Tag Archives: horror

Guest Post: Get More Done by Lee Thompson

a beautiful madness book cover

 
Welcome to Lee Thompson’s A Beautiful Madness blog tour!
Darkeva’s Dark Delights, and the others participating blogs, will receive a paperback copy to give to a random reader who leaves a comment and shares this post. Throughout the book tour, Lee will be sharing fun facts about his first Mystery/Thriller, and also offering dubious advice to novice writers. Lee also thanks all the bloggers and readers who participate.


Get More Done

Unless you’re a blockbuster author, you’re going to have to get a lot done if you want to write full-time. For me, being excited about the novel I’m writing is enough to keep me on track and I don’t put anything before it. But listening to a lot of other writers I know, it seems they get distracted by tweets, and likes, and this, and one of those.

If you want to write, if the story you’re telling truly excites you, I think you’re going to make time for it. You’ll be thinking about it all the time, you’ll be eager to get back to the keyboard to lock more of it down so it can’t get away and you can get it out of your head and into other people’s.

It’s not terribly complicated is it? It sounds like a lot of excuses to me. I know plenty of mothers who are raising children and still knocking out the work. My buddy Shaun drives truck seventy hours a week and still makes it happen. I’m pretty certain that those who cry about not having enough time waste a lot of time even if it’s under the guise of being busy, which isn’t the same as completing your most important tasks.

What’s holding you back? Do you think it’s all the activity around you or all the activity you create? Maybe a little of both? A lot of both?
If ten other things take up more of your time than writing, are all ten of them more important to you? Are they essential? I know writing a novel doesn’t always have the immediate gratification that online activities seem to have, but the long lasting gratification is surely, for me at least, much greater in completing and selling a novel.

Maybe it’s different for you. Maybe talking about writing instead of doing it is what gets your rocks off. Maybe you like to whine about how hard it is, we all need to vent our frustrations sometimes, but big whoop. That’s not some startling revelation.
And writers write through the hurt and the agony, don’t they? They use it, don’t they? Ask Stephen King, William Faulkner, James Lee Burke, and Dennis Lehane.

Accepting responsibility—that it’s all up to you and nobody else—you make the time to read, write, edit, learn—is more of a help than hindrance. It is more freeing than anything to admit you put everything else before writing. You do realize it’s your responsibility, don’t you? If you blame your spouse, or your boss, or your kids, or your mother-in-law, or your favorite television show, just quit. People will laugh at you less. If you want to tinker at writing, go for it. But if writing is really your dream, work that imagination muscle. It needs exercise to stay in top shape. Are you talking about writing more than engaging in the act of it? It’s silly to do that isn’t it? Look at the mechanic who never works on cars. Look at the pianist who never touches the keys. Look at the carpenter who never lifts a tool. Is that you?

This also applies to characters in your novel. It’s very easy to spot a timid writer by the characters he creates. They’re always on the verge of doing something but only act when they’re forced into a corner. Everything in their head is way worse than reality could ever be. They walk through the story world without making any commitments because they’re afraid (nothing wrong with being afraid, the courageous are often afraid, they just act in the face of it.) A timid writer who finally develops a character usually develops a weak character arc, because deep down they know their character has just been going through the motions and hasn’t really overcome anything. Bah. There’s not much of a story in that, at least for genre fiction.

So if you claim to be a writer, prove it.

Get writing.

I challenge you.

It kills me to spend time writing non-fiction when I could be spending that time working on a novel, but I’m hoping some of the insights I’ve gotten over the last few years will help someone on their way up. Sadly I don’t think it can make much of a difference. If you’re going to write, you’re already doing it. If you’re not, you won’t. Nothing I say can change either.

In A Beautiful Madness, my protagonist Sammy has to get a lot done in a short time because he believes someone is out to destroy what’s left of his family. Like me, he’s all about addressing the important things immediately, which is nice because immediate choices propel the story forward, create tension, and sometimes back fire, causing collateral damage.

