Freaky Foodies: from Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Cannibals vs Cannibals

Plotline: Somos Lo Que Hay vs. We Are What We are 

Who would like it: The people who would like both movies fans of Coming of Age stories, Zombies, Twisted Families and gore hounds. 

High Points:  —

Complaints:  —

Overall: Preferred Somos Lo Que Hay over the remake We Are What We are 

Stars: No Rating 

Where I watched it: VOD

 

***

Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: The Strain Season 2 and 3

Real World Trauma Acerbates the flaws in The Strain Seasons Two and Three

by Kristin Battestella

After an unraveling end to the First Season of The Strain, it took me a long, long while to return to the thirteen-episode 2015 Second Season. Childhood flashbacks recounting fairy tales of nobles with gigantism and quests for the curing blood of a gray wolf start the year off well. Horrific blood exchanges lead to village children vanishing in the shadow of the creepy castle before we return to the present for secret deals with The Master, alliances with the Ancient Ones, and blind telepathic feeler vampires canvassing the city. Scientists Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll) and Nora Martinez (Mia Maestro) contemplate vampire vaccines while former antique dealer Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley) pursues a rare strigoi text and rat catcher Fet (Kevin Durand) prepares their explosive defensive. Government officials like Justine Feraldo (Samantha Mathis) fight back against the zombie like masses despite shootouts in infested laboratories, double-crosses, and sentient, disguised as human foot soldiers. Old fashioned black and white Mexican horror reels add personality and history to our reluctant heroes while more superb action and flashbacks standout late in the season with “The Assassin” and “Dead End.” Unfortunately, early on in Year Two, my main dilemma with the First Season of The Strain returnedyou can read all of this, but it is much too much onscreen. Unnecessary timestamps and location notations clutter reintroduced characters, new problems, old problems, and unintroduced newcomers. There are too many separated characters with unbalanced screen time who must repeatedly explain who they are. Enemy’s enemy is my friend mixed motivations create confusion – multiple people hunting The Master individually making promises to his fellow ancient vampires with little background on who these chained monsters chilling beneath Brooklyn are. Cryptic double talk and real estate transactions may be filler or meandering developments, but it’s a toss up on which one will drag on or disappear. The past stories are often more tantalizing because our team isn’t much of a team. It took so long in the First Year to get everyone together, yet each is still toiling over what to do in this vampire zombie apocalypse. After previous fears over any tiny contagion, one and all shoot, blast, slice, and splatter at will. They hand out fliers with the monster details and warn the community, yet unaware police are shocked to find vampires in a dark alley.

Maybe The Strain is meant to mirror how no one is on the same page in a crisis – we are now witnessing that chaotic misinformation mistake first hand indeed – but the plot is all over the place, too. It’s been a few weeks onscreen since The Strain began, however, life is upside down for some while others seem totally unbothered. Again, this is a foreboding parallel to our real life pandemic with the poor working man much more deeply impacted than the wealthy ease of access, but here there’s no sense of the storytelling scope despite opportunistic orchestrations and tough women securing the five boroughs. Slick villains talk of great visions and master plans, but tangents diverge into a dozen different threads and multiple dead ends. Is The Strain about a doctor experimenting on the infected to test scientific theories or weird do nothing telepathic vampires and slow strigoi chases? Are we to enjoy the precious moments between our little people struggling on the ground or awe at the zombie outbreak turned vampire mythology? New people and places are constantly on the move, jumbled by an aimless, plodding pace as too little too late politicians talk about quarantines when The Strain is past containment. Confusing, pointless storylines take away from important intrigues and significant elements tread tires amid random threats and dropped crises. The conflicts on cruel science for the greater good grow hollow thanks to constant interruptions and changed emotions. Provocative diluted worm extracts taken for illness or ailments are used as control by the strigoi or when necessary for our heroes, but the scientific analysis of such a tonic or hybrid cases is never considered. Infecting the infected experiments and vampire free island security only take a few episodes, yet viewers today who can’t pay the rent are expected to believe it takes weeks for a market free fall and runs on banks? “The Born” starts off great, but often there’s no going back to what happens next regarding cures and Roman history as contrived messy or blasé action pads episodes. Rather than driving away in a cop car, dumbed down characters run into a church for a lagging, maze-like battle that kills an interesting minority character. When the community comes together for “The Battle for Red Hook,” unnecessary family pursuits ruin the sense of immediacy while the hop, skip, and jump to Washington D.C. for two episodes of scientific effort gets ditched for glossed over vampire factions and historic relics. Both the lore and science are interesting, but these mashed together entities compete for time as if we’re changing the channels and watching two shows at once. Instead of the rich detail we crave, The Strain continually returns to its weakest plot with shit actions and stupid players causing absurd consequences.

The Strain, however, does look good, and the ten episode Third Season provides coffins, gore, goo, and nasty bloodsucking appendages. The vampire makeup, creepy eyes, monster sinews, and icky skin are well done. Occasionally, creatures scaling the wall and speedy, en masse action is noticeable CGI, but the worms, tentacles, and splatter upset the body sacred. Sickly green lighting invokes the zombie plague mood while choice red adds vampire touches alongside silver grenades, ultraviolet light, and ancient texts. Sadly, Season Three opens with an unrealistic announcement that it’s only been twenty-three days since the outbreak started. The uneven pace makes such time impossible to believe, and tricked out infrared military are just now arriving three weeks into the disaster. Mass manufacture of The Strain’s bio-weapon is also never mentioned again as the science is now nothing more than a home chemistry set. Instead, step by step time is taken to siphon gas in a dark, dangerous parking garage – which could be realistic except The Strain has never otherwise addressed food, supplies, precious toilet paper, or the magically unlimited amount of silver bullets. Once again, everyone who fought together goes on to separate allegiances on top of hear tell global spread, Nazi parallels, control centers, and messianic symbolism. It’s all too clunky thanks to people made stupid and contradictions between the onscreen myths, technology, and abilities. Too many convenient infections, Master transformations, tacked on worms, and excuses happen at once – cheapening Shakespearean touches and monster worm bombs with redundant failures. Montages wax on human history while voiceovers tell audiences about government collapse, glossing over arguably the most interesting part of the catastrophe for drawn-out experiments on microwaves. There’s no narrative flow as the episodes run out but suddenly everyone is sober enough to use the ancient guidebook to their advantage. After such insistence over sunlight and ultraviolet, those safeguards are inexplicably absent when needed. No one maximizes resources and opportunities in “Battle for Central Park,” and people only come together because they accidentally bump into each other. In “The Fall,” a carefully orchestrated trap and prison plan is finally put into action against The Master, but ridiculous contrivances stall the operation before easy outs and one little effing asshole moron ruining it all. Again.

The cast is not at fault for the uneven developments on The Strain, but if Ephraim Goodweather is only there to be a drunken bad parent failing at every turn, he should have been written off the show. If we’re sticking with Eph and his angst before science, then his pointless strigoi wife and terrible son Zach should have been tossed instead of hogging the screen. Cranky, obnoxious, budding sociopath Zach’s “Why? No! Don’t!” lack of comprehension is unrealistic for his age, and everything has to be dumbed downed to appease him.  Onscreen The Strain is continually talking down to viewers like we are five and it gets old very fast. Previously compassionate characters are reset as cold marksmen, and Eph claims he no longer cares about the cause when he was once at its epicenter. He complains he has nothing to do, bemoaning the lack of a feasible vaccine before gaining government support in creating a strigoi bio-weapon only to ditch it for microwaves and vampire telepathy. Zach ruins each plan anyway, and by the end of Season Two, I was fast forwarding over the Goodweather family plots. Nora Martinez is also nonexistent as a doctor unless convenient, relegated instead to babysitting, and Samantha Mathis’ (Little Women) Justine Feraldo likewise starts off brassy before unnecessarily overplaying her hand and failing bitterly because of others. Initially The Strain had such a diverse ensemble, but by the end of the Third Season, all the worst things have happened to the women and minorities. Ruta Gedmintas’ Dutch wavers from the cause for a conflicted lesbian romance that disappears before she returns to the fold as Eph’s tantalizing research assistant when she’s not being captured and rescued. I won’t lie, I only hung on watching The Strain as long as I did for Rupert Penry-Jones (MI-5) as the thousand year old hybrid Quinlan. He uses his conflicted history with The Master to help Setrakian and sees through Ephraim while developing a distrustful shoulder to shoulder with Fet. Unfortunately, his vampire super powers come in handy unless he’s forgotten about when it’s time for the action to sour or let failures happen, and nobody tells officials about this almost invincible half-strigoi who could be useful in a fight. Setrakian, Quinlan, and Fet make for an ornery, begrudging trio, living in a luxury hotel while pursuing Abraham’s relics whether they agree with the plan or not – mostly because Fet accrues all manor of weapons and is happy to use them. Setrakian has some crusty wisdom for them, but his battle of wits with Jonathan Hyde as the at any price Palmer provides great one on one scene chewing. The double crosses and interchangeable threats feel empty, and Palmer also has an odd romantic side plot that wastes time, but Richard Sammel’s Nazi vampire Eicchorst remains a deliciously twisted minion. “Dead End” and “Do or Die” reveal more personal history as the mature players provide intriguing questions on immortality, humanity, and barbarism. Miguel Gomez’ Gus finally seems like he is going to join the team, but then he’s inexplicably back on his own rescuing families and refusing to accept his mother’s turn in more useless filler. He and Joaquin Cosio (Quantum of Solace) as the absolutely underutilized fifties superhero Angel are conscripted to fight vampires but once again, they remain wasted in isolated, contrived detours.

Streamlining Fet, Dutch, Quinlan, and Gus as vampire fighters testing methods from Setrakian’s texts and Eph’s science funded by Feraldo could have unified The Strain with straightforward heroes versus monsters action we can root for in an apocalypse. Watching on the eve of our own real world pandemic, was I in the right frame of mind to view The Strain unclouded? Thanks to creators Guillermo de Toro and Chuck Hogan and showrunner Carlton Cuse’s foretelling social breakdowns between the haves and the have nots, maybe not. That said, The Strain terribly executes two seasons worth of source material. An embarrassment of riches with a scientific premise, mystical flashbacks, assorted zombie and vampire crossover monsters, and intriguing characters fall prey to uneven pacing, crowded focus, and no balance or self-awareness onscreen. The Strain may have been better served as television movies or six episode elemental seasons – science in year one, vampire history the second, relic pursuits, and a final battle. Disastrous characters and worthless stories compromise the meaty sacrifices, crusty old alliances, and silver standoffs – stretching the horror quality thin even in a shorter ten episode season. Rather than a fulfilling mirror to nature parable, The Strain Seasons Two and Three are an exercise in frustration, and even without the real world horrors, it’s too disappointing to bother with the end of the world reset in Season Four.

For More Frightening Television or more Guillermo del Toro, Re-visit:

All Things Dracula Video Review

Top Horror Television

Crimson Peak

 

December: Freaky Foodies Month

Congratulations and Salutations Horror Addicts!

As of today, you have arrived in December 2020!

Ahead of you lie 31 days of co-workers offering fudge, your Grandmother sending packages of cookies, and banks and dry cleaners placing containers of candy canes at the service desk!

The holidays of this month are so closely connected to food, that we at HorrorAddicts.net have decided to offer some relief in the form of foods of another nature. Foods more suited to the Horror seeking palate.

We hereby declare December 2020 to be Freaky Foodie’s Month. Please join us for some scary, spooky and gut-grabbing delicacies. Happy horrordays!

 

Latinx Month – FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Mexican and Spanish Vampires!

Mexican and Spanish Vampires, Oh My!  By Kristin Battestella

The Bloody Vampire– The English version of this black and white 1962 Mexican import El Vampire Sangriento opens with eerie slow motion, silent carriages, tolling bells, howling wolves, and creepy forests to set the macabre mood. The candles, Old World Feeling, secret crypts, great architecture, and period costumes counter the almost comically out of place and unmatched dubbing, but there are some eerie good effects, thankfully. Fun Bats, zooms, and coffins mask the fact that once again, there isn’t much of the titular blood. However, the religious arias are a bit out of place and too reverent for the subject. Likewise, some of the sound effects are more fifties UFOs than scary. Fortunately, a few corsets and kinky bedroom threats accent the household violence, vampy bitch slaps, and whips. Although, I’ve never heard a vampire tell his victim/bride to put some clothes on before! It might have been neat to see a South American set tale rather than the standard Eastern European mold, but the English translations add to the gothic horror homage. Count Frankenhausen has a maid named Hildegard “The servants must call me Frau” and a daughter Bronehilda at his cave the “Haunted Hacienda.” Yes, and did I mention that “Vampirina” is the blood of a vampire? The English track is tough to hear, and it’s all back and forth wooden exposition on deadly flower roots, grave robbings, early autopsies, science versus death, vampire mythos, and secret vampire hunting family histories. It might be a dry translation or stilted from the innate Espanol, but at least this isn’t in the over the top telenovela styling we expect today. The pace does pick up for the last half hour, and once you’re past the niche logistics and morbid humor, then this is a good little hour and a half.

Crypt of the Living Dead – There’s isn’t a lot of information available on this black and white 1973 tale also known by the wonderfully bad title Hannah, Queen of the Vampires.  Andrew Prine (V) looks so young and the architecture and medieval religious designs are well done, yes. But sadly, the drab, colorless photography hampers the fun, gothic atmosphere. Was this later day black and white filming done by production plan or necessity? The editing is also either very poor or there has been some unfortunate film damage, and the plot is a little slow and silent to start, with too many setups and tough to hear dialogue when we do have it. The nighttime action is almost impossible to see as well, and the frantic camerawork and extreme close ups make what should be straightforward scares somewhat confusing. All this production doom and gloom and yet the script and cast actually aren’t that bad. The music and eerie effects are sinister enough, and there’s a historical spin on the then-contemporary skepticism and ethical debates. Die-hard vamp fans looking to have a fun nighttime viewing will enjoy this. However, the finale is a bit overlong and repetitive for horror lay folk, and those low budget values will hinder the natural fears and good scares for today’s more visually treated audiences. 

The Vampire – With such a confusingly plain title, I had to look up this 1957 Mexican horror El Vampiro starring Abel Salazar and German Rubles to make sure I hadn’t already seen it. Fortunately, there’s no mistaking the foggy villa courtyards, Gothic Victorian interiors, hypnotic eyes, and fangs afoot here. This original tale gets right to the screams and neck nibbles, and the black and white patina perfectly matches the don’t go out after sunset warnings. Even the fake bat doesn’t feel hokey amid the fifties train and ingenue in white visiting her sick spinster aunt. The boxes of soil from Hungary, suspicious cape-wearing count, and carriage at the crossroads may seem Stoker-esque to start, however there are some undead surprises – and an older aunt who remains young and reflection-less but thinks all this vampire talk is ridiculous. Torches and tolling bells invoke some medieval funerary alongside crypts, superstitions, and fearful folk crossing themselves. The recently late are buried with crucifix in hand while creepy crescendos accent the phantom ladies in black about the cemetery. Ghostly effects, well-framed shadows, and spooky lighting schemes heighten the ruinous haciendas as well as the suspenseful count and his then-shocking vampire bites – sudden falling books or slamming doors also help build the dangerous mood unlike today’s fake out jump scares. Rather than detract from the horror, just the right amount of humor and a whiff of romance accent the fine dialogue – although despite DVD commentaries and a variety of caption or audio options, the English subtitles don’t exactly match the español. Secret passages, dusty books, and otherworldly singing provide more flavor for a wild finale combining stakes, sunlight, and fire. To be sure, this toothy little number wins with heaps of atmosphere.

The Vampire’s Coffin – Salazar and company returned for this 1958 sequel aka El Ataud del Vampiro, and the two pictures can be found together on the generically named The Vampire Collection set for more howling cemeteries, grave robbers, and disturbed vampire tombs. Of course, it’s amazingly easy for two men to remove such heavy headstones and take a giant coffin to the local hospital for a scientific study, but hey, me want that sweet fifties Hearst! Skeletal reflections, giant wooden stakes – the Gothic creepy moves into unexplained science territory but the old-fashioned hospital retains a gray, mod feeling with scared kids and a cross above the bed. What can modern medicine do compared to a determined monster? Sharp shadows and dark angles add Expressionism accents while staircases and noir pursuits akin a Val Lewton aesthetic. Although a missing vampire about the ward could be laughable, spooky effects, a dark cape, and hypnotized victims add macabre. There is, however, a lacking finesse here thanks to a busy narrative crowded with swanky theater glamour and gruesome wax museum hideouts. Disbelieving medical directors, ritzy routines, and torture devices are all well and good on their own, but one moody, fully embraced locale would have been better. Convenience and poorly choreographed fights aside, the fun finale packs in plenty of rituals, chases, and guillotines, as you do. Ironically, it feels like pieces of this film are borrowed in more recent cliché horror, and despite a general bloodlessness and try hard approach, bared fangs and la Sangre talk keep up the theme.

The Vampire’s Night Orgy – Spanish director Leon Klimovsky (The Dracula Saga) uses an unusual widescreen format for this hour and twenty minutes from 1974. The color is very washed out, too, and unfortunately, the picture is often too dark or tough to see. Like most of the foreign or obscure horror of this era, there are edited versions and lost prints, and some scenes are regrettably dated and look the likes of seventies porn. Thankfully, those are about the only problems here.  Crazy funerals, wild music, and a nutty countess add to the demented ambiance of ticking clocks, creaking doors, and spooky sound effects. The dubbing is actually in sync and performed well, too, with a few words of un-translated Spanish adding to the Euro flavor. From the interesting premise – an en-route house staff’s bus breaks down in a seemingly abandoned town that really has an all too generous blood drinking population – to a bit of kink, nudity, and cannibalism, the screams and foreboding build up are solid. Sure, most of the men look the same with huge mustaches and I’ll be damn, there isn’t a lot of blood to be seen. However, the child actors aren’t annoying, and the vampire violence is well played. One by one, victims are taken down in fast, almost gang rape terror, and the chase finale and twist ending earn top marks. Though in serious need of a restoration and some may have trouble getting past the dated look, this is a nice little scary movie.

The Werewolf vs the Vampire Woman – Never ever do an autopsy on a supposed werewolf on a moonlit night!  Just one of the many warnings from this 1971 Spanish treat, the fifth in the loose Waldemar Daninsky series from writer and star Paul Naschy.  Director Leon Klimovsky tackles then-contemporary disbelieving science versus superstition with good screams, fun growls and fangs, zoom attacks, and slow motion eerie.  There’s a good quality of blood, too, and a twisted medieval flashback establishes the satanic ritual roots. Of course, the nighttime photography is almost impossible to see, and the handheld forest camera action is poor. The werewolf makeup and effects may be a bit hokey but considering the low budget foreign production, they suffice. The flowing fashions and happy vamps running thru the glen can seem more like Frodo Lives hippie, I know. However, it is nonetheless very unnerving and effective. Actually, the pop references in the dialogue – such as man walking on the moon, James Bond, and the obligatory “Dracula! Ha ha.” – feels more dated amid the fine gothic history and Euro-style. A touch of lingerie, bloody shackles, and crazy girl on girl suggestion keep the run of the mill acting and yell at the TV moments bemusing.  Cap this eighty plus minutes with unusual monster relationships and cool mod clothes and you have a picture that’s a cut above the standard dollar bin foreign horror. Naturally, multiple video releases, unavailable uncut editions, international reissues, and title changes can make pursuing Naschy’s horror repertoire extremely frustrating.  For fans of retro Euro-horror, however, this is worth the hunt. 

For More Vampires, Visit:

Dracula 2020

Dark Shadows Video Review

Summer Vampires

Buffy Season 1

 

Historian of Horror: Hath Music Charms to Soothe the Savage Breast? Not Necessarily

 

I would encourage the populace, if possible, to at least take a look at the recent Netflix series, Ratched. It will help if you’re familiar with the 1975 film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the one that took home a slew of Oscars for that year, the one in which the television series’ title character was the villain, but that’s not essential. Ratched is a beautifully mounted, albeit severely flawed work, and worth seeing if only for the sumptuous set design. Indeed, every frame looks like a photograph from a 1947 issue of Architectural Digest or some similar slick magazine of its type. The costumes could be out of Vanity Fair, the automobiles from Road & Track. It is gorgeous in its every visual element and blessed with a slightly languid pace that allows the eye to gorge itself at leisure on all that gorgeosity.

