A Playground for Authors Jason White and Michael Schutz-Ryan

Review

Lords of Twilight by Greg F. Gifune

Cover for Lords of Twilight by Greg F. GifuneLords of Twilight, by Greg F. Gifune, is a difficult book for me to review. So, when things get difficult, some say to start at the beginning. And this beginning has an interesting concept.

Lane Boyce is newly divorced and a former high school teacher who finds himself in a small town in order to get things right with his head. Without giving away too much of the plot or backstory, Lane has suffered some serious accusations in his recent past that led him to where he is: alone, isolated, left behind by the one he loves the most. Perhaps this is rightfully so, perhaps not, but the point is that he needs this time away from everyone to figure out what happened and, with any luck, to heal fresh wounds that refuse to stop bleeding.

The small town he moved to, however, has a problematic recent history of its own. Strange lights are seen in the sky. There’s mutilated livestock and a local farmer is found dead up on a snowy hill with no tracks leading him there. It’s as though he fell from the sky.

As a master of suspense and character development, Greg Gifune does not disappoint. Lane’s journey goes from curious to the weird and surreal pretty quickly. As the story unfolds, we learn more about Lane and why he is in this cabin in the first place. We also learn more about the strange occurrences happening in the town surrounding him.

My biggest complaint about this one is that it felt like it could have been longer. The ending felt a little rushed, in my opinion. This could be simply me wanting more out of a story, but I don’t think so. I really do feel that the mechanics behind the story, Lane’s past corresponding with the strangeness that comes out of the woods in his backyard, could have been explored with much more detail.

What we do have, however, is an exciting glimpse into something tragic and gut wrenching. Not at all a bad thing, really. But I’m not sure this would make for a great first read to anyone new to Gifune’s awesome canon of literature.

It is well worth the read, though. I give it my recommendation unless you’re new to Gifune’s work. If that is the case, then I suggest trying out The Bleeding Season, The Rain Dancers, and/or House of Rain first. Either way, you can’t go wrong.

Keep your eyes and ears on Darkness Dwells for more from Greg F. Gifune, coming soon!

Photo of Greg F. Gifune

Greg F. Gifune

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Darkness Dwells Welcomes Michael Schutz-Ryan

A picture of Michael Schutz-RyanAnyone listening to the Darkness Dwells podcast should know by now that I’ve taken on a co-host. His name is Michael Schutz-Ryan, and he is the writer of the novel Blood Vengeance. I chose Michael because of a few different conversations we had about horror movies, especially the day he messaged me over Facebook to see if I had seen the movie Tusk or not. I have seen it, so we discussed what we both felt were strengths and weaknesses of the movie, which somehow led to our discussing a mutual love for Rob Zombie films.

As he’s been on the show before, I knew we could talk without any real barriers. In short, we get along just smashing!

My plans for the blog, however, do not end with Michael, though. I want to grow the Darkness Dwells blog into a small network of writers where we review horror movies and books and, more importantly, become a massive news source for horror literature, including reviews, release dates on novels, interviews, and whatever else our imaginations can conjure. This will create a need for a website makeover sometime in the future, but hey, this blog is now a year old. It took me this long to find Michael, so let’s take it one step at a time. Baby steps, my friends. Baby steps.

As for the podcast, I think Michael and I will do just fine as we discuss the macabre on the big screen of moving pictures.

What it comes down to is that I’ve had big plans for the blog, which includes the podcast, from day one. I want to share my love of horror literature and movies with the world. I also would like to create a place online where people can go to get the latest on horror literature news.

This will probably take some time, so if you’re getting excited I suggest you have a beverage and take a deep breath. Patience will be of virtue here.

So, please welcome Michael aboard as the first team member of Darkness Dwells. He’s an awesome writer and a great dude to talk with. And thanks,
Michael, for your enthusiasm and input. It will be fun, I’m sure.

Cover for Blood Vengeance

Blood Vengeance by Michael Schutz-Ryan


The Hallow by Keith Deininger

Cover of The Hollow by Keith DeiningerKeith Deininger is becoming well known for writing stories that are … that are … well, difficult to describe. They are difficult to describe because one often comes from a Deininger story wondering, “What the heck did I just read?”

The Hallow is no different.

The best way to describe The Hallow would be to say that it is like David Lynch writing and directing a spot on The Twilight Zone with a generous supply of magic mushrooms soaked in tequila.

