Author Archives: Eric Ian Steele

About Eric Ian Steele

Screenwriter, author, comic book and film aficionado, and zombie poet.

Guest post: William Meikle and The Ghost Club

A guest post today, from William Meikle, whose new book “The Ghost Club” promises to be a rip-roaring attempt to recreate the voices of classic Victorian writers like Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson and Oscar Wilde!

Finding the voice

By William Meikle 

In my new collection THE GHOST CLUB I’ve undertaken the task of writing a collection of supernatural stories as told in the voices of famous Victorian writers like Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, Oscar Wilde and many others. It’s probably the most ambitious piece of work I’ve ever attempted.

The Victorian bit was the easiest. I grew up on Wells and Verne, Doyle and Stevenson, and that slightly formal, slightly clipped tone is one that I’ve practised many times in my own Holmes stories over the past few years, and it’s a voice I fall into quite naturally given all my reading from the period. Because of that, I found the Doyle and Wells stories to be the ones where I felt most at home when it came to the writing. The Doyle one went fastest, not surprisingly, even although I chose Lestrade rather than the dynamic duo, and it was helped in that I had a location I was familiar with, along the London Embankment around Cleopatra’s Needle. The Wells came as soon as I chose the subject; an early scientific experiment in color theory and vibrational mechanics gone wrong. Once again I had found my way in quite easily.

The Stevenson was more problematic, but as a fellow Scot I got into his particular more relaxed voice by finding the right character, a sick Scots boy in need of a story, and as soon as I had that, RLS took over the reins and led the way.

Those were the first three stories I wrote, and I thought I was into the flow of it and knew how the rest would proceed. Then the trouble started.

I had a little list of all the writers I wanted to be part of the club, and didn’t want to do all the ones I thought might be easier first, so I decided, being in the zone, to go for Tolstoy. I warmed up by reading War and Peace and realized I’d forgotten about the endless descriptive passages of balls and parties, officers and gentlemen and the doings of trade and traders. As for my story, all I knew at the start was that it would be a ghost story, and take place during one of the Empress’ balls. So I started, describing the Empress, the ballroom, the kitchens, the courtiers and I got so bogged down that fifteen pages in I hadn’t even started to tell the story. I had found Tolstoy’s style, but not a voice I could use to get in and out of it quickly enough to avoid an epic. I was starting to think I had bitten off more than I could chew, but then I was helped out by a compatriot from the past, and a voice I knew well. A Scotsman, several Scotsmen, turned up and began to tell their story of the ball, seen from a different viewpoint, and suddenly, all the description and finery were put in their proper context, and a story wove its way through all the Russian magnificence. Not many of the original fifteen pages survived, but enough did that I think I caught the mood I wanted to. But by then, I’d spent enough time with Tolstoy’s way with a sentence and needed something lighter.

My next stop was Twain, a different fellow entirely, far more abrupt, far more sarcastic and with nary a hint of sentimentality. But I found he was just the right chap to rescue me from the labyrinthine Russian court, and I was swept along in a tale of gambling, treachery and revenge on a riverboat that flowed so smoothly I was almost sorry to see it go.

Haggard and Kipling came quite easily, more of the semi-formal, clipped tones I mentioned earlier but with each chap’s peculiar flourishes and tics.

Then came Helena Blavatsky. I’ve long been fascinated by her writings on Theosophy, but when it came to writing a story in her style, I found her rather intimidating, but the story came almost the way I imagined her speaking, slightly hectoring, eager to be believed and a peculiar amalgam of history and occult fiction.

After the seriousness of the Theosophist meanderings, I cleansed the palate with something altogether lighter and frothier. Getting into Wilde’s style was the most fun I had in the writing of these stories — not the style of Dorian Gray, but more in the style of his shorter, more comic works. The voice, a playful, lilting thing in this case, came almost immediately and the story was written in a single sitting that left me with a big smile.

Margaret Oliphant’s tale became personal when I found that it was less of a voice I needed, more of a song. it’s built around the Scottish folk tune Fine Flowers in the Valley. Finding the voice for the story came as much from Downtown Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs than from fiction, but it turned out to be the right one for the tale.

