Three Things I Learned from Ghost Story

Ghost Story Cover

I first read Peter Straub’s terrifying Ghost Story decades ago, and I recently decided to pick it up again to see if my impressions had changed. They hadn’t. The work is mesmerizing. The author has created in the fictional town of Millburn a waystation steeped in snow where people live their separate lives, oblivious to the horrid things lurking in the forest waiting to strike. Eventually, these corrupt creatures come for the hapless residents, and they are caught unawares.

In many ways, this tale of ghostly revenge is instructive in how it shows us the consequences of mistreatment people visit on one another. The town itself is filled with characters surviving in escalating degrees of guilt, and it is precisely these stains on their souls that mark the victims for the marauders intent on feeding on them.

I admire this book so much, and I wanted to share three things I learned.

Turn It Up to Eleven
If you’re going to get revenge, it’s better if, instead of concentrating on a few elderly townsfolk, you turn it up to eleven and destroy the whole town. The chief villain who is known by many names—all of them with the initials AM—is going to do just that. And, like the author, she proceeds to instruct her victims in the ways of the occult and the reasons why they must die. Fortunately, because of the combined bravery of Ricky Hawthorne, Peter Barnes, and Don Wanderly, the monster’s coup de grâce cannot be delivered. Good effort, though.

Make Sure There’s Plenty of Guilt to Go Around
Stories in which the innocent are slaughtered like sheep are not fun, in my view. But take a town full of characters who have done everything from the despicable to the merely annoying and go after them—now you’ve got something. Of course, the Chowder Society members are the worst, because they caused a young woman’s death (well, she looked like a young woman, Officer) and literally buried the evidence. Then add a crazed farmer who is forever suing people and seeing Martians, a drunken shell of a sheriff, and a wife who would rather have sex with just about every other man in town than stay home. Plenty of ammunition for a vengeful, murderous, supernatural being, wouldn’t you agree?

Make the Ghost Something Else
This last point speaks to Straub’s brilliance. He could’ve done as Henry James did in The Turn of the Screw and delivered a good old-fashioned vengeful spirit. But he went one better—he created a being—or, God help us, a race of beings—that have occupied the planet for thousands of years, and enjoy feeding not only on people’s flesh but on their fears. For me, that’s what sends this novel over the top. Because you can’t just cower inside a circle of salt, holding up a crucifix. These things are real, my friend.

If you haven’t had a chance to read Ghost Story, I suggest you grab a copy and prepare not to sleep. And while you’re at it, check out the movie, which was released in 1981 and features the esteemed Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, and John Houseman.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description
#1 New York Times bestselling author Peter Straub’s classic tale of horror, secrets, and the dangerous ghosts of the past…

What was the worst thing you’ve ever done?

In the sleepy town of Milburn, New York, four old men gather to tell each other stories—some true, some made-up, all of them frightening. A simple pastime to divert themselves from their quiet lives.

But one story is coming back to haunt them and their small town. A tale of something they did long ago. A wicked mistake. A horrifying accident. And they are about to learn that no one can bury the past forever…

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Three Things I Learned from ‘100 Bloody Acres’

100 Bloody Acres Poster

I finally got a chance to catch ‘100 Bloody Acres,’ a hilarious horror movie from Australia that was released in 2012. As of this writing, it’s free for Amazon Prime members. If, like me, you are a fan of ‘Motel Hell’ and ‘Delicatessen,’ then you might enjoy this madcap take on the hitchhiker horror trope that features three millennials headed to a music festival and two sketchy brothers who manufacture a special blend, organic fertilizer. Pardon the reference, but here’s some food for thought.

Never Accept a Ride When the Back of the Truck Smells Funny
This is a given. Yet, three hapless travelers, whose car has broken down, decide to accept a ride from Reg Morgan, who is “making a delivery.” That’s right, air quotes. As in most horror movies, Sophie, James, and Wes ignore all the signs and merrily plod on. Usually, this is a hallmark of a plot-driven story. On the other hand, if they didn’t just go with it, the movie would have ended right after the opening credits, and we’d miss all the fun.

