodes before we dedicated an episode solely to the misunderstood werewolf. Click on the image below to watch the episode and transform yourselves…
Speaking of Valentine’s Day, are you looking for something special for the horrorhound love of your life? The folks at Horror Novel Reviews have just the thing. I can only imagine what kind of love letters are between the pages of their latest release.
What book do I plan to read this month that has me excited as a cracked-out roadrunner? Redheads, by Jonathan Moore. The praise for this novel has been loud and proud. Check it out.
A killer far worse than insane.
Chris Wilcox has been searching for years, so he knows a few things about his wife’s killer. Cheryl Wilcox wasn’t the first. All the victims were redheads. All eaten alive and left within a mile of the ocean. The trail of death crosses the globe and spans decades.
The cold trail catches fire when Chris and two other survivors find a trace of the killer’s DNA. By hiring a cutting-edge lab to sequence it, they make a terrifying discovery. The killer is far more dangerous than they ever guessed. And now they’re being hunted by their own prey.
If you’re looking for a pretty damn good ghost story, with a dash of gothic romance, you have to watch The Awakening. Somehow this had slipped under my radar. I stumbled upon it while perusing Netflix on-demand. Truly one of the better, creepier ghost movies I’ve seen in a long while.
From my understanding, hell is a place where bad people go.
First drafts are places where hellish sentences, plots and characters lurk. When you edit, you’re a manuscript exorcist. The power of revision compels you! The power of revision compels you!
As imperative as the editing process is, I’ve seen plenty of aspiring writers stuck in revision hell. I know people who have been editing and tweaking their first novel for over ten years. Then there are people who think a first draft is all you need, forgetting that when you say first draft, that implies there must come a second, third, yadda-yadda-yadda. We all can’t be Robert B. Parker who obtained legendary status as a writer who loathed rewrites. Let’s consider him the outlier, not the standard.
When you edit, you have to set tight rules. You want to polish that lump of coal into a diamond, but it has no value if you never get it out to an agent or publisher.
When 2014 ends, I will have published 8 books in 3 years. I’m always working on something, so I can’t let myself slip into editing hell. But, I also can’t scrimp on revising each novel and novella.
Editing, to me, is synonymous with the word rounds. Each book will require several rounds of revisions. And when I say round, I mean going from start to end, re-reading and rewriting like a person possessed. Here’s an example of how I edited my upcoming novella, The Waiting.
First Round : Also known as the first draft. My main concern at this stage was getting the story down. Occasionally I would go back and tweak what I wrote the day before, but the theme in this round is always onward and upward! Hell, what’s pouring out of me at this point may not even make sense, but somewhere in that mess is the backbone of the book. The key is to power through and get to The End.
Second Round : This is where the hard work comes in. I read every line from start to end, making changes, wiping out whole sections, adding more, tightening plot points, checking for grammar, punctuation, etc. Of all the rounds, this is the one with the most heavy lifting. This is where the story truly comes alive.
Third Round : I have several trusted people who are my first readers. For each book, I’ll select two of them to read the manuscript. One looks at it like a line editor, finding all of my many mistakes, checking for continuity and basically making it look like I passed English class with flying colors. Another reads it to give me feedback on the story itself. They make suggestions on how to improve the story. Some parts need to be placed in earlier sections of a book, others tossed into a deep, deep pit. They’ll also point out sub-plots that my conscious mind wasn’t aware of, affording me the chance to further explore them and make the overall story stronger. The feedback from my first readers has a value impossible to quantify. I’m eternally in their debt.
Fourth Round : In this round, I take the line edits from my first reader and correct all of the mistakes. For me, this is the easiest round since someone has already told me what to do. I just need to follow orders.
Fifth Round : Now another very hard part. Scrambling the pieces of the story around based on my other first reader’s feedback. This can be a heavy rewrite that can take weeks, or a little less punishing that may only take all my free time for a week.
