Friday, February 16, 2018

The Word of The Children

Children of God: Poems, Dreams and Nightmares From The Family Of God Cult is an astounding collaboration between Craig DiLouie and Jonathan Moon, featuring a fictional literary collection written by cult members coping with PTSD through writing. Do you understand? These two authors created The Family of God history and the cult's surviving members, complete with personal backgrounds, individual traumatic memories and their own voices. Take a moment to let that level of creativity sink in.

Fictional or not, the diversity, both in form and tone, of each entry is exquisitely crafted...intense, dramatic and heart-wrenching. Not to mention, the great detail and research put into the introduction of this masterpiece. I would even venture to call this historical fiction, as the stories within are strikingly similar to The Family International led by David Berg, and the Journal of Self by Kathleen Adams, which is referenced as a healing tool is a legitimate form of self-help.

The days leading up to the mass suicide and murder of the cult's followers, as well as the final day, are laid out through the haikus, sonnets and song lyrics of the surviving members. Some have finally turned away from their former family, while others can't seem to let go, even after the torture and killings they've witnessed. Through the eyes of children, parents and the elderly, readers are shown how these lost souls were brought into the fold.

While this book is a work of fiction, the authors based the characters and events on real events involving past and present cults.

As always,

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Throwback Thursday: UK Zombie

The Bitten Man by Edward Chilvers takes place in the UK, and is told from the POV of a father trying to find a safe place for his son. This piece of flash fiction is similar to The Road by Cormac McCarthy, but instead of fighting cannibals, they have to fight zombies…um, wait…same thing? Hmmm…

Chilvers manages to pack of variety of action within a few pages, as well as write an unexpected ending. Not to mention, throughout the story, the father does some questionable things that will no doubt shock many readers, but I respect how unconditionally the character puts his son’s safety first, above all others.

The Bitten Man is a juicy bite perfect for zombiephiles without much free time.

You can always count on the zombie genre to find something else that is worse than death. Never underestimate the desperation of a loving parent. While this story was originally published a few years back, Walking Dead fans might find the situation all too familiar.

As always,

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Chicago Horror: Jason R. Davis [Interview]

Jason Davis has become a regular here at the Lair. Whether it's spiderszombies, or a bad case of the runs, he's always managed to take these horror themes to an unimaginable level of terror. When I first read his debut novel, Inside The Mirrors, I had no idea it would become the first novel in a series centered around Chicago cop, Rob Alletto (although I was later informed by Davis that his trilogies are part of the same series).

Inside The Mirrors (The Guardian Book 1) Alletto believes moving to a small town would lead to a safer environment for himself and his family. Before long, he discovers that there are things far worse than street criminals, when an evil spirit attempts to possess Rob's neighbors through their mirrors. At first, my interest in the story would increase and wane in intervals, depending on the chapters, but as the POV switched around between characters, the suspense grew into terrifying levels. As the various POVs converged, Davis orchestrates a thrilling ride through hell for his readers, in the clever disguise of small town drama.

Into Darkness has the same writing style as the first book, but the second installment is full of unexpected situations, some of which left me a bit confused. After what Alletto went through in the first book, I'm surprised his references to the experience are so few and far between, as well as incredibly vague. Granted, at least a year has gone by in the timeline within the series, but Alleto seems to have buried his early memories of his family's troubles in the town of Standard. Readers are almost better off not reading the first novel.

With the second story, the series moves on from a supernatural menace into a theological battle of good versus evil...sort of like The Stand by Stephen King, but on a much smaller scale. There are so many thought monologues by Alletto throughout the storyline, the suspense is constantly disrupted and the action comes in brief spurts with little to no thrill. The ending felt rushed and glossed over. Having read a number of stories by Davis, I feel he could've done better with this novel.

I thought it would be best to bring Davis to the Lair to explain what he's been attempting...

Q. Where are you from? Has that influenced your writing at all?

A. I’m from the Midwest, central Illinois to be precise. I grew up in a couple of little towns in the area, but the one that I consider home is Wenona, IL. Now, has this influenced my writing at all? Definitely. So much of the world of Inside the Mirrors and Into Darkness is set in a fictionalized version of Wenona. The slag pile that is referenced in Into Darkness, the coal dump, is real, and the stories that are told in Into Darkness are the same ones I parents would always tell me to keep me from playing there. Which of course never worked.

Q. Why did you choose to be an author? What is it about the horror genre that appeals to you?

A. I don’t know if I ever chose to be an author, it has just been a part of me for as long as I can remember. For my tenth or eleventh birthday, my parents bought me a typewriter. I don’t know why, but I guess if they bought it for me, I must have been asking for it. I know since I had it, I would wake up early in the morning and start pounding away stories while listening to my dad get ready for work.

