Monday, July 20, 2015

DANCE ON FIRE, by James Garcia Jr

Please welcome author James Garcia Jr, the son of a Kingsburg, CA police officer, which is the setting for his DANCE ON FIRE vampire horror series. James was a junior in high school when he "discovered horror novels - books by Stephen King, Clive Barker and Michael Slade, to name a few - , as well as hard rock music. These influences began to form a spark of creativity within me. I began to play guitar and pen song lyrics, but soon found myself confined in that tight medium, desiring to do longer works. After high school, I moved on to the local community college where I met my wife. By this time, I had written a handful of short stories, a couple of novellas and had begun writing the novel that would become, "Dance on Fire".  (read more about the author).

James has written an intriguing post about the genre of crossover horror and how DANCE ON FIRE became his first published novel. After his post, stick around for my review of the novel.

Crossover Horror?

Okay. Just what in the world is crossover horror? I would suggest to you that it is a Christian’s take on scary fiction, or perhaps a spiritual person’s take on it, if nothing else. But first, how did I get here…

I discovered horror fiction in my teens; i.e., Uncle Stevie King, Michael Slade, Clive Barker – to name a few. It was also at this time that I began to grow my hair long and listen to 70’s and 80’s heavy metal. Now, one might begin to form an image in their heads about someone who might look and act extreme. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m not suggesting that every fan of those subjects end up looking like a negative stereotype. There are many who aren’t – and I was one of those.

Having said that, I did go through a phase where I thought that perhaps I shouldn’t read those kinds of books. Certainly not write them. When I abandoned the notion of being a musician and embraced the calling to write fiction, I did start with heavy R-rated subject matter. I grew up on Jay Anson’s The Amityville Horror and slasher films like Friday the 13th, John Carpenter’s Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street, so one could see how that might happen. At some point after I followed the pretty girl to her church and became a Christian, I began to feel led away from horror; that perhaps I was supposed to continue to be a writer, but to instead write about Biblical topics. Eventually, I came to realize that I liked horror fiction much like people enjoyed the thrill of riding roller coasters. You just walk away when the ride is over.

I never intended to write crossover fiction. That was entirely by accident – or perhaps divine intervention. *laughs* My first novel, Dance on Fire, started out simply being a crime drama. When
the evil vampire Vincent stepped out of the shadows in the beginning to confront two police officers I was as mystified as anyone. Even back in 1990 when I first began writing this story I thought we needed another vampire story like a hole in the head. Little did I know! It was then that I began to consider something crossover. If I was going to get myself noticed, I need uncharted territory. I hope you see that I didn’t hunt for that new land, but simply found myself standing on it. I do realize that I wasn’t alone there, but I did recognize that there weren’t many of us.

Still, why a crossover? For me, horror fiction can sometimes go too far with gratuitous sex, language and violence. On the other hand, Christian fiction – in my opinion – could be laughable, and not frightening in the least. I wanted something that scared the crap out of you and held you down on the edge of your seat while it’s doing it! I wanted a writer to scare me. I wanted to feel that there was a chance that the victim might die, or that the killer might not be caught. I wanted to feel those chills that only a good ghost story could provide.

I do understand that “there is a time and place for everything under the sun.” That means that unless I see some blood I won’t be afraid. I’m thinking the witch in The Chronicles of Narnia or in “The A-Team” television series where ammunition flew, but no one was ever wounded. I also understand that a victim is not going to exclaim “shoot!” and “Darn it!” while being chased by a homicidal madman.

But language has to have strength; isn’t it extreme exclamation? When it’s every other word it doesn’t do that. In fact, it does quite the opposite. When Indigo Montoya says, “You killed my father” and then adds: “You sonofabitch” toward the end of the movie The Princess Bride the audience erupts. It’s got power! Is there foul language in my writing? You bet there is; however, it’s salted in there. I feel the words are perfectly placed and not gratuitous in the least.

That’s why I write crossover fiction.

What came next in the story of that first novel is a book unto itself. I married that pretty girl and we started a family. Once that second son was born, I found myself kicked out of my bedroom office and without the necessary discipline and maturity to find a way to continue writing. Nearly two decades passed without me doing anything but dream of what might have been. I just turned 46, but when I turned 38 I really began to feel the regret that I was facing if I didn’t try one last time to complete that first novel. I dusted it off, fashioned that crossover that embraced edge of your seat horror with Biblical themes, and eventually finished it.

