Where Nightmares Come From, The Art of Storytelling in the Horror Genre: A Review

Where Nightmares Come From, The Art of Storytelling in the Horror Genre

Review by Stephanie Ellis

This novel was received free in return for an honest review

4 out of 5 stars

As a writer gradually developing her craft I am always open to hearing and reading the views of those at the top of their game, those who have ‘made it’. Like most, I think we approach such articles in the hope that we’ll discover the magic ingredient, the key that turns a novel in the drawer into a published piece of work. I didn’t get that from this book, nor is it something I discovered from my go-to motivational source, On Writing by Stephen King, who also appears in this particular publication. What I found, which was equally valuable, was the same story from all contributors—whether they be a filmmaker, author, poet, director, publisher or editor—the rule of three: read, write and finish what you start. No exceptions. I learned from Ramsay Campbell that you don’t need different notebooks from different projects, he—like me—makes notes on one thing, goes on to another, then returns to that first project … in the same notebook! I learned that daily word counts don’t always matter—unless you’re trying out for that annual marathon, NaNoWriMo. I learned that you should write for yourself. I mean, if you don’t enjoy it, why bother? In truth, and in my heart-of-hearts, these horror giants were merely stating what most of us already know, the only rule is that rule of three. Whilst the book was geared towards those who write in the horror genre, much of what was said can be applied to writers across the whole range of fiction and even non-fiction. And when it comes to nightmares—everybody is different but the contributors reinforce the idea of developing horror from the everyday and mundane, from the what ifs? There doesn’t have to be blood and gore, it can be subtle, darker and slow-building—again, another reassurance as that is the style of horror I prefer. So what did I take away from all this? A lot of reassurance and a reading list … oh, and the determination to keep on writing. And now I’m off to read Patricia Highsmith’s The Snail-Watcher.

http://www.crystallakepub.com/

 

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Ghost Of Manor House: A Review

Ghosts of Manor House by Matt Powers

Review by Stephanie Ellis

This novel was received free in return for an honest review.

A ghost story in October, what better time to read one than when the nights are drawing in and the wind howls mournfully outside. For such nights, of Ghosts Of Manor House is perfect. Between these pages, you will find the Haunted House and its equally disturbed companion, the old oak, Mr. Travels. Together they have been the site of many an unfortunate death and judicial hanging over the centuries.

It is to this house that Edmund and Mary Wilder and their surviving child, Stephanie, go in order to come to terms with the death of their son Tommy, Stephanie’s twin. What Edmund doesn’t realize, however, is the arrangement Mary has entered into with the house in order to reunite her family. Once there, life becomes vague and Edmund’s sense of reality is distorted by both house and tree. He believes himself to be alone, working on a novel, awaiting his wife’s arrival unaware she is already there somewhere. The innkeeper, Lucas and ancient housekeeper, Mrs. Krane play their parts, convincing him he can never leave until eventually, Edmund realizes the step he must take to be with his family once more.

This chilling tale serves as a nicely done homage to the authors own heroes which include Stephen King and Shirley Jackson.

https://www.ghostsofmanorhouse.com/

 

Guest Blog: The Infernal Clock Anthology Stephanie Ellis

Time ticks for everybody and has become the instrument with which humans torture themselves, marking as it does the countdown to each person’s eventual end. Not a precious minute can be wasted in each of our allotted lifespans … whether it be used for good or evil.

 

The Infernal Clock is an anthology tracking one day in time, each of its 24 hours filled with horrors and torments. Between the covers, lie a collection of diverse styles ranging from dark fantasy to the literary to the classical—here is horror in its many forms. The anthology is available on Amazon but to celebrate its recent launch we are offering the chance to win a print copy of the book. Check out our 500 word flash horror competition over at The Infernal Clock blog. And if that’s not enough, here’s a taster from the book:

The Graveyard Shift

by Stephanie Ellis

“Are any awake?” asked Nurse Maddison. Joseph cast his eye over the bank of monitors in front of him. Each showed a sleeping patient, unmoving. “Dead to the world,” he said. “If only,” said the nurse as she walked away. They both laughed at the joke, tired though it was. The graveyard shift was almost over. She just had to wait until the clock struck three. And the big hand was almost there, moving slowly towards the end of its hourly journey, second … by second … by second.

