New Press: Gravestone Press

Gravestone Press is a new press looking for stories. For more information on the calls, CLICK HERE.

Open calls: 

When They Came For You

Open date : 18 / 05 / 2021 Will close when filled

Horror stories on the theme of those who are coming to get you. Think paranoia, think revenge, think ancient nasty traditions and send me your best darkest stories. My need is for 70,000 words, so get writing!

EYES

Open date : 19 / 05 / 2021 Will close when filled

sensitive things, necessary things, how would we cope if our sight was taken from us… explore the blood soaked world of Eyes – and see (ha!) where the story can take you.

Halloween Haunts

Open date : 19 / 05 / 2021 Will close when filled

Halloween is every horror writer’s dream time, so many aspects to this time of the year. Look further than the conventional Trick and Treat ideas, everyone will have used them by now, look beyond that into the festival itself, Samhain, ancient tradition, ancient – see what you can do. If this isn’t filled in time to be published this year, it will be held over for Halloween 2022 – we won’t let your story get away!

Blood Clots

Open date : 19 / 05 / 2021 Will close when filled

short shorts, nothing over 1000 words, shock your reader with your gory and wild imaginations, please! Sometimes these short pieces can be better than long stories, let’s see what you have in your archives or in your mind… sorry, can’t offer payment for these, not until you write me such outstanding stories we all make money and then I will…



Book Review : Aleister Blake by Valentina Cano

Review by Matt Morovich

An admission before I begin: I’m not that much of a fan of the romance genre.

It’s not for particularly any negative reason, the previous statement isn’t an indictment of the genre, it’s just not a genre that I have had much experience with. Admittedly, it also not one I have a preference for; if I’m going to pick up a book, it’s much more likely going to be horror, science fiction, or fantasy.  Maybe a more accurate statement would be that I don’t have enough experience with the genre to say if I’m a fan or not. 

That said, this book, Aleister Blake

Here I thought it was going to be a horror novel and yet it’s a sneaky, stealthy horror romance.

And that is not a bad thing in the slightest.

Aleister Blake is the story of Nora, a young woman living in Victorian London with her brother Peter. Decidedly working class, the pair work as rat catchers for a man named Sharpe, clearing the homes of wealthier citizens of vermin. Having grown up as orphans on the city streets, the siblings are incredibly close and Peter has done everything he could to keep his sister safe. That said, they are still products of their environment which expresses itself in Nora’s suspicion and dislike for the upper class and her penchant for nicking objects to pawn from the homes of their clients when her brother, the moral compass of the two, isn’t able to stop her. Due to her smaller size and figure, Nora is the quick and nimble one, crawling beneath floors and between walls to catch the rats while Peter helps manage their working relationships to get more clients.

While not a comfortable life, the two of them get by with their work, making a mostly honest living, and things go well until Peter makes the mistake of placing too large a bet on a dog during a rat-baiting when a tip doesn’t pan out. When it is revealed he doesn’t have the money to cover the wager, Peter is stabbed and mortally wounded while his sister watches. Crying for help in a filthy London alley, Nora’s prayers are answered when a stranger appears out of the night to offer her a devil’s bargain: Nora could agree to work for the stranger on a project that he needed her assistance with and he would save Peter. The additional drawback would be that Nora would become invisible to everyone who had previously known her, excising her from her previous life, but, facing living in a world without her brother, she’d rather go on knowing he was alive and unable to see her than for him to be dead, so she agrees. 

And that is how we are introduced to the mysterious Aleister Blake.

The horror of Aleister Blake comes from the same-named character, who, right from the go, is clearly more than he appears. Able to heal mortal wounds with a wave of a hand, he lives in a Tardis-like home that is far larger on the inside than it is on the outside and is staffed with misshapen shadow creatures that flit about silently on the edges of your vision. Over the course of the book, we learn Aleister’s secrets as Nora uncovers more about her mysterious benefactor and business partner and the unsettling nature of his house.

The romance portion of this novel is, you probably could have guessed, the growing relationship between Nora and Aleister. Over the course of the book, the two come to an understanding of each other and gain mutual respect, leading to Nora acknowledging she has feelings for him. To go too much more into either the romance or horror aspect of the novel would be to give too many spoilers, but, to my unfamiliar experience with the romance genre, the relationship seemed to grow organically and realistically.

I’m happy to say that, as opposed to the last two books I reviewed, I enjoyed Aleister Blake quite a bit. Written from Nora’s perspective, she’s an entertaining and realistically written character who I enjoyed getting to be a part of. Her interactions with her brother, Aleister, and others felt real and unlike other female protagonists whose name rhymes with “Smella”, she is competent and realistically flawed. She has a sense of humor, her own fears, and desires, and the end of the novel was refreshing in how it turned out. I particularly enjoyed how Cano wrote the dialogue, it flowed well and sounded like how people actually talk; additionally, the way that Nora and Aleister speak with each other also really emphasized the changing nature of their relationship, becoming more familiar and humorful as they grow closer. 

The only thing that made me frown at the book was, once again, the main threat came down to sexual violence around women, specifically women who had been kidnapped to be trafficked. I will say that there are no graphic depictions of any abuse, only implications of it, but again that was being used as a trope made me roll my eyes a bit. What saved it for me was how little it was part of the plot; it existed, and dealing with the kidnapping was part of Nora’s motivation, but it wasn’t the singular facet of the story nor was it over-emphasized. Part of me wishes Cano had found a different reason for Nora to care about Aleister’s schemes, because of how overdone this sort of thing feels to me, but I could look past that opinion for how much I enjoyed the rest of the book.

I will say that I was hoping that the book would have had more horror. While what was there was well written, I felt like this skewed a bit more toward the romance side of the hyphenated genre than the horror side. The horror had a decidedly PG-13 feel to it, which isn’t necessarily bad, I was just hoping for more. 

If you’re looking for a horror-romance book with an interesting and entertaining female protagonist, I would definitely recommend Aleister Blake.

Religious Horror Month: Exorcism For Fun and Profit by Loren Rhoads

Exorcism for Fun and Profit

by Loren Rhoads

My mom was a school librarian and didn’t place any limits on what I read, figuring that if it was too mature for me, I simply wouldn’t understand it. She limited what I could watch, though. I wasn’t allowed to see The Exorcist in the theater, but she didn’t stop me from reading the novel. Long after everyone I knew was terrified—or claimed they were terrified—by the movie, I checked the novel out of the public library.

The part that struck me more than anything else was Blatty’s introduction, in which a man is tortured in a dirty prison cell with a cattle prod and a bucket of water. I was a farm girl. My dad’s cattle prod lived on the telephone desk in the kitchen, where it was close to hand in case the cows got out. I knew a cattle prod would make a 1200-pound steer sit down. I could easily imagine what it would do to a man.

Blatty’s point was that men did such evil to each other that demonic possession was easy to believe in. It would be decades before I wondered about humans possessing demons.

***

A couple of years after I read the novel, I came home from university one weekend when my parents weren’t home. Of course I invited a couple of friends over to my folks’ place in the country. Because there was whiskey involved, everyone was expected to spend the night.

My memories of that night come in fragments, like a broken kaleidoscope: there was pizza. Under-aged boys. My best friend from high school. It goes without saying there was puking.

In the middle of the night, I crawled out to the family room with my misery. Unable to sleep at the best of times, my friend Martha had the TV on. The only thing she could find to watch in the middle of that interminable night was The Exorcist.

I wonder now if the movie had been edited for TV. I remember the boils and the pea soup and the backbend and the spinning head. The possession was not, by a long stretch, the most horrific thing I saw that night.

Even so, Father Merrin, speaking the rites, lodged in my imagination.

Many years later, Brian Thomas followed the story I’d written about a succubus meeting an angel by possessing my succubus with a mortal girl’s soul. Suddenly, Brian and I were writing the book that would come to be called Lost Angels.

Clearly, if there was a possession, there would need to be an exorcist. I didn’t grow up Catholic, so I don’t know the rituals of the Church. I do know–all too well–how it feels to be a young woman completely out of control, when something else takes control of your body and poisons you. The possession was easy to write. The exorcism worried me. I wanted to get it right, to do justice to my influences.

Poking around in the Brand Bookstore in Glendale with Brian, I came across Exorcism Through the Ages, published in 1974 by the Philosophical Library of New York. It was exactly the book I needed to guide the exorcism of a mortal girl’s soul from the succubus Lorelei. Wheels within wheels: a historical overview of exorcism inspired by a fictional exorcism inspired by the real-life exorcism of Roland Doe…and all of it inspiring the events in the back room at Lost Angels.

Here’s a little taste of the exorcism at Lost Angels:

The exorcism was working. Lorelei felt a dreadful tearing in her chest, like the agony a cell feels as it divides.

Joseph watched her closely. He raised his hands to shoulder height, palms facing her, and began to pray. “Satan, Father of Lies, Author of Evil, look in pity on this your servant, now caught up in the coils of this human spirit. Unravel this angelic labyrinth, break asunder these snares and traps, put this childish ghost to flight. By this sign,”—he drew an upside cross—“let your servant be protected. Keep watch over the inmost recesses of her heart, rule over her emotions, strengthen her will. Let vanish from her flesh the temptations of this human child. As we call on your name, O Satan, allow this child to retreat in grace and in peace, so that this servant of yours may sincerely and steadfastly render you the service which is your due.”

The agony spiraled beyond anything Lorelei had previously imagined. The more she tried to shove aside Ashleigh’s ghost, the more of her own spirit she felt ripped away. Her flesh had turned to stone, galvanized by lightning. She convulsed and arced and struggled, breathing out a steady tormented moan.

Book Review: Death Masks by Kim Richards

Review Written by Matt Marovich

Content warning, there will be a non-graphic discussion of sexual assault and rape in this review.

I finished Death Masks by Kim Richards a few days ago and I’ve been rolling it around in my head, trying to decide what I thought about it. 

After some thought, my take is that Death Masks has two stories, one I enjoyed quite a bit and one I didn’t care for very much at all.

Both stories revolve around Bill. On the surface, Bill is a fairly stereotypical character if you asked for a standard model “IT professional”: out of shape, overweight, plays video games on his lunch break, not much for physical activity, or being outwardly social. If that was all there was to him, he’d be a fairly boring, one-dimensional character, one we have seen in countless other books and media featuring awkward, doughy men who have grown up and managed to make their adolescent computer nerdery their profession. However, what saves Bill from being a caricature is the emotional realism that Kim Richards uses when writing him, in particular regarding his relationship with his girlfriend Dixie, and that is the story, their relationship, that I enjoyed most in this book.

Dixie is the opposite of Bill in pretty much every way. Smaller where Bill is large, conventionally attractive for a woman while Bill is kind of a slob, Dixie is a nurse at the local hospital, a profession that works with people while her boyfriend works with machines. She’s an artist, primarily working with sculpture and plaster casts, and athletic in that she works out, goes jogging, and enjoys social dancing, particularly salsa, while Bill would rather drink a six pack, eat some pizza, and shoot pixel zombies. If Bill was true to the stereotype, he might try to passive-aggressively keep Dixie from the things that she enjoys that he doesn’t care about, particularly if they could threaten his relationship with her (like the dancing), but instead Richards writes him in a mature fashion, that even if he isn’t into the things Dixie enjoys, he supports her love of them because they bring her happiness and feed her soul. Early in the book, in chapter three, we have a great example of this as they go “dancing”, or Dixie goes dancing and Bill watches her. While he does acknowledge the occasional pang of jealousy, the focus is more on enjoying Dixie’s happiness and wanting to support her (it doesn’t hurt that she’s gorgeous and it’s a turn on for him to watch her dance). The same goes for her art; she has her own space in the basement that he remarks could make a good home office for him so he could do work from home more easily, but that would mean impacting her personal artistic space and he’d rather not. Seeing the consideration he pays her in regards to the things she enjoys (and the fact that she never gives him crap about his own interests that she doesn’t share) was a nice change of pace and a nice break from an otherwise stereotypical character.

The other aspect of their relationship that made me enjoy this part of the book was how Bill tries to support Dixie’s mental illness. Dixie suffers from depression and anxiety, primarily linked to particular times of the year such as fall and winter as well as Christmas specifically. This illness impacts how she interacts with Bill, at times being snappish or making things more difficult as he tries to navigate the complexities of her illness, and impacts her life in all of the myriad ways that depression and anxiety can. Not once does Bill treat her with anything less than respect and understanding and while he does worry about her, he doesn’t make his concern her problem so that she has to manage him managing her illness. He speaks with her counselor to strategize on ways he might be able to help her and he tries to be thoughtful about her condition. As someone who has had people close to him deal with such illnesses, watching Bill do his best to be helpful and take care of Dixie felt familiar and very real in a personal way. 

While those were the main aspects of Death Masks that I enjoyed, the rest of the plot wasn’t to my tastes.

The main conflict of the other plotline of Death Masks is Bill’s interactions with an unknown assailant. Early in the book, Bill has what might be a very minor heart attack and it scares him into action to try to better his health. In order to do this, he decides to take up walking (with the intent to move up to running when he’s in better condition to) and goes to the nearby park. While on his first foray into fitness, he comes across a scene on one of the paths: a thin figure hunched over the fallen body of a young man, another jogger. Thinking the man on the ground is being robbed, Bill tries to intercede but despite the size difference, the attacker being much smaller, Bill is quickly overcome and rendered unconscious. Before he is clubbed over the head with a rock, he looks up into the face of his attacker and sees a skeletal visage looking back at him. 

We as the reader are given glimpses into the attacker’s mind, a serial killer who uses a syringe full of some unnamed drug that almost instantaneously paralyzes those injected with it. We later learn that the killer targets men of a particular standard of physical attractiveness, stalking them from the bushes of the park’s jogging trails before ambushing them and taking them away to be buried alive while still paralyzed. Throughout the book we come to learn the attacker’s motivations, that they are seeking revenge for childhood wrongs perpetrated on them by their brother and his friends, a gang of drug-using thugs and criminals who sexually assault the attacker, first as what they were told was a gang initiation and later on just because they could. 

Can I just say that I am extremely tired of this use of sexual violence in fiction? Need to have a woman with a traumatic backstory? Have her be raped. Got to give a killer a reason for revenge? They were sexually assaulted. Have to put the female main character in a situation where they are in harm’s way? Have the threat be the explicit potential of them being raped. The use of something so serious feels lazy and, to me, disrespectful. With how traumatic real-life sexual violence can be, using it as the defining moment for why the villain is evil feels like it cheapens the reality of it for me and, depending on your reading, might not speak kindly to victims of such experiences. 

That said, the parts of the book that involve the park stalker struck me as unrealistic. A drug that works the same on people of various body types, regardless of how much they are given, without some suffering side-effects from the drug and nearly instantaneously? The police, when they are involved, are needlessly antagonistic and almost painfully disinterested at times. Despite the fact that the killer racks up a nine-victim body count, there is no rising consciousness of people of a particular gender going missing after visiting the park until very late in the book and, even then, the police are almost entirely dismissive of anything Bill has to say. Finally, in the end, Bill realizes the true identity of the killer when he hears their voice, recognizing it, but somehow fails to do so in their first encounter when he hears the killer speak. The twist of the reveal of the killer’s identity wasn’t really much of a twist and despite the killer’s earlier martial prowess, sweeping Bill off his feet, pinning him to the ground, and clubbing him unconscious, none of that was apparent in the final confrontation. 

My other criticism of the book is that the ending felt rushed, the final showdown only a few pages long.

While I feel like Death Masks started out strong, with Bill and Dixie being complex and well-rounded characters, the killer felt flat and disinteresting in comparison. With the rushed ending and some plot details that seemed inserted only to provide ineffective blinds for the killer’s true identity, the unfortunate impression I’m left with is one of a missed opportunity. 

Book Review: The Bonecarver (The Night Weaver Series) by Monique Snyman

Review Written by Matt Marovich

Content Warning: Sexual Assault, Threats of Rape

Before I begin I need to admit that when I chose The Bonecarver to review I wasn’t aware that it was book two in a series and, if I had, I wouldn’t have picked it up having not read the first. While this book doesn’t rely too heavily on the plot from the book before, recurring characters and their past history with the main character might have resonated and made more impact if I had their complete backstory.

The Bonecarver is the story of Rachel Cleary, a teenage girl attending Ridge Crest High in the small New England town of Shadow Grove. Despite its small and sleepy nature, the town of Shadow Grove is one of mysteries that hide a darkness beneath the surface, where terrible events happen but are covered up by those in charge. Only recently recovering from an encounter with a being called the Night Weaver, responsible for the deaths and disappearances of several children, Shadow Grove has moved on in its silent fashion, ignoring the strangeness and tragedy that had befallen it.

We are introduced to Rachel as she is attempting to take her SATs when a panic attack forces her outside, abandoning the test. While in the bathroom to calm down with a small amount of privacy, she helps save her classmate Mercia Holstein from an epileptic seizure. During this encounter, Rachel finds a small, carved figurine of bone in Mercia’s likeness, her pose and expression identical to her in the midst of her seizure. After this, more terrible things begin to happen to people around the town, each preceded by the appearance of a bone carving of the victim in the midst of an accident. After the discovery of a boneless corpse at her school and a frightening encounter with a strange fae, Rachel’s investigation of the threat takes her into the Fae world in search of allies and, when she returns home, she finds Shadow Grove in chaos as she confronts the creature known as the Bonecarver.

The parts of The Bonecarver that I enjoyed most were some of the descriptions. Monique Snyman does a good job of painting pictures of what she would like you to see and experience, often using all five senses to bring you into the scene. Settings are vivid, movement and action are easily imagined, and her take on classic fae like the Sluagh are memorable. The final climactic scene between Rachel and the Bonecarver is particularly theatrical.

That said The Bonecarver didn’t work for me in several ways. The first half of the book felt slow and stilted, taking quite some time to get going (although the second half of the book flowed much more quickly and felt like the actual story she wanted to tell). Discoveries felt awkwardly placed rather than organically made as if Rachel were stumbling through everything by luck, rather than any kind of skill.

While descriptions were vivid, they sometimes didn’t make realistic sense. For instance, we are told that the highschool was originally a “tiny schoolhouse with three classrooms and an outhouse” but has grown into a large, U-shaped building complete with bell tower, auditorium, cafeteria, indoor swimming pool, and enough classroom space to accommodate three thousand students, all of which were made possible by donations from generous alumni. However, despite the influx of money that made such expansion possible, large portions of the school have fallen into disrepair and “quickly [became] forgotten” because they aren’t used (for instance, Rachel notes that the pool was not filled at any point since she started attending high school). Why would a town waste money expanding a school in such a way without the population to warrant it, only to let it become decrepit? If the town received enough money to expand in such a way, did the money then dry up so that they couldn’t afford maintenance on it? Later the story takes us to the local hospital whose parking lot is full of cars placed there by the town council to make the hospital look busy, only they have begun to rust and fall apart, giving the parking lot more of a junkyard feel. Why is the hospital being busy important? How does the decision to fill the parking lot in such a way, when there are no people to accompany those cars, actually do anything to reach the stated goal of appearing “busy”?

The impression I received reading The Bonecarver was that there were often certain settings and scenes that Snyman wanted and so came up with explanations for them regardless of how much sense those explanations made. In order to have a long, protracted chase scene through the highschool, the highschool has to be large enough to accommodate it (including a ventilation system large enough for people to crawl through), despite a small New England town theoretically not needing a school that big. Rachel finds the boneless corpse in the boiler room of the old school house, which is described equally as being part of the physical structure of the modern high school but also considered a distinctly separate part of the high school because of its disuse, but why would the original school house have a boiler room when it had no plumbing? These are just two examples but this felt like a problem throughout.

Another main issue I took with the book was the almost casual use of sexual assault and threat of sexual violence. While in the Fae world, Rachel is sexually assaulted when a soldier sneaks up and grabs her from behind, fondling her breast in the process, before explaining how he’s going to rape her. She’s able to free herself and escape but the whole scene lacks any emotional punch; the fact that a high school girl was able to extricate herself from an adult, professional soldier with a single backwards thrown elbow makes it seem like the scene was written more to provide Rachel a horse to ride to advance the plot. In that case, threatening to have her raped feels like a cheap gimmick to up the danger of the scene that could have had as much gravitas without it.

We also encounter Nova, a king in the Fae world and brother to Orion, the ally that Rachel goes in search of. While he is present in the book, we learn that he has threatened to rape her in the past but despite this they almost have a cordial interaction when she helps him search for something he lost. However, when confronted with his brother, Nova sexually assaults Rachel in front of him by licking the side of her face and telling Orion what he wants to do to her, using this threat of sexual violence to force Orion to agree to leave the Fae world. Again, this feels like this happens because of the math that if violence is bad, then sexual violence must be worse, when it was completely unnecessary for the scene.

It does make a certain amount of sense when you consider that Rachel Cleary and The Bonecarver definitely fall into that subrenre of dark fantasy YA fiction characterized by Twilight, of the young female protagonist who doesn’t know her own attractiveness but most male characters desire. If Rachel’s worth stems from her unrealized beauty and physical body, then it makes sense that threats to her would be based around the thing being valued. Ultimately, this is the main conflict of The Bonecarver and the primary impetus for why the threat of the Bonecarver exists, which is a sad commentary on why these male characters find her to be important.

