Book Review: Unsafe Words by Loren Rhoads

Review by Daphne Stasert

Content Warnings: Drug Use, Sex, Violence, Death, Suicide, Slavery, Assisted Suicide, Homophobia, Sex Work

With Unsafe Words, Loren Rhoads presents probably the most diverse set of stories that I’ve yet reviewed. Unsafe Words is not a collection of strictly horror, but explores fantasy and science fiction as well. Throughout, however, runs a thread of unease. Rhoads explores the darker sides of all her subjects. Regardless of whether the tales are set in a world of advanced technology, magic, aliens, or bad drug trips, Unsafe Words doesn’t flinch away from her examination of the human condition.

Drugs, sex, and music feature prominently throughout the stories. Frequently, they weave together. Drugs tint character reliability, blurring the line between reality and hallucination. Characters use drugs to escape their situation, to enhance it, and simply to exist. Rhoads attaches no value judgement to the use, but uses it to enrich the stories. Sex, in all its trappings, is a strong taboo for most readers. But Rhoads doesn’t shy from its use. Sex is good, it’s bad, it’s a fact of life for her characters. It’s a means to an end or an end all its own.  Music is a driving force, akin to hypnotism, drugs, or religion. Music washes over the characters like a drug high. It transcends their motivations. Characters are willing to die for music, kill for it.

Drugs, sex, and music may be the vehicle, but many of Rhoads’s stories primarily deal with the concept of love—new, mature, and dying. When does infatuation cross from curiosity to devotion? What would you do for someone that you love? Who or what would you betray? What do you do when grief runs out and turns instead to exhaustion and despair?

These stories are uncomfortable at times, but they’re meant to be that way. They force the reader to explore their own values and assumptions about the human condition. Even within the horror narratives, terror takes a backseat to introspection.

Rhoads revisits tired tropes through a new lens. New worlds and ideas turn familiar stories on their heads. She seamlessly includes science fiction and fantasy world building to freshen up stories. These worlds don’t take over the story, but serve as a unique backdrop.

If I have one complaint about Unsafe Words, it is simply that some of the stories are too short. Rhoads creates complex, immersive worlds that are busting with stories, but only explores a tiny portion of them, sometimes cutting off the story before it really even gets started. So many of these could be expanded into full novels and I hope that Rhoads takes that step in the future.

If you have a wide range of stories with excellent writing, you’ll enjoy Unsafe Words by Loren Rhoads.

Breaking NEWS: Dark Divinations Critters Poll Placement

Our author, Ash Hartwell, has placed 2nd in the Critters.org Annual Reader’s Poll!
Ash’s story “Copper and Cordite” was in our 2020 anthology, Dark Divinations.

Congratulations Ash!

The full book, Dark Divinations, also placed 6th in the Best Anthology category.
Thank you to the authors in Dark Divinations for making this book so great!
And thank you readers for voting for us.

AWARDS

Critters Annual #2 in the Best Horror Short Story category.
CrittersBestTp10Copper

Critters Annual #6 in the Best Anthology category.
CrittersBestTp10

Asian Horror Month: Chilling Chat: Jess Chua

chillingchat

Jess Chua is a writer and editor for a personal development podcast. Her micro-fiction was a runner-up in the Mysterious Photograph contest at Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. She enjoys yoga, healthy cooking, and spending time with her pets.jess_bnw_wc

NTK: How old were you when you discovered horror?

JC: I was possibly five years old when I first started learning about ghosts. I’ve been savoring taking my own sweet time exploring the genre since then.

NTK: What is your favorite horror movie?

JC: Hmm, it’s hard to pick just one. Some of my favorites include Psycho, The Shining, Pet Sematary. The Stepford Wives (1975). Alien, Silence of The Lambs, and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974).

I recently added some Asian horror movies (like Third Eye and 23:59) onto my Netflix queue and look forward to checking those out.

The Ring (Japanese; 1998) was very creepy, too! I watched a little bit of it long ago and will need to finish watching it someday…

NTK: Do you have a favorite horror television show?

JC: I was very drawn in by Bates Motel and Kingdom (South Korean). I found the latter’s portrayal of zombies refreshing.

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

JS: Psycho was a slim book that packed a punch. I enjoyed the pacing and range of human emotions in Pet Sematary.

Aside from novels, I enjoy short stories in this genre as it allows me to check out different worlds and characters in a short amount of time.

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

JS: I’ve been a big fan of Edgar Allan Poe since I was sixteen. His haunting tales of the macabre stay with me long after I’ve finished reading them.

I almost have the full collection of out-of-print books by the late Singaporean writer Damien Sin, so he’s definitely another one of my favorite horror authors. I appreciate the originality and authentic, local flavor of his writing.

NTK: What inspires your writing?

JS: The highs and lows of the human psyche and human behavior.

NTK: If you were to meet a reader for the first time, and they asked for a recommendation from you about one of your works, what is the one book or story you would recommend to them?

JS: I would probably recommend a dark fiction chapbook that I’d like to compile in the near future. It’d be a convenient way for a new reader to check out my writing style and ideas.

NTK: Do your characters have free will? Or do you plan their every move?

JS: I think a 50-50 approach is fun to take. The characters sometimes have free will within a set idea that I have beforehand of what I’d like them to experience or be like. Visualizing the scenes they’re in is always a creative and analytical exercise.

NTK: What is your favorite monster?

JS: The Pontianak (a malevolent female spirit in Malaysian and Indonesian folklore), King Kong, or Godzilla.

NTK: As an Asian writer in the horror community, how has your experience been?

JS: As a writer of mixed ethnicity (Chinese-Eurasian) who has lived in different countries, it’s sometimes difficult to find the right balance in a story or piece of creative work. It can become very anxiety-inducing to think about whether the characters or story is inclusive enough to readers of different cultures and backgrounds. I try to stay focused on the plot and characters, and if race or geographic setting is integral to the story, then I do my best to write about it in an authentic way.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What works do HorrorAddicts have to look forward to?

JS: I’d like to continue working on short stories and reading the horror anthologies on my bookshelf. One of my stories will be published in a Gluttony-themed anthology and I have some Singapore-based ghost stories in mind. Southeast Asia has a rich variety of paranormal lore which have stayed with me, even though I’ve lived halfway across the world for over a decade now. Thanks for checking out my interview–and best wishes for 2021!

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Enjoy Last Call a short story by Jess Chua at HorrorAddicts.com on January 8, 2021

Asian Horror Month: Black Cranes Unquiet Inspirations by Lee Murray

BLACK CRANES: UNQUIET INSPIRATIONS by Lee Murray

Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women was inspired when two editors of Asian heritage arrived way too early for a panel at a conference in Brisbane. Geneve Flynn and I both laughed that we should fall so deeply into the conscientious Asian girl trope, and that set us to talking. We’d both been raised in predominantly Western cultures. How was it our behaviour was so influenced by our Asian heritage? Did we know any other Asian women writers? Where were the Asian horror writers? And where was the vehicle for our stories? Our voices? Although Flynn and I had communicated online, and I’d enjoyed some of her fabulous stories published by a mutual publisher, I hadn’t met her previously. I liked her immediately, finding her well-read, articulate, funny, humble (and of course, conscientious). Before we’d even entered the panel session, the cogs were turning, the two of us already sifting possibilities for the anthology we would co-edit. 

Fast forward a year, and Black Cranes is a reality, the anthology comprising stories from many of our favourite authors of dark fiction, a hard-hitting foreword from Alma Katsu, author of The Hunger and The Deep, and published by boutique small press Omnium Gatherum behind a glorious Greg Chapman cover. In the short time since the book’s release, Geneve and I have been overwhelmed by the response to Black Cranes, not the least coming from Asian women writers of dark speculative fiction:

“As haunting and versatile as the Chinese erhu, the stories in Black Cranes pluck and bow the strings of the Southeast Asian experience with insightful depth and resonance.” —Tori Eldridge, author of the acclaimed Lily Wong novels, The Ninja Daughter and The Ninja’s Blade.

“A varied and fascinating collection of monsters, full of dazzling landscapes and writers to watch.” —E. Lily Yu, John Campbell Award winner and author of On Fragile Waves. 

But my experience with Black Cranes has gone deeper than just the chance to work with some amazing writers. Two of my own stories appear in the anthology, inspired by my personal experience as a third-generation Chinese New Zealander. ‘Phoenix Claws’ is a contemporary comic horror focusing on that moment when a prospective partner meets the family, an awkward occasion, especially when the relationship involves a blending of cultures. Will the parents like them? What if that person unwittingly stomps on an important tradition? In ‘Phoenix Claws’ an unwritten litmus test of suitability involving chicken’s feet multiplies the awkwardness of that meeting. 

‘Frangipani Wishes’ is a story sucked from my marrow, one of those tales that was never told to me, but somehow I knew it anyway. Perhaps I heard it whispered on frangipani scented winds while on visits to Hong Kong. Because of, or perhaps in spite of their source, these stories forced me to address my ongoing struggle with my Kiwi-Asian identity and the powerful expectations of self-erasure experienced by many Asian women. And in the case of ‘Frangipani Wishes’, a story pieced together from secrets, I experimented with a new-to-me prose-poem format to capture those shadowy origins. Here’s a short excerpt:

Some things you knew already. Some things you knew before you were born; they were revealed to you in the rhythm of your mother’s heartbeat and in the echoes of her sighs. Later, you heard it in the closing of doors, in the scuff of a suitcase, and the low hum of a ceiling fan.

the bitterness of smiles / the perfidy of eyes

That was back when you lived with your bones squeezed sideways into the spaces between the floorboards of your father’s villa, cowering from the sharp tongues of lesser wives and the cruel taunts of your half-sisters. Back when you were waiting to live, when you lived and waited, comforted by the soft scents of your silly frangipani wishes. Embroidering silk dreams, you waited, listening for the hundred-year typhoons that whipped across the harbour, tugging at rooftops, flattening shanties, and stealing away souls. Because only when the winds raged and the waters of the harbour thrashed, only when the villa rattled with unease, only then were the ghosts quiet. Only then, were you able to breathe.

* * *

Since the moment you were born, generations of hungry ghosts swirled around you, teasing the air, your breath, your hair. Not your fault, although First Wife and Little Wife and the entanglements who dwelled in your father’s villa, those living repositories of secrets, they blamed you still. They whispered behind their hands, hiding smiling teeth, muttering, uttering, chattering. Your mother had unleashed them, they said, spawned them as she spawned you, let the starving ghosts escape into the night. A hundred dragon’s teeth could not drive out such demons. Nor a thousand dragon teeth ground to powdered dust. It was as well she was gone.

Your mother might be a ghost herself; you didn’t know. No one had thought to tell you, although they said other things—mean, sunken, tortured things. Things with thin bony limbs and slender necks. Swollen bloated-bellied things which wormed their way beneath your ribs, pushing aside your lungs, where they took up residence: pulsing, and pulsing, and pulsing… You learned to live with them, the tortured, swirling wisps of ghosts and the ugly, swollen pustules lodged under your heart, while you waited for the tempests, while you waited to live, in your father’s villa on the hillside.

A cousin came to the villa. He worked in the textile business and came to weft and weave words with your father. A distant cousin, although not so distant. Little Wife called for you, she liked to see you underfoot, so you squeezed your way up to where the living roamed, hauling yourself from the damp crawlspace, through the gaps in the floorboards. Scrubbed and pretty, you served Distant Cousin tea in the salon, hands trembling with reverence, since he was your father’s guest. You served the sweet red bean cakes that were everyone’s favourite. You nibbled on the crumbs, caught the rifts of conversations, and a waft of sultry sandalwood. After that, Distant Cousin stayed on, stopping to play mah-jong with your father and his friends, their voices murmuring, and the tiles clattering long into the night.

the harbour / glints / in his eyes

Hello, little cousin, he whispered as he passed you days later in the hall, setting your insides aflutter, like the wings of the skylark Little Wife kept in a domed teak cage in her room. Just in time, you remembered to drop your head respectfully and hide your smile behind your hand.

* * *

Ongoing conversations with my Black Cranes contributors made me realise that my dance with themes of otherness and identity was just beginning, their insightful comments inspiring me to dig deeper into my own history. But how would I do that? And would there be any interest in that work? 

No one wants to know. Maybe I should just keep quiet.

In May 2020, New Zealand journalist Karen Tay wrote in Stuff: “To be invisible in this world is to have your stories erased or reduced to the margin, which is how it’s largely been for many generations of Chinese immigrants to New Zealand. But in the past decade, New Zealand’s Chinese diaspora – from Kiwi-born Chinese, whose families arrived as long ago as the earliest Pākehā, to recent immigrants – is taking back the power by writing their own stories. They are no longer striving to keep their heads down and completely assimilate. Instead, these writers are sharing their own truths unapologetically and unequivocally…redefining on their own terms, one story at a time: the immigrant narrative.” 

Could I add my own voice to those narratives described by Kay? Take back my power? Perhaps a longer prose poem narrative in the style of ‘Frangipani Wishes’? 

Cogs turned again.

I consulted New Zealand’s archive site Past Papers, peeking into the lives of Chinese New Zealand women over the past century: a badly beaten Chinese woman falls from the second floor of a Taranaki tobacconist; in Taumarunui, a half-caste Chinese slices the throat of her new-born with a cleaver; in Wellington, a sixty-year-old hangs herself in a scullery. What experiences drove these women to commit such acts against themselves and their families? Could I also incorporate some of those stories alongside my own? I thought of Rena’s charming story ‘The Ninth Tale’ in Black Cranes, a chilling folkloric tale highlighting the Chinese mythology of the fox spirit—and was inspired again. I would write a series narrative prose-poems inspired and informed by real life narratives of New Zealand-Chinese women, connecting them through the various lives of the Chinese shapeshifting nine-tailed fox spirit, húli jīng, 狐狸精, as that creature attempts to ascend to the heavens. 

Still, I wasn’t sure. 

“Above all,” wrote Alma Katsu in her foreword to Black Cranes, “Asian women are supposed to be submissive. Obedient, invisible, without wants of her own, and so content to devote herself to making others happy. This is the expectation I found the hardest. But I found the mere expectation soul-crushing. That anyone could expect another person to negate themselves voluntarily.” Katsu goes on to demand that we “use the power of story to push back on these stereotypes. To show the damage they cause. To show that we’re made of flesh and blood.”

So, with Katsu’s words in my head, and encouraged and supported by my Black Cranes colleagues, Geneve Flynn, Christina Sng, and Rena Mason, I submitted the proposal to New Zealand’s Grimshaw Sargeson Trustees, and was thrilled to be awarded a 2021 fellowship to work on my project, Fox Spirit on a Distant Cloud.

“This is something very special,” the award convenor confided when she called to give me the good news. 

Nor am I the only Black Cranes contributor who’s been inspired to continue the discussion opened in Black Cranes. Angela Yuriko Smith, publisher at Space and Time, was already focused on promoting marginalised voices, but it is clear her resolve has sharpened, both in her own writing and in her vision for the iconic magazine. 

“I’ve been diving into all kinds of Thai myths and folklore, ghosts, spirit houses that they actually erect and bring items to, and it’s absolutely fascinating,” Rena Mason wrote in one email to me after the anthology was released. Determined to promote Asian and other marginalised groups and brimming with new project ideas, the three-time Bram Stoker Award-winner is currently working on the HWA’s anthology Other Fears, her first foray into editing. With the HWA anthology also addressing concepts of alienation and otherness and due for release in late 2021, I feel proud that she is continuing this important work.

As far as a sequel Black Cranes anthology is concerned, COVID has put a stop to unexpected conversations with new friends in convention centre lobbies for the moment, nevertheless, the cogs are turning…

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Lee Murray is a multi-award-winning author-editor from Aotearoa-New Zealand (Sir Julius Vogel, Australian Shadows), and a three-time Bram Stoker Award®-nominee. Her work includes military thrillers, the Taine McKenna Adventures, supernatural crime-noir series The Path of Ra (with Dan Rabarts), and debut collection Grotesque: Monster Stories. Her latest anthology projects are Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women, co-edited with Geneve Flynn, and Midnight Echo #15. She is co-founder of Young NZ Writers and of the Wright-Murray Residency for Speculative Fiction Writers, HWA Mentor of the Year, NZSA Honorary Literary Fellow, and Grimshaw Sargeson Fellow for 2021. Read more at leemurray.info.

Website:  https://www.leemurray.info/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/MonsterReaders

Twitter: https://twitter.com/leemurraywriter

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/leemurray2656/

Bookbub:  https://www.bookbub.com/authors/lee-murray

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Lee-Murray/e/B0068FHSC4

Chilling Chat: #SWP – Loren Rhoads and Emerian Rich

lorenLoren Rhoads served as editor for Bram Stoker Award-nominated Morbid Curiosity magazine as well as the books The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two, Death’s Garden: Relationship with Cemeteries, and Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues: True Tales of the Unsavory, Unwise, Unorthodox, and Unusual. Her short stories have appeared in the books Best New Horror #27, Strange California, Sins of the Sirens: Fourteen Tales of Dark Desire, Fright Mare: Women Write Horror, and most recently in the magazines Weirdbook, Occult Detective Quarterly, and Space & Time.

Emerian Rich is the author of the vampire book series, Night’s Knights, and writes romance under the name emz1smallEmmy Z. Madrigal. Her romance/horror cross over, Artistic License, is about a woman who inherits a house where anything she paints on the walls comes alive. She’s been published in a handful of anthologies by publishers such as Dragon Moon Press, Hidden Thoughts Press, Hazardous Press, and White Wolf Press. She is the podcast Horror Hostess of HorrorAddicts.net.

In our round table interview, these talented ladies spoke of their newest creation, The Spooky Writer’s Planner. 

NTK: What inspired The Spooky Writer’s Planner?

LR: I am a planner junkie. To be honest, I have trouble deciding what to do next, especially if projects have multiple steps, so I really need a planner to take the stress out of deciding how to move forward on a project. I kept buying new systems, hoping to find one that would tame my chaos, but no single system ever had all the forms I wanted or needed. I tried cobbling together a bunch of different systems, but it was ugly and frustrating.

ER: I wanted a planner that fit my needs better than any of those on the market. I’m kind of a planner fanatic. I buy several every year to try and “Frankenstein” one planner that will fit all my needs. I was talking to Loren about this and she has the same problem, so we join forces to create this one. We figured, even if no one else finds it helpful, at least we’ll have our perfect planner in our hands.

NTK: How did the planner come about? What started this awesome collaboration?

LR: I turned to Emerian and asked if she would consider designing the perfect planner for me. Once we got talking about the project, she realized that she could make a planner that was perfect for her, too.  So, then we started sending our favorite planner pages back and forth, talking about what worked for us and why. That part was really fun.

I think she was startled by just how many planners I’ve tried over the years, though.

NTK: Who came up with the name?

LR: I credit Emerian for that. We went back and forth between Spooky Author’s Planner and Spooky Writer’s Planner, but I think she made the right choice to make it more inclusive.

ER: I think it was a collaborative brainstorm.

NTK: What are some of the problems you’ve encountered with other planners? Did you address these specifically when creating the Spooky Writer’s Planner?

LR: Other author planners that I’ve experimented with focused on things that weren’t useful to me. The one I started with last year spent pages on choosing editors and logging finances. The one I used in the middle of the year spent an enormous amount of time on figuring out how many hours you have to write in a week, then on choosing projects you can finish in those hours.  Which required a much better understanding of how long projects take to complete than I have!

So, we stripped our planner back to what we really need as authors: a place to track submissions, a form for developing characters and one for world-building, weekly lists of deadlines, a way to track big projects, a game for collecting rejection slips as a way to inspire us to take chances on pitching to new markets, a system to celebrate successes… I am so bad at tracking things that I sat down earlier this month to figure out how many pieces I’ve had published in 2020. It was way more than I thought! I kept coming across interviews I’d forgotten I’d done.  I need a place where I can log all of that and be able to track it better.

ER: Planners usually don’t address the needs of a writer’s life. They don’t account for charting progress or keeping track of submissions. So, often, a writer will have a planner and then other books or sheets to keep track of all that. With this planner, writers will have all that information all in one place. Easy to track and most of all, easy to access. We’ve also made the planner customizable. If you want a print book, we have that, but if you only use certain sheets or certain spreads, you can get the digital copy so you only print what you use.

NTK: There are inspirational quotes and tips included in the planner. How did you choose them and how did you come up with them? Are these tips and quotes personal to you?

LR: Years ago, I belonged to a writers group called the Red Room Writers Society. One Christmas, they gave us each a little red leather-bound book called a Commonplace Book, for collecting quotes that inspired us. Every time I see something about writing, I copy it down in my Commonplace Book. I’m really thrilled to share some of my favorite quotes in the planner.

A lot of the tips came from a seminar Emerian and I did at BayCon a couple of years ago. The topic was “How to Get Out of the Slush Pile.” We talked about what you can do as an author to improve your chances with an editor. Emerian suggested we include some of that in the planner, which I thought was a great idea.

ER: The tips and tricks are things we’ve learned during the combined 50 years of publishing experience we have. We give tips on publishing, submitting, marketing, and social media. We’ve also got quick tasks listed. Only have five minutes? We give you ideas on how to use that time to benefit your writing schedule.

NTK: Is the planner available in print and digital forms? Where can Horror Addicts find it?

LR: Yes!  Emerian wanted a book-style planner. I wanted to be able to print pages as I needed them and keep them in a three-ring binder. So, we each got what we wanted! The paperback version is available on Amazon. The digital download is for sale on Etsy.

ER: They can find it on Amazon for the print version and Etsy for the digital version. We show the different types with pictures and examples, here.

NTK: Do you have any plans for future collaborations?

LR: I would love to work with Emz again. For a long time, I’ve been in awe of how many things she accomplishes and how incredibly creative she is.  She was really a driving force in getting this planner done. I did a lot of the “fun” work, pulling together sample planners and daydreaming about the pages I wanted, but she did the hard imaginative design work. I kibitzed and proofread—which I love—but she had to make my suggestions real. She made the process really fun for me.  I hope it was as much fun for her!

ER: I am so thrilled to be collaborating on this planner. Loren has been one of my favorite creators for years, even before I knew her, I admired her ‘zine Morbid Curiosity. Now that we’re friends, I’m still inspired every day by the way her brain works and the fun topics she comes up with, so you never know! PS… we’ve just been told we’ll be sharing a fiction TOC soon, so… stay tuned!

New Release: Spooky Writer’s Planner

Are you spooky?

Do you write horror, speculative fiction, dark fantasy, paranormal romance, or fairy tales?

Are you a spooky blogger, macabre non-fiction columnist, or haunt travel vlogger?

Are you ready to stop dreaming and be a writer?

Are you an author who wants to take your career to the next level?

PLANNER INCLUDES

13 months of monthly and weekly spreads

Monthly goal and recap sheets

Weekly check-ins and note pages

Writing challenges, planners, and instructions

Submissions, published works, and contacts trackers

Marketing, newsletter, and blog planners

Check-off sheets for website maintenance, social media profiles, and expenses

Fun sheets to generate writing ideas, track your favorite TV series, or to be read and watched lists.

Authors Loren Rhoads and Emerian Rich share the tricks they’ve learned over the course of a combined 50 years in publishing, from working with traditional New York publishers, small presses, and as indie publishers themselves.

AVAILABLE NOW PRINT or DIGITAL

PRINT: The Spooky Writer’s Planner is perfect-bound with a glossy cover, printed on high-quality 8.5 x 11-inch paper. Everything you need is included in one handy book you can grab and go! Have book, will travel!

DIGITAL: The quick-download version gives you a digital copy so you can print the pages you want, print multiples of those you think you’ll use the most, leave those you won’t use, and create your own Frankenstein’s Monster of a planner! These pages are designed to be printed on 8.5 x 11-inch paper. You can put them in a three-ring binder, bind them with disks, or a spiral, as you choose. You can print different sheets on different colors.

Freaky Foodies Month: From the Vault / Dark Divinations: Breaking Bread

DarkDivBanner

The Inspiration Behind “Breaking Bread.”

