Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Pandora's Box, A Review

This time I'm reviewing Pandora's Box by Joanna Parypinski, published by Damnation Books. I came across this book on Facebook, as the author asked for people interested in reviewing her new book. It took me some time to jump in the boat as the cover art made me fret this was yet another vampire book. However, the blurb won me over and boy, am I happy I took the chance.

Pandora's Box is the story of Maria Vakros, a woman fighting her own demons in order to reclaim control of her life as she and her husband, a teacher by trade, start anew in the small town of Sickle Falls. Leaving behind the big city of Chicago, they buy a quaint old house in the nicer part of town with a beautiful view of the lake, but hiding in the shadows of the basement lies an ancient horror waiting to be unleashed. It has infected the whole town, even causing the previous owners untimely deaths.

The plot is well constructed, weaving five different stories without making it confusing nor heavy. At all times the narrative is fluid and interesting, the sense of doom and horror is well transmitted without the overuse of adjectives. The story starts slowly, building on the mystery and creating a menacing atmosphere, and though there are segments quite violent, it never gets too graphic or gory. I found particularly refreshing the rich vocabulary Parypinski uses, it has been a while since a book made me open a dictionary, and though I always thank an author who teaches me something, when the uncommon vocabulary forces you to interrupt the reading in order to look for a word, it gets in the way of enjoying the book. I mean, if you use obscure words that the reader can deduct from the general context, you're okay, but don't over do it or you risk looking like a snub. Now, Parypinski doesn't go to that extreme but once, so we won't hold it against her.

The characters are interesting and complex and each individual story builds to a final crescendo that has all kinds of unexpected turns. Parypinski's style is refreshing, almost poetic in her descriptions, giving the horrors depicted a tragic and twisted feeling. It is outstanding how much information the author manages to convey and still leave the reader craving for more, in particular when relating the story of the box, and yet the ending feels a bit abrupt; but knowing how difficult it is to find the perfect balance between giving closure to a character's story and simply going too far, I think Parypinski's decision to give the final word to one of the side characters is an interesting one that explains the insertion of the box's story and allows for a small moral very apropos.

I highly recommend Pandora's Box to every horror lover, even the squeamish ones as there's something for everyone in this mystery/horror. An outstanding story edited to perfection, Pandora's Box shows small presses can be every bit as professional as the Big Six.

For more information on the author, go to her website Pandora's Pen. If you want to add this book to your TBR pile, go here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Possessions, Ghosts, and Everything Horror. Why do we like them so much?

With October fast approaching, horror fans all over the world are salivating over the many movies we'll enjoy in theaters everywhere. Already The Possession has earned a total of 33 million dollars and opened as the number one movie during its debut weekend, and it's only september! With movies like V/H/S and Paranormal Activity 4 which claim to be the scariest movie ever and the scariest franchise ever, respectively, it seems there are no limits to what a good trailer can sell, no matter how disappointing the actual films turn out to be. Truth is, as the last film gets ripped apart by devotees and critics, there will always be those who still enjoy the ride, and no sooner the big screen fades into blackness, the new 'scarier/gorier/most realistic film ever' is released.

But if you still doubt about the genre popularity, don't look further than your own TV. Celebrity Ghost Stories, Ghostly Encounters, My Ghost Story, and Haunted Collector are but a fraction of the dozens of shows that have sprout in recent years. The fact is that the Horror Genre is not only alive, but has gone mainstream in a big way and our hunger for 'True Stories' is more avid than ever.

Hauntings, exorcisms, demons, and ghosts are no longer a once-in-a-year fest, but a year-round-spook-galore. Suddenly vampires (hello Damon!) are more popular than doctors (Dr. McWho?) and being a Ghost Hunter can allow you to quit your day job as a plumber. But, why on earth is it that we are so interested in the paranormal? This, my friends, is the million dollar question and if you're able to answer it, you might be able to ride the paranormal wave all the way to the bank.

In my case, I've always been interested in the paranormal. It is a mysterious field where no answer is definitive and no one can be certain of the truth. I have learned not to believe everything that I hear, and I know most of those shows 'based on real stories' use the term 'based' very loosely. Still, there's a part of me that finds an inordinate amount of pleasure in the rumor that the lyrics of Hotel California really told the story of Anton Lavey's satanic congregation. Why? Because there's a special beauty in folklore, because some mysteries are better left unveiled, because if we believe that there's dark behind the curtain, then it means there is light as well.

