Terror Trax: Sarah Black of Valentine Wolfe

Valentine Wolfe is an accomplished and talented band. The self-described Victorian Chamber Metal Duo, consisting of Sarah Black and Braxton Ballew, resides in Greenville, South Carolina. They are married, have been making music since 2006, and have accomplished much during the past eleven years. Valentine Wolfe has produced albums, played conventions, and scored Shakespeare plays. They were HorrorAddicts.net’s Official Theme Band for seasons 10-12 and won Season 11’s Best Band contest. This honor was awarded during the finale of Season 12.

Recently, I discussed the award and various points of interest with Sarah Black. She is a gracious lady and provided many insights into the world of Valentine Wolfe.

NTK: Hello, Sarah! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me.

SB: Sure thing!

NTK: Valentine Wolfe was the winner of Best Band for Season 11. How do you feel about this award?

SB: I am very excited and honored by it.

NTK: Did you and your husband expect this win?

SB: I did not expect it at all! But, we do both love horror. I love reading horror fiction, and I love horror movies, and my favorite TV show is Hannibal. So, maybe, this love of horror comes through in some of our music.

NTK: What kind of horror fiction influences you? Do you have a favorite author?

SB: Right now, I am really liking Neal Stephenson, although he may not be considered horror. I also really like Stephen King. I also really love Mary Shelley and I am looking forward to reading Frankenstein again soon.

NTK: Which of King’s book or stories is your favorite?

SB: I really enjoyed Salem’s Lot and also, Mr. Mercedes.

NTK: Did you enjoy the film adaptations of his books? What horror movies are your favorites?

SB: I have not seen any film adaptations of his movies but I am excited to try some. I do love the Frankenstein movies! I also love Crimson Peak. That one has great music and great costumes, and it just looks so good.

NTK: Do those films inspire your music when you compose?

SB: Absolutely! And, since next year will be the 20th Anniversary of Frankenstein, we are going to try to do something with it. We’ve done programs at schools in the past for our Edgar Allan Poe music and had great success with that, so for this year, I think we’ll try to work up a program about Mary Shelley.

Sterling School, in Greenville, has been super receptive to us coming out and playing our Poe songs for the kids during the month of October, when they study him. So, we want to have some meetings with the teachers and coordinate something about Mary Shelley.

NTK: Will you make a new album in the vein of Once Upon a Midnight, your Poe-themed CD?

SB: We want to meet with the teachers first and let them help guide the focus of the project to see what will be the best fit. But, yes, we probably will have an album similar to Once Upon a Midnight.

NTK: Do the kids show a lot of interest in your programs? Do you get a lot of questions after your performances for them?

SB: Yes! The kids love it! They are encouraged to sit still and be very polite but then Braxton will tell them that since we are playing Metal that they can get a little crazy. It’s so cute to watch!

The teachers have tried to keep the question and answer section after our performance more related to Poe questions but the kids are interested in us as musicians as well. It is so nice for us to show kids that making their own stories and playing music that they like is a viable lifestyle choice.

We performed for Sterling School’s month of “Poetober” in previous years. The school wanted to have their own little convention and we played at that as well. The kids all did their own panels and it was pretty impressive.

NTK: Speaking of conventions, have you played any lately?

SB: The last one we played was the Atlanta Steampunk Expo. It just started up this year. We had such a great time there. We performed a live and improvised score of the film Nosferatu. The next one will be Marscon.

NTK: You’ve mentioned in the past that you’d like to score a silent film. How was the scoring of Nosferatu received?

SB: Everyone said they really enjoyed it! And, we were so happy to get such a great opportunity.

We scored The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari earlier this year at a convention called Monsterama and then we also did Nosferatu at the Main Library here in Greenville, SC.

NTK: How is scoring a film different from composing an original song?

SB: It is very different for me! I have been used to writing songs out and then practicing them and then performing them. Improvising live is a bit exhilarating and terrifying! I love both experiences and I hope to be able to continue to do both in the future.

NTK: Valentine Wolfe has provided the theme song for the last three seasons of HorrorAddicts.net’s podcast. How did it feel to hear your song, “Broken Pieces,” as their theme song?

SB: That was so cool! I am very excited about that!

NTK: Now that your time as the main theme song is up, will you submit a new song to the Band Contest?

