Spook Lights II: Southern Gothic Horror by Eden Royce is not your traditional horror anthology. This is a book of 13 tales that have the feeling of being passed down by word of mouth from generation to generation in the deep south. The feeling I got is that they’re the type of tales a friend might tell when they invite you over to their Southern mansion to listen to horrifying tales as you sip brandy by a roaring fire. Every geographical region has its own set of stories that gets told by the people who live there. In Eden Royce’s book, she gives us a set of southern horror tales that make you feel like you live there.
In this book, you will find horror tales set in the deep South that include magic, vengeance, and creatures who will eat you alive. One of my favorite stories in this book was Grandmother’s Bed. In the beginning of the story, I thought it was about a woman who was fearing taking over her grandmother’s place in the family after she died. While it is about that it also gets into the family’s history in their neighborhood and the power they have over others. I enjoyed how this story was told and how it felt like it could be about any Southern family.
Another good one was The To Do List. This one is about a woman who keeps lists on what she has to do all over her apartment. When the woman’s boyfriend moves in, he buys her an organizer to keep her lists in. After awhile he misses seeing the lists and knowing what she is up to. He decides to take a look in the organizer and realizes that his girlfriend is planning something sinister. This story had a little mystery to it that I enjoyed and it teaches you that knowing too much about your loved one could be dangerous.
I also enjoyed The Strange Dowry Of Spinster Pumpkin. This story is about a woman who has been taking care of her sick mother for a long time. She feels resentment for having to do it, but she does what she needs to do. One day the woman’s mother congratulates her on her upcoming marriage, the daughter doesn’t understand what the mother is talking about but soon discovers that her sick mother will be dying and leaving the daughter with an odd parting gift. I loved how the mother-daughter relationship is shown in this story. While the daughter has a lot of anger towards her mother, she still shows love through all that she does. You see her personality change when she realizes she will lose her mother. I think there are a lot of people who have relationships like this one, love isn’t always pretty.
Spook Lights II has some great horror stories in a setting that adds a different dimension to each tale. Eden Royce makes the deep South come alive as a place with a dark mythology to it. Not only do you get a history lesson in what living in the South is like, you also get to experience the tales of horror that are told here. Even the language used throughout the book adds to the feel of each story. If you have an interest in Southern folklore this is a book you shouldn’t pass up.
12-year-old Denny has not had an easy life, his father died and his mother is an alcoholic but he believes in keeping a positive outlook and doesn’t let it get to him. What he really wants in life is to accomplish something and for Denny that comes in the form of a spelling bee. He was too scared to sign up for it last year so to redeem himself this year he signed up and has been practicing non-stop. Life happens though and one week away from the spelling bee he wakes to find his mother has died.
Denny and his mother have had a complicated relationship that borders on mental abuse. Danny wants to do the right thing and call 911 but he doesn’t want to get stuck in a foster home and never compete in the spelling bee which to him is more than a competition. Denny decides that the best course of action is to keep his dead mother a secret until after the event which won’t be easy with the hot weather in New Orleans.
Of Foster Homes and Flies by Chad Lutzke is a brilliant coming of age story. This isn’t your average horror book, it’s more like a human drama with elements of horror in it. Denny is a child but is suddenly forced into an adult situation and isn’t sure how to handle it, but he does what he feels he has to do with a guilty conscience eating away at him the whole time.
Denny is a kid that you have to love, what he really wants is to be a normal kid but that can’t happen so he feels the least he can do is become spelling bee champion before he starts his lonely existence in a foster home. Denny isn’t totally alone though, he has a friend named Carter and meets a hitchhiking girl named Sam. Denny never lets on what he’s going through and both characters still manage to help him in their own ways. I got the feeling that Chad Lutzke really understood how kids would act in this kind of situation because all the characters came across as real kids.
Of Foster Homes And Flies is a masterpiece, the length of the story is perfect and the main character may not be the kid next door but he wants to be. Denny is growing into a man but has no one to help guide him so he tries to figure out things on his own. He does a good job wrestling with his emotions and taking care of himself. I could hardly put down this book. I love the thoughts that Denny deals with along with the choices he has to make while feeling completely alone. You have to feel for the character and I love how even when he does something bad he feels shame but sees it as something he must do. Of Foster Homes And Flies is a beautiful story that fans of all genres of books will enjoy.
The Kretcher Hotel opened it’s doors in Atlanta in the 1960’s. It’s a rundown place in the slums of the city surrounded by prostitutes, drug dealers and any kind of crime you can imagine. Some people say that the Kretcher Hotel was built by the devil himself. Bad things happen there and some say its cursed. In charge of the hotel is Sybline Kretcher, a six-foot 4 woman with a long dark past and a personality that can’t be controlled by Satan himself.
The Kretcher Hotel is a place where anything goes. Within its walls are suicidal men, evil monsters, witches, a succubus looking for redemption, thieves, addicts and any other abominations you can imagine. The Kretcher Hotel is a place surrounded by evil, but people also go there for redemption.
