Epeolatry Book Review: Hollow Heart


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Title: Hollow Heart
Author: Ben Eads
Genre: Dark Fantasy Horror
Publisher: Crystal Lake Publishing
Release Date: 29th November, 2019

Synopsis:  Welcome to Shady Hills, Florida, where death is the beginning and pain is the only true Art…

Harold Stoe was a proud Marine until an insurgent’s bullet relegated him to a wheelchair. Now the only things he’s proud of are quitting alcohol and raising his sixteen-year-old son, Dale.

But there is an infernal rhythm, beating like a diseased heart from the hollow behind his home. An aberration known as The Architect has finished his masterpiece: A god which slumbers beneath the hollow, hell-bent on changing the world into its own image.

As the body count rises and the neighborhood residents change into mindless, shambling horrors, Harold and his former lover, Mary, begin their harrowing journey into the world within the hollow. If they fail, the hollow will expand to infinity. Every living being will be stripped of flesh and muscle, their nerves wrapped tightly around ribcages, so The Architect can play his sick music through them loud enough to swallow what gives them life: The last vestiges of a dying star.

Hollow Heart (158 pages, a Novella pub. Nov. 29, 2019) by Ben Eads is on the surface about a paraplegic ex-Marine and former alcoholic, Harold. Harold is fighting against an evil calling itself, The Architect. The only way Harold can defeat The Architect is to destroy the heart of the god that the Architect has created. If the Architect succeeds with his god, the whole world will be changed into hallucinatory horror: 

“It looked like a hundred atomic bombs had gone off and paused, containing imperfect, translucent spheres. As its impossible shape moved, singeing the ocean and world around it, the globes containing myraid versions of annihilation formed crude legs and arms. Its sound passed through Harold, shaking his ribs, rattling his teeth. Sea and earth were gobbled up as it lumbered into the ocean, as graceful as a car accident. Patches of sand that turned to glass reflected pieces of the abomination.”

On a deeper level the novella is about fathers failing their sons, and trying like hell to change. Main characters Harold and his son Dale interact with a supporting cast: love interest Mary, a strongly descriptive Terrell, dead Dalton, and throwaway Sheriff. For the first half of the novella, the story takes place in a Floridian trailer park where the characters seem to move in and out of the scene as if in a play. The action kicks in during the second half of the book.  

Hollow Heart has a dreamlike quality that works for it and against it. Confusion with character dialogue and some plot points mixes with an awesome villain and great monsters. While much of the action seems to take place off-page with Harold unconscious, there are some scenes of absolute truth, such as when Harold confronts his dead abusive father: 

“Harold cracked his neck as if preparing for a brawl and secretly hoping for one. ‘You left me when I was just a child. The only thing worse? After you bashed in mom’s face in, you…’ Harold looked at his shoes, massaged his temples. ‘You fucked up mom’s face for good, you asshole. You took the only thing in my life that made everything better: her smile. I saw the light go out of her eyes.’ Harold loaded a round in the chamber, pointed the barrel at his chest, ‘While she was down, you kicked her in the stomach. She had a fucking seizure.’

Harold’s trigger finger quivered.

‘I made up for it boy,’ Oliver said, crossing his arms. ‘Got on the wagon, paid for all of it, and your Mother forgave me. You didn’t even show up to her funeral because I paid for it. You only remember the bad times. Can’t say I blame you. Now is not the time to—‘ ”

Now for the nitty gritty: 

The prologue could have been part of the novella itself. 

There is confusion over which characters are speaking. 

A lot of action in the novella takes place off-scene, resulting in telling without showing. That issue could have been fixed by changing the character’s point of view. 

Also, confusing plot points with The Architect’s motivation which could have been addressed more. Harold seems secondary as a character. Things happen to him; he doesn’t make the action happen. Dale lacks substance and believability. 

On to the part that will delight the author and readers: 

The villain is pure gleeful delight. The monsters are very good due to hallucinatory description. In a pivotal scene, The Architect wakes up the god he’s created with his own special violin:

“A spine from a child appeared in his left hand, a bow in his right. Tiny ribs jutted from the sides, curved upward to secure nerves that quivered in anticipation of his touch. The Architect brought the bow across the nerves and began to play. A chorus of screams filled the room as if its owners were being burnt alive.”

The novella possesses strong dialogue and good prose. My favorite characters are Terrell the meth-head and dead Dalton. Their presence carries the book and lends it a wonderful “B” movie quality. Imagery within scenes and interaction between fathers and sons are my favorite parts of the novella. Eads gets a lot right with this second novel, but in my opinion, he still has some areas of his craft to hone.