Nevertheless, know this: if you should find yourself on a lonely, backwoods road, and a guy offers you a ride in his truck that happens to have a dead animal (and possibly something else) in the back, take a pass. No good ever comes from roadkill. And for crying out loud, if you do decide to brave it out, do not for the love of all that is good and holy take acid to enhance the experience.

Knocking the Bad Guy Out Never Works
One of the oldest movie tropes—and this doesn’t just go for horror—features the hero knocking out the bad guy with a gun or a club, then gleefully running away. Repeat after me: this never works. If you don’t have the stomach to finish off the villain, then at least tie him up so he can’t wake up and come after you again.

And as long as you’re being thorough, take his weapon away. The characters who do not follow this advice once again betray a plot-driven movie, but in this case, the story is so comical, I didn’t mind. I suppose you could argue that when in a situation like this, you’re not thinking straight. Well, of course, you aren’t—you just took acid, you moron!

Surprise! Love Conquers All
To add to the hilarity, ‘100 Bloody Acres’ features a love triangle between Sophie, James, and Wes. Apparently, the girl is searching for something more in a relationship and, though she is technically “with” James, she’s been carrying on with Wes on the sly. But even that dalliance isn’t enough for her.

I won’t spoil the ending for you. Suffice it to say that love—or lust—really does conquer all. And speaking of endings, the interplay between all the characters sets this movie apart. Now, go watch. Hey, does anybody notice a weird smell in here?

Logline
Reg and Lindsay run an organic fertiliser business. They need a fresh supply of their “secret ingredient” to process through the meat grinder. Reg comes across two guys and a girl with a broken-down vehicle on their way to a music festival.

The Girl in the Mirror—Official Teaser Trailer

Teaser trailer for The Girl in the Mirror, a Sarah Greene Mystery.

Check out the teaser trailer for my new supernatural suspense novel, The Girl in the Mirror. This is the first book in my new Sarah Greene Mysteries series, and I couldn’t be more excited. Enjoy!

Book Description

While renovating an old house with her ex-husband, Sarah Greene finds a mirror that holds the spirit of a dead girl. As she learns more about the people who built Casa Abrigo—and about their demon-worshiping son—Sarah comes to believe the girl did not die a natural death, and she sets out to discover the truth. But prying into someone’s sketchy past can be risky, especially when it awakens dangerous dark forces.

More information here. Coming summer 2019.

 

Halloween Treats—23 Women Horror Authors

23 Great Women Horror Authors

Okay, I thought this was such a great find, I had to share it. Check out this post from Literary Hub. By golly, I think I just hit the motherlode!

It’s finally October, which as we all know is officially the spookiest month—and thus the perfect moment to brush up on your literary horror bookshelf. Sure, it’s really on-brand for the season, but sometimes it actually is nice to accompany the new chills in the air with some new chills in your reading list. Horror writing is traditionally overrun by zombies men, but in recent years (and if you think about it, all along) women have been exploding the genre, writing entertaining, immersive, frightening novels and stories that run the gamut from high-brow, award-winning literary horror to bloody, murky genre masterpieces. So if you’re not sure where to start this season, here are a few recommendations of great writers of horror (the genre admittedly here broadly defined) to get you started. Of course, this is by no means a definitive list—one has to stop somewhere, lest the madness descend. On that note, please feel free to add on in the comments section.

Mary Shelley
Start with: Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus

Most obvious (and most venerable) first. With the staunch prominence of male writers in the genre, it’s easy to forget that one of the earliest and best horror novels was written 200 years ago by a teenage girl showing off for her boyfriend and their friends. I’d say she won that famous campfire competition of who could tell the best horror story by a significant margin—unless you count what happened to Percy’s heart after his death. Actually, that was probably her story too, so she wins twice.

lauren beukes broken monstersLauren Beukes
Start with: Broken Monsters

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South African writer Beukes is one of the biggest names in contemporary horror right now, and for good reason: her novels are intelligent, fast-paced, and leave you with that horrible sick feeling—you know, the one you read horror novels for. For me it was a toss-up between Broken Monsters and The Shining Girls, but considering I locate the nexus of horror in the Internet right now, I’d say start with the former, which opens with the discovery of a body in Detroit: a young boy, whose lower half has been cut off and replaced with that of a deer’s.

