Tag Archive for dark fantasy

Mapping Stains of Atrocity: Twenty Tales of Horror and Dark Fantasy

A book cover of colorful stains

This post provides some generally spoiler-free commentary about the stories in Stains of Atrocity, comments I left out of the book in order to keep it from getting any longer (and more expensive–now, the e-book is $2.99, and the trade paperback is $19.99). As for the book as a whole, I take the business of horror seriously. This book wants to horrify and offend you, to stretch your mind with the surreal and the grotesque until your assumptions break. If the sensation is always pleasant, I’m not doing my job. Prepare for twenty flavors of the outré and outrageous.

Blot One: Stains of Loss

“Silence”

After a roadside mishap, a woman visits a strange house to seek help. Later, the people around her disappear inexplicably. This story, one of the oldest in this collection, has long been a personal favorite because I find the sadness of the protagonist’s surreal predicament scary. This version differs from previously published versions: it includes expansions from the award-winning screenplay adaptation.

“House of Butterflies”

Two sisters meet at their uncle’s house to prepare for their mother’s funeral and discover that their family is the target of a bizarre supernatural phenomenon involving… butterflies. Another older story, this one is mostly the same as earlier published versions. I’m fond of the imagery—never seen anything quite like it—and like that the characters are American royalty, from a echelon of culture I rarely touch.

“Your Neighbor”

An entity called The Grizzle Man tells a woman she will kill her neighbor, and she becomes obsessed with the idea of doing it. The protagonist’s psychological perspective makes everything feel off, even to me. This story is previously unpublished, and like all seven previously unpublished stories in Stains of Atrocity, it is relatively new.

“David Langley and the Burglar”

A burglar fantasizes about hurting the people he robs while his latest mark tries to comprehend the supernatural force that ensnares him. Maybe the title should be “The Burglar and David Langley” because the first half is from burglar’s perspective, the last from David’s. The surreal convergence of the ending, however—if it works for you—is what the story is really about.

Blot Two: Stains of Collusion

“Highway Romance”

A truck driver feels drawn to a boy he sees in a car on the highway, and the boy seems just as drawn to him—but their attractions take a violent turn. Readers who don’t get the (unsubtle) references to Lolita and Poe-via-Nabokov will get less out of the story, but an early reader in such a position still liked it. The final section is stream of consciousness, but it’s accessible. Previously unpublished.

“Lizard Chrome”

Supernatural lizards descend upon a popular nightspot in downtown Louisville and cause a frenzy of murder and mayhem. This story’s goal is fun, assuming you can take your fun with some extreme gore infused with questions about color that might be connected to race. Of course, I am also thinking about all those reptilian conspiracies out there. I provide a sort of cameo.

“The Long Flight of Charlotte Radcliffe”

A young woman falls back into the clutches of her abusive uncle. Charlotte takes a long flight, but this story is very short. For readers who don’t pick up on layered references, I think the story is mostly about the ending. However, “Charlotte Radcliffe” is a nod toward Charlotte Brontë and Ann Radcliffe, and the story is thinking about the history of tales about women in peril and a radical direction for the future.

“Jar of Evil”

A scientist of sorts captures the essence of evil in a jar, drops the jar, and chases it, hoping to catch it before it starts the apocalypse. Humor masks horror here, and narrative style overpowers narrative content. Nevertheless, if you’re able to step out of the protagonist’s warped perspective and envision what he’s actually doing, the sickness will shine through the silly veneer.

Blot Three: Stains of Allegiance

All the stories in this section are previously unpublished.

“Dinner for Two”

A young man obsessed with online exposure decides to commit and stream a mass shooting, and one of his followers, enchanted, decides she’ll join him. The very real-world horror and apparent cheapness of life in this story will likely make it one of the book’s most difficult to take. I developed the lead characters first in two short scripts (one award-winning, one kept private). Terrifying people.

“Undying Support”

A group representing different minorities decides to strike back at the white supremacist terrorizing their neighborhood, but the murderous bigot refuses to die. I imagined this story as a kind of inverted slasher, with the emphasis on the “good guys” hunting the unstoppable bad guy instead of the reverse. While the tale offers suspense and gruesome violence, much of it is tongue-in-cheek.

“Around Your Neck”

A psychic gets pulled into a plot involving murder, human trafficking, and a supernatural “familiar” with a taste for slaughter. Although there’s not much mystery, this one ended up with a neo-noir-ish edge that pleases me. Marty the psychic and Vorzien the monstrous familiar are characters I’ve already used in a feature screenplay and might use again. This point is not a spoiler about who/what dies when.

“Food for Flies”

A white couple with racist tendencies accidentally (?) kills a brown young man, and after they dispose of the body, swarms of flies appear with a gruesome agenda. This story is the most recent in the book. Some readers will find one of its scenes to be the most disgusting—but a couple of early readers found said scene to be hilarious as well, so hey, find out for yourself. Call this one “body horror.”

