Review of Ramses the Damned

The bulk of this novel takes place in the early months of 1914 with the specter of the about to erupt First World War looming in the background for, to be frank, no apparent reason. While the gathering tensions are mentioned repeatedly in passing, the characters here are entirely focused on their own personal and supernatural concerns. A brief and crisply-written prologue (here referred to as the “proem”) reports that a rich shipping company owner and amateur Egyptologist has died immediately after uncovering a tomb containing a mummy. The mummy, in turn, has gone missing after the amateur scientist’s daughter brought it back to England. Has it come back to life to kill those who desecrated his tomb?

This obvious nod to the real-life story of Howard Carter and the so-called Curse of King Tut quickly proves a red herring. Mr. Stratford was plain old-fashioned murdered in a scheming relative’s bid for control of the shipping company. But that doesn’t mean some ‘real’ otherworldly doings aren’t afoot here!

Just the opposite, in fact—as the intriguing flashback to ancient Jericho that follows makes quite plain in introducing another whole set of characters who factor in the story.

You see, the Egyptian tomb also contained an array of anachronistic artifacts. Foremost among these is a lengthy journal from the time of Cleopatra, written in Latin and identifying the mummy as the onetime Pharaoh Ramses the Great, who now styles himself Ramses the Damned. One obvious problem: Ramses ruled his empire and died centuries before Cleopatra’s era.

The sheer complexity of the plot makes it difficult to review without at least a few spoilers, so please bear with me. There was a great (unknown to the modern world) kingdom in Africa long, long before Egypt rose. Its queen accidentally invented a potion that makes living things (people and otherwise) immortal. Her right-hand man jealously stole some for himself and their conflict basically brought down that empire.

You’ll have to read the book for more details!

Much later, Ramses got hold of some of the stuff and had to fake his natural death after a long and glorious rule. Locked away in the dark, such an immortal seems dead but is more like in suspended animation until revived by sunlight. Accordingly, Ramses rose repeatedly over the centuries to advise later rulers. The last of these was Cleopatra, whom he came to love. He informed her alone about his strange nature but refused to share it when she and Marc Anthony faced off against the invading Romans.

Ramses next had his lonely rest disturbed by Stratford and rose, thus the story (again firmly in 1914) kicks into high gear. The ancient queen and her former prime minister are still bitter rivals due to a key plot point I won’t reveal here. Ramses rethinks his policy against creating more immortals lest they suffer watching people they care for age and die—mostly ‘cause he’s in love with Julie Stratford and can’t bear to lose her. Oh, and upon returning to Egypt he impulsively doused his old love’s mummy with some of the magic liquid. Cleopatra comes roaring back to life, but having been really dead beforehand, she comes back changed: powerful but seemingly insane, and angry, not to mention horny and seductive as hell.

The question of what happens to the soul when its original owner dies brings another woman, a mortal American author with a fixation on ancient Egypt, into the picture as well.

This is the first-ever collaboration between Anne Rice and her son Christopher (himself a frequently published author with several best-sellers to his credit). But if any of the above (especially the extensive background info) seems familiar, it’s because the book’s the long-promised sequel to Ms. Rice’s 1989 historical novel The Mummy. It bears the unmistakable stylistic imprint of the horror legend herself. The theme of great isolation and loneliness arising from being an un-aging outsider in world of mortals is again paramount. And while you don’t need to have read the previous book, this one features a great deal of background info and story mythology, with characters referring to past events from that earlier work (much as in Ms. Rice’s vast Vampire Chronicles). These self-referent passages (another staple of Anne Rice’s work) are, as always, handled well and don’t slow the book’s pace over-much.

The main plotlines are resolved here, yet certain aspects remain to make sequels entirely possible—should either or both co-authors decide to pursue them.

What happened, for example, to the rest of the squad of soldiers the most-ancient queen’s betrayer made immortal in the course of overthrowing her (aside from the two who stayed loyal to her)? Or might we be treated to immortals taking sides and fighting in the Great War, thereby providing an actual reason for the period setting?

I’ll be waiting to see if the new Literary Team Rice (or perhaps Christopher alone, if Anne hadn’t the desire/energy to carry the story forward) someday returns to this version of our world and this set of characters.

This review was written by Jim Lee. For more information about the author that wrote this review, check out Jim’s Amazon Author page.

