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review 2019-06-07 15:20
A bit out of date
On Writing Horror: A Handbook by the Horror Writer's of America - Mort Castle

There were a couple of issues with this book: the font is too small to read comfortably, and a lot of the information is out of date now. However, I did find some of the articles useful. Michael Marano's discussion about negative space fascinated me and his advice to dwell on the "small glimpse of larger atrocity" was inspirational enough for me to feel the book was worthwhile. The chapter on plotting short fiction was both reassuring and helpful. Style as a window was a maxim I have read before, but it was worth being reminded. Tracy Knight's categories of mental illness made me happy; I said thank you, at last, and hope people take heed that schizophrenia is not the same as Dissociative Identity Disorder.

I have read better writing guides, but I am glad I read this one as well. Although it needs updating, it is still useful.

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review 2016-08-02 00:00
Chiral Mad 3
Chiral Mad 3 - Richard Thomas,Glenn Chadbourne,Mort Castle,Gary A. Braunbeck,Ramsey Campbell,Hal Bodner,Gene O’Neill,Bruce Boston,Jason V. Brock,Richard Chizmar,Elizabeth Massie,Scott Edelman,Jack Ketchum,Marge Simon,Michael Bailey,Mercedes M. Yardley,Sydney Leigh,Erik Chiral Mad 3 was an interesting book. I’d never read an anthology which put poems side by side with stories, and peppered the pages with illustrations too. Visually, it was a nice change, and I’d say it looks much better on paper than it did as an e-book. It’s fairly easy to get through, and didn’t give me the ‘tedious read’ experience that I’m generally afraid of when it comes to anthologies. The illustrations were great. Probably one of my favorite parts of the book, and some of the stories were just awesome.

I expected to be creeped out or greatly unsettled. That, unfortunately, rarely happened. So, I had to sit back from the book for a bit, and readjust how I looked at it. I took the overall tone from the first several stories and poems and adjusted my expectation. That worked, because the stories contained within are great – they just weren’t what I was expecting. My enjoyment of Chiral Mad 3 stepped up immensely after that, though I definitely still prefer paranormal and physical horror.

My favorite story from the anthology was Red Runner versus the Surgeon Issue 18 by Jessica May Lin. It screwed with my head a little bit, but it was so interesting and not something you see normally, so I truly enjoyed it. The runners-up were A Rift in Reflection by Hal Bodner, A Flash of Red by Erinn L. Kempler, The Bigger Bedroom by Josh Malerman, and The Dead Collection by Mercedes Yardley. I do have to give a disturbing imagery/dead child trigger warning on The Dead Collection, though. Josh Malerman’s piece is one that I’m going to end up going back and reading a few times. I’m still not sure I understood exactly what was going on there. It was definitely creepy, though.

As for poems, I have to admit in general they were not a hit with me. However, Put Me to Dream and Arbitration were both enjoyable.

Overall, I think almost everyone could find at least one story or poem in here that they liked. It’s worth checking out. However, fans of the darker horror probably are going to have a little bit of a harder time. Chiral Mad 3 excels in making you think and screwing with your head, which is fitting considering its a psychological horror collection, but doesn’t really hit the levels of deeply disturbing you might be expecting.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

For this and other horror and science fiction reviews, please visit Sci-Fi & Scary.
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review 2015-12-10 00:00
New Moon on the Water
New Moon on the Water - Mort Castle,Vincent Chong I received the audiobook version of this title from Dark Regions Press as an Indiegogo campaign perk. I was pretty jazzed, because I have had the ebook for a while and just couldn’t seem to get it to the top of my tbr (which happens a lot with books I really want to read, btw) Glad I was finally able to get to it and give it a listen.

This was my first time reading/listening to anything by Mort Castle. Since I struggle sometimes with short story collections, I was a little worried about this one, but Mort’s collection flowed well, was easy to listen to and had a pretty eclectic mix up of shorts and super shorts. My favorites were “The Healers” about faith and a women looking for relief from her ailments and “Bird’s Dead” about a good ole’ time juke joint where the jazz greats hang out…forever…at least most of them.

