#HorrorAddictsGuide What Inspires Horror with Selah Janel

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Horror Addicts Guide to Life 2 

selah author shot dlI was a big scaredy-cat as a kid but always had a strange fascination with horror. I’d be the one reading the backs of 80’s paperbacks or video boxes in stores when my parents weren’t looking, though it freaked me out. Somewhere along the line, I decided that I didn’t want to be afraid anymore, and really dug into the genre to help myself “get over it.” What I found was that there’s so many facets and sub-genres, so it’s really about finding what was a good fit for me. It escalated into getting involved with haunted events, first as a performer, and then as a costumer, and eventually a designer and consultant. When people think costumes, it’s easy to think about pretty dresses, elaborate theatre productions, historical recreations, and things like that. I found that my wheelhouse is the strange and the weird, and there’s plenty of need for it. I enjoyed the challenge of melding aesthetic with logistics, and every so often that meant I’d challenge myself to create something over the top. I was lucky that those tendencies found a home for so long designing things for amusement park haunts, and it was a journey that was exciting while also challenging. My piece in the book comes from some of those misadventures, both personal and professional. Whether it’s through writing or costume work, I’m inspired to keep creating because there are always more ideas, more processes to figure out, more things to make. It’s a never-ending candy story of weird, and I’m always happy when I get a chance to run around in it.

Check out our new book at: Amazon.com

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: The Cursed

Plotline: In rural 19th-century France, a mysterious, possibly supernatural menace threatens a small village. John McBride, a pathologist, comes to town to investigate the danger – and exorcise some of his own demons in the process.

Scariness Factor: 3.5

Goriness: 4

Complaints: N/A

Stars: 5

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

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

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

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

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

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

#HorrorAddictsGuide An Interview with Renata Pavrey

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Horror Addicts Guide to Life 2 

Renata PavreyWhat is your name and what is your horror area of interest?

I’m Renata, a nutritionist by profession and a dabbler in many other things. My horror stories cover everything from sports to music, art and food. I write mostly fiction, but my piece for this book is non-fiction.

What is your work in HAGL2 about?
It’s a (lengthy) listicle about women writers in the horror genre – across fiction, non-fiction, prose and poetry, anthologies, novellas and novels. I have featured one author for each day of the month, with a book recommendation for each one of them. The article also includes women editors and publishers who bring more opportunities to women writers and get their work out into the hands of readers.


What is your favorite horror subject and why?
I read just about anything, but I love atmospheric writing – narratives that blur the lines between horror and thriller, reality and the supernatural. I also like books in translation, that teach us about horror writing from different cultures around the world.

What are you looking forward to in the horror genre?
Ghost Orchid Press and Meerkat Press are two indie houses whose books I always look forward to. They have some wonderfully dark fiction. My own horror collection, Surrender to the Swoop released recently, and I’m looking forward to what readers think about it.

Where can readers/listeners find your work? 

For book reviews and author interviews, there’s my blog Tomes and Tales 

Instagram @tomes_and_tales

For my books and news about my writing, I’m on Twitter @writerlyolegacy

Check out our new book at: Amazon.com

#HorrorAddictsGuide An Introduction

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It’s been seven years since the last Horror Addicts Guide to Life was published, and yet, every day I find us Horror Addicts have more to say. Sure, things have changed in our world. We’ve seen leaders come and go, wars fought, refugees flee, movie stars go crazy, and lived through a pandemic for Bela’s sake!

What have we learned? Yes, we may need that go-bag and extra stock-up of supplies, not in case of zombies, but because store suppliers can’t keep up with demand amid the world plunging into a crisis that despite our preparedness, we weren’t prepared for. We learned we can live—albeit not very happily—without movie theaters, human contact, and makeup. We’ve traversed the ultra “normal” world of meeting by video and giving each other kudos for even just breathing. Cleaning our closets proved there was a legitimate use for those fun cyberpunk masks we blew our bonuses on. They DO have a purpose besides looking cool. And lastly, we learned the pandemic really isn’t as fun as we were told in the movies. I mean, I didn’t get any free trips to the deserted mall where I could have whatever I wanted, did you? Where is my post-apocalyptic fashion montage?

Despite what we’ve been through, Horror Addicts have continued to take solace in our passion. We’ve reached deep into the underbelly of streaming Horror movies that we never would’ve touched had there been other things to do. We’ve completed some of our reading lists and revisited those classics we loved as kids. We’ve given in to the beat of perhaps new and uncomfortable musical choices, just for something different to listen to. By exploring these new or new-to-us things, we have expanded the world of Horror we encompass and man, we want to talk about it!

As we launch into a new era of that dreaded over-used phrase “new normal,” we ask you to come along. We’ll be talking about monsters we’ve always loved, greats from the past who have inspired us, new places to explore, and where we want the Horror genre to go in the future. To help you enjoy this workbook as part of your every-day horror lifestyle, we’ve added spots for you to share your favorites, opinions, and sketches alongside ours. If you’ve caught the DIY bug, we’ve got crafts, recipes, and ideas to help you pepper Horror into your everyday life. And for those of you who need a little fun, we’ve got puzzles, Horrorscopes, and trivia to keep life manageable.

Check out our new book at: Amazon.com

Thank you for joining us and as always… Stay Spooky!

Emerian Rich, Editor

Odds and Dead Ends: A Haunted Crossing: The Legend of Devil’s Bridge

There are lots of appearances of the Devil in myths and legends across the world, and the UK is no different. Being a predominantly Christian country since St Augustine was sent to the isles and became the first Archbishop of Canterbury in the late 6th century, the Father of Lies has given the land lots of tales and stories to intrigue and thrill. One of those particular stories comes from my old neck of the woods, about a dozen miles from the university town of Aberystwyth (Abb-er-ist-with) on the west coast of Wales, a story with the Devil from a thousand years ago.

            Go to the little town of Devil’s Bridge, and you’ll find plenty of scenic walks through the woodlands to wonderful little waterfalls, and views out through the hills. Something which might strike you as odd, however, is a bridge over the river; or rather, three bridges. The top one’s for the road, and the one underneath is what it replaced. But right at the bottom, the little arched stone bridge buried deep down in the gorge, is said to have been built by the Devil himself.

                                                                                 
                                                                                          Image from ‘devilbridgefalls.co.uk

            The story goes a little something like this. One day long ago (some versions say the turn of the 11th century, others sooner and others earlier), an old woman found herself with a problem. Her prized cow had somehow ended up stuck on the other side of the river, and she was unable to go across to bring it back again.

            It was then that the Devil, visiting Wales for the first time, appeared to the old woman. Full of charm and, the devil told the woman that he could get the cow back across the river.

            “Will you?” the woman asked, for she didn’t know it was the Devil, and that he was cunning.

            “Indeed I will,” said the Devil. “I shall build you a bridge across the river, over which you may go and retrieve your cow. It shall be done by the light of day, so go home and sleep and rest easy, for when dawn comes tomorrow, the bridge shall be built.”

            “Thank you,” said the old woman, for she really needed that animal. “But I have nothing to pay you with.”

            “Oh, I have no need of coin,” said the Devil. “I ask for a very simple fee. I request that I am allowed to keep the first living thing which crosses the bridge.”

            The old woman thought for a moment before agreeing to the Devil’s conditions. “Alright,” she said. “That sounds reasonable to me.”

            So the woman went home at dusk and the Devil got to work building the stone bridge across the river. But as she lay in bed that night, her dog curled up nearby, she turned the Devil’s words over in her mind. They didn’t seem to make sense to her. “Why would I go to collect my cow, when, as the first living thing crossing the bridge, I would end up having to give myself to him? That doesn’t seem right to me. I wouldn’t be able to do anything with my cow, after all.”

            At dawn the next day she traveled back out to the field to see what the Devil had done. True to his word, he had built a stone bridge across the river for her, straight to her cow on the other side. “You see?” said the Devil. “I have done as I have said. Now you may go and collect you cow without owing me a penny.”

            The woman took a step toward the bridge, and then another. But as the Devil was rubbing his hands together, the woman took a piece of bread out of her pocket. She whistled to her dog and then threw the bread as hard as she could across the river. The Devil cursed and screamed as the dog scampered across the bridge to get the bread, and became the first living thing across the bridge.

            The Devil, upset at having been tricked by an old woman, took the dog and vanished, never to return to Wales for shame.

            It isn’t the scariest story in the world, but like most old folk tales it isn’t designed to be; it is here to teach a lesson. That some things are too good to be true, and we must be constantly on guard and aware in order to make sure we don’t fall prey to those who would take advantage of us. So if you’re ever in that particular neck of the woods, how about a trip to see a bridge built by the Devil himself? Enjoy the walks, see the monument, and remember that you should never be too trusting.

            If you want more Welsh myths and legends, my article on the wailing cyhyraeth can also be found on HorrorAddicts.net.

Article by Kieran Judge

Twitter/Instagram: kjudgemental

Horror Addicts Guide to Life 2 Book Event Calendar

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Horror Addicts Guide to Life 2

Date Item Title Blog address
MAY
May 13 Press Release Horror Addicts Guide to Life 2 HorrorAddicts.net
May 14 Book Calendar Events list HorrorAddicts.net
May 15 An introduction to HAGL2 Emerian Rich HorrorAddicts.net
May 15 Read an excerpt by Angela Yuriko Smith AngelaYSmith.com
May 16 Interview with Renata Pavrey HorrorAddicts.net
May 16 Read an excerpt by Chantal Boudreau ChantellyB.wordpress.com
May 17 What inspires Horror Selah Janel HorrorAddicts.net
May 17 Read an excerpt by Michael Fassbender MichaeltFassbender.com
May 18 What inspires Horror Chantal Boudreau HorrorAddicts.net
May 18 Read an excerpt by M.D. Neu MDNeu.com
May 19 Interview with Sumiko Saulson HorrorAddicts.net
May 19 Read an excerpt by Selah Janel SelahJanel.com
May 20 Interview with Naching T. Kassa HorrorAddicts.net
May 20 Read an excerpt by Tabitha Thompson SumikoSaulson.com
May 21 Facebook Party Invitation Announcement HorrorAddicts.net
May 21 Read an excerpt by Dan Shaurette AngelaYSmith.com
May 22 What inspires Horror James Goodridge HorrorAddicts.net
May 22 Read an excerpt by Naching T. Kassa NachingKassa.wordpress.com
May 23 Facebook Party Trivia, games, prizes! facebook.com/groups/horroraddicts.net
May 23 Read an excerpt by Sumiko Saulson SumikoSaulson.com
May 24 Facebook Party Trivia, games, prizes! facebook.com/groups/horroraddicts.net
May 24 Read an excerpt by Daphne Strasert ChantellyB.wordpress.com
May 25 Facebook Party Trivia, games, prizes! facebook.com/groups/horroraddicts.net
May 25 Interview with Emerian Rich MDNeu.com
May 26 Facebook Party Trivia, games, prizes! facebook.com/groups/horroraddicts.net
May 26 Read an excerpt by Kieran Judge GoblinsandSteampunk.wordpress.com
May 27 Facebook Party Trivia, games, prizes! facebook.com/groups/horroraddicts.net
May 27 Interview with Emerian Rich SumikoSaulson.com
May 28 Interview with Tabitha Thompson HorrorAddicts.net
May 28 Interview with Loren Rhoads PriscillaBettisAuthor.com
May 29 What inspires Horror R.L. Merrill HorrorAddicts.net
May 29 Interview with Kristin Battestella TomesandTales365.wordpress.com
May 30 Facebook Party Winners Announced! HorrorAddicts.net
May 30 Interview with Emerian Rich LorenRhoads.com
May 31 Interview with A.D. Vick HorrorAddicts.net
May 31 Read an excerpt by Kristin Battestella SelahJanel.com
JUNE
June 1 Interview with Kay Tracy HorrorAddicts.net
June 1 Read an excerpt by Emerian Rich emzbox.com
June 2 What inspires Horror Steven P. Unger HorrorAddicts.net
June 2 Interview with Selah Janel RLMerrillAuthor.com
June 3 Interview with Jonathan Fortin HorrorAddicts.net
June 3 Interview with Emerian Rich ChantellyB.wordpress.com
June 4 Interview with Russell Holbrook HorrorAddicts.net
June 4 Read an excerpt by DJ Pitsiladis PriscillaBettisAuthor.com
June 5 What inspires Horror J. Malcolm Stewart HorrorAddicts.net
June 5 Read an excerpt by Geneve Flynn NachingKassa.wordpress.com
June 6 Interview with C.M. Lucas HorrorAddicts.net
June 6 Read an excerpt by Mark Orr EmmyZMadrigal.com
June 7 What inspires Horror Kristin Batestella HorrorAddicts.net
June 7 Interview with Emerian Rich LionelRayGreen.com
June 8 What inspires Horror M.D. Neu HorrorAddicts.net
June 8 Read an excerpt by J. Malcolm Stewart MDNeu.com
June 9 Interview with Rena Mason HorrorAddicts.net
June 9 Interview with R.L. Merrill SelahJanel.com
June 10 Interview with Steven P. Unger HorrorAddicts.net
June 11 What inspires Horror Michael Fassbender HorrorAddicts.net
June 11 Read an excerpt by Steven P. Unger The.Best.Guide.to.Transylvania
June 12 Interview with Priscilla Bettis HorrorAddicts.net
June 12 Read an excerpt by Jonathan Fortin JonathanFortin.com
June 13 Interview with Mark Orr HorrorAddicts.net
June 13 Read an excerpt by R.L. Merrill RLMerrillAuthor.com
June 14 What inspires Horror Jonathan Fortin HorrorAddicts.net
June 15 Interview with Geneve Flynn HorrorAddicts.net
June 16 What inspires Horror Tabitha Thompson HorrorAddicts.net
June 17 What inspires Horror Mark Orr HorrorAddicts.net
June 18 Interview with Michael Fassbender HorrorAddicts.net
June 19 Interview with Emmy Z. Madrigal HorrorAddicts.net
June 20 What inspires Horror Sumiko Saulson HorrorAddicts.net
June 21 Interview with M.D. Neu HorrorAddicts.net
June 22 Interview with Jame Goodridge HorrorAddicts.net
June 23 What inspires Horror Rena Mason HorrorAddicts.net
June 24 Interview with Carrie Sessarego HorrorAddicts.net
June 25 HorrorAddicts.net @ BayCon Announcement HorrorAddicts.net
June 26 What inspires Horror Geneve Flynn HorrorAddicts.net
June 27 Interview with Loren Rhoads HorrorAddicts.net
June 28 Interview with Selah Janel HorrorAddicts.net
June 29 What inspires Horror Priscilla Bettis HorrorAddicts.net
June 30 Interview with J. Malcolm Stewart HorrorAddicts.net
JULY
July 1 HorrorAddicts.net @ BayCon Look for our panels! BayCon.org
July 2 HorrorAddicts.net @ BayCon Look for our panels! BayCon.org
July 3 HorrorAddicts.net @ BayCon Look for our panels! BayCon.org
July 4 Interview with Martha Allard HorrorAddicts.net
July 5 What inspires Horror Renata Pavrey HorrorAddicts.net
July 6 Interview with Kristin Battestella HorrorAddicts.net
July 7 Interview with Trinity Adler HorrorAddicts.net
July 8 What inspires Horror Naching T. Kassa HorrorAddicts.net
July 9 Interview with Chantal Boudreau HorrorAddicts.net
July 10 Interview with Steven P. Unger HorrorAddicts.net
July 11 What inspires Horror Russell Holbrook HorrorAddicts.net
July 13 In case you missed it! Recap of all HAGL2 Content HorrorAddicts.net

Available now at: Amazon.com

 

HorrorAddicts.net Press Presents: Horror Addicts Guide to Life 2

Calling All Horror Fans!
HorrorAddicts.net Press Presents: 

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Horror Addicts Guide to Life 2

HAGL2small2Do you love the horror genre? Do you look at horror as a lifestyle? Do the “norms” not understand your love of the macabre? Despair no longer, my friend, for within your grasp is a book written by those who look at horror as a way of life, just like you. This is your guide to living a horror addict’s life.

Our month-by-month almanac with important dates, movie lists, puzzles, crafts, articles, and recipes will guarantee your whole year is occupied with delightful horror activities. Don’t miss our monster guide with articles about vampires, zombies, ghosts, and some creatures that just can’t be categorized. Enjoy interviews with creators of horror content and hear perspectives from different cultures and backgrounds. Read stories of real hauntings, nightmares, and vile vacations.

Allow us to curate your horror lifestyle.

With articles by: A. Craig Newman, A.D. Vick, Alyson Faye, Angela Yuriko Smith, Brian McKinley, CM Lucas, Camellia Rains, Carrie Sessarego, Chantal Boudreau, Courtney Mroch, Crystal Connor, D.J. Pitsiladis, Dan Shaurette, Daphne Strasert, Dee Blake, Emerian Rich, Geneve Flynn, H.E. Roulo, H.R. Boldwood, J. Malcolm Stewart, James Goodridge, Jaq D Hawkins, Jeff Carroll, Jonathan Fortin, Kate Nox, Kay Tracy, Kerry Alan Denney, Kieran Judge, Kristin Battestella, Ksenia Murray, Lee Murray, Lionel Ray Green, Loren Rhoads, M.D. Neu, Mark Orr, Martha J. Allard, Michael Fassbender, Mimielle, Naching T. Kassa, Pamela K. Kinney, Priscilla Bettis, R.J. Joseph, R.L. Merrill, Rena Mason, Renata Pavrey, Rhonda R. Carpenter, Russell Holbrook, Selah Janel, Steven P. Unger, Sumiko Saulson, Tabitha Thompson, Theresa Braun, Trinity Adler, Valjeanne Jeffers.

Available now at: Amazon.com

 

Nightmare Fuel: Donkey Lady Bridge

Hello Addicts,

You can find haunted bridge legends in practically every state. Some are rather mundane tales, while others have details so far out there that they border believability. This week’s Nightmare Fuel falls under the latter description. This is the legend of Donkey Lady Bridge in San Antonio, TX.

A farmer living just outside of San Antonio, TX, snapped for unknown reasons. He murdered his children by setting fire to their home. His wife survived with permanent disfigurements. Her fingers and toes melted down and fused until they resembled hooves, and her face charred until it took on an elongated donkey-like appearance. It is said that she still haunts the bridge at Elm Creek, wailing over the loss of her children and tormenting any who try to cross. This is just one of many stories regarding this bridge. Some versions set the story in the 1800s or the 1950s. In some tellings of the story, a stranger set the fire in retaliation for something the family did to him.

Modern sightings of the Donkey Lady have her being a monster, yelling at people through their car windows and leaving hoof sized dents on the roofs. Others claim to hear her calling out in the night for her children. One almost surefire method of getting her attention is by honking your horn, but this method usually ends with the honker being chased off the bridge. The Donkey Lady’s fame even inspired the Texian Brewing Company to name a beer after her.

Regardless if the legend is true, the bridge still draws its share of curious people willing to chance an encounter with the Donkey Lady. Nowadays, there is a gate blocking access to the bridge itself, but people still claim to a feeling of being watched while there. It is for this reason that I plan to check out Donkey Lady Bridge someday.

Until next time, Addicts.

D.J.

Guest Blog: For A Horror Writer, Inspiration Can Hit At Any Time

By Kaaron Warren

Most writers have an internal voice that runs day and night, even while we sleep. It’s the voice that points out ideas to us, that says, did you hear that, about a snippet of conversation, or see that, about a piece of grafitti or a stray dog trailing a leash, or new shoes neatly placed in the gutter. As a horror writer, that voice can show up in surprising places.

For me, ideas often come hidden in old magazines. There’s something about jumping into the past (and, in a way, seeing into the future because I can find out what happened next thanks to the internet) that sparks ideas for me.

When The Pixel Project approached me for a story for the important anthology Give the Devil His Due, I knew I wanted to write a story where the abuser truly felt the pain of regret and suffering. I just wasn’t sure how.

I flicked through an old Punch Magazine from the 1960s and came across an advertisement for cigars. Two men, one sitting in a leather armchair, one with his foot up on a stool, both completely filled with self-assurance and certainty of their importance. They were in a place called The Steering Wheel Club, which did, in fact, exist at one time.

The idea for a horror story lay hidden under the façade of comfort, companionship and wealth. There were apparently famous steering wheels mounted on the walls and with my horror writer’s imagination, I wondered what sort of men would collect steering wheels behind which someone had died.

Horror stories are a glimpse into the truth.

Glimpses of truth lie hidden in the pages of an old history book. I was glancing through a publication called The Archaeological Journal 1931, and I came across a description of an unnamed woman (who they call Kathleen, but whose name was not Kathleen) who fell in love with a priest, the author says, ‘until he gave her a thorough and well deserved flogging with a handfuls of nettles” after which she saw ‘the error of her ways’ and became a nun. In the Thomas Moore poem, the priest in fact ‘hurls her from the beetling rock’ to her death. The priest comes to regret the loss of her love (not Kathleen, but her adoration) and blesses her to be happy in Heaven, which makes her ghost, which glides mournfully across the lake, smile.

