On Wednesday we were honoured to bring you the cover reveal for the Uk edition of Andy Davidson's The Boatman's Daughter, today we bring you an extract from this highkly anticipated novel
THE BOATMAN'S DAUGHTER, EXTRACT
Cook hunkered at the bottom of the ramp, let his fingers play in the slow-moving Texas water. Downstream, just beyond where the river became Arkansas, a train traversed a trestle bridge, tearing through the last lingering rag of night. He could almost read the graffiti on the boxcars. The sound of it put him in mind of an old song, something about a baby in a suitcase, thrown from a train, the woman who raised it. In forty-nine years of life, Cook had never ridden a train, and the woman who had raised him was long dead. He scratched his beard. Put his fingers back in the moving water, liked the feel of it flowing on, the river indifferent to his presence. The world needed nothing of him to keep on spinning.
He checked his watch: 5:12 a.m.
The train had been gone only a few minutes when he heard, downriver, the Crabtree girl’s boat.
He trudged back up the short ramp, over corrugated and broken concrete, to where his Shovelhead was parked. The road leading into the clearing was old gravel, long disused and grown over with Bahia grass. On a patch of ground where the grass was worn were the long-ashed bones of a fire. The woods beyond the clearing dark yet, the only light a blue mercury-vapor lamp shining at the edge of the trees. Cook took two longnecks from his saddlebag and popped each with a bottle opener on his key chain. Down the ramp, he saw her, rounding the bend in her Alumacraft, the trestle long and dark above. Cook lifted a hand, and she raised her own. She pointed at the old flat barge tethered along the bank, just up from the ramp. He walked down to it, through shin-high weeds, toes of his boots getting damp with dew.
The barge had been there as long as Cook could remember, rotting but never sinking. Parts strewn across the deck as if the vessel were mid-repairs when abandoned: a rusted inboard engine, gaskets, water pump and solenoid, all beyond good use.
The girl tied the Alumacraft to a starboard cleat.
Cook waited, holding the beers in one hand behind his back, as if they were flowers.
She bent to pick up her blue Igloo cooler and was about to board the barge when she saw his hand, hidden. She tensed. He held out the beers, waggled the bottles. She gave him a look and set her Igloo onto the barge and came aboard.
They sat cross-legged against the wheelhouse with its busted windows and graffitied walls, drinking, listening to the slow current of the Prosper, the distant whir of Whitman Dam four miles upriver. Beyond the dam the lake, and beyond the lake a hundred more miles of greenish brown water running south from northeast Texas like a scar on the land, cut eons ago when fossils were fish and the whole of the country was a Jurassic sea where great behemoths swam. Now, birdsong in the maples and oaks and beeches, the day coming alive.
Cook stole glances at the girl in the graying light. Her profile was sharp and long, like the rest of her, scattershot freckles across nose and cheeks, a few acne scars like slash marks across her chin. Her jaw was hard and set. Dark hair pulled back, tidy but unwashed. Her eyes a murky graygreen. She had cut things out of herself to survive on the river, as a man cuts free a hook barbed deep in his flesh. There were words for what she did not lack: grit, mettle. What it took to carve up an animal, to cut through bone and strip skin and scoop viscera with bare hands, to wipe away sweat and leave behind a streak of blood. She did not lack these things.
She’d see it coming, surely. The end.
Perhaps already had.
Ever since her father was killed when she was just a child, Miranda Crabtree has kept her head down and her eyes up, ferrying contraband for a mad preacher and his declining band of followers to make ends meet and to protect an old witch and a secret child from harm.
But dark forces are at work in the bayou, both human and supernatural, conspiring to disrupt the rhythms of Miranda’s peculiar and precarious life. And when the preacher makes an unthinkable demand, it sets Miranda on a desperate, dangerous path, forcing her to consider what she is willing to sacrifice to keep her loved ones safe.
With the heady mythmaking of Neil Gaiman and the heartrending pacing of Joe Hill, Andy Davidson spins a thrilling tale of love and duty, of loss and discovery. The Boatman's Daughter is a gorgeous, horrifying novel, a journey into the dark corners of human nature, drawing our worst fears and temptations out into the light.
