I had the honor and privilege of reading an advance copy of Russell James’s latest foray into the world of magic and dark terror, Dreamwalker. I absolutely loved it and think it’s his best to date. It’s finally out and ready to be devoured by hungry horror readers. Here, in the Magic Man’s own words, is how the fiction became stark fact…
This time around, my novel creeped me out.
When I wrote Dreamwalker, I wanted to set it in a location that emphasized the duality that the
main character, Pete Holm, lives in. I’d read about Atlantic City and how the promise of casinos hadn’t
created the promised city-wide rejuvenation. Atlantic Avenue divided the city, separating the glitter of the
high-rise hotels from the poverty of the rundown residential areas. The location seemed perfect.
I’d never been to Atlantic City, or Philadelphia, another location in the book. But MapQuest is
amazing, and I used grids of the streets to flesh out my fantasy versions. Pete takes a bus, so I Googled
the bus station locations and schedules just to make sure such places existed.
After the second draft of the story was completed, I had a free weekend in Maryland and decided
to visit these places I’d so casually created based on a few thin facts. I headed to Atlantic City, hoping I
could work in some real-life observations to the story.
I drove through the city and went into shock. Locations I’d created in my mind’s eye were here in
real life, almost doorframe for doorframe. The restaurant Pete works in, the rundown homes, the decaying
basketball court. It didn’t feel like I was exploring someplace new, it felt like I was returning to
In the late afternoon, I drove to Philadelphia, taking the same route my character takes when he
tries to find the identity of the girlfriend in his dreams. In the city, I followed my invented route to her
fictional hospice. There was no hospice, but there was a doctor’s office with an entrance that looked just
as I’d imagined the hospice’s did. It gave me chills.
Dreamwalker is about a college student who enters an alternate reality when he dreams. Did I
enter some alternate subconscious reality when I invented the locations for my book? I don’t know. If I
could, it would sure make writing the next novel is much easier.
Dreamwalker is the sixth novel that Russell James has published with Samhain Horror under legendary horror editor Don D’Auria!
Two realities. One hope.
What if you lived in two worlds, and could die in either? Pete Holm can. He is a dreamwalker, able to travel to the realm of dreams, including the devastated world of Twin Moon City, where an evil voodoo spirit holds living souls in terror with his army of the walking dead.
In the waking world, drug lord Jean St. Croix knows only the power of the dreamwalker can stop him, so St. Croix vows Pete must die.
Pete is the only hope to rescue the lost souls in Twin Moon City…unless St. Croix kills him first. Can anyone survive when two realities collide?
Barnes and Noble:
- Open reviewer giveaway: Anyone who reviews Dreamwalker on Amazon and one other site like GoodReads, etc. and sends Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, their links to firstname.lastname@example.org will be entered to win a $20 Amazon gift card. This contest ends on Feb. 28, 2015.
- Rafflecoper giveaway for two copies of Russell’s previous books. Two winners will each win one of two books, Black Magic and Dark Inspiration. US only, no international shipping. Must use a valid email that you can be reached by. By entering the giveaway, you consent to allow Russell to have your email for very infrequent newsletter updates. Contest ends Feb. 28, 2015. Other contest questions can be referred to Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, Hook of a Book Media at email@example.com.
Praise for Russell R. James
“James has a talent for combining action-packed vignettes into a powerful, fast-paced whole.”
—Library Journal on Black Magic
(Five Stars, A Night Owl Top Pick) “I loved the story so much that I’m eagerly waiting to read more from him. He carefully and very intricately wove his storyline to have elements of mystery and suspense throughout. I now have a new favorite book I’ll read over and over again.”
—Night Owl Reviews on Dark Inspiration
“The book had me at the edge of my seat. The writing is so vivid I even jumped a few times. If you’re a fan of the genre, love ghosts and are drawn to the supernatural, then do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this book!”