See below for information on how you can win a free copy of A Beautiful Madness and have a chance to win more Darkfuse titles. Thanks to those who participate.

Happy reading!
–Lee

Amazon Kindle | Paperback

More about A Beautiful Madness, and a link to the Goodreads giveaway to maximize your chances of scoring a free copy (giveaway goes until August 5, 2014).

Author bio: Lee Thompson is the author of the Suspense novels A Beautiful Madness (August 2014), It’s Only Death (forthcoming, January 2015), and With Fury in Hand (forthcoming, May 2015). The dominating threads weaved throughout his work are love, loss, and learning how to live again. A firm believer in the enduring power of the human spirit, Lee believes that stories, no matter their format, set us on the path of transformation. He is represented by the extraordinary Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary. Visit Lee’s website to discover more.

Enter to win a paperback copy! There will also be a grand prize at the end of the tour where one winner will receive Lee’s novel and four other DarkFuse titles in Kindle format! To enter: Simply leave a comment on this blog and share the link.

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Book Review: Wild Fell by Michael Rowe

WildFell-cover

 

Wild Fell
by Michael Rowe
Chizine Publications
$13.40 (paperback, Amazon) | $10.40 (Kindle, Amazon)
Release Date: December 31, 2013
300 pages
Review copy received courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Plot Description:

The crumbling summerhouse called Wild Fell, soaring above the desolate shores of Blackmore Island, has weathered the violence of the seasons for more than a century. Built for his family by a 19th-century politician of impeccable rectitude, the house has kept its terrible secrets and its darkness sealed within its walls. For a hundred years, the townspeople of alvina have prayed that the darkness inside Wild Fell would stay there, locked away from the light.

Jameson Browning, a man well acquainted with suffering, has purchased Wild Fell with the intention of beginning a new life, of letting in the light. But what waits for him at the house is devoted to its darkness and guards it jealously. It has been waiting for Jameson his whole life . . . or even longer. and now, at long last, it has found him.

Review:
There’s a good reason that Wild Fell, the second novel from Canadian writer Michael Rowe, is racking up the kinds of (well-deserved) praise it’s been getting, including an amazing blurb from horror and dark fantasy titan Clive Barker:

The mysteries of love and time haunt the beautifully wrought pages of Michael Rowe’s superb ghost story Wild Fell. This is a novel for lovers of fine storytelling; a book that evokes terrors both ancient and modern and delivers us to a place of profound fear where the past and present intersect, conjuring a dark world where the dead have our faces. Or none at all. In short, Wild Fell is supernatural fiction of the highest order.

Set in small town 1960s rural Ontario in the fictional town of Alvina, our story is distinctly Canadian and starts off with Sean and Brenda, a young couple, in a car. He asks her if she believes in ghosts and she insists there’s no such thing. We learn more about these two, including how their courtship began, and how even though he’s only a year older than her (they’re 17 and 16 respectively), her parents were hesitant at first about letting their daughter date Sean Schwartz (her mother in particular assumed that Sean was Jewish, which was apparently offensive to her–small town mentality and all that).

Sean is trying to convince Brenda that it’s a good idea to take her to a place rather ominously called Devil’s Lake, and more specifically onto Blackmore Island to explore the remains of a mansion called Wild Fell. Halfway there, she changes her mind to her initial agreement to go with him, and although he’s disappointed, they do turn back and resolve to spend a romantic evening sipping some wine and kindling the fires of their youthful passions for one another.

I felt an instant kinship with Brenda, who is surprised that a really good-looking guy at school likes her, even though she considers herself average in the looks department and decent when it comes to brains. Rowe did a great job getting into the head of a teenage girl from the 1960s and his characters are always incredibly authentic.

Sadly, this tale of the two lovers doesn’t have such a happy ending (to say the least), which leads into the main narrative. We are introduced to Jamie (or Jameson), the central character of Wild Fell. We also meet his best friend, Lucinda, who goes by Hank, cuts hair short, and is generally established to be more of a boy than he is.

