Sunday, June 24, 2012

Last Week in Horror & Suspense 06.24.12

A Flame in the Dark announced the first four of the several authors to be included in our upcoming Monsters! anthology. These first four include Greg Mitchell (The Coming Evil Trilogy), Ellen C. Maze (The Rabbit series), Kat Heckenbach (Finding Angel), and Teric Darken (Wickflicker). Greg has had some nice things to say about the upcoming book, along with a few details on his own offering, at his website. More details on this anthology coming shortly.

Metal band Tourniquet has begun accepting pre-orders for their upcoming album, Antiseptic Bloodbath. Pre-order deals include a CD with a t-shirt or else just a CD. The sale is available at the band's website.

Mike Duran's The Resurrection is available in Kindle format for $2.99. Check it out at Amazon.

Mike Dellosso named the thirty members of his Darlington Society for this year. The society is a rather singular concept in the world of writing, like a fan club with responsibilities, and the chance to interact with the author. This is, of course, an oversimplification. For more information, hit up Dellosso's Society page.

Finally, keep your eyes peeled for something new from Splashdown Darkwater (Splashdown Books' paranormal/horror line). We don't know what's coming, but Grace Bridges and company say something is. Whether that something is Greg Mitchell's upcoming Rift Jump or the highly anticipated Winter sequel from Keven Newsome, remains to be seen. Just keep an eye out, and whatever you do, don't stop watching.

As always, if you have a news item you'd like us to report, or something you'd like to bring to our attention, let us know!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Review: The Telling by Mike Duran


With eloquent use of prose, Mike Duran takes a cozy mystery focused on retirement community resident, Annie Lane, and introduces a twisted amalgam of a body snatching, dark fairy mythos. 

Ms. Marple, meet X-files. 

When Annie begins investigating the strange happenings in her apartment complex, she finds creatures that inhabit the dark recesses. These creatures appear to be stealing the very souls of people in her community, feeding off the regrets and fears of the inhabitants. Scary, huh? But in a psychological, Lovecraftian or Hitchcockian way, the author makes suggestions that cause the reader to extrapolate what happens next. Rather than appealing to the reader’s guttural fear, he plays with our minds and gives hints without necessarily spilling all the gory details. His excellent and concise use of language draws a surprising picture in the readers mind without being verbose.

These days, horror tends to work toward creeping out the reader by using our empathy to its advantages. We feel the character's pain. Who wants to be forced to saw off their own foot or die? It’s an animalistic fear that almost anyone can understand. It doesn't play with our intellect, it plays with our adrenaline.  The Telling is much more psychological. It renews a fear of the dark, whether it’s the physical dark in the corner of your bedroom, or the mental darkness in the corner of your mind. This sort of fear stays with you long after you've pulled the covers up to your chin. It’s personal. 

This is the kind of story that reminds me why I like to read horror in the first place. It forced me to consider my own weaknesses, and the source of my strength. A solid, well written book that is fun to read right before bed.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Review: James Rawbone's Bunker



It seems, if one browses the Christian bookshelves these days in pursuit of good fiction reads, the titles available typically offer inspirational stories that reaffirm our faith that all is well with the universe, and that all will work for the best in the end according to the plan of a wise and loving creator. Even most Christian horror novels tend to be ultimately optimistic in this end.

And if that is your idea of a good read, then you probably don't want to read The Bunker by J. M. Rawbone.

The Bunker is the story of Mark, a man haunted by his own tragic past. It seems as a young boy, Mark had an opportunity to prevent a terrible tragedy form taking place. That tragdedy involved a younger child named William Mathews who was cruelly snatched from his adoring parents by a wicked woman named Elsie, and imprisoned in a WWII air raide shelter in back of her house. Her reasons for doing so were not initially malevolent, but were entirely selfish: to gain the favor of her unloving husband through the blond, blue-eyed child's angelic appearance. When that doesn't work, Elsie destroys the child's features hoping that pity will buy her the man's love.

I warned you that this was disturbing.

Mark, the tragic, would-be hero, is presented with a chance to free the child from a terrible future, but relents, basically out of fear. As a result, Mark is haunted into his adult life by visions of the angelic child that Billy was, while Billy grows up locked away from the world, twisted both mentally and physically-and nuturing a lust for revenge upon his would-be rescuer. Mark's sin appears to be one of simple cowardice, and though I'm tempted to think, well, he was only a scared kid after all, his negligence has horriffic consequences. David, the bullied youngster who befriends the twisted Billy Mathews later in the novel shows far more guts.

