Author Interview: Horror author Jeff Strand | My Pretties

Horror author Jeff Strand delves into the ugly darkness of a serial kidnapper with his latest book, My Pretties, a gripping novel filled with twists that get more twisted as the climax approaches.

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My Pretties is about a restaurant server named Gertie, who believes her cousin is the victim of a serial kidnapper. To try and save her, Gertie uses herself as bait and wanders the streets at night, hoping to lure the kidnapper into the open. When Gertie tells her co-worker Charlene how she spends her nights, Charlene agrees to trail her in a car as backup.

Of course, this is a Jeff Strand novel, so nothing goes according to plan, and the vigilante waitresses go from the hunters to the hunted.

Strand introduces readers to a sick, soulless man named Ken who abducts women and locks them in cages that hang from the ceiling in a soundproofed basement. Ken’s thrill is simply to sit quietly in the room and watch the women slowly starve to death. However, Ken is husband to a wife who wonders why he’s late all the time and father to a son who doesn’t respect him.

While Ken’s family dynamic provides most of the twists and some darkly comic moments, My Pretties is ultimately a grim tale of torture and survival.

Jeff Strand

Jeff Strand

In an exclusive interview for HorrorAddicts.net, Strand discusses My Pretties and what he thinks of a recent social media thread where people listed their top five Strand novels.

HORROR ADDICTS: Where did your idea for My Pretties originate?

STRAND: The process was similar to Mia and Rusty in Ferocious, where I had my lead characters (in this case, Charlene and Gertie) before I had a story to put them in. I’d written their meeting scene and not much else, and did nothing with it for a couple of years.

The idea of a serial killer who puts his victims in small cages dangling from a ceiling, giving them water but no food, watching them for hours at a time, came separately and much more recently. I pulled Charlene and Gertie into that idea and that’s where it became My Pretties.

HORROR ADDICTS: At some point, your villain Ken becomes the focus of the story more so than your heroines, Charlene and Gertie. Was that the idea from the start or did Ken just keep developing as you wrote the story?

STRAND: I changed some of the details as I wrote, but the broad strokes of the story were always there. I did try to be very conscious of keeping the balance — you get more of Ken’s story than you may have been expecting, but I didn’t want to tip the scales too far toward his side of things.

HORROR ADDICTS: Do you prefer writing villains more than heroes or vice versa?

STRAND: I don’t actually have a preference. It can be fun to write a really nasty villain, but I also enjoy writing likable heroes. Ken in My Pretties posed a bit of a challenge because he’s a complete garbage human being, and I didn’t want the reader to like him at all. He’s not Hannibal Lecter or Hans Gruber — he’s a piece of crap. So, he needed to be somebody who could convincingly persuade women to trust him a little, but I didn’t want him to be witty or charming or have any of those “the villain you love to hate” characteristics. Of course, my natural instinct is to try to write witty, clever dialogue, and I had to pull back on that for this guy.

HORROR ADDICTS: You’re active on social media, and I noticed a thread where readers were posting lists of their top five Jeff Strand novels. Where would you rank My Pretties among your 40-plus books?

STRAND: I love threads like that because there’s always a wide variety of titles represented. I’d hate for it to be, “Okay, here’s the one or two books that everybody likes, and then the rest.” It’s always fun to see something like Fangboy (which I always knew was going to be divisive, and I was correct) represented, or that people are championing The Sinister Mr. Corpse. It’s too early for me to rank My Pretties. What happens, 100 percent of the time, is that the book I wrote is not as good as the book I’d planned to write. There are no exceptions. So, no book is published with me thinking, “My God, this is my masterpiece!” It doesn’t take long for the Written Book vs. Book In My Head disparity to fade, but My Pretties is brand new.

HORROR ADDICTS: Dweller is my No. 1 Jeff Strand novel, but I was surprised when I read your personal top five and neither of your Bram Stoker Award-nominated novels, Pressure or Dweller, made your list. In fact, you said Blister and Cyclops Road flip-flop between your favorite. What makes those two novels resonate with you more so than your more traditional horror novels?

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STRAND: I almost never revisit my work after it’s published, so it’s possible that if I wiped my memory and read my entire backlist, the rankings would change. As it is, I’m going to naturally lean toward my most recent titles. I certainly don’t think every book is better than the last, but I do like to think that the last third of my output is better than the middle third, which is better than the first third, overall.

