Saturday, September 9, 2017

Copies of GARDEN OF FIENDS to HWA Members for Bram Stoker Consideration

Hi Folks,
I'm offering up copies of
GARDEN OF FIENDS: TALES OF ADDICTION HORROR
for Bram Stoker Consideration in the Anthology category.

The dark truths of addiction told in tales of horror.

Stories and novellas inside by Kealan Patrick Burke​, Max Booth III​, Jessica McHugh​, Glen Krisch​, John FD Taff, Johann Thorsson​, (me!), and Jack Ketchum​

"A brutal and brilliant story collection giving expression to the horror of addiction.  Some of the most talented and original voices in the business provide equal doses of compassion and grotesqueness. A traumatic read - and I mean that in the best possible way."
-Jon Bassoff​, Winner of the DarkFuse Readers' Choice Award for Best Novel

PDF/Mobi copies available, as well as audiobook vouchers and a limited number of paperbacks.

Message me at WickedRunPress@gmail.com


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

A LIFE OF DEATH, By Weston Kincade, the introduction

Weston Kincade edited my first horror novel, On the Lips of Children, and both of us were published by Books of the Dead Press. After Books of the Dead reorganized and released both of our titles, Weston re-released his A Life of Death trilogy. I was honored to have written the introduction for book one. Please go check out the book, and here's how it starts...


Our Lives of Death: An Introduction

We are all born fractured, crying, screaming, a bit bloody, and thrown into this world by no choice of our own. One could say it is our soul’s mission to fix these primal wounds through our travels, and to find some sort of wholeness and meaning, using our gifts as best we can. Instead of giving up when the sky grows dark, we gain strength through our burdens.

Such is the conflict in A Life of Death, where Kincade takes universal themes, adds some supernatural and horrific elements, and floats it down a deeply emotional current. This is fiction with young adult themes, but it cannot be stuck on the shelf of any one genre. Horror, suspense, YA, thriller. Whatever you call it, it’s damn interesting fiction.
A Life of Death on Amazon 



Alex is the main character, and he has lost his dad to a drunk driver. This primal wound of losing a parent is a common theme in literature (often times it is losing both parents, for “orphans” have ruled the literary world since the beginning of time). There’s something about the cursed start, the emptiness we feel made manifest in having that parent gone, that sets us up for a “life of death,” as if each life has been killed in its early stages. This fractured self is most pronounced during times of transition such as adolescence to adulthood. Not only is Alex the outcast teen, grieving his father, but he is also not safe within his own family after his mom marries a physically abusive step-dad.

The outcast trope is in full play.

A Life of Death takes these universal themes and makes them its own. Alex’s life has been defined by death, and this becomes his curse, but also his gift. Alex learns he can see into the afterworld; touching an object gives him visions, terrifying but illuminating, of how the object’s owner has died. Some mysteries are explained, and others are revealed, and this power can either terrify or empower him.

It is during these glimpses into the afterlife that the most stunning imagery happens in A Life of Death. It is here where you’ll feel the power of the book, and what makes the world Alex inhabits even more confusing. He becomes isolated further from his peers, but ultimately it is these very powers that can help heal the chunk that was taken out of his life when he lost his dad. Death no longer becomes the thing that took away his life, for he has become a part of death, a witness of it rather than its victim.

Without death, none of our lives would have meaning; they’d just be endless meanderings where no moment was more important than the next, for moments are infinite. Same as with loss, for to never lose would be to never have value. To probably misquote some Taoism, it is the empty space that gives the bowl its purpose, not the material of the bowl itself. Things are defined by their opposites; our lives are defined by death.

This is dark, indeed, but as a writer I find myself defending elements of horror and the supernatural more than I should, for it is my take that such things make fiction more real, rather than less. Horror is just magical realism, the truth of reality so intense it explodes out of its confines, and the messy truth is what you get.

How can you explain the impact that death has upon all of our lives without some elements of the supernatural? If you are to do the topic justice, there has to be some horror involved. Candles shine brightest in the pitch-black dark, cliché to say, but Alex’s life needs to be surrounded by darkness for him to shine. The supernatural elements, the gifts, are simply an extension of the character's experience; a metaphor for their passage. It happened with Stephen King's Carrie, going through a similar transition with supernatural powers, and it happened for four years of high school with Harry Potter, and it is happening for the young adult Alex in A Life of Death.

Finally, the role of story-telling itself as a power to heal and transform is on full display here. It is through stories that we learn about ourselves, and A Life of Death is a story within a story. Alex is an older man, telling the tale to his own child while at his desk in the precinct, speaking to his son, Jamie. His child will certainly have his own cross to bear, with his own primal wounds to heal with his own unique gifts. A father passes his legacy on to his child, the ending becomes a new beginning. The words of a story, like death, give life its meaning.

And this book you are about to read has a story worth telling.


