Book Review, Horror: The Boulevard Monster, by Jeremy Hepler

You can find Jeremy Helper’s book The Boulevard Monster on Amazon and in print.

Disclosure: I received a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

So once upon a time there was this guy. He meant well. Or at least…51% well over 49% ill. On average he meant well. And then he made a mistake. One teensy, tiny little mistake. But clearly not one that shifted the balance the other direction. Clearly he’s still a good guy. Who at least still means well.

One teensy, tiny little mistake after another, and he’s not sure where he is anymore. Did he mean well? Or ill? Or something else? Is ANY of this his fault? Surely not all of it is his fault…

You’ve read that story before; it’s the classic tale of a life gone wrong. Almost always, for reasons that vary from book to book, it was already going wrong anyway, before the monsters and uncanny stepped in.

What sets The Boulevard Monster apart is the warmth that fills the pages. Unlike many of the anti-heroes that carry out their own self-destruction, aided by the supernatural, bad luck, and Very Bad Men, our hero Seth Fowler is actually, genuinely likable, not just a self-justifying jerk of an unreliable narrator. He spends his time caring for other people, trying to make their lives a little easier. He has fond and even delightful memories of the past; he is grounded in solid realities rather than ambition and drive. When the time comes for him to make an ethical choice (at the very beginning of the book), he makes it without hesitation: in fact it’s his ethical choice that gets him in trouble. When he digs himself deeper and deeper into gray and then black areas of morality, you know that he’s making a very clear-cut choice between bad and worse. The mistakes he makes are the ones that we all make every day, out of the desire to help our loved ones, or prevent them from coming to harm. And his family is actually worth it.

This is no whiny, self-centered character who you secretly wish would get a two-by-four-sized clue stick to the side of the head. This is a genuinely nice guy, which gives the classic tale a lot more impact than I expected. I couldn’t hold myself back and go, “Well, if only he’d admitted that he was wrong here, here, and here, then he would never be in this place.” There was never a moment where I could say that. The actions that the character take throughout the novel have nothing but admiration and sympathy from me. Even during Seth’s worst moment, I went, “Ahhhhh…I’d have at least been tempted.”

The ending, in my opinion, nailed it. I’d like to see more in this universe, too. Recommend.

Journal: Self-faith, self-promotion.

Last night I delivered a writer craft talk for Pikes Peak Writers.  Usually what happens with this kind of thing is extreme anxiety before the talk, then beating myself up afterwards.  I was very anxious beforehand, but it went well, and on the way home I just focused on not punishing myself.  “You didn’t do XYZ correctly,” went the self-talk, but I examined it and found that it was really about the fact that I tried.  Not that I wasn’t perfect, but that I had put myself forward at all.

Ah, yes.  Midwestern upbringing strikes again.

This morning, I’m still struggling with the dread that something terrible is going to happen to me.  From the end of the journaling this morning:

Self-promotion is going to have to become a rather strenuous, ill-balanced exercise in self-faith.  I did this!  I believe in it!  Exercise:  working out weak muscles that are wobbly and shaky.  Getting done and feeling nauseous.  You can believe in yourself in one aspect and not others, the same way you can overwork one set of muscles and the other won’t magically become strong (just out of wishing they would).  And getting out in the real world and doing [ things that require self-faith] is never quite the same… Upping the weight of self-faith, upping the reps. Planning ahead for days with no willpower.

So at least for a little while, I’m going to write down my “self-promotion” tasks as “self-faith” in order to remind me that it’s not just my work that I’m putting in front of others, but my freedom to be an actual person with free will and a chance of success that I’m building up.  Strength.

Today!  If you like this post, please “follow” me on Amazon.  Unless you’re anti-Amazon, and then just follow me somewhere else.  Because [deep breath] I’m pretty awesome.


This was a particularly rich journaling morning, but it’s mostly short snippets.

Cognitive dissonance is one of the most terrifying things I know.  I should make a monster out of it.

[For men,] 50 = the year of the patriarch, where you have to come to grips with the fact that you’ll never be one.  That’s the “middle aged crisis.”

Can you even write a thriller pantsing?  [A few names of authors I have heard that do so] do it.  So it’s probably a function of internalizing so many [thriller] plots.