Ultimately The Bonecarver didn’t work for me but if you’re a fan of YA dark fantasy focusing around a female protagonist meant to be strong, overcoming challenges and defeating threats, then it may be for you.

Press Release: I YA TOYAH Unleashes New Single

Electro/Industrial Artist I YA TOYAH Unleashes New Single & Video, “Out Of Order”
Chicago-based one-woman industrial army, I YA TOYAH has unleashed her highly-anticipated new single & video, “Out Of Order.”  The song comes from the upcoming EP of the same name due out in March.

“Out Of Order” – The Video:
The video is a surreal story of a gradual mental breakdown, caused by an isolation and misinformation fed by media.  It was inspired by the film art of David Lynch and the pandemic.

Video Production &  Scenography: Joel Lopez of Lumbra Productions.
Music: Composed and performed by I Ya Toyah.
Produced by I Ya Toyah and Nick Palazzo.
Mixed and Mastered by Nick Palazzo at Evolution Recording.

“Out Of Order” – The Song:
A pandemic song, “Out Of Order” is expressing the quarantine moods of isolation, uncertainty, chaos and inner distortion.

“I wrote it feeling these emotions and being unable to share them as we all used to- through the togetherness, a hug, and live music experience. In the future the pandemic will be over, but the need for this connection will remain- I hope this song will be a reminder of how we survived this dark time, and how fragile yet strong we all are- even when we are out of order.” – Ania (I Ya Toyah)

HOW CON: Preventing the End

Preventing the End

by Michele Roger

Remember the voice? She spoke to you the moment when it became clear that combining sounds and letters made words, words made sentences, sentences made stories, and stories made friendships in other worlds. She was the one who opened the door to the first book that swept you away and kept you up all night.

Go ahead,she said. Heres the key to this door.Then she handed you a ring of keys (or she did back then, now kids tell me she just shows them how to use the retinal scanner.)

Later on, it was her who reminded you that while Asimov could take you to other planetary systems, if you didnt stop reading him and start studying for your physics test, youd never get into college. Part of you argued.

College-smollege, as long as I have the library Ill be fine. It worked for Ray Bradbury.

Ooooh,she smiled. You never said you wanted to be a writer.

Wait, what? I didnt say that.

Yes you did.

No. I distinctly remember saying the library worked for other authors…”

Mmm Hmm.

Ok, fine. I admit,I myself confessed at this point. Hence why Im a writer. I wasnt cut out for interrogation. Your experience may be different when it happens to you.

And then it started happening.

They walk (and sometimes crawl) across the earth at night. Sometimes they fill the moonless sky. The ghosts just float up and hover over my bed, chilling my bones in an attempt to tell me their story. The witches arrive next and recite terrifying incantations in my ears. Vampires politely wait outside in the garden. They havent been invited inside but they wait patiently. They have a lifetime to sit outside my window and wait for me to fall in love with one of them on a starry, sleepless night.

The broken-hearted lovers who have died tragically are the worst. All they do is cry and moan, begging to tell their tragic story to anyone, particularly me, who will listen. I toss and turn and put the pillow over my head. I tell them to go away. I have a real job I have to get up and go to in the morning. Go haunt another writer.

Instead, they come. Night after night they become more insistent.

Tell our stories or well cast a spell that makes your door to the hallway return back here to your bed.

I protest, But I have to go to the bathroom!

They shrug, Tell it to someone who cares. Better yet, tell our story first.

The weeping ghosts of dead lovers moan louder as they reach for one another in a perpetual, unattainable grasp.

If she tells our story, we might help prevent someone from befalling our fate.

Now, the vampire is spread out impossibly in my window ledge wearing Armani and drinking a glass of wine. A spider is dancing across his fingers.

I could keep you busy for a million lifetimes.His dark, alluring double meaning isnt lost on me. I have to take a deep breath to prevent myself from swooning.

Enough!I shout out to the voice. I didnt ask for this! This feels crazy. I feel crazy!

The reply isnt shouted back. No. Shes far too calm and clever for that. She giggles and its kind of a whisper at first.

Do you remember all the Ann Rice that you read in college? The Clive Barker, the Poe, Steven King, Nancy Farmer? Not to mention your obsession with Pratchett and Gaiman?

Yes. So?I hold up my keys as if to say that I had permission. I jingle them for effect.

She coos. Permission? Yes. But you couldnt possibly think that all those worlds and friends came free.

Uh,is all I manage to say.

No, no. And all those authors you came to love? Theyve paid their debt back as well. Just look at Gaimans basement cave of a library. You must pay back at least a fraction of what you take. Thats how it works. Other writers, librarians, and even ancient historians have always known this.

But, you never said.

She interrupts me. No. I never did say. You did. You said you wanted to be a writer. Here are just a few of the stories that need to be told.She presents the creatures crowded around my bed. When youve finished with these, I will send more.

More?I ask.

Reading and writing never stops,she explains. If they ever do, it will be the end.

The end of what, exactly?I ask.

She sighs. Everything.

HOW CON: Goal-Setting for Writers

Goal-Setting for Writers
by Loren Rhoads

Here we are, at that resolution time of year again. Last year I resolved to vend at as many of my local Comic Cons as possible…you can guess how that turned out.

The goal behind that resolution was to get my books in front of as many new readers as possible. Once I lost the ability to physically place books in their hands, I had to brainstorm other ways of getting the word out. I experimented with organized blog tours, online readings, and reaching out to book bloggers. None of that was part of my original resolution, but all of it supported my goal.

As you think about what you want to accomplish in 2021, spend some time thinking about why. Why do you want to write that new novel? Are you on fire to tell that particular story? Do you have a message you want to get across?  Are you hoping to reach a new readership by including new tropes that will appeal to them? If you know why you’re telling this particular story, it will give you material for the blog tour and interviews you’ll do to promote it.

The sky’s the limit: what do you hope to achieve with this book? Make that your goal. Writing the book is the way you’ll achieve it.

Another of my resolutions for 2020 was to stretch myself and submit my work to a bunch of new venues. I thought I had that locked when I was approved for office hours at the Nebula Weekend and got a lecture accepted for a conference in Texas. Again, you know what happened with those. So instead, I took a chance and submitted a poem — my first poetry submission in (cough) years — and it got accepted. I asked to write guest posts for two of the biggest horror review sites — and those pieces got published. I wrote some new short stories for anthology calls and one of those has already found a home. I have hopes the others will land, too.

Maybe your goal isn’t to reach readers outside your orbit. Maybe you want to build better relationships with the readers you have. How can you get your readers excited about your next book? How do you plan to exceed their expectations?

Maybe your goal is to increase your income. Can you get more work out? Do you want to write “more commercial” work, whatever that means to you? Can you branch out from writing into speaking or teaching?

Maybe you want to stop wasting so much time on Facebook games so you can write more — or is that TMI?  Sorry.  In my case, I am committed to writing two hours a day. If I do more, great! I have promised not to beat myself up if two hours is all I manage. Great things can be accomplished in small amounts of time, if I focus.

Whatever you want to accomplish this year, figure out why. Decide what steps you need to take to make it a reality. Set up a way to track your progress. Post the resolution where you’ll see it. Then work to make this the best year possible.

Loren Rhoads’s new book is the Spooky Writer’s Planner, designed with Emerian Rich to support writers at all skill levels as they brainstorm, create, and submit their work. It’s available in paperback on Amazon or as a printable download on Etsy.

HOW CON: How to write when you don’t feel up to it

How to write when you don’t feel up to it
by Loren Rhoads

Sometimes, especially these days, it’s hard to do the creative work you want to do. I’ve used a bunch of tricks to get around the blocks. I offer them here, in hopes they’ll inspire you.

  1. Make a list. Whether it’s topics you want to explore or scenes that need to be written, it’s easier to begin writing when you have a prompt.
  2. Set an alarm. Promise yourself that you will settle down to write when the alarm goes off. Giving yourself the anticipation of writing time can be inspirational.
  3. Set a timer. Anyone can write for 15 minutes. There’s something about the tiniest amount of time pressure that tricks your brain into thinking it’s on a deadline. Start a timer on your computer, phone, or in the kitchen. You might find yourself pounding out the words to beat the bell. If the words are really flowing, you can always add a second 15-minute sprint.
  4. Make a date with a friend. Whether you sit down together in a cafe (someday!) or meet online for a video chat, it really helps to know that someone else is working alongside you. The key is to find someone who will write, rather than chat.
  5. Put your headphones on. Many writers make a playlist that they listen to only when they work on a particular story or book. Listening to the same music every time you write can train your brain to provide inspiration on command.
  6. Write somewhere else. If you normally write at a desk, try moving to the sofa or the kitchen table or sitting in bed. The simple act of shifting to new surroundings can shake loose the words.
  7. Try a different writing tool. Do you usually write on a laptop? Try writing by hand in a notebook or attach a keyboard to your phone. Some writers swear by word processing keyboards like AlphaSmart or FreeWrite, which only allow you to see a small amount of the text you’re working on. That way you’re forced to move forward, rather than editing what you’ve already done.
  8. Experiment with dictation. The simple act of telling yourself your story can inspire you. Whether you use a dedicated dictation program or simply take a voice memo on your phone, the trick is to speak the punctuation at the end of each sentence. Also, edit while the words are fresh in your mind, or you may have trouble deciphering Siri’s interpretation.
  9. Write first thing in the morning. It’s tempting to start the day by checking email or scrolling social media, but what would you come up with if you listened to your own thoughts first thing in the morning?
  10. Write last thing at night. Take a notebook to bed and draft one more scene before you turn out the light. Do the words feel different as you’re settling in for the night?  Maybe your subconscious will solve a writing problem for you in your dreams.
  11. Step away from writing. Sometimes the best ideas come when you can’t write them down. Go for a walk, wash the dishes, or take a shower. Let your mind play without the pressure of a blank page staring at you. As soon as you finish your break, sit down to record the thoughts that occurred in the interim.
  12. Remind yourself why you write. Do you have a story you’re burning to tell? Do you have a lesson you want to teach? Are you curious how your story will turn out? Clarifying why you want to do this can show you the path how to do it.
  13. Ask “And then what happens?” Sometimes the next scene isn’t clear. You can get wound up trying to figure out what needs to happen. Instead of insisting on what the story needs, narrow your focus until you only need to come up with the next step. Then write that next step…and the next one after that.
  14. Perfect is the enemy of done. Don’t waste time choosing the right word. Put down the almost-right word, enclose it in parentheses, and keep going. You can always fix it later. This works for names, descriptions, and anything you might need to research. Aim for momentum over poetry in your first draft.
  15. Chart your progress. Whether you put a check on the calendar, color in a box on a habit-tracking chart, or simply make note of your word count, record the days you write. If you only write 500 words a day for 100 days, you’ll have 50,000 words for your book in three months. It’s addictive to see your progress.

 

What other tricks have you found for getting the work done? Make your own list, so you’ll have some tools to use next time you feel at a loss for words.

Loren Rhoads is the co-author of the Spooky Writer’s Planner with Emerian Rich.

Book Review: Blackwater Val by William Gorman

Blackwater Val  by William Gorman
Reviewed by Ariel DaWintre

This story revolves around a place called Blackwater Val. The main characters are Richard and his daughter Katie, who is six-years-old. He takes her back to where he is from to take care of some personal things. Richard realizes right away that he has forgotten a lot of his past, but that he is starting to slowly remember. Blackwater Val seems so normal at first, but strange things are starting to happen and a dark past is being uncovered. Although Richard starts to remember his past, what he thinks he knows is not always accurate or true and we learn along with Richard.

I found myself writing a list of what I perceived to be the monsters, ghosts, demons, or bad guys in the story. There seemed to be quite a few. I kept wondering who the bad guy was and was he controlling them all. I liked that even though I thought I knew who the bad guy was, it wasn’t that simple. The story also brought in true facts from the past about the Indians in the area and the wrong that was done to them. Although Blackwater Val is not a true place, the locations around it are. I also found myself looking up things on Google, wondering which parts were real and not. I can now officially say I know a lot more about Suak Indians.

This is a definite horror story and there is blood and guts aplenty. This is a classic good vs evil tale, but nothing is simple as lines are drawn and a battle unfolds. The details and story are clear and you will stay up and be kept engaged and rooting for the good guys to win. The story has several twists that will make you go, “Wow.” There is also an element of magic and special gifts introduced into the story. There is not really a romance in the story but it has a romantic element with a strong sense of family and friends.

The main evil in the story is very twisted and scary and relentless throughout the story. Clearly, Blackwater Val brings out the worst in some people. The author does a great job of bringing his characters to life and keeps you wondering how the story will end and who will come out okay. The story gives a good ending but leaves an opening that not all is settled and done. Can’t wait to read the sequel.

Asian Horror Month: From the Vault: Fortune Cookie by Grey Harlowe

Free Fiction Friday from June, 2015

Fortune Cookie

 by Grey Harlowe

It was their last chance to get dinner; the restaurant scene in town closed in an hour. Max and Claire had been arguing Mexican versus pizza, Paige wanted seafood and Boyd was ambivalent about any option. He was thirty seconds away from just heading home when they stumbled into a Chinese diner, keeping a low profile next to an arcade.

“Let’s try here,” said Max, triumphantly.

The diner had low lights and an old fashioned bar. The four coworkers, who’d worked late at their small office, sat on its round stools eating. The staff, indulgent types, left them alone.

As the meal wound down, Paige cracked a fortune cookie. Boyd, who hated them, moved to stop her. She giggled.

“Superstitious?” she asked.

“No, that’s why I don’t read these. And who’s ever heard of anything this silly actually telling someone’s future?”

Rolling her eyes, Paige opened her tiny white scroll.

“Good health will be yours for a long time.” She smiled.

“Can’t beat that,” Max said, smiling back. Everyone knew the ex-lovers had been considering reconciliation, delayed while Paige endured a cancer scare. The final tests weren’t back, but it appeared she’d dodged mastectomy.

“Indeed,” said Claire. “I’m next.” Slowly, she recited, “A new wardrobe will accompany great change.”

“Like you need improvement,” Paige said. They all nodded. Claire was often mistaken for a model. “Do yours, Max.”

Max hesitated, then read, “You will be successful in your work. Hmm. Maybe Chuck will lay off soon.” Their boss had been giving Max a hard time. Rumor was, Chuck was unhappy with Max’s pitch to a big overseas client. Chuck was impatient for their product, eco-friendly playground material, to go international.

Pressured by his friends, Boyd opened his cookie.

“You will soon be crossing the great waters.” He was greeted with cackling laughter.

“Ouch,” said Paige. “You don’t think that means—”

“What does it sound like? Is there ambiguity there?” Max teased. “No wonder you hate these cookies, bro.”

“Helpful,” said Boyd, trying to stay brave. The reason he avoided fortune cookies was to avoid tempting fate.

He drove home apprehensive.

It turned out, he’d had cause to be afraid.

The next morning at work, he arrived to a grim scene. Paige was in the breakroom, staring at her coffee mug. Max and Chuck were facing off in the doorway of Chuck’s office, clearly having had a harsh exchange. Eventually, Max stormed out. Boyd could hear someone crying in the bathroom. It sounded like Claire.

“What’s going on?” he asked Paige.

“Well,” Paige said, “Claire’s pregnant. I’m surprised we didn’t notice, but she’s been…dressing to hide it.” Paige looked at the wall. Both recalled the ominous ‘new wardrobe’ fortune.

“Gets worse,” she continued. “Claire admitted affairs with both Max and Chuck. Paternity’s up in the air. Max is dealing, but Chuck’s pissed enough he fired him.”

Boyd gulped. He wasn’t shocked; Chuck was a territorial guy.

“How’re you dealing?” This couldn’t have done Paige’s intended reunion with Max any favors.

“Fine, I guess,” she said. “Doc’s office called. My tests are normal.”

It became surreal. Claire fled the bathroom, tears streaming. Paige followed Claire downstairs. Boyd and Chuck soon heard the women arguing in the street, alongside Max’s voice. Then tires squealing. Screams. Paige would enjoy her ‘good health’ an eternity.

After the funeral, Claire disappeared. So did Max, to search for her. Chuck told Boyd that Boyd would take over their new European account, which Max had been successful at securing in the end. Boyd was to leave immediately, courtesy of a trip on the client’s cruise line.

Crossing the great waters after all, Boyd thought bitterly.

The third day out, Max surprised Boyd beside his deck chair. He looked livid. About his firing, his lost women, or both, Boyd decided.

“I’ve felt so guilty,” Boyd said “Mine was the only nice fortune. Here I am, crossing the water.”

“Don’t feel guilty,” said Max, blood in his eye. “Fortune didn’t say you’d be crossing back.”

**********

HarloweGrey Harlowe’s fiction has been featured on Every Writers Resource and Microhorror.com.  She is the 2014 winner of the Saugus.net annual ghost story competition, and has also been published in the journal, The Last Line.

Press Release: A Peculiar Prom Night by R.L. Merrill

New Paranormal Romance 
A Peculiar Prom Night 
By R.L. Merrill

Four sexually frustrated chaperones

Three hapless kids caught vaping in the bathrooms

Two heated kisses

One ghost ship on the San Francisco Bay turns this joyous celebration into one helluva creepy night…

Meet siblings Ramona and Ruben, veteran teachers at Baymont High School. They’ve been chaperoning proms for years, but tonight they’ll need all of their faculties to protect their students from beings who may or may not have evil intentions. Oh, and manage to keep their family’s secret while attempting to get closer to their respective love interests. No problem, right?

 

Available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited 


About the Author:

R.L. Merrill brings you stories of Hope, Love, and Rock ‘n’ Roll featuring quirky and relatable characters. Whether she’s writing about contemporary issues that affect us all or diving deep into the paranormal and supernatural to give readers a shiver, she loves creating compelling stories that will stay with readers long after. Winner of the Kathryn Hayes “When Sparks Fly” Best Contemporary award for Hurricane Reese. Ro spends every spare moment improving her writing craft and striving to find that perfect balance between real-life and happily ever after. She writes diverse and inclusive romance, contributes paranormal hilarity to Robyn Peterman’s Magic and Mayhem Universe, and works on various other writing and mentoring projects that tickle her fancy or benefit a worthy cause. You can find her connecting with readers on social media, educating America’s youth, raising two brilliant teenagers, trying desperately to get that back piece finished in the tattoo chair, or headbanging at a rock show near her home in the San Francisco Bay Area! Stay Tuned for more Rock ‘n’ Romance.

www.rlmerrillauthor.com

Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @rlmerrillauthor

Press Release: Fang Me Three Times by R.L. Merrill

New Paranormal Romance Release
Fang Me Three Times: Magic and Mayhem Universe 

The Miscreants #1
By R.L. Merrill 

Three kisses will break the curse, but what if your Prince Charming can’t hold back the fang? 

Cursed witch Wilma Wetter is proud to represent her magical Germanic ancestors as a weather forecaster, even if it means taking a job in a town called Assjacket, West Virginia. While tracking the weather before a historic lunar eclipse, she and her trusty camerawoman Jules come across three ridiculously attractive rock stars wandering in the woods. 

Gustavo “Gus Valens” Valenzuela comes from a rock ‘n’ roll family and has been living the dream since joining his cousins in forming The Miscreants, but a hazy meeting with insistent groupies leaves The Miscreants forever changed. And hungry. 

Gus holds the key to awakening Wilma’s latent powers, held in check by an ancient family curse. Can he help her break it without changing her life forever? And would change necessarily be a bad thing? 

Please Visit https://www.magicandmayhemuniverse.com for buy links!


About the Author:

R.L. Merrill brings you stories of Hope, Love, and Rock ‘n’ Roll featuring quirky and relatable characters. Whether she’s writing about contemporary issues that affect us all or diving deep into the paranormal and supernatural to give readers a shiver, she loves creating compelling stories that will stay with readers long after. Winner of the Kathryn Hayes “When Sparks Fly” Best Contemporary award for Hurricane Reese. Ro spends every spare moment improving her writing craft and striving to find that perfect balance between real-life and happily ever after. She writes diverse and inclusive romance, contributes paranormal hilarity to Robyn Peterman’s Magic and Mayhem Universe, and works on various other writing and mentoring projects that tickle her fancy or benefit a worthy cause. You can find her connecting with readers on social media, educating America’s youth, raising two brilliant teenagers, trying desperately to get that back piece finished in the tattoo chair, or headbanging at a rock show near her home in the San Francisco Bay Area! Stay Tuned for more Rock ‘n’ Romance.

www.rlmerrillauthor.com

Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @rlmerrillauthor 

Latinx Month: FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ, The Witch’s Mirror

By Kristin Battestella

The Witch’s Mirror – Oft spooky actor Abel Salazar (The Curse of the Crying Woman) produced this black and white 1962 Mexican horror treat with Isabela Corona (A Man of Principle) as a creepy housekeeper amid the excellent smoke and mirrors and titular visual effects. From a macabre prologue and illustrations to Victorian mood, candles, and rituals, El Espejo de la Bruja has it all – love triangles, jerky husbands, revenge, betrayals, grave robbing, and ghoulish medicine. The plot is at once standard yet also nonsensical thanks to all the sorcery, implausible surgeries, ghosts, fire, even catalepsy all building in over the top, soap opera-esque twists. The sets are perhaps simplistic or small scale with only interior filming, but this scary, play-like atmosphere is enough thanks to wonderful shadows, gothic décor, and freaky, sinister music. Several language and subtitle options are available along with the feature and commentary on the DVD as well – not that any of the dubbing, subtitles, or original Spanish completely matches. The audio is also messed up in some spots, but the script is fun and full of cultish summonings and medical fantasies. Maybe this one will have too much happening for some viewers, as every horror treatise is thrown at the screen here. However, this is a swift, entertaining 75 minutes nonetheless and it doesn’t let up until the end.

