The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

I saw the movie of The Exorcist when I was in first grade. The most horrifying scene in the whole movie for me as a kid was when Regan was spider walking down the staircase. I think I kept my head behind a pillow for the rest of the movie. I was absolutely frightened by that scene. I am not sure what about that scene even as an adult still creeps me out. I had read the book about 10 years ago and once I saw some of the other horror lovers reading it I decided it was time for a reread. I am so glad that I did. It is one of those stories that scare you in different ways as you get older.

The exorcist

Summary: A little girl is possessed by an evil demon. This story follows the people who try to help her.

What I liked: I loved the writing. The writing is one of the most important parts of The Exorcist. When you can take something as mundane as a “invisible” friend and make it something terrifying  then you have hit the pinnacle of writing. The characters are fleshed out and you truly feel their emotions as you are reading. Blatty’s descriptions of the physical transformations that Regan undergoes are horrifying.

The storyline and the POV of the characters are as crisp and fresh as the day they were written. This story is as timeless and scary as it was when the book was first released. I hope that people will continue to read this horrifying book in the future.

What I didn’t like: There is nothing that I didn’t like about The Exorcist.

Star Rating: 5

My Thoughts: As a parent the whole premise of The Exorcist is terrifying. Your child is normal one day and then under goes a complete transformation practically overnight. I was raised Roman Catholic and possession was something that wasn’t discussed. The religious over tones in The Exorcist are really interesting. What I think is that the story isn’t so much about Regan but rather Father Karras. You watch as the priest goes from questioning his faith to being brought back into the fold.  Which makes me wonder if Blatty was questioning the divide between science and faith?

Kin By Kealan Patrick Burke

The first horror book I read was about fairies–not the sweet ones with glitter on their cheeks, but Irish fairies who would steal children and replace them with changelings. So, my first-grade self laid in bed and waited to be stolen by the fairies, listening to the clock ticking in the hall and figuring that as long as I heard it then I was still at home. I fell asleep listening to that clock in the hall tick, and I woke up the next morning in my bed. I am sure that my grandmother’s stories about fairies didn’t really help.

My tastes in horror run the gambit, and I am always grateful for a book that can give me goosebumps. Kin did just that!

kin

 

Summary: A family of cannibals loses a victim. What is to become of the family and the victim?

What I like: Burke’s writing style for me is perfect for this type of novel. His pacing was perfect; not to fast and not to slow. The beginning of the novel really piqued my interest and it didn’t stop. I had to know how the story was going to end. I appreicated the twists and turns in the story. The characters were well developed for their story arcs.

What I didn’t like: Burke killed one of the characters that I liked!!

Star Rating: 5

My Thoughts: I loved the page turning suspense that Burke built throughout Kin. So lets put it this way I loved the story from start to finish. It was gory and was psychologically thrilling. From the first page to the last page it was a page turner and hard to put down. My love of good horror was overly satisfied with Kin. I will defiantly be reading another by Burke.

Sam Hooker: An Introverted Curmudgeon

I had so much fun doing the last author interview I decided to reach out to another author whose book I enjoyed at the beginning of the year. Mr. Sam Hooker, author of Peril in the Old Country.

Sam Hooker
Photo courtesy of Black Spot Books

I am very happy to have author Sam Hooker on the blog today! Sam is the author of the wickedly funny fantasy, Peril in the Old Country. Sam, thanks for taking the time to answer a few of my questions today.

My pleasure! I derive great satisfaction from ignoring my own blog, and this gives me an opportunity to do that while blogging at the same time. I am Schrödinger’s Blogger.

First, let me say that I loved Sloot. He is a character that stays with you long after you read about his adventures. I feel like Sloot may have been based loosely on someone. If so, could you share more?

Sloot Peril is the result of never having taken a risk. Not even a small one. Every non-fictional person has taken a risk in their lives, even if it was nothing more daring than an exciting sock color with an otherwise drab suit.

 I’ve probably put more of myself in Sloot than I’ll ever admit, and I don’t have to. You should see my sock drawer. It’s scintillating.

This is such a standard question, and I feel dorky for asking, it but what was your inspiration for Peril? It is really original, and I can’t say I’ve read anything like it in a long time.

