It Came From the Vault: Traditions by Stephen Kozeniewski



by Stephen Kozeniewski 

Granny clattered on the counter with a wooden spoon until the children stopped squabbling. When they finally turned to pay attention, she smiled, baring each and every bright white denture with joy.

“All right, little nuggets,” she said, “Now granny is going to show you what to do. Come up here.”

She lifted two-year-old Benji and planted him on the counter beside the sheer metal stockpot that was almost as tall as him.

“Now, Benji, this wax is very hot so don’t put your fingers in it and don’t splash.”

“Yes, grandma.”

“Now start to feed the coil in slowly and let me know when you run out of length.”

Giggling, Benji did as he was told.

“Granny, why do we wax the decorations?” little Suzie asked, her pinky hooked into the corner of her mouth.

“So that they last, my dear.”

“And why do we want them to last?”

Granny crouched down to Suzie’s level, even though it pained her ankles.

“Because it’s a tradition, my dear.”

Little Suzie’s eyes lit up with the wonder of excitement and recognition.

“A t’adition?”

Granny nodded.

“Like when we invite a homeless person in for Christmas?”

“That’s right.”

“All done!” Benji announced, clinging to the last link of this year’s holiday visitor’s small intestine.

Together, as they did every year, they draped the wax-dipped organ around their tree of horrors. The attic was starting to overflow with their collection of decorations.

“God bless us every one,” Benji said joyously.


Kozeniewski Author PhotoStephen Kozeniewski (pronounced “causin’ ooze key”) lives with his wife and two cats in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. During his time as a Field Artillery officer, he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star. He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor’s degree is in German. Find out more at:

Guest Blog: The Box Jumper Review


Guest Blog : The Box Jumper Review

by Theresa Braun

Plot: This story takes place in the mind and memory of Leona, Harry Houdini’s onstage assistant, or box jumper. The protagonist’s dreams and memories also jump through the span of the magician’s career in America during the early 20th Century. It is worth mentioning that Mannetti’s thorough research of Houdini and his world is beautifully evident in the narrative.

Hypnotizing images and emotions are expressed by Leona as she recounts her bittersweet connection with Houdini that transcends the conventional relationship. As the novella progresses, I became immersed in the passion that plummets into a haunting possession, and even heart-breaking madness. Without realizing it, I found myself unable to put the story down because I was so emotionally invested in Leona’s journey.

Houdini passionately wants to debunk spiritualists swiftly acquiring notoriety for their outrageous séances. He uncovers all sorts of hidden secrets behind their chicanery, all with Leona’s help. Together, they navigate social scandal to uncover the charlatans in their midst. We are left wondering if he will escape from his enemies as easily as escaping from one of his illusionist stunts. In addition, Leona begins to wonder if there are dark supernatural forces at work, leading to the tale’s shocking conclusion. It was one of the best endings I’ve experienced in a long while.


My Favorite Character: Although my first reaction would be to reiterate Leona’s likeability as a character, I have to say that Mannetti’s love for Harry Houdini and the compassion for him as a person is wonderfully portrayed through the eyes of Leona. We really get a sense of how complex he was as a person.

Favorite Scene: By far my favorite was the final one. It kind of snuck up on me. I felt like I was following Leona off a cliff. Before I knew it, I was dangling in mid-air, about to drop to my death. And then she was gone. I can’t say anything else without giving it away, but the conclusion delivered.

Best line: “The shadow shot filthy black tendrils that swept the very air aside, sinking downward like corpses hurled into the sea—and, stunned, with my mouth gaping, I felt the stinging vine-shape hurtling down my throat and anchoring deep inside me.”

What did you like best as a reader: Mannetti’s writing is mesmerizing. Her sentences are powerful and gripping. Part of what kept me flipping the page were her descriptions and words choice. She is a must read for that very reason.

What did you like least as a reader: The novella’s narrative construction is not for everyone. It’s told in a stream of consciousness, which always left me asking if it was the past, present, or future. Then, I began to wonder what was real, a dream, or if the memories Leona shared were mere fabrications. That is precisely the author’s intent, since Leona is an unreliable narrator. I will tell you that if you stick with the story and just keep reading, things fall into place. The pieces will make sense. Just be warned that you will be giving your brain a workout.

