This review originally posted on BookViral.com
A powerful and gritty novella that plumbs the highs of hope and the depths of despair, Sick proves a genuine page-turner with Wojciechowski delivering an extraordinary read. With relentless momentum we are drawn to her narrative as intrigue mounts, feeling sure there is a twist coming but deftly misdirected as events spin further out of control. Mining the darkness of the hidden psyche to show us a glimpse of a reality few will ever experience to leave us deep in thought, it’s an ambitious theme to tackle in a novella but here it works in Wojciechowski’s favour. Her prose are tightly spun and characters are superbly nuanced with dialogue which brings an unrelenting sense of immediacy, telling her story in short staccato bursts that are just enough to bait us and keep us off balance as Susan grapples with the uncertainty of Johns downward spiralling health. Like most issue novels, this is not an easy read, but it becomes increasingly poignant and transcendent as Susan begins to see through the veil of deceit the real John has hidden behind.
Wojciechowski has clearly set out to write a highly compelling story that brings the trauma of Factitious disorder (formerly known as Munchausen Syndrome) into focus and her ability to tell a story that is so dark and full of pain speaks volumes to her talent as a writer. Highly original, it is recommended without reservation.
Thanks to Book Viral for their review of Sick Part I.
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It’s official! Yesterday, after a grueling eight straight hours of revisions, I delivered SICK Part III to my courageous editor, Candace Johnson. This book put me through a painful labor. I began writing it almost one year ago. It think it was more difficult than the first two parts of the series for several reasons.
- I wanted to create an epic ending for my readers.
- I wanted to create an epic ending for myself.
- I wanted to give my characters the finale they deserved.
- I wanted the story to have depth and meaning.
- Life got in the way of writing.
I plan to put SICK Part III on preorder for 1/2 price by the end of the week.
The official release date will be in the middle of April 2017.
Join my author mailing list
to be notified as soon as it’s available for the preorder discount.
Thanks to everyone for being so supportive and patient. I don’t think SICK fans will be disappointed!
I’ve left you a little draft of the cover to get you in the mood. I’d love to know what you think of it.
Today we’re going to be beaming the spotlight down on another one of our incredible †3Dark authors: Christa Wojciechowski.
It’s an honour to have Christa involved in the project. I’ve been a fan of her fiction for while, ever since I read the first book of her Sick series of novellas.
Here’s an extract of a review I wrote for Sick:
‘Sick is a brilliant novella that explores the nature of human dependency and self-deception. The voice of the protagonist, Susan, is crystal clear and never wavers throughout, drawing you completely into her world and her way of thinking. This voice also generates a fantastic sense of dramatic irony, leading to a genuine tension. We want our heroine to realise the truth but her antagonist is convincingly devious. Normally, novels in which there is a truth evident to the reader but not the characters can be frustrating, but Sick manages to remain compelling and true to its characters throughout. Most importantly of all, however, this novella triumphs because it is so psychologically insightful.’
What’s unique about her approach to horror is the genuinely in-depth explorations of mental illness, addiction and relationships. While so many horror authors pander to the stereotypes of mental illness or psychosis as something to be feared and abhorred, Christa is more empathetic, getting to the roots of it, and exploring it in a nuanced way. As such, her characters are frighteningly three-dimensional, to the extent that we feel we can inhabit them.
And that’s where the real horror comes in.
In two ways, really.
Firstly, we feel empathy for their fear, their uncertainty. We feel we can relate to it at a primal level.
Secondly, and even more powerfully, it challenges the binary perception of mental illness as something some people have and some don’t. We’re all susceptible to moments of aberrant behaviour, irrational thought or delusion, and Sick really made me feel how fragile the self-constructed perception of my well-being was, and how easily I could fall into the addicted trap of her protagonist Susan. Some writers create aesthetically sensational larger-than-life characters, but Christa’s work is much in the vein of Stephen King: the extraordinary – in both the good and bad sense – can be found in the most ordinary, real people.
As a generous offer to followers and supporters of †3Dark Christa has put Sick Part I and Part II for FREE on Amazon today!
