Archive for Book

Story Fragment: SHADOW IN THE SHEETS

Posted in Original Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2017 by smuckyproductions

Part of a larger story, exploring a woman’s trauma after a sexual encounter leads to terrifying cosmic revelations – and her attempts to forget what she learned at all costs. 

Jules interviewed Naomi after the date, as she insisted upon since their sophomore year of college, though Naomi thought these questions were more precise. They had lived with each other long enough that something small, the rhythm of their steps or ferocity of a sigh, could hint at mood; so the inquiries burrowed close. “Was it okay?” she asked. “She seemed cute, and smart, but…”

Naomi paused and hitched a breath, which almost ruined her composure and spilled the truth through her teeth. But she managed, “It was fine. Great in the moment, when I was drunk, but not so special the next morning. You know how it goes.”

It gnawed at her, that only two people would ever know what had happened in her bed. She shuddered to realize that such an impossibility would go on as just that, a dream. In the end, this assurance is what kept her silent, even if it terrified her. Jules did not need to know what had occurred so close to her sleeping body. Naomi would have paid steep prices for a similar ignorance. She felt nostalgia for a time when her bed had been an escape; to melt into the worn sheets, the years-old mattress pad, was to forget the complexities of the world. Her comforter, once a prized possession because of its sheer size, now lay at the base of a dumpster several blocks away. She had tried to sleep in the sheets that next day, but could not bring herself to peel them back, in case some sign remained under them. She closed her eyes as she donned the purple rubber gloves from her bathroom and ripped them from the mattress, stuffed them into a garbage bag. It occurred to her what she must have looked like when she rushed down the street, eyes bulging and toting the soft package – realizing that she was just another crazy person on the street, a true New Yorker, kept her from screaming every time the bag bumped against her leg. Sometimes she wondered if it was still in the dumpster after all; perhaps it had slunk away on its own.

These details scuttled through her mind as she answered Jules’s questions – “What did you do? Where’d you go? Was she a good kisser?” She overcompensated in her answers, since she so vaguely skipped through the first one. She described for Jules the candle-flickering speakeasy where they had begun; Alex ordered pungent Negronis for them and grinned over hers, prepared to initiate Naomi into a dark, secret world. “This city has so many places to hide,” she whispered after the second round; “all these corridors and spaces where no one wants to go, and no one will. Imagine what’s sitting there? Who’s using those places to escape? So many stories. You look at these windows, all quiet and dark, and the heavy doors – what’s happening in there? What has happened? What will?” Had Naomi not been a little drunk, this would have bored her. It was the gloom, the aromatic gin, and most of all Alex – her voice edged with a practiced rasp, and her eyes… they glimmered with candlelight and promised, “I have seen these secret places.” Later on, she couldn’t remember what had actually been special about them. If she could have placed their draw through the gin, she might have avoided the rest of the night, and what came after. Their speckles of green seemed to spiral deep into pools of shade, and Naomi wanted to go inside, where it was cool and unknown wonders crept. Alex promised to lead her down.

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Forbidden Tomes: THE WOMAN IN BLACK by SUSAN HILL

Posted in Forbidden Tomes with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 10, 2016 by smuckyproductions

 

Around this time of year, everyone loves a good ghost story. Most of them are suitable for some momentary shivers, perhaps a glance over the shoulder, and a hearty (albeit nervous) laughter at the supernatural. But there are some ghost stories that leave a lingering chill. Their fears extend past the fun of fiction into something darker, more clinging. One such ghost story is Susan Hill’s classic, THE WOMAN IN BLACK.

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Many people have seen this story done on screen, either in 1989 or recently in 2012. The lucky ones have witnessed it on stage. For those who haven’t, the tale goes forward as such: an ambitious young solicitor travels to the distant, foggy climes of Eel Marsh House in order to sort the affairs of the recently deceased Alice Drablow. But something else lingers in Eel Marsh, and the neighboring town. When the young man sees a mysterious woman dressed in black standing in the local graveyard, and meets undue paranoia from the townspeople, he begins to unearth a horrible secret.

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Susan Hill sets herself up with delightful Gothic elements from the get-go. Recounted by the young man several decades later, the story feels like one told by a campfire, but his reluctance to tell it gives a feeling of unknown dread. The landscapes are wonderfully mist-shrouded and dreary, the house itself is gloomy as one could want, and the mystery surrounding it all has an air of danger: you don’t really want to know the truth. The image of the titular woman, wrapped in black and almost skeletal, is chilling. Then the real horror begins.