Sean Deville fell into the world of apocalyptic fiction with his first zombie novel, "Cobra Z" which was book 1 in his Necropolis trilogy (Cobra Z, The Contained, Necropolis - published by Severed Press). He followed this up with the stand-alone horror novel "The Defiled" which is a dark end of the world tale of horror and suspense. With "The Spread" (first book in the Lazarus Chronicles), Deville gives you everything you need for your zombie, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic yearnings.
He is presently writing a seven book series about the Antichrist and the End Times. Book 1 is out now titles “The First Seal.”
All he ever wanted to do was to bring the dark into the light.
THE FIRST HORROR BOOK I REMEMBER READING
Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. I think I was about 13 and for some reason it was in the school library, along with Clive Barkers Books of Blood. I doubt you would find such literary classics available for under 16 these days. A different time, and in some ways a better, more innocent time.
By today’s standards, Salem’s Lot is pretty tame, but it was good to see a classic genre transformed to the then modern time. The scariest part of that book was actually the film adaptation where the vampire is sat in the rocking chair. “teacher, look at me teacher,” Lol.
THE FIRST HORROR FILM I REMEMBER WATCHING
The film that jumps out at me is one that has infected a lot of my work, especially the more recent series I’m writing. “The Devil Rides Out” is one of those films you can actually watch over again which I find quiet rare for the horror genre. The only other horror films I can think of that drop into that watch again niche are “The Thing”, “Resident Evil”, “The Medusa Touch” and “Dawn of the Dead.”
TDRO actually got me into writing at a young age (I based one of my characters on Christopher Lee).
THE GREATEST HORROR BOOK OF ALL TIME
Wow, easy question. Not! It’s going to have to be a Stephen King novel and I’m going to say “Needful things”. Most of the horror there is created in and by the minds and the actions of the characters. As we all know, the most horrifying monster in any work of fiction is actually mankind ;)
THE GREATEST HORROR FILM OF ALL TIME
It has to be Alien. You instantly connect with the characters who generally don’t do stupid things and just act like human beings trapped in an impossible situation. It’s just a shame what they did to the franchise after “Aliens”.
It’s one of the earliest films where you see what you think is the main character killed off early in the film. That’s a message that, in a realm of horror, it’s really not a wise move to try and play the hero. Any good zombie aficionado knows it’s always beneficial to have an alpha male jock character who can be sacrificed at the earliest opportunity.
THE GREATEST WRITER OF ALL TIME
Charles Bukowski. Not horror, but nobody could get to the heart of the human condition like him. The few novels he wrote will never be classed as classics, but his poetry blows everyone else out of the water.
THE BEST BOOK COVER OF ALL TIME
I really have no idea. It’s always confused me why covers are deemed so important considering novels aren’t a visual form of entertainment.
THE BEST FILM POSTER OF ALL TIME
Gladiator. Everything you need to know about the film is in that poster.
THE BEST BOOK I HAVE WRITTEN
I think “The Spread” is the one I’m the happiest with. I’m not sure why I started writing zombies, but this one also has the benefit of a secret government intelligence organisation to back it up. What better force to fight off the zombie menace.
THE WORST BOOK I HAVE WRITTEN
It was a piece of trash I wrote at university called “Almost Human”. I apologise to anyone who read it.
THE MOST UNDERRATED FILM OF ALL TIME
Dredd 3D. It’s rare a comic or book character is properly portrayed in a film, but Karl Urban cracks it. It’s just a shame they chose the villain they did. If they had gone with the Dark Judges, man that would have been epic.
THE MOST UNDERRATED BOOK OF ALL TIME
It’s not actually a fiction book. It’s a book by Richard Bandler called Persuasion Engineering. I challenge anyone to read that book and not be compelled to make positive changes to their life. It’s one of the only books I’ve ever read more than once.
THE MOST UNDERRATED AUTHOR OF ALL TIME
Gregory Benford. His book Timescape was another one form my youth that I remember. Most of the books I’ve read go in one eye and out the other, but some linger with you.
