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My Heart Is a Chainsaw

My Heart Is a Chainsaw (The Lake Witch Trilogy, #1)My Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A love letter to slasher movies in novel form, MY HEART IS A CHAINSAW follows Jade, a small-town Idaho teenager as obsessed with slasher movies as author Stephen Graham Jones surely is. She’s got an encyclopedic knowledge of the slasher subgenre (she’s seen movies even I, a longtime horror movie aficionado, am not familiar with!), so when she starts to notice signs that a “slasher cycle” is about to begin in her hometown, she’d more excited than scared. She hates it here and would happily see everyone dead. That attitude changes when things become a little too real and blood starts to flow. With the help of her slasher obsession, she sets out to determine who the killer is, and to her credit she gets much of it right — but there’s a twist. (Of course there is. It wouldn’t be a slasher movie without a twist!)

Jones’s effortless ability to create lasting, indelible characters is the motor that makes MY HEART IS A CHAINSAW run. Jade is not someone you’ll soon forget, and to Jones’s credit, the same can be said about many of the side characters as well, from Letha Mondragon, the perfect new girl at school, to Sheriff Hardy, who keeps trying to do the right thing even when his own personal tragedies try to sink him. My only complaint about the novel is that we are so deep in Jade’s head throughout that there were times when I was itching for something to happen outside of her. There are long stretches where we’re only in her thoughts, and as fascinating a character as she is, the novel only felt unputdownable to me when Jade was doing, not just thinking.

One thing Jones gets right in all his fiction, and that so many other horror authors don’t, is that he knows how to nail an ending. The final image in MY HEART IS A CHAINSAW is so breathtakingly beautiful I had to read it several times over because I didn’t want to let go of it. A beautifully written novel about ugly deeds, MY HEART IS A CHAINSAW is challenging, especially for readers hoping for something more action-driven than contemplative, but it’s well worthy of the praise it’s received.

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Scares That Care Charity Weekend VIII

This weekend, I will be returning to the Scares That Care Charity Weekend in Williamsburg, VA for the first time since I was a Writer Guest of Honor back in 2019! I’m just going as a regular vendor this time and will have copies of The Hungry Earth100 Fathoms BelowChasing the DragonIn the Shadow of the Axe, and Still Life: Nine Stories on hand. I’m sharing a table with talented author and good friend John C. Foster.

I will also be doing a reading with fellow author John Urbancik on Saturday, July 30th at 12:45 PM in Room A/B. Come on by!

You can see the entire roster of readings and other program events here.

Hope to see you there!

My Necon 40 Schedule

I will be at Necon 40 this weekend, my first in-person convention since February, 2020! Here is where you can find me:

Friday, July 22nd, 8 PM: Meet the Authors Party

I will be there with copies of THE HUNGRY EARTH and 100 FATHOMS BELOW to sell. I might also bring a small number of copies of CHASING THE DRAGON and IN THE SHADOW OF THE AXE.

Saturday, July 23rd. 9 AM: Crossing Literary Streams, or the Blending of Genres

Dianna Catt, Gerald Coleman, Sephera Giron, Carol Gyzander, Chris Irvin, Nicholas Kaufmann, Errick Nunnally (Moderator)

More and more authors, and their work, are simply defying simple genre classification. A group of authors whose books could belong on any number of shelves in Barnes & Noble discussing embracing and appealing to multiple niche audiences at the same time.

Saturday, July 23rd, 9:30 PM: Camp Necon Honors Jack Haringa

Hosted by Mike Myers and featuring a panel of dignitaries. An intimate interview and discussion honoring Jack’s wide-ranging contributions to the horror community.

Sunday, July 24th, 11 AM: Necon Town Meeting

Come tell us how much you loved and/or hated the program this year! What could we improve upon? What would you like to see next year? How did you like the new venue, etc.?

Hope to see you there!

