Review – The Green and the Black by William Meikle

October 19, 2018 at 10:26 pm (dark fantasy, horror, Links, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , , , )

When I was growing up, I owned an encyclopedia of fairies that I loved to revisit on a regular basis. My favourites were some of the darker tales from the mines, such as those of the knockers and redcaps. I also had a fascination for rocks – I even joined the Dawson Geology Club in university and ended up a member of the Science Society despite the fact that I was an arts student at the time. For these reasons, and others, this book really spoke to me.

I could relate to the characters in the story, their excitement about the historic site (providing the setting for the story) and being from Atlantic Canada, I could appreciate how well the author described their surroundings. It was almost like venturing out on another geological field trip, abandoning civilization for the deep woods. Along with well-executed scene-setting and atmosphere, I also enjoyed the author’s method of tension-building. In my opinion, there aren’t enough horror stories anymore that do that as well as this one does. There’s too much focus on an intro “hook”, on gore, and on spectacle and not enough on the development of the psychological elements of horror. I prefer the slow build that establishes and then grows a sense of the eerie, so that the reader is given a chance to become invested in both the characters and the story-line before things go terribly wrong.

The only two very minor complaints I have about the book is that I would have preferred more character development for Bill and Doug, who felt a little two-dimensional, and I would have preferred to see at least one female character with a role other than just supporting ones … girlfriend and mother. I can understand the reasoning behind not including women in the field group because there are fewer women studying in those fields, but I can attest to the fact that they do exist and are becoming more common. I have female friends who are geologists, engineers, archeologists and botanists and they have done fieldwork. I think the added diversity would have been nice (but this is strictly a personal preference.)

This book was a quick, chilling, and entertaining read with an intriguing combination of the historic and the supernatural. Definitely worth my time and highly enjoyable. I would recommend it to horror and dark fantasy fans alike.

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The Blurb on Other People’s Words – Steve Vernon

June 3, 2018 at 6:12 pm (horror, Links, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , , , )

I have a few reviews a long time owing for Nova Scotian writer, Steve Vernon. I’ve reviewed his YA Sci-fi (Flash Virus) in the past, but I especially like Steve’s folksy storyteller approach to tales of murder and horror, and I’ve read several of his short story collections, and a novel, I have yet to review. I thought it was about time.

If you’ve ever witnessed Steve give a “reading”, you’d understand where his particular flavour comes from. He’s the guy you want adding his two cents to stories around the campfire or when you’re huddled by a candle during a power outage on a storm day. His stories, like him, are very animated, hooking your attention and drawing you further in.

His stories are often based on material close to home. Three of his collections I’ve had a chance to read and very much enjoy include Halifax Haunts, local ghost tales retold with Steve’s particular type of flare, Maritime Murder, true crime stories from the past revisited, and
The Lunenburg Werewolf: And Other Stories of the Supernatural, exploring some local legends that were in many cases new to me.

The research required to bring these tales to light is quite obvious, with dates and details that give them substance above and beyond Steve’s enjoyable characteristic style. Most of the stories are dark, some are more playful and some are downright chilling, but they are all entertaining and seem real enough to suggest plausability.

Steve’s books stand on my bookshelves among my favourites. If you’ve never had the opportunity to read his books, I’d recommend doing so.

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Women in Horror – Shared Pages: Zoe Adams

February 13, 2015 at 2:28 am (horror, Links, writing) (, , , , , )

ZoeAdamsI chose this female horror writer for my spotlight because her story “Pawprints on a Heart” in the Ten Silver Bullets anthology is a horrific, romantic power-struggle brought to life. The story offers up lots of violence and a mix of supernatural creatures.

 
In addition to being a woman in horror, Zoe is also a writer of multitude of genres such as: crime, erotica, fantasy, horror, paranormal, science fiction and YA lit. She describes herself as an all around dork/nerd/geek who likes movies computer games, gardening and tea.

 
Find Zoe’s blog here: http://readerwriterzoe.blogspot.co.uk/

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Women in Horror – Shared Pages: Kristi Schoonover

February 12, 2015 at 12:24 pm (horror, Links, writing) (, , , , , )

KPSSorry this is late, but had problems posting because of internet issues at home.

I chose this female horror writer for my spotlight because her story “Whether Girl” in the Wake The Witch anthology is an elemental take on the supernatural with delightful ambiance. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College and is the recipient of three Norman Mailer Writers Colony Winter Residencies.

In addition to being a woman in horror, she also has a passion for ghost stories, marine life, and Tarot cards.

