Terror Trax: Sinthetik Messiah

Sinthetik Messiah

The following is a real interview with a real band. It does, however, take place in a fictitious world.

It was raining again on Tuesday, which made me happy as usual, because I could sit at my kitchen window and watch the Unclass peasants, who can’t afford to install the weather predictor app on their portable life-line telephones, being melted into the sidewalk by the sudden and fierce onslaughts of toxic rain plummeting from the rusted sky. Watching an elderly man fall to the pavement screaming, clawing at his melting face and pulling his cheeks loose from their bones, I chuckled and took a sip of my coffee, thinking about how thankful I was for my tiny hovel’s triple titanium reinforced roof and siding. The old man’s legs melted off and my phone rang, alerting me of an incoming call. I answered on the second ring. It was Bug Gigabyte. He said he was ready to do his interview for Horror Addicts. Delighted, I screamed aloud an ancient curse of joy and threw my cup of coffee across the room, smashing it against the wall and sending porcelain bits raining down on the cold, tile kitchen floor. Sensing the excitement in my voice, Bug asked if I could meet him at Café Metroid in twenty minutes.

“You’re goddamn right I can”, I replied. After saying our mutually cordial goodbyes, I hung up and raced into my clothing container booth to put on my chemical rain and toxicity resistant cloak. Five minutes later, with my trusty journalist’s satchel slung over my shoulder, I was hopping over melting peasant corpses, rushing toward my destination.

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Stepping over the remains of several peasants that were splattered near the front entrance, I entered Café Metroid. I pulled back the hood of my protective cloak. My eyes scanned the room, searching for Bug Gigabyte’s signature black mowhawk. My stomach rumbled. I needed a quadruple ghost pepper infused espresso shot to calm my excited nerves. I stepped into the line that led to the counter. Suddenly, the café’s front door exploded open. I calmly looked over my shoulder to see who or what had burst through the entrance. A Seeker tore past me, brandishing an inert particle reverser in her trembling hands, a determined fire in her eyes. My eyes trailed her, watching her disappear through the swinging kitchen doors, admiring her athletic form held inside her tight leather pants. I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned. It was Bug. He smiled at me, held up what looked like an old-fashioned TV remote, and pressed a blue button in the center. All the patrons waiting in line ahead of us disintegrated, turning into pale dust. A café employee appeared with a broom and dustpan and swept them up while Bug and I strolled up to the counter and placed our orders. Moments later we were seated in a cozy window booth.

I took a sip of my piping hot drink and asked Bug how he’d recognized me in the line.

“Because of your official Horror Addicts toxicity and chemical rain resistant cloak,” he replied.

I then remembered that my black cloak has the words HORROR ADDICTS STAFF emblazoned in huge red letters across the back.

“Oh, yeah, that makes sense,” I said with a chuckle.

The rain intensified, pelting the layered safety glass of the café. Another Seeker sped by on a hyper bike. The sight of two of them in such a short time rattled my nerves. I looked at Bug. “We better get started.”

He nodded. “Alright, then…”

After retrieving my digital recorder and a pad and pen from my satchel, I hit the record button and set out to learn the dark secrets of this most elusive creator of dismal worlds of sound.

I cleared my throat and began. “According to your Bandcamp bio, the albums Revelations of the Nintendo Generation (Vol. 1 & 2) were created using the KORG DS-10 program, which is the same software used to create music for the Nintendo DS. Could you please explain a bit of this seemingly mystical process to the uninitiated?

Bug shrugged and answered. “The DS-10, which is the name of the program, was developed by a software company called Xseed games and it’s a digital model of the KORG MS-10. It gives you creation leeway to where it gives you two synthesizers, 4 drum sounds, and a pattern editor to compose the sounds into a musical form. Technically it is a video game, but it is made so well that is a watered down version of a modern day DAW (Digital audio workstation). I created 9 songs on the Nintendo Game alone, and then I imported each instrument into my studio and added guitars, drums, vocals, and extra effects. It is great for beginners as it is a tool to help them learn how an analogue synthesis works. When you sign up for a VIP membership on my Bandcamp, you actually get the original files that came from the DS before I manipulated everything in my main computer.”

“Very intriguing technique”, I said.

Bug took a sip of his soda. An explosion echoed from the third floor of the City Records building across the street. The toxic rain fueled the flames and caused them to leap high into the sky.

“Looks like it’s happening again,” Bug remarked.

I nodded in silent agreement and scribbled a note to myself to check my will if I made it home later that afternoon.

Bug squirmed against the imitation leather seat of the booth. “Next question please, um… what did you say your name was.”

I frowned. “I didn’t, and I won’t; it’s part of my mystique as a distinguished Horror Addicts journalist and I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t ask me again.”

I felt my fingers gripping my cup tight. I could feel the rage building inside.

Bug grinned. “Just kidding, man, I used to write for The Dark Prints. I know all about the mystique.”

I laughed and a female scream tore through the air outside, perfectly complimenting the harmonious atmosphere that Bug and I were cultivating in our café booth. I cleared my throat, took another sip of my espresso, and began again.

“What inspired you to create dark industrial music using the same equipment that was used to create music for Nintendo DS games?”

“I always thought to myself that, for my first big release, I wanted it to be something interesting where not just fans, but industry as well would look at it and think, ‘What did he do with it? What? A Nintendo DS…?’ I always felt that the story behind the way the sounds are made is more interesting than what is on top of them or comes what after that, and I wanted to capture that element with those albums,” Bug explained.

He seemed so fixated on this Nintendo, an antiquated video game system, one of a handful played by our old-world ancestors that I was vaguely familiar with. Considering his class status as a Neo-Tech, I didn’t quite understand how this obsolete game system seemed to inform his identity. I needed to know more.

“Who is the Nintendo generation and what are their revelations?” I inquired.

Bug fixed me with a serious, contemplative glare. “Throughout history, there has always been this gentleman complex in society as far back as the 1800 to about the 1960s, and scraping by on the 70s. By the time the 80s hit, life was more culturalized because we were becoming more connected by technology and the average man had a lot more different complexes due to the social down turn of society and what was going on throughout the global community. With that in mind, the Nintendo generation is made up of kids that grew up with the original Nintendo, playing games like Mario, where you are always the hero trying to save the princess. It is the hero complex within us -where all that is wrong- we want to change. It is embedded into our subconscious through the video games. That was my revelation.”

Fascinating! An entire philosophy gleamed from a gray and black electronic box. Maybe there were ghosts inside the primitive circuitry that subconsciously communicated these messages to the young artist? I scratched these ponderings onto my notepad while Bug graciously awaited my next question. Outside, the rain poured down even harder. I was beginning to feel nervous.

I looked up at my subject. “Bug, what is the inspiration behind SINthetik Messiah? Is there a meaning behind the band name?”

“SINthetik Messiah, to me, is an avant-garde art project that started out in 1996 and it was based on the theory of using gorilla tactic promotional ideas in the art community to help inspire others to strive better in their art form. I would describe Gorilla Tactic promotion as promotional material that involves stationary positions in society where it can be seen clear as day. Sometimes put there illegally such as graffiti. Then years later, I fell in love with music and it kind of just evolved after that,” Bug explained.

“A philosophy, a visual statement, and all leading up to an auditory exploration…?” I pondered out loud, my words trailing off.

My interviewee offered no response as he stared out the window, riveted by the raging fire across the street. He trained his eyes upward. “The sky’s turning purple,” he whispered. “I wonder if the Seekers will make it in time.”