Sixth Round : After I’ve retooled the entire book, I have to read it again, making more revisions as I go. This can be heaven or it can be hell. If it’s heaven, it’s ready to go once I’ve reached the last page. If it’s hell, it means another round of edits.
Luckily, for The Waiting, I was able to stop at 6 rounds. Double lucky was that it was a novella and only a hundred pages. Sweet. Now, when I wrote my thriller, The Montauk Monster ,a book that was just under 100,000 words, I believe I went as far as 8 rounds. Remember earlier when I said you have to set editing rules? That was essential for The Montauk Monster because I only had 4 months to write and edit the book. If your goal is to be a working writer, you’re going to be writing your ass off, year in and year out. There’s no time to be trapped in editing hell.
Don’t let the multiple rounds process scare you. Believe it or not, you’ll like the book more and more with each round. You may even grow to love it! The passion you felt on writing the first page will be rekindled. Honest.
I’m not saying this is the way you have to do it. It’s just the way I do it and it’s been working…so far.
Anyone out there stuck in editing hell? You have a revision trick that could benefit the rest of the class? Come on, let’s hear it. When it comes to writing, old dogs learn new tricks every day. I’ll send a signed promo copy of the cover of The Montauk Monster to the first 10 people in the U.S. who add to the conversation (have to watch that postage! if you live outside the US, I’ll find something else for you).
Okay, another round of shoveling, another couple of Motrin. You will not defeat me, Father Winter!
I am comforted thinking about the release of my new novella, The Waiting, in just two months. In just 8 weeks, the snow will be history and I’ll be back in shorts and sleeveless shirts (ala Larry the Cable Guy, my fashion guru). With The Waiting, I’m diving right back into the world of ghosts, but with a twist. This time around the story is real. And it’s not one I got from secondhand accounts. This is the kind of stuff that turns people into insomniacs or ‘day sleepers’.
Let me take things on step further. Here’s a sneak preview from chapter 13. You can pre-order a copy (it’ll be out as an e-book only) at Samhain, Amazon and B&N. Now turn off your EMF meter, bathe yourself in a protective circle of light and read on….
Alice worried constantly about her daughter, but it wasn’t until recently that she considered there might come a day when she would lose her. When she had first arrived at the house, she could feel the hope that crackled in the air. Like all energy, it had come and gone, morphing into something new, in someplace new.
Now the house felt cold and expectant. Her negative thoughts weren’t helping the situation. All of Cassie’s pain and their worry were building a cocoon of despair. Somehow, they had to find a way to break free of it.
Well, today she would try her best to dispel the negativity. Cassie was going to come out of it. Things always get worse before they get better. She knew Brian never left the house without making sure all of Cassie’s machines were pumping and draining away. That meant there was time for a shower before heading downstairs. Better to start clean and new.
When she was done, she wrapped a towel around her hair, put on a nice shirt and jeans and walked down the noisy stairs.
“Good boy,” she said when she saw the half-full coffee pot on the warmer. He made it a little weak for her taste, but beggars can’t be choosers.
Alice had bought a handful of gossip magazines at the bookstore. She wanted to make today a silly girl day, even if Cassandra couldn’t laugh or groan along with her. Then maybe she’d take a cue from Brian and pop in a movie and watch it with her.
As she walked out of the kitchen, she said, “Cassie, honey, you’re never going to believe who Brad Pitt is fooling around with.”
The mug slipped from her hand, bathing the floor and her feet with piping hot coffee. If there was pain, her mind was too stunned to register it.
A small boy sat at the end of Cassandra’s bed. One knee was bent and most of that leg was on the comforter. The other was locked straight, his foot flat on the floor. He looked at Cassie with beautiful, shining eyes and a round face with skin as flawless and smooth as fresh cream.
He didn’t look away, despite the crashing of the coffee mug and her sharp gasp of surprise.
The sun filtered through the window. It bathed him in a diffusion of soft, yellow light.
Alice’s heart raced and her hands began to tremble. She found it hard to keep her grip on the tabloids.