-Mark Matthews



Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A Harrowing Story of Addiction & Pestilence, by Edmund Kelly

The following is another guest post by a writer whose life has been touched  by addiction.  This one truly made my heart ache and marvel where Ed finds himself today.  Please give it a read:

Hi, my name is Ed and I’m an alcoholic. My story is a dark one. It’s not something I ever spoke about until recently. I have a lot of anger and hate buried deep inside which led me to become an alcoholic.
Here is my story:

I grew up poor in a small-town south of Boston. On the outside, we seemed your typical American family but on the inside, we were far from it. For the most part, my father was in and out of the house. My mother would only put up with his shit for so long before kicking him out again. I wasn’t privy to their conversations but I assume she would let him back in because he promised to change. I think she did it because she needed the money for food and bills. We’d go days living off peanut butter and jelly (I ate so much of it as a kid I refuse to eat it as an adult). Going out to dinner, which hardly ever occurred, amounted to us walking to McDonalds. It wasn’t easy for my mom having two mouths to feed and not having a car. She had to constantly ask for rides to work and the grocery store. Just last year I found out that the car she finally did get had been given to her by the owner of the company she worked for when he learned of her situation. 

Soon my father would be back to his old ways or she would catch him cheating again and he’d be out. I love my mom and she did the best she could for us. I will never blame her for what I endured at that man’s hands for she endured it too.

My father was a big man. He was 6’4” and 300lbs. He was an evil man and I lived in constant fear of him. He was both verbally and physically abusive and some of the abuse could be classified as torture. For no apparent reason he would physically torture my sister and I. One minute we’d be walking down the hall or sitting in a chair and he’d come up behind us and clamp his baseball gloved sized hands over our mouth and nose. He’d pull us tight into his body or the back of the chair so we couldn’t struggle free. I still remember the grimy taste of his fingers as I tried to bite my way free. He would hold us there until we became weak and almost passed out. He would drop us to the floor and step over us as we lay there gasping for air. I’d awake in the middle of the night to him smothering me with a pillow. I’d flail and try to turn my head, but again I was too weak to match his strength. He used to pick me up by my feet and dangle me there until the blood rushed to my head and my face turned purple. We had a wood burning stove that we used for heat in the winter and he’d have me chop and stack firewood until 10:00pm or 11:00pm at night. He would come into my room and if my house keys were not on my nightstand next to my bed he would ground me to my bed for a month. He’d yell that he’d teach me to never lose my keys again. This stemmed from the second grade when I accidentally threw my keys out with my brown paper lunch bag (yup, peanut butter and jelly). If I got in trouble at school or brought home a poor grade I would get the belt and be forced to sit on my bed for weeks at a time as punishment. I could only leave my bed to go to the bathroom, eat and to school. 

The worst for me though was when he would borrow a friend’s boat. We would go so far out that we couldn’t see land. Once far enough out he’d grab me and throw me overboard. He would then move the boat and tell me to swim before the sharks got me. As I’d get close to the boat he’d move it further away. This would go on until I became exhausted. He eventually would pull me back into the boat. The fear of being left behind still brings a lump to my throat. I still remember the waves crashing over my face and watching the boat move further and further away. Such a lonely feeling. Also, the fear of being eaten by a shark has stuck with me all these years and I still don’t go in the ocean. I even pull my feet up when watching TV and a shark comes on.

My sister, who is five years older, was stronger than me. She tried to runaway multiply times. Once she made it to Louisiana but my father found out where she was and went and brought her home. She reported him to her school and they notified someone who came to the house. I remember my father being furious and telling me not to say anything. Out of fear I lied to the people when they came and questioned me. Looking back, I wish I told the truth. 

When all of those horrible things were happening to me I just pushed it all down. I pushed and pushed and buried it deep. I never spoke much about what had happened to me. I kept it inside. It burned deep within me and I used it to push myself. I lived in constant fear of that man. I hated him and I dreamt daily about killing him, but I was to small and weak to do anything. The thought of watching him die kept me warm. 

Looking back, I remember riding the school bus and looking in other people’s windows of their houses as we drove by. I would imagine what it was like living in that house with different people. I’d imagine a fridge stocked full of food. I didn’t know if there was a pool out back but I’d imagine there was. I’d imagine living a normal life. I would sit on our couch and watch out the window as cars passed by and wonder where they were going. I’d imagine I was with them going on some journey to some place exciting. I’d imagine being anywhere to get away from where I was. I’ve always had an active imagination and my father would ask me what I was thinking about and I’d tell him. He would tell me that it was dumb or that I was stupid. I always wanted to do something with my imagination. I wanted to write books. 

Finally, after years of abuse and adultery my mother left my father for good and divorced him. Six years later he passed away. 

In my late teenage years, I found booze. I instantly fell in love. It was a way to shut my brain off. I was able to forget the horrible things that happened and I was finally able to sleep. Alcohol became my new best friend. 

