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.
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.
My editor at Samhain Publishing sent over the cover art for my upcoming story, THE GRAVEYARD SPEAKS, scheduled to be released April 2nd in tandem with my next novel, SINISTER ENTITY. I wanted to give you all a sneak peek at the cover.
In the parlance of my youth, I’m diggin’ it. THE GRAVEYARD SPEAKS is a 40 page short story that bridges the gap between FOREST OF SHADOWS and SINISTER ENTITY. It occurs 13 years after FOS in a dark, snow-encrusted graveyard. The dead are very much alive and even the caretakers avoid a certain section of the sprawling cemetery. This isn’t your typical ghost hunting adventure, I assure you.
I highly suggest you read it before diving into SINISTER ENTITY. You’ll get a cool insight into the events leading up to the novel. The best part is that it’s going to be FREE (at least at the start). So hop on over to Samhain and add the story and the book to your wish list. They haven’t loaded the cover art yet, but you can still easily find it.
Despite the title of this post, I am not a resident of the UK. I just like to pretend I am from time to time, like when I call people punters and say things are brilliant.
My own national identity issues aside, I was bowled over when my editor sent me the cover for my next book, Evil Eternal, which will be out in May, 2012. It has demons, damsels in distress, blood and guts galore and even a touch of humor from time to time. Here’s the cover:
Pretty freakin’ cool, right?
In other news, the reviews for Forest of Shadows have been glowing, which brings a tear to this writer dude’s eye. I just saw this review posted on Dreadful Tales and really feel my wife and I must have a baby so we can name it after the reviewer. I swear, I never met the guy and no money exchanged hands. Here are some excerpts. To read the whole review, go to Dreadful Tales.
“Hunter Shea is absolutely ruthless. The man writes with a passion and aggression that will leave you helpless in its grasp. Shea keeps his eyes on the prize and everything else is secondary. He wants you to cringe. He wants your skin to crawl. He wants to positively scare you out of your god-given wits. Above anything else, Forest of Shadows is a genuinely scary book. It took a few restless nights and one incredibly vivid nightmare about whispering shadows and the floating visage of a young boy, before I realized how successful this book was at scaring the living daylights out of me. It had worked its way into my brain and nestled in there, coiled to spring at any given moment. This book scared me in a way I haven’t been scared in a very long time.
I can respect an author who takes the ghost story and completely disregards its well worn conventions to create something truly original. He preaches from the Altar of Pulp- spewing a sermon filled with his own merciless interpretation of what this genre should be. I love seeing a newcomer just completely rip it and own the living daylights out his writing. “
And for those of you who aren’t hip to my Facebook fan page, you have to come over and like the page, if only to take part in the super simple weekend giveaways that I do every week. You can win signed copies of stories, gift cards, or even have your name used in a book! Stop by every Saturday to catch the latest giveaway.
I’ve been very busy working on the sequel to Forest of Shadows and will soon post a little something I wrote about every writer’s fear : putting your work out there for the whole world to critique. Yikes! So far, I’ve been lucky, but it ain’t always pretty. I’ll also be filming some new Monster Men podcast episodes and we’re going to launch our brand new author interviews. We’re lining up authors this month and should have them live in a few weeks.
Thank you to everyone who has read this blog or gotten in touch with me on Facebook, Twitter, the Samhain Cafe, and all the other places I pop in and out of from time to time. You’ve been simply amazing and recharge my battery every day so I can sit my ass down and get to writing!