Latinx Month: Best Latinx Horror Movies

from Will “the Thrill” Viharo

Naschy and Franco made hundreds of films between them so this is only a small but representative sampling. Here are some of my favorites. Salud!

THE BLIND DEAD quadrilogy directed by Amando de Ossorio 

  1. Tombs of the Blind Dead
  2. Night of the Seagulls
  3. Return of the Blind Dead
  4. Tombs of the Blind Dead

Also by Amando de Ossorio:

  1. The Loreley’s Grasp
  2.  Night of the Sorcerers

Rino Di Silvestro:

      Werewolf Woman

Paul Naschy:

  1. Werewolf VS. The Vampire Woman (aka Werewolf Shadow)
  2. Curse of the Devil
  3. Dracula’s Great Love
  4. The Mummy’s Revenge
  5. Hunchback of the Morgue
  6. Vengence of the Zombies
  7. Horror Rises From the Tomb

Jess Franco:

  1. Vampyros Lesbos
  2.  She Killed in Ecstasy
  3. The Awful Dr. Orlof
  4. The Diabolical Dr. Z
  5. Succubus
  6. Venus in Furs
  7. A VirginAmong the Living Dead

 Listical courtesy of Will “the Thrill” Viharo
http://www.thrillville.net/

Press Release / Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown

Directed by our friend, Frank H. Woodward, this title is now Streaming on Amazon Prime! 

The award-winning documentary Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown is a chronicle of the life, work, and mind of author H.P. Lovecraft.  As told by luminaries of dark fantasy including Guillermo Del Toro, Neil Gaiman, and John Carpenter.

Please be sure to tell us what you think.  Rate, review, and share!

 

Latinx Month: Representation in the Dark

 

by E.M. Markoff

The importance of racial and cultural representation in mainstream media is much discussed these days, as any number of essays, YouTube videos, and social media controversies would show. One thing that I have not often seen discussed, however, is the importance of representation in less mainstream places — in counterculture, in surreal media, in the dark.

Hollywood, unsurprisingly, does not have a great reputation for diverse, accurate representation. As a Mexican-American growing up in deep south Texas, I got used to seeing people like me represented in mainstream media as “the help,” the “comedic sidekick,” the “homewrecker,” the “Latin lover,” or the “narco.” Fortunately, I was able to see myself represented in Mexican media channels, which offered more than the tropes and stereotypes common in Hollywood. Of course, this is not to say that there haven’t been great Mexican and Mexican-American actors in Hollywood that I admired growing up: Anthony Quinn, Dolores del Río, Pedro Armendáriz, Ricardo Montalbán, Cantinflas, and Katy Jurado, to name a few. Even still, in Anthony Quinn’s case, it would have been great to see him play the title role of Emiliano Zapata—an important Mexican revolutionary—in 1952’s Viva Zapata! instead of Marlon Brando.

That type of miscasting is slowly changing thanks to the efforts of BIPOC artists and activists, who have been fighting for decades to make their voices heard. Not that Mexican media doesn’t have its own issues: Colorism and racism against the native indigenous peoples of Mexico are very present, both in media portrayals and in reality. That’s what being colonized does; it tears your identity apart and leaves wounds that only temporarily scab over. 

But as blessed as I was to have access to Mexican media and music, very little of it spoke to me on a personal or spiritual level. Without realizing it, a part of me longed to see myself represented in the things I loved, and I love Horror. 

I love the surreal. 

I love the dark. 

I don’t remember when I first saw David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, but I remember the feeling of hot tears burning my eyes and the llanto, the cry welling in my chest at Rebekah Del Rio’s performance in the Club Silencio scene. Through the character of Rita—played by Mexican-American actress Laura Herring—that moment became personal to me. It allowed me to see myself represented in a film that encapsulated what my heart had always longed to see—a Mexican-American actress in a starring role that was not a stereotype, cast in a surreal film by a director that I admire. Rebekah Del Rio’s powerful performance was the icing on the cake: She was not there as a token element, she was there to further the story by bringing emotion, and damn did she bring it. When Rita cried, I cried. Seeing yourself represented in what you love holds power. 

On the music front, I love industrial and aggrotech, a genre that tends to be very white and European. Or so I thought until I picked up Hocico’s 2004 album Wrack and Ruin. Hocico is an aggrotech/dark-electro Mexican duo hailing from Mexico City. Formed in 1993 by lead singer Erk Aicrag (Erik Garcia) and Racso Agroyam (Oscar Mayorga), they fused the dark, harsh sounds of industrial—along with its rejection of the mainstream—with the danceable beats of electronic to create a sound and an aesthetic that was uniquely their own. Their music videos and live performances often showcase elements (from mariachi to Dia de los Muertos, to Danza Azteca) that are part of their culture—my culture. 

Here was a band that was part of the music scene I loved, yet still were unapologetically Mexican. They had succeeded by being themselves. They showed me that you can be part of a counterculture and still be proud and loud of your culture and who you are. It meant so much to me because I don’t care much for the music some might say I’m “supposed” to be listening to (the exception being música ranchera, which I LOVE!), and sometimes I’ve even been shamed or made to feel guilty for not being “Mexican enough.” 

Back in 2011, I had the privilege of being able to see Hocico perform live in Germany and even had an opportunity to chat with them. Those two Mexican bastards (as they call themselves) are one of my biggest inspirations, and their generosity will always have a special place in my heart; it can be very isolating not seeing yourself reflected in what you love. Being able to see them on a huge stage, in a foreign land, surrounded by foreigners singing along in broken Spanish will always be a powerful moment for me. 

So yeah, I really believe it does make a difference in a person’s life to see themselves reflected in what they love. It’s part of why I’ve made a conscious effort to subtly incorporate elements of Mexican culture into my own writing. Representation is important, but it can’t be limited to the mainstream, because the mainstream doesn’t speak to everyone. We also need representation in the dark. 

About the Author:

Latinx author and publisher E.M. Markoff writes about damaged heroes and imperfect villains. Works include The Deadbringer, To Nurture & Kill, and Leaving the #9.” Under her imprint Tomes & Coffee Press, she published Tales for the Camp Fire, a charity anthology to raise money for California wildfire recovery and relief efforts. She is a member of the Horror Writers Association and is mostly made up of coffee, cat hair, and whiskey.

Connect with her @tomesandcoffee on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook

Visit her at www.ellderet.com or sign up for her Newsletter of the Cursed.

You can find her books in print and ebook on Amazon.

Latinx Month: “Leaving the #9” by E.M. Markoff

Tomes & Coffee Press Presents: “Leaving the #9” by E.M. Markoff

A bewitching tale of life and death, of dreams and nightmares, of the real and surreal. Mexican folklore meets The Twilight Zone in this short ghost story.

Adelia is confronted with strange happenings that threaten to pull her into a dark labyrinth.

Spoiler free interview by L.S. Johnson:

Tell us a little about your story, “Leaving the #9.”

 The story follows Adelia, a working class cook who has worked long and hard for a better life and is finally able to take that next step. With her are her brother, Miguel, and a client turned best friend turned “the grandma I never had.” Her sense of reality is shaken when strange occurrences begin to disrupt her attempts to achieve her dream. The setting was inspired by the ongoing gentrification and displacement of the Mission, San Francisco’s historically Latinx neighborhood. A reader described it as “[a] wonderful ghost story with some excellent unexpected tidbits.”

Your story includes both Spanish and Nahuatl words. For readers unfamiliar with the latter, can you tell us more about Nahuatl, and why you wove it into your story?

I am fluent in Spanish since my mom never learned English, but I only recently began learning Nahuatl. Nahuatl is one of the many native languages of Mexico, and is still spoken today by 1.5 million people. I wove it into the narrative because I wanted to see all aspects of my culture represented in the story. All my works are like this, including the books in my main dark fantasy series, though the references there are not as overt.

Buy the ebook of “Leaving the #9” on Amazon


About the Author

Latinx author and publisher E.M. Markoff writes about damaged heroes and imperfect villains. Growing up, she spent many days exploring her hometown cemetery, where her love of all things dark began. Upon coming of age, she decided to pursue a career as a microbiologist and spent a few years channeling her inner mad scientist. Her works include The Deadbringer, To Nurture & Kill, and “Leaving the #9.” She published the charity anthology Tales for the Camp Fire under her imprint, Tomes & Coffee Press, to raise money for California wildfire recovery and relief efforts. She is a member of the Horror Writers Association and is mostly made up of coffee, cat hair, and whiskey.

Check out author readings, blogs, and other events at www.ellderet.com

Stay connected on Instagram, Facebook, & Twitter@tomesandcoffee

Sign up for her newsletter: www.ellderet.com/newsletter

Latinx Month: Dia de los Muertos by Camellia Rains

Dia de los Muertos
by Camellia Rains

20160710_165211The Mesoamerican tradition of Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) is ubiquitous to all Central American countries. However, each country has its own slight variance on the celebration. My mother’s family is from Guatemala so I am quite familiar with this holiday, its traditions, and differences.

Let’s start with the similarities. Like other Meso-American countries, the tradition of Dia de los Muertos can be traced back to the indigenous cultures and their belief and practice of ancestor worship. Throughout Central America the desire is to not only respect the dead, but to revere them. Instead of thinking of them as being gone forever, the belief is they exist in a spiritual dimension, still watching us, still very much a part of our daily lives, and still exerting influence, love, and protection.

The holiday itself is celebrated over a three-day period. Starting on October 31st known as Dia de los Muertos, it then moves on to Dia de los Santos, Day of the Saints, on November 1st, and culminates on Dia de las Almas or All Souls Day on November 2nd….read more in the Fall issue of SEARCH Magazine.

Morbid Meals – Halloween & Dia de Los Muertos treats for kids and adults

For Halloween I wanted to come up with some fun recipes for everyone’s holiday parties, whether they be Halloween or Dia de Los Muertos celebrations. However, I wanted to find new recipes beyond the old standards. So, here is my take on three new tricks to treat your guests.

Graveyard Guacamole Chips and Dip

Graveyard Guacamole

EXAMINATION

It’s the Great Guacamole Graveyard, Charlie Brown! Nah, that just doesn’t have the same ring to it. It does, however, taste really, really good.

ANALYSIS

Ingredients

16oz can refried beans
16oz can chili with beans
1/2 cup salsa
1 1/2 cups shredded chicken and/or pork
1/4 cup buffalo wing sauce
3 Haas avocados, peeled and pitted
1/4 cup salsa
1/2 lime, juiced
1 cup pepper jack cheese
1/4 head of lettuce, shredded
bag of tortilla strip chips (the long rectangular ones)
side of sour cream (optional)

Apparatus

  • 3-quart rectangular casserole dish
  • 3 small mixing bowls

Procedure

  1. In first mixing bowl, combine the refried beans, chili, and salsa.
  2. In second mixing bowl, combine shredded meat and buffalo wing sauce.
  3. In third mixing bowl, make fresh guacamole by mashing the avocados, then combining with lime juice and salsa.
  4. Layer the ingredients as follows into your casserole dish.
    a. First, the beans mixture, then a sprinkling of cheese.
    b. Next, the buffalo-sauced meat, then a sprinkling of cheese.
    c. Finally, the guacamole, and generously sprinkle on the shredded lettuce.
  5. Stick some tortilla chips into the dip to resemble headstones
  6. Serve with remaining tortilla chips and a side of sour cream, for the gringos who can’t stand the heat.

DISSECTION

If you want to add a little extra spookiness to this, find some Halloween-shape cookie cutters, and make your own creepy chips. Use the cookie cutters to cut corn or flour tortillas into spooky shapes. Bake in a 350°F oven for 5 to 7 minutes or until you have crispy critters. Allow to cool on a cooling rack.

POST-MORTEM

This of course makes a great appetizer for a macabre Cinco de Mayo, or anytime you want to spice up a dead (man’s) party. Furthermore, this quite frankly is a balanced meal in of itself, worthy of any gruesome occasion.


White Chocolate “Sugar Skulls”

White Chocolate Sugar Skulls

EXAMINATION

Celebrations for Dia de Los Muertos just wouldn’t be the same without sugar skulls. A new tradition of making skulls, and even coffins, from chocolate is also emerging. Regular sugar skulls take special molds and years of practice (or maybe some meringue powder to help out). They also aren’t eaten when complete — licked maybe, but never eaten.

For our party needs, we’re going to make something a little more edible using white chocolate.

ANALYSIS

Ingredients

12 oz bag white chocolate chips (roughly 2 cups)

Royal icing, in many vibrant colors, fine tip
Or if you can find them “Candy Writers” which are tipped tubes of pre-colored white chocolate candy.

Candy Writers

Apparatus

Procedure

  1. Heat water in the saucepan over high heat until it begins to simmer, then turn off the stove and place the top pan (or bowl) over the water.
  2. Pour your white chocolate chips into the top pan (or bowl). It will take about 5 minutes for all of the chips to melt.
  3. Spoon your melted candy into your skull molds. Allow the candy to harden in the molds, at least an hour. You can refrigerate it to speed this up but your candy will melt faster later. Wait it out naturally if you have the time.
  4. Carefully remove your candy from the molds. If there are any side bits to break off, use a sharp knife to carve them off.
  5. Decorate with the icing or Candy Writers and allow the your decoration to completely dry. If you are able to use Candy Writers, they need to be warmed up in hot water, but they are the smoothest way to decorate these. Since they are chocolate on chocolate, the decorations will stay longer than royal icing will on chocolate.

DISSECTION

You can also melt the chocolate in the microwave, but do this in small batches at 50% power.

Try to smooth the backs of the candy as best you can and don’t let any spread outside of the molds. You’ll have to break off any of these bits and it is hard to do that cleanly.

If your chocolate gets hard on you again as you work with it, it will become less and less easy to melt. The sugars reform bonds that get stronger each time. Turn the heat up on your boiler but only a little bit. If it gets too hot it could burn or seize up.

Also, like Gremlins, do not let your chocolate get wet. This will mess with the fats in the chocolate and then you’ll have nasty little blobs instead of smooth, silky candy. Never cover your melting chocolate with a lid, and do not let your water boil or you could get steam in your chocolate.

If the chocolate does seize up on you or get wet, here’s some tips that can help.

POST-MORTEM

Decorating these skulls with your kids is part of the fun. If they are old enough, they could help you with melting the chocolate. That is if you can keep them from licking the spoon.

You can find chocolate molds in almost every craft store these days, like Jo-Ann’s, Michael’s, etc. There’s also Amazon and eBay if you don’t have a local store with a large selection. For folks like me in Phoenix, ABC Cake Decorating Supplies has a HUGE selection of molds, and you can even buy them online. This is also where I found the Candy Writers which were perfect for the job.

If you want to try your hand at making real sugar skulls, the awesome folks at MexicanSugarSkull.com sell molds and provide recipes that make this traditional labor of love a little more accessible to the rest of us.


Blood Orange Sangría

Blood Orange Sangría

EXAMINATION

I never drink… wine. Ahem. By itself, that is. I do love a good sangría. This is my personal favorite version that I have made for years, for many an occasion. What makes it a special treat for Halloween? Why the blood oranges, of course. Blood oranges from Florida can be found in stores in October making it the perfect season for Blood Orange Sangría.

ANALYSIS

Ingredients

1 cup blood orange juice (from 4 medium or 6 small fruit)
1/4 cup superfine granulated sugar
1 bottle red wine (like pinot noir or merlot)
1 cup brandy
2 small red delicious apples
1 can cold lemon-lime soda (optional)

Apparatus

  • citrus juicer
  • large pot
  • large pitcher or punch bowl

Procedure

  1. Peel and core the apples and chop into small pieces about 1/2 inch to an inch in size. Or if you have one of those wicked spiral slicers, those peel, slice, and core an apple quickly and beautifully. Add these to your pitcher/bowl.
  2. Cut your blood oranges in half and then slice one thin ring from each half. Add these to your pitcher/bowl.
  3. Juice the blood oranges, getting every last little drop. I find electric juicers work best, but there’s nothing wrong with using an old school juicer and some elbow grease.
  4. In the large pot, over medium heat, combine the blood orange juice and the sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  5. To the juice, add the wine and brandy. Stir to incorporate everything well.
  6. Pour into the pitcher/bowl and refrigerate until well chilled, about an hour.
  7. Remove from the refrigerator and add the soda. Stir well.

DISSECTION

You can make a virgin version with pomegranate juice or your favorite fruit punch instead of the alcohol.

If you want to make this when blood oranges are out of season, try to find Cara Cara navel oranges. They have a ruby pink fruit like grapefruit but they are remarkably sweet.

POST-MORTEM

Pour this sparkling Spanish drink into your favorite glass, with or without ice, and enjoy the best of an autumn harvest. ¡Salud, dinero y amor, y el tiempo para gozarlos!

Authors of SLAY – John Linwood Grant

‘AIN’T NO WITCH: CAROLINE DYE, HOODOO AND THE BLUES’
by John Linwood Grant

Hoodoo. Conjure-work. We’re going to the roots of root-work today, with music, material, and musings. My writing flowed this way from an interest in Cunning Folk, both European and African, plus the pleasure of early blues. I also have a love of Manly Wade Wellman’s character John the Balladeer, though that part only came to mind afterwards, when I was looking up early sourcebooks related to hoodoo (more below). The Memphis Jug Band was the real start for me, decades ago, with their “Aunt Caroline Dye (Dyer) Blues”, and it spread from there…

I’ve written about the Northern European tradition of Cunning Folk before. The hedge-wizards, wise women, and more, often – though not always – Christians, who could be called upon for protection against curses, hexes, and blights. Whilst Wicca, historical witchcraft, and voodoo or vodun, are fascinating in themselves, the real roots that interest me in the US are those of hoodoo.

“Because sometimes I’m waitin’ at the crossroads, but I does it how I choose,” said Mamma Lucy. “I ain’t one of your mamalois, voodoo girls or Sant-eria ladies, liftin’ their skirts when you come callin’, neither.”

I’m only a writer, exploring strange places. But you might find what follows interesting. Historically, as with many of the old Cunning Folk, the guiding principle for most hoodoo was belief in God and the Bible. Where Caribbean and New Orleans spiritual movements blended Catholic saints with African belief systems, a lot of hoodoo folk were Protestant in one form or another. Voodoo and hoodoo get confused, but they ain’t the same.

You might call hoodoo a dominant blend of African beliefs, with threads of European herb and symbolic lore pulled in as well. Much conjure-work links back to Ewe and Fon lore from West Africa. The lines got blurred, as people from different tribes and cultures were enslaved and forced together. They sought systems that might sustain at least a fraction of their origins and identity, including shared reference points. With time, some of these developed into beliefs and oral traditions that echoed the lost past but also reflected life in the States.

If this was a predominantly black road, it didn’t automatically exclude whites, because it slowly drew in folklore from European immigrants, especially Germanic ones. It came from the big slave plantations, but as the 19th century progressed, it spread into communities through freedmen and women and had value for many poor and disenfranchised people. It absorbed elements of Native American herbalism and became its own thing. Hoodoo. Rootwork is another name, from the use of medicinal or magical roots and herbs.

(Zora Neale Hurston, who we mentioned briefly last week, wrote a study of Afro-American folklore, including discussion of hoodoo, rootwork and conjuration in her 1935 collection of tales, Mules and Men.)

One written crossover example is The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses, a magical text allegedly written by Moses, passed down as hidden portions of the Old Testament. A grimoire, a text of magical incantations and seals, the text circulated in Germany from at least the 1700s, passed through immigrants such as the Pennsylvania Dutch and entered both white general folklore and black Christian hoodoo.

John-the-Balladeer

The direct Manly Wade Wellman link slipped into my mind when I came across mention of Pow-wows, or The Long Lost Friend whilst researching conjure-work. This book crops up in a number of Wellman’s stories. This is another genuine ‘grimoire’ from the 1820s, by one Johann Georg Hohman, and was originally called Der Lange Verborgene Freund.

“Bind,” he said to someone over me. “Bind, bind. Unless you can count the stars, or the drops in the ocean, be bound.”

It was a spell-saying. “From the Long Lost Friend?” I asked.

Wellman, ‘Vandy Vandy’, (1953)

The Long Lost Friend is a collection of spells, charms and remedies for everyday use. Like the Books of Moses, it initially entered hoodoo through the Pennsylvanian Dutch and other groups of Germanic origin.

It crossed relatively easily into hoodoo because it also puts Christianity in the driving seat and emphasizes belief in the Bible as the core. ‘Pow-wows’ was added to later editions, in reference to real or supposed Native American practices.

“The book has remained quite popular among practitioners of Hoodoo… James Foster noted that many shops in Harlem and Brooklyn stocked The Long Lost Friend in 1957.”

Daniel Harms, The Long Lost Friend: A 19th Century American Grimoire (2012)

So, I was traveling 1920s Harlem in my mind a year or two ago, learning, and expanding my Tales of the Last Edwardian, when I saw someone passing through, one of the Cunning Folk who might resonate in her own time and place.

