Bright Shining World by Josh Swiller #bookreview #YA #darkhumor #thriller

A darkly funny thriller about one boy’s attempt to unravel the mysterious phenomenon affecting students in his new town, as he finds a way to resist sinister forces and pursue hope for them all.

Wallace Cole is perpetually moving against his will. His father has some deeply important job with an energy company that he refuses to explain to Wallace who is, shall we say, suspicious. Not that his father ever listens to him. Just as Wallace is getting settled into a comfortable life in Kentucky, his father lets him know they need to immediately depart for a new job in a small town in Upstate New York which has recently been struck by an outbreak of inexplicable hysterics–an outbreak which is centered at the high school Wallace will attend.

In the new town, go from disturbing to worse: trees appear to be talking to people; a school bully, the principal, and the town police force take an instant dislike to Wallace; and the student body president is either falling for him or slipping into the enveloping darkness. Bright Shining World is a novel of resistance, of young people finding hope and courage and community in a collapsing world.

I got a strong Stanger Things vibe after reading this description, and dark humor gets me every time.

I cannot emphasize how much I adored Wallace’s voice. I couldn’t contain my laughter at his internal monologue and snarkiness, but it was also easy to sense his vulnerability behind the humor. His past is heartbreaking, and his present isn’t much better with his father moving him around the country every few months. His awkwardness at his new school is endearing, and the supporting characters are just as likable.

The strange occurrences in the town – trees talking, weird visions, the outbreak of hysterics – and how it all relates to his father’s mysterious job had me forming theories (all incorrect) for several chapters, and the way the teens come together to fight for a common cause is admirable and heroic. Then the story spirals in a direction that was difficult to understand. I have no problem suspending disbelief in books – most of the time it increases my interest – but it still has to make sense to me within the confines of the story. Throughout the last half or more of the book, I was confused about what was going on, but kept reading because I assumed a logical explanation waited at the end – which is so abrupt I felt sure pages were missing. Maybe there’s a sequel?

The first part of this book is fabulous with a comedic, endearing MC, enjoyable supporting characters, and a curious mystery, but for me, the last half was difficult to follow and the abrupt ending left me baffled. Overall, it was an entertaining novel, and maybe other readers will have a better understanding that I did.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

#BadMoonRising Raising Hell by Phillip T. Stephens #satire #darkhumor

Since today’s author was found in a pumpkin patch on the eve of Halloween, I guess today is his birthday? Harvest anniversary day? See which movie gave him night terrors for months as a ten-year-old. Welcome Phillip T. Stephens!

Has a movie or book scared you so much you couldn’t sleep?  Which one?

Absolutely. Believe it or not, Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy. I was ten, and my father, a Baptist Minister, dragged me and my sister to a high school retreat because he didn’t want to pay a babysitter. And the movie they showed that night was Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy, which I’ve seen several times since then and find the effects in the scene that scared me laughable (a bomb destroys the mummy leaving nothing but a box of bones, over in an instant). I went to sleep that night, but in the morning my father insisted I go with the high schoolers on a walk and I saw a stick rising from a creek that looked like a bone and that triggered night terrors for months. Who knows why? My father was too cheap to send me to a shrink even if he wanted to, which as a Baptist minister in 1960 he would have found the equivalent of turning over to the devil. So, I slept with a light on for several months and finally the terrors went away.

If you were in a horror movie, would you rather have a loaded gun or a car that wouldn’t break down?

If I were in a horror movie, I don’t think either one would matter. That’s how horror movies work. Bullets can’t hurt monsters, and your car always breaks down. I would choose a bus ride out of town. But then the monsters in my movie would be hive minded swarm creatures who upend the bus. I’m f$*%#d either way.

Would you rather put your hand in a box and feel something slimy or furry?

Furry, and hopefully the kitten will be alive, but we won’t know until I put my hand in there.

If you had to give up snacks or drinks during writing sessions, which would be more difficult?

I don’t snack when I write, but I’m a coffee addict. Easy choice.

Which comes first for you – plot or characters?

It can be anything, an image, a setting, a situation, a person or a scenario.

Describe your writing space.

I prefer my living room or bedroom, but wherever I have my laptop or iPad, I can write.

A clueless optimist ruins a perfectly good hell.

