Book Review: ‘Into a Sky Below, Forever’ by Karl Pfeiffer

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Karl Pfeiffer’s follow up to the debut novel, Hallowtide, is a collection of short works. Into a Sky Below, Forever covers a wide range: fiction to non-fiction, poetry to story. Each piece exists in varying shades of darkness, a darkness that Pfeiffer knows how to work with, exploit, and make do his bidding. But even more so, Karl shows us the beauty in all of it, too. That, even in the dark, there are small shades of light that we cling to, as a form of salvation, and as a balance.

I reviewed three short stories that appear in this collection previously; all phenomenal, of high literary value, and promising. The rest of the collection makes well on those promises. The characters are extremely well developed throughout. They are distinctly human, in their fears and in their needs. These people are you or me, often in a situation that no one understands but themselves. Not only that, Karl gets into their heads and pulls out pure fear, and in doing so pulls out all of our fears. They are familiar to us and they often come in the dark.

In “Dissolution” there is a house that doesn’t exist and in it that familiar darkness that Karl works with. In each story, the darkness is intelligent, but also takes on its own properties, has their own personalities. Here, darkness is unfamiliar and all encompassing. The curtain is closed at the right time, leaving the reader unsettled and without many answers, but the answers can often be found within. Often, through all of these character’s vulnerabilities, the answers are there and they come from within, adding to the unease. In “Water’s Edge,” a very short piece, a tone familiar to Hallowtide makes itself known. Our character finds himself reflected in the waters, a beautiful self-perspective piece. Many of the stories carry with them a poetic sense; the prose is very beautiful, something Karl has mastered and displayed fully in these pieces as well as Hallowtide.

Where the reader is really tested is in the non-fiction works. The two that appear here relate to human paranormal experience. The first, “The Nature of the Beast” relate Pfeiffer’s experiences in the Stanley Hotel, with the myriad of spirits there. Often he reflects on the nature of these experiences, testing human sanity versus power beyond our understanding. Some of the spirits that inhabit the Stanley are frightening and of an elemental nature. In the second piece, “Dark Processes,” a malevolence stalks a woman throughout her life. This story is dark, very dark, but there is hope in a marriage and a grotesque.

Into a Sky Below, Forever holds a special place for me among the greatest short works collections I’ve read. It has a lot in common with Neil Gaiman’s collections; poetry and stories, but these have a very King and Barker dark elemental force behind them.  These pieces stay with you, whether you like them to or not. That is the sign of a great writer; and in many ways writers are magicians. Some cast light spells, some dark, and Karl the darkest. This is a collection for the ages from one of the best new writers of this decade.

Karl’s Website: http://www.karlpfeiffer.com/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Into-Sky-Below-Forever-ebook/dp/B00F7MZERA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1381098689&sr=8-1&keywords=Karl+Pfeiffer

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/into-a-sky-below-forever-karl-pfeiffer/1116912015?ean=9781492132189

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/358035

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Playlisted: “#41″ by Dave Matthews Band

I’m a Dave Matthews Band fan. To say that among certain circles of friends is practically suicide, but it’s the damn truth. I fell in love with them in high school, particularly the song “Don’t Drink the Water,” which, for some reason, spoke to me. Since then, I’ve purchased all of their studio material and a myriad of live recordings.

DMB occupies a very tiny niche, being able to put out accessible studio albums that are still honest to their live performances. For a jam band, that is a rare thing. A very rare thing. More so, their songs exude a degree of musicianship that few bands ever get to, and for a band who’s lineup includes a violinist, a sax and trumpet player, an even rarer feat. The guitar is never a focal point, especially as the primary guitar in which Dave Matthews’ uses, is acoustic. But it also never just falls into the mix, overpowered by other instrumentation.

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“#41″ is my favorite of their songs. It’s mysterious, melodically beautiful, and so ambiguous that you can find what meaning you want in it. According to Dave, the song is a response to a lawsuit brought forth by former manager, Ross Hoffman. To the casual listener, the song plays like one of the most complicated relationship situations anybody has ever been in. One involving second chances and demons haunting both parties. That universal appeal is why the song is so beloved by many of the group’s fans.

