Stalking horror and dark fiction in October

Horror & Dark Fiction Theme Post

In screenwriting, horror is very formulaic. The setting isolates the characters in a situation where their lives and/or souls are in jeopardy and the characters always make poor choices which throw them directly into the path of the psycho serial killer/monster, i.e. the villain. This horror movie commercial for Geiko sums up horror movies nicely: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYae3ZAAbLc. I get a kick out of it every time I watch it. But that isn’t to say that there are no good movies. When done right, horror movies can keep you awake at night because they play on our deepest fears. And fear is a powerful emotion.

In October Writing to be Read has been stalking horror and dark fiction. In fiction, horror stories don’t have to be as formulaic as horror films, (although they can be), but they have many of the same components. There is usually a battle of good vs. evil, as horror and dark fiction stories seem a natural fit for this theme. Dark fiction stories mesh well with fantasy, thrillers, science fiction and western genres, among others. They just seem to work well together. Whatever flavor of dark fiction you choose to examine, horror is, and always has been, in high demand.

You can’t have a conversation about horror and dark fiction without hearing mention of the masters such as Edgar Allen Poe, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Peter Straub, Dean Koontz, and Anne Rice. These dark minds have created some of the most memorable horror stories, ones which stick in readers’ minds because they are so twisted, and dark, and horrific, playing on the fears we harbor within ourselves. Stephen King and Anne Rice are the masters of horror for me. Who is your favorite horror author? Let me know in the comments below.

This month we looked at two award winning and best selling authors of dark fiction on not one, but two segments of “Chatting with the Pros”, who may be right up there with the best of them: Paul Kane and Jeffrey J. Mariotte, and a double review featuring Kane’s Arcana and Mariotte’s Cold Black Hearts. In addition, I interviewed author Roberta Eaton Cheadle about her first dark fiction novel and the transition from writing children’s stories into writing horror, and I reviewed that novel, Through the Nethergate. And “Growing Bookworms” Robbie Cheadle discussed the pros and cons of allowing children to read stories with scary or sad content.

 

 

 

In addition, this month myself and three of the Writing to be Read team members: Art Rosch, Robbie Cheadle and Jeff Bowles, have stories in the WordCrafter paranormal anthology, Whispers of the Past, and Robbie and I both have stories appearing in Dan Alatorre’s horror anthology, Nightmareland.

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It’s been a great month for horror,and to top it all off, WordCrafter is co-hosting a Halloween book event on Facebook with Sonoran Dawn Studios, the All Hallow’s Eve: Little Shop of Horrors Party. With games and giveaways with cool prizes, music and scary audio stories, it should be a lot of fun. I hope you’ll click on the link and drop in and spend some or all of your Halloween with us: https://www.facebook.com/events/2389123051407696/ 

 

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“Arcana” & “Cold Black Hearts”: Two different flavors of horror

 

I recently had the pleasure of reviewing two horror novels written by this month’s author guests; Arcana, by Paul Kane and Cold Black Hearts, by Jeffrey J. Mariotte. I found it interesting that these two authors chose one or two lines that were so similar to begin these very different horror stories. Both beginnings are designed to grab the reader and reel them in, and in both stories, it worked. The hook was instantly set.

Kane begins Arcana with,

“They were all going to die.

But it was for the cause, and they were not only glad to do it – they felt compelled to do it.”

Mariotte starts Cold Black Hearts like this;

“They were dead, all of them dead, and so was she.”

Both authors bring us into the story in the middle of the action at the point of impending death. We don’t know what is happening yet, but we know the speaker in each case is about to die. How does anyone walk away from that without reading more?

Both Arcana and Cold Black Hearts are horrific stories of evil and death, but they each present horror stories of distinctive and different flavors. Although each presents the battle of good versus evil, the resulting stories are very different, yet each has the ability to captivate their audience and satisfy whatever it is inside of us that makes horror such an appealing genre to us.