I managed to stumble upon a small publisher that wanted anything vampires, saw it published and then got out of the way as the sequel wrote itself in eight months. Unfortunately that publisher closed shop. I had a pity-party for a day and then quickly realized that I couldn’t stop now. I self-published and am now finishing my fourth novel. It is book three in my Dance on Fire series that explores
whether a vampire can be used for good. I also have a stand-alone paranormal with romance called Seeing Ghosts. It was a much needed breath of fresh air that I craved between books two and three of my vampire series.

When I’m not writing or networking I manage a Cold Storage facility for Sun-Maid Growers of California. Do you like raisins and dried fruit? The lady on the red box? That’s us. I typically work between ten and twelve hours a day with a company cell phone that I take home, so you understand what that means. *laughs*

Is it easy? Absolutely not. However, whether you’re a frustrated writer like me, or pursue some other endeavor, my advice to you is: have no regrets. The old folk’s home awaits us all. Let’s not stare out of those windows, wishing we would have tried harder.

Will I always write crossover fiction? I think I might. There’s an awful lot of territory here to chart.

Thanks so much for your interest.
Now wasn't that an interesting journey to a genre and publication? James speaks to my heavy metal and scream horror soul! Well, when I was young, back in the '80s.

The vampire concept in Dance on Fire was truly appealing. Vincent is a true villain; evil, selfishly arrogant, unapologetic, a ruthless killer. His protégé Nathaniel, on the other hand, is unsure of his purpose, questioning his unholy existence since the Vincent slaughtered his family, took him captive for several years, and finally turned him in a moment of rage. Nicholas has been on the run from Vincent for over 200 years. Vincent has finally caught his scent in the pre-holiday town of Kingsburg, CA, and has set his torturous sights on the family of a police detective that Nicholas has pledged himself to protect.

As Vincent wreaks a trail of carnage through the police force, leaving Nicholas' name as the obvious perpetrator, Nicholas is making friends with Detective Michael Lopez's wife, Barbara.  They share a religious connection, both exploring what God's plan for humans is, and more importantly, which humans he may bestow His Mercy upon, and which he sets up for tribulations.

I am a longtime fan of vampire horror, with authors Stephen King and Anne Rice as two of my favorites. Both authors blend themes of good vs evil within the story and character plots; and it is this  crossover concept that drew me to James Garcia Jr's writings. Dance On Fire has a strong theme of faith, hope, and family values that ultimately determine the moral fiber of each character - vampire or human. The story starts a bit slow with a wide world view as Garcia builds a small town vibe, drawing the reader steadily into the lives, loves, and tragedies of his main characters: Nathaniel the unwilling vampire victim/hero; Michael Lopez, a morally upstanding police detective and devoted family man; Mark Jackson, Michael's stalwart partner and long time family friend; and Michael's wife Barbara, a devout christian and mother to their twins and 10 year old son.

As the story progresses, Barbara becomes more of a focal point, the pace picks up as the victims overwhelm the small police force and shatter the trust of the small town community, and Barbara and Michael are forced to make hard decisions about their beliefs. Overall, this was an excellent vampire horror story with well developed, complex characters, an intriguing premise, well written and intense action sequences, sufficient violence without gimmicky gore, and a satisfying resolution to the character and story plot issues. I recommend this novel to readers who enjoy vampires that are monsters, heroes who triumph by using skill and intelligence, understand violence is bloody, and appreciate a philosophical exploration of God and his creatures.

That said, the book has its share flaws. The story is told through an omniscient narrator in a near poetic, stream of consciousness cadence reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe. The narrator discloses the intimate details of every character's thoughts and lives, regardless of whether the character's scene is three sentences or three chapters long. While the perspectives are not quite head-hopping, most scenes are replicated through several characters perceptions in the same timeline, and there is a dream sequence that completely reprints three previous conversations. The prologue is repeated during a couple flashbacks, and the narrator uses a multitude of pronouns and descriptive adjectives to refer to relationships and as dialogue tags. The consistent use of similes throughout the action and descriptions also made it difficult to focus on the specific characters and their activities, many times creating confusion whether the setting was in present, flashback, or was merely merely a dream or fanciful thoughts.

