A guest post by Sam Mortimer, #author of Screams The Machine – Bloody Standards, Bionic Madness @gravesideblues

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Bloody Standards, Bionic Madness

Sam Mortimer

Horror is a heavy word. It distorts the image of safety in your mind, invades your mental and physical barriers, and everything you believe will protect you melts. We’re reminded of how fragile life is, how vulnerable our minds can be. Horror is everything dangerous and painful about being human.

Authors of classics like The Exorcist, Hell House, The Hellbound Heart, executed horror stories with an assassin’s skill and grace. The tales were well-wrought and proved sacred ground isn’t always safe, and there’s nothing on the planet that can’t be harmed or desecrated. Nothing is safe. These books raised the bar, and helped horror become a force to be reckoned with. It’s always good to keep the classics’ standards and expectations in mind, but obviously not to copy them. There’s still some bloody terra incognita to uncover.

Technology is great. I love it. It’s always developing, which means there’s always a playing field. Benefiting a horror writer, technology is relevant to the point of great and terrible awe. What was considered science fiction has become (or can become) actualized in the real world. For example, take the circa 1902 silent film, A Trip to the Moon. In the movie, folks are shot to the moon.  Over a century later, we have an international space station. Quantum computing is around the corner, and the Chinese have teleported a photon to outer space.

We have profoundly interesting breakthroughs with artificial intelligence, and we have learned that Facebook’s AI had created its own shorthand form of English, communicating in way humans couldn’t understand. That raised major concerns, and Facebook had to shut the AI down. We also have mass surveillance, and algorithms predicting human behavior with more precision than humans. Bionic limbs. Augmented Reality. Virtual Reality. To boot, I’ve also read about a pending head transplant.

Many developments are fantastic and can be beneficial, but alas, it’s horror’s job to point out what ‘could’ go wrong, what we don’t want to happen, and what would genuinely horrify us if it does happen. Technology is the cornucopia of ideas, and a dark fiction writer’s dream—speaking for myself at least.

A blend of science fiction and horror resounds on a realistic level. Highlighting subjects that are culturally relevant, and developments that might impact humanity’s future, can be steered in deeply horrifying directions.

Many of us grew up with love and respect for science fiction and horror. The genres remain to be the most important styles to me, and I hope my love burns hot in Screams The Machine. Of course, throw some dark fantasy in there as well and the deal is sealed.

Science fiction and horror can wreak serious havoc in the best way possible. The two unleash some bionic madness, expanding the readers mind and hurling them for a strange flight through the phantasmagoric and macabre. I hope Screams The Machine does a fraction of what great books like Richard K. Morgan’s Woken Furies, Steve Nile’s comic Criminal Macabre, and so many more have done for me: Tap ‘dat brain.

Cash carries a disease; one that’s already killed a large majority of the population and something needs to be done. To stop the crisis from escalating, The Solution (a worldwide organization) is formed and rises to great power. They monitor people’s dreams and shape reality to fit their own wants and needs. In an effort to control existence itself, The Solution is searching for what they believe to be the ultimate tool; a person with the ability to master a deep connection with the mysterious, pervasive energy known only as The Ultimate Reality.

Watching her neighborhood decay, her friends and family perish, Elizabeth Reznik needs to find meaning in her life. She discovers her existence is more meaningful than she could ever have imagined. Operatives of The Solution seek her out, take her from her home and perform brutal experiments on her. Their conclusion? Elizabeth is the one they have been searching for; she is the key to gaining complete power.

The stratagem of The Solution is single minded – own the resources and you own the people. And the last resource available is free will. They will own your thoughts, they will orchestrate your dreams; they will dine on your fears. But there is always a cog in the machine… or in this case, a scream.

Available on:

Amazon:

US | UK | Canada | Australia | Germany | France | Spain | Italy | Japan | Mexico | Brazil | India | The Netherlands

Amazon Print: US | UK | Canada | Australia | Germany | France | Spain | Italy | Japan | Mexico | Brazil | India | The Netherlands

iTunes | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords | CreateSpace (Print)

 

About the Author:

Sam Mortimer has worked the graveyard shift in law enforcement, attended film school, and has been writing strange stories since age eleven.

He loves reading, music, and strives to meet the demands of his five cats.