The boy moved with surprising grace, shifting off the bed and seeming to glide to the head of Cassandra’s bed. He bent forward, and Alice lost sight of him for a moment. When he straightened, he smiled, then reached out to the control panel of the infusion pump.
Part of her wanted to yell at him not to touch it. If she thought a real, living boy was in the room with her daughter, she would have.
But she knew what she was seeing was not an actual boy.
The certainty of what she beheld kept her mouth from opening and her legs from propelling her into the room.
She watched him turn his back and walk around the bed until he left the view within the doorframe. She was struck by how quiet the house was. The boy’s footsteps didn’t elicit a single tick from the cranky wood floor.
When he was gone, the infusion pump started to howl. It broke her trance and she walked over shards of ceramic, leaving coffee and crimson-colored footprints in her wake. She was not surprised to see that the boy had disappeared.
She was concerned about the warning chime on the pump. When she looked down, the floor by the bed was covered in a foul-smelling miasma of blood and clots of infected tissue. The drain tube in Cassandra’s stomach had slipped out. Her digestive acids must have flared up, spewing rot and gore from the open wound the surgeon had left until it spilled onto the floor.
The smell was overpowering. She clamped a hand over her mouth to keep from vomiting.
What do I do?
The recent disclosure of a series of exorcisms performed on the children of the Ammons family in Indiana have a lot of people not only scratching their heads, but considering the reality of true evil. I’m well aware that many people are also rolling their eyes in disbelief. I mean, the stories of what happened to that poor family are pretty hard to wrap your head around. It makes The Exorcist look like an ABC family movie. But what if it’s true?
The possessed children in this case were ages 7, 9 and 12. Witnesses that included police, doctors, nurses and representatives of the Department of Child Protective Services all saw things that defied their versions of reality. The kids reportedly levitated, walked backwards up a wall and onto the ceiling, spoke in strange, terrifying voices and even had their facial features change. Ministers were called to the scene, as well as a host of medical professionals. They all found the mother and children to be of sound minds. There was no history of abuse. They were a normal family, until the demons took hold of the helpless children.
There are over 800 pages of documentation outlining the horror the Ammons family faced. Professionals with upstanding reputations have put it all on the line in confirming the impossible things they saw. Pictures of the house and family reveal disturbing images of shadow people, leering faces and unexplainable objects.
So what is this? A hoax? Hysteria? Mass delusion? A desperate cry for attention? Any one of these options brings comfort to the masses. We can let the story fade within the ebb and flow of the news cycle and go about our lives, unencumbered by big questions with even bigger consequences.
Exorcisms are real. That’s an undeniable fact. Just this month, Pope Francis announced that the Vatican is training a host of new exorcists to combat a rise in Satanic worship in Italy and Spain. I remember a couple of years ago when there was a similar call for trained exorcists in America. My family knew a monsignor who had been specially qualified to perform the rites of exorcism, and had been called to duty several times. He was reluctant to speak of them, simply reassuring us that evil was real, as real as the computer you’re reading this blog on, as real as love and happiness, life and death.
The big question is, does evil live in the heart and soul of man, or is it a dark presence outside of man, a demonic force waiting patiently for our weaker moments so it can take root? Worse still, is it both? In our every increasing secular society, people prefer to think the former. Evil is a character trait, an emotion, a momentary lapse in moral judgement. Devout Christians and a host of other religions will tell you it’s the latter, that demons do exist.
Whatever wellspring that spawns evil, the very concept chills us to the bone. Movies about demonic possession have been frightening people for decades. From The Exorcist to The Omen, Rosemary’s Baby, Paranormal Activity, The Last Exorcism, we are both attracted to and repelled by the notion. Like moths to an inviting flame, we can’t stay away, yet we’re terrified to stare too deeply into the fire.
I see movies and books about exorcism and possession as a kind of exorcism in itself. The more we fictionalize it, the less real it becomes, which, in turn, robs the concept of its power over us. The Ammons case, with all of its supporting evidence, has the ability to demolish the walls we build to keep out the evil things out while reassuring us that our bad decisions have no long-lasting consequences.