Rating : 4 out of 5 here. There is definitely a dark tone throughout much of the story, woven into this historical fiction. For me, it’s the descent into madness and the flirtation with the spiritual realm earn this “scare score.” Although the extreme terror doesn’t hit until the final portion of the story, I feel the build-up is definitely worth the wait. It’s a satisfying read that will leave you deliciously disturbed.


Theresa Braun

Theresa Braun was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and has carried some of that hardiness with her to South Florida where she currently resides. She enjoys delving into creative writing, painting, photography and even bouts of ghost hunting. Perhaps growing up in a haunted house in Winona, Minnesota is to blame. Traveling as often as possible is one of her passions—in fact, her latest adventure took her to Romania for a horror writers’ workshop where she followed in the steps of Vlad the Impaler. She writes horror fiction and her latest short story “Shout at the Devil” appears in Under the Bed Magazine.

Contact info: Twitter: @tbraun_author  Facebook

An Interview with Valarie Kinney

Our Featured author for episode 131 of the podcast is Valarie Kinney. Valarie is a writer, fiber artist and Renaissance Festival junkie with a wicked caffeine addiction.  Recently she talked to us about her work:

What will you be reading for episode 131?

25848622I will be reading an excerpt from my novel SlitherSlither follows the story of Zari, who is on the run from her family of snake-god worshipers. She has run away, gotten married, started a business, and thinks she is safe. Suddenly, her family and Slither are back in her life, threatening to harm her husband if she doesn’t submit to their will.
Zari’s husband, Emmett, has a past as dark as her own. He is ready and willing to stand between Zari and Slither, but first she has to be honest about the threat that is coming for them.

When did you start writing?

I wrote a lot in junior high and high school, took a pause for a time while raising a family, and came back to it about six years ago.

What are your favorite topics to write about?

My favorite things to write about are difficult topics, such as pain, addiction, struggle, and heartbreak. I really enjoy digging down beneath the surface to find the reason people act the way they do in a given situation.

Could you tell us a little about your book Kapow?28176119

KAPOW (Kick Ass Powerfully Original Women) is a collection of stories about super chicks presented in literary form. This is the first book in a dual anthology, and shows us the “bad girls” who get into some trouble. KAPOW 2 is when the “good girls” come in to save the day (we hope.) My bad girl super chick is Copper, a nearly seven-foot-tall redhead with a talent for breathing golden lightning. One thing you don’t want to do is make her mad. All the authors for these collections are female.

What is Dragons of Faith?

Dragons of Faith is a collection of short stories revolving around dragons who all have different belief systems. When the fate of the world is at risk, they must learn to work together to save the world. I didn’t write a story for Dragons, but I wrote the poetry at the beginning of each story.

Who or what inspires you?

I am often inspired by authors who write about difficult or uncomfortable topics. Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, and Diana Gabaldon all come to mind.

What fascinates you about the horror genre?

28495292My favorite thing about writing horror is that it is such a departure from my everyday life. In real life, I work from home, have four kids, and spend a lot of time washing dishes and doing laundry. When I write horror, I can live in a world where evil, talking snakes are real; where I can murder a character and describe the scene in detail; where the creepiest of monsters might be your next door neighbor. Often, the stories I write are just plain weird and often gross, and that’s what I enjoy writing the most. It’s fun.

What are some of the other books you have available?

My first book, Just Hold On, is a drama/romance.

My latest release, Heckled, is a psychological thriller.

Where can we find you online?

On Twitter and Instagram @kinneychaos

My blog


I’m also on Wattpad and Pinterest





Find What Works For You

updated serial scribbler



Finding what works for you as an author is the first step in also finding your voice. It takes experience, time, exploration, and trying different techniques that will keep you motivated to write.

The Ritual:
This is something that successful writers create for themselves. A ritual gets your mind ready to switch into “creative work mode”. This is similar to a bedtime or waking ritual. If you need to work with a cleared space, you could start there. Clean your workspace, or wipe down your desk. Add some music, or turn everything off. Whatever it is, do it religiously. This will trick your mind into getting ready for your word count.

