Book Review – The Siren and The Specter by Jonathan Janz (2018) Flame Tree Press

I love me a good ghost\haunted house story. This wasn’t good. It was GREAT!

Professional paranormal skeptic, researcher, and author, David Caine, is given the chance of a lifetime when his best friend from college invites him into the infamously haunted Alexander House. Chris and his wife Katherine have given David full access to the place for a month. David is positive he can squash all the rumors that the place is haunted by an 18th century maniac by the name of Judson Alexander. Numerous murders and suicides are the catalyst behind the supposed haunting. David has faced such presumed evils before and written several best-selling books on the subject, debunking one alleged haunting after another.

Almost immediately, the Alexander House starts to flex its muscles and even this total non-believers starts feeling, seeing, and hearing things he simply can’t explain no matter how hard he tries. His nearest neighbors aren’t much help. Ralph Hooper, a friendly old man who lives in a small house nearby, is convinced the place is cursed. While the Shelby family, further down, is far more interested in porn, kinky sex, child abuse, and booze than what’s going on in their local haunted mansion. The longer David stays, the more intense and maddening the situation becomes, driving him closer and closer to the brink of belief.

There are some pretty intense scenes here that pulled me deep into the book and made the characters relatable. I cringed when I met the Shelby parents! Great, well-written tale of the afterlife with an ending that made my jaw drop just a little bit.

5 out of 5 Ravens

The Raven Scale
1 Raven: Ew. Yuck. Don’t Eat That.
2 Ravens: Bread Crumbs, A Bit Dry & Flavorless, But It’ll Keep Us Alive.
3 Ravens: Peanuts, Popcorn, And Cat Kibble! Nom-nom.
4 Ravens: Pizza Place Dumpster After Lunch! Hell, yeah!
5 Ravens: Holy Shit! Fresh Road Kill, Dudes!

Book Review – The Mouth of the Dark by Tim Waggoner (2018) Flame Tree Press

His mother did try to warn him that the world is a dangerous place.

Emory Lewis is missing and her estranged father Jayce means to find her. He’ll be the first to admit he’s never been the greatest father in the world, but it’s time to change that. Little does Jayce know that in order to find his only child, he’s going to have to enter a lecherous and disturbing underworld of inhuman creatures and madness where almost anything goes.

I loved this book! Waggoner sucked me in from page one and didn’t let go until I’d reached the end. There were so many weird, unexpected twists that I was forever wondering what could possibly be next. I hated having to put the book down and do other things. There was never a dull moment and never a time when I got lost or confused or didn’t understand motives or actions. Despite it all, Jayce pushes forward, desperate to find his daughter. I liked Jayce and found his struggle and desperation believable. Nicola, a woman who understands the dark realm Jayce had stumbled into and agrees to help him, was also likable. Waggoner did a great job of making you trust her and not trust her at the same time; the same could be said of all the characters we meet throughout Jayce’s adventure.

Highly recommend this book. These aren’t your typical monsters with the typical motives and Jayce Lewis is anything but your typical father.

5 out of 5 Ravens

The Raven Scale
1 Raven:  Ew. Yuck. Don’t Eat That.
2 Ravens: Bread Crumbs, A Bit Dry & Flavorless, But It’ll Keep Us Alive.
3 Ravens: Peanuts, Popcorn, And Cat Kibble! Nom-nom.
4 Ravens: Pizza Place Dumpster After Lunch! Hell, yeah!
5 Ravens: Holy Shit! Fresh Road Kill, Dudes!

Book Review – Thirteen Days By Sunset Beach by Ramsey Campbell (2018) Flame Tree Press

Though not entirely oblivious of Ramsey Campbell’s name and work, I am hard-pressed to recall what stories or novels of his I’ve read in the past and I know I have. Likely way back in the 80’s when I easily devoured a novel a week and paid little attention to the author’s name. When I saw this book on the list of titles I’d be getting with the other Flame Tree Press ARCs I requested, I was pretty excited to refresh my memory on Campbell’s work.

As a fan of the genre and the monstrous beings that inhabit it, I quickly picked up on what Ray, his wife Sandra, and the rest of their family were about to encounter on the Greek island of Vasilema during a two-week-long family vacation. Over the course of the holiday, Sandra – who is dying – finds herself feeling rejuvenated while her teenage grandchildren act like dark and brooding teens forced to endure quality family time in a family that seems hell-bent on squabbling among themselves.

