Chilling Chat: Episode #198 – 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 Realm.

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

LMW: Thank you so much for having me!

NTK:  What have you been up to since we last talked?

LMW: Oh my gosh, so much! After Slay came out, my third novel was released. It is called The Realm and it’s about a man who wakes up in an afterlife he never expected with a responsibility that he doesn’t know if he can shoulder. It is a fast-paced novel, and I am so over the moon about it. In May of this year, my first novella was released by Mocha Memoirs Press. It is called Telecommuting and it is a purely psychological horror tale about a man who finds himself utterly alone for most of the time. We follow him as he navigates this new normal, all the while wondering when he will hear the whispering…because we definitely do. My first and second novels, Crescendo and The Promise Keeper respectively, will be re-released by Cedar Grove Books at the end of July.

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: 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: Tell us about your book, The Realm. What’s it about and what inspired it?

LMW: The Realm is about a man who finds himself in a predicament that he never ever thought possible. The story starts with him awakening in the afterlife, but this space is nothing like he had been taught to expect. Patrick has to run… right away if he wants to save his family and himself. It is a high-energy story that never let’s you settle down. So much fun! As for inspiration, I’ve always been interested in what lies beyond the stars and this story allowed me to create a world in the space – an alternate reality. It also allowed me to do the cross-genre work that psychological horror so often lends itself to. It is a lot of fun.

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

LMW: Tons, actually! I mentioned that my first two novels are coming out again in July. Then we prepare for the release of book two of The Realm series – Cacophony. This comes out in October from Cedar Grove Books, and I am just so ready for people to meet Gabby! I have a few more things coming out in 2022, including a neat project that I am working on with Falstaff Books. Please visit my website and sign up for the newsletter to get updates!

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.

Chilling Chat: Episode #197 – ON TIME – Alisha Costanzo

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Alisha Costanzo holds an MFA in Creative Writing as well as a BA in Communication Studies and a BA in English (writing). She spent three years as a line editor for Sapphire Blue Publishing and is a college professor and publishedAlisha Costanzo author.

She and Anthony S. Buoni founded Transmundane Press in 2014. They are co-editors of the anthology, On Time.

NTK: What got you into horror and how old were you?

AC: My first Goosebumps book when I was eight. After that, I claimed a corner of the living room with a small bookshelf and a purple bean bag chair where I read my ever-expanding collection of horror books.

NTK: What’s your favorite horror movie?

AC: Don’t laugh, but it’s Scream. The satire did me in, and the music, and Matthew Lillard. I’ve seen that movie more than three hundred times now…

NTK: What’s your favorite horror TV show?

AC: Tales of the Crypt. I used to watch it when I was seven or eight, and one episode had a man faking his death on an autopsy table. Then, he died for real, and the punch line was that feeling was the last thing to go as he got cut into. I loved that ending so much. I have a habit of loving really messed-up endings to stories.

NTK: What’s your favorite horror novel?

AC: I have a hard time with this one. A lot of what I read mixes genres, but I’m going to go with Season of Passage by Christopher Pike. It mixes mythology, science fiction, and horror into a beautifully dark story with a wonderfully horrific ending.

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

AC: Another difficult one. My all-time favorites are Christopher Pike, of course, R.L. Stine, Ray Bradbury, Margaret Atwood, and Flannery O’Connor. The first two shaped my reading and writing when I was young. The last three haunt me, nearly daily, from my MFA work. They wrote formative stories for my education, and they showed me that darkness and horror can be celebrated by everyone.

NTK: What inspired you to create the anthology, On Time? How did it come about?

AC: My business partner, Anthony, had the idea during a brainstorm. We have a list that we keep of anthology ideas, and we both had stories brewing for the time theme. That’s how we knew it was time. No pun intended.

NTK: What do you look for in a story? How did the stories in On Time make the cut?

AC: Voice, action, and imagery. I want to be grabbed on the first page by a character. Since we get hundreds of submissions, it’s hard to justify reading past page one or two if I’m not feeling it. One way this happens is if there’s potential–in the writing and the story. A hint at a twist or interesting perspective will keep me going, too, when the writing isn’t fully polished. Oh, and concrete details. Those are always helpful!

NTK: What was it like working with over 70 authors?

AC: Crazy. It was crazy. We’ve done it several times now, and the process always improves and evolves. This one had a bit more stress, but all of our authors stuck together and were so supportive of each other and the project, and thankfully, everyone was understanding about delays. Most of our writers have day jobs, and so many were teachers and nurses and worked in high-stress jobs during the pandemic. They made me really proud of our community. My absolute favorite part was, and always is, reading the interviews and guest posts because I get to learn so much about our authors and their stories throughout it.

NTK: What’s your best piece of advice for the anthology editor?

AC: One of the hardest balancing acts I have as an editor is cultivating a stylistic preference without imposing my voice on an author. I do my best to make suggestions amongst a few steadfast rules, aka I pick my battles. Writing is personal, so I like to keep that in mind while trying to be honest and pushing my authors.

Also, I want to remind editors in the middle of the process how rewarding it is.

NTK: What does the future hold for you and Transmundane Press? What new books are in the works?

AC: We have a new anthology we’re planning to finish up our elemental series. It focuses on earth, and we’re pretty excited to collect some excellent stories for the final piece. After that, we’re thinking of making a hardback set out of the four (UnderwaterOn Fire, In the Air, and the earth-themed anthology).

Addicts, you can find Transmundane Press on Facebook.

Chilling Chat: Episode #196 Part II – Dan Rabarts

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Dan Rabarts is an award-winning author and editor, four-time recipient of New Zealand’s Sir Julius Vogel Award and three-time winner of the Australian Shadows Award, occasional sailor of sailing things, part-time metalhead and father ofDan Rabarts two wee miracles in a house on a hill under the southern sun. Together with Lee Murray, he co-writes the Path of Ra crime-noir thriller series from Raw Dog Screaming Press (Hounds of the Underworld, Teeth of the Wolf, Blood of the Sun) and co-edited the flash-fiction horror anthology Baby Teeth – Bite-sized Tales of Terror, and At The Edge, an anthology of Antipodean dark fiction.

His steampunk-grimdark-comic fantasy series Children of Bane starts with Brothers of the Knife and continues in Sons of the Curse and Sisters of Spindrift (Omnium Gatherum Media). Dan’s science fiction, dark fantasy and horror short stories have been published in numerous venues worldwide. He also regularly narrates and produces podcasts and audiobooks.

NTK: How did you become involved with horror and how old were you?

DR: Aside from strange nightmares being some of my first actual memories? My first taste of horror was the Fighting Fantasy gamebook, City of Thieves by Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson, back when I was about 10, but the book that really bit hard and held on was Stephen King’s IT, which I read at the tender age of 14, and never looked back. Then in my teens, I read a LOT of Hugh Cook, a kiwi author who blended SF with fantasy and horror like he was just mixing up cheese and chilli omelettes and frying them in the skulls of his enemies, and after that I found anything that didn’t have at least a hint of darkness about it just didn’t appeal. When I started writing for reals, it didn’t seem to matter if I was trying to write SF or fantasy or even something vaguely literary, the horror just crept on in and made itself at home among the words.

NTK: What is your favorite horror movie?

DR: Ridley Scott’s Alien, although Event Horizon is a very close runner-up. Followed by Shaun of the Dead. But from a purist horror perspective, I’m going to say that actually, I really like The Ring.

NTK: What is your favorite horror television show?

DR: Black Mirror, hands down. Season Two in particular.

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

DR: Phil Rossi’s Crescent is a stunning deep space horror debut, even more so if you listen to it in his own sultry voice from when he released it as a podcast novel. Another excellent book which I first discovered in audio, but is now only around in ebook is Jack Kincaid’s Hoad’s Grim. And right now I’m really enjoying Gemma Files’ Hexslinger series.

NTK: What inspires your writing?

DR: I find that inspiration is a sort of building-block exercise, with small ideas clattering around in the corners of the old think-box until enough of them collide together to create some resonance, their own light. Often when I start to write, if I’m just free-writing without a particular theme in mind, one of these mash-ups will drive an urge to figure out what’s in the middle of that light, by breaking it down in words. So in short, I find inspiration by soaking up lots of random stuff all the time and surprise myself by seeing what comes out on the page at the end of the day. Oh, and simmering rage at the vile injustices of the world and my role as an artist to balance those scales with words.

NTK: As a person of color, how has your experience been in the horror community? What improvements could be made?

DR: Ever since I started to find my voice as a Māori writer, I have had far more feedback to the tune of please do more of this, than anything negative. In Aotearoa New Zealand, we’re on the long hard road towards reconciling the damages wrought by colonialism, and overcoming decades of ingrained racism and inequality is a huge challenge. But we’re getting there, slowly. Māori voices in literature tend to focus on the literary, both historic and contemporary, so bringing my perspective to the speculative genres has offered readers a fresh look at not only the sort of stories we in Aotearoa can tell, but it has also allowed me to explore some of these social issues through the lens that the speculative offers. Someone famous once said something along the lines of “Those of us who have the ability to express ourselves, have a duty to do so, on behalf of those who have not”. Writing Matiu in the Path of Ra, who exists not only along the fringes of race and the law but also the fine line between this world and the next, between sanity and madness, allowed me a fantastic opportunity to really delve into what that phrase means to me, and to exercise my need to speak out, and give voice to those who cannot.

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

DR: I usually find out what my characters have done the day after I write it. You know, I tell Lee that I’m working towards the plan, but really it’s the characters who take charge and tell the story. I can’t be held responsible for all those unexpected explosions and body parts that litter the pages. It’s all them.

NTK: (Laughs.) What’s it like working as a collaborative team? What is your writing process like? 

It is my duty to make sure that while we’re following all the rules of telling the story we planned to tell, we’re making sure that if the story wants to take itself off at a tangent for the benefit of the story, that I enable that to take place. The story has a right to be heard. It’s a highly dynamic process.

NTK: Lee said, “Dan writes that bad-ass character, Matiu Yee, so well, I have to wonder what he got up to when he was younger…”

DR: Well, to answer your question Lee, I used to do my fair share of walking the streets at night, looking all gloomy, but that was mainly because I didn’t have a car, which was sad. Not because I was secretly an enforcer for a seedy dog-fighting ring in the backblocks of the Hutt Valley AT ALL. I even have witnesses who’ll back me up on that. Dependable, reliable people, who you don’t want to mess with. As you can tell, part of my role in this partnership is often to deliver the comic relief and smile darkly for the camera.

NTK: (Laughs.) What’s your best piece of advice for the new writer?

DR: Finish what you start, have faith in what you create, and follow through by getting feedback, revising your work, and submitting. You won’t know if you can sell a story until you dive in and start selling stories.

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

DR: My main focus right now is Children of Bane, a grimdark/steampunk/comedy fantasy series about unlikely hero Akmenos, an imperial cook accused of political assassination most foul, who has to save the world armed with little more than good intentions, salt and pepper, and an armload of food-related puns. I’m currently working on the final chapters of Book Four in the series, titled Daughters of Dust, but anyone who’s keen to try something dark yet wildly absurd can take a bite out of Brothers of the Knife, where it all begins (the first couple of chapters are up to read over at my website).

Chilling Chat Episode #196 Part I – Lee Murray

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Lee Murray is a multi-award-winning author-editor from Aotearoa-New Zealand (Sir Julius Vogel, Australian Shadows), and a two-time Bram Stoker Award®-winner. Her work includes military thrillers, the Taine McKenna Adventures,Lee Murray supernatural crime-noir series The Path of Ra (with Dan Rabarts), and debut collection Grotesque: Monster Stories. She is proud to have edited seventeen volumes of speculative fiction, including international Bram Stoker Award®-winning title Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women co-edited with Geneve Flynn. Her latest work, released May 2021, is non-fiction title, Mark My Words: Read the Submission Guidelines and Other Self-editing Tips co-authored with Angela Yuriko Smith. She is co-founder of Young NZ Writers and of the Wright-Murray Residency for Speculative Fiction Writers, HWA Mentor of the Year for 2019, NZSA Honorary Literary Fellow, and Grimshaw Sargeson Fellow for 2021 for her poetry collection Fox Spirit on a Distant Cloud. 

NTK: How did you become involved with horror and how old were you?

LM:  If horror is what scares us, then I guess I was involved as soon as I could breathe. Although only diagnosed in the past five years, I’ve lived with anxiety (and depression) for most of my life. As a tiny child, I believed that the crunch of the pulse in my ear against my pillow was a wolf prowling under my bed. Yes, I had a rich imagination even back then—and there aren’t even any wolves in New Zealand! Also, anxiety isn’t really acknowledged in Asian cultures, at least it wasn’t back then, so I spent a lot of time worrying about things that made me uneasy. In an anxious mind, scary things escalate. But I guess you’re asking about my involvement with horror writing, which has only really been over the last decade. Taken in by the notion ‘write what you know’, I started my writing career with a light-hearted chick-lit novel, and while I had a lot of fun, and learned a lot about writing, I realised that the plot complications faced by my ambitious but misguided heroine weren’t resonating for me; I wanted to explore deeper issues, topics like otherness, expectation, and oppression, and those themes naturally led me to the dark side. So, not long afterwards, that wolf-under-the-bed experience became “Peter and the Wolf”, a story which appeared in the award-winning anthology Baby Teeth: Bite-sized Tales of Terror. The story went on to inspire a panel discussion, an essay, and is currently being developed as an animated film. It was also where Dan and I started our collaboration.

NTK: What is your favorite horror movie?

LM: Okay, this is where I admit that I don’t watch ‘horror’ movies because I am a wimp. They give me nightmares. Keep me awake. I stayed up late and watched The Trilogy of Terror nearly half a century ago, and it still gives me nightmares. Then there was Friday 13th Part Something, which I saw at the movie theatre with friends at around thirteen, and for weeks afterwards I smashed the wall and screamed in my sleep, so my father put his foot down and said, “No more horror movies for you.” Of course, I still watch some horror because it’s a genre that exists on a spectrum, ranging from unease through to entrails and gore; some movies allow me that horror fix without setting off my rather pathetic threshold for nightmares. The same doesn’t apply to books; I can read extreme horror and it doesn’t seem to have quite the same effect. That doesn’t mean horror literature fails to elicit fear in me—quite the opposite—but my brain seems to compartmentalise those responses, allowing me to distance myself from the imagery as soon as I put the book aside. (I have some horror researcher colleagues, and now I’m thinking I must ask them if this is a known phenomenon…)

NTK: What is your favorite horror television show?

