Halloween has always been my favorite time of year. Growing up, I loved getting into costume and going out trick-or-treating. I also loved going to haunted house attractions with my family. One of my favorite Halloween memories is being chased out of a haunted house by some guy in a cheap Leatherface knock-off costume and his very real chainsaw. Running back to the parking lot, I looked back and saw the actor head back inside to get ready for his next unsuspecting victim. It was such a visceral moment, it’s stayed with me all these years.
I haven’t visited a haunted house attraction in years, but I’m still fascinated by them. When I stumbled across an article about the new breed of haunted houses called Extreme Haunts, I couldn’t help but read it. In an Extreme Haunt, there are no barriers between audience and performer. Guests are abducted, tortured and put through the ringer all in the name of creating real and genuine scares. It’s a weird marriage of traditional haunted house scares and performance art. After reading the piece, I sought out more material about these places. Blackout Haunted House, Haunted Hoochie, McKamey Manor; they all specialize in pushing the boundaries of what constitutes a traditional haunted house.
Reading about these Extreme Haunts, I couldn’t help but wonder “what if?” What if one of these places went too far. What if the madmen and monsters they present crossed the line and became real? The question evolved into the basis for Extreme Haunt. Initially planned as a novella, it grew into a novel during NaNoWriMo. I spent the last few months cutting it back to novella length, only to realize it was better off as a full length. I’m currently in the home stretch on this novel. It seems like it’s been a long time, but it’s only been five months since conception. I can’t wait to open the doors on this haunt and introduce you to Hellion, Butcher and Brute. They’re eager to show you a night you’ll never forget.
I wanted my first post this year to be the release date announcement for Extreme Haunt. Unfortunately, things got complicated. The slash and burn rewrite I planned turned out to be more extensive. I’m fleshing the novella out to novel length. Right now, I plan to release the book in late February or early March.
But what then?
Last year I hoped to release six or seven titles which included a mixture of novels, novellas and novelettes. Unfortunately only Nothing Zero materialized from my ambitious publication schedule. This year, I’m aiming to release three titles: Extreme Haunt, a slasher novella and Psychopomp, a book I abandoned last year.
While I would like to put all three out during the first half of the year, I’m not pushing myself. I want the slasher novella to be fun, and re-visiting Psychopomp is a chance to redeem a very bitter failure. I’m pretty certain I can complete work on all three before July, but after that I’m not sure. I have ideas, but nothing I’m ready to mention. I feel like looking past these three things would be unfair to them. I want to get them done, get them right and get them released before I move on to things four, five and six. It just would be nice if all these things happened in this calender year.
But I wont’ be disappointed if they don’t.
The following is the unedited text for the opening chapter from my next release, Extreme Haunt. I’m working on the book as part of NaNoWriMo.
Everyone was dead.
Derek knew something was wrong as he approached the house. The decadence had nearly reached fever-pitch by the time he left. Music louder than a construction site, liquor flowed freely and drugs were openly abused. Seemingly every costumed party-goer was having a good time. By all rights, things should have exploded into an orgy of latex masks, grease paint and naked flesh. But less than a thirty minutes later, the place was ominously quiet.
Stepping on the porch, Derek felt creeping dread take hold of him. He tried to think of a rational explanation for why the Halloween party ended so abruptly. But no matter how hard he tried, he simply couldn’t do it. Every thought was interrupted by the dozen or so cars in the drive-way. The house was full house, so why was it so damned quiet?
Everyone was fucking?
The thought of Melanie fucking some stranger drove Derek from the party. He loathed to admit it now, but the prospect turned him on at first. But when he was faced with the reality behind the fantasy, Derek bailed. His pride simply couldn’t handle it. As disturbing as he found the idea of Melanie being penetrated in every orifice, it was infinitely more comforting than the darker alternative. But yet, he couldn’t fully embrace it. His knowledge of the Devil’s House simply wouldn’t let him.
Since Allison invited them to her party, Derek heard all kinds of crazy explanations for why the location was known as the Devil’s House. According to local legend, the place’s history was steeped in blood. Tales of murder, suicide and Satanic ritual circled the house since it had been build. As he stared at the ominous black front door, Derek couldn’t believe he was actually buying into the bullshit.
Not that the truth behind the house’s black past ever really mattered to Allison. Local legend was enough to fuel her desire to own the place. Always drawn to the dark and morbid, she simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to live in an infamous murder house. The fact she could move in just before October made the purchase all the sweeter. She wanted her annual Halloween bash to go down in infamy. She pulled out all the stops to make sure that happened. Her work paid off. Part lavish costume bash, part sleazy sex party, the night was definitely one no one would ever forget.