Now, if this were, say, a Dean Koontz thriller, the story would have followed a different track, and one which frankly, I'd vastly preferred reading (or writing) myself. I'd have had Mark been a far braver boy, and had him rescue the child from the shelter, and then have both of them on the run from the demented Elsie's vengeance. That would have worked as a dark but ultimately upbeat tale. It is not, however, the story Rawbone elected to tell. His story has far more in common with the early Stephen King than Koontz. And I'm talking about King from Carrie to It; the period where he crafted his darkest most disturbing tales which offered a most pessimistic outlook on the human condition. King was (and still largely is) a writer in school of Naturalism, a literary philosophy which believes in dealing frankly with the harshness of the reality in which we all live. Naturalism is actually pretty rare in Christian fiction of any stripe; the horrors of reallife tend all to often to diminish our faith. That is, however, a strong argument in favor of Christian horror against its critics; horror enables us to look the reality of natural and supernaturall evil straight in the face, something that too much of Christian horror tends to avoid. Such horrifying moral tragedies as Rawbone explores in his novel are very much part of our world, and our reaction tends to be to look in the other direction.

Rawbone has richly descriptive prose that actually nearly rivals that Stepehen King himself, and that's not a compliment I'd say about anyone, as much as horror writers tend to be compared to the Master. It may have become cliche to compare an upcoming author with SK, but here I think that in Rawbone's case the comparison really applies, and in more than one area.

Which brings me to the one really huge moral and ideological gripe I have with Rawbone's novel. Skip the next three paragraphs if you want, as it contains heavy SPOILERS as to the novel's climax.

During the final confrontation between Mark and Billy, something occurs that makes Billy realize that Elsie lied to him when she told he was never loved; by means of his acquired powers he experiences the fullness of his real mother's enduring love for him. You know the verse: God IS Love. Billy undergoes a reformation at that point as the realizes in full shallowness and self-defeating nature of revenge. Rawbone makes a very important point here. As much as revenge appeals to human nature, and even seems superficially moral and just, it is anything but. The Bible warns emphatically against the taking of revenge, and anyone who has consulted God in prayer will reach the conclusion that returning evil for evil is wrong. That evil is infact a parasite that feeds off of a desire for good (a concept argued by C. S. Lewis), and breeds more of itself is a powerful theme running throughout this story. Instead of killing Mark, Billy attempts to end his own life, seemingly to merely end the misery of his tortured existence.

Honestly, at this point, I really thought the Holy Spirit had entered Billy. I expected to see some justice in the universe after all, to see Billy's REAL life begin the life after this one. Elsie probably didn't go to a happy eternity, but her victim, although definitely seduced by evil, had finally undergone a transformative experience and would have his own childhood back and more. Instead, Rawbone suggests, very strongly in one paragraph, that Billy is doomed to spend eternity in hell. My blood actually ran cold at that point. Why, as he obviously both experienced the love he'd been denied, and realized, with true remorse, the wrongness of his quest for revenge? True, it begs the question as to why Billy doesn't attempt to seek out his mother instead of killing himself; and suicide is indeed a sin, although there are circumstances to to taken into account in this particular case: Billy only desires a release from a lifetime of pain. There is, of course, an answer to the question, but one which is far more disturbing than the rest of the story as a whole. And this answer, which I fear the most, is that due to circumstances beyond his control, Billy never had the opportunity to know directly about Jesus Christ. In other words, Billy went to hell becuase he had been tragically robbed of knowledge and opportunity,through no fault of his own. In the succeeding chapter, Mark's father Julian, a pastor, philosophizes on how we humans are only privy to a small fraction fo the whole truth about ourselves and the universe. I am sure that is true. And being the case, I rather suspect every single soul, from the mentally handicapped, to starving childen in thirdworld countries, to psychotic individuals unable to discern right from wrong, are NOT all destined to end up in either one of two eternal destinations, particularly if an all-wise, and all-just creator really is running the universe. Rawbone's concept of heaven and hell as "extensions of our consciousness" which survive our bodily death is an interesting one, and one very in sinc with the moral philosophy espoused by Lewis. It is possible to argue that perhaps hell is what awaits us when we succumb to our selfish desires (as Billy does earlier), but that it is not necessarily a result of God's moral judgement. In general, however, it is argued that hell is indeed the judgement of God. And if that is true in Billy's case, we are stuck with a very monstrous portrait of God indeed. It is true that niether God, Christ, or even Satan is given direct mention when Billy enters the afterlife (though I strongly suspect that the evil entity tempting Billy with revenge in the darkness of the bunker is indeed Satan). However, if Rawbone subscribes to Christian worldview, as I beleive he does, then the answer,"Billy didn't accept Jesus" would appear to be the correct one, and the most disturbing one of all. And frankly, I don't think it's disturbing in a good way either, as such a thorouoghly negative image of God tends to destroy faith itself. To consider this realistically, my own faith win the just nature of God would be challenged. Not having the correct knowledge or words for salvation doesn't strike me as any more moral than not knowing the password to a computer database.

