Prince of Nightmares – John McNee

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The Ballador House is set in the remote reaches of Scotland and it has some very unique characteristics. Anyone that stays there is guaranteed to have nightmares. This guarantee has transformed the Ballador House into a must-stay destination for some very unusual clientele that happen to be into that kind of thing. Not the kind of people that the elderly multi-millionaire, Victor Taversham, would be seen associating with. But that all changed after his wife, Josephine, booked a stay there right before she went into the bathroom and blew her brains out. A distraught Victor is desperately seeking for answers on why his wife decided to take her life and why would the last thing that she was to ever do be reserving a room at this bazaar inn if she didn’t plan on ever going? So Victor decides to keep the reservation to see if he can discover any clues to his wife’s mysterious suicide. As promised, the Ballador House delivers the nightmares and they pack a punch. Can Victor sort out what is real and what is dream so that he can find out what the connection the house has with Josephine? Or does the house have plans for Victor?

Prince of Nightmares is a wonderful, surreal marriage of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, The Shining, and Thirteen Ghosts. While it shares shades of color from these three tales, it ends up standing on its own two feet and delivers on its own merit. Many times you’ll wonder if what you’re reading is a dream or is it real. McNee makes you pay attention similar to the way Barker’s stories do and, like Barker, brings out the red stuff in the final act. A description of a mutilation that includes the breaking of bones to twist a body into a pretzel will linger in your subconscious long after you finish the story. I enjoyed the slow burn while trying to discover what was really going on. McNee has a good writing style that flows well. The characters, while colorful, did have a tendency to not be fully fleshed out and I would’ve liked to have learned more of the backstory. That’s the only thing that made me give it a 4 1/2 instead of a 5. Still a very worthwhile tale that is worth the price of admission.

4 1/2 surreal nightmares out of 5
This ARC was supplied by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Desolation – Kristopher Rufty

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Grant Marlowe changed Dennis’s life forever that fateful night when he drunkenly got behind the wheel and killed his pregnant wife and child. Grant’s big-shot lawyer friends got him off easy. Too easy for Dennis and he can’t get over the pain and suffering of losing his family. In fact, while Grant is getting out of prison less than a year later, Dennis has been slowly losing his mind from the grief. Grant needs to be made to suffer all of the torment that Dennis has had to endure and when Grant decides to take his family up to the family cabin in the mountains for Christmas, Dennis decides it’s time for Grant to pay for his sins.

Desolation doesn’t break any new ground. It’s a classic get-them-alone-and-enact-your-revenge slasher story. There really aren’t many surprises along the way, but that doesn’t make this an entertaining read. Rufty handles the material with skill and crafts out a nice story. A few of the scenes are a little too convenient for my taste. Some key characters are spared due to happenings that would defy Vegas-type odds and made my eyes roll. The other thing that kept popping up was all of the grammatical errors. It was so many that it made you wondered if the book was ever edited at all. I hope that the fact that my copy was an Advanced Review Copy means that they did one more final edit before they sent it to the printers. All in all, a decent slasher story worth the read.

3 1/2 disemboweled family members out of 5
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Interview With Hunter Shea

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Lets get the vitals out of the way –

Name: Hunter Shea
DOB: Most likely before you were born.
Birthplace: In a town adjacent to the Boogie Down Bronx
City of Residence: Asgard
Marital Status: Happily
Children: 2 wonderful girls
Pets: 2 very different cats

Into The Macabre: When did you first start writing?

Hunter: I did my fair share of bad songs, poetry and short stories in my teens. I didn’t get serious about the craft of writing until the mid-90s. It took a lot of bad writing before I was willing to show my stories to anyone other than my wife.

Into The Macabre: What drew you to horror? What/Who were your inspirations?

Hunter: I grew up on horror. Because I showed that movies didn’t scare me, as a kid I got to watch all of the Universal monster movies, Chiller Theatre and scores of horror flicks at the local drive-in (Lord, I miss that) and a movie theater two blocks away. I thank my father for letting me see things most kids would run from!