I had always been labeled a good guy who did the right thing. But when I drank an evil came out of me. Everything I pushed down slowly started rising to the surface. The more I drank the more hatred was released. I had vowed to never be like my father but when I drank I became verbally abusive like him

I owe my wife for saving me. She put up with all my shit and stayed by my side. She was ready to leave if I didn’t get help. I had tried my hand at sobriety before and I went to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) but I always found myself back to my worst best friend, the bottle. My wife had finally had enough and told me if I didn’t get help she and my daughter were gone. She didn’t want to live like that nor did she want our daughter exposed to it either. For the record, I never got violent. As my wife always said, I’d get “diarrhea of the mouth”. Whatever came out was usually hateful and hurtful. All that hatred I had suppressed would surface. I told her I would get help for her and my daughter. She told me not to bother unless I was doing it for myself. I let that settle in.

Everywhere I went there was a problem. I finally accepted that I was the problem and I needed to deal with it.

I made a few phone calls and after a short runaround I found a local treatment center. I enrolled into the Gosnold Addiction Treatment Center. I decided to go all in. I had a lengthy conversation with myself and committed to getting better for me. Once I was better, things would get better with everyone else. The next day I started the Gosnold Structured Outpatient Addiction Program (S.O.A.P.). It was through their training that I found ways to deal with my drinking and not just deal with it but to recognize triggers. When I had tried to blindly get sober it didn’t work. But now I had been provided the tools to not only get sober but stay sober. I also knew I needed counseling to deal with my past and they offered that too. Their counselors are trained in dealing with addicts, which is a plus, as they continue to help keep you sober while dealing with the underlying problem. I can’t say enough about the staff for all the things they did for me, most importantly for giving me my life back.

When I finally got sober my wife suggested I finally write that book I was always talking about. I told her my ideas and she encouraged me. I wasn’t used to that. I finally decided to go for it. I sat down and started to write the book I always wanted to write. I was raised Catholic and I've always been fascinated by stories of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and I knew someday I wanted to write a series about them. Looking back, I think I enjoyed those stories so much because the people in them were so much worse off than me. I could relate to living in Hell.

I sat down and started writing but it felt like I was missing something. I was trying to tell this story and using my story as the main character but again I was lying to myself. I had this drunk angry character but with no reason to be angry. I decided I would tell my story, my childhood and show why this character was so angry. So, I did and chapter 3 is my life in a nutshell. Even with telling my story it still felt like I was missing something.

Then one day sitting in my Sunday morning AA meeting it hit me. What if every character has some form of addiction to overcome as they try and survive the end of the world. At Gosnold and in the halls of AA I heard all about finding a higher power. For some it's God and for others it's whatever they deem important. For me, this is going to be one of my toughest struggles other than overcoming my addiction.

Now comes the tricky part. Finding a higher power. I was raised Catholic and I grew up believing in God. I started questioning my faith early on when I asked God for help dealing with my father and those prayers went unanswered. Later on in life I really started to question my faith when I started working as an E.M.T. in Boston. It was on the city streets that I saw the evils of the world perpetrated by people unto others. More times than not, drugs and alcohol were usually involved

For me, faith and trust are very similar. The one problem with both is that you are required to believe. Once that belief is gone, it is very hard to get it back.

So, I now had my story and the wheels in my head started spinning. I asked myself, since the main character is based off myself, what if the main character had lost his faith in God as well? Then I asked myself what if he was stuck with a character who had just found God? I quickly began writing. Trying to keep up with my own thoughts was tough. I couldn’t type fast enough. Character after character popped out at me. I found myself writing on everything. Return envelopes meant for bills, napkins, Post-its, birthday cards and basically anything that had an available space to write. The story poured out and within three months I finished the first draft.

I looked into publishing and self-publishing seemed the best for me. I jumped in with both feet and learned everything I could about the industry. Soon I had an editor and went through that whole process. Then I finally released my book first book, Addiction & Pestilence, in November of 2016.

The title Addiction & Pestilence is a literal title as each character has some form of addiction they must try and overcome while trying to survive the wrath of the first Horseman, who has brought a great pestilence (plague).
ADDICTION & PESTILENCE - $2.99 on Amazon

Addiction & Pestilence is the first book in my Slaying Dragons: A Journey Through Hell series. The term ‘Slaying Dragons’ has two meanings. In today’s time, it means to overcome an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol. It also means to defeat evil/devil which goes back to the beginning of the Catholic Church. Since the book deals with addiction and The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Bible – Book of Revelation) the title only seemed fitting.

I basically have the whole series laid out in my head but I’m not sure how certain things will go for certain characters. I’m hoping through this journey into my life, this journey through Hell, that I can find what I’m looking for through writing. I guess writing is my way of trying to find my place in the world. A way to have peace in my own head.

I'm not sure what I'll find. I do know that I have to take this trip into the unknown to rediscover myself, to heal myself, to find myself. I also know that I started at rock bottom, so the only way left is up. I hope others will join me as I venture down this dark road in search of the light at the end of the tunnel.

