Other Voices #15

Good morning, friends.  I want to start right off with an email I received last Thursday afternoon from my friend Vinnie, editor of Book Reader Magazine:

“Last year at the 20Booksto50K conference I had the chance to meet an author.  Brandon Barr was fighting cancer and it was such a pleasure watching him speak on stage about his battle and his writings.  I got to spend a few minutes after talking to him.  I am sorry to say that Brandon lost his battle a few days ago.  Losing a family member around the Holidays is just tough.  He was the breadwinner of the family so its twice as hard on them.  If you can, please share Brandon’s books with your readers and friends, even if it’s not your genre.  Every sale is a good sale and helps pay the bills for a family who just lost their primary breadwinner.”

This is Brandon’s Amazon author page:


In the Song of the Worlds series, a god-gifted young woman is chosen for a grim task – one that will take her beyond the boundaries of her own world.  Winter’s chilling visions of the future make clear that her choices will not only affect the success of her mission, but whether those she loves will live or die.  This is epic fantasy of the first order, and I know a good portion of my readership is interested in that, so click on over and see whether your heart might support a purchase.



The Boy in the Well.  232-page novel by Steve Peek.  John Ryan was about to be drafted, so instead of risking punji-stick filled jungles, he joined the Air Force.  When his best-laid plans and schemes backfired, he volunteered for the war he tried to avoid – irony he failed to appreciate.  His tour in Nam chronicles so many other boys of that war.  The Boy in the Well is a universal memoir for the nine out of ten who served behind the lines in non-combat roles.  Except there weren’t any lines and nearly everyone in-country heard exploding mortar shells or rockets close enough to remind them an unseen enemy wanted Americans gone or dead.  Even in the safest city in Vietnam, even working in an air conditioned building, for Christ’s sake, Ryan fell into a routine: parties, weed and rock & roll.  If you had to fight a war, this was the way to do it.  And then there was the Tet offensive.  What a downer.  Everything changed.  John Ryan never killed anyone, never even fired a gun.  He just saw things; some funny, others, not so much.  Ryan just wanted to serve his tour and escape back to the real world unharmed.  War leaves no one untouched.  No one escapes.  All wounds are not from bullets.  $4.99 on Kindle.


Hidden Thrones. 336-page novel by Russ Scalzo.  Jack Bennett has an unusual gift.  His coveted ability means he is the FBI’s newest hire, serving as a consultant for their new Paranormal Division.  The government is convinced we are not alone in this world.  With invisible forces all around, agencies are seeking how to harness that power for their own uses.  The mystery swirling around the unseen and unknown has caused much speculation.  Some suppose lost souls are wandering the earth, others believe deceased loved ones never truly moved on, and still, there are those who are convinced that aliens have infiltrated our world.  The ancient scriptures talk about a great evil that was conceived in the depths of eternity.  There, a great war occurred in a place called Heaven.  Lucifer, the ancient serpent, the evil dragon of folklore, was cast out and bound to the earth and confined to its surrounding atmosphere.  Could it be that the evil we see is inspired by a dark kingdom, a demonic spiritual force at war with the human race?  Could these princes and rulers of darkness be influencing our world today?  Jack Bennett knows this is the truth.  He knows because he encounters them every day.  Follow Jack Bennett and Frank Lederman as they battle the realm of Hidden Thrones.  99¢ on Kindle.


Dead Cold. 326-page novel by Jennifer Chase.  What happens when one California community has a disturbing spike in homicides?  It catapults cops into a deadly game of murder.  Frozen human body parts hideously displayed at the crime scenes offers a horrifying interpretation that only a sadistic serial killer could design and execute.  On the hunt for a complex serial killer, vigilante detective Emily Stone must face her most daring case yet.  Stone’s proven top-notch profiling skills and forensic expertise may not be enough this time.  Young and ambitious, Detective Danny Starr, catches the homicide cases and discovers that it will test everything he knows about police work and the criminal mind.  Can he handle these escalating cases or will the police department have to call in the FBI?  Emily Stone’s covert team pushes with extreme urgency to unravel the grisly clues, while keeping their identities hidden from the police.  With one last-ditch effort, Stone dangles someone she loves as bait to draw out the killer.  She then forces the killer out of their comfort zone with her partner Rick Lopez, and with help from a longtime friend.  A revelation of the serial killer’s identity leaves the team with volatile emotions that could destroy them.  The killer continues to taunt and expertly manipulate the police, as well as Stone’s team, and as they run out of time, they leave behind everyone and everything.  99¢ on Kindle.


