Victims, aren’t we all . . .

#reading #horror #bookclub #reviews

I’m starting a monthly horror reading group. Every month I’m looking for authors willing to send out one free ebook to members to vote on their favorite Villain of the Month.

In return, you get free promotion and members agree to leave an honest review.

Do you want to play a game?

Comment below! Share with anyone you think might love to play!

REVIEW: Exorcist Falls by Jonathan Janz

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Chicago is gripped by terror. The Sweet Sixteen Killer is brutally murdering young women, and the authorities are baffled.
When the police are called to an affluent home in the middle of the night, they learn that a seemingly normal fourteen-year-old boy has attacked his family. The boy exhibits signs of demonic possession, and even more troublingly, he knows too much about the Sweet Sixteen killings. Father Jason Crowder, a young priest assigned to the case, must marshal his courage in order to save the boy and the entire city from the forces of evil.

But this is a darkness mankind has never encountered before. It craves more than blood. And it won’t rest until it possesses Father Crowder’s soul.

Jonathan Janz’s brand new release brings the original novella that started it all—Exorcist Road—and a brand-new full-length novel (Exorcist Falls) together for a shattering experience in supernatural terror.

I started EXORCIST FALLS because Jonathan and I have an interloping circle, and when I saw he’d written a book about Exorcisms-one of my favorite genres to read-and was also from my hometown of Chicago … I knew I had to give it a go.

I was not disappointed in any way. In fact, I was proud of my fellow Chi-town author for a well told and frightening story. Small details of Chicago filled every part of the tale, and brought a sense of nostalgia and history only someone who grew up, or at least lived for a quite some time, in the city would know. Mentions of the “Killer Clown”, John Wayne Gacy, Wrigley Field, the Blackhawks, and Rosemary Road, gave this story the ironclad validation of being a true Chicago-based horror.

Every single character was so well developed, I felt like I knew them from the old ‘hood and stomping grounds. Vivid details allowed me to feel, hear, smell, and recreate everything in my mind. I’m not ashamed to say it gave me some wild dreams. The scene where Father Crowder is cornered by the spirit in Casey’s room is my favorite part, and the suspense was in perfect pace with the creep factor. Well done. I went back and read it again, just to savor it.

The story leads you into several different directions while you play Sherlock Holmes, deducing from the suspects presented, who the real killer is. At the same time, there is a moral reflection to be had in this book. Is evil really evil? Are people who do evil able to be saved? Can someone who is evil do good?

Jonathan is a talented writer who weaves a world of horror around your neck like a rosary, leaving you with nothing but faith to get you through dark, twisted tunnels. I’ll definitely be reading more of his work. I’m not really one who likes to compare authors to others, even though I understand it helps establish style when recommending them. Some have compared him to Steven King, but I have to disagree without devaluing Janz’s writing skill. He’s closer to William P. Blatty, in my opinion, not only for subject matter, but for his classic writing style.

To find out more about the author, please visit his site:

Zombies, Night of the Living Dead, and other things that go “bump”

Lisa Vasquez - EXAMPLE.In 1968, an American Independent Horror Film directed by George A. Romero forever scarred audiences with visions of zombies shambling across the silver screen. Who would’ve known then the “undying” love of these creatures would continue to breathe until present day?

One of the best memories of Halloween for me was recreating monsters portrayed on screen and stalking through our neighborhoods, door to door. Long hours of care were put into makeup, sewing, and crafting. If your mother or grandmother had a gift for such things, you might have a leg up on the others. For those kids who didn’t have this advantage, Halloween was a time for them to challenge their artistic and creative side. (Those aren’t wood boxes, those are Frankenstein’s shoes!)

Years later, there were a few movie studios who challenged the right to purchase costumes and began a war by copyrighting/licensing them. I think for many of us, it killed a little piece of Halloween in our hearts. Halloween, for those who ran to the stores as soon as they were stocked for the holiday, began to see an increase in prices reflecting the added costs. On the bright side, it further encouraged families to be more creative.

Since then, copyright laws have grown deep, hidden roots.