Henry James was one I’d been putting off till near the end, for he’s a writer I’ve always had trouble reading due to his convoluted way with a sentence. But coincidence stepped up and helped me in this case, for I won a copy of Dan Simmons’ THE FIFTH HEART in an online competition, and in it, Henry James is so well described that I lifted the voice from his character in that book, and found that it led me straight into a tale of a haunted chess set that once again almost wrote itself.

I was nearly done. Checkov was easy for me; I understand drinkers, and railwaymen, and drinking railwaymen. I also, living as I do in Newfoundland, understand cold winters. Once I had those aspects, and paired them with some Russian fatalism, that tale too flew by in a single sitting.

I’d left two till last. Stoker because I knew what I wanted to write right from the start, and Verne, because I had no idea how to approach it. I went with Stoker first, and a wee ghost story. Here the voice was simple, for I wanted it to read like a trial run for Dracula, i.e. a story told in epistolary fashion. It’s a tale of old friends, of loss and sorrow, and it’s the saddest thing I think I’ve ever written, but it’s also full of Irish sentimentality, and Stoker’s rather brusque voice led me through to the end.

And so, I was left with Verne, and little idea how to proceed. In the end, I went with Harryhausen-style effects, and thought of it as a ’50s movie rather than a Victorian story, and that allowed me to indulge my passion for improbable rocketry, derring do, and a very French approach to scientific enquiry. In the end, I might not quite have got Verne’s dispassionate scientific voice into the tale, but it feels right to me, and it’s the closest I was going to get.

And there it was, all done.

It’s a simple premise.

In Victorian London, a select group of writers, led by Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker and Henry James held an informal dining club, the price of entry to which was the telling of a story by each invited guest.

These are their stories, containing tales of revenant loved ones, lost cities, weird science, spectral appearances and mysteries in the fog of the old city, all told by some of the foremost writers of the day. In here you’ll find Verne and Wells, Tolstoy and Checkov, Stevenson and Oliphant, Kipling, Twain, Haggard, Wilde and Blavatsky alongside their hosts.

Come, join us for dinner and a story.

Read a sample and buy the book here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077SWFLZM

THE GHOST CLUB MEMBERS AND THEIR STORIES

Robert Louis Stevenson Wee Davie Makes a Friend
Rudyard Kipling The High Bungalow
Leo Tolstoy The Immortal Memory
Bram Stoker The House of the Dead
Mark Twain Once a Jackass
Herbert George Wells Farside
Margaret Oliphant To the Manor Born
Oscar Wilde The Angry Ghost
Henry Rider Haggard The Black Ziggurat
Helena P Blavatsky Born of Ether
Henry James The Scrimshaw Set
Anton Checkov At the Molenzki Junction
Jules Verne To the Moon and Beyond
Arthur Conan Doyle The Curious Affair on the Embankment

Available on 8th December 2017 in paperback and ebook from Crystal Lake Publishing.

‘In the past, we’ve had the Diogenes Club, the ‘Club of the Damned’, and even Peter Straub’s ‘Chowder Society.’ Now we have THE GHOST CLUB by William Meikle. And it is, quite simply, a delight. Not only has the author displayed his knowledge of and love for the writers of yesteryear, but in creating ‘The Ghost Club’ our host has produced his own collection of unknown and previously unpublished short stories ‘by’ Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, Leo Tolstoy, Bram Stoker, Mark Twain, H. G.Wells, Margaret Oliphant, Oscar Wilde, H. Rider Haggard, Helena P Blavatsky, Henry James, Anton Chekhov, Jules Verne and Arthur Conan Doyle. I say ‘unknown’, when I mean – of course – that all the stories are written by Mr Meikle in the style of the aforementioned authors; and the entire experience of reading this collection is like sitting with him in an old fashioned study, with a roaring fire, guttering shadows and a snifter or two of brandy as he unfolds his ‘Ghost Club’ tales. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.’ – Stephen Laws, author of GHOST TRAIN, SPECTRE and DARKFALL

 

Available from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077SWFLZM

 

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Author interview – Chukwunonso Ezeiyoke

Today it’s my proud privilege to introduce author Chukwunonso Ezeiyoke. A Nigerian-born writer, he is one of a wave of Afrofuturist writers who have recently been taking the world by storm. Afrofuturism has been defined as “a cultural, aesthetic, philosophy of science and philosophy and history that…  addresses themes and concerns of the African diaspora”.  Writers of these stories typically use magic realism, fantasy, supernatural and science fiction to achieve their aims, and share a highly distinctive prose style that is both fresh and engagingly non-Western. 