She was old like me, black like I’m not, and a foil to the industrialised, post-Edwardian scientific approach. Bare feet in the earth, and silver dimes around her ankles. A worn print dress on a strong, gangly frame. She used her brains more than she used out-and-out conjure-work, but she knew what she was doing if she had to lay a trick or turn a jinx.

I also knew that she held no truck with oppressive wealth and monstrous laws, that she was plain ornery, her heart with the voiceless.

‘She’ turned out to be Mamma Lucy.

Caroline Dye: A Mighty Fine Vision
If you write about hoodoo from around the early 20th Century, you can’t avoid the blues – which is a good excuse to mention some tracks here. You also can’t avoid Aunt Caroline Dye (not Dyer- the track at the start was named through an error or pronunciation or transcription).

Despite her association with hoodoo, Caroline Dye was a psychic, a fortune-teller – there’s less evidence of her performing the slower root-work, laying tricks or setting up actual spells. And typically, there were more claims made for her and her skills than she made for herself. People went to her for readings, and they went in their thousands, hopefuls looking for answers.

She was born to enslaved parents in Jackson County, Arkansas – or in Spartanburg, South Carolina. There are different versions, both of her origins and her death. The earliest suggestion of her birth is 1810, which seems unlikely, and the more accepted one is in the 1840s. As Caroline Tracy, a name which seems to have come from her family’s original owners (a phrase which should never have had to be typed), she married Martin Dye of Sulphur Rock, sometime after the American Civil War.

Called “one of the most celebrated women ever to live in the Midsouth”, she is said to have died September 26th, 1918 (which would have made her 108 years old – or, more likely, in her seventies). She was buried in Jackson County.

Caroline Dye was supposed to have the ‘second sight’ even when she was young, but became famous for being a seer after the Dyes set up home in Newport, Arkansas, around 1900.

Despite the dates above, others such as Catherine Yronwode of luckymojo.com have compiled evidence that suggests Caroline Dye may have been around longer. One of the problems is that there are mentions of her in music which suggest she was alive in 1930, when Will Shade and the Memphis Jug Band recorded their song about her. This details Dye’s hometown as Newport News, in Virginia, but the song’s music and a verse was lifted from the band’s 1927 song Newport News Blues, so that was probably just convenient (or locally popular).

Some have spoken as if she was around until 1936-37. This may have been the general remembrance of a notable figure. It may even have been complicated by the tendency for famous ‘names’ in fortune-telling and hoodoo to be adopted by later practitioners. So there may have been a second ‘Caroline Dye’, no relation but using her reputation.

Aunt Caroline and the Blues
Dye was “the gypsy” in the 1914 song “The St. Louis Blues,” according to W.C. Handy, who wrote it. He later names her directly, in his 1923 song “Sundown Blues.”

For I’m going to Newport
I mean Newport Arkansaw
I’m going there to see Aunt Car’line Dye
Why she’s a reader
And I need her
Law! Law! Law! She reads your fortune, and her cards don’t lie.
I’ll put some ashes in my sweet Papa’s bed,
So he can’t slip out, Hoodoo in his bread

In 1937, Johnny/Johnnie Temple named her again in his “Hoodoo Woman” song:

Well, I’m going to Newport,
just to see Aunt Caroline Dye
Well, I’m going to Newport,
just to see Aunt Caroline Dye

She’s a fortune teller, hooo, Lord,
she sure don’t tell no lie
And she told my fortune,
as I walked through her door

And she told my fortune,
as I walked through her door
Said, “I’m sorry for you, buddy, hooo, Lord,
the woman don’t want you no more”

Aunt Caroline Dye also crops up in “Wang Dang Doodle,” (1960) by Howlin’ Wolf and Koko Taylor. This is a curious song about rowdy merry-making. It borrows from black oral history, including lesbian nicknames of earlier times. The original reference to Fast Talkin’ Fannie, for example, used a word other than Talkin’.

Tell Peg and Caroline Dye / We gonna have a time…

Dye would read futures and make predictions. Her most commonly quoted method was using cards, as in Handy’s lyrics. It’s said that she wouldn’t help in romantic matters, though, and told people that they should sort their own love lives out. She did offer to find lost people, lost cattle and other items through reading her deck, or through her visions.

“Going to go see Aunt Caroline Dye” became a common saying among black people of the time, and as she grew famous, she became respected by many whites as well. She reportedly died a landowner with a substantial fortune.

In the 1960s, Will Shade spoke of her having wider powers. He said of her:

“White and Colored would go to her. You sick in bed, she raise the sick. Conjure, Hoodoo, that’s what some people say, but that’s what some people call it, conjure.”

Interview by Paul Oliver, Conversation with the Blues

“Seven Sisters ain’t nowhere wit’ Aunt Caroline Dye; she was the onliest one could break the record with the hoodoo.”

A Mojo Number
The Seven Sisters were supposed hoodoo women in 1920’s New Orleans. As usual, controversy surrounds their nature. Some say they were genuine sisters, others that they were just seven black women working together, and it’s even been claimed that they were one woman in different guises. The name also crosses concepts of seventh sons and seventh daughters being special. As with Caroline Dye, they were well known for their psychic abilities or clairvoyance.

They tell me Seven Sisters in New Orleans that can really fix a man up right
They tell me Seven Sisters in New Orleans that can really fix a man up right
And I’m headed for New Orleans, Louisiana, I’m travelin’ both day and night.

I hear them say the oldest Sister look just like she’s 21
I hear them say the oldest Sister look just like she’s 21
And said she can look right in your eyes and tell you just exactly what you want done.

They tell me they’ve been hung, been bled, and been crucified
They tell me they’ve been hung, been bled, and been crucified
But I just want enough help to stand on the water and rule the tide.

It’s bound to be Seven Sisters, ’cause I’ve heard it by everybody else
It’s bound to be Seven Sisters, I’ve heard it by everybody else
Course, I’d love to take their word, but I’d rather go and see for myself.

When I leave the Seven Sisters, I’ll pile stones all around
When I leave the Seven Sisters, I’ll pile stones all around
And go to my baby and tell her, “There’s another Seven Sister man in town.”

Good morning, Seven Sisters, just thought I’d come down and see
Good morning, Seven Sisters, I thought I’d come down to see
Will you build me up where I’m torn down, and make me strong where I’m weak?

Number Seven has its own significance in hoodoo work, as have the other odd numbers.

Conjuration
As to hoodoo itself, apart from mid-century and later commentaries, it’s interesting to read earlier writers. One source is Charles Waddell Chesnutt (1858 – 1932), an African-American author, essayist and activist. Chesnutt was born in Ohio, his parents being “free persons of color” from North Carolina.

His position was odd – Chesnutt was legally white in some States, black in others. In a shameful time of Jim Crow laws in America, many state had a ‘one drop’ rule, which meant that even if you had only a single grandparent or great-grandparent who was black, you could be discriminated against. North Carolina adopted ‘one drop’ legislation in 1923.

Chesnutt’s paternal grandfather was known to be a white slaveholder, and he would have had other white ancestors. Despite his outward appearance, he identified as African American, and apparently never chose to be known as white.

Here are a couple of passages from his essay Superstitions & Folklore of the South:

Conjuration

The origin of this curious superstition itself is perhaps more easily traceable. It probably grew, in the first place, out of African fetichism (sic), which was brought over from the dark continent along with the dark people. Certain features, too, suggest a distant affinity with Voodooism, or snake worship, a cult which seems to have been indigenous to tropical America. These beliefs, which in the place of their origin had all the sanctions of religion and social custom, become, in the shadow of the white man’s civilization, a pale reflection of their former selves. In time, too, they were mingled and confused with the witchcraft and ghost lore of the white man, and the tricks and delusions of the Indian conjurer.

The only professional conjure doctor whom I met was old Uncle Jim Davis, with whom I arranged a personal interview. He came to see me one evening, but almost immediately upon his arrival a minister called. The powers of light prevailed over those of darkness, and Jim was dismissed until a later time, with a commission to prepare for me a conjure “hand” or good luck charm, of which, he informed some of the children about the house, who were much interested in the proceedings, I was very much in need.

I subsequently secured the charm, for which, considering its potency, the small sum of silver it cost me was no extravagant outlay. It is a very small bag of roots and herbs, and, if used according to directions, is guaranteed to insure me good luck and “keep me from losing my job.” The directions require it to be wet with spirits nine mornings in succession, to be carried on the person, in a pocket on the right hand side, care being taken that it does not come in contact with any tobacco.

Modern Culture, volume 13, 1901

His collection The Conjure Woman (1899) is available on-line, and also includes the full essay.

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/11666

Passing Fictions
Finally, there is one problem with writing fiction about hoodoo. It’s difficult to get right, and yet sometimes difficult to get wrong. People did make up ‘spells’ to suit them. And there are so many variants – styles of traditional conjure-work can be personal to a practitioner, or peculiar to a geographical area. The terminology varies across the States, and some branches came from passed-down pamphlets, others through family word of mouth. I always try to use versions of recognised conjure-work where I can, preferably form direct folk sources.

But it’s always interesting, anyway.

So Mamma Lucy is around in a number of my stories – ‘Hoodoo Man’; ‘Iron and ‘Anthracite‘, ‘Whiskey, Beans and Dust’, and ‘The Witch of Pender’, plus a few others. I hope she trusts me well enough to keep spinnin’ them tales…


Bio: John Linwood Grant lives in Yorkshire with a pack of lurchers and a beard. He may also have a family. When he’s not chronicling the adventures of Mr Bubbles, the slightly psychotic pony, he writes a range of supernatural, horror and speculative tales, some of which are actually published. You can find him every week on greydogtales.com, often with his dogs.

PR: Unsafe Words by Loren Rhoads

Tagline: Once you’ve done the most unforgivable thing, what will you do next?

Unsafe Words
by Loren Rhoads

In the first full-length collection of her edgy, award-winning short stories, Loren Rhoads punctures the boundaries between horror, dark fantasy, and science fiction in a maelstrom of sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll. Lisa Morton provides the book’s introduction.

Ghosts, succubi, naiads, vampires, the Wild Hunt, and the worst predator in the woods stalk these pages, alongside human monsters who follow their cravings past sanity or sense.

“With Unsafe Words, Loren Rhoads has created a lyrical kaleidoscope of a collection, whose shifting genres reveal ever-evolving visions of shining beauty and immense darkness. I loved it.”

— Brian Hodge, author of The Immaculate Void

“Loren Rhoads is the writer you want to hold your hand on the long, strange walk into hell.”

— Meg Elison, author of the Road to Nowhere series

“Rhoads has a gift. She takes you deep and, when you come out on the other side, you’re just glad you’re still alive.”

— J. Scott Coatsworth, Captain Awesome of Queer Sci Fi

“If you’re already familiar with Loren’s work, you know that you’re in for an evocative, rich mélange. If you’re just now discovering her…prepare yourself.”

—Lisa Morton, in the introduction


Loren Rhoads is the author of the In the Wake of the Templars space opera trilogy, co-author of a succubus/angel duology called As Above, So Below, and editor of Tales for the Camp Fire: An Anthology Benefiting Wildfire Relief. She’s also the author of a nonfiction travel guide called 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die. In Unsafe Words, the 1st full-length collection of her edgy, award-winning short stories, Loren Rhoads punctures the boundaries between horror, dark fantasy, & science fiction.

Unsafe Words

#scifi #horror #darkfantasy

Comic Review: The Willows by Algernon Blackwood

Reviewed by Sebastian Grimm
☆☆☆☆

As one of H.P. Lovecraft’s inspirations, The Willows by Algernon Blackwood is a classic tale that isn’t known by many. Algernon may be more famously remembered as the writer who influenced writers rather than for his own work. The man himself was an interesting person I would have liked to been friends with. A member of The Ghost Club and a mystic develing into occultism, Rosicrucianism, and Buddhism, he also loved the outdoors.

His story, The Willows, mixes his two loves. The outdoors and creepy shit. He does what rarely is done well. He takes on the realism of camping and being amongst the trees, making you feel you are there with him and adds the fear we all have about the woods. What is the shadow in the woods? What is that sound? Is it simply nature or is there something supernatural watching from a wooded perch?

In The Willows, two friends on a canoe trip down the River Danube encounter ominous masses of menacing willows, which “moved of their own will as though alive, and they touched, by some incalculable method, my own keen sense of the horrible.”

In this comic edition of The Willows, the story is told through pictures and presents a visual representation of the willow monsters that will haunt your dreams. Put together by Nathan Carson and Sam Ford, this edition is either a must-have collectible for Willows fans or an introduction for those who have not read the original story. 

If you’ve read my other reviews, you know I am very picky on artwork. Because of the time period and the nature aspect, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the art. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by Sam’s work and will look for his other endeavors in the future. There is a slight steampunk look to some of the work, but at the same time, I feel he recalls the time period well. Although I am not sold on all of his people depictions because sometimes the humans don’t look the same in one frame versus the other, his creature and animal renderings are phenomenal. I especially enjoyed the full page art pieces he did such as the undine army and the branches being an optical illusion. The facial expressions on the main character are the best I’ve seen. His demon and supernatural cells are the stuff of nightmares. I was supremely happy with the comic in general.

I’d say the story representation was done well. I feel from reading the original story that there were portions that dragged and I wondered where they were going. Being cut with Nathan’s modern mind helped move the story along at a great pace and contributed to allowing Sam the freedom to create the demons he needed to in the art.

Overall, I’d say this is going in the win column for comic adaptations of classic horror works. They kept the original story and built an even better representation of it. I’m giving this comic a strong 4 stars. ☆☆☆☆ 

Sebastian Grimm signing off.

Book Review: Rabid by Kris Rimmer

A Review of Rabid by Kris Rimmer by Patricia Watson

Kris Rimmer’s Rabid is set in modern Mississippi. It opens with a violent, gruesome death that brings two brothers back together for a funeral. Their widowed mom sends her two city boys camping to share grief and renew their brotherly bonds.

Mortal dangers are everywhere during their trip. Adam, home for the funeral on college break, and Toy, not yet in high school, must rely only on childhood memories of their abusive alcoholic dad to survive. Plenty of bad luck, apparitions, and horrible events complicate every step of their adventure. A run-in with rabid creatures is only a part of their troubles.

The funeral, the wildlife encounters, and cave scenes gave a good creepy feel to the work. Mr. Rimmer has said in book blurbs he is a fan of Stephen King. His admiration for King shows in the American boyhood adventure turned bad aspects of this book and the internal monsters that haunt the characters.

The author did keep me turning pages with fingers crossed. His story had regular disastrous surprises, with nice dollops of gore to add to the misery. I would have enjoyed a bit more of the native humidity, and perhaps a few mosquitoes for local flavor. It is the deep South after all. This book is a short, easy read. I finished it one run. It’s an entertaining book to stow in your beach bag.

The Unforgettable Serena Toxicat

The Unforgettable Serena Toxicat
by Sumiko Saulson

I was so fortunate as to have Serena in my life for twenty-five long years, but honestly, it wasn’t enough. I had always imagined that we would grow to a ripe old age, making art in the Bay Area as so many folks around here do.  Serena’s multiple talents took her around the globe, however. She was a singer/songwriter in multiple projects, ranging from her personal project, the catwave band Protea, to performing with Apocalypse Theater, Stagefright, Starchasm, Manul Override, and others. A fashion designer, professional model, painter, and author, she performed burlesque with the Black Widows, and Scry of Lust. For nearly eight years, she lived in Paris, and she traveled to Egypt, where she recorded vocals in the King’s Chamber.

When I interviewed her in 2019, she said this of her writing:

“I’ve often viewed writing as my first real discipline, even though I was already painting. It is a calling, I suppose–unless what I answered was just somebody in the next room blowing their nose. It started out with a play I wrote in iambic pentameter, a 5-heartbeat/10-syllable-per-line rhythm, and staged at Bannam Place Theater in North Beach with the NOMA troupe we put together. I also won a poetry contest at my school. This is was [sic] when I was 17, and that was when saying “groovy,” “keen,” and “grass” was only barely ironic. I’m not sure why I love writing so much. Authors bring friends, rivals and all manner of events into being through the living power of thought. That’s certainly a part of it. Writing has an emotionally and energetically regulating quality, too. It tunes my mood, turns my switch, and makes me feel like a badass witch!”

Her novels included Evangeline and the Drama Wheel, a cosmic sci-fantasy about a cat-human hybrid named Evangeline in a cybergoth band, and Ghosts in Bones, a touchingly candid fictionalized account of a woman who struggled with anorexia nervosa that often mirrored Serena’s battle with the disorder.  Her poetry chapbooks included, You Send Forth Constellations, Paper Wings, and Consciousness Is a Catfish: stealthily grim, subtly spiritual poems. She had short stories in Wickedly Abled, Scry of Lust 1, and Scry of Lust 2.

DeTraci Regular, a friend and colleague, speaks highly of Serena:

“What I’d like to mention is her incredible generosity. She would do all the work of setting up an event and then invite others to essentially just show up. I’d never done a poetry reading before she invited me, despite having written for literally decades. She was so gracious and beautiful at these events, serving as the ‘hostess’ and making sure others got attention while also participating. In all the times I saw her, I never saw her be mean or petty with anyone, and I also saw her be especially gentle with those who really needed it. This was in juxtaposition to her amazing sharp-edged, intensely truthful writing and her many other talents, all of which pulled no punches. And of course she was wonderful with our ocelots and other cats. They trusted her and she trusted them. She was a true original, unlike anyone else I’ve ever known, and I’m grateful for her presence in our lives.”

Serena was an adoptee, and thrilled when she reconnected with her birth family about five years before she passed away. She is survived by her adoptive mother and her brother, Marc Rovetti.

She loved all things feline: cat ears, cat plushies, cat beanie babies, Hello Kitty, and Grumpy Cat.

Serena was very close to her cats and was predeceased by two of them: Isis and Selket. Selket passed away in February, just before shelter-in-place. Her loving concern for her elderly cat, who had feline leukemia, touched many people’s hearts, as seen by their support for the many fundraisers to support Selket. She also raised money for manuls, also known as Pallas Cats, a pet cause of hers. A vegetarian and an avid animal lover, she raised even more money for Isis Oasis, an animal sanctuary in Forestville, CA. Her 2015 event, ManulFest, a day-long music festival at Isis Oasis featuring Gitane Demone, held a special pride for her. It raised money for manuls in Southern California, as well as for Isis Oasis, which is home to ocelots, bobcats, alpacas, and other exotic animal rescues.

Serena’s Cat-Themed Fashion Show on CatSynth TV:

She has left behind an incredible body of work, which includes her books, also available on Lulu, her music on ReverbNation (Protea and Starchasm), and Bandcamp (old Protea and super recent Protea), and her latest on Bandcamp.

With wholesome, girl-next-door pin-up model looks, Serena enjoyed a substantial modeling career. including work in fashion, fetish, and commercial modeling. In fact, if you buy wigs from Spirit Halloween Store in October, you might see her smiling face modeling a Cleopatra haircut wig. Her many eye-catching tattoos, which covered most of her arms and legs, and often equally colorful hair made her a popular alternative fashion model. They contrasted with her. Serena turned 52 five months before she died. At 52, she was still a stunner and highly sought after as a professional model.

Serena was the founder of the Oakland Temple of Bast, where she served as its priestess among colorful murals depicting the cat goddess Bastet and other members of the Egyptian pantheon. Her service to them also led her to become a priestess at Isis Oasis. She worked as a life coach, and many of her self-help videos can still be found on her YouTube Channel, along with videos of her book readings, and musical performances.

As a visual artist, she not only painted, but also created unique fashions adorned with her feline artwork. She even published a Tarot deck featuring feline images.

Another friend and colleague of Serena’s, Bram Stoker Award-Winning horror author Rain Graves, had this to say of her:

“She sang beautifully, and was in a lot of different groups throughout the years. Ephemeral Orchestra, Apocalypse Theater, Stagefright (Sumiko’s band), and Protea were among her many projects and collaborations. She loved collaboration of any sort. It was fun for her to create with others. It helped her inward shyness, which was hidden by the ruse of extrovert. She was more introvert than many knew. Even when she modeled. She knew how to find the light.

When I was starting out as a writer of dark fiction and poetry, around the same time we met, she had written a few things already. They were very esoteric, brilliantly cerebral, and fluid. Evangeline and the Drama Wheel was among these, a little bit later. It was intelligent and stream of consciousness; ahead of its time. A lot of people didn’t know what to make of it, except other writers.

It was also autobiographical. Almost everything she created was, though tweaked and fictionalized to protect her friends and those she modeled characters after. “

French ‘Mau Bast’ Excerpt 2 – Chapel of the Chimes ‘Garden of Memory’ 2019 – -Manul Override

Book Review: Punk Facation ‘Zine

Punk Faction by David Gamage 

Review by VooDo Lynn

Punk Faction was a self-published ‘zine in the 90’s for the hardcore scene in the UK. This book is a compilation of those original ‘zines. Back then, ‘zines were the internet for people, before the internet took off. It provided you with a plethora of important and varied information in your genre, by people who were living it. These books compiled things like reviews of albums and movie directors, letters to the editor, poems, opinion pieces, road journals, and last but not least, articles ranging from vegetarianism, political pieces, the environment, and more.

