Halloween Reads

Halloween Reads

Something for all the Ghouls and Boils… by Merethe Walther There is little more compelling in horror stories than the unexplained and hidden things that go ‘bump’ in the night. And why not? Fear is a riveting source of entertainment. Why else would we sit, huddled in the dark around a television set, eyes glued to the screen, waiting for the monster or killer to jump out and scare not only the characters in the story, but also us, our pulses jumping just a *little* bit faster? For those of you who like the thrill of being terrified, the elation of a ghost story in the cemetery, and the fright of hearing noises when you know no one is there—we’ve got a little something for you. If you’re looking for a spine-tingling good tale, why settle just for one? Disturbing holds a collection of seven heart-hammering stories of the terrifying and the unknown. Disturbing is a compilation of the frightening; a tome of relentless, hauntingly creepy stories that leave goosebumps and uncertainty in their wake. Take a step outside of the ordinary and into a world where anything is possible, and everything is… Disturbing. “Truce.” She carefully unhooked her arm and reached up to clasp his hand. With help, Annie climbed up, swung her leg over the railing, and dropped to her feet on the other side. An odd, shivery sensation passed between them, leaving her a little disoriented when she eventually slipped her hand from his. His remained outstretched for a moment, suspended in the space where their palms had touched, until slowly, he curled his fingers closed and let his arm drop. His gaze never wavered from hers. Annie shifted away from his scrutiny and looked around. The dark expanse of bring yawned into the night from either side, with a single, sickly streetlamp to light the way. Something didn’t seem quite right, though she couldn’t explain why. “So,” Annie hugged her arms to her chest to ward off the sudden chill, “What are you doing out here? Really.” Her words frosted the evening air with little clouds of white. “Oh, you know,” he said. “Stalking.” “Yeah, right,” she looked at him, incredulous. “And girls on bridges just so happen to be on the venue tonight, huh?” He shrugged. “Those are the best kind, aren’t they?” Maybe you’re hungry for something a bit more gruesome than some ghost stories? Perhaps you’ve got a craving for something more to whet your horror appetite? How about a good old-fashioned, nail-biting, clawing, terror-inducing zombie attack to sate that craving? Welcome to a world in which the zombie apocalypse really happened, and see it from the view of those who kill...

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The Darkest Age Interview

The Darkest Age Interview

by Judy Spring Spectacle Publishing Media Group has recently published a horror role-playing game, The Darkest Age, collaboratively written by Eric Staggs, Rob Gee, and Julia Gengenbach. Based on the d20 OGL system, The Darkest Age is set in 14th century Europe where an unusual strain of the bubonic plague creates a world full of zombies, corruption, fear, and paranoia. Eric Staggs has answered a few development questions to give us insight to the frightening experience that is DA. Where did The Darkest Age originate? What was the motivation behind the role-playing game? There have been quite a few attempts in the tabletop gaming world to capitalize on the zombie craze. I wrote an elaborate research paper on the sub-genre of zombies when I was doing my undergrad. work and since then have spent much time considering this phenomenon. I wanted to try to explain all the inconsistencies, to create a viable game world that would allow players to explore a dangerous environment, yet without the futility of a true “extinction level event.” How did the project mature or expand over time? The initial idea was intense—profound almost. What happens when the Black Plague, which killed ¾ of Europe, also turns the infected into zombies? We had to determine how the world would react, how would a medieval/pre-Renaissance society survive? Could they at all? We had to do some detailed anthropological work, as well as extrapolate concepts from other writers, like Max Brooks (Zombie Survival Guide and WWZ). What aspects of DA are different from other RPGs? First, DA has unique character classes. Most character classes are based on a cultural concept—the Skald for example. We worked hard to find a way to logically create a measure of gender equality in this historical setting. The Midwife and Mystic are great examples. The mystic is a historical figure not often mentioned in church history—a heretic or prophet [with powers] a church official thought they might use to their own advantage. It’s pretty shady stuff, but imagine if you were accused of witchcraft, yet offered this chance to have the ear of a bishop? The midwife has evolved into something much more powerful than a nurse or medicine woman. They’ve become an organized power group that literally has control over the future of humanity. Further, The Darkest Age is a role-playing game. The precarious grip of this civilization requires players to be clever, and to think. The typical, “I draw my sword and attack,” scenario simply won’t work. What aspects were important to keep the same, and why? Well, it’s still a d20 based game system. This is important because anyone who’s played Dungeons and Dragons 3.0 or above will know...