Pity poor Lucifer. He rules hell with a vice grip. Demons and damned scatter at the sound of his footsteps. The Supreme Butt In hasn’t pestered him in eons. Lucifer’s future looks perfect, pitch black, until an administrative error sticks him with an innocent soul—an overweight optimist who calls himself Pilgrim and who believes he must be in hell to do good. Lucifer never considers sending him back. Why waste a second chance to corrupt an innocent soul? He orders his subordinates to torture, degrade and humiliate Pilgrim until he promises to become evil if only it will ease the pain. Unfortunately, Pilgrim makes the best of the worst possible experiences. Always polite and well-mannered, he makes Pollyanna seem like a prophet of doom. Even worse, the damned start catching on, and set about making hell into the most enjoyable place of everlasting torment they can. 

Purchase Link

Raising Hell eBook

Raising Hell paperback

Author Bio

Phillip T. Stephens was found in a pumpkin patch on the eve of Halloween by two teenagers looking to make costumes out of Jack-O-Lanterns. The Jolly Green Giant was a popular character in advertising, and they wanted to create the Jolly Orange Giant and his Jolly Orange brother. Not sure what to do with the child they consulted a local Baptist minister who realized a child in a pumpkin patch on Halloween must be the AntiChrist. So, the minister and his wife adopted him and exposed him only to the Bible and Gospel records.

When he turned 18, they realized they had raised a smart ass and not the AntiChrist, so, they turned him loose on the world where he spent the rest of his life chronicling accounts of these bizarre creatures called humans for his pumpkin kin. Unfortunately, he hasn’t met any.

His art was most recently featured in Maintenant and Duende, and most recent stories appear in the Kill Switch, Monsters We Forgot and On Time horror anthologies.

Other than their association with him, his wife and son are completely normal, although pumpkin pies are never served at their house.  

Stephens is a leading proponent of Pumpkin Squash Zucchini Cantaloupe Cucumber and Gourd Rights but has been unable to garner support for the cause. You can support the movement at pszccg.org.

Social Media

Wind Eggs. My daily publication

Medium

Twitter: @stephens_pt

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#BadMoonRising: Binge Killer by Chris Bauer #thriller #darkhumor

Today’s author discusses Lon Chaney, Jr., Animal from The Muppets (a personal fav), Keith Moon, and how he’s unsure if he scarred his daughter for life more by letting her watch an alien abduction movie or sending her to school with a new haircut by a untrained stylist (himself).  Welcome Chris Bauer!

Would you rather be a vampire or a werewolf?

Always liked Lon Chaney Jr., the first film werewolf I can remember (The Wolf Man, then he reprised this role in two succeeding movies). He, and werewolves in general, suit me more because they are chaos personified, and I find them more sympathetic as characters. I suppose I’ve missed the boat about liking vampires, probably because there’s more romance and sexual tension with them that uses up story space that IMO could be better utilized with raw animal power, and their mayhem is more controlled than a werewolf’s. I suppose I prefer brute force to finesse in my writing as well as my reading. Think of Animal, Jim Henson’s wild Muppet rock drummer: absolute chaos, barely controlled. When my bad guy and gal antiheroes go bad (Randall Burton of BINGE KILLER; Larinda “Church Hammer” Jordan of JANE’S BABY, others) I want them to go berserk, and they do. I’ll throw in another drummer reference: the (very) late rocker Keith Moon of The Who, dead at 32 in 1978. He would have made a great werewolf based on his drumming style—a whirlwind of mayhem—and could well have been Jim Henson’s model for Animal. Just listen to Moon’s performance on “My Generation,” a 60s hit with an incredibly bombastic drum solo as a climax for the song. He was the personification of the raw animal energy that oozed from his arms, hands, and fingertips, shredding his drums just like a werewolf shredding a victim in the forest. (I dunno where this drummer shit came from either, but that’s my story and I’m sticking with it.)

Would you rather be abducted by aliens or a serial killer?