The story follows James and his roommate, Vance. One night they find a black-haired woman on their home couch. She gets up and goes into James’ room, lies down on his bed, and dies. This woman haunts James throughout the entire story, as it probably should. But Vance is one of those people who likes to party and explore sleep deprivation and hallucinogenic drugs. After finding the black-haired woman,  nothing is the same. If anything, everything they’ve ever known is destroyed and their world goes deep into the rabbit hole of insanity.

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Mutator by Gary Fry

Cover for Mutator by Gary FryGary Fry is a new and prolific writer whose influence of Classic horror stores is almost transparent within his own writing. This is not a bad thing, however. Indeed, this gives a much needed spice to his stores that are lacking in a lot of today’s horror stories. In a way, you could say that an older style of story telling in today’s horror literature scene is refreshing is a strange thing. But I don’t think so. What makes it refreshing is Fry’s talent for crafting these stories so that they’re both modern and classic.

Mutator is no different.

James and his beagle, Damian, move into an old house in a new community. James is newly retired, if memory serves, and is looking to spend retirement gardening and spending time with his dog.

One morning soon after moving in he finds a hole in his yard that is a perfect circle with no evidence of anything having dug it – there’s no dirt around the edges. It’s just a perfect hole. This leads James into the basement where he finds a journal written by the previous owner along with a silver sphere.

The story moves along pretty fast and is a fun story with a unique monster. This one isn’t necessarily Lovecraftian, as some of Fry’s other works, but it still maintains the classic horror feel of Lovecraft along with Poe and Algernon Blackwood, among others. It’s a short and fun read, and I recommend it.

Four out of five Dweller Heads!

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EPISODE 12: Biting the Bit Vol. 03 – Mutator by Gary Fry and Top 10 Found Footage Films

EPISODE 12: Biting the Bit Vol. 03 – Mutator by Gary Fry and Top 10 Found Footage Films.

Welcome to episode 12!

This week, I want to talk about my top ten 90s horror movie list and the surprising reaction it received on MoviePilot.com.

And in that spirit, I have for you this week my top 10 found footage films.

I also discuss Mutator, the DarkFuse novella by Gary Fry

There’s also have some cool tunes for your listening pleasure.

And Darkness Dwells first contest. You can win an Amazon.com gift card. Stay tuned until the end of the episode to see how you can win it.

You can reach the show online:

Twitter:@darkdweller74

Email: darknessdwells74@gmail.com

Voice mail: 206-600-4257


Dream of the Serpent by Alan Ryker

Cover for Alan Ryker's Dream of the SerpentDream of the Serpent is one of the most gut-wrenching stories I’ve ever read. This says a lot to the writing powers Alan Ryker has developed in a short amount of time. If you’re familiar at all with his work, then you know that Ryker is a very talented story teller with a literary spin on the way he chooses to present his story to his readers.

The book starts off with our introduction to  Cody and Maddy and the type of relationship they have along with where they both are in life at this moment before disaster strikes. While talking to his girlfriend, Maddy, over his cell phone while cleaning out the deep frier at work, Cody suffers serious burns. The first part of the novel is about these burns and how it destroys Cody’s professional aspirations and his relationship with Maddy.

Let me tell you, tons of research went into this part of the story that made it feel more than authentic. The things that Cody goes through just to heal is like something from a torture movie. You feel as though you’ve experienced, in some small way, what burn victims have gone through. And, personally, I don’t think I’d come out the other end with flying colors.

About half-way through, the story changes from this hardcore suffering to something strange and, I think, brilliant on the author’s part. The change is drastic, but works so well within this world. It does so because Ryker took the time to prepare us for the change and even wonder, as Cody investigates, at its details.

Throughout the story, themes of guilt, of fire and burning, the Greek mythology of the phoenix gone horribly wrong, of death, and most importantly, love-devotion-and sacrifice play throughout. What we get is a story that is just as heart-wrenching as anything by Joe Hill or Greg F. Gifune.

Don’t read this book if you don’t want to be changed or and effected deeply. If this story doesn’t haunt you and effect you in some way, then you’re probably a different kind of person than I am.


Deadlock by Tim Curran

Cover of DeadlockDeadlock is a type of haunted house, or in this case haunted ship, story that’s becoming familiar and also a favourite of mine. Is it scary enough just to have a ghost pop up and say “Boo” every so often? I suppose that it might be, but there’s a sub-genre to the haunted house story that applies to strongly to Deadlock.

I’m not sure where this alternate haunt started, but I think I first saw it appear in Stephen King’s short story 1408. Chronologically, you see something like this in Algernon Blackwood’s old classic The Willows. I’m certain that there are older examples, but you can count on there being a lot more. Much more.