This publication is from the UK and I am located in the San Francisco Bay Area in California, USA, so there were a lot of bands mentioned that I never heard of, but that’s ok. I enjoyed learning about new music. I read album reviews and interviews with bands ranging from the local Jailcell Recipes, Goober Patrol (which included a recipe for Goober Straws, in case you were interested in the cuisine at the time) and Funbug to the Ramones, Garbage, Mr. T Experience, Rancid, and Green Day.

I read poetry by Steven Jesse Bernstein and “On a Cold Winter’s Morning” by Steve Gamage which painted a very vivid sense of solitude. There were random quotes printed throughout the publication including Milton and Gandhi. Brat Pack director, John Hughes, had a review of his better-known films and Quintin Tarantino had an overview of his success and strategic abandonment of co-creators he left in the wake of said success. There are one-page blurbs on skating, the use of mercury in dentistry, animals in circuses, and my favorite titled one- “I’m Too Sexy for a Job.”

We now come to my favorite part of the book, the articles. Wow, were there some good ones in here. Some of the topics are what you would expect from this type of publication and were not discussed or accepted as it is now, such as cannabis (which isn’t what you would think it’s about), self-publishing, factory farming, and the aforementioned vegetarianism. And then there were the surprises. Topics that were completely unexpected and frankly, those were the things that drew my attention the most.

I read an article on sleeping well and the link (or lack of) between pornography and sexual violence. I learned about hunt saboteurs–something I never even knew existed before now. There was a surprisingly comprehensive and condensed history of the origins of comic books given in an article titled “In Defense of Comic Books.”

My favorite article is “On Dreams.” It starts off on a philosophical note by talking about what dreams are and what their purpose is, if any. The article is well-cited and I read quotes from Cicero, Hildebrandt, and of course, you cannot have a discussion about dreams without mentioning Jung. It then moves into dream interpretation.  I was particularly interested in reading about a scientist that dreamed up an experiment to prove a theory of his, that he then replicated, which ended up working, ultimately winning him a Nobel Prize. Unfortunately, there is no author given, which is sadly the case with many of the articles and blurbs in this book.

I learned a lot from this book. It was kind of fun traveling back in time and reading all this. The only complaint I have is that because of the format of this book–which is basically reproductions of the already photocopied material–I found certain pages to be hard, if not impossible to read. And that’s ok. It is to be expected and what I consider to be an integral part of the ‘zine experience.

Thanks to the internet and YouTube, I was able to enjoy some of the music from previously unknown bands. I read great interviews with bands, including some of the snark I’ve come to expect and appreciate with these types of interviews. I learned some new things about the world and most importantly, I was made to think. This was a great read for me. I love learning about new things, I love art, and I love the DIY attitude and philosophy. If you are feeling like doing a little time travel, you’re into hardcore music, or you are a fan of DIY publications, then this is the book for you.

And remember “…think globally, but act locally…”

Book Review: The Dead Stage by Dan Weatherer

The Dead Stage by Dan Weatherer

 Reviewed by Willo Hausman

The Dead Stage by Dan Weatherer provides a basic description of what it is to write for the stage, followed by 16 of the author’s plays.  At the start, Dan provides us a glimpse into his own personal journey from penning movies to plays, as well as support and advice on how to make progress as a playwright. The book includes many easy-to-digest theater tips, mainly gleaned by interviews from individuals working in the industry.  These insightful contributors are involved in low-to-moderate budget theatre companies and they provide pertinent and passionate insight on how to follow your inspiration and get your creation up and running.

First up is Dan, an accomplished writer of poems, stories, films and yes, plays.  His many accolades and awards are mentioned at the end of the book.  Based in England, all the wisdom offered in The Dead Stage fits just as easily in any location.  Dan provides basic details on how to best get your work selected amongst many submissions.  He offers good points for a novice, encouraging the short and simple route, especially at the start.  Not too many characters and an easy set.

This clear wisdom is followed by valuable tidbits from various theater folk.  To quote a favorite few:

Matthew Spencer (ACTOR): Be brave!

Kate Danbury (Director of the London Horror Festival):  A director must be artistically creative, but a producer must be creatively strategic. And Kate has a taste for the macabre.  We like that!

Ellie Pitkin (THE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF THE BLACKSHAW THEATRE, LONDON).  An aspect of comedy is important to her.  Best to use simple staging, as they’ve had to use unconventional spaces to put up performances.  Casting a celebrity helps get a new work into production.  With fringe theater (not mainstream) it’s easier if you have fewer actors in the cast.

Andrew Crane (BLACKSHAW THEATRE TECHNICIAN):  He likes to be challenged by complicated light and sound cues, but don’t have too high of an expectation on how they are executed.  Depends on the space. Small theaters can be limited in how much technical savvy they can provide.  The bigger spaces have more to play with and usually a higher ceiling, which means better lighting.

Jill Young (ACTOR/DRAMA TUTOR/DIRECTOR): She had an interesting take on teaching and the two important qualities of scripts to use as tools.  Either ‘complete imaginative fiction’ or ‘100% graspable fact’. With the first, students can learn to let their creative play side fly without restrictions.  The second enables them to become a specific character.

Tom Slatter (ACTOR): In terms of changing dialogue a director once told him (and this makes absolute sense): “If one actor struggles with the line, it’s the actor.  If a hundred actors struggle with the line, it’s the line”.

Almost all of the interviewees started out as actors and state that it’s challenging to get new plays read in the theater world, but it is doable. Dan says the easiest route is adaptations of famous (already proven) stories or ideas, but don’t give up on originals.  It is possible!  Keep your first plays simple and direct and not too high budget with crazy stunts that can’t be done in a smaller theater.  Once you are in the door and have a few pieces under your belt, you can explore more epic production styles and start using a few settings, with complicated expensive props and people flying through the air!

Dan’s sixteen stage plays complete The Dead Stage.  Most had a slant of the shadow side, and a touch of dark comedy, which I’m sure is amicable with this group. I will comment on a few of the pieces that initially stood out to me.

BEIGE

Dan’s favorite.  I liked it too.  A dark comedy.  A husband stabs his wife and then as he prepares to ‘off himself’ Samurai-Style to avoid prison, she begins talking from ‘beyond the grave’ and they continue the same sort of bickering they shared when she was alive.  Comes off as more amusing prattle than serious.  I could see this garnering laughs.

A QUESTION OF AUTHORSHIP

Four writers who have all been involved in various theories of who ‘really’ wrote the infamous Shakespeare plays meet up with Arthur Miller in Heaven, where he confronts them to get to the bottom of who really penned the plays.  One by one the writers are omitted from being a possibility till the real William Shakespeare is left.  I have always found all the controversy over these glorious plays a bit of a shamble; why not just give credit to the actual talented man who created them.  Huzzah!

CRIPPEN

A re-telling of a true-crime story.  I find the language stilted though the subject matter and characters are intriguing.  Belle, the actress, is so one-dimensionally mean.  A vain woman and a fun role for an actress to play since she’s so darn nasty. Anyone would want her murdered.  There’s a great creepy scene at the bathtub in this play.  I liked the silent scary visuals.  Marcie and Florie are two silly gabs; I like their gossipy in-tandem speaking style. A touch of comedy.  The play picks up a bit in the court scene finale as we learn interesting unknown aspects; otherwise it’s not my favorite, too solely literal, without much of a definite mood attached.

ELOISE

An old man bemoans the loss of his wife and while reminiscing decides to join her in the afterlife. A nicely direct and poignant piece.

KILLING GARY

A serial killer is interviewed a detective and reveals her strange motives.  Cute.

ONE FOR THE ROAD

A man at the end of this life converses with Death as he finishes this last drink, finding clarity with the inevitable.

FRIENDS LIKE US

A Halloween session with an Ouija Board between 4 friends stirs up a whole lot of drama without needing to contact spirits from the other realms.  Interesting tool to use for truth-telling and exposing secrets, which is the innate purpose of this long-standing ghostly tool.

All in all The Dead Stage is a great device to enlighten playwrights who are fresh to the business, containing good simple easy-to-absorb insight.  I’d only put 4 to 5 of the best plays in this volume though and print all 16 in their own separate book.

Graphic Novel Review: Calcutta Horror by Alessandro Manzetti

Calcutta Horror by Alessandro Manzetti
Reviewed by Sebastian Grimm

As a comic fan and adoring the genius works of Poppy Z. Brite such as Wormwood, Lost Souls, Drawing Blood, and the ever terrifying Exquisite Corpse, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this graphic novel.

Although this is not my favorite art style, I did find a few of the pieces genius that I would happily hang on my wall. The reimagining of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” is a masterpiece. The drawing of Death and a few other pieces piqued my interest. Unfortunately, the majority of the artwork felt unrefined and disjointed to the rest of the book.

I have not read the short story, but I could feel Brite’s touch throughout. It’s difficult for me to say how much of this text was Manzetti’s but I did enjoy the wild ride he took us on in creating this hybrid book. It’s interesting and weird, and almost like you’re on an acid trip. He takes you on a truly savage ride through the streets of Calcutta from the viewpoint of a strange, possible deranged dude. The imagery in the words was what I liked best. Phrases like, “…Blood poured down on the ground like a spool of scarlet silk…” and “…they were no longer people…conduits to a blank universe, the void which Kali ruled…” kept me thinking for a bit. Even weeks afterward, I would think back fondly on one of his phrases. This is the thing that books should do, infect your normal world with bits of their brilliance.

This book is pretty graphic. Not advised for anyone under age, with a queasy stomach, or delicate sensibilities to try it.

For me, the biggest issue I had with this book was the type font and size. It was just too damned small and light. I have perfect vision and I had to pull out a magnifying glass after a few pages because of eye strain. If that was fixed and the art was a little more even, I would have given it a better score because the text was pretty frightening.

This is a 3 ☆☆☆ on the scale. For those who love abstract art and gory, hellish descriptions, this will be a fine read for an afternoon.

Sebastian Grimm signing off.

Free Fiction Friday: Angelus Rose by Loren Rhoads and Brian Thomas

“If Romeo had wings and Juliet a barbed tail, could they find happiness in the City of Angels?”

Author Loren Rhoads gave us an exclusive excerpt of her new book, Angelus Rose.

After their escape from the ashes of Lost Angels, the succubus Lorelei and the angel Azaziel want nothing more than to enjoy each other’s company. Unfortunately, Asmodeus, the Demon Prince of LA, has threatened to devour Lorelei’s new-grown soul if she doesn’t bring about Azaziel’s downfall. Meanwhile, Aza is keeping secrets of his own that threaten the tenuous peace between Heaven and Hell. 

Three archangels come to town to try to set things right, but friendships are fracturing. The demon in charge of fallen angels is sniffing around. And Los Angeles is about to catch fire between a devil and the deep blue sea.


Azaziel fights the ash wraith. Excerpt from Angelus Rose by Loren Rhoads & Brian Thomas

Summoned by a sense of terrible wrongness, Aza dropped through a hole punctured through the columbarium’s roof. Animate powder fogged the heavy air. The room clattered as the metallic urns danced in their niches. Some urns had already smashed through their glass partitions, adding sharp fragments to the swirling filth.

A pair of bodies lay crumpled near a stained glass window. Sweat pasted a coating of ash to their skin. More ash obscured the colors of their clothing. These mortal warders were dead, lungs clogged with bone grit and ash. Noc, the Cambodian cook, lay where he fell, his shirt wrapped around his face in an impromptu mask.

The woman had been Dolores Gutierrez. She lay curled around a book-shaped urn that held the soul of Willy Goldenstern. Aza could feel the boy defying the evil which tried to pry him out and carry him away on a wind of damnation.

Other souls also barely held out. Despite their makeshift containers, each was battered by the growing whirlwind of fouled remains.

Aza wondered how the other angels could have overlooked this possibility. Even if the niches in the columbarium around him weren’t hallowed ground in and of themselves, they were surrounded by it, ideally presenting a safe haven for the loose souls. But no one seemed to have considered removing the urns spaced throughout the structure that had contained the unredeemed dead. Perhaps there simply hadn’t been time.

As the General of Hell drew closer, his influence called to the dust of once-damned flesh. The mausoleum hallway hissed with the sound of whispering voices as the damned entreated the children to join them.

A shape swept up to meet Aza, coalescing into a twisted starfish of soiled gray. Nebulous and solid by turns, the ash wraith struck, attempting to suffocate the angel as it had the mortals.

In the cemetery outside, Aza could have dispelled the wraith with a few powerful strokes of his wings. In the narrow confines of the columbarium’s hall, he had no room for that. Instead, Aza approached the creature, speaking a banishment to drive it back.

The wraith fled around the corner of the columbarium’s corridor, before melting into the wall of niches. It rattled among the urns, trying vainly to open them before its destruction.


Don’t miss out on a chance to chat with the author April 11th, 2pm PST on Facebook

African American Multimedia Conference, Feb 13-17 THIS WEEKEND!

AAMMC 2020 Schedule

Workshops, Panels and Book Signings

“In order to rise from its own ashes,
a Phoenix first must burn.” ― Octavia Butler

African American Multimedia Conference Presenters:

Sumiko Saulson, Linda Addison, Nisi Shawl, Rappin 4Tay, Kevin E. Myrick, Karen Junker, Crystal Connor, Simon Says, Scott Saulson, V’Launce Davis, Lil Twain, Precious Chambers, Lil 4Tay, Franchesca Saulson, Amy Holloway, Kevin Craig West, Meosha Bean

Thursday, February 13, 2020 (Free!)

Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. Berkeley, California, 94703 | 510.644.4930

Pre-Conference Kick-Off with Silent Auction!

Free and Open to the Public, Food and Beverages served.

7:00 pm – 9:00 pm           Sexy Sci-Fi Sisters Book Chat and Signing Event with James Tiptree Award Winner Nisi Shawl, Crystal Connor, Linda Addison, and Sumiko Saulson

Friday, February 14, 2020 (Free!)

San Francisco Public Library, Koret Auditorium, 100 Larkin Street, 12-5pm

12:00 pm     Registration

12:30 pm     Welcome Speech by Linda Addison

12:45 pm     Remembering and Honoring Our Elders Past

1:15 pm       Narrowing the Digital Divide

2:15 pm       San Francisco Pioneer Awards

2:45 pm       Beyond Us: Black Minds in Horror Short Preview

3:15 pm       Dollars to Diversity: Hollywood’s New Black Blockbusters

4:15 pm       Meet the Authors! Book Signing and Book Chat with

Saturday, February 15, 2020 (Free!)

Melrose Branch, Oakland Public Library, 4805 Foothill Boulevard, 2-5pm

2:00 pm       Welcome Speech by Nisi Shawl

2:15 pm       Creating Diverse Sci-Fi & Horror Characters and Worlds (Nisi Shawl)

3:00 pm       So You Want To Be a Rapper or a Rock n Roll Star? (Rappin 4-Tay)

3:45 pm       Krishna Awards for Black Excellence in Multimedia

4:45 pm       Closing Statements by Crystal Connor

Sunday, February 16, 2020 (Free!)

Marcus Books, 3900 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Oakland, CA, 1-2pm

1:00-2:00 pm         Scary Sisters Horror Book Chat and Signing Event with Bram Stoker Award Winner Linda Addison, Nisi Shawl, Crystal Connor, and Sumiko Saulson

 

Sunday, February 16, 2020

81st Avenue Branch, Oakland Public Library, 1021 81st Avenue, 2-5 pm

Kids 12 and Under

2:00-5:00 pm         Art Circle: Afrocentric Coloring Time!

PG-13

2:00 pm       Welcome Speech by Amy Holloway

2:15 pm       Why Do People Tell Stories about Monsters?

3:00 pm       Making Beautiful Music, Movies, and Books

3:45 pm       Beyond Us Short Film Festival & Talk

4:45pm        Closing Remarks by Kevin E. Myrick

Pride at the AAMMC! Sunday, February 16, 2020

Oakland LGBTQ Community Center, 3207 Lakeshore Avenue

3:00 pm       Reframing the Other – Writing the Other for Black and Queer Authors (Nisi Shawl, Sumiko Saulson)

3:45 pm       Writing While Black, Queer Edition: (Sumiko Saulson, Nisi Shawl)

Pride at the AAMMC! Monday, February 17, 2020

Oakland LGBTQ Community Center, 3207 Lakeshore Avenue

3:00 pm       A Nu Way: Creating Magical Melanated Spiritual & Safe Spaces (Hosted by Irene McCalphin)

3:45 pm       Manifesting from the Margins (Hosted by Irene McCalphin)


Self-Publishing – A Three Class Series at Eastmont

By Sumiko Saulson

Eastmont Branch, Oakland Public Library, 7200 Bancroft Avenue, Suite 211

Monday, February 10, 2020, 5-7 pm Preparing Book Interiors

Monday, February 24, 2020, 5-7 pm Exteriors, Covers, and Ads

Black Goth Takeover at Club Vantablack ($10)

Stork Club Oakland 2330 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, California

Saturday, February 8, 2020 at 9:00 pm – 1:30 am
Performances by M-Lamar, Stagefright, Protea and In Retrograde

Beyond Us: Black Minds in Horror ($10 per night)

Artists’ Television Access, 992 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA

Curator & Horror Host Crystal Connor
Sunday, February 17, 2020, 7 pm – 10pm, Special Guest Kevin Craig West

Monday, February 18, 2020, 7 pm -10pm, Special Guest Meosha Bean

Film Fest: Beyond Us: Black Minds in Horror

Spoiler alert: The Black Guy Doesn’t Die First!

‘Beyond Us: Black Minds in Horror,’
a collection of films curated
by award-winning horror author
and HorrorAddicts.net Staff,
Crystal Connor,
will screen Feb. 16-17

by Sumiko Saulson

“Suffering from multitudes of negative stereotypes, minorities have not traditionally fared well in horror movies. While these negative interpretations still exist, things have begun to improve. Thanks to creators of color, and voices from other marginalized communities, we are now the heroes of our own stories … and no longer are we the first to die,” says Crystal Connor, curator of “Beyond Us: Black Minds in Horror.”

“Beyond Us: Black Minds in Horror” takes place Sunday, Feb. 16, and Monday, Feb. 17, 2020, over the President’s Day Weekend at Artists Television Access, 992 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110, 415-824-3890, from 7 to 10 p.m. on each night. It is a part of the Bay Area Black Independent Film Festival (BABIFF), which is one of Iconoclast Production’s February offerings, along with the African American Multimedia Conference.

During the two-day film festival there will be two special guest filmmakers: Kevin Craig West, flying in from New York, and Meosha Bean, flying up from Los Angeles. Organizer and horror video blogger Crystal Connor is flying down from Seattle. We are still raising money to cover travel and hotel funds for these participants. Email the organizer at sumikoska@yahoo.com if you are willing to help.

Sunday, Feb. 16

7:00 p.m. Special Guest Kevin Craig West

Award winning actor-filmmaker and proud member of SAG-AFTRA and AEA. When not on camera or stage, he enjoys producing, directing, writing and coaching. He also enjoys sharing his talents as a teacher-artist and has worked with many arts in education groups including Theatre for a New Audience, Only Make Believe and Symphony Space. Kevin is the owner of the production company, MoBetta Films, an advisory board member of WAM Theatre as well as Lake Placid Film Forum, former president of Upstate Independents and has served as assistant director of FilmColumbia Festival.

7:15 p.m. ‘The Groundskeeper’

Kevin Craig West stars as “The Groundskeeper” in this short film by Nichole Eckenroad, taking place in Pearl River County Lunatic Asylum, Mississippi, in 1920. Run time: 11 minutes

7:26 p.m. ‘Distractions’

A suspenseful short – in this Twilight-Zone style parable about distracted driving, Dick just can’t stay off the phone. Run time: 6 minutes

7:32 p.m. ‘I Hate Being Black’

Drama short – a conversation amongst buppies about the struggles associated with blackness. Run time: 11 minutes

7: 44 p.m. ‘Orphaned’

After being missing for almost a year, Allen McAvoy returns home to find a family falling apart, and his adopted brother Steve taking care of his wife. The death of his adopted parents sparked his disappearance, and now everyone wants answers, including his biological sister. As a fight over the family inheritance brews in the background, both brothers are thrust into a world where their loyalties to one another and their country are ferociously challenged. Will they be able to mend their own small world, or be a part of the destruction of the world at large? Run Time: 85 minutes

9:00 p.m. ‘Colors in Darkness’

“Colors in Darkness” is an experimental award-winning documentary by Sy Shanti that’s entirely composed of stock footage, stock images, stock sounds and self-recorded interviewee videos of African American authors, writers and content creators discussing the genre of Horror in books, TV and film. Run time: 1:01:51 minutes

Monday, Feb. 16

7:00 p.m. Special Guest Meosha Bean

Meosha Bean is an award-winning actress and filmmaker, voted best upcoming director in 2012 at the New Jersey Film Festival. Owner of MVB Films, established in 2003, her projects include “Dark Rises” (2013), which has an all-star cast, and “Miss Pepper” (2013), a short film that gained almost 30,000 views in one week upon release. Join her for a series of shorts and Q&A.

