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.
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.
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.