Archive for February, 2015

John F.D. Taff and Grey Matter Press are offering an amazing deal on “The End in All Beginnings”! If you haven’t picked up a copy already, definitely take advantage of this deal.

John F.D. Taff, Dark Fiction Author

The fine folks over at Grey Matter Press are positively giddy over my Stoker Nomination for The End in All Beginnings.  So excited that they’re offering you, my loyal blog followers, a super-secret special offer, if you don’t already have a copy of the book.  This is done just for you, so follow the super-secret special instruction on how to accomplish all this.  PAY ATTENTION BECAUSE AS PART OF THIS, YOU WILL BE REQUIRED TO DO SOMETHING FOR ME.  I know, I know.  There’s always a catch, but at least this one’s a good one.

(And even though this is super-secret, just for you, my sweet, sweet blog follower you, I have no illusions that you might be inclined to share this surreptitiously with other unfortunate souls who don’t yet have a copy of The End in All Beginnings. So, whatevs.  Share away.  Just make sure, they…

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Today I am excited to welcome one of my all-time favorite horror writers, Hunter Shea, to The Horror Bookshelf for an interview to celebrate the release of his latest novel Island of the Forbidden (review). We talk about Monster Men, the books in the Jessica Backman series, cryptids, new releases and a lot of other cool stuff!  Also, if you have read any of the books, Hunter reveals how Island of the Forbidden almost took a much different path.

Be sure to enter the blog tour giveaway following the interview for a chance to win one signed copies of Hunter’s previous novels or an e-book! A huge thanks to Hunter for answering my questions and to Erin Al-Mehairi of Hook of a Book Media & Publicity for inviting me to participate on this blog tour!

hunter-shea-photo

Aside from being a huge fan of your books, I also am a pretty avid follower of your Youtube podcast Monster Men. You and Jack do an excellent job introducing viewers to cool new books, movies and other horror related stuff. How did the idea for the show come about and do you guys have anything special coming up this year?

Jack and I used to work together and bonded over our passion for horror movies and books. When my first book was going to be published in 2011 (Forest of Shadows), we created Monster Men to help promote it. As you can see, it’s gone well beyond the scope of just promoting a single book. We’ve filmed close to 80 episodes now and have branched out into interviewing authors, cryptozoologists and even doing a ghost hunt in a cemetery. In 2015, we’re going to do much more interviews and get out in the field to show our viewers some truly spooky places.

Island of the Forbidden is the fourth story featuring Jessica Backman. Though they can be read as standalone works, did you ever imagine writing a series when you first wrote Forest of Shadows or did it happen organically?

This was never intended to be a series. When I ended Forest of Shadows, I did so pretty definitively. When Samhain asked for a third book, I got to thinking, what would become of a little girl who lived through what Jessica did in Alaska? How would that impact the course of her life? Sinister Entity was born from those questions. And from there, more questions arose. I mean, if someone can truly interact with the dead the way she and Eddie do, they’re not going to be normal, no matter how hard they try. I’m fascinated with the way our decisions alter the course of our lives. For me, as long as Jessica and Eddie have their abilities, I’m going to keep writing about them and watch them evolve.

Jessica is the only character that appears in all of the books, but Eddie’s story also plays a major role in Sinister Entity and Island of the Forbidden. How did you get the inspiration to incorporate a character like Eddie?

I was reading about a famous spiritualist, D.D. Home. He was the only psychic/spiritualist to have confounded the professional debunkers. I get the impression that if psychic powers are real, Home was our proof. Witnesses even watched him levitate out a multi-story window and float back in another. Accounts of what he was able to do will raise the hair on your arms. I started to think, what if these abilities are genetic? Would they wax and wane with each successive generation? Eddie in the books is a direct descendant of D.D. Home, a guy who just may be equal to the greatest spiritualist the world has ever seen. If he can communicate with the dead as easily as we do the living, imagine what would ensue if he somehow came into contact with Jessica, who unwittingly draws the dead to her and can banish them to a place neither of them can see? Talk about power couples, they’re it.

I know writers tend to become attached to their characters, so was it difficult for you to place Jessica and Eddie in dangerous situations?

Not at all. In fact, it’s fun. That’s when their true personalities come out. And I’m never sure what I’m going to do with them in the end. I realized midway through Island of the Forbidden that my subconscious was setting things up to kill Jessica. I had to pull back a bit and move the story a little to the left. Ormsby Island is a very dangerous place for people like Jessica and Eddie. They’re just two broken people surrounded by over 100 royally pissed off spirits. It was easy to imagine them being drawn under to a place of no return. But that would have been too easy. The power in the story is seeing how they face what is an unimaginable situation without buckling under.

Ormsby Island is a perfect setting for a ghost story. It has a dark history that has made it a legend among the locals in the novel and is completely cut off from the outside world. The description of the island and the house definitely gave me the chills! Was there any real world inspiration behind Ormsby Island?

When I set out to write the book, I wanted Jessica and Eddie to have put themselves in a kind of forced isolation – cutting themselves off from friends and family, even ignoring the pleading of the dead. For them at that moment, it seemed like the safe place to be. Now, let’s draw them to a location that is physically isolated. All possible lifelines are utterly cut off. If you’re like Jessica who likes to profess that she has no fear, that’s going to be thrown out the window in short order. Through that isolation comes a realization that you need to be a part of something larger than yourself – if you can survive.

What I like about the books in the series is that it shows a very realistic portrayal of how the events of the books would impact the characters. It seems like with each situation they find themselves in, Jessica and Eddie find themselves questioning their skills as well as themselves. Was that an important element for you while you were writing the books, to show that journey?