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Paper Horror Houses You Can Download, Print and Build for Free | Dirge Magazine

Home Culture Paper Horror Houses You Can Download, Print and Build for Free

paper houses

Have you ever wanted to own a haunted house or abandoned asylum, but just don’t have the resources? Do you crave the smell of craft glue and sharpies? Today, Dirgeling, is your day.

I am currently furnishing a witch’s cottage in 1:12 scale. A warning to the wise—making dollhouse miniatures will cast a spell on you! While searching the dark corners of the web for furniture ideas, I discovered a site called Haunted Dimensions. It features the work of Ray Keim, a multi-media artist and design wizard who makes props and models for Universal Studios and is a key member of their Halloween Horror Nights team. Out of the kindness of his dark heart, Keim has made paper model versions of his larger haunted house models freely available for download. Yes, you heard me. Free. All he asks is that you credit him and not repackage or sell his work. Other than that, you can craft to your heart’s delight!

Fancy a replica of the Norman Bates house from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 classic, Psycho?

Or the Haddonfield, Illinois home of Michael Myers from John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978)?

If you’re feeling elegant (and ambitious), you might consider Phantom Manor, a Victorian nightmare in paper and glue.

I chose to make a paper model of the Skoolhouse, which was a part of Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando (2008). Keim writes that it “stood at the entrance to a spectacular jack-o-lantern forest.” I’m all about that.

When you download and print the PDF from the site, you will get detailed instructions and the building pieces, ready to cut. All of the pieces are in living color, but in honor of DIRGE and my love of German Expressionism, I decided to print them in black and white on plain white cardstock. (You really can’t use regular paper for this project, or you’ll get drooping walls and a flaccid steeple. No one likes a flaccid steeple!)

For added dimension, I used a fine-tipped permanent black marker (sweet fumes!) and added detailed lines and shadows. I also used a black colored pencil for more subtle shading. It was incredibly relaxing. Before assembly, I also used a craft knife to cut out the little window panes.

Once your pieces are cut, follow the instructions and glue them together using tacky glue. Hot glue doesn’t seem to work very well because it adds too much bulk to seams with tight tolerances. Here is my little Skoolhouse awaiting its steeple.

After attaching the steeple, I got out the glue gun and went wild with miniature moss, which can be found in the floral section of most craft stores. I also added some pebbles near the foundation to give the structure a little weight, and a silver skull door knocker.

I also cut a little flap in the bottom of the house to let in the demons so that I could put a battery operated tea light inside.

Because these wonderful models are tiny, you are going to want to make a bunch of them. Assembling the Skoolhouse was time consuming but extremely relaxing and rewarding. And now I want to make a bunch of pumpkins and fence posts and cauldrons out of polymer clay.

Miniatures are the devil!

If you are looking for other paper models to play with, check out RavensBlight, who has a whole page of haunted toys to cut and assemble.

I wish you wicked crafting. Don’t forget the moss!!

On – 10 Apr, 2017 By Brenda S G Walter

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Why Resident Evil 7 highlights the limitations of VR horror | GamesRadar+

resident evil 7thout PS VR, the opening of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a masterclass in slow-burn tension. The combination of careful pacing, atmospheric sound design and grisly environmental detail create a sense of place so potent that by the time you’re stepping over the threshold of the Bakers’ Louisiana home, you’re already on edge, instinctively tensing up in anticipation of the horrors to come. With the headset on, the feeling of trepidation as you push up against each door is especially strong. It’s the not knowing that thrills you.

If you haven’t played Resident Evil 7 yet and would like to go in completely cold, it’s time to tap out, because beyond this point lie a few minor spoilers. Suffice to say that your first encounter with another human being in the house sees that expertly cultivated tension start to melt away – assuming, that is, you’re playing in VR.

Already you’ll have noticed the flashes of black that replace certain transitional animations – when you’re exiting a car, for example, or picking yourself up from the floor. These are a necessary evil with current VR tech, designed to ease the potential wooziness or nausea that can accompany specific movements, and are thus forgivable. But when Ethan Winters adopts a defensive position, resulting in a pair of arms severed somewhere between the wrist and elbow hovering in mid-air, it’s a distraction too far. Being stabbed through the palm should be disturbing, but these bizarre, disembodied meat gloves lend a note of unintentional comedy to the close-quarters violence.

