NightWhere by John Everson

The first John Everson title I ever read was The 13th, more than a few years ago after receiving a copy from Colum McKnight. If not for that horror lit care package I may not have discovered Everson at all and I’m certain I wouldn’t be writing this review today. I’ve devoured every subsequent release from Everson since. His palate of sex, blood, and Satanism had me hooked. He is to erotic horror what Jeff Strand is to comedic horror; a master. Everson paints gruesome imagery in his stories, often involving naked bodies writhing in viscera, but he is also a diehard romantic. Ultimately, it is love driving the plot of every Everson horror story. That’s also the case with his latest Samhain release NightWhere, but with more blood, guts, and torture than I’ve ever read in anything he’s done previously.

Mark and Rae are a happily married couple that enjoy a bit of diversity to their sex life. They frequent elicit sex clubs, swingers parties, and participate in sexual musical chairs, but Rae wants more. Mark just isn’t enough, he never has been. “He was peanut butter… but someone or something else always brought the jelly…” Still, being the understanding, and sexually curious, man that he is, Mark is willing to take their escapades further. When she catches wind of an exclusive, super secret sex club NightWhere, Rae is immediately obsessed. When they get their blood red invitation, Mark finds his wife sinking deeper into this forbidden world. How deep into NightWhere will she sink and how far will Mark be willing to go to save her?

Everson offered up bloody rituals, cult behavior, and pulsating orgies in The 13th, but that novel is like a cute little Disney cartoon compared to NightWhere. You won’t just go to the edge of darkness and desire; you’ll be pushed over into a hell of sexual tortures. This book doesn’t have NBP (you’ll have to google that one because I can’t bring myself to type out the abbreviation), but it’s the closest to being horror lit’s A Serbian Film than anything else I’ve ever read. It’s sick and depraved, the kind of book you feel perverted reading in public. I know they don’t know what I’m reading yet I still blush.

NightWhere is an endless orgy where anything goes. This is more than imaginative erotica though; there are unbelievable sexual kinks, vaguely familiar but horrifically distorted. The reader can share the experience vicariously without concern for safety unlike our unfortunate protagonists Mark and Rae and the never-ending parade of willing victims. Everson eases the reader into it though. He starts out with the obligatory whips and chains, floggers and shackles, careful not to get too kinky too quick.

Everson makes a compelling story for how the couple got into this lifestyle so it doesn’t seem so foreign and unbelievable. If you’re like me, it may be difficult to connect with a swinging S&M couple, but Everson paints relatable characters for the most part. By the time you are beyond your comfort zone it is too late, you truly have been lured deep into the rabbit hole.

He leads us into the initiation with pulsating New Order tracks and synthy beats. This is another aspect I’ve always loved about Everson’s writing; his obsession with music. He always finds an appropriate soundtrack to accompany his novels. This dark, drony post-punk sound is a perfect fit for the gothic underground club scene, but it fades rather quickly into the echoing screams of pain and pleasure in NightWhere.

As I mentioned, Everson is really a romantic at heart. His stories are undeniably horror and deal with subversive subject matter, but it is always centered on love and the vulnerability of those who succumb to its power. Everson doesn’t wrap up his stories with pretty pink bows or anything, and he is exceedingly cruel to his characters, but there is still a sense of hope and innocence despite all that.

Some horror fiction fans might roll their eyes at the romantic elements of NightWhere, or at least Mark’s unflinching dedication to Rae even as she succumbs to the seduction of the underground world. Still, all the in between is so extreme, so perverse that I think even readers with the hardest Teflon hearts will overlook that aspect.

Longtime Everson fans can expect all the ingredients you’ve come to love in an Everson erotic horror novel amped up to 11. He goes further, deeper, darker than anything before. NightWhere is a batshit crazy, hot, wet ride into hell!  

I found the perfect song to accompany this review, Angry Angles “You call it love.” I got the idea from a blog post about spicing up book reviews by Zombies Don’t Cry author Rusty Fischer. The key lyric is “Baby, when you hit me it feels so good.” I imagine this to be Rae’s theme song.

Angry Angles “You Call It Love”

You think you can handle it? Pick up your copy of NightWhere at Samhain Publishing or Amazon currently available in eBook format (paperback will be released in October).

Dreadful Tales Samhain Celebration Wrap-Up

In case you missed it, or for some reason didn’t notice, Dreadful Tales dedicated about a week and a half to the New Home of Horror, Samhain Publishing. If you didn’t catch the reviews, interviews, and guest posts, never fear, fair reader! Meli’s got you covered. First, let me apologize for referring to myself in third person. I’m sorry.