Into The Macabre: Describe the process it took for you to become published.

Hunter: My overnight success took about 15 years. J I started with short stories, then worked my way to a dreadful vampire novella that is thankfully lost forever. After a couple of years, I started submitting stories to all these horror sites popping up on this crazy internet invention. Once they got accepted, I had to confidence to write a novel. Of all things, my first was a romantic comedy. It was all practice so I could build my skills to write a horror novel. I was a huge fan of Leisure’s horror line, so when I wrote my first horror book, they and the editor, Don D’Auria, were my one and only goal. From query letter to acceptance, it took over 3 years. I was just about ready to give up. So glad I didn’t. But I’m proof that you can rise from the slush pile.

Into The Macabre: Don D’Auria’s name pops up more than any other editor when I interview writers by a huge margin. What was your working relationship with Don like? Do you still work with him?

Hunter: Working with Don was literally a dream come true. He’s not just an editor. He’s a devoted fan of the horror genre, which means he knows what works and what doesn’t. The man has sparked the careers of some of the best and brightest authors in horror today. He’s no longer with Samhain, so we’re not working together at the moment. But I consider him a true friend and hope we can team up once again in the future.

Into The Macabre: If you could turn back the hands of time and go back, what about the publishing process would you do differently?

Hunter: I’d tell myself to be more confident and concentrate on horror earlier and submit to everywhere in the world. It would be nice to have gotten a head start on that part of my career. Like Burgess Meredith in that Twilight Zone episode, I just want more time!

Into The Macabre: I love that episode! Were you writing in other genres before you decided to concentrate on horror?

Hunter: I’ve written comedy, children’s books, scifi and a bit of mystery in the past. Over the past few years it’s been all horror, all the time. But I do have plans for branching out into other genres in the very near future.

Into The Macabre: They say its not about what you know but who you know. Would you agree with this statement? Who helped you along the way and what did they do?

Hunter: Honestly, I had zero help. I was inspired to write by my friend, Norm Hendricks. But when it came to learning the craft and the business, I did that by reading books in the genre and trade magazines. I didn’t have an agent or anyone that I knew in the business. I just read, wrote and worked my ass off.

Into The Macabre: What would you say are the biggest challenges you face today as a writer?

Hunter: Finding time to not only write but also get into the nitty gritty of promoting my books. Writing is the easy part. The real work comes with marketing, looking for new publishers you want to work with, meetings with editors and agents, setting up blog and book tours, etc. But I love it all.

Into The Macabre: Writing really is a business, isn’t it?

Hunter: Absolutely. And I think that’s the biggest shock for anyone who finally gets that first book published. You have to wear many hats if you want to succeed. Now, success can be defined many different ways. For me, it’s simply having an audience who wants to read the madness that spills from my brain.

Into The Macabre: What role has social media played in your successes?

Hunter: Look, there’s no magic pill when it comes to social media, despite the scores of books that proclaim to have one. I know a lot of writers who look at it as either a necessary evil or something to be avoided, like silver to a werewolf. There’s also a worry of devoting too much time to social media and neglecting the most important thing – writing good books. As a writer, you have to find some avenues to make your voice heard. Find the two or three that work best for you and you’re comfortable with. I personally have a good time with it. And I don’t just talk about myself. That would be boring as hell. If all you do is self-promote, readers will run from you in droves. But I do have a blog, video podcast called Monster Men, and I’m on Facebook and Twitter. On all of them, I get to talk about my favorite subject – horror – and the people and places that interest me.

Into The Macabre: I agree. Goodreads is full of carnival barker authors that only hawk their stuff at every turn and don’t participate in any of the discussions. On the flip side, I’ve met some great authors that are true horror fans first and enjoy being a part of the horror community. Those are the ones that I personally, and I think many other horror fans as well, gravitate towards. Jonathan Janz and Glenn Rolfe immediately come to mind. Do you do conventions? If so, what are your thoughts about them?