Believe it or not, this ties in with ritual…and not in the witchy-burn-small-animals-at-the-stake kind either (unless that’s your thing, which I hope it isn’t). Having the same thing to drink (coffee, tea…whiskey *cough*), keeping a snack, and even lighting a candle will tell your brain, “Hey! It’s time to work. Let’s get down to business.”

Man, do you know how many times I have talked to authors that don’t have goals before they sit down at the laptop? While this may work most of the time, it won’t always. Having a finish line keeps you focused. Again, most successful authors know this. They set either a timer, or a word count goal. Definitely put this on your “I should try that” list if you haven’t incorporated it, yet.

Outline: (Optional)
Some authors find that an outline helps them organize their thoughts. It doesn’t work as well for me, but if I start to drift or lose the story, I do try to outline it so I can stay on track. An outline isn’t set in concrete. You can move things around if they don’t work, or delete them. It’s up to you (and your editor).

Force it:
Yeah, I said it. Force yourself to write. You don’t have to force yourself to write your current work in progress, but find something else to rinse your palate. Do a writer challenge, find an interesting picture and tell the story you see, rewrite an old short story, or just blog about how you don’t feel like writing.

And last but not least…

Do not give up. No one sits down all the time and writes. Even Shakespeare took some personal time (hello? muses?). Just make sure that you come back to it and don’t stop. The more you write, the more your brain fires up, and the better you get at your craft. Whatever it is that works for you? Do it.

What things do you include in your writing ritual to get you in the mood? If you listen to music, what music is your “go to” when you write? How do you get over the writer’s blues when you fall into the pit?

You Have To Make Up Your Mind


As a publisher, I see this every day. People making excuses for not writing.

“I’m very busy.”
“I have kids.”
“I have a full-time job and go to school.


No, seriously. Stop. If you have time to post status updates, and catch up on DVR’ed shows and/or movies, you have time to write. I challenge you today to find out how many minutes you spend posting, typing statuses and how many words you’ve typed in the Facebook (or other social media) vortex.

Is that number over ten? You have time.

Are you watching at least one show a night? You have time to write.

Are you vegging out doing nothing for thirty minutes a night? You have time to write.

The real question is, “Is writing a priority to you?”  That’s where you need to make up your mind. Writing takes hard work, dedication, and commitment. There’s no boss over your head most of the time making sure you’re not slacking off. You have to be in it, every spare moment that you have. If you can DVR a show and catch up with it at night or for a few hours on the weekend, you have time to commit, you just aren’t doing so.

If you sit down to write and someone can talk you out of it, you’re not committed to it. They don’t believe it’s a priority because you haven’t set the standard or the boundaries.

Writers that are serious about their craft do not allow interruptions. Friends and family will learn that it’s “Do Not Disturb” time and eventually, you will have time to write.

Recently, with my publishing company we held a meeting and discussed what our slogan for the month would be. We chose, “Are you all in?”

Well, are you?

Serial Scribbler Series: Master Your Craft




In this world of indie publishing, creating a book is as easy as point and click. This convenience has led to an overwhelming issue that all “indies” are facing these days. Something I like to call complacency.

We all know that it’s hard to find someone to show us the ropes when we first start out. Some indie authors who have found a measure of success are very tight lipped about how they’ve done it. Whether they feel that revealing their how-to methods will create competition or they just aren’t sure, themselves.

Being an independently published author comes with some major perks, like getting to keep your royalties for one. But that perk can quickly turn out to be your demise. This is why you hear so many traditionally published authors looking down on the “indies”.

In my last article, I spoke about book covers and the importance of them. In this article I’d like to continue with Mastering Your Craft.

What does that mean, exactly?

You’re a published author now! So what. Yeah, I said it. So what. I want to know what you plan to do next. And if you haven’t answered this question – or let’s be frank – if you haven’t asked yourself this question yet… you have much to learn.

You owe it to yourself and to your readers, to get better. No one’s first book is perfect. If they tell you it is, they’re lying. Your first book is where you cut your teeth in this industry. Anyone can write stories. Yep, I said that, too! ANYone can write a story. Will you like it? That depends. Some people have this amazing ability to weave words and tell a tale that sucks you in and makes you want to know more. But is everyone an author?

Here’s the distinction:

A writer, writes. Maybe it’s their job. Maybe it’s something they do as a hobby.

