Who are the Halloween Children?

 

Halloween Children cover

The Halloween Children by Brian James Freeman and Norman Prentiss (Random House Hydra, June 2017) works by building suspense, by gradually increasing the sense of impending dread. Readers know from the very first page that something went terribly wrong Halloween night and lots of children either killed or were killed. Dread builds as you discover how really weird and totally dis-functional everyone in the entire Stillbrook apartment complex — especially the entire Naylor family — has become. You know all hell is about to break loose, and you can’t wait for it to happen. But, like waiting for Halloween or for Christmas, wait you must.

Good horror builds expectations. There are a lot of little boos that set the scene, but you know right from the get-go that the big fright comes on Halloween. Everything else is a warm-up or a red-herring.

“I think the environment in our apartment complex had everything to do with what happened,” Harris Naylor admits. “Not just our management policies and our neighbors, but maybe even the issues that had been swimming within our own family.”

Is the apartment complex haunted? Just when you think it is, a logical explanation pops up. But then something else weird happens, and the suspense builds until you’re sure the place is haunted by evil spirits.

Or maybe by crazy people: not just the children but adults, too.

Harris again hits the nail on the head: “If a place is going to be haunted, it’s more likely to be an apartment building, since there’s a high turnaround in tenants and folks from a variety of backgrounds will bring different quirks and neuroses and illnesses with them. Going with the odds, an apartment building simply has more opportunities for crazy, haunted people to live there.”

Or die there.

Heh heh.

So who are the Halloween Children really? Mattie and Amber? Ghosts? Evil spirits?

Read the novel and see with your own eyes.

Heh heh.

The Secret Life of Souls

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I love novels written in present tense. It gives such immediacy to the action that you feel you’re right there in the middle of things.

The Secret Life of Souls by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee (Pegasus Books, November 2016) is written entirely in present tense and frequently switches POV between Delia Cross, her twin brother Robbie, their mother Patricia, their father Bart, their agent Roman, and their dog Caity. You are actually inside their heads, You see through their eyes, You feel what they feel. For brief periods of time, you become—actually are—them.

You learn what it’s like to share memories and thoughts with another person.

And that’s what makes this story so wonderful. Oh, sure, there’s a lovable urchin on the brink off stardom (Delia), an equally-lovable mutt (Caity), abominable parents (Pat and Bart), an unscrupulous agent (Roman), and even a suspicion of the supernatural at work. It’s a complicated story about a dysfunctional family and a special kind of love that endures despite everything that happens.

The pacing is superb. The first twenty pages are a bit slow-going compared to the rest of the novel. But once bad things start happening, it’s a non-stop roller-coaster ride all the way to the end.

 

Angels Versus Angels

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When fallen angels live amongst humans, there’s always hell to pay.

I’ve been a fan of Billie Sue Mosiman’s stories since the 1980s, and LOSTNESS (January 2017) is no exception. A sequel to BANISHED and ANGELIQUE, this tale is set in 1940 with many of the same characters from BANISHED. Angelique returns, still in a child’s body. Nisroc (Nick) travels in Europe with Jody, the midget. Henry, the shape-shifter, is back, too. But fascinating new characters are introduced in LOSTNESS—Ladina, Jules, Tina, Will, Graham, Duma, Monty—to complicate the storyline. The great battle between angels—between the fallen and the unfallen—is about to begin.

My only gripes with the novel are the mention of the CIA and a few minor things a good copy editor would have corrected. The Central Intelligence Agency didn’t exist in 1940. The closest thing was the FBI, or Military Intelligence, or possibly the OSS.

I love Mosiman’s images of angels allowing their wings to expand. I love being inside Jules’ head when she dream-travels.

Once again, Mosiman shows there’s more in heaven and earth than dreamt in our philosophies.

 

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The convention season is about to begin again, and I’m gearing up to make personal appearances at four or five cons. I’m not as young as I once was (who is?), so this year I’m limiting my appearances and staying home to write more.

I’ve said numerous times that the writing business is a numbers game (See “The Numbers Game” on my website or in the dozens of other place it’s been published). One becomes a good writer only by writing, and the more you write, the more you’ll get published. Depending on your innate talent and the number of books you’ve read, it takes writing five to ten complete novels before you become good enough to see print.

Each novel I write is better than the novel I wrote before. If you doubt that, compare Claw Hammer with Meat Cleaver or The Girl Who Lived.

It also takes a minimum of five years with five good novels in print before you breakout into public consciousness. Selling books requires word-of-mouth recommendations, good reviews, and titles displayed on bookstore shelves and on library shelves. Few people buy books authored by unknowns.

Does appearing at conventions help? Very little. Attendance at conventions and book signings is a chance to meet and greet the reading public, but it doesn’t sell a lot of books. Not unless people already know your name and recognize you as a good author.

I made a mistake and seriously damaged my authorial career when I stopped writing fiction for twenty years. Sure, there are still some people at conventions who know me and know my work from the 1980s and 1990s. But they are few and far between.

I have been back in the land of the living for nearly four years now. That is, I have regularly attended writing conferernces, genre conventions, and book signings since the year after my wife, Gretta M. Anderson, died of a massive heart attack in 2012. I appeared on panels, presented workshops, and autographed my own books. I attended the Nebula Awards, the Bram Stoker Awards, the Hugo Awards, and the Tiptree Awards banquets. I appeared on programs at MidAmericon II, Thrillerfest, World Fantasy Convention, Stokercon, OdysseyCon, Wiscon, and Windycon. I renewed friendships with authors, editors, and agents I have known for years and became new friends with authors, editors, and agents I met at recent cons.