PS Move compatibility might have solved that issue to some degree. You could mimic Ethan’s actions by holding two motion controllers in front of your face to protect yourself, and keep them by your sides at other times to prevent floaty-hand syndrome from ruining the nervy exploration. Even so, it wouldn’t solve the one intractable problem of VR, which is the absence of physical connection. The moment someone (or something) tries to hit you is VR’s equivalent to the moment in a creature feature when the monster is fully revealed.

Whether it’s Mia swinging a chainsaw or Jack Baker with his giant shovel, as soon as your character is struck without any kind of tangible feedback in the real world, you automatically relax a little. On the TV, however, there’s a layer of abstraction that makes the illusion of violence and the threat of harm more persuasive – you feel trapped within the screen alongside the Bakers and the Molded. VR might convince you that you are there, treading those creaking, bloodied floorboards – but it can’t quite convince you they are.

For me, nothing in Resident Evil 7 came close to the profoundly unsettling final sequence in Arkham VR, where clever use of positional audio and a shifting, claustrophobic environment combined to make me afraid of turning around – and without the immersion-shattering awkwardness of using the right analogue to rotate my body in 30-degree increments. It’s a lesson that games purpose-built for PS VR will always work better than more traditional forms with bonus headset support, but more importantly, it’s a reminder that you can leave players squirming in discomfort without laying a finger on them. Perhaps Resi’s mutants simply aren’t as well-suited to VR as non-corporeal threats – the mere thought of Fatal Frame VR gives me the kind of shivers I wish I’d felt inside the Baker plantation.

This article originally appeared in Official PlayStation Magazine. For more great PlayStation coverage, you can subscribe here.

On – 18 Apr, 2017 By Chris Schilling

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six scary stories
As American horror superstar (and self-described fanboy-at-heart) Stephen King explains in a conversational and entertaining introduction, this slender yet impressive anthology owes its very existence to his enthusiasm for short, chilling fiction. It all started when his British publisher (Hodder & Stoughton) promoted his latest single-author collection (The Bazaar of Bad Dreams) with a short story contest.

King had doubts (the past experience is a good, if cruel teacher).

He only reluctantly agreed to pick the winner. Others winnowed the 800-plus entries down to a mere 6 finalists. These were presented to King who discovered with a mix of surprise and admiration that all of them were quite good—and totally publishable. This made his decision kind of tough.

Still, his appointed duty was to select a single winner—so that’s what he did.

Yet he felt vaguely unsatisfied with this cut and dry result. So King talked the company into publishing all six tales, along with his introductory essay, in this separate book. Cemetery Dance Publications, a respected independent press from Baltimore, Maryland, soon came onboard to do the US edition (which is what I read).

Stephen King’s involvement (and the clout he has in the publishing world) notwithstanding, the book’s essence is found in the half-dozen original, pleasingly varied and unsettling, sometimes quite gripping stories. All are by writers new to me, of course—but discovering this so much new-to-me talent at once only added to my enjoyment in this book.

And each story is preceded by a one-page of bio of the author, followed by a few words about King’s work (favorite King books/stories, what they most admire about his work, etc.). I confess to finding these add-ons oddly fascinating.

But to the stories!

Elodie Harper won the contest, thus her “Wild Swimming” leads things off.

This is an exceptionally atmospheric tale, written entirely as a series of emails.

This technique puts a modern spin on the grand old tradition of epistolary storytelling and works extremely well. An Englishwoman who delights in swimming in obscure locations reports her impressions (including an unease that eventually blossoms into abject terror) concerning the murky reservoir that adjoins the village in Lithuania she’s gotten stuck in. Beneath the cold, mysterious water await the remains of the town’s medieval heritage—drowned by a misguided Soviet-era development project. More than ancient buildings lurk down there, warns a spooky old peasant lady. But of course Chrissy didn’t listen, with seriously—and satisfyingly frightful—results.

The story also provides artist Vincent Chong with inspiration for a piece of wonderfully eerie cover art.

Next up, Manuela Saragosa gives us a grieving child who names her new stuffed animal after her late Daddy. At the same time, Mom recovers from the loss to start a relationship with a new man. Conflict ensues. Love mutated into obsessive anger, the unrecognized power of children and weirdly threatening toys—these are all things King himself has explored repeatedly. It may be the most predictable of the stories here, but it’s still well-written and heartbreakingly effective.

