Wall of Fire ignites on Nov. 5, 2019

What would you walk through fire for…

Cover design: Aaron Bilawchuk & Emily Pratt

November 5, 2019

Terrace VII: Wall of Fire

By Robert Bose & Sarah L. Johnson

Welcome to the Seventh Terrace of Dante’s tower of Purgatory. Here, in darkness lit only by a wall of flame, we find souls enslaved by the sin of lust. Desire, curdled by madness and desperation. From a pair of crazy-in-love criminals on a scavenger hunt at the outskirts of Hell, to a lonely custodian working in a love doll brothel, to a sinister lingerie boutique hidden behind a red door. Lust is a great and terrible thing, and this collection of dark tales follows a mere handful of the many paths leading to the wall of fire.

Hot or Not?

We review books, music, trail races, deep sea creatures, colours on the visible spectrum, and whatever else we feel like, on a rating scale of one to five sin-purging flames.

Detonation #12 – Subversion Recursion

Navigating Life in a Literary Minefield


Readers expect if they pick up the twenty-second volume of their favourite thriller series it’ll be more of the same, a creaky wheezing corpse dragging itself forward with rotting fingerbones. These sorts of books are where the money is. The boilerplate of the industry. Month after month, year after year, these books are churned out assembly line style for the public to ingest, absorbing three sad calories of literary enjoyment, before shitting them into the trash or closest used bookstore. 

It’s an ugly cycle. At some point people started buying these books based on firehose marketing and celebrity endorsements and in response more books were written to cater to those buying tastes, ad infinitum. It’s not a secret, far from it, authors know there is a certain magic formula that if they are talented enough, or lucky enough, to master, they can join the ranks of the serializers.

Not just the serials either, the entire mass market oozes sameness. The books look the same, the titles sound the same, the plots are indistinguishable except for the anti-hero’s cup size and eye colour — blue steel or smoky aluminum. Writing by rote. Writing by formula. Everyone wants to be the next James Patterson or Steven King or J.K. Rowling or George R.R. Martin. Rich and famous, with terrible movie adaptions and mansions full of dirty money sex dungeons.

Hmm, that actually doesn’t sound so bad. Where the hell was I going with this again?

Oh right, total lack of imagination in the pursuit of sell out success.


The ability to conjure ideas from the billion facets of existence and assemble them into unique works of music, art, and writing is a superpower with unlimited potential, so it really grinds my gears when writers, who have the entire universe of possibilities to play with, take the same old tired elements and assemble them in bloody identical ways. Sure, they may brighten or darken the paint some, and give the work a clever name and twist the marketing, but it’s typically a clone of a seminal work, and a shittier one at that.

Stories in a particular genre and sub-genre are going to have similar and even required elements. A murder mystery, by definition is going to have some sort of murder and quite possibly a mystery. A thriller should thrill. Noggy loves heist stories. Lots of people love zombie or werewolf stories, half the world either loves or hates vampire stories, traditional or glittery. There are haunted house stories, cosmic horrors, cryptids, occult detectives, you name it. Some sub-genres are narrow, some are wide, but they instill a little order to chaos that is the literary landscape. As I mentioned, there is an expectation that if you pick up a book in that sub-genre it should actually, you know, not be false advertising.

That’s not what my little rant is about though. What I am talking about are overused tropes and by-the-number formulaic bullshit. 

Sure, it’s easy to write yet another school for bizarre weirdos novel, packed with bullies and not-so secret secrets and angry, clueless teachers — sorry teachers, you know how it is. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Does every supernatural detective story, mine included, need to pay homage to a certain hard drinking, chain smoking, trench coat and fedora wearing reprobate from the 30’s? Does every epic fantasy novel have to involve an orphan from a purged royal family who grows up to be an assassin with legendary abilities because their father was king of the horny gods? Does every single heist series have to start with a book that’s entirely about putting a misfit, yet oddly exceptionally uniquely talented crew together?

FUCK NO.

Subvert those tropes. Do it!

We already discussed in a previous episode that if you want to write, you need to read. Period. And it often helps to read the sort of stories you want to write. Subverting tropes requires intimate knowledge of them. You need to know where the boundaries are and what you can twist, and hollow out and fill with explosives, and, in the end, completely break.

