Cedar Hollow Horror Reviews: 4/5 stars for AT THE HANDS OF MADNESS

WHAAAAAAAAAT.

Got some high praise from a discerning reviewer! Curtis really knows his stuff, so four out of five stars is awesome. Here are some snippets:

“Kevin Holton has arrived! I have to admit that I’ve never read Kaiju horror before. This is my first one, but it won’t be my last.”

That’s crazy high priase! I got someone into an entire genre?

“Medraka and the Phranna are monstrosities that scared the hell out of me.” 

I definitely wanted this to be scary, though, truth be told, I wasn’t sure if I undercut the tension with humor too much. Fortunately…

“There’s just enough humor to counterbalance all the doom and gloom. To me, the humor is the best part.”

You heard it here, folks. Fire puns are hot right now.

(I’m terrible, shameless, and having so much fun.)

“This book is well-written. The dialogue felt natural. The scenes jump off the page. I can still picture the monstrosities. They make my skin crawl.”

Huge bugs do have that creepy-crawly effect.

“If you like H.P. Lovecraft and apocalyptic horror, then this is the book for you.”

You can check out the whole review by clicking the WHAT above, or see the book for yourself here. Thanks for stopping by!

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I played the Catalyst Beta, and I’m so glad I pre-ordered the collector’s edition #mirrorsedgecatalyst @mirrorsedge

I was one of those lucky people granted access to the Mirror’s Edge Catalyst beta, which I signed up for pretty much the minute I heard about it. As a runner myself, I loved the crap out of the first game, and played it way, way more times than I probably should’ve.

Now, as someone who’s played the beta and has a reasonable grasp on what Catalyst will be like, I can make a few snap judgements reasonable assessments on the final product. Maybe you’re here because you want to know about the game, or maybe you’re here because you absolutely love my blog. Probably the former, but hey, give me a shout if you’re just that into what I’ve got to say.

So, what are my thoughts on Catalyst?

1) The skill tree makes perfect sense

Mirror’s Edge was about a skilled, seasoned veteran Runner fleeing for her life in the face of a totalitarian, militarized government trying to kill her. Catalyst is about a spunky early-20s (if that) woman who recently spent two years in jail and, though good, isn’t nearly a legend among the other Runners.

I’ve seen some griping about how you can’t skill roll or do a quick turn at the beginning of the game, but I didn’t see a gym yard in Faith’s prison. No matter how much stretching or how many lunges you do, you’re not going to keep in top Runner form after spending that long in a jail cell. Giving us a way to watch her grow–and giving us control over her growth, much like how a real person prioritizes, say, movement over combat–was a great decision.

2) Holy Crap Sack, Batman, Look at those Graphics!

My jaw literally dropped when I saw Faith step outside into the halogen glare of street lights on a rainy night, and my eyes watered with awe when the camera panned up over Glass to show off the Catalyst title art and the city skyline at dawn. It’s art in motion, and beautiful even during a speed blur.

3) Combat is way more intuitive

The combat is designed to work with your speed and your controls. In addition to Traversal Attacks, which are only available while sprinting, and allow you to stun an enemy and keep running full-speed, Faith can do direction moves, knocking enemies into each other.

You know what I did the first time I freely (outside tutorial) fought some security officers? I delivered a crushing roundhouse that sent one Dudeman into a second Dudeman. Then they went straight off a roof. I then ran full speed at the last guard, slid, kicked his crotch up into his stomach, and swept the legs, leaving him KO’d on the floor. I’m not sure who got it worse, but I walked (well, ran) away without a scratch.

4) Secrets and Emotions

Icarus, a poorly-named young male who helps Faith readjust to runner life, is seen playing a board game against Noah, Faith’s leader and father figure. He’s an arrogant Bro in his sunglasses and vest, but there’s more to him than the Beta let on.

And, Faye Kingslee nails her deliver, giving Faith’s spare lines a lot of heart and emotion. These don’t feel like scenes; they feel like I’m eavesdropping on someone’s life.

5) Collectibles!

Performing certain tasks causes Runner Bags to appear, allowing you to customize your Runner Tag (which you use to Hack certain screens, displaying your Tag on all your friends’ games) and your Echo, which is a 3D virtual reality Faith that runs out in front of you when you click R3, showing the easiest path through Glass.

I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a sucker for an in-game unlock.

