For the Love of the Novella

by Mark Allan Gunnells

 Deviations from the Norm

Deviations from the Norm

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I love the novella format. I think it is the perfect length for many tales. Long enough to really develop the stories and characters, not so long that it wears out its welcome and starts to feel padded. As a reader, I’ve always particularly enjoyed when King puts out novella collections, and I was thrilled when his son Joe Hill followed suit recently.

Now I’m thrilled to offer my own novella collection, DEVIATIONS FROM THE NORM. Thematically, I took three familiar horror tropes (the vampire, the time machine, the deal with the devil) and gave them my own twists, hopefully making them fresh and unexpected.

In this blog, I want to talk specifically about one of the novellas and how it came to be. And that is my vampire novella, “The Unholy Eucharist,” which leads off the collection.

This is the first actual significant work of vampire fiction I’ve had published, which is surprising. To me, if to no one else. In my teens and early 20s, I wrote almost nothing but vampire fiction. It was a bit of an obsession with me, to be honest. By the time I finally started publishing in my 30s, I had moved a bit beyond that. And yet I continued to love vampire fiction, both in literary and cinematic forms. I published books about zombies, werewolves, witches, ghosts…but there came a point when I began to feel the itch to delve back into vampires.

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The true genesis of “The Unholy Eucharist” came when I thought back on an abandoned vampire novel I had started in my early 20s called THE APPRENTICE (long before there was any such show by that name). In that novel, I gave a detailed backstory for the vampire legend, creating my own unique origin story. I kept some of the traditional rules, altered others, and came up with some that were completely unique to my vampires. I had so much fun working with the legend and putting my own stamp on it.

But I abandoned that novel because of aspects to my origin story that didn’t make sense, and I had been unable to come up with explanations that worked and felt plausible within the fictional framework.

However, all these years later I did find solutions to those problems that once seemed insurmountable in my youth. I suddenly saw how I needed to change the story around to make it work. I wasted very little time and dove into the writing of “The Unholy Eucharist.”

What resulted was not a reworking of my earlier novel; that remained abandoned. This was specifically a reworking of my origin story for the vampire legend. It necessitated much more research than I normally do because the story is episodic in nature and takes places in various countries during various past time periods. My research was episodic in nature as well. I’d research the time period for the next section, write it, then research the time period for the section after that one. I actually rather enjoyed it.

And once I was done, I had a novella that I feel is quite different from anything else I’ve published in the past while unquestionably being a Gunnells story. I’m thrilled to finally have my own take on the genre out there and available for readers, and I hope they enjoy it. I suspect I have more stories to tell in this particular world.

Deviations from the Norm is available now in print and digital. Click HERE.

Follow Mark Allan Gunnels on Facebook HERE

or Twitter HERE

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 Mark Allan Gunnells loves to tell stories. He has since he was a kid, penning one-page tales that were Twilight Zone knockoffs. He likes to think he has gotten a little better since then. He loves reader feedback, and above all he loves telling stories. He lives in Greer, SC, with his husband Craig A. Metcalf.

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Michael Schutz

Michael Schutz was born and raised in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin, where the macabre tales of Ray Bradbury and Stephen King kept him warm at night. He’s seen way too many horror movies to be healthy and blogs and podcasts about them on Darkness Dwells. Watch for his new novel, Edging, from Burning Willow Press in spring 2017. He is the author of the novel Blood Vengeance and the novella Uninoch. His short fiction has been featured most recently in Dark Moon Digest, Sanitarium, and the anthologies Beasts: Revelations, Beyond the Nightlight, and Cranial Leakage: Tales from the Grinning Skull. He lives with his three naughty cat-children in northern California. 

Get in Trouble--Stories by Kelly Link

a Michael Schutz blog

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A new friend of mine recommended this book during a conversation about the best new(ish) fiction. It really is a good idea for me to take a break from horror novels of the 70s and 90s and take a peek at what authors write these days. Okay, I’m not that bad, but I often do feel like I’m playing catch-up. I expected good things from Get in Trouble. I did not expect to read life-changing short stories.

Kelly Link writes strong, intelligent prose. That alone is pure pleasure to read. But her narrative style is something sparse and new, and she creates her stories with astounding confidence. Instead of straight-forward description, dialog, and plot, Link’s stories feature a sort of abstract approach. Rarely do we have an orienting opening paragraph or two. These tales begin in medias res, wasting no time with exposition about the weather, the protagonist’s hair and eye color, and the droll (or, actually, the startling inventive) landscapes. We are immediately rocked back on our heels and then must race to catch up. It’s a breathless, pulse-pounding initiation into her every world.

I liked some of the stories better than others. “I Can See Right Through You” left me a little confused and unsatisfied. “Valley of the Girls” and “Origin Story” left me a lot confused and unsatisfied. But even these were written with an admirably fresh prose and forethought.

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The stories that did work for me worked like nothing I’ve read since those in The October Country and Skeleton Crew. “The Summer People” started off the whole book with its slow Southern drawl of cosmic horror.  “The Lesson” is the finest modern literary short story I’ve read. Link’s trademark style brings a pleasantly odd perspective to the relationship between these two men, their stresses surrounding a coming baby, and a subtle but steady bad feeling about the groom and groomsmen. “Two Houses” give us a science fiction story, and though that one was included in a Ray Bradbury tribute anthology, I see the master’s influence most in “The New Boyfriend.” And that tale affected me the most. It’s so unique, so new, and perfect that it makes me wonder what I’ve been doing with my life.

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Based on this collection, I consider Kelly Link the modern master of magic realism. Nobody writes like her. Nobody has the off-the-wall imagination that she has. Her voice is a force that resonates with me as a reader and as a writer. I cannot wait to read her entire bibliography.

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Comment

Michael Schutz

Michael Schutz was born and raised in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin, where the macabre tales of Ray Bradbury and Stephen King kept him warm at night. He’s seen way too many horror movies to be healthy and blogs and podcasts about them on Darkness Dwells. Watch for his new novel, Edging, from Burning Willow Press in spring 2017. He is the author of the novel Blood Vengeance and the novella Uninoch. His short fiction has been featured most recently in Dark Moon Digest, Sanitarium, and the anthologies Beasts: Revelations, Beyond the Nightlight, and Cranial Leakage: Tales from the Grinning Skull. He lives with his three naughty cat-children in northern California. 

Hieroglyphs of Blood and Bone by Michael Griffin

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Michael Griffin is fast becoming a well-known writer within the contemporary weird fiction movement. His first collection, The Lure of Devouring Light, made waves back in 2016, and his next collection is due out in June 2018, which will include his novella An Ideal Retreat. It's exciting times for Michael Griffin, and especially so for his fans.

Hieroglyphs of Blood and Bone tells the tale of Guy, whose marriage of two decades ends suddenly and he's living with a co-worker, Karl who is much younger. As one would expect when living with a younger bachelor, Karl is trying to get Guy laid, to experience life beyond the chain of his broken marriage and emotionally abusive ex-wife. It's not working out so well.

Hieroglyphs of Blood and Bone, I think, is about how we, in our lives, live in different chapters. One chapter can be completely alien to the next. This book is a character study that asks what happens when a person changes chapters abruptly and without any real choice in the matter. How does one find their way after living a life for 20 years of smooth transitions between chapters, and how does our protagonist find peace amongst the emotional chaos while finding a new rhythm. How does one survive while facing what is perhaps the most frightening aspect of all, yourself? Along the way, Guy meets a mysterious woman, Lily, who completely captures his attention and somehow manages to warp time and thought.

This story is a Journey down the literary rabbit hole that questions reality and sanity, time and place. It is, in the end, a piece of art that had me guessing and thinking about the story throughout the entire process. It also managed to scratch the proverbial itch I have been having lately to read something on the literary. A full five stars on this one. Recommended.   

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Guest Author Robert E. Waters on C.H.U.D.

Robert Waters was kind enough to write about his experience with C.H.U.D. and how the 80s molded him as a writer.

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Hello everyone!

My name is Robert E Waters, and I’m one of the 21 authors featured in the upcoming C.H.U.D. anthology, C.H.U.D. Lives! And indeed it does live, in the collective minds of all who grew up in the 1980s and enjoyed that decade’s horror films. But, let’s back up a little bit…

I was born in 1968, the year that saw a lot of social upheaval, but a year that also saw the release of Rosemary’s Baby and Night of the Living Dead, two horror classics that have, without doubt, withstood the test of time. Naturally, I was too young to watch those movies on their release, but it wouldn’t be long before I would huddle in fear under a blanket on the couch as I watched Friday night reruns of Big Chuck and Hoolihan, a creature-feature type show that they used to pump into black-and-white TVs around Cleveland, Ohio. One of my fondest memories (well, fond memory now; not so then…) was having a sleepover with one of my friends, staying up late to watch the 1941 Wolfman with Lon Chaney Jr. and Claude Rains, falling asleep mid-way through, and then waking up in a dreamy daze thinking my hands were covered in thick monster fur. Oh, what crazy and fearful times were those!

But it wasn’t until the early 80s when my love for horror films and horror fiction took serious root. I discovered the fiction of Stephen King, Nick Sharman, James Herbert, Peter Straub, Jack Ketchum, and many others as I was beginning to develop this wild notion of becoming a writer. And the horror film classics of that decade are undeniable—The Shining, Friday the 13th, The Howling, The Evil Dead, The Thing—and on and on and on. In my mind, the 1980s is still one of the best decades for horror films and fiction, and horror was the only thing I read for years. If you knew me in middle school, I was never seen without the latest horror novel in hand.

C.H.U.D. (Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers) was released in 1984. I was too young and it was too R-rated for me to see in the theater, but I rented it years later on VCR. The first scene with actress Laurie Mattos (aka Flora Bosch) and her cute little white dog, hooked me. I loved the movie, even though I could tell that it was a pretty low budget affair. It was intense, funny, dramatic, always campy, but thoroughly entertaining. Looking back on it now, I’m quite amazed by how much great acting talent was in the film: Daniel Stern, John Heard, John Goodman, Chris Curry, Kim Greist, and many others. Many of these fine actors have gone on to have fine careers, and who would have guessed that a film about cannibals in the sewers of New York would have been the springboard for so many Hollywood stars?

Many, many years later, I met editor/author Eric Brown at the LibertyCon SF convention in Chattanooga, TN. We spoke about collaborating on stories set in Eric Flint’s alternate history series, 1632/Ring of Fire. Several collaborations later and Eric invited me to join the C.H.U.D. tribute anthology. I agreed immediately, but I hadn’t seen the movie in years. That night, I ordered it up on my local cable provider, and thirty minutes later, I knew the story I wanted to write.

