By The Fire: Episode 145: Challenge 9: Write a 1200-1500 word campfire tale in storyteller format

Hey HorrorAddicts, I hope you’re enjoying the contest so far because things are getting more exciting. In episode 145 of the HorrorAddicts.net podcast, the challenge for The Next Great Horror Writer is to write a 1200-1500 word campfire tale in storyteller format, as if you are telling it to us around the campfire. Contestants will be judged on scare factor, originality and storytelling ability. The winner will have their story published by horroraddicts.net publishing as part of their “Horror Bites Series”.

Campfire tales are possibly the most fun form of horror storytelling there is. If a campfire tale isn’t simple enough it will lose its effect. They should be short, hopefully, have a monster, crazed killer or a ghost and a shock ending would be the icing on the cake. Campfire tales aren’t rocket science, the story doesn’t have to even be that good as long as it’s scary. The whole idea is to gather around the campfire and try to scare your friends with tales of the grotesque or a good urban legend. We’re all storytellers if you think about it and a campfire is a perfect place to perfect your craft.

So Addicts, have you ever told scary tales around the fire? I think most people have, it’s like a rite of passage. To quote A Nightmare Before Christmas: “life’s no fun without a good scare”. What were the stories you tried to scare your friends with? Was your audience scared? Did someone scare you with their story? Pretend this blog is a roaring fire and let us know what your favorite scary story is and leave your tall tale in the comments.

David’s Haunted Library: Two from Crystal Lake Publishing

Ugly Little Things: Collected Horrors by Todd Keisling is a collection of stories that explore what happens when people are pushed to their limits.The first story called A Man In Your Garden sets up the anthology perfectly. It’s about a man who believes a stranger is standing on his lawn. The man is scared but is there, someone, really out there or does he have an overactive imagination. I love how this story shows that sometimes we are our worst enemy.

Another good story here is Saving Granny From The Devil, this is a coming of age story where a young kid name Todd gets help from the devil. Flash forward a few years and the devil is coming for Todd’s Granny and Todd makes a deal to save her. The problem is that while Todd’s heart is in the right place, he may have made the wrong decision. We then see how his actions affected his life and his Granny’s. What I like about this story is the idea presented that love lasts forever and maybe the devil isn’t such a bad guy. Todd Keisling shows that he has a gift for creating deep characters that you can’t help but care for even when they do wrong.

My favorite story in this collection is When Karen Met Her Mountain. Karen comes from a religious father who recently died and not too long ago she had a miscarriage that she hasn’t mentally recovered from. Tragedy strikes when a religious cult shows up and kidnaps her husband. The Cult is messing with the wrong woman and Karen is going to make them pay.  I liked how you see Karen’s personality change as she hunts down her victims and then towards the end we find out that her therapist believed something like this would happen if the wrong trigger was pulled. The ending of this one really surprised me, this is a woman pushed to the edge and comes out stronger and more vicious.

The last story in the collection is a novella called The Final Reconciliation. It’s about a progressive rock band called The Yellow Kings, four kids with big dreams set out on their first tour. Little did they know that their first album would only be heard once and would cause the death of nearly 200 people. This story is a twist on an old mythology and a story of four kids achieving their dreams and worst nightmares at the same time.This is another coming of age story as the kids are working to leave the rough backgrounds that they come from.

Ugly Little Things is a book about the human spirit but the human spirit doesn’t always triumph. Even when you get what you want there is a dark side to it and that’s what Ugly Little Things is about. This is a book that’s shocking and disturbing but most of all it’s a look at what happens to people when they can’t handle the horror of life.

We’re all fascinated by things that are strange, odd and just plain different. Behold! Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders edited by Doug Murano is an anthology that embraces weirdness. When you start reading this book you know to expect the unexpected from the first story. In Larue’s Dime Museum by Lisa Morton. The story follows a woman who is obsessed with the past and finds two photos that transport her back in time. I loved how this story opens leading you to believe it’s about a circus style sideshow. Then you start to realize it’s really about a photographer and a woman who wishes to be in another time. I loved the descriptions of the setting and hearing about the woman’s daily routine and how she sees the world around her.

