Tag Archives: horror

Peas in a Podcast…or Three

One of my major concerns about taking the job I now have is that it involves a commute. Not gas (though that does suck), but how was I supposed to get through an hour in traffic each way?

Enter Death in the Afternoon.

For quite some time now, I have enjoyed watching the “Ask a Mortician” series on Youtube and followed Caitlin Doughty on Twitter because death and all it entails fascinates me.

It wasn’t always that way. When I was a kid I was afraid of my own shadow. I was deeply unsettled by the Garfield Halloween special, and if anyone even mentioned the name “Chucky” I didn’t sleep for days. Then at some point I decided I wanted to read a Stephen King book and it was all over after that. Now I’m trying to decide how I feel about the Child’s Play reboot, and one of my all-time favorite movie openings is the dance floor scene from Ghost Ship. From my love of horror grew a natural fascination with death, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I devour every possible bit of media that deals with mortuary science.

When I saw that the Order of the Good Death had a podcast, I couldn’t wait to listen to it. The episodes are short, much like the videos I enjoy so much, and so very bingeable. Great replay value too! I listened to all of them on the drive down to Houston, then spent the drive back up listening to another favorite – Nightmare on Film Street.

John and Kim are two complete goofball horror nerds and I love them. They chat about horror movies, film festivals, and make it feel like you’re hanging out in the living room with them after watching Candyman and dissecting it in the kind of detail I always hoped people would go into with me. I happened upon their Candyman vs. Beetlejuice episode and hearing them talk about two of my favorite movies made me a fan for life. All that wonderful horror that freaked me out when I was a kid is here and there are some folks who love it just as much as I do. Beware, though. They WILL try to get you to watch The Human Centipede 2.

My other go-to podcast is The Strange Sessions, a paranormal and oddity show done by two people I know and love. Kurt and I have known each other (and dated for a little while, full disclosure) since I was in high school, and through him I met Krista. They’re fantastic people and opened me up to some amazing experiences, so when I found out they had a podcast I was like “sign me up!”

They talk about a little of everything odd – cryptids, ghosts, paranormal investigation, you name it. They also taste test weird things, talk about Wisconsin, and generally make you feel like you’re hanging out in a basement watching TV together. Definitely recommend for long drives because it keeps your brain engaged and doesn’t let you get bored. Do yourself a favor and get in while the season just started!

If you’re a podcast person, or if you’ve been wanting to try one, I highly recommend these three for the strange and unusual.

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Book Review: Duma Key (Part Two)

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As I said before, I consider the second half of the book to be after Edgar’s art show. The action starts pretty quickly after that fateful night and, like many of King’s books, once the endgame starts it moves fast.

Once the paintings and sketches are sold, the people who bought them are in danger and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that some of those people die. One of them, however, pushes Edgar past his breaking point and he takes Wireman and Jack to the original Heron’s Roost to find and defeat the evil that has woken up again.

The ruin of Elizabeth Eastlake’s childhood home is creepy in and of itself, but the creatures that live in the overgrown jungle around it make it all the creepier. Birds lying upside down, moving lawn jockeys, and the local non-supernatural fauna make for a terrifying trip down memory lane for the three men, and that’s all before it gets dark and the real horrors show up.

When Edgar reveals what happened at Heron’s Roost and the real hero of the 1920’s horror invasion, it gets very sad. Thanks to them, though, he has the power to finally defeat Perse and put the evil back to sleep.

I unapologetically love this book. There are a lot of people that I talk to that roll their eyes when I tell them I like it but I love it. It’s good and creepy, I had to leave the lights on after I read about the big boy, and the setting-up chapters moved quickly. I got really attached to the characters in a way I usually don’t with Stephen King books and enjoyed the ending. If you’re a fan of Stephen King and haven’t read this one, give it a go. At the very least it’s an entertaining 600 pages, unlike Bag of Bones. Don’t get me started on that one.

As far as Stephen King goes, I’m considering giving the Dark Tower series a shot again. My husband gently shoves them at me every time I finish a King book and this time I might let him. Provided he buys me a bagel sandwich first.

Book Review: Duma Key (Part One)

duma keySix months after a crane crushes his pickup truck and his body self-made millionaire Edgar Freemantle launches into a new life. . He leaves Minnesota for Duma Key, a stunningly beautiful, eerily remote stretch of the Florida coast where he has rented a house. All of the land on Duma Key, and the few houses, are owned by Elizabeth Eastlake, an octogenarian whose tragic and mysterious past unfolds perilously. When Edgar begins to paint, his formidable talent seems to come from someplace outside him, and the paintings, many of them, have a power that cannot be controlled.

Because I felt like reading something older, I picked Duma Key up again because it’s become one of my favorite Stephen King books. I first read it a few years back when illness kept me from working for a period, and I wanted another dose of the creepiness that entranced me the first time I read it.

I’ve been a fan of Stephen King since I was in middle school and sneaking around with The Dark Half and Misery, and I’ve been disappointed in some of his more recent work. An old friend recommended Duma Key to me and I loved it.

Like a lot of Stephen King books it takes a while to get to the good stuff. Most of the first part of the book is dedicated to Edgar Freemantle’s unfortunate construction site accident that takes his arm, his marriage, and a large chunk of his ability to remember words and phrases. He goes through rehab, moves out to their lake house, visits his daughters. Pretty mundane stuff, right up until his daughter comes to visit him on Duma Key.

The island itself is good and creepy right from the start. The shells under the house “talk” to Edgar and half of the island is covered in jungle-like flora that has no business being there. He meets Wireman and Elizabeth soon after, and slowly his paintings become more surreal and he feels them take on a life of their own.