While I have several issues with the writing (cardboard and occasionally inconsistent characters, cliched situations, predictable plot points), I cannot fault the technical prowess of those who designed the visuals, or, indeed, the audio. The incidental music is eerily reminiscent of Bernard Hermann’s score from the 1962 film, Cape Fear, as well as Elmer Bernstein’s score for the 1991 remake. One day, I will discuss both film versions of that story in this space, and the music from each, but today I want to talk about the title music from Ratched, for it touches upon one of my passions.

Yes, I am a Baby Boomer, a member of that much maligned, fairly or unfairly, generation that for all its flaws did indeed spawn the best popular music of the past century. And, yes, I grew up a fan of, among others, the Beatles, the band whose massive output of incredible music in the space of less than a decade was not only the ne plus ultra of its time but the sine qua non of all popular music since. But they and the rest of the 1960s artists were not my first musical love.

That would be classical music. Before the Fab Four showed up on the Ed Sullivan Show on that momentous night in February of 1964, I had already begun to sample my father’s record collection. The first piece of music I remember being enraptured by was Prokofiev’s Love for Three Oranges. I had no idea at the time what that title meant, for although I was able to operate a turntable at that early age, I had not yet learned to read beyond a very superficial level. In fact, I suspect that it was to decipher the tiny print on the back of all those record sleeves that I set about becoming literate so assiduously at such a tender age. 

I still love classical music. It occupies a significant portion of my listening time. I don’t know squat about music theory, but I know what I like. And in the years since I discovered the wonders on those ancient LPs, most of which are now in my possession, new discoveries of what I like have regularly occurred with delightful frequency. 

I think I must have been about thirteen or fourteen when I first encountered the work of Camille Saint-Saëns, or, rather, a portion of one of his works. A radio station in or near Nashville began to broadcast episodes of the Shadow radio show from the late 1930s, the ones starring Orson Welles. The theme music was eerie and compelling, drawing the listener into the outré adventures of He Who Had the Power to Cloud Men’s Minds. No one I knew could tell me what that strange tune was. Fortunately, this was in the early years of a new cultural phenomenon, nostalgia, and every trip to the bookstore revealed a new volume on some aspect of the cultural ephemera of past decades, including radio. I knew of radio solely as a delivery system for current music, but as my dad told me at the time, it was in his youth the primary source of free entertainment in the home – musical, comedic, dramatic. Frightening.

More on that later. I think it was in a paperback edition of Jim Harmon’s 1967 book, The Great Radio Heroes, that I learned the provenance of that snippet of strange music. It turned out to be the middle section of a symphonic poem by Saint-Saëns, Omphale’s Spinning Wheel. Once I knew that, I began to search for more music by this new composer I’d discovered.

Skip years, indeed, decades ahead, and I’d just settled myself into my favorite spot on the couch to watch the first episode of Ratched. At that moment, my wife of nearly forty years came in, and I surrendered that spot, because when Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. It’s okay. The seat I gave up is slightly off-center to the TV mounted on the wall opposite, and the spot I almost always wind up in has a more straight-on view. Yeah. That’s the ticket.

For some reason, the subtitle function was turned on, which was fine. I watch a lot of films in languages I don’t understand, and I heartily despise dubbing. Nothing ruins the rhythm of a film than the dialogue being out of sync with the actors’ expressions and mouth movements. Give me subtitles, every time. So, I’m used to them, and made no particular effort to turn them off.

No issues with the first episode, although my lovely bride thought it moved a tad slowly. There was no title sequence that time out, the credits rolling at the end. And for just over five minutes, there was no such thing in the second episode.

And then, there was. I immediately recognized the music playing, although the first bit of it had been lopped off. It was Saint-Saëns’ 1874 tone poem Danse Macabre, a piece I play heavily around Halloween, for it is spooky and creepy and laden with dire forebodings.

And then, I noticed the subtitle that popped up as soon as the discordant violin screeched out its first few notes.[haunting classical music playing]

Say, what? Haunting classical music? Haunting classical music?!?!?!? Does no one at Netflix have access to a decent music library? This piece has a name, a title that has been well-known for one hundred and forty-six years. That’s as bad as people calling the tango Al Pacino danced with Gabrielle Anwar in Scent of a Woman ‘the tango from Scent of a Woman’, as if that’s its title. It’s not. It’s called Por Una Cabeza, and it’s by Carlos Gardel, a significant composer of Latin music in the first half of the 20th Century. It’s not quite as bad as pronouncing Porsche as a one-syllable name, but still, come on! Is it all that much trouble to identify a major piece of music by its actual name?

Ahem. Sorry ‘bout that.

Danse Macabre was based on a Late Medieval allegorical theme of death as the one truly universal reality, and its application in a variety of artistic expressions. Paintings, frescoes and woodcuts depicting souls of all financial stations and every societal stratum dancing their ways along to the grave accompanied by decomposing corpses and animated skeletons were all the rage in the waning decades of the Middle Ages, and into the Renaissance. 

I know most folks think of the term ‘classical music’ as encompassing all that stuff you had to sit through during school field trips to the local symphony hall, but for the cognoscenti, classical refers to the music of roughly the 18th Century, composed by folks like Mozart and Haydn in an organically structured and sometimes excessively ornamental style that reflected the artistic sensibilities of the concurrent Rococo period in art and architecture. During the preceding century, more-or-less, both art and architecture on one hand and music on the other were done in what was known as Baroque style, which was also overly ornamented but with a somewhat more constrained, almost geometrical structure. Kind of. That’s very much a Reader’s Digest Condensed version of things, but not, I hope, totally off the mark. 

The 19th Century in music was dominated by the Romantic period, and Saint-Saëns was very much a Romantic composer. That word does not mean, as applied to the music of its time, what you think it does, just as an opera comique is not necessarily funny. Romantic in relation to the music of composers from Schubert and Beethoven in the early 19th Century to Dvorak and Verdi near the end of the century, and even beyond with Rachmaninoff and Ravel, was intended to produce within the listener a sort of naturalistic evocation of emotions, so that the music inspired more than merely an aesthetic response. It is no accident that the Romantic period in music coincided in its later decades with Impressionism in painting. The intended reaction from the consumer was the same in both areas, an empathic connection with the artist through the medium.

And Danse Macabre did produce an emotional reaction from early critics, indeed. It was not received well at first, as it was considered to be a source of anxiety for those who heard it. As I stated before, I know little about music theory, but I have been given to understand that there are certain key signatures that lend themselves particularly well to certain types of music, and even the emotions those pieces are meant to convey. According to what I have read on the subject, G Minor is one of those keys that tends to invoke dread and angst, and Danse Macabre is in that key. I’m going to go ahead and assume my informant was correct, for it does put the nerves on edge. 

Listen to it throughout that title sequence in Ratched, when and if you’re able to watch it, and see if it doesn’t augment the show’s overall feeling of fearful expectation, even more so perhaps than the story warrants. Then, listen to it in its entirety. 

Then, please don’t tell me you felt nothing from that – no frisson, as it were. I hope you do. I might just worry about you if not, just a little. 

Also, rest assured I won’t leave you hanging regarding all the possibly unfamiliar references above. I will, one of these days, wax poetic on horror as it was used in old time radio programs and operas, comique and otherwise, as well as by other composers, artists, and even architects. I might even explain just what is meant by a ‘slick magazine’, translate the Latin phrases I love tossing around like confetti, and reveal from what major genre work I lifted the neologism ‘gorgeosity’. Stay tuned.

And, as always, be afraid. Be very afraid.

Merrill’s Musical Musings: Ro’s Recs – November

Ro’s Recs

Creativity and Haunted Places

On the weekend of November 8, 2020, the legendary Foo Fighters took the stage on Saturday Night Live and played a song from their upcoming album, Medicine at Midnight, called “Shame Shame.” It was different and brilliant and a little bit dark, including lyrics like: 

“If you want to

I’ll be the one

Be the tongue that will swallow you” 

and 

“Another splinter under the skin

Another season of loneliness

I found a reason and buried it

Beneath a mountain of emptiness.

The song was definitely a departure for the band and I was anxious to read all I could about the production. Grohl has always been very open about his recording process. He boldly created the documentary Sound City, which I highly recommend, as well as taking the journey on the Sonic Highways, where the band visited some of the biggest cities in rock music history and wrote songs based on their experiences and interviews they had there. In an article with Rolling Stone dated March 23, 2020, Dave Grohl revealed that the house they recorded the album in was haunted and that totally piqued my interest. (https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/foo-fighters-new-album-ghosts-971615/)

What is it with amazing things coming from supernatural experiences? Some of my favorite albums have been recorded under haunting situations including Black Sabbath’s debut, Blood Sugar Sex Magic from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Hypnotize/Mesmerize by System of A Down, and Slipknot’s Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses, the latter three being recorded at Rick Rubin’s Mansion in Southern California. How did being in a haunted space contribute to the artists’ creative process? (https://www.kerrang.com/features/10-rock-and-metal-albums-recorded-in-haunted-places/)

Corey Taylor discussed his experiences in The Mansion in his book A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Heaven, which is full of incredible stories and Taylor’s philosophy about the afterlife and things that go bump, well, at all times of the day. From his perspective, it seems that the hauntings kept him on edge, which may or may not have contributed to his manic performance on Slipknot’s Subliminal Verses. He said in an interview with Kerrang! Magazine in 2019, “Only recently have I noticed the ethereal feel to the album,” Corey said on the eve of Vol. 3’s release. “And that’s definitely come from making it in that house. That house was so fucking haunted.” (https://www.kerrang.com/features/slipknot-the-inside-story-of-vol-3-the-subliminal-verses/)

Over the past several years, I’ve had the fortune to attend writing retreats with my fellow San Francisco Bay Area authors. The first one was at the Holbrooke Hotel in Grass Valley, California, and I immediately fell in love with the grand old building which boasted that it housed the longest continuously-open saloon west of the Mississippi (which it likely can’t say anymore since the hotel has been closed the past two years for renovations). It’s a place with an incredible amount of energy, mostly positive, and during the retreats we held there, I was inspired to write some of my favorite stories. “A Piece of Him,” which was featured in the Gone with the Dead anthology back in 2016 is still one of my favorite short stories I’ve written and was my first traditionally published story. I wrote some of my Banes of Lake’s Crossing stories there and the hotel has even been a setting in my writing. I love working in old buildings. The Weller House in Fort Bragg is another favorite as well as the Jupiter in Berkeley and a friend’s turn-of-the-century house outside Portland, Oregon. There’s something about working in a place that has held within its walls all walks of life that causes its very fabric to hold onto that energy, both positive and negative, that gives me a supercharge of creativity like nothing else. I so look forward to being able to travel to my favorite haunts when this pandemic is over. 

So if you’re missing that feeling of someone looking over your shoulder as you work, or want to listen to music closely for any signs of ghostly hijinks, check out the albums listed above, and if you’re like me and love a good “behind the music” type of story, be sure to watch those docs listed above as well as read Corey Taylor’s book. 

How about you? Does a good haunted spot bring out the creativity in you? I’d love to hear about your favorite places and projects you’ve been inspired to work on there. Definitely check out the albums listed above as well as the two Foo Fighters documentaries. And as always, stay tuned for more Ro’s Recs and Merrill’s Musical Musings…

R.L. Merrill writes inclusive romance with quirky, relatable characters full of love, hope, and rock ‘n’ roll. You can find her at https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com and on the socials as @rlmerrillauthor. 

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: The Deeper You Dig

Plotline: Ivy and Echo are not your typical mother-daughter team. Ivy, once an intuitive psychic, makes an easy buck as a bogus tarot card reader; 14-year-old Echo likes old-timey music, hunting, and black lipstick. When reclusive Kurt moves down the road to restore an abandoned farmhouse, an accident leads to Echo’s murder, and suddenly three lives collide in mysterious and wicked ways. Kurt assumes he can hide his secret under the ground. But Echo burrows into his head until he can feel her in his bones. As she haunts his every move, trying to reach her mother from beyond, Ivy must dig deep to see the signs and prove that love won’t stay buried.

Who would like it: Fans of mind-bending atmospheric films, witches, tarot cards, mother and daughter movies, revenge, and movies about possessions.     

High Points: The sheer originality! 

Complaints: None

Overall: Love this shit out of this!

Stars: 5

Where I watched it: VOD

 

***

Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

Where are all the Mid-Century Mexican Horror Films? A Frightening Flix Editorial

Where Are All the Mid-Century Mexican Horror Films by Kristin Battestella

From The Witch’s Mirror to The Curse of the Crying Woman and more, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the mid-century Mexican horror productions I’ve seen from the forties, fifties, and sixties. I would wholeheartedly like to see more, but where did all these Mexican horror movies go? Read on for my rant about the frustrating difficulty in finding these quality classic scares.

Why so inaccessible?

Thanks to directors such as Rafael Baledón or the likes of Abel Salazar’s filmography, one can filter, search, and find dozens of Mexican horror films on IMDb, Wikipedia, and more. We know they exist, so where are they and why aren’t they readily available? Ten or fifteen years ago, a budget DVD set with twenty or fifty so-called horror classics was a get what you pay for way to find a few old horror gems amid the so bad it’s good obscure, public domain scares, and cheap VHS quality rips. This was how I first found some Spanish horror delectables. Today, however, those sets aren’t really viable compared to affordable streaming options. Unfortunately, be it the free horror channels, discount streaming tiers, or the big mainstream options, none of them have any of these films. Back when we had Xfinity and could browse all the thousand channels on the guide including the Spanish cable package, I used to see some great horror films listed on the Peliculas de clasicos channels. I’d write down great titles like Museo de Horror, El Beso de Ultratrumbo, La Cabeza Viviente, and more but can’t find any of them anywhere. How with today’s instant access to everything are these films still so inaccessible?

Cultural Drift is No Excuse!

It takes a lot of digging and research to find these titles, and although it’s easy to search with Spanish language filters, that creates its own set of problems. Sure I’ve been able to find a few Salazar sixties horrors or Mexican movies, but those searches also yield a lot of Paul Naschy pictures from Spain (and searching for his Waldermar werewolf films is another aggravating not all available pursuit). Soon, these lists skew to Spain, European productions, Jesus Franco, Dario Argento, and Mario Bava. Seventies Italian Giallo pictures are not what we’re looking for, and finding the right version of a film with different releases, run times, and different titles per country only adds more fuel to the frustrating fuego. Sometimes you think you are getting the right movie and it turns out to be something else, or worse a film you’ve already seen under a different name. I myself am guilty of putting all my Spanish horror viewing lists and recommendations together because it’s so tough to find just the Mexican scares. Of course, Spain and Mexico are different cultures with different español and different identities, and it’s problematic to presume they are interchangeable. Many years ago I had a vehement argument on an online film forum when a commenter said he wanted a role to be cast with Penélope Cruz or Salma Hayek or “one of those types.” O_o This person could not see why I objected to these actresses being lumped together as one and the same. On a non-horror note, I highly suggest the Maya Exploration Center’s Professor Edwin Barnhart’s Great Course lectures including Ancient Civilizations of North America, Ancient Mesoamerica Revealed, Lost Worlds of South America, and Exploring the Mayan World to educate oneself on the history of Southwest, Central, and South American communities.

The Classics are Better.

What irritates me most is the perception that because Hollywood or mainstream horror is more prevalent, that means it must be better. In my recent viewings, however, that’s been far from the truth. I’ve enjoyed the majority of independent Australian, New Zealand, Irish, UK horror, and European productions, sure. Canadian pictures, on the other hand, have been more mixed bag. When the festival finds are true to themselves, they’ve been good – but you can tell the difference when a north of the border production is compromising itself in hopes of an American sale and wide distribution, catering to the formulaic and cliché. I had such high hopes for The Curse of La Llorona. It starts well with colonial Mexican scares so viewers think we’re in for some period piece Hammer flair, but sadly the film – written and directed by white men, because of course – degrades into the typical kids in peril with whooshing entities and trite jump scares. Cultural fears are dismissed and protective warnings are treated like Mysticism 101, and the entire time I was waiting for it to end, I had one thought, which was that The Curse of the Crying Woman was better. There’s an entire Wikipedia page called “Golden Age of Mexican Cinema” but where are all the films? Netflix if you’re lucky has one DVD copy, and when that breaks, it’s just saves and unavailables.

It’s Frustrating and Offensive.

For viewer looking for quality horror of any kind, it’s disturbing how unique storytelling, different cultural scares, and the many horror stories to be told must be bent to serve white mainstream horror. The fact that these films are not widely available almost feels like an intentional burying – the way a great Asian horror film won’t see the light of day stateside because the rights were bought up and it is being deliberately suppressed until the rich white blonde jump scare cliché remake is released first. Why aren’t these classic, quality films being celebrated? Why are they not freely available to watch at any time? A black and white picture? So what! Spanish subtitles or a bad English dub? Big deal! Is it because they are not in English that white America suspects releasing these films properly won’t be profitable enough for them? Well that’s just too damn bad because I want to see these films. Do you have an inside source on where to find some classic mid-century Mexican horror movies? ¡Damelo!

 

For More Frightening Flix, visit:

Horror Cliches I’m Tired of Seeing

All Things Dracula Video Review

Ciao, Horror!

Bone Tomahawk

 

HorrorAddicts.net 191, Holiday Ghost Story Special

Horror Addicts Episode# 191
SEASON 15
**Holiday Ghost Story Special**
Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich
Intro Music by: Russell Holbrook


**Holiday Ghost Story Special**
Dedicated to our long-time listener Jeff. Here you go, buddy!

Ghost Stories:

“A Corpse Going to a Ball” or “Fair Charlotte” by Seba Smith, read by Emerian Rich

http://www.emzbox.com

“The Cremation of Sam McGee” by Robert W. Service, read by J. Malcolm Stewart

https://www.amazon.com/J-Malcolm-Stewart/e/B0088I39XG

“The Open Window” by Saki, read by Daphne Strasert

http://daphnestrasert.com/

“Gatekeeper” by Rish Outfield, read by the author

http://rishoutcast.blogspot.com/

“The Little Match Girl” by Hans Christen Anderson, read by Emerian Rich

http://www.emzbox.com

“Staying After” by Angela Yuriko Smith, read by Ryan Aussie Smith
http://www.spaceandtimemagazine.com/

“Four-sided Triangle” by Nancy Kilpatrick, read by the author

https://nancykilpatrick.com/

“Company” by Sumiko Saulson, read by the author

http://www.sumikosaulson.com/

“Citrus, Spice, and Not a Thing Nice” by Phillip T. Stephens, read by the author

https://reifinery.medium.com/

“Just Like a Dolls” by Michele Roger, read by the author

https://www.amazon.com/Michele-Roger/e/B00FJQIMJ6


Write in re: ideas, questions, opinions, horror cartoons, favorite movies, etc…

horroraddicts@gmail.com

h o s t e s s

Emerian Rich

h e a d  o f p u b l i s h i n g

Naching T. Kassa

p u b l i s h i n g  p. a.

Cedar George

b l o g  e d i t o r

Kate Nox

s t a f f

KBatz (Kristin Battestella), Daphne Strasert, Jesse Orr, Russell Holbrook, Lionel Green, Keiran Judge, Crystal Connor, Nightshade, Courtney Mroch, R.L. Merrill

Want to be a part of the HA staff? Email horroraddicts@gmail.com

b l o g  / c o n t a c t / s h o w . n o t e s

http://www.horroraddicts.net

p a t r e o n

https://www.patreon.com/horroraddicts

t h e  b e l f r y  a p p

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=tv.wizzard.android.belfry&hl=en_US

s t i t c h e r 

https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/horroraddictsnet

spotify 

https://open.spotify.com/show/0DtgSwv2Eh6aTepQi7ZWdv

overcast

https://overcast.fm/itunes286123050/horroraddicts-net

podcast republic

https://www.podcastrepublic.net/podcast/286123050

himalaya 

https://www.himalaya.com/en/show/501228

google play music

https://play.google.com/music/m/I5rjr5vrnpltxyr3elfqtzujzay?t=HorrorAddictsnet

rss

http://horroraddicts.libsyn.com/rss

Guest Blog: What’s your Jam? by Michael Fassbender

What’s Your Jam? By Michael Fassbender

Recently, I was browsing on Stuart Conover’s site, The Horror Tree, and I saw an interview with a publisher who got his start with a Punk magazine. While he’s branched out to the realm of fiction, the punk sensibility has never left him. Indeed, “punk” is the second adjective in the list of qualities he’s looking for in prospective stories. For those who have been a part of that scene, the punk sensibility remains an enduring part of their character. 