THE BOOK THAT SACRED ME THE MOST
“The Death of Grass”. Was forced to read that at school. It’s basically a world where all grass dies and we see humanity descend into savages. Why the hell I was given that to read, along with “1984” and “Lord of the Flies” of all things. No wonder I’m so screwed up in the head lol.
THE BOOK I AM WORKING ON NEXT
The Fourth Seal, book 4 in my Apocalypse prophecies series. Basically this is where everybody starts dying. Book one can be found here
If you could survive the coming apocalypse, would you envy the dead?
Giles Horn is a man of wealth, power and unspeakable destiny.
The sole owner of one of the world’s largest corporations, he controls the economic fate of whole countries.
Horn is also a sociopath, a megalomaniac and a man who wants to see the world burn.
For Horn is the Antichrist, the one who will bring the end of all things.
There is only one force on Earth that can oppose him.
A secret order of religious assassins known only as Inquisitors
Lilith was just a child when she was inducted into the ranks of the Inquisition.
Trained to kill without mercy, Lilith has dedicated her life to slaughtering the demonic hordes that have invaded Earth for centuries.
She is as ruthless as she is relentless, and yet, despite her efforts, the demon threat grows with every passing day.
For the balance has shifted and Lilith is about to discover that the apocalypse, the final and desperate battle for humanity, has begun.
"The First Seal" is book 1 of a 7 book apocalyptic horror series recounting the final days of human civilisation.
Born in Canada of Scottish extraction, Kelly Evans graduated in History and English from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. After graduation she moved to the UK where she worked in the financial sector. While in London Kelly continued her studies in history, focusing on Medieval History.
Kelly now lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband Max and two rescue cats. Her books include The Confessor’s Wife, The Northern Queen, The Mortecarni, and Revelation, all set in Medieval Europe, and her recent children’s ghost novel The Drums of Dundurn. When not writing Kelly enjoys reading, playing medieval recorder, and watching really bad old horror and sci-fi movies, preferably with popcorn. A lot of popcorn.
THE FIRST HORROR BOOK I REMEMBER READING
Steven King’s Skeleton Crew. I was around 8 and at summer camp. That was it, I was hooked. After that I pretty much ONLY read horror. My mum caught me reading her copy of The Exorcist when I was 10, she took it off me and put it on a higher shelf. I dragged a chair over when she wasn’t around and snuck it out. Horror will not be denied!
THE FIRST HORROR FILM I REMEMBER WATCHING
I don’t know if it’s considered ‘horror’, but I had to be taken out of the cinema during The Towering Inferno. That movie terrified me. Other than that, a local tv station had a Sunday afternoon show called ‘Sci-Fi Theatre’, which showed all the classic old horror, as well as all the Godzillas etc. I used to watch it every week, often with my father.
THE GREATEST HORROR BOOK OF ALL TIME
Oh wow, the greatest? That’s so hard!! I’d have to say The Exorcist. It brings to life a very creepy incident and throws the idea that ‘this might happen to YOUR family’ at the reader.
THE GREATEST HORROR FILM OF ALL TIME
There are just too many to choose one. Like Pringles. I’d have to say, once again, The Exorcist makes the top 10. Also Jaws. SO many people were terrified of getting in the ocean after that film was released! There are too many different sub-genres, it’s impossible to pick a greatest.
THE GREATEST WRITER OF ALL TIME
I’m a huge fan of Chaucer but I’m guessing that’s not what you’re asking! Steven King really IS the king of horror. I also love Shirley Jackson and Mary Shelley.
THE BEST BOOK COVER OF ALL TIME
Oh wow, these are hard! The original cover for Salem’s Lot was amazing and there are so many stunning children’s horror novel covers that are stunning.
THE BEST FILM POSTER OFF ALL TIME
Star Wars Episode 3. Just SO iconic.
THE BEST BOOK / FILM I HAVE WRITTEN
I think my latest, The Strange Tale of Miss Victoria Frank. The idea and the words just came together so well on that one.