Click.

He watched her grab her freedom, striding out of the facility’s gates, waving up at his camera as she disappeared into the night.

He sighed. It was alright for her, he still had another hour to go; another hour of mind-numbing boredom. He could pass the time like others by watching TV or flicking through trashy magazines but he had more of a conscience than that, ever since … well, what was past was past but from then on he had always done everything by the book—almost always anyway. Needless to say it did not help his popularity and he frequently found himself walking the corridors or watching the monitors at this unearthly hour, his colleagues having bagged the more attractive shifts as payback.

A slight movement in Patient One’s cell caught his eye; Nurse Maddison’s replacement—Nurse Ole Lukøje, a male medic this time. The Dane had been there a week and Joseph still hadn’t met him. It was almost as if he lost time when Ole was on duty. Joseph had a worrying suspicion he sometimes dozed off on the job despite all his good intentions. But nothing had happened and nobody had caught him. Hell, it wasn’t a sleep clinic for nothing; he could afford to cut himself a little slack, all those years of tedious conscientiousness had built him a balance of credit he felt could do with spending. And his time here was nearly up after all. Tonight though, his curiosity was piqued. It was definitely about time he met the guy. He rubbed his eyes and returned his gaze to the monitor. Ole Lukøje, he pondered the name, a Danish synonym for the Sandman, very apt.

He continued to watch Patient One. What dreams are you giving your patients, Nurse Lukøje, he wondered. The nurse had left but the man was no longer sleeping peacefully. His body had begun to twitch uncontrollably, his legs jerking as if running from something, his hands swinging out wildly against an unseen attacker. Joseph cast his eye over the patient’s notes left with him in case of ‘emergencies’. Patient One was prone to night terrors—well that was something new—and apparently only a recent development as it had been added by Nurse Lukøje. There had been no such observations from any of the other nurses who worked that shift. An extra note had been squashed into the space at the bottom of the page. It merely stated that normal sleep patterns resumed at 4 a.m. Joseph frowned. Usually the nurse would stay longer, wait until the patient had settled down, adjust the meds if any were being administered. But he wasn’t there. He wasn’t anywhere. And Patient One was becoming more agitated by the minute.

To read more and find out what other horrors can happen in 24 hours, check out The Infernal Clock

Clockwork Wonderland Author Interview: Stephanie Ellis

Horroraddicts.net publishing has recently published our 5th anthology called Clockwork WonderlandThis is a book where anything can happen and time runs amok. In this book lies tales of serial killers, insane creations, a blood thirsty jabberclocky, and zombies. Clockwork Wonderland includes 15 tales that make Wonderland into a place of horror where all your worst nightmares come true. One of the authors in this anthology is Stephanie Ellis who took some time to tell us about the book and her writing:

What is your story in Clockwork Wonderland called and what is it about?

My story, Hands of Time, takes place in the subterranean world of Wonderland, in the dark dungeons and cellars no one ever really thinks about. Their existence, never referred to, must be real, after all the Queen of Hearts was always arresting her subjects and demanding their beheading. So, where did these miscreants go and who despatched them? This is where the Executioner comes in, a hooded figure shrouded in secrecy … like the world he inhabits. And like all people with a trade, he has his apprentices. These are his hands, one of whom will become chosen as his successor. Together with the TimeKeeper, who is in charge of the Queen’s clocks, he selects Rab as the one to follow his trade. But how is this choice made and what happens to the other hands … well, you’ll just have to read the story.

What inspired the idea?

“Off with their heads!” The line that everyone remembers. But whether you read the book or watch the film, you never see much of the Executioner. I wanted to know more about him and his world. I also played around with the different meanings for the word ‘hands’ – hands on a clock, work hands, actual flesh and blood hands (although not for long!!) and linked them all together. And suddenly an idea was born.

When did you start writing?