That iconic first scene of a lady walking her dog down a dark, steamy street, pausing near a manhole cover to pick up a handkerchief, and then being grabbed and pulled to her death by a powerful green hand out of that same manhole, made me ask the question, “Who is this woman, and why was she walking her dog down the middle of that street?” Later on in the film, we learn a little more about Flora Bosch, but I was not satisfied. I wanted to know more. Who was she? What kind of person was she? And indeed, what drove her to walk that poor little dog down that street at that exact moment?

My story “Dog Walker” is, at least, a modest attempt at trying to explain who Flora Bosch was and why she was there. I had trouble at one point finishing the story because I knew what was going to happen to her, and I didn’t want it to happen. I had spent many hours breathing life into this woman, and I didn’t think she deserved the end that she got. But, that is life, and when you play a role in a horror film, can you expect anything but a gruesome death?

I hope you enjoy my story and all the other stories in C.H.U.D. Lives! There is as much writing talent in this anthology as there was in the film… even more.

About Robert Waters:

Robert E Waters is a technical writer by trade but has been a science fiction/fantasy/horror fan all his life. He’s worked in the gaming industry since 1994 as a designer, producer, and writer. In the late 90’s, he tried his hand at writing fiction, and since 2003, has sold over 50 stories to various online and print magazines and anthologies, including the Grantville Gazette, Eric Flint’s online magazine dedicated to publishing stories set in the 1632/Ring of Fire series. Robert is currently working in collaboration with Charles E Gannon on a Ring of Fire novel titled, 1636: Calabar’s War. Robert has also co-written several stories, as well as the Persistence of Dreams, with Meriah L Crawford, and The Monster Society, with Eric S Brown.

He has also written in several tabletop gaming universes, including Games Workshop’s Warhammer Fantasy series and in the Wild West Exodus weird tech/steampunk universe. He has also dabbled a bit in Warlord Games’ Beyond the Gates of Antares milieu, writing about assassins and rescue missions.

Robert currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland, with his wife Beth, their son Jason, and their precocious little cat Buzz.

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Martin Powell Guest Blog For The Month Of C.H.U.D.

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Darkness Dwells is proud to present an interview with Martin Powell regarding C.H.U.D. and his contribution to the C.H.U.D. Lives Tribute anthology.

 Darkness Dwells:  Thank you for talking with us! Do you remember the first time you watched C.H.U.D? If so, how did the movie affect you?

POWELL:  I vividly remember snatching the VHS from the shelf at a local video store, attracted by the box art.  Of course, kids today can’t appreciate how exciting the advent of Home Video was, making it possible to see more movies than ever before.  During that period, slasher films mostly dominated the horror genre which I’m not of fan of, but I’ve always loved monsters, especially the Frankenstein series of Universal Studios.  Movie monsters were rare during those days, but C.H.U.D. certainly had ‘em.  Very cool ones, too.

DD:  How did you approach writing your story for C.H.U.D?

POWELL:  When I started thinking about my story, I knew wanted to portray the creatures in a rather sympathetic way, but still make them terrifying.  The trick was to expand upon the movie itself, without trying to redundantly imitate it.  While I was re-watching my DVD copy of C.H.U.D., it occurred to me that they didn’t really get into the creatures’ heads or explore what the mutation experience would be like, so I went in that direction.

DD:  What was your biggest challenge writing it?

POWELL:  Well, I’m a full-time writer with a seven-days-per-week schedule, so the biggest challenge was just finding the time to write it.  When editor Eric Brown first approached me to be a part of the anthology, I very reluctantly turned him down and immediately I regretted that.  Deciding that sleep is overrated, and I’m an insomniac anyway, I messaged Eric back and said if he’d still have me, I’d be delighted.  Otherwise, I knew I’d be missing out on something very fun. 

DD:  Your story, “Monstrous Me” has an element of body horror to it. Is this something you enjoy writing about?

POWELL:  Well, sort of.  Although I’ve never been a fan of visceral gore for its own sake, but metamorphosis in horror has always fascinated me.  Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a trailblazer in the genre, and Bram Stoker’s poignantly eloquent and ultimately terrifying transformation of Lucy Westenra in DRACULA is brilliantly conceived.  Kafka achieved some very disturbing psychological effects, too.  All of those inspired and influenced me.

DD:  If you ever had the chance to either write for another 80s horror movie tribute anthology, which movie would you choose and why?

POWELL:  Probably American Werewolf in London, because it also deals with metamorphosis.  Also, I’m a big fan of Fred Dekker’s MONSTER SQUAD.

DD:  Man, those are two great movies and would be fun to write in their world. Do you have anything coming out soon that readers can check out?

POWELL:  I write nearly a dozen weekly online comic strips for Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., which will be collected as printed volumes by Dark Horse.  My Amazon Author’s Page has zillions of my graphic novels, children’s books, and prose fiction available all the time.  Also, I’m writing a new horror prose novel, The Witch of Cypress Creek, to be released in 2019.

About Martin Powell:

Martin Powell has written hundreds of stories in numerous genres for Disney, Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and Capstone Books, among others. Nominated for the prestigious Eisner Award for his work with Sherlock Holmes, he has written many of the most popular characters in the industry, including Superman, Batman, Popeye the Sailor, Dracula, Frankenstein, and Tarzan of the Apes. Currently, as the author of almost a dozen different ERB online comic strips, and the critically acclaimed Jungle Tales of Tarzan graphic novel from Dark Horse, Powell has written more Edgar Rice Burroughs characters than any other contemporary writer.  He received the coveted Golden Lion Award from the Burroughs Bibliophiles in 2017 for his on-going contributions to the legacy of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Visit Martin and his work online:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/martin.powell1

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Martin-Powell/e/B001JRXRSU

Website: http://www.edgarriceburroughs.com/comics/

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Author Chad Lutzke Visits The Month of C.H.U.D.

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Continuing Darkness Dwells' journey into the Month of C.H.U.D., author Chad Lutzke visits the blog and answers a few questions.  

Darkness Dwells - Do you remember the first time you watched C.H.U.D? If so, how did the movie affect you? 

Lutzke - I don't remember the first time I saw it, but I recall seeing the poster and the trailer and imagined it being much scarier than it was. The film was very popular among my friends at the time, though none of us had seen it yet because it was new. It was almost scarier that way, knowing this movie existed that we knew nothing about, only the idea that something lurked beneath us.  

DD - How did you approach writing your story for C.H.U.D?

Lutzke - I didn't want to use any of the existing characters or make it about the creatures themselves. I wanted to show a human side to the epidemic, with the spotlight on someone who once was and someone who still is--an isolated incident with an everyday joe, not a hero but someone relatable and what they're going through in the midst of it all.

DD - What was your biggest challenge writing it? 

Lutzke - Coming up with something I felt would be original enough to be worthy of people's time. The research part was fun, though. Because I hadn't seen the film since the 80s, I bought the DVD and made a night of it.

DD - Having read an advance copy of your story, Step Ate, interested me because I love stories with addicts in them. Is addiction a theme you like to write about? I’m thinking of Wallflower. 

Lutzke - Not really. Just a coincidence, though I do have a history with substance abuse, did a stint in rehab several years ago and have had my share of 12-step meetings. But I'm very proud to say I haven't touched even so much as a joint in almost 30 years.

DD - If you ever had the chance to either write or edit for another 80s horror movie, which movie would you choose and why? 

Lutzke - Great question! Basket Case would be a fun one, but I'm not sure there's enough to play with to fill a whole book and be entertaining. How about Phantasm?! All kinds of ideas could come from The Tall Man's origin and his little jawa helpers. This needs to happen now!

DD - What do you have out or are coming out soon that readers can check out?  

Lutzke - I just had a brand new novella come out through Bloodshot Books called STIRRING THE SHEETS. It's about an elderly funeral home worker who is dealing with the loss of his wife and runs across a body at work that resembles his late bride in her younger years. He tries to cope, stuff happens. It's about morbid desperation, loneliness, and letting go. Every book I've written is available on Amazon and you can check me out at www.chadlutzke.com

About Chad Lutzke:

Chad lives in Battle Creek, MI. with his wife, children.  For over two decades, he has been a contributor to several different outlets in the independent music and film scene, offering articles, reviews, and artwork. He has written for Famous Monsters of Filmland, Rue Morgue, Cemetery Dance, and scream magazine. His fiction can be found in a few dozen magazines and anthologies including his own 18-story collection NIGHT AS A CATALYST. In the summer of 2016 he released his dark coming-of-age novella OF FOSTER HOMES AND FLIES which has been praised by authors Jack Ketchum, James Newman, John Boden, and many others.  Later in 2016 Lutzke released his contribution to bestselling author J. Thorn'sAMERICAN DEMON HUNTERS series, and 2017 saw the release of his novella WALLFLOWER. His latest, STIRRING THE SHEETS, was published by Bloodshot Books in spring 2018.

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The Month of C.H.U.D.

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On April 27th, Crystal Lake Publishing is set to release their first big anthology of the year with the C.H.U.D. Lives Tribute. If it is successful, who knows, maybe more movie tributes will come around. Now, that would be exciting indeed! 

You can preorder a copy of The C.H.U.D. Lives Tribute here.

Stick around because if everything goes as planned we have interviews lined up in both written and audio format. There may also be an essay or two.  It's going to be a lot of fun, but in order to enjoy it, you really need to see and/or rewatch the movie. It's popcorn-munching radioactive fun. It's available on the iTunes Store and at Amazon.com

 

Black Mirror and the New Premature Burial by Michael Schutz

Black Mirror made a hardcore fan out of me by the second episode. What I love most about Black Mirror is that it doesn’t transport us centuries into the future. The episodes don’t show starships cruising at lightspeed through alien landscapes. Faces and landscapes are familiar. Most importantly—and frightening—is that the technology is familiar, too. The writers and directors play off tech that’s currently in use or in development and fast-forward us five, ten, maybe twenty years. And now four seasons in, we’ve seen an oft-repeated theme of trapped consciousness.

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In my favorite episode, “White Christmas,” the trapped consciousness isn’t a twist. Jon Hamm’s character talks about his work right up front, so we can discuss this without egregious spoilers. The technology in this episode is Alexa 4.0. Sure our current devices run aspects of our household: lighting, music, voice-activated Googling. Have you seen that smart-house in Mr. Robot? Black Mirror takes us a few steps further, skipping the tired trope of artificial intelligence. Why implement AI when we can have actual intelligence? Copy your own consciousness and transplant it into a little device (it’s an “egg” in “White Christmas”.) There’s a little version of you inside there, keeping your environment just the way you want it: climate, calendar, cooking. Everything there for you how and when you need it.