Serial Killer. Those aliens and their prober thingees scare me more than serial killers. Assuming I would get the choice of what kind of serial killer, as in someone who is not into torture, a serial killer will simply kill you and move on to his/her next victim. The act of killing, it seems to me, is what drives them, not torture, in real life and in my fiction, with them wanting to see the life drain from their victims before their very eyes. But aliens… let me tell you a true story about aliens (yeah, I know that sounds kind of off). Fire in the Sky, a 1993 movie about the “true” 1975 alien abduction of Travis Walton, an Arizona logger, was a movie I really wanted to see. PG13 rating. I made the mistake of letting my daughter, age 11, watch the at-home movie rental with me. There’s a (spoiler alert) very intense alien probing scenes at the end. Cringe-worthy, don’t-stick-that-thing-in-there kind of stuff. When she asked me if this had really happened, I went with the answer “Well, I don’t know, the person who was abducted thought it happened to him…” Wrong answer, oh misguided father. TO THIS DAY she says seeing that movie scarred her. Such a parenting fail. Another fail: Cutting my 3-year-old daughter’s hair with a pair of craft scissors just before taking her to nursery school. That, too, was a sad, sad day…

Would you rather be part of the X-Files team or Ghostbusters?

Loved Ghostbusters, but I’m not-not afraid of no ghosts, and I do so want to know “what’s out there” even at the risk of getting probed, so the X-Files team is a better choice. I mean, c’mon, people, in all those billion-trillion-gazillion years of time before us, in all those solar systems, to think that nothing biological ever lived, like, anywhere, at any time during that time, do you think that’s reasonable? That’s not working for me. Let’s go find ’em and let’s probe ’em, ’cause they been doing the same to us for eons and eons, or so said Travis Walton, right? Frankly, the single most devastating, and liberating, news story of all time would be the discovery of life, past or present, on another planet. It would obsolete so much of the ongoing discourse about country, culture, crime, religion, politics, military, etc., that make our headlines daily. Besides, I think naming a character “Fox” was a bold statement when you created that team, you hear me, producer Chris Carter?

“Fox.” I might try to get that scarred-for-life daughter of mine to name our newest grandchild after him, due date October 31.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Complementing the four published novels and a fifth due for publication 2020, I have two completed novels that are unpublished. One is the first novel I wrote, with no training wheels, no short stories under my belt, no experience, all guts, no skills, and ultimately no sale. THE RABBIT, STILLED will probably never see the light of day because it needs a massive rewrite. It’s a contemporary novel dealing with the home and work family dynamics of a hostile corporate takeover, and the potential of a coast-to-coast relocation. I have trouble fitting it into a genre; maybe contemporary suspense? The suspense comes from the questions will they or won’t they, and how do powerless employees manage to retain some control over their lives when they clearly have very little control over their shorter-term futures. Maybe one day I’ll take another look at it; it’s been twenty years since I competed it. The second is a horror novel titled HOP, SKIP, JUMP that I will shop again at some point. It’s a horrific yet touching, redemptive tale of reincarnation, channeling, and what might happen if a person returned to a place and time where she was needed the most. I love the novel because it was cathartic for me to write it, modeling one character after my wife, who never knew her mother because she died in an auto accident when my wife was an infant. It is a classic supernatural horror novel, but it did this body good to take these characters through this heartache while the horror unfolds.

What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters of the opposite sex?

All of it is difficult. As a male author I need to pretend that I know how female characters, either as protagonists or acquaintances, think, act, love, hate, fight, emote, react, and even do basic things like eat, drink, and toilet. So how do I handle this? I use what I’ve learned from living with six females over the years (wife, two daughters, four female doggies), which means I’m pretty much only slightly less clueless than a guy who’s been single his whole life. So after I frequently embarrass myself on the page, I do have beta readers and peers tell me where I did hit the mark versus where I shit the bed. Trust me, I need to change the sheets a lot. As if that’s not enough punishment, to ratchet up the challenge I’m also transcending all barriers by trying to capture what it is like to be a transsexual character in the novel I will be looking to place next year. In AMERICA IS A GUN I have a prominent character who is female but identifies as male and starts the physical transition, which is interrupted when he’s convicted of multiple murders by a DA with political ambitions in a trumped-up case, which sends him to a women’s prison. After many years of incarceration that include large chunks of solitary confinement the guilty verdict is overturned, he’s freed, and he wants revenge against the people who put him there, so he goes about the business of acquiring guns toward that end. In this case it will be absolutely necessary for me to utilize sensitivity readers, considering I plan, and need, to show this character in a sympathetic yet compromised light, such that there won’t be any piling on against this already marginalized group of people.

