Gypsy Mob : Episode 3 / Gypsy Traffic

Peter Giletti had just pulled his Ferrari into the Giletti mansion when Matteo came bursting from the front door, his face a mask of terror so stark it made Peter’s balls creep. Putting the sports car in park and setting the emergency brake, he hopped out and waved. 

“Matteo! What the fuck is up?”

Wild-eyed, Matteo looked around. When he spotted Peter, he rushed over, seizing Peter by the shoulders. “Pete! You gotta help me! I lost her and your uncle—”

“Whoa whoa whoa, first things first, drop the Armani,” Peter said, pushing Matteo’s hands away from his tailored jacket. “I just got this. Now what about my uncle?”

“He’s gonna kill me if I don’t find Bianca!” Matteo said, wringing his hands. 

“Wait a minute, where’s Bianca? What happened?”

Matteo blurted out the night’s events, circling back to the salient point. “He’s going to kill me if I can’t find Bianca! Peter, you gotta help me!”

“You really ditched Bianca to go fuck a whore? That’s pretty—”

“Yes, I know what it is, but it is what it is and if I don’t find her, I’ll never fuck anything again! Now will you help me or not?” Matteo waited, shoulders heaving. 

“Yeah, yeah, sure thing,” Peter said, opening the door to his Ferrari and sliding back inside. “Come on.”

They made good time back to the carnival, Peter pushing the little car up to nearly 130mph on the straight stretches. The police in the area knew the Giletti family cars on sight and knew better than to interfere with them. Peter concentrated on his driving, Matteo sat rigid in his seat, savoring each breath he took, wondering if they would be among his last. 

Before long, the lights glowing in the night became brighter and they were pulling into the parking lot of the Gyspy camp. Matteo reached beneath his shirt and pulled out a Glock .9mm. Racking the slide, he ensured a round was in the chamber and stowed the gun away again. Peter watched, an eyebrow raised. 

“Guns blazing?”

Matteo shook his head, scrabbling at the car door handle. “Just a little protection. It’s up to them.” 

Shrugging, Peter chambered a round into his own Glock and tucked it back into his shoulder holster. 

Passing under the gate to the scruffy midway, Peter popped a cigarette into his mouth and lit it with a practiced motion as he surveyed the meager crowd while following Matteo. “Pretty weak carnival. Everything is rusted. You couldn’t pay me to ride one of these fucking things.” He took a drag as his eyes swiveled to follow a blonde girl with a painted face and jeans which looked to be painted on as well. “Rides are for kids anyway.”

“There,” Matteo said, pointing as he quickened his pace. “That’s the tent.”

Peter looked from the sign proclaiming Your Fortune for $5 to the scrawny man beneath it. The man grinned invitingly, gesturing to the door. Rolling his eyes, Peter caught sight of something far more akin to his tastes. 

“You go ahead,” he said to Matteo, who was fumbling in his pocket for a five-dollar bill. Beating him to the draw, Peter pulled out a five and gave it to the skinny man who made it disappear. “My treat. I’ll wait out here, I want to finish this.” He waved the cigarette. 

“Okay. I’ll yell if I need backup.” 

Peter saluted with the cigarette as Matteo disappeared into the tent. He took another drag and dropped it to the ground in front of the Gypsy, grinding it out and turning without a word toward the Pleasure Tent. 

“Hiya,” said the girl attending its entrance, flashing a dazzling white smile over the barest of tops. “Looking for pleasure?”

“Yes, and I’m in a bit of a hurry,” Peter said, glancing over at the fortune tent. 

The girl smiled. “Take our newest girl. Tonight her first night.”

“I’ll take her. How much?”

“$200,” the girl said, holding out a hand. 

Peter’s fingers nimbly extracted two Benjamins from his wallet and slapped them into the girl’s palm. She tucked it down her skirt and beckoned him to follow as she slipped into the tent. Peter followed her through the labyrinth of cloth stalls, adjusting himself as the sounds of sex further stimulated his growing member. The girl stopped at one of the curtains and gestured. 

“She new. Start tonight. No worry ‘bout that. She ready.” With that and a smirk that gave Peter’s peter a twinge, she retreated into the dim of the tent. 

Peter licked his lips and pulled the curtain back. A girl lay on the cot, staring at the ceiling. The shadows hid her face, framed by her long dark hair. She was nude, her arms over her head and legs slightly apart. At the sound of his zipper, her eyes flickered towards him, then back to the ceiling. Unbuckling his pants and pulling down his underwear, he mounted her and slid himself inside. The girl at the front had been right, this girl was prepared. It didn’t take him long and the whole time, her expression never changed. 

Panting, Peter slid out of her and wiped himself on the cot before standing and refastening his pants. “Good for you, honey?”

“Yes.”

Peter’s hands froze in the act of buckling his belt. It was not the word itself, nor its delivery, flat, dead, devoid of any emotion. The voice he had heard at the Giletti mansion more times than he could count. It was Bianca’s voice. 

“…Bi?” Peter croaked. 

She looked at him blankly. With shaking hands, he pulled his lighter from his pocket. Flicking it open, he cast a soft glow over the room, illuminating the face of his cousin, Bianca Giletti.

“Bianca! What the fuck are you doing here!”

She said nothing, just continued staring at him. If not for her breathing, she could have been dead. 

“I’ve got to get you out of here. Can you walk?” Peter reached for her, weak-kneed at the thought of touching her again after what he had just done. “Bi, I’m sorr—”

A harsh whisper of canvas behind Peter made him spin. An enormous man covered in tattoos and body hair had torn the curtain back and was reaching for him. Peter’s heart leaped into his mouth as he staggered backward. 

“Where you tink you goin’ wit our girl, eh?” the man growled, stepping forward. 

Peter’s reflexes, honed by years of the family business, came to his rescue, drawing his Glock from the shoulder holster and pointing it squarely between the man’s eyes. The big man halted, the gun’s barrel an inch from his forehead. 

“Go ‘head, city boy,” he sneered. “If you got da guts—”

The Gypsy’s hand moved, amazingly fast for his size. Unfortunately, his aim was not good; as he attempted to grab the gun from Peter, one sausage-sized finger slid into the trigger guard of the gun, its girth inexorably pressing Peter’s more modest digit into the trigger. There was a shot. The giant man’s ugly sneer turned into a look of shock as the back of his skull and brains splattered across the tent wall. 

Peter was still trying to process what had happened when the screams began, galvanizing him into action. Pulling the gun from the finger of the dead giant, he looked around wildly. Bianca lay on the cot, splattered with bits of bone and brain, her expression as vacant as ever. There were yells from within the tent as interrupted men and women expressed their fear and concern. There was no choice. 

“I’ll get you out of here, Bi, I promise,” he whispered to her, unsure if she would hear him or if it would even register. Slipping out of the stall’s entrance over the dead giant, he fled down one of the corridors between the stalls, heading for the exit. The girl who had admitted him was standing in it, a machete in her hand. She had dispensed with the knowing smirk and her face was a mask of rage. 

“You murder a Rom, white man,” she hissed, raising the machete. “You will pay.”

Peter raised the gun, pointing it at her chest. “Step aside, lady, or those pretty tits of yours will be the next thing to get splattered.” 

Curling her lip, the girl stood aside, still holding the machete. Peter eased around her, trying to keep an eye on the machete and the rest of her at the same time. As he passed her, she spat at him. 

“I’ll remember that, babe. You’ll be hearing from me again real soon,” he snarled, slipping into the crowd of oblivious carnival patrons outside the tent who had somehow not heard the gunshot. 

Elbowing his way through the throng, Peter halted, panting, before the fortunes tent, his gun beneath his bloody Armani coat. The scrawny Gypsy eyed his hectic expression with what appeared to be a look of amusement. 

“Where’s my friend?” Peter demanded, looking over his shoulder toward the Pleasure Tent, sure the girl would be coming after him with the machete. 

“You friend ‘as gone,” the Gypsy said, spreading his fingers. “He say, he see you later.”

Peter pulled the gun from beneath his coat, keeping it low. “He wouldn’t do that, don’t take me for a moron. Now you tell me where he is, or—”

Behind the scrawny man, another mammoth Gypsy appeared out of the darkness of the fortunes tent. “Or what, slicker?”

Peter heard shouts from the direction of the Pleasure Tent and, performing an analysis of his odds, holstered his weapon and took off, shouldering his way through the crowd of increasingly agitated carnival-goers. He did not stop until he was in his Ferrari pushing sixty mph on his way out of the parking lot.

***

Matteo pushed into the dimly lit interior of the fortunes tent to see a thin old woman wrapped in shawls seated before a dark glass orb. She raised her eyes to his, and a smile crept across her mouth. “So, you come for your fortune?”

“I come for my girlfriend, Bianca,” Matteo said. He pulled his phone from his pocket and showed the woman his phone’s wallpaper. From the screen, Bianca was blowing a kiss with a bottle of tequila in her other hand. “She got her fortune read earlier tonight and now she’s missing.”

“I donno whatcha talkin ‘bout,” the woman said. Her smile widened. “If I read ya fortune, maybe we find hers?”

“Sure, fine, whatever, only her dad has told me he’ll cut off my nuts if I can’t find her so I really need—”

The woman threw up her hand, freezing Matteo in mid-sentence as the crystal ball’s surface flared bright blue. “Silence!”

She moved her long fingers over the ball, peering deep into its depths. Matteo waited impatiently, hopping from one foot to the other. Waste of time, this, he thought furiously as the woman whispered gibberish to the ball. Bianca’s father is going to have me castrated and I’m sitting here watching this old bat poke a piece of glass.

“Well?” he demanded when he could stand it no longer. 

The woman looked a moment longer and then raised her eyes to meet his. “Well what?”

“Where is Bianca?” Matteo’s voice was becoming shrill. 

“Ah,” the woman said, and shook her head. “I can no tell you dat. But I tell you, you be reunited wid her soon. You VERY HANDSOME!” she shouted this last, causing Matteo to recoil. 

“What the—”

“You VERY. HANDSOME.” She repeated, if anything, louder. 

“Listen,” Matteo said, his voice cracking as he pulled the Glock from his waistband. “If you don’t tell me where Bianca is—”

There was a rustling noise behind him. He half-turned in time to see an enormous man swinging a baseball bat at his head before the world exploded into blackness. 

“I tell you, Matteo,” Madam Zara stood, looking down at the prostrate form of Matteo. “You be seeing her soon.” 

The giant snickered.

“Good swing, Grog,” she said with a smile. “Take him to tent.”

***

The sound of a Ferrari caught Don Giletti’s ear and he turned, frowning, to glance out the window behind the desk in his study. Not just because he and his wife Lucia had bought it for their son Peter not six months ago, but because he had made the modifications to that engine himself, and he couldn’t mistake the sound of its tachometer reaching the red line. 

He turned back to face the room. His brother Rocco stood by the tray of amber-filled decanters, pouring himself a snifter of cognac. Giletti’s wife Lucia leaned against the front of his desk, her cosmetically perfect ass seated a few feet from Giletti. “I’m sorry, my dear, what were you saying?”

Lucia rolled her eyes. A few years Giletti’s senior, she sometimes felt as though she were a mother chiding her son. Turning to face him, she leaned against the desk, palms down. “The body trade is down all of a sudden, and you know that is one trade that is recession-proof. Something has changed, Lorenzo, and we need to figure out what it is. I have girls sitting idle at night.”

“My supplier is getting ratty as well,” Rocco said, coming back from the bar with a drink and lit cigarette in the other hand. “I told him I only needed half a container this week and he warned me not to let it become a habit, then hung up.”

Giletti snorted. “I try not to lose sleep over it.”

With a sudden bang, the doors to the study flew open, making them all jump. The men had their guns half drawn before their brains registered that their brother, Brando, towed his son Peter by the arm. The latter’s eyes were giant saucers, staring around though not seeing. Coming to a halt, Brando dropped Peter’s arm and slammed the doors shut, locking them. He strode forward and prodded Peter in the back, pushing him forward. 

“Go on, tell them!” he barked. “Spit it out, boy!” His face was red and his hair looked as though he had been pulling chunks of it out. Giletti had never seen his brother looking quite so deranged and felt a hint of an unusual emotion he was able to identify as fear. What the hell had happened?

“I—they—there’s a car—carnival, up the road,” Peter gabbled, still staring around as though he had never seen the place before. “They had—girls. Bianca. They—I—” Peter shivered mightily and wrapped his arms around himself as though he were freezing. 

“What de absolute fuck are you gabbling about?” Giletti roared, on his feet, fingernails unconsciously digging into the desk. 

“You’ve been wondering why the girl trade is down,” Brando said, striding forward and shoving Peter out of the way, who took no notice. “I think you’ll find it’s been down the exact length of time as a certain Gypsy carnival has been set up in the area. As near as I can tell, Peter, saw a tent set up as a brothel, and when he went in to, um, investigate, the girl they gave him…was Bianca, Lorenzo. They’ve got your little girl, brother,” Brando said, tears of rage standing in his eyes.

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Koko-di Koko-da

 

 

Plotline: A case of food poisoning derails a family’s holiday and forever alters the course of their lives. Years later, the couple go camping again, looking for one last chance to go back to the way things used to be. But what once was is lost, and they instead find themselves having to relive the same nightmarish events, as that day and the horrors it brings repeat themselves infinitely. Together, they must overcome their trauma, reconcile with the past and fight for their lives — over and over again.

Who would like it: Fans of camping horror, cosmic horror, WTF, international films, myths and fairytales

High Points: I really love how told in two different media’s

Complaints: None

Overall: I really enjoyed this super creepy little movie!

Stars: 3 1/2

Where I watched it: Sling

 

 

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: 5 Insect Horror Novels

I don’t like bugs. Cockroaches, spiders, centipedes… if it’s creepy or crawly, I’m sure to stay far away. But a Horror Addict asked me to create a list of good horror books involving insects. So, from spine-tingling terror to science fiction frights to the absolutely bonkers, here are my top five suggestions for horror that will make you bug out.

Eight by W.W. Mortensen

When entomologist Rebecca Riley receives stunning photographs of a new discovery, she finds herself on the next flight to Brazil, heading down to join the team of scientists assembling there.

What she uncovers is beyond imagination: strange statues in the jungle… a ruined city built by the refugees of a lost Pacific continent… and a terrifying new species. It is an ancient enemy, one whose very existence has implications for all of humankind… and the planet itself.

Prey by Michael Crichton

In the Nevada desert, an experiment has gone horribly wrong. A cloud of nanoparticles—micro-robots—has escaped from the laboratory. This cloud is self-sustaining and self-reproducing. It is intelligent and learns from experience. For all practical purposes, it is alive.

It has been programmed as a predator. It is evolving swiftly, becoming more deadly with each passing hour.

And we are the prey.

Slither by Edward Lee

When Nora and her research team arrived on the deserted tropical island, she was expecting a routine zoological expedition, but it didn’t take long to realize they’re not alone. Now members of her own team are disappearing, and when they return, they’ve changed.

Sparrow Rock by Nate Kenyon

Six high school students have survived nuclear war in a high-tech bomb shelter, but they are not alone. Mutated insects are hungry and the human survivors are the only prey.

Texas Chainsaw Mantis by Kevin Strange

After wiping out humanity years ago, Praying Mantises have evolved into the dominant species on Earth, taking over our buildings, our jobs, and our lives.

Matthew is a high school history teacher. He does his best to educate the young mantises and tame the savage side of their nature, until the day he comes home to find his wife ready to mate. Anyone who knows anything about Mantises knows that mating is a death sentence for males of the species. But when Matthew’s wife partially decapitates him during sex, he crawls out to the woodshed to die, only to find an old haunted chainsaw, possessed by the spirit of his home’s dead human owner, who just happens to be an occult sorcerer and serial killer known as The Growler’s Phantom. Now resurrected, Matthew vows revenge on his murderous wife, and her new husband Nicko as well as anyone else who gets in his path.

There you have it! Five books to make your skin crawl. Do you know any horror books that feature insects? Want to see another list of recommendations? Leave a comment!

Free Fiction: Undone by P J Curtis

Undone by P.J. Curtis

I lost something in the woods. It hurts my head every time I try to remember what exactly I lost, but there’s an emptiness that must be filled before it’s too late. I am not getting any younger and these trees are only growing taller. 

I would’ve driven through these woods considering how wide the path was, but at its entrance, I decided to leave my car. I wouldn’t be needing it any longer. I don’t need any protection for what I’m doing today. However, when I exited my car, I looked at the sky and noticed how dark it had gotten despite it being early in the day. The once welcoming pink sky has transformed into a coal-stained canvas, just ready to be presented by its maker. At first, it alarmed me how sudden the change was, but I didn’t think too much about it since I needed to find what I lost. 

As I walked down the dirt path filled with moss-ridden stones and rotten bark, my legs began to tremble. It felt like hours since I started my journey to find what I’ve lost but something in my chest was pulling me forward. I figured it was strong conviction but another, deeper part of me, felt as if something was truly pulling me. 

The path seemed endless and less of the already dying light from the sky was sinking through the trees. In fact, I could hardly see the sky. I couldn’t stop and fully take in what had become of my surroundings but it felt as if the trees were closing in on me. Almost as if they were forming a tunnel, the trees began to bend like fingers trying to touch the palm of a hand. There was barely any light but no matter how dark the tunnel of trees made my venture, I knew I would find what I needed.

I kept trudging along the dark path with a shortness of breath. I desired to keep going but my lungs were burning so hot, I thought they would burst from my chest. Even my legs had given up and my knees finally buckled. I figured I would collapse completely but as I fell, I realized my chest hadn’t hit the path. Almost as if I were begging, only my knees kissed the ground. My upper body was completely erect and my chest began to protrude outwards. The pulling sensation had only grown stronger as I was dragged along the path with no visible force tugging at my chest. 

I was dragged for hours. The knee part of my pants has disintegrated and had been matted with blood and mud. I felt weaker the farther I went down the tunnel. I could barely keep my eyes open but an unusual clutter of small voices prevented me from going completely adrift. The deeper I delved into the dark path, the clearer the voices sounded. I could make out what they were saying and frankly, it was nothing special. All I heard were average conversations layered on yet more average conversations. It was incessant but comforting. 

Eventually, the speed at which I was being dragged had come to a halt as I entered a different part of the woods. The tunnel had opened in a circular fashion above me as if the trees morphed into a colosseum. With this newfound exposure to the sky, the moon shone light on something I had never seen before. 

Before my eyes, I saw an old woman in worn rags sewing herself what appeared to be a red scarf. The old woman looked grotesquely thin and feeble yet she used her needle as if it were a mighty sword when she struck the yarn. It was a beautiful stitch, a work of art to say the least. I began to wonder why she wore such hideous and worn rags but I was interrupted by her gruesome gaze. 

She did not say a single word. The old woman stopped sewing for a moment as she brushed her matted wisps of hair over her shoulder. She then pointed at my chest and that’s when I saw it. A long strand of red yarn had come out of my chest and had been linked to her soon-to-be scarf. My eyes widened as she fiddled with the string with her long nail as if it were a banjo. Before I could process what was happening, her eyes rolled back into her skull and her twisted smile grew as she continued sewing. With every passing stroke of her needle, I began to unravel. Her scarf grew longer as my body began to diminish into nothingness. I couldn’t tell if I made a single noise because the conversations only grew louder as I became more scarf than human. 

The process was extremely painful, as my skin was being ripped off but I have to say…it was worth it. I feel warmed not only by the fabric I’ve become but also by the voices I am surrounded by. I can now intermingle with whomever I’m woven with. 

I finally found what I have lost. 


Author Bio: 

P.J. Curtis is a fan of fiction that disturbs readers to the core. Whether he is reading or writing it, Curtis believes we all should take a moment to appreciate what lurks in the shadows. Being primarily inspired by the works of Junji Ito and Franz Kafka, Curtis delves deep into the brink of human absurdity through the exploration of the unexplainable. Right now, Curtis is studying at Montclair State University to become a high school English teacher, but that has never stopped him from exploring what makes us scream.

 

Book Review : Aleister Blake by Valentina Cano

Review by Matt Morovich

An admission before I begin: I’m not that much of a fan of the romance genre.

It’s not for particularly any negative reason, the previous statement isn’t an indictment of the genre, it’s just not a genre that I have had much experience with. Admittedly, it also not one I have a preference for; if I’m going to pick up a book, it’s much more likely going to be horror, science fiction, or fantasy.  Maybe a more accurate statement would be that I don’t have enough experience with the genre to say if I’m a fan or not. 

That said, this book, Aleister Blake

Here I thought it was going to be a horror novel and yet it’s a sneaky, stealthy horror romance.

And that is not a bad thing in the slightest.

Aleister Blake is the story of Nora, a young woman living in Victorian London with her brother Peter. Decidedly working class, the pair work as rat catchers for a man named Sharpe, clearing the homes of wealthier citizens of vermin. Having grown up as orphans on the city streets, the siblings are incredibly close and Peter has done everything he could to keep his sister safe. That said, they are still products of their environment which expresses itself in Nora’s suspicion and dislike for the upper class and her penchant for nicking objects to pawn from the homes of their clients when her brother, the moral compass of the two, isn’t able to stop her. Due to her smaller size and figure, Nora is the quick and nimble one, crawling beneath floors and between walls to catch the rats while Peter helps manage their working relationships to get more clients.

While not a comfortable life, the two of them get by with their work, making a mostly honest living, and things go well until Peter makes the mistake of placing too large a bet on a dog during a rat-baiting when a tip doesn’t pan out. When it is revealed he doesn’t have the money to cover the wager, Peter is stabbed and mortally wounded while his sister watches. Crying for help in a filthy London alley, Nora’s prayers are answered when a stranger appears out of the night to offer her a devil’s bargain: Nora could agree to work for the stranger on a project that he needed her assistance with and he would save Peter. The additional drawback would be that Nora would become invisible to everyone who had previously known her, excising her from her previous life, but, facing living in a world without her brother, she’d rather go on knowing he was alive and unable to see her than for him to be dead, so she agrees. 

And that is how we are introduced to the mysterious Aleister Blake.

The horror of Aleister Blake comes from the same-named character, who, right from the go, is clearly more than he appears. Able to heal mortal wounds with a wave of a hand, he lives in a Tardis-like home that is far larger on the inside than it is on the outside and is staffed with misshapen shadow creatures that flit about silently on the edges of your vision. Over the course of the book, we learn Aleister’s secrets as Nora uncovers more about her mysterious benefactor and business partner and the unsettling nature of his house.

The romance portion of this novel is, you probably could have guessed, the growing relationship between Nora and Aleister. Over the course of the book, the two come to an understanding of each other and gain mutual respect, leading to Nora acknowledging she has feelings for him. To go too much more into either the romance or horror aspect of the novel would be to give too many spoilers, but, to my unfamiliar experience with the romance genre, the relationship seemed to grow organically and realistically.

I’m happy to say that, as opposed to the last two books I reviewed, I enjoyed Aleister Blake quite a bit. Written from Nora’s perspective, she’s an entertaining and realistically written character who I enjoyed getting to be a part of. Her interactions with her brother, Aleister, and others felt real and unlike other female protagonists whose name rhymes with “Smella”, she is competent and realistically flawed. She has a sense of humor, her own fears, and desires, and the end of the novel was refreshing in how it turned out. I particularly enjoyed how Cano wrote the dialogue, it flowed well and sounded like how people actually talk; additionally, the way that Nora and Aleister speak with each other also really emphasized the changing nature of their relationship, becoming more familiar and humorful as they grow closer. 

The only thing that made me frown at the book was, once again, the main threat came down to sexual violence around women, specifically women who had been kidnapped to be trafficked. I will say that there are no graphic depictions of any abuse, only implications of it, but again that was being used as a trope made me roll my eyes a bit. What saved it for me was how little it was part of the plot; it existed, and dealing with the kidnapping was part of Nora’s motivation, but it wasn’t the singular facet of the story nor was it over-emphasized. Part of me wishes Cano had found a different reason for Nora to care about Aleister’s schemes, because of how overdone this sort of thing feels to me, but I could look past that opinion for how much I enjoyed the rest of the book.

I will say that I was hoping that the book would have had more horror. While what was there was well written, I felt like this skewed a bit more toward the romance side of the hyphenated genre than the horror side. The horror had a decidedly PG-13 feel to it, which isn’t necessarily bad, I was just hoping for more. 

If you’re looking for a horror-romance book with an interesting and entertaining female protagonist, I would definitely recommend Aleister Blake.

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Static – X

 

Greetings HorrorAddicts. This month’s review has one helluva backstory. There’s a rock band, a romance, a drug problem, and a resurrection of sorts. I had to do a deep dive to give the album a full critique and what I found was a story that tragically has a lot in common with so many bands who have lost frontmen to the excesses of rock ‘n’ roll, however, the surviving members of Static-X are determined to make their own way back in an unusual but compelling way. 

Static-X celebrated the 20th anniversary of their album Wisconsin Death Trip in 2019. The original lineup toured to commemorate the album…with a singer dubbed Xer0. Because Wayne Static died in 2014 of a deadly combination of prescription drugs and alcohol. News came out that the band was recording a new album using some of Wayne’s demos and compositions, a guest spot from Al Jourgenson of Ministry, and would feature this new, unknown, masked singer, which has been a controversial move for some of their fans. The band, on the other hand, maintains that Wayne would have found it hilarious. (https://www.loudersound.com/features/static-x-the-story-behind-that-controversial-wayne-static-death-mask).

And man is this album amazing. What a testament to Wayne and a reminder of the magic the original line-up had together. 

For those new to Static-X, their hit song “Push-It” has been a staple of the industrial rock/metal scene for years. On this new album, Project Regeneration, Volume I, there’s that same electronic-tinged in-your-face feel of their early work, but the melodic atmosphere of powerhouse bands like Korn, Rammstein, or even Rob Zombie can be heard in the mix. “Worth Dyin’ For” has a hooky chorus, and “Terminator Oscillator” is a hard-hitting tune with a chanting rhyme that is the metal fan’s version of INXS’s “Mediate.” My favorite track on the album so far—and that changes each time I listen because they’re all great—is “Something Of My Own,” a powerful, emotional jam that resonates with its lyrics about opportunities missed due to the loss of Wayne. 

The hard rock/metal scene these days has matured from the days of nu-metal when Static-X first set up shop, but Project Regeneration, Volume I fits in nicely with today’s sound. The album is a great tribute to a band that obviously has a lot more to offer, and it’s one I will be jamming to for quite some time. 

That’s it for this month. Stay Tuned for Ro’s Recs…

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

Nightmare Fuel : Olivia Mabel

Hello Addicts,

Olivia Mabel lived with her husband Travis and son Aiden on the Footlights Ranch, a thirteen-acre property near Celina, TX. Tragedy struck the family on March 13, 1990, when Aiden, then seven years old, drowned in a pond on their land. In her grief, Olivia began distancing herself from everyone: friends, family, work, and even her husband. There was a divorce, and Travis moved to the New England area, leaving Olivia all alone. The last reported sighting of her was in September 1991.

On February 27, 1994, police were dispatched to the Footlights Ranch after they traced a series of silent 911 calls to there. The home appeared empty, dusty, and neglected — all save for one room, Aiden’s former bedroom. Unlike the rest of the house, it was kept neat and tidy. It also contained an altar to the deceased child, complete with hand-drawn images and letters addressed to him. On the front of the altar were Tibetian and Sanskrit words which, when translated, said “Construct” or “To Build.” It was in this room that police found the decomposing remains of Olivia Mabel. She sat in a rocking chair with a hand-crafted stick doll clutched tight in her hands.

Although she had been dead for a while by that point, it was a letter dated 2-27-94, the same day of the 911 calls and discovery of the scene, that increased the creep factor. It read:

My Aiden,

I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.

I should have never let it get like this.

I’m leaving.

I will not let you keep me you ViLE, EViL CREATURE.

Mommy’s coming for you, Aiden, my sweet Aiden.

Mommy loves you.

Some believe that Olivia tried to create a tulpa version of her son based on translations of the Sanskrit on the alter. Further, they think both the tulpa and Olivia’s spirit still inhabit the home. Others see a woman unwilling to let go of her son who slipped into madness and despair. Although the case is officially closed, many aspects of it remain a mystery to this day.

Until next time, Addicts…

D.J.

Odds and Dead Ends : Secret Doorways in Takashi Miike’s ‘Audition’

Usually when I write articles analysing films I have a fair idea that what I’m writing about has a chance of being somewhere close to the mark. With this one, I’m putting forth a personal interpretation of something which struck me when I made the sensible (read: stupid, because it disturbed me once more) decision to re-watch Takashi Miike’s infamous 1999 shocker, Audition.

            As always, I will be discussing bits of plot detail. So, you know, SPOILER WARNING.

            For anyone who hasn’t seen the film, or watched it in a while, here’s a brief overview. Aoyama, who works for a film company, finds himself looking for a new companion after his son suggests he re-marries, his wife having passed some time ago. To this end, he and his colleague set up a series of auditions for a film that will never get made, to find Aoyama the perfect girlfriend. He falls quickly for Asami Yamazaki, a quiet yet beautiful young woman, who hides dark secrets behind her naive exterior.

