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Book Review of Andrew Pyper’s: The Damned

The Damned by Andrew Pyper

Simon & Schuster The Damned by Andrew Pyper Publication Date: February 10, 2015 304 pages | ISBN978-1-4767-5514-4 Order here: The Damned From the #1 internationally bestselling author of The Demonologist, called “smart, thrilling, utterly unnerving” by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, comes a spine-tingling supernatural thriller about a survivor of a near-death experience haunted by his beautiful, vindictive twin sister.

The Damned: Danny Orchard wrote a bestselling memoir about his near-death experience in a fire that claimed the life of his twin sister, Ashleigh, but despite the resulting fame and fortune he’s never been able to enjoy his second chance at life. Ash won’t let him. In life, Danny’s charming and magnetic twin had been a budding psychopath who privately terrorized her family—and death hasn’t changed her wicked ways. Ash has haunted Danny for twenty years and now, just when he’s met the love of his life and has a chance at real happiness, she wants more than ever to punish him for being alive—so she sets her sights on Danny’s new wife and stepson. Danny knows what Ash really wants is him, and he’s prepared to sacrifice himself in order to save the ones he loves. The question is: will he make it back this time?

ruinsMy Review: I first discovered Andrew Pyper when I read his previous novel The Demonologist. The prose in that book had literally reached up from the pages and slapped my senses scared. I wasn’t just reading the story, I was experiencing it. Andrew doesn’t let this fan down in The Damned and sets the senses ablaze. Pyper has crafted a story of suspense and horror that transcends this world and plummets the reader into a dark After-world. There are many highlights in The Damned for me: how to tell twins apart, the surreal imagery of the After and the horror of the dryer scene. The dryer scene alone is worthy of the fact that Legendary Pictures has optioned this novel for the big screen. However, the most prominent highlight for me was being subjected to the vile and twisted soul of Ashleigh Orchard. Pyper’s daughter of the underworld, an insidious psychopath who’s both unstoppable in life as she is in death. Set against the background of Detroit (an allusion to that which is damned) the story alternates between the realm of the living and the dead. The Damned traces a sibling rivalry (born in hell) between Ash and her brother Danny Orchard. The story ignites after a house fire sends Ash and Danny to the After-world, but when Danny survives, his sister’s soul becomes restless. Ash pursues Danny from the other-side making his life a living hell. And when Danny’s new family is threatened by Ash’s unrelenting ghost he’s forced to confront his venomous sister in the After-world where he uncovers sinister truths that will keep you gasping to the very end.

Andrew PyperAbout the Author: Andrew Pyper is the award-winning author of six internationally bestselling novels. Lost Girls won the Arthur Ellis Award, was selected as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and appeared on the New York Times and Times (UK) bestseller lists. The Killing Circle was a New York Times Best Crime Novel of the Year. Three of Pyper’s novels, including The Demonologist, are in active development for feature film. www.andrewpyper.com

Romancing the Words: The Outlining Pantser

Book-And-Love-Photos-1600x1026The romance of being a pantser is alluring. The lustful sense in the writer’s mind to pantser is one that draws us to sit down and start writing. Go where the imagination goes. Throw caution to the wind! As adventurous and sexy as this sounds I’m here to tell you something Dr. Ruth once told my generation: have protection! That protection doesn’t come in the form of a pill or latex sleeve, but in the form of an outline.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an advocate of one over the other. We all have our own method, and choose what works best; it’s a personal choice. I’m sure all of us, outliner or not, have at one point or another found ourselves with a story-spark that requires some panster power to get it down. We sit. We write. We find ourselves 500 words along and the story keeps coming, and it feels like a release of imaginative tension. When you’re done, you might light a smoke, have a glass of wine or just catch your breath from the best write ever. But depending on the depth of your piece, the size of it (does size matter?) you may find yourself with a story that’s thundering with loose ends. That’s when wearing an outliner’s rain coat will protect you, but if you feel comfortable in the storm then pantser away.storms

You’re probably wondering what method I use when I write. I have to admit, I love to be a pantser but I’ve found a good outline helps to keep my wild-side in check, so I enlist both methods. Here’s how I do it: Pantser that story-spark. Sweat and moan that idea into the best story synopsis you ever wrote – best write ever! Then take that synopsis and whip it with an outline. Now you’re ready to spend some quality time romancing your words. Love your story, and you’ll see the prose mature with depth and meaningful arc. Now for the fun. Between the points of your outline get naked and pantser between the sheets, of paper. That’s right, connect the dots of your outline points by drafting your story in panster mode. I get the best of both worlds as an outlining panster.