What are you working on now?

Two WIP novels. HER TWELVE LETTER ALPHABET (a work in progress title, strong possibility it will change) is due for submission 2/1/20 to Severn River Publishing and will be published mid-to-late 2020. It’s the second Philo Trout thriller in my Blessid Trauma crime scene cleaners series following HIDING AMONG THE DEAD, released May 2019. The title refers to the twelve-letter native Hawai‘ian language alphabet, and it takes place, where else, on the Hawai‘ian Islands. Organ trafficking, bare knuckles boxing, crime scenes with gore: all will make it into the new novel similar to what was in the first in the series, plus visits to an island that is stuck in the nineteenth century, for better or worse, because of its private citizen ownership since 1864. Its present day setting is based on the real life Hawai‘ian island of Ni‘ihau, which, while not widely known, played a prominent and amazing yet infamous role in WWII.

The second WIP novel, AMERICA IS A GUN, another crime thriller, follows behind JANE’S BABY, my political crime thriller about a present day assault on the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision, released June 2018, the audiobook released August 2019. My protagonists from JANE’S BABY are back to deal with the sensitive topic of gun control and gun rights organizations. I might need to go to an overseas publisher for this one, considering how sensitive this topic is in the US, but it’s a novel I really want to get out there. So far one Australian publisher with a US reach said they’d give it a read when it’s complete in late 2020, no guarantee of publication, of course. (I wish more US publishers would take more chances. Large pubbers or Indies, if you have an interest, let me know.) As you might know, Australia has a very robust gun control policy. Readers should know that the novel does have a bias, but it is not against gun ownership or the Second Amendment, it’s a push for more reasonable gun ownership laws, and my gun-owner protagonists have a unique way of addressing the issue.

Okay, that does it for me. Thanks, everybody. Enjoy your Halloween.

A female bounty hunter tracks a maniacal killer to a town in rural Pennsylvania.

A town with its own dark secret…

A NEO-NOIR THRILLER FILLED WITH CRIME, DRAMA, AND SPRINKLES OF DARK COMEDY. FOR FANS OF FARGO AND BREAKING BAD.

Counsel Fungo is a unique woman. An experienced bounty hunter, she’s very good at her job. You don’t have to ask. She’ll tell you. Officially, her two canine companions are her therapy dogs. Unofficially, she considers them to be her partners. Counsel has suffered intense loss and was once the victim of a horrible crime. But now these experiences drive her unquenchable thirst for justice. And she’ll do anything to stop criminals from preying on the vulnerable.

Randall Burton is a serial killer and a rapist. Diagnosed with a terminal disease, he has jumped bail and intends to go out in a blaze of glory. He heads to sleepy Rancor, Pennsylvania, named one of the “Safest Towns in America,” for one last, depraved, hurrah. A quiet town tucked away in the Poconos, its citizens are mostly widowers, bowlers, and bingo players. Mostly.

There’s a reason no one in Rancor has reported a major crime in the past 50 years. And neither Counsel nor the killer are quite ready for what this town has in store…

Purchase Links

BINGE KILLER: https://tinyurl.com/BINGE-KILLER
HIDING AMONG THE DEAD, a Blessid Trauma Thriller: https://amzn.to/2IQ15JE
JANE’S BABY: http://amzn.to/2FUKT5j
SCARS ON THE FACE OF GOD: https://tinyurl.com/SOTFOG

Bio

“The thing I write will be the thing I write.”

Chris is a brute force novelist (BINGE KILLER, HIDING AMONG THE DEAD, JANE’S BABY, SCARS ON THE FACE OF GOD) who wouldn’t trade his northeast Philly upbringing of street sports played on blacktop and concrete, fistfights, brick and stone row houses, and twelve years of well-intentioned Catholic school discipline for a Philadelphia minute (think New York minute but more fickle and less forgiving). Chris has had some lengthy stops as an adult in Michigan and Connecticut, now lives in Doylestown, PA, and he thinks Pittsburgh is a great city even though some of his fictional characters do not. He still does most of his own stunts, and he once passed for Chip Douglas of My Three Sons TV fame on a Wildwood, NJ boardwalk. He’s a member of International Thriller Writers, and his work has been recognized by the National Writers Association, the Writers Room of Bucks County (PA), and the Maryland Writers Association. Oh, and he likes the pie more than the turkey.

