A Penny For Your Thoughts

I will be the first one to tell you that I do not like Hollywood remakes of the classics. Don’t try and fix what isn’t broken. Stop it! Just stop it! I won’t get into any particular ones because that’s not really what this post is about. Suffice to say, with MILLIONS of amazing Indie authors out there, there’s plenty of material Hollywood could get a hold of to create something original.

It was with this extreme prejudice in mind that I sat myself down a few weeks back and started to watch Penny Dreadful on Netflix. (Yes, I know I’m woefully behind on a lot of things – Netflix is one of them.) Right off the bat I’m greeted with Mina Murray, one of the main female leads in the classic novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. Immediately after, Dr. Victor Frankenstein and his monster and Dorian Gray come waltzing into the story and I’m like, “Oh for Christ’s sake… seriously? Is that what this is about? How many frikken ways can these characters be ripped off and distorted in the feeblest way possible?”

Guess what, I’m almost to the end of Season 2 and LOVING IT! Nobody is more surprised than I am, believe you me. The writers of this program have really done an amazing job at breathing new life into these old classic characters. For me, it’s because they aren’t retelling the old tales, but making new plots, scenarios, and relationships between them that fit so well with the existing concept of the characters in question. The monsters suddenly aren’t really monsters. They are people with feelings and struggles and you want them to come out on top – well – more or less. A repugnant and powerful evil lurks at every corner, but the face of that darkness changes. You might think someone is all goodness and light in the beginning, but that could change when you find out exactly who and what they are behind the mask each and every one of them wears.

The atmosphere and settings are both seedy and sumptuous, beautiful and horrific. The acting is spot on. There is enough blood and gore to please those into splatter films and a generous helping of eroticism for those who like some of that with their Horror.

Enjoying this series and glad I pushed my way through the initial urge to shut it off and find something else as soon as I realized what I was getting myself into. I was wrong.

Penny Dreadful is a well-made original take on the classic Horror movie characters I grew up loving.

Well done, Netflix.

Movie Review – WAX (2014)

Movie Review – Wax (2014) Directed by Victor Matellano. Starring Jimmy Shaw, Jack Taylor, and Geraldine Chaplin.

Part Vincent Price’s “House of Wax”, part Hannibal Lecter, WAX invites the viewer to spend a single night inside an alleged haunted wax museum in Barcelona, Spain with journalist Mike through surveillance cameras, some strategically-placed cameras that Mike sets up, along with Mike’s personal hand-held. Mike agrees to be locked in for the night with no method of communication with the outside world other than a one-way telephone. The producer can call in, but he can’t call out.

What makes this museum just a little different is that one of the main displays depicts a still-living serial killer, Dr. Knox. But, don’t worry. He’s been caught and imprisoned. Along with his wax effigy, are a series of videos recorded by the killer himself, showing in rather gruesome details how he bound, gagged, and ate his victims while they were still alive. As the night progresses, odd things start to happen, items go missing and wax effigies have moved. But, his greatest horror comes when Mike looks at the surveillance camera focused on the Dr. Knox display – and the doctor’s figure is gone.

Mike has no way of getting out of the museum or calling for help. Fortunately, the producer calls periodically and he reports what’s going on to her. She assures him she’ll notify the authorities and get him out soon. In the meantime, just sit tight. Help is on the way! I promise!

I was rather enjoying WAX until about twenty minutes from the ending, then it kind of went South and became a little too predictable. The medical torture scenes were done reasonably well without being too utterly disgusting and there are a few decent T&A shots for those who like that in their Horror movies.  For a moment, it even felt a little Freddie Kruger-ish for some reason. The ending left me feeling somewhat disappointed, but it wasn’t the most horrible thing I’ve watched by a long shot.

There are enough mannequin\wax figure scenes to be kind of creepy, enough surgical gore to make you go ‘eww’ a few times, and a very suspenseful score that keeps you wondering what bit of weirdness was going to happen next. If you’re desperate to watch some Horror and nothing else seems worth the trouble, this will do in a pinch.

2 out of 5 Ravens.

The Raven Scale:
1 Raven: Yuck! Don’t eat that.
2 Ravens: Bread crumbs, but it’ll keep us alive.
3 Ravens: Oh, hey! Peanuts, popcorn and cat kibble!
4 Ravens: Lunch time pizza place dumpster. Hell, yeah!
5 Ravens: Holy Shit, Fellas! Fresh Road Kill!

