Darkness Whispers …

Darkness Whispers delivers deliciously chilling horror fiction by Richard Chizmar.Darkness Whispers will introduce you to the town of Windbrook, a sleepy little community nestled deep in the secluded Skullkin Valley of western Pennsylvania.

All is well in Windbrook, just like usual, just like always. Nothing changes here, nothing is different.

Except… except today something is different.

An old man with piercing gray eyes will arrive in town this morning. This man isn’t human. Not even close. And he isn’t coming alone. Death travels with him.

Richard Chizmar, award-winning author of A Long December, and Brian James Freeman, acclaimed author of The Painted Darkness, have combined forces to create an old-fashioned tale of horror, full of good and evil, with a breathtaking ending that will leave you wondering when this peculiar old man might be coming for you…

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Reviews and Praise:

“Anthology editors Chizmar (the Shivers series) and Freeman (the Dark Screams series) build tension and hook readers… with this svelte tale of modern small-town life gone wrong. The characters are instantly engaging, and the story moves at such a satisfying clip…” — Publishers Weekly

“Filled with enough plot, characterization and metaphorical heft to stuff a full-length novel, Darkness Whispers brilliantly depicts the supernatural exploitation of a small town’s moral failings. Subtly shifting from Bradbury-esque whimsy to badass horror worthy of the King himself, the novella is a major achievement by Richard Chizmar and Brian James Freeman.” — Bentley Little, author of The Consultant and The Influence

Darkness Whispers begins as a visit to a golden-hued, idyllic town that soon gets dark. Very dark. I quickly gave up trying to second-guess the formidable authors and simply surrendered to their lead all the way to the shattering conclusion. Chizmar and Freeman know that horror doesn’t work without humanity, and with this story they succeed in chilling our blood and breaking our hearts.” — Ray Garton, author of Live Girls and Night Life

Darkness Whispers offers chilling horror fiction by Richard Chizmar.

 

Horror, Balloons, and Chekhov’s Gun

One of the most frequent questions I get from people is, “How can an innocent person who loves balloons write such graphic horror?” I’ve heard it from other writers, my buddies, and sometimes reviewers. So how can I write graphic horror? Balloons and horror fiction go together like spaghetti and meatballs.

Think of Pennywise the clown in Stephen King’s It. It had a lot of balloon scenes and King wasn’t trying to be cute. Pennywise lured his victims by popping through the gutter, brandishing a bouquet of balloons. “C’mon, Bucko. Don’t you want a balloon?” he’d ask his victim Georgie in a leering voice. “When you’re down here with me, Georgie, you’ll float, too.”

Jonathan Maberry’s book, Fire & Ash, features a scene where a character was getting bored blowing up balloons. I remember smiling until I found out the purpose of those balloons. They had a darn good reason being in the story. I don’t want to say more lest I give away spoilers.

Steel Rose has a balloon scene…or two. The balloons enable us to know Yeron better and how helium will affect people like him. I guarantee you that the helium from a balloon will poison someone later in the story. Ditto for “Echoes of a Distant World” in the Alien World anthology Tom Johnson and I cooked up. Why? Because the helium in the balloons are deadly to the alien attackers. You can also find balloon scenes in City of Brotherly Death (“Darkness Rising”). The balloons symbolized the protag Brianna’s humanity. Much as I like balloons, I would not use them in my tales without a reason.

Why? Because of Chekhov’s gun. I learned about Chekhov’s gun at the first writer’s conference I attended, and that information has stayed with me. Chekhov suggests that if you introduce a loaded gun on stage during the first act of your play, the gun should be fired during a later act. Otherwise, the gun shouldn’t be shown at all. Basically, he’s warning the writer not to put too much emphasis on unnecessary details. You can have guns, knives, balloons, or any other object, but they had better go into action before the story ends.

I’d also like to mention the MacGuffin. The MacGuffin is a goal, object, or person that motivates the protagonist in the beginning of the story, but becomes less important as the struggles play out. In It, Bill Denbrough decides to battle the monster that killed his brother Georgie, but as the battles continue, and the characters mature, Georgie’s death starts to fade into the background. If you’re not sure of your ending, you can use the MacGuffin to create a delightful story. But the Chekhov’s gun can be tricky. After you’ve finished your draft, go through it for any Chekhov’s guns, in case something you focused on turns out to be unimportant. Ask yourself, will the details advance your plot or tell us something about your characters?

Do you use the Chekhov’s gun and MacGuffin in your writing? How has these techniques influenced your tales?

Barbara Custer loves her Mylar balloons and zombie fiction.