LM: See above. However, I can do the next best thing, and read responses by my learned colleagues to those shows, which gives me great insight into the interpretation, even though I might not have seen the work. For example, I loved reading The Streaming of Hill House: Essays on the Haunting Netflix Adaption edited by Kevin J. Wetmore, perhaps because the essays allowed me to enjoy the programme vicariously, with a measure of distance—book to film to book. Also, those essays were so accessible and scarily entertaining. Recommended.

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

LM: Aargh! Such a difficult question because I read so widely in the genre, and there is so much great horror to enjoy. I can see Dan shaking his head, too. How are we supposed to answer this question? We love dark works. You’re asking us to single out just one? How about one for each day of the week? One for different periods of your life? One to reflect a current mood? For summer? For Halloween? For a rainy Sunday afternoon? To encourage a love of dark literature in a new reader? [wails!] How about I tell you about some upcoming works that I have had the privilege to read prior to release, and that everyone should be looking out for over the next few months? For example, there’s Garrett Boatman’s Floaters, coming in September from Crystal Lake Publishing, a historical horror novella which pitches a horde of undead, risen from the Thames River, against the city’s gangs. Pulse-pounding stuff. There’s James Chambers’ science fiction, fantasy, and frankly bizarro short story collection, On the Hierophant Road, coming later this year from Raw Dog Screaming Press. If you like your fiction dark and weird, and superbly crafted definitely grab a copy of Chambers’ incredible collection. Poet Jamal Hodge has The Dark Between the Twilight coming, an exciting collection of speculative poetry exploring abuse and depression; dark themes, but Hodge makes space for hope and restoration. And finally, I’m currently enjoying David Rose’s gritty military horror, Lovecraft’s Iraq. That title, right? I’m about fifty pages in and it’s pretty damn good so far.

NTK: Awesome! Thank you for those recommendations. What inspires your writing?

LM:  Everything. Oh, you need me to narrow it down a bit? In the last year or so, I’ve been focused on short fiction rather than longer works, and I’ve been lucky enough to have had a number of stories commissioned by some fabulous horror editors. In those cases, the editor-publisher typically suggests a theme to write to, and it’s always exciting to come up with something fresh that the other invited authors haven’t considered. I especially like writing at the intersections of culture and have been exploring aspects of my Asian-Kiwi heritage in my work—in poetry, prose, and also non-fiction.

NTK: Speaking as a person of color, how has your experience been in the horror community? What improvements could be made?

LM: In my view, the horror writing community is extremely inclusive, perhaps because horror is already a subversive genre, addressing the things that provoke fear—and, sadly, one of the things people fear most is the ‘other’. Anyone different or out of step. Horror writers get that; after all, we’re the people who write the books that everyone hides under the bed. We’re all weird here, so we’re going to recognise you as one of our own, embrace those differences, and celebrate them. We’re going to hold space for your stories, and not just during WiHM or Pride Month or Mental Health Awareness month. Of course, dialogue is just the first step, but the success of Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women has shown me that the community is not afraid to explore issues like Asian otherness and persecution, even at a time when anti-Asian sentiment is high.

NTK: What inspired Blood of the Sun?

LM: Well, it’s the third book in collaborative supernatural crime-noir series written by Dan and myself, so I guess we can say we were intrigued to see what might happen to our intrepid brother-sister sleuths, Penny and Matiu Yee. The only way to do that was to knuckle down and write it! The book ties together a lot of the story threads introduced in the previous two books, including story arcs for some much-loved characters, and culminates in an epic finale on Auckland’s Mount Maungawhau (also known as Mount Eden). We had great fun writing it once we got underway, but the book had a slow start because not long after we’d penned the first chapters, New Zealand suffered the Christchurch mosque shootings. We’d included a massacre early in the narrative, and it shook us to see something so horrific and so unexpected, at least in a New Zealand context, playing out in real life. It affected us so much that we had to put the book aside. We seriously considered starting over with a completely different narrative, but eventually we decided to push on, and I believe it was the right decision, since the book is arguably our best collaborative work to date.

NTK: What’s it like working as a collaborative team? What is your writing process like?

LM: Writing with Dan has been one of the most frustrating and fulfilling experiences of my life. He’s like my baby brother, vastly annoying yet I can’t help but love him to bits. I think the depth of our friendship is the basis of our success. (Also, because as the Lucy-van-Pelt big sister, I am very bossy and like to get my way!). The Path of Ra series is a dual protagonist narrative with Dan writing smouldering bad boy, Matiu Yee, who walks with one foot beyond the veil, while I write his uptight big sister Penny, who is a science consult to the police. We write chapter-about in a he-said, she-said approach, each of us drawing on our personal backgrounds to inform the characters and the plots, with the bickering yet affectionate tone readers see on the page perfectly summing up our collaborative relationship. (Actually, Dan writes that bad-ass character so well, I have to wonder what he got up to when he was younger…)

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

LM: It’s a negotiation. Sometimes, I’m in control, guiding them through the prescribed plot events, but occasionally they surprise me. Which is as you would expect, because fully authentic characters have all the foibles and whimsy of real people.

NTK: What is your best piece of advice for the prospective mentor?

LM: You’re not making a mini-me; instead, your job as a mentor is to give your mentee the tools they need to be the best version of a writer they can be, in terms of craft and also professionalism, and offered at the mentee’s own pace. (But mentors know all this. Mostly, I want to say thank you to all the hardworking selfless heroes who step up to give their time, expertise, and encouragement to support our emerging writers. You rock!)

NTK: Congratulations on your Bram Stoker Award wins!! How do you feel about the projects which won the awards? What made you choose to do these projects?

LM: Thank you! I’m still reeling from this kind acknowledgement from my horror colleagues. It hasn’t really sunk in. I’m so proud of both these projects. Grotesque: Monster Stories was the response to an invitation by Steve Dillon of Things in the Well, Australia, who encouraged me to put together a collection. His confidence in my work was the impetus, because I wasn’t convinced I was sufficiently established to have a ‘best of’ album. But I looked at my back catalogue, determined that monsters loomed large, selected a few stories to include, wrote some fresh ones, and we released my debut collection smack in the middle of the pandemic. I think that timing had a lot to do with its success. New Zealand’s response to the pandemic has been held up globally as an example of good practice, so perhaps there was an interest in escaping here through story. I’m certain that was the reason, in part, for the success of Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women. Attacks on Asians were on the rise, and I think readers were looking for stories that explored that otherness, either out of solidarity, or just as a means of informing themselves. And of course, Geneve Flynn and I were absolutely thrilled to be able to assemble such a fantastic lineup of contributors. Our authors simply wrote themselves out of their skins, overwhelming us with the beauty and horror of their work. The Bram Stoker Award has my name on it, but it is their work which resonated with readers. I’m extremely grateful.

NTK: As an editor, what are you looking for in a story? What kind of stories interests you most?

LM: Editors are all looking for the next big thing: something innovative, evocative, ground-breaking. Relevant. Something that lifts the hair on the back of our necks, while at the same time making us shiver at the beauty of it. (But editors are simple creatures too, and at 2 am when we’re reading the 876th submission for an anthology call, any well-crafted story which fits the submission guidelines and isn’t written in Comic Sans is going to make us happy.)

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

LM: My most recent book, released just over a week ago, is Mark My Words: Read the Submission Guidelines and Other Self-editing Tips, which I have written with Angela Yuriko Smith, the publisher at Space and Time magazine and this year’s HWA Mentor of the Year. The book was intended to be a hand-out for a Horror University course we presented for the HWA (which is still available online), but being conscientious Asian girls, we got a bit carried away and our ‘little handout’ turned into a book of close to 50,000 words packed with tips and suggestions from our horror editor and publisher colleagues (including Horror Addicts editors). We hope the book will help writers get their work off the slush pile and into the hands of editors. We also hope it will save our hardworking mentors the trouble of repeating things like ‘use a serif font’ or ‘remove all the TABS!’ ad infinitum. And prompted by our work in Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women, Angela Yuriko Smith and I are also working on Unquiet Spirits, a collection of essays exploring Asian monsters, with personal responses from horror writers of the Asian diaspora. Coming up in August, I’ll be taking up my Grimshaw Sargeson Fellowship in Auckland, where I’ll be working on my poetry collection, Fox Spirit on a Distant Cloud, an exploration of the New Zealand Asian women’s diaspora through the lens of the shape-shifting fox spirit. I can’t wait!

#HauntsandHellions: The Inspiration Behind “Hungry Masses.”

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The Inspiration Behind “Hungry Masses.”

By Emmy Z. Madrigal

SS_WaratahMy story in Haunts and Hellions, “Hungry Masses” was based upon a real ship that was lost at sea. The SS Waratah (named after an Australian flower) was a passenger and cargo ship built in 1908 by the Blue Anchor Line. Its route was from England to Australia, and then back to Europe via Cape Town, South Africa. In July of 1909, it vanished with 211 passengers and crew aboard. It has never been found.

During my research of the SS Waratah, I discovered a lot of history. I combed through passenger lists and descriptions. I looked at the ports it stopped in and what type of people it may have picked up. Where did they come from? Where might they be going? Some of the characters in my story are based (loosely) on characters I read about. Some of the names I used are actual surnames of the passengers and crew. Because it was never found and passengers lists are very light, I had to fill in a lot of the details for myself. I was not on that ship when it met its fate, but then again, no one who was, is alive to tell about it.

I’ve always been interested in the lost ships of history. The Mary Celeste is one I love reading about. In the papers and articles written about the Mary Celeste, they speculate about why it was found, but without its passengers. What happened? Why did the people abandon the ship? Why were they never found, and what was that slimy muck that was found all over the deck? This got me thinking… What kind of creature might have attacked? Did a giant Kraken gobble up the crew and leave behind its slimy trail? Did a disease take hold of the passengers that manifested slime?

Mixing these two disappearing ships, and countless other occurrences like them, I wove a tale. “Hungry Masses” takes place on the SS Waratah and tries to explain what might have happened on that fateful journey. Who were the passengers on the ship really, and what illness might have overtaken them? And why wasn’t the ship ever found? If the boat had been struck by storm or breakdown, wouldn’t remnants have been found? What happened to the boat to make all traces of it cease to exist? Where are the bodies?

What would you do if you were on a ship and a sudden illness broke out? How would you protect yourself? Would you take the hero role and save others first? Or would you hide in your cabin until everyone was gone?

Emmy Z. Madrigal is the author of the Regency novella, Lord Harrington’s Lost Doe.  Her previous works include the

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Sweet Dreams Musical Romance Series and the novelettes Anime Girl and Anime Girl 2.  Emmy has been praised for her realistic portrayal of modern female characters and their will to survive in a world of adversity, prejudice, and economic hardship.

#HauntsandHellions: The Inspiration Behind “Maudaleen.”

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The Inspiration Behind “Maudaleen.”

By Kevin Ground

“Maudaleen” was inspired by news reports of frustrated brides cancelling their weddings, and undertakers struggling to cope with the overwhelming challenges of multiple bereavements and social distancing regulations. All due to the British government’s Covid 19 epidemic lockdown restrictions on large gatherings.

The fusion of both issues led me to think of the scenario of a bride denied happiness, by the untimely death of her groom. Distraught and broken-hearted by circumstances beyond her control. It is entirely likely she would rage at the injustice of it all. Turning her face away from the world while she grieved for a love unfulfilled.

Take this set of circumstances back into the Victorian age. When mourning the death of a loved one followed clearly defined social protocols, and the story of Maudaleen became a reality.

My own experience of regular visits to a wooded Victorian cemetery provided the backdrop against which the story is set. I completed the initial draft of the story with a cold northeast wind driving rain showers against the windows while I worked. The near darkness of a dreary late autumn afternoon setting the mood.

Kevin GroundThird age author and spoken word performer, Kevin Ground specialises in Victorian, Gothic, contemporary horror, and ghost short stories. He actually doesn’t know where his preference for the revolting comes from, other than to say he is always, always turning normal on its head and seeing where his imagination takes him. He rarely knows where a short story is going till it’s finished.         

#HauntsandHellions: The Inspiration Behind “The House Must Fall.”

HHBannerThe Inspiration Behind “The House Must Fall.”

By R.L. Merrill

“The House Must Fall” was inspired by my love of all things Edgar Allan Poe, specifically the “House of Usher.” I absolutely loved the story and the Vincent Price film. I thought a gay retelling of the tale would be delightful. I strayed a bit from the original, but I’d like to think Eddie would approve. I love local Bay Area history, so when I was looking for a location, I came across the magnificently macabre-looking Millbrae Mansion, which sadly burned down in the mid-1950s. The opening to the story has our hero Sterling Mackey, heir to the Mackey family out of Virginia City, Nevada, traveling across the fog-covered San Francisco Bay and up a steep slope toward a menacing manor cut into the peninsula hillside. Once I had that picture in my mind, the words poured out.

The romance between the doomed Montgomery and the determined Sterling tugged at my heartstrings, and I don’t think I’m done writing about them. I pictured these two university men with more money than they could spend in a lifetime, enjoying the lavish lifestyle provided by California’s Gold Rush…how much mischief—and trouble—they could get into, and yet their love is strong despite the fact society would not approve.

I’m grateful to HorrorAddicts.net Press for giving me the chance to share this tale of longing and dread with you and I can’t wait to dive back into my incredible state’s history to write more horror stories. If you like “The House Must Fall,” be sure to check out the Gone With The Dead anthology for my story “A Piece Of Him,” the Dark Divinations anthology for “Breaking Bread,” as well as my shared-world story “The Fourth Man” in The Banes of Lake’s Crossing collection.