There’s just a lot of stuff I love about Blister. It’s a weird and quirky love story on top of a mystery on top of a horror story with lots of humor thrown in. Cyclops Road is a bigger story than I usually do (it’s my longest solo novel), and I really like the cast of characters. It’s got action, laughs, heartbreak, scares — I think it’s my most entertaining novel. I’m also partial to Bring Her Back, Sick House, and Kumquat.

If I asked all of my fans to rank their favorites, it’s safe to say that the No. 1 spot would go to Dweller. I’m proud as hell of that book. It just doesn’t make the list of my all-time favorites of my own work.

HORROR ADDICTS: Lastly, I always like to ask if you have any breaking Jeff Strand news for us Strand fans and Horror Addicts?

STRAND: Well, I just did a really dark psychological thriller, so I’m shifting tones with the next one. This one will be very blatantly horror/comedy and a lot of fun. Monsters are included.

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RELATED LINKS:

Horror Author Jeff Strand gets Ferocious in 2019

THE BIGFOOT FILES| Chapter Two: Dweller

THE BIGFOOT FILES| Chapter Two: Dweller

Oddly enough, Bigfoot was not the original creature that author Jeff Strand had in mind for his Bram Stoker Award-nominated horror novel Dweller.

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“The concept of ‘the story of a lifetime friendship between a boy and a monster’ came to me before the actual monster,” said Strand in an exclusive interview for The Bigfoot Files. “I’d originally thought it would be a reptilian creature that lived at the bottom of a well. But that was too limiting for a book that covered sixty years, and I wanted the readers to fall in love with Owen, so I switched to Bigfoot. Well, something like Bigfoot. There’s a scene where they watch the Patterson-Gimlin film and try to figure out if Owen is the same type of animal. That gave me the whole forest to play around in and made the monster much more cuddly.”

Of course, since Dweller is a horror novel, Owen the Bigfoot is not as cuddly as Strand would have you believe.

Released in 2010, Dweller is a tragic tale of friendship between one lonely human named Toby and one lonely cryptid that Toby names Owen. What makes Dweller a cut and a slash above the average creature feature is that the novel chronicles a heartfelt relationship between human and beast over a period of six decades, starting with their first encounter in 1953.

Dweller is quite a remarkable feat of storytelling because of the time frame, but also because Strand’s tale is as tender as it is terrifying. Eight-year-old Toby initially encounters the creature (who he later names Owen) in the woods behind his home, but their friendship doesn’t begin until seven years later when Toby is a bullied, socially awkward teenager. Their ensuing encounters spark a relationship that Strand is able to ground in reality.

To me, one of the most poignant aspects of Dweller is why Toby chooses the name Owen for the Bigfoot creature. Strand writes:

“Owen – the human Owen – was the closest Toby had ever come to having a real friend.”

Toby had met a boy named Owen in sixth grade, and for about three months they played together every day until an incident ended their friendship. So, Toby has no friends now. How sad is it that the boy turns to a monster just to have a friend and then names it after the only human friend he ever had?

Owen’s story is even sadder as illustrated in the prologue of Dweller. A runt offspring, Owen is orphaned after watching humans kill his family. Owen runs from the killer humans, and Strand writes:

“When he stopped running, he wept.”

That last line of the prologue always gets to me. Can you imagine a young Bigfoot weeping — not crying, but weeping — after humans kill his family? It’s a heartbreaking moment.

One of the more interesting techniques employed in Dweller is Strand’s use of chapters titled “Glimpses,” which cover years of time in the lives of Toby and Owen in just a few pages. For example, in Chapter Eleven, Strand chronicles 1964 to 1972 in eight pages by describing a moment or two during each year. The glimpses are a surprisingly effective way to show time passing and to develop the characters.

One of my favorite glimpses in the book is when Toby is showing photographs from the iconic Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot film to Owen. Toby thinks that Bigfoot shares a resemblance to Owen, but Owen disagrees. It’s such a “real” moment.

Dweller is among my top ten favorite novels of any genre, not just horror. I became an instant fan of Strand after reading it and have followed his eclectic career ever since. Known as a master of blending horror and comedy, Strand has written more than forty books, but Dweller remains my favorite (and probably always will). Strangely, his one mainstream romantic comedy Kumquat is my second favorite of his novels followed by the devastatingly dark Pressure.

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Jeff Strand

I asked Strand if he believes in Bigfoot.