It debuted in live sets in 1995 under the title “41 Police.” It represented the 41st song the band had written, and was dubbed “Police” because of its aural similarities to the Police’s “Bring on the Night.” From there the song evolved, changing chord progressions and lyrics and becoming the “#41″ that is still performed today.

The song opens to a somber guitar, strum simply and with tight symbol work by the band’s phenomenal drummer, Carter Beauford. Slowly, the violin comes in, also played simply leading to a haunting, short sax solo that brings the song into full form. “#41″ then leads to various crescendos throughout. The song ultimately lacks a chorus, instead relying on beautiful poetic lyrics to drive a really intense song.

Often, the band will jam on the song for ten, fifteen, even twenty minutes, depending on the guest they have on stage. The longest version clocks in at 32 mintues and 3 seconds, from a 2002 show in Ontario, Canada, featuring Béla Fleck and the Flecktones.

Whatever your favorite version of the song, live or studio, it’s hard not to get lost into the world of it. While most get lost in songs, most get lost in the world of “#41,” as if it’s some fantasy novel. That’s what I love about this song, among other things.  “#41″ has the ability to give you what you need, whether it’s understanding, healing, or just plain entertainment. Everyone comes to it and leaves differently. It’s as the lyrics say: “I will go in this way, and find my own way out.”

Filling The Void Left By #WorldsEnd

Earlier this year, Josh Hewitt unleashed the Worlds End project on, well, the world, and it was damn awesome. So much so, that by the end, there was a void left.  Carey Torgesen helped fill that void with The Memory Project over at her blog, but yet again, we were left in the void. I’ve been searching for some books to satisfy my craving and after an extensive enough search, have stumbled upon a few to share.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

the-age-of-miracles-book-coverReleased last year, Karen Thompson Walker’s The Age of Miracles is the slow, cruel death of the earth as it slows its rotation more and more every day. The day’s become longer, crops fail, people go nuts, but the crowning achievement of this novel is the book’s protagonist, a twelve year old girl named Julia. In a sense, a coming of age story is cut short by the death of the earth, projecting a character on a precipice never seen before. Julia’s perspective starts off as a positive one, perhaps due to the naivety of her age or because of a mother hooked on hyperbole. Walker does a beautiful job blurring the lines between regular life and what would seemingly be the actions of mad men, leaving the reader to wonder how different our world is from this one. Very much inspired by Ray Bradbury, The Age of Miracles manages to keep a YA book from falling into the tropes that often plague the category, and presents a convincing, real world end.

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B&N

The Last Policeman series by Ben H. Winters

The-Last-PolicemanAn asteroid is going to hit the earth within the year at the start of The Last Policeman, but to Detective Hank Palace, there is still work to be done. The bones of an impending disaster book is in how the world is set up, and like The Age of MiraclesThe Last Policeman is very convincing. The nature of reality warps, and changes man, more often for the worst. In this world, Palace is the patron saint of lost causes, and while you’re asking the question: “why bother?” Winters’ fantastic character work is a driving force. The combination of great characters and a brilliantly plotted world make this a must read. The sequel to The Last PolicemanCountdown City was released earlier this year.

Check out this great Book Riot discussion about both books.

Amazon

B&N

The Mercury Series by Robert Kroese

FotoFlexer_Photo-60_zpsc76832cfKroese combines Gaiman and Pratchett’s Good Omens with Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in this inventive and hilarious take on the Biblical Apocalypse. Intertwined throughout is Kroese’s unique take on philosophy, taking jabs at both science and religion. His Four Horsemen are attache cases, everyone is trying to stop or bring on the apocalypse, and has linoleum ever been this important? This series will have you cracking up over three books, and as of this writing, Kroese is working on a fourth book in the series.

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B&N

Happy Reading!

Comic Review: Hoax Hunters #10

From Image Comics, Michael Moreci, Steve Seeley, T-Rex Jones, Jim Campbell, and T-Bone Daniel

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They’re baaaaack! After a few months on hiatus, Hoax Hunters is back with the long awaited 10th issue of the series. This time around, they’ve got a new artist on board – T-Rex Jones, who did the cover for the second issue of the series last year. Also in that time, the series has been optioned for a movie. Granted, many a series have been optioned, and few have been made, but the thought alone is exciting!