The Ender Dragon who Saved Christmas. 38-page children’s book by Ty the Hunter.  The Head Decorator Elf in Minecraft is in charge of decorating the village Christmas tree, and he knows that this is the most important job of the year.  Yet, as he brings out the big bag of ornaments on Christmas Eve, his Ender Dragon sneezes, blowing the decorations into the sky and across the Minecraft map!  The race is on to find the scattered ornaments and put them back on the tree before Santa arrives.  Can the Head Decorator Elf and his Ender Dragon find them all in time?  You can help them by searching each page of the book to find the lost ornaments so that they can finish the village Christmas tree before it gets dark.  Written in verse and perfect for new readers, this Minecraft-themed story is an exciting blend of fun and learning.  Young children will love the feeling of pride in helping others, and with the accomplishment that it offers, it’s sure to become an all-time favorite.  $3.99 on Kindle.


Universe in Flames.  5-novel boxed set by Christian Kallias.  When the Star Alliance is attacked, ace pilot Lieutenant Chase Athanatos and his friends attempt to survive the total annihilation of their kind.  Their struggle for survival brings them to a world far. far away, a little planet called Earth.  Little do they know that in doing so, they’ll expose humanity to the biggest scourge the universe has ever faced.  Nothing is ever as it seems in this thrilling, action-packed Science Fiction Space Opera series.  Greek mythology and fantasy elements add a dab of mysticism and originality to the intense and suspenseful adventures of Chase: a man unaware of his past, a man who must learn to get a grasp with what destiny and the Gods of Olympus have in store for him.  Unwilling to let evil unleash their minions upon every soul in the universe and armed with his courage, convictions, as well as the help of the gods themselves, Chase fights not only for his own survival but for everyone’s, on Earth and throughout the galaxy.  99¢ on Kindle.


Deliberate Deception.  408-page novel by Joe Porrazzo.  A greedy corporation rigs a multi-million dollar raffle, creating false hopes for ticket buyers.  Now people aren’t winning, they’re dying!  What comes next will shock the world!  Deliberate Deception heralds the return of Alex Porter, retired United States Air Force OSI (Office of Special Investigations) Agent turned private investigator, in another heart-pounding Joe Porrazzo suspense thriller.  Seven months after leaving New England, Alex, still grieving the tragic deaths of his wife and daughter, gets a call from his friend Joe Prater.  Prater’s old army buddy has gone missing from his home in Tucson, and Joe wants Alex to check it out.  While investigating, Alex gets too close to the truth and becomes a target himself.  He finds himself teamed with the very person hired to kill him, as they race against the clock to prevent a mysterious group from striking in Tucson and shocking the world.  $5.99 on Kindle.


My African Craving.  138-page novel by Audrey Flynn.  When Erica Knight arrives in Lebombo Game Reserve for her first African safari she has no idea that her life is about to be changed forever.  As an executive for a mining company she believes that negotiating the mining rights for the Lebombo Reserve will be a slam-dunk, but she didn’t count on locking horns with the reserve’s enigmatic owner, Jean-Luc de Graaf.  In the heart of a wild African landscape full of beauty and danger, Erica and Jean-Luc, both stubborn and passionate, find themselves on opposite sides of an escalating conflict.  With the Reserve threatened by vicious poachers and runaway fires, they are thrown together unable to contain the scorching attraction between them.  Far away from the rat race of New York Erica feels the stirring of a different drum, ancient and irresistible.  But surrendering to the wild would mean she would have to submit to her powerful attraction to Jean-Luc and she isn’t ready to give up control just yet.  $2.99 on Kindle.