I feel a helpless fury reading this, the same I get when I read about Henry the Eighth’s wives or any other abused ‘appendage’. I’m helpless to change what happened, but through fiction I can affect how I feel about it, and to perhaps gain some small revenge. The good thing about writing horror is that I can make bad things happen. I have people come back from the dead, and ghosts haunt, and I can have Kathleen smile like she does in the poem, but in my story she’ll thrust her ice-cold fingers into his eyes so he will never see god’s beautiful creation again…

Violence against women in domestic situations can be similarly hidden. The face people present to the world (as individuals or as families) can hide the true nature of that relationship. I wanted to be a part of this anthology because while my voice gives me ideas for stories, and I can speak it aloud, there are many, many others who need help, and need the chance to ask for help.


About Giving The Devil His Due (http://bit.ly/GivingTheDevilHisDue

Giving The Devil His Due is a charity anthology featuirng stories where The Twilight Zone meets Promising Young Woman as men who abuse and murder women meet their comeuppance in uncanny ways. Edited by Rebecca Brewer, the anthology features sixteen major names and rising stars in Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror including Angela Yuriko Smith, Christina Henry, Dana Cameron, Errick Nunnally, Hillary Monahan, Jason Sanford, Kaaron Warren, Kelley Armstrong, Kenesha Williams, Leanna Renee Hieber, Lee Murray, Linda D. Addison, Nicholas Kaufmann, Nisi Shawl, Peter Tieryas, and Stephen Graham Jones.  The book includes resources for victims and survivors of VAW worldwide, making it a valuable tool for getting life-saving information to domestic violence victims still under their abuser’s control or rape survivors who are too ashamed to ask for help. 100% of the net proceeds from the sales of the anthology will go towards supporting The Pixel Project’s anti-violence against women work. Find out where to get your copy of the Special Edition via http://bit.ly/GivingTheDevilHisDue. The upcoming Classic Edition will be released on 25 May 2022 by Running Wild Press (https://runningwildpress.com/).

About The Pixel Project (www.thepixelproject.net

 

 

The Pixel Project is a complete virtual, volunteer-led global 501(c)3 nonprofit organisation whose mission is to raise awareness, funds and volunteer power for the cause to end violence against women using  a combination of social media, new technologies, and popular culture/the Arts

 

 

 

Shirley Jackson award-winner Kaaron Warren’s most recent books include the re-release of her acclaimed novels, Slights, Mistification and Walking the Tree (IFWG Australia), Tool Tales, a chapbook in collaboration with Ellen Datlow (also IFWG), a novella Into Bones Like Oil (Meerkat Press), which was shortlisted for a Shirley Jackson Award and the Bram Stoker Award, winning the Aurealis Award, and Capturing Ghosts, a writing advice chapbook from Brain Jar Press. She was Guest of Honour at Genrecon 2018, World Fantasy 2018, Stokercon 2019 and Geysercon 2019.

The Last Stop – by CM Lucas

Dust devils encircle a dingy blue Pontiac Sun fire as the summer sun’s rays reflect off the few exposed areas of clean finish. The looming shadow of The Last Stop diner begins to overtake the Pontiac. The antiquated eatery bakes in the scorching New Mexico heat, while inside hungry patrons fair no better.

The buzzing of a single osculating fan blows hot, dry air in customers’ faces; perspiration dripping from every inch of exposed skin, relief from the heat only coming from tepid ice tea and warm root beer.

Swaying back and forth on his stool sits a man fidgeting with his paper napkin. Sitting at the center of the counter, the man periodically peers up from his napkin, glancing at the various customers, peering over at the entrance and back to his napkin. The man wipes the excessive perspiration from his brow and runs his trembling hand along the scruff that adorns his scarred chin.

“You ready, darlin’?” asks the waitress with a large, comforting smile.

“Uh, y-yea, Um… I-I’ll have the s-strawberry sundae,” says the man, briefly making eye contact before returning his gaze to his crumpled napkin.

“Ran out about two hours ago. Ice cream’s a hot commodity in heat like this, darlin’. Anything else?” asks the waitress as she fans her freckled skin with a menu. The man shrugs his shoulders and continues to fiddle with his napkin.

“You ok, darlin’? You seem a little nervous,” asks the waitress, flashing her comforting smile the man’s way. The man rises from his stand, reaching into his pants to retrieve a large pistol.

“Everybody, get the fuck down. Now!” yells the man, waving his pistol wildly in every direction. The customers begin to scream with fear. An elderly couple freezes in place, the businessman within the far corner drops to the floor, and the newly-wed couple close to the window embraces as the man jerks violently within the diner.

“You. G-get your hand up w-where I can see them,” says the man; his hands trembling. pointing at the register, the man aims his pistol at the cowering waitress.

“Start emptying t-the register,” demands the man. The waitress, wide-eyed and frozen in place, struggles to respond.

“Do it! Now!” yells the man as his pistol gets closer to her face. Tears begin to stream down the waitress’ face as she empties the contents of the register into a plastic bag. The man twists around to survey the diner. Spotting the businessman with a cell phone in his hand, The man rushes over; his pistol now directly in the businessman’s face.

“Put that fucking thing down!” screams the man. The businessman drops his phone and begins to cower in his chair. The man turns his attention to the newly-wed couple as the young bride begins to wince in pain. the man moves toward the woman with a furrowed brow. The young bride drops to the floor, revealing her enlarged stomach. She clenches her stomach as her husband rushes over to his bride.

“Hey, hey, hey! Get back to your-” the husband throws his arms in the air.

“Please, My wife’s pregnant,” says the husband, cradling his wife’s head as she moves to her back, panting and moaning.

“Oh, God. I think she’s going into labour!” Yells the waitress.

“E-everybody, shut up,” says the man, moving around frantically.

“You have to do something,” says the waitress. The man continues to tremble.

“W-what?” asks the man.

“To help her. You have to help her,” screams the waitress. The diner’s begin to panic as the young bride’s contractions being to worsen.

“Shut up! Everybody, s-shut up!” shouts the man as he makes his way over to the pregnant bride. As the man’s heart pounds within his chest, he glaces down at the bride, moaning in pain. The man kneels to the floor.

“What d-do I have to d-do. I’m not a fucking doctor. You do something,” says the man, pointing at the husband. The husband begins to move toward his bride’s legs, but his wife firmly grasps his arms.

“No, John! Stay… Ah! Stay h… Ah,” says the bride as her contractions worsen.

“You have to help her,” screams the waitress. The man wipes the sweat from his brow and moves toward the bride’s legs.

“W-what do I do?” asks the man as he trembles in place.

“Talk to her. Make sure the baby doesn’t fall to the floor,” says the businessman.

“… You’re going to b-be ok. Y-you’re doing good,” says the man softly. The bride begins to wince and gyrate; his screams echo through the diner as the man positions his hand beneath the bride’s legs. The young bride continues to moan as the contraction worsens.

“T-that’s It. Y-you’re ok,” asserts the man; his hands trembling. The bride gives a final push as the newborn’s head emerges. The rest of the body begins to show with the final push until the newborn is within the man’s shaky arms. The bride begins to sob with joy, as does her husband. A collective sigh of relief washes over the diner as they temporarily forget the situation they are in.

The man hands the newborn baby over to its parents. He rises to his feet and begins to weep uncontrollably. Suddenly, the police burst into the diner. With their weapons drawn, The man puts up no resistance, placing his hands behind his back as the police place him in handcuffs. The man is placed in the back of the squad car. As the squad car begins to pull away, the man glances at the diner. Paramedics being to arrive at the scene, escorting the newlyweds out of the diner.

The bride glances at the man in the back of the squad car. She smiles and mouths ‘thank you’ at the man before the police car pulls away. The man begins to well up before he smiles back and nods.

No. Don’t you do it, you fuck. You can resist, the man thinks to himself as his pulse begins to race. Suddenly, the man begins to sweat profusely, his heart smashes against his chest. The man closes his eyes tightly as he struggles to conceal his pronounced canine teeth. A deluge of perspiration pours down his forehead as the narrow slits that are his pupils dilate as the man focuses on the diner. The man breaks free of his restraints, reaching through the cage that separates him from the officers in the front of the police car. The flesh on the man’s arms rips and tear as his talon-like fingernails plunge into the neck of the officer driving the police car. Blood sprays across the windshield as the police car collides with a telephone pole. The fire from the exploding squad car gains the attention of the patrons within the diner.

The new mother grips her child as she rushes toward the diner’s window. Her eyes well up as she glances into the vertical pupil eyes and panting tongue of the man who minutes ago helped bring her newborn baby into the world.

End

Book Review: SAIR BACK, SAIR BANES by Anthony Engebretson

A book review by Renata Pavrey

With a catchy title and cover, Sair Back, Sair Banes certainly piques the reader’s interest. I love books about folklore from around the world, and this novella set in Scotland was placed on my to-read list as soon as publisher Ghost Orchid Press mentioned it.

Genevieve takes a trip from America to connect with an old family friend of her now-deceased parents. Her father loved the outdoors and adventure, and often spoke about his love for the Scottish people, customs, lore, and legends. He also regaled Genevieve’s childhood with stories of the kelpie – shape-shifting horses that inhabit water bodies.

Genevieve’s host lives right next to a loch, and she encounters a drowning horse on her first day. But no one else was around to see the horse struggling and disappearing beneath the cold, dark waters. Nobody owns a horse around here, as far as anyone can tell. Was Genevieve imagining it, was someone playing a prank on her, or is there more to the legend of the kelpies? An over-friendly bartender, an icy pub owner, people going missing, a killer on the loose, trauma of parental abuse and suicide – Sair Back, Sair Banes packs a punch within its few pages.

The phrase ‘Sair Back, Sair Banes’ comes from an old folk curse, about a problematic horse in Scottish history. Blending folklore and legends with modern themes of loneliness, isolation, mental health, along with family history and relationships, Anthony Engebretson takes the reader on a trip through the Scottish landscape and culture. His story has one story and many stories; where the protagonist could be anybody, as could the antagonist. A place where spirits could be good and people could be bad; where there’s more to our ancestors than the stories they pass on. I loved this interweaving of themes and emotions – a well-written story that gives the reader something to ponder upon, much after having finished the book.

Sair Back, Sair Banes is Anthony Engebretson’s debut book, although he has written short stories for several anthologies. This was my first time reading this author, and I’ll certainly look forward to more from him. Ghost Orchid Press is known for featuring unpredictable, but brilliant writing. From the body horror Blood and Bone, to the eco-terror Chlorophobia, and the haunting collection Palimpsest, I look forward to their new releases. Sair Back, Sair Banes is another stellar book from their repertoire.

Chilling Chat: Episode #206 – Hannah Hulbert

chillingchat

Hannah Hulbert lives in urban Dorset, UK. She is on a permanent sabbatical from reality as she raises two children and devotes her time to visiting imaginary worlds, some of her own creation. You can find her short stories in the British Fantasy Society’s Horizons, the Hannah Hulbertanthologies Curse of the Gods (ed. Sarah Gribble), Once and Future Moon (ed. Allen Ashley), and Beneath Strange Stars (TL;DR Press). She often tweets and doodles when she should be writing. 

NTK: What is your favorite form of divination?

HH: I chose tasseography for my story because I adore tea! But I prefer my future to reveal itself in real-time.

NTK: Have you ever had your tea leaves read?

HH: I am not a superstitious person at all, so I have never done any type of fortune-telling of any sort. I had to do quite a bit of research for this story as I came into it knowing absolutely nothing!

NTK: What is your favorite tea?

HH: I love all sorts of teas! There is a wonderful tea shop round the corner from where I live that sells loose leaf teas and I always have at least 12 open at one time and have yet to try one I really didn’t like. The Christmas selection they offer is probably my favourite to choose from though.

NTK: How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

HH: I first studied the Victorians at school when I was nine and loved the aesthetic – the ornate architecture, the heavy fabrics, the way that even the most mundane items were made beautifully. 

NTK: What is your favorite Victorian horror story?

HH: I find Victorian fiction rather stodgy, but there’s a lot to enjoy in Poe’s ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’. I am a bit obsessed with the decay of man-made structures, as they are reclaimed by nature. I also really like fiction within fiction interacting with itself. And you just can’t beat a bit of pathetic fallacy.

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

HH: It’s a bit early, but I adore ‘Sleepy Hollow’. I mostly like my horror hammy, beautiful or ecological, and this ticks two out of three.

NTK: Are your characters based on real people?

HH: Not at all. I love writing wicked mothers, but my mum is the best!

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

HH: ‘Power and Shadow’ actually started life as a steampunk flash. It evolved to fill the specifications for the anthology call and is a lot better for it. 

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

HH: I think my characters grow alongside the plot symbiotically. The two are inseparably entwined, affecting each other simultaneously. 

NTK: What are you most afraid of?

HH: Anything that might harm my kids. 

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

HH: Shirley Jackson. I love ‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle.’

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

HH: I am in a bit of a dry spell at the moment, working on my first novella (an eco-horror haunted house hybrid) but members of the British Fantasy Society should watch out for the next issue of Horizons and I have a story in the forthcoming anthology From the Yonder III from WarMonkey Publications.

Spooky Locations: The Axe Murder House of Villisca, Iowa

By J.S. O’connor

When thinking of a “Spooky Location”, it’s easy to think of the paranormal. However, a real-life tragedy can be more terrifying than the paranormal. The Axe Murder House of Villisca, Iowa is both – a paranormal location as well as a real tragedy that took the lives of eight people and still remains unsolved over a hundred years later. 

Villisca, Iowa is a small town with a population just over one thousand located in southeastern Iowa. It fits the definition of a “blink and you’ll miss it” town. It’s a peaceful-looking town with the exception of one house with a bad reputation.

 The story of the murders is as follows: Lena and Ina Stillinger spent the night at the Moores’ house after church on a Sunday. The next morning, the Moores’ next-door neighbor, Mary Peckham, had not seen the Moores and placed a call to the brother of Joseph Moore. When they entered the home, they discovered the bodies of Joseph Moore, his wife Sarah, and their six children: Herman, Katherine, Boyd, and Paul, and the Stillinger Sisters. The children were between six and twelve years of age, with the murders estimated to have taken place after midnight. All had been brutally butchered with Joseph’s own axe. The murderer has never been found. The list of suspects for the murder is long, including a serial killer Henry Lee Moore to a State Senator Frank F. Jones, who may have hired someone to carry out the murders, and everyone in between.  

Even though the house has been renovated a number of times since 1912, the current owners have been hard at work returning the house to its former self. Currently, the owners offer paranormal tours and overnight stays to the curious. Some may say that turning a tragic murder into a paranormal tour is an insult to the people who tragically lost their lives. Others would say that it is a way of keeping the memory of the Moore family and Stillinger sisters alive and never forgotten. Whichever you believe, it’s important to remember and honor the people who have lost their lives.  

Work Cited:

 The Official Site of the Villisca Axe Murders of 1912, https://www.villiscaiowa.com/index.php. 

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Ultrasound

Plotline: After his car breaks down, Glen spends one hell of an odd night with a married couple, setting into motion a chain of events that alter their lives plus those of several random strangers.

Genre: Sci-fi, Drama, Mystery & thriller

Release date: (Theaters) March 11, 2022 (USA)

Limited Director: Rob Schroeder

Distributed by: Magnolia Pictures

 

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

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

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

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

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

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

Odds and Dead Ends : The Best of The Bard: Why ‘Macbeth’ should be considered Horror

Anyone who says that Shakespeare is classy, refined, and ‘proper’, has clearly never read him. Sure he had his moments of genius, but then he also wrote Titus Andronicus, which contains tricking someone into eating their sons, and ends its three hours with fourteen people dead. Romeo & Juliet has a higher human body count than Halloween (Mercutio, Tybalt, Paris, Juliet, Romeo, and Lady Montague makes six for The Bard, and Judith, the truck driver, Annie, Paul, and Linda make five for John Carpenter). Yet of all his works, Macbeth might be the most mad, terrifying, and downright horrific story he told, and I firmly believe it deserves a higher place in horror fans’ hearts.

            Firstly, a recap for those who don’t know your classics. Macbeth, a general in King Duncan’s army, is told by three witches that he will become Thane of Cawdor, and eventually King. When Macbeth is granted the title ‘Thane of Cawdor’, he plots with his wife to kill Duncan, thereby fulfilling the prophecy. In panic, believing his deed to have been discovered, he sends an assassin to kill his friend Banquo, who might suspect him, after which he hallucinates and is driven into madness during his rule. Meanwhile, a rebel army from England led by Macduff rises up against him, whom he initially does not fear as the witches tell Macbeth that he can’t die ‘“until/ Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill/ Shall come against him.”’ (an impossibility, for trees, can’t walk), and that he can’t die from someone born from a woman. The final scenes see Lady Macbeth driven mad by guilt, and Macduff’s army chop down branches from Birnham wood and carry them in front of them as protection and camouflage. At a final confrontation, Macduff, who was born by C-section, kills Macbeth, and brings peace to the land, and fulfills all the prophecies.

            There are so many points in Macbeth which appear in horror/sci-fi vocabulary and iconography. The three witches are the most obvious, and their lines have filtered into the common tongue without us being aware of it. ‘By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes’ of course gives us Ray Bradbury’s title to his famous novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes and combines with their ‘Double, double toil and trouble,’ speech to make the song sung upon entering Hogwarts in The Prisoner of Azkaban film.

            Let us not forget, however, that their prophecies also bring up that age-old question of free will vs. determinism. Would Macbeth have still become king, been killed by Macduff, etc, had the witches not given him their prophecy? Was their act of prophesying itself fate, or could it have been averted? Therefore, is there something even more malevolent behind the witches, conspiratorially so, which encouraged them to speak to Macbeth and Banquo, and therefore set events in motion? So many stories extend off this question, asking if a foretold fate can be actively avoided, from cheap thrillers like 2019’s Countdown, to the vase scene in The Matrix, to Scrooge’s pleading with the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come at his gravestone, ‘“Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they the shadows of the things that May be, only?”’ Philip K. Dick’s novella The Minority Report is based around a man running a company which predicts crime being told he himself will kill someone.

            Then there’s the urban legend that the play itself is cursed. Shakespeare apparently based some of the lines for the witches off actual witches who lived nearby, and in retaliation, they cursed the play, so that it became unlucky to refer to it as ‘Macbeth’, and has become known in acting circles as ‘The Scottish Play’ instead. Exorcising demons as a result of saying the name is still done by superstitious performers, and not doing so will cause bad luck to fall on the production. Blackadder The Third has great fun at this expense in a memorable skit.

            And let’s ignore for brevity’s sake the appearance of Hecate, Greek Goddess of witchcraft and magic and the moon, etc, to the three witches in Act IV. Because that’s just going overboard, and we all know how horror movies love to use Greek myths and legends (see Robert Eggers’s The Lighthouse, and The Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth for more information).

            The play is so dark and gloomy, filled with paranoia and murder, that to ignore how it set the stage for horror stories to come would be remiss. With eight dead by the end (not counting off-screen deaths), the play has a high enough body count to keep any horror fan happy. Conspiring in dark castle hallways to commit regicide by the dead of night is straight gothic, and let us not forget that murder in castles is pretty much where the whole thing started, as Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, the original gothic novel, has this in spades.

            And finally, at a feast in Act III Scene IV, Macbeth sees the ghost of Banquo, his friend whom he has had assassinated. At first, accusing others of setting it up as a prank, he is led away, raving and cursing, Lady Macbeth feigning the excuse that he has been prone to fits of madness since childhood. We’re never told whether this ghost is really a phantom or a figment of Macbeth’s overworked imagination, but considering he’s already hallucinated a dagger in Act II Scene I (“Is this a dagger which I see before me, The handle toward my hand?”) it is likely. Yet Shakespeare’s already used one of the most famous ghosts in literature, that of Hamlet’s father on the battlements, years before, so his use of supernatural elements isn’t unknown. And we’ve all seen and read films and stories which hinge on our interpretation as to whether the ghosts are real or not (Jacob’s Ladder, It Follows, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Turn of the Screw; you can come up with your own thousands more examples), which is further proof how the tradition follows on into our modern genre.

            Macbeth has all the violence, superstition, curses, hallucinations, omens, atmosphere, and madness to last a horror addict for a lifetime. It is filled with those little moments that, over the years, millions have been inspired by, creating the network of iconography which helped the gothic stories of the 18th century, the penny dreadfuls of the 19th century, and the cinematic explosion of the genre of the 20th. Film critic Mark Kermode quotes The Exorcist author William Peter Blatty as saying that the play is about ‘the numbing of the moral senses’, and if there’s ever a phrase which applies to horror, I don’t know of it. Macbeth is not just for the classroom; it’s for a horror addict’s life.

Article by Kieran Judge

Twitter/Instagram: kjudgemental

Historian of Horror : It’s Just a Game

To say that my Southern Baptist parents did not entirely approve of my childhood interest in the macabre and the monstrous would be putting it mildly. They barely tolerated it, in fact, but drew the line firmly when it came to anything that smacked of the heathen practices of divination. So, of course, I was just contrary enough so as to be fascinated by the small collection of predictive playthings that began being advertised in the back pages of my favorite comic books in the late 1960s and into the early 1970s. Not that I was ever foolish enough to bring one of those games or toys into the house, but I didn’t shy away when I encountered them in the homes of my friends. 

Interactive playthings based on the supernatural had been around for all of that spooky period. We’ve discussed the reasons behind the general proliferation of horrific goodies in popular culture before. It was standard practice to cobble together board games based on the television shows that haunted the airwaves – The Twilight Zone, Dark Shadows, The Addams Family, etc. They were mostly variations on Parcheesi or Chutes ‘n’ Ladders or Life, but they were fun on those rainy days when riding our bikes at top speed down the hill in front of our house to crash-land at the end of the cul-de-sac our street dead-ended into was not an option. There were also Ideal’s 1962 Haunted House Game; the first glow-in-the-dark game, Green Ghost, released by Transogram in 1965; and Milton-Bradley’s Which Witch? from 1970, among others. And of course, lots of Ouija Boards, which Parker Brothers had been marketing since the early 20th Century.