            When I was re-watching it, taking notes sometimes as I do, I found myself struck by the constant use of doorways and doorframes. Often, the action would take place in one room but the camera would be placed in another room entirely, looking in. On occasion, the action, a speaking character, for instance, would move behind the walls so that we can’t see them. This framing occurring throughout the film, and it’s the sort of setup which doesn’t just happen; you have to make the conscious decision that you’re going to block a scene in this way.

            The cynical viewer would suggest that it’s just Miike’s style to have lots of static shots where the action just plays out. This happens in many of his films, and considering his prolific output, one could argue that it means he doesn’t have to set up large bits of equipment for big camera moves and so can just film more. The film was made in three weeks (and apparently this was a week longer than Miike usually made a film in), so it might be a definite factor in the shot choices. He’s used to very little time to get the footage, so he makes sure it’s filmed in a way to require minimal changes between shots, for maximum efficiency in the schedule.

            And yet Miike also has the camera moves down when he needs to (there’s a very specific, disorienting flip in a bed about halfway through the film which demonstrates this), suggesting that everything is thought through. So it doesn’t hold completely that it’s just for efficient shooting schedules. No, there’s definitely a specific, storytelling reason for this consistent framing.

            Considering much of the story is based on the theme of dark secrets, and of things hidden coming to light, I’d like to argue here that the repeated doorway framing suggests something about this theme. By showing the walls of the room the camera is situated in, we are shown a frame within a frame. This could suggest something a larger whole, a secret within an exterior facade. We also must consider the idea of doorways as a portal. The world around us changes when we move from one room to another; we end up in a different place, a different world. It seems consistent with this symbolism that there is therefore a suggestion of two different worlds, that of secrets inside the doorway and an outside appearance, and we are being allowed to look into this other, hidden reality that the characters hide from the apparent truthful world.

            Several examples suggest themselves to support this. At the beginning of the film, Aoyama and his son are eating dinner in a dining room, framed by the doorway, as they discuss that Aoyama should look to re-marry. The secret he keeps of misleading someone to have an excuse to gain their affections begins here with this conversation. In a different, pivotal scene, which hints at Asami’s darkness, she waits with her hair down for the phone to ring. A large, tied up sack suddenly rocks violently behind her. Our understanding of this character, and that she hides darker secrets, is changed completely by this moment, so much so that Miike goes on to break several filmmaking conventions (including the traditional 180-degree rule, which keeps characters in a conversation on the same sides of the frame for ease of understanding) to emphasize this now unstable relationship between the audience and Asami’s outwardly unassuming persona. This pivotal shot is, once again, shot through a doorway. Inside the doorway, secrets are seen.

            There are many more such instances of this doorway framing in the film. Asami is seen standing on a balcony outside at their holiday cabin, dressed all in innocent white, whilst standing through a doorway. From our renewed understanding of her, the purity of her colour combined with the doorway’s suggestion of secrecy and falsity implies that this shining white innocence may not be what it appears. Near the end of the film, Aoyama succumbs to drugged whisky whilst standing on the threshold between two rooms in his house, and the camera is angled in such a way so that his fall happens almost completely within the doorframe.

            And then in the final moments of the film, Asami and Aoyama are both on the floor, wounded and dying, looking at each other through an open doorway. Here the frame connects them because now their secrets have all been spilled, and they watch one another on either side of this world. This is the first time that they see each other’s secrets, exposed and open to each other completely for the first time in the film. There is nowhere to hide anymore, and indeed they have nothing left to hide. Both of them, like the camera, can see into the dark interiors of their lives.

            Until Miike comes out and says that it was indeed intentional to express this theme, we have no way of knowing. But this use of doorways, and our looking through them into a scene beyond, is incredibly common throughout the film and is almost certainly deliberate. It might also be that Miike did this to suggest a distance, a loneliness, in the characters; he often uses long shots in the film to make characters isolated and alone, so to use these doorframes for similar emotional reasons, if not thematic, isn’t too far-fetched. In either case, it’s certainly an additional dynamic which helps raise Audition to something which is far more sophisticated than we might have given it credit for in the past.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: kjudgemental

Gypsy Mob : Episode 2 / Don Giletti

Don Giletti stood at the window behind his desk, staring at the darkness outside his mansion. Behind him, the hulking figure of a man stood in one corner of the room, his features obscured. He may have been looking at the third man in the room, the one cowering before Don Giletti’s desk, cradling his right hand. The fingers of this hand were bent at odd angles and the middle finger looked to be pulled from its socket. The man’s breathing was harsh, the only sound in the room. 

“You ‘ave made me displeased wit’ you,” Giletti said, his voice regretful. “De only question left is whether or not to let you walk from here, boasting of your incompetence and lack of consequences.”

“Don Giletti,” the man whispered, straining to speak through a throat swollen by two enormous handprints. “I crave…I beg your pardon. Had I but known the territory was yours, I never—”

“It is ALL my territory!” Giletti thundered, turning from the window to fix the man with a cold stare. “De very ground you walk on is under our control for hundreds of miles in all directions. Yet you see fit to set up shop in what amounts to my front yard.”

“Yes, of course,” the man panted, his eyes straying to the silent figure in the corner. “Please, Don Giletti, let me prove to you my loyalty. Allow me the chance to do this, killing me will do no—”

“You are correct, death would hinder your chance at redemption. I only question whether or not your redemption is worth it,” Giletti said. He folded his hands before him, staring the man down. 

“Don Giletti, sir, I will be your most loyal, most trustworthy—”

“Tony,” Giletti said, interrupting the stammered protests of devotion. He had heard them all before. “Mr Sanders has pleaded his life, but cannot be allowed to walk free. Please give him a lasting reminder of our feelings for interlopers, that his loyalties never waver again.”

The man’s eyes grew huge and shot to the hulking figure which had come to life. Stepping out of the shadows was a huge man, easily over seven feet tall, in an immaculate black tuxedo. His head was bald as a cue ball, his hands the size of dinner plates. His face was an expressionless blank as he advanced on Sanders, the smaller man squealing with fear, his feet scrabbling for purchase on the slick tile floor. 

“Nonono Don Giletti no you don’t have to do that please no—” 

His words degenerated into gibberish as the giant man knelt beside the chair, seizing Sanders’ calf in one giant hand, his foot with the other. Tendons stood out on Tony’s massive hands as he twisted. 

Sanders screamed, an inarticulate sound of agony and horror as the bones in his ankle cracked in with a sickening wet pop. Tony twisted in the other direction, bringing more popping and screaming sounds from the man as his bones were neatly sheared from each other. Setting his grip, Tony pulled. The muscles under his tuxedo arms bulged and with a sickening sound of tearing meat, the foot of Albert Sanders was torn off in his hand. The wretched man’s screams pleased Don Giletti as he trimmed the end of a large cigar. 

“Thank you, Tony. Now please escort Mr Sanders to the door before he bleeds all over my floor.”

The big man lifted one of Sanders’ arms, placing it around his own massive shoulders and hiking Sanders to his foot. Dragging the sobbing man to the door of the study, Tony booted it open and dropped Sanders in a pile over its threshold. 

“You’ll see yourself out, Mr Sanders?” Giletti asked, lighting his cigar with a silver lighter. “Do try and make it outside before expiring. Good night.”

Tony shut the door, blotting out the man’s suffering. Going to a cupboard in the corner, he pulled out a mop, bucket, and bleach. Going to the French doors on one side of the room, he slid one open, taking the bucket outside to the expansive grounds, and hose outlet. 

Giletti surveyed the blood around the chair Sanders had occupied. A few buckets of bleach water and it would be as though it had never happened. Picking up the phone on his desk, he pressed a button to connect him to the local police station. The other end rang twice before it was picked up. 

“Giletti?” The voice was low and gravelly, hesitant and slightly fearful. 

“Yes, Chief Murphy, and if anybody else ever calls you from this number, I want to know about it,” said Giletti, blowing a perfect smoke ring at the ceiling. “I wanted to thank you personally for your information regarding the late Albert Sanders, it was most entertaining to speak wid him.”

“Of course, sir, you know anything I can do—”

“I do know, and I appreciate you doing it. Tomorrow there will be two tickets to the opera on your desk, along with your favorite whiskey. Don Giletti always rewards loyalty.” A second smoke ring joined the first. Behind him, Tony re-entered from the grounds, the bucket full of water. He closed the French door silently and set the bucket down beside the puddle of blood. Splashing a healthy portion of bleach into it, the huge man set to with the mop. 

“Thank you very much, sir, please don’t hesitate—”

Don Giletti hung up the phone, puffing on his cigar as he watched Tony mopping. 

“Once you are done wid de stain, find Mr Sanders and dispatch him cleanly, will you, Tony? His life no longer seems worth living.”

The man nodded once, never looking up from his work. 

Two raps came at Giletti’s door, light and reluctant. 

“Enter,” said Giletti, sucking on his cigar. 

Matteo entered, his eyes on the trail of blood. Behind him, Giletti could see the pile that was Albert Sanders laying in the hallway, having drug himself only a few feet before passing out. 

“Tony, dis blood puddle can wait. Please tend to what’s left of Mr Sanders before de stain in de hallway becomes permanent.” Giletti gestured with his cigar.

Obediently, Tony stood, leaving the mop in the bucket. Stepping carefully over the puddles, he walked around Matteo, who flinched noticeably as he neared. The big man turned, shutting the double doors softly behind him. 

“Matteo!” Don Giletti said expansively, leaning back in his seat with the cigar in his mouth. “How did my little girl enjoy de carnival?”

“Don Giletti…” Matteo said before trailing off, his mouth dryer than he could ever remember. The whole way back from the Gypsy encampment, he had been rehearsing what to tell his prospective father-in-law and had gotten no further than those two words. “Don Giletti…” he said again, once again coming up short. 

Giletti took the cigar from his mouth and frowned. “Where is Bianca, Matteo?”

“G-gone,” Matteo squeaked, his eyes falling again and again on the puddle of blood and bucket before him. 

Giletti stared at him wordlessly, the cigar describing lazy curls of smoke up to the ceiling. Matteo felt two inches tall. 

“Sir, she went to the fortune teller’s tent. I went…somewhere else, and when I came back to the fortune tent, they told me she had left. I could not find her anywhere and her phone goes to voice mail. I thought I should come back and tell you, sir, before much more time had passed.”

Giletti continued to stare, eyes boring holes into Matteo. 

“Sir, I’m sorry,” Matteo gabbled, now talking faster as though to buy himself time. “If you want me to sir I’ll go back and find her I know I can, maybe I just didn’t check closely enough because I thought maybe she could have—”

“Where did you go, Matteo, dat you left my daughter alone wid de Gypsies?”

Giletti’s voice was very quiet but it cut through Matteo’s babble, shutting the young man up with a snap as his heart sank. Very few had successfully lied to Giletti. 

“I—uh, that is to say, I went—”

“You have one chance to tell me de truth, young man. I would advise you to take it.”

The stories of Giletti’s responses to deceit came back to Matteo, that coupled with the blood on the floor compelled him to the truth, come what may. 

“I went to the Pleasure Tent, sir,” Matteo said in a rush, as though hoping hearing it quickly would be easier for the patriarch. 

“De Pleasure Tent,” repeated Giletti, still staring.

“Yes sir.”

“Am I correct in assuming dat is what it sounds like?”

Matteo’s eyes dropped. “Yes, sir,” he mumbled. 

“You mean to sit dere and tell me dat while on a date wid my daughter, you ditched her to go to bed wid a Gypsy prostitute and now have no idea where she is?”

Matteo was sure he was sealing his fate as he whispered, “Yes, sir.”

The Don’s face was a mask of cold fury as he stubbed the cigar out in a gold ashtray. “De only ting keeping you alive is de fact dat you did not try to conceal dis from me. I will consider de matter closed if you can produce her, tonight. If you cannot, Tony will have to get involved. You don’t want Tony to get involved.”

“No, sir,” squeaked Matteo, hardly daring to believe his reprieve. 

“Get out of my sight, Matteo,” Giletti’s voice was laden with disgust. “If I see you again widout my daughter—”

But he was talking to an empty room; Matteo had already wrenched the door open and fled. 

 

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: In The Earth

 

 

Plotline: As the world searches for a cure to a devastating virus, a scientist and a park scout venture deep into the woods. As night falls, their journey becomes a terrifying voyage through the heart of darkness as the forest comes to life around them.

Who would like it: Fan of mythologies, folklore, monsters, slow burns and slasher films will love this movie!

High Points: I like the concept of using science to try to communicate with nature

Complaints:

Overall: I really liked this film, it’s the kind of movie that you’ll see something different every time you watch it

Stars: 4 1/2

Where I watched it: Screener

 

Free Fiction : In the Winter Forest by John Drury

In the Winter Forest by John Drury

Before the man stood a large monolithic slate constructed with a dark abyss-like cosmic sludge, ever moving and crawling like one thousand termites upon the carcass of a long-deceased animal.  Each character shifted and writhed through the sludge, eternally fighting for release from the confines of the monolith but forever holding their distinct and awe-inspiring shape with both grandeur and solidity. The alien etchings presented themselves to the world like the proclamation of some unholy deity, warning those of the unspeakable sufferings that laid in wait for any who dared step foot upon this god-forsaken land.

All around D’Hiver, a cold winter wind blew, the screams of the wind creating a cacophony that was further amplified by the large monolithic structure that laid bare before him. He awoke sprawled before the structure on his hands and knees in a position of prostration with no remembrance of his past or identity. Only a brief recollection of a life previously lived presided within his now deteriorated mind. Within that memory, a single visage presided but had now been smeared away from his mind like the smudged face of an ancient painting that has long been lost to the sands of time.

Visions of preconceived understandings and depictions of Purgatory and Hell raced through his mind in a desperate effort to attribute their characteristics with those of the world that now laid claim to his soul. All around snow-covered plains laid barren before the man, and far in the distance, a ring of monstrously large tree-like structures surrounded the plains, almost like the gates into a more hellish landscape. No sign of life was evident, both on the plains and through the trees far in the distance. Outside of the harrowing screams of the bone-chilling wind, there existed only silence which echoed through his mind almost as loud as the hallow wind itself.

One last look upon the monolith filled the man with an existential dread of the future that invariably waited for him—still, all the while providing no understanding of who could have potentially created such a horrific structure.

The reverberating black energy of the monolith drove D’Hiver forward, pushing him towards the ring of trees. With no apparent motive or direction, the man went onwards for what he believed to be hours or potentially even days, as there were no stars in the sky, no sun or moon to guide his path or provide any structure to the time spent pushing forever onwards. The only light apparent on this world was an unearthly white glow that cast itself from high above onto the snow below, calling him forward and forever guiding his path.

With each step, the journey away from the monolith became increasingly more difficult, the physical and psychological pain pushing D’hiver far beyond his breaking point. The man’s hunger and need for rest had been exonerated, replaced with a pang of gnawing unfound existential torment and guilt that tore away at his heart perpetually. With each step forward, the more the jagged ice ripped the skin from his bare feet, leaving a trail of blood upon the plains. When inspected, his feet showed no sign of trauma or deterioration; only when set upon the earth, did they begin to bleed and toil away upon the endless void of snow once again. Visions of the wasted body of Prometheus chained to the rocks of Caucasus raced through D’Hivers mind as the man began to feel as if he had been sentenced to a fate similar to that of the bringer of fire.

He stood before the immense trees that seemed to move and sway in a way similar to that of the wordings etched into the monolith. Once the man mustered the strength to pass through the gates, he found that the ground below the trees was barren, inexplicably protected by the vastness of the sprawling canopy of pine-like branches miles above the surface. Once his feet left the snow, the pain immediately subsided, and instantly the air had become completely silent; the halls of the forest seemed to eliminate the horrific screams and bellows of the plains that now lay a mere foot behind D’hiver. Just as the cries of the plains had echoed through his skull like the strokes of a bell, the silence seemed to permeate through the entirety of his body, slowly filling every crevice and niche until his entire being had become a well of pressure ready to burst at the seams. Unsure of which pain he found worse, he continued onwards, blocking the new sensations that at first felt like a relief but now felt like a fire from which the frying pan had directly delivered him. 

The sensations of hunger still seemed to escape him, but the starvation of days without rest seemed to catch up with D’hiver finally. Immediately he fell to the forest floor, cushioned by a bed of ancient pine needles, which ushered him into a deep, dreamless sleep.

For years the man slept, always without movement or breathing; he laid there, becoming endlessly covered by the falling pine needles which stabbed into his body relentlessly until there was no skin left to puncture. A deep guttural calling finally awoke D’hiver from deep within the forest itself, which harked him onwards in the same ancient language that briefly graced the foggy mind of the wayward traveler from long ago when he traveled the plains of the ancient monolith.

And once more, his journey continued. 

Scorched by the fires of some unholy force, the building lay before D’hiver, small in size when compared to the vastness of the trees, which D’hiver had called his own for what had become years now. The building, constructed in the same material as the monolith, and shaped like that of a church, presented the man with a single doorway, for which he slowly approached. With each step, the calling grew more vigorous, D’hiver felt as if his journey had finally reached its conclusion.

The inside of the building was black as night. Every particle of light was absorbed and crushed under the enormous weight of the darkness. From deep within the shadows, a figure walked forward towards D’hiver. With hands outstretched and body prostrated towards the unholy figure, D’hiver presented his unwavering love and commitment the same way he had towards the monolith all those years ago when he had first awoken. 

With each step the figure took, the pressure lodged deep within D’hiver’s soul continued to grow, and the guttural voice’s call grew louder and louder. At last, before the figure was just about to present itself, D’hiver realized that the call was never a call; it was, in fact, a cry, a cry of warning, the same cry of warning that the monolith had attempted to communicate to him all those years ago. He should have never come here; his lack of purpose and direction mixed with the years of physical and psychological torment blinded him to the truth. The enticing possibility of some form of reward or fulfillment laying in wait at the end of the trail kept D’hiver moving.

However, he was wrong, and it was too late to go back now.

The creature took its last steps, and once D’hiver’s eyes bore witness to the abomination that had laid claim to his soul, the well of pressure lodged deep within D’hiver’s body finally gave way. In that very instant, all of the unholy white light absorbed by the pitch-black walls that surrounded the two figures finally collapsed upon the body of D’hiver.

Thousands of miles away, far beyond the towering trees and into the unholy snowcovered fields the man awakes, once again, before the great monolith.


John Drury is a High School student with a soft spot for horror and writing that’s just trying to get his voice out there. . “Over the past couple of years, I have been invested in listening to experimental music and watching older horror movies, which have played a vital role in the desire to focus my time on the creative process. I am only a student right now, but I hope to get my voice heard while developing my ability to create exciting stories. In the future, I would like to publish an anthology or potentially even a full-length story. Unfortunately, I only have one piece of writing under my belt, so my main focus will be on developing my craft and finding new and exciting stories to share.” If you enjoyed this story, watch for more from John and follow him at https://linktr.ee/JohnDru

Book Review : Clockwork Wonderland

Clockwork Wonderland Review by Ariel Da Wintre

I really enjoyed this Anthology. The book consisted of 14 stories and a poem. It has something
for everyone; scary, intriguing and creative. All the stories have the theme of clocks and Alice in
Wonderland characters. The writers added new characters, taking the classic story and
giving it a horror element. I think this works really well as parts of the original story could be
considered scary all on their own. I found the stories very original and some I didn’t
want to end.

The book starts with a poem by Emerian Rich, “Hatter’s Warning”, and it reminded me of the poems in the original Alice in Wonderland.

The first story is, “Jabberclocky”, by Jonathan Fortin. This story is about a boy named Henry and his unexpected visitor,  the Hatter. I really liked this and I was completely drawn into Henry’s story and the scary Jabberclocky. I loved the end but I didn’t want it to end.

I am still tripped out by the very scary, “Hands of Time” by Stephanie Ellis. It is about an apprentice named Rab who meets an executioner and the timekeeper. I don’t want to give anything away but if you like a bloody good time this is the story for you.

Next, “Clockwork Justice”, by Trinity Adler, is another thrilling story. Alice finds herself in Wonderland and accused of murder. Who did she murder? I won’t say but will she keep her head? Will she solve the crime? All my favorite characters are part of the story Mad Hatter, Cheshire cat and more.

The story, “My Clockwork Valentine”, by Sumiko Saulson is about a girl named Blanche and what happens to her. I loved the imagery in this story and the concept of time. You will get swept away by the story and hope our heroine survives.

“Blood Will Have Blood” by James Pyne, starts with the main character, Alicia, getting pulled into Wonderland and being told she is the new Alice. I think you can see where this is going. I found this story creative and different and it is about a blood clock. It is pretty scary I don’t want to be part of that Wonderland.

I loved “Midnight Dance” by Emerian Rich. This story follows the Mad Hatter and the March Hare. It has a very different twist but with characters we all know and love from the book and Zombies!

The next story, “A Room for Alice” by Ezra Barany, is a scary story that follows Alice as she wakes up in a scary place and meets Tweedle D. I enjoyed this story it had lots of plots and twists and left me thinking for some time afterward. It had a lot of creepy elements and I found it very descriptive.

“Frayed Ears” by H.E. Roulo is a story I loved. It has a Rabbit going through many childhood fairy tales. I couldn’t wait to see who would show up next to help the White Rabbit and will he make it on time and who is causing this to happen.

The next story is “King of Hearts,” by Dustin Coffman. This story had a great twist, a guy goes down the rabbit hole instead of Alice. Lenny is checking the closet for his daughter who hears a strange noise and finds himself in Wonderland. He meets the White Rabbit and other characters. Watch out for the Queen of Hearts!

“Riddle”, by N. McGuire, is about a young lady named Alice. She follows the white rabbit on a train and she is drawn into a very strange situation with different Wonderland characters.  Will she solve the riddle?

The next story is, “Tick Tock”, by Jaap Boekestein. This story has all the characters you love but they are not the way you remember them. Wonderland is at war and you don’t know who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. This story will keep you intrigued.

The story, “Gone A’ Hunting,” by Laurel Anne Hill, follows a young lady named Alease who is chasing the White Rabbit for dinner. She gets more than she’s bargaining for and needs to escape. Will the White Rabbit help her after she was just trying to kill him? Great story, scary to the end.

I really liked “The Note”, by Jeremy Megargee. It had a great concept. Wonderland is not the same and the character telling the story seems so lost and sad. The story has a lot of suspense. I enjoyed the whole vision of this scary wonderland.

The next story is “Half Past”, by K.L. Wallis. This story follows a girl named Alyssa. She is bumped into by someone who drops their pocket watch. She tries to return it and finds herself traveling on a train to Wonderland with Albert Hare. Alyssa ends up going with the hare to his sister Hatty’s home where everyone keeps calling her Alice. There are great twists and turns in this story. The Queen of Hearts in this story which keeps you wondering until the end; will Alyssa/Alice survive.

The final story is, “Ticking Heart”,  by Michele Roger. The story is about a friend of Alice’s coming to visit her in Wonderland and something is very wrong. The Queen of Spades wants to take over and it’s going to be bloody. Will the good guys save Alice and Wonderland?

I enjoyed this collection of short stories thoroughly. I also found myself looking at the cover thinking it really fits this book. I could read these stories over and over again. I couldn’t put the book down until I finished it.

Free Fiction:Broken Marble Cherry Bowl by Dan A. Cardoza

Broken Marble Cherry Bowl By Dan A. Cardoza

Grande Nonno died making a living, like Papa. He was born with his blue denim sleeves rolled up. 

He and Grande Nonna are buried just a few miles south of the Apuan Mountains on the Alps’ Italian side. They’ve been rotting away in a small village cemetery near the town of Caravaggio. Caravaggio, Italy, is in the province of Bergamo, in Lombardy, Italy, 40 kilometers northeast of Milan’s municipality. 

Carrara is in central Italy. Carrara is in the provinces of Massa and Carrara. The region is famous for the white and blue-grey marble quarried there. The brilliant, almost translucent blue and grey exist as arteries and veins, frozen in memoriam. The Carrione River gushes in the winter through the canyons of the region. Flash floods in the spring have been known to cleanse citizens clear out into the Ligurian Sea. 

At first glance, the Apuan Alps of northwest Tuscany’s Carrara region are pure white. You can imagine snow being born in the high castle crags. 

Early train travelers through the regional mountains had been cautioned of the risk of blindness due to marble dust and glare from all the whiteness. The talc of powder is said to be under the control of no other than the wind, a stiff wind that wants nothing to do with humankind.

Most travel guides, even today, will tell you the Carrara region is famous for three things: marble, anarchy, and pig fat. This unlikely trio is intertwined as deeply as the mineral veins striating the marbled mountains. 

Since ancient Roman times, Carrara’s Apuan Alps have supplied marble for some of the world’s most prized sculptures. Carrara is the marble of Michelangelo’s Pietà, Jean-Antoin Houdin’s George Washington, and New Delhi’s vast Akshardham Temple. The stone is blessed with luminosity, its networks of blue arteries and veins, nature’s psychological Rorschach test ranges from grayish to purple. In monolithic form, it can support the sky, like Half-Dome in Yosemite, California. It has been winnowed down into the translucence of light itself in thin slabs, a fitting lid on an iridescent coffin. 

My name is David. I’m a little softer than marble but much colder. It’s taken a while to get here, but that’s what you get when you grow up in the middle of a nightmare.

This story isn’t so much about me. It’s mostly about us. Yes, dear reader, you and me, us humans, with all our ugliness, beauty, and pain. It’s about the idiosyncrasies and occasional flaws of raising children, children whose only intent is to live, once born. There’s not one baby book available online or in a storefront about how to raise a monster. I can assure you, the parents that know how-to, don’t need any damned instructions.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a wonderful life, especially now that I’ve lived alone for just over a decade. Papa and Mamma are back in Northern Italy, going on eleven years now. They will be back, not to worry. In most ways, they’ve never really left. They are like shadows that remain hidden, but for midnight. 

When I say that they are not really being gone, by that, I mean there are very few places in this run-down house where they don’t exist. And, outside, they are out there too. 

Papa is in the drippy faucet, the one he couldn’t fix. And so I put up with it, and wait. It’s just off their bedroom, on the second floor. Now that they’re gone, I sleep in their queen. Papa is in the crazy garden. Jesus, it’s insanely productive. Most of us Italian’s are birthed with green thumbs. He’s no exception. Hell, he’s placed enough bullshit in the dirt to turn the backyard into a greenhouse. The soil can’t help itself. It’s rich and loamy. 

He’s in the tomato stakes, the ones he used his machete to ax into six-foot lengths. The stakes are round and made out of two-inch dried bamboo. He uses four to stand up the cages, cages meant to confine the beautiful green and red of the plants. Papa makes the wire cages too. It seems he makes everything except the water. In July, once the plants have taken hold, he uses the iron enclosures to jail all the tomatoes with cheap labor until they are forced to ripen. 

The rake, he’s damned well in it. Papa’s in the sweaty oil on the tacky handle. He’s also in the missing hickory slivers that have ended up in his callused palms. I can even feel him in the shovel, the square, and the round one. Papa’s strong hands are there, the ones that he’d forced around my throat. 

The rounded shovel has a grave digger’s blade, having killed a rat or two. It acts as guillotines and can be used to take out Napoleon’s armies of screaming tomato worms, as well as any meandering garden snake.  

Father is in the pantry, more stubborn than any simile. I swear to it. He’s in the ugly green wooden cabinet, the cabinet built onto one of the garage walls. He had inherited from the previous homeowners. Papa was there when he smashed the planked wooden door on my curious fingers after he’d carelessly left it unlocked. He was as quiet as a panther in the single-car parking space. 

He’d reinforced the shelves, “extra support never hurt nuthin’, he’d said. If I catch you climbing up them again, I’ll crack your eardrums open like a walnut shell.” 

Brandied cherries, thorny blackberries, and drunken raisins, a container of bay leaves, dried leaves broad enough to cover your crotch, they’re all in there, his damned pantry, canned jars of minestrones soups, pickled venison with bone broth, broth he’d used to boil meat off a cats ribs. 

I love Papa. I can’t get enough of him, even though he’d never taught me a damned thing or showed an ounce of affection. He’d beaten me so hard once. He used a messy summer fly-swatter. The kids at school teased me for more than a week. They’d called me porch-face because of the clumsy screen door in the back of the house. I wouldn’t dare tell them the truth. Don’t get me wrong, I truly love him, Papa, way over in Italy, but if not for the distance, I’d kill him.

Trouble in Italy

It’s like when ivory Domino’s fall, Italy. 

One after the other, first cousin Adrianna broke her back. She’d been living taking care of Nonno and Nonna in their two bedroom inherited cottage. Winter had been a bastarda that year. Those cloudy Cumuli scoundrels just wouldn’t let up or leave. 

The storms had come over the ice-box Apuan Mountains like some uninvited frost-bitten diesel train. They huffed and puffed their swollen blue faces, clean out of Switzerland and Austria. The back stoop and steps had frozen. 

In the last atmospheric disturbance, Adrianna had forgotten all their scratchy linens she’d hung out on the clothesline in the AM. When she’d clipped on the wooden clothespins, there had been sunshine, clawing itself over the horizon. The landscape was frozen, but the fragile sunrays had been as dry as a church mouse fart.

She’d seen them as flags, all the sheets, and towels. They’d flapped parallel in the same direction of the sleet. If the sky hadn’t been so windy, they might have frozen all their stiffness in place. 