Several years ago, mostly privately and just ‘scribbling’, I didn’t think about doing anything more serious. Then about four years ago I saw a submission call for a horror anthology, thought it looked like fun, so had a go. It wasn’t successful as it didn’t quite fit but the feedback was positive so I tried again and this time got in. The then editor, Theresa Derwin (now of Quantum Corsets), was extremely supportive, and took other stories of mine for other anthologies. This encouraged me to try the wider market and here I am. Slow but sure.

What are your favorite topics to write about?

The darkness of the soul! Whatever I write, it always ends up dark. Some stories feature a bit of blood and gore but it’s not by any means all ‘slice and dice’ and only a few have standard horror tropes, ie tend to avoid vampires and werewolves. I prefer to hint at darkness, build up a sense of horror in setting and atmosphere, twist what might seem innocent at first.

What are some of your influences?

It goes without saying that Stephen King is one of them, he is amazing at creating such a real sense of place and time. He also shows that horror can be written in many different ways and he is certainly never repetitive. Ray Bradbury, particularly for Something Wicked This Way Comes, again the atmosphere, the characters, and its gothic feel. Then there’s Shirley Jackson, Edgard Allan Poe. But it’s not only these more famous authors. There are other writers I’ve met online, particularly a small Flash Fiction community called the FlashDogs and they have pushed me to raise my own standards. We compete against each other weekly in flash competitions and there are some amazingly dark people amongst them, particularly David Shakes, Mark A. King, Tamara Rogers to name but a few. The latter two have also recently published their first novels.

Another influence isn’t a book or a writer but a place. I grew up in an isolated rural area in a country pub, The Cider House in Shropshire . And something that’s always stayed with me is the atmosphere of that area and the feelings it generated: getting off the school bus and then facing the long walk home along narrow country lanes in gathering dusk; of the stillness before storms when birds stopped singing, branches stopped rustling and everything seemed to be waiting; of fog shrouding the fields and woods around the pub and walking through those mists and becoming totally disoriented. It always made me feel there was ‘something else’ at work around us and that’s an element I try to include in my writing.

What do you find fascinating about the horror genre?

The evil man can do, how it could even be considered. I just can’t comprehend how some people can commit the atrocities you hear of in the world today. What is it that drives them? Is it this idea of the Devil, is it a disturbed mental state? Who actually pulls the strings to create the nightmares? Perhaps there is more ‘out there’, a supernatural realm. Horror allows you to explore this darkness, consider the ‘What Ifs’. It makes you think and shakes you up but always delivers you safely on the other side … it keeps the monsters between the pages.

What are some of the works you have available?

I have had a number of short stories published in horror anthologies, all available over at amazon but I would like to mention the following in particular:

The Infernal Clock, co-edited by myself and David Shakes which has a story for every hour of the day. It features two of my stories, The Graveyard Shift-a new take on the Sandman legend-and Whispers which centers on a dysfunctional family in a haunted house.

Weird Ales Volume 1 (edited by the wonderful Theresa Derwin) which includes my story The Yowling, cider-making taken to a whole new level!

Masks edited by Dean M. Drinkel (again, another very supportive editor) which contains my story The Face Collector, a gothic story in which the Devil always collects.

What are you currently working on?

I have just finished my novel Black Switch, a near-future, industrial-type horror I suppose you would call it. What happens when humans run out of fuel, out of electricity but then discover a way of turning the lights back on; a way which could only be described as immoral. If you discovered someone had the ‘capacity’ to become a human battery, would you plug them into a Generator just so someone else could have a hot bath? Would you, could you trade another person just to save a member of your own family knowing what that trade would lead to?
The book is now out with a small group to beta-read before I take any further steps with it. To get over the nerves whilst I await their response I’ve started to mull over ideas for a new novel and since my Hands of Time story featured an Executioner, the whole idea of what ‘makes’ an executioner has stuck in my mind.

Where can we find you online?

I’m @el_Stevie on Twitter and can also be found at http://stephellis.weebly.com/ where my blog is usually only randomly updated. I’m hoping to improve on that slightly this year though.