The one I really wanted to get my hands on was an intriguing little item called Ka-Bala, a 1967 Transogram production. The comic book ads promised all manner of predictive delights, none of which I was able to take advantage of because I never knew anyone who had one. But just look at it, a big eye floating above the board, indicating which phony Tarot card will decide your future for you. How cool is that?

Not cool enough for all the Southern Baptists around me in those years to tolerate, apparently. I never even saw one, either in a store or at a friend’s house. That still sucks. Sure, I could shell out the nearly two hundred bucks the thing goes for on ebay, but I’d kind of like to stay married a little longer. And alive. My wife knows where too many sharp implements are to be located in our house.

I did have friends who had Ouija boards. The Catholics, of whom I knew none, seem in retrospect to have been a lot more concerned about the negative spiritual effects of using one of those to communicate with the deceased than did the Southern Baptists, or even the Methodists. But we all figured out pretty quickly that it was one of us moving the planchette around. We got bored with it almost immediately.

I like to think our amusement with Ka-Bala might have lasted a little longer. I mean, that big ol’ eye thing! The Ouija board just lay there, flat on the table. Ka-Bala had an eye, an actual eye, looking right into your soul, ready to tell you all sorts of things! I’m not even sure we’d have cared about the predictions. We weren’t all that interested in having jobs yet, or who we would get married to, or stuff like that. And I doubt it would reveal who would be the villain in the next issue of Spider-Man, or if the president would interrupt our evening programming for some boring speech regarding stuff we knew nothing about, but which would be on all three channels so – Arrrrrggghhhh! Every kid in the country seriously hated when that happened because we’d have to do homework instead of watching our favorite shows, and nothing sucked more than that.

Anyhow. No, it wasn’t going to tell us anything we really wanted to know, but that wasn’t the point. It was the principle of the thing. Knowing the future would grant us the only real power we could possibly feel in our very powerless young lives – being in on the secrets of the universe as only that solitary eye in the middle of the game board had the power to reveal. Or so we thought, which really was the fun of it all.

Ah, to be a child again. But only if my parents would be considerate enough to be atheists, this time around.

When next we meet, we’ll traipse across a bridge that leads to… well, nowhere, as it turns out. Until then, my fellow zealots of zombification…

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Logbook of Terror: “Look Inside” by Russell Holbrook

“Look Inside”

Shanna wove her fork into the spaghetti noodles. The pasta wound like worms as the utensil slid through it. 

Shanna’s roommate, Babs, scowled and muttered, “You’re trying to do that trick again, huh?”

   “It’s not a trick; it’s magic.”

   Babs narrowed her eyes and loudly slurped a noodle into her mouth. “It’s the reason we’ve been eating pasta every night for the past week.” 

   “You could cook something,” Shanna replied quietly without taking her gaze from her plate. 

   Babs grumbled, “You know I don’t cook.” She scooped up another fork-full and added, “You just wanna be like the guy in that Naching Kassa story. That was cool but this is just lame.” 

   “Please stop talking,” Shanna said through tight lips. 

   “Spoiler alert: that guy used intestines; you’re just playing with your food,” Babs continued. 

   Shanna clenched her teeth.

   Babs chewed loudly with her mouth open. She yelled, “Spaghetti divination!”  and burst into laughter. 

   Shanna slammed a fist down, leapt across the short table, and plunged her fork into Babs’s left eye. 

   A scream lodged in Babs’s throat as she choked on the food, her hands frantically moving from the fork in her eye to her neck and back again. Her right eye pleaded with Shanna for help. 

Shanna left the table and returned with a carving knife. She pulled Babs away from the table and threw her onto the floor. 

Babs kicked and writhed on the linoleum. Blood and tears oozed from her punctured eye. Shanna reached down and twisted the fork a half-turn. A choked and garbled cry scratched its way out of Babs’ throat. Shanna grinned, yanked up Babs’s shirt, and thrust the knife into her roommate’s belly. 

  The knife moved smoothly through the skin, opening Babs up. Once Shanna had Babs’s midsection spread wide, she twirled her fingers in the dead woman’s intestines, looking for clues and insights into the future. 

Shanna’s brow furrowed. Her lips drew into a thin line. Her eyes narrowed. She held her breath. And she saw nothing. She punched the floor in frustration and then returned to her spaghetti, swirling it back and forth across her plate. She focused more intently and, to her delight, images formed in the red sauce and noodles. 

Shanna saw an ancient tree. Chunks of meat became rocks. Shanna’s eyes widened with excitement, and then bulged in shock as a wet noose squeezed tight around her throat, cutting off her air supply. She slapped at the reanimated hands tightening the intestinal rope that Babs had wrapped around Shanna’s neck.

   “I always knew you’d do something like this,” Babs mumbled, “So I had to have a protective spell of my own.” 

Babs yanked Shanna out of the chair. She peered over and saw the vision in the spaghetti. “Yeah, that looks about right.” She grabbed the carving knife and pulled Shanna out of the kitchen. 

   Shanna kicked and clawed as Babs dragged her from the apartment, using the length of her long intestine that Babs had also used to strangle Shanna. 

   When they were out at the old tree in the woods behind the apartment building, it didn’t take long for Babs to cut Shanna open and string her up by a length of Shanna’s own slimy innards. Once her work was done, the spell ended and Babs collapsed against the tree with her roommate’s corpse swaying in the breeze above her and a heap of Shanna’s intestines coiled on the ground beside her.

   The police never made sense of the crime, although the lead detective swore that he saw something in the pile of intestines strewn over the ground. It was an image that he couldn’t let go of, one that drove him to need to discover more, and set him on the path of holy divination, a path that would make detective Kyle Loring a ghoul of the night, gaining insight from the insides of each of his victims, but with each clue, each divine insight only leaving him wanting and needing more, forever searching, forever hunting, forever seeing, never stopping. And but of all the seeking and questioning, he knows that one thing is for certain: all the answers are on the inside. 

 

Book Birthday : HorrorAddicts.net Press presents…Clockwork Wonderland.

 

HorrorAddicts.net Press presents…Clockwork Wonderland.

HorrorAddicts.net Press presents…

Clockwork Wonderland.

Clockwork Wonderland contains stories from authors that see Wonderland as a place of horror where anything can happen and time runs amok. In this book you’ll find tales of murderous clockworks, insane creations, serial killers, zombies, and a blood thirsty jabberclocky. Prepare to see Wonderland as a place where all your worst nightmares come true. You may never look at classic children’s literature the same way again.

Edited by Emerian Rich
Cover by Carmen Masloski
Featuring authors:

Trinity Adler
Ezra Barany
Jaap Boekestein
Dustin Coffman
Stephanie Ellis
Jonathan Fortin
Laurel Anne Hill
N. McGuire
Jeremy Megargee
James Pyne
Michele Roger
H.E. Roulo
Sumiko Saulson
K.L. Wallis

With Foreword by David Watson

Hatter’s Warning by Emerian Rich

Starting off with a poem from the Mad Hatter who warns us, our time is running out and Alice the queen of Wonderland is after our heads and our souls.

Jabberclocky by Jonathan Fortin

A drunken clock repair shop owner and his abused son receive a visit form the Mad Hatter who has an evil plan to bring a murderous Jaberclock to life. Only the Cheshire Cat can save the day or is he as mad as the Hatter?

Hands of Time by Stephanie Ellis

The Queen of Heart’s executioner and timekeeper are looking for an apprentice and a new set of hands to kill and kill again to run the queen’s clock.

Clockwork Justice by Trinity Adler

With only one day and two clues, a bloody torn card and carrot tarts, Alice fights to prove she’s innocent and avoid losing her head to the Red Queen’s executioner.

My Clockwork Valentine by Sumiko Saulson

Unlike the White Rabbit, Blanche Lapin does not carry her timepiece in her pocket, but in her chest. It’s a Victorian-era clockwork pacemaker and if it’s not wound every forty-eight hours, she will die. When the key is stolen, the thief who has it will let her die if she doesn’t declare her love and stay with him forever.

Blood will Have Blood by James Pyne

There are many Wonderlands and a young woman is trapped in one where she is expected to be the new Alice. It’s a place where the rivers are filled with corpses and that’s not even the worst of it. The only way out is by wearing a clock necklace that needs blood for fuel, but what happens if it runs out?

Midnight Dance by Emerian Rich

Wonderland is being overrun by zombies. Mr. Marsh and The Mad Hatter are in a race against time to jam up the clockmaker’s clock and stop the undead apocalypse. If they can’t the apocalypse will start over and over as the clock strikes one.

A Room for Alice by Ezra Barany

When Alice is locked in a blood-splattered room and poisoned by D, she must behead the Queen of Spades within fifteen minutes in order to get the antidote. Can Tweedle help, or is he part of the problem?

Frayed Ears by H.E. Roulo

Caught in a child’s fever-fueled dream, The White Rabbit, The Scarecrow, and other storybook characters soon discover that story time is coming to an end and maybe so are they.

King of Hearts by Dustin Coffman

A prequel story to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, this tale explains how the Queen became mad, and why she hates the name Alice so much, though it has nothing to do with the real one.

Riddle by N. McGuire

A steampunk take on the infamous tea party, with a killer twist.

Tick Tock by Jaap Boekestein

To hear him tell it, a heroic wild card fights against the usurper Alice and puts Mary—the true Queen Of Hearts—on Watch World’s throne. Is that what’s really going on?

Gone a’ Hunting by Laurel Anne Hill

Alease goes rabbit hunting, but she’s the one caught in a place where she will have plenty of time to think about what she’s done.

The Note by Jeremy Megargee

Cheshire Cat tells a story about the changing, horrifying world of Wonderland and why he has to leave it.

Half Past by K.L. Wallis

A woman follows a mysterious man though the subway and travels back in time to the late 1800s, where she finds that instead of the patriarchal norms of the past, she is in a Wonderland where women are the superior sex and moral boundaries cease to exist.

Ticking Heart by Michele Roger

A woman on a train goes to visit Alice in a war-torn steampunk Wonderland, which is very different than the one we know.

To read the full story and more Clock-inspired, Alice Horror, check out Clockwork Wonderland.

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: While We Sleep

 

 

Plotline:

After observing a hauntingly familiar abnormal CAT scan of a 13 year old girl, radiologist Nina Evanko battles to find the source of the young girl’s sleeping disorder. What she discovers is darker and stranger than she could have imagined.

Genre: Horror

Original Language: English

Director: Andrzej Sekula

Producer: Brian Gross, Yuriy Karnovsky, Yuriy Prylypko, Rich Ronat Writer: Brian Gross Release Date (Streaming): Sep 30, 2021

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

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

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

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

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

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

Odd and Dead Ends : Up and At ‘Em/ The Skeleton Fight in ‘Jason and the Argonauts’

There are a myriad of skeletal monstrosities in film and TV, from the bodies in the pool in Poltergeist, to the musical mayhem of the Danse Macabre in Disney’s Silly Symphonies, and Doctor Who’s skeleton in a spacesuit from the Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead two-parter. Even Scooby-Doo’s laughing alien skeleton is enough to give anyone nightmares. But for me, the best of the best comes from the 1963 film Jason and the Argonauts, with its legendary skeleton fight sequence.

            Mixing live-action and stop-motion, Jason and his fellow adventurers have almost made off with the mythical Golden Fleece. It’s just a shame that the magician of the land invokes the gods, and with a whizz of magic, scatters some bones which grow into seven deadly skeletons. The Children of the Hydra’s Teeth ascend from the cold ground with swords and shields in hand, ready to do battle. It’s up to our heroes to fight them off and try to escape with their lives, and the fleece, intact.

            All of the creature effects were designed and created by the legendary Ray Harryhausen. Harryhausen was the stop-motion animation genius, responsible for many of the classic monsters of the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s. After his initial success on Mighty Young Joe, he went on to create creature and monster effects for films such as Clash of the Titans, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, and Earth vs The Flying Saucers, as well as The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, a film inspired by Ray Bradbury’s short story, ‘The Foghorn’, and in turn directly inspired the creation of Godzilla.

            In order to allow the real actors to fight with stop motion puppets only a few inches tall, the actors would carefully choreograph their exact movements with stunt doubles playing the skeletons. These doubles would then be absent when the cameras rolled, and the actors would perform one side of the fight from muscle memory, fighting air, miming the duel. Afterward, this footage would be projected onto a screen in Harryhausen’s workshop, where he would then line up his own camera and the creatures, pose them just right against the background to make it look as if the actors and the creatures were the same height, and snap a photo. After that, onto the next frame.

            The skeleton fight reportedly took up to four months to complete for just a several-minute sequence, all seven skeletons requiring precise actions, moved just the right amount to create as smooth a movement as possible. Because they’re real figures, we get real light on the bones, as opposed to modern CGI attempts, so it all feels tactile and real. The lighting and creature design gives them deep black eyes which the light never hits, and a ridge above the eyes like eyebrows. They end up with a menacing, sneering quality, which when combined with their mouldy bones and slightly open jaws, one gets the distinct sense that they’re enjoying the slaughter and the fighting. They’re not just re-animated corpses; they’ve got brains, sense, purpose, and thought behind them. You forget they’re puppets only a few inches tall, and suddenly it’s the undead fighting our brave heroes in Ancient Greece, outnumbered, three men against three warriors who can’t ever die.

            Their characterisation really sells the illusion. At first, they slowly advance on the heroes as a pack, creeping forward, pushing them back inch by inch. And then a piercing screech and they all lunge forward. Each has their own unique shield design, helping us to identify each one, and they all have their own movements and moments of action. It’s not mindless animation; the whole thing is thought out and prepared. They have their heads knocked off (animated in mid-air using braces and strings), and on occasion they leap into the air across ruins and bodies with bloodied swords, leaving the ground as that extra convincer that they’re not puppets mounted on the floor.

            To finally top it all off, not all of our heroes survive the encounter. There is nothing like a body count to let the audience know that nothing’s off-limits, that danger is here, and that these animated frames of the dead can do damage. It all combines to sell the illusion. Every little thing which can be done has been done, and it all works seamlessly to create arguably the scariest skeletons ever put to screen, and certainly the scariest fighting undead not in a horror movie. Jason and the Argonauts is a classic that’s inspired filmmakers such as Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson, and Tim Burton, and its danse macabre finale is not one to be missed.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter/Instagram: kjudgemental

Free Fiction : Seeing Out the Monkey by Ann Folks

Alice showed me into the Medical Sciences Research Institute. The pouring rain outside ran in sheets down the floor-to-ceiling windows. Lightning flashed far away in the dark sky.

She handed me a key card and we walked to the elevator that went down to my janitor’s closet in the subbasement. Taped on the back of the door was a calendar and newspaper clipping about the previous janitor that just retired on his 67th birthday, October 1, 2021.   “No more crazy monkeys!” was scrawled across the calendar.  

     Upstairs, Alice explained, “You are almost the only one in the building, the other cleaner quit already.  Phillip works on the animal cages on the       top 3 floors. Your card won’t work on those, put his phone number into your phone. When you need to clean those floors, call him and he’ll               unlock the doors. So just pull the trash, push in the chairs, questions?”

     “Do the keypads on the swipe boxes have codes?”

     “Only for an emergency. Do the month and year, so this being October, the code would be 1021. Again, the top three floors have a different,              longer code. Only Phillip knows it, don’t try to guess, three wrong tries, and you’re locked out or in, depending on where you are. “

     “Leaving…”.  And she was gone. 

Pushing in the chairs was easy, pulling the trash, was somewhat difficult. Some of the trash cans were overflowing. These labs hadn’t been cleaned for days. The lights flickered; beeping came from some of the equipment. On the 7th floor, scurrying footsteps of animals upstairs rattled.  The storm grew closer, the lightning lit up the lab.  I called Phillip. He answered panting.

     “Yeah?” 

     “Hi, I’m the new cleaner and …”

     “On my way down”. He hung up. 

A thirty-something man, of large build, with a limp, walked out of the elevator. He was sweating.

     “Look, I have a situation with Nero. Here’s my card. Just open the doors as you need them.  But do NOT come up to 10.  Nero always acts                freaky during storms, but this one is the worst.  They adjusted his meds and he’s almost uncontrollable.  I’ll find you when I get him back into        his cage.”

He turned around and got back on the elevator. 

     “Remember. Stay off 10”.  The doors closed.

***

On 8, the lights were out. I turned on my phone flashlight. Cockroaches and mice scurried into dark corners.   Puppies and kittens with electrodes attached to their heads whimpered and mewed.  Water was dripping somewhere. Lightning illuminated the lab. I screamed when suddenly something jumped on me, and claws dug into my back. It was just a cat, as scared as I was. It jumped off. I ran out of the lab.

On 9, still dark. Lights flickered on and off.  Open cages were perched on stainless-steel tables, but no animals.   

I was happy to be finished.  I turned to leave the room when I heard Phillip scream from above on 10, the forbidden floor. Another scream emanated from upstairs, furniture was being overturned and something crashed to the ground.  In the elevator, I pushed 10. I had to see if I could help Phillip.

When the elevator doors opened, it took a minute for my eyes to focus. Blood was everywhere. Bleeding from a large wound on his thigh, Phillip sat propped by a desk.  A monkey with a prosthetic leg and one real and one fake eyeball was staring, grinning wickedly, blood dripping from his mouth. I saw a cabinet with glass doors and fruit inside. I threw some grapes at Nero. He ate the grapes, staring back and forth at us. 

     Phillip said, “he’s going to kill us.”

I tiptoed towards Phillip, past Nero. He kept staring at us, back and forth.

I used rags from my cart to try to stop the bleeding. We struggled into an office and locked it. 

     “I’ll call the police and wait with you”. 

      Phillip whispered. “No, you have to let them in. No access.”

      I asked, “Why is Nero so crazy?”

      Whispering again, “Afraid of lightning. The code, it’s his ‘rith day”

He passed out.

I dialed 911.

***

Outside of the office, I blocked the door with a desk.

Lighting flashed again, the room went dark, and uneven footsteps and screeches followed me. 

 I screamed when Nero suddenly jumped on my back. His hand reached around and yanked at the key card from behind. The lanyard started to cut off my air. Searing pain shot through my shoulder as his teeth sunk into my collarbone.  Still screeching, he bit the lanyard and it snapped off my neck, letting me take a deep breath. His jaw moved down to my forearm and spinning around I slammed him against the block wall. He fell down.

I ran to the stairwell and found the code box. I had three tries. I tried today’s date, nothing. The newspaper clipping said he retired on 10/01/2021. Nothing. He was 67. 10/01/1954. It clicked and flashed green, and the door to the stairwell unlocked.  

A searing pain shot through my other shoulder. He was on my back and wouldn’t let go. I ran down the stairwell, slamming him into the walls, the railings, even the steps when I fell. He still wouldn’t let go. Finally, I saw his head leaning way over my shoulder as if he was trying to see where he was going. I ran towards the wall at the 4th floor landing and cracked his head as hard as I could into the block wall. He went limp and fell from my body. I picked him up and threw him down the rectangular hole the banister made down the levels. He landed with a metallic thud on the concrete below. 

I limped as best as I could to the front doors and let waiting police in. They found Phillip, they loaded us in the ambulance. 

It’s the last time I’ll work in the same building as a monkey. 


 

Ann Folks is a beginning writer and so far has only entered her stories into writing contests. I really liked this one and it’s been entered into a contest but it didn’t place. I got some decent reviews on it so I tweaked it and I’m submitting it here to see if I get some good input. All comments are welcome.

Terror Trax: Interview with Amulet by William Zimmerman

  1. Where did the project name, Amulet come from?

Stephanie Stryker: I’ve always wanted my band to be called Amulet. It’s mystical, fancy, and mysterious.

  1. Who are your main inspirations?

MJ Phoenix: Punk, new wave, reggae, and funk genres. Also, Stephanie herself.

SS: NIN and Manson are in my musical DNA, along with goth classics like Sisters of Mercy.

  1. What non-musical things inspire your music?

MJ: Heartbreak, each other, despair, general dissatisfaction, darkness.

SS: Beauty in darkness, esotericism, and occultism. Mysteries of the unknown and exploring those topics.

  1. What actor/actress could you most identify with? Why?

MJ: Leonardo DiCaprio he’s a great environmental advocate.

SS: She’s just a character, but Lily Munster. I love her dark housewife lifestyle and she cared deeply for her family and home. She’s got that take-no-shit sass to boot!

  1. Where was the coolest place to play? Where did you enjoy yourselves the most?

MJ: Small venue with a packed house and good vibe. Public Bar Live in DC was great, so was Ottobar in Baltimore.

SS: 100% agreed with MJ. The vibe of a crowd enjoying the music is the best part of a venue.

  1. What are your favorite horror movies?

MJ: Nosferatu. Not a horror movie, but I love Cat People.

SS: I love witch, occult, ghost, and vampire-themed movies. I also love all the dark fantasy classics with Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, and friends.

  1. What was the scariest night of your life?

MJ: When I was marooned on a roof rack of a speeding car going between Nepal and Katmandu. Long story…

SS: I saw Limp Bizkit in 1999 and was very close to dying in a mosh pit. Thankfully, someone pulled me out, but I lost my JNCOs and chain wallet to the pit. Can this story be any more 90’s?!

