Chilling Chat: Dark Divinations – H.R.R. Gorman

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Growing up, H.R.R. Gorman listened to a circuit preacher every Sunday at her local church near Boone, North Carolina, and has accepted supernatural medical HRR Gormanadvice from neighbors and relatives. She now holds a BS, MS, and Ph.D. in chemical engineering, with which she makes modern cures for those less superstitiously inclined. In her spare time, H.R.R. enjoys training her dog, Hector, and playing Dungeons and Dragons with her husband. 

How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

I’ve descended from a distinctive stock of poor Southern Appalachian people, grew up amongst Southerners, and have decided to keep North Carolina as my forever home. Throughout my life, I’ve been steeped in the continuing legacy of the Civil War and reconstruction in the South; though the war is long over, its effects still linger in many devious and dark corners of Southern society. I have enjoyed studying the war itself, the politics surrounding it, the cruelty that fomented it, and the devastation of its results. You don’t often think of things like Gone with the Wind as being Victorian, but they are.

What is your favorite Victorian horror story?

Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” has long been an inspiration when I write Southern gothic fiction (though Bierce himself was, bless his heart, not a Southerner). Written in 1890, it’s a story about a plantation owner awaiting his execution over an Alabama bridge, rope already around his neck. What happens next I’ll leave for you to find out – the story is in the public domain and can be found on Project Gutenberg for free.

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

I don’t think I have a favorite Victorian horror movie. However, I must say I enjoyed the Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell series on BBC, which has a spine-tingling feel and is set during the Napoleonic wars. It’s not quite Victorian because the industrial revolution wasn’t in full force, but it’s got a lot of similarities to steampunk or later 19th-century stories.

Are your characters based on real people?

Some of them are. In the story found here, for instance, Miss Mae was based on a real person. She was my neighbor growing up and died at 102. People respected her health advice (she pretty much saved my own mother when she had the flu sometime in the 1980’s), but many community members were scared of her because she was an atheist. “Godlessness” was unheard of for someone in our community. I changed her character a little bit for the story, such as making her a little witchy instead of an atheist, but much of her character still remains substantially the same as the person I knew.

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

I never outline anything, but I know in my head what kind of plot will happen. I make characters and a problem to solve, and most of the time I have an idea how to solve the problem, but I allow the story from beginning to end to take its own natural course. It’s like playing Dungeons and Dragons, but just in my head.

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

A little of both – I give them free will, but oftentimes I write myself into a corner where I don’t like where it’s going. In those cases, I tend to delete everything back to where I believe the disastrous decision was made and try to force them into choosing something else.

What are you most afraid of?

It’s a tie between Ebola, rabies, Ebola rabies, tetanus, tooth decay, polio, cancer, Hell, and septic shock.

What is your favorite form of divination?

I’m not much of one to believe in divination, but I am intrigued by cold reading.

Who is your favorite horror author?

Southern Gothic has always been near and dear to my heart, so probably Faulkner. His short “A Rose for Emily,” is probably the single-most inspiring story for any of my writing. I’m more into softer, creepy horror than the stabby jump-scare horror.

Other than that, I will admit I have a soft spot for Rod Serling…

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

Dark Divinations is the first anthology I’ve appeared in, but I’m just revving my engines and hoping to participate in more anthologies.

In the meantime, I post fairly regularly on my WordPress blog and am offering a free Southern gothic sci-fi novel called American Chimera. It’s being posted serially through the end of 2020 or can be downloaded immediately as a PDF.

Chilling Chat: Dark Divinations – Stephanie Ellis

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Stephanie Ellis writes dark speculative prose and poetry and has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Her latest work includes the novella, Bottled, stephanie ellispublished by Silver Shamrock, who will also be publishing her novel, The Five Turns of the Wheel, in October. She has recently been published in Flame Tree Press’ A Dying Planet anthology with “Milking Time” and is included in Silver Shamrock’s upcoming Midnight in the Pentagram anthology with “Family Reunion”. She has collected a number of her published, and some unpublished, short stories in The Reckoning, her dark verse in Dark is my Playground, and flash in The Dark Bites, all available on amazon. She is co-editor of Trembling With Fear, HorrorTree.com’s online magazine. She is an affiliate member of the HWA. 