-Ed

Remember, if you or a loved one have a problem with drugs or alcohol, there is no shame in asking for help. Addiction is a tough and lonely road, but it doesn’t have to be.

If you need help, please reach out.
National Helpline: SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services) 1-800-662-4357
To find an Alcoholics Anonymous near you please check: aa.org

Here's where you can find more about Ed and his work
Facebook: www.facebook.com/edmundkellyslayingdragons
Email: lovetowrite@edmundkelly.com



Thursday, August 10, 2017

THE TIGER IN THE LIFEBOAT, by Christa Carmen



I put out a call for guest blog posts, particularly from writers who may have been touched by addiction. Huge thanks to writer Christa Carmen who responded by sticking a knife in her heart and spilling it all over the page. Christa has stories splattered about the book world, and one has landed in Year's Best Hardcore Horror, Volume 2. She's been a tireless advocate for addiction awareness and treatment, and has written a truly touching and personal blog post. Check it out:


You’ll probably agree with me when I say that the word ‘epic’ is an overused one. ‘That was an epic party last night, man.’ ‘The cupcakes Betsie made for Jess’s party were epic!’ ‘Whoa, Claire just delivered the most epic of epic burns!’ Despite the propensity for ‘epic’ to be thrown around like a Frisbee at a frat house, I’ve never shied from attributing the term to certain works of fiction, or from feeling more connected to those works because of it.


When I was in middle school, I was always primed for the possibility of finding the next epic read. Stories and scenes that topped this list were the shipwreck at the start of Black Beauty, Where the Red Fern Grows, with its fulfillment of the heartbreaking but awe-inspiring Native American legend, any of the adventures of Pippi Longstocking, and pretty much all of Roald Dahl’s books, for their championing of the young protagonists over the villainous, ‘I’m right, you’re wrong, I’m big, your small’-spouting adults. Despite my love of reading, it never occurred to me to want to be a writer myself, and I continued on this blissful path of consuming books and reveling in epic stories until right around the time when eighth grade ended, and I sensed the move to high school looming on the horizon.


My first experience with alcohol gave new meaning to the word epic. Though it didn’t happen overnight, I began to alter my identity from ‘good student’ and ‘bookworm’ to include descriptors like ‘drinker’ and ‘party girl.’ I knew nothing of addiction, that, like a cucumber that becomes a pickle and can never go back to being a cucumber again, once the unsuspecting person crosses that line to becoming an alcoholic or drug addict, they can never go back to being a “normal” person again. Without even realizing I was addicted, addiction consumed my adolescence and early twenties until, while pursuing a Master’s Degree for Mental Health Counseling and undertaking an internship at a Massachusetts detox center, it occurred to me that there was another, better way of life. That nonstop drinking wasn’t as epic as I’d anticipated.

Getting sober is a uniquely terrifying experience; your personality and sense of humor, your hobbies, your purpose, and your reason for living are ripped away like a tablecloth from under a deceptively lavish dining room table. Only in this trick, the one doing the tablecloth pulling is exceedingly unskilled, a magic school dropout who brings the crystal water glasses, sterling flatware, and ceramic vases down with the linen. About six months after I stopped drinking, and the beast in my head that roared for more had quieted, I was able to hear something else. The voice was shaky and uncertain, but its message was clear enough: “Write something. Write anything. Take your mind off things. Tell a story.”


So I did. Or, I tried, anyway. Those attempts at short stories, the half-formed ideas for novels, were coming from a place too raw to produce anything more than narcissistic, woe-is-me drivel. Writing while newly sober is like going through your first break-up all over again; my work read like the screenplay for a particularly self-indulgent Lifetime movie, one that missed the mark on edgy by a margin one part Christina Ricci-as-Lizzie Borden and two parts teen pregnancy pact. My brain was too preoccupied with healing to connect the dots between the things I loved to read and what I was trying to write. That I struggled to make that connection, and subsequently abandoned the writing in the same way I had abandoned the counseling sessions and AA meetings, the sober friends and the commitment to self-care, is unfortunate. But that these abandonments led to the end of my sobriety is far from surprising. And so three years after I had ceased to be defined by drinking and using, I gave up on the search to be defined by anything else, and slipped back into the madness.


The disease of alcoholism and drug addiction is a progressive one; even in sobriety, it courses along beneath the surface, like a viscous, black river, ready to surge up and pull you back under. The search for a new epic drunk or high had begun, and being given a script for Vicodin by a well-meaning but clueless doctor did little to help matters. Relapsing after being sober for any significant period of time is like crossing into the dark part of a fairy tale, into the shadowy woods where witches in huts, brutal huntsmen, and evil fairies looking to strike dubious bargains lurk behind every copse of trees. You can see the castle off in the distance, and you know in your bones that you used to live there, used to be happily-ever-after, but you cannot for the life of you remember the way back.