I find outlining helps nurture a good working relationship with my pantser self. Ultimately each of us chooses our own path, we learn by doing, and through this we discover our own rhythmic method to writing.

What method do you prefer? How do you do it? Do you stick with one method over the other or blend?

Don’t Open Your Eyes! A Book Review of Josh Malerman’s: Bird Box

“Chilling terror that’s both mesmerizing and thought provoking. This is a must-read that will captivate you to the very end.” – Darryl Foster

Bird BoxAbout the Book: Something is out there . . .

Something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from.

Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remain, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now, that the boy and girl are four, it is time to go. But the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat—blindfolded—with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. And something is following them. But is it man, animal, or monster?

Engulfed in darkness, surrounded by sounds both familiar and frightening, Malorie embarks on a harrowing odyssey—a trip that takes her into an unseen world and back into the past, to the companions who once saved her. Under the guidance of the stalwart Tom, a motely group of strangers banded together against the unseen terror, creating order from the chaos. But when supplies ran low, they were forced to venture outside—and confront the ultimate question: in a world gone mad, who can really be trusted?

My Review: Josh Malerman has written a future cult classic. Warning: You will not be able to put this book down until you reach the end so give yourself the time for an all-nighter. This is a must-read for any fan of heart-pounding suspense and horror. Malerman cleverly steals the sense of sight from the reader forcing your other senses to sharpen and take the brunt of a strange and sinister invasion that leaves civilization crumbling in a melting pot of deadly and violent madness.

blindfolded“Don’t open your eyes!”

That phrase is the theme of the book; a mantra repeated by the main character Malorie to protect her children from the lurking horrors sweeping the globe. With blindfolds as their only protection from the things, Malorie packs up her two children and sets out in search of salvation in a post apocalyptic world. Her journey, past and present, is a cauldron of bubbling suspense that will boil in your mind and cook your inner most fears to well-done. Malerman’s Bird Box is terrifying brilliance, and flows flawlessly with entwined story lines that braid together to create an unstoppable page-turner. But just don’t take my word for it, check out the testimonials below then buy the book.

1297574950876_ORIGINALThe Author: You can find Josh Malerman on Twitter, Facebook, and goodreads. Buy the book on Amazon.

“A book that demands to be read in a single sitting, and through the cracks between one’s fingers. There has never been a horror story quite like this. Josh Malerman truly delivers.” —Hugh Howey, New York Times bestselling author of Wool

“[A] chilling debut… Malerman…keeps us tinglingly on edge with his cool, merciless storytelling [and] douses his tale in poetic gloom….An unsettling thriller, this earns comparisons to Hitchcock’s The Birds, as well as the finer efforts of Stephen King and cult sci-fi fantasist Jonathan Carroll.” —Kirkus Reviews

“The author uses understatement and allusion to create a lean, spellbinding thriller that Stephen King fans will relish.” —Publishers Weekly

10 Writing Tips for Aspiring Authors from HarperCollins Canada Editors!

From the horse’s mouth! A great post for aspiring authors, dig in and eat it up!

At the beginning of the year, we asked some of our fellow Savvy Readers what their New Year’s resolutions were. In addition to reading more, many of you said that you’d like to focus on writing in 2014. As the halfway point of the year approaches, we want to motivate you to work towards your goal… and asked 10 editors from HarperCollins Canada to help! Below, professional editors (whose expertise range from Cookbooks to Fiction, Non-fiction to Children’s Books) share their #1 piece of advice.

Read on, because regardless of whether you write for pleasure or are an aspiring author, I’m sure you can find something helpful from the tips below.

1. Read! 

“Read, read widely and read for your enjoyment. Read outside of your usual genres, read books on the bestseller list and talk about the books you love.”

—Brad Wilson, Editorial Director (Collins).

2. Don’t Focus On Your Ending

“In fiction, there is a temptation to write…

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What Lurks in The Deep? A Book Review of Nick Cutter’s, The Deep

TheDeep TPB frt v2ABOUT THE BOOK: From the acclaimed author of The Troop—which Stephen King raved “scared the hell out of me and I couldn’t put it down.…old-school horror at its best”—comes this utterly terrifying novel where The Abyss meets The Shining.

A strange plague called the ’Gets is decimating humanity on a global scale. It causes people to forget—small things at first, like where they left their keys…then the not-so-small things like how to drive, or the letters of the alphabet. Then their bodies forget how to function involuntarily…and there is no cure. But now, far below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, deep in the Marianas Trench, an heretofore unknown substance hailed as “ambrosia” has been discovered—a universal healer, from initial reports. It may just be the key to a universal cure. In order to study this phenomenon, a special research lab, the Trieste, has been built eight miles under the sea’s surface. But now the station is incommunicado, and it’s up to a brave few to descend through the lightless fathoms in hopes of unraveling the mysteries lurking at those crushing depths…and perhaps to encounter an evil blacker than anything one could possibly imagine.