Merrill_RL-HeadshotR.L. Merrill brings you stories of Hope, Love, and Rock ‘n’ Roll featuring quirky and relatable characters. Whether she’s writing contemporary, paranormal, or supernatural, she loves to give readers a shiver with compelling stories that will stay with you long after. You can find her connecting with readers on social media, educating America’s youth, raising two brilliant teenagers, writing horror-infused music reviews for HorrorAddicts.net, trying desperately to get that back piece finished in the tattoo chair, or headbanging at a rock show near her home in the San Francisco Bay Area! Stay Tuned for more Rock ‘n’ Romance.          

Chilling Chat: Haunts & Hellions – Emmy Z. Madrigal

HHBannerEmmy Z. Madrigal is the author of the Regency novella, Lord Harrington’s Lost Doe.  Her previous works include the Sweet

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Dreams Musical Romance Series and the novelettes Anime Girl and Anime Girl 2.  Emmy has been praised for her realistic

portrayal of modern female characters and their will to survive in a world of adversity, prejudice, and economic hardship.

Her story, “Hungry Masses,” appears in Haunts and Hellions: A Gothic Romance Anthology.

NTK: How did you become interested in Gothic Literature?

EZM: I read gothic romance as a kid, but when I started reading gothic literature as a young adult, I found the works of Bronte, Dickens, and the awesome book Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen that inspired me to write. The whisper of mystery in a romance story has always called to me.

NTK: How do you define “romance”?

EZM: Any story that involves two people connecting on a deep, intimate level.

NTK: What is your favorite Gothic horror story?

EZM: I know it’s not a traditional Gothic horror, but Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey is delightful. It’s not exactly scary for her…there is presumed fear, it’s all planted in her head because of rumors. But the reason I like it so much is because it is about a gal who enjoys reading Gothic horror and her quest to find a love that understands that. I think Mr. Tilney is the perfect picture of a mate who will support her Gothic horror habit.

NTK: Do you have a favorite Gothic horror movie? What attracted you to this film?

EZM: I’ve most recently enjoyed Rebecca. It’s an old story that was first a book, then a Hitchcock film, and now we have the 2020 version. I love the style of the movie. The sets and costumes were fabulous. The story is similar to Jane Eyre. If you knew your husband was a killer (or torturer) of his first wife, could you stay with him? Could you cover for him? It’s a tale that can resonate even today. What would you do if you found he killed his wife? Even if he had a good reason?

NTK: Are your characters based on real people?

EZM: Kinda. The ship is based on a true vanished ship from history and I chose names based on the passenger list.

NTK: Do you use an outline to write? Or do you write by the seat of your pants?

EZM: Generally, no. I do chart out or write certain plot points I want to cover, but the story flows the way it wants, even if I don’t want it to go that way.

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

EZM: Generally, they are just playing out a scene in my head. Is that me? Or them?

NTK: What are you most afraid of?

EZM: I think recently, it’s been the insecurity of life. I would never want to lose any of my family or friends.

NTK: What is your favorite romance?

EZM: I like romances where both people are completely devoted to the other. I am not a fan of cheaters. So, I am drawn to the classic stories like Romeo and Juliet, or a lot of Jane Austen storylines where the love stays true despite adversity. They may not speak their love for months, years… but it is still alive and never wavers.

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

EZM: I don’t have just one. It’s all those paperback Gothic romance writers I read as a kid.

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

EZM: I am really looking forward to my novel coming this year with HorrorAddicts.net Press, Northanger, a modern rewrite of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. I also have a few romances coming out from Meant to Be Press.

If you like vampires, werewolves, and other supernatural beings, you can check out my octo-gal short on Audible, Ink Dreams.

Chilling Chat: Episode #195 – Eugen Bacon

Eugen Bacon is an African Australian computer scientist who has mentally re-engineered into creative writing. Her work has won, been shortlisted, longlisted or commended in national and international awards, including the Foreword Book of the Yeareugen bacon - Genni Matty Awards, Bridport Prize, Copyright Agency Prize, Australian Shadows Awards, Ditmar Awards and Nommo Awards for Speculative Fiction by Africans. Her novella Ivory’s Story was shortlisted in the 2020 British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) Awards. Upcoming: Danged Black Thing, a short story collection by Transit Lounge Publishing (2021) and Mage of Fools, an Afrofuturistic dystopian novel by Meerkat Press (2022). 

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

EB: I was seven or eight and it was night. I was sprawled on a couch in the living room with my mother. She must have forgotten I was there, or perhaps she thought I was asleep. She was watching TV, a British horror I Don’t Want to be Born, sometimes titled Sharon’s Baby, starring Joan Collins, Eileen Atkins and Ralph Bates. The drownings, the stabbings, the hangings, the decapitations.

They stayed with me, that trail of death surrounding a sinister infant whose evil refused to give in to exorcism.

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

EB: A few, actually. You never really think of Toni Morrison’s works as horror, as she’s stunningly literary. But BelovedSulaThe Bluest EyeGod Help the Child… Scenes in her stories haunt you, like forever.

I am enamoured with multi-award-winning Australian author Kaaron Warren, who’s mastered the art of shadow existence in her fiction, skilfully personifying conflict, the unknowable or evil in her perturbing text that threatens your very sanity in all things spectral. Read Tide of Stone or Into Bones Like Oil, you’ll get what I mean.

I adore J. Ashley Smith, another Australian author, who writes with solemn beauty and malevolent darkness. His text is poetic and ghoulish—Ariadne, I Love You is his latest offering.

But, ultimately, it’ll have to be Mary Shelley for Frankenstein, right?

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

EB: So, there’s Shelley’s Frankenstein­—we’ve established thata novel ahead of itself with its promethean theme in gothic horror. Its descriptive narrative approach uses letters and first-person perspectives of primary characters like Dr. Frankenstein and the beast he’s created from the dead.

Offering personal insight through this first-person point of view, Shelley shares with the reader her curiosity in the characters she has developed: like Dr. Frankenstein and his clinical attitude but deeply feeling nature; he is a scientist who feels heart and soul, ardent in his pursuit of an experiment that brings to life a monster. Like the creature Frankenstein has created, that is drawn to him but whom he abhors, calling it a daemon. It is shaped in the figure of a man, runs bouncy. It is yellow-eyed, muscles and arteries visible through yellow skin. It is proportionate-limbed, its hair a lustrous black, its lips straight and black. And it too feels, just as deeply, and becomes fiendish when it is miserable. And the doctor’s abhorrence keeps it miserable. The reader understands its solitude, its longing, its repugnance with itself and its deformity.

There’s world-building, aesthetic descriptions of valleys and glaciers and hill summits and vast mountains, precipitous ascents and places of desolation. Frankenstein elicits a mild kind of fear, largely arising from its dealings with a creature resurrected from the dead (paranormal effect), one that the reader can both relate to (in its pining) and loathe (in its manipulations).

NTK: What is your favorite horror movie?

EB: Blade, Blade, Blade. It can’t be Blade without Wesley Snipes: half-human, half-vampire.

I love all adaptations of Dracula, Frankenstein, and totally Underworld—Kate Beckinsale is my secret crush.

NTK: What is your favorite television show?

EB: Roots—horrific, as it was. I’ll never forget Kunta Kinte—how is this story not a horror. I feel rage each time I think of those days of slavery. Arabs did it too in East Africa, dhows full of famined slaves—scarecrow thin—to Oman.

Sadly, we still have all forms of slavery still happening today, and people who unsee it.

Lovecraft Country took me places, to gloom, hope, and fuck you, Lovecraft, and every friggin’ white supremacist.

NTK: Where do you find inspiration?

EB: Stories are everywhere! I write on a longing, a memory, a trigger. It may be a word, a phrase on TV, at the train station… Ideas float everywhere, and something just strikes, refuses to let go. I feel, I smell, I listen, I see… my mind locks onto something that won’t let go.

NTK: What inspired the story, “Unlimited Data”?

EB: It was a commissioned story for a Cyberfunk anthology. I was walking along the Tan track in Melbourne, when suddenly I remembered seeing this job ad: ‘Must have a smart phone’. It inspired this story of a woman in the village in Old Kampala—she gives all for her family, because her husband’s job needs unlimited data.

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

EB: I’ve been blessed to be part of a community of writers, on and off social media, for example the Australian Horror Writers Association (AHWA), Writers Victoria, Writing NSW—where I sometimes teach, Horror Writers Association (HWA), Science Fiction Writers Association (SFWA).

I offer something different as a person of colour in Australia, who is also a migrant. There’s some openness to my writing, but I feel that Australia is not quite there. I have a bigger community of support in the US, UK, and the rest of the world, I think.

There’s a big community of black speculative fiction writers, and a sense of homecoming with the African Speculative Fiction Society that administers the Nommo Awards for Speculative Fiction by Africans.

NTK: What is your best piece of advice for the new writer, someone who’s just started in the business?

EB: Edit, edit, edit. Be patient with yourself. Allow yourself to find voice, to mature.

Join a supporting organisation of writers fascinated with the genre(s) you write, for example Horror Writers Association. See also if there are local writing organisations that offer you valuable resources and a sense of community. You’re not alone.

Rejections are never personal, sometimes they feel like it. One literary agency replied with the line: “Please remove us from your spam list.”

Guess who’s laughing at them now?

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

EB: I have a literary speculative collection, Danged Black Thing, out by Transit Lounge Publishing in November 2021. It has stories with urgency about love and migration, gender and class, patriarchy and womanhood, climate change and bad politics… about women and children in societies where men hold all the power.

I also have an afrofuturistic dystopian novel, Mage of Fools, out by Meerkat Press in March 2022.

In work is a dark, illustrated collection of microfiction—the illustrator Elena Betti is something else! I wrote it during the peak of the pandemic and events surrounding Black Lives Matter. Interesting conversations happening right now, I hope to announce a placement soon.

Addicts, you can find Eugen on her Website and on Twitter.

#HauntsandHellions: The Inspiration Behind “With Red Eyes Gleaming.”

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The Inspiration Behind “With Red Eyes Gleaming.

By Daniel R. Robichaud

When I got a real person job, engineering for one of the big oil and gas companies here in Texas, my wife and I took two big trips to Japan. We went to Okinawa and a couple of the smaller islands far from the mainland first, and then traveled to the mainland after that. My wife speaks Japanese, as do a few of our friends who were living there as part of the JET program, teaching English to young students. I can excuse myself, be polite while requesting help, and say thank you. Our friends gave us crash space and took us around, showed us the sites. Those trips changed my life.

Visiting an old castle in the middle of a rainstorm, participating in a proper tea ceremony, taking dinner at Arucard’s (a restaurant with a Dracula theme), and soaking in the culture and the scene made quite the impression on me. Prior to that, I was an enthusiast of the media from that nation, particularly the fiction of Suzuki Koji and Edogawa Rampo as well as a wide range of films. Those trips intensified my interests.

Flash forward a few years, and when I encountered the idea for this anthology, I realized I very much wanted to blend gothic romance with a Japanese flavor. I got the image of a claustrophobic woman descending a narrow set of stairs into a rocky subterranean world, and the rest came out of that image.

Daniel RobichaudDaniel R. Robichaud lives and writes in east Texas. His work can be found in Hookman and Friends, The Other Side, and Sick Cruising anthologies. His short fiction has been collected in Hauntings & Happenstances, They Shot Zombies, Didn’t They? and Gathered Flowers, Stones, and Bones.

#HauntsandHellions Facebook Watch Party – Tomorrow

HHBanner

Harkening back to the glory days of gothic romance that had us up reading all night, HorrorAddicts.net Press Presents:

Haunts & Hellions

edited by Emerian Rich

13 stories of horror, romance, and that perfect moment when the two worlds collide. Vengeful spirits attacking the living, undead lovers revealing their true nature, and supernatural monsters seeking love, await you. Pull the blinds closed, light your candle, and cuddle up in your reading nook for some chilling—and romantic—tales.

You are cordially invited to attend a Facebook Watch Party in the honor of

Haunts and Hellions

Where: Facebook

When: Tomorrow at 6:00 PM PST

Please, join us!

HH3DPromo

Chilling Chat: Haunts & Hellions – Naching T. Kassa

HHBannerNaching 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 Kassa, her husband and biggest supporter.Nachingwriterpic2019
Naching is a member of the Horror Writers Association, Head of Publishing and Interviewer for HorrorAddicts.net, and an assistant and staff writer for Still Water Bay at Crystal Lake Publishing.

Her story, “She Woke at Midnight,” appears in Haunts and Hellions: A Gothic Romance Anthology.

How did you become interested in Gothic Literature?

NTK: My interest in Gothic Literature began The Hound of the Baskervilles, but my interest in Gothic Romance began with the movie, Jane Eyre, starring George C. Scott and Susannah York. I loved the ambiance of the film: the candlelight, the moan of the wind outside a frosted window, a fireplace whose light keeps back the gloom. It inspired me to read the book by Charlotte Bronte. I love how Jane is torn between doing what is right and her love for Rochester. I also love the supernatural aspects of the story. From the Red Room to the moment when Jane hears the voice of Rochester calling her from miles away.

How do you define “romance”?

NTK: To me, romance is abandoning selfishness and giving your all for another person. It’s riding your bike twelve miles to your loved one’s house just to see them for an hour. It’s giving something to a person and expecting nothing in return. It’s being there for them when they’re at their best AND their worst. My favorite films are about people who fall in love and through that love, become better people. I think true romance is love that brings out the best in us.

What is your favorite Gothic horror story?

NTK: Dracula. It’s the best Gothic horror story ever written.

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

NTK: Bram Stoker’s Dracula directed by Francis Ford Coppola. It’s so dark, and lush, and beautiful. I love the settings, the beautiful costumes, and the plays on light and shadow. It’s the best adaptation of the novel ever made.

Are your characters based on real people?

NTK: When I first started writing, they were. But now, they’ve taken on a life of their own. The best characters do.

Do you use an outline to write? Or do you write by the seat of your pants?

NTK: Definitely by the seat of my pants. I love surprises and an outline is far too rigid and inorganic for me to adhere to.

Do your characters have free will? Or do you decide their fate?

NTK: My characters have absolute free will. I gave up trying to decide their fate a long time ago. Their behavior and their path are decided by their actions.

What are you most afraid of?

