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.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Press Release: Demon with a Comb-Over

Press Release: Demon with a Comb-Over

519BJkYUlFL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Excerpt :

“Talk about a tough crowd.
Take Charlie Broadmoor’s life. Please. Charlie sucks at stand-up comedy. He gets by, though. Things are okay. His life is decent. Until the night he makes fun of a demon’s comb-over. Big mistake. What kind of demon wears a comb-over? The sensitive kind. The kind who’s not going to let an insult slide. A demon who’s going to take Charlie down. As in down to Hell. And he intends on dragging everyone Charlie cares about along for the ride.”
Amazon link
Blog link

David’s Haunted Library: Imago Mortis

23925468Milan Italy can be a romantic place but it also has a dark and sinister side. Augusto Ghites has been working the mean streets of Milan as a private investigator and he has seen things that would terrify most people. He’s good at what he does, he can talk to ghosts and has the power to relive the ghost’s last moments on Earth. This is a good skill to have as a P. I. but it comes with a hefty price tag.

Augusto is a junkie, his addiction is sniffing the ashes of the dead and this is how he can interact with spirits. Business isn’t exactly booming for his detective agency but he makes enough money to support his addiction. The latest case to come his way is from an old prostitute who wants him to investigate the death of one of her colleagues. It looks like it will be an easy case but there are dark forces at work and Augusto may be in over his head.

Imago Mortis by Samuel Marolla is a hard-boiled occult mystery novel that has the feel of a 1940’s murder mystery. Everything in this book is described beautifully. There are some great scenes of Augusto going to a cemetery to get more ashes to sniff that are so detailed that you feel like you are there with the character. The way his visions are described when he is done sniffing the ashes are horrifying. Samuel Marolla has done a great job of creating some dark imagery that will stick with you when you are done reading.

Reading this book was like looking at a work of art but that was also a bit of a problem. It felt like everything was overly described and not as much detail was put into the story itself. There are pages of descriptions of ghosts, the city of Milan and how Augusto feels about the other characters in the book and his addiction but there wasn’t much action to tie it all together.

All in all though this is a well written book but you get the impression that telling a story wasn’t as important to the author as painting a picture with words. I loved how the city of Milan is like a character in the book. I got the feeling that if the setting was in a different place it would have changed everything. Milan in Imago Mortis can be compared to Maine in a Stephen King book or New Orleans in an Anne Rice book. Meaning the setting is a character as much as the people are characters. This book has enough going for it that I would recommend it, there is some good world building here but it needed a little more suspense.

Ink

cover_ink_454Brian is the creator of a series of popular graphic novels starring a character named the highwayman. The Highwayman is a supernatural being who comes to earth when a person is unjustly killed and his motive is to help the victim get the revenge they desire. Success for Brian came with a price, after being continuously stalked by an obsessive fan, he became a prisoner in his own home.

This all changes though when he is talked into going to a convention and meets a female illustrator named A.J. Hart. A.J. has demons of her own but the two hit it off and decide to collaborate on a project. One day a mysterious bottle of ink arrives on Brian’s doorstep, they use the ink and it starts to bring their creations to life. They now have to stop the creatures they created from destroying everything in their path and bringing on the apocalypse.

First thing I thought when I read the description for Ink by Glenn Benest and Dale Pitman was that it was a great idea for a book.  There is a lot going on in this story, we have a love story between the two artists, we have the highwayman’s story from the graphic novel and an apocalypse story in the real world. There is almost too much going on here, Ink is a mixed bag, the characters are all interesting. This includes Brian’s dog who has a big part in the story, I can’t say I’ve read to many books that focused on the dog’s viewpoint, but this one does.

While I loved the characters the story was slow-moving and the sub plot of the Highwayman didn’t really interest me even though I did like the character. I got the impression while reading the Highwayman’s story that the author just threw it in because it was important to show what kind of book that Brian and A.J was writing. Every time we cut away to the Highwayman I found myself being bored and just wanting to get back to Brian and A.J.’s story. That being said I did enjoy hearing the reasons why Brian created the Highwayman.