I struggled a quite bit with the dialogue, the main reason I gave it 3 instead of 4 stars. At times it didn’t seem to flow as naturally as it could have and I kept wondering if maybe I was having a hard time because of a difference between British layout vs. American. One too many times I found myself puzzled over who was speaking or thinking what was being said by a particular character didn’t come across as being age-appropriate.

Other than that, Campbell handles the subject matter well and in such a way that other readers, maybe not so familiar with it, will find themselves deeper into the novel before they realize where the danger lurks. Despite knowing, I was still pulled in wondering when these people would come to their collective senses and take some precautionary measures to protect themselves and not leave poor Ray floundering all alone with his suspicions. How is Ray ever going to be able to convince them that there’s more going on that just make-believe stories and local legends? Is he going to be able to protect his wife, children, and grandchildren from any of it? Will they be able to get off the island before it’s too late?

I found Thirteen Days By Sunset Beach a very unique take on the genre – something that is increasingly hard to come by. For that reason alone would recommend it to others who are looking for something outside the normal hum-drum way of presenting it.

3 out of 5 Ravens

The Raven Scale
1 Raven:  Ew. Yuck. Don’t Eat That.
2 Ravens: Bread Crumbs, A Bit Dry & Flavorless, But It’ll Keep Us Alive.
3 Ravens: Peanuts, Popcorn, And Cat Kibble! Nom-nom.
4 Ravens: Pizza Place Dumpster After Lunch! Hell, yeah!
5 Ravens: Holy Shit! Fresh Road Kill, Dudes!

Author Interview – Isobel Blackthorn

As a female author of Horror, you quickly come to realize the genre is very much dominated by male writers. I find that odd as women have been in the business of writing Gothic Horror since the 18th century and that a woman, Mary Shelley, penned one of the great masterpieces of horror with her novel Frankenstein.

With that in mind, I am always thrilled to land an interview with a fellow female writer of the genre and this month that woman is Isobel Blackthorn!

  1. Setting a mood for a story is one of the most important parts of writing, but what about setting the mood for yourself as you sit down to write? Do you have a special time and place, or maybe some music you like to put on to get your creative juices flowing for a good session?

CABIN SESSIONS FRONT COVER 4 800x500 For years I thought I needed to set the mood for myself in order to write. When all I really needed was to have pen and paper, my sofa and solitude. I have to be alone. Living alone means I am always in the mood for writing and I dip in and out all day long from the moment I wake up until I stop to make dinner. I write at a leisurely pace. I try not to care about output and I don’t mind occasional interruptions. I cannot write anywhere other than my home, which means wherever I happen to be living as I move a lot. Two things put me off writing. Music and barking dogs. Silence is king.

 

 

  1. Every writer started somewhere. Can you tell us a little bit about what prompted you to become a writer? Was it childhood dream or something you fell into more recently? Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?

I have always wanted to be a writer but it was a secret desire, even secret from me for many decades. In my late-teens I toyed with song lyrics. Then it was little bits of poetry. Friends and others encouraged me, told me I had talent but I didn’t believe them. In my mid-twenties something reared up in me, an urge, a surge of creative impulse. It was the 1980s and I was living in Oxford surrounded by literature. I began to talk to my friends about wanting to write fiction and I did make a half-hearted attempt at a novel. I had no idea what I was doing or how to go about it. None at all. Back then, there were no creative writing degrees. If there had been, I would have been the first to enroll. Lacking a mentor or any sort of guidance, I gave up. Life took me in other directions.

A few years later, I was living in the Canary Islands, Spain. I was living in the grand old house of my boyfriend, and he was the first to really believe in me as a writer. He was about to travel to Indonesia to buy an old wooden boat and sail it back to Spain to sell for a fortune. He wanted me to travel with him and write the memoir. What an adventure! What an opportunity! Only, I still had no idea how to write creatively. Even though I yearned to do it, I had no confidence, no self belief. I did go with my beau to Bali, but finding myself in an awfully dangerous situation there, I fled to Australia. The next time I felt an impulse to write was in the mid-1990s. Again, I had a go at writing a novel. Three chapters in, I gave up. Every now and then the impulse would rise up in me, only to die back down deflated.

Finally, in 2007, I was employed by a literary agent as her PA. My luck had changed. Suddenly I had someone who truly believed I could write. By then I had a PhD so damn straight I could write! But there is an ocean of difference between academic and creative writing. Another stroke of luck, the best, was I made friends with an author who agreed to be my mentor. His belief in my writing was transformational. It was incredibly affirming and validating and by then I was in my late forties and oh so hungry to learn. Now, I feel I am making up for lost time.

