What the “King” Means to Me (Not Just as a Reader but a Fan)

by Edd Sowder, VP Burning Willow Press, editor, author wannabe

My mother introduced me to the literature of Stephen King some years ago… as a matter of fact, it was in high school that I picked up my first book by Stephen King.  I had seen some of the movie adaptations of the time, but honestly… I was not really a fan if that was what his books were about. I got a crash course in how screwed up the movies were compared to his books.

 Did Edd’s car have a thirst for vengeance?

Did Edd’s car have a thirst for vengeance?

You see, I have always been a car guy. I had a classic car back then, a 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle I was trying desperately to restore and hot rod all at the same time. It was then that my mom came to me and said I should read Christine and forget about the movie when I do. She had been getting the hardcover books from the Stephen King Library for a few years and had it already. So, I read the book. I was instantly hooked.

 Writers  invite  ghosts

Writers invite ghosts

When I was a teen, I was a writer. Now, my writing did not start out in the horror genre; it was more in the area of poetry, lyrics, and songwriting for girls. Yeah, I know… typical teenager. It was sometime later that I decided that I was going to write a book of my own. I had just finished reading The Dark Half as well as IT. So, I was thinking of a way to incorporate my ideas in the same ways that King did with the kids in Derry going after Pennywise the clown, only I did not want to steal his idea. Plagiarism is a real thing and I am not a fan of fanfiction at all. I feel that you should get your own idea and not capitalize off of someone else’s.

I remember that I was up late some nights reading books by him, comparing notes I was making on overused character references long before we had the internet to do searches with. I knew all about Derry and Castle Rock, I knew that Randall Flagg was the badass from The Stand but was also in the Dark Tower, as well as Eyes of the Dragon when I journeyed into that novel. Pennywise was mentioned in others as well, for that matter. His name was scrawled on a statue or something in The Tommyknockers and I did not know who that was until after I read, IT. It all started to make sense that not only was King a master, but he was also a web-weaver. Perhaps now that I reflect on this, I should have read them in order of release. No internet back then to look up the release dates easily.

 Do the Hokey Pokey

Do the Hokey Pokey

In my early adult life, I had very little time to read but I did get involved in watching every single movie, on VHS no doubt, and seeing everything he wrote for the small screen as well, including the episode of the X-Files he wrote, titled Chinga. I was a fan, to say the least. I tried to collect all of his books and now have a vast library with only a few newer novels missing from the collection thus far but will have them as well. Soon. Oh, and yes, I do have an original copy of Rage that was pulled from the shelves some time ago and I also have it as part of the Bachman Books. No, it is not for sale.

In my later years, I had a good collection of works from Mr. King. I have to say I have a few favorites. My top ten faves, in no particular order: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Misery, Needful Things, Gerald’s Game, Tommyknockers, IT, The Dark Half, Eyes of the Dragon, The Gunslinger, and Four Past Midnight. Yes, that last one is a collection but every single story in it is worth a read if you are looking for a good novella-sized story.

 Heeeere’s Johnny!

Heeeere’s Johnny!

My favorite movies, well… if you can call them that. As already stated, the movies are not quite done in a way that portrays him as the writer he is. But my top ten list: Needful Things, Creepshow, The Shining (who doesn’t love Jack Nicholson chasing his family through a haunted hotel trying to kill them with an axe?), Firestarter, Cat’s Eye, Gerald’s Game, The Stand, Hearts of Atlantis, Pet Semetary, IT (the new one, I am not a fan of the original since it was poorly done), Carrie (both of them actually… the one with Sissy Spacek and the newer version with Chloe Grace Moretz are both well done).

Myself as a reader, he is a master. Hands down one of the very best. As an editor, I find things that should be worded better and wonder if his editors/publishers even look at his work anymore because they know it will sell simply due to his name. As a writer myself, I look to him for where I could be in the next forty years if I keep working. King is one the best horror writers due to his tenacity to keep putting out decent work. Is he the best hands-down out of all of them? That remains to be seen since new horror writers emerge every single day. He is humble in his interviews, he is a bit creepy which helps him sell well I am sure, and he is willing to read others in a way that will help them grow.

 Grab your toolbox.

Grab your toolbox.