 

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Guest Post: Writing the Unreal with Brent Abell, Author of The Calling @BrentTAbell #horror #supernatural #book

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Writing the Unreal
Brent Abell

I write fiction. It is dark and filled with the things that go bump in the night. In the end, the sun rises and hope fills the world again. Sometimes, what I write for fiction doesn’t hold a candle to our reality. Think of speculative fiction as a mirror. What does the reflection look like when we gaze in to it?

The world needs speculative fiction to make sense of what is happening in reality. One can’t watch the news without seeing the horrors inflicted on fellow human beings on a daily basis. When I write about the unreal, I try to rationalize the real with it. It is hard to explain why people can be so cruel to each other. Yes, it’s human nature, but placing the blame on an evil presence, or on the supernatural, is easier.

Fiction is also an escape, but what are we escaping from when we read? Is it an escape when what you read isn’t any happier than reality? I watch the world go by and it saddens me. I use fiction to help sort my thoughts out about it. Writing fiction is a cathartic exercise to express the fears and concerns I have for the world.

Zombie fiction is a great mirror for the world. I use it to judge us. The genre has moved beyond the Romero comparisons to how mankind is being turned into zombies through commercialism. I use the zombies as a backdrop now to explore humanity. Instead of how do we get to the point of zombies, I write about the survivors and at what price will a person pay to live. We see on a daily basis the lengths people will go to in society to live, heck just to survive in some cases. But when the constraints of society are broken down and removed, how much will the living regress? When inspected under the mirror, not much more.

In the end, we use fiction for what we need it to be. If you need an escape, a coping mechanism, or a way to reflect; speculative fiction is there for everyone who chooses it. Maybe when you watch the news or look out the window, you can see behind the veil of this world and imagine what lies beyond. Pick up the book on the table next to you and escape. Escape into other worlds and enjoy the break from reality.

What do you see when you look into the mirror?

Carl Volker has a problem. After waking one morning with a hangover to find his wife gone, he notices a crow stalking around his yard.  As days go by with no word from his wife, more and more crows gather.

Frank Hill is sheriff in the seemingly pleasant town of White Creek. Up until recently, his job has been fairly mundane but after a recent spree of murders, bodies are beginning to pile up and Frank has no clue as to who the killer may be.

White Creek has kept its secrets hidden well over the years but the sins of its past are coming to light; the town harbors an evil and the bindings that keep it in check are beginning to unravel.

As Frank and Carl’s friendship is tested and their destinies are revealed, the dead accumulate while the crows watch and The Calling begins!

Available on:

Amazon: US | UK | Canada | Australia | Germany | France | Spain | Italy | Japan | Mexico | Brazil| India | The Netherlands

Amazon Print: US | UK | Canada | Australia | Germany | France | Spain | Italy | Japan | Mexico | Brazil| India | The Netherlands

Kobo | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Smashwords | CreateSpace (Print)

Brent Abell lives in Southern Indiana with his wife, sons, and a pug who sits around eating the souls of wayward people. His stories have been featured in over 30 publications from multiple presses. His work includes his novella In Memoriam, collection Wicked Tales for Wicked People, and novel Southern Devils; which are available now. He also co-authored the horror-comedy Hellmouth series. Currently, he is working on the second book in the Southern Devils series and the next book with Frank Hill in the White Creek Saga.

Facebook: Brent T. Abell
Twitter: @BrentTAbell
Blog: Our Darkest Fears

Crone

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When you’re at the end of your rope and you’re desperate for a solution, who do you turn to? According to Christopher Liccardi, you seek out the old Crone. And when she gives you the only solution for killing seven demons in a single stoke… I’ll let you read the what comes next!

Crone, by Christopher Liccardi

Pen of the Damned

That crazy bitch said seven.

Seven of them, but she didn’t say which seven. She didn’t say where they were or how to find them!

Fuck!

Why did everything have to be so damn cryptic? He hated all the mysticism and bullshit.

Peter recalled that conversation, the last normal conversation he’d had. “Seven Devils, boy. You have to kill them all at once, or they come back.” She laughed, sticking her bony finger in his face.

“What the hell are you pointing at?” He slapped at the finger, but she was too quick. Old age had taken nothing but her looks away from her.