“Mr. Nightmare: Nightmares That Read into Reality” is directed by Meosha Bean. Run time: 3:12 minutes

“Nightmare at the Cinema: Scary Stories”: We all enjoy going to the cinema to watch a good movie, but let’s not forget about the creeps that go to the movies to watch us instead. Director is Meosha Bean. Run time: 4:55 minutes

7:30 pm ‘Danger World’

In “Danger World” by Luchina Fisher, a 13-year-old girl and her grandpa struggle to survive in a zombie-infested world. Run time: 18:41 minutes

7:50 p.m. ‘White’

In “White” by A. Sayeed Clark, it’s another 120-degree day with five more days to Christmas and hot is the only season left in New York City. Global warming has become a tangible threat and everyone is creating new ways to protect themselves from the sun. Bato and his wife Gina are expecting a baby, but they weren’t expecting it so early. Although they planned to have the baby at home, Gina now requires the services of a clinic for the premature delivery. With no money for the clinic, Bato enters into a race against the sun, the birth, his community and even his own identity to save his family. Run time: 15 minutes

8:05 p.m. Intermission

8:20 p.m. ‘Penelope’

“Penelope,” dreamed up by Maris Wilson, is a modern-day witch – a Venefica, to be exact. Today, in the middle of an isolated forest, she must endure the mystical rite of passage that determines whether her abilities will be used for good or for evil. Run time: 7:29 minutes

8:28 p.m. ‘Wake’

“Wake” by Bree Newsome tells the tale of a repressed woman who murders her domineering father, then, using a local folk magic called “root work,” she conjures a demon to aid her in creating the man of her dreams – but soon finds herself in a waking nightmare. Run time: 21:29 minutes

8:50 p.m. ‘Gorenos’

In Clarence Williams’” Gorenos,” a young man becomes haunted by a supernatural entity in the wake of his 18th birthday. Influenced by films like “Scream,” “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Paranormal Activity,” Gorenos is a fresh and self-aware entry into the horror genre that boasts a hip and diverse cast of new and established talents. Run time 1:21:29 minutes.


Bestselling author Sumiko Saulson writes award-winning multicultural sci-fi, fantasy, horror and Afrosurrealism. Winner of the 2017 Afrosurrealist Writer’s Award, 2016 HWA Scholarship from Hell, and 2016 BCC Voice Reframing the Other Award, (he)r monthly series Writing While Black follows the struggles of Black writers in the literary arts and other segments of arts and entertainment. (S)he is gender non-binary. Support (he)r on Patreon and follow (he)r on Twitter and Facebook.

African American Multimedia Conference, Feb 13-17

AAMMC 2020 Schedule

Workshops, Panels and Book Signings

“In order to rise from its own ashes,
a Phoenix first must burn.” ― Octavia Butler

African American Multimedia Conference Presenters:

Sumiko Saulson, Linda Addison, Nisi Shawl, Rappin 4Tay, Kevin E. Myrick, Karen Junker, Crystal Connor, Simon Says, Scott Saulson, V’Launce Davis, Lil Twain, Precious Chambers, Lil 4Tay, Franchesca Saulson, Amy Holloway, Kevin Craig West, Meosha Bean

Thursday, February 13, 2020 (Free!)

Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. Berkeley, California, 94703 | 510.644.4930

Pre-Conference Kick-Off with Silent Auction!

Free and Open to the Public, Food and Beverages served.

7:00 pm – 9:00 pm           Sexy Sci-Fi Sisters Book Chat and Signing Event with James Tiptree Award Winner Nisi Shawl, Crystal Connor, Linda Addison, and Sumiko Saulson

Friday, February 14, 2020 (Free!)

San Francisco Public Library, Koret Auditorium, 100 Larkin Street, 12-5pm

12:00 pm     Registration

12:30 pm     Welcome Speech by Linda Addison

12:45 pm     Remembering and Honoring Our Elders Past

1:15 pm       Narrowing the Digital Divide

2:15 pm       San Francisco Pioneer Awards

2:45 pm       Beyond Us: Black Minds in Horror Short Preview

3:15 pm       Dollars to Diversity: Hollywood’s New Black Blockbusters

4:15 pm       Meet the Authors! Book Signing and Book Chat with

Saturday, February 15, 2020 (Free!)

Melrose Branch, Oakland Public Library, 4805 Foothill Boulevard, 2-5pm

2:00 pm       Welcome Speech by Nisi Shawl

2:15 pm       Creating Diverse Sci-Fi & Horror Characters and Worlds (Nisi Shawl)

3:00 pm       So You Want To Be a Rapper or a Rock n Roll Star? (Rappin 4-Tay)

3:45 pm       Krishna Awards for Black Excellence in Multimedia

4:45 pm       Closing Statements by Crystal Connor

Sunday, February 16, 2020 (Free!)

Marcus Books, 3900 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Oakland, CA, 1-2pm

1:00-2:00 pm         Scary Sisters Horror Book Chat and Signing Event with Bram Stoker Award Winner Linda Addison, Nisi Shawl, Crystal Connor, and Sumiko Saulson

 

Sunday, February 16, 2020

81st Avenue Branch, Oakland Public Library, 1021 81st Avenue, 2-5 pm

Kids 12 and Under

2:00-5:00 pm         Art Circle: Afrocentric Coloring Time!

PG-13

2:00 pm       Welcome Speech by Amy Holloway

2:15 pm       Why Do People Tell Stories about Monsters?

3:00 pm       Making Beautiful Music, Movies, and Books

3:45 pm       Beyond Us Short Film Festival & Talk

4:45pm        Closing Remarks by Kevin E. Myrick

Pride at the AAMMC! Sunday, February 16, 2020

Oakland LGBTQ Community Center, 3207 Lakeshore Avenue

3:00 pm       Reframing the Other – Writing the Other for Black and Queer Authors (Nisi Shawl, Sumiko Saulson)

3:45 pm       Writing While Black, Queer Edition: (Sumiko Saulson, Nisi Shawl)

Pride at the AAMMC! Monday, February 17, 2020

Oakland LGBTQ Community Center, 3207 Lakeshore Avenue

3:00 pm       A Nu Way: Creating Magical Melanated Spiritual & Safe Spaces (Hosted by Irene McCalphin)

3:45 pm       Manifesting from the Margins (Hosted by Irene McCalphin)


Self-Publishing – A Three Class Series at Eastmont

By Sumiko Saulson

Eastmont Branch, Oakland Public Library, 7200 Bancroft Avenue, Suite 211

Monday, February 10, 2020, 5-7 pm Preparing Book Interiors

Monday, February 24, 2020, 5-7 pm Exteriors, Covers, and Ads

Black Goth Takeover at Club Vantablack ($10)

Stork Club Oakland 2330 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, California

Saturday, February 8, 2020 at 9:00 pm – 1:30 am
Performances by M-Lamar, Stagefright, Protea and In Retrograde

Beyond Us: Black Minds in Horror ($10 per night)

Artists’ Television Access, 992 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA

Curator & Horror Host Crystal Connor
Sunday, February 17, 2020, 7 pm – 10pm, Special Guest Kevin Craig West

Monday, February 18, 2020, 7 pm -10pm, Special Guest Meosha Bean

Book Review: Buffy, Return to Chaos by Craig Shaw Gardner

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Return to Chaos
Reviewed by Sebastian Grimm

Buffy fans out there who are craving more Buffy, this will be a fair read. Not a masterpiece, but a good tale that flowed okay.

In Buffy universe context: No Spike, no Angel. Oz and Willow are together, as are Zander and Cordelia. Willow is the nerdy, giggly Willow we remember, so that is fun. Giles is Giles.

It seems like a normal time in Sunnydale when Willow and Giles come up with some weird computer program that can spit out possible dangers based upon what I’m not sure. It seems like they feed in past situations and magic book content and get a printout of what evil is coming. Sort of a much-less cooler Weird Science scenario. No Barbie, no missile. A printout. But the printout seems to confuse matters more than help. Meanwhile, an old Druid and his three young nephews, also Druids, come into town.

The three young guys are interesting and provide the Scooby gang with some playmates. Oz is interested in them because they may be able to cure or at least tame his werewolf nature. Zander likes them because they treat him like one of the cool guys he always wants to be. Buffy even gets to experience a little romantic chemistry with one of them. However, I tend to think of all of the guys as one entity. None of them really stood out as his own person. They came as a package deal. Three for the price of one sort of thing. 

The Druids coming to town was an interesting concept. There was never really anything like this in the show. The new vampire “Eric” was interesting but we didn’t see him too much. I wished there was more of him. I found the older Druid uninteresting. He was trying to do this top-secret mission and captures Willow and all, but his whole concept seemed out-dated and rudimentary. 

A side plot where Cordelia is under a vampire’s spell was weird and maybe not needed. Her ex-boyfriend, an undead quarterback who she affectionately refers to as a “muck monster” was odd and had no real resolution. An annoying cheerleader-turned-vamp was so annoying, I almost put the book down a few times. The vampire controlling the vampire (yes, it’s that confusing) could have been also combined with the annoying cheer girl because they were so similar.

There were a few interesting parts when the gang was together, doing what they do and making plans. I also enjoyed a particular spell occurring in the graveyard where Buffy is attacked by growing vines.

Overall, I missed Spike in this book because he could’ve added some much-needed comedy and coolness to the book. 

This is a 3 ☆☆☆ on the scale. For hungry Buffy fans, it will be a watered-down snack between the rewatching of the series. 

Sebastian Grimm signing off.

 

HA Movie Review: Crawl

Jaws meets Gatoroid in Alligator Eco-Terror Film Crawl

By Sumiko Saulson

Beautiful cinematography, over-the-top acting, and bad writing make the action-packed alligator horror-thriller Crawl seem like the bastard love-child of Steven Spielberg and Roger Corman.  Cormaneseque is an adjective coined to describe movies like the campy 2011 SyFy Made-For-TV Movie classic Mega Python vs. GatoroidCrawl manages to successfully blend the high-budget, high tension, fast-paced, action-packed jump scare a minute drama of eco-terror classics of the seventies like the 1975 Steven Spielberg classic Jaws with a decidedly Cormanesque plot.

Lush cinematographic values and convincing creature effects sell this frightening Florida monster masterpiece about giant, bloodthirsty, frighteningly coordinated packs of hungry gators hunting down college athlete Haley (Kaya Scodelario) and her backstage parent and semi-absentee father, Dave (Barry Pepper). While the special effects and camerawork are all on-point, they don’t completely make up for what the movie lacks in storyline and dialogue.

Dave tells his daughter, competitive swimmer Haley, she is an “apex predator, all the way.” The personal tagline resurfaces several times as she dives in and out of increasingly risky situations. Like her father, Haley is an impulsive risk-taker. That is why, when she finds out that Daddy has gone missing in the middle of a Category 5 hurricane, against all reason and sisterly advice, she runs right out there to save dear old Dad.

Haley finds Dad trapped in a flood-devastated basement with giant alligators circling. The basement area is called a crawlspace, and that, along with the creepy crawly critters that are snapping and biting at Dad, serves as inspiration for the title Crawl.

For about the first half an hour, this seems like a regular eco-terror film with normal alligators and everyday heroes. It’s just then that Haley, Dave, and the gators get progressively surreal and badass. At first, it’s just sort of Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock in Speed badassery, with Haley being Reeves and dear old miraculously still not dead Dad Dave as the Sandra Bullock damsel in distress badass. 

At this point, Sugar, an adorable fluffy family dog played by Cso-Cso, joins the cast.  From here on out, the film becomes a tense contest to see if Haley, the clear star, can escape with Dave and Sugar. We also cringe and wait to see if this adorable pup Sugar or badass, yet Refrigerator-Girl-Vibe-Dad Dave will die in a bold sacrificial act. Unlike the adorable dog, Dave is picking up injuries like Carl on the Walking Dead. The addition of the family dog slightly reduces the Dad-is-doomed cadence of the whole production.

Spoiler Alert… there is a gas station/liquor store robbery occurring during the trapped in the basement crawlspace scene. Without getting into the fate of America’s Dumbest Criminals, let’s just say, there is a speed boat involved in the heist. During the scene where Haley literally outruns alligators to capture the boat, the film escalates into territory so improbable and badass it’s bad, like Jaws 3D. The Jaws 3D level jump-scare to insanely unlikely outrunning of apex predators ration increases exponentially.

 Then, at some point, cinematic magic occurs. The film achieves an off-the-wall, roller coaster ride of improbability for the remainder of the film of such epic proportions that it seems more like the Evil Dead franchise or House in the Woods than a serious horror film. And guess what? Crawl really works as a parody of every eco-terror action-adventure horror ever. At this point, it’s achieved true greatness, where even the preposterous parts are so bad they’re good.  It gets more and more over the top until the Starship Troopers like ending, where you will swear that Haley is a superhero of some kind who stands for apex predator superiority, American ingenuity, truth, justice, and the American Way. Is it pandering? Or is it brilliant satire?

I give it Four of Five Stars 

(If it’s pandering and Five out of Five, if it’s the brilliant satire it at times, appears to be)

 

Guest Blog: Review of The Witch by Ronald Hutton

The Witch Reviewed by John C Adams

This non-fiction book is subtitled ‘A History of Fear from Ancient Times to the Present’.

I first came across the author and historian Ronald Hutton fourteen years ago when he appeared as a guest in ‘Tales from the Green Valley’, a BBC TV show featuring a year-long project to re-establish a working Elizabethan farm in Wales using genuine techniques. He provided good-natured expert analysis of the Christmas traditions of the time, and it was apparent that he really knew his stuff.

Last year, I was delighted to receive a copy of this book as a birthday present from my teenage daughter (make of that what you will). I was intrigued when I realised that the author was the same expert on pagan custom and history I’d enjoyed watching a decade and a half earlier. The starting point in reading my daughter’s gift was therefore that Hutton would demonstrate the same thoroughness of expertise and knowledge here, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The book is divided into three sections – deep perspectives (on global, ancient and shamanic contexts in the history of witchcraft), continental perspectives (including the legacy of the Egyptians, the reception of witches in the Middle Ages and the early modern patchwork including the Shakespearean age) and, finally, a section on British perspectives on witches and their relationship with fairies, Celticity and animals.

It would probably be helpful for me to point out that Hutton’s book is a history of how witches (including shamans and service magicians, so the term here is used for both male and female practitioners) are perceived by the wider societies in which they reside, rather than a history of witchcraft itself. To that end, excellently researched and thoughtfully presented though it is, readers seeking a practical history of how witchcraft has been practised or even a how-to manual would be best advised to seek out other titles. On the other hand, as histories of witches and their treatment go, it is impeccably argued and detailed.

I’m a great believer in academics presenting their findings impartially and being careful to explain objectively the limitations of their sources, be honest about the extent of our current knowledge, and highlight areas where further research would help. This, as well as the diligence of decades of in-depth research, is where Hutton’s strength lies. He gets right down into the detail, lays it out and provides a justified conclusion, all in very cool, precise language which doesn’t force on the reader a particular point of view based on preconceived notions. Not all histories are created equal! Instead, Hutton goes where the facts take him and gives the reader space to reach their own conclusions as they make that journey with him.

For all the research and detail, this was far from being a dry read. It was fascinating and informative, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Enjoy!

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

John C Adams is a reviewer and writer of horror fiction. Souls for the Master is available for free on Smashwords and for 99p on Kindle.

http://johncadams.wix.com/johnadamssf

Book Review: The Place of Broken Things by Linda D. Addison and Alessandro Manzetti

Reviewed by Voodoo Lynn

The Place of Broken Things is a new book of poetry penned by Linda Addison and Alessandro Manzetti. They take the reader through a fascinating labyrinth of pain, remembrance, and longing.  Though the book may be short, the verses are filled with haunting imagery that burrows into your very being. It carries you to places like Angkor Wat, Provence, and imaginary Harlem. With each poem, you are transported to a new broken place where you learn about the suffering of each subject. The use of language is flowing and free, nothing about it seems forced. I even learned a couple of new words.

Throughout the book, the contrast between a cold and harsh modern reality and the deep, rich inner life of the characters is enthralling. Perhaps it’s not escapism so much as a philosophical lease on life. There are several references to religion. One of my favorites is in the poem “Cathedral Lane.” In it we are taken through the morning life of a homeless Native American in a large city. Many of the poems in this collection are set in busy cities which we tend to think of as dark and grey but here they take on a new and colorful life through the character’s eyes.  The homeless man is Navajo as the poem makes reference to a sun deity-Nandzgai and a night deity-Chahalgel. Although the man is destitute, he still manages to see the world in a beautiful, serene and timeless way, which is in stark contrast to his cacophonous and grimy surroundings. My favorite line is: 

“Somewhere in the distance the sun returns, sliding up from the horizon, as night retires he opens his eyes to greet the passing of Now from one sky god to another…”

One poem that stuck with me is ‘Animation’. It caught my attention right away because of the format of the poem itself was visually interesting. The poem’s setting is in an office and talks about, what reminds me of a Borg invasion in the Star Trek universe. The office is thrown into chaos as all the metal and wiring coalesces into a humanoid being saying “join us.” What follows is a futile attempt to escape, ultimately leading to assimilation. When the poem first starts out, it formed into two moderately sized diamond shapes. Then, as the escape ensues, the sentences expand outward, and then become smaller, like a triangle. It does it again. And then, finally, as the worker is captured and is being taken over by the metal and wires, the sentences become smaller until it ends in one word, “join.” Because of the physical shape of the poem, I felt like I was experiencing what the office worker felt. The actual description of the process of assimilation is succinct and very effective. The end description will always stay with me:

“Flesh body knitted with steel, eyes empty, weeping blood floats in front of me. Wire caresses my face, enters my ears, metal loops bind me to the walls…”  

It just sends shivers down my spine. With the current rise in A.I. and predictive programming technology in our everyday life, this poem takes on a whole life of its own and forces the reader to wonder, what if? 

The last poem I want to talk about is “She, on Sunday.” This one fascinates me. It talks about an older woman remembering her past, and her obsessive need to repeat certain memories and how she’s become trapped in a small room, perhaps in real life, perhaps in her own mind- I’m not sure. This poem is tied together by the author’s musical references throughout. They mention Yann Tiersen, I know this name. As it turns out he was responsible for the soundtrack to the whimsical film Amelie, one of my favorites. If you are not familiar with the film, there are a few piano instrumentals in it that express a deep sense of longing, which is a perfect companion to the poem. I strongly encourage you to YouTube this music and listen to it while reading to get the full effect. There is a strong connection to the character’s obsession with her memories and her obsession with certain music. The imagery throughout the poem is amazing. You get to see something so unassuming and ubiquitous and have it transformed into a surreal Escher-esque image. For example, take someone playing the piano and have it described to you as follows: 

“…moving cold fingers, pressing blurry fingerprints on the ivory keys, bleeding curves, lines and black and white mazes which vibrate following the coils of a music theme…” 

This poem also has one of my favorite lines in it: 

“…like women’s scents in the days when the incense of spring begins to burn…”

So lovely.

The Place of Broken Things is filled with such magnificent imagery and sadness, it is sure to satisfy many. There are over thirty selections to choose from, some written individually, and others are a collaborative effort between the poets- all are worth checking out. If you are in the mood to indulge yourself in darkness and pain, then I suggest reading this book and know that you are not alone. The Buddha said, “all life is suffering.” As it turns out in the end, that is something we all have in common.

Guest Blog: 25 of the Most Metal Films (That Aren’t About Metal)

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The world’s first heavy metal band, Black Sabbath, took their name from Mario Bava’s classic 1963 horror film. In the years since, horror and metal have continued to have an ongoing conversation, from horror-themed metal bands (such as Cradle of Filth, The Great Old Ones, or Carach Angren) to metal-themed horror films.

My short story Requiem in Frost continues this tradition, telling the story of a Norwegian girl who moves into a house haunted by the ghost of a black metal musician.

To coincide with its release, I’ve decided to make a list of movies that, to me, feel “metal.” However, I’m not going to limit this list to horror, and I’m going to avoid films that are specifically about metal. This is because every other list of “Most Metal films of all time” take it literally, all of them focusing exclusively on the same 10 or so movies to have explicit references to the genre. The internet can only withstand so many posts containing Deathgasm, The Gate, The Devil’s Candy, and Lords of Chaos. So instead, I’m going to focus on movies that feel like they capture the essence of metal.

Here’s my criteria: do the images in the movie feel like they could be metal album covers? Could you put metal on the soundtrack and have it feel right? Does the story feel like it could also be that of a metal concept album? Does it feel powerful and meticulously constructed in the way that good metal does?

Obviously, everyone will have their own view on what does and doesn’t belong on this list. These are my choices, and I’m sure that your own are perfectly valid. That’s why these are 25 of the most metal films that aren’t about metal—not the 25 most.