The real-life weirdness embodied these days by the dictator of North Korea informs “The Spots” by Paul Basset Davies. It’s a first-person account of how a once blindly-loyal follower realizes just how ruthlessly paranoid his country’s unnamed Leader is. This finely honed, matter-of-factly-told and searing, straight-faced satire on the Cult of Personality idea pushed to its most bizarre limits manages to be both absurdly funny and shiver-inducing.

six scary stories

A full squad of playfully amoral toys takes center-stage in Glasgow-native Michael Button’s “The Unpicking.”

Once the little boy the toys refer to only as He and the house’s other humans are asleep, they climb out of their storage chest to entertain themselves. Lately, they’ve gotten really bored—priming them for risks that go well beyond that posed by Winston, the family’s predatory feline. Naughty Rupert, the most recklessly bold of the crew, proposes a new game. It proves interestingly fatal to one of their number. Alas, poor Bunny—reduced to a tangle of thread, some folds of empty fur, and random balls of foam padding! He and His mother may prove even more interesting targets, however . . .

Stuart Johnstone’s story turns one man’s intense dislike of clichés into a motive for mayhem. It’s somehow all the more chilling for having run its course off-stage. The tension builds deliciously—will the young and slightly dumb Louisiana cop finally insist on checking the contents of our anti-hero’s vehicle and thus provoke more violence? Good stuff, indeed.

Neil Hudson brings everything to a mostly successful finish with a post-Nuclear Holocaust story called “The Bear Trap.”

As Hudson states upfront, the preteen farm boy protagonist here is named after the comic strip character in Calvin & Hobbes. Like his namesake, Hudson’s Calvin has special affinity for animal companions. Unfortunately, this Calvin seems just a little too much the rural hayseed stereotype for complete believability, even taking into account his youth and the trauma he’s witnessed.

But on the plus-side, he’s every bit as cheerfully vicious a survivor as you could ask for.

This review was written by Jim Lee. For more information about the author that wrote this review, check out Jim’s Amazon Author page.

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The Fireman by Joe Hill – REVIEW

fireman joe hill

A plague is spreading as this compelling book opens.

Spores of an exotic fungus infect people with what the media dubs ‘Dragonscale’ for the black and gold splotches that appear in strangely beautiful patterns on the skin. Victims begin spontaneously combusting, burning to death from the inside out, leaving behind nothing but piles of spore-infused ash. In the process, they set everything around them ablaze. Entire cities, towns, and forests go up in flames. No cure or treatment is known, and the disease seems wildly contagious.

In a sharp Preface, schools in major cities like Boston are already closed to slow Dragonscale’s spread. But the New Hampshire elementary where Harper Grayson is the school nurse still operates. Dedicated to serving others, Harper is both pragmatic and upbeat, earning comparisons to her favorite fictional character—Mary Poppins. But no ‘spoonful of sugar’ saves the infected man who stumbles onto the school’s playground. He bursts into flames as she watches from her office window. Quick as that, school’s out—permanently.

We fast-forward several months for the first chapter of the nine novella-length books comprising this epic novel.

Harper is a nurse at the local hospital. Civil authority is collapsing; terrified people are embracing dictatorial governments, religious fanatics and brutal vigilante tactics. But none of it arrests the burgeoning disaster. Harper briefly encounters the book’s title character—a mysterious, combatively determined figure in a fireman’s turnout gear. He’s infected, yet oddly unconcerned about his fate. Why?

It seems only an isolated incident—one of many she deals with as the catastrophe grows and her marriage to controlling, bitter Jakob decays. When a chain reaction of patients erupts to destroy the hospital, there is rogue Fireman John assisting her escape.

Back home, Harper soon finds herself pregnant—and infected.

Unstable Jakob thinks she must’ve infected him as well and demanded a suicide pact. But she wants to live—for the baby’s sake, if for nothing else. She fights, and Fireman John arrives to assist her again. He brings her to a hidden community of people who have made a strange spiritual peace with the spores.