Exactly! That’s the impetus that compels me to write about them. The ghosts and hauntings are secondary. I want to explore the real impact interacting so closely with the dead can have on the living. I really don’t think it’s like the guys in a show like Ghost Adventures who seem to try to draw spirits into a bar brawl, then pick up and leave, moving on to the next haunted location as if nothing happened. To see beyond the veil has to rock you to your core. It would change you in an instant. From that point on, a conventional life is going to be pretty out of reach. Jessica and Eddie’s journey is what the whole series is about. The fact that I can add some scares along the way is gravy.

Eddie and Jessica both have a very unique approach to how they handle the situations they encounter in the books. How do you think their strengths benefit each other?

They’re the embodiment of yin and yang. Their personalities clash, but that’s good. Jessica is brash, impetuous, defiant, wielding powers that she has no control over. Eddie in introspective, reticent, but braver than he thinks he is. He knows every nook and cranny of his abilities, thanks to his stint with the Rhine Research Center (an actual psychical research facility near Duke University). Alone, each will eventually step into something they can’t get out of. Together, by feeding off one another, they can succeed against impossible odds. They need each other more than they care to admit.

A few of your books feature cryptids (The Montauk Monster, Swamp Monster Massacre) and you talk about your interest in them quite a bit. What is your favorite, least recognized cryptid? How did your interest in cryptids and the paranormal begin?

I find myself becoming more and more entranced by the world of cryptozoology. I’ve always been a huge monster fan – hence the Monster Men – but imagine if some of those monsters are real? And living close by? I get goosebumps just thinking about it. One of my favorites has become The Dover Demon, so much so that I wrote a book about it that will come out in the fall of 2015. Is it an alien or an earthbound creature? The veracity of the witnesses is what makes it so intriguing. I owe huge thanks to Loren Coleman, cryptozoologist and owner of the International Cryptozoology Museum, for getting me hooked on The Dover Demon. It’s a really strange and chilling creature. We’re talking about what people today would call a gray alien years before it became an iconic image.

What is a typical day of writing like for you?

On weekdays, I try to get in an hour or so a night, after work and dinner and hanging out with the family. On weekends, like right now when I’m answering your awesome questions, I’ll get a few hours in in the morning. The key is to just keep moving forward. You’re not always going to hit the goal you set for the day, but that’s all right. If I get in 250 words instead of 1,000, so be it. I know I’m going to have another day down the line where my fingers are flying over the keyboard.

What drew you into the world of horror and what is your favorite thing about the genre?

My father used to watch horror and scifi movies with me when I was a kid barely tall enough to turn the knob on a door. We watched all of the Universal monster movies, then the nuclear powered beasts of the 50s, and the straight up terrifying tales of the 70s. The odd thing was, I wasn’t scared. I loved watching them! Then he introduced me to this little known guy (at the time) called Stephen King and that was it. Stick in the fork, I was done. Horror hasn’t left my side since I was about 5. I’m a little jaded now, and it takes a lot to freak me out, but man, when something does, it’s like the greatest high ever. The movie Sinister did that to me most recently. It’s harder with books, I think, because I know how the sausage is made.

What horror novel has had the biggest impact on you as a writer and who are some of your favorite current writers?

Stephen King’s Night Shift was my first ever horror read, and I can honestly say it shaped who I was to become. To me, that is the perfect short story collection. There are so many modern horror writers doing amazing work, and some of them don’t get the recognition they deserve. Here are some of my favorites: Tim Lebbon, Brian Keene, Jonathan Janz, Jack Ketchum, Brian Moreland, Joe Lansdale, Mary SanGiovanni, David Bernstein, Keith Rommel, Nick Cutter. I could go on and on. Hollywood, wake up! You want to make great movies? Read a book by one of these guys, and lady.

If you could choose any writer to collaborate with, who would you choose and why?

I’ve talked to Jonathan Janz about writing something together. We just need the time. I think we have a similar style and definitely have a lot of the same passions. Most importantly, we get along and really like and respect one another. Without that, I don’t think it’s possible to collaborate. We could create something truly dark and disturbing together. I’ve also been talking to Keith Rommel about a joint project. He’s just a great guy and such an intuitive writer. I’d create the monsters and he’d dive into the psyche of our characters.

What other stories are you currently working on?

I’m working on a new cryptid novel for Pinnacle. If all goes well, it should come out in 2016. I’m also putting the touches on a very nasty little novella for Samhain. Once summer hits, I have an idea for a Bigfoot book that’s never been explored before. I can’t wait to start that. I’m also contemplating self publishing a middle grade horror series. The first book is already written and I’m going to talk to a close friend about doing some illustrations. Fingers crossed.

Thanks for stopping by The Horror Bookshelf Hunter, I am definitely excited to read your other releases this year!

Thank you so much for having me and for your wonderful reviews of my books!

Island of the forbidden tour logo

Giveaway

Enter to win one of five Hunter Shea books being given away! Two signed copies of Montauk Monster, one signed copy of Sinister Entity, and two e-books of choice of his titles are up for grabs! One book to each winner, given in order of random drawing. Enter to win at the Rafflecopter link. Must use valid email that winners can be contacted by. Print books are U.S. residents only. Contest ends Feb. 28, 2015. Any questions, contact Erin Al-Mehairi, Publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail.com.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/231aa30b17/?

About Hunter Shea

Hunter Shea is the author of paranormal and horror novels Forest of Shadows, Swamp Monster Massacre, Evil Eternal, Sinister Entity, Hell Hole and Island of the Forbidden, which are all published by Samhain Horror.

The June 3, 2014 release of his horrifying thriller Montauk Monster was published by Kensington/Pinnacle. His second Kensington novel, Tortures of the Damned, will be published later this year.

He has also written a short story to be read prior to Sinister Entity, called The Graveyard Speaks (it’s free, go download!), and a book of stories called Asylum Scrawls.