“I think the overwhelming majority of Bigfoot sightings are hoaxes or just mistakes,” Strand replied. “When I see a shaky video of an indistinct blur viewed through thick forest and the cameraman is saying, ‘That’s Bigfoot! Oh my God, that’s Bigfoot!’ I have to be skeptical. It’s easy to see what you want to see, and it’s easy to fool people, so I believe that very few Bigfoot sightings are legitimate. But ‘overwhelming majority’ doesn’t mean ‘all.’ As with aliens, I don’t believe or disbelieve either way — I’m open to the possibility. But I have not seen anything to make me say, ‘Yes! They exist!’”

I also asked Strand why he thinks Bigfoot continues to remain so prevalent in pop culture today.

“It’s just a fascinating idea, that there’s a creature living out there that may or may not be real,” Strand explained. “It’s mysterious and a little scary. Bigfoot is credible enough that you don’t have to be a complete whack-nut to think, ‘Well, maybe ….’ There’s way freakier stuff living in the oceans. So, he could be out there, and yet nobody has ever caught one or provided conclusive evidence that they exist. Even if you’re a hardcore skeptic, it’s a fun mystery.”

NEXT UP | Chapter Three: Swamp Monster Massacre. I review the horror novel Swamp Monster Massacre by Hunter Shea, featuring an exclusive interview with the author about how the Bigfoot legend inspired his story and how the book changed his life.

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RELATED LINK:

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter One: The Idea of Bigfoot

 

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter One: The Idea of Bigfoot

The Idea of Bigfoot by Lionel Ray Green

I believe in Bigfoot. Or rather I believe in the idea of Bigfoot.

I’m not an expert on Bigfoot, although I have studied the legend intensely. I’m merely a fan intrigued by how the stubbornly persistent legend has inundated itself into American pop culture, specifically horror film and fiction.

Bigfoot is everywhere. In films. In books. On television in Jack Link’s Beef Jerky commercials and Saturday Night Live. On T-shirts and coffee mugs.

Bigfoot’s everywhere in my life, too.

Bigfoot-shoesMy favorite place to satisfy my sweet tooth is Bigfoot’s Little Donuts, where the cryptid is featured prominently on the sign and in the décor inside the eatery. I plan to attend the First Annual Georgia Bigfoot Conference in Clayton, Georgia the weekend of April 26-28. I have a Bigfoot crossing sign on my door. A Bigfoot keyring keeps my keys secure. My favorite hat displays a silhouette of Bigfoot surrounded by the words “I Believe.” My favorite T-shirt features the legendary silhouette of the creature. I even have my Bigfoot socks and slippers.

So, while I’m not an expert, I’m a diehard fanatic. I love the idea of a legendary monster roaming the wild, instinctively knowing to avoid contact with humans. While humans often portray Bigfoot as a monster in film and fiction, the legendary cryptid seems smart enough to avoid what it thinks are the real monsters of the world: humans. Bigfoot understands discovery means death.

Whether Bigfoot is real or fake never mattered to me because the legend inspires me nearly every day. I remain mesmerized by the definitive Bigfoot moment. Of course, I’m referring to the Patterson-Gimlin film clip that briefly shows a lumbering bipedal creature walking along Bluff Creek in northern California on October 20, 1967. Allegedly.

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It might surprise you that I think the film is a hoax, but an inspired hoax fueled by the idea of Bigfoot. Real or not, the film inspired me to delve deeper into the Bigfoot legend and sparked my imagination like no other pop culture phenomenon. Bigfoot is a top-five inspiration for my fiction writing alongside the books The Lord of the Rings and Boy’s Life and the movies Halloween (1978) and Babe (1995).

The name Bigfoot didn’t appear in the media until a 1958 newspaper article in the Humboldt Times, but stories of hairy bipedal humanoid creatures have been reported in folklore and history throughout the world. The most well-known of these reports are Sasquatch (an anglicized form of a Native American word) and Yeti (a likely Sherpa form of a Tibetan description).

While the 1958 article introduced the name Bigfoot to the American public, the Patterson-Gimlin film brought the legend into pop culture full force — and it has never left. The iconic frame 352 of the Patterson-Gimlin film shows the legendary creature glancing back at the camera. It foreshadowed a future of Bigfoot in the movies, where it remains a fixture in film and fiction.

Usually, Bigfoot is depicted as a savage beast with predatory tendencies who kills humans. Bigfoot is rarely cast as a gentle giant. Harry and the Hendersons (1987) and Smallfoot (2018) are the exceptions, not the rule.

The result? Bigfoot is as much a horror icon in pop culture today as vampires and werewolves. That’s what this column, The Bigfoot Files, will explore. I’ll review the movies, books, and other media where Bigfoot is featured. Thanks for joining this expedition with me. Hopefully, I’ll introduce you to some movies and books about Bigfoot worth watching and reading.