In a less ambitious author’s hands, this might almost be the end: Peaceful people with new symbiotic relationship to the spores stay hidden and rebuild Earth after the fear-crazed ‘normal’ civilization self-destructs. Or on a grimmer/more cynical note: When ‘normals’ discover the place, they attack and destroy humanity’s last chance of survival.

Either way: The End.

Yes, I could see a serviceable, if shortsighted doomsday adventure built around either scenario.

But all the above is merely the beginning of a sprawling narrative journey—one full of twists and turns, pain and suffering, love and compassion, understanding and misunderstanding, small kindnesses and mass viciousness and, despite everything else, hard-won hope.

Oh, sure, the fatally flawed utopia of Hill’s Camp Wyndham is inevitably betrayed and destroyed, setting the few survivors off on a long and dangerous road trip. But he refuses to take the easy way out, and the result is a work that not only resembles some of his famous father’s best in sheer length and style but also in quality and thoughtfulness.

And if by chance a reader isn’t yet aware of Joe’s parental origins, I’ll simply invite him or her to take a look at the author photo on the inside back cover. You tell me, folks—whose kid is THAT? Yeah, right.

Fireman joe hill

This book is certainly about people repeatedly thrust into painful and desperate circumstances.

But more than mere physical survival is at stake. It’s also about the enduring strength of human decency, love and family/community and beauty. And yes, above all else hope—not merely blind, unreasoning hope either. Hill’s characters are mostly fully rounded—with both strengths and flaws one can believe in.

That includes both the central characters and the most important supporting ones.

Crazed Jakob and especially the talk radio scum-bag who adopts him as a sort of sidekick, are more than a bit hard to take. But overall, one can see, if not excuse, what drives pretty much everyone else.

Likewise, the infected aren’t all heroes or saintly victims, either. They’re people with drives, desires, obsessions—all the conflicted and conflicting impulses of real people. Some are real jerks. And as a whole, they prove as susceptible as the uninfected to the blind, unreasoning fear of the different, the outsider, the ‘other.’

Most of both groups, sick or otherwise, are just people doing the best they can.

And what this book is mostly about (beyond the literal plot) is the need to respect and hang onto individuality within any group. Note: the very thing that allows the infected to survive the spores can also generate a kind of savage group-think that proves as irrationally intolerant as any that the ‘normals’ manifest.

The survival of the body proves meaningless unless you also learn to safeguard the soul.

Bottom-line: I highly recommend this book.

This review was written by Jim Lee. For more information about the author that wrote this review, check out Jim’s Amazon Author page.

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About the Darillia

In expectation of the soon-to-be-released “Precursor,” the following content and concept art describes the Darillia, a major part of the Twixtaverse Canon.

They’ve been watching us for thousands of years, since the time our distant ancestors screeched their way out through the muck and slime. This demon race is rumored to be the offspring of Sistus Ael, a goddess of genocide, but there is insufficient evidence. They were created to be weapons, intended to upset the political and administrative power surrounding the gods. Their total population is said to exceed 3 Billion.

Their Capture and Exile
After devastating the populous of a second thriving world, the Laprencia Guardians banished them to a place they could not reasonably escape. The Darillia were sealed along the Braid of Exile, a place where no vegetation grows.

There, as a natural phenomenon, tiny windows into other worlds emerge in the sky. They appear like ghostly panes of glass, fading in and out of existence. The Darillia originally believed the windows were created by the Guardians as a means to taunt them, but later discovered that was not the case. A friction between dimensions creates the windows and most of the species they see on the other side can’t see them.

Darillian Soldier

Sian Sih, the Prime Minister of the Darillia, managed to find a way to manipulate the windows using ancient magic. They know how to move them, extend them, even how to make them to provide a view of a desired otherworldly location. They have since used these windows to spy to into other realms, collecting the information they require to plot their invasions. Sian Sih believes he knows of a way to pull an outside being into their realm, but they are still devising a proper method to escape their own.

Their Faith
The Darillia are bound by a religion that claims their race is superior to all others and the domination of all worlds is their birthright. They participate in a different rituals and enactments visualizing their enslavement of “all that breathes and feels.” When they’re not participating in these rites, they are creating crude weaponry, performing their culling tournaments, and creating military strategies for when they finally have access to other planets.

