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.
It’s that time again to go through my grab bag of people, places and things that have grabbed my interest and, in some cases, admiration. When it comes to horror and all things preternatural, I’m a total junkie. Even if I quit my job, I don’t think I’d have enough time in my day to read, watch and listen to everything that interests me.
So, seeing as we all have limited time in our busy lives, I’ll present you with a half dozen items you can check out at your leisure. They all get the Hunter Bloody Seal of Approval.
Websites. Don’t be fooled by the name, Who Forted is a treasure trove of all things strange and paranormal, not an ode to flatulence. The FORT comes from Charles Fort, the writer and researcher who delved into the world of the unexplained, giving rise to the phrase Fortean or Forteana to describe the mysterious and unfathomable. Who Forted is packed with videos, articles and discussions on everything from aliens to black-eyed kids and, in a current post, monster vomit. Come on, who isn’t curious about monster vomit??
Movies. The only problem with The Bigfoot Hunter : Still Searching is that it’s only an hour long. You can watch it for free on YouTube. It’s a low budget documentary created by a handful of young guys following a couple of, shall we say eccentric, Bigfoot hunters. It’s funny, at times creepy and a tad frightening. And I’m not talking about Bigfoot doing the scares. A must see for any squatcher.
Podcasts. I’ve become seriously addicted to the Mysterious Universe podcast. I download each weekly episode from iTunes. Hosted by a pair of informed, entertaining Aussies, this has become one of my favorte podcasts. From their own website, they describe their show as : bringing you the latest news and podcasts covering the strange, extraordinary, weird, wonderful and everything in between. We strive to maintain a balance of healthy skepticism and entertainment while never losing our sense of humour.
Books. Fellow Samhainer Russell James is the proud poppa of a bouncing, baby book, his third with our illustrious publisher. Black Magic is one of the most original, gripping books I’ve read in a long while. You have to check this one out. Here’s the book’s description. Just click on the cover to order a copy from Amazon today.
In this magic shop the magic is real. And the trick is on you.
Citrus Glade is a dying town that needs new businesses, but the one that just opened is doing much more harm than good. Stranger Lyle Miller’s magic shop seems to only stock what its select customers desire. When four outcast boys buy common party tricks, only Lyle knows what those tricks can really do. As subtle changes occur around town, a few residents realize that something is amiss…and getting worse. But it may already be too late. Lyle’s black magic has empowered more townspeople to help him execute his Grand Adventure, a plan that will reduce the town, and half the state, to rubble.
Short Stories. I came across Allison M. Dickson’s short stories while cruising through Amazon on my Kindle. She has a good number of taught, thought provoking, horrific stories out there, each for under a buck! So far, I’ve read Vermin, Dust and Taste and have dug them all. Perfect little appetizers that you can devour any time you’re hungry for horror.
EVPs. There’s something about EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomena) that just sends a tingle down my back. I’m sure a lot of them have a natural explanation, but even if just 5% are genuine, that’s enough to give me the willies. You can check out a bunch of them at Texas Wind Talker. Best listened to during a sunny day with people close by.
DOPPELGANGER : a ghostly double of a living person that haunts its living counterpart.
Today marks the official release of my 4th novel with Samhain Publishing’s horror line, Sinister Entity. For those of you who read my debut novel in 2011, Forest of Shadows, this book will have a few familiar characters. It picks up where things left off, only 13 years later (love that lucky 13). If you didn’t read FOS, no worries. Sinister Entity was written to be a standalone novel, kicking off what I hope will be a terrifying series that delves into the darker realms of the paranormal.
Now, what does this all have to do with doppelgangers? It turns out, quite a few notable people in history, from Percy Shelley to Mark Twain and Abraham Lincoln, have had encounters with doppelgangers…sometimes with disastrous results. Doppelganger is German for ‘double walker’. It’s literally a paranormal double of a living person. The whole phenomenon has fascinated me for years. So I did what all writers do; created my own doppelganger and had it take one on.