Both feet had come out from underneath her hefty girth. She attempted to scoot across the stoop and down a short run of stairs. Adrianna’s heard the crunch before, the time she’d chopped fresh kindling for the cottage’s cast iron stove. She’d cracked her cervical spine in three places.

The medicohe had ordered rest and that she lay as stiff as a corpse for at least two months. I don’t know what in the hell they call them in Italy, but the doctor had also thrown a shitload of Benzodiazepines at her to “uplift her mood,” he’d said. 

Adrianna had sounded as if she was a happy zombie. She’d begun to slur her words. So, she used the neighbor on the other end of the phone. This neighbor lady, Arelia, was one of a few in the village who knew broken English. Adrianna had stirred up the whole neighborhood with her high maintenance and melodramatics, most likely from her being high. 

In short order, Arelia, the helpful neighbor, quit. She’d had enough of nursing Arianna, as well as cooking and feeding Nonno and Nonna. She’d shouted in Italian when she’d left the cottage for the last time, “I’m not going to be used as some kind of crazy finger puppet.” That’s when mother and father’s trip was a done deal.

Hearing all this, mother and father had jumped on the first international flight out of San Francisco to Milan. Apparently, Caravaggio, Italy is another Hotel California, like the Eagles’ hit song, once you arrive, you can never leave. 

By god, nothing was going to happen to Nonno and Nonna. My parents had too much invested, not the least the thirty-odd dollars they’d sent to Italy every month.  

I’m sure their leaving had nothing to do with any future inheritance. 

Back at the House

Although Mamma is in Italy, she’s never really left the house. 

She’s in the pasta sauce she taught me to make: Butt loads of fresh garlic, a pinch of brown sugar, a teaspoon of vinegar, fresh basil, Papa’s rusty tomatoes, and her secret weapon, Italian ground sausage with fennel. There are enough jars of Mamma’s pasta sauce in the green pantry to fill up a Venetian Gondola. I almost forgot, add about ½ cup of tawny port wine, not the cooking kind. In Northern Italy, that’s how we roll.

She’d used her intoxicating pasta sauce and pasta to keep papa fat and uncomfortable, too uncomfortable for kinky sex. 

Mamma had been the Comet shine in the scratched porcelain sink. I’m messy. She cleaned the kitchen floor good enough to eat off, vacuumed the rug in front of the big screen TV, left wheel marks resembling perfectly furrowed OCD rows of corn, truer than any in Kansas. I have stacks of dirty dishes on the coffee table. The washer broke, and now I’m using the dishwasher to clean all my clothes.  

I almost forgot, Mamma is down the drain in the bathtub and out the sewer pipes, swimming toward the mainline. Everything she ever did is out there. I hope the witch stays in Italy, never comes home.

Mamma’s into saving. She’s a penny-pincher. 

She’d hoarded change, mainly the spare dimes she could fit into Papa’s discarded whiskey and cognac, Toro Gordo see-through tubes. The nasty cigars never left his mouth. Each tube was gifted at storing their designated dimes, each dime held snugly in its place. Dimes were tight, seemingly pinching themselves into place, each dime a fool, should they even think of leaving the nested affection.  

I’ve spent every one of those Mercury-headed sons-a-bitches, those President Franklin D. Roosevelt, In God We Trust counterfeit dimes. Money is evil. It needed to be punished. I gave them all away at the Thunder Valley Casino, just north of Sacramento. It had taken a lot of liquor, anger, and time to spend the forty-eight tubes of stolen dimes. Losing had never felt so good. Returning at 3:00 AM Saturday morning, I’d slept most of the weekend away, having gorged on an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Canning

With COVID and all, and since Mamma’s cooking is in Italy, I’ve taken up canning. 

Canning has become extremely popular with my generation. I am a millennial. It’s a safe, effective, and simple process, and it’s crazy inexpensive. Mother made me inexpensive, cheap enough to toss away if she could have gotten away with it. She gave me to Papa, expecting he’d use me up. I hate her as much as sin, with her all her paternal conspiracies. 

People can take advantage of canning to preserve just about anything: fruits, peaches, plums, thorny and bloody blackberries picked in the boiling sun, along the Yuba River, vegetables, soups, sauces, and meats, damned right, all kinds of proteins.

In the late 1700s, that crazy war genius, Napoleon Bonaparte, commissioned a regional search for a better method to preserve food. He believed that “An army travels on its stomach.” 

He was looking for a less expensive and more efficient way to feed his armies. He intended to make food last longer and give his armies nutritional food, meat to build up their strength. Their heritage of strength is what allowed the troops to perform more of their carnage in all the battles. And so Napoleon proposed a hefty bounty to anyone who could come up with a better method of preserving food in quantity, with a long shelf life, even though most of Napoleon’s soldiers had a limited expiration date. 

A genius named Nicholas Appert had claimed the prize, though it took until 1810 for him to perfect his discovery. But like most time-proven inventions used for the military, it would take about fifty years before the methodology and know-how would trickle down to the average family. Think of Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars. 

By 1858, this brilliant, cylindrically shaped man, John Mason, had invented the iconic, reusable “Mason Jar.” The Mason jar is the gold standard of canning, even today.

The best thing momma taught me before she left was how to can. I do thank her for that if nothing else, and I will be grateful to her for the rest of my life.

The Supplies:

  1. Boiling water bath canner or a large, deep sauce pot with a lid and a rack
  2. Glass preserving jars, lids, and bands (always start with new lids)
  3. Common kitchen utensils, such as a wooden spoon, ladle, and paring knife
  4. Quality ingredients (fresh fruits and vegetables)
  5. Jar lifter
  6. Home canning funnel
  7. Bubble freer and headspace tool

I admit it’s become an obsession, canning. It’s been more than a hot minute, well, over ten years now, since Papa and Mamma left for Italy. I might have to whisper, but I think I’m a better canner than my missing Mamma. You heard me right. Mamma went missing while in Italy. She’s still missing. 

If I sound a little matter of fact, well, for Christ-sakes, I am. I don’t miss her a bit. Hell, she’s everywhere I turn in this two-story falling apart clapboard house.

Let’s get back to canning. I don’t have time for terribly long stories. 

Bitches, I am the RuPaul Andre Charles of canning. I’ve got canning game. Over the years, I have mastered the art. Yes, you heard me correct. It’s an art: Squatty Stainless steel jar lids, lids that stack in gorgeous, shiny rows in Papa’s garage pantry. Tall, long Masson jars, the glass of stars, full of peaches, their skin’s sloughing off. Don’t you just love the word slough? I eat the juicy peaches, skin first. I’ve preserved Kidney beans and canned eggplant, the kind that resembles the Emoji penis. I’ve canned olives, as dark as jackal eyes, red pimento’s for pupils. Green-fingered asparagus, some as thick as longshoremen’s thumbs, the rest, as long as your middle finger, I’ve stored them all. 

I figure all the canned goods in Papa’s green cupboard should last at least five freaking years. Think about it, not having to shop for food, all the plague masks, all the germs, the disguising people?  

I Quit my Job

I worked for the State of California in IT. My employer was the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. It was a nice fit for the longest time, the past twenty years. But, with all the write-ups, suspensions, and disciplinary action, I told the governor of the golden state of California to shove his state job up his Department of Controller’s ass. I’d had it. 

The talking behind my back and taunting had gone on for months. I was accused of sexual harassment, gender insensitivity, and for keeping less than standard hygienic practices. 

It was never written up formally, by my immediate supervisor had also accused me of excessive flatulence. He’d said, “I’ll save you all the embarrassment by not having it on the record.” 

They assumed father had simply disappeared in the woods. He’d been hiking a lot after Mamma’s disappearance. Well, he’d disappeared too. It was in early February. Ah, em, it had been snowing a lot. The Apaun forests were deep and dark, all that bullshit. 

Think of me as the red stapler man in the hit movie Office Space. I’d been placed in a corner, next to a dingy wall, at the end of a long row of cubicles. I’d been made fun of for the longest time. There had been food on my shirt that I’d made sure to wash at least once a month, the broken clip on my suspenders, my olive oiled hair, a litany of complaints. 

They’d said, “He’s a pig, eats most of his food out of jars, he farts like a bull in a software China shop. He scrambles and breaks every damned software application and Microsoft Excel spreadsheet account that he touches. His math is sloppy. He doesn’t add up.”

“Fuck you,” I shouted when Kevin won the yearly IT award. I wouldn’t have been so bad, but I used the third floors intercom. 

This girl named Nancy had turned me in for wearing real pig’s ears for Halloween. I thought It was appropriate. I used elastic and Velcro and had dried them out. “Fuck you,” I’d shouted when they’d told me who it was that complained. “Fuck all of you, Nancy,” I’d said. “You bitches are going to end up in a Masson’s canning jar.” I was fired the very next day. They walked me clear down the block to the bus stop. 

Ok, I get this feeling that you are making fun of me too. This is so personal, and I have been sharing so much of myself. I know you think I’m crazy, reader. You can’t fool me. Don’t flatter yourself, smarty-pants. You think I killed my mother and father and jarred them. No, and No, and hell no!

I’m in Papa’s garage. He won’t mind. I’m using his workbench vice. Grande Nonno had a workbench, too, over there in Italy. He’d used it to sharpen all his slaughtering tools and wheat scythe. Grande Nonno and I had always gotten along. I loved him. He’s the one that taught me why the sheep in the foothills of the Alps have two downhill legs shorter than the other, walking the hills and all, in one direction. 

Papa did everything big, including installing a commercial-sized workbench vice. His vice is industrial red and shiny as glass. I tighten it, tighter and tighter. Nothing ever escaped father. He held me down, two knees on my back, both hands in my long pissy hair, I’d wet the bed again. 

As I grew older, he’d do this, but for other reasons. 

I turn the handle. I have the vices dog fixed in place. I watch as the moving jaw moves in the direction of the stationary jaw. The main screws seem to elongate as the vice grips tighter, one of life’s paradoxes. I crank and crank until Papa’s double-barreled shotgun is fixed in place.

I saw and saw, using the hacksaw. 

As the storm shakes the rafters, I play Papa’s favorite CD using his cheap flea-market vintage player. How he loved him some Brahm, especially the classic-haunted lullabies, steeped in all the Mephistophelian memories they evoked. He loved the anxious melody, all the nervous piano keys, the white noise that kept my–his demons at bay. 

Piano Concerto Number Two was his favorite, with its assemblage of Stradivarius violins fluttering their hyaline wings off. How it reminds me of the times, I’d torn the wings off the butterfly’s whenever the pain ferreted itself into the light, sniffing for vengeance.

Most of the cold steel barrel falls to the floor. I sand and sand what’s left of the barrel until it’s smooth to the touch. It never heats up. It remains cold. 

I snap on the TV in the family room. It takes a while to find the channel with only white noise. Next to me, on the make-shift end table is a mason jar. It’s filled to the brim with pickled pig’s feet broth, mostly bitter vinegar. I grasp the jar in my sweaty palm. I swish the dog’s eyes in a clockwise direction. I place the vacuum-packed jar back on the card table next to the couch. 

The age-darkened sheep’s eyes spin and whirl in a circular motion of sight, no longer tethered to their brains by any pesky optic nerves or even semblance of reality. 

I pick up the jar again. I stare back and spin the wolf’s eyes in a counter-clockwise direction. I smile. I place the cyclone of deception and conspiracy back on the table.

Now I can use my index finger on the trigger. The shotgun barrel is so much shorter now. Using my toes was unrealistic since I’ve gained so much weight after being terminated. Terminated, what a harsh word, isn’t it? Because of all the nutritious canned protein, I’ve become a little cherub. There’s no way my chubby two toes were going to blast me over the moon. 

Dear reader, if you’ve gotten this far, I’m truly sorry. You will have to sit on the couch now, directly across from me, and watch.

You’ll have company. They are watching me too. The feral eyes are strobe lights, a horrific merry-go-round of sight, the son’s-a-bitch, around and around they go. The room fades to black, the TV splatters.

You know most of the rooms in the house by now. After you puke your guts out, you run toward the leaky shower in the master bath. The blistering hot water can’t rub your bloody skin off fast enough, “Fuck the crime scene,” you shout at the top of your lungs, into the ceiling. You contemplate how your pretty world has just shit its pants.

You exit the shower. The room has turned into a psyche ward spa. Everything is a vapor. You splash ice water on your face over the sink in front of the massive mirror. You rub and rub at the steam on the glass.  

Directly behind you, in the mirror, is your new reality. You can see it clearly now. It stands bleeding, broad-shouldered. Somehow the brawny shoulders are holding up a broken marble bowl of cherries. The bloody cherries are globing over the rim of the bowl. 

After you’ve determined the broken bowl is what’s left of my skull, I make you feel the icy barrel against your flesh, directly behind your pounding heart. 

Now, Son’s-a-bitch, the lights really do go out. 

The End


Dan’s most recent fiction has been published in the 45th Parallel, Allegory, honorable mention, Aphelion, BlazeVOX, Across the Margins, Bull, Cleaver, Close to the Bone, Coffin Bell, Dark City Books/Magazine, Door=Jar, Dream Noir, Entropy, Flash Bang Mystery, Gravel, Literary Heist, Mystery Tribune, O:JA&L/Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, New Flash Fiction Review, Overstock, Spelk, Variant, Visitant, Your Impossible Voice, The 5-2. Dan has also been nominated by Coffin Bell for the Best of the Net Anthology, 2021, and best micro-fiction by Tiny Molecules.

You can read more of Dan’s work at https://www.dan-a-cardoza-literature.com,

Twitter: @Cardozabig 

https://www.facebook.com/ 

 

Nightmare Fuel: The Congelier House

For the first Nightmare Fuel of the season, I want to visit a legend from my old hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. Allow me to tell you the tale of the Congelier House, often referred to as “The Most Haunted House in America” and “The House the Devil Built.”

The house was built in the 1860s in the Manchester neighborhood on Pittsburgh’s North Side by Charles Congelier, a gentleman who made a fortune in the South. He lived there with his wife, Lyda, and their maid, Essie. According to the legend, in 1871, Lyda discovered her husband in bed with the maid and snapped in true horror fashion. Grabbing a knife and a meat cleaver, she ended the affair by brutally stabbing Charles and decapitating Essie. Lyda was discovered by a family friend several days later in her rocking chair, gently stroking Essie’s severed head.

After that, the home remained empty for almost twenty years before being purchased by a local railroad company in 1892. The company converted the house into several living quarters for their workers, but shortly after, stories circulated about strange sounds and other activities, including ghostly figures. By the turn of the century, the home sold again, and the legend only gets stranger.

In 1900, an immigrant by the name of Dr. Adolph C Brunrichter purchased the Congelier House. True to a serial killer profile, Dr. Brunrichter was a quiet man who kept to himself in a reclusive manner. Then, on August 12, 1901, a woman’s scream and the bright explosion of light from the house prompted neighbors to call the police. They discovered a woman’s decapitated corpse and a secret laboratory in the basement containing five heads. According to his notes, the good doctor was experimenting on methods to keep the heads alive after their removal. Unfortunately, Dr. Brunrichter vanished without a trace. In 1927, a drunken man claiming to be him was arrested and later released when police could not corroborate his story.

The Equitable Gas Company purchased the house, intending to convert it back into apartments for their immigrant workers to live. Not long after, stories of demonic voices began circulating among the tenants. It was only after two of their own were found murdered in the basement that the workers refused to live there. They blamed it on whatever spirits inhabited the home since there was no way for the killer to have escaped. In 1927, a natural gas explosion destroyed much of the neighborhood, leaving the Congelier House a smoldering crater. Locals believed that the house was transported back to Hell.

As with many other legends, there is more fiction to the story than fact. There are no records of a Charles Congelier having lived in Pittsburgh at the time, nor of the double homicide. There is also no evidence of Dr. Adolph C Brunrichter even existing. At one time, Mary Congelier owned the home, but that ended with the explosion in 1927. While it didn’t destroy the house, broken glass severed an artery in her leg, causing her death. The home was later torn down, along with the other damaged buildings in the area after the explosion. Even without facts to back it up, the Congelier House legend continues to this day.

Until next time, Addicts…

D.J. Pitsiladis

Odds and Dead Ends: Why Blade’s introduction is a cut above the rest

I make no apologies for discussing Blade, especially when the topic of black vampires comes up. To me, Snipes is the black vampire, at least until we rightfully bring more well known black nightwalkers to the canonical party. And though there’s a new Blade movie in the works for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (just when it’ll come out, who will direct it, where it will come out, are all questions up in the debating room air), and Del Toro did a decent job with Blade 2 in 2002 (we ignore 2005’s Blade Trinity), nothing will fully compare to the opening 10 minutes of the 1998 film, and its near-perfect introduction to the character.

First, a refresher. A young man is taken to a nightclub deep inside a meat-packing plant, and they have to go past rows of animal carcasses to get there. Once inside, it seems like a typical nightclub, with hundreds of teens dancing to rave music in strobe lights. Our young man tries to join in, but is pushed away by the dancers. Then a spot of blood drops onto his hand. The lights come up and the DJ reveals the words ‘Bloodbath.’ Suddenly the sprinklers kick in all over the rave and drench the room in torrents of blood. The young man, confused, tries to escape, but everyone in the room has now turned on him, flashing fangs and snarling. The vampires close in on him. He trips and tries to crawl away before he ends up at a big, clean, leather boot. The crowd parts, the air gets heavy. “It’s the daywalker,” someone says.

Without a word, the action commences. Snipes lunges into action, shooting and spearing, punching, and karate-kicking any vampire nearby, turning them to fire and dust. Soon the vampire security come in, all dressed in black leather, ready to do battle. Blade takes out his namesake sword and traces an arc on the floor. Nobody gets closer than this, it says. And it holds true. Leaping through the air like a wire-fu master, Blade slices and dices, his black leather coat swishing as his attacks come off like dance choreography. When the human police arrive, he leaves one vampire burning, another to take the blame, and escapes through a drain into the windy, moonlit city night.

We must have a little appreciation for the context of the film. Marvel Comics weren’t at the full height of their powers at this time. It would be another ten years before Iron Man began the blockbuster run they’re on now. The Matrix, with all its anime-inspired fight scenes, cyberpunk trenchcoats, and synthwave soundtrack, wouldn’t come out until the year after this. And Blade wasn’t a household name at the time (according to my brief research of the topic), and though he’d appeared in plenty of stories, he wasn’t exactly up to the same reputation as Spider-Man or The Incredible Hulk.

Blade was therefore a daring film to undertake, especially with Marvel and New Line putting $45m on a fairly unknown quantity. So the introduction had to be just right. Spoiler: it was.

It’s vital that the audience fears the vampires. Yes they are teenagers with half their clothes off in the rave, but there’s cunning behind them. There’s a deliberate decision to have the rave in a meat-packing plant behind hundreds of carcasses. There’s a calculation to hold off on mindlessly attacking him until the right time, pushing him away and making both him, and us as an audience, uncomfortable. There’s something deliberate in waiting for the blood to start pouring before striking. There’s something about being covered in blood, and enjoying it, which turns them from humans into vicious pack animals. And there must have been long, logistical thought in how to get all that blood into the sprinklers, and not turning it on until they knew there was a human in the rave to get the full effect. Every vampire knows the plan. It’s cold and calculated, all designed to elicit the maximum amount of fear in the young man, and therefore us.

But then Snipes appears. The hush that falls over the room is beautiful. Blade allows his presence to linger. We’re allowed to see that his attire is spotless. His eyes are hidden. He’s confident and poised. Not only that, but that cold, calculated understanding of the vampires has suddenly turned to fear. Through them, we understand that this character must be important, well known, and a threat. The bloodbath ends and the music quietens down. We feel the tension in the marrow of our bones.

Without uttering a word, the fight scene kicks in. Blade wastes no time showing off a variety of techniques and skills, from gunplay to martial arts, shooting stakes into vampires, using his sword and his glaives (bladed boomerangs). We understand instantly that he’s skilled, knowledgeable, and can adapt to the situation. There’s a nice little setup when he throws his stake-shooting gun across the floor, only to collect it near the end of the fight and impale the final vampire to the wall. It reminds me very much of the old gun-in-the-flowerpot idea from action movies of old. Blade has the right combination of instinct and strategy and brings the sense that he enjoys hunting the creatures down.

It’s this enjoyment of the task which makes this entrance work. Not only do we know that we’re going to be in for a hell of a ride thanks to the directing style, fight choreography, etc, but that Blade smiles when he’s drenched in the blood and ashes of monsters of the undead means that we also get a sense of enjoyment. We know we’re in safe hands, and so we can, in a way, get a secondary kick of catharsis from the scene. If this stranger, who can instill such fear in the monsters of the night, is fighting them off without saying a word, but flashing bright white teeth as he goes about his work, then maybe we can get behind him and enjoy the ride.

There’s very much the feel of an old Western cowboy to Blade, emphasised by the swirling newspapers in the alley as he escapes like tumbleweeds. The drawing of the tip of the blade along the floor in the fight is also similar to the way a cowboy movie might set up a duel. We draw upon subconscious film archetypes within ourselves to understand the scenario. Despite being dressed in black, it’s very clear who the good guys and bad guys are here. And so we return to thinking of Blade, in a way, as John Wayne or Clint Eastwood. We’ve got a natural inclination to get behind these characters, and as we draw the parallels, we put our chips behind Blade. The lone gunman, come to save the town and disappear again.

Everything in this opening sequence is constructed for maximum impact. Drawing upon tropes and ideas from a wide range of genres, the sequence comes in roughly two halves. First, setting up the terror and threat of the vampires, and then using Blade to diffuse our tension, as well as giving us some fighting excitement. It works because, besides the acting, direction, music, cinematography, costumes, and all the other bits and pieces of film form, it’s simply well made. It’s well set up, with clear stakes and conflict, a good fight scene which isn’t too choppily edited, and introduces the character of Blade through mostly visuals (he speaks a couple of lines near the end but that’s it). He’s strong, dangerous, and perhaps a little unhinged (anyone who enjoys slicing up vampires in the way he does must be a little bit wrong behind the eyes). You could watch it without dialogue and it still works. It’s a perfect introduction to one of horror’s greatest vampire anti-heroes.

Gypsy Mob : Episode One / The Pleasure Tent

The Ferris wheel whirled as the midway lights flickered, lit by the secondary generator also powering the staticky sound system piping carnival music through the meager lane of tents pitched along a lane that may have constituted a midway. A few dogs begged at the hands of the well-dressed patrons lined up at the booths, but for the most part, the only scavengers were the Gypsy carnies. 

“Step righ’ up, hit the tits off da bull wid a dart, and win a stuffed monkey!”

“Ladies and gents, if’n youse can fill this balloon wid a water gun, you get a ticket for our private show featuring the stunning Ms. Gingerette!”

“Guess da number o’ clams inside th’ bucket o’ sand and you wins a million dolla! Okay, not a million, but ONE HUND’RD DOLLARS! Ladies and gents, how ‘bout dat! For th’ price of a pounda clams…”

Bianca’s eyes shined as the Ferris wheel’s cars swooped past her, the lights of the cars reflected in her eyes. “Matty, this is so much fun! I haven’t been to a carnival in… ever!”

“Don’t get carried away, Bi,” Matteo said, his hand tightening on hers involuntarily as a carny whirled by in a fiery cartwheel, somehow juggling the Earth and two flaming torches. “This isn’t a carnival, just a campground of Gypsies with a few rusty rides.” As he spoke, the Ferris wheel whirled behind him, neglected joints letting out a squeak with every car. 

“Spoilsport,” Bianca shot back, dropping his hand and flouncing ahead. Matteo cursed and followed her, shouldering his way through the people crowding the midway. He was amazed at the number of people in the Gypsy encampment. Didn’t these people realize that Gypsies were scum and would only bring them heartache? Grinding his teeth, he followed Bianca’s short-skirted ass as it weaved through the crowd. 

“Ooh, fortunes!” Bianca squealed, coming to a halt at a black-bordered booth studded with blue stars. A banner proclaimed “Your fortune for only $5.00.” Beneath it, a scrawny dark-skinned man with greasy hair and a scraggly mustache grinned, holding out his hand. Matteo groaned, coming to a stop behind her and catching her arm, bringing her to a stop. 

“Bi, maybe we should go find somewhere else to spend our money,” Matteo said, neglecting to mention that the last time she laid down any money for their extracurricular activities was the last time they had bought coke(months ago) and hoping that she would move on rather than costing him another ten dollars for unmitigated Gypsy bullshit. 

“Maybe you want to go on and spend your own money,” Bianca said, her voice clearly inviting him to go fuck himself. 

Matteo sighed, glancing around them for a diversion. His eyes fell upon a tent much larger than the others, a banner over its entrance reading “Pleasure Tent.”  His eyes widened as, with a yank, Bianca pulled her arm free from his gripping hand. With a vindictive look at Matteo, Bianca dropped a five-dollar bill and a single into the bowl before the booth. 

“Look, Bi, if you want your fortune so bad, go and get it,” Matteo said, thrusting his hands into his pockets. “I’ll wait here.”

Bianca rolled her eyes before turning her million-dollar smile towards the carny. The greasy man smiled, vanishing her bills as though he had a conduit to another world. Turning to the side, he barked a word. Behind him, a wall of curtains they had not noticed parted and an old woman appeared, shrouded in ragged robes. Frizzy white hair surrounded her face as she beckoned Bianca forward. With a last vicious look at Matteo, Bianca disappeared behind the curtain. 

Matteo watched Bianca disappear into the fortune tent and rolled his eyes. It would be a long drive back to the Don’s mansion with her in that mood. With a sigh, he set his sights on the Pleasure Tent, the entrance attended by a Gypsy girl behind a wooden booth. She wore a long swishy skirt with the barest of tops covering her ample breasts. The fabric was translucent, making it abundantly clear that she wore nothing beneath it. Matteo felt himself stiffening as he walked towards her. The girl noticed him and smiled slyly as he approached. 

“Bitta pleasure?” she asked as he halted in front of her. 

“How much?” Matteo asked, glancing around and seeing no one to notice him patronizing the tent. 

“$100, you choose girl.”

Matteo put on his boyish charming face. “How about you?”

The girl laughed, the barest hint of disdain in it. “I not work inside. $100 and you make choice here.”

Fumbling, Matteo pulled his wallet from his pocket and extracted a bill. The girl made it disappear with the alacrity of the fortune teller before pulling a battered three-ring binder from beneath the booth. Opening it to the first page, she tapped the glossy color photograph of a pretty brunette. “She new. Just start tonight.”

“Do you have any blondes?” Matteo asked, glancing around again. 

“Accourse,” the girl said, selecting a bookmark and opening the binder to the section marked BLONDE. “Nonna them are…fresh as new girl.”

Matteo paged through the section, evaluating each prospect until one caught his eye. She had long blonde hair, down past her shoulders, full pouting lips and a haughty expression that made his groin twinge. He pointed. “How is she?”

“Well, I donno mysel’,” the girl said with a laugh. “But no complains. She very popular.”

Popular. Matteo knew what that meant. “Which is the newest blonde you have?” 

Leafing back several pages, the Gypsy pointed one out. “This one our newest blonde.”

Matteo gazed at the girl. Her face was lovely enough but the expression on it was vacant, the eyes a thousand miles away. “Is she… popular?” 

“Not as much, but you no sorry,” she said with a wink. 

Matteo moistened his lips. “I’ll take her,” he said, his voice husky. 

“You no sorry,” repeated the girl, coming around the booth and taking his arm. “Follow.” 

Matteo felt one full breast pressing against his arm and felt another twinge in his groin. “Are you sure you couldn’t work inside, just this once?”

The girl laughed as they entered the tent. “Sorry. But you be very pleased with Dora.”

As Matteo’s eyes adjusted to the gloom in the tent, he could see it was separated into sections by thick curtains. He could hear various liquid sounds, male groans and the slap of flesh on flesh. The scent of rut filled the air, swelling his member further. 

Leading Matteo down an aisle, the Gypsy girl stopped at one of the sections. Releasing his arm, she pulled the curtain back and gestured for him to enter. Peering past the curtain, Matteo saw the blonde girl reclining on a bed, nude, her eyes on him. With no expression, she gestured him forward. Glancing at the Gypsy girl, Matteo stepped forward, feeling the curtain fall into place behind him. 

Throughout their session, the girl’s blank face did not change, even when she took him in her mouth. Matteo was disconcerted but found that by taking her from behind, it rendered her expression immaterial. As he came, she let out a sigh, her only vocalization. 

Pulling out of her, Matteo spotted a roll of paper towels on a table beside the bed. Wiping himself, he buckled his pants, noting with unease that the girl had not moved, laying on her stomach with only her breath to show she still lived. 

“Well…thanks…” Matteo said, unsure of what to do or say. None of the other working women he had patronized had been so…lifeless. She continued saying nothing, so with a shrug, he pushed back the curtain and left the tent. 

The Gypsy girl was showing the book to another prospective client, her untethered breasts jiggling as she laughed at something the man had said. Her eyes met his, and she grinned. “Please come again, we have new girls very soon!”

“Right,” Matteo said uneasily. He escaped into the crowd, feeling dirty. Sniffing himself, he did not detect any smells that would arouse Bianca’s suspicions. 