It’s a sensibility that resonates with many writers, as attested by the gamut of subgenres from Splatterpunk to Steampunk. It’s not one that resonates with me, however. I identify with a competing scene, Heavy Metal, and have done since I was in high school. Superficially, there are certain similarities: music that is played loud and features distorted guitars, and wardrobes that boast a lot of black T-shirts, but there aren’t too many common threads beyond these. 

As art forms, Punk and Metal are created very differently. In Punk, the medium is secondary to the message, and Punk Rock songs tend to be fast, energetic, and haphazard. The band is reminding you that they don’t take anything seriously, including themselves and their music. Metal bands are quite different; they may take nothing else in the world seriously, but they are fiercely earnest in their dedication to their craft. They are perfectionists in their technique, and for those unfamiliar with the genre, surprisingly sophisticated in their composition. Much of the Metal scene has been converging with classical music at least since Randy Rhoads recorded “Blizzard of Ozz” with Ozzy Osbourne in the early eighties. Doubters are urged to listen to string quartet or piano arrangements of Metal songs, such as Apocalyptica’s first two albums.

Both genres relish horror imagery. It just manifests itself differently. Punk horror art takes on a pop culture veneer, almost an Andy Warhol approach. Metal horror art favors the look of medieval woodcuts, Hieronymous Bosch paintings and Grand Guignol-style performance stills. Contrast the imagery of The Misfits and Mercyful Fate, and you’ll see what I mean. Each of these bands exemplifies the horror aesthetics of its team.

We generally don’t hear about a Metal sensibility in horror fiction. We don’t have Occultmetal or Possessionmetal subgenres in the community, but upon examination of my own habits as a writer, I see common threads with the musicians I champion. I share their perfectionist tendencies in terms of technique. Typos and faulty grammar vex me, unless they’re meant to appear in the story as a function of characterization. I was mortified recently when I discovered a continuity error in a story that had reached the final proofing stage. For the most part, I like to think that my stories are in good editorial shape when I present them to editors. Whether or not they resonate with the editor is another matter entirely.

It’s not just about the technique, either. I do take myself and my art seriously. I’d rather give my readers the chills than make them laugh — or score points in an imaginary debate. In terms of horror styles, I have a marked preference for supernatural horror, although this encompasses a number of subcategories, such as Lovecraftian, occult and mythological themes. The same preoccupations reign among many Metal acts, from Scandinavian Black Metal through retro acts like Blood Ceremony and Brimstone Coven. And in execution, I prefer to write my stories in earnest, not with irony. One annoyance I’ve had with the Lovecraftian community is the prevalence of tongue-in-cheek content. Overtly jokey stories and poems only serve to lighten the mood.

Metal and Punk are not the only musical in-groups with substantial linkage to horror. Goth is a third, and it carries its own sensibility to the same literary well. Of the three groups, the Goths probably feel the greatest affection for classic tropes like vampires and ghosts. The differences with Metal are more in the realm of nuance: Metalheads are more likely to present monsters as menacing, and Goths more as misunderstood. Goths are more likely to bask in the melancholy side of the spectrum, and Metalheads incline more to the macabre side. Nor should these three musical genres feel that they control horror imagery in music; other bands have swum the same waters, either intermittently or chronically. Stephen King is famous for interjecting his classic rock obsessions into his fiction.

Herein lies the significance of the exercise. Readers in general, and writers in particular, are likely to discern common threads in the literature that drives them, the films that excite them, and the music that drives them. While the linkage between books and movies is obvious, given the number of stories that came to the screen after success on the page, the relevance of musical taste can be just as significant, at least if the musical interest is a strong one. Horror writers can learn a great deal about themselves and what drives them if they stop to consider their musical tastes and examine their parallels in the fiction they love and the stories they produce.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Michael Fassbender is a part-time writer in the Chicago area. His story “Inmate” appeared in Sanitarium Magazine in 2016; “The Cold Girl” appeared in Hypnos Magazine in 2016 and has resurfaced in October 2019 in a volume entitled Re-Haunts. “But Together We Are Strong” has appeared in the February 2020 issue of Horror Magazine, “Miroir de Vaugnac” found its place in Dark Divinations on May Day, and “Schattenlenker’s Hidden Treasure” was revealed in The Nightside Codex in August. This Halloween, “Old Growth” began spreading in Scary Stuff. You can read about more of his work on his website, michaeltfassbender.com.

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.

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

By Kristin Battestella

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

Historian of Horror: Hot Town, Summer in the 60’s

On a regular basis when we were kids, my brother and I were shipped off from Nashville to visit our grandmothers and cousins for a few weeks every summer so our parents could get a well-deserved rest from our shenanigans. Today, I suspect that would be considered child abuse at best, given that we were ferried by either car or train to a small town in Northern Alabama in the days before the pervasive hum and whir of air conditioning could be heard everywhere. 

The funny thing is, I don’t remember the heat being all that oppressive. There were lots of electric fans, and open windows, and sleeping in upstairs bedrooms under thin sheets, while the distant sound of a train whistle carried us away with it into slumberland after long discussions about girls and Auburn football and whether or not it were possible to tip one of my uncle’s Black Angus bulls. It’s not, by the way, and given how much at least one of them resented the attempt, it’s a wonder any of us are still alive.

Good times.

Even better, for the voracious consumer of popular culture that I was even at the tender age of eleven, was that a marvelous new invention did arrive in Athens about 1969, one that would not make it to Nashville for another sixteen years. Nowadays, cable television is almost quaint, but in those halcyon days of three channels, it was a magic carpet ride that carried me for that brief, hot period beyond the Lawrence Welk schmaltz and Mike Douglas talking about God knows what with people you’d never heard of and soap operas that for some reason didn’t feature vampires, and all the other adult programming that pervaded the local airwaves of the tiny town to which we were remanded into durance vile for those few weeks.

I’m exaggerating, of course. We had lots of fun with the cousins, and occasionally with the kids who went to the Baptist and Methodist churches in which our grandmothers were virtually matriarchic figures. But there are times when you just want to turn on the TV, and it was in Athens that I first encountered What Lay Beyond.

Athens is about halfway between Nashville to the north and Birmingham to the south, and twenty miles west of Huntsville, which at the time had, I believe, one television station. If the weather conditions were just right, you could almost pick up a Nashville station and maybe two Birmingham stations, but you couldn’t count on it. Which is exactly why the first rudimentary cable system I encountered was in tiny Athens. Its original purpose was apparently to bring those distant network affiliates (and their commercials) out into the hinterlands.

I have no idea at this late date which of the ten buttons on my grandmother’s cable box I pressed to find the old horror pictures I was already enamored of, but I sure figured it out at the time. A few days into our enforced vacation, I had started missing the daily after-school movie, the Big Show on Channel Five from which I normally got my fix. When I discovered something close enough to it to serve in a pinch, I latched on to it. I remember seeing old-time movie star Jon Hall stomping around in a rubber suit in Monster in the Surf for the first time on whatever channel it was, along with the big-headed BEMs from Invasion of the Saucer Men and a string of pictures that were rather clumsily dubbed into English and with the credits in Spanish.   

I had never seen Mexican horror movies before. The Big Show was full of Universal monsters and Hammer horrors and Japanese behemoths stomping model cities flat, but nothing like this new thing I’d found. I don’t recall any specific titles from that summer more than fifty years ago, but I do remember that they were fun, and spooky, and some of them starred masked wrestlers. I was a big fan at that age of the local wrestlers who popped up on TV back home, Jacky Fargo and Tojo Yamamoto and that crowd, so I gleefully absorbed the adventures of Santo and the Blue Devil as they battled a variety of monsters and mad scientists that summer, while my grandmother was off working at the local newspaper where she was the society editor. I’m sure she would have disapproved, had she known. 

But isn’t that the best part?

The Mexican horror movies weren’t there on her cable box the next time I visited Athens. It was years before I saw any of them again. It took the internet to bring them back into view, and while I understand the draw those specific films must have had on my eleven year old mind, this much older geezer is looking for something a little more sophisticated. And, just as one should never judge classic North American films by, say, the Bowery Boys, one should look for a higher level of fright-inducing Mexican cinematics with an expectation that one would find it.

One did.

I will admit that, despite my early exposure to Mexican films, I am not yet as conversant with the national oeuvre as I am with, say, French or Japanese filmmaking. I suppose it does take a while to get all the way around the world and back close to home again in exploring world cinema, even with the wonders available online. I am of course familiar with the great films made by Spanish ex-patriot Luis Buñuel during his time in Mexico from the late 1940s to the early 1960s. The Exterminating Angel is the closest I can think of to Buñuel having made a genre film, but I’m not really sure it can be classified as a horror film. I might take a gander at it in this space down the road, anyhow, but for now, let’s look, as we would pretty much have to in regards to North American horror films, at the middle range of overall cinematic quality.

And there it is that we find a number of quite good Mexican horror films in the early 1960s, on a level with anything being done in the genre by Hollywood filmmakers such as Roger Corman or William Castle, if not, in some cases, better. (Notice how nimbly I wriggled out of including Psycho in that category? Hitchcock was a director on a par with Buñuel, and like the Spaniard, not really a horror director, per se, no matter how he might have dabbled in its pleasures.)

I will speak in future of Messers Corman and Castle. For now, let’s speak of la Llorona.

The Weeping Woman, in English. An old Mexican folktale about an abandoned mother who avenges the betrayal of her unfaithful husband/lover by murdering their children. She regrets her act when denied entry into Heaven, and is fated to roam the Earth in search of her dead children. Since they are beyond her reach, she seeks to replace them with the children of other mothers, with dire results all around. It’s one of those cautionary tales meant to keep the younguns of Mesoamerica in line. I have no data as to how well it works. What I do have is some Mexican-made films I want to have us all take a look at.

I’m not in this instance concerned with the numerous recent North American and Mesoamerican cinematic examinations, of varying quality, of the ancient legend. And by recent, I should point out that I mean anything since about 1980. When you get to my age, that’s when the cut-off date between old and new falls. Hell, I’m so old, cougars are barely legal.

Can I get a rimshot? No? Oh, well. Never mind.

I want to examine in this space three of the earliest films that were constructed around this legend – 1933’s La Llorona, 1960’s La Llorona, and 1963’s The Curse of the Crying Woman. There is one from 1947 I haven’t been able to get my hands on a copy of yet, La Herencia de la Llorona, but I hope to correct that oversight in the very near future. I expect I’ll address that one in a coda to a future column if you would all be so kind as to be patient with an auld phart.

The first la Llorona film, indeed the first Mexican horror film, was directed by Ramón Peón, one of roughly seventy films he made over a long career. La Llorona is not a bad film, but production-wise, about on a par with one of the better Hollywood Poverty Row studio films of its period. Some of this impression could be a simple lack of a good, restored copy, given that I’ve only been able to find a rather fuzzy presentation on YouTube, along with poorly synced subtitles to match. Maybe. The running time, like many of the la Llorona films of all periods, is taken up with an extensive flashback of the original legend as it unfolded in the late 16th Century. There is a second flashback to an even earlier, similar legend, that of la Malinche. She was the Aztec translator for and lover of Hernando Cortez, who also responded to being treated shabbily by killing the children she had borne the Conquistador almost a century before la Llorona began to weep. I’m not sure that segment adds to the overall quality of the film, but it does have some interest as a historical artifact. None of the other pictures I looked at for this column featured that older tale.

I think I might have just noticed a few eyes glaze over there a moment ago when I mentioned Poverty Row. My wife has been complaining for forty years now that I tend to throw out terms without always explaining them. I promise I will take a long, loving, terrified look at the old Hollywood studio system in the not-too-distant future, including what that phrase meant in the history of our genre. For now, you only need to know that Poverty Row was the collective noun for small, cheaply run and often fly-by-night independent studios mostly clustered along Gower Street in Hollywood that produced, at best, grade B movies. Westerns, serials, gangster pictures, and low-grade but often quite enjoyable horror pictures poured out of these movie mills, some shot in a matter of days on budgets that wouldn’t pay for a good used car today.

Moving on. That first La Llorona film has placed around the two flashbacks a contemporary story involving descendants of the original family, and the peril to the newest member, Juanito, on his fourth birthday. According to a legend related by the mother’s father, every first-born child in that line of descent disappeared on their fourth birthday, carried away by la Llorona. A mysterious, cloaked and masked figure lurks around the set, peering through secret panels and other such conventions of the Old Dark House sub-genre. It has comic relief, red herrings and all the trappings of better, and worse films. The climax reveals – Spoiler alert! – that it has been a trusted servant that has been possessed by the evil spirit of la Llorona. It had been she who was behind the several thwarted attempts to make away with the little boy.

As I stated above, not bad. Competently acted and directed, with a brisk but not rushed pace, it’s an enjoyable film of its period, with all the technical limitations inherent to that era. I just wish I could have found better subtitles, as my Spanish is not much better than at a ‘decipher-the-menu’ level. I suspect if I had been able to, I’d rate this one at C+. As it is, it’s a solid C.

The identically named version from 1960 is, structurally, very similar to the first film, but technically on a much higher level. I could easily see this coming from a North American studio of the caliber of Columbia or a second-tier Universal unit in that same time period. In fact, it reminds me, stylistically and technically, of one of the better William Castle vehicles, without the distracting gimmicks. A solid, well-made film, very enjoyable. I liked that the identity of la Llorona is made clear during her repeated attempts to do away with the child in this version. The build up of suspense for every attempt is handled with stylistic flair and subtle, gradual make-up effects at least as good as a contemporary Hollywood picture of its kind and time. B+

That leaves us with what is perhaps the most problematic of the films under consideration, The Curse of the Crying Woman, AKA La Maldición de la Llorona. Problematic in that it doesn’t exactly fit thematically with the others, being closer in tone and storyline to one of Roger Corman’s Edgar Allen Poe adaptations. Still, it’s quite an attractively mounted film, albeit in black-&-white rather than the color productions Corman was making by 1963. Otherwise, the influence is obvious. Its historical setting, in this case, the mid-to-late 19th Century, the mise en scene, the acting, are all seemingly in keeping with the style Corman had established north of the Rio Grande. And yet, its departures from the basic legend make it hard to judge as a la Llorona film. 

Oh, boy, I did it again, didn’t I? Mise en scene is, simply put, everything in a film or play that isn’t acting or dialogue. Costumes, set design, props, lighting, music, etc. Clear as mud? Moving on.

This time out, the spirit of la Llorona is lurking around an ancient house, waiting to displace the soul of her nearest available female descendant. At the exact moment of her twenty-fifth birthday, the latest in the line is fated to pull a spear out of what looks like a Medieval torture device known as a Catherine Wheel upon which the decayed corpse of the original la Llorona has been pinned since she was executed for her crimes. That will free the spirit of la Llorona to possess the young woman so she can carry on her demonic career. The somewhat convenient escape of the insane former owner of the crumbling house, up until the climax locked away in the bell tower, scotches the evil plans by strangling the villainous aunt so that the heroine can escape with her less-than-hypercompetent husband. 

Good, solid filmmaking of its kind and era. I rate it a B. 

I hope the populace doesn’t object to my comparing these efforts of the Mexican studios to the contemporary output of Hollywood. I’m making the perhaps unwarranted assumption that the majority of the folks likely to read this are more familiar with North American horror films, and that that familiarity might provide some context for fitting these three pictures into the overall history of the genre. If I’m incorrect, feel free to let me have it with both barrels in your comments. I’m a tough old codger. I can take it.

Until next time, be afraid. Be very afraid.

Chilling Chat with Best in Blood Winner Selah Janel

Selah Janel was blessed with a giant imagination, even if it made her gullible enough to wonder if fairies lurked in the woods and vampires waited in abandoned barns outside of town as a child. As an adult, she writes in various genres, including horror and dark fantasy. Her work has been published in multiple anthologies, magazines, e-books, and a short story collection. She likes her music to rock, her vampires lethal, her faeries to play mind games, and her princesses to have adventures and hold their own.

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

SJ: Thanks so much for having me again!

NTK: How did it feel to be named 2020’s Best in Blood winner?

SJ: I’d say pretty shocked is a good description for it! I was not expecting it at all!

NTK: You are very deserving! Tell us a little about “Wallpaper” your winning story.

SJ: I had originally written it as a flash story for another project, but it started going over word count, so I just kept it saved in my files for a while. It’s a pretty simple concept story of a woman at a crossroads in her own life stumbling into a haunted hotel and dealing with some particularly strange interior design. (Laughs.) Something is in the wallpaper, so it’s a short that focuses on that discovery and spirals from there.

NTK: What projects have you been working on since last we chatted?

SJ: Well, 2020 has obviously changed a lot of things and I was already doing a lot of changing and dealing with some things last year, as well, so the writing has been forced to slow down a bit. I’m starting to come back to it here and there, which is awesome and necessary. I’ve been typing a lot from my notebooks to edit, going through old files, submitting, etc. This summer I started helping the crew at Legendary Tales Magazine as a slush reader, and that really brought about a new perspective on what editors look for and how things work on that end. I’ve been going through a lot of my old shorts from anthologies and other places and hope to be putting some of those out on kindle soon as individual titles, too. There’s a lot of trial and error, and I’m rebuilding a bit and working on a few original manuscripts and ideas.

NTK: Legendary Tales Magazine is lucky to have you! You’re very involved in acting and costuming. Have these experiences inspired any of your stories?

SJ: Oh definitely, in a lot of ways. In general, I think my years of acting classes in college taught me how to approach characters a little differently, to use techniques like sense memory while writing to get more into their heads or into certain moments. And improv classes have been great for latching onto unintended plot development and rolling with it. Costume work has made me detail obsessed so a lot of my stories, especially my longer work, have several layers or little hidden details or researched bits. I live for stuff like that. I usually overthink clothing details and try to make them matter, as well. In terms of content-wise, yes and no. I think I avoided some of that trying to put distance there for a while, but enough time has passed that I’m ready to incorporate it more. There’s an old vampire story I did for the anthology The Big Bad, the title of the story is “Real Wild Childe,” and there’s a seamstress character in it who ties a lot of the plot together. Her specific backstory isn’t mine, but her frustrations at trying to get ahead and have her work be appreciated, the long hours it takes to do something well, and the sheer amount of scars from seam rippers and rotary blades and needles is pretty much from my life. I’ve set a story behind the scenes of a haunted attraction and that was a lot of fun to do—with all my life stories in that and the amusement park world, I’m pretty much looking for excuses to use those settings at this point. An old, out of print novel I’m working on re-editing dealt with a midwest small town guy becoming a rockstar and a cursed pair of shoes, so a lot of that book was looking at aspects of the entertainment lifestyle and the work involved, as well as a lot of costume detail there. I tend to not like description for description’s sake—I want to know what a character is wearing has a reason or fits the world or whatever. And I think with acting, it’s kind of the same skills involved that you’d take into scene work—only now I’m playing all the characters and responsible for all the emotional moments landing true, if that makes sense.

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NTK: Where can our readers find you in the future?

SJ: I’ve had to take a break from media while dealing with life and putting my health back together a bit, but I’m starting to get back to it again! People can look for me at my website and I’m on Twitter and on Facebook. I’m on Instagram, but haven’t had a chance to really play there and start posting yet. My historical horror/kinda vampire story Mooner is on Amazon.
I’m really hoping to have two shorts up soon. These were either done under another name or showed up in other places, but I’m still working on edits and tweaking some things. Hopefully soon for those, though!