  1. Taking breaks from the intensity of work is important to everyone. What sorts of activities do you enjoy doing that aren’t related to writing. Hobbies? Travel? Maybe jumping out of airplanes?

I knit. I have my cat for company. I go for walks and have coffee with friends. I visit family, friends, sometimes travel. You can imagine from my answer to your last question that I don’t have a big desire to do anything other than write, but people are important to me.

  1. As a Horror writer myself I am often asked how I can write such things and doesn’t it keep me up at night. (It doesn’t.) What sorts of things scare you?

Gran ParksTons of things scare me. I cannot watch most horror movies. Even the music puts me on edge. Although I love Tarantino. I am not so easily spooked as I used to be. I used to be terrified of the dark and being alone in a house at night. I’ve lived in haunted houses and managed to eliminate the ghosts through my own force of will, but it was unnerving having things switch themselves on right beside you. I come from a long line of occultists, Spiritualists, healers. I stay away from horror because I do not want to invite that sort of energy into my life. Which might make anyone reading this ask what kind of self-respecting horror writer am I? I write dark psychological thrillers and satire. I like the line between horror and comedy. The British movie, Sightseers, for example. I like my horror twisted. I don’t want to be terrified. I want my mind bent out of shape a little, the way it is when you find yourself siding with the killer. I’m going to plug Gerri Gray’s Amnesia Girl, as a great example of the horror I like. And I love gothic horror of the No Rest for the Wicked kind, too! HellBound Books is a comfortable place for me to be because they publish a diverse range of quality horror and there is something for all horror tastes.

  1. I’ve always got a work in progress. Do you have anything in the works that you can give us a hint about and where can people find out more about your already published works and about you?

I have another two works of dark fiction in the pipeline. One is a gothic mystery set in the Canary Islands. The other is a Noir thriller, erotic romance style. I am very excited about this one. I don’t want to spoil the surprise but it sizzles! I am always pushing the boundaries, exploring new styles and genres. To date, I have five novels published by small presses, along with a short-story collection and my memoir.

They are all on Amazon and you can read excerpts, reviews and more on my website. https://isobelblackthorn.com/ All my fiction packs a punch and most contains occult themes. I can be found on:

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Lovesick.Isobel.Blackthorn/

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5768657.Isobel_Blackthorn

Twitter @IBlackthorn

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/isobelblackthorn/

Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com.au/isobelblackthor/

Tumblr http://isobelblackthorn.tumblr.com/

Author Interview – Stephen Helmes

For some authors, being a writer was something they felt they were born wanting to do. For others, it was a certain event in their lives that made them want to write. What is your Genesis story? When did the writing bug hit you and what was the first story you wrote”?

The writing bug hit me for the first time in 1981, but I didn’t recognize it for what it was. Halloween II had just hit the theaters and I went to see it. It was an instant hit with me, but I could not stand the thought of the movie ending, not then, not that way. I bought a new 40-sheet notebook and a pack of Bic pens and started writing Halloween III. That’s right John Carpenter. It’s time to move over.
I took up where the movie left off, Michael Myers chasing Laurie Strode deeper into the hospital. Before I knew it, the notebook was full. I had totally zoned out for a couple of days. That was the first time I’d ever had my mind leave my body, so to speak.

The writings in that notebook are gone forever. I have no idea what happened to it and I can’t remember anything I wrote in it. I’m sure that if I found that story today it would make a good script for an Abbott and Costello film.

Helms_NightlyVisitsIt took twenty years before that writing bug returned, and this time, I hung on for the ride. It came to me in a nightmare back in 2001. I shot straight up in sweat soaked sheets, eyes darting around the darkness until I realized that I was safe in my own room. This was the worst and best nightmare I’d ever had, and being a horror lover, I couldn’t risk going back to sleep and allowing those horrific images to escape my mind in a fog of dreamy forgetfulness. It was 4:30am. I got up, went to my computer and begin typing it all out in full detail while it was still fresh in my mind.

After reading through my draft of the nightmare the next day, I realized that this dream was scarier than most of the stuff I had been seeing in most of the recent films. The notion hit me to create a foundation of characters and a plot to pull the broken images together.

Once the writing started, the words flowed like a river. I based the plot and characters around the band I was playing with, and the story took off. It took me a few weeks to complete the story. It was my first original piece. I titled it Glasswalker.