There you have it: five reasons I was like “OH DANG THIS THE BEST EVER” and why June 7th can’t come soon enough. Even if you’re not a hopeless fanboy like me, it’s worth your time and money to check this out. And no rental crap! Invest in this game. It’ll pay off in the long run.

Pun so intended.

A look at #divorce from @ThoughtCatalog

Hello everyone,

It’s been too long since my last post, and I’m going to try to be more consistent from now on. I’m going to talk about a lot more than books from now on though. This started as a literary blog, but as a writer, my whole life boils down to writing somehow or another. It doesn’t make sense not to share the things that go into my stories.

I read an article, which I’ll share a little of below, on Thought Catalog earlier today. Divorce is a difficult topic, even if you haven’t been through one. My parents divorced when I was two or three, and each remarried and divorced again by the time I was twelve. I got used to leaving, as this article notes; emptiness and isolation were painful but necessary comforts. Repeatedly moving and having a crazy visitation schedule got me used to saying goodbye, and I don’t think I had a single stable friend until my last year of high school. Even now, I’m a loner.

Fortunately, I’ve always tended to be on the unsocial side, and prefer silence and contemplation to the noise of parties and hyper-social scenes. It’s no doubt part of why I was drawn to meditation and becoming a reiki practitioner (currently level 2 in the Usui tradition). That doesn’t mean it hasn’t hurt, but I’ve healed a lot and come a long way.

For any of you still struggling with this pain, I offer you this:

Yes, people may leave you, and you may be alone. That’s a fact of life, no matter what happened between your parents and when. That doesn’t mean you’ll be without love. Be with yourself and appreciate who you are; that’s the key to being loved. We attract the emotions we put out, and if you radiate acceptance and good will, people will treat you in kind. They’ll want to be around you and look to you for advice and support–but soon, you’ll realize you don’t need it as much as you once thought. You may not need it at all. The whole universe is conscious in its own way. Be love, and love will reflect back to you a hundred fold. That harmony will never leave you, and even in your darkest times, that internal light will guide your way.

Be well, my friends.

Kevin

When Your Parents Divorce When You’re Just A Kid

From “Just a Kid” by Jamie Varon

When your parents divorce when you’re just a kid, a few things happen to you: 1) you spend your life feeling unsettled; 2) you keep your distance from most people; 3) you have a difficult time with the emotional repercussions of being without a person. When you are young and shuffling yourself back and forth from one home to the other, you do not know what it’s like to be with all the people you love.

 

The Clock Tower (free story!)

Hello Travelers,

In light of a lot of good news this week, which helps make up for the bad news of the last few, I’m posting my oldie-but-goodie, “The Clock Tower,” here for your free entertainment. Be sure to let me know what you think in the comments, share if you like it (or even if you don’t), and above all, keep writing.

Best,

Kevin

***

Some have speculated that the manner in which one dies correlates to the treatment one is given in the afterlife. If this is the case, then my death will have me revered as a king. I have been allowed to pass this one message back to the human world so that they may be granted a glimpse of what I learned before I passed.

The earliest thing I can remember was falling. It’s strange, but at this point I feel as though whatever I have done before, whoever I was and any memories I might have had are irrelevant. I do not know how I arrived in this place, but I found myself falling through a massive tower.

When I began my descent, I fell in a slow, soft manner, as if I were sinking into slumber. I was falling down the center of a massive tower. I remember the top was adorned with all manner of stained glass. Despite the beauty of the windows themselves, their images were monstrous. They depicted one of a distinct variety of creature that was wholly focused on controlling or consuming human life. I felt that my fall was slowed for the purpose of showing me such images, though I do not know what the purpose of doing so could be.

Once I had passed these depictions, I found myself speeding downward, faster and faster. The further down I fell, the more the smooth granite and stained glass was replaced by machinery and crumbling brickwork. I fell down, past winding gears and humming bits of metal until, at a speed that should have killed me, my body slammed into the groove between two cogs.

The cogs snagged, attempting to crush me in their teeth. They were not successful. I felt an agony in my chest and was sure my ribs had broken, but I couldn’t be sure. All I knew is that I was trapped. The machinery was not strong enough to kill me, but too strong to let me go.

I attempted to pry myself free, but I was unsuccessful. I pushed and pulled at the giant gears, I kicked, I writhed, I prayed- nothing worked. I tried for what must have been hours, if not days, to pry myself free. I gave up and waited, no salvation, not even the grim specter himself, came to free me.