By R.L. Merrill

Breaking Bread begins in the home of Fidelia Meek, the Meek Mansion, which is less than two miles from my house. The house is an historic site and I drive past it every week. The home was built in 1869 after William Meek and his family relocated to what is now San Lorenzo in order to plant orchards. He and his partner, Henderson Lewelling, got their start in the fruit business up in Oregon and brought their know-how to California to start anew. The area is now part of the Bay Area suburban sprawl, but the Hayward Historical Society has gone to great lengths to preserve the home. It’s a glorious white building with many windows and turrets. I’ve been inside a handful of times and it always feels full to the brim of stories, almost as if you could run your fingers along the wall or the banister and absorb the history through your pores.

When I discovered the submission call for Dark Divinations, I fell into a rabbit hole of research on the house, the area, and what women of the time may have been interested in. I discovered the use of Alphitomancy—the use of bread to determine one’s innocence or guilt—and away the story went! I was even able to score a couple of tickets to a paranormal investigation of the home one night and though it was a thrill to attend with my pal Karysa and to hear stories about the people who lived there, nothing much out of the ordinary occurred. Still, we got to explore parts of the house that are usually closed to the public, and I loved every moment.

When the place you live in and love is full of history, it doesn’t take much to be inspired.

Merrill_RL-HeadshotOnce upon a time… A teacher, tattoo collector, mom, and rock ‘n’ roll kinda gal opened up a doc and started purging her demons. Twenty-five published works later, with more tucked away in her evil lair, R.L. Merrill strives to find that perfect balance between real-life and happily ever after. You can find her lurking on social media, being a mom-taxi to two brilliant kids, in the tattoo chair trying desperately to get that back piece finished, or headbanging at a rock show in the San Francisco Bay Area! Stay Tuned for more Rock ‘n’ Romance.

 

Book Review: LeRoux Manor by Liz Butcher

I was drawn to LeRoux Manor by Liz Butcher with the promises of a spooky old house and possibly some ghosts. What I found was a spooky YA Thriller with so many different types of paranormal activity, I didn’t really know what was going on until the last moment and even now, I still have questions. Perhaps there will be a sequel. 

Camille is an Aussie teenager whose parents move her to their ancestral home in England during her most formative high school years. A bit of culture shock isn’t the biggest thing for her to deal with when it seems she’s moved into a haunted house. If not haunted, it does have some secrets to tell. 

LeRoux Manor is a legend in her new town, mostly known for a dinner party that went awry years ago. With the help of some new school friends and a crush named Lachlan, Camille pieces together parts of a puzzle in search of answers as to why her family wanted her parents to give her away and why she shares the birthday of an old ancestor who went missing and has never been found.

While reading, I did find myself wondering if Camille was crazy. Was she just imagining things, or was the house actually making her see things that weren’t there? Who is the woman in the woods she spies from her bedroom window? Why did Lachlan’s Uncle disappear after visiting the estate? What exactly is that weird being reaching out of the large wardrobe in her bedroom? Who’s the little kid skittering around the attic?

This book reads very YA, but for those of you who adore spooky houses like I do, you might not mind. For fans of The Haunting, The Woman in Black, and The Haunting of Bly Manor, you’ll be thrilled with spooky middle of the night snooping, phantom earthquakes, and creepy servants lurking about. With jump scares that would be more at home on film, I was only mildly caught off-guard in the beginning, but as the teen’s experience more and more strange occurrences on an all-night fear-fest, their fear becomes contagious like the scare you might have experienced at camp when someone told a ghost story around the campfire. 

Chilling Chat: Authors of SLAY – L. Marie Wood

L. Marie Wood is an award-winning author and screenwriter. She is the recipient of the Golden Stake Award for her novel The Promise Keeper, as well as the Harold L. Brown Award for her screenplay Home Party. Her short story, “The Ever After” is part of the Bram Stoker Award Finalist anthology Sycorax’s Daughters. Wood was recognized in The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, Vol. 15 and as one of the 100+ Black Women in Horror Fiction.

L. Marie is a fun and vivacious lady. We spoke of writing, vampires, and The Golden Stake Award.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Lisa! Thank you for joining me today.

LMW: Thank you so much for having me!

NTK: How old were you when you first discovered horror?

LMW: Believe it or not I was five years old! I started writing a story and it was just… dark!

I didn’t associate the term “horror” to it, but that’s what it was, it was psychological horror. And I still write in that sub-genre today.

NTK: Was it inspired by a book or a movie? What inspires your writing?

LMW: No—it literally came from out of nowhere, which is actually, how I find inspiration now.

Sometimes an idea for a story just comes to me. Could be something I saw–some detail about how someone was dressed or something they did maybe even the weather or catching a glimpse of someone making a facial expression they don’t realize is being noticed. When I go looking for inspiration, I can’t always find it.

NTK: Who was the first horror character you felt represented you? The one you could identify with the most?

LMW: Interestingly enough, the first character that came to mind isn’t from the horror genre, so I am still thinking about that one (Laughs.)

I identify with the villains and Darth Vader’s cool calmness is just so awesome to me, I’ve always wanted to emulate that.You know… should I have the need to subdue someone… you know what I mean! (Laughs.)

Then I was always partial to Bruce Lee—like I wanted to kick like him and the sound effects—heck yes. So, combine those with my favorite horror antagonist—vampires!!—and you have a really kick-ass villain. I can’t say I’ve seen this character yet… maybe Blade…wait—DEFINITELY Blade! And I have to say that I never realized that I am Blade until JUST NOW. I always saw myself more like Jerry Dandridge.

NTK: Did you see yourself as Chris Sarandon? Or Colin Ferrel?

LMW: Definitely Chris Sarandon. He was sooooo smooth.

So I guess I am the female Blade… I’m going with that. (Laughs.)

NTK: (Laughs.) Do you have a favorite horror movie?

LMW: I do! Angel Heart! Being the psychological horror lover I am, I love a movie that has twists and turns and makes me think. I find something new every time I watch that movie!

NTK: That movie is so awesome and underrated! Did you like Robert De Niro’s portrayal of the Devil?

LMW: I did, even if it was a little ham-handed… Louis Cypher HAHAHA! He looked awesome though, just enough to make sure you know who he was and what was going on, but easy enough to miss if you aren’t trying to focus on the flick.

NTK: Exactly! Do you have a favorite horror television show?

LMW: Horror Tv shows are difficult. I was a Walking Dead Fan for years and then… I mean, ok and…? I loved The Haunting of Hill House and Lovecraft Country but those are just season-long entries. AHS – I’ve really only enjoyed one whole season – the one with Cuba Gooding Jr…Roanoke.

So… I might have to say no…?

But if the stand alone, one season and one shows count, I will definitely say Haunting of Hill House. Creepy as hell, that one.

NTK: What about favorite horror author?

LMW: That is a harder question than you might realize! I adore Ira Levin’s work, the way he spun a yarn was like no one else. Very casual, conversational, it’s like he is sitting with you on a park bench or while waiting in line at the movies and telling you this creepy thing. I find that my own writing is a lot like that—like we’re having a conversation, only what I am saying is scaring the bejesus out of you. Reading his work just feels good to me.

At the same time, I love Stephen King. His ability to make the mundane spooky is so unsettling and I really love that! Finally, Shirley Jackson has psychological horror in her pocket. Her work just creeps up on you and you don’t even know why you are afraid, but you are. Read “The Lottery”… you may find yourself shivering—either because you might be the one to get stoned, or go along with the stoning and not even know why!

So my fave… Shirley Ira King. Hell of a pen name!

NTK: (Laughs.) That would be! Do you have a favorite horror novel?

LMW: I do, and interestingly enough, none of those three wrote it! Quietus by Vivian Schilling. It is so lyrical! I remember thinking that I wished I could write something so tight, so beautifully done. No purple prose. No fluff. Just amazing control and beautiful execution. I fangirled a bit when I read it and contacted her (this is like 2002 or 2003). Had to tell her it was an amazing experience reading her book.

NTK: That is so awesome! What did she say?

LMW: She was so kind. We actually spoke for a while—she was gracious about the compliment I lavished—I can only imagine that she was red-faced… I was laying it on thick because this book is… chef’s kiss!

She encouraged me to write after I told her I was actually writing my novel. Wonder if she ever read it…? Wow, how cool would THAT be??

NTK: That would be mind-blowing! I hope she did. Speaking of your writing, what attracted you to the Vampire Noire? Why did you want to write a story for SLAY?

LMW: I love vampires. Always have been drawn to them as opposed to werewolves or zombies.

I like to tell my stories from the psychological horror perspective, but sometimes the fear isn’t what you were bargaining for. Vampires let you play, they let you experiment, there is such flexibility with them. I guess I couldn’t resist!

NTK: What inspired your story? Was it something that just came to you?

LMW: Yep—always is. A song did it this time—the rhythm… I don’t even think I ever found out what it was… (Laughs.)

NTK: Do your characters have free will? Or do you plan their every move?

LMW: My characters do what they want to do when they want to do it. They routinely defy me.

And I can be as upset as I want to about that, but they do not care. I like to say that I sit back and watch the show and just write it all down for posterity.

NTK: As a person of color, how has your experience in the horror community?

LMW: Good, actually. I have been lucky enough to not have experienced a lot of what I have heard about. I started being active in the community in about 2003 and met some wonderful people from everywhere. Had signings, broke bread, shared stages, etc. I took a bit of a break for a number of years and when I came back in, I encountered the same. But as a person of color, I know that my experience isn’t everyone’s and that there have been some challenges that my fellow creatives have encountered. I can only help to be one of those people who helps pave the way, ease the way, help others along.

NTK: You’ve won some interesting awards. Could you tell us about the Golden Stake and about the UMMFF award for The Black Hole?

LMW: Ahh the Golden Stake Award! Seriously, I love that thing, it is literally a golden stake with blood on the tip!!!!! I wouldn’t even bring it back with me—left it in London to be shipped over so that they didn’t take it from me in customs, because, seriously, how could I have explained it?? (Laughs.)

My second novel, The Promise Keeper, is a psychological vampire horror tale! I must say, it felt AMAZING to go over to London during the 200 year anniversary of the publishing of The Vampyre by John Polidori and WIN this coveted award! We drank cocktails out of syringes later that night—it was a freaking blast!

As to The Black Hole, it is a very timely screenplay about colleagues who compete with each other on the paintball field along with a group of their friends. And let’s just say this… all is fun and games until the paintballs fly. My undergraduate degree from Howard University is actually in Film Production. Years later, I went on to get an MA in English and Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University that has a focus in Screenwriting. It is my second love and I am back to doing it with a vengeance. This particular screenplay won best Afrofuturism/Horror/Sci-Fi Screenplay at the Urban Mediamakers Film Festival.

NTK: Awesome!! You have a novel coming out on October 29th. Could you tell us about it?

LMW: Yes, absolutely! My third novel, The Realm, is about man’s greatest fear and it starts FAST!

There is much running, many things lurking in the shadows, and pure, unadulterated fear waiting for the protagonist and for you, if you dare to read it! This is book one of a series that will keep you on the edge of your seat!

NTK: L. Marie, what does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

LMW: This year I have been lucky enough to be either an official selection, semi-finalist, or finalist in over fifteen other festivals! I have eight screenplays making their rounds out there—and I am so excited to see that each of them have gotten industry nods!

NTK: Thank you for joining me today, L. Marie! It’s been a pleasure!

LMW: Thank you so much for having me! I enjoyed the discussion!

Addicts, you can find L. Marie on Facebook. Check out her book, The Realm, available now.

“The Realm drops you into a bizarre and disturbing vision of the afterlife where the dead will never rest in peace. L. Marie Wood’s compulsively readable and fast-paced tale grabs you and doesn’t let go. Hang on tight!”

– Kirsten Imani Kasai, Author of The House of Erzulie

In The Realm, L. Marie Wood presents readers with a cast of nuanced characters against the backdrop of an intricate world where nothing is simply black and white or right and wrong. The “sins of the father” takes a refreshing detour from triteness and makes us accomplices to the main character’s ( Patrick’s) endeavors.

– R. J. Joseph, author of Monstrous Domesticities

Latinx Month: Chilling Chat with E.M. Markoff

From the Vault – Feature from 2019 #172

E.M. Markoff is the indie award-winning Latinx author of The Deadbringer and To Nurture & Kill. Growing up, she spent many days exploring her hometown cemetery, where her loveEMMarkoff_authorpic_sm of all things dark began. Upon coming of age, she decided to pursue a career as a microbiologist, where she spent a few years channeling her inner mad scientist. She is a member of the Horror Writers Association.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat E.M.! Thank you for joining me today.

EM: Evening, Naching! Thank you for having me.

NTK: How old were you when you first discovered horror?

EM: Pretty young–in elementary school! Despite not knowing English, my mom was a fan of the Hammer Horror films and Vincent Price, and she was the one who first introduced me to the genre. She also never limited my reading, which allowed me to discover Stephen King at a pretty young age as well. I have no doubt all of this consciously and subconsciously helped shape my love of horror and “dark” things.

NTK: Did Stephen King influence your writing? Who influenced you the most?

EM: I have no doubt Stephen King influenced my writing, as he was the reason I fell in love with reading, to begin with. The vivid image of the monkey with the cymbals on the cover of Skeleton Crew is the first real memory I have of a light going off in my head and thinking, “Reading is amazing.” Other authors whose words have no doubt inspired me include Neil Gaiman with The Sandman series, Clive Barker, Shirley Jackson, C.S. Friedman, Carlos Fuentes, Junji Ito . . . the list goes on.

NTK: Where do you find inspiration? Do you find it in everyday life? In dreams? What inspired The Deadbringer?

EM: The heart of my inspiration for all my writing comes from my identity as a Mexican-American, which was passed on to me by my mom. All of my works, whether overtly or not, reference my culture. I do, however, sometimes get ideas in dreams. The first section of the chapter entitled “A Memory Dissolved by Pain” originated from a dream. I had been working on that section, with little progress, when it suddenly came to me. Consequently, the chapter title got its name because dreaming the dream and writing it was very emotionally difficult. I don’t like hurting my characters, so I tend to get pretty bummed out when something bad happens to them. The other major influence on The Deadbringer was the end of my mom’s life. The decisions that you have to make are painful, and that pain wound up carrying over to the characters that were also suffering a loss.

NTK: Do your characters have free will? Or do you plan their every move?

800px-the-deadbringer-cover-emmarkoff-ellderet-seriesEM: My characters are assholes with too much agency! (Laughs.) My editor says I like to “play house” with my characters, so to a certain extent, they have to do what I say. But–like life–sometimes they refuse to cooperate until I figure out exactly what it is that’s just not falling into place. I had this happen with a character who is unexpectedly getting their own POV in the forthcoming second book in The Ellderet Series, The Faceless God.

NTK: Your style is very distinct, almost Gothic. Do you enjoy Gothic horror?

EM: Thank you for those kind words. You just made my evening. Yes, I do love Gothic horror and have no doubt that it has found its way into my writing, although I know I have a long way to go before I can hold a candle to the masters of the style!

NTK: You mentioned your mother’s love of Hammer films. Are they your favorite too?  What is your favorite horror movie?

EM: It’s impossible not to love Hammer Horror films. Their films, in particular, all the Draculas because of the dynamic duo of Lee and Cushing, will always have a special place in my heart. My fave, however, is The Abominable Dr. Phibes.

NTK: Favorite horror Novel?

EMThe Picture of Dorian Gray.

NTK: Favorite horror TV show?

EM: El Maleficio.

NTK: E.M., what does the future hold for you? What do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

E.M. More immediately, I will be at a number of conventions, including one with HorrorAddicts.net at Sinister Creature Con from October 12-13.  My future plans involve publishing The Faceless God, the sequel to The Deadbringer, in 2020, as well as attending plenty of local Bay Area conventions and (hopefully) readings. I also have planned a standalone novella that focuses on two of the characters from the world of the Ellderet, and I have a few ideas for non-Ellderet short stories that I would like to see come to life. You can follow what I’m up to by signing up for my Newsletter of the Cursed. You can also follow me @tomesandcoffee on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter, or buy my works on Amazon or direct from me. As for my work as a publisher, readers can check out the horror charity anthology Tales for the Camp Fire, which includes a short diverse ghost story of mine — “Leaving the #9.” All profits from the charity anthology will be donated to Camp Fire relief and recovery efforts which will be administered by the North Valley Community Foundation.

NTK: I just interviewed Loren Rhoads about Tales for the Camp Fire. What a greatTales for the Camp Fire idea! How did you come up with it?

EM: It began as an idea by Ben Monroe, a fellow member of the Bay Area Horror Writers Association. The idea brought together horror writers from the Bay Area with the goal of giving back to the victims of a terrible NorCal wildfire – the Camp Fire. Loren Rhoads served as editor, curating an eclectic range of short stories that showcase the many faces of horror, including a story graciously donated by the estate of Clark Ashton Smith. The entire project is indebted to people who volunteered their time to put in the work necessary to bring it to life, thus keeping production costs low and maximizing profits for charity. Even now, the authors are continuing to do what they can to spread the word about the charity anthology because they want to give back to the community. I think it says a lot about horror writers, that in the face of tragedy they stepped up to help.

NTK: Awesome! Horror Writers are such great people! Thank you so much for chatting with me. E.M!

EM: Thank you for having me, and for the lovely interview, Naching. It was my pleasure.

Chilling Chat Special: Eric Shapiro

chillingchat

Eric Shapiro is a writer and filmmaker. Called “the next Philip K. Dick” by author Kealan Patrick Burke, Shapiro is the author of six critically acclaimed fiction books, among them the novella “It’s Only Temporary” (2005), whichEric Shapiro appeared on Nightmare Magazine’s list of the Top 100 Horror Books, and numerous short stories published in anthologies alongside work by H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Chuck Palahniuk, and many others. His nonfiction articles have been published on The Daily Dot, Ravishly, and The Good Men Project. His first feature film, “Rule of 3” (2010), won awards at the Fantasia International Film Festival and Shriekfest, and had its U.S. premiere at Fantastic Fest. His second feature film, “Living Things” (2014), was endorsed by PETA (People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals) and distributed by Cinema Libre Studio. In 2015, he won the 19th Annual Fade In Award for Thriller Screenplays. He was a founding partner of Ghostwriters Central, a writing and editing firm which has received positive notices from The Wall Street Journal, Consumers Digest, and the TV program “Intelligence For Your Life.” Eric has edited works published on The Huffington Post and Forbes, as well as two Bram Stoker Award-nominated novels. He lives in Northern California with his wife, Rhoda, and their two sons.

Eric is an intelligent and experienced writer. We spoke of writing, horror themes, and filmmaking.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Eric! Thank you for joining me today.

ES: Thank you for having me!

NTK: How old were you when you first discovered horror?

ES: Ohhh, I think I was about six or seven; my cousin Steve told me about Danny from The Shining, saying, “Redrum.” Firsthand, I think I was ten, watching The Lost Boys with my cousins Lauren and Jessica and my sister Stephanie. We weren’t expecting it to be so dark, but it was great.

NTK: Is Lost Boys your favorite horror movie? What is your favorite horror film?

ES: I think my first early favorite was Witchboard, which I saw a couple years later. I liked how tight and melodramatic it was. I’d probably still like it, but it’s been awhile. My favorite recent horror movie, as in from this century, is Martyrs, the original French version, which is a great movie regardless of genre. Maybe my favorite since the year 2000.

NTK: Do you have a favorite horror TV series?

ES: I don’t! I’m so behind on series, and movies too since I became a dad nine years ago. I’ve just lately been catching up more during Covid.

NTK: Do you have a favorite horror novel?

ES: It’s absolutely Stephen King’s IT, which I read in 7th grade and which devoured me like no book before or since.

NTK: Who is your favorite character in IT?

ES: Well, I had to upgrade Stan Uris in my mind since I’m Jewish. He’s not the deepest character in the book, but I pictured myself as a more detailed version of him. I actually wrote some fan fiction in junior high from Stanley’s point-of-view, to get into him more. (laughs)

NTK: As a Jewish horror writer, how has your experience in the horror community been?

ES: Oh fine. The horror heads are generally very cool people, usually sensitive and looking for fun. I just became an HWA member after years of flirting with it, and everyone I’ve interacted with has been very welcoming and warm.

NTK: Going back to King, is he your greatest influence? What author has influenced you most in your writing?

ES: Pound for pound, it’s probably him, with Chuck Palahniuk as a close second. Or rather I should say that since Palahniuk came later, King is a more foundational influence. I actually prefer King when he wrote/writes as Richard Bachman—he’s tighter and less sentimental. I like that side of him. Palahniuk’s work taught me a lot about sculpting every sentence, though he’s not about narrative and suspense the way King is—and the way I usually am.

NTK:  What inspires you to write?

ES: Lately it all starts with a character. It’s the psychology of a character interacting with the society around them. I have ideas all the time for worlds and stories but it’s usually the extreme characters I follow through on. Like I’ll picture a guy or a woman and get a feel for him/her, and want to see where it leads. I worked professionally as a ghostwriter for 17 years, though, and am still not completely out of the burnout. It’s been a gradual healing process of writing for joy instead of under pressure, and finding my own voice and insight again.

NTK:  Do your characters have free will? Or do you plan their every move?

ES: Total free will. I think I know where it’s going in general, but it often ends up nowhere close. And I’ve found that if I force them to do something it comes out stiff. If you let them lead, you end up learning their whims and instincts and limits, which brings them to life more.

NTK: What inspired Red Dennis?

ES: I co-own and write for a local newspaper in Silicon Valley and a local woman essentially tried to “cancel” me. It was all on the basis of my opinion-editorials. The attempt ended up backfiring. But it made me so angry that I started wondering how far I’d have to be pushed to lose my mind. Fortunately, I put the energy into something constructive! We always have that choice.

NTK: What is your favorite horror theme? Do you enjoy good vs. evil? Transgression horror? What interests you most in a horror story?

ES: I think it’s transgression. Psychosis. Cruelty. Blind ideology or selfishness. Also, I’m addicted to suspense. So, my stories are often about people who are running out of time. They have pressing deadlines to achieve this or that. That’s where a lot of my narrative focus goes: structuring a scenario where the protagonist is pressed for time or has a looming obligation or encounter.

NTK: You’re also a filmmaker and screenwriter. Which is more difficult? Writing a screenplay? Or writing a novel?

ES: Definitely a novel. You have to populate the whole world. Whereas a screenplay has less words per page and is a detailed blueprint for something else. As for making a movie, though…well, a novel is much easier, as least in terms of what it does to you physically…

NTK: You spoke of ghostwriting earlier. Do you feel ghostwriting helped you become the writer you are today? Was it easier to learn the craft writing under a different name?

ES: I think so. That’s where I got the 10,000 hours of experience. I was always stealing time to work on my own projects but couldn’t really go full-fledged, beyond novella-length, until 2019, when I switched to the newspaper full-time. That gave me time to work on my books over the course of months, as passion projects. And all the experience gave me a lot of confidence and discipline to push. Each day is always hard for writers, especially when starting off the day. But building up the muscle over time helps you feel more oriented and in command of the words.

NTK: Hemingway and Jack London worked for newspapers. Do you feel newspaper writing has also helped you in your writing?

ES: Absolutely. The reporting has muscled up my command of pure facts and research. The op-eds have fine-tuned my approach to persuasion and finding moral clarity in a piece. More people have read my work as a journalist than in any other form, which is ironic since I’m “known” for writing horror. People in my city will say, “Did you read his article? The horror writer’s?” But they’ve never read my books! But the journalism has sparked a new wave of awareness in the books, so it all works together.

NTK: Eric, what does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

ES: Good question! I just republished my whole backlist of six dark fiction titles, and Red Dennis was new this year. Also new this year was a nonfiction book to inspire people’s writing called Ass Plus Seat. Right now, I have a movie in the works with horror legend Greg F. Gifune, but it’s on delay due to the pandemic. I will say I’m acting in it, which I’m ridiculously excited about. We should be announcing more soon…

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me today. It was a pleasure!

