Category: Articles

10 Worst Movie Monsters

There is something to be said for a great movie monster. They can terrify and live in the imagination for a long time, and you really wonder how the characters on the screen are going to come out of this alive, or even if they are going to come out of this at all. They can be large or small or man-sized; they can be based on authentic science, come from legend, or be the result of pure imagination. And when seen on the screen they are a triumph of special effects, make-up, computer technology or a combination thereof. And a master director can add a little something to make it all the worse.

 

These are not those monsters.

 

Now, this list could have been freakin’ huge, but I had to draw a line somewhere. The monster has to look ridiculous, and be rendered ridiculously. The monster must be so stupid that no matter how good the make-up or special effects, nothing could help. So a monster like the alligator man in The Alligator People, or the trolls in Trolls, or even the terror that creeps in The Creeping Terror could actually have been made watchable by some-one who knew what they were doing. I also decided against including giant versions of normal animals. Night Of The Lepus could be scary, except that rabbits are so cute and fuzzy you want to hug them as they ran around toy cars, not scream in terror and run away. And normal animals – like those killer frogs, lizards, spiders, alligators in the film Frogs – are not really monsters so much as nature gone wild.

 

These monsters are stupid in every sense of the word.

 

I own all of these movies. I am a sad, old man.

 

Twonky (from The Twonky, 1953)

A sentient television set. I don’t think I need to go any further. A 1950s TV set on legs and things that can walk, shoot laser beams and kill people and tries to take over a man’s life and the film is appallingly written and the monster is NOT scary. Hell, wait 60 years and various screens have enslaved people completely. No lasers needed.

 

Ro-Man (Robot Monster, 1953)

It would be unfair to call this the worst movie of all time in a universe where Hulk Hogan makes films. (I collect and adore bad films, but Mr Hogan has appeared in the film I consider the very worst ever bar none.) But, damn, this film is terrible. Non-acting children, a cast of 7, a floating space platform where you can see the hand holding the stick (I am not joking – I saw it in a cinema and when that hand appeared the projectionist paused the film), and… The monster. Take a gorilla costume. Put it on a tubby man. Plonk an old-fashioned deep-sea diving helmet on his head. Attack some wire “antennas”. Have him surrounded by bubbles. Scary!

 

It From Venus (It Conquered The World, 1956)

It has been said that because Venus has a higher gravity than Earth, it makes sense that its inhabitants would be short and squat. But would that make them look like carrots with a good dental plan? Really? With, to quote Mystery Science Theatre 3000, its oven mitt hench-bats, this has to be the least intimidating alien ever.
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Friday Update: Pandemic Book Launches and Events

Pandemic Book Launches and Events  24.07.20

In addition to Jim McLeod’s Pandemic Book Launch group on Facebook – go here for more infomation – Joe Mynhardt has set up a collaborative Facebook group for the independent presses: Hot Off the Indie Press, check it out here.  Click on the book covers for more information.

**New Feature: Events. Scroll down the page and you will find any online events listed (that I have been notified about).**

Pandemic Book Launches 

*********** Charity Anthologies ************

1st July   13th July    Click cover for trailer!

 

They Slipped Through the Net

This section features books published during lockdown but which have only just come onto our radar (plus special editions newly released).

27th Jan   28th Apr The Girl in the Video by [Michael David Wilson] 27th Jun Beers and Fears: Flight Night by [Chuck  Buda, Frank  Edler, Armand  Rosamilia, Tim  Meyer, Dan Padavona]
29th Jun Seeds of the Dead: (Genetically Modified Zombies! A tale of a deadly viral outbreak in our bioengineered food.) by [Andy Kumpon, Gary Malick, Bill Armstrong] Anniversary Edition

July 2020

 9th  15th   15th   15th Graveyard Smash: Women of Horror Anthology Volume 2 by [Dona Fox, Michelle Renee Lane, Yolanda Sfetsos, Catherine McCarthy, Christy Aldridge, Ellie Douglas, Sonora Taylor, V. Castro, Carmen Baca, Janine Pipe]

16th Cozened: Cybil Lewis Mysteries, Book 2 17thAll The Dead Men: Alexander Smith #2 by [Errick Nunnally, Bracken MacLeod]20th  20th

22nd 24th Grotesque: Monster Stories (Things in the Well Book 38) by [Lee Murray, Greg Chapman, Steve Dillon, David Wood]31st Soon

August 2020

4th    4th     6th   7th
10th 18th   25th  25th
25th Recall Night (An Eli Carver Supernatural Thriller Book 2) by [Alan Baxter, Anthony Rivera]28th

September 2020

  1st    8th    10th    15th

29th   IMG_0672.JPG

October 2020

20thDownwind, Alice

Future Releases (note: dates not always available)

 

 

 

 

Events

24th July – Grotesque Monster Stories by Lee Murray. Online launch event on Facebook.