I have two new stories already published in anthologies since last year, and I’ll have a major novel released on March 2. Four more stories will appear in anthologies by the end of 2017, and so will two more novels. So I must make some efforts to promote those works in the marketplace. I owe it to my editors and publishers, and to fans who expect an autograph when they buy my books.

I’ll be at Murder and Mayhem in Chicago March 11, Stokercon 2017 in Long Beach, CA April 27-30, Wiscon in Madison, WI May 26-29, and Thrillerfest in NYC July 13-16.

This year or the next should be my breakout year. The Girl Who Lived has received excellent reviews, and might be a breakout book. I plan to promote the hell out of it.

So, if you want to read what I believe is my best book yet, buy a copy of The Girl Who Lived.

And ask for my autograph when I seen you at one of those conventions I mentioned.

Kirkus Reviews of The Girl Who L

 

 

 

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THE GIRL WHO LIVED

Megan’s Story

Paul Dale Anderson

2AM Publications (306 pp.)

$14.95 paperback, $3.95 e-book

ISBN: 978-0-937491-19-5; January 5, 2017

BOOK REVIEW

After spending years in a mental institution, a woman has revenge on her mind in Anderson’s (Claw Hammer, 2016, etc.) dark thriller. Megan Williams was institutionalized five years ago after she killed one man and castrated three others who raped and disfigured her. She earns her freedom by telling her psychiatrist that she knows right from wrong—just what the doctor wants to hear. However, she still plans to murder the survivors of her last attempt at vengeance, which occurred after she’d spent one year in a coma and another undergoing reconstructive surgery and physical therapy. Shortly after her return to Twin Rivers, Illinois, cops find the body of a castrated man and suspect Megan of the crime. Newspaperman Tim Goodman, however, connects the new murder to five of the dead man’s associates, who are all inexplicably missing.

With police watching her, Megan puts her retribution on the back burner. Meanwhile, she’s leery of her older sister Susan’s new beau, Harry Berg. The mob-linked drug dealer hopes to launder money in Twin Rivers, and he’s also in the process of meting out payback to those who’ve wronged him. Soon, the dead bodies are stacking up, and Megan is in danger of arrest. Anderson rivetingly presents his protagonist from a first-person perspective, which clearly shows her instability. As she reveals more details of her attack, it seems as if she’s continually reliving it, which gives the book’s title a sad twist. As a result, readers will initially have sympathy for Megan, but it may subside as the story progresses; at one point, Megan says that she tortured multiple men, all strangers who picked her up at bars, as practice for her revenge; after butchering them, she says, she “showed them mercy and slit their throats to make certain they died.” Still, the story’s intensity rises with each new murder victim, as each puts Megan or someone she knows in potential danger. Anderson, meanwhile, does add glimmers of hope, as when he shows that Megan regrets at least one of her killings.

A relentlessly gloomy but memorable tale that explores questions of morality. — Kirkus Reviews, Feb 6, 2017

 

Available in trade paperback and Kindle editions. Order from http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-girl-who-lived-paul-dale-anderson/1125438993?ean=9780937491195

or from Amazon or Kobo.

 

Be Careful What You Wish

I write cautionary tales. Some of my stories seem like horror stories, and they are. Some are prophetic science fictional looks at the near future or the re-imagined past. All of my stories are intended to make readers think, to ask the all-important what if questions: what if there really are real monsters hiding in the closet or under the bed? What if there is an insane axe murderer waiting for you or me down in the dark basement or up in the attic or out in the garage? What if global warming becomes a reality and temperatures reach 200 degrees, or the cities flood from all the rain caused by melting glaciers and icebergs, or all the trees and crops burn up and there is no more oxygen to breathe and nothing to eat?

What then do we do?

My stories are cautionary tales that, like your own parents should have done, warn you not to cross the street without first looking both ways, not to stick a screwdriver into a live electrical socket, not to put your hand into the flame.

And, if all hell does break loose, my stories teach you how best to act and react in order to survive.

I can be a lioness when I want. Hear me roar.

frontcover of spilled milk from Amazon

 

As I work on The Girl Who Lived, the sequel to Spilled Milk, I’m acutely aware I’m a male writing from a female’s point of view. I have been both lauded and criticized for attempting to understand the female mind and portray a female POV in my novels. “How can a man possibly understand what it’s like to be a woman?” I’ve been asked. Here is my answer.

I love women. I’ve been married to three different women during this lifetime and I’m in an ongoing intimate relationship with another. I’ve lived with women all of my life. My mother was a woman. My grandmothers were women. My aunts were women. More than half of my cousins were women.

My daughter is a woman.

Most of my teachers have been women. Many of the writers I read regularly are women. Many of the students in classes I teach are women.

I am a trained observer of women. I learned to be an objective observer first in journalism classes and then in graduate-level psychotherapy classes at several universities. More than half of the faculty on my thesis and dissertation committees were women. Most of my therapy clients were woman when I was in active practice. I have had access to women’s innermost thoughts and feelings during hypnosis sessions.

I am a good listener. Women tell me they love to talk with me because I listen to them and show I’m actively listening to them by my responses to their statements.

And, lastly but not least, I am a human being. All human beings inherently have both male and female traits. I was likely a woman in at least one of my past lives. I was a female in the womb before testosterone kicked in and defined my anatomy and restructured my brain. Carl Gustav Jung said I have an anima as well as an animus. I believe Jung was right.

Yes, Virginia, I CAN write from a woman’s POV. And women CAN write from a man’s POV. Whether I write accurately or not is up to readers to decide.