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An Interview with SPMG’s CEO, Eric Staggs

An Interview with SPMG’s CEO, Eric Staggs

By Judy Spring Behind the scenes here at SPMG there are many gifted people dedicated to offering their best to our authors to achieve their publishing goals. As a segmented part of our newsletter, we would like to bring you an inside look at this enthusiastic and committed group of people. To start things off, we presented a few questions to Eric Staggs, CEO and co-founder of Spectacle, to better understand from his perspective what SPMG has to offer, as well as his vision for its future.   Can you share the progression in your life that led up to Spectacle Publishing Media Group? Like many writers, I’ve had a slew of jobs in a vast array of industries. I found them all interesting, but my true passion has always been story. Following that to its logical conclusion, a well told story is one of the things that defines a civilization: The Grand Myth. I’ve always wanted to be part of helping our civilization experience the great stories and myths that are being made.   As CEO and co-founder of SPMG, what was the inspiration behind its creation? The concept was simple: the industry doesn’t make it easy for struggling authors. Agents, Publishers—it’s all a big self-serving mess. Can’t get an agent until you get a publisher and can’t get a publisher until you get an agent. Pay your meager wages to contests in the vain hopes you might gain some recognition. Throw your ideas out into the void for less ethical or inventive vultures to scavenge. It’s a tough proposition for anyone. My high school guidance counselor told me “you’ll never make money as an artist.” In the old paradigm she grew up in, yes, it was hard for artists. But these days, we are not bound by those old ideas. We don’t have to give 70% to the publisher, 15% to an agent. SPMG is designed to bring the new and talented voices of literature to the fore without exploiting them. We work extensively with our authors to help them create the best, most marketable story they can while maintaining trueness of vision and integrity of story. Has the vision changed since the beginning, and how so? Yes, very much, and no. We intended to create online media only, eBooks and the like. We quickly found that to maintain and increase our reputation and integrity as a publisher we needed to print books as well. This meant adding new skill sets, and preparing for another battery of associated and unexpected costs. Our business model had to change, but we learned from the Six Sisters and their dinosaur ancillaries. That said, our primary advantage over competitors—technological awareness and...

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The Darkest Age

The Darkest Age

by Joy Anne Shearer Spectacle Publishing Media Group is publishing a new game developed by seasoned game designers Mark Nelson and Rob Gee, along with Eric Staggs and Julia Gengenbach. The Darkest Age is a thrilling take on the classic d20 RPG for ages 14+ and player groups of more than three, with five players being ideal. The Darkest Age takes place in Bubonic Plague-ridden Europe. This is intriguing in itself, but the game takes us even deeper, into a dark world where the victims of the Plague rise from their deaths to feast upon the living. There are more than ten character classes, including the two new classes, among others, of Skald and Midwife. The classes of this game are part of the construction to better include and display the powers of female characters, a feature mostly unseen in other RPGs. The illustrations in the book are stunning. They are true to the horrific nature of the story and displays figures both dead and alive twisted in the effort to defeat enemies. Cover art is by Jeff Dewitt and interior art is by Rob Gee and Mark Nelson. Visit http://thedarkest-age.com/ to find out more about the game, read an extensive article on the egalitarian nature of this unique game, and learn how to order your copy. Darkest Age will be available in both print and eBook formats soon. Check back often for updates and more! Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Like this:Like...

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The Zombie Thing

Since it’s the season for horror writing (though I think true Zombie aficionados are always alert and wary for the possibility of an undead uprising, regardless of the time of year) I thought it’d be a good time to talk about a tidal wave of a trend in fiction. I’m guessing if you’re any sort of Zombie fan, you’ve read The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z by Max Brooks. These two books, so well researched and cleverly assembled helped to make the concept of a species-ending epidemic or plague, very real, bringing them close to home at the same time, viewing such terrific events from a cool and clinical perspective. This perspective added a level of plausibility that the genre had lacked before. Max Brooks two books are clear, concise, informative and not the blood-spattered, hysterical screaming gore fests many of us have come to associate with the genre.   But if we jump back a little further, I want to say 2002, there’s a film written by Alex Garland and directed by Danny Boyle that I think not only revitalized the genre, but sent it spiraling off into new directions in both literature and cinema. 28 Days Later is the tale of a virus outbreak that spreads rapidly from person to person, causing not cannibalistic hunger as we’ve come to expect from zombies, but simple, unchecked rage. This infection forces a loss of reason and freewill upon its victims, essentially turning them into mindless killers (zombies.)So far, we’re not seeing major differences in the plot; same disease vector, same results, panicked civilization, trains are no longer on time, et cetera. Then it hits you right in the face: these zombies can run. Now only can they run, but they’re fast! This simple change in an otherwise clichéd monster’s behavior not only made them actually frightening again, but increased the plausibility of the whole event, not to mention revitalizing a dead (heh) sub-genre of horror. Zombies create the perfect union of post-apocalyptic settings.   Opportunities for characters are limitless. For example, how would survivors behave knowing there were no consequences for their actions? Without law and order, who decides right and wrong? Perhaps more to the point, who is stop those who choose to do wrong? This setting provides for limitless exploration of ethics and morality plays. As long as your internal cosmology is consistent, your plausibility remains high and the fictional elements are not even doubted.   AMC’s The Walking Dead is a good example of this. The situation is internally consistent – the laws of physics and the cause-effect pattern of the zombie infection is consistent. In situations where there is doubt, the writers take special care to place just enough exposition dialogue to allow the audience to...

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