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Wednesday, 13 November 2019

DYING FOR AN INVITATION by Theresa Braun

Dying for an Invitation
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked up a free copy of this novelette for my Paperwhite earlier this year. And since my brain is getting totally consumed by NaNoWriMo at the moment, I've hardly had any reading time.

So, I decided to read this today. Mainly because it was short. Plus I think the cover's lovely and creepy.

After things don't work out with her boyfriend, Dacie returns to her childhood home in Romania. This is where she left her invisible childhood friend. Although it's been years, she secretly hopes he's still there.

As soon as she arrives, her mother starts up with the cautionary tales about unmarried women, the history of the village, and the disappearance of her grandmother. All superstitions and secrets that lead back to her...

My favourite thing about this story is the way it's written. I really enjoyed the character's voice, the author's writing style, and the setting descriptions. All of these drew me into the story.

While I liked all of the above, as well as Dacie's voice and was intrigued by her imaginary friend, I was disappointed when the answer was revealed. It just didn't work for me, and the whole Vlad Tepes thing made me lose interest. And I love vampires!

As for the ending, I'm still in two minds about it. At first, I didn't like it because it just didn't make sense to me. Then afterwards, I did like it. But... I still don't know. :/

Anyway, it was an interesting read.


Friday, 8 November 2019

NaNoWriMo: Week One

Well, the first week of NaNoWriMo is over and I'm really happy with my progress.

After taking the weekend off, I spent this week adding words to my WIP. And I have to admit that I'm having an awesome time writing this story because it's coming together pretty well. Not only are my chapter notes fuelling each day, but so is the new stuff that keeps popping up.

This kind of thing always happens. The bare bones are there on paper for me to follow but once I sit at my desk, that's when the real magic happens. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

So, here's this week's word count:
  • Monday: 11,151 (added 5125w)
  • Tuesday: 15,375 (added 4224w)
  • Wednesday: 20,440 (added 5065w)
  • Thursday: 26,189 (added 5749w)
  • Friday: 30,367 (added 4178w)

This idea is so ready to be told that everything is tumbling out pretty quickly, which is awesome.

The cool thing about this story is that I was pretty sure I knew the path I was going to take but the more I write, the more I realise there's an even better way to tell this tale.

Another thing that surprised me is the addition of several unexpected characters. They popped in while writing and have turned out to be quite important to the overall story. Not to mention how strong the sisterhood between these characters is turning out.

I'm having a great time writing this, which might be a bit strange since my main character's going through some serious heartbreak, paranoia and the confusion is really screwing up her sense of reality. But at the same time, it's all so unusual and surprisingly wonderful.

It's also full of 80s tropes. But I'm not forcing them in, they're coming quite naturally. 

Well, at the moment I still LOVE everything about this story, and I hope that continues until I reach the end.

The only problem is that because I'm SO caught up in my own story, my reading has taken a bit of a backseat.

Have a great weekend!


Wednesday, 6 November 2019

THE UNBELIEVER & THE INTRUDER by Morgan K Tanner

The Unbeliever & The Intruder (Short Sharp Shocks! Book 39)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

By now, I know that getting stuck into a Short Sharp Shocks! book means I'm going to lose myself in a single sitting of awesome, dark storytelling. Add the fact that this author knows how to write gore and torture with an edge of the familiar so well, and I was instantly hooked.

The Unbeliever introduces us to Mike. An average guy who finds himself on a family holiday to the happiest place in the world. Yet, he's not feeling it. He's hot, cranky, would rather be by the pool, and can't help but voice his frustration, which leads to some horrifying results...

This story introduced an average guy into a very familiar place, then totally twisted all the normal and got dark very quickly. Wow. I didn't expect things to go there, but I'm so glad they did because it added the perfect gory imagery to some of the most well-known and beloved characters.

Trust me, you'll never look at a certain theme park the same (ever) again. LMAO. But seriously, I had SO much fun reading it because as violent as it is, I also found it amusing.

The Intruder features Toby, the sleep-deprived father of a newborn. On the night he offers to stay up with the baby so his wife can get some sleep and he can catch up on some work, someone decides to break into the house...

OMFG. This story is insane and I loved it!

Toby starts out acting and sounding like anyone who finds an asshole invading their territory, and slowly tumbles down a very dark path. A horrific path that had me squirming. Not just because of how he decides to deal with the would-be burglar, but because when the truth starts dawning on you... Yikes! Did I say it will make you squirm? ๐Ÿ‘€

Both of these are seriously awesome, wicked and well-written stories. They're like surreal nightmares that confuse the reader as much as the characters. They're brutal little treats guaranteed to disturb anyone brave enough to reach the end. And they'll stay with you long after you've finished reading.

I have to be honest, neither of these is for the faint of heart, but they're certainly worth it. Morgan has a great writing style and his stories really get into your system.

This SSS! is definitely another fantastic addition to this horror series.


Friday, 1 November 2019

NaNoWriMo is here!

That's right.

Today is the first day of NaNoWriMo and I got stuck into it first thing this morning. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

My plan for today was to write the first chapter. I was aiming for 3k, but any word count was going to make me happy because all I wanted to do was get the story started.

And this is what happened:


I was not expecting or planning to write this many words but as soon as I sat down at my desk, the character started speaking. And wouldn't stop. 

That's what happens when you carry a story around inside your head for over a year, I suppose. ๐Ÿ˜ฌ

I'm really glad that I decided not to give up on this idea. Several months ago, after my pitch was knocked back, I considered shelving it completely. I mean, it was so out there already, and if it didn't sound marketable, what was the point? But during one of our walks, I told hubby all about it and he said it sounded interesting to him. He called it fun and suggested I write it anyway.

After our conversation, the word fun kept echoing inside my mind and I decided he was right. THAT was the reason I developed the idea in the first place. 