An author is someone that considers this his/her trade, craft, passion, career.  If they’re not writing, and perfecting each story than they aren’t really happy with it. These people want to hear more than, “Oh this is really good!” They want to hear in-depth critique, suggestions, questions, and to discuss their work.

In their head, these worlds are real and they mean something to them because when they wrote it, they put something of themselves into it.

There are writing groups, guilds, Facebook groups, Meet-Up groups, etc. Go to them. Get your work critiqued by someone you trust to be brutally honest with you. This is something else you owe to yourself, and your readers.

Being an author is hard. If this is something you want to do outside of a hobby, you need to constantly evolve. In my next article, we’ll discuss other ways to do that.

For now, keep the horror in the story, not in your end product.


KIDNAPPED BLOG: Lovecraft’s Legacy: A Chat with Ashley Dioses and K.A. Opperman by Alex S. Johnson


ADAshley Dioses and K.A. Opperman are a young couple making waves in the contemporary Weird Fiction scene. I recently sat down with the two for a chat via Facebook Messenger to pick their brains. Gently, of course.

Alex S. Johnson: My first question is how you two first became involved with weird fiction–who were the authors that did it for you?

Ashley Dioses: Actually Kyle got me into weird fiction. I have always been a horror and fantasy fan but I didn’t know there was a weird genre and when he first introduced me to it, I knew that I was greatly missing out.

KAOK.A. Opperman: H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith are my two foremost influences. Lovecraft came first, and solidified my desire to become a horror writer. I think he’s had a greater impact on me than any other writer. Smith, however, first fostered my love for poetry, specifically–but that’d be a long conversation!

ASJ: Right, the complete CAS poetry collection is what, 800 bucks and five volumes or something. Where would you recommend starting with Smith’s poetry?

KAO: Haha, not that bad. It’s $75, three volumes in paperback.

AD: Hippocampus has three volumes and the third is translations he did. The Last Oblivion is where I started with CAS poetry and I was mesmerized by it. I’m just now working through the first two volumes of the rest of his poetry volumes.

KAO: Those new to CAS will want to seek out Penguin’s breakthrough volume The Dark Eidolon and Other Phantasies. The Last Oblivion (Hippocampus Press) is an excellent intro for his poetry, specifically.

ASJ: Do you think there’s a resurgence in weird fiction fandom, and if so, to what or whom do you attribute it?

KAO: There is certainly a growing interest in Weird fiction, in part due to the Internet and increased networking. The flourishing of small press publishers like Hippocampus Press, which focuses on Lovecraft and all things related, has something to do with it.

lastoblivinAD: I think there’s a resurgence because I believe a lot more people, even younger people like ourselves are starting to discover CAS. Possibly HPL because of how you can find references to his work through other venues such as games, movies, and other written work. By learning about HPL, you would learn about CAS, which are two great weird fiction writers right there.

KAO: There is also the stalwart efforts of luminaries like S. T. Joshi, who continue to edit excellent Weird volumes, which subsequently reach a wider and wider audience.

ASJ: you were both involved with a new documentary on CAS. Wow did that come about, and when do we see it?

KAO: Darin Coelho Spring contacted me out of the blue. He ultimately chose Ashley and I due to our relatively young ages (I’m 28), as he wanted to touch on CAS’ ability to reach successive generations.

ASJ: Why did he choose you?

AD: He had heard about us from Spectral Realms and when he found out how young we are, and poets ourselves, he wanted to touch on that type of audience. He wanted to cover that every generation finds CAS and loves him even though he’s so obscure.

KAO: He has seen (correctly) that we are fast working our way into the Weird Circles, and are students and burgeoning scholars/writers/enthusiasts of the Weird. We’ve made some great connections, and are authors ourselves. He also wanted our poetic expertise–I am primarily a poet for the nonce.

ASJ: How does one work their way into Weird Circles?

KAO: You have to be really Weird…. One must be bold, and unafraid to meet such formidable persons as populate the field–gigantic minds, scholars of the first rate, connoisseurs of the outré, savants of the first rate. And then, once you’ve befriended the right people, you have to have the skills to hang! Haha.

AD: Just people to know, I suppose. Spectral Realms was something I only knew about through other people, same with Weird Fiction Review by Centipede Press. The more people you know involved with the Weird world, the more opportunities you get, whether it’s being invited to submit somewhere or being invited to check out local places of note that involved authors or places stories took place.