A Bump in the Night. 149-page novel by Crispian Thurlborn.  Being dead can be hard.  In the past, it was all rattling chains and white sheets.  Now, it is all mortgages and unpaid bills.  Mr Snaggle and Mr Snuffle, Arbitrators for the Quick and the Dead, find themselves coming to the aid of an old friend, Mr Bump, formerly known as Mr Grym, Lurker-under-the-Bed-and-Frequenter-of-Wardrobes (or just Charon to his close friends).  Together, they must come up with a plan to prevent Mr Bump from fading.  Of course, a cunning plan is never easy to come up with, but with the help of a few beers, a young girl, and an unfortunate victim, they might just pull it off . . . or will they?  Not everything that goes bump in the night is the stuff of nightmare; sometimes, the dead have nightmares themselves!  $3.99 on Kindle.  Note that this recommendation comes from the pen of C.W. Hawes, who don’t recommend no junk!


Death & Damages.  25-novel (4,891 pages) anthology.  Danger lurks around every corner as these courageous cops, adventurous agents, and daring detectives hunt for the answers to stop the crimes by vicious killers.  But what if the damage is already done?  Inside these pages, you’ll find 25 adventures full of captivating conundrums, hair-raising homicides, and suspenseful secrets from today’s USA Today & Wall Street Journal bestselling and award-winning authors.  Become a private investigator yourself when you inspect plots of deadly assassins, cold-blooded killers, and bone-chilling suspense inside the pages of Death & Damages, an enthralling mystery and thriller boxed set.  Fans of Lee Child, James Patterson, Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, and Grisham will devour these puzzling, mysteries and gripping thrillers.  Pre-order today to secure this limited edition collection with stories from Patricia Loofbourrow, Pauline Creeden, John Ling, Alexa Padgett, Siera London, and twenty more well-known authors.  99¢ on Kindle.


Intrusion.  264-page novel by Rosalind Minett.  Lonely Billy’s excitement at having a playmate now turns to dismay.  The frail and artistic Kenneth is hideously devious, Uncle Frank is an outright bully and Billy’s parents fail to see further than Kenneth’s porcelain looks to his darker soul.  Those very emotions that enable Hitler’s rise – envy over strength, desire for new territory – now ferment in the Wilson home.  Only his secret sighting of a precious Cossack sabre can comfort Billy by imagining he has its power.  As war becomes a reality, this becomes an icon that sustains Billy through evacuation and hardship, but is it destined to damage as well as protect?  99¢ on Kindle.


After almost two months of watching and careful consideration, I have decided to award Inmate Blogger the Blimprider Seal of Approval.  I don’t know what their success rate is vis-à-vis rehabilitating convicted felons; I don’t even know whether they’ve been around long enough to see a participant released, but the effort they’re making to give these men and women a voice outside the walls is certainly above and beyond any normal obligation that anyone might have imposed upon them.  Ultimately, whether they are successful or not depends entirely on the people using their service, but they should be recognized for their work, and I’m doing my bit here.

And that’s 30 for this week.  See you all at the Hideout, and here again next Thursday.

Other Voices #14

Good day, loyal readers.  Today is Thanksgiving, a holiday begun in America and now shared by a number of mostly English-speaking countries, and there seems to be a tradition, a nice tradition, of columnists, reporters, on-air personalities, and yes, bloggers, waxing poetic about what they’re thankful for.  This year I shall join that tradition, because a stranger has given me a gift beyond price.

Back in September, two months ago almost to the day, I saw an announcement on Facebook, and completely on a whim, I offered my Novella, Possession of Blood, to B.K. Bass of Kyanite Publishing, specifically the Kyanite Crypt, their horror imprint.  Mr. Bass told me that Possession looked to be just the sort of thing they were looking for, but the whole staff would have to read and evaluate it, and given this was the busy time of year, he’d try to get back to me in a loose three-month time frame.  The one thing they wanted was exclusive rights, so I took Possession down from this website; you’ll note that it is back.