NEXT UP | Chapter Two: Dweller. I review the 2010 horror novel Dweller by Jeff Strand, featuring an exclusive interview with the author about how the Bigfoot legend inspired the Bram Stoker Award-nominated book.

 

 

 

Horror Author Jeff Strand gets Ferocious in 2019

An Interview with Jeff Strand

Horror author Jeff Strand is already having a ferocious 2019 following a productive 2018, which featured five new releases from the four-time Bram Stoker Award-nominated writer.

ferocious.jpgStrand’s first new release of 2019 is the Kindle version of Ferocious, an action-packed novel about wild zombie animals on the prowl in a forest where Uncle Rusty and his teenage niece Mia live off the grid in a cabin.

Strand’s horror novels, Pressure and Dweller, earned Bram Stoker Award nominations, but the versatile author has also written young adult comedies, horror comedies, and even a romantic comedy.

Check out his website and ridiculously long bio here. Purchase the Kindle edition of Ferocious here.

Strand, who lives in Atlanta, Georgia, agreed to an exclusive interview with HorrorAddicts.net about his new book and shares news on a couple of other future projects. He even answers the question if there will be a second Wolf Hunt sequel.

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HORROR ADDICTS: Undead animals? What sparked the idea for Ferocious?

STRAND: I had no story idea when I wrote the first chapter — I just liked the idea of this gruff, antisocial guy living in a cabin deep in the woods suddenly having a baby thrust upon him after his sister died. So, then it became, “Okay, what can go horribly wrong in their lives?” After much brainstorming, I settled on “zombie animals,” which isn’t a unique concept but certainly an under-utilized one.

HA: In the more than 40 books you’ve released, Uncle Rusty and Mia from Ferocious are two of my favorite characters that you’ve created. I love their relationship from the moment she asks her uncle, “Did you get the tampons?” Where would you rank them among your character creations? Do you like certain characters you create more than others?

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STRAND: It’s fun to write a really nasty villain like Darren in Pressure or Ivan in Wolf Hunt, but I’ll admit that it’s more fulfilling to create characters that the reader really likes. In a book that has “once it gets going it never stops” pacing, it was really important that you start rooting for these characters early on. I’m honestly not sure where I’d rank them. At gunpoint, forced to choose, I’d say that Kevin and Rachel from Blister are my favorite characters, followed closely by the heroes in Cyclops Road. I switched the order after I typed that the first time. Then I’d cheat and say that it’s a tie between Uncle Rusty and Mia, George and Lou from Wolf Hunt, Todd and Amy from Kumquat, Frank and Abigail from Bring Her Back, the family from Sick House, and Toby and Owen from Dweller. None of these are individual characters — I tend to like my own characters based on how they interact with each other.

HA: What actors should play Uncle Rusty and Mia if there’s a movie version of Ferocious?

STRAND: I never think of actors when I’m writing a book, and this question always has me going “Uhhhhh …” I truly don’t know. Hopefully, actors who are pleasant to work with and don’t lock themselves inside their trailer because their coffee was the wrong temperature.

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HA: Uncle Rusty lives off the grid in a cabin deep in the woods? Does that lifestyle appeal to you or are you one of those city slickers?

STRAND: There are flashes of it when I’m stuck in Atlanta traffic, but no, I’m a city guy.

HA: A story of undead animals run amok could go over the top and off the rails quickly, but you played it fairly straight considering the circumstances. You focused on the human survival element in Ferocious, but did you leave any crazy zombie animal ideas on the editing room floor?

STRAND: The book embraces the idea that not all animals in the forest are menacing, and it’s not only the “scary” ones that are undead. So, I played it straight from the perspective that if there was a zombie squirrel coming after you, this is how it would probably behave, and this is how you would probably react to it. And one of my favorite scenes is when an encounter with a rather non-threatening animal suddenly turns horrific. But there really wasn’t anything where I said, “Nope, that’s going too far.” Especially not with the final beast.

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HA: I described Ferocious in my Amazon review as “pure B-movie creature feature fun.” Is that what you were going for or were you hoping to send an environmental message?

STRAND: No message. The only message would be “forest animals really suck when they become zombies.” This baby is pure B-movie creature feature fun!

HA: Uncle Rusty and Mia battle a number of undead animals in the relentlessly paced Ferocious. Have you ever been attacked by an animal?