NTK: Flying sandwiches with vampire teeth.  I was terrified of them as a child.

What is your favorite romance?

NTK: It’s a tie between Groundhog Day and The Family Man.

Who is your favorite horror author?

NTK: Dean Koontz. He has a beautiful style, he scares the heck out of me, and his stories are filled with hope. I like my darkness tempered with light.

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

NTK: I’ve written several Sherlock Holmes stories and they’ll be published in the next year. I’m reading my story, “The Darker Side of Grief,” at Stokercon. (The anthology it appears in, Arterial Bloom, has been nominated for a Bram Stoker Award ®.) I also write for the fiction series, Still Water Bay, on the Crystal Lake Publishing Patreon page. You’ll find some exciting stories there. Finally, I’m editing a mystery/romance anthology for Meant to Be Press. Look for it in November.

Addicts, you can find Naching on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

#HauntsandHellions Facebook Watch Party

HHBanner

Harkening back to the glory days of gothic romance that had us up reading all night, HorrorAddicts.net Press Presents:

Haunts & Hellions

edited by Emerian Rich

13 stories of horror, romance, and that perfect moment when the two worlds collide. Vengeful spirits attacking the living, undead lovers revealing their true nature, and supernatural monsters seeking love, await you. Pull the blinds closed, light your candle, and cuddle up in your reading nook for some chilling—and romantic—tales.

You are cordially invited to attend a Facebook Watch Party in the honor of

Haunts and Hellions

Where: Facebook

When: Tuesday, June 8th at 6:00 PM PST

Please, join us!

HH3DPromo

 

 

 

#HauntsandHellions: The Inspiration Behind “Companions.”

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The Inspiration Behind “Companions.”

By Daphne Strasert

For Haunts and Hellions, I wanted to write a story that featured a doomed romance. Of course, nothing is more doomed than a romance between the living and the dead. From that was born the idea of a man in love with the idea of a woman without really knowing everything about her. In order to hide the twist, I needed to include other obstacles to their romance and a paranormal element—thus Thomas’s ability to see ghosts of the soldiers. The story is reminiscent in some ways of “The Yellow Ribbon,” in which a man’s desire to know his love leads to his horror in the end. I’m a sucker for romance however, and couldn’t resist giving my characters a happy ending of some sort.

DaphneStrasert-1920x1080-1024x577Daphne Strasert is a horror, fantasy, and speculative fiction writer from Houston, Texas. She has published many short stories through HorrorAddicts.net, Dark Water Syndicate, and Crimson Streets. When not writing, she plays board games and knits. Her interests include monsters, murder mysteries, and things that go bump in the night.

Chilling Chat: Haunts & Hellions – Daphne Strasert

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Daphne Strasert is a horror, fantasy, and speculative fiction writer from Houston, Texas. She has published many short stories through HorrorAddicts.net, Dark Water Syndicate, and Crimson Streets. When not writing, she plays board gamesDaphneStrasert-1920x1080-1024x577 and knits. Her interests include monsters, murder mysteries, and things that go bump in the night. 

Her story, “Companions,” appears in the Haunts & Hellions: A Gothic Romance Anthology                                                                                                        

NTK: How did you become interested in Gothic Literature?

DS: I was originally drawn to the aesthetic that was often used in gothic movies: big haunted houses, frail heroines in long skirts, dark corners, and misty moors. From there, I found the works of Poe, the Bronte sisters, Stoker, and Shelley. I liked the slow burn of the horror and the doomed romance that was often featured.

NTK: How do you define “romance”?

DS: Romance is the longing to be with another person, to know everything about them and share yourself in turn. Romance means wanting what is best for the other person. The desire to protect your love, whether from physical harm or emotional torment is strong. I believe that true romance can only exist between equals.

NTK: What is your favorite Gothic horror story?

DS: I will always love Dracula. It was the first true gothic horror story I read and remains the only book that ever truly scared me. I appreciate how many variations have come from the original work and the many interpretations that it inspired. But the original still remains as impressive as when it was first published.

NTK: Do you have a favorite Gothic horror movie? What attracted you to this film?

DS: I love Crimson Peak (that may be a common answer to this question). I think it’s an underrated film from Guillermo del Toro. The costumes and set created a fantastic atmosphere. The film mixed horror (both jump scares and situational horror) with romance and tragedy. Most importantly, the story was motivated by a strong female lead.

NTK: Are your characters based on real people?

DS: No.

NTK: Do you use an outline to write? Or do you write by the seat of your pants?

DS: I always write using an outline. During the initial inspiration phase, I will write scenes as they come to me and keep them in a “sandbox” for later use. Once the story starts to come together, I outline the scenes I need to pace the action and emotional arcs, then fill in the scenes I haven’t written yet.

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

DS: My characters are completely at my mercy. I create them to fit the plot and tone of the piece. If I find that the actions they need to do are out of character for them, then I spend time rethinking their character. I build them so that they will work within the world I want, so I’m rarely surprised.

NTK: What are you most afraid of?

DS: I really, really hate zombies. I’ve never liked zombie movies (it doesn’t matter if they’re slow zombies or fast). The idea of society collapsing, leaving nothing that we recognize is terrifying. I don’t want to be part of rebuilding the world from scratch while also running from cannibalistic corpses.

NTK: What is your favorite romance?

DS: Jane Eyre stands out as my favorite. Jane is a strong woman who refused to compromise herself for her love (even when that was painful to her). She did not allow herself to be beholden to a man who was more powerful than her. When she found out about Mr. Rochester’s secrets and failings, she did not overlook them, but held him accountable. The romance was only fulfilled when they could truly have an equal partnership.

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

DS: Meg Hafdahl. She wrote the Willoughby Chronicles (including Her Dark Inheritance, which I reviewed for HorrorAddicts.net) as well as a number of non-fiction books about the horror industry. She’s a true horror fan herself.

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

DS: I am always working on new short stories. My story “Blood and Ivory” will be published in the Sonorous Silence anthology by Pavor Press. I am also drafting a new novel that features a haunted house.

Addicts, you can find Daphne on Amazon, Twitter, and Instagram.

     

#HauntsandHellions: The Inspiration Behind “Californio Fog.”

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The Inspiration Behind “Californio Fog.”

By B.F. Vega

As Americans, we tend to dwell in the derelict castles of England or the haunted forests of Germany when we want to tell spooky stories. However, California has been inhabited for over 10,000 years. Some of the cultures encountered by the Spanish had been unchanged for much longer than any castle has stood. Our forests are brimming with cryptids and myths. Our deserts are haunted with vindictive spirits and capricious gods. Our lakes and rivers are as hungry and as dangerous as any siren/selkie laden pond, and our entire lives are lived in the blankets of dense daily fog.

Early California is a little studied time that even we, whose families have been here for generations, know virtually nothing about. It was a time of mass genocide, slavery, starvation and revolutions. What then do you write about that is scarier than real life? I knew that the story had to be a foggy coastal ranchero. For the early rancheros, it would have been a common occurrence for there to be shipwrecks and bodies being washed up at the foot of their cliff-side haciendas. Enter the Draugr.

Draugr are sort of a catch-all for “used to be human monster” in Norse mythology. The name actually just means “Burrow Dweller” and refers to anything buried that has risen. I knew that our Californio heroine needed an even more foreign European foil and a Norwegian sailor was the perfect way to add that. In a way, the characters in this story are indicative of California herself. She is a feisty land that both lovers and foes come to. Some are heroes, some are monsters, both are necessary to tell her story.

B.F. VegaB.F. Vega is a writer, poet, and theatrical artist living and working in California’s Bay Area.  Her poetry has been published in The Literary Nest, Sage Cigarettes, Walled Women, and Blood & Bourbon among others. Her first book of poetry, A Saga for the Unrequited, will be published in August of 2021 by Fae Corp Publishing. She is still amazed when people refer to her as a writer, every time.

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: 6 Novels that Inspired Great Horror Movies

Is the book really better than the movie? With horror, that can be hard to say. The mediums are just so different. A good concept is a good concept, though. Some ideas are worth making twice. Check out the list below for some stories that made the jump from print to screen.

The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker

Before bringing Cenobites to the screen in the film Hellraiser, Clive Barker first wrote about them in this novella. The book delves more deeply into the world of pain and pleasure that the Cenobites inhabit.

Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell

This 1938 classic is the inspiration for John Carpenter’s The Thing. Scientists in the Antarctic discover the frozen body of an alien and revive it with horrifying consequences.

“The Forbidden” by Clive Barker

Okay, so technically this is a short story, not a novel, but it did eventually become the movie Candyman. Helen is studying the graffiti in a dilapidated housing project. Her research leads her to chase an urban legend that is more dangerous that she can imagine. “The Forbidden” appears in Books of Blood Volume 5.

I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan

I was shocked—SHOCKED—to find that the much lampooned 90’s slasher movie was actually based on a 1973 novel by the same name. Even with a twenty-year gap between the book and movie, the themes of coming of age, hiding terrible secrets, and facing gruesome consequences are evergreen.

Psycho by Robert Bloch

The classic movie Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock is considered one of the greatest American films of all time. But the movie had a lot to build on, with a great concept about a lonely motel with a dark secret, first created in 1959 in this novel.

Jaws by Peter Benchley

This 1974 novel inspired the blockbuster Spielberg movie that scared millions out of the water. Still as terrifying as ever, try to keep yourself from humming duh-DUH duh-DUH while you’re reading.

What movie adaptations of books are your favorite? Is the book better? Leave a comment!

Book Review: Unknowing, I Sink by Timothy G. Huguenin

Julian takes a summer job cleaning the house of Mr. V, a notorious recluse in his small West Virginian town. He soon discovers that the sickly old man is far weirder than the rumors say. Julian tells himself that the money is worth it so he can get a car and impress the girl he likes. But when his crush asks Julian to sneak her in to see the mysterious Mr. V, Julian puts much more than just his job at risk.

Because Unknowing, I Sink is a novella, there’s no room for excess in the plot. The story is tight, keeping the action fast. There is no unnecessary fluff. Still, Huguenin manages to build dread organically, keeping the horror in the back of your mind for most of the book. He does an excellent job of making the reader create their own worry. Something is going to happen, something is right around the corner. The pay off is worth the wait.

Unknowing, I Sink features a small cast of characters, but each are inundated with flavor and personality. Julian just wants to impress the girl he likes. He’s barely spoken to her before, but he’s sure that if he could just get money for a good car, it will be enough to get her attention. Huguenin wrote Julian as a flawless teenage character, annoying enough to be realistic, but not so much that I threw the book across the room (it’s happened before).

Mr. V does more than just hide in shadows. Huguenin imbues him with vibrant personality while still keeping him shrouded in mystery. The unearthly visage created by the many screens and umbilical of electrical cords only foreshadows the true horror.

Huguenin also went the extra mile in filling out his background characters. Stacey—who initially only appears in Julian’s imaginings—comes roaring to life off the page, defying Julian’s expectations and blazing a trail for objectified girls in fiction everywhere.

Huguenin has always expressed a strong desire to write stories imbued with the spirit of West Virginia. From the tone, to the characters, to the town, I feel he succeeds. Setting steps to the forefront throughout Unknowing, I Sink. The house is a character in its own right, with cameras and intercoms that turn it into an extension of Mr. V.

Huguenin has a grounded style of writing that makes the story incredibly accessible. You’re immediately pulled in by the description and character voice.

I consider Unknowing, I Sink one of the most literary horror books that I’ve picked up in the past year. Huguenin takes a subtle hand in guiding the reader through the story, letting tension build organically, before punching them in the gut with the reveal. I hope Unknowing, I Sink is in consideration for a Stoker Award next year. It would be well deserved.

If you’re looking for creeping horror with a satisfying twist and excellent writing, pick up Unknowing, I Sink. Also check out Huguenin’s other books.

Timothy G. Hugunin was a contestant in the Next Great Horror Writer Contest here at HorrorAddicts.net. Check out this interview with him!

Chilling Chat: Haunts & Hellions – Daniel R. Robichaud

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Daniel R. Robichaud lives and writes in east Texas. His work can be found in Hookman and Friends, The Other Side, and Sick Cruising anthologies. His short fiction has been collected in Hauntings & Happenstances, They Shot Zombies, Didn’tDaniel Robichaud They? and Gathered Flowers, Stones, and Bones.

His story, “With Red Eyes Gleaming,” appears in Haunts & Hellions: A Gothic Romance Anthology.                                                                                           

NTK: How did you become interested in Gothic Literature?

DR: From a young age. I got exposure to the stories of Edgar Allan Poe and other gothic works thanks to parents who enjoyed the stuff.

NTK: How do you define “romance”?

DR: Romance is a fickle thing, a style of fiction that centers on a relationship between characters as much as it does a traditional plot.

NTK: What is your favorite Gothic horror story?

DR: There are so many to choose from! Right now, I think I’ll have to answer The Witch of Ravensworth, an 1808 gothic horror novel from George Brewer, which I bought on a lark and was truly taken with. It introduced me to the Valancourt Books publisher, as well, and I’ve enjoyed reading their works ever since.

NTK: Do you have a favorite Gothic horror movie? What attracted you to this film?

DR: The Whip and the Body from Mario Bava is a terrific film that blends ghostly chills with sexuality in strange ways. A delirious thing that is gorgeously shot (also with a great performance by Christopher Lee).

I found this movie back in the days of DVD, when I was just discovering Mario Bava’s films. It’s beautiful, disturbing, and achingly romantic.

NTK: Are your characters based on real people?

DR: My characters are originals, though that means they are inspired by the films, fictions, and authentic folks I have known and read about.

NTK: Do you use an outline to write? Or do you write by the seat of your pants?

DR: For this story, I had a single scene of a woman descending into a strange subterranean location. From that, I wrote into the dark without any outline. This is not always the case, but it is the way I work on a majority of my stories.

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

DR: They always have free will. For short fiction, however, their options are far more limited than they might be in a novel.

NTK: What are you most afraid of?

DR: I am afraid of loss of my mind, my sense of self.

NTK: What is your favorite romance?

DR: I love, love, love Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of Seven Gables: A Romance, Clive Barker’s Galilee: A Romance, and Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase.