Making his way back to the fortune tent, he was surprised not to see Bianca there. Walking up to the scrawny Gypsy at the entrance, he asked, “Is my girlfriend still in there?”

“No, sirrah. She gone.”

“Without me?” Matteo swore, not really surprised. 

“She very beautiful,” the man said, and grinned. “You lucky man.”

“Thanks,” Matteo mumbled, pulling his phone from his pocket as he walked away. Dialing Bianca’s number, a crease appeared on his forehead as it went directly to voice mail. Bianca NEVER had her phone off. 

“Hey Bi, where are you? Call me.”

Inside the fortune tent, the old woman ushered Bianca to a seat on one side of a crystal ball. Swirling her rags around her, she seated herself at the single stool opposite Bianca and steepled her fingers before her face. 

“Fortune a mysterious thing,” she said, her voice dry and thin. “It come with fame, herald it, be preserved within cookie, but nobody know where it comes from.” She tapped the crystal ball twice and its clear surface filled with gray clouds. “We may read it…here.”

Bianca leaned forward, entranced. 

With a wave of her hand, the woman plunged the room into darkness and leaned forward over the crystal ball, from which emanated a soft white glow. The shadows it cast over the woman’s face made her skull stand out, sinking her eyes into her head. For a moment, it looked as though across from her sat a grinning, skeletal ghost. Bianca let out a little squeak. The woman did not notice, leaning over the crystal ball as though she were reading a fascinating novel. 

“Ahhh young lady, you will go on to marry good, prosperous man. Your life will be everything you wished it could be…”

She trailed off. Bianca leaned forward, riveted. “Yes? What else?”

“I see you very beautiful,” the woman nearly shouted, and Bianca recoiled. “Yes, you be fine mother for your children and good wife to your husband.”

“Children?” Bianca said, her voice unnerved. “But I don’t want–”

“Ball has spoken!” the woman barked. “But I see you are very beautiful.” She nearly shouted this last phrase and turned her rotten smile upon Bianca. “Fates never lie.”

Bianca stood, her slightly shaky legs betraying her outward calm. “I will never breed,” she said, her voice haughty. “You have misread me, foolish woman.”

“Ah, p’rhaps,” the Gypsy said and leered. “If you wish, you go now.”

Without a word, Bianca turned toward the door to the tent through which she had entered. 

“Ah, miss, this way,” said the woman, gesturing to an arch in the cloth behind her Bianca had not noticed. “We must keep d’traffic flowing, yes?” She cackled. 

  Without saying anything more, Bianca pushed past the table and out the archway. She stood for a moment in the fresh air, savoring her relief from the heavily perfumed atmosphere of the fortune-teller’s tent. 

As she stood there, breathing, an enormous Gypsy man approached her. He grinned, showing teeth as rotten and black as the fortune-teller’s. 

“Miss, you very beautiful? Is what Madam told you?”

“Yes, and I don’t think it was worth what I paid her. I know I’m beautiful, I don’t need her to–”

Without warning, Bianca was hit from behind by a massive weight, sending her crashing to the dirt as a spray of red formed before her eyes. “Oh no, that’s blood,” she thought, as the ground rushed up to meet her and the world turned black. 

“You right,” said the huge Gypsy man. “She very beautiful.”

“She be perfect,” Madam Zara said, dropping the rock back inside the tent. “Now get her out of here.”

 

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Kindred

 

Plotline: A psychological thriller rippling with suspense, Kindred follows vulnerable mother-to-be Charlotte as she is taken in by her recently deceased boyfriend’s mother and her stepson, who seem increasingly obsessed with her every move Charlotte’s suspicions grow about Margaret and Thomas’ intentions for her unborn child.

Who would like it: People who love demented families, cults, cat and mouse and psychological horror

High Points: I like the way this movie was shot because it highlights the isolation of our heroine

Complaints: There is the suggestion of a cult and lots of symbolism of the occult but the movie doesn’t explain it, it’s just left as unanswered questions

Overall: This was pretty stressful to watching and the ending feels like an uppercut to the jaw.

Stars: 5

Where I watched it: Shudder

 

New HorrorAddicts.net Podcast Season 16 to Begin


Interview with Creator and Horror Hostess of HorrorAddicts.net, Emerian Rich. 

Interviewed by Kate Nox, Blog Editor

Nox: Emz, the new podcast season is about to begin. On April 24th we can all tune in and hear the show. I imagine this is an exciting time for you?

Emz: Exciting and busy. The staff and I are all working hard to collect information and create new content for the listeners.

Nox: And how many seasons have you been doing this?

Emz: This will be our 16th season.

Nox: Share with us the theme for this season and some of the reasons it was chosen

Emz: We wanted to really highlight POC voices this year, so we made a call to share with us horror in cultures from around the world. We’ve got some really great authors involved and we’ll be covering horror from all different countries. We made it a goal to populate our bookings with 50-75% POC voices and we ended up surpassing that with over 79%.

Nox: Can you let us in on any of the exciting items the season holds for our listeners?

Emz: We have three anthologies to highlight. SLAY from Mocha Memoirs Press, Haunts and Hellions coming out in May from HorrorAddicts.net Press, and ON TIME from Transmundane Press. We’ll have readings from the authors of those books. We’ll also be hosting a Wicked Women Writer’s All-Star competition for our 200th episode, so the listeners will get to hear from the winners of our contests over the years.

Nox: I’ve heard rumors you have new theme music this year?

Emz: Yes! Our favorite band, Valentine Wolfe, has returned to theme our show with their song, “I Felt a Funeral”

Nox: What will the audio drama be this year?

Emz: The Deadbringer, an audio dramatization of E.M. Markoff’s novel. It’s sure to be exciting!

Nox: Remind our listeners when they’ll be able to tune in for the first episode.

Emz: The first episode premieres April 24th and we’ll start with the black vampire theme. Authors from Mocha Memoirs’ SLAY will be reading their work for us. A full list of themes and guests can be found at: HorrorAddicts.net and you can also listen on all the podcasty things including iTunes, I❤Radio, Stitcher, and more. I can’t wait to talk to my addicts again!

Religious Horror Month: Exorcism For Fun and Profit by Loren Rhoads

Exorcism for Fun and Profit

by Loren Rhoads

My mom was a school librarian and didn’t place any limits on what I read, figuring that if it was too mature for me, I simply wouldn’t understand it. She limited what I could watch, though. I wasn’t allowed to see The Exorcist in the theater, but she didn’t stop me from reading the novel. Long after everyone I knew was terrified—or claimed they were terrified—by the movie, I checked the novel out of the public library.

The part that struck me more than anything else was Blatty’s introduction, in which a man is tortured in a dirty prison cell with a cattle prod and a bucket of water. I was a farm girl. My dad’s cattle prod lived on the telephone desk in the kitchen, where it was close to hand in case the cows got out. I knew a cattle prod would make a 1200-pound steer sit down. I could easily imagine what it would do to a man.

Blatty’s point was that men did such evil to each other that demonic possession was easy to believe in. It would be decades before I wondered about humans possessing demons.

***

A couple of years after I read the novel, I came home from university one weekend when my parents weren’t home. Of course I invited a couple of friends over to my folks’ place in the country. Because there was whiskey involved, everyone was expected to spend the night.

My memories of that night come in fragments, like a broken kaleidoscope: there was pizza. Under-aged boys. My best friend from high school. It goes without saying there was puking.

In the middle of the night, I crawled out to the family room with my misery. Unable to sleep at the best of times, my friend Martha had the TV on. The only thing she could find to watch in the middle of that interminable night was The Exorcist.

I wonder now if the movie had been edited for TV. I remember the boils and the pea soup and the backbend and the spinning head. The possession was not, by a long stretch, the most horrific thing I saw that night.

Even so, Father Merrin, speaking the rites, lodged in my imagination.

Many years later, Brian Thomas followed the story I’d written about a succubus meeting an angel by possessing my succubus with a mortal girl’s soul. Suddenly, Brian and I were writing the book that would come to be called Lost Angels.

Clearly, if there was a possession, there would need to be an exorcist. I didn’t grow up Catholic, so I don’t know the rituals of the Church. I do know–all too well–how it feels to be a young woman completely out of control, when something else takes control of your body and poisons you. The possession was easy to write. The exorcism worried me. I wanted to get it right, to do justice to my influences.

Poking around in the Brand Bookstore in Glendale with Brian, I came across Exorcism Through the Ages, published in 1974 by the Philosophical Library of New York. It was exactly the book I needed to guide the exorcism of a mortal girl’s soul from the succubus Lorelei. Wheels within wheels: a historical overview of exorcism inspired by a fictional exorcism inspired by the real-life exorcism of Roland Doe…and all of it inspiring the events in the back room at Lost Angels.

Here’s a little taste of the exorcism at Lost Angels:

The exorcism was working. Lorelei felt a dreadful tearing in her chest, like the agony a cell feels as it divides.

Joseph watched her closely. He raised his hands to shoulder height, palms facing her, and began to pray. “Satan, Father of Lies, Author of Evil, look in pity on this your servant, now caught up in the coils of this human spirit. Unravel this angelic labyrinth, break asunder these snares and traps, put this childish ghost to flight. By this sign,”—he drew an upside cross—“let your servant be protected. Keep watch over the inmost recesses of her heart, rule over her emotions, strengthen her will. Let vanish from her flesh the temptations of this human child. As we call on your name, O Satan, allow this child to retreat in grace and in peace, so that this servant of yours may sincerely and steadfastly render you the service which is your due.”

The agony spiraled beyond anything Lorelei had previously imagined. The more she tried to shove aside Ashleigh’s ghost, the more of her own spirit she felt ripped away. Her flesh had turned to stone, galvanized by lightning. She convulsed and arced and struggled, breathing out a steady tormented moan.

Historian of Horror: Nun but the Lonely heart

Nun but the Lonely Heart

I will confess that it’s been a number of years since I read M.G. Lewis’s classic gothic novel, The Monk. I do recall that I was not convinced it truly ought to be classified as gothic. It’s too funny. It meanders all over Madrid, weaving a couple of major plots, several subplots and myriad ridiculous occurrences into a hilarious tapestry of lyrical ribaldry, more rococo, to my thinking, than gothic.

But, what do I know? I’ve always considered Moby Dick to be a comedy. 

Gothic or rococo, what it was when it exploded across Europe in 1796, was lurid, licentious and controversial. It’s a picaresque of a devout Catholic priest, Ambrosius, who falls from grace and gives himself over to a series of lubricious episodes wallowing in the pleasures of the flesh scandalized the continent, so of course, it was a bestseller that has rarely been out of print for over two centuries. 

The above highly condensed description is the main, er, thrust of the novel. The secondary plot concerns young lovers Raymond and Agnes, and the supernatural involvement of The Bloody Nun. And that is what bwings us togewwer today. Wuv, twoo wuv….

Sorry. Had a momentary attack of Princess Briditis. Won’t happen again. I hope.

Ahem. So, the Bloody Nun has, since 1835, been that part of The Monk that has most inspired the creative minds of what by then was the Romantic Era. On the 16th of February of that year, a five-act play, La nonne sanglante, premiered at the Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin in Paris. Written by Auguste Anicet-Bourgeois and Julien de Mallian, it did, in the parlance of a later period, boffo box-office. Three years later, Gaetano Donizetti adapted the play into an opera, Maria de Rudenz

Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking. He just did an opera column last month. Can we please move on to some other medium? We haven’t done old-time radio yet, or comic books. Do we have to do opera again, so soon?

Well, my hands are sort of tied. This is for religious horror, the theme for the first part of this month. And I only recently acquired a DVD of a performance, not of the Donizetti work, but of one of the other two, later, completed operas. When am I ever going to enjoy the exploitation of such a glorious concatenation of circumstances? How can I not take this unique opportunity to address the episode of the Bloody Nun in its most exquisite manifestation? 

All right, all right. Feel free to check in at the box office for a full refund of your admission price, if you so desire. The rest of us will proceed. 

Ahem. So, Donizetti is dealt with. I’m not even going to mention Hector Berlioz taking a stab at it in 1841 that went nowhere, just a few bits that he later incorporated into Les Troyens. We move along, on to the 1850s, when not one but two operatic works, based not on the play but on the original novel, appeared. English composer Edward Loder’s 1855 Raymond and Agnes included material from a second Lewis novel, The Castle Spectre from 1797. It has its points of interest, but it’s not the subject of this essay.

Of the twelve operas, Charles Gounod composed, only Romeo et Juliette and Faust are still performed regularly. Fair warning – I will address Faust in the future, probably in relation to the other dozen or so operas based on the old deal-with-the-devil yarn, including the aforementioned Berioz’s own Damnation of Faust. I will take mercy on the populace and defer that for more than just a month, however. 

Anyhow, Gounod’s second opera was La Nonne Sanglante, with a libretto by Eugene Scribe and Germaine Delavigne. A libretto is the book of lyrics set to the music created by the composer, by the way. It was not well received at its premiere on October 18, 1854, at the Salle le Peletier in Paris. A brief revival in 1866 in Cambridge, England was about it for over a hundred and fifty years. A German production in 2008 revived interest in the work, and a 2018 live performance at the Opera Comique in Paris was recorded for the DVD I purchased with my wife’s hard-earned cash.

Gounod relocated the action from Spain to 11th Century Bohemia, on the eve of the First Crusade. Works for me. To quote Three Dog Night, “Well, I never been to Spain…” I have been to Bohemia, just not in the 11th Century. Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and I recommend that, once we are able to travel again, folks should include it on their bucket list. Not that you’ll see anything in this opera that reflects that lovely city in any century.

The sets are quite minimalistic, in fact, which helps I think to focus the attention on the intimacy of the events. No grand Wagnerian settings with multiple moving parts, dragons, giants and gods. The action takes place in the space between the castles of two warring families, the Luddorfs and the Moldaws, apart from the hero’s brief sojourn in a nearby village. Tight. Intimate. Almost claustrophobic. Like being trapped in a banquet hall with a ghost only you can see.

It begins with a bit of a spoiler. Acted out during the playing of the overture, we see the title character being first rejected, then murdered by her lover. Just the sort of thing that results in an angry ghost wandering about in your typical Medieval castle. I’m not sure I approve, but for some reason, I was not consulted. An oversight, no doubt.

Once the overture is finished, we segue to a pitched battle between the warring families. The melee is interrupted by the local holy man, Pierre the Hermit (bass Jean Teitgen). He reminds the combatants that the Crusade is imminent, and urges them to save their bloodlust for the Muslim infidels in the Holy Land. He advises a marriage of convenience between Agnes de Moldaw (soprano Vannina Santoni) and Luddorf’s elder son, Theobald. Trouble is, Agnes is in love with the second Luddorf son, Rodolphe (tenor Michael Spyres), who is off recruiting fighters for the Crusade. By the time Rodolphe returns, the deal is done. He objects and is banished by his father.

You just can’t trust a bass. They always mess things up. Just ask Mighty Mouse.

Before he leaves, Rodolphe meets with Agnes, who tells him all about her family’s castle ghost, the Bloody Nun. Every night at midnight, she appears at the castle gate, carrying a lamp and a dagger. The guard lets her pass through to make her spectral rounds. Rodolphe has the bright idea that Agnes should disguise herself as the Bloody Nun, so the guard will let her out and they can run off together. Rodolphe is an idiot.

Act II begins with local commoners milling about before being sent off to bed. Rodolphe’s page, Arthur, hangs around to meet with him. Arthur is one of the best things about the performance, being wonderfully played by soprano Jodie Devos as a sort of cross between Matthew Broderick from Ladyhawke and the Artful Dodger. Rodolphe sends Arthur off to prepare for his departure while he loiters outside the Moldaw castle for Agnes to show up. 

And so she does, but it’s the wrong Agnes. Rodolphe winds up pledging himself to the Bloody Nun (Marion Lebegue), who is also named Agnes. Rodolphe doesn’t seem to be able to tell the difference between a soprano and a mezzo-soprano. I do believe I did mention his cognitive deficit above. She informs him that she will hold him to his betrothal unless he kills the man who murdered her twenty years before. Being one of those more contrary kinds of specters, she declines to identify the miscreant. Rodolphe, in desperation, agrees before he leaves town.

This is the best scene of the opera so far, with the shades of Rodolphe’s family dead looming around him as he agonizes over the dilemma he’s gotten himself into. The music is dire and dour, deep into a minor key that accentuates the ghastly situation. Worth the price of admission alone.

Act III takes place in a small village where Rodolphe finds himself amidst a wedding party that devolves into a general orgy. Rodolphe extracts himself from the pile of writhing bodies long enough to fill Arthur in on how the Bloody Nun comes to him every night, reminding him of his pledge. Arthur shares the good news that Theobald has been killed in battle, and he is free and clear to marry Agnes. The correct Agnes. Rodolphe heads home.

The action amps up in Act IV as the now reconciled families hold a banquet celebrating the new arrangement. Unfortunately, the Blood Nun shows up as an uninvited guest, whom only Rodolphe can see and hear. She reminds him of his vows, he turns all party-pooper without explaining why, and everyone gets all pissy about it. Luddorf, however, figures out that his son is being haunted by the ghost of the woman he himself killed all those years ago, just as she tells Rodolphe that he’s going to have to execute his own father to get out of his engagement to her. 

It’s a wild scene, full of tension and angst, and ending with the two families back on each other’s naughty list. Exeunt all, except for Luddorf, who agonizes over the crime he committed so long ago and the price his son will have to pay for that sin.

Moldaw partisans flood the scene at the onset of the final act, vowing to kill Rodolphe for his offense against their family. Luddorf overhears the plot, and when Rodolphe and Agnes show up to argue over the situation and his inability to communicate his feeling to her, Luddorf intervenes in the attack and gets himself killed. The Blood Nun shows up, takes Luddorf’s spirit away with her, and absolves Rodolphe of his pledge. Rodolphe and Agnes are left staring at each other from a distance of about six feet as the music swells and the house lights dim. Not social distancing, but perhaps having said too much during their conflict and thus, unsure of where they stand with each other. Like the orgy, a rather more modern take than Gounod probably intended, but I liked it. That’s just my cynical old curmudgeon side showing out, I suppose.

The individual performances varied in quality. As noted above, Jodie Devos was consistently delightful. Marion Lebegue was exceptional as the Bloody Nun. The others were more than up to the task, except I thought for Michael Spyres’ Rodolphe. I found him a tad light in his delivery in the first act, and not always exact. He did improve as the opera went on, but I never stopped wishing someone of the caliber of a Roberto Alagna had been available. And affordable, which is likely why Spyres was chosen. Alagna has played Gounod’s Romeo as well as his Faust, so perhaps, someday…

Anyhow, that’s all I have to say about that. I recommend taking a look at La Nonne Sanglante if you ever find yourselves in possession of the DVD, or in the vicinity of a live performance. The accompanying booklet does include some details I glossed over, although I was rather disappointed it did not contain the libretto, either in the original French or an English translation. The DVD does have subtitles in several languages and is nicely shot. 

In lieu of all that, here is a sort of trailer, albeit with a different performer in the role of Luddorf. Or at least, a different look. Regardless, it’s a nice little extract, drawing mostly from the end of Act II…

So, until next time, as always…

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

 

Monster Madness Month: What Monsters Scare Our Staff

We surveyed our staff to see what Monsters scare them.

Mark Orr – Historian of Horror

When I was maybe three or four, my dad was watching a show about the Golden Age of Hollywood on TV. This would be in the very early 60s. I sat down with him but when it showed Lon Chaney Jr changing into the Wolf Man, I ran out and hid under my bed. So, yeah, werewolves.

Daphne Strasert – Review Director/ Daphne’s Den of Darkness

I HATE zombies. I don’t need hoards of the undead running after my tasty tasty brains, thank you. If the zombie apocalypse ever comes, I’m out!

Naching T. Kassa – Head of Publishing/ Chilling Chat

The monster that scares me most is the Teke-Teke. It’s a Japanese Urban Legend about a kid who was cut in half by a high-speed train. The kid became the Teke-Teke, a creature without legs who drags what remains of its torso behind it. The torso makes a “tik-tik” sound so you know the creature is coming to get you and make you a Teke-Teke too.

Kate Nox – Blog editor

The monster that scares me most is Old Baldy, the former caretaker of a camp I attended in the mountains of Northern California. You can hear him rustling through the trees at night waiting to kill campers and staff who cross his path.

What monsters scare you? Leave us a comment below!

Historian of Horror: How the Monsters Became Famous

How the Monsters Became Famous

It is a generally accepted truism among film historians that half of all films made before 1950 are lost. No copies are known to exist. By that metric, vast swathes of the horror films of the first half of the 20th Century should be unavailable for viewing. And yet…

Let’s take a headcount. The big one is, of course, Lon Chaney’s 1927 film, London After Midnight. The last known copy was destroyed in a fire in the mid-50s, and it has been The Holy Grail for horror fans ever since. Turner Classic Movies has assembled a sort of replica out of stills and the shooting script, but that’s a poor substitute. 

What else? The 1930 version of The Cat and the Canary, entitled The Cat Creeps, both English and Spanish versions. The first two Golem films Paul Wegener made in Germany during the First World War. The second version of Frankenstein, Life Without Soul, from 1915, and an Italian version, Il Mostro de Frankenstein from 1921. Um… 

Yes, there are more, but not as many major ones as one might think. Wonder why that is?

To find that out, we must needs peer back into the dark and abyss of time, to 1910. Carl Laemmle, a film exhibitor in New York City, decided he’d had enough of paying a royalty to Thomas Edison every time he used a movie projector. He also had a desire to make his own movies, but Edison collected even more exorbitant sums from anyone with the temerity to use one of his patented cameras. Laemmle’s solution was to uproot his whole operation, which consisted mostly of his relatives and relocate to somewhere in California, anywhere in California, far away from Thomas Edison and his patent attorneys. How about that sleeping little farming community near Los Angeles called Hollywood? Sure, sounds good. He called his new organization Universal Pictures. He set up shop out there and started making movies.

Within a couple of years, Jesse Lasky’s Famous Players followed suit, becoming Paramount Pictures in 1912. And so on, until Edison gave up on enforcing his patents and all the other studios followed Laemmle out to Hollywood.

Here’s the thing about Carl Laemmle: He never really caught on to the notion that feature-length was the way movies should be made. He was of the opinion that one or two reels per picture was plenty, each reel spooling out at roughly ten minutes. His underlings, Irving Thalberg and his son, Carl, Junior, among them, managed to convince him to allow longer productions, but Universal films still tended towards the shorter lengths. Nothing like the eight hours Erich von Stroheim was originally granted to make films like Greed over at M-G-M in 1924, but one of the biggest stars of the day, Lon Chaney, made a couple that hovered around an hour long while he was at Universal, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera among them. Before long, both Chaney and Thalberg had moved over to M-G-M, and it was up to Carl, Junior, to convince the old man to let him make feature films. Senior gave in, but was still loathe to let things get too far out of hand.

And so it is that once Universal get into the horror movie business in 1931 with Dracula and then Frankenstein, these films are still a tad shorter than the standard feature-length. Dracula came in at an hour and fifteen minutes, Frankenstein at an hour and ten minutes.

Which has what to do with the state of film preservation that seems to favor our beloved genre over others? Simply this – that when Universal started marketing fifty-two of their classic horror films to television in October of 1957 under the name Shock!, that just-over-an-hour length was very attractive. Add in the right number of commercials, and Shock Theater, as the release was generally called by the local television stations, came in at a comfortable hour and a half time slot. The program managers at those stations liked that ninety-minute block, and gobbled up the package all over the United States. There was even room for a local host to make a few jokes about the picture, and still, fit everything in. Another batch containing both Universal and Columbia releases the next year called Son of Shock made the old monster films a national phenomenon.

America went monster crazy. Every scary picture ever made was resurrected from whatever archive it had been interred in to be shown on late-night weekend, early morning, or after school television. Hence, the unusual percentage of old horror pictures that survived, in comparison with most other genres. 

Inspired by the renewed interest in the classics, American International, a Poverty Row studio that specialized in teen-oriented films for drive-in theaters, switched from hot rods and motorcycle gangs to teenage werewolves, Frankensteins, and cavemen. They hired Roger Corman to make black-and-white fright films on a budget, and once the studio had raked in enough teenage dollars, they bought some color stock and turned Corman loose on Edgar Allen Poe. England got in on the action, too, and Hammer films began remaking the old classics in lurid color. A new generation of horror stars arose – Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, along with a new set of scream queens in tight Victorian bodices barely containing their, um, huge tracts of land. Monsters weren’t just hip – they were sexy!

Of course, at the tender age at which I began to absorb all this cinematic mayhem in the early 1960s, sexy wasn’t really an issue for me. I just liked the stuff – the model kits, the toys, the Halloween costumes, the games, the television shows.

And the magazines. In particular, one magazine. The one essential chronicle of all that was unholy in the popular culture of the 1960s and beyond – Famous Monsters of Filmland

Back in 1957, before I was even a gleam in my daddy’s eye, legendary science fiction fan, and collector, and literary agent to the speculative fiction field, Forrest J. Ackerman, had come across a French magazine, Cinema, while on a tour of science fiction conventions in Europe. The specific issue he found featured articles on horror movies, and even had a picture of Henry Hull’s lycanthrope from the 1935 Universal picture, The Werewolf of London, on the cover.

Once back in the states, Ackerman contacted a men’s (read, girly) magazine publisher named James Warren who had lost his shirt on his previous publication and was looking for something to put his last few dollars into. Ackerman sold Warren on the idea of a one-shot about the classic horror films, using stills from Ackerman’s own extensive collection and written by Ackerman himself in a sort of jokey, corny and yet very ingratiating style that later generations of comic-book fans might associate more closely with Stan Lee. The idea was for it to appeal to an ideal demographic of eleven-and-a-half-year-old boys. Younger and older ones with thirty-five cents would be welcome to purchase a copy, however, as well as girls of all ages.

Ackerman began assembling his first issue, but Warren couldn’t find a distributor. Fortunately, Life Magazine ran an article on the resurgence of interest in the old horror pictures, and suddenly any publication with a monster on the cover was pure gold. That first issue appeared on newsstands in February of 1958, Warren himself pictured on the cover in a Frankenstein mask ‘menacing’ his girlfriend. The furor over the horrors of yesteryear demanded an ongoing series, and so it was ordained. It was six months before the second issue came out, but by the third, dated April, 1959, FM (as true fans know it) was appearing quarterly. By the tenth issue, it was bi-monthly. It ran as a Warren publication until 1983 and has been revived a couple of times since then by other publishers. 

The first issue I ever got my hands on was Number 35, dated October 1965. I had just turned seven. I have no recollection of how I acquired it, although I suspect I traded for it with one of the kids in the neighborhood. Probably swapped a comic book or two for it. That was still a thing in 1965. Anyhow, I thought we might flip through it and see what horrors lurk inside.

The cover is by Vic Prezio, depicting Bela Lugosi as Dracula. Not from the 1931 Dracula, the older vampire from Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). Not sure if that was the intent, but it seems that way to me. Basil Gogos is the artist most often associated with FM covers, but Prezio did a fair number in this period. The inside front cover is a close-up photo of Oliver Reed’s lycanthrope from the 1961 Hammer film, Curse of the Werewolf. Page 3 is a synopsis of the contents, followed by ads for the Famous Monsters of Filmland Club, free to join with the attached coupon, and for the 1966 Yearbook. Then, there’s a table of contents, followed by a photo of Lugosi that I believe is from 1935’s Mark of the Vampire. It’s labeled ‘Public Vampire No. 1’. Subtle, ain’t it?

The first article covers Lugosi’s 1951 trip to England, during which time he gave lots of interviews and co-starred in a film variously called Vampires Over London, My Son the Vampire and Old Mother Riley Meets the Vampire. Old Mother Riley was a popular character in English comedies at the time, played by comedian Arthur Lucan in drag. Not Bela’s finest moment, although much worse was yet to come.

A full-page close-up still of Boris Karloff as the Frankenstein monster is followed by the announcement of the winner of an amateur film-maker’s contest, won by Madona Marchant, who by the time this issue went to press had married cartoonist Rich Corben. Corben went on to have a long career illustrating horror comics for Warren’s Creepy and Eerie magazines, as well as the American iteration of the Heavy Metal magazine. 

More on all those publications in a future installment of this column. Stay, as they say, tuned.

A rather interesting article is next, about the recently (at the time) discovered first film ever made by Charlton Heston. Heston was a seventeen-year-old high school student when he starred in an amateur film version of the Henryk Ibsen play, Peer Gynt. You can find it here:

 

Heston went on to star in the best version to date of the Richard Matheson novel, I Am Legend, 1971’s Omega Man. Moses vs Vampires! Who could resist that?

The backlash by parents worried that horror movies, like horror comics a decade before, were warping their precious offspring, is addressed in the next article, “Monster Are Good for My Children – Yours Too!!!” I found it more persuasive than my mom and dad did, alas. Still, I survived and have yet to commit any of the atrocities forecast by those who were sure we monster fans were all destined to be mass murderers. Yet, being the operative word here.

One of the many ads for short snippets of eight-millimeter films scattered throughout the magazine follows, then came the Mystery Photo. This was a regular feature, an obscure still with vague clues to tantalize the fans, the answer to be revealed in the next issue. 