Critique Groups: Debra Dunbar, Author of Eleven Blood

Elven Blood is Debra Dunbar's answer to fantasy fiction.I’ve never been in a traditional critique group, but last year I signed up for a short-term one at our local college. The class met for four session, one each week, and we discussed the first twenty pages of each student’s novel of their choice. We wound up with 2 critiques per week, so there was a bit of work involved.

The appeal was that the class gave me feedback from a broad swath of readers – all ages, both male and female, writers of fiction and non-fiction. I was finished with the draft of my second book in the Imp series and hoped this would be a great opportunity to have fresh eyes give the novel a review. My hope was that other writers would be articulate enough to let me know any issues they had with the early part of the novel.

And, of course, there is the dreaded “series” conundrum. Is the recap too much? Does it read like an info-dump of what happened in the first novel? Is it too little? Are readers thrown unprepared into a new world and characters, drowning in references they don’t understand? What is critical to bring readers up to speed in the first few pages, and what can be sprinkled in throughout the latter parts of the novel?

I went into the critique group thinking to learn more about my own novel, but it was reading and giving feedback on everyone else’s work that really brought me the most value. I tend to be a rather forgiving reader, skimming over the rough spots and concentrating on what works well. Having to comment on these other works helped me to look closer, to realize that each word, each sentence provides a sense of unity to the flow and tone of the book.

Among the many novel excerpts I read a funny memoir, a promising quirky thriller, a rather convoluted dark drama, and a stream-of-consciousness psychological fiction. And I got feedback on Satan’s Sword– feedback that helped me tighten up the beginning, give my characters more emotion, and balance action with a slower paced descriptive scene. Not bad for a four-week class and a twenty page review!

I’m again taking the class, this time with many new authors participating. Personally, I like this type of critique group far more than the dedicated participant model. I love that each time I get a whole new perspective on my writing, and I love exploring and learning from another author’s work.

Others may work better with a set group that sees their novels and writing style as they evolve, but, for me, this was the best model. Maybe your local college has one, too. If not, perhaps you’re just the person to set one up!

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Author’s Biography and Links:

Debra Dunbar lives on a farm in the northeast United States with her husband, three boys, and a Noah’s ark of four legged family members.  Her urban fantasy novels feature supernatural elements in local settings. In addition to A Demon Bound, Satan’s Sword, and Elven Blood, she has also published a short story erotica series titled Naughty Mom. Connect with her on Twitter @debra_dunbar, on Facebook at debradunbarauthor, and on her website at http://debradunbar.com.

A Demon Bound:  http://amzn.to/MK6nxD

Satan’s Sword: http://amzn.to/Tsi1Wr

Debra will be awarding an e-book copy of A DEMON BOUND (book 1 in the Imp Series) to a randomly drawn commenter at every stop, and a grand prize of a Kindle Fire with an ELVEN BLOOD book cover skin to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour (US ONLY). E-book copies of A Demon Bound and Satan’s Sword and a basket of awesome swag will be awarded to a randomly drawn host.

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Elven Blood is Debra Dunbar's answer to fantasy fiction.

BLURB:

Sam may be the Iblis, but she is also an imp with a price on her head.  The powerful demon Haagenti won’t rest until she’s dragged back to Hel for “punishment”.  Sam knows she can’t face Haagenti and win, so when an Elf Lord offers to eliminate the demon in return for her help, Sam accepts.  It’s a simple job – find and retrieve a half-breed monster dead or alive.  But finding this demon/elf hybrid isn’t proving easy and time is running out.

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EXCERPT:

The hiss of Wyatt’s shower penetrated through the fog of my pre-caffeinated brain.  I was still sprawled on the bed, hidden under a heap of covers, wondering whether I could sneak in a few more minutes of sleep. It was rent day, and I was already late in making my collection rounds.  Stretching, I poked my head from under the blanket and watched a small lizard cross the floor.  It had a scorpion tail, pointed ears and crimson eyes that darted intelligently across the room.  Those red eyes locked onto the bed just as I realized this wasn’t a lizard.  It was a demon—and not the usual Low one either.

There was a flash, and I rolled across the bed and onto the floor just before the mattress sliced into two smoking sections.  Unfortunately I was trapped in a tangle of sheets.  Instinctively I converted my form, deconstructing my usual human one into basic atoms and re-assembling into a creature that was small and hard to kill.

I heard a muffled curse, and I felt the sheets snatched from above me.  The demon was no longer a lizard; he was bipedal with furry, clawed legs and a scaled torso.  Arms hung down past his knees, ending in sharp hooks.  His head twisted and turned, forked tongue tasting the air as he searched for me.

Elven Blood is Debra Dunbar's answer to fantasy fiction.

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