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A great idea except that the copy of consciousness, for all intents and purposes IS you. And from its perspective, you wake up one day in a blank landscape. You’re trapped inside this little white room, and the almighty voice of the programmer, your new God, informs you that you’re not you. You’re a copy, and your job for all eternity is to keep the heat at seventy degrees and that smooth jazz at volume level five. If you woke up tomorrow morning to that scenario, you’d probably do what the character in the episode does: Yell out a big old screw you. But you’re not a person. You have no rights. You have no control. And the programmer sets a timer and lets you sit for thirty days in that white room without sleep, without television or devices, with no food or drink since you need no sustenance. Nothing for thirty days. 720 hours of nothing. Until the voice of God finally speaks again. Elapsed time out there in the real world? Thirty seconds. He can give you an entire year of nothing, ten years of nothing!

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Or you can sit at your control panel and preheat that oven to 450 when the “real” you arrives home at 5:30. You can adjust the mood lighting for the real you when she brings dates home. You can set daily reminders so the real you can pick up prescriptions at Walgreens. The choice is all yours. You can sit for a near eternity and lose your mind with boredom and silence, without the succor of sleep or basic pleasures of drink or food, or you can be a good little drone and do this job.

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Versions of this hell play out in several unique episodes, and all the subtleties and vagaries are brilliant. But the unimaginable torture is the same. You wake up and find yourself in an endless loop, or endless pain, or endless boredom. You’re told that you’re not you. And sometimes it’s you yourself who sentenced this on you. You’re a copy. A clone. Your destiny is to serve or suffer. For eternity. Alone.

The genius of this topic is that it’s an update on a very old fear: the premature burial. Edgar Allan Poe himself suffered from the terror of being buried alive. He wasn’t alone. Do a quick Google search of the Goldberg machine-like contraptions people invented so that if they woke in a coffin they could pull a cord and ring a bell. Up through the early Twentieth Century, that was a legitimate fear. When a guy died, he didn’t get a trip to the coroner, maybe an autopsy, and certainly an embalming. His body was put in a box and buried.

In the modern era, this fear has been portrayed with torture or hostage premises. Ryan Reynolds starred in 2010’s Buried. Quentin Tarantino directed a two-part CSI episode about being buried alive, which will make you open your windows or take a walk afterward to relieve the stress.

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Through the lens of Black Mirror, this age-old fear has evolved beyond the literal. It’s no less terrifying. In fact, the technological equivalent is a thousand times more horrible because you won’t die of thirst or suffocation as you tear off your fingernails scratching at the coffin lid. Premature burial may be a gruesome fate, but as a victim of trapped consciousness you will simply live on and on and on and on…

So stay dark my friends, and stay in your own head.

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Comment

Michael Schutz

Michael Schutz was born and raised in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin, where the macabre tales of Ray Bradbury and Stephen King kept him warm at night. He’s seen way too many horror movies to be healthy and blogs and podcasts about them on Darkness Dwells. Watch for his new novel, Edging, from Burning Willow Press in spring 2017. He is the author of the novel Blood Vengeance and the novella Uninoch. His short fiction has been featured most recently in Dark Moon Digest, Sanitarium, and the anthologies Beasts: Revelations, Beyond the Nightlight, and Cranial Leakage: Tales from the Grinning Skull. He lives with his three naughty cat-children in northern California. 

Tamara Thorne's Candle Bay thoughts by Michael Schutz

When one reads or writes a new vampire story, two questions need asking:

1. Does this story have something fresh to say?

2. Does this story add to the canon in a meaningful or interesting way?

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The answers are an unequivocal yes with Tamara Thorne’s novel Candle Bay.

Think Mario Puzo meets Anne Rice. A family of vampires own and operate a half-kitchy, half-swanky resort in the middle of fog-shrouded nowhere. A rival family wants the secret that the Darlings have kept hidden for centuries. Thrown into the mix is a medicine that should give the Darling family an edge. But do they have an ally or a mole? The mobster subtext is both fun and compelling.

My favorite new twist is that when consumed beyond the need for simple sustenance, blood acts like alcohol. Vampires keep bottles of blood like wine, savoring a delicate vintage of AB-negative.

Thorne also creates, in a tight few paragraphs, a history of the vampiric race that rivals what Anne Rice assembled over an entire series of novels. There’s also a great exploration of two types of vampires: trueborn and human vampires that adds excellent subtext in the interplay of characters. And the nature of these vampires in Candle Bay is presented as an elegant balance of savage predators and sexual paramours, weaving together both major traits, which have become a hot topic of debate lately.

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Balance is what Thorne does best in this novel. This is a love story. A mob story. A family drama. A wise combination of creepy, thrilling, titillating, and good old vampire fun. Thorne brings to life a huge cast of characters and imbues them with distinct personalities. These are living and breathing (so to speak) people who have good and evil in their hearts just like we all do. She gives us a half dozen different points of view with these characters, but knits them all together so the narrative never loses its tight focus.

Candle Bay is certainly a must-read for any vampire enthusiast, but it succeeds as a chiller that will please any reader of horror and thrillers. It’s a terrific novel beyond any category.

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First published in 1991, Tamara Thorne is the author of the international bestsellers Haunted, Bad Things, Moonfall, and The Sorority. Her novels range from straight-out ghost stories to tales of witchcraft, conspiracies, UFOs, elemental forces, and vampires.

Tamara also conducts real-life investigations of anomalous phenomena and has seen a number of odd things over the last twenty years. As an open-minded skeptic, she's spoken to many paranormal groups and has appeared on the television show, Ghost Adventures.  She has also been featured on many radio programs and in various newspapers on the topics of haunted places and local lore. A journalist by training, she occasionally writes about ghosts and hauntings for a syndicate of southern California newspapers, but her first love is, and has always been, telling ghost stories to make people scream. . . and laugh.

Today, she and her frequent collaborator, Alistair Cross, share their worlds and continue to write about ghosts and other mysterious forces. Together, they host Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE! and have recently finished their latest novel Darling Girls, a continuation of Tamara’s novel, Candle Bay, and Alistair’s novel, The Crimson Corset. Thorne and Cross also write the bestselling Gothic Horror series, The Ravencrest Saga, together.

You can visit Tamara on Twitter, Facebook, or at her blog.

https://twitter.com/tamarathorne

https://www.facebook.com/tamara.thorne

https://www.tamarathorne.wordpress.com/

 

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Michael Schutz

Michael Schutz was born and raised in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin, where the macabre tales of Ray Bradbury and Stephen King kept him warm at night. He’s seen way too many horror movies to be healthy and blogs and podcasts about them on Darkness Dwells. Watch for his new novel, Edging, from Burning Willow Press in spring 2017. He is the author of the novel Blood Vengeance and the novella Uninoch. His short fiction has been featured most recently in Dark Moon Digest, Sanitarium, and the anthologies Beasts: Revelations, Beyond the Nightlight, and Cranial Leakage: Tales from the Grinning Skull. He lives with his three naughty cat-children in northern California. 

20 Women Horror Writers You Need To Read

Written by Jason White

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For years I've heard about Women in Horror month while listening to horror writing podcasts, and I always wondered why there is a need for it. And every year I'm reminded that there are still assholes out there who would belittle other writers simply because of their sex.

In my mind, all year we should celebrate women in horror. Why? Because they're just as good as any other minority. They are also just as good, if not sometimes better, than the privileged straight white man. So yeah, a month dedicated to women who write horror is indeed needed to remind those who would be fools and forget. The idea came to me to utilize Darkness Dwells and WiH month after reading a Facebook post from a friend of mine who was upset about another post where some jerk suggested that a female writer was only lucky to be where they were within the publishing industry, suggesting that their pretty face is what got them there.

Now, let's get something clear. Yes, luck is needed, in my opinion, for anyone to succeed. But guess what, folks. Luck will get you nowhere without any talent and, much more importantly, the drive and work ethic to bust your ass. It takes a lot of time and a lot of work. So to get so far only to have someone say that you only got there because you're a woman, and a lucky one at that, is demeaning and insulting. We need to change this. We're all people. We should be defined by what we do, not the package we come in. 

Hence the need for a month to celebrate the things women have done in our beloved genre. Below is a list of some fantastic women horror writers working today, and you'd do yourself a big favor checking them out if you haven't already. To help you out, each author comes with a book recommendation. I'm certain that I'm missing some of my favorites. It's easy to do because there are so many. This list isn't in any specific order. Not really. Okay, maybe a little bit... but very loosely. I wanted to scatter some of the bigger names along with the smaller ones. Enjoy!

1. Mercedes M. Yardley 

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Mercedes is probably one of my favorite horror writers of all time. Her stories are always either whimsical or just plain beautiful. I'd recommend you check out all of her work, but I'm going to suggest Pretty Little Dead Girls: A Novel of Murder and Whimsy. 

Synopsis: “Run, Star Girl.” Bryony Adams is destined to be murdered, but fortunately Fate has terrible marksmanship. In order to survive, she must run as far and as fast as she can. After arriving in Seattle, Bryony befriends a tortured musician, a market fish-thrower, and a starry-eyed hero who is secretly a serial killer bent on fulfilling Bryony’s dark destiny. Mercedes M. Yardley’s Pretty Little Dead Girls: A Novel of Murder and Whimsy is a dark, lovely fairy tale with lyrical language and a high body count, and features a cover by Hugo award-winner Galen Dara. Includes “Oliver Bloom” by Ryan Johnson, a short story featuring characters from Pretty Little Dead Girls.

2. Lucy Taylor

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I've had the privilege to talk with Lucy twice. Once for The Great Lakes Horror Company Podcast and once for Darkness Dwells. The first time she beckoned me to read her novella, Sweetlings, released during the summer of 2017 by Tor.com. I said I would and promptly forgot. She messaged me a few weeks later, wondering if I'd read it yet. I told her that I hadn't, but promised to fix it. And thank god I did! Reading Sweetlings made me an instant fan. Her prose and storytelling capability remind me of Margaret Atwood a little, while her voice remains completely her own. Sweetlings has the same atmosphere as some of her works. Highly recommended sci-fi horror.

Synopsis: "Sweetlings" by Lucy Taylor is about a small enclave of people living on the shrunken east coast of the United States, surviving and evolving as Earth’s seas rise.


3. Amber Fallon  

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I've heard of Amber's work for a little while now. She and I are friends on Facebook and I see a lot of her posts. Recently I got curious and decided to check out some of her work. I'm glad I did. I can see her becoming a new favorite. The Warblers is a fantastic and fun read, and I envy her ability to slip into the skin of another person and remain there in order to tell the story. Although Warblers was the first, it definitely won't be the last.

Synopsis: After the sun would go down, I’d hear them out there, back by the shed, shrieking their twisted warbling cries out there in the night, followed by squeals of whatever prey they’d managed to hunt down.

When his rural farm becomes overrun with terrifying beasts called Warblers capable of eating livestock, dogs, and even people, 14-year-old Dell McDale’s life is torn asunder. He watches through the eyes of a boy on the verge of becoming a man as his father is forced to go to awful lengths to rid the family home of the infestation, culminating in a confrontation between Dell and a local bully-turned-soldier on a night that will change everyone involved, forever.