THE AUTHOR: When I was introduced to Nick Cutter via Twitter in February 2014 I was on a business trip in San Diego. My Twitter feed was on fire with this Nick Cutter fellow whose book came with a Stephen King endorsement “…scared the hell out of me and I couldn’t put it down…” –the King had spoken, and my book-alert siren went off like the Starship Enterprise was under attack. Number-One, set new course for the local book store, engage. Warp drive is a little slow on the San Diego transit system, but soon my cash-energized tractor beam brought The Troop into my hands. The book proved to be an incredible novel of raw horror…and I couldn’t put it down.

Flash forward eight months to October 25, 2015: Creemore, Ontario and the IFOA had come to town. When I first met Nick Cutter (aka Craig Davidson) I thought I could wrestle him for an ARC copy of The Deep, but his tall gait and suspicious armband tattoo told me I was dealing with an Alpha Male, and it kept me civil in my seat. At the end of the author presentations I approached Nick to sign my copy of The Troop, and to my surprise “because it never hurts to ask” he had an ARC copy of The Deep for me. Inside my eyes went puffy, red and teary like a Ren & Stimpy cartoon, oh joy, but on the outside a cool composure, and a modest “thank you” prevailed. Mr. Cutter, you have a fan for life.

Bathyscaphe_TriesteMY REVIEW: How deep is The Deep? Oh, it’s crushingly deep. The Trieste submersible platform (the island of this novel) is deep in the Mariana Trench where life has to evolve to withstand the pressure of 15,750 pounds per square inch (thank you Wikipedia). But as deep as the Trieste is under the Pacific, there is another deep, one that also has crushing depths and it’s found in the fathoms of the human mind: madness.

The Deep has a tagline, “…the Shining meets the Abyss…” and that intersection is both chilling and surprising in the book.

The Deep follows the main character Luke on a thrilling ride to the bottom of the Mariana Trench to the Trieste platform where his brother Clayton, a scientist, is researching a substance called Ambrosia, found on the sea floor. Ambrosia represents a possible cure for a disease called the ‘Gets that plagues the surface, and is the reason why Cutter has us swimming in the deep end of the pool. Before and after we dock with the Trieste, Cutter has us strapped into a narrative-roller-coaster that tunnels deep into the darkest depths of Luke’s consciousness. The novel is both a trip to the bottom of the ocean, as it is a trip through the hollows of a tortured mind. Throughout the book brilliantly written flashbacks pick away at the fears we all carry in ourselves, and those fears are amplified in Luke, escalated by the airtight confines of the seemingly haunted, metal-creaking Trieste.Lurker

Nick Cutter scuttles any chance for a life preserver and holds nothing back in The Deep. He’s a Literary Artist hell-bent on painting grotesque images with nerve-shattering detail, bringing to life scratch-and-sniff scenes that will make you feel like you’re experiencing the book through your senses. The madness, the horror, the tight claustrophobic places intended to strangle your mind are all key in setting the stage for a classic horror novel under the sea with a surprise ending that hits an even deeper note than you can imagine.

The Deep, as was The Troop, are my top horror reads for 2014. Publication date for The Deep is set for January 13, 2015 from Gallery Books. Order here from Amazon.

Darryl Foster

HORROR HAS A RISING TALENT: Book Review of Mark Cassell’s, The Shadow Fabric

ABOUT THE SHADOW FABRIC: Leo remembers little of his past. Desperate for a new life, he snatches up the first job to come along. On his second day, he witnesses a murder and the Shadow Fabric – a malevolent force that controls the darkness – takes the body and vanishes with it. Uncovering secrets long hidden from humankind, Leo’s memory unravels. Not only haunted by the past, a sinister presence within the darkness threatens his existence and he soon doubts everything and everyone…including himself. Now Leo must confront the truth about his past before he can embrace his future. But the future may not exist. THE SHADOW FABRIC is a story revealing the unknown history of witchcraft and the true cause of the Great Fire of London. A supernatural horror novel of sins, shadows, and the reanimated dead.The Shadow Fabric

MY REVIEW: Mark Cassell’s debut novel The Shadow Fabric is an action packed tale of supernatural horror. The book follows the journey of Cassell’s main character Leo. A car accident in Leo’s past had wiped out his memory. In his new life, post-accident, he struggles to recall the memories of his former life. Now, Leo finds himself working for a mysterious man named Victor Jacobs. Victor has secrets, ages old, and Leo quickly finds himself propelled into the secret and deadly world of the twisted Shadow Fabric.