3/5 stars

Horror Tree Presents … An Interview with Alison Littlewood

Interview questions for Alison Littlewood put by Alyson Faye

I recently met up with Alison Littlewood at the UK Ghost Story Festival at the Derby Quad, where she was on the panels and talking about her latest novel, the seasonal chiller, Mistletoe. I’ve been reading Alison’s fiction for over 8-9 years now, and remember her début thriller, A Cold Season, coming out in 2012 and being prominently displayed in all the W. H. Smiths, as a Richard and Judy Book Club recommendation. I’d been following Alison’s short stories in magazines like Black Static as well and downloading them onto my Kindle, like Fogbound From 5 (published 2011). So, I was delighted when she agreed to be interviewed. 


Q:- Hello Alison. Could we start off by you telling us something about yourself, please?

Hello! I’m a writer of fiction, of the dark and often a little weird variety. I live in Yorkshire with my partner and two dogs in an old and wonky house, am slightly obsessed with fountain pens and other assorted stationery, have a growing collection of books on weird history and folklore, and am alarmingly attached to semicolons.  

Q:- What were your favourite books/authors growing up? And how important was visiting the local library to you?

I read anything and everything growing up! I started off with a huge love of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales. I cried buckets over The Little Mermaid, but loved it even more because it could make me cry. Then came years of Enid Blyton and Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Later I read really widely, though I used to borrow all my brother’s Stephen King books and discovered James Herbert too. 

The local library was really important to me. I still remember weekly trips with my mother. There was a huge old world map printed on the wall in the children’s section, and it felt like that – being let loose into a whole world of stories. 

Q:- Did you always want to be a writer? Or did there come a turning point when you knew, ‘Yes, this is the time?’

I think that quietly, I always had a secret dream of a book with my name on the cover. But for a long time I thought of writing as something other people did. Stephen King’s book, On Writing, was a big inspiration to at least give it a go, so I joined a local creative writing class to force myself into it. I went on from there, and just kept writing and learning all I could, mainly because I loved it, but then I started to have short stories published and eventually decided it was time to try writing a novel. 

Q:- Have you always written dark/supernatural horror fiction?

Pretty much from the beginning, yes. I tried different things at first, but quickly discovered that it was the darker ideas that got my fingers tingling to get to the keyboard. It was odd really because I still read really widely at that point, but I got drawn more and more into the genre as a reader too because of the direction my writing took. 

Q:- Do you read in that genre too? Which authors and books stand out for you? Or have influenced you?

I increasingly immersed myself in the genre as I went along. Partly that was inspired by other genre people – I can still remember being at an event and folk having a really in-depth conversation about Cthulhu, and I’m like, ‘What?’ So I wanted to plug the gaps in my knowledge, but also I fell in love with the genre more and more, so naturally turned to it in my reading. I love John Ajvide Lindqvist, Joe Hill, Michele Paver, Graham Joyce and many, many others. Priya Sharma, Nathan Ballingrud, Angela Slatter and Paul Tremblay are writing stunning short fiction. Some of the books I’ve enjoyed recently are Tim Lebbon’s Eden, The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher and Starve Acre by Andrew Michael Hurley. 

Q:- How do you structure your writing day?

Mainly I make sure my two Dalmatian dogs are happy, then I begin! I take them for a good walk, which wakes me up and gets them to sleep, so I can have some peace to sit down in the study. I get any bits and bobs done before lunch, then a big block of work in the afternoon. Or plenty of banging my head against the wall, depending on how it’s going. 

Q:- Is it pen/paper or PC? Coffee or tea? Music on or off? Study or shed where you write?

Pen and paper for notes – preferably fountain pens, which are just luscious – but a laptop for drafting. Perhaps oddly, I often use a Kindle for editing too, at least once I’m onto the later stages. The reading part of the process feels more natural that way, then I can use my short notes as a guide to make the actual changes on the computer. It saves printing out reams of paper too. 

I work in my study, which I love. I decorated it and built the desk and sit there surrounded by bookish things. As for the rest, I’m a tea and quiet kind of person.  

Q:- You’ve written an impressive number of novels and short stories. Do you have a preference for the short or longer form? Are you more comfortable with one or the other? Do you plan for both, i.e. are you a planner or a pantser? 

I’d have to come down on the side of the longer form, though it’s tricky because short stories are just so much fun. You can try different things – various settings and voices – in a short space of time, and even if it doesn’t work, there’s not too much lost. Novels are a deeper, more intense experience, and sometimes horribly frustrating to work through, but the pay-off is a greater sense of satisfaction at the end of it. 