Tananarive Due my soul to keepTananarive Due
Start with: My Soul to Keep

“What I think readers should understand,” the beloved and brilliant Due said in an interview, “[is that] it’s not just that I like to scare people, although I do like to scare people, because I myself get scared, but I’m trying to take things that are not real, at least to me.”

I have not experienced—I have not had a ghost encounter, for example. So these are not experiences from my life. These are nightmare scenarios that actually act as metaphors for the real-life horrible things that happen to us every day.

All of us on this journey are going to sustain losses, and some of them are going to be quite, quite devastating. And I’ve always felt so ill-prepared for that. I think I decided to write about nightmare scenarios so often, really, to create characters who can walk me through the process. “This is what you do when your world falls apart.” And every book is sort of a re-examination of how all of us and all these characters have to triumph over whatever life throws at us.

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Tell Me When I’m Dead—Back to School Sale

TMWID Cover eBook Quote (Small)

 

Just a quick announcement to let you know that Tell Me When I’m Dead is on sale from August 13th through the 19th. So, if you love zombies and mayhem and haven’t yet read this novel, then now is your chance to get it on the cheap.

Normally, this book is $4.99, but during the sale, you can get it for a cool $1.99.

What Critics Are Saying
“The zombie genre has exploded in recent years, and unfortunately, so many similar stories have begun to run together, making it less of a desirable avenue for both writers and readers. However, there is still hope for this genre niche in the form of Tell Me When I’m Dead by Steven Ramirez. The first book in a trilogy, this slow-burning thriller does far more than simply promote an everyman into a zombie-killing hero, introducing readers to a uniquely compelling protagonist.” — Self-Publishing Review

“As Dave’s life slowly starts to unravel, and the body count continues to grow higher through the help of an unknown virus, he is left with a gruesome choice: either wallow in his sorrows or stay alive. In this thrilling novel, Ramirez details an antihero’s struggles for family and love, and to find beauty in a world ruled by the dead.” — Readers’ Favorite

“The sense of pace in Tell Me When I’m Dead is impressive, Ramirez building the suspense and stakes with skill, and ensuring that you care about the characters at the heart of events. As a lead character, Dave is layered, with a compelling backstory and an admirably drawn humanity. He’s not your run-of-the-mill horror hero, and his decisions are believable yet at times unexpected, keeping the reader on their toes and ensuring that this isn’t a predictable tale in the slightest. Chilling, pulse racing, and hugely compelling, Ramirez has brought something new to a popular genre.” — The Bookbag

Tell Me When I’m Dead—Time for the Free Stuff!

TMWID Cover eBook Quote (Small)

I’ll make this short and sweet. I am giving away five paperback copies of Tell Me When I’m Dead (Second Edition). And all you have to do is visit my Facebook page. While you’re there, could you also give it a Like?

Enter now for a chance to win a copy of what Self-Publishing Review said is “a gritty, pulse-pounding read” and “an original and well-rounded work of zombie fiction.”

Good luck!

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Tell Me When I’m Dead New Edition Cover Reveal

Forget world events for a second, people. The big question of the day is, what in the world have I been spending my time on for the past six months? Don’t worry, it’s good news. Late last year, I decided to create a second edition of my horror thriller trilogy, Tell Me When I’m Dead. That means updated chapters and (wait for it) new covers! Also, I am finally creating print versions of the books for those of you who prefer the feel of paper to an eReader.

I plan to release the books in July, but in the meantime, I wanted to give you a sneak peek at the new covers. I hope you love them as much as I do. Ready? Here goes.

