Bloody Good Horror Books Reviews “Dark Hollow Road”

About a month ago I sent a copy of “Dark Hollow Road” to Renier Palland of Bloody Good Horror Books seeking an honest, unbiased review. This morning, I was thrilled to see he’d posted one. This is probably the first review I’ve gotten from someone who has absolutely no personal investment in anything to do with me and I so appreciate his 100% honesty!

“Dark Hollow Road” by author Pamela Morris is a genre-specific paranormal tale with a substantial baseline. It features child abuse – not gratuitous – revenge, and redemption. The latter two elements can be misconstrued in most literary works, but Morris treats these literary elements with a gentile decadence, turning them into solid plot devices and powerful plot development. The novel, which is reminiscent of “The Blair Witch” in certain aspects, contains a deluge of paranormal and haunted house allusions. The antagonistic protagonist, Mary, reminded me of a neo-noir Carrie with similar, albeit completely different “powers”.

Morris feeds the reader a spoonful of youthful fear, i.e. Children become the go-to narrative in the novel. I’ll always refer to Stephen King’s “It” as the ultimate Jungian and totemic Freudian child horror story. Novelists have tried, and failed, to live up to the gratuitous and mind-numbingly terrifying world of “It”. It’s the magnum opus which most authors attempt to reach throughout their careers. Morris came close, but not close enough. “Dark Hollow Road” is imbued with so many paranormal and literary homages that it’s difficult to critique the novel as a stand-alone story. I found myself reminiscing about several works during the read-and-review process.

What does this mean exactly?

Firstly, it means that Morris is a masterful writer. Secondly, Morris tried her utmost best to create a familiar horror setting, yet failed at the finish line. And lastly, Morris delved into the psyches of childhood fears and childhood imaginations to create a slightly garden variety work of literature.

I wouldn’t go so far as to label it as unique or even fresh – Morris stepped into a genre-specific swamp throughout most of the novel. It’s as if she drew too much inspiration from too many areas, bundled it all together and created a horror author lovechild without knowing who the parents were. “Directionless” would be the best adjective to describe the novel.

As far as characterisation goes, Morris never misses a beat. Her characters are full, robust and weighty. This, combined with a good ear for dialogue, creates a gratifying novel with a terrifying amount of veracity. Morris knows her characters, and most importantly, they know her. Plot development, climax and denouement were all on par. Not excellent, but good enough to not be detrimental to the overall narrative. I would have liked to have seen more symbolism and perhaps a touch of social commentary. Horror novels are like measuring sticks for the societal psyche – it’s important to tell a story with enough social commentary to stop it from going blind and bland. Morris’ writing style and technique are similar to the above mentioned technicalities – good, but not great. I do believe that the novel required slightly more robust editing. It felt loose and frayed at the ends. With a proper, firm edit, “Dark Hollow Road” would have been a much stronger novel. The structuring was also off-kilter and there are quite a few set pieces that didn’t belong in the novel. It would have been more powerful without them.

I do think that Morris is a splendid author with natural control over her characters and their stories. It doesn’t always pan out while one writes the novel, nor does it float to the surface during editing. Sometimes, just sometimes, a novel can contain too much for its own good. Although this might not have been Morris’ best work, there’s definitely room for improvement. She could easily surpass Nicole Cushing if she focuses more on the directness of her novel and uses an iron fist during the editing process.

RATING: 4 out of 5

Overall, I’m happy with this and he makes some great points about hitting the editing process a little harder. It’s very difficult to edit properly when I’m at a place in my career where I don’t have access to a professional and experienced editor. Maybe some day soon that will happen. Of course, there are aspects I don’t agree with either – my writing isn’t about symbolism or making social commentary, for example. I’m just telling a story. May the reader take from it what they will. But, you know what? 4 out of 5 stars is NOTHING to sneeze at and I think that’s something to be pretty damn proud of.

Dark Hollow Road – The Back Cover

There are less than two weeks to go before Kindle pre-orders start for my latest and darkest novel yet, “Dark Hollow Road”. Now that you know all about the story’s creation from my 4 part UrbEx series, I thought I’d treat you all to a little teaser from the back cover.

A past filled with terror.

On Dark Hollow Road, Mary Alice Brown and her siblings know little more than poverty and abuse at the hands of their father. Getting rid of their tormentor seemed the answer to bringing joy back into their lives. But when that doesn’t work, Mary takes it upon herself to see that justice is served.

A present full of dread.

After an unusual visit from an elderly woman looking to borrow sugar, the theft of his coloring book, and complaints about other kids bothering him in the middle of the night, six-year-old Brandon Evenson, who lives within sight of the house on Dark Hollow Road, goes missing.