Hunter: Janz and Rolfe are Goodreads masters! I need to imitate them and get more involved there. I do a convention or two a year – as an author. I go to others like Chiller Theatre as an attendee. As a nutso horror addict, I’ve been going to conventions for a long, long time. Being there as a guest is always a lot of fun. I try to have a damn good time and hopefully sell some books in the process. People who come visit me have been known to leave with a cocktail or two. It’s all about connecting with people, which is hard to do in a room, tapping away on your laptop. I’ll definitely be at Scares That Care in VA this summer. I’d love to go to Horrorhound but it’s a little far for me.

Into The Macabre: My first exposure to your work was through recommendations on Goodreads. What would you say is your level of interaction through fans on GR and other sites?

Hunter: I have to admit, I’m not very proficient with Goodreads. I find the forums and conversations threads really confusing. I think it’s a wonderful site because it’s filled with readers, like myself. I always have giveaways on Goodreads and I’m trying my hand at my first ad for They Rise. If anyone wants to reach out to me there, feel free. I promise I’ll answer.

Into The Macabre: I recently read Tortures of the Damned and was impressed with the character development in that one. Can you tell me how that story came about?

Hunter: I live in the city it’s set in, and like most people around me, 9/11 changed my perspective on everything, especially when it comes to living right next to a major terror target. The three explosions that happen in the opening chapter actually happened over the holidays one year. It scared the heck out of my family. The news said it was industrial grade fireworks. No one believes them. That was the seed that grew into Tortures of the Damned.

Into The Macabre: Which one of your stories are you most proud of?

Hunter: That’s like asking me who my favorite child is! If push comes to shove, I guess it would have to be The Montauk Monster. It was my first mass paperback book and I felt a ton of pressure to get it right. My father suddenly passed away when I started it, so the fact that I was able to get it done at all is a major accomplishment. In a way, it was therapeutic. I just wish he’d been alive to read it. I know he would have loved it.

Into The Macabre: So what is the Monster Men video podcast and how can fans check it out?

Hunter: My partner in crime, Jack Campisi, and just talk about anything horror. It’s like listening to two guys at the bar at a horror convention. We discuss movies and books, monsters and mythical beasts. Over the last 2 years, we’ve added interviews with authors, directors and cryptozoologists. It’s a total blast. We’re coming up on our 100th episode. Wow. It’s weird seeing it in writing like that.

Into The Macabre: I’ve found that many writers have a routine that they like to follow when writing. Give me a breakdown of your day and how you create the next Hunter Shea masterpiece.

Hunter: Masterpiece? You flatterer. When I’m working on a book, I like to write every day. I have a day job, so I come home, chill for a bit, have dinner, then go in my lair to write for an hour or so. On weekends, I write for 2-3 hours a day. By sticking to that schedule, I can usually get a first draft done in 3 months.

Into The Macabre: Do you have that one place in the house that is the only place you can effectively write or can you take a laptop anywhere you go and write wherever? What’s your writing environment like? Absolute quiet? Music? Background noise?

Hunter: I’ve learned to write anywhere and everywhere. I have a perfect setup in my house, but I’ll also write in the kitchen, in bed, the back yard, even my car. I tend to stick with the ‘hot hand’ and write where the story flows best. If I have music, it has to be soundtracks. Lyrics get in my head and mess with me. There can be total chaos around me, but when I’m in the zone, I can shut it all out. Having kids trained me to block out the white noise. 

Into The Macabre: Do you have a notepad by the bed for those middle of the night inspirations? Has that ever happened to you where you had to get up and start concocting a story from those 3am dreams?

Hunter: I always have something close by. When I’m in the middle of a book, I also carry around a voice recorder. It’s very helpful when I’m in the car, which is where I seem to get most of my revelations.

