In Blood by The Professor

In Blood immerses us within an epistolary horror penned by Sir Henry Irving, owner of the Lyceum Theatre, to his friend and assistant, Bram Stoker. It is a tale of murder, insidious plots, and the evolution of what would become Dracula.
It all revolves around a Masonic conspiracy surrounding the Duke of Clarence and Avondale, his part in the pregnancy of a Catholic girl of low birth, and the prostitutes murdered by Jack the Ripper. As our narrator describes it, his authentically terrified performances in Macbeth are informed and influenced by an all-too-real haunting wherein he sees the deceased ladies of the night in place of the three witches on stage with him.
From there, he finds himself driven by strange and monstrous compulsions and a need to witness unspeakable things in an appalling attempt at method acting. As his missive to Stoker continues, it becomes clear that something awful has awakened within him, leading inexorably down the path toward damnation and inhuman brutality.
The Professor’s narration of this sordid tale makes the story all the more compelling, its deranged and lunatic protagonist leaping from the page in such a way that the listener feels his frantic, unhinged need propelling the narrative forward. The strangely beautiful prose comes to life in cruel, vivid detail as the exquisitely described savagery spirals out of control.

You can obtain a copy of In Blood by going to http://www.godless.com or by downloading the Godless app to your mobile device of choice. The link is below:

Wishmaster: The Novelization by Christian Francis, Narrated by Sean Duregger

The novelization of Wishmaster verifies something for me that I’ve long suspected to be true. While I own it, and I’m able to enjoy it for what it is, I never cared for the 1997 movie altogether too much. It just felt all too cheesy and poorly put together, like it was building on the worst aspects of the Nightmare On Elm Street series. It wasn’t the story that was the problem–I now know for sure–because I thoroughly enjoyed this novelization based on the screenplay.
From the tumultuous devastation in ancient Persia to the symmetrical horrors of the climax at Beaumont’s party, the descriptions from the narrative–and the visions elicited in my imagination–were far superior to what was executed on the screen under Robert Kurtzman’s direction. While the casting choices for the movie weren’t bad, Andrew Divoff being a particularly fantastic choice, most of the decisions seemed to be less focused on who would be right for the role and more aimed at drawing in a preexisting audience from other intellectual properties. The absence of performers who felt shoehorned into their roles also made for a better experience through the novelization.
It was enjoyable, following along as an ancient evil was set loose in a modern city, a city unprepared for a creature of magic and malevolence like the djinn.
Sean Duregger’s narration was excellent. He especially captured the demonic tone and texture of the djinn’s voice, both in its natural form and in the guise of Nathaniel Demerest. He had some pretty impressive shoes to fill, lending his voice work to a character originally played by Andrew Divoff, but he managed to pull it off successfully. Additionally, with a movie that had been narrated by Angus Scrimm (the Tall Man himself), Duregger was biting off a lot more than most would dare…but again, he did it, and he did it justice. There’s a reason he’s steadily become one of my favorite audiobook narrators.

Chocolateman by Jonathan Butcher

If you’ve already subjected yourself to Butcher’s coprophilic masterpiece included in Scats, Splats, and Stupid Twats, you’re already familiar with Kreb, The Chocolateman. You can think of him as something akin to Candyman, a monstrous, supernatural being who comes when you make the mistake of uttering his name. Of course, instead of bees and honey, his aesthetic is purely fecal.
This larger volume can be considered the origin story for The Chocolateman. Butcher takes this opportunity to tell us how Kreb found his way into our world and our bathrooms in search of delicious choc-choc.
James Tooth appears to be a successful man with a loving family, but he is tormented by a horrible secret that troubles him more profoundly as the 22nd anniversary of his parents’ deaths approaches. James is terrified of poop and with good reason. Throughout the story, Butcher provides readers with glimpses of James’s childhood, the horrible events of 22-years before, when he was only ten years old. As the past catches up with him, taking a terrible toll on both himself and those around him, he has no choice but to face the nightmare that’s haunted him the previous two decades, his older brother, Kreb.
Mixed up in the whole mess, James’s drug dealer, Mucklow, and his bodybuilding lover, Isabella, find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time over and over again, leading them on a collision course with the Tooth family and The Chocolateman himself.
Amazingly enough, considering how absurdly revolting the concept of Chocolateman is, Jonathan Butcher still populates this tale with well-developed and sympathetic characters. Grotesque, gory, and visceral as much of the narrative happens to be, it’s also fantastically well-written and articulated in such a way as to never seem quite as gratuitous as it’s clearly meant to be. Chocolateman isn’t simply a collection of repulsive gags and toilet humor. At its heart, it’s a story about family, fears, and the ways we cause harm when trying to do what we believe to be the right thing.