As to the horror genre itself. My mom would always watch horror movies when I was growing up and never cared if I was in the room to watch them or not. I remember when she was watching Aliens I ran out of the room gagging. I ran all the way out to the front yard and thought I was going to lose my lunch on the front porch.

I was such a scaredy cat growing up. I was afraid of everything, wouldn’t walk into a room without the light on and was terrified of our pantry as I was sure there was a dragon living inside of it. I was an only child but had bunk beds. At night, I would debate between which bed to sleep in, if I slept in the top one, I would be eye level when Dracula came to eat me, but if I slept in the bottom one, then I could bunch myself up in the corner and he might not even see me sleeping there.

I don’t know when it was, but after a time, I just got tired of being afraid of the horror genre and of being afraid. At the time, Nightmare on Elm Street was a big thing and Freddy Kruger was what terrified me the most. So, I started watching the movies over and over again. I started watching them in the day, and as I got braver, started watching them at night. I started watching more horror films. I moved on from reading the Hardy Boys books to reading Fear Street, and from then to Dean Koontz and Stephen King. I turned my fear into an obsession to conquer it. Through time, I started to enjoy them, and now the horror genre has become a part of who I am.

Q. Do you write for entertainment purposes only, or are there deeper messages within your stories?

A. Both. I write to entertain, but I always try to bury layers into my work. A strong theme lately has been to battle bullying, but often times there are other elements dealing with unfairness in the world. When I first started writing a series of truck driving stories, I did so as a way to bring awareness to some of the problems I saw in the industry, things like that as well.

Q. You have more than one series…which one is your favorite and why?

A. This is complicated. You said I have one series, but that’s not completely true, at least not yet. I have two trilogies, but both trilogies are a part of the same series, just their storylines are only barely touching for now. The third book for both trilogies will work as something that will be akin to a two part story. When one trilogy ends, it leads into the ending of the other trilogy, which is the end of the beginning to the Edge of Darkness series / universe that I am working to build.

Right now, it is complicated to explain, but I hope once the books are all out there, people will understand and enjoy all the working elements. I am writing them, and working at the balance of keeping it so each book compliments the others while not having to rely on any of them for story elements. It’s tricky, but fun.

Later this year, I do have a young adult series that I am working on that is called “Dream Chasers” with the first book titled, “Here There Be Dragons.” I’m having a lot of fun writing it, but it is side project so I am keeping my focus on my next adult horror novel. Sadly, that book is not a part of either trilogy as I wanted to take a break before continuing work on “Tangled Webs.”

Q. Is your experience within the horror community limited to literature or do you have experiences in other areas, such as film?

A. Well, I went to college for film and video which brought me initially into the world of independent film-making. I was writing scripts and directing short films. At the time, I was learning about film festivals and how they helped independent filmmakers get discovered, but realized quickly that there weren’t that many of them that showed or featured horror films. So, it 2004, I founded the Chicago Horror Film Festival and directed the festival for ten years until I stepped down and Willy Adkins took it over. During my tenure, we expanded, and I founded the Indie Horror Film Festival.

Q. Do you ever imagine yourself as one of your characters? If so, does that affect how you develop them within the story?

A. I feel a connection with Rob Alletto. I think that is why he has become the cornerstone to the two trilogies I am currently writing. He is a good guy, doesn’t drink, smoke, and above all, his driving force is to take care of his family. He tries to help others whenever he can, and is an overall good person. He’s someone I strive to be, and while he has his demons, he works to get through life while dealing with them.

Q. Do you think setting is crucial to a story? Do you have any difficulty creating new situations within the horror genre?

A. Setting is very crucial depending on the story you want to tell. Horror can be found anywhere. You give me a character in heaven and I can give you a horror story with him or her. As to creating new situations, I don’t feel like I have an issue with that. My biggest issue is finding the time to write all the stories I want to tell. I have ideas for my next six novels, but need to complete what I’m working n now to get to them. That is part of why when I explain my series’, that it gets so complicated, because as I’m thinking about them, I’m thinking about the next six books and how they are going to relate and how large of an impact one book will have over the other.

Q. What are you currently working on?

A. My main focus is on “Dead Friends” and “Here There Be Dragons.” “Dead Friends” is about Lizzie Rogers who just inherited a curse from her uncle and now anyone close to her dies just to come back and haunt her as a corpse only she can see and hear.

“Here There Be Dragons” is the first book in a young adult series about teenagers who go into other’s dreams and keeps the nightmares from hurting them. HTBD is the first book in the Dream Chasers series.

