You got vampires in my ghost story: a review of Where the Dead Fear to Tread

“The dead are the past and we cannot escape the past. Without the past there will be no future.”

Where the Dead Fear to Tread by M.R. GottTake a look at the cover for Where the Dead Fear to Tread by M.R. Gott (sequel forthcoming) and you pretty much know what to expect. It looks like it could be an action movie poster, right? Unfortunately, that’s what the book most resembles — a movie. Maybe the author is in the wrong business because as a popcorn movie, this story might work. It doesn’t as a novel.

Where the Dead is about an antihero who punishes child abusers and tangles with ghosts, vampires, and werewolves. That might sound like a sensible, collected premise, but that’s not how the book reads. It wants to be both a detective story and supernatural fiction, and the result is a mangled hybrid between the two. There’s no consistency to its world — you have no idea what to expect next not because the plot is fascinating and unpredictable but because it feels like Gott is making it up as he goes along.

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Is writing our destiny?

Last night I was watching the fifth episode of the BBC show Being Human. (Wow, I started this series weeks ago, and I’m only on episode five? Good lord.) In “Where the Wild Things Are,” the vampire leader/policeman William Herrick confesses in an elevator that he once dreamed of becoming an architect because of a picture book he owned when he was a boy. The hunger of a vampire, as it happens, decided otherwise. “This chose me,” he tells Mitchell fiercely.

It got me thinking. That’s a lot like being a writer.

Now, maybe it’s wrong* to compare a vampire’s instinct to kill and drink blood with a writer’s need to write, but … bear with me here.

As writers, we’re constantly being pulled into a tide we cannot resist. If we don’t write, we drive ourselves crazy. I imagine that’s much how a dehydrated vampire feels, only with the murdering and all.

We feel better when we write, when we spill our thoughts out onto the page (okay, hold the morbidity). For me it’s almost compulsive. An idea happens upon me and I scribble it down on a scrap of paper—or off to my blog I go. My passion for writing is, I firmly believe, an innate phenomenon. I didn’t decide to be a writer any more than I decided to be born with blonde hair and blue eyes.**

Without a outlet to write, without an audience of some assemblage, I would be a very sad girl indeed.

But as any writer can tell you, writing isn’t the easiest job in the world. Far from it. But it’s an endeavor well worth the time and labor, and an addictive one at that. I write not only here on this blog, but on my other blog (on occasion)—as well as several other websites. My name will soon appear in print in a magazine as a contributor (more on that in the coming weeks, when I finally have my copy in hand). I’m busy revising my first novel, when I can spare the time. And when I’m not writing, I’m doing things that create more opportunities for me to write—reading books or comics, playing video games, watching movies … all so I can reflect on them in written form.

I admit. I do have an agenda here. I’m in the process of securing two deals for freelancing positions*** that, combined, will lighten my financial burden but severely limit my time. They also let me do what I love, and that counts for a lot. Because of these two new (please, please keep your fingers crossed for me) responsibilities, I’ll have less time leftover for blogging. But don’t think for a minute that’ll stop me from posting every week—as always, I’ll find a way. A big workload has never discouraged me before. Just be more lenient with me if my posts show up in your feed half as often. ;)

But okay, back to my point. Writing is sort of like destiny, isn’t it? Try as we might to get away from it, it just keeps reining us in, for better or worse. I’d say right now, for me, it’s for the better.

P.S.: Another happy life update: I just ordered a new laptop! Insert high volumes of girlish squeals here! I can’t WAIT until it arrives. I’ve been lugging around this hunk of junk**** (that’s an endnote, not a bleeped-out swear word, although it might as well be) (my other hunk of junk, the one that’s a desktop, died on me a couple weeks ago) for far too long. I icily named it “Pandora’s Box” the other day: the source of all pain in my world. Ugh.

P.P.S.: Want to see something lovely? Go to Google Images and search “writing,” and then search “love of writing.” With “writing,” you see lonely pens on paper and disembodied hands. “Love of writing” is something else entirely. You see doodled hearts and people—people together, and people smiling.

P.P.P.S.: By the way, I manage on a lot of coffee, tea, and the comfort of cats.

*Yes, yes it is.

**For the record, I dye my hair red and sometimes brown. Shh.

***More on those when they’re finalized. Although the one involves writing evening news posts, so if you’re interested in video games, stop by GameZone.com after dark starting tomorrow.

****Thanks to my sister for passing down this hunk of junk, which has been a great gift to receive despite all its hassle.

Ghosts, vampires, and werewolves—oh, please

When it premiered, Being Human struck me as something a little too British for my taste. I have nothing against British television per say. I find IT Crowd downright hilarious, but I’m not so much a fan of the cheesy intergalactic drama of Dr. Who or Hugh Laurie dressed as a woman. Ich, no thanks.

I figured a show about ghosts, vampires, and werewolves would probably take itself too seriously just like every other show or movie about ghosts, vampires, and werewolves (except for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, one of my all-time favorites).

By now you might be wondering, “What the Dalek does this have to do with books?”

The other night I was watching (and surprisingly enjoying) the first episode of Being Human on Netflix (all twenty-two available episodes are staying in my Instant Queue now), and I started thinking about how difficult it is for a generation so desensitized to those monster groups and more (especially zombies) to write fresh material about something that’s been done a million times.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve read Bram Stoker or Anne Rice. Everyone knows a vampire by those two little dots on the neck, their miserable fashion sense, and their love of London.

And speaking of London: werewolves. The only good werewolves are running around Europe, but I’ve never seen one that doesn’t look sillier than a cat wearing pajamas.

And lastly, ghosts. Ghosts got lost somewhere along the way (err), but they’re still a big fascination thanks to reality shows like Ghost Hunters, movies like Paranormal Activity, and pretty much any Japanese horror movie out there. (I recently watched Ju-on, by the way, and it was much better than the American version, The Grudge. No offense Sarah Michelle Gellar, but you’re Buffy through and through.)

A show rarely mixes all three together, which is part of what makes Being Human so interesting. We get to see how these monsters interact as they walk all over each other’s territory.

But the real sell is in the title: “being human.” The main characters—the ghost, the werewolf, and vampire—don’t think of themselves as monsters. It’s everyone they have to deal with outside who is. And it’s that humanity, or lack of it, that has always made the fantastical a little more accessible—a little more human.

Basically writers are set for eternity. They can write about these popular monsters for as long as they please (or until they drop dead), but only if they can a) emphasize the human traits in the good characters and the inhuman ones in the bad and b) put them in interesting situations that challenge their feral nature.

What do you think? Is it time to retire the big bads, or is it impossible to get enough?

Awesome book cover Friday: The Haunted Hillbilly

The Haunted Hillbilly, a novel by Derek McCormack, actually has two awesome covers to its name:


Description of the book as listed on Amazon.com:

A new title in Soft Skull’s ShortLit series, The Haunted Hillbilly reads like both a vintage 1950s issue of Tales from the Crypt and a 21st-century re-imagining of Michael Ondaatje’s The Collected Works of Billy the Kid. This historical first-person narrative is told by Nudie, “The Rodeo Tailor” (perhaps most famous for dressing Elvis Presley), a gay couturier who, in Derek McCormack’s world, also happens to be a vampire. As the story evolves with its magical poetic cadence and minimalist style, Nudie makes and then breaks the career of Hank, a country-and-western singer at the Grand Ole Opry. Inspired by the real-life observations of country music promoter Oscar Davis, who saw it all and told it all in a series of tapes suppressed by the Country Music Foundation, The Haunted Hillbilly conjures the seamy queer underbelly beneath country music’s sparkling, sequined surface.