This issue kicks off a new story arc that splits the team up. Donovan and Regan, both possessing demon granted powers are heading down to South American on the hunt for a book that has fallen into the wrong hands. The rest of the team, including Lauren, introduced in issue #5, are headed to the towns near Hauncheyville, where the last story arc took place, responding to an increase in creature activity. While this issue is a lot of set up, we’re treated to Regan’s back story and the moments that made her into what she is now, and the fate of her family.

With T-Rex Jones on board as artist, he brings a new, darker edge to the book. It’s as if the characters are being viewed through a distorted lens, or through someone or something else’s eyes entirely. Jones has a knack for making bright lights creepy as hell, especially when that light is emitted from a character’s eyes. Moreci/Seeley do their beloved magic, setting up the story arc and placing the pieces on the board perfectly, to be moved throughout the coming issues. If you’re reluctant to pick up the new title, I’d suggest checking out Case Files #1, which serves as a sort of Tavern Tales for the series, and is currently free on ComiXology. If you’re also looking to catch up, I’d suggest the also free Story Thus Far.

With issue #10, Hoax Hunters‘ has set itself up to tell the strongest and most compelling story of the series existence. Stay tuned folks, because what’s to come is going to be great.

Past issues also available for free at Keenspot.

Book Review: ‘Running Home’ by Julie Hutchings

The main theme of fiction, of writing in general, is that nothing is original. That everything is exploitation, and all ideas are available from the corner whore. I’ve never subscribed to the idea, though one cannot help but notice trends at times. If I had to boil it down, the current trends include Young Adult fiction, zombies, dystopian worlds, and fairytale retellings. Vampires have also been a particular trend that has rode the wave of Twilight furry, and still remains steady today. In the case of Julie Hutching’s vampires, though, you’re in for a treat, as the reader becomes exposed to the most original concept in vampire fiction in some time.

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The stand outs in vampire literature are so because they are clearly defined by originality, using and manipulating established standards to make the reader feel like they’re experiencing something completely new. For example, in I Am Legend, the late-great Richard Mattheson presented us with the “plague vampire,” as did Justin Cronin. John Ajvide Lindqvist created the young, frightening vampire, while Stephen King just, plain, scared the fuck out of us in Salem’s Lot. Julie presents the vampire of destiny, the vampire marked by time as needing to exist to bring balance to the world’s evil. When the reveal comes in the book, you’ll literally shit your pants. Okay, maybe not literally, but the metaphorical shit in your pants will be metaphorically real and you will metaphorically need to take a shower.

At the center of the story is Eliza Morgan, a girl that doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere, and for a good reason as you find out through the course of the book. At a black-tie party, she meets Nicholas French, owner of a local book store, and Eliza’s new obsession. Together, they lead the reader through a vampiric order that works for the good of mankind instead of against it. Their love story is tied to their fate within this world, situated in the snow-swept town of Ossipee, New Hampshire.

The vampires have unique abilities as well, including shields, and force-fields to hide themselves from human view. Nicholas’ methods of discerning his intended victims can kill him alone.

Aside from the wonderful plot devices, these vampires never forget the importance of the human element. In most vampire fiction, humanity is the bystander to forces beyond their control and understanding, but Julie gives the vital needed human element new blood.

Running Home will have you entranced from the first word to the last sentence. Its deep mythology, fateful characters and unique interpretation on a long standing tradition is the new benchmark in vampire fiction, among the defining greats like Stoker, King, and Cronin. With a sequel on the way, one can only wonder where the story goes from here, until then we can “run home.” The place where we all belong, and the place where Julie makes us feel comfortable.

Links:

Amazon

Smashwords

Julie’s Blog

Playlisted: “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” by Journey

Playlist is a blog series in which I talk about my favorite songs, and generally they end up on my many of my playlists. This series is part therapy, justifying some of my favorite songs of all time, as you will see shortly. The other part is the belief that music should be shared, and these songs should be! This makes me a self-important douche, but that’s okay, there are worse out there. But for now, on with the show.