In the mid-to late 2000’s, comic conventions and Cosplayers faced backlash when corporations attempted to make their move in this arena. NOTE: I’m not a lawyer, and I will never claim to have an expert grasp of the fine print of the law. But I would like to make a note to the creators of these characters who we love so much: Without this craze for dressing up to embody the spirit of our inspirations, would you have the free publicity and continued success you have now?

Let’s use our original example: Zombies.

 It would be impossible to count the number of movies, books, poems, and costumes that personify the zombie culture. Does any one person actually “own” it though? Can you put a copyright on a type of zombie and claim it as your own? The background story, of course. If there’s a unique quality which can be proven without a doubt to be uniquely yours, I suppose you could.

I, for one, am all for the Right of Creativity and Expression. I want to see my beloved characters explored in new ways when it does not harm the integrity or reputation of the original. Call it my inner Geek-dom, or call it my rebel nature. Whatever  you call it, I know I’m not the only person who has sat down and analyzed a movie and the creature’s plausibility. (Can a zombie really run after being dead for 30 days? Can a werewolf really rip out of its skin and no one find the remains, then just shift back?)

We are grateful for George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” (1968) because it gave us a reason to fear the dark, but because it also made us ask, “What if?”

What if we could rise after we died? Would we be hungry for brains? Why brains? Would we attack other humans? Why not animals? Would our bodies have muscle memory of how to open doors? Would there be any brain function, and if there was, would it be enough to shamble…let alone run?

There are Voodoo Zombies, there are Fungus Zombies, there are Virus Zombies, there are medically induced zombies … while you can argue that some characters are recognizable (Jason, Ash, Freddie) … are zombies?

I mean they shouldn’t be. They’re dead! And if you want to get really nit-picky, once you’re dead, you relinquish rights to everything. Right??

Ok, Ok, not the same thing. I know this post is half-silly, half-serious, but I’m curious. As the CEO of a small, independent publishing company, I see this everyday. People never grow tired of zombies (or vampires, or werewolves, or demons, or … ). I have to admit, neither do I.

Mark Deloy came to me with an idea last year. I wanted to do a fun anthology so he asked, “How about Monsters Vs Zombies?” and my heart swelled with love. Man, this was a great idea! I couldn’t wait! When we put out the “open call” for our anthology, Monsters Vs Zombies I ended up with more than I bargained for. I wasn’t the only one who loved the idea.

We had hundreds of submissions. That’s not so unusual you might say. I normally would agree, except I must remind you…we are a small, independent publishing company and we had been “alive” for less than a year! There were so many good stories I could not refuse all of them. I decided I would have to do two volumes. That’s when the idea came to us. We would make it an annual anthology! So many monsters, so many zombies. This could go on, and on, and still remain fun!

None of this would be possible if the word, or concept of “zombie” fell under protection of Copyright Laws.

Now, I’m an author, and I’m a creator. I do understand the importance of such laws. But I also understand-as humans-we are storytellers. We write what we know. There are no ‘new’ stories to be told, my friends. Only new angles and plots. It’s a dangerous road, for sure. I, for one, try as hard as I can to be original but I cannot help but pay homage to my heroes and inspirations.

When I wrote The Unfleshed: Tale of the Autopsic Bride I knew that it was similar to the story of Bride of Frankenstein but it was my own version. I changed enough of it to – hopefully – never be accused of “stealing” or “offending” its creator … The creator who made the movie as a follow up to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Universal may own the rights to the green, box-head-and-bolts appearance of the Frankenstein Monster, but Mary Shelley is the only person who owns the words who inspired the look.

Chime in! What are your thoughts?

Female Horror Writers (Women in Horror)


Every year in February we celebrate “Women in Horror” and the question comes up about whether there is sexism in the horror genre. In interviews, I get asked if I feel it is harder for women in horror than it is for men. Today, I’d like to discuss this and give my thoughts, and I’d like to hear from you guys.

In order to understand the gravity of this topic, we have to do some digging. I wanted to research “Female Best Selling Horror Writers” so I might have some back pocket information on which to speak.