Or we can tell ourselves that they’re crazy, or liars, or fame seekers. Or better yet, just let the story fade away.
For people interested in learning more about exorcisms and the church’s stand on the practice, there’s a very good book I can recommend called American Exorcism by Michael W. Cuneo.
Man, has it been hard to keep this one under my extra-large Mets cap (which has been replaced by my Seahawks snap-back). Well, I can’t hold it in anymore. I’m incredibly excited to let you all know that my first thriller novel, THE MONTAUK MONSTER, will be out as a Pinnacle paperback this June. This is part one of a two book deal. I’m busy at work putting together the framework for my next thriller (while finishing the final draft of the Sinister Entity follow up where things go in a totally new, and darker direction).
First, what do you think of the cover? Nice choppers on that bad boy, huh?
Here’s a little bit about the book:
It Kills. . .
On a hot summer night in Montauk, the bodies of two local bar patrons are discovered in the dunes, torn to shreds, their identities unrecognizable. . .
It Breeds. . .
In another part of town, a woman’s backyard is invaded by four terrifying creatures that defy any kind of description. What’s clear is that they’re hostile–and they’re ravenous. . .
It Spreads. . .
With every sunset the terror rises again, infecting residents with a virus no one can cure. The CDC can’t help them;FEMA can’t save them. But each savage attack brings Suffolk County Police Officer Gray Dalton one step closer to the shocking source of these unholy creations. Hidden on nearby Plum Island, a U.S. research facility has been running top-secret experiments. What they created was never meant to see the light of day. Now, a vacation paradise is going straight to hell.
I have to tell you, I held nothing back with this one. And for you horror hounds out there, I can assure you there is plenty in the pages of The Montauk Monster to satisfy your blood thirst. You can pre-order a copy at Amazon. Believe me, there is more to come about this. I just needed to get it out before I exploded. It’s been an amazing experience working with a new publisher (and yes, I’m still very much with Samhain, too!) and taking my writing in a different direction. And I’ve always, always wanted to publish a paperback, so I can finally check that off the list. Think of this one as a roller coaster on speed. No one’s getting off with the ability to see or walk straight.
Stay tuned for more and be careful when you take out the garbage at night. That just might not be the neighbor’s dog sniffing around in the dark.
I promised myself I wasn’t going to come out with any top 10 lists for the new year…and I’m sticking to it. Rebel that I am, I’m here to dish on my 13 favorite horror movies of 2013. That’s right, where all the other blogs only give you a measly 10, I’m like Five Guys Burgers and Fries dishing out the extra fries.
Admittedly, I didn’t see every movie that came out (most noticeably, I didn’t catch Insidious Chapter 2 - dumb ass name), but I did watch a hell of a lot of horror flicks last year – and every year for that matter. A few of these came out in 2012, but weren’t available to anyone outside the lone theater they premiered in until 2013. You want to take me to the mat for that, let’s throw down. So, let the countdown begin!
13. THE FRANKENSTEIN THEORY
Yes, it’s a found footage movie, but the premise and execution are a notch above most of this sub-genre. A descendant of the mad Dr. Frankenstein takes a team to the Arctic Circle to prove that Mary Shelley’s iconic tale was not a work of fiction, but a recounting of a true and chilling story. The atmosphere is stark, desolate, and the chills you feel are very real. This one totally took me by surprise.
OK, I’ll admit I picked this one up because of the attractive and, aahhh, nude woman on the cover. Sometimes, being shallow pays off. The Thale in this tale is a mythological Norwegian creature that looks a lot like a pretty damn sexy woman with a tail. That’s right, a tail. When a couple of house cleaners stumble upon the imprisoned Thale, all hell breaks loose. Freakin’ strange, but beautifully shot and just plain haunting.