His work has appeared in numerous magazines, including Dark Moon Digest, Morpheus Tales, and the upcoming anthology, Shocklines : Fresh Voices in Terror. His obsession with all things horrific has led him to real life exploration of the paranormal, interviews with exorcists, and other things that would keep most people awake with the lights on.

He is also half of the two men show, Monster Men, which is a video podcast that takes a fun look at the world of horror. You can read about his latest travails and communicate with him at www.huntershea.com, on Twitter @HunterShea1, Facebook fan page at Hunter Shea or the Monster Men 13 channel on YouTube.

Raves for Hunter Shea

Forest of Shadows

“A frightening, gripping story that left me too frightened to sleep with the lights off. This novel scared the hell out of me and it is definitely a creepy ghost story I won’t soon forget.” —Night Owl Reviews

Sinister Entity

“This is the real deal. The fear is palpable. Horror novels don’t get much better than this.” —Literal Remains

“. . .Culminates in a climactic showdown between human and spirit that keeps you glued to the pages!” —Horror Novel Reviews

Evil Eternal

“Hunter Shea has crafted another knockout. At turns epic and intimate, both savage and elegant. . .a harrowing, blood-soaked nightmare.” –Jonathan Janz, author of The Sorrows

Swamp Monster Massacre

“If you’re craving an old-school creature-feature that has excessive gore. . .B-horror movie fans rejoice, Hunter Shea is here to bring you the ultimate tale of terror!” —Horror Novel Reviews

island-of-the-forbidden

BOOK INFO

Length: 288 Pages

Publisher: Samhain Horror

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review

When we first reunite with Jessica and Eddie, they are both struggling to cope with the horrors they witnessed in the Leigh household. Jessica dyes her hair, shuts down fearnone.com and cuts herself off from her family while she travels the country losing herself in physical work of volunteering for Habitat for Humanity. Eddie is a shell of his former self. His powers are nowhere near what they once were and he develops an addiction to alcohol and drugs in order to try to hide from the scores of spirits that appear to him begging for his help. Their partnership is nonexistent after the two having a falling out over how to handle Jessica’s unique gift as an energy source for EB’s.

However, Jessica finally reaches out to Eddie after her aunt Eve tells her Eddie has been leaving desperate messages on her phone. When she finally reaches him, he tells her that someone on the other side has been looking for her, leading to visions of EB’s that make it so he can hardly sleep at night. Just when Jessica is ready to give into her anger and frustration towards Eddie, he stops her cold when he tells her there are kids involved. Kids who have abilities like theirs and are being used as bait.

Jessica and Eddie are led to Ormsby Island, a deserted island in South Carolina after Daphne Harper contacts Jessica and pleads for her to help. She and her husband purchased the island on the cheap with the hopes that Jessica and Eddie could make the home safe for their two children, Jason and Alice. They immediately noticed that the island had some peculiar traits. There is an ominous chill that cloaks the property even in the humid heat of summer and the inside is immaculately preserved despite the exterior’s former splendor being ravaged by the passage of time and the elements.

Almost as soon as they step foot on the island, Eddie and Jessica realize Ormsby Island holds many secrets. There are well over a hundred spirits of deformed children all over the island, proof that gives some credence to the rumors concerning Ormsby Island’s brutal past. Then in the midst of the paranormal happenings on the island, there is the question about the Harpers. They seem like an average couple despite a hint of strangeness, it quickly becomes clear they are hiding something which could threaten everyone on the island. As Eddie and Jessica dig deeper into the mysteries of Ormsby Island, they discover the heartbreaking truth behind the activity in the house.

Island of the Forbidden was a great read and has the same excellent storytelling that made the other books in the series so enjoyable. There are multiple mysteries waiting to be discovered and Island of the Forbidden features the most diverse cast of characters yet. One of my favorites, not counting Eddie or Jessica of course, was Nina D’Arcangela. Nina is a psychic who has powers very similar to Eddie’s, but lacks the experience and control he has mastered. She is kind of like the anti-Eddie in the sense that where Eddie is confident and uses his gifts to help others, she is driven by the need to be appreciated by others and is looking to cash in on her abilities using any means necessary.

I also thought Ormsby Island is the perfect setting for a ghost story. It has a dark history that has made it a legend among the locals in the novel and is completely cut off from the outside world. Imagine that you walk into a reportedly haunted mansion and witness events that are not only unexplainable, but ripped straight from your worst nightmares. Normally, it would be easy to just leave the home, never return and that is the end of that right? But what if it wasn’t that easy? Having the story take place on Ormsby Island not only amplifies the horror because there is simply nowhere to run, it also forces all of the characters to confront the demons lurking in their past.

There are some chilling moments throughout the novel, but one that stands out is when Jessica and Eddie get a glimpse of  Jason and Alice’s powers. Jason tells them about the “Last Kids”, the spirits that Eddie saw when he arrived on the island. When Eddie presses him for more information, Jason gives one simple statement that sent shivers down my spine and further proves that children in horror books/movies are downright creepy! “Yes. There were lots of them on the island. This is where the last ones went to sleep“.

I also loved the further character development of both Jessica Backman and Eddie Home in Island of the Forbidden. Hunter takes these characters to some very dark places and that only adds to the realism of the novel. The events of Sinister Entity placed both Jessica and Eddie through an emotional ringer that tested not just their abilities in solving paranormal cases, but their core values. It would have been easy to have Island of the Forbidden show Jessica and Eddie tackling more cases and kicking EB ass, but Hunter takes a more difficult yet rewarding path. Seriously, if you have not read any of the books in this series, I highly recommend checking them out. Whether you start from the beginning like I did or work your way back from Island of the Forbidden, you are in for some great stories from a truly great storyteller. I know it is early, but I definitely anticipate having Island of the Forbidden in my list of top reads for 2015.