And in my particular tale, I wasn’t meant to find the way out on my own. I required a veritable army of assistance, detox and rehab and outpatient therapy and medication-assisted treatment and oodles of support from family and friends. As if my fairy godmother and a helpful gang of woodland creatures come to warn me of my impending fate, should I not buckle down and get my shit together.


When I checked into my twelfth treatment center in four months, I had with me three things: a fair amount of sweatshirts (to stave off the chills), a small amount of hope, and a large amount of books. Books were the one constant at every one of the facilities I entered over those tumultuous four months. I read Anthony Kiedis’ Scar Tissue and Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan. I read And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, and books by authors in recovery: Caroline Knapp and Augusten Burroughs and Nic Sheff.


And then I picked up Life of Pi, by Yann Martel. A hundred or so pages in, the realization that I was in the midst of an epic story hit me. From a purely narrative standpoint, the book is about a young Indian boy crossing the Pacific Ocean in a lifeboat with only a Bengal tiger for company. Thematically, it’s so much more than that. It’s about trying to survive against all odds, about finding meaning through uncertainty, and that if all of life is a story, why not choose yours? It struck me, then. Life of Pi was a perfect metaphor for addiction: navigating life while sharing space with an apex predator, where the only way to survive is to learn to live with the beast, to come to an understanding that allows the two of you to co-exist.

Two things occurred as a result of this realization, this acknowledgement that addiction was a part of me, as inherent to my being as my height or eye color, and would require constant vigilance to be maintained. First, the tiger’s roar began to subside, no longer menacing my every waking breath. And second, I came to an understanding that the stories I considered epic, the ones I’d grown up reading and longed to write? Those stories were attainable by listening to the voice that spoke in the wake of the tiger’s growl. Being addicted to opiates stripped me of almost everything, but I’ve chosen a new story. By sitting patiently with myself, with no expectations and no reservations, that was when the writing came pouring out like sand through a sieve.


Writing is my addiction now, but it’s more than that. It’s become the lifeboat itself, the buoy I grab for when life storms around me or my muscles grow weary from rowing. I get more enjoyment from coming up with a story idea or completing a new chapter than I ever did from a drink or a drug. Sometimes the tiger bellows and sharpens its nails on the wooden slats, growing strong as he paces in the sun and salt air. But he has no more real power over me. Maybe someday, if he’s lucky, I’ll tell tales of the time before he was confined to his side of the lifeboat. It’s the best he can hope for.


And I’m telling you, it would be one epic read.




Christa has a bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania in English and psychology and a master's degree from Boston College in counseling psychology, and she is currently pursuing a master's in creative writing & literature from Harvard Extension School. Christa works for Pfizer in clinical trial packaging, and at a local hospital as a mental health clinician. When she's not writing, she is volunteering with one of several organizations that aim to maximize public awareness and seek solutions to the ever-growing opioid crisis in southern RI and southeastern CT. Christa has work forthcoming from Unnerving Magazine, Third Flatiron Publishing, Tales to Terrify, and Alban Lake Publishing, and you can visit her at her website at www.christacarmen.com.

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Few Words with Matt Weber, the Brain Behind DOUBLE BARREL HORROR and PINT BOTTLE PRESS

Matthew Weber is straight up good people and the creative force behind Pint Bottle Press.  Here is what happens when you pick his brain:


Q: How do you describe the concept of Double Barrel Horror?

MW: Double Barrel Horror is like a CD sampler from the old days, when record labels would release an album with lots of songs by different bands, selling them cheap or even distributing for free in hopes of gaining new listeners for their artists. In this case I’m showcasing new talent in the horror fiction genre. Double Barrel Horror is an anthology “by invitation” where I pay authors that have impressed me in the past to creep us out in a two-story standalone eBook. The eBooks are then compiled into a single anthology available in paperback.



Q: How did you come up with the concept?

MW: I’m an author too, and had a couple stories back in 2015 that I held back from my last collection Seven Feet Under because I thought that, even though they were fairly gruesome, they were maybe a bit too tongue-in-cheek for the rest of the book. (I have a tendency toward dark humor–sometimes to a fault.)

So, to fill a lag between releases after Sinister Grin Press picked up Seven Feet, I thought I’d release the stories as a two-story eBook, which I’d seen some other authors do. But unless an author has already established a large, loyal readership, the likelihood of a two-shot eBook getting much traction is pretty slim. It occurred to me that if the stories were part of series, they might get a little more attention. I hadn’t seen anyone attempt to brand eBook short stories as a series, so I gave it a whirl. I knew that Amanda Hard from my critique group had an unpublished story, “Chef & the Maiden” which I particularly liked, so I recruited her to come up with the first twofer to accompany my own.


Then I thought, if double-branding the eBooks is a good idea, then tripling them would be even better … and the idea continued to grow.