Black SabbathHere we go. Organized by year:

  1. BLACK SABBATH (1963): Let’s just get this shoo-in out of the way. It honestly doesn’t feel that metal to me, but the fact that it inspired what many consider to be the first metal band ever makes it retroactively metal.
  2. WIZARDS (1977): Ralph Bakshi’s animated feature establishes a world in which, following a nuclear apocalypse, humans have all died or become mutants, and fantasy races have taken over in the meantime. An evil wizard uses Nazi propaganda footage to inspire his troops; a robot finds redemption, and fairy tits jiggle. It’s a strange, over-ambitious film, but the subject matter and imagery would feel right at home in a strange, over-ambitious metal concept album. Bakshi’s Fire and Ice might also be a suitable pick, but I haven’t seen it so I can’t put it here.
  3. HEAVY METAL (1981): A token inclusion, this adult animated anthology feature contains aliens on drugs, women with big swords, and copious amounts of sex and violence. It’s rather dated, particularly in the treatment of its female characters, but there’s no denying it is as metal as its name.
  4. CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982): Look, the poster for Conan the Barbarian looks just like a Manowar album. It opens with the forging of a sword. It’s full of Vikings. It has to be on this list.
  5. LEGEND (1985): When you get down to it, a lot of metal is quite geeky, full of fantasy tropes and looming apocalypses—much like Legend. Plus, Tim Curry’s Darkness is such a perfectly iconic heavy metal demon that it would be sinful not to include it.
  6. HELLRAISER (1987): Clive Barker’s squirmfest is undeniably metal, if only for the aesthetic of the cenobites and for the film’s obsession with pain, pleasure, and Hell. Hellraiser was also a huge influence on the band Cradle of Filth, with Pinhead’s actor Doug Bradley making regular appearances on their albums.
  7. EVIL DEAD 2 (1987): The Necronomicon. Ash’s chainsaw hand. The bleeding walls. The soul-swallowing, flesh-possessing demons. Evil Dead 2 is as metal as it gets.
  8. THE CROW (1994): While it’s arguably more of a goth film than a metal film, The Crow is nonetheless filled with such metal-appropriate themes as coming back from the dead to avenge your frigid lover. It’s also one of the rare movies where both the protagonist and antagonist have longer-than-average hair. Kaw, kaw.
  9. DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE (1994): Also known as Cemetery Man, this underrated dark comedy stars Rupert Everett as the keeper of a cemetery where the dead come back to life after burial. It features a romance with a severed head, a zombie on a motorbike, and Death himself, as well as amusingly cynical quotes like “I’d give my life to be dead” and “At a certain point in life, you realize you know more dead people than living.”
  10. VAMPIRE HUNTER D: BLOODLUST (2000): One of the most beautiful animated films of all time, and also one of the darkest. There’s vampires, giant flying manta rays, strange monsters, dark magic, zombies, and more. The first Vampire Hunter D film is good, but Bloodlust just gives the audience one incredibly metal scene after another, and it’s filled with shots that look like they could be metal album covers.
  11. LORD OF THE RINGS (2001 – 2003): Just look at this meme. I think that demonstrates pretty clearly just how metal these films are.
  12. HELLBOY (2004) & HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY (2008): Guillermo del Toro’s fantastic Hellboy films follow a demon who fights Nazis, tentacled Eldritch abominations, faeries, and more. The fact that we have a demon as the hero of the story is pretty significant, but the films’ hellishly lush imagery also demand their inclusion. Particularly metal is the Angel of Death we meet in Hellboy II: The Golden Army.
  13. 300 (2006): I’m including Zach Snyder’s divisive “300” here because the whole movie just feels like a mosh pit to me, with its fetishization of big men with big swords fighting in big groups. It has stunning, brutal, beautiful violence, and plenty of images that feel like metal album covers. Lest you think metal can only be from Scandinavia, check out the amazing Greek metal bands Rotting Christ or Septicflesh, and the Mesopotamian metal band Melecesh. All three bands would feel right at home on the 300 soundtrack.
  14. PAN’S LABYRINTH (2006): Another beautiful Guillermo del Toro picture, Pan’s Labyrinth is both a grisly fairy tale and a story of rebellion. The Faun and the Pale Man, both played by the incomparable Doug Jones, are stunningly dark creations, and this list would be incomplete without them.
  15. SILENT HILL (2006): Pyramid Head’s scenes. ‘Nuff said.
  16. MARTYRS (2008): Extreme metal is like extreme horror: enjoyment often requires a process of conditioning and desensitization. Just as you can recommend some extreme metal only to people with the ear for it, you can only really recommend Martyrs to people with the stomach for it. Somewhere out there, a goregrind band is writing lyrics about a woman’s skin being removed in honor of this grueling film.
  17. VALHALLA RISING (2009): Nicolas Refn’s surreal Viking picture stars Mads Mikkelsen as One Eye, a man who resembles Odin and goes on a transcendent journey. It’s bloody, somber, drenched in pagan spirituality and black metal as Hell.
  18. HELLDRIVER (2010): This bonkers Japanese splatterfest contains a car made out of body parts, an eight-armed zombie holding eight assault rifles, a plane made out of zombies, and…look, it’s just nuts, okay? I might have also included similar Japanese bonkers films like Tokyo Gore Police, The Machine Girl, or Robogeisha, but I feel like Helldriver belongs here the most.
  19. DRIVE ANGRY 3D (2011): Nicholas Cage escapes from Hell to take revenge on someMandy evil cultists by driving…angrily…in 3D. While being pursued by a demon accountant…who is also, yes, in 3D. There’s also a sex scene gunfight…which is, you guessed it, also in 3D.
  20. BERSERK: THE GOLDEN AGE ARC (2012 – 2013): While it isn’t nearly as good as the manga it’s based on, this anime film trilogy is nonetheless quite metal. Set in a medieval fantasy world, Berserk has big swords, big battles, and big demons, culminating with the infamously hellish “Eclipse” sequence. But really, read the manga instead.
  21. KUNG FURY (2015): This 30-minute long Swedish crowd-funded film manages to pack more metal stuff in it than most films can manage in a feature-length. In Kung Fury, a Kung-Fu Cop must fight Hitler, but accidentally goes too far back in time and ends up in the Viking Age, where Viking women ride dinosaurs and fight laser raptors. In other words, it’s amazing. You can watch it for free on YouTube.
  22. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015): This movie contains a man playing a fire-spewing guitar on top of a stage that’s on a moving big rig, and if that’s not metal, then I don’t know what is.
  23. THE WITCH (2015): The Witch kicks off with the ritualistic sacrifice of an infant, and from there only continues to bombard us with Satanic imagery. Of particular note is Black Philip, the sinister goat who apparently terrorized the actors as much as he does the characters in the film.
  24. MANDY (2018): Nicolas Cage makes a bat’leth and fights a shitty cult in this surreal film that’s destined to be a cult favorite. Like some great metal albums, I can think of, Mandy starts off slow and atmospheric, lulling you with hypnotic beauty before exploding into an orgy of batshit violence. Also, like many great metal albums I can think of, it feels like it was conceived while on drugs.
  25. AQUAMAN (2018): Okay, hear me out. James Wan’s Aquaman makes Jason Mamoa’s Aquaman look as metal as possible, and he makes the rest of the film as metal as possible too. The scene where Aquaman bursts from the ground while riding a giant crab? Metal. The Lovecraft references? Metal. The Trench sequence with its creepy fishmen? Metal. Amber Heard’s jellyfish dress? Metal. The fact that Aquaman fights a giant tentacle monster that’s voiced by Mary Poppins herself, Julie Andrews? Oh, so metal. There’s even a cute scene with the cuddly metalheads at a bar. This movie is a treasure.

 

JonathanFortinAuthorPhoto_SepiaJonathan Fortin is the author of Lilitu: The Memoirs of a Succubus (coming December 2019 from Crystal Lake Publishing) and Nightmarescape (Mocha Memoirs Press). An unashamed lover of spooky Gothic stories, Jonathan was named the “Next Great Horror Writer” in 2017 by HorrorAddicts.net. He attended the Clarion Writing Program in 2012, one year after graduating summa cum laude from San Francisco State University’s Creative Writing program. When not writing, Jonathan enjoys voice acting, dressing like a Victorian gentleman, and indulging in all things odd and macabre in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can follow him online at www.jonathanfortin.com or on Twitter @Jonathan_Fortin.

 

Vile Vacations: USS Hornet by Kay Tracy

Originally posted on Jan 3, 2017


Kay sent this story of a personal vacation experience. Hope you enjoy this story as much as I have.

I have a short tale of my “night” aboard the USS Hornet, the retired aircraft carrier, and now, floating museum in Alameda California.I know a few folks who used to volunteer at the museum there and almost to a person, they have tales of seeing unusual “things” aboard that ship.

Thanks to my contacts, I was invited to do a science/aerospace lesson series for a youth overnight event a number of years back.   I gave my presentations, and activities had a light dinner with the youth group and settled in. We were regaled with tales of ghosts and unusual occurrences by some of the staff, but as a self-avowed “Science Nerd”  I was more than a little skeptical. The night itself was uneventful.

File:USS Hornet enlisted bunks.jpgThe next morning, was another story. I had finished the educational program, but we could not bring the vehicle to remove the equipment until the end of the museum hours.   Being a bit tired from two days and a night aboard, I settled into a bunk in the forward quarters overlooking the anchor chains for a short nap. I awoke to the feeling of my head at an odd angle as if I was wedged up against a wall. I reached my arm up to push myself down to a more comfortable position, only to find I was nowhere near the bulkhead or cabinet! I attempted to sit up in the bunk, with no luck,  It felt now as if someone were sitting on my shoulders! I took a breath, and, keeping my eyes closed, “calmly” said; “If I am in your bunk, I apologize. If you will get up a moment, I will get up and leave it to you!” The weight lifted, and I quickly opened my eyes and got up. I moved to a small table nearby and sat where I could see the bunk I had been in. I never saw anything move, or appear in that space, though when my co-presenter returned from fetching a soda, she looked at me and remarked “Are you alright? You look as if you have seen a ghost!” I never did “see” anything, but I can say what transpired is nothing that I can explain with science. I have since become a founding member of the Society for Unusual Manifestations.

Vile Vacations: My Stay In A Haunted Bed and Breakfast By E. A. Black

Originally posted Jan 31, 2017
Vile Vacations: My Stay In A Haunted Bed and Breakfast By E. A. Black

Several decades ago I stayed at the Kitty Knight House on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. This B&B nestled next to the Sassafras River and it dated back to the Revolutionary War. I stayed there when I was in town for a theatrical stage crew convention. 

The story behind the haunting is as follows: After British soldiers sailed up the river they set the small town on fire, destroying most of it. Soldiers threw torches on the porch of the Kitty Knight House. The owner, Kitty Knight, swept the torches off the porch with her broom as quickly as the soldiers threw them. She made a deal. She’d provide the soldier’s food and shelter as long as they didn’t burn down her home. They agreed, and this house stood whilst homes around it were turned into cinders. The haunting involves Miss Kitty’s ghost wandering the halls in the dead of night, checking on her visitors staying overnight to make sure everyone was comfortable. The B&B itself is absolutely beautiful, decorated with Victorian furnishings. It includes a small bar and at the time I stayed there you could get a discounted dinner every Friday night. The rooms are beautiful, homey, and spacious in the ornate Victorian style I liked very much.

The first time I stayed it was mid-winter and the off-season rates were very attractive. My room overlooked the Sassafras River. What a view! I enjoyed a delicious meal and then headed to my room. That night I slept well until about 3 am when I heard a party going on in the room next to me. There was a lot of noise. I almost walked over to knock on the door to ask them to keep it down but I didn’t want to spoil anyone’s fun. I managed to go back to sleep. At about 4:30 AM, I heard heavy footsteps walking up and down the hallway. The party had ceased. Otherwise, it was dead quiet. I immediately thought of the ghost of the owner wandering the halls to check on everyone. I fell back to sleep. The footsteps were heavy and loud so I wondered why Miss Kitty wore combat boots. I wasn’t the least bit afraid. I felt very comfortable, secure and safe.

The next day, when I went down for breakfast, I told the clerk about the party and the footsteps. She told me I couldn’t have heard anything because I had been alone in the building all night. The footsteps! The party! None of it could have happened!

When I calmed down, I rationalized away the entire experience by believing I heard the kitchen staff cleaning up for the night instead of a party, but I want to believe I heard ghosts having a rip-roaring time.

Of course, I had to return.

My husband came along for the ride the second time I stayed there. Someone had turned on the overhead light in the dead of night while we slept. I was a very light sleeper and awakened the second the light turned on. My husband slept, snoring away. Since I was too exhausted to get up, I went back to sleep. The light was out when I awakened shortly before dawn. I later asked my husband later about the light and he said he had turned it off before going to bed. He didn’t get up during the night at all. So who turned the light on? And who turned it off as the sun was coming up?

I heard those footsteps in the hallway again and felt as safe as I did the first time. Sadly, I didn’t hear a party in the room next door. I wasn’t alone in the building since other guests were staying overnight. I haven’t been back since but I’d happily return there assuming the place is still open. It was exciting and gorgeous.


E. A. Black writes in a variety of genres. She writes erotica fiction as Elizabeth Black and horror and dark fiction as E. A. Black. Her new novelette Roughing It is a sexy cross between The X Files, The Andromeda Strain, and Outbreak. Her horror fiction has appeared in Zippered Flesh 2: More Tales of Body Enhancements Gone Bad, Wicked Tales: The Journal Of The New England Horror Writers Vol. 3, Teeming Terrors, and more. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and her three cats. Visit her web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page.

Guest Blog : Haunting at Ocracoke by Trinity Adler

Haunting at Ocracoke by Trinity Adler

I had a ghost experience. There, I said it. It’s true. It wasn’t a nightmare, not a daydream fantasy or drug hallucination, an actual ghost visitation and not just any ghost either, a famous one. The path was set when I listened to a friend’s recommendation for an inn on the North Carolina coast. My European roommate had visited the place on her first trip to the states. The picture she drew of the inn, cheap, romantic, near the beach ticked off every box on the list for a trip with my beau so we booked rooms for a weekend over spring break and headed for the coast.

After debarking the Ocracoke ferry at Ocracoke island we made our way to the inn. At that time, the island mainly attracted local fishermen. We had no trouble finding the small two-story building that greeted us with a plain painted sign, “Ocracoke Inn Vacancy.” 

The kindest description of the inn would be rustic. The old porch in front looked like an offering to the local termite gods. Its collection of tiny rooms did have private baths, although ours could open to share with the next room if needed. That room was unoccupied so the bolt locks stayed in place for our stay. The hot water was sporadic, and the place had no air conditioning to cool the sticky mid-Atlantic coast air. In summer our room would have felt like a sauna but in Spring it topped out at muggy. 

All of the other guests were fishermen. A few brought their wives. We could hear every sound through the paper thin walls. One of those ladies complained with no mercy to her husband about the accommodations. In the blush of young love, we overlooked the paint worn walls, the humidity, the water issues, the creaking floors and lumpy beds. We promised each other we would never be like the older, unhappy couples around us and would remember this inn as a wonderful romantic story to share with our kids someday. We spent our first day walking over the little island visiting the wild ponies and the beach. Before returning to our room we visited the mini grocery bait and tackle store to pick up some sandwiches and a bottle of cheap, peach flavored sparkling wine. We retired early.

Romance, beaches and wine did their work polishing the locale. We were lucky to be on the second floor facing the island’s little inlet so a breeze kept our room comfortable as we slept. I guess it must have been around one, maybe two in the morning when I woke up. I could see moonlight streaming through the window. The lightweight white cotton curtains rustled a little, casting shadows in the room. For some reason that seemed odd to me. At first, I thought, “Oh yeah, window’s open, it’s just the breeze.” But there wasn’t a breeze and next to me, my partner snored on in the night.

I took a breath and, for a moment, a short moment, I thought “Go back to sleep, nothing’s wrong.” Then I saw one of the bigger shadows move and fear overtook me before I could take another breath. In the moonlight by the window, the changing shadow became a threat. I could see a large man standing between the footboard of our bed and our window staring, just staring at us while we slept. I knew to the depths of my soul this person intended harm to us. 

I forced myself to pretend sleep. I didn’t dare move. I didn’t want the intruder to figure out I’d become aware of his presence. I thought he must have climbed up the old porch roof and come in through the window. Elbowing my fiancé under the coverlet for help didn’t work, he kept snoring. The man stayed still, watching us from his position at the foot of the bed. 

I had to keep my breathing at a regular rate despite my pounding heart and my throat tightening enough that I had to fight the urge to choke or cough. He kept watching us. I tried pinching my lover to no avail. My efforts to avoid the notice of the burglar failed. He began to move around the end of the bed, walking closer to me. 

Hot terror and panic flooded my body. I was experiencing an overwhelming feeling of malice directed towards the two of us in the bed. I knew these would be the final moments of my life. The man started to lean down over us. I couldn’t look at him now. I didn’t want to see that shadowy face up close. I couldn’t stay frozen waiting to die.

I shut my eyes and began screaming for all I was worth, at the same time I started pounding on my beau to wake him up. I lashed out towards the intruder with my other arm. I couldn’t seem to hit the man who menaced us. He must have been dodging my every blow. I kept thinking ” No, I won’t leave the world murdered. Not tonight! Not now!”. I continued doing my best to summon help loosing howls that could rival fire alarms.

My new love finally woke up. He sat up and began shaking me violently. Something made a bang like a door slammed. He kept urging me to wake up. Me? I’d been up an hour! He grabbed me and yelled “Wake up, wake up! You’re dreaming! Open your eyes and stop yelling! I’m here, I’m here”. I opened my eyes but I knew I wasn’t dreaming. I didn’t see the attacker anymore, only my lover. 

“Where is he?” I asked.

“There’s no one here. It’s just us.” 

“No, check the bathroom, the doors, the windows, under the bed. Someone was in here and he was going to kill us!”

“What? If someone’s here, I’ll find him!” 

My partner bounced out of bed and examined the door, locked from the inside. He checked the bathroom connecting door. The bolt sat where we left it, firmly in its place. He found nothing under the bed and he noted someone had painted over the screen locking it onto the window. A book had fallen on the floor by the bed so that explained the banging sound. We both went to see if someone was in the hall. 

If there was an intruder outside you wouldn’t have been able to find him. The only men in the hallway were fishermen zipping up their pants and looking for the woman who’d been begging for help a few minutes earlier. All the men on our floor were up and ready to save a damsel in distress. 

They were not amused when I had to apologize. I told them I thought someone was in our room. My partner said it was a nightmare before pulling me back to the room with “C’mon, let’s go back to bed. I’ll hold you. You’re safe, it was just a dream.” He got more than a few dirty looks before we went back into the room.

Holding me wasn’t going to work after my experience. I told him “Listen, I don’t want to stay here another night. We saw a couple of signs for a newer motel on the other side of the island, I’ll overdraw my bank account if I have too, but we’ve got to change motels tomorrow. I can’t stay here. I just can’t.” 

He agreed. In a few more sleepless hours we were down at the front desk asking the manager to check out. 

“Good Morning Miss. How was your room? The man behind the desk knew damn well my room was a horror. The fishermen were out the door by dawn and I’m sure if they hadn’t reported my screams they left notes about it for management. 

“You know good and well I had an intruder in my room last night.” I said.

The man behind the desk seemed very interested but not in a way that signaled surprise or that apologies were in the offing. 

“What kind of intruder Miss?”

I described the whole event starting with the man standing at the window watching the two of us at the foot of the bed up to his approaching the bed to lean over me. By the time I finished, a little crowd of guests there for breakfast had gathered from the line at the dining room nearby. They could hear my complaints. Most of them couldn’t resist eavesdropping on my complaints after the screaming overnight.

“Someone either has a way onto your porch roof and windows or they have keys to the rooms but I want a refund. I won’t stay here even one more night.” 

The manager was calm although his demeanor and smooth Southern drawl didn’t soothe my temper. If anything, it only heightened it.

“Happy to give a refund Miss. But ya’ll should know plenty of women have had the exact same experience you’ve described. This place here is known for the ghost. He’s been annoying lady guests of this inn for ’bout 200 years. You never heard of Edward Teach? Blackbeard the Pirate? Kilt’ right out in that inlet, right there.” 

He pointed towards the front porch overlooking the inlet and continued his explanation. 

“He ‘n his crew fought it out with the Queen’s men right in view of the inn. This place was likely one of the last buildings on land he saw from his ship when he got beheaded. He visits a few of the female guests in the inn every so often. Always was known for having an eye for the ladies. Doesn’t hurt anyone, just looking under the beds for his head.” 

The manager smiled as he finished. Some of the scattering of people behind us giggled about it. For me, this was beyond creepy. He seemed delighted at my story and thrilled there was a little crowd there to overhear it. I guess nothing helps fill a dilapidated old property like a resident ghost. 

All of the ghost talk made me angry again. “Blackbeard? Blackbeard’s ghost? Right. Terrifying women is how you keep this dust trap booked? You may do a good job with theater here but think about this, you could give someone a heart attack with tricks like that. Now, give me my money back!”

My boyfriend didn’t say a word, he’d dropped back a little way from the counter during my tantrum. I thought he was still numb from lack of sleep and more than a little embarrassed at my behavior but the manager opened the till.

“Yep, here you go Miss.” 

The money for our prepaid two night stay was returned. After we left, my new Yankee partner became effuse.

“That was amazing! I thought they’d throw us out and we’d have to sleep in a tent after waking everyone up last night. You rocked. I can’t believe you got our money back!” 

We checked out and moved across the island to the other inn, a newly built motel. We had one more day to stay at Ocracoke over spring break. We felt lucky there were rooms left at the newer place. The manager of the haunted place called ahead. The hotel owner was waiting for us at the Edward Teach Inn and we got the same room rate. Because of the ghost we were treated like celebrities at the new place. They wanted to hear every detail of the haunting. The new inn’s name was a little creepy after our experience, but this motel had solid locks, hot water and air conditioning. We left the Ghost to his preferred rooms over at the Ocracoke Inn. All I cared about was the Sunday ferry trip off the island.

Comic Review: Spike: Into the Light

Spike: Into the Light Comic
Reviewed by Sebastian Grimm

You know as well as I do that the major success of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is all because of Spike. If he’s your favorite characters too, you’ll find this comic Spike: Into the Light an amusing little read.