Blot Four: Stains of Will

As I mention in the book’s brief foreword, the last eight stories will make more sense (which isn’t to say they’ll make sense) if you read them together. The stories in this blot relate to the universe I’ve built around a character named Dr. Allen Fincher and his book The Alchemy of Will, a universe reflected in my novels Burning the Middle Ground and Descending Lines as well as my story collection Leaping at Thorns.

“Blood and Feathers”

At the dawn of the 20th century, Dr. Allen Fincher confronts Dean Elijah Eagleton at Harvard about nefarious activities. After a display of power, Allen lays out a plan for cooperation and human sacrifice. This story plays in a weird register, more dark fantasy than horror but plenty horrific if you think about what happens and what it portends. The middle is pretty goofy, making the whole rather unbalanced.

“Kindertotenlieder” (Songs for Dead Children)

In a reimagining of “Pied Piper” tales, a town ends up with a glut of babies that couldn’t belong to their mothers’ husbands, who are off fighting World War Two, so they turn to a woman with mystical powers for help, unaware of the price they’ll pay. The story features Matilda Roan, a key player in several Fincher tales. I’m very fond of the imagery.

“Year of the Wolf”

A man lets a friend kill him so that his essence can travel back to the 1943 Pacific Battle of Tarawa, where he takes the form of a monster that hunts both sides. The man in question is Louis Jardin, a Fincherverse regular. His friend is Matilda Roan. To me, the story stands out because it’s supernatural historical fiction that climaxes with a scientific oddity made grand. The teeth recall “Silence.”

“The Broom Closet Where Everything Dies”

A boy with access to arcane powers summons creatures from fiction and catches the attention of a mentor who leads him toward more destructive goals. This story connects to a lot of other fiction, my own and others’, and links the Fincherverse with TR4B, which I’ll get to in a moment. At its heart, though, it’s a sweet story about an imaginative boy who gets a taste for killing.

Blot Five: Stains of Curiosity

The stories in this section all relate to crimes committed by two boys at a house known as TR4B. In the aftermath of those crimes, the house has become a place of supernatural distortion, which makes most stories about it rather surreal. I wrote about the original crimes in an unpublished novel, Curiosity, twenty years ago, but I wrote these tales knowing no one has read it. Curiosity remains a theme.

“Eternal Recurrence of Suburban Abortion”

A young woman travels to a house notorious for the crimes committed there in order to have a medical procedure, and she ends up on a surreal journey between life and death. This story is about pain, giving up, and becoming something you’d never have imagined. I think it’s either poignant or gibberish. The… surgeon?… is from “Heart on a Stick,” in Leaping at Thorns, but you don’t need to know that.

“TR4B”

The mother of boys who committed unspeakable crimes in their house takes a hallucinatory walk through her basement that transforms her. For the most part, this story begins in a shaky but traversable perspective and then dissolves into surreal imagery, but it still manages to shed light on “Eternal Recurrence” while presenting a dark character arc.

“Door Poison”

A young man and woman who met on the internet visit a house famous for atrocities committed there and find themselves trapped in a bizarre and deadly game. Even though the imagery is extreme, and the storyline is mind-bending, this story shows that even TR4B can be a little silly. The tale probably works better if you know about Schrödinger’s cat and/or Freud’s dream of Irma’s injection.

“Mandy Schneider Makes Friends”

A budding psychopath meets two older boys, brothers famous for rape and murder, and after a bizarre initiation, the three turn their attention to a group of campers and their chaperones. Previously unpublished, this story is the most extreme in the book, also the longest. It is the one most likely to get me accused of being a terrible person. In the foreword, I advise you not to read it. Here, I’ll say that—if you can handle it—you might find that it’s quite good. But I don’t think most people can handle it.

CRAZY TIME Goodreads E-Book Giveaway!

Cooper’s dark horror story is an uncomfortable, trippy, and original roller-coaster ride… riveting and unsettling… with a compelling hero.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Not unlike a Dali painting, L. Andrew Cooper’s latest… is a strange fusion of surreal horror, dark fantasy, and spiritual speculation… powered by stunning imagery and laudable in terms of plot audaciousness… a bizarre and sometimes grotesque narrative.” – BlueInk Review

“A series of traumatic events leads a woman into a battle between good and evil… supernatural twists subvert… expectations… poetic prose… is both unsettling and absorbing….” – Foreword Clarion Reviews

“…truly a bizarre battle with darkness… a unique piece from start to finish… wonderful to read… a great book… engaging and suspenseful…” – OnlineBookClub.org