1st Aug – Scares That Care Virtual Charity Event – raising money for nominated people: a sick child, a breast cancer sufferer and a burns victim. Find out more information here https://scaresthatcare.org/home and via Brian Keene, here.

22-23rd Aug – Buzz Book Expo. Online book expo for publishers to talk about upcoming releases in the period Sept 2020-Dec 2020. Focus is horror but includes paranormal/supernatural thrillers, dark fantasy, genre blends and non-fiction. Coordinated by Mary SanGiovanni, go here for more information.

Happy reading.

Steph

 on behalf of Stuart and the Horror Tree Team

 

10 sideways slides into fantasy

10 sideways slides into fantasy

by Tim Major

 

My new novel, Hope Island, is about a British mother and her daughter, visiting a remote island and encountering creepy children and a strange archaeological site filled with ethereal cave song. It starts fairly straight, but it gets pretty weird.

 

On which note, here are some of my favourite classic novels in which the fantastical elements creep up on you at unexpected moments.

 

The Castle of Otranto – Horace Walpole (1764)

Generally regarded as the first Gothic novel, but far from the rudimentary template I’d expected. It’s hysterically funny, for one thing, but also the flights of fantasy are wild and untamed by what would become the conventions of the genre, as evidenced by the start of the novel, in which Lord Manfred’s sickly son Conrad is crushed to death by a gigantic helmet that (inexplicably) falls on him from above.

 

The Man Who Was Thursday – G. K. Chesterton (1908)

I suppose the subtitle – ‘A Nightmare’ – is a giveaway, but at first it really does feel like a straight crime mystery novel. It isn’t long before the ground falls away beneath the reader, though, and the story becomes a woozy trek through nightmarish imagery, with a bizarre ending that still haunts me.

 

Lanark – Alasdair Gray (1981)

Having meant to read this long novel for years, it’s been a perfect, and perfectly absorbing, lockdown read. It’s (sort of) the life of a Glasgow man presented in four books, which are presented in the wrong order. While two of the books are a fairly realistic depiction of the upbringing of Duncan Thaw, the other half concerns the markedly different man – the Lanark of the title – reviewing his earlier life via an oracle, suffering from a case of dragonhide. It’s a slippery book, with fantasy frequently at risk of overwhelming its subjects. It’s wonderful.

 

The Third Policeman – Flann O’Brien (1940)

In fairness, this novel only comes across as ‘straight’ for a very short period, until its metaphysical aspects override any pretence of a mystery plot or realism. Then it becomes a freewheeling, fantastical romp through philosophy, physics and literature, without ever leaving a small Irish village.

 

Kleinzeit – Russell Hoban (1974)

Rather like Lanark, this book concerns both illness and the nature of creativity. In hospital with a case of ‘skewed hypotenuse’, Kleinzeit wrestles with his mind, sometimes literally. 

 

Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf (1925)

Another lockdown book, and another wonderful surprise. While preparing to host a party, Clarissa Dalloway slips into memories, and Septimus Warren Smith is visited by hallucinations brought on by wartime traumatic stress. The viewpoint slides constantly, and it’s often difficult to pin down whose mind we’re within. It’s dizzying and overwhelming, but always compelling.

 

The Centaur – John Updike (1963)

So there’s this school teacher, who has a wife and an anxious son, and who is searching for meaning in life… but he’s also a centaur, and maybe his wife is Venus and his son is Prometheus… I’ll be honest, the storyline is often hard to track, but it’s a beautiful, bizarre ride.

 

Concrete Island – J. G. Ballard (1974)

Wealthy architect Robert Maitland becomes stranded on a piece of derelict land surrounded by roads and is forced to struggle for survival. He meets outlandish inhabitants of the ‘island’ and wonders if he’ll ever leave, or if he wants to. Once again, the first part of the novel can be taken relatively straight, but Maitland, or perhaps Ballard, or perhaps the reader, slips gradually into outright madness.

 

Thérèse Raquin – Émile Zola (1868)

The third of my lockdown reads on this list. Having been recommended this book but having no knowledge of it, I’d assumed that the back-cover reference to ‘a plain haberdasher’ and ‘drudgery’ signalled this would be a tame read. Absolutely not! It’s a complex tale worthy of Patricia Highsmith, a glimpse into tortured minds, and the irregular bursts of fantastical imagery is startling – not least the demonic cat.