And here’s the reason for that:  Given the possibility of a multi-book deal (Possession was the first novella of a proposed series), I stopped working on anything else so as not to be mid-project were I to suddenly become a “real” author.  So, aside from jotting down a few story notes about future works for the Possession series, I have done nothing writing-related for two months.  No staggering out of bed in the morning, putting on the coffee, and spreading out storyboards, diagrams, character sheets, and note cards.  No sitting by the window trying to dream up quirks to set my latest character apart.  No doing anything remotely unenjoyable.  My retirement now consists mainly of hanging with the fam, Xbox games, binge-watching TV shows and movie franchises, and reading, interspersed with the occasional bout of housework or garden maintenance.

Long-time readers will have seen me flirting with the idea of ceasing to write for a couple of years, but spreading out the material and trying to make it go had become a habit I couldn’t break.  Plus I enjoyed the prestige, whatever that is, of saying, “I’m an author,” and hanging out in writing groups talking with other mostly pretend authors like myself.  It was only the possibility of “real” authorship that made me stop for two months and see what I was doing to myself out of habit.  So I thank you, B.K., and though I have done you a great disservice presenting myself as a horror writer, you have given me my life back by showing me that I really don’t want to spend the rest of my retirement with my nose to that particular grindstone.  I owe you more than you can know.


So now, as a busy blogger with a decent following, I must speak of the future.  My audience and my focus has been mostly writers, mostly early in the process I should think, and much of my content has gone to helping them avoid reinventing the wheel. As has been pointed out to me by a number of my readers, all that information is already out here, freely available, and no one needs me to provide it to them in this little blog, like I’m the only Great Prophet who can impart it.  Ergo that, in the form of my Sunday “here’s how you do it” posts will be discontinued, effective immediately.

The book lists of the Thursday feature will continue, as I know from a lifetime of experience how difficult it is for an indie to gain any traction.  I have had a great deal of fun and met a lot of wonderful people, and this is my way of paying it forward.  I’m not going to recommend a big list of blogs after this week, though.  When you arrive at the Hideout, you will find my bloglist in the right sidebar, and they are linked by their RSS feeds so that any time a blogger adds a new post, it moves to the top of the list in real time; check it as often as you like, as it can change minute-to-minute.

As to writing, I don’t see much of that in my future.  I have republished Possession of Blood here, and anyone who likes a not-your-grandmother’s vampire story is encouraged to take a look.  I have placed a story with an anthology that is looking at a release date in early 2019, so when that hits the shelves, I’ll be promoting here in loud and obnoxious fashion.  I acknowledge the possibility that the itch may need to be scratched from time to time, and I may scratch it by dashing off a short story for an anthology here and there, but no more all-consuming projects that take over my life for months or years at a time.  I will also begin in the near future to leave nearly all of the writing groups I have joined over my life as a writer, so if you enjoy my work and you’ve been getting your links from a third-party site, I recommend you bookmark what you want to return to, as all of those links will be fading away.

Meanwhile, enjoy the holidays; that’s really all that matters, how much enjoyment you can take from the journey.  My heart goes out to all you real authors who humored me and let me play in the sandbox for a while.  Thanks for everything; I had a blast!

Now let’s put this issue to bed.

~ Books ~


Obake Neko (Ghost Cat). 349-page novel by David Michael Gillespie.  In the waning days of World War II, the Obake Neko is the last surviving Sen-Toku – a huge secret aircraft-carrier submarine created by the Imperial Japanese Navy.  As the war comes to an end, the Obake Neko sets sail back to Japan with a cargo of unimaginable value.  In the chaos of Japanese surrender, the clandestine vessel and its crew vanish in the seas of the South Pacific.  Fifty-five years after the war’s end, former U.S. Navy pilot, Bud Brennan breaks into Pearl Harbor’s submarine museum in Hawaii.  Bud’s son, Mike, is still raw from the death of his wife and grappling with a new career but still jumps in to help his dad.  But when Bud’s antics garner the attention of the Navy’s JAG, Mike realizes his father may possess knowledge about the near-mythical Obake Neko and its fabled cargo – knowledge that is also of great value to the Japanese Yakuza.  Now, Mike must scramble to learn the whole truth of his father’s decades-old connection with the legendary Japanese submarine and fight to defend his father from relentless military authorities and deadly Yakuza operatives.  Even decades later, the Obake Neko and its legendary cargo are still worth killing over.  Can Mike discover the truth and protect his dad before deadly assailants succeed in silencing Bud forever?  $3.99 on Kindle.