How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

This actually began when I studied for my degree some years back with the Open University. Some of the history modules I worked on dwelt on the Victorian era and I found it fascinating how it was such a time of contradiction. Public morality vs. personal morality, position of women in society, the advance of science vs. religion. So much went on beneath the surface of Victorian life which was regarded as its ‘dirty little secret’ because of this veneer of respectability which took precedence.

What is your favorite Victorian horror story?

“Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allan Poe – and pretty much a number of others of his: “Fall of the House of Usher,” “Pit and the Pendulum.” He was a master of the macabre.

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

I’m not sure you would call this horror but it does have horrific elements and that is The Elephant Man based on the story of Joseph Merrick. The way he was treated as a freak and how he had to hide his face in public was heartbreaking, yet he retained his humanity and showed it was those who mocked and condemned him who were the monsters. I think that’s what I was trying to get at, it asks the question of what makes a monster? The emotion in this film really pulled me in. As a result of this movie, I actually did a study of neurofibromatosis as a result of seeing this film for my biology A-level!

Are your characters based on real people?

Yes. When I was studying with the OU, I loved reading primary sources, real accounts from those alive at the time. One of these was London Characters and Crooks by Henry Mayhew which talked about the penny gaffs and costermongers who attended them, as well as their owners. This led me to Tom Norman who really did operate a penny gaff opposite the London Hospital. He was the man who actually ‘exhibited’ Joseph Merrick. If you want authenticity, read Mayhew’s accounts, they are real interviews with real people. It is one of my go-to source books – and it’s a lovely Folio Society edition!

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

Seat of my pants. I can’t plan. I have a character or a situation and I start to write it and I just let it take me where it will. I have tried to plan because some swear by it but I found every single time my characters would not walk the path I’d set out for them.

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

They write their own stories.

What are you most afraid of?

On a ridiculous level, Daddy Longlegs – I can’t stand things fluttering around my head, moths aren’t too far behind that. Silly really, as I don’t mind butterflies. On a more serious level? The same things as most people – death, my own and that of those close to me. I’m also scared of the sheer scale of intolerance in society and the way thought police, trolling and abuse has destroyed free speech.

What is your favorite form of divination?

The Fortune Teller’s head was actually based on one I saw in operation at a local museum. I quite like the idea of the Tarot. I do have a pack of cards now which I am using to inform a new work of poetry and flash in conjunction with author friend, Alyson Faye. That is an ongoing thing with no fixed timescale but it is something I want to see through.

Who is your favorite horror author?

Aagh, it depends on my mood so I’m going to name a few: Adam Nevill, John Ajvide Lindqvist, Shirley Jackson, Amy Lukavics. I’m not going to mention Stephen King because it goes without saying.

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

Publications for this year have pretty much happened already (My novella, Bottled, and my short story, Milking Time, in Flame Tree Publishing’s Dying Planet anthology) so now I am working for future publication.

I have been extremely lucky to have been signed by Silver Shamrock Publishing this year. In January they published my gothic novella Bottled.  And soon, they will be publishing an anthology, Midnight in the Pentagram which features my story, ‘Family Reunion’ AND in October they will be bringing out my folk horror/dark fantasy novel, The Five Turns of the Wheel.

I have just finished a post-apocalyptic horror novel which is currently with beta-readers, I have a folk horror/psychological horror novel to finish and a post-apocalyptic/horror/sci-fi novel to find a home for.

I’ve a couple of short stories I want to turn into novellas, both post-apocalyptic/horror/sci-fi – sensing a trend here?