STRAND: I’ve been bitten by a couple of dogs in my time, and at any given moment I probably have at least one cat scratch, but as far as “Let me tell you a gripping tale about the time I was attacked …” no, I don’t really have anything. A couple of years ago I was sitting out on the end of a dock on a lake, and a bear stepped out of the woods and walked right up to the dock. My thought process was, “This bear is almost definitely NOT going to come after me, but I’m prepared to dive right into that lake if necessary,” and “I want to take a picture of this, but I don’t want to be the dumbass who took a picture of a bear as it was charging him.” The bear moved along, and I survived the encounter.

HA: Are you a cat or a dog person? Do you have any pets that could one day become zombie animals?

STRAND: I love both of them, but I’ve only owned cats for the past 20 years. You can just leave out extra food and kitty litter and go to a writers’ conference and the cat will be fine. I’m not a world traveler, but I’m on the road enough that it wouldn’t be fair to a dog. Chaos the Cat is a gigantic blob and though he scratches me if I try to rub his tummy for one second after he’s decided that it’s time for this experience to stop, I don’t honestly think I’d fear for my life if he became a zombie. He’s not very ambitious.

HA: If you could be any animal, which one would it be and why?

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STRAND: Being able to fly like a bird would be awesome. Though I probably wouldn’t appreciate it if I were a bird. Am I an animal with human thoughts, or am I full-on animal? Because, like, my cat has a wonderful life, but he doesn’t think he has a wonderful life. He thinks we never, ever feed him. Being a dolphin would be cool unless I was captured by one of those blowhole perverts. This question is too hard. Why do I have to answer all the questions? What kind of animal would you be?

HA: Any Jeff Strand news you can break for us Horror Addicts? Can you give us a sneak peek on any new projects on the horizon?

STRAND: After refusing to answer that last question, I hate to refuse to answer this one, too, but there’s actually nothing that’s definite enough to post on a website. Well, okay, I’m working on a thriller called Stranger Than Normal, but it may be a couple of years after it’s finished before it’s published, and it may not have that title. I know what book I’m planning to write after that, which would be the next one published, but that could change, and I’d hate to lie to your readers. That would reflect poorly on you as well. I’d feel bad if you lost the trust of your fans. How about this? Someday there will be a Wolf Hunt 3.

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Press Release: Christmas Horror. Volume 1

Christmas Horror Volume 1

from Dark Regions Press featuring new tales of holiday terror by Joe R. Lansdale, John Skipp, Cody Goodfellow, Jeff Strand and more color illustrated by Zach McCain is now available for preorder at: http://www.darkregions.com/books/new-releases/christmas-horror-volume-1
b7cab5d8-e403-4be7-8d94-f2441b25befaIntroducing the new annual Dark Regions Press holiday anthology: Christmas Horror. Volume 1 features all new and original stories from authors Joe R. Lansdale, John Skipp, Cody Goodfellow, Jeff Strand, J. F. Gonzalez, Stephen Mark Rainey, Nate Southard, Shane McKenzie and (in deluxe hardcover retail editions only) William Meikle. Each story is preceded by a full page/full bleed color illustration by artist Zach McCain.
Table of Contents
“Santa Explains” by Joe R. Lansdale
“The Endless Black of Friday” by Nate Southard
“Red Rage” by Stephen Mark Rainey
“Pointy Canes” by Jeff Strand
“Naughty” by Shane McKenzie
“Krampusnacht in Cell Block J” by Cody Goodfellow
“The Shittiest Guy in the World (A Christmas Fable)” by John Skipp
“Belsnickel” by J. F. Gonzalez
“The Color That Stole Christmas” by William Meikle (Deluxe Hardcover Retail Editions and Expanding Grab Bag 2 Exclusive Editions Only)
More information on Christmas Horror Volume 1 can be found on the DarkRegions.com website.

Press Release: Dark Regions Press – Jeff Strand

New Short Story collection featuring seven never-before-printed tales from Jeff Strand

