Thursday, July 5, 2012
I have been wanting to read Demon for a while. Ever since I’ve gotten into this genre actually. Truth be told, I never actually knew what it was about. The cover, the name, it just intrigued me.
That’s how I pick out a lot of my books… By author, by cover, by title. I rarely even make it through the first two sentences (if that) of the blurb on the back. When I do, it sort of ruins it for me. Yes, I usually get more excited to read the book, but now I have a good idea of what’s going to happen. (And since I read so much, I can start plotting out the story line before I leave the bookstore or hit “Check Out” on Amazon.)
I like going in to a book blind. It makes it so much more exciting.
So when I did get Demon and began reading, I jumped right in. Apparently, Tosca Lee felt the same way as I do: just get to the story. (Even the back cover blurb is a quote from the story.) Immediately we are thrown into the main character’s (Clay) dreary life. The first sentence alerts us that he’s probably not in the prime of his life, “It was raining the night he found me.”
It’s a simple sentence, but if you think about it, it’s almost as alluring as the design on the cover. It brings a lot of questions to mind.
Actually, the book will probably dig up a lot of questions for you. I’ll try to give you a brief intro to the story, and don’t worry, anything I say (as usual) is revealed within the first chapter so it’s not a big secret in any way, shape, or form.
Demon: A Memoir is narrated by Clay, a human, who works at Brooks and Hanover publishing as an editor. The unidentified “he” from the first line is Lucian (again, don’t fret, this is all told in the first chapter), and it’s not hard to guess what type of being he is. Lucian lures Clay into telling him his story. Clay becomes obsessed with Lucian, along with everything he says. Clay’s life is turned inside out as Lucian’s words torment him until Clay finally puts them on paper, with the vague thought of publishing the finished work.
For me, the beginning of the story could have had a little more to it. I felt that it moved too fast. I don’t have an issue with the fact that about two weeks go by in the first couple of chapters, that’s perfectly fine. The issue is that Clay starts to talk about how crazy he’s going. He points out all the weird habits he’s developed and things like that. It isn’t a deal breaker or anything (for this story) but I’m never a big fan when narrators (third or first person) talk about emotions or states of mind or habits before the reader can see them.
I think just one or two more scenes showing Clay’s habits would have been helpful. I find it somewhat disorienting when the main character tells us something we haven’t been able to see yet.
But like I said, it isn’t a deal breaker for Demon because as soon as it happens it’s pretty much over.
Demon is also riddled with comic relief. Well “relief” might not be the right word. For one instance, Lucian and Clay are discussing forgiveness. Lucian makes his opinion clear with a dead cat analogy I don’t think I’ll ever be forgetting. He states something along the lines of that if he kills someone’s cat, and says sorry, it really does nothing at all because frankly, the cat’s still dead. Lucian goes on to make the point that yes, he could buy another one for the owner, but that does nothing as well. Because all he’s accomplished is giving himself another chance to run over a cat - again.
It’s minor, comical passages like this that really make the story fun to read. Besides getting a 180-degree spin on the Creation story, serious moments turn around and make you laugh in a matter of seconds. Yet, the story never loses its weight.
There’s still an overtone of seriousness that cannot be disparaged.
As I got deeper into the story I appreciated Lee’s work with the Lucian. He wasn’t portrayed as this evil thing that could and would destroy or kill at any moment. Yes, we could tell that he was capable of that… But he was alluring. He was captivating. His talent of story telling was enchanting.
Of course the reader knows he’s dangerous. But it’s not overwhelming. It’s an honest portrayal of how Satan and his followers work; they coerce you into their web.
After seeing how deep Clay gets himself into this mess, I was exuberant at the ending. I’m tempted to tell you how it goes, but I want you to be left with the anticipation.
Plus, who wants to be labeled a spoiler?
On that note, I should end this post before I spill the beans. However, I do recommend reading Demon if you want or need a new outlook on God’s love for us as imperfect beings. Through this book, I’ve been reminded of things I’ve heard since childhood, but I’ve been able to view them with new eyes with this story.
I’ve definitely got a new favorite to add to my lists.
If you want to know more about Tosca Lee (if you don’t already) check out my Crafting the Creeps through Fiction interview her.
There, you’ll also find links to her Facebook and Twitter pages, as well as her website.
Saturday, June 30, 2012
The author of my current read, Something Stirs, graciously offered to be interviewed for this series. Thomas Smith has made himself known in a variety of literary scenes. His website states that he is the published author, essayist, travel writer, short story writer, among other things. Smith’s writing has also made itself known in the TV world. He was a TV news producer as well as a comedy and joke writer.