When I told my family I wanted to write books, my mom – an avid reader – got me his On Writing book. Talk about a large file on what you should and should not do as an author. It helped some even though I had stopped trying back in the early nineties. Family obligations got in the way and so did the string of day jobs to make sure bills were paid along with the rent. Now, as an editor, publisher, and a re-emerging writer, I have a copy of it on my bookshelf close by. Are the topics dated? Well, some of them are to a degree but the ideas are solid and it is still selling off the shelves, and that can’t be for novelty’s sake. Who better than Stephen King to learn from that a man who has made a very nice career out of scaring the shit out of his readers? Who better indeed.

 Faithful

Faithful

One day Mr. King, I would like to take you to a baseball game, buy you a few hot dogs and beers, and enjoy the afternoon with you cheering not only for the Red Sox but scaring the crap out of those sitting in the row with us. You keep writing, and I will forever keep reading.

 

Edd Sowder is an avid fan and “apt pupil.” Most refer to him as the “Executive-flunky” who runs Burning Willow Press but secretly, he is thinks of himself as BATMAN.

 Guru

Guru

Realistically, he is a Detroit-born, Southern-at-heart lover of music, fast cars, horses, two-wheeled hawgs and likes tinkering with anything mechanical or home improvising. He’s well educated, with three degrees; one in Physics. He is well read and spends a lot of time looking to make other’s dreams come true with his publishing company. He has over 1000 poems and short-stories he is working on putting out to the masses, and he has started over twenty novels that are in the WIP to be subbed outside of BWP. He is married to novelist Kindra Sowder and has plenty of children both biological and personally adopted that he claims along with three somewhat obnoxious cats that keep him from being productive at inopportune times of the day.

To sample his work, pick up Southern Fried Autopsies HERE.

Crossroads in the Dark IV: GHOSTS HERE.

Or visit TBK Magazine’s Word Vomit HERE.

Amazon Author Page HERE.

He is a founding partner and current Vice President of Burning Willow Press.

Keep up with Burning Willow Press: Facebook

Twitter

He regrets that his personal Twitter page, Instagram, Google+, Linked In, and others are neglected severely.

1 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. 

Unpopular Stephen King Opinions by Mark Allan Gunnells

            Stephen King is, of course, one of the best-selling authors of the past half a century. Even people who’ve never read him know his name, and even 44 years after the publication of his first novel, each new book still hits the top of the New York Times’ list. Most horror authors who have come since count him as a major influence.

            That doesn’t mean, however, that he is universally loved. Not even by his most ardent fans. No author can please a reader 100 percent of the time, and as much as I love King’s work, he has delivered stories that didn’t work for me personally. That being said, I have noticed that I tend to be of a different mind on some of his most criticized works. I thought I would spend a little time talking about a few of these.

Under the Dome Novel Cover.jpeg

            I first started thinking about this when I realized how much ire existed for the ending of King’s massive novel Under the Dome. I feel like people hold this novel up as a prime example of how King doesn’t always know how to end novels. Hearing these criticisms, I was left a bit baffled as I adored the ending. Under the Dome isn’t a perfect novel by any means, it has its flaws and weaknesses, but it is a novel I thought was damn entertaining and kept my interest throughout (and for a novel over 1000 pages, that’s quite a feat). And I actually thought the ending was the absolute best part of the book. It didn’t go for the standard over-the-top confrontation, the kind of ending I call “The Big Shoot Out.” Instead, King gave us something quieter, something more thoughtful, and therefore more unexpected. This ending actually gave me chills and felt very real, very human, and profound in a way that doesn’t have to beat you over the head with its profundity.

From a Buick 8 Cover.jpg

           

I think one of King’s least appreciated novels is From a Buick 8. I think this one is largely dismissed and almost forgotten. I found this novel emotionally powerful and affecting. Some said he was recycling ideas, going for another story of a supernatural car, and yet I found almost no similarities between this and Christine. Others also said From a Buick 8 was boring, a criticism I definitely don’t agree with. A story doesn’t have to have constant action to be exciting. A story of character and emotion can be exciting, and I definitely think this one is.

IT Cover.jpg

            It is one of King’s most well-known novels, but it also gets a lot of criticism for certain elements of the story. Without giving too much away for those late to the party, sections that involve a smoke house that gives cosmic visions, a giant turtle that is the force of good in the universe, a battle of the mind instead of the physical, and a very controversial and unorthodox way of renewing a bond in order to survive are often cited as King going too far and being too weird. Yet for me these are the very elements of the novel that save it. They save it from being a very standard monster story. When King gets very weird and “out there,” it shows a storytelling bravery that I admire, and an originality and out-of-the-box thinking that keeps his work from being cookie-cutter but instead elevates it to something spectacular. I feel that way about It.