  1. If you could bring back greats who have passed on, who would be your undead opening band?

SS: David Bowie and Type O Negative, but we’d be okay opening for them ;).

  1. Final thoughts / Anything you want to tell the Horror Addicts?

MJ: If you feel like writing a song, do it! Go with your inspiration.

SS: Be true to yourself. Authenticity is so valuable and it helps people relate to you.

Join our mailing list and follow us on social media to get updates on upcoming events and releases. We are coming out with new music, photography, music videos, live shows, and more.

Our website is amulettheband.com, and follow us on Instagram and Facebook at @amulettheband.com

(Fan contacts…)

Website/Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Bandcamp?

Music video for our track Vampire:

Interview with Eugen Bacon by Renata Pavrey

 African-Australian writer, Eugen Bacon, whose works span across prose and poetry, fiction and non-fiction, talks to book blogger and staff writer Renata Pavrey.

 As part of the upcoming release of her latest book, Mage of Fools, I got the chance to interview author Eugen Bacon, thanks to the publishing house Meerkat Press. I have read and loved other books from this publisher that specializes in speculative fiction, and had also interviewed Bacon about her previous books. Here, I get to talk to her about her newest dystopian novel that revolves around storytelling.

        From the blurb:

       In the dystopian world of Mafinga, Jasmin must contend with a dictator’s sorcerer to cleanse the socialist state of its deadly pollution. Mafinga’s malevolent king dislikes books and, together with his sorcerer Atari, has collapsed the environment to almost uninhabitable. The sun has killed all the able men, including Jasmin’s husband Godi. But Jasmin has Godi’s secret story machine that tells of a better world, far different from the wastelands of Mafinga. Jasmin’s crime for possessing the machine and its forbidden literature filled with subversive text is punishable by death. Fate grants a cruel reprieve in the service of a childless queen who claims Jasmin’s children as her own. Jasmin is powerless—until she discovers secrets behind the king and his sorcerer.

Renata: Hi Eugen, Congratulations on the release of your latest book. You have written The Road to Woop Woop – a collection of short stories, and Speculate – a co-creation of vignettes with Dominique Hecq. Mage of Fools is a dystopian novel. What’s your experience switching between writing forms and styles?

Eugen: I’ve always found it natural to switch mid-text across forms and genres, wearing different faces, hats, and cloaks.  I think it’s because of the immersion I find in writing, and our world is not black and white. I love experimentation, bending boundaries. I tend to resist boundaries that restrict text, and I approach a work with an openness to how a story may morph and shape itself. 

One of my recent stories is a blend between a short story and a script. Some of my short stories have prose poetry hidden in them. Some of my novels have short stories hidden in them. Some of my creative nonfiction—like ‘Inhabitation: Genni and I’ (Sydney Review of Books), where I talk to my other self, or ‘The New Seduction of an Old Literary Crime Classic’ (LitHub), where I pay homage to Peter Temple—integrates excerpts of fiction or poetry in it. 

I love the fluidity of text, as a literary enthusiast, Roland Barthes would have it.  

Renata: Your books fall under the umbrella of speculative fiction – alternating science fiction, fantasy and horror. Is there a genre you prefer, both as a reader and writer?

Eugen: My favourite genre is literary speculative fiction, where imagination is the limit. An introduction to my upcoming collection, Chasing Whispers by Raw Dog Screaming Press, describes my work as ‘towards an Afro-irreality’. Except for a time travel novel (Secondhand Daylight) that I am co-writing with a European slipstream author, Andrew Hook, I never start a story thinking that this is going to be science fiction, fantasy, or horror. 

Renata: Stories occupy an important place in Mage of Fools, where reading is banned and characters try to sneak in their daily dose of storytelling. The novel is peppered with the names of authors. Who are your favorite authors? Any favorite books you would recommend?

Eugen: I was only recently talking about Anthony Doerr and look forward to reading his latest historical and speculative fiction Cloud Cuckoo Land. Peter Temple’s dialogue is genius. 

And Toni Morrison is subversively in Mage of Fools, where I imagine her language in my stories. Anyone who hasn’t read all this Nobel prize-winning author’s fiction is missing big time. 

I am inspired by selfless people, like Nelson Mandela, who give of themselves so generously. 

I also have on my reading list a hardcover copy of Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, written by Octavia Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy, illustrated by John Jennings.  

Renata: When writing speculative fiction, what goes into world-building? How do you balance imaginary scenarios with real-world issues; the new with the familiar?

Eugen: The reader must find familiarity in the worlds we create, however strange, through the nature of our worldbuilding, whose intent is to demystify. Credibility is a necessity in any imaginary world. 

It all depends on the size of the story, its nature or setting, where it wants to take me, to determine whether it is a primary world (that resembles our real world) or a secondary world (mostly invented and dissimilar from our real-world). 

But even in a secondary world, an author may want to introduce themes and issues pertinent in our world today, and how the protagonists in those invented worlds deal with them. This is the author as an agent of change.   

Renata: Your writing is often poetic and lyrical, starkly contrasting the dark themes explored. Is this merging of prose and poetry deliberate, or does the narrative lead you?

Eugen: The narrative talks itself, the characters guiding it. Language is important and, in my mind’s eye, is always the musicality of the text. 

Renata: The cover of Mage of Fools mixes the traditional with the futuristic. Could you tell us about the story behind the cover?

Eugen: Ask the publisher, Tricia Reeks of Meerkat Press! She’s the closet designer, discovering herself. She asked for my art preference, and I said something African, maybe a mask. 

Renata: Thank you, Eugen, for taking out time for this interview. We wish you all the very best with Mage of Fools, and other books that follow.

Eugen: The pleasure is entirely mine. 


About the author: 

Eugen Bacon is African Australian—her books Ivory’s Story, Danged Black Thing, and Saving Shadows are finalists in the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) Awards. Eugen was announced in the honor list of 2022 Otherwise Fellowships. She has won, been longlisted or commended in international awards, including the Foreword Indies Awards, Bridport Prize, Copyright Agency Prize, Horror Writers Association Diversity Grant, Otherwise, Rhysling, Australian Shadows, Ditmar Awards, and Nommo Awards for Speculative Fiction by Africans. Eugen’s creative work has appeared in literary and speculative fiction publications worldwide, including Award-Winning Australian Writing, BSFA, Fantasy Magazine, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Bloomsbury Publishing, and Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction. New releases: Danged Black Thing (collection), Saving Shadows (illustrated prose poetry). In 2022: Mage of Fools (Meerkat Press), Chasing Whispers (Raw Dog Screaming Press) and An Earnest Blackness (Anti-Oedipus Press). 

Website: eugenbacon.com / Twitter: @EugenBacon

 

Free Fiction: Pockets of Posies by Nexie Maryln

Remember that one nursery rhyme Ring Around the Rosie? Well in this case two kids were in the woods when they heard the nursery rhyme through the wisping fall wind. Here is their story.

One day in October near Halloween, Lyla and Kyla were walking in the woods as the wind picked up putting an utter chill in the fall air when the twins heard a faint sound of a music box and as they neared the end of the woods the sound grew louder and louder so before the twins left the woods, they went exploring and found an old plantation style house was the source of the music. They ventured into the gate with a loud creak. The music stopped and they saw a little girl emerge from the broken door. She couldn’t have been any older than 4 or 5 years old. She looked very scared and was in ripped clothes.

     “Maybe she is homeless?” Lyla asked Kyla.  

Unbeknownst to the girls, the little girl Rosiee was the victim of a game of ouija board Ring Around the Rosie, where they summoned a demon who wanted to “play” with the little girl and her family. As they followed her in, they felt this unfamiliar feeling that made them uneasy. They ventured further into the home not trusting their gut to leave immediately.  Once they caught up to the little girl, they looked at the room and realized that they had fallen into a trap of the demon that possessed Rosiee. With her head cocked to one side, Rosieeand giggled as her eyes turned black and her face slowly began to slide off as her body grew two feet taller. By the time the girls turned to run Rosiee took the form of the demon that possessed her.

As soon as the girls got to the door it slammed shut, trapping the girls who were now cowering in fear. The demon rushed over to the girls and consumed them just like she had the family. 

So if you see three girls beckoning for you to come in. Run for your life before it is too late and you fall victim to the demons of Ring Around the Rosie. 

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Nexie Maryln is a short story author that wants to do this full time.

Free Fiction: He is Coming by S.Tierney

Under bough and moonlight, we bide, the twilight breeze fluttering the hems of our white cotton gowns. Behind us, staving the chill while preventing retreat, a semicircle of elders support burning torches, their grimaces of paternal anticipation veiled behind a portrait mask. 

Before us, awaiting us, beckoning us: a fruitless and endless and altogether lifeless density of brambles, an entwined jungle of octopus tentacle with talon-like thorns for suckers. The wind causes the vines to grind together, sounding a scratching akin to a butcher’s tools being sharpened – yet shortly we must attempt to achieve what the moonlight cannot. Upon the dimming of the moon behind a cloud we must penetrate this barbed mass, run headlong into its jagged crush without a moment’s hesitation, all in an attempt to reach the other side. 

This is the way of it–

And so we are away. Gowns flapping. Faces preemptively scrunched. The initial thorns cut the deepest, fangs puncturing, biting our momentum. Immediately we are lodged, imprisoned within nature’s chains. In animal reflex one cannot help but raise their hands to their face, fearing scars and lacerations and the likely loss of an eye. But this is a mistake. Although we are all virgins to this ceremony and therefore inexperienced, the best of us know instinctively that one’s hands are better put to use not in preservation but in parting. Reach for those brambles! Tear them from their roots! Yes, just as our cheeks, our palms will soon be glossy with blood, that loose skin between the fingers spliced from so much snagging; yet these torments must be ignored. We must hasten. Endure. Suffer. Clench. Scream if you must, cry out! But whatever you do, do not hesitate, not even for a moment.

For He is coming.

He moves faster than us, compelled by a purpose comparable with a predator’s lust. He carves through the brambles with all the impulsion of a stag trampling roses, following those paths of least resistance which we have so courteously made ready. Yes, we benefit from a head start, that interval between the thinning of the clouds and the returning of the moon; but He has strength on His side, power, size, and a rampant desire to capture those laggers who have fallen behind. 

Dare you look over your calloused shoulders you would see that His lumbering structure is barnacled with faces. Masks, to be exact, sunken wicker skulls with only a lacquer of meat depicted across the bone. Not only is His face concealed as per the elders; He is draped in masks as though a stone clustered with oysters, His ribs and shins and forearms and spine consumed beneath armor-like myiasis of haunted expressions, each more pained and repentant than the next. This spore of woven faces seems to cry out as He thrusts them through the brambles, the wailing mill of thorn against willow akin to teeth down a blackboard – not that He fosters any heed. The thorns are nothing to Him. He feels no pain. He only wills the chase. His chase. Our chase. With each stride, He surges faster, grows more determined–

Should you maintain the inclination to escape, you must do the same.

It is impossible to know how deep you are into the brambles – it is all one endless, seizing tract. You may have grappled through an acre or an inch of it, for an hour or a lifetime; and all you have to show is a gown torn to ribbons. Your flesh fares little better, gashed raw that it is. At least be thankful that you are still moving, still breathing, even writhing – which is more than can be said for your fellows…

Having previously been cocooned within a company as numerous as a flock of doves, now the flock is dissipating, His ravenous hawk bringing down you fledglings beak by beak. A begging squawk is stifled within the brambles, snuffed out like a candle. Moments later and out goes another. Then another. Between the vines, you catch a flash of cotton as it is snatched away, pale and bloodied. You feel yourself alone, isolated; you fear you too will soon be snatched, for you are freezing and fretting and all-but naked and exhausted to your soul – yet you must endure, just a little further. Another inch. Another lifetime. Look, the brambles are thinning. The light beyond them swells! Of this, you convince yourself if only to drown out the howling reality that He is almost upon you. Within the reflective beads of blood and sweat and dew and tears which cling to the vines ahead, you see His charging form glinting in the moonlight, unblinking eyes staring hungrily, bared teeth snapping like those of a pack of hounds. As though an extension of his wicker the brambles seem to harden, converge, wrap around you. The light…it is so close now. One final push. One final tolerance of laceration and suffering and-

You collapse to a bed of wild and welcoming grass, the brambles renounced behind your swollen ankles. Your breath is hurried, moist exhalations swirling around the smoke from the semicircle of torches which stand over you. An elder in a red gown lifts your head and presses a chalice to your lips. You swallow as best you can – the tart fluid bubbles over your chin. A mask, a robe, and a torch are awarded – and a second sip.

Thankful, you roll over and glance behind you; each indistinguishable from the other, His wicker masks peer out from the brambles, more innumerous than before. 

And then, in accordance with the moon, they recede.

____________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

S. Tierney is an author of novels, comics, and several acclaimed short stories – which have been translated into audiobooks – and the novella ‘Kin’. Find more of his work on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Scott-Tierney/e/B00J21D0O6?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1641651813&sr=8-1

 

Free Fiction: Wolf by JS O’Connor

You embrace me like two long-lost lovers meeting once again. But as I embrace you, I can feel you change. I release you but your arms are strong and I am trapped. 

“Please,” I beg. But you tighten your grip.

Your hands grab my arms. Your nails are daggers. I begin to cry. But I can’t look away as you show me your face. Gone are the beautiful green eyes. Gone is your handsome and soft face. Gone is your short blonde hair. Gone is the man I fell in love with. Gone is the man I married. Red eyes look at me now. A face like a dog, or coyote, or maybe a wolf look at me now.

Tears roll down my cheeks. I know what’s about to happen. “I love you,” I whisper. “I will always love you.” But you are silent.

Soon I feel your teeth enter my flesh. Blood runs down my chest. I look to a photo hanging on the wall. A happier time. A time you no longer remember. I try to speak your name, but I can’t. I struggle to breathe. The light begins to fade and soon all is dark. 

_______________________________________________________________________

 

 

J.S. O’Connor is a staff writer for HorrorAddicts.net who currently lives in Bettendorf, Iowa. He lives with his wife, three cats, and one dog. He writes during his free time.  you will also enjoy reading his “Spooky Locations” Features here on our blog.

Free Fiction: Last One Alive by Kiera S. Ray

On a bright and early Sunday morning in Chicago, everyone disappeared except one person his name was Bret. He woke up to silence and looked around with the strangest feeling that he was alone. He shouted “MOM” then “DAD” but no one answered.  The only thing he could hear was his heart beating with excitement. In the end, Bret didn’t know what was coming later on that day.

Bret was cleaning and decorating getting ready to throw a party he then called his mom and dad to see where they went, but the phone went straight to voice mail and then blew up in his face. His heart sunk. He quickly ran to the house phone to try again but the same thing happened, it went straight to voicemail.

Bret was frightened and quickly ran outside to see the streets empty.  All he could hear was silence. He freaked out but quickly calmed down so he could see what was going on.  He turned on the TV to watch the news. Nothing popped up.

Bret was starting to worry that he was the last one alive on earth. But then he thought to himself,  This is awesome!

Later on that day a zombie outrage would be happening and Bret didn’t know anything about it. Time passed and Bret decided to take a nap. He was woken up to a siren going off. He quickly got out of bed to see ships coming out of the sky with zombies all wanting his blood.  He freaked and quickly thought to block off all doors but the zombies were stronger.

Bret quickly ran out of the house, jumped his former neighbor’s gate, and quickly ran up the next street thinking he had escaped, but he only ran into trouble. The zombies had the whole street blocked off and the only thing Bret had was a knife that he picked up along the way. He started to kill the zombies and eventually he killed all of them with his strategic thinking.

Bret went to find a hiding spot but that wouldn’t stop anything because he was the last one alive so they could smell his fresh human blood anywhere. He went to an old cabin of his grandfather’s to hide there and was surprised to see his older brother Lucas hiding. With a disturbing look on his face, Lucas was rocking back and forth freaking out about what was going on and where is everyone? That’s when Bret told him that they were the last people on earth. Lucas’ mouth opened and he screamed in terror, “ THIS CAN NOT BE REAL PLEASE TELL ME THIS ISNT REAL”

Bret responded,

“I’m sorry Lucas but this is real and now is not the time to lose yourself. We have zombies to kill… “

They went to find weapons and they were ready to fight …

They went to find the zombies and started killing them brutally because they were fear-driven. Lucas didn’t last long before a zombie tore him apart. Bret saw it and broke down to his knees with anger and regret. 

He quickly got up and started slicing and shooting zombies one by one, but he wasn’t good enough and he eventually died a hero right along with his brother. During that time he didn’t forget that he left his precious home earth to a family of cold-blooded, killing zombies.

____________________________________________________________________________

 

Kiera S Ray is 18 years old and resides in Memphis, Tennessee. She recently took on a passion for writing short stories of any genre but loves romance stories most. She loves that we are taking a chance to read a short story she has written. We look forward to reading more and wish Kiera much writing luck in the future.

Chilling Chat Special: Simon Osborne’s Ghost Bus Tour

chillingchat

Simon Osborne was born in 1970 in Cornwall, UK, and started acting professionally in British TV at the age of 10. At the age of 17, he played Prime Minister Pitt the Younger in BBC TVs Blackadder 3. He appeared inSimon and Penny Osborne many productions before and after but is best known for Blackadder. Later, he studied history and has spent a few years working in heritage in Wales, UK. 

NTK: Welcome to back to Chilling Chat, Simon! Thank you for joining us today.

SO: Thank you.

NTK: You recently participated in the Ghost Bus Tour. Could you tell us what that is?

SO: Yes, it is in a few cities, but it was the London one my wife and I recently took a tour on. It is an old Routemaster London bus, but instead of the usual Red, it’s painted Black. These Routemasters all date from the 1950s and 1960s, but they were still in use when I lived in London in the 90s. Some still run in the centre of London. This one has tables and lamps. The destinations displayed on the front are changed to make them sound more frightening such as ‘Drowning Street’ instead of ‘Downing Street’. The guides are actors and give you a tour of Central London while telling you some of the ghost stories that are related to each historic place you pass. There are some electronic special effects, and the whole thing is very entertaining, but also informative. Johnny Depp once went on the London Ghost Bus and recommended it!

NTK: What was the name of the bus you boarded?

NecrobusSO: The London Necrobus which, according to the London Ghost Bus Company, was used to carry corpses across London at night until the 60s.

NTK:  Why? Was it transporting them to morgues or cemeteries?

SO: Yes, ready for burial, but I think that maybe just a story the company give to set the scene. Corpses were actually moved around London by train.

NTK: Wow! That is so creepy! Did you have to buy tickets to ride the bus? How do you join the tour?

SO: You should book in advance, the bus wasn’t full when we were on it, but at busier times it is full. You can book directly with the London Ghostbus Company or many of the online ticket sellers.

NTK: What was your experience like? Was it scary? Funny?

SO: It was more funny than scary. I knew most of the history the guide was telling people, but I did learn a few things too. One of the stops was at a hidden graveyard near London Bridge. I didn’t know about this before we went there. It’s called Crossbones Graveyard, and it was used from Medieval times up to the 18th Century. They buried people who weren’t considered good enough for ordinary graveyards, such as ‘Ladies of the Night,’ there. When it stopped being used it was soon lost, but in the 1990s when an extension of the London Underground was being dug, they suddenly came across bodies! Archaeologists from the Museum of London were called in. They discovered that this was the lost graveyard that they knew was near London Bridge but had been lost for about 200 years! They found about 150 bodies, but they think that is only about 10 per cent of them. It is now closed off by high railings, but you can look in through the gates.

There are also stories of ghosts, Jack the Ripper, and executions.

NTK:  Wow! Who was the tour guide? Was he the conductor of the bus?

SO: Yes, just him and a driver. He was very funny, and the special effects added to what was going on. It’s definitely more fun than scary, but you are learning real history, stories that are believed to be real ghost stories, and the lost graveyard was very real!

NTK: Could you give us an example of one of the ghost stories?

SO: There was one very funny one, which is supposed to be true. We stopped in a quiet but wide street near the Bank of England. Here, there had been reports from different people over many years of a ghost called Fanny who makes a scratching sound in the night. It all happened in just one building in a narrowGhost Bus Interior street just off the wide street called Cock Lane. Obviously, you can’t help but laugh when you realise that the story is known as Scratching Fanny of Cock Lane. It most likely didn’t sound as funny when this ghost was first reported a couple of hundred years ago.

NTK: (Laughs.) That is funny! You mentioned special effects before. What kind of special effects were used on the bus?

SO: We sat upstairs, and the guide gives his guided tour from the stairs. So, everyone can see him, there are cameras around the bus and a screen at the front. The speaker system is occasionally ‘taken over by spirits’ and you hear them speaking rather than the guide. You are also asked to carry out rituals to send them away. I don’t want to give too much away as you don’t want to know too much if you get a chance to go on one of these tours.

NTK:  How long was the tour?

SO: A little over an hour, maybe an hour and fifteen minutes. It leaves from Northumberland Avenue, just off Trafalgar Square. When the tour finished, we recovered by having a drink in The Sherlock Holmes Pub, nearby.

NTK: What was it like to drink in the Sherlock Holmes pub? Is there a lot of memorabilia in there?

SO: Yes, it’s full of Holmes memorabilia! I had walked past it many times when I lived in London, but this was my first time inside. I even had a pint of Sherlock Ale.