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

Hunter Shea’s Official Website

Samhain Horror’s Official Website

Purchase Island of the Forbidden on Amazon

sinister-entity

BOOK INFO

Length: 264 Pages

Publisher: Samhain Horror

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review

Sinister Entity picks up the action immediately with Jessica Backman on an investigation at the McCammon home in Bronxville, New York where poltergeist activity has frightened the family. While we get a brief glimpse of Jessica in action in The Graveyard Speaks, this investigation shows what she is all about. She remains fearless and scientific in her approach of investigating the phenomena, taking notes even as the entity begins creating havoc in the home and attempting to frighten her.

We are also introduced to Eddie Home, a college student with a unique background. Eddie is a psychic with many unique gifts and spent a majority of his college years as a subject for the Rhine Research Center, a renowned research lab that studies parapsychology. He has the ability to see and interact with spirits, maneuver objects with his mind and many other gifts. However, he decides to leave the Rhine Research Center after connecting with a spirit tied to Jessica’s past. After six months of working on strengthening his connection to this spirit, Eddie realizes he needs to find Jessica because she needs his help.

Eddie finally reaches Jessica, who is initially reluctant to accept his help until he gives her evidence of his credibility that she can not explain away. Jessica still doesn’t know whether or not to believe Eddie, so she devises her own litmus test of his abilities and invites him along on her investigation of the entity haunting the McCammons. Despite her reservations, Eddie proves himself and his abilities when he comes to Jessica’s aid and helps her to banish the spirit once and for all.

Coming off their first successful investigation as a team, they receive a call from the Leigh family. They claim to experience unexplained noises and appearances that seem to hint at ghost activity, only the apparition they are seeing is that of their own daughter. Eddie and Jessica head up to the Leigh household and what they uncover is that there is more than one presence in the Leigh household and it is an evil far beyond their wildest imagination.

I really loved the introduction of Eddie’s character to the story. Jessica is headstrong and often throws herself into investigations with reckless abandon and Eddie is one of the few people who can help keep her grounded. Although Jessica doubts Eddie’s abilities initially and their partnership gets off to a rocky start, I think she begins to respect him for how he handles his abilities and dealing with the emotions of being able to interact with EB’s. Hunter also does a great job of giving Jessica and Eddie’s partnership a realistic portrayal. They don’t just become an instantly great team because they both have experienced some pretty intense personal experiences with EB’s, they clash. Even after their first encounter where they were testing each others limits, Jessica and Eddie each have their own approach to things and it occasionally brings up friction between them. However, they are a great team because of how they handle these differences and use them to bring out the best in each other.

While Forest of Shadows had occasional lulls, Sinister Entity is where Hunter Shea takes the gloves off and offers up nonstop action. This isn’t just a straight forward ghost story, Hunter adds a twist by having the Leigh family see an apparition of their daughter who is still alive and well. I don’t want to spoil the mystery behind the occurrences, but I thought it was original, creepy and highly entertaining!

Hunter Shea really hit a home run with Sinister Entity. It takes a lot to truly creep me out, but after reading Sinister Entity, I am not ashamed to say it scared the hell out of me. I live in a fairly old house and after marathon late-night reading sessions, the slightest creak of the floorboards had my adrenaline pumping. Sinister Entity is a pedal to the floor horror novel that is sure to be a favorite among any horror fiction fan, especially those seeking an original take on the ghost story genre. Sinister Entity was not only one of my favorite books that I have read recently, it also claimed a spot in my top horror novels of all-time. An absolute must read.

Be sure to stop by The Horror Bookshelf tomorrow for my review of Island of the Forbidden, the latest book featuring Jessica Backman and Eddie Home and Friday for an interview with Hunter Shea!

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

Hunter Shea’s Official Website

Samhain Horror’s Official Website

Purchase Sinister Entity on Amazon

Today I am happy to have Samhain Horror author Russell James on The Horror Bookshelf for an interview following the release of his stellar new novel Dreamwalker (review). Also, be sure to enter the blog tour giveaway following the interview for a chance to win one of Russell’s previous novels! A huge thanks to Russell for answering my questions and to Erin Al-Mehairi of Hook of a Book Media & Publicity for inviting me to participate on this blog tour!

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I have read in other interviews that you got your start in writing through joining a writing class. Do you still belong to a literary group and if so how has that helped you in your writing career?

I am still a member of the Minnows Literary Group and it has been a great experience. We give each other feedback on novels and short stories we send out for submission, and we collaborate on sci-fi benefit anthologies. Our latest anthology STILL OUT OF TIME has been in the Amazon Top 25 Anthology list since it came out and has earned a nice sum for Doctors Without Borders.

Our group works for several reasons. The first is that it is honest. If something doesn’t flow for one of us, we will talk about it, politely, professionally. The second is that the group is diverse. We are a stock broker, a Broadway musician, a homesteader, a legal assistant, a tech writer for a Fortune 50 company, and a full time writer. We live in two countries, and in locations as dissimilar as New York City and rural Idaho. Everyone adds a different perspective during feedback. I embrace the recommendations that hit home, and even the ones that don’t force me to mentally defend my writing decisions. I’ll admit losing a few of those internal arguments.

All my teammates there have given me excellent writing coaching, and I do consider us a team.
All of your novels have been published through Samhain Horror, which is one of my favorite publishers. How did you end up joining Samhain?

During a writing class, the instructor mentioned that Samhain had an open call for horror novels with a new top-notch editor, Don D’Auria. I had just finished a fourth novel manuscript that had yet to make the rounds for agent and publisher rejections. I thought “Well, might as well get rejected by one of the best.” So I sent DARK INSPIRATION off. The note came that it was accepted and I literally fell to my knees, breathless. Since then, the excellent thing about Samhain is the feeling of family from the organization and other authors. Don is excellent to work with and I’m happy to always send the next novel manuscript there first.
One of the things that I loved about Dreamwalker is that even though there are elements of interacting with dreams, parallel worlds and evil spirits, the story still feels realistic because Pete also faces very real danger in the real world. Was it challenging to blend the two elements together?