            These are merely a handful of examples, but I thought I would share. As I said, I sometimes have my own criticisms of King, but I find the most common criticisms are ones I do not share. That is part of the beauty and magic of storytelling. It is a different experience for each reader. Ten people can read the same words and have ten vastly different reactions.

MarkAGunnels Author Pic.jpg

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. You can find out more about Mark and his work—including his latest, Deviations from the Norm—on his Amazon page. Click HERE.

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. 

Where Does a New Stephen King Fan Begin? by Lloyd Kerns

Blogging about a master of horror is daunting. Add that this specific author is possibly the most prolific of all, and well...

MR. Mercedes.jpg

See, I was very late to board the Stephen King train. Imagine the white rabbit Alice followed down the hole. "Late! Late! Late!" Then, my mother mailed me (US postage to Thailand--yikes!) a copy of MR. MERCEDES. What an introduction! I read the entire thing in under a week with every reading session done on a stationary bike. Next thing I remember was checking the bookstores in the nearest mall, searching the English section, praying for more King. And I found a few. But the one that caught my eye was FULL DARK, NO STARS. And then it was 1922 which left me with an undeniable desire to write. That and a mix of my boyhood love for Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn pretty much guaranteed my own stories would mostly deal with small towns, farm towns.

A lot of great modern writers come and go, and it is hard to imagine their mark being a long-lasting one, but King is different. Sure he has had his fair share of embarrassing releases but when you write as many books as he has, two or three flops out of the lot is far from bad. And not only does he more often than not deliver the creepy goods, he also takes time to dig deep into the characters and their world. His tales often leave an impact as he works in different perspectives on the world and its many issues. This is something I have grown to admire about Dubus III and John Irving as well. It is that kind of development I try to create in my own writing.

And they give terrific interviews and so obviously care about the future of writing.

Full Dark, No Stars.jpg

Why did I have to give Stevie K. a try so late in life? With so many releases by the man—and more coming—will I ever catch up? It's not like his books are thin either; many a weighty tome keeps being pushed off as a to-be-read-later. I am working my way through. SALEM’S LOT had some fantastic characters. GUNSLINGER may contain the greatest opening line of all time: simple yet intriguing. (You know the one.) CUJO is unforgettable and the dog's POV was splendidly done and terrifying. THE SHINING in part influenced my debut novel, THE RUT, set to be released by Burning Willow Press, August 2019. From it, I wanted to have a seemingly good family man find his morality stripped from him; but that's as much as I wish to share at the moment.

Everyone praises IT, THE STAND, and THE TALISMAN, so I will make those priorities for next year.

Did I miss any that should be contenders?

Stephen King’s catalog is a hard wood to whittle down.

Imagine my surprise when my own writing found itself compared to that of King. (Promo alert: a man has got to eat.)

Heartfelt Flows and Misery.jpg

"Kerns deftly constructs his stories in much the same way as King, Irving, and Steinbeck." - Ryan Lieske, author of FICTION (an incredible debut.)

“The man can play words.”

“Heartfelt Flows and Misery is a collection of seven excellently crafted short stories.”

“Excellent read.”

“… will leave you yearning to read another.”

“Kerns has a way of drawing you into a story and keeping you there…”

“He writes stories that resonate to your very soul”

Heartfelt Flows and Misery is available on Amazon in paperback and ebook. Click HERE.

Author Photo.png

Thanks for your time and please get in touch with me through the multitudes of social networking:

Amazon: Click Here

Facebook: Click Here

WordPress: Click Here

Twitter Click HERE

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. 

The King of Character by Thorne & Cross

Vampires hiding in mobile homes. Sentient vehicles with attitude. Characters haunted by ghosts, real or imagined. People tormented by addictions, supernatural powers, even their own sense of right and wrong. Folks fighting inner and outer demons alike, facing corruption by greed or some other deadly sin. Even alien shit-weasels burrowing into the darkest recesses of the human, er … condition.

But always, characters shining through as they fight the odds to overcome adversity. These are the inhabitants of Stephen King’s landscape.