NTK: That’s great! So, aside from riding the Ghost Bus, what have you been up to lately, Simon? Any Simon Osborne Necrobusfuture plans Horror Addicts should know about?

SO: Still waiting for the Shadow Chasers series to be aired. As you know, I filmed an episode of that in Cardiff about four years ago, but it has been delayed by the Pandemic. I am about to start a business giving talks in historical locations. This will be mostly me dressed as a Victorian or Edwardian (which is how I dress anyway) and telling the history of the places and such things as the history of Gentleman’s fashions of the times.

NTK: Awesome!! Thank you for chatting with me about this, Simon!

SO: Thank you.

Addicts, you can find Simon on his website and on Twitter. And catch his first Chilling Chat here.

Spooky Locations : Joplin Spook Light

Joplin Spook Light

by J.S. O’Connor

Growing up in rural Missouri, I heard of all sorts of spooky locations: the woods outside of town when the sun goes down, a lonely dirt road at night, a bridge that is falling in on itself, and many abandoned buildings that are explored by the local youth. All of these can be spooky in and of themselves but none are quite as spooky or unexplained as the Joplin Spook Light.

The Joplin Spook Light, also known as the Hornet Spook Light, or the Tri-State Spook Light is a phenomenon that takes place along the Oklahoma-Missouri border on a gravel road near the small town of Quapaw, Oklahoma.

The Spook Light is a ball of light or orb that can be seen off in the distance with the size of the light varying. The mysterious light travels up and down the road or hovers high above the treetops. It has also been known to appear within vehicles or above passing people as they walk along the road. 

The origin of the spook light has rational explanations as well as paranormal ones. It’s easy to say that the light can be from the headlight of a car off in the distance or even a natural light from one of the nearby towns. But according to legend, the spook light was seen in the location before cars or any other man-made light brightened the area. It could also be explained as ball lightning or some other natural explanation such as electrical discharge. However, the oldest legend of the spook light is that of the spirit of a young Native American and her lover leaping to their deaths after eloping and being pursued. Another legend is that of a miner looking for his wife and children who went missing after being attacked by Native Americans. 

Whatever the explanation of the Joplin Spook Light or Hornet Spook Light, whether natural or paranormal, if you find yourself driving along a gravel road along the Oklahoma-Missouri border and see a light off in the distance, I wouldn’t stop and investigate. But again, that won’t stop the Spook Light from investigating you! 

__________________________________________________________________________

Work Cited:

The spook light: Joplin, Mo – official website. The Spook Light | Joplin, MO – Official Website. (n.d.). Retrieved February 18, 2022, from http://www.joplinmo.org/575/The-Spook-Light 

  

      

HorrorAddicts.net Press Presents: Two Book Birthdays Today/Horrible Disasters and Plague Master Sanctuary Dome

Horrible Disasters

hahdfront-coverA Horror Disaster Anthology
Available now on Amazon.com

HorrorAddicts.net proudly presents Horrible Disasters. Thirteen authors from around the globe share their visions of terror set during real natural disasters throughout history. Travel back in time to earth shattering events like the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D., the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, and the Winter of Terror avalanches, 1950. What supernatural events went unnoticed? What creatures caused such destruction without remorse? Stock your emergency kit, hunker in your bunker, and prepare for… Horrible Disasters.

Cover Art by: Thierry Pouzergues

Edited by: Larraine Barnard

authors:
Emerian Rich
H. E. Roulo
Dan Shaurette
Steve Merrifield
Mark Eller
Laurel Anne Hill
Timothy Reynolds
Ed Pope
Jennifer Rahn
Chris Ringler
Philip Carroll
Mike McGee
Garth von Buchholz

Proceeds to benefit Disaster Relief by way of the non-profit agency, Rescue Task Force.

Terror Trax : Dave McAnally/ SYS MACHINE – Interview by William Zimmerman

Dave McAnally is the main driving force behind electro-industrial acts, SYS MACHINE, and DERISION CULT and is an extremely prolific artist/songwriter.  Graceful Isolation is the title of the new Sys Machine album available via Bandcamp.  We’d like to thank Dave for his time in this short interview.

You are the main guy behind the projects Sys Machine and Derision Cult.  What are the differences in terms of themes, inspirations, and otherwise?

I’m the main guy behind both of them, but I have different folks I collaborate with.  Gabe Wilkinson from the band Microwaved is involved in various ways on both Sys Machine and Derision Cult.  Kimberly of Bow Ever Down does vocals on 2/3 of the tracks on ‘Graceful Isolation’ and I worked with a number of remixers for that.  Derision Cult really started as sort of my platform to comment on what I felt were big themes in society.  It’s not so much political as is sociological.  I spent a lot of years in the advertising industry and saw firsthand how public perceptions have been manipulated and how big companies will seize on moments and movements to harness anger and anxiety to sell more products.  

Particularly on ‘Charlatans Inc’ I felt like those were important issues to address- especially with what’s all happened in the last couple of years with the pandemic and political agitation in America.  Some of that is more coerced and less altruistic than it appears.  So that’s more me talking about the world at large.  Musically, it’s industrial metal.  It’s me fusing my love of all things thrash, punk, and industrial and I am always fusing other things like blues, jazz, rockabilly, and reggae into it – which are also things I’m really into.   Sys Machine is a different animal entirely.  It started life as experiments with different sounds, synths, and arrangements, and ‘Graceful Isolation’ is really the culmination of a few years of that.  It felt like the right time with the tracks that became ‘Graceful Isolation’ to step up a bit, work with new people and really make something of those tracks and turn them into songs.  I take inspiration from what some industrial artists from the ’90s were doing in the early 2000’s – Van Christie with Eco-Hed, Chris Randall with Micronaut, Mike Fisher with Amish Rake Fight, etc.   There’s some really excellent stuff that got made.  

Can you tell us more about the specific themes behind “Graceful Isolation”, the new album from Sys Machine? 

 Kim’s lyrics deal primarily with isolation, revenge through rising above situations and chasing dreams even when they feel unattainable.   My tracks are almost entirely related to what I was going through while we were putting the tracks together.   I’d quit drinking a bit prior to that and wanted to say something about what that felt like.  I don’t have any point of view about what people should or shouldn’t do in their lives or anything like that.  But the experience of giving that up and sort of looking at the world with a fresh sober set of eyes is pretty profound.  Anybody who’s given up something like that probably knows what I mean.  You see how a lot of notions you had about joys in life are really illusions brought on by whatever vice in question.  So “Drowning in the Past” is sort of a hypothetical conversation I’d have with myself if I could go back and tell my former self what it’s like on the other side of that decision and how there’s really nothing to be worried about.   “Illusions” is pretty to the point about all the distorted realities you can create for yourself in the service of a vice.  

Since this is a horror site, we have to ask some horror-related questions…  What horror movie character would you identify with most and why?   

 Ha!  I was literally just having a conversation with my daughter about all the classic Universal monsters.  Some definitely aged better than others!  But I used to watch those all the time when I was her age (she’s going to be 8).  Anyhow- I think I’d say I identify the most with Dr. Frankenstein (not the monster, the scientist dude).  In the 1931 movie- they sort of touch on how myopic and obsessive he is.  He gets pretty single-minded about his projects, to the detriment of people close to him.   I don’t want to go raise the dead or anything,  I’m definitely somebody who gets tunnel vision and hyper-focuses on things– be it in music or in business or whatever. 

Do you have any particular favorite horror-related films, TV shows, and so on?  

Oh man, we love Stranger Things in my house!  Not sure if that counts.  When it comes to horror, I’m a total occult/satanism guy.  I still think The Exorcist is one of the freakiest movies even till.  There’s another movie from the ’70s that never became iconic like that, but it’s called The Sentinel and it’s another one of those 70’s occult horror films that had to rely on practical effects to bring the scary.  It’s got that same “the older it gets the scarier it gets” vibe the Exorcist does.  But exorcisms, possessions, ghosts, etc– those are my jam.  My wife likes the blood and guts stuff like Saw and the demonic stuff keeps her up at night so we usually watch horror movies in separate rooms haha. 

What’s been the scariest time for you over the past couple of challenging years?  

Definitely when the company I was working at basically buckled under the weight of Covid.  It happened pretty fast because we were so steeped in the travel industry and that was one of the first to grind to a halt.  Anybody who’s been in that position of having the rug yanked out from you career-wise knows what that’s like.  Unless you’re independently wealthy or something things like how you’re going to pay for groceries or the mortgage or whatever, let alone plan for the future become constant stresses.  But like most of those situations, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  I ended up starting my own company and that’s been a huge success.  So much that I’ve since started another business that’s also coming together nicely.  So it was a scary time, but it had a happy ending. 

Thanks for your time.  These last words are yours.  

Thanks for the questions!  You can check out both Sys Machine and Derision Cult on Bandcamp, and we’re streaming everywhere!   Got a big year planned with new collaborations on both fronts! 

For more information:

https://www.facebook.com/SysMachine

https://sysmachine.bandcamp.com/album/graceful-isolation

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

William Zimmerman runs the blog noisebeneaththesnow.com and regularly does guest posts for the goth/industrial music arena.

Free Fiction : The Glubb by Brittanty Erickson

The Glubb

There once was a lady with no hair. She smoked 5 packs a day in front of endless Golden Girl marathons. She ashed on the couch, ashed on her carpet, her sink, her cats, the parrot ate butts as a snack. She loved to ash in her tub while she sat on the loo. She never used the tub, but once in a while, she’d pour the rest of her Old Milwaukee down the drain, which was clogged with food and ash. The smell was more than rancid. She would often see a mass move in the corner of her eye but always disregarded it as her own mind playing tricks.

She had no kids. Her parents had passed. But, this was more than depression and misery. A spiral of emptiness, a void. She began to think, “Why would anything be real?” 

With her cat snuggling her, fur matted with ash, she stroked his tail. She was laying on the couch, waiting for ‘The Price is Right’ to end. Then she heard a slurping sound. She ignored it as the building’s pipes were in bad shape.

In the bathroom, the mass began to grow. The parrot had disappeared the day before. She figured, “He must have flown away when I chucked out the cans.” She went to have another loo. Walking down the ash-ridden hallway, cancerous dust puffed from her feet. She angled her arm around the corner to turn on the light. It was covered in a moist, unfamiliar material. She reached for her smartphone and clicked the power to light the screen. She heard a loud POP and saw ash fall from the walls. 

“Grhhh-ggh,” came from the tub. She found herself unable to move when she noticed feathers plastered to the walls.

The mass continued down through her tub, into the lower pipes. A man was bathing below, getting ready for work. When he raised his razor to his cheeks, he felt a tickle on his foot. He jerked, cutting his cheek down to his chin. 

“Dammit!” He screamed. The bath began to fill with a black substance. Touching his cheek, he saw red, not black. The water became a dark grey and began to gurgle. It slipped into his pelvis and used his gut to travel through to his wound. The man felt dry, too dry to move. His skin began to shrivel, his hair fell out. The cut on his cheek began to ooze black.

The mass traveled back down the drain, searching for an exit. The pipes of this complex led to the sewer. Soon the city was to become monotone.

Frightened by the explosive amount of ash, the lady was in disbelief. “It’s not real, it’s not real,” she said to the ash. 

The lady laid back down on her couch. She stayed inside her home until she needed groceries 2 weeks later. She never ran the water, and lived strictly on diet-soda. She grabbed her one key and began her walk out of the door. No point in locking it, nothing to steal. 

As she walked, ash flew from her toes. It was such a normal, homely feeling.

It was unusually quiet inside the building, but outside was unusually loud. A gurgling, burping could be heard from the sewer grate under her apartment. She trembled and hugged her flannel jacket closer to her skin.  

She lived only 2 blocks away from her grocery stop. Instantly, she noticed the market had no employees. The food was starting to rot. There was a rancid smell coming from the shop doors. She grabbed a bag and started stealing cans and boxes of non-perishables. On her way back home, no one passed her, no one was walking across the street. She could only hear the “grubble-glubb,” from the sewer beneath.

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Brittany Erickson is a 30-year-old mom who enjoys writing stories and poems. She lives in rural Iowa, USA, always has.

Book Review: The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker

Review by Hailey Knoblock

What would you do if you stumbled across a puzzle box that held wonders unknown to man? Would you try to solve it? Or would you push your curiosities aside and leave it alone? 

Frank Cotton, a criminal sadomasochist, has been all over the world and is getting bored with himself and the desires that he indulges himself with. However, Frank stumbles upon Lemarchand’s puzzle box that has been constructed by a master craftsman and is persistent on opening it. Frank expected an insane amount of pleasure to come after opening the box. Instead, Frank got introduced to the Cenobites who are otherworldly beings that understand pleasure as pain and vice versa. Frank opens the box in an old house and the Cenobites come to take him away. A few months later, Frank’s brother Rory and his wife Julia move into the house. Rory thinks that Frank is on vacation somewhere.  However, when Rory accidentally cuts himself and bleeds in the room where Frank summoned the Cenobites, all hell breaks loose. 

I enjoyed reading Julia’s character arc throughout the novel. She first starts off as a passive but beautiful woman who is clearly not in love with her husband anymore. Once she realizes that Rory’s brother Frank never really left the house and is still there, her character changes to a more active role. Female killers always capture my attention and the way she went about picking up men from the bar and bringing them back to her home to kill them was awesome to read about. I feel like a lot of novels don’t go into depth about a female killing someone but Clive Barker gives great detail about the gore. For this novel to be published in 1986, Clive Barker was making bold moves by having one of the main female characters in his novel be a complete savage killer. 

I wish that the novel went more into the Cenobites lore and backstory. The whole story really revolves around Frank and Julia’s love for each other which is cute in a sick and twisted way. However, the film series Hellraiser does the Cenobites justice by expanding their backstory if you are interested in learning more about them. 

If you are interested in reading a book with lots of gore described in detail and a book that has an intense female character, then The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker is the book for you. 

Book Review: Primal Real Estate by Nicholas Walls

Hello Addicts,

When you have a land dispute, it is often best to have an attorney help with the arbitration. What happens, however, when there are ancient shapeshifting clans whose blood feud goes back centuries involved? It is the dilemma a lawyer named Jon Doe faces in “Primal Real Estate” by Nicholas Walls.

Jon Doe is a freshly-minted Harvard graduate who landed a primo job right out of the gate working for a prestigious law firm. His first assignment is to arbitrate between the Senate – a clan of werewolves – and the Court of Raptors over who owns an important property. Soon, Jon discovers a secret plot involving a well-respected and connected individual to take over the disputed property and leave both houses out in the cold. Being new and expendable, he finds himself in a no-win situation. No matter which side he decides on, he will most certainly be killed by the other. Added to the peril is a group of renegade shifters who want to kill Marc and keep both sides from claiming the property. Helping Joe are Magda, a decorated Senate war veteran, Selina, a high-ranking member of the Court, and Marc, a vampire and Jon’s old roommate from college.

I liked this story. There is a mystery to solve and other ingredients you expect to find in a story about warring factions, which made it a fun tale to read. Unfortunately, I felt Jon Doe played the “fish out of the water in over his head” part well. However, I also found him to be nothing more than a frat boy who relies on others to help him out of the jam or to do the work for him. It was the supporting cast who felt more endearing. I plan on continuing the series to see how their tales play out. I give it a three out of five.

You can order “Primal Real Estate” at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or from your local bookstore.

Until next time, Addicts.

D.J. Pitsiladis

Book Review: Whitechapel Rhapsody by Alessandro Manzetti

Review by Stephanie Ellis

5 stars

Whitechapel Rhapsody is a collection of dark poems by one of my favourite dark poets, Alessandro Manzetti. This particular collection sets itself in the crimes of Jack the Ripper and the atmospheric ‘personality’ of London’s East End.
As I read these poems, I thought about my own ancestors, from great-grandparents and back, who lived in this area. Whitechapel, Bethnal Green, Spitalfields, they lived in the most poverty-stricken streets of this time and would have experienced much described in these poems. The atmosphere of the East End leaching from Manzetti’s verse is a perfect marriage with the known history.

The East End was grim, a morass of the forgotten, of migrant communities, of people who lived in the “rhapsody of shadows, rats, and refugee”. Manzetti turns Whitechapel into a predator personified in ‘I’m the Lair’. It is the trap into which all fall, “the prophet of misery”, the “nest of dust, shillings, and sweat”. Reptilian, it is everything that beats at the dark heart of the East End.

Through his repeated refrain of “Deep Red, Deep East End,” (‘Bloody Rhapsody’, ‘Sick Rhapsody’, ‘Entangled Rhapsody’, ‘Madhouse Rhapsody’ and ‘Whitechapel Rhapsody’), he colours the shades of misery in the language of blood – the “Deep Red, Deep East End/the ghost with the razor, Death”.
‘Sick Rhapsody’ is the song for the syphilitic, the sufferers of tuberculosis and fever and their medicine “the liquour of melancholy”. In ‘Entangled Rhapsody’, with its mass of intertwined lives on intertwined streets, Manzetti gives Whitechapel a body, a place no one can escape. He delves into its dark mind in ‘Madhouse Rhapsody’ with “stories of asylums, green ghosts, and white brains attached”. He wraps it all up in the embrace of Whitechapel Rhapsody, the song of the people, “‘who meet by chance, to live or die”.

These rhapsodies fix you in time and place as Manzetti leads you into the story of Jack the Ripper and his victims. Weaving in historical fact, he sings the songs of Annie Chapman, Mary Ann Nichols, Mary Jane Kelly, Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes. He also reminds us of Alice Mackenzie, murdered by a possible copycat. Their stories are broken by other tales of the street such as The Butcher’s Shop and the infamous Ten Bells, of the world going on around these deaths. A nice touch are the almost Dickensian names given to everyday people such as Dr. Openshow, Mr. Neardead, Mrs. Askmore, Mrs. Lovelone, and Mr. Hackfate, which adds even more to the sense of time.
Manzetti finishes with ‘The Dark King’, the bringer of all that is horror, “the mud that takes a thousand forms and which can become, at will” so much: chainsaw, gasoline, obscenity and requiem.
With its truly lyrical quality, this felt like a dark love song to the East End of London. I think it’s my favourite collection yet from Alessandro Manzetti. I loved it.

Best in Blood: Lucifer Fulci

chillingchat

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

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

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

Lucifer won Best in Blood for Season 16. Here’s what he had to say after the announcement.

Lucifer Fulci: “Thank you from the bottom of my black heart for voting me best in blood for season 16. It’s a great honor as ever. I thank you. I love you.”

Please enjoy the following interview with Lucifer.

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

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

And then I went to sleep in bed with them

Since then, I have had the infection of horror.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It all depends on what inspires me…

it’s like…

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

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

So yeah…

All kinds of things…from another world.

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

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

NTK: What inspired “Blasphemy?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NTK: What is your favorite curse?

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

NTK: How about your favorite curse word?

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

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

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

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

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

Interview with Daphne Strasert – Wicked Women Writers Allstar Winner – 2021

Interview with Daphne Strasert – Wicked Women Writers Allstar Winner – 2021 – Interview by  Blog Editor Kate Nox.

NOX:  Congratulations Daphne, on being the Wicked Women Writers Allstar Winner of 2021! How does it feel to have your work honored in this way? 

Daphne: Thank you so much! It feels really great to have done well, especially against such a great group of competitors. I’ve come a long way since I did my first writing competition with Horror Addicts (The Next Great Horror Writer Contest in 2017) and I was happy to be able to share my growth as a storyteller.

NOX: Tell us a bit about your writing history. What made you decide to be a writer? What did you write at first? What are your proudest moments/ awards won/ stories published?

Daphne: I started writing when I was in high school. I wrote fanfiction at first but gradually realized that I had my own stories and my own characters that were waiting to come out. I finished my first novel, Lunatic, right after college. Joining the HorrorAddicts.net Next Great Horror Writer contest was a stroke of luck. That was where I wrote my first short stories. I’ve since had many short stories published (including in the last FOUR anthologies for HorrorAddicts.net!). Most recently, my story “Swipe Right”–about a werewolf on a date with a sasquatch–won an honorable mention in a contest for On The Premises (you can read it here).

Nox: Your winning story, The Blood of Sorus, is a great piece.  How did the idea come about and how long did it take you to write it?  

Daphne: The idea for The Blood of Sorus came about fairly quickly after I was invited to join the Wicked Women Writers All Star Competition. Brazil was assigned as my cultural component, so I researched various aspects of the culture, history, and environment there. I became enraptured with the Amazon Rainforest and how it seemed to have a life of its own. While the concept took only a few weeks to fully form, I didn’t finish the final draft of the story for nearly six months.

NOX: Reading The Blood of Sorus, I particularly enjoyed your descriptions of the dark temple and could feel the danger lurking. Do you have a secret for making such descriptions work?

Daphne: Especially with horror, less can be more. The reader’s mind is always able to fill in something far darker and scarier than I could ever describe. By supplying just enough details (the drip of the water, the rustling of the vines), I can suggest far worse things. In horror, the reader always knows that something scary is just around the corner. I like to make use of that preexisting fear.

NOX: I love your thoughts on the reader! ! Did you find any challenges as you wrote? Any stumbles along the way?

Daphne: In order to create the appropriate length audio fiction, the story itself had to be SO SHORT. The Blood of Sorus came out at just about 1,300 words, which is very little space to do the sort of expansive world-building that science fiction horror requires. The story just kept growing, wanting to be a longer work. I had to chop a lot of good ideas out to keep it the correct length.

