Month: October 2013

How About Some Horror Inspired Music Videos?

Halloween is just around the corner and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than by sharing music videos that feature horror in some way. I tried to pick great songs that also try to creep viewers out. We’ve got psycho killers, a creepy Wizard of Oz reimagining, and even zombies. Sorry, but you won’t find any Monster Mash or Thriller here. I’m not saying those aren’t good songs, or videos, but I didn’t want to bring the same old same old to this list. Rock on, and enjoy. Have a safe and happy Halloween!

10) All of Us, by Blindside

9) Helena, by My Chemical Romance

8) Shame, by Stabbing Westward

7) The End of Prom Night, by Snow White’s Poison Bite

6) Wicked World, by Cold

5) Misery Loves My Company, by Three Days Grace

4) I Miss You, by Blink-182

3) Still Swingin, by Papa Roach

2) Family Tradition, by Senses Fail

1) The Kill, by 30 Seconds To Mars

Advertisements

Book Review: The Strain, by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

This month I decided to re-read a few of my favorite horror books in order to give them a proper review. I noticed a lack of horror titles on my review page and thought a horror lover and writer should remedy that. There’s nothing like remembering why you loved a particular book as you’re swept up in an immersive and well written world. Like an old friend, The Strain welcomed me back into its blood stained home with a warm embrace. In case you can’t tell, I really like this book.

The StrainFrom the publisher:

They have always been here. Vampires. In secret and in darkness. Waiting. Now their time has come.

In one week, Manhattan will be gone. In one month, the country.

In two months—the world.

A Boeing 777 arrives at JFK and is on its way across the tarmac, when it suddenly stops dead. All window shades are pulled down. All lights are out. All communication channels have gone quiet. Crews on the ground are lost for answers, but an alert goes out to the CDC. Dr. Eph Goodweather, head of their Canary project, a rapid-response team that investigates biological threats, gets the call and boards the plane. What he finds makes his blood run cold.

In a pawnshop in Spanish Harlem, a former professor and survivor of the Holocaust named Abraham Setrakian knows something is happening. And he knows the time has come, that a war is brewing . . .

So begins a battle of mammoth proportions as the vampiric virus that has infected New York begins to spill out into the streets. Eph, who is joined by Setrakian and a motley crew of fighters, must now find a way to stop the contagion and save his city—a city that includes his wife and son—before it is too late.

The world ended as the 777 died on the runway full of two hundred corpses…

The Strain will always be one of my go-to vampire books. The authors get so much right that horror fans should be reading this one for years to come. Readers get a genuine sense of change on a global scale as these vampirirc parasites spread across New York City. We’re along for the ride as medical professionals try to figure things out before it’s too late. There’s a real sense of foreboding, panic, and doom as our main characters try and put all the pieces together. If you ever need a lesson in the proper use of foreshadowing, pick up this book.

Make no mistake about it, these aren’t your typical vampires. You won’t find any slicked back hair, capes, sexuality, or even fangs. These vampires are predators. They live to feed. GDT and Chuck Hogan took traditional vampire mythology and really broke it down and rebuilt it from the ground up. The Strain shows vampires at their blood craving worst. They’re monsters, creatures to be feared, and you don’t want to run into them in the dark. That underlying feeling of dread is something that sticks with readers. We understand that one mistake and it’s game over for any character. I like that.

Being set in NYC, The Strain provides a diverse set of characters. Too often books don’t accurately represent the population. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a fairly large city around every skin color, but I always prefer diversity in my books. It may come as no surprise that my favorite character is Augustus “Gus” Elizalde, the street smart teen with a big mouth and machismo to back it up. He adds what I like to call a “hood mentality” I think more books could use.

The authors take their time building the action in this book. Like two veteran chefs, Del Toro and Hogan season and marinate the plot of this book like a prime cut of meat until readers are left salivating in anticipation of the next bite. They keep readers interested in the mystery of the dead 777 and slowly unravel what’s happening in a way that keeps their audience glued to the text. You want to know what comes next. And once the shit hits the proverbial fan, buckle up because by then readers are already up to their necks in blood.

My only minor complaint about this book is Setrakian. He’s old, yet he somehow manages to do things a man his age probably shouldn’t. Other than that, I had trouble finding things not to like.

If you’re looking for a book that provides an entertaining romp through a blood soaked New York City that’ll leave you breathless, then give The Strain a try. This is so much more than a horror story. At it’s core, The Strain is a piece of masterful story telling with three dimensional characters who struggle to believe they’ve stumbled upon monsters in the modern world. This is one chilling read you don’t want to miss.