Q: So you first publish the eBooks by the individual authors and then follow-up with an anthology that includes all the stories. This seems like a double barrel shotgun blast in itself. 

MW: Yes. A lot of this is my own mad-scientist approach to a publishing experiment. The book market is so saturated that it’s difficult for a title to cut through the clutter and gain presence of mind in a potential reader. So how do I continually promote a book without being obnoxiously repetitive? How about if I promote the same book in seven different ways? By separating the authors into the individual twofers, I can offer them at such a low price (99 cents) that people can click the “buy” button without much pain involved. Then, if they like what they read, maybe they’ll buy the next entry in the series, and then the next. Like eating chips. That’s an easier pill for some people to swallow than a $12 book plus shipping cost. All the eBooks share a similar graphic design (common among both Volumes 1 & 2), and that’s meant to establish a brand identity. It has a visual impact, so rather than promoting a single book cover, I’m pushing seven similar covers (including the paperback) for seven times the promotional repetition. Hopefully in doing so, I’ll gain some brand-loyal readers. You could say the whole concept is cheesy and gimmicky, but indie press is like the Wild West, and I’ll try nearly anything within my means and meager budget to get readers for my authors.

There’s also another equally important reason for the individual eBooks: It provides extra motivation for the writers. It raises the stakes for them to deliver top-quality material. When only one author’s name is emblazoned across a book cover that will be heavily promoted by the publisher, the pressure’s on. The writers bring their A-game, because they know I’ll be shining a big bright spotlight on their work—individually—for the world to see.


Q: Are the Double Barrel Horror books themed anthologies?

MW: Absolutely not, and they never will be. Each book is an author showcase, so I want those authors to have compete flexibility to spread their wings. I do suggest some basic guidelines; namely, that these books are meant to be pulp fiction with visceral action and strong characters. And above all, I want these books to be fun, so people will keep buying them. This means I’m not interested in stories that revolve around quiet internal crises or mopey naval-gazing; there are plenty of other markets for that stuff. When I was growing up, Twofer Tuesday on the radio always came on the rock station—not the easy-listening channel. Double Barrel Horror stories should rock.

Besides, I think themed anthologies can sometimes homogenize things, and I prefer a lot of variety. Put it this way, I play bass in a hardcore punk band, but I listen to a lot of Frank Sinatra and old-fashioned country music. I like different kinds of music, different styles of writing and art in general, and I want the Double Barrel Horror series to reflect that kind of versatility. For example, Karen Runge’s slow-burn plots and elegantly insidious prose are starkly different from M.B. Vujacic’s punchy, raucous style of writing, but I love both their contributions to the series, and for different reasons.



Q: How do you choose your writers?

MW: I have to be familiar with their writing, impressed by their work, and have confidence that they’re in the writing game for the long haul. I only want authors who are serious about moving forward in their writing career, authors who I think will one-day make a name for themselves if they stick with it. Plus, it’s a prerequisite that I get along with the author. I don’t want to work with jerks or prima donnas, and there’s a lot of those in the writing field.


Q: You’ve released Double Barrel Horror Volumes 1 and 2. Will there be a third in the series?

MW: Most likely, yes. It’s funny; when I began this project I could tell that some of the authors I approached about contributing didn’t know what to make of me. Granted, I was new to publishing fiction and didn’t have much of a track record. The truth is, though, I’ve been in the magazine publishing business as an editor since 2001, so the transition to books wasn’t a huge leap. Now that I’ve got a number of books released on my Pint Bottle Press label, people have begun to take me (slightly) more serious. In fact, since the release of the latest Double Barrel Horror twofers, I’ve gotten a number of email inquiries from various writers who want to submit their stories to the next volume.

Publishing is a ton of work, though, so I’m going to take a breather for a while and refocus on my own writing, which always takes a back seat when I publish a new book. I’ve still got a few creepy stories left to tell.



Double Barrel Horror Vol. 2, edited by Matthew Weber, is available now from Pint Bottle Press as a series of Kindle eBooks at Amazon.com




Thursday, July 13, 2017

Beast Within--An Analysis of Ginger Snaps

(I put out a request for guest blog posts, and struck it big. Here is Alison Armstrong's detailed analysis of Ginger Snaps, a must see movie. And this is a must read analysis)

Fleeing fairytales of prince-pleasing Cinderellas and toe-confining glass slippers, a girl hibernates in her fantasy lair. She, like the passive damsels she despises, desires transformation, but the metamorphosis she craves is as terrifying as it is ecstatic. A beast within her moans, and the girl-skin casing splits open.