Chukwunonso’s first story collection, “The Haunted Grave”  is in print from Parallel Universe Publications and contains eight stories with themes such as the real origins of the AIDS virus, a man who is possessed by himself,  and a particularly nasty family curse passed on through sexual activity. The stories are original and totally believable, told with a matter-of-factness that makes them all the more chilling.  Even stranger is that Chukwunonso is such a very nice guy to meet, with a highly infectious laugh. Not the kind of person you would immediately think capable of writing such grisly fiction!

 

ES: First of all, please tell our readers a little about yourself and what you write.

CE: I am Peter Chukwunonso Ezeiyoke. Although I only write with Chukwunonso and then my surname Ezeiyoke. From day one, I tended to avoid using my name Peter in my writing. I see my writing coming from an intimate place and Peter for an unknown reason failed to capture this essence. Perhaps because Peter is for officialdom.  The name used in school, at work and other serious places. Nonso, an abbreviated version of Chukwunonso was the in-house name left for close friends and family. In a way, the name Peter got alienated from this intimate fondness I associated with writing. I write all sorts of things: fiction and non-fiction. In non-fiction, I love literary criticism especially if approached from the angle of the Philosophy of Literature. I fell in love with literary theories after reading Language and Habit of Thought by A. Akwanya. The book blew me off my feet. I also enjoyed Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Poetics. And then Kant and then Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy. ES: And what are your preferred genres as a writer?

CE: Horror and fantasy. Science fictions as long as it doesn’t focus so much in the science but rather on the emotions of the characters. I really love writing horror.  I love a slow burner. The beginning of my stories often sound realistic/literary until the demon comes to party.

ES: What is your favourite childhood book?

CE: I can’t really say one book, but I think that The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola was fascinating, mythical and hilarious. The Bottled Leopard by Chukwuemeka Ike stayed with me long after I finished reading it. Then Cyprian Ekwensi’s An African Night’s Entertainment.  Chike and River by Chinua Achebe was our childhood national anthem so was Eze Goes to School by Onuora Nzekwu. I bet that everybody that grew up in Nigeria around the time I was born must have read them.

ES: How long were you a part-time writer before your became a full-time one?

CE: I can’t call myself a full time writer even now. Writing is yet to pay my bills. But I often see myself as a committed writer in the sense that I take it seriously and tend to create time for it. I haven’t been that committed to writing like the way I am now. It is something I began newly. I started to write when I was like eleven or twelve, but then I had a yearning stronger than writing: to become a catholic priest. This consumed my life until I was like 21 when I started having a vocational crisis because of some existential questions. Then writing became my only solace to escape reality. Finally, in 2014, I made up my mind that I wouldn’t become a priest after about 15 years in the seminary. It was at this point that I became a committed writer because I realised that there was nothing else in life that fascinates me like writing. I started being a serious writer by doing my MA in Creative Writing.

ES: That’s fascinating, and I suppose it shows just how important writing can be to people. Thank you for sharing that story. What has been your hardest scene to write to date?

CE: A rape scene that I wrote as part of my MA in radio drama.

ES: And what was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

CE: Hahaha… I went to a bar with a friend. Then we ate fresh fish pepper soup with some chilled drink.

ES: Good answer! I like to include animals in my own stories from time to time. As a writer, what animal would you choose to be your spirit animal?

CE: A tiger

ES: Very cool! And now what are your writing habits? Any good ones?

CE: I am good at breaking any habit I formed.

ES: And how many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

CE: I think I end up with one every month.

ES: Wow. It sounds like you are very prolific. That is very inspiring. When you have had a work published, do you read your reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

CE: I read them. I like feedback, no matter what. It tells me that at least people read what I write. Obscurity I think is the worst thing to happen to a writer rather than neglect reviews.