Tales Beyond The Hollow

Now that Dark Hollow Road is reaching the finish line of being out and about in the world, I thought I’d step back and recap on the other titles I have out there for those who may have missed something along the way.

Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon is a Murder-Mystery full of paranormal elements.
A mysterious death sends one investigator deep into her hometown’s dark and bloody past. It’s a past the local coven of witches would rather keep buried. Can justice be served or will the witches succeed in keeping their centuries-old secrets intact?
Available on Kindle and in paperback here: Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon

That’s What Shadows Are Made Of continues the paranormal Murder-Mystery theme.
Everyone thought the local undertaker was such a nice guy, until someone murdered him.
As the police look for a flesh and blood killer, a witches’ coven discovers dark magic may be the culprit. Is the shadowy figure being seen around town stalking for its next victim real or something much more diabolical?
Available on Kindle and in paperback here: That’s What Shadows Are Made Of

No Rest For The Wicked takes a sharp turn away from the previous two releases. Oh, there’s murder, but the mystery isn’t who did it, but the dark reasons behind the violent deaths.
Every ghost has a story. Not all of them want it told.
A sadistic doctor hell bent on controlling both the living and the dead, would rather keep his final year of life a closed book. It’s a classic ghost story with a twist; it’s told, in part, by the ghosts themselves.
Available on Kindle and in paperback here: No Rest For The Wicked

The Witch’s Backbone Part 1: The Curse is a creepy coming-of-age tale.
It’s 1980 and five friends take it upon themselves to prove there’s nothing to their local urban legend and its deadly curse. That legend has other ideas.
After one of their number believes she’s seen the local urban legend, five young friends head deep into the woods to prove it’s just a story. Except in trying to do so, they may have discovered this old wives tale isn’t quite so fictional. And if the subject of the legend is real, does that mean her deadly curse is, too?
Available on Kindle and in paperback here: The Witch’s Backbone Part 1: The Curse.

Dark Hollow Road is all that the name implies, a journey into the darkest hollows of the human condition, where the real monsters of this world are made.
In the quiet Pennsylvania countryside, on a dead end road, she waits.
What does the 1948 rape of an eight-year-old girl have to do with the disappearance of a six-year-old boy seventy years later? They have one thing in common, a house on Dark Hollow Road. Empty now, the house stands as a warning to all who dare enter and take from it what isn’t theirs.
Kindle pre-orders happening now. Paperback release Mar. 23: Dark Hollow Road 

Tonight’s The Night!

This is it, folks. We’re down to the wire.

Kindle pre-orders of my psychological horror novel DARK HOLLOW ROAD begin TONIGHT at midnight. (Alright, probably a few hours before that because I’m not going to stay up that late to hit the magic button.)

Check out the trailer then buy the book!

DARK HOLLOW ROAD – BOOK TRAILER

Don’t read eBooks – no worries. The FULL RELEASE happens MARCH 23rd. Between now and then I’m hoping to do something I’ve never done before … stay tuned!

Movie Review – The Ritual (2017)

Movie Review – The Ritual (2017) starring Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, and Sam Troughton. Directed by David Bruckner.

Five blokes: Rob, Phil, Dom, Hutch, and Luke, meet in a pub to discuss going on a trip together. Ideas are presented and rejected. Rob suggests a hiking trip in the wilds of Sweden. This too is rejected. On their way home, Rob and Luke stop at a store for another bottle of booze unaware that the place is being robbed. Rob is killed while Luke hides behind a shelf, cowering. This lack of bravery will go on to hunt him for a long time to come. In Rob’s memory, they decide to take the Swedish hiking trip. After Dom falls and injures his knee, they decide the quickest way back to civilization is through the woods, off the beaten path, deep into that place where things can go terribly, terribly bad – and they do.

It’s a cliché set up, to be sure, as the quartet quickly becomes lost and falls into fighting amongst themselves. Runic inscriptions begin to appear in trees, they hear and see something stalking them, something very, very big. Mayhem ensues. Nowhere is safe. The monster is pretty damn cool, I have to admit. I’d love to see a detailed shot of this thing in full light. I’d also like to know what the hell it was beyond the vague description one of the woodland locals gives it as a bastard child of Loki. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d not be at all tempted into worshiping this thing in anyway – sorry, I value my freedom too much to be enslaved to such a being regardless of the prize.

