I must have been born a goth. Since childhood, I’ve been fascinated by the morbid, the macabre, by death and the afterlife.
I didn’t get this from my parents; my father was an Evangelical United Brethren pastor, and my mom taught Sunday School.
(Come to think of it, when I was 12, my dad did turn me on to a story from his college freshman English Lit textbook: William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” . But that was it.)
Somehow, at an earlier age—like second grade—I’d caught the horror bug.
Formative literary influences
I’ve told elsewhere of my love for Norman Bridwell’s lighthearted 1970 easy reader, How to Care for Your Monster, and of my allegiance to Thomas Tryon’s The Other (1971) and James Herbert’s The Rats (1974).
As a teen, I read paperback copies of Frankenstein, Dracula, and the classic collection, Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural.
I picked up and nurtured my love of dark fiction on my own.
What I did get from my parents was religion.
My varied writing and religious education
During my elementary and secondary school years, the only thing I wanted to be when I grew up was a writer. I graduated with honors from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a BA in English.
I married in 1987, became Pentecostal in 1988, and pastored a house church for three years.
From this miasmic stew of lurid attraction to the eldritch, supernatural abilities, faith, and the sexual outcast, I mixed horror, religion, and gay romance into my fifth cross-genre novel.
Religion in The Covenant Sacrifice
The Covenant Sacrifice includes a number of religions, spiritual beliefs, and practices:
A toxic, homophobic form of evangelical/Pentecostal Christianity that currently has a stranglehold on conservative American politics and makes life difficult for LGBTQ folks here
Dark occult witchcraft, stereotypically drawn
Spiritualism, portrayed positively
By including characters with such backgrounds and practices in The Covenant Sacrifice, I compare and contrast their beliefs and resulting actions, including how they treat others. I leave it up to you to draw your own conclusion about who is—or isn’t—a decent human being.
I also put my Bible knowledge and background in Pentecostal Christianity to work creating a sinister antagonist, the defrocked Uriah Zalmon.
Zalmon’s personal transgressions have brought a terrible curse on the remote rural community of Annastasis Creek. To temporarily appease this curse, the self-righteous Zalmon must find a sinner to sacrifice. Who better than an “unrepentant homosexual”?
But spiritual forces oppose Zalmon’s Pharisaical plan. Agatha Abbott, dark servant of Baphomet, enacts her own strategy that’s as selfish and wicked as Zalmon’s.
The Spiritualist medium, Twylah Sharpe, a sympathetic character and Jarod’s mentor in The Covenant Sacrifice, was written from experience. Her beliefs and practices are true to form.
I know, because I’ve studied and practice psychic mediumship.
My unorthodox religious studies
In addition to my Christian experience and education, I studied Theosophy, the New Age, Spiritualism, and psychic mediumship intensively for a decade.
(Fun fact: I’ve slept in the same Lily Dale boarding-house room as Conan Doyle!)
I’m a practicing mystic, medium, and channel. I do readings and am taking on mentees. If you’re interested, check out https://ChristianMedium.org.
Bringing it all together
By examining religious hypocrisy and homophobia—and the resurrection of the dead—my hope is that, with my religious studies and practices, I’ve created a horror novel with complex characters that are authentic and deep.
If cult horror, religious horror, the supernatural, and gay romance intrigue you, give it a read and find out: The Covenant Sacrifice.
As always, honest yet kind reviews on Amazon and other sites are greatly appreciated.
“Whether readrs choose The Covenant Sacrifice for its paranormal promise or its social inspections, one thing is certain: its draw and thought-provoking scenarios are powerfully rendered attractions. They are designed to appeal to a wide audience, surprising those who expect formula products with bigger-picture thinking that goes beyond supernatural or horror realms to delve into matters of the human heart and soul.
Did you know I originally wrote a different prologue for The Covenant Sacrifice, set in 1979? During revision and editing, I replaced it with the current prologue in the book, set in 1996.first prologue to The Covenant Sacrifice
But I like the original prologue, and I’m sharing it here as a prequel to the novel, which I’m billing as LGBTQ horror, cult horror, religious horror, and gay romance. Here it is…
I hope this excerpt whets your appetite for another. I’d love your comments. Feel free to share this post on social media. And you’re invited to subscribe to my monthly email newsletter. Keep it creepy, folks!