ES: Likewise! Thank you so much, Naching!

Addicts, you can find Eric’s work on Amazon.

Book Review: Darkest Hours by Mike Thorn

Darkest Hours is a collection of horror short stories by Mike Thorn.

Content Warnings: gore

Darkest Hours presents a combination of realistic and supernatural stories, running the absolute gamut of subjects. The variety in stories is astounding. Thorn succeeds with visceral, gory body horror as well as psychological tension and cerebral, philosophical horror. He addresses traditional tropes and creates entirely new nightmares for his readers.

Darkest Hours gets off to a stomach-churning start with “Hair”. I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make it through the rest of the book if it was going to all be like that. Fortunately for me, the following stories didn’t go after my gag reflex in such a way. “Long Man” and “Economy These Days” were stand-out performers in an already excellent line-up. “Long Man” took a traditional childhood fear and made it the sort of nightmare that sticks with you. “Economy These Days” was a unique and brutal look at modern struggles.

There is an academic leaning in some of the stories—one that can, at times, be a little patronizing. But Thorn writes the characters well, clearly drawing on personal experiences in university and graduate life. No matter what, Thorn keeps all of his stories short and tight, starting right in the action and leaving just enough room to build to the climax. His endings are superb, clinching the story at just the right moment.

Darkest Hours is a wonderful introduction to Mike Thorn as a writer. He’s created a wonderful collection of riveting stories. If you like small bites of horror, please pick Darkest Hours up.

Book Review: SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire

Edited by Nicole Givens Kurtz

Published by Mocha Memoirs Press

SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire is a groundbreaking anthology, featuring stories of black characters, written by black authors. The stories featured have a staggering range, pulling from myths and cultures worldwide.

Desiccant by Craig Laurance Gidney

In “Desiccant” a woman moves into a new apartment, only to discover that a mysterious illness plagues the building, draining the residents dry.

This story is absolutely original. Gidney set the tone for the entire anthology in terms of creativity. From the start, I knew I was in for a revolutionary set of stories that took vampire myth to new heights.

Love Hangover by Sheree Renée Thomas

This creative telling of the Infinity Disco fire in 1979 tells the story of a man entranced by a siren, leading him into a grim life of covering up murders.

Thomas weaves infatuation and horror together into a tightly told story that draws you deeper into dread. Her descriptions of Delilah are enchanting and terrifying all in one.

The Retiree by Steven Van Patten

An old man, taken to a retirement home hides a terrible secret from her daughter, something he must do to keep her safe. And he must make one final sacrifice to do it.

Patten’s characters jump off the page from the start. He pulls no punches when it comes to a crotchety old man. His slow reveal of the story made this stand out in an impressive anthology.

The Dance by L. Marie Woods

Gillian finds herself entranced with a woman dancing at a club and is drawn into her spell.

Woods brings blood and sex to the page with “The Dance”. I was absolutely enthralled. Her prose is impressive. The brief glimpse she offers—the story spans mere minutes—is so satisfying.

A Clink of Crystal Glasses Heart by LH Moore

In “A Clink of Crystal”, a group of teen girls is ushered into womanhood, and something more, by their mothers.

Moore steps inside the mind of a teenage girl with ease. She creates a unique and imaginative take on the vampire myth, weaving it with femininity in a way that delighted me. She could easily weave this into a successful novel.

Diary of a Mad Black Vampire by Dicey Grenor

The vampire Ashanti does not get attached to humans until she meets Tetra. As Tetra’s darker desires are revealed, Ashanti becomes more enamored. The ending is a twist to die for.

Grenor creates incredible tension throughout the story. I was filled with dread just reading, knowing something was right, but not sure where everything would go wrong. “Diary of a Mad Black Vampire” is a masterful story.

The Return of the OV by Jeff Carroll

In “The Return of the OV”, an old-school vampire is imprisoned after a heinous murder threatens to expose vampires to mankind.

“The Return of the OV” is clever. That’s really the best way to describe Carroll’s premise and writing. He explores the intricacies of vampire politics in a short format, hinting at a wider world just beyond what we can see.

The Last Vampire Huntress by Alicia McCalla

After her guild of hunters is murdered by a vampiric ex-boyfriend, a woman struggles whether to accept her destiny as a vampire hunter and the grim fate that comes with it.

McCalla introduces a novel’s worth of content in a short story format. She manages to tell a complicated and fascinating story with very little space. Her characters are engaging and her ability to write action is impressive.

Gritty Corners by Jessica Cage

In “Gritty Corners”, a young vampire hunts down her sire for revenge, only to find out there’s more to the story of her transformation.

I desperately want to see “Gritty Corners” as a novel or series. Cage introduces a kick-ass female protagonist who can truly hold her own. She left me wanting so much more than what I was given. This was one of my absolute favorite stories in the anthology.

Shadow of Violence by Balogun Ojetade

A woman infiltrates a vampire feeding ground and reveals herself to be far more than they ever expected.

Ojetade writes action like no one else, creating tension without being overly technical. He introduces unfamiliar mythology with ease, weaving it into the story without bogging down the plot.

‘Til Death by Lynette S. Hoag

In ‘Til Death’, a vampire assassin must help a client dispatch his wife when he suspects she’s been turned into a vampire.

The humor and horror in ’Til Death’ work so well together. Hoag creates a larger than life character who could hold her own in a series.

Encounters by K. R. S. McEntire

In ‘Encounters’ a woman sees her dead husband twenty years after he should have died.

The revelations to come and the choice she must make kept me on the edge of my seat. Mcentire presents a powerful story of family and love.

Unfleamed by Penelope Flynn

When an important vampire finds herself in trouble after feeding from an important human, she’s rescued by a lowly vampire who has important news to tell her… and a favor to ask.

It’s clear that Flynn created a wonderful and complex world that she only hints at in “Unfleamed”. The story is packed with fun references to Dracula and honestly made me laugh with the reveal at the end.

Beautiful Monsters by Valjeanne Jeffers

In “Beautiful Monsters”, a vampire combats a corrupt system of oppression against supernatural characters in a small town.

Jeffers presents another story that could easily be expanded into a novel. She pulls more than just vampire lore in for the fun and “Beautiful Monsters” is better for it.

Frostbite Delizhia D. Jenkins

In “Frostbite”, a woman discovers her family’s dark past after she’s turned by a vampire, along with the betrayal that could change the course of her future.

“Frostbite” is a beautiful story. It’s masterfully written, with nuanced characters and a slow reveal of the plot that made me ravenous for more. Again, I want to see a novel adaptation with even more.

Di Conjuring Nectar of Di Blood by Kai Leakes

In this story of love, community, and hope, ancient lovers reunite to protect their friends and family from old threats in a new age.

The atmosphere of this story is everything. Leakes writes the culture of her characters in a way that few authors can. The setting comes alive and the tension of the story is wonderful.

Snake Hill Blues by John Linwood Grant

In “Snake Hill Blues”, Mamma Lucy hunts a vampire that stalks the community of Harlem.

Grant creates a compelling character in Mama Lucy. It’s impossible not to root for her, and even more difficult not to worry as things get hairy. “Snake Hill Blues” was one of my favorite stories in the anthology.

Ujima by Alledria Hurt

In “Ujima”, a newly turned vampire tries to save her sister and other humans from the vampires that enslave them like cattle.

Hurt creates a horrifying world where vampires rule and humans are merely food. Using a pair of sisters to explore this dynamic makes the story all that more compelling.

Attack on University of Lagos, Law Faculty by Obhenechovwe Donald Ekpeki

When frightening creatures attack the university, turning students into zombies, a lone man must rise as a hero to fight them.

The voice of Ekpeki is incredible. The story was both frightening and hilarious. I enjoyed the overly confident nature of the narrator.

His Destroyer by Samantha Bryant

“His Destroyer” retells of the story of the Passover from the point of view of the angel of Death, a woman compelled by insatiable hunger to feed on the first-born Egyptians.

Bryant created a unique and literary story that was a delight to read. The grief of the woman at her actions is palpable.

Quadrille by Colin Cloud Dance

“Quadrille” tells the story of misfit monsters that find a home and family together.

Dance writes in an innovative style. His characters are compelling and the way he weaves the scientific information about vampires’ abilities doesn’t drag down the action.

Asi’s Horror and Delight by Sumiko Saulson

In “Asi’s Horror and Delight”, a witch attempts to trick a god by offering a legendary vampiric bird shapeshifter as a lover.

Saulson brings various myths into play in this story. She kept me in suspense about the intentions of the characters and their ultimate fates until the very end.

In Egypt’s Shadows by Vonnie Winslow Crist

In this story, a vampire follows generations of his former lover’s descendants, unable to let go of her memory.

Crist created a love story with vampire trappings. She wove in themes of obsession and love while also exploring what it means to live forever.

Rampage by Miranda J. Riley

In “Rampage”, a vampire hunter must make a monstrous sacrifice to hunt a vampiric elephant and the creature that created it.

Riley’s story is innovative. She takes the typical vampire myth from an unusual perspective, all while creating a compelling narrative.

No God but Hunger Steve Van Samson

In “No God but Hunger”, two companions hunt a leopard, only to find that they’re being hunted by something far worse.

Samson creates a world where humans have been driven from civilization by a greater threat. The return to basics is a wonderful twist on the dystopian genre.

Bloodline by Milton J. Davis

In a world ruled by a theocratic government, vampires are tightly watched. They are never to feed on people. When Telisa is introduced to human blood, it causes a drastic transformation and puts her on the run from the authorities.

Davis blends old vampire mythologies with new science to write a story that sings. The twists are unexpected, but satisfying.

Message in a Vessel by V.G. Harrison

In “Message in a Vessel”, a vampire plague has ravaged the world and the remaining vampires are running out of food. The humans have been enslaved, but their numbers are dwindling. In search of more, a space ship is being sent out.

The characters are vivid and the horror of the world is sinister, though it lurks under a clinical veneer. I loved this story. It was a piece of sci-fi mastery and I hope that Harrison creates so much more based on this premise.

Blood Saviors by Michele Tracy Berger

In “Blood Saviors” an investigator for the Vampire Council discovers a horrific experimental lab where fae are used to create beauty products for humans. She works to free the prisoners, but must also find a way to save her brother from the disease ravaging her community.

Berger’s world is immersive, pulling us into the tension of the story right away. The conflicting goals of the protagonist make the story all the more real. I liked that Berger didn’t hold back when building this story.

Overall, SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire was a compelling read. Each story presented something new. Old and new themes of vampires were explored in great detail. The authors should all be proud of what they created.

Chilling Chat Special: Authors of SLAY – Craig Laurance Gidney

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Craig Laurance Gidney writes both contemporary and genre fiction. He is the author of the collections Sea, Swallow Me & Other Stories (Lethe Press, 2008), Skin Deep Magic (Rebel Craig GidneySatori Press, 2014), Bereft (Tiny Satchel Press, 2013) and A Spectral Hue (Word Horde, 2019).

NTK: How old were you when you discovered horror?

CLG: When I was in elementary school the local channel, for some reason, played horror movies at four o’clock, and that was when I was first introduced to horror cinema. Movies like Trilogy of Terror and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark were a part of my after-school rituals. I’d watch them before doing homework!

NTK: Who was the first horror character you felt represented you, the one you could identify with the most?

CLG: The Wicked Witch of the West. She reveled in her malevolence, and was stunningly green.

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

CLG: Shirley Jackson. My horror tastes tend to subtle and atmospheric, and she was the queen of this flavor of dark fiction.

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

CLG: The Haunting of Hill House.

NTK: Favorite horror movie?

CLG: The Exorcist.

NTK: Favorite horror TV show?

CLG: The Channel Zero Anthology series. I was sad to see that it wouldn’t be continued. Each season featured surrealistic horror stories that were like catnip to me.

NTK: What inspired your story in SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire?

CLG: The old Environmental Protection Agency’s building in SouthWest DC was a major inspiration for “Desiccant.” The irony of the EPA building being a source of “sick building syndrome” was too rich to pass up!

NTK: What attracted you to the Vampire Noire? Why did you want to write a story for Slay?

CLG: I was invited by Nicole.

NTK: What inspires your writing?

CLG: Everything inspires me! I find the most mundane occurrences appear in some of the strangest fiction I’ve written. The “sick building” idea, for instance, has been bouncing around in my brain for a decade.

NTK: Do you allow your characters free will? Or do you plan their every move?

CLG: It varies from project to project. But the characters in my short fiction tend to have tighter leashes.

NTK: As a person of color, how has your experience in the horror writing community been?

CLG: It’s complicated. In one-to-one, meatspace interactions, most everyone I’ve met has been perfectly professional. Online, it’s a different story. My tiny portion of horror fiction—the Weird/Cosmic Horror subgenre—-is chockfull of Lovecraft fanboys who minimize, ignore or, in rare cases, agree with his toxic White Supremacist ideals, and it makes for some unpleasant online interactions.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

CLG: I have a bunch of stories coming out in anthologies in the Fall. My fairytale novel Hairsbreadth is being serialized by Broken Eye Books. And I have an audio story coming out from Tor-Nightfire sometime.

Addicts, you can find Craig as @ethereallad on Twitter and Instagram.

Slay : Inspiration for The Retiree by Steven Van Patten

Inspiration for ‘The Retiree’, a short story by Steven Van Patten to be featured in Slay: Tales of the Vampire Noir.

Most of my short horror stories start with an idea—sometimes inspired, other times flat out ridiculous– that refuses to stay contained. And if you have a parent who refuses to give up their right to share an opinion whether you asked for it or not, or if you are the child of such a person, this is one for you.

The trick is that while the story’s hero is grumpy and probably a little too honest for his own good, he’s also a hero in a few ways that his daughter and the rest of their family never expect. He’s a curmudgeon to the core, right out of an episode of Sanford & Son and yet he’s also self-sacrificing and probably the smartest guy in the room he walks into. That’s old Gideon Hastings for you, a man’s man, facing his end with the same grizzled defiance that he stared down a treacherous life.

Chilling Chat Special: Authors of SLAY – Sumiko Saulson

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Sumiko Saulson is an award-winning author of Afrosurrealist and multicultural sci-fi and horror. Zhe is the editor of the anthologies and collections Black Magic Women, Scry of Sumiko Saulson Mixy AwardLust, Black Celebration, and Wickedly Abled. Zhe is the winner of the 2016 HWA StokerCon “Scholarship from Hell”, 2017 BCC Voice “Reframing the Other” contest, and 2018 AWW “Afrosurrealist Writer Award.”
Zhe has an AA in English from Berkeley City College, and writes a column called “Writing While Black” for a national Black Newspaper, the San Francisco Bay View.

NTK: How old were you when you discovered horror?

SS: Both of my parents were huge horror fans. They played horror movies and television programs in the home when I was a kid. My mom got mad at my dad for taking her to see Rosemary’s Baby when she was eight months pregnant with me. Her favorite TV series was Dark Shadows, and she watched it all the time when she was pregnant with me, and when I was an infant. I remember seeing It’s Alive at the drive-in theater when I was five. My brother and I saw a lot of old seventies horror classics as little children, so it started very early for me.

NTK: Who was the first horror character you felt represented you, the one you could identify with the most?

SS: Without a doubt, Kevin Foree as Peter in the original 1978 Dawn of the Dead movie. That was the first horror film I saw with an African American protagonist. I was very excited and rooting for him. Afterwards, my dad tried to show me the original Night of the Living Dead starring Duane Jones as Ben, but I just found it depressing. He fights through all of the zombies only to be more or less racially profiled and killed at the end. I preferred the triumphant, action-hero-like Peter. I imagine that the scene where he contemplates suicide, then decides to go for it and try to escape, is a nod to the first movie.

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

SS: When I was 10, I read my first horror novel, which was Peter Straub’s Ghost Story. This lead to me reading Stephen King and Peter Straub’s The Talisman when I was 12, which lead to a more or less lifetime love of Stephen King. However, LA Banks and Christopher Rice have both usurped his title since. I do not currently have a favorite horror author. Over the past four years, I have had a series of deaths of family members and close friends, and my concentration has become too poor for pleasure reading. I have stuck with assigned readings, which, when I was in college a couple of years ago, lead to an increase in my already large collection of owned and read Toni Morrison novels. I still believe that Sula and Beloved both belong in the annals of horror, and perhaps The Bluest Eye as well.

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

SS: The Stand. Heh. I feel so basic right now.

NTK: Favorite horror movie? 

SS: Bones, that 2001 horror film starring Snoop Dog. I fell into a deep depression after 9/11. I went through a divorce immediately following it, and had a nervous breakdown. Bones was literally the only thing that made me laugh or smile at the time.

NTK: Favorite horror TV show? 

SS: Supernatural. Although it is going off the air now, and it really isn’t as good as it used to be. I am going to be forced to find a new favorite very soon.

NTK: What inspired your story in SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire

SS: I really loved the Oscar-Award Winning 2016 film Moonlight and decided that I wanted to make my vampire story tell a tale of black man/man love. However… it IS a horror film, so it might be a little more Bones than Moonlight

NTK: What attracted you to the Vampire Noire? Why did you want to write a story for SLAY?

SS: Well, I already write a lot of African Diaspora characters, and I really love vampire stories. So, it stands to follow that I would be crazy about this concept. And I love that luscious cover art.

NTK: What inspires your writing? 

SS: A lot of my writing is inspired by personal trauma, of which I have survived a great deal, dating back to childhood. Horror writing helps me to process my inner demons, and have more control over my internal dialogue and conflict. I am also very inspired by current social issues, sort of like Jordan Peele is, and so I write a lot of political and social horror.

NTK: Do you allow your characters free will? Or do you plan their every move?

SS: Free will. They sort of write themselves after a while. When I plan their every move, the writing becomes stilted and really isn’t as good.

NTK: As a person of color, how has your experience in the horror writing community been?

SS: It’s been a mixed bag, although there have been a lot of good experiences. I find that the African American and African Diaspora speculative fiction communities – that is, Black Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Weird, Horror, etc.. writers are very supportive of one another. Women in Horror are also very supportive of each other. And there are a lot of allies. But there are definitely glass ceilings in mainstream horror, and the old boy’s club gets resentful when people break through them or try to shake things up. There are still far too many people who believe that only a middle-aged white cisgender heterosexual man is qualified to write horror.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

SS: I have a paranormal romance novel that I am working on and an interested publisher. Someone has an option on one of my short stories for an anthology movie of black women horror writers and directors. I just finished co-writing a script for a black vampire movie called Despoina: Dark Chanteuse with James Leon. I also have a poem in the upcoming HWA Poetry Showcase, so I am very excited about that.

Addicts, you can find Sumiko on Facebook, Twitter, and Tik-Tok as @sumikoska. Zhe can be found on Instagram as @sumikosaulson.

 

 

Chilling Chat Special: Authors of SLAY – LH Moore

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LH Moore’s speculative fiction and poetry have been published in all three Dark Dreams anthologies of Black horror writers; Bram Stoker Award Finalist anthology Sycorax’s Daughters; Black Magic Women; the collaborative Chiral Mad 4 and upcoming Chiral Mad 5 and SLAY anthologies; the StokerCon 2019 anthology; Fireside, Apex and FIYAH LHM Bio photo_webMagazine. A DC native exiled in Maryland, Moore is a historian and loves classical guitar, graphic novels, and video games. 

NTK: How old were you when you discovered horror?

LHM: My mom took me to see The Exorcist (*gasp*) when I was three. She said I jumped up at one point and shouted “Oh Mommy! He FELL!”  I would watch Count Gore and his Creature Feature on DC’s channel 20. I always loved scary stories and in Jr. High School my local library had a sale and I spent the summer reading almost everything Stephen King wrote at the time.

NTK: Who was the first horror character you felt represented you, the one you could identify with the most?

LHM: I can’t say I ever identified with a character. If anything, I relate very much to FInal Girls in an “Oh no, I’m getting through this and surviving!”

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

LHM: Tananarive Due, but I never want folks to forget L.A. Banks. Not only a great writer, but a great person who was kind to me when I was a newbie writer years ago.

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

LHM: Oooo…IT will still reign supreme for me as I’ll never forget how I felt as a young person reading it. So much “WTF?” to me.

NTK: Favorite horror movie?

LHM: Hard to choose! Get Out for its social commentary. Let the Right One In (Swedish) for its quiet. Cabin in the Woods because it was so surprising to me. The Blade series. But honestly, I find movies that are about things that really could happen to be scary as hell. Open Water messed with me for a long time.

NTK: Favorite horror TV show?

LHM: Right now? Lovecraft Country!! The real-life horrors of Jim Crow-era racism had me up on my feet pacing back and forth like “MY HEART” and nervous as hell more than the monsters!

NTK: What inspired your story in SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire?

LHM: Funny enough, it was Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. That whole mystery and expectation of womanhood and the tropes that go along with it. I wanted to write something light-hearted and almost humorous, which is different for me.

NTK: What attracted you to the Vampire Noire? Why did you want to write a story for Slay?

LHM: Writers of African descent have so many stories to be able to draw from. That well is deep and open to so many interpretations beyond that of the traditional neckbiter. I thought it was important to be a part of that representation and new storytelling.

NTK: What inspires your writing?

LHM: My heritage. The stories my grandma and auntie told me. History. And anxieties that create pure nightmare fuel.

NTK: Do you allow your characters free will? Or do you plan their every move?

LHM: I have an idea of how they are as individuals and roll with it.

NTK: As a person of color, how has your experience been in the horror writing community?

LHM: Let’s just say that there is still room for improvement. I’ve been an HWA member for over ten years now and Linda Addison is a force to be reckoned with. When she encouraged me to renew, who was I to say “No”? Besides, the more Black and POC authors are represented, the better. We are out here doing this work.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

LHM: I have more to come, believe me! Definitely, some longer form works in the pipeline.

Addicts, you can find LH on Twitter and Instagram.

 

Chilling Chat: Episode #190 – Nicole Givens Kurtz – Slay Book Launch

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Nicole Givens Kurtz is the author of eight novels, and over 40 plus short story publications. She is a member of SFWA and her science fiction novels have been named as A Carl NGK2017Brandon Society Parallax Award’s Recommended title-(Zephyr Unfolding), Fresh Voices in Science Fiction finalist (Zephyr Unfolding), Dream Realm Award Finalist in Science Fiction (Browne Candidate), and EPPIE Finalist in Science Fiction (Browne Candidate). Her short works have appeared in, Serial Box’s The Vela: Salvation, Baen’s Straight Outta Tombstone, Sycorax’s Daughters (Bram Stoker Finalist in Horror), and White Wolf’s Vampire the Masquerade Anthology. 

NTK: How old were you when you discovered horror?

NGK: I discovered horror when I was about 10 years old. The teacher read us the woman with the silk scarf around her neck during Halloween. I immediately fell in love with the story, and I sought out other scary tales. Because I’m an 80s child, that search led me to Stephen King.

NTK: Who was the first horror character you felt represented you, the one you could identify with the most?

NGK: The first horror character I felt represented me was Susannah in King’s Dark Tower Series. She was the first Black woman I read. Although aspects of her personality and her treatment plagued me for years, I still felt represented in that she was Black, I was Black, we were both women and she was her authentic self.

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

NGK:  My favorite horror authors are Ed Kurtz, Joe Hill, Shirley Jackson, and L.A. Banks.

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

NGK: My favorite horror novel is We All Live in the Castle.

NTK: Favorite horror movie?

NGK: The Crow.

NTK: Favorite horror TV show?

NGK: The Dark; Lovecraft Country.

NTK: How did the idea for the anthology, SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire come about?  

NGK: SLAY came about due to many conversations I have had with authors about the lack of Black vampire stories in the wake of L.A. Banks’s death. Sure, there have been other Black vampires, but they remained on the perimeter, in the background, window dressing. We wanted stories like Banks wrote, that centered Black people, Black vampires, and Black slayers in the forefront. What would that look like now? So, the idea was born to seek out short stories for an anthology to answer that question and to fill the void.