—Long and Short Reviews on Dark Inspiration
Russell R. James, Biography
Russell James grew up on Long Island, New York and spent too much time watching Chiller, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and The Twilight Zone, despite his parents’ warnings. Bookshelves full of Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe didn’t make things better. He graduated from Cornell University and the University of Central Florida.
After a tour flying helicopters with the U.S. Army, he now spins twisted tales best read in daylight. He has written the paranormal thrillers Dark Inspiration, Sacrifice, Black Magic, Dark Vengeance, and Dreamwalker. He has two horror short story collections, Tales from Beyond and Deeper into Darkness. His next novel, Q Island, releases in 2015.
His wife reads what he writes, rolls her eyes, and says “There is something seriously wrong with you.”
Visit his website at www.russellrjames.com and read some free short stories.
He and his wife share their home in sunny Florida with two cats.
To find out more about Russell R. James, please visit his Website or follow him on Facebook! Join him on Twitter, @RRJames14. Also, feel free to drop him at a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s a first for me. My book, ISLAND OF THE FORBIDDEN, inspired a reader to write about her own haunting experience. Aniko Carmean is a writer of superb, speculative fiction. We’ve been cyber buds for several years now, supporting one another as we attempt to grow as writerly types. Anyone who appreciates fine, intelligent stories needs to check out her new lovechild, ODD SKY BOOKS. She’s crafting some of the finest tales you’ll find today.
What I didn’t know all these years was that Aniko had her own, hair raising brush with the unknown. Thankfully, she took the time to put it into chilling words and wants to share it with the class. I live in a haunted house and I even got goose bumps reading this.
So turn down the lights, charge your EMF meter and read on…
I’m a military brat, and when I was in high school, my father was stationed in Belgium. We lived off-base in a small village. Our three-hundred year old house was on the village’s grand place, directly across the street from the ancient church that had been bombed and rebuilt in at least one of the European wars to roll across that dismal, chill land. The only functional fireplace had an intricate carved bronze inlay, the attic was closed off by a heavy wooden door that predated my family’s immigration to the United States by centuries, and the kitchen’s exposed beams begged to be festooned with drying herbs. It looked old, not scary – in the daylight.
I am not like Jessica Backman in Hunter Shea’s novel Island of the Forbidden. I cannot banish what she calls energy beings (EB), and what I call ghosts, nor do I seek supernatural encounters. I can, however, see, hear, and feel ghosts. I discovered my ability when I lived for three years in a that house, the one in Belgium. More than twenty years have passed, but reading Island of the Forbidden awakened memories of my time in the haunted house. Aspects of Jessica’s encounters in the isolated Ormsby House are similar to my experiences in Belgium, and I thought it might be of interest to the ghost-hunters, skeptics, and the simply curious if I shared a little of what I remember.
Many haunted house stories describe unaccountable and unnaturally loud thudding sounds. Ormsby House in Shea’s Island responded to the intrusion of the visitors with thunderous house-rattling. Similar thudding greeted my sister and I on our first night in Belgium. Our room was on the top floor, just below the attic. The sounds started as a tapping somewhere at the far side of the attic, and grew to a sledgehammer thud as whatever was making the noise crossed the attic. When it was directly overhead, the noise was so loud I was certain the ceiling was going to break open and tumble death down upon us. My sister and I were crouched together on the mattress that didn’t yet have a bedstead, clutching hands and staring up at the ceiling. Then, as suddenly as it started, the banging stopped. I don’t believe either of us mentioned the possibility of a ghost – not then – but I don’t think we slept, either.
In Island of the Forbidden, a drop in temperature is an indicator of the presence of EBs. “Cold spots” are also a part of my experience in Belgium. The old house was drafty, and the attic itself was built such that it was open to the outdoors all along the eaves. It was never warm in the winter, but even in the summer, there were times that the cold in one area was palpably more frigid than the ambient temperature. This occurred mostly at night, when a layer of cold would hover above me as I tried to sleep. The cold carried the sensation of a presence. There is little that is more terrifying than intuiting something malevolent that is invisibly cloaked in cold.
