Scary Pics

Well, this is scary, but not as scary as…

Review – Darkness on the Edge of Town – Brian Keene

Title: Darkness on the Edge of Town
Author: Brian Keene
Publisher: Leisure Books
Copyright: 2010

Summary:
One morning Robbie and his girlfriend Christy, two potheads heading nowhere in life, wake to discover the town they live in–Walden, VA–has been plunged into darkness. There is no sun or power. Cell phones don’t work. Radio stations are silent–not even static. There is no water, cable, internet, etc. It seems the entire world has been devoured by the living darkness–all but Walden. As society breaks down, Robbie, Christy, and their friends try to deal with the hungry darkness.

Pros:
Brian Keene is a good storyteller. The narrator (Robbie) has a strong voice. The novel (once it picks up *see below*) is a quick, fun read.

Cons:
The novel starts very slowly. I think Keene relied heavily on the narrator’s voice to carry readers into the story. Although the darkness is ever present, it seems to take a while to get to the “horror.” I don’t mind a slow-developing tale, as long as there is some suspense or something happening. The beginning of this lacked the suspense and action I am accustomed to with BK novels.

Could go either way:
It is written in first person (as a diary). While this point of view allows us to get close to the narrator, it keeps us from knowing other characters in any way other than how the narrator perceives them.

Additional notes:
This wasn’t Keene’s strongest work, but it was still enjoyable. In general, I consider Brian Keene a reliable source for horror. Had this been written by someone I hadn’t read before, I may have put it down after the first few chapters. As it stands, I am glad I stuck with it.

In some respects, this reminded me of Lord of the Flies. I don’t know if it was intentional, but one can certainly find a social commentary of the nature of man in his unrefined form in this novel. As society quickly breaks down, we witness the devolution of man back into an animal-like state. It also reminded me of a couple of other works, including a Twilight Zone episode where a town or street is cut off from the rest of the world and the people become paranoid and violent.

Rating: 3 out of 4 haints

Untitled Short Story

I am just about finished editing a short story I’ve been working on. It’s roughly 5,600 words. It’s a bit different from some of my other stuff, but I think it’s a fast, engaging read. The few beta readers I’ve had agree. There is only one problem.

I can’t come up with a good title.

Review – Monstrosity – Edward Lee

Title: Monstrosity
Author: Edward Lee
Publisher: Leisure Books
Copyright: 2003

Summary:
After being raped by her CO’s son and dishonorably discharged from the Air Force, Clare Prentiss ends up homeless for more than a year. Then someone handpicks her for the job of the century. She’s made head of security at a cancer research company in Florida, where she gets a great salary, company car, and a house on the beach. Naturally, nothing this good comes without a hitch. Almost as soon as she gets there, creepy things start happening. A crackhead is found raped and brutalized in the surrounding woods. Clare learns the entire security team (three people) mysteriously vanished–opening the job for her.

Pros:
Edward Lee is a great story teller. He manages to keep the suspense up through the entire novel. There is a second story running concurrent with the first. I admit I kept wondering how Lee was going to connect the too. I was surprised. I’ll also say I was surprised by some of the twists Lee threw in.

Cons:
While the ending surprised me, it came more like an “info dump” than an illumination to me as the reader. In that respect, I was a little disappointed. It felt a bit like Lee was getting near the 90,000-word mark and said, “Well, I better wrap this up.”

Could go either way:
This was not Edward Lee’s best work. For those looking for “erotic horror” like Lee’s “Flesh Gothic,” this will
disappoint. This book was good, but not great. Overall, I’m glad I read it. It was worth the money and time invested.

Rating: 3 out of 4 haints

Something Evil — now available

I now have Something Evil up at Amazon.com and Smashwords.com. So, whether you have a Kindle or something else, you should be able to read it.

Here is a quick bit about the book.

 

Ray Weaver may be an ex-con, but he isn’t a bad person. As he puts it, he just made a mistake or two and things snowballed from there.

 

When a drug deal goes south, things start snowballing again and Ray swears he’ll do anything to stay out of prison.

 

Accompanied by his best friend Tito, Tito’s part-time girlfriend Veronica, and Jojo—a punk he can’t stand—Ray heads to an abandoned plantation in north Alabama. The plan is to lay low and relax until things blow over. He doesn’t anticipate the snowball will continue growing, even after he finds a mutilated body on the property . . .

 

No, Ray is satisfied right where he is. If he gets the chance and the courage, he might even make a move on Veronica.

 

But soon . . .

 

Very soon . . .