NTK: Sounds wonderful! I’m sure the readers look forward to it. Thank you for chatting with me today, Selah. It’s always a pleasure, and congratulations on winning Best in Blood!

SJ: I always love talking to you and the rest of the Horror Addicts! Thanks so much!

I’m still shocked and touched!

Chilling Chat Special: Eric Shapiro

chillingchat

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

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

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

ES: Thank you for having me!

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

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

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

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

NTK: Do you have a favorite horror TV series?

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

NTK: Do you have a favorite horror novel?

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

NTK: Who is your favorite character in IT?

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

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

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

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

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

NTK:  What inspires you to write?

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

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

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

NTK: What inspired Red Dennis?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ES: Likewise! Thank you so much, Naching!

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

Book Review: Darkest Hours by Mike Thorn

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

Content Warnings: gore

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

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

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

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

Historian of Horror : Here Be Monsters!

Here Be Monsters by Mark Orr

So, read the edges of maps in the Age of Discovery, that period when Europeans wandered around the planet, snatching up lands and property and natural resources from indigenous peoples, to designate those areas into which they had not yet ventured. They feared what was there, but coveted the treasures they suspected would be found in those unexplored and unexploited regions. That’s where the monsters were, they thought, never realizing that they themselves were the monsters. 

Isn’t that how it goes? The peril in staring so long into the abyss, according to Nietzsche, is that the abyss stares back into us. We become what we fear if we’re not careful. Alas, we are not very often a careful species. As Pogo Possum pointed out in the 1950s, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

And so, off the edge of the map, we sail, in search of treasures. And, in the case of the horror genre, monsters. For what would horror be without monsters?

The easy answer is, it would be suspense. There’s nothing wrong with suspense, as a genre. In many of its respects, it is very much like horror. It relies on many of the same tropes and tricks as horror. It’s just not what we’re are gathered here together to talk about. And, therefore, we must needs talk about monsters.

We love them, we hate them. We fear them, we pity them. We jump when they suddenly appear, we weep when they fall off of the Empire State Building. They are the primary and most reliable delivery system for le frisson, that delicious shiver we’re all looking for in our horror diet. That transient, delightful, cathartic physical sensation we feel when fangs pierce flesh when the mask is ripped away from the Phantom’s hideous face when clawed fingers emerge from the darkened room on the other side of the slowly opening door. The goosebumps, the dilation of the pupils, the quickening of the breath as we eagerly and, let’s admit it, sadistically anticipate the gruesome demise of some unfortunate nonentity.

Who’s the monster now?

More importantly, what is a monster?

The word comes from the Latin monstrum, from an earlier word that meant a warning or omen, often of evil events raining down upon humanity from the gods themselves. As applied to the manifestations of those warnings, it refers to beings that are disfigured or distorted in body or mind, the unnatural and the supernatural, those that are both outsized and outside the norm in other ways. In other words, those that we readily identify in our own culture as monsters. 

Fritz Leiber, Jr. is more renowned for his fantasy than for his horror, having coined the term ‘sword and sorcery’ in 1961 and being arguably its most adept practitioner over the bulk of his nearly sixty-year career, but he wrote quite a few tales of terror and one major novel in the genre, Conjure Wife. He also won five Hugo Awards for science-fiction, but that’s even more neither here nor there than the fantasy. It’s horror we’re after! And I do plan to cover the estimable Mr. Leiber and his novel in more detail later, so don’t worry that you’ve inadvertently skipped a page or something, or that I’ve gotten you turned around or otherwise lost in the narrative. All shall be revealed at a later date.

Anyhow, in 1974, DAW Books published The Book of Fritz Leiber, for which he wrote a short essay entitled, “Monsters and Monster-Lovers”. Over the course of thirteen pages – and how fitting is that? – Leiber explicated his understanding of what a monster is, whence comes our fascination with them, and how does one go about most effectively creating them and using them to summon that frisson I mentioned earlier. Along the way, he lists some of his favorites, all of whom I intend to expound upon in future entries herein. Lovecraftian menaces from the outer darknesses, creatures of folklore and science fiction, giant apes and shapeshifters and even poor old Richard III, all will have their say in this space. Feeling that shiver of anticipation yet?

No? Then let me introduce you to legendary anthologist Peter Haining, who included in his 1988 collection, Movie Monsters: Great Horror Film Stories, a prologue by the late great Ray Bradbury. In “Inviting Frankenstein into the Parlour”,  Bradbury covered much of the same ground Leiber had fourteen years earlier, with some additions. Including Vertigo, of all things. He made a fairly good case for a third Hitchcock horror film, along with Psycho and The Birds. I expect I’ll take a look at that one of these days, as well. It’s too soon to mark your calendars, but don’t be surprised when it pops up.

Haining himself deserves a lengthy entry or two, along with other great gatherers of literary horrors like Richard Dalby, Donald A. Wollheim, August Derleth, Marvin Kaye, Christine Bernard, Dennis Wheatley, Gerald Page, Herbert Van Thal, and Charles Birkin. That and more will be forthcoming in times to come, along with so much more. But for now, the central question remains:

Why monsters? What is it about the disfigured, the deformed, the gigantic and the unnatural that draws us into their world, time and again? Is it some deep-seated need to exorcise our fears, or tap into the collective unconscious, or connect with the like-minded, or some other intense but subcutaneous psychological need? 

Or is it simply that monsters are fun?

Yeah. I think that’s it. Don’t you?

I came along at the tail-end of that first generation to be inundated by the classic horror films of the 1930s and 1940s when Universal and other studios realized they had a gold mine and dumped their catalogs onto local television stations all over the United States. I was too young to stay up late on weekend nights to watch Shock Theater or whatever it was called in Nashville, but there were frequent appearance by Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolf Man and their myriad fellow denizens of the night on our local stations during the hours when I was awake. I, like a few million other boomer kids, scheduled my playtime around movie presentations like the Big Show, which came on right after Dark Shadows and had at least one classic horror film a week. Or I’d crawl out of bed at five o’clock on a Saturday morning to catch Son of Frankenstein or The Mummy’s Curse on Night Owl Theater, before settling in with a bowl of Cap’n Crunch and a morning filled with cartoons. The Universal horror films were rarely much more than an hour in length, so once commercials were spliced in, they fit very nicely into the ninety-minute slot allotted to them. I’ve always suspected that was why it was that horror movies were so widely distributed on television, and thus one of the first entire classes of films largely preserved for future generations. Thank the Elder Gods for ninety-minute time slots.

Kids today are accustomed to massive promotional campaigns for pretty much anything that shows up on TV or in the movies, but that was a fairly new phenomenon in the early 1960s. There had been such campaigns in the 1950s for TV cowboys and such, but they were very specific. Hopalong Cassidy was the first, and Davy Crockett the most extensive, but those were before my time. My earliest memories of advertising premiums were the action figures from the third James Bond film, Goldfinger, that several of my fellow second-graders had, or the lunch-boxes decorated with pictures of popular TV and movie characters. Those, and all the monster stuff. And what monster stuff we had! 

My parents frequently shopped at the old Sears store on Lafayette Street in Nashville. That building is now the Union Rescue Mission, but when I was a kid, when you came in through the garden department, you emerged into a magical world. Toys as far as you could see, and to your right a display of Matchbox Cars, back when they were actually packaged in matchbox-sized cardboard containers. Hence the name. Just beyond those was the real treasure trove, a long wall filled with plastic models, including the Aurora Monster kits. Frankenstein. The Mummy. Godzilla. Dracula’s Dragster. The Bride of Frankenstein. I built them all, at one time or another. There were monster wallets, too. I had one with the Phantom of the Opera on one side and the Wolf Man on the other. Didn’t have any money to put in it, though. My allowance was fifty cents a week, which barely covered a few comic books and some baseball cards and the occasional paperback or Whitman hardback or Big Little Book. But I had the wallet! And I had a Thingmaker, with metal molds you filled up with Plastigoop and baked in the little oven until Creepy Crawlers emerged that you could throw at your little sister and freak her out.

Best of all, when you could find one, were the issues of Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine. Articles on all the old horror films, and news of upcoming ones, with lots of pictures and groan-inducing puns. The thirty-five-cent cover price took up most of my allowance, cutting into my comic book collecting, but it was worth it to read Forrest J. Ackerman’s deathless prose about Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi and Basil Rathbone and Peter Lorre and peruse the ads in the back for Don Post monster masks and 8mm films of old horror movies and real-life venus flytraps and record albums of scary stories and all the other goodies for sale to those whose allowance was more generous than mine.

All of which I intend to examine in some detail in installments yet to come, along with all the other spooky goodies I’ve read and seen and heard and otherwise accumulated in the decades since then. Hang around and travel down my memory lane with me into dark corners of horror you might not have ever suspected existed, and meet some monsters you might not have encountered yet. 

It should be fun. Because, yeah, monsters are fun.

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Ro’s Recs October

Ro’s Recs October

Hey HorrorAddicts! I hope you all are staying safe and insane—I mean healthy—during these peculiar times, and I hope, like me, you are taking advantage of all the PHENOMENAL horror offerings this season! MAN! What a great time to be a horror fan! 

One of the best films I’ve watched recently is the Shudder film The Mortuary Collection, directed by Ryan Spindell and starring Clancy Brown. A nod to anthology films like Creepshow and Tales of the Crypt, The Mortuary Collection is at turns ominous, creepy, campy, and MAN does it ROCK! I found myself digging the music so much I whipped out the old iPhone and used Shazam! to try to find out who was responsible for these groovy tunes. Much to my chagrin, the tunes were nowhere to be found.

But thanks to my pal Google, I did a little more digging and I discovered the culprits: The Mondo Boys. This duo has been making music together since they were fifteen and are not only quite adept at creating hauntingly beautiful scores, but at writing “lyric-and-vocal” pieces as well.

For this film, they had the challenge of creating an Elfman-esque/Potter-ish score as well as tunes to go with different eras portrayed in the film. You had a Frat-boy-gone-bad tune in “Little Lover,” a funky throwback in “Suicide,” and the 60s reminiscent back-and-forth in “Find Me In The Fall” that suck you into the theme of that section of the film as though you’d switched on a radio station made of the exact ingredients necessary to evoke the desired emotion. You know it’s the perfect soundtrack when you’re pulling up iTunes or Spotify to download the songs. Ahem…Mondo Boys, if you’re reading, will you get right on that? In the meantime, you can stream the songs on their website.

So, the next time you’re watching a film and think “huh, I wonder who wrote that song? It’s perfect for this scene,” you just might discover that The Mondo Boys are responsible. You can find their website at https://www.mondoboys.com and I encourage you to check out their other projects. The Mortuary Collection is a great film. Check it out and I guarantee you that you’ll be smiling so wide your face will ache by the time it’s through!

That’s it for this month. Stay Tuned for more Merrill’s Musical Musings and Ro’s Recs…

Kbatz Kraft: Pot O’ Bones Tower

When one spots a bag of loose Halloween skeleton bones at Goodwill for $5, one snatches it before anyone else! Like an archaeologist on a discovery, opening the bag revealed large femurs, skulls, spines, and bony hands perfect for a towering Pot O’ Bones!

These odd, incomplete skeletons, however, were two different colors, and a brown paint dry brushed gave the bones a cohesive color before a second coat of a yellow and brown muddy added to the dug up and weathered theme. An unused skull meant to go with the collapsed Shakespeare Cardboard Tombstone and a pair of skeleton arm tongs from the dollar store were also doctored with aging paint and tossed into the collection. Initially, a found terracotta pot served as the tower base, but it was too big, requiring more backyard stones to secure the inner cardboard tower roll re-purposed from an upholstery fabric sale. The hole in the bottom of the pot meant a stabilizing stake could run through the pole, but since this isn’t weather proof anyway, the stake and the increasingly heavy terracotta were swapped for a smaller rusted metal pot.

With the stand fixed, the bones were strategically set using semi-adjustable hot glue rather than a mega strong adhesive that doesn’t allow maneuvering. Once the large femurs were in place, the cardboard base was painted brown just in case any gaps showed. More leaves, sticks, or stones as fillers between the angular bones were an option, but two bags of dollar store moss completed the decrepit look. Although one could paint the post and even moss the entire tower before adding the bones, that also creates unnecessary work in spots that might not show. This assembly could be done quickly in a day, but I did the bones and moss in stages and made adjustments. Like a Christmas tree, I keep seeing gaps were there should be less moss or another bone and wasn’t quite pleased. Fortunately, the discarded bottom halves from my 3D Skeleton Frames project provided more bones.

Obviously, long term outdoor use requires different materials, but with on hand paint supplies, found materials, $5 for the bones and $2 for the moss, this was much cheaper than the luxury skull towers online. Bags of bones themselves run between $15 and $30! This same model can be applied to family friendly leaves and pumpkins or more birds and bats morose, and a Pot O’ Bones Tower is perfect for a foyer statement, autumn porch, or cemetery sentry.

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts including:

Spider Ball Topiaries

DIY Flower Pens

Re-Purposed Black Topiaries

How to Make Stuffed Pumpkins Video

For more Project Photos, Follow Kbatz Krafts on Facebook! 

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: 12 Hour Shift.

Plot: t’s 1999 and over the course of one 12 hour shift at an Arkansas hospital, a junkie nurse, her scheming cousin and a group of black market organ-trading criminals start a heist that could lead to their imminent demises.

Who would Like it: Fans of dark comedies, gorehounds, and fans of thrillers!

High PointsWith all the gore, off the charts plots and comedy this will probably end up being a cult favorite.

ComplaintsIt’s not horror.

OverallI liked it, it was super fun

Stars3 and 1/2

Where I watched itScreener  

***

Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

 

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

Book Review: SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire

Edited by Nicole Givens Kurtz

Published by Mocha Memoirs Press

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

Desiccant by Craig Laurance Gidney

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

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

Love Hangover by Sheree Renée Thomas

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

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

The Retiree by Steven Van Patten

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

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

The Dance by L. Marie Woods

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

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

A Clink of Crystal Glasses Heart by LH Moore

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

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

Diary of a Mad Black Vampire by Dicey Grenor

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

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

The Return of the OV by Jeff Carroll

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

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

The Last Vampire Huntress by Alicia McCalla

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

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

Gritty Corners by Jessica Cage

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

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

Shadow of Violence by Balogun Ojetade

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

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

‘Til Death by Lynette S. Hoag

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

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

Encounters by K. R. S. McEntire

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

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

Unfleamed by Penelope Flynn

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

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

Beautiful Monsters by Valjeanne Jeffers

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

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

Frostbite Delizhia D. Jenkins

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

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

Di Conjuring Nectar of Di Blood by Kai Leakes

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

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

Snake Hill Blues by John Linwood Grant

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

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

Ujima by Alledria Hurt

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

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

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

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

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

His Destroyer by Samantha Bryant

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

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

Quadrille by Colin Cloud Dance

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

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

Asi’s Horror and Delight by Sumiko Saulson

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

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

In Egypt’s Shadows by Vonnie Winslow Crist

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

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

Rampage by Miranda J. Riley

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

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

No God but Hunger Steve Van Samson

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

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

Bloodline by Milton J. Davis

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

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

Message in a Vessel by V.G. Harrison

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

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

Blood Saviors by Michele Tracy Berger

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

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

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

Kbatz Kraft: Mini Macabre Bone Wreath

It’s the Autumn of Bones for Kbatz Krafts! What’s one to do with the smaller bones left over from my Pot O’ Bones Tower? Why make a morbid little wreath of course!

A dollar store metal frame was wrapped in brown yarn for the base, as I intended to finish off the glued on bones with some twine ties for a rusted look. However, this fourteen inch wreath seemed too big for the angular bones. Unlike more traditional wreath items like leaves or pine cones, the bones didn’t seem to fit with too much yarn and twine showing gaps between the bones. Fortunately, switching to a smaller diameter wreath frame meant the bones could be the star of the design, going off the edges of the round. Gluing onto the smaller wire frame, however, proved difficult with bones teetering on too few glue spots. Thankfully, switching to a nine inch willow wreath finally did the trick! This natural base that didn’t have to be hidden opened up the possibility for more raffia ties and small black branches sourced from more dollar store florals.

An additional bag of dollar store mini bones were tossed into the mix, too – again painted with the same dry brush brown technique as the Pot O’ Bones Tower to take off the new plastic edge while creating a cohesive, rustic look. After trying the bones in different positions and doubting if this wreath was meant to be because none of the arrangements looked right, I realized it was the largest bones that were the most troublesome. Without them, the smaller femurs and mini bones created a much nicer jointed and angular shape. Now that the placement was at last settled, each was hot glued on to the wreath with the black branches adding macabre but natural pop as well as hiding some of the glue globs. The slightly darker raffia loosely wrapped in symmetrically asymmetrical spots also hid the assembly. This bony wreath looks like the branches and ties are what’s holding it together, and a twine hanging loop sets off the natural motif.

Unlike a traditional wreath where any arrangement comes out complimentary, these morbid materials took some trial and error addition, subtraction, and experimentation. Fortunately, this afternoon project packs a demented little punch for a modest under $8 for supplies that were already in the craft closet – except for those extra Halloween season only mini bones! Compared to expensive skulls and florals, this macabre bone wreath is much more fun and affordable.

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts including:

Decorating Like Dark Shadows Video Series

Goth Parasol Upgrade

Mini Coffin Tray

DIY Cardboard Coffin

For more Project Photos, Follow Kbatz Krafts on Facebook! 

Authors of SLAY – John Linwood Grant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John-the-Balladeer

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

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

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

Wellman, ‘Vandy Vandy’, (1953)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘She’ turned out to be Mamma Lucy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview by Paul Oliver, Conversation with the Blues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conjuration

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

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

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

Modern Culture, volume 13, 1901

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

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

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

But it’s always interesting, anyway.

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


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

Chilling Chat Special: Authors of SLAY – Craig Laurance Gidney

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

NTK: How old were you when you discovered horror?

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

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

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

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

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

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

CLG: The Haunting of Hill House.

NTK: Favorite horror movie?

CLG: The Exorcist.

NTK: Favorite horror TV show?

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

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

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

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

CLG: I was invited by Nicole.

NTK: What inspires your writing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chilling Chat Special: Authors of SLAY – Sumiko Saulson

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

NTK: How old were you when you discovered horror?

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

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

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

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

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

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

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

NTK: Favorite horror movie? 

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

NTK: Favorite horror TV show? 

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

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

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

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

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

NTK: What inspires your writing? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Chilling Chat Special: Authors of SLAY – LH Moore

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

NTK: How old were you when you discovered horror?

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

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

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

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

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

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

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

NTK: Favorite horror movie?

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

NTK: Favorite horror TV show?

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

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

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

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

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

NTK: What inspires your writing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addicts, you can find LH on Twitter and Instagram.

 

HorrorAddicts.net 190, 3 hr Halloween Special

Horror Addicts Episode# 190
SEASON 15 “Cursed, Cubed”
Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich
with guests Star, Mercy Hollow, and R.L. Merrill
Intro Music by: Valentine Wolfe


3 hr Halloween Special!

nicole givens kurtz | jack mangan | frank h. woodward | selah janel | shadow fashion | frankenstein chronicles |

Find all articles and interviews at: http://www.horroraddicts.net
14 days till Halloween/Halloween NOT canceled!
terror trax: shadow fashion, children of the night
catchup: welcome, intro to in-studio guests: star, classic literature, r.l. merrill, musical musings maven, mercy hollow, return victim, drinking word: horror
merrill’s musical musings: r.l. merrill, mechants by isolation
craft: halloween wall-hanging
supplies:
*3 (or more) wooden halloween cutout ornaments
*thin string or embroidery thread
*at least 2 markers of your favorite colors that compliment each other
*a sparkly glitter pen
*various halloween charms and beads that match your colors.