Creating Dreamwalker was like writing half the book as a straight up thriller, even though both realities intersect and impact each other. When Pete is in Twin Moon City, my imagination could run wild with zombies driving Jeeps and spirits spinning nightmares in a castle. But once Pete reawakens in Atlantic City, I had to switch mental gears and be sure everything was grounded and believable. Locations had to ring true to life, drug lord Jean St. Croix had be threatening without becoming cartoonish and outsized. It was work, but I really enjoyed the detail of setting up the parallel worlds.

I loved the world building that takes place in the novel, particularly the dream realm of Twin Moon City. What was the inspiration behind the depiction of this city in the dream world? Was it difficult fleshing out the details to create such a vivid world or did it just come naturally?

I wish I knew where Twin Moon City came from so I could go back to that well for more future inspiration. I think that place is cool. To read about. Being stuck there would be hell. Some of the feel for the place came from watching newsreels from Europe just after World War II, where whole cities were devastated. People were still cleaning up that mess in the 1950’s. The more time I spent in Twin Moon City in my head, the more details came about. I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer, so that’s how things go in my process.

While Dreamwalker ends on a pretty definitive note, there are elements of the story that seem like they could expand into future books. Do you have any plans to continue Pete’s story and/or other people who may share similar gifts?

I wasn’t planning on it, but a few ideas have surfaced. Pete and Rayna’s story could certainly have another chapter. And if Cauquemere had his parallel realm, there may certainly be others. We’ll see if a lot of people want to read more.

How did you get inspired to use voodoo as a central element in Dreamwalker?

I had the idea of making dreaming important in the story, and started doing some research on dream mythology. The story of the petraloa spirit Cauquemere and his delivery of nightmares fit right onto what I had in mind, and voodoo joined the cast of characters.

In your afterword, you mention that you did a lot of research regarding voodoo while writing Dreamwalker. What was it like delving into that world?

Scary as hell. Imagined horror, like vampires, werewolves, space aliens, those are all fictional exercises. I can write those with a bit of detachment. Real life supernatural stuff, like Ouija boards, ghosts and hauntings, and I’ll toss documented demonic possession in there, those things set my hair on end. Voodoo did that big time. For Haiti to legally ban it gives it a legitimacy that tarot cards and séances just don’t have. I believe that voodoo reaches over into a darker plane of our world, as other practices do. It concerned me enough that while all the voodoo practices described in the book are documentedin my research, I altered bits to keep the book from being a how-to manual. I don’t want that on my conscience.

What is a typical day of writing like for you?

My favorite writing day is to get up a few hours after most people go to bed, exercise, and then start writing before the sun even comes up. I quit for lunch, do something physical for a while, then do a few more hours in the afternoon. That is an excellent 3000+ word day. What do I usually get? An hour or two before or after the day job each day.

What drew you into the world of horror and what is your favorite thing about the genre?

I grew up reading King and Koontz and Serling and Matheson, so that pretty much pigeon-holed me into an appreciation of the horror genre. There is something alluring about exploring the darker side of humanity, and existence in general, through fiction. I love that moment when a chill races up your spine.

What horror novel has had the biggest impact on you as a writer and who are some of your favorite current writers?

Recently I had a story make a big impact. I had an idea for an apocalyptic novel where Long Island, NY becomes a quarantine zone for a resurrected virus that turns people into psychopathic killers. Part way onto that, the whole world-building process seemed too overwhelming, and I shelved it. Later, I read Joe McKinney’s excellent QUARANTINE about cops solving a murder in plague-ridden, quarantined San Antonio. I’m no Joe McKinney, but it showed me how that kind of world-building could be done. So I dusted off the file and went back to work. The finished product, Q ISLAND comes out in June.

If you could choose any writer to collaborate with, who would you choose and why?

I’ve done two kinds of collaborations. The first was around a theme. I was one of four winners in Samhain Horror’s Gothic-themed novella contest. JG Faherty, Devon Govaere, Catherine Cavendish and I all had novellas published in one book called WHAT WAITS IN THE SHADOWS. We all worked together a lot after that on cross promotion.

The second kind of collaboration is much more direct. Janet Guy, Kelly Horn, Teresa Robeson, Paul Siluch and Belinda Whitney are my critique group members who create the short story benefit anthologies. Each author in the collection heavily critiques the work of the other five, and I respect all of them so much. All the short stories in those collections certainly were enhanced through suggestions by those great folks. Our first collection OUT OF TIME has sold strong for two years and earned thousands for Doctors Without Borders, so that testifies to the quality the cooperative effort delivers.

I think a novel would be tough to collaborate on. I’m a seat-of-the pants writer, so I don’t fully know where the story is going while I’m writing it. I think I’d torture another writer putting him through that.

What other stories are you currently working on?

I have a manuscript about Satan trying to find a lost portal to Hell that had been hidden by 18th century witches. He puts a town under siege to find it. One couple might be able to stop him, but Satan had a corrupt police chief and some dedicated mercenaries on his side. There also seems to be a few problems with the town’s pets turning killer. Another family classic in the making.

I’ll also be in another benefit sci-fi anthology RETURN TO CENTAURI STATION in June and time travel collection FOREVER OUT OF TIME in December.

Thanks for answering my questions Russell and I am definitely looking forward to your next book!

Dreamwalker tour logo

 Giveaway

1. Open reviewer giveaway: Anyone who reviews Dreamwalker on Amazon and one other site like GoodReads, etc. and sends Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, their links to hookofabook@hotmail.com will be entered to win a $20 Amazon gift card. This contest ends on Feb. 28, 2015.