Christa is currently working on a new series The Sculptor of New Hope, partly inspired by the work of Gian Lorenzo Bernini (The Rape of Proserpina). She describes it as: ‘a dark, gothic romance that begins in New England and ends up right here in Panama.’ Bernini’s work happens to include many of my favourite sculptures, capturing the impossible sensuality of flesh in marble. The Rape of Proserpina, harrowing as that title is, is one of the most astonishing pieces of art you’ll ever see.
If you want to find out more about Christa and her work, you can read the incredible interview she did with Storgy magazine. Christa’s †3Dark story will feature in our July slot. I just can’t wait to see what dark wonders she unleashes on us.
Adieu for now
Storgy is a high-caliber literary site, lovingly edited by a staff of creatives who are passionate about art, film, and books. I can’t tell you how honored I am to be featured on Storgy among so many talented writers. I’m looking forward to having Storgy on the blog soon. In the meantime, check out my interview today and celebrate with a free copy of Sick (with its updated cover).
About Storgy Magazine
STORGY was founded in 2013 by Tomek Dzido and Anthony Self as a means by which to explore the short story form and engage with readers and artists alike. An online literary short story magazine consisting of a core group of dedicated writers, STORGY aims to inspire artistic collaboration and provide opportunities for creative minds to meet.
INTERVIEW: Christa Wojciechowski
So Christa, thank you for having this interview with us, we were interested to learn that you used to tame lions and chase storms; how did this come about and why?
When I lived in Florida, I managed a private animal sanctuary that was open to the public. I took care of nearly a hundred animals. We had tigers, lions, cougars, leopards, lynx, primates, canines, bears, macaws, a camel, llamas, deer, a horse, a donkey, an otter, raccoons, and a wallaby. There were also snakes, lizards, turtles, alligators, all the way down to scorpions and tarantulas.
The big cats were all fed by hand. I had to hack up eighty pounds of bloody horse meat each day for the carnivores. Then I’d chop up buckets of fruit and vegetables for the herbivores. We bred rats and mice to feed the snakes. There was lots of poop. Lots. It was a dirty, laborious, and dangerous job, but I loved each of those animals as if they were my own children.
A few years later, the animal sanctuary was forced to shut down because they were widening the highway in that area. That’s when I went to work with my dad at the power company. In 2004, we had a crazy series of hurricanes – Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne. During emergencies, all the staff at the power company is called in for hurricane duty. This means you work about 16-20 hours a day in very dangerous conditions. My dad and I teamed up to go survey the power lines to see if there were any urgent situations and to tell the crews where the damage was. We also turned on some customers’ power while we were there. That was not protocol, but we did it anyway, and they were very grateful.
Your website says that you’re an Internet marketer which can be a full time job in itself, so when did you first discover your passion for writing? And how do you find the time with all the other things you seem to be doing?
I was a child when I first discovered my passion for writing, but I never committed to it until I moved to Panama. I couldn’t legally work here so I had a lot of free time and solitude. I decided to try writing a memoir about experiences I had in my new country. I’ll probably never publish it, but it broke the seal and helped me to realise that I had the ability to finish stories.
My job as an internet marketer came later. I used to just help family and friends with their websites and social media. It was a part-time gig for travel and Christmas money. Now it’s a full-time operation that continues to grow. I have had no time to write during the past six months and am a little grouchy because of that. You know what Kafka says about a non-writing writer, so I’m planning to turn my freelance operation into a firm and hire some people to join my team. I’m also in the process of developing some e-courses to generate passive income.
Your fiction, in particular the Sick series, demonstrates an incredibly subtle style of Horror-writing that arises from psychology and character. How did you come to develop this unique style?
This is a great question because I never consciously planned this story or the characters. I had a nightmare about this pale, sick man covered in bruises. I think he had a broken leg. I was his wife–not myself, but another woman entirely. The bedroom was disheveled and dirty. The scene was repulsive to all five senses, but the most frightening part about it was the way this woman I inhabited felt. Her husband was obviously very, very ill and yet he exuded this powerful menace. The uneasy feeling of the dream stuck with me, and after some months I decided to purge it by writing it as a story.
The psychological aspects of your writing are one of its greatest strengths. Where did your fascination with the human mind arise? Can you name a key event or moment in your life that triggered your interest and desire to explore further?