The more we get into Jamie’s story, the clearer it is that he’s a fascinating but somewhat lonely boy who has invented Mirror Pal, a sort of imaginary friend that he talks to when he looks in the mirror, pretending that it’s someone else, and saying reassuring things to himself but in the voice of Mirror Pal, who takes Jamie’s side in every matter. Eventually, someone else takes the place of Mirror Pal, a girl named Amanda, who reminds him of a portrait of his grandmother he saw around the house.

He’s sent off to Camp Manitou against his will and of course is one of two social outcasts at the camp. He gets into a huge fistfight with one of the older boys over a turtle and surprises himself with the outcome (I don’t want to spoil how the scene plays out for readers, but it’s one of the most engrossing scenes of the book, to hear the descriptions of what’s going on in Jamie’s head).

Jamie’s mother grows more distant and combative as the book goes on while his dad builds more trust in him and they develop a different kind of relationship. Eventually, we learn more about this weird person in the mirror, Amanda, who tells him that she’ll help him hurt the boy who stole his bike. He has enough and takes steps to make sure Amanda doesn’t bother him any more. We don’t see or hear from Amanda again until Jamie is in his 40s and his dad has Alzheimer’s. Life leads him to buy Wild Fell on Devil’s Island, and the real estate agent seems like she’s very skittish and untrustworthy. He goes to the local library to find more about the family who originally lived in the house, and he finds out that both the parents and children of the family were more than dysfunctional. The two children, Malcolm and Rosa, were fraternal twins, and they both lived in the house until they died in their old age. It’s suggested that their relationship was perhaps bordering on inappropriate, and reminiscent of Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia in a sense.

I don’t want to spoil the big reveals, but more of the truth emerges as Jamie continues to search for what’s really going on. There’s a fascinating connection to moths that I also don’t want to ruin for the reader, but it makes absolute sense when it comes to finding out more about Amanda and Rosa and makes one of the most creative uses of long-forgotten folklore that I’ve seen in a good while.

The reader will, of course, be wondering what the hell is going on with Jamie, whether what he perceives to be reality is really happening, if it’s all an illusion, if it’s some great trick, or something else entirely. Amanda’s sinister nature is phenomenally frightening, as well as her effect on Jamie both as a child and as an adult returning to Wild Fell.

I thought the history of the Blackmore family was so rich, vibrant, and interesting, which is so difficult to accomplish with back-story in a novel. Rowe pulls this off masterfully. This novel almost reminds me of a more modern update or rather a more modern and more accessible version of “Fall of the House of Usher” from Edgar Allan Poe.

It’s really a crime that a Canadian novelist as talented as Rowe doesn’t get on the list of the Giller prize or the major Canadian literary fiction awards, because Canadians deserve to know they have such a treasure right in their own backyard. Ultimately, Wild Fell is one of the truly few original ghost stories you will ever read in this day and age when pretty much everything has been thought of or done to death. What Michael Rowe did for vampires, he has done again for ghosts, even bigger and even better. I would encourage readers of Canadian-themed fiction to pick this up even if they’re not horror fans and to dispense with their pre-conceived (often ill-informed) notions of the horror genre. As well, I would also encourage horror fans to branch out from what they usually read, which may be more in the way of fast-paced thrillers or extreme gore stuff to pick up Wild Fell for a stunning, truly memorable read.

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Book Review: The Tree Man by David Bernstein

the_tree_man

 

The Tree Man
by David Bernstein
Samhain Publishing
$2.60 (Amazon Kindle)
Release Date: January 7, 2014
84 pages
Review copy received from the author in exchange for an honest review

Plot Description:

Can two kids alone stop a monstrous evil?

