Odds and DEAD Ends: Claustrophobic Killing

The Horror Legacy of Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’

Agatha Christie probably isn’t a name you’d associate with horror. She was a crime author; the writer you snuggled up in the armchair with on a rainy afternoon for a good thriller with twists and turns. For the first two decades of her career, the famous detective with the little grey cells, Hercule Poirot, was her livelihood. And yet, in 1939, she unleashes And Then There Were None. This single novel redefined strategic, rhythmic, multiple murders in fiction and would come to change horror itself.

On the documentary The Thing: Terror Takes Shape, John Carpenter cites Christie’s novel as an influence on his adaptation of Campbell’s novella Who Goes There?. In the novella, dozens of scientists find an alien imitator in their midst which is ultimately defeated with only a few deaths. Carpenter’s The Thing is much bleaker, with just sixteen men left to fight and kill, and ultimately are left with two survivors and an uncertain future, desolate and alone.

Strangely, though a larger crowd might sound initially scarier, as they could be so many people, it is when there are fewer characters that the tension mounts. The walls have closed in. There aren’t seven rooms that a killer could be in; there’s only one. And, standing in the right place, you can be sure to see them. Carpenter reduces a few dozen characters to his sixteen, and Dame Christie had already done it with just ten.

Everything about the novel has the purpose of constricting the ten, subjecting them to as much pressure as possible, crushing them. The house is cut off from the rest of the world and those on the mainland have been told not to rescue them. We’re confined to the hallways of Soldier Island’s house, chasing shadows.

Added to this the dripping theme of guilt that Christie presents us with, permeating every sentence, every word of the novel, and we see that she is pressurizing the characters emotionally. The past catching up with them; they can’t escape the killer or their conscience.

But I’m not here to discuss the novel as a whole. What I want to bring to your attention is the legacy of its setup. Just look to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Though light-hearted, there are two episodes of the first series in which the S.O.S brigade are trapped on an island with a single house, in a storm, when a murder takes place. Suddenly everyone begins casting suspicions, doors are kept locked, shadows are seen outside. Though there is only a single murder, as opposed to the many in Christie’s novel, the setup is so similar it borders on parody.

To go even further, die-hard fans of horror-thrillers will remember the series Umineko no naku koro ni, or When The Seagulls Cry. Twenty people on an island in a storm being killed off systematically to appease an old legend. This direct homage is done not just because it’s a nice reference, but because the formula is so easy, simple, and effective. No communication to the outside world, trapped in one place, being killed off by a psychopath in the midst.

This claustrophobic killing rhythm has been replicated so many times now that it’s hard to think that it had an origin of some kind. And there were stories that used aspects of it before And Then There Were None, but none of them had the same impact.

Could you conceive of the modern slasher flick without some of the points mentioned? Could you imagine Alien if it was in a city with a nuke nearby? If the bridge in The Evil Dead were intact? Perhaps Saw II would be better if only two people died in that house? Maybe if the police didn’t keep them caged in the apartment, REC would have been vastly improved?

If you want maximum terror, you keep people confined. This isn’t just a claustrophobia thing; it’s the idea of escape. Freedom. You find what a character wants, and then take it away from them; it’s storytelling 101. In Scream, Sidney says that horror movies are just girls that ‘run up the stairs when they should be running out the front door, it’s insulting.’ But when the front door opens up to a cliff-face or the vacuum of space, there’s no option. We’re trapped. We are creatures constantly in need of control, and when we don’t have control of escape possibilities, we panic. We get scared.

Christie got the formula and nailed it. It hasn’t been beaten since. It’s the reason why The Mousetrap is the longest continuously-showing production of all time. It’s why Waters of Mars was one of the most terrifying episodes of Doctor Who in recent memory. It’s because it taps into our basic instincts and then removes them. We can’t fight and we can’t run. We can only try to survive and hope and pray. And anyway, as Leslie Vernon says, letting people escape ‘is really embarrassing.’ These killers aren’t going to let us off the island.

And Then There Were None is the perfect slasher prototype and should be revered and remembered as such. Agatha Christie wrote the essential horror blueprint. Fact.

 

Article by Kieran Judge

 

Bibliography

Alien. 1979. [Film] Directed by Ridley Scott. United States of America: Brandywine Productions.

Behind the mask: The rise of Leslie Vernon. 2006. [Film] Directed by Scott Glosserman. USA: Anchor Bay Entertainment.

Campbell, J. W., 2011. Who Goes There?. 1st ed. London: Gollancz.