Q:- My personal favourite of your novels is the Victorian Gothic The Crow Garden (pub. Oct 2017). Do you have a favourite amongst your novels/short stories? And if so, why?

I loved writing both my Victorian Gothic tales, so that’s kind of you to say! My favourite is probably the earlier one, The Hidden People, just because it uses some of the dark fairy changeling lore that I adore. Plus, I was part way through writing that book when I realised that the situation in the little village of Halfoak was going to be more complex and wide-ranging than I had thought. It surprised me, and I love it when that happens. A similar thing happened with my latest, Mistletoe, where one of the characters very much took the reins towards the end. 



Q:- Mistletoe, published in October by Jo Fletcher Books, is your latest novel. Landscape plays a significant part in your novels, as it does in this one. I was struck by the snowy isolation of Maitland Farm. Is it based on a particular area or farm you know? Or even your own home, which you describe on your blog as ‘a house of creaking doors and crooked walls’?

My own house is, worryingly, more like the one in The Unquiet House, apart from the actual ghosts anyway! I do tend to set my books in Yorkshire because that’s where I live and I’m familiar with it and its folk and the way people talk and so on. Maitland Farm is an amalgam of various old farmhouses I’ve been inside or just seen dotted around the more dank corners of the countryside. I did have a photo of one old farmhouse in front of me while I wrote, which I lifted from a website of houses for sale in Yorkshire. It was just my image of Maitland Farm. Weirdly, I can’t find it now, though I do wonder what the people who bought it might have thought of it all.

Q:- Mistletoe travels back in time to the Victorian era and you also weave in folkloric traditions to do with mistletoe (which I didn’t know and found interesting). Again, did you do research for this?

Yes, I did plenty of research, both into the folklore I used and the history of the Christmas season, which is also threaded through the novel. I do feel that if I’m going to use folklore or history in a story, I have to use it faithfully, even though I’m writing fiction. In the case of Mistletoe some of the tales behind the plant came from different regions, but I found ways of working that into the text and having some kind of logic behind its being there. Simply inventing that aspect of the content would have felt all wrong to me. 

Q:- How long did it take you to write the book?

I actually wrote the novel pretty quickly and handed it in during 2018, doing much of the spadework in the early part of the year when the spirit of Christmas wasn’t too distant a memory and we had plenty of snow flurries to help with the description. It was just too late to get the novel out that year, though, so it was scheduled for October 2019, which gave plenty of time for further editing. As a result, I’m beginning to formulate a theory that editing takes every bit as long as you allow for it!

Q:- Did you have any input into the cover design – which to me, seemed to make the mistletoe appear both organic and carnivorous? Certainly not the cosy image we usually have relating to kisses under the mistletoe.

I did put some ideas forward, but the credit for that really has to go to the brilliant team at Jo Fletcher Books! They made it look deliciously striking and moody, and I love the palette of colours they used.

  Q:- You write about horror and scary things – so, what scares you?

Lots of things. People tend to assume that horror writers are like the monster in the closet, when we’re really the child cowering under the duvet. Mainly, I guess, the big questions of death and loss. A lot of the time, though, horror writing is really about love, because it’s when you love something that you fear losing it the most. I do think that writing about such things helps you work through what you feel about them and how you’d face them, so it offers catharsis too, for both reader and writer.

Q:- What films have you enjoyed watching lately? And music? Do you prefer gigs or theatre or films?

I enjoy the odd gig or trip to the theatre, though I prefer films. The Silence, the movie made of Tim Lebbon’s novel, was awesome. (available to watch on Netflix).

I recently saw Brightburn, which was brilliant – high-concept and yet character-driven at the same time. My favourite film is Pan’s Labyrinth. I love the choice it offers the viewer at the end – it pretty much makes you decide if you believe in magic. It’s just beautiful. Tale of Tales is amazing too, it’s just visually stunning and yet grotesque. I’d love to visit some of the places it was filmed; they deliberately chose locations that don’t look quite real. I’m rambling now, aren’t I. Sorry! 

Q:- What are you currently working on? (As much information as you can give.)

I’m currently editing a novel length version of my novella, Cottingley. As its name suggests, The Cottingley Cuckoo revolves around the incident of the Cottingley fairies, which were famously supposed to have been caught on camera near Bradford by two young girls. Events escalated after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was taken in. It’s a fascinating incident, though of course the image of the fairies presented didn’t match up to the rather darker tales of the little folk I’ve read so much about. So my story involves fairies that are rather less sweet and gauzy and any encounters with them have rather darker consequences. 