I’m building a collection of short stories set in the world of The Five Turns of the Wheel and which people would’ve got a taste of in my short stories, ‘The Way of the Mother’ (The Fiends in the Furrows, Nosetouch Press) and ‘The Dance’ (CalenDark from the Infernal Clock). I would also LOVE to write the story of how Betty came to be ‘Betty’ and can see that as a novella too. You’d have to read ‘The Dance’ and ‘The Way of the Mother’ to discover more about this character although I did publish a bit of flash on my website about him, here.

Having finished the novel for beta-reading, I am now giving time to another love of mine, dark poetry. I’m working on both my collection and the collaboration with Alyson Faye.

So, the future is busy. Fingers-crossed all of the above sees the light of day but whatever happens, I’ll keep on writing. I can’t not.

Addicts, you can find Stephanie on Twitter.

Dark Divinations: The Bell

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The Inspiration Behind “The Bell.”

By Jon O’Bergh

During the nineteenth century, epidemics like cholera periodically swept through the population and brought reports of premature burial. Although most of these reports were undoubtedly fake news, the resulting fear of being buried alive fueled a demand for “safety coffins.” I initially wrote a story about one such burial, told by an omniscient narrator but focused on the graveyard watchman, in which a wife deliberately buries her sick husband before he is dead.

When I saw the Dark Divinations call for submissions, I realized my story had the seeds of something ideal for the anthology. I’ve always loved the Victorian style of writing: the fancy turns of phrase, the old-fashioned word choices, the heightened emotionalism. I thought it would be fun to craft a story using that kind of voice—a Poe-esque story told from the perspective of the person trapped in the coffin. What would he experience? What thoughts would go through his mind? How would he deal with the situation?

Of course, that meant writing the story in the first person and completely re-working it. I decided it would be even more interesting to invest the character with occult abilities, another fascination of the nineteenth century. Not an outright charlatan (although there were plenty of those), but a flawed yet sympathetic character with some amount of real ability. The transformed story now had only a superficial resemblance to the original. Dark Divinations had inspired me to write an even better tale, one I hope is worthy of comparison with Edgar Allan Poe.

 Jon O’Bergh is an author and musician who loves a good scare. He grew up in Southern California, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Music from the University of California at Irvine. A fan of ghost stories and horror movies, Jon came up with the idea for his horror novel “The Shatter Point” after watching a documentary about extreme haunts. He has published four books and released over a dozen albums in a variety of styles, including the album “Ghost Story.” After many years living in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., he now spends his time in Toronto.

Chilling Chat: Dark Divinations – Jon O’Bergh

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Jon O’Bergh is an author and musician who loves a good scare. He grew up in Southern California, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Music from the University of California obergh-authorat Irvine. A fan of ghost stories and horror movies, Jon came up with the idea for his horror novel, The Shatter Point, after watching a documentary about extreme haunts. He has published four books and released over a dozen albums in a variety of styles, including the album “Ghost Story.” After many years living in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., he now spends his time in Toronto.

How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

So many of my favorite authors were active during that era, from Charles Dickens to Mark Twain. The era also provided many of the classic trappings of horror we’re familiar with: the image of the haunted house, the decor we associate with funerals, the rise of spirit mediums, etc.

What is your favorite Victorian horror story? 

Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death.” Something to turn to during plague-haunted times.

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

The Innocents is quite well done—based on the short story by Henry James, The Turn of the Screw. The film strikes just the right balance, never getting too absurd or bogged down in explanatory mumbo-jumbo.

Are your characters based on real people?

Sometimes I incorporate aspects of behavior I’ve observed, but in “The Bell” the characters are completely fictional.

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

I start with a plan on where I want to go, but the characters and the plot always take me on an unexpected journey, so things evolve and change as I write.

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

I can’t say they have free will, because I need them to act in a certain way to further the plot and support my premise.

What are you most afraid of?

The irrational impulse in human beings. It causes all manner of unnecessary trouble for humanity. That and wasps!

What is your favorite form of divination? 

As someone who appreciates a good laugh, I would say geloscopy, which is divination based on interpreting the sound or manner of laughter.

Who is your favorite horror author?