 

Ray will realize they’re trapped at that old plantation by SOMETHING EVIL . . .

 

And the way it’s looking, he won’t live to enjoy his freedom . . .

Something Evil

Cover for Something Evil. Any thoughts?

Something Evil Kindle Book Cover

Exercise – She does WHAT?

This could be a tough exercise, but it should be fun.

Give a character a full name (first & last) where the last name is a verb. Then write a short story about that character where (s)he fulfills that last name, but not in the way one would think.

For example:
Character: Paul Mangles
Storyline: He sees his ex-wife with her new lover in the grocery store. He does not, however, pull an (alleged & acquitted) O.J. Simpson on them. Instead, he looks back over how he mangled their relationship…or for a more horror-filled example, he mangles himself in an elaborate suicide disguised to look like the wife & lover killed him.

Review – The Reach – Nate Kenyon

Title: The Reach
Author: Nate Kenyon
Publisher: Leisure Books
Copyright: 2009

Summary:
Jess Chambers, a graduate Psychology student, is approached by a professor she admires to help on a strange case involving a ten-year-old girl, Sarah. For the past eight years, Sarah has been in a mental institution, diagnosed as schizophrenic. The professor hopes Jess can visit the girl and connect with her. The more time Jess spends with Sarah, the more she is convinced the girl has been misdiagnosed. But there’s more to this little girl than meets the eye. Strange, paranormal activity seems to follow the child. In fact, that’s the reason she became a ward of the state. Sarah’s grandparents were convinced she was the antichrist. What Jess doesn’t know going into this is that a pharmaceutical company, Helix, is performing experiments on Sarah. And Helix will do whatever they have to in order to protect their investments.

Pros:
I absolutely loved this book. In the past year, I’ve read at least a dozen novels in the horror genre and many outside. This is, by far, the best novel I’ve read in a long time. Kenyon has a great ear for dialogue and a fantastic way of bringing characters to life. Also, a large smattering of technical terms lends to the credibility of this story. The pace was perfect, the prose wonderful, and the plot great. It was definitely worth the money I spent on the book and the time I invested reading it.

Cons:
There was only one thing I did not like in this book. Often times, Kenyon flopped from past to present tense when describing locations. This was usually a paragraph or two at the beginning of a chapter. I suspect this was done as a technical device to give immediacy to the start of the chapter that it would feel it lacked in the past tense. Since I am not a fan of present tense writing, it sucked me out of the story and I found myself changing it to the past tense to enjoy it better. That, though, really is a minor issue.

Could go either way:
This was not a problem for me because the suspense and plot were there, but this is not a scare-your-socks-off book. It never pretends to be, either. For the most part, the horror is subtle. Those who like their horror served with lots of sex, violence, and blood will not find it here. I would still encourage those people to pick up this novel and give it a read.

Rating: 4 out of 4 haints

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April Work

I completed The Revenant a couple of weeks ago and have since moved on to a new manuscript. For the moment, it is entitled AGHAST. I’m not sure how I feel about it. I started out strong, writing a few thousand words a day on it, but over the past several days, I have slacked. I don’t know if I am slacking because my brain needs to recharge from writing 8-10 hours a day for the past few months or if the story isn’t holding my interest. I’ll force myself to get through a few more chapters. If I don’t like it, I will set it aside and begin something new.

I still have an agent looking at Hotel Sangria and have submitted Something Evil to a publisher. I have also submitted a short story to an online mag, but haven’t heard anything from them yet. We’ll see what happens.

Character Motivation

The only difference between a character in a story and the author or reader is the planes upon which they exist. Just like you and I, characters must have motivation. There is a reason for everything your characters do–at least there should be. Nothing is worse than a novel or story with unbelievable characters. Imagine a five-year-old girl who is afraid of spiders. If she picked one up and let it crawl on her face for no reason, we would call BS in a heartbeat. Everything your creations do must be a logical extension of themselves and their circumstances.

So, this exercise is just one to get you thinking about character motivation. It can also be used to overcome writer’s block. Your task is to use the following premise: 

Jada is an eight-year-old girl afraid of spiders. She picks up a daddy long leg and lets it crawl on her hand.

  1. Come up with several plausible reasons she might do this (for example Jada has a crush on a boy who likes spiders and she wants his attention)
  2. Using the premise, write a short piece showing her actions, reactions, and motivation for allowing the spider to crawl on her

Choose one of the exercises and feel free to post your answers here. Incidentally, if you choose #2, you’ll likely have to go through #1 to get there.