Every time I listen to an audiobook I always wonder how I would receive it if I just “read” it instead of listening to it. Would it be better? Worse? I think it could probably go both ways depending on the narrator and the pacing, etc. I have listened to one or two that I couldn’t stomach at all, but when I physically read them they were much better and I have tried a few that I just couldn’t listen to and quit them before I even really started. The full cast version of The Halloween Tree, as an example, I hated and couldn’t listen to it at all and then I tried a different audio and quite enjoyed it.

Overall, I am giving this one a solid 3+ Stars, but your mileage may vary.
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review 2014-06-07 00:00
The Strangers
The Strangers - Mort Castle The Strangers is a bit of a demented novel with a killer premise. Michael Louden lives as ordinary a life as he could. He has a well-paying professional job, a wife and two kids, and is ordinary in every way – except for the fact that he is sociopathic killer lurking underneath his placid exterior. Michael is a part of a society that calls itself The Strangers. They live normal lives and kill people when the opportunity presents itself, waiting for one day when the Strangers will rise and go on a killing spree taking over society from the normals.

This is a disturbing novel in so many ways. Most of it is because Michael comes off as so ordinary and is convincing about it. It makes you wonder if your neighbor or co-worker or friend could be a cold-blooded killer just waiting for the right moment to explode. He even hates his children and wants to kill them as well. That last part was a little hard to swallow. I figure even a sociopath would care about his children. His wife begins to suspect that Michael isn’t the person who she thinks he is, but with a psychiatrist friend gets her committed. Toward the end, Michael’s cruelty really comes to the forefront. The story is well written and stylistically very enjoyable. I really enjoyed the twist at the end of the story. Even though the clues were planted earlier on, I did not see it coming. This was a strong novel that I recommend reading.

Carl Alves – author of Blood Street
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review 2014-06-03 02:06
Review: On Writing Horror by Mort Castle (editor) and the Horror Writers Association
On Writing Horror: A Handbook by the Horror Writer's of America - Mort Castle

Quick review for a quick read. Probably would give this a solid three stars, as it's a give and take for content and usefulness. If you can get it at your local library - do so before thinking of buying this, because I can think of quite a few reasons why it wouldn't be worth the $16.99 price tag. It features some great essays and advice, but ultimately, much of this isn't an thorough viewpoint of the horror genre and what it contributes.

Well organized into its respective sections, and it touched on quite many relevant factors for those looking to start writing horror, from a number of respected writers in the field. Among some of the useful essays I found: Tina Jens wrote a wonderful way to examine characters in "Such Humble People." Joe R. Lansdale examines the importance of place and setting to horror in "A Hand on the Shoulder." Jack Ketchum's "Splat Goes the Hero" is another examination on writing believable characters and ways your readers can follow your story believably. "The Dark Enchantment of Style" - while not simply specific to horror, offers good advice in employing stylistics in writing and attention to language. Michael Marano's "Going There: Strategies for Writing the Things that Scare You" does a great job of encouraging new writers to write past their boundaries and engaging what scares you to the page. Lastly, I really liked "Eerie Events and Horrible Happenings: Plotting Short Horror Fiction" by Nicholas Kaufmann, because of its brief but very helpful eye to plotting details and shaping the narrative overall for appeal.

There are quite a few other essays that grabbed me, as this compilation delves into the appeal of horror fiction, strategies to write it, strategies to market it, and subgenres to consider in other mediums (video games, screenplays, etc.) But I'm going to preface this review with a huge caveat: this isn't really a good compilation for delving into more expansive discussions surrounding the material within. I think it's a worthwhile text for starting dialogue about writing horror, but to use this to actually *write* horror from is severely limiting, and even the references given for authors who want to break into writing the genre is limited.

Beginners to the genre and those who want snippets of encouragement might find this more useful, and I definitely thought some of the advice given was nicely and succinctly stated, but it left me wanting a little more from it.

Overall score: 3/5

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