The Scariest Part: Dani Pettrey Talks About THE DEADLY SHALLOWS

This week on The Scariest Part, my guest is author Dani Pettrey, whose latest novel is The Deadly ShallowsHere is the publisher’s description:

A DEADLY ATTACK.

A STOLEN WEAPON CAPABLE OF IMMENSE DESTRUCTION.

A PAINFUL SECRET THAT THREATENS TO TEAR TWO HEARTS APART.

CGIS Agent Noah Rowley is rocked to the core when several of his valued team members come under fire on his Coast Guard base. He and his remaining team race to the scene and end the attack, but not before innocent lives are lost. Furious and grief-stricken, he vows to do whatever is needed to bring the mastermind behind the attack to justice.

Stunned by the ambush, Coast Guard flight medic Brooke Kesler evacuates in a helicopter carrying the only surviving gunman. The gravely wounded man whispers mysterious information to Brooke that immediately paints a target on her back.

As Brooke and Noah race to uncover answers, emotions between them ignite. Noah struggles to protect Brooke at all costs and to conceal the secret that prevents him from becoming what he longs to be — the right man for her.

Everything is at stake as a horrifying truth emerges… The attack wasn’t the end game. It was only the beginning.

And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for Dani Pettrey:

Coming up with the scariest part of The Deadly Shallows was easy. It was the torture scene. Even though I end the scene before the torture officially begins and I don’t pick up until after it’s concluded, what occurred is revealed throughout the story and as the author, I knew what Brooke went through. It was scary to go there — to envision and “feel” my heroine’s desperate fear in those moments. The terror of being at someone’s mercy when he possesses none. Then taken to a desolate place to be killed before she’s had a chance to truly live the life she desires. Knowing within minutes her life will be snuffed out.

She manages to escape but is hunted like a wild animal through the shallows and woods of southern North Carolina. I could feel her heart racing, sweat clinging to her skin, her clothes soaked from her initial escape into the water. The chill of the December wind rippling up her arms. My heart races in turn, goosebumps rippling up my arms, my breath grows shallow as Brooke struggles for air.

Longing for freedom, terror consumes her at the realization it may never come. She may die cold and alone in the woods, her body no doubt buried by the swampy shallows. The fear of such a death creeps up my spine, my chest tightens as I pen the words.

Brooke runs faster, stumbling through the woods, her legs wobbling beneath her, her torture wounds throbbing and burning. Her left eye is so swollen she can barely see, making the dead leaves crunching beneath her feet and clinging to the tree’s barren limbs, distorted. Every sound of an animal makes her jerk.

The noise of a car’s engine roars at the top of the steep slope. Freedom. It’s so close but the men’s footfalls pound hard behind her. Her terror grips my chest at the thought alone of enduring what Brooke did — being taken captive and forced to an extreme of physical and mental anguish she never thought she could survive. Those fears radiate in my mind. With each click of the keyboard, my muscles tense, a visceral reaction I’d never experienced while writing rakes through me.

Thankfully, Brooke makes it up the hill to freedom and safety, but she’s forever changed by what she endured. Hitting a new emotional depth in my writing I’d never experienced or ever anticipated happening, rattled me. I, too, feel changed. Living in my character’s thoughts, fears and emotions tapped into fears I didn’t know I had until I wrote the scariest part of my story.

The Deadly Shallows: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Powell’s / Bookshop

Dani Pettrey: Website / Facebook / Instagram / BookBub

Publishers Weekly and #1 Amazon bestselling author, Dani Pettrey has sold nearly 800,000 copies of her novels to readers eagerly awaiting the next release. Dani combines the page-turning adrenaline of a thriller with the chemistry and happy-ever-after of a romance. Her novels stand out for their “wicked pace, snappy dialogue, and likable characters” (Publishers Weekly), “gripping storyline[s],” (RT Book Reviews), and “sizzling undercurrent of romance” (USA Today). She researches murder and mayhem from her home in Maryland.

 

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