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Journey, they’re a band most noted among critics and in musical circles as sentimental 80′s pop music, often lacking in value, but nonetheless popular among the nostalgic and karaoke crowds. In the average American’s album collection, Journey’s Greatest Hits is a staple, comparable to having Turkey at thanksgiving or Thriller. As far as I’m concerned, if you don’t own a copy of Thriller, you’re dead inside. It’s the highest selling album in the U.S., according to the RIAA, right beside The Eagles’ Their Greatest Hits: 1971-1975. Both have sold 29 million copies. Journey’s Greatest Hits has sold approximately 15 million copies, making it their highest selling album of all time.

If you asked a fan to name some of Journey’s newer songs, you know, the post-80′s ones, could they do it? Journey “fans,” at least the majority that I’ve seen, take a bye when it comes to their modern music. Granted, they haven’t had a hit on their hands since 1996′s “When You Love a Woman,” the last song to feature Steve Perry. The common argument then becomes, “the band died with Steve Perry,” but in reality, the band died in the 80′s, with the song “I’ll Be Alright Without You.” Since that time, they have released five studio albums and a live one. None has garnered the much attention, but in 2007 the band made waves when they finally found a singer to rival Steve Perry, Arnel Pineda. Since then, the group has been a Live Nation summer staple, touring with bands like Cheap Trick and Heart.

The band’s most popular track is the often misused “Don’t Stop Believing.” It resembles many of Springsteen’s story songs about characters down on their luck, only with a more upbeat message and melody. If you did a search on Twitter, you’d find it quoted in a myriad of bios. You’d also find it in countless TV shows, YouTubed karaoke gems, and any other applicable piece of pop culture. Their best and most anthemic track, however, is “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart).”

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The song comes from the band’s 1983 album, Frontiers. Aside from sporting the creepiest album cover I’ve ever seen, (Welcome to tonight’s nightmare) the album produced two other tracks that found it’s way on to Greatest Hits, “Sender Her My Love” and “Faithfully.”

“Separate Ways” is the best track Journey ever made. It is. Don’t give me that look! It easily contains the best, most non-cheesy synth line in the history of music.  As the track opens, you get the sense that it means business, that a synthesizer could literally kick your ass. Is it over the top? Absofuckinglutely. Is it cheesy? I’ll never admit it, especially when Neal Schon’s raunchy guitar riff comes in shortly after, along with the rhythmic drumming of Steve Smith. Is there going to be a rumble, though? Maybe. Steve Perry makes his intentions clear when the vocals kick in, if you brake his ex’s heart, Steve will kick your ass… Wait, what? Yeah, that’s right, he still loves her, and “if he ever hurts her, true love won’t desert her.” Rest assured, some guy will get his ass kicked and some woman will be loved, damn it! To look at Steve Perry, he doesn’t seem like much of a threat, but deep down you know he could take Danzig in a fight.

If you ever thought that there was no way a Journey song could get you into a fight, give “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” a try. If it doesn’t, perhaps a good slap fight? Anything is possible, I mean, after this blog post, this could be your new favorite Journey song! The 80′s are riddled with great songs, and I would rank this song among the best that the decade had to offer. Seriously guys. I’m not joking. I would also rank it to have been responsible for one of the worst choreographed music videos of all time (Including one of the most awkward ass shots on film.). Regardless, the next time you listen to Journey, don’t forget about this song, it might just save your ass in a fight.

Previous Playlisted entries

 

Comic Review: ‘Skybreaker #3′

From Monkeybrain Comics, Michael Moreci, Drew Zucker, Ryan Ferrier, Jack Davies, and Tim Daniel

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In a world lacking law and order, who do you trust? In the one that Michael Moreci and Drew Zucker have submerged the reader in, those lines are extremely difficult to discern, making them easy to cross. In the past two issues, we’ve met a myriad of characters, and seen a great many of them die, but among them have emerged four that push this story forward – Cole, also known as Skybreaker, is wanted dead by many, Indian and American alike, but has a score to settle; Barek, who’s wanted by the Cavalry for deserting his post and for the death of one of their own; Cutter, the man trying to keep order through any means necessary; and General Franklin Taylor, a merciless son-of-a-bitch if there ever was one.