I love Edgar’s progression from suicidal to comfortable to genius artist. I feel it’s very genuine, and when the old Stephen King supernatural element comes into play it happens gradually, ramping up until you’re on the edge of your seat wondering what’s going to happen next.

Personally, I consider the first half of the book to be up until Edgar’s art show. You suspect a bit of the supernatural presence that has been hinted at, but it’s not until the show that the cover is thrown back by a terrified Elizabeth. After that, things pretty much get full-blown frightening.

Next week: Part Two

Author Interview: Wesley McCraw

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Today my guest is Wesley McCraw, author of The House of Cabal books!

Where did you get your inspiration for House of Cabal?

First, let me thank you for having me.
House of Cabal was inspired by quite a few things because I started writing it in late 1999 and I’ve been working on it off and on for the better part of sixteen years. Initially, the idea was a combination of my two favorite children’s books, The Thief of Always and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. I wanted to do something like these books, only with more adults themes.

Fast forward quite a few years into the creative process. Pinsleep, the witness angel, was a framing device that I invented later on that took on a life of his own, inspired by a lot of my own musings on religion and faith. The Garden of Eden was always a feature in the series but was originally revealed much later in the plot. Once I created Pinsleep, the conclusion of the series hit me like a bolt of lightening and I discovered where I had to start my story.

What made you want to release it as several volumes?

House of Cabal was always going to be more than one book but the idea that it would be released in short episodes (45-55 thousand words) was something that I tried out a few years ago. I created stronger arcs for each episode and found that it enhanced the natural rhythm of the story I was telling.
The idea for House of Cabal is massive, but I wouldn’t say it has literary pretensions. I want its complexity to be easily digestible even though it has so many characters and spans all of time and space. It’s meant to be mysterious and fun, like a pulp serial, and while it has deeper themes, it’s not War and Peace.

I also found that the seed for House of Cabal can bear an endless number of fruits, and while I know the climax, there is plenty of room for play before I get to the conclusion. My main goal is to fulfill the promise of the idea to the best of my ability.
Besides, I don’t necessarily like reading huge tomes all the time. This is the story I would want to read in the way I would want to read it.

How many volumes will House of Cabal span?

When comics are collected into trade paperbacks, they are called volumes. These paperbacks are how I like to read my comics. Who wants to read a single issue? I want a big taste and a complete arc, even if the story doesn’t end there. That’s why House of Cabal is in volumes; it’s to suggest that the House of Cabal series might have a long run like a comic book series. To answer your question more directly, at least five.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in self-publishing?

The main challenge I think for any writer starting out is finding readers. There are a huge amount of quality books being published; even if your work is amazing, how do you get noticed?

What are you working on right now?

There are quite a few thing in the pipeline this year. I’m releasing House of Cabal Volume Two: Estate very soon. I’m writing weird short fiction for my collection The Queen in Yellow. And I’m rewriting my next novel, Brief Pose, about an advertisement campaign that makes people lose themselves in fantasy, which should be released this summer.

What other books have you written?

Only one that I have published. My first novel is The Forgiving. It’s a more straightforward horror novel about a cult, but it also has some unconventional elements.

What is your favorite genre to read and who are some of your favorite authors?

I mostly read speculative fiction, but I like a wide variety of things. Clive Barker is probably my biggest influence. The nonfiction book This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein, the graphic novel The Sculptor by Scott McCloud, and the memoir The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch were my favorite books from last year.

Where can readers find you?

I’m active on Twitter @wesleymccraw and I have a blog called Self Write. https://selfwrite.wordpress.com/

 

Thank you for joining me today, Wesley! I’m looking forward to the next volume of House of Cabal and will definitely review it on here as soon as it comes out.

Book Review: House of Cabal, Volume One: Eden

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The witness angel Pinsleep is an outcast among his kind. He grieves the loss of Adam and Eve, while his brothers and sisters witness human stories on earth. When a modern-day couple discovers the Garden of Eden, Pinsleep chances upon a hidden epic.

To understand the far reaching consequences of their trespass, Pinsleep must travel through time and space to uncover the cabal that orchestrated the couple’s arrival, a secret organization that threatens to rip the fabric of reality apart.

I’m not exaggerating in the least when I say that House of Cabal is one of the strangest books I’ve ever read. We start off talking to an angel named Pinsleep who from the very beginning describes himself as looking more like a machine than an organic being, and who has made himself something of a hermit since Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden. A new couple show up seemingly out of nowhere and he takes them under his wing (no pun intended), determined to figure out how they got there and finally write an opera that will reveal something new to God. The next thing you know, there’s a conspiracy, bizarre research, and a spontaneous combustion all within the surprisingly short first installment of what promises to be an epic series.

A large portion of the book is written from multiple perspectives during a series of “regression” tapes. At first I was a little put off by the head-hopping but it really grew on me in a way that a lot of books that use the same technique haven’t. It really made me have to immerse myself in the story so that I fully understood what was happening, and even then I was left wondering what happened a few times. Of course, just when I thought I had the perspectives figured out things went completely sideways again and even Pinsleep made an appearance.

Once we start digging into the secrets of the House of Cabal, things start to get more sci-fi. When I read “witness angel” in the description I thought it might be influenced a little more by religious iconography, but McCraw blends classical religious elements with supernatural forces and speculation in an awesome mix that is completely outlandish at the same time that it’s completely believable.

The cliffhanger at the end left me stomping my feet wanting more, so I’m thrilled to hear that volume two is scheduled to come out this month. I’ll be picking it up for sure; I’m dying to read more of the regression tapes and find out more about what happened at the House of Cabal.