Kidnapped! Still Dark by D.W. Gillespie

Character Building in Still Dark

Like any genre, horror has all sorts of shades to it. There are times, especially when I was younger, where I felt like I needed to be the nastiest, goriest writer in the room. I think it’s a natural spot for young horror writers to drift toward. So much of dark fiction is about shocking and scaring the reader, that it only makes sense that you would want to be as disturbing as possible.

As I kept writing, kept editing, kept peeling back the layers of who I was as a writer, I realized it wasn’t quite that simple. Take my seven-year-old son for example. He’s a lot like me, and already, he’s leaning hard into all things spooky and creepy. Like his old man, he loves a good monster, and I’m already impressed by his imagination and inventiveness with creating creatures and basic outlines for stories. It takes a certain type of mind to be able to conjure this stuff, but the thing my son will have to learn is where the fear and shock really come from.

Making an audience afraid or appalled is maybe impossible unless you can first make them care, and how in the hell do you do that? It’s all about characters, of course. That was the last piece of my becoming a capable writer to fall into place, and I suspect it’s the same for a lot of other developing writers. I, just like my son, could come up with some pretty gnarly ideas, scenarios, and sequences that would make a reader’s skin crawl, but all of that effort was wasted because I didn’t understand characters.

It’s cliché advice to tell someone they need to create real, three-dimensional characters, but it’s the truth. It didn’t really sink in with me until I was around 30 or so after I already had a handful of practice novels under my belt. My writing style didn’t necessarily change, but my patience level did. I began to see editing as less a chore, more just a natural part of the process, and soon enough, the characters started talking to me. Those extra passes helped me see past just the “story” and into the deeper recesses of who these people really were.

In other words, I finally started to care. When I killed off a particular character, it wasn’t a triumphant moment where I thought, “Look how hardcore this is.” No, now it kind of hurts because, in some way, I really want these non-existent people to be happy. That was the biggest piece of the puzzle, at least for now. I’m sure there are others hopefully waiting to fall into place.

I feel like I really made this turn successfully in Still Dark. I don’t want to spoil anything, but some of this was hard to write. Based on feedback from early readers, they agreed with me, with one reader even getting a bit mad at me for the way it all turned out. Check out the book for yourself and let me know if you agree.


D.W. Gillespie has been writing dark fiction in one form or another since he was old enough to hold a pencil. He’s been featured in multiple horror anthologies, both in print and online. Still Dark is his debut novel, and his second book, a short collection titled Handmade Monsters, arrives in 2017. He lives in Tennessee with his wife and two children.


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About Still Dark

When a thunderous explosion rocks an idyllic cabin resort in the Great Smoky Mountains, animals and humans alike begin to act strange. Jim, along with his wife Laura and son, Sam, are cut off from the outside world, but they soon realize the true nightmare is just beginning…

Deep in the snow-covered woods, something is waiting. The creature calls itself Apex, and it’s a traveler. Reading the minds of those around it, Apex brings the terrifying fears hidden in the human psyche to life with a singular purpose: to kill any that stand in its way.

Locked in a fight for their lives, Jim and his family must uncover the truth behind Apex, and stop the creature from wreaking a horrifying fate upon the rest of the world!

  Now available on Amazon



Kidnapped! Horror Blackademic is a Real Thing by Rhonda Jackson Joseph

Horror Blackademic is a Real Thing

It seems surreal that I have the best job ever, writing, teaching, and speaking about horror as a creative, a fan, and an academic. I have a confession, though: I’m an accidental horror blackacademic.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always known I was a writer. I couldn’t not write. Ever. Stories haunted me day, night, and whatever falls in between. So that was a definite career goal. I’ve also always had the gift of gab. As a child, I wasn’t too sure that folks would pay me to talk, so I didn’t factor it into life planning. And I’d always been told I’m good at teaching people stuff. A stint in banking confirmed this, and for years, I was paid to be a corporate trainer. All other facets of my life included some type of teaching, so I embraced it on a small scale.

But then I met Dr. Kinitra Brooks. I’ll never forget that moment at World Horror Convention 2013 that had me moving through the halls of the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans and running into another black woman, not a common sight at horror events I’ve attended. A thrill coursed through me as I saw that she was talking to someone at the time. I decided to just linger in the area until she was done. And then I felt a tap on my shoulder and I turned around to face a brilliant gaze and beautiful face. I was hooked.

If it sounds like a cheesy “love at first sight” kind of thing, that’s because it was exactly that for me. Over the course of the conference, we spent some time together. She did my make-up for the awards show…my face was BEAT! We had lunch together a couple of times during the conference and I was enamored of her. One of those lunches was with the ever fabulous Linda Addison and I struggled with that meal to not go all creepy fan girl on both of those amazing writers.

This chance meeting had an invaluable impact on my life. I was looking forward to receiving my graduate degree later that month. I came out of the Writing Popular Fiction program at Seton Hill University a much better writer. I also literally came out as a horror writer during my stint there. Having met Dr. Brooks gave me a focus for my academic career I hadn’t originally considered.