Their Diet and Reproduction
The Darillia have the ability to regrow severed limbs and body parts, and reproduce asexually. During post-pubescence (a stage that few survive long enough to see), they grow a second head, which gradually divides from their first on a second neck. Then the parasitic twin will slowly develop its organs and skeletal system. When the second twin has grown large enough, they will usually use tools to saw the bodies in half. It takes only weeks for them to heal into two separate, functional bodies. After a body has split, the community decides what its role will be. Depending on whether they want it as a soldier or a scholar, it will be sent to live in its caste. Their average lifespan is over 300 years.

The soldiers get fed more than the others and are given harsher training. The scholars and planners are sent into the care of the ministers for testing. Under the educational auspices of Prime Minister Sian Sih, young Darillians are educated in the enslavement of other worlds and how they must strategize militarily if they ever hope to overthrow the filthy masses. The governors and royal family are also fed increased portions. As a result, their line is the largest of their race, towering over the others with booming footsteps as they walk.

Culling Tournament

Very rarely, a Femic is born, which bears a strong resemblance to a female. Their upper body has reduced strength, slight breasts, and delicate legs. The Femics are worshipped among the species and will always be defended. Queen Qas Turilya, with her wilted breasts, is looked upon as a source of sacredness and pride among them. King Pode Turilya was so fortunate to have spawned her from his body, and bestowed her right to rule as soon as she was fit. Minister Sih preaches that the coming of a Femic ruler indicates their divine right to destroy and recreate the universe.

The “food” is the meat of the fallen. Because of the inability to harvest plant life, their only source of sustenance is each other. During their culling tournaments, the soldiers fight and slay the weakest. Because of their natural physiology, they are rather difficult to kill, but decapitation is considered the surest method of slaughter. The weakest are dismembered and used as food, their blood drained and filtered for drinking. Though it is shameful to be slaughtered, it is at the same time considered a dignified purpose to provide sustenance for their brothers.

Hoadley the Traitor
King Pode Turilya’s first spawn, Prince Hoadley, was given a chance by a god with a small group of other Darillia to invade a world of their choice. The group came to Earth through a portal in Tibet. When the group started murdering the natives, Hoadley made them desist, as he felt they should spawn first to increase their number; lest they were discovered too soon.
The others in the group became mutinous and plotted to eliminate Hoadley so they could continue in their campaign of slaughter. When they tried to murder him in his sleep, he awoke and killed the rest of them. After deciding to wait until he could spawn another, he started to get very hungry. He murdered and ate a few people in isolated places and hid in some ruins.
After finding an offering of food waiting for him after he woke from his sleep, he tried some earth food. It was not meat, but he liked it. He stayed awake one night to meet the person who was bringing him tidings. It was a little girl from a local village. It was her father who he’d slain and she wanted to bring the monster food to prevent him from harming anyone else. Sometimes she left fruit, occasionally a live sheep.

Hoadley followed the girl back one day and she brought him before the elders of the village. Though they could not communicate, they all agreed that he should be kept in hiding. He was given sanctuary in the basement of a monastery. There he was taught the ways of the Buddha and decided he should not spawn after all.

Darillian Soldier

He remains in the temple to this day, dedicated to the art of mindfulness. He knows that his brethren on the Braid of Exile are disappointed that he no longer acts on extreme bloodlust. His father, King Pode, disavowed him, calling him a disgrace. They now refer to him as Hoadley, the Traitor. Though it is only through meditation Hoadley has managed to fend off his violent nature, he is an inspiration to those that know of his species. They believe that if he was rehabilitated, perhaps the rest of the Darillia can also be pacified.

The Others
The Darillia share the Braid of Exile with some other banished alien races. There are the Sightless Ones, massive beasts with bodies like sea turtles. They have an eyeless, skull-like face at the end of a thick, extended neck. They were considered an abomination, offspring of Parsikka, the walking corpse god. The Sightless Ones were once weaponized by the Darillia during a planetary invasion, and managed to consume hundreds of thousands of lives. One they start to feed, their appetite is never sated.

There are also the Pearl Nymphs, who bear a striking resemblance to human women, save for their giant insect wings and claws. They are capable of inducing hypnotic trances on their prey and ripping them to shreds in a matter of seconds. They eat almost all creatures, save for other demon races.

All of the creatures along the Braid of Exile have a mutual alliance. They were all sealed in by the Laprencia Guardians, who have little tolerance for creatures created for the purpose of destroying the indigenous races of other worlds.