Looking around, I had been whisked away into what appeared to be some massive clock tower. At no point did I see a top or bottom to the structure. I had no idea how large it was, but it was bigger than anything I’ve heard of.

Above me, I could some of the mechanisms I’d fallen past. They had all stopped as well; a pendulum hung frozen at a thirty degree angle, gears of all shapes and sizes had come to a standstill and, from what I could tell, the entire tower had come to a standstill.

Craning my neck, I looked below me, only to see more of the same.

I saw the same thing while looking in opposite directions. I saw brick walls dripping with befouled oil. I saw a plethora of machine parts, intertwining pipes and clockwork. I suspected something within this structure controlled more than a simple clock face. I saw an infinite blackness beyond the parts that caused my heart to race.

Once, when I was a boy, I went hiking with a neighborhood friend in a local forest area. I slipped and fell into a hole that I had not seen while walking behind my friend. He had not heard me fall and thus assumed I’d abandoned him. I woke alone, in the dark, with no way out. I screamed for hours, sure that I was going to die, before someone found me.

That isolation, that helplessness, was nothing compared to this. At least, when I was young, I believed the God would watch over me in death.

I had since lost my faith. If any god was watching over me, I suspect it would not be acting in my best interests.

I trembled with the near-certainty that I would never escape and took to counting the seconds in order to maintain my sanity, since there was little else I could do. After glancing at my watch- a new-looking piece with a gothic-styled analogue face- I shut my eyes, ticking the seconds off one by one.

It was an utterly mind-numbing process, but that was precisely what I needed. I clung to each number that I counted off, keeping my attention strictly devoted to this singular process. It was a desperate, miserable action that I could not avoid. Eventually, as I neared the one thousandth second, I looked at my watch again to be sure I was counting accurately.

It had not moved. I shook my head, sure that I’d misread it, but it had stopped.

I had looked at my watch, very briefly, while falling. Though I looked for only a second, I was sure it had been moving before.

Logically, one could assume that my watch had stopped, but I was something of an expert on such timepieces. I did not recall working with watches, but upon looking at my watch, I felt as though I were intimately familiar with the small device. The face was not cracked and the metal didn’t show the slightest hint of gouging of scuffing, as one would expect from a collision. Despite my closest scrutiny, there did not appear to be anything wrong with my watch.

A thought crossed my mind. I shook my head, attempting to dismiss it, but it grew stronger and more persistent until I could not deny it: By some impossible means, my collision with the cogs of this tower- and my having stopped their movements- had halted the flow of time itself.

I laughed silently at myself, sure that I must have been trapped for far longer than I thought if I’d been able to imagine such nonsense!

Despite my attempts to deny it, my extended stay only confirmed what my addled mind had come up with. Though I could not know the length of time for which I was trapped, it must have been days, if not weeks. I didn’t feel hunger or pain or the need to sleep. All sensation, all emotion aside from my desperate wish for freedom, had been reduced to nothing.

Then I heard something above me. It was the cry of someone who was experiencing absolute terror and absolute elation at the same time. Looking up, I saw a shape hurtling through the darkness. It was another man!

He plummeted past and crashed onto a horizontal gear beneath me. I bent my body and looked, sure that I’d find his head splattered against the metal, but he survived, as I had! I was sure now that time had stopped because this man had not died- if time did not flow, then I could not imagine the cycle of life and death had continued either.

The man looked up at me and smiled, saying, “So it was you!”

“Me?” I inquired, keeping my voice. My instincts told me that remaining quiet was an imperative task, so I uttered, as soft as I could manage, “Me who did what?”

“You’re the reason time stopped!” He said it so plainly and with such certainty that I did not doubt him for a moment.

“So I was right,” I said quietly. He heard me nonetheless.

“You were right? You sure were!” His voice echoed across the walls. “All signs of aging have stopped! The Earth still spins, but the old and sick don’t die, babies don’t age and the babes stay perky and beautiful,” he chuckled. I heard something scuffling. I didn’t know what it was. “And the best part is that there are no consequences! I always wanted to try heroine, you know? Stupid, sure, but a bunch of my friends did it when I was in college. I shot up, did two, three, four doses, I was higher than God, buddy, and I didn’t even feel sick later! Can you believe it? And to think, people want me to help you get free!”