The best part of this book is the love story between A.J. and Brian and this is coming from a person who doesn’t like love stories. When you hear what they’ve gone through in their lives you can’t help but root for them and you get to see how the two of them working together makes them better people. There are some great horrifying moments in this book such as when Brian’s obsessed fan sneaks up on him in a dark theater and again in a parking garage. Then what really tops it off so well was when the fan says why she is doing what she is doing.

This book has its share of scary moment but best of all it works as psychological horror by getting into how A.J. and Brian are effected by their stalkers.  One good scene that was in this book that really showed how Brian was affected by his obsessed fan was when we see him making an elaborate meal for two and then find out that no one is joining him and he is eating alone. Another part of this book I loved was when Brian was reading letters from his fans and you see how caring for his fans affects his life. While I have to say I had my issues with Ink, it was pretty good and I look forward to more from these two writers.

Kbatz: Vampires versus…Vampires?

Vampire versus…Vampire?

by Kristin Battestella

book3 200x300So often vampires and werewolves are pitted against each other in the battle of the genre beasties.  However, more often then not, these terror titans work in tandem in fiction and media, creating a broader, richer tug and pull sharing in the horror medium.  My 2008 Eternal Press novel The Vampire Family has a family of vampires that can shape shift and transform into wolves and scary weres- and scary werecats, too.  My follow up series Fate and Fangs: Tales from the Vampire Family serves up vampires who prefer their wolf shapes in Book 3 Struggle. 

While it is easy to have books and ebooks either have all the monster magic together or for readers to find literature specific to vampires and werewolves and all the mixes in the spectrum, films have also scored on the presumed animosity.  The Underworld franchise tells of ancient vampire and werewolf wars- but fans of either creature can get their fill in these features.  Likewise Twilight has made the Team Edward and Team Jacob themes top sellers.  Vampires versus werewolves ideologies are good for business, simply put.  Whether for or against, reluctantly working together or struggling to love or hate one or the other, in the end, vampires and werewolves are good for each other.

Unfortunately, the current subdivision of the vampire genre is getting too divergent for its own good.  The watered down, lovely dovey, youth and glitter love vampire movement spurred by the Twilight craze has helped the vampire literature and media culture just as much as it may have damaged the genre.  Book, television, and movie markets are now flooded with vampire material- all in the same youth, teen romance driven trends.  As knock off begat knock offs, the quality pool has dropped considerably.  People are tired of vampires.  They think horror has been played, and all the sudden the same editors, publishers, and powers that be are now turning on the massive overdrive they helped to create.  Backlash is inevitable.drac_1513745c1

Soon people even forget what came before the glitter vampire.  Readers are afraid to take on another vampire story because ‘they all suck now’.  (No pun intended) The quality vampiric horror gets lumped into the problematic downward glitter spiral.  And when you the writer submits your hard worked, scary horror, medieval furthest thing from contemporary teenage vampire vampire manuscript, what does the publisher tell you?  The worst thing a writer can possibly hear:

No.

And it isn’t just the ‘no’ that is the worst part.  It wasn’t that your story wasn’t well written or not just good enough.  It might be damn decent perfection and fit in just perfectly with what this publisher’s interests are.  But no, it is the fact that the marketing, timing, and overblown played mayhem of that other vampire type has just ruined your publication chances.  Well, doesn’t that just suck? (Pun intended)

So then, you see, the vampires versus werewolves theory is not what hurt your novel’s chances.  Rarely does a publisher say, ‘we already have a werewolf book, so we can’t take your vampire story.’ In fact it is quite the opposite, editors often look for both together to balance out  their catalogue and reader varieties.  They might even prefer books or series dealing with both monsters so they can cross reference all their categories.  How many times have you clicked on a publisher’s store links for both ‘vampire’ and ‘werewolves’ and seen the same books? Quite a bit I suspect.