Smith’s novel, Something Stirs, has a strong meaning and potent message.
As the fifth author to join the Crafting the Creeps through Fiction series, I’m happy to post the interview responses from Thomas Smith.
1) What is your earliest memory of being afraid?
“It would have to be the day I almost drowned. I was about five years old and we were at the beach. I couldn't swim, so someone was always nearby, keeping an eye on me in case something happened. A friend of the family put me on a raft and started pulling me around in the surf and I was having a blast. I wasn't afraid of the water, I just didn't know what to do in it. At one point, the friend slipped and accidentally grabbed the raft. when he did, I pitched over the side and was caught up in the wave. I distinctly remember trying to scream and feeling the water run into my mouth, nose, and throat. I was flailing in the green water, still trying to scream when my father came up under me and lifted me out of the water. I couldn't let him go for the longest time. And while I have snorkeled all over the Caribbean and even have a house at the beach, I never go in the water that I don't have a momentary flashback of seeing the surface and not being able to reach it.”
2) Are you ever worried that you push the "horror envelope" too far?
“I don't really worry about that because (1) I have a pretty good idea of what I can “get away with” and where the edge is under the current publishing parameters, and (2) if an editor sees something that he/she feels is pushing things a bit, they will tell me. A scene can always be rewritten, or I can make the case for keeping it the way it is written and see what their response is.
For example: In Something Stirs I had a particular scene that disturbed my editor to the point that she emailed me, told me her concern, and after I thought about it, I was able to tone it down enough to meet their standards and still keep the creepy factor pretty high. Also, I never write anything just for the shock value. I will write something that I hope is frightening, scary, even terrifying, but even at that level it must be in line with and essential to the story. There's really no point in writing something just because you can. Horror is simply an emotion (not really a genre) as is love, amazement, fear, calm, and hate...and any of them can be used to move a story along or act as a roadblock to the tale you're trying to tell. It is in the utilization of every element of the story that the message is able to speak. So, horror can make an inroad for redemption. Horror for the sake of the gross out or trying to be visceral for no good reason silences the real voice of the story. And I always try to keep that in mind.”
3) What is something no one will ever say about you?
“Do you think he's a member of Mensa?”
4) What character surprised you most with something they said or did?
“Actually there were two. The first was Jim Perry when the Ben and Rachel told him about the son they lost a few years earlier. His response, while supportive and empathetic, was also pretty direct. I really didn't know how that would play out until I actually went back and read the scene once it was finished. The other was Piggy Ann. When the final confrontation began, I had no idea what she/it was going to do. I hadn't thought that far ahead, so I was pretty much just along for the ride.”
For more information about Thomas Smith and his plethora of works, check him out on Facebook, Twitter, or his website.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
My mom has been attending writing conferences for a few years now. Remembering my strange obsession with Horror, she’s usually brought me back a few books to check out. One of them was Vanish by Tom Pawlik. Unfortunately, I never got around to reading it. By the time I had the time to read it my mom had given it to someone else.
I wasn’t too heart broken, because later on I bought it on my Kindle.
Yet… As usual, that didn’t help much and I never ended up reading it.
Finally, my mom (once again) came to the rescue, bought me another copy of the Vanish, which ultimately convinced me I needed to read this book.
Three short days later, I had.
If you’re following me on Twitter, you would have seen that what did break my heart was having to put the book down to sleep and eat. I mean, I know people miss those basic actions all the time. But if anyone has ever seen me running on a lack of sleep or food… They’d have no option but to agree that I should never miss those basic necessities.
Even with my mandatory breaks, I don’t think I’ve been that addicted to a book in a long time.
Vanish begins in Chicago. Conner Hayden, a high-end lawyer, starts his day feeling just a little strange and it only gets worse from there. After recent events, Conner is only trying to make life as normal as he can. While he thinks he may be doing at least a decent job, the world around him begins to seem like an extremely different place.
I felt a little silly because I honestly could not figure it out until Pawlik revealed what was going on. I had my guesses (and I think at one point I did guess the right answer) but I was so unsure I didn’t allow myself to think I was right. Then my mom asked, “Have you figured it out yet?” I panicked for moment thinking, have I missed something? Did I skip over some giant clue that was obvious to everyone else who’s read it?
I calmed myself by saying, “Eh, he’s gotta tell me at some point.”
This book is good because it’s a new look at something people have been guessing about for centuries. As usual, I don’t want to focus too much on the plot because that’s the magic of books, you don’t know what’s going to happen.
