By The Fire: Episode 138 Challenge 2

Hey horror addicts, In Episode 138 of the horroraddicts.net podcast The Next Great Horror Writer contest moves forward and the task this time is a little harder. This time the contestants had to write a 250-300 word story about a monster. Participants were tested on their ability to scare with description in a short amount of time, and be judged on their monster, scare factor, and complete story concept. Sounds like a hard task but not to a good writer.

I love this challenge because it deals with monsters and what horror fan doesn’t like a good monster story. My favorite monster has always been the werewolf. I love the concept of having a split personality and not being able to control it. The person who becomes a werewolf can be the nicest person in the world but when the full moon comes out he becomes a savage monster and he can’t control his blood lust. My favorite comic character as a kid was The Incredible Hulk for the same reason. Dr. Banner was a genius and a humanitarian but when he got mad, the beast came out. The same concept holds true for Dr. Jekyll And My Hyde. The idea of a savage beast living inside you that has to come out from time to time is an idea that doesn’t get old.

Another monster that doesn’t get old is vampires. There are so many different ways to tell a vampire story and every vampire can have a different personality. It surprises me how many vampire novels I’ve read that all come up with a fresh spin on an old mythology. A good writer can make any monster interesting. Maybe one of the contestants will have an idea for a new monster that none of us have ever heard of before. There is always something new to add to a monster story.

What kind of monsters will our writers use? Werewolves, vampires, a human monster or maybe something else out of the ordinary. Is 300 words enough time for a complete story, an imaginative monster, and a big scare? In the hands of a good writer, it is.  Who will you be rooting for in this competition? Do you have your own 300-word story you want to share with us? What is your favorite monster and why?  If you have an opinion leave a comment on this blog post and let us know your feelings. Be sure to listen to episode 138 and hear what are contestants come up with.

 

David’s Haunted Library: The Final Reconciliation and Skin Deep/Ordinary Monsters

Thirty years ago a new progressive rock band exploded onto the music scene called The Yellow Kings. The band was made up of 4 teenagers with big dreams who released an ep and toured America, eventually landing a record contract. Along the way, they meet a young woman named Camilla who has an odd influence on the band. After their first tour, The Yellow Kings went out to Los Angeles to record their first album, a concept album called The Final Reconciliation. Little did they know it would be their last album and very few people would ever hear it.

The album was shelved after The Yellow Kings put on an album release party in an L.A. nightclub where they planned to play the full album for the first time. The concert ended in a disaster which killed almost 200 people and left only one band member alive. For the first time since that fatal night, The Yellow Kings lead guitarist and sole survivor Aiden Cross has agreed to be interviewed about the events leading up to that tragic night.

The Final Reconciliation by Todd Keisling is inspired by Robert W. Chamber’s “The King in Yellow.” Written in 1895 it was also the inspiration behind some of H.P. Lovecraft’s work. In the 1895 story, it was a play that if read brings madness to the people reading it. In this story if you listen to the full album it creates chaos. I wasn’t familiar with the source material but loved how it was presented in this book. The idea of a heavy metal album opening a portal to another world and making people go crazy is a great concept.

This cosmic horror novella is more than just a new twist on old mythology, though, it’s also the story of kids from a working class background achieving their dreams and worst nightmares at the same time. One of my favorite parts of this book was when three members of the band return to their hometown from their first tour and you see the background they come from. They don’t get a warm welcome, their parents don’t understand the bands need to follow their passion instead of working a blue collar job. In a short time, The Yellow Kings achieve a high level of success before it all comes crashing down. You know early on that it’s all going to end in disaster, which leads me to what I didn’t like about the story. You knew what was going to happen from the beginning, it’s just a question of how we’re going to get to the final result.

The Final Reconciliation is a great little horror tale that mixes music, mythology and a coming of age story all into one. The description of The Yellow Kings kingdom comes to life brilliantly and the final scenes in the Nightclub disaster were wonderfully grotesque. Todd Keisling does an excellent job of setting a mood of dread and keeping it going throughout the book. I think most of all I loved the concept of a progressive rock album being the key to a world of terror. If you are familiar with the Cthulhu mythos you shouldn’t pass up this book.

Skin Deep/Ordinary Monsters by Frank Martin is a different kind of horror book. It includes two stand alone pulp fiction style horror novellas and a comic.  The first story is called Skin Deep “A Vampire Story Of Love.” The story centers around a  girl named Laura who is a track and field star in high school, rebelling against her parents. She sneaks into bars and complains that her parents pushed her into track, but her attitude becomes a big problem when she meets a Cajun vampire who teaches her a lesson in love she won’t forget.

Skin Deep is the kind of story that comes to mind for me when I think of pulp fiction. It’s a simple story with simple characters and its a lot of fun when the vampire shows himself. The beginning is boring but as the story moves along it gets better. I loved the vampire and the final gory scenes in the story are excellent. Skin Deep is a story that has its flaws, such as parents that Laura thinks are overbearing but in reality come across as non caring, until the end. Laura also has a sister named Jessica who has a story that is never fully explained. That being said the scenes with the vampire in it make this story worth it and we even get a nice message about not having to live the role that people expect of you.