A future obsessed with revenge.

Desperate, Brandon’s parents seek answers from Lee Yagar, a local who’s warned people time and again of the dangers lurking at the old Brown place. But, Lee’s suggestion that Mary is involved in Brandon’s abduction makes little sense. Mary is presumed dead, as she’s not been seen in decades, but is she? And is the house truly as empty and abandoned as it appears to be?

 A psychological horror driven by hate, fear, and every parent’s worst nightmare.

A little after story here. As you know from reading the UrbEx series, I’ve done my fair share of urban spelunking, starting when I was just a kid. I don’t do it so much anymore, but that isn’t to say the desire to do so has left me. This past summer I had a chance to stop at the farmhouse my grandparents owned up until the late 1970s. This place is near and dear to my heart. Sadly is has fallen into decay. Weeds have grown up everywhere. The house appears unlived in. The barn itself has collapsed.

Given the chance, even for just a quick explore, I took it. I worked my way back to where the barn once stood and into the old milk house. I longed to take a souvenir from this place of such joyous childhood memories, but after so long I couldn’t tell what was from the time of my grandparents and what was more recent with any sort of real surety.

It was then I was reminded of Dark Hollow Road and the fate of those who take from that place what doesn’t belong to them. What if I took the wrong thing? It wasn’t worth the risk and I left empty-handed.  My work of fiction convinced even me not to cross that questionable line – imaginary or not.

Cover Reveal – Dark Hollow Road

It’s been a long time coming and the end product is almost here. Today, I’m SUPER excited to share with you all the cover for my soon-to-be released psychological horror novel “Dark Hollow Road”.

DarkHollowRoad-FrontOnly_Halfsize

If you’ve been following along the past few months, you’ll know some of the things that inspired the writing of this book.  In case you’ve missed those blog posts, here are the links back to them.

UrbEx & The Dawning of Dark Hollow Road Part 1
UrbEx & The Dawning of Dark Hollow Road Part 2
UrbEx & The Dawning of Dark Hollow Road Part 3

The fourth and final entry in this blog series will be posted in the very near future. This novel has taken me down a very strange and dark road, indeed. This isn’t Barnesville by any stretch of the imagination – although – if you’re a long-standing reader of my work and have been paying attention, you’ll know there is some sort of connection between this work and those.

More info to come on this one including a trailer and a reading by yours truly. Stay tuned and stay away from those old, abandoned houses … seriously.

UrbEx & The Dawning of Dark Hollow Road – Part 3

When last we met, I was leaving the property of an old brick mansion once located just outside of Watkins Glen, NY, contemplating a 1990s adventure in Urban Exploration (UrbEx) or if you prefer Urban Spelunking. This particular trip left a lasting impression and raised several questions to which I still do not have answers. But, thanks to my overly-active imagination, I was able to make one up and use it as part of the creation of my upcoming novel Dark Hollow Road.

Spelunking is ‘the hobby or practice of exploring caves’. Urban Spelunkers commonly explore empty and abandoned homes, mansions, hospitals, factories, and the like regardless of No Trespassing signs. Though they are breaking the law, UrbEx-ers also have a certain code of respect for the places they enter. Unlike vandals, UrbEx-ers are there to document, not destroy or tag with spray paint. It’s considered a big no-no to take anything from the buildings or former homes. If you do touch something, you put it back where you found it. You leave with the experience, still photos, video, and nothing more no matter how tempting it may be.

And, oh man, were we tempted exceptionally hard one summer day in yet another grand home just north of Watkins Glen.

Unlike the previously mentioned brick house, this white, Greek Revival home was anything but empty. We found it during one of our many drives in the country, seeking out old cemeteries and abandoned homes to explore. This time, we had a few friends with us. Drawn curtains obscured our view from the outside. Someone tried the front door. Locked. A door on a smaller side wing, also at the front of the building, had a padlock on it, an open padlock. Bingo.

We were instantly awed and nearly speechless. The first room was filled with glass showcases and displays containing one antique item after another. Had we just walked into a museum or something? Though a bit on the dusty side, it was pristine and carefully laid out. There were even labels on many of the items stating their history.

After this room, we went into the main part of the house and became even further enthralled. It was as if we’d walked into the late 19th century. Here was a kitchen with a cast-iron cook stove and hand water pump at the sink. A prep table for cooking, glass jars filled with canned fruits and vegetables in the cupboards, cutting boards, and mixing bowls waited the cook to return any moment. The dining room table was set with white lace and china, crystal and silver. A buffet lacked only to be filled with steaming plates of food. We passed through a servant’s quarters where a pair of well-worn shoes had been placed beside a narrow bed with thin blankets. Upstairs, the owners sleeping chambers proved much more opulent. Clothes even hung in the closets. This was completely unbelievable and slightly insane.

