During the editing process for Birth Offering, I was informed by the folks at Damnation Books that my cover artist would be Ash Arceneaux. I wasn’t familiar with her work, so I checked out her titles and her website – and I was really pleased when I saw her creations. She is a gifted photographer, and frequently uses local models when producing covers. She enlisted Billy Taylor, high school student in Florida, for the Birth Offering cover - which, I must say, is an absolutely fantastic cover. I received this picture of Billy (and my cover) the other day. I thought I’d share it. It’s a great shot…
I've been taking a respite thanks to the Christmas holidays. One of the benefits of being a university professor is the breather you get over the holidays after you finish your fall semester final grading (a few days before Christmas) and before the preparation of the spring semester after January first. I went snowshoeing for the first time since my wife's stroke (the accompanying picture is one that I took in the process). Other than that, I've been reading Doctor Sleep by Stephen King. I saved this one for the holidays when I could hunker down and enjoy it. A few things have gotten in the way of long stretches of reading time, so I am no as far along as I had hoped I would be (plus, I am a slow reader), but I am enjoying it immensely.
Many others have provided exceptional summaries of the book, so I will not repeat their efforts. I will, however, echo their praise. Corrosion by Jon BassoffHe dreams of was a stylish and provocative novel – not to mention very unique and riveting. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting – maybe a standard thriller with extra gore – but was I pleasantly surprised. The plot was complex and the characterizations very multidimensional. The multiply storylines went in directions I didn’t expect, and the horror was relentless. In fact, the resolution of various plot lines was a stunner that I could never have predicted. Strongly recommended.
My novel Birth Offering has been in release since mid-September. Like most other first time authors, I revised the work more times than I could count - and reread it a few more times than that figure (whatever it is). I thought I had captured every typo, every grammatical error, every homonym error, every misplaced comma, and every extra space. Then the publisher's editor read and reread Birth Offering and found a few more. Then I found a few additional ones after the editing process, and finally caught a handful more when looking at the proofs.
I thought I had found them all.
As friends grabbed the first available copies, many gave me high marks for the story, but would whisper, "you know, there were a few mistakes, errors, typos... your editor missed a few..." So on and so forth.
I really am quite embarrassed about this. As a university professor, I get after my graduate students about catching this stuff. As a psychologist, I consider myself a pretty decent researcher and scholarly writer. So, to make these mistakes is rather humiliating. (As I write this blog, I am almost fearful of some hidden typos seeing the light of day after I hit "publish".) Some friends have said that "you need a second set of eyes" and have graciously volunteered to read the galley proofs of the second novel coming sometime in 2014 (Dead Works). I'll definitely take them up on it. Some say that my editor should have caught these errors. Maybe so. Probably so. Still my name is on the book, so I consider it my responsibility.
Over the past few months, I have offered reviews of numerous horror novels on this blog. In some of them I would indicate that typos existed - and even contact the author to let him/her know. I never did this to embarrass them. Rather, I thought they would want to know. At the time, I thought I would certainly want to know. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, I feel the embarrassment - and subsequently feel bad about possibly humiliating any other author by pointing out the mistakes.
Now that I know what it the experience is like to find out that your book has errors, do I still hold the view that I want to know these things? Actually, yes. As humbling as it is, how else are you going to improve your craft? I suppose knowing is better than not knowing.
Dave Anderson lives in a world with iPads, cars, three monstrous gods who kill thousands of random individuals on a whim, and law enforcement willing to round up trouble makers and innocents alike to offer as human sacrifices to “control” the gods. He also has a daughter attending the local university who has gone missing in an attempt to find a mirror with the power to bring peace and happiness to their depressing and dangerous world. With the support and company of his daughter’s boyfriend, Dave sets off to find her in a landscape that is both terrifying and astonishing.
Mirror of the Nameless is a riveting novella. Other reviewers have made comparisons to Lovecraft’s work, but I have only read one of his stories so I cannot comment on the accuracy of these perceptions. I can report that this storyline was very fresh and unique. The monsters (gods) are hideous and the blood and guts action comes fast and furious. The pace was relentless and I cared deeply for Dave and Tom (his young companion). Much of the plot was unpredictable to the very end. I loved the book, and I think this is one of DarkFuse’s strongest products to date (two great horror works in a row from these folks – my previous read was Nightmare Man).He dreams of
Jessie is a young man, married with two young children. He is successful at a job which most would find as a source of stress – a ruthless caller who work for a collection agency and targets people unable or not bothering to meet their financial obligations. He is also suffering from a lifelong sleep disorder, specifically “night terrors”, which he finds increasingly unnerving – and his family is finding increasingly unsettling. He must lock himself in his bedroom for the first few hours of sleep when the terrors occur, during which his wife and kids cannot enter the room. During these early hours of sleep, he is routinely harassed and threatened by the “Nightmare Man”, a showy figure which pulls itself out of the pitch blackness of closets and dark corners.