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how not to be cursed: know when to quit, jeanne rodgers the “most cursed”, bat, boat mishaps, etc…mercy cursed? star favorite costumes, lucy, sonny bono, mad hatter, boy George

14:00 Interview Selah Janel
costuming, acting, gizmo, gremlins, king’s island, friday the 13th, punked fairytales, lost boys, dress made of synthetic skin, demon attack, swedish chef outfit, batgirl, fairy, wings

ro costume misshaps, cyndi lauper, how to use/start your glitter pen
daphne’s den of darkness: daphne strasert small town horror, hold the dark, the crazies, the fog, 30 days of night, and the town that dreaded sundown. emz, storm of the century, mercy, alfred hitchcock, the birds
frightening flix: kbatz, frankenstein chronicles S2

42:13 Interview with Frank H. Woodward

men in suits, frank was on #97, s8, lovecraft fear of the unknown, wrong turn 6, 30 years of working in movies, movie biz, marketing, covid, closure of sets, postponing releases, netflix buying theaters, disney, amc, microbudgets, short film, clean, drivein festival, lovecraft country, h.p. lovecraft, racisim, harry potter, j k rowling, bad mouthing trans people, doesn’t belong to her anymore, movies, etc are the fans, neil gaiman, new rules about set procedures, tyler perry, pods in filming, batman, robert pattinson, quarantine pay, sick pay, celebrate, film fest, zombie escape room in your home
Film Sense Podcast
https://directory.libsyn.com/shows/view/id/filmsense

crafting check-in, juiced glitter pen, color the wooden pieces and use glitter pen on top of colors
live action reviews: crystal connor, alone magnolia pictures
movies coming up: Don’t Look Back (2020), The Empty Man (2020), Synchronic (2019), Come Play (2020), Dune (2020), Antlers (2021), Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021), Morbius (2021), A Quiet Place Part II (2020), Last Night in Soho (2021), Godzilla vs. Kong (2021), Spiral (2021), CANDYMAN Expected 2021, The Forever Purge (2021), The Batman (2021), Halloween Kills (2021)
halloween movie watchlist game: evil dead 2, rocky horror, frankenstein, nightmare before christmas, the great pumpkin, hocus pocus, beetlejuice, ghost ship, little shop of horrors
craft check-in, tie them together

1:37:10 Interview with Nicole Givens Kurtz and Mocha Memoirs Press / SLAY
The book SLAY, non POC writer mistakes, women write horror, only white men can write horror?
Writing the Other: https://writingtheother.com
Mocha Memoirs Press: https://mochamemoirspress.com
halloween suggestions: bram stoker’s dracula, sleepy hollow, the crow, the haunting of hill house, pet semetery
Nicole’s work: https://nicolegivenskurtz.net
chilling chat: naching t. kassa, nicole kurtz

2:05:01 best band award announced and message from the winner,
kbatz krafts: halloween haul and how not to make orbs
logbook of terror: russell holbrook, milo’s yard
bigfoot files: lionel green, the search breedlove’s documentary

2:12:03 best in blood, winner is announced and surprised on audio.
glitter attacks, watermelon glitter burst, mercy glitter crime boss, star craft, too much glitter, rassle dazzle ghost
dead mail:
michele: the grey lady, the turnoff the screw, the woman in white, dracula, the portrait of dorian grey, salem witch trials, cotton mather notebooks, the house of seven gables, old time radio, the plague by albert camus
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cotton_Mather
(other suggestions: “The Spider” by Hanns Heinz Ewers, “Diary of a Madman” by Nikolai Gogol, “The Signal Man” by Charles Dickens)
jeff: answer for realistic pandemic movies for james, contagion, outbreak, the hot zone, alas babylon, the stand, ghost story special, nancy kilpatrick, mercy favs: 12 monkeys, i am legend, the rain, the handmaids tale, 3%
seth: movie soundtracks for writing, interview with the vampire, dracula musical, 5th element, beetlejuice, accuradio video game soundtracks, classic horror film soundtracks, suspiria, ros: fright night, pet semetery, rocky horror, reanimator, the shining, danny elfman, in the tall grass, midnight special, the twilight zone, wanna see something really scary, creature features, gremlins, the lost boys, g tom mac, episode #136, dan shaurette interviewed him
news: the new craft movie, the craft legacy, blumhouse, jesse orr, my darling dead, bastards, mocha memoirs press, SLAY, haunts and hellions, transmundane press, ON TIME, emerian rich, philip steven, dj tryer, valentine wolfe.bandcamp.com
book review: benjamin langley, normal review by stephanie ellis

2:41:50 Interview with Jack Mangan
was on #23, #52, in two of dan’s two audiodramas, am i evil, metallica, diamondhead, brian tatler, sean harris, witch burning, revenge, comic, graphic novel, fan art, rich catino, james f beverage, derek mau, spherical tomi, fiction writing, halloween plans, no more events on halloween, no trick or treating, but fun at the house, candy, harry potter, peanuts, star wars, snakes, slytherin, horror movie recommends: evil dead 2, bruce campbell, evil dead musical, splatter zone, poltergeist
Am I Evil: https://www.amievil-graphicnovel.com
Metal Asylum: http://www.metalasylum.net
Jack Mangan’s site: http://jackmangan.com

last word on crafts, ro: advanced crafting, star: by the book, mercy: flamethrower edition.
Mercy Hollow: https://www.mercyhollow.com
R.L. Merrill: https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com
Star: I can’t wait for The Haunting of Bly Manor!
bloopers


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h e a d  o f p u b l i s h i n g

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Kate Nox

s t a f f

KBatz (Kristin Battestella), Daphne Strasert, Jesse Orr, Russell Holbrook, Lionel Green, Keiran Judge, Crystal Connor, Nightshade, Courtney Mroch, R.L. Merrill

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Chilling Chat: Episode #190 – 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

 

Chilling Chat Special: Authors of SLAY – Steven Van Patten

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

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

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

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

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

NTK: How old were you when you discovered horror?

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

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

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

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

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

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel? 

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

NTK: Favorite horror movie?

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

NTK: Favorite horror TV show?

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

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

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

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

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

NTK: What inspires your writing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Logbook of Terror : Milo’s Yard

“Milo’s Yard” 

Every year Milo’s Halloween decorations grew more elaborate, ambitious, and horrific. Milo’s yard had become so scary during the month of October that all the neighborhood joggers and walkers rerouted their familiar paths to avoid that peculiar house until November came and the terror was put away for another year. 

Halloween night was especially dreadful, so much so that none of the adults would come within a block of Milo’s yard. Only the children were brave enough to go, and yet still, only the bravest would return, their faces ashen white, their eyes deep pools filled with dread. And the children who weren’t so brave, the ones who were called The Lost, the ones all the neighbors whispered about during the months that followed Hallow’s Eve, they seemed to somehow disappear; they would enter Milo’s yard and never return as if their own fear kept them trapped there forever. But, everyone knew that Milo had the best candy. There was no candy like it anywhere else in the whole neighborhood, and no one could ever figure out where it came from. It was beyond delicious. It was legendary. It was worth the risk. 

Milo checked his watch – it wouldn’t be long now. He surveyed the yard and smiled far and wide at his creation. Gargoyles leered from every corner of the roof. Phantoms hoisted on unseen wires and pulleys flew back and forth above the headstones, zombies, witches, and ghouls that filled the front yard. Lights burning orange and purple lit the scene. Two meandering rows of glowing skulls illuminated a path that weaved its way through the yard to the front door. Wireless speakers hung hidden in the trees, waiting to come to life and proclaim their fearful song.

Milo hurried into the house. He powered up the six fog machines. Three minutes later dense fog began to fill the yard. Excitement and anticipation filled Milo’s soul. He pressed the play button on the stereo. As his favorite haunted house tape echoed out into the gathering gloom, Milo sat in the dark of his front window and waited for the trick or treaters to arrive. 

***

Chase Cabrini stood with his parents and little sister at the top of the hill, just up the street from Milo’s house. “You know we can’t go with you, son, it’s just the way it is,” Landau Cabrini said to his oldest boy. 

Chase had just turned eleven and was teetering on the edge of adolescence and the loss of childhood wonders. He looked up at his father. “It’s alright, dad, I’m not scared.” 

Landau looked down at his boy. His eyes filled with empathy. He knew the kid was full of shit. 

“Alright, son, we’ll wait here for you,” Chase’s father said. 

The small family stared down the street toward Milo’s yard. Horror music wafted up the hill, carried along on the ever advancing fog. Chase took three steps before he turned back and glanced at his family. He grinned and then trotted away and disappeared into the mist, his black vampire’s cape flying in the wind behind him. 

***

The fog seemed to clear a bit as Chase neared the house. He could hear odd, unearthly voices underneath the music, inside the fog. He felt eyes on him. His shoes hit soft earth. He was there. He was in Milo’s yard. He stopped and took a breath, taking in the sweet aroma of the fog. A cool wind chilled his skin. He gazed into the fog and saw the lighted path that led through the cemetery and to the front door. Chase felt his nerve start to shrink. The door suddenly seemed so far away. His dad was right after all; he was totally freaked. “Shit…” Chase muttered to himself. He stood still and listened and hoped to hear the reassuring voices of other children coming down the hill but there were none. He was all alone in Milo’s yard. 

Peering through the fog, Chase saw the front door creep open. He choked down the lump in his throat and began to walk. 

The front door seemed impossibly far away. His ears burned hot with fear. His eyes watered. His hands trembled. Leaves crunched under Chase’s feet as he walked the path. He felt fingers and hands brush across his back. Strange creatures beneath the gloom breathed hot breath onto his legs and nipped at his toes. Chase’s eyes darted around, searching for the monsters hidden in the fog. Two zombies lunged at him, one from either side. An ancient black cat tore at his pants leg. A coffin lid moved and a mummy rose up into the fog. A sudden banshee shriek tore the air behind him. Chase jumped and bolted straight for the door, his heart racing out ahead of him. He tripped and stumbled on to the porch. He looked up and there was Milo, standing in the doorway, staring down at him with a devil’s grin. Chase straightened up and cleared his throat. “Trick ‘r Treat,” he squeaked out. 

Chase held out his trusty plastic pumpkin bucket. Milo smiled and dropped a handful of candy in. “Why don’t you go ahead and try a piece now?” Milo asked the boy. 

“Sure…!” Chase said, his face beaming with eager joy as he reached into the pumpkin. 

At first bite, the candy didn’t seem all that special, but then something happened. The flavor changed. The chocolate coating somehow seemed indescribably delicious. Chase felt a wild euphoria sweep over him and he cooed like a baby. His eyes went limp and numb. 

“This is delicious,” Chase said through a full mouth. 

“Good…” Milo said. “Have another.” 

So Chase stood on Milo’s porch and ate another and another and still one more. And Milo dumped more candy into the plastic pumpkin bucket. Chase’s feet felt light. Pure happiness flooded through him. He couldn’t feel the porch beneath him. He looked down and saw that he was floating. He began to laugh and Milo laughed along with him. Chase dropped his trick or treat pumpkin and flapped his arms. He felt his teeth grow into sharp fangs. He drew his cape up around him and floated out into the fog of Milo’s yard. 

“I love it here!” Chase exclaimed. “I never want to leave!”

“And you’ll never have to!” Milo said with a huge smile. “You can stay in my yard forever and ever and have all the candy you like.”  

“I’m a real vampire now!” Chase shouted as he perched on the limb of a withered old tree, enshrouded in fog, and waited for the next trick or treater to come by.

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: The Frankenstein Chronicles Season 2

The Frankenstein Chronicles Season Two is Brimming with Monster Quality

By Kristin Battestella

The 2017 six-episode Second Season of The Frankenstein Chronicles picks up three years after the twisted events of its Debut Series as Sean Bean’s supposedly dead Inspector John Marlott pursues Lord Hervey (Ed Stoppard) for his monstrous science while Sergeant Joseph Nightingale (Richie Campbell) investigates the gruesome murders of several parish officials as new mad machinations and corrupt officials collide.

It’s 1830 and disturbed flashes of what has transpired match the Bedlam catatonic in “Prodigal Son.” Jailers think this case is hopeless, for the angry, rattling chains can’t tell of the heartbeats, fires, agony, and horrors. Silent screams, gory garrotings, and escapes lead to the abandoned laboratory with cracked mirrors, empty bottles, and lingering phantoms. The Frankenstein Chronicles refreshes the audience whilst the characters themselves struggle with the previous experiments, former pain, and fresh dilemmas as a murdered archdeacon sends fear through the local parish. The poor cannot feed their families on faith alone, but the Dean maintains his luxury by hampering the police with jurisdiction technicalities. New cemetery bills don’t stop grave robbing schemes, and cruel high versus kind lows are firmly established in the multi-layered mysteries and investigations. Despite a sophisticated period mood, church fires, eviscerating shocks, and eerie figures with lone candles always remind viewers of the morose horror drama. London is run amok with slicing and dicing nobles on The Frankenstein Chronicles, and there’s no solace for “Not John Marlott” as more bloody crimes begat missing organs, epidemics, and piled bodies. Creepy dreams and laughing visions add to the on edge, ghosts approach former friends, and headlines say the escaped lunatic is responsible for these unholy murders. Local parish watchmen rebuff inspectors, and back-alley deals lead to corpse bearer job opportunities and intriguing new characters. Desecrated bodies are dug up and moved to pits – clearing the graveyards for people who can pay more for sacred ground. Mirrors and reflections create more soulful questions as the dead man walking sees the naked, animalistic internal monster. Shrouds, vaults, torches, and coffins keep The Frankenstein Chronicles on the morbid move in “Seeing the Dead.” Our former detective has his own underground investigation amid the church bells, empty steeples, and plague-ridden alongside tender moments and a real life famous name or two. Dead children abound, and families that can’t afford consecrated burials paint crosses on their doors to honor the deceased while a carnival caravan arrives with freaks and re-enactments of Frankenstein. Politicians argue about burial taxes, and motives for the murders include selling off church properties, twisted science, and blaming the devil. Who’s clearing the slums and pocketing the money? It isn’t God who’s brought this pestilence, but men of science playing with God’s power. Black horses, night owls playing the piano by candlelight, and men talking of the final nail in the coffin add symbolic subtext while dreams, monster memories, and ghosts provide clues. Superstitious fears and wrongful medicine clash thanks to sewers, sailors, on stage within Frankenstein horrors, and knife fights behind the curtain. Autopsies, methodical precision, and poisoned pumps hone in on the contaminated truth – revelations perhaps made more disturbing by the water crises happening in America today.

Old inspectors and suspicious aristocrats meet face to face in “Little Boy Lost” amid fancy balls and false sermons waxing on demons and souls. Unfortunately, the truth is blasphemy, and quarantined ships send the sick to die in abandoned buildings behind chained doors – making for some silently terrifying scenes of garish dead haunting the corridors. Messengers from religious officials come baring knives in the back, leading to bloody struggles and gurgling groans. The innocent must flee in chases through the streets and leaps across rooftops, contrasting the footmen and tête-à-têtes on the ballroom balcony. Lifelike machines and automaton displays escalate the mad science amidst more grief, twists about who is real or phantom, and dead babies in jars. Thanks to town mobs and persecutions, circus folk with cut out tongues are arrested just because they fit the description of monsters, but ominous staircases descend to bright laboratories, creepy equipment, and shocking revelations with touching supernatural moments linking our characters. Politicians using the poor and too good to be true health plans in “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” again mirror the contemporary political climate as scary ideologies hide in plain sight. Be it illness or slit throats, people in this era don’t live very long, and officials double-cross each other to fill the void left by the dying King. Likewise, constables and the press are at odds over evidence and thin leads as all roads point to monstrous men throwing their own to the dogs if it suits their toys, tears, and conspiracies. Blocks of ice are used to store organs alongside secret formulas, memento mori, psychic encounters, and plans to escape to the continent. Chilling confrontations trap the unwilling in the choice to be reborn, for more things are possible than what God can do according to our seemingly sacrosanct gentleman. Stone towers contain romantic rooms draped in white soon to host some serious butchery, transformations, and abominations. Why wait to rekindle what one’s lost in God’s time when life’s mysteries can come full circle now? Wounds and spirited intervention culminate in “Bride of Frankenstein” as lies, gags, and convulsions reunite our firstborn with the reanimation process. Life-giving elixirs, breathing apparatus, and unique tissues lead to coastal visions and life or death limbo. Our murder victims got in the way of political ambitions so now their bodies are being put to good use. There’s no need to make apologies when sacrificing for science! Once again The Frankenstein Chronicles builds its crimes and mysteries before escalating to full-on horror. Raids, arrests, and eponymous resurrections mean nothing when death is not the end for men who live forever in a world without God. However loose ends must be tied up, and another corpse on the church steps leads to confessions, ironic justice, and science preventing the dead from staying deceased in an excellent denouement of amoral horrors.

He’s angry, doesn’t know his own strength, and vows revenge, yet Sean Bean’s former inspector John Marlott remains haunted by his past. Initially he doesn’t speak much, only “I was abandoned by God,”– which sums up The Frankenstein Chronicles quite well. Marlott insists he isn’t who he was, for whether he was a man of kindness and justice or not, he received neither. Marlott feels forsaken since his family has gone on without him, yet he finds solace and a clean bed in a church and recognizes psalms of mercy when he hears them. Unfortunately, he can’t look himself in the mirror, and any peace is quickly ruined by tragedy. Marlott moves on, pushing away the living because everyone around him winds up dead. He becomes a corpse bearer and calls himself Jack Martins, revisiting places he once frequented to prove his innocence despite nightmares that seem to indicate otherwise. Marlott is disturbed by all the death he sees and talks to ghostly guests from Series One, but he’s more upset that he cannot see the spirits of his own wife and daughter. Marlott gives his coins to orphans and poor families so they can bury their dead properly and helps the sick households by doing their cleaning and hard labor, becoming the ironic hero of Pye Street roaming the slums at night – a foreboding grim reaper silhouette escorting a wagon of the dead to their mass grave. He tells people to flee the plague but ultimately ends up communing with their lingering spirits in superbly haunting moments. He cannot help the ghosts who torment him, but Marlott is deeply sorry for all the souls he seemingly damned. Forgiveness, however, may be found in the darkest places, and Marlott comes to accept he can live to do good even if he is not blessed. The Frankenstein Chronicles provides fascinating winks at Bean’s walking spoiler onscreen image amid chilling declarations, strong demands for vengeance, and tearful displays. Granted I am biased – and I still think Marlott is Sharpe – but Sean Bean seems to have become a better, more seasoned actor with age, and it is a pity The Frankenstein Chronicles received no awards notice for his excellent performance.

Though now a sergeant, Richie Campbell’s Joseph Nightingale is assigned to a seemingly routine escape from Bedlam rather than a murder higher up officials want forgotten. He’s a lot like Marlott, actually, getting praised for his initiative, punished for his insistence, and circumventing orders to find out about Marlott’s surprise reappearance. Joe must still deal with racism from above and below and knows he’s being stonewalled once victims’ bodies are removed before he can inspect them – leaving Nightingale no choice but to get the truth at a terrible price. Ryan Sampson’s fast talking Boz is still a reporter for the chronicle, chastised by Nightingale for writing outlandish reports to scare the public but shocked when the dead Marlott comes to see him. He wants Marlott’s surely fantastic story, and remains unfettered in his outrageous reporting, because the truth that victims are having their hearts cut out is supposed to scare people less? Although grossed out by the autopsy reports, he’s reluctant to give up his sources until their differing private exams prove they want him to print lies. Boz believes Marlott when he tells him there is a poisoning scheme in the works, but says he should do the talking when they poke around at the inquest. Charles Dickens ends up bombing around London with Frankenstein’s Monster – one of many fascinating what ifs on The Frankenstein Chronicles. Laurence Fox’s (Lewis) Mr. Dipple, meanwhile, is a creepy, reclusive aristocrat overly concerned with weird marionettes, music boxes, machine models, and masks. He’s become enamored with contraptions because he is afraid to live, seemingly tender or sensitive but suspect when he asks guests to keep an open mind about what they see. The character embodies several contemporary ills viewers will recognize – saying one thing but doing another for his own purpose , which is to have power over death and grief. Sadly, Maeve Dermody (Carnival Row) as kind, widowed seamstress Esther Rose is unknowingly caught in the middle when taking in Marlott while commissioned to make dresses for Dipple’s dolls. She buys clothes off the dead to re-sell to poor, not so particular customers and gives Marlott back his own effects. There’s not much difference between her craft and stitching him up when he’s injured, either. She’s glad to have him protect her shop, for Esther thinks she is weak, afraid to live, and too nervous when invited to a ball showcasing her work. She’s glad when Dipple calls her designs exquisite and doesn’t believe he has ulterior motives despite Marlott’s warnings. However, Esther insists she is not part of Dipple’s collection, vowing to be no man’s property despite her loneliness.