Now, have you ever seen separate links for ‘vampire horror’ and ‘vampire romance’? The breakdown between the vampire medium is almost nonexistent in appearance, even if those readers and writers and vampires lovers in the know immediately know there is a difference.  How many times have you been in conversation with a fellow vampire lover and they say either ‘oh, that was too scary for me!’ or ‘This vamp was too lovey dovey for me.’  What’s sad is how many times has a reader passed on your book because they like one or the other and dismissed your book as being the wrong vampire type for them.

What then, must a vampire author do to remain relevant in a subgenre at war with itself?  Keep writing damn good copy!  Whichever side of vamps your on- either pure horror or paranormal romance- keep it good.  Keep your universe, characters, and tales true to what the manuscript needs to be its best.  Don’t give in to the mislabeling and trends.  Vampires rise and fall, go underground and subculture or rise up from the dead and reign supreme over media. Not too long ago, everyone wanted exclusively paranormal light and vampire romance, now call outs are returning to pure horror and uniqueness.  Make your creatures of the night stand out from the pack.  Keep them worthy of the hand in hand werewolf antagonism.  Good competition is healthy in fiction, writing, selling books, and reader’s choice.  Write crap copy and no creature wins!

To read more about Kbatz’ vampires, read her contribution to The Great Vampire Dispute.

Review: Time Of Death: Induction

23364657Emma lives in Florida and has a pretty average life. She is 37 years old, married to a man named Jake and has a dog named Daphne. Emma is close to completing her nursing degree and has just lost her first patient, or did she? When she gets home from the hospital she is surprised to find out that her patient has come back to life and is trying to eat the hospital’s staff. From there Emma’s life goes from average to tumultuous, not only does she have to deal with the undead coming back to life but there is also a hurricane destroying Florida. As civilization collapses, Emma and her family have to try to survive and hopefully build a new life.

Time Of Death: Induction by Shana Festa is a book that starts with a slow burn and ends with an explosion. In the beginning we see all the characters going about their normal life and then the zombie apocalypse happens and the book becomes non-stop action. I loved how Shana makes us care about the characters before she puts them into danger. Once the hurricane hits and the zombies started to rise, I didn’t want to put the book down.

I liked how with the action moving along like a freight train, Shana  still manages to insert humor into the mix. For instance as Emma and Jake are driving around looking for shelter, Emma takes a sniff and thinks her husband has just passed gas. The smell doesn’t belong to her husband but we get a couple of good laughs before the action starts again. Another scene has Emma traveling with a group of soldiers on a reconnaissance mission and they use a series of hand gestures that Emma doesn’t understand. After a bit the soldiers start to laugh and Emma realizes that the soldiers are messing with her.  In a book about the collapse of society I like how the humor in Time Of Death breaks up the tension. Even when the world is ending I think people would still use humor to lighten the mood, so it was a nice touch.

Time Of Death: Induction is a first novel and it does show. I thought some of the action scenes were confusing and at times the story felt rushed. At one point a human is using a pole to keep zombies away from a boat and the zombies pull him to his death , I thought this was something zombies shouldn’t be able to do. Also there is one point where I almost stopped reading because the title of the chapter gave away what was going to happen next. It’s hard to feel suspense when you know what’s coming.

All this being said  I enjoyed this book. The characters were excellent, you see Emma and Jake have their differences and don’t always work as a team, but you still see that they love each other. One of the best scenes in the book is when you see the couple try to make an escape and  clash over what should happen with the dog Daphne. Daphne may be a dog but she is a good character in this book. If you’re a zombie fiction fan you will love Time Of Death: Induction. The way the apocalypse starts made this book worth it for me. This is the first in a series and its a good first novel.

Kbatz: A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

By Kristin Battestella

DICKENS_POSTEROne small review of one small book. 87 pages I’ve taken time out of my busy holiday schedule for every year since 2000: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. This year has been the same. People say, “Oh, you’re reading that? Again?!” Sometimes I myself begin reading with a sigh. Such a silly tradition I’ve placed upon myself! Sometimes I rush to finish on Christmas Day, other times I’ve read through in a few cold December days. Regardless of my mood when I start, I’m hooked once I read a sentence. I read faster, wanting to get to my favorite lines and scenes. Even though I know what’s coming on each page, I also know exactly where my lip’s going to tremble, too.