Among contemporary authors, it would be Paul Tremblay. I appreciate how he plays with ambiguity, so you’re not quite sure what is real and what is imagined. I believe we experience much in life that way, uncertain about things we’re told, about people’s true motivations, about what lies beneath the surface. He writes horror fiction that feels real to me.

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

I’ve completed a second horror novel about a drag queen and his best friend who share a passion for art, fashion, and horror. When they learn that their apartment building might be haunted, they envision an entertaining episode for their horror podcast and begin investigating with the help of their quirky neighbors. But they uncover something far more sinister that threatens them all. It’s a tale with a message for our modern times. I’m currently seeking a publisher. I’ve also created an album of horror-themed music by one of the characters, titled Box of Bones, that may precede or accompany the novel. Until then, readers can check out my horror novel The Shatter Point. And I periodically write a blog with musings on music and horror, called Song of Fire.

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

 

 

Dark Divinations: Miroir de Vaugnac

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The Inspiration Behind “Miroir de Vaugnac.”

By Michael Fassbender

To a certain extent, I think I fell back on my experience with my D&D game as I was brainstorming this story. I liked the idea of a seer who acquires a powerful but malign device, and once I set upon that path, I approached it like the creation of a unique magical item in my game. My players know that I enjoy throwing nonstandard magical items at them, ones that not only have unique game effects but also possess a definite history, even if only a fraction of that history ever comes out in the game. I approached my thoughts in this story in the same space, and the result was a scrying bowl with a dangerous spirit attached to it.

I connected this bowl to the Languedoc region in France because of its history of separatism and religious nonconformity. I imagined that fifteenth-century sorcerers would have an easier time operating there.

It was only then that I created my seer, Beatrice. I gave her a family background in Wales to offer access to the rich folklore of that region, even if that proved in part to be a red herring in the story. I also provided her with troublesome family connections on her late husband’s side to prod her out of any danger of complacency.

The ending developed organically as I wrote the story, but I always knew that the ne’er-do-well brother-in-law was going to provoke Beatrice into a drastic response.

M. FassbenderMichael Fassbender is a part-time writer in the Chicago area. His first literary love is supernatural horror: Poe and Lovecraft inspired him to begin writing in high school, but 2016 marked his first appearance in print media apart from a few college journals. His story “Inmate” appeared in Sanitarium Magazine, and “The Cold Girl” appeared in Hypnos Magazine. A number of non-fiction articles are now available on his website,  and there is also a short story in the tradition of Poe on the fiction page.

Chilling Chat: Dark Divinations – Michael Fassbender

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Michael Fassbender is a part-time writer in the Chicago area. His first literary love is supernatural horror. Poe and Lovecraft inspired him to begin writing in high school, but M. Fassbender2016 marked his first appearance in print media apart from a few college journals. His story “Inmate” appeared in Sanitarium Magazine, and “The Cold Girl” appeared in Hypnos Magazine. A number of non-fiction articles are now available on his website, and there is also a short story in the tradition of Poe on the fiction page.

How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

There are two separate answers to this question. As an historian, I think I found the most interest in the realm of military history. If we frame it in terms of the Crimean War to the outbreak of World War I, we are looking at a period of profound technological and organizational changes. We see the widespread adoption of rifles, the development of smokeless powder and repeating firearms, the emergence of the machine gun, and the advancement of artillery from a line-of-sight threat to a more distant danger. Armies are growing larger and employ more sophisticated logistics, and enhancements to the lethality of Victorian weapons inspires a more defensive mindset. The trench warfare that characterizes World War I has its antecedents in the Crimea.

Then we have my reactions as a horror maven. The look of the Victorian era is wonderful in horror, whether we have a haunted house tale or a vampire story. No matter how bright and cozy (or should I write, cosy) they may be by day, by night those houses look like a proper haunt. The characteristic funerary culture of the period is wonderful for horror fans, and I made substantial use of this in my story “Tisiphone.” And finally, it is in the Victorian era that the occult ceased to be a matter for locked rooms and became activity for parlors. While I am not a practitioner of the occult myself, it is a major feature of horror fiction, and this brings a unique flavor to Victorian horror stories.

