I wanted to take some time to appreciate some of the immensely talented indie authors you may not have heard of yet. The world of independent publishing has been a wonderful boon to writers, but getting their works out to the public can be a Sisyphean challenge for writers seeking an audience.
Doing my part to support other indie authors, here’s a short list of novels I’ve found that tickled my terror bone and left me with a sense of wonder at the largely unsung talents striving in the much-neglected world of indie authorship. Read these wonderful writers and enjoy the shudders to follow.
HOUNDED: ELLIE DOUGLASS
I don’t know what it is about dogs that can inspire such primal fear. I’ve been a dog lover my entire life and have a wonderful, lovable old Akita who is my constant companion. But still… there are moments when I realize that the loving pet in my home could rend me to pieces if the situation were different. Ellie Douglass has tapped into that primal fear and produced one of the scariest, goriest, all-out canine horror-fests I’ve ever encountered.
Douglass’ Hounded is a zombie novel, but unlike most, the zombies aren’t human. Something has turned the dogs of the world into slavering, ravenous zombies. The pandemic virus SB 16 has sent over two thirds of the global population into irreversible comas while turning the canine population into savage beasts. A small band of survivors try to fend of the hideous furry beasts, and then a stunning twist sends the novel spinning into a nightmare beyond the nightmare.
And a nightmare it is. Douglass rides that oh-so-fine line of balancing wonderful writing and fully-developed characters with fascinatingly intertwined backstories and grisly gore. Those who poo-poo ultra-violent novels without giving them a fair chance should really discover Douglass. Her writing is fresh, vivid, and graphic. This is a novel for both gore-hounds (pun intended) and lovers of exquisitely crafted prose in horror fiction. I give my highest recommendation (even though I envy her for her talent in lending class and pathos to the splatter novel).
SECOND CHANCES: AARON D BRINKER
I’m a huge fan of the thriller/horror genre, but the books I like best are the ones that ground the thrills and scares in psychological and ethical issues. Second Chances does just that. Chaun Hutchins is a man haunted by many things in life: a dysfunctional marriage, anxieties over becoming a father, and a fateful few words before a tragic accident that follow him through the novel like vengeful ghosts. There are ghosts in this novel, to be sure, but the most potent and horrifying haunting is the haunting of regret, resentment, and trauma.
This is a novel of quiet horror, horror for readers who enjoy having their minds played with by a talented author with a keen sense of suspense and pacing. A stunning achievement for author Aaron Brinker.
THE CIMMERIANS: THERSA JACOBS
Theresa Jacobs’ The Cimmerians is a wonderfully eerie novel that had me fighting the urge to look over my shoulder while reading. The opening poem that begins the novel is wickedly eerie and sets the tone for the ghosty and ghastly events that follow. I was taken by the central character, Emersyn, from the beginning as she attempts to leave her troubled New York Past behind and begin anew in a small Midwestern town. Unfortunately, she quickly discovers that the house she moved into was the scene of a suicide ten years prior. Rumors around town were that the young woman killed herself in a state of grief and shock after discovering a grisly scene at the home of her boyfriend. As Emersyn digs deeper into the mystery, she discovers hints of shadowy figures who may have been haunting the deceased. As she peels back the layers of the onion, she unwittingly releases an ancient evil and finds herself in a frantic fight for her life.
This novel has all of my favorite things: ghostly figures, a haunted house, a compelling mystery, and strong characters that I truly cared about. A wild ride through a landscape as surreal as the paintings of the main character, Crowley’s Cult twists and turns through multiple realities of horror, sacrifice, occultism, and erotic extremes. If you like a good shuddery tale well told, give this one a try.
CROWLEY”S CULT: ANDREA MERCHAK
A wild ride through a landscape as surreal as the paintings of the main character, Crowley’s Cult twists and turns through multiple realities of horror, sacrifice, occultism, and erotic extremes. Renowned painter Zane Kelly is forced to flee with fiancee Olivia from a terrifyingly omnipresent stalker and winds up unwittingly involved in the resurrection of ancient and malignant forces. The novel’s breakneck pace took me on the wildest of rides through scenes of surreal mystery and depraved violence.
The occult themes in the novel are exquisitely portrayed, as Zane and Olivia descend ever deeper into a world turn upside down. Balancing the line between the truly perverted and the gorgeously poetic, Merchak’s writing reminds me very much of the young Clive Barker, who explored the Janus face of pain and pleasure like no other before. Crowley’s Cult has well earned a special place in the pantheon of erotic horror.
THE DEAD GAME: SUSANNE LEIST
Susanne Leist’s The Dead Game offers a new take on an old horror trope. The novel is set in a world of fascinating polarities represented by the idyllic-sounding Florida beach community ironically named Oasis and the aptly named End House. While very quickly in the novel, readers find that the hopes connoted by the name Oasis prove to be a shimmering mirage obscuring the hideous forces at work, End House couldn’t have a more apt name.
The town’s pristine beaches become stained by corpses that have a disturbing habit of washing up on shore. People disappear on the town’s dark streets. An abandoned haunted house looks down on the town, holding untold horrors within its walls. A plethora of vampires (a combination of the good, the bad, and the ugly) find themselves locked in a chilling game of strategy, vying for survival and control.
Leist combines so many fascinating elements of the horror genre in this novel that the end result is an all-out assault on the nerves: vampires, a haunted house, betrayal, romance amidst the paranormal chaos, a sleepy beach community that hides a terrible secret, creatures out of your worst nightmare. Those are the ingredients for a cracking good horror tale, and Leist serves up a deliciously chilling and thrilling meal with this one.
Leist’s strong, intelligent female characters add much to this chilling breakout novel, and her wonderful attention to detail and uncanny description add much depth to the compelling narrative. As I’ve said above, I’m a reader who is willing to follow authors damned near anywhere as long as they give me characters that I can believe in, who are well-developed and engaging. Leist scores high marks on all points in this regard. I took in this novel in one great gulp, not setting it down until the heart-stopping conclusion.
Read, if you dare, and enjoy the nightmares that follow! And please remember to write an Amazon or GoodReads review.