Stephen King at Work.jpg

He shows us the very best and the very worst of human nature, and everything in between. He’s the master of character. This is because, first and foremost, King understands human nature. We’re compelled by his powerful characterizations; even in the smallest role, a King character shines with personality. We know who he or she is and will remember them a hundred pages later when they make another brief appearance. With a few deft words, King imprints his vision in our brains, and for that, we’re forever grateful. We’ve learned - and continue to learn - from him. King writes long and that’s because his characters come to life and take over. We relish each extra detail, each side story, because they’re all about people, about human nature. Whether we identify with a character or revile one, we know them and, in King’s capable hands, we understand even those most foreign to us.

The Stand.jpg

When Tamara was writing THE SORORITY, she found herself in the mind of a cheerleader - a good girl full of school spirit. Understanding the motivations of a serial killer was simple in comparison. She turned to King and reread THE STAND thinking his character, Frannie Goldsmith, might teach her something about the kind of female she never understood or cared for. Somehow, King eventually did make Frannie understandable - and even likable. It was a lesson well learned and did much to get Tamara into the mind of that most alien of creatures  - the cheerleader.

Salems Lot.jpg

Alistair also frequently turns to King when he’s writing. When penning THE CRIMSON CORSET, he needed to put a new twist on the undead - not all of them, he was certain, live in castles or Gothic mansions in Transylvania. SALEM’S LOT, with its middle-America trailer-park vampires, shed fresh light on the genre and opened up intriguing new possibilities. Rereading that book gave Alistair what he needed to break with tradition whenever and however he chose.

And, of course, as well as learning from the King, we read him for the fun - and the fear - of it. And oh, boy does King know how to scare. It’s rare that either of us reads anything that sets the gooseflesh racing over our skin, but there’s just something about the villains of Stephen King, about the horrific way he describes them, that gets right into our heads and nests there. King pulls no punches and he’s not afraid to tell it like it is.

For us, and so many other writers, Stephen King is a teacher as well as an entertainer, a  … ahem, Shining beacon of inspiration by which all else is measured, a Joyland chock-full of Needful Things to be enjoyed and Carried with us during all Different Seasons. There is no Dark Half of Stephen King, no Dead Zone, and certainly no Misery. We hope you’ll excuse our Desperation to take a Stand about his work and what It means to us. The point is, it’s not a Long Walk to pleasure when it comes to the King.

So Much King.png

He has the courage to experiment, to take risks in his writing. He refuses to be fettered by others’ expectations, but follows his instincts and examines that which fascinates him - and thus draws us into his world where we travel happily.

We love Stephen King unabashedly and without apology. Even his less-than-stellar books make for better reading than most, and we consider him to be one of the all-time greats, no matter the genre. We’ll take him over “literary” authors any old day of the week and twice on Sundays.

 

TamaraThorne.jpg

Tamara Thorne and Alistair Cross are the authors of The Ravencrest Saga series, Mother, The Cliffhouse Haunting, and Darling Girls. Look for their new solos, Brimstone (Thorne) and The Silver Dagger (Cross) this winter.

Learn more about….

Ravencrest Saga click HERE.

Alistair Cross.jpg
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. 

I Want to Be Like a King by Rob Shepherd

So when I was graciously asked if I would like to contribute an article to Darkness Dwells’ blog, for their Stephen King November series, I immediately accepted and agreed to it without a second’s hesitation. Then thought to myself, “I have no idea what to say.” So here I am writing this and here you are reading what it is that I am eventually going to say.

I racked my brain for what interesting things I could say about the master of horror, things that would be remotely interesting to you, and which you won't have already read or even thought yourself, being an avid King reader and fan that you likely are, otherwise you wouldn't have even bothered reading this already babbling blog article.

I decided that I wouldn't write about my favourite King films or my favourite King books and/or short stories. Aside from having been done a near literal million times before by everyone else that is anyone worth listening to, these lists are also highly subjective and personal. Ripe for discussion without doubt, but also hugely likely to cause argument. After all, which of us hasn't argued with friends, family, work colleagues or strangers about these very things?

Deep King.jpg

So what do I say then? What do I talk about? I have spent the best part of a week trying to work that out and so here, as you have probably guessed, is my answer: I’ll write about my own perspective and wandering thoughts on Stephen King and his mastery of the literary world.

What this all boils down to are King’s abilities beyond his sheer skill in writing fiction. What abilities am I talking about? Well let me break them down from a personal perspective, as a questionable (but hopeful) literary child of King’s world(s).

1. Stephen King's ability to Inspire

2. King's ability to Transport the reader

3. King's legendary ability to Connect the seemingly unconnected

4. Stephen King's ability to Write Almost Anything.

5. Stephen Kings legendary Openness

6. Stephen King's ability to Reach Out and Connect

So let's start at the top.