ES: That is a very philosophical attitude to take. I wish I could be like that!  Well, thank you very much for taking part in this interview, and I for one really look forward to reading your next book!

 

If you haven’t read it yet, Chukwunonso’s collection of stories “The Haunted Grave” is available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle. I thoroughly recommend it as a superb work of fiction. If you want an introduction to the wonderful world of Afrofuturism, or if you just want a really good collection of modern horror stories, I suggest you pick up a copy, as he is certainly an author to watch! 

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep Vol. 5

Very pleased to announce that my short story “Hunter’s Moon” is now available in the above anthology of horror tales from Solstice Publishing… just in time for Halloween!

So if you like spooky stories, head on over to Amazon and grab yourself an e- copy. Though I’m not telling what my story might be about!

From the publishers:

Halloween is the time for trick or treating. A day when ghosts, goblins, witches, and other ghoulish creatures walk the streets looking for treats. It’s also the time for our scare you right out of your wits anthology, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Vol. 5

Chock full of stories guaranteed to make you shiver in fear and make sure the lights are on, you will enjoy these tales from a group of extremely talented authors.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B076ZSV13S

CONTENTS

“When the train comes, it all starts again.”

Sometimes bloody, habitually dark, always original.

On the Eve of All Hollows, anything is possible.

Live your life to the fullest

A devil’s playground

Something stalks the City of Angels.

Magic can take many forms.

Sometimes, the dead tell tales.

Demon meets sci-fi convention

After midnight, everything changes

Tales scary enough to have you watching your every move. Ten incredibly talented authors contributed to this feast of terror: Michael Gormley, David W. Thompson, Howard Gleichenhaus, A.A. Schenna, Jeffery Martin Botzenhart, Eric Ian Steele, Ken Newman, Jill Van Den Eng, Cyn Ley, and Jack Legg.

Along for the ride this year is Eerie Waters by K.C. Sprayberry, a tale that will have you shaking in your boots. Norse Gods, Hnicker, and a couple of teens are along for this supernatural ride that will add to your spooky holiday fun.

Author Interview with Cyn Ley

Yours truly had a busy old time of it this week, what with Fantasycon 2017 in Peterborough, UK. More on that later, but for now, I’d like to share this interview with bestselling author Cyn Ley. Cyn has published books in the horror, paranormal and humour fields! So without further ado, here’s Cyn…

ES: Welcome to the blog, Cyn. First of all, can you tell our readers a little about yourself? 

CL: Yes.. I’m both a bestselling author and a top-ranked editor, and have been with Solstice Publishing since 2014. They gave me my start and I love working with them. I write short stories mainly, although I recently branched out into novellas. Short stories fascinate me because they have to be so carefully crafted. Always up for a challenge! It’s where I do my best writing, I think. I write rather eclectically—paranormal, social satire, humor, horror. Basically whatever pops into my head and turns itself into a story… There’s not much I’m not interested in.

ES: Paranormal and social satire! Sounds fascinating. What was your last book about?

CL: My last book was THE OSSUARY PLAYGROUND AND OTHER UNEXPECTED TALES. It is a collection of three paranormal stories plus one that’s a bit of a surprise. It’s received excellent reviews so far. My latest short story, “Plot Twist”, will be appearing in Solstice’s annual October fright fest anthology, NOW I LAY ME DOWN TO SLEEP (October 2017).

ES: Cool. So are your books standalone stories or are they part of a bigger overall plan?

CL: They’re standalone collections. I currently have two books on the market: THE OSSUARY PLAYGROUND, and ENCOUNTERS: TALES RECOUNTED AND REBORN. ENCOUNTERS is a collection of stories previously published between 2014 -2016. A number of these early tales have been revamped, but just as many stand in their original form

ES: As a writer myself, I’m always keen to know authors’ writing habits. What is your own approach to writing, and how many hours a day do you write?

CL: Tough question. I’m an intuitive writer, so most of the time stories just unfold for me. I’ll sketch out quick little notes and use them as touch point, but I’m not religious about it. What seems like a good idea initially may not be when you get to the actual writing. Some days I don’t write at all. Other days—or nights, I should say—the Muse wakes me up at 3am and orders me to write.

ES: Okay, now that we know about your writing and your working day, why don’t we dig a little deeper? What is your favourite book from your childhood, and why?