Into The Macabre: Did read right that you’ve busted out 10 stories in the last 4 years? That’s an amazing pace! Is writing now your full-time profession?

Hunter: I wish! No, I’ve just watched less and less TV so I have more time to scribble. I’m not gunning to be a full time writer. If it happens, awesome. If not, I’ll keep working and feeding the family…and cats.

Into The Macabre: Sohow did you get into cryptozoology? What’s something you’ve learned in the field that would shock the hell out of your readers?

Hunter: Ever since I saw the Bigfoot episode of In Search Of, I’ve been a cryptid nut. That led to an obsession with the Loch Ness Monster and has just taken off from there. I just wish there was more concrete proof that some of these animals exist so we can get them out of the realm of the unexplained or paranormal. I think anyone who follows cryptozoology feels that if any creatures will be truly found, they will most likely come from the sea. We don’t know one-tenth of what’s really down there.

Into The Macabre: As a landlubber myself, I find the sea to be an amazing place. Do you sail or scuba dive? What’s your interaction with the sea?

Hunter: I’ve never sailed or went scuba diving, but I love being on the water. I fished a lot when I was a kid with my grandfather, great uncle and their friend. In fact, they’re the older gentlemen in the first chapter of They Rise. If I could convince my wife to live on a houseboat, I’d be there in a flash.

Into The Macabre: Stephen King has the spooky house in Bangor surrounded by the wrought iron fence with gargoyles on it. Do you have anything crazy at your house that makes your neighbors clutch their children when they see you coming?

Hunter: Not outside, but inside, I have my horror collectibles all over the place, from signed autographs with Elvira and Julie Adams (from The Creature from the Black Lagoon) to skulls, gargoyles, cryptid figures, not to mention tons of books and movies. You definitely know you’re in the home of a horror writer, and most importantly, fan.

Into The Macabre: What are you reading these days?

Hunter: I just finished Ash by Jason Brant. He always knocks it out of the park. I’m on a bit of a Jeff Strand kick, devouring Kumquat and Benjamin’s Parasite. I’m settling into Longmire novel and am about to finish Robert Bloch’s Psycho trilogy. Oh, and I finally finished Crime and Punishment. On to Huck Finn next.

Into The Macabre: Your Top 5 horror movies?

Hunter: That’s a tough one. This could change depending on my mood. LOL Here we go – 1. Alien 2. Halloween 3. It Follows 4. The Haunting 5. Creature from the Black Lagoon

Into The Macabre: They Rise is your upcoming release here in January.. How did that story come about?

Hunter: Severed Press approached me to see if I was interested in writing a sea monster tale. My editor Gary saw that I’m monster crazy, so it was a perfect fit. I looked at their titles and decided I had to make my sea monsters different than what was already out there. So, in came the chimaera fish, also known as ghost sharks. It was great working with Gary and Severed. We really collaborated on the story, amping up the finale which was just insane. I hope people like it and harken back to the good old days of creature features on the drive in screen.

Into The Macabre: I found that one to be a blast to read. Obviously, many people are going to compare any terror in the seas story to Jaws, but I found myself numerous times being reminded of the Kevin Bacon movie Tremors. What has been the early response to it, so far?

Hunter: Thank you so much. Critical and reader response has been amazing. I love that there are so many other monster lovers out there! I now can’t wait to write my next sea monster novel for Severed. And the comparison to Tremors is pretty spot on. I must have been channeling my inner Kevin Bacon when I wrote it.

Into The Macabre: What can us fans expect coming down the pike in 2016 and beyond?

Hunter: I have two more releases this year : I Kill in Peace, a novella with Samhain, and The Jersey Devil with Pinnacle books. Those books are polar opposites of one another, so I’m giving folks a little bit of everything this year. I’m working on the concept for a follow up novel with Severed Press and a very intense work for a publisher to be named later. It’ll be my most mainstream work to date, and if I do it right, it’ll scare the hell out of people. If you all want to be in the know, stop on over to my blog and chain at http://www.huntershea.com and sign up for my Dark Hunter newsletter while you’re there. You’ll get all the news first AND I have lots of giveaways.