Written by James Marsters himself (the actor who played Spike) this little comic has all the fun comedy we have learned to expect from the blond one.

In a time when Spike is trying to be a good boy, he travels to a different town called Greenville where he helps save a woman in an alley from two thugs. He then uncovers a demon trying to kidnap little kids, tries to recover some money he stole in his heyday, and replace some broken boots.

This story is supposed to take place near the beginning of Season 7 of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series. So, you might want to watch the end of six before you start this read.

Now, the artwork is all very well in this book. I found the demon especially interesting and Spike was as we would expect him. I enjoyed the inner monologue Spike gives us in this comic and it was fun watching him try to be a good guy when all he wants to do was bust some skulls. Or drain some blood for God’s sake!

My only disappointment was that, I like Spike when he’s bad. Seeing people take advantage of him, breaking his boots and not paying for it, stealing his money, all these things happening and he just taking it…it was hard to watch.

Still, I’d say this comic was a success. Well done James, and I look forward to more if you have it in you.

This is a rare 4.5 ☆☆☆☆ ½ on the scale.

Sebastian Grimm signing off.

PR: Massive Movie Update!


Production Set to Begin on Next Installment of Hit Found-footage Franchise

Los Angeles, CA  — Pack your bags for another terrifying stay at the infernal Abaddon Hotel. HELL HOUSE LLC III: LAKE OF FIRE, the third installment in the hit found-footage horror franchise, has started production as of May 1 and will premiere exclusively on Shudder later this year.

Writer/director Stephen Cognetti and producer Joe Bandelli have returned for the new installment, along with many of the original Hell House LLC cast. The following castmates will reprise their roles: Ryan Jennifer Jones (Sara), Danny Bellini (Alex), Gore Abrams (Paul), Adam Schneider (Mac), Theodore Bouloukos (Robert) and Jared Hacker (Tony). They are joined by returning Hell House LLC II cast members Joy Shatz (Molly), Jillian Geurts (Jessica) and Brian David Tracy as the demonic former Abaddon Hotel owner Andrew Tully.

Shudder manager Craig Engler has talked about the franchise, recently. Engler said of the films: “the Hell House LLC franchise on Shudder has been hugely popular, and our worldwide premiere of Hell House LLC 2 last year was one of our most watched films ever.” Engler also said of the film’s debut: “we couldn’t be more thrilled to premiere the final chapter of this epically terrifying series exclusively on Shudder!”


West Hollywood, CA  – Shed of the Dead is a zombie thriller, from director Drew Cullingham (Umbrage). One part Shaun of the Dead and one part 28 Days Later, the film follows two slackers, who whittle their days away playing Dungeons & Dragons and painting figurines. As life pressures build up for Trevor (Spencer Brown) and Graham (Ewen MacIntosh), events take an unexpected turn, when the undead turn up in their little gardening spot. Now, it is a fight for survival, in a real zombie apocalypse – this May!

Shed of the Dead is bringing some of the most fearsome horror icons to the screen. Kane Hodder of Friday the 13th fame, along with Bill Moseley (3 From Hell) and Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes, 1977) will be part of the action – some in undead form. As well, all three actors will be at: Shriekfest and Monsterpalooza to talk about this re-animated film.

This zombierific title will began a theatrical launch this May, through Indican Pictures. The first showing of the film will take place in North Hollywood, at the Laemmle Theatre, this May 17th. Another showing, across the pond, will begin this May 18th, in London (Sci-fi London). After a theatrical release, which will take place in at least four countries, Shed of the Dead will be available on DVD and Digital platforms this June 6th! There will be lots of opportunities for film fans to see this horror comedy shamble on both big and little screens, this Spring and Summer.

The official trailer for Shed of the Deadhttps://vimeo.com/327153102


West Hollywood, CA  – The Drag Queen horror film Killer Unicorn has just been acquired by distribution house Indican Pictures, at the Cannes Film Festival. Part comedy and all party, Killer Unicorn is the latest film from long time director Drew Bolton and writer Jose D. Alvarez. Set in the underground dance scene of Brooklyn, New York, this film brings a serial killer into the mix. As the local Drag Queens are targeted, survivors must use their special, very unique skills to save themselves and track down this stalker. Killer Unicorn will be in theatres this month, across the United States.

Writer Alvarez has talked about the film at several major magazines. At Billboard, Alvarez described the film as: “like John Waters topping John Carpenter, so equal parts scary, campy and queer.” This are two filmmaking icons that are hard to best. The writer also mentions that there are hidden references in the film: “so you will get some I Know What You Did Last SummerScream and Halloween.” All of these films will combine with a colourful Brooklyn nightlife, this June 14th.

On this date, Indican Pictures will show the film from coast-to-coast. The initial theatrical release will take place in: New York City, Houston and Los Angeles. This first showing will be followed by other cities, with Killer Unicorn to show on DVD and Digital platforms July 9th. For now, horror fans can view some of many over-the-top characters from the film, including Lady Havok, Isis Vermouth and Latrice Royale, before the film’s wide release, next week!

The official trailer for Killer Unicornhttps://vimeo.com/269006196


Los Angeles, CA TERROR FILMS has acquired worldwide rights to the chilling ride-share feature film END TRIP.

Aaron Jay Rome wears multiple hats in his critically acclaimed horror-thriller. Rome not only wrote, directed and produced the film, he also stars in the film as Brandon, a ride-share driver working for URYDE. On an otherwise quiet night, Brandon picks up Judd (Dean West). But unlike the usual pick-up and drop-off scenario, Judd explains that he recently went through a messy breakup and asks Brandon if he’d mind just driving around the city while they talk. Brandon agrees, offering an empathetic ear to Judd. As they continue to drive into the night Brandon and Judd appear to be forging a new found friendship. However beneath it all there is more to this ride-share than meets the eye and for one of them – this ride will be their last.

END TRIP has a large cast. The co-stars include: Ashley Lenz, Jaren Mitchell and Michelle West. Dean, who also produced the film with Rome, will next be seen co-starring in the Blumhouse & Universal horror film The Hunt.

TERROR FILMS has set the release date for Friday, June 21st, 2019. The film will roll out in North America on Prime Video and Vudu, initially. This release will be followed by another in the coming months, across multiple platforms such as Google Play, Vudu, TUBI TV, Roku and many more. International platforms iFlix and Horrify will also show the release, at a future date. A DVD release will take place later this year.  For now, film fans can check out the official poster and trailer, courtesy of TERROR FILMS and be sure to watch END TRIP when it hits platforms on June 21st. It may change your mind about using a ride share service.

The official trailer for END TRIPhttps://youtu.be/rEpIMvVeV7g


Press Release: The Sequels

Fanbase Press is thrilled to announce that the upcoming trade paperback of its four-issue series, The Sequels, will feature a foreword written by Andre Gower (The Monster Squad, Wolfman’s Got Nards – A Documentary).  The team is also revealing the brand new trade paperback cover, featuring the combined artwork of series cover artist Don Aguillo and interior artists/colorists Val Halvorson and Bobby Timony!

The Sequels is a creator-owned series that – in the height of ‘80s nostalgia – dares to question whether our grasp on the past is endangering our future.  It is written by Norm Harper (Eisner Award-nominated Rikki, The Naughty List) illustrated and colored by Val Halvorson and Harvey Award-nominated Bobby Timony (The Night Owls, The Simpsons), flatted by Deanna Poppe, lettered by Oceano Ransford (A Geek’s Guide to Cross-Stitch, Eisner Award-nominated Rikki), and features cover art by Don Aguillo (Rise, Winter, Isugid Pinoy!).

“We’re extremely honored to have Andre’s contribution to the collected trade paperback,” says Fanbase Press President Bryant Dillon.  “Given the thoughtful examination of nostalgia in The Sequels, Andre’s unique perspective and incredible impact to our collective nostalgia for the ‘80s make his contribution truly special.”

Series Synopsis:

Remember the ‘80s? Avery, Gwen, Russell, and Dakota will never forget.  As children, they each experienced unique adventures . . . saving the life of a sentient robot, partying with an intergalactic alien, battling the likes of vampires and werewolves, and defeating a nightmarish monster to protect imagination itself.  Now, 30 years later, they’re directionless adults, still obsessed with their pasts. When a mysterious figure brings the group together to cope with their experiences, will they be prepared to live out the “sequels” to their childhood adventures?

Issues #1-4 of the comic book series are being released digitally through ComiXology, and the series’ collected trade paperback will be released on July 22, 2019The Sequels trade paperback is currently available for pre-order at www.TheSequelsComic.com and through the Fanbase Press website (www.fanbasepress.com).  Pre-orders made by May 1, 2019, will receive an exclusive set of prints (representing each of the four covers) illustrated by Don Aguillo and signed by the entire creative team.

Founded in 2010, Fanbase Press celebrates fandoms and creates new ones! As a comic book publisher and geek culture website, Fanbase Press produces new and distinctive works, as well as daily reviews, interviews, and podcasts, that span the pop culture spectrum and give voice to the themes, ideals, and people that make geekdom so exceptional.

Fanbase Press’ previous titles – including the 2018 Eisner Award-nominated Quince, the 2019 IPPY Award-winning A Geek’s Guide to Cross-Stitch: Journeys in Space, the 2014 Bram Stoker Award-nominated Fearworms: Selected Poems, The Margins, Hero Hotel, The Gamma Gals, Something Animal, Identity Thief, The Arcs, and Penguins vs. Possums – are available online at www.fanbasepress.com and on Amazon, as well as digitally through ComiXology.

As a special note, Andre Gower’s latest project, Wolfman’s Got Nards – A Documentary, explores the relationship a dedicated audience (including celebrities and filmmakers) has with The Monster Squad. This documentary takes an in-depth look into the film’s conception, response, cult status, and revival. Through interviews with the cast, crew, screenwriters, directors, academics, and original reviewers, as well as through never-before-seen footage, it turns the lens on an audience of self-proclaimed misfits who have kept The Monster Squad alive for more than thirty years.  More information may be found at www.thesquaddoc.com and on Facebook and Twitter (@thesquaddoc).

Book Review: Mountain Sickness by Frank Martin

Frank Martin is working on relaunching this book series with new graphics and comics included.
We’ve re-posted this review from 2017 to feature his book again and show this new artwork.
To find out more about Frank’s project, go to: www.frankthewriter.com

Mountain Sickness by Frank Martin

review by David Watson

Telluride is a small remote town in the Colorado Rockies and it’s a playground for the rich and famous. People come from all over to ski here and the city’s economy is dependent on tourism. It wasn’t always that way though, it started as a mining town but the mine was considered dangerous and closed down. Since then, Telluride has been a winter paradise until a mysterious plague starts to affect the guests.

Telluride isn’t an easy place to get in and out of, so when disaster strikes there is nowhere to run to. It starts with normal people turning into raving lunatics; it ends with them changing into flesh-eating zombies. To make matters worse, the town is being rocked by a blizzard and the locals and tourists alike will have to work together to survive and keep the zombie virus from spreading. If you ever wanted to know what the zombie apocalypse would be like in a blizzard than Mountain Sickness by Frank Martin is your chance to find out.

My first thought when I saw this book was: “Zombies in a snowstorm, sounds like fun.” I can’t think of any other zombie books or movies that take place in a cold climate so I found this idea appealing. My one complaint about this book is that it takes a long time to get into the action. There are so many characters being introduced in the beginning that it’s hard to keep track of everyone. Once we see the first person sick with the zombie virus the story gets good real quick.

It’s not just the setting that makes this zombie story different, it’s also how the people are before they change. The victims fly into a rage before they become zombies and in the beginning, they start as fast-moving zombies. One of my favorite scenes was when one of the ski resort’s employees named Chris goes to find his girlfriend as the people are turning into zombies. He finds her close to death and her dying wish is for Chris to save a boy named Ryan. Chris starts looking for Ryan and as he does he sees himself as a man who has never committed to the life he truly wanted and now he has to fulfill his girlfriend’s dying wish. This made me fall in love with the character Chris and as we see him try to rescue Ryan, he finds another survivor on the way, a 13-year-old girl named Stephanie.

Stephanie is another character in this story I fell in love with. In the beginning, she is a normal teenage girl but we see her become a different person as she deals with the loss of her family and is forced to become an adult as society collapses around her. One scene I loved has Stephanie walking up to someone changing into the living dead and knocking them out with one punch. Seems unbelievable but the zombie didn’t see it coming. The most interesting part of this book is seeing how all of the characters change as they realize that if the zombies don’t get them then they will probably die in the blizzard. The setting and the characters make Mountain Sickness  a must read.

 

 

Comic Review: Mary Moon Volume 1

Mary Moon Comic
Reviewed by Sebastian Grimm

I’m reviewing an old comic Circa 2012 that I picked up at a used bookstore. Mary Moon is a story about a gal who gets bitten by a werewolf and a vampire at the same time, making her some sort of hybrid were-vamp.

This Volume 1 by Black Mirror Comics seemed somewhat like an indie publication and does have a few typos. However, they seem very passionate about their story and there’s even information in the back about how to subscribe to them. Now, I haven’t looked up the website to see if it’s still in service, but here’s my review of this issue.

First off, the art is rather well done. Much better than I would expect from an indie comic company. I enjoyed most of the images. There are a few that are a little out of whack, but overall it’s done well.

This story is an interesting idea. What if you were bitten by a vampire and a werewolf at the same time? Would you be a cross between both of them, or would one be a more dominant feature in your blood?

In Mary Moon’s case, she experiences these beings separately. She’ll be a vampire, she’ll feed on blood, and be stated. Then her werewolf being emerges, feeds on flesh, and is sated. They don’t seem to mix the bloodthirst and the flesh thirst, but hopefully, the victim will stick around long enough to feed bother her beings.

All this being said, about halfway through the book we find her in the emergency room being cared for by doctors. This is where the story falls apart for me. She is supposedly in Transylvania, being cared for by medical professionals there. However, the people in the hospital look like Americans. They use a lot of technical American speech almost as if it’s an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. The primary doctor in the story is so angry, he yells every single thing he says as if that is how his demeanor is. But it’s really strange because he’s overly dramatic at some points. Also, the way he’s painted is like he’s the devil or something when he’s just trying to save this woman’s life–we think. Not only that, the medical procedure is pretty flawed. When she’s bleeding internally, she goes into cardiac arrest and flatlines. They don’t try to revive her in any way shape or form. The doctor just says, “Wrap it up. Time of death is…” For a doctor who was so angry about getting the patient fixed as soon as possible and yelling orders to every nurse, attending, and orderly around, he just drops her when she flatlines?

Besides this 7-10 page scene in the book, the rest of the story is rather well done and interesting. The vampire and wolf art is pretty good and the storyline is enjoyable. I’d give this comic 3 ☆☆☆ out of five, and remember, I am a tough critic.

Sebastian Grimm signing off.

Guest Blog: From Beast to Man and Back Again

From Beast To Man And Back Again by John C. Adams

Evolutionary impulses drag us back to when we came. Whether we like it or not, they’re always there. There’s only so much we can do to fight against them. We both hope and fear that the natural human impulse to regress will take over. Even worse, in horror fiction, modern science seems to be getting in on the act.

In the 1984 film The Company of Wolves (dir: Neil Jordan), the childhood tale of Little Red Riding Hood is given a modern makeover. Red drifts into the forest and meets a handsome stranger, whereupon Granny’s advice goes right out the window. Well, sexual appetite does that to you. It’s a shame that Red can’t remember the cautionary element of Granny’s werewolf tale, as Angela Lansbury is quick to point out: not to trust a man who’s too proud to piss into a chamber pot. Let’s just say that in Granny’s tale the young bride’s new husband answers the Call of Nature in more sense than one.

The prime mover of sexual appetite is as good a reason to junk steady adult advice as any.

Fairy stories and folk tales abound with examples of spontaneous changes in shape from man to beast and back again. Those old tales are so central to our cultural identity, developed over hundreds of years in writing and for much longer before that via the oral tradition, that it’s no surprise that they are still cropping up in films and TV today.

If it’s natural for us to long to return to our genetic origins, it’s no surprise that modern science isn’t slow in embracing the opportunities to engineer this for us. And big business being what it is, the profit motive lies right at the heart of it.

In Graham Masterton’s novel Flesh and Blood, the Spellman Institute of Genetics is conducting experiments to implant human genetic material into pigs. Animal rights activists have plenty to say on that subject and are lobbying for a US-wide law banning testing on animals. The pig research (Masterton says his wife always called this book ‘the pig novel’) becomes a cause celebre for them. The pig, Captain Black, is as terrifying as you’d expect:

“His body was awesome enough, but his face made Nathan swallow in discomfort. It was more like the face of a giant werewolf than a hog: it was covered all over in thick glossy black hair, with a hideously flattened snout. Two curved incisors rose from his lower jaw, and strings of drool swung with every step he took.”

Mankind just can’t seem to help themselves from meddling in the mix of human and animal DNA when there’s a commercial excuse for it. But in the 2009 film Splice (dir: Vincenzo Natali) the insanity of experimentation mixing human with animal DNA reaches new heights when two leading scientists splice the DNA of a bird with that of a human. Yikes!

As a species, we are so prone to egotism that we want to be the ones to push the boundaries of creation. Like modern-day Dr. Frankensteins, it’s all about power over the hideous monstrosities we generate.

Like any form of meddling, the best lesson of all is just to leave well enough alone. If only it were that simple…

John C Adams is a horror and fantasy writer. ‘Souls For The Master‘ is available on Amazon and Smashwords.

http://johncadams.wix.com/johnadamssf

Short Bio

John C Adams is a Contributing Editor for the Aeon Award and Albedo One Magazine, and a Reviewer with Schlock! Webzine.

You can read John’s short fiction in anthologies from Horrified Press, Lycan Valley Press, and many others. 

A non-binary gendered writer, John has also had fiction published in The Horror Zine, Devolution Z magazine and many other smaller magazines.

John’s fantasy novel ‘Aspatria’ and futuristic horror novel Souls for the Master are both available on Kindle and via Smashwords.

John lives in rural Northumberland, UK, and is a non-practising solicitor.

Press Release: Play or Die

Samuel Goldwyn Films has announced that the company has acquired North American rights to the horror movie PLAY OR DIE, directed by Jacques Kluger. The film stars Charley Palmer (DUNKIRK), Roxane Mesquida (“Now Apocalypse”), Marie Zabukovec (INTERRAIL), Thomas Mustin (RAW), and Igor Van Dessel (RACER AND THE JAILBIRD). PLAY OR DIEwill be available through On-Demand and on Digital platforms July 2.

In the story, Lucas and Chloe are two passionate gamers. They decide to participate in Paranoia, a very exclusive escape game. After solving the first riddle, they make it to the location of the finale in an abandoned mental hospital, hidden deep in a frightening forest. There, four other participants are waiting for them. Together, they soon realize that only one of them will get out alive.

PLAY OR DIE was directed by Jacques Kluger and co-written with Amiel Bartana. The film is based on the best-selling novel “Puzzle” by Franck Thilliez and published by Fleuve Editions. The film was produced by Jacques Kluger (Kluger Partners), Nexus, and Nadia Khamlichi & Gilles Waterkeyn (Umedia).

The deal was negotiated by Meg Longo on behalf of Samuel Goldwyn Films and Gregory Chambet at WTFilms – on behalf of the filmmakers.

Press Release: American Horrors Channel

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin – The multi-award winning and former Guinness World Record holders Groovey TV are in talks with the American Horrors Channel to develop exclusive content in the form of a 13 episode season that will air later this year.  This series is intended to stream exclusively on the American Horrors channel, available on Roku & online at www.americanhorrors.comGroovey TV is known for its guerilla style and hilariously sarcastic approach to its content. 

“I believe Groovey is a talent that will thrive at American Horrors. His interviews are fun, involving and always interesting to watch.” Said Hart D. Fisher, co-founder of the American Horrors 24/7 linear streaming horror channel. “Groovey’s tongue is a sharpened instrument capable of impaling an elder vampire, let alone a raised in the shadows horror creator, he always draws the best out of his subjects, from all areas of pop culture, for American Horrors, we’re going to narrow Groovey’s focus to the pulpy horror exploitation culture we all know & love.”

Groovey the founder of Groovey TV had this to say, “To be in the development stages of creating an exclusive content television series with Hart Fisher and American horrors is beyond exciting and really a dream come true. My childhood self is high fiving the crap out of me right now!

More details about Groovey TV on American Horrors will be released as the situation develops.

About American Horrors:
American Horrors brings the viewer the scariest world premier feature films and shorts, in house produced original programming (Gorecast, American Horrors, True Crimes, The Horror Show) as well as in depth interviews with their favorite horror creators, cutting edge filmmakers, darkest musicians and exclusive never before seen on broadcast TV music videos by the bloodiest acts in heavy metal, rock n roll & rap! American Horrors is the world’s greatest uncut 24/7 linear streaming horror channel and is available on Roku & online at http://americanhorrors.com/!

About Groovey TV:
Groovey TV is a closely affiliated group of artistic ass kickers that bring the rain without spilling their beer all the while covering the music, movies, games and events that are undeniably rad. Multi-award winning and former Guinness World Record holders “Most TV Interviews in 24 Hours” which was 70 and was held from 2014 to 2016.  The Groovey TV YouTube channel currently has 2 million views and 800 videos.