Arcana, by Paul Kane takes place in an alternate universe with a future where magick is very real and has survived through the Arcana culture, despite repeated efforts to exterminate them from the planet. It’s a world where torture is still used to extract confessions from those suspected of using the the ancient arts, and Callum McGuire is an orphan who bears a hatred for the magick communities  responsible for the terrorist attack that left him alone, to be raised in an orphanage with a brutal matron. As a young M-forcer, dedicated to stopping Arcana after a recent series of terrorist attacks carried out by the group. The viciousness and brutality against Arcana is broadly directed, and as Callum watches innocent children fall prey to it, his own morality tells him that something isn’t right. When he guesses that his friend and neighbor is secretly Arcana, he is swept into the Arcana culture as he tries to protect her from being apprehended by his fellow M-forcers. This tale is cleverly crafted to let the story unfold in a series of discoveries which lead Callum to think that things are not the way he’d been lead to believe, even as more terrorist attacks take place, and his friends in Aracana try to convince him that he is the savior of their prophecy. Savior or destroyer? The power is in Callum’s hands and only he can decide.

Arcana takes readers on a hero’s journey beyond death and back in a world where anything is possible. That, my friends, can be a very scary journey. I give it five quills.

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In Cold Black Hearts, by Jeffrey J. Mariotte, evil stirs the ancient legends into reality. When Annie O’Brian is caught in a bust gone bad and the resulting explosion, she loses both her hearing and her job, but she gains an uncanny sense of empathy for the people around her. So, there’s nothing to stop her from taking a job investigating a four year old murder where the original investigation was botched, and working to free the convicted man, even though he gives her the creeps and is probably guilty of numerous crimes, if not this one. Her investigation uncovers not only the evidence needed to free Johnny Ortega from prison, but also evidence that there is something much more sinister going on in Hildalgo County than a simple cover-up, but when Annie manages to put all the pieces together and tries to stop the return of an ancient demon, it could cost her her life, or worse.

Filled with sacrifice and betrayal, Cold Black Hearts will chill you to the core of your soul. Lots of unexpected twists and turns to this story. I give it four quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.

 


“A Slip on Golden Stairs”: A western paranormal romance?

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Some might cliam that the paranormal and western genres don’t go together, but A Slip on Golden Stairs, by Joanne Sundell does an excellent job of melding past with present, offering readers a romantic ghostly tale that you won’t want to put down. This well-crafted story conjures ghosts from the Alaska gold rush days, when many risked everything, including their lives, for a chance to strike it rich, telling their story through their connection to the present.

Abby Gray doesn’t believe in ghosts, but she can find no other explanation for the the mysterious figure of a woman in the second floor window of what was once a brothel, or the handsome stranger who appears when she least expects it, or the unexplained man’s voice calling her name, that no one else seems to hear. What starts out as a summer of chasing gold mining history, turns into a ghost hunting adventure into the past that ends in love. Through her search for answers, we learn the story of Abigail Grayson, a tough young girl, determined to find her freedom and independence in the Alaskan gold fields. The connection between the two women and their beaus is revealed slowly, with each turn of the page, as the love between Abigail and Elias navigates the obstacles along the way, and Abby searches for a man who can’t possibly exist. Abby believes she might be losing her mind. After all, can one fall in love with a ghost?

Whether readers are into westerns, ghosts or romance, A Slip on Golden Stairs is sure to satisfy.  The two stories are woven together in a masterful blend of multiple genres. I give it five quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


“Chance Damnation”: A strange paranormal western fantasy

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Chance Damnation, by DeAnna Knippling is a western turned inside out. It draws you in with a strange opening scene, jumping right into the thick of the action, where multi-horned demons attack a small ranching community in Buffalo County, South Dakota, and then carries you away into the depths of the story as things get even stranger.

There is definitely something out of the ordinary going on, and young Celeste Marie seems to be at the center of it. Jerome is determined not to let the demons have her, but the adults won’t listen to him because he’s just a kid. When Celeste Marie is kidnapped by the demons and Jerome goes after her into the demon realm below, community members who died in the demon rampage return as demons and Jeromes older brothers and other family members fight against the demons, but it seems as if they might be fighting a losing battle. This paranormal western fantasy is filled with surprises.

Stranger and stranger. But, it is strange in a good way. It captured my interest and kept the pages turning. It is strange in a good way. The story is well written and well paced, as is with most of the books I’ve read by DeAnna Knippling. It is a weird western, but a good story. I give Chance Damnation four quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Interview with romance author Chris Barili (AKA B.T. Clearwater)

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing author Chris Barili, and although he’s written in other genres, and his latest release is the fantasy novel Shadow Blade, which I reviewed last month, he also writes romance under the name B.T. Clearwater. You can read my review of his paranormal romance, Smothered, here.