After a particularly frightening interaction with the nightmare man, Jessie agrees with his wife that he needs professional help. He makes an appointment with a psychologist and a sleep disorder specialist who is part of a clinical trial measuring the effectiveness of a new medication. Jessie enrolls, but the medication seems to make things worse. The intrusive actions of the nightmare man escalate and begin to threaten the life of Jessie’s eight year old son, who is prone to his own sleep disturbances.
I found Nightmare Man to be outstanding. I thought the night terror angle was well developed and the descriptions of the actual sleep disturbance from Jessie’s perspective seem incredibly believable. The character efforts and courses of action make logical sense and there is not a false note in the narrative. The strain of the marriage is very accurately described, and Jessie’s perusal of a solution made very clear sense. The story was gripping and unusual, and I was literally could not put it down. Once I got into the flow very early in the story, I was helplessly caught up in the imaginative prose of Alan Ryker, and I wasn’t able to free myself until after I reached the end. A truly gifted horror writer.
Once the demands of caretaking for my wife began to take their toll, I knew that I needed professional help. I won’t go through the details of my therapy. I saw a psychologist for a year for psychotherapy, and a psychiatrist for medication. To be honest, I wondered if the psychologist could do anything for someone who “knew all the tricks”, but she was great – she took therapy in directions that I didn’t see coming. We developed strategies to deal with the immediate stressors (including the constant vomiting) and then addressed the long term personal and existential issues. She was close to retirement age when we started, and she retired after a year. But by that time, I felt like I was in pretty decent shape. I have kept seeing my psychiatrist, though. She picked up the slack of the therapy as crises came and went over the past few years, but we also decided staying on the medication would be a good course of action as anxiety has always been a part of my life.
Since that time, my wife’s recovery has proceeded well, although she will always have fairly extensive stroke-related disabilities. Our lives have been irrevocably changed, but in many ways our relationship has improved. We take things in stride considerably better that we used to. Things are not as stressful or upsetting. We have more fun together. How all this happened is hard to describe. But it has. Even when she was hospitalized again for a perforated bowel that involved surgery, more complications, and six months with a colostomy bag, the feelings of dread and anguish never returned to the levels they were. By the way, just like my inability to handle vomit, I never was one for handling shit. I had to look away when changing diapers, for instance. But, I was able to handle daily colostomy bag changes like a pro. Actually, that procedure is astounding. It’s amazing what physicians can do.
So, there it is. This is the end (at least for now) of my multiple blogs covering our own personal horror story. How we made it through that first year is beyond me. Yet, making it through has taught me (and us) much. The most obvious outcomes have been an increased sense of inner calmness and patience. While we were in the midst of it all, I was never able to see the end. I felt swallowed into a black morass, and I was so afraid all of the time. Hence the horror. Maybe this deepened my fondness for horror stories. Who knows?
My novel, Birth Offering, is being featured Saturday, Dec 7th, at The Fussy Librarian, a new website that offers personalized ebook recommendations. You choose from 40 genres and indicate preferences about content and then the computers work their magic. It's pretty cool -- check it out! www.TheFussyLibrarian.com
Somewhere in the midst of all of this, while I was a full time caretaker, basically a single parent, and also the chair of my department at the university, I realized that my emotional state was not the best. Being a caretaker is something for which you are not prepared. You have your life planned out and moving merrily along – you have goals, vacation plans, retirement plans, ideas for how to spend the next weekend, and so on. Out of the blue the planets realign, or fate catches up or God says, “oops, your turn for a crisis”, and everything flies out the window. I was devastated, hurt, anxious, and depressed. I realized the latter one day when I was sitting in my office staring at my computer monitor – I had been staring for nearly an hour. I was numb and exhausted. Here I was a psychologist and I didn’t even realize that depression had snuck up on me.
Anxiety disorders run in my family, and the heritable trail seems to run backwards through my mother’s side of the family. Looking back from my professional adult perspective, I could recall examples of generalized anxiety and OCD in adult relatives. Also, there were a fair number of heavy drinkers, which probably served as a form of self-medication for these folks as a way to cope with the anxiety. Various forms of tic disorders were present in the same group, including my mild form of Tourette syndrome, but the latter seem to be associated with OCD and not depression. Depression, though, wasn’t immediately obvious.
I remember an onslaught of OCD when I was in middle school, and I always had a heightened form of generalized anxiety. The Tourette syndrome was more or less in the mix, and that may have had its origins before the OCD. Ironically, I “treated” my own OCD by using a technique called response prevention. I was only around 15 when I started working the process – so I can confidently claim that was probably one of the initial precursors to my interest in psychology. I started devising my own cognitive-behavioral therapy before I even knew there was such a thing. Anyhow, I was able to get the OCD under control, but the generalized anxiety was a stable part of me. Over the years it would rise and fall, but never be debilitating.
Now, though, added to the generalized anxiety (which was also escalating to record levels), came the depression related to my wife’s health. And, to complete the trifecta, a resurgence of tics was occurring. Time for professional help.
Anthony Hains is a horror & speculative fiction writer.