NOX: Winning this contest secures your title of Wicked Women Writers ALLSTAR! What are your plans going forward after winning this unique competition?

Daphne: I am still writing, though I’m focused more on novels right now. I have a few novels close to completion that need editing before I submit them to publishers. Of course, I’ll probably write a short story or two as a nice break! Hopefully, those will be published this year.

NOX: Have you any advice or encouragement that would be helpful for new horror writers reading this interview?

Daphne: Keep writing! You have wonderful things in your mind just waiting to get out. The best way to get better is to write them down. No one writes something perfect on their first try. Find some writing friends who can give you honest, constructive feedback. And submit your work! You may not think it’s good enough to be published, but you would be surprised. Don’t reject yourself from a submission call if you feel you have something that fits.

NOX: Thank you for talking with us and congrats once again on being The Wicked Women Writer’ Allstar 2021 Winner. I  know you also have been a finalist in the Next Great Horror Writer Contest.  Tell us what’s ahead for you. And what else can we read of yours?

Daphne: Hopefully, the next big thing for me is a published novel! But until then, you can always read more of my writing on my website www.DaphneStrasert.com and follow me on social media as @daphnethewriter.

PROJECT GEN-X – AN INTERVIEW WITH REBECCA ROWLAND

PROJECT GEN-X – AN INTERVIEW WITH REBECCA ROWLAND

By Renata Pavrey

In a unique anthology of monster, folk, paranormal, and psychological horror as glimpsed through the lens of the latchkey generation, twenty-two voices shine a strobe light on the cultural demons that lurked in the background while they came of age in the heyday of Satanic panic and slasher flicks, milk carton missing and music television, video rentals and riot grrrls. 

These Gen-X storytellers once stayed out unsupervised until the streetlights came on, and what they brought home with them will terrify you. 

Featuring brand new fiction from Kevin David Anderson, Glynn Owen Barrass, Matthew Barron, C.D. Brown, Matthew Chabin, L.E. Daniels, C.O. Davidson, Douglas Ford, Phil Ford, Holly Rae Garcia, Dale W. Glaser, Tim Jeffreys, Derek Austin Johnson, Eldon Litchfield, Adrian Ludens, Elaine Pascale, Erica Ruppert, Kristi Petersen Schoonover, Rob Smales, Mark Towse, Thomas Vaughn, and Thomas K.S. Wake.

As a follow-up to my wonderful reading experience of the book, I interviewed editor Rebecca Rowland, for an insight into how Generation X-ed was conceived, created, and curated.

Hi Rebecca, Congratulations on the release of your latest book. How would you describe the experience of working on a project with other writers, versus individually writing a book?

It’s a completely different animal. In the first anthology I edited for Dark Ink Books, I included one of my own stories; I haven’t done that since. It’s too difficult wearing both hats: as an editor, you have to see the work through the eyes of the reader while simultaneously having the backs of the authors who have contributed to the project. With my own stuff, I just write what I like and rarely consider how readers might respond: I trust in the editor and the press owner to assess and dress it properly for public view. It’s much more exhausting to be an editor, unfortunately, but it’s even more rewarding on some levels as long as I know I’ve done right by those who’ve contributed their work.

Generation X-ed is a niche genre: horror stories set in the eighties and early nineties. How did the idea for the anthology come about?

A few years ago, I made a conscious effort to read and review more independent dark fiction. I also tried to break out of my (painfully awkward, typical writer-introvert-) shell and get to know some fellow independent horror writers. What I found was that more than three-quarters of those horror authors were my age: we shared the same formative experiences in media, music and culture. I was born smack in the middle of Generation X, a group I didn’t really understand the significance of until I was well into my thirties and forties. Now, I look at my generation and I realize, there are touchstones we share that helped shape us into the people we are as adults: the satanic panic, the latchkey phenomenon, the Challenger explosion (witnessed live in our classrooms), the emergence and disappearance of Mtv, and so forth. I happen to think our formative experiences are the most nefarious, which might explain the wealth of horror fiction that has sprung from Gen Xers!

The stories cover a range of horror sub-genres from psychological and paranormal, to comedy and sci-fi. Was this intentional, to feature stories across the horror spectrum?

The Renaissance of the slasher film occurred during Generation X’s childhood/early teens, and the birth of cable television and VCRs (coupled with looser supervision by our parents), made access to hardcore horror relatively easy. When I first conceived the collection, I did imagine it would be focused on the splatter and gore of that subgenre: the X lends itself so well to that, visually and thematically. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that our influences weren’t limited to slashers. Each of the authors chose an individual (real or fictional) who had an impact on him/her as a horror writer. The range makes me realize I did the right thing broadening the parameters of the fiction I wanted to include.

All the writers belong to the latchkey generation and have explored their personal experiences with movies, books, music, political and historical events from the era. How did you gather stories and authors for this project?

I wrote up the call for stories, letting writers know the word count range and that we were really only requiring two things: that the writer be a member of Generation X and that the horror story include something (subtly or otherwise) specific to the generation. As the submissions came in, I was pleasantly surprised: the caliber of writing and the uniqueness in story arcs made whittling the final count down to twenty-two very difficult. There were definitely some stories that it pained me to turn away, but the ones I selected all had one thing in common: they were exceptionally well-written, and they stayed in my head hours or even days after I first read them. I wish I could give a more objective analysis of why these twenty-two ended up together, but my best explanation would be it’s part luck that these gifted authors chose to trust me with their creations, and it’s part my own gut reaction. 

While readers born and growing up in the 70s and 80s would find resonance in the references, the stories are so well written and compiled to be enjoyable for everyone. Did you have a reader audience in mind while conceiving this anthology? As an editor, how challenging is it to cater to different reader tastes when curating a collection?

So far, I’ve been fortunate enough to curate collections where the focus has been something to which I am already drawn, and I know readers are going to choose a book based on whether its nucleus is something that already jives with their preferences. I know putting out a collection that appears age-specific is risky; however, one of the nicest feedbacks I’ve received from reviewers is my commitment to diversity in style and approach, and therefore, I’ve always kept that in mind when I am cutting down the “likely yes” pile to the final lineup. 

I am drawn to read anthologies myself because of the variety: I don’t expect to love every entry, and I don’t expect readers of the anthologies I curate to love every story. However, I never want a reader to find s/he doesn’t respond to multiple stories in a row. Even if the stories have a common thread, I take care to either follow one story with another from a completely different subgenre, or, if the subgenres are the same, make certain back-to-back tales utilize different points-of-view, or possess similar narrators who make very different choices. That way, there really is something for everyone. There are sly winks in Generation X-ed that will resonate specifically with those who are a part of the generation, but the heart of the collection, the things that creep and unnerve and scare the bejesus out of us no matter when we grew up, is what gives it life, so I hope everyone who enjoys good storytelling will take a look. 

Generation X-ed releases on January 26, 2022. 

Links to purchase:

https://rowlandbooks.com/generation-xed#f5bed466-d8ae-4abf-a6cb-8b7d887bb01c

 

Book Review: Tortured Willows by Angela Yuriko Smith, Lee Murray, Geneve Flynn and Christina Sng

Review by Daphne Strasert

5 stars

Tortured Willows bleeds, sobs, and howls with rage. The poems stab at the monsters who desecrate, they release spirits to deliver revenge and honour the memories of mothers and grandmothers. The words of these four poets – Lee Murray, Angela Yuriko Smith, Geneve Flynn, and Christina Sng – cannot be ignored. By sharing often intensely personal experiences of otherness, of suffering and prejudice, they reach into your heart and demand you listen.

The driving force behind these verses is the combination of cultural heritage, the definition of woman and the modern-day perception of the poets as ‘other’. Employing a variety of forms, – from sonnet to black-out to blank verse – the poems educate those of us who have been unaware as to the level of suffering of our sisters on the other side of the world. The notes provide further information, book, newspaper, document references to their histories and their realities.

Every poem deserves its place. Lee Murray delivers tragedy in Fox Girl and Exquisite and poignancy in The Girl with the Bellows. Geneve Flynn serves up anger in ‘Abridge’, the cultural practice of ghost brides in ‘Bride Price’, the fears of a mother for her son in ‘Unpicked Stitching.
Christina Sng brings up supernatural revenge in Flat, The Visit and The Last Bus, respect for ancestors in The Offering and the place their ghosts still have in our lives.
Angela Yuriko Smith develops the strength of women in Four Willows Bound, the traditions of the Ryukyuan in Onarigami and Her Hajichi, her sense of difference in The Nukekubi.

In theory, I would list every poem – they all have something to say. In lieu of such a list, all I can say is buy – or borrow – but do read – this extraordinary and eye-opening collection

In the words of Angela Yuriko Smith in her poem, Four Willows Bound:

Four willows stood bound
in their sisterhood, in strength —
unquiet, waiting

They are waiting for you.

Guest Blog: “The Asian Myths and Monsters of Tortured Willows”

“The Asian Myths and Monsters of Tortured Willows

Featured Author: Geneve Flynn

Southeast Asian mythology is much less familiar territory for many horror fans. While vampires, werewolves, and zombies are well-known, creatures such as the tiyanak, the penanggalan, the pontianak, and the nukekubi are less so. Does that make them scarier? Let’s dive in and see. 

  Tortured Willows is a newly released collaborative collection of sixty horror poems by four of the authors from the Bram Stoker and Shirley Jackson award-winning anthology Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women. Angela Yuriko Smith, Lee Murray, Christina Sng, and Geneve Flynn showcase some of these creepy critters in their poetry. In this blog series, we chat to each of the contributors about their monsters.

Please say hello to Geneve Flynn.

LM: Please tell us a little more about the themes you explore in this collection.

GF: There were a few things happening in the cultural and political spaces in Australia when I was writing my poems. There had been allegations of rife sexism, sexual misconduct, and assault within our parliament, and there has been growing fury at how gendered violence has been handled by the press, the justice system, and the government. Tortured Willows offered a place for me to express some of my own anger and frustration at our very “blokey” culture. I also wrote about my experience of racism as part of the Chinese-Malaysian diaspora. They were the some of the same themes I touched on in my stories in Black Cranes; but, in Tortured Willows, using poetry, I was able to explore these themes from different angles and in a more targeted way. 

LM: Your poem “Penanggalan’s Lament”, a favourite of mine, features one of the most gruesome creatures from Southeast Asian mythology. Please tell us more about her and what she symbolises in your work. 

“penanggalanfullj.jpg” by Kurt Komoda is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

GF: The penanggalan is a Malay vampiric creature that is thought to be a woman who accidentally curses herself with black magic in the pursuit of beauty. She is supposed to soak in a vat of vinegar and eat no meat for forty days. However, she breaks her fast early and becomes monstrous. At night, she detaches her head from her body, trailing organs as she seeks out newborns and pregnant women to feed on. 

I immigrated to Australia only a decade or so after the White Australia Policy was abolished. I was often one of the only Asian kids in school, so I faced racism and abuse. I spent a lot of my childhood and teen years wishing I had blue eyes and blond hair. The idea that you could damn yourself in order to look a certain way resonated with me. Here is an excerpt from my poem:

“All you have to do: soak in vinegar,

hide in a vat; no meat for forty days.

You’ll be blue-eyed, fair, perfect, regular.”

The girl agrees, wakes up, still in a haze.

She’s one of them, not chink: so white, all ways.

Goodbye past, so long; she’s full ABC.

But she forgets: each deal you buy, you pay

your life, if you want to have that body. 

 

LM: Hungry ghosts feature in your poem “Inheritance”, a text which I found both evocative and insightful. What are hungry ghosts, and how did you showcase them in your work? 

“The Realm of the Hungry Ghosts, Photo 6” by feministjulie is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

GF: Hungry ghosts are said to arise when a person commits an evil deed or suffers a terrible death. When they die, they are tormented by insatiable desire for the one thing they sought most in life. The hungry ghost has a swollen belly and a tiny mouth, and can never be fulfilled. I wanted to write about the opportunities denied to Chinese girls and women, simply because they are often viewed as only fit for filial duty. What does it do to a person to be continually told, no matter your potential, you are only good for one thing? Would it turn you into a wraith, forever chasing validation? Here’s an excerpt from my poem:

Was that when you first

began to swell? Your stomach

bulging and burgeoning,

swallowing the bitter,

the burden, the second-hands,

the not-for-yous? 

Did your mouth begin to draw 

closed like a miserly purse

when you were left behind,

your splendid mind with  

only hunger and no choice

but to turn upon itself?

LM: Thanks so much for introducing us to some of the mythology that features in your poetry. If you’d like to read the poems mentioned in this blog series, Tortured Willows is available from Yuriko Publishing.

Praise for Tortured Willows:

“It’s clear Murray, Flynn, Sng, and Yuriko Smith are nowhere close to finished sharing all of the poems within them, but this is a fine rare gathering you’ll want to revisit time and

again.”—Bryan Thao Worra, former President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association

“Women live with spectres gifted to us by our experiences. Tortured Willows breathes life into these shadows, reminding us that what has shaped us has not broken us.”—Piper Mejia, author of The Better Sister & Other Stories

“A haunting, harrowing exploration of obligation, expectation, and sacrifice, poetry as unquiet fury and a lens on both past and present. Told in four unique voices yet speaking for countless silent generations of Asian women, Tortured Willows grips you by the throat and screams into the night, demanding to be heard.”—Dan Rabarts, award-winning author of the Children of Bane series

“This collection of poetry, without a doubt, will forever remain one of my all-time favorites. No matter how hard I pulled at the reins, I could not stop until every last poem was inside of me.” —Cindy O’Quinn, two-time Bram Stoker Award®-nominated author

Tortured Willows

Bent. Bowed. Unbroken

The willow is femininity, desire, death. Rebirth. With its ability to grow from a single broken branch, it is the living embodiment of immortality. It is the yin that wards off malevolent spirits. It is both revered and shunned.

In Tortured Willows, four Southeast Asian women writers of horror expand on the exploration of otherness begun with the Bram Stoker Award-winning anthology Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women.

Like the willow, women have bent and bowed under the expectations and duty heaped upon them. Like the willow, they endure and refuse to break.

With exquisite poetry, Christina Sng, Angela Yuriko Smith, Lee Murray, and Geneve Flynn invite you to sit beneath the tortured willow’s gravid branches and listen to the uneasy shiver of its leaves.

LINK: https://www.amazon.com/Tortured-Willows-Bent-Bowed-Unbroken/dp/1737208334

Geneve Flynn is an award-winning speculative fiction editor and author. She has two psychology degrees and only uses them for nefarious purposes.

She co-edited Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women with celebrated New Zealand author and editor Lee Murray. The anthology won the 2020 Bram Stoker Award® and the 2020 Shirley Jackson Award for best anthology. It has also been shortlisted for the British Fantasy Award, Aurealis Award, and Australian Shadows Award. Black Cranes is listed on Tor Nightfire’s Works of Feminist Horror and Locus magazine’s 2020 Recommended Reading List

Geneve was assistant editor for Relics, Wrecks, and Ruins, a speculative fiction anthology which features authors such as Neil Gaiman, Ken Liu, Robert Silverberg, James (SA) Corey, Lee Murray, Mark Lawrence, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Angela Slatter. The anthology is the legacy of Australian fantasy author Aiki Flinthart, and is in support of the Flinthart Writing Residency with the Queensland Writers Centre

Geneve’s short stories have been published in various markets, including Flame Tree Publishing, Things in the Well, and PseudoPod. Her latest short story, “They Call Me Mother,” will appear in Classic Monsters Unleashed with some of the biggest names in horror, including Joe Lansdale, Jonathan Maberry, and Ramsey Campbell.

Geneve loves tales that unsettle, all things writerly, and B-grade action movies. If that sounds like you, check out her website at www.geneveflynn.com.au.

Free Fiction: Itsy Bitsy by Brandon Tanczak

The itsy bitsy spider went down the water spout, which is my shower head. I was going through my normal shower ritual; use the toilet first then shave. I like to shave before I bathe myself to wash off any hairs that would stick. The water runs warming up, steam starts to rise. I grab my toothbrush and paste, I’m a multi-tasker. Before running the shower I went to adjust the shower head and there it was. 

The itsy bitsy spider was hanging out above the shower head basking in the steam, maybe this was part of its shower ritual? I jump and drop my toothbrush and paste it into the tub. I caught my breath, why was I scared? Sure, it has more legs than me and pointy teeth that may or may not contain a venom that will paralyze me giving it the opportune time to lay its eggs inside my eyes! 

But I am ten times larger and the bigger we are the harder we fall. I did the only thing I knew to do. I ran and grabbed a shoe! After wrapping a towel around myself, of course, I am not letting myself be THAT exposed. Having eggs laid in your eyes is bad enough but even worse while being naked. 

I grab both shoes, you know just to be safe. I make a loud CLAP, spider sandwich hold the mayo. The crushed corpse falls into the tub, no egg-laying today! I run the water to let the corpse wash down the drain and proceed to shower. I bathe just like you one body part at a time. I lather my hair with my two-in-one conditioner/shampoo, I am a multitasker remember? I let it sit while I wash the rest of my skeleton sack I call a body, then move on to my teeth. Brush, rise, spit. 

Now, the final task of rinsing the two in one out of my hair. I turn the heat down and let the water cool. GLUG GLUG comes from the drain, I pay it no mind. I close my eyes and dunk my head under the cold water. GLUG GLUG grows louder, faintly heard over the rushing water. I keep my eyes closed and bask in the water and let myself melt. 

POP! The drain opens up and a flood of water comes through rushing over my feet. My eyes open and I see the water, must just be building up because I’ve been in here for a while now. I turn the heat back up, turn away from the drain and close my eyes again. I let the steam rise again. GLUG GLUG! Two very large, long, hairy, brown appendages come up from the drain and fight their way out. They extend and something comes through the drain and rises in the steam behind me. 

All of a sudden the water has stopped hitting me. I open my eyes and the room has now gotten darker. I didn’t hear the light bulb blow out, weird. Confused, I turn around, and standing over me I see is a ginormous, brown, hairy, wet spider. The bitsy spider is no longer itsy and now I have a reason to be scared. Not only does it have more legs than me I am one hundred percent sure those pointy teeth are venomous and now it’s ten times larger than me. 

The last thing I remember is its large brown legs wrapping around me. I woke up on the bathroom floor, the shower water is still running and the room is filled with steam. I have this irritating throbbing pain in my left eye and everything is blurry. Must have landed on my face.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Brandon Tanczak is a filmmaker and writer from Philadelphia PA.

He and his wife Jill run Jerks Productions, an art collective, and horror film production

team. Jerks specialize in an art-house style of horror focusing more on psychological

and emotionally driven characters and situations rather than blood and gore.

Guest Blog: “The Asian Myths and Monsters of Tortured Willows”

“The Asian Myths and Monsters of Tortured Willows

By Geneve Flynn

Featured Author: Lee Murray

Southeast Asian mythology is much less familiar territory for many horror fans. While vampires, werewolves, and zombies are well-known, creatures such as the tiyanak, the penanggalan, the pontianak, and the nukekubi are less so. Does that make them scarier? Let’s dive in and see.

Tortured Willows is a newly released collaborative collection of sixty horror poems by four of the authors from the Bram Stoker and Shirley Jackson award-winning anthology Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women. Angela Yuriko Smith, Lee Murray, Christina Sng, and Geneve Flynn showcase some of these creepy mythological creatures in their poetry. In this blog series, we chat to each of the contributors about their monsters.

Please say hello to Lee Murray.

GF: Hi Lee! Congratulations on your wonderful poems! Please tell us a little more about Tortured Willows, and what inspired you to create this collection.

LM: The response to Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women, an anthology comprising fourteen stories by horror writers of Southeast Asian descent, has surpassed all our expectations, so a second volume of some sort seemed inevitable, although perhaps not quite so soon! Nor had I expected that second volume to take the form of a poetry collection. Tortured Willows arose out of a discussion between you, me, and Angela Yuriko Smith not long after the Bram Stoker Award announcements. We were all still reeling about the reach of the book and the broader dialogue the stories had provoked, when someone (okay, it might have been me) suggested that a collaborative poetry collection might allow us to expand on, and even deepen, the dialogue introduced in Black Cranes through use of media other than prose. What if we were to write a collection of poems that explored the themes of otherness and expectation as they applied to our own diaspora? Perhaps we could reach an even wider readership? Angela, always effervescent, was wildly enthusiastic. Poet Christina Sng, whose novelette “Fury” (her longest work to date) features in Black Cranes, also felt she had more to say. You said yes. That’s when the terror set in. While I was thrilled to work with my Crane sisters again, I’m fairly new to poetry other than as a consumer of it, so what followed was one of the most intensely terrifying periods of my writing life. I was a fledgling poet with only around a dozen poems published previously. What did I know about writing a cohesive series of poems which might dovetail with work by experienced, acclaimed poets like Angela and Christina? But, keen to learn more about the New Zealand-Chinese diaspora as it applied to women, including in my own family, I dived in, using poetic forms and historic archives to structure and inform my work. I approached each individual poem as a tiny story whittled down to its bare bones. And of course, since Tortured Willows is a collection of horror poetry, it seemed as natural as air to turn to Asian myth and monsters for added inspiration.

GF: I loved getting a glimpse of some of your very personal experiences as part of the New Zealand-Chinese diaspora. Your poem “tiyanak” draws a comparison between being drained from the many demands and expectations placed on Asian women and the care of a grotesque vampiric baby. Please tell us more about this creature.