She and Linda Addison later contacted me about a project they were working on, an anthology of horror written by black, female writers. I was super excited to talk with them. One of the best edit suggestions I’ve ever received was when I expressed concern over the length of my short story and Ms. Addison basically told me, ”The story is as long as it needs to be.”

I now find Dr. Brooks’ research and writings to be the main anchor on which I base my own research work on the horror genre and black femininity. I’m now, proudly, an accidental horror blackademic.


R.J. Josephisa Texas based writer and professor who must exorcise the demons of her imagination so they don’t haunt her being. A life-long horror fan and writer of many things, she has recently discovered the joys of writing in the academic arena about two important aspects of her life: horror and black femininity.

When R. J. isn’t writing, teaching, or reading voraciously, she can usually be found wrangling one or five of various sprouts and sproutlings from her blended family of 11…which also includes one husband and two furry babies.

R.J. can be found lurking (and occasionally even peeking out) on social media:

Twitter: @rjacksonjoseph
Facebook official:
Instagram: @rjacksonjoseph

Amazon Author Page:


Kidnapped! Excerpt and Story Notes II: “Mama’s Babies” by R. J. Joseph

Blog Post 6

Excerpt and Story Notes II: “Mama’s Babies” by R. J. Joseph


I smelled expensive cologne on him and knew he was probably lying. If he left, I couldn’t even load up the kids and go to the pharmacy myself. “The café doesn’t open until nine. It’s only four now.”

I got stuff to do, Zenobia. Get off my back about it.” He left out, slamming the screen door behind him.

I turned to my babies, lined up in the kitchen behind me, Evaline moaning more incessantly than usual. “Okay, Mama’s babies, let’s go put in a movie. Ray, Jr., it’s your turn to pick.” My sweet-faced baby boy smiled at me with uncharacteristically tired eyes and ran into the living room. I unlocked her wheelchair and followed Janey to the couch.

Two movies later, Evaline and Janey were burning with fever. I thought Ray Jr. felt warm, too, so I gave them all fever reducer before putting them to bed a little earlier than usual. After my shower, I sat in bed with a book, too preoccupied to really read it. Instead, I stood and went to the bedroom window. The room overlooked the backyard, which bordered the Brazos River.

I hated that old stinky river, hated the river critters even more. I was glad to only have to chase two kids out to the fence. Janey and Ray Jr. always wanted to take Evaline with them on adventures, and I was glad her wheelchair made them move too slowly to get completely away from me. They loved their sissy and I knew they’d take care of her when I passed on. We really couldn’t count on their daddy to do much of anything.

After I finally fell asleep, Evaline cried out loudly. I stumbled into the girls’ room. Her bed was full of diluted blood, still leaking from her eyes. The fever seemed to be breaking, but she thrashed around like she had severe gas pains. Janey tossed in her little bed, too, but she seemed to stay asleep. I changed Evaline’s sheets and rocked her until she calmed. Then I lay her back down and pulled up the bed guard. Ray Jr. slept peacefully in his room.


Mama’s Babies” found a home in the anthology Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers, Volume II after haunting me for years as a nightmare that needed to be exorcised. One of the most horrific aspects of navigating life for me is through the various terrors of parenthood. Those fears rode me like the demons they are in this story.

Twitter: @rjacksonjoseph
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Kidnapped! Excerpt and Story Notes: A Woman’s Work by R.J. Joseph

Excerpt and Story Notes: A Woman’s Work by R. J. Joseph


Jamarcus was on that crazy tip before he hit the door. I could smell it on him, underneath the sweat that drenched his dingy wife beater tee.

He clumped into the kitchen, sucking his teeth. “Hamburger again?” He slammed a plastic grocery bag of empty, stinking food containers into the sink, ignoring the clean dishes already there, waiting to be rinsed.

Ten years of marriage had taught me that the conversation could go badly, whether I answered or not. I remained silent.

You don’t hear me?”

I waited a couple of beats while my own anger leaped inside my chest. My neck prickled from the fire bubbling inside my skin.

The whole block hears you.” I turned from the sink and faced him. He needed to back off. He didn’t always. Jamarcus was a handsome man, with chocolate colored skin that stretched over tight muscles and gleaned from his long day at work. I had loved him dearly once, warts and all. But I was getting tired of his shit.

He stared at me a moment and threw himself into a chair like a petulant child. “I work hard, you know. I’m sick of eating the same old thing every night.”

It’s the best I can do, Jamarcus, when you spend money we don’t have on that bike of yours.” I placed a plate with the hamburger meat and macaroni in front of him.

Oh, I’m gonna get my bike tricked out. And you nagging won’t stop me from going to Bike Week next month, either.”

Do I ever nag you, Jamarcus? You do whatever you want all the time and I don’t say a word.” He wouldn’t meet my eyes and mumbled under his breath instead.

I held myself in check long enough to gently set a glass of ice on the table next to him, along with a pitcher of fruit punch. A roach scurried underneath my feet as I walked down the hall towards the children’s room.