So in this review, I’ll try to stay on track and discuss Pawlik’s writing. What this review contains is my personal experience with the book; I picked out what made the story good for me. Mainly because I’m a little stuck for what to say about it.
Pawlik is certainly good at creating last-minute twists. The type of twists that haven’t truly been developed throughout the entire book. But show up randomly and throw off any stability you had managed to aquire. Then, looking back, you’ll see that there was that one small, tiny clue a few chapters back. However, the hint was hidden so well you didn’t bother to think much of it.
When reading Vanish I would have to say do not get too comfortable in one reality. It’s bound to change in the next chapter.
I appreciated one moment of description in particular. Authors use analogies, metaphors, similes, and other tricks to describe characters’ emotions and thoughts.
A lot of them work, some crash and burn, and others just make perfect sense.
In Vanish (don’t worry, I’m only going to tell you the description side of the analogy), Pawlik has Conner think over an experience and recall it as getting into your own car after having used a rental for a while. Pawlik writes,
“His head was spinning as he tried to make sense of the images he had seen. No, they weren’t images. They were real. He had felt like a stranger in his own body. It was thick, awkward, and cold. Yet it had an odd familiarity, like the sensation he would have after driving for a long time in a different car, only to return to his old vehicle. It was familiar though still a little awkward.”
When you read Vanish, you’re probably going to do the same thing I did. Be amazed at how this simple analogy works so perfectly. In the context of the scene and the experiment, it made absolute sense. It feels silly to highlight this one little piece, but for some reason it stood out to me as I read.
Besides the best placement for analogies and metaphors, Pawlik’s use of doubt created, for me, the need to keep reading. Readers watch characters, who are hiding from their unrevealed pasts, put in a position where all they can do is face the truth. Truth about themselves, the world, and their current predicament. Vanish is layered and layered with battles physical and spiritual.
Pawlik dangles the answer right in front of you until the characters finally begin figuring it out.
Throughout most of the book I struggled fully letting myself accept that I knew what the story was about. The answer played in my mind, but, as I said, I wasn’t confident enough to state it for sure. There were a lot of elements and I wasn’t sure how they all fit my conclusion.
This toying created an interesting feel to the story. Kind of like another layer of depth. On one hand, the book seems pretty easy to figure out, and then you’re wondering if it’s got that mysterious pull to it. While on the other hand, you can’t be sure if your theory is correct… And it attracts you; it keeps you reading.
The only way I could describe it is that in some strange way it was vague and blunt all at the same time.
Saturday, June 23, 2012
The Patrick Bowers Files…Need I say more? Actually, yes I must. The Pawn, The Rook, The Knight, The Bishop, and The Queen (don't forget the newest, not yet released, The King) are an exhilarating series written by Steven James. I’ve read the first and have decided to pace myself through the rest. (They’re too good to rush through.) James is also the author of Opening Moves and Checkmate (both part of The Patrick Bowers Files); The Jevin Banks Experience (Placebo and Singularity, yet to be released); and also Quest for Celestia: A Reimagining of The Pilgrim’s Progress.
Besides fiction, James is quite known for writing non-fiction, as well as upholding a blog and a website titled “Ask The Author.” If you've ever had a question for him, you can e-mail him there and maybe get an answer from him posted on the site.
Having just met Steven James and recently finished his book, The Pawn, I was glad to be able to include him into the Crafting the Creeps through Fiction series.
1) What is your earliest memory of being afraid?
“I'm not sure if this is the earliest memory, but it's one of the most vivid: When I was about 8 or 9, I watched a story about Big Foot on TV, and in the movie some people were in the living room and Big Foot walked across the window behind them. They didn't even see him. Man, that freaked me out! I'd lie in bed staring out the window expecting Big Foot to walk by on the other side.”
2) As a writer, do the voices in your head ever overwhelm you?
“As long as I keep writing, I keep the voices in my head under control.”
3) What book ending (that you've written) did you expect the least?
“I'd say the ending to my forthcoming book, Placebo. I knew some of the criteria I wanted during the climax, but I was quite a ways into the book before any of it really materialized. It was a good example to me of how trusting the story eventually leads you to uncover it.”
4) Do you ever worry about pushing the "horror envelope" too far?
“I guess this is my own little rule of thumb: In suspense, I try to make someone afraid to look away from the page. I want them to have so much concern for the characters that they keep reading even if they feel apprehension. In regard to horror, I think of it as being afraid to look at the page. So, for example, describing something that would make somebody nauseous. I try to stay in the realm of the suspense and pull back my writing if it wanders too far astray.”