After Glasswalker, I was hooked. I immediately started writing Little Red Socks, The Witches’ Post, then another, and another. These are the stories that you will find within the covers of my first book, Nightly Visits.

You run a page on Facebook called “Author’s Bus Depot”. Can you tell us a little more about what the page is about and what gave you the idea for it?

Author’s Bus Depot is a group designed to help indie authors to promote their books without the high cost of hiring a mainstream promotion company to do it for them.

When I released my first book, I had stars in my eyes. The book was available around the globe, so of course there would be sells. There would be so many sells I would be a big-time author within a year. Well, it didn’t take very long for reality to show me otherwise. New authors need help pushing their books to the public, and unfortunately, promoting doesn’t come cheap. So what do you do if you don’t have a stack of money to invest in promoting your book?

Facebook is the first free means. Place your book on your timeline so all your family and friends can see that you have published a book. You will sell a few copies, but then what? Your friends who are interested have already bought your book, and now you are back at the drawing board. How do you get out there where the numbers are, those people who would love your book if they only knew it existed? How do you introduce yourself as an author when you are trapped behind a wall of open palms, promising you the world, but at a cost you can’t afford to pay?

Author’s bus Depot uses the Facebook timeline to promote, not only your book, but also all of our books, not only for your personal friends and following, but all of our friends and followings combined together. We are simply sharing our timelines with each other so that rather than only having your small private group to offer your book to, you have all of our followings to offer to as well. Author’s Bus Depot is designed to get your book seen by thousands of people across Facebook without having to spend one cent on a promotion company.

I understand you are also a musician. Tell us a little bit about the music you love to play and are there any songs or bands that inspire or help you while you’re in author mode?

Glasswalker, a story from Nightly Visits, was based all around my band, House of Flies. Things that have happened over our years together, venues that we’ve played, and even the members, though their names have been changed to protect my skin, much of that story is true. Each character in Glasswalker is characterized after a musician that is either in the band, or has been in our band in the past. The things they say and do as a band, are things that we’ve said and done.

As for the music I enjoy playing, that depends on the audience in front of me. If I am with our band, House of Flies, Hard Rock is my favorite to play, Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper, Nirvana, Soundgarden, etc. There are no rules in Hard Rock. You do what you want, when you feel like doing it. I love looking out and seeing our crowd having a good time. When their blood starts flowing, it makes our adrenaline start pumping, and when they getting into it, screaming and jumping to the music, the top of our heads go, BOOM! Then it’s game on! No one knows what’s going to happen after that. There is nothing like doing a great show and waking the next morning with your ears still ringing and a hangover from Hell. And the best part about that is that I don’t drink!

Don’t get me wrong. I am not a pure head-banger, no, not at all. I am an all-around lover of the art. I listen to anything and everything: heavy, soft, good dance beat or no beat at all. If it makes me feel good, then it must be good. Give me an acoustic and a small audience that loves to sing along and I will go on for hours playing classics from artists like America, Jimmy Buffett, Johnny Nash, Bob Seger, Sammy Johns, and the list goes on forever. Music always has been, is, and always will be in my soul.

You have two books under your belt already. Could you tell us a little bit about Nightly Visits and 12 to 6 and if you have any other works in progress you’d like to share info on.?

Nightly Visits was my first release, and the second, From 12 to 6 (More Nightly Visits) is the sequel).

Helms_12to6 Both of these books are loaded with short stories and novellas, each one coming from a completely different direction from the last. The thing about the Nightly Visits series is that most of the ideas come from dreams, which is where the title, Nightly Visits, comes from. Because the stories in these books are dream-based, they go where they want to go, do what they want to do, and show you what they want you to see. All I do is sit and watch these characters interact in my head, and write it all down. I didn’t create most of the stories in my book. The characters did it for me. I am the writer, but they are the authors. I am not the pilot. I’m just the plane that takes you into these worlds of the imagination. When I am writing these stories, I can’t wait to get to the end so I can see what happens.
You can expect a lot more from me in the near future.

At the moment, I am working on two new projects. My editor and friend, Lisa Binion and I are teaming up for my first full-length novel, which has not been titled yet. The foundation is complete and the story is well under way, however, the release date is still too far away to predict.

As for the other project, you guessed it. Nightly Visits III (The Trail of Dreams) is coming. I am planning to release it late in the year or perhaps early next year, depending on the characters. They are the ones in charge. It’s going to be a wild ride, so keep an eye out for that.

Where can people learn more about Stephen Helmes and how can we get a hold of your books?