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

DR: I’d probably have to go with Caitlin R. Kiernan at the moment. They write exquisitely disturbing fiction of the highest caliber.

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

DR: I’ve always got a few irons in the fire. My story, “Hodag Hootenanny” just appeared in Cryptid Chronicles. I’m also working on a novel about supernatural possession.

Addicts, you can find Daniel on Amazon and Twitter.

Chilling Chat: Haunts & Hellions – Rowan Hill

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Rowan Hill is an author currently living on a volcano in Italy who loves to write across horror and science fiction. She hasRowan Hill an affinity for writing flawed female protagonists who occasionally murder. Her writing credits include Cemetery Gates, Kandisha Press, and Curious Blue Press among others.

Her story, “Love Never Dies,” appears in Haunts & Hellions: A Gothic Romance Anthology.

NTK: How did you become interested in Gothic Literature?

RH: I mean it started in my Bachelors with the Greats, isn’t that how everyone gets the fever? Bronte, Shelley, Stoker. Ones on the forefront of the genre and delivered so much tension with simple looks and little to no blood.

NTK: How do you define “romance”?

RH: Honestly, I love a good dose of the physical in a guilty romance novel. But we all know romance can be as much as a look and a gasp of breath. The intricacies of ‘showing’ not telling can give a flush to the cheeks more importance than a simple “I love you.” 

NTK: What is your favorite Gothic horror story?

RH: Is it any surprise if I say Jane Eyre? I mean, it’s my go-to when I need a reset on what makes a good story and how to make more with less. But if I want something to really give me the shivers, I turn to Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. For more modern gothic, Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia hit it out of the park and is the first I would recommend.

NTK: Do you have a favorite Gothic horror movie? What attracted you to this film?

RH: Will I sound trite and predictable if I say Coppola’s Bram Stroker’s Dracula with Gary Oldman and Keanu Reeves? Besides having all the classic characters in their intended setting, I adored the side story of Lucy becoming ensnared by Dracula right under everyone’s noises, seeing the lure of the monster while romancing Mina Harker is always masterful.

NTK: Do you use an outline to write? Or do you write by the seat of your pants?

RH: I always know where I want to end up, but yes, absolutely the seat of my pants.

NTK: What are you most afraid of?

RH: As a writer? Failure, obscurity, missing an obvious typo. Many of the things I think all writers can agree on. As a normal person living in our current era where people can randomly shoot you? Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is legit my nightmare. If the apocalypse happens, I’m screwed.

NTK: What is your favorite romance?

RH: This is taking it old school, but Johanna Lindsey is my OG of romance. Some of her older novels are problematic, but there is no denying that she makes you feel. The Callahan-Warren series, one of her last before her passing in 2019, was so fun and definitely my favorite.

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

RH: Oh man, there are so many. Besides the Greats previously mentioned, I am a fan of Riley Sager’s four novels so far and anyone who can do quiet horror well. The indie scene had lots of great talent emerging in the last ten years, and it is impossible to name just one.

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

RH: I have several short stories in other anthologies coming out in the next few months and hope to have my first novella creature feature published sometime in the next year. 

Addicts, you can find Rowan on Twitter.

Chilling Chat: Haunts & Hellions – R.L. Merrill

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R.L. Merrill brings you stories of Hope, Love, and Rock ‘n’ Roll featuring quirky and relatable characters. Whether she’s writing contemporary, paranormal, or supernatural, she loves to give readers a shiver with compelling stories that willMerrill_RL-Headshot stay with you long after. You can find her connecting with readers on social media, educating America’s youth, raising two brilliant teenagers, writing horror-infused music reviews for HorrorAddicts.net, trying desperately to get that back piece finished in the tattoo chair, or headbanging at a rock show near her home in the San Francisco Bay Area! Stay Tuned for more Rock ‘n’ Romance.

Her story, “The House Must Fall,” appears in Haunts and Hellions: A Gothic Romance Anthology.        

 NTK: How did you become interested in Gothic Literature?

RLM: The moment I learned a woman named Mary Shelley created Frankenstein’s Monster. Or when I watched Vincent Price in the House of Usher. Or when I read a YA mystery (still trying to find this book as I forgot the title) about a young woman determined to learn the dark secrets about the Bronte sisters on the misty moors. Edgar Allan Poe is my literary hero, vampires are real, and someday I will live in a house with a secret passage.

NTK: How do you define “romance”?

RLM: Romance has two distinct meanings for me. I write romance novels, which are about the journey between lovers and must have a Happily Ever After (HEA) or a Happily For Now (HFN) ending. But romance, generally, is about channeling wants and desires and yearning for another. Romance is how we express our love of another, and there are many flavors of romance. I love it all, from the sticky sweet to the creepy dark. It’s what makes the world go round, am I right?

NTK: What is your favorite Gothic horror story?

RLM: I’d have to say Frankenstein, followed closely by Dracula, but I’m also a huge fan of Poe’s stories such as “Ligeia” and “House of Usher,” not to mention “The Raven,” which is my favorite.

NTK: Do you have a favorite Gothic horror movie? What attracted you to this film?

RLM: The Legacy, 1978. It stars Katherine Ross and Sam Elliot as Americans drawn into the bloody family history of a mysterious man in England. It’s gorgeous—of course I’m talking about the house and the cinematography and not the young real-life couple and Sam Elliot shirtless—and it’s creepy and it will suck you in until the end.

NTK: Are your characters based on real people?

RLM: Not the human characters, but I modeled Mercer Manor on the real-life Millbrae Mansion, which sadly burned down in the mid-1900s. It was an incredible home, elaborate and mysterious in 1800s California history. Someday, I will at least go to visit the site where it was located. I also did research on the founding of the University of California, Berkeley, and I can’t wait to go back and walk the paths that Montgomery and Sterling would have passed as some of the first students of the new school.

NTK: Do you use an outline to write? Or do you write by the seat of your pants?

RLM: I’m a plotser. I tend to write a synopsis now, but much of the story is organic and comes to me as I write.

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

RLM: It’s interesting you ask this, because I’d say fate plays a huge role in both my contemporary and paranormal romances as well as my horror tales. I’ll let readers be the judge.

NTK: What are you most afraid of?

RLM: Kids. My own children in peril, but also elementary-aged kids.

I also have this recurring nightmare. I’m in a dark club and I’m watching a comedian, and for some reason he targets me. And then he’s coming down off the stage and he’s saying horrible, awful things about me, to me, and he keeps getting closer and closer, and the rest of the crowd joins in laughing at me until they’re all crowded around me, sucking all of the oxygen out of the room, and they’re pressing in on me and laughing while I scream and tuck into a ball and then they’ve devoured me.

And zombies.

NTK: What is your favorite romance?

RLM: The Witching Hour by Anne Rice, which I’d describe as a gothic romance. Rowan and Michael have a love for the ages. Also, in contemporary, Then the Stars Fall by Brandon Witt is incredibly beautiful. I’d also have to include the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness. I recently watched the show and remembered how much I loved their romance.

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

RLM: I cut my teeth on Stephen King and then discovered Anne Rice. Their stories changed my life and when I decided to start writing, I kept their stories and the feelings I got from them in the back of my mind and I tell myself someday I want to write books that leave readers with similar feelings.

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

RLM: June will bring a contemporary LGBTQ romance as part of the Love Is All charity anthology. August will see the release of my M/F contemporary romance, More Than a Spanish Tour, which is based on my 2018 trip to Spain. In September, I will release the follow-up to last year’s supernatural suspense Healer, called Connection. Horror Addicts just might dig this series because while there’s romance, there’s also a boarding school full of child victims of trauma who have been gifted with unimaginable powers and an evil megalomaniac hell-bent on revenge. I’ve got a revenge tale as part of the Wicked Intentions anthology in October as well as a new funny paranormal romance tale in the Magic and Mayhem Universe. So yeah, the rest of this year will be super busy, but I can’t wait to get these stories into the hands of readers!

Addicts, you can find R.L. on Amazon, Twitter, and Instagram.

Chilling Chat: Haunts & Hellions – Kevin Ground

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Third age author and spoken word performer, Kevin Ground specialises in Victorian, Gothic, contemporary horror, and ghost short stories. He actually doesn’t know where his preference for the revolting comes from, other than to say he isKevin Ground always, always turning normal on its head and seeing where his imagination takes him. He rarely knows where a short story is going till it’s finished.

His story, “Maudaleen,” appears in Haunts & Hellions: A Gothic Romance Anthology

NTK: How did you become interested in Gothic Literature?

KG: A chance encounter in a secondhand book shop with a battered hardback entitled Titus Groan by author Mervyn Peake. I loved the style, content, and fantastic array of characters. Delving further into the works of Poe. M R James. Sheridan Le Fanu. Algernon Blackwood and other such worthies hooked me in for life.

NTK: How do you define “romance”?

KG: A double-edged sword of emotion that cuts through the chaff of life to reveal the love of your life. If your love is denied by its intended, or worse still, accepted then betrayed. The reverse edge of the blade will cut you and wound you in a way that never fully heals. Lucky are those who do not know the sting of this blade and find true love at the first attempt.

NTK: What is your favorite Gothic horror story?

KG: The Woman in Black by author Susan Hill

NTK: Do you have a favorite Gothic horror movie? What attracted you to this film?

KG: Yes, I do. The 1939 version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame starring Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Hara. Fantastic black and white film that brings the characters and events to life with great emotion. Charles Laughton’s portrayal of Quasimodo embodies a love that cannot be yet refuses to be denied. Marvelous stuff.

NTK: Are your characters based on real people?

KG: Not whole people, rather certain characteristics of a person. Their dress, hairstyle, mannerism’s that catch the eye when they go about their daily lives. Catching a train, shopping at the supermarket. Negotiating steps in a wheelchair. I am no peeping tom, but I do take my time to look at what’s about me. Some marvelous material to be had people watching.

NTK: Do you use an outline to write? Or do you write by the seat of your pants?

KG: I never use an outline. Normally, the story develops as it unfolds in my imagination. I do however keep an eye on names, dates, and ages of my characters as it isn’t unusual for me to mix up a grandad with a daughter and turn the two into a third person altogether. I imagine quicker than I type being the issue here. I rarely have any idea of where a story is going before it’s finished.

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

KG: A bit of both really. Some of my characters take flight and run free and easy whilst others progress with a more sedate step. The story decides who does what. As the author, I sometimes subject my characters to some pretty distasteful events that play hell with who they are. The hero doesn’t always survive unscathed if at all. I have no firm rule on this. Preferring to keep my options open.

NTK: What are you most afraid of?

KG: As a man who has just celebrated his sixty-fifth birthday, I am becoming increasingly aware of my own mortality. Being old, weak, and helpless. That frightens me.

NTK: What is your favorite romance?

KG: 1984’s Winston and Julia. Doomed to failure but a love that defied Big Brother. An example of many real romances that fail because of outside influences. Winston and Julia never stood a chance, but emotion and the need for love could not, and would not be denied.

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

KG: This is a difficult one. So many excellent authors to choose from, but I would have to go for Graham Masterton. Closely followed by Darren Shan, and Algernon Blackwood

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

KG: My love of short stories is developing and expanding to encompass the world of novellas. Four of which will be published in an anthology in the run-up to Christmas 2021. Set during the cold winter months leading up to Christmas in Victorian England. The anthology is entitled Cold Shadows. I invite you and your guests to draw closer to the fire as winter closes in about you.

I have also completed a novella that I will publish ready for Christmas 2021 entitled Bonecreake (The strange tale of Maudy Jiller) A very challenging piece single mothers struggling to raise their children will identify with.  Victim or villain? This mother’s struggles encompass every woman’s worst nightmares. No matter the age they live in.

Addicts, you can find Kevin on Amazon and Facebook. His back catalogue can be found on his website.

Chilling Chat: Haunts & Hellions – N.C. Northcott

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Author N.C. Northcott was born in London and now resides on a plateau near a river with two cats and Yorkshire Terrier. They love writing urban and historical fantasy but also dabble in horror, steampunk, science fiction, mystery/thriller and romantic comedy. An avid photographer who also dabbles in painting and procrastination, their next project is an urban fantasy about a transgender sorceress set in modern-day America, near Boston. As they just invested in a magical electric bread maker, there will be somewhat less writing and considerably more sandwiches in their future.

Their story, “The Siren and Bowery Jack” appears in Haunts & Hellions: A Gothic Romance Anthology.

NTK: How did you become interested in Gothic Literature?

NCN: I read Dracula when I was younger.

NTK: How do you define “romance”?

NCN: Where love is a primary motivator of the story, not just some side gig for the heroine.

NTK: What is your favorite Gothic horror story?

NCN: Dracula.

NTK: Do you have a favorite Gothic horror movie? What attracted you to this film?

NCN: The Others with Nicole Kidman. It has a cool (though obvious) twist and isn’t too shock-and-guts in terms of its horror.

NTK: Are your characters based on real people?

NCN: The protagonists… no. But some of the other characters were real people, historically.

NTK: Do you use an outline to write? Or do you write by the seat of your pants?

NCN: Yes. I have used an outline with great success but now tend to write a list of scenic/plot needs and then write from the seat of my pants. An excellent book for people like me is Take Your Pants Off by Libby Hawker. Reading it changed how I write, for the better.

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

NCN: In this story they have free will in the moments, but because the story had to go somewhere specific, I was the puppet master all the way. That’s not always the case with my novels. A key villain in my current WIP suddenly became a heroine and I had to change her name and back story.

NTK: What are you most afraid of?

NCN: Losing my animals (two cats and a dog) and my home.

NTK: What is your favorite romance?

NCN:  Movie: You’ve Got Mail. Novel: Replay by Ken Grimwood.

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

NCN: Stephen King or Dean Koontz.

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

NCN: So so much! I just finished draft two of an urban fantasy set in Boston, am editing my rom-com set in Toronto, am researching a scifi ecothriller set on another planet, my agent is trying to find homes for one scifi novel, one literary thriller, and one mystery series. Oh, and I applied to go to the moon on SpaceX’s Starship in 2023 with Yusaka Maezawa. Dream big or stay home!