CL: The unabridged Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. It has everything—action, humor, thrills, romance, and is just plain fun.

ES: I love Dumas. His works appeal on so many levels. It’s interesting that you went for historical fiction, though. Do you undertake a lot of research for stories yourself?

CL:  I don’t start with the research, but I often research as I go. This can range from [finding out about] the environment (the settings of the story), to language (how people expressed themselves in different eras, subject-specific terminology, etc.). Let the story be your guide, and pay attention to the details. Would your character have cooked in a copper pan or cast iron one? The minutia can make all the difference.

ES: Very sound advice. In fact, I recently made the mistake of failing to research a certain aspect of police procedure in Los Angeles for one of my short stories. Fortunately, I have an editor with a very keen eye!  Okay, moving on to a more spiritual plane — and this is question I ask everyone — as a writer what would you choose to be your mascot or spirit animal? 

CL: I’m way too much of a critter person to pin that down! LOL My cat and dogs are lovely, of course, but so are the crows that like to hang out on the roof.

ES: So all of them! And if you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

CL: Be brave!!!

ES: Excellent. Okay, we’re almost done. One last question: could you tell us what are you working on at the moment? 

CL: I have a couple of multi-genre things in the works right now, but it’s too early to talk about them. They’re sketches, mostly

ES: Well, all the best with them. I’m sure they’ll be very entertaining! Thanks for participating in this interview. It’s been great having you on the blog. 

CL: Thank you for having me! It’s been a pleasure!

Cyn Ley’s books are available on Amazon here  and from Solstice Publishing

Or you can get in touch with her here: 

Blog: https://authorcjl.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CynthiaLey2@cynthialey2

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Cleyfiction4/

 

 

Interview with horror writer Richard Tabaka!

Time for a change of pace, today, as I’d like to start an irregular series of interviews with new and established authors!

My first guest is horror novelist Richard Tabaka. An active member of the Horror Writer’s Association Richard’s novels include the three-book series The Pride, supernatural thriller St Augustine’s Road, and the short story collection 3:33.

 

Hi, Richard, welcome to the site. Please tell our readers a little about yourself and what you write.

I was born and raised in central Wisconsin, USA in 1960.  I’ve been a fan of horror for as long as I can remember.  As a child, I would read comic books quite a bit.  Mostly Super Heroes like Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, Superman, Spider-Man (who I liked a great deal because I often caught spiders in jars and kept them for pets), and horror comics like Eerie and Creepy and Tales From The Crypt.  Every Friday night my sister and I would watch old horror movies on a local show called 7 Cemetery Road. It was mostly old Hammer Horror movies and some American ones as well.  I always looked forward to Halloween not just for the candy, but because I got to dress up as my favorite monsters. By age ten or eleven I was reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Allan Poe.  By the time I reached my twenties Stephen King was becoming known and I read his books as fast as he could write them. Dean R. Koontz soon followed as did Robert MacCamon and F. Paul Wilson.

Okay, cool. Some strong horror influences there. MacCammon is certainly a terrific writer who doesn’t get as much recognition as he deserves. What are your preferred genres as a writer?

I write horror with a dash of dark fantasy.  I really have no urge to write in any other genre. Nothing else stirs my heart like horror.

And what is your latest book about?

My newest novel, which I hope to publish by midwinter, is a take on the shapeshifter myth and will move ancient elements into modern times.  My last novel is about psychics and demons. All my books feature strong female characters.  I don’t like the “damsel in distress” preferring a girl that fights back.

What is your favourite book in the genre in which you write?

It would be hard to pick an all-time favorite. I like to read horror with a twist on an old theme.  Ghosts, Vampires, Werewolves are all good and sometimes horror from a different source like James Herbert’s The Rats or Stephen King’s Cell.  The new series Bane County by JR Rice is a great take on an old theme as is your own novel The Autumn Man.  I also greatly enjoyed a novella I read recently called Honger by Terry M. West and the novels of Ambrose Ibsen.

Thank you. And thanks for the suggestions for further reading. My shelves are already groaning under the weight of all the books I want to read, but I guess I can slip a few more in there! Anyway, back to your own writing. What are your writing habits? Any unusual ones?