So, tell me, are you a fan?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A New Blogfest, A Little Complaining, and a Book Review

Awesome blogger and writer Mina Lobo is having a hell of a good time at her blog, Some Dark Romantic, celebrating its first anniversary. Of course, a blogfest is in order and the theme of this one is: Resurrection. But don't fret, this celebration does not wander into the realms of the philosophical, instead it focuses on the road we as bloggers have travelled to get where we are. Remember that amazingly clever post you wrote back when nobody stopped by your blog? Well, Mina is inviting all of us who would like to resurrect a post like that. November 7th is the day for your old post to come back to life. There will be amazon gift cards for the winners, and it will be a lot of fun. If you are interested, check out the rules and details here. I'd love to read an old jewel of yours and can't wait to share mine with you.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled review. This time it is the turn of Carole Gill's The House on Blackstone Moor.

The House on Blackstone Moor is a beautifully written gothic novel full of suspense and plot twists. It is narrated by the main character, Rose Baines, the sole survivor of her family's massacre carried out by her own father. In fact, she's the one who discovers the bodies caked with blood and horribly twisted. When police arrives, they find the young woman in such a state of shock that it's decided she needs to be committed. So begins the difficult path this character has to travel in order to find her place in a world of darkness she can't escape.

You always hear how important it is to have a strong first page to draw in your readers; Carole Gill does that amazingly, showing off her gift to describe horrid scenes with simple, elegant words that serve so well to the gothic style. The story grabs you immediately, the characters are believable and very soon we root for this poor girl who has gone through such a terrible experience. The rest of the characters keep the action going and I never felt bored, though it is until three quarters of the book have passed that the first vampire is revealed as such. For a book described by its author as a story of vampirism, it is rather late in the game that vampiric lore is introduced. It is at this point that the darkest side of the story is unveiled, finally embracing its paranormal secrets.

The book is edited to perfection, letting the prose shine in all its romantic glory without grammatical mistakes or typos to distract us. Carole Gill is a gifted author I've been following for some time now, and even though I don't think The House on Blackstone Moor is her best piece, it succeeds in showing her great talent as a wordsmith and inventor of dark worlds. I can't wait for whatever else this author has in store.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Time for a Break?

Summer is finally over, school is back and with it a sense of order returns to our lives. At least for mothers and fathers it does, anyway. We look at our messy house and sigh a sigh of relieve. We survived the insufferable attack of our kids under the influence of too much leisure time, too much sugar, and heat waves. We greet our old friend Silence as we sit at our desks and open our computers, ready to retake control of our writerly dues.

With this welcome change of pace comes another Insecure Writers meeting, and how wonderful! I could actually hear my thoughts as I mulled over what route to take for this latest installment. Given that I haven't been able to write much lately, I decided to talk about rejection. When is it time to pull the plug on a story and let it go into the archives labeled as 'For Future Analysis?"

I have three short stories I considered finished by the beginning of summer. In fact, two of those I've been trying to publish for a little over four months; for the last piece, a Flash Fiction, although I finished it over a year ago, it's only recently that I decided I was interested in publishing it. So far I've garnered four rejection letters for the shorts and both are presently being considered by a fifth mag. No word on weather they have already read them and are thinking about it, or if they're still on the slush pile. You know how it goes.

The flash, though, I only submitted to two publications. Both rejected it, but the latest was awesome enough to actually write back with a series of commentaries as to why they had found the story wasn't up to their standards. It was so good and refreshing! Finally someone telling me what I'm doing wrong, at least to their eyes. After reading their mail, I re-read my piece, thought about it, considered their words, and found out there was so much more I could do to make the story better. Before submitting the story I had send it to a reader to get feedback, but still I guess I was too close to the story to notice many of its shortcomings. Now I'm now working on it, polishing it for a new round of queries.

Then, about the other two... A few months ago I came across a publication called The Rejected Quarterly which mission, they state, is to publish unusual fiction that doesn't fit anywhere else. The first requirement? Have at least five rejection letters for the piece you are submitting to them. My plan is to query both stories at least two more times (provided that this fifth time isn't the charm), then submit them to Rejected Quarterly, and if rejected again, file them for good.

I don't mean to let those stories gather dust forever and ever, but to let them rest a few years as my skills develop further and I become less attach to them. When I feel like it's the time to give them a new chance, or I have no new ideas (it can happen), then I'll revise them and make them pretty all over again.

I don't think a story is ever truly dead. It tugs at you to be told and weather you let it lay dormant for sometime, or you choose to tell in a whole different way, it will always find its way out of your mind. What do you think? How many rejections are enough for you? What do you do with those stories? I've always heard that you should let your stories breath between drafts to get a better perspective of them. I give three to six months before I go back to a story to work on a second draft, maybe I should leave more time. What do you think?