Christie, A., 1952 – present. The Mousetrap. London: St. Martin’s Theatre.

Christie, A., 2015. And Then There Were None. London: HarperCollins.

Doctor Who – Waters Of Mars. 2009. [Film] Directed by Graeme Harper. United Kingdom: BBC.

John Carpenter’s The Thing. 1982. [Film] Directed by John Carpenter. United States of America: Universal Studios.

REC. 2007. [Film] Directed by Jaume Balaguero, Paco Plaza. Spain: Filmax International.

Saw II. 2005. [Film] Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman. USA: Twisted Pictures.

Scream. 1996. [Film] Directed by Wes Craven. United States: Dimension Films.

The Evil Dead. 1981. [Film] Directed by Sam Raimi. USA: Renaissance Pictures.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. 2006. [Film] Directed by Tatsuya Ishihara. Japan: Kyoto Animation.

The Thing: Terror Takes Shape. 1998. [Film] Directed by Michael Mattesino. United States Of America: Universal.

Umineko No Naku Koro Ni. 2009. [Film] Directed by Chiaki Kon. Japan: Studio Deen.

 

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Odds and DEAD Ends: Analysis of Casting the Runes and Ring.

M. R. James’ classic ghost story, Casting the Runes, is perhaps one of the most beloved of all time. It follows Mr. Dunning, uncovering a plot by Dr. Karswell to kill him via a series of ancient runic symbols. Similarly, for the modern age, Koji Suzuki’s novel Ring, (thanks largely to Hideo Nakata’s film adaptation), changed the face of Japanese horror films, much in the way that Scream did for the slasher genre. Examined in this article is the concept of infecting a victim with a deadline, by which, if the deadline isn’t passed on, the victim will die. This concept is, in both texts, a product of history and the past, which can infiltrate the modern day to scare the reader.

CASTING THE RUNES

James’ story is rooted in folklore of witches and magic. James himself was a noted historian of folklore and mythology, writing many papers on medieval manuscripts and other texts. It’s not surprising, therefore, that this interest seeps through in Casting the Runes, his uncovering of ancient texts mirroring the discovery of the slip of paper with the runes.

The main conflict I perceive in the text is the tension between the modernity presented by Dunning and Harrington, and the history and past presented by Karswell, fighting for power. Karswell, a man who has “…invented a new religion for himself, and practiced no one could tell what appalling rites” (p.238), has cast a hex on Dunning for shunning his new book. The past, in its runes and legends, is here the antagonistic force presented through Karswell, his book described simply as ‘an evil book’ (p.242), the mythic past’s main point of origin. Karswell’s magic lantern show presents the darker side of children’s myths and fairy tales, such as Red Riding Hood, which bleed through into the modern world:

“At last he produced a series which represented a little boy passing through his own park – Lufford, I mean – in the evening. Every child in the room could recognize the place from the pictures. And this poor boy was followed, and at last pursued and overtaken, and either torn into horrible pieces or somehow made away with, by a horrible hopping creature in white, which you saw first dodging about among the trees, and gradually it appeared more and more plainly.” (p.239)

Not only do we see the past colliding with the modern present through this passage, but after this, showing slimy creatures on the slides, “…somehow or other he made it seem as if they were climbing out of the picture and getting in amongst the audience” (p.240). Dunning and Harrington, on the other hand, are modernity’s flag-bearers. Dunning investigates the noise in the night, “…for he knew he had shut the door that evening after putting his papers away in his desk” (p.252), proving a logical, empirical mind, later reinforced here: “It was a difficult concession for a scientific man, but it could eased by the phrase “hypnotic suggestion” (p.255). Dunning even suggests that Karswell was “…mixing up classical myths, and stories out of the Golden Legend with reports of savage customs of to-day…” (p.258), showing a scholarly knowledge of the subject matter.

Therefore, the strange atmosphere about Dunning, the mysterious death of Harrington’s brother, the strange wind, “I supposed the door blew open, though I didn’t notice it: at any rate a gust – a warm gust it was – came quite suddenly between us, took the paper and blew it into the fire” (p.258), only increases our fear and trepidation, especially with the three month deadline hanging over our heads before Dunning’s eventual demise, for they can only be supernatural, against Dunning’s core beliefs. We try to decipher it rationally, following our protagonist’s example, but are unable to. Modern science cannot fight back against the curse of the runes. When Dunning and Harrington resort to deception and return the slip to Karswell, we slip into the past, so to speak, presented with the evil past that the characters have tried to deny for so long. We want to see evil banished back to where it belongs, away from Dunning’s modern day, back into the history books.