This title was released on http://www.godless.com as part of the 31 Days of Godless event for October of 2021. You can pick it up for yourself by going to the Godless website or by downloading the Godless app to your mobile device of choice. The links for purchase are available below:

Until the Sun by Chandler Morrison, Narrated by John Wayne Comunale

You’re a 15-year-old boy living with a foster family when you awaken to the sounds of shattering glass followed by what can only be violence. This isn’t the first time your short life has been punctuated with instances of horrific bloodshed, and if you choose to join the band of peculiar killers reveling in the chaos they’ve created in what is your third home in only a third as many years, this most certainly will not be the last. Don’t worry, this isn’t a choose-your-own-adventure story, and this pivotal decision is taken out of your hands and placed in the skilled, albeit sadistic custody of Chandler Morrison.
Entering the dizzying narrative of Until the Sun, you’ll be swept along currents of blood, strange drugs, and adolescent hormones until you find yourself standing dazed, in the sunlight of a new day, waiting for the ride to end. Morrison thoroughly captures that sense of being caught up in a life that feels entirely out of your control. This extends so far as to include the fact that, as a reader, you’ll see the final moments coming long before our protagonist does…and you’ll experience sensations that range from pity to heart-wrenching sympathy as you witness events unfolding.
We’re forced to wonder–if we’re being honest with ourselves–whether we’d be any more capable of wresting control from those who steer us along the destructive path ahead of us if we’d experienced the same tragic and disorienting life of young Casanova. I suspect we’ll never know, and we should be grateful for the fact that the dreadful sequence of events befalling that young man could only happen in fiction.
Morrison provides us with a vampire story that is both more and less than that. Until the Sun is a dark, twisted, and perverse coming-of-age tale that abruptly detours us through the worst possible paths to reach the conclusion. A conclusion, I might add, that is equal parts hilarious and cruel in both its predictability and subversion of what a reader might expect when first choosing the book.
John Wayne Comunale’s narration is effective in bringing to life the characters who often feel like caricatures of people we might have known in our own lives, or maybe people we’ve been at different points in our lives. There probably isn’t a narrator who would have been better suited for this drug-fueled, bloody, and irreverent combination of various horror subgenres.

Have You Seen Me?

When his teenage daughter disappears, Offi–former Officer Standish learns he will do anything to find her. In his search he will plummet to lows he’d never dreamed possible, braving trials that test the limits of his imagination and his intestinal fortitude.
How far would you go to save the life of your only child?

Just in time for Thanksgiving, I’m bringing you a story that should make you hold your loved ones closer, treasuring family. I don’t want to spoil anything, because I delve into the backstory surrounding what motivated me to write this one in the Author’s Notes at the end of the story…but in the midst of this, you’ll encounter the snippet I’d set aside to share as part of the KillerCon 2021 virtual convention. Sadly, I opted not to dive right into the depravity and that decision did me no favors.

You can find this Godless exclusive short by going to http://www.godless.com or by downloading the Godless app to your mobile device of choice. The link is below:

Left To You by Daniel Volpe

Robert Sinclair is a good kid who has a lot on his plate, but he pushes through it all and remains good-natured and hard-working. Working multiple jobs, struggling to remain afloat while caring for a mother suffering the end-stage of cancer, Robert doesn’t have much room in his life for anything else.
While working a dead-end job at L-Mart, Robert has developed a friendship with an elderly gentleman, Josef Lazerowitz. A former theology professor in Poland, Mr. Lazer is burdened by an unbelievable history, plagued with unspeakable secrets that will soon become Robert’s burden to bear.
Both of these men, Robert and Josef, are decent and sympathetic characters forced to experience their individual, horrific torments separated by more than half a century. In the end, what they’ll share is a terrible and shameful confidence that could destroy both of them and anything they hold dear.
Daniel Volpe constructs a captivating, mysterious tale that’s so thick with atmosphere and depth that the reader can hardly keep from being immersed in the experiences brought to life on the page. His detailed exploration of Josef’s life in 1940s Poland is gripping and profoundly vivid, almost painfully so. The author’s unique portrait of the supernatural world and how it interacts with our own was fascinating. As the story delves into those things only near the latter half of the book, it still doesn’t feel like the reader is short-changed or left wanting. I can’t recommend this book enough, especially to those who enjoy a bit of historical fiction with their horror.
I will suggest that one scene in this book troubled me, and it involves a bit of a spoiler, but I’ll do my best to dance around that by explaining a little bit about my own life, hopefully framing why I found it disturbing without telling you about the scene itself. I had a dog named Molly. She was a terrific, atypical chihuahua who was perpetually thrilled to meet new people. When she was seven years old, she was taken from me by cancer in her blood. That little girl died in my arms, in what I can only describe as a traumatic experience without going into detail. I now have a dog who is half golden retriever and half German shepherd and husky–funny enough, named Talia–who is two years old. She’s been with me since December of 2019. Fans of Volpe’s work might find that last bit to be a strangely serendipitous thing. Having a personal connection with both a golden retriever and a dog named Molly, there’s a particular scene that I found difficult.