The malfunction of electronics is another common hallmark of a haunting. There are plenty of high-tech hijinks in Island, and the characters struggle against an onslaught of cameras on the fritz, drained batteries, and power outages. When I was in Belgium, I recall only one peculiar electronic malfunction, but remember that my experience predates smartphones, iPads, and itty-bitty digital cameras, so there were fewer electronics for an EB to afflict. What I did have was a voice-activated tape recorder(!), which I put in the attic. I hoped to capture some of the strange noises that my family had heard up there and share them with my friends. I expected to record footsteps that seemed to walk into a non-existent distance, or the sound of shattering glass, or even – and best! – the voices of men speaking in French as they played cards. What I got was a creepy amalgam of disturbances, starting with the sound of footsteps and low, male voices. The recorder captured the scuffing of the instrument being shoved across the floor, and then a long stretch of silence. Minutes passed, and then came a series of violent bangs, as if the recorder were being stomped or bashed with something. Indeed, when I retrieved the instrument, it was halfway across the room from where I left it. After the first time I listened to the tape, the cassette player seized; it would not open to let me take out the tape, nor would it play the tape, even with new batteries. Years later, after we moved back to the States, the cassette player did work again, but unfortunately the tape itself was damaged.
In haunting stories, the visual sighting of ghosts is the pièce de résistance. Island of the Forbidden is full of apparitions which present themselves in gory detail to the characters sensitive to seeing them. I am not gifted like Jessica’s compatriot Eddie, and the ghosts in Belgium never showed me their faces. One ghost appeared only at night. A maternal, safe feeling flowed from her presence, which manifested as a fuzzy mass of white light. I slept deeply and peacefully on the nights she hovered at the far side of my room. There were other shapes, though, that were defined by an absence of light. In my most terrifying incident, I was wrapped in my towel and walking to my room after showering in the creepy bath where I never felt like I was alone. It was winter, and already pitch black outside. As I passed my sister’s room, I saw her sitting on the edge of her bed, in the dark. I asked her if everything was okay, but she didn’t answer. Water dripped from the ends of my hair, icy cold, and a realization hit me: the person on the bed was far too large to be my sister. As if sensing my understanding, the shadow stood. The shape was that of a man, and laugh if you will, but he wore a stove pipe hat. I couldn’t see any features, just the cut of his clearly old-fashioned garb, and that hat. I was frozen, gripping my towel around myself, staring. He extended a hand to me and I did the only sensible thing; I turned on the hall light. He disappeared, and even when I was brave enough to shut of the light again, he was gone.
As a result of my experiences in that house, I am a discerning aficionado of all haunting stories. Island of the Forbidden makes it onto my approved list of haunted house tales, and joins the likes of Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and James’s The Turn of the Screw. Hunter Shea gives his EBs backstory and reason, which makes for an engaging read, especially when combined with the authenticity of the supernatural events in the story. If you want to revisit your own haunting, or have never experienced ghosts and want to know what it feels like, I recommend reading Island of the Forbidden.
Aniko Carmean is a speculative fiction author living in Austin, Texas. She loves ancho-chocolate milkshakes, October, and dogs. You can read her stories for free by visiting Odd Sky Books and signing up to become a member of the Odd Literati.
You can follow the Island of the Forbidden blog tour by clicking the image below. It will also take you to a Rafflecopter link where I’m giving away 5 books! Enter to win.
It’s been almost 2 years since Jessica Backman’s last foray into the world of the unknown, but she’s finally back. ISLAND OF THE FORBIDDEN has been officially released. Jessica is in her early twenties now and completely disenfranchised with the entire concept of ghost hunting. Knowing that she draws the dead to her, empowering those with less than noble intentions, she’s distanced herself from her family, friends and uber psychic, Eddie Home. Instead of running to the dead, she’s now running from them.
