Why Hallowe’en? Because we love to see fear in the mirror

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By Scott Bury

mage courtesy Things Gunjan Draws http://thingsgunjandraws.blogspot.com

Ebola. Totalitarianism. Pandemic. Mass migration. Climate change. Terrorism.

Judging from hyperbole in social media, we are out-and-out terrified of these things. Even to the extent of people getting angry at climate activists for “spreading fear.”

We’re afraid of fear, like Franklin Roosevelt said.

And yet, at this time of year, we choose to scare ourselves by going to movies like the latest iteration of the Joker.

What does that say about the creators of things scary?

The job we have chosen as writers of fantasy and speculative fiction is to reflect our audience’s fears back to them in symbolic way. Perhaps this is a way to help deal with them, but mostly, it’s because through fantasy, we can take some joy from our fears as well as, well, fear. It’s like riding a roller-coaster: it’s fun because it scares us, but we’re really safe.

A long, grisly, nasty yet honourable tradition

This is what fantasy writers have always done: writing stories about mythical, legendary and magical symbols and themes, stories that give us another way to look at what’s really bothering us. It has a long history in a technological era:

  • Godzilla, the monster awakened by atomic radiation and that could breathe out “atomic fire,” reflected our fears of nuclear war and radiation.
  • Zombies, like those in World War Z, Night of the Living Dead or The Walking Dead reflect our fear of incurable, virulent and especially contagious pandemics, made even more horrifying and destructive by their ability to instantly render their victims as vessels of further transmission.
  • US, Misomar, Saw and other recent horror films and books play on our current fears, sublimating everything from surveillance, to loss of home, and of course, the old standby, the Other—people not of our tribe, and therefore a threat.
  • Dracula, the Un-Dead, the progenitor of nearly all the vampire books since, plays on several fears. First is the fear of contagion—Bram Stoker’s heroes thought Lucy’s affliction was a blood disease, after all – but also the fear of being infected with something that will change your nature (becoming a vampire). There is also the fear of the Other, the foreigner, the intruder who by his very nature is dangerous. But mostly, Dracula was a sublimation of the greatest fear of the Victorian era: sex.

Yes, I am saying that sucking up blood was the only way that a Victorian era writer would portray sexual lust without getting banned or arrested. Don’t believe me? The vampire was ultimately defeated by a woman’s sexual attractiveness. Oh, sure, Dracula said he was only interested in her blood. But he was lured to his doom by a beautiful young woman, who invited the vampire into her bedroom and made him stay all night long. Now tell me Stoker was not writing about sex.

Still holding onto that argument? Watch Francis Ford Coppola’s film based on the book and try to sustain it.

Today, writing about fear of pandemic is just too easy. Vampires or zombies with ebola-like symptoms is obvious.

But what about climate change? What sorts of fantasy tropes symbolize that without being overly literal? Now there’s a challenge for this capable gang to take on.

The biggest fear, though, that I can see is the fear of change. Any new idea still evokes howls from predictable corners. How would fantasy writers deal with that? What about fantasy readers? What suggestions or challenges do you have for your favourite writers?

Leave your suggestions in the Comments.

Scott Bury

can’t stay in one genre. After a 20-year career in journalism, he turned to writing fiction. “Sam, the Strawb Part,” a children’s story, came out in 2011, with all the proceeds going to an autism charity. Next was a paranormal short story for grown-ups, “Dark Clouds.”

The Bones of the Earth, a historical fantasy, came out in 2012. It was followed in 2013 with One Shade of Red, an erotic romance.

He has several mysteries and thrillers, including Torn RootsPalm Trees & Snowflakes and Wildfire.

Scott’s articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia.