Find out more about Kristi here: http://kristipetersenschoonover.com/

 

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October Submission Blitz – Mouth Sewn Shut

October 20, 2013 at 2:17 am (fantasy, horror, writing) (, , , , , , , )

Three more submissions out the door: one under my pseudonym, a flash piece I wrote today, “The Candy Man,” and one of my fantasy stories. The next thing to work on will be my Egyptian-themed story involving the Coffin Texts and Anubis. I haven’t settled on a title yet. There are so many great anthology opportunities out there, it was difficult to choose one. If I thought I could handle it, I’d be juggling four or five stories at the moment. I know better – I need to keep focussed.

My horror trope for the day is “mouth sewn shut. ” My best recollections of this trope were from serial killer movies where this was part of how they tortured their victims. In some cases the person kept silent, in others they tore up their lips so they could speak (yuck!) It also makes appearances in supernatural sequences, probably because it is a shocking image so it makes for an easy scare.

Only twelve more submissions to go and I have only two left, so I’m hoping to get word back on at least a couple of my submissions so I can resubmit. I have a lot out there.

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A Current Endeavor – Decisions, Decisions…Argh!

July 3, 2013 at 10:59 pm (horror, Links, writing) (, , , , , , )

Some decisions are happy ones in the making – like participating in the Darlings of Decay zombie anthology. It is getting lots of great publicity and it has given me the opportunity to share in something with many other fantastic female horror writers. It’s available now on Smashwords for free!

Other decisions, I’m not so sure of. Every time I submit something somewhere, I always have to wonder if it will be at the expense of a better opportunity somewhere else, especially when I get the latest pro-rate venue telling me I made the shortlist out of 500+ submissions, but I didn’t make the final cut (yet again *sigh*).

My current dilemma is the result of such a decision. I submit regularly to a certain writing competition that I’m never likely to win because of my non-conformist ways. That being said, I give it a shot every quarter. Now I find myself in an awkward situation because of my latest submission. I just found out about a pro-rate venue looking for stories with very particular criteria that the short story I sent in to the contest actually meets. Aside from an appropriate word count for my story, they want a tale set in 1400 to 1920 – my story is a period piece set in the 1600s, they want it set in the real world – mine is set in New World Canada during the arrival of the first French colonists, they want some form of marginalized character including the disabled – my protagonist is hearing impaired, and it needs to have a supernatural component – I included a mythological monster of Native American legend from the area where the story is set. It is a *perfect* fit for the anthology, already written and ready to go.

Except it is sitting with this contest until a winner, not likely to be me, is decided. And that decision won’t happen before the July 31st deadline for the anthology.

So what do I do? I won’t submit to both places at the same time when both specify “no simultaneous submissions” so I could scrabble around to see if I can somehow retract it from the contest, if that is even an option, and then submit to the anthology. Or I could leave it be and miss what is potentially a much more likely win with the anthology.

These are the kind of decisions I hate, and they seem to come my way on a regular basis. Sad but true.

At least I have four weeks to make up my mind…

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A Current Endeavor – Truth be Told?

June 23, 2013 at 12:38 am (horror, writing) (, , , , , , , , )

I just finished up chapter 8, so I’m still making progress, which is good. I’ve been following an internet debate as to whether or not a writer should offer up an explanation or background story of what exactly is the cause of the zombie apocalypse (if there happens to be one in their story.) The initiator of the thread suggested that the background story is not necessary and mainly exists as filler or the bane of the writer: the info dump.

I’m inclined to disagree.

I do think that an explanation for the apocalypse is not always necessary. It is dependent on the plot of the story, the characters involved, and even the length of the tale. I’m less prone to believe that a background story is required for a short story – there just may not be time to get into the details. A short story often captures a moment or a single event, so the kind of extraneous facts that belong in a novel just don’t fit there. But sometimes the story absolutely demands an explanation – it can be integral to the plot and based on the nature of the characters involved, they may not be satisfied until they have one.

There was more debate as to whether the cause is scientific or supernatural should impact the need for that background story, but I also believe that those things aren’t deciding factors. In either case the characters may never get the opportunity to discover the “why”. They may not have the knowledge base to allow for answers, and they may not have the time or the opportunity to go looking for them.

I also object to the notion that an explanation has to result in an info dump. There are plenty of ways to add details to a story without throwing it at the reader in one large, hard-to-digest lump. The characters can discover information bit by bit, digging for the details, or the plot can simply incorporate the cause, making it a part of the bigger picture. Personally, I try to avoid discussing any background stories unless I feel it’s important for the readers to have. In some cases, less is more.

I took a look at my published zombie stories and, my yet to be published zombie novel and the inclusion of an apocalypse explanation really does vary.

Palliative (short story) – no explanation. Time is limited and opportunity non-existent.

Just Another Day (short story) – brief explanation. Protagonist is not a scientist and her knowledge is limited to what she has heard/read in the news.