Does your haunted house story require a gothic New England farmhouse complete with a vengeful revenant left over from the original occupant’s penchant for baby ear soup? Nope. There are a thousand elements ripe for subversion. And I’m not talking easy ones like making the house a brownstone apartment in Manhattan and the ghosts aliens. Who says the house needs to be a regular house? And who says the ghosts have to be regular ghosts? I’m not saying write a story about a construction site porta-potty possessed by ghost pepper hot wings, but I’m also not, not saying that.

Find an angle, run naked with it. You know you can. Don’t be afraid that you’ll never get published by the big five, or one of their imprints, and get that sex dungeon. Write weird, terrible shit, that has its own unique soul and flavour, and take that unoriginal WIP, wrap it in a tarp and stash it under the Aztek’s trunk liner next to the trencher and gasoline in anticipation of the next wolf moon and a satisfying internment.

It’s for the best, it really is.


Coming Soon…

The Seventh Terrace

The Seventh Terrace is delighted to announce the upcoming release of the deranged, debauched, cosmic-horror-by-gaslight novella STARSEED by Steve Passey writing as Dio Cornito.

And for those with a taste for noir, our pulpy crime imprint Tiny Sledgehammer proudly presents STACCATO by Brent Nichols. What you don’t know, or can’t remember, will definitely hurt you.

If you like ’em short, sharp, and scintillating, look for these two novellas coming atcha in 2020.

Unnerving Magazine Issue #12 – Eddie Generous

All things change. Some frequently, some not, but it’s good to shake it up once and awhile, see where it takes you. With this latest issue, at the solid dozen mark, Unnerving Magazine does just that. Beyond dark tales of horror and accompanying non-fiction articles and commentary, we’re now blessed with a wide variety of shiny new toys including columns and comics and interviews and book reviews. Let’s dig in, shall we.

Danger’s Failed Film Pitches: This issue has not one, but two hilarious bites of pure, unadulterated Danger Slater giving us a peek at what really goes on in the world of A-List movie pitching. A gift, really, perfect bookends.

First Horror Features: Richard Chizmar, Cat Rambo and Daniel Kraus dish on their earliest horror memories. It’s always cool to see what formative influences authors have.

Too Stubborn to Quit: Eddie has a new column providing hard-learned wisdom on all things writing related – starting with cold story openings. If you want to know how to hook a submissions editor when they’re plowing through an enormous slush pile, this one’s for you.

Cancer and Creativity: A great interview with William Meikle about getting his life and writing jump started after a battle with cancer. William is one of my Rob’s go-to authors for supernatural detectives and cosmic horror, so it’s great to hear that William’s come out on top of it all.

Reviews: A solid collection of novel and anthology reviews including The Skin Factory by Lucas Pederson, which we’re definitely going to be picking up after reading about it.

Jacques: A mini-comic by Eddie and TovanSakura. Not going to spoil it, but it made us laugh.


And some great fiction, of course. Here are some two sentence thoughts:

“Here There be Spyders” by Graham Watkins

Sometimes you have to face your greatest fear. And undoubtably devour it.

“Circle of Lias” by Lawrence C. Connolly

 Is there anything sweeter than a honey-bun? A box of honey-buns!

“It Gets Blacker” by H. Pueyo

And very dark. And deep. An excellent short piece that doesn’t involve eating, but that’s okay.

“Black Brothel: Haunted Holes” by Renee Miller

Well, there’s something strange about Mary. And while ravenous, we’re no longer at all hungry.

 “A Friend in Paga” by Brent Michael Kelley

We’d kill, or worse, for a solid night’s sleep. How about you?


So all in all an excellent refresh, well worth picking up for an extremely reasonable few bucks a year. And while you’re at it, check out the Unnerving Podcast and Unnerving’s fiction offerings.

5/5

About the Editor: Eddie Generous

Eddie Generous is the author of many books, including Savage Beasts of the Arctic Circle, Rawr, Radio Run, Great Big Teeth, and Trouble at Camp Still Waters from Severed Press, Plantation Pan from Omnium Gatherum Books, and numerous story collections. He is the founder/editor/publisher/artist behind Unnerving and Unnerving Magazine, and the host of the Unnerving Podcast. He was born in Ontario, Canada and now lives on the Pacific Coast of Canada with his wife and their cat overlords.

Detonation #11: Keeping Your Muse Lubed in the Time of Contagion

Navigating Life in a Literary Minefield

Warning: Explicit language and mature themes. If you’re offended by such things, you might want to venture elsewhere.