The Pact
The Darillia are receiving outside help, but from an unnamed outside source that says it wishes to grant them liberation. This mysterious outsider has helped them make a pact with the spirits of the underworld, in particular, the Khalanori Jesters. These mischievous spirits have agreed to work with the Darillia as their covert agents. The Five-headed God of genocide, Yindroch, is rumored to be accepting their blood rituals in exchange for transportation between worlds. The ancient God calls for the death of indigenous innocents. If Yindroch succeeds in getting the power he requires, it will have devastating effects through the galaxies as the Darillia launch their interdimensional invasions of the worlds beyond.

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Why Zombies Won’t Die for Christsake?

Zombies Should Be Done

The general public should probably be sick of the zombies by now. Somebody ought to be. It seems like every possible storyline involving walking dead people has already been overdone: killed, buried, dug back up, resuscitated, and killed again. And unless someone does something to really innovate the genre, there should be an expiration date on when people will stop buying this stuff, right?

Everywhere you turn these days there is a new movie or video game or book… I was prompted to write this blog on this topic after watching a video from 2011 San Diego Comic Con where they assembled a panel of novelists (including Max Brooks) to discuss what we’ve come to know and love as “Zombies.”

At one point during the discussion, they were asked the question, “Why are zombies so popular, anyway?” Some of the panelists’ explanations didn’t quite elucidate the cause. It seems that even the most prolific contributors to the genre are uncertain why they haven’t already faded into obscurity.

Granted, there could be multiple reasons why zombies have permeated popular culture. They’re affordable for movies made with shoe-string budgets. They provide the perfect framework for post-apocalyptic fantasies. But the most compelling explanation for the popularity of zombies is a psychological one.

“Zombies” are a malleable allegory for not just one, but several real-world anxieties. Sometimes the interpretation may be deliberate on the part of an author or filmmaker. Other times the audience may unconsciously infer their own projected meanings on the genre.

And if we take a look at all the basic things we have to worry about as organisms living in the world, we will find that zombies aren’t just an amalgamation of one or two unconscious fears. They darn near represent all of them.

Using Karl Albrecht Ph.D.’s Fear Hierarchy as a template, we can see that the genre covers all the basics:

  • Extinction: This could be simplified as a fear of death, and also expanded to cover the notion of humans no longer occupying a dominant position in the world.
  • Mutilation: None of us want our bodily boundaries invaded. And that’s what zombies desire to do most: to consume the bodies of the living. Not only are we afraid of losing our own body parts, zombies themselves often represent something that has been disfigured.
  • Loss of Autonomy: The idea of being controlled, overwhelmed, surrounded, or smothered is something recurring in horror fiction. Indeed, the idea of falling into the clutches of a horde of biting and clawing zombies strikes a pretty primal nerve.
  • Separation: Abandonment, rejection, or fear of becoming a non-person. That pretty much speaks for itself. Zombies can either symbolize social outcasts, or a derogatory cultural norm that desires nothing more than to infect you with its biases.
  • Ego-death: This is something more personal, and it’s similar to separation, except it has to do with fear of disapproval, a lack of a constructed sense of lovability or capability. It’s clear that becoming an undead ghoul would cause someone to become something of a pariah.

So the Zombie Mythos is clay that can be sculpted convey almost every social issue, from class disparity to religion. From vaccine denial to celebrity cultists. And while these are more complicated social constructs, zombies also remind us of the simple fact that someday we’re all going to die and turn into rotten things also.

This is why the genre hasn’t disappeared yet. While filmmakers, writers, and video game developers try to cash in on the zombie craze, in some cases creating some really awful products, the reason people continue to buy it may elude them. The key interest in zombies has to do with self-discovery. Zombie stories tell us something real about who and what we are, and you don’t have to be a genius to enjoy them.

We actually might be on the verge of Zombie Golden Age, as the genre matures. Some movies and television shows are getting better. Some video games and books are getting better.

In what way have zombies captured your imagination? Please comment below:

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What is Twixtaverse Canon?