Into The Macabre: I really appreciate you letting me grill you for my blog and look forward to chatting with you in the future. Take care, my friend.
Some call them ghost sharks, the oldest and strangest looking creatures in the sea. Marine biologist Brad Whitley has studied chimaera fish all his life. He thought he knew everything about them. He was wrong.

Warming ocean temperatures free legions of prehistoric chimaera fish from their methane ice suspended animation. Now, in a corner of the Bermuda Triangle, the ocean waters run red.

The 400 million year old massive killing machines know no mercy, destroying everything in their path. It will take Whitley, his climatologist ex-wife and the entire US Navy to stop them in the bloodiest battle ever seen on the high seas.

Biography, Hunter Shea

Hunter Shea is the product of a childhood weaned on The Night Stalker, The Twilight Zone and In Search Of. He doesn’t just write about the paranormal – he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself.

Publishers Weekly named The Montauk Monster one of the best reads of the summer in 2014, and his follow up novel, Hell Hole, was named best horror novel of the year on several prestigious horror sites. Cemetery Dance had this to say about his apocalyptic thriller, Tortures of the Damned – “A terrifying read that left me wanting more. I absolutely devoured this book!”

Hunter is an amateur cryptozoologist, having written wild, fictional tales about Bigfoot, The Montauk Monster, The Dover Demon and many new creatures to come. Copies of his books, The Montauk Monster and The Dover Demon, are currently on display in the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, ME.

He wrote his first novel with the express desire to work only with editor Don D’Auria at Dorchester (Leisure Horror). He submitted his novel to Don and only Don, unagented, placed on the slush pile. He is proof that dedicated writers can be rescued from no man’s land. He now works with Don, along with several other agents and publishers, having published over ten books in just four years.

Hunter is proud to be be one half of the Monster Men video podcast, along with his partner in crime, Jack Campisi. It is one of the most watched horror video podcasts in the world. Monster Men is a light-hearted approach to dark subjects. Hunter and Jack explore real life hauntings, monsters, movies, books and everything under the horror sun. They often interview authors, crytid and ghost hunters, directors and anyone else living in the horror lane.

Living with his wonderful family and two cats, he’s happy to be close enough to New York City to get Gray’s Papaya hot dogs when the craving hits. His daughters have also gotten the horror bug, assisting him with research, story ideas and illustrations that can be seen in magazines such as Dark Dossier.

You can follow his travails at http://www.huntershea.com, sign-up for his newsletter, or follow in on Facebook and Twitter.

Praise for Hunter Shea

“This wholly enthralling hulk of a summer beach read is redolent of sunscreen and nostalgia, recalling mass market horror tales of yore by John Saul, Dean Koontz, and Peter Benchley.” — Publishers Weekly — Voted one of the best reads of summer, on The Montauk Monster

“Bloody good read! This guy knows his monsters!”- Eric S Brown, author of Bigfoot War and Boggy Creek: The Legend is True, on Swamp Monster Massacre

“Hunter Shea is a great writer, highly entertaining, and definitely in the upper echelon in the current horror scene. Many other writers mention either loving his work and/or having the man influence their own, and for just cause. His writing suits anyone with a taste for the dark and terrifying!” –Zakk at The Eyes of Madness/The Mouth of Madness Podcast