Although we lovingly referred to this as the Samhain Celebration, there was a name that was repeatedly mentioned with love, affection and admiration; editor of the Samhain horror line Don D’Auria.

I must admit that was introduced to some of Leisure’s most beloved authors, and my favorite modern fiction writers, just a few or so years ago. To give you an idea of where my passion for modern horror fiction began, let me just say the first Leisure title I read was John Everson’s The 13th. That came out in ’09, so I am over a decade late to the party. As usual. When Leisure started to dissolve, I was as sick over it as longtime fans. And while I wasn’t there from the beginning, I felt the power of the legacy and its loss just the same.

The heyday of the infamous Dorchester horror line may be over, but it is a new day in horror fiction with a veteran captain manning the ship. Perhaps I couldn’t appreciate Don D’Auria’s contribution back in ’09, but as the cycle of horror fiction comes full circle – John Everson’s latest novel NightWere comes out in eBook format from Samhain June 2012 – I recognize the debt my bookshelves (and Kindle) owe to this man, D’Auria.

Since 2009, I have been baptized into the Church of Richard Laymon and Jack Ketchum, both old Messiahs I seek dark guidance from frequently. And there are so many more I have discovered since – Bryan Smith, Elizabeth Massie, Jeff Strand, Ronald Malfi… But it all started with that one John Everson title, The 13th.

I kicked off the celebration with a review of Elena Hearty’s Donor. Hearty is a different type of writer. She writes for fun and on her own terms. I’m sure most Samhain writers that I love are in it because they love the genre and they love to write. Let’s face it, if you’re not Stephen King, you’re not getting rich as a horror writer, but Hearty is the first to tell you flat out that a horror con is her worst nightmare and she don’t do deadlines. I like that. When you read Donor, none of that will surprise you.

Despite Hearty’s very punk rock approach to writing, she gave me some time to bombard her with questions. You can read all about her influences for her debut vampire novel and plenty of other interesting tidbits here.

Following that Pat Dreadful shared a review of the Bram Stoker Award nominated The Lamplighters by Frazer Lee and an interview with the man himself who shares my love of giallo movies and the equally infamous music of giallos, Goblin.

I have two first-time authors at Samhain in particular that I am excited to read more from and that is Elena Hearty and Jonathan Janz. I followed Pat’s coverage of Frazer Lee with a second look at Jonathan Janz’ The Sorrows. Janz also took some time to talk to Dreadful Tales about the influence Don D’Auria had on his career and subsequent initiation into the bloody world of Samhain here.

While I didn’t instantly love Nile J. Limbaugh’s Genesis of Evil as much as Janz’ The Sorrows or Hearty’s Donor, I still trust the Samhain / D’Auria signature and plan to give this author another chance. Genesis of Evil had some missteps, but still entertaining and full of promise as horror fans would expect from the D’Auria approved titles.

It wasn’t just Pat and I doing the yapping this week. We had a couple guest posters to share their enthusiasm for Samhain, and especially Don D’Auria as well. First up was Brian Moreland who gave us An Insider’s Look at Samhain. Kristopher Rufty, also new to the Samhain family, share his experience of first getting signed with the publisher and how that all came to fruition in One Year Later. You can read that here.

Last, but certainly not least, Pat sat down to chat with Forest of Shadows author Hunter Shea and you can read the full interview here. Shea is a new favorite for Pat and renewed his love of the haunted house story. You can check out his review for Forest of Shadows and find out what’s got Pat so excited here.

So there you have it folks. That was a week in celebration of a name you’re going to hear around here quite often. We hope you are excited for a dark and horrific future at Samhain Publishing.

One Year Later: Guest Post by Kristopher Rufty

It seems like only yesterday horror fiction fans got news that former editor of the Liesure horror line, Don D’Auria, was moving over to Samhain Publishing. Hell, has it been a year yet? In that short amount of time, the Samhain / D’Auria match-up has proven to be the dream team macabre maniacs were hoping for with veteran fan favorites as well as fresh blood. Today, we have a member of the latter group, one of the latest editions to the Samhain family, Kristopher Rufty, to share his enthusiasm for the publisher from both a fan and author perspective.

It was a year ago in March when I got the email from Don D’Auria that changed my life.