SB: We just might! I love that the theme is, “This Place is Cursed.” It has inspired me to start writing a song with those lyrics and if I finish the song in time, I will certainly submit it! I don’t want to take up space that could go to a different group and I wouldn’t want anyone to get sick of us, but I do love this theme so I was inspired to get writing. We’ll see what comes out of it.

NTK: Do you have any other future projects to share with our readers?

SB: We are still in the planning stages, but hopefully we will have some kind of Mary Shelley project for next year. I’m not sure yet if it will be an EP or a full-length album yet. We did an album in 2015 called “The Ghosts of Christmas Past.” I have been super excited about the idea of playing a Haunted Dickens Christmas Show or maybe doing something similar to that. So, I would also like to get more holiday music together for next year.

NTK: Sarah, I could talk to you all day. Thank you for taking the time to chat with me. Good luck on your future endeavors and congratulations on your Best Band of Season 11 win.

SB: Thank you so much.


Book Review: Sycorax’s Daughters

Sycorax is an unseen sorceress and presence in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. She is present in the memories of men and though invisible; she is the force behind her son, Caliban.  The anthology, Sycorax’s Daughters, introduces us to women like her.  Women whose existence as storytellers is outside mainstream entertainment. Black women who weave stories of enchantment and horror.

And, they excel at it.

Sycorax’s Daughters is imaginative, lyrical, intelligent, beautiful, and terrifying. The editors, Kinitra Brooks, Ph.D., Linda D Addison, and Susana Morris Ph.D. chose powerful stories, poems, and novel excerpts. When you read them, you step into another world.

The book begins with a “Tree of the Forest Seven Bells Turns the World Round Midnight” by Sheree Renèe Thomas. In this tale, a man’s journey to meet his lover’s mother meets with chilling results. The story is a perfect introduction to the book. It gives a taste of what’s coming.

Within these pages, monsters receive fresh and startling retellings. Vampires aren’t tired, Transylvanian Princes. They are far more deadly and erotic. Mermaids are outcasts among their own kind, demons require vengeance, monsters prey upon males (and wear interesting footwear), paranormal detectives investigate, and ghosts seek to leech off the living.

My favorite story concerns a woman called Naomi and her spirit partner, Alexa. Though Alexa can possess Naomi, she is not a demon. Rather, she is an ally, one who aids Naomi in her chosen profession. Alexa also disapproves of Naomi’s choice in men and must take matters into her own hands. I hope the author will consider turning this tale into a book. The world she created is amazing.

The book ends with an afterword (in the form of a poem) by Linda D. Addison. It’s called “Sycorax’s Daughters Unveiled,” and it’s a fitting and beautiful piece.

I’ve read many anthologies. Most have included big name horror authors. None of these previous anthologies thrilled me as much as this one. I kept expecting to find a lump of coal among the gems.

I never found one. I don’t think you will either.

Book Review: Carnival of Chaos


What do you get when you add a missing proprietor, disgruntled carnival employees, suspicious police officers, a nerdy best friend, hulking goons, freakish sub-humans, and two bloodthirsty brothers? You get Carnival of Chaos, an unpredictable and enjoyable first entry in the Festival of the Flesh series.

The story begins with the disappearance of Chippy the Champ, proprietor of the Classic Circus Carnival. A menacing man called Mister E has taken control of the carnival and his vision doesn’t gel with the previous owner’s. Mister E wants to offer horror-themed entertainment and not all the employees agree. Enter, Loco, Blades, Stix, Angelique, Minx, Cleo, and Ben. These seven oppose Mister E and his usurpation of the carnival. They are joined by Jason, the surprising main character of the book, a man with a crush on the beautiful Angelique.

Mister E doesn’t deal well with resentment. He not only fires the eight workers, he orders his goons to eject them forcibly from the grounds. They’re not allowed severance pay or their belongings.

The antagonistic eight vow revenge and return to the carnival a few days later in order to enact it. When they enter Mister E’s trailer they find their belongings, a great deal of cash, and more than they bargained for.

Mister E is not what he seems, and the carnival is cover for something far more sinister. As the crew discovers more and others are drawn into the web, Mister E discovers how formidable his opponents are. His desire to add them to his Festival of Flesh increases tenfold.

