by Howard Odentz
Genre: YA Horror, Thriller, Suspense
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
Publication Date: October 29, 2019
A beer bottle thrown carelessly at the windshield of a passing car sends the vehicle careening off the road, and the lives of high school seniors Denny Ford, his foster sister Jen McKnatt, and her sometimes boyfriend Brody Erwin, spinning out of control.
Over the next several days as the three experience increasingly bizarre, frightening, and seemingly unrelated events, they are forced to examine the ramifications of their actions and how their lives have been irrevocably altered.
What they've done can never be undone.
After all, it only takes one bottle toss to turn their world cockeyed forever.
Praise for Howard Odentz
“A simmering psychological thriller bolstered by a dynamic narrative voice and a few unexpected twists.” —Kirkus Reviews on What We Kill
“This author has a real knack for the weird and the wonderful.” —TheMostSublime.com
Q&A WITH AUTHOR
Why do I write?
Writing is part of me. It’s in my blood. I’ve been writing ever since I could hold a crayon. Sometimes I write to sort out my emotions. Other times I write because I can’t find anything good on TV.
I knew from an early age that I wanted to write for a living. I took a long, windy road to get there, but I ended up as a director of communications in a large company where I was afforded the opportunity to stretch my creative skills while honing my craft.
Now, I’m deep into writing psychological and supernatural thrillers for older teens and adults.
Where do my ideas come from?
My ideas come from everyday life. I have a slightly wry sense of humor, so I sometimes find inappropriate things amusing. I’m definitely not one who will laugh at a funeral, but you can bet I’ll be writing about the person who does.
In addition, I’m a total wuss—which means I’m basically scared of everything.
I’m scared of the woods. I’m scared of the ocean. Basements freak me out and barns are the absolute creepiest thing I can imagine, especially when they have sharp tools hanging from the rafters.
I find scary ideas everywhere. Oranges are just fruit until you peel back the skin and see something staring back at you. Pencils are just writing implements until one of your characters murders another with one.
AND don’t get me started on kids. Sometimes the younger set can be so cringe-worthy, I even wrote a book about them. Check out ‘Little Killers A to Z’ when you get a chance. It’s filled with twenty-six short stories about kids who kill.
Yeah – nothing scary about them at all.
What motivates me when the going gets tough?
Sometimes Chinese food, but lately, Kung Pow chicken makes me blow up like the blueberry girl in the Willy Wonka stories, but with sodium instead of blueberry juice.
In the end, almost anything can motivate me to write even when I don’t want to put words down on the page. However, when the going gets really rough, self-imposed deadlines do the job.
I often give myself a minimum word count of 1000 words a day then mentally berate myself if I don’t get them written.
There’s something sort of creepy about a voice inside your head that won’t let you rest until you paint a page with words.
What's the most discouraging part of writing? How do I overcome it?
You don’t need me to tell you that the writing industry has changed. When I was a kid growing up in a suburb of Springfield, Massachusetts, one of my neighbors was a rather well known author.
I remember him telling my dad what his advance was for his first book. The number hovered around figures that I couldn’t even comprehend.
Now, many decades later, with the advent of self-publishing, on-line publishing, the disappearance of brick and mortar book stores, and our brains being pulled in a million different directions because of technology, it seems like authors no longer see sustainable incomes from their writing.
That makes me sad. It also makes me more motivated than ever to succeed.
I write for the passion of writing and the positive reviews from people I don’t know who encourage me to keep producing more. I write for the possibility that I can make a difference to someone out there because of my writing.
I write because I have to.
What's one piece of advice I want to give to writers just starting out?
I have a million bits of advice to give new writers, but it all boils down to a few important things: Be true to yourself in your writing. Never write for others—write for yourself.
Never compromise what you think is a good piece of work because others say it’s not saleable.
Never, ever, ever give up. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a portfolio of writing. Be in it for the long haul even if, at the end of the day, your mother is the only person who ever reads your stuff.
When you are old and gray, you want a shelf in your house filled with your writing so you can say, “I did that. I was here and I created all of that.”
You won’t have that if you quit.
Why do I write exclusively about New England?
I like writing about this part of the world. There are so many interesting and mysterious things that go on here that it’s a goldmine of opportunity for someone who writes in my genre. Of course, I change the names of people and places to protect the innocent.
What are my characters generally like?
When I write I am very inclusive. I use straight characters, LBGTQ characters, and those of all races and ethnicities. Our world is very diverse. I feel the people who populate my fiction should be, too. I also mostly use kids and teens as protagonists. They tend to handle horror in interesting and unique ways, whereas adult characters are often more rigid.
I blame my mother. When I was in grade school, she would bring home Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Peter Straub and more from the library. While my friends were reading Dick and Jane, I was reading about Danny Torrance from THE SHINING with his creepy finger, Tony.
What horror stories scare me the most?
I think LORD OF THE FLIES is the freakiest thing I've ever read. It scared me as a child and it still scares me, especially because of what happened to Piggy. Of course, JAWS scarred me for life so I can never put my big toe in the ocean again. Also, I grew up during the time when the real Amityville Horror took place, so when the book and the movie came out they just plain freaked me out. There is something about a little girl who talks to an invisible, demonic pig that gives me the chills.
What about movies?
The original ALIEN with Sigourney Weaver gave me nightmares for weeks, mostly because watching it back when I was a kid was like being on a rollercoaster that wouldn’t stop. The adrenaline in that movie is crazy.
These days, I’ve watched enough horror that I can almost tell what’s going to happen next by the camera angles. Still, I’m an avid WALKING DEAD fan, as well as AMERICAN HORROR STORY. Of course, I love BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, too. I still like giggles with my scares
When I write do I ever scare myself?
Absolutely! I only write during the day, and I can’t write in my basement or with my back to a door. You never know what’s going to sneak up behind you.
What is the one thing you wish everyone knew about you?
This question made me laugh. I know I’m considered a horror author, but that’s only my daytime persona. I don’t live in a scary mansion or own a black cat. I don’t pray to the horned-footed god or lick toads when no one is looking.
Sure, I wear black a lot, but that’s only because black is slimming and trendy and I can use all the help I can get.
In short, I’m not creepy.
I’m not creepy.
Okay, my writing fingers are creepy. That’s all.
My review: A car disappeared down the embankment. What should a bunch of no-good kids do? Leave? Help the driver?
Then the voice murmurs: “Help me.”
It would seem that they fled, taking this secret with them. The characters come away with more questions than answers. Did anyone even die? Where did the car go? How did it move so fast? What have they done that can’t be undone?
As far as everyone was concerned, the accident never happened. No broken bottle. No broken body.
The writing reads more like dictation. There wasn’t much flow to it, but it was still easy to read. The whole thing reminded me of that movie, I know what you did last summer. It definitely has a creep factor in it. I was intrigued by the concept of pondering the ramifications of one’s actions, living with the guilt and regret, wishing that you can do the whole thing over again. The characters are certainly in disarray, constantly going back and forth with the insane notions of what is and what could’ve been. We really don’t know what happened, if anything at all. It’s just all speculation mostly. But, overall, this was an okay read.
My rating: 3 stars
Author and playwright Howard Odentz is a lifelong resident of the gray area between Western Massachusetts and North Central Connecticut. His love of the region is evident in his writing as he often incorporates the foothills of the Berkshires and the small towns of the Bay and Nutmeg states into his work.
In addition to The Dead (A Lot) Series, he has written the horror novel Bloody Bloody Apple, the short story collection Little Killers A to Z, and a couple of horror-themed, musical comedies produced for the stage.
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