The Warblers is a mysterious tale of a young man learning what fear can do to people and what happens when in order to fight monsters, one must side with another monster. 


4. Michelle Garza & Melissa Lason 

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Michelle and Melissa are a ton of fun to not only read but to talk to, as Michael and I did in episode 66. I read Those Who Follow and was completely blown away by the darkness, the violence, the bleak and dreadful atmosphere. Another thing that I love about this book is how interesting it is. It's a fantastic read and I can't recommend it enough.

Synopsis: 

A WAYFARING STRANGER

Tormented by visions of women imprisoned in the middle of a barren wasteland and an old man with a yellow-toothed grin, Casey has been wandering this country’s highways following a song that she believes will lead her to her other self.

A CHURCH IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE

Held captive in a desecrated shrine, Celia would have given up long ago if not for a song that keeps her hope burning. Someday she will escape from the shadowy creatures that claw at the windows of the church, the monstrous dog with a taste for human flesh, and the old preacher with inhuman powers. 

A BOND THAT CROSSES WORLDS

Two women divided by fate but connected by blood. Will the song help them lead the way to each other and defeat the forces aligned against them? Or will they suffer the dreadful fate of…

THOSE WHO FOLLOW

5. Sephera Giron

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I might be biased here as I've known Sephera since 2006 or 2007. I took an online horror writing course and Sephera was my teacher. I had no idea she was from Toronto until she invited me out to an HWA dinner the Ontario Chapter holds once a month. She's been nothing but good to me, and I love her writing. Captured Souls is a fast and fun read and I recommend it along with her entire catalog of releases.

Synopsis: Dr. Miriam Frederick is brilliant but lonely.

She is an award-winning scientist and professor at a local University. She uses her grant money to build a secret lab in her basement where she conducts mysterious experiments.

Her subjects are the most perfect of humans. An intelligent author, an athlete with great stamina, and a beauty queen.

Her dream is to combine all their qualities to create a family that will satisfy her deepest desires.

However, the specimens aren't always willing.

And sometimes, secrets are discovered.

Will the doctor be successful in her quest for companionship?

Find out in the thrilling horror story, Captured Souls.

6. Lisa Morton

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I have yet to read a novel by Lisa Morton. It's just one of those things. I do, however, love her short fiction and am blown away every time I read her. Cemetery Dance Select is a collection of some of her best work.

Synopsis: The Cemetery Dance Select series invites some of our favorite authors to spotlight a sampling of their own short fiction: award-winners, stories they consider their best or that had the most impact on their career—or neglected favorites they feel deserve a second look.

Long-time fans will enjoy revisiting some classic tales. New readers will find this series a handy introduction to each author’s best work.

Each CD Select mini-collection includes an exclusive Afterword where the author explains the reasoning behind each selection, and provides insights into the writing of each story.

The stories Lisa Morton has chosen for this collection are:

Black Mill Cove
Joe and Abel in the Field of Rest
Tested
Pound Rots in Fragrant Harbour

7. Kindra Sowder

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One thing that I love about Kindra Sowder's work is how she often uses classic horror elements and characters to create urban fantasy that is dark and sometimes twisted. Chasing Shadows, for example, stars a descendant of Van Helsing.

Synopsis: Isabelle Van Helsing comes from a long and proud lineage, descended from the same man that went face-to-face with Dracula himself. Now that the world knows the supernatural exists, she is tasked with arresting and exterminating them, working for a government entity called The Initiative. And there are shadows lurking just waiting for the opportune moment to take it all down. After the death of a fellow Exterminator, Izzy and her snarky cohort and boyfriend Jonas McGrady, go to work investigating her death, finding that things aren't as black and white as they seemed.


8. Fiona Dodwell

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I've been reading Fiona's work for a few years now and had the opportunity to talk with her for the podcast way back in episode 36. She has a new book out, and it is a fantastic read. The Given is a novel about grief, despair, and the desperate need to heal.

Synopsis: Madison Walter thought she had everything.

A good job. A perfect husband. A baby on the way.

When a terrible tragedy turns her life upside down, Madison knows things will never be the same again.

Intent on saving her marriage, she joins her husband on a luxury trip abroad. However, a week in the sun turns into an abyss of despair and horror.

Can Madison save her life, her sanity and her family before it's too late?

9. Gemma Files

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Gemma Files is a fantastic and multi-award winning author. I had the chance to talk to her on episode 55 of the podcast. She's always great to talk to but she's even better to read. Experimental Film won the Shirley Jackson Award, and there's a good reason for it. It's a fantastic book, and one of my favorites.

Synopsis: Fired at almost the same time as her son Clark’s Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis, former film critic turned teacher Lois Cairns is caught in a depressive downward spiral, convinced she’s a failure who’s spent half her adult life writing about other people’s dreams without ever seeing any of her own come true. One night Lois attends a program of experimental film and emerges convinced she’s seen something no one else has—a sampled piece of silver nitrate silent film footage whose existence might prove that an eccentric early 20th-century socialite who disappeared under mysterious circumstances was also one of Canada’s first female movie-makers. Though it raises her spirits and revitalizes her creatively, Lois’s headlong quest to discover the truth about Mrs. A. Macalla Whitcomb almost immediately begins to send her much further than she ever wanted to go, revealing increasingly troubling links between her subject’s life and her own. Slowly but surely, the malign influence of Mrs Whitcomb’s muse begins to creep into every aspect of Lois’s life, even placing her son in danger. But how can one increasingly ill and unstable woman possibly hope to defeat a threat that’s half long-lost folklore, half cinematically framed hallucination—an existential nightmare made physical, projected off the screen and into real life?


10. Mary SanGiovanni

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Mary SanGiovanni first blew me away and hooked me on her fiction with her novel Thrall. I l really can't get enough of her fiction. She tends to write about all the things that I love most in horror: the supernatural and monsters. Savage Woods is her latest and is probably her best yet. You need to check this out!

Synopsis: Nilhollow—six-hundred-plus acres of haunted woods in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens—is the stuff of urban legend. Amid tales of tree spirits and all-powerful forest gods are frightening accounts of hikers who went insane right before taking their own lives. It is here that Julia Russo flees when her violent ex-boyfriend runs her off the road . . . here that she vanishes without a trace.
 
State Trooper Peter Grainger has witnessed unspeakable things that have broken other men. But he has to find Julia and can’t turn back now. Every step takes him closer to an ugliness that won’t be appeased—a centuries-old, devouring hatred rising up to eviscerate humankind. Waiting, feeding, surviving. It’s unstoppable. And its time has come.

11. M.F. Wahl

M.F. Wahl is a writer to look forward to. She is an award-winning author and her first novel, Disease, reached #1 on Wattpad. Look for it on March 09, 2018 from Stitched Smile Publications. 

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Synopsis: 

Humanity’s war against the living dead has been lost. In the wake of the apocalypse, the living fight fiercely for what little they have.

In this hell-on-earth Casey, armed with a baseball bat, and joined by a mute boy named Alex, struggles to survive. When a man named Danny stumbles upon them, it’s mistrust at first sight – but times are desperate. Danny leads them to a thriving settlement where danger lurks beneath the guise of kindness.

It’s kill or be killed in a world where power is life, and the earth is overrun by walking dead.

 

12. Alessia Giacomi

Alessia is another fantastic writer from Toronto and she is a busy woman. A mother of two children and an educator, she is the author of the Zombie Girl Saga and is working on a book of poetry, a children's series, and a YA series. 

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Synopsis: Eve used to be an ordinary girl, from an ordinary town, with ordinary dreams, but her dreams rapidly turn into nightmares when one grave mistake leaves her a little less than human and a lot less average. 

Eve’s not quite the same girl she used to be. She desperately clings to her humanity as new desires, new abilities, and new urges take over with each passing day. 

Eve Brenner: Zombie Girl is a tale that takes you on an emotional and terrifying journey as Eve struggles to cope with her new life and find a cure for her strange illness before time runs out. She desperately clings to her humanity as she tries to control the monster she knows is lurking inside her. 

Turns out living was the easy part.

13. Nancy Kilpatrick

Nancy hails from Montréal, Quebec, and is the author of 22 novels. Although she focuses primarily on vampire fiction, such as the Power of the Blood series and Thrones of Blood series, she has also written novels set in the Jason X universe. And THAT is very cool in my books.

The book I'm going to recommend from Nancy is the first in her new series, Thrones of Blood. I had the chance to discuss the book with her for The Great Lakes Horror Company Podcast. It's a fantastic erotic fantasy with mean ass vampires and comes highly recommended.

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Synopsis: Vampires and humans are at war!

Moarte, King of the Vampirii, is a prisoner of his Sapiens enemy. The beautiful Sapiens Princess Valada, believing that Moarte killed her mother, tortures him, even to the point of breaking the bones in his wings so he cannot escape. She intends to incinerate him to ash in sunlight, but Moarte escapes.

Moarte hungers for revenge. When, through an act of betrayal, Valada is captured by the vampirii, his first instinct is to drain her blood and annihilate her. But he realizes he can get revenge in other ways, using her as a tool to gain the upper hand in this conflict. But who is manipulating whom? Both want revenge, and control of the other, and Moarte wants to drink Valada’s blood. Dark desires lead down a path neither had envisioned, a threatening spiral that can destroy empires.

Hunter and hunted change places again and again in this novel of twisted, violent passions. Seeds of deception are sown amidst love and hate, loyalty and betrayal, obsession and indifference, in an erotic tale of warring races, foes since the beginning of time, and two unlikely adversaries aligning to battle a common enemy.

14. ‎Sarah Langan

I first discovered Sarah's work with her novel The Missing from 2007. I had discovered a new favorite writer. Her work is emotional and creepy with well-drawn characters. I gobbled up everything I could from her cannon. She hasn't written much in the last eight or nine years in order to, I assume (really, I have no idea), concentrate on her family. I really do hope that she returns, though. And soon. I miss her words and stories. 

The novel I'm going to suggest is her latest, Audrey's Door from 2009. I loved the idea behind this masterpiece of a book. I love it so much I think I want to return for a revisit.

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Synopsis: Rosemary’s Baby meets The Shining behind Audrey’s Door—a masterwork of psychological suspense and supernatural terror from the acclaimed author of The Keeper and The Missing. Ramsey Campbell, Matthew Pearl, and David Morrell are among the ever-growing legion of fans of this Bram Stoker Award-winning writer who Peter Straub says, “combines a genuinely poetic sensibility with a taste for horror’s most bravura excesses.” Reviewers across the country have already compared Sarah Langan to H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, and Stephen King and her brilliantly, chillingly original Audrey’s Door solidifies her standing as one of America’s most exciting new masters of contemporary dark fantasy.