Book One—Tell Me When I’m Dead

TMWID Cover Reveal

“As Dave’s life slowly starts to unravel, and the body count continues to grow higher through the help of an unknown virus, he is left with a gruesome choice: either wallow in his sorrows or stay alive. In this thrilling novel, Ramirez details an antihero’s struggles for family and love, and to find beauty in a world ruled by the dead.” — Readers’ Favorite

Thanks to Holly, a beautiful, strong-willed woman, recovering alcoholic Dave Pulaski is getting his life together. Then, a plague decimates the town, turning its victims into shrieking flesh-eaters who hunt the living. Now Dave, Holly, and a band of soldiers must kill the living and the dead to survive. But Dave is this close to drinking again. A woman he cheated with—and no longer human—is after him. The hordes of undead are growing, and the beleaguered security forces are far outnumbered. Hell has arrived in Tres Marias.

Book Two—Dead Is All You Get

DIAYG Cover Reveal

“Dead Is All You Get is cunningly plotted, and the author uses suspense to deepen the quality of horror as he creates scenes that make the reader feel like something could go wrong at any moment. A lot happens in this story, and the pacing is fast and the action intense. The writing is filled with enjoyable and engaging dialogue that enhances the reading experience of this gripping story. Great prose, sophisticated characters, and a very clever plot.” — Readers’ Favorite

After months of fighting the hordes of undead ravaging the town of Tres Marias, Dave Pulaski and his wife, Holly, catch a break when Black Dragon Security suddenly shows up to rescue them. But things are about to get worse. The virus is mutating, and the infected are getting smarter. Then, while struggling to protect Holly and those closest to him, Dave discovers the truth behind the contagion—a revelation that will drive him past the limits of faith and reason.

Book Three—Even The Dead Will Bleed

ETDWB Cover Reveal

“This action-packed zombie gore-fest is not for the faint of heart as carnage and rising body counts are described in stomach churning, gruesome detail, but at no point is character development sacrificed. There is a perfect balance of character growth and development, action, intrigue, and suspense that will keep the reader hooked from the first page to the ultimate conclusion. I’ve read my fair share of zombie style books, and this one certainly stands up there with the best. It’s not your run-of-the-mill, mass-produced, zombie book; rather, it is intricately designed, well executed, imaginative, and plausible.” — Readers’ Favorite

Dave Pulaski is headed to Los Angeles to kill Walt Freeman, the man responsible for the out-of-control human experiments that devastated his hometown of Tres Marias. But the mission goes sideways when Dave decides to rescue Sasha, a Russian girl who escaped Walt’s secret testing facility. Now, pursued by a ruthless, ex-military sociopath working for Walt and by scientifically engineered humans who flay their victims alive, chances are good that Dave will die before he can save the girl.

Book Review—Pocketful of Bones

Pocketful of Bones Cover

Pocketful of Bones is a quiet story in the way Psycho and The Lottery are quiet. At least, that’s what I was thinking as I made my way through this marvelous and absorbing tale of villains, victims, and valentines. Maybe unsettling is a better description. One minute, someone is having a conversation, and the next, they are dead. And it’s hard to know where you stand with well-drawn characters like Tibba and Finny because, at times, someone can at a moment’s notice turn from victim to villain. And someone who you thought might be conniving turns out to be sweet and loyal.

For me, the best thing about the novel was, I really didn’t know what to expect. For the record, I’ve had my fill of serial killers. So, as the bodies piled up in Pocketful of Bones, I was surprised at the logic and—dare I suggest it?—the correctness of it. The story unfolds as though Fate itself were guiding mother and son to their inescapable destinies. And along the way, they planted the annuals. In short, they were born for this.

If you’re looking for a satisfying read that both perplexes and horrifies in a Canadian sort of way, I suggest you read this book. And remember: anyone is capable of murder; some see it as just another tool in the toolbox.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description
Finnegan MacGillivray, red-haired, freckle-faced social pariah, finds solace in his mother’s garden while she entertains “dates” in his home. When an accident takes the life of a friend, Finnegan buries the evidence amid the purple dead nettle and bougainvillea, and unearths a treasure trove of human remains. Did his house rest atop an ancient burial ground? Or was there a killer tucking him into bed at night?

His fascination with bones grows as fast as his obsession with his mother. She rejects his advances, and he escapes to the other side of the country. Years later, he returns to his childhood home, to the secrets and the guilt and the bones — and to fulfill his destiny.