 

Lily Lesser as (Wolf Hall) Ada Byron, Lord Byron’s mathematician daughter, also dislikes Dipple’s obsession with “toys.” She’s interested in automatons for the future and power for women, debating Dipple about whether a man building machines means he has power over God. Men’s power pollutes what it touches, demanding obedience and stifling genius – leading to slavery and humans as the automaton. Although at times the character seems too modern, her progressive ideals aren’t wrong, and it would have been intriguing to see more of her. Corpse bearer Francis Magee (Game of Thrones) knows Marlott is too shrewd for this job, but then again so is he. Spence is a former priest who criticized the Dean for his greed, and now he fears he is in danger. Nonetheless, he does his gruesome job and stands by his convictions, returning to his Bible even to his own detriment. Unfortunately, Kerrie Hayes (Lilies) as Dipple’s orphan maid Queenie is also scared of her employer, his contraptions, and the locked doors deep inside his manor. She and Nightingale grew up in the foundling home together, and she clearly has a crush on him, telling him not to be consumed by blaming Marlott. Queenie wants to help Joe’s investigation, but her curiosity gets the better of her. She knows the police won’t believe what she’s seen, but eventually, Queenie finds tell tale tokens as proof for the police. Locating Ed Stoppard’s rumored to be dead Lord Hervey, however, isn’t so easy. He’s as in pursuit of his creation as Marlott is, but is he truly connected to the current crimes or is Marlott’s wishful seeking of justice involving the not so good doctor? Hervey is said to be here or there, off in the carriage, or just missed him – pinning his gruesome actions on others as it suits his plans. He’s happy to offer the choice of transformation to those who want it, developing a sick delight in what he does. For Hervey, there is no such thing as God’s will, only indifferent science. Sir Robert Peele, however, wants to build new closed burials and give the poor the right to a Christian interment, but Tom Ward’s Home Secretary has to move fast on his reforms before losing the ailing George IV’s favor. Peele seeks cleaner cities where nearby decomposition isn’t going back into the water and objects to the circumvention of his authority, for Guy Henry’s (Rogue One) Dean of Westminster lords over everyone with his stranglehold on the police as well as the church. He squashes murder investigations, pockets burial fees, and uses Martin McCann (The Pacific) as parish coroner Renquist to do away with the bodies privately. For his dirty deeds, Renquist rightfully fears he’s going to be the fall guy, just another of many corrupt officials on The Frankenstein Chronicles.

 

Fallen leaves and overcast skies create a perpetual autumn feeling for The Frankenstein Chronicles while barren coasts invoke a bleak limbo. Storms, mud, moors, and fog contrast the carriages, top hats, walking sticks, and frock coats. Careful editing, silence, and natural sounds parallel the horror realizations amid dank cells, chains, spooky lanterns, and autopsies. There are fancy stone manors and slum streets, but the graveyards and churches are somewhere in between – grand, old, but empty cloisters despite the cross’s symbolic shelter and arched windows providing rare light. Wax seals, lockets, quills, waist coats, and cravats birth mechanical innovations, clockworks, masks, and uncanny valley eyes, layering the creepy science what ifs alongside the innocent flowers, lace, and painstaking embroidery attention to detail. Fair fiddles and carnival acts provide morbid bemusement, yet our star is often alone in the center of the camera frame or on the outside looking in at the action through doorways or arches. Then again, golden sconces and grand libraries can’t compare to decomposing bodies as the gasps and covering mouths provide shock and stench for the audience. Sometimes the blue and night time drab are too dark, however, firelight adds a realistic touch so often missing from overly saturated shows. Oil lamps and disturbing harpsichord music accent syringes, hissing gears, leeches in jars, elixirs, tubes, catalysts, and beakers. The candlelit laboratory almost has an enchanting glow, but who knew blocks of ice could be so..well…chilling? Oddly, neither director Benjamin Ross nor writer Barry Langford are involved in Season Two – all new writers join director Alex Gabassi (The ABC Murders). With previouslies and credits, these episodes are also slightly shorter at forty-five minutes, however it is more annoying that Netflix wants to skip both with seconds to spare. The Frankenstein Chronicles Season Two doesn’t use Mary Shelley as a character or the William Blake interconnected themes from the First Season, either. Fortunately, the personal morals, monsters dilemmas, and new mad science elements expand the drama and performances. Although this year ends well, it’s a pity there is no word on a Third Season for The Frankenstein Chronicles. There’s still time and the series deserves more. In reviewing, I must multi-task, pause, and take notes. The Frankenstein Chronicles, however, is a can’t look away parable that’s easy to marathon and superbly blends period piece aesthetics, mystery, and horror.

For more Frankenstein, visit:

The Frankenstein Chronicles Season 1

Frankenstein: The True Story

Victor Frankenstein (2015)

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Alone

 

PlotlineA recently widowed traveler is kidnapped by a cold blooded killer, only to escape into the wilderness where she is forced to battle against the elements as her pursuer closes in on her.

Who would like itFans of cat and mouse, wilderness survival, suspense, serial killers, brutal fight scenes, and people who love to scream at people in horror movies

High PointsThe camera work! some of the way certain scenes are shot makes the suspense of the moment even more stressful

Complaints I don’t have any

OverallI super loved this movie

Stars: 5 Full Stars!

Where I watched itStreamer link from the producer  

 

***

Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

My Darling Dead : Bastards / Episode 13

Her husband had become just that. A husband, in name only. There were days she did not even see him, so busy was he flaunting his power over the desirable women of the court. More desirable than his queen. 

When the wizard came upon her at her window, weeping silently into a goblet of wine, he was uncertain. But she had imbibed enough already to unload her heart’s anguish onto him. As she wept, she sought solace in his arms. The wizard’s initial reluctance melted as she moved against him, carnal desire replacing sense, lust overcoming caution. 

Afterward, she had forbidden him to speak of it. It was a promise they both kept until she began to show. Fortunately, it was nearing the frost, nobody thought twice about the extra layers the queen now wore. Clothes only covered so much though and finally, making up a story to the distracted king, the queen took refuge in a cabin in the woods with two of her most trusted ladies in waiting. Upon news of his son’s imminent birth, the wizard set out for the cabin. He arrived just as the child made his first cry and, without a word, took the child from the queen’s midwife and vanished, the queen never even laying eyes upon her son. 

Zavier had clearly been waiting long to share this fact and the light shone from his eyes with the intensity of a bonfire. Orteg and Agathas both were stunned into silence. Zavier paced back and forth before them, gesturing wildly as he continued his soliloquy. 

“A bastard by the queen is nothing to anybody. My father knew that, as did our mother, Orteg. They saw to it that I was kept out of the way, a humble pageboy, and learned all I could from my father in the ways of magic, for the day when he would no longer be there and the kingdom required a leader. But as I watched it descend into more and more chaos, I became certain; the queen’s son would have no right over the throne in the eyes of the people, particularly in these troubled times. It would have to be a man who carries the blood of King Wendell himself, who would reunite the kingdom. 

“When I found you, Orteg, I thought my search had ended. Here was a simple, stupid man who would be easy to install as a figurehead, then direct him to do my will, by one means or another.” Zavier shook his staff. “Then Barris and his disgusting sister here decided to place before you an unthinkable choice, one that no father would have made. My entire plan would fall to ruins if you refused to ascend to the throne. I compelled you to dispose of your obstacles to the throne, but instead of accepting your destiny and becoming king, you had to start conspiring with that bloated sack of offal, Barris. I hoped to teach you a lesson watching him die, but you seem to be the same angry self-righteous peasant as you were born, and you have irked me overlong as it is.”

Color rose in Zavier’s face, veins in his forehead standing out as his face darkened. His eyes bulged and he looked quite demented. Orteg tried with all his might to move any muscle and only succeeded in twitching his nose. Agathas whimpered from the cage. Zavier’s eyes shifted to her. 

“Agathas. You have no reason left to live. You realize that, don’t you?” Zavier said, his voice sympathetic though his eyes lost none of their manic gleam. “You know I have to dispose of you as well as this fool or nothing will ever change.” Zavier began breathing heavily as he pulled out his polished staff, running his fingers over its contours lovingly. “For the kingdom. You understand.” He pointed the staff at Agathas. 

Without warning, a blinding light seared Orteg’s eyes. Unable to throw up a hand to cover them, Orteg screwed his eyelids together tightly, though the light continued to grow. Dimly, he could hear Zavier yelling and Agathas screaming. The light was so bright through his closed eyes it seemed loud, shouting in his ears and even though he could not see, he prayed for release…then it came.

Darkness. Orteg ventured his eyes open only to see more darkness. Gradually he heard the snuffling moans of someone laying on the ground nearby. This reminded him of his previous paralysis and he flexed a finger experimentally. It responded, along with its fellows. His entire hand and arm worked as though there had never been any interruption. He clambered to his feet, his legs aching. The darkness was fading and he could make out the room he was in once again. The light had been so bright it had drowned out the pitiful sunshine from outside. 

The moans came from Zavier, laying spread eagled on the floor on his back, struggling to move his lips to form words. Though he trembled with the exertion, no sound beyond his quiet moaning escaped his mouth. Orteg scarcely noticed Zavier though, his eyes were drawn to the fairy Liseem, standing over Zavier, looking more radiant and lovely than ever in her fury. Agathas was similarly gaping at her, making no effort to hide her awe. 

“Zavier, Son of Hespa, bastard child of the crown, you have disgraced the name of sorcery with your foul actions,” Liseem stated, not raising her voice though it filled the entire room and Orteg’s head rang with it. “Due to your haste to grow beyond your status, you shall henceforth be smaller than the eye may readily see, that you may observe the world you may not engage with. Those who do observe you will hate you upon sight and hasten to murder you.” Liseem spun away from Zavier’s horrified expression, raising her hands to the sky and calling out a strange word. 

The light exploded in the room again. Orteg and Agathas screwed up their eyes at once but the light was not nearly so merciless this time. There was a popping sound and the smell of sulfur. The light winked out and Orteg opened his eyes at once. Zavier was gone. Where he had lay on the floor scurried a large cockroach, antenna twitching frantically as it sought to avoid the humans in the room. It rushed at Liseem, then seemed to think better of it, making for the door. 

“My lady?” Orteg asked, a smile on his face. 

“Please,” said Liseem, her own smile radiating light. 

Orteg raised his boot, bringing it down with all the force he could muster. The cockroach crunched under his boot, sending a stream of yellow goo shooting across the floor. Orteg ground his boot back and forth, the crunching sound beneath his foot giving way to the whisper of dirt on stone. When he raised his foot, there was nothing but a wet spot. 

Orteg Bluenote was crowned king of Dandoich before an enormous crowd. From his viewing point, he could see nothing but his new subjects as far as his eye would reach. As the crown was set on his head by Agathas, the roar of the crowd took his breath away. A tear came to his eye, speedily wiped away, lest he show weakness before his new subjects. Agathas stood at his side, her part in the death of the king’s children having been overlooked in the fate that befell Barris. As the king’s adviser, and with Barris out of the way, as the senior member of the council who had run the kingdom for years, she was uniquely positioned to be invaluable to the inexperienced king. Her mind was already feverishly at work, thinking of how best to turn her new position to her advantage.

After the coronation ceremony, the new king was in his chambers, still attempting to grasp the changes in his life over the last few weeks. His family was gone but he had more wealth and power than he could ever imagine. With the blessing of the fairy, he felt invincible. Pouring himself a glass of the finest wine in his chamber, he toasted the window and the moon pouring its light into the chamber. 

Midway through sipping the wine, Orteg heard a noise from just outside the window. It was a scratching sound, as though a cat were sharpening its claws on the stone below the window. As Orteg listened, it became clearer and more pronounced. A snuffling sound, then a high-pitched giggle floated through the window, chilling Orteg’s bones. His innards turned to ice as a hand, thin and bony, with long filthy ragged nails, crawled up over the windowsill. It was attached to an arm, as scrawny and filthy as the hand. Eyes appeared over the sill, dark slits in the dirty, pointed face twisted in a demented grin. 

The brilliant light appeared in the room, making Orteg and the rat creature shield their eyes. As it faded, Orteg saw that the rat creature had entered the room, along with a second and he could see a third scrabbling at the window and (dear Gods) it sounded like there were more working their way up the wall. A figure had solidified in the center of the room, coalescing out of the whiteness into the fairy who had saved him. 

“Liseem!” Orteg gasped. “Thank the gods you are here! You must help me! This creature—”

“These creatures,” Liseem broke in, a nasty grin upon her face, “Will be your doom, Orteg Bluenote.” The fairy touched the face of the first rat creature, delicately pressing her finger against the sharp teeth in the creature’s face. Instantly, all the rat creatures froze. The sound of those climbing the tower ceased. There was nothing but the fairy’s voice.

“Many years before your birth,” Liseem said, turning to face him, “I was in love with a king. The king of Dandoich in fact. Your father.” She fell silent for a moment, looking at Orteg with no kindness in her eyes. “You are of his seed, yet I do not recognize you at all. You are nothing like the king.”

“But—Esemli!” Orteg gasped, his hands clasped before him in an unconscious prayer. “She was in love with the king and was killed by the princess! She has been dead longer than I have been alive! Everyone in the kingdom knows that story!”

“This is where the story ends,” whispered the fairy. “I, Liseem, am the fairy Esemli.” 

A series of images rushed through Orteg’s head. The fairy and the king rutting in his receiving room before being interrupted by the queen. The king groveling as Esemli listened from behind the door, listening as he cast their love aside instead of keeping his promise. Faster, images of the kingdom’s descent into chaos flashed through his mind. Rat creatures feeding on garbage, peasants, each other. Crops rotting on the vine as farmers barricaded themselves in their houses, afraid to tend to the harvest. Esemli laughing, laughing, laughing. 

The images stopped, but the laughing continued. Liseem’s laughter merged into that of Esemli and Orteg knew that she spoke the truth.

“No…” whispered Orteg, feeling as though all blood had drained from his body. 

“Yes,” hissed Esemli, her hatred changed the fairy’s beautiful features into an inhuman rage. “And now, Orteg Bluenote, you shall die carrying on the suffering of your lineage. The kingdom’s spiral into darkness will continue!”

With mad laughter, the fairy vanished. Sound regained its control on the world, the scrabbling sounds of a rat person clawing its way into the room registering first on Orteg’s ear. He realized with a start that his back was against the stone wall opposite the door. The first creature crawled across the floor, its jerky skittering motions sending spasms of horror up and down Orteg’s spine. The thing kept grinning, nose twitching, as it advanced. Orteg tried to make a break for the door, but the creature was too fast, scuttling between Orteg and the door with a drooling grin. There were more crawling in through the window. Cowering back against the wall, Orteg moaned, helpless, frozen in terror as the creatures came for him. 

Agathas had been waiting to visit the new king in his chambers until after he had time to get himself sufficiently drunk. She intended to ask for less oversight on his part as she conducted the day-to-day business of the kingdom, in essence giving her free reign to govern as she saw fit. Under Barris, she had learned from the best and had no interest in the new monarch sticking his nose in her affairs. 

She was lingering in the anteroom below the king’s chambers when the screaming began. The king’s hysterical shrieks brought all within earshot running. Throwing open the door, Agathas and the castle staff beheld the new king, his eyes and throat wide open, gaping in the direction of the door, hand stretched out, even as the humanoid thing that now resembled a rat snuffled and scrabbled at Orteg’s chest, seeking his heart as blood from his neck bathed them both. Other rat creatures prowled the room, looking in corners and under things for their next meal. At the sound of the door, they stopped as one and stared.

Agathas screamed, drawing the attention of the rat creature away from Orteg’s lifeless body. Like a spider, the creature scuttled toward her, eyes twin pinpricks burning brightly amid the face of blood. The next moment, it was flying back, impaled by a long silver spear. Blood ran from its mouth, grinning even as it spluttered for breath. The captain of the guard pushed past Agathas, striding across to the creature. It snarled at him, coughing blood all over his boots as it did. 

The man’s face wrinkled in disgust. In one smooth movement, he drew his sword and struck the head from the creature’s shoulders. It flew across the room, striking the stone wall with a sound like wet sand. Falling to the ground, the jaws gnashed twice, then were still. Looking around, Agathas saw the last rat creature scuttling out the tower window and heard a thud as it hit the ground below. 

“The king is dead,” Agathas said, recovering her composure speedily. “Let it be known throughout the kingdom that the Council once again reigns supreme.” A smile spread across her face. “Inform the council members that their leader has summoned them at once.”

“At once, Honorable Prefect,” said the captain of the guard, sheathing his blade.

“Queen, I think you’ll find, Captain,” Agathas said, smiling an ugly smile. The captain of the guard was only taken aback for a moment, before bowing to her.

“My liege,” he said, already scheming his own rise to power. 

There would never again be another monarch to rule the kingdom. The fairies would see to it. 

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: 5 Small Town Horror Movies

Small towns are known for being tight knit, often portrayed as the idyllic location for a quiet, peaceful life. But small towns are also secretive and isolated. They’re the perfect setting for horror.

Hold the Dark (2018)

Russell Core, an expert in wolf behavior, travels to the tiny town of Keelut, Alaska after he receives a plea from a mother who claims her son was carried off by the pack. But things are not what they seem, and Core finds himself drawn into a dangerous fight for survival.

You can watch Hold the Dark on Netflix.

The Crazies (2010)

Some of the residents of Ogden Marsh are beginning to act strangely, exhibiting violent behavior in the wake of a military plane crash that contaminated the water supply. The military shows up to contain the situation, forcing the uninfected to evade both the soldiers and their own neighbors to escape.

You can rent The Crazies on Amazon.

The Fog (1980)

The coastal town of Antonio Bay discovers the grizzly secret behind their town’s founding when supernatural events begin to occur. A ghostly fog reappears along with a 100-year-old sunken ship and revenants of murdered passengers seeking revenge.

You can watch The Fog on Shudder.

30 Days of Night (2007)

Barrow, Alaska is preparing for the annual polar night, which will plunge the town into darkness for thirty days, when a group of vampires shows up. The vampires slaughter most of the town and the survivors are forced to hide, flee, and fight to survive.

You can rent 30 Days of Night on Amazon.

The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1977)

The town of Texarkana is terrorized by violent and mysterious attacks on local couples. For months, the killer stalks the residents, his face obscured by a burlap sack, while authorities try to hunt him down.

You can watch The Town that Dreaded Sundown free on Amazon Prime.

Whether its zombies, ghosts, vampires, serial killers, or the residents themselves, small towns prove they can hold big horror. What’s your favorite small town horror story?

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Murder Manual

Plotline: Eight creepy tiny tales of terror!

Who would like it: Fans of short films, collections and anthologies 

High Points: It is a really strong anthology. 

Complaints: I have 2 and they aren’t really complaints. The 1st, tho the title suggest that this is going to be a manual on murder not all of the segments revolve around a killing. The 2nd is most of the marketing for this anthology is focused on the cameo of Emilia Clarke but this anthology is so strong that the marketing could have encompassed the film in its entirety and not just her micro short cameo

Overall: Love it! 