At the moment, I have no actual website, but you can find me on Facebook at the following link… https://tinyurl.com/StephenH-Author Drop in and say hello.

You can find both of the Nightly Visits books at Amazon.

Nightly Visits – myBook.to/NightlyVisits

From 12 to 6 (More Nightly Visits) – myBook.to/From-12-To-6

If you would like to get a taste of From 12 To 6 (More Nightly Visits) you can read two of the stories in their entirety by clicking the links below.

The Longest Day in the World: https://tinyurl.com/LngDayWrld

Ashlyn came to me in a dream Christmas Eve 2013. She wanted me to tell her story. I woke on Christmas morning with this little girl in my head and tears in my eyes. This little girl won my heart that night, and I couldn’t wait to get this story started so I could share her with all of you.

Spots: https://tinyurl.com/ztotnss

Jacob is only one of many who suffer from Mysophobia, (fear of germs) and those around him will never truly understand why he is so obsessive with cleaning his apartment and staying closed up inside. But they don’t see what Jacob sees. The germs are not only everywhere, on everything, and transferred by everybody. They are actually coming to get him!

UrbEx & The Dawning of Dark Hollow Road – Part 4

In the previous posts about the creation of my upcoming Psychological Horror Dark Hollow Road, we’ve done a whole lot of spelunking. Apart from a small building located creek side in Salado, Texas that I wandered into back in 2013, my urban exploration days are pretty much over. The desire to continue the hobby is still strong. I’m just not so brave and nimble as I was back then. But, how does all that exploring old, and sometimes empty, houses back in the late 80’s translate into writing a Horror novel in the early 2000s? Therein lies the dark and mysterious magic, dear reader, a magic that even we authors struggle to understand.

All those experiences aside, the case for Dark Hollow Road began with the title. It literally flew past the right corner of my eye, barely seen, quickly read, and instantly understood for what it was to be. If you Google Dark Hollow Road, you’re going to find a whole mess of them. From Oregon to North Carolina, Pennsylvania to Texas, and who knows how many others betwixt and beyond; Dark Hollow Roads seem to run rampant.  The one I spotted was in Pennsylvania which boasts no fewer than six of them.  My exact words the moment I saw it were, “If that’s not the title of a Horror novel, I don’t know what is.” For that reason alone rural PA became my setting.

But, what would this story be about? I had absolutely no idea, none.  For a good six months, that would remain the case. It was just a title and a vague setting, no characters, no nothing really. With other projects keeping me busy, I didn’t dwell on it. I knew the people involved in the telling of this dark tale would speak up when they were good and ready to do so. Stories and their titles flow in and out of my head all the time; this wasn’t anything new. Or so I thought at the time.

Despite my actual spelunking days being a thing of the past, I still love to seek out and stop to look at the empty places that are local to me. I don’t go inside anymore, but I do try to take some atmospheric pictures from the outside at least. One such house is located only a few miles north of my home. It’s highly visible and there’s no place to park and hide your car. In fact, the roadside along the front of the place is marked with No Trespassing and No Parking signs galore. The safest option would be to park at the nearby church, cross the stream, and cut through the cornfield, which I’m really not so keen on doing.  For all the years I’ve known of this place, since I moved to the area in 1995, I’ve never known it to be occupied.  The memories and experiences of other houses we’ve already discussed came to mind, adding a layer to the story. We have a road. We have a house. We need some people.

The first whispers of characters arrived as I passed by my husband’s (then boyfriend) car and looked at the sticker I’d seen hundreds of times before in his back window. It said Brown House. It was a band he sang and played for in Texas. A gear clicked into place. The last known people to live in my fictional house on Dark Hollow Road were the Browns, but I still didn’t know anything about them.  What had happened that they would seemingly leave their house behind? Was the place haunted? That seemed too cliché to me, besides, I was already in the midst of writing a ghost story with “No Rest For The Wicked” and didn’t want to repeat that theme so soon.  No, there had to be something different about the Brown house and those that had once lived there, but what?

One summer night as I sat alone by a twiddling campfire in my back yard, a man appeared. He was old and grizzled. He was no stranger to hard work and it showed on his large, calloused hands and weather-worn face thick with wrinkles. Somehow I knew his name was Lee Yagar. He came out of the darkness of my imagination, studied me sitting there for a moment and remarked, “I know what happened at the Brown house.”  When I asked him, he refused to say anything further. He was there and gone, tingling my spine and twisting my mind to know more. He wasn’t going to talk or make things easy for me. He was going to be a tight-lipped, cranky, pain in the ass – not just to me, but to those who desperately needed his help. I went to bed that night thinking and thinking, trying to will Lee Yagar back so he’d tell me his story. But, it wasn’t his story to tell.