Q:- What publications do you have coming out next? Your work often appears in horror or dark fiction anthologies. I noticed on Amazon that you have a story appearing in Cursed: An Anthology of Dark Fairy Tales due out in March 2020 alongside Neil Gaiman and the wonderful Angela Slatter, whose work I love. Can you tell us something about that project, please?

Sure! I was lucky enough to be invited to submit, and the theme was a cracker – new fairy stories involving a curse. I’d been reading Magical Folk, a book about fairy legends from around the UK, and one set on the Shetlands really caught hold of my imagination, so I wound my story about that. The editors, Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane, fortunately liked it. I’m in great company and the cover looks gorgeous, so I’m very much looking forward to seeing the finished book. 

It’s a nice time for upcoming anthologies, actually – I’m also looking forward to Stephen Jones’ Mammoth Book of Folk Horror and Shadows and Tall Trees Volume 8 by Michael Kelly, (due out on 3 March, 2020) plus a couple of other lovely projects I’m not sure if I’m allowed to talk about yet.  

Q:- I am a huge fan of zombie movies and shows, from del Toro’s fab TV series, The Strain, to World War Z, the British, 28 Days, to B movies like Rezort Z and the old Val Lewton’s B I walked with a Zombie. If it’s got zombies in it – I’m there. 

In 2015 you wrote Zombie Apocalypse! Acapulcalypse Now, set in Stephen Jones’ ZA universe. Was this a natural sideways move for you into another type of horror? Something you’d always wanted to have a go at? Do you enjoy zombie films?

It wasn’t a natural step as such – Steve simply asked me if I’d like to write a novel set in the ZA world he’d created, and I thought it would be a massive dose of fun! I’d already written a short piece for one of the ZA mosaic novels, so it was a progression from that. I’d also set plenty of short stories overseas, in places I’d visited, so this was a great opportunity to do that with a novel. It’s about zombies invading a Mexican hotel, with plenty of mayhem but also hopefully some touching human stories, along with a good dose of Mayan lore. There are a few japes in it too, and some tips of the hat to various disaster or adventure movies for the sharp-eyed to spot. It turned out to be just as I’d expected – huge fun, and Steve was great to work with.  

As for zombie films – I watch ’em, though I’m not an aficionado! I rather like the ones with a bit of comedy running through them – my approach to zombies seems naturally a bit tongue-in-cheek. So Zombieland or Shaun of the Dead would be more my thing. 

Thank you Alison.

Thank you Alyson!


Twitter :- Ali_L

Amazon author’s page:- https://www.amazon.co.uk/Alison-Littlewood/e/B005VO5DJI

Epeolatry Book Review: High Wired On


Our reviews may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the links in this article we may receive a small commission or referral fee. This happens without any additional cost to you.

Title: High Wired On
Author: David Russell
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Searle Publishing
Release Date: 20th June, 2002

Synopsis: The 95 page novella High Wired On by David Russell, (published Jan. 24, 2019) features Billy, whose world is decaying around him. Everything that could go wrong seems to, and it’s starting to take its toll. When Billy begins to hear voices in the corners of his mind whispering promises of salvation, his crumbling world begins to distort. Whether for better or for worse, that still remains to be seen. 

“His confidence was crumbling fast. Once he could whisk through the crowds which surrounded him, assured that he was skimming over the surface of life, in no danger of being swallowed up by its depths, but now . . .”

The prose is the first thing that stands out in Russell’s work. What begins as a story recounting a man’s early life to his present day (being recounted by some form of researcher, implying this man’s involvement in some important event), quickly transitions into something prophetic, fantastical, and altogether unconventional. 

While there is no doubt Russell masters writing, and the sentences he weaves emit an abstract, unique beauty, it borders on the self-indulgent as the story takes multiple breaks to composite monologues via dialogue or narrative voice. The author postulates on one subject or another, though (to his credit) stays relevant to the plot at hand. However, this dream-like prose is briefly interrupted through grounded and straight-forward text, shattering the illusion and making for a jarring read. Such a change may have been interpreted as reality in the distorted story, but the frequency of shifts in writing style are far and few between, so it feels less significant and intentional. This problem is distinct in the dialogue, where long-winded replies and statements move to surreal territory as characters become less and less believable in the way that they speak. The simplistic and natural dialogue betrays the more theatrical and otherworldly dialogue. 