He has two mighty sons, two pesky cats and a loving wife who puts up with a lot. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

Learn more about Scott on his:

Website   |   Blog    |  Facebook    |   Twitter

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Terror teaser: The Dark

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Spooktober continues on BestSelling Reads with this taste of the chilling novel

By David C. Cassidy

Harmon devoured a handful of hard candy before heading out. The wood-chopping went well, but when his bum hand grew strained he took a break to change his dressing. Sitting at his kitchen table he found his leg healing, but as he unraveled the next-to-last strand of gauze around his hand, he lowered his head slowly, like a man ready for the gallows door to fall.

“God … let it be better. Let it be better.” He removed the last strip.

Moss had consumed his flesh, spreading like the wild growth that it was. The wound was a grassy mound. The shoot sprouted lime-colored spores, like pus-filled pimples that begged to be popped. Thick veins, like those of a healthy leaf, ran across his palm and his fingers.

He stood up and brought his hand close to the light. His new flesh was cloudy but translucent. His thinning bones looked like tapering branches.

He fell back in his chair. How far did it go?

He rolled up the sleeve of his snowsuit and hiked up his shirtsleeve. All the way to the elbow. His forearm pulsed with bulbous veins.

He laid his hand on the table. He fingered the spores with his good hand. Squishy. Ripe.

Ripe for what? he wondered. He considered bursting them before they grew into something worse than he could imagine.

So he burst one.

The oily sac splayed open, spewing pus into the air. His head jerked right, his neck pierced by searing heat.

“Shit! Ohhhhhh, shit!”

He scrambled from his chair and nearly upset the table. His skin sizzled, and he rushed to the sink to douse himself with water. Bubbles of flesh rose and fell on his throat as his skin boiled. Some burst.He snatched a cloth from a drawer, ran it under the tap and slapped it against the burns. The cold eased the torture, and only then could he bear the pain. It was all he could do not to scream.

Upstairs, he stood at the bathroom mirror. He removed the cloth and found blood. When he looked up, he saw the true horror cast by the spore.

Something had invaded his flesh. His skin was raw, burned away. Shredded strips dangled limply along his neck. He picked them off, and what he saw next horrified more than the wounds themselves.

Scores of small punctures marked his throat. They ran red, but for how long they’d bleed that color he couldn’t know. If he was pissing green, he might start bleeding the same.

He leaned close to the mirror.

Things—things—were moving under his skin. Crawling.

He slipped against the wall. He stood silently, hopelessly, watching his reflection falter as the creatures worked their way through his body. It felt like a hundred insects, hundreds of legs creeping beneath his skin. His body jerked and started. His heart pounded. Cold tore through him. He pulled up his shirt over his rounded belly and watched the things ripple across him in waves. On occasion the creatures would pause and expand—breathe—and a sharp stab would accompany each breath.

They were eating him.

Harmon Wyatt closed his eye.

No one saw his tears.

About The Dark

2015 National IPBA Award Winner in Horror Fiction

2015 Readers’ Favorite Award Winner in Horror Fiction

4-time Readers’ Favorite 5-Star Selection

Pure Heart meets Pure Evil.

Award-winning author David C. Cassidy draws you into a realm of terror, a world unlike any other. With the inspired flair of Clive Barker and the pulse-pounding beat of Stephen King, The Dark will leave you breathless, reminding us all that for all we desire there is always a price, the currency in suffering and sacrifice. Brimming with insidious evil and a nerve-wracking pace that never lets up, this story will grab hold of your most primitive fears and crank them up to Warp 10—and won’t let go. 

It knows what you want.

It knows what you need.

In denial over his father’s death in a horrific accident, Kelan Lisk has grown fearful and withdrawn. For this meek and bullied child, a burning desire to tame a deadly sledding hill consumes him, drawing him inside a wondrous place where anything is possible … including his father. But as this strange new realm spills into this one, twisting an innocent little boy into an agent of evil, the world is forever changed, devoured by an even greater evil—the Dark. 