Eddie is now a shell of his former self. The power surge he had to employ to save Jessica and the family they were helping in SINISTER ENTITY has left him drained. He’s plagued by the cries of the dead, unable to help them.
Despite their weakness, Eddie and Jessica are both drawn to haunted Ormsby Island off the South Carolina coast. There’s an old mansion there and a secret so taboo, so terrifying, the world has done its best to wipe it from its collective memory. To save the living, they must face their deepest fears.
Early reviews have been great!
“When I’m ready to reconsider my views of the afterlife, of the nature and motivations of individuals, of the meanings of life and purpose, I look to Hunter Shea. He brings to the early 21st century the kind of thought-provoking literary horror that Ambrose Bierce gave to the 19th century.” Mallory Heart Reviews
“Island of the Forbidden” is the ultimate haunted house story. There are all of the elements for an explosive story in which everything goes wrong. And in “Island of the Forbidden,” everything goes wrong.” Examiner.com
“The story is a non-stop rush from the first chapter to the satisfying, terrifying end. This is 2015’s first must-read for the horror fan.” Russell James, author of Dark Vengeance and Dreamwalker
“Island of the Forbidden has it all, ghosts, an evil presence, psychics, creepy dead children, an old haunted house, the list goes on. I couldn’t put it down!” – Scarlet’s Web reviews
If ghost stories are you thing, I wrote this book just for you. This isn’t your momma’s ghost tale. Oh no.
You can order a copy of ISLAND OF THE FORBIDDEN (ebook or trade paperback) at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Samhain Publishing and wherever books are sold. If you get it, give me a shout and let me know what you think of it.
We’re also kicking off a HUGE blog tour, thanks to Hook of a Book Media. Click on the graphic below to see all the stops. Special thanks to Tim Busbey for his graphics expertise. I’ll be giving away lots o books along the way!
With only 5 days until the release of my next book, ISLAND OF THE FORBIDDEN, I thought it was time to talk a little about my brave ghost warrior, Jessica Backman. This is her third book and it’s strange how life is starting to imitate art, years after art was created to imitate life.
It all started with my very first book, FOREST OF SHADOWS. When I wrote FOS, my two girls were toddlers. My oldest was just about the same age as Jessica in the book, 6. Naturally, characteristic traits of both girls were woven into the fiber of Jessica – curious, precocious, at times braves, other times unsure and afraid. My wife and I back then talked about having 4 kids, all girls if possible. Jessica had long been a frontrunner on our list of baby names. When my wife’s sister had a baby and named her Jessica, even before she knew I was writing about a little girl with the same name, well, it kind of seemed as if this little character had come to life and joined the family. I ended FOS on a pretty definitive note and thought, that’s that. Ain’t it cool that we now have an actual little Jessica in the family?
The book was done, years later it was published and I suddenly couldn’t stop thinking about Jessica. What would become of a little girl who’d seen so much? Where was she now? How would she look? How does she hide her scars? (and I was quietly happy that my niece Jessica had led a normal, uneventful life) When my editor asked me for my next project, I said I was going to write one where Jessica was the main character. I moved the story ahead 13 years so she was now 19, smart, witty, foul mouthed and following in her deceased father’s ghost (or as she says, EB) hunting footsteps. A person could go two ways after experiencing what she had in Alaska. They could never think or speak of the supernatural again, or they could press on, armed with the feeling that lightning never strikes twice. In SINISTER ENTITY, Jessica is pretty much a know-it-all badass with proof that there’s a whole new life after death and she isn’t afraid to chase down its secrets. And like all teens, she doesn’t know as much as she thinks she does. Staring into the abyss without hesitation, something glares right back and it rocks her.
When I wrote SE, I had one girl in her teens and the other right behind her. My youngest was starting to gain an interest in the paranormal, just like Jessica. Both were unafraid of ghosts, mainly because we live with one. I don’t presume to know what it behind the unofficial fifth member of our family, but he’s here, just the same. As Jessica grew, so did they, and their personalities had started to meld.