1. Inspiration. Stephen King is without doubt—and probably world-renowned—for his ability to inspire millions of us—even several generations by now—with his incredible literary voice throughout his astounding books, stories, and films and TV (some based on his books, others being original works). And I am no different than you. King has been a massive inspiration to me and my own work over the years. It was King that taught me to find my own voice, yet not to be afraid to let my influences show. It doesn't matter if you write and talk (figuratively), like your influences, so long as you put down what you want to say—that which is your own head, as you hear it, as you think it, with the words that you hear and use yourself, that is your voice. And if you have a story to tell, then tell it. People will listen. King inspired me to say to myself, to hell with what people think or say; if I love it, if I want to say something myself, to write something, then do it. King Inspired me to be brave.

2. Transport. King's ability to transport his readers—in this case me—into his worlds. Now they may not be fantastical like Lovecraft, Wells, Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and so on, but that is what makes King's ability to take you away with him, to abandon this world here and now and go with him to a world that looks exactly the same, yet is so very different underneath, all the more incredible. I don't know of, and have yet to hear or read a comment from. somebody who hasn't been absorbed, spirited away and lost in the myriad different worlds of King's. Stories that hook you because they feel, smell and even taste, like the worlds we inhabit ourselves. Everything feels normal, feels real and feels like it belongs there with us.

Dark Tower Series.jpg

3. Connecting the seemingly unconnected. King's ability to connect is most easily and obviously demonstrated with the Dark Tower series. Reading it and watching the TV series, you can easily see how so many of his other stories come back to this, how they run off it or are built from it. I won't name any, it's always more fun to discover for yourself. (Yes, I am a spoil sport, but I hate spoilers myself so I don't intend to give anything that might sound like one away. Please, don't use that language, there are young and impressionable freakpeeps about, we don't want them to hear such plain language, be more offensive, thank you).

Carrie.jpg

4. To write pretty much anything. That is one of the biggest reasons why I love Stephen King. His ability to write stories in so many genres and disciplines is, quite frankly, amazing. From Horror to Drama, Fiction to Writing guides and so much more, King’s ability to switch genres is another inspiration to me personally, and I am sure—rather, I know—is an inspiration to millions of other authors across the planet. Maybe beyond, who knows, it wouldn't surprise me if I am honest with you.

5. King's openness. This is something I adore about King. King does not denigrate, patronise, take for granted and certainly doesn't discriminate. King is without doubt one the most open and liberal of all famous authors I know of. It is his ability to ignore, or at least look past, what petty little differences we have as people, such as religion, culture, race, background etc. King wants to reach the person, the heart and mind inside a person and share knowledge, experiences and love. He is honest with us, his loyal and often obsessed and obsessive readers and fans, about what he is doing, what he is thinking and what is bothering him. This makes him a wonderful example to the rest of us. Sure, some of us aren't as politically active or politically knowledgeable as King but it is another example of King, the teacher of the wise word, showing, inspiring and leading us to be who we are and find our own unique voice.

Kings Fans.jpg

6. Reaching out and connecting. All of which leads us on to this last point. King is open and reachable for his fans. King is not just socially active, he is active on all forms of social media, often interacting with fans and critics alike with humour, wisdom, thoughtfulness and kindness. Just go to King's Twitter feed and see for yourself the thousands of examples of this, rather than boring old me stating cases to you here.

So what is the point of this blog post? Well, I don't really know. I guess it's to share my love of Stephen King and some reasons why. After all, I am a big fan, long time reader follower of his, but I am also honest in that I could not tell you everything about him and his books, I couldn't quote his characters and so forth. But I can say that he is an inspiration to not just hopeful authors like myself, but to so many more, equally skilful writers, actors, directors, you name it. To basically anybody. I wanted to say what King has done for me on a personal and literary level. I wanted to do what King himself continues to do, to share. To share love, passion, inspiration, ideas and more. This he has done for me and so much more besides.

Politically Active.jpg

And so, this is what I hope to achieve in my own work. To whisk you away from this world, from your own personal situations in this life, and ferry you to another world, your own fantasy world where although the construct is of my making, the life, the breath, the continuing existence of those worlds are entirely of your own making. The building of characters’ futures, dependant on your own imagination, something that I know, you all have in abundance. I hope to provide the same love of the word, passion for whatever it is that moves you, that excites you, that makes you hold your breath with anticipation for what comes next. Whatever it is that you love doing, to inspire you to just do it, no matter what anyone says or does, to say what you think, do what you please and to find and use your own voice, whether that be in a book, in making films, theatre, sports, arts and creativity, politics or whatever. That's what I hope to have and to continue to accomplish in my work, to breed these things in you, to inspire and to share the single most important factor, love. Love for whatever it is that you do.