Dear Kristopher,
I have finished reading Angel Board and enjoyed it so much that I would like to acquire it for our new horror line at Samhain…

After nearly four years of submitting that novel to other houses, someone finally wanted to buy it.  And that someone was Don D’Auria!  My eight year old son was sitting beside me when I read the email.  He saw the beaming grin on my face and asked why I was so happy.  I hugged him and told him the news.  Then he asked why I was crying if it was good news.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was twelve.  But with such a passion for horror movies, I devoted most of my time to writing screenplays.  Between every third screenplay I would write a short story, nothing longer than eight pages.  My early influences ranged from Stephen King to Bentley Little, plus every horror movie from the eighties.  I was also a dedicated fan of Troma movies.  I had attempted to write a novel a few times before and failed, but it wasn’t until Psycho Holocaust star Vanelle encouraged me that I seriously gave it a go.  She’d explained that my screenplays read like novels anyway and I agreed.  A standard screenplay is around 120 pages, but mine tended to run closer to 200 because of the inner-monologues and descriptions.  I wrote them just as if they were books, but in a script format.  Vanelle declared going from screenplays to novels should be an easy transition.

It wasn’t.

But with a lot of help from some other authors, I was able to eventually get a book that someone wanted to pick up.  Rejection letters hurt, it doesn’t matter how detailed or how vague they are, they hurt the author.  They can cause self-doubt.  At least they did in me.  It didn’t stop me from writing, but it put this cloud over me that made it hard to focus.  Eventually, the cloud lifted and I would submit something else, only to be rejected again, and the cloud would return.  Since I began working with Don D’Auria that cloud has not returned.  Whenever I feel the slightest off about my writing or storytelling, I recall what Don has told me and all the positive energy he’s put into me and the cloud is vanquished before getting the opportunity to manifest.

I’m often asked how I came to be a member of the Samhain family.  It started way back when I was I hosting Diabolical Radio.  The authors I’d invited on the show were authors I

Kristopher Rufty on the set of Rags

enjoyed to read.  It was a great way to pick their brains, to discuss writing with people you respect, and it helped me greatly.  To my surprise a few close friendships came from those interviews.  Three authors from the show that have helped me a great deal in my “career” are Ronald Malfi, Jeff Strand, and Heather Graham.  Edward Lee was also always standing by with much advice and a shoulder to vent on.  I can’t say enough kind things about them.  Once we all got Angel Board to a point where everyone felt confident it could be submitted to Don, we sent it over with fingers crossed and saying prayers.  A few weeks later, I got that email referenced above.

I was a member of the Leisure Book Club for five years.  Richard Laymon, Jack Ketchum, Edward Lee, Wrath James White, Ray Garton, Jeff Strand, Ronald Malfi, Bryan Smith, and Al Sarrantonio are a handful of my favorite authors, and I was introduced to them through the book club.  Knowing that the man who edited their books is now editing mine is powerful.  I can honestly say that even if I wasn’t being published, but still had Don editing my stories, I’d be a happy camper.  His input and encouragement goes a long way and I am extremely grateful to be working with him and Samhain.

As I raise my beer, I offer a toast.  Here’s to several more great years with Samhain and Don D’Auria.

You can keep up with Rufty’s happening at his blog, Last Krist on the Left, Facebook, and Twitter.

Samhain Publishing is lurking around all the same haunts as well – official website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Alaska Revisited: Forest of Shadows by Hunter Shea

Yesterday I posted my interview with one of the brightest young talents in the genre, Hunter Shea.  I wanted to take today to repost my thoughts about his amazing haunted house story, Forest of Shadows.  I also wanted to provide some personal commentary on it as well.  Forest of Shadows renewed my love for the haunted house subgenre and immediately went back and re-read THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, HELL HOUSE and BAG OF BONES.  Hunter’s fine little tale also prompted me to finally tackle HOUSE OF LEAVES and had me giddy for Little’s THE HAUNTED.  I owe a ton to Hunter and FOREST OF SHADOWS because he breathed new life into a subgenre that I had all but forgotten.  With that said, I thought it might be fun to revisit my initial review of the book in hopes that others will be prompted to check the story out as well.  I’d also like to mention that Hunter has a new novel out, EVIL ETERNAL, that looks to be one of the most over-the-top, insanely fun releases of the year.  Check it out!

 

When I go to an amusement park the last thing I want to do is sit through some dopey stunt show or putz around an “educational” display.  Hell no, I want to get on the biggest and fastest  roller-coaster, ride it until blood is dripping from my eyes and then vomit all over anyone unlucky enough to be in my vicinity. That’s just the type of guy I am.  I feel the same way about my ghost stories.  Of course, I can appreciate a slow burn that concerns itself with atmosphere but what I really like are the supernatural tales that get in there and get dirty…..real quick.  I guess this is why I was so thoroughly satisfied with Hunter Shea’s newest novel, Forest of Shadows.