 

 

 

15. ‎Tamara Thorne

Tamara Thorne published her first novel in 1991 and hasn't looked back. She has since gone on to publish 20 novels.

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Synopsis: Moonfall, the picturesque town nestled in the mountains of southern California, is a quaint hamlet of antique stores, cider mills, and pie shops, and Apple Heaven, run by the dedicated nuns of St. Gertrude's Home for Girls, is the most popular destination of all. As autumn fills the air, the townspeople prepare for the Halloween Haunt, Moonfall's most popular tourist attraction. Even a series of unsolved deaths over the years hasn't dimmed Moonfall's enthusiasm for the holiday.

Now, orphan Sara Hawthorne returns to teach in the hallowed halls of St. Gertrude's where, twelve years before, her best friend died a horrible death. In Sara's old room, distant voices echo in the dark and the tormented cries of children shatter the moon-kissed night.

But that's just the beginning. For Sara Hawthorne is about to uncover St. Gertrude's hellish secret...a secret she may well carry with her to the grave.

16. ‎Sarah Pinborough

Sarah is the author of over 20 novels and several novellas. Her work is both fascinating, fun, and thrilling. Behind Her Eyes is a New York Times bestseller and her latest. 

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Synopsis: Louise is a single mom, a secretary, stuck in a modern-day rut. On a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and sparks fly. Though he leaves after they kiss, she’s thrilled she finally connected with someone.

When Louise arrives at work on Monday, she meets her new boss, David. The man from the bar. The very married man from the bar…who says the kiss was a terrible mistake, but who still can’t keep his eyes off Louise.

And then Louise bumps into Adele, who’s new to town and in need of a friend. But she also just happens to be married to David. And if you think you know where this story is going, think again, because Behind Her Eyes is like no other book you’ve read before.

David and Adele look like the picture-perfect husband and wife. But then why is David so controlling? And why is Adele so scared of him?

As Louise is drawn into David and Adele’s orbit, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong. But Louise can’t guess how wrong―and how far a person might go to protect their marriage’s secrets.

17. ‎Linda D. Addison

In 2017 I had the chance to talk with Linda for the Great Lakes Horror Company Podcast. To prepare, I read How To Recognize A Demon Has Become Your Friend and learned why she has, in the course of her career, won the Bran Stoker four times. This year, 2018, Linda is set to receive the lifetime achievement award at the Stokers. 

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Synopsis: Who doesn’t need to know How To Recognize A Demon Has Become Your Friend? From the first African-American to receive the HWA Bram Stoker award, this award-winning collection of both horror and science fiction short stories and poetry reveals demons in the most likely people (like a jealous ghost across the street) or in unlikely places (like the dimension-shifting dreams of an American Indian). Recognition is the first step, what you do with your friends/demons after that is up to you.

 

 

 

 

18. ‎Nicole Cushing

I was introduced to Nicole's writing when DarkFuse published her novella, Children of No One. That one made one wonder about what they had just read. And wonder real hard. Mr. Suicide, her first novel released in 2015, won the Bram Stoker for achievement in a first novel. 

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Synopsis: Like everyone else in the world, you've wanted to do things people say you shouldn't do.

How many times in your life have you wanted to slap someone? Really, literally strike them? You can't even begin to count the times. Hundreds. Thousands. You're not exaggerating. You're not engaging in... whatchamacallit? Hyperbole? You're not engaging in hyperbole.

Maybe the impulse flashed through your brain for only a moment, like lightning, when someone tried to skip ahead of you in line at the cafeteria. Hell, at more than one point in your life you've wanted to kill someone; really, literally kill someone. That's not just an expression. Not hyperbole. Then it was gone and replaced by the civilized thought: You can't do that. Not out in public.

But you've had the thought...

From Shirley Jackson Award-nominated author Nicole Cushing comes Mr. Suicide, a novel of the Great Dark Mouth.

 

19. ‎Damien Angelica Walters

I had the opportunity to talk with Damien way back on episode 61. I've since gone on to read her work and am always taken aback by the beauty of her prose, the complexity of the stories, and the depth of the characters. 

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Paper Tigers Synopsis: n this haunting and hypnotizing novel, a young woman loses everything--half of her body, her fiancé, and possibly her unborn child--to a terrible apartment fire. While recovering from the trauma, she discovers a photo album inhabited by a predatory ghost who promises to make her whole again, all while slowly consuming her from the inside out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

20. Kelly Link 

Last, and only last to spread out the content, is Kelly Link. Her collection, Get In Trouble was nominated for a Pulitzer. Let that sink in. A mutha-fuckin' Pulitzer! For a horror collection! If that doesn't convince you, then nothing will and you can consider yourself hopeless.

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Synopsis: Link has won an ardent following for her ability, with each new short story, to take readers deeply into an unforgettable, brilliantly constructed fictional universe. The nine exquisite examples in this collection show her in full command of her formidable powers. In “The Summer People,” a young girl in rural North Carolina serves as uneasy caretaker to the mysterious, never-quite-glimpsed visitors who inhabit the cottage behind her house. In “I Can See Right Through You,” a middle-aged movie star makes a disturbing trip to the Florida swamp where his former on- and off-screen love interest is shooting a ghost-hunting reality show. In “The New Boyfriend,” a suburban slumber party takes an unusual turn, and a teenage friendship is tested, when the spoiled birthday girl opens her big present: a life-size animated doll.

Hurricanes, astronauts, evil twins, bootleggers, Ouija boards, iguanas, The Wizard of Oz, superheroes, the Pyramids . . . These are just some of the talismans of an imagination as capacious and as full of wonder as that of any writer today. But as fantastical as these stories can be, they are always grounded by sly humor and an innate generosity of feeling for the frailty—and the hidden strengths—of human beings. In Get in Trouble, this one-of-a-kind talent expands the boundaries of what short fiction can do. 

Exquisitely Perverse: Poppy Z. Brite's Exquisite Corpse Review by Michael Schutz

I’ve declared 2018 as the year of disturbing fiction. Poppy Z. Brite had long been on my radar for extreme fiction, and I decided that the time had come to dig in. Which book would I start with? After reading this synopsis, the choice became obvious:

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“To serial slayer Andrew Compton, murder is an art, the most intimate art. After feigning his own death to escape from prison, Compton makes his way to the United States with the sole ambition of bringing his "art" to new heights. Tortured by his own perverse desires, and drawn to possess and destroy young boys, Compton inadvertently joins forces with Jay Byrne, a dissolute playboy who has pushed his "art" to limits even Compton hadn't previously imagined. Together, Compton and Byrne set their sights on an exquisite young Vietnamese-American runaway, Tran, whom they deem to be the perfect victim…Ultimately all [the] characters converge on a singular bloody night after which their lives will be irrevocably changed — or terminated. Poppy Z. Brite dissects the landscape of torture and invites us into the mind of a killer. Exquisite Corpse confirms Brite as a writer who defies categorization. It is a novel for those who dare trespass where the sacred and profane become one.” [Goodreads]

Exquisite Corpse uses infamous serial killer/necrophile Jeffrey Dahmer and his crimes as inspiration and offers a recurring thread of re-telling. Anyone familiar with the Milwaukee monster’s case will recognize the chilling incident of the young man whom the police could have—should have—saved. Brite creates two characters to capture the vile darkness of the man, and he* sets both characters on the proverbial collision course.

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The title has a backstory of its own. “Exquisite corpse” is a collaborative approach to writing (and drawing) in which each storyteller or image-maker adds their contribution without seeing what came before. The Surrealists came up with this in the early 20th Century as a way to create intuitive and bizarre work. As it applies to this novel, our four characters plunge through their lives without considering consequences and context. Like the best of Hitchcock’s suspense, we the readers see the connections about to be made and hold on, breathless, waiting for the inevitable impact. And Brite never holds back nor pulls his punches, writing those impacts with devilish—and gory—glee.

But Exquisite Corpse has a lot going on beyond the splatterpunk.

Brite creates a love story, a coming-out tale, a gay romance, and a serial killer thriller. What makes all those aspects work are the brilliantly realized characters. Brite writes four terrific stream-of-consciousness narratives (including one in first person—I love when a novel changes points of view or tenses for different characters). We’re given uncomfortably intimate insight into their sexual drives, vitriolic anger, and perverse murderous desires.

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This novel is over-the-top in so many ways, yet Brite delivers what the story demands. Every bloody, meaty scrap of it. The sex and violence may be gratuitous to a casual reader—or one simply unprepared for this journey—but I see it as necessary every step of the way. Exquisite Corpse screams its honesty. As such, this is one of those rare and interesting cases in which I give the book five stars—or, as we say here at Darkness Dwells, Dweller Heads—but I can’t recommend it to the general public. This is a tale for tried-and-true gore hounds who crave graphic blood and sex. If August Underground and the Guinea Pig series appeal to you, go to Amazon and buy this book now.

*Brite’s preferred pronouns are he/him/his

Comment

Michael Schutz

Michael Schutz was born and raised in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin, where the macabre tales of Ray Bradbury and Stephen King kept him warm at night. He’s seen way too many horror movies to be healthy and blogs and podcasts about them on Darkness Dwells. Watch for his new novel, Edging, from Burning Willow Press in spring 2017. He is the author of the novel Blood Vengeance and the novella Uninoch. His short fiction has been featured most recently in Dark Moon Digest, Sanitarium, and the anthologies Beasts: Revelations, Beyond the Nightlight, and Cranial Leakage: Tales from the Grinning Skull. He lives with his three naughty cat-children in northern California. 

Lunar Park, Bret Easton Ellis

by Michael Schutz

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Synopsis via Goodreads: Bret Ellis, the narrator of Lunar Park, is a writer whose first novel Less Than Zero catapulted him to international stardom while he was still in college. In the years that followed he found himself adrift in a world of wealth, drugs, and fame, as well as dealing with the unexpected death of his abusive father. After a decade of decadence, a chance for salvation arrives; the chance to reconnect with an actress he was once involved with and their son. But almost immediately his new life is threatened by a freak sequence of events and a bizarre series of murders that all seem to connect to Ellis’s past. His attempts to save his new world from his own demons makes Lunar Park Ellis’s most suspenseful novel. In this chilling tale reality, memoir, and fantasy combine to create not only a fascinating version of this most controversial writer but also a deeply moving novel about love and loss, parents and children, and ultimately forgiveness. 

I read that with Lunar Park, Bret Easton Ellis had written a horror novel. Count me in! I’ve been a fan since The Rules of Attraction presented me with the first gay love scene I’d read. His American Psycho gave me my first immersion into brutal, transgressive fiction. And to be honest, Ellis’ distracted, drug-addicted big-city characters showed me a world that this small town gay boy wished he could at least glimpse in person.

 The author... the character...

The author... the character...