“I can see them,” she cackled. The last three teeth in her head were black. The urge to strangle the life out of her was overwhelming.

“I can’t see them. How can I kill what I can’t see?” he spat back at her.

“No, you…

View original post 1,345 more words

Sweet Ophelia

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A sublimely haunting piece by A.F. Stewart written in prose as beautiful as the tale it delivers.

Pen of the Damned

Daddy, Daddy! Look! It’s snowing. Can we go out and play?”

Ophelia giggled and pressed her face close to the windowpane, staring at the flakes descending from the sky. She traced her chubby finger along the frost touched glass, waiting for an answer.

It never came.

Her silent father only sat in his high-backed chair and gulped another mouthful of Scotch. He stared into the flames crackling in the fireplace, ignoring anything else. When he drained the glass, he poured himself another drink.

Impatient, Ophelia sighed and climbed down from her window ledge perch. She glided out of the room in search of her mother. She found her in the kitchen washing dishes.

“It’s snowing, Mummy. Can we go play in the snow?”

Her mother never looked at her, simply kept at her task, and Ophelia sighed again. “No one pays attention to me anymore.” She tried stamping her…

View original post 787 more words

#NGHW Winner of the Poetry Challenge!

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Julianne Snow and I were fortunate to be invited on as guest judges for the fifth challenge of The Next Great Horror Writer Contest hosted by HorrorAddicts.com. Here is a sampling of the wining poem by Jonathan Fortin – A Warning on Wings.

HorrorAddicts.net

This is just a taste of Jonathan’s poem that will be featured in an
upcoming issue of Sirens Call Magazine.

A Warning on Wings by Jonathan Fortin

His prayer was drawn in blood, the circle like a door

He sat beside the threshold, book open on the floor

This will never work, to himself he sighed

But he was so lonely that every night he cried

He was a somber man, not blessed with good looks

Hated by his village, he found solace in books

Tonight he stripped naked, legs crossed, arms spread

He whispered the words that from the pages bled:

“For you I’d be the greatest that I could ever be

I would do it all, anything you ask of me.”

The circle was no prison; he did not seek a slave

Nor mindless copulation, which would bore him to the grave

No, he sought the thing…

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Serpentine Willow

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A beautifully written tale of devotion and horror by Lee A. Forman. ‘Serpentine Willow’ on Pen of the Damned.

Pen of the Damned

Rebecca’s toes curled in her boots when her feet touched the unholy earth. Ancient trees populated the forest ahead, pale fog twisting between their trunks with serpentine grace. Gnarled limbs formed an impenetrable canopy above, coloring all with a nocturnal hue. Tendrils of mist slithered around her legs, and her knees ached to buckle, but she forced herself on; she knew fear would bring demise.

She thought of Oliver. His shining face cast iron rods into her bones. It kept her from succumbing to the black moss which grabbed at her feet. His smile, the way he always wanted his sandwiches without the crust, his unending questions—memories that powered her will.

Movement in the brush clenched her jaw. But her eyes never averted the path; they stared forward, glazed with determination, intent only on reaching the end. After that it wouldn’t matter.

A clearing opened ahead. Rebecca stopped and…

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Crying, by Jon Olson on @PenoftheDamned @JonOlsonAuthor

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Crying

by Jon Olson

The house was silent.

James’ wife Kate was in bed, no longer nagging him while his son slept quietly in his room. His cries had a way of penetrating deep into James’ head.

Sitting on the shitty brown couch his in-laws had given them as a wedding present, James enjoyed the silence.

Then his father spoke.

“Is that kid of yours going to cry tonight?”

James talked to his father every night, whether he wanted to or not; he always told James how to live his life.

The old man was more overbearing now than when he was alive.

“No, he’s not,” James replied.

“Yes, he will.”

Ignoring his father, he tried to find something decent to watch until Kate called from their bedroom.

“Honey, the air conditioner cut out again! Can you come take a look at it?”

“Tell her to suck it up,” the old man spat. His lifeless eyes blinked at his son as his crooked lips spread into a grin. “Or are you going to give in to her again?”