I wondered at this last sentence. Though I could not be certain whether or not I had friends and family beyond these walls, something told me that a rescuer had been sent for very impersonal reasons. I tried to grasp at why I felt this way, but could not, as though the truth was hidden in the banks of a dense mental fog.

He had started to laugh, but his face suddenly drooped. He had heard the sound too. Before he could respond, a creature came fumbling from the darkness.

I saw it below me and gaped in abject terror. It was the size of a small car with the shape of something utterly obscene. It was a bloated, rotund thing with ten arms. Each arm ended with a hand that ended in talons. These appendages grabbed on to the machinery, using the gears as handholds to propel itself through the tower.

When the man below saw it, he screamed. He screamed so loud that I was sure no creature, living or dead, could have failed to hear it.

The beast wrapped a hand around the man’s torso, like an angry child grabs a toy, and then released its grips on the clockwork. It plunged back into darkness as the man continued to scream.

A moment later, the screaming changed. It was no longer the cries of a grown man afraid for his life, but the shrill wails of one who knows his life is being taken. A terrible ripping sound echoed from below. His screaming stopped. I did not know how, but my very soul knew, beyond any doubt, that this beast could kill regardless of the passage of time.

I clamped a hand over my mouth, terrified at the thought of the thing returning. I remained silent for a long time as tears rolled down my face.

As time passed, more people joined me in my damnation. I heard some land far above me, some far below, but they all met the same end. The clock tower beast would clamber up through the mesh of pipes and pendulums only to ensnare a victim and fall to the bottom. I assumed, somewhere far beyond the blackness, the creature had some sort of lair. As this continued to happen, I began to smell the awful fumes of raw, shredded human flesh.

Because time had stopped, I was doomed to smell the remains of my fallen brothers and sisters for all eternity. Their corpses would never rot and never fade; my only hope was that the beast would grow hungry and feast on what was left.

With each life taken, I drew closer to a terrible realization. Though I tried to ignore it, the thought possessed my being, bit by bit, until I could no longer ignore it.

These people were coming here to rescue me. They needed time because they needed death. Without death, they couldn’t think of a reason to continue existing. They were suffering in the stagnation of a life without limits.

And yet, there I was, suffering the most of all for granting mankind immortality!

I do not know why, but I began to laugh. It was a tickle that started in my chest and worked its way to my throat. At first, I only chuckled. I tried to suppress it for fear that the beast would find and kill me.

The more I thought about the beast, about my temporarily immortal race, about the agony of freedom, the harder I began to laugh. It was the most singularly terrifying moment of my life; it was a glimpse into my mind, as though my body was warning me of the impending loss of my sanity. The sound reverberated through the tower, deafening me, yet I still heard the beast’s approach from below.

The harder I was forced to laugh, the more my mind disobeyed me and began to succumb. My terror was slowly changed into a beguiled sense of liberation. It was the full understanding of what my situation truly meant.  Freedom brought people misery, so what must my entrapment bring me?

This is the thought that came to rule me. In the last seconds of my life, the singular notion that I was happier and freer than any other living being was the only thing I knew.

Death no longer scared me; my destiny had always been to make others appreciate what they have. My end would return the blessing of death to mankind; with death, happiness would return to them.

This was my duty. It was my duty to make my kind happy and free. It was the only thing I had been created for. This is why I had been allowed to see the windows near the top of the tower!

To know death and limitation is to know the effort and skill required to accomplish something- and the act of defying death is what gives people the drive to do mostly everything! To think of all the people who exercised to prolong their life- but you cannot prolong a life that will not end! Writing a novel was once considered an impressive feat, yet if a person has one thousand years in which to do it, it isn’t nearly so! Religion would crumble- who fears a creator that they will never have to face? Who would fear a decade in jail when one has a millennia to serve the sentence?

I knew with the most absolute certainty that death wasn’t a limitation, it was freedom. Knowing that oblivion was coming for me, I welcomed it with open arms.

Masks (post inspired by @crsmihai)

Hello Travelers,

I recently read Cristian Mihai’s post, Masks, which begins with the following:

Nathaniel Hawthorne once wrote, “No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.”

You see, I’ve found the universe works in tight little circles. Settings, themes, and motifs repeat in upon themselves, often in subtle ways that most would miss. Maybe you find yourself thinking of an old song and then it comes on the radio while you drive to work, or you reminisce about, say, watching dragonflies as a child, then one lands on the table in front of you. As if the fabric of time and space ripples in tune to our thoughts and, when it can, bends to say, “Don’t worry. I’m listening. I hear you.”