I love to write on weekend mornings or vacation days, though I do write after work sometimes too. I like it best when I can immerse myself in the process for many hours. I typically write out a long synopsis first and flesh it out into a chapter by chapter outline and from that I add more meat until I have a story and then leave it cool while I start another synopsis. I’ll return after a few weeks and tidy it up, usually two or three times.  Then, I take the plunge and publish. I know too many people that might be great authors if they ever put themselves out there and took the plunge. Too often, we as writers are our own worst critics and for me my greatest sorrow would have been to leave the earth without trying. Now, having sold books on four continents and I know now that people around the world share my dark side.

So you’re definitely a planner, or at least a plantser. Interesting. What kind of characters do you primarily write about most often? Are your protagonists mainly children, teenagers, young adults or adults?

Almost all of my books and stories deal with adults and adult themes, though I wrote a short story that borrowed heavily from my early teen years.  That story, Fat Man, has roots in real life and writing it was a very powerful experience for me.

 

What is the most difficult part of the artistic process for you?

The most difficult part of the writing process for me is making time for it.  I still work a “day job”, often 50 to 70 hrs a week.  It is a challenge to juggle writing with work, family and other hobbies and friends. Sometimes I have to force myself to write a half hour here or fifteen minutes there, but that is the only way to keep moving forward.  I know someone who once told me she wanted to write a romance novel. Twenty years later she has yet to finish it. I had the same problem until I took a calendar and marked in red ink on every Friday, seven more pages. I forced myself to stick to that schedule and in nine months I had a novel written. It would take another five years before I just made up my mind to publish it myself. I never regretted that decision.

That’s definitely a commitment to writing. Does your family support your writing career?

My wife supports me and likes to read my books, as do my mother-in-law and father-in-law.  I am also grateful to my friends and co-workers who can’t wait to see what I come up with next.

A lot of authors dream of making it big like JK Rowling or Stephen King. What does literary success look like to you?

Success means different things to different people.  For me, I’d like to see someone make one of my books into a movie. That said, I told my wife once that if I could sell enough books to make a house payment, I’d consider myself a success. By that measure I am a success many times over. I was also thrilled to be accepted as a full Member of The Horror Writer’s Association and I would love to earn a Bram Stoker Award someday. I have yet to be nominated, but I’ve had the honor of placing my votes for a few other writers. It is always good to have a dream.

And finally, as you know, my stories often feature animals in some way. After writing The Autumn Man I think I can safely say that my favourite animal is man’s best friend, the dog. What would you choose as your own mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

My personal spirit animal, and I do believe I have one, is the Bear. The Bear is a survivor and a resourceful creature and I’d like to think I am too. Like the Bear, I have a grumpy side and love a good snooze, and never miss a good meal. I think we all have a spirit animal and we should set it free from time to time and let it be our guide.

Excellent. Well, thank you Richard for giving this interview and for all your insights into the writing process. It’s been a great pleasure, and I hope you enjoy your well-deserved success!  

Richard Tabaka’s novels are available on Amazon at the links below. I hope you will check them out for a taste of classic and modern horror fiction:

The Pride www.amazon.com/Pride-richard-tabaka-ebook/dp/B00N1Z1P3C

Blood Pride www.amazon.com/Blood-Pride-Book-2-ebook/dp/B018SZ9KXQ

Pride Fight www.amazon.com/PRIDE-FIGHT-Final-Chapter-Book-ebook/dp/B01MTJG4L5

Saint Augustine’s Road www.amazon.com/Saint-Augustines-Road-Richard-Tabaka-ebook/dp/B06XHQXGKJ

Richard Tabaka website www.tabakahorror.com

Richard Tabaka Facebook Page www.facebook.com/TabakaHorror

Amazon Author’s Page  www.amazon.com/richard-tabaka/e/B00N2YSK6M

 

 

Project Nine Sci-fi anthology!

Are you ready for journeys to all sorts of different worlds? Where experimentation runs amok, or invaders run afoul of humans determined to protect their homes? Can a pill give people intelligence? Can a single entity save the galaxy?