“Move over Stephen King and Dean Koontz … The Dark is everything that horror fiction fans want—scary, unsettling, relentless and so creepy that you will not want to read it at night.” — Charity Tober for Readers’ Favorite

“I haven’t enjoyed a horror novel this much since the early days of Stephen King’s work.” — Miss Lyn, Amazon Reviewer

“You can’t read this in the dark because the author has made it too real … this is horror at some of its finest.” — Samantha Colville for Readers’ Favorite

“The Dark compares with works of King and Koontz and is tremendously difficult to put down.” — Melinda Hills for Readers’ Favorite

Get it on

David C. Cassidy

Award-winning author David C. Cassidy is the twisted mind behind several chilling books of horror and suspense. An author, photographer, and graphic designer—and a half-decent juggler—he spends his writing life creating tales of terror where Bad Things Happen To Good People. Raised by wolves, he grew up with a love of nature, music, science, and history, with thrillers and horror novels feeding the dark side of his seriously disturbed imagination. He talks to his characters, talks often, and most times they listen. But the real fun starts when they tell him to take a hike, and they Open That Door anyway. Idiots.

David lives and plays in Ontario, Canada. From Mozart to Vivaldi, classic jazz to classic rock, he feels naked without his iPod. Suffering from MAD—Multiple Activity Disorder—he divides his time between writing and workouts, photography and Photoshop, reading and rollerblading. An avid amateur astronomer, he loves the night sky, chasing the stars with his telescope. Sometimes he eats.

Website   |     Facebook     |     Google+     |     LinkedIn     |     Twitter     |     Instagram

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It’s science fiction and fantasy season

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Fantasy season begins for BestSelling Reads

Fantasy, science-fiction and occult horror books are some of readers’ favorite genres. The great news is that BestSelling Reads members have plenty of titles to offer you.

Here are some of the best fantasy, science fiction and horror books you’ll find, available from your favorite bestselling authors.

Samreen Ahsan

  • The Stolen series—historical fantasy
    • Once Upon a Stolen Time
    • Once Upon a Fallen Time
  • The Prayer series—romantic fantasy
    • A Silent Prayer
    • A Prayer Heeded

Frederick Lee Brooke

The Drone Wars dystopian science fiction series

  • Saving Raine
  • Inferno
  • The Drone Wars

Scott Bury

  • The Bones of the Earth—epic historical fantasy
  • Dark Clouds—urban fantasy

David C. Cassidy

  • Never Too Late —horror
  • HauGHnt—horror
  • The Dark—horror
  • Velvet Rain—science fiction
  • Fosgate’s Game—horror

M.L. Doyle

  • The Bonding Blade—urban fantasy
  • The Bonding Spell—urban fantasy

DelSheree Gladden

  • The Ghost Host series—romantic fantasy
  • The Aerling Series—urban fantasy
    • Invisible
    • Intangible
    • Invincible
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes series—urban fantasy
    • Wicked Hunger
    • Wicked Power
    • Wicked Glory
    • Wicked Revenge
  • Life & Being—paranormal romance

Seb Kirby

  • Double Bind—science fiction

Toby Neal

  • Island Fire—dystopian science fiction
  • The Scorch series—dystopian future

Corinne O’Flynn

  • Death Comes Ashore: Witch Island Mysteries Book One—paranormal suspense NEW
  • Midnight Coven Collections—paranormal romance
    • Forever Still
    • Immortal Oath
  • The Expatriates series—fantasy adventure
    • Song of the Sending
    • Promise of the Scholar
  • Ghosts of Witches Past—paranormal suspense
  • The Aumahnee Prophecy series—urban fantasy
    • Marigold’s Tale
    • Watchers of the Veil (with Lisa Manifold)
    • Defenders of the Realm (with Lisa Manifold)

Raine Thomas

  • The Ascendant series: science-fiction Romance 2014
    • Return of the Ascendant
    • Rout of the Dem-Shyr
    • Rise of the Faire-Amanti
  • The Firstborn Trilogy—young adult urban fantasy 2013
    • Defy
    • Shift
    • Elder
  • The Estilorian series
    • Deceive
    • The Prophecy (short story)
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Why we write what we write

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Photo by Colton Sturgeon on Unsplash

Romance, mystery, thriller, science-fiction … what makes an author choose to write in a particular genre? Your favorite bestselling authors reveal why they chose their literary path. This week, we continue with Kayla Dawn Thomas, David C. Cassidy, Scott Bury and J.L. Oakley.