Despite its shortcomings, the narrative voice—at times—produces elegantly constructed sentences that add to the oppressive force Billy feels, which leads to an extrapolation of his inner turmoil. Billy’s sense of isolation and ostracization bleeds forth due to the more impersonal nature in which it is written. This detachment meant that I, as a reader, couldn’t connect with Billy. It made it harder to empathize with him on his journey, especially with Billy being the central focus. Brief sentences and smaller chapters are used for backstory—who Billy was as a child, what his family and love life were like, and where he worked. With so little time spent on these aspects, he feels distant. Given how introspective and analytical this story wishes to be, even with these lengthy internal monologue paragraphs, Billy comes across as just a name, a vehicle for the plot. 

Taking into account the short time spent on Billy as a character and the short length of the book (not even surpassing 100 pages), it’s hard to root for Billy, get invested, or understand his decisions. When events do occur, it feels as though he’s stumbled upon them. None of his choices have any impact upon the outcome, which leaps from one to another in such a rapid fashion that substance can’t be absorbed or digested. This is especially the case when the story gives the impression of leaving its entirety up to interpretation. Barely anything on the surface level ties it all together.

High Wired On feels less like a story and more like a platform for Russell to pontificate on various subjects and express his inner musings and ideals. It’s a maelstrom of long-winded delusions about a man (broken by society) who questions if his existence is real or purposeful. More metaphor than meaning, High Wired On is recommended for those seeking a challenge. Dive into its depths of pretension, and salvage some form of worthwhile experience that only the reader can define. 

High Wired On can be found on Amazon!

2/5 stars

5 Reasons To Guest Post

Earlier this month, we were talking about The Power Of Guest Posting For Authors, and now we’re back with some more insight about how it can benefit an author. While guest posting isn’t exactly the direct tool to finding more readers for your work it once was, there are still quite a few benefits to them!

Full disclosure, I am biassed towards guest posts, and we feature them whenever we can! From blog tours to Women In Horror Month to just having an author, editor, or publisher wanting to talk about the craft of story creation I am always thrilled to have guest posts to share. Today, we have five more authors and marketers weighing in on the subject to give you their own experience and points of view!

Guest posting is a tactic that has worked pretty well for marketers and it can work especially well for authors, since it can help them find more readers, spread their message to a wider audience and of course, increase traffic to their website.

There really is not too much variety on the methods one can use, in order to find blogs that accept guest posts. The author will need to research competition first, pick a topic and then reach out to those blogs that accept guest posts-the more, the better. Just make sure that the topics you propose are topics that can actually be published on the blog you’re proposing them to.

Now, the reasons why an author should do that, are plenty. First of all, they’ll reach a broader audience. Secondly, they’ll get more exposure and, as a result, traffic to their website. And thirdly-and perhaps, most importantly, seeing as the competition is fierce out there-guest blogging will improve their own website’s SEO, seeing as a relevant site that links back to their own (or a backlink) will show search engines that the website is of value. Oh, and the more, the merrier!

Téa Liarokap

Content writer for Moosend

Téa Liarokapi is a content writer working for email marketing software company Moosend (https://moosend.com/) and an obsessive writer in general. In her free time, she tries to find new ways to stuff more books in her bookcase and content ideas-and cats-to play with.

Guest posting has helped me almost double the traffic to my website and gain new readers who learned of my food writing from my guest posts. Guest posting has also allowed me to gain credibility in Google’s eyes thanks to having precious links to Garlic Delight from well-known websites.

Here are my 3 tips for authors trying to guest post:

1. *Get a warm introduction or set up a connection: *Cold pitches usually go ignored. Meet authors, bloggers, and content creators in person before pitching. If you cannot meet people in person, create a relationship online by following them on social media and liking or commenting on their posts a few times before pitching them.

2. *Write a custom pitch that clearly shows research*: A generic pitch is obvious. A pitch that doesn’t use someone’s first name goes straight to the trash. Pitch 2-3 thoughtful ideas that cover topics that are similar to the target website where you want to guest post.

3. *Spend time to add value:* When I guest post, I usually take three or four times longer than a post I would publish on Garlic Delight. Avoid sloppy work that gets rejected which is awkward and embarrassing for everybody.

Anna Rider

Food Writer and Recipe Developer at Garlic Delight

Anna Rider is a food writer and recipe developer at Garlic Delight who has been guest posting with good results in the past 3 months, including guest publications on well-known food websites, such as The Spruce Eats <https://www.thespruceeats.com/taiwanese-beef-noodle-soup-4777014> and Macheesmo <https://www.macheesmo.com/homemade-trials-gravy/>.