Stars: 4 stars

Where I watched it: Amazon Prime

***

Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

HorrorAddicts.net 189, Lucifer Fulci

Horror Addicts Episode# 189
SEASON 15 “Cursed, Cubed”
Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich
Intro Music by: Valentine Wolfe


david mark stashko | lucifer fulci | insidious the last key, 2018 

Find all articles and interviews at: http://www.horroraddicts.net

28 days till Halloween/Halloween NOT canceled!

terror trax: lucifer fulci, heavy metal 2020

catchup: allergies! School distance learning, slytherin, ravenclaw, jk rowling shut up, frank h woodward, fans own harry potter, all inclusive, ghost voyage, syfy, #alive, movie, zombies, great movie 

merrill’s musical musings: r.l. merrill, horror soundtracks

how not to be cursed: listen to your dreams, ramon artagaveytia, finale talk, guests announced

logbook of terror: russell holbrook, nightmare listener

audiodrama: they wound like worms

kbatz krafts: DIY Halloween repairs

GB: quick and easy pirate costume, emerian rich

frightening flix: kbatz, insidious the last key, 2018

daphne’s den of darkness: daphne strasert, 5 blood drinking monsters, cabin session by isobel blackthorn

live action reviews: crystal connor, hall

bigfoot files: lionel green, on the trail of bigfoot the legend

dead mail: 

taylor: artistic license, eternal kingdom: http://www.feeds.feedburner.com/eternalkingdom

shannon: monkey attack! X.x

james: reality virus, zombie, apocalyptic, plague movies

news: jesse orr, my darling dead, bastards, haunts and hellions, the walking dead: world beyond,

unsafe words, loren rhoads
https://www.amazon.com/Unsafe-Words-Stories-Loren-Rhoads-ebook/dp/B08HHNQ6XV

laroux manor, liz butcher
https://www.amazon.com/LeRoux-Manor-Liz-Butcher-ebook/dp/B089W59RBF

 resident evil cgi show coming for netflix

book review: the willows comic, nathan carson, sam ford, review by sebastian grimm

author feature: interview by naching t. kassa, lucifer fulci, blasphemy


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b l o g  e d i t o r

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s t a f f

KBatz (Kristin Battestella), Daphne Strasert, Jesse Orr, Russell Holbrook, Lionel Green, Keiran Judge, Crystal Connor, Nightshade, Courtney Mroch, R.L. Merrill

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

chillingchat

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

And then I went to sleep in bed with them

Since then, I have had the infection of horror.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It all depends on what inspires me..

its like..

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

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

So yeah..

All kinds of things…from another world.

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

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

NTK: What inspired “Blasphemy?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NTK: What is your favorite curse?

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

NTK: How about your favorite curse word?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Logbook of Terror : Nightmare Listener

A Small Poem By Russell Holbrook

 

In dreams I am told, there are secrets to behold

Should one listen or take heed

To verses and curses, ships and hearses

In nightmares, there are warnings indeed.

If horror gives chase, be sure to make haste

Listen to what I say

Through blood and bone, wind and stone

Death will find a way.

 

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Scary Movies and Scary Dreams!

Scary Movies and Scary Dreams! By Kristin Battestella

These, sleepers, mind benders, and franchise twists provide plenty of dreams and distorted realities. Unfortunately, some are scary good and others are scary bad.

Insidious: The Last Key – After the thin, uneven, seemingly nowhere left to go Chapter 3I’m surprised there’s room for this 2018 sequel aka Chapter 4. There’s headache inducing volume issues once again with soft voices versus incredibly loud excuses to make you jump if the scares don’t. Fortunately, penitentiary gates, latches, and skeleton keys disturb the nearby 1950s families. Lights flicker during every execution, and young Elise insists ghosts are in the bunk bend and playing with their toys. Dad, however, gets out the switch for talking nonsense and locks her in the basement bomb shelter where child voices taunt her to open a special red door – leading to evil claw hands with keys for nails, ghostly possessions, and hanging consequences. Grown up Elise Lin Shaye dreams about the past as her Spectral Sightings team moves in with their semi-working technology and a tricked out ghost hunting van. When the latest call for paranormal help is her old address, she’s initially reluctant to return to the house she fled with scars on her back. Though some of the emotion seems rushed or superficial – actual ghosts and ghosts of the past metaphors, we get it– the mix of sardonic, nerdy banter, and friendship ground the trauma, lingering cobwebs, and bibles. Night vision and point of view cameras provide shadows that some see and others don’t while microphones and phantom whistles create one yes, two no communications that are more chilling than unnecessary references to the prior film. False walls and hidden keyholes reveal chains, crawling entities, and creaking demons approaching the paralyzed in fear. Awkward confrontations with brothers left behind and meeting grown nieces create personal touches amid the metaphysical and psychological horrors as the family is lured back to the maze like levels of the house. Tunnels, old suitcases, and skulls address both the personal demons and the underlying sinister as spirits need to be freed from the dark. Metronomes lead to eerie fog, lanterns, underworld jail cells, and risky confrontations in The Further. Detours with real world violence, loud action, guns, and police, however, are time wasting filler when the ghosts still have to be faced. After the fine demon reveal strengthening our family connections, everything degrades into typical whooshes, television rattling roars, and a deus ex machina that’s the same deus ex machina from Chapter 3 complete with winks to the First Insidious for good measure. Although there are problems when the plot strays from the tale it’s supposed to be telling, this was more entertaining than the ultimately unnecessary third movie.

You Make the Call

All Light Will End – Thunder, rustic cabins, and a scared little girl in white saying there’s a monster in her closet open this 2018 scary before folk songs, creaking doors, and hiding under the sheets with a flashlight to keep the growls at bay. However, rather than building on these chills, the story restarts twenty years later with a fat redneck cop chastising a rookie black cop as they answer a call about a severed forearm. We’re told the little girl is the sheriff’s daughter before restarting again with her big city rise and shine complete with taking pills while looking in the bathroom mirror, edgy ballads, and posters for her titular bestselling debut. Multiple driving montages, radio chatter, cliché talk show interviews, and therapy lose more momentum – arbitrarily going through the motions while giving everything away in the first fifteen minutes. Her medication can cause disassociation or a fugue state mixing dreams with reality, and flashes of previous conversations, nightmares, and suicides provide guilt, blame, and inner demons. Alarms, flashing lights, green hues, and eerie tunnels accent the hospital nightmares, and the best scary moments allow the potential frights behind each door to play out with darkness and screams. Unfortunately, these quality night terror vignettes delay our writer’s six-hour drive home to face her fears, and it takes more than half the movie for any forward action to happen. We’re at the wrong point in the story, and viewers who haven’t tuned out will wonder why we’re watching now when all the story seems to have happened then. Bungling cops jar against the severed limbs, creepy gas stations, suspected abuse, and campfire tales, but the grieving family moments and women mulling over telling secrets or keeping them and losing your sanity are better than the try-hard pals with beer. The blurring of dreams versus reality are intercut well when we finally do get to the cabin, mirroring the mental disassociation with similar nighttime lighting, mind-bending jumps, distorted voices, blindfolds, and bloody trails. People are missing, searchers are separated, and woods and whispers blend together. Prior arguments between mother and daughter are revisited with negative portrayals, sacrifices about what it takes to be a writer, and doubts about who wrote what escalating to blackmail and crazed, violent reactions. Although there are some choice twists as well as a reason for the disjointed, non-linear telling, the structural flaws make it tough to enjoy this story. Key points are both obvious thanks to that front-loaded information and muddled with unanswered plot holes and abrupt resolutions. The possibilities devolve into hammy actions, unnecessary running at the screen with open mouth screams, and strolling through the woods in bloody lingerie. With four minutes of end credits, this really is an eighty minute movie that should have traded the first half hour for a half hour to resolve everything properly.

 Skip It!

Mara – Sleep paralysis statistics and fears of demonic possession open this 2018 thriller starring Olga Kurylenko (Centurion) amid children’s bedroom terrors and behind closed door screams. Ticking clocks and blue lighting set off the creepy drawings, mental evaluations, and witnesses recounting their sleep demon experience – weighed down on the mattress and unable to breathe. Unfortunately, there are too many of those Horror Movie Cliches I’m Tired of Seeing contrivances interfering with what should be an interesting story. Character sympathies and our strong woman psychologist in a tough policeman’s world jar against the forced scary elements, making the titular ominous as laughable as the overly dramatic slow motion, arias, and ripped teddy bear on the floor. At times this wants to be a standard procedural using jump drives, CCTV, crime scene notes, and tablet technology, but then our gal goes off to a mysterious address without notifying police and listens to sleep-deprived crackpot theories to learn about the sleep demon rather than just, you know, Googling it. The detective is right to remind her she’s out of bounds, for this psychologist is easily bothered by what seems like a routine case. After hearing sufferers admit this sleep demon sounds like crazy talk, we’re not surprised when the trapped sleep and stilted breathing happens to her – there’s never any doubt this is a monster, not delusion or delirium thanks to early reveals and unnecessarily spooky compromising any innate suspense. From a divorcing couple and their child to prayer freaks, disturbed veterans, and our psychologist with a crazy mom past, everyone who sees Mara has other issues yet nobody wonders what’s really causing their sleepless nights. Hypnotic ceiling fans, fiery deaths, and gasping paralysis build scares, but bemusing bloodshot eye markings and demon mythology deflate the terror. Mara doesn’t kill you right away but comes in four assault stages that can’t happen if you only sleep in twenty-minute shifts. Predictable encounters and dream jump shocks tread tires while our agitated sleepless victims are more annoying than believable. With today’s technology, no one sets up a camera for proof? The notion to involve more science and sleep monitoring comes too late, and the doctors blame The X-Files and pop culture for scaring people anyway. Weak paranoia and guilt metaphors provide no payoff to the psychologist’s suicidal schizophrenic mother backstory, but Olga’s look becomes increasingly frazzled – physically changing her appearance rather than addressing her turmoil. Car accidents and fighting to stay awake chases in the finale could have been the entire strung out focus, but time is wasted on the demon doing both in your face screams and taking its sweet, creaking time to inch toward the victim. When we finally get to the desperate cutting off of the eyelids, it’s just gore and a thin idea run out of steam. Although this could have been much better and seems content to be repetitive and Elm Street derivative, it can be a mildly entertaining late-night watch or bemusing drinking game if you aren’t looking for something really scary or expect any real sense of dread.

 Read up on More Scaries:

Family Haunts and Fears

Haunting Ladies

Dark Shadows Video Review

My Darling Dead : Bastards Episode 12 / Long Lost Relations


Barris was dead. 

Orteg had awoken one morning to see what remained of the man who had orchestrated the murder of Orteg’s children laying immobile with his usual coating of insects. He had gotten used to the inexorable rising and falling of the hollow wood sitting atop Barris’ chest and its sudden stillness drew his eye immediately. 

Every day Orteg had been given a bladder of water and some days he was given stale or moldy bread which he wolfed down before they could change their minds and remove the crusts. He knew that with Barris dead, they must come for him today; now that Barris was dead, the torture of watching the man be infested and rot from the inside was over. But what would become of him? Would the wizard prove merciful? What would he have to gain by setting Orteg free? 

The answer to which he kept inexorably returning was: nothing. 

Orteg’s black musings were interrupted by the sound of rushing wind, though the trees and grass were still. A piercing light split the early morning air, causing Orteg to throw up his arm and turn away, cowering against the wall of his cage. The sound of the wind tapered off to nothing as the light faded, leaving absolute silence in its wake. Even the creatures of the swamp were silent. 

“Orteg, son of Wendell. Attend me.”

The voice was female, rich, and cultured. Orteg’s eyes opened wide and he turned. The woman standing before him was tall and willowy, silver hair shining from simple braids. A white garment like a toga was wrapped around her from which seemed to emanate the same silvery light. 

“Who–who are you?” Orteg asked, shaking. 

“I am the fairy Liseem,” she said, a smile on her face. “I am come to release you from this captivity, that you may take your rightful place as king.”

Orteg blinked, his stomach spasming as it growled abruptly and the world spun around him. “I’m sorry, you’re who? What? I’ve finally started hallucinating, haven’t I?”

The fairy smiled and extended a finger. The door to the cage simply went away. One moment it was there, the next it had ceased to exist. Orteg gaped. 

“Come, son of Wendell,” Liseem said, holding out her hand. 

Orteg held his own hand out. Touching the fairy’s skin which was softer than anything he had ever experienced. She smelled like life. He smiled at her. “You’re beautiful,” he said. 

She laughed. “Prepare yourself,” she said. 

“For what?” Orteg never got the chance to ask. There was a tug at the hand the fairy held and the world around him blurred into dark nothingness. Wind roared in his ears and he got the sensation that there was nothing at all around him. He squeezed and felt Liseem’s hand. He tried to yell but before he could, he was standing in the forest beside Liseem with the castle’s towers visible through the trees. 

“We have arrived,” Liseem said. “Observe yourself; you will find you are no longer weak from hunger and thirst.”

With a start, Orteg realized she was right. He was certainly hungry, but no longer felt as though he might pass out at any moment and, while he felt thirsty, he would not have sold his soul for a cup of water. “Where have we arrived?” he asked dumbly. 

“Your birthright,” Liseem said, gesturing toward the castle. “You have all you require. You only lack the christening of a true king.”

Orteg looked at her blankly. She smiled. “Kneel, son of Wendell.”

He did as she bade, bowing his head. She placed one cool hand on his head, sending chills down his spine. 

“I christen you King Orteg Bluenote of the kingdom of Dandoich. May your reign be as long and happy as it is possible to be!”

A dazzling silver light shone from her hand, enveloping them both. Orteg’s eyes were squeezed tight shut as he heard the rushing of wind but felt nothing. As it died, he noticed that her hand was gone from his head. He opened his eyes a fraction and looked around him. He was alone in the forest, as though there had never been another soul. 

He raised his eyes and took in the castle, still a great distance but near enough to taste. He recalled his hours there, the respect he had been shown, earned or not. He remembered Barris, the man’s bloated visage smirking at him, that same face half-eaten by vermin, pleading for water. He remembered his children being bundled into the castle by a patrol with as little care shown for their well-being as a sack of unwanted kittens. He remembered seeing those same bodies born out of the castle, toward the burying ground. Looking at his hands, those same appendages which had stolen the lives of his children, tears rose to his eyes. He clenched them, taking a deep breath, and began to move. 

Agathas cowered in the corner of her cage, cold iron bars pressing into the naked folds of flesh she normally kept covered by her robes of state. Now, naked, dripping and shivering from the buckets of ice water that had been dumped on her, she watched Sir Antion manipulating himself beneath his trousers, breathing heavily as he stared at her. Another bucket of water sat beside him, this one steaming hot. Her eyes went from his flushed cheeks to the bucket and back in endless cycles. 

Sir Antion grinned, thrusting his hips in her direction as he massaged himself. “You wet enough yet, Prefect? But you look cold. Shall I warm you?”  He made as if to grab the handle of the bucket. 

“NO!” she shrieked. Dropping to her knees, she laced her fingers together. “Please, Sir Antion, don’t burn me…don’t burn me…”

Antion dipped a finger into the bucket of water. Wincing, he pulled it out, waving his finger in the air to cool it. “Mighty hot water, this is,” he said with a grin. “Castle cooks had it boiling all morning. Wouldn’t you care for a little—”

The door banged open. Antion and Agathas both jumped, Antion spinning in place, his foot colliding with the bucket of hot water, sending a flood of scalding liquid cascading across the chamber. Antion scarcely felt it though, occupied as he was by the giant broadsword now protruding from his middle. 

“For my family, you foul scum!” Orteg shrieked, pulling the broadsword clear of Antion’s stomach before running him through once again. The knight screamed, a gout of blood pouring from his mouth as he grabbed at the sword blade, slicing his fingers to the bone as he attempted to pull it out. Orteg pulled the sword from Antion’s belly once again, the latter falling to his knees as he stared down at the ragged holes in his stomach. He looked up just in time to see the massive broadsword blade swinging toward him. 

Sir Antion’s head rolled across the wet floor, splashing in the cooling puddles of water before coming to rest against the cage containing Agathas. The head’s lips twitched into what could be construed as a grin. One eye winked at her once, then was still. Agathas screamed, curling up in the corner farthest from the severed head, unable to take her eyes from its glassy stare, terrified that it would move again. 

“Silence!” roared Orteg, splashing across the floor to the cage. “By the gods, woman, silence your infernal tongue, before—”

“Someone hears the racket you are making and comes to investigate?”

Orteg spun as the door slammed shut. Zavier stood before it, his face a malevolent blank. Before Orteg could react, he felt all the strength draining from his limbs, like water from a pierced gourd. He sank to the ground, fighting to maintain his upright posture and helpless to do so. He gazed up at Zavier from the stone floor, filled with equal parts of hatred and dread. 

“So,” Zavier said, “Now that you won’t be trying anything foolish, we can have a little chat before I am finally rid of you. How did you like my little arrangement for Barris? A friend in a far-off country told me about that method of disposal but I’d never had an opportunity to try it out for myself.”

Orteg’s stomach rolled as his mind flashed back, unbidden, to Barris, grinning with his face that was not a face and drooling as the insects infested him from the bottom up, continuing their life cycle relentlessly inside the body of the dying man. Zavier saw the look on Orteg’s face and smiled. 

“Yes, I thought you would enjoy that. You know, Orteg, all you had to do was take the throne and do what I told you. Had you done that, you would have been the lord of the land with nothing to concern you but which wench you wish to service you. Instead, you allowed yourself to be manipulated by this piece of trash—” Zavier waved at Agathas who cringed as though he had struck her, “and her brother, leaving us where we find ourselves now.” Zavier sighed. “It didn’t have to be this way. You should never have listened to Barris.”

“Barris is… is dead?” Agathas whispered, her voice hoarse. 

“Of course he is,” Zavier said, contempt dripping from his words. “The great fat lump was consumed by the smallest inhabitants of the swamp, with plenty of time to think about his actions, let me assure you. A big man like that probably won’t be fully claimed by the swamp for months…”

“Why, though?” Orteg asked angrily. “Why are you going to this effort?”

Zavier was still for a moment, staring at Orteg. “Do you have family, Orteg?”

“None, they have all been murdered!” Orteg spat from his position on the floor. Try as he might, he could still not move a muscle below the neck. 

Zavier waved a hand, dismissing Orteg’s murdered family. “Family by blood, not a wife or your disgusting spawn.”

“Never,” Orteg said. “My mother died when I was very young and I had no siblings.”

“A lie you have espoused your entire life, without even knowing it,” Zavier said, a mad light in his eye. “You are the bastard son of the king. However, he was not the only one to seek solace outside of his holy union. King Wendell’s wife, the Queen Hespa, had her own child out of wedlock, with the wizard Sapius. Orteg, I am your half-brother. I am the queen’s son!”

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: Five Blood Drinking Monster Myths from Around the World

There’s something about blood that captures the horror imagination. Maybe it’s the rich, red hue. Maybe it’s the way it oozes and flows. Or maybe it’s simply the fact that we need it to survive. No matter the reason, cultures all over the world recognize the importance of blood and consequently have legends about the witches, demons, and monsters that steal it. It’s time to think beyond the Vampire.

Peuchen – Chile

The Peuchen is a shape-shifting creature from the legends of the Mapuche people. Commonly, it’s described as a giant serpent. This snake can fly and makes whistling sounds as it travels through the air. The gaze of the Peuchen is said to paralyze the victim, allowing the snake to coil around them, pierce their neck with its fangs, and drain them of blood.

Baobhan Sith – Scottish Highlands

The baobhan sith are said to be beautiful women who lure young men to their deaths by inviting them to dance. They may hunt in packs. Once the men they seduce have their guards down, the baobhan sith puncture their necks with their fingernails and drain them of blood. Legend states that to stop one of these creatures, you must build a mound of stones over their graves to prevent them from rising.

Asanbosam – West Africa

The Ashanti people of Ghana tell of the Asanbosam, a creature that lives in the canopy of the rain forests. The Asanbosam is hairy, with blood-shot eyes and iron teeth. Their long, dangling legs end in sharp iron hooks. The Asanbosam uses these hooks to grab victims that pass underneath and drag them into the trees. If you travel through the forests of Ghana, you may hear the metallic sound of the creature sharpening its hooks.

Soucouyant – Caribbean Islands

The soucouyant appears in many places throughout the Caribbean. She appears as an old woman but strips off her skin at night to prowl for victims in the form of a fireball. She sucks the blood from sleeping people. If she takes too much, the victim may die and the soucouyant will take her skin for herself. Similar to many European myths, if the soucouyant comes across spilled rice, they will feel compelled to gather every grain.