Another good story in this anthology is Chivalry by Neil Gaiman. In this story, an old woman finds the holy grail in a second-hand store and before long Galaad comes on a quest to bring the grail to King Arthur’s Knights Of The Round Table. The woman does not want to give it up. Galaad keeps coming back with extravagant gifts and finally offers three gifts to the woman and the woman accepts two in exchange for the chalice but the one she rejects is a huge surprise in the story. I love how the woman rejects the gift and her reaction after Galaad leaves her. At this point you are left to wonder is she crying because she liked the attention from Galaad or is it because she really wanted the third gift. This story is a must read.

Another good one is the Wildflower, Cactus Rose by Brian Kirk. This is a completely original story about a woman who goes in for surgery to take care of a sleep apnea problem. She comes out mutilated and thinks her life is over. Her new gifts seem to change her life though as she finds it easier to do the right thing.  There is a good message in this story about how the way you look doesn’t affect the life you choose. In reality, it’s our attitude that either draws people to us or pushes them away. The world is a mirror, you see what you want to see.

This book is full of great stories and one of the best is Clive Barker’s Jacqueline Ess: Her Will and Testament. This is an odd story about a woman who almost dies due to a suicide attempt. She then discovers she can make men do anything she wants and kill people with a simple thought. This one is fascinating because it is told from two perspectives and there is a bizarre love story involved. This tale can be described as a journey as you watch Jacqueline change as she understands her power and you watch the men around her change as they figure out what she can do.  Behold! Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders is a speculative fiction anthology that is a must read.

http://www.crystallakepub.com/

 

Author Interview: Lily Luchesi

 

Who doesn’t love a good vampire novel? If you enjoy reading horror stories with strong female characters, lots of action and maybe a little romance, then you should check out the books of Lily Luchesi. If you’re not convinced then check out our interview with Lily:

When did you start writing?

I started writing with the goal of making it my career when I was eight years old. I had a teacher who inspired me and made me want to pursue it. I’ve always been creative, though. When I was little I used to draw quite a bit, and act out scenes with my “imaginary friends”. As I got older, I just started writing them down instead!

What are your favorite topics to write about?

Well, I will always love writing about monsters and creatures. They’ve been an obsession for me since I was a toddler and saw a vampire on an old Scooby-Doo rerun on the Cartoon Network. But I write about many deeper subjects, disguising them in between horror and action. I write about unconditional love, xenophobia, racism, LGBT+ issues, women’s rights, and the growing violence in America (particularly in my home city of Chicago).

I like strong female leads who don’t look like Victoria’s Secret models, and male co-stars who support and encourage them. Real people are flawed in many ways, so I believe characters should be as well.

What do you like best about vampires?

You know, that’s harder than you might think for me to answer. I don’t know what initially attracted me to vampires, but now that they’ve evolved so much, I think it’s an unnatural allure for danger. Even if a vamp is sexy, they’re still deadly. They might be the deadliest creature of them all, yet humans are undeniably attracted to them. I love that power they have over the human heart.

What was the first horror movie or horror novel you read?

The first horror movie I watched could be considered the cartoon version of Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree, or possibly Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. Non-animated, that would be Carrie (the original version) when I was twelve.

My first horror novel was YA horror when I was ten, and that was The Cirque Du Freak Series by Darren Shan (also about vampires, you can see where my tastes ran). Adult horror was also Stephen King, I got a used copy of Rose Madder for free and fell madly in love with his writing.

What are some of your influences?

Stephen King is definitely a big influence. I love how so many of his books are interconnected (like with towns, characters, even plots) and that he can bring fear over seemingly innocuous things like those wind-up monkeys with the cymbals, or a painting, or even your own grandmother. It takes great talent to be able to do that.

Other horror authors who have influenced me are Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley, Thomas Harris, and Darren Shan.

What do you find fascinating about the horror genre?

The fact that there are so many ways to scare people! And that fear doesn’t just come from gore and violence. It comes from the shadow outside your window at three in the morning, or the scraping sound you hear inside your walls when it’s quiet, or a strange car following you down a deserted road. Fear is the core of humanity, because fear fuels every emotion. Fear spiders? Kill them. Fear losing someone? Hold them. Fear failure? Work harder. Fear is everything and to be able to bring it, even a little, is power.

What are some of the works you have available?

