I’ve been a lover of horror since, let’s see… Well, I don’t ever remember not being a lover of horror.
One of my earliest memories is of my family watching the original Salem’s Lot miniseries when it first aired in 1979. I was five. In the intervening years (no, I won’t tell you how many, and how rude of you to ask!), I’ve delved into every conceivable type of horror there is, and I love it all.
But when it comes to subgenres within the wider genre, I must admit I have a favorite.
Tales of spooks, apparitions, and hauntings really hit my sweet spot. I enjoy other subgenres—vampires and serial killers and werewolves and, yes, even zombies—but ghosts thrill me most.
I’ve written many ghost stories. Hell, I published a haunted house novel, 324 Abercorn, last year, and my latest release, 2B, is about a haunted apartment. I can’t get enough of exploring this subject.
Why, you ask? Good question.
It boils down to my penchant for atmospheric horror over the more graphic. Don’t get me wrong, blood and guts don’t bother me, but when it comes to what really scares me, I favor more subtle things and the ambiguous. Uncertainty and the unknown haunt me, pardon the pun, longer than something more concrete and in my face.
Ghost stories aren’t the only types that employ the atmospheric approach, but they do it most effectively. At least for me.
Ghost stories often start out subtly, with things slightly off kilter, the characters questioning if it’s all in their minds. This early part, when things are uncertain, is what I find the most suspenseful and unnerving, because we’ve all been there. Did I move my wallet from the table to the counter and simply don’t remember? Did the glass fall because it was sitting too close to the table’s edge? Is that noise like footsteps only the house settling? (After years of watching haunted house movies, “the house settling” has become to me a euphemism for “This house is haunted as shit, and we should get out before blood starts pouring out of the walls!”)
In my favorite ghost stories, such as The Dwelling by Susie Malonie and Stephen King’s The Shining, suspense gradually builds and tension tightens as events escalate. Even then there can be ambiguity. Some ghost stories intentionally leave you unsure if the haunting was real, suggesting the main character had a breakdown and was imagining it all. This in itself can be horrifying. I’d rather have an undead spirit in my house than realize I’m losing my mind and my grip on reality.
One terrifying implication of ghost stories is that we can never truly escape toxic or dangerous people. If death cannot stop some folks from tormenting us, then what hope is there?
The flipside is that those we love and cherish may never really leave us and, in this respect, some ghost stories can end on an uplifting note. This doesn’t make them any less horror, as I don’t believe all horror stories must end with the death of hope.
These thoughts are why ghost stories are my favorite horror subgenre and why I keep going back to it.
To see what I mean, check out my new novel, 2B, available in ebook and paperback on Amazon. “When your ex wants you dead, they will take you to the grave with them!”
Mark’s blog is at https://markgunnells.livejournal.com/. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter @MarkAGunnells, and Instagram.
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Dark Psychological Thriller Available Now in Trade Paperback and Ebook
“Lee Allen Howard’s The Bedwetter is an inventive psychological horror novel with a voice that’s as stylish as it is dark.” —Dustin LaValley, author of The Deceived
Armed with electric hair trimmers and a military fighting knife,
Russell accepts his dark commission.
His urination led to ruination.
Russell Pisarek is twenty-six years old and still wets the bed. He grew up different from other young men because his vicious mother punished him for wetting by shaving his head. When he confided this to his girlfriend Tina, she betrayed him by advertising his problem to all their high school classmates. He took out his frustration by skinning neighborhood cats.
Now Russell fantasizes about finding just the right woman—so he can shave her bald. He struggles to overcome his dark tendencies, but when his sister discovers he’s wetting again, she kicks him out of her house.
During this time of stress, the mythical Piss Fairy appears in his dreams, and Russell is driven to satisfy his twisted desires with his innocent coworker Uma, who also needs a new roommate.
When his plans go awry, the Piss Fairy commissions him for a much darker task that graduates him from shaving to scalping—and worse.
“Highly disturbing and electric.” —US Review of Books
“A brutal, dark, compulsive read… stark, powerful, and satisfying.” —Online Book Club
Read trigger warning below.
THE BEDWETTER is available now in trade paperback and ebook formats.
“Grotesque, bizarre, and uniquely written, The Bedwetter will shake you and scare the piss out of you.” —Stephanie M. Wytovich, Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of Hysteria: A Collection of Madness
This novel depicts intense violence, hardcore horror, and disturbing psychological terror in the vein of such works as Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door, Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God, Joyce Carol Oates’ Zombie, J. N. Williamson’s The Book of Webster’s, and Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me.
Although THE BEDWETTER is a fascinating in-depth character study into the mind and actions of a misogynistic and homophobic psychopath, the story events are vicious and brutal, the language coarse, and the approach to their reporting is cold and unflinching.