From Samhain Publishing:

The dead still hate!

John Backman specializes in inexplicable phenomena. The weirder the better. So when he gets a letter from a terrified man describing an old log home with odd whisperings, shadows that come alive, and rooms that disappear, he can’t resist the call. But the violence only escalates as soon as John arrives in the remote Alaskan village of Shida. Something dreadful happened there. Something monstrous. The shadows are closing in…and they’re out for blood.

Hunter Shea is absolutely ruthless.  The man writes with a passion and aggression that will leave you helpless in its grasp.  Shea keeps his eyes on the prize and everything else is secondary.  He wants you to cringe.  He wants your skin to crawl.  He wants to positively scare you out of your god-given wits.  Like I said, the man is ruthless.  I can appreciate Shea’s style.  He wants to tell a ghost story that doesn’t meander around with sweeping atmosphere and slow progression.  His version of a ghost story involves some evil-as-all-get-out ghosts, some local legend and a hefty heaping of heartache.  Throw in ample amounts of booze and you have the makings for one refreshingly original tale.

Above anything else, Forest of Shadows is a genuinely scary book.  Now that may sound a bit simple but after years of reading dreadful tales, it takes quite a bit to get my blood pumping.  The real highlight of Forest of Shadows is Hunter Shea’s ability to craft a tale that is so frantic with the pacing and yet, so subtle with the horror.  In fact, I was having so much fun with the story that I didn’t realize how effectively the story was haunting my subconscious.  It took a few restless nights and one incredibly vivid nightmare about whispering shadows and the floating visage of a young boy, before I realized how successful this book was at scaring the living daylights out of me. It had worked its way into my brain and nestled in there, coiled to spring at any given moment.  This book scared me in a way I haven’t been scared in a very long time.

This is all a testament to Hunter Shea’s talent as a writer. He takes a premise that could quite honestly, be considered hokey and works it so well that it seems believable.  Initially when I read the first pages that describe an amateur ghost-hunter who loses his wife and wins the lottery on the same day, I was a little skeptical.  Can you blame me?  This skepticism was completely unfounded as Shea sucked me into a world filled with ancient evil, teenage angst, heartbreak and a town with a very strange past.  That town is Shida and it just may be one of the most frightening places you’re libel to visit.

The Alaskan town of Shida makes for the perfect backdrop to this bone chilling tale.  Shea creates a spine numbing sense of isolation as he draws a vivid portrait of this wilderness town.  Hell, Shea almost seems so confident in his ability to remove Shida from reality that he will tease the reader by discussing Shida’s proximity to many major Alaskan parks and cities, all while the reader knows that there is no escape from the diabolical events that Shea has in store for us. Shida is as much the star of this story as any character, all while the reader comes to realize that the dark shadows that obscure the towns past are more frightening than anything that may be whispering to them from the Great Beyond.

This book has me extremely excited about Hunter Shea. I can respect an author who takes the ghost story and completely disregards its well worn conventions to create something truly original. He preaches from the Altar of Pulp- spewing a sermon filled with his own merciless interpretation of what this genre should be. I love seeing a newcomer just completely rip it and own the living daylights out his writing.  I expect some very big things from Hunter Shea in the very near future.

An Insiders Look at Samhain: Brian Moreland

Brian Moreland is one of the bright new talents unearthed by Samhain Publishing.  He was gracious enough to give us his personal perspective on what Samhain means to not only him, but the genre as a whole.

Samhain Horror came to me at just the right time in my career. I had already published my first novel, SHADOWS IN THE MIST, through Berkley/Penguin. They passed on DEAD OF WINTER because it’s a historical horror novel that takes place entirely in 1870. My editor told me Berkley doesn’t publish historical novels that date pre-World War II. So I had to find a new publishing house. My agent and I were trying to find a good fit that would help take my career to the next level. I had finished DEAD OF WINTER in November of 2009 and was eager to sell it to a publisher right away. But that year, publishing houses were shuffling their editors, and the book industry was highly unstable. My agent was afraid my book would get bought up and then lost in the chaos, so she told me “let’s wait it out.” It was tough to do, because I had eager fans asking when my next book was coming out. My agent and I held out from submitting my book for over a year. I’m glad we did, because I was ready and waiting for the right opportunity.