THE WORST BOOK / FILM I HAVE WRITTEN
My very first novel, How the Great Fire of London was REALLY Started, about a guy who goes to heaven, takes one of their ‘tours’ of times past (dressed as a penguin – long story) and ends up accidentally starting the Great Fire. It was an entire novel based on a single joke, not good!
THE MOST UNDERRATED FILM OF ALL TIME
THE MOST UNDERRATED BOOK OF ALL TIME
The Monk by Matthew Lewis, written in 1796. It’s a feast for the senses, an incredible example of the gothic genre, complete with phantoms and creepy old castles. And, allegedly, it only took Lewis 10 weeks to write.
THE MOST UNDERRATED AUTHOR OF ALL TIME
I don’t think Shirley Jackson gets as much attention as she deserves. The Haunting of Hill House is one of my favourite stories. The Lottery and Other Stories is an excellent place to start if you haven’t read any of her work.
THE BOOK / FILM THAT SACRED ME THE MOST
Despite the fact that I’m known to my friends as an undead aficionado, Return of the Living Dead (1985) scared the hell out of me. I left the cinema so fast I left my handbag behind. I have no idea why, I love zombies, I’ve even written two medieval zombie novels. Just weird.
THE BOOK / FILM I AM WORKING ON NEXT
Two projects: the third in a new middle grade ghost/mystery series I’ll be launching next month, and the next in my gothic novella series, all of which pay homage to well-known gothic novels (ie Shelley, Verne, etc).
Nikola Tesla, the visionary genius, is lecturing in New York City when he falls for Victoria, the mysterious young woman he sees night after night in the front row. The woman intrigues him; her curiosity is as great as his own, and her interest is wide-ranging.
But there’s something she’s hiding, a family secret so horrendous no one speaks of it. When Tesla finds out, he has a decision to make: listen to the inner voice warning him to stay away, or abandon his morality and help her with her own terrible science.
Far from being angels as religious dogma would have them, the celestial forces in this game are of a more Lovecraftian bent, being entities and powers from beyond our own reality, whose nature and motivations are as alien as those of the demonic hosts themselves. Part of the game lies in exploring the lost and esoteric technologies of these celestial hosts. In fact, the game's hub-world (the hilariously dubbed Fortress of Doom) is an example of precisely that.
Plains of flayed, fused and mutilated bodies, structures of interwoven, living forms screamng their agonies and despairs to burning skies, hordes of deformed and mutilated abominations intent on evisceration.
Hardly what one might consider the stuff of light-hearted, frenetic action gameplay, but that's precisely what Doom: Eternal provides:
Beneath its beautifully realised aesthetics -which draw on inspirations as diverse as renaissance art, biblical images, Dante's Divine Comedy and even comic books- beats the frantic and energised heart of an infernal puppy. Despite involving subject matter that might seem inherently horrific and despairing -from the eschatology of Heaven and Hell to the concept of a metaphysical apocalypse that has split the Earth and much of reality apart-, Doom: Eternal rarely, rarely makes the mistake of taking itself seriously:
It understands its own comic-book nature, the cartoon-horror that has sustained it so beautifully since the game's wholesale reimagining in 2016.
If anything, the recent sequel takes that quality to its exposed and demonically-infested heart, acknowledging it as a core factor of the original game's appeal amd ramping it up by a factor of 11.
On a technical level, the game isn't much different from Doom: 2016. Barring a few technical tweaks, additions and enhancements, the base mechanics are near-identical (essentialist “first person” controls). Where the game differs markedly is in how it frames and applies those technical elements: whereas before, the onus was largely on environmental power ups and artefacts, here, effort has been made to severely limit what is available to the Doom Slayer, meaning that the player has to rely on a certain synergy regarding their equipment in order to win through the unrelenting hordes of demons they will face from the first instance:
As before, enemies can be weakened until they are rendered vulnerable to “glory kills;” hilariously over the top and exaggerated animations in which the Doom Slayer puts his well-established penchant for brutality to work (expect geysers of gore, absurd excesses of violence and mutilation). This earns the player health which is much more scarce as a pick up in this game. Meanwhile, the chainsaw has become the de facto form of ammunition harvesting; enemies cleaved in two by the deliciously buzzing, roaring blade will scatter more than enough to fill most of your weapons to capacity. Later, additions such as the arm-mounted flame-thrower allow for the harvesting of armour shards, whilst a powered-up punch not only destroys several enemies at once but also expands the repertoir of consumables produced.