So, when NaNoWriMo came around, I decided this was the right time. I was really in the mood for writing something that appealed to me. And judging by my first writing session, I think I'm going to have a lot of fun with this.

One thing I wasn't expecting was the amount of emotion in the story. Or how important friendships would be for the main character. Although, considering the devastation she faces in the first chapter, I probably should've expected it.

Like I said last week, I'm writing Neon for me. It's going to be an action-packed, zany story with heart and will feature a bunch of my favourite 80s tropes and things. Not to mention the Playlist I put together.

BTW, if you want to be NaNo buddies, this is me.

So, there you have it. Today, I started a new WIP and will now take the weekend off.

Have a good one!


Thursday, 31 October 2019

HALLOWEEN FIEND by CV Hunt

Halloween Fiend
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I've had this book on my Paperwhite for months, but I put it aside on purpose so I could read it this Halloween. And I love that cover. ๐ŸŽƒ

Well, Halloween is here!

The town of Strang is mostly abandoned but still has a small population. Every October, Halloween stalks the streets nightly and to keep it happy, the townsfolk leave small animals as treats.

For Barry, this year's a little different, he's much too curious not to stare out the window. And then the carnival comes around the same time as the town's freaky tradition...

Um. I hate to say it, but this didn't work for me. The writing style was nice, but that wasn't the issue. I found the characters too dull, the slow-burn pace lacked the tension to keep my focus, and I wasn't invested.

I didn't like Barry. Or any of the other characters, to be honest. Even Halloween was meh.

It's a shame that I didn't enjoy this novella because I usually love small-town stories featuring dark and weird secrets. I thought I would at least find it fun, but I didn't. My attention kept wandering and I had to keep re-reading what I'd missed. There was no real Halloween-type atmosphere, either. Even the ending didn't excite me.

Oh well. It happens.


UMBRELLA ACADEMY: Hotel Oblivion #6 & #7 by Gerard Way & Gabriel Bรก

Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion #6
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

OMFG. This issue was action-packed, full of explosions and bad guys wanting to mess things up. And by messing up, I mean that after escaping from a secret prison, all they want to do is destroy the city.

The Umbrella Academy guys sure have their work cut out for them. Especially since their numbers are down and they're not all in the same place.

I loved that scene with Sรฉance because it featured one of my fave characters. One that has been MIA for too long.

Also, where the hell is Vanya going?

Looking forward to reading the next issue...



-------


Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion #7
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, that might have been The End for the Hotel Oblivion arc, but it sure as hell didn't feel like we're anywhere near the overall ending of the greater story.

Sure, the threat to the city thing is dealt with, as well as several other issues, but now we've been introduced to a brand new threat. Where did these people come from? Are they some of the other special special kids? Who knows?

Also, where the hell is Vanya and who are all those people?

See? I just finished reading a 7-part comic book arc and I have more questions now than when I started. I know that should frustrate me, but it doesn't. I love this weird and dangerous world too much and look forward to more adventures with the dysfunctional Hargreeves clan. ๐Ÿ˜Š

Oh, and one more thing: I still love this art style and bright colours SO much!


Wednesday, 30 October 2019

DIRTY PAWS by Dean M Drinkel

DIRTY PAWS (Short Sharp Shocks! Book 0)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

By now I know that reading a Short Sharp Shocks! story means I'm in for a horror treat. And the same goes here.

Maxime and Lรฉa are a strange couple who are in Paris on business. They're always fighting, but after another argument each went their own way to embark on a night of sex, alcohol, drugs and some really weird shit.

Still, they're bound to get back together. If the monster stalking them doesn't find them first...

Yikes. This story sure gets dark really quickly.

At first, we're thrown into this couple's hotel room as they lie next to each other, totally destroyed after their separate night's activities. Then we're thrown into the reason why they had a fight in the first place. And everything goes downhill from there. ๐Ÿ‘€

These two aren't nice, well-behaved people, they know why they're there and until it becomes crystal clear what that shocking thing is, I was disoriented and trying to work things out. The writing style is perfect for this kind of tale--surreal and confusing, leaving obvious details out on purpose.

I really enjoyed that!

If you're squeamish, you might find some of the content uncomfortable. If not, this is a nice violent, shocking and often gross, but very entertaining story.

Yep. This is another very cool SSS! story. Actually, it's the very first one, because this little tale full of criminals, murder, monsters and mayhem happens to be the one that started everything.


THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET by Brian Selznick

The Invention of Hugo Cabret
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I remember watching and really enjoying the movie Hugo several years ago. It was a fun, historical adventure with heart and wonder. It also featured A Trip to the Moon, which is a silent film I've always loved and watched hundreds of times.

During the 1930s, Hugo lives inside a train station in Paris with his uncle. Well, he did until he disappeared. Now, Hugo is left alone and keeps all the clocks in the station oiled, tuned and on time. He steals when he needs to, can't stop thinking about his father, and is convinced an automaton holds a special message from him.

He leads a secret and lonely life. Until he meets the grumpy old man who runs a toy booth, and befriends the man's goddaughter. After that, his life is changed forever...

Wow. This was such a beautiful, yet heartbreaking book. It's beautiful because the illustrations are so detailed, the photos so cool, and the story so full of wonder. It's magical and really captures the magic of movies as they were when the industry first began. As well as the marvellous world of clockwork toys and machines.

Hugo's life isn't an easy one, and all the characters have their own issues to deal with, but that sadness is so often overshadowed by the kid's attitude. His hope that as long as he remains his own secret, holds on to his father's notebook and fixes the only possession that means anything to him--the mechanical man--everything will be okay. And when he loses one of those treasures, he finds out that life sometimes has a weird way of working out.

Isabelle was such a cool character, too. She was clever, feisty, stubborn and so rebellious. Plus, she was caring and loyal, the best kind of friend for this lonely boy.

The portrayal of Georges Mรฉliรจs and his wife, Jeanne, were also great. A grumpy old man with his own secrets and hidden pain, while his wife shelters and keeps his secrets buried. They were a nice old couple.