This brings us to the final moral dilemma. We are asked at the tale’s conclusion, “Had they been justified in sending a man to his death, as they believed they had? Ought they not to warn him, at least?” (p.266). They have become like Karswell, dispensing an ancient, malevolent death upon those they deem a threat. Though they justify this by claiming Karswell deserved it, and that Dunning would be dead otherwise, it is an unnerving note to end with, asking if they should have asked the darkness of history to prove itself, or descended to the old ways as they do, dispensing justice in, what is for them, a “new rite”, much like Karswell created for himself.

RING

Suzuki’s novel, Ring, adopts a similar structure in terms of its narrative. A malevolent force (the spirit of Sadako Yamamura) has given a victim (Asakawa) a time limit (seven days) to find what mysterious instructions he needs to follow in order to save his life (copying the cursed tape and passing it on). The runes have been replaced by the video tape, and it is here that we see one of the key, fundamental differences to James’ story. Sadako is built upon the myths and folklore of Japan, but her embodiment of ‘the past’ is intertwined with modern technology. The distinct opposition inherent in James’ tale is no longer as easy to see in Suzuki’s novel.

The female ghost with long hair avenging their death is a well-established trait in Japanese folklore. These stories are called kaidan; the vengeful ghost termed an onryō. Theatre Group Soaring, in the novel, would no doubt have practiced traditional Japanese kabuki theatre, itself one of the main vehicles through which kaidan tales were passed throughout the centuries. Even in the film adaptation, the strange, contorted movements of Sadako (as played by Rie Inō) is directly inspired by stereotypical movements of onryō from kabuki theatre, and Rie Inō herself was apparently trained in kabuki. The story of the spirit in the well has also been around for centuries, the story of Okiku and the plates, being a potent example.

Sadako is therefore very much rooted in Japan’s past, in more ways than just being dead. Asakawa, on the other hand, is very much the modern man, constantly carrying around a word processor, saving files to floppy disks, phoning Yoshino from the island to help his investigation. Ryuji is a professor of philosophy, a discipline which “…as a field of inquiry had drawn ever closer to science,” (p.88). These two men are built of the modern world. They even live in Tokyo, one of the largest cities in the world. When arriving at Pacific Land, Asakawa notes that “Faced with this proof that the modern power of science functioned here, too, he felt somewhat reassured, strengthened.” (p.61).

Suzuki uses technology, the statement of the future and urbanity, to steer his antagonistic force, striking at civilisation’s heart. Sadako’s wrath and anger takes over the videotape, itself situated in a cabin complete with “A hundred-watt bulb lit a spacious living room. Papered walls, carpet, four-person sofa, television, dinette set: everything was new, everything was functionally arranged.” (p.63). Asakawa, despite his hesitations and fear of what the tape might show him, ‘No matter what sort of horrific images he might be shown, he felt confident he wouldn’t regret watching” (p.73). Why would his regret watching? It wouldn’t be as if anything could happen to him, constrained as it were by the (very much Western) technology before him.

Just like Karswell’s magic lantern show, however, the images on the tape have their own weight and reality, “Startled, he pulled back his hands. He had felt something. Something warm and wet – like amniotic fluid, or blood – and the weight of flesh.” (p.77). When Asakawa answers the phone, it is described that:

“There was no reply. Something was swirling around in a dark, cramped place. There was a deep rumble, as if the earth were resounding, and the damp smell of soil. There was a chill at his ear, and the hairs on the nape of his neck stood up. The pressure on his chest increased, and bugs from the bowls of the earth were crawling on his ankles and his spine, clinging to him. Unspeakable thoughts and long-ripened hatred almost reached to him through the receiver. Asakawa slammed down the receiver.” (p.81).

That silence from the other end of a telephone gives this impression, this startlingly sensory imagery, showcases Sadako’s reach and wrath, without her saying a word.

In the finale, Asakawa, realising why he survived and Ryuji did not, agrees to wager the entirety of humanity by spreading the virus to his parents-in-law. Whereas James simply had the characters return the curse to Karswell, he the price for Dunning’s survival, here, Suzuki has entire the world be the price for saving Asakawa’s family. Whereas Casting the Runes ends with a definite confirmation of Karswell’s demise, Ring ends with the ominous passage, “Black clouds moved eerily across the skies. They slithered like serpents, hinting at the unleashing of some apocalyptic evil.” (p.284). Asakawa has become accomplice to Sadako’s malice, the past in control of modern technology and, through that, the modern man. “In order to protect my family, I am about to let loose on the world a plague which could destroy all mankind.” (p.283).