Everything, everything, everything in Doom: Eternal has been designed to focus the player squarely on the action: whereas before, they might have spent time scouting the various combat arenas for health or ammmunition, here, such is not only unnecessary, it's a habit that must be unlearned in order to make any headway: the thick of the fighting is where attention should be concentrated, leaving the environments to be gawped at in sincere awe at their horrific majesty and excremental splendour after every last hell-spawn has been reduced to chunky kibbles.
Game-play wise, the game is even more frenetic and fast-paced than before, as well as far more ambitious: following the same structure of interlinked combat-arenas and environmental puzzle solving suites as the previous instalment, Doom:Eternal not only boasts more variety in terms of setting but also adds depths and dimensions that were previously less significant. Here, the player must be as aware of the vertical plain as the horizontal; aerial manoeuvering becomes essential to survival very early, as does learning how to quickly cycle through various weaponry and their alt-firing modes in conjunction with tertiary tools in order to create the most effective symergies. Each environment introduces new features to learn and assimilate, from matter that restricts movement to electrified or toxic floors, to flowing streams of lava, elements that enhance or oblige creative use of jumping mechanics etc.
The jumping mechanics are of particular note; most first person games suffer massively on a technical level in this regard, whereas Doom: Eternal has not only refined their implementation, it has emphasised and exaggerated them to hilarious degrees: a significant portion of the game involves ascending to new heights or traversing pits of fire, lava or empty abysses, using whatever means the player might have acquired. Far from being frustrating or oblique, these segments provide welcome -and often bouyant- contrast from the combat arenas, all of which have been designed to emphasise differing challenges and techniques.
Technically, the game is a marvel, its rawly addictive feedback cultivated by a refined system that does away with much of the complexity evolved within first-person shooting mechanics over the last two decades. In their place, it incorporates a level of easy and intuitive refinement; the game requires little in the way of instruction, the elegance of its design leading the player to intuit its controls on the fly, in the heat of the action. Rhythm is all important here; at its very best, the game flows with a mellifluous, musical quality that feels almost automatic, despite how hair-raising and fraught it becomes shortly after its opening sequences.
It is a game that rewards consistency and unbroken concentration, that the player can lose themselves to in an almost hypnotic manner.
So, gameplay wise, a truly superb experience: fast, light and frenetic, with a heart-pumping soundtrack, absurdly tangible feedback and an overall ethos that is almost umatched amongst its ilk.
However, its qualities don't stop there:
Despite the Doom-Slayer's own unambiguous disinterest in the wider metaphysics at play (and the game's penchant for allowing the player to simply ignore any narrative or mythological elements they have no interest in), the game's story and back-mythology are surprisingly well-drawn and complex, incorporating a metaphysics that takes base-elements from previous titles and throws them together in an infernal blender. Merging science fiction dystopianism, religious lore and extra-dimensional metaphysics, the game paints the portrait of a multi-versal conflict that has been recurring through mythic cycles for untold aeons, the entities unleashed by UAC's extra-dimensional experiments, the Hell-plains that have begun to infest and corrupt so much of reality, merely parts of a much wider and more complex situation than any previous games have dared delve into.
For example, here we have, arguably for the first time, a notion of the divine in Doom as well as the infernal; there are angelic factors here, though they are portrayed in a notably -and amusingly-secular fashion:
Far from being angels as religious dogma would have them, the celestial forces in this game are of a more Lovecraftian bent, being entities and powers from beyond our own reality, whose nature and motivations are as alien as those of the demonic hosts themselves. Part of the game lies in exploring the lost and esoteric technologies of these celestial hosts. In fact, the game's hub-world (the hilariously dubbed Fortress of Doom) is an example of precisely that. Whilst players can largely ignore the back story if they so wish, the game takes the bold choice of throwing the player into the remnants of these celestial realms, providing an aesthetic departure from what has gone before that some fans of the series might find jarring, but which also varies the tone and palette of the game immeasurably.