I loved how all of these moving parts worked so well together to become an interesting and intriguing book. Not to mention a stunning piece of art.


Tuesday, 29 October 2019

LADY KILLER 2 #5 by Joรซlle Jones

Lady Killer 2 #5
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's taken me WAY too long to read this very awesome conclusion to this great comic book series by Joรซlle Jones. But, is it The End for Josie's bloody adventures? I mean, judging by that ending--๐Ÿ˜ณ--how could it be?

Anyway, I loved how the issue begins with Josie's mother teaching her the ropes about how to really survive in the cruel world run by men. That last frame (in the first section) is just fantastic, because there's just no other way for her life to go after that!

And when we return to the house with Josie and her MIL dealing with Irving, all hell breaks loose. I mean, seriously, that encounter was brutal. Although Josie made me laugh a few times. But not after what happens to her.

I felt so bad for her because the way things turn out is really sad. I know she's a cold-blooded killer when she has to be, but I liked Josie from the beginning. Oh, and that last page? OMG.

How can there be no more?

I have one final thing to say: I LOVE the artwork. It's so bright and beautiful and totally captures the era.

This turned out to be an excellent comic book series. It's a bit The Stepford Wives and a lot Dexter.


Monday, 28 October 2019

ENCAMPMENT BY THE GORGE & BLOOD MEMORY by Zachary Ashford

Encampment by the GorgeEncampment by the Gorge by Zachary Ashford
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, I just read another great addition to the Short Sharp Shocks! series. This time, there were two stories. Although they're different, they both share the same subgenre.

The Encampment By The Gorge is about a group of labourers who have a job to do, but find it impossible when the local weirdos don't want them there and are trying to stop their progress with violence...

This was such an intriguing story. One that on the surface appears so normal--humans destroying the forest with their endless development pissing people off--and soon becomes a gory revenge adventure of cosmic proportions.

The imagery in this story was so vivid in its gore-filled descriptions, I could see all the disgusting stuff playing out very clearly inside my brain. ๐Ÿ˜ณ

Normally, I shy away from violence against animals, but strangely wasn't bothered by what happend here. Everything that happens is just so creatively monstrous.

Blood Money features a journalist trying to get a feature about the mysterious Bone Mountain. After a local kid goes missing, he decides to join the search party. Instead, he finds himself caught in the middle of a shocking, mystical situation...

This one was intriguing, interesting and full of ancient wonder. It was also a very clever observation about the many problems Indigenous Australians face in our country because our government doesn't care enough to help or respect them with the funding they deserve.

The mystic angle is also cool, and I liked the crocodile angle too. Not to mention the twist in the story that totally caught me by surprise. Nice!

I really enjoyed both of these stories, but my favourite was the second one. The atmosphere, sense of location and characters were so Australian, and really resonated with me. Like Jones says, we don't see enough Australian folklore and Indigenous mythology in stories, so it was a nice change of scenery to read a story steeped in it.

This is another great addition to this horror series. I really enjoyed these two brutal tales!


SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK: The Complete Collection by Alvin Schwartz

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark: The Complete Collection
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When these books were made into a movie, I wanted to read them before watching. And when I found an edition including all three books, I ordered it right away.

So, this book contains: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Scary Stories 3.

Each book comes with freaky illustrations that totally add to the experience. There are also Notes, Sources and Bibliographies for each installment.

Some tales are short. Others are supposed to be read like a song. Several are longer. But ALL of them are a LOT of fun. There's something within these pages for everyone. A lot of these stories are downright creepy and will give you chills. While others will totally gross you out or really make you think. And there are quite a few that made me laugh.

This book really is like sitting down with a bunch of friends and telling scary stories to freak each other out. Hell, there are even instructions for setting the mood and delivering the ending just right.

I had so much fun reading this vast and cool collection of folktales, urban legends, cautionary tales. As soon as I started reading, I was hooked and couldn't wait to see what was coming next. Reading this book also made me feel like I was a kid again, ready to tell/hear a freaky story and hoping to get goose bumps or feel my skin crawl.

These scary stories are awesome! I just can't believe I didn't read these when I was a kid, because I was definitely part of the target audience. Oh well, you're never too young or old for these. ๐Ÿ˜

Looking forward to checking out the movie...


Thursday, 24 October 2019

NaNoWriMo is around the corner!

Hey! 

Since I signed up, the other day, I thought I might write a little post about National Novel Writing Month.

I've been taking part in NaNoWriMo for a while. Actually, my first one was way back in 2006. Can you believe it? ๐Ÿ˜ฏ 

Anyway, let's start with my history:
  • 2006: UF (Angie)
  • 2007: SFR (Shade of Grey)
  • 2008: SFR (Shade of Blue)
  • 2009: Horror (Sinful)
  • 2010: Futuristic (Embracing Sunlight)
  • 2011: N/A
  • 2012: UF (Torn from the Shadows)
  • 2013: SFR (Dash)
  • 2014: UF (Willow)
  • 2015: YA Historical (MixedTape)
  • 2016: YA Horror (Haunted) 
  • 2017: YA SF Thriller (Cosmic Girl) 
  • 2018: YA Horror (Madness)
As you can see, since I started taking part, I missed one year: 2011. And that's because I was working on edits at the time. Yeah, always with the pesky writing. LOL.

Another thing you'll notice is that I've written drafts in a variety of genres. This is something I lurve to do.

By the time November comes around and the year is winding down, I always enjoy squeezing in one last 50-70k first draft. I think it's a great way to end the year. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

This time, I've decided to work on a story that's been inside my head since last year. It's a whacky subversive revenge tale set in the 80s. It's inspired by the kind of crazy movies I used to love watching when I was a kid. When we borrowed hundreds of VHS tapes from the video shop.