For those who know me, the title to this blog post may constitute an inside joke, but PROJECT 9 VOLUME 4  refers to the new science-fiction anthology from Solstice Publishing. You’ll find six sci-fi tales that cover the spectrum from speculation to far off worlds!

My own story, Time Warped, concerns a cosmic superhero named The Warp, known to his friends as Gerald Stone. The Warp possesses almost godlike power. Although the people of Earth regard their protector with awe, to him they are little more than ants. But when an anomaly sweeps through the universe toward Earth, destroying everything in its path, it’s up to The Warp to stop it. Trouble is, will he want to? Especially when the power behind the anomaly is revealed to be another survivor from the doomed planet that was once his home…

The collection is available from Amazon. Here’re more from the publisher’s blurb:

Can The Warp save Earth?

Darkness has a new name

Destinies link in the In-Between

Hairy science, hybrid secrets

There are tests and then there are tests

We are survivors!

Eric Ian Steele, Rob McLachlan, Tanya Reimer, Josie Montano, Palvi Sharma, and K.C. Sprayberry bring you stories that will send shivers up and down your spine while entertaining you.

https://bookgoodies.com/a/B075MNYK64

Well, what are you waiting for? Go check it out! 🙂

IT (2017) Reviewed!

It’s been a long time coming (no pun intended), but finally cinemagoers can watch another adaptation of Stephen King’s IT!

The last time was a forgettable TV mini-series of 1990, noteworthy only for the portrayal of the menacing clown Pennywise by cult actor Tim Curry. In that adaptation the filmmakers attempted to adapt King’s massive horror novel about a group of adults slowly remembering how they battled a shape-shifting monster as kids.

The book is huge and distils all of Stephen King’s work into one story. Everything is here as King literally throws the bathroom sink at us: monsters, kids, the small town with a curse etc etc. It’s a masterpiece of horror fiction, spanning two generations with multiple time shifts. Which is perhaps why it has proven so difficult to film.

In the latest version, the action is shifted from the 1950s to 1988. The film opens with a atmospheric sequence in which young Bill’s brother Georgie encounters Pennywise in the storm drain. It’s a powerful scene, horrific and violent.  It does what some of the best horror movies do, which is make us wonder just how far is this film prepared to go?

But does IT (2017) have what it takes us thoroughly scare us? Is it destined to become another classic Stephen King adaptation in the footsteps of Brian de Palma’s Carrie, the infamous Tobe Hooper TV series ‘Salem’s Lot, or Stanley Kubrik’s The Shining?

First, the scares: yes, it is scary. Horror fans rejoice! Pennywise played by Bill Skargard is the creepiest clown imaginable. The way the character moved was downright unsettling and truly suggested something unnatural. Kudos to the filmmakers for making the worn-out trope of the killer clown scary again!

The child actors are all very believable, especially hypochondriac Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), motor-mouth Richie (Stranger Thing’s Finn Wolfhard) and girl next door Beverley  (Sophie Lillis). A very important consideration that was mostly missing from the 1990 miniseries and, in fact, many films involving children. The kids all played their parts exceedingly well.

The action is set in 1988 instead of decades earlier – presumably so that younger audiences can “relate” more. A dubious choice but it doesn’t hamper the story  much, except that some of the novel’s best moments stem from IT assuming the form of 1950s B-movie monsters. But it’s easy to overlook such things because the movie looks gorgeous. And the opening scene establishes the tone so perfectly.

The film has some amazing visuals. When Pennywise attacks it was genuinely unsettling.  There were some great original moments also, which came as a nice surprise to those of us who had read the book. In fact there were so many scares that the audience kept jumping in their seats all night, followed by nervous laughter. 

However… and this is a big however… the film falls flat in several places. These weaknesses hampered my enjoyment of the film because they were so glaring. These were mainly questions of plot logic and unbelievably stupid choices by the main characters. And it was frustrating because it could all have been put right so easily.