What this type of haunted house story involves is well displayed in Tim Curran’s Deadlock. Charlie Petty is challenged to stay on a cargo ship overnight. It’s a ship that’s rumoured to be haunted. No one will sail her and there are many stories of death and chaos for those crews that have sailed her. If Charlie does this, he will clear up the debt he owes to the collector, the man who also owns the boat.

Charlie is one of those kind of guys. He lets nothing bother him. Even at the beginning of the book, he’s talking to the guy who he owes this money too. It’s a man who’s known as a possible mob guy, and the banter between Charlie and this possible mob guy is priceless. Although Charlie realizes that this mob guy might put a bullet between his eyes, he can’t stop himself from being a smart ass.

Charlie decides to take up the offer. It’s fifty-thousand t0 clear his debt if he does it, so why not.?

I’m not going to go into too many details to avoid spoilers, but what this kind of haunted story involves is like stepping into one universe with its rules and boundaries into another universe with another, more pissed off and poisonous set of rules and boundaries. It’s like going insane within hours, or having someone spike your drink with a heavy dose of LSD. But this trip is real, my friends, and the main character rarely fairs well.

They’re a lot of fun to read and watch, so I was very pleased with this effort by Curran, an author who continues to surprise me and keep me awed and entertained. Read this book. It’s short and a lot of insane fun.


Deep Black Sea by David M. Salkin

Cover art for Deep Black SeaOne element that makes great horror so effective, at least for me, is isolation. I think it’s scary enough being somewhere so far out of reach from fellow humans that to have something go horribly wrong, such as a monster intent on destroying and/or assimilating you, can, if done well, make the atmosphere and dread of what’s already a dreadful situation even worse. Some of my favourite stories involve this kind of isolation and dread. Movies like Alien and John Carpenter’s The Thing come to mind first. Those movies really cemented my perception of horror.

But then in the late 90s, or there abouts, came a slew of deep sea movies like Leviathan, Deepstar Six, and The Abyss. The latter of these isolation stories reminds me of David Salkin’s novel, Deep Black Sea, for obvious reasons, but the actual story and intensity of the growing dread remind me more of the former. No disrespect to the mentioned deep water movies, but none of them have the staying power of the classic Alien and The Thing.

In Deep Black Sea we start the story with an introduction to all seven crew members as they discuss their mission: to stay in a new type of research submarine four miles below sea level for an entire year. The description of the living conditions down that deep, which also compares the differences of outer space, was fascinating and actually gave me nightmares. I’m not even claustrophobic. Or, perhaps I am and just haven’t been in a situation yet to show me that I am. If that’s the case, then my thanks to David Salkin for pointing this out to my unconscious mind.

I digress.

The seven crew members then head off on their mission. They make their slow descend into the deep. Along the way they catch fish and get to know each other better. Once they hit the ocean floor, things become immediately interesting. They bring aboard a bacteria that can enable flesh to live in extreme circumstances, such as seven-hundred degree water near a black smoker–which is sort of like an underwater volcano.

The story moves quickly after this as a terrible situation grows worse and worse with each passing scene.

Is Deep Black Sea so good as to become a classic and sit amongst greats? No, not necessarily. The book is really good with an ending that’s probably one of the best I’ve read in a long time, but to join the cannon of true classics is seriously tough. First, it would be great to see this one become a movie. If done well, I think it would offer some new things along with some great homages to said classics. But we’ll have to wait to see how the future remembers Deep Black Sea to see for sure.

Whatever the case, this is a great read and a lot of fun. Give it a go and see what you think! I really don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Five dweller heads!

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Book Reviews: Calling out Grammar Nazis

Angered, insulted editor bites their computerOne reason I fell in love with Amazon’s site way back in the late 90s, and still love it and among others sites now, is because of the reviews. I can spend hours reading other people’s thoughts on books, movies, and music I want to check out. It’s a great way to see if you might like the thing before spending your hard earned cash. I hate it when you buy a book/movie/cd without testing it first in some way and realizing that you hate it.

Reviews are also a great way to see if  the people producing the stuff you already like is any good or not. Your favourite band comes out with a new album, you just might want to check out what people thinks first before buying it. I’m old enough now to know how bands can evolve (which is great), but not evolve in the way you like. It’s almost like a relationship that’s come to an end because you can no longer see eye to eye.

No band makes the perfect album every time. It’s the same with favourite authors. It’s nearly impossible to like everything one person or a group of people put out there.