Cruising through the first half of Lunar Park, I didn’t see much serious attempt at horror. He’d put in a couple weird incidents, but mostly the book read like any and all of Ellis’ work. And maybe my love affair with his writing had come to an end. Did the older, sober me really care about apathetic big-league drug fiends? Half-hearted attempts at horror bother me, too. It’s insulting to writers of dark speculative fiction. So what’s going on here? New York Times darling, bad-boy Bret Easton Ellis makes a nod to horror and critics faint from the brilliance of it? How typical.

Okay, so my first impression wasn’t positive, but that first chapter had hooked me hard: pseudo-autobiographical, Ellis created a vivid—and lurid—fictional version of himself. So the narrative itself compelled me to continue for a while longer. After all, I do love when authors insert themselves into their stories (Song of Susannah rocketed up to my favorite Dark Tower installment when the ka-tet searched out this writer in Maine named Stephen King).

Good thing I gave the book a bit longer because as it turned out, just when the doubts set in, Lunar Park really clicked into place.

First of all, I realized the main point. Lunar Park basically gives us Clay with a wife and kid. Patrick Bateman as a homeowner. While bemoaning that the anti-hero was a carbon copy of every Ellis protagonist, I didn’t catch on that the book isn't about a matured character but rather a matured situation. And that’s even more interesting. After that came the logical next step—in the same way that peer pressure can lead to drug and alcohol use, the pressure of familial responsibility begins to break down the Ellis character. He weakens, and no matter how hard he tries, he can’t stop himself from becoming a husband and father. To him, this is a problem that he can’t shake. Sometimes a father and husband looks in the mirror and can’t reconcile himself as the alcoholic or addict that he’s become. For “Bret Ellis,” he can’t understand how the bad boy ended up as a dad in the suburbs.

 Remember these things?

Remember these things?

Then Ellis nailed the horror. In the chapter about “The Tomb.” Ellis wrote one of the scariest scenes I’ve ever read. I had assumed that our author wasn’t going to make an honest effort at chills, but turns out that his build-up throughout the novel created perfect tension and framework. When he finally pulled the trigger, the result was terrifying and believable despite its outlandishness. The narrative had captivated me and firmly suspended my disbelief. All the threads of this story knotted together in a noose around my neck. The rambling New York style proved not so rambling, and whne the tale finished, I saw that Ellis hadn't used a single extraneous word or scene.

I had lost my faith in Bret Easton Ellis about a third of the way in, but I shouldn’t have. His creative powers are in full force here. Lunar Park is deftly woven. It’s a little satirical about himself and his previous novels. It’s clever and bittersweet. It’s a satisfying puzzle. And it has moments of excellent terror. Lunar Park is a five-Dweller Head winner.

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Michael Schutz

Michael Schutz was born and raised in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin, where the macabre tales of Ray Bradbury and Stephen King kept him warm at night. He’s seen way too many horror movies to be healthy and blogs and podcasts about them on Darkness Dwells. Watch for his new novel, Edging, from Burning Willow Press in spring 2017. He is the author of the novel Blood Vengeance and the novella Uninoch. His short fiction has been featured most recently in Dark Moon Digest, Sanitarium, and the anthologies Beasts: Revelations, Beyond the Nightlight, and Cranial Leakage: Tales from the Grinning Skull. He lives with his three naughty cat-children in northern California. 

Enemy: Thoughts by Eli Hayes

Enemy.jpg

"Chaos is order yet undeciphered."

Well, that was a mind fuck if there ever was one. I don't think I can remember having left a theater so confused before. I turned to the man next to me, who I noticed had also gone to see the same film, and noticed that he was shaking his head. "What did you think of it?" I asked him. "Not good... not good at all." And I totally understood where he was coming from, because who could have been prepared for a film (or an ending, for that matter) like that?

Yet I was not on the same page; I loved Enemy. I LOVED it. Maybe it has to do with my appreciation for ambiguous cinema - cinema that you can re-visit throughout your entire life, each time in an attempt to gain a better understanding of the film - or maybe it has to do with the fact that Enemy didn't pull any punches. Contemporary cinema, especially in the psychological thriller genre, has conditioned us to expect twist endings and thorough explanations, especially when you're watching a film like Enemy. I was so glad that Denis Villeneuve didn't make the mistake of playing into what was expected of him. Enemy could have ended a thousand different ways, but it ended the way that it did for a reason: those of you who have seen it, consider the phrase, "the elephant in the room," and maybe that will help you find your own interpretation. The important thing is that Villeneuve has crafted a film which allows for his audience to find their own interpretation, and I appreciate that. I appreciate that immensely.

So here's mine:

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Jake Gyllenhaal gives a career-topping performance/performances(?) in Enemy, a film which is essentially about a man's personal/internal struggles. There is only one man in this film, one protagonist, though the surface of the film would like you to believe that there are two. Don't be fooled, Enemy will be a much easier film to understand - or, at least, to try to understand - if you consider both Anthony and Adam to be the same human being. There are some serious erotic undertones to the movie, which compels me to believe that the main character may be a man fighting with issues of infidelity, but again, this is only speculation. One can only speculate about Enemy, because it remains unclear till the very end, much like a pair of masterpieces from the past, Ingmar Bergman's Persona and Krzysztof Kieslowski's The Double Life of Veronique, two of my favorite films of all time.

Denis Villeneuve.JPG

Villeneuve plays with time quite fascinatingly in this film, though to understand the structure of time, you'll need to pay close attention to one particular monologue in the film, quite close to the beginning. The protagonist explains that, throughout history, the most important events repeat themselves - they occur twice - and that the 21st century may very well be a repeat of the 20th century. Considering this, I have to believe that the structure of time in Enemy is actually quite non-linear. Rather than the events of the film occurring simultaneously, they are actually occurring one after another (or at least some of them are), and though the order of these events remains unclear as well, try to keep in mind that Mary's role both begins and ends during the course of the protagonist's relationship with his wife. Unfortunately, I can't really expand upon this point right now, because doing so would give too much away about the content and mystery of the film, but consider the non-linear structure of time when viewing Enemy, and maybe that will clear up a bit of confusion. The fact that "the most important events occur twice" is a theme of this movie is actually quite scary once you've got at least a moderate understanding of the metaphors involved; this theme, along with the film's horrifying ending, lead me to believe that Adam may make the same mistakes again that he had made in the past.

Enemy 2.jpg

Pay close attention to the scenes in which Adam's mother is involved, for they will help you in your attempt to decipher what is real, and what is occurring within Adam's mind. When something happens in one's life that changes their course of existence, this something is not easily forgotten. Its remains will sprinkle their way throughout the future, as an every-so-often reminder of one's mistakes. What mistakes could Adam have possibly made in the past? And what are Helen's suspicions? These are questions which exist to help guide you in figuring out the enigma that is Denis Villeneuve's Enemy.

The direction, the acting, the cinematography, the editing, the script - I couldn't have asked for better pieces of a perfect puzzle. There is one particular sequence towards the end of the film, a shocking one I might add, that contains some wonderful symbolism: shattered glass as an arachnid's web, and a man's attempt to kill off the actions of his past which haunt him (and may always haunt him).

The ultimate question is: If you had to give a shape to your demons, if you had to provide them with a physical form, might they take the form of a spider? Maybe not, but Adam's surely do.

One's sins are not easily forgotten.
 

 

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Michael Schutz

Michael Schutz was born and raised in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin, where the macabre tales of Ray Bradbury and Stephen King kept him warm at night. He’s seen way too many horror movies to be healthy and blogs and podcasts about them on Darkness Dwells. Watch for his new novel, Edging, from Burning Willow Press in spring 2017. He is the author of the novel Blood Vengeance and the novella Uninoch. His short fiction has been featured most recently in Dark Moon Digest, Sanitarium, and the anthologies Beasts: Revelations, Beyond the Nightlight, and Cranial Leakage: Tales from the Grinning Skull. He lives with his three naughty cat-children in northern California. 

Poltergeist Nightmares

by Rachel de la Fuente

Many moons ago, during the height of Blockbuster’s popularity, Saturday nights were movie night for my family. Each Saturday, we’d go to Blockbuster and we’d each pick a movie. I always picked something from the kid’s section, my mom’s taste varied, and my dad either chose action or horror.

 Rachel... Is that you?

Rachel... Is that you?

This particular story happens when I was around seven years old on the fateful day my dad decided to rent Poltergeist.

I’d been put to bed, and my mom and dad had settled into the La-Z-Boy and sofa, respectively. My parents didn’t close the door to my room once I was in bed, so I could hear what went on in the living room.

I don’t recall, now, just how long I waited, making sure they weren’t going to get up to go to the bathroom, or grab a drink or snacks. Finally, however, I deemed it “safe”. I carefully crept out of bed, ensuring I didn’t make a sound, and put on socks to keep my feet from making noise on the linoleum flooring in the kitchen. I thought I was so clever.

Like a sloth, my path to the kitchen was slow, but determined. My house was laid out in such a way that if I stood at the juncture of our kitchen and dining room, I could see the TV, but my parents couldn’t see me.

I reached the little breakfast bar, and stood, eyes wide. I didn’t dare sit down, as that wouldn’t give me enough time to run back to my room if one of my parents stood up.

I’ve long forgotten at what point I started watching the movie. What’s fixed firmly in my memory is that pilfered steak crawling across the counter and exploding (for lack of a better term), that chicken leg covered in maggots. I watched, in open-mouthed, wide-eyed terror as a man began ripping his face off.

 Gruesome!

Gruesome!

You often hear about the fight or flight instinct, but the third option, freeze, gets left out. I froze. I couldn’t make myself move at first. But when his hands clawed at his skull, I turned tail and ran. I didn’t care if my parents heard; I didn’t care if I got in trouble; I just knew I never wanted to see something so scary ever again!

I jumped in bed and pulled the covers over my head, shutting out the world in a safe cocoon in the way only children can. Every time I closed my eyes, that horrible scene played out again and again, scaring me anew.

But, at seven, you can only stay awake for so long, and I drifted off into a fitful sleep, plagued by dreams that would haunt me for years to come.

In fact, it wasn’t until I worked up the courage to watch Poltergeist in its entirety (nearly fifteen years later) that my nightmares finally ceased completely. If only I’d stuck around for another couple moments to see it was only an illusion, I might never have suffered from the nightmares at all.

The experience was just one of the many times my “brilliance” got me in trouble as a child. What movie gave you nightmares, and how did you finally get them to go away?

 

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I hope you enjoyed this brief glimpse into the silliness of my childhood. If you’d like to learn more about me, you can check out my website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube. If you like my writing, be sure to keep an eye out for my first book, The Most Special Chosen being released March 3, 2018 by Burning Willow Press.