 

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket – Edgar Allan Poe (1838)

This is Poe’s only novel, and I desperately wish there had been more! Pym stows aboard a whaling ship, and the first part of the novel is a seafaring adventure, featuring shipwreck, mutiny, and cannibalism – all standard stuff, I suppose. But then as Pym ventures farther south, his narrative becomes warped, and his fate becomes the stuff of nightmares – specifically, H. P. Lovecraft’s nightmares.

Tim Major

Tim Major

Author

TIM MAJOR is the author of Snakeskins, You Don’t Belong HereBlightersCarus & Mitch, the YA novel Machineries of Mercy, the short story collection And the House Lights Dim, and a non-fiction book about the silent crime film, Les Vampires. His shorts have appeared in InterzoneNot One of Us and numerous anthologies including Best of British Science Fiction and The Best Horror of the Year. He lives in York, UK. He tweets @onasteamer.
 

Apex Magazine Relaunches Their Kickstarter

Earlier this year we were thrilled to share with you that Apex Magazine was set to return and now they’re one step closer! This amazing magazine has just relaunched their Kickstarter and I have the news concerning this below!

It’s official. Apex Magazine is coming out of hiatus in January of 2021. We launched our Kickstarter yesterday to fund our first two issues and hit our goal in 5 hours!
Naturally, we have plenty of stretch goals planned, including the funding of four more issues in 2021 along with special issues devoted to Indigenous fantasists and works of international writers along with expansion plans for our podcast.
Maurice Broaddus joins us as special fiction editor and Shana DuBois is our new nonfiction editor. Returning are editor-in-chief Jason Sizemore and managing editor Lesley Conner.

Falling In Love With Literature

I don’t recall my exact age nor the specific book, but I do remember the moment when I fell in love with literature. It was sometime near the middle or later part of elementary school, and I distinctly recall my awed appreciation of the author’s ability to relate a story so that it easily played out before my mind’s eye. Being quite the magic enthusiast at this time as well—I still have my recorded David Copperfield specials on VHS—the apparent comparison did not escape me. That is, what skilled writers could accomplish appeared no less a miracle than the feats performed by artists like Copperfield. Realizing, of course, that magic tricks were not the result of actual sorcery but were instead carefully and cleverly constructed illusions caused me serious inspiration. If becoming a magician meant practice, dedication, and a bit of talent rather than access to a rare tome or entry to an exclusive, secretive cabal, then becoming a writer was also within the realm of possibility. While I am still early in my pursuit of literary success and am an appreciable distance away from what I’d consider a capital-W Writer, I have been fortunate to have enjoyed some definite wins—positive feedback from writers I admire, being featured by some discerning publications, and the release of my first collection, Boarded Windows, Dead Leaves. Therefore, for those of you who also dream of becoming capital-W Writers and might benefit from the advice of someone, perhaps, a little further along the path of realizing this dream, allow me to share some of what I’ve learned so far. 

It is a wonderful time to be a writer. Readily available technology has empowered writers who would have more greatly struggled or simply failed to gain much traction if they lived during an earlier age. One type of resource that has been foundational in my own success is the type of site you’re reading this guest post on right now. Sites such as The Horror Tree, Duotrope, and The Submissions Grinder, which advertise submission calls and allow writers to easily seek out those markets most appropriate for and, therefore, most likely receptive to their work are tools whose worth cannot be understated; I can say unequivocally that I would not have enjoyed the same measure of success without the benefit of these resources. The unique features and focus of the sites named makes each worth looking into. Being a horror writer, I personally find The Horror Tree to be of special value; although, I do make use of all three resources. It’s also worth noting that of these sites, only Duotrope requires a subscription fee. 

Speaking of markets, once you start submitting your work, you will likely notice one piece of advice time and time again, and while seemingly obvious, the tendency for editors to include this instruction in their guidelines suggests that far too many of us are ignoring it; therefore, I believe it’s useful to repeat what is otherwise commonsensical advice. Namely, when putting together a submission, one really ought to pay close attention to the market guidelines. Does the market require a specific file type? Does the market ask that the author not include her name on her work? Does the market have a specific font preference? Taking the time to consider and adhere to these guidelines significantly increases the odds of one’s work being accepted. No one wants to work with someone who cannot be bothered to tend to the easy stuff. 