Normally on a release day, I’d post an excerpt from the book to get you hooked like the crack dealer I am. This time around, I can do you one better. I wrote a short story that introduces the main character of Sinister Entity during her investigation of a wailing, shadowy ghost that haunts a snow filled cemetery. It’s called The Graveyard Speaks and here’s the best part. It’s free! Download your copy and if you want more, come on over and face the evil spirits in Sinister Entity.
But wait, there’s more! My book is being released alongside my buddy Jonathan Janz’s awesome new novel, The Darket Lullaby. To celebrate, the simply amazing Erin from Hook of a Book reviews is hosting a FB author Q&A on April 2nd between 9 and 11pm ET. Email questions to her at firstname.lastname@example.org and she’ll post them on FB. Jonathan and I will do our best to amuse and if needed, frighten you. Nothing is out of bounds. Seriously. Click here to Like the page and join the party.
I’m not done. Call within the next 10 minutes and you’ll get 4 Shamwows for the price of 1. Wait. Scratch that. What I meant to say is that I’m also giving away a signed copy of Forest of Shadows to a random person who comments on this blog post. If you live outside the US, I’ll send you an e-version of the book.
So come on, grab your voice recorders and a change of underwear. We’re going on a sinister ghost hunt.
Today marks the start of something new for me. Every couple of months, I’m going to post a hodge-podge of places to go and people to see on the internet, all of them horror and paranormal related. These are the locations, people and achievements that have captured my imagination and gratitude. They are wellsprings of inspiration, information, entertainment and mental edification. Find something that interests you and give them a lookey-loo…
Congratulations goes out to Robert Rumery on the publication of his first comic, The Grove, from WhatTheFlux Comics. If you know me, you know I’m a horror comic junkie. Nice job, Robert. I can’t wait to get my grubby little hands on it.
Looking for great horror books at steep discounts…or even free? Author, editor and all around cool dude in a loose mood, Brian James Freeman has started eHorror Bargains, your one-stop-shop for the best in horror. All of your horror deals are right here. Stop by and load up your e-reader!
Book Reviews. I have 2 places where you can go to get tons of book reviews (and if you’re an author, query them to have your book spotlighted). The first is Oh, for the HOOK of a BOOK. Super reviewer Erin covers multiple genres as well as author interviews. She is the hardest working book reviewer out there today and a lot of writerly types owe her our gratitude.
Another mega-review site is Matt Molgaard’s Horror Novel Reviews. Matt and his team do an excellent job of reviewing not only new horror works, but classics and older hidden gems. If you need to stock up your horror library, this is the place to go. Then head to eHorror Bargains and see if you can get some of them without busting your budget.
Bigfoot. You know I can’t help myself from throwing something about the hairy fella in here. Huge thanks to Scott Albright who brought this post to my attention (actually, it’s as large as a novella) about Bigfoot and why no one has found their bones or bodies. Author Robert Lindsay did some yeoman’s work putting this together. Must read for all you squatchers!
Ghosts & The Supernatural. The definitive place to get everything you need about the world of the paranormal is Jeff Belanger’s Ghost Village. This is the Bible for everyone interested in what lies beyond the veil. You can also sign up for their free monthly newsletter.
Books. I’m super excited that my book release partner on April 2nd is the uber-talented Jonathan Janz. His new book, The Darkest Lullaby, comes out the same day as my Sinister Entity. Here’s a link to a review of his book. He has one of the coolest cover in the Samhain library.
Podcasts. My newest podcast addiciotn is Darkness Radio, a radio show broadcast out of the Twin Cities. You can listen to their archives online or through iTunes. These guys have a damn good time talking about the world of the strange and the unexplained. Love their take on things.
OK, that about does it for this month. I hope you stop by some or all of these great places and supoprt them. If there are hot spots you think I should know about, send them to me and I’ll include them in future posts.