New LGBTQ horror/gay romance novel available now for purchase
Today’s the day! I just released my latest LGBTQ horror novel, The Covenant Sacrifice, into the world like the winged beast that haunts the cover!
I’m excited about and grateful for the journey it took me on as a writer and as a human being. The Covenant Sacrifice was a long time coming. Here’s the story—and my thoughts on the book.
Developing the idea for The Covenant Sacrifice
I first got the idea about a “dead cemetery”—one whose available plots are all filled and from which the dead return to abduct the living—back in 2008. It took me five years to fully develop many disparate scraps of ideas and reach the point where I could begin plotting. (Here’s my plotting spreadsheet from 2013.)
I had a positive character arc—a hero’s journey structure—already planned, so I needed to come up with a ghost of and old wound from the past for my protagonist, Jarod Huntingdon, to overcome. I chose a traumatic experience of homophobia that broke Jarod’s relationship with his childhood best friend, Scotty. Story circumstances would wedge Jarod between a rock and a hard place in resolving this festering issue at the climax of the tale.
And, I thought, what better way to raise the stakes for Jarod if I threatened his primary desire to start a family by endangering his identity, as well as people he loves? This situation would force him to make an impossible choice: a choice between giving up what he wants most in life in order to spare a loved one from a terrible, deadly fate.
Jarod’s character arc, then, would involve repairing a romance gone wrong. Not his relationship with his girlfriend, Kelly, but with another gay man. Yet, my work on the book stalled.
I was ecstatic when Obama took office in 2009 but because the political climate had changed for the better toward LGBTQs (I ain’t complaining, I assure you), making (I thought) Jarod’s struggle with his orientation and coming out less relevant. So, I back-burnered The Covenant Sacrifice for years—until Trump came to power. Relevancy returned. I resurrected the book and began working on it diligently again.
Drafting and editing The Covenant Sacrifice
In 2019, I made a draft available for beta reading and got feedback from readers and an editor. I incorporated all this, worked on the manuscript a few more years, and sent it off for developmental editing in 2022.
That led to a lot of work that I didn’t relish doing—rewriting and adding scenes. I thought all my revisions were complete but, in reality, they were only beginning. However, all that heavy lifting made for a better book. I upped the wordcount by 10,000 words to the final 81,600 (392 pages in trade paperback).
Readying the book for publication
Next came the nitty-gritty of line editing and copy editing. After I finished making my editor’s suggested changes, I went over the manuscript again (for about the twenty-fifth time, and I’m not exaggerating the number of drafts I ultimately produced).
I finally laid out the book in Adobe InDesign, using 12.5-point type—big enough for geezers like me to read. Fans over forty will appreciate this, I hope. I think the book looks beautiful. Let me knopw what you think in a comment below.
I thought I was done with the book. I wanted to be done with the book. Apparently not. Things I’d missed in countless manuscript printouts seemed to jump out at me. I corrected the errors in both the paperback source files and ePUB versions.
I ordered another proof, and found more freaking problems! I wanted to scream and tear my hair out.
Marketing and promotion are the least favorite aspects of my novel-writing process. But they’re essential if you want to sell books as an independent author–publisher. (I do, I do!)
I submitted the novel for book tours and social media promotion, wrote press releases (here, I made the The Bradford Era), and made a virtual whore and general nuisance of myself, posting links and sending emails everywhere I could think. I’m still beating the promotional bushes and will continue into the fall.
Now, it’s release day. I can take a little breather (but not much of one because I still have much left to do) to consider how far I’ve come with the book.
Horror and gay romance share the spotlight in The Covenant Sacrifice
In early reviews, some readers shared that they didn’t care for the romance in it. (When it’s clearly marketed as #LGBTQhorror and #GayRomance, I wonder why they would read it in the first place, but…)
In short, the romance in TCS isn’t a subplot, but rather a dual plot, along with the horror spine. That’s the way it turned out. The resolution of the horror plot depended on protagonist Jarod Huntingdon making his impossible choice and accepting himself as a gay man. It definitely upped the stakes for him to resolve the issue in order to find a chance at ultimate happiness.
There isn’t much hardcore horror in the book. It’s a bit tame according to current standards. (But things could get much worse in a sequel…).
And I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t exactly push the bounds of horror with this story or take new ground for the genre. But the subject matter was sentimental and the writing style nostalgic for me. Let me explain.