While following guidelines is an easy way to improve one’s odds of acceptance, regardless of how scrupulous one is about such details, he is still going to face rejection. This is actually a good thing. Some of the most important lessons I’ve learned have been delivered in the form of a rejection letter. Granted, there’s not much to take from a terse “We’ve decided to not accept your work at this time”—other than one’s work needs more work—but as one is sure to discover, there are invaluable editors out there who, despite their busy lives, somehow find the time to provide constructive criticism, too. (This is not at all a knock against those who don’t; editors have plenty of responsibilities already and are not obligated to provide feedback, so it’s best to just appreciate when they can and do.) It’s not always easy to take such criticism nor does one always have to accept it, but I can tell you from personal experience, editors tend to know of what they speak and want only to provide that feedback a writer is most in need of receiving. Submitting to one or two markets, revising according to the feedback given, and then submitting again to another one or two markets until a publication accepts one’s work is the best approach to getting published that I’m aware of.    

One more tip I’ll provide is to network. Writers are largely an introverted bunch, so networking does not quite come naturally for many of us, but it is of utmost importance if one hopes to be as successful as she can possibly be. As already mentioned, now is a fantastic time to be a writer due to the myriad ways technology empowers the writer, and social media has not only enabled broader socialization—a great boon for social butterflies, for sure—it has also made socialization, or at least its online form, easier for those of us who are not exactly loquacious. Despite their relative youth (It was only 2019 when I began writing for publication in earnest.), I highly value the writer friendships I’ve made. And even though I’ve only communicated online with the overwhelming majority of these friends, I place considerable weight in what they have to say. They’ve proven themselves invaluable sources of information; from tips on submission calls to honest feedback, such friends have appreciably bettered both my writing and writing career. And they’ve been pretty great company, too. 

I’m thankful for the opportunity to share these thoughts, and I hope the sincerity of my voice comes through. If one genuinely desires success as a writer, dedicates himself to improving his craft, and follows the advice I’ve proffered, I’ve little doubt he will achieve his aim.

Boarded Windows, Dead Leaves is available now on Amazon, courtesy of Spooky House Press.

Michael Jess Alexander

Michael Jess Alexander

Author

Michael Jess Alexander teaches high school English in Newcastle, Wyoming. His work can be found in SERIAL Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, The J.J. Outré Review, Dark Fire Fiction, and Jitter Press, among others. His first collection, Boarded Windows, Dead Leaves, is being published by Spooky House Press. He is a lifelong fan of all things spooky – a passion his very sweet wife tolerates and his equally sweet daughters encourage. He can be found online here.

RIP Gehenna & Hinnom

 

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Now, onto the post!

It is always sad news to report when a publisher closes its doors. Even worse as I’ve spoken with the editor quite often in the past and have loved the amazing quality of work that they’ve put out to date and the enthusiasm which he’s had for the craft. I’m also regretting never putting more work into trying to have my stories put in print by them. (Aside from Year’s Best Body Horror 2017 Anthology which you can still buy on Amazon through this affiliate link until they pull it this week! Shameless self-plug, sorry.)

If you ARE looking to buy any of their releases before things fully close down, I HIGHLY suggest the following:

Whiskey and Other Unusual Ghosts by: S.L. Edwards

At any rate, earlier this year after issues it seemed like the press would be able to continue on. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Now, for the official goodbye letter from their editor:

“Farewell is like the end, but in my heart is the memory and there you will always be.” – Walt Disney

With all of the awful things happening in this world, I hate to bring even more bad news. G&H was born in 2016, which is insane to think about. There were always highs and lows, and the people and experiences were memories I shall never forget. The support was immense from the start and for these reasons, I will always be grateful.Even in the early days, when I worked a horrible day job and dumped half of each paycheck into the publishing, I was motivated and ready to sacrifice everything to make G&H successful. I didn’t socialize, didn’t eat out, didn’t even afford taking my girlfriend out because every dollar spent was a dollar that could go towards paying authors. Even with this type of motivation and dedication, the fatigue was there. After the Kickstarter, which remains the most inspirational thing to ever occur in my life, the steam was pumping. Even despite my issues with PayPal and the online business I ran to pay the bills, I knew this was the turning point for the company. After months of setting up the proper avenues to sue PayPal and losing over $30,000 of my own money in the process, I still wanted the publishing to work. We released two collections in that time frame. They were both wonderful books and I couldn’t have been more honored to have them as part of G&H’s catalog. The authors were both amazing, beautiful people and at times I never understood why anyone would put faith into someone as young and naive as myself.