Women and children have been mysteriously disappearing from Evan’s town. And now Evan may know why. He was climbing a tree in the woods when he saw a decrepit old man toss a helpless woman into the mouth of a hideous tree-like creature.

Evan knows he can’t stop the man and the creature by himself, but he also knows no one will believe a kid with such a wild story. Only his best friend, Peter, can help him confront this terrifying evil. But if they aren’t careful, they will soon be missing too.

Review:
Horror author David Bernstein starts off 2014 on a strong note with his latest offering, The Tree Man, a new novella-length fiction offering from Samhain. Our story begins with a strange old man who is dragging the body of a screaming woman into the woods. Watching all of this unfold is a young boy, Evan. Soon enough, Evan witnesses things that no 13 year-old should, including a strange tree creature that eats humans. Evan has no doubt that this old man is the bad guy, some kind of sorcerer or conjurer. We switch to the old man’s point of view and learn that there’s a specific reason why he feeds this particular tree monster, and that appearances can be deceiving.

Back at home, Evan is grateful to be away from what he’s just witnessed, but it doesn’t take long before he gets his best friend, Pete, mixed up in what the old man is doing. That turns out to have more devastating consequences than either one of them could imagine. What’s worse is that just as Evan thinks he’s on the right track, he finds out that he could not be more wrong about the entire situation, but sadly for him, he realizes the truth too late.

It’s a creative tale from Bernstein, who uses some inventive magic and world-building elements to establish the mythos here. The Tree Man is a short, punchy and enjoyable tale from Bernstein that his fans should definitely eat up.

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Book Review: The Devil’s Woods by Brian Moreland

devilswoods-300

The Devil’s Woods
by Brian Moreland
Samhain Publishing
Hardcover | eBook
Release Date: December 3, 2013
Cover Price: $16.00 ($12.55 on Amazon)
Review copy received from the author in exchange for an honest review

Plot Description:

Fear wears many skins.

Deep within the Canadian wilderness, people have been disappearing for over a century. There is a place the locals call “the Devil’s Woods,” but to speak of it will only bring the devil to your door. It is a place so evil that even animals avoid it.

When their father’s expedition team goes missing, Kyle Elkheart and his brother and sister return to the abandoned Cree Indian reservation where they were born. Kyle can see ghosts that haunt the woods surrounding the village—and they seem to be trying to warn him. The search for their father will lead Kyle and his siblings to the dark heart of the legendary forest, where their mission will quickly become a fight for survival.

Review:
Set in the Macaya Woods deep in the forests of British Columbia, there’s a special breed of shape-shifters who lurk around the town of Hagen’s Cove and they’re some pretty sick, twisted creatures. Without giving too much away, they have a shared origin from what one could argue is the novel’s villain, although the townspeople itself can also be construed as the villains in some way.

Our main character is Kyle Elkheart, who is a best-selling horror writer of Native American heritage. The Devil’s Woods starts off with Kyle’s father, John, who is looking for one of his research assistants, Amy, who has gone missing in the woods as part of an expedition. John is a professor at the University of Vancouver, but he’s very in touch with his First Nations heritage and calls upon it for help but seems to fall prey to whatever has been silently ruling this town and plotting to take over. Kyle gets word from one of their cousins in Hagen’s Cove, Ray, that John Elkheart is in trouble. He lives in Seattle and has a troubled relationship with his father as well as his siblings (some more than others) but he agrees to make the trek back to BC.

Accompanying him are his brother, Eric, Eric’s Australian girlfriend Jessica, and their little sister, Shawna, with her boyfriend, Zack, one of the guys in the band she plays in who, as it turns out, is a rather avid reader of horror novels, including Kyle’s, and is a big fan.

Although Kyle’s wife, Stephanie, has been dead for a few years, he starts to develop feelings for Jessica. It’s not easy for Kyle to see her with his brother mostly because he knows better than anyone that Eric is a smooth-talking con artist lothario who sees women as a sport. Tensions rise as the novel goes on and Eric is unable to resist his straying ways, although Jessica grapples with her growing connection to Kyle.