Had I not been committed to reading Dance on Fire, the confusing and unexpected perception and setting shifts would have kept me from attaining the connection I needed to the characters and story that did not happen until the perspective clarified at about 40 percent of the reading. It was hard to continue on at the 17 percent mark, when the auto reader advised I had an hour and fifteen minutes left in Chapter 1! Still, I was intrigued by the vampire concept, so persevered, and was glad I did.

The writing considerably tightens after the 60 percent mark, proving Mr. Garcia's writing and storytelling skills, and I was fully engaged in the characters and action at that point. I am glad I stuck with the novel; it was a good horror story and gave me much philosophy regarding good and evil for thought. I look forward to reading more from James Garcia Jr as an upcoming horror novelist and watching his skills progress.

Of the 21 reviews posted on Amazon, 67 percent gave the book a five star rating.

DANCE ON FIRE is available for free and the paranormal romance SEEING GHOSTS is 50% off at Smashwords through the month of July.  Click here for purchase links to all of James Garcia's works.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

James, it sounds like we grew up on many of the same things. And not, heavy metal geeks do not have to look and act the part to dig the music, because I didn't either.
Knowing the book comes from your Christian values while still being genuine horror makes me want to read it all the more. I've had it on my iPad for a while - time to read it.

DEZMOND said...

congrats to James on his books!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I would much rather read a horror book from a person of faith.

Yolanda Renee said...

Great Review Donna!

I think it's when pure evil is in the room that faith is questioned. Sounds intriguing!

Pat Hatt said...

Good reasons for a crossover indeed, never really thought about it before

A Beer For The Shower said...

How very cool. I like the idea of horror being written without sex, violence, and language. Ultimately, none of those three things are all that scary.

Arlee Bird said...

Nice rate of 5 star reviews and most of the others are 4 star. That's excellent.

Tossing It Out

Misha Gericke said...

The concept of crossover horror does intrigue me. :-)

dolorah said...

Alex: I had my dark phase too, although I never played guitar. It is possible to explore a wide variety of media and not go all rebel with it.

Thanks Dezzy

Diane: I like the cross over for the questioning of beliefs.

Yolanda: so true

Pat: there ya go, we are expanding your mind :)

Beers: slasher movies have lost their appeal to me, don't make them like they used to.

Thanks Lee.

Misha: hope you check it out.

cleemckenzie said...

Don't you just love it when a character steps into the plot and suddenly your book isn't what you expected it to be? These sound interesting--no, that's a rotten word. They sound horrifying, with a spiritual bent. That's better.

Donna K. Weaver said...

I think a Christian take on horror can add an interesting element. Congrats to Mr. Garcia!

Nicki Elson said...

This story definitely intrigues me - from every angle. I love Christian themes tied in w/ darker subject matter. Adding it to my to-read list right now. Thank you for the in-depth, honest review & for the guest post!

alexia said...

I know James! It's so funny when I find connections between my writing buddies :) Glad to see your book featured here.

Maurice Mitchell said...

Sometimes it's hard to stick with a novel, but it paid off this time.

Blogoratti said...

Congrats to him and nice review indeed.

Chrys Fey said...

Crossover fiction is the best fiction! :D

Congrats to James!

dolorah said...

cLee: yes, horrifying is the correct word, hehe. I like it when my characters take over the story I'm writing, and when it happens to others, it makes the story much more interesting.

Donna: it does. That whole, good vs evil thing is appealing.

Nicki: I am sure you will enjoy it :)

Maurice: it paid off this time.

Thanks Bloggo

Chrys: it is interesting. Stephen King also writes this way.

James Garcia Jr. said...

Thanks for stopping by, everyone. I'm sorry I took so long to get here. I really appreciate the comments. It was good to see some familiar faces, as well as to meet some new ones...