Nine pages are devoted to one of the absolute worst horror movies of the first half of the 1960s, Night of the Blood Beast. Why? I have no idea. A few pages of miniatures photographed in Frankensteinian dioramas in France is followed by another regular feature, Hidden Horrors, in this case, a close-up of Norman Bates’ mother from Psycho. Mom’s looking a bit peaked there, Normie.

We then get a synopsis with stills of the American release of Godzilla (1956), Revenge of Mystery Lines (a horror movie quotes quiz), You Axed for It! (reader requested stills), and a two-page advertisement for back issues. “The Gordons Will Get You!” concerns the cheesy b-movie makers Alex and Rich Gordon, who made several of the very first horror-SciFi movies I remember seeing on television. More ads, then a two-page spread on Lon Chaney, Junior’s 1952 appearance as the Frankenstein monster on the television series, Tales of Tomorrow, which like most early television was broadcast live. No mention is made, however, of Chaney being too far in his cups to realize it wasn’t a rehearsal. He was therefore very careful to not break any of the furniture he was supposed to, thinking it would be needed for the ‘real’ broadcast. Sort of diminished the verisimilitude, that.

A letters page, Monster Mail Call, and Headlines from Horrorsville finished up the editorial content and were followed by over twenty pages of ads for 8mm films, projectors on which to show said films, books, records, masks, decals, the first few issues of Creepy, knickknacks, gewgaws and various odds and ends. All the advertising indicated the goodies were to be ordered from Captain Company, Warren’s own distributor of the sundries sold throughout the issue, and every issue for the magazine’s run. The history of Captain Company will no doubt be told in a future installment.

That’s a pretty average issue, regardless of year. FM reprinted content constantly, so every article in this issue showed up in a later one. In the 1970s, Star Wars sort of took over, but you could always count on the monsters of yesterday filling in. I happened to be reading a much later issue containing an article on 1935’s Bride of Frankenstein reprinted from God-knows which earlier issue the first time I heard “Your Move” by progressive rock band Yes on the radio, in about 1971. To this day, I can’t hear the song without thinking about the movie, and vice versa. Funny how memory works, isn’t it?

I did meet Ackerman, once, in 1980. He was one of several guests at the Nashville science fiction convention that year, Kubla Khan Ate, with Stephen King being the main Guest of Honor. ‘Uncle Forry’ showed me the rings he was wearing, one that Lugosi wore in Dracula in 1931, the other worn by Karloff in The Mummy the next year. We had a nice chat about those films, and others then settled down to discuss silent films of all genres. It was one of those pleasant little interludes that occurred at cons in those days. One of many things I miss from my misspent youth. I did run into King, briefly, the last day of that convention. I spent considerably more time with him a few years later, at the 1983 DeepSouth Con in Knoxville. More on that later.

So, there it is. I do hope folks are enjoying these little excursions through my monstrous memories. Expect more next month, when the theme for the first part of April is religious horror. No idea as of yet what I’ll share about that topic, but I hope it will be interesting. Until, then, as always —

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Monster Madness Month: What Monsters Scare our Staff?

We here at HorrorAddicts.net have decided to celebrate those things real or imaginary that creep into the back of your mind and hang in your dreams. The beast in the forest, the rattling thing under the bed, the scratcher at the window. Creatures, behemoths, demons, and denizens of the dark are our subject for this month!

We asked our staff what scares them most? Here are a few of their repoies:

Don Pitsiladis – Nightmare Fuel

Shadow people terrify me. Anytime I’ve seen them, it’s been when I am experiencing sleep paralysis, which in itself is beyond frightening

Jesse Razorr – Staff Author

Demonic possession has always been more horrifying to me than any creature

Kristin Battestella  – Frightening Flix / Kbatz Crafts

People scare me the most. I enjoy horror for the monstrous examination and mirror to nature the genre represents. Evil among us…shudder.

Could be you agree? Leave us a comment about what scares you! We’re waiting to know!

Free Fiction: The White Wood by Carlos Ruiz Santiago

The White Wood by Carlos Ruiz Santiago

Corpses make an odd sound when you step on them. Wet, crunchy. Funny, if you are really twisted. Not the case of Ronel, of course; for him, corpses weren’t more interesting than a piece of dogshit. He knew how that sounded but he didn’t care about it either.

Truths are something twisted themselves, they emphasize pragmatic facts that could crash against feelings. That was why soldiers like him needed to be practical. If your country needed or wanted, something, you bought it. And, if the inhabitants didn’t want to sell, you killed them. As simple as that, anything more complex is philosophical gibberish that makes you miss the opportunity of getting things.

He looked at the horizon, appreciating the orangish sun falling in the cloak of dead savages and their saurian mounts. That nameless island in the middle of the nameless ocean was full of them, like sewer rats, like infection in a wound and prejudices in women. He tidied up his bushy mustache. Yes, like a woman, he giggled. The inhabitants were a tribe of warrior women and emasculated men. Pretty pathetic if you asked Ronel. In the deep soggy jungle, they hid, fought and died. When you fight with bone swords and axes against muskets and blunderbusses it’s what tends to happen. They charged, and men shot and the beasts screamed and men shot again and they howled in terror, mount indistinguishable from rider. A beautiful symphony, monsters dying by the power of the civilization.

Later, men had raided their tribe. Just small children, cowardly males, crowns of fruit, rock and wooden temples full of plants, weird and smelly shit you could expect from savages. If Ronel didn’t burn them it was just because of fear that fire will eat the whole island before they got their reward. Maybe before leaving.

A savage made a hiss from the ground. She had a long scarlet wound all over her side, getting dirty her dark-green skin, almost amphibian. Her eyes were deep orange, shining, and certainly beautiful. Her legs were trapped by the head of an enormous bipedal feathery monster, with the sharp-teeth mouth wide open and the eyes looking at the rotting sky. The lips of the warrior were thin, almost nonexistent. She whispered words in a forgotten language. A soldier sunk his bayonet in her chest, ending her life.

They had killed them all. That was pretty impressive, especially considering women. They didn’t capture anyone, all dead, fighting until their black rotten souls fell to the hells. Just monsters, bloody stinky monsters all of them, but pretty tough ones. Ronel looked for his pipe. Just slimy irrational savages in a forgotten place. There were also dead from his side. Ronel was equidistant: he didn’t care about them either. Why should he? Soldiers die, that’s part of their job. Axes had removed parts of their skulls, impaled by spears of long reptilian bones, the guts out by an irregular cut. A bloody sacrifice. However, it had its rewards, he though, looking in front of him.

The white wood.

There was an immense tree over there, really tall and, especially, wide. The branches were like a hundred hands imploring the demons in the sky, the roots like a thousand tentacles of gods- who knew what kind of pelagic deity. Quite impressive. The amphibian whores adored it like a god. In front of him, all of them had died. A pretty worthless god, if you asked Ronel. They had been looking for that wood for ages, only sparse remains until now. That was, apparently, the only living one. A good reward for the blood spilled. The white wood was harsh to burn, both hard and flexible. His king will have the best warships in the world. And all thanks to him, to people like him. That’s how progress is achieved because blood is the favourite drink of the welfare god.

Then, someone interrupted his peace, smoking from his pipe after the glorious battle. A young one, surprisingly alive, claiming that the tree was hollow. Ronel raised an eyebrow. Nevertheless, and despite the desire of some public punishment to relax the troops after a won battle, the soldier was right. An enormous crack in the tree and, inside of it, only roots and blank spaces, like maggots in a corpse.

Ronel entered the first one through that natural tunnel, two soldiers behind him. It was a straight path, not too regular or wide, but a path nonetheless. Soon, gloom was around them. The walls felt like they were made of insects, of moving and mushy parts, things that crawled through you. Things that fed on your corpse. Or maybe they were too impatient for that. Maybe they could begin now and he will become a corpse, eventually.

Or maybe not, maybe that’s the destiny that Ronel couldn’t stop thinking of now. Dying without dying. Eternal life of the soul, jail of flesh and bone, eternal suffering. Like going through a hole in a tree, not alive or dead. It was the throat of a monster, something wet and hellish, warm and hungry.

They ended up in a wider space. Ronel did all he could to normalize his breath, so no one noticed his rising dread. In the center of the structure there was an irregular rock where the roots came from. He got closer.

Impossible. Senseless. Demented.

Then, from one of the many cracks, an eye looked back at him. Like a cosmic sentence from a monstrous trial. Like the end. Inhuman, immortal, unbearable eyes. Fathomless abyss from the stars.

Not a tree, just like a tree. A parasite. A monster. Something worse. A herald. A newborn god. He tried to shout, to warn that the savages weren’t praising him, but guarding it, that they shouldn’t touch it, shouldn’t move it.

His words were nothing more than the growling of a frothy mouth of a crazy man in the ground, killed for the respect of his figure.


Carlos Ruiz Santiago is a Spanish fantasy and horror writer with two published novels ( Salvación condenada and Peregrinos de Kataik) and a participation in the anthologies Dentro de un agujero de gusano, Mitos y Leyendas and Devoradoras. He is an editor of the website Dentro del Monolito. He has written for magazines, such as Morningside and Exocerebros. He also has content around cinema, with the podcast Pistoleros de Gilead and the blog La Horroteca de Darko. He also organize talks and workshops around cinema and literature in various libraries.

https://darkosaurvlogs.wixsite.com/carlosruizescritor

Monster Madness Month: Review of GROTESQUE : Monster Stories by Lee Murray

GROTESQUE: MONSTER STORIES 

A book review of Lee Murray’s Bram Stoker Award nominated collection

Reviewed by Renata Pavrey

“Generosity could be as contagious as the plague, as long as enough people were willing to be carriers”, is a quote that opens the book and sets the tone for the kind of writing one is in for. A collection of eleven tales narrated as flash fiction, short stories, and novelettes, Grotesque spans the horror landscape from mythological creatures to contemporary social media addictions, as the reader travels across France, China and New Zealand, meeting everyone from Maori warriors to zombies, spirits and sea gods and gods of earthquakes and volcanoes, Leonardo Da Vinci and Tangaroa, tin soldiers and kaiju. A taut collection I came across in a horror literature forum, the book is in equal parts thrilling, dark and educative, an action and horror fest, with layers of historical references and cultural influences.

The titular story opens the collection with an archaeological find transporting us to the 16th century to reveal its secret. As we move back and forth from the 1500s to present day, fantasy elements of horror merging with historical roots made Grotesque one of my favorite stories and a fabulous one to start the collection as it set the pace for what lay ahead. History is followed by mythology that serves to remind and educate about the stories of lore, as Hawaiki takes us through Chinese mythology, Taiwanese history, and the Maori immigration story; as does Maui’s Hook, another monster story with its foundations in Maori mythology. I love mythological retellings in literature as they teach you so much about different cultures around the world; legends and folklore containing treasures of life stories through the ages. The kaiju story was another one of my favorites.

The New Breed is a post-apocalyptic zombie story, while Cave Fever merges science fiction with horror through a two centuries-old storm that forces mankind to seek refuge underground into a claustrophobic cave existence. Selfie and Dead End Town are out-and-out horror fests. I loved Lee’s take on the millennial social media obsession with her twisted spin on selfies in the former, while addressing domestic violence in the latter. Edward’s Journal was another stunner of pure horror – an epistolary story of colonialism featuring a British soldier from India helping white settlers in New Zealand, while Heart Music takes us through the restless spirit of a fourteen-year-old dead child. Into the Clouded Sky is a novelette of adventures in New Zealand – a ride through action, thrills, and monsters all the way, and Lifeblood pits marginalized groups against each other to detract from their actual problems.

Every story offers a unique reading experience, and encourages you to read between the lines into the theme being expressed in each one. Grotesque is a splendid collection to note the range of the writer’s prowess in relaying stories across genres and themes, having relatable elements as well as something new to learn wherever in the world you might be reading the book. Lee’s dark and disturbing tales cover commonplace topics like clicking selfies, address issues like dementia and child abuse, and turn the spotlight on immigrants and grave robbers – causing the reader to ponder upon who the real monsters are. Grotesque is a collection filled with monsters, but through an array of science fiction, fantasy, horror, mythology and more, Lee reminds us that we have already encountered many monsters; with many more still to be met.

In an increasingly dark and ominous world, monster stories force us to challenge our fears. 

~Lee Murray

This book will delight horror fans and is a magnificent collection for those new to the genre to explore. I would also recommend it to readers of mythology – there’s much information to be gleaned about world cultures. The Maori glossary is a wonderful touch to familiarize readers with terms and phrases in the stories, although Lee does a splendid job in explaining them through the context of the story itself. Lee’s creations are out of this world and each one surprises in its own way. There’s an aftertaste that you could read an entire novel surrounding each plot.

Lee Murray is an award-winning writer and editor with several novels and series to her credit. Grotesque is her first short story collection, which has been nominated for the Bram Stoker Awards this year in the category of collections.

My rating of the book: 5/5

Renata Pavrey

March 2021


Renata Pavrey is a Nutritionist by profession; marathon runner and Odissi dancer by passion; driven by sports, music, animals, plants, literature and more. She reads across several genres and languages, and loves the world of horror – in both, books and movies.

https://tomesandtales365.wordpress.com/Asian

 

Guest Blog : Mr. Mercedes’ Latest Season Premieres and It Brings the Feels by Rebecca Rowland

Mr. Mercedes Latest Season Premieres on Peacock on March 4, and It Brings the Feels

by Rebecca Rowland

In the first fifteen minutes of the third season of Mr. Mercedes, Bruce Dern is murdered. 

Dern plays a best-selling, reclusive writer, and this revelation is in no way a spoiler: not only is the crime the catalyst for the season’s story arc, but it is also the basis for Stephen King’s Finders Keepers, the second in the horror scribe’s Bill Hodges trilogy. According to King, Dern’s John Rothstein is not an alter ego but a mishmash of J.D. Salinger, John Updike, and Philip Roth, but let’s face it: Robert Frost insisted until the day he died that “The Road Not Taken” was not an allegory of selecting an extraordinary life path but only a plain ol’ poem about walking in the woods. Any high school English teacher would beg to differ. 

As a reader of King’s for more than thirty years, I admit to having felt a bit unnerved when Rothstein bit the dust specifically because I equated the fictional author with King himself. Shared grief when a celebrity dies is not a new phenomenon. When the grunge god’s suicide splashed across radio and television, someone spray-painted C-O-B-A-I-N across the interstate exit near my childhood home. When David Bowie, Prince, and Tom Petty were picked off by the Grim Reaper in what seemed like the trifecta of musical rapture just a few years back, I tore their glossy magazine photographs from their media memorials and taped them to my office wall. Watching the first third of season three’s lead episode, I considered what it will be like when King himself takes a final walk down the mile. 

I could track my life based on the release dates of King’s books. I was one of those kids who loved to read; my parents had to lock me outside in order to keep me from hunkering down in my room, my nose buried in a book. Because my father was a diehard Stephen King fan in the 1970s, I, of course, became instantly curious about his books, and at the age of ten, I was allowed to read Thinner because my parents had determined that it was the least nightmarish of King’s works up to that point (body image of a tween girl, be damned). I immediately moved on to The Shining and promptly had trouble sleeping, the obvious culprit being the clear view from my bed of a shower curtain in the night-light-lit bathroom. At the age of twelve, I went to the movies with a boy named Jimmy, and after we watched Silver Bullet, he gave me my first kiss. Throughout my teen years, I favored King’s short fiction, and it is because of Night Shift’s “The Boogeyman” that I insisted my college dorm room’s closet door always be shut completely, much to the vexation of my freshman-year roommate (who, incidentally, went on to executively produce not one but three of the CSI series as well as Murder in the First. I’d like to think my closet fixation takes partial credit for her career success with suspense, but it’s probably just a coincidence…).

After focusing my graduate degree in English on feminist theory, I based my thesis on the portrayal of female characters in popular horror fiction using Stephen King’s most recent releases at the time: Insomnia, Gerald’s Game, Dolores Claiborne, and Rose Madder. After entering the workforce for the first time as an adult, I read The Green Mile in its original serial form and sobbed uncontrollably on the subway after the initial demise of Mr. Jingles. Many years later, while working as a librarian in Western Massachusetts, I had to laugh when I read “Big Driver” in Full Dark, No Stars: maniacal main character Ramona Norville was a librarian, and the story was set in the town in which I was living at the time. 

When I tell people that I write dark fiction—psychological horror, in particular, I am more often than not met with a roll of the eyes or a patronizing tone. Genre fiction, it seems, lacks the street cred inherent with traditional literary fiction. Stephen King is popular, but he’s no Dostoevsky or Dickens, they say. I beg to differ. A professor once told me, a classic is a work of literature with themes and relatability that supersede time and place. There is humanity in horror, at least in well-written horror, that could go toe-to-toe with any stuffy college literature course tome. Although we read horror primarily for the screams, what keeps many of us coming back, no matter at what stage in our lives we are, is the sympathy its characters bring out in us.

And so, I return to the latest television installment of King’s Hodges trilogy. The now defunct Audience Network shuffled the novels of the series, choosing to base its second season on the third book, End of Watch, to mixed reviews. Although there is little to top the show’s first foray, season three captures much of the dread and believability that were often absent from the second ten episodes. Brett Gelman, always a scene stealer in comedy funfests such as The Other Guys and Fleabag, displays dramatic range as attorney Roland Finkelstein and potential love interest for Holly Gibney, but it is Breeda Wool’s portrayal of Lou that is most impactful. Wool inhabits the imprisoned assassin of Brady Hartsfield so strikingly that I’ve added most of her other work to my watch list. 

Season three is aglow with plenty of gruesomeness, from a spontaneous hatchet to one unsuspecting character’s head to a pick-axe being inserted and dragged through another’s, but perhaps the most chilling scene occurs in the final episode of the season, one that brings to a head the mysterious dream sequence Bill Hodges has been experiencing. For me, it is this scene in particular that solidified what the third installment of Mr. Mercedes seemed to be proselytizing all along, that the best writers are the ones whose work continues to impact our lives long after they have left this earth. Was it morbid for me to ponder Stephen King’s eventual demise? Perhaps. On the other hand, it’s possible that horror literature’s crown prince will outlive all of us, Mother Abigail-style. Regardless, for horror fans, he will never really disappear.

 



Rebecca Rowland is the dark fiction author of The Horrors Hiding in Plain Sight and Pieces and curator of the horror anthologies Ghosts, Goblins, Murder, and Madness; Shadowy Natures: Stories of Psychological Horror, The Half That You See, and the upcoming (June 2021) Unburied: A Collection of Queer Dark Fiction. Her work has appeared in venues such as Bloody Disgusting’s Creepy podcast, The Sirens Call, Coffin Bell, Curiouser, and Waxing & Waning and has been anthologized in collections by an assortment of independent presses. For links to her latest publications, social media, or just to surreptitiously stalk her, visit RowlandBooks.com.

Merrill’s Musical Musings: Riot Legion

Greetings HorrorAddicts! Time continues to pass in stops and starts. The days blend together and are distinct only by the latest headlines or weather phenomenon, like what the heck even is an “atmospheric river?” It sounds to me like the next thing in darkwave music. As I write this, we’ve made it through Groundhog Day and that means we’ve passed the darkest time of the year. We have light at the end of the tunnel, and that can be interpreted in many ways. Thank goodness for music, I say, as we could all use a little pick me up. Today I’m here to bring you a new artist who might just get you through the next six weeks of winter that precocious Punxsutawney Phil predicted, the little furry bugger! We need the rain here in the West, but I’m sure folks would like a break from the cold. Hang in there and let’s meet this month’s artist, RIOTLEGION.

RIOTLEGION hail from Seattle and pack a hard-driving industrial sound. Whereas Seattle is known for its grunge musical history, RIOTLEGION breaks with tradition. The album Machine Liberation was released  23 June 2020 through Blind Mice Productions. The brainchild of Michael Coultas, RIOTLEGION is known for high-energy audio-visual performances in the area. Their lyrics delve into the chaotic political landscape we find ourselves in after the events of the past few months. 

Many of the tracks on Machine Liberation lean heavily on distorted beats and chants that might appeal to fans of previously reviewed artists JUSTIN SYMBOL or CELLMOD. “Out of My Head” hits with a hypnotic beat and a rhythmic chant and is a standout on the album and the creepy intro to “Liberation” piqued my interest. The artist relies heavily on flickering synthesized beats and static to add atmosphere to tracks like “Decimator,” and “The One You Deserve.” 

Check out RIOTLEGION if you’re looking for some angry club music to work out some of your aggressions. I’ll be back next month with more new music for you to feast your ears upon. In the meantime, be sure to follow me on Instagram @rlmerrillauthor where I post music recommendations in my stories. I can’t have my lovelies going without the best tunes to listen to, now can I? You can also find playlists on Spotify for my books and whatever mood I’m currently in. Stay tuned for more Merrill’s Musical Musings…


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

 

Free Fiction Friday: Thirsty by Alan Moskowitz

THIRSTY

Written By Alan Moskowitz

           Alyssa loaded the revolver with one bullet.  She spun the cylinder, covering it with her hand making sure that neither she nor David could see in which of the six chambers the fatal bullet waited.  She put the gun down between them, the cylinder facing away from them.  She picked up the coin, held it out.  “Heads or tails?”

David’s mouth went dry, “Come on Alyssa, we don’t have to do this.  We can just keep sharing, the way we have been.”

           Alyssa shook her head.  “Rescue’s at least two weeks away, we both can’t last that long.  At least this way one of us will survive.  “Call it.”  She flipped the coin, David watched it spin up and then drop to the metal table with a clink.  She put her hand over it, “call it, honey.”  David remained silent.

Alyssa studied his once handsome face, remembering, the monumental exploration they’d launched themselves on, their falling in love, sharing everything equally. And now they’re stranded on this godforsaken waterless planet, and forced into a horrible decision.  “It’s only fair.” 

David swallowed hard, “Heads.”  Alyssa lifted her hand revealing “tails, you first.”

She slid the pistol over to David.  He took it in his hand, studied it for a moment.  “We’ll each drink less, a lot less, share fifty-fifty.” Alyssa sighed with resolution, “Then we’re both dead.”  A tear formed in David’s eye.  Alyssa watched it trickle down his emaciated cheek followed by a second drop.  He put the gun to his head.  His finger gripped the trigger, his hand shaking.  He looked into Alyssa’s calm and resolute eyes, and lowered the gun.  “I can’t.”

Alyssa understood. “I can.”  She took the gun from his shaking hand, checked the cylinder, turned it a few notches until the fatal bullet was next up.  She raised the gun to her head. 

“I love you!” David cried.

“I love you too,” Alyssa answered, and then shot David in the head.  She leaned over and wiped the telltale tear streaks from his face.  “There wasn’t enough for both of us David because you didn’t play fair.”  She sat back and studied his corpse, oddly feeling very little about killing her one time lover.  She considered putting on her suit and dragging him out into the red dust but didn’t have the strength.   She clutched the last bottle of water, opened it, took a small cautious sip and sat back to await the rescue craft.

__________________________________________________________________________________-

 

 

Alan Moskowitz is a retired screenwriter staying sane in Colorado during the pandemic writing genre fiction.  He can be reached at mosko13@aol.com.

 

 

March is Monster Madness Month!

We here at HorrorAddicts.net have decided to celebrate those things real or imaginary that creep into the back of your mind and hang in your dreams. The beast in the forest, the rattling thing under the bed, the scratcher at the window. Creatures, behemoths, demons, and denizens of the dark are our subject for this month!

To get us started today, we asked some of our staff to give us an idea of what MONSTERS scare them.

Here are just a few:

  • Emerian Rich , Creator/Owner/Publisher/Hostess of all things HorrorAddicts:

“Banshees scare me the most. I don’t know if it has to do with a video game I played a few years ago that I couldn’t get past the scary banshee girl or if it’s the thought of something standing in my path, screeching so loud and horribly that I can’t concentrate to figure out a way out. They also seem scarier than ghosts and like they might be made of ice and might be able to suck out your soul, like the Dementors do on Harry Potter. They freak me out!”

  • R.L. Merrill, Merrill’s Musical Musings and Ro’s Recs Blogger:

“I know it’s silly but zombies scare the shit out of me. The thought of slowly being eaten alive terrifies me!”

  • Lionel Ray Green, The Bigfoot Files Blogger:

“Inbred redneck hillbilly cannibals in the woods scare me. There’s just something about their horrendous killing methods and reckless abandon on unsuspecting folks that’s just so terrifying. I think they horrify me the most because they’re humans, and and they could be out there.”

We will share more as the Monster Madness continues, but we would love to hear from you! Tell us about your monster fears in the comments below.

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.

Women in Horror Month: Always the Fool by Melissa R. Mendelson

Always The Fool by Melissa R. Mendelson

I was meant to be home today, but they called me in, ignoring the pass day. The operator was vague. Some kind of babble about someone calling out sick, but we were all assigned to certain days. If something came up, if someone was sick, the deliveries would be held until the next day, but if I dared question the system, the fine would be heavy. I was already broke.

I reported to the dock at nine a.m. My pay was docked one hour. The system did not care for traffic or construction or any other kind of delay. Work started at eight a.m., and my locker was stuck. It took forever to jar the door open, throw my stuff inside, and slip into that uncomfortable, gray plastic suit. The gloves were even more uncomfortable, and I couldn’t find my face mask. But they didn’t punish me for that.

“One delivery,” the guard said to me as the door opened. “Take it down to the inferno.”

“One delivery? I was called in on my pass day for one delivery?”

“You got a problem with the system?” The guard watched me shake my head. “Good, and where’s your damn face mask? Those fumes will kill you.”

“I don’t know. I think someone was in my locker.”

“Well, you got one delivery, and then you’ll be sent on your way. Just hold your breath.” He signed the clipboard that he held, making a strange, red mark by my name. “Cart’s waiting.” He raised his eyebrows up at me, and I slowly moved away. “What a waste,” he muttered.

I steadied my hands along the cart. Sometimes, they were so heavy to push, but this one was light. The grab slab on the flatbed was the same size, width and height, but it weighed nothing. I was tempted to open it, but I never wanted to look inside those things. I never wanted to know what it was that I was pushing into the inferno. I would not question the system. One delivery, and then I would be on my way like the guard said.

I stepped into the warehouse. I pretended that the cart was heavy, taking my time to the inferno. I could smell it already, an ugly, burnt smell. Where the hell did my face mask go, and who would have taken it? I glanced up at the corridors along the warehouse, spotting others pushing their gray slabs to the inferno, some returning this way with empty carts to reload. One delivery. What a joke.

“Put a face mask on,” a youth remarked as he skid by. This did not bother him. Instead, if he racked up enough deliveries, he could leave early and game all night. That’s what he lived for, but those older knew better. There was no escape from the system.

“Delivery.” I finally made it to the steel doors. Maybe, I should have quickened in pace. I wanted to go home not to game but to sleep. My dreams were pleasant, unlike this harsh reality. I swiped my badge over the panel, but it did not turn yellow. “What the hell? It worked yesterday,” and I swiped again.

“Supervisor notified.” The operator’s voice boomed overhead. She was always cold, indifferent, hardly human, but that’s how she survived. “Please, wait,” she said.

My stomach flipped. I had the rationed meal. One bowl of oatmeal and a glass of milk with a few lumps. I was not privileged for more better quality food or drink. Sometimes, after a successful week, I would be rewarded with a chicken or fish dinner and not that gray stuff that they called meat. I haven’t had that kind of dinner in a long time.

“Collar?” The supervisor appeared on the scene. He stood six feet back. “Collar,” he repeated.

“6543219,” I said.

“Right. Pass day?”

“Today,” I answered, and he caught the annoyed tone. “Called in,” I said. “One delivery.” I hid my tone that time. “Here to deliver.”

“Come inside.” The supervisor swiped his badge, and the steel doors opened. “No face mask?”

“No,” I answered.

“Try not to breathe.” He smiled as he said that, and I did not like that smile. He followed me inside. “You were here for the visit last week?”

I pushed the cart into the dim room, pretending it was still heavy. I felt the fires from the inferno, an ugly machinery with various doors for various floors, all leading to the same end result. Burned. “Yes, I was here,” I said, trying to hold my breath, but I could already taste that smell.

“And you saw him?”

“What?” I realized that the supervisor was close, and I cringed. “Saw who? The Auditor?”

“No. Not the Auditor. Him.”

I knew who he was talking about. I passed by the dining room and saw all that food stretched out on the decorated conference table. I was so hungry, but I did not dare to venture inside, even for a bite. That’s when I realized that he was there at the head of the table, eating like a pig.

“You saw him.” That was not a question. “You watched him eat.”

“Okay. Yeah. I saw him, and I watched him eat. Can I throw the delivery in now?”

“He didn’t like that. You watching him eat.” The supervisor walked away from me. He approached the gray slab on the flatbed. “He reported you, and that’s why you are here.”

“That’s why I was called in on my pass day for one delivery? Because of that? Watching him eat?”

“Yes.” The supervisor did not look at me. He stared at the gray slab. “Do you ever question what it is that you are always burning?” He watched me shake my head. “These gray slabs are large, large enough for a human body.”

I paled at his words. “Excuse me,” I said.

“They are large enough for human bodies,” and he threw open the gray slab, revealing nothing inside. “Get inside,” he said.

“What? Wait. We’re burning people? Alive?”

“Get inside.” I noticed the gun in his hand. “Your choice. Alive or Dead.”