2. Rafflecoper giveaway for two copies of Russell’s previous books. Two winners will each win one of two books, Black Magic and Dark Inspiration. US only, no international shipping. Must use a valid email that you can be reached by. By entering the giveaway, you consent to allow Russell to have your email for very infrequent newsletter updates. Contest ends Feb. 28, 2015. Other contest questions can be referred to Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, Hook of a Book Media at hookofabook@hotmail.com.

Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/231aa30b16/?

About Russell James

Russell James grew up on Long Island, New York and spent too much time watching Chiller, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and The Twilight Zone, despite his parents’ warnings. Bookshelves full of Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe didn’t make things better. He graduated from Cornell University and the University of Central Florida.

After a tour flying helicopters with the U.S. Army, he now spins twisted tales best read in daylight. He has written the paranormal thrillers Dark Inspiration, Sacrifice, Black Magic, Dark Vengeance, and Dreamwalker. He has two horror short story collections, Tales from Beyond and Deeper into Darkness. His next novel, Q Island, releases in 2015.

His wife reads what he writes, rolls her eyes, and says “There is something seriously wrong with you.”

Visit his website at www.russellrjames.com and read some free short stories.

He and his wife share their home in sunny Florida with two cats.

To find out more about Russell R. James, please visit his Website or follow him on Facebook! Join him on Twitter, @RRJames14. Also, feel free to drop him at a line at rrj@russellrjames.com.

the-graveyard-speaks

BOOK INFO

Length: 51 Pages

Publisher: Samhain Horror

Continuing my review of Hunter Shea’s series of books featuring Jessica Backman, next up is the novella The Graveyard Speaks, which is a direct tie-in to Sinister Entity. While Forest of Shadows shows a glimpse of Jessica thirteen years after the events in Shida, The Graveyard Speaks is our first real look at what Jessica is up to and how she handled the trauma of her past.

The Graveyard Speaks follows Jessica as she re-launches her father’s website, fearnone.com, and attempts to continue his work investigating paranormal phenomena. She receives a message from Jimmy Felton, a night guard at Woodlawn Cemetery, who claims he has seen a ghost by the same grave night after night. Along with her friend Angela, Jessica sets up an investigation into the haunting armed with nothing more than her bravery and a tripod camera. Their first investigation into the mysterious events surrounding the Spooner grave gives them a bit more than they expected as they witness an enormous shadow form around the grave site before seeping into the ground  chilling screams can be heard coming from beneath the earth. Now that Jessica has confirmed Felton’s sightings first hand, she begins going back and gathering more evidence. As she uncovers the details about the life and death of Meredith Spooner, she soon finds herself in a dangerous situation that pushes her skills to the limit.

While The Graveyard Speaks features plenty of scares and an intriguing mystery behind the haunting at the Woodlawn Cemetery, the reason I loved this novella was the way Shea builds up Jessica’s character. In Forest of Shadows, Jessica is a six-year-old who has a very distinct identity, but it is largely John’s story. However, now in her late teens, Jessica has developed into an even stronger character who is fearless and does not let her age or anything else stand in her way. She is strong, confident and a bit of a smartass, which are only a few of the reasons she is such an endearing character. The events of Forest of Shadows could have easily traumatized her for life, but instead, she uses it as fuel to drive her passion of helping others. She even graduated high school early and now studies anthropology at Hofstra University.

We also learn that Jessica has a very unique ability in regards to spirits, or as she refers to them, “EB’s”. I don’t want to give it away for those who have yet to read the books, but it is something that sets her apart from your run-of-the-mill paranormal investigator. The Graveyard Speaks works well as a stand-alone story like the rest of the books featuring Jessica, but I loved this little twist because it builds off an important scene in Forest of Shadows that shows Jessica may have a truly special gift.

This was a pretty quick and entertaining read and for those who are on the fence about checking out the books featuring Jessica Backman, this is a good place to start. The book is available for free through Samhain Horror and captures Hunter’s excellent storytelling ability that is present in all of his books.

Rating: 4/5

LINKS

Hunter Shea’s Official Website

Samhain Horror’s Official Website

Purchase The Graveyard Speaks on Amazon (Free e-book)

dreamwalker

BOOK INFO

Length: 274 Pages

Publisher: Samhain Horror

Review copy provided as part of blog tour in exchange for an honest review

Dreamwalker follows college student Pete Holm as he struggles with a unique set of powers. Pete has very vivid dreams that seem to be almost real and unlike most people who experience multiple dreams and storylines, Pete often times has dreams that continue right where they left off the previous night. He is also always aware of what is happening in his dreams. The one constant of his dreams is a mysterious girl who appears in every single dream of his. Pete dubs her Dream Girl and never can figure out why she is the only constant in his dreams. He has a connection with her that eludes him when it comes to the other people that he encounters in his dreams. Although there is normally danger, Pete always escapes unharmed and they only occur in certain types of dreams. However, one night when Pete is in his mansion, he encounters a terrifying snakelike creature that almost swallows him alive.

Pete also has Visual Processing Disorder, which scrambles what he sees on his way to his brain and creates anxiety. Though Pete was able to get a handle on his disorder through tutoring and therapy, the concepts he encounters in his business classes at Ithaca overwhelm him and send him into a tailspin. Lately, Pete’s VPD has been getting worse. Instead of just causing confusion, he begins seeing words that jump out to him often focusing on a singular theme such as the sea and cards. Pete finally reaches his breaking point and decides to leave everything he has ever known deciding he needs a break from the stress. Pete finally discovers that the recent patterns in his VPD are telling him something and sets off for Atlantic City.

When Pete arrives, he realizes that he is stranded and an outsider. The glitz of the casinos and the boardwalk clash with the gritty side of the of the city and Pete realizes that he needs a plan in order to survive. Pete picks up a part-time job and apartment through a chance meeting with the owner of DiStephano’s restaurant. Pete’s dreams continue while in Atlantic City, although now they seem to come with more purpose. These are not seemingly random dreams, but ones that seem to be telling him something.