I'm not sure if this tragic and whacky tale about monsters and paranoia will ever see the light of day, but I do know that I picked this particular project because it's going to be a lot of fun. I'm totally writing this story for me. I'm the target audience for this one because it's been playing inside my brain like a pesky movie for a while, so I'm looking forward to getting it outta my head. ๐Ÿคฏ๐Ÿ“ผ๐Ÿ“บ

I've already started naming characters, collecting inspirational pics, and taking notes. And I've still got another week to daydream about this story, jot down notes about scenes, and totally get lost in the NaNoPrep process.

Even better than that, I'm looking forward to getting started...

Well, there you have it! This is the story about my NaNoWriMo idea. What's yours?

Happy planning!

THE EXORCIST by William Peter Blatty

The Exorcist
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Exorcist is a book I've wanted to read for AGES. Of course, I watched the movie when I was very young and have seen it several times since, but reading the book is always a different experience.

We all know how the story goes: a young girl is possessed by an evil entity and two men of the cloth have to rescue her by performing an exorcism...

But, there's so much more to the story. So much.

Starting with how smart and lovely Regan is, how much she loves her mother and how abandoned she feels by her father. Not to mention how her mother tackles an acting career while raising a child. Sure, she's got help in the Swiss couple who run the household and the tutor who teaches her daughter, but she's always there for her. Because, although this story is about a lot of things, one of the main issues is how far a mother is willing to go to save her child. How determined she is to convince doctors and priests about what's really going on.

That's another thing. The words hysteria and hysterical kept coming up. It seemed like their go-to diagnosis when dealing with a child showing clear signs of possession, and the mother trying to get real answers. Typical, right? If a girl or woman is acting differently or demanding answers, she's gotta be hysterical. Even Father Karras often thinks these unhealthy thoughts.

Ah, Father Karras. In spite of his contradictions--or maybe because of them--I really liked him. I enjoyed getting insights into his personal guilt, his medical mind and his personal struggles with faith. He was fascinating, and although it takes him a while, definitely comes through. His redemption is harsh and cruel, but satisfying. In a very sad way.

I also liked Kinderman. He was one of those cops who pretends he's slow-witted, but is one clever fox.

There were a lot of very cool subplots in this story--the desecration stuff, a murder investigation, a troubled daughter--and I enjoyed all of them. I especially liked the one about Father Merrin, because that put everything that happens to Regan and those around her in such a horribly sad light. They were pawns in a bigger game, one they had no clue about.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the hell out of this book. I found it hard to put down, that's why it didn't take me long to read.

I only have one problem. I'd heard, countless of times, that this story was horrifying. But I have to tell you, I didn't find it scary at all. Sure, it was creepy and freaky and disturbing, but not scary.

This is an interesting and very intriguing book, and I'm SO glad to have finally read it!


Tuesday, 22 October 2019

CINDERS OF A BLIND MAN WHO COULD SEE by Kev Harrison

Cinders Of A Blind Man Who Could See (Short Sharp Shocks! Book 13)Cinders Of A Blind Man Who Could See by Kev Harrison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is yet another Short Sharp Shocks! story that hooked me in from the beginning and kept me there until the end.

When Owen's son barges into his house and tells him he's got his eyesight back on the eye he lost to an accident, he's suspicious. Especially when David tells him how it happened.

All of a sudden, Owen's life gets turned upside down, because the more his curiosity bites and the more questions he asks, the deeper he falls into some very strange things going on in his own village...

I really enjoyed this folk horror story. A lot.

Everything starts out so simple: a miracle that causes a character to investigate, several conversations that add to the mystery, and finally taking notice of what's right in front of him. As all of these things are going on, something dark and dreadful is slowly bubbling to the surface. Leading to a shocking ending.

There are several important characters in this tale, but my fave was (obviously) Owen. I liked how he dealt with everything with a nice cup of tea. Was amazed at how he'd become so withdrawn that even though he worked in the council, he didn't see all of this coming. I mean, who would? Most of us just want to get on with our lives without thinking about some shitty, ancient cult.

Also, the environmental aspects were interesting too. With all the clearing being done in forests, jungles and bushland, who the hell knows what ancient things are being disturbed? And that's where horror authors come in. ๐Ÿ˜

This is a great story with one of my fave horror tropes: creepy towns. But hey, there's a lot more to like about this spooky tale.

And just like all the others I've read so far--as well as my own--Adrian Baldwin nailed the cover because it totally fits the moral of the story.


Monday, 21 October 2019

I signed up!

That's right. It's that time of the year again! I signed up for NaNoWriMo 2019. Yay. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

After spending the weekend thinking about the two stories I narrowed it down to last week, and chatting to hubby about both options, I picked one.

Here's the description I posted on the website:

A horror story with a science fiction slant and some wrestling. Set in the 80s, it's about a woman dealing with monsters, paranoia and revenge.

This is an idea that came to me last year. I thought it might be a short story, but as soon as I started writing, I knew it was going to need a lot more words. 

Asides from signing up, I also set up a new folder for Neon, added all the inspirational pics, made a dodgy cover graphic and put together a playlist.

I'm really excited about this new WIP I'm going to tackle because this is going to be a lot of whacky fun. And because November 1st isn't until the end of next week, I'm going to enjoy doing more NaNoPrep. That equals daydreaming, collecting more pics, taking notes and brainstorming.

Are you taking part?

Hope you have a great week!

Friday, 18 October 2019

CROSS HER HEART by Sarah Pinborough

Cross Her Heart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love Sarah Pinborough's writing. I love her books because every time I start one, I'm instantly hooked. And this one was no different. As soon as I started, I was drawn into the lives of these women.

Lisa lives a quiet life, has a wonderful best friend, adores her teenage daughter and enjoys her job. But she has a huge secret.

Ava has just turned sixteen, loves spending time with her friends and wants her mother to get off her back. She's also keeping a few secrets.