“For what? Watching him eat his fucking food?”

The supervisor’s finger wrapped around the trigger. “You offended him, and this is your punishment. Get inside the gray slab.”

“There has to be another way. Please,” I begged, and the gun went off. The bullet pierced my leg. The next hit my shoulder. I realized that he did not want to kill me. He wanted to burn me alive. I burned so many people alive, and I never realized it. But my supervisor knew, and he knew exactly what he was doing now. And for what? The system? “Please,” I screamed as he lifted me up and threw me into the gray slab.

“Save it,” and he slammed the gray slab shut.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Melissa R. Mendelson is a Horror and Science-Fiction Author.  She has been published by Sirens Call Publications, Dark Helix Press and Transmundane Press.  Her short stories have also been featured on Tall Tale TV.  She is currently working on completing her Horror novel, Ghost in the Porcelain, which surrounds an evil, porcelain doll.

Historian of Horror: The Answer, My Friend, is Bowen in the Wind

The Answer, My Friend, is Bowen in the Wind…

by Mark Orr

A strange title, you might think, but it’s one born of long hours of contemplation of a writer whose works I’ve read for decades, and yet have had a hard time getting a handle on for this contribution to my little corner of the Horror Addicts realm. Her ghostly yarns written under this pen name have been anthologized extensively, but have impacted the popular culture outside of the confines of literature remarkably little. Two of her historical romances were made into silent films with significant casts. A handful of her suspense novels, all written under one of her other several pseudonyms, Joseph Shearing, were filmed either as theatrical releases or for television in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Only three of her many spooky short stories appear to have been adapted into other media, either during her lifetime or in the decade after her demise. And other than the occasional podcast, Libravox recording, or other internet-based venues, nothing since.

Nor is there any single work so inextricably linked to her name that to mention one invokes the other. Lady Cynthia Asquith has her “God Grante That She Lye Still”, Charlotte Perkins Gilpin her “The Yellow Wallpaper”, Edward Lucas White his “Lukundoo”. She was praised by no less a literary giant than Grahame Greene, although she was dismissed as a writer of “bad adventure stories” by the somewhat-less-impressive-but-not-totally-to-be-sneered-at Colin Wilson. Speculative fiction luminary Fritz Leiber considered her 1909 novel of Medieval witchcraft, Black Magic, to be brilliant. Weird fiction aficionado Sheldon Jaffery compared her work favorably to that of Mary Wilkins-Freeman, Edith Wharton, and the aforementioned Lady Asquith. So, why so small a footprint on the culture at large?

She was born Margaret Gabrielle Vere Campbell on a small island off the southern coast of England on the first of November in 1885. Her father was an alcoholic who died in a London street. She was raised by an emotionally detached mother in genteel poverty. She married twice, her first husband dying of tuberculosis three years into the marriage, and bore three sons and a daughter. The girl died in infancy. Bowen wrote her first novel, the violent historical epic, The Viper of Milan when she was only sixteen, and eventually produced over one hundred and fifty volumes of historical romances, biographies, popular histories, and supernatural yarns before her death from a concussion in 1952 at the age of sixty-seven.

Perhaps it is the plethora of pennames spread over several genres that have diffused her influence, for there is nothing inherently inferior in the work itself. Her short horror stories, frequently revolving around bad marriages or rakehell ‘gentlemen’ using ladies of quality but poorly, most certainly do compare favorably with her peers. So, the question remains: why so few adaptations of those tales?

Alfred Hitchcock himself took a run at her twice. The first was his 1949 historical epic, Under Capricorn, which starred Ingrid Bergman, who had played the wife but poorly used by her own nefarious husband in the 1944 Hollywood version of Gaslight. The second was for the seventh season of his television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents. “The Silk Petticoat” aired on January 2, 1962, and was the thirteenth episode of the season. Appropriate, n’est pas? It was based on Bowen’s short tale, “The Scoured Silk”, written in 1918 and included in her collection, The Bishop of Hell and Other Stories. Michael Rennie, who had been the visitor from another world in The Day the Earth Stood Still in 1951 and Jean Valjean in Les Miserables the next year, starred as the not-quite-as-nice-as-he-seems husband who takes a second wife without being quite done with the first.

Of the other theatrical adaptations of Bowen’s works, a couple do have genre connections without being themselves horror films. Blanche Fury (1948) starred Valerie Hobson as the unhappy bride of Michael Gough and doomed lover of Stewart Granger. She had previously wed a mad scientist in Bride of Frankenstein and a lycanthrope in Werewolf of London, both in 1935, and later became engaged to a serial killer in the delightful black comedy, Kind Hearts, and Coronets, in 1949. In real life, her second husband was an English politician turned sex fiend and alleged Russian spy John Profumo. Perhaps she ought to have avoided marriage altogether.

Gough had a long career as a movie villain, in Horrors of the Black Museum (1959), the kaiju gorilla picture Konga (1961), the 1962 Hammer version of The Phantom of the Opera with Herbert Lom as the Phantom, the caged-animals-gone-wild movie Black Zoo (1963) and the Amicus anthology film Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965), before reforming himself enough to appear four times as Batman’s butler, Alfred Pennyworth. He did play a more sympathetic role in Hammer’s Horror of Dracula in 1958, but that was an anomaly. Granger went on from this picture to replace Errol Flynn as the hero of big-budget swashbuckling adventure movies in the 1950s such as King Solomon’s Mines, Beau Brummell, Scaramouche and The Prisoner of Zenda, and played Sherlock Holmes in a 1972 television version of The House of the Baskervilles to something less than general acclaim.

So Evil My Love was made as a feature film in 1948 and for television in 1955 for the Lux Video Theatre series. The movie starred Ray Milland, star of genre films The Premature Burial in 1962, the only one of Roger Corman’s Edgar Allen Poe adaptation for American International Pictures that didn’t star Vincent Price; X: The Man With X-Ray Eyes in 1963; and the exceedingly cheesy Frogs in 1972. The television version starred James Mason, who as Captain Nemo wrestled with a giant squid in the 1954 Disney film, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and who as Professor Lindenbrook in 1959’s Journey to the Center of the Earth encountered several monstrous denizens of that region. He also played Dr. Watson in the Sherlock Holmes vs Jack the Ripper film, Murder by Decree, in 1979, with the late Christopher Plummer as Holmes.

Moss Rose is the closest any of the feature films based on Bowen’s novels came to being possibly considered a horror picture. Made in 1947, it starred Victor Mature, caveman hero of One Million Years B.C. (1940); Ethel Barrymore, helpless old lady in the 1944 classic, The Spiral Staircase; frequent villain in myriad second feature horror movies George Zucco as the butler; and Vincent Price, playing against type as the police inspector tasked with unraveling the mystery and preventing the untimely demise of leading lady Peggy Cummings at the hands of a serial asphyxiast. Set in the Victorian era, it stylistically and thematically resembles the aforementioned Gaslight and Spiral Staircase, as well as other horrific thrillers like Hangover Square or The Lodger. So, yeah, maybe it is a horror picture, even if it is so very unlike Bowen’s ghost stories. I refuse to reveal whether or not the butler did it, by the way.

As for the other two television adaptations of her spooky yarns, I have so far been unable to track down videos of either “Avenging of Anne Leete”, the 166th episode (!) of the second season of the NBC series Matinee Theatre, aired May 23rd, 1957, or “They Found My Grave” from the Canadian series Shoestring Theater, aired February 12, 1961. The former starred future Simon Templar and James Bond Roger Moore, future Avenger John Steed Patrick McNee, and future mother to Richie Cunningham Marion Ross. The latter starred Kay Trembley, who had a bit part in Veronica Lake’s last movie, the abominable Flesh Feast, in 1970. Both tales are among Bowen’s best, and one could wish for a more accessible adaptation for each. But one must not hold one’s breath, apparently.

Her horror novels have pretty much gone out of print apart from the occasional independent or micro-press electronic editions, although her short stories do still pop up in anthologies assembled by the true cognoscenti of the genre, as they have since at least 1929 when mystery maven and creator of Lord Peter Wimsey Dorothy L. Sayers selected “The Avenging of Anne Leete” for the horror section of her landmark collection, The Omnibus of Crime. Dennis Wheatley included Black Magic in his “Library of the Occult” series of paperbacks in 1974 for Sphere, who also published The Spectral Bride the previous year, but if there’s been a dead tree version of any of the supernatural novels since, I haven’t found any evidence of such an endeavor. 

Since Marjorie Bowen passed on more than twenty-seven years before Sonny Bono, on behalf of Disney Studios, got Congress to push the copyright laws back into the antediluvian era in which Mickey Mouse was born, her entire oeuvre seems to currently be in the public domain. Many of her works, including most if not all of her shorts, are available from 

Project Gutenberg https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/author/41727 

Project Gutenberg Australia http://gutenberg.net.au/plusfifty-a-m.html#bowen 

Open Library https://openlibrary.org/authors/OL27801A/Marjorie_Bowen 

Ray Glashon’s Library http://freeread.com.au/@RGLibrary/MarjorieBowen/MarjorieBowen.html 

Libravox https://librivox.org/author/12478

and the Internet Archive https://archive.org/search.php?query=%28%28subject%3A%22Bowen%2C%20Marjorie

An online biography by Jessica Amanda Salmonson (much more in depth than the one I provided above) can be found here: https://web.archive.org/web/20081204234335/http://www.violetbooks.com/bowen.html and information on a new print biography, The Furies of Marjorie Bowen, by University of Kansas associate professor of film and media studies John C. Tibbetts here: https://news.ku.edu/2019/12/06/book-aims-revive-interest-forgotten-weird-fiction-writer 

I don’t know about any of y’all, but I’m saving up for that one. 

I also want to point out that Valancourt Books has a new edition of The Bishop of Hell and Other Stories coming out in March of 2021. I would encourage the populace to support that very worthy publisher by purchasing a copy from them rather than scooping it up for free from the internet, despite its contents being public domain. I intend to do so. Valancourt is an invaluable resource for rare and wonderful horrors from years gone by. They did not pay me to say that, nor would I accept money from them to do so. I value them that much.

https://www.valancourtbooks.com/the-bishop-of-hell-and-other-stories-1949.html

Regardless of where they are to be found, I do hope the frequenters of this space give Marjorie Bowen’s stories a look. They deserve better than to be forgotten. And, as always, be afraid. Be very afraid.

Merrill’s Musical Musings: Ro’s Recs /Women Get Spooky

Ro’s Recs: Women in Metal 

Heavy Metal and Horror will forever be intertwined. Ever since the first notes were played by founding fathers Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, the two genres began a relationship that is symbiotic. Women didn’t always have a role front and center in the music, but that, my fellow horroraddicts, is changing. 

The women carrying the dark torch in music these days are inspirational and powerful. Their musical styles and their backgrounds may vary, but they’re continuing to prove that women can rock hard and they continue to explore the dark recesses of society that horror fans love to dwell in. Check out these bands and find some new favorites. 

Spiritbox, hailing from Vancouver, British Columbia, features lead singer Courtney LaPlante, whose voice is absolutely mesmerizing. From their name to the imagery in their videos and their dark lyrics, Spiritbox is a horror fan’s dream band. I guarantee if you give a listen, LaPlante’s vocals will have you spellbound. 

In this Moment from Las Vegas, Nevada, are veterans of the metal scene. Rock Goddess Maria Brink not only brings her unique vocal styling full of emotion and drama to the band’s hard rock sound, but her lyrics explore everything from the horrors women experience to dark fairy tales and pagan symbolism. If you EVER have the opportunity to see the band live, do not miss out. Here is a clip from a collaboration with the Metal God, Rob Halford of Judas Priest.    

 The Napalm label’s artist Tetrarch has a sound that will appeal to fans of Linkin Park as well as heavier metal bands like The Amity Affliction. Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, and now LA-based, the band features guitar player Diamond Rowe who proves that chicks can rock hard! She was also the first Black female lead guitarist to be featured in Metal Hammer magazine. Their video for I’m Not Right has a horror feel to it that I can totally vibe with. Anyone who’s been bullied can relate! 

Code Orange, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is a band I discovered after hearing Corey Taylor from Slipknot rave about them. Their music has an intensity to it that reminds me of Slipknot and is filled with time changes, unique sounds, and creepy effects that make my black heart happy. The video for Underneath, which features guitarist Reba Meyers on vocals, is a sci-fi/horror show that all of my fellow horroraddicts will dig. Check out the band and the video, which was directed by @maxmoorefilms

 

And on the harder edge of the metal scene, you can find long-time metalcore veterans Straight Line Stitch from Knoxville, Tennessee. Lead vocalist Alexis Brown is fierce. Her vocal stylings travel effortlessly from screams to melodic choruses. Check out their video for Black Veil.

I am always seeking out the best in new music and you can read my reviews and recs here on HorrorAddicts.net as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @rlmerrillauthor. Stay Tuned for more Ro’s Recs and Merrill’s Musical Musings… 

______________________________________________________________________________________

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

 

HOW CON: How to Plan a Workshop

How to Plan a Workshop
by Kate Nox

As an author, publisher, or event coordinator, you may be called upon to provide a workshop or in some way fill a time slot on a subject you know (expertise). You may be an expert in your field, but many of us have no idea how to pull a presentation together. This HOW Workshop will give you some guidelines to help you master this task with greater ease and aplomb.

Imagine with me:
You have been asked to provide a workshop for a group of 40 persons on a given subject.
You will have a time period of 40 minutes for your presentation.

Absolute step ONE:
Get the facts about what is desired by the group inviting you to present. Just like in the advertising class you took in college or high school, you get the 5 basics – Who, What, Where, When, How many?

Who – Is it a group of newbies to the subject or a group of your peers who will already know a bit or even more than you? You will want to tailor your information to your crowd.

What – is the subject the group is wanting you to present? Have they chosen a theme? (ie. Do they want your view on 14th century Ghost Exploration?)

When – is the workshop to take place? Include time and time frame. (40 minutes? 2 hours?)

Where – will it take place, what kind of room is the workshop to take place in? I once had to provide a craft workshop for 30 women sitting on half-log benches in a dusty outdoor amphitheater without electricity! Now is the time to find out if there will be projection equipment, a loudspeaker, or a podium.

How many – people will be in attendance? One of my pet peeves is attending a meeting or conference where there are not enough handouts for the crowd.

Step Two:
As soon as you get the topic plant it in your head – Tape it to your mirror, pin it to your car sun visor, log it on your phone, tack it on a bulletin board and exchange topics with a friend.
I have done these things for years and have even had several years of themes written where I can see them readily. I worked in a job where I was required to train and inspire people. Having the topic in my face frequently helped me to focus and catch the topic when I heard it or saw it elsewhere. It is amazing when reading an article in the newspaper or even seeing a billboard, or watching a TV show can spark an idea that becomes the direction for a presentation.

A friend of mine in a similar position and I always exchange what we are working on for the next year and often were able to provide information to help each other flesh out the post-it – notes on the mirror into a full presentation. I think we call that networking.

Step 3: Take a large piece of paper and just brainstorm. Write down everything you can think of that fits the subject. Cross off what is not helpful, then circle the important. Do your research, amass important information. Gather whatever you need to provide the information.

Step 4: 
After you have researched – Weed through and select the most important points you want to relay to your audience and write each on a 3×5 inch card.

Step 5: Use the cards to lay out the points in a logical flow toward your conclusion.

Step 6: Now that you have your topics and the information for each, work on connection lines. This is how you will get from one point to the next. These can be elaborate or as simple as “in light of that” or  “in conclusion”. This is one hint that will make you sound like the smoothest presenter on earth.

Step 7: Write your introduction last. You cannot know what you are about to say until you have decided what your information is.

Step 8:
 Talk it through with a timer and allow time for questions. The more you do this step, the more you will know your material and it will be more natural to talk about it.

Step 9:
 Prepare handouts, bibliography, and any video presentations.

On the day 
– Always take a few minutes in-the-space. Sit in the furthest chair, observe anything that may be blocking the view. Take a few minutes to stand behind the podium or wherever you will speak from. This time will give you the opportunity to change anything that makes you uncomfortable before your listeners arrive.

Presenting a topic is a privilege. Enjoy your opportunity!

HOW CON: Overlooked Elements of Promotion

Overlooked Elements of Promotion
by Loren Rhoads

You’ve completed your grand opus. You’ve decided to self-publish. You’ve got your first book edited, formatted, and ready to go. What next? Let’s talk about the overlooked elements of promotion.

Promotion is a huge subject and each of these headings should be an essay on its own. Because of that, I’ll just do a link roundup and we can discuss each topic more in the comments.

1. A Good Author Bio

The #1 thing you can do to boost your promotion is to write a good author bio. The bio should do three things: name you, name your book, and demonstrate your credentials to have written that book.

Some exercises on the subject:

lorenrhoads.com/2016/09/15/writing-an-author-bio/

Bad author bios:

scribewriting.com/how-to-write-your-author-bio-and-why-it-matters/

2. A Good Headshot

Amazon wants an author photograph. Goodreads wants an author photograph. If you guest post or are interviewed anywhere, they’ll want a photo of you. If you’re using your Facebook page to connect with people at conventions, they’ll want to know who to look for.

Theodora Goss had a great post about how to fake being photogenic:

theodoragoss.com/2014/01/19/being-photogenic/

There’s also this, if you need more inspiration:

venuscomb.tumblr.com/post/42145730399

3. A One-Sheet
/Media Kit

When I worked for a record label, we wrote one-sheets to go with every new release. You should write one for every book you publish. It will go in every paperback copy of your book that you send out to reviewers. You can use it as the book’s homepage online. Your one-sheet should include your book cover image, the book’s description, blurbs, and information on release date, publisher, and a list of where it will be for sale: bookstores, Amazon, Indiebound, your website, etc. It should also include contact information, in case the recipient has questions.

Most crucially, it should be no longer than a single printed page.

This is the one-sheet I wrote for my space opera trilogy, even though those books were published by a traditional publisher:

lorenrhoads.com/writing/the-dangerous-type/one-sheet-for-the-dangerous-type/

4. An Author Website

Now that you have the basics nailed down, you need an author website to display them. This is your home on the web, where interested readers will come to find out what you are doing next. It’s also where interviewers and podcasters will come to see if you’re worth their time. It needs to look absolutely clean and professional.

I used to have a designer-created website, but it was frustrating because I couldn’t update the pages myself. This is the easiest list of how to set up your own site: en.support.wordpress.com/five-step-website-setup/

Elements every author’s website needs:

janefriedman.com/author-website-components/

5. An Amazon Author Page

Every author needs an Amazon page. Amazon doesn’t make them easy to find, but you can set up a page at authorcentral.amazon.com. You will need your photo, bio, and website info handy. If your book is sold on Amazon already, you can claim it as yours and Amazon will add it to your author page.

Personally, I think Amazon’s design is kind of busy, but it allows you to link your blog and add all the books you have stories in. Here’s my author page, as an example: amzn.to/2GXj7I2.

6. A Social Media Strategy

You can’t do it all. Seems like a new social media site pops up every month. Usually it’s not worth being an early adapter, unless you want to stake your name, because it isn’t worth wasting time calling into a ghost town.

There are many theories about when you should post on social media. This one made sense to me: blog.kissmetrics.com/science-of-social-timing-3/.

7. An Author Blog

Blogging is a great way to draw people to your work. There are many blogging platforms, from the abovementioned WordPress to Blogger to Blogspot for text, Instagram and Tumblr for images. There are more blogging sites all the time. (See above: shouting into a void.)

I’ve heard that Google’s algorithm prioritizes sites that update frequently, but you risk chasing readers away if you post too often. People unsubscribe if they can’t keep up with you. I’m an advocate of blogging once or twice a week with text, but daily on Instagram or Tumblr.

WordPress has a free online course for beginning bloggers: dailypost.wordpress.com/blogging-university/blogging-fundamentals/.

8. Guest Blogging

I am a huge proponent of blogging for other people’s sites. I know there’s a long list of reasons why working for exposure will kill you, but your work isn’t going to magically sell itself to people you don’t know. You need to get it out in front of strangers. Either you can spend money on ads, or you can spend time writing a guest post. You tell me: which one is more likely to sway you to buy a book?

This site has annoying popups, but the information on how to pitch a guest post is on point: www.convinceandconvert.com/content-marketing/9-tips-to-perfectly-pitch-your-guest-blog-post/.

9. Goodreads

Too often, writers make the mistake of joining writers’ groups, then trying to sell their books to other writers. If you want to connect with readers, go where readers are. I lean toward Goodreads over LibraryThing because I like the way it is set up. At the very least, if your books don’t have a listing, you should add them. Beyond that, you should have an author page. Review books that are similar to your own as a way to draw readers’ attention. You can also review books that inspired or influenced your own work.

How to use Goodreads’ author program: www.goodreads.com/author/how_to

My Goodreads Author page: www.goodreads.com/author/show/976431.Loren_Rhoads

10. Step Away from the Computer

After you’ve done everything you can online, it’s time to think about doing live events. I encourage everyone to do readings. If there isn’t a reading series where you live, set up an event at your local library, bookstore, or coffee shop.

The #1 thing people forget when they’re going to read in public – whether you set the event up yourself or you are appearing as part of someone else’s show – is to ADVERTISE it. Let people know. Invite your friends. It’s awful to stand in front of an empty room.

I don’t necessarily advocate solo book signings. Unless you can count on all your friends’ support – or you have mad selling skillz and can seduce strangers out of their hard-earned cash – signings can be frustrating. With a reading, they’re getting a free taste of the work you want to sell them. Do it right and they’ll be in the mood to treat themselves.

Here’s the distillation of my knowledge on giving readings:

lorenrhoads.com/2016/09/19/reading-your-own-work/

So. Whew. That’s the quick list of ten things you should be doing to sell your books right now. Have you tried any or all of them? What worked for you? What would you like to try next?

HOW CON: Top 10 Things To Remember When Planning a Writer’s Event

Top 10 Things To Remember When Planning a Writer’s Event
by Kate Nox

1. Consider your audience – Who will be there? This will determine everything else, venue, speakers, entertainment, everything starts here.
2. Reserve your venue early – Many venues sell out fast, so get the place settled. Your advertising and attendance depend on it.
3. Set a firm deadline for registration – This is for your sanity more than anything else. It should be far enough in advance for you to alert your venue, your caterers and your workshop presenters as to numbers. If you just can’t say no, then anyone who tries to register after the deadline goes on a waitlist in case there are cancellations.
4. Think about comfort – make sure your attendees will be comfortable. Is the room big enough, can they hear, is it too hot or cold? Are there tables to be comfortable writing? If they are to be there more than an hour, will they need a break? Is the restroom nearby? Are there sleeping accommodations if it is a multiple day event? Will water or other refreshment be furnished by you or the venue?
5. Provide a contact  – A phone number or email address where attendees can ask questions. There will be questions! Make sure someone answers.
6. Fit speakers to the crowd – Workshop or keynote; the speaker should be of interest to your crowd. As a teenager I was part of a church group that would advertise teen crusades and when we arrived the speakers would invariably be in their sixties! Not a fit.
7. Add a little for expenses – Nothing is worse than arriving at an event and realizing something is missing. A few dollars extra in the kitty can be a lifesaver. Just a couple of dollars per attendee is all it takes.
8. Remember you are working with human beings – People need time. Time to walk or drive from event to event, time to network, time to use the restroom. When making your schedule, leave time for human needs.
9. Communicate with your audience – Make sure your attendees know if the weather could be chilly, if the hotel has wifi, if they will need to provide their own meals. Help them be as prepared as possible when they arrive for your event.
10. Thank everyone – your speakers, the facility, anyone who helped you in any way and all who attended.

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Coast 2 Coast Horror

I am so very excited about this post guys! I’ve teamed up with Lady Shasha, the host of What Did I Just Watch? to bring you a three-part mini series to celebrate Black History Month, WiHM, and all things horror.

The Daughters of the Dark, Lady Shasha host of What Did I Just Watch and Crystal Connor, A Trusted Name in Terror joined forces to bring you a 3 part mini-series to celebrate Black History and Women in Horror month!

Get to know Lady Shasha …
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHrhUeOoE7C46NKJcrdTNUQ

https://www.facebook.com/wdijwcommunity

https://twitter.com/horrorfreq

HOW CON: How to write when you don’t feel up to it

How to write when you don’t feel up to it
by Loren Rhoads

Sometimes, especially these days, it’s hard to do the creative work you want to do. I’ve used a bunch of tricks to get around the blocks. I offer them here, in hopes they’ll inspire you.

  1. Make a list. Whether it’s topics you want to explore or scenes that need to be written, it’s easier to begin writing when you have a prompt.
  2. Set an alarm. Promise yourself that you will settle down to write when the alarm goes off. Giving yourself the anticipation of writing time can be inspirational.
  3. Set a timer. Anyone can write for 15 minutes. There’s something about the tiniest amount of time pressure that tricks your brain into thinking it’s on a deadline. Start a timer on your computer, phone, or in the kitchen. You might find yourself pounding out the words to beat the bell. If the words are really flowing, you can always add a second 15-minute sprint.
  4. Make a date with a friend. Whether you sit down together in a cafe (someday!) or meet online for a video chat, it really helps to know that someone else is working alongside you. The key is to find someone who will write, rather than chat.
  5. Put your headphones on. Many writers make a playlist that they listen to only when they work on a particular story or book. Listening to the same music every time you write can train your brain to provide inspiration on command.
  6. Write somewhere else. If you normally write at a desk, try moving to the sofa or the kitchen table or sitting in bed. The simple act of shifting to new surroundings can shake loose the words.
  7. Try a different writing tool. Do you usually write on a laptop? Try writing by hand in a notebook or attach a keyboard to your phone. Some writers swear by word processing keyboards like AlphaSmart or FreeWrite, which only allow you to see a small amount of the text you’re working on. That way you’re forced to move forward, rather than editing what you’ve already done.
  8. Experiment with dictation. The simple act of telling yourself your story can inspire you. Whether you use a dedicated dictation program or simply take a voice memo on your phone, the trick is to speak the punctuation at the end of each sentence. Also, edit while the words are fresh in your mind, or you may have trouble deciphering Siri’s interpretation.
  9. Write first thing in the morning. It’s tempting to start the day by checking email or scrolling social media, but what would you come up with if you listened to your own thoughts first thing in the morning?
  10. Write last thing at night. Take a notebook to bed and draft one more scene before you turn out the light. Do the words feel different as you’re settling in for the night?  Maybe your subconscious will solve a writing problem for you in your dreams.
  11. Step away from writing. Sometimes the best ideas come when you can’t write them down. Go for a walk, wash the dishes, or take a shower. Let your mind play without the pressure of a blank page staring at you. As soon as you finish your break, sit down to record the thoughts that occurred in the interim.
  12. Remind yourself why you write. Do you have a story you’re burning to tell? Do you have a lesson you want to teach? Are you curious how your story will turn out? Clarifying why you want to do this can show you the path how to do it.
  13. Ask “And then what happens?” Sometimes the next scene isn’t clear. You can get wound up trying to figure out what needs to happen. Instead of insisting on what the story needs, narrow your focus until you only need to come up with the next step. Then write that next step…and the next one after that.
  14. Perfect is the enemy of done. Don’t waste time choosing the right word. Put down the almost-right word, enclose it in parentheses, and keep going. You can always fix it later. This works for names, descriptions, and anything you might need to research. Aim for momentum over poetry in your first draft.
  15. Chart your progress. Whether you put a check on the calendar, color in a box on a habit-tracking chart, or simply make note of your word count, record the days you write. If you only write 500 words a day for 100 days, you’ll have 50,000 words for your book in three months. It’s addictive to see your progress.

 

What other tricks have you found for getting the work done? Make your own list, so you’ll have some tools to use next time you feel at a loss for words.

Loren Rhoads is the co-author of the Spooky Writer’s Planner with Emerian Rich.

HOW CON: Checklist for Self-publishing – for newbies

Self-publishing is a very personal journey. There is no “right” way to pursue it, but here is a nice over-view newbie checklist for those who are looking to pub their own work. There may be steps missing that you will add as you go along, but this is a good way to start.

STEPS OF PUBLICATION – self-publication PRINT BOOK

1. Finish the first draft.

2. Copyright it. (Easy online)

3. Re-read and have 1st readers (3-5 people) read and make comments. Make sure they have an interest in your work or the subject matter and that you trust their opinion.

4. Input edits.

5. Ask for cover blurbs if you are going to and give them time to read the book (month?).

6. Write up: Back cover blurb, copyright page, acknowledgments, author bio and pic, back page ads, and any extras you may wish to add. Insert these into the text.

7. Decide whether you will pay for an editor or not. If yes, have editor review it. If not, have more experienced people read it.

8. Input edits.

9. Format the book. Including margins, chapter breaks, internal artwork, copyright page, acknowledgments, author bio and pic, back page ads, and any extras you may wish to add.

10. Format the cover or get someone to do this. Artwork should be paid for and so should cover design. Make sure your back cover blurb has been copyedited before going to graphic artist.

11. Re-read the formatted version for copyediting only (typos) and have a second group of 1st readers read for copyediting only. Pay special attention to any word graphics, chapter heads, etc… that may be spelled wrong.