Social Media

Website: chrisbauerauthor.com/
http://www.facebook.com/cgbauer
Twitter: @cgbauer
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38235494-jane-s-baby
cntbauer1@msn.com

#BadMoonRising: Slasher Crasher by David Nora #DarkHumor #horror

Happy Friday!!!!  If you’re a fan of dark humor combined with horror *raises hand excitedly*, check out the book by today’s author.  A murderer escapes from a mental hospital and gets caught up in some high school drama.  Hijinx ensue.  Welcome David Nora!

Would you rather walk through a haunted graveyard at midnight or spend the night in a haunted, abandoned house?

I’d rather walk through a haunted graveyard at midnight than spend the night in a haunted, abandoned house because there’s more space to run in a graveyard than a house if we come across any ghosts or demons. I feel like I’d have a better chance at finding a hiding place and outliving my friends in a graveyard.

Would you rather be a vampire or a werewolf? 

I’d rather be a werewolf than a vampire because there are only twelve/thirteen moons in a year, which means I would only kill twelve to thirteen people to stay alive–unless I find my way to an amusement park or Super Bowl. And who wants to live forever? Or “sparkle” in the sunlight? It’s burn or nothing.

Would you rather be locked in a haunted insane asylum or lost in the woods with a killer on the loose?

I’d rather be lost in the woods with a killer on the loose than be locked in an haunted insane asylum because I talk so much about my love of slashers that I should probably put my money where my mouth is sort of speak. And let’s be honest: I’d either wind up dying in the first ten minutes or turn out to be the killer.

If you had the opportunity to live anywhere in the world for a year while writing a book that took place in the same setting, where would you choose?

I’d probably choose to write about and live in London. My latest novel, SLASHER CRASHER, was set in my hometown of Syracuse, NY. No offense to my hometown but I’m sick of the small city and dark, endless woods vibes. I want my imagination to run wild in a bigger city but I’m not a fan of the sun. Hence London. The perfect big, gray city.

What behind-the-scenes tidbit in your life would probably surprise your readers?

I think the readers would be surprised in learning that I’m a teacher of the visually impaired (middle school, social studies). My novel is a crass horror-comedy. The characters are teenagers who curse and spew gross juvenile jokes like it’s an anonymous round of Fortnite. Let’s just say that the characters wouldn’t get away with anything in my classroom.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on the promotional efforts for the book. I decided I’d give the writing bits of my brain a much needed break. However, even though I’m not writing anything, those bits are fighting back and trying to muster up some ideas. It won’t be long until I’m torturing myself over a new set of words.

It was the night HE tried to go home…but got caught in THEIR drama…

It’s Halloween. Nick Roesch, a towering figure of evil and stupidity, escapes from the upstate New York mental hospital he’s been committed to for the past five years. Planning to return to his childhood home, where he brutally murdered his babysitter’s boyfriend, his plans are halted when he crosses paths with an even more terrifying beast—two high school friends with some serious beef. Caught in a battle of loyalty that has been brewing for ten years of their friendship, the two girls, Kathleen Strife and Betsy Coleman, force the feud into a savage showdown, pitting the escaped monster against each other. Who will survive this epic deathmatch, and is it totally wrong to fall in love with the murderous lunatic who just tried to kill your ex-best friend with a machete?

Promotion: If a reader purchases the book and sends a screenshot of the confirmation to the author’s email, david.nora.jr@gmail.com, they’ll receive a free thank you postcard (US/Canada residents only) and original digital art of the main characters created by Tre Chandler [Instagram: meatcutemitgarl].

Purchase Links

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Black Rose Writing

Bio

Born in Syracuse, NY, David Nora was a normal child until he saw The Exorcist at the age of seven. Sleeping with an actual vial of holy water, he finally recovered with his first viewing of the meta-slasher comedy, Scream. Since then he has been devouring everything horror related-except the Child Play movies. He wants nothing to do with that devil doll. Currently, he lives in NYC with his beloved stuffed polar bear, Po Po.