Chilling Chat: Haunts & Hellions – B.F. Vega

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B.F. Vega is a writer, poet, and theatrical artist living and working in California’s Bay Area.  Her poetry has been published in The Literary Nest, Sage Cigarettes, Walled Women, and Blood & Bourbon among others. Her first book of poetry, AB.F. Vega Saga for the Unrequited, will be published in August of 2021 by Fae Corp Publishing. She is still amazed when people refer to her as a writer, every time.

Her story, “Californio Fog,” appears in Haunts & Hellions: A Gothic Romance Anthology.

NTK: How did you become interested in Gothic Literature?

B.F.V: That is quite the rabbit hole. It probably started with “The Egypt Game” by Zilpha Keatley Snyder which I read in the third grade. It sparked my love of Egyptology, which led eventually to Conan Doyle and H. Rider Haggard, and that of course led to Victorian and Edwardian literature as a whole which got me to Poe, Stoker, Gilman and Shelley.

NTK: How do you define “romance”?

B.F.V: I read this question to my ex and he laughed for a good five minutes. I like stories of two equally strong-willed people finding each other. Romance as a literary term gets a bad rap, because everyone automatically thinks Harlequins (which if that’s your thing cool), but as a historian, I actually have to remind myself that it doesn’t refer to a specific period of art history. When I hear romance I immediately want to find a building with flying buttresses so I can read a Rossetti poem while drinking an aperitif and listening to Chopin.

NTK: What is your favorite Gothic horror story?

B.F.V: The Last Man by Mary Shelley hands down.

NTK: Do you have a favorite Gothic horror movie? What attracted you to this film?

B.F.V: Bram Stokers Dracula was foundational for me when it came to how you can reinterpret classic horror and make it relevant to the present time. Plus the costuming, my god, the costuming is gorgeous.

However, I think Guermillo De Toro’s early works are often overlooked as either magical realism or supernatural horror, but all of them have strong gothic and romantic era elements to them. He really has an eye for the beauty of the strange and macabre. If you enjoyed Pans Labyrinth I highly recommend The Devils Backbone.

NTK: Are your characters based on real people?

B.F.V: I’m pretty sure that I’m not allowed to answer this. They are not based on any singular historical figure no, although the historical figures named in the story are real people.

NTK: Do you use an outline to write? Or do you write by the seat of your pants?

B.F.V: It really depends. Sometimes I know how a story will end before I know anything else about it. When that happens then I generally do an outline to make sure it gets there. Also, if I am working on longer pieces like novellas or full books I will outline to remind myself of the plot. For short stories, I tend to start with a general idea of characters and setting, when that happens I free-write.

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

B.F.V: Again it really depends. Some characters absolutely do whatever the hell they want regardless of what I think they should be doing. Other characters I have to poke with a sharp stick to get them to move at all. Oddly, I usually have one of each type of character in my longer works.

NTK: What are you most afraid of?

B.F.V: Considering I have both a Canadian and an American Arch-nemesis, I probably shouldn’t answer this.   In terms of horror though, isolation is the thing that gets to me more so than jump scares or slashers or anything else. It’s the fog in The Others or the ocean in Jaws and Ghost Ship. It’s the lack of contact with the outside world in Night of the Living Dead. What is terrifying to me, and I think a lot of people, is that place where you are utterly reliant on yourself and nobody can save you.

NTK: What is your favorite romance?

B.F.V: Thornyhold by Mary Stewart followed closely by Jane Eyre.

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

B.F.V: Ugh, I have to pick?! Well, I choose Bram Stoker because he and I share a birthday so I feel an affinity to him.

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

B.F.V: My story, “Jezebels and Harlots,” about cousins fighting a Bokor in Kentucky, was just released as part of the Good Southern Witches anthology by Clear Blue Press. I have numerous shorts and drabbles in both the Drabbles of Dread series and the Dark Holidays series by Macabre Ladies Publishing including my favorite drabble I have written which is “Mallard Lake.” It’s about a ghost in San Francisco that haunts that other lake in Golden Gate Park. Not horror, but my chapbook, A Saga for the Unrequited, is being released by Fae Corp Press at the end of August 2021 and, as you can guess, is heavily influenced by my early love of Poe and Christina Rossetti.

Addicts, to keep up with her lunacy, follow her author page on Facebook or on Instagram.

Chilling Chat: Episode #194 – Haunts & Hellions – Emerian Rich

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Emerian Rich is the author of the vampire book series, Night’s Knights. 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. Emerian is aemz2 podcast horror hostess with an international audience and a vehicle with which to promote, HorrorAddicts.net.

She is the editor of Haunts and Hellions: A Gothic Romance Anthology and author of the story, “Left Behind.”

NTK: How did you become interested in Gothic Literature?

ER: As a child, I found gothic romance in the thrift store I was allowed to borrow from. I fell in love with the lighthouses and ghosts!

NTK: How do you define “romance”?

ER: A love story at its most basic level. I can’t really enjoy a story, even a horror story, without a little romance involved.

NTK: What is your favorite Gothic horror story?

ER: Funnily enough, my favorite Gothic horror does not truly have a love story involved. It is The Grey Woman by Elizabeth Gaskell. It is the story of a woman married to a despicable man, only unlike Jane Eyre, he does not have any redeemable qualities. In this story, it is more about a true friendship between a wife and a servant who protect each other under horrible circumstances. Sometimes the bond of friendship can be a truer love than a romantic relationship.

NTK: Do you have a favorite Gothic horror movie? What attracted you to this film?

ER: I really love Crimson Peak. Even though she loses her love in the end, I like the fact that despite his sister, the guy ultimately chooses true love over a twisted relationship. I also love all the gothic settings and costumes.

NTK: Are your characters based on real people?

ER: Not in this story. It all came from my imagination. I did study the polio epidemic quite extensively, though.

NTK: Do you use an outline to write? Or do you write by the seat of your pants?

ER: Seat of my pants, always. (Laughs.)

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

ER: My characters usually choose their own way. I don’t really have any say about it.

NTK: What are you most afraid of?

ER: You’ll laugh… Monkeys.

NTK: What is your favorite romance?

ER: Something with an edge of danger or excitement to it. 

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

ER: Anne Rice. I love how she threads love through her stories. Even when they are blood-thirsty vampires, her characters are always seeking and sometimes discovering love.

NTK: Which do you like better, editing or writing?

ER: Most definitely writing. However, it was loads of fun reading all the submissions and picking which ones fit my ideal.

NTK: What inspired Haunts and Hellions? Why did you want to edit such a book?

ER: Gothic romances were the first sort of fantastical fiction I read as a child. When I saw a cover with a windswept gal by a haunted lighthouse, I fell in love with the genre. I wanted to collect a group of stories, written by authors of today, that have that spooky, gothic feel.

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

ER: I’m working on my third novel in the Night’s Knights series, Day’s Children. I really want to get this puppy done. It’s been a long time coming.

Addicts, for news on Day’s Children and other works, visit Emerian’s website. You can find her on Amazon, Twitter, and Instagram.      

#HauntsandHellions: The Inspiration Behind “The Siren and Bowery Jack.”

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By N.C. Northcott

“The Siren and Bowery Jack” was inspired by the long history of misogyny and male violence against women and my desire to speak out against it. I wanted to write a steampunk love story about a literal monster/creature who wasn’t in fact the true monster of the story. I also wanted a VERY strong woman whose powers were underestimated by the men around her, a woman (like all women back then) who was seen as nothing more than a disposable tool by the users and violators who ran the world in New York in the late 19th century.

I don’t believe fiction should have happy endings for the villains. No trials, no sneaky lawyers, no redemption. Their ending should be as dark and violent as their lives and their actions. Eye-for-an-eye stuff. I want the reader to fist pump when they read the end of my story, to be terrified for the protagonist all along, but then to cheer when the antagonist meets their end. Of course, the reader should also feel guilty for feeling that way, because we’re not supposed to be happy when a person is punished without due process and proper legal representation. Maybe sometimes evil should be eradicated. In fiction we can do that.

With regards to the romance, I wanted a love so strong that it transcended species, with a mythological creature/monster loved so much by a human who didn’t care about their differences. Of course, my heroine is humanoid, so the relationship breaks fewer taboos. I’m not ready to write a minotaur/human love story, yet.

Writing and researching this story has now inspired me to plan and plot an entire novel about 19th century human trafficking in the tenements of New York City.

Sonja Takakkaw Falls ShadowAuthor N.C. Northcott (they/them) was born in London and now resides on a plateau near a river with two cats and Yorkshire Terrier. They love writing urban and historical fantasy but also dabble in horror, steampunk, science fiction, mystery/thriller and romantic comedy. An avid photographer who also dabbles in painting and procrastination, their next project is an urban fantasy about a transgender sorceress set in modern-day America, near Boston. As they just invested in a magical electric bread maker, there will be somewhat less writing and considerably more sandwiches in their future.

#HauntsandHellions: The Inspiration Behind “Left Behind.”

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The Inspiration Behind “Left Behind.”

By Emerian Rich

needleMy story “Left Behind” is set during the polio epidemic in New York City, 1916. A girl who is supposed to be dancing at cotillions and being courted by handsome young bucks, has been struck by this illness. Her mother keeps the house dark and ancient as the vibrant city around her installs electricity and revels in the happiness of progress.

While researching for this story, I learned a lot about polio. Over the course of a year, more than two-thousand cases ended in death in New York City. Although mostly in Brooklyn and in children under the age of five, there were rare outliers. Glorianna’s story is such a tale. She is older than most. She is from a prosperous family. She is ill much longer than others.

Studying this epidemic during a pandemic was quite an experience. Like COVID-19, polio caused widespread panic and thousands fled the city to nearby mountain resorts; movie theaters were closed, meetings were canceled, public gatherings were almost nonexistent, and children were warned not to drink from water fountains, and told to avoid amusement parks, swimming pools, and beaches. Sound familiar?

In the absence of proven treatments, a number of odd and potentially dangerous polio treatments were suggested. Internal use of caffeine, dry muriate of quinine, elixir of cinchone, radium water, chloride of gold, liquor calcis, and wine of pepsin were used.

In “Left Behind,” Glorianna’s mother uses a “tonic” to help cure her. It is described as acidic and acrid and we do not know what is in it. I left it up to the reader to decide what horrible concoction her mother might try to save her child’s life. Did she mix up metallic ingredients, herbals, or both?

We can look back and awe at the stupidity of using such cures, but in reality, what would you do to cure your child? We live in an age of information. Mother’s back then did not have such information at their fingertips, and yet… even today, if we heard that taking a spoonful of cinchona a day would stop COVID and was proven to work, who of us wouldn’t start feeding our family chicken cinchona cacciatore?

I hope you enjoy Glorianna’s story and the creature it inspires.

emz2Emerian Rich is the author of the vampire book series, Night’s Knights. 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. Emerian is a podcast horror hostess at HorrorAddicts.net.

Chilling Chat: Haunts & Hellions – Lucy Blue

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Lucy Blue lives in a decrepit old house in a small town in South Carolina with her husband, artist and game designer Justin Glanville, and her dog, preternaturally brilliant and adorable Jack Russell terrier, Luke. Formerly a historical andLucy Blue reading paranormal romance writer for Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster, she is now a writer and managing editor for Falstaff Crush, the romance line from Falstaff Books.

Her story, “My Ain True Love,” appears in Haunts & Hellions: A Gothic Romance Anthology.

NTK: How did you become interested in Gothic Literature?

LB: My grandmother had a set of leatherbound “classics” in her bookcase when I was a kid, and one was the collected works of Edgar Allan Poe. She read me “The Raven,” and I liked it, so I went back and read the whole book – I think I was about eight. Scared the living shit out of me, but I adored it. And I’ve been an addict ever since.

NTK: How do you define “romance”?

LB: As a literary genre or a concept? For me, romance values feeling over facts, a willingness on the part of the characters, the creator, and the audience to let themselves go to the point of being ridiculous to feel, for real or vicariously, a connection that goes beyond empathy or sex.

NTK: What is your favorite Gothic horror story?

LB: It changes, but I’ve always loved Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” and William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” – talk about a creepy romance!

NTK: Do you have a favorite Gothic horror movie? What attracted you to this film?

LB: I love Ken Russell’s “Gothic,” with Gabriel Byrne and Julian Sands as Byron and Shelley and Natasha Richardson as Mary Shelley. It’s completely over-the-top and extremely grotesque, but the actors are all amazing, and it captures that over the top ecstasy of a gothic romance.

NTK: Are your characters based on real people?

LB: Very much not.

NTK: Do you use an outline to write? Or do you write by the seat of your pants?

LB: I use an outline but deviate from it a lot in the actual writing.

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

LB: Since they’re imaginary, no, I’m deciding their fate for them. I don’t subscribe to that “oh, my characters went their own way and told me what they wanted” approach to writing—I tend to think of that as a first draft that probably needs a lot of work. I don’t trust my subconscious quite that much.

NTK: What are you most afraid of?

LB: Being buried alive.

NTK: What is your favorite romance?

LB: Either Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, or Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour, depending on the day. I also really like Possession by A.S. Byatt.

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

LB: Stephen King or Anne Rice.

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

LB: My next publication after this will probably be a horror novel called The Devil Makes Three, coming out later this year from Falstaff Books. And I have a collection of horror/romance short stories featuring witch heroines called Eat the Peach out now.

Addicts, you can find Lucy on her website.

The trouble translating Ann Radcliffe’s best villain

Ann Radcliffe seems to be a name that has been forgotten, except for those who really dig into their gothic fiction. She was at the forefront of her craft, and when she was releasing her novels in the late 1780s and 1790s, was one of the top-selling writers of the time. She’s probably most famous and known now for two novels, The Mysteries of Udolpho, and The Italian. It’s this latter novel which I want to discuss, and specifically the character of Schedoni, the evil monk. As always, I’ll avoid as many overt spoilers as I can, but there will obviously be some discussion of plot details. You’ve been warned.