Unlike vampire films, in which females appear about as frequently as males in the predatory role, most movies involving shape-shifting, at least until recently, have featured a man as their growling, hair-sprouting main character, the “beast” seeking his young, innocent, succulent, smoothly depilated female “beauty.” Despite the modern settings and modern characters in many of these films, the same beast/beauty gender roles usually predominate, indicating that even in the supernatural realm a certain degree of raw animal attributes are accepted, at times even celebrated, amongst men, whereas women are generally encouraged to embody a sweetly perfumed, cheerful, sanitized, unaggressively alluring yet pleasantly sensual ideal that is often at odds with their bodily processes and personality. Although women spend their reproductive years enmired in the animality of their menstrual cycles, they are still expected to conceal the evidence of their beastly biological bondage, the tell-tale ebbings guiltily staunched like the blood of a murder victim, the odor disguised by pretty-smelling, potentially poisonous chemicals. Women battle against their bodies, the physical aspect of themselves by which they are judged and because of which they often suffer. Therefore, it is even more relevant perhaps for the shapeshifter film to have a woman instead of a man undergo this physical transformation of self and body.

Ginger Snaps features a female shapeshifter/beastly doppelganger to explore themes of sexuality and self-identity. Making blatant use of traditional horror movie conventions related to shapeshifters, it subverts these clichés to examine puberty and adolescent psychology from a female perspective.

Ginger Snaps tells the story of Ginger and Brigitte, two misfit teenaged sisters who share a fascination with death. Creative and apparently proud of their outcast status, they like to take photographs of themselves pretending to be dead as a result of various suicidal techniques. Befitting their morbid, rather misanthropic outlook, they shun the cute, sexy, rather revealing outfits other girls in their school wear, preferring to shroud themselves in dark, baggy, Goth-like clothing. Unlike their female peers, they are late bloomers, having not entered puberty and showing little interest in the opposite sex. Scowling, their hair wild and seemingly uncombed, they keep to themselves, cherishing their gloomy, almost suffocating sisterly bond, a connection they believe will never be broken.

Their strangely reassuring routine of morosity is disturbed, however, by two unrelated yet equally impactful events: the discovery of a dog that has been gored to death by some large, presumably rabid, animal, and Ginger’s first menstrual cramps. At first Ginger refuses to believe her naively cheerful mom’s observation that the cramps are a sign Ginger is becoming a young woman, for she, like Brigitte, loathes the idea of menstruation and female fertility. Instead, she focuses her attention on her morbid, mutually protective bond with her sister. When, during a field hockey game, Brigitte is shoved by a popular mean girl and ends up landing in a pile of gored dog remains, Ginger diverts her mind from menstrual malaise by concocting with Brigitte a macabre plan for revenge. Defying warnings to stay inside due to the rabid animal attacks, they sneak out at night to carry out their plan and come face to face with another mortally maimed canine. As she and her sister stare at the mangled beast, Ginger notices blood trickling down her leg, the dreaded “curse” of womanhood. Aroused by the scent of blood, the creature suddenly springs back to life, attacking Ginger, clawing and biting, but Brigitte manages to destroy the beast, then helps her torn and staggering sister home. Despite the severity of the injuries, Ginger’s wounds begin to heal so quickly that Brigitte agrees to her sister’s request not to tell their parents what happened. It is to be their secret, another confidence only they will share.

As Ginger angrily endures her painful metamorphosis into womanhood, she also starts undergoing her transformation into a werewolf. Although her wounds from the attack have miraculously healed, the pangs of puberty have just begun. Bleeding profusely from her period and racked with pain, she bristles at the way menstruation is euphemistically discussed by her mother and the school nurse. When her mother tells her that menstruation is the “most normal thing in the world,” Ginger grouchily retorts that so are cancer and tuberculosis. In addition to experiencing intense cramps and copious bleeding, Ginger is disgusted by her body’s apparent treason against her. “You kill yourself to be different, and your body screws you,” she exclaims, fearing that her uniqueness, the creepy peculiarities she and her sister defiantly flaunted, are being undermined by this biological process that indiscriminately afflicts nearly all young women, preparing them for their traditional, domestic role as bearers and nurturers of children. Despite her antipathy towards menstruation, however, Ginger finds herself developing sexual feelings towards boys, and, as a result, starts dressing in alluring clothes to attract them.

Although at first it seems as though her sexual awakening is causing Ginger to behave more like the other girls, thereby weakening her intense creative bond with her sister, the sudden changes Ginger experiences are not merely the effects of ordinary puberty. Ginger’s erratic behavior and emerging lust are also symptoms of lycanthropy. Paradoxically, the more Ginger, on the surface, appears to become flirtatious and conventionally alluring, like the other girls, she is actually becoming more of a monster. From her pretty mouth tiny fangs have started to sprout. Hidden beneath her cute, sexy outfits lurks a lengthening tail, and, where her wounds used to be, strange, bristly hairs erupt. Only Brigitte knows the secrets Ginger is desperate to conceal, and Brigitte bears the brunt of Ginger’s volatile stew of emotions regarding them. At times Ginger embraces the changes; at other times they appall her. She likes the “wicked” feelings of power and eroticism she feels as a result of her pubertal and lycanthropic metamorphoses, but she fears the rapid progression of symptoms she cannot control.