Thanks! I’ve heard it said that all writers cram their first novels with every bit of inspiration they’ve ever had. Where’s that kitchen sink? I think I’ve got room for it next to the cathartic telling-off that my high school Latin teacher will never realize is directed at him.

Of course, this is my second novel, so I managed to restrain myself a bit; however, the inspiration for this one still spans a great deal of the literature and film that have coagulated in the stew of my brain. Dystopian films (anything that Terry Gilliam has ever done), the farcical works of my favorite novelists (Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Roger Zelazny), and sarcastic or curmudgeonly comedians (Dylan Moran, Eddie Izzard) have all put something into the pot.

 Also whiskey.

There seems to be a trend where authors are giving their books soundtracks. If you were to give Peril a soundtrack, what would it be?

I listen to a lot of movie soundtracks and instrumental music while I write. For this book, Danny Elfman’s soundtrack for The Wolfman was on heavy rotation. Eerie, atmospheric, and at times urgent in a way that reminded me I hadn’t murdered anyone in a while.

 It’s probably cheating to use another soundtrack for my own, but the only other types of music I listen to are dubstep and Norwegian folk metal, and I hate dubstep.

I personally can’t read, write, and listen to music at the same time. I usually either get pulled into the song that is on or space out when I am reading. Do you listen to anything for background noise when you are writing?

My Spotify playlists are brimming with background music that I can ignore. It’s either that, or I have to listen to my own thoughts. Nothing could be worse for my writing process than letting my brain have something to do with it.

I wanted to be Indiana Jones when I grew up. Did you know that you wanted to be a writer? Did you feel you were encouraged to be a writer, or did writing come a bit later in life?

When I was four years old, I wanted to be a fire truck. That’s not a typo.

 Shortly thereafter, I decided on writing. Like most writers, I started a dozen or so novels before I finished one, and now I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else. That’s mostly due to my complete lack of skills outside the realm of telling ridiculous stories.

When I talk to writers most have a ton of stories in the bottom drawer of their desk. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I believe the technical term is “oodles.” If I had a dollar for every novel I never finished, I’d just keep starting novels and never finish them. That’s a gold mine! What confluence of magical happenstance landed me with that deal? I probably sold my soul for it. That’s fine, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t using it anyway.

As a book blogger I am always interested in what people are reading. What is on your nightstand at the moment and how big is your TBR (to be read) pile?

I’m presently re-reading Joe Lansdale’s The Magic Wagon, which is one of my five “desert island” books. I was thrilled to get a limited edition, autographed copy last month.

Lansdale and I are from the same part of Texas. In addition to being an amazing writer, he’s a martial artist with a stack of belts as long as my most rambling pastiche. I took lessons from him for a few months while I was in college. He bloodied my nose once during a demonstration (not on purpose, and I release Joe from all liability).

That’s my best fanboy story.

I just finished Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone. I don’t usually go in for YA, but I loved it. I’ve got Christopher Moore’s Noir up next, probably a return to Discworld (Pratchett) after that—I never get through more than half a dozen books before returning to that amazing series—and then Alcy Leyva’s And Then There Were Crows should be delivered. Preorder that now! #shamelessplug

I think 2019 is going to be a deep dive into Tolkien, starting with The Hobbit for the hundredth time, and not stopping until I hit the back cover of Unfinished Tales.

I heard that you have a bit of a thing for stew. So, my last question is: what is your favorite stew recipe? 

No one knows how stews start. Over time, the pot has simply been over the fire since before anyone can remember. You just keep adding to it, and hope that someone finishes it off before it starts participating in conversations.

Sam, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions today.

Thanks for having me, and thanks for supporting my work!

Peril in the Old Country is available now on Amazon and Black Spot Books.

 

The Sea was a Fair Master by Calvin Demmer

I was thinking the other day about how short stories are like a sandwich. A sandwich is a total meal between two pieces of bread. They can be sweet (peanut butter and honey) or savory (brie and bacon). Yes, I know brie is not everyones taste but it is amazing you should try it. Anyway back to my original point. Short stories are the same way. They are a beginning, middle and an end but short. Like a sandwich…..whhaaaa I totally blew your mind there right. There are days when I just want a sandwich and there are days where I want a 3 course meal. This week I really wanted a good sandwich The Sea was a Fair Master fed that need.

The Sea Was a Fair Master

Summary: Delectable dark and vicious short stories.