Picture attribution- ShareAlike 4.0 International CC By SA4.0

LM:  The tiyanak is a monster of Filipino origin, although similar creatures exist in other Asian cultures. The creature is formed when the body of a dead foetus or infant is inhabited by an evil spirit, or it occurs as the result of a union between a demon and a human. Often found mewling in the forest by hapless travellers, the tiyanak is an insatiable and vengeful vampire, appearing as helpless human baby at first, and later, when it has ensorcelled its victim, it reveals its true vampiric and parasitic self, even as it devours them. The creatures are said to have bloodshot eyes, pointed ears, and tiny sharp teeth. In some versions, they have elongated limbs and wrinkled old-man skin, which they shed in the same way a snake does. Author Isabel Yap describes the creature beautifully in her story “Grass Cradle, Glass Lullaby” in Margrét Helgadóttir’s gorgeous anthology Asian Monsters:

“I held you against my heart and let you rest there, and I could feel your red eyes boring into my skin, hear you hissing. I was afraid, but love is like that. Sometimes, it requires bravery, asks us to quell our fears. Your teeth! Your eyes—fire dancing! And the way all of your skin creased around your face, into terrible wrinkles…” (page 67).

Gabriela Lee is equally eloquent in her story “Rites of Passage” which appears in Black Cranes, describing the monster’s “red-rimmed eyes that do not have a speck of white—the entire sclera is firelight bright” (page116), its smile as “blood coated” (page 116), and its skin darked by the sun and some slick substance that seems to coat it from head to toe” (page 115). For me, the tiyanak was the ideal metaphor to describe the expectations placed on Asian women, who are socialised to sacrifice their own desires in favour of family and community, even to the point of death. This is a lesson I have learned well, so much so that I find it hard to say no. As a result, there are times when I’ll still be awake at 2- or 3am for nights on end, working on other people’s projects at the detriment of my own goals. I wrote “tiyanak” at just such a moment. Here is an excerpt from the poem:

innocence

it latches on

as ever

slivering flesh

to gorge on blood and milk

its tiny claws grip-grasping

tiny teeth rasping

feed me, feed me

GF: Such a chilling image, so perfect to depict how expectations can drain us dry. You reference another creature, the nine-tailed fox in “fox girl.” Where does this myth come from, and what does it symbolise in your poem? 

LM: The inspiration for my poem “fox girl” was Rena Mason’s gorgeous story “The Ninth Tale” from Black Cranes. Of course, I already knew of the shape-shifting fox spirit of Asian mythology (among them Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, Vietnamese) and the nine mortal iterations the creature must go through in order to return to the celestial realm as her true self, but Rena’s story was so beautiful and so imbued with magical folklore that I was inspired to revisit those tales again. In general, the fox spirit takes the form of a beautiful woman while still retaining some of its fox attributes: paws, ears, or even the tails representing the lives it has lived. Consider this first paragraph of Rena’s “The Ninth Tale” from Black Cranes, for example:

“The fox spirit straightened the skullcap, moist with blood, atop her head then stepped over the headless corpse from which she’d taken it. Her hind paws transformed into petite, human lotus feet adorned in pointy shoes embroidered with golden silk. This visit, her name would be Júhua, like the chrysanthemums woven in the fabric near her toes. The eight tails behind the fox spirit became long braids, winding themselves into intricate loops and circles, concealing the bone that aided her in keeping a human guise.” (page127).

The story, and my subsequent reading, got me thinking about how fox spirits are outsiders, women travelling through time and across lands while wearing another person’s skin, all with the view to achieving enlightenment and (hopefully) returning to their home in the heavens. I likened their journeys to the Asian diaspora in New Zealand, and I was lucky enough to secure a fellowship to write a short poetry collection on this theme. “Fox spirits are very lucky,” writes Ho Pham in Vixen. But that isn’t always true for the women whose form the creatures inhabit. As I dived into New Zealand’s newspaper archives, I uncovered some horrific tales about Chinese women’s lives here, and although I intend to explore the notion further, I was immediately prompted to write a poem and capture my reactions. “fox girl,” a terzanelle, was the result, the repeated lines intended to show the ongoing iterations of the creature’s lives and the common themes of otherness and persecution. Here are a few stanzas from the poem:

in a former life, in another time

a fox girl departs from the land of jade

in a former life, in another time

to a distant cloud where fortunes are made

nine obedient wives, all refugees

a fox girl departs from the land of jade

amid ugly tongues and eyes that won’t see 

one hangs herself in her husband’s kitchen

nine obedient wives, all refugees

*Watercolour by Lee Murray.

GF: Oh my goodness! I love both the poem and your stunning artwork. The fox spirit illustrates the diasporic experience so beautifully. 

Thanks so much for introducing us to some of the mythology that features in your poetry. If you’d like to read the poems mentioned in this blog series, Tortured Willows is available from Yuriko Publishing.

 ____________________________________________________________________________________

Praise for Tortured Willows:

Tortured Willows bleeds, sobs and howls with rage.”—Stephanie Ellis, writer and poet, co-author of Daughters of Darkness

“Thought-provoking, unapologetically brutal, and downright unsettling, Tortured Willows is a collection unlike any you’ve read before…and one you’re not likely to forget. Murray, Flynn, Smith and Sng have not just raised their voices, they’ve roared them into the pages, and the result is simply superb.”—Rebecca Fraser, award-winning author of Coralesque and Other Tales to Disturb and Distract.

“In Tortured Willows, the many veils of a woman’s heart are peeled back, revealing multi-layered petals of an aching beauty, rooted on a stem of vulnerable resistance.”—Jamal Hodge, director, writer, visionary

“This is a brilliant book, insightful and scintillant. Construed as a thematic sequel to the award-winning Black Cranes (the anthology edited by Murray and Flynn and containing fiction by Sng and Smith), it may also be viewed as a distillation. The theme is strong, but the lessons reach beyond it. Cutting across rhetoric and euphemism, Tortured Willows will hold meaning for whoever dares read it.”—Kyla Lee Ward, Bram Stoker Award®-nominated poet

Tortured Willows

Bent. Bowed. Unbroken

The willow is femininity, desire, death. Rebirth. With its ability to grow from a single broken branch, it is the living embodiment of immortality. It is the yin that wards off malevolent spirits. It is both revered and shunned.

In Tortured Willows, four Southeast Asian women writers of horror expand on the exploration of otherness begun with the Bram Stoker Award-winning anthology Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women.

Like the willow, women have bent and bowed under the expectations and duty heaped upon them. Like the willow, they endure and refuse to break.

With exquisite poetry, Christina Sng, Angela Yuriko Smith, Lee Murray, and Geneve Flynn invite you to sit beneath the tortured willow’s gravid branches and listen to the uneasy shiver of its leaves.

 https://www.amazon.com/Tortured-Willows-Bent-Bowed-Unbroken/dp/1737208334

Lee Murray is an author, editor, screenwriter, and poet from Aotearoa-New Zealand. She is the winner of 12 Sir Julius Vogel Awards, three Australian Shadows, two Bram Stokers, and a Shirley Jackson Award, and has been a finalist in the Aurealis, British Fantasy, and Imadjinn Awards, among others. Her work includes military thrillers, the Taine McKenna Adventures, supernatural crime-noir series The Path of Ra (with Dan Rabarts), and short fiction collection, Grotesque: Monster Stories. Other works include non-fiction title Mark My Words: Read the Submission Guidelines and Other Self-editing Tips with Angela Yuriko Smith, and several books for children. LitReactor’s Editor of the Year for 2021, Lee is the curator-editor of eighteen volumes of speculative fiction, among them Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women (with Geneve Flynn). She is co-founder of Young NZ Writers and of the Wright-Murray Residency for Speculative Fiction Writers, HWA Mentor of the Year for 2019, NZSA Honorary Literary Fellow, and Grimshaw Sargeson Fellow for 2021. Tortured Willows, a collaboration with Angela Yuriko Smith, Christina Sng and Geneve Flynn was released in October 2021. Read more at  https://www.leemurray.info/

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: A Christmas Carol (2019)

Thought Provoking and Mature A Christmas Carol (2019)

by Kristin Battestella

To allow himself rest in the afterlife, the deceased Jacob Marley (Stephen Graham) aides The Ghosts of Christmas Past (Andy Serkis), Present (Charlotte Reily), and Future (Jason Flemyng) in orchestrated a change for good in his soulless, corrupt business partner Ebenezer Scrooge (Guy Pearce). Scrooge’s bitter ways effect the health, happiness, and welfare of his clerk Bob Cratchit (Joe Alwyn) and his wife Mary (Vinette Robinson), but confronting Scrooge’s horrible life may not be enough to redeem the miser…

The 2019 BBC miniseries A Christmas Carol produced by Ridley Scott (Prometheus) and Tom Hardy (Venom) is a darker imagining of the perennial Charles Dickens tale with episodic chapters originally called “The Human Beast,” “The Human Heart,” and “A Bag of Gravel” airing stateside on FX as one three hour event. Director Nick Murphy (The Last Kingdom) and writer Stephen Knight (Peaky Blinders) obviously have more time to fill than the more traditional, idyllic, paired-down tellings. Rather than the same old saccharin “God bless us, everyone!” these days viewers expect television to bring on the relatable Victorian bitterness. We often glorify the past, but this A Christmas Carol doesn’t underestimate an audience intimately familiar with weighing every action by gain mentalities and who you know and how much money you have getting you anywhere in life uphill struggles, abuses, and humiliation. Urination, grave desecration, bastards, and F-bombs immediately set this adult tone before ominous winds, crows, eerie graveyards, and a frosty ethereal London 1843. Church bells, purgatory supernatural, and almost Shakespearean asides accent the six feet under coins on the eyes, and no rest in peace as hellish forges, chains, and swinging coffins invoke a much more grim penance. Phantom sleighs dragging the chained behind lead to echoes between the counting-house and the spirit realm. Rattling in the fireplace and cutaways to the point of view from an empty chair realistically lay the forthcoming between worlds – embracing the Victorian off-kilter faerie parallel rather than just a sudden, mere holiday intervention as is often portrayed. Time is taken in A Christmas Carol with handwashing a la Lady Macbeth and ghostly versus guilt-ticking clocks. Hypocritical analysis digs deeper than humbug archetypes, and great horror imagery sets off the familiar but transposed text delivered deftly and naturally without any try-hard ye oldeth. Villainous silhouettes grow darker when we get the famous workhouses, prisons, and let them die disturbing. Shadows and black horses take the place of the locomotive on the stairs as other animal kindnesses born out of cruelty and hopeful lantern flashes contrast the creaking gate and ghostly door knocker. While most adaptations have a quick start or only run eighty minutes themselves, here it takes an hour before we even get to the Scrooge and Marley encounter. This A Christmas Carol simmers and broods, for these apparitions have been a long time coming with thumps in the night, groaning houses, clicking locks, and guilty consequences. Chilling reasons for that scarf usually around Marley’s jaw become macabre shocks as A Christmas Carol takes the hallmarks of a story that’s tough to do wrong and runs with the one-on-one encounters, twofer deliveries, and fiery flashbacks. Faulty subcontracts and bribing officials led to bloody workhouse disasters, gas explosions, and coal mine collapses while Scrooge passed the blame and forged those symbolic chains.

The refreshing script simplifies the Dickensian wordiness yet we do get some of the sardonic undigested beef quips amid self-aware glances at the camera and eternity spent in a forest of abandoned Christmas trees and forgotten childhood memories. An act of kindness said to be given to someone in pain is rejected as the abused perpetuate abuse, dealing in greed and people as commodities. Those scarred mentally and physically by the cruel, cost-cutting overseers rightfully call upon revenge like a reverse It’s A Wonderful Life orchestrating this spiritual comeuppance. Snowfall and ash in the air mix as other realms and childhood fears merge with violent canes, creepy singsongs, and pets caught in the chilling crossfire in a house that can’t afford another mouth to feed. Hiding behind the bed curtains is used to frightful effect as A Christmas Carol shows what the book implies yet leaves nasty suggestions to the shadows. Hope, however, can be found small as a mouse, big as a camel, or even in fanciful book illustrations come to life to save a boy’s mind from his torturous reality. Unfortunately, people are only worried about themselves. Gifts are just unwritten debts and unprofitable affections. These spirits force us to relive the darkest moments of the picture we paint so we may unlearn the ills that have shaped who we are. Here A Christmas Carol feels timely and modern, layering the past with disturbing familiar faces and real-world terrors that harden a boy’s heart and break our Christmas spirit. Magical deflections, pleas to go home, and facing the horrors combine for superb duality and visualizations as children may or may not see spirits and two of the same character appear in the same place at once. Loom factories become massive calculators in an industrial fantasy hitting home the cold hard numbers. Tragedy for many is opportunity for the few, and that’s just good business to see pounds instead of people and exploit their weaknesses accordingly. Shameful humiliations done on Christmas Day are born not out of desire, but agonizing experiments testing the solemn limits of what good people will do for money. Viewers contemplate how far A Christmas Carol will go in examining the the value of human virtue, and Merry Christmas greetings are said for all the wrong reasons – justifying the prayers, warnings, and curses that one day the truth will look us in the mirror. Mining survivors unite in memorial choirs, and the poor make up the difference with happiness and love instead of itemizing priceless intangibles. Halos at the altar suggest salvation, but admitting regret or that love came too late to stop hatred isn’t enough against chilling figures in the dark, haunting drownings, cracking ice, and death shrouds. Tolling bells and heartbeats announce the fatal consequences as we accept our deserved fate. For all the spirited meddling, it is up to us to change and act for the benefit of others without expectation of reward as A Christmas Carol concludes in full Dickensian compassion.

The First Chapter of A Christmas Carol is excellent as is the second. However, when expanding such a short novella, the balance is bound to be uneven. Here Christmas Past is featured for almost an hour and a half – leaving twenty minutes for The Ghost of Christmas Present and only ten minutes for The Future. After such depth with The Past, viewers wonder why Andy Serkis just didn’t play one composite spirit? Upon moving on from him with only forty-five minutes left, suddenly this A Christmas Carol is rushed, running out of time, and on the same pace as any other adaptation. Onscreen Christmas Eve 1843 openings don’t match Marley’s 1842 grave marker and the supposed seven years since his passing, but nor do the 1851 death dates. The melancholy focus will tiresome audiences, yet the quick finale feels like this should have been longer – a four-hour, two-night event. All that Past just opened Scrooge up so The Present can show warmth by making him wear a scarf and tinge his heart in a third of the time? The often excised Ali Babi brings a dash of childhood wonder into such grim, but making The Ghost of Christmas Present a woman to soften up Scrooge negates the progressive gender change and defeats the purpose of ditching young Scrooge’s for love or money choice. While losing the seemingly essential festive Fezziwig works wonders, the exclusion of eavesdropping on Nephew Fred’s is a missed opportunity when you’ve made his mother The Ghost of Christmas Present. The Past repeatedly tells Scrooge this is not a game – long after Scrooge stops making passive-aggressive asides – but Fred’s mocking his uncle and Scrooge’s family resentment would have fit in well with this bitter A Christmas Carol. Viewers begin to notice famous wording and elements missing. Did we skip an episode? Did the editor lose a reel? My favorite moment with Ignorance and Want is also excised when the decrepit child motifs would have fit these acerbic themes, and the casting lots on the bedclothes bargaining is another profiting on death horror that is surprisingly absent as if the writers simply didn’t finish adapting the fourth stave of the book or the production plum ran out of time and money. At times A Christmas Carol doesn’t seem to trust what it has in these exceptional performances and the timeless source material, adding in extra dialogue when looking at the camera directly implies the fourth wall is already broken and the spiritual work is coming for us next. Some truly good or innocent and in tune characters are said to see the usually invisible Scrooge and company – a haunting provocation wonderfully bringing this seeming radical A Christmas Carol right back to Dickens, for “I am standing in the spirit at your elbow.”

Occasionally Guy Pearce (Brimstone) looks top hat debonair as Ebenezer Scrooge, but the greased hair, liver spots, curled lip, and scratchy voice are looking foul decrepit to match the black ink said to run through his veins. According to Scrooge, gifts are falsely sought and dressed in ribbons to create artificial happiness and fake grins. No one really means their tidings of joy, and the December 25 dates, wise men, and snow in Palestine “facts” are just more perpetuated lies revealing who we presume to be and who we really are on Christmas or any other day. If such yule transformations were true, then why aren’t we such lambs every day with one day of misery to say what we really mean? Scrooge remains isolated in his office, looking out his window on the noisy world as time is taken for his extrapolated soliloquies on pretense and humbug. However, even the camera pulls back when he approaches, recoiling at his despicable holiday honesty. Scrooge is obsessed with counting, an OCD itemizing when he’s frustrated by poor fools and pesky specters. After talking to himself and almost missing Marley, Scrooge is angry at the deceased’s appearance, defiant, and regrets nothing. Although put in his place early with scary past confrontations, he uses his history to justify why he is this way but not that he needs to change. Shrewd Scrooge buys liquidating businesses under price before selling them at true value and smiles at the wheeling and dealing done in his prime. He even tells The Ghost of Christmas Past to write off a new coat as a business expense if subjects keep clawing and crying on his robe. Repeatedly rationalizing every profit over human cost and exploiting all opportunities despite any anguish, Scrooge revels in dangling the keys to his safe before the desperate. Once defensive and refusing to look, he grows ashamed of his actively cruel behavior in an excellent dual performance contrasting past and presents Scrooge side by side. Scrooge practices positive greetings in the mirror but looks more creepy doing so. He doesn’t know how to change even if he admits he may do things differently if given the chance, for it was his own innocence sold that spurred this solidarity with money. Scrooge regrets and apologizes, trying to break the spirit rules and interfere yet he refuses redemption. He accepts he was wrong and deserves to not be forgiven as softer hair and nicer skin suggest his revitalization. Scrooge runs through the street like George Bailey, closing his business and giving away money. Payoffs won’t make everything right but he has to start being a better person somewhere. Don’t we all? Although I wish we heard some of the traditional wording from him – and I want to make his long dress coat – once again I ask where the awards are for Guy Pearce. Sometimes, he also looks like Sean Bean here. I hadn’t noticed this before and now I demand they play brothers in future yearly gothic holiday adaptations. Van Helsing, Jekyll and Hyde, yes please. Please please please please!

Instead of just saying he sat beside Scrooge and tried to reach him, Stephen Graham’s (This is England) restless Jacob Marley has much more to do. Marley anchors the transitions between counting-house and underworld as the realms bleed through like a double negative. He wants his own absolution and needs Scrooge to get him such Clarence-esque wings, deepening the potential penance via his own encounters with the Ghost of Christmas Past. Anguished Marley thinks he’ll be stuck in purgatory forever if his redemption hinges on Scrooge. He believes their reality was a choice, also appearing after the spirits to admit how wrong they were in life, and it’s fascinating to see his realization as the culmination rather than the impetus of A Christmas Carol. Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings) looks like an undead, ancient Santa as the Ghost of Christmas Past – a cranky minder of souls perpetually burning forgotten holiday hopes. The character also appears as the evil Scrooge Senior in pure horror torment as well as the literary friend Ali Baba in bittersweet moments. His eerie hood is not the sentimental sprite we expect, and the dried wreath on his head carries a crown of thorns, Christ-like innocence lost. Instead of the distinguishing cap, a zoetrope hat casts past shadows on the wall in an excellent visualization of the then-new to see the old. Weary over Scrooge’s excuses, The Past sends progressive Ghost of Christmas Present Charlotte Riley (The Take) in the guise of sister Lottie Scrooge in a lovely change again deserving of much more than repetitive family exposition and narrating already seen actions from characters that could have said everything themselves. Logical Lottie understands Scrooge’s past pain, combining the scientific and sensitive to confront Scrooge before the mouth sewn shut, grave digger-esque Jason Flemyng (X-Men: First Class) as The Ghost of Christmas Future enters tolling a broken bell. He’s said to be the most terrifying of the spirits and the one who ultimately decides Scrooge’s fate, but unfortunately, he doesn’t really appear to do anything but provide the disturbing Tiny Tim fate. The Past had equally frightening moments, and The Future merely disappears as Scrooge ultimately amends on his own.

 

Joe Alwyn (also in Mary Queen of Scots with Pearce) doesn’t really stand out for me among the numerous lookalike blonde boy band-type actors abound these days. His Bob Cratchit seems somewhat young, weak, and ineffectual, but that is fitting for an overworked father trying to keep his meager family together. Scrooge thinks four lumps of coal is more than reasonable despite his clerk’s frozen ink and continues to rag on him for a word misspelled once five years ago. Exasperated Bob insists he doesn’t get angry and does his work perfectly to spite Scrooge. He doesn’t hate his employer and remains kinds to Scrooge, asking if he is himself when they have such surprisingly frank conversations on this peculiar Christmas Eve. Bob has to toe the line between passive-aggressive asides and really talking back or standing up to his boss. He tells Scrooge he knows indeed how precarious his situation is, making us wonder why “situation” as synonymous with “job” fell out of terminology when the family to feed or ill health reasons that one toils should be paramount. Vinette Robinson’s (Sherlock) Mary Cratchit is frazzled and snippy, making excuses to her husband and sketching stories for Tiny Tim because they have no money for books. Only having two little Cratchits and a relative aptly named Martha tightens the familial focus, and Mary resorts to terrible secrets and forgoes her pride in a desperate need to save her son. She prays to be forgiven for what she has to do and asks Jesus to turn his head over such blackmail and lies. The holiday means Mary has to revisit one terrible Christmas every year, repeatedly going outdoors rather than face the congested weight and manifested guilt as the spiritual influences come full circle. Rather than the usual poor but happy brevity, A Christmas Carol develops The Cratchits as conflicted people, embodying how the one who has to power to alleviate their suffering can cause more oppression without having to lay a creepy hand on anyone.