Since the first issue, Moreci and company have created a tone that makes you wonder how much more civilized we are than the caveman. As this issue opens up, Cole is among the natives, recovering still and Barek is searching for him, part of a deal made with Cutter. When he finds him, he’s got a deal for Cole insead. Barek’s the kind of guy always trying to stay a step ahead, and always willing to deal with whoever he has to to put himself in the best position possible. This issue also does a fantastic job of playing up Taylor’s ruthlessness in as violent a way as possible, making Cutter the lesser of two evils. In a world like this, though, that’s not saying much. By the end, the unholy alliance of Talutah, Barek and Skybreaker have made it back to town, just in time.

What makes this world so stunning is the almost random nature of the violence in it. It’s not completely devoid of purpose, but anyone could die at any moment. Zucker’s art is beautiful blend of nostalgia in the Old West motif, slightly tweaked for a modern audience. Let’s just say that you’re old “Black and Whites” never played out like this. Skybreaker continues to hit all the right notes and with a sniper’s precision. The end is near, and the body count is high.

ComiXology Link: http://www.comixology.com/Skybreaker/comics-series/10129

Book Review: ‘Hallowtide’ by Karl Pfeiffer

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These, our scientists, our physicians, the defenders of the physical world against the physical intrusions. The men who’d destroyed demons with labels and hypnosis and regressive discussion. They didn’t know. They’d killed God and now knew nothing. The future was as fuzzy as a cloudy ball or leaves left at the bottom of the mug. Throw the bones and see how they lie.

The most haunting works of fiction are generally so because they appeal to your worst fears or they leave you with questions. Those questions tend to shadow the nature of what you know, make you think twice about the reality around you. Karl Pfeiffer’s Hallowtide does that and more; taking human nature, reality, and the subconscious by the throat, poking and prodding it until it becomes twisted and believable.

Hallowtide is the story of Will Andrews, survivor of a school shooting five years previously, one that left him in a short coma. As the story begins, he’s on the verge of graduating college. He’s back with the girl he was dating during the shooting (Jennifer), and his reality is about to become tested. Through the course of the novel, Will descends into a Hell very unique to the representations that come before it. There, in his dreams, he is tormented by the shooter that he stopped years before. The nature of this “dreams” begin to change, and bleed into Will’s every day actions, to the point where nightmare becomes nature.

The construction of this novel is unlike any I’ve read before. It’s poetic, in the way that some sentences end, or seemingly end, only to bleed into the next paragraph, testing the reader’s reality as much as the characters. Lines that may seem repetitive the second or third time you read them, brilliantly add more to the plot, paragraphs or even pages later. The poetic style that Pfeiffer often returns to offers almost a modern update or interpretation of classic poems, like Inferno or Paradise Lost. Though, unlike most “descent” narratives, instead of seeing it from afar, you’re seeing it up close, from the eyes of the tormented, even feeling it. The reader experiences everything as Will does, and is often ripped back and forth between subjective realities in the short span of sentences and story breaks. The feeling is jarring, but is meant to be that way.

At the heart of Hallowtide is Jungian Theory, a type of analytical psychology that emphasizes the subconscious, and its power over the human mind. Carl Jung, the pioneer of this type of psychology, believed that understanding the human psyche could be found in dreams, myth, and folklore, and the idea of the collective unconscious. The collective unconscious a theory that suggests that, we as humans, take personal experiences and organize them so that there is a universal interpretation across an entire species. Pfeiffer deconstructs this type of thinking, beautifully, and puts it back together in the story of Will, and in a way that makes it all his own.

When you read the final pages, and close the book, you immediately want to pick it back up again. This is the kind of book, that upon multiple rereads, has the ability to change, morph itself into something different. It has the ability to test multiple realities in the same person, to the point of frustration. Hallowtide is not meant to be enlightening, that’s not what it was designed for; instead, it’s a doorway to challenge the world around you, a doorway to questions you didn’t know you should be asking.