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Even in the films (preferring the 1989 version over the recent adaptation, though that one is decent too), the story conveys several layers of fear. There is the spooky apparition, the somber house; but then there is the terror of the townspeople, who refuse to discuss the woman in black. We get the sense that something awful lingers beneath the creepy trappings. Hill delivers on this, too. The revelation of the woman in black is the stuff of nightmares. It goes beyond a simple chilly encounter, branching into almost existential horror, because there is no escaping it.

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It’s difficult to discuss this darkness without ruining the surprise, so I’ll leave it at this: for those who like their horror with a dose of gravity, “The Woman in Black” is ideal. It will have you looking in the distance a bit too hard, searching for the form of a specter with a terrible prophecy.

Forbidden Tomes: HORROR STORIES of TRUMAN CAPOTE

Posted in Forbidden Tomes with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 20, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Though he’s known for more whimsical classics like “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “The Grass Harp,” or the harrowing true crime account “In Cold Blood,” there is more to Truman Capote than one might at first recognize. He is undoubtedly masterful with sentimental, nostalgic tales and beautiful insights into memory – but lesser discussed are his forays into terror and the Gothic. Today I want to shed some light on the neglected Horror Stories of Truman Capote.

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From a literary perspective, his Collected Stories are a must-read, and all the more exciting for horror fans due to the surprise moments of terror hidden within. In these moments, Capote equals Shirley Jackson in his ability to conjure tiny moments of suspense with the utmost subtlety, and always favoring an ambiguous end. They speak to the darkness of his own visions, something that would come into full effect with “In Cold Blood” (which, in its own way, is utterly horrifying).

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My personal favorites are “Miriam” and “Master Misery.” The former finds an amiable widow befriending a strange child at the movie theater. She soon regrets it as the child begins to haunt her home, ringing at late hours and demanding to be given a home. It’s a fabulous entry in the ‘evil child’ subgenre, and playing on something innate in most people – who can refuse a child, no matter what it begins to ask of you?

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“Master Misery” is less direct in its horror and its story, but its depiction of psychological breakdown is very effective. It follows a woman who, strapped for cash, begins to sell her dreams to a mysterious but enticingly wealthy old man. But what happens when she starts to run out of dreams? This tale is surreal and ambiguous, weaving a bizarre New York City in which a person’s life is slowly devoured. In spite of its ambiguity, I found it deeply disturbing, mostly because it resonated a truth I hadn’t yet named.

The collection features less horrific stories that still contain hints of the Gothic – “A Tree of Night,” in which a young woman is hounded into insanity by grotesque drunkards on an overnight train; and “Children on their Birthdays,” the retrospective tale of a girl who holds uncanny sway over the children in her town. All of these darker offerings speak to a literary tradition of subtle horror that I often think has been forgotten by modern writers. Capote roots his terror in the unraveling of an already fragile mind, pushed over the edge by an unnatural experience that is usually quite small. The aura of hopelessness that hovers over his endings makes them all the more devastating.

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While certainly not a genre writer, Truman Capote shows how capable he is at creating a dreadful and psychological atmosphere. The above stories (and the others, in spite of their lack of fear) are so often forgotten in the horror canon. I recommend them to anyone who likes their dread to creep up slowly, quietly, and internally, so that it is impossible to run away.

Fool’s Gold is available in paperback!

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2013 by smuckyproductions

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“Fool’s Gold,” a new vision of horror, is now available in paperback. Click HERE to buy now!

FOOL’S GOLD AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE!

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 23, 2013 by smuckyproductions

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CLICK HERE to buy Fool’s Gold for only $2.99. If you would rather have a hardcopy, the paperback will be available soon.

Support an up-and-coming author and BUY NOW!

Fool’s Gold will be available for purchase TOMORROW!

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 21, 2013 by smuckyproductions

My debut novel, “Fool’s Gold,” will be available on ebook devices through Amazon and other venues tomorrow afternoon. Stay tuned for the links and get ready to download!

“Fool’s Gold” Official Book Trailer

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 12, 2013 by smuckyproductions

The official trailer for my novel “Fool’s Gold,” which will be available for download in late April.