I never thought the Syfy channel would become the mecca for ParaTV, but thanks to the runaway success of Ghost Hunters, the network churns out new ghost-themed shows quicker than Willy Wonka on meth. The latest entry is STRANDED, a new take on the old theme, created by Destination Truth’s own Josh Gates. Now, Josh is by far my favorite para-celebrity because he doesn’t take things too seriously, but serious enough to put his life on the line while searching for the uknown. I swear that man is going to at least lose a limb while schlepping through the jungle looking for dinosaurs or an Africanized Bigfoot. It’s also produced by Jason Blum, of Paranormal Activity and Sinister (by far the scariest movie of 2012) fame.
The premise of Stranded is simple. Take a handful of real people and drop them in one of America’s most haunted locations for 5 days. Arm them with cameras and some basic ghost hunting equipment and let the good times roll. No camera crews or Syfy production folks to get in the way. The best part is, no matter how scared they get, they can’t leave.
I mentioned in my previous post on Ghost Mine that I liked the idea of making folks investigate a haunted location for more than the obligatory night. That way we all get a better feel for the place, and allow enough time to stumble upon some real scares.
In the first episode, three twenty-somethings (exes Sarah and Sean and their non-believing friend, Xand) are dropped off on Star Island off the cost of New Hampshire. Their mission : to stay at the haunted Oceanic Hotel and find out if spirits really do roam the halls. The hotel has been shut up for the oncoming winter, ala The Shining. Anyone care to place wagers on whether Xand changes her tune about the paranormal?
When they arrive at the empty hotel on the first night, a book is left behind explaining the haunted history of the hotel. Ghost Hunters fans should remember when Jason, Grant and the team investigated the hotel a few years back. The trio spend the next 5 days living in the dark in the shuttered hotel, jumping at noises and filling up hours of night vision recordings.
Kudos to Sean for coming up with the creepiest method for ghost hunting – ever! It seems the spirit of a little girl likes to open and close the doors of the hotel rooms on the 4th floor. Sean decides to raid the nursery (a kind of prop for tourists to get their chills) and tie little nooses around their necks, with the other end on the door knobs. If any door is openened, they’ll know because the doll will be out of place. What we’re left with is a long, dark hallyway filled with strangled dolls on either side. They should have renamed it Hangman’s Hall.
They do get a disembodied voice giggling and there are odd sounds every night. It’s just enough to put them on edge, which, as a viewer, is where we want them. It ain’t fun until the skeptic cries, and in that sense, Stranded doesn’t disappoint.
The first episode was interesting, but I’m hoping it can crank things up in future episodes. Personally, I’d like to see them bring in some older, more grounded people who are less prone to suggestion. The trio in the first episode were on edge the moment they stepped onto the dock. I wish they hadn’t been given any info on the stories of the hotel. It colors their perception of things. Better to let them discover the paranormal for themselves. Use graphics to clue the viewers into the history.
For those of you who saw it, what did you think? Para-good, or para-bad?
I’ll be staying tuned. Hey, Syf, feel free to drop me off any place you’d like. Let’s see how a horror author holds up in a haunted house.
The day is finally here. Swamp Monster Massacre lives! To kick things off, I invite you to visit the first stop of the blog tour (as seen in the previous post) and take a gander at the following preview of chapter one. This isn’t your grandfather’s bigfoot story – that’s if you had a strange grandfather obsessed with the big ape. To check out all the stops on the first severed leg of the tour, click here. Dates will be added weekly because this bad boy is running until the end of the year.
And to make things extra special, I’m going to pick a random person who responds to this post to win a $5 Samhain gift card, which shockingly is more than enough to pick up your own copy of SMM with change to get a second novella.
Remember, keep your hands in the ride at all times and no flash photography. Skunk Apes hate that.