Guest Posting is an opportunity to establish and build a relationship with another outlet. Backlinks from host websites aid your own site’s authority and your own profile. It makes it possible for members of the host site’s audience to discover a new author, potentially opening a new avenue for others to find your own website.

As with other forms of publishing, the pitch — the ‘why’ of your post — is everything. Not only do you have to let the host know what your post is about, but also why your post would be a good fit for their repertoire. Take care to consider the tone and style of the website you’re aiming for, without sacrificing your own style, as this is what will lead people to wanting to discover your other content. 

Rhea Henry

Content Strategist with Energy Rates

Rhea Henry is a content strategist with EnergyRates.ca, a leading energy rate comparison website. We provide users with unbiased third-party reviews of electricity and natural gas retailers so they can select the best option among them.

I have personally used guest posting to gain exposure for my brand and website. People have contacted me saying they saw my guest post on a particular website and wanted to be added to my list or make an investment in a website or ask questions about my area of expertise. Guest posts are a great way to grow your brand and showcase your expertise. I even had a CEO of a large website investing company reach out to me after reading my post and say he had read my guest post and wanted to know if I would speak at their website selling conference.

Stacy Caprio


Stacy inspires entrepreneurs to start and grow their own side hustles as well as invests in websites and gives others tools to buy and sell their sites. 
Company: Her.CEO

Since publishing my book in July, I have included guest posting as a part of my overall marketing and advertising strategy. There are several reasons that I feel this has helped me get my message to the masses. Initially, this a free way to share your story. Most authors have a limited budget and guest posting is a great way to stretch your marketing budget. Secondly, I have found that guest posting has helped me focus my message. This has increased my presence in my preferred audience. Another benefit of guest posting is it adds an audio component for my message. I have found this makes me more relatable to the readers.

As for the advertising, I post the guest post links into appropriate social media groups as a way to share my message with others.

I’ve found having third party social proof helps spread your message and increase sales.

Lisa Swift-Young

Author: Pause 2 Praise: 30 Days to Happier and Healthier Relationships with Your Adult Children

Lisa Swift-Young Is a marketing maven, authorpreneur, and global wanderer. She is the author of Pause 2 Praise: 30 Days to Happier and HealthierRelationships with Your Adult Children, the COO of 4Curls, a haircare brand and co-founder of Change We Seek, giving foundation.  When she’s not choosing a new adventure with her family, she’s bingeing international independent films.

Follow her @ https://www.instagram.com/pause2praisebooks/   and  https://www.facebook.com/Pause2Praisebook/

In conclusion, there are still a solid amount of reasons and social proof that show guest posting is beneficial.
A few potential benefits once again:
– If the guest post’s audience matches your potential readership it could be a great opportunity to find new readers.
– Networking with authors, editors, reviewing, and publishers!
– Backlinks to help SEO from the mighty Google.

If you run a blog and take guest posts, please let us know! We may look into compiling a list of sites that do and share it with our readership. Thanks for tuning in and have a great week!

10 Alternate Psychological Concepts

The word TOP 10 written in vintage metal letterpress type on a soft backlit background.

As part of a writing discussion group, I recently did a brief summary of what a psychopath and a sociopath actually are. (Why me? Long story, but it involves some studied I did in one of my university degrees…) Anyway, these two character types often appear in horrors and thrillers (even if the details are usually completely misguided) and seem to be the dominant psychological tropes that occur. Sure, there are some others – amnesia, kleptomania, various phobias, megalomania (especially in the mad doctor vein) – but there are so many more that could surely make a great basis for a horror story.


Now, before I start, I do not consider the autism spectrum disorders as psychological. They are a part of neurodiversity. The same can be said of Downs Syndrome. And, as far as I am concerned, those who identify with any aspects of the LGBTI+ (LGBTIQQAA) community do not deserve to be placed here either. I’m also going to try to steer away from things that lend themselves a little too much to pornography.


This is not going to be a list of phobias and philias, either, though some will appear. These are psychological devices I think could be well utilised in good horror or thriller stories. And, as is the nature of these columns, here are 10 if them I think are seriously worth considering.


1) Déjà vu
What? The strange feeling that what you are going through now you’ve already been through before. It’s not amnesia, as you remember it, but it is the feeling you are reliving a part of your life.
Possibilities: What if the déjà vu was real and the MC had experienced it before? What if s/he was being set up to think they had experienced it before? Yes, you could go into full Groundhog Day territory (great film, by the way), but what if it was more subtle than that? The same people on the same corners? Same words being spoken? But enough changes you know you’re not reliving the same day over and over. Some intriguing possibilities here.