Seeing Bug’s expression turn dour, I quickly made my best effort to turn the conversation back to the subject at hand.

“Tell me, please,” I began. “Are there any key influences on SINthetik Messiah, musical or otherwise?”

Bug turned back to me, a slight smile across his face. “In the beginning, it was acts like Portishead, Nine Inch Nails, Wumpscut, and many other acts in those experimental genres that really helped the sound I had always wanted or felt that I needed to create myself. But as of lately, playing with a lot of local Louisiana acts has influenced me in a sense of what kind of musical direction I want to get into for the time being, that being Southern Rock. I just picked up a new guitarist, Mr. Suede Wilson, who has been helping me implement southern rock for the past 9 months into our current style. It blends really well musically when we play with rock/metal based acts. The next major album we release I will be featuring him on the album.”

I made a mental note to remind myself that, if I was alive tomorrow, to ask Bug what Southern Rock actually is, and proceeded straight into the next question. “Do you have an all-time favorite Nintendo game?”

“My favorite Nintendo game has to be BattleToads because they were the first punk rockers/goth looking characters in the Nintendo franchise,” Bug said.

As I brought my demitasse espresso cup to my lips, an eardrum shattering explosion rocked the street, shaking the café and causing me to spill the last of my drink down the front of my favorite sweater. Cursing, I reached for a napkin. Another explosion rumbled somewhere in the distance. A café employee appeared at our table and, with terror-filled eyes and a shaky voice, informed us that things didn’t seem to be working out that well on this particular afternoon and that The Metroid would be closing early and that we should probably continue our conversation elsewhere.

I noticed the dreaded red light begin to shine down from the sky, seeping in through the windows, and Bug and I found ourselves agreeing with the frightened food service worker. After gathering our personal items and throwing on our protective cloaks, Bug and I headed out the door. I still had an interview to finish, however, and I wasn’t giving up anytime soon.

“What kind of function do you see electronic-based music performing within horror culture?” I asked.

He skipped over the half-melted body of an Unclass sanitation worker, still in uniform, and replied thoughtfully, “Considering the fact that when Bob Moog first made the full functioning polyphonic synthesizer, musicians weren’t picking it up, due to price and not understanding what can actually be done with it. It was the film industry that was using synthesizers to create sound effects because they could afford it and by that it helped further advance sound design as a whole.  So I feel it has even a bigger role now days because most of the sounds on a film are more recreated than actual sounds.”

Having witnessed first-hand the influence that film has had on our culture, I didn’t press the issue any further. Besides, there was a gang of What-Nots approaching fast on their motor machines, all thirteen of them crowding the width of the street. We ducked into an alley just before the group sped past, toxic rain bouncing off their armor, their shouts rising into the air. Seeming a good time to take the questioning in a darker direction, I asked, “What is the best type of curse?”

Bug laughed out loud. “Being that you guys are a horror program, the ones that make you bleed from your eyeholes and your assholes until the person who is cursed completes what needs to be done in favor of the one who cast it.”

Another explosion tore through the city. I looked at Bug. He wore concern across his face.

“I don’t think the Seekers are gonna make it,” he lamented.

“They’ve failed in their quest on their last three tries,” I added with a sigh.

“And the city will burn down, again…”

“Well, it’s not forever,” I said with a smile. “When the Seekers start a new quest, everything will be bright and new once again, and the Unclass will be melting in the streets and we’ll be smiling and having our coffee and it will be a brand new day.”

Bug grinned, appreciating my optimism. “Yeah, you’re right. But still, that’s what sucks about life as a video game extra; your day could just end at any moment, even when you’re right in the middle of something cool, like an interview for Horror Addicts.”

Upon hearing Bug’s soliloquy, I was gripped by a deep and sudden urgency. I had to finish the interview before our world came to an end.

The sirens started to wail. The countdown had begun.

“What’s it like being a socially conscious Goth in the Deep South?” I shouted, holding my recorder out to Bug.

Raising his voice, he replied. “Given the fact that a lot of the people I work with aren’t Goth at all, I’ve learned to get out of my shell and be more open to people who really aren’t on the same level as me as far as style goes, and I can certainly appreciate the cultural differences. Those differences show up in my work quite often. Sometimes it can be really hard though, because most of population in the south has that Christian judgement thing going on, and sometimes it is not so positive. I like to prove them wrong though, how’s the saying go? Kill them with kindness? Haha…!”

The pavement cracked and dark red blood bubbled up at our feet. This was the sign that the Seekers were on their last remaining lives, and that their life force was terminally low; time for one last question.

“How has your benefit work been received?  Does anyone ever express the attitude of, “Hey, you’re this dark band, what in the eff are you doing benefit work for? Aren’t all you people supposed to be existential, nihilistic, misanthropes?”

Bug shook his head, knowing the stereotype all too well. “It’s been received quite well since I’ve gotten quite a few articles about me on the internet and in newspapers of my band doing benefit work. I never really got negative attention from anybody about that. However, I’m not the only one that is doing benefit work in the Goth scene. I have come across 50-100 bands in the goth/industrial scene alone, but I don’t think they put in as much time and effort as I do in helping their own community even if it’s not Goth. There is a lot of stuff about benefit work I do that I do not put in the public, why? Because it’s not about press to me, it is about helping the ones in need, the best way we can without going broke. That is just my personal opinion on the subject. Also, if there is someone that did hate on my act or any other act that does benefit work, I would personally tell them they can go suck a dick, they are a terrible person and should just stay inside and keep their opinion to themselves.”

The red sky above us began to glow.

“Any closing words or news on upcoming plans or releases,” I asked as the ground shook beneath my feet.

Cyberpunks of New Tokyo is a book/album/animation that im working on that’s set to be released sometime 2019. I had to push the date back because there are like two/three other albums I wanna put out before that one is released,” Bug said. “And… Thank you, much love and respect.”

I smiled. “Thank you, Bug, and-

I never finished my sentence. The sky exploded and we both disappeared, an obvious sign that the Seekers had failed in their quest once again. When I regained consciousness, I was seated at my kitchen table, watching the toxic rain fall from the sky, waiting for my next writing assignment to arrive in the mail.

https://sinthetikmessiah.bandcamp.com/

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Interview with Book Cover Designer Fiona Jayde

Fiona Jayde is the owner, art director, and award-winning designer of Fiona Jayde Media, a company that offers book cover design, editorial, and marketing services to authors.

Book cover designer Fiona Jayde creates images for all genres, including horror. Jayde said her cover for William W. Johnstone’s Carnival “creeped the heck out of me.”

Jayde won 2013 RONE Awards for Fantasy and Best Contemporary Romance covers, melding her creativity with a business-like marketing approach to create beautiful book covers.

Jayde agreed to a fun and in-depth email interview with HorrorAddicts.net.

We started off with a quick ten-question lightning round before jumping into the real ten-question interview.

THE LIGHTNING ROUND

  1. A favorite movie? The Cutting Edge (from the 90s)
  1. Favorite binge-watching series on Netflix? Hmm … Tough question. I rewatch Dick Van Dyke, Star Trek TNG, and Star Trek Voyager on a regular basis.
  1. A favorite author? Nalini Singh and JR Ward
  1. A favorite book? Three Musketeers
  1. A favorite visual artist? Boris Vallejo, Michael Whelan, Luis Royo
  1. A favorite musical artist? Evanescence, Lindsey Stirling, Etta James
  1. Any song stuck your head? At the moment? “It’s always best to match your tea and cake. Look at all the colors. What matches can you make.” I bet you can’t get that out of your head either.
  1. A favorite website? Lifehacker.com
  1. Pet peeve? When people use “i” or “u” when emailing. Texting I can live with although I don’t like it, but in an email? Also, spitting in public. Gross.
  1. You have one last meal. What do you want to see on that plate? Ukrainian Potato Salad, Hubs oven-baked chicken, and Grandma’s Napoleon cake.