I really believed it could work. Then, my mother developed cancer in several parts of her body. Her previous battle with cancer was one of the most traumatic parts of my life. I watched her almost die so many times, stayed in the hospital with her overnight, did whatever I could to help. This new cancer was a returning shadow and I tore myself away from the publishing. After many months, I realized that there were unfinished projects and correspondences that desperately needed my attention. I went into it with every intention of righting the wrongs and proving that G&H was coming back stronger than ever. Then, COVID happened. Right around this time, I lost my job and quickly ran out of money for my bills. I filed my tax return in order to qualify for the stimulus check, and this was where I truly realized how bad G&H’s situation was financially. The Kickstarter, after fees, brought us around $8,989. When I put in all my deductions for business related expenses, and after the $8,989, the net profit of G&H last year was -$6,789. I still have every receipt, every PayPal transaction, every single financial choice that was made with G&H, all documented. Even the receipts from the post office when I shipped out books, and the receipts for the shipping supplies themselves. This truly upset me in ways I can’t explain, and it’s not that I never understood the sacrifices I was risking, but with COVID, my situation couldn’t be worse.

Shortly after COVID and about a month after my taxes had been filed, we found a cancerous growth on my father’s head. Now, it is more imperative than ever that I be there for both of my parents. The money that I’ve lost in this company, coupled with COVID, has led me to the decision of filing for bankruptcy, which I am in the process of doing now. You may be wondering what will happen with the authors signed to G&H, or of the upcoming releases. All authors will be released from any contractual obligations individually and any remaining royalties will be sent out ASAP. All future titles are cancelled until further notice. Original artwork that has already been paid for will be given to the author’s themselves if they desire. There has never been a more difficult email to type, and I hope that you will all remember that I tried. I really did. I did everything that I thought was right given the circumstances. I love each and everyone of you and it has been an honor to share the moments we’ve had. I hope you will remember G&H as a champion of the indie authors that it was in the beginning, and not the financial failure that it has become.

Thank you for your love, your support, your visions, and your willingness to be different.

Stay weird.

C. P. Dunphey

The Darkness Isn’t All It Seems

The Darkness Isn’t All It Seems

by: Kathrin Hutson

 

People ask me all the time why I write the kind of supremely dark fiction I write—horrifying scenarios, morally gray characters with seemingly no hope, a wealth of obstacles and all the odds stacked against my heroes, and the gritty underbelly of society drudged up from places many of us would rather not see. It happens a lot, this surprised response when people meet me in person or speak to me in interviews and media appearances. Even readers who have watched me interact myself will say, “But you’re such a happy, bubbly person. Your laugh is contagious. Why are you drawn to writing such dark, heavy stuff?” 

I have a ready variety of answers tucked away after having provided so many of them in response. “I just love the darkness.” “I aim to throw Fantasy and Sci-Fi tropes on their head.” “This is how I compartmentalize the darkness in myself so I can live a joy-filled, abundant life without it.” 

That last one may come the closest to the truth. Because we all have our own “dark side”, don’t we? Our shadow selves. Some people’s darkness is buried so deep, they struggle with containing it. Others let it run freely through their lives, maybe catching on to the fact that they’ve willingly handed over the reins, maybe unaware of the balance they never realized was slowly tipping over time until they see their own personal world suddenly falling apart. 

I’ve done all of those things at various points in my life. I repressed the darkness within myself, that creature lurking in the corners and waiting for an opportunity to strike. And when holding it at bay didn’t work, I also let it free. I cut my own path of destruction through my life almost ten years ago, laughing at the younger me, the me that struggled to maintain control, the me that cared too much about what anyone else thinks or feels. Then I hit a wall, and the darkness caught up to me. I had to change. I had to evolve. I had to find a better way to channel this constant pull toward self-destruction and apathy into something that would heal the other pieces of myself, because I had no options left. 

It took me four years to realize that I never should have stopped writing in the first place. When I sat down and dove into the worlds and characters I created, I never struggled in the same way. I had a release, an outlet, pouring all of myself into a gritty representation of my mind at the time that later became my first two novels. And when I sat down at the computer again four years ago and decided I had to prioritize my writing if I wanted to prioritize myself, everything changed. 

Sure, the road was bumpy. I didn’t even know if I could write have having abandoned the practice of my craft for six years without touching a single word of fiction. But the mere act of putting words on paper has become a sustaining force for my sanity, my joy, my unwavering optimism and dedication to striving for a better future for myself and now for my family. All because I write the exact opposite of those things into my fiction. 

Many of my books are “too depressing” for some readers, and that’s okay. I wear that like a badge of honor, because I know full well how deeply I’m diving into the discomfort, the pain, the terror, the hopelessness and loneliness, the gore and grit and fight for survival in worlds seemingly not fit to support it. I’ve lived all these things on so many levels, and the way I pulled myself from the darkness of heroin addiction, near-homelessness, countless hospitalizations, and one downward slope after another was by not ignoring my darkness. I had to acknowledge it was there. And then I had to find it a home that wouldn’t set it loose on my life again. 

So I write it in my fiction. 