The Rail Legacy. Steampunk trilogy by William J. Jackson.  Though Mr. Jackson might take exception, I have long viewed this work (which I have read, by the way) as a sort of steampunked X-Men.  There are people with powers who are persecuted by a frightened citizenry, corrupt officials who use some of these people to hunt others, strange occurrences at every turn, and riveting, well-written narratives that will keep you glued to the page.  My problem is that William announces frequent, short-duration sales that always seem to begin and end between my promotional posts, so here’s what I’m going to do.  Get on over to The Rail Baron’s Blogfollow it, or sign up for his newsletter, and when he announces his next sale, you’ll be first in line!  Or you could just buy them; they aren’t that pricey.  $3.98 for the whole series on Kindle.


Woman in Scarlet. 248-page novel by Karen L. Adams.  An inspirational memoir of one woman’s 28-year journey from aspirations of becoming one of the first female officers within the fabled Royal Canadian Mounted Police, to overcoming the harsh realities of discrimination, injustice and personal violation.  Karen Adams’ dream became possible the day the RCMP finally included women in what was then, an unashamed boy’s club.  When Karen joined the very first group of female RCMP recruits at age 22, she never anticipated the indelible mark this would leave on the landscape of Canada’s iconic police force and the women who came after her.  Fueled by equal measures of naiveté and a relentless pursuit of excellence to win the respect of her fellow officers, Karen found her passion in life despite a hostile work environment, both inside and outside the RCMP.  Her story pulses with excitement as she recounts her initial forays into drug busts, surveillance and undercover missions–all the while suffering silently with PTSD after a physical assault perpetrated by a trusted member of the vaunted force she strived so hard to become part of.  Told with exuberance, humor and astonishing honesty, Woman In Scarlet, is a thrilling police car ride-along, as well as a deeply personal and courageous view of one woman’s evolution from a fledgling cadet to a respected trailblazer for social and political change.  Read Woman In Scarlet today for a remarkable journey filled with brutal obstacles, the heartbreaks of loss and the triumphs of achievement.  99¢ on Kindle.


Apollo’s Raven. 392-page novel by Linnea Tanner.  A Celtic tale of forbidden love, mythological adventure, and political intrigue in Ancient Rome and Britannia.  In 24 AD British kings hand-picked by Rome to rule are fighting each other for power.  King Amren’s former queen, a powerful Druid, has cast a curse that Blood Wolf and the Raven will rise and destroy him.  The king’s daughter, Catrin, learns to her dismay that she is the Raven and her banished half-brother is Blood Wolf.  Trained as a warrior, Catrin must find a way to break the curse, but she is torn between her forbidden love for her father’s enemy, Marcellus, and loyalty to her people.  She must summon the magic of the Ancient Druids to alter the dark prophecy that threatens the fates of everyone in her kingdom.  $3.99 on Kindle.


Sugar Lane, Volume 1. 66-page novella by Harlow Hayes.  The night of Christmas Eve changes everything for Rhema Clark, a 36-year-old housewife living on quiet Sugar Lane.  One day she is hosting a birthday party for her 9-year-old son, Julian, the next she is watching her neighborhood become the backdrop for the perfect murder.  To gain power, Rhema inserts herself into the lives of the residents of Sugar Lane.  She knows they have secrets, but none of them run deeper than her own.  On the outside she is a kind and caring neighbor, but on the inside, something sinister lurks beneath.  The media storm surrounding this murder could destroy her secret life and expose her for what she is.  But will her lust for power override her desire to keep her secrets?  99¢ on Kindle.


Daguerreotype. 63-page novella by Ray Zacek.  Sifting through the squalor of his late brother’s estate, Garth Colby finds one thing of real value: an early nineteenth century Daguerreotype, remarkably preserved, depicting a street in Paris.  This find represents an unexpected fortune which promises to make Garth and his wife Farah wealthy, however, neither Garth nor Farah are aware of this Daguerreotype’s sordid, and violent, history or of the uncanny power it asserts over its owners.  99¢ on Kindle.