NTK: What was your slush pile like? Was it difficult to choose stories from the ones submitted? 

NGK: It was incredibly difficult to choose stories. It is likely they’ll be a volume 2 at some point because I had more solid stories than I could fit into the anthology. It’s already 29 stories strong.

NTK: Putting you on the spot here, which story of the 29 is your most favorite?

NGK: Oh, this is definitely asking a mother to pick her favorite child! I loved them all, for various reasons, but the stories that lingered the longest after I read them were, Craig L. Gidney’s “Desiccant,” Steven Van Patten’s “The Retiree,” L. Marie Wood’s “The Dance,” and Alledria Hurt’s “Uijim.”

NTK: What’s it like running a small press? 

NGK:  It is incredibly stressful, especially in the challenging times we are in now. It is also rewarding in so many ways. The flexibility to tell stories that otherwise may not have made it past the gatekeepers of large publishing houses, is why I do this work.

NTK: Who did the cover art for this anthology? It’s terrific!

NGK: Taria Reed did the cover and it was one she had created as a pre-made cover. She has semi-annual sales and I selected it and another one for my personal horror stories, but when the idea for SLAY came about, I thought this cover would be perfect. Taria also came up with the title of the anthology, SLAY. I added, “Stories of the Vampire Noire.” Taria is a true talent and if authors need cover art, she’s one of the best around and a mainstay on my list of artists.

NTK: As a person of color, how has your experience in the horror writing community been?

NGK: I have developed solid relationships with people in the horror writing industry, like Anya Martin and Linda Addison. But the writing community in horror as well as other genres, are reflections of what is happening in the United States. The acceptance of racists, misogynistic, and hate-filled attitudes and beliefs are allowed, even encouraged in some circles, to be out and proud. The horror writing community is reflecting that, because people who embrace those beliefs write horror (and other genres) too. I have encountered racists attitudes in the community. Yet, I know there are writers actively combating these ills, just as there are people in the U.S. actively protesting and battling the celebration of hatred.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

NGK: I’m actively working on the sequel to my fantasy mystery, Kill Three Birds: A Kingdom of Aves novella. I am also working on revising my science fiction opera, Zephyr Unfolding. I don’t have any horror topics on tap for now, but that can easily change as my Muse’s first love is horror and suspense.

NTK: It was a pleasure chatting with you, Nicole!

NGK: Thank you for having me, Naching and Horror Addicts.

Addicts, you can find Nicole on Twitter, Facebook, Other Worlds Pulp, Patreon, and you can subscribe to her newsletter.

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Slay : Message in a Vessel by V.G. Harrison

Inspiration

My inspiration for “Message in a Vessel”, started as soon as I saw the cover for the SLAY anthology. I knew I wanted a story in that book, but I wanted something different than what I usually write, which is paranormal. So, I went for a sci-fi angle under my V.G. Harrison pen name instead. There’s so much mythology out there about vampires, so I wanted my vampires to be a little different, in that if they were going to outlive humans, then they would probably be technological geniuses in the future. But I also had to ask the question of how would vampires survive, if their only nourishment was blood. “Message in a Vessel”, pays homage to the saying of “use what you know” to do what you need to do. That’s exactly what my brilliant, vampire heroine does. 

Excerpt –

Nobody knew how the disease-carrying mosquitoes would affect us. Thirty years later and a food shortage to boot, and we knew we’d pay the price. Authorities harvested those in prisons and on the streets. The ones who wouldn’t be missed. Then they went to anyone older than sixty-five. The younger you were, the more protected you were. If you were like me, who had parents that could teach you a valuable trade, then you survived the Cleansing Era. 

I sat back in my seat and breathed in a deep breath. Even though we healed better and aged slower, stress was still a part of our lives.

“You look like you need a break, Dr. Jakande.” Cora walked in like her tight pencil skirt kept her tights taped together. She kept her head held high while confidence leaked from her pores. She placed a food card on my lab table. “You’ve been neglecting your allotted daily nourishment.” 

“I’m fine.” My growling stomach probably gave me away. 

“This project means nothing, unless you eat.” She placed one of her bright red fingernails on the nourishment card and pushed it to me. 

“I’m a little busy right now. I’ll go in a minute. Just let me finish this.” I turned back to my computer to review the bioinformatic collection program my team had been working on for the last year and a half. 

“I understand the nature of your work, doctor. But protocols are in place. If you don’t eat now, I must report you.”

I hated this woman. Unfortunately, I would also give anything to be off this project permanently, too. A food break wasn’t long enough.  

“Dr. Jakande?” She leaned close. “Please do not force me to get security to escort you.” 

“Son of–” I slammed my hand down on the counter and shoved my chair away from my desk. “Are you going to lick my lips clean while you’re at it?”

She said nothing. She lifted her head higher as though protocols dictated everything right down to her cold-hearted determination to make sure I followed the rules. Every click of her heels on the marbled floors made me want to reach back and break her neck. Security would be down on me so fast and probably stab me with enough silver knives to make sure I could only work from the neck up. This project only needed my brain. 

I flashed my hand across the keypad and pressed the cafeteria icon.  A flashing arrow directed me to my designated elevator. When I entered, I went to the back and waited as more people entered behind me. 

The view from the moon never got old. The Red Giant space shuttle was the tallest spaceship in the solar system and could carry a payload of more than a half million pounds. Because of the engine thrust, it had to launch from the moon and far enough away not to kill anyone. 

Bio

Science fiction has been my love since I was a little kid who purposely tried to stay up at 11 PM to watch Star Trek. I’ve been writing for a few years now and even though I watch a lot of sci-fi, I don’t read it nearly as much of it as I do paranormal. It made sense to combine the two and come up with my Project Solstice series. From there, it’s been pure science fiction all the way. 

I like to write sci-fi that has some basis in reality. So, whenever I introduce something like the Fine Structure Constant or quantum entanglement, I do as much research as possible to make the story plausible. I don’t like to rehash something that made you fall asleep in physics class, but rather, insert just enough to stir your imagination in the right direction. I guess my overly-priced engineering degree paid off. 

Between the day job, family, and enjoying life as a North Carolinian implant, I’m either hiking, binge watching TV, or trying to connect with my daughter, Jayden, on a cool level. I’m sure I’m failing at that last one, so I’ve resigned to embarrassing myself whenever things don’t go as planned.  

For more information, check out my website at www.vgharrison.com.

Chilling Chat Special: Authors of SLAY – Steven Van Patten

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Brooklyn native Steven Van Patten is the author of the critically acclaimed Brookwater’s Curse trilogy, about an 1860s Georgia plantation slave who becomes law enforcement SVP-15 copywithin the vampire community. In contrast, the titular character in his Killer Genius series is a modern day hyper-intelligent black woman who uses high-end technology as a socially conscious serial killer.

SVP’s short fiction includes contributions to nearly a dozen horror anthologies, including the Stoker Award-nominated New York State of Fright. A collection of short horror and dark fiction stories entitled Hell At The Way Station, published by his company Laughing Black Vampire Productions and co-authored by acclaimed storyteller, Marc Abbott hit shelves in 2018.

Along with a plethora of other honors and accolades, SVP won three African-African-American Literary Awards in 2019, two for Hell At The Way Station (Best Anthology and Best In Science Fiction) and one for Best Independent Publisher. He’s written about everything from sleep demons to the Harlem Hellfighters of WWI for episodes of the YouTube series’ Extra Credit and Extra Mythology, He’s also a contributor for Viral Vignettes, a charity-driven YouTube comedy series benefitting The Actor’s Fund.

When he’s not creating macabre literature, he can be found stage managing television shows primarily in New York City and occasionally on the West Coast. Along with being a member of the New York Chapter of The Horror Writer’s Association, he’s also a member of The Director’s Guild of America and professional arts fraternity Gamma Xi Phi.

NTK: How old were you when you discovered horror?

SVP: I’m not even sure. Probably six. I have blerd in my blood. One of my first fights as a 2nd grader was over a Planet of the Apes action figure.

NTK: Who was the first horror character you felt represented you, the one you could identify with the most?

SVP: That’s easy. Blacula. I even use William Marshall as an alias when I’m someplace I have no business being.

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

SVP: Stephen King still has my heart, even after all this time. Crazy, I know.

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel? 

SVP: That is tough. Truthfully, I am forever torn between DraculaFrankenstein, and Salem’s Lot.

NTK: Favorite horror movie?

SVP: Again, it’s like Pringles! You can’t pick just one. This one changes and adjusts according to mood, but today it’s The ExorcistAliensAmerican Werewolf in LondonBlaculaDracula 1972Dracula (Frank Langella), Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Silence of The Lambs.

NTK: Favorite horror TV show?

SVP: I love the anthology stuff like Tales from The Darkside, and Creepshow, but NBC is responsible for a great yet shortlived Dracula series and well as their take on Hannibal. I am currently falling in love with Lovecraft Country.

NTK: What inspired your story in SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire?

SVP: Well, I had already been doing the epic vampire thing in my Brookwater’s Curse series. One day, I got it in my head to do something a little more earthy. That’s when I came up with the grumpy old black man who is a retired monster killer angle. So it’s fun, but it’s also an exploration into how we don’t always recognize how heroic our parents really are.

NTK: What attracted you to the Vampire Noire? Why did you want to write a story for Slay? 

SVP: Truth is, I had already written this and had been meaning to shop it. When you’re out here playing the short story game between novels, you always have a few extra bullets in the chamber on the off chance someone asks, “hey do you have x,y, and z handy?” Then you can just say yes. I try to stay prepared.

NTK: What inspires your writing?

SVP: When I started out, my mission statement was “I must create strong, fully developed POC characters for the horror genre.” That hasn’t changed, per se. I think the difference now is that I’m actually having fun now because I’m stronger, if that makes any sense. Whereas my focus was lasered-aimed on one thing, now I have all sorts of ideas coming to me.

NTK: Do you allow your characters free will? Or do you plan their every move?

SVP: That kind of depends. I usually have a game plan going in, and that game plan gets thrown out the window midway. The story ends up needing more. The character ends up needing more. I end up needing more.

NTK: As a person of color, how has your experience in the horror writing community been? 

SVP: Well, the thing I did wrong was taking too long to find everybody! Outside of a couple of debates about Lovecraft’s racism, it has been tremendous for me to be fully accepted into the culture. Currently, most of my commiseration is courtesy of the NY chapter of the HWA. And I love every one of them. And I wish I was able to spend more time with them, as well as several of the people in this anthology, but the day job, (I also stage-manage a variety of TV shows) keeps me pinned down. I miss a lot of conventions and other things because of that. I would love to see more of everyone!

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

SVP: As I answer you, I am currently in Macon, Georgia working on a Game Show. When I am done with that, I am fully committed to one more vampire novel, (Brookwater’s Curse 4), One last serial killer novel, (Killer Genius 3), and two more sequels to Hell At The Way Station, the anthology I co-wrote with Marc Abbott. There will also be more short stories, more Black History stuff like the “Burning of Black Wall Street” episode I did for the Youtube Channel Extra Credit, and even some comedic stuff. I am going to be very busy. People can keep up with me by finding me on social media or visiting my website.

Addicts, Steven uses his full name on Facebook but goes by @svpthinks on Twitter and Instagram

Chilling Chat: Episode #189 – Lucifer Fulci (David Mark Stashko)

chillingchat

By the light of day, David Mark Stashko practices social work with special attention to addiction, recovery and homelessness. He is also an avid cryptozoologist and paranormal/supernatural explorer. He writes books and speaks about these topics in various circles and under the moniker of “Light, Darkness and Dreamscapes.”

At night, David often transforms into Lucifer Fulci, a character he created in 1994 for death rock legends, Penis Flytrap. Since the inception of Fulci, he has created/participated in horror conventions, numerous solo records, multiple extreme horror books, various short movies, music videos and is the co-creator of his current band, LORDS of OCTOBER, with fellow author and filmmaker, Paul Counelis AKA Uncle Salem.

Fulci is partnered with his Wife, Scarah Stashko, who creates the majority of the art for all his projects and is his morbid media muse for all things strange and beautiful.

Lucifer is an amazing writer and musician with a terrific sense of humor. We spoke of the paranormal, writing stories vs. music, and H.P. Lovecraft.

 

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Lucifer! Thank you for joining me today.

LF: Of corpse. I am honored to be here. Horror addicts rules. Thank you for having me

NTK: How old were you when you first discovered horror?

LF: I was probably about 7 or 8. I saw a commercial for The Exorcist on the tele and told my parents that I wanted to watch it. They told me not to, and if I did, I could not sleep in bed with them. I watched it.

And then I went to sleep in bed with them

Since then, I have had the infection of horror.

NTK: (Laughs.) Is The Exorcist your favorite horror movie? If not, what is?

LF: That is the loaded question of all time. To answer it plainly, it might be. I simply cannot say.

To give you a longer answer, a more real answer, it changes from time to time.

So, for today, I have been having a love affair with Dawn of the Dead again. And Zombie.

But The Exorcist has to be the one that will always remain closer to my little black heart

and a million more. I love so many of them and so many are meaningful to me. Really, it is so hard to say.

NTK: What is your favorite horror television show at this time?

LF: Lovecraft Country, most likely, as I have just discovered it and am having a love affair with it. Also, Raised by Wolves is a close second…for right now.

I finally finished the Outsider and love that, too, but not as much as those other two.

NTK: Lovecraft Country is based on a book. Do you have a favorite horror novel at this time?

LF: That is another loaded question. It is easy for me to say that I have a few all time faves, like Ninth and Hell Street by Chas Balun and Off Season by Jack Ketchum, but I also love to say how I love my own books a lot. That is kind of cheating…but each time I open an old one up, I think like, if I had not written it, I would love to be reading it. I recently read a portion of my book Vile Witches for an event called The Fall of April Ghouls Days…and I found that I actually enjoyed it greatly. But I dunno if that is cheating, to answer it like that.

NTK: (Laughs.) I don’t think so. What author has influenced you the most?

LF: Lovecraft, for sure. It was Chas Balun who really mentored me before my first novel, and I love his work, but over the years, Lovecraft has influenced me so much in my writing, in my music..its undeniable.

NTK: Did his work inspire any of your stories? What inspires you in your writing?

LF: Yes, by all means, there are a ton of short stories, like in my Collection of Horror series, just all over there, but I have a novella called The Elder Thing that was greatly inspired..and Wormutanous. I love my Howard Phillip.

It all depends on what inspires me..

its like..

Really, I get inspired by so many elements of the supernatural…music…Halloween…love stories, too. And then it’s just what I feel..and I try to not do the same things all the time..but that happens sometimes.

I used to want to make the goriest book ever made..and then I kept outdoing it..again. And again.

So yeah..

All kinds of things…from another world.

NTK: You’ve mentioned music and you’re a musician as well. Do you feel writing songs is the same as writing stories? Or do you feel you have to use a different part of your brain for each?

LF: Good question. It is similar, in many ways, yes. There is a lot of me that, when I create, it just sort of happens. When I sit at the keys and type, and the same with music…and then I try to organize it. I would have to say that with music, I have, so far, a broader range of emotion. I have a lot more love songs that I do stories about love.

NTK: What inspired “Blasphemy?”

LF: That is a kind of funny story, because like I was saying before, I have tried to outdo one gore book over another..over the years..but for this one, I felt a real desire to touch into the satanic type of realm. Just for fun. Not to mention, I had made a new friend around the same time. Her name is Soma and some of her images, art, creation, they inspired me. She is also the cover model for that book. So, in a lot of ways, she inspired me…but it is a work of fiction. She is not really a demon…or is she? (Laughs.)

NTK: Do you outline your books and stories? Or do you write by the seat of your pants?

LF: Definite outline. I will come up with an idea..and then I will think of the full story, break each idea down to chapters and then start from there.

I tend to jump around sometimes, but I still stay pretty grounded in the core story.

NTK: Do your characters have free will at all? Or do you control their every move?

LF: I am their master, their Lord. I am in control of all of their little lives…unless they gather their own self-awareness. Then the game is over.

NTK: (Laughs.) You’re a cryptozoologist and supernatural/paranormal explorer. Have you ever participated in any paranormal investigations?

LF: Yes, the real deal. I have been a part of, party to and experienced more than the scope of this conversation allows. What I can say, with no reservations, is that it is all real. All of it. There are other worlds before our very eyes and things within it. Sometimes they speak and show us, other times, they sing in our dreams, but yes, I have known for many a year that this world is only one of endless worlds.. if we keep our eyes open equally as our spirits, we shall feel what most people fear.

At one point, many years back, I channeled a spirit to a family I knew in Los Angeles and answered questions I could not have known the answers to. It was strange and wonderful

And it allowed some kind of closure to previous issues they had. And I had no idea it was happening until it was over.

I don’t mean to sound hokey at all, these things have just been with me for many years.

NTK: What is your favorite curse?

LF: My favorite curse? I am not sure I have one! (Laughs.) But I do like that movie, the Curse of La Llorona. It was pretty cool.

NTK: How about your favorite curse word?

LF: Well, I am not sure. I can bet you 666 dollars that my friends would say that it is FUCK. There are just so many ways to use it. I hardly ever use it in anger, unless I am by myself.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What work do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

LF: The future looks grim and bedazzled by horror…so it’s awesome! Currently, my solo record called The Elder Sign is near completion. There are a few songs and videos for it out there now, but I have been taking it slow since the pandemic struck. I love it, though, it’s a lot of heavy metal fun. For my band, Lords of October, we are about to start working on our next effort, Cryptozoology, again. We have had enough of this COVID and are taking measures to practice safely and record, too. We had only begun that record when Covid hit. Lots of groovy ghoulie songs. I have a story, along with my Lords of October frontman, Paul Counelis AKA Uncle Salem, on a new Bigfoot compilation called “Unimaginable.” It’s a lot of fun…I use my real name, David for that story…and another book of my own called The Anomaly. So much more, really…I do a podcast now, I Love Lucifer, and then there are other books, films…all kinds of stuff that people can read about at

There is more stuff always brewing…I just wanna get back into the world and play live again. I miss the people. I miss putting on the makeup and becoming Lucifer.

I could go on, too, ya see, because I am working with a lot of talented people, always, usually the guys in my band and the guys behind the Flint Horror Collective, which is a group I am a part of here in Michigan.

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me today, Lucifer! You’ve been a wonderful guest!

LF: And you have been a wonderful host. Thank you for this opportunity

Now, Addicts, enjoy this music video from Lucifer’s band Lords of October!

Addicts, you can find Lucifer on Ghoul Cast, in his short horror film The Idol, and in his former band–Penis Flytrap. You can also read his Guide to the Italian Cannibal Film.

 

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: The Cabin Sessions by Isobel Blackthorn

Review by: Daphne Strasert

Content Warnings: Sex, Violence, Incest, Domestic Abuse, Homophobia, Misogyny

Small town secrets, murders, and mysteries that span decades, and a bar in the woods that reeks of rotting flesh… welcome to The Cabin Sessions.

The Cabin Sessions is a dark psychological thriller by Isobel Blackthorn.

On a stormy Christmas Eve, the musicians of the town of Burton gather at The Cabin, a local bar, and take turns sharing their music. But tensions simmer beneath the surface. As the night continues and the storm roils overhead, dark secrets are revealed and old grudges assert themselves.

The Cabin Sessions doesn’t have a traditional plot. The titular Cabin Session is itself largely unimportant, more of a chance for the characters to muse about their own lives and the other townspeople. The real meat of the story is largely told through a series of flashbacks.

Blackthorn balances the major reveals of the story well, keeping dark secrets hidden until the appropriate moment. The Cabin Sessions is a slow burn story with an explosive ending. Blackthorn saved all the action until the very end.

The Cabin Sessions is foremost, a character study. Blackthorn dives into the minds of three Burton residents to tell the twisted story of murder and betrayal.

Adam is an outsider in the town of Burton. A recent transplant from the city, a gay man, and a non-believer, Adam earns the distrust of most residents. Unfamiliar with generations of scandal and gossip, he serves as the perfect vehicle to learn about the town’s shadowed history. Adam comes with his own dark past and a large part of the tension in Cabin Sessions is driven by his anxiety over the return of his abusive ex-boyfriend, Juan. The inevitable violence Juan threatens lingers over the story like the storm in Burton, filling the novel with creeping dread. Blackthorn masterfully writes inside the mind of a survivor of abuse and Adam’s fears are grounded in reality.

Philip is a Burton native, born in the town, raised in the repressive Kinsfolk religion/cult. He is a town pariah turned golden-boy. As a character, he is infuriating. A narcissistic, selfish, misogynistic, man-child. In his own mind, he can do no wrong. Nothing is ever his fault. His actions should have no consequences, and actually, should have consequences for other people. He resents all the other townsfolk, including his own family. He blames them for daring to think that he has done something, even when it was something he actually did. He is frighteningly incapable of introspection. That doesn’t make him unrealistic, however. Everyone has met someone like Philip Stone. It’s actually impressive that Blackthorn managed to get inside the mind of someone so vile without making herself sick. More impressive is the slow burn reveal of just how bad Philip really is.

Eva, Philip’s sister, is odd. Everyone in the town agrees though they don’t know exactly what’s wrong with her. Eva’s obsession with her brother borders on the deranged. Her diary accounts slowly reveal the secrets of the family’s past, including some truly shocking stories. But Eva’s remembrances contradict Philip’s, causing the reader to question which of them is wrong. Blackthorn’s use of the unreliable narrator really stands out and ratchets up the tension of the story as we wait for the reveal.

With a storm raging outside, the occupants are forced into close proximity. The heavy incense that fails to mask the stench of something rotting in the chimney is almost palpable from Blackthorn’s description. The close quarters of The Cabin add a claustrophobic element to the story and serve to heighten the tension among the characters.

The Cabin Sessions is a good fit for readers who like a literary element to their horror stories. If you are looking for excessive gore or jump scares, this isn’t the book for you. However, if you like a slow burn, atmospheric book with surprising twists, pick up a copy of The Cabin Sessions.

Book Anniversary : HorrorAddicts.net Press Presents – eHorror Bites 4: Requiem in Frost

RFBANNER

On this day of Mabon, HorrorAddicts.net is proud to present the next book in their eHorror Bites series. eHorror Bites 4: Requiem in Frost is the newest work of Next Great RFJFHorror Writer Contest winner, Jonathan Fortin.

BLACK METAL LIVES!

Located in the deep frostbitten woods of Norway, Ingrid’s new home is old, spooky, and possibly haunted. Guttural screams wake Ingrid and her mother nightly. When they discover the shrieks belong to deceased former occupant and extreme metal musician, Skansi Oppegård, Ingrid investigates the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death. Hoping to exorcise Skansi’s ghost, she talks her mom into being part of a metal band. Oppegård’s last musical creation awakens forces beyond Ingrid’s understanding and causes Skansi’s murderer to resurface. In the battle between a madman and zombies, metal may be the only weapon she has.

A Peek Inside

REQUIEM IN FROST

When I opened my eyes, it was still dark—probably after midnight. When I took off my headphones, I didn’t hear screaming. However, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

Someone was standing in the corner of my room.

He was tall and muscular, with long, ragged hair. Smeared skeletal makeup covered his face, mingling with open scars. His torso was splashed with a fresh coat of crimson, dripping all over the floor, but drippiest of all was the huge axe in his hand. As I considered the growing red pool at his feet, I found myself wondering where all that blood had come from…

Is Mom all right?

The thought hit me with the force of a speeding train. If the ghost had hurt Mom, he could hurt me, too. Perhaps it should have been obvious, but I’d never felt threatened until that moment. My heart stopped as I lay there, paralyzed in bed, fearing he would kill me, and that he’d killed Mom already.

The spirit approached my bed, his huge axe dripping a river onto the floor. I tried to muster up the courage to run, but my legs were frozen in place. All too quickly, he was right beside me, raising his axe high.

“Skansi…” It came out before I could stop it, the squeak of a girl much younger than myself.

The spirit halted, surprise in his bulging eyes. Perhaps he hadn’t expected me to know his name.