So, yeah, reviews are great for this. I’m such a review reading freak that I’ll read reviews after having read/watched/listened to something just to see if people felt similar to the way I feel.

Yet, ever since the ebook and self-publishing revolution we experienced about three or four years ago, and are still experiencing, there’s been a shift in reviews when concerning books. As the title suggests, yes, it has to do with the self-proclaimed (as most of these are self-proclaimed, I might add) Grammar Nazi!

Now, let’s get one thing straight, first. Most avid readers are Grammar Nazis. If you love reading, there’s nothing more jarring than typos and misspellings yanking you out of the story over and over again. Think of it as a terrible reminder that yes, you are reading a book and that real life hasn’t truly melted away into the written page. When they are constant, as in every page or so, if not more, it’s like being slapped in the face.

We have to get something else straight, too. All books have typos and misspellings. It’s impossible to find all mistakes within a short piece of the written word, never mind long pieces.

When some folks first started self-publishing because the stigma associated with doing so was suddenly gone, some did so with feverish excitement. It was easy to do, too. All one had to do was hire or learn how to convert their stories into ebooks, and one was done.

But this was not so. Some of these excited folks went and published without thinking of also hiring an editor.

Big mistake.

Very big mistake.

Read here for further thoughts on hiring an editor before publishing your stuff. I cannot stress how important that is. Also read this by author Shana Festa, a great article on the same topic with some advice to publishing writers.

One reason it’s so important to hire an editor is because of a small percentage of self-published authors who do publish without that ever important editor. And this has made a lot of legit self-published and small press writers look bad.

As I read through reviews today, it’s difficult to miss reviews that say, “This book is great, but could have used a professional editor.” I at first took these comments seriously. After having read a few of these books that are getting dragged through the dirt because of the odd misspelling or typo that did not have any affect on my reading experience, I have to question why some of these reviewers need to point out these rather small problems. It’s become popular to say such things, even if it’s not all that true.

My point is, I’ve read many books so far in my life, and all of them have had a typo or misused comma here and there. Most books I’ve read are from the big publishing houses with well-paid editors. Most smaller market publishing houses I’ve read books from (e.g Severed Press, Permuted Press, Wicked Jester, Deadite Press) have had approximately the same amount of missed problems as the big ones.

On the same note, I have read a few that were so terribly written, the author probably doesn’t know the difference between there, their, and they’re. But those stories were pretty bad in the first place.

My point: all books have typos, misspellings, and grammar mistakes. It’s inevitable. This post is a call to action for reviewers to stop the bullshit. Stop pointing this out in your review unless you’re the type to mention it in every book review you do. Make it your tag line. “Before I begin, let’s just get this out of the way: this book needs an editor. There, now on to the story.”

It’s too easy to say that small publishers and independent writers needed an editor before publishing their book, but what these reviewers don’t realize is that there is an editor behind those works. Professional ones, too. That’s why when you read a small press/self-published book and compare it to a big publisher, you’re going to find a  similar amount of mistakes. Some have more, some have less.

I beg you to get over it. Unless you’re a professional editor with a BA in English, or the book is seriously flawed grammatically and spelling-wise, just don’t do it.

Think for yourselves, man! And just enjoy the book you bought.


Nightcrawlers by Tim Curran

Cover art for NightcrawlersI first came to reading Tim Curran by taking the advice of my friends in the Goodreads group Horror Aficionados. The people there really know their stuff and I’ve found a ton of new favorites because of them. So, I read Dead Sea by Curran and was blown away. The imagination that went into the monsters of the story, and I can guarantee you that there are many, is something very rare in horror fiction.

I fell in love with the book and continued to read him. I have yet to read everything the man’s published, considering how slow I read and how fast he pumps them out every year, and of course I’ve read some things from Curran that  I thought were bad (no author’s perfect). When I think of horror fiction written in today’s modern world, especially monster fiction, I would have to say that Tim Curran is the only one who can do it the way it’s supposed to be done.

I may have mentioned this top part before, but it really needs repeating. Every fan of horror fiction should be reading Curran.

When I came to Nightcrawlers for the first time, I have to admit that I didn’t like it and put it down. What can I say? I’m a moody reader sometimes. I went back to it recently and started again from the beginning. I figured out quickly the reason why I didn’t like it so much the first time around. It was because part of Tim Curran’s brilliance, in my opinion, is his ability to create deep, dysfunctional characters that mimic real life people we all have probably known or do know. The people who populate Nightcrawlers at first seem empty in comparison.

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