In the end, The Ritual left me unsatisfied. I get the symbolism regarding Luke’s journey to self-forgiveness and the inner demons he was battling even as he and his friends fought for their physical and mental well-being. It was okay and suspenseful and as I said, the monster was pretty damn awesome, but I wanted more explanation as to what it was and the why’s of it all.

2 out of 5 Ravens.

The Raven Scale:
1 Raven: Yuck! Don’t eat that.
2 Ravens: Bread crumbs, but it’ll keep us alive.
3 Ravens: Oh, hey! Peanuts, popcorn and cat kibble!
4 Ravens: Lunch time pizza place dumpster. Hell, yeah!
5 Ravens: Holy Shit, Fellas! Fresh Road Kill!

Author Interview – Mark Cassell

UK author, Mark Cassell is the best-selling author of The Shadow Fabric, a novel so rich with dark mythos he couldn’t keep it contained in one book. From page one, I was sucked right in, thankfully not by the actual Shadow Fabric. I haven’t read a book so fast in a very long time and am eager to learn more about the world Mark’s created as well as the writer himself.

1.Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Mark. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got started as a writer? Was it childhood dream or something you fell into more recently?

I blame my English teacher, Mr. Brown – Damn, that was way back in 1991. He told me I had more potential than just the class jester, so I wrote a werewolf story titled “Moons of Blood” and gave that to him. At first he accused me of plagiarism, but when he saw my scribbled notes he soon believed it was my work.

2.Every writer I know is also a big reader. What books were you reading as a young man that got you started down this dark road of horror? Which author’s influenced you the most to become a writer yourself

It was James Herbert and his magnificent novel, Magic Cottage that started it all. From there, Clive Barker and Brian Lumley massively inspired me. And I guess you can’t be a horror writer without reading at least one novel by Stephen King. These days, I don’t read as much as I’d like, though when I do I may occasionally pick these guys up again. Back to my roots, you know?

 

HellcatHolt

Hell Cat of the Holt: http://mybook.to/Holt

3.As I mentioned earlier, I just loved The Shadow Fabric. There’s got to be a mountain of research behind this whole series. What was the inspiration behind the story and mythos and how fleshed out was your research before you started to actually write it?

 

The Shadow Fabric as a title came to me in 1992 and it remained precisely that until 2013 when I figured I was big and ugly enough to start taking this writing game seriously.

As far as the research goes, I began jotting down all the typical horror tropes we’ve come to drown in. Anything to do with demonology and witchcraft, I set about turning it all on its head. I never intended to rewrite history, it just happened. It took hours of head scratching, planning and plotting.

Though I must say, I am shocked and humbled at how well received the Shadow Fabric mythos has become. And it’s still unravelling.

4.You haven’t limited yourself to strictly horror, either. You’ve also done a book of Sci-Fi short stories. Tell me a little bit about Chaos Halo 1.0: Alpha Beta Gamma Kill. Can fans of this genre look forward to anything more substantial from you in the future?

The guys from Future Chronicles are keen for me to pick this up again so one day there will be more. It was through their cosplayers that Chaos Halo became a thing. Maybe there’s a novel there somewhere.

 

CompanyOfFalseGods_Cassell

In the Company of False Gods: http://mybook.to/companyof

5. You’re most recent release, In The Company Of False Gods, looks very intriguing. You’ve dubbed it Lovecraftian Steampunk Horror. Would you explain more about what that actually means and could you give us the elevator pitch for this latest title?

 

Inspired by HP Lovecraft’s cosmic horrors, In the Company of False Gods is a novelette set in an alternate Victorian era. The story follows wheelchair-bound Attacus whose clockwork creation runs amok and leads him to the threshold between worlds.

6. Thanks for taking part, Mark. Where are all the best places to find out more about you and your work?

 

My website is the best place to visit: www.markcassell.co.uk

Thanks for having me!

More about Mark:

Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK where he often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, dark fantasy, and SF stories have featured in numerous reputable anthologies and zines. His best-selling debut novel The Shadow Fabric is closely followed by the popular short story collection Sinister Stitches and are both only a fraction of an expanding mythos of demons, devices, and deceit. The novella Hell Cat of the Holt further explores the Shadow Fabric mythos with ghosts and black cat legends.

