In celebration of the spirit of the season and in recognition of the CIA’s historic plot to bomb Cuba and blame a foreign government, our second anthology High Strange Horror is free for Kindle now through Halloween!
Early in 2015, we released High Strange Horror, which continues to be our best online-selling title. It’s an anthology featuring authors that took on the subjects of cryptoterrestrials, aliens, men in black, UFOs, and government conspiracies. I’m very proud of the work, and consider it our flagship release of 2015. While Spooklights was our first release back in 2014, I believe we upped our professional and editorial chops with this book.
The Devil’s Engine by Robert Stava is a fun YA horror yarn about secret Nazi technology, the occult, and three teenagers unlucky enough to activate a semi-sentient, bloodthirsty locomotive. It’s a fun, short little ride, perfect for the young (and young at heart) horror fan.
I was honored that The War Writers’ Campaign published my debut novel Flight of the Blue Falcon. It’s not horror or weird – but it’s a deeply personal book about the Afghanistan War, based on my time serving with the U.S. Army. If you have any interest in what the Long War was (is) like for so many servicemen and women, please consider picking up a copy. All proceeds benefit the Campaign, which is a nonprofit dedicated to publishing veteran literature and war writing. Communication is the best form of therapy, and writing this novel helped me exorcise more than a few ghosts of my own.
Just before Halloween, Literati Press Comics & Novels released my second novel, The Hillbilly Moonshine Massacre. This is a horror-science-fiction-conspiracy-theory-pulp adventure tale about a war veteran who returns home to find his rural ski town community grappling with UFOs, police brutality, and an outbreak of violence triggered by psychotropic moonshine. Of course, not everything is as it seems, and only the paranoid part-time county sheriff (who happens to be the host of a late night call-in paranormal talk show) knows what’s really going on. It’s X-Files meets Trailer Park Boys; Ghostbusters on magic mushrooms and cheap local beer. It’s a book I had a blast writing, and if secret societies, local crime, and alien abductions are your thing, I think you’ll love it, too.
We also significantly expanded the blog’s content and review catalog. While we can’t review everything that comes out in the horror and weird fields, we covered a lot. My favorite books of the year, in no particular order:
Scott R. Jones edited an incredible collection of stories centered on the resonator device from H.P. Lovecraft’s classic tale “From Beyond.” I loved this book from beginning to end.
Alectryomancer and Other Weird Tales by Christopher Slatsky was one of the best single-author collections I read. I love conspiracy theories and alternative history, but Slatsky’s knowledge and use of the esoteric in horror settings puts me to shame. I can’t wait to see more from him.
Orrin Grey’s end of year collection Painted Monsters blew me away. There was not a single story in here that didn’t keep my attention. No other writer does such a great job of translating the cinematic weird to the page, marrying an obvious love for horror film with literary talent.
As for 2016, we’re staying busy. We’ll continue to do interviews with authors and reviews of horror and weird fiction and film. We have at least three releases slated for the year, including two novellas from first-time authors, and a short story collection from a very prominent new voice in the weird.
Stay tuned, and stay spooky.
Now that October is finally here, I’ll be celebrating all month long by posting a trailer a day of my top 31 favorite selections from the esteemed ranks of horror cinema, as well as a few notes on why I love each film. Now, this list is wholly biased and personal, and, honestly, I keep changing the rankings day by day. So go easy on me if we don’t agree!
31. Nightbreed (1990) Directed by Clive Barker
This is the ultimate B-movie; something that aspires to greatness but wildly misses the mark, but is fun, off-beat, uneven, bizarre, creepy, and a heck of a good time. The entire budget went to masks, make up, and sets. They certainly didn’t have any money left over for a comprehensible script. It’s a poor man’s funhouse mirror reflection of The Wizard of Oz. I suggest a few beers (or a Colorado brownie) when watching this one. Avoid the inferior Director’s Cut if possible. Then again, this looks great on Blu-Ray.
Aaaaand we’re giving away the updated Kindle version of High Strange Horror, our bizarre and diverse paranormal/high strange/weird horror anthology, for the next few days. Grab a copy and read a few spooky stories to celebrate the season! Click on the image below for the link.
Netflix is full of hidden treasures from the horror genre, whether overlooked-but-quality efforts from the past, or from more contemporary independent offerings that flew under the radar upon release.
It’s also full of crap. I end up quitting more movies than I finish, but every now and then, I find a diamond in the rough.
Honeymoon (2014) is a competent, paranoid, suspenseful little horror movie that knows its limitations and does a good job of telling us a simple yet disturbing tale of early marriage.
Bea and Paul (Rose Leslie and Harry Treadaway) tell us, through their recently-shot wedding video, the story behind their relationship. It’s full of cutesy/gross anecdotes about their first date, and populated with semi-sweet (or saccharine, depending on your level of cynicism or expectations of the script) narratives about their coming together in holy matrimony.
Having characters talk directly to a camera within a camera is a lazy conceit, and had me worried this would be another found footage clunker. Luckily, the film abandons this narrative model almost immediately, and we find the couple taking their honeymoon at an old cabin on a lake (once frequented by Bea’s family when she was young).