The other story thread focuses on Prosperidad, a fortune-teller who picks up on Pete’s presence. Her client, Jean St. Croix, is infuriated when she tells him a dreamwalker has arrived in the city and may place his plans in jeopardy. Jean St. Croix is a vicious crime lord who plans to control the city through the drug trade and utilizes extreme brutality to set his domination underway. Prosperidad asked the Antelope Spirit to send someone who could stop St. Croix and it seems Pete may just be the key to achieving that goal.

As Pete begins to realize the frightening truth behind his dreams, he finds himself in a fight for his life. In the real world, Pete is on the run from St. Croix and his crew of henchmen while in the dream world he is hunted by the evil petra loa spirit Cauquemere and his legion of blood-thirsty undead soldiers. Armed with his new-found abilities and some help from Dream Girl aka Rayna and Prosperidad, Pete attempts to end the terror in both worlds.

One of the most impressive things about James’ novel is the world building that takes place, particularly his creation of Twin Moon City. The city seems normal at first complete brownstone buildings and a street lined with streetlights, but quickly takes on a darker appearance. Everything is in ruins with smashed out windows, holes littering the walls of the building, debris littering the streets and the stench of death hanging heavy in the air. James’s descriptive prose helps breathe life into this apocalyptic city. I also liked how even though there are elements of interacting with dreams, parallel worlds and evil spirits, the story still feels realistic because of the dangers Pete faces in the real world.

Dreamwalker is the first Russell James novel that I have had the pleasure to read and it was an absolute blast! I am definitely looking forward to exploring his previous and upcoming works. There is something for everyone in this novel – action, horror, fantasy and a hint of romance. Highly recommended!

Rating: 4.5/5

LINKS

Russell James’ Official Website

Samhain Horror Official Website

Purchase Dreamwalker on Amazon

forest-of-shadows

BOOK INFO

Length: 272 Pages

Publisher: Samhain Horror

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review

I am a huge fan of Hunter Shea’s work and it always amazes me how he is able to tackle a variety of horror topics in an interesting, creative way. Shea has covered monster tales, hauntings and everything in between and all of his works have become favorites of mine. So when I was offered a chance to join the blog tour for his latest novel, Island of the Forbidden, I jumped at the chance. The novel is the third book in a series following the journey of paranormal investigator Jessica Backman and although each book can be read as a stand alone work, I felt I had to start at the beginning. I am one of those people who can’t just hop into the middle of the action of a book or TV series, I need to experience the entire thing from the beginning. It is a quirk of mine, but what can I say I am a sucker for back story and losing myself in the mythology of a series! So, leading up to my review of Island of the Forbidden, I will be reviewing the books in order. First up on the review docket is Forest of Shadows, the book that lays the foundation for the series.

Forest of Shadows starts off with a bang, focusing on the Bolster family as they are being attacked by an unearthly force in the middle of the night and seemingly swallowed up by the wilderness surrounding their cabin.

Then we are taken to suburban New York, where John Backman lives with his wife Anne and small daughter Jessica. John and Anne struggle to maintain their relationship with the demands of being new parents, but it is clear that they love each other. They have a huge argument one night when their night of passion is interrupted and John sleeps in the living room, realizing he messed up, but figuring he can make things right in the morning. However, when he wakes up the next morning, his life is altered forever by the tragedy of losing his wife and winning the lottery.

Shea skips five years into the future, which finds John in a rough state. He has developed a crippling anxiety that stems from his wife’s death and has thrown himself full-time into his website dedicated to the paranormal, fearnone.com. He started off using the site to host videos, stories and pictures of the unexplained before moving into field investigations. Most of these investigations were into minor phenomena that he documented to help let those who suffered similar experiences know they were not alone. It isn’t until he gets an email from a man named Judas Graves that he feels he has stumbled across something huge. Judas was cleaning a mysterious yet beautiful cabin in a small Alaskan town called Shida when he encountered something ripped straight from his nightmares. John transports his daughter, sister-in-law Eve and her son Liam to Shida in order to get to the bottom of what sort of darkness has taken up residence in the cabin and finds something that even he is not prepared to face.

Shea does an excellent job of developing his characters in Forest of Shadows. From the loving family dynamic between John, Eve and their children to the debauchery displayed by Muraco Fenton and his gang, Shea breathes life into characters and their relationships.  Also, if I am being honest, part of what made me love this novel was I couldn’t help but feel a connection to John Backman. John is fascinated by the unexplained and devours books on everything from UFOs to the Loch Ness Monster and I can definitely identify with that. One of my favorite things to do when I have a bit of down time is to read up on unexplained phenomena and it isn’t out of the ordinary for me to spend hours scouring the internet reading everything I can find and quickly losing track of time. From what I have read on Hunter’s blog and through following his excellent Monster Men podcast with Jack Campisi, it is evident Shea is a huge fan of the paranormal as well. That love of all things unexplained and horror bleeds through on every page of Forest of Shadows and is part of what makes the novel such a great read.

Shea also does a fantastic job of transporting readers to the remote wilderness of Alaska and brings the town of Shida to life. You know those scenes in horror movies when the characters show up to a small town and you get that unshakable feeling something is somehow off? Residents staring silently while the characters enter a diner or store and then that one creepy resident that says something that immediately sends shivers down your spine? That is the very same sense of unease that Hunter develops here and it sets an eerie tone for the story.

Forest of Shadows starts off as a bit of a quiet horror story with Hunter giving quick glimpses of the entities haunting Shida starting with weird noises and glimpses of shadows that slowly builds an ominous presence throughout the novel. By the time we get to the novel’s conclusion, Hunter dials up the horror to terrifying heights for a thrilling horror read that I found myself reading late into the night. There are occasional lulls in the story, but Forest of Shadows is a must add to the library of anyone who loves a great ghost story.