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Book Review-Marred

Marred Cover

As an author of horror thrillers, I’m no stranger to scenes of violence and mayhem. But—and I’m being honest here—the thought of writing a novel about a serial killer leaves me a little squeamish. I would imagine you would have to approach the subject with the same cold-bloodedness as your killer, unblinkingly laying out the carnage that both repulses and fascinates the reader. That kind of writing calls for a stiff drink, in my view.

But this is precisely what Sue Coletta has given us in Sage, a tortured survivor struggling with horrific memories while trying to be the loving wife to Niko, a homicide detective who has his own demons—not to mention a surly sidekick. And all of this set in a remote, beautiful town that, in any other universe, would seem tranquil.

What I like best about this author is, she knows she has a job to do and doesn’t shy away from everything that’s required to terrify the reader, at the same time creating a puzzle that requires some serious brain power. The writing is sharp, funny, and at times tender. Marred is a chilling read that will leave you wanting more, once you’ve caught your breath.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description
When a serial killer breaks into the home of bestselling author, Sage Quintano, she barely escapes with her life. Her husband, Niko, a homicide detective, insists they move to rural New Hampshire, where he accepts a position as Grafton County Sheriff. Sage buries secrets from that night—secrets she swears to take to her deathbed.

Three years of anguish and painful memories pass, and a grisly murder case lands on Niko’s desk. A strange caller begins tormenting Sage—she can’t outrun the past.

When Sage’s twin sister suddenly goes missing, Sage searches Niko’s case files and discovers similarities to the Boston killer. A sadistic psychopath is preying on innocent women, marring their bodies in unspeakable ways. And now, he has her sister.

Cryptic clues. Hidden messages. Is the killer hinting at his identity? Or is he trying to lure Sage into a deadly trap to end his reign of terror with a matching set of corpses?

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Book Review-The Exorcist: 40th Anniversary Edition

The Exorcist Cover

So much has been written about this book and subsequent movie. As the description says, The Exorcist is a part of our culture, not to mention it’s spawned hundreds—maybe even thousands—of imitations. I first read the novel while in school, then went to see the terrifying William Friedkin movie by myself. Like so many others at the time, I had nightmares for a week. Imagine having grown up with stories featuring vampires, zombies, and mutants. Then, this powerhouse of a tale comes along about a non-religious young girl who unwittingly invites a demon into her house courtesy of a Ouija board. Now, today that may seem tame, given that we’ve become inured to evil courtesy of television series like Supernatural. But back in the day, this was Grade-A horror, my friend.

What I loved most about the book when I first read it—and what I cherish now—is how real the characters seem. The author, William Peter Blatty, was a graduate of Georgetown University and knew well the world of Jesuit priests. For my money, he did a marvelous job of delving into their humor, their disappointments, and their loneliness. And when he takes a tortured soul like Damien Karras, a priest who is also a brilliant psychologist, and puts him in a room with Satan, well… Let’s just say things get really interesting.

One more thing. In rereading the novel and recalling Lee J. Cobb’s excellent screen portrayal of Kinderman, I was happily reminded that the author had quite a sense of humor. To me, his dogged cop is Columbo if he’d been Jewish. Seeing this weary flat-foot spar with the dour priest is nothing short of magical.

As bad as things get for the girl, Regan, and her mother, Chris, Blatty gives us hope that God will prevail in the end. Without that, this story would have been nihilistic and pointless. An exercise in demonic torture porn. So, whether you are a person of faith or not, if you enjoy horror that is smart, funny, and mind-numbingly scary, I heartily recommend this book. And if, like me, you’re Catholic, be sure to keep a Rosary on your nightstand.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description
The Exorcist changed popular culture forever. Now, William Peter Blatty’s groundbreaking story of faith and supernatural suspense—the runaway #1 bestseller that started it all—is reincarnated in this spectacular newly polished and rewritten 40th Anniversary Edition of the novel that burst through society’s seven seals and paved the way for the entire genre that followed it: the unforgettable The Exorcist.

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