In January, we talked to women’s fiction author Barbara Chepaitis and western author Loretta Miles Tollefson about the fact that women authors still are encouraged to use sex neutral pen names when writing certain genres, but here we have a male author who uses one when writing romance. We’re going with talk to Chris about writing romance and why there aren’t more male romance authors today. Or are there? Let’s find out what Chris Barili has to say about it.


Kaye: You have fiction published under your own name, but when it came to Smothered, your publisher suggested you publish as B.T. Clearwater. This is the reverse of what many female authors experience when publishing in certain genres, such as western. Did you feel like there is discrimination toward male romance authors?

Chris: My publisher didn’t encourage the pseudonym, actually. That was advice from a mentor and college professor, who recommended different pen names for different genres due to perceptions in the industry that if you write one genre well, you’re limited to that genre. I also publish westerns under a different pen name, T.C. Barlow.

And while I didn’t experience discrimination toward me as a male romance writer, I did get some raised eyebrows and comments like, “You write THAT?” So I had my youngest daughter think up a pen name that used my initials, and that sounded gender neutral. She came up with B.T. Clearwater.

Kaye: Do you think it is harder for male authors to make it in the romance genre than it is for female authors? Why?

Chris: I think it’s harder because not enough men have tried, so there’s no benchmark for it, no evidence to the doubters that men can do it. Men tend to avoid it because of the stigma associated with writing “that” kind of fiction.

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge of writing romance for you?

Chris: Probably making it “juicy” enough for a modern audience. I’m an old-fashioned guy, so I like love stories, and I tend to focus on the emotional relationship rather than the sexual one. Many (not all, but many) romance readers are looking for the steamy stuff, and that just isn’t me.

Kaye: You have a family, and are involved in cycling and martial arts, yet you find time to write and attend conferences and seminars. What are your secrets for juggling writing with your home life?

Chris: Mostly, I neglect my dog. 😊 No, that’s only a little true. As with anything, finding time for writing is a matter of discipline and sacrificing things that are less important. I had to remove a video game from my computer because it was distracting me from writing. Similarly, my DVR is 90% full of programs I fully intended to watch, but can’t get to because of writing. You have to make writing THAT important. My priorities are: my family, my health, the day job, writing. Everything else comes later.

Kaye: What is your favorite genre to write in? Why?

Chris: I’m actually published in every fiction genre: fantasy, science fiction, romance, horror, western, and crime. I don’t know that I have a favorite, but I do most of my writing in the fantasy and romance genres. They’re all fun to write, and one of the things I learned during my MFA studies under Russell Davis at Western is to let the story find its genre. Don’t try to force it into one you’re comfortable writing.

Kaye: If Smothered was made into a film, who would you like to see play male and female leads?

Chris: Interestingly, when I develop a character, I often choose a model, actor, public figure, etc to roughly model their looks. In this case, I used actor James Denton as a rough look-a-like for Mike, and Annie was loosely modeled on Jeanine Garofalo. So yeah, them.

Kaye: What’s is the single most important element in a romance story?

Chris: Damage. The lead female character has to be broken somehow, and the only way she can heal herself is to be with the male lead. It’s corner, and not a great way to base a real relationship, but that’s kind of the trope of romance. She has to realize she cannot live without him.

Kaye: Where did you find the inspiration for Smothered?

Chris: Again, my MFA studies, only this time in a class with Michaela Roessner. She had us write a sex scene that gets interrupted somehow, and I had mine interrupted by the ghost of the woman’s late mother, who appears at the foot of the bed. That interested me so much that it grew into a novel, which was my MFA thesis.

Kaye: What was the most fun part of writing a romance for you?

Chris: Romance is a very formulaic genre, and the fun part, for me anyway, is finding a way to make that formula sound new. They say there are no new stories, only new ways of telling old ones, and I think that’s what I like about romance. Proving to doubters that it CAN be original and unique.

Kaye: Is there a future for B.T. Clearwater? Can readers expect to see more from this author?

Chris: Oh yeah, B.T. has a novella published in Gwyn McNamee’s Last Resort Motel series, called “Room Fifty-Eight.” That came out a few months ago, and will appear in a box set soon. And B.T.’s latest novel, Rise and Fall, needs to go off to the freelance editor soon for a work-over. I decided to take B.T. full indie, to self-publish those stories, because self-pubbed romances can do very well. Gwyn has given me some tips on how to get it right. So when Rise and Fall and the next two in that series are ready, I’ll upload them and see how they do.