This is the most affecting psychological horror novel I’ve ever read. It bleeds Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves and the work of David Wong, but leaves a greater, more intense impact on the reader. Welcome to the debut novel of what is sure to become, one of the greatest writers of this generation.

Karl Pfeiffer’s Website

Hallowtide Website

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Previous Karl Pfeiffer Reviews on Team Hellions

Book Review: ‘Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions’ by Neil Gaiman

This summer I’ve decided to delve into the writings of Neil Gaiman. He’s one of those writers that feel like a crime for not reading  at least once in your life. This summer, I’ve pinned down nine works of Gaiman’s to read, and if I’m feeling lucky, I might explore Sandman, his series of fantastic comics from Vertigo. The last summer series I tried to do turned out to be a failure; my foray into sharks, a life long obsession, ended after one book. But now, as a writer, I’m a sponge. I try to read at least one book a week, and if I can stay focused, I’ll reach the end of my journey by the conclusion of summer.

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I’ve begun my Neil Gaiman experience based upon Erin Morgenstern’s advice in Book Riot’s first volume of Start Here; the shorts. Smoke and Mirrors is Gaiman’s first series of short stories, published in 1998. This collection runs the gambit of short fiction and poetry in varying genres, including science-fiction (“Changes”), fantasy (“Chivalry,” “Murder Mysteries”), horror (“The Price,” “Don’t Ask Jack”) contemporary (“The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories,” “One Life, Furnished in Early Moorcock”), and even fairy tales (“Troll Bridge,” “The Sea Change”). Gaiman’s writing style here is very wispy, almost like you’re staring at a mirage, wondering what to make of them and pondering their realism. In every single one of these pieces, he puts on his best magician’s cape and dazzles the reader into believing every one of his lies. And he does it quite beautifully.

This collection is not perfect, however, but its triumphs reach far enough to forgive any fiction here that falters. A common theme that runs through these stories is sexuality. Gaiman is not bashful about that and to his credit; the most sexual tale, “Tastings,” ends in psychic body fluids. You’ve never seen prognostication on display like this before. Gaiman never makes it seem unnatural or make the reader at all uncomfortable. He writes sexual encounters as a normal part of life, more normal than I’ve ever read from an author.

The poetry in this collection can be a bit hit or miss, especially if you’re not a regular to the style. “Virus” has a great heart even if it is a bit heavy at times. “The White Road” and “Queen of Knives” are great tales, but at times were lost on me. Perhaps it was just the way they were written, but I couldn’t keep focused reading them. That is more a failure of the reader than of the author. The two greatest in this collection are “The Sea Change” and “Vampire Sestina.” The first deals with a sailor’s encounter with a mermaid, while the second, vampires. These two are written in such a way that I didn’t want them to end, I wanted to explore those worlds more.

The stories that do fall short, which are short in number, do so because they feel almost too real, or grossly unexplored. “Only the End of the World Again” is a foray into werewolves that falls kind of flat. “‘When We Went to See the End of the World’ by Dawnie Morninside, age 11 1/4″ is a beautiful painting, but is drastically short for a story, too short.

I emerged from my foray into the mind of a modern genius hooked. Gaiman’s story hooks are brilliant. In each one of these stories, there are ideas that, even if you don’t love the story, are a lot to marvel at. These stories read like spells that actually work, that leave you mesmerized, and will pull the wool right over your eyes. It’s all a magic trick, and Gaiman is a well learned illusionist. You don’t need to love a trick just to enjoy it though, pull up a chair and dive in, you’re guaranteed to find many things that you like.

Five Favorite Shorts

5. “Looking for the Girl”

This may be a guys pick, but I know exactly how the protagonist feels in this story. You lay eyes on someone, there is something more to them, and you’d do anything just to talk to them or touch them; that they may not be real.

4. “Chivalry”

A witty and moving story about a woman who buys the Holy Grail at a thrift shop, and the knight that needs it to end his quest. Before Macklemore and Ryan Lewis stepped foot in the thrift shop, it was Gaiman.

3. “The Price”

This is one of the sweetest stories I’ve read. A battle between good and evil reflects the story Gaiman tucks in the intro. There may be a tear or two.