The novel itself concerns a young nobleman, Vincentio di Vivaldi, who becomes fixated with the young Ellena. But his parents won’t have it, and his mother enlists the help of her confidant, Schedoni, to make sure that Ellena is out of the picture completely. As the story unfolds, the Holy Inquisition makes an appearance, there’s an escape through secret passages in a nun’s convent in the mountains, and we learn why the monk, Shedoni, is such a shadowy, malevolent figure.

With so many figures to comb through older literature for, and especially in these times of going back and pining for classic characters to bring back to life (we’re always looking back at the old Universal monsters, for heaven’s sake), it seems strange that this one has slipped through the net of popular culture to a certain extent. This is a shame because he’s an absolute monster.

When introduced to him, he is a mystery, and mostly through his own doing. Chapter 2 describes him as ‘an Italian… whose family was unknown, and from some circumstances, it appeared, that he wished to throw an impenetrable veil over his origins.’ He is a gloomy figure, with ‘solitary habits and frequent penances’ that many believe is ‘the consequence of some hideous crime gnawing upon an awakened conscience.’ Already therefore we have hints of past deeds, and his potential to do harm. But never can we believe that he has come fully to see the light, despite being dressed in religious garb, because two paragraphs later we’re told that ‘Among his associates, no one loved him, many disliked him, and more feared him.’ ‘There was something terrible in its air; something almost superhuman.’ In his very first descriptions, Radcliffe goes to great lengths to give us this sense that Schedoni is more than just a monk. There is an air of menace, with eyes ‘so piercing that they seemed to penetrate, at a single glance, into the hearts of men, and to read their most secret thoughts.’ This is not a man to meet on a dark night; there is the feel of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

At first, the man is always Vivaldi’s shadow, stopping him wherever he goes. ‘“This man crosses me, like my evil genius,”’ Vivaldi says of him. He is always around the Marchesa, Vivaldi’s mother, acting as her confidant. Radcliffe sets him up as Vivaldi’s counterpoint; scheming and malevolent in direct opposition to the young nobleman’s straightforward, almost naive, innocence. We’ve all come across this kind of paralleling, from the light and dark clothing of Luke Skywalker/Darth Vader to the doubling prophecy of Harry/Voldemort, a setup also complemented by Harry’s reliance on friends and the dark lord’s reliance on follow

As the story progresses, Schedoni manipulates the Marchesa into agreeing on murder as a course of action to solve her problems, and is willing to get his hands personally bloody in the process. He rats out our heroes to the Holy Inquisition, who will go by any torturous means to get their confessions, even if they may be false. He lies and goes about in disguise. His past is a mixture of betrayal, murder, and pride. A perfect character for a world of today becoming, as Baudrillard would have put it, full of ‘less and less truth, and more and more meaning.’

Yet he is also a conflicted character, one capable of staying his hand. At times he questions whether he is doing the right thing. Many might see this as lessening his menace, but it might also be seen as making him a more well-rounded character. I remember Hayao Miyazaki saying that he didn’t believe any of his characters to be completely evil and that they all had good traits in them (Yubaba’s motherly affection for her baby in Spirited Away is a great example of this). At times, we see these small, but significant, good points creep through, despite his overall menace. But then at the end, his final act is that of murder, and the novel finishes with him being thoroughly despicable. But that’s kind of the point. He had a chance to atone and deliberately chose not to. That’s what separates the good guys from the bad guys.

So when you’ve got a villain this conniving, dark, and malevolent, as your central focus, why haven’t we properly embraced the character as a truly layered evil? Why hasn’t he been resurrected in the present day, maybe as a film or an 8 episode Netflix show? What’s stopping us from taking one of the great early villains of gothic horror and bringing him back to life again?

Perhaps several reasons spring to mind. In many people’s minds, horror kind of stops at Frankenstein, and occasionally they’ll go back for The Castle of Otranto, just for completion’s sake. Then it’s onto Poe in the ’30s and ’40s, and beyond into the future. We forget that many of the fundamentals of gothic texts, and beyond, occur in the few decades before Mary Shelley’s masterpiece. My disappointment that Doctor Who didn’t do anything with the character of John Polidori in the last series’ episode, The Haunting of Villa Diodati, which was set on the night Shelley created Frankenstein was unrestrained. How do you have the guy who pretty much established the foundation of the gentleman vampire, in the form of Lord Ruthven in his novella, The Vampyre, created on the same night, and not take advantage of that?

But I digress. My point is that many of the classics before Frankenstein haven’t made the transition from battered reprints of the novels into TV or Film. As much as Shelley’s novel is fundamental to literature as a whole, you can’t think of it without seeing Karloff in your head. Matthew Lewis, Ann Radcliffe, John Polidori, and even, come to think of it, Walpole’s Otranto, have never really got a foothold on screen. Which is a shame, because all of their works are fundamental to our understanding of how Western horror came about, in slow, incremental steps, and they deserve to be kept alive. We’ll adapt The String of Pearls into Sweeney Todd. We’ll get Corman and Price to do a string of Poe adaptations. And we’ll run Frankenstein almost into the ground with adaptations. But before Shelley, we’re severely lacking in adaptations or at least prominent ones.

So would Schedoni now be seen as something of an anachronism? Would you put him in a film and have the critics say that we’ve seen a thousand characters like him now, so why bring him back? His characteristics have seeped into every film and TV show that now it might seem like trying to hype up a museum piece; all very interesting but not very entertaining. And with Vivaldi being so incredibly naive (or at least not as complex as he could be), you’d need to do some serious modifications to make him as compelling a protagonist to put against Shedoni and create a proper double act.

If it could be handled right, the cloak-and-dagger menace from the late 1700s would be incredible on screen. Someone like Mike Flanagan would have a great time making it as a limited series. But I’m not sure how much of the novel would survive the translation for a modern audience, and Schedoni might suffer as a result. The character, as incredible as he is, may have to remain inside the pages of Radcliffe’s final masterpiece, at least for now. I think that’s an incredible shame, but a necessary evil.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: kjudgemental

#HauntsandHellions Book Event Calendar

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Welcome Horror Addicts, to the Haunts and Hellions Book Event Calendar. We have many delightful events planned for your enjoyment and edification. Be sure to join us for interviews, tales of inspiration, excerpts, and parties galore! We would be most honored by your presence.

DATE WHAT? WHEN? WHERE?
MAY 2021 PST WEBSITE
1 31 Days of #GothicRomance on Instagram 1-31 https://www.instagram.com/horroraddicts.netpress/
13 Press Release for Haunts &Hellions 1:13p horroraddicts.net
14 Haunts & Hellions Book Event Calendar 1:13p horroraddicts.net
15 Haunts & Hellions Inspiration for the Book 1:13p horroraddicts.net
16 Chilling Chat: Author Lucy Blue 1:13p horroraddicts.net
16 Excerpt “The House Must Fall” all day https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com/rocknromanceblog
17 The Inspiration Behind “Left Behind” 1:13p horroraddicts.net
18 Excerpt “Hungry Masses” all day http://www.emmyzmadrigal.com
19 The Inspiration Behind “The Siren and Bowery Jack” 1:13p horroraddicts.net
20 Excerpt “Left Behind” all day emzbox.com
21 Chilling Chat: Author Emerian Rich 1:13p horroraddicts.net
22 HorrorAddict.net #194, Haunts and Hellion Podcast 1:13p horroraddicts.net
22 Facebook Party Announced 1:13p horroraddicts.net
23 Excerpt “She Woke at Midnight” all day https://nachingkassa.wordpress.com/
23 Chilling Chat: Author B.F. Vega 8:13a horroraddicts.net
24 Chilling Chat: Author N.C. Northcott 8:13a horroraddicts.net
24 Facebook Party, Day one 8a-8p
25 Chilling Chat: Author Kevin Ground 8:13a horroraddicts.net
25 Facebook Party, Day two 8a-8p
26 Chilling Chat: Author R.L. Merrill 8:13a horroraddicts.net
26 Facebook Party, Day three 8a-8p
27 Chilling Chat: Author Rowan Hill 8:13a horroraddicts.net
27 Facebook Party, Day four 8a-8p
28 Chilling Chat: Author Daniel R. Robichaud 8:13a horroraddicts.net
28 Facebook Party, Day five, winners announced 3:00p
29 Excerpt “Companions” all day http://www.daphnestrasert.com
29 Chilling Chat: Author Tara Vanflower 8:13a horroraddicts.net
30 The Inspiration Behind “She Woke at Midnight” 1:13P horroraddicts.net
31 Chilling Chat: Author Emily Blue 1:13P horroraddicts.net
JUNE
1 Excerpt “With Red Eyes Gleaming” all day https://consideringstories.wordpress.com/
1 The Inspiration Behind “Californio Fog” 1:13P horroraddicts.net
2 Chilling Chat: Author Daphne Strasert 1:13P horroraddicts.net
3 Excerpt “Lady of Graywing Manor” all day http://blueswriterthoughts.blogspot.com/
3 The Inspiration Behind “Companions” 1:13P horroraddicts.net
4 Watch Party Announced 1:13P horroraddicts.net
5 Excerpt “Love Never Dies” all day http://writerrowanhill.com/
6 Chilling Chat: Author Naching T. Kassa 1:13P horroraddicts.net
7 Watch Party Reminder 1:13P horroraddicts.net
8 Excerpt “Maudaleen” all day http://www.kevinground.com/
8 Watch Party 6pm, Facebook 6:00p https://www.facebook.com/events/271539928045528
9 The Inspiration Behind “With Red Eyes Gleaming” 1:13P horroraddicts.net
10 Excerpt “The Siren and Bowery Jack” all day www.TheTaoOfTim.com
11 Chilling Chat: Author Emmy Z. Madrigal 1:13P horroraddicts.net
12 The Inspiration Behind “The House Must Fall” 1:13P horroraddicts.net
13 Excerpt “Blood and Dust” all day http://emzbox.com
13 Haunts and Hellions released on Kindle 1:13P horroraddicts.net
14 The Inspiration Behind “Maudaleen” 1:13P horroraddicts.net
15 Excerpt “Californio Fog” all day https://bookhoarding.wordpress.com/
16 The Inspiration Behind “Hungry Masses” 1:13P horroraddicts.net
17 Excerpt “My Ain True Love” all day https://lucybluecastle.wordpress.com/

Book Review : Aleister Blake by Valentina Cano

Review by Matt Morovich

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

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

That said, this book, Aleister Blake

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

And that is not a bad thing in the slightest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Review : Clockwork Wonderland

Clockwork Wonderland Review by Ariel Da Wintre

I really enjoyed this Anthology. The book consisted of 14 stories and a poem. It has something
for everyone; scary, intriguing and creative. All the stories have the theme of clocks and Alice in
Wonderland characters. The writers added new characters, taking the classic story and
giving it a horror element. I think this works really well as parts of the original story could be
considered scary all on their own. I found the stories very original and some I didn’t
want to end.

The book starts with a poem by Emerian Rich, “Hatter’s Warning”, and it reminded me of the poems in the original Alice in Wonderland.

The first story is, “Jabberclocky”, by Jonathan Fortin. This story is about a boy named Henry and his unexpected visitor,  the Hatter. I really liked this and I was completely drawn into Henry’s story and the scary Jabberclocky. I loved the end but I didn’t want it to end.

I am still tripped out by the very scary, “Hands of Time” by Stephanie Ellis. It is about an apprentice named Rab who meets an executioner and the timekeeper. I don’t want to give anything away but if you like a bloody good time this is the story for you.

Next, “Clockwork Justice”, by Trinity Adler, is another thrilling story. Alice finds herself in Wonderland and accused of murder. Who did she murder? I won’t say but will she keep her head? Will she solve the crime? All my favorite characters are part of the story Mad Hatter, Cheshire cat and more.

The story, “My Clockwork Valentine”, by Sumiko Saulson is about a girl named Blanche and what happens to her. I loved the imagery in this story and the concept of time. You will get swept away by the story and hope our heroine survives.

“Blood Will Have Blood” by James Pyne, starts with the main character, Alicia, getting pulled into Wonderland and being told she is the new Alice. I think you can see where this is going. I found this story creative and different and it is about a blood clock. It is pretty scary I don’t want to be part of that Wonderland.

I loved “Midnight Dance” by Emerian Rich. This story follows the Mad Hatter and the March Hare. It has a very different twist but with characters we all know and love from the book and Zombies!

The next story, “A Room for Alice” by Ezra Barany, is a scary story that follows Alice as she wakes up in a scary place and meets Tweedle D. I enjoyed this story it had lots of plots and twists and left me thinking for some time afterward. It had a lot of creepy elements and I found it very descriptive.

“Frayed Ears” by H.E. Roulo is a story I loved. It has a Rabbit going through many childhood fairy tales. I couldn’t wait to see who would show up next to help the White Rabbit and will he make it on time and who is causing this to happen.

The next story is “King of Hearts,” by Dustin Coffman. This story had a great twist, a guy goes down the rabbit hole instead of Alice. Lenny is checking the closet for his daughter who hears a strange noise and finds himself in Wonderland. He meets the White Rabbit and other characters. Watch out for the Queen of Hearts!

“Riddle”, by N. McGuire, is about a young lady named Alice. She follows the white rabbit on a train and she is drawn into a very strange situation with different Wonderland characters.  Will she solve the riddle?

The next story is, “Tick Tock”, by Jaap Boekestein. This story has all the characters you love but they are not the way you remember them. Wonderland is at war and you don’t know who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. This story will keep you intrigued.

The story, “Gone A’ Hunting,” by Laurel Anne Hill, follows a young lady named Alease who is chasing the White Rabbit for dinner. She gets more than she’s bargaining for and needs to escape. Will the White Rabbit help her after she was just trying to kill him? Great story, scary to the end.

I really liked “The Note”, by Jeremy Megargee. It had a great concept. Wonderland is not the same and the character telling the story seems so lost and sad. The story has a lot of suspense. I enjoyed the whole vision of this scary wonderland.

The next story is “Half Past”, by K.L. Wallis. This story follows a girl named Alyssa. She is bumped into by someone who drops their pocket watch. She tries to return it and finds herself traveling on a train to Wonderland with Albert Hare. Alyssa ends up going with the hare to his sister Hatty’s home where everyone keeps calling her Alice. There are great twists and turns in this story. The Queen of Hearts in this story which keeps you wondering until the end; will Alyssa/Alice survive.

