Paper Tigers by Damien Angelica Walters

Paper Tigers by Damien Angelica Walters4 out of 5 stars

I’m usually not a horror guy.

However, when a Dark House Press title showed up on my doorstep, I decided it was as good of a time as any to try something unusual.

“In this haunting and hypnotizing novel, a young woman loses everything–half of her body, her fiancé, and possibly her unborn child–to a terrible apartment fire. While recovering from the trauma, she discovers a photo album inhabited by a predatory ghost who promises to make her whole again, all while slowly consuming her from the inside out.”

Paper Tigers echoed The Others for me. DECADE OLD SPOILER ALERT: A protagonist caught in what they perceive is a haunted house. In reality, they are the intruders, the ones disturbing the undead. Walters doesn’t use the shocking twist, though. She gives her broken main character agency and uses the house as a metaphor for Alison’s struggle to heal herself.

The standout in this book was the authenticity, as much as you can have authenticity in a story about a predatory ghost trying to trap someone in a photo album. Alison’s introversion as a result of her horrifying scars felt incredibly crippling. The need to recharge alone after something so simple as taking a few steps outside. The desire to avoid human contact, even with someone you love dearly.

I particularly enjoyed the nuanced relationship with her mother, who had her own struggle between wanting to help Allison return to some version of the person she was before and failing to respect her daughters need for space and time to process.

While I appreciate a good surprise as much as anyone, Paper Tigers felt like it could have ended earlier. Without spoiling the end of the book, the main storyline that had already come to a close felt like a false ending. In the case of Paper Tigers, I think Walters didn’t go surprising enough, instead trying to rekindle story out of an otherwise satisfying ending.

Walters prose sucks you in with vivid descriptions that build setting around all the senses. The smell of tobacco, the tautness of scar tissue: many times I found myself simply enjoying the picture she was painting. In a critical scene near the end of the book, Walters delivers masterfully on what I expect horror to be – unsettling, uncomfortable, and placing a character on that delicate knife edge of escape and completely losing themselves.

As a casual horror fan, I found a lot to enjoy in this novel.
Buy Paper Tigers by Damien Angelica Walters

Hiking Hanging Lake: Glenwood Springs, Colorado

In nature, beautiful things are easy to see, but hard to get to. The hike to Hanging Lake is no exception.

This spot isn’t off the beaten path. Quite the opposite, with its own exit off the iconic I-70 interstate through Glenwood Canyon.

This isn’t a long hike. From the parking lot to Hanging Lake, the total walking distance is just over a mile.

Hanging Lake Family Hike

This hike is steep. The elevation change got us, especially the kids. The trail rises over a thousand feet in under a mile.

However, at the top you’re rewarded with a Technicolor lake circled with waterfalls. Something that only could emerge from a fairy tale.

Arrive to Hanging Lake Early

Even though the short trek to the top is intense, the proximity to civilization and the jaw dropping beauty attracts crowds. I-70 cuts through the bottom of a canyon, so there is very little room for anything, much less a parking lot that can handle all the tourists.

We arrived at 9 a.m. and had to wait for a parking spot. The one in, one out system took us about forty-five minutes. There are two rangers controlling traffic, one holding cars outside Hanging Lake, and another who holds you inside the parking lot until a spot opens up.

Waiting that long provides ample time to chat with the rangers. It sounds like the park will move to a shuttle system with a fee soon. This will significantly cut down on traffic and the number of visitors. Which is a good thing, because the amount of foot traffic this fragile lake sees needs to be reduced.

Hanging Lake

After a brutal final approach that is essentially several flights of narrow, rocky steps, we arrived on the ledge holding Hanging Lake. A simple boardwalk encircles the lake to keep tourists off its shores. A boardwalk packed with people.

Hanging Lake, Glenwood Springs

Seclusion and tranquility is not something you’ll find here. But the sight of waterfall curtains pouring over a densely vegetated rock ledge into turquoise water is worth it. And who could blame everyone for wanting to come here?

A fallen log bisects the lake, adding another layer of interest. Unfortunately, some, like this guy, walk out on this balancing beam, which damages the ecosystem and speeds up the process of Hanging Lake fading from what it is today.

Don’t be that guy.

Hanging Lake Waterfall

Whitewater Rafting on the Colorado River: Glenwood Springs

On the last day of all our trips, we ask the kids to pick one activity to repeat.

White water rafting on the Shoeshone Rapids was awesome enough to earn their vote.

Rafting the Rapids

After a 15 minute bus ride from Whitewater Rafting, LLC headquarters in Glenwood Springs, the Colorado River whisks you away. Depending on the season and height of the river – you’re thrust into Class III rapids the moment you hit the water.

“Man Eater”, “The Wall”, and “Tombstone” demand to be conquered immediately. Be ready to follow instructions, listen to your guide, and get wet. If you’ve got a little anxiety, don’t worry. Our five-year-old daughter loved every second of Shoeshone. The entire experience is no rougher than taking a spin on some bumper boats. The rafts are massive, rugged things that seem impossible to tip over.

A Leisurely Float

The first two miles rush by quickly, and you’ll wish you could go back and do it again. The rest of the trip is more like a lazy river. The Colorado calms down and you don’t even have to paddle.

Whitewater Rafting on the Colorado River

The guides treat you to tongue in cheek histories of countless local points of interest – Bear Claw Caves, a giant mansion built into a cliff, the history of Glen Canyon, and many, many others. Most of their jokes are of the “so good they’re bad” variety, but the guides on both our trips were super-friendly, great with our kids, and the type of people you’d want to sit down and have a beer with.

Where the river widens there are several opportunities to hop in for a dip. With all the rafts are close together, splashing wars break out often.

The guides encouraged (peer pressured) some of us into standing on the front of the raft while everyone else paddled to spin, trying to knock us off. A few of us stood on the edges, linked paddles, and then leaned back in a twisted trust fall exercise, only to get rammed by another raft. At some point, everyone who played ended up in the water.

As we floated back into town, my daughter helmed the raft for awhile. She was in heaven. My son got to “ride the bull” for most of the trip, which meant he sat on the nose of the raft with his legs dangling in the water.

It’s easy to see why they had a blast and wanted to do it again. Even though we knew what was coming on our second trip down the river, we were able to enjoy the little moments even more. Sort of like seeing a great movie again.

Whitewater Rafting, LLC - Glenwood Springs

Kickstart Gamut Magazine

Gamut Magazine

Past Midwestern Gothic contributor, consummate horror writer, editor extraordinaire and all-around good guy Richard Thomas is starting a new magazine I’m stoked about: Gamut.

Gamut is an online magazine of neo-noir, speculative and literary fiction, with writers like Stephen Graham Jones, Laird Barron, Brian Evenson, Usman T. Malik, Matt Bell, Damien Angelica Walters, and Letitia Trent already on board.

Before he can do that though, it needs to be Kickstarted. Why? Because he’s planning on publishing an absolute boatload of content (400K words) plus artwork, and wants to pay artists for all their work.

I can’t think of any better reason to justify raising money, especially if folks get four hefty novels worth of work that Richard has hand-selected as a bonus.

Rewards start as low as you want, but a measly thirty bucks gets you a subscription for the whole year, which is pretty awesome.

Why are you still here? Go do it!

Kickstart Gamut Magazine