Marilyn is organised, loves her best friend, kinda has a boyfriend and has a devoted husband. Yet, hides a very important secret.

When one of these secrets is exposed, all three are affected in the worst way possible...

Wow.

This is yet another fantastic thriller.

I love how we're thrown into the seemingly normal lives of three different women getting on with their lives, and then everything changes. All of a sudden, the normal everyday stuff is turned upside down and we're thrown into a shocking situation.

The switching POVs between Lisa, Ava and Marilyn was awesome. Not only did it give us personal insight into each character, but it kept the story moving so well.

This book is intriguing, twisted and totally amazing. I enjoyed every single moment I spent with this book and couldn't put it down. The pacing was perfect, the writing wonderful, the characters as real as they were outrageous, and the story's totally captivating.

As surprising and messed up as so much of what happens to these character turned out to be, I also found several aspects to be very sad.

I thought the ending was perfect because it served as a nice final note, plus provides a strange sense of redemption. And that's as much as I'm going to hint at about this book because you need to go in blind. The less you know about this, the more you'll enjoy it.

Man, Pinborough is one hell of a storyteller and is on my auto-buy list because her stories are addictive.


Wednesday, 16 October 2019

THE TOWN THAT FEARED DUSK by Calvin Demmer

The Town That Feared Dusk (Short Sharp Shocks! Book 17)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, that was another very cool Short Sharp Shocks! story. Also, I love the cover. I actually love the simplicity of all the SSS! covers, and how much they mean after you finish reading the story.

Sylvia is a journalist who doesn't want to end up where her mentor and colleague did. She wants to find an interesting and more meaningful story. And she finds that in the tabloid's archives. The Suicide Bridge sounds like a great place to start, but when she gets to the town and starts asking questions, she finds no one wants to answer them.

And when they do, she discovers silence might have been a better option...

I really enjoyed this! It happens to have some of my favourite things: a curious character, weird small town, and a mystery that begs to be solved. I read it in one sitting, which I think is the best way to read short stories and novelettes.

As soon as I started reading, I was hooked and followed Sylvia down what I suspected would be a very dark path.

The mystery at the core of the story had me intrigued, but even after the narrator sees some strange things, I was suspicious about what was going on beneath the surface. And that's another great thing about this story, the weird and disorienting vibes are so strong that when the ending creeps up on you, it takes you by surprise. Yet, doesn't surprise you.

It's just the right amount of spooky, and trippy.

Yeah, this is another great Demmer story and SSS! book.


Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Q&A with Hunter Shea


I have a guest on my blog today.

Hunter Shea writes awesome horror stories and has a very impressive backlist. And he's dropping in for a Q&A.

 
Hi Hunter. Congratulations on your latest release from Flame Tree Press.

Slasher movies are some of my favorites. Is SLASH a throwback to the 80s subgenre us horror fans know and love so much?

Absolutely. I’ve always wanted to write a slasher novel, but I needed to come up with the right killer. I was a teen in the 80s and feasted on everything from Friday the 13th to Maniac, The Slumber Party Massacre, and Microwave Massacre (a terrible movie, by the way). My ten best times in a movie theatre mostly involve watching Jason carve campers up while the crowd went wild. What people growing up today miss by watching horror movies at home is the shared experience. They were wild, wild nights. So, needless to say, a lot of ideas have been rattling around my brain pan for many years. Driving past the old, abandoned Nevele Resort in the Catskills, I suddenly had this concept of a killer called The Wraith. Wouldn’t it be cool to make a crumbling resort his home base? And wouldn’t it be fun to start the book through the eyes of a final girl who barely escaped The Wraith some years earlier? What would that do to not just her, but her friends and family and everyone associated with The Wraith’s victims? Once all of those questions started buzzing around, I had to sit down and write. 

When did you realise horror was the genre for you? 

Way too early. I mean, I was begging my father to wake me up when I was 6 so I could watch The Night Stalker with him. I’d been taken to drive-ins and local theaters to see every conceivable movie since I was a baby. Horror is the genre that stuck with me the most. As a teen, my walls were filled with either posters of girls in bathing suits (yes, I had the Farrah Fawcett in the red suit) or still shots of gory movies ripped from the pages of Fangoria. One wall would have a shrine to Victoria Principal next to heads being lopped off and Nazi werewolves from An American Werewolf in London blasting people away. I lived and breathed scary movies back then, and I still do now. 

I’ve noticed you have a thing for monsters and cryptids, when did your interest/fascination begin? 

Good old Leonard Nimoy and his series, In Search Of, got me hooked on Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. That show was both informative and downright creepy. I read every book I could find in the library about cryptids and monsters (there weren’t many). To me, it’s a natural progression from horror movies to potential real life monsters. It’s fun to write books about creatures people are familiar with and taking them to places maybe most people never even considered. 

It’s October, and for me that means celebrating Halloween all month. What do you do to celebrate the spooky season? 

First, I renamed the month many moons ago to Horrortober. Trademark pending. ๐Ÿ˜‰ My goal each year is to watch at least one horror flick a day. When I’m done with each, I tweet out the movie and my rating system, which is x number of 9 tana leaves (for you Mummy fans). I also pick out certain books throughout the year that I save to read in Horrortober. My family and friends always meet up at the Chiller Theater con at the end of the month. And Halloween at the house is crazy. Last year, we got almost 600 trick or treaters. It’s a huge event for the neighborhood and the perfect way to cap off the season. 

What are you working on at the moment?

Right now, I’m working on my next Flame Tree Press novel, Misfits. It’s tense and it’s dark and it has a villain that I think quite a few people will recognize. It’ll be all complete and wrapped in a bloody bow by December. Your readers can follow my progress, and insanity, over at www.huntershea.com


Thank you so much for answering all of my questions. I look forward to reading more of your awesome books.

----- 

I hope you enjoyed reading Hunter's very interesting Q&A as much as I did. 






Thanks for reading!