Kayla Dawn Thomas

Romance

I’ve always been fascinated with falling in love, with everyone finding their perfect someone. While I read romance from all time periods, I like writing contemporary to show that people can still find love in this somewhat jaded, prickly world.

David C. Cassidy

Horror

For me, it was simply a case of being enthralled and inspired by Stephen King and Clive Barker at a young age. For me, they taught me two things. King: How to tell a story with “real” characters a reader cares about. Barker: How to imagine … and then to imagine more.

Scott Bury

Historical fantasy, non-fiction and mystery

When I was about 15 or so, I was into science fiction. I read a novella by Larry Niven featuring a detective named Gil the Arm. He served in a global police force, a couple of centuries in the future, so it was essentially a science fiction detective story. I was hooked!

When I started writing fiction, I felt frustrated by the expectations and tropes of genres: noirs, police procedurals, fantasy, science fiction … Plus, I am interested in many different types of stories. That’s why I not only write in different genres, I cross the boundaries as often as I can.

J.L. Oakley

Historical fiction

I’ve always loved history and even wrote a very serious thesis on Comanches as prisoners of war using primary materials from the National Archives and the Smithsonian Institute. My goal was to make it readable, not some high-faluting work that people wouldn’t understand. That’s what a publican historian is all about.

Writing historical fiction is another way to present history in an engaging way. When a reader becomes involved with a character facing the troubles of her time or just living life, you can teach about an era much more effectively. 

Take your pick

Whatever genre you like, BestSelling Reads members are authors who adhere to the highest professional publishing standards, dedicated to bringing readers compelling, enjoyable stories that leave you wanting more.

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Monday musings: The inspiration of memory

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By David C. Cassidy

Do memories inspire my writing?

Human Chess at the World Bodypainting Festival in Pörtschach am Wörthersee, Carinthia, Austria.
Photo by JIP – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41470182

In a word, yes. I have always had a vivid imagination, one that’s immensely visual, and that shines through in all of my stories. But at another level, recollections of past events—whether they happened to me or to others—have always inspired my writing in one way or another.

In Fosgate’s Game, a creepy tale of greed, dark magic, and murder, I pit two well-to-do Englishmen in a battle of wits over something as innocuous as a game of chess. It’s not that simple, of course, as they’re playing with dark forces that neither truly comprehends. The story was actually inspired by a memory of me playing chess as a young boy against one of my brothers. During a rather lengthy turn where he was taking his sweet time to make a move, my mind began to drift, and I began to wonder what might happen if the chessmen were somehow alive.

The Dark is an atmospheric supernatural thriller where a young child has lost his father in a dreadful accident, and in his desperation, is seduced by an ever-present evil that draws him into another realm—a wondrous place that includes his father. In my younger days, I used to enjoy tobogganing down this rather treacherous sledding hill in a park, and on one particularly fast run, I nearly spilled into an ice-cold creek at the bottom. I was this close to disaster, barely stopping myself in time. It was getting rather dark, and when I picked up my sled and turned to head back up the hill to go home, I suddenly froze, staring up at this towering—and rather ominous—oak tree. It just startled me, and to this day, I don’t know why. It was just one of those eerie moments when one gets a case of the chills for no obvious reason. Little did I know then that that hill and that very tree would be the basis for an award-winning novel.

A short story of mine, Never Too Late, was inspired by a deeply painful personal event. The story is a cautionary tale about regret—how we all, at one time or another, figure we have all the time in the world—only to learn the agonizing truth when the unexpected happens. Years ago, my mother passed away quite suddenly, and I was devastated. I never spent nearly enough time with my parents, always figuring there was plenty of time for that. You know, I’ll seem them soon. I’ll make time later. Well, I was wrong. It was the hardest lesson I ever learned.