***

Welp, the world’s on fire, folks. Like really this time. If you’re not there already, it’s likely a matter of when and not if you’ll end up locked in your hovel, let out once a week to drive the Aztek to the feed lot for your family’s alfalfa ration. God willing, the liquor stores will deliver.

And lest you think we don’t take this seriously, let your Auntie Octoclot assure you. WE TAKE IT FUCKING SERIOUSLY.

Amazon is going to clean up, and the rich will emerge richer than ever. You think this plague is the great equalizer? Think again. Maybe you’ve got it worse than most. Chances are you still have it better than some. Those inequalities are immortal, but you aren’t. Statistically you’re likely to survive, but a shit ton of people are dead, and a lot more will follow. This is a crisis.

So, in a time of economic death rattles and social distance (which we know you’re doing as best you can because you also take it fucking seriously) the question becomes…

How do we get through this?

Art is needed now more than ever. It’s the balm we’re all desperately seeking to escape or at least soften this reality. But wow is it hard trying to stay inspired when your theoretically homeschooled kids have gone feral, you’re trying to work from home, or scrambling for any work at all, separated from your friends, and suddenly cellies with a partner whose middle name you actually forgot in the last twenty years.

Let’s talk about creative process. Right now, your muse is probably drier than a Death Valley creek bed. She needs a little lubrication and you may have heard that everything is material, but you can’t just grease her gears with any old gunk. A prime example would be The News. There’s staying informed, and there’s gorging on catastrophe causing an overgrowth of doom and wiping out all your healthy creative flora.

A case study:

Lola and Noggy attended a gift exchange last solstice where Lola ended up with a dubious (and expired, she would later find out) bottle of g-spot stimulating lube. How was she to know it was a joke?

Noggy: You’re not gonna actually use that are you?

Lola: Well, it doesn’t taste too bad. Kinda like toothpaste. What could go wrong?

I don’t want to frighten you. This story ends happily, thanks to Canesten, but Lola learned a lesson that day.

The wrong lube will only crank your creativity up long enough to burn it into a pile of yeasty ashes. So, for fuck’s sake, stay informed, but don’t cram a world’s worth of toxic news in your pussy. I forget where I was going with this. It’s been a weird couple of weeks.

Lola: Nog, I have to tell you a story.

Noggy: Not if it’s about your vagina.

Lola: All my stories are about my vagina.

Noggy: You know other people can hear you, right?

In fact, Lola respects her vagina a great deal. It works hard and she tries to give it everything it needs to be happy. Your muse deserves the same consideration. So, lube her up with something nice, something that will last, that’s compatible with your creative chemistry.

Read the books you’ve been meaning to get around to, listen to the amazing quarantine concerts being livestreamed, take one of those cool virtual tours every museum on earth is throwing online, go for a run at night. For the love of Gary, don’t poison yourself when there is so much delicious creative nourishment to be found so easily.

I think we’re going to look back on this pandemic as a time of great tragedy but also of great discovery. Moments like this are defining. So, stay healthy, stay slick, and who knows what you’ll slide into.

***

P.S. Hang tight, critters. We’ll get through this together, 2 metres apart.

xo

Sarah & Rob

In Dreams We Rot – Betty Rocksteady

Wow! I feel like I’m a little late to the party on this one, but you know what, the collection is timeless so no matter. I’d seen it bouncing around on social media of course, but it wasn’t until I was catching up on Ink Heist and caught the episode from last November where Betty was talking to Rich about Boy Meets World of all things, that I decided I’d wasted enough time, so I picked it up and dove in.

And yes, wow. I love my horror… well, horrible. As horrible as possible. Full of eye twitching sex and crowbar to the head violence and those little edges that make you feel like having a shower if you didn’t know something wasn’t waiting behind the curtain to siphon out your brain through a straw and fry up your liver without proper medical credentials. Nothing wrong with psychological horror of course, but you can’t beat worrying that the concrete corner you’ve wedged yourself into might not be as impenetrable as you thought. These stories deliver that and more. Weird fucked up dreams, weirder fucked up sex, copious amounts of blood and pretty much every sort of bodily fluid pooling around bits of furry chunks both real and imaginary.

Also, cats.