“Despite its paranormal trappings, the book is a psychological thriller at its heart… disparate threads… are tied up nicely by the ending… A dark supernatural thriller that ponders on what makes us human.” – The Prairies Book Review

“Questions of life, morality, and what it means to be truly human permeate the narrative, giving it depth and substance. A gritty supernatural thriller.” – BookView Review

Between March 3 and March 31, 2022, I will be giving away 50 Amazon Kindle editions of Crazy Time on Goodreads. Please enter, and if you get a copy, please read and review!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Crazy Time by L. Andrew Cooper

Crazy Time

by L. Andrew Cooper

Giveaway ends March 31, 2022.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads. Enter Giveaway

Countdown to CRAZY TIME

Crazy Time: A Bizarre Battle with Darkness and the Divine is a strange beast, a literary horror novel, a dark, surreal, contemporary supernatural fantasy that offers scares and suspense but seeks to terrify more on the level of concept, filling your head with thoughts and images that don’t fit right and perhaps shouldn’t even be.

The blurb on the back cover about the story is brief:

Lily Henshaw, an agnostic, suffers from increasingly bizarre traumatic events that convince her she’s in a crossfire between God and Satan reminiscent of the Book of Job. She doesn’t take sides: preparing to confront even the Almighty, she follows psychics, Satanists, preachers, and corporate executives toward an apocalyptic showdown.

Don’t get the wrong idea from the God and Satan stuff. Although the novel deals with some of the Bible’s most disturbing material–extensively with Job, also with the Book of Revelations–its perspective would likely offend (or, put another way, be way too horrifying for) a supremely devout Judeo-Christian reader. Lily goes through so much trauma that, by the time swarms of locusts and prophesying ghosts/hallucinations bring her around to a religious way of thinking, she’s so pissed off at the universe that her stance toward divine involvement is perhaps irreversibly hostile. Her quest for relief from her suffering and for answers to the question “Why me?” does little to improve her opinion. Satan isn’t the hero of her story, but God certainly isn’t either. She is.

Crazy Time will be coming from Outskirts Press in the next two to three weeks. Outskirts is a company that helps people with self-publishing, so Crazy Time, my eleventh book to be published, will be my first (kinda) self-published book. I suspect I will write again about this publishing experience, so I’ll only make a few comments here.

Why Outskirts? There’s an entire book on Amazon dedicated to bashing them, and other bad reviews aren’t hard to find, many resurrecting the term “vanity press” to focus the (hopefully fading) stigma against self-publishing in general. However, the actual criticism of the company seems to come from people who didn’t know what they were buying… so far I’ve gotten exactly what I’ve wanted from people who have been friendly and professional, but I’ve had experience and research to guide me through choices that might make others whine. Yes, they do upcharge significantly for things that one can do on one’s own. One pays them to avoid the hassle of doing things on one’s own. That’s why I hired them. Otherwise I… would do everything on my own.

Why (mostly) self-publish Crazy Time? No, the book hasn’t been rejected by a long list of publishers. In fact, since I first drafted it in mid-2016, I haven’t sent it to any publishers at all. Although I’m not as avid a reader as I used to be, I haven’t read or read about anything in the horror genre coming from traditional presses in recent years that didn’t seem formulaic and/or familiar (and keep in mind that I specialized in horror for my Ph.D.). Story-wise, but also structurally and stylistically, Crazy Time is the kind of horror that I think many smart readers will enjoy but that traditional presses would poo-poo for being bad product. As for small and indie presses, though I did use one for my 2018 quasi-novella-in-verse The Great Sonnet Plot of Anton Tick, my experiences with them have not generally been the best, and they end up requiring financial investments, too. Ergo, the moment seemed right to try the “self” route. Who knows? It could work.

Why Crazy Time now? Since 2016, I’ve written two other novels I haven’t tried to publish as well as more than 30 award-winning screenplays (one of which is an adaptation of Crazy Time, my only adaptation so far of a novel-length work). Quite simply, Crazy Time is one of my favorites, if not my favorite, on the list of my writings. I was not well when I wrote it, dealing with a host of problems, notably depression and PTSD, the latter of which the novel is in some ways “about.” As a result, the book is an emotional and intellectual maelstrom, still a layered experience when I visit it, even when double-checking galley proofs (which is almost pure drudgery, for those unfamiliar with such processes). Also, I adore Lily Henshaw, certainly one of my best characters, even though she told me when I finished writing the book that she’d never speak to me again (and after what I put her through, no one could blame her). Crazy Time is as relevant to potential readers now as it was five and a half years ago, and I’m sharing it now because I’m ready and because I believe it deserves to be shared.

I expect to write more about the Crazy Time‘s genesis, the screenplay, and other issues I’ve mentioned here in passing. The book has yet to be born. It’s coming soon, in print and on the Amazon Kindle. I hope you’ll join in the fun.