It doesn’t take long for the real villains to emerge, apart from the ones that cause dissension between the family, and they get separated. The family’s grandfather, an Elder, is also present, but hasn’t said much in the last few years and unfortunately even though he’s one of the most important people they need to survive, he can’t help them in the way they need due to the effects of dementia.

The final showdown is set up and gradually all the secret identities are revealed, as Kyle and his family must fight to protect everyone they love in the midst of the shape-shifting monsters, influenced by Canadian Native American legends. While these creatures are similar to the Wendigo, which Moreland has used before in his previous novel, Dead of Winter, they will make you want to keep the lights on at night.

As he did with Dead of Winter, Moreland delivers another horror thriller that delivers thrills, chills, a lot of tension, many “edge of your seat” moments, and a highly compulsive read that makes for the perfect winter reading. Although The Devil’s Woods is set in the present, and not historical fiction like Dead of Winter, if that wasn’t to a reader’s taste, then that means good news for this one as more horror readers may be inclined to take a chance on it. Once again, Moreland’s research into Canada’s history and specifically British Columbia, as well as the Native American myths and legends associated with the region, is very well-done and he presents it in a very engaging way.

I’ve been recommending Dead of Winter to readers ever since I read it a few years ago, and I will continue to recommend it in this review as well because it’s such a high-impact novel. I enjoyed The Devil’s Woods as much as I enjoyed Dead of Winter although that novel remains my favourite of Moreland’s so far. Continue to watch for more of his work in the future, as it will only keep getting better and better.

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Book Review: Nomads by Benjamin Kane Ethridge

nomads-bke

 
Nomads, (sequel to Black & Orange)
by Benjamin Kane Ethridge
Bad Moon Books
$20 (trade paperback, from Bad Moon Books) | $5.99 (Amazon Kindle)
Release Date: October 31, 2013
Review copy received from the author in exchange for an honest review

Plot Description:

A decade has passed since the events of BLACK & ORANGE and the Church of Midnight has almost been single-handedly decimated by the Nomad named Patty Middleton. After a series of mass executions, she demands to get answers from the mysterious Messenger, and is tireless in her pursuit, despite the protests of her partner. While Patty seems closer to discovering the identity of the Messenger, she has also developed a dangerous condition with her power to create the invisible fields known as mantles. This condition could kill her or people around her, just when she needs to focus on her enemies, who now include a government group known as the Office of Arcane Phenomenon. Meanwhile, Chaplain Cloth, disappointed and impatient with years of failing, seeks a rumored pair of columns that will hold the gateway open forever. Patty Middleton is more than a match for him though, and half of his Church is gone. If he doesn’t make his move now he might not get another chance for thousands of years. There’s no room for error. He has to get those columns and sacrifice the Heart of the Harvest. But this year the Heart isn’t in our world. This time around, the Nomads and Chaplain Cloth are spending Halloween in the Old Domain.

Review:
As stated in the description above, Nomads is the the sequel to 2010′s Stoker Award-winning novel Black & Orange by Benjamin Kane Ethridge (incidentally, you can read my review here). Both books explore a decidedly different and much darker side of Halloween in a unique and original way.

There’s a touching dedication to the late Michael Louis Calvillo, who the author was good friends with before his untimely passing. Please consider reading his work–it’s some of the most powerful literature you’ll ever come across. As well, my fellow horror blogger Jim from Ginger Nuts of Horror got a shout-out for assisting the author with some Scottish facts and figures, as he hails from the great isle of Caledonia (I could have also said ‘the country that brought us Sean Connery’ but Latin names are more fun ;-)).