Mind Candy. 177-page anthology edited by Patrick S. Baker.  Mind Candy is a collection of speculative fiction around the theme of:  What if the mind, memories, thoughts didn’t work they way we think they do?  What if we had to share our thoughts?  What if the land itself manipulated your thoughts?  What do robots think?  Twenty stories with settings from the world of insects to the vast reaches of space, by authors that are willing to take on these questions and many more.  $5.99 on Kindle.

~ Blogs ~

My old Steampunk Empire and fellow refugee is long overdue for a major mention here, and I shall now rectify that oversight.  Karen J. Carlisle is a multi-talented Australian author, costumer, songwriter, artist, video producer, speaker, and I’m sure I haven’t listed half of her talents.  Among other accomplishments, she writes The Adventures of Viola Stewart, The Aunt Enid Mysteries, and the upcoming Department of Curiosities. A song she has written, The Gadgeteer, can be enjoyed on the album Left Foot Forward by the Littmus Steampunk Band.  Her videos can be viewed on YouTube, and much of her art, photography, and costume work can be viewed on her blog, simply titled Karen J. Carlisle.  The door is always open. . .

S.K. Anthony and Raymond Esposito have long shared a blog called Writers after Dark on which they wax profound about various aspects and issues of the writer’s art with insight, wit, and humor.  They are a favorite stop of mine, despite the fact that Raymond believes that grammar is the work of Satan.  Much like myself, they have worn out one blog provider and moved to another, and now they are adding a third partner to their empire, one Brandon Ax.  I don’t know much about Brandon, other than the fact that he is an author as they are.  The link provided leads to their introductory interview, and if you stop by to meet him, be sure to look through some of their other offerings; there’s a wealth of fine material for the writing craftsman on display.  My only problem with their new site is that you have to have a Disqus account to comment, and I choose not to add yet another social media account to reply to one blog.  Sorry, guys, I miss you.  And, Raymond, that semicolon is my little gift to you!

New follower (last Friday) The A.D. Diary is another site with multiple contributors.  This one delivers powerful free-form verse dealing with various aspects of relationships, pro and con.  If that is your cup of tea, you need to nip over there for a read.  Very much worth your while!

Christian Mahai performs an incredible amount of creative activity on line, the Irevuo blog being one of the high points.  In the selected example, he looks at the relationship between consuming art and producing it.  A real brain-tickler, and typical of his offerings.

November is Native American Heritage Month, and Abbie Lu has devoted a post on her Cafe Book Bean blog to books chronicling and celebrating the grand story of the Native American culture.  There’s a lot of fine material there, posted for a fine purpose.

Eva Newermann seems to in the process of posting her novel, Fear is in the Air, on her blog.  Chapter Five is up and ready, so if you’re looking for a bit of hidden terror, this is your read.

Steampunk and sci-fi author David Lee Summers takes to his web journal to look at Shogun and its influence on television and his writing.  Always interesting takes from the pen (keyboard?) of this working astronomer.

Natalie Swift posts powerful prose, or is it free-form poetry, on The Midnight Ember.  Whatever it is, she had certainly outdone herself with The Heart of a Crowd.  Come and be challenged by a writer who gets to the heart of things, if you will.

One of the many things that San Diego boasts is being home to the Star of India, the oldest active sailing ship in existence.  The key word is “active,” and to maintain that status, she has to get out to sea and, you know, sail at specific intervals.  Whenever she puts out it’s a huge event, and last Saturday’s foray was no exception.  Richard Schulte was on hand to capture the pageantry on his Cool San Diego Sights blog.  Four other tall ships joined her, and it was a day to remember.

Regular readers have seen Alicia Butcher-Ehrhardt’s comments on almost every post.  She also blogs herself about a wide range of topics.  The latest is about her cross-country move, and the challenges involved in breaking the mold to make things better.  Stop by and get acquainted; she’s quite a writer.