 

Social Media

@davidnorajr [Instagram/Twitter]
@SlasherCrasher [Facebook]

#BadMoonOnTheRise Day 29 Raising Hell by Phillip T. Stephens @Stephens_PT #books #darkhumor

bad moon on the rise

Welcome Phillip T. Stephens whose book, Raising Hell, offers a more humorous side of horror!

21390228

A clueless optimist ruins a perfectly good hell.

Pity poor Lucifer. He rules hell with a vice grip. Demons and damned scatter at the sound of his steps. The Supreme Butt In hasn’t pestered him in eons. His future looks perfect, pitch black, until an administrative error sticks him with an innocent soul—an overweight optimist who calls himself Pilgrim and who believes he must be in hell to do good.

Lucifer never considers sending him back. Why waste a second chance to corrupt an innocent soul? He orders his subordinates to torture, degrade and humiliate Pilgrim until he promises to become evil if only it will ease the pain. Unfortunately, Pilgrim makes the best of the worst possible experiences. Always polite and well-mannered, he makes Pollyanna seem like a prophet of doom. Even worse, the damned start catching on, and set about making hell into the most enjoyable place of everlasting torment ever.

Lucifer can’t let Pilgrim continue to wreak happiness, but he can’t send him back untainted, either. When God arrives with a deadline for Pilgrim’s return, he enlists fellow fallen angels Screwtape, Azazel and the gender morphing Mephistopheles in a plot to corrupt Pilgrim’s soul before the deadline expires.

How long have you been writing horror/thrillers and what drew you to the genre?

This was the first book I published, although I have another horror novel I will probably release in the spring and an earlier one I wrote in the eighties that may or may not see the light of day. I’ve loved horror stories since I was a kid. My dad was a Baptist minister and wouldn’t let me watch the late night creature features like the other kids, but I traded the cards with the other kids.

Then I found a copy of Frankenstein in the school library in third grade. It had a picture of a hanging woman with her breast exposed. I made the mistake of showing it, in confidence, to a friend who ratted me out. Even though the book was in the school library I was the one who got in trouble. But boy did I love horror and reading forbidden books after that.

How did you come up with the idea for your book?

The idea came to me when I was transitioning between two educational jobs, both of which required me to answer to multiple managers, all of whom loved to micromanage. I thought, this feels more like hell with brimstone and fire. Any one of the managers could have been Lucifer. So I pictured this poor guy trapped in a soulless bureaucracy, and the novel came easy. The ten or so rewrites until I was happy with it, however, demanded my attention for several years.

If you could erase one horror cliché, what would it be?

Horror is cliché. The cliché I would erase is another fan’s treasure. I’m probably most tired of the women dropping their drawers for any sexy vampire or werewolf motif, but that’s because my generation included a generation of women who would never be sucked into a life of sexual co-dependency (so to speak). That motif spawned an entire PNR sub-genre so erasing that cliché would wipe out an industry and raise the objection that it’s no cliché.

What are you working on now?

I’m getting ready to release a young adult novel, Seeing Jesus, about a girl who sees a homeless man no one else can see. It’s about as far from a horror novel as a novel can get. Then, in the spring I will release Scent, a horror novel in which the supernatural world needs to be protected from us.

Favorite horror movie and book?

Movie: Ghost Story (John Irvin, 1981). Book: Lovecraft, At the Mountains of Madness. (It doesn’t get more pulp, but it’s like cotton candy for the brain.)

Author bio

Phillip T. Stephens appears once a year, on Halloween, on the sidewalk of his broken down, rescue cat infested three-story ranch-style duplex in the middle of a forest thick with Central Texas mesquite (where children wander their way up a trail lit by luminarias* to find the crusty old curmudgeon rumored to wait at the end) dressed in bloody bandages and spider webs with waist-length vermin infested beard and riding a broken down wheel chair, brandishing a shotgun on his lap. He rewards the children who make it to the threshold without running away in terror with a kind word and a copy of his book, which sucks for them because the last thing they want on Halloween is a shitty book. They want more candy.

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*A Hispanic tradition, paper bags with candles inside.

Where to find Phillip
Website
Twitter: @stephens_pt
Goodreads

Buy links
Amazon
Createspace