CONCLUSION

Both James’ short story and Suzuki’s novel present characters eagerly, desperately trying to beat the deadlines they are faced with, wished upon them by people that want them dead. Through their representations of an evil, malevolent past, embodied by Karswell and Sadako, both authors present us with a moral choice of who we save, and who we kill in exchange. What is different about their endings is the level of intimacy and scope we are presented with. Casting the Runes is a story of personal vengeance, where the battle is between Karswell on one side and Dunning and Harrington on the other, with the evil-doer getting their just desserts, like a boxing match. Ring’s evil is much more impersonal, and the apocalyptic ending shows the sheer magnitude of what must happen for someone to live. You don’t end the curse; you just pass the buck and hope someone else will do it for you. The ending’s bleak tone implies that there is no hope, that nobody will sacrifice themselves to stop the bleeding, and that the virus will move from one soul to another, runes forever being cast.

Written by Kieran Judge

Bibliography

James, M. R., 1994. Casting the Runes. In: Collected Ghost Stories. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth, pp. 235 – 267.

Ringu. 1998. [Film] Directed by Hideo Nakata. Japan: Ringu/Rasen Production Company.

Scream. 1996. [Film] Directed by Wes Craven. United States: Dimension Films.

Suzuki, K., 2004. Ring. London: HarperCollinsPublishers.

 

 

David’s Haunted Library: The End Is All We See

The End Is All We See  contains two horrific stories from M.F Wahl and A.J. Brown. The book begins with intros from each author saying that when they met they wanted to try an experiment together. This book became that experiment. Both authors felt that their writing style complimented each other nicely and they both had story ideas which happen after an apocalypse.

The first story is Purple Haze by M.F. Wahl. It follows a band of survivors who left Earth in a spaceship in order to find another Earth-like planet to live on. The ship crash lands on a beautiful looking planet but there are only three survivors. The crew realizes their situation is bleak and things get worse as they explore outside the ship and discover something in the air is making them want to harm themselves and each other. Purple Haze becomes a blood bath with a shocking ending. M.F. Wahl uses vivid imagery to describe her characters situation and the planet they are exploring. What happens to the explorers is described so well that it’s enough to make you thankful for the air you breathe.

The next story is Run For The Flame by A.J. Brown. It starts simply enough with a bunch of teenagers behind a protective wall, about to race up a snow covered hill. There is more here than meets the eye though, they are living through an ice age and the wall they live behind is breaking down, their only hope is a tower on top of the hill.  The teenagers have a short period of time to retrieve a flame in the tower before they freeze to death. The problem is nobody has ever survived the run and without the flame, the community will die. This was an excellent story, the ending was a little confusing but I love all the characters. They are in a race against time, facing an impossible task but each one has a different emotional reaction to the situation. You feel for all of them and watching them go through what they do is excruciating.

What both of these stories have in common is a fresh spin on an old idea, they both take place after a catastrophic event and what transpires next is something that I haven’t seen in Science fiction or horror. Both authors tell an excellent story and the length of each one can be described as perfect. They’re short but pack a punch that you might not recover from.  To say their experiment worked is an understatement and I hope this isn’t the last collaboration between these authors.

 

Clockwork Wonderland Author Guest Blog Post: Michele Roger

 

Alice in Wonderland: the Bridge Between Reality and Fantasy

By

Michele Roger

 

It’s a Fine Line

           I discovered Lewis Carol and “Alice in Wonderland” later than most children.  While many of my friends tell me they read it with parents as a childhood bedtime story, I didn’t read the classic tale until high school.  Admittedly, by the time it was assigned to me, I was resentful.  Why was an Honors English class reading a kids book?

 

Thankfully, I was a goody-two-shoes and wanted to impress my teacher.  I dug into the story, assuming it would be a quick read, an easy paper and take me that much closer to kicking off my Spring Break.  Like so many things in my teenage life, I was wrong.  Alice in Wonderland consumed me.  It resembled many aspects of my real life and the people in it.  Epiphany hit me somewhere in the wee hours of the drive from Michigan to Florida as I sat reading in the car on a family Spring Break trip in April of 1988.  I was suffering the microcosm of my dysfunctional family crammed in the confines of a compact Ford Escort for eighteen hours when it hit me.  Lewis Carol took the extreme personalities of people he must have met somewhere in his life and turned them into the most fantastic creatures/characters to help tell a story.