Both of these elements contributed substantially to my story, “Miroir de Vaugnac.”

What is your favorite Victorian horror story?

If we include Poe, then it would have to be “The Masque of the Red Death” (1842).

Should we set that master aside, I would probably pick J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla right now. For me, I think it’s the questions that this story suggested that make it stand out. Specifically, the last time I read the story, I found myself wondering about the long-term effects of the vampire’s attention after it was destroyed. Would the human victim be relieved, or would she perceive it as a kind of loss? Those questions inspired a flash fiction story of my own.

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

This proved harder than I expected. So many of the classic Victorian stories have been updated to a more contemporary timeframe when they are adapted for film. Oddly enough, the film I’d choose had the reverse effect: the filmmakers of the 2009 adaptation of The Wolfman grounded that version in the nineteenth century, and I thought it was a successful adaptation. I think it reinvigorated a story that had become a bit formulaic, and I always enjoy seeing Sir Anthony Hopkins in a horror film, whether he’s the monster or the monster-hunter.

Are your characters based on real people?

None of the main characters are real, but I did incorporate two historical figures to ground the story further in reality. I draw reference to Col. Arthur Fremantle of the Coldstream Guards, who undertook a private trip to observe the American Civil War from the vantage point of the Army of Northern Virginia. He is most famous for observing day three of the Battle of Gettysburg from the headquarters of Pickett’s command. Agnes is really his mother’s name, and I thought it reasonable that she might know Beatrice because of their shared experience of being Army wives. It is Agnes’ concern for her son that gives Beatrice her first chance to use the Miroir, and at the same time, the use of a known historical figure allows me to present an accurate reading without having to state that the reading was accurate. After all, Beatrice had no way of cross-checking what she’d learned.

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

I usually err on the side of spontaneity. I begin a story with a general idea of where it is meant to go, but as I write and come to know my characters better, the course they take will often shift, and once in a while I revise my plans for the story substantially by the time I reach the end.

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

I try to give my characters a sense of agency, even if the final scene was actually the first thing that I planned. The choices they make need to be consistent with who they’ve shown themselves to be all along. Sometimes this means that I need to tweak the character to fit the result better, other times I tweak the result to better reflect the character I’ve created.

What are you most afraid of?

This would probably involve catching some highly lethal disease, like rabies, or else contracting a really nasty form of cancer.

What is your favorite form of divination?

I don’t practice any forms of divination, so I have no practical preferences. From an outsider’s perspective, I find Tarot cards to be much more picturesque than astrology or numerology. What I liked about scrying is that it offered me the opportunity to describe scenes. I thought that would be more rewarding for me as a writer, and more entertaining for the reader.

Who is your favorite horror author?

For the number one slot, I’d still need to name my aged grandsire from Providence. H.P. Lovecraft is the reason why I began writing when I was in high school. As a writer, I’ve tried to grow past his limitations, but I’m still working on learning from his strengths.

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

I have a couple of other stories nearing publication. In one case, the final list of authors is not yet public, but for the other, I can say that my short story “Old Growth” will appear in the volume Scary Stuff, published by Oddity Prodigies.

 

Dark Divinations Watch Party & Facebook Party

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Horror Addicts, in honor of the new book release, Dark Divinations, HorrorAddicts.net cordially invites you to:

THE DARK DIVINATIONS WATCH PARTY

Followed by

THE DARK DIVINATIONS FACEBOOK PARTY

Join us for an hour of charming videos celebrating the release of DARK DIVINATIONS. Then, stay with us for a Facebook Party of epic proportions. There will be virtual refreshments, games, and prizes!

The Watch Party will begin at 1 pm on May 23rd. The Facebook Party follows at 2 pm.

Who: HorrorAddicts.net

When: May 23rd

Time: Watch Party – 1:00 PM PST

Time: Facebook Party – 2:00 PM PST

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