11. DARK SKIES
I finally relented and bought a BluRay player last year. This was one of the first discs I asked Santa to cram in my stocking. I’m a sucker for alien abduction movies (Communion, Fire in the Sky, The Fourth Kind). What makes this movie so strong is the way it builds up the family and makes you truly care for them, making it that much harder to watch an alien presence tear their lives apart. Top notch performances and some great visuals. This one can get pretty creepy at times and has an ending you rarely see anymore.
10. THE PURGE
My hopes were so, so high for this one. There was no way it could ever live up to them. But it came pretty damn close. Think Assault on Precinct 13 (where Ethan Hawke also starred in the remake) in the ‘burbs. I fell in love the moment I saw Ethan Hawke’s gun. Tense, futuristic, and at times downright gory, it’s worth the time. Plus it has Cersei Lannister, so how bad can it be?
9. WOULD YOU RATHER?
I think I’m one out of the dozen or so people who saw this one, but man was it fun. Re-Animator’s Jeffrey Combs is a twisted, rich SOB who invites a handful of down-on-their-luck folks for dinner in his mansion. One of them will receive enough money in the end to solve all of their worldly problems. All they have to do is play a little game called Would You Rather? Sick, sick, sick, awesome, awesome, awesome. How did no one think of this one before?
Admittedly, I wasn’t a fan of the 80′s original. Elijah Wood stars as the socially awkward Maniac this time around. What made this work, aside from his performance, was the concept to shoot the movie through his eyes. Brilliant. This one will give you the heebie-jeebies. One of those movies where I say, “I am so glad I’m not a single woman.”
7. V/H/S 2
When I caught the first V/H/S on Netflix, I was did my little horror dance – the one I do when I stumble upon little gems of terror. I was worried that the sequel would fall short of the original. There was no need to worry. In fact, I think part 2 is slightly better and more cohesive than the first. The short on the cult alone makes it one of the best flicks of the year. Go catch it on Netflix streaming.
Here’s the second alien abduction movie on my list, as well as the second found footage flick. You’d think that combo would add up to el stinkeroo. Not so fast, capitano! Again, an achingly powerful performance by Erin Way as a woman who mysteriously lost her baby in late term pregnancy keeps this one humming. It has a few real scares that will make you think twice when you look up at the night sky.
5. THE BATTERY
In a year when World War Z crapped the zombie bed, this mega low budget movie had to rely on something a lot of Hollywood movies ignore – an actual, well written story. This is the best zombie movie in a long while. Two minor league baseball battery mates (a pitcher and a catcher) survive the zombie apocalypse and walk from place to place, trying to survive. I love this movie because it gave us the first ‘masturbation to a dead girl’ scene and for the absolutely claustrophobic, dire last twenty minutes. Take that Brad Pitt!
4. RITES OF SPRING
I had never even heard of this movie until I saw it as a suggestion on Netflix. Whoa, this one was a wild ride that reminded me of all the best elements of 80′s horror. This came out in 2011, but I believe wasn’t available until 2013. Screw it, I want it in my top 5. This one has kidnappers, a creature that comes out for the spring ‘harvest’, screams, some ugly bastard under a barn, blood and more. I had a blast watching this, and in the end, that’s what matters most.
3. THE CONJURING
The first movie adaptation of famed paranormalists Ed and Lorraine Warren and their ghostly travails. This one is genuinely scary at times. The Warrens are called to investigate an exceedingly haunted house that is driving a family to the brink. It stars Vera Farmiga, as Lorraine Warren (who I met with her late husband in the 90s) so I was already hooked. As I watched it, I kept thinking, if even half of this shit is true, we live in a world of truly terrifying potential. And don’t ever ask me to play hide-and-go-clap with you. Ever.
2. AMERICAN MARY
A body modification movie gone horribly awry. Med school dropout takes to underground bod-mod surgeries in her apartment to make cash. This one is so bizarre, it has to be seen to be believed. Surreal, kinky, debased, sexy, it’s one of the most surprising horror movies I’ve ever seen. Whenever people ask me for movie recommendations, I tell ‘em, American Mary. If you don’t get it, well, we’ll part as friends.