“Someone killed you, didn’t they?” I asked, my throat dry.

The spirit continued to stare, but he did not lower his axe.

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 on Twitter.

You can also find Jonathan in HorrorAddicts.net’s Clockwork Wonderland and eHorror Bites 3: #NGHW Editor Picks.

 

 

 

 

Chilling Chat: Episode #188 – Jason LaVelle

chillingchat

Jason LaVelle is an author and photographer from West Michigan. When he’s not spending time with his beautiful wife and four children, LaVelle works at a veterinary clinic, helping Jason LaVelleanimals of all kinds. With his two pugs, Dragon and Mr. Sparkles, his Chihuahua, Mari, and his annoying dachshund, Lady, LaVelle pretty much lives in a zoo. After he’s done playing with the dogs and tucking the kids into bed, LaVelle ventures down into the basement, where his cat, Leah whispers in his ear like a demonic muse, forcing him to explore the paranormal world inside his mind.

Jason is a wonderful writer with a sharp mind. We spoke of writing, podcasts, and Stephen King. 

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Jason! Thank you for joining me today. 

JL: Thank you for having me, I’m very glad to be here.

NTK: How old were you when you first discovered horror? 

JL: Oh goodness, probably too young. My dad read a lot of King, Koontz, and Barker, and by the time I was in 6th-7th grade, I was pilfering books from his shelf.

NTK: Who is your favorite horror writer?

JL: Good question, I think Stephen King was always my favorite growing up, but now the lines between horror, dark fantasy, and psych thrillers are being blurred. I would still say King, but some of my favorite authors (Pierce Brown and VE Schwab) write fantasy with many horrific elements.

NTK: Did King influence your writing? Why did you become a writer?

JL: I think King has certainly influenced me, but not necessarily in the types of stories I tell, but how emotion and fear can be used to create horror without necessarily needing blood and gore. I started writing in 8th grade, just trying to let out creative energy, I was a hyper kid and writing let me channel some of that extra energy.

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

JL: Wow, I do not know. I can tell you which one has affected me most profoundly recently. Duma Key, a King novel, I read it a few years back, and the climactic scenes in that book really shook me to the core, stayed with me a long time.

NTK: What is your favorite horror movie?

JL: I don’t actually watch much horror, my wife doesn’t like it and we are quite joined at the hip. I enjoy movies like I Am Legend, Bird Box, and A Quiet Place, but most of the time we watch WW2 documentaries or Brooklyn 99!

NTK:  What inspires your writing?

JL: Ah, the old question we all fear! It’s life though, that inspires me. I hear stories from family and friends, I see things in the world, and I use those experiences to build the foundations of my stories. So at their core, everything I write has truth.

NTK: What inspired “Teddy Bear Picnic?”

JL: Ha! Actually a dream my wife had, she told me about it and I decided it would make a cute story.

NTK: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

JL: Mostly a pantser, but I’ve been plotting my current WIP. That said, it’s not going well, (Laughs) so I’m not sure if plotting is going to work well for me. I like to keep the plot in my head, if that makes sense.

NTK: Do your characters have free will? Or do you decide their every movement?

JL: Eh, people talk about characters doing their own thing, but really it’s all me. Sometimes I wish they’d take over and do a little writing for me, but they’ve been reluctant so far.

NTK: (Laughs.) Who is your favorite monster?

JL: Hannibal Lecter.

NTK: Do you enjoy realistic horror as opposed to supernatural horror?

JL: I do, and that’s what I like to write. I enjoy realism with a touch of the paranormal, just enough to scare me, but not so much that it isn’t believable.

NTK: You mentioned Dean Koontz earlier. He’s famous for the inclusion of dogs in his books. You’re an animal lover, do animals play a part in any of your books and stories?

JL: Oh yes, I love including animals. They are a wonderful and enriching part of our world, and I like including them in fiction. I have a whole story, “The Life of Pets,” which deals with the treatment of animals in our society, consent, and ethical care.

NTK: You have a podcast, don’t you?

JL: I run two, Spilling Ink, which is an author roundtable type show every Saturday night, and Unafraid, an audio podcast sharing stories from the LGBTQ+ community.

NTK: Is it difficult running a podcast?

JL: Ha! No, running a podcast is actually pretty easy nowadays, and fun. Talking to new people every week, learning their stories, and enriching our lives with them, that’s good, that’s fun. But there are a lot of podcasts, so getting mine in front of people who will enjoy it is the tough part. Without a large advertising budget, podcasts like mine rely on word of mouth growth.

NTK: Who is your favorite guest? Your best interview?

JL: Ha! I’ve had many wonderful guests. My favorites are usually authors, because they really know how to tell a great story. On the Unafraid podcast, Amanda Jette Knox joined me, and she gave a fabulous interview. On Spilling Ink, I hosted Ellen Hopkins, and the conversation with her was just brilliant.

NTK: What is your favorite curse word?

JL: Definitely fuck.

NTK: (Laughs.) And what is your favorite curse?

JL: Hm, that one’s a bit tough, never really thought about it. In my current WIP, one character is a Romani woman, and she uses a curse. I actually learned quite a bit about Romani curses. She says “May I suffer, may I suffer if I can’t protect you.” It was an emotional scene, and I like that. But most Romani curses are like that, they aren’t something that’s flung onto someone else, they are usually about the user.

NTK:  What does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

JL: Sometime next year I’ll be releasing a novel co-authored with Rebekah Jonesy. This will be a paranormal thriller based on actual events. It’s very dark, very cool, I think you’ll love it.

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me, Jason! You’re a great guest!

JL: Thank you for the interview, that was nice.

Addicts, you can find Jason on Facebook and Amazon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Fiction : On Darkwater by John C. Adams

On Darkwater 

The boys had been out on the lake for hours without success.

‘You need to hold me under longer if it’s going to work,’ Gerald snapped. ‘That last time I just got inky darkness and nothing more.’

The ten year old pinched his cousin. Brett scowled back and rubbed his arm.

Gerald took a deep breath and nodded that he was ready, but something indefinable held back the usually fearless Brett.

‘Don’t blame me when yer half drowned.’

‘There’s something down there. Help me see it!’

Brett ducked Gerald’s head under and held him firmly when he struggled. The seconds ticked to a minute and beyond.

Near death. Oxygen deprivation. Terrifying visions. But Gerald was determined.

As Gerald stiffed, Brett believed for the first time that this could actually work. That it might be more than his cousin’s fancy and fledgling interest in medicine taking shape down there.

Finally, Brett gripped Gerald’s shoulders and dragged him back out of the water, flinging him onto his back. After a few terrible moments of pale paralysis, he spluttered back to life.

‘Well?’

Gerald’s smile unnerved Brett. What had he seen down there?

The silence coiled around them, its poison dripping into Brett’s veins, until he doubted his ability to tell his cousin’s truth from fiction.

Brett shivered. Gerald seemed suddenly very self-contained and insular. Perhaps, if there was something down there, Brett didn’t want to know after all.

‘That’s enough for today,’ he said.

END

________________________________________________________________________________________________

John C Adams is a nonbinary author and critic of horror and fantasy fiction, reviewing for Horror Tree, British Fantasy Society and Schlock! Webzine. They’ve had short fiction, reviews and articles published in many anthologies from independent presses, on the Horror Addicts blogsite and in various magazines including the Horror Zine, Sirens Call Magazine, Lovecraftiana Magazine, Devolution Z Magazine and Blood Moon Rising Magazine.

They have a Postgraduate Certificate in Creative Writing from Newcastle University, and were longlisted for the Aeon Award twice. John’s latest horror novel ‘Blackacre Rising’ is available to preorder now on Amazon and Smashwords.

 

 

https://www.amazon.com/Blackacre-Rising-Ivy-Spires-Book-ebook/dp/B087Z4499D/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=blackacre+rising

Book Review: Belle Vue by C.S. Alleyne

Content Warnings: Sexual Assault and Violence

I’m a big fan of atmospheric horror. And nothing screams atmosphere quite like a haunted asylum. Based on the very real abuses of the British asylum system in the 19th century, Belle Vue explores what happens when the horrors of the past reach into the present.

Belle Vue is a horror novel by C.S. Alleyne, published by Crystal Lake Publishing.

Claire thinks that she’d found the deal of a lifetime. Finally, she can own her own place, a flat in the beautifully renovated Belle Vue Mansion. So, what if it is reportedly haunted? No ghost is going to scare her off from her dream home.

But the grisly history of Belle Vue is more than just a ghost story and it certainly hasn’t been left in the past. The gruesome fate of Ellen Grady and her sister Mary in 1869 created ripples that affect the tenants of Belle Vue even now.

Belle Vue tells a twisted tale of madness, murder, Satanists, and sex cults.

Alleyne cleverly weaves the past and present together, telling twin stories while never giving too much away. Parallels between the stories are artful without being predictable. Crucial information is revealed at just the right times. Alleyne is a master of twists, reserving them until they are most unexpected. No character is safe in this story.

Belle Vue stars a cast of characters, rather than having one protagonist. These interactions fuel the intrigue and suspense of the novel. Above all, what Alleyne does well is to create characters that are flawed, but compelling.

Claire’s enthusiasm and lust for life immediately drew me to her. Watching the events of the book unfold (and anticipating what was to come) filled me with dread. The tragedy that surrounds Claire throughout Belle Vue is only made worse with the knowledge of how her circumstances reflect those of the past.

Alex, Claire’s boyfriend, makes for an interesting character study. He’s selfish, self-absorbed, and misogynistic, though he does seem to care for Claire. He is far from perfect and, in fact, his flaws are what stand out about him as a character. The tragedy of Belle Vue affects him profoundly. More than any other, he displays the most growth throughout the plot.

Poor, sweet Ellen doesn’t deserve all that happens to her at Belle Vue. Imprisoned there by her sister in the 1860’s, Ellen suffers horribly at the hands of the staff. Her loving and hopeful nature persists and her spirit haunts Belle Vue in a subtle way from then on.

Sinister in the extreme, Mary makes for an unconscionable antagonist. Mary pulls the strings for the events at Belle Vue, from the 1860’s through the present day. Though she considers herself the product of misuse, her selfishness and greed are the real cause of her suffering. Though her cunning elevates her to supernatural heights, it also damns her.

Belle Vue is itself a character in this story. The stately mansion holds centuries worth of secrets and Alleyne enjoys teasing them out throughout the story. From the manor home of hedonistic sadists, to a horrific asylum, to a renovated apartment complex, the Belle Vue has worn many faces, and hidden the dark truth in the tunnels below.

Belle Vue was a delight to read, especially if you enjoy historical horror. Anyone who likes asylum horror should pick this up.

Chilling Chat: Episode #187 — MJ Preston

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MJ Preston is a horror author and artist living in Canada. He has written about everything from native monsters hunting in modern-day, with his straight horror, The Equinox, to MJHeadshotmind-controlling, bone-eating aliens, in the epic, Acadia Event, and now he’s taking you into the mind of the darkest monster of them all. The serial killer, in his latest project, The Highwayman Series. From book One, the titular Highwayman, and now, Book Two, titled Four, MJ Preston pulls no punches as he introduces us to serial murder as it really is, dark, ugly, horrific, and deadly.

MJ is an intelligent man with great taste in horror. We spoke of writing, real-life horror, and unique curses.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, MJ. Thank you for joining me today.

MJP: Thank you for having me.

NTK: How old were you when you first discovered horror?

MJP: I think that would be around four. I’m not sure how I heard about Frankenstein and Dracula, just as long as I’d been cognizant of my surroundings, I’ve gravitated toward everything horror and monster related. I loved the old horror comics and even sent away for the six-foot real life Frankenstein monster which turned out to be a poster. I joined the club early on.

NTK: Is Frankenstein’s Monster your favorite monster? What monster do you think is the scariest?

MJP: Frankenstein’s monster was definitely my favorite. Frankenstein was the first real book I tackled while reading as a preteen. I identified with these creatures in that they were outsiders, which at times I found myself in different peer groups. And how can you not love the monster? He is a metaphor for our failings and even today we don’t heed the message. Scariest monster for me would be the Devil himself. Raised in an Irish Catholic family, I have family members who really believe in Prince of Darkness. He’s most frightening for me, because he comes with a smile, and has haunted my dreams for over four decades.

NTK: What is your favorite horror film?

MJP: I would have to say that John Carpenter’s adaption of The Thing. I went to that movie in 1982 with a bunch of buddies in British Columbia. We lived out in the burbs and had a small cinema, so all five of us piled into a car and drove to Vancouver to see it. All the way there I listened to them harangue me, THIS BETTER BE GOOD. Three hours later we walked out in awe. John Carpenter’s masterpiece of psychological terror. Kurt Russel’s finest hour. 

NTK:  What is your favorite horror TV show?

MJP: Now I am going to date myself. I still love Kolchak: The Night Stalker. And all the kids are saying, “Who?” To which I reply, “Greatest creature a week show ever!” They had robots, vampires, Wendigos and how could you not love Darren McGavin as Kolchak, in his cheap straw newsman hat, slightly off white suit and sneakers. It was a great show, but I was sucker for them all, The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, even then there was so much great writing.

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

MJP: My favorite horror novel is the apocalyptic Swan Song by the brilliant, Robert R. McCammon. It was the second novel, I discovered by this author, who I think is a rare gem in the world of horror. McCammon tells a different version of the apocalypse, substituting nuclear holocaust for Pandemic and I think that resonated with me more that King’s The Stand, which I also loved but not as much. Sorry, Steve.

NTK: (Laughs.) Is McCammon your favorite author? Which author has influenced you most?

MJP: I’m what they call a reader with a wandering eye. I’d say at the moment John Sandford is my favorite author, but McCammon would be my favorite horror author, because he’s a southern boy with a big imagination that include anything from three-arm mutant P.I.s to Vampire Bikers. As to what author has influenced me most, I can’t say that any one writer has influenced me. Every book I read leaves some sort of an impression and I’d need a long list to fill that order. King, McCammon, Sandford, Steel, Connelly, Shelley, Stoker, etc. They all influence me.

NTK: What inspires you to write?

MJP: It’s a sickness really. I am a voyeur of sorts. You won’t catch me peeking in people’s windows at night, because I can’t run worth a spit. I kid… I think writers are at their core, voyeurs of this nutty world that surrounds us. I will study the faintest smile or grimace in a stranger and store it somewhere in the filing cabinet in the back of my mind for later use. Does that sound pompous? Okay. Here’s what inspires me. A simple question. “What if?”

NTK: (Laughs.) Do you allow your characters free will? Or do you plan their every move?

MJP: You mean I get a say? Up until recent publication of The Highwayman Series, I never wrote a recurring character and therefore never got comfortable with where they were going until we got there. I don’t outline, I write by the seat of my pants and when I take on a project I just keep going until it’s over. I don’t preplan anything, which can be frustrating, but a bonus of that is this: I get to be the first one at the scene of the crime and it is as new to me as it will be to you. And that’s cool.

NTK: That is cool! Do you have a favorite character among those you’ve written?

MJP: Yeah, I probably got fifteen, but I’ll narrow it down. The Equinox – Old Jake Toomey, Chocktee Elder, Veteran, scare of nothing. Acadia Event – Big Garney Wilson, based a real character from my Ice Trucking Days. The Highwayman Series Book 1 & 2. Detective Lonnie Perkins. (Perk) A skinny drink of water from Louisville, Kentucky. I’ll leave it there or I will go on all night and there will be restraining orders. (Laughs.)

NTK: Did any of your real life experiences make it into your books?

MJP: Well, my second book, Acadia Event was largely autobiographical minus the Irish gangsters and bone eating aliens. I drove the north as an ice trucker just south of the arctic circle for three seasons. Everything I saw there, twisting curtains of the northern lights to a giant white wolf stalking the tundra found its way into Acadia Event. My fears and trepidation about driving a loaded fuel truck up some of the most dangerous roads in the world went into the book. Protagonist, Marty Croft, is pretty much me, when he’s not being muscled by gangsters or saving the world from bone eating aliens. Lucky Bastard.

NTK: Any strange stories from your years as a soldier?

MJP: I think there has always been a soldier’s presence. In Equinox, one of the local cops, nicknamed Oddball, is an Afghanistan Veteran. In Acadia Event, two central characters are soldiers and some of the story reaches back to those days. Even in Highwayman, there is a soldier. My family has served in the military all the way back to my Irish roots in the 1200’s. My great-great-great (not sure how many greats) grandfather was Jenico Preston. Check Wiki. He put down the Irish Rebellion. My son is a soldier, my nephew was, my brother. My family has always served. Someday, I hope that service is no longer needed, and peace becomes achievable. So, yeah, they get the nod, and experiences always find their way in whether through personal reflection or other sources.

NTK: What is your favorite curse word?

MJP: Favorite curse word? Hmmm. I was a soldier for 12 years, drove a truck for over 20 years. Somewhere in that cesspool of poetry, I’ve been threatened with someone using my eye socket as device of sexual pleasure. I’ve been told where the best part of me ran down. I’ve heard stuff that would make truckers cringe. My favorite curse word is the one that starts a fight. But I’m a grandfather, so I’ll keep it clean, and besides, I got nothing left for the swear jar. If that isn’t good enough read my books. But honest, I’m outta dough.

NTK: (Laughs.) Do you have a favorite curse?

MJP: Well the curse of Wendigo sickness is a favorite. Wendigo sickness or madness comes upon a people when they indulge in the practice of cannibalism. The stories from the indigenous people of North America are absolutely enthralling. Roughly 35 miles from where I am giving this interview, Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, a native guide and trapper named Swift Runner was hung in the late 1800’s after he butchered his entire family and ate them. His defense was Wendigo madness. Stories like this inspired my first novel, The Equinox and another horror story called “Black Mountain Harvest.”

NTK: That’s awesome! What does the future hold for you, MJ? What works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

MJP: A new Highwayman book will be coming. After that, I’m going back and writing a juicy horror novel chock full of monsters. Titles are TBA. Whether I’m writing about mythical monsters, invading aliens or the most terrifying monsters of all, serial killers, I will always be immersed in the darkness. Its where all the cool readers and writers and filmmakers hang.

NTK: MJ, you’re a really fun interview. Thank you for chatting with me.

MJP: Thank you for having me.

Addicts, you can find MJ on Facebook and Twitter.

Book Anniversary : HorrorAddicts.net Presents ~ Horror Bites: Alice’s Scars by Adam L. Bealby

Celebrating the Anniversary of HorrorAddicts.net launches our Horror Bites series with an
Alice-inspired story by Adam L. Bealby.

 

When he met Alice, he wasn’t prepared to go down the rabbit hole. His love for her pushes him into the uncomfortable realization she might be mad. He wants to keep her safe, but what if that’s not what Alice wants?

 

“Adam Bealby has written a mini masterpiece that explores mental illness, drug addiction, and real life horror.”

~David Watson, The All-Night Library

Horror Bites: Alice’s Scars

BY ADAM L. BEALBY

Just 99 cents at Amazon.com


A look inside…

Alice’s Scars

BY ADAM L. BEALBY

When I first met her she was Katie, soon to be Alice. It was her first day at Uni, my second, and her scars intrigued me. They lined her cheeks like tribal markings and the way she caked her face in foundation, you could tell they were forever on her mind. It helped, of course, that she was a beautiful Goth girl. I wanted to save her, share her pain, kiss her, and fuck her, too. I asked her what she kept in the drawstring purse around her neck.

“Money,” she said dismissively, turning away to talk to someone else at the bar.

She disappeared soon after. I only found out later how drunk she got, how she spent the rest of the night over a toilet bowl with Jackie holding her hair clear of her mouth. Her first and last run-in with alcohol. Alice had too much else going on in her life to get any more screwed up.

I dogged her all through freshers’ week. Instead of dorms, she’d been accommodated in a little house just off campus. A new friend I met lived there too, so it was an easy thing to fall in with her motley crew, drawn together by circumstance as we were. I became a regular in their kitchen, smoking weed and trying too hard—as we all did—to be quirky and cool.

We struck up conversation over a jar of pesto. I didn’t know what it was and she couldn’t believe it. I strung it out, made it appear I was more ignorant than I actually was, and I got her laughing. When I said her pesto looked like rabbit food she blushed, right through all that paint and powder.

“You don’t know the first thing about rabbits,” she said, and she showed me what was in her drawstring purse. It was a tiny white rabbit’s foot. It freaked me out and yet I felt even more attracted to her. It was my in, a secret shared. Looking at the severed foot I felt myself getting hard and I had to sit down for fear she’d notice.

She ran away that evening. We were all stoned and a bit drunk, talking about our parents, being glib, critical, or overly generous. She burst into tears and ran out of the kitchen and into the night, not even bothering to put her shoes on. We made an extravagant show of hunting for her, shouting her name up and down the street. Pete the Poet, as we later christened him, came out to help from next door. The way John shouted Katie’s name in his Irish accent, Pete thought we’d lost a cat. We had a good laugh about that.

But it wasn’t funny when we found Katie. She was hunkered down by the bushes on a bit of common area at the end of the row.

“Katie? What are you looking for?” I asked as we gathered round in a concerned hub.

“He was here,” she muttered. She’d been pawing at the dirt. Her fingers were black. “I saw him, but he got away from me.”

“Who was here, Katie?”

She looked up. The glare from a passing car lent her eyes a lustrous sheen.

“Alice. Call me Alice from now on, okay? Do you know what time it is? The days all seem to blur into one.”


Adam L. Bealby writes fantasy, horror and weird fiction for both adults and children. His short stories and comic work have been published in numerous anthologies, including Spooked (Bridge House Publishing), Pagan (Zimbell House Publishing), Darkness Abound (Migla Press), Once Upon a Scream (HorrorAddicts.net), Sirens (World Weaver Press), World Unknown Review Vol. 2, rEvolution (MiFiWriters) and Murky Depths magazine. He lives in Worcestershire, UK with his wife and three children, and a harried imagination. Catch up with his latest ravings at @adamskilad.

Once Upon a Scream, featuring “The Other Daughter” by Adam L. Bealby

Once Upon a Scream…there was a tradition of telling tales with elements of the fantastic along with the frightful. Adults and children alike took heed not to go into the deep, dark woods, treat a stranger poorly, or make a deal with someone or something-without regard for the consequences. Be careful of what you wish for, you just might get it. From wish-granting trolls, to plague curses, and evil enchantresses, these tales will have you hiding under the covers in hopes they don’t find you. So lock your doors, shutter your windows, and get ready to SCREAM.

HorrorAddicts.net

for Horror Addicts, by Horror Addicts

Listen to the HorrorAddicts.net podcast for the latest in horror news, reviews, music, and fiction.

HorrorAddicts.net Press

www.horroraddicts.net

Chilling Chat Special: Nancy Kilpatrick

chillingchat

Award-winning author Nancy Kilpatrick has published 22 novels, over 220 short stories, seven story collections, and has edited 15 anthologies, plus graphic novels and one non-Nancy Kilpatrick 1fiction book.

She is a wonderful lady and a legendary writer. We spoke of her new book, audio narration, and Dracula.

NTK: Welcome back to Chilling Chat, Nancy! Thank you for joining me today.

NK: My pleasure!

NTK: Nancy, you’ve been busy since last we spoke. Can you tell the Addicts about your new book?

NK: Yes, of course. There two new novels. One is Book Six in Thrones of Blood. Book Six should be the end of the series, although originally I’d viewed it as a seven-book series. There are things I need to tie up so I’ll see how it goes. The other book is a sci-fi/Horror novel and I’m close to the end and have been for some time now. It’s absolutely frustrating working in the real world with a fantastical story because this one is partially set in space and every bloody day, things up there change so I have to change the story to coincide with what is actually known. Still, I’m on it! Aside from that, I’ve recently revised and updated my Power of the Blood series and it’s now out fresh and new in eBook. That was enjoyable to do. It led to me doing some audio readings for that series and two novellas.

NTK: How did you like recording audio? Was it easy or difficult for you?