I am the author of the Paranormal Detectives Series published by indie horror/UF great Vamptasy Publishing. The story follows mortal detective Danny Mancini as he discovers that monsters exist and are everywhere. In the first book, Stake-Out, he finds a vampire murdering a human and it sends his life into a tailspin. Angelica Cross, my female lead, recruits him to help the FBI apprehend the offending vampire and the series goes from there.

It’s not strict horror: there is a romantic subplot that plays a big part that readers discover slowly as they go through to book five, Last Rites. It deals with destiny and humanity and the true meaning of what constitutes a monster.

There are four books: Stake-Out, Miranda’s Rights, Life Sentence, Right To Silence, and Last Rites. The series is complete as it is, with book five being the “end of an era”, so when the series picks up again next year with book six, Skin Deep, it will be set further into the future after book five ends and won’t affect those original five books.

What are you currently working on?

Well, I just released my fifth book, Last Rites, on June 14th, and am now working on editing my December WWII urban fantasy release Never Again, which is a standalone spin-off of the Paranormal Detectives Series. It follows male siren Sean Wireman (whom you’ll meet in Last Rites) as he discovers his powers, and moves on from 16th century Israel, traveling over Europe, and eventually fighting for America in WWII, where he finds terrifying monsters being controlled by Nazis. It will feature some cameos of other PDS characters, too, for faithful readers, but will hopefully appeal to an entirely deeper demographic.

Where can we find you online?

You can find my books at http://smarturl.it/LilyLuchesiAmazon (I have plenty of other stories in anthologies, all of them horror)

You can find me on social media or my official site:

http://lilyluchesibooks.wix.com/lilyluchesi

http://facebook.com/lilyluchesi

http://twitter.com/LilyLuchesi

http://instagram.com/lilyluchesi

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7369101.Lily_Luchesi

By The Fire: Episode 144: Challenge 8: 900-1000 Word Introduction of an Original Horror Character

In episode 144 of the HorrorAddicts.net podcast, the challenge for The Next Great Horror Writer is to write a 900-1000 word introduction of an original horror character. The point of this challenge was to test the writer’s ability to create a believable and descriptive character. The prize for this part of the contest is for an anime sketch of the writer’s creation. So if they can’t describe their main character well, the artist can’t draw it and the person reading their work can’t form a mental image of who is being written about.

Describing a character in a book may not seem important but if an author leaves too much to the reader’s imagination, the reader’s image will be different from what the author is thinking about. The writer can’t control how the reader imagines his or her creation will be but they can at least give the reader an idea of what they were thinking. Writing a character description probably isn’t as easy as it sounds because how do you know when you over described them? You have to leave something to the reader’s imagination, but if you leave everything up to the reader it could ruin your whole story.

I have a great example of the importance of character description. Keep in mind that I’m coming from the reader’s point of view and not the writer’s. I just finished reading a horror novel where the monster in it is a Sasquatch. In this book, there is no real description given of the Sasquatch beyond the fact that it was big and hairy. The author left what the monster looked like to my imagination and instead of coming up with the image of a horrifying monster in my head I found myself thinking of the Sasquatch from the Jack Link beef jerky Messing with Sasquatch commercials. Every time the monster did something horrible in the book I wasn’t feeling scared for the protagonists instead I was laughing at how funny those commercials were. The writer’s attempt at making me scared of his monster failed because he didn’t give me enough information on what he was thinking.

So if you can’t give enough description of a character it could ruin your whole story. Character description in a horror novel is probably more important than in any other genre of fiction. Horror is all about emotion and as a reader if I don’t know enough about someone in a book I can’t feel any emotion for him. To fear a monster I need to know how evil it is and to be scared for a victim, I have to feel some compassion for him. It doesn’t even have to be a visual description if you describe how the monster in question has killed others that could get me to fear him. Same thing for the protagonist, just give me something I can relate to like how hard he works to support his family. That way I’ll be hoping he gets away from the monster because his family needs him. So horror addicts how would you describe your favorite monster? And what did you think of the contestants’ description? Leave a comment and let us know.

 

 

David’s Haunted Library: Kind Nepenthe and The Lucky Ones Died First


 

Deep in the wilderness of Humboldt County in Northern California lies a pot farm where a young woman named Rebecca wants to teach her five-year old daughter how to live off the land. Along with her boyfriend Calendula, they are helping a man named Coyote who is growing marijuana and is in need of help harvesting it. Calendula and Rebecca are hoping to live the hippie lifestyle and get enough money together from the harvest to buy their own farm.