12. Input edits.

13. Format/upload the entire book into the KDP website and submit for approval. Wait for approval.

14. Once approved (or not) look at the errors or notes KDP has made and adjust accordingly. Also, check the online proof for any visual issues that may be wrong.

15. Once satisfied with the proof online, order a proof for yourself. Wait for mail.

16. Review live copy. Check all graphics for quality and color. Check all cover items for spelling and clarity. Re-read the entire text for typos or formatting issues.

17. If the proof is perfect, you are ready to publish. If there are issues, fix and resubmit. You may order as many proofs as you need to get it right. It’s best to wait to order the proof until the entire text is right.

18. Submit to publish, order your copies, PROMOTE!

19. Submit to KDP for eBook version. Important to wait to make the eBook version until you have fully edited and approved the print, that way you don’t have to make edit changes in two different formats.

Book Review: “Severed Wings” by Steven-Elliot Altman

Hello Addicts,

Imagine that you are an actor on the cusp of becoming a breakout star in a new series, only to have fate take it away in the blink of an eye. How low would your life sink, and what would you do to get that life back? These are the questions raised by Steven-Elliot Altman in Severed Wings. .

Brandon Jones is a rising star set to take on a sitcom role that he sees as his big break. Fate intervenes in the form of a head-on car accident that takes the life of a teenager and places him paralyzed from the waist down and permanently in a wheelchair. He breaks up with his girlfriend, a starlet in her own right, loses the sitcom role he fought hard to get, and cuts off contact with family and friends. He sinks into depression, finding solace in alcohol and companionship with a drag queen and an escort working her way through college.

Life and circumstances change when new neighbors move in down the hall. At first, they are a mystery he feels a strong urge to solve, but he is smitten when he sees the woman living there. Unfortunately, while she is distantly friendly, her boyfriend is anything but that. The mystery behind the couple deepens when a man leading a blind older woman knocks on Brandon’s door by mistake. He recognizes the woman as a prestigious agent. Her presence in their apartment building is enough to inflame his curiosity further. What follows are miracles and the discovery of entities almost as old as the world itself.

I found the take on a man falling from the highs of stardom to the lows of despair, self-loathing, and depression to be engaging. The supernatural elements fold into the mix in a satisfying way for the tale. There is a bit of redemption towards the end, although it doesn’t go as far as offering a thoroughly happy ending. If you are looking for a quick read a la the Masters of Horror television series, I think this will satisfy that craving.

Until next time, Addicts.

D.J. Pitsiladis

Women i n Horror: Infection by E. A. Black

Hello, Horror Addicts! I write horror as E. A. Black. I’m on social media as Elizabeth Black. I live in Lovecraft country on the northeast coast of Massachusetts. If Innsmouth were a real town, it would be a ten minute drive from my home.

My story, “Infection”, which appears below, originally appeared in the anthology “Teeming Terrors”. Here’s the blurb for the book:

Nature. Filled with wonder, beauty, majesty and mystery. Also filled with things that want to kill us. Normal things, little ordinary things. Things that creep and crawl. Things that fly, swim, scuttle and slither. Things that you might expect and be rightfully phobic about … as well as things you may have never imagined as a threat. Individually, maybe they wouldn’t be. But that’s just it. They aren’t coming for you individually. They’re coming for you in swarms, in flocks and hordes, in masses and multitudes. They’re coming for you by the thousands. They are … TEEMING TERRORS.

“Infection” is one of my favorite stories that I have written, and I’m happy to share it with Horror Addicts for Women in Horror Month. Enjoy!

Infection

By E. A. Black

April Jones was cursed with a stubborn husband. John Jones had been weeding the garden and mowing the lawn this hot July 1st when he ran over strange circles in the grass. Fearing a wasp infestation, he dug into the grass around the circles and poured bug killer into them, despite Mrs. Jones telling him she thought that was a very bad idea. As usual, he wouldn’t listen to her. At least a swarm of nasties didn’t emerge from the grass and sting him.

Oh, no, it was worse than that.

The wound on his calf started as a rash accompanied by fever and chills. A day later, the flu symptoms had passed but his lower leg swelled up, and it was painful to put any weight on it. Tiny pustules erupted where she presumed the bite originated, but there was no bull’s eye so it wasn’t a brown recluse bite. Maybe there were wasps in the grass and one of them stung him, but she had never seen a wasp sting as angry as this. She begged him to go to the doctor but he refused, having the temperament of a mule.

By dusk on July 4th, the pain was excruciating and she finally succeeded in talking him to going to the emergency room. The wound nurse took one look and immediately ordered him to a room overnight for observation. She feared MRSA. Being ordered to stay in the hospital terrified Mrs. Jones. She wasn’t used to being on her own, and who knew how long her husband would be hospitalized? This wound could have been more serious than she and Mr. Jones had originally had thought, and MRSA was nothing to sneeze at. The nurse also ordered a CAT scan since she suspected he had an abscess. Mr. and Mrs. Jones waited in his room for the CAT scan results when he began to squirm with an uncomfortable look on his face.

“April, something’s very wrong. It feels like something’s moving in there.”

“What do you mean, moving? Why didn’t you tell the nurse?”

“I was too scared. It’s probably just my imagination. And the rash is warm to the touch. Are rashes normally like that?”

“None that I’ve seen. I told you to not dig up the lawn. You never listen to me.”

“Don’t nag me now.”

“Something stung you?”

“What else could it be?” He doubled over, gripping his belly in his arms. Mrs. Jones placed a hand on his shoulder to comfort him, but in her fear she really had no idea what to do to help him. She had never before felt so useless. “Oh, God, I’m gonna be sick. Something’s wrong. It’s bad. I don’t like this.”

Blood erupted from the center of the boil to trickle in a thin line down his leg. Pus oozed from the small opening. The tissue around the wound had darkened, turning nearly black. In a panic, since she knew enough about wounds to know black tissue meant dead tissue, Mrs. Jones rushed into the hallway to see if the doctor was on his way. She overheard the nurse said something to the doctor about necrosis, and her stomach seized in fear. The doctor turned her way and caught her eye. She saw alarm and concern on his face as she waved him down.

He quickly made his way to Mr. Jones’s room with the wound nurse on his heels. Mr. Jones had turned on his side on the bed, clutching his stomach. All the color had drained from his face, and Mrs. Jones knew the color had drained from her own as well.

“I think I’m going to throw up. It’s open and I’m bleeding. The pain is terrible. Can’t you give me something?” Mr. Jones wailed.

“I’m Doctor Frisorra, Mr. Jones. I’m going to open it up and scoop out the infection.” The doctor said. He was a surly sort but his caustic demeanor didn’t hide the alarm in his eyes. “The CAT scan revealed an abscess about the size of a baseball, but your entire lower leg has swelled up. I don’t know why you feel sick. You shouldn’t, but once the infection is gone I’m sure you’ll feel better. We’ll put you on an i.v. of antibiotics and keep you here overnight for observation. Let me get it out of you first and then we’ll give you some painkillers.”

“Something’s moving in there. I feel it crawling around, lots of things, tiny things. Oh, God, it hurts.” Mr. Jones buried his face in his pillow. “Please, get it out of me. Now!”

“Okay, Mr. Jones, I need you to calm down. I can’t open your leg with you thrashing about. Lie on your back and I’ll get started.” The doctor said.

“John, lie back.” Mrs. Jones said. “You’re going to be alright but you have to do what the doctor says.”

He turned onto his back and shoved a fist in his mouth, squinting his eyes in pain. The doctor turned to the wound nurse.

“Gauze and alcohol.” He said.

She handed him both. He poured alcohol onto the gauze and then swabbed the wound and the rash around it. Then, he tossed the waste into a trash can with a red bag inside with biohazard symbols on the plastic.

“I’m going to inject a numbing agent into your wound, Mr. Jones. This will help you with the pain. It’s a topical painkiller.”

The wound nurse prepared the injection and handed the syringe over to the doctor, who injected close to the wound’s opening. A high-pitched but faint buzzing droned around Mrs. Jones, as if it came directly from the wound but much like a cricket’s chirping it was hard to tell exactly where it came from. It sounded similar to air being let out of a balloon. The noise was shrill and angry, but so faint she thought she imagined it. Maybe it was an I.V. alarm going off down the hall. The nurses let those things beep forever, but somehow, Mrs. Jones doubted that was the case. That noise came from her husband’s wound, and it scared her.

“Did you hear that?” Mrs. Jones whispered.

The doctor looked up. “I’m not sure what that was. Let’s get the wound opened and cleaned out. Scalpel.” He said.

The nurse opened a small package to reveal a sterile scalpel, which she handed to the doctor. Mrs. Jones held her breath as the doctor’s steady hand approached the wound, which by now had turned a deep shade of rose with black edges and yellow pustules erupting on the surface. Mr. Jones gripped his t-shirt in his fists so hard his knuckles had blanched. Terror etched across his face. What the hell was wrong with his leg? Was it a brown recluse bite after all?

The doctor leaned over his leg and cut down the center of the boil. Blood gushed out, running down his leg and staining the bed linens. Creamy yellow pus filled the wound. As the doctor picked up the instrument to scrape out the infection, that shrill keening sounded again, coming directly from the opening he had cut.

Mrs. Jones backed away, closer to the bathroom.

The doctor inserted the instrument into the wound, and Mrs. Jones was shocked to see it disappear nearly an inch into his calf. When he scraped along the inside, Mr. Jones cried out in agony, but Mrs. Jones barely heard him. Hundreds if not thousands of tiny mites flew from the wound’s opening, covering the doctor’s white jacket so thickly it appeared to be crawling. They flew onto the nurse, who swatted at them, screaming and howling with surprise and terror. Mr. Jones screamed and crept up the bed towards the wall, but the mites surrounded him, flying in his face and against his arms and legs until they held fast.

Then they began to bite.

A cloud of the creatures attacked Mrs. Jones, but she managed to swat them off as she ran to the bathroom and shut the door. They nipped at her arms and face, biting her with their sharp, tiny teeth. They tore into her skin, drawing blood and stinging her as if she were dying by a thousand paper cuts. She slapped at them, pulled them from her hair, stomped them onto the floor. 

As she wrestled with the creatures, the screaming started outside the bathroom door. She recognized her husband’s shrieking and feared opening the door to rush out to help him. What were those things doing to him? Getting a closer look at the ones she had swatted, she leaned over a dead one on the sink.

The creature was about an inch long and dark green. It had two legs instead of the usual six or eight she expected from an insect or arachnid. It also had two tiny arms with fists it held into balls. She pried one fist open with a fingernail to reveal talon-like claws, sharp as needles. What was left of its head sported blonde hair and a strangely humanoid face. Gossamer thin crepe wings folded along the back.

What kind of insect was this? Was it an immature locust? These creatures moved in swarms, just the way locusts did. The problem was she’d never seen a locust that looked like this. She’d never seen a live locust period, but she had seen pictures of them. This was no locust.

She thought back to the rings her husband found in the grass as he mowed the lawn, and how he dug into a few of them to see the damage they did to the soil. She wracked her brain until she remembered where she had read about rings in the grass.

Fairy rings. Her husband had disturbed a nest of fairies. She stared at the creature as if she viewed a particularly noxious bug. These were not the sweet little Tinkerbelles of Disney movies. These fairies were the vicious and malevolent beings from folklore – and they took up residence in her lawn and in her husband’s leg.

And now they were loose in the hospital.

Screaming in the room and down the hall intensified until it reached a crescendo. Heart racing with dread, she leaned against the door, holding it shut as tiny bodies slammed into the opposite side. Scraping sounds like needles being dragged along the door grated from the other side as if they tried to claw their way in. She stared at the tiny being on the sink, wondering how something so small could cause so much damage.

It twitched.

She wailed.

It shrieked a sound like a tea kettle boiling. As it reared up it split open down the back. Another larger creature emerged from the shell. Now, it was nearly three inches long. Mrs. Jones wondered how many others had molted. She recoiled from it, fearing to even approach it, but as it cried in outrage she gathered her resolve and picked it up between thumb and forefinger by the hair. It writhed in her grip, wings flapping, jaws snapping, trying to claw her with those talons. Glaring at her, it hissed the word “die” over and over again. She started at the sound of its high-pitched voice hissing in English. She nearly dropped it, but she held fast.

Her fingers felt sticky, as if they were covered in slime. The same sticky substance smeared on her arms, legs, and face. She used her free hand to wipe it off her cheek only to streak it further along. It smelled of violets. In fact, the fairies themselves smelled of wildflowers. Mrs. Jones wore a perfume similar to the scent. Could the stickiness have come from their bodies as they rubbed up against her? 

The screaming from the other side of the door had stopped. Fearing what lay behind the door but knowing she had no choice but to free herself, she opened the door. As she took her first two tentative steps out of the bathroom, the fairy in her hand ceased struggling and became quiet. When Mrs. Jones looked into the room, her heart nearly stopped in shock.

The stench of gore and feces slammed Mrs. Jones in the face amid that strange scent of wildflowers. Doctor Frisorra lay on his side, hands clawed in front of his mangled face. His white lab coat was covered with so much blood and tissue it had turned crimson. Heart racing with dread, she looked to the hospital bed where her husband lay. His mouth was open in a scream cut off by violence. Lips and nose decimated and eyelids gnawed away, his face forever would hold a surprised and outraged expression. The skin had been clawed and eaten away from his forehead, cheeks, and chin, leaving muscle and tendons exposed. His hands could not protect his face from the onslaught, since his fingers had been gnawed down to the bone. Blood covered the bedsheets. Mrs. Jones clamped a hand over her mouth, trying to hold back a wail of grief and horror. In her fear, she let go of the fairy in her other hand, and it flew out of the room and down the hall. 

Following the creature, she walked into the hall to be greeted by carnage. Moans of pain and wails of terror echoed along the blood-smeared walls. Nurses crawled along the floor, many with their eyes gouged and eaten out, groping about blind. Stunned, Mrs. Jones made her way down the hallway dodging bodies and slipping in blood. She never before felt so alone. Normally her husband took charge, but now she had to fend for herself. She didn’t think she’d last long, not in her frazzled and frightened condition. She paused by every open door, expecting a wall of the detestable vermin to attack her. She sped down the hallway until she reached the Emergency Room exit. 

The creatures were gone but they couldn’t be far. Where did they go?

An ambulance idled in the entryway. Two EMTs sprawled on the ground at the back of the vehicle. The sky was strangely dark. When she took a closer look upward, panic took over and she urgently sought a place to hide. The creatures filled the sky, blocking the setting sun. They swarmed like insects, attaching themselves to the hospital buildings and rapping their soft bodies against glass. Several grasped rocks and slammed them into windows, attempting entry. Red brick teemed black with the creatures. 

She froze in place, fearing if they noticed her they’d attack. Where had they all come from? They certainly couldn’t all have come from her husband’s wound. She didn’t have time to ponder. What to do, what to do? Her car was in the parking lot across the street. If she walked slowly they might not pay her mind. It was only 50 feet away. If she could make it inside her car and drive away – maybe home – she’d be safe.

Maybe. It all depended on how widespread their reach was.

She held her arms against her body and cradled her head close to her chest, trying to make herself look as small and as unassuming as possible. The creatures flew above her, making a high-pitched humming sound presumably from the flapping of their wings. A few zoomed in front of her as she walked, and she gasped at the sight of them, but they ignored her. She wasn’t sure why, but they had sniffed at her and then went their merry way. Maybe her violet perfume and the residue they left on her skin sent them away? Could they have mistaken her for one of their own?

They flitted about in a hurky-jerky motion like hummingbirds, but not nearly as endearing. Several of them dive-bombed her, nearly getting caught in her hair. It took all her resolve to resist swatting them away. One stopped long enough to give her a quizzical look. It hissed at her, tossed a pebble at her face, but then it flew away, paying her no more attention. 

That one was much larger than the one she held at in the hospital bathroom. It was at least four inches long and a vivid blue. Most of the ones flying about her were the size of the palm of her hand. She passed a tree and saw bodies clinging to it, but upon a closer look she realized she gazed at empty shells – molted skin left behind as the creatures grew.

Finally reaching the road, she was about to take a step into it when a Toyota roared past, wavering all over the asphalt and even jumping onto the sidewalk. Mrs. Jones leaped out of the way before the car could hit her. As it sped by, she saw the driver inside fighting a cloud of creatures so thick the inside of the car had darkened to pitch black. The car zoomed past only to crash into a utility pole and burst into flames. The explosion hurled Mrs. Jones backwards onto the grass. Human screaming amid the shrill cries of the fairies assaulted her ears, and she clamped her hands over them so she would not hear the terror in that person’s voice. The clouds of creatures overhead flew to the wreckage, giving Mrs. Jones time to race to her car without being noticed.

She fumbled with her keys, her fingers not working well enough to grip them. She dropped them as she watched the creatures wailing around their fallen comrades. Stooping over to pick up her keys, her trembling fingers dropped them again. Damn it, woman, get your act together! One last time, she gripped the entire keychain in her hand and shoved the car key near the lock but missed, scraping the blue paint on the door. Finally, she aimed the key at the lock and nailed her goal. Turning the lock, the audible click attracted the attention of the creatures. 

She tore open the door and hauled herself inside just as a swarm of bodies reached the door. Three of them were caught on the door, hissing, spitting and cursing her. When she slammed the door shut, they sliced in half. Their bodies fell to the car’s floor, convulsing in their death throes. The rest slammed against the door and window, howling their outrage at her getting away from them. A cloud descended upon her car, slapping the glass and banging their fists against the sides and roof. Thankfully, they had grown so much they were too large to fit into her ventilation system so they didn’t get into the car through the air conditioning and heating vents. She put her key in the ignition, turned over the engine, and high-tailed it out of the parking lot. 

She needed to get home. Alone, she cried as she drove, not sure what to do to get herself out of this miserable situation. If only Mr. Jones were with her. He’d know what to do.

With a start, she remembered her 24 year old son Paul was home. She grabbed her phone and dialed his number but he didn’t pick up.

Oh, God, I hope he’s alright. 

It was hard to see the road through the bodies but she drove in as straight a line as she could. Turning on the windshield wipers, she shoved fairies aside until she could see her way in front of her. Fireworks celebrating Independence Day lit up creatures that flew overhead. She hit the accelerator until she reached 40 MPH and then hit the brakes. Bodies hurtled from the car, landing on the road in front of her. She pressed down on the gas again and drove over a multitude of little bodies, the car bumping as she drove. They crackled and squished as she drove over them, and she used her squeamishness to continue on her journey. The clouds of creatures seemed to go on forever. Could she safely make it home? First, get onto the main road into town, and then she could worry about her son.

More fireworks burst overhead, competing with the full moon. Mrs. Jones turned on the radio, hoping for some answers.

‘… lock yourself in your homes and board up all entryways including doors and windows. The cause is unknown. The Army has been notified and is on its way to town…”

Switch to a different station.

“… seems to be contained to Norwich, Massachusetts. There are no reports of infestations in nearby Rockport, Ipswich, and Gloucester…”

She lived on the edge of Norwich. If she could get home, get Paul, and get out of town they might be safe.

The ten minute drive home seemed to stretch on for hours. A yellow corona exploded overhead followed by myriad red starbursts. The fireworks provided a strange backdrop for the clouds of fairies following her home. They slammed into her windshield, grasping at the wipers and trying to break them off but they did not succeed. Spraying them with windshield washer fluid only pissed them off even more. Why did John have to go dig up those infernal rings in the grass? 

If he hadn’t, would they have only emerged later to catch them even more unawares?

Neighbors had been ravaged as the creatures had attacked. The Clark children two doors down from her home lay sprawled in the grass, bodies torn as they had played with a Frisbee. The scent of burned meat wafted from a smoking grill. Mrs. Clark lay facedown on the porch, her head on the bottom step and her feet on the top. A tray of burgers spilled onto the ground. The paperboy’s bike lay in the middle of the road. The boy himself had made it as far as the tall oak in Mrs. Jones’s front yard. Fairies squatted on him, tearing at his clothing and chattering amongst themselves. They stopped chattering to watch Mrs. Jones drive by. The sight sickened her. She knew the paperboy quite well. Gave him a gift every Christmas. She didn’t get along with the Clarks but no one deserved an end like that.

She pulled into her driveway, crushing the creatures beneath her tires as she put the gear into park. Paul’s car was in front of her, and it was covered with bodies that by now had grown to be nearly a foot long. They gaped at her from inside the car. Only a half hour ago they were the size of mites. Molting and growing quickly, their formidable natures astounded her. How much larger would they get? Their colors ranged from vivid blue to deep hunter green and violet. Some stretched their wings and wrapped them around their bodies as if they were chilled. Every one of them stared at her from the porch, the stairs, inside Paul’s car, the sills and the roof. Thousands of glowing eyes glared at her. How was she going to get into the house? And was her son alive?

The shutters on both floors had been pulled and locked. The creatures had torn her prized rose bushes to shreds, and she felt a pang of sadness over the loss. There would be many losses today. Before stepping out of the car, she doused herself with perfume hoping to keep them at bay. Fearing her son had succumbed to their attacks, she unlocked her car door and quietly opened it one inch.

The fairies didn’t move. They only continued to stare at her. Why were they so quiet? Was it her perfume? She could only hope.

She opened the door, gently moving several of them out of her way. They appeared to be resting, as if exhausted but not exhausted enough to sleep. Dormant, their hive mind dozed enough for her to emerge from her car and take tentative steps to the porch. One or two lashed out with their sharp claws, drawing blood on her ankles, but she didn’t flinch. With slow movements she took five excruciating minutes to make it to the porch and the front door. She took her key, turned it in the door’s lock, and opened the door enough so she could slip inside her house without the creatures following.

The living room was quiet and dark. No fairies lurked within. Smoke filled the first floor. Ah, Paul must have cooked steak again. He always smoked up the house when he cooked beef. The smoke may have repulsed the fairies enough to keep them outside.

There was no sign of Paul. She resisted calling out his name or making any noise out of fear she’d attract the creatures’ attention and they’d swarm again. 

The only way to find him was to go door to door until he revealed himself. What if she found him as mangled as she found John? No, don’t think about that. Just find him. 

She walked through the empty kitchen and opened the bathroom door to find no one. That left the second floor. She climbed the stairs, careful to not make the third step creak the way it always did. Moving with stealth, she reached the landing and heard thumping sounds coming from one of the back bedrooms. Fearing Paul was being mauled, she raced to the door, opened it, and went inside.

“Paul, we have to get out of here…”

Fairies perched on tables, chairs, and shelves. They clung to the curtains in front of a broken window. When they heard Mrs. Jones’s voice, they came to life and flew from their perches to swarm around her, clawing at her face, her hands, and her bare legs. Wailing, she waved her hands in front of her to fend them off but they only came on stronger; wave after wave of bodies crashing into her. Sliding down the wall as they tore at her hair and bit her forearms, she crumbled in a ball on the hardwood floor. They pushed on the door behind her, slamming it into her lower back and causing pain to shoot into her spine. Then, she felt two large hands grab her feet and pull her through the door’s opening.

“Mom, are you hurt?” Paul said as he shut the door and locked it. The fairies beat against the frame from the other side in a futile attempt to get out.

“I’m okay. What are we going to do?”

“I’ve packed for us. I called you but you didn’t pick up.” He pointed to two suitcases. “Where’s John?”

Mrs. Jones cried. “He didn’t make it.”

“The radio says they’re only here in Norwich. If we can get in the car and make it out of town, I think we’ll be fine.”

“I hope you’re right. I told John to leave those grass circles alone but he wouldn’t listen to me–”

He squeezed her shoulders. “They’re coming from those holes in the back yard. I watched them from the window. I already called 911. The Army is coming to plug them up but we have to get out of here. Now.”

They quietly walked downstairs, Mrs. Jones holding one suitcase and Paul holding the other. More than anything, she wanted to hole up in her house and wait until the Army dealt with the miserable vermin, but she no longer felt safe in her own home. The only thing to do was to leave with her son and wait until it was safe to return, assuming it would ever be safe. She’d never feel safe in this house again.

Before he could open the front door, Mrs. Jones explained their curious behavior in light of her perfume and the sticky substance they left on her skin. She sprayed Paul all over with violet scent. She prayed the fairies wouldn’t attack.

Paul opened the front door, drawing it out as slowly as he could. The bodies on the porch had increased. To her surprise, the creatures had moved but they continued to sit as if dozed. Some sprawled in circles on the porch – large circles, small ones, several where they sat stacked atop each other. They chanted in a language she couldn’t understand, but what they sang resembled an incantation. While they acknowledged her presence as well as Paul’s, they neither attacked nor lashed out. It was as if they operated from one mind and that mind was too preoccupied to pay any attention to the two humans who made their way to Mrs. Jones’s car.

Mrs. Jones swept them aside in slow motions with her feet as she made her way the four feet to the steps. She gazed at her destroyed garden in the direction of the holes where her husband had dug out the fairy circles. Rather than pour from the holes as she expected to see, the creatures flew into them, searching for what remained of their stomping grounds. Fireworks continued to illuminate the clouds of fairies that flew overhead. Such a strange sight – a festival of independence marred by creatures that rendered all humans in Norwich helpless to defend themselves. 

Once they reached the car, Paul placed the suitcases in the back seat, all the while moving as slowly as possible. Neither he nor Mrs. Jones called attention to themselves lest they attract unwanted and tragic attention. Rather than slam the door shut, he closed it with a gentle click. The sound boomed in Mrs. Jones’s ears, and she watched the fairies but they did not attack. Mrs. Jones walked to the passenger side, opened the door, and took the front seat. Paul made it to the driver’s seat without difficulty. Once inside, he placed the key in the ignition, turned it, and the car roared to life.

They sat in total silence, watching how the creatures reacted to the car’s engine. A few pounded on the windshield and stomped on the roof. One stood in front of Mrs. Jones, gnawing at the windshield wiper and scratching its substantial claws against the glass. It was nearly a foot long with filmy wings the hue of an oil slick and a body the color of brick. The malevolence on its face terrified Mrs. Jones, but she clenched her jaw in silence. Paul put the car in reverse and pulled out of the driveway. 

“Let’s head to Gloucester.” Mrs. Jones said. “The radio said they didn’t get that far.”

Paul turned the radio knob.

“… have invaded Rockport, Gloucester, and have been seen as far as Beverly Farms.” Beverly Farms was 15 miles away. She checked the gas gauge.

There was less than a quarter tank of gas in the car.

Maybe by the time they reached Beverly Farms the creatures would have moved on. She gazed out the window. Fairies converged on the grass, tore apart bushes, and danced on telephone lines. Starting up the car must have roused them from their stupor. She turned her head away in horror as a gang of them attacked a German shepherd chained to a pole outside a split-level. Paul drove along the narrow one-lane road out of town, and Mrs. Jones closed her eyes in her futile attempt to ignore the sound of bodies crunching beneath the tires. Her heart raced and she picked the cuticles on her fingernails as they drove in silence save for the radio that just announced the fairies had been seen 40 miles away in Boston.

Maybe they’d make it safely out of town before they ran out of gas.

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The idea for this story came to me after my husband spent some time in the hospital with an infection in his leg. It was pretty gross. I based John Jones in the story on him, and he got a major kick out of me killing him off, LOL. We have very bent senses of humor. Here’s a conversation we had about his leg.

Me: “Your wound is really disgusting. Make sure you do what the doctor tells you. Don’t be stubborn.

Him: Me? Stubborn? Never!

Me: Yes. You. Stubborn. That thing looks like it’s going to burst any moment. You know what’s going to come out of it?

Him: Puss?

Me: Spiders!

Him: You have watched far too many horror movies. That’s why I love you.

Me: I love you, too!

Here’s where to find me on the web:

Elizabeth Black – Facebook https://www.facebook.com/elizabethablack

E. A. Black – Blog and Web Site http://eablack-writer.blogspot.com

E.A. Black – Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/E.A.-Black/e/B00BBWHMFM

E. A. Black – GoodReads (I didn’t create this page. I’d like to thank whoever did, if I knew that person’s identity.)

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6468111.E_A_Black

Elizabeth Black – Newsletter http://eepurl.com/b76GWD   

I’ve just started a new writing gig with a game company. It’s so new I don’t have much to report yet, but I will say I’m having a blast. I’m now a game developer! I’m also finishing my first horror novel. Here are my latest appearances in anthologies:

Jester of Hearts – my story is Trailer Trash Zombies

Wicked Women: An Anthology of the New England Horror Writers – my story is The Fetch

The Horror Zine’s Book of Ghost Stories – my story is The Storm

Horror For Hire: Second Shift – my story is A Job To Die For

Fark in the Time of Covid: The 2020 Fark Fiction Anthology– my story is A Skirmish Outside Beaufort

 

 

 

Historian of Horror : Staccatos From The Black Lagoon


When my daughters were young, we listened to Dad’s radio station when Dad was driving. This was back in the days when you were lucky if your vehicle had even so much as a cassette player, so I, being a child of the 60s, had oldies radio stations mapped out for the entire route, wherever we might go. As we passed through Dalton, Georgia, for example, we would let the Chattanooga oldies station go and switch over to the Atlanta station. And so on, all the way down to the southwestern tip of Florida, a frequent destination.