Waking the Dead (short story) – hypothesized explanation. Cause is integral to the plot and one of the characters is a know-it-all who insists on researching it as best she can

Deadline (short story) – brief explanation. Protagonist is not a scientist but works with them. She casually skims their research but is too disinterested to dig for more details.

Shear Terror (novelette) – no explanation. Protagonist is a pre-teen separated from civilization and technology.

What a Man’s Gotta Do (short story) – vague explanation. Protagonist is not an educated man and doesn’t really care much about the details. Knows what he has learned in passing about the cause, over time.

Escarg-0 (short story) – full explanation. Cause is integral to the plot and characters witness it firsthand.

Life and Undeath on the Chain Gang (short story) – no explanation. Story does suggest a supernatural root to the apocalypse, but no details given. Protagonist is a prisoner without any real exposure to the world-at-large.

Sleep Escapes Us (novel) – full explanation. Cause is absolutely integral to the plot and characters witness the events that lead to the apocalypse.

This should prove I don’t believe there’s a tried and true rule here. And in no case is there an info dump in any of these stories. The funny thing is, in one instance some of the readers thought there should have been one. That goes to show you that you can’t please everyone, because you’ll run into naysayers on either side of the debate.

I’m going to keep going with my gut on this one. I know I don’t like info dumps myself, they tend to read a little dry, but I’m a fairly curious person who wants to know the “why” if it is relevant.

Truth be told? Only if it should be.

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The Blurb on Other People’s Words – Ghouls Just Wanna Have Fun

May 27, 2013 at 9:50 pm (horror, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , , , , )

That Ghoul Ava by T W Brown

T W Brown may be known for his horror but this book (along with his Dakota series) proves that he’s no one trick pony. Yes, it does have horror elements to it, but I wouldn’t describe it as a horror story at all. To me this was dark comedy mixed with action adventure, and the horror was just part of the decor, much the way it is with zomedies – only in this case the supernatural presents itself in the form of ghouls, psychics, revenants and vampires.

I did enjoy this story, although at times it read more YA than adult with the thirty-something protagonist behaving more like a teenager rather than acting her age. The youthful silliness did add to the humour, and I don’t think it was overdone. I would have like to have seen a little more interaction between Ava and her human sidekick and a little less bickering with her professional rival, but I suspect there might be a broadening of that relationship in later stories, once both Ava and her companion have adjusted more to their circumstance.

Overall, I have to give the story high marks for content. The narrative flowed smoothly, with clean editing and realistic dialogue. Best of all, the story was entertaining and demonstrated more originality then a lot of the typical zombie/vampire/werewolf books out there. “Fun” comes to mind as the best word to describe this book, so much so that I was disappointed when the story came to an end. I’m looking forward to reading its sequel.

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Adventures in NaNo-land – Super…Natural

November 14, 2012 at 1:21 am (fantasy, Links, writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

One of the main themes in The Trading of Skin, because of the animistic roots of the Sami mythology, is the importance of man’s connection with nature on a spiritual level. In line with this theme, present in the story are the Sami deities associated with nature (in particular Laib Olmai,) the natural sacred places where the noaidi (shamans) would worship, references to the bear cult ceremonies required before going on a bear hunt, and the Haldi, the animal spirits that play a central role to the tale. With an added dose of magic and mysticism, much of these elements of the story border on the supernatural and occasionally cross over.

The opposing factors to these natural elements I provide in the story are threefold. The first is the intolerance the characters encounter from the people in Anár, the village where my protagonist lives. The problems they encounter there represent the way civilization pits man against nature, and sometimes nature loses (pollution and climate change come to mind.) The second is the challenge of nature itself. The heroes of the tale must conquer the labyrinth of Laib Olmai and the giant, Stallon, symbols of nature. They represent the difficulty all living things face as a result of unforgiving environments and the cycle of life and death. The third is a strictly supernatural aspect and the most notable antagonist of the story. I didn’t feel right offering the goddess of death as a villain, because death is a part of nature, so I chose to use Mubpienålmaj, “the evil one,” and his servants, the spirit-hunters, as the prime nemesis instead. His unnatural evil contrasts the natural good of the Haldi.

Here’s a first draft sample from the chapter I’m currently working on, with reference to some of these things:

“I meant to ask you – how safe is she here? Those spirit-hunters, the ones who were responsible for her separation from her family, will they come after her here? Why are they hunting Haldi in the first place? Would they come after us if they knew about us too?” Oaván asked.

Jaská patted him gently on the cheek, a look of concern in her eyes. “So many questions, Oaván. I do hope you haven’t been worrying yourself over this. I can tell you this much; they won’t come looking for her in Anár. They’ll never pick up her scent with all of this human smell around. She’ll be safe here.”

“They track by scent?” Dáidu approached them. “Like an animal? What are they exactly? What do they want with Lieđđi and her family.”