What I liked:

  • The vampire lore. The authors give readers a different take on what a vampire is and how they behave. I found it refreshing to find predators, monsters who hunt the uninfected. Bring on the carnage!
  • A constant sense of dread. From the first page to the last, readers are aware that bad things are going to happen. I liked the constant threat of death these characters feel as they try to piece together the mystery behind the dead 777.
  • The diverse cast of characters. New York City isn’t called a melting pot for nothing. Kudos to the authors for bringing different races, colors, creeds, religions, and even economic levels (rich versus poor) into their story. It adds an authentic street vibe to this book.
  • The medical undertones. Eph and Nora work for the CDC. If readers don’t believe they’re actual doctors this story won’t work. The first half of this book deals with them trying to understand the infection in a conventional medical sense. It was also interesting to see how Eph, as a doctor, reacts when he understands the scope of their problem. Well done.
  • The horror. There’s plenty here for to keep horror lovers happy. We’ve got blood, cold blooded killing, and vampires roaming the night. This is the apocalypse and it starts with a 777 going dark shortly after touching down. And it all leads to a showdown of good and an ancient evil, light verses dark. Rest assured, readers are in good horror hands with The Strain.
  • The soul crushing storyline. By the end of this book, life has irrevocably changed for most of our characters. There’s no going back. They have to figure out how to fight before all is lost on a personal scale as well as a grand scale.
  • The relationship and family dynamic. Eph is a man going through a rough patch in his personal life. There are many complications, both good and bad. Despite these personal challenges he manages to soldier on and do his job. Eph, Nora, Kelley, and Zack’s storylines (at least in this book) all intertwine in a way that brings this story to a smaller, more personal level. It urges readers to ask themselves what they would do to protect the ones they love when the world is going to hell. Save the people you love, or everyone else? I’m sure each reader will come up with a unique, and different answer.
  • Gus. His was one of the few characters whose storyline I enjoyed throughout the entire trilogy. He stayed true to the person presented here. You never had to wonder what Gus would do because he was always looking out for numero uno. Unless it involved Setrakian who he had a soft spot for. He’s a man of the streets, a soldier who isn’t afraid to get in the thick of things and get his hands dirty. He’s also a man of his word which I liked. Gus brings a much needed sense of recklessness, youth, and “hood mentality” to a story in desperate need of it.

What I didn’t like:

  • Setrakian is supposed to be an old, gnarled man. Yet he manages to somehow dispatch foes much stronger, faster, and younger than him. I had a hard time believing someone his age would be capable of sustaining such heroic actions.

Overall: I’m giving The Strain five out of five stars. I’ve read this book three times now and have grown to love it more with each reading. It’s one of those rare books where you can pick it up years later and appreciate subtle things you may have missed the first time around. This is definitely an entertaining read that has enough scary moments to keep readers up long into the wee hours of the morning. Make no mistake about it, this is an epic story first and a horror novel second. This book should be on any vampire lovers shelf.

My Five Must Watch Horror Movies For Halloween

There’s something about October and the arrival of Autumn. The weather starts getting a little nippier, the leaves start changing color, and horror is everywhere. If you’re anything like me, you have certain movies you watch almost every year around this time. Halloween is just around the corner. Let’s get this party started…right. 😉

5) Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Do I really need to remind anyone of the importance of this film? This, for many horror aficionados, is the grand-daddy of all zombie movies. George A. Romero had a vision, a sick and twisted one where the dead rise and feast on living flesh which lives on today. They’re coming to get you Barbara!

4) Slither

Don’t judge. Every year on Halloween I bring my copy of this film over to my sister’s and we have a great time seeing Grant Grant trying to keep his marriage to Starla going strong…even after he’s not himself anymore. This is just a fun movie with some interesting concepts and great performances by Michael Rooker, Nathan Fillion, and Elizabeth Banks. You can’t go wrong with alien slugs who want to control your mind.

3) John Carpenter’s The Thing

Probably one of the best remakes ever. John Carpenter does so many things right with this film, including building believable tension. It’s easy for audiences to feel the isolation of the characters in this film. Again, we have some awesome acting to go along with top notch special effects and a dynamite vision. The part where the guy’s head comes off, sprouts legs, and crawls away is always a favorite around here.

2) Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (1973)

Trying to watch horror movies with kids around can be difficult. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark was one of three movies that actually scared me as a kid. It was a made for TV movie that relies more on psychological terror rather than blood and guts. The acting is subpar and the special effects aren’t all that great, but the way the director handled the creatures in this film was brilliant. These little monsters only come out when it’s dark and they only whisper when they talk. All they want is to drag Sally to the basement. That’s pretty much every kid’s worst nightmare. I’ve shown this film to all four of my nieces. Each one of them was so scared they walked away saying they never wanted to see it again. If you’re looking for a genuinely scary film that’s appropriate for all age groups, then give this one a try.