Forever Vacancy is an anthology of 13 horror stories that all feature diverse characters that you don’t see in most horror anthologies. The setting of a broken down hotel is a perfect place for a horror anthology and that comes across loud and clear in the story The Thing In Room 204 by C. W. Blackwell. It begins with a cloaked man being led to the hotel by a mysterious man. There is a mystery as to what is going on here which is made more complicated by the prostitute on the street. Another good story is The Honeymoon Suite: Jacob’s Reunion by Sumiko Saulson which is about a grief-stricken man who is trying to make the choice between being consumed by the bitterness of loosing someone, the need for revenge and wanting the chance for forgiveness.
My favorite story in this book is Salvation by Ross Baxter. This story follows a succubus who wants to find salvation after centuries of taking the souls of men. She goes to a priest for salvation, but is the priest strong enough to resist her and give her the help she needs? What I liked about this one was how offended the priest is when he sees how Sybline acts towards him and how sure he is of himself before being given the ultimate test. I also liked the idea that despite how evil the succubus is, she still hopes to change her ways.
I loved the concept behind Forever Vacancy. This is a book where each story has the same location and one character in common. I loved how Sybline shows so much depth of character even though she is a small part of each story. In some stories Sybline shows herself as being cold and uncaring but in others she proves that she is helping the protagonists. Sybline may be working for the devil but she has a mind of her own and does as she pleases. Every story in this book is fast paced and filled with gruesome situations in a dark setting. This is the kind of book that all horror fan should read because it’s a great example of how good horror stories can be. I would love to see a series of books based on this setting. Despite the desolation of the location there are still souls in search of redemption and that is what makes this anthology good.
Veronica is looking for true love, it hasn’t been easy and now she thinks using a little magic may help. It works in the form of Sebastian and they hit it off instantly. Their first date is in a haunted restaurant and as luck would have it their romantic dinner is the scene of a supernatural encounter. They notice a young couple dining, but no one else does, and Veronica along with an apprehensive Sebastian decides to investigate further. They discover that they have a connection to the couple in question and they may be the only ones who can set the ghosts free.
Dead Over Heels by Theresa Braun is a paranormal love story with elements of horror and mystery. There is a lot going on in this book in a short period, and I loved how the story begins with a little foreshadowing to let you know this love affair is not your average affair. Everything was described in great detail from the characters emotions to the various settings.
I enjoyed how the couple’s relationship developed from the description of their first date to the point of when they realize that something strange is going on in the restaurant. My favorite part was when Veronica sees a couple very much in love and wishes that someday she can have something like that, not knowing what’s coming to her. There was also a scene where Veronica compares being abandoned to putting on a worn pair of jeans. With this line, I felt fully invested in this character and was hoping for a happy ending.
I loved how the author got you to like the two main characters before anything bad happened. During the second part of the book you get to witness the two changed by a paranormal revelation and they realize nothing will ever be the same. My one problem with the story is how it ended, without giving much away, it felt like there was no closure. With that said, the writing was very good and I like how what happens in the past affects what happens in the future, showing that some things and people are connected. This is a good little ghost story and I would love to read some longer works from Theresa Braun.
Have you ever thought about being a writer? There are lots of places where you can go to get advice on writing. You could take classes, buy books on the subject or find websites dedicated to the craft of writing. With all the different places to go for information, it may be hard to find what works best. That being said, the best place to go for advice is to authors that have already been published. Writers on Writing Volume 1 – 4 Omnibus: An Author’s Guide from Crystal Lake Publishing is a great resource for newbie writers.
Some of the subjects covered in this book include how you can learn from rejection, making time for writing, character building, finding your voice, how to network, what to expect from writing your first novel and much more. In Brian Hodge’s article, The Infrastructure Of The Gods he gives tips on getting started. Such as getting rid of distractions like turning off your wi-fi and remembering that instant gratification is not something you get from writing a novel. Brian also gives good advice on never giving up because new authors are always breaking through into the mainstream.
Another one I liked was What Right Do I Have To Write by Jasper Bark. Jasper talks about how the circumstances are never right for writing. There are always excuses not to do it but the only thing you can do is make the time and let nothing get in your way. I also like how he shoots down the fantasy that writing is a dream job. He says its fun sometimes but you are working under nightmare conditions, you may spend up to a year completing your first work and even the pros laugh at the idea that writing is a dream job.
One beneficial article in this collection is Finding Your Voice by Lynda E. Rucker. I would have thought that finding your voice would come natural but in reality it takes awhile. Lynda mentions that it took a long time for her to create a voice that wasn’t an imitation of another author’s voice. She then states that finding your voice is the same as finding your identity. The way to find it is by realizing you have something to say and what you think is important. One thing I learned here is that there are several important aspects to writing.