Jim Goforth’s prose flows well and each of his three-dimensional characters are believable and well-drawn. Loco, the illustrated man, is dangerous and mysterious. He is the leader of the group and for good reason. Blades is the carnival knife man. His friendship with the clown, Stix, is enjoyable and genuine. Angelique is an acrobat and just as dangerous as the men. Minx is timid, a spoiled rich girl who trains elephants. Cleo, the tiger girl, is smart and brave. Ben, the circus strongman, is a big teddy bear…until you cross him. Jason is an every man and metal head. Jason’s motivations and emotions bring the story to life. He is along for the ride and he’s a resourceful and loyal friend. Mr. E and his brother, Hunter, are great villains. Both are perverse and twisted showmen. Every story must have a suitable adversary and they fit the bill.

A good writer forces you to care about the people he’s created and Goforth does just that. I found myself terrified, not only by the frightening and bloody situations but by the fact my favorite character might meet an undignified and sickening end. His villains are just as realistic as the heroes. These are people you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley or on dark carnival grounds.

Goforth’s building of suspense and foreshadowing of events is excellent. His twists are unexpected and many times, unpredictable. It’s refreshing to read about smart characters, people who need not do stupid things to advance the story. Case in point, one of my favorite parts involves Mister E’s plan to ambush the crew at a motel. He sends a cohort called Desmond to do the dirty work. Desmond discovers how dangerous the ex-performers are.

Carnival of Chaos is reminiscent of an 80’s horror film. It’s fun and frightening. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.

#NGHW Winner of the Self-Interview Challenge Naching T. Kassa

Winner Naching T. Kassa!

by Naching T. Kassa

Naching T. Kassa describes herself as a wife, mother, and horror writer. She resides in Valley, WA with her family and their dog, Dallas. Naching is a member of the Horror Writers Association and a contributor to The Demonic Visions book series. Recently, one of her poems was accepted into the HWA Poetry Showcase Volume 4.

But, what do we really know about this dark lady? Who is she and what makes her so darn scary? We asked Nani K, the person who knows her best, to shed a little light on the shadow.

Nani K: Good morning, Naching. Thank you for sitting down with me.

Naching: My pleasure.

Nani K: First off, I have to say this. You don’t look like a horror writer. You’re always smiling and you seem so sweet. Where do you get these ideas?

Naching: (laughs) You’d be surprised how many times I get this question. Usually, my ideas just come to me.

Nani K: Out of the blue?

Naching: In a manner of speaking, yes. Imagine everyone has a door in their mind which separates their conscious from their unconscious. Most people keep the door closed. They don’t want to see the things which lurk on the other side. Horror writers want to see those things, want to explore them. We love that direct line to the dark side.

Nani K: Your ideas come from the unconscious mind?

Naching: Yes, with certain exceptions. There are times when I reach outside the door. Reach for things beyond myself.

Nani K: What do you mean?

Naching: Well, take “The Laughing Man,” for instance.

Nani K: Your 300-word story in the Second Challenge of the Next Great Horror Writer Contest?

Naching: Exactly. In the story, Laughing Man has a very distinctive scent. He smells of almonds. Looking at this part during the editing process I thought, “This is stupid. How is it scary? He’s rotting and leprous. He wouldn’t smell nice.” So, I went online and I looked up the smell of gangrene. That was too gross. I didn’t want my character to puke when the monster entered. He’s supposed to lie still. I decided to look up the smell of infections instead. Now, I had never researched infections before, never seen this site. But, what I found there creeped me out. There was an infection which smelled like almonds. Needless to say, it stayed in the story.

Nani K: Is this what makes a great horror writer? Reaching beyond yourself?

Naching: It can. But, I think great horror writers have a different ability. I think they can touch the darkness which resides in us all. The great writers force us to open our doors and let our monsters out. If only for a little while.

Nani K: I can see that. No one would want the door open all the time.

Naching: As a reader or watcher of horror I wouldn’t want mine open that long. However, a writer is different. Judging by the way Stephen King writes, I’m pretty sure his door is always open.

Nani K: Speaking of King, is he your favorite horror writer?

Naching: Well…I like him very much.

Nani K: You have another favorite?

Naching: I had a dream a while back where Stephen King and Dean Koontz fought for my affection.