The second story is called Ordinary Monsters and is about two teenage best friends whose friendship is put to the ultimate test when an old family secret is revealed.  This is an excellent werewolf story which touches on such subjects as the Nazi concentration camps, dealing with anger and how far loyalty will go. I love the scenes from the werewolves point of view and the description of the change from human to werewolf was brilliant. This story represents why werewolves have always been my favorite monster. It’s all about a person dealing with an inner rage that they have no control over, this book is worth your time for this story alone.

Skin Deep/Ordinary Monsters also includes a beautifully illustrated comic that tells the story of a werewolf and vampire doing battle during World War 2. I felt both of these stories got off to a slow start and had the feel that they were coming from a first time writer, but both got better as the monster was introduced into the story. This book is a fun read that fans of a good monster story will love and with cover art like that, who can resist.

 

 

By The Fire: Episode 137 100 Word Horror Stories

Hello Addicts, the new season of the Horror Addicts podcast has begun and things are a little different this season. Season 12 of the horroraddicts.net podcast is all about The Next Great Horror Writer Contest. Since the competition was announced we’ve had over 130 people who entered the contest. The first challenge for the writers was to make a 100-word horror story, which brings us to the topic of this blog post. For each new challenge that our contestants perform I will be writing a post about the challenge.  I’ll be calling this series of posts,  By The Fire to give the feeling that we’re sitting by the fire and talking about the topic.

Writing a 100-word horror story is no easy task if you ask me. In just a few words you have to tell a story and scare someone with it. So the most important part of a short scary story is the description. Be it a haunted house, scary monster or possibly a horrific massacre, making it come to life is the most important part of the story. The 100-word horror story is a great test of a writer’s skill because to get a reaction you have to do it quick.

Two other elements that are important to the 100-word horror story is for it to have the main character and a conflict. The main character doesn’t have to be good or bad but he or she does have to be involved in some kind of conflict. It could be someone describing a murder they are about to commit or maybe someone running from a monster, whatever it is there has to be a conflict. So to sum things up there are three important elements to the 100-word horror story: Description, the main character, and conflict.

A great thing about a 100-word story is that they’re a quick way to get to know a new writer.  A good short horror story can pack a wallop and if it’s really good it can revisit you in your nightmares. So horror addicts, do you have a favorite 100-word horror story, or do you want to tell us a 100-word story? If you have a scary tale to tell share it with us in the comments and don’t forget to listen to episode 137 of the podcast to hear some short stories from our Next Great Horror Writer contestants.

David’s Haunted Library: Greylock

David's Haunted Library

27108969Alexei Georg was born to be a famous musician, his father was a pianist and Alexei’s only desire was to follow in his footsteps. Alexei has created a name for himself by writing and performing a sonata called October. At least that’s what people believe, Alexei has a dark secret. He found the sonata in an old 19th century Russian sea chest. When he performs it a dark creature appears and stalks him and now his career is going downhill.

To make matters worse Alexei is having an affair and his wife has been murdered with the evidence pointing to him. In order to revive his career Alexei plans to write a symphony based on the songs of the beluga whales while in isolation on Mt. Greylock. Though even alone on the mountain he can’t escape the creature that he has brought into the world or the accusations of murder. Alexei must face the darkness he has unleashed or it could use him as a conduit forever.

Greylock by Paula Cappa is a supernatural murder mystery where mythology and music create a dark mood. The music itself is like a character and what and how something is being played has an effect on everyone else in the book. It’s through the music that evil gets unleashed, but it’s also how Alexei expresses his emotions. Music is his life and it’s what makes him happy, even if some think he is not really that good at it. Alexei is a complicated character, at first I found I didn’t like him because he is having an affair, talks about murdering his wife and he is lying about the music he creates. Though as you get to know him you see him as someone who wants to live up to the family legacy and is willing to do anything to do so. This is a need that’s easy to relate to. By the end of the book you see a very different Alexei then you see a the beginning and its the character’s transformation that makes the book memorable.

Another thing I liked about Greylock was how the mystery unfolds. there are two different mysteries going on at the same time and in the case of the murder mystery there were times in the story where I was pretty sure that three different people were the murderer but I was wrong each time. This was enough to hold my interest throughout and the other mystery of who the dark entity is was just as compelling.

Greylock is not your average horror novel, it’s more personal. There is no over the top violence but you see Alexei deal with such personal horrors as abandonment, betrayal, wanting something he can’t have, his own insecurities as a musician and his need for fame. On a smaller level we also see the other characters in the book deal with the same issues and see what different paths their choices lead them in. Greylock is the kind of book you may have to read twice to catch all the subtle details, it’s about creating a mood and not in your face like some horror is. If you enjoy a good supernatural mystery then you should check it out.

David’s Haunted Library: Spook Lights II: Southern Gothic Horror

David's Haunted Library

33410340Spook 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.

 

David’s Haunted Library: Of Foster Homes And Flies

David's Haunted Library

51-jpmrearl-_sx311_bo1204203200_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.

David’s Haunted Library: Forever Vacancy: A Colors in Darkness Anthology

David's Haunted Library

33846776 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.

http://www.colorsindarkness.com/