DEAD CLOWN BARBECUE

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From the author of Pressure, Dweller and A Bad Day for Voodoo comes a new short story collection featuring seven never-before-printed tales and original cover artwork by Alex McVey. The stories within this collection range from hilarious to downright disturbing, proving that Jeff Strand is still a master at what he’s known for: a delicious blend of the humorous and the horrific. Strand fans will take delight in the seven new stories first printed in Dead Clown Barbecue, including “Pett Semmuteary,” “Dummy,” “True Hero,” “Fangboy and the Troll,” “Stop Stabbing Me,” “Pregnancy Test,” and “Push the Button.” A man who finds a severed nose on a plate on his dining room table. A bell that can summon Satan (maybe). Casual Fridays at work that get out of control. A cheery outlook on the post-apocalyptic landscape. The final thoughts of a doomed skydiver. A girl punished by having to share a bed with her grandmother’s corpse. Revenge via baking a tarantula into a cake. A shocking look at where those awful computer generated book covers come from. And the lost tale of Fangboy. These are only a few of the demented stories in DEAD CLOWN BARBECUE, a collection of thirty gleefully macabre tales, seven of which were written just for this collection. There’s even a brand new one about a ventriloquist dummy. Those things creep you out, right? You’ll laugh. You’ll scream. Okay… you probably won’t actually scream, unless you already had issues before you started reading, but you might cringe and get a little spooked.

Available on DarkRegions.com, Amazon.com, libraries, specialty bookstores and other online vendors.

Visit http://www.darkregions.com/books/dead-clown-barbecue-by-jeff-strand

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Jeff Strand was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award in 2006, 2008, and 2010. Strand’s novel PRESSURE has been optioned for film; he’s hoping the movie will be made soon so he can scream “My baby! What have you done to my precious baby?!?” Strand’s novels are usually classified as horror, but they’re really all over the place, from comedies to thrillers to drama to, yes, even a fairy tale (FANGBOY). Because he doesn’t do cold weather anymore, he lives in Tampa, Florida with his wife and two cats.

Help Wanted and Dark Blessings

I have read two anthologies recently that I want to talk about. The first one is Help Wanted: Tales of On The Job Terror from Evil Jester Press. This book is edited by Peter Giglio and has short stories by Joe McKinney, Gary Brandner, Henry Snider and many more. As if work wasn’t already scary enough, this book gives you more reasons to be scared. Help Wanted is an excellent anthology that includes some great stories by some master storytellers.

One of the stories includes Agnes: A Love Story by David C. Hayes, which tells the tale of a lawyer named Jack who feels unappreciated at work and by his wife so he starts a relationship with a photocopier. They get along well until the photocopier starts wanting the lawyer to kill for it. The thing I liked about this story was how the author makes you feel sorry for Jack. His two co-workers are happily married and love their jobs while Jack is married to a paranoid alcoholic and he hates and works at a job he can’t stand. You completely understand how he can fall in love with a copier because he is a lonely soul that no one understands except the copier of course.

Another story in Help Wanted is Work Life Balance by Jeff Strand. In this story a man works for a company that starts to let their employees do what they want at work. It starts with letting them come to work a little later than usual, then the employees are allowed to hug and kiss on the job. Things get really out of hand though when the company starts letting employees carry knives and stab each other, as long as it doesn’t interfere with their job. This story is meant to be more funny then scary but still has its scary moments. Jeff Strand does a great job mixing humor and horror in this story.

Another good story in Help Wanted: On The Job Terror is The Chapel Of Unrest by Stephen Volk. This is a gothic horror story that takes place in the 1800’s and has to deal with an undertaker who has the duty of capturing and embalming a ghoul who has been eating dead bodies in a graveyard. Stephen Volk through his use of  imagery in describing the graveyard, the chapel and the clothes of the time, transports you into an 1800’s gothic setting that reminded me of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

One more story in this anthology that I have to mention is Expulsion by Eric Shapiro which tells the tale of a mad man going into a office to kill his fellow employees. This is a very short but very powerful story that gets you into the mind of a disgruntled employee but manages to end on a positive note. Though there were stories I didn’t like in Help Wanted, all in all its a very good anthology. I highly recommend this book but if this one doesn’t appeal to you the people at Evil Jester Press have some other good anthologies available including: Evil Jester Digest Volume 1  and Attic Toys.

The other anthology I want to mention is from Biting Dog Press called Dark Blessings by John Paul Allen. Included here are short stories dealing with a road trip to hell, a child with an unusual appetite and a closet lover with deadly intentions. Dark Blessings was really a surprise for me, I hadn’t heard of John Paul Allen but I read some good reviews and decided to give it a shot.

The first story in this anthology is called Pit Stop at Hoo Hoo Hollow which follows a young couple on their way through West Virginia who have made a career out of scamming the elderly out of money. During  a stop at Poogan’s Pass they end up where they didn’t expect to go and pay for their misdeeds. While this story is not bloody like some horror stories, it manages to scare in away you wouldn’t think about and makes a point that even if you think you are going to get away with something, karma will get you in the end.