I’m also writing, but not focused as heavily on it, the third book in the Invisible Spiders trilogy, “Tangled Webs.” I took some time off of it as I wanted to do something on a smaller scale with “Dead Friends,” which is a book that follows just one character rather than a large world book like TW.

Q. Will you be appearing at any of the conventions this year?

A. Doubtful. I took last year off as my son was born at the end of 2016, and I plan on doing much of the same for 2018. I love spending time with him as much as I can, and I am not ready to split my time between convention and family. When he gets old enough, I will start doing conventions again, but for now I’m taking a break. I’ve been so heavily involved in the convention world since 2004 that it is nice to take a couple of years off.

Q. Where can fans find more information about your stories?

A. The best place to find anything about me is through either my web site,, my Facebook page,, my amazon author page and my twitter @Iamjasondavis. 

Many thanks to Jason Davis for the interview!

As always,

Monday, February 12, 2018

Slaughter Sisters

Unseen by Rebecca R. Pierce is far better than I ever would have expected...the story's description doesn't do it justice. The wagon train with a family of pioneers is the perfect setting for what is to unfold. Pierce blends folklore and suspense into a brutal and devastating coming of age confrontation for 16 year old Charlotte. While sympathetic to what her sister endured, I'm not entirely convinced of Rachel's role as a victim. Sometimes monsters create new monsters.

The very first fiction books I read on my own were anthologies of folklore and mythology stories. I noticed right away, the pretty creatures were usually the most dangerous. While those stories were, and still are, labeled fantasy, the myths and legends were often filled with horror and tragedy. Moving on to horror from fantasy, with a stopover in science fiction, made sense to me.

As a result, I love authors who find ways to take the old world folklore and mix them with the new world horror. Unseen is a great example of ageless fiction: a story that could easily be told at a campfire in the Old West or at a slumber party in 2018 and equally frighten both audiences.

As always,

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Fragmented Fiction

Theatre of Death (An Acid Suite Story) by Craig Lea Gordon is full of descriptions and not much else. I would expect a story which boasts "uncompromising story telling" to present readers with something more than bits and pieces of flashbacks. There is zero explanation of this dystopian society, and so little information about the characters, it's hard to feel anything for any of them.

I read stories and often wonder what the author is trying to accomplish. Correction. I read stories with glowing reviews and wonder if that's all it takes to make the author happy. I wonder if they expect to build a writing career with only positive reviews.

How can a review help an author improve if the reviews are just filled with catchy generic blurbs or a regurgitation of the story's description?

As always,

Friday, February 9, 2018

Flash Fiction Friday: Bit of Bizarro

Child of Mine by Emrys Apollo is a flash fiction piece centered on a woman's first pregnancy, which quickly becomes a waking nightmare, lasting for days. Laura is certain she is not imagining the terrifying events, but there is the possibility Laura is suffering from hallucinations. While the writing style is quite rough, the author does a good job of keeping readers guessing until the end.

This story would be better categorized as bizarro fiction, rather than horror because of the grotesque details. Unfortunately, this genre is difficult to nail down, but there are a few key elements to help identify such stories:

1) the plot is surprising
2) the story is strange, as in weird
3) resembles those cult films that aren't big with critics, but still manage to have a huge following

Something most bizarro authors deal with is being accused of crappy writing in general, which isn't helping the genre gain in popularity. Remember that one English professor who told everyone genre fiction is garbage? That same professor would probably describe bizarro fiction as some made-up label to describe writers who can't write decent prose.

Some bizarro stories are more entertaining than others, but none of them are boring.

As always,

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Dystopian Flash Fiction

Dark Mirrors: A Story of Alien Invasion by John Walters gives a glimpse into a young girl's choice in prison, during a war the humans are losing. Based on the description, I thought this story would be more focused on Bethany. However, the author spends most of the story describing everything from the POV of Margaret, a military officer of some importance. By the time readers learn anything about Bethany, the story is over, with a rather abrupt ending. After making such a big deal about the nature of the war, the ending felt unresolved...incomplete.

I try so very hard to go into a story without any expectations, aside from wanting my imagination fed. Sometimes a story leaves me wanting more because I enjoyed it so much. More often than not, a story leaves me wanting more because the author only fed me scraps of information.

I'm often reminded of something an English professor told me, "Don't introduce a gun into your story, unless the gun is going to be used at some point." It drives me crazy when an author includes unnecessary details, but refuses to reveal more about key details, giving readers tidbits of information resembling a breadcrumb trail leading to nowhere.

As always,