It won’t be an easy task, living close by is Diesel Dan who helped start the farm and Coyote owes money to. Dan lost everything due to drugs and a stint in prison, but now he looks to make amends for his past and set an example for his soon to be born granddaughter. Coyote is strung out on pills and barely keeping his head above water and he wonders if he can come up with the money to pay everyone. To make matters more complicated the farm is home to an old legend and the ghost of a boy who is looking for a playmate.

Kind Nepenthe by Matthew Brockmeyer is a story about what happens when you dream big and reality slaps you in the face. All of the characters in this story make decisions that they hope will make their lives better but each decision comes with drastic consequences. For instance, we have Rebecca and Calendula who are working hard to get the money together for a farm but they have to deal with things like Coyote disappearing and threatening not to pay them and several other problems. They both get to the point where they wonder if all of this is worth it and their personalities start to change with Rebecca wondering if she ever cared for Calendula in the first place.

Another interesting character is Coyote who is regularly thinking of the wife and kids he left and you see how the drug lifestyle he has led has ruined him. I also enjoyed the relationship between Diesel Dan and his son. Dan is hoping he doesn’t follow in his footsteps as a drug dealer but the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree even though Dan is trying hard to change. My favorite part of this book was watching all of the characters deal with the pressure of their lives falling apart.

Whether you like Kind Nepenthe depends on what you are looking for in a story. As a human drama, this book is excellent, I loved all the characters including the ones that do bad things such as Diesel Dan’s son. The book is sold as a ghost story though and it felt like that was an unnecessary part of the book. While there is a ghost and some elements of horror here it didn’t add anything to the plot and I felt that if you took out the supernatural parts it would have been better. All in all, though this was a really good read and I’m looking forward to more from Matthew Brockmeyer in the future.

In the English countryside lies the small town of Hambleton where tourists come to get away from the big city. Life changes for the village when an earthquake awakens a hungry and horny cryptid from a 60+ year hibernation. Now the monster is killing everyone in its path and the only ones who may be able to stop it are a group of potheads, a former Nazi, and a bigfoot hunter.

The story in The Lucky Ones Died First by Jack Bantry is a pretty simple one, a creature is on the loose and no one seems to be able to stop it. The descriptions I read this book called it splatterpunk and compared it to the work of Richard Laymon, who was one of my favorites. Going into it I thought that the whole point of this story was to be as gross and offensive as possible. The problem is that the book isn’t descriptive enough to be that offensive. The story has several characters and a monster that aren’t described in much detail. The plot moves along at the speed of a freight train and it’s over before you know it. It felt more like a detailed outline than a real story.

I’m not saying that The Lucky Ones Died First is a bad book, I’m just saying that it could have been a lot better if the characters were given more description. I didn’t know enough about anyone in this story to feel emotion for them. It kind of felt like the author was embarrassed and didn’t want to go into a lot of detail, so the sex and death scenes suffered for it. There was a lot of potential in this story and if it had another 100 pages or so it could have been a great horror tale.

The Lucky Ones Died First does have some fun moments though, for instance, the two closing scenes put a huge smile on my face. This book has the feel of a cheesy blood-soaked monster movie. If it was a movie I would have loved it but as a book, I wanted more. All this being said there were enough good ideas in this book to make me want to read whatever novel Jack Bantry comes up with next.

By The Fire Edpisode 143: Challenge 7: Write a 900-1000 word non-fiction blog post on something horrific you experienced.

Hello again HorrorAddicts, I hope you are enjoying horroraddicts.net Next Great Horror Writer Challenge. The contest is getting more interesting as the challenges get harder. The contestants are now having to work harder as the assignments become more difficult. Writing is hard work and in order to get published, you have to challenge yourself and always find ways to make yourself better. Personally, I think writing is the hardest art form there is and this contest is making all the participants better writers.

The contest for episode 143 of the podcast is for the writers to write a 900-1000 word non-fiction blog post on something horrific they experienced. It could be a haunting, a disaster, a phobia, anything they found personally horrific and lived to tell the tale about. This will test their ability to blog, which is a part of every successful writer’s life. They will be judged on blog-ability (will it appeal to readers), topic interest, and writing quality.