NK: VERY difficult. I hate reading my own work, or I should use the past tense because I’ve changed a bit. I haven’t done live readings at events for maybe fifteen years. I never feel as if I can convey the reality of the stories that live inside me in a way that gets that across orally. I began with a little piece to test myself with the audio. I wrote, “Black Knight Blue Queen,” and kind of dark fantasy and recorded it under ten minutes. It took forever to do that. It’s not the best but I did get better. Then I tackled the two novellas Vampyre Theatre and Wild Hunt. They are about two-three minutes each. Again, a lot of reading aloud and then recording and re-recording. Finally, I did the four books in the Power of the Blood series and again, maybe twenty readings aloud for each book and ten recordings for each until I felt okay about them. Those are two-three minutes each but for Book Four which is 3.5 minutes because I wanted the entire scene in. Now I’m tackling the five existing books in the Thrones of Blood series. Again, hoping for two-three minutes each. We shall see. But, I have become fond of the process. I can’t say I love it when I screw up reading or slur words or my throat gets so dry the words come out as if from a hell demon instead of a human being. But, there’s something I like about this process so I’m continuing, imperfectly. All of the readings are on my website.

NTK: If you could have anyone record the reading for you, who would it be?

NK: I’ve never thought about someone recording my work. I have four audiobooks out that the publisher did through Audible. Four different actors read. Some I like better than others but they’re all good. And in truth, I don’t listen to audiobooks. I always think of those as something you’d listen to in a car.

NTK: Who is your favorite horror actor?

NK: I don’t know that I have one favorite. I like Julian Sands from the past in films, like, Boxing Helena and Gothic and Tale of a Vampire and others. I loved Alan Rickman in several films. I like Claes Bang in the BBC Dracula. Tom Hiddleston in Highrise, Crimson Peak, Only Lovers Left Alive. And I’ve liked Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd and Edward Scissorhands and others. It’s kind of like that. It depends on the film.

Of course, when you say ‘actor’ you probably mean male and female and etc. I have female actresses I like. Barbara Steele, for example. Nicole Kidman has done some good ghost films. Eva Green is a favorite in Penny Dreadful (the original series) and movies. Ingrid Pitt, but of course she’s gone.

NTK: You’ve written several books about vampires. What makes them so interesting to you?

NK: The vampire is eternally fascinating. They are perhaps the closest of the supernaturals to humans. They were human. I know a lot of people like werewolves and I guess the concept is interesting. But I also guess I haven’t known many or any men or women who become animal-like so it’s hard for me to get that Jekyll/Hyde change on the full moon. Vampires, you can play around with a lot because you can manipulate the supernatural elements and make them current. Wolves, not so much. The vampire has a lot of intriguing traits, from extended lifetime, power, sexual appeal, and they only put on a pretense when they want something and then quickly revert to their real state or even personality when they get what they want. They are dangerous and finding a way to write about them that keeps them dangerous is fun. I hate stories where the vampire is dispatched easily. That’s such a letdown. They are also, usually, attractive these days and not the hideous resuscitated corpses of the past—we leave that to zombies now, the brain-dead flesh eaters. That’s another aspect, the super attractive creature that can mesmerize you. Charmed to death.

NTK: Your Thrones of Blood series was optioned for TV and film. Any word on how that is going and has the Corona Pandemic affected it?

NK: Well, since people aren’t meeting more than 6-feet from one another, no movies are happening, or at least few are and it must be hard to shoot a film these days. Hopefully, that will change. So no, nothing yet. I hope COVID won’t run too long. Makes a lot of things hard.

NTK: Have you seen the new Netflix version of Dracula? If so, what did you think of it?

NK: I love it. I know it’s contentious, even on HorrorAddicts! I’ve watched it four times because I think it’s brilliant and everything in it hangs together. I know there are people who are purists and want to see a movie that replicates a book. I think that rarely happens. Dracula has been adapted hundreds of times to film and personally, I find the BBC version refreshing. I love, for example, that Episode One tackles Harker in the religious hospital. That’s skimmed over in the book in a sentence of two. I also like the action in Episode Two on the Demeter. Again, not in the book, just referred to as the ship that hit the rocks with the captain dead and tied to the wheel. I thought that was a clever approach. I also liked—and I have to say Episode Three was a little difficult the first time I saw it but since I’ve watched the BBC Dracula so much now, I ‘ve come really enjoy Episode Three. I know people who know Moffat and Gattis, who think they were too clever by half. But, I don’t care. I think it’s brilliant, including the casting. Bang makes a multi-faceted Dracula and Wells is so good in the dual roles she plays, with wonderful lines and so perfectly delivered, I now want to see both of those actors in other roles. It’s in my favorites list of Dracula films.

I think with Gattiss and Moffat you’re going to get creative. Anyone who has watched Sherlock should not be shocked or surprised by Dracula. That’s what those two guys do best. You either like their style or you don’t.

NTK: Who are your favorite Draculas? What actors have played him best?

NK: My Favorite Actors who have played Dracula. I may or may not like the film or TV show but I like how the actor plays the role of Dracula. In Alphabetical order: Bela Lugosi, Christoper Lee, Claes Bang, Frank Langella, Gary Oldman, Gerard Butler, Jack Palance, John Carradine, Keith-Lee Castle, Klaus Kinski, Louis Jordan, Luke Evans, Max Schreck, Rutger Hauer, Udo Kier, and William Marshall.

NTK:  Do you have a favorite curse? If so, what is it?

NK: Curse? Well, as someone with a black cloud over her head, I tend to think of a curse as something one has to work though in life.

NTK: Do you have a favorite curse word?

NK: Fuck. Said three times when facing a mirror.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What work do HorrorAddicts have to look forward to?

NK: Definitely Book Six in Thrones of Blood: Imperliment of the Hybrids. Also, I really want to finish the Sci-Fi/Horror book. It’s one of those stories that can be seen either way. Like the movie Alien and it’s sequels. But it’s not that story or even like that. It’s the idea that it is seen as Sci-Fi by some and Horror by others, depending on your view. That’s what I’m going for.

Oh, and more audio readings!

Short fiction-wise, I have an original story called “Trogs” in Apostles of the Weird, edited by S.T. Joshi for PS Publications and that will likely be in paperback from a different publisher. I’m in The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors 2 with my original story “The Promise.” And I have a story in Lovecraft Mythos called “Always a Castle?” coming out soon from Flametree Publishing.. There are others, but that should do it for now.

NTK: Thank you so much for chatting with me Nancy, you’re a wonderful guest, as always!

NK: You’re kind. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me, Naching. I appreciate it.

Addicts, you can find Nancy on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Blogspot.

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.

Chilling Chat: Episode #185 – Kathrin Hutson

chillingchat

International Bestselling Author Kathrin Hutson has been writing Dark Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and LGBTQ Speculative Fiction since 2000. With her wildly messed-up heroes, excruciating Kathrin Hutsoncircumstances, impossible decisions, and Happily Never Afters, she’s a firm believer in piling on the intense action, showing a little character skin, and never skimping on violent means to bloody ends. Kathrin is an active member of SFWA and HWA and lives in Colorado with her husband, daughter, and two dogs. 

Kathrin is a lady of incredible strength and humor. We discussed characters, inner demons, and real-life horror.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Kathrin! Thank you for joining me today.

KH: Thanks for having me, Naching!

NTK: How old were you when you became interested in the darker side of things?

KH: I was ten. It probably started before that, but I’m not sure I can remember much before then.

NTK: What got you interested?

KH: I think the interest first came about as a way to process and orient myself within some fairly heavy changes in my life at the time. When I started reading and writing dark fiction and horror, my parents were going through a divorce that… well, we’ll just say it wasn’t exactly pretty. I’d just moved up to a log cabin in Pine Junction, Colorado, which was where my dad lived for years after that. I was isolated from friends (the few I had) and far removed from school and really any other kids. I don’t know if I can say exactly why, but going through my own darkness and “ten-year-old horror” made me turn not to the happier, fluffier side of fiction but to the complete opposite. I also went to a Catholic elementary school at the time, which also wasn’t very pretty. And I managed to sneak It by Stephen King into the school in my backpack and read that thing every chance I got.

I think it was more of an escape from my own life at the time and all the things I didn’t want to think about as a ten-year-old. A lot of the time, reading dark fiction and horror makes the scariest parts of real-life seem pretty okay in comparison.

NTK: Is Stephen King your favorite author? Who has influenced you in your writing?

KH: He is definitely on my list of favorites. Come on, it’s impossible to just pick one, right? His Dark Tower series is definitely my all-time favorite series. It would have to be since I’m reading it through for the 10th time right now. And I can definitely admit that his writing has seriously influenced my own. Beyond Stephen King, I’ve gotten a lot of influence (content more than style) from H.P. Lovecraft, Anne Rice, Neil Gaiman, and Jacqueline Carey. I definitely include those authors on my favorites list as well.

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

KH: When I’m thinking about my “favorite” horror novels, I end up going straight for the ones that creeped me out the most! Which, oddly enough, are books that I’ve then set aside and said, “Okay, I made it through. What a ride! Probably won’t pick that one up again.” The first favorite in that regard – and still a favorite horror novel all around, if we’re not mashing genres – would probably still be It. And coming in at a close second is House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. That one made me feel so gross when I finished it – in the best way, of course – that I considered giving it away immediately lol! Yet it remains on my bookshelf. Maybe I’ll work my way up to revisiting it one day. Who knows? I also really, really loved Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho, which I know is a lot different than either of the others. That book was definitely my first foray into psychological horror where I actually very much rooted for the main character, despite him being the “horror”. The same thing goes for You by Caroline Kepnes. Yes, I read it before it became a show. No, I haven’t seen the show. But I love an author’s ability to show the insanely dark side of a main character, of a villain, and make the reader enjoy, appreciate, and feel empathy for them even when knowing how awful they are. That’s also something I try to emulate in my own work with morally gray – or completely blacked-out – characters of my own.

See? It’s way too hard to just pick one!

NTK: Do you have a favorite horror movie?

KH: For the longest time, my favorite horror movie was The Ring. I saw that when I was ten or eleven. I remember walking around the gym during PE class and trying to tell my best friend about it. I got goosebumps, and my eyes started watering, and I just couldn’t shut up about it. Which I’m sure she really appreciated…

I honestly don’t watch horror movies – or movies in general – nearly as much as I read. But more recently, I really fell in love with this year’s remake of Invisible Man. Thankfully, I watched it at home with my husband, because I was shouting so loud at the screen that the movie theater would’ve been an awful experience for everyone else around me. That might take the prize for favorite horror movie. I thought it was fantastic.

NTK: (Laughs.)  Do you have a favorite television show?

KH: Oh, yeah! Come to think of it, I actually do watch way more shows than movies. Maybe it’s the 45-50 minutes that I can handle one at a time and still have more to look forward to!

I just finished watching the Netflix Original Dark. Oooohhh. That was incredible. Very creepy and dark and nihilistic in so many ways. And right up there with it is Amazon’s War of the Worlds. I know that’s more commonly considered Sci-Fi, but it has a lot of horror elements too. And then, of course, because I’m also a huge fan of Dark Fantasy – and I mean Grimdark dark bordering on Horror, or maybe just Horror in fantasy worlds – Netflix’s Witcher just got me on every level. I’ve read those books as well and played the videogames and I binge-watched that series like I haven’t watched anything in a very long time.

I also have to give props to Castle Rock and The Outsider. Stephen King’s just hard to get away from, right? By why would you want to? 

NTK: Indeed! (Laughs.) What inspires you? And what inspired you to write Sleepwater Beat and the series it originates from?

KH: What inspires me? A little bit of everything. Not really an answer though, right? I just love the places that dark fiction allows me to explore – or enjoy when I’m reading and watching shows. There’s that sense of taboo, of wondering how far I can really go in putting vivid characters first, fantastic story second, and then all the horror, despair, blood and gore, surprise, and chaos I can fit into one book. It’s a balancing act, which is super fun.

I guess I can say I’m inspired to write into such dark places by the fact that I’ve lived through my fair share of them personally. My parents’ divorce was just the start, but it eventually stretched down a long road that can to a head with heroin addiction and almost not making it out of that one. I know what it’s like to struggle with internal demons. I know what hopelessness and terror feel like on a very real level. And I draw from that in everything I write, no matter what level of horror the story contains. It’s usually quite a bit

The Blue Helix series, Sleepwater Beat and Sleepwater Static so far – there will be more – came from a desire to expose some of the darker, less-explored, marginalized communities in our world through a fictional lens and a noir, Dystopian flavor. That’s especially important with Dystopian Sci-Fi as a genre, and this series went to a place I never expected when both books released with incredibly eerie timeliness – when our reality was already so closely reflecting what I’d written months beforehand in each book. And these books are only set 11 years in the future! I can’t take credit for what happens in our real-world But I wanted to shed light on the fears, struggles, pain, and injustices faced by so many marginalized communities, hopefully, to open up more discussion about these things. In a way, I’m writing about what may seem “scary” to others in order to show that it isn’t actually as scary as they may think. At least not in the way they think it is.

And there’s plenty of psychological horror in this series, fistfights, explosions, creepy interactions, and chaos. My favorite combo 

NTK: It’s amazing how those things formed and shaped you and your writing. Since your stories are character-driven, do you allow your characters free will? Or do you plan their every move?

KH: (Laughs.) I’ve given up on trying to plan my own every move. My characters wouldn’t make it very far if I tried to hold them in an iron grip. They have as much free will as I can offer them while keeping on the general path of the story. Sometimes they learn their lessons quickly. Other times, I have to bash them over the head repeatedly. And even then, it takes a lot for them to climb back out of the pits I throw them into. Some of them never do. Or they make it out again and are completely changed, not always for the better. My characters are always surprising me, and that’s part of the fun. I rarely outline books, and even then, it’s a loose few thousand words from beginning to end. I definitely don’t sketch out my characters before I write them. That’s just my own best method for letting them grow organically, and it keeps things interesting. I get bored fairly easily if I already know exactly what’s going to happen.

NTK: You’ve talked about many of the real-life horrors which have shaped your life. Do you believe in curses? And if so, which is your favorite?

KH: That’s definitely one of the coolest questions! As far as whether or not I believe in curses, I’ll say that the only curses we truly live through are the ones we cast on ourselves. Knowingly or unknowingly. Just like with any curse, it takes a lot of work and dedication to “remove” said curse. I guess I’m living proof that it can be done.

And then that might be my favorite kind of curse to write or read/watch, too. The kind where the character’s greatest strength is also their greatest downfall. Where their own personal “hero” is also their “villain”. The scariest demons to face are the ones that have always been a part of us.

Okay, and there’s also Murphy’s Law lol! That feels like a curse, and when done the right way, it’s just so much fun.

NTK: Do you have a favorite curse word?

KH: Fuck. Always and forever, FUCK.

NTK: Kathrin, what does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

KH: This is super exciting. I have at least one more book in the Blue Helix series coming down the pipeline. Book 3 will be a wild ride and probably the most violent out of all of them, if I’m being honest.

I’m also working on a new LGBTQ+ Dark Fantasy series, Vessel Broken, that is way darker and bloodier than any of my other fantasy to date with an insane occult influence. I’m aiming to have the first book, Imlach Fractured, out in November 2020, so there’s not much longer to wait. I’m so thrilled with this series, though. It’s brutal. I mean, the first chapter is a demonic ritual turned epic bloodbath, and everybody dies! Except for the main character. I swear that’s not a spoiler And I’m so excited to keep going deeper and darker and really let it take over with this series.

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me, Kathrin! You’ve been a wonderful guest.

KH: Thanks so much for having me! This was a lot of fun.

Addicts, you can find Kathrin on Facebook, Twitter, Her Author Site, Her Author Facebook, and LinkedIn.

For updates on new releases, exclusive deals, and dark surprises you won’t find anywhere else, sign up to Kathrin’s Newsletter.

Need a break from the New Normal? Offerings from A. Craig Newman

From the Author:

I am declaring August 3 to August 10 to be a week-long “Horrific Break From Reality”.

From August 3 to August 7, two of my books will be available for free download from Amazon.com.

Wages of Sin” – The story of two women punished for the crime of loving each other. One is forced to grow extra limbs she can’t control. She was the lucky one.

Burn – A man’s pain sets the world around him on fire.  Taking the wrong drug makes everything freeze to ice.  The pain never goes away.  After committing murder, his pain only grows stronger.

Also available on Amazon.com, “Modern Myths and Fairy Tales” will be on sale for $0.99 from August 3 until August 10, before returning to its normal price of $2.99.

On August 8 at 7 PM, I will be hosting Serial Killer Trivia: Fact and Fiction. There will be 3 fun yet creepy rounds of questions and answers with the highest scoring player of the night winning a $25 Amazon Gift Card. Have a drink, enjoy a little dark humor, investigate some of the lurking monsters who look like your next-door neighbor. Visit Yaymaker.com to purchase tickets for $10

The following excerpt is from my story “Communion Day”.  I hope you enjoy my story.

The doors at the rear of the sanctuary opened. Two large men entered with Monty between them, ankles shackled together, and wrists bound to his waist.  The larger men walked with a slow but steady gait, dragging him between them. 

“What’s going on?” he screamed. “What the hell is wrong with you people?” 

“There is no hope for us without sacrifice,” the pastor said and closed his book. 

“A sacrifice of blood. A sacrifice of flesh,” the congregation responded, finishing the Recounting. 

“What?” Monty screamed.  “Let me go! Let me go!”  He saw Celeste seated in her pew as he passed by.  “Celeste? Celeste! Help me!” The trio stopped at the front of the sanctuary before the pulpit and the great statue.  “Celeste!” Monty called over his shoulder. “Celeste!” 

“Celeste,” the pastor said, “your husband calls to you.” 

“Yes, pastor,” Celeste said before struggling to her feet. She waddled over to Monty and his guards. “Yes, honey?” she asked when she stood before him, her back to the statue. 

“What-what-what the hell is going on? What is this place? Who are these people?” 

“It’s Communion Day,” she said in the calm, even tone of a teacher.  “This is my church and this is my family.” 

“Church?” he repeated. “Like God and stuff, right?” 

“No,” Celeste said. “The Father and The Son,” she said, gesturing to the icons behind her. 

Monty’s face clouded with confusion. “What are you talking about? That’s not God! And that’s not Jesus! Why is he upside down?” 

“That’s The Son. And that was how he was sacrificed.” 

Monty shivered as if he were cold. He looked about quickly. “Honey-honey, what’s going on? Get me out of here. We’ve got to get out of here.” 

“It’s Communion Day,” she said, placing a hand on his cheek.  She kissed him. “We must all make sacrifices,” she said after their lips parted. “You are mine.” 

Ushers came to the front and moved the pulpit out of the way.  A pneumatic lift whirled to life and the great statue of Father started to rise.  Beneath it was a grate and a basin. The grate slid out towards Monty.  His guards carefully lifted his struggling figure and laid him on the grate, attaching his binds to it.  The grate slid back under the statue.  While the bulk of his body was under the statue, his head stuck out to one side. 

“Celeste! Celeste!” he screamed repeatedly. 

She moved to be closer to him, placing a hand on his cheek and kissing him again.  The pneumatic lift whirled to life again and the statue lowered.  Celeste kept her lips to his as the statue made contact and began to press on his body.  His screams into her mouth could be heard in the first rows as the statue continued its slow descent.  His screams turned to choking noises.  When she broke her kiss with Monty, he atomized blood, spraying it over his face and hers.  Monty watched Celeste wipe some of his blood from her face and lick her fingers clean before his pupils dilated and he stopped moving. 

The ushers unlocked and removed a panel at the front of the statue.  The congregation could see the filling basin.  An usher opened a spout and let the blood flow into a goblet.  Pastor Johnson held the cup and ushers stood on either side of him holding loaves of bread.  Approaching in lines, each member of the congregation tore a piece of bread from a loaf and dipped in the goblet of blood held by the pastor. 

“There is no hope without sacrifice,” the minister said to each member. “May your harvest be plentiful.”  They then ate the bread, crossed themselves, and returned to their seats for quiet meditation.

The complete text for “Communion Day” and a selection of my work can be found at www.acraignewman.com.

Book Review: What Hell May Come by Rex Hurst

Content Warnings: Sexual Assault, Animal Cruelty, Domestic Violence, Child Abuse

Before we get started, please note that What Hell May Come is not for everyone. Rex Hurst makes a point to include every taboo and controversial issue he can find (and insult pretty much all parts of the population at the same time), so if you’re a sensitive reader, you probably want to pass.

What Hell May Come is a novel written by Rex Hurst and published by Crystal Lake Publishing.

Jon St. Fond has never liked his family and it seems that the feeling is mutual. Growing up in a house devoid of love, he threw himself instead into the world of Dungeons and Dragons. But when unexplainable things start to happen to him, he suspects that there’s something more sinister going on in his suburban family than just emotional abuse. Soon, Jon finds himself locked in a web of deceit and depravity, with a horrifying destiny that puts all his fantasy games to shame.

The plot of What Hell May Come is fast-paced, moving quickly between one atrocity and the next. Events are presented as a sort of carnival of horror, leaving you staring at the pages in disbelief. Did that really just happen? Yes. Yes, it did. But you’ll forget about it soon enough because something worse is coming next chapter.

I found the characters of What Hell May Come deeply unlikeable, though I suspect that is Hurst’s intention.

Jon is as self-absorbed and reckless as it is possible for a teenager to be. Though he is the protagonist of the story, he does little to elicit the sympathy of the reader. His abominable hatred of women clashes starkly with his obsession with losing his virginity. He decries his family as elitist while displaying the same behaviors he abhors. He hates his father but also emulates him in the most heinous ways possible. By the end of the novel, Jon’s actions have taken him so far that it’s too late for the redemption that Hurst offers. Overall, it’s a realistic look at the mind of a teenaged boy and just how far a worldview can be twisted by selfishness.

The rest of the St. Fond family is almost laughably villainous, as if making them more terrible would somehow redeem the complete boorishness that characterized Jon. While there are few redeeming qualities to be found in a family of Satanists, I would have liked to see more character depth. They seemed almost to be evil for the sake of being evil.

The writing suited the genre and the material. Descriptions were gritty and, at times, violently graphic. There were moments that were almost poetic. Hurst clearly did his background research on the topic and it shows in the details. The small introduction to the Satanic Panic at the beginning of the book was particularly interesting.

I’m sure there is an audience for What Hell May Come, but I wasn’t it. I felt that Hurst had a checklist of outrages he wanted to commit in writing this. To that end, he succeeded. He did push the boundaries of what is acceptable in writing, finding a home in the horror genre that he couldn’t have anywhere else. If you like your literature to challenge the lines of acceptability, then consider reading What Hell May Come.

Fans of edge-pushing horror will also like Freaks, an anthology of dark and gruesome circus stories.

Chilling Chat: Episode #184 – Shannon Lawrence

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A fan of all things fantastical and frightening, Shannon Lawrence writes primarily horror and fantasy. Her stories can be found in over forty anthologies and Shannon Lawrence 1magazines, and she has two horror collections out: Blue Sludge Blues & Other Abominations and Bruised Souls & Other Torments. When she’s not writing, she’s hiking through the wilds of Colorado and photographing her magnificent surroundings, where, coincidentally, there’s always a place to hide a body or birth a monster.

Shannon is a wonderful writer and a terrific guest. We spoke of characters, writing, and cheesy horror comedies.

NTK: Welcome back to Chilling Chat, Shannon! Let’s talk about your collection of short stories called, Bruised Souls and Other Torments. How did you come up with the title for this collection?

SL: “Bruised Souls” was inspired by a Shakespeare quote from The Comedy of Errors.

“A wretched soul, bruised with adversity,

We bid be quiet when we hear it cry;

But were we burdened with light weight of pain,

As much or more we should ourselves complain.”

My dad died last year, along with a laundry list of other rough events, and “bruised souls” really spoke to me. In my first collection, I used the title of one of the stories (Blue Sludge Blues & Other Abominations), and I’d intended to do that this time, but I kept returning to those two words. There were so many bruised souls in the book that it seemed pertinent. Since I’d already broken my established way of naming a collection, I figured I’d keep the same idea for the second part, and “Torments” fit so well.