    Fiona Jayde’s book cover design for William W. Johnstone’s The Uninvited buzzes with a nightmarish insect motif.

THE REAL INTERVIEW

Q1: Where are you from and where did your artistic eye and talent originate? Any artists, books, or movies inspire your style?

FJ: I’m originally from Old Europe, the part of Romania that was annexed by Soviet Union. My artistic journey started when I discovered internet in college and spent hours browsing through fantasy artwork. This is how I fell in love with fantasy artists like Luis Royo, Michael Whelan, and Boris Vallejo. The funny part is I couldn’t draw – and still really can’t, despite going to art school. Somehow, I always had a knack for all things digital and when I learned Photoshop, it was love at first sight. (Okay second sight, because it took me a bit to figure out that sucker.)

Q2: You’ve been a book cover designer for 10 years. What compelled you to start your own business in this field?

FJ: Funny story there: just like many writers who start out by throwing a poorly written book at a wall and declaring “I can do better”, I started out as an author who got a truly … shall we say … remarkable book cover and swore I could do better. Now, anybody with rudimentary skills in image editing can say that, but it took me years to figure out just knowing Photoshop isn’t going to cut it. What you see – the end product – is the execution. The unseen underlying factors fuse together marketing studies with compositional and graphic design to create a mouthwatering product package. (How’s that for a mouthful?)

I hadn’t planned on this being my career. I was working as a full-time web developer/project manager and doing covers on the side, but when I came back from maternity leave, my company laid me off. Best kick in the pants ever. I went into cover design and packaging design full time and haven’t looked back.

Q3: In the age of Amazon and ebook readers, are book covers as important in this digital age as they were in the days when hardcovers and paperbacks ruled? If so, why?

FJ: Book covers are just as important, but a much more “faster” scale.  People browse the same digitally and physically: a book cover catches their eye, they pick up or click on the book to see it close up, then read the blurb/cover copy. In the digital age, that process is a hundred times faster – instead of walking past books that may or may not catch your eye, you’re scrolling past tens and hundreds of books, and clicking on a select few that pop. The importance of the cover is the same, but the ratio of “what gets attention” is that much smaller now due to the sheer volume of things competing for that attention. It’s that much more vital to connect to your audience and make the best use of the tiny thumbnail you’re afforded when readers are browsing.

Q4: You use a “go big or go home marketing approach” for your book cover designs. How may this marketing approach differ from the author’s vision?

Fiona Jayde’s book cover design for William W. Johnstone’s A Crying Shame inserts the mysterious image of a bloody body amid the haunting mist of a secluded swamp.

FJ: For the most part, it’s literally about making the most marketable aspect of the cover as big as possible, and reminding the authors that readers haven’t read the book. For example, an author I recently worked with had a series where the heroine could throw blue fire. Marketable? HUGE! The heroine also happened to turn that fire into blue flaming raccoons. The author LOVES raccoons. Cute? Yes. Marketable? Not for the genre she was targeting. Therefore, Chick with Blue Fire=Big. Raccoons got 86ed.

Q5: You do book cover design for all genres, including horror and fantasy. Do you have a favorite genre? If so, why?

FJ: I don’t know if I have a favorite genre, since most of the work I do all boils down to “pop” factor. As long as I can add “pop” somewhere, I’m happy, regardless of genre. Plus multiple genres ensure I don’t “phone it in” and get too comfortable. This way I can offer fresh takes on existing genre visual “tropes.”

Q6: What’s the key in a successful collaboration with authors in creating book cover designs? Do most authors have a specific cover in mind or do they give you a lot of latitude in your design?

FJ: Successful collaboration works best with clear communication, zero ego and the same goal: a marketable book cover. I like to fuse together an author’s unique premise with what is marketable, and as long as the author works from the “readers haven’t read the book yet” we work exceptionally well together.

For example, an author can request their name to be huge on the cover. That request could be a marketing thing if they have a lot of followers and their name alone can draw a reader. On the other hand, if they are just starting out, a huge name will be an “empty” focal point, covering up something that could be much more marketable for the genre. And if we go back to that small thumbnail, a reader who sees a giant name that they don’t recognize will easily move on to a book with a smaller just as unrecognizable name with a huge visual que for the genre. As long as both the author and I communicate on that level – cold hard marketing being the goal, we will collaborate beautifully and produce a marketable cover.

Q7: Which book was the easiest to create a cover for and why? Which book was the most difficult and why? Or do all covers take about the same amount of time and creative energy?

FJ: The easiest covers boil down to how visual/descriptive and “grounded” an author’s world is. For example, I just had completed a series where the heroine is a witch and had very specific objects/symbols prevalent in each book. That series flowed very well visually because all those symbols existed already, we just needed to “bring them out.” On the other hand, I had a recent horror book with a very existential/internal theme and the author and I had several in-depth discussions about the book and symbols depicted there.

Q8: You won 2013 RONE Awards for Best Fantasy and Best Contemporary Romance covers. How important were those awards to your business and to you personally?

FJ: I’m going to sound like a jaded know-it-all, but in reality, the awards – while great for my ego – don’t really mean that much since the authors of those books didn’t exactly rake in accolades and royalties. Cover design awards aren’t considering the most important function of a book cover – to get click-throughs and sales. I didn’t learn to draw in art school, but the one concept I always carry with me is “function before aesthetics.”  If a cover doesn’t get sales, no matter how beautiful, it’s a fail. And a beautiful cover can easily be a fail if it doesn’t communicate to the target market – aka, the reader of that genre.

Q9: Since this interview is for HorrorAddicts.net, I wanted to ask about your horror covers. They are impressive, particularly the ones for The Uninvited, Carnival, and A Crying Shame, all authored by William W. Johnstone. What inspires you to create such unsettling yet beautiful horror book covers?

FJ: Thank you! That clown in Carnival creeped the heck out of me 🙂 Horror is a chance to play for me because the job here is to BE unbalanced and unsettled, to convey that feeling. Most covers are about white space and balance of elements, but horror puts those rules on their ears. Plus, it’s an opportunity for me to bust out the photoshop blood brushes.

Q10: What scares you?

FJ: Although I’m not a writer anymore, I have an incredibly active imagination and ability to spin a plot from the most minute events. Then I end up scaring myself building scenarios in the sand. But in terms of less existential and more real answer, I am terrified of getting lost. I have a terrible time following directions – with GPS no less – and regardless of logically knowing I have a cellphone and can stop for directions, I have an irrational fear of getting lost when trying to drive someplace new.


Check out Fiona Jayde’s book cover designs and services for authors on her website: http://fionajaydemedia.com/

Chilling Chat Episode 156 Christine Verstraete

Christine (C.A.) Verstraete enjoys putting a little “scare” in her writing. She follows the murder trial and offers a twist on the infamous 1892 Borden murders in her book, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter. She also looks at the murders from the viewpoint of Lizzie’s doctorC.A. Verstraete in her latest, The Haunting of Dr. Bowen. Other books include a young adult novel, GIRL Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie, and books on dollhouse collecting and crafting. Christine’s short stories have appeared in various anthologies including: Descent Into Darkness, Happy Homicides 3: Summertime Crime, Mystery Weekly, and Timeshares, Steampunk’d, and Hot & Steamy: Tales of Steampunk Romance, DAW Books. She is an award-winning journalist published in daily to weekly newspapers, and in various magazines. Her stories have received awards from local and national newspaper associations, and the Dog Writer’s Association of America.