The titular icicle script ekes out the ghostly etching with a cold nib to match the frosted windows and meager candle flame frigid. Snow abounds alongside carriages, street lamps, sleighs, ice skating, and crowded streets. However, there are precious little signs of Christmas in A Christmas Carol. No holly, few wreaths or plain garlands, no old fashioned merry, and the only jolly comes in brief carol notes and fiddle melodies cut short. While the night time blue tint is easier to see, the over-saturation may be intentionally noticeable and otherworldly. There are also some unnecessary swooping pans over the cobblestone streets but fortunately, these are only used early on to set the Londontown bustle versus the paranormal underbelly. Stage-like blocking, lighting schemes, and careful attention to detail visualize characterizations with gleams of light shining through the windows as natural, hopeful rays or framing dark silhouettes as needed. The counting-house office is divided between a brighter front and a darker back office with a wall of ledgers between rooms that the clerk must repeatedly go around to talk to Scrooge. Intercut foreshadowing between worlds leaves onscreen space for characters on another plane, subtly establishing Scrooge and Marley’s partnership even if the men are technically not together in the same scene. Echoing footsteps, bells, chimes, and creaking invoke period as well as horror amid hellish red fireplaces and disturbing imagery. Pox marks and sullen pallors match the tattered gloves and shabby bonnets on the poor while slightly more refined styles set the wealthy apart with top hats, ascots, waistcoats, pocket watches, and frock coats. A Christmas Carol looks at the early Victorian part without relying on the expected women’s silhouette thanks to fantastical cloaks, steampunk touches, and choose special effects. Dark upon dark schemes set off the horror visuals and cave-ins as the fog and frigid grow inside as well as out in the largely empty interiors. Groaning walls and a growing bed are ominous without being overbearing. The optical tricks are simple with slow zooms or camera cuts to where a spirit might be, leaving the chill up the spine carried by one’s looking over his shoulder and frightful reaction shots – as the scares should be.

Certainly, there are more genteel family-friendly adaptations of A Christmas Carol, and this decidedly darker spin won’t be for those seeking any lighthearted Dickensian comforts. It also takes planning to settle in for the whole three-hour block stateside. Although the chapter title cards are retained and once we’re on this retrospective journey it’s tough to stop, having had the original UK episodic format would solve the dreary, dragging complaints. I watched this multiple times to pause and take notes, and there are more insights the more you watch. Despite an uneven weakness rushed in the latter half, the redemption arc fits this darker tone. Here there’s no overnight exuberance, and it makes the viewer consider how fast and superficial other interpretations now seem when the longer television format allows for such grim, thought-provoking extrapolation. It leaves one wanting more of this A Christmas Carol, and its unabashed look in the mirror is watchable beyond the holiday season – paralleling the words herein to be the best person we can be daily rather than just faking it at Christmas.

Read on for more Holiday Horror:

Tales from the Darkside 1 2 3 4

Bell Book and Candle

Krampus (2015)

Kbatz Krafts: A Pumpkin Car Makeover!

 

🎄🎃😱

A faded pink $8 Goodwill Little Tykes car shall be revitalized as a Cinderella pumpkin coach for the year-old family princess! Orange and green paints, dollar store accents, and thrift ingenuity combine for whimsical stem and vine motifs in this magical, affordable makeover! While the paint dries there is even more trash to treasure crafts – including glitter stockings and faux holiday candles. Let’s throw in a costume, tiara, and wand to match because why not?

 

 

Many would see a faded Little Tykes Princess Coup and think nothing of it. However, when I spotted this $8 Goodwill find, I immediately thought PUMPKIN! Ironically, procuring the right shade of orange spray paint was the toughest part, as most home improvement stores only carry the fluorescent construction orange. Ultimately, I ordered an elusive $20 six-pack of “Rustic Orange” online but only used three cans for the car body. The steering wheel and four base wheels were taped and papered as they would remain black, but the two coats of orange went well save for some drips when I titled the car to cover the undersides and odd angles. This coup model was also missing the removable floorboard which enables a child to be initially pushed before moving the car themselves Flintstones style, but fortunately, Little Tykes offers replacement parts. This likewise spray-painted orange floorboard actually cost twice as much as the thrift car price thanks to shipping, but as this Cinderella coup is for my one-year-old niece, and the floorboard allows the car to grow with her.

Touch-ups around the eyes and steering wheel were done with an acrylic orange, a slightly different color for dimension on the car’s little smiley face front. I picked up three cans of Seaweed green spray paint for the accents, but to get in all the tight spots the can have to be much too close – leading to problematic drips and a switch to an acrylic Spring Green from my stash. Two coats of this fresh, bright green and a gloss spray sealing coat leftover from my Halloween Cat House Makeover later and this little custom coach came together in a weekend at $44 compared to the $60 plus for a brand new but less unique coup. While the paint dried, I worked on a whimsical stem to top off the pumpkin transformation, using masking tape and cardboard shipping corners cut into various heights to create texture and a curly-cue end shaped with a pipe cleaner before hot glue both secured and added gnarly dimension as seen in my Cardboard Candle Clusters and Halloween Mystery Staff. Varying coats and blends of brown and white paint made for a warm and realistic if bemusing look.

Now while the stem dried, Christmas Elf Kbatz also worked on a personalized glitter stocking for our rescue cat and faux holiday candles. After contemplating doing oversize candy cane-style candles out of Styrofoam or pool noodles,I made us of several Pringles cans that I had previously taped together and hastily painted but didn’t quite like or know what to do with at the time. The light brown and white paint mix became a primer before two white coats and dollar store red tape spirals. Light bulb toppers from the dollar store were painted yellow ochre in the same technique as the Dark Shadows Sconces before being secured with hot glue faux candle wax drips. With the $4 candle detours complete and all touch-ups dry, it was time to attach the stem to the pumpkin car with more glitter green hot glue embellishing the root-esque base and blended painting to match. Dollar store green mesh tubing and $5 Goodwill ivy became pumpkin vine spirals and leaf accents, and for that extra Bibbidi Bobiddi Boo, a $7 thrift Cinderella costume, tiara, and wand await!

Outside of lucking into the car and waiting on spray paint drying times in mild December weather, this came together in four days. For crafty parents looking to make a unique themed vehicle or families seeking a fun holiday project, the second-hand imaginative possibilities here are priceless.

 

For more project photos, follow Kbatz Krafts on Instagram or Facebook!

Revisit More Kbatz Krafts:

DIY Cardboard Stained Glass Window

Carving and Baking with Real Pumpkin

DIY Flower Pens

Spooky Ride by Twin Musicom is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ Source: http://www.twinmusicom.org/song/250/spooky-ride Artist: http://www.twinmusicom.org

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ Source: http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/index.html?isrc=USUAN1100270 Artist: http://incompetech.com/

Italian Morning by Twin Musicom is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ Artist: http://www.twinmusicom.org/

An Excerpt from Northanger, by Emmy Z. Madrigal

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Visit just one of the haunted houses in this excerpt from Northanger, by Emmy Z. Madrigal.


“I’m excited to see Woodston,” Kat said.

“It’s just the sort of place you’ll like. With a story you’ll love,” Henry said.

“Oh?”

“Yes.” Henry put down his coffee cup and leaned in to tell her the story. “Mr. Woodston was the grandson of old Mr. Northanger. In 1895, Mr. Woodston built the Woodston house for his fiancée. They went to New York for the wedding but on their way back, Mr. Woodston died in a carriage crash.”

“Oh my God, that’s horrible.”

“His bride was hurt, but recovered only to find herself in the house he’d built for her in secret. The new Mrs. Woodston lived there for a few months, but being so isolated and without her groom, she moved back to the main house with the Northangers and then shortly after, back to her family in New York.”

“Poor lady.”

“And on the same day of her husband’s death, not three years later, she succumbed to a fever and died without ever remarrying. Some blamed her death on a broken heart and there are rumors of the couple haunting Woodston.”

“Really?”

“Yes!” Henry grinned and went on, his voice grave indeed. “First the ghost of young Mr. Woodston, calling out for his bride Julieta. And second, Julieta calling out for her love. Yet, they can never find one another despite searching these many years later.”

Kat drew in an excited gasp. “Have you witnessed these ghosts?”

“No. It is just a story to frighten tourists.” He smiled, relaxing back into his chair. “But perhaps you are more sensitive and will witness them yourself.”

Kat smiled, knowing he was teasing her, but at the same time wondering if she would feel a ghost presence when they visited.

“Oh, here comes Ellen. She probably wants to say goodbye one last time.”

“Last time?”

“Yes, you know, before you’re killed by the ghosts of Woodston.”

Kat scoffed. “You tease.”

***

Henry strapped in a small backpack to the luggage rack and then got on the snowmobile. He offered a hand to Kat and she got on behind him, wrapping her arms around him.

“Hold on!” The snowmobile took off with a burst and she gripped him tighter around the waist. His body was warm and solid underneath the puffy parka he wore. A bump in the road unsettled her and he placed a gloved hand on hers, steading her. Piercing cold air stung her cheeks where her scarf, hat, and goggles met.

Before them, a blanket of white snow stretched out as far as the eye could see. Trees covered in white carved out a path leading to more trees.

The endless bank of trees reminded Kat of the scene in Suspiria where a panicked girl is running through the woods as Suzy looks out the cab window that rainy night she arrives at school. Kat’s eyes searched the trees as they whizzed by. It was daytime, but the trees stretched up so high above them, they blocked out the sunlight, causing the formation of strange shadows in the woods. Her eyes—with the help of her imagination—caused her to see some weird things in the woods. A snow mound became a wolf. The shadow of a tree became a human form.

It must have been twenty minutes before Henry slowed the snowmobile before a dark house looming in the distance. It wasn’t like the visibly scary cartoon haunted houses of The Addams Family or The Munsters. It was more like a retold ghost story, welcoming Kat in like her grandmother’s afghan. It was a place that held stories. A place where you could feel at home and connect with the ghosts of the past at the same time.

“What do you think?” Henry asked, removing his goggles.

Kat pushed down her scarf. “It’s awesome.”

Gazing up at the gray shutters and storm blue trim, Kat imagined a ghost in the window. There wasn’t one really, but the one in her imagination welcomed her home. She’d never seen a picture of Julieta Woodston, but in her imagination, she wore a ghostly white dress and glowed in the frame of the window in the attic.

A flash of Mrs. Havisham from Great Expectations came to Kat. Was there a dining room inside covered in cobwebs?

“Coming?” Henry slung the backpack over one shoulder and held out his hand for her to grasp. She took it and he helped her off the mobile. An icy patch in front of the stairs caused her to pitch forward into his arms. Her breath caught as she looked into his eyes. She could see flecks of gold in his stormy ocean gray.

“You all right?” he asked his rumble out of his chest under her fingertips.

“Y-yes. Yeah, sorry.”

His face was so close, she yearned to kiss him.

He let go of her, all except one hand, which he held as he led her to the door with no other falling incidents. As he opened the door, the ancient house smell surrounded her. Cedar. Old books. A little dust.

“I’ll get a fire started right away. Come in, it will get warm soon.” He closed the front door behind her and clicked on the lights with the loud solid plunk of an old electric switch. The foyer and stairs came alive.

“Oh, wow.”

The stairway was wide and took up half the entryway, leading up to a wide-halled balustrade railed with once-white spindles. The floor was an intricate wooden pattern of Greek design.

There were rooms on both sides of her, but what caught her attention first was an open door upstairs that creaked with movement.

Henry followed her gaze upstairs. “Wind from down here always makes that bedroom door move,” he said in explanation. “Or perhaps it’s the Woodstons welcome welcoming us in.”

Kat smiled.

“Let’s go to the parlor first, so I can start a fire. I promised Ellen I’d keep you warm.”

Kat followed Henry into the room on the right, decorated in light blue and furnished in modest but antique furniture. She took a seat on a dark blue, tufted chair and peeled off her winter gear while Henry started a fire.

The room was pretty and she could tell it would be bright on a sunny day with the curtains open. Compared to the rest of the house, the room was clean and organized. The antiques seemed genuine and even the curtains and wallpaper looked if not new, laundered. The wallpaper was blue and white toile and looked so familiar…and then she remembered a passage in one of her favorite books by Marie Gates.

The wallpaper in blue and white toile housed several families and couples taking advantage of a sunny meadow for picnics and frolicking in the lake. They were so lifelike, I wanted to reach out, pluck them from their ministrations, and place them in my pocket, but that was madness, right? But madness ruled in the house on the hill.

Mad House!” Kat exclaimed. 

Henry grinned. “I wondered if you’d pick up on that.”

“Did you truly redo this room to fit Mad House?”

“No, but when I washed the walls and found it in pretty good condition, I knew I had to keep it.”

“Wise decision.” Kat stared at the little Victorian people in hats and parasols picnicking and awed at the detail of each tiny face.

“Alrighty…fire started, would you like the tour while it warms up the place?”

“Sure.”

Tour the house with Henry and Kat by reading… Northanger.

Catherine Morland the Horror Addict

Hi! It’s Emmy and I am here to talk about the heroine of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, Catherine Morland. You might not think that Jane Austen has anything to do with Horror, but you’d be wrong. She wrong a whole book around the subject.

You see, being a Gemini, I have a romance side and a horror side (Surpirze! It’s me, Emerian Rich) which makes me the perfect person to talk to you about Northanger Abbey and its horror-loving heroine, Catherine Morland.

I’ve been told people don’t like Catherine because she’s just a silly, naive girl that lives a large part of her life in her head. I’ve also been told that she’s un-relatable because she likes Gothic novels and horror. I will attempt to prove that Catherine Morland was not simply some ignorant young miss wiling away her hours in a fantasy world, but she was a horror fan misunderstood by her peers but with a healthy imagination.

To understand Catherine as a horror fan, you have to break down the attributes of a horror fan.

First:

We are people who like to be scared in a removed way through movies, books, and music. Inspecting a horrid situation from a distance not only allows us to experience danger without any real harm to ourselves but also prepare ourselves for the true horrors of life that may come— like the zombie apocalypse. Horror Addicts are just like any other fan. Fans of Jane Austen might read Jane Austen all weekend, or attend a Northanger Abbey ball. Horror Addicts might read Stephen King all weekend or go to a horror film festival. As a rule, we aren’t axe murders, we don’t glorify serial killers, and we definitely don’t want to die at the hand of a chainsaw-wielding maniac. We do, however, like spooky things like ghosts, vampires, and like Catherine Morland, spooky old Abbeys that may contain such creatures.

Second:

We have active imaginations. This may be said about any reader. How many times have you watched a movie based on a book and been dissatisfied? The movies are never better than books, right? Those of you who agree with that statement have vibrant imaginations. The reason they can’t make the movie to please us is because our imaginations have weaved such an awesome image of what we’ve read, that no movie could possibly match. Just like Catherine conjuring up this gothic idea of Mrs. Tilney’s room…and then being disappointed at it looking just like any old bedroom.

Third:

The third aspect of Horror Addicts is, we like to geek out with other Horror Addicts. One reason Catherine likes Henry so much is that he gets her. He is at least in part an addict himself. He is able to make jokes about the novel she’s read, and by teasing her, show he likes her passion and accepts that part of her. And who doesn’t want to be accepted by someone who understands you?

Fourth:

Which brings me to attribute number four. Horror fans often like to find the humor in things. We don’t take ourselves too seriously and often accompany our love of horror with comedy. Either in an attempt to lighten the mood of such serious scary stuff or just because we are generally jovial people. Another reason Catherine likes Henry is because he has a good sense of humor and makes her laugh. For someone who likes humor, Jane painted the winner pretty clear. Grumpy old General Tilney, pompous Frederick, and ridiculously boastful Thorpe have no chance. Henry is clearly the best choice.

So given these attributes of a horror fan,

I think we can all agree that Catherine Morland is one and although she has some growing up to do, just because she learned something about the difference between fantasy and reality does not mean she ceased being a horror addict. I like to think that she went on to read more Gothic novels and perhaps even wrote some herself, but learned to not take them so literally.

Contrary to popular belief,

Horror Addicts don’t tend to grow out of our fascination with the macabre. I hate it when I read reviews that say Catherine grew out of her innocence and realized horror was just for kids. I don’t think that’s what Jane was saying at all. I think she captured perfectly the vision of a young Miss who didn’t know how to enjoy her passion without letting it bleed into reality and by experiencing more and falling in love, she could experience her passion in a somewhat removed way that didn’t get her in trouble.

Now, this is one of my favorite passages (abridged) of Northanger Abbey and shows her Horror Addict tastes.

Again she passed through the folding doors, again her hand was upon the important lock, and Catherine, hardly able to breathe, was turning to close the former with fearful caution, when the figure, the dreaded figure of the general himself at the further end of the gallery, stood before her! The name of “Eleanor” at the same moment, in his loudest tone, resounded through the building, giving to his daughter the first intimation of his presence, and to Catherine terror upon terror. An attempt at concealment had been her first instinctive movement on perceiving him, yet she could scarcely hope to have escaped his eye; and when her friend, who with an apologizing look darted hastily by her, had joined and disappeared with him, she ran for safety to her own room, and, locking herself in, believed that she should never have courage to go down again.

When I read that, I imagined how I might feel, being watched by a tyrant, but also still wanting to solve the mystery… WHAT IS BEHIND THAT DOOR??

Catherine found herself alone in the gallery before the clocks had ceased to strike. It was no time for thought; she hurried on, slipped with the least possible noise through the folding doors, and without stopping to look or breathe, rushed forward to the one in question. The lock yielded to her hand, and, luckily, with no sullen sound that could alarm a human being. On tiptoe she entered; the room was before her; but it was some minutes before she could advance another step. She beheld what fixed her to the spot and agitated every feature. She saw a large, well-proportioned apartment, a handsome dimity bed, arranged as unoccupied with a housemaid’s care, a bright Bath stove, mahogany wardrobes, and neatly painted chairs, on which the warm beams of a western sun gaily poured through two sash windows!

Catherine had expected to have her feelings worked, and worked they were. Astonishment and doubt first seized them; and a shortly succeeding ray of common sense added some bitter emotions of shame. She could not be mistaken as to the room; but how grossly mistaken in everything else!–in Miss Tilney’s meaning, in her own calculation!

She was sick of exploring, and desired but to be safe in her own room, with her own heart only privy to its folly; and she was on the point of retreating as softly as she had entered, when the sound of footsteps, she could hardly tell where, made her pause and tremble. To be found there, even by a servant, would be unpleasant; but by the general (and he seemed always at hand when least wanted), much worse! She listened–the sound had ceased; and resolving not to lose a moment, she passed through and closed the door.

At that instant a door underneath was hastily opened; someone seemed with swift steps to ascend the stairs, by the head of which she had yet to pass before she could gain the gallery. She had no power to move. With a feeling of terror not very definable, she fixed her eyes on the staircase, and in a few moments it gave Henry to her view.

“Mr. Tilney! How came you up that staircase?”

“How came I up that staircase! Because it is my nearest way from the stable-yard to my own chamber; and why should I not come up it? And may I not, in my turn, ask how you came here? This passage is at least as extraordinary a road from the breakfast-parlour to your apartment, as that staircase can be from the stables to mine.

‘I have been to see your mother’s room.”

“My mother’s room! Is there anything extraordinary to be seen there?”

“No, nothing at all.”

“You look pale. I am afraid I alarmed you by running so fast up those stairs. Perhaps you did not know–you were not aware of their leading from the offices in common use?”

“No, I was not.”

“And does Eleanor leave you to find your way into all the rooms in the house by yourself?”

“Oh! No; she showed me over the greatest part on Saturday–and we were coming here to these rooms–but only… your father was with us. I only wanted to see…”

“My mother’s room is very commodious, is it not? Large and cheerful-looking, and the dressing-closets so well disposed! It always strikes me as the most comfortable apartment in the house, and I rather wonder that Eleanor should not take it for her own. She sent you to look at it, I suppose?”

“No.”

“Eleanor, I suppose, has talked of her a great deal?”

“Yes, a great deal. That is–no, not much, but what she did say was very interesting. Her dying so suddenly” (slowly, and with hesitation it was spoken), “and you–none of you being at home–and your father, I thought–perhaps had not been very fond of her.”

“And from these circumstances,” “you infer perhaps the probability of some negligence–or it may be–of something still less pardonable.”

She raised her eyes towards him more fully than she had ever done before.

Catherine Morland grew up in that moment. She realized sometimes when a most beloved mother dies, it’s just because she ceased to live, not because of some murder plot by an overbearing husband. And by learning the reality of such situations, this led her to build more devious and believable plots in her career as a novelist…or that’s how I’ve written the end in my head anyway. 🙂

In my modern take of Northanger Abbey, titled simply Northanger, I paint Catherine a a modern goth teen named Kat. Kat is a horror fan. She loves to read, watch, and listen to ghostly, frightening things most people shy away from. When she meets her perfect match, Henry, she knows he’s made just for her, but finding out his father may be a murderer, puts a different spin on their relationship. Is Henry’s dad out for blood or just a misunderstood introvert who’s lost his wife? Only a trip to the famed murder house, Northanger, will reveal the truth.

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