I was a teenage horror writer

I was a teenage horror writerI was a weird kid. One day I skulked around my neighborhood, howling and snarling, and when the other kids came to investigate, I would run and hide, only to pop out again somewhere else along the block, ranting and raving. Finally I drew a crowd, and all my friends chased me up and down the street, trying to see just what the hell was wrong with me. I think I wanted them to believe I’d turned into a werewolf, or Mr. Hyde, or maybe just a crazed maniac. It was all great fun, until they caught me. They were pissed, and demanded an answer. I had none. So I was shunned and ridiculed for a time after that. Until everyone’s attention was drawn by other sport. Maybe it was the kid with bowed legs, or that the swimming pool had opened in Garvin Park.

I made up stories all the time. I was a notorious liar. I told other kids outlandish tales constantly, the weirder the better. And if I could make them believe them, it gave me a warm sense of accomplishment. Sometimes it worked. Other times, I nearly got beat up for it.

I tried it on my parents from time to time as well. Of course, they never bought any of it. I remember sitting on the basement steps one evening, telling my stepmom about my harrowing experience of being kidnapped by a couple of faceless, sinister men in a big black car. I think the story sort of unraveled at the end, when the kidnappers lost interest in me and decided to let me go. I even cried while telling it, for effect. My stepmom feigned amazement, nodding and commenting in all the right places while she did the laundry. I did that kind of stuff all the time, then finally my dad would get fed up and tell me to knock it off.

My little brother, David, was easiest to fool. Once, I convinced him that I fashioned a time machine out of some sort of remote control device. Another time, I had him so scared that I could turn myself into a Jekyll-and-Hyde creature with a concoction I created from my chemistry set, that he threatened to shoot me with our dad’s .22 Ruger until I convinced him that I’d made the whole thing up.

Finally I quit telling lies out loud and started writing them down on paper. While my brothers played outside in the summer, dirt-smeared and naked as savages to the waist, I stayed mostly in my room, writing feverishly, stories about people traveling to and from other worlds, vampires, or that proverbial monster hiding under the bed. Like I said, I was a weird kid. It was just that I was always more comfortable in those fantasy worlds than I was in the real one.

Hell, I still am.

Review of A Life Removed by Jason Parent

Review of A Life Removed by Jason ParentI went into this book with no real expectations. I hadn’t read any of Jason Parent’s work before and, though I believe he’s a multi-genre author (a smart move these days), I assumed A Life Removed was a horror novel. Don’t ask me why.

Imagine my surprise—and a pleasant one, at that—when it turned out to be a thriller/mystery. It’s been quite a while since I read anything in the genre, and it was a nice change from what I usually read.

The story revolves around three characters: Officer Aaron Pimental, a depressed, lost individual, Detective Bruce Marklin, a cynical hard-nosed cop, and his partner, Detective Jocelyn Beaudette, who seems to have a more hopeful outlook than the other two characters.

The three become embroiled in a case involving a series of brutal murders in which the victims are seemingly unrelated, other than the way they are killed, which appears to involve some kind of grotesque ritual.

The story unfolds slowly, with the author employing a series of twists and turns that keep the reader guessing every step of the way. You don’t know who to trust, and this creates an atmosphere of on-edge-of-your-seat suspense. One caveat: if you’re squeamish, this novel may make you uneasy; it’s got its share of violence and dark description. I go there in my own writing all the time, and it’s often in the books I normally seek out to read, so I wasn’t at all bothered, but you may be, so be warned.

Jason sent me a free copy of A Life Removed in exchange for a fair review, and I’m glad he did. As I said before, it was a nice change of pace from my usual diet of horror (though still decidedly horrific), and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I think you will too.

In his head, Jason Parent lives in many places, but in the real world, he calls New England his home. The region offers an abundance of settings for his writing and many wonderful places in which to write them. He currently resides in Southeastern Massachusetts with his cuddly corgi named Calypso. You can learn more about Jason, his upcoming works and his appearances at authorjasonparent.com, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

A Review of The Fisherman by John Langan

A Review of The Fisherman by John LanganIt’s pretty tough when the last book you read was so good that you find it difficult to pick the next thing you want to read, because everything else seems to pale in comparison. Such was the case after I finished reading John Langan‘s epic horror novel, The Fisherman. In short, it’s a bit of a masterpiece.

It took Langan roughly twelve years to finish the book, which is astonishing by today’s put-a-book-out-every-three-months general standard for authors struggling to remain in vogue with the short-attention-span-social media-get-the-next-thing-now-on-Amazon generation.

But the time he spent on the novel shows, in its detail and its beauty, not to mention the fact that it’s simply a damn good story.

It’s about Abe and Dan, two widowers who take up the pastime of fishing to distract them from their recent loss. They eventually come across rumors of a place in upstate New York, near Woodstock, called Dutchman’s Creek. When they stop in at a diner on their way there, the diner’s cook tries to dissuade them from their venture with stories of the creek’s dangerously steep banks and strong current, and of the people who have gone there, never to be seen again.

Then the cook shares with them a tale of the history of the creek, and of the town that used to exist nearby, and of the mysterious Fisherman, and Dutchman’s Creek soon takes on a much more sinister aspect.

What Abe and Dan discover on their fishing trip seems at first to be a dream come true, with all the temptation of a shiny new lure, but they learn to their horror that the beautiful bait hides a sharp, rusty hook—and that the dream come true is in reality a hideous nightmare.

John Langan took home a Stoker Award for this achievement, and deservedly so. I just hope I don’t have to wait over a decade for his next effort.