1. YOU’RE NEXT
A family reunion goes to complete shit when crossbows start burying themselves in necks and backs in what was, by far, the most fun I had at the movies all year. Hell, I even took my mom to see this and she dug it. The lesson we learn here is that all girls should go to survivalist camp. Aside from the brutal murders and tense, graphic action, there are some fantastic laughs here, as well as a song that will loop in your head for months. This one gets my number one slot with ease!
As you can most likely ascertain from the title of this post, 2013 was not my favorite year. In a word, it was a disaster. And so I bid it a not-so-fond farewell, not with a top 10 list or bullet points of resolutions. I have only one resolution for 2014 : to never live through 2013 again. Now there’s one that can’t help but come to fruition.
2014 will be better. The people that have passed from our lives can’t do it a second time. Family members that have been seriously ill are on the mend. I have several books coming out that will keep me exceedingly busy and happy that I’m still living a dream that floated into my fevered brain decades ago.
I have my Narragansett beer, Patron tequila and Nat Sherman cigars waiting to help me usher in the new year.
So, what am I looking forward to?
In April, my novella, The Waiting, a ghost story based on actual events, is sure to make you rethink life and death and the unknown places in between.
Over the summer, my very first western horror, Hell Hole, will take you to a deserted, haunted mining town in Wyoming at the turn of the 20th Century. From aging cowboys to Teddy Roosevelt, wild men to black-eyed kids, hell on earth has never been so much…well, fun!
I have another major book announcement to make, but that will come very soon in the new year.
Through all of the tumult, writing and entertaining you, the reader, has been the one thing that’s kept me sane. Despite everything, I managed to write 3 full length novels in 2013, along with my first short story collection, Asylum Scrawls, which is doing exceedingly well despite my typical writer’s neuroses that nothing is ever good enough. I can tell you from experience that writing is better (and cheaper) than therapy.
At the Monster Men podcast dungeon, we’re going to branch into remote interviews with writers, directors, paranormal groups and anyone that tickles our monster bone. In fact, our test run, an interview with Anthony Ventarola (you remember the guy who went with us to the haunted Union Cemtery?) about this season’s The Walking Dead, can be seen right here. Lots more to come.
My wife and I plan to renew our vows, 22 years after the first go around with a priest who was three sheets to the wind and a DJ who drank himself unconscious before the reception ended. Good times.
Basically, 2014 will be a re-start, a shedding of the skin, even though I hate snakes more than Indiana Jones.
And what better way to move on while still looking back than with a great HuffPost article about the year in Bigfoot. Things will be squatcherific, for sure.
It’s that time of the year again when I’m compelled to post the opening scene from the movie, Love, Actually - one of the very few Christmas movies for adults. My wife and I watch it every year beside our brilliantly lit Christmas tree. The opening sequence wraps up not only the spirit of the holiday, but the heart of the human condition, no matter what time of year, quite perfectly. As a writer, I’ve always been envious of these few simple yet achingly elegant lines of prose.
Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I wish you all health, love and happiness.
Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.
How could I not share this great interview with my Samhain editor and all around swell guy, Don D’Auria!
Originally posted on Horror Novel Reviews:
Interview conducted by: Glenn Rolfe
Samhain Publishing editor and lead dog on the company’s horror line, Don D’Auria, has been in the business since the eighties. Driven by love of horror and the passion to bring this fictional evil to a world in dire need of great distractions, Don has brought the literary world of terror (not manned by a King or Koontz) back from the dead (in the mid-nineties with authors like Ramsey Campbell, Richard Laymon, and Jack Ketchum), only to watch his work sink in the great Dorchester Publishing debacle of 2010. He remerged in 2011 with Samhain and a boat load of amazing authors to once again conquer the horror world.
In 2011 Smahain author Frazer Lee’s debut novel, The Lamplighters, was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. John Everson followed in 2012 with a nomination for Superior Achievement…
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