The hardest part of this challenge for me would be reliving a horrifying experience. This is real life horror and for some people, real life is hard to write about. If you live through an earthquake or have been trapped in a haunted house, you don’t want to think about it again. These writers will have to do just that as they tell us their experience and make us feel the fear that they felt.

So the question is what happened to our writers in the past that scared them? Maybe surviving a horrible experience is what made them want to be horror writers. If you ask horror writers why they write what they do, some of them will tell you they do it to help them deal with the things in life that truly frighten them. Horror writing is not only fun, it’s also a form of therapy. So if you were in this contest what would you write about? What horrific experience do you want to share with others? What do you hope our writers will choose to write about? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to listen to Episode 143.

 

David’s Haunted Library: Whispered Echos and The Devil’s Children

We all have something we’re scared of. In the back of our heads, we hear a little voice that reminds us about our darkest fears. It’s like a Whispered Echo that just repeats itself over and over again. Whispered Echoes by Paul F. Olson is an anthology that looks at things that scare us so much that we never forget it. This book contains 12 stories set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula showing it as a place where strange things happen.

What’s interesting about this anthology is that the stories are presented in chronological order by the dates that were written. The first story was originally published in 1983 and the last one was written this year. So what you have in this book are stories from a horror writer who’s writing improves a little with each tale told. You also get a good look at what goes on in the mind of Paul Olson and how he has evolved as a horror writer.

Mr. Olson has a few different themes that he works with in this book. One of these themes is individuality. In a story called The Visitor, a man visits the town of Patterson Falls every year in Autumn and when he does, someone gets hurt. The people in town finally get fed up with this routine and decide to confront him but they don’t get the results they are looking for. This same theme comes into play in two other stories in the book with a man suffering the consequences of not being like everyone else.

My favorite story in this book is They Came From The Suburbs. You could call this a zombie story but its a little more complex than that. David Finley works in a mall and notices that the same people show us every day and seem to mindlessly wonder the mall and shop. He calls them the quiet ones but he soon finds out that if they can’t consume anything there will be hell to pay. I love the message about how some people go through life blindly doing things having no real life at all and how it affects others. This was a perfect little horror tale that had a Twilight Zone feel to it.

Another good story here was Bloodybones which includes ghosts, a serial killer and a mystery. What I liked most about this story is the descriptions of the setting. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is as much a character here as the people in it and I loved reading the description of an area that I’m familiar with. Olson’s using of Michigan and Wisconsin in his stories reminds me a little of how Stephen King uses Maine in his stories.

Whispered Echoes could be looked at as a philosophy book disguised as a horror anthology. Paul Olson writes about staying true to yourself, loyalty, love and not letting the past define you. These themes are all presented in short horror stories that pack a punch. This is the kind of book that young horror writers should read because it shows that good horror can deliver a  message and your writing will get better over the decades if you stick with it.

Harry and Adam grew up together in a small New England town. They were never the most popular kids in school but they had a good time watching horror movies, drinking alcohol, exploring abandoned buildings and hunting imaginary demons. Flash forward to the present, life is not going well for either person and they decide to move back to their old hometown to relive their childhood. When they get there they discover that something strange is going on in their old stomping grounds.

People are seeing ghosts, Adam is having visions of his old teenage girlfriend who has been missing for 13 years and a local historian has sealed off a newly discovered tunnel that may have the answers to some old mysteries. We soon find out the demons that Harry and Adam hunted may have been real and they may be the only ones who can stop these strange happenings. As Halloween night rolls around, Harry and Adam put a plan into action to stop the evil that is plaguing their town.

The Devil’s Children by Benjamin Blake is the kind of book that I love reading. It’s a simple horror story about a couple of outcasts who notice something strange is going on and realize that they are the only ones who can stop it. I love the characters in this book, Adam and Harry reminded me of a couple of people I knew in high school and the way they both changed by the end of the book showed that they had a lot more depth than your average character in a horror novel. I also like how the story is told from the present with flashbacks showing how they use to be in the past. The one thing I didn’t like about the book is that it seemed to take a long time to get into the action of the story. While I liked the characters enough to keep reading, it could have used a few more scares in the first half of the book. The Devil’s Children is sort of a mixed bag but it has enough good parts to make it worth your time. Despite what I didn’t like about this book, I’m still looking forward to what else Benjamin Blake comes up with in the future.