Sunday, 6 October 2019

ON THE NIGHT BORDER by James Chambers

Dark things stir in the night. When the world sleeps and quiet settles in, shadows assume sinister shapes, guilt and regret well up from the mind’s deepest recesses, and the lonely face their greatest fears. Darkness bares the secret truths whispered on the lips of the lost and the desperate. At night, terrors come alive. For those who journey too far into the dark, no escape remains—but there is a place from which to view these nightmares, a place…on the night border. 

The fifteen stories collected here come from the last edge of the light and deliver glimpses into the dreadful, the mysterious, and the strange. These stories offer readers unsettling and weird visions from across the border, visions out of history and from the world around us, visions of cosmic horror, personal madness, and agonizing heartbreak. 

A literary legend confronts the reality of a chaotic, uncaring universe. A young girl grows up in the shadow of a ferocious monster. A man seeks to kill his memories. Love defeats death in an odd world not unlike our own. An artist’s drawings unlock a terrifying truth of his adopted city. A mask burns. The mother of plagues offers a deadly future. 

Readers will find here all of these and many other visions of what lies on the far side of the line, including, by special arrangement, stories of Lin Carter’s Anton Zarnak and Kolchak, the Night Stalker. Walk up to the edge. Listen to the whispers on the wind. Peer across at the terrors beyond from your vantage point…on the night border!


I was really excited when I received this collection of short stories because this is the first time I've read a book by James Chambers. And now that I have, I'll definitely want to read more.

Okay, this is going to be a long review because I've got a little something to say about every single story.


A SONG LEFT BEHIND IN THE AZTAKEA HILLS: 

What starts out as the sad thoughts of an artist who feels abandoned by love and muse going to a bar to drown his sorrows, soon turns into an unexpected encounter with a mathematician that throws him over the edge of memory and so much more... 

This is one trippy story that manages to twist mathematics, music, addiction, monsters and other dimensions together, while throwing in Jack Kerouac and heartbreak into the mix. 

MARCO POLO: 

A silly game turns into a horror story when one kid accepts the creepy dare of finding a mask inside a burnt-out store that is better left untouched... 

OMG, this situation escalated fast! It starts out harmless enough with one kid daring another to go and find something creepy. And when he does, they all get stuck playing a hideous game of tag with deadly consequences. 

LOST DAUGHTERS: 

All Drew wanted to do was help three girls who looked like they were going to jump from the bridge. Instead, he gets caught up in a nightmare that might be just what he needed... 

I loved everything about this story. The creepy girls. The Good Samaritan. The way it was written. The way the uncertainty and dread builds. And especially how it ends because sometimes, everyone needs to be reminded about what's really important in life. 

SUM'BITCH AND THE ARAKADILE: 

There's something in the woods that hunts the young. Jillian's mother told her so. Always warns the children about the Arakadile. But what's really going on is even weirder than she imagined...

I enjoyed this one. It's short, but definitely not sweet. It's also a really dense story, where so much about family, secrets and lies is twisted with the monster hunting them. Very clever tale! 

MNEMONICIDE: 

When you can't handle all the memories that haunt and hurt you, you might one day decide to kill them... 

This was quite the story. It's interesting, horrible and totally mad. The fact this man goes on a killing spree to free himself of the bad stuff is bonkers. But you know, it's very well writtem in a POV I usually don't like. And it's clever in its madness too. Plus, Angie... she was really something. ๐Ÿ˜ณ 

THE MANY HANDS INSIDE THE MOUNTAIN: 

What starts out as a straightforward situation about a guy who loves his town and his girl, even though he's unfaithful, turns into a macabre Halloween celebration of bloody proportions... 

Yikes! This one really got me with it's sharp turn. A tale of deception, love, revenge and greed with an awesome horror twist. And there's plenty of candy to give everything that happens an extra bittersweet dose. Great story that proves everything has a price, and that some people aren't as clever as they think they are. 

WHAT'S IN THE BAG, DAD? 

Garde's business is struggling. The circus/carnival scene and its performers just don't pull in the crowds they used to. And now that his wife has been gone for a year, his grief threatens to overwhelm him...

I've kept this brief and don't go anywhere near the heart of this very sad story. I loved the carnival feel and the array of characters. The twist is also very, very cool. But like I said, so sad. 

THE DRIVER, UNDER A CHESHIRE MOON: 

The driver is speaking to the woman sitting in the passenger seat beside him. He's talking about violence against kids, showing his scrapbook, sharing a few bits about his life, and that's not all... 

OMG. This story! It starts out a little disorientating because this guy is talking and talking inside the claustrophobic confines of a car, but once the narrative steps back and the big picture starts to come into focus... Wow. 

What an amazing story. It's violent and totally unapologetic about it. It's disturbing but totally takes you into territory you don't expect. 

LIVING/DEAD: 

Phil and Gustav are two friends heading to a pub to do a bit of speed dating. One is there in search of love, the other is there for moral support. But they both live in a world where dead isn't always dead...

This was a lot of fun. A bit of a zombie tale with a wicked and very original twist. Yet, it's also takes a very interesting look at how society reacts to change, and how love can destroy, fulfill or complete someone.

THE CHAMBER OF LAST EARTHLY DELIGHTS: 

In a world where it's encouraged to commit suicide by entering the Government Lethal Chambers, one man's life is torn apart when his family is affected and reality blends into nightmare... 

This is one weird tale. Told as journal entries by a very unreliable narrator, I was instantly drawn into this macabre version of 1920s New York and the crap this man goes through. The imagery in this one is vivid and gross, but I enjoyed every minute of it.

ODD QUAHOGS:

Big Gene is a good guy with a few problems. But none as big as what's happened to his wife... 

Whoa. This was something! It's mysterious, weird, and all-so wonderful in a cosmic kind of way. There's a lot to love about this story, especially the easygoing style it was written in, even though there's a lot to be terrified about. You really need to be careful with what lurks beneath the water.