SWAMP MONSTER MASSACRE
Rooster Murphy pried his knuckle out of Cheech’s shattered eye socket with a grunt of frustration. Goddamn guy’s skull must have been made of honeycombs to break apart like that. Cheech’s right eye, in all its smooshed, gelatinous glory, quivered on the knuckle of his middle finger. He flicked his wrist in disgust and watched the eye splatter against the floor, leaving a slick streak.
“I told you to cut it out, didn’t I?” he screamed at the Cuban man’s cooling corpse. “Did you think I was fucking playing with you? Huh? Jesus, Cheech! You know, you really put me in a tight spot. You really did. You fucked me good, man. You fucked me good.”
He hocked a wad of phlegm on Cheech’s chest for good measure.
All Cheech had to do was hand over the guns, and all he had to do was give that entitled Cuban the money. Simple. A friggin’ retard could have handled that.
But Cheech, man, he always had to ride him. Always had something to say. Always quick with a joke at his expense. He was Luis Cortez’s son after all, so he thought that gave him a free ride to say and do anything he felt like.
And Rooster, he’d really been trying to hold it together. Five court-ordered stints at anger management, meds that made his head fuzzy and his dick soft, meditation CDs made by California fruits, and all that other shit out the window in under a minute.
So now he had the guns and the money and Cheech’s stiff with the surprisingly fragile skull. It was only a couple of punches. Must have been all that blow Cheech did, eating away at his stupid face.
Fuck it. Either way, he was a dead man. Rough Cheech up a little, you could expect Papa Luis to come down on you so hard you own mother would feel the loss in her old, empty womb.
Rooster took a moment to think about his options. The guy’s apartment was straight out of that Cribs show, full of all kinds of marble and hi-tech electronic shit. The air conditioning was on full blast and, as he discovered walking into the kitchen, there was plenty of Presidente beer in the fridge. He usually preferred the cheap stuff like Busch or Schaefer, but beggars can’t be choosers.
He twisted off the non-twist-off cap of a Presidente and sat back on the big leather couch. Rooster shoved Cheech’s legs away with the heel of his sneaker. The cold beer felt like heaven as it sluiced down his chest and into his gut.
This was bad. He’d been down shit creek more than his share of times, but this one took the cake, ate it, crapped it out, clogged the toilet and spilled out onto the floor. Cortez had guys all over Naples. Hell, his arm stretched down to Miami and up north to Jacksonville. Getting out of Florida was going to be like that Clint Eastwood flick, The Gauntlet. That was pretty badass when Clint fortified a bus to take on an assault from more guns than the French had surrender parties.
For the first time since entering Cheech’s apartment, Rooster smiled. He remembered seeing that movie with his dad at the old Big Star Drive-In. He must have been ten at the time. His dad would park a couple of ratty old lawn chairs in front of their Chevelle and they’d eat popcorn one of his succession of ‘aunts’ had made at home. And on special nights, like the night they saw The Gauntlet, his dad would share a few sips of his suds with him.
It wasn’t until Rooster had finished the beer that he remembered he wasn’t supposed to drink alcohol with his meds. Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to drive, operate heavy machinery, walk, talk or screw when under the influence of alcohol, because no matter what you are in the middle of doing, you are about to take a world-class face-plant.
The room spun and he thought he saw Cheech move. The bottle slipped from his hand and his mind slipped from this world.
Today I bring you a guest post by a wonderful author who immediately caught my attention a year ago with her story, The Doll. Her name is J.C. Martin and she is absolutely someone to watch. Her debut novel, Oracle, has just been released and is sure to be a huge success. I’m sure you’ll love her work as much as I do. So little hunters and huntresses, with great pleasure, I bring you J.C. Martin. Take it away…
Although my main genre is crime and thrillers, I adore scary stories, and enjoy dabbling in horror fiction. As a fan of both genres, I find many parallels between crime fiction and psychological horror, and nowhere else are these similarities starker, than when one looks inside the mind of a killer.
In this post, I discuss certain elements of a villain’s psychology—using some mildly clever subtitles—that could be every bit as spooky as one of Poe’s poems.