1) Halloween (1978)

I’m sure some of you are rolling your eyes right now and that’s okay. For me, you just can’t survive the month of October without watching Michael Myers lurking in the dark, waiting to ooze from the shadows with a kitchen knife. Let’s face it the decision to use that bleached Captain Kirk mask was brilliant. Michael Myers has become synonymous with this time of year, and rightly so. Once again John Carpenter uses tension to get the most out of each scare. Donald Pleasance gives a memorable performance as Dr. Loomis too. Put the kids to bed and pop this one in. No tricks here, only treats. Yeah, I went there.

What are some of your favorite horror movies to watch around Halloween? Feel free to share them in the comments below.

Horror Means…Stephen King?

Horror, to me, means many different things. There’s monsters–vampires, werewolves, witches, demons, the blob, etc. Slashers like Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Norman Bates, and Freddy Krueger. Books like Shirley Jackson’s THE LOTTERY, Richard Matheson’s I AM LEGEND, and Dean Koontz’s MIDNIGHT. From movies to comics to books, there’s plenty to love about horror as a genre.

The Shining

Then why do so many people immediately bring Stephen King into the mix, like he’s the be-all end-all when it comes to horror in literature?

I want to be clear about something. I have no animosity for Mr. King or his work. I own, and have enjoyed, a handful of his books (specifically THE STAND and SALEM’S LOT). He’s a passionate storyteller with a love for the creepy. He’s a man after my own heart who I admire and respect.

I don’t know what it is. I’ve been seeing it all over social media as people–authors and fans–give a nod to Mr. King because Halloween is coming. “Want to read something scary?” they say. “Read Stephen King.”

I can’t help but wonder why?

Is it because Mr. King’s name is easily recognizable to even casual readers? Perhaps Mr. King is the only name they know in horror literature because they aren’t well read in the genre? I don’t really have an answer. I also understand that some people genuinely enjoy Mr. King’s work and love talking up their favorite author, as is their right. I’m all for anything that shines a light on horror, especially in literature.

I can’t think of a better way to show your love for your favorite author than by investigating authors who they love. I would hope the people who love Mr. King’s work have looked into authors like Richard Matheson who heavily influenced SK. I’d recommend I AM LEGEND and HELL HOUSE (been a while since I’ve read this one).

DarkfallMy first reaction to hearing Stephen King’s name is always what about Dean Koontz? Mr. Koontz is a legend in the horror genre. His earlier books–DARKFALL, PHANTOMS, MIDNIGHT, STRANGERS, TWILIGHT EYES, WATCHERS, and LIGHTNING (just to name a few)–are hardly ignorable. Dean has spent a lifetime walking the line between literary and mainstream horror. He writes with an eloquence few others can match, except, of course, Stephen King. In my mind you can’t mention one without the other. For years these two writers dominated horror in literature.

I’m sure we could make a case for a few other authors too. We could make an argument for someone like Anne Rice, Clive Barker, or John Saul just to name a few. The point is there are plenty of other authors out there with a career’s worth of novels worthy of mentioning in this conversation.

I guess I fear readers are limiting themselves to only Stephen King. If you’re a fan of horror in literature I recommend exploring the genre to discover other authors, and books, you may like. Ask authors, book bloggers, publishers, or anyone else you can think of for recommendations. Try asking for multiple recommendations at once. You may just find you’ve been missing out on the greatest talents you’ve never heard of.

What horror books would I recommend? Keep in mind these are in no particular order. You can’t wrong with any of these.

  1. AFRAID, by Jack Kilborn
  2. THE STRAIN, by Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan
  3. I AM LEGEND, by Richard Matheson
  4. GHOST ROAD BLUES, by Jonathan Maberry
  5. THE DESCENT, by Jeff Long
  6. HOSTAGE TO THE DEVIL, by Malachi Martin (I can honestly say this is the only book I’ve ever been scared by…ever.)
  7. THE EDINBURGH DEAD, by Brian Ruckley
  8. NECROSCOPE, by Brian Lumley
  9. THE STAND, by Stephen King
  10. DARKFALL, by Dean Koontz

Check out Flavorwire’s Top 50 Scariest Books of All time here: http://flavorwire.com/419194/the-50-scariest-books-of-all-time/

If you’re anything like me, then you get excited around this time of year. October tends to be the month a spotlight shines on horror as a genre. While it may have much to do with Halloween, true horror fans keep that light shining all year round. This is our passion. We love, and welcome, everyone to the table no matter who you are or what level of knowledge you may possess. Just make sure you check your seat before you sit. We’ve got some wonderfully twisted individuals who won’t pass up the chance to scare your pants off. 😉

Does horror mean Stephen King? Yes. But it also means so much more.