Opening the door, Derek felt his heart sink and a cold streak spill down his spine. No sounds of carnal lust or hushed midnight promises. No drunken revelry or drug fueled ecstasy. Derek found only the unrelenting silence of an abandoned house.
As Derek stood in the darkened foyer, his every instinct told him something was very fucking wrong. He should have immediately ran away. He should have let the darkness of the night wash away any thoughts of the Devil’s House. But yet, he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He found himself irrevocably drawn toward the somber candle light glow in the distance.
When he left, the grand room had been the throbbing decadent heart of the party. Drunken and debauched revelers danced, kissed and slowly strip-teased their way out of their costumes. In turns erotic and ridiculous, it lived up to everything Allison promised. But as he stepped inside, he didn’t see sweaty tangles of naked flesh or graphic sex acts. Derek only saw was red.
Blood painted the walls and spattered the ceiling. Thick coagulating pools punctuated the long languid streaks that ran across the floor. Derek’s eyes slowly drifted toward the center of the room where he saw the bodies. Indifferently dumped in the center of the room, the two women were naked and bled white. Viciously cleaved with an ax, their bodies gaped with dark crimson gashes.
Revolted by the sheer brutality on display, Derek recoiled.
Stomach lurching, he doubled over and tried to fight back the bile racing up his throat. Suddenly aware of the nauseous stench of death in the air, he failed miserably. The contents of his stomach hit the floor with a violent wet splat. His knees buckling, he grabbed the wall for support.
His stomach still churning, he closed his eyes. Taking big gasping breaths, he let the stillness of the house wash over him. Everyone was dead. An icy chill spilled through his guts, soothing the chaos but leaving a dead cold terror that was much worse. Everyone didn’t just mean the anonymous faces and casual acquaintance Allison populated the party with.
Everyone meant Melanie as well.
He slowly turned to face the gruesome tableau. Derek thought the bodies had been simply dumped on the floor; but as he surveyed the remains, he realized he had been horribly mistaken. Their faces planted between each others’ splayed legs, the women had been carefully positioned. The longer he examined the corpses, the more the grotesque sexual component of the scene became apparent. Severed arms had been violently pushed forearm deep into each of the blond’s orifices. Her sex hacked opened, the black haired woman’s entrails were yanked through the mutilation and spread across the floor. The blond’s face was buried inside the raw crimson gash. As horrifying as the living room was, Derek found a strange sense of comfort within the layers of gore when he didn’t recognize either girl. Melanie was still somewhere in the house.
Drifting back into the foyer, Derek cast an uneasy look at the stairs. The darkness waiting for him at the top was deep and seemingly impenetrable. He took a deep breath and started up the stairs.
Midway up, Derek saw a body on the landing. Chopped in half, the man’s blood-slicked torso sat upright in the corner. Stringy viscera splattered the hardwood, leading toward the lower half of the body. Up close, Derek discovered the butchery wasn’t limited to the bisection. Like the women, the man’s body had been savaged with an ax. A series of deep ugly gashes reduced his chest to a wet pulpy mess of blood and bone. His lower jaw dangled loosely, still connected the rest of his head by only a flap of skin. His penis had been severed, and stuffed into his gullet.
The discovery was just a preamble to the gallery of horrors waiting Derek when he reached the top of the stairs. It was a veritable slaughter house. Butchered bodies and severed limbs indifferently lined the hall. Entrails were strewn about the floor like party streamers. Blood painted the hardwood, making it sheen like obsidian in the darkness. The rank stench of death was so overwhelming, Derek retched so hard it felt like his body was trying to eject his entire digestive system.
Before he could recover, Derek realized he wasn’t alone. Claws scrapping the hardwood, low animalistic growls tremored in the distance. His pulse jumped as he turned to face the ominously dark room at the end of the hall. Although he wanted to escape the hellish slaughter surrounding him, he couldn’t. He had yet to find Melanie.
His whole body shaking, Derek navigated the carnage to continue his search. While the corpses downstairs had been carefully staged, here they had been discarded like so much refuse. The remains he couldn’t outright dismiss, Derek had to roll over or pull their heads back to get a good look at their faces. None of the bodies belonged to Melanie.
Tears welling up in his eyes, Derek staggered. The animal sounds had given way to the wet ripping and greedy snapping of several large beasts feeding.
Something was eating her.
Unable to truly comprehend what was happening Derek finally broke. Tears spilling freely down his cheeks, a series of great wracking sobs ripped through him. Derek felt like he was about to be torn apart by the sheer weight of his grief when he heard the footsteps.