Written for sentimental reasons
Considering when I first got the idea for The Covenant Sacrifice—two years after I came out as gay—the book deals with a young man from a conservative Christian background who wants to start a family of his own. But he can’t connect with his girlfriend and finally discovers why.
This situation is decidedly biographical. But I think it will speak to many who have been in (or are still in) similar circumstances. I want to encourage LGBTQ readers to come out and remain true to themselves as unique human beings, loved and accepted by God.
I wrote this story to process my life change and memorialize where I’ve come from, with marrying a woman, divorcing amicably, and coming out. Although it’s way too late for me to start a family, I always wanted children. So I put much of myself into the development of Jarod Huntingdon and his struggle.
Written with a nostalgic style
At one point, when I was proofing the printed copy of the novel, it struck me that the POV, the voice, the narration I adopted in the book was different from what I’d written before (except for maybe Death Perception), and different from how I write today. It was like I was reading someone else’s work. (If any other writers have experienced this, please start a discussion with me in a comment.)
I was going for third-person limited POV, but at times I rose to a distant height that verges on omniscience. I’m still studying omniscient POV, so I hope what I accomplished in The Covenant Sacrifice works for readers.
In no way am I trying to brag here, but over the years, more than one reviewer has remarked that my writing reminds them of Stephen King’s (see the comments in Praise for The Covenant Sacrifice).
I don’t know whether everyone who reads the book would say this about my writing (I doubt it, truthfully), but I took it as an enormous compliment, and I do feel my writing style in The Covenant Sacrifice harks back to the horror fiction published in the 1970s and 80s.
This book, then, is my love letter to King and all the writers who were published during the first explosion of horror back in those days, when I fell in love with the genre. Some won’t like my book because it doesn’t push the envelope or accomplish anything especially new or daring in the horror universe.
But I like The Covenant Sacrifice for the simple things it is—spooky, romantic, sentimental, and nostalgic. I hope you do too.
If you’re interested, get the book
Okay, I’ve blathered long enough. If you want to know more about The Covenant Sacrifice, visit the book page and click the links beneath the cover image.
If you’re interested in LGBTQ horror, creature horror, supernatural horror, cult horror, folk horror, religious horror, occult horror—with an equal helping of gay romance—check out The Covenant Sacrifice. You can read a brief excerpt here.
Thank you much. I appreciate all my readers more than you know.
Could I ask one more favor? Scroll down and share this post on social media or email. And, while you’re at it, why not subscribe to my monthly email newsletter to stay abreast of future book news? Thanks again.
Folks, I’ve been writing dark fiction for over 50 years, and no one has ever “got” my writing like Kevin. His 5-star review of The Covenant Sacrifice made me weep in gratitude. 💗 Here’s the Goodreads review in its entirety.
In Lee Allen Howard’s gripping and haunting novel, The Covenant Sacrifice, readers are taken on a chilling journey into a remote rural community where the line between the living and the dead blurs, and the true monsters may not be what they seem. With a captivating blend of supernatural horror and psychological suspense, Howard weaves a tale that left me on the edge of my seat until the very last page.
The story revolves around Jarod Huntingdon, a man desperate to start a family but held back by his own uncertainties. Seeking clarity, Jarod returns to his hometown of Annastasis Creek after the passing of his childhood best friend’s father. However, his homecoming is marred by a violent rainstorm that isolates the community from the outside world, leading to the mysterious disappearance of its residents one by one.
As Jarod gets involved in the search efforts, he stumbles upon a centuries-old curse tied to the reappearance of cicadas. The curse, inflicted upon the community after a tragic house fire claimed the lives of five young people, demands a sinner to be sacrificed to appease its malevolent forces. Unraveling the secrets and facing the horrifying truth, Jarod must confront the defrocked pastor, Uriah Zalmon, who holds the key to breaking the curse.
Howard’s writing style is lyrical and atmospheric, painting a vivid and eerie portrait of Annastasis Creek and its residents. Howard builds suspense, ratcheting up the tension with each new revelation and eerie occurrence. The vivid descriptions of the cicadas’ song and the rain-soaked valley heighten the sense of dread that immersed me in a world teetering on the edge of darkness.