Wanted: co-writer.  You must be able to: make maps, edit, and plot.  Worldbuilding a must.  Me:  Characters, dialogue, and filtering the scene through character POV.  What we will fight over:  plot.  Fame and fortune await!

[Playing with a plot idea, discovering that I’m injecting a lot more tropes in it than usual, probably because I’ve been studying tropes lately] Studying tropes is giving my subconscious permission to use them more.  Cheesily?  Hard to say.  I can’t write fast enough to keep up with all my good ideas, and this trope thing is only making it worse.

I’m not joking about the co-writer thing, by the way.  It would be a BLAST to work with someone who handed me a juicy high-fantasy world to work in at this point.  However, it’s gonna have to be 50-50 royalties deal…

If you enjoyed this morning’s post, look around for a good high-fantasy GM that you know that loves worldbuilding and hates having their players screw things up…and email me with their name 🙂

Journal: Some mornings I have a bit of an issue with making sense

I’ve been journaling a fair amount lately, but a lot of the stuff I’m journaling about is probably not for public consumption.  Like, I wrote some a little bit about the fact that readers are going to see the cover and blurb on whatever you write, so of course the first big plot twists aren’t going to be all that surprising, but it was in such a scattered way that it’s kind of nonsense.

What does the reader know?  More things, more stuff.  They know the cover & blurb–so they know more of the secrets.  Well, you do what you have to.

See what I mean?  Makes no sense.

But when I got the garble cleared out and put the journal down, things became more clear.

Another thing I wrote about was a couple of people who have inadvertently come out to me as being pretty damn sexist, and I came to the conclusion that I had better keep an eye on them (and maybe not get so involved in some projects).  That’s been on my mind lately.  “Am I burning too many bridges?”  And then I realized, “Wait…shouldn’t they be giving a shit about burning their bridges with me?”

But I think I’ll let that ruminate before I write it–a lot of gobbledydook this morning.  Like this:

Also, one more heartbreak–one more sexist asshole dickweed guy.  “You can save them!” No, you can’t.  They can climb out of the hole, or they can’t.

Anyway, if you enjoyed this morning’s hurbleburble (although I’m not sure how), please take a look at my book, The Clockwork Alice, which is a historical steampunk/fantasy intended to produce a thoughtful, yet turn-around-in-circles-until-you’re-dizzy effect.



Journal: A bunch of bad ideas. Or evil ones.

Today’s blog post is brought to you by…

Cheesy horror tropes. I was coming up with title ideas for cheesy horror stories…at one point I caught myself going, “Why am I writing this? Who’s gonna read these anyway? Who cares?” See if you can spot it 🙂

1. Don’t Go into the Basement. 2. Let’s Split up. 3. The Final Girl. 4. (He Had a) Bad Childhood. 5. The Monster in the Mirror. 6. Don’t Look Behind You. 7. Push the Bell & Run Away. 8. Double Dog Dare You. 9. What Could Possibly Go Wrong? 10. Why’s Calling? 11. People Suit 12. Rubber Mask. 13. Things That Go Bump in the Night. 14. Don’t Go to Sleep. 15. A Knock at the Door. 16. Don’t Touch That. 17. The Forbidden Room. 18. Don’t Do That One Thing (I Told You Not to Do). 19. Who’s That at the Door? 20. The Thing in the Basement. 21. The Skeleton in the Closet. 22. Scream and Run. 23. What Happened to Your Face? 24. Night of [All] the Monsters. 25. Good Friends Help You Move. 26. A Dish Best Served Cold. 27. Red of Tooth and Claw. 28. Bad Choices. 29. Don’t Leave the Garbage Out at Night. 30. Taking Out the Garbage. 31. Don’t Make a Face (Or It Will Stick That Way). 32. The Guy on the Other Side of the Street. 33. The House Next Door. 34. The Cabin in the Woods. 35. What’s in the Attic? 36. You’re It. 37. Bad Luck. 38. It Was a Dark and Stormy Night. 39. Good Neighbors. 40. The Accident. 41. Born This Way. 42. The Rats/Spiders/Birds/Bats/Ants, Etc. 43. Unquiet Ghosts. 44. The Town Where All the @#$% Happens. 45. Suburbia. 46. Quaint Little Tourist Trap. 47. Tourist Trap. 48. Homeschool. 49. Unsupervised. 50. The Babysitter. 51. Nightmares. 52. Don’t Step on a Crack. 53. Girls Always Go to the Bathroom Together. 54. Split Personalities. 55. The Devil You Know. 56. Things That Go Bump in the Night [this is apparently the sequel, since I already listed it]. 57. Loose Ends. 58. Don’t Throw the First Stone. 59. What’s in the Sewers. 60. Best Friends. 61. The Chosen One. 62. The Devil’s Daughter. 63. Back from the Dead. 64. The Haunting. 65. ESP. 66. Telekinesis. [Note: someone wanted to know the first Stephen King book one had ever read; mine was Firestarter.] 67. Poltergeist. 68. The Little Old Lady (Who Has Like 50 Cats). 69. The Cathouse. 70. The Thieves who Broke into the Wrong Damn House. 71. On More Monster Just Trying to Make It. 72. Cubeville. 73. Guilty Conscience. 74. But I’m Not Wrong. 75. Expect the Unexpected. 76. The (Werewolf) Pet Sitter. 77. Now You Know. 78. The Divorce (Splitting up Secrets). 79. The Squirrels in the Attic.