Cats, as any cat lover knows, are sinister. Alien. Predatorial. Biding their time while plotting world domination. And there’s a ton of cats in these stories. And bones. And art. Betty’s a fantastic artist and obviously had a lot of fun with it, though I’ll probably never look at elephants the same way ever again. So, pretty much perfect.

My favourites? I’m going to with These Beautiful Bones, where basement art takes on a sex life of its own, Root Rot where yeah, we’ve all had a bad hookup, but not THIS bad, Postpartum… having recently visited the Torrington Gopher Hole museum where they exhibit stuffed gophers in domestic environments I totally both get it and am scared shitless, and Larva, Pupa, Moth, where next time you think about scratching that itch, bring a hammer.

So if you haven’t picked it up, brave the quarantine apocalypse and hit your local indie bookstore, curl up under a monster proof blanket in front of a chimney searing fire with your cat, and prepare to be terrified.

5/5

About the Author: Betty Rocksteady

Betty Rocksteady writes cosmic sex horror, cat mythos, and surreal, claustrophobic nightmares.

Her debut novella Arachnophile was part of Eraserhead Press New Bizarro Author Series 2015. Like Jagged Teeth and The Writhing Skies were released by Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing. The Writhing Skies was voted Novella of the Year by This Is Horror Awards 2018.

Publisher: Trepidatio Publishing

Detonation #10: The Side Piece

Navigating Life in a Literary Minefield

Warning: Explicit language and mature themes. If you’re offended by such things, you might want to venture elsewhere.

***

Gather round spawlings, and let Auntie Octoclot tell you a tale of two novelists. A pair of faithless whores who barely get past writing the prologue before their eyes are wandering. Before they’re burning through a string of short stories, some very short, some they don’t even bother to name before slipping away and crumbling back into bed with their novels. It’s disgusting, really.

Or is it?

What is it about these slutty distractions encountered in the periphery of our novel writing journeys? Why isn’t one project enough? Where is the harm in stepping out on your novel?  Glad you asked, as I hereby offer the following arguments in defense of the much maligned side piece.

Novels are long and monogamy is boring

Let’s just say it’s a good thing each of my tentacles doesn’t feel entitled to know what crevices the others are exploring at any given moment. But when it comes to writing, your novel is in fact well served by occasionally dripping your quill over a fresh sheet of vellum.

A case study. Noggy and Lola are best friends. Imagine them locked in a room together for a year. They’d run out of things to say and Lola would zip the nose hole on Noggy’s gimp mask shut in his sleep. Or what if this wasn’t a dystopian dungeon world and they were permitted to come and go, spend time with other people, and still hang out in the dungeon whenever they both want? Isn’t that a more gratifying relationship in the end? RACK rules apply.

Saying you can only work on one project at a time is as ridiculous as saying you can only have one playmate at a time. But srsly, Nog + Lola = BFF

Procrastination can generate robust body of work

It’s truly astonishing how clean your house gets, how orderly your filing cabinet, and how much other writing you can produce when you’d rather do just about anything than work on your fucking novel.

Noggy: Did you work on your fucking novel?

Lola: Erm…no.

Noggy: You made me promise to bludgeon you with a garden weasel if you didn’t work on your fucking novel.

Lola: I did, but so ardent was I in my fucking novel avoidance that I wrote three bitchin’ short stories.

Noggy: A promise is a promise.

Lola: You’re at Home Depot right now, aren’t you?

Noggy: You’re lucky the weasels aren’t out until Spring.

Not all ideas are shelf stable

A brilliant story idea is not like a can of condensed milk pushed to the back of the pantry. You can’t come back in a year expecting it to be as vibrant and magical as it was freshly squirted outta the creative udder. Some ideas you need to use right away before they spoil.

Noggy: Wanna help me drink a bottle of insanely expensive Japanese whisky?

Lola: You said I wasn’t worthy

Noggy: Yeah, but I opened it a year ago, thinking I’d finish it when I finished my novel. Now it tastes like socks, and somebody needs to drink it, even if it is you.

Lola: I’ll be right over…

Art is a process as much as it is a product. That process is rarely linear. As an artist the last thing you want to liken yourself to is a factory cranking out ‘art’. So redraw your novel writing maps to allow the occasional detour of a short story, essay, or even a goddamn poem(if you must). The finished novel is a worthy final destination, but the side piece turns that journey into a winding, recursive, messy, metaphor-mixing ride you definitely don’t want to miss.