A WANDERING BLACKNESS:   

An interesting story about a man who feels he deserves so much more than he has, and winds up getting himself into a pretty dark corner...

With names like Blackapple and Zarnak, this was a trippy story featuring some dark mystical magic and plenty of selfish motivations.

KOLCHAK, THE NIGHT STALKER: THE LOST BOY: 

Carl Kolchak, supernatural investigator and reporter meets with a lady who is convinced her toddler is not her child. He accepts the challenge and discovers a very interesting situation bound to cause a lot of trouble... 

I love supernatural investigators. I don't mind if they're PIs, special cops, journalists, reporters, or even of the made-up variety. And the mystery at the heart of this one was one of my favourite scenarios. There were no surprises here, but I loved it just the same.

PICTURE MAN: 

Ethan wakes up in hospital and doesn't remember how he got there. Even after reading about it in newspapers and on TV, he can't remember what happened in the subway. And when the memories start trickling in, he might wish he didn't know... 

Another great story! This one is about amnesia after an attack, and how sometimes not remembering a bad incident might be a blessing in disguise. Because what Ethan discovers is pretty nasty.

RED MAMI:

When sickness hits a village, it starts taking everyone with it... 

This one was just okay for me. Maybe it was because the subject matter was too real and the supernatural aspects didn't hit the right note for me.


Well. Wow. This book is certainly packed with dark delights. There's something here for everyone, and because I love variety in my horror, this was perfect.

Not only was there variety in the subgenres, but also in the writing style. These tales are full of nice narrators, bad narrators, unreliable accounts, interesting people, horrible people, monsters and everything in between. They're also told in first, second and third-person POVs, and everything works together very well.

I enjoyed the hell out of all fifteen stories, but my most faves were: Lost Daughters, The Driver, Under a Cheshire Moon, The Chamber of Last Earthly Delights, Odd Quahogs, Kolchak, the Night Stalker: The Lost Boy. These were the ones that really stood out for me.

On the Night Border is an outstanding short story collection by a very talented author. Every tale is different, but all cover some sort of nightmarish situation. Plus they all have one thing in common: they hooked me in right away and kept me there. 

I loved this collection!

I'd like to thank Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi and Raw Dog Screaming Press for sending me a copy of this great book. I will definitely add this to my Keeper Shelf.





Friday, 4 October 2019

AN INVITATION TO DARKNESS by Hailey Piper

An Invitation to Darkness (Short Sharp Shocks!, #33)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A few months ago, I had a novelette published under the very cool Short Sharp Shocks! series by Demain Publishing. Since then, I've been slowly buying some of the other books.

I decided to start with this one because I've been looking forward to reading it since I first heard about it on Twitter.

Captain Jamie Thames has decided to leave the high seas and wants to take her wealth to a quiet place where she can settle down. This leads her to the coastal village of Lucre Shores and Leavenworth Manor. A place that manages to enchant her as much as the lovely Lady Elizabeth Leavenworth.

But Leavenworth Manor has secrets hidden in its depths, and Jamie is determined to discover them all...

I read this excellent gothic tale in one sitting because I couldn't stop. The story dragged me in instantly, and demanded I keep reading until I discovered all the creepy mysteries alongside Jamie.

And I'm glad I did because it's filled with all the elements I love so much about gothic horror.

I also loved Jamie's voice. She's such an independent woman during a time when they weren't supposed to be. But she's strong, stubborn, passionate and such a romantic. When she sets her sights on this freaky manor and envisions what it can become, nothing (or no one) is going to get in her way.

The atmosphere was also great. The sense of location vivid. And the creepy factor was pretty high. Not to mention the pacing, which heightened the suspense.

I loved this dark tale of love, ghosts and curses.


Monday, 30 September 2019

THE APOCALYPTIC MANNEQUIN by Stephanie M Wytovich

Doomsday is here and the earth is suffering with each breath she takes. Whether it’s from the nuclear meltdown, the wrath of the Four Horsemen, a war with technology, or a consequence of our relationship with the planet, humanity is left buried and hiding, our bones exposed, our hearts beating somewhere in our freshly slit throats. 

This is a collection that strips away civilization and throws readers into the lives of its survivors. The poems inside are undelivered letters, tear-soaked whispers, and unanswered prayers. They are every worry you’ve had when your electricity went out, and every pit that grew in your stomach watching the news at night. They are tragedy and trauma, but they are also grief and fear, fear of who—or what—lives inside us once everything is taken away. 

These pages hold the teeth of monsters against the faded photographs of family and friends, and here, Wytovich is both plague doctor and midwife, both judge and jury, forever searching through severed limbs and exposed wires as she straddles the line evaluating what’s moral versus what’s necessary to survive. 

What’s clear though, is that the world is burning and we don’t remember who we are. 

So tell me: who will you become when it’s over?


I was really excited when I received a paperback copy of this really nice book last week and couldn't wait to read it. I mean, look at that creepy/pretty cover, and the title.

So, as soon as I finished The Institute, I got stuck into it.

There are 90 amazing poems included in this collection. They come in all shapes and sizes, but one thing they all share is a surreal and very traumatic quality that sends your mind floating in a river of blood and ash, littered with the bones of the suffering.

I felt the pain and loss in every word. Saw the devastation with every line. And couldn't turn away. The more I read, the more I craved.

The way each poem painted a terrifying picture glowing with radioactive brightness, was only enhanced by the bleak clips that were playing inside my head. I felt like I was inside each poem, so scared of getting trapped, yet not wanting to escape because so much of the destruction was layered with beauty.

The macabre and the lovely twisted together in a way that still haunts me after reading the last word.

Usually, when I read a short story and/or poetry collection, I single out my favourites. I'm not going to do that with this book because, to me, every poem fits together in its own unique way. 

The sequence was perfect, and although I know they were individually written and self-contained, my mind totally perceived every end of days fragment as one brilliant masterpiece.