On Ranker’s list of “The All Time Greatest Horror Writers” (it wasn’t even all female because the search engine couldn’t pull up such a specific request), there were 100 authors. Of these 100 authors, a quick count were approximately 10 female authors. Something struck me while I stared at the list, though. It wasn’t the small number of female authors. It was the fact that in the top ranks, the female authors who were named were authors who had lived – and died – a long time ago.

Our beloved Mary Shelley, for example, who paved the way for women to not only write horror but to write intelligent, well-thought out, science fiction. Which, I might add, wasn’t too far off from real science (organ transplants save lives every day).

Of course Anne Rice is on the list, and is still writing to this day, but to this list I say … “Really? Is there no other female author who is deserving of the Best Seller title?”

There are a few other things which need addressing as well. Horror isn’t for everyone. Let’s face it. Someone women don’t want to write horror. (Gasp! I know, right? It’s crazy!) This genre is hard. Not harder than other genres in complexity, but harder because the world is already hard, and there are enough scary things going on. Why would anyone want to write about these horrible atrocities on a daily basis?

To them, I would say this …

Love is hard, too. Romance isn’t always about googly eyes, saving a silly girl from her stupid mistakes, and making her feel all warm and fuzzy. It isn’t always about lost loves finding one another again. Sometimes it’s about growing apart and learning to hold on while the winds of chaos try to pull you apart. Sometimes it’s about letting go because you’re in an unhealthy relationship. It’s not always a rush of butterflies, but years of friendship and respect. It’s not full of sex, fluffed up into rapturous orgasms wrapped up in pretty lace lingerie. Love is difficult, quiet, stormy, steadfast, fleeting, stupid, and painful. And you never read that in a romance novel.

And don’t get me started on any 50 Shade of whatever because I’m sure there were plenty of 911 calls, ER visits, Walgreen’s late night runs for salves, and bandages and rise in divorce for women (and men) who thought, “Oh this sounds so hot!”

Life is hard. Life is scary. It’s real and it sucks sometimes. Horror is psychological, and it exorcises demons living in the scars of reality for a lot of us. Some can face it, some can’t. There is no right or wrong genre to write in. Do it because you want to, and you’re doing it for the right reason. When you can’t do it anymore, stop.

With all that said, many women don’t have the stomach for horror and that’s OK. The concerning fact, as I mentioned, is the number of women who make the Best Seller List. Being an Indie Author, I don’t have grandiose expectations of turning into a Best Seller without hard work and years of putting my nose to the grind. Looking at the odds, though, I can’t help but feel a sense of doom-and-gloom when it feels I have better chances of winning the lottery than seeing the fruits of my labor paying off.

I put a lot of time and effort into helping other authors, both male and female, and it would seem unjust to watch these efforts fade into the background. Many women end up settling for the role of “editor” or “agent” because getting recognition for their written works is next to impossible.

I’m sorry but I can’t go down like that. I may be a starving artist until the day I die, but I refuse to give up because I know this is something I love to do. Who knows? Maybe after I’m long gone, my works will finally get the recognition I feel it deserves.

The truth is, there is sexism everywhere. It’s just another fact of life. I don’t feel it is holding female authors down. It’s a simple matter of statistics. There are so many male authors who write horror and of those authors, a fraction of them will make it. Of the females who write horror, only a fraction of those will make it. Take into consideration the natural order of networking, cliques, friendships, etc. Guys will bond, they will chat, go have beers, and maybe collaborate. John Doe will introduce Bob Doe to his friend Jack Doe, and so on. When you start introducing females it can be a little intimidating, especially if there are wives involved! (Note: Sorry, but it’s true. Wives are very territorial, as are men. Especially when their significant other is always on a computer, taking time away from family to pursue a dream.)

I know this article is getting long-winded but if you’re still with me, you understand this isn’t an easy answer. There is a solution, though. If you have read a book by a female author, whether it is an Indie Author or not, spread the word. Lend the book, Tweet about it, give them a shout, and most importantly … leave a review. Reviews are the reader’s way of telling the people who publish authors what you, the reader, want to read. Otherwise, it will be decided for you (and believe me it has been, years in advance).

Let me know what you think about this subject in the comments below!