NTK: Which story in the collection is your most favorite and what inspired it? 

SL: Such a hard question! I think the opening story, “Stuck With Me,” is my favorite story in the collection. It’s much quieter than my usual horror (as are several of the other stories), and it sprang from a real-life incident that horrified me to think of. (I can’t say what that incident was, because it would give away the twist.) Part of why I look at it fondly is because I got to read it to a crowd at a Women in Horror Month event, and people reacted at the right parts. When the twist comes, I not only heard it in the form of gasps, but I FELT the change in the room in people’s movements. It was such a cool moment!

NTK: Are you a pantser or a plotter?  

SL: I’m a bonafide pantser. I’ve tried to plot, really I have, but the story only flows for me when I’m actively writing it as I go.

NTK: Do your characters have free will? Or do you plan their every move?

SL: My characters pretty much have free will. Sometimes I really really really need them to do something in order for something else I thought of to happen, so I have to rough them up a bit. Sometimes they still resist, and I just have to go with it and let them lead me somewhere else. 

NTK: Are any of your characters based on a real person?  

SL: Sometimes, though rarely. I usually think of the character and develop them as I go. A couple have been inspired by someone real, such as the characters in “Stuck With Me,” who are loosely based on real-life historical figures. “Your Mother’s Eyes” is based off my mom caring for my dad through his 6 1/2 years with ALS, though the story is flipped (the father is the caretaker), and it’s not ALS. So while the characters aren’t at all based on real people, a smidgen of the real caretaking situation (one’s dedication to their loved one) is based on something real. To be very clear, the rest of the story isn’t, and I wrote it while my dad was still alive. (I feel like people will understand my needing to make a disclaimer if they read the story.) 

NTK: What inspired the story, “Dearest?” 

SL: I was on a weird kick of twisting love in my stories for some reason. I decided it would be fun to write a love letter with a twist that people [hopefully] didn’t see coming right away. I wanted it to be a gradual realization, and then for it to get consistently worse. A lot of the stories in this collection were experiments of various types. I wanted to try different sorts of stories, but also different styles of writing. 

NTK: What’s your favorite cheesy horror comedy? 

SL: Oh my goodness, I love cheesy horror comedies! My favorite would probably change, depending on the day, but a recent funny discovery was Hell Baby. I don’t remember ever seeing trailers for it, but it popped up on Shudder under horror comedies, so I gave it a try. Worth it. All the actors are funny, but the two who stand out are actually side characters: Keegan-Michael Key and Kumail Nanjiani (his character doesn’t even have a name, just “Cable Guy,” but I laughed so hard at one of his scenes, and actually start laughing in preparation for the scene on each subsequent viewing.) It’s basically a comedy version of Rosemary’s Baby (without the scheming friends/family).

NTK: Do you have a favorite horror actor? If so, who and why? 

SL: Oh, so many! I’ve recently become enamored of Tom Savini. Before then, he’d just been Sex Machine from From Dusk Til Dawn, but then I started noticing him in other roles. Finally, the big epiphany: he was the mastermind behind so many low budget horror special effects in movies. The more I learn about him, the more fascinating he is. Shudder briefly had a documentary about him called Smoke and Mirrors: The Story of Tom Savini, which I recommend to anyone interested in special effects and horror.

Having said that, Robert Englund and Tony Todd will always be favorites. I adore them, and love that they still pop into various horror films with bit parts and cameos. Sometimes just voices, but I know those voices the moment I hear them. And ever since discovering her in Ginger Snaps and American Mary, I’ll watch anything Katharine Isabelle is in. Ginger Snaps led the way in coming-of-age horror tales for females (something mainstream films rarely touched on), and she was a big part of that. Plus, snarky wins me over every time.

NTK: What’s your favorite curse word?

SL: Depends on which language. In English, it will always be the F-bomb. It has the best impact when I need it, and can be cathartic to say. But in French and Spanish it’s shit, because they’re so much fun to say. Especially an angry sounding “merde,” which absolutely must be said with a heavy French accent. The Spanish “mierda” is almost as fun, but it’s not as sneery as merde, when said correctly.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?  

SL: I’m doing a chapbook on dark love with fellow Denver HWA members, without an official release date right now. I’m also putting together a solo collection of winter holiday-themed horror stories, with the intention of having that out in late October, just in time for the holidays. The first story written for it is titled “Deck the Halls with Guts & Madness.” Tra lalalala-lala-la-la. And I’ll have a story in a bundle that’s dark fantasy instead of horror, but I mixed fairy mythology with Native American folklore in an experiment that was fun to try out, and touches on two parts of my ancestry (though the main character is not the same tribe as me–it’s set in pioneer days in Colorado, so she is Ute.)

For non-writing stuff, I’m in the process of putting together an author interview series that will be available on video and as a podcast, plus an unsolved mysteries-type podcast with a partner. Lots of exciting stuff on the horizon!

NTK: It’s been a pleasure chatting with you, Shannon.

SL: Thank you.

Addicts, you can find Shannon on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and Instagram.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Odds and Dead Ends: James Herbert’s ‘The Fog’, is it time for an adaptation?

I’m a massive Stephen King fan. He’s my literary guru, and in terms of down-to-earth writing advice, he’s second to none. For honest, heartfelt dialogue, he’s unrivaled. He’s created some of the most iconic moments in horror, and we have much to thank him for. And it seems as if adaptations of his stories are planned before he’s even finished the first draft, even excluding his famous dollar babies.

Other writers are not as lucky as the King. Even Dean Koontz, King’s contemporary and somewhat rival, has had only a handful of adaptations, despite selling about the same amount of print copies. Clive Barker, mostly known for the numerous Hellraiser sequels and a dashing of others, has mainly adaptations of various stories in his Books of Blood, nowhere near King’s volume, even percentage-wise in relation to the amount written. Peter Straub has only had a few adaptations. Graham Masterton, for his entire volume of work, has (to my knowledge) had only two or three adaptations. And I don’t believe that Ramsey Campbell, one of the absolute giants of modern horror literature, has had more than a few either.

It seems that some authors, despite how influential their stories are, get missed, for one reason or another. One of these monsters is James Herbert. Don’t get me wrong, Herbert has had some adaptations in the past, so it’s not as if he’s been forgotten altogether (although I’m still waiting for someone to redo Haunted as part of a full David Ash film trilogy. Maybe Hammer can do them as a British answer to the Conjuring franchise). But all this aside, Herbert has written one of the biggest novels of 20th Century horror which, somehow, has yet to be translated to the screen; The Fog.

For those that have somehow missed this classic, it’s about a small town in England that’s hit by an earthquake, and from the fissure created by this quake is released a mysterious fog. Anyone who comes into contact with this fog goes violently insane. The fog spreads throughout the country and the chaos, bloodshed, and all things dark come to life. It’s not an incredibly complex idea, but it’s the form and structure which I think would make it a great translation to a television series, along with the content itself.

The Fog, along with his first novel, The Rats, uses a fairly distinct storytelling structure. His main character (John Holman), is the focus of alternating chapters. The other chapters focus on a variety of outside characters, who all eventually combine into the main storyline as the novel proceeds. To demonstrate, here’s a rough sequence with letters to stand for the character focus of each chapter. Holman is represented by the letter A. The novel proceeds something like A – B – A – C – A – D – A – B – A – D+C – A – E – A… and so on (I haven’t done that scientifically, so people who have gone through three copies, I apologise for getting minor characters in the wrong order). Now, to my eyes, that kind of structure is exactly how a series-long story arc plays out, cutting from scene to scene. Think of something like Castle Rock; that’s pretty much a carbon copy of the formula used.

Then there’s the content itself. There’s plenty of blood and guts to keep the horror fans happy. There are military sci-fi elements, similar to something like The Midwich Cuckoos or Quatermass, to keep the more casual viewer interested. It contains some magnificent set pieces to build episodes around. The characters themselves don’t have the greatest life off the page, and to be honest, are fairly stock in their presentation for the most part; however, this is where screenwriters can really dig deep and bring up some interesting nuggets to expand upon for great sub-plots. Added to the fact that there’s going to be a ready-made audience for it, because of the revered nature of the novel and Herbert in general, and you’ve got the groundwork for a solid product.

Then consider the television climate. Horror series are on the rise at the moment to boot. In short order, we’ve been given American Horror Story, Hannibal, Stranger Things, The Exorcist (tragically overlooked and canceled before its time; Ben Daniels was incredible), Ash vs. Evil Dead, The Haunting of Hill House, Castle Rock, Dracula, The Outsider, even Scream (which wasn’t incredible but had damn good moments), plus plenty of others. With Lovecraft Country on the horror horizon, plus new seasons of many of the shows aforementioned, it doesn’t look like the horror TV train going to stop any time soon. Now is the perfect time to bring The Fog to the masses.

There are, of course, a couple of issues to be overcome. It’s not the greatest for presenting female characters, I have to admit; that was never Herbert’s strong point. There are passages that could be instantly posted as a meme for ‘how men write female characters in novels’. Some sections of the novel, especially the whole school section, would definitely need to be changed, as they do raise some eyebrows on how far thrilling violence goes towards bad taste. Not up to the standards of Laymon’s The Cellar, I’ll grant, but they’re pretty on the edge. That is part of Herbert’s style, admittedly, always pushing the boundaries of what can be published, but there’d still need to be some selective editing there.

And let’s not forget that we’ll have trouble distinguishing it from John Carpenter’s The Fog, both films, and both adaptations of King’s The Mist as well. Maybe specifically naming it James Herbert’s The Fog would work in terms of differentiating it from the aforementioned titles?

With some books, I’d prefer it if the meddling fingers of studios left damn well alone. This is especially true of the more ambiguous works of horror, such as Paul Tremblay’s recent run (though I believe adaptations of both A Head Full Of Ghosts and The Cabin at the End of the World have been announced, damn them), because certain media translates certain ideas and atmospheres better than others. And as much as I’d love to see Del Toro finally get his adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness, there’s just something that’s so big and primal about that story that part of me doubts it would work. It’s up to him to eventually prove me wrong.

The Fog, however, seems so perfect to adapt to television because it’s practically written as a television series. Some of the dodgier sections can be rewritten to bring everything up to date, nearly half a century into the future. It’s sat on everyone’s shelves, calling to be updated, translated to prey on new fears, and rediscovered for our modern audiences. There’s potential for some of the most striking, disturbing images ever put to celluloid. It’s seeped into the horror consciousness, sat there, and bided its time. Now it’s time to unleash it on the world.

 

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: @KJudgeMental

Chilling Chat: Episode #183 – Jonathan Fortin

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Jonathan Fortin is the author of Lilitu: The Memoirs of a Succubus (Crystal Lake Publishing), “Requiem in Frost” (Horroraddicts.net), and “Nightmarescape” (Mocha Jonathan Fortin AUTHORPHOTO-2020Memoirs 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.

Jonathan is a true gentleman with a terrific sense of humor. We spoke of writing, The Victorian Age, and Lilitu: Memoirs of a Succubus.

NTK: Welcome, to Chilling Chat, Jonathan! Tell us, how did you become interested in the Victorian Age?

 JF: I think it was in middle school when I first became fascinated with the Victorian Gothic aesthetic, thanks to a healthy obsession with Tim Burton movies, American McGee’s Alice, and a number of other dark influences. The Victorian Era had many facets, but it was horror that pulled me to the period. I adored the dark elegance of their wardrobes and architecture, and was intrigued by their stuffy way of behaving. It seemed as though they were navigating a world full of macabre terrors that were best left unspoken–basing their etiquette around their profound fear of the world they themselves had created.

NTK: Do you have a favorite Victorian novel?

 JF: Novels by Victorian authors: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and Dracula by Bram Stoker both come to mind. Basic, I know, but critically influential nonetheless.

Modern novels set in Victorian England: The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox, Drood by Dan Simmons, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and (if I may be permitted to include a very wordy graphic novel) From Hell by Alan Moore.

NTK: Do you have a favorite Victorian movie?

 JF: Crimson Peak, The Prestige, and Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula. If we’re including 19th-century America, then also Sleepy Hollow and Gangs of New York. And if we’re including TV, I adore Penny Dreadful.

NTK: What inspired you to write Lilitu?

JF: I’ve long been fascinated by succubi and incubi. When I was in college, I went looking for novels focused on them, but there were only a few, and they didn’t quite give me what I wanted. So, naturally, I decided to write one myself. However, I initially wasn’t sure how to manage it. I was toying with an alternate world setting that just never really gelled, and ended up changing the plot and rewriting it over and over again–never certain where to take the story. I knew that I wanted a reluctant succubus lead struggling with her demonic nature, but the details were a constant state of flux.

Then one day, when I was in a bookstore, a certain cover caught my eye, showing a man in a top hat staring into the London fog. The image was laden with foreboding, and compelled me to pull the book off the shelf and read the opening sentence: “After killing the red-haired man, I took myself off to Quinn’s for an oyster supper.” This novel was The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox, a tale of revenge set in Victorian England. I was hooked. I devoured the novel, enjoying every word, and realized rather abruptly that Victorian England was the perfect setting for my own novel. Suddenly, everything came together: this was a tale of demons in the Victorian era, focused on a succubus brought up in that rigid world and struggling to reconcile her upbringing with the needs of her new form–and in the process questioning all the toxic ideas she was forced to internalize growing up. And so Maraina Blackwood was born.

NTK: What is your creative process like? How do you go from inspiration to final draft?

 JF: It’s all over the place. I’ll usually plot out the entire novel, then change everything as I actually write it. When I eventually get a working draft that I’m passably happy with, I’ll ask writer friends to read and critique it. Then I’ll edit, and edit, and edit some more, until I think it’s finally ready enough for publication. If it gets picked up, that means more edits because the publisher’s editor will need to give it a good look. If it doesn’t get picked up, it means the book isn’t good enough yet, so it needs more edits anyway. Lilitu took more years than I care to admit.

NTK: What do you like most about the Victorian age?

 JF: The psychological complexity. The aesthetics. Their elegant manner of speaking. I also like how deeply hypocritical they were, because it’s ever so much fun to satirize.

NTK: What do you dislike most?

 JF: When you get down to it, the Victorian Era was quite horrible to actually live in. Severely rigid gender roles, miserable science/medicine, incredible poverty, child labor…I’ll often meet other Victorian enthusiasts, and many say that they wish they lived in the Victorian era instead of today. While that’s valid, I always like to remind them that they almost certainly would have been impoverished, and never able to afford those pretty, fancy dresses that they are so keen on wearing. People honestly romanticize the Victorians and are quick to forget that the elegant ladies and wealthy gentlemen they’re so enamored with made up a tiny, tiny slice of the population. That’s beside the fact that things were abysmal for women, even wealthy and noblewomen, as they were not allowed agency over their own lives. It was just a nasty, cruel period, and many are far too quick to forget that.

NTK: Have you written other stories in the Lilitu universe? If so, what?

JF: We have a FREE short story in the Lilitu universe out now, called Lilith in Repose.

It’s a twisted, erotic Dark Fantasy tale about a nun whose church has been taken over by demons…and now they are asking her to join their ranks.

I am also in the early stages of the second Lilitu novel. I’m planning it as a trilogy right now, but that may change as I actually write it. We’ll just have to see.

NTK: What’s your favorite curse word?

JF: Bollocks!

NTK: What’s your favorite curse?

 JF: I can’t think of one, so I’ll improvise. “MAY YOU BE REBORN A DINGLEBERRY HANGING FROM THE CRACK OF SATAN’S ARSEHOLE!” Hmm…when you consider the smell, that would actually be a truly dreadful fate.

NTK: (Laughs.) What does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

 JF: I’m currently in the editing stages of an epic Lovecraftian biopunk novel. I’m also almost done with the first draft of a new horror novel centered around an autistic protagonist (I am on the spectrum, so it comes from a real place). Then there’s of course the second Lilitu book, wherein readers will learn of some surprising–and horrible–consequences of Maraina’s actions in book 1.

NTK: Jonathan, thank you so much for chatting with us. 

JF: You’re welcome.

Addicts, you can find Jonathan on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Arterial Bloom edited by Mercedes M. Yardley

Book Review: Arterial Bloom edited by Mercedes M. Yardley
Reviewed by Daphne Strasert

Unthemed anthologies are always a bit of a gamble for the reader. Without a common thread tying the stories together, you can’t be sure that each story will hold your attention the same way. Arterial Bloom, edited by Mercedes M. Yardley and published by Crystal Lake, may be unthemed, but there is still a common core to the stories: quality. The writing in each and every story is lush and literary. The story themes vary from whimsical to harsh realism, but they are each gripping in their own way.

The Stone Door by Jimmy Bernard

This story about three sisters trying to live their lives in the place of an ever-present threat is tense and dark. Bernard uses the terror of the unknown to great effect. The story is better for being underexplained. It’s plenty terrifying as it is. A sense of hopelessness creeps in between the words as the sisters’ fight to survive keeps them from truly living.

Dog (Does Not) Eat Dog by Grant Longstaff

Longstaff uses his story to take a harsh look at interpersonal relationships during the apocalypse. What does it take to survive? Do you really want to survive if it means losing humanity? His exploration of what hardship and hopelessness may bring out in some people is frightening in its realism.

Kudzu Stories by Linda J. Marshall

Marshall turns a short story even shorter, weaving together a series of stories set in the same small town. With the backdrop of the Mississipi river, Kudzu Stories has a distinctly southern feel. Her writing conjures up hot, humid nights and crickets in the dark, with a dash of something more sinister waiting in the dense kudzu. Truly one of my favorites in this anthology.

Dead Letters by Christopher Barzak

With Dead Letters, Barzak creates a unique and heartfelt story about grief and love. I can’t give much detail without spoiler several marvelous twists, but rest assured, it’s a deeply moving and personal story that explores emotions I didn’t even know I had.

The Darker Side of Grief by Naching T Kassa

Kassa is one of my favorite authors to see in any anthology. The Darker Side of Grief is my favorite work from her so far. It’s a dark tale of a boy haunted by the death of his mother that explores the magnitude of childhood bravery. It’s traditionally scary in a way that few other stories in the anthology are.

Welcome to Autumn by Daniel Crow

Crow’s story of a missing artist and the forces working against him is twisty and trippy. His concept is fascinating and something I would love to learn more about. More than that, the small setting he uses allows him to tell the story through characters in a unique and layered way.

Still Life by Kelli Owen

Still Life is a painting made with words. The vivid imagery is nothing like I’ve ever read before. The story itself winds slowly into you with hints of terror that lurk on the sidelines. It’s a beautiful slow burn with a shocking ending.

Three Masks by Armand Rosamilia

Rosamilia tells several stories at once in Three Masks, showcasing the way two people may come to share their lives in infinite ways. Even with parallels running between each possible storyline, he manages to capitalize on shock value. You’re never sure of what will happen. It’s a literary piece that pushes the boundaries of traditional story telling.

Doodlebug by John Boden

Doodlebug tells the story of an arsonist. It’s a slow burn (ha) with a slithering sense of dread as you wait for what horror will happen next. Boden dives into the psyche of the main character, turning her psychology into the true star of the show. It’s a deeply creepy story not for any overt terror, but for the exploration that there could be any sort of monster hiding behind the façade of a human being.

Happy Pills by Todd Keisling

I loved Happy Pills. Keisling’s story presents a man who will try anything if it will ease the absence of feeling inside him. The description of anxiety and depression is hauntingly visceral and so accurate that it hit home for me in a powerful way. The writing is excellent, with vivid descriptions that match the Lovecraftian tone of the piece.

What Remained of Her by Jennifer Loring

What Remained of Her follows a woman’s desperate search for answers in the disappearance of her sister. The build and suspense in this story is great. The ending is nothing like you would suspect. Loring manages to create a gripping mystery worthy of a novel in a short story format.

Blue Was Her Favorite Color by Dino Parenti

Blue was Her Favorite Color honestly made me shudder as I read it. The story follows a father as he watches the grieving process of his young daughter. Parenti took his time in laying the groundwork for a truly horrifying and unexpected reveal. The creeping horror of this tale will be with me for a long time to come.

In the Loop by Ken Liu

Liu’s story is a masterpiece of technological horror. In the Loop tells the story of a woman who programs machines of war. While it could technically be considered science fiction, the truth of his story matter is much closer to the reality of today. In the Loop isn’t traditional horror, relying instead of the horror found in ethical decisions made every day.

The Making of Mary by Steven Pirie

In The Making of Mary, Pirie turns the language of science into a love letter. This story of Gaia guised in mortal flesh is more of a romance than a horror story, but it’s filled with such beautiful imagery and heartfelt characters, that it belongs alongside the rest of the writing in this anthology.

Mouths Filled with Seawater by Jonathan Cosgrove

Mouths Filled with Seawater is a complicated story woven through the mind of unreliable narrator. It’s hard to know exactly what is going on, but the confusion just adds to the concern of just what the narrator is capable of doing. Cosgrove storytelling is unique and perfectly suited to the tortured tale he presented.

Rotten by Carina Bissett

Rotten is a horror tale in a glossy fairy-tale wrapping. The story of a girl coming of age under her mother’s withering guidance is dark and painful. Bissett’s characters are sinister in the best way imaginable. They come to life under the sharp and vivid language. The series of snippets in the character’s life are each the perfect bite.

I was impressed with Arterial Bloom. Each author brought their absolute best to the table and the editor pulled together a collection of wildly different stories into a coherent piece. I recommend it whole-heartedly to fans of both horror and literature.

Looking for more anthologies? Try Tales from the Lake: Volume 5, Monsters of Any Kind, or Lost Highways.

Chilling Chat: Dark Divinations – Naching T. Kassa

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Naching T. Kassa is a wife, mother, and horror writer. She’s created short stories, novellas, poems, and co-created three children. She lives in Eastern Washington State with Dan Nachingwriterpic2019Kassa, her husband and biggest supporter. Naching is a member of the Horror Writers Association, Head of Publishing and Interviewer for HorrorAddicts.net, and an assistant at Crystal Lake Publishing.

How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

My interest began in 1985 with the Granada TV series, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes for the BBC. I’d seen westerns and other period dramas, and I had always loved mysteries, but this was the first one which resonated with me. I became obsessed with Sherlock Holmes and all things Victorian.

What is your favorite Victorian horror story?

My favorite is The Hound of the Baskervilles. And even though Sherlock Holmes doesn’t appear in most of the story, it’s still a masterful tale. I love how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle took a legend he’d heard from one of his friends and turned it into a great horror story. 

Do you have a favorite Victorian horror movie? What attracted you to this film?

Bram Stoker’s Dracula directed by Francis Ford Coppola is my favorite. Not only are the visuals sumptuous and beautiful, but the script is also close to the book. No other movie or television show I’m aware of has adopted the epistolary style. You also see Dracula as an old man with hairy palms, the scarring of Mina with the sacred host, and the ship Demeter which brings Dracula to England. Some liberties are taken with the story, and some of the actors are a bit wooden, but it is a fairly faithful adaptation of the story.

Are your characters based on real people?

My character, Jacob, is based on a real person. There have been many theories as to this person’s true identity, but I don’t think anyone really knows who he is.

What are you most afraid of?

Horrible things happening to those I love.

Dark Divinations is the first anthology you’ve every edited for HorrorAddicts.net. What part of the process did you find the most difficult?

The hardest part of editing this anthology was choosing from all the wonderful submissions we had. There were so many good ones, so many I wish we could’ve included. Unfortunately, a major reason why these stories didn’t make the grade was failure to include all three elements of the theme. There had to be an element of horror, a method of divination, and it had to take place in the Victorian era. If a story contained these elements, it made it to the next phase where I checked to see if the voice was true to the period. I also checked for historical accuracy.

It was difficult letting some of these stories go and I want to thank all the authors who subbed and didn’t make it. Your stories were good. They just didn’t fit the vision of the anthology. I think this is something we authors fail to take into account. We automatically assume we’re no good when we receive a rejection. And that’s not the case at all.