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Michael Schutz

Michael Schutz was born and raised in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin, where the macabre tales of Ray Bradbury and Stephen King kept him warm at night. He’s seen way too many horror movies to be healthy and blogs and podcasts about them on Darkness Dwells. Watch for his new novel, Edging, from Burning Willow Press in spring 2017. He is the author of the novel Blood Vengeance and the novella Uninoch. His short fiction has been featured most recently in Dark Moon Digest, Sanitarium, and the anthologies Beasts: Revelations, Beyond the Nightlight, and Cranial Leakage: Tales from the Grinning Skull. He lives with his three naughty cat-children in northern California. 

Gas Mask Horror

 Is this Mugatu's fall line?

Is this Mugatu's fall line?

A Rant by Michael Schutz

 I can't wait 'til the next day!

I can't wait 'til the next day!

Have you noticed the proliferation of gas masks on horror movie posters? What’s with all these respiration-impaired monsters and villains? Sometimes our heroes wear the masks. That’s the worst; that means that we’re about to sit through 88 minutes of reductive post-apocalyptic tripe.

 Here's Another.

Here's Another.

Muted colors and dust blowing. Vaguely identified zombies or cadres of armed survivors. Symptoms of a quickly made, bad movie in a saturated genre.

 No one survives... the Death Tunnel!!

No one survives... the Death Tunnel!!

I bet someone in our stronghold won’t heed the rules. Will their leaving cause a failure of security leading to an invasion from outside forces? Ooh, maybe a child in our camp will get sick. Is the only cure located out there in the horrible new world order? Or will she turn into one of the monsters and destroy what we’ve worked so hard to build? That’s a metaphor for the state of the world and our loss of personal freedoms, you know! After playing Texas Hold’em on my phone through two-thirds of The Hatred, I’ve decided to make a stand. Got a gas mask on the cover? Skip!

 Hated It!

Hated It!

 This one looks pretty cool.

This one looks pretty cool.

 Another one?

Another one?

 This one was pretty good.

This one was pretty good.

 Wait... what's going on here?

Wait... what's going on here?

 2005? My God, they've always been around!

2005? My God, they've always been around!

 And you thought the summer of '69 was bad.

And you thought the summer of '69 was bad.

 Gas Mask: The Movie!

Gas Mask: The Movie!

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Michael Schutz

Michael Schutz was born and raised in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin, where the macabre tales of Ray Bradbury and Stephen King kept him warm at night. He’s seen way too many horror movies to be healthy and blogs and podcasts about them on Darkness Dwells. Watch for his new novel, Edging, from Burning Willow Press in spring 2017. He is the author of the novel Blood Vengeance and the novella Uninoch. His short fiction has been featured most recently in Dark Moon Digest, Sanitarium, and the anthologies Beasts: Revelations, Beyond the Nightlight, and Cranial Leakage: Tales from the Grinning Skull. He lives with his three naughty cat-children in northern California. 

A New Perspective

by Mark Allan Gunnells

 

As a gay author (or an author who happens to be gay, whichever way you prefer to think of it), I have a very particular interest when it comes to writing horror fiction. I want to present the reader with something familiar then give it a twist by offering a perspective not often seen in horror fiction. Namely, a gay perspective.

Growing up an avid horror fan, I rarely saw any representations of gay people, and what representations there were tended to be stereotypical and borderline offensive. Things have gotten a little better these days, but more often than not gay characters in horror fiction play supporting roles and are not often front and center. One of the things I want to do through my writing is change that.

In a lot of my work, I like to take traditional scenarios and situations (tropes, if you will) and insert gay characters. May seem like a little thing, but this new perspective can often breathe new life into a standard formula. In my novel Sequel, for instance, I placed gay characters in the midst of a very traditional slasher story. In The Quarry and its follow-up The Cult of Ocasta, my main character had to deal with a combination creature-feature and possession tale while also navigating issues of sexuality and romance. However, never have I played with the concept of taking a standard horror trope and tweaking it with a gay perspective more than in my novella Asylum.

Here I took a very standard zombie set up, filched right out of the Romero playbook, and trapped a disparate group of survivors in a small space, fighting the onslaught of the undead while also dealing with personal demons and interpersonal conflicts amongst themselves. Only instead of trapping them in a farmhouse or shopping mall or military bunker, I chose to trap them in a gay club. Instead of having a group of straight characters with one token gay character, I had a cast made up almost entirely of gay men with one token straight female.

When I started writing this piece, I had no real mission, no intention to make a statement. I merely wanted to take a familiar situation and put in people that readers are not using to seeing in those situations at the forefront and see what developed from there. Just as a natural extension of these characters and their concerns, the story ended up dealing with issues of bigotry, persecution, self-loathing, addiction, loneliness, sex, love, and strength. The framework for the story was nothing new, but by using these characters, I felt something new came out of it. A story at once familiar and yet unique.

I was so thrilled when Apex Publications recently put out a new edition of Asylum, including a brand new story “Lunatics Running the Asylum” set in that fictional universe, and I hope that the story continues to engage people through offering a new perspective on a traditional horror trope.

 

Mark Allan Gunnells loves to tell stories. He has since he was a kid, penning one-page tales that were Twilight Zone knockoffs. He likes to think he has gotten a little better since then. He loves reader feedback, and above all he loves telling stories. He lives in Greer, SC, with his husband Craig A. Metcalf.

Buy your copy of Asylum today! 
https://www.amazon.com/Asylum-Mark-Allan-Gunnells-ebook/dp/B004GEAMOA/

 

 

 

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Michael Schutz

Michael Schutz was born and raised in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin, where the macabre tales of Ray Bradbury and Stephen King kept him warm at night. He’s seen way too many horror movies to be healthy and blogs and podcasts about them on Darkness Dwells. Watch for his new novel, Edging, from Burning Willow Press in spring 2017. He is the author of the novel Blood Vengeance and the novella Uninoch. His short fiction has been featured most recently in Dark Moon Digest, Sanitarium, and the anthologies Beasts: Revelations, Beyond the Nightlight, and Cranial Leakage: Tales from the Grinning Skull. He lives with his three naughty cat-children in northern California. 

Turning a Villain into a (Sort-of) Hero

by Andy Peloquin

 Old School

Old School

Anytime talk of "villains" and "antagonists" comes up, authors will wax poetic about the importance of complex villains. This means that giving villains plausible motivations, redeeming qualities, and "good" traits makes them more realistic and less like the moustache-twirling, evil-laughing baddies from older literature.

I like to take things a step further. Instead of relying on these mechanisms to paint my villain in a more sympathetic light, I prefer to flip things on their head and turn the more traditional "villains" into the "heroes" of my novels. Well, perhaps I should say the protagonists/main characters…

 The Last Bucelarii Book 1

The Last Bucelarii Book 1

Take, for example, my dark fantasy series The Last Bucelarii. In the first novel, Blade of the Destroyer, I introduced "the Hunter of Voramis", a ruthless, relentless, immortal assassin. He drops four bodies in the first chapter, and the first few chapters of the book showcase his cynicism and coldness toward people in general and his victims/targets in specific. Later in the book, it's discovered that he is a half-demon. Killer, demon: these are two words you'll usually find associated with the VILLAIN of any story.

 The Anti-Heroes

The Anti-Heroes

So how did I turn a half-demon assassin into a "hero"? Well, let's be clear: it's an anti-hero, which Wikipedia defines as " a protagonist who lacks conventional heroic qualities such as idealism, courage, or morality." Think the Punisher, Deadpool, or Judge Dredd. These characters aren't "heroes", in that they stand for justice, virtue, and righteousness, but they have some heroic traits that keep them out of the realm of "villains".

Reading the first chapter of Blade of the Destroyer, you see the Hunter's casual attitude toward death, and his callous disregard for human life--both villain traits. But in the second chapter, you see the Hunter interacting with beggars, lepers, and other outcasts he's befriended and actually sort of "protected". All of a sudden, there's a bit of humanity to this villainous character.

A few chapters later, you're introduced to a child he saved from dying years before. This child actually looks forward to talking with him, and he has a bond with her. Enter a few more humanizing traits.

Slowly, through the course of the book, the traditional villainous elements become minimized while his humanity comes through. He fights to protect the innocent, proves he has moral guidelines he will not break, overcomes personal difficulty, and makes the "right" choice when given an opportunity. All of these things drag him firmly out of the realm of "villain" and into the more heroic realm. He walks the fine line between villain and hero in the morally grey realm of anti-heroes.

I've LOVED every minute of writing this character. It's a challenge to see how far from "hero" he can stray without actually becoming a proper "villain". It requires regular reminders of his humanity (strengths, weaknesses, flaws, failings, successes, and desires), as well as showing that ultimately, he is going to make the right choice (even at great personal cost). By using the "heroic" traits—few as they may be—to paint him in a positive light, you can connect with him, identify with him, and ultimately root for him. A villain becomes a sort-of hero, a character you want to succeed!

Own your copy of Peloquin's Blade of the Destroyer: The Last Bucelarii Book 1
https://www.amazon.com/Blade-Destroyer-Last-Bucelarii-Book/dp/1515038955/

Author Bio:

I am, first and foremost, a storyteller and an artist—words are my palette. Fantasy is my genre of choice, and I love to explore the darker side of human nature through the filter of fantasy heroes, villains, and everything in between. I'm also a freelance writer, a book lover, and a guy who just loves to meet new people and spend hours talking about my fascination for the worlds I encounter in the pages of fantasy novels.

Find Andy Peloquin here:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AndyPeloquin  

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/andyqpeloquin

YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYAKG5k06vcmc02Uy4fGLfA   

https://www.amazon.com/author/andypeloquin  

https://plus.google.com/100885994638914122147/about 

Newsletter Sign-Up: http://andypeloquin.com/join-the-club/

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Michael Schutz

Michael Schutz was born and raised in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin, where the macabre tales of Ray Bradbury and Stephen King kept him warm at night. He’s seen way too many horror movies to be healthy and blogs and podcasts about them on Darkness Dwells. Watch for his new novel, Edging, from Burning Willow Press in spring 2017. He is the author of the novel Blood Vengeance and the novella Uninoch. His short fiction has been featured most recently in Dark Moon Digest, Sanitarium, and the anthologies Beasts: Revelations, Beyond the Nightlight, and Cranial Leakage: Tales from the Grinning Skull. He lives with his three naughty cat-children in northern California. 

Breeder by Douglas Clegg

Shame! Shame on me--I had never read Douglas Clegg until last year when I saw Goat Dance at a used bookstore and thought, "Hey! We're Facebook friends." That novel blew me away. How I'd gone so long without Clegg, I had no idea but knew that was remedied.

My next Clegg was this one, Breeder. I had no doubt that I'd like it--Goat Dance had a clarity and might that couldn't have been a fluke. But Breeder was better than I could have imagined. Bold and daring like Barker's Books of Blood, Breeder presents amazing imagery, gore, dread, flashes of humor, and a true human story. The characters of Breeder lived and breathed, building the framework on which the horror hangs. There's a 70s vibe to Breeder, but unlike Burnt Offerings (for example) Clegg weaves his character development into the quickly appearing horror. We don't need to wade through a third of the book to get to know these people.