All in all, The Bunker is no easy read. It is far from escapist entertainment or cheap thrills, but then, so was the early Stephen King, despite King's unfair reputation to the contrary. Rawbone has written a novel that is both deeply disturbing in its portrayal of the universe we inhabit, and which raises highly philosophical and higly debatable questions.










Sunday, June 10, 2012

Book Review: Something Stirs

Review by Pauline Creeden, 
Amazon Top Reviewer

Stephen King said in his book "On Writing" that he was not above the gross out factor. Meaning that if he couldn't scare you in a scene, he'd certainly at least try to gross you out. In this book, I'd say that Thomas Smith is not above the "creep out factor." Meaning that though this book might not be a terrifying, heart-stopping read, it definitely creeped me out.

Christian Horror/Suspense is my favorite genre, and this book does the genre justice. I've heard many times that people don't understand this genre, or didn't know it existed, but it is growing fast and catching steam. Why? Because evil is real, and Christian Horror/Suspense faces it head on. But instead of coming out with a wooden stake and a silver bullet as secular horror does, a Christian horror novel realizes Who defeats the evil one. Thomas Smith, in this novel, gives credit where it is due, and doesn't do much in the way of whitewashing the existence of evil. Kudos to him for that!

At times the handling of a hero’s peril is handled a bit with kid gloves. Just when some characters are on the verge of being harmed, they coincidentally get out of the way of harm. Unfortunately that often meant that someone else became the victim of the horror’s wrath, in this “haunted house” gone awry.

If you are a fan of Dean Koontz and Stephen King, but want a bit more faith affirming read, this is book aims to please. If you're a Christian who has been disappointed with the over abundance of bonnets and buggies that permeate much of Christian Fiction, maybe it's time to check out this rising genre? Something Stirs is a solid opener and a good place to start.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Thomas Smith Book Trailer Looks Like An Interesting Movie

Thomas Smith, whose first book, Something Stirs (Taberah Press/Sonfire Media), is now available online, has been showing off his new book trailer. And that's understandable. Created by Qadosh Films, the trailer has the look and feel of a movie trailer. And a pretty good movie, too!


Something Stirs is about a successful writer and his family, who have moved into a new home. 



A malevolent entity becomes trapped in the wood and stone of the house and it will do whatever it takes, to find a way to complete its bloody transference to our world. 
Local sheriff, Elizabeth Cantrell, and former pastor-turned-cabinetmaker, Jim Perry, are drawn into the family's life as the entity manipulates the house with devastating results. And it won't stop until it gets what it wants. Even if it costs them their faith, their sanity, and their lives.
-From the book description

Check out the book trailer below:


Around The Web 06/07/12: Christian Horror Lives!

Christian Horror Blog -- which is to say, the other (and, admittedly, first) blog to focus on horror from a Christian perspective -- is back in action after months of... well, I'm not sure, actually. In any event, their first offering of the year is Scott Derrickson's (Director, The Exorcism of Emily Rose) seminar at the Arts and Faith Workshop. To CHB blogger Joshua Ellis, welcome back, Bro!

Jason J. Cross is giving away three copies of his book, His Calling 2: Inner Demons. Readers have until tomorrow to head over to Goodreads for the chance to win.

As always, if you've got Christian horror or suspense news, or if you've written or read something interesting online, let us know! Email aflameinthedarkzine@gmail.com!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Around the Web 06.03.12: The Gospel According to King

CNN's belief blog has posted an article on Christian themes and imagery in the works of Stephen King. Bunker Author J.M. Rawbone is quoted in the article, suggesting tongue-in-cheek, "if God brought lawsuites, Stephen King would face a charge of plagiarism." The piece itself is worth checking out, as is Rawbone's essay on the subject, found at his blog.

Mortal, Book 2 of Ted Dekker's and Tosca Lee's "Books of Mortals" series, is reviewed at Christian Fiction Addiction with a score of 4.5 out of 5 stars.

As always, if you find news or commentary on faith and suspense or horror fiction, let us know! Just send an email to aflameinthedarkzine@gmail.com!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Last week in horror/suspense 06.02.12

Ted Dekker gave away five free copies of his and Tosca Lee's Mortal Thursday. This is the latest of several giveaways and contests Dekker hosts or promotes on his Facebook page.  The pair are also preparing to embark on a tour in support of the book. Dekker suggests he may, if enough followers are interested, post updates and thoughts about the tour through the Facebook page.

Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider author Ellen C. Maze has teamed up with Y.A. fantasist K.F. Ridley to create Little Roni Publishing. (Article at our sister blog, info.wyrm)

His Calling author Jason Cross is hosting a Q&A about the series on Goodreads until the end of June.