I was terrified by the prospect of writing and publishing the first book in my LGBTQ+ Dystopian Sci-Fi series, Blue Helix. Sleepwater Beat was an unparalleled reflection of myself seen in the main character—every fear, every self-deprecating behavior, every miscalculated step, every heartbreaking moment of trying to find a place I belonged. It didn’t start out this way when I sat down to write the book, but I was keenly aware of the similarities and couldn’t sweep away the horror of it. Here I was, about to put a book out into the world that was basically me wrapped up in a gritty noir flavor with an overload of swearing, violence, gunfights, explosions, and startling interpersonal relationships. The whole world was about to see who I really was and what I’d been through, and I was sure the whole world would turn away from it. 

As it turned out, Sleepwater Beat made me an international bestselling author and brought both me and the Blue Helix into something resembling a spotlight. At least compared to where I was in my career as an author before this book. Yes, some people still thought it was “too much to handle”, and I will forever be grateful to those select few readers who took a chance on my work and most likely won’t pick it up again. It means I’m doing this right. It means I’m diving into the dark places we all recognize, whacking it with a sharp stick, and waking up the monsters of emotion that dwell beneath the surface. 

With Sleepwater Static, the Blue Helix novel and my most recent release, I struggled just as much with the terrors of hoping I wrote this book in the right way while delving so deeply into even more dark places. But I picked up an extra intention along the way, which extended beyond my life-affirming promise to myself to write within the darkness so I can live in the light. 

I knew from the first word that this book was meant to illuminate the shadows for everyone who opened its pages—the fear, the desperation, the intrinsically hidden and oftentimes forcibly denied truth behind discrimination, fear-mongering, racism, mental illness, and what one brilliant reviewer called “society’s abhorrence of adversity”. I wanted to bring to life an inspiring and still heart-wrenching story built on the foundations of my craft in order to put story and character first and my underlying messages as an extremely close second. 

This was also a new endeavor. Writing something for a reason other than because I have to and to keep my personal darkness at bay felt worlds heavier than any other book. The process itself was a dark and scary place, even as my heart soared through the paragraphs pouring out of me. There were tears. And there were nights I came so close to literally banging my head against the wall. 

Sleepwater Static became an international bestseller like its prequel in the first twenty-four hours after its release, and I knew I’d done something right. Though in the midst of a pandemic and the timely appearance of protests and uprisings against racial injustice in the United States, I wondered how releasing a book about genetic mutations and racial injustice in the United States would pan out. 

That’s one of the risks of writing Dystopian fiction, I suppose. But the risk was absolutely worth it. Because I realized that even in times of worldwide darkness, the only way to pull ourselves out of it is not to ignore that darkness but to step right into it, look it dead in the face, and shine a light where light would otherwise fail to exist. 

I won’t say that anything I’ve written in the Blue Helix series hasn’t been done before in some way or that other authors and creators with the same intentions haven’t approached this particular brand of darkness in their own work. I’m not alone in striving to bring the secret, abandoned, underserved shadows to light. I do know it’s never been done quite in the same way, and in that regard, I’m thrilled to have put these books out when and how I did. 

For me, the darkness isn’t about living vicariously through my writing or processing a form of past pain. It’s to illuminate what needs to be seen and understood. It’s to reveal a reality so easily brushed aside until it creeps up on us unexpectedly, and we’re forced to face our demons. 

I faced them and survived. I emerged from the darkness, changed and yet still whole, despite the years it took me to understand that truth. 

I’m a happy, compassionate, free-spirited mother, wife, daughter, friend, and perhaps even favorite author for a select few. Because the saying we as writers have all heard countless times—write what you know—saves me from living what I write.

The invitation to join me in the darkness will always be open.

Kathrin Hutson

Kathrin Hutson

Author

International Bestselling Author Kathrin Hutson has been writing Dark Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and LGBTQ Speculative Fiction since 2000. With her wildly messed-up heroes, excruciating circumstances, impossible decisions, and Happily Never Afters, she’s a firm believer in piling on the intense action, showing a little character skin, and never skimping on violent means to bloody ends.

In addition, Kathrin is a fiction ghostwriter of most genres and is an active member of both the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the Horror Writers Association. She lives in Colorado with her husband, daughter, and their two dogs, Sadie and Brucewillis.

 

kathrinhutsonfiction.com

books2read.com/sleepwaterbeat

books2read.com/sleepwaterstatic

facebook.com/kathrinhutsonfiction

Road Seven Blog Tour – Yes, But Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Yes, But Where Do You Get Your Ideas? 