With more tales to tell, I’ve brought Jessica back in ISLAND OF THE FORBIDDEN. Now in her early 20’s, she’s scared of herself and for the first time is afraid of both the worlds of the living and the dead. A grown woman now, she can’t just plow forward without thinking of the consequences. Once youth is lost, there is no getting it back. With that loss comes the flowering of fear.
And with age comes the complications of relationships with family, friends and for Jessica, a man. I see those girl-boy complications all the times with my girls. It makes me glad I’m not single!
In a strange way, Jessica has become a third daughter to us – albeit one who doesn’t need new clothes every season or leaves dirty dishes all around the house. She’s growing right along with my kids, though a little faster. I may have to slow her down so they call catch up. The best and most complicated parts of Jessica come from my own girls. And I do see them adopting some of her traits, even though they haven’t read the books (saving that for a couple of years from now). It’s fascinating to witness, and an honor to write. These 3 particular books have been the most personal to me. Art always intersects with life in some fashion. I’m excited to see where the family goes next.
Well, looks like I survived another #Horrortober. I finished the month having watched 41 horror movies. I think I tied my 2012 record. I have to go check the old files to be sure. The sad thing is, I didn’t even get to about 10 movies I had set aside to watch. I’ll have to save them for December when I’ll need some counter-programming to the slew of sappy Christmas specials.
I also managed to finish the first draft of my next cryptid novel. Rewrite process starts tomorrow. I’ll reveal the beastie the book is about in the coming months.
Now, on to something that just elevated my day. As you all know, my weird western, HELL HOLE, came out this past July. Because it was out a month after THE MONTAUK MONSTER, it kinda got lost in the shuffle, though I’m making up for it with mini blog tour this month.
Matt over at HORROR NOVEL REVIEWS sent me an email and link to their review of HELL HOLE a couple of days ago. You literally couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. Here are some snippets from the review :
There’s a fine line that separates a very good writer and a truly great writer. Very good writers get it right sometimes, great writers rarely, if ever, let us down, releasing nothing but riveting piece after riveting piece. Stephen King is a great writer. Joe Lansdale is a great writer. Jack Ketchum, Jonathan Maberry, Clive Barker, those are great writers. Today, Hunter Shea – in this mind – completes the transition from very good writer to great writer. This man will not let you down, and he’ll just about always give you a taste of his personal trademarks, like the presence of monsters and key heroic ensembles. It’s what he does. It’s part of what makes him great.
The five (main characters) make for one of the greatest ensembles I’ve had the fortune of discovering in any novel, ever.
Shea is one of the absolute best in the business in 2014, and I’m going to go ahead and say it, Hell Hole is the best horror novel of the year.
To read the entire review, click here. While you’re there, poke around the site. It’s the best place for a horror lover to spend a day.
I’ve always been reluctant to mention reviews, knowing it’s part of the business, but also leery of tooting my own horn. This review is the stuff you dream of when you decide that you want to be a writer. To even be mentioned alongside my heroes – King, Barker, Ketchum and Lansdale – is more thrilling and humbling than you can imagine. It’s always a little scary, sharing a very personal labor of love with the world so it can be scrutinized. At the very least, I always hope my books give people a little escape from an insane world. And Hell Hole was a labor of love. I wrote it for my dad, who loved westerns and showed me the horror ropes. Hey may have passed before I had a chance to give it to him to read, but I know he’s enjoying it, and this review, at this very moment.
In other good news, my next Samhain novel, ISLAND OF THE FORBIDDEN, the sequel to 2013’s SINISTER ENTITY, is now listed on Samhain’s site and can be pre-ordered on December 7th (which is both Pearl Harbor Day and the day I got engaged to my wife back in 1990). In this one, I put Jessica Backman in a very, very bad place. Why am I so mean to her?
Sometimes, the dead are best left in peace.