I didn’t run out of ideas, just out of page. One of the things that was interesting was that changing the phrasing slightly caused a completely different idea to come into my head, for example, “Don’t Leave the Garbage Out at Night” vs. “Taking out the Garbage.” One is more “If you go outside, the monsters will get you or do SOMETHING to your garbage,” and the other is, “We killed a guy and now we have to get rid of the body.”

If you liked today’s journal, check out Chris Fox’s Write to Market, which is what started this train of thought.

Journal: I’m not going to even mention the name of the book

Being both sick and feverish and in manic mode is not pleasant.  I did get a haircut.  The conversation ended up with me encouraging the hairdresser to start talking to her daughter about sex earlier rather than later, because it’s better for the information to be coming from you…I’m not really sure how we got there.  The details are kind of foggy.  But!  Haircut, no tears, success.

I wrote half my journal before I went to get the haircut, and half after.  “Get a haircut” kept coming up in the writing and I finally just broke off and got it done.  When I got back the thoughts were a lot more settled.  For some reason what came up was a rant about this writing book I’d tracked down at the library because it sounded interesting.  Then I read this:

Motherhood is a creation.  It is the beginning of immortality.  Perhaps this is one of the reasons women are less inclined toward philandering [and, or so it is implied by the author, creating stories] than men.

The greatest injustice imposed upon a mother is when her grown up children, out of sheer love and consideration, keep their troubles from her.  They make her feel unimportant.

As you might imagine, I stopped reading about this point.

This is so sexist that I’ll grieve every time I [try to read this book].  How is this person going to tell me how to write a story when he doesn’t think I’m fully human?  what stories can he even tell?  Having birthed a child did not satisfy my need to create.  It slowed me down, granted–and if [a lack of need to create] is how you wanted to read the situation, you could.  But I stopped being fully human for a while there, because it took everything I had to deal with my child.  I was carefully trained to turn my essential nature off.  That is not the same a having satisfied the need to create.  That was being exhausted and brainwashed into compliance.


I am not a magic breeding machine who is “satisfied” by my daughter’s mere existence and her desire to have her every whim be my command.  There’s nothing essentially holy or uplifting about it, no more so than some guy leaving behind an unwanted child after a one-night stand.  Or do guys get some special glow after they’ve impregnated someone?  Someone, tell me, was your need to create satisfied?  Were you like, “I was going to be a world-famous novelist, but now…?  I’m good.  Someone else take my place at the table.”

I thought not.  Screw that guy; I’m not even going to mention the name of the book.

If you liked the journal today, please check out my historical crime novellas in the Smoke seriesHow Smoke Got out of the Chimneys is the first one.

[Shakes fist at the author of that book.]


Journal: The (ugly, unwanted) heart of the story.