Much to my surprise, a very sad and frightened eight-year-old girl stepped forward next. This was Mary Alice Brown. This was the person Lee Yagar did not want to talk about. This was who had last lived in the house on Dark Hollow Road, the sole survivor of some nightmarish life everyone wished they could forget.  Mary wanted to talk. It had been a long time coming for her. The first words she said to me were, “I was eight years old in 1948 the night Daddy Clay came into my room and pulled the blankets down for the first time. “

This would become the novel’s opening line and the first steps down a long dark, hollow road indeed. As Mary began to open up about her life, I sat and listened, typed and envisioned.  As the months went by and even as I also learned about her new neighbors, Samantha, Renee and their son, Brandon – it was clear this story truly belonged to Mary.

There are some who would believe that on that day we first drove past the original and very real Dark Hollow Road in rural Pennsylvania, that the restless spirit of Mary Alice Brown reached out and found me, knowing in her unique supernatural way that I was someone she could trust with her tale.  I would tell it without bias and that I was more than willing to share it with the rest of the world on her behalf.  It didn’t matter if it was being presented as a work of pure fiction. Maybe it was her hope that in the telling, she’d find some level of peace. I like to think I’ve brought her a little bit of that.

Is all of this merely the culmination of what’s been said in Parts 1-3 of this series mixed with an active imagination? Probably.  Or, could the inspirations for this and so many other novels really be the actual lives and souls of people who once were, or those living in some sort of alternate reality? I guess that’s possible. Maybe it’s some weird combination of the two.

The only thing for certain is that Dark Hollow Road was a story that desperately needed to be written down and shared. If it gives some poor, lost soul peace, that’s great.  If it creeps out my readers, keeps them up at night reading, and makes them think twice about what lurks in the darkest corners of a seemingly forgotten empty house, that’s even better. Thank you for joining me on this little walk in the paranormal darkness. I hope you’ll find Dark Hollow Road worthy of even more of your time once it’s released this coming spring.

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.

My Writer’s Book Bag

It’s hard to believe it’s the middle of May already. Spring has been desperately trying to spring here in the Northeast. Here’s hoping our recent bought of warm and sunny weather is going to stick this time! April proved to bring us a plethora of rain. May has certainly blessed us with flowers. One of my four lilac bushes is literally drooping to the ground under the weight of its own flowers. The small murder of crows I’ve been trying to lure in with peanuts and cat kibble are slowly making a comeback by perching in the trees outback and cawing at me. Our back yard is mostly set up and ready to go for a summer’s worth of friends, family, evening fires, fair weather, and food. In between all of that, along with writing and submitting a couple novels and a bit of dark poetry to some publishers – one of which has already been accepted – I’ve managed to get in some reading time.

In last month’s Book Bag, I’d just started Ann Radcliffe: The Great Enchantress by Robert Miles. I’m happy to report, I’ve emerged victorious from this adventure into some serious literary analysis, yes, Sigmund Freud even showed up! It reminded me way too much of all those English classes where the instructor insists that the color of the chairs is symbolic of the four Cardinal directions as specified in some mystic’s dream book from the early 15th century. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. I don’t use a lot of symbolism when I write and the one time I tried to be clever that way, I got so bogged down in trying to remember what represented what that I completely lost track of where I wanted to go with the plot. I tend to believe the chair was blue, red, yellow, or green because the writer liked that particular color and thought it would be nice, but maybe that’s just me. That aside, I learned the difference between ‘horror’ and ‘terror’ as it was defined back in the late 1700s and that Romances weren’t considered Novels. An interesting and educational read despite the academic dryness.

While slogging my way through that, I managed to get in some good old short stories from Israel Finn’s collection, Dreaming At The Top Of My Lungs. I’ve been eyeballing this book for a good long while and finally decided it was time to give it a read. As with any collection or anthology, you’re going to find some you really enjoy, some that leave you confused, or some that just don’t hit the spot. Happily, most of Finn’s stories were very enjoyable and better still, memorable! My biggest complaint on this one is that it was way, way too short! I’m hoping to add more of Israel’s work to the TBR pile in the future.