ASJ: Are there initiation rites one should know about?

KAO: Blood was drawn, sacrifices were made, Cthulhu was raised for a brief time–I can say no more….

ASJ: who are some other authors of the Weird that may be more obscure to fandom but merit another look?

AD: Wilum Pugmire for sure! Ann K. Schwader is another good one, for poetry as well.

KAO: Wilum Pugmire deserves FAR more recognition. He’s a Weird Lovecraftian writer of the first rate. I also want to mention poet D. L. Myers, whose verse is somehow redolent of Lovecraft, yet somehow even more twisted in it’s sheer ghoulish energy. Adam Bolivar, too, writes some darkly strange Fairytale Weird material, and is a first rate balladier of the macabre.

ASJ: What do you make of Bizarro fiction and its being hybridized with Weird?

KAO: I think Weird and bizarro are kissing cousins…who am I to stand in the way of such amor?

AD: I actually don’t know much about Bizarro to be able to compare the two.

ASJ: I think there was a panel at Necronomicon called the Future of Weird Fiction that addressed this question, is why I’m asking.Kanyeweird

KAO: I think there’s plenty of overlap. Some of what you find in Smith is, I think, Bizarro worthy. “Empire of the Necromancers,” for instance, and so much more….

AD: I heard of that panel but have not been able to find video of it.

ASJ: Kanye West, Reanimator is one of the titles I was thinking of.

AD: That sounds a bit too silly for my tastes.

KAO: One of Smith’s chief attributes was his vast imagination. He thought up scenarios and images almost impossible for the average person to fathom. Such is the nebulous borderland verging on the shadowed land of Bizarro….

ASJ: I’ve heard several commentators say Smith is difficult. Maybe he uses some recondite vocabulary, but his prose is clear and even gripping. thoughts?

AD: Other than his vocabulary, I don’t think Smith is difficult to read at all. I found HPL far more difficult to read than Smith.

KAO: He IS difficult–that is beyond doubt. His vocabulary is a real test even for some of the academic elite. BUT–it was all for *effect*–the sounds of words, the sonorous rhythms, the bewitchment factor. Some enchantment is too high for average person to fully grasp. And so it is sought by savants, poets, and devotees of the strange and fantastic–though even they, at times, perish on the purple paths of lamia-haunted Averoigne….

ASJ: How long have you two been writing, and what have you had published? crimsontome

KAO: I’ve been writing since my early 20’s, so–6-7 years, perhaps. My crowning achievement, to date, is The Crimson Tome (out now from Hippocampus Press). It is full of rhyming, metrical poetry heavily influenced by CAS and HPL, all covering the many shades of horror and dark fantasy. Weird poetry is the technical term–the same meaning as with Weird fiction. I’ve a scattering of other publications, fiction and poetry, but none equal the release of The Crimson Tome!

AD: I started writing since I was in middle school, but I didn’t get published until the end of 2010, I believe. I was first published in the Horror Zine with two poems. It wasn’t really, until last year that I got on a roll and started getting published in more places: Spectral Realms No. 1-3 from Hippocampus Press, Weird Fiction Review from Centipede Press, Weirdbook issues 32 and 33 from Wildside Press, Xnoybis 2 from Dunhams Manor Press, Gothic Blue Book Vol 5 from Burial Day Books, and Necronomicum Issue 4 from Martian Migraine Press, among others.Necronomicum_title

KAO: Look for Ashley and me in Spectral Realms, Necronomicum: The Magazine of Weird Erotica, Weirdbook 31, Ashley in Weird Fiction Review 5, me upcoming in Nameless Magazine and Weird Fiction Review 6, and the both of us in the upcoming Gothic Bluebook. I’ll also add that I wrote an article for this month’s HWA newsletter, on my poetry and it’s Gothic elements. Oh–and we have articles in Hippocampus’ new edition of the infamous Book of Jade–mine’s on necrophilic imagery and it’s symbolic importance! Lovecraft praised The Book of Jade as a Decadent/macabre volume of unusual morbidity and merit. Personally, it is one of my top favorite books of poetry–once I have lovingly read several times.