Cassell has written a fast moving novel with a fascinating evil. He navigates us through a mysterious plot, and introduces us to a number of characters, ancient artifacts and legends that are all entwined with the Shadow Fabric. Cassell has effectively created a world at the edge of darkness, and he slaps us consistently with thrills and chills that will make you feel like you’re reading a movie.

Cassell’s marketing and author platform is outstanding, and his imagination is immense, as revealed by the unfolding of the Shadow Fabric mythos in the novel. He is an author with an online presence that clearly demonstrates a dedication to his craft.

I enjoyed reading and discovering the horrors of the Shadow Fabric and all its macabre wonders. If you’re a fan of classic paranormal horror then take the time to read Mark Cassell’s The Shadow Fabric. He has undoubtedly weaved a world by which legends of horror are born. I expect more great works will bleed from this author.

“Praise for Mark Cassell, a rising talent in horror.” ~ Darryl Foster

When the Story Spark Ignites

Explosion of planet or starI finished outlining a new novel, while editing the novel I need to finish. I’m convinced my ability to multi-task projects is born from my wavering attention span, and being hyper about any new idea that crosses my mind. But this time it feels different, and my attention is unwavering.

I’m sure some or all of us (including myself) believe our unique story sparks will burst forth the next big book deal: an international book tour, signings in every city, a publisher with a marketing engine that never sleeps, and of course the movie premieres next week (sounds lovely). Whether that happens or not, the story and writing process has to start with a spark.

So you pull out your mind-flint and strike your metal pen against your gray matter to make a story spark. Most times the story is easy to create: a news article catches your attention, an idea presents itself, an unlikely experience happens to you. How ever the spark comes, you eventually find the story you want to write. You were seeking the story, and found it. But perhaps what you found doesn’t gel? The story matter doesn’t seem to flow, and you find yourself backfilling the plot with regurgitated story-stuff that buries you in nothing but burden. The three act structure has become the ten act flop. If the story has become a labour of love, then likely the passion to write it is just as labourious. The spark has died.

But not all stories are prone to snuff-out. There are stories that kindle, and the story spark ignites into a supernova of imagination. The story explodes in your head and writes itself. I like to think of it as finding love when you’re not looking for it. You know that feeling of surprise, awe and amazement when you find someone so wonderful. Love at first sight? There’s an energy in those moments, and although we try to put a finger on it, it’s not anything we can grasp; it’s wild and wants to be free. This type of story spark is something you can’t control. When that happens the story will write itself, twisting effortlessly around the plot like a helix: forming scenes, chapters and acts, seemingly at will. This story spark has a life of its own and ignites passion in the writer. It becomes a raging inferno, St. Elmo’s fire, crackling with characters, burning with emotion and radiating with meaningful elements. This story will speak to you. It knows how it wants to be written. It will have passion and purpose. This is the story that’s in you to write.

In my infinite wisdom (which really tries hard to break out of my skull) I found myself trying to simplify what I’m talking about in as few words as possible, and perhaps someone else has coined the quote, but here’s my two cents:

“The writer doesn’t find the story one yearns to write ~ rather ~ the story finds the writer and yearns to be written.”

I believe story sparks are alive in all of us, and the right one will burn brighter in your mind-sky than all of them. That’s your story, move toward it, fuel its fire, and bring it to life.

Darryl Foster

NaNoWriMo Half-Time Tribute

I doff my hat to every valiant writer who has made it their mission to push aside everything this month to complete a novel. This is a daunting endeavour, but one proven to be achievable. The absolute mind blowing 50,000 words in one month makes NaNoWriMo the Ironman race of the mind.

NaNoWriMo is coming up on half-time and you warriors-of-the-word-processors are locked in a daily word count battle that numbs the senses. In my world, you are all ‘Nanimals’ (novel writing animals), and to celebrate your achievements I bring you motivation from the past. I believe if Winston Churchill were alive today, he would be writing alongside you in the war of words, weaving plot, twisting characters and building tension. The half-time tribute: Imagine Churchill giving his historical speech, and imagine if he were a Nanimal like you.

We shall go on to the end, we shall write in our homes,
we shall write in libraries, and in coffee shops,
we shall write with growing confidence and growing strength in our prose, we shall write no matter what the cost may be,
we shall write in our regions,
we shall write and tweet,
we shall write with our pens and word processors,
we shall write day and night;
we shall never surrender!

Good luck you wild Nanimals!

I salute you all.

Never-Never-Never-Never-Give-up-Winston-Churchill-quote