I picked this title up as part of the 31 Days of Godless event at http://www.godless.com in October of 2021. You can obtain a copy for yourself by going to the website or downloading the app to your mobile device of choice. The link is below:

The Ritual by Adam Nevill, Narrated by Matthew Lloyd Davies

The Ritual is a fantastic journey into the realm of folk horror, a literary exploration into the sort of narrative that evokes themes familiar to fans of movies like The Wicker Man or Midsommar. As four friends hike into the autumn wilderness of Sweden, they discover that not all shortcuts are meant to be taken, that there are secrets and horrors in hidden places, and they find tensions that refuse to remain beneath the surface as stress and fear take a heavy toll on the men.
The gloomy, sinister forest is brought to stark, claustrophobia-inducing life as Adam Nevill draws us deeper into the trees and brush as the relentless rainfall paints everything gray and lifeless. The characters of Hutch, Dom, Phil, and Luke are similarly well-drawn and three-dimensional in their portrayal. This realism serves to make the narrative all the more captivating as we become invested in the drama playing out between the hikers and the overwhelming sense of unease as we experience the disquieting events through Luke’s perspective.
By the time the four men discover they’re not alone in the woods, it’s far too late to turn back, and the desperate push forward presents challenges that grow increasingly difficult.
Now, because I’ve seen the movie adaptation as well, I’m going to compare the two. This portion of my post will include spoilers, so anyone seeking to avoid spoilers of either book or film should stop here.
The movie would have benefitted a great deal from incorporating elements that were exclusive to the novel, such as the multi-generational graveyard and the ancient, decrepit church Luke discovered when he ventured off on his own. I loved that whole section of the story, and I think it added something to the atmosphere of the narrative moving forward. Similarly, the familiarity Hutch had with some of the architecture and runic writing was a nice touch that I felt could have made the movie better. I also preferred the absence of the cowardice subplot, wherein Luke did nothing and allowed a fifth friend to die. Unfortunately, with the absence of that subplot, we also lost the element of blurred reality that I enjoyed a great deal in the movie, wherein the god of the forest used illusions and hallucinations to manipulate the men.
The movie was superior once Luke made it to the village near the end. The addition of Dom being present and alive for a portion of that section of the story was a nice touch that I think made for a better overall story. Sure, we had the reconciliation between Luke and Dom in the novel as well, but it felt more appropriate at the point when the men were in captivity and facing the very real probability of death. Removing the irritating caricatures of Loki and Fenris was a great choice, as I almost stopped with the book when those characters insisted on remaining present for altogether too much of the narrative. The random insertion of the fictional, murderous nordic black metal band, Blood Frenzy, felt like a pointless way to share the author’s familiarity with contemporary bands within the genre. Additionally, the portrayal of the god/monster within the movie was spectacular and exceeded anything I imagined from the book.
Overall, I think I enjoyed the movie a bit more than the book, which is an uncommon thing…but it does happen.
The audiobook narration provided by Matthew Lloyd Davies was spectacular. He even managed to superbly capture the accents of the characters I’d have preferred to do without. The narration certainly served to add depth and texture to the narrative, something that leapt from the page, so to speak, bringing an extra quality to the words penned by Nevill.

Mephistopheles Den by Matthew Vaughn

If you’ve already braved the horrors of Lucifer’s Mansion, the earlier prequel to Hellsworld Hotel, you might just have an idea of what awaits you in Mephistopheles Den. That doesn’t stop Matthew Vaughn from crafting a whole new and exciting house of horrors for us to explore.
We follow two groups into an abandoned factory that’s been converted, for one night only, into a most graphic and distasteful series of rooms. Meant to elicit terror and disgust from those unfortunate enough to purchase tickets, each new display is more unsettling than the next. We follow along as helpless witnesses, slipping through black curtains into a nightmare from which there is no escape. Or is there?
Vaughn brings to life two vastly different groups of people, for the sole purpose of stealing that life away in callously violent fashion. Of course, one of those groups includes Donald and Tony, and any reader is likely to want those two dead before we really get started with the story.
This one takes a slightly different direction as we reach the end, presumably leading us into the much larger work that is Hellsworld Hotel. I suspect you, like me, will be eager to dive into that title after reaching the conclusion of this prequel.

