Review: ‘Sing Me Your Scars’ by Damien Angelica Walters

ScarsSing Me Your Scars by Damien Angelica Walters
Apex Publications (March 9, 2015)

Sing Me Your Scars is a gripping collection of short stories that provides a number of deeply-felt chills without relying on the crutches of common horror clichés and tropes.

In this mix of new and previously published fiction, Damien Angelica Walters focuses less on the boogeymen in the shadows and more on inner demons like doubt, insecurity, and dependance. Don’t get me wrong – this is no mundane collection of inner monologues; we’ve got a snake-headed woman you might recognize from Mythology 101, and a robot model of Henry VIII that lives with a stripper, and women who can sing buildings into existence, and many more such wondrous creations. But every single story,
now matter how outlandish the window dressing may seem, is grounded in the
very real foibles and frailties of human existence.

There are a number of standouts in Sing Me Your Scars. Among them is the title story, a fresh take on the Frankenstein story in which each “contributor” maintains a voice in the increasingly crowded headspace of Victoria, the mad doctor’s tragic creation. “Melancholia” is another strong entry; in it, a woman watches her mother slowly unravel due to Alzheimer’s, tragically unable to see the very real magic her mother is leaving behind. “Scarred” sees a woman with those fabled voices in her head, urging her to cause pain to people around here; when she cuts herself, her hate is manifested as a dangerous, physical thing, but she only uses it on those who deserve…at least, those who the voices say deserve it.

Walters is not afraid to play around with established storytelling techniques, but throughout her experimentation she never loses control of the story itself. There’s nothing here that can be reduced to pure gimmickry – when she does try something out of the ordinary, it’s with a very real and specific purpose.

Sing Me Your Scars is the third entry in Apex’s “Voices” series, their attempt to spotlight new and exciting storytellers. As with the previous entries (Douglas F. Warrick and Maurice Broaddus), Apex proves they have a great eye (and ear) for talent. Walters is a writer that seems prepared to be around for the long haul, and horror fiction as a whole is likely to benefit greatly from her talents.

A Halloween Treat from Kealan Patrick Burke

DeadLeavesKealan Patrick Burke is a favorite here in October Country, an extremely talented (and, in my opinion, under-appreciated) writer who combines a keen eye for detail and atmosphere with an innate understanding of the importance of the human element in horror fiction. He’s got a deep catalog of stuff out there, but if I had to recommend my favorites I’d include his update/overhaul of the hillbilly slasher genre, Kin, as well as his excellent Timmy Quinn series: The Turtle Boy, The Hides, Vessels, Peregrine’s Tale and Nemesis: The Death of Timmy Quinn).

Those are all longer works, and they’re all excellent, but Burke’s greatest strength as a writer may be his short story work. So it’s great news indeed that Burke has made a collection of his Halloween-flavored short stories, Dead Leaves: 8 Tales from the Witching Season, available for free from Smashwords through November 1. In addition to stories like “Carve the Pumpkins,” “Tonight the Moon Is Ours” and “The Tradition,” he’s included a list of his favorite books and movies for the Halloween season and a new introduction.

I’ve followed Burke’s writing from the beginning, and I can tell you that this collection is worth a whole helluva lot more than the “nothing” that he’s charging, so please take advantage and check it out. I think  you’ll discover, as I did several years ago the first time I cracked open my copy of The Turtle Boy, that this is an author worth reading.

The ‘Nightmare’ begins in October

It’s almost here.

I’m talking about October, of course. Hands down it’s my favorite month of the year. That autumn weather is rolling in, and the Halloween season is in full swing. Scary decorations are the norm, horror movie marathons are in the planning stages, haunted houses and haunted hayrides are popping up all over, and there is a permanent chill – both literally and figuratively – in the air.

But that’s not all I’m talking about.

Back in May I directed you to the Kickstarter campaign for a new digital publication called Nightmare Magazine. The campaign hit its goal (and then some), which means that the Nightmare is about to become a reality. The first issue of the magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams and published by Creeping Hemlock Press, is now up for preorder and will go live on October 1.

While future issues will feature two reprint stories and two original stories each month, the Nightmare crew is pulling out all the stops for their debut, which will contain all original fiction by Laird Barron, Sarah Langan, Jonathan Maberry and Genevieve Valentine.  There’s no word on the site about the nonfiction features of the first issue, but I’m sure there will plenty.

Each issue’s contents will be serialized online throughout the month, but you can pick it all up at once for your electronic reading device of choice for $2.99 per issue, or $24.99 for a 12-issue subscription.

Start the month off right with this brand-new Halloween treat – I know I plan to.

Expanded ‘Crystal Lake Memories’ ready to stalk ‘n slash your e-reader

I snagged a copy of Peter Bracke’s massive hardcover retrospective Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th when it came out in 2005, and I still don’t think I’ve read it all. Not that it’s not compelling material; it’s probably one of the best making-of/retrospectives I’ve ever come across, and from a franchise I have a deep affinity for to boot. There’s just SO MUCH STUFF in there. Plus, I like to read the sections on the individual films in conjunction with watching the movie itself, so there are some sections I’ve been through a couple of times (The Final Chapter) and some I haven’t touched yet (Jason Takes Manhattan).

Now, thanks to Dread Central and a host of other sites, I understand that there’s a new version – an EXPANDED electronic version – on the horizon. And it’s coming out next week, appropriately enough, on Friday, April 13.

For this edition, Bracke is adding in stuff that had to be cut from the hardcover release, as well as material from new interviews he’s conducted in the years since the book’s initial release. The press release linked above doesn’t give specifics as to who these new interviews are with, but it does promise (in perfect exploitation move fashion) “key Friday the 13th alumni…many who break their silence for the first time!” (Exclamation point mine.) Also things like “Bigger and bloodier than ever…!” (Exclamation point, again, is mine.)

Cool. I’m sold. I’m going to miss out on some of the new stuff, though, because my Kindle Touch isn’t going to support the Enhanced Edition, which will include more stills, video, and interactive elements, but that’s okay. The new interviews and other material, plus the portability of it (Crystal Lake Memories is a BIG book) are attractive enough. With the plethora of good-to-great making-of books being released these days, it’s exciting to think of the possibilities, and I’m sort of proud that one of our humble little slasher film franchises is leading the way.

You can find more information about the new electronic versions of Crystal Lake Memories on this Facebook page. I’ve yet to see prices, but hopefully with the release date so close that will be available soon.