A sibling rivalry plays out in brutal and shocking fashion in Amanda Headlee’s debut horror novel Till We Become Monsters. This book is a fun, brisk read that combines some classic horror mythology with a psychological thriller. The primary protagonist is Korin Perrin, but don’t think you can take everything he thinks for granted. You’ll find out quickly that he’s an extremely unreliable narrator. As the story unfolds, you’ll be surprised by abrupt changes in the narrative’s direction.
When the tale opens, Korin is a small boy learning about changeling mythology from his grandmother. In European folklore, a changeling was a fairy that had been left in place of a stolen baby. This leads Korin to conclude that his grumpy older brother, Davis, may in fact be a fairy in disguise. Korin’s belief only grows stronger when Davis seemingly pushes their grandmother down the stairs. Things get wild after this as Korin shoves Davis into a fire, only to discover Davis isn’t a fairy. Korin is then shipped off to a mental asylum, where he’s poorly treated. Years pass and Korin recovers to become a successful student while his brother Davis becomes a malcontent with a burned arm who won’t leave home. The siblings take a camping trip into the woods with their father and family friends, but things go horribly wrong. Korin ends up confronting the mythology of the Wendigo, an evil spirit that provokes cannibalism, which turns out to be realer than that of the changeling.
The unexpected shifts were my favorite part of reading this novel. When you start to feel like you’ve got a good handle on how the book will progress, Headlee pulls the rug out from under you. First, I assumed the story would deal with Korin trying to expose his changeling brother, then I thought it might concern Korin battling out of a mental asylum to kill his brother, and finally, we find out things from Korin’s mother later in the tale that recontextualize the opening to reframe the protagonist and antagonist of the novel. The shifts kept me on my toes. I recommend checking this out if you think you’ve gotten to the point where you believe you can predict how every narrative will unfold. This book should manage to surprise you a few times. I’m excited to see what Headlee puts out next.
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My home was recently visited by two toads on a launch party of their own. I assume they either saw the frog in my front window or instinctively knew a man named Jeremiah would be helpful to amphibians of all kinds. I rescued these guys from where they’d trapped themselves and added a cover to keep them from making the same mistake twice.
That’s just one of the adventures in home ownership I’ve had in the last month. I plan on doing a full post on how my Sanctum Sanctorum came out soon, but I’m here today to talk about Castle of Horror Anthology Volume 5: Thinly Veiled. You can now get your electronic or paperback copy off Amazon, and we’re doing a Launch Party on 06/15. If you want to attend, you can find the details here. The idea for this anthology was to tell spooky tales about famous 1970s media obscured through a thinly veiled lens. So, for instance, my story concerns a famous 1970s rock band that dressed up in wild outfits and painted their faces. We call them by one name in the real world, but in my world, they go by the name Smooch. Can you guess who they are? There are 23 thinly veiled references in “The Blood-Inked Comic Book” for readers to try to unveil. Many of these should be easy for fans of Marvel Comics, but I’m sure a couple will trip people up. I’d love for anyone who reads the story to detail the references they believe they figured out in a comment below.
Until Next Time,
Does anyone else feel like time starts to move at double speed in April? I guess it’s making up for how slow March usually feels. There’s so much to relay, but I’ll try to keep this brief.
First and foremost, I bought a house, and I’m spending most of my free time preparing to move in. I’m extremely excited to have my own office, which I’ll be referring to as my Sanctum Sanctorum because I’ve been reading a lot of Doctor Strange recently. When I move into the house in May, it will be the first time I’m not writing out of a bedroom.
I’m also busy on the publishing front. I’ve got four stories coming out in the next few months. The first is being released today (April 28th) in Hundred Word Horror: Beneath, and it’s called “The Hunger Within.” The tale follows a shady morgue worker making an unexpected finding. Be warned, the story is a little graphic. Next up is “Starship Thoughts” in Hundred Word Horror: Cosmos, slated for release on May 26th. While the title gives you a good idea of what the tale is about, I’m excited to see what people think of the story’s formatting.
My Kiss-inspired horror story “The Blood Inked Comic Book” will be appearing in Castle of Horror Anthology Volume 5: Thinly Veiled. I think “The Blood Inked Comic” is probably the most Jeremiah Dylan Cook story I’ve ever had published. Castle of Horror Anthology Volume 5 is currently open for pre-order and will be out on June 15th. The paperback isn’t available yet but will be closer to the release date.
Lastly, my fantasy story “The Wizard’s Duel” is in Like Sunshine After Rain, a charity anthology edited by Heidi Ruby Miller. Proceeds for Like Sunshine After Rain benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. If you haven’t already done so, please consider pre-ordering a copy for this fantastic cause. If you need extra incentive, my wife says “The Wizard’s Duel” is her favorite story that I’ve written to date.
Alright, I think that’s all the fun stuff I had to talk about. Now I must get back to sanding and painting my Sanctum Sanctorum. If only I could use magic…
Until Next Time,
P.S. Totally forgot to mention that I’ve also got a Weird Western going on New Pulp Tales. It’s called The Sheriff and the Samurai, and you should check it out.
Dark Blood Comes from the Feet is an excellent debut short story collection. Author Emma J. Gibbon fills her book with an eclectic and fun mix of tales. Horror fans will find a diverse group of subgenres represented within the pages and will be delighted to encounter Body Horror, Vampires, Witches, Haunted Houses, Urban Legends, Monsters, and more. Each tale is short but leaves a memorable impression. I tried to make a list of my favorite stories in this book and realized I’d nearly written down the entire table of contents. When I paired that first list down, I was left with St. Scholastica’s Home for Children of the Sea, Black Shuck Tavern, Cellar Door, The Tale of Bobby Red Eyes, Janine, and This is Not the Glutton Club, but what your favorites are will depend on what horror subgenres you prefer. The prose is also wonderful throughout, and I had an effortless time moving through this book. I can’t wait to see what Gibbon does next.
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I just wanted to extend a heartfelt thanks to everyone who voted for my story “The Hungry Cemetery” while it was competing in Purple Wall Stories monthly writing competition. You’re the reason I was able to win. It’s incredibly humbling to have friends and family who are willing to take a moment out of their busy lives to help me achieve a goal. Hopefully, I’ll continue to scribble out the kinds of stories that entertain you. As a final farewell to my time promoting “The Hungry Cemetery,” I thought I’d share these pictures of the cemetery that inspired the story. These were all taken on my first wedding anniversary. My wife and I had planned to visit the United Kingdom for this occasion, but COVID forced us to cancel our trip, and we ended up on a hike instead. My story “Lost Vintage” in Castle of Horror’s Women Running from Houses anthology was also inspired by this locale.
Thanks again for all your support.