The dystopian sci-fi short story collection, Chaos Halo 1.0: Alpha Beta Gamma Kill, is in association with Future Chronicles Photography where he works closely with their models and cosplayers. His latest release, In the Company of False Gods, is a Lovecraftian steampunk horror story about one man who had no idea his creation would take him to the threshold between worlds.

Mark’s work has been compared with British horror authors such as James Herbert, Clive Barker, Dennis Wheatley, and Brian Lumley. Also, his influences spread over to the US where he admits to having been first inspired by Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Dan Simmons, and H P Lovecraft.

Book Review – We Are Always Watching by Hunter Shea

Book Review – We Are Always Watching by Hunter Shea

After being hit by very hard times, fourteen-year-old West Ridley and his parents are forced to move in with his ornery grandfather, Abraham. As if living with the grumpy and less-than-hygienic old man isn’t bad enough, the old family farmhouse is falling to rot and ruin and Grandpa couldn’t care less. In fact, he seems to intentionally want to drive them out with insults and rage. But, the family has no other place to go and no money to get there if they did. Buttermilk Creek, Pennsylvania is the bottom of the barrel, isolated, creepy, and filled with more terror than even the Horror-loving West can take.

We Are Always Watching is loosely based on real events that Shea has taken and run with, twisting them into his own horrible version of a nightmare, as he does with all his work. He draws you into the confused world of West’s new reality. Family secrets start to leech to the surface while the long, hot, boredom-drenched days draw West to explore places he probably shouldn’t go. The more West finds out, the more he comes to realize he and his family need to get the hell out of Grampa Abraham’s house! Like, NOW!

I enjoyed being drawn in with West. Hunter did a great job of showing us the world as seen by a fourteen-year-old boy. That, in and of itself, was pretty frightening (and funny) at time. The secrets that dripped out were just enough to quench your thirst, just in time for another bout of terror to dry the back of your throat before another promised-drop of refreshment came into sight.

It kept me guessing and entertained throughout but it lacks that certain level of explosive and long-playing mayhem I’ve come to associate with Hunter’s cryptid-based novels. This was much more subtle. A much slower pace that pulled you in one little step at a time. I like that in a novel. It’s very much a slow-burn.

One  element I didn’t like has nothing whatsoever to do with the author’s skills or genuine talent, it’s the actual formatting of the book. I’ve never read a Sinister Grin publication before so I’ve no idea if it’s their normal practice to have the text double-spaced as it is here. It almost felt like a bit of a rip-off getting this nice, hefty book only to open it and realize it should have been about half the thickness had they single-spaced it like is normally done. I felt like I was reading a manuscript, not a finished novel.

All that in mind, I’m going to give We Are Always Watching

4 out of 5 Ravens.

Book Review – The Shadow Fabric by Mark Cassell

On the second day of his new job, Leo is witness to a murder. His boss, Victor, stabs his own brother, Stanley, with a mysterious dagger known as the Witchblade. But Stanley suffers from no normal stab wound. Instead he is drawn into what appears to be a black piece of fabric and is consumed. No body is left behind and Leo can’t rid himself of the final, terrifying image of Stanley before he completely vanishes. What madness has Leo gotten himself into by taking a simple job as a chauffeur?

The more questions Leo asks, the deeper he finds himself as part of the insanity. Soon, there is no escape. He must see this through to the bitter end. He wants answers, not the least of which what his friend Richard Goodwin has to do with it all. It was Richard who got him the job with Victor and also Richard who seems to know much more about Leo’s forgotten life than he’s willing to say.

The Shadow Fabric is an action-packed and fast-paced run through the underbelly of a realm of darkness, insanity, and a secret mythos that all but the very few are aware of.  Leo took my hand, gripped it tight, and yanked me along through it all right along with him. His fears became my fears. His desire to find the answers, were mine. The feelings of betrayal and hopelessness that he felt made me cling to each page, urging him to continue to fight and find the truth.

I’ve not been held so tight by a novel in a long time and am looking forward to reading more of Mark’s work in as near the future as possible. The mythology he’s created around the Witchblade and Shadow Fabric is rich and deep and there’s no doubt the depth will be plumbed even further in the other stories related to it. He left me knowing enough to end the story, but with the promise that theres more to this telling than a single novel can hold.

Check out the Book Trailer Here.

5 out of 5 Ravens.