Jessica Backman has been called to help a strange family living on a haunted island in Charleston Harbor. Ormsby Island was the site of a brutal massacre two decades ago, and now the mysterious Harper family needs someone to exorcise the ghosts that still call it home. The phantoms of over one hundred children cannot rest.
But something far more insidious is living on the island. When the living and the dead guard their true intentions, how can Jessica discover just what sort of evil lurks on Ormsby Island? And why is Jessica the only one who can plumb its dark depths?
ISLAND comes out the first week in January, along with a slew of other books by great authors like Jonathan Janz, Russell James and Glenn Rolfe. This isn’t an island you want to be stranded on, even if Maryanne and Ginger are there.
What better day to kick off a mini-blog tour for my weird western, HELL HOLE, than on Halloween? There’s guaranteed to be something in that twisted yarn to make you say your prayers before turning out the light. To follow the tour (with guest posts, interviews and reviews), all you need to do is click the banner below. Big thanks, as always, to Erin at Hook of a Book for putting it all together.
And check this out. My main monster man, Jack Campisi, just released an official Monster Men music video. It’s going to be displayed on our YouTube channel, Monster Men 13. Tired of ‘All About That Bass’ playing in circles in your brain? Let the Monster Men take over! Perfect background music while you put on your Halloween costume today!
We expect to get no fewer than 300 trick or treaters tonight as we rock our annual house party. Hope I’ll have enough brain cells left this weekend to finish my next cryptid novel.
What are you all doing for Halloween? Please tell me my neighborhood isn’t the last bastion for balls to the wall trick or treating.
I’m writing this from deep in the abandoned copper mines in Hecla, Wyoming. It’s kinda dark in here but the internet access is surprisingly good. I just spotted a pair of rough hombres skulking around. They have the spirits all riled up. Hope they know what they’re doing.
As you may or may not know, my most recent novel, HELL HOLE, takes place right here in these mysterious hills. A pair of former Rough Riders plumb the very depths of these mines on the orders of none other than Teddy Roosevelt. What they encounter, well, let’s just say none of it’s good. Unless being harrassed by ghosts, black eyes kids, squatches and a whole host of craziness is your idea of a fun time.
HELL HOLE was written with the Halloween season in mind. I want people to read horror as much as they watch it, especially this month of #Horrortober! So, here’s what I aim to do. I’m going to give a free ebook to everyone who does one of the following:
- Go to Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Samhain’s website and post a review/rating for Hell Hole. Once you do, send an email to email@example.com with a link to your review or rating.
- Purchase a copy of Hell Hole. Again, send a screen print or other proof of purchase to firstname.lastname@example.org
One book per customer. This incredible offer lasts until October 31, 2014.
This is all part of my plan to win the lottery and buy the most tricked out RV in history, convert it into a book mobile and travel the country handing out books and spreading the love of reading. So come on, show your love for HELL HOLE and Halloween. I’ll make it worth your while.
Over the years listening to Jim Harold’s Paranormal Podcast and becoming a subscriber to his Plus club where I can feed my paranomral addiciton daily, I’ve become a bit of a fanboy. I told him recently that’s he’s become the Leonard Nimoy (ala In Search of…) of the modern day.
A few years ago, I was on his Campfire Tales podcast, talking about the strange haunting I’ve been experiencing over the years. Well, you can imagine how thrilled I was when Jim emailed me saying he’d like to include it in his latest book, TRUE GHOST STORIES : JIM HAROLD’S CAMPFIRE 3.
You can get a copy of Campfire 3 on your e-reader for just $2.99 – that’s less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks. In it, you’ll get 70 chilling tales of ghosts and high strangeness, as told by the people who experienced the unknown. You can also get it in paperback. Guess what I’m giving out to the trick or treaters this year!
And while you’re at it, check out his FREE Paranormal Podcast. And if you’ve had a ghostly encounter, send him an email and be part of his Campfire Tales show. You just may end up in a future edition.