I think horror poetry is definitely something I need to read more of. Not to mention more of Stephanie M. Wytovich's work.

Apocalyptic Mannequin is as disturbing as it is elegant. It made me feel like I was lost in one of my own personal nightmares about the world dying after careless, greedy men choose to destroy the planet rather than admit they were wrong. I felt like I was a kid back in the 80s, constantly scared about the threat of nuclear war becoming our horrid reality. And just like I did then, when I read and watched as many doomsday stories as I could even though my distress was as deep as it was strong, I devoured every bit of this collection with raw terror beating inside my chest.

This truly feels like falling into a nightmare full of awful images told through beautiful words. A nightmare with a broken landscape full of death and ruin, dripping with dreamy and stunning imagery.

I'd like to thank Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi and Raw Dog Screaming Press for sending me a copy of this book. It's one I will cherish and add to my Keeper Shelf.





Saturday, 28 September 2019

End of September WIP Thoughts

Hey! How are you today?

Well, the last week of the month is here and it's time to post an update. ๐Ÿ˜€

At the beginning of this week, my head was crowded with so much story stuff--including the ending--that I knew I was close to the finish line. It was just a matter of getting there.

So, after 4k-word days on Monday & Tuesday, I did reach the end. But not The End. That happened on Thursday, after I re-read my frenzied words and added another 1k:

That's right. The first draft of my gothic horror WIP is DONE at 50,263 words.

It turned to be a creepy, nightmarish haunted house story with a twist. It's bleak and features two characters that surprised me at every turn. Also, I really enjoyed writing this little tale of spooky goodness.

From the beginning (back in April, before life got in the way) I wasn't sure how long this story would be, so I gave up guessing. That turned out to be the best thing to do, because writing the whole story is all that matters. And this one was eating my brain, demanding to be told even when I wasn't ready because of stuff.

Anyway, I'm so excited to have finished this draft.

As you might have noticed, Wednesday was a missed day, and there's a reason for that. It was our 20th Wedding Anniversary. ๐ŸŽ‰

So hubby took the day off and we spent it doing some of our favourite stuff: hanging out, thrifting and bargain hunting. It was such an AWESOME day. ๐Ÿ˜

Asides from that, I read THE INSTITUTE by Stephen King and it was amazing. It's shocking and sad and a total page-turning event. Some of the characters wormed their way into my heart, others I loathed. But this is definitely worth reading.

If you want to read more, my review is HERE.

Well, that's about it for now. I'm going to enjoy the weekend and hope you do too! ๐Ÿ˜



Friday, 27 September 2019

THE INSTITUTE by Stephen King

Deep in the woods of Maine, there is a dark state facility where kids, abducted from across the United States, are incarcerated. In the Institute they are subjected to a series of tests and procedures meant to combine their exceptional gifts - telepathy, telekinesis - for concentrated effect. 

Luke Ellis is the latest recruit. He's just a regular 12-year-old, except he's not just smart, he's super-smart. And he has another gift which the Institute wants to use... 

Far away in a small town in South Carolina, former cop Tim Jamieson has taken a job working for the local sheriff. He's basically just walking the beat. But he's about to take on the biggest case of his career. 

Back in the Institute's downtrodden playground and corridors where posters advertise 'just another day in paradise', Luke, his friend Kalisha and the other kids are in no doubt that they are prisoners, not guests. And there is no hope of escape. 

But great events can turn on small hinges and Luke is about to team up with a new, even younger recruit, Avery Dixon, whose ability to read minds is off the scale. While the Institute may want to harness their powers for covert ends, the combined intelligence of Luke and Avery is beyond anything that even those who run the experiments - even the infamous Mrs Sigsby - suspect.


I always get excited when a new Stephen King book comes out, and push it to the top of my TBR pile. Yes, I am a Constant Reader.

Tim Jamieson is just minding his own business when he makes a decision that changes the path of his life, and takes him to a small town. Luke Ellis is a highly intelligent kid who loves to learn and is on his way to college, but there's something else about him that attracts the attention of a secret facility.

The Institute is in the middle of the woods. It's where unique kids are held against their will and have the capacity of their young minds pushed to the edge. 

But they didn't count on Luke, the determination of the kids they mistreat, or how Tim fits into everything...

Wow. Just wow.

This book hooked me in from the very beginning. So deeply, I felt like the story kept creeping under my skin and the infection wouldn't stop until I reached the end.

Every time I sat down to read, I was nervous, but I couldn't stop. Didn't want to stop because I felt so bad for these poor kids, and really needed to find out if they were going to be okay. 

Stephen King has a knack for writing stories full of characters that are so wonderful you love them to pieces, and others that are so despicable you hate their guts, but all of them keep you turning the page. For very different reasons.

It's not just the characters, though. The story captivated me so much, I loved how everything unravelled. The pacing is as perfect as the multiple POVs. The way all the chapters thread around each other keeps the action moving perfectly, and kept me on the edge of my seat.  

I don't think there's any need for me to mention the outstanding writing. But I will, because every time I read a King story, I'm in awe of his storytelling skills. He's got such a wonderful way of stitching real life, pseudo-science and the supernatural together in a way that keeps the reader guessing and the suspense rising to breaking point. 

The Institute is such an amazing book, an action-packed, page-turning adventure that deals with the worst of humanity, as well as the best. Even though a lot of horrible things happen, even though the characters broke my heart, even though every new page was more nerve-wracking than the one before, I still enjoyed the hell out of this disturbing and sometimes dreadful story.

This book goes to some very dark places and has several characters with no redeeming qualities, but you do get to meet an awesome group of kids. I'll never forget Luke, Kalisha, Avery, Nick, Helen, George or Iris.

Also, make sure you read the Author's Note.

I absolutely LOVED this!


The Institute, September 2019, ISBN 9781529355406, Hodder & Stoughton

 
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