Kaye: Chris Barili has a fantasy novel coming out in June, Shadow Blade, which I recently reviewed. Would you like to tell us a little bit about that one?

Chris: Shadow Blade was actually my backup thesis. Yeah, I had a backup. Outlined both, but wrote Smothered and saved Shadow Blade for after graduation due to the world-building it needed. It tells the story of Ashai Larish, an assassin for the feared Denari Lai order. The Denari Lai are a religious order that keeps their killers loyal by addicting them to the very magic that makes them so effective at killing. In Ashai’s case, he is sent to kill a king and his daughter, but falls in love with the princess, and finds himself fighting to keep her alive rather than to kill her.

Shadow Blade is being published by WordFire Press, as a “Kevin J. Anderson Presents” title, where the best-selling author highlights a new author “to watch.” It’s on a review tour now, and should come out in e-book and hard cover in May, and by the time this article airs, it will be out as part of WordFire’s “Epic Fantasy” bundle at StoryBundle.com.

I want to thank Chris for joining us and sharing today. It is interesting to learn about writing romance from a male perspective. You can learn more about Chris and all of his works on his author blog and website, his Amazon Author page, his Goodreads Author page, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. You can learn more about the works of B.T. Clearwater on Amazon, Goodreads, Simon & Schuster, and Smashwords.



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Still Time to Get Submissions in for the WordCrafter Paranormal Short Story Contest

WordCrafter Paranormal Anthology

As March goes out like a lion and the Writing to be Read theme switches from Science Fiction and Fantasy, to Romance, the submissions for the first WordCrafter paranormal fiction contest are rolling in. I can already tell you there are some really good stories. It’s going to be hard to pick a winner. The deadline is April 30th, so there is still plenty of time to get yours in. The entry fee for the contest is only $5, and the winner recieves a $25 Amazon Gift Certificate and guarunteed inclusion in the first WordCrafter Paranormal Anthology. The authors of stories submitted which are of exceptional quality may also recieve invitations to be included. You can get full submission guidelines here.

Also, looking ahead for April, we’ve got some must not miss content planned in accordance with April’s theme of romance. The guest author for “Chatting with the Pros” will be Maya Rodale, with supporting interviews with Chris Barili, who writes romance under the name B.T. Clearwater, and romance author and Christian western romance author, Patricia PacJac Carroll. My book reviews this month will also reflect different aspects of the romance genre, with an historical romance, Ripper, by Amy Cecil, and a time travel romance, The Christmas Cruise, by Tammy Tate.

I do hope you’ll join me this month as I explore the romance genre, and get those submissions in. We all have stories just waiting to be told. I can’t wait to read yours.

 

P.S. I still haven’t come up with a name for the anthology yet and I’d love to hear thuoghts from all of you. Please leave me your suggestions in the comments.


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Short Fiction Contest! Paranormal Stories Sought

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I love a good ghost story or paranormal tale, and that’s just what I’m looking for for the first Wordcrafter short fiction contest. If you write paranormal short fiction, submit your best story for a chance for it to be included in a paranormal anthology. Flash fiction is accepted as long as it is a complete story, with beginning, middle and end. In addition to publication, the winner will recieve a $25 Amazon gift card.

Guidelines:

  • Submit paranormal, speculative fiction, or horror. I want to read your story!
  • Stories should be less than 10,000 words and have a paranormal element. They don’t have to be scary, but it helps.
  • Submit stories in a word doc, double spaced with legible 12 pt font, in standard manuscript format.
  • Submit stories to kayebooth@yahoo.com with Submission: [Your Title] in the subject line. You will recieve instructions to submit your $5 entry fee with confirmation of reciept.
  • If you recieve an invitation for the anthology, you will also be asked to submit a short author bio and photo.
  • No simultaneous submissions. You should recieve a reply within 45 – 60 days.
  • Multiple submissions are accepted with appropriate entry fee for each individual story.

I’m excited about this contest and the resulting anthology, and I hope you are, too. I can’t wait to read your stories. I’m hoping to release the anthology around Halloween through WordCrafter Press, so get your submissions in by April 30th. I’m searching for a title for this anthology, so if you have a paranormal title that’s killer, leave a comment below and give me your suggestions.

 

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