SPAWN to be published in short story anthology

S&T 4-1-2016Hi, all! I can finally announce that my short story SPAWN is going to be published in Darkwater Syndicate’s anthology, SHADOWS AND TEETH.
The book is releasing on April 30th, and you can pre-order the Kindle version now. If you want to wait, though, there will be paperback copies coming soon, too.
You can check out the link below for more details! Thanks, everybody.

amzn.to/1TtsizT

EXIT

[Inspired by this block by Write World]

The cafe had sprung out of nowhere on Canal Street, and the bright sign that advertised its existence drew you in. All it says is CAFE. The restaurant’s interior is unremarkable, but its people spark your interest. None of them speak to each other. There are at least two dozen customers, but none of them speak to each other. None of them read, and none of them speak. They sit in silence with straight backs and forward eyes. In their claw-like hands, they clutch cups of coffee.

You have only taken a few steps inside, but the sight of these people has unnerved you. You turn to leave, and your eyes catch the exit sign. It hangs at an angle. The light in the X has gone out, and the E is only half-lit.

A small table is to the right of the door, and three black-eyed teenagers sit unmoving. You try to speak to them, and when they do not answer, you try the people near them, but no one will tell you why the exit sign is crooked. You look to it again, and you notice the flecks of rust-colored something on the white frame. You should lea

You crave coffee. You fantasize about drinking it, and the stench of freshly ground beans sets your mouth to watering. You turn around and go to order. The barista does not move from where she has been standing since you arrived. She says nothing when you approach. The only signs of life in her are her slow, measured blinks and the light trembling in her hands.

You tell her your drink order, but she ignores you. You ask her if she’s okay, but she says nothing. You think she may be injured. You try to see if there is another worker, but there is no one. She is alone here.

You turn to the room of customers, wondering if one of them has answers. All of them have turned to stare at you. You stare back, and your eyes go to the exit sign. You ask them why it is crooked, but they are as silent as they have always been. You try to remain calm as you walk to the exit. You reach out your hand to op

Your coffee is ready. You don’t know how you know this, but it is like a fact written into your DNA. You turn around and see a cup of steaming coffee at the bar. It is yours.

When you take it, the steam dissipates. It is cold now, but you drink it. It tastes like dust. You don’t want this, but you keep it held firmly in both your hands. You need to leave.

You turn around. No one looks at you anymore. Whatever interest they once held has gone. When you arrived, there had been no empty seats, but now there is one — an old, discolored armchair near the serving bar. You look at the exit sign. You want to know why it is crooked. You want to lea

You step to the right, where your seat waits you. You sit and hold your coffee, staring ahead at the wall. The door to the cafe opens.

Review: First Unseen by Sam Entile [2/5]

first unseen“But man dwelt in time’s dominion, on time’s terms. He could no longer reverse course.”

Title: First Unseen

Author: Sam Entile

Rating: 2/5

Genre: Horror

Blurb:

On his way to tour a friend’s inherited house in rural Illinois, Marco Skeen encounters Evelyn, a stranded orphan girl on the side of the road. She refuses to be taken back to her orphanage. Unwilling to leave her to the night, Marco convinces her to meet his four friends for the tour. At the house, death soon strikes by inexplicable means. What evil haunts the estate? First Unseen is a suspenseful, exhilarating tale of spiritual warfare, set to shock and surprise until the end.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

First Unseen is the story of Marco Skeen, a casual Catholic, visiting his best friend’s new house, which has been passed down to him from his dead uncle. On his way there, Marco finds Evelyn, a grumpy six-year-old unwilling to go back to the church/orphanage where she lives, so in order to get her out of the woods, Marco suggests she can come see the cool, giant house up the street with him. Shortly after arriving, however, Marco and Evelyn discover that the house is haunted when everyone begins to get murdered. In order to combat the evil presence, Marco will need to get a priest to help exorcise the house’s demons and save his and Laura’s lives in the process.

First Unseen has so much potential, but unfortunately, it falls flat in many areas. One of those most notable is in the prose itself. Not concerning the grammatical issues that occasionally pop up, Entile’s prose consists of sentences that are often simplistic in style (a trademark in horror, so it’s not something I’m complaining about) combined with too many details, too much explanation, and too many visits to the thesaurus. All of this works to create a sense of melodrama in the piece as sentences begin to lose meaning when extraneous detail is placed on them. This detail also goes into the side characters, though only at a physical level. For every character, you get an inventory of exactly what they look like and what they’re wearing, but they’re the kind of shallow details that don’t do much to help you envision the characters. What could have been a decent or even good story gets pulled apart by these descriptions, leaving the story fat and weak.