Penanggalan – Malaysia

The Penanggalan appears as a beautiful woman by day, but by night, she swoops through the skies as a disembodied head and dangling entrails. The penanggalan seeks out women in labor. When the child is born, she swoops into the room to drink the afterbirth and scoops the baby up with her long tongue. Those who fall victim to the penanggalan waste away slowly.

Do you have a favorite myth about blood sucking fiends? Or have you had a spooky encounter? Let us know in the comments!

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Hall

Plotline: When a debilitating sickness spreads across a long hotel hallway, a few scattered victims fight for survival, and try to escape from the dark narrow stretch of isolated carnage.

Who would like it: Zombie fans, gore hounds, virus and apocalyptic movies, and those who love sci fi and conspiracy films.  

High Points

Complaints: One of the death scenes made no sense and was completely unnecessary  

Overall: I like it

Stars: 3 1/2 

Where I watched it: Screener

***

Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

Book Review: The Cabin Sessions by Isobel Blackthorn

Review by: Daphne Strasert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HorrorAddicts.net 188, Jason LaVelle

Horror Addicts Episode# 188
SEASON 15 “Cursed, Cubed”
Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich
Intro Music by: Valentine Wolfe


jason lavelle | biomechanimal | death becomes her, 1992

Find all articles and interviews at: http://www.horroraddicts.net

42 days till Halloween/Halloween NOT canceled!

terror trax: biomechanical, abyssal zone

catchup: new charmed, harry whitelighter, jane eyre, the curse of oak island, football, sling, dressing as harry potter, slytherin, ravenclaw, snakes, 1980s dress, emz is old

merrill’s musical musings: r.l. merrill, giant monsters on horizon

how not to be cursed: know your weakenesses

logbook of terror: russell holbrook, mr punctuality

audiodrama: they wound like worms

band poll: VOTE NOW! https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2020/09/08/who-was-your-favorite-band-from-season-14/

frightening flix: kbatz, death becomes her, 1992

kbatz krafts: dark shadows, lamp shades, how to, diy

daphne’s den of darkness: daphne strasert, 5 cult horror films to suck you in, lodge, them that follow, the apostle, cults

live action reviews: crystal connor, for we are many

bigfoot files: lionel green, track search for australia’s bigfoot

dead mail: 

linda: artistic license, buggars, mystery man, mrs. cutting, paint people

https://www.amazon.com/Artistic-License-Emerian-Rich-ebook/dp/B00AS5N90A

j: movie questions, answers coming on the finale

ro: horroraddicts.net, how created, night’s knights, horror listeners, office angst, listener and staff driven, creatives listening.

news: jesse orr, my darling dead, bastards, haunts and hellions, free fiction by john c adams, dusk’s warriors, by emerian rich, requiem in frost, by jonathan fortin, vampires fall rpg

book review: belle vue by cs alleyne review by daphne strasert

author feature: interview by naching t. kassa, jason lavelle, teddy bear picnic


Write in re: ideas, questions, opinions, horror cartoons, favorite movies, etc…

horroraddicts@gmail.com

h o s t e s s

Emerian Rich

h e a d  o f p u b l i s h i n g

Naching T. Kassa

p u b l i s h i n g  p. a.

Cedar George

b l o g  e d i t o r

Kate Nox

s t a f f

KBatz (Kristin Battestella), Daphne Strasert, Jesse Orr, Russell Holbrook, Lionel Green, Keiran Judge, Crystal Connor, Nightshade, Courtney Mroch, R.L. Merrill

Want to be a part of the HA staff? Email horroraddicts@gmail.com

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

RFBANNER

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

BLACK METAL LIVES!

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

A Peek Inside

REQUIEM IN FROST

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

Someone was standing in the corner of my room.

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

Is Mom all right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Chilling Chat: Episode #188 – Jason LaVelle

chillingchat

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

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

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

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

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

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

NTK: Who is your favorite horror writer?

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

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

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

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

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

NTK: What is your favorite horror movie?

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

NTK:  What inspires your writing?

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

NTK: What inspired “Teddy Bear Picnic?”

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

NTK: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

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

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

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

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

JL: Hannibal Lecter.

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

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

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

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

NTK: You have a podcast, don’t you?

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

NTK: Is it difficult running a podcast?

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

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

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

NTK: What is your favorite curse word?

JL: Definitely fuck.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addicts, you can find Jason on Facebook and Amazon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Logbook of Terror : Mr Punctuality

By Russell Holbrook 

Robbie flung open the door to Warrington’s Curiosity Shop and ducked in to escape the gray, weeping sky. His eyes roved across the store. He was amazed: It was just as he remembered it. The ceilings were high, the lighting was dim, and the wooden floors wore a well-traveled sheen. The shop was crammed full of every odd and end imaginable, and the air was thick with the scent of age. Robbie reached the counter and rang the silver bell that sat next to the antique register. The bright chime reverberated through the shadowy haze. 

“Hey,” a voice said from behind. Robbie started and spun around. “Can I help you?” The clerk asked.

This wasn’t who Robbie was expecting to see. This man was young and pale and, according to the tag on his shirt, was named Kirk. Robbie’s brow bunched up. “Where’s the old man?”

The clerk fixed Robbie with a blank stare and said flatly, “He died.” Then he sighed and said, “I guess you haven’t been in lately?”

Robbie replied, “No, not since I was a kid really. Who are you?”

“I’m the grandson, Neal.”

“But your name tag says Kirk.”

The clerk chuckled. “Oh yeah, I found this in the back and thought it’d be funny to wear it.” He grinned and exposed a rotted row of teeth. Robbie’s skin crawled. A dark chill swept over him, and it wasn’t due to the cold rainwater that clung to his clothes.  

Robbie paused. A silence fell between them, then Robbie said, “I need a watch; one that will make sure I’m always on time.” 

“You have a problem with tardiness?” Neal said with a chuckle. 

Robbie nodded. “Yes, a big one. No matter how hard I try, I’m always late. It’s like I’m… cursed.” 

Neal’s left eyebrow rose to a peak. For a brief moment he stared at Robbie, then abruptly said, “Okay, man, c’mon,” and slouched over to a short glass case that sat along the left wall of the long, narrow building. 

Robbie followed the clerk to the case, where three shelves full of antique pocket watches rested on burgundy, crushed velvet. Robbie hunched over and peered into the case. Rain beat down on the roof, cold wind whipped around the building, and behind the case, Neal waited. After several minutes, Robbie pointed to a burnished silver watch in the left hand corner of the bottom shelf and said, “That one.”

Neal bent low, slid the case’s door open, and brought out the watch. He smiled. “Oh yeah, this one’s a beauty. You’ll never be late with this one, no way. With this watch, man, you’ll always be right on schedule.” 

Robbie returned the clerk’s smile. “I was hoping you’d say that.” 

***

Robbie sat at the bus stop, gazing into the face of the timepiece, watching the second hand make slow loops. His eyes felt dry and he noticed that he couldn’t remember the last time he’d blinked. He heard a shuffle next to him. A woman was shaking water off an umbrella beneath the covered bus stop. She looked at Robbie.

“Hey, neat, a pocket watch,” she said. “I haven’t seen one of those in ages.” 

Robbie smiled at the woman and said, “It’s almost your time.” 

The woman’s mouth twisted down on one corner. “Pardon me?” 

With a dazed look on his face, Robbie repeated himself and then added, “I’m sorry.” 

The woman’s eyebrows knitted. She backed away from Robbie, out into the rain, into the path of a cyclist barreling down the sidewalk. 

“On your left!” The cyclist yelled.

Alarmed, the woman spun to the right. Her foot snagged on a piece of uneven concrete and she twirled out into the busy street. A car blared its horn and swerved around her. She gained her balance and rushed back toward the sidewalk. Raindrops stung her eyes. She tripped over the edge of the sidewalk and stumbled to a stop a few feet in front of Robbie. The woman heaved, desperately trying to catch her breath, her eyes wide with terror. 

“Oh my God!” She screamed. “I almost–”

The speeding truck seemed to come out of nowhere. It hopped the curb and plowed into the woman. Her body bounced into the street and rolled under the wheels of the oncoming traffic. 

Tires squealed and slid across the wet, slick pavement. The hurtling mass of machines pulled left and right to avoid hitting the woman. Several vehicles slid into the opposite lanes, colliding head-on with the rushing automobiles. A cacophony of bending metal and shattering glass roared into the sky. Screams echoed from cars and trucks and vans. 

And Robbie stared at the watch, his eyes fixed on the languid movement of the spinning second hand. 

A massive city bus, its horn screaming, slammed into the pile-up. The enormous crunch of the impact snapped Robbie out of his trance. He jumped up. A man in a business suit was staggering out of the wreckage, holding his side, with blood pouring from a wide gash on his forehead.

“Help me!” The man shouted to Robbie. 

Robbie froze, clutching the watch. The second, minute,  and hour hands spun at a frantic pace. 

A lone garbage truck swerved away from the growing crash, spilled over sideways, and fell on top of the shuffling businessman. Blood flowed out from under the truck and mixed with the rain. 

Laughter boomed in Robbie’s head. He looked around to see where it was coming from and then realized that it was his own voice he heard ringing in his head. He lurched out into the rain, howling like a maniac, and ran into the deepening evening as emergency response vehicles appeared on the horizon.  

***

Robbie woke up in his bed. He was soaking wet and his head was throbbing. He squinted and glanced around the darkroom. The cell phone on the bedside table let out a shrill ring. Robbie rolled over and answered. 

“Hello,” he mumbled. 

“You bastard!” A woman’s voice screamed from the other end, sharpening and focusing the agony in his head. “You couldn’t even make it to your own son’s birthday party! Where were you, huh? Where the hell were you?!”  

“I, uh, what?” Robbie sputtered. 

“You were drunk again, weren’t you?!” 

Robbie’s heart raced. He tried to swallow although his mouth and throat were a desert. He sat up. The room spun. He gripped the mattress with one hand and held on. “But I,” he began. “I got a watch so I could be on time.”

“Your cell phone tells time, you moron!”

“But, Sheila, this is a special watch, one that tells the real time, the true time. The man said I’d never be late again. And I thought that once I had it, I wouldn’t miss anything ever again. I’d always be there, on time, always.” 

The woman on the other end sobbed and her sobbing became weeping. “Well, it doesn’t matter now, it’s too late!” She shouted. “The party was the day before yesterday, and you missed it. And then–” Sheila’s voice broke off. She drew in a long breath. “—and then, yesterday, when Nana was driving him home from pre-school, they were in a sixteen car pile-up and—and–”

Robbie gasped. Shelia wailed into the phone and hung up. Robbie’s stomach turned. He fell to his knees and threw up on the floor. He shuddered. I need a drink, he thought. He wondered what time it was. He’d need to get to the liquor store before it closed. 

That was when he realized he was gripping a cold, metal object in his right hand. Robbie opened his hand and clicked open the pocket watch. In the gloom, he watched the second hand make its slow rotation and it all came back to him.

He’d been hammered drunk, staggering back to his efficiency apartment in the late afternoon when the sky turned angry and a storm erupted. He’d taken refuge in the old curiosity shop that he’d loved as a child. He hadn’t been there in decades and he couldn’t believe it was still in operation. After relating his woes of tardiness and missed appointments at length to the patient employee, he’d bought a watch. Yes, this watch, he thought. And then what had happened? Had he blacked out again? He needed to know.

***

Robbie struggled to his feet. He felt like he was wading through molasses as he stumbled through his studio apartment and out into the dim evening. A light mist fell lazily from the slate-gray sky. The streetlights blinked on. Robbie hugged his jacket tight around his body and hurried to the antique district, his favorite cut through to avoid the beat cops that liked to arrest the drunks and vagrants that crowded Main Street. The mist turned to a full-on rain when Robbie came out of an alley, turned the corner, and stopped in front of the tattered awning emblazoned with the name, Warrington’s Curiosity Shop, across the front. Robbie’s eyes bulged. 

The front display windows were filthy, covered in spider webs and years of accumulated dust and grime. The rubber Halloween masks still sat on their displays, their colors cracked and faded. The dust jackets of the books on magic and decorating were yellowed with age and eaten away at the edges. The eyes of the spooky dolls and stuffed monkeys with their brass cymbals had all been gouged out. A gust of stale air, reeking of age and neglect, rushed over Robbie. He looked for its source and saw that the tall glass panes in the front door had been kicked in. Shattered glass littered the doorway. 

An old man sat in the shadows near the entrance, dressed in rags and clutching a liquor bottle in a brown paper bag. He looked up at Robbie. “Hey man, how’s the watch workin’ for ya?” He said.

Robbie shifted, as if noticing the old man for the first time. 

The old man arched his left eyebrow. “Well?” 

Robbie looked intently at the old man and noticed he wore a name tag on his jacket that read “Kirk” in faded blue letters.

Robbie’s heart raced. He felt his eyes water and his bottom lip quiver. “Where’s Neal?” He asked. 

The old man grinned wide, revealing a mouth full of rotted teeth. “He’s dead.” 

Robbie’s mouth fell open. The old man cackled. Robbie stumbled back, away from the old man. “He’s dead!” The old man shouted as his cackling turned into roaring laughter. 

 Robbie ran into the street.  A moving truck plowed into him, crushing him beneath its monstrous tires. 

The driver slammed on the brakes and slid to a stop. He cursed to himself. He knew he shouldn’t have been speeding, especially not in the rain, especially not after those six whiskeys he’d had with lunch. But he was running behind. And his boss had said that if he was late one more time he’d lose his job. He just wanted to be on time. He couldn’t understand why he was always late. He tried so hard. It wasn’t fair; it made him feel like he was cursed.  

Free Fiction : On Darkwater by John C. Adams

On Darkwater 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Well?’

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

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

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

‘That’s enough for today,’ he said.

END

________________________________________________________________________________________________

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

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

 

 

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

My Darling Dead : Bastards Episode 11/ Inevitable Guests

“’ere now, ain’t you a pretty one,” came a voice, followed by a chorus of laughter. Orteg’s head jerked around to see the torturer and his assistants approaching, each bearing two large amphoras. “We was thinking youse lot might be gettin’ ‘ungry so we brung ya some breakfast.” He sloshed one of the amphoras. 

Barris groaned and turned his head away as far as he could. “No… no more milk, please.”

“Now now, we brung ya this special and it ain’t perlite to refuse gifts from your hosts,” the torturer said in a simpering tone, brushing the flies from Barris’s face as his assistants guffawed. “Minky, ‘old his mouth open.”

Once the six amphoras had been emptied into and over the hapless Barris, the head torturer moved to Orteg’s cage and tossed a water bladder through the bars. “Eat ‘earty, mate,” he sneered. “But none for ‘im, unnerstand?” He jerked his head toward Barris. “Less’n it’ll be the worse for you.”

“No,” murmured Orteg, his trembling hands fumbling with the bladder spout. It was warm and brackish and he could feel little shreds of skin from the bladder on his tongue, but no drink in his life had ever been sweeter. 

There was a rumbling, then the sound of diarrhetic voiding. “Fuck!” screamed Barris. Orteg could hear the wretched man’s cramping stomach all the way over here. He closed his eyes, pulling his jerkin up once again. It was going to be a long day. 

Worst by far was the midday heat, during which, seemingly every insect in the swamp seemed to appear in the little clearing to investigate. Some of them were interested in Orteg, but for the most part, their attention was focused solely on Barris. Try as he might, thrashing his head from side to side and blowing frantically did nothing to stop their assault. Orteg did his best to avoid watching Barris as he suffered but sometimes was unable to tear his eyes away. The sound of his tortured bowels continued regularly until Orteg thought he would go mad with the stench which somehow found its way under his jerkin. 

When dusk fell, the worst of the insects left Barris alone and he was reduced to tearful babblings that Orteg could only partially interpret. There were pleas, curses, and nonsensical ramblings. He complained of the flies which had crawled down his body, attracted by the warm moist fecal air between the two hollowed-out shells. He bemoaned how asleep his arms and legs were, after being held in that position for so long. He cajoled and threatened, begged and demanded, that Orteg throw the half-full water bladder to him. Orteg said nothing to this, seeing its futility and fearing retribution by the torturer when he presumably returned the next morning with more milk and honey. 

“…just a little water, nobody’ll ever, if you just—OW!”

Orteg’s head jerked up from a light doze. “What? What’s happening?”

“A rat! A rat!” screamed Barris. “A rat just climbed up the log and bit me on the lip! I’m bleeding! Help! You have to help me!”

“I can’t!” Orteg screamed back, dancing from foot to foot and rattling the cage door. “I can’t get out of this cage you stupid fool!”

“Help! You have to get me out you have to you HAVE TOOOOO…”

Barris began thrashing about with a frenzied strength but the logs did not budge. Orteg could hear the squelch beneath the bottom log and a wave of excrement-smelling air wafted his way. Fighting to control his gorge, he looked up at the sky. Through the haze of tree limbs, he could see a star. 

After panicking for a time, Barris ceased, panting as he licked at his wounded lip. “Can’t fall asleep,” Orteg heard him mumbling. “Got to stay awake. They won’t come if I’m awake. They won’t come if I’m awake. They won’t come—”

He was still repeating this when Orteg fell asleep. 

A bloodcurdling scream rent the night, wrenching Orteg from his dark dreams. Leaping to his feet, he hit his head on the cage. Stars burst in his vision and he grabbed at his head as another scream shot into his ears. Turning to face Barris, Orteg saw something he would never forget. The moon had come out from behind a cloud and illuminated a large mass of squirming bodies completely obscuring Barris’s head. At least ten huge rats squeaked and crawled all over themselves and Barris, licking and chewing the sweet sticky residue from his face. His cries did nothing to deter them, Orteg saw, as one of the rats stuck its head into the screaming mouth, cutting off its cry for a second. There was a crunch and a brief squeal as Barris bit its head off and continued screaming. 

Orteg turned away from the dim shape thrashing around in the silver moonlight, sinking to the bottom of the cage and putting his fingers in his ears. He looked for the star he had found earlier and found solace in the hundreds which had appeared around them. Eventually his ears grew numb to the screams and he drifted off into a slumber, deep and dreamless. 

Orteg stirred, yawning, from some of the best sleep he could recall. It was very still, and the sun streamed through the gnarls of tree branches, illuminating the mist which rose from the swamp. Bars of rising steam were danced and played between the trees, the light creating beauty wherever it touched. Turning, Orteg caught sight of Barris. His stomach contracted violently and seemed to shift inside him as he stared in horror. 

Barris’s face had largely disappeared from the nose down. His teeth were displayed in a hideous grin of agony which made Orteg’s testicles shrivel. His nose had been whittled down to a stub and the nostrils were gaping canyons into his head. The eyes were as yet untouched and the flesh around one of them quivered as a nervous tic made it jump. 

“By the gods,” breathed Orteg. 

Barris’s eyes shifted to Orteg and he grinned at his comrade. Or maybe it was a grimace. “They’re inside me.”

“What’s inside… not the rats?” Orteg asked, his stomach rolling even more at this fantastic but easily visualized horror. 

Barris shook his head, just once, side to side. “Bugs.” He nodded downward, his grinning face a horror show. “They smelled my shit… they came… I couldn’t stop them… now they’re inside me.” A tear ran down his macerated face as his hoarsened voice neared panic again. “They’re inside me… laying their eggs, I can feel it…” He winced and shifted. “I pray to die, but the gods are not listening.”

That night, the rats returned and removed most of the flesh they had not already consumed, ignoring the ragged screaming. Orteg dreaded the visage that would greet him the next morning. When the sun finally came out, Barris’s entire head had been chewed bald and red, several layers of skin missing. The next night they took one of his eyes. Barris had very little use for the other one at this point however as his slide into delirium accelerated. His sentences descended into madness as the insects invaded his festering flesh, moving upwards through his digestive tract. He was reduced to nonsensical babbling, and, most disturbing to Orteg, periods of laughter which could not be stopped. Between these were periods of silence where Barris often stared at the ground with what remained of his face, drool dangling from his mouth on a long string. Every day the torturers brought more milk and honey, but after several days they stopped the charade that the doomed man would drink it and simply dumped it on his head for the vermin. Orteg tried not to look.