The next story in Dark Blessings is called Runs Like Rabbit and follows the story of a native american boy named Runs Like Rabbit that has to give up his heritage and move with his family so his father can take a job in the white man’s world. The family gives up their names and rejects the gods that they once worshiped in search of a better life. The family soon finds out its not easy to leave their heritage behind as they become isolated. Runs Like Rabbit leaves the family and they all pay in the end. The thing I love about this story is it makes you feel the pain and loneliness that Runs Like Rabbit feels but then the story leaves you with a surprise ending that changes your feelings.

Keeping with the theme of John Paul Allen’s anthology which seems to be that all humanity is good but there is a dark self destructive side to it that makes us suffer. My favorite story in this book a love story called Marquee which has to deal with mistreating the ones you love, paying for your mistakes and letting go. The story follows a man named Scott who mistreats a mentally handicapped person named Duffy, but later finds out that he is connected to him through past lives. Duffy holds the key to Scott fixing his relationship with his wife. To talk to much about this story would give it away, it’s a different kind of love story that shows that sometimes to prove you love someone you have to let them go.

Each story here is a gem and shows humanity at its worst and best. Another story here that I found disturbing but illustrates how good comes from something bad was Prader-Willie which tells the story of three boys left to watch a girl with special needs. The story shows that things aren’t always what they seem. Dark Blessings is psychological horror at its best and I look forward to reading more from John Paul Allen.

Draculas: No sparkles here

I wasn’t going to do a blog post on this book originally because I had mentioned it in a previous post and thought it would be overkill to mention it again. At that time though, I had just started reading the book and really didn’t have high expectations for it. As I got more into it, I realized that this was a really good horror novel and I needed to talk about it.

The book is Draculas and its a collaboration between 4 authors:  F. Paul Wilson who wrote The Keep and the Repairman Jack series; Jeff Strand author of Dweller and Graverobbers Wanted(No Experience Necessary); Blake Crouch, writer of Desert Places and Locked Doors and the guy who came up with the concept was Jack Kilborn (Also writes under the name J.A. Knonrath), the author of Afraid and Shaken.

Jack got the idea when he was looking at the Kindle best seller list and he noticed how many books were classic novels in the public domain. Among them we’re several different versions of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Vampires are always popular and he came up with the idea of vampires in a hospital and humans trying to survive. He didn’t have time to write the book himself so he enlisted the help of other authors to write part of the book. Each author wrote 15,000 words from the point of view of one human and one vampire.

Jack also noticed that most vampires in todays literature we’re teen heartthrobs or romantic leads and he decided he wanted to make vampires scary again. Edward (from Twilight) would run in fear if he saw the vampires in Draculas. These vampires have no feelings and are not sex symbols. They wan’t one thing from humans and that’s blood. Also the vampires in this story don’t have just 2 fangs. They have a  mouthful of 6 inch long fangs. They can also  see in total darkness and are stronger and faster then humans.

The story for Draculas is about a retired millionaire, Mortimer Moorecock, who is dying of cancer. In order to survive his disease, Mortimer has bought a skull found in Romania that is believed to have belonged to Count Dracula. When Mortimer gets the skull, he clamps its jaws on his neck and goes into convulsions. He is rushed to the hospital where he dies and rises again as a vampire.

From that point on its complete chaos with Mort killing six people in the ER. They all come back as vampires and the patients and faculty of the hospital have to escape or be turned into the living dead. The story for Draculas is simple, what makes it a good book is the characters. In addition to the doctors and nurses, you have a gun crazy sheriff, a lumberjack with a chainsaw, a married couple about to have their first child, and a vampire clown named Benny.

Benny the clown is one nasty vampire and despite the fact that he was evil, he was my favorite character in the book. Every scene he was in I found myself thinking of the theme to Killer Klowns From Outer Space. If you are afraid of clowns you may want to avoid this book because Benny is one sadistic clown. There are some scenes in the book where all he does is stand and stare at his victims which is scary in itself, but when he performs some obscene acts for a captive audience, the book gets really interesting.

Though Draculas is loaded with violence and action, what really makes it good is that the authors make you care about the protagonists. A part that had me on the edge of my seat was when a young husband has to go to the blood bank in the hospital to get blood for a transfusion to save his wife who had a hemmorage after child birth. There is also a couple of touching scenes where a divorced couple reconciles and a young couple tells each other how they feel in the face of what looks like certain death. The only part of the book that I didn’t like was that sometimes the vampires seem too much like zombies and I didn’t like that they constantly called the vampires Draculas, but they do give an explanation for that in the story.