Call me many things, but never predictable. Despite all the excellent film portrayals- Bill Murray’s Scrooged included- one has not truly experienced Scrooge, Marley, Tiny Tim, and the ominous Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come until you have read the book. Alistair Sim, Kelsey Grammar, and Patrick Stewart just won’t do.

Even if you are not a Dickens fan or don’t have the Department 56 Dickens’ Village light up houses like I do, Carol defines everything the holidays are about. After Thanksgiving I begin disassembling our year round Village display. I clean each house-Scrooge and Marley’s Counting House, the Flat of Nephew Fred; every figurine-Fezziwig and the graveyard with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. I put them all up again with fluffy snowscapes and cobblestone roadways. The Flat of Ebenezor Scrooge is meant to look shabby, ugly, unkempt. Yet the house representing the residence of Charles Dickens, Gad’s Hill Place, is three stories of all the bells and whistles.

Despite his future success, Dickens often wrote about life in debtors prison and his 1843 portrayal is spot on in relation to today’s over zealous commercial shopping season and bottom line obsessions. Scrooge is like today’s store managers, keeping the heat down and demanding clerks arrive early the day after. I thought of Scrooge, upset for his ‘ill use’ of paying a day’s wages on an unworked Christmas when I saw 4 a.m. Black Friday sales. Scrooge will never become cliché, no matter how many performances glorify him or send him up. Why? Because at some point, everyone has had a little bit of Ebenezer in them, regretted the fact, and redeemed themselves. You say you will donate here, volunteer there. Sometimes you do, sometimes you genuinely are busy or forget. Other times you simply skip doing good because you just don’t feel like it. The word Scrooge has become part of our vocabulary.

We all know the story of Ebenezor’s ghostly visitors who show him the true meaning of Christmas. In fact, A Christmas Carol was name one of the Top 100 horror stories of all time. Carol’s past memories of happy childhoods gone by from the elderly but childlike Ghost of Christmas Past and the bittersweet memories of those enjoying life around you courtesy of a trip with the robust Ghost of Christmas Present are sappy enough to make even Scrooge warm, but the gothic and frightening images of Ignorance, Want, and silent The Future Yet Undetermined can indeed scare anyone back to goodness. Dickens himself spent time in a Debtor’s Prison, and the reveal of the boy Ignorance and the girl Want hidden under the aging Christmas Present’s robe gets me every time. Skin and bones and claws for hands that could have been prevented by Scrooge’s donations. His own evil words are turned back on him. How often do we quell ourselves into not doing good by saying that someone else will? You need only go to a school for a day and spot the coatless, scrawny, un-brushed hair among the classrooms for inspiration. Amazing all the advancement’s we’ve made since Dickens’ time and some things unfortunately do not change.

This is scary, upsetting stuff in A Christmas Carol, yet I still recommend this story as a family read this holiday season. As deep and mature as Dickens’ Tale is for us older working folks, picture your children gathered around the fire each reading a stave. It might be the best gift you give them this season. Showing them how to recognize the needs of others before they grow up in the commercial Christmas rush. Potter reading children will take the good versus evil story at its basic, core values. Poor Bob Cratchit and ill Tiny Tim had no material things of value to begin with-less than that in the Future’s horrible vision, yet the family is grateful. They have hope, love, belief. Maybe poor Nephew Fred has no heat in his flat, but the packed party and jubilant laughter is enough to keep his company warm. Both these families toast to Scrooge-not because he deserves it, but because it’s the right thing to do. These warm wishes juxtaposed against the notion of the clothes being taken right off Scrooge’s dead body at his end mirror his contrary, inconsiderate nature. Which would you choose? A Christmas Carol reminds us that one is never too old for a lesson in gratitude, redemption, and awareness of the world around you.

Reading A Christmas Carol this holiday will remind you and yours of all the good things about the Season. Why the good things are good, and why they should be treasured and spread. Not exuberant gifts like those Zales and Lexus commercials. A Christmas Carol gives us the things that can’t be bought-or even seen.