Alex: Thanks, man. One of these days we're going to bump into each other at a Rush concert or something! :)
Dezmond: Thank you.
L.Diane: Hey there! It's always good to bump into you. Thanks for your note.
Yolanda: You're definitely right. Thanks for dropping by. *waves*
Pat: I don't want to guarantee that I'll write crossovers forever, but I am sure having a lot of fun writing them now. Thank you.
Beer for the shower: ...not a bad idea, actually. Sadly, I just got off my treadmill, so I'd better drink a bit more water first. I'll raise that first beer tonight in your honor... :) You will find those three subjects in my writing, but I really try and make it necessary to the story.
Arlee: Thanks, Lee.
Misha: Thanks for your interest. The book is free on SmashWords, if I can tempt you... ;)
CLee: I try not to outline too much for just that sort of surprise. I love it when we writers make discoveries during the process. :)
Donna: Thanks so much. *waves*
Nicki: Thanks for your interest. Grab that free copy today on Smashwords. If you get a chance to check it out, I would love to hear what you think. Best wishes!
Alexia: Hey, stranger! So good to see you here. I hope all is well w/ you & yours, my friend.
Maurice: Thanks for stopping by.
Blogo: Thank you.
Chrys: Agreed! Thank you. *waves*

Thanks again, you guys!

dolorah said...

Thank you for being my honored guest today James. It has been a pleasure to host you. I look forward to reading more of your works. Good luck in all your endeavors.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Donna,

Funny, so many stories take a time to get into them. Every publisher want you to GRAB the reader on the first page, spelling out the whole story in 300 words.

I prefer a SLOWER build up. Perhaps not a long as James did, but there is a lot to be said for setting the stage. Readers need to know the setting before they can get emotionally involved with the characters...

Congrats, James... ALL THE BEST!

Tamara Narayan said...

Since Anne Rice (and Stephen King a bit) dealt with the religious implications of vampires, but are not crossover horror writers, I have to wonder what the difference is here for this series. And how would a crossover zombie tale go?

James Garcia Jr. said...

Michael: Thanks. For a debut novel that took twenty years start to finish, and one that I never thought I would ever see finished and in reader's hands, I can't complain too much about how it ended up. Lol! I learned a lot with that first one and continue to learn. Hopefully the readers will agree.
Thanks for stopping by, good sir.

Tamara: I'd love for you to grab a free copy of Dance on Fire and see for yourself. If you're a Smashwords customer you will find it there. Just use the coupon code. As for a zombie take, check out the work of my buddy Stant Litore. He writes the Zombie Bible series and it is incredible - and I don't even like zombies. Lol.


dolorah said...

Michael: I agree, a book doesn't have to immediately grab me, I just have to like something about the character, setting, implied plot. A little slow is ok. And setting can be a character too sometimes.

Tamara: Have you watched The Walking Dead? Season 2 explored how to believe in God in a zombie world too. A bit anyways.

James: hmm, maybe I'll try out the Libore book. Sounds interesting.

Denise Covey said...

James, the idea of 'crossover' is intriguing. It's great that there's horror out there without a lot of the stuff you mentioned, yet still suspenseful and shocking. I'll check one out, see how I go. I wish you all the best.

Thanks Donna for hosting James and for your great review.

Denise :-)

James Garcia Jr. said...

Hi, Denise. Thanks so much for stopping by. I really appreciate it. I hope you do check it out, especially while book 1 in the vampire series is free at Smashwords. Thanks for the well-wishes. *waves*


Shannon Lawrence said...

I have a friend who writes Christian science fiction. I know she was feeling a bit alone recently. I'll have to share this with her. The book sounds great!

James Garcia Jr. said...

Hi, Shannon. How have you been, my friend? Thanks for stopping by. I would appreciate that sharing, and happy to meet a new like-minded buddy. Thanks so much.


Lorelei Bell said...

Hi, Jimmy! Liked seeing you here, and wishing you best success with the books.
I wanted to add my own thumbs up to "Dance on Fire". Jimmy and I "traded" books, back a few years ago. I enjoyed it. I like the police involvement, the way he wrote his vampires and how he was able to mix in the religious content of his characters.

Well written, and intriguing.

Waves from Illinois, Jimmy!

James Garcia Jr. said...

Hi, Miss Lorelei. Please forgive the late reply. Sometimes there's just too much going on... *sigh* How have you been? It's been too long, my friend. Hope all is well. Thanks for your kind comments. *waves*