I’ve always rooted for the deranged characters in books and movies. I’m drawn to the troubled souls and insane villains, but I know I’m not alone in this. Everyone loves a good pyscho or they wouldn’t be so popular.
Some of my family members have been diagnosed with mental illnesses. I, too, went through times in my life where I felt like I might lose my mind (I’m really not quite sure if I haven’t). I’m mystified by how thoughts and emotions can break your sanity. Sure, some brain diseases can be seen in a scan, but most mental illness is in the intangible. You can look at the brain and it will be physiologically sound, but the person is incapable of functioning. It’s this invisible entity that is damaged. How does that happen? How does this ethereal organ break?
What makes it even more interesting is that the mind can repair itself through words. Therapy or writing can fix mental illness–words, which are nothing but a sound vibration. They are ink marks on paper. They’re black pixels on this screen, and they have the potential to destroy and heal. It’s all very spooky when you think about it.
Originally Published on https://josephsale.wordpress.com
We live in a world of big brands, big names and celebrities, as is so wryly satirised in Ben Elton’s most recent comedy gold: Upstart Crow. In some ways, we have always had this culture. The gladiators of ancient Rome were much like the Olympic athletes we worship today. The Forum philosophers were no different to the TV personalities we watch now, offering advice on everything from sex to home-improvement.
But, the difference between our world and the ancient one (even going back only a hundred years or so) is saturation. There are simply so many more people than there used to be.
How then, can we find the gold, when everyone has a blog, everyone has a self-published book or song or film, and everyone is crying out to have their voices heard? It’s not easy, but one way is through simple recommendation. Who is being recommended and who isn’t? And who are people being recommended by?
This last part is so key. Many people I know blindly will buy anything which makes the Man Booker longlist, but really, only certain types of novel ever make it to that list, and often, they are books which are current with a particularly pertinent political or sociological theme. I’m not knocking that, but for me, timeless insight into humanity (I’m quoting Ben Elton again) is always preferable to a clever current opinion.
So, we all know who the big names are, but who are the smaller voices, no less valuable, no less insightful, but perhaps not as public as they might have been where they born 200 years earlier?
Here’s my list of 3 AWESOME independent authors, writing in a variety of genres, who I believe are worth your time and money and commitment. Please, take my recommendation and check out their stuff. Most of it is beyond reasonable in price – and all of it is excellent.
(in no particular order)
Recommended Title: Remnant (Book 2 of Crucible Series)
I became aware of Moira Katson’s work after discovering she had worked on City of the Shroud, a strategic video-game set in a fantasy universe. Her narrative was intriguing, complex and felt fresh, especially in a genre in which story is often put to one side. It was then I discovered her range of novels; I picked up Remnant (she recommended it for me) and was simply blown away by the pathos of it. She writes with a sure hand, offering immense insight into the emotional worlds of her characters. Always psychologically real, always exciting and focused, her narratives explode (sometimes literally) with surprises. Full of twists and sensitive prose which slowly seeps into your heart, she is one for anyone who loves SCI-FI or FANTASY with real human dimensions to it.
Recommended Title: Sick (Book 1 of the SICK Series)
Christa’s Sick series is incredible, and showcases her amazing feeling for character voice. Never a line out of place, an action out of sync, or an erroneous thought to be found. Like a method actor, she seemingly becomes her characters, rendering their voices in methodical prose which ensnares you. Her feeling for voice and character soliloquy never detracts from her sense of pace, however; her novels are dynamic and full of action. What’s more, she knows how to build and turn a twist, and even better, to impart the reader with Shakespearean dramatic irony. For anyone who likes PSYCHOLOGICAL HORROR in the vein of King’s Misery and Finder’s Keepers, then Christa is the one for you!
Recommended Title: At the Edge of Night
I first became aware of Michael Bray when my story appeared alongside his in Dark Hall Press’s Technological Horror Anthology. I quickly realised that the energy and feeling of his prose set him apart, as well as his certain exploration of extreme human emotions: fear, desperation, suicidal depression, feverish madness, longing. Rather than coming across as cartoonish or exaggerated, as they often do in the hands of amateurs, these states are presented with subtlety and depth and speak to true human experience. This is, perhaps, Michael’s greatest strength and why his novels are becoming more and more widely read.