The massive footfalls pulled Derek’s eyes down the hallway. The darkness seemed to grow ever darker as the behemoth emerged. His body corded with powerful muscles, the mountain of a man wielded a massive double edged ax and wore a leather sensory deprivation mask. Although he had no obvious means of sight, the pale Brute was fixated on Derek. As he stormed toward Derek, darkness seemed to cling to the Brute’s flowing black smock.
Terror gripping him, Derek ran.
On his mad dash down the stairs, Derek slipped on pile of messy entrails. Tumbling head first, he crashed hard on the landing. For a moment his vision went fuzzy and darkness started to creep in around the edges of the world.
Slowly getting back to his feet, Derek saw the Brute descend the stairs. His ax ready, the maniac divided the distance like a shark attacking its prey.
The ax sliced through the air.
Derek pivoted, barely avoiding the killing blow.
The wall exploded into a thousand shards of wood and drywall.
Racing down the stairs, Derek glanced back and saw the mountain pulling his weapon free. The Brute whipped around and fixed his eyeless gaze on him. As he made his escape, Derek could sense the murderous rage beneath the surface of Brute’s leather mask.
Derek realized he had been screaming when he emerged from the house. Even though his voice was hoarse and raw, he kept screaming as he collapsed across the front lawn. His sweaty and blood covered body aching, he knew he couldn’t stop. Images of the Brute’s blood spattered mask flashed through his mind. He clawed his way back to his feet and staggered towards the drive way. As he fumbled for his keys, he cast a desperate look back.
No sign of the Brute, Derek climbed inside his car.
Barely able to control himself, much less a car, Derek threw the car into reverse. As he tore down the drive, the air was filled with horrible the horrible scrapes and screams of metal on metal. It felt like he must have smashed into every parked car, but he didn’t give a shit. He just needed to get away from the house.
His wheels find the road, Derek slammed on the breaks.
Taking a deep breath, he took a final look at the Devil’s House. The place looked like any other three story old colonial. There was no hint of the hellish slaughter contained within it walls. Tears spilling down his face, Derek slammed the car into gear and hoped to never see the house again.
It’s been a year since I launched this site. In that time I’ve launched Nothing Zero, and let a couple of would-be novels wither on the vine. I honestly hoped this year would see an extremely aggressive release schedule, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards. I’ll be lucky to get one more book released before 2014 closes out, and I’m fine with that.
But what will that book be?
I tried to write a classy Gothic Horror novel, but simply couldn’t get momentum on it. It just didn’t feel like the book I should be working on. Honestly, the only thing that makes sense right now is a hardcore horror novel. As a result, I’ve started a slasher novel. Will I finish this one? If I’m being totally honest with myself, I’d have to say I don’t know. I like the characters, I like the story and I really feel like there’s a lack of honest to goodness slasher books in the market. It has all the ingredients for a book I would enjoy reading, so I hope I can. Right now, that’s all I can ask for in a project.
Whatever my next book ends up being, I do know I’ll release a physical edition. When i published Live Undead, I thought I’d never release a hard copy book. It just didn’t appeal to me. But since then, I’ve come around to the idea. Trying to market something that’s solely available as a Kindle edition feels impossible. Just offering an electronic edition feels like I’m cutting off my marketing efforts at the knees. I think I can attract more readers to my work by making a trade paperback available. That’s ultimately what matters: Getting people to read my stuff.
I know there’s a few people out there that have read each of the Undead Chronicles. I definitely appreciate that, and hope they enjoyed the books. Unfortunately I feel like there haven’t been enough. My main goal over the next year will simply be to get more readers. I want more people buying, borrowing or even pirating my books. I want more reviews on Amazon and GoodReads. I even want more people visiting this site on a regular basis. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen.
After months of wrestling with Psychopomp, I’m afraid I’ve lost. I’m simply not happy with the way it turned out. The writing is weak, and the story isn’t focused. It feels very scattered, and that’s because I tackled so many different elements. It currently feels like four disparate books, and I honestly don’t know how to make them feel like a cohesive whole. I bit off more than I can chew.
Maybe in a few months, I’ll feel differently. Maybe I’ll figure out the secret to making the book work. But today, I’m doing more harm than good in trying to sort it out. I’m wasting time, when I could be writing something else.
Unfortunately I don’t really know what I’m going to work on next. I have ideas, but nothing set in stone. I guess that’s something for me to figure out over the next couple of days.
I’m currently working on Psychopomp for a May/June release. Written as part of NaNoWriMo, it’s a dark super hero book with strong horror overtones. More details to come in a couple of weeks.