 

My newest novel, Road Seven, is a kind of literary/cosmic horror/conspiracy novel, set in a remote (and entirely fictional) island called Hvildarland, off the coast of Iceland. The novel is literary in the sense that character remains as important as plot. Cosmic horror in that there may be ghosts, unicorns, aliens, and monsters – real or imagined – that play integral parts within the book. And conspiracy in that a growing sense of unease and the unknown (hopefully) permeates the novel. 

 

It was hard as hell to write. There were many times when I doubted I’d be able to finish it.

 

The book started, initially, as a short story, and I wrote the short story due to a group of three writing prompts that were given to me as part of an exercise in my writing group. An entire book, the impetus being three scraps of paper pulled out of a hat, while I drank beer with some other writer nerds.

 

Listen, there’s no sure, steadfast way to begin a novel, much less finish one. Or even a story, really. I know writers who have no shortage of ideas – they’re brimming with them. Their only hindrance is time, time, time. And oh how I envy them! Time is short for me as well, but so are ideas. I don’t know where they come from, I don’t know how to palpate the bastards into something living, I don’t know how to cultivate the story-bacteria. Once I have a first draft, yeah, I am a solid draftsman. I can carve and shape at will. Can slowly resuscitate a story into something decent. But that initial idea, I don’t know how it arrives. I have no Story Idea Machine that I can turn on. Every story I’ve ever written, be it a thousand words or a hundred thousand, is one that I’ve fought for tooth and nail to bring to life. 

 

Road Seven will mark my third published novel, and with its publication I’m resolutely sure that I still don’t know what the hell I’m doing. I remain grateful that I was able to pull the book from the mire; like I said, this one did not come easily to me. My first book, The Mercy of the Tide, began with a deep dive into Oregon folklore and historical research into the nuclear proliferation of the 1980s. The second, Smoke City, started when I read a biography about Joan of Arc and read a fleeting paragraph about her executioner. 

 

There’s no surefire formula, and that nefarious question, “Where do all your ideas come from?”, remains as vague now as it does when I first started writing. But I know one thing that regularly helps me as a writer: a writing group. 

 

When I occasionally get asked for “advice” from less experienced writers, I don’t have a lot to offer. Write a lot. Read a lot. Steel yourself for rejection. Mostly importantly, though, a writer should foster the ability to accept critiques from other writers. That means letting your work stand in that odd half-light where you are accepting of potential changes and also hold on tight to the idea that your story is salvageable and good, that it says something. It’s a tough dance sometimes, but such a worthwhile one. Simply put, other writers can see flaws in your work that you can’t. 

 

Writing groups are worthwhile for a lot of other reasons as well. For one, fellowship. Writing is oftentimes a lonely journey, and getting together with other folks who are in the same boat is such a gift. Camaraderie means a lot. A writing group also offers you a chance to write under deadline. This can be a hindrance to some folks, but most writers I know would rather bust something out that’s in “workable draft mode” than tinker with the same five or ten pages into oblivion. A writing group forces you to present something, and presenting it to the group brings it that much closer to being done. And that’s really the goal, isn’t it? Finishing the thing, whatever it is?

 

Fellowship, commitment, aiding in the creative process – all benefits of a writing group. I mean, I can honestly say that my new novel is out in the world now because of a writing exercise I did with mine years before. For someone who has to yank and pull every idea screaming from the mire of his subconscious, that’s a pretty good deal. 

 

Oh, and the three writing prompts I got: 1) A secret. 2) A unicorn. 3) Sex in a pumpkin patch. 

You’ll have to read Road Seven to find out if they all made it into the book. 

ROAD SEVEN by Keith Rosson

RELEASE DATE: 7/14/20

GENRE: Magical Realism, Fantasy, Literary

BOOK PAGE:  https://www.meerkatpress.com/books/road-seven/

SUMMARY:

Road Seven follows disgraced cryptozoologist Mark Sandoval—resolutely arrogant, covered head to foot in precise geometric scarring, and still marginally famous after Hollywood made an Oscar-winner based off his memoir years before—who has been strongly advised by his lawyer to leave the country following a drunken and potentially fatal hit and run. When a woman sends Sandoval grainy footage of what appears to be a unicorn, he quickly hires an assistant and the two head off to the woman’s farm in Hvíldarland, a tiny, remote island off the coast of Iceland. When they arrive on the island and discover that both a military base and the surrounding álagablettur, the nearby woods, are teeming with strangeness and secrets, they begin to realize that a supposed unicorn sighting is the least of their worries. Road Seven will mark the third of Rosson’s novels to be published by Meerkat Press.

 

BUY LINKS: Meerkat Press | Indiebound.org | Amazon Barnes & Noble

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EXCERPT

It was a help wanted ad from a monster hunter.