 

A review of We Are Always Watching by Hunter Shea

A review of We Are Always Watching by Hunter SheaHunter Shea graciously sent me his recent novel We Are Always Watching. I was honored, and even more so after I read it.

The story concerns the Ridleys, a family having fallen on hard times after the father, Matt, was severely injured when his car was slammed into by a drunk driver. Not only can Matt no longer work a job (he has constant vertigo and nausea), but he’s become all but useless to his wife, Debi, and his teenage son, West. Their situation forces them to abandon their life in New York City and move into Matt’s childhood home with his father.

The place is a ramshackle farmhouse in the middle of rural Pennsylvania, and Matt’s father, Abraham (a great character, by the way), is a mean, cantankerous old man who makes them all feel unwelcome and uneasy from the minute they move in. For one thing, he tells West that the house is haunted, and the old man’s claims are reinforced by strange sounds throughout the house and cryptic messages left by the mysterious Guardians.

In the midst of his misery and loneliness, West sets out to explore the surrounding countryside and happens upon one of his few neighbors, a pretty young girl named Faith. He falls immediately in love with her, and feels he has an ally and a companion.

One mystery leads to the next as you become entangled in this dark and creepy tale, intent on discovering who the Guardians are and why they continuously torment the Ridley family.

One important thing about this story—nothing is as it seems. Hunter Shea is a master of misdirection, which is vital when it comes to a mystery. We Are Always Watching will keep you guessing and on the edge of your seat right up to its explosive conclusion.

I highly recommend this book, and I’ll definitely be reading more of Shea’s work.

The Boil: flash fiction by Theresa Jacobs

Continuing the guest blog series, here’s a short piece by author Theresa Jacobs. I bumped into Theresa back when I roamed the musty halls of Google Plus, and we became fast friends. I want to thank her for all her support and for contributing her work here. She’s a very nice person and, despite what you’re about to read, I assure you, quite sane. Enjoy.

 

The Boil: flash fiction by Theresa Jacobs“Honey?”

Terri hit the mute button. “Did you call me?”

Dean pushed the bathroom door open so his voice would carry farther. “Yeah, can you come here?”

Oh God, what’s wrong with the plumbing? She thought in response to the stressed tone of her husband’s voice. Terri set aside the remote, leaving the TV on silent, and headed to see what else was going to cost them money. As she entered the bathroom Dean’s head was cocked down to the left, almost resting on his shoulder, his face all contorted as he stared into the mirror. “Uh, what’s up?” Terri moved in behind him.

Dean spun towards her quickly, bent at the knees to get closer to Terri’s five-foot height and pulled his earlobe forward. “What the hell is this?”

Terri wrinkled her nose at the shiny puss filled sack growing behind Dean’s ear. “I don’t know. A boil? Does it hurt?”

“Of course, it hurts. Look at it, it’s huge.” He poked at it and winced.

“Well quit touching it,” she berated him. “Here,” Terri ran the water hot, “put a warm cloth on it. That’ll draw the puss out and help it shrink.” She couldn’t help but tease. “Maybe you’re growing a second head.”

“That’s why I called you,” he grimaced as he pressed the hot rag against his skin, “you’re the smart one.”

“Suck up.” She smiled at his backhanded compliment, knowing he just wanted her to baby him. “Come on, let’s go pop in a movie, it’ll take your mind off it.”

***

Terri propped herself up in the corner of the couch with an old towel across her lap and a bowl of hot water on the end table. Dean stretched out snuggling up so she could keep the warm compress on his ear for him. “This is nice.” He said as he wrapped his arms around the pillow.

“U-huh, for you maybe.” She frowned. “This boil is gross. It must be coming to a head soon ‘cause I swear it has a pulse.”

“That’s what the towel is for, shhh, good part…” Dean focused on the show.

Terri shifted to get a kink out of her leg and tried not to feel the movement under her fingers. As the cloth cooled, she gently drew it away from his skin. The boil had now risen to the size of a grape. The skin pulled so taut that it was nearly translucent and she could see the dark yellow puss rolling inside. Terri’s stomach clenched, and she quickly dipped the cloth into the water. The faster she could cover the sight the better.

“Ewww.” She shuddered in disgust. It looked as though some mucus was beginning to leak out the bottom of it. She was about to tell Dean to go to the bathroom when he started snoring. She leaned her head back. “I wish I could fall asleep so fast,” she muttered, figuring she should just cozy in and let the towel do its job.

As she watched the movie, Dean’s deep breathing became a soothing backdrop, and it wasn’t long before her eyes were closing.

Something tickled at Terri’s face. She brushed the errant hair off her cheek and mumbled. Her eyes felt heavy and her neck was hurting, but she was too dozy to move. The tickling came again farther down her neck. “Mmm, don’t, I’m tired.” She brushed her hand at her face, now thinking Dean was getting frisky.

Her heart jolted in her chest as her fingers touched a smooth hot surface. Terri’s eyes flew open, something felt wrong.

As she looked down, she let loose a blood-curdling scream.

Dean was still in her lap, but her husband was gone. His face was covered in a thin red pulsating film, with engorged yellow tentacles streaming out the sides. Her scream sent them into a frenzied cadence.

Terri aimed to push Dean away, and the tendrils shot straight up in unison, grabbed her around the head and sucked her into Dean. The membrane opened quickly, locking her inside the Dean cocoon.

The alien toxin paralyzed her instantly, and she could only stare into Dean’s milky eyes until the tendrils finally made their way to her brain.

 

Theresa Jacobs’ Author Page