If you want to know more about Steven James, or his many writing projects, you can follow him on any one (or all) of his sites:
Ask The Author: http://asktheauthor.net/
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Well, that’s what happens when you drop a rock in still waters. No, the controversies between Horror and Christianity aren’t very still, but I think a lot of people tend to stay pretty silent about it. Except those who write Christian Horror, like for instance, Mike Duran.
“Reasons Christians Don’t Read Horror (And Why They Should)” was the article Duran posted on the blog Speculative Faith. It was posted Friday, and as of Wednesday night, it has already accumulated 85 comments. After the inundation of responses, Duran tweeted that he needed to get a special app alerting him of whenever someone left a mean comment.
See what I mean about dropping a rock?
I feel kind of odd writing this now. Like someone trying to come fashionably late to a party, but instead, they happened to wait too long and now it’s just plain awkward.
Duran starts off talking about the Christians who refuse to read in the Horror genre. I’ll back him up by saying that a lot of the time it’s not just non-believers who seem convinced that Christianity and Horror can’t work together. I’ve received a lot, a LOT of strange looks from Christians when I talk about my interest in Horror.
Though, to be truthful, I do have to admit my fascination with the genre may stretch beyond normalcy.
When Duran mentions the questions posed by those who reject horror, my answer probably wasn’t the right one.
Duran writes, “So why should we voluntarily scare ourselves?” My first instinct was simply… Because it’s fun. The answer popped in my head before I even read the next sentence. While it seems harmless enough, it probably wasn’t the best first impulse I could have had.
The article got me thinking. Do I take this love of fear too far? Is it getting to a twisted or dangerous level?
If you find yourself asking these questions as you read through the article, keep reading. Duran states something that many of us often forget.
“…there’s a difference between what we look at / observe / encounter / ponder and what we choose to embrace. Just reading or watching something horrific does not make us horrible, any more than watching a car accident, robbery, adulterous affair, or elder abuse makes us compliant.”
Yes, Duran’s article is straightforward, and may even be taken as harsh. But whether you agree or disagree, the topic deserves a decent amount of thought before replying.
Whether you agree with him or not, he makes some awfully strong points.
In my opinion, I agree with him. Not just because I like reading Horror (and the adrenaline rush from being scared), but because as Christians we can’t ignore everything that isn’t pretty or what makes us cringe a little.
So, if your aversion to the genre of Horror is based purely on your taste and you honestly just don’t like it… Don’t read it. I’m not going to say (and I don’t think Mike Duran would either) that you’re a bad Christian or you’re not actually Christian if you don’t read Horror. Honestly, that’s quite silly. It’s a rare occasion if I pick up a non-fiction book, a romance novel, or even historical fiction. Honestly, I don’t read much else in the Christian Fiction world except Horror. Duran mentions Amish Fiction… It’d have to be one strange day for you to ever catch me reading that stuff. I’m not against it, it’s not because I think the Amish shouldn’t be written about, I just don’t have the taste for it.
My reads have to have that rush, that thrill, that uncertainty of what’s going to happen.
They have to have the type of exhilaration that only comes from the ups and downs of a Horror or Thriller/Suspense novel.
HOWEVER, if your excuse for not reading Horror is “I’m a Christian” or anything along those lines… I’m not going to tell you you’re wrong. We’re all entitled to our beliefs and personal values. But I ask you to re-consider. Read a couple more articles about the controversy; maybe even pick up a Christian Horror novel.
Mike Duran’s article, “Reasons Christians Don’t Read Horror (And Why They Should)” would be a good place to start. If you’re against it or not, I encourage you to join the conversation. Do a little research on the topic. Find out what’s best for you personally.
That also involves not criticizing those who have found no conviction in reading Horror.
While I did say Duran’s article could be taken has harsh, I think he’s done a good job of pointing out some concrete ideas. (Should I dare to say facts?) As I read his article, I’m glad to see his enthusiasm. The article practically oozes with emotion. Which, most of the time can be a bad thing, but the elements he brings to the conversation are solid enough that the emotion adds an extra level of strength to his argument.
So to answer his final question, “Do you ‘do horror’?” Yes, I do. I love it and I don’t think much would able to stop me from reading it. I love the scare and ever present battle between the good guys and the bad ones. I agree with Duran that while we are supposed to be full of light and overflowing with God’s love, we can’t ignore or deny the fact that there is real evil in the world.
For details on Duran’s ideas, you’re going to have to read the article yourself: http://www.speculativefaith.com/2012/06/15/reasons-christians-dont-read-horror-and-why-they-should/
For more of his writing you can also check out Mike Duran’s blog: http://mikeduran.com/