The monster hunter, really, if such a term could ever be said out loud without at least a little wince, a self-conscious roll of the eyes. Its arrival came via a forwarded link from Ellis, who in the subject line wrote: Aren’t you into this guy?

It was a spring evening and Brian sat in his room, enveloped in the encroaching night, cradled in his usual pain. A few moths flitted in mortal combat against his window screen, and Brian had the napalm grays going on, had that deep and familiar knife-throb in the skull. The Headache That Lived Forever. Still, Ellis’s line made him smile. Brian heard him downstairs in the kitchen yelling to Robert over the music, cupboard doors slamming closed. They were making drinks—pregame warmups, Ellis called them—before the three of them went out to get stupid, or what passed for stupid these days. Brian was already thinking of ways to bail—his head, when it got like this, in this kind of slow, heated roil, like a halo of barbs being cinched tighter and tighter, alcohol was no good for it.

Down the hall in the bathroom, he dropped a trio of aspirin into his palm and chewed them while he gazed at his face in the mirror. Three would maybe take the edge off, turn the headache from a sharp blade scraping along the bowl of his skull to a dull one. That was about it; you could grow used to anything. He leaned close and gazed at the galaxy of burst blood vessels in one eye.

Back in his room, bass-heavy nü metal ghosting through the floorboards, Robert bellowed laughter in response to something Ellis said. Brian sat back down, looked at the screen of his laptop. His bare feet on the wood floor, the occasional draft from the window fluttering the curtains. The moths outside, insistent and hopeful. Here was spring in Portland: the scent of cut grass, the blat of a car alarm, the creak of a shifting, old, many-roomed house. Ellis’s place he’d inherited from his parents; Brian had been his roommate since they were undergrads.

His desk was choked with stacks of accordion folders, mugs of pens. Outdated anthro journals he kept telling himself he’d read someday. He clicked on the link Ellis had sent, and it took him to a cryptozoology website, and not one of the good ones. Not one of the ones that Brian sometimes cruised (with only the slightest tinge of embarrassment), ones that tended to mirror or replicate the “reputable” sciences. No, this one, menandmonsterz.com, had all the trappings of the technologically inept and socially unhinged: woefully pixilated photos, a dizzying array of fonts stacked and butting up against each other. There was a link, holy shit, to a Myspace page. What If Leprechauns, one headline blared in what was almost certainly Papyrus font, Were Really Pre-Stone Age Hominids!?! This, alongside a fan-art illustration of the Lucky Charms leprechaun leering and holding a stone ax in each hand. Beneath that, a banner ad for hair regeneration. The type of site, honestly, that made antiviral software programmers rich.

And yet, the next part snagged him:

The Long Way Home author, alien abductee, famed cryptozoologist, and renowned cultural anthropologist Mark Sandoval is on the hunt for a research assistant. And maybe it’s YOU!

 

He snorted at the “cultural anthropologist” part and scrolled down past the iconic cover of The Long Way Home, Sandoval’s memoir about his alien abduction (the image was a tiny human figure enveloped in a cone of light from some unseen but brilliant overhanging light source, the same image they’d used for the movie) and then past Sandoval’s Hollywood-quality headshot. It continued:

Mark Sandoval is looking for a research assistant to accompany him on a site visit outside of the US. Position is confidential and time-sensitive. Terms and compensation commensurate with experience. Visit marksandoval.com to apply.

 

“Brian!” Ellis bellowed from downstairs. “Get your pregame drink on, dear heart! Let’s do this shit!”

“We’re making the most terrible drinks we can,” warbled Robert.

Brian typed in the address to Sandoval’s website, and it was a much nicer affair. Professional, clean, and surprisingly understated, considering the man claimed to have at one time literally traded punches with a chupacabra. And there was the ad—the same exact information, with a Click to Apply button at the bottom. Vague as hell. Had the air of haste to it, something quickly cobbled together. But he clicked on it, scratched his chin with his thumbnail. Pressed three fingers against his eyelid, felt the sick, familiar throb in the hidden meat behind his eye. He quickly typed in the various fields—name, email address, phone number—and confirmed that he did indeed have a valid passport. Then he uploaded his CV, which he had at the ready because this, of course, was not remotely the first time Brian Schutt had dicked around with the notion of ditching everything in regard to his future. No, this was not the first time at all.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Keith Rosson is the author of the novels The Mercy of the Tide and Smoke City. His short fiction has appeared in Cream City Review, PANK, Redivider, December, and more. An advocate of both public libraries and non-ironic adulation of the cassette tape, he can be found at keithrosson.com.

AUTHOR LINKS: Website Twitter

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