Enormous amounts of time and effort have been spent in realising these environments, even though the game is often so fast-paced and frenetic, most players will notice barely a fraction of them. Much of the game's ethos and a great deal of its narrative derives from environmental factors, especially in Hell, which is perhaps one of the most beautiful, garish and overt depictions of that condition there has ever been in video games.
Whereas the celestial realms tend towards the blue, white and grey; to angularity and clean-cut lines married with the ornament and elaboration of churches and temples, Hell, by contrast, is chaotic, filthy and hideously organic: through the crumbling rock and impossible edifices, crawling organic matter grows like a fungus, various eyes, mouths, tendrils and extrusions spreading across the hellscape, uniting everything as a single, monstrous and abominable anatomy. Vistas of broken rock and shattered, demonic cities provide the resting places for titanic demons and angelic engines that have fallen together and become fused into the very landscape. Impossible towers and spires rise in the distance, partially shattered or infested with vandal flesh yet still somehow coherent, somehow whole. All the while, scarlet lightning and beams of infernal radiance spear down from a tempestious sky, unholy runes and markings endlessly revolving, elaborating, forming portals through which winged hell-things flock.
It is a painterly and beautiful rendering of the condition that has clearly consumed the passions of myriad artists and designers, all of whom have brought their own concepts and inspirations to the finished article.
Part of the sincere joy of the game, once the action has drawn to a halt, is to simply wander and take in the truly incredible vistas, the arenas that have been crafted with such loving care and intent to simultaneously impress and appall.
Interestingly, Hell is far more impressive in this regard than the celestial realms, which have a tendency to be far colder and uniform by nature.
In between the two are the terrestrial environments; Earth having become a post-apocalyptic wasteland in the wake of the demonic invasion, which, the player learns, has partially been implemented deliberately by factions within the galaxy-spanning UAC that abide by the philosophies and agendas of Olivia Pearce, whom fans of the series will recognise as the prior game's antagonist.
As such, the game maintains a subtle anti-corporate message throughout: whilst hardly profound or barely commented upon, there are one or two wry stabs at the innate nihilism of corporatism and the manner in which it reduces humanity to cattle or, worse, merely a resource to be used and expended. Many of these satires are environmental in nature, holograms which cheerfully urge the remaining human populations to surrender to their infernal masters and revel in the agonies that are to be theirs for all time. Others derive from the myriad documents and communiques the player can either find or receive throughout, all of which serve to expand the back mythology and make the game a richer, more holistic experience.
But what about the demons?; As well as the familiar rogue's gallery -all of whom have been extensively redesigned and expanded in terms of their variety-, the game boasts what is perhaps the most ambitious expansion of the Doom franchise's iconic repertoire since the latter stages of Doom 2, with cybernetically enhanced and upgraded renditions of classic monstrosities as well as entirely new foes, all of whom boast their own unique modes of attack and backgrounds, requiring the player to learn quickly in order to survive their onslaughts. Perhaps the most intriguing elements in this regard are the celestial and divine foes that also set themselves against the Doom-Slayer; enemies that provide as much contrast in their aesthetics and battelfield roles as the differing settings do environmentally.
Another factor that players may find a stark removal from the previous instalments in the franchise is the sheer number of unique encounters; the game is littered with “boss” level foes, many of which are specific characters within the lore, all of whom are unique and require the learning and mastery of new mechanics in order to best.
Playing this game alongside certain denser, deeper titles (e.g. Pathologic 2) serves as a sharp and refreshing palate cleanser; a light and easy-going experience that emphasises action and spectacle above all else.
As for its ostensibly horrific subject matter (Hell, damnation, apocalypse, genocide, dystopia), whilst the aesthetics and settings of the game might lead the player to assume a certain dourness and morbidity of tone, nothing could be further from the truth; the game is a floaty, breezy, delightfully absurd romp through a world without any particular weight or significance, but that carries the same superficial charge as an action comic book or brainless B-movie spectacular.