Christine is a smart and accomplished lady. We discussed historical horror, her writing style, and Lizzie Borden.

 

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Christine. Thank you for chatting with me today.

CV: My pleasure and thanks for taking the time to talk.

NTK: You have a background in journalism. How has this influenced your writing?

CV: It makes me more detail-oriented, I think. I’m used to looking things up and doing research.

NTK: Did this help you when writing Lizzie Borden: Zombie Hunter?

CV: I did do a lot of reading and finding research of the period. The real autopsy reports and crime scene photos actually inspired the book idea.

NTK: Wow! The autopsy photos inspired the plot?Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter by [Verstraete, C.A.]

CV: If you read the autopsy reports detailing the injuries and look at the photos, it’s plausible (in the horror sense) to think why else were they hit in the head? It was an awful, brutal crime, so I guess this gives a better reason than the standard hate/greed/family dysfunction/dissatisfaction.

NTK: What made you portray Lizzie as a hero?

CV: Using that [zombie] premise, I thought Lizzie had to have a good reason to kill, other than being a monster herself. What if she was trying to protect her town and her sister from this unbelievable evil?

NTK: Were you influenced by some of the historical horror novels like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter?

CV: I hadn’t read ALVH until later, but loved it! I really enjoyed the movie.

NTK: You have an interesting take on the case and an interesting “What if?” Stephen King has spoken of how he uses “What if?” when thinking of an idea. Is that how you write? Do you look at a situation and say, “What if this happened?”

CV: I wish I was as prolific-thinking as him! My ideas seem to come out of nowhere, then I stew on them a bit and see what they develop into. I have to get excited about the idea to stick with it.

I guess I’m so structured in news-writing that fiction is looser—in the idea stage, anyway.

NTK: Your style is very crisp and direct. What writers have influenced you?

CV: It’s probably the news background. I know I don’t like reading or writing, long, meandering sentences. I loved reading Royko in The Chicago Tribune. Grew up on King who, of course, can be rather wordy at times. (Laughs) I went through different periods of loving different authors, classic and contemporary—Dean Koontz, Heinlein, loved Saul Bellow too.

NTK: I have to ask. Who do you prefer? King or Koontz?

CV: Probably King, as I’ve probably read more from him. I loved that he did a sequel to The Shining (and it did well.) The recent It movie was fun too.

NTK: Did King get you into horror?

CV: Well, I grew up on Creature Features on TV, the Crypt Keeper, Night Gallery, and reading King. (Laughs) Salem’s Lot is a favorite I still like to reread now and then. I just picked up a copy of Carrie to read again after many, many years.

NTK: Are these your favorite horror novels? What are your favorite Horror TV shows and movies?

CV: The TVs shows, I just mentioned are favorites.

NTK: Do you watch The Walking Dead?

CV: Yes—when I can. It’s addicting! [As to books] I also really liked reading I Am Legend and plan on reading Matheson’s other books. It’s writing that makes you savor the sentences. I love old creepy movies, even the corny ones—and, anything with Vincent Price!

NTK: Vincent Price starred in many historical pieces. Is that what got you interested in that type of horror?

CV: Most likely. He had that mesmerizing voice. I also liked Edgar Allan Poe. I still remember seeing The Tell-Tale Heart at the theater. One scary movie!

The older movies really got me hooked, classics like Dracula, Frankenstein, and Bride of Frankenstein. And, The Wolfman of course.

I guess after all that; it made sense that I finally turned to writing creepy stuff!

NTK: What’s your favorite Edgar Allan Poe story or poem?

CV: The Tell-Tale Heart. I recently re-read The Black Cat, also very eerie and still packs a punch. Maybe, that’s why I like putting a little twist in stories, like I did in Lizzie Borden: Zombie Hunter and, the sequel, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter 2: The Axe Will Fall.Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter 2: The Axe Will Fall by [Verstraete, C.A.]

NTK: You write creepy things. Do you also create creepy things? You make miniatures. Have you ever built a haunted dollhouse?

CV: (Laughs) Yes, I’m that twisted. I do enjoy creating Halloween miniatures. I had fun doing my first Halloween dollhouse and thinking how creepy I could get. Far as I know, nothing has moved of its own accord in there…yet. I am planning another haunted house but less gory this time.

NTK: Cool! You spoke of Lizzie Borden and the sequel. Do you have other work concerning Lizzie and her time period?

CV: There’s also a companion novella, The Haunting of Dr. Bowen, told from the viewpoint of Lizzie’s doctor and neighbor. He was the first official on the murder scene, and I wondered how could that, and the city’s bloody past, have affected him? It’s kind of a ghostly love story as well. I wanted to try something different and had fun writing it.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? Do you have plans for new work?

CV: Oh, the mind never rests, you know. (Laughs) I have a longer short story that I may re-edit and put out again. I was toying with some ideas for book 3 for Lizzie. I love writing about the characters.

The first book, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter, follows the trial and real-life events with the addition of zombies, of course. I had to follow more fictional events in the sequel to continue the story, but I liked coming up with a new weird angle to the story.

A big thrill was [when] the newspaper in Lizzie’s hometown did a story on the book when it first came out. That was fun.

NTK: Do you think the Lizzie in your universe is cursed?

CV: She’s fighting evil and learning that her father may have been part of that evil…you can’t get more cursed than that. That could be why she feels obligated to do what she can, even when everyone blames her for the horrors. Much like in real life, she was acquitted but still treated as a pariah and considered guilty.

NTK: As you know, Season 13 of HorrorAddicts is CURSED! Do you have a favorite curse? If so, what is it?

CV: I do love the old gypsy curse in the classic Wolfman movie…Larry Talbot’s a monster, but you can’t help but feel his pain and feel sorry for him until the curse is broken…

NTK: That’s a terrific curse. Thank you, Christine. I’ve really enjoyed chatting with you.

CV: I’ve enjoyed chatting with you. Thank you.

Addicts, you can follow Christine on Twitter at @caverstraete

Terror Trax: Stagefright

Stagefright is the first band I’ve ever heard of to blend musical genres such as Ska / reggae with Goth and hip-hop with darkwave. How did this come about? Is it something that evolved over time or was combining these different genres an idea that you pursued?

We started out with the concept of a crossover gothic band that incorporated African American styles such as R&B and hip-hop with gothic and darkwave. However, as we evolved, it quickly shifted towards reggae and ska because of the line-up. Don Geron and Pruda Bass, our long-time drummer and bass player, were both in popular local ska bands in the 80s as well as gospel and R&B bands. Our rhythm guitarist at the time, Don Schrieber, came from a rock band, and my brother Scott Saulson and our mother Carolyn Saulson and I were all from a punk/goth background. I’d been in a punk band called Poetic Justice in Hawaii in the 80s. I think Don Schrieber was the only white person in the band at that time – my brother and I are biracial, but we’re black identified. Everyone else in the band was black.

How has your unconventional blending of styles been received?

We have been warmly received on the local fair and festival circuit, playing in a lot of shows like Soupstock, National Homeless Day at Dome Village, Juneteenth, The California Blues Festival, and other community and Afrocentric circles. We had the same sort of following as bands like Spearhead then, and probably appealed to punk and ska fans more than the Goth community; however, we’re very active on the Goth scene and have played with a lot of Goth bands, particularly Protea, Galaxxy Chamber, and Apocalypse Theater.