King’s novel is quite daring in its realistic depiction of childhood. I didn’t really get that from the movie.  We never see the kids being kids. Instead they become rather shallow characterisations of children (the motor mouth, the quiet leader, the skeptic, the hypochondriac). We get one scene of Bill’s father being annoyed after Georgie’s death. Other than that, nothing. We get one scene of Stan being put under pressure by his rabbi father. Then nothing. We get one scene of Mike’s life. We get no scenes whatsoever of Richie’s home life. Only Eddie and Bev have an arc. The filmmakers boil the kids down to their bare essence. They could have lost a few of the “montage” sequences instead and made up for this with actually meaningful moments. Instead it feels like a “paint by the numbers” approach to character.

More unforgivably, the kids have a habit of going “slowly towards” an unimaginable horror, presumably so we the audience can get a closer look, rather than turning tail and trying to escape. I found myself groaning inwardly every time someone walked slowly towards yet another life-threatening manifestation of IT. One would have thought that the filmmakers would have learned such lessons in the 1980s themselves!

The annoying thing is that all this is perfectly dealt with in the book. There were plenty of added scenes which didn’t really serve any purpose other than to provide another flashy visual. The writer and director could have used those scenes (scare as they were) to provide some more meaningful storytelling. Carrie has very few scares, but the ones that are there stick in the mind long after the film is over.

The directing style itself was a bit clumsy in places. Plot clues tended to “THUD” onto camera – sometimes literally. There were far too many “Jump scares” that weren’t really needed when the film did so well in setting up an atmosphere of terror. LOUD NOISES also proliferated (see what I did there?) and again, they were unnecessary.

As mentioned earlier, the movie is set in 1988. The problem with this time shift is that all through the movie I was asking myself: why choose 1988? The back end of the 80s had little of quality. Why not set it in 1985 or even earlier? (like Stranger Things – a series to which IT clearly owes a great deal) At least that way we could get some great 1980s soundtracks, hilarious fashions and great movie references. Instead we get a montage to… The Cure (?) and a couple of shots of a movie theatre advertising Lethal Weapon 2. Really? Why not choose some better material from a decade that had so much? It didn’t really feel like the 80s.

The film tries hard to get that Stand By Me vibe. But for me, it  lacked the innocence and playfulness of childhood. The kids ogle Beverley for a few minutes, but that’s about it. Ritchie is funny in places but his “antics” get ridiculous, like trying to steal a bandplayer’s French horn in the background of a scene. We don’t see any authentic scenes of them playing as children. For me this was a major flaw. Especially when King’s novel deals with this so well. It could easily have been rectified by adding a few little moments to existing scenes, such as the kids building a dam in the Barrens. The novel is terrific at depicting the terror of childhood. But apart from a nice scene with Eddie and his momma, there was little of this in the movie. A little more attention to the source material would have helped.

As stated there were many plot holes. I won’t elaborate on these save that two very big ones occur near the end of the movie, leaving a huge incident involving the missing children completely unresolved. Again, a little more care with the script would have helped. I’m not solely blaming the screenwriters as they are often just doing what they are told (or have the decision taken away from them altogether by the production team), but the criticism stands.

However, for all these problems, there was a lot to like in IT. The film is genuinely frightening. Special effects often delivered the scares. There were some great ones too. The opening scene, an incident involving a movie projector, and a moment involving a headless corpse were all terrific moments.

But good moments do not a great movie make. King’s novel is more than just fodder for a Friday night scare. IT is a very complex novel about childhood. This film wanted nothing more than to be a popcorn horror movie. In that the filmmakers succeeded. But IT could have been so much more! This was a shame, as with a little more work this film could easily have been a classic instead of an instant payout.

Having said all that, I did enjoy the movie a lot. The scares are so well done and there are so many of them that I could almost forgive the other mistakes. The best horror films make you feel like you’re experiencing a world out of a nightmare. In this, IT did not disappoint. The whole thing feels like a fever dream with some great, surreal imagery. It is certainly a slick, well-oiled fear machine.

So is IT a classic?

The novel deals with some difficult childhood issues (bulling, abuse, first love, isolation) which are only alluded to in the movie. Undoubtedly IT has enough genuinely scary, gruesome moments to satisfy any horror lover. But the film lacks depth and characterisation, and the filmmakers themselves generate several major plot holes. However, IT is still a very watchable horror movie.  I would say that IT is worth seeing just for the slick Hollywood effects and the many scary moments.

Still curious? Go see IT and judge for yourselves. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you…

Overall: 7/10