Leslie and Treadaway do a good job building up the couple’s dynamic, and they both have several opportunities to shine as actors. The film starts off more as a hopeful drama than a science fiction-horror movie. I can see why the scores and reviews of the film are generally mixed—there’s not a lot here for hardcore horror fans—at least, not at first. And that’s okay.
The weirdness within the woods soon encroaches, however. We see a strange light shining in through the cabin’s windows while they sleep. Soon after, Bea runs into a childhood friend who seems to be having anger issues, paranoia, and committing domestic violence against his frightened shell of a wife.
Then Bea wanders off in the middle of the night—losing her clothes in the process—and her husband begins to suspect that all might not be well in Marriedville.
That’s most of the plot, in a nutshell. Rather than ratcheting up the tension with a series of increasingly weird events—although there are a few of those—the focus of the film is trained firmly on the dynamics of the newlywed’s suddenly-fraying relationship. Memory, meaning, sexuality within marriage, and the core of who a person is and sometimes becomes are the real stars of the show. This is a drama trapped within the mythos of some high strange events, and the script’s tension with itself and the limitations of budget (few locations, lots of close ups and medium shots) can sometimes bog down the drive of the film.
Yes, this is a film that I would categorize as high strange. There’s some spooky stuff happening in the woods, and most audiences will likely chalk it up to a certain memetic pattern prevalent in our culture, (“I’m not saying it’s aliens … but it’s aliens”) but the paranormal elements are actually more in line with authentic high strange events than those of Hollywood. They don’t have clear-cut explanations, and nothing is quite as it seems.
I don’t want to fault a horror film for attempting to emphasize pathos and characterization over scares, but some scenes—one of the dozen or so interplays between Bea and Paul—tend to drag. There’s a fine line between focusing on character and focusing on plot, and Honeymoon doesn’t always quite thread the needle, if I’m allowed to mix metaphors. Leslie and Treadaway turn in good performances considering the film’s limited scope and resources, but the “Talk to me!” / “No …” dynamic wears thin very quickly.
I didn’t enjoy The Babadook for the same reason. That was a film with perpendicular themes of family paranoia. At some point we get it, and it’s time to move on. Another four or five scenes emphasizing the same message isn’t dramatic; it’s indulgent. Give me more spooks and scares to balance out the messaging.
And what message are we to get from Honeymoon? Marriage changes a relationship, especially when those married suffer from emotional damage, doubt, and their past. Paul gradually distrusts Bea as he learns more and more about what happened that night she went sleepwalking, and the lies she tells to cover up the truth are meant to keep their marriage normal and without conflict—an impossible task, considering what has happened to her within the woods. White lies meant to protect the relationship ultimately harm the relationship. There is a lesson from all of this, for sure, and the film should be commended for trying to say something beyond the scares and gore.
Yes, there are scares—but they are of the more subtle variety, rather than jump scares. The filmmakers wisely decided to show us only shadows, light, and implication. I was fearful that What Crept In The Darkness would be revealed in some awful, CGI-laden final scene—but this was not so. The film does imply a particular explanation, but never really spoon feeds it to us, which is refreshing and far more effective. By putting the creepy-crawlies in the background, the emphasis is on the drama. As I’ve said, this balance doesn’t always work, but it’s better than the inverse, certainly.
The special make up effects are simple but disturbing. “Vaginal horror” is a term thrown around a lot in science fiction-horror, and this film definitely takes that angle. But it’s never gratuitous or lazy, although there are a couple of straight-up “gross out” moments toward the end of the film.
Ultimately, this is a story about marriage, relationships, and the alienation that can occur therein. I really appreciated the filmmakers’ dedication to these themes, but couldn’t help wanting to see more of the high strange events surrounding that lonely cabin in the woods. That, I suppose, is a compliment, and a testament to the filmmaker’s restraint in deploying fictional spookies to tell us some hard truths.
If you enjoyed films like Xtro or Almost Human but are in the mood for something a bit more character-focused and restrained, make the trip into the woods and enjoy Honeymoon.
4/5 Cabins In the Woods
I recently referred to my blog as “oft-neglected.” It’s terrible and it’s true. But here I am. It’s been a while since I’ve updated, so let me fill you in on what I’m working on.
First and foremost (though I’m not going chronologically – you see, this is WHY I neglect my blog) is “Creeping Waves,” the follow-up to “Gateways to Abomination.” This book will consist of short pieces I left out of Gateways (they were written within the same time period), stories that have appeared in anthologies over the past 7 months, and a substantial amount of brand new work.
During the next several weeks, I will be wrapping up two or three of those new pieces, including a story tentatively titled “The Egg,” a five or six-part story entitled “Vernon Golden,” which is a framing piece that will give the book something like a narrative structure, and a few others. Perhaps an additional “Uncle Red Reads To-Day’s News” installment, too. Muzzleland Press will be publishing this follow-up, and it will be a considerably longer book. It will also likely include a significant visual component. If you liked “Gateways,” I think you’ll like it. If you didn’t like “Gateways,” (I know you’re out there) you might like this, as there are longer, more traditional stories within. Either way, the publisher and I are having a good time hashing out the details. I think the result will be a hell of a book.