This morning…a little bit downhill on the viral front.  I broke out the new gin and peach bitters last night and I feel terrible this morning.  It’s like I can’t believe that the same thing that happened to me last time (drinking even a little alcohol while I’m recovering causing me to be completely wiped out the next day) won’t happen to me this time.  And of course my inner voice is no help.  “What are you, some kind of alcoholic?”

And yet so much of my life has been, “Well, it’s been six months since you got screwed on that front.  Why not try it again?  Instead of swearing that you’ll never do it again.”

So if it’s a choice between, “Poke the boundaries and have something negative happen” and “Never poke the boundaries at all,” I have to go with the former.  But I also feel like I should be able to find a middle way that doesn’t involve being dehydrated and miserable in the morning.

This morning:  working on a story idea that I was stuck on.  Plot usually doesn’t cause me problems, but when it does, they’re doozies.  However, I backed up and went, “This isn’t actually a plot problem, but a story problem–I don’t know what the heart of this story is.”

This story is stupid and I don’t understand it!  What am I struggling with here.  Plot.  A series of logical events.  I don’t like being railroaded [by my plots].  “Now, we have to look for the killer.  It’s a whodunnit!”  But it’s not a whodunnit.

I’m struggling with keeping the reader in mind.  Tell myself a story, tell someone else a story.  I’m telling nobody a story, I’m just back at the stage of not even being able to figure out a logical sequence of events.  Yay.

What is the heart of this story?

Once upon a time, a writer had to seek revenge.  It was a horrible thing.

(Please note that I generally hate revenge stories and was both amazed to see myself writing these words and yet knew that’s exactly what it was, too.  I cut a bunch of story specifics here on the revenge plot.)

You don’t contain a berzerker by force.  You contain one by erasure.  The “Mama Bear” is the true face, not the comforting mother.  Story idea:  A female serial killer who kills the people who hurt her kids, over and over and over.

I couldn’t figure out what the heart of that story would be, and decided to move on this morning to the one that I’m already invested in.  If you’d like to claim the idea of the female serial killer who kills the people who remind her of the asshole who hurt her kids, feel free.

If you liked the blog, today I’d like you to check out my horror/dark fantasy short story collection, A Murder of Crows:  Seventeen Tales of Monsters & the Macabre.  Since I seem to be on a revengeful rampage and all this morning.

Journal: Not knowing you’re being rude is not the same as being polite

I’m finally getting over being stealth-sick (the kind where you find yourself panting after a small exertion but that doesn’t leave a trail of mucus in your wake), and it still shows.  I gotta wonder if more people just need to stop and take naps, and if that would solve a lot of problems.  “You’re dehydrated and tired.  Get off social media and take a nap.”

Three semi-random tidbits follow, mostly tied together by the feeling that I’m going to have to be ornery if I’m going to make it through the day…

What if [everyone] learned not to let other people assume that you were on their side?  Then that literally would be enough [to change the world].  What if everybody with privilege said, “Oh.  Maybe I should default to helping out when it costs me nothing but 30 seconds of my time.  Instead of defaulting to looking the other way.”  All you have to do is change that one default.  “It would take me one minute–so–I’m out.”  Fine, cool.  But that one default.

There are already millions of bigots who are loudly standing up for what they believe in.  All you have to do is not let them count you in their ranks.  “I will not let you believe that I am on your side.”


Not knowing you’re being rude is not the same as being polite.


I realize that you, like me, have a passion for self-sabotage.  Something is uncomfortably intense = time to run.  Why don’t we all just get along?  However, I’m not willing to let my fear control me to the extent that I must fail.  […] I will keep vigilant against fear.  It’s not a mind-killer.  It’s a tool and I will use it to its highest and best purposes.  I will use my fear to help me live, not to help me fail.

I have a new novelette out (yay!) but it hasn’t sifted through the system to become active on Kindle or iBooks yet (b00!), so I’m going to sit on the links for that for a bit (sigh!).  So I think what I’d like to ask of you this morning (if you liked this blog) is to watch a Chef John/Foodwishes cooking video.  This is one of my favorite recipes, spicy caramel chicken.  Be prepared for dad jokes.  I make this fairly often.