This book is not for the faint of heart or those easily offended by language, sex, or violence. Read at your own risk.
Read the first scene…
My mother’s lying on the basement floor of our house, where we lived when Becky and me were in school, fugly and naked on the red linoleum, with the electric hair clippers jammed up her cooz. They’re plugged in and running, eating her alive on the inside. She’s diddling herself with her big manly hands, yowling like a cat, and I can’t tell if it’s from pleasure or pain. Till I step up and piss on her. Then it’s all pain.
My arc of hot whizz hits her right in the face and splashes over her buzzed head & the pile of gray hair like dirty laundry on the tile. She gasps and spits and curses me like she always does.
I say, “Shame on you, now. Shame on you! SHAME ON YOU, YOU FUCKIN EVIL BITCH!”
I spray a golden fountain down her body, over her flat tits, the bunched hysterectomy scar, and onto the mound of matted gray fur between her ricotta thighs.
When my piss hits the trimmers, she’s electrocuted and bucks like a rhino getting shock therapy. Sparks fly. She spews blue lightning out her hole, and then she bursts into flames, screaming like a demon. The flame dances up my piss stream like it’s lighter fluid, an unquenchable fire climbing the stairway to heaven.
But in the dream I never get electrocuted, I never get burned. At least I ain’t yet.
I always wake up. And I always wet the bed.
Please share this post in email, on Facebook, Twitter (@LeeAllenHoward) or Instagram (@LeeAllenHoward1).
Cover art by Jeffrey Kosh.
Trade paperback, 246 pages.
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Writer and editor Dean M. Drinkel recently opened a horror press called Demain Publishing. On March 1 they launched the Short Sharp Shocks! Series with the first six ebooks on Amazon. Six more will be published by the end of March with another twelve coming in April. Drinkel’s been busy!
The first six books out now are:
Amazon is doing a deal on Books 1–5 at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07NZXH9B3/.
Books 6–11 will be released March 29 and are available for pre-sales on Amazon:
All covers are by Adrian Baldwin.
You can learn more about Demain, submission calls, interviews with all the authors, and up-to-date news at https://demainpublishingblog.weebly.com/.
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Satori is caught between two worlds. There is something he needs in one, but the other keeps drawing him back. However, he is in love and he isn’t going to let a little thing like death get in his way. To reach his goal, he must face unimaginable horrors, not least of which is his true self.
Star’s tortured and broken body awaits Satori, but does she really need him to save her? His rival, a rage-filled young woman, grows more powerful and becomes as twisted as the ribbons in her hair while the demon, Lilith, draws each of them inexorably towards her. Who will survive the coming battle?
Full of sex and magic, PSYCHONAUT is an exploration into the human psyche and the second book in Voiez’s STARBLOOD trilogy.
Carmilla Voiez is more of a singer than a writer. She tells her compelling story in a hypnotic, distinctive voice that brings her eerie world vividly to life.
PSYCHONAUT is a book of mad impulses, inner vision, sadism, escape and belief. You feel uncomfortable reading it, like Alex strapped to the chair in Clockwork Orange being taught to feel sick at atrocity. Rather than leave us crippled by response, though, Psychonaut bears you through the hurt towards the only paradise we can be assured of…a love past fault.
—Jef Withonef, Houston Press
PSYCHONAUT is the second book in Carmilla Voiez’s STARBLOOD series. It’s a relaunch of the novel by American indie Vamptasy Publishing. The series contains four books and follows the lives of a group of friends: Star, Satori, Freya, Donna, Raven, and Ivan, young Goths living in Bristol, England.
In the first book, STARBLOOD, Star breaks up with her lover, Satori, but he is unwilling to let her go. Satori is an adept chaos magician and decides to cast a spell to keep Star by his side, but because of competing forces Lilith, mother of demons, uses this moment to come to Earth and enter their lives. The result is a tangled web of murder, madness and betrayal.
You can find the first book at Amazon and other retailers: http://smarturl.it/Starblood.
PSYCHONAUT takes us beyond the urban lives of these ill-fated Goths and into other worlds full of demons, gods, magic, and monsters.
PSYCHONAUT is available now at http://smarturl.it/PsychonautVoiez.
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YA Supernatural Novella Available for Kindle and in Paperback
Is this house haunted?
There’s a creepy old house in the neighborhood. Even in 1977, everyone still says it’s haunted. Fifteen-year-old Rendo Flex doesn’t believe it—until he sees the face in the window.
Already struggling with the stigma of an institutionalized mother, Ren is tormented by his older sister, Calista, who is following their mother’s path toward mental and emotional instability. Why must he suffer for his family’s dysfunction? When Mom wants to leave the psychiatric halfway house for her first family visit in eight years, Ren decides to run away. That’s when he glimpses the ghostly face in the tower window.