What is Stagefright’s connection to the horror community?

I (Sumiko) am a horror writer, and a horror blogger, best known for my horror blog series on black women who write horror. I put together 60 Black Women in Horror, and then 100+ Black Women in Horror, reference guides based upon the blogs. They contain biographies of and interviews with black women in horror. And HorrorAddicts blogger David Watson wrote an article for it on LA Banks and Octavia Butler. We also have had a public access television program called Stagefright on and off since 1993. It often showcases horror films and horror directors. We used to put on the San Francisco Black Independent Film Festival, also known as the Iconoclast Black Film Festival. We received a lot of great independent Afrocentric horror works which we aired in theaters like ATA and the Koret as well as on public access.

How important, if at all, is horror, or, dark material –books, music, film, etc- to the creation of music within Stagefright?

Given that horror music is intrinsically connected with the gothic aesthetic and gothic music. I would say very important. Even when I was in a punk band horror was important, and I had songs about The Evil Dead and we tended towards horrorcore and horrorbilly like the Cramps. My brother, my mom, and I were all from the old school Death Rock eighties foundation for Goth, and gravitated towards darkwave when that became a thing. My brother loves Skinny Puppy. My mom loves The Cure. I love Switchblade Symphony. All of those bands have songs about horror. Heck, even Kate Bush writes about horror. I think Kate Bush was the first alternative act I fell in love with. My mom was listening to her when I was 9.

What kind of role do you see dark music playing within our society?

People have to process their anger, fear, grief and other raw emotions in some way. Dark music helps people to get in touch with, process, and get on the other side of things that they might otherwise unhealthily repress. The blues and country music also help people deal with grief. Repressed and at-risk populations often have a deep affinity for music that relays their struggle. Gothic and darkwave music resonates a lot with people who have mental health struggles, letting us know that we aren’t alone and that other people have and do experience depression, grief, and anxiety and that it is okay to feel and face these things. Otherwise, people get very apathetic and numb and quash it all down. I think sometimes we have to face those emotions head on.

Being a multi-cultural group, have you had to deal with any prejudice within the scene?

Somewhat, as we can’t really get airplay in Goth clubs or and are not perceived as gothic by people who don’t see interviewing African Diaspora and African American influences into gothic music as valid. We have gotten a lot of support from general alternative rock stations like KUSF used to play us, for example. Goths let us play in Goth clubs but they never seem to want to actually play our music, because it is too ethnic. My rants and railing against the Eurocentric white skin and pallor obsession within the gothic community are well known. Back in the 80s it wasn’t like that but, then something people call “traditional” Goth emerged later on, which involves wearing white clown make-up. Most African Americans have a negative association with skin bleaching.

Sumiko, as a musician, author, and visual artist, could you please tell us how these three expressions play off, influence, and support one another.

I’ve become quite popular lately as a cartoonist, and ironically, my multiethnic, kinky, poly, queer anthropomorphic mouse cartoon Mauskaveli seems to be getting a lot of airplay on the Goth scene and very little anti-black or anti-multicultural flashback. I think that’s because it is kink centered, and has a lot of queer characters. Multiculturalism is a lot more evident in kinky, queer corners of the Goth scene, and honestly, queer gay folks aren’t terrified of being spotted wearing some color that isn’t black at all. My band often plays at book readings. I think my friend, Serena Toxicat, one of my best friends and oldest friends, best epitomizes this. She’s in Protea now, but she used to be in Apocalypse Theater. We have been supporting each other as artists, authors, and musicians for 25 years now. We both turned 50 this year. After a while, you start to make your friendships circle around your creative interests and vice versa.

Sumiko, do you ever incorporate your written works into a Stagefright performance?

I have been reading my books at Stagefright performances, and recently I did a show with Serena called Kat and Maus. We had two different fashion shows. The first one, my models wore Mauskaveli mouse themed fashions I created, and danced, modeled, and posed to Protea’s Catwave music. At the second one, her cat-themed clothing was worn by her models and she played Stagefright. It was this sort of perfect cultural exchange. Her clothing was modeled by a very, very queer but predominately white crowd, while my clothing was modeled by a multiethnic, body-positive crowd that was not as obviously queer as hers. She did something for the first day of Pride that embraced Trans* identity, it was great! But at the end, she talked about my involvement in the black community. I think us working together is more interesting, frankly.

What is the Stagefright origin story? Is there any particular inspiration behind the band?

The band name actually came from a band I was in when I was in Kerista Commune. It was a punk band, can’t remember if we actually named it Stagefright or if that was my name suggestion but Dune and Revery were the other band members and we only had one song, Ned Was A Nipple Head.  My mom loved that name, so when we started our band she adopted it. She had really bad Stagefright and strongly identified with Jim Morrison, who was so introverted he sang with his back facing the audience at early Doors performances. She did that at first as well.

Stagefright has performed in settings as varied as L.A.’s renowned Whisky A Go-Go, to street fairs, to bookstores. Do you have a preferred type of venue? Is there anywhere you wouldn’t play?

We’re kind of great at street fairs, and sometimes our political content gets a strong crowd reaction. One time we were doing a show at the African American Art and Culture Complex for a Unity in the Community event that had a very large African immigrant population in the audience. A man became offended and started to get angry, even jumped on the stage and grabbed the microphone because he thought our songs were too feminist and a challenge to him. Specifically, we were covering Feels Blind by Bikini Kill. So we impromptu talked back to him. I can rap, and my mom can jazz improvise so we both ripped him in two different very African music styles. Then we started covering Cursed Female by Porno for Pyros. When we were done, every single woman in the audience stood up and applauded, while most of the men were sitting in the audience with their hands folded, glowering and pouting. To me, that’s what we are all about – empowerment for black women.  My mom and I are the lead singers. We usually perform duets. Sometimes, Scott sings. But this is us! Once my brother got mad at me and mom and called us The Violent Femmes.  So yeah, that’s us.

What makes for the ideal Stagefright show?

Some sort of political cause we believe in, like uplifting the African diaspora, elevating black women, narrowing the generation gap, helping prisoners, showing a thug some love, assisting those with disabilities, and raising money for the homeless and marginally housed. We are essentially a very political act.

What are some fun activities that one can do while listening to Stagefright?

Playing Dragon Age 2. Slam dancing, aerobics, twerking, and the gothic spiderweb removing wavy hand dance, political protest rallies, and long road trips on I-5.

Poison cupcakes or very, very sharp knives?

Very, very sharp knives…

If you were booked to play the apocalypse, what would be some highlights of your set?

A large sheet spread in the background with a projector airing artsy horror films, Taaka Vodka, Faygo and Four Loco Jell-O Shots, Chucky, Bride of Chucky, and Seed of Chucky cosplays, and Warhol Starlet Ivy Nicholson.

If I’m going to San Francisco and I don’t want to wear a flower in my hair, what could I do instead?

Write bad poetry in an independently owned and operated coffee house.

Chilling Chat Episode 155 Courtney Mroch

C. Le Mroch is the horror nom de plume for Courtney Lynn Mroch. Courtney is the C. Le MrochAmbassador of Dark and Paranormal Tourism for Haunt Jaunts, a website for restless spirits.

 As C. Le Mroch, she’s published The Shadow Stalker and edited the anthology, Shadow People and Cursed Objects: 13 Tales of Terror Based on True Stories…or are they?