The Twixtaverse Appears


The Twixtaverse is another fictional universe that mirrors our own, inspired by the Dark Tower Series by Stephen King. I found it fascinating the way that King attempted to weave his entire body of work together in a kind of tapestry, and thought, What if a writer were to attempt something like this from the beginning of their career? What if I created a series of books that could work as stand-alones, yet in each one there would be included characters and references that that tied them to a larger, more encompassing story? What if I could construct similar to a horror/dark fantasy Marvel Universe?

This is what I’m attempting with the Twixtaverse Canon, the Betwixt Series being the flagship of the entire culmination of novels. As I started to create a glossary of the different characters, factions, worlds, and gods that are in the mix, I realized how difficult it is going to be keeping track of every little facet of this thing. If it works correctly than the series will be extraordinarily satisfying, leaving readers craving new content. If it doesn’t work correctly, it will be a car crash of various tones and story threads that don’t seem to go anywhere.
The Twixtaverse Canon is also inspired by the Song of Ice and Fire Series. I’ve always appreciated in the books how good and bad things happen every character, which flies in the face of traditional commercial storytelling. There doesn’t seem to be any kind of moralizing or pretention, but the major drawback is that often readers don’t know who to connect with. By the end it may leave the audience wondering why they bothered.

You can’t (or perhaps, shouldn’t) kill off every major character, but there is some serious impact when an author does it correctly. Readers never know how stimulating a story can be until it completely subverts their expectations. So my intention is to make the Twixtaverse very well-planned and deliberate, gradually exposing one layer of depth after another without things getting too far out of control.

Another thing I am wary of is not overwhelming readers with the sheer bleakness of the reality reflected in my stories. It’s too easy to fall into the grimness pit if one wants to take the pessimistic red pill regarding the true nature of the world. What I’m interested in is evoking a feeling of profundity, something mysterious and powerful and somehow true. What I’m not down for is propagating a depressive outlook. I think it really just comes down to tone and balance, adding some degree of levity and humor to really distressing situations. These books must not take themselves too seriously.

So what kind of monster is this series? I am combining a little bit of science fiction with dark fantasy, as though Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Lovecraft, George Martin, King, and Tolkien collaborated on a project. You could think of it as a cosmic horror Game of Thrones. It’s the Sandman (something that actually started as a horror series), reformed on the anvil of materialist reductionism. And while I am taking a reductionist slant in this fiction, there is plenty of supernatural, Lovecraftian horror to come front and center.

With the continued enhancement of the self-publishing industry, now is the perfect time to build a series like this. I can release short, complete works to supplement the overall narrative of the bigger novels, which will serve to build a bigger readership. I have complete creative control to take this stories as far as I want to go. I can also rerelease updated versions of the books whenever I choose, should I decide that I need to add an adjustment or improve continuity between the novels. Think of it as a patch for an online game. As big as the scope for this series may be, it may be necessary. I might also require some outside help keeping the details consistent.

So here I would like to describe how this series will get started. There is a short story called “Iconoclast”, in which a man goes back in time to assassinate a historical figure. Readers will be introduced to one of the staple characters, Gideon, and his long-standing rivalry with the Vatican. This will foreshadow an imminent interdimensional invasion soon to be visited on the world.

This will be followed by another story titled “Precursor”, in which Gideon leases his facilities to the U.S. government to prevent a political disaster. It turns out that the disaster was an indication of a cataclysmic change on the horizon. This sets the precedent for the events that follow in the novel “Philadeathia”. While this all may sound very Sci-Fi, there are only a few of those kinds of elements introduced to bolster the narrative. There is still plenty of chilling, freaky stuff in there.

“Philadeathia” is to the Betwixt Series, what “the Hobbit” is to “Lord of the Rings”. It provides readers with their first peek into the depth of the rabbit hole and the mind-scarring monsters awaiting earthy invasion.


“Betwixt: The Gods Have Never Bled,” is the first of the trilogy and it takes readers to the next tier of Cosmic Horror, the political power struggles and intrigues among the civilizations of the stars and the gods. Though that may seem like such lofty concepts as to make them unrelatable, special care will be taken to usher these ideas into the mythos in familiar terms.

Then there are the stand-alone side novels that will feature various characters from the series in their own adventures, but I will write a little more about those another time. I just wanted to put this post out to promote some excitement for things to come. I also have some special plans for the future of the “Party Apocalypse” series, and I’ll write about that soon. That’s all for now and don’t forget to subscribe to my email newsletter to keep abreast of new developments.


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