Nani K: Oh—

Naching: (laughs) Not that kind of affection. And, it wasn’t some duel with swords. Though, that would’ve been cool. No, King said I was his greatest fan and Koontz said I belonged to him. I met with King in my living room and then I met Koontz in the kitchen.

Nani K: Who won?

Naching: Koontz. I told him he was my favorite. He was ecstatic. (laughs) It was an awesome dream.

Nani K: Do you think Koontz’s door is open all the time?

Naching:  I’m not sure. It’d be frightening if it was.

Nani K: While we’re still on the subject of doors, let’s talk about opportunity knocking on yours. How did you get involved with the Demonic Visions series?

Naching: The editor, Chris Robertson, and I were in an erotic/horror anthology together. I befriended him on Facebook and he told me he was about to start a new series of anthologies. He invited me to write for the first one. There are six volumes now and I have stories in all of them.

Nani K: How many erotic/horror stories have you written?

Naching: I thought you’d pick up on that one. I’ve written two. One was about a demon. The other was vampire erotica. My stories are different from other writers. They tip toward the romantic side.

Nani K: Do you like writing romance?

Naching: I do. Though, I find some of the categories confusing. A few months ago, I received a rejection for a horror story with romantic elements. The editor said he couldn’t buy it because he considered the story a Paranormal Romance. Now, there were no shifters involved. There were no humans in love with supernatural beings. Makes me wonder what criteria he used to decide this.

Nani K: You’ve brought up a good point here. Let’s talk about rejection.

Naching: (groans) Oh, man.

Nani K: What advice would you give a first time writer regarding rejection?

Naching: Persevere. If you get rejected, fix the story and send it out again to another place. If it gets rejected ten times, take some classes and improve your skills. Don’t give up. Never give up.

Nani K: You’re passionate about this.

Naching: It’s not in my nature to give up my dreams. I’m not a just writer by profession. It’s who I am. Also, before both of my parents passed, I told them I’d be a writer. If I give up, it’s like lying to them. And, I’ll never do that.

Nani K: You’ve often credited your father with your introduction to horror. What did your mom think of your interest in it?

Naching: She supported me but I think it worried her. She wasn’t into horror. My dad, on the other hand, was a big fan. He showed me Universal Horror, Hammer films, Hitchcock, Roger Corman films, and all the big movies. We watched Joe Bob Briggs’s Monstervision on TNT. He also bought me horror novels. He bought me my first Dean Koontz. My husband bought most of the rest.

Nani K: You’ve called your husband “your biggest supporter.” How does he help you?

Naching: Dan is great. He’s the sole provider for our family, he watches the kids while I write, and he’s my first reader. He also likes to scare me. He loves to make me jump during horror films.

Nani K: Does he ever worry about your horror writing? Does he stay awake nights wondering whether you’ll come to bed with a knife?

Naching: So, that’s why all the knives disappeared! I wondered why we didn’t have any in the house. No, I’m just kidding. He doesn’t worry. He knows me too well.

Nani K: As a wife and mother, how do you find time to write?

Naching: I write when everyone’s asleep. It’s dark and quiet. Very conducive to horror. I often wind up spooking myself.

Nani K: Earlier, you spoke of skill improvement. What do you do to sharpen skills?

Naching: I take online courses and I read books on writing. There’s a great website called edX.org and it offers classes from distinguished universities. Most classes are free unless you’d like to earn a certificate. Then, you have to pay a fee. My favorite course was English Grammar and Style from Queensland University in Australia. It was terrific.

Nani K: What books do you recommend for the first time horror writer?

Naching: “On Writing” by Stephen King, that’s the horror writer’s bible. “Strunk and White’s Elements of Style” and “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” by Renni Browne and Dave King are also great books.

Nani K: What is the one thing a writer needs most?

Naching: Readers. We should take as many as we can get, no matter what the age group. For a long time, I wrote what I considered adult horror. The funny thing is, most of the readers who approached me and expressed their admiration for my writing were teenagers and young adults. If you think about it, this is our largest audience. And, if they discover us now, they’ll follow our work into adulthood. That’s why I want to be the female version of R.L. Stine. I want to encourage and inspire another generation of readers.

Nani K: Thank you, Naching.

Naching: Thank you, Nani K. It’s been fun.

To find out more about Naching, go to: http://frightenme.weebly.com

Listen to the contestants battle for points this season on HorrorAddicts.net