Mesmerising prose, fantastic characterisation and intriguing explorations of humanity’s underbelly: all good reasons to go for Michael Bray. I’m a particular fan of his short fiction, and hence, have recommended his 28 story collection At the Edge of Night.
I hope you all enjoyed this list. Please, let me know if there is anyone you would add to it. Let’s build a network of people, all sharing awesome innovative new fiction. It’s not about being hipster, it’s about finding what we like in a world where it’s hard to do that (because there is so much to find). I’d love to hear your thoughts on the above list and your own favourite independents.
As always, you can follow me @josephwordsmith, where I’m pretty chatty, and tweet aLOT about 2000AD.
Have a great week peeps!
Originally posted on ScifiandScary.com
Christa Wojciechowski is just an awesome person. There’s no other word for it. She might write stories that utterly disturb me, but she’s great. She is, to date, the only author I actually correspond with on a semi regular basis. That says a lot. She’s written Sick, which I’ve reviewed here, and Sicker which I hosted a giveaway for. She’s got a talent for getting under your skin, and was the perfect person to write this piece on Why Psychological Thrillers Terrify Us. I hope you enjoy reading it, and high recommend you check out her books!
The Horror of Being Human: Why Psychological Thrillers Terrify Us
by Christa Wojciechowski
Horror books are scary because they trigger human beings’ most basic survival instincts: fear of creatures that might eat us, fear of the unknown, fear of the bogeyman, and fear of other nasty possibilities such as disembowelment or possession. It’s easier to face our fears by inventing monstrous archetypes because it’s “just pretend.” But the most terrifying monsters lurk within each one of us as life twists and shapes us by our experiences.
I’ve been told my psychological thriller series, SICK, is disturbing. I didn’t necessarily set out to frighten and disgust anyone. My goal was to tell the story of John and Susan Branch. I see their relationship as an exaggerated version of any marriage dynamic. Beneath the “honey-dos and sweetie pies” is a constant power struggle and insatiable craving for the beloved’s attention. At the heart of SICK is a romance that shows how two terribly f*cked-up people are trying to survive with their mental health issues.
The reasons behind their freakish behavior are desires we all share: safety, acceptance, unconditional love. I think that’s why readers understand John and Susan even when they hate to admit it to themselves.
One of my readers, a mother, felt uneasy when she associated John’s clutching neediness with her relationship with her toddler. Several readers identified with Susan’s resentments and frustrations about caregiving and the conflicting emotions between wanting a sick person to live and wishing they would die.
We all have a shadow side, and depending on what school of psychology you ascribe to, this side can be slightly different things, but what’s agreed on is that this darker side is lurking in our unconscious mind. We are either unaware of it, or we blot it out and ignore it.
Another reason I write about psychologically disturbed characters is because mental illness is present in my family, and losing my mind is one of my greatest fears. As a writer, I’m always analyzing and observing people. I pick up little clues in their body language and in their speech. They’ll flash their shadow side, exposing some selfish or childish trait or pattern that I recognize in myself. I wonder how easily I could end up like them. Are they aware of how crazy they sound? Will I know it if I’ve lost my mind?
That’s why it’s important for me as a writer to explore this shadow side through my characters. We must be vigilant of our true motivations, fears, and desires so they don’t consume us.
The reason books like SICK may affect readers on a deeper level than a traditional horror novel is because they expose this desperately hidden dark side. Underneath the bright and ordinary exterior of everyday life, people like my characters DO exist. We see parts of ourselves in each of them, and facing the inky void of our shadow side is the most frightening confrontation our conscious selves can imagine.
About Scifi and Scary:
SciFi and Scary is run by Lilyn G., a female with a serious love of horror and “hard” science fiction. I also have an almost obscene love for bad puns. Since the beginning of the year, including about 30 short stories, I have read 120 books according to my Goodreads Challenge for 2016. Pagewise, that comes out to 24,174 pages as of 11:39 p.m. on 4/8/2106.
So, you could say: I Read. A Lot.
Visit the site!
What do you think is scarier? Zombies, vampires, or your own inner demons?