In January of 2011, my agent told me that Leisure Books was dissolving their horror line and that their veteran editor, Don D’Auria, had moved over to Samhain Publishing to start up a brand new horror line called Samhain Horror. Don planned to start the line in October 2011 and was looking for submissions. My agent sold me on Don, saying he was a legend in the horror business. I hadn’t heard of him, but I did a little research and discovered that he had been the editor for many of my favorite authors—Brian Keene, Richard Laymon, Ronald Malfi, and Jack Ketchum, to name a few. On his blog, Brian Keene wrote a post about how much he loved working with Don D’Auria. I flipped through a dozen books by Leisure authors and read the Acknowledgements. Again and again, I kept seeing Don’s name being praised, many describing him as the nicest editor to work with. That sealed the deal for me, so I told my agent let’s submit DEAD OF WINTER to Don at Samhain. The timing was perfect. We submitted within two weeks of Don starting his new job. Less than 30 days later in February, my agent called and said that Don loves DEAD OF WINTER and wants it to be one of the first books to release in October. I was so excited I called half the people I know with the news. Then I went out and celebrated over a cheeseburger.

Shortly after signing the contract, I was contacted by a woman who told me she was my “liaison” to Samhain Publishing. If I had any questions about royalties, contracts, publishing dates, or anything, I could contact her anytime. That was the most personal service I had ever been given by a publishing house. They even sent me a birthday card.

Working with Don D’Auria has been a dream. Like everyone says, he is the nicest guy and an icon in the horror business. A few months after my book deal, I attended the 2011 World Horror Conference in Austin, Texas. While there I saw a cool flyer for Samhain Horror that had my name on it included among Ronald Malfi, Hunter Shea, and Ramsey Campbell. I wondered who had put out Samhain Horror flyers on the lobby table. Turns out Don D’Auria was attending the convention. I had no idea he’d be here. We tracked each other down and met for the first time in person. Don treated me to lunch at Pappadeux’s, and we talked about Samhain’s long-term goals for the new horror line. The more he described his marketing campaign and his vision for my career, the more confident I felt that I had chosen the right publishing house. The next few months I worked with Don on editing DEAD OF WINTER. It was a very smooth process. Don is very diplomatic in his style of editing. He made some great suggestions on how to improve my novel while keeping most of the book intact. The editorial took me less than a day to correct and send back. I even got to offer my ideas for the cover design, which doesn’t typically happen with large publishing houses. The art director and illustrator implemented all of my ideas and came up with a great cover.

At Berkley, I had to wait over a year to see SHADOWS IN THE MIST in print. With Samhain, my second novel released eight months after we concluded the book deal. I was fortunate to be chosen among six authors to roll out the new Samhain Horror line. The best thing that has come out of releasing with a group of fellow horror authors is that we’ve been like a band of brothers helping one another promote our books. I’ve brainstormed marketing ideas with a few of them. I had a blast doing a radio show with Hunter Shea, Kristopher Rufty, Ronald Malfi, and Jonathan Janz. We’ve helped each other get book reviews and interviews in magazines. I interviewed several “Samhainers” for my blog (http://www.brianmoreland.blogspot.com), including Frazer Lee and W.D. Gagliani.

Samhain Horror has done a fantastic job marketing, getting my book cover in magazines like Fangoria, Famous Monsters, and even on a digital billboard in New York’s Times Square. With big publishers, I’ve had to do all the marketing myself; only the celebrity authors got to benefit from advertising. Samhain Horror’s parent company, Samhain Publishing, is one of the fastest growing e-book publishers in the business. And they heavily promote their authors. When I got back the rights to SHADOWS IN THE MIST last November, I immediately signed a new book deal with Samhain to re-release my World War II supernatural thriller in September of 2012.

With Leisure Books gone and the Big Six publishers focused on YA vampire romance novels, I see Samhain Horror as one of the front runners to be the next big horror publisher. Here, new authors can get their big break. And readers can discover a mix of fresh new horror talent along with new works from established authors. As one of Samhain’s contributing authors, I definitely feel like I’ve found a home to publish my books for years to come.

Brian Moreland writes novels and short stories of historical horror and supernatural suspense. His first two novels are Dead of Winter and Shadows in the Mist (available September 2012). He also has two thrilling short stories available for Amazon Kindle: “Chasing the Dragon” and “The Dealer of Needs.” Brian loves hiking, kayaking, traveling, and watching sports. He lives in Dallas, Texas where he is diligently writing his next horror novel. You can communicate with him online at http://brianmoreland.com/ or on Twitter @BrianMoreland. Brian’s blog for news about his books: http://www.brianmoreland.blogspot.com