A welcome and wonderful addition to the Doom franchise, and one that is joyous in its earnest desire to to make the player smile like a well-fed cacodemon.
The summer after director Wes Craven’s reinvigoration of the horror genre, Scream, came out, I was serial killer level obsessed. I watched it every single day and can still quote parts of it word for word. It sparked in me an interest in not only that particular horror movie, but the ones that it referenced and the others that quickly followed suit after its success.
But what was it about that one film that hooked me more than say the fisherman in I Know What You Did Last Summer or the man outside the couple’s parked car in Urban Legend? Sure, I loved those too, but Scream always remained my standout favorite, and now as a writer, its obvious influence in my work clues me in as to why. I’m going to use my debut thriller, Hollow Stars, to show the correlations.
First, Scream taught me the power of humor in the horror genre. Nail biting suspense and laugh out loud comedy don’t have to be mutually exclusive. When done right, the two pair together as well as a nice Chianti and fava beans. A well-timed joke can diffuse tension, it can make the story more well-rounded, and it can humanize the characters and make you more invested in their fate. No one wanted Randy and his comic relief to die in the first Scream or the second, because it added dimension to the terrifying reality Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson created. When writing Hollow Stars, the quips and jokes naturally wove themselves into the pages because it felt right to have those highs in with the lows, just like Scream.
Second, Scream taught me everybody’s a suspect. The first time I saw Scream, I remember jumping back and forth between who the killer might be. In the slasher movies that came before it in the 70s and 80s, it was clear who the killer walking slowly behind the victim was. Michael Meyers, Freddie, Leather Face—you weren’t wondering who was behind the mask or disfigurement. In Scream, it could have been any one of the characters, and I loved that mystery. I emulated that in Hollow Stars and took it a step further. The villain in the story could be any of the characters, including the protagonist, who is mentally unstable and unsure if it’s her fault or someone else’s she was committed to a psychiatric hospital. I have Scream to thank for that whodunnit angle.
And finally, Scream taught me the beauty and satisfaction of a twist ending. By now, I hope you’ve seen this movie, but if you haven’t, spoiler warning. After Billy showed his true colors and Stew came out as the second killer—holy hell! That was unexpected. It was surprising in the moment, but also left me thinking long after the heroin was saved and the credits rolled. When you go into a film or novel expecting one thing, but get another, you reanalyze all the details and clues leading up to the climax in a new light. Maybe that’s why I re-watched it so many times. I had guessed one killer in the movie, but not the other. It was satisfying to have figured out part of the mystery but still have been shocked by another. Without giving too much away, let’s just say that’s what I tried to achieve in Hollow Stars.
So, I want to thank Scream for being the film that made me into the horror fan and suspense writer that I am. Ghostface will always be iconic and, maybe one day, I can write a character or story that will be too. In the meantime, I’ll let its influence spur my creativity and find satisfaction in the fact that I can confidently answer the question “what’s your favorite scary movie?”
Lauryn Dyan is a marketing professional by day, an author and music magazine writer by evening, and a black-eyeliner-wearing-jumping-bean that loves to sing her lungs out at concerts by night. When not busy with her husband or triplets—yes, triplets—she is continually working on, or at least thinking about, her next great story that will keep you guessing. You can find out more about her on her website www.lauryndyan.com or by following her on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter at @lauryndyan.
Amazon author page: amazon.com/author/lauryndyan
Goodreads author page: www.goodreads.com/lauryndyan
hollow stars by lauryn dyan
As lead singer of popular, emerging rock band, Tracing Stars, Kennedy has the swagger of a badass, or at least she used to. While caught up in the booze, passion, and chaos of her first major rock tour, her dreams are erased by a string of ever-worsening blackouts. Now the instability of her mind has landed her in a psychiatric hospital. Despite being convinced one of her tour mates sabotaged her, she lacks any evidence. Trapped in the asylum, she alternates between the past and the present determined to recover her lost memories so she can return to her band before she’s just a footnote in their rise to fame.