Ren spends the night in the abandoned house to determine whether it’s haunted by the departed former resident known as “Crazy Betty.” Ren gains perspective on his problems by helping Jack, a fourteen-year-old runaway he finds camping out there.
Meanwhile, heartthrob Kayne Barber targets the fragile Calista as his first romantic conquest only to find she’s more than he can handle. After learning that Ren and Calista are related to the Adamsons, the scandalous family who once owned the Victorian house, Kayne uses his knowledge to pry the clinging Calista off his back—by painting her as the last in a long line of lunatics.
Torn between his personal happiness and protecting Calista, can Ren come to terms with a sister who’s mentally ill and take a stand to defend her?
Get THE ADAMSON FAMILY now!
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I’ve been hard at work collecting all my short fiction into one book, due out soon from Three First Names.
Vampires, beasties, zombies, ghouls… and the murderous kid next door. Twenty-four stories of human and supernatural horror and crime will chill you to the bone. Can you escape the perpetual nightmares?
“Lee Allen Howard stitches together a story where the suspense never lets up.”
Click on the cover to read the introduction:
Stay tuned for publication details!
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Jake Patrin has seen his share of trouble.
When he turned thirty-five, he had the year from Hell with a capital H. His wife divorced him and he lost a good job driving truck in King City, California. Worse, a collision with a Mack truck one night landed him in the hospital for three months and left him in constant pain, controlled by serious doses of Oxycontin, which became his master. It took him a year to kick the narcotic but he now faces a daily struggle to leave the addiction behind.
That’s why he’s working as caretaker at Sherman Ranch, near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Living in the middle of nowhere, he hopes to stay clean and sober. Weekly trips to Santa Fe, or a desperate phone call, hook him up with a middle-aged men’s Alcoholics Anonymous group that help keep him sane. His sponsor is an old Native American, John White Horse, who’s fought his own good fight for forty years. John takes no bullshit. He’s a good friend and support.
Groups come and go, renting the place for their special purposes. Some have really strange demands—take out all the TVs, or hide the movie collections. Some bring truckloads of horses. Some simply find their way to the hot tub and never leave.
Jake is prepared for the group of fancy-schmancy lawyers renting the ranch for a week in March, despite the boxes of alcohol they bring in. He thinks he can ignore this. He hopes he can.
He’d better. The one thing he can control is his own sobriety. But as he soon discovers, everything else this week is totally out of his hands.
|Teo Haroun and the other lawyers in his firm look forward to the retreat at the Sherman Ranch in northern New Mexico. The boss has laid down some rules—no phones, no computers, no communication with the outside world—that make them uneasy. But the corporate team-building exercises are necessary for this firm to survive its inner sniping and turmoil—and to protect the secrets they hold.
Inez Suela and thirty other Mexicans have paid a coyote hundreds of pesos to take them across the border into the United States, where they hope to make a better life. The crowded truck heads north into New Mexico to meet their local driver, the occupants unaware that a freak March snowstorm is waiting in its path.
Jake Patrin, the caretaker of the Ranch, fights demons of his own as he struggles daily with addiction. Working far from the city on the lonely Ranch, hosting those who rent the facility, is his protection and solace. But he’s about to lose the only peace he’s been able to grasp.
Davi Pilar needs to make some fast money to appease a couple of St. Louis loan sharks, so he agrees to pick up a truckload of illegals and take them to St. Louis. He drives to New Mexico, not knowing that Inez, the woman who rejected him years before, is one of those on that truck.
The intersection of these people, the collision of their cultures, the revelation of their secrets—all these things lead to violence, death, and even redemption in their New Mexico ENCOUNTER.
For more information, go to alanalorens.com. You can find ENCOUNTER in ebook and print formats at Amazon.com and Three Fates Press.
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This article first appeared on Anne J. Fotheringham’s site, Book Editor Plus.
Although fiction is a product of the imagination, if it’s set in the real world at least partially, there will be some real-life things you must get right. This means being accurate with your facts. In a contemporary story, if you’ve got a seasoned outdoorsman who drinks water directly from a still pool in a stream, you haven’t done your research.
Water can be contaminated with a variety of things risky to health and isn’t safe to drink without some kind of treatment, including filtration, chemical disinfection, or boiling. Boiling is best. If this isn’t possible in your story, you’ll get points for realism and accuracy if your character knows the dangers and does his best to mitigate them. If you don’t know your outdoor lore, readers who do will detect your gaffe and call you on it. (They may also quit reading or complain in a review.)
So it pays to know your facts when you write. And that’s where research comes in.
For instance, in DEATH PERCEPTION, my latest supernatural crime thriller, protagonist Kennet Singleton runs the crematory at a local funeral home. When I first got the idea about a young man who can discern the cause of death of those he cremates by toasting marshmallows over their ashes, I knew nothing about funeral homes or cremation.