The ending in Draculas was a perfect end to a wild ride and was a total surprise to me. Draculas is everything a horror novel should be, it has humor, plenty of gore, good characters, suspense, and a decent love story. If thats not enough to get you to want to get it, the E-book version is loaded with extras. You get three short stories, deleted scenes, and it includes all the emails that the authors sent to each other as they we’re working on the book. If you are an aspiring writer and you we’re thinking of collaborating with another author, this book gives you a good look at the creative process of co-authoring a book. The extras in the e-book are like getting the director’s cut of a movie along with commentary. This is something I would love to see more authors do for their novels. (Emz are you reading this? We want a director’s cut of Night’s Knights. Make it happen.)

Zombies, Vampires, and Cursed Skulls

I love all genres of literature but my favorite genre to read is horror. I especially like horror mixed with comedy and I’ve read three books recently that fit that category. The first book I want to talk about is The Sinister Mr. Corpse by Jeff Strand. The story is about a man named Stanley Dabernath who was a regular guy until he became the worlds first living zombie.

Stanley’s movie company, Demented Whacko’s Video is not successful. In fact he is $60,000 in debt, was recently evicted from his apartment and lives off a diet of  Ramen Noodles that he stole from the grocery store. His luck changes one day though when he is run over by a milk truck and drowns in the milk.

Death is not the end for Stanley. His body is rescued from the morgue and he gets brought back to life on national TV by Project Second Chance. Now Stanley has everything he could ever want, he has money, fame, product endorsements, action figures and he’s a hit on all the talk shows. Stanley has the life he has always dreamed of, but it comes at a price, he has to take injections to keep from rotting any more then he already has, Project Second Chance owns his body and there is a group of religious fanatics that want to prove that he’s a fake.

After two failed attempts to kill him, being hounded by the media and having a man decide to build a religion based on him; Stanley escapes project Second Chance and heads to New York to become a super hero. Things don’t go well and he gets kidnapped and held for ransom. He then finds out what happens when he doesn’t get his injections and the secret behind how Project Second Chance brought him back to life. I’ll give you a hint, it wasn’t science that resurrected him.

The Sinister Mr. Corpse is an action packed horror comedy filled with twists and turns. What I enjoyed most was the dialog in the book, all of the characters had great personality and if the book had no action and was made up entirely of dialog between the characters, I would have still enjoyed it. Another part that really stuck out with me was a fight between Mr. Corpse and an assassin near the end which unexpectedly moves from drama to comedy. Despite the fact that this book is meant mainly for laughs, it does make a good point about how we should be careful about idolizing celebrities.

If you need any more influence to buy The Sinister Mr. Corpse, check out the reviews on Amazon from Jeff Strand and J.A. Konrath and after your done check out their book of humorous horror stories called Suckers. I have to say up front about Suckers, its definitely not a great work of literature, but I found myself laughing quite a bit. In the books the authors themselves describe the book as “Men have weiners, he he he.” That should tell you what your getting into if you buy it.

Some of the short stories in Suckers include A Bit of Halloween Mayhem, where a couple of people break into a haunted house on Halloween and get more then they bargained for and The Necro File which follows Detective Harry McGlade as he investigates some strange happenings in a cemetery.

The main story in Suckers was written by both authors and includes two characters that have been in some of the novels that they have written in the past. Detective Harry McGlade  is called to Florida to find a kidnapped girl. As he is breaking into the house where he believes the girl is being held, he runs into Andrew Mayhem who was only trying to bring a jar of spaghetti sauce to his wife. Afraid Mayhem will call the cops on him, Harry makes Andrew enter the house with him and discovers a house full of wannabe vampires  who want to make McGlade their lunch. If you have a strong stomach and need a good laugh, pick this book up.

The last book I wanted to mention is one I’m currently reading and since it was in the same vein (pun intended) as the others I wanted to mention it. The book is Draculas by Jeff Strand, Jack Kilborn (pen name of J.A. Konrath), F. Paul Wilson and Blake Crouch. The story is about retired millionaire Mortimer Moorecock who is dying of cancer. In order to survive his disease Mortimer has bought a skull found in Romania that is believed to have belonged to Count Dracula. When Mortimer gets the skull he clamps its jaws on his neck and goes into convulsions. He is rushed to the hospital where he dies and rises again as a vampire.

The description of this book describes it as Dawn of the Dead in a hospital but with vampires in place of zombies. These are not the kind of vampires with feelings, they’re the blood thirsty killing anti-Twilight kind. Each Author in this book took a character in the story and wrote the most intense black comedy horror story they could. If you know of any good books combining horror and comedy please leave a comment.