Their mother suddenly became very animated, as if talking about the spirit-hunters carried with it a burst of adrenaline. “They are monsters…malignant spirits. They wear the form of men, but they are servants of Mubpienålmaj, the evil one. The Haldi are good spirits, with guardian magic. The purpose of the spirit-hunters is to destroy that magic, to make noaidi and nature more vulnerable to harm. They don’t care about the spirit-bound. We’ve already sacrificed that magic. They don’t care about half-bloods either, but free Haldi, like Lieđđi and her family? They hunt them down, they wait for that moment of transformation when that magic is at its most potent, and they kill them and take their skins. Lieđđi was right to have run the night you shot her. The hunters have a harder time targeting an individual rather than a group. They would have stopped chasing her family down too, once the sun had risen and the transformation was complete. They would have put off any attack until the next sunrise or sunset.”

Oaván glanced at Dáidu. “Maybe that explains what we found at the sieidi, suggestions of some kind of battle.”

“But sieidis are supposed to be sanctuaries. That was why Lieđđi’s family planned to meet back there in the first place,” Dáidu said.

“They are,” Jaská agreed. “They will protect all within its space, but step just outside the holy ground and you are vulnerable again. Plus spirits can use siedis as gateways, which means they serve as ready transportation for the spirit-hunters. They are not tied to this world or their physical form the way we Haldi usually are. If the hunters knew Lieđđi’s family were taking shelter at a particular sieidi, they might have waited on the other side for someone to stray outside its terrain, around sunrise or sunset, to seek food or water, or to relieve themselves. The hunters would have manifested and attacked. If you saw signs of a struggle, that may have happened, especially if the Haldi were lingering there, waiting for an absent Lieđđi’s arrival. She may no longer have a family to go back to.”

And here is the link I intended to include yesterday, but couldn’t because of server difficulties, for the first draft of Chapter 7: http://www.scribd.com/doc/113043028/The-Trading-of-Skin-Chapter-7

More tomorrow J

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Chantelly’s Field Guide to Zombies – Magical

October 29, 2011 at 2:49 am (dark fantasy, horror, Links, writing) (, , , , , , , )

This will be my final instalment of the field guide, and I’m digging deep to the true root of zombies. Before the biological-sourced zombies, before those originating from a hefty dose of cosmic dust, there were the zombies that were magicked into existence. Search for the definition of the word zombie, or as it was initially spelled in Creole “zombi” (believed to be from the West African mythos, Nzambi), and you’ll come up with references to Voodoo, snake gods, spells, cults and the supernatural.

As scepticism in all things demonic, spiritual and necromantic has increased exponentially in recent times, fiction containing this type of zombie has dwindled. People don’t fear the supernatural the way they once did, and since the zombie genre tends to reflect current fears, there is less call for their kind. While uncommon, however, there are still some exciting and extraordinary examples of magical zombies in today’s popular culture, but they are often secondary to the modern day toxic shamblers or viral runners, and tied to some other

Voodoo zombies:

Haitian, Creole, New Orlean – it often begins with altars, animal sacrifices, strange chanting and potions concocted from the poison of the puffer fish. The zombies that are enchanted to rise again can be typical undead, will-less servants to their voodoo masters until they ingest salt or meat (although in this last aspect, definitely not the Romero norm.) Some experts hypothesize that “real” zombies had never died at all, but were in a deep coma, and awoke to an easily manipulated trance-like state. The earliest zombie movies featured this kind of black magic zombie, such as in 1932’s White Zombie, starring Bela Lugosi. This is the type of zombie in one of my latest short fiction projects, Dead to Write.

Supernatural zombies:

Spawned by Hell, or its demonic minions, these zombies are more vicious than their voodoo brethren. They are often vengeful spirits, like in Raimi’s Evil Dead or the Nazi zombies in Dead Snow, rising to defend their stolen treasure. They don’t tend to be as mindless as the usual zombie fare, possessed by evil and organizing to attack their victims. The only thing definite about this variety is they tend to be strong and unpredictable, often existing beyond expected zombie “rules”.

Fantasy magic zombies:

The most likely place to find magical zombies in genre fiction nowadays, are in dark fantasy novels set in wizardly worlds. Necromantic wizards, witches or priests reanimate or control the zombies in those tales through their spells or evil prayers. Sometimes they wield enough power to gather together entire armies of undead, a very frightening premise. The zombie novel I have planned for NaNoWriMo is dark fantasy, based around the mythology of ancient Thrace. If the concept interests you, you may want to follow my progress as I post my first draft chapters to my Scribd account (beginning in early November) at: http://www.scribd.com/chantal_boudreau

I’ll be going on a blog hiatus during my excessively busy November, with only very brief posts or guest posts until December. I’ll be away, but I will be back.

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