I recently dove back into the dark and murky depths of another Hunter Shea cryptid book. This time it’s poor old Nessie that he’s picking on. Hot on Shea’s aquatic tail (see what I did there?) is a Lyle Blackburn book that takes us beyond the realm of Boggy Creek to look at other cryptids of the ‘Squatchier kind found deep in the American South, but we’ll save any further details on those for next month.

2017 Bookshelf-To-Date

January
Montauk Monster by Hunter Shea

February
Maledicus by Charles F. French

March
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe,
The Beast of Boggy Creek by Lyle Blackburn

April
Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
Sinister Entity by Hunter Shea

May
Ann Radcliffe: The Great Enchantress by Robert Miles
Dreaming At The Top Of My Lungs by Israel Finn
Loch Ness Revenge by Hunter Shea

Book Review – Sinister Entity by Hunter Shea

Even at the tender age of eighteen, paranormal investigator Jessica Backman has seen and experienced more than her fair share of things that go bump in the night. She’s always worked alone, until a series of emails arrives from Eddie Homes, a total stranger. Who is this clown and how has he learned so much about her? Jessica has always been very careful about keeping her privacy, but Eddie knows things he absolutely should not know. When Eddie tells Jessica that her dad sent him, she takes notice. Jessica’s father died horrifically when she was only six, and boy does Dad have a job for her and Eddie to do!

Sinister Entity is the prequel to the first Hunter Shea book I ever read, Island of the Forbidden. After reading this I’m just itching to get the first book of the series, Forest of Shadows.

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Whether he’s dealing with skunk apes that have run amok, zombies, the Jersey Devil, or a topic that seems so cliché and old school, like a haunted house, Hunter has an amazing talent of making it new again, adding his own twists, and drawing you into the characters and settings of each of his books. He could probably make a tin of Altoids frightening and thought-provoking. Sinister Entity is no exception.

I will say I did have a bit harder time getting invested in this one as I have his other books. Not sure why. It moved along quickly enough and the action was good, I just found my mind wandering off. That’s something I’ve never had happen before with a Shea novel. Maybe there was a bit more back story being explained than in others? Whatever it was, once I got through it, I was completely hooked and really had to know how Jessica and Eddie were going to tackle this particularly nasty and sinister entity.

4 out of 5 Ravens.

Author Interview – Isaac Thorne

For the month of April, I’m pleased to bring you an interview with ‘Dark Comic Horror” author Isaac Thorne.

As part of my New Year’s Resolution to reach out to more of my fellow authors and stop being such a hermit, I will be presenting you with a monthly author interview. The majority are of the horror genre, but I’ll slip in at least one YA and one Sci-Fi author just to mix it up a little bit.

I found Isaac’s work through the wonderful world of Twitter and now it’s time to share all that with you! Take it away, Isaac!

  1. Tell me a little bit about how you became interested in writing. Have you known since an early age or is this something new you’ve recently started to get involved in?

I’ve known since I could read that I wanted to write. The very first thing I ever remember writing of any depth was an essay about overalls and why everyone should wear them. I think I was just a 6-year-old at the time. I went to a small rural elementary school where “Overall Day” was once a thing. Naturally, I didn’t write often or well in those days, but it was the spark that I attribute to this flame.

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Author, Isaac Thorne

  1. You define your work as ‘dark comic horror’. Could you explain more about what that means and maybe what inspired you to go in that direction with your writing?

I came up with the tagline of “Short Tales of Dark Comic Horror” because I thought it was the best way to describe what I do in the shortest amount of space. First thing’s first: I primarily write short tales. I like novels. I read novels. But I love short stories, especially horror shorts. Stephen King once described novels as a long love affair and short stories more like a kiss in the dark from a stranger. I think that’s what I like about them. There’s more exposition that the reader will fill in with his or her imagination in a well-told short tale than a novel.

The last three words of my tagline are “Dark Comic Horror” because I always try to mix an element of comedy into my work. Let’s face it, Freddy Krueger probably wouldn’t have had sequel after sequel after sequel if he hadn’t become such a master of one-liners. Scary is great. Horrific is even better. But if you don’t bring some comedy into your tale, you’re missing out on one of the easiest ways for your story to connect with other people. The dark comedy is also my way of letting the reader know that I’m in on the absurdity of some of what I write. I’m not typically writing some kind of inside political rant or trying to convey a message with my stories. I just want to make you laugh a little, shudder some, glance over your shoulder a bit, and scream. Hopefully.

The horror element of what I do is my favorite part, though. It’s the genre I fell in love with a long, long time ago while I was listening to my grandmother’s old Alfred Hitchcock “Ghost Stories For Young People” album.