When it comes to horror, Courtney has great taste. We discussed several things, including: horror/comedy, writing, and her unconventional anthology.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Courtney! Thank you for chatting with me.

CM: Thank you so much for having me!

NTK: “Haunt Jaunts” used to be a paranormal travel site and radio show but has recently changed. Tell us about “Haunted Headlines” and what those entail.

CM: Haunted Headlines is a new weekly series of posts and videos I started doing in April of this year. In the posts, I share all sorts of Haunted Headlines I’ve come across for the week. Then, I highlight the best—which to me usually means the funniest or most outrageous—in a video. I post these to HJ’s YouTube and Facebook pages.

NTK: What got you interested in “Haunted Headlines?” Have you always enjoyed humor and horror?

CM: Oh, yes! Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE straight horror, the kind that terrifies and lingers long after it’s been consumed, but I also love humor. The Haunted Headlines were sort of a whim. Around April Fool’s Day, I made all sorts of prank headlines. And, I’m always sharing paranormal, horror, and Halloween related links on my social media. The light just sort of clicked to get a green screen and combine it with pictures and funny commentary about the stories I come across each week. Well, to me, it’s funny. Not sure if others share my same humor.

NTK: When did you become involved in horror? How old were you and what drew you to the genre?

CM: I think I was three when I got my first taste of horror. It’s actually one of my first memories. I couldn’t sleep or something. That part, I don’t remember. All I remember is being up late, wandering out in the living room, turning on the TV, and finding an old horror movie on. I have no idea which one it was. I turned it on during a scene with a dungeon and stone spiral steps and scary music. I’m not sure if one of the characters screamed or if I did, but my dad came racing out to find me up watching it and was livid. I think because that whole incident terrified, yet intrigued me, horror was like this forbidden no-no. And I was always the kid who had to touch the stove to find out for myself if it was hot so…I’ve sought out horror ever since. Part of me thinks I’m on a quest to discover that old movie. I’ve watched A LOT of horror movies but I never have figured out what that movie was…yet.

NTK: I hope you find that movie. What’s your favorite horror/comedy?

CM: Horror/Comedy…that’s a tough one. Shaun of the Dead always comes to mind and so does Zombieland. But, after streaming Tucker and Dale vs. Evil a couple years ago, I think that’s now my fave. I wasn’t expecting to like it and found myself laughing out loud and cracking up.

NTK: Are these films among your favorite movies?

CM: Actually, those are not among my favorite horror movies. My faves are: A Nightmare on Elm Street, Dawn of the Dead (2005), Night of the Comet, and The Night of the Hunter with Robert Mitchum (which isn’t technically horror but it scared me.)

NTK: I love the “Night” theme there. What are your favorite horror books?

CM: As far as books, it took me forever to read because Stephen King’s IT because it creeped me out so bad. It’s always a sentimental fave. Dean Koontz’s Phantoms also ranks up there high on my list.

NTK: I have to ask. Do you prefer King or Koontz?

CM: It’s such a tough choice between King and Koontz. I like them both for different reasons. Depends on the mood.

NTK: What about TV? What shows do you like?

CM: I think we now have access to some of the best horror TV shows in the history of the Boob Tube. There are so many great modern shows. Loved the first few American Horror Stories. Haven’t been as crazy about the rest, but I’ve watched. All except Hotel. Couldn’t make it through that one. Gaga for Netflix’s Stranger Things and Dark. Loved The Kettering Incident and Black Spot on Amazon Prime. The French version of The Returned was also stellar. I liked the psychological aspect. I also like Tagged and Scream.

NTK: Do these movies, books, and TV shows inspire you when you write? What inspires you?

CM: I’m not always inspired by other books or TV shows/movies when I write. Life usually provides fodder. Or friends will make some random comment that sparks something. Although, I do have to say a Twilight Zone episode (“The After Hours”) inspired my forthcoming book, Reaper Pines, about an abandoned town where mannequins were once manufactured.

NTK: What’s your writing process like? Are you a planner or a pantser?

CM: PANTSER!!! Unequivocally! (Laughs.)

NTK: So, you just sit down and go from there? No outline?

CM: I usually have some nugget that sparks me and I run from there and let it do the driving. I just do the typing.

Shadow People and Cursed Objects: 13 Tales of Terror Based on True Stories...or are they? by [Carl Barker, Black, Alice J., Charman, Barry, Dicken, Evan, Ealy, Sean, Karabin, Keith, Lin, S. Mickey, Rich, Emerian, Teutsch, Ken]NTK: Let’s talk about your anthology, Shadow People and Cursed Objects: 13 Tales of Terror Based on True Stories…or are they? What inspired you to create this anthology?

CM: The idea for the anthology came about after I learned [the film] The Fourth Kind was not actually based on true events and the true filmed events supposedly included in the film were just other actors too. I thought it’d be neat to have something where readers could try and figure out if stories were based on true ones or not. So, I guess that IS an instance where a movie inspired me. (Laughs.)

NTK: Your story, “The Gypsy’s Curse,” is included in the anthology. What made you write the story?

CM: I honestly don’t remember what inspired me to write “The Gypsy’s Curse.” All I really remember about writing it is I did it shortly after we moved from Phoenix, Arizona to Jacksonville, Florida. I think I was going through a gypsy phase, or maybe a curse phase, or maybe both. (Laughs.) But, that story was one that just wrote itself as soon as it hit.

NTK: Speaking of curses, Season 13 of HorrorAddicts.net is CURSED! Do you have a favorite curse? If so, what is it?

CM: Oh, that’s a great question! There are so many intriguing alleged curses, right? This is a bit of a spoiler alert but, there is another story in Shadow People. It’s in cursed up Jack’s about the Busby Chair. I had never heard of that person until I read that author’s story, which is titled, “The Busby Chair.” It’s by Alice J. Black.

The Kennedy Family Curse also intrigues me. They’ve certainly had their fair share of sorrow!

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What do we, as readers, have to look forward to?

CM: Well, I’ll have Reaper Pines coming out soon. That’s a horror novel about a couple stranded in a ghost town with possibly haunted mannequins and an escaped mental patient. Hopefully, that’ll be available in mid-September. I also have a couple of Haunt Jaunts guides in the works: Schooled by Ghosts: What Ghosts Can Teach You and Macabre Museums.

NTK: Courtney, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you for sitting down with me.

CM: Naching, THANK YOU SO MUCH for this wonderful chat.

Addicts, check out Haunt Jaunts on Facebook and Twitter. And, join us for the next episode of Chilling Chat in the coming weeks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Terror Trax: Protea

Oh Heka! Is that a cat in your head or are you just happy to see me?

Serena Kefira Leclerc, Sonic High Priestess of the darkly cat-tastic ambient/noise/soundscape/magical wonder-sound project known as Protea, casts a spell over the listener with her otherworldly sounds. Recently, she was kind enough to emerge from her trance temple to answer a few questions about the creepy sounds she makes and what inspires her to make them. Please read on for a glimpse into this sonic sorceress’ mind.


What is Protea and what is the motivation behind it?

It’s my place in space to indulge my idiosyncatic ways, my feline “fetish,” and my odd-assed humor–you know, in case anyone else gets it–and some folks actually do!

What is Black Catwave? What is the essence of Black Catwave?

Well, my mewsic isn’t goth/industrial, purr se, it’s weirder than that, but it is dark and feline, which is why it has appealed to that crowd at times. It’s electronic, sometimes with theremin, which is the first electronic instrument–think Star Trek. Protea features Asian and Albanian string instruments, if I’m lucky. I sing and compose soundscapes. Sometimes I play the gu zheng, which is a Chinese harp, but I’m mostly a singer who seems to have a knack for creepy soundtrack-esque compositions.