During this surreal visit, that sixth sense of mine kicked in. Each time I walked through the dining room this almost overwhelming feeling of being watched would prickle the hairs on my arms. It was so strong that I could barely remain in that room. The room felt cold, heavy, and wet, making it hard to breath. I felt dizzy and disoriented and all around creeped out. I’m convinced we were being scrutinized by the ghostly inhabitants of the place as they made sure nothing was taken. What they would have done had anything been stolen, I don’t want to guess. Karma is freaking weird like that and I’m not taking the chance.

We stayed maybe twenty minutes before heading back out, undiscovered and as far as I know, empty handed. In the days that followed one of our number found out who the owner was – who verified that the building had once been a museum open to the public – confessed our visit, and told them about the padlock. The lock was quickly replaced and properly locked. Unfortunately, far too many people don’t have the respect or self-control we had that day.

Fast forward to 2011 and a new TV show called “Haunted Collector”. The creator, John Zaffis, is a paranormal investigator who collects items that he and others believe to be trigger objects for all manner of haunted activities. The premise is that any item can hold the memories and emotions (both good and bad) of its owners. It can be anything from a painting to a ring, an old, rusty toolbox or a gun possibly associated with a murder. Zaffis and his crew hunt these items down and theorize that by removing them from the property (with the permission of the current owner) they can end the paranormal activity.

It works for them, but what if the reality of the situation has the complete opposite effect and not on the home owner, but the person who took the item? I’ve heard many cases of people taking trinkets from places and finding themselves haunted or even possessed by the spirit who holds that seemingly useless item in very high regard. Is that a risk you, as an Urban Spelunker, are willing to take? Is that little chipped teacup or battered old postcard worth risking your life or sanity over?

Welcome to rural Pennsylvania and the Brown resident, the only house on this side of Dark Hollow Road. Since the flood of ’72 and the washing out of the bridge, Dark Hollow Road has been a dead end. No one lives there, or so it seems. The yard is a tangle of overgrown weeds. The front porch is unstable and rotting away from decades of neglect. Cardboard has been tacked over the windows from the inside on the ground floor and the window frames are nailed tight to the sills. Should you find your way inside, save for an old cast-iron cook stove and a few items of no real value or consequence, you’d find nothing but a quiet emptiness.

And yet – there’s something, isn’t there? Something not quite right. Something not quite sane. Something not quite dead. How much do you value that trinket now?

Dark Hollow Road – a disturbing psychological horror driven by hate, fear, and every parent’s worst nightmare. Due for release March 2018 from Ardent Creations.

Surviving Narcissism & Why Karma Won’t Work

There has been an odd influx of articles about Narcissism posted by friends of mine on Facebook over the past couple months. It seems dealing with these mentally ill monstrosities that pass themselves off as “normal” human beings is a lot more common than I thought. It’s good to know I am not alone. I find it empowering to know I have friends I can talk to about this who will know exactly where I’m coming from on the subject. I was lucky enough to escape a seven year relationship with a narcissist about five years ago. It derailed my trust in others for a while, but I’m happy to report the train is back on its track and I’m returning to the person I was before this madness all happened.

Wikipedia defines Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) as “a personality disorder in which a person is excessively preoccupied with personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity, mentally unable to see the destructive damage they are causing to themselves and others.”

At PsychoCenter.com they state, “Narcissistic Personality Disorder is characterized by a long-standing pattern of grandiosity (either in fantasy or actual behavior), an overwhelming need for admiration, and usually a complete lack of empathy toward others. People with this disorder often believe they are of primary importance in everybody’s life or to anyone they meet. … People with narcissistic personality disorder often display snobbish, disdainful, or patronizing attitudes. For example, an individual with this disorder may complain about a clumsy waiter’s “rudeness” or “stupidity” or conclude a medical evaluation with a condescending evaluation of the physician.”

Those are great definitions, but they really don’t come close to describing what it’s really like to be involved in a relationship with someone who has NPD. Truth of the matter is, you’re likely not going to know until it’s too late. I had no idea there was such a thing as NPD until after I was out of the relationship. The first time I read about it I was stunned. Why had I never heard of this before? The stories and descriptions I read fit the man I’d been with all those years perfectly! It helped me finally get answers to the questions I’d been asking since it all came crumbling down, why? Why had this happened? Why had he done this? Were all the things he told me about how he felt and the things he did that appeared to be founded in love a lie? Did he ever really love me? How can someone be so cruel, heartless, and unfeeling? Had I done something wrong?