This is why I find the linked post, and the Hawthorne quote, so simultaneously surprising and expected. I have worn many masks in my life, and I know I will continue to cycle through a repertoire of facades, shifting from one to another, day in and day out.

Most seem to detest both those who do this (as if they do not), and having to do it, but I love my masks. Being able to slip into a persona, or even the mere adopting of different mannerisms in different crowds, is a mark of social intelligence. I consider my ability to do this to be an astronomical improvement, considering I was once the social outcast, reading a book in a shadowy playground corner. Now, I slip into the crowd like fog slips between city streets; quietly, easily, and unnoticed until I am all there is to notice.

But, sometimes, we cannot wear masks. If romantic relationships are to work, we have to pull off our disguises and say, “Here I am.” Maybe we don’t have to reveal the whole picture at once, but no good can come of trying to cover up the truth.

I’m not saying we should hide or be ashamed; our masks are as much a part of us as our secrets, and we each deserve to be loved and appreciated for all of our identity–not just the nice parts.

Beneath our socially acceptable presentation, each of us harbors something dark and gritty and fun. I have learned this lesson many times, because it is one we often need to re-learn every time we convince ourselves, “I can change for this person.”

Sometimes, change is good. We can trade out one mask for another, reveal some scars and hide the rest, but when the shows over and the lights go down, we’re left in the dark with all the things we hide. Sure, the audience never has to know, but you, the actor, you will always know exactly who you are, mask or otherwise.

I recently had to cast aside a mask of my own. The damn thing covered too much; I found myself looking in the mirror and neither liking nor, more importantly, accepting the role into which I’d been cast, so I cast the part aside.

Standing here, I may feel some guilt over those who had grown to love that mask, but when I look in the mirror, I prefer to see my scars. Though I cycle through identities, when I return to what I call home, I proudly remove those masks and say, “Here I am.”

Giving Back @njdotcom @monmouthu @njchrisrobbins

Hi everyone,

Due to the time constraints of a quality education, interning, and trying to build a career, I often find myself wanting to do more for my community as well as the causes I’m passionate about, but simply can’t. I’m no Kal-El; I can’t do everything, though I try to. This is why I love the few opportunities I get to give back, and in one such instance, I’ve been involved in a pen pal project through Monmouth University’s Writing Center, at which I’ve worked for almost two years.

In short, I’ve been exchanging letters with a fifth grader named Kervens, from the Asbury Park school system. The intention of the program is to inspire young students to work hard and to connect with writing assistants as mentors. But, the impact isn’t a one-way street. The feeling of being able to guide, talk with, and inspire even one person is incomparable. While it is one I hope to achieve through my writing, knowing that I can do this from something as small as writing a few letters is an experience that I will carry with me throughout my career, wherever it takes me.

It isn’t often that I get to work with other people and inspire them in any significant way, but this has been a reminder that it doesn’t take punch cards or shifts to make a difference; you don’t have to be an AA sponsor, program leader, or missionary to do something good for those around you. All it takes is a smile and the strength to reach out and say, “Hi, I’m ___. Nice to meet you.”

Maybe you, like me, are really busy. Maybe you can’t dedicate a couple hours a week or any significant amount of money to help others, and that’s okay. Changing the world starts with little things. Pleases and thank yous, holding the door for others, making someone laugh–these are pretty easy to do. So take a minute–even just one minute, one day a week–to make someone smile. It’s worth a lot more than most think.

http://www.nj.com/monmouth/index.ssf/2014/04/monmouth_u_pen_pals_give_asbury_park_students_a_college_connection.html#incart_river_monmouth

Hello there!

Hi Everyone,

Thank you for stopping by my site. I’ll be featuring snippets and updates about my work, as well as reposts from creative writing I find particularly moving, insightful, and what have you.

In short, my name is Kevin. I’m a writer, thinking, shaker, and mover. Whatever the case, I’m almost always involved in some huge project or another. Case and point, I’ll be heading up to Niagara Falls this Thursday to speak at the North Regional Honors Council on the influence big business has in American Congress.

I like all things imaginative, ranging from poetry, fiction, and non-fiction to art and music. Keep stopping by and I’ll be sure to post all sorts of interesting things.

In the meantime, keep on doing what you love most, whatever that may be. Your heart will never lead you astray.

Best,

Kevin