2) Zoanthropy
What? The delusion that one is actually a non-human animal.
Possibilities: This is when a person honestly thinks they are an animal, not just identifies with an animal or believes they change into one. And it involves real animals, not mythical/mythological ones. How would a person cope if their loved one came to develop Zoanthropy? What would go through the afflicted person’s mind? How would they start to see the world around them? This seems to open itself up to some deep psychological explorations.


3) Xenorexia
What? The compulsive desire to swallow non-food objects. Could be specific objects – dirt is surprisingly common – to anything non-food.
Possibilities: While it is not good to make fun of or victimise those afflicted by psychological issues, a person suffering from this could well be a nice, low-key villain. Or they could add an extreme complication to the hero’s quest to do whatever it is the hero has been set to do in the story. It can lead, obviously, to some pretty severe physiological effects as well. What would a hero have to do to cope if s/he had this issue? While maybe not a driving force, it would definitely add a really interesting layer to a character.


4) Acathexis
What? When a person exhibits a distinct lack of emotional response towards something that should be considered of considerable importance.
Possibilities: This would be an absolutely fascinating character trait in an MC. The inability to feel strong emotion gives rise to the question: How would they be motivated to do something that was going to change the story/world they lived in? It is not a complete lack of emotion, but that there is a lack of emotion in a crisis. An example might be a person who is annoyed on September 12 because he can’t get to work, the Twin Towers falling having no effect on him. Sometimes it is a response because the magnitude of the event cannot be absorbed; sometimes it is a long-term psychological factor where large life events just do not register. That could be a really different MC.


5) Traumatophilia
What? When a person seems to be unusually accident-prone. This is not general clumsiness or being unco-ordinated (as I put my hand up here in embarrassment), but describes people who seem to repeatedly put themselves into situations in which something goes wrong, resulting in injury to themselves or others. Despite the name, it is generally accepted there is no sexual element to it.
Possibilities: A minor character, a really bizarre MC, a henchperson of the villain – this character could appear just about everywhere. It should also be said they do not want to commit suicide, just hurt themselves. Objectives can be looking for sympathy, they feel they deserve pain, proving they are worthless, a need to be saved, whatever. There are so many possibilities in this one.


6) Scopophobia
What? The fear of being seen by others. Not just being spied on, but being seen, full stop.
Possibilities: Scopophobia is a very genuine form of social phobia, one that is apparently increasing as more and more people live their lives entirely online. However, if the victim of a big bad in a horror tale suffered from this, how would they let anyone know of their very real distress? If the antagonist knows this is a person’s fear, then they could constantly go about setting up situations where the person was put into a situation of being seen. Think: webcams in the house, the poor victim getting an email address and discovering their every movement was being broadcast. There would be a heightened sense of terror, compounded by the phobia. Like a modern day take on Audrey Hepburn’s classic turn in Wait Until Dark.


7) Capgras syndrome
What? This severe psychosis is marked by the delusion that ‘doubles’ have replaced persons whom one knows. Not an Invasion Of The Body Snatchers situation where it is real, but the delusion that that is the case.
Possibilities: The person suffering from this could be quite a hindrance to any story. Maybe they could see their own doppelganger and that could just heighten their paranoia. What I would not want to see, however, is for the delusion to be true in the end – everyone really replaced by doubles. I think that would diminish the true horror of Capgras syndrome and make it just another “they’ve come and taken us over” bog-standard sci-fi/horror story.
(There is a related delusion: Mignon delusion. This is a surprisingly common childhood fantasy that one’s ‘real’ parents are famous, illustrious persons who will eventually come to rescue them from their current lives. Unfortunately, some do carry this on into adulthood, with horrible results on Dr Phil.)


8) Histrionic personality disorder
What? This personality disorder is characterised by immaturity, self-centredness, attention-getting, manipulativeness and quite often a vague seductiveness; such persons are overly dramatic, reactive and intense in their interpersonal relationships. (Come on, you know some-one like this…)
Possibilities: Look, characters like this have been a source of fun in 1980s teen comedies (I was a teen in the 1980s… I saw wa-a-ay too many of these films to be healthy), but to transport a person like that into a horror story could be intriguing. In that case, they should not just be the victim everyone is happy to see killed off, but the person being stalked all the way through, with their former behaviours meaning they are not taken seriously or are treated derisively. Writing a person like this so that in the end there is sympathy for them could be a good writing exercise.