Tara Ntula, the bassist from Vague, was one of my electronic composers. He’s a serious cat lover, too. Kat Karsecs played strings, but he moved to Wales. He’s a genius in his own right. Joey D’Kaye from the reunited SF punk band, Crime, plays theremin and does sound, and Baron Rubenbauer from NY punk band, The Nuns, has also done sound. Baron and I formed a band called Ephemeral Orchestra. It was wonderful, (other)worldly and deep, but not cat-obsessed like Protea.

I thought my invented genre name fit the meows, hisses, growls and purrs that come out of my weird head via my mouth (meowth?) quite well.

Your studio recordings have a very free flowing sound and feel. Are the songs planned out and practiced or is it all improved during the recording sessions?

On The Osiris Tree, Black Xmas and Lyttl Drummr Boi were mostly improvised. I did those along with a member of Apocalipstick, which was a performance-art-heavy band with whom I worked for a year or two. Anything featuring screams or Chinese harp on that album was likely improvised.

On the next Protea album, Going Forth By Night, sound engineer and drone artist Matt Azevedo improvised on his Arp, and his friend contributed a touch of improvised guitar. I also improvised some of the vocals on partial as well as full tracks. (This is original music inspired by the ancient Egyptian pantheon, as opposed to cattified Christmas carols.)

Festum Beati Osirim is Protea’s latest holiday album. I worked solo on that one. It’s the lighter counterpart to The Osiris Tree. The ancient Egyptian or solstice songs on Festum are heavily improvised. Anything involving getting the cats to meow is a risk involving improvisation, of course!

On my new cat head-shaped 10” vinyl record with 30 minutes of new music and a couple of remixed tracks, which is aptly named ‘My Love Lies On Cat-Shaped Vinyl,’ the track Pet the Manul, Bitch! was fully improvised, with vocals on my end and Chinese harp played by Kat Karsecs, who was originally my teacher. There are also partially improvised tracks.

What is your recording process like?

I’ll record on anything, anywhere. I’ve recorded on a dinosaurian four-track with an effects pedal, and I’ve recorded at the world-renowned Studios Ferber in Paris, where I used to live. I’ve recorded at home on my laptop and mixed at Philz Coffee. I have recorded in sacred spaces around the world. The track from Going Forth by Night that was done in the Great Pyramid of Khufu in the King’s Chamber was recorded on a phone, and that likely didn’t compromise much in terms of sound and the 16 seconds of profound natural delay. I have made GarageBand my bitch. It doesn’t have to be a fancy feast! That said, I comb everything over like I’m picking nits (or fleas, or ticks…)

Why the use of lyrics from traditional Christmas songs or carols?

Originally, it was intended to spell out the ancient Egyptian origins of Xmas, which is why some of the lyrics are modified in that direction. I was working out my discomfort and conflicts with Catholicism, mostly. Scorsese does the same via his (much larger) platform.

I think Halloween and Christmas mix quite well!

Is Christmas secretly the most horrific holiday of all?

Yes, which is why I have such a push-pull relationship with it. I do Catmas, which is inspired by Christmas, and celebrate the Winter Solstice! Obviously, many of us have a bone to pick with commercialism and obligations around that holiday. For many, family conflicts come to the fore.

What are your personal feelings about Christmas?

Honestly, as long as the ancient origins (Mithras, solstice, Osiris’ day, etc.) are given their due and I can sit home and record, I’m good.

Do you come from a religious background?

I was raised Catholic, practiced Tibetan Buddhism from high school through my mid-twenties, and am now a Bast priestess. I was ordained by Loreon Vigne and Lady Olivia Robertson at Isis Oasis and have my own temple in Oakland, which has been open to the public and is now private, due to my cat’s lymphoma.

Do you practice any particular faith?

I guess you would call it ancient Egyptian-focused neo-Paganism.

In the future, will cats take over the world and make all of humanity their slaves?

They already have, in my book. I used to joke that if cats took over the world, they’d eat us. They are the Illuminati and inteligencia factions of extraterrestrial society, don’t you know?

As a woman making dark noise music, how have you been received in the scene?

The only thing I’ve really noticed is that everyone asks me if I’m the singer. Yes, I am the singer, but I do other things as well. I had a Lyft driver the other day act shocked that I mixed my own music. Like what?! Do you need a penis to mix music now? (Not that men alone have penises.)

How effective do you see dark ambient / noise music when used in the incidental scores for horror films?

It is very effective, and is literally what everyone on ReverbNation tells me my music sounds like.

Have you scored any horror films or, if not, do you have any aspirations to do so?

Terrence McKelsey used Protea in spek.ter, and James Leon utilized it for his film, Dropping Like Flies. Those are a couple examples I can think of offpaw. I also acted in those films.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

Nina Hagen, Diamanda Galas, Aghast, This Mortal Coil, Bowie, Coil and many more.

I just finished making a feline-focused Tarot deck called ‘The Incredible Psychic Meow,’ and there are many visual artists I love, as well. One the world knows is H.R. Giger. Have you seen his cat piece? It’s a famous work. I also love Bosch, who featured cats in his triptych, and I appreciate many of the cat artists of all genders, stripes and purrsuasions throughout history.

Hell, there’s a book called Why Cats Paint that was more famous than the Bible in the 90s. I loved that book. The painters were cats, themselves!

What are your plans for the end of the world?

I can’t even think as far ahead as breakfast tomorrow!

Thank you for giving me this spot and this interview! I’m looking forward to our show and the other pawesome episodes, as well.

Meow, meow! 


Please follow the links below, open your heart, mind, and imagination, and experience the dark magic of Protea. We promise, you’ve never heard anything like this before!

 

Chilling Chat Episode 154 Crescendo of Darkness with Emerian Rich

Emerian Rich is the author of the Night’s Knights Vampire Series. She’s been included in many short story anthologies and also writes romance under Emmy Z. Madrigal. She is the horror hostess of HorrorAddicts.net and Editorial Director for the San Francisco Bay Area magazine, SEARCH. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son. Find out more about Emerian at: http://www.emzbox.com

Our lovely horror hostess is a real scream. She took time out of her busy schedule to chat with me about Crescendo of Darkness, editing and publishing, and the new HorrorAddicts.net submission call.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Emz. Thank you for chatting with me.

ER: I am so excited to be on here. I never get to chat with you except about HorrorAddicts.net business.

NTK: Crescendo of Darkness is the eighth book in the HorrorAddicts.net series of anthologies. How did it come about?emz1small

ER: I had been thinking about doing a music-themed horror anthology for a while. I had read A. Craig Newman’s “Circe’s Music Shop” back in the 90s—Yes! The 90s!—as part of a crit group I was part of online. The story stuck with me. I just loved it. So when Jeremiah Donaldson E-mailed me to say he wanted to do a music anthology, I said, “Yes! Under one condition…We have to have this guy’s story in the book.”

NTK: So, “Circe’s Music Shop” set the bar for the anthology?

ER: Yes, in a way. However, Jeremiah has a much different view of music than I do. He knows more about guitar/rock and you will see that a lot of the stories go down that road. For me, music is more melodic and dramatic. My favorite stories in the anthology are the ones that put off a spookier piano-y vibe. I think we got a really nice mix because we were both reviewing them.

NTK: Did you look for stories to surround “Circe’s Music shop?” What was your criteria for the stories you chose?