Read the rest on Pen of the Damned…

The Box, by Mark Steinwachs on @PenoftheDamned @AuthorMarkStein

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The Box

by Mark Steinwachs

The buzzing invades your brain. Why is the alarm clock going off? You begin to open your eyes and realize it’s not the alarm, but the doorbell. Who the hell is at my door at— rolling over, the clock finishes your thought by flashing 3:10 a.m.

You slide out of bed. As your feet touch the floor, the buzzing stops. You get up anyway and walk through the empty house to the front door to see if someone is there. There’s no one on the porch when you look through the peephole. You unlock the door, open it. On the ground in front of you is a small cardboard box. Stepping over it, you look around the front yard and glance up and down the street. Everything is quiet. You scoop the package up and walk into the house, kicking the door shut behind you.

Something solid moves inside the box as you walk to the couch and set it on the coffee table. It’s a perfect square about a foot tall, and meticulously taped. You pick it up again. Whatever is inside shifts slightly, like there’s not quite enough packing material holding it in place. Turning the box over in your hands, you see no markings of any kind.

You set the box down not sure which side is up.

Well, the box will be there in the morning.

Getting up from the couch, you head to your bedroom for a few more hours of sleep. But it doesn’t come. Lying there with your eyes closed, the image of the box fills your thoughts. Your eyes open, and once again, you turn to the clock.

3:50 a.m.

This is ridiculous. It’s a box. And it’s probably not even meant for me.

Read the rest on Pen of the Damned…

Cleaning House, by John Potts Jr on @PenoftheDamned @JohnLPottsJr

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Cleaning House

by John Potts Jr

The blinds were shut, and that meant it was Thursday.

It was the only day of the week when Brent would remove himself from the floor. He’d lock his door, turn off the fluorescent lights, and play seventies rock; usually Zeppelin or Sabbath. This was his office time, the time he dedicated to monotonous managerial duties that ate away at him, bit by bit, and Brent would eventually get to them before he went home. But he’d first lean back in his chair, close his eyes, and spend hours daydreaming. He never cast lustful strings of fantasies nor did he muse over troves of impossible wealth. What Brent wanted was simple, and at the very least, fair.

In his haze was Jimmy Nelson, tall and amiable, complimenting the residents of his sober living home while he passed their medication, and he’d notice Selma Ashton, who finally forced a smile, playing checkers or interacting with the residents with anything but her nasty, resentful glare. Even Marco pitched in. Instead of sneaking off to the bathroom to rail stimulants, Marco was cooking dinner and preaching the steps of sobriety like the recovering addict he claimed to be.

“Not like it used to be. I remember when it was okay to send someone home for loafing around more than a few minutes. Shit, I can’t even have a stern conversation to the lazy pricks without H.R.’s approval, you know that?”

He’d tell himself this once a week, and when his morale cowered like a tail-tucked beast, Brent would fold and vent to his subordinates.

“Sorry you’re stressed, Brent. Anything else you need?”

Read the rest on Pen of the Damned…

Devil Is In The Details, by Joseph A. Pinto on @PenoftheDamned @JosephAPinto

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Devil Is In The Details

by Joseph A. Pinto

Her eyes speak volumes, assuring him it will be as it was; it will be alright. He knows it won’t be—it can’t be.

Nothing escapes the scrutiny of the incandescent lighting above their heads. No dark space exists for him in which to hide. He scrubs the stubble along his chin. “It’s coming out amazing, honey.”

He watches the artist deliver life to his daughter with thoughtful strokes, imbuing pallid skin with a fresh blush. He pushes a smile to his lips, watching his little girl watch him. She knows his nuances; the flutter of his lashes gives him away every time. She is his blood, after all.

Statuesque, she sits quietly for her portrait. It crushes his heart. Her beautiful lips, once so full like those of her mother, stretch like crinkled strips of weathered jerky now, the music silenced from her dancing eyes. She is tired, so tired, draining slowly from the inside. He scrubs his chin, weary as well, weary and broken witnessing the erosion of his child.

The artist half speaks, half clears this throat. “Sir… Sir?”

“Yes, I’m sorry,” he croaks.

The artist nods politely, aware he has trespassed across guarded domain. Brush hovering atop the canvas, he motions to a specific area of the portrait, then repositions himself atop his stool, respectfully waiting.

Read the rest on Pen of the Damned…