What I liked: There was so much to like about this collection. The stories were well written. In two pages Demmer was able to flesh out stories and characters which is a testament to his writing style. Each story is completely different, like an episode of the Twilight Zone or Crypt Keepers Tales of Terror. There were two stories that I really enjoyed in particular: Restroom Finds and Revenge of the Myth. They both dealt with subjects I enjoy reading: dystopian survival and myths. Demmer ticked all the boxes in these two stories for me.

What I didn’t like: There wasn’t anything in particular that I didn’t like. I wasn’t a big fan of Trashcan Sam the pacing read a bit off.

Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

My thoughts: I am pretty excited to read more from Demmer in the future. I enjoyed his writing style. If this was just a taster of what he has up his sleeve then the horror/darkreads community need to keep an eye on him.

A BIG Thank You to Calvin Demmer for sending me a advanced review copy in exchange for my honest review!

 

Interview with the Author of The Hawkman Jane Rosenberg LaForge

I wanted to try something a little different in my little piece of the internet. I reached out to the author of The Hawkman Jane Rosenberg LaForge to see if she would mind if I interviewed her. As you can tell by the title of my blog post she said YES….Okay I might have squeed a few times….

I am excited today to have the author of one my favorite books of 2018 on the blog. A huge thank you to Jane Rosenberg LaForge for taking the time to answer a few of my questions.

Jane RosenbergI want to fangirl for just a moment. I loved The Hawkman so much that I messaged Jane through her website at a ridiculous time of night then squealed when she took the time to write back. Since then I have also read Jane’s An Unsuitable Princess, which is part memoir and part fantasy and utterly brilliant. Thanks you, Jane, joining me.

J: This is exciting for me, so thank you!

 

The Hawkman is an original take on the bearskin fairytale. What inspired you to retell it in the way you did?

J: It is a re-telling of “The Bearskin,”; but there’s also a lot of “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Cat Skin” in it too. I read “The Bearskin” in German in graduate school, and the story always stuck with me. I was quite taken by the idea that although The Bearskin has to pay his dues, so to speak, he gets other people to do some of that penance while he cannot, and he pays them to do it. I don’t necessarily think that’s fair, paying people to pray for you. Shouldn’t you pray out of dedication to God, or a spiritual idea or quest? Isn’t paying people to pray for you cheating? The ending of “The Bearskin” kind of addresses that. I’ve always wanted to write about that, and “The Hawkman” was the result. Not that it came out the way I planned, but there it is.

The Hawkman comes across as a labor of love. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

J: Thank you for saying that! I’d say starting is the most difficult part. After that, there’s the problem of discipline. In graduate school I got a lot of criticism about point of view and voice, and those are two things I always have to watch out for. One of my teachers told me it takes discipline to maintain voice, control point of view. So in addition to getting started, I have to really concentrate about whose point of view I’m taking, what that person sounds like, and whether I can make that person sound authentic, and consistent.

What inspired you to write The Hawkman?

J: I’ve always been curious about World War I. I knew a lot more about World War II because my maternal grandfather fought in it (in the Pacific) and my mother and uncle were raised as Army brats. But my other grandfather, who died when I was young, served in the Russian Army in World War I, and all I knew about his experience was that conditions in the trenches were pretty awful. So I had the idea of a soldier (from “The Bearskin”) and I needed somewhere, or some time, in which to place him, and I used what little I knew of my paternal grandfather’s experience, and went from there.

Both The Hawkman and An Unsuitable Princess are takes on fairytales, or have fairytale elements. What draws you to that genre?

J: I very deliberately wanted to use the conventions of the fantasy and fairy tale genres in “An Unsuitable Princess” because I was trying to make a point about life, or should I say, adolescence. Also, there was the setting of the first Renaissance Pleasure Faire to consider, which is fantastical, and fairy tale-like. Many, many Tolkien fans and history buffs and Dungeons and Dragons players wound up at the  Renaissance Faire, and the “fantasy” part of the narrative had to be set in a time and place that addressed those elements.