Eyes without a Face
In my books, I often write a few chapters from the point of view of the antagonist. Oracle is no exception. By getting inside the villain’s mind, readers will gain a different perspective on the crime. To the killer, it’s not just a murder. Depending on their twisted logic, it could mean so much more: personal gratification, retribution, a work of art, divine sacrifice, even an act of heroism for the good of all.
By seeing the world through the killer’s eyes, readers, though they may not agree with his methods, may sympathise with his motivations. We may share the same views as a psychopath. The only difference is that they act on their compulsions.
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
The nature versus nurture debate in behavioural psychology fascinates me. Personally, I believe a psychopath is borne from an unfortunate combination of both: traumatic experiences and difficult circumstances, coupled with and an innate neurological malfunction, could well be the recipe for a serial murderer.
The antagonists in my stories aim to address this question of how a killer came to be. In Oracle, we visit the Oracle’s childhood in an attempt to understand the factors that triggered his psychotic behaviour.
Whilst experiencing past and present events through a madman’s eyes can be a creepy experience in itself, the scariest thing about killers, particularly serial killers, could be this…
They Walk Among Us
Many psychopaths appear to lead completely normal lives: Ted Bundy was a promising law student; Ian Brady was a quiet, unassuming office clerk. Could that nice young man in the cubicle next to yours be a serial killer in training? You may never know…
For me, more unnerving than their twisted psyche and murderous capabilities, the fact that you can’t tell a psychopathic murderer from the average Joe, is the scariest thought of all.
Through writing or reading from the perspective of a psychopath, we get to explore the darkest recesses of the human psyche. This walk on the dark side, together with the knowledge that these real-life monsters are indistinguishable from the everyday man, is what makes writing serial killer fiction so horrifyingly intriguing.
How do you find a serial killer in a crowd? You don’t. They find you.
What compels YOU most about the mind of a killer? In your opinion, who is the scariest serial killer of all, real or fictional?
About J.C. Martin:
J.C. Martin is a butt-kicking bookworm: when she isn’t reading or writing, she teaches martial arts and self-defence to adults and children. A writer of dark mysteries and gripping thrillers with a psychological slant, her short stories have won various prizes, and have been published in several anthologies. Oracle, released by J. Taylor Publishing, is her debut novel.
Born and raised in Malaysia, J.C. now lives in south London with her husband and three dogs.
As the countdown begins, the body count rises.
With London gearing up to host the Olympics, the city doesn’t need a serial killer stalking the streets. They’ve got one anyway.
Leaving a trail of brutal and bizarre murders, the police are no closer to finding their latest murderer than Detective Inspector Kurt Lancer is in finding a solution for his daughter’s disability.
Thrust into the pressure cooker of a high profile case, the struggling single parent is wound tight as he tries to balance care of his own family with the safety of a growing population of potential next victims.
One of whom could be his own daughter.
Fingers point in every direction as the public relations nightmare grows, and Lancer’s only answer comes in the form of a single oak leaf left at each crime scene.
Available wherever e-books are sold. Click on any of J.C.’s links throughout the post to learn more or pick up your copy today!
As Jack was going through the Monster Men files, he found this episode that we had filmed and somehow forgotten. Lucky for us, it’s as timeless as Raquel Welch’s beauty. This time around, we go into the elements that make a wicked horror flick, and reveal our list of 15 must-see scary movies.
And here’s a drinking game you can play while you watch: One shot for every time you hear my cat scratching on the door, and one beer for every candy corn Jack and I eat. Guaranteed, you’ll pass out before you get to the 5 minute mark!
So, what scary movies would make your list?
And a big thank you to everyone who Liked the Amazon page for Evil Eternal and Forest of Shadows. Gotta keep that big mo’ rolling. Share pages when you can for any Samhain horror books and spread the word. There’s a new monster in town, and it’s name is Samhain!