 

I knew people like the caterpillar. I had parents of friends who smoked hash and made it look enlightening.  Caterpillar people loved parties, where jazz played softly in the background and martinis, were served in the library or study where guests could check out all of the books they had read.  These same people rarely spoke to their kids (my friends), drove expensive cars and paid for things with large wads of cash from their wallet.  All the while, they seemed to sit in a lofty leather chair and do nothing.  How they made their money was a mystery to me.  Caterpillars seemed addicted to the excitement of impending metamorphosis and bragged about their state of great change, telling their children they should aspire to it.  In reality, caterpillar people never turned into anything beautiful; much to the disappointment of their children.  I, on the other hand, thought they were entertaining.

 

The rest of that sophomore year and through my first summer job, I decided to find fantasy characters in my own reality.  There was no option out with a glass that said, “Drink me”,  to avoid driving in a hatchback with my parents, younger sister and two German shepherds to go places.  Heading to summer family events certainly felt like I was falling down a rabbit hole at sixteen.  I had the same tumbling feeling when I got my first summer job testing water samples and writing mind-numbing reports for the State of Michigan.

 

Mad Tea Party

The summer of 1988, I met my own personal Cheshire at a beach party. While drinks were flowing under the cover of darkness, I was drunk on a boy. One part bad boy, one part overwhelmingly charming and kind, stunningly handsome one minute, gone the next, not to be seen for weeks; leaving me with the memory of his smile.  He was well read but only shared his love of books quietly, unlike the caterpillars.  As I waited for him to materialize, I read books in his absence, hoping it would give us a chance to have something to talk about.

With all of the reading of classics and sci-fi, something inside me stirred, I was afraid to leave the safety of summer and high school.  Wonderland, Orwell’s versions of earth, the worlds of Omni magazine short stories had become a refuge.  Every college application, scholarship essay and step towards graduation, college and looming adulthood threatened to take my fantasy characters and imaginary places away.  My parents were pushing hard that I change my major from special education to law.  Secretly, I longed to be a writer.

One simply didn’t spring changing my parents well thought plans for my future.  They had their hearts set on a family lawyer.  I couldn’t just change and be a writer. Suggesting such a thing took cunning and skill.  I took an assessment test and had it sent to my mother at home so she would open it.  I waited until the weekend when I knew the cocktails would be flowing and pressed her about my results.  In reality, the school librarian had already informed me of the results, but I wanted to present my case with hard evidence.

As she stirred her drink, prepping dinner, she told me that she nor my father believed in such tests.  It said I should become a writer or a journalist.  Everyone knew girls couldn’t make any kind of living doing either of those things.  All the big work went to men.  I sighed.

 

Return to the Realm of the Queen of Hearts

It’s fair to say that I didn’t understand the Queen of Hearts and the notion of yelling, “Off with their heads!” until I heard my inner motherhood scream, “if I see that kind of behavior again, young lady, heads will roll.”  Fast forward to 2009, I was a mother of young teenagers and unknowingly, I had returned to Wonderland.

As an act of preparation for life, I read Alice in Wonderland to my kids.  We had moved into an old farmhouse in the country.  It was easy to see the characters that real people could be. Raising teenagers required escape.  I began to write, using everything I had learned from my trips down the rabbit hole.  Parenthood was the white rabbit, always in a hurry but never the less, magical and maddening and a beautiful chaos.  Lines between reality and fantasy were blurred from exhaustion but it made life all the more like Alice’s; adventurous and full of discovery.  Three novels and one children’s book later, I am thankful for Lewis Caroll.  I would have made a lousy lawyer anyways.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1544785518/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1493493560&sr=8-1&keywords=clockwork+wonderland

 

Michele Roger is the author of the Sci-Fi novel, “Dark Matter” (2009), “The Conservatory” (2013) and “Eternal Kingdom: A Vampire Story” (2015).  She is also the author of the “Mr. Kiwi” Children’s book series under her pen name, Michele Beresford.  When she isn’t writing, she is a harpist; performing and teaching in Detroit.

https://www.amazon.com/Michele-Roger/e/B00FJQIMJ6/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_5?qid=1492955702&sr=1-5

 

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: 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: Writers On Writing Volumes 1-4

David's Haunted Library

writers-on-writing-omnibus-193x3002xHave 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.

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