That said, I should point out that I had a difficult time publishing “An Unsuitable Princess” because of its format (the pairing of a “fantasy” story with footnotes which contained the narrative for the memoir). People could accept the fantasy, but they could not deal with the memoir part. And the point of the memoir is that I didn’t necessarily have the most interesting, exciting, instructive life, but it did give rise to this peculiar fantasy. Everyone fantasizes, and those fantasies, no matter how outrageous, are grounded in reality. And the fantasy I wrote up was pretty pedestrian. I wrote it to hit all the bells and whistles of the genre, so without the memoir, it was kind of paint-by-the-numbers. It wasn’t worth as much without the memoir.

But I couldn’t get them published together, so a writer friend said to me that I should just write a fairy tale, and be done with it. So I did.

There’s another advantage to working with fairy tales that I’d be remiss not to point out. and I hope I can explain it. If I told you the real, unexpurgated story of my life, you’d say, “No way!” If I told you that my father was deaf and probably clinically depressed; my mother was institutionalized for mental illness when I was a kid; my sister was a math prodigy-genius who struggled with alcohol, anorexia, and even issues beyond that; and that I grew up around all kinds of movie stars and rock singers and hippies and drug addicts in a famous Los Angeles neighborhood, would you believe it? How can so much be going on at once? Each one of those things is probably a novel (or a lifetime of psychotherapy sessions) by itself. But by using myth and fairy tales, stories that are familiar if not foundational, I can couch all of this stuff in a way that is far more understandable, and believable. I am borrowing the authority of these tales as a way to make my stuff palatable.

Since The Hawkman made me cry it is only fair to ask: what book has made you cry?

J: This is going to sound weird, but Jonathan Franzen’s “Freedom” made me cry. And I cried hard. This was really more of a personal thing to me, because I read it after my mother died, and there’s a sequence about a married couple who’s broken up, and they get back together again. I don’t think most people would cry about that, but given that my mother was gone, and there was no possibility for my parents to do the same, I cried.

When I was reading The Hawkman I felt that it was geared toward the originality of the story and not pandering to readers. I really appreciate when writers don’t pander. When you’re writing do you try more to be original or deliver to readers what they want?

J: I try to be original in my choice of words, in how I describe settings, people, appearances, emotions—in all my descriptions. I studied with a writer, Kate Braverman, who liked to point out that every oak tree is “gnarled,” and every brook is “babbling,” and that older men always speak in “stentorian” voices. These are not so much clichés as they are shortcuts, easy outs for writers who need to describe something but can’t come up with a way to do it. So I always have Kate Braverman in the back of my head saying, “That’s too easy. Pump it up.” I’ve also learned, from other writers, that descriptions have to be appropriate to the purpose or ethos of the story, so you can’t describe something in psychedelic terms, for example, if it’s a place or item from the 18th century.

I don’t know about pandering; there are so many ways writers pander. You could say that re-telling a fairy tale is pandering, because you are giving readers what they already know. You could say that having a death at the end of a book is pandering, because you’ve written an ending that is so final. I used to teach a class on detective fiction, and a lot of detective fiction could be said to pander; the case is solved, the bad guy gets what he deserves, and the wrongly accused are exonerated and go on to live their lives. But that’s the purpose of comedy, and detective fiction: to turn the world upside down, and show how it can be righted. Only in noir (for the purposes of this argument) do you have an untidy ending; the bad guy might get away, corruption continues, and the basic problems in society are never fixed. And noir is not pandering. But I can’t write that!!!! I’ve tried. I really have. So maybe I am a panderer. (Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone I admitted it.)

You have been in the publishing industry for sometime. Have you noticed any changes in the type of books that are being marketed, or do you think that is more driven by what consumers are buying?

J: It’s probably more of a feedback loop. Someone writes “The Girl on the Train,” and it sells well, and then other authors start writing books with “The Girl Who” in their titles. So, yes, Kate Bernheimer started writing fairy tales and then Michael Cunningham put out an entire book of fairy tales and then Roxanne Gay wrote her fairy tale and Helen Oyeyemi wrote hers and so on. People write this stuff—whatever it is—because they are inspired by something, sometimes another book, and they’re able to sell it to publishers because people are buying it, and so they write some more. When you query agents and publishers, you usually try to say, “This book will appeal to readers of….” and you name previously successful, well-known books or authors. But I can’t say I’m an expert on what’s marketed, purchased, encouraged, discouraged. I just write what I can write, and I’ve written a lot of stuff that will never see the light of day, because it’s just so awful. So I write what I can write. That’s what works for me.