  1. Congratulations on the iHorror Award nomination for “Diggum”. Tell me a bit about it and the process of taking it from the original short story to a screenplay? Your book trailers are great, too. Are you an aspiring film maker as well?

Thank you! I found out just recently that not only is “Diggum” the screenplay an iHorror nominee, but that it also won the honor of the 2017 BEST VIOLENCE award from Chemical Film Festival. I’m happy about that. It’s nice to have your blood, sweat, and tears recognized on occasion.

As you mentioned, “Diggum” was originally a short story that I released in ebook and audio book form back in October of last year. It’s about a cemetery caretaker who feels that his innocent wife and son were at the end of a raw deal with God after their corpses were burned up in an accidental fire. According to Diggum’s religion, their bodies can’t be resurrected for Judgment, and they are therefore lost forever. Diggum doesn’t think that’s fair, so he sets about a plan to get even with God for the slight. I wrote the story and then recorded an audio book version of it myself.

The reception to the audio book was surprisingly strong, so I started then to wonder whether I might be able to translate it into a screenplay. Specifically, I was thinking about what I call a “semi-animated” short. The way I envisioned it was a series of line drawings in the Robert Kirkman “Walking Dead” style. Those stills would have frames of minor movement in them to illustrate what was happening, but the story would mostly be in Diggum’s telling of it.

As tried to set that down, I discovered that what I was really doing was painting a slightly different visual perspective on the story. It’s hard to describe, but adapting a narrative work into a screenplay is, to me, more like painting than writing. Sure, you use active verbs and descriptive powers in a narrative, but when you’re describing a scene in a screenplay, you tend to get more specific about it. The actions and visuals in the screenplay tell as much of the story as Diggum’s narration. The visuals in my head while I was writing the screenplay were entirely different than the sketches in my head while I was writing the narrative.

As much fun as I had adapting “Diggum” and as much fun as it is to use iMovie to make my book trailers, I don’t really have any aspirations to become a filmmaker. I’ll leave that to people who know more about what they’re doing. As a matter of fact, three of my stories have already been adapted into screenplays by My Little Rascal Film Productions. They hope to begin production on those shorts this year. I think the one screenplay and the trailers are enough for me now. The trailers are relatively easy to make because I use iMovie, clips, and music that is either licensed creative commons for commercial use or in the public domain. My role with iMovie then is stitching all that together and coming up with the text.

  1. I recently listened to ‘Because Reasons’ over on Carmen Online Theater Group’s Chronicles of Terror. Very cool! Can we look forward to more of your stories being presented there?

That’s always a possibility. An abridged version of the “Diggum” audio book was actually presented at Carmen Online as well. Liane Moonraven is probably the reason I even attempted to adapt Diggum into a screenplay in the first place. She introduced me to scriptwriting for audio theater. The platform we used for “Because Reasons” also allows you to write screenplays and teleplays, so I just took what she taught me and ran with it as best I could.

  1. The question never seems to be ‘Are you writing?’ Writers are always writing something, or should be, I’m told. What can we expect from you in the future? Any plans for a full-length novel?

Although I don’t do outlines when I’m writing short tales, I actually do have an outline created for a full-length novel. Novels aren’t really where my interests lie, though, so I’m sitting on it for a bit. If I’m going to write a novel, I want it to be the best novel I can possibly write at this point in my life. Therefore, I’m probably not going to go headlong into it until my heart and head tell me they need to do so.

All of my short tales are stories that I felt like I needed to write. There was no waiting for inspiration or ideas; no making an effort to make something up. I just had the idea for a scene and set about trying to craft a story around that scene. I find that allowing myself to be ready to sit down and write a story works better for me than trying to force myself to do it.

  1. Where can readers find out more about you and where can your work be found?
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Latest Release : Decision Paralysis

I’ve just released a new short tale of dark horror titled “Decision Paralysis”, which is available from most ebook retailers and as an audio book. In the fall of 2017, I’ll be releasing a collection of short tales in ebook and paperback formats. The collection will include most of the stories I’ve already released plus a few that  no one has ever seen before.

Readers can find me on Twitter and Facebook under the handle @isaacrthorne. Those and my other social media links are also available from my web site: www.isaacthorne.com. My ebooks can be found for Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Apple iBooks, Google Play, Kobo, and Smashwords. Audio versions of most of them are also available at Amazon, iTunes, and Audible.com.

 

Thanks so much for the interview, Isaac! I’m looking forward to reading more of your work.