Rating: 4.5/5

LINKS

Hunter Shea’s Official Website

Samhain Horror’s Official Website

Purchase Forest of Shadows on Amazon

deathsrealm

BOOK INFO

Length: 316 Pages

Publisher: Grey Matter Press

As longtime readers of The Horror Bookshelf are probably already aware, I am a huge fan of the anthology collections released by Grey Matter Press. Each anthology they have released has featured a different theme, but the level of talent contained within the pages and the publisher’s commitment to outstanding dark fiction is apparent in every volume. After reading all of their releases, Grey Matter Press has established themselves as one of the few publishers who I would read any of their books without question based on the merit of their past releases.

When I heard about the release of Death’s Realm, it immediately became one of my most anticipated releases of 2015 and I must say, it did not disappoint. Contained within the anthology are 16 original horror tales that explore the unknowns of the afterlife. These are not your typical ghost or haunted house stories though, there is a ton of variety that push the boundaries of the genre to some exciting places!

As with any of Grey Matter Press’ previous anthologies, it is hard to pick favorites as each author conjures up some truly frightening and original stories that are sure to please horror fans. Everyone will have their own favorites, but these were a few that really stood out to me and beg for future re-reads.

“Some Other Day” by John F.D. Taff – My most anticipated story from this collection was John F.D. Taff’s latest, “Some Other Day”. It is the story of a father and his son struggling to deal with the aftermath of the death of the mother. The father slips into a downward spiral of depression, haunted by the constant memories of his wife while his son desperately clings to the few things that remind him of his mother. Despite their attempts at moving on, they never talk about their feelings and it takes a devastating event to bring them closer together and finally confront their grief. I have been a fan of Taff’s work ever since I first discovered him and it seems like he is operating at the peak of his powers lately. This story is downright heartbreaking and packs an emotional punch that makes it obvious why Taff has been dubbed “The King of Pain”. Now I could be totally wrong (and I probably am), but while reading this story, I couldn’t help but think of possible connections to the world depicted in “The Long, Long Breakdown” from Taff’s stellar collection The End in all Beginnings.

JG Faherty “Foxhole” – “Foxhole” follows two soldiers – Gaston and Pierre- who are childhood friends who find themselves in the midst of a war set in an undetermined future. Finding themselves outnumbered, the two friends must lean on each other for any hope of survival. They are lost in the jungle with no weapons, radio or food and all seems lost. Faherty’s writing is vivid and perfectly captures the brutality and carnage of war and the desperation felt by the characters. The twist at the end is a little predictable, but the way it is handled still sent shivers down my spine.

Brian Fatah Steele’s “Harder You Fall” – I remember reading Steele’s story “Delicate Spaces” in Dark Visions – Volume 1 and it was definitely one of the most frightening haunting stories I have read, so I was pretty excited to read what he came up with for Death’s Realm. “Harder You Fall” is a unique story of revenge that details the work of Madeline and Cavallero, necromancers who use their supernatural gifts to prey on the dead for their own personal gain. Madeline is dependent on Cavallero since he discovered her at her darkest point and helped her develop her powers to control and make sense of the frightening visions that led to her running away from home. However, it quickly becomes clear to Madeline that Cavallero has ulterior motives and she struggles with guilt over what Cavallero has helped her become and the things he made her witness. Madeline finally reaches her breaking point and turns to the spirits she has helped exploit to try to make things right. Steele’s descriptions of the spirits are truly horrifying, but the true evil comes from the sickening actions of the living characters.

Paul Michael Anderson’s “To Touch The Dead” takes place in a futuristic setting where people die and are given a serial number. Long after the people are gone, all that remains of their lives are personal belongings that contain traces of psychic energy which are stored in the building for the People’s History Project. These belongings are only accessible to Memory Coordinator’s, people who are able to tap into this energy and record the last moments of their owners before moving on to the next case. However, Gregor is not like most Memory Coordinators. I get the impression the Memory Coordinators and those behind the People’s History Project are emotionless and go about their duties with a sense of detachment, but Gregor is different. Gregor develops empathy for those who have passed on and digs deeper into the artifacts than any other Memory Coordinator in order to truly remember the people who others have long since forgotten. He pushes his abilities to the limit in his efforts and ultimately pays a heavy price.

All of these stories fall within the horror genre and are highly entertaining, but they also achieve something much more meaningful as they uncover some very raw and human emotions. Matthew Pegg’s “March Hays” contains plenty of chills, but at its core is the story of love and has a very touching ending. Jane Brook’s “The Weight” puts a supernatural spin on dealing with traumas of the past and learning to let go.

Death’s Realm is a truly great collection. I may have only highlighted a few of my favorites, but the anthology is full of great stories by some truly amazing authors. There is something for every horror fan here, whether you lean more towards atmospheric horror (Gregory L. Norris’ “Drowning”) or some of the bloodier takes on the genre (Simon Dewar and Karen Runge’s “High Art”). This collection is not to be missed!

2015 is shaping up to be a huge year for Grey Matter Press with at least three more books scheduled for release. First up is the brand new John F.D. Taff novella The Sunken Cathedralwhich will be released in March. There are also two more anthologies on the horizon, the music inspired Savage Beasts and Monsters. I am definitely looking forward to all of these releases as they are all on my “Most Anticipated Reads of 2015” list!

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

Grey Matter Press’ Official Website

List of authors and stories featured in Death’s Realm

Purchase Death’s Realm from Grey Matter Press

Gregory L. Norris “Behold: Death’s Realm!” –  Gregory L. Norris and the other authors appearing in Death’s Realm share the inspiration behind their respective stories. I highly recommend those who have read Death’s Realm to give this a read!