Purchase They Rise

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Unseemly – Jason Parent

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The novella, Unseemly, is my first read from author, Jason Parent. For a guy who hails from New England, Jason does a really nice job at painting a vivid and realistic picture of a secluded. island off of the northern coast of Scotland. Parent summons his inner Lovecraft as he introduces us to Peter, an archeologist who is trying to reform his checkered and seedy ways that he previously used to make his living. When he receives a call from his unscrupulous and former partner, Dervish, requesting his presence on another money-making, and probably highly illegal adventure, Peter is pulled back into the life that he’s been trying to escape. His ex-wife bled him dry in a very messy divorce and the bill collectors were hot on his heels. What choice did he have? Upon arriving at the remote Scottish island of Dungarradh, he discovers an island that appears to be very prosperous, yet doesn’t seem to have any means of industry or commerce that would support their seemingly lavish economy. At the local pub, Peter meets with Dervish and his cohorts to discuss the plan. What he learns is that Dervish’s son is missing and that they’re there to follow up on a lead of the origins of the legend of faeries. Peter thinks that they’re crazy, but soon learns that all legends have to start from some grain of truth. And he’ll soon wish that this was all only just a legend.

Parent does a nice job melding a nice atmospheric tale that harkens the Hammer film days with a Lovecraftian horror that seems to make the impossible possible. Unseemly is a quick read that will leave you wanting to discover Parent’s back catalog.

4 Faeries by the Sea out of 5

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The Long Walk – Stephen King

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The Long Walk is a re-read for me that I picked back up for Book #7 of the Stephen King Challenge. It is also one of the original stories that King wrote as Richard Bachman. I found it funny in the prologue section entitled The Importance of Being Bachman, King writes that he used his secret alias for when he felt that he had a really dark story that needed to come out. Let me get this straight. King has stories inside him that are too dark and horrible to put his name on them? Wow! This I’ve got to read again.

The story reads like a combination of the inspiration of the Hunger Games and Survivor meets the Bataan Death March and a parody of the draft for the Vietnam War. It is also the first novel that King ever wrote, predating Carrie by eight years.

Ray Garrity and 98 other late-teens entrants, in the Long Walk, begin the contest in the northern tip of Presque Isle, Maine. The purpose of the The Long Walk or why anyone would want to do it is not clearly explained. As the story unfolds, we learn that the Walkers have to maintain 4 mph, stay on the road, and cannot interfere with the other Walkers progress. If any of these rules are violated, the Walker gets a warning. After 3 warnings, they are shot and killed by one of the soldiers that are shadowing them on the side of the road in a half-track. As the hours and miles pass into days and nights of hundreds of miles, we learn about the Walkers and their stories. Meanwhile, Walkers are dropping as the miles on the road unwind. How far can they push their bodies through fatigue, weather, injury, and the unraveling of the mind?

While it may not sound like much of a premise, King tells an absolutely terrific tale. The characters are fantastically described and fleshed out. We feel their pain, their anxiety, their fears. The dread and fatigue ratchet up to dizzying levels and I feel that the ending is near perfect, as is the story. Highly recommended.

5 Blistered and Swollen Feet out of 5
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Zero Lives Remaining – Adam Cesare

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It’s 1989 and Robby is working at the Funcave arcade making pizzas. Some may not think very much of Robby’s job, but he loves working there and takes it very seriously. Then, one day, a freak accident pulls Robby into the pizza oven and just like that, no more Robby. Even though his body isn’t there, as the years pass, Robby is still around, passing through the electrical circuits of the video games, the wiring, and the machines. Turn the calendar to 2014. Tiffany is now the video game wizard and her favorite game that she has mastered is Ms Pac-Man. It seems so effortless for her as if she gets help from the machine once in a while. Then, one day, she is harassed by a sleezy guy named Chris. Tiffany doesn’t like Chris much…and neither does Robby.

Zero Lives Remaining brings back a chunk of my childhood – the Saturday afternoon draining of quarter after quarter in those classic standup arcade games – and melds a tidy little horror story with it. Cesare uses a bit of Wes Craven’s Shocker along with grabby doses of ectoplasm, ala Ghostbusters to go along with a world of sights and sounds that those of us who grew up in the 80s know quite well. The storytelling is crisp to go with the memorable characters and unforgettable, over-the-top kills. Good stuff.

4 killer Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Sues out of 5

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