I love how active you are on Twitter! You are very passionate about journalism. What changes have you seen in the journalism industry over the last decade? Do you think that the next decade will see real (newspaper) journalism fly out the window in favor of sites like Buzzfeed?

J: I was a journalist for about a dozen years at some very small newspapers. I had a chance at the big time and sorta blew it; well, let’s just say that I wasn’t able to sustain my position in the big time, and had to surrender it. Any changes I’ve witnessed in journalism are really what anyone else who keeps up with the news has seen, because I haven’t been a journalist since 1995. (I am married to a journalist but we have a non-intervention policy in terms of his telling me every last thing about his job.) But it was my first career, and how I came to writing, and I would hate to see print journalism, or the conventions and ethics of print journalism, disappear in favor of sites like Buzzfeed. And I don’t think that’s going to happen, because even Buzzfeed has produced stories that are based on sources, and research, and interrogation of those sources and research. There may not be a physical newspaper, but there will always be journalists. Maybe they will work for not-for-profits, like the Poynter Center and how it runs the St. Petersburg Times in Florida; or something like The Marshall Project online.

Let’s end on a bit of a silly question. Do you Google yourself? (I’ve Googled you and you are extremely accomplished!)

J: I’m sure if you Googled other writers, you would find some who are far more accomplished, but yes of course I Google myself, isn’t that terrible? I Google myself to look for any reviews that are coming out, or to see how a magazine I was accepted to turned out, or sometimes I Google myself to retrieve dates or publication information that have escaped my brain for some reason. But I do not, I am glad to say, do the same thing with other search engines (are there any others?) for purposes of comparison. So I guess I’m not that much of a narcissist. Just a low-grade one.

Jane, thank you so much for taking the time to drop by my small corner of the Internet today. The Hawkman will be released on June 5th from Amberjack Publishing.

The Hawkman is now available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and I am sure many other fine bookstores.

 

 

 

The Hatch by Joe Fletcher

There is something magical about the words “Something wicked this way comes…” this is pretty much how I felt when I started reading The Hatch I really got into reading poetry for National Poetry month. So I wanted to keep the ball rolling and try some horror poetry. This is when the very dark and devilish little book landed on my kindle.

Summary: Darkly devilish poems and short stories.

What I liked: There aren’t many “horror” poets these days. Not sure I can class this as horror but it was a dark read. My favorites where: The Wake, The Fly, Self Defense and Northwest Passage. Fletcher has a way with prose that makes you invested in what he is writing. The cover art even on the digital copy was beautiful and detailed.

What I didn’t like: There wasn’t much about this book of prose that I didn’t like.

Star Rating: 4 Stars

My thoughts: I am hoping to read more from Fletcher in the future. The Hatch was something different to what I normally read and was a good palette cleanser.

A Big Thank you to Netgalley and Brooklyn Arts Press for an advanced review copy for my honest review.

Swan Song by Robert McCammon

I was going to look for some type of literary quote but there is no quote that I could give that would due this book justice. While I was reading Swan Song I was reminded of a movie I watched when I was a bit younger that scared me. The movie was called The Day After. It wasn’t scary due to monster or anything like that; but to a child who lived at the tail end of the Cold War, it was scary because we have the power to actually destroy the world. Swan Song brought out the same feeling.

Summary: Swan and her protect travel across the nuclear weapon ravaged US.

What I liked: The story was amazing. While reading you felt everything sadness, happiness and being terribly frightened.  It wasn’t that McCammon wrote a scary book it was the characters that made the story scary. The fact that this people (for lack of a better term) could be out there walking around and in a instant they could be thrust into positions of power. The pacing of the novel was perfect I wasn’t bored at all during the reading and was reading as fast as I could just so I could get to the next part so I could know what was coming next. There were a lot of complexities of human emotion throughout Swan Song it takes an amazing writer to put that across.

What I didn’t like: I didn’t really want to story to end. I wanted to know what happened to them. Where they went and their adventures.

Star Rating: 5 stars

My thoughts: When I was a small child when I just had started school I remember doing a nuclear drill. We were suppose to hide under our desks. I only remember doing this once or twice. As I got older I understood what a nuclear weapon was and what would actually happen to people if one went off. After seeing The Day After the fear of what could have happened is still is haunting.