Jarod Huntingdon is a relatable and empathetic protagonist, struggling with his own fears and uncertainties while facing the horrors unfolding around him. The supporting characters, including the enigmatic Uriah Zalmon and the Covenant Trustees, adds depth and complexity to the narrative, with their motivations and secrets gradually unveiled.
The Covenant Sacrifice is more than a traditional horror novel. It explores themes of family, identity, and the destructive power of secrets. Through Jarod’s journey, Howard investigates the consequences of unresolved guilt, the dangers of blind faith, and the lengths people will go to protect their loved ones. The book also touches on social issues, tackling homophobia and the manipulation of religious doctrine with nuance and sensitivity.
With its blend of supernatural elements and psychological suspense, The Covenant Sacrifice will appeal to fans of horror and thriller genres. Howard masterfully crafts a story that kept me guessing, delivering both chilling scares and profound emotional resonance. As the dead return to Annastasis Creek and the cicadas’ relentless song fills the air, readers will find themselves captivated by this atmospheric and thought-provoking tale of darkness and redemption.
Lee Allen Howard’s The Covenant Sacrifice melds cult horror with gay romance, examining conservative family values from an LGBTQ perspective.
JAMESTOWN, NY, USA, June 5, 2023 — Lee Allen Howard, MFA, announces pre-order availability for The Covenant Sacrifice (on sale date: July 14, 2023). Howard’s sixth novel from Three First Names examines religious homophobia, spotlighting one LGBTQ individual’s struggle to accept their orientation because of family and society’s religious persecution.
In The Covenant Sacrifice, Howard weaves a story both horrifying and heartwarming about 34-year-old Jarod Huntingdon, who wants more than anything to start a family. He returns to the remote rural community of Annastasis Creek for a season of soul-searching and finds he still harbors feelings for his childhood best friend, Scotty.
But overnight, a violent rainstorm traps everyone in the valley, blocking roads and severing communication with the outside world. And one by one, local residents go missing. During the search, Jarod learns of a mysterious curse, one that defrocked Pentecostal pastor Uriah Zalmon plans to appease by finding a sinner to sacrifice…
In order to break the curse for good and defend the innocent, Jarod must first confront his past and accept himself as a gay man before he can challenge the homophobic Covenant Trustees—and vanquish the evil the screaming cicadas have awoken.
Readers thrilled with the horror of toxic religion in Stephen King’s Carrie will enjoy The Covenant Sacrifice.
Howard, who earned a master’s degree in biblical studies, says, “I hope The Covenant Sacrifice encourages LGBTQ folks who’ve endured hardship and persecution from family, friends, and community to come out and be true to themselves.”
To learn more about Lee Allen Howard, his new novel The Covenant Sacrifice, and his previous works of dark fiction, visit his official website. For updates, follow Howard’s social media and subscribe to his monthly email newsletter here.
Then sign up to receive a free electronic copy in exchange for writing an honest review that you’ll post on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, and social media:
ARC SIGNUP CLOSED ON JUNE 10, 2023
The novel is now available for pre-order on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Slated for release on July 14, pre-order a copy now, and it will be delivered to your e-reader on the official publication date.
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At last! The cover art for my forthcoming horror/gay romance, The Covenant Sacrifice, is complete. Here’s the cover reveal (keep scrolling).
Designed by artist Francois Vaillancourt, the cover uncannily reflects the dark atmosphere and mood of my novel, due out in ebook and trade paperback this summer.
Here’s the back cover copy…
When the dead return to abduct the living, the living turn into monsters…
Jarod Huntingdon wants more than anything to start a family, yet he’s unable to commit to his girlfriend and isn’t sure why. When the father of his childhood best friend, Scotty, passes away, Jarod takes the opportunity to return home to the remote rural community of Annastasis Creek for a season of soul-searching.
But overnight, a violent rainstorm traps everyone in the valley, blocking roads and severing communication with the outside world. And one by one, the residents of Annastasis Creek go missing.
While helping with the search efforts, Jarod learns of a curse as old as he is, one tied to the reappearance of the cicadas, first placed on the community after five young people perished in a house fire decades before. To temporarily appease the curse, defrocked Pentecostal pastor Uriah Zalmon must find a sinner to sacrifice.
The dead are returning to Annastasis Creek…
Can Jarod break the curse for good, save the innocent from the homophobic Covenant Trustees, and vanquish what the screaming cicadas have awoken?