No, I had done absolutely nothing wrong. Yes, every word he said and every deed he performed to convince me he loved me was fake; a lie, to get what he wanted out of the relationship. He wanted the control. He wanted to be the one to decide what was what. When things didn’t go his way, it was everyone’s fault but his own. He was full of rage towards anyone that did not agree with his philosophy. He was right. Everyone else was wrong. The only time he was happy was when he could prove himself right or could use his intelligence to manipulate people into agreeing with him. Oh, yes, he is a very intelligent man. Make no mistake about it. Most narcissists are very smart people. They know exactly what they are doing – they just don’t care who it hurts in the process. They are incapable of empathy.

My anger and confusion has dwindled over the past five years, but I’d be lying to say I didn’t wish all sorts of nastiness to befall this man. I prayed Karma would kick his sorry ass to the curb more than I care to admit. I hoped he’d suffer the pain he’d dished out to me, my family, and Lord knows how many others. I know, we aren’t supposed to pray or wish for bad things like that, but damn it – I’m guilty as charged, but I doubt that Karma is going to do any such thing and here’s why.

Lady With A Truck recently posted an article on her blog about this very topic called, “Law Of Attraction and Why The Narcissist Seems Immune to Karma”. It makes a whole lot of sense to me. In a nutshell, Karma doesn’t work on a Narcissist because they have no sense of doing anything wrong. It’s believed that Karma and the Law of Attraction works based on some sort of ‘vibration’ level. The more positive the feeling, the higher the vibration and the more positive the Karma. Things like love, joy, peace and gratitude give off high vibes. Shame, guilt, fear, and anger give off low vibes. If that’s the case then how does that nasty, manipulative narcissist escape Karmic retribution when their whole life is devoted to hurting others for their own gain and that they don’t even feel love, joy, peace, or gratitude?

To quote from Lady With A Truck’s blog,”…the narcissist does not believe he is bad, he feels justified in the things he does, he does not fear anyone, nor is he ashamed, or feel guilty and even his anger he blames on someone else. The law of attraction doesn’t know if what it is attracted to is a lie or not, it responds to the vibrational level of the person. If that person is sick and has a distorted view of their value whether that distortion is good or bad, they will attract the vibration they send out to the world.”

What about love? Again, Lady With A Truck seems to have stumbled upon a theory that makes a whole lot of sense. She writes, “The narcissist’s brain is wired differently than a normal person so when he meets a new victim his brain releases the same chemicals our brains do when we meet someone who we think we could love, only he is excited because he sees a source of things he wants. He acts much like a person in love, but what he is drawn to is the prospect of being able to suck in another prey and bleed them dry. It is intoxicating to the narcissist much like love is intoxicating to a normal person.”

I really think she is on to something here, unless you go with the idea that Karma is set into action by a Higher Intelligent Being (aka God). Surely, a benevolent, All-Knowing God would be able to tell the difference between real love and false love, right? Maybe it’s a combination of the two. I don’t know. I’d still like to believe those who have NPD will be paid back somehow.

On the positive side, you can chose, as I did, to not be the victim once you realize what’s going on. During the period between this realization that I was with a very, very not-nice-at-all-person and the time he moved out, I treated him as if he were completely invisible. I did not speak to him or acknowledge his presence or existence unless absolutely necessary. It was a very uncomfortable few weeks. He got nothing from me. I put up the biggest, thickest emotional wall I could between the two of us. I admit, I smiled when I saw his pathetic post on Facebook during this time, “I think I know what if feels like to be a ghost.”

After he left, if he emailed me about things he’d left behind, he got the shortest possibly response. The freedom and joy I felt with his departure was intoxicating!! That is not to say I wasn’t emotionally hurt. My trust in others was shattered. It’s been almost five years now and I am happy to report that trust is coming back into my life slowly but surely. The wall is crumbling. I have a wonderful life filled with love, joy, and appreciation.

My hatred and rage has turned to pity. I feel sorry for that man. He’ll never know what REAL love and happiness feels like, ever. As for Karma and the Laws of Attraction, I have faith he will be rewarded in due time. When, by who or what or how it happens isn’t my concern. Enough of my time and negative energy was wasted on that man already. I have way too many positive, high vibes to share and enjoy with others and the universe. I intend to enjoy and appreciate every minute.

PS – I wrote this article five months ago. Recently I learned that Karma had indeed found him and struck with its mighty Karmic Hammer in the best way possible. So, maybe Lady With A Truck’s theory is wrong after all. I know I got my closure on the matter.