Once again I depart from my usual format to include a second entry for Richard Schulte, the photographer featured just above.  Richard write these wonderful little slice-of-life ultra-short stories, and I always try to get him some exposure.  This one is a bit of humorous fare called The Station SparrowWhy not take a minute and put some joy in your morning?

I am long overdue to mention the work of Stephanie Kato, a young steampunk author who has just completed her first trilogy.  Her page has many pages, usually dealing with her art, although today she is talking about Thanksgiving.  Very much worth a read, though, for authors and steampunk fans alike.

Tara Sparling is one of my favorite bloggers, an Irish lass with a satirical stripe as wide as an American interstate highway.  She is constantly “on” about various literary subjects, as in this week’s offering recounting why we need to stop justifying women’s literature.  This is one of those classic discussions that you read and laugh at, then suddenly realize that it isn’t all that funny. . .

The Nerd Lunch crew returns in fine form as they undertake a drill-down of Star Trek V.  They are, of course, exceedingly knowledgeable where any form of pop-culture is concerned, but the irreverent wit with which they approach their subjects is simply not to be missed by any trekkie or trekker worth his IDIC.

And that’s 30 for this week.  Don’t forget to visit Jack’s Hideout, and I’ll be back next Thursday with another list of interesting reads.  Don’t miss it if you can!

Everyday Horror

Life is always going to be stranger than fiction, because fiction has to be convincing, and life doesn’t.”


As most of you know, I’m attempting to branch out into horror, and I’m waiting to hear from a publisher who has expressed some interest in my novella, Possession of Blood.  I have curtailed all other writing activity while I wait, and if I’m going to be honest, I have to tell you that this enforced inactivity has begun to look pretty attractive.  I don’t know where it might lead, but anyone who knows my history might be able to take an informed guess.

But while I’m waiting, I’ll pass the time by starting a discussion on the principles of what constitutes effective horror.  Classic horror uses monsters.  Dr. Frankenstein’s abominable creation, werewolves, mummies, and of course, the king of the classics, Count Dracula himself.  Developments in the 1950s gave us giant bugs, abominable scientific developments, and things from outer space, and the material I’m developing makes great use of interdimensional creatures and entities that at least seem to have roots in the supernatural.

But are these bloodthirsty but imaginary beasts necessary to create good horror?  A moment’s thought will suggest that that is far from being the case.  There are any number of horrible things in everyday life that can make your skin crawl.  Spiders, especially those with exotic poisons.  Most reptiles, both the venomous and the large and powerful.  Big cats.  Hippos.  And if you live in Australia, forget about it!

But these are things as foreign as the bug-eyed monsters of the 1950s to most North American readers.  Oh, we have black widows and rattlesnakes, but treatments are common and effective.  Here in America we see a couple a vicious dog attacks a year, and about once a decade, a bear will get somebody, but in general terms, the “classic” monsters are sorely lacking.

What we do have in vast numbers are people, and are there really any monsters more terrifying than a human being with malice in his or her heart?  We’ve all seen that kid who shows up at school with bruises, maybe a limp, and an excuse from P.E. class.  How about the wife down the street who seems as terrified as the woman in a slasher movie but swears that everything’s just fine?  How about that new friend who always seems to “bump into you” while you’re shopping, gardening, or just relaxing on your patio?  You know, the one that nobody else likes.  Taken to the far edge of sanity, we have had Charles Manson and Jeffrey Dahmer.  We’ve all seen examples like this, and they’re made all the more horrible by their very reality.  You might live down the street from one of these horrors, work with one, shake hands with one in a shop, ride next to one on the bus.  They’re out here in the real world every day, impacting real lives, and they’re closer than you think.

Of course, the focus of this blog is on the aspiring writer, and the moral of this tale, I suppose, is that if you feel a hankering to write some horror, but lizard men, predatory plants, and articulated blobs of protoplasm seem a bit silly to you, there’s still plenty of ground left to cover in the psychopath-next-door genre.  Take a run at that; you might even wind up scaring yourself!

And that’s 30 for this issue.  Join me Thursday for the roundup of the usual suspects, writers and bloggers alike, and while you’re waiting, remember to read well, and write better!