Even if you’re not a writer and read this book you can get a lot out of it, such as a whole new respect for writing as an art form . My favorite part of this book was entitled A First-Time Novelist’s Odyssey by William Gorman. William takes you all through his five-year journey in writing his novel from doing research, living with the characters in your head, and getting their story just right. He talks about the struggle to find his voice and the massive amounts of revisions before the book was finally published. Writing maybe the most complex art form there is and Writers On Writing is a book that can help you on the path to being a better writer and possibly getting published too.
While looking at archives, I found this nice post from 2010 by David. He has a great list. Have you read any of these books?
While looking for books on urban legends, I was trying to find novels based on famous legends. Sadly, I didn’t find many. That doesn’t mean they’re not out there, I just wasn’t able to find many good titles. I found a couple of novels about Bloody Mary but they were about the historical figure behind the legend rather then the legend.
The real Blood Mary was Mary Tudor who was the first queen of England. Mary had several false pregnancies and miscarriages and it is said that this drove her to madness. The legend of Bloody Mary goes that if you look into a mirror and say Bloody Mary 13 times or say “Bloody Mary I killed your Baby,” she will appear in the mirror and kill the person who summoned her in a violent way. If you want more information on Bloody Mary, a good book is: The Myth of Bloody Mary, The First Queen of England by Linda Porter.
While I didn’t find a lot of novels out there, I did find several compilations of scary urban legends. For instance, the Weird US series of coffee table books is full of local urban legends from all the 50 states. There is a book for every state and there was a TV series on the Travel Channel for awhile. If you want more info on the books check out weirdus.com.
Another compilation I found was Urban Legends: 666 Absolutely True Stories that happened to a friend of a friend of a friend by Thomas J Craughwell. This book goes into detail on all the well known urban legends such as Alligators in the New York City Sewers, the disappearing hitchhiker, and my favorite urban legend which is about the family that went on vacation in Mexico and came home with what they thought was a cute little Chihuahua. When they took the dog to the vet they discovered it was really a rat with rabies.
One of the other urban legend titles that’s out there is Too Good To Be True: The Colossal Book of Urban Legends by Jan Harold Brunvand. This book goes over a wide range of topics and gives newspaper accounts of each legend. The author has written several books on urban legends and has a syndicated newspaper column about urban legends. One good story from this book is about a wife and a husband who is a cement truck driver. The husband comes home from work early one day with his truck and finds a new convertible in the driveway, the husband believes his wife was having an affair and the car was her lover’s car. To get even, he dumped the cement from his truck on the new car. He then finds out that his wife had bought it as a gift and had been saving for it for years.
The last one I want to mention is Let Slip The Dogs Of Love: Suburban Legends of The Living and The Dead by Eugene Kachmarsky. This book is a series of short stories very reminiscent of the Twilight zone.
If you know of any good novels based on Urban Legends, please comment below.
Baker Johnson has a gift and a curse. He has the ability to read people by just looking at them, but he is haunted by a dark past and doesn’t like to be close to people. At least not living ones. Baker is a demonologist, exorcist, and keeper of cursed objects living in the 1930’s. Baker: Demons and other Night Things by Terry West includes 4 stories about Baker Johnson as he gets introduced into the Night Things universe.
The first story is The Giving Of Things Cold and Cursed and is about Baker inheriting his uncle’s Black Room where he kept cursed objects. To Baker’s surprise many of the objects have been given away and now he needs to clean up the mess. In this story we find out about Baker’s personality and why he does the things he does. Baker is a complex character, he uses his gift because he has to, but he isn’t happy, he just accepts it as his station in life.
The second story is The Servant Of The Red Quill. Here Baker is called to a home of a wealthy collector of Cursed objects, where he has to perform an exorcist on the man’s daughter who is being possessed by a spirit tied to a book written by Marquis de Sade. I loved the concept of this story, I loved that we learned more about The family Baker had and I liked how Baker acts when the demon uses Baker’s family against him. The Baker character grows in this story and I found myself starting to like him despite his flaws.
The next one is called The Dark Alp, this one once again has Baker grow as a character as we see him being haunted by a nightmare demon. Not everything is as it appears in this story, I loved the ending and I loved how once again Baker is confronted with the ghosts of his past but he shows that he is more powerful than his past. In all these stories I loved that there seemed to be a theme of not letting your past define you.
The last story called A Weird Tale ties Baker to the Night Things universe. The story opens with H.P. Lovecraft telling Baker that the old gods are coming and nothing can stop them from destroying the world. These words haunt Baker and that leads to a meeting with Johnny Stucke who pays Baker to hand over a cursed object that might change everything. We see a very different Baker in this story, he now has a team backing him up but he still has to contend with the darkness within. Once again I loved the ending and how it sets up future Night Things stories.
This book also includes a sample of Terry West’s next Night Thing book. If you are not familiar with Terry West’s work this is a good book to start with. West knows how to make memorable characters that are flawed and that you can relate to at the same time. What is interesting about Baker is that he has this dark history but despite that, he still tries to do the right thing and we see the character grow into a different person through each of these stories. Terry West knows what horror fans like to read and this book is a great example of how horror should be written.