A comparison to Rosemary's Baby is inevitable, and the nods to Levin's classic are clever and reverent. But times have changed, and Clegg wields a hammer (reference intended) as well as a scalpel, and Breeder is just downright brutal! Where lesser horror novels dance around what may happen, Breeder fulfills every promise. It's a thoroughly satisfying read with no lulls, only ever-increasing horror.

Phenomenal novel! Five Dweller Heads!

Review by Michael Schutz

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Michael Schutz

Michael Schutz was born and raised in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin, where the macabre tales of Ray Bradbury and Stephen King kept him warm at night. He’s seen way too many horror movies to be healthy and blogs and podcasts about them on Darkness Dwells. Watch for his new novel, Edging, from Burning Willow Press in spring 2017. He is the author of the novel Blood Vengeance and the novella Uninoch. His short fiction has been featured most recently in Dark Moon Digest, Sanitarium, and the anthologies Beasts: Revelations, Beyond the Nightlight, and Cranial Leakage: Tales from the Grinning Skull. He lives with his three naughty cat-children in northern California. 

Horns by Joe Hill

 You've got horns, Harry!

You've got horns, Harry!

Our antihero, Ignatius ("Ig") Perrish, wakes after a night of his usual debauchery to find that he's sprouted horns. His new appendages come with a terrible--if sometimes terribly useful--ability to pull the truth out of all those he meets. As he continues his transformation into Devil, a murder mystery unfolds. Not so much a whodunnit, though, Horns is more of a why-does-anyone-do-anything, "what lies in the dark depths of man" novel. 

Joe Hill writes some mean, spell-binding prose. It's lyrical and reads fast because he sucks me right in. He does meander a bit, but at least when he does, he tells interesting back stories. I watched the movie first, and my terrible memory doesn't remember it that well, but I don't think that it even scratched the surface of Hill's novel.

Though well-rounded as far as variety of character and an ever-more-involving plot, I didn't find that Hill adequately explained why Ig turned into the Devil. Hill throws a lot of ideas at us, as if to cover up the fact that he can't explain it. I feel a bit bamboozled, but Horns is fun and exciting, with intensely interesting insights and turns-of-phrase. The story of what Lee does to his mother is cringe-worthy enough to win the Jack Ketchum Award.

I am going to mention that he has his dad's belligerent view of homosexuality. As in King's work, Hill uses homosexuality as a prank, a punishment, or some villainous trait. I've never thought that King meant anything by it--just an old-school Maine blind spot. But Joe Hill represents a new generation. To some of you this may seem like a non sequitur, but this is important to me. If he's going to write about it, why does he think it needs to be some nasty secret?

Overall, a good read. Four Dweller Heads!

Review by Michael Schutz

 

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Michael Schutz

Michael Schutz was born and raised in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin, where the macabre tales of Ray Bradbury and Stephen King kept him warm at night. He’s seen way too many horror movies to be healthy and blogs and podcasts about them on Darkness Dwells. Watch for his new novel, Edging, from Burning Willow Press in spring 2017. He is the author of the novel Blood Vengeance and the novella Uninoch. His short fiction has been featured most recently in Dark Moon Digest, Sanitarium, and the anthologies Beasts: Revelations, Beyond the Nightlight, and Cranial Leakage: Tales from the Grinning Skull. He lives with his three naughty cat-children in northern California. 

Author Spotlight: Andy Peloquin

In his own words, Andy Peloquin is "first and foremost, a storyteller and an artist—words are my palette. Fantasy is my genre of choice, and I love to explore the darker side of human nature through the filter of fantasy heroes, villains, and everything in between. I'm also a freelance writer, a book lover, and a guy who just loves to meet new people and spend hours talking about my fascination for the worlds I encounter in the pages of fantasy novels.

Fantasy provides us with an escape, a way to forget about our mundane problems and step into worlds where anything is possible. It transcends age, gender, religion, race, or lifestyle--it is our way of believing what cannot be, delving into the unknowable, and discovering hidden truths about ourselves and our world in a brand new way. Fiction at its very best!"

1.    Where did you grow up?

I was born in Tokyo, Japan, where I lived for the first five years of my life. I then moved to a tiny town on the tip of the Boso Peninsula. I was fortunate enough to live on a mountain (forests, waterfalls, hiking trails, beautiful views) that was a short drive from some of the best surfing beaches in Japan.

 2.    Who did you read as a kid?

Probably the major influence in my reading life was Sherlock Holmes. I read a lot of the classics (Phantom of the Opera, Gulliver's Travels, Robinson Crusoe, etc.), but it was Sherlock Holmes that started me down the path to speculative fiction. I fell in love with this fictional, mystical, dark world the author painted, which led me to Tarzan, Solomon Kane, and John Carter of Mars. From there, it was a short leap to Conan the Barbarian and I was hooked!

 3.    Were movies a big influence?

I can't say they were. I didn't watch too many movies as a child, but spent a lot of my time reading. I'd read pretty much anything I could get my hands on.

 4.    When did you start writing? When did you decide to pursue it as your career or vocation?

I started writing in my teens. I had an arts teacher who instilled in me a love of creating. As a bored teenager with no internet access but too much time on my hands, I had very few channels for my energy. Writing happened to be one of them, and I fell in love with the ability to tell stories.

I really only took it up as a career in 2014. I found some of the older pieces I'd written and turned them into novels (one of which become BLADE OF THE DESTROYER, my first novel ever).

 5.    Why do you write, and what drives you?

I write fantasy, but it's darker fantasy. I do get to use monsters and magical creatures, but I prefer to use the darker side of human nature as the enemy. It's a thrill to showcase how our own desires and psychology can do things far worse than anything a werewolf, vampire, or demon ever could.

 6. Who inspires you?

I'm inspired by the authors I love to read: Brandon Sanderson, Scott Lynch, Michael Sullivan, and others. I've fallen in love with their characters, worlds, and stories. I want to emulate that—I want people to be as fascinated by my writing as I am with theirs.

7.    What inspires you?

I find inspiration in everything. I often get amazing ideas while I'm running, lifting weights, or driving, but I can get inspired by TV shows, comic books, novels, random pictures, even just an off-handed remark or a typo in a file.

 8. How do you dream up your characters and situations?

They just come to me. The stories usually start with a premise (an assassin that everyone's afraid of, a girl having to be tough to survive in a male-dominated world, etc.) and slowly take shape as I think about them. The stories flesh themselves out in my head before I sit down to write, so things will usually flow when I actually get to creating. 

 9. Is there a single thread/ idea/ belief which appears in everything you write?

It's a quote I created that is now a tattoo on my forearm: "There is no evil, only desire and what you will do to obtain it." The "what you'll do" is the only thing that separates my heroes and anti-heroes from my villains.

 10. How can we find you and your work? 

You can find me on my website/blog, at http://www.andypeloquin.com, where I post random thoughts and musings, book reviews, articles I write about the psychology of my characters and worlds, etc.

I'm also all over social media as Andy Peloquin:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AndyPeloquin  

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/andyqpeloquin

YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYAKG5k06vcmc02Uy4fGLfA   

https://www.amazon.com/author/andypeloquin  

https://plus.google.com/100885994638914122147/about 

Newsletter Sign-Up: http://andypeloquin.com/join-the-club/

10 Things You Need to Know About Me:

  1. Hot wings, ALWAYS!
  2. I never forget a face, but rarely remember a name.
  3. I'm a head taller than the average person (I'm 6' 6")
  4. Marvel > DC
  5. I was born in Japan, and lived there until the age of 14.
  6. Selena Gomez, Skrillex, Simon & Garfunkel, Celine Dion, and Five Finger Death Punch are all in my writing playlist.
  7. Aliens are real, but it's self-centered of us to believe that they would come to visit Earth.
  8. Watching sports: suck. Playing sports: EPIC!
  9. I earned a purple belt in Karate/Hapkido/Taekwondo.
  10. I dislike most Christmas music, aside from Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

 

A Few of My Favorite Things

Favorite Books: The Gentlemen Bastards by Scott Lynch, The Stormlight Archives by Brandon Sanderson, Sherlock Holmes by A.C. Doyle, Warlord of Mars by E.R. Burroughs

Favorite Songs: Wrong Side of Heaven by Five Finger Death Punch, Prayer by Disturbed, I'm an Albatraoz by AronChupa, Look Down from Les Miserables, Shatter Me by Lindsay Sterling and Lizzi Hale

Favorite Movies: 300, Red Cliff, Shoot Em Up, Love Actually, Princess Bride

Favorite Comics: Anything with Deadpool, Wolverine or Doop in it

Favorite Foods: Hot Wings, Meat-Lover's Salad, A good sandwich (made by me), Yaki Soba, Sushi

Favorite TV Shows: The Flash, Daredevil, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Hawaii Five-0, Brooklyn 99, Firefly (too soon!), The Last Ship, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones

 

And check out Andy Peloquin's Child of the Night Guild (Queen of Thieves Book 1)

"They killed my parents. They took my name. They imprisoned me in darkness. I would not be broken."

Viola, a child sold to pay her father's debts, has lost everything: her mother, her home, and her identity. Thrown into a life among criminals, she has no time for grief as she endures the brutal training of an apprentice thief. The Night Guild molds an innocent waif into a cunning, agile outlaw skilled in the thieves' trade. She has only one choice: steal enough to pay her debts.

The cutthroat streets of Praamis will test her mettle, and she must learn to dodge the City Guards or swing from a hangman's rope. But a more dangerous foe lurks within the guild walls. A sadistic rival apprentice, threatened by her strength, is out for blood.

What hope does one girl have in a world of ruthless men?

Fans of Sarah J. Maas, Scott Lynch, and Brent Weeks will love Queen of Thieves…

Buy Links:

Amazon Kindle and Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/Child-Night-Guild-Queen-Thieves-ebook/dp/B01N1TC3VW/

Amazon Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/Child-Night-Guild-Queen-Thieves-ebook/dp/B01N1TC3VW/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33412715-child-of-the-night-guild

 

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Michael Schutz

Michael Schutz was born and raised in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin, where the macabre tales of Ray Bradbury and Stephen King kept him warm at night. He’s seen way too many horror movies to be healthy and blogs and podcasts about them on Darkness Dwells. Watch for his new novel, Edging, from Burning Willow Press in spring 2017. He is the author of the novel Blood Vengeance and the novella Uninoch. His short fiction has been featured most recently in Dark Moon Digest, Sanitarium, and the anthologies Beasts: Revelations, Beyond the Nightlight, and Cranial Leakage: Tales from the Grinning Skull. He lives with his three naughty cat-children in northern California.