You can find out more about Stephen King here: http://www.stephenking.com/index.html

You can find out more about Dean Koontz here: http://www.deankoontz.com/

What horror books would you recommend? What’s your favorite Stephen King book? What’s your favorite Dean Koontz book?

Redirect: Reclaiming Horror, by Annie Neugebauer, via the Horror Writers Association

If you love horror in books, you must read Annie’s post. She touches on some poignant, and often overlooked, points. I’m not going to ramble any longer than necessary so you can sink your teeth into Annie’s excellent post. Without further adieu, herrrrre’s Annie!

This link will take you to the Horror Writer’s Association and Annie’s post. Please, click here: http://www.horror.org/blog/halloween-haunts-2013-reclaiming-horror-by-annie-neugebauer/

You can follow Annie on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/AnnieNeugebauer

Annie’s official website can be found here: http://annieneugebauer.com/

Song of the Week: Every Last Thing, by Stars in Stereo

I’m glad you’re here. Today I’d like to share a song that has the sound and feel of an epic ballad. Stars in Stereo is an up and coming rock band from Los Angeles, CA. If you like gritty guitars and scorching lyrics, you’ll probably like this band. Check out Every Last Thing.

Did I mention you can get this song for free? Well you can if you go here: http://www.purevolume.com/new/StarsInStereo

You can find out more about Stars in Stereo by following this link: http://starsinstereomusic.com/

Let’s Talk About: Being Proactive With Your Writing Career

If you’re serious about making a career out of writing and want to create fantastic fiction for a living, you’ve got to be proactive. It’s going to take more than luck if you expect to be discovered. A publishing contract probably won’t fall from the sky and land in your lap. You’ve got to be willing to put yourself out there and work for it.

Some of you may be asking, “What can I do?”

While I don’t know what will work for each of you, I can share some of the things I’ve done this past year. Maybe some of these things will work for you too.

1) Connect with other like-minded writers.

Reach out on places like Twitter, blogs, chat rooms, or anywhere else you can find other writers you can relate to. You’d be surprised how many writers are looking for you just as much as you are looking for them. Don’t just throw yourself on any old writer though. It’s cyberspace. People are weird. Try getting to know people slowly so they can see you’re not one of the weirdos. After time you may even develop a meaningful relationship. *snaps picture* How cute.

2) Participate in writing showcases.

I’m talking about contributing short stories to blogs with other writers. It can be a great way to meet new writers who may be interested in some of the same things you are. Think of showcases like Chynna-Blue Scott’s The Zombie Project and Pen and Muses’s The Dark Carnival. Get out there and mingle. Your next critique partner may be out there waiting to discover how awesome you are.

3) Apply for an internship.

Ever wonder what goes into a literary agent’s decision to represent an author? Perhaps you’re looking to understand some of the business side of the writing equation? Maybe you should try interning. You may even discover you’d like to be an agent more than a writer. Stranger things have happened. There are plenty of different kinds of internships out there–editorial, social media, literary agent. Find one that suits you and expand your horizons!

4) Write, and submit, a handful of short stories.

Short stories take less time to write. Submitting them usually isn’t too difficult either. Find an appropriate magazine or anthology, follow their guidelines, and send away. If you don’t mind a little rejection, you may make a new connection or two. It can be a great way to get your name out there as you’re waiting for news on your book.

5) Writing contests.

You probably won’t find a better atmosphere for budding writers than writing contests. Most of the time a bunch of aspiring writers get together and cheer each other on as literary agents wait in the wings to find their next client. I’m talking about contests like Pitch Wars and PitchMAS. As long as you follow the rules and play nice, contests can be an excellent opportunity to get your writing in front of a whole new audience.

Yep, I’ve done all of each of these things in the past year. My first published short story will be arriving soon, my contribution to The Dark Carnival will be up on Pen and Muses’s website shortly as well, I have a few months left on my internship, and I was an alternate selection for last year’s Pitch Wars. I’ve met so many wonderful people this past year. I truly am grateful.

The most important thing to remember on your writing journey is to be yourself. Nobody likes a jerk. Always follow the rules/guidelines for whatever you decide to do with your writing. Don’t forget to thank everyone who has helped you along the way too. No writer ever gets where they are on their own. There’s one last thing to keep in mind…HAVE FUN!