So, in conclusion, be like me. Be inspired. Be like Stephen King. Be amazing.... Be yourself.

Thank you, Stephen King. Thank you Master of Horror, from all of us that you have bled inspiration into.

Rob Shepherd Dark Worlds.jpg

Born in Essex in 1978, Rob currently resides in Thurrock with his wife and family.

Rob's books to date include:

Life With Boris Karloff!

Sofiah

Stripped Unconsciousness

The Grays Anatomy

Friends Like Us

The Caretaker

BiteSized Vol.1

My Name Is Human

Dark Worlds

Rob has been featured in many anthologies including Dark light 2 (by S.J. Davis), Liphar - Short Stories Vol.1 & Unleash The Undead (Collated & Edited by Samie Sands), Kevin Hall's Thirteen 2: The Horror Continues & Thirteen vol.3. Horror on Halloween Night, Mutate, A Picture Is Worth 1000 words, Nightmares & Electromagnetism, all also by Samie Sands.

Rob is working on many more new projects and is scheduled to appear at author and book signing events across the UK during 2019 and is scheduled to release further books of varying genres over the next 12-18 months.

Take a look a Rob Shepherd in any of his usual haunts:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Rob__Shepherd

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/authorrobshepherd/

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

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. 

For the Love of the Novella

by Mark Allan Gunnells

 Deviations from the Norm

Deviations from the Norm

Strange Weather Cover.jpg

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.

Deviations from the Norm Back Cover.jpg

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

MarkAGunnels Author Pic.jpg

 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.

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. 

Get in Trouble--Stories by Kelly Link

a Michael Schutz blog

Get in Trouble Cover.jpg

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.

Kelly Link.jpg

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.

Magic for Beginners.jpg

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.

Pretty Monsters.jpg
The Wrong Grave.jpg
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

BloodandBone.jpg

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.   

MichaelGriffin.jpg

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.

RobertWaters.jpg

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.

chud-image.jpg

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

chudposter.JPG

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/

chud-image.jpg

 

 

 

 

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

Lutzke 2017 Bio photo.jpg

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.

chud-image.jpg

 

 

 

The Month of C.H.U.D.

CHUDfinal.jpeg

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.

Black Mirror Logo.jpg

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.

New Job.jpg

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!

Nothing to Do.jpg

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.

Cole!.jpg

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.

Electric Chair.png

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.

Your Future.jpg
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?

Candle Bay Tamara Thorne.jpg

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.

Candle Bay Back Cover Copy.jpg

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.

Tamara Thorne Author Pic.jpg

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/

 

1 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. 

20 Women Horror Writers You Need To Read

Written by Jason White

WiH[2]FINAL.jpeg

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 

Mercedes-Yardley-PrettyLittleDeadGirls.jpg

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

Lucy-Taylor.jpg

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  

Amber-Fallon.jpg

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 

ThoseWhoFollow.jpg

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

Sephera Giron.jpg

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

Lisa Morton.jpg

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

Kindra Sowder.jpg

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

Fiona Dodwell.jpg

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

Gemma Files.jpg

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

SavageWoods.jpg

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. 

MF Wahl.jpg

 

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. 

Alessia Giacomi.jpg

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.

Nancy Kilpatrick.jpg

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.

Sarah Langan.jpg

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.

Tamara Thorne.jpg

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. 

Sarah Pinborough.jpg

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. 

Linda Addison.jpg

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. 

Nicole Cushing.jpg

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. 

Damien Angelica Walters.jpg

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.

Kelly Link.jpg

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:

Exquisite Corpse Cover.jpg

“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.

Brite Author Photo.jpg

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.

Poppy Z. Brite Quotation.jpg

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

Lunar Park Cover 2.png

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.

Lunar Park Cover.jpg
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. 

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:

The Two Jakes.jpg

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.
 

 

http___pbs.twimg.com_profile_images_751497494132064256_MrKF4PG1-0-220-0-220-crop.jpg
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. 

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?

 

rdelaFuente.png

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.

1 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. 

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!

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.