Velvet Rain, a supernatural thriller with elements of time-travel and alternate realities, was not so much inspired by memories or personal events. And yet, a lot of the characters in the book, including the main character, Kain Richards, possess those human frailties and personal characteristics of people I’ve known—including family. One character, Al Hembruff, a no-nonsense farmer in 1960s Iowa, at one point refers to his daughter, Lynn, as “honey-child”. My father, God rest his soul, used to call his own daughters the very same. I hadn’t heard him say it in years, but as I was writing Velvet Rain, the memory came back, and it just seemed to work in the moment.

In all honesty, I don’t consciously write out of memory—I write out of inspiration and imagination—but I certainly don’t discount the subconscious when it strikes. If the shoe fits, I wear it.

David C. Cassidy

The award-winning author David C. Cassidy is the twisted mind behind several chilling books of horror and suspense. An author, photographer, and graphic designer—and a half-decent juggler—he spends his writing life creating tales of terror where Bad Things Happen To Good People. Raised by wolves, he grew up with a love of nature, music, science, and history, with thrillers and horror novels feeding the dark side of his seriously disturbed imagination. He talks to his characters, talks often, and most times they listen. But the real fun starts when they tell him to take a hike, and they Open That Door anyway. Idiots.

David lives and plays in Ontario, Canada. From Mozart to Vivaldi, classic jazz to classic rock, he feels naked without his iPod. Suffering from MAD—Multiple Activity Disorder—he divides his time between writing and workouts, photography and Photoshop, reading and rollerblading. An avid amateur astronomer, he loves the night sky, chasing the stars with his telescope. Sometimes he eats.

Get to know David at his:

And follow him on Twitter @DavidCCassidy.

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Thursday teaser: The Dark

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Read this week’s horror excerpt to find out how you could WIN a free copy of the award winning novel

By David C. Cassidy

Lost in the blackness of the mine, Harmon Wyatt choked off a scream.

Those words hadn’t come from his cherished daughter. It was the song of her sweet voice that tugged at his heart, but it wasn’t her. It was an abomination.

Skulls stirred in the death pit below. They shifted listlessly, as if detached from their spines. Yet this was but illusion, for they were glowing, somehow pulsing to the rhythm of hearts long lost—indeed, the frontal bones of their craniums appeared semi-transparent, brimming with the darkest blood. Were this not enough to send him screaming, the skeletons began to rise, rattling bone on bone. Shrill scratching sounds turned his heart cold as their wretched fingers clawed at the ladder.

The dead were coming.

Human skulls rose, one by one. Canine skulls began to stir; their jaws began to open. Something snatched Harmon’s leg and yanked it out from under him. He toppled onto his back. The ceiling rock took the color of blood as skeletons emerged from the shaft. A long-dead hand clenched about his boot and dragged him toward the bone pit, yet all he saw was a pulsating skull hovering above his legs. It stared with barren black sockets, and it might have been grinning.

Harmon groaned as the creature crawled onto him. The skull was ice, its proximity burning the skin on his face. Before he knew it, he felt the wrench of thin, hard fingers around his throat. A second skeleton clawed its way up and was on him, pinning his legs.

He reached for a shovel. A dead hand thwarted him, slapping it aside. The shovel slid along the wall rock, and he caught the handle just in time. He brought his arm up and swung hard, hearing a satisfying clunk as the blade caught the skull directly above him. A second blow crushed its temporal bone and half its frontal. Incredibly, blood seeped from the cracks in the bone.

The grip on his throat eased, enough for him to steal a breath. He swung the shovel again and knocked the skeleton off of him. It stayed down.

Harmon struck the one that was pinning him. He thrashed at it like a wild man, driving it back. It rocked against another that was climbing from the winze, sending that one back into the shaft. He drove a boot into it, and it fell into the winze.

Another had come—a child’s skeleton—and Harmon jabbed at it with his foot. Relentless, it moved up and tried to claw at his face. He pounded it with a flurry of fists and it slipped back.