Journal: The bestowing of a name

This morning’s journal, like yesterday’s, had signs of mental exhaustion all over it.  I finished writing the novel (yay!), then worked on a freelance project that involved rewriting 40K of a 50K novel in less than a week.  So about 90K of writing in two weeks:  mental exhaustion.  I can tell because all I do in the journal entries is bitch and moan about things.  So take that into consideration.

I was thinking about someone who’d been ranting about how everyone who wasn’t Christian were “moral relativists,” and how their being intolerant of his views was complete hypocrisy on their part.

Like I said, bitching and moaning…

When you bestow a name and its “obvious” rules on someone else, you can’t be offended and shocked when people seem to behave hypocritically with regards to those rules–they were never the rules (or principles) that applied in the first place.  Humanists, secularists, atheists, agnostics, [probably a bunch of other groups I’m not naming, not limited to people who aren’t Christian but who are religious after other faiths,] and just plain “don’t care”-ists don’t go walking around saying, “I am a moral relativist.”  That’s a specialist term from philosophy.  […]

If you’re going to lump everyone who isn’t “you” into a group called “moral relativist,” then you’re really just setting up a “them.”  And of course you’re going to be on the looking for things “they” are doing wrong or hypocritically.  And of course it’s going to start looking like “they” are evil.  So–practically speaking–[calling someone a] moral relativist is, or rather belongs to, the process by which one turns other people into evil.  Calling someone a name they don’t apply to themselves is terrible.  I dunno about evil [in and of itself], but definitely a dick move.

I’ve gotten to the point where I hate responding negatively to other people’s comments on Facebook.  If you want to bring some b.s. to one of my posts, I’ll feel free to say what I like–it’s my party and I’ll say what I want to.  But the original comment still rankled, after a stupid amount of time.  It was probably a good thing to just spit out my opinion, even if it was totally l’esprit d’escalier by this point.

If you enjoyed today’s blog post, check out the stories in my Smoke historical mystery series, in which the small eke a leg up over the big.  Sometimes.  If they’re lucky.

Not-a-journal: Signs of fundamentalism.

I finished the novel!  This does not end the state of panicked scampering.  But I did give myself a break this morning and slept in, took a shower, ate breakfast…okay, when I say it like that it sounds bad.  I made my bed.  There.  All better.

I also skipped journaling this morning and instead wrote this, which was inspired by this article on why literature is the answer to fundamentalism.

1) The only correct interpretation is the right interpretation. The only right interpretation is the approved interpretation. The only approved interpretation is the received interpretation. People in authority have checked up on this.

2) Don’t read the book that exists. Read the book I tell you exists. Your friends, family, community, and country support me on this matter. Don’t disappoint them. They wouldn’t understand.

3) Only the context necessary to support the true interpretation is contextual. The rest need not be recorded. Or brought into the picture at all. In fact it’s purely a matter of historical record. Why question the facts? They are in support of the truth. Everything else is cherry picking and lies.

4) It’s easy to understand. It’s black and white. It’s obvious. Don’t be an idiot.

5) The abuses of power that arise from this situation are not institutional. Do not assess this in the light of news reports to the contrary. That guy was crazy. His behavior does not reflect on us all.

6) The real problem is that you should be stronger. Suffering builds character. It has nothing to do with injustice. You are too weak and whiny. Your opinion does not need to be heard. You deserve this. You need it. If you were stronger this wouldn’t be a problem. Stop crying. Nobody likes you anyway.

7) If you agree with me, that’s not suspicious at all. It was the right and obvious choice. No pressure has been put on you at all. You did this of your own free will. Unless you change your mind. Or do something that I don’t like. And then there were influences. Brainwashed. The media. Video games. Fake news.

8) Just follow the orders. Now is not the time to ask questions. Someone else will sort it all out.

I wasn’t really awake at that point.  Then I started reading the news.  Oh boy.

The thing you could do me if you liked this morning’s post:  check out the Folding Ideas YouTube channel.  It’s a philosophical kind of hmmmm thing.  It features videos about film editing that I like, among other things.  I recommend The Art of Editing and Scuicide Squad.  Hur hur hur…

(Oh!  The name of the novel is One Dark Summer Night, and it’s a riff on 80s-style horror novels and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.)

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