Her pubertal hormones, intensified by the lycanthropic virus, make her a fierce female beast in heat, desperate to mate, and her ravenous werewolf hunger goads her to kill. Flesh to copulate with, flesh to consume she craves, the desire for sex and the hunger for prey becoming more closely linked as her brain is controlled, her willpower diminished by the onslaught of hormonal and viral-triggered impulses. When she finds a boy who wants to have sex with her, she becomes the aggressor, groping and biting like a maenad, infecting him with her virus. Still ravenous and perhaps dissatisfied following her bout of frenzied fornication, she kills a dog, then, covered in blood, slinks home and vomits. Sullenly, she realizes that even though she overpowered her lover, assuming a much more masculine role than the startled boy anticipated, she will still, by society’s standards, be derisively dismissed as a “lay,” whereas the male will be regarded as a conquering “hero.” The fury of a wolf-woman scorned simmers within. Her appetite for sex and gore, temporarily appeased, has not been sated.


As Ginger’s transformation process continues, her murderous instincts increase. Although repulsed by the physical changes gradually taking place, she feels exhilarated and empowered by her bestial strength and ferocity. "No one ever thinks chicks do shit like this. Trust me,” she proudly exclaims. “A girl can only be a slut, bitch, tease or the virgin next door because girls don't know how the world works,” whereas she experiences an ecstasy beyond anything most people, especially women, have known. “It feels so... good,” she later tells her sister after slaughtering the school janitor. “It's like touching yourself. You know every move... right on the fucking dot. And after, you see fucking fireworks. Supernovas. I'm a goddamn force of nature. I feel like I could do just about anything.” Ginger is addicted to the thrill of murder, the atavistic violence associated with her regression into a repulsive, ruthless creature neither human nor animal but assuming the most dangerous characteristics of each.


Brigitte struggles to reverse her sister’s bestial transformation. With the help of a male friend knowledgeable about werewolf lore, she experiments with monkshood, a plant traditionally regarded as a lycanthrope deterrent. When the boy Ginger infected turns into a werewolf, Brigitte manages to inject him with the monkshood, thereby eradicating his symptoms. Ginger, however, resists Brigitte’s attempts to cure her. Although Ginger becomes depressed after one of her kills, even cutting herself and telling Brigitte she wants to die because she cannot control her bloodlust, the murderous ecstasy her lycanthropy provides overrides her occasional bouts of despair as well as her residual humanity.




Ginger is becoming more beast than person, and this beast is much more horrific than any real-life animal. Lacking any of a wolf’s majestic beauty, the mutant monster Ginger transforms into resembles a gruesomely swollen sow with a rictus snarl spread over its slavering porcine muzzle. Ginger is too far gone to be redeemed, having lost her human conscience and any control over her savage impulses. In a final showdown Ginger attacks Brigitte, and Brigitte stabs her sister to death.


As in traditional werewolf movies, Ginger Snaps concludes with the destruction of the dangerous creature. However, unlike Larry Talbot and his lycanthropic descendants, Ginger does not return to human form after her death. She is not given this post-mortem benediction. Instead, her grotesque bestial corpse lies in a distended heap, bloated or possibly even pregnant with some aberrant but hopefully never-to-be-born progeny. Ginger has achieved her former goal of being different than other girls, not bound to a life of conventionality and domesticity, but, though she experienced feral thrills surpassing even her darkly creative imaginings, she ended up becoming enslaved by her body and her uncontrollable urges. Instead of flying free like some wildly exotic butterfly, she remains trapped in a decaying tumescent cocoon, never able to escape her prison.


Although shapeshifting offers the potential to attain in animal form an ecstatic sensory experience that transcends the language-filtered limitations of human consciousness, it often imposes its own restrictions, the transformations occurring unbidden, the result of lunar phases or turbulent emotions, such as anger or lust. Its addictive thrills can, as with Ginger, overpower the will, imprison the soul.



Author Bio

Alison Armstrong is the author of two literary horror novels (Revenance and Toxicosis) and a novella (Vigil and Other Writings). Her work focuses on inner terror, stealthily lurking, solipsistic dread and nightmare flash epiphanies. Having obtained a Master of Arts in English, she has taught composition and literature at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, MI and Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn. In addition to her novels and novella (available on Amazon), she has recently had poetry published in The Sirens Call (http://www.sirenscallpublications.com/pdfs/SirensCallEZine_February2016.pdf ). Currently she is writing Consorting with the Shadow: Phantasms and the Dark Side of Female Consciousness, a book that will combine literary and film analysis with fictional explorations of women’s experiences regarding dark entities and doppelganger figures. Further information on her writings is available on her Web site, http://horrorvacui.us/ , and on her Facebook page for the novels Revenance and Toxicosis: https://www.facebook.com/RevenancebyAlisonArmstrong/

Copies of GARDEN OF FIENDS to HWA Members for Bram Stoker Consideration

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