This title was released as part of the 31 Days of Godless event at http://www.godless.com and you can pick it up for yourself by going to the website or by downloading the app to your mobile device of choice. The link is below:

https://godless.com/products/mephistopheles-den-by-matthew-vaughn

Lucifer’s Mansion by Matthew Vaughn

If one were to take the movies Haunt and The Houses October Built, place them into a blender along with some Texas Chainsaw Massacre and a splash of Satanism…well, you’d probably have a totally ruined blender…but you might also have the recipe for Matthew Vaughn’s Lucifer’s Mansion.
When the abandoned old school building was purchased and converted into a haunted house by a mysterious family, the teenagers around town thought it would be a blast. In place of rubber masks, painted plywood, and smoke machines, what awaits visitors to Lucifer’s Mansion is an endless barrage of gore and sadism on display wherever one might look. Tasteless and cruel, the effects appear all too real for some of the visitors as they search for an exit, but not everyone who enters Lucifer’s Mansion is allowed to leave.
The haunted house described by Vaughn is the sort of place I’d happily venture into, thus validating yet again that I am the first person to die in a horror movie. As a prequel to Hellsworld Hotel, this tantalizing glimpse of the world the author’s creating definitely encourages the reader to dive deeper into the darkness and depravity that surely awaits them.

You can read this for yourself by picking up the title from http://www.godless.com or by downloading the Godless app to your mobile device of choice. The link is below:

https://godless.com/products/lucifers-mansion-a-hellsworld-hotel-prequel-by-matthew-vaughn-2

The Unexpected Ways Life Can Change

Months ago, I posted about how I’d returned to a career in television after taking an eleven-year hiatus from the broadcasting industry. Some of you may have read that post. If not, you can find it here: https://meltdownmessiah.com/2021/04/06/embracing-change/

Since then, I have been promoted into a position I’d have never imagined finding myself. I am now the News Producer for Good Morning KOTA Territory, a morning newscast that runs from 5:30 AM until 7 AM, Monday through Friday. At no point, during the ten years I spent working in television, between 2000 and 2010, had I considered the possibility that I might someday be working in the newsroom. But, here I am.

After only a week of training alongside another producer, I began my solo journey this morning, producing the first hour and a half newscast without someone there to check my work or bail me out if I hit a wall. There were some minor hiccups, but nothing that wouldn’t have happened even if there’d been someone else working alongside me. That’s the nature of live television. The important thing is to learn from those errors and to do better moving forward. It’s also important to keep in mind that there will always be mistakes that slip through, no matter how attentive or careful we are. I’m actively proud of myself for what I’m accomplishing and how I’ve managed to excel in an industry I’d stepped away from in January of 2010.

On Friday, November 12th, I was credited with writing my first story. We received breaking news in the middle of the night, that a fire had ignited in Custer State Park. One of my fellow producers sent me some details and video provided by emergency responders on the scene, and I compiled it into a story for our newscasts. The other producer tweaked things a bit when he arrived at the station a few hours later, and he posted the story online. I never expected to be credited in a byline, but it seems like life is full of unexpected things for me these days. The story is linked below:

https://www.kotatv.com/2021/11/12/firefighters-battle-15-acre-blaze-east-legion-lake/?fbclid=IwAR38UZimsaoCCqUVKgzOISwZl9lIAtsQxRu5BpOKxKrnBkrxlPyX4rzqGAQ

I’m content remaining behind the scenes. I have no interest in becoming a reporter or an anchor. I’m not comfortable in front of the camera, as you can see from the interview I did during the final week of October.

Miranda O’Bryan, the producer and anchor for KOTA Territory News @ Noon was aware that I happened to be a horror author, and she wanted to do more Halloween-themed interviews and stories leading up to the holiday. It took a little bit of coercing, and she asked really nicely, but I agreed to sit down for an interview. I almost choked at the start, visibly unable to respond to the question. Also, I have a face for radio…so I don’t anticipate we’ll be seeing me in the field or sitting at a desk anywhere down the line.

This is where I find myself now. It’s not where I’d have expected myself to be, but I feel like it’s where I should be, at least for the time being. Looking ahead, I hope–and believe–this will open new doors for me. I feel strangely optimistic about where my life is headed at present, and I feel a similarly strange sense of pride at what I’ve managed to do. I enjoy what I’m doing, I like the people I’m working with, and I feel like I’m doing something that has at least some small amount of value to it.

And…yes…this new position did come with a raise. I’m not back to the $40k a year I’d been making prior to leaving my position with GE Appliances, but I’m certainly closer than I was in my previous role within Gray Television. I’d call that a win. Sometimes we have to take a few steps back before we can find our way forward.