What’s the best part of editing an anthology?

Showcasing wonderful talents. The people who’ve written stories for this anthology are terrific writers, and their takes on the theme were diverse and imaginative. I loved that they did their research and came up with such exciting methods of divination. We have tea leaf reading, dreaming, scrying, stichomancy, entrail reading, crystal balls, seances, throwing the bones, and even arachnomancy. (Arachnomancy is the use of a spider to tell the future, in this case, the spider’s web.) These writers are so creative! I hope the readers will enjoy their work as much as I have.

You’ve mentioned all the elements you looked for in the story. Was there anything else which served as the deciding factor in your choices?

Yes, the story had to be fun. I don’t know about how others read, but I tend to cherry-pick the anthologies I read. I don’t read them in order from first to last. I pick what looks most interesting to me and go from there. All the stories in here are fun to read, no matter what order you decide to read them in.

What is your favorite form of divination?

The Ouija board! I’ve had some weird experiences with that particular divination device. It’s predicted some things which actually came true. Several had to do with stories I would write and jobs I would hold.

What does the future hold for you? What books, short stories, or works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

I have a Sherlock Holmes story called, “The Adventure of Marylebone Manor,” coming out this year. It’s in Sherlock Holmes and the Occult Detectives, edited by John Linwood Grant and published by Belanger Books. And on April 3, my story, “The Darker Side of Grief,” was published in Arterial Bloom. The anthology was edited by Mercedes M. Yardley and published by Crystal Lake Publishing. I’m really excited about this story.

I’m also a staff writer for Crystal Lake Publishing’s new fiction series, Still Water Bay. The series debuted April 27th.

Addicts, you can find Naching on Twitter and Facebook.

 

 

 

Check These Out : Available from A. Craig Newman

Our friend A. Craig Newman invites Horroraddicts.net readers to enjoy these books:

Modern Myths and Fairy Tales https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0864X2V64/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_L15GEbNQX7CKN

Four stories of sex, madness, magic, and murder:

CIrce’s Music Shop – Sorceress makes music with a mobster.
Randall’s Visit – A ghost interrupts a patient’s visit to his therapist.
Archer Nash – Archer says to the dead what he can’t seem to say to the living.
Dierste Hamelin and the Pied Piper – DIerste thought she was playing The Piper until it was time to pay him.

Wages of Sin

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0848T49V4/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_X25GEb6NCGGNB

Anne Marie Thomas and Tonya Jacobs are lovers who were caught in the act, a crime under the law of this warped future. Each will face unspeakable punishments designed to correct their errant behavior and adopt ways that will conform with society. Neither will ever be the same.

Burn

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B084G7NYVL/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_n35GEbF1BGMR0

A lonely, heartbroken man’s world is afire. With the right drug, it freezes solid. In this drug-addled state, he goes home to confront the man who has taken his life.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

A. Craig Newman ~ Writer of short stories, screenplays, and poetry. Genres include horror, sci-fi, fantasy, action, comedy, and erotica. 

Dark Divinations Book Recap. Did you miss anything?

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Thank you for visiting us for our Dark Divinations Book Events. Did you miss any of this fab stuff? Read more about your favorite authors and get insight on the stories are each of these links.

“Power and Shadow” by Hannah Hulbert
 Inspiration | Interview | Excerpt

 

“Copper and Cordite” by Ash Hartwell

Inspiration | Interview | Excerpt

 

“Damnation in Venice” by Joe L. Murr

Inspiration | Interview | Excerpt

 

“The Pocket Watch” by Emerian Rich

Inspiration | Interview | Excerpt

 

“They Wound Like Worms” by Naching T. Kassa

Inspiration | Interview | Excerpt

 

“Miroir de Vaugnac” by Michael Fassbender

Inspiration | Interview | Excerpt

 

“The Bell” by Jon O’Bergh

Inspiration | Interview | Excerpt

 

“Romany Rose” by Stephanie Ellis

Interview | Excerpt

 

“Miss Mae’s Prayers” by H.R.R. Gorman

Inspiration | Interview | Excerpt

 

“Broken Crystal” by Rie Sheridan Rose

Inspiration | Interview | Excerpt

 

“Breaking Bread” by R.L. Merrill

Inspiration | Interview | Excerpt

 

“The Ghost of St. John Lane” by  Daphne Strasert

Inspiration | Interview | Excerpt

 

“The Moat House Cob” by Alan Fisher

Interview | Excerpt

 

“Of Blood and Bones” by Jeremy Megargee

Inspiration | Interview | Excerpt

Chilling Chat: Episode #181 – Rob Bliss

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Rob Bliss was born in Canada in 1969.  He has lived a horrific comedy of a life. 
He watched half of his family die before he reached the age of twenty, with the other half RB Photoabsent.  He is very familiar with coffins and graves, funerals and unholy weddings.  He has held dozens of mindless jobs  He has an honours degree in English and Writing from York University, Canada.  He has 100 stories published in various web-based magazines, plus three anthologies.  He has had three novels published by Necro Publications.
 

Rob is a fascinating writer with a wry sense of humor. We discussed writing, movies, and fear. 

NTK: How old were you when you first discovered horror?

RB: Maybe 8 or 10. It was a hellish nightmare that got me living in constant fear. One movie: The Amityville Horror. I saw it with my family as we enjoyed a lovely summer weekend at another family’s cottage. At a drive-in, no less. Big screen to see the walls bleed and flies swarm the window. (I had a bedroom window EXACTLY like that one, complete with many dead flies.) Since it was two families in one cottage, some of us had to sleep out on the enclosed porch. Meaning, me. It had screens for windows. The midnight wind blew the shadows of tree branches against the screens. I stared in horror at those moving shadows for most of a sleepless night, replaying the movie over and over again. When we got home, I vowed to never go into the basement (we lived in a farmhouse, and the basement was old foundation stone, always damp and cold, with tiny doors that led deeper into the basement maze. Rooms within rooms. I was sure the portal to Hell was down there!) And because of seeing that movie in that town while trying to sleep on that porch, I had nightmares for years afterwards. Literally, years. I hated horror movies but couldn’t look away. When my family and my uncle and aunt and cousins watched Friday the 13th Part 2, I stayed in the kitchen, able to hear but not see the movie. Though I did peek my head in once towards the end … to see Mrs. Voorhees’ severed head on an altar! I think I write horror novels for the same reason kids go out dressed up on Halloween: to scare away the demons that scare them. (I have to go curl up in a fetal position and shiver for a while, excuse me, I’ll get back to the rest of the interview later.) 

NTK: What’s your favorite horror movie?

RB: Phantasm.  Along with The Amityville Horror, I saw Phantasm when I was too young to see any horror movie. (When I turned 30, I was much better.) That flying steel ball that drills into people’s heads and makes a tube of blood shoot out – yeah, I liked that! Scared the heck outa me! And those little druid guys! What was up with them? Anything that was even remotely designed to scare, scared me. I was a little wimpy scaredy-cat boy, highly suggestible. Nothing has changed, except more adult things scare me along with everything else.

NTK: So, what are you most afraid of?

RB: Displeasing Mistress.

NTK: (Laughs.) What is your favorite horror TV show?

RB: I had no idea there was such a thing as horror TV. I don’t watch much TV.

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel? 

RB: Necroscope by Brian Lumley.

NTK: Who is your favorite author?

RB: It changes, but right now, Marcel Proust.

NTK: What inspires you?

RB: Everything. Books, paintings, a tree wafting with a midnight breeze under a full moon … it’s how you see, not what you see, that leads to inspiration.

NTK: What inspired The Bride Stripped Bare? 

RB: Boredom. Wrote the characters and setting and blood and guts, and fear. Wrote it in 5 weeks. And the title is from Marcel Duchamp’s artwork.

NTK: Do you outline your books and stories? Or do you write by the seat of your pants?

RB: A faint idea sticks in my head, then if I think about it multiple times over several months, I figure it wants to be written. After that, the story decides where it wants to go. I just transcribe as it plays in my head like a movie.

NTK: Do your characters have free will? Or do you control their every move?

RB: The characters do what they want at first, then during revisions, I try to justify why they did what they did. Characters can be such assholes to their writer.

NTK: (Laughs.) Do you have a favorite curse? If so, what is it?

RB: The Chinese curse: may you live in interesting times. Little too on-the-nose right now.

NTK: What’s your favorite curse word?

RB: Bumbaclot.

NTK: I love that word! What does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

RB: I just want to write and write and read and read. This December, my publisher, David G. Barnett, at Necro Publications, will be publishing a novel I’m currently revising called Fear.

Addicts, you can find Rob on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and at Necro Publications.

Rie Explores Dark Divinations

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Rie Sheridan Rose, author of “Broken Crystal” from our anthology Dark Divinations,
has done much research on each of the divination techniques used in our book.
She explores each one in this awesome series of blog posts.

“Power and Shadow” by Hannah Hulbert

“Copper and Cordite” by Ash Hartwell

“Damnation in Venice” by Joe L. Murr

“The Pocket Watch” by Emerian Rich

“They Wound Like Worms” by Naching T. Kassa

“Miroir de Vaugnac” by Michael Fassbender

“The Bell” by Jon O’Bergh

“Romany Rose” by Stephanie Ellis

“Miss Mae’s Prayers” by H.R.R. Gorman

“Broken Crystal” by Rie Sheridan Rose

“Breaking Bread” by R.L. Merrill

“The Ghost of St. John Lane” by  Daphne Strasert

“The Moat House Cob” by Alan Fisher

“Of Blood and Bones” by Jeremy Megargee

Dark Divinations 3d

 

Available now at Amazon.com

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B087LBPBNS

Dark Divinations: The Pocket Watch

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The Inspiration Behind “The Pocket Watch”

By Emerian Rich

Have you ever woken from a dream and aren’t sure if it was a dream, a memory, or reality? Yeah, me too. A few years ago I woke from a dream so real, I could still smell the perfume, hear the scream, and feel the dread creeping over my shoulders.

In the dream, I was a Victorian lady who’d just found a pocket watch in the drawer of my vanity. I remember thinking it was strange that an object of such obvious wealth was just left in my drawer when I had never seen it before. Had my dream-husband left it there as a gift? Was it misplaced by a servant?

Upon opening the latch, I thought perhaps I’d find an inscription, but instead, I found a mirror. Not any old mirror. This mirror showed me visions and if I held it up in the room, it would show me echos of another time. And the most unsettling thing, I witnessed a man murder his wife. Was it just a vision? Was it a past occurrence, or one to come?

I woke in the same fear as I experienced inside the dream. Was I about to be killed by my husband? Was I supposed to stop a murder? Or was it a murder that had already taken place? Was I supposed to avenge her death or tell the authorities?

With a few deep breathes I came back to myself. I was not an English, Victorian lady of wealth, I was me… plain old Emz here in California in the 2000’s.

But this dream got me to thinking… What would happen if you found a pocket watch that either showed echoes of past transgressions or predicted future ones? And what would be the rules for such a gift?

I started to study the moons and found that many of the 2nd New Moons in October occurred on or about Halloween. And thus the mythos for “The Pocket Watch” came to be. I hope you enjoy this story and I wonder… what would you do if you knew your murder was imminent?

emz1smallEmerian Rich is the author of the vampire book series, Night’s Knights, and writes romance under the name Emmy Z. Madrigal. Her romance/horror cross over, Artistic License, is about a woman who inherits a house where anything she paints on the walls comes alive. She’s been published in a handful of anthologies by publishers such as Dragon Moon Press, Hidden Thoughts Press, Hazardous Press, and White Wolf Press. She is the podcast Horror Hostess of HorrorAddicts.net.

 

Dark Divinations: Of Blood and Bones

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The Inspiration Behind “Of Blood and Bones.”

By Jeremy Megargee

I love the concept of Edward Hyde, this hulking abhorrent savage that emerges from behind an innocent veneer. I dressed as Hyde for Halloween last year and did a few little Instagram video skits to “get into character”…and it was so much fun. It’s cathartic to tap into that animal side which I think resides in all of us. I borrowed the classic monster for my story, and Camille gets to face him head-on…

I think with Camille, I got to really explore the aesthetic of the Victoria era. The style, the decorum, I focused more on the grimy back alleys of the time period, more of a Jack the Ripper vibe as opposed to elegance and frilly fashion. I feel like it’s the perfect time capsule for a horror story, there’s just this potential to introduce bloodshed, and I took full advantage of that. You can taste the muddy thoroughfares, feel the gore streaked across little boarder’s rooms, and when Hyde comes, that smothering presence just pulls you in…

I’m always aiming to inspire emotion with my stories, and I hope I was able to convey what a force Hyde was in this one, a dark and primal force, but a force nevertheless.

J MegargeeJeremy Megargee has always loved dark fiction. He cut his teeth on R.L Stine’s Goosebumps series as a child and a fascination with Stephen King’s work followed later in life. Jeremy weaves his tales of personal horror from Martinsburg, West Virginia with his cat Lazarus acting as his muse/familiar.

Chilling Chat: Dark Divinations – Jeremy Megargee

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Jeremy Megargee has always loved dark fiction. He cut his teeth on R.L Stine’s Goosebumps series as a child, and a fascination with Stephen King’s work followed later in life. Jeremy J Megargeeweaves his tales of personal horror from Martinsburg, West Virginia, with his cat Lazarus acting as his muse/familiar.

How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

I think I’ve always liked the idea of the Victorian era. The fashion, the architecture, the whole aesthetic… 

What is your favorite Victorian horror story?

Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray”…one of my all-time favorite stories in general. I love the duality and the descent into excess and depravity, Dorian drinking down sin and remaining flawless, but his portrait taking on all that ugliness.

Do you have a favorite Victorian horror movie? What attracted you to this film?

Crimson Peak is high on my list. The monster designs were great, and the time period was so well captured.

Are your characters based on real people?

Camille is 100% fictional, but Edward Hyde belongs to the public domain courtesy of Robert Louis Stevenson.

Do you use an outline to write? Or do you write by the seat of your pants?

Always by the seat of my pants. Ideas click together for me, and I’m able to fit them into something resembling a coherent jigsaw puzzle.  It’s a method that has always worked out well!

Do your characters have free will? Or do you decide their fate?

Usually, I’m aware of their fates far in advance, but if something changes in my mind, the character can easily go in a totally different direction.

What are you most afraid of?

Public speaking. I hate it with soooo much passion, but I’m working to overcome that fear. I think I’m desensitized to most other “fears” people would have just because I eat, breathe, and sleep the horror genre.

What is your favorite form of divination? 

The one featured in my story, “throwing the bones”.

Who is your favorite horror author?

All-time favorite is Stephen King, modern fresh voice on the horror scene is Nick Cutter. 

What does the future hold for you? What books, short stories, or works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

Hopefully more writing and more opportunities to work with all kinds of different publishers. I’m almost always writing and submitting new short stories, and it’s pretty much a steady trickle when it comes to output for me depending on what gets accepted and what gets rejected. I have several things coming out later this year with a variety of different presses, and I’m stoked to keep it going. If you want to follow my writing updates and general dark-humored craziness, find me on Instagram.

Chilling Chat: Dark Divinations – Alan Fisher

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Alan Fisher is an attorney living in Washington, D.C.  He’s published two novellas, Servant of the Muses and A Pearl for Her Eyes, under the name Brad White.  His story, “The Alan FisherConfession of Diego Stoessel,” was included in Alban Lake Publishing’s Lovecraftian anthology, City in the Ice. Another short story, “Pangloss,” was featured on the Hugo Award-winning podcast Starship Sofa.  His favorite authors include John le Carré, William Gibson, Raymond Chandler, and Neal Stephenson.  When not writing, he enjoys playing board games with his wife and sons and running role-playing games for his friends.

How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

I’ve always been a reader of history, with a particular focus on military history.  The Victorian era was such a critical time for the shaping of the modern world that I naturally was interested in it.  From the Great Game in Central Asia to the Scramble for Africa, you will find a lot of threads we’re still pulling at today started back in Victoria’s time.

What is your favorite Victorian horror story?

Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles.  Probably not regarded as a horror story by many, but any beast that can make Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson freeze, even for a moment, is one to be reckoned with.

Do you have a favorite Victorian horror movie?

I can’t say I have a particular favorite.

Are your characters based on real people?

Not really.  The Constable of the Tower could be seen as an echo of the classic Colonel Blimp stereotype, the aged colonial soldier with the big mustache, I suppose.

Do you use an outline to write? Or do you write by the seat of your pants?

I dislike the term ‘pantser,’ but it is what I am.  My first work started simply from the idea that “my muse had left me,” which ended up as the first line – “My muse walked out of my life on a cool October morning . . . .” – in a noir urban fantasy novella.  I really had nothing more to go from.  Similarly, for The Moat House Cob, the story started with a quick check of Wikipedia’s list of divination methods, which led to arachnomancy, and from there the story unfolded.

Do your characters have free will? Or do you decide their fate?

How could they have free will?  I created them and determine what will happen to them.  That’s part of their horror!

What are you most afraid of?

These days all my fears seem horrifyingly mundane, but I’ve never been a fan of spiders (as my story attests).

What is your favorite form of divination?

I don’t believe any of them work, but I’ve always enjoyed Tarot decks for the art and the symbolism.  A particular favorite is Edward Gorey’s Fantod pack.  They’re interesting to study and, when you have no good ideas, tossing a few around might spark something.

Who is your favorite horror author?

I’m almost hesitant to say old Howard Philips Lovecraft, but I must give credit where it’s due.  I’d also add early Steven King, Lord Dunsany, Neil Gaiman, and Charlie Stross.

What does the future hold for you? What books, short stories, or works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

Sadly, I haven’t done much writing lately.  I’m about 50,000 words into an actual novel, but not a horror piece.  I have about a dozen fragments and starts, some horrifying, and some just horrifically bad.

 

Dark Divinations: Ghost of St. John Lane

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The Inspiration Behind “Ghost of St. John Lane.”

By Daphne Strasert

The inspiration for “The Ghost of St. John Lane” was threefold. Dark Divinations gave me the opportunity to blend several ideas that had long lived in my imagination, but had yet to find a narrative home.

First, the concept of a house haunted not by a spirit, but by a living person. I shudder at the thought of someone whose body persists, but their soul has moved on in grief. Blurring the lines between death and life is interesting to me. After all, can’t a living person be just as frightening as a dead one when they bring no life to the world around them?

Next, in divination, much is said about the ‘third eye’. Usually considered to be an internal ability, the phrase caught my attention from the first moment that I heard it. I was fascinated by the idea of the third eye as a physical manifestation, an outward mark of an inward ability. When imagining a psychic, I always pictured that they were mentally unstable, their mind torn between the past, present, and future, experiencing it all as a jumble.

Finally, while researching the Victorian Era and the Spiritualist movement that so influenced the times, I was struck by descriptions of mediums and, more importantly, false-mediums who used trickery to maintain their ruse. Their commitment to fooling others for financial gain struck me as singularly wicked and worth exploring.

Daphne StrasertDaphne Strasert is a horror, fantasy, and science fiction author located in Houston, Texas. She placed 3rd in the 2017 Next Great Horror Writer Contest. She has had many short stories published through HorrorAddicts.net and others. When not writing, she plays board games and knits.

 

Chilling Chat: Dark Divinations – Daphne Strasert

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Daphne Strasert is a horror, fantasy, and science fiction author located in Houston, Texas. She placed 3rd in the 2017 Next Great Horror Writer Contest. She has had many short Daphne Strasertstories published through HorrorAddicts.net and others. When not writing, she plays board games and knits.

How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

Years and years ago, I liked American Girl dolls and Samantha (from the Victorian Era) was my favorite. That started a life long love affair with the Victorian Era. At first, I admired the seeming sophistication of the times, from the fashion to the elaborate social rules. As I grew older and did more in-depth research, I discovered the lurking darkness of social inequality. The juxtaposition fueled a desire to delve even deeper.

What is your favorite Victorian horror story?

Dracula. Far and away my favorite. I do love Edgar Allan Poe and all his works, but Dracula was my first love in the horror genre and I’ll never let go of that. It is a slow burning book with so many facets to enjoy.

Do you have a favorite Victorian horror movie? What attracted you to this film?

Crimson Peak.

The sets and costumes were magnificent. The actors gave masterful performances. The movie had a brooding atmosphere that drew me in immediately. The plot was not a typical haunted house story. It turned the tropes of the genre on their head. It left me guessing during every minute. It’s brilliant, and if you haven’t watched it, make sure you do!

Are your characters based on real people?

Not specifically. While doing research for my story, I was fascinated by the many famous mediums later revealed to be frauds (either through careful observation of third parties, or by their own admission), so this made its way into my writing.

Do you use an outline to write? Or do you write by the seat of your pants?

I’m a strong believer in outlines. People (whether they realize it or not) expect stories to be told in a certain way. The rise and fall of action keep readers engaged without exhausting them. I love my outlines. I am always thinking about my stories, and ideas come to me much faster than I would be able to keep track with if I wrote consecutively. Outlines help me to keep track of where the story is going eventually.

Do your characters have free will? Or do you decide their fate?

I keep a strong leash on my characters. I do a lot of character development work to make sure that I’m always true to how they would act, but if my character ever went off course, then that would mean they weren’t the right character for the story. I would need to rethink their motivations.

What are you most afraid of?

Helplessness. Being in a situation with no escape or even a way to progress. So many of my fears can be conquered, but helplessness, by definition, cannot be.

What is your favorite form of divination?

I’m partial to Tarot cards. They have a rich history and many variations. The wide variety of art styles makes each deck unique. On an aesthetic level, I like the feel of the cards in my hands, the sound they make when they’re shuffled, even the smell of a worn and well-loved deck.

Who is your favorite horror author?

Edgar Allan Poe. I suppose that’s an old-fashioned choice, but I love his short stories. They have a breadth of style that is hard to find. I also do prefer horror stories written in historical eras and those can be hard to find with modern authors.

What does the future hold for you? What books, short stories, or works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

I don’t have any pending publications right now, but I have several novels in the editing stage. Hopefully, those will be submitted to publishers by the end of the year. There are a few anthologies for which I’m producing short stories, and I’ll post more information about those on my website and social media when I can confirm.

Addicts, you can find Daphne on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Dark Divinations: Broken Crystal

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Before the Crystal Broke: The Inspiration Behind “Broken Crystal.”

By Rie Sheridan Rose

I have been a fan of Victoriana since I was old enough to know it existed, and that was far too many years ago. I fell in love with the fashion, the architecture, the society in general. So, when I saw the call for Dark Divinations, I wanted desperately to earn a spot in it.

I had written a story about the spiritualism of the period before, but it was humorous, and that wasn’t the sort of story I wanted to tell this time. When it came time to choose a focal point for the divination type I wished to feature, the crystal ball was really the only option that resonated.

Crystal balls have been associated with divination as far back as the first century CE, when Pliny the Elder wrote of “crystallum orbis” used by soothsayers. What gypsy fortuneteller worth their salt is without one? For my story, I wanted the spiritualist to be the real thing—able to see the future and communicate with the dead. She doesn’t like to monetize her gifts, but her mother insists.

Researching the story was fascinating. A brief history of Victorian spiritualism in general (Turning the Table by Bekah June) came my way several years ago by way of a convention panel. It provides an interesting, if brief, overview of the spiritualism scene in the period.

But it wasn’t until I found an article titled “How to Use a Crystal Ball” on themoonlightshop.com that several key elements of the story came together. Using the information in that article, I was able to give some “verisimilitude” to what Madame Rose saw in her crystal ball.

One final thing of interest to the reader, perhaps, is the story was originally written in third person. One of my beta readers asked me if I had considered putting it in first person, and the rest—as they say—is history. I feel what makes it most haunting is that it is told by Molly herself.

Mysterious Rie RoseRie Sheridan Rose multitasks. Her short stories appear in numerous anthologies, including On Fire, Hides the Dark Tower,  and Killing It Softly Vol. 1 and 2. She has authored twelve novels, six poetry chapbooks, and lyrics for dozens of songs.