2. “We Can Get Them For You Wholesale”

A hilarious story about a man who may just end the world to get back at a cheating girlfriend. Sometimes you just can’t pass up a good deal.

1. “Murder Mysteries”

This is the kind of story that you want to punch Neil Gaiman in the face for writing because it’s so good. Heaven’s first transgression, at the beginning of it all. Guest starring Lucifer as well.

Book Review: ‘The Mothman Prophecies’ by John A. Keel

When you look at the latest cover of John A. Keel’s The Mothman Prophecies - the book for which the movie, staring Richard Gere is based upon – you see the words:  “a true story.” Those three words could repel you, cause you to repudiate the book’s claims. It might make you laugh, though not likely. The third reaction is to be engrossed, to take everything at face value. While this can be dangerous, The Mothman Prophecies is just the kind of book to challenge your way of thinking as a vessel into a belief that is frightening and incredible.

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I’m of the belief that American folklore is haunted folklore. You can’t flip on the television without seeing a reality based program where strangers invade a home or “haunted” location, poke around, and gather evidence. The term “Squatchin’,” a word that essentially means to go out into the woods and hunt for bigfoot, is part of the American lexicon of words. America’s folklore is populated by ghosts, hairy ape men, lake monsters, and many other legends. Among them lives the Mothman, a six foot tall humanoid, covered with brown hair, and with wings that span ten feet, on average. The most stunning feature though are those glowing red eyes. Even to those who have never seen such a creature, they know those eyes, as if through telepathic means. This creature haunts the psyche of a collective body.

The Mothman hasn’t been sighted often in our modern era, if you can believe the reports. Some say he was seen flying over the ruins of The Twin Towers, and there are others that believe the creature has been sighted all over the world. It was 1966-67, though, when this creature became celebrity, and with it, one of the most consistent and incredible sightings of UFOs, MIB, and aliens of all kinds, even of the strange human variety.

The first official sighting of the creature occurred on November 15th 1966 in Point Pleasant, WV; a town as vital to the legend as IT was to Derry, Maine. In and around Point Pleasant, sightings of UFOs occurred as regularly, if not more than Mothman. More terrifying than those sightings were that of the Men in Black. The way Keel describes them in his book, it’s as if they’re aliens in human disguise, except they don’t know how to act human. The simplest things, such as ballpoint pens and Jell-o seemed to confuse them. They all looked relatively the same; short, oriental features, unnatural skin color, large eyes, and erratic behavior. Likewise were the encounters that some people had with alien beings. Woodrow Derenberger’s encounters with the being named Indrid Cold are widely publicized, but Keel goes into great depth on Woody’s encounters with the man, including time in a space craft and visits to a planet called Lanulos.

Keel’s style of storytelling relies less on the chronological, though the overall focus of the book is kept in a tidy nature, in the larger scope of the Silver Bridge Collapse. He focuses on certain events, beings, or phenomena as the subjects of his chapters. As a journalist, his writing is top notch; investigative reporting about strange phenomena has never been more brilliantly told. Keel also does a phenomenal job introducing theories to account for some of the “goings on” during the time period, including explanations on hypnosis, names and shared Greek characteristics, and theories about ley lines and UFO phenomena. He does his best to play the skeptic, but having experienced many of these events himself, he explains them as any person would, faced with the unknown, through human context.

If you’ve seen the faux documentary, Mermaids: The Body Found – the purpose of such a documentary, aside from telling a compelling story, is to make you think, challenge your world view. The Mothman Prophecies, is the original Mermaids, only, to hundreds of people, the events surrounding 1966-67 in West Virginia were real.  This is a book first published in the 1970′s and today it is still haunting, fascinating, and a frightening display of what the unknown is capable of. At the end of the book, like the end of West Virginia’s 13 months of terror, you’re left with questions, and an explanation that is altogether hard to believe. If you’re looking for an acceptable answer though, that’s up to you, the reader, in that last fateful chapter. If all you’ve ever known of The Mothman is from the Richard Gere film, grab this book and let it grab and hold you; this book doesn’t let go easy.

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