When I was home, all the buttons were set to the local oldies station, WMAK-FM, until that horrible morning in about 2003 when I got in my car and discovered that the station had changed format overnight to ‘whatever we want to play’. Which was not oldies, and not acceptable. After my first “Dude, where’s my radio station?” reaction, I found another one to program all the buttons for, but eventually had to give up and buy a car with a six-CD changer. It was a rag-top Mustang, so that was all right, but I still missed the spontaneity of wondering what great song by the Beatles or the Supremes or Marvin Gaye or Joni Mitchell that Coyote McCloud (God rest his soul) would offer up after this brief message from our sponsor.

Before that horrible day, however, my daughters’ friends would often ask, “Why does your dad listen to so many TV commercials?”, after I’d dropped them and my offspring at the skating rink or movie house or factory for their twelve hour shifts gluing labels onto bottles of shoe blacking. Even in those halcyon days, television advertisers mined no-longer-current popular music for the soundtracks of the mini-dramas designed to entice you to buy their specific brand of depilatory or laxative or breakfast cereal, which my less-enlightened passengers confused with my choices in musical entertainments. Think Bob Seger and Chevy Trucks.  

At least “Like a Rock” makes sense. Trucks are supposed to be tough and solid, like a rock. They should have more mobility than your average boulder, but that’s beside the point. The song fits the commercial. Not all do.

I recall one ad for a cell phone company that used a song from 1973 by the glam-rock band T-Rex. It’s a great piece with a driving guitar hook, but somehow ‘Twentieth-Century Boy’ just doesn’t seem quite right for a 21st Century technology. Similarly, the one for some product I was too appalled to remember suggested that supreme happiness was attainable only by using said product via the medium of having a lovely young lady rip rapturously through what opera buffs know as ‘The Staccatos’, smiling ludicrously as she (probably) lip-synced whatever coloratura soprano actually sang the aria from which they were so rudely plucked. For ‘The Staccatos’ are notoriously challenging for even an experienced diva, and anyone who can do them well can make a lot of money singing them regularly at the Met or La Scala or Covent Garden. I couldn’t recall ever having seen her perform them onstage, on television or in a video, hence my suspicion that she was a shill.

They are also not a part of a happy aria. Not even close. ‘Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen’ (usually shortened to ‘Der Hölle Rache’) is about as far from being the light, pleasant piece the advertisers apparently believed it to be as possible. It is dark, it is direful, it is full of horrific forebodings. The title, which is, as is usual for operatic arias, the first line, translates to “Hell’s vengeance boils in my heart’. Which seems to me unlikely to inspire much confidence among average consumers – but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there are masses of Americans ready to insert something or other into one or another of their various corporeal orifices the creation, manufacture, and marketing of which was inspired by the wrathful rage of His Satanic Majesty. 

For various reasons not appropriate for expression here, it occurs to me that perhaps there are such people in this country who are comfortable with a proposition of that nature. Regardless, I only saw the commercial once, and never again, so, maybe there aren’t. That does leave us with this question, though: What makes this either horror related, or women in horror related?

The piece is often referred to as ‘The Queen of the Night’ because that is the character who, in the second act of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s final opera, Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute),  sings it. Die Könegin der Nacht, as she is called in the opera’s original German, is an amalgamation of every evil sorceress and wicked stepmother in all the fairy tales of The Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault combined. She has decided that one Sarastro, high priest of the cult her daughter has joined, needs to be killed, and is such a horrific monster of a being that she hands the girl a knife and tells her to do the dirty deed herself, or be disowned and cursed.

As is often the case, the true horror lies in the presentation, and for this, one must needs judge how much menace and terror each great soprano is capable of bringing to the stage. Some bring more, some less. Some none. And a few, well, they just bring it.

Many have sung the role since 1791. The best are probably lost to the mists of time. The first was Mozart’s own sister-in-law, Josepha Hofer, who sang it to great acclaim for ten years. Alas, the technology to record the human voice wasn’t available for almost a century after Mozart’s demise, which occurred two weeks after the opera premiered. Fortunately, we do have quality recordings of many more recent divas essaying the role so that it is possible for me to pick a specific one to recommend, one in which all the fear and terror the Queen of the Night herself is capable of inflicting is brought down most brutally upon her poor offspring. And upon a receptive audience.

There are certain roles in opera that have become closely associated with specific singers in the minds of those of us that enjoy the artform. We might not all necessarily make the same connections, but I suspect we would understand why someone else might. I think of Aida, for example, and Leontyne Price comes to mind. Mention Medea, and Maria Callas pops up. Lucia di Lammermoor, Joan Sutherland. Violetta from La Traviata, Anna Moffo. For some, Lucia Popp is inextricably connected to her first starring role, which was The Queen of the Night, and I can see why some might feel that way. There are those who consider her the greatest Queen of all time. And again, I can see why, if only at a distance of nearly sixty years and based solely on the one audio recording we have of her performance. Which I love. She had an incredible voice and a technical mastery of it that made it truly magical. However, for me, the crystalline clarity of her divine instrument was just a little light for the weight of the horror that the role demands. The Queen is not a being of light, or lightness. The one video recording of her in the opera was from 1983, and she played the daughter, Pamina. This seems to me a more fitting role for her, if only in consideration of the one prima donna I and many opera buffs agree was, and still is, the best ever.

I would like for the populace to pay particular attention to the following video at the two minute and nine second mark. As was once said of Cruella DeVille, if this doesn’t scare you, no evil thing will. Prithee, watch it before continuing on. I’ll wait for you, right over here. 

 

That is German soprano Diana Damrau. She has practically made a career out of playing this part. There are several videos on YouTube that showcase not only her skill as a singer, but as an actress able to project the appropriate menace the role calls for. This one, though. This one gets to me at that 2:09 mark, when she lifts her gaze to yours and snatches the very soul from your helpless body.

Ahem.

Women characters in operas are so often the tragically unwitting victims of careless or thoughtless or ruthless men, it’s refreshing to see a true villainess dominating the stage. And, so, The Queen of the Night is my nominee for the great female monster of her medium, even if Mozart couldn’t resist a happy ending for this work. 

Curses, foiled again.

Speaking of women being the victims of the male villains in their lives, I would like to commend to the populace Mallory O’Meara’s recently published biography, The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick. Patrick was one of Disney’s first female animators and went from there to Universal Studios. In 1954, she was the primary designer of the head of the costume for the titular star of the classic horror film, Creature from the Black Lagoon. The studio planned a publicity tour with her playing Beauty to the Gill Man’s Beast, but the head of Universal’s makeup department, Bud Westmore, was having none of that. He took all the credit, got her fired out of his infantile masculine jealousy, and she was virtually forgotten. 

That just pisses me off. What an asshole.

The book is quite well-written, and is available in hardback, as a trade paperback, and as an ebook. Highly recommended.

I can sense that we’re getting to the point that I can almost feel through the internet ether the seismic quiver of eyes glazing over and rolling back, so I’ll wrap this edition up by offering the populace a small lagniappe: a few of the sources I use in my research for your own perusal. 

Please do feel free to browse around in the Internet Speculative Fiction Database.

http://www.isfdb.org/

I suspect you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find a few familiar names there. Yes, including mine, although their entry on my works is woefully inadequate. Guess I’m going to have to crack the whip on them.

My entry in the FictionMags Index is marginally better, I suppose, given that most of my shorter yarns have appeared in anthologies rather than magazines. 

http://www.philsp.com/homeville/FMI/0start.htm

It also contains information about my mystery work, as opposed to the ISFDb. Which is appropriate. Still, they’ve missed a few entries. Gonna have to fix that.

Fantastic Fiction is a goldmine of information, although it doesn’t separate out the non-genre works from those that are specifically horror.

https://www.fantasticfiction.com/

Still, I recommend it highly, despite there being no entry on your humble correspondent, at all. Quelle horreur.

Enough. I shall have mercy on you all and call it a night. As always, my friends, be afraid. Be very afraid.

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Vexillary

Greetings HorrorAddicts and welcome to a new year! I plan to bring you some groovy reviews and righteous recommendations this year to keep your tuneage vibing. Or something like that. Despite the insanity that was 2020, many artists were able to come up with inspired material and I’ll share some great picks with you over the coming months. 

Vexillary is an instrumental project by New York based Reza Seirafi that was influenced by the artist’s love of blending components to create something new. A chemist in his other life, he likes to take seemingly inharmonious sounds and make them fit together. Tracks like “Maritime Panic” offer additional sonic adventures with each new listen. “Annihilation” has a manic feel that leaves the listener grasping at the elements and trying to find something to hold onto. There is a feeling of doom, especially in the opening notes of “Forged Skies” but this offering of electronica is never gloomy, and by the time you reach “The Geneticist,” the mad scientist vibe of the SurViolence is complete.

Vexillary is music for those who need an intense infusion with a side of chaos to make their aural journey complete. Give it a listen and let us know what you think. 

Want to share your favorite music from 2020? Comment below or email me at rlmerrillauthor@gmail.com. The next Ro’s Recs will be less of a “best of” and more of a “here’s what you don’t want to miss.” I’ll see you soon, my HorrorAddict Darlings. In the meantime, Stay Tuned for more Merrill’s Musical Musings…

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

Women In Horror Month: Why Do Women Writers Write About Monsters or Ghosts?

Why Do Women Writers Write About Monsters or Ghosts?

Why would women write about monsters or ghosts? I am sure some readers say stick to writing romance or fantasy. But women have just as much right to write the scary stuff and about monsters as do their male counterparts. After all, in the long run, it’s all about the story.

At BBC.com, an article mentioned how women writers “often found the supernatural a way to challenge and condemn their role in society.” It seems male writers have dominated supernatural fiction, like M R James, Edgar Allan Poe, HP Lovecraft, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, Oliver Onions, and others. But female writers have been on the horror scene in the past, too. Shirley Jackson, for instance. She wrote The Haunting of Hill House, the only story that has scared me in the daytime, in a room full of people. Others had to do it at night, with me in a room alone. Susan Hill, who wrote Woman in Black, is another. A classic ghost story from 1892 is Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.” The author’s nameless narrator, suffering from post-natal depression, is confined to bed rest under the care of her doctor husband, when begins to lose her mind. Confined to an old nursery with ghastly wallpaper, she sees strangled heads and unblinking “bulbous eyes” in its pattern. Eventually, a skulking female figure appears, seemingly trapped behind the bars of its design. Is it the narrator’s own hidden self? When her husband enters to find her tearing down the wallpaper, she tells him, “I’ve got out at last. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back!”

Do women authors use ghost stories to exorcise their resentments over societal restrictions? The ghost in their tale is the ultimate outsider – an absent presence, all-seeing and yet unable to partake of life in any meaningful way. Do we have insight differently from male writers? Can what a woman writes be more downright frightening than what a man writes? Does the way we pen the words on paper or type onscreen haunt the person as they read? Maybe we even make the monster sympathetic. Still horrifying, but a monster the reader will care about and cheer on. Or not.

Looking for some great spooky reads? Next time, check out female horror authors. I am sure readers already know about; Anne Rice, Sarah Pinborough, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Caitlin R. Kiernan. Others you can check out are Tanith Lee, Elizabeth Massie, Lisa Morton, Yvonne Navarro, Carrie Ryan, Cherie Priest, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Kari Kilgore, Susan Schwartz, and much, much more. Take a step away from traditionally published authors and try out indie writers as there are great reads by them, too. An excellent place to find more women horror writers is at Horror Writers Association. Try someone new today. 

Instead of picking up the latest Stephen King novel or of books written by other male horror authors, try several feminine writers instead. We just might bring “SCARE” to a whole new level.

Journey to worlds of fantasy, beyond the stars, and into the vortex of terror with the written word of Pamela K. Kinney.

Https://PamelaKKinney.com

Bio:

Author Pamela K. Kinney gave up long ago trying not to listen to the voices in her head and has written horror, fantasy. science fiction, along with six nonfiction ghost books ever since. Her horror short story, “Bottled Spirits,” was runner-up for the 2013 WSFA Small Press Award. Her horror poem, “Dementia,” included in HWA Poetry Showcase Volume VII, won “Best Poem: for 23rd Annual Critters Readers Poll (2020).

Besides writing, Pamela has acted on stage and film and investigates the paranormal for episodes of Paranormal World Seekers. She is a member of Horror Writers Association and Virginia Writers Club.

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: The Vigil

At 4:04 am on Dec 14th 2020, Crystal Connor, finally settled into her sleeping bag on the couch with snacks within reach, and with dog in lap she picked up her remote. The footage you are about to see chronicles the harrowing experience that her neighbors endured for hours as she screamed, cried, and shouted expletive obscenities at her television as she watched:

The Vigil 

Plotline: A man providing overnight watch to a deceased member of his former Orthodox Jewish community finds himself opposite a malevolent entity

Who would like it: Fans of demonic possessions, religious horror, cultural horror, international films, paranormal activity fans with like this as well.

High Points: This is very cultural specific. This is a story line that you won’t see anywhere else.

Complaints: None!

Overall: I LOVED IT!

Stars: 5 Stars!

Where I watched it: VOD

 

WOMEN WRITING HORROR: A Listicle of Women to Read

WOMEN WRITING HORROR by Renata Pavrey

Horror is my favorite genre in fiction and I read across all of its sub-genres including true crime, psychological horror, comedy horror, from novels to short story collections, dark poetry and anthologies. A random search for horror books throws up the usual fare from Stephen King, Joe Hill, Josh Malerman, Kealan Patrick Burke. While I have loved books by all these writers, women authors in the genre don’t show up as easily, with the exception of Shirley Jackson and Mary Shelley for their classic works. I thought back to all the books I’ve read and the ones in my to-read list and came up with this listicle of horror stories from women writers. These include translated books as well as original language ones, novellas, novels, collections, prose and poetry, fiction and non-fiction by writers, translators, editors, and publishers who create terror through words. From historical fiction, science fiction, young adult, satire, to mythology, folklore, speculative fiction, re-telling of true events, and dark verses – take your pick. Since February is coming up, I compiled a list of twenty-eight women in horror – one book recommendation for each day of the month.

  1. Agustina Maria Bazterrica – Tender is the Flesh

A virus has eradicated animals, and humanity turns to cannibalism for its source of meat as humans are domesticated, mass produced, and slaughtered. Translated from the Spanish, a nauseating and provocative satire that blends science fiction with horror.

       2. Ally Blue – Down

An underwater, paranormal suspense fest surrounding the discovery of a rock-like sphere that causes humans to mutate and turn into horror versions of themselves.

       3. Alma Katsu – The Deep

Historical fiction horror set around the events of the Titanic and its sister ship the Britannic. The maritime disaster and World War I are caught in sinister happenings in this supernatural thriller.

       4. Cassandra Khaw – Rupert Wong, Cannibal Chef

A novella about the dual life of a sorcerer and soldier, combining horror and comedy with Malaysian and Chinese mythology.

       5. Christina Henry – The Ghost Tree

YA horror about missing people and terrifying visions of monsters dragging remains. Ghostly trees, creepy children, witches and curses – almost like watching a horror movie.

       6. Christina Sng – Dreamscapes

Horror, fantasy, and science fiction come together in this poetry collection that addresses the darkness within. Verses that serve to unsettle and terrify, proving how poetry can be more impactful than prose.

       7. Elizabeth Kostova – The Historian

A historical fiction Dracula story moving across time and place with shifting narrator perspectives. A debut vampire novel that interweaves history with folklore and makes for a riveting read.

       8. Fernanda Melchor – Hurricane Season

Mythology and terror from Spanish literature, with the English translation maintaining the grim, intense and graphic prose of its original source in this portrait of a Mexican village and its witch.

       9. Francine Toon – Pine

A haunting tale in the Scottish highlands, filled with intrigue and eeriness, alternating between terrifying and heart wrenching, spooky and suspenseful in equal measures.

       10. Gemma Amor – Dear Laura

A novella of lifelong obsession, this dark, twisted tale about penpals stands out for its brilliantly atmospheric writing.

       11.Jennifer Hillier – Wonderland

Psychological thriller, amusement park, serial killer – gruesome and wicked as you set out to solve crimes.

       12. Jennifer McMahon – Winter People

Historical fiction meets fantasy in this chilling story of missing people and secrets galore.

       13. Joyce Carol Oates – The Doll Master

A collection of short stories that borrows its title from an obsession over dolls, and leads into an unsettling world of abominations and mystery.

       14. Kaaron Warren – Into Bones Like Oil

A haunted house novella with an unconventional narrative and storyline, and an interesting take on the ghost story.

        15. Kathe Koja – The Cipher

Winner of the Bram Stoker award for Best Debut Novel, The Funhole does not live up to its name. A black hole that calls out and launches a journey of obsession, darkness, and blinding terror of classic horror in spectacular prose.

        16. Laura Purcell – The Silent Companions

There’s nothing like historical fiction for a dose of gothic horror. An asylum, a haunted mansion, intriguing journals, hidden secrets – a creepy ghost story that grabs the attention from beginning to end.

        17.  Laurel Hightower – Crossroads

An exceptional novella dealing with the horrors of heartbreak and grief, and things coming back from the dead. An emotional and devastating read that shows you just how diverse the horror genre can be.

        18. Lee Murray – Grotesque

A collection of monster stories that range from mythology to legend and science fiction offering a dip into Maori folklore and French history, zombie attacks and adventures. Packed with action and gore, the stories are a delight for monster fans.

        19. Lisa Kröger – Monster, She Wrote

Why read one horror story when you can read about them all? A non-fiction horror book about women who pioneered the genres of horror and speculative fiction; writers who defied convention and crafted some stellar spooky tales. From ghost stories to psychological horror, intriguing trivia and reading recommendations, a book about books not to be missed.

        20. Lucy A. Snyder – Sparks and Shadows

A dark fantasy collection of short stories, poems, and essays. Twisted tales in myriad settings, witty and diverse, horrifying, amusing, and thought provoking.

        21. Mariana Enriquez – Things We Lost in the Fire

A short story collection of the macabre, mixing magical realism with gothic fiction in this astonishing treat from Spanish literature brought to us in English by translator Megan McDowell.

        22. Mariko Koike – The Graveyard Apartment

Detective fiction and horror writing come together in this translation from Japanese literature of psychological horror set around a graveyard. Deborah Boehm brings this to us in English.

        23. Michelle Paver – Thin Air

A historical fiction ghost story set in the Himalayas. Nature can be brutal enough, but what if it isn’t the only thing you’re battling? Subtle supernatural elements, more psychological rather than physical, can be more horrific at times.

        24. Nalo Hopkinson – Skin Folk

A short story collection of magical realism, science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction interweaved with horror. Storytelling at its best.

        25. Samanta Schweblin – Fever Dream

Some more magical realism from Spanish literature is this surreal nightmare of an otherworldly story. Menacing, unsettling, and thoroughly absorbing in its usage of horror to explore current world issues.

        26. Taeko Kono – Toddler Hunting

An exceptional collection of Japanese short stories that explore the dark side of human nature and antisocial behavior. Lucy North translates to English to bring us a startling and disquieting world.

        27. Yoko Ogawa – Revenge

Another dark treat from Japanese literature in an experimental format of seemingly unrelated short stories coming together to form a larger novel. Bland settings and ordinary people up the ante of terrors lurking in everyday life.

        28. Yrsa Sigurdardottir – I Remember You

Scandinavian Nordic noir of isolation and remoteness; horror based on true events. Translated from the Icelandic, a ghost story that proffers the chills.

~Three bonus books for the women who lead the way as editors and publishers~

  1. Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn – Black Cranes

A collection of short stories by Asian writers, highlighting the dual themes of women in horror and Asian women writers. A smorgasbord of mythology, legend, folklore, science fiction, comedy horror, satire, dark fantasy.

       2. Aiki Flinthart – Relics, Wrecks, and Ruins

A collection of science fiction and fantasy with horror to showcase the remnants of humanity and celebrate a legacy. 

        3. Tricia Reeks – Meerkat Press

The publishing house comes out with some very different but very good books, in equal parts weird, unique, and dark.

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Renata Parvey is a Nutritionist by profession; marathon runner and Odissi dancer by passion. Driven by sports, music, animals, plants, literature and more. Reads across several genres and languages, and loves the world of horror – in both, books and movies.

URL:

Women in Horror Month

 

This month we are celebrating Women in Horror Month here at HorrorAddicts.net. This month we will bring you contemporary women writers, women writers of old, women movie directors, actresses, characters, and even artists who have brought to life some of those scary monsters we have nightmares about.

You’ll meet women who look like demure housewives but pen horrible, frightening beings who suck your blood! You will read some newly written material and some treasures from the vault.

You’ll hear some of the joys and the challenges of being a woman trying to make her way into the genre, let alone getting to the top of the gravestone.

Join us daily as we celebrate Women in Horror during February.

Historian of Horror: All Are Mad But Me and Thee-and Sometimes I Wonder About Thee

All Are Mad But Me and Thee — 

And Sometimes I Wonder About Thee.

by Mark Orr

At the end of the silent movie period, French film director René Clair went on the record as being very skeptical of sound, feeling that it was “an unnatural creation” Cinema as its own art form was a purely visual one, he thought, and the introduction of sound would make films nothing more than recorded stage plays. He relented, and made some truly great sound films, but watching what is, as far as I’ve been able to determine the earliest surviving Japanese horror film, Teinosuke Kinugasa’s Kurutta Ippeji (A Page of Madness), one might wonder if he wasn’t on to something. 

Not that Kinugasa was aware of Clair’s opinion in 1926, or even of his work; there’s no indication that he saw any western films at the beginning of his career. He started in the industry as a female impersonator in 1917, then switched to directing once Japanese studios began using female actors in the early 1920s. It wasn’t until 1929 that he had the opportunity to travel abroad and encounter European films, which makes Kurutta Ippeji all the more remarkable. Stylistically, it would fit very nicely into any one of several European traditions, particularly German expressionism. There is in Kinugasa’s picture more than a trace of what the French called Caligarisme, that most extreme variety of expressionism exemplified by The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, to be sure. However, it’s purely a parallel development, as Kinugasa wouldn’t have known Caligarisme in 1926 if he tripped over it. He was talented enough to discover it on his own.

A more impressive achievement is that it truly is a silent film, even more so than any that Clair had directed in France up until that time. There are no intertitles, those cards that pop up periodically in almost all silents with bits of dialogue or expository material. Kinugasa was able to tell a coherent story with no dialogue, no expository material. The images are the story, and they need nothing else. 

The story is, to be sure, a simple one. A man hires on as a janitor at the insane asylum where his wife is an inpatient. He loses contact with reality himself while attempting to extricate her from the asylum against her will, plus deal with his daughter’s disintegrating marriage. His own mental state comes to mirror that of several of the other inmates, and it is in the presentation of their madness and his that Kinugasa creates some truly horrific imagery. It possesses a poetic subtlety that possibly doesn’t translate well into our time for most modern horror fans, which is a damn shame. 

Like almost all early Japanese films, it was thought lost until Kinugasa came across a copy in his garden shed in the 1970s, a few years after his long and very productive career had come to an end. He died in 1982, at the age of eighty-six.

Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday was yesterday as I write this, an anniversary that should be near and dear to the hearts of all horror fans. Poe is also revered by the mystery buffs, who named their most prestigious award the Edgar in his honor. And in his honor, the second part of this celebration of Asian horrors is herewith presented unto the populace.

Japanese mystery writer Tirō Hirai adopted the pseudonym Edogawa Ranpo (sometimes written as Rampo) in 1923. If you say that new name fast, it sort of sounds like Poe’s full name, which was the point, I do believe. Regardless, he had a long and distinguished career as a mystery author, penning numerous novels and short stories.

Which has what to do with horror, Asian or otherwise? you may well ask. Well, like many writers, Ranpo had difficulty playing in his own sandbox. On occasion, he would tinker with other genres. One such time, he came up with what might well be the creepiest tale I’ve ever read. 

A prominent lady writer receives a manuscript from an aspiring author. In it, he tells of his life as a hideously ugly and poverty-stricken chair-maker, a man whose carpentry skills are as great as his social skills are poor. Having received a commission for a large chair to be installed in a fancy hotel, he decides to build one that he can hide in so that he can sneak out and steal from the wealthy clientele. He spends months living in this chair, emerging from it at night to pilfer valuables. He waxes rhapsodic on how various people sit on him during the day, how he could differentiate one type of person from another by how their bodies press down onto his.

After a long time, the carpenter writes, the hotel decided to redecorate, and the chair was sold. And guess what! You’re sitting on me now! The lady author freaks and flees, only to receive a second letter telling her that the manuscript is pure fiction, ha-ha, just kidding. Did you like it and would you help me get it published? It shall be called, “The Human Chair”. This seems like a cheat on a par with The Wizard of Oz having all been a dream. If the second letter is true.

If. 

If not…

Well?

See? Creepy, right?

Ranpo published his story, also called “The Human Chair”, in 1925, in the October issue of the literary magazine, Kuraku. I first read it in David Alexander’s 1962 paperback anthology, Tales for a Rainy Night

It can also be found in Peter Haining’s 1972 anthology Beyond the Curtain of Dark and in Ranpo’s own collection, Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination. And no doubt in others. I encourage all and sundry among the populace to seek it out, in order to see for yourself if it delivers the same frisson to you it did to me the first time I read it. 

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

Negan at Nekhen by Michael Fassbender

 

Negan at Nekhen by Michael Fassbender

I tend to be a Johnny-come-lately to famous TV programs. I don’t maintain cable or streaming subscriptions, so I catch up with the programs I choose to watch after they come out on DVD, sometimes years later. This year, I am getting caught up with The Walking Dead, and at the moment, I am watching season seven. I am now getting to know Negan.

I knew that Negan was a controversial character. Some fans hated him enough to abandon the series entirely after his brutal debut. Others have considered him the best long-term villain yet; for my part, I haven’t formulated my opinion on that. I’ve been too busy noticing something else. Negan shows how far people have descended from civilization as we know it by serving as a throwback to a style of leadership as old as the late Neolithic. Specifically, he breathes life into something I have read about only recently. 

Since childhood, I’ve maintained a fascination with ancient Egypt. I’ve kept up, more or less, with major discoveries and at least the outlines of Egyptian history as our understanding has shifted over the years. The Egyptians were a civilized and humane people, comparing favorably with most of their neighbors, most of the time. At the earliest stage of their history, though, even they practiced a form of human sacrifice. The burial of a king’s retainers with him after he died went on through the end of the second dynasty, before the first of the pyramids was built.

More recently, I became aware of even darker currents in the predynastic period. Two years ago I read the first two volumes of John Romer’s History of Ancient Egypt. This was a fascinating and thought-provoking work, but the most intriguing of all was his reconstruction of the predynastic, about which we have learned so much in the last thirty years. Alongside the more benign notes, like the importance of cylindrical seals to the formation of Egyptian writing, came the startling revelation of the more brutal side of early chiefdoms in southern Egypt, above all in the important town of Nekhen.

Nekhen, later known as Hierakonpolis, was a major predynastic site that may have set many of the patterns of later pharaonic civilization. It is generally thought that the unifier of Egypt, Narmer, had come from Nekhen, and its patron god, Horus, became the first king of the gods under the unified state. Nekhen provides the earliest example of tomb paintings, significantly including boats as a major image. We also find the earliest examples of the royal Smiting motif in connection with early Nekhen chiefs.

The Smiting motif presents the king with his right arm raising a mace above his head, and his left hand grasping the hair of a kneeling foe. It is understood that the king is about to deal a crushing blow to the head of his enemy. In this historic period, this image was understood symbolically; it represented the king as the champion of the forces of order (a word synonymous with truth in Egyptian) defeating the powers of chaos. 

Primitive versions of the Smiting motif were found at several predynastic sites in Egypt, with at least one estimated to around 3500 BC. While nineteenth-century scholars often thought the image suggested military conquest, more recent scholars tended to assume the motif held the same symbolic significance as it did in later centuries, until it was noted that a number of bodies found in predynastic graves near Nekhen showed the evidence of a crushing blow to the head. The Smiting image was therefore no mere symbol in the predynastic period, but a harsh reality for some members of the population. As this predates the written word even in Egypt, it is unlikely that we will ever know for sure the context of these killings. They may have been human sacrifices, or criminal executions, or something else entirely. The one thing we know with a high level of probability is that they were members of the same population, not foreign captives. Their bodies were buried in the same cemeteries with the same kinds of grave goods as those who died from natural causes, indicating membership in the same society.

In short, the predynastic people of Nekhen witnessed the same grim political theater that Rick Grimes and his team suffered when Negan killed Abraham and Glenn with Lucille. One or more people were killed by crushing blows to the head by a strong man who used the exercise to demonstrate his supremacy, or establish his dominion. With this as the true subtext of both cases, the introduction of Negan in The Walking Dead serves as an eerie parallel to real events taking place half the world and 5500 years earlier.

One might call it a striking resemblance.

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Michael Fassbender is a part-time writer in the Chicago area. His story Inmateappeared in Sanitarium Magazine in 2016; The Cold Girlappeared in Hypnos Magazine in 2016 and has resurfaced in October 2019 in a volume entitled Re-Haunts. But Together We Are Stronghas appeared in the February 2020 issue of Horror Magazine, Miroir de Vaugnacfound its place in Dark Divinations on May Day, and Schattenlenkers Hidden Treasurewas revealed in The Nightside Codex in August. This Halloween, Old Growthbegan spreading in Scary Stuff. You can read about more of his work on his website, michaeltfassbender.com.