Author Interview – Israel Finn

I’m pleased to be able to bring to you an interview with the author of “Dreaming At the Top of My Lungs”, a collection of twelve imaginative short stories, Israel Finn. He is the winner of the 80th Annual Writer’s Digest Short Story Competition and lives in Southern California.

Q: Every writer has a story on how it all began for them. When did you first begin to realize you had a knack for story telling? Was there someone that influenced\encouraged you down the path of being a writer?

A: I can hardly remember not wanting to be a writer or storyteller. It seems like something that’s always been there, inside me. My dad encouraged reading, but never really took my writing aspirations seriously, which was heartbreaking for me. If not for my mom, I may have abandoned my dreams early on, but probably not. Dreams are persistent that way. But my mom always made me believe I could do anything I wanted. She knew I was the odd ball among my siblings, and she actually nurtured that oddness.

Q: I’ve been asked many times which book of mine is my favorite, usually by someone trying to decide which one to buy. Do any of your stories stand out as a favorite to you? And why?

strandedA: There are two short stories in my collection, Dreaming At the Top of My Lungs, that really resonate with me. The first is the opening story, Stranded. It deals with a man who experiences dark karma because of an angry comment he made in the heat of the moment. That comment comes back to haunt him in a real way. I wrote it after my wife and I had an argument (can’t even remember what it was about now) and I realized the power that words hold. Sometimes we say things in the heat of anger that we don’t mean, but that we can never take back. Stranded was my way of examining that, and also trying to teach myself a lesson in restraint. The second story is The Present. It concerns a woman named Mary in the 1960s who is abused by her husband. In those days, women had far fewer resources and recourse than they do today, so Mary is truly trapped in a horrifying situation. But as tends to happen in my stories, dark fate intervenes, and she discovers a possible way out. Mary was real to me, as was the world around her, which began to change in profound and disturbing ways. There’s a touch of time travel and other-dimensional exploration in the story, which I’m a huge fan of. And it introduces the pale man, an integral character who will appear in the novel I’m currently writing.

Q: Though I’ve written a fair amount of short-stories, I don’t consider myself very good at it. Are you strictly a short-story writer or can we look forward to something of novel length from you one of these days?

A: I’m a little over 50,000 words into my novel, which is a gritty, realistic tale about an inter-dimensional traveler who is given the daunting task of saving the multiverse from collapse into chaos. I know “realistic” and “inter-dimensional traveler” would seem to cancel each other out, but it’s my belief that you must first establish a real world foundation if you expect your readers to buy into the fantastic.

Q: Some writers swear by an outline, others go at it much more organically. How much do you plan ahead for a story or is it something that comes to you pretty much intact?

DATTOML digital coverA: It varies. Short stories come to me almost fully formed, or at least with a strong idea that can be quickly worked up. But I’ve learned that writing a novel is much different, at least for me. And especially with the one I’m writing now, with all its detail. I think maybe you could write a completely linear novel by the seat of your pants, but one with a more complicated storyline, like my current project, you need some structure. I don’t micromanage every tiny detail, but I have set up the main plot points. It’s like architecture: The outline is like nailing the studs and putting up the drywall. The writing itself is more like decorating, hanging curtains and picking out furniture.

Q: Every writer I know always has several projects in the works. Can you tell us about any current projects you may have going on?

A: I’ve got a long list of works-in-progress and half-formed ideas, and I’m always adding to it and pulling from it. Right now I’ve got three in the works. One is a straight-up ghost story. Another is a dark time travel story. And yet another is about an artist who realizes that what he paints becomes real, so he decides to paint his dead wife.

Q: Where can people find you lurking on the internet and where can they purchase what you already have out there?

A: My website is israelfinn.com. I’m also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And much of my work is on Amazon.

Thank you for participating, Israel.

Folks, check out Israel’s collection of short stories, Dreaming At the Top of My Lungs. You’re sure to find something thought-provoking and slightly sinister, or both!

 

 

Feeling Panicked! YIKES!

After weeks of stalking, and under threats of being subjected to the constant drone of baseball playing fruit flies, XTina has finally broken me down and I’ve agreed to join her and James Longmore on The Panic Room Radio Show this THURSDAY, AUG. 10th at 9:30 CST. I’ll be blathering on about my latest release “No Rest For The Wicked”, doing a reading from the same, and possibly answering ten of the Eleven Questions. What other terrors will I have to endure? There’s only one way to find out! Tune in and have a listen!

The Panic Room Radio Show