Life is busy right now, so these stories are coming a paragraph at a time. I don’t yet have an ETA for this. One thing I keep thinking about: blurbs. I’ve never sought blurbs before, nor had a publisher do so on my behalf. I suppose it’s time to start thinking about it.
Second: I’ve put out an illustrated chapbook entitled “The Witch-Cult in Western Massachusetts.” Alex Fienemann did the lovely illustrations. It’s a curious little volume of fictional biographies.
Third: Soon Dim Shores, Sam Cowan’s new publishing venture, will be putting out a chapbook of my story “Rangel.” Rangel Bantam is a young woman mentioned in “Gateways” and elaborated upon, just slightly, in “Anne Gare’s Rare Book and Ephemera Catalogue.” The latter, by the way, I may have unnumbered and unsigned copies of to sell at Necronomicon this August. Stay tuned to find out who will be illustrating and doing the cover for “Rangel.” Dim Shores has started out strong with Jeffrey Thomas’s exquisite “Ghosts in Amber.” I’m looking forward to seeing what they do in the future.
The one thing I haven’t done lately is submitted anything to any anthologies. All the stories I had out were either picked up or declined. I hope to start again soon with new stories, when time allows.
What else? I went to Anthocon and was on a self-publishing panel moderated by Hal Bodner, along with Jeff O’Brien and E.J. Stevens. It was my first time at Anthocon and my first time being on a panel. It was well-attended and interesting. Had it gone on another hour, I wouldn’t have minded. I also saw excellent readings, sold a few books, bought a bunch of books, and got a print of the artwork for “Wicked Tales” signed by the artist. I met a lot of great people, but didn’t spend nearly enough time hanging out with them. Next year I’ll stay in the hotel.
“Resonator: New Lovecraftian Tales From Beyond.” (“Machine Will Start When You Are Start”)
“High Strange Horror” (“Night Dog”)
“Xnoybis #1” (“Carnomancer, or The Meat Manager’s Prerogative”) – sold out, I think, but Dave Felton will have copies for sale at Necronomicon.
“Wicked Tales” (“Master of Worms”)
“Siren’s Call – A Scream in the Night” (“Following You Home”) – free to read on the site
“Dark Lane Quarterly Anthology Vol. 1” (“Great Uncle Eltweed” from “Gateways to Abomination”)
“Faed” (“Pharaoh” from “Gateways to Abomination”)
More news soon, more details, more updates. Thank you for reading.
This post also appears on Bartlett’s blog, found here.
The guys over at The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast reviewed our latest book, HIGH STRANGE HORROR… And loved it! They even give shout outs to a few writers, including Charles Martin for “So You’ve Lost Your Edge, Now What?”, Toni Nicolino for “The Dead Wait”, Doctor Gaines for “The Pirate-Ghost of Hole 19″… and me for my story about weaponized breakfast cereal, “Frosty Pyramid Treats”.
The podcast is a quality show – I listened to their entire back catalog when I was deployed to Kuwait and I had to drive around the base at night… Very spooky stuff. Great music, great dramatic readings, and fun but insightful analysis of horror literature, especially that of H.P. Lovecraft.
Give the show a listen – it’s about a Robert E. Howard story. You can’t go wrong with this one!
The truth cannot be suppressed any longer.
For fans of The X-Files, Coast to Coast AM, Welcome to Night Vale – or for anyone who loves a good (or bad) conspiracy theory. High Strange Horror is an examination of our modern mythologies, viewed through a horror lens.
High Strange Horror, edited by Jonathan Raab, Colin Scharf, and Doctor Gaines, features 17 different stories and two essays on our weird and wonderful world. The paperback and Kindle versions are available on Amazon, with other e-book versions available at your online retailer of choice in the next few days.
Now, we shall see that which lurks between the edges of our world and the next. Now, the truth will be revealed.
Are you ready to see what lies beyond the veil?
High Strange Horror
Weird Tales of Paranoia and the Damned
On the Weird and the Damned (introduction) by Jonathan Raab
Investigations by Michael Bryant
So You’ve Lost Your Edge. Now What? by Charles Martin and Will Weinke
Frosty Pyramid Treats by Jonathan Raab
The Dead Wait by Toni Nicolino
The Keepers by David A. Owens
Night Dog by Matthew M. Bartlett
The Pirate-Ghost of Hole 19 by Doctor Gaines
The Lights Are Off by Christopher Fraser
Púca by C.R.J. Smith
Delve by Matthew D. Jordan
Brought Low by J. Howard Shannon
Black-Eyed Children, Blue-Eyed Child by Billy Lyons
The Vampire Sea by Amberle L. Husbands
Ascendance by Julie Godard
Cats by Jake Skillings
The Projectionist by Mer Whinery
Excerpt from Look For Me by Colin Scharf
I Want to Believe (post-script essay) by Colin Scharf