2020 was the year that horror tropes got real as pandemic spread across the world. Nevertheless, now more than ever we need an escape from reality, and this list of the best new horror books is sure to whisk you away into an exciting and chilling world, where haunted houses, zombies and creepy mysteries come alive.
Bent Heavens By Daniel Kraus
NY Times bestselling author Daniel Kraus takes on the dark side of human nature in his latest young adult Novel Bent Heavens. This creepy book finds a way to get under your skin as you follow Liv Fleming’s search for her missing father who disappeared shortly after making claims about alien abduction. Equal parts horrifying and compelling, this book is genre-defying and utterly chilling.
The Only Good Indians By Stephen Graham Jones
Stephen Graham Jones boldly tackles the troubled waters of cultural identity in his latest horror masterpiece. The story traces the journey of four young American Indian men whose lives are indelibly marked by the choices of their young. Ray Torres, book blogger at Next coursework and Brit Student describes The Only Good Indians as “a gripping story about revenge and the risks of leaving cultural traditions behind - horror cut with questions of identity, primed to be a bestseller in 2020.”
The Return By Rachel Harrison
Rachel Harrison’s spine-chilling offer for 2020 begins with the mysterious return of Elise, two years after she disappeared hiking, wearing the same outfit she vanished in with claims of a lost memory. A spooky enough beginning, but when the action transposes to a remote inn where three college friends are meeting Elise for a reunion, things get worse. In this eerie setting it begins to be clear everything is not as it seems, and Elise seems changed forever. The Return is a total page turner as the truth begins to unfold.
The Haunting Of Ashburn House By Darcy Coates
That’s right, it’s a haunted house, that all-time spooky totem. Darcy Coates doesn’t break any new ground with her take on the genre, rather creating a perfectly creepy tale that gives a knowing nod to all the clichés. The plot follows Adrienne, who moves into the ramshackle old place after inheriting it from an aunt. She soon finds herself haunted by the portraits on the wall with eyes that seem to follow her around the room, and questions surround the mysterious grave in the back garden.
Mexican Gothic By Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Mexico’s long tradition of the Gothic is taken up by Moreno-Garcia in this fiercely chilling gothic thriller set in 1950s Mexico. Our heroine Noemi is the recipient of a disturbing letter from her newlywed cousin. As she’s drawn to the remote mansion where the couple reside, Noemi begins to uncover the secrets of the rich family’s past. Populated by a rich cast of characters and fantastically placed in the 1950s period, Mexican Gothic is an unforgettable read.
Girls Save The World In This One By Ash Parsons
Ash Parson’s light-hearted take on the zombie genre creates a brilliantly readable young adult comedy-horror. With a sidelong glance at the fourth wall, the book follows June and her two best friends, Imani and Siggy, as they attend ZombieCon. Their ambitions of meeting the heartthrob stars of their favourite zombie shows are soon abandoned in favour of simple survival as the zombie apocalypse they’ve spent so much time imagining unfolds before their very eyes. This enjoyable comedy shows the strength of girl power and friendship against the odds.
Malorie by Josh Malerman
The author of Bird Box became a cultural sensation in 2018 when Netflix adapted it into a gripping movie starring Sandra Bullock. Now with Malorie Josh Malerman returns to the Bird Box universe with a gripping sequel. The novel follows Malorie, mother of two, who has perfected the art of hiding from the “creatures” in the chilling world Malerman created in Bird Box. However, when a census-taker hints at the possibility of a refuge, Malorie takes the risk of setting out on a journey across the dangerous lands, with her children in tow. Gilberto Penning, writer at Writemyx and 1Day2write, describes how “Malerman’s world-building is back in full effect as he sends Malorie on a terrifying journey across the wilderness. This thrilling, chilling tale is the equal of Bird Box and sure to be another sensation.”
There you have it - the perfect reading list for spooky summer nights!
Vanessa Kearney is a writer and editor at Phdkingdom.com and Write my coursework. She is a passionate reader and loves getting lost in a good book. More of her writing can be found at Originwritings.com blog.