One of the first things I did was conduct a general Internet search to acquaint myself with the processes of cremation and embalming. Then I went to visit a funeral home with a crematorium. A friend arranged for me to meet the funeral director, and I spent an hour there one afternoon learning about their process.
Being a technical writer, I took copious notes and made sketches. I even tape-recorded the session so I could go back to it if I later couldn’t make sense of my notes. Back home I typed up the document, making computer diagrams from my sketches, and ended up with a 15-page document that I later referred to when I wrote scenes in which cremation took place.
I also read a lot of books on the subject of death, funerary tradition and processes, and cremation. I still have a carton containing these titles:
- Purified by Fire: A History of Cremation in America by Stephen Prothero
- Cremation in America by Fred Rosen
- Corpses, Coffins, and Crypts: A History of Burial by Penny Colman
- Round-Trip to Deadsville: A Year in the Funeral Underground by Tim Matson
- What Happens When You Die: From Your Last Breath to the First Spadeful by Robert T. Hatch
- I Died Laughing: Funeral Education with a Light Touch by Lisa Carlson
- One Foot in the Grave: The Strange But True Adventures of a Cemetery Sexton by Chad Daybell
- Cemetery Stories: Haunted Graveyards, Embalming Secrets, and the Life of a Corpse After Death by Katherine Ramsland
- Death to Dust: What Happens to Dead Bodies? by Kenneth V. Iserson, MD
Some of these books were more useful than others, but I gleaned something from all of them. I used this knowledge to build a foundational structure based on facts about death, embalming, cremation, funeral homes, and cemeteries.
I likewise did research on personal care homes. And more on marijuana growing, poisons, prescription drugs, sexual fetishes, crime, guns, and police procedure. (Yes, all of these are in DEATH PERCEPTION.)
Did I get it all right? I suppose if an expert in any of these areas reads my book, she might find a flaw. But I performed due diligence and did my best to accurately ground my fiction in fact. Even much of the Spiritualism and Kennet’s psychic abilities are based on research and experience.
All this said, must you know everything about everything? No. You can’t. Other funeral directors may do things differently in their places of business, and that’s okay. But my facts are accurate according to how one funeral director operates his crematorium.
Although you can’t know everything, it pays to do your research in as many areas as possible. Then have knowledgeable beta readers check your work for accuracy. Sound research lends authority and realism to your writing, and these are what loyal readers enjoy.
DEATH PERCEPTION is available in trade paperback, Kindle (.mobi) and Nook (.epub) at https://leeallenhoward.com/death-perception/.
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This article first appeared on Sally Bosco’s site.
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This article was first posted at Mary DeSantis’ Out of the Lockbox.
As readers, we’ve come to expect the fully developed protagonist. After all, if the main character is a pasteboard creature, who wants to read the story? So writers spend a lot of time developing their protagonists, and, perhaps, their “helper” characters.
But one thing I’ve learned to do is to give my antagonist equal treatment. Early in my writing career, I created antagonists—what I called “villains”—for the sole purpose of frustrating my hero and his goals. This led to “cardboard villain syndrome.”
Your protagonist and plot are only as strong as your antagonist. He or she (or it or they) must also have a backstory that has led to the development of certain weaknesses, strengths, fears, desires, and goals. He might be an evil bastard, hell-bent on destroying your protagonist, but he also might be a decent guy who just wants the same thing your hero/ine wants, and has the gumption to compete for it. Or he wants the exact opposite of what your hero/ine is striving for, and is willing to fight for it.
Your villain cannot be a skeleton (unless we’re talking about that story I wrote in second grade). He/she/it/they must be fully fleshed using the same development tools you used for your protagonist.
The best information I’ve encountered in 20 years of reading and writing fiction—and reading about writing fiction—I discovered recently in Robert J. Ray’s The Weekend Novelist, in the sections “Weekend 1” and “Weekend 2.” (If you buy this book, be sure to get the original 1994 version, not the revised version.)
Ray leads you through the process of writing a brief character sketch (the broad strokes), plotting a timeline for life and story events, developing a backstory by asking “what if?” to probe motivation, and building a wants list—for your protagonist, your helper, and your antagonist, exploring where desires mesh and clash.
I followed such a process in DEATH PERCEPTION, my latest supernatural thriller tinged with horror and peppered with dark humor. My tag team of antagonists turned out to be well-developed and interesting characters equal to (well, not quite) the hero, Kennet Singleton.
By devoting as much effort to your antagonist as you do to your protagonist, you will have a stronger story, one that readers will love. Flesh out your villains, and you’ll flesh out your fiction.
DEATH PERCEPTION is available in trade paperback, Kindle (.mobi), and Nook (.epub) at https://leeallenhoward.com/death-perception/.
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