One of the most dynamic and exciting things about Nomads is the Scottish setting. Don’t get the wrong idea, though–this isn’t a merry romp through the Highlands going on tours of castle after castle or trying to find out what “haggis” really is. Make no mistake, it’s still very much all about the Heart of the Harvest, but it livens things up to have the sequel outside of the US, although the main characters, including the most important Nomad, Patty Middleton, are, in fact, American. The cast of characters expands considerably making for more interesting subplots and power plays between people, which also makes this an even more compelling read than Black & Orange.

Things start off with an older Scotsman, Douglas, who’s with a girl, Fia, also his daughter’s best friend, in a cabin somewhere. It doesn’t take long before the scenario unfolds the way the reader thinks it will. Like any red-blooded male, Douglas finds Fia is a temptation too great to resist (even though he’s married, although his wife really is a battle-ax, as evidenced by her behaviour when she shows up at the cabin). Things take a turn for the worse when a certain someone with one black eye and one orange eye decides to show up via possession and takes over Douglas. The battle we saw in Black & Orange is far from over.

Then we switch to the Interloper, who is a mysterious and enigmatic figure tied into the fates of each Nomad. H protects them and lessens their burdens, guides them into every Halloween, and is thought to be a benevolent entity, but as the book continues, alliances definitely come into question, making for a more thought-provoking and interesting read.

The Nomads are Patty Middleton and Teresa Celeste. They have blood ties to the Old Domain, the realm from which Chaplain Cloth and his pumpkin creatures come from, among other things, but even though they’re in Glasgow, they have no idea of the monster lurking about. The Interloper saw the monster, Chaplain Cloth, possess Douglas and cause havoc at his local pub. But it turns out it wasn’t just a random possession. Douglas had secret ties to the Church of Midnight, even though he wasn’t as devoted as other members. There’s a great scene at a pub when Douglas is playing chess with another guy, but it doesn’t take long for Cloth to make use of Douglas in the way he needs and to cause a lot of havoc and carnage along the way.

As it’s mentioned in the plot description, although Patty’s power to summon mantles and use them is quite powerful, it’s also out of control and a bit unpredictable, making it a challenging weapon to use. It’s almost like she’s pyrokinetic when she uses mantles, as their biggest function, for lack of a better phrase, is to blow things up. No matter where the Nomads go, there’s always someone chasing after them, and this time around it’s no different with the culprit being a shady guy named Byron.

One of the other unsavoury characters is Camden, who Chaplain talks to about the Church “To Do” list and emphasizing the importance of obtaining the Heart of the Harvest, which he says he and his children will do. Cloth wants the Priestess of Midnight to assist him. But first, Camden must go to a lot of trouble to provide conduit bodies for the Church of Morning members to communicate on Earth from the Old Domain. The Priestess is one of the most interesting characters, a young and misguided girl who could definitely stand to be fitted with a straight jacket, who has a past with Camden. She’s also very insecure and in some ways this makes her easy to manipulate but it also makes her unstable and volatile with the potential to cause a lot of damage.

Eventually things come to a head and the Nomads do their best to undermine the efforts of Chaplain Cloth and his army. This time around, being exposed to more of the “bad guys” so to speak makes this an even more interesting and engaging read than Black & Orange, as well as more world-building and exploration into the Old Domain. There are enough twists and turns to keep readers invested in the story, as well as an ending that, while it does have a sense of resolution, definitely leaves the door open to further exploration of this universe and the characters Ethridge has created.

Nomads was even better than I expected it to be, and is the perfect gift for the horror reader in your life who wants a different kind of read this holiday season and isn’t sure what to read next. Just because Halloween is over, it doesn’t mean this book isn’t just as impactful months later as in its original season. That said, I don’t think that readers who haven’t read Black & Orange will be at a loss, or won’t understand what’s going on completely. Don’t get me wrong, it will definitely help to have read the first book, but one won’t be completely confused if they pick up Nomads first.

For those of you who can’t get enough of the Black & Orange universe, just a reminder that the author also has a collection of short stories set there called Reaping October, which is the perfect add-on gift, containing three superb stories that will entertain and challenge horror readers.

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