Three more emerged from the shaft, two of them crawling over the child. One crept up beside him, but he managed to fight if off with crushing blows to its skull. Blood splattered him.

Harmon rolled over. He crawled forward and let out a small cry as something snared his boot. He whacked that bony hand until it released him.

Somehow, he scrambled away and shot a glance over his shoulder. Glowing skulls illuminated the rock, their muted light growing as the things closed on him. Some of them had risen and were stalking him in step, shoving the crawlers aside in their thirst.

He got to his feet just as a canine skull carried past the crest of the shaft. One of the human skeletons had lifted the dog and had set it loose. A second dog-thing followed, and now it was after him.

Harmon fled, screaming into the dark. The water slowed his escape as he made his way to the crosscut. He recalled the way being straight and wide, but in his blind panic he stumbled over tool and rock and his old failing legs. He was running in a nightmare.

He heard them coming. Some of them had lost their footwear, the bones of their feet grating on the ore beneath them. Others scraped the wall rock with their fingers as they worked their way along.

It struck him: They were sharpening them.

About The Dark

2015 National IPBA Award Winner in Horror Fiction

2015 Readers’ Favorite Award Winner in Horror Fiction

4-time Readers’ Favorite 5-Star Selection

Pure Heart meets Pure Evil.

Award-winning author David C. Cassidy draws you into a realm of terror, a world unlike any other. With the inspired flair of Clive Barker and the pulse-pounding beat of Stephen King, The Dark will leave you breathless, reminding us all that for all we desire there is always a price, the currency in suffering and sacrifice. Brimming with insidious evil and a nerve-wracking pace that never lets up, this story will grab hold of your most primitive fears and crank them up to Warp 10—and won’t let go. 

It knows what you want.

It knows what you need.

In denial over his father’s death in a horrific accident, Kelan Lisk has grown fearful and withdrawn. For this meek and bullied child, a burning desire to tame a deadly sledding hill consumes him, drawing him inside a wondrous place where anything is possible … including his father. But as this strange new realm spills into this one, twisting an innocent little boy into an agent of evil, the world is forever changed, devoured by an even greater evil—the Dark. 

“Move over Stephen King and Dean Koontz … The Dark is everything that horror fiction fans want—scary, unsettling, relentless and so creepy that you will not want to read it at night.” — Charity Tober for Readers’ Favorite

“I haven’t enjoyed a horror novel this much since the early days of Stephen King’s work.” — Miss Lyn, Amazon Reviewer

“You can’t read this in the dark because the author has made it too real … this is horror at some of its finest.” — Samantha Colville for Readers’ Favorite

“The Dark compares with works of King and Koontz and is tremendously difficult to put down.” — Melinda Hills for Readers’ Favorite

Win a free copy

Name the mining town where The Dark takes place.
(Hint: Check in the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon. ) Click on Leave a Comment above and write the answer. Your answer will not show up until it has been approved by BestSelling Reads.

David C. Cassidy

Award-winning author David C. Cassidy is the twisted mind behind several chilling books of horror and suspense. An author, photographer, and graphic designer—and a half-decent juggler—he spends his writing life creating tales of terror where Bad Things Happen To Good People. Raised by wolves, he grew up with a love of nature, music, science, and history, with thrillers and horror novels feeding the dark side of his seriously disturbed imagination. He talks to his characters, talks often, and most times they listen. But the real fun starts when they tell him to take a hike, and they Open That Door anyway. Idiots.

David lives and plays in Ontario, Canada. From Mozart to Vivaldi, classic jazz to classic rock, he feels naked without his iPod. Suffering from MAD—Multiple Activity Disorder—he divides his time between writing and workouts, photography and Photoshop, reading and rollerblading. An avid amateur astronomer, he loves the night sky, chasing the stars with his telescope. Sometimes he eats.

Website   |     Facebook     |     Google+     |     LinkedIn     |     Twitter     |     Instagram

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