ER: We did not look for stories that fit with A. Craig’s. He might have put the idea in my head but, when we were reading, we just graded them by how much they moved, scared, or touched us. We were open to all interpretations. HorrorAddicts.net Press has a system for populating our anthologies. We have a team of four readers. The Editor, me, and two others from staff. We all read and grade. Whichever stories get the top grades, we publish. The Editor has veto power and can fight for one if it’s not in the top of the list but, mostly, the highest graded ones (meaning the ones that all of us enjoyed) are the ones that ultimately get into the book. Except yours, which won an award when graded by pros. Congratulations, by the way.

NTK: Thank you! “Audition” was a fun story to write for the Next Great Horror Writer Contest and I’m so honored to be included in Crescendo. We have another NGHW finalist included in the anthology. What attracted you to Daphne Strasert’s story?

ER: Well, as you know, we were only allowed to publish one story from the competition, that being yours, which we felt was the best out of the group. However, we allowed the other contestants to submit something else. When Daphne’s new one came in, I was happy to see it, because she is also a great writer. We graded hers just as all the others and she rang in to the top grades as well. I can’t speak for the others on the submission team, but for me, not only was Daphne’s so different from the others—starring a music box, not an instrument—but it’s also a really creepy story. Daphne’s voice is so fresh and contemporary. I could see this story being made into a movie like The Ring.

NTK: There are fourteen authors included in the anthology and you have a wonderful variety of stories. Can you give us a quick run-down of what the reader can expect to see within these pages?

ER: First, we have a good number of guitar-based stories. Your story, “Audition,” “Circe’s Music Shop” by A. Craig Newman, “Loved to Death,” by Sam Morgan Phillips, “While My Guitar Gently Bleeds,” by Benjamin Langley, “Six String Bullets,” by Cara Fox, and “A Whisper in the Air,” by Jeremiah Donaldson really reflect the cover. Then, we have piano themes in “Solomon’s Piano,” by Jeremy Megargee and “They Don’t Make Music Like That Anymore,” by Kahramanah. There are cursed objects like Daphne Strasert’s, “The Music Box,” and Sarah Gribble’s, “The Legend of Crimson Ivory.” “Lighthouse Lamentation,” by R.A. Goli involves a haunted lighthouse, while Calvin Demmer’s, “Keep the Beat,” is about a cursed village. H.E. Roulo’s, “Become the Music,” is about a child who is allergic to music and my story, “Last Lullaby,” is a re-imagining of the Phantom of the Opera tale.

NTK: Emz, as I mentioned before, this is HorrorAddicts.net’s eighth anthology. What made you become an editor and publisher?

ER: I’m not sure when I fell into all this. When I was in my 20s, I had a local ‘zine called Dark Lives. I would publish horror/goth authors and artists. In the early 2000s, I decided I better stop and get to work on my own novels. When I started HorrorAddicts.net as a podcast, I never even dreamed it would be what it is today. As you know, we are populated by fans and the staff that come to help spread the horror goodness. We became a blog and a site and a lifestyle for so many craving horror that publishing just seemed like a natural progression. Also, I love reading horror and I read so much by authors that haven’t been published before that I’m like…THIS is the stuff I want to read. But if no one is publishing it, then it can’t be enjoyed by other horror enthusiasts like me. I’m really interested in publishing things I like that may not fit the mainstream publishing system. Cool things I haven’t heard before. New ideas that aren’t the same rehashed formula we get in industry anthologies.

NTK: So, what is your favorite kind of horror? What movies, novels, and TV shows do you enjoy?

ER: I like classic horror. By classic, I don’t mean I always have to crouch by the light of the black and white set, straining my eyes to make out the grays of the darkly lit forest, I mean what we think of as classically spooky. The shutters banging, the ghost in the tower, the creaking doors, and melodramatic music. The Woman in Black, The Others, and Ghost Ship are some of my favorites. For TV, I am more into humorous horror themes like Reaper and Dead Like Me. But, I’m also a fan of shows like Ghost Whisperer, The Others (TV show from the 90s), and Midnight Texas. Reading is a whole different story. I really like Anne Rice and Andre Neiderman. My favorites of those two are Anne’s Pandora and Andrew’s Bloodchild. But, it’s been so long since I’ve been able to just sit and read for fun, it’s hard to pin any new author’s down. I am either reading shorts for anthologies reviewing a book for the show, or working on my own stuff. Oh, for the days of laying in bed or on the porch swing and reading! I want all those bored hours from my childhood back!

NTK: Do you write classic horror? Do your books and stories fit in that category?

ER: Now, that is something I haven’t been called on! Wow. I never thought about that. I have written a book like that, Artistic License. A woman inherits a house where anything she paints on the walls comes alive. My vampire work would probably be considered more like dark urban fantasy. Gritty, street kids, and Hell kind of stuff. However, now that you mention it. I think my love of classic horror is really coming out in my work in progress. I am re-imagining Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey in modern times. The heroine is now a goth girl who adores horror media. So, I’ve been injecting lines from movies, excerpts from classic books like The Grey Lady by Elizabeth Gaskell, and Witch House by Evangeline Walton, and even creating a little myself when seeing through the character’s eyes. Jane Austen is thought of as a romance writer but, this book (while it does have romance in it) is more like a love letter to all my favorite horror creators.

NTK: As you know, Emz, Season 13 is CURSED! We’ve talked about your favorite horror, what is your favorite curse?

ER: This is so tough! Omg…so many to choose from! Well, I can’t give you just one. I really like studying the curses surrounding the Titanic. I think it’s fascinating and just can’t get enough of the conspiracy theories there. I really like the Egyptian and mummy lore and the scarab devouring thing creeps me the hell out. But the coolest curses, I think, are the book curses. The ones we’ll be talking about later in the season about the books that have curses written inside them…“Those who lay their eyes upon this manuscript and have not pure intentions, shall be struck down by their maker,” kind of stuff. I had something happen to me in real life where I witnessed someone unable to read or decipher a book. It was a magick book that had an inscription in it about if the person didn’t believe or wasn’t pure of heart, they would not be able to read it. I could read every word as plain as day but, she was like…“What does it say? Is it some sort of code?” Really made an impact on how I consider book curses today. If that could work, why wouldn’t a curse in a book work?

NTK: What awesome curses! And, speaking of books, HorrorAddicts.net has a new submission call coming up. Could you tell us a little about Kill Switch and what you’re looking for?

ER: Yes, Kill Switch is Dan Shaurette’s brainchild. I will be looking for interesting, new, Black Mirror-like stories. I think Dan will have a more sci-fi accepting view, but they all must be horror, so I’m looking forward to reading some really great things. Tech horror is so interesting because we are living in an age where things like implanted chips and bionics are so close to us. Tech is going so fast and it’s not even the future anymore. It’s NEAR future. How will your tech terrorize the world?

Something new we are trying is a blind submission process. We will be grading stories before we know who wrote them. I’m interested to see how that turns out.

NTK: What does the future hold for you, Emz? What do we have to look forward to?

ER: Wow…you do ask the hard questions huh?

My goal is to keep writing and publishing unique and exciting horror with new ideas that we can all geek out on. Also, I plan to continue to support new horror writers and get their voices heard.

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me, Emz! It’s nice to talk to the lady behind the scenes of our favorite podcast and blog.

ER: Thank you for the interview! It’s rare that I get to be on the other side of the couch!

Crescendo of Darkness is available for purchase now. The submission call for Kill Switch ends on October 31, 2018.