The final story is, “Ticking Heart”,  by Michele Roger. The story is about a friend of Alice’s coming to visit her in Wonderland and something is very wrong. The Queen of Spades wants to take over and it’s going to be bloody. Will the good guys save Alice and Wonderland?

I enjoyed this collection of short stories thoroughly. I also found myself looking at the cover thinking it really fits this book. I could read these stories over and over again. I couldn’t put the book down until I finished it.

Chilling Chat: Episode #192 Nicole Givens Kurtz – Slay Book Launch

chillingchat

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.

TBM HORROR EXPERTS-Mocha memoirs press - SLAY tw banner white 2

 

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: Five Black Vampire Myths

While the word “vampire” usually conjures images of foggy European forests and crumbling gothic castles, vampire legends don’t start and end with Dracula. Blood-sucking monsters exist in the shadows of cultures all over the world.

Today, I’ll introduce you to five vampires from black cultures.

Impundulu

From the Western Cape region of Africa, comes the impundulu. This creature takes the form of a beautiful woman and serves as the familiar of a witch, doing her bidding (and potentially becoming her lover). But the impundulu has a voracious appetite for blood and if the witch fails to keep her fed, she’s just as likely to turn on her mistress.

Sasabonsam

The sasabonsam lives in the forests of Togo and Ghana, waiting for unwary hunters or travelers to pass underneath. When they do, the sasabonsam scoops them up and takes them into the canopy to feast. The sasabonsam looks like a human with one distinct difference: it has short, stubby arms that turn into monstrous, batlike wings. With a wingspan of twenty feet, it’s truly a terrifying sight, even before it eats you.

Adze

From southern Togo comes the adze. The adze’s favorite food is children—specifically their hearts, livers, and blood. Normally, this creature takes the form of a firefly, sneaking into homes to suck blood, but when it’s captured, it transforms into a hunchbacked figure, black as ink, with sharp talons.

Obayifo

The Obayifo of West Africa is considered both a vampire and a type of witch. While traveling at night, it emits a bright green phosphorescent light. Like the adze, the Obayifo’s favorite food is the blood of children. Legend says that you can tell someone is an Obayifo by their shifty eyes and obsession with food.

Soucouyant

The soucouyant hails from the Caribbean islands. She is a shape-shifting, blood-sucking hag. She looks like an old woman during the day, but at night transforms into a ball of fire to find her victims. Interestingly, the soucouyant shares some similarities with vampires from European folklore: 1) if her victims don’t die, they become a soucouyant themselves and 2) she can be trapped by scattering rice on the ground, forcing her to pick the grains up piece by piece.

Want to discover even more vampire myths? Check out my previous post: Five Blood Drinking Monster Myths from Around the World

Book Review: DeadCades: The Infernal Decimation

DeadCades is a horror anthology where all the stories are broken up by decades. They start in the 1880s and travel through time to the 2020s. Each decade starts with a list of notable “horror events” such as wars waged, natural disasters, and murderous sprees. Directly after the list of horror, a piece of flash fiction introduces the time period and then a story follows, set in the decade.

Overall, the book is a big mixed bag of horror. The stories are all so different, I think there is something for everyone in there. Because the stories were all so different, not only by subject but in style as well, I found the book a bit hit or miss. If you’re someone who likes variety in your horror, you will love this book. 

I’m generally not a flash fiction reader, but I found many of the mini tales enjoyable. They were little bites meant to incite fear or terror and a lot of them had that creepy chill crawling up my spine. There were also some interesting format ideas in the flash, such as displaying the text backward, like a riddle to be solved.

Some of the shorts I enjoyed the most were “Trapped in the Century” by Michael Carter, “Swing Time” by Pattyann McCarthy, “Doffer Boy” by Andrea Allison, and “We Are Not Alone” by C.R. Smith. Because of their length, I will not give descriptions.

Now, on to my favorite stories in the group. Please be warned, there may be spoilers below.

My absolute favorite story in this book is Stephanie Ellis’s, “Winter of Discontent.” She brings the chills as she tells a story of a town that can’t bury its dead until the ground thaws. Growing up in Alaska, that was a reality and I always thought it was super creepy, so I was excited to see her explore the subject. Her story takes it a step further as the young guy who has to watch over the bodies in a warehouse overnight, experiences strange occurrences that culminate with him hiding on a shelf inside one of the body bags. The madness that unfurls as he awaits whoever (or whatever) is in the warehouse to reveal itself was enough to have me hiding under the covers. Stephanie’s command of story development and resolution is magic.

Another great one was “The Tailor of Bernu” by Christopher Long. This story appears to be about a lost camera and one man’s trek to recover it, but when he gets to the house of the man who is supposed to have it, it’s unclear where he’s gone. Strange mannequins are placed in odd positions about the rooms and the man himself is nowhere to be found. The secret to the story is too precious to give away, but it’s definitely one you’ll be thinking about long after you finish the story. 

I got a great sense of the 80s in Stuart Conover’s story “The Shortcut.” A bunch of kids try to take a shortcut through a haunted house, and well… We all know that is not a good idea. Fans of the 2017 It movie and Stranger Things will dig this throwback tale of exuberant and foolhardy youth. I especially liked the creepy suits of armor that seem to move around the rooms.

“Beyond the Veil” by Richard J. Meldrum was a fun jaunt into the spiritualists (and con-men) of the 1900s. As a pretend spiritualist that is more showman than gifted psychic, Dr. John Lansing is offered a big payday to visit a wealthy (and dying) man’s house to speak to the dead. What occurs after he arrives is a surprise to both him and his client.

In the 2010’s story, “Time of Death” by Marie McKay, there were some really fantastic images brought forth in the language she used. The story on the whole made me uncomfortable in an interesting way. My brain kept trying to guess where the pieces fell and I couldn’t. The style was almost like a serial killer story “dissected” but in the end, wasn’t what I thought at all. Delightfully surprising.

The 1920’s “Mr Dandy” by Alyson Faye tells the story of a ventriloquist dummy who causes his operator a heap of trouble when he continually abducts and feeds on women. The creepy dummy-murderer story had some chilling moments as he spoke directly to the girls, seemingly on his own. But was the operator schizophrenic? Or was the dummy truly possessed? 

If you like horror fiction in many different styles and subjects, you are sure to enjoy DeadCades.

Book Review: Death Masks by Kim Richards

Review Written by Matt Marovich

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From The Vault : Kidnapped! (Love)crafting the Perfect Monster

Reblogged from3/3/2018

(Love)crafting the Perfect Monster

by Kevin Holton

We all love a good monster story, no matter how loosely you define ‘monster.’

To some, ‘monster’ is exclusively a lab accident, cryptid, or some other big, nasty, never before seen (or, at the very least, only mentioned in mythology) creature. The Minotaur, or a Gorgon, would both probably fall under even the strictest definition of the term. A half-human, half-animal, supernaturally charged hybrid generally makes the cut (although, it’s interesting to note how unusual powers push a being toward monster status, even if relatively human).

On the other hand, there are those who don’t mind applying the label to pretty much any not-quite-human to stumble, squirm, or slither. Frankenstein’s Monster, as he’s commonly known, was just a human being assembled from other human beings. Some might consider vampires, werewolves, zombies, and similar horror classics to be monsters. Then there are also humanoid creatures, like the creation from Splice (2009) and alien horrors, like The Thing. Many Marvel and DC characters would fall under this looser interpretation.

So what makes a monster compelling? What drives us to say, “Damn, I’d read that again,” or “Let’s binge the series” or “No, let’s put on The Simpsons, I can’t sleep after watching that.” Why are Xenomorphs, or The Predator, so compelling and beloved? What leaves people staying up all night, terrified of Pennywise, when other clown-based horror titles get laughed at (and not for the good reason)?

Most people think life is about balance, and a good monster design is no different. Let’s break down what makes these Big Bads work.

The “Army of One” Balance

We’ve seen this before. Alien. Predator. The Terminator. There are few ways of making a creature more terrifying—or more interesting—than making it unstoppable, but alone. Granted, yes, the Alien had many eggs laid elsewhere, and Dracula had a harem, yet you don’t think about these when you’re busy watching or reading the latest exploit. It’s why the Alien: Isolation game was so successful, but Alien: Colonial Marines flopped (well, in fairness, it wasn’t the only reason). These creations are great for building suspense, because the only weakness they apparently have is the fact that it can’t be everywhere at once. Hide out in a secure enough corner, and you’ll be fine—until it realizes where you are. That’s what makes these so much fun.

The “Unyielding Loner” Balance

Dracula. Frankenstein’s Monster. Virgil from Devil May Cry. The Cyclops, and pretty much every other mythological beast. These are the entities that are perfectly content to go it alone, even though they aren’t all-powerful. They simply assume they’re all powerful, or so highly skilled, that nothing can stop them. These are great for character development, though they often lead to some degree of moralism and preaching at the end, since this arrogance, combined with some other fatal flaw, is usually how they’re defeated. The charismatic, eccentric, or identifiable elements of someone so unflinchingly confident are hard to ignore. Give the readers a monster they know is deeply, tragically human. Although, I suppose Frankenstein’s Monster wasn’t technically defeated.

The “Beyond This World” Balance

Demons. Ghosts. Mama from Mama. Diana from Lights Out, who technically wasn’t either. It’s far too easy to make these overpowered. After all, if a spirit, entity, whatever, comes back from the grave, or Hell, or another dimension, how are you supposed to even remotely fight it? One of my favorite movie scenes—ever—has to be when a police officer fires at Diana in Lights Out, only for her to disappear in the flash of the muzzle, teleporting just a little bit closer every time. But, she’s not invulnerable. Her inability to stay in lit areas is how most of the characters survive, finding new, clever, last-second ways to brighten things up and escape. It’s also how they beat her. The trick to this category is that the source of power is also the source of weakness, i.e. how Mama is lulled into pacifism by her need to nurture, or the demons of The Conjuring series being inevitably defeated by the weird, specific rules of their occult nature, like how knowing their name allows you to command them. Survival usually involves the death of your expert, since that’s the first person these creatures will go after, then placating them with a ritual or sacrifice. Nobody’s a winner here.

The “Sweet Holy Hell, What Are You?” Balance

It’s in the name. Whenever you have no idea how to fight something because you have no idea what you’re fighting, you’ve landed in this category. Slenderman. The Thing. The Thing from It Follows. Any other creature known as ‘it’ or ‘The Thing.’ Sephiroth. The Endless Thing with Piebald Sides, from Lisey’s Story. Pennywise. The Bodachs (Odd Thomas). There aren’t rules. Nobody has any clue as to what’s going on. Maybe it’s supernatural? Maybe it really was just an accident. All anyone knows is that you’re screwed, so you better learn quick, because there are rules, and following them is the only way to survive. Admittedly, this isn’t balance so much as it is loosely structured chaos. Creating a good story with this type of monster is about pacing. Let the characters learn one rule at a time, and let them learn it the hard way. Readers will keep following that blood trail to the end.

There are, of course, more ways to build characters, but these are the tried and true methods—these ways don’t simply get people paying attention, they glue them to the seat with their eyes pried open like in A Clockwork Orange. I’ve used all of them to great success in the past. Which did I use for my newest novel, At the Hands of Madness? You’ll have to read and find out.


Kevin Holton is the author of At the Hands of Madness, as well as the forthcoming titles The Nightmare King and These Walls Don’t Talk, They Scream. He also co-wrote the short film Human Report 85616, and his short work has appeared in dozens of anthologies.

He can be found at www.KevinHolton.com, or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Patreon @TheHoltoning.

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

Review Written by Matt Marovich

Content Warning: Sexual Assault, Threats of Rape

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Review: Shelter for the Damned by Mike Thorn


Review by Daphne Strasert

Content Warnings: violence, gore

Mark is a troubled teen in typical white suburbia. He gets in fights, sneaks out of the house, and smokes with his friends. He doesn’t fit into his parents’ ideal life of picket fences, neat lean lawns, and bland dinners. But teenage rebellion takes a turn for the dark when Mark discovers The Shack. At first just an oasis of peace, The Shack begins to ask more and more of Mark in return. Mark is helpless to resist the twisted, violent desires The Shack places in him.

Shelter for the Damned is a slow burn descent into madness. Mark is led into a world of violent reactionism until he finds himself too far to climb out. It’s horrifying to watch his descent. Even as he commits terrible acts, he is numb to the effect of it.

Thorn fearlessly writes the awkwardness of the teenage experience. It’s painful to look at sometimes. Teenagers don’t always make logical decisions; they are ruled by hormones and ego. Thorn manages to convey this well.

Mark is plagued by futility. He is dragged along by the plot, even as he is the one making decisions. It’s a great metaphor for the lack of control teens have over their own lives (externally and internally). Mark’s parents repeatedly ask him why he does what he does, something that he can’t answer. They beg him to change his behavior, which he never does. It’s a familiar feeling that I had while reading. From an outside perspective, it’s infuriating to watch Mark’s downward spiral.

Thorn absolutely nails his portrayal of white suburbia in the early 2000s (I should know, I was there): the eternal expanse of identical houses, the hidden poverty, and abuse, the teens scrabbling for a sense of individuality in a world of carbon copies. In the midst of this conformity, The Shack stands in sharp relief. It’s easy to see why Mark is so drawn to it, even without supernatural influences.

Thorn’s writing brings a literary element to the horror genre. His descriptions are vivid and realistic. He tends toward psychological horror rather than a gorefest. Not to say there isn’t gore, but Thorn treats it tastefully.

I would have liked to see Thorn explore the confusion of whether Mark was insane or possessed or plagued by an eldritch force. He introduced this in the middle of the book but left it unaddressed. I also think he could have played out more the effect each of the murders had on Mark’s psyche. Instead, Mark was too ready to move on from events.

While Shelter for the Damned stars teenagers, I would not classify it as Young Adult. It is a solid horror novel. I enjoyed reading it. Thorn’s writing is a joy to read. If you like supernatural dread, you’ll enjoy Shelter for the Damned.

You may also enjoy Mike Thorn’s short story collection Darkest Hours.

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

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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

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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.