9) Omnipotence of thought
What? This is the belief that one’s wishes, hopes or thoughts can affect external reality. It is actually common as a developmental stage of childhood, where it is referred to as ‘magical thinking’.
Possibilities: Unlike Capgras syndrome, this is one where the intriguing thing might be “what if it was real?” A person could well think it was happening, be slowly talked around that it wasn’t – and this is tough because they will deny proof that says they are wrong; it’s a part of the psychological implications of the disorder – but then people realise that maybe s/he is affecting the world around them by their thoughts alone. Subtle creepy terror is imminent.


10) Parataxic distortion
What? This is when a person has a distorted view of reality brought about by inferring a causal relationship between events that are actually independent.
Possibility: Actually, we’re seeing this all the time in the real world.
My bad.


Writers, try challenging yourself. Give your characters something beyond the normal psychological issues we see and read all the friggin’ time. Some of these might be a little different, and give your work that difference that could make it stand out. And the characters these lead to could well become unique and saleable. In my opinion (caveat!), of course.


Good writing!


Epeolatry Book Review: Third Corona Book of Horror Stories


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Title: The Third Corona Book of Horror Stories
Author: Various, ed. Lewis Williams
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Corona Books UK
Release Date: 1st October, 2019

Synopsis: In response to our worldwide call, we received a total of 824 horror short story submissions for this book – adding up to a staggering total of over three million words. But we read them all, selecting only the best of the best stories to include in this book. That is why when we say this book is something special, we mean it and that when we say it contains the best in new horror short stories, that is no hyperbole. We love horror, and the stories included in this book prove that it’s a genre where great imagination and great writing are more than possible. From the opening story ‘Suds and Monsters’, which might put you off washing dishes for good, to the closing story ‘Scythe’, which brings the proceedings to a short sharp close, each contribution will bring new horrors to unsettle you. We can guarantee you will find brilliant new horror writing here, but what you won’t find is a collection full of those who have star names (yet). We’re proud to include here both a story from at least one author who has sold books in the millions and a story from at least one author whose work has never been published before. We’ve simply included the very, very best of the stories, without fear or favour, to bring you the very best modern horror anthology possible.

Corona Publishing is in their own words, a ‘UK-based independent publishers of the brilliant, innovative and quirky.’

I attended the UK Ghost Story Festival in Derby and met the two people behind Corona—Lewis Williams and Sue Eaton.  We sat for an interview which has appeared on the Horror Tree site https://horrortree.com/guest-post-uk-ghost-story-festival/.

Since I’d already been aware of Corona Books, I made a mental note to read their latest anthology collection, The Third Corona Book of Horror Stories (224 pages).

Corona received an overwhelming number of submissions—824—for this anthology. One submission was from me; my story received an ‘honourable mention’.

19 dark tales have been gathered from both sides of the Atlantic. Experienced writers and at least one début author are included in this collection. So, there is a mix of US and Brit-style dialogue and slang.

A variety of horrors await the reader. The anthology is well edited and put together; I was impressed by the quality.

The opening story ‘Suds and Monsters’ by Christopher Stanley proved to be a strong start. You’ll never view doing the washing the same way again! Horrific. 

Tricia Lowther’s, ‘The Haunting of April’, also grabbed my attention. 

‘Heights’, apart from being well written with a climbing scale of spooky haunting, stars a dog. And I am rather fond of dogs. 

Jo Gilmour’s, ‘Angel’, is visceral. It tugs at your guts and heart right from the ominous opening line, ‘Daddy always wanted a boy.’ Which set my alarm bells ringing. 

A shout out to Jess Doyle’s, ‘Luna Too’, for originality and a twist I didn’t see coming. 

Probably my favourite story is, ‘Lily’s Kids’, by Florence Ann Marlowe. Marlowe’s tale leapt off the page and remained in my memory afterwards. Set in a small American town in the Depression era, and told mainly from a teenage boy’s point of view (Jimmy). It describes his and his younger sister’s fatal meeting with three children who are ‘raggedy scarecrows’—the titular Lily’s Kids. Marlowe builds the tension and allows readers to work out what’s going on by dropping hints, and yet holding back till the final skin-crawling reveal. Marlowe is a writer from whom I would like more stories to read.

There are no weak links in this anthology. All the stories pull their weight. Yes, there are stories I didn’t enjoy as much, but that I believe that goes to a reader’s personal taste. I did feel like a couple narratives finished a little early for me, and I would have liked more details from others.

Don’t miss out on the series of useful and interesting author biographies at the rear.

Overall a strong, entertaining anthology.

4/5 stars

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