The plot and characters aren’t without their flaws, either. The plot often falls back on cheap horror cliches, dumbing down its characters so that they will do as the plot commands. The side characters, who we get very little of, are made unsympathetic because of these idiot ball moments, and since we get almost no interaction with them, we extra don’t care about them when they die.

The pacing of this story is it’s greatest downfall. Since the plot is rather generic, the story needs to set itself apart through its characters. Unfortunately, the rush of the story forces character development in unrealistic ways and leaves the reader wondering why we should care about the dead. Rather than showing us the friendship between Brom and Marco, we are simply told it’s true and expected to believe it. Many characters are given only a few pages before they die, and then we’re expected to understand and feel the pain Marco feels at their deaths. The story desperately needed to slow down and develop its characters, but instead we’re left with shells filled with Marco’s words.

I love supernatural horror stories, and this novel had the opportunity to explore Marco’s faith in an interesting way. However, it just hasn’t gotten there yet. This story still has a lot of work that needs to go into it both at the structural and sentences levels. As it stands, this book feels like a first draft.

Trope of the Week: Creepy Children

Let’s be real: there is nothing creepier than children. Clowns? Nope. Ghosts? Not unless you’re talking about ghost kids. No, when you’re watching or reading something in the horror genre and a kid shows up, you know that shit is about to go down. They’re considered the pinnacle of innocence, and therefore are the best way to make people incredibly scared and uncomfortable. d

Nope. I'm out.

Nope. I’m out.

Why this can be bad: This is so common a trope that we always expect it when we’re watching anything even remotely scary. This means that your audience has time to brace itself before the real scare happens, ultimately undermining the horror of the piece. I can tell you from experience that every time I see a child appear during a horror film, I tense up a bit and prepare myself to not be scared. And this helps! Because I know those kids are going to be creepy, and when they finally begin speaking in tongues or vomiting pea soup, I’m not scared anymore because I already prepared for it.

How you can fix it: Think about using these kids as red herrings. If you’re working on a screenplay or a novel and you come to a scene that you want to use to really scare your readers, use the trope of creepy children to set your audience up. Make them tense in fear. Once nothing happens with these kids and the audience relaxes, that’s the perfect moment to scare them because they are at their most vulnerable.

Bottom Line: Children are creepy, and we expect it. Subvert the trope to heighten tension.

Review: The Shining by Stephen King (4/5)

the shiningTitle: The Shining

Author: Stephen King

Rating: 4/5

Genre: Horror

Blurb:

Danny was only five years old but in the words of old Mr Halloran he was a ‘shiner’, aglow with psychic voltage. When his father became caretaker of the Overlook Hotel his visions grew frighteningly out of control.

As winter closed in and blizzards cut them off, the hotel seemed to develop a life of its own. It was meant to be empty, but who was the lady in Room 217, and who were the masked guests going up and down in the elevator? And why did the hedges shaped like animals seem so alive?

Somewhere, somehow there was an evil force in the hotel – and that too had begun to shine…

I’ve heard mixed things about Stephen King. Despite all his hype, I always heard a lot of people saying King isn’t actually a good writer. Until a few weeks ago, I had never read a King novel, and since I’ve heard so many mixed things about him, I went in with no expectations. I haven’t even seen the movie. So when I finished the novel, I was pleasantly surprised that it’s actually pretty good.

The plot is pretty solid, and the foreshadowing is perfect. King knows how to set the pacing and plot so that you’ll start to catch on just before the characters, adding in a heavy amount of dramatic irony. The characters are all likeable, and you want most of them to survive. Those you don’t, however, you still want to see something happen to them. What I found best, though, was Danny’s dialog. Most writers have no idea how children talk, and while Danny’s pointed out to be more advanced than his peers, when he speaks, you know he’s just a kid. The story is written from multiple perspectives, but once you get used to the head-hopping, the transitions between characters are pretty smooth for the most part.

So why am I not giving it all 5 stars? There are two grievances I have with the book: one King’s fault and one my own. The first is that once the story hits the climax, Wendy, like most horror victims, loses all her senses. She can’t do anything right, and while panic can excuse some of that, there’s also many times where you have that classic moment of thinking, “What is wrong with you?” While this makes the scenes more dangerous, I can’t be too tense because I’m mad at the characters for making obviously dumb decisions.

My only other issue is that the book didn’t scare me. I was hoping it would, but I’m a hard one to spook. The only thing that has ever genuinely terrified me that I’ve read is a goatman creepypasta. There were a couple moments where I found myself tense while reading The Shining, but I was never scared. And since this is a horror book, I have to dock points from it for that. But take that criticism with a grain of salt.

All that being said, I was happily satisfied with the novel. Good characters, good plot, good pacing: all vital to the genre. It was a good, fun read, and though over 600 pages, it felt much, much shorter. If you haven’t read this classic, I’d definitely recommend it.