The furious tears I’d held at bay slipped down my face as I ran my hand along our oldest son’s cheek. He’d been running a fever earlier, and I was thankful he felt cooler. I didn’t know where the money would have come from if I’d have had to take him to the urgent care clinic. Jamarcus would have told me the boy was alright, and to not baby them so much. But I knew when they were really sick, and Jr. was fighting some kind of kid cooties.


A Woman’s Work” appears in the anthology Transitions and Awakenings and has a pretty dark history. Borrowed heavily from a kernel of an idea, I wanted to play around with the idea that feminine agency often looks monstrous in our society. What evolved from that was the story of a harried housewife who struggles with fitting into the boxes society would have defined her existence.


Kidnapped! Love Letter to My Boo, the Horror Genre by Rhonda Jackson Joseph


Love Letter to My Boo, the Horror Genre

Horror, I love you. I’m down for you, for life. I can’t breathe without you. Your weird darkness has comforted me through childhood, whispering decadent terror to my drowning soul. You encouraged me to die in your faith that there were worse things than eternal blackness, that I’d live blissfully forever with the monstrosities borne from your roots.

I live and die in you. Nevertheless, I need more from you. I need you to do better.

You could love me more deeply by embracing horror shown through a feminine lens as true horror, and not simply as women’s fiction gone wrong. I would exist in delicious ecstasy if you welcomed race-centered terror as a natural part of your canon, acknowledging that it is horrific and sits squarely in the definition of horror.

Let’s ride together to fight those who wish to divide you into warring factions that proclaim some of your spawn as “smart”, immediately deeming the others “not smart”. There is room within our forever squad for all your babies. I will help you nurture and protect them all.

I long for you to genuinely seek and welcome diversity, to actively invest in writers from varying states of existence. Allowing the majority of stories to be stolen from original voices and told in the same voice over and over again induces more fright than anything in your repertoire does. It’s not the delicious kind of fear I crave from your influence. Let’s agree to simply swallow gatekeeping and sensitivity readers into your endless void, for them to never again see the light of day.

I’m your chick, your ride or die. I live in you and I will die in you. I will help you be better. Because I love you more than you love me right now.

For a copy of a free ebook, please leave a comment.




R.J. Josephisa Texas based writer and professor who must exorcise the demons of her imagination so they don’t haunt her being. A life-long horror fan and writer of many things, she has recently discovered the joys of writing in the academic arena about two important aspects of her life: horror and black femininity.

When R. J. isn’t writing, teaching, or reading voraciously, she can usually be found wrangling one or five of various sprouts and sproutlings from her blended family of 11…which also includes one husband and two furry babies.

R.J. can be found lurking (and occasionally even peeking out) on social media:

Twitter: @rjacksonjoseph
Facebook official:
Instagram: @rjacksonjoseph

Amazon Author Page:


Kidnapped! From Whence the Ideas Flow by Rhonda Jackson Joseph

From Whence the Ideas Flow

One of the questions I am asked the most is, “Where do your ideas for horror come from?” The answer seems easy and complicated, all at once. I get my ideas from everywhere. Any little, innocuous thing can trigger a story inside my head. Discussion with other writers unveils the discovery that our brains really do work differently than other folks’: we literally see the world in varying shades of possibilities that aren’t explored by everyone.

However, after further examination, I realized the answer could be narrowed down to four main sources for me:

  1. Nightmares. This is by far the main source of my horror stories. I’ve been immersed in horror stuff for most of my life and yet a scary dream can make me break out into a sweat and worry all day about something my imagination conjured up. If the nightmare is bad enough, it can become a recurring torture until I exorcise it and put it into a story.
  2. Submission calls. I’m notorious for missing submission calls. I see an idea that editors put out for a collection of stories and I think, “Yes! I want to write THAT story!” But then I play around with the words until the deadline has passed and it’s too late to submit to that call. I don’t know why regular, formal writing prompts don’t elicit this same excitement from me. At any rate, even though I miss the calls, I always get a good story out of the ones that get my attention.
  3. Other stories. Sometimes I read the work of other writers, in various genres, and I find inspiration in the stories they did not tell. For instance, I can read a story about two characters in a place and the things that I want to know are along the lines of: “Why are they at THAT house?”, “How does the tree feel about them carving initials into it?”, or “What if they had gone down the road the OTHER way?” These musings often turn into stories that have nothing at all to do with the original inspiration.
  4. Real life. Real life offers story ideas that can be overwhelming sometimes. Literally, any event has an element of the unknown, in my mind, and I’m often struck by stories in unsuspecting places. Many a creative writing workshop hinges on the question “What if…?” and this is how I view the world. Every occurrence has something that did not happen, and it’s those things that interest me most.

Surrounded by all this inspiration, I’ll never run out of ideas to write. This is a great problem to have because I know my creative well will never run dry.

Have more story inspiration you want to talk about? Hit me up in the comments section if you’d like the chance to win a free ebook.


R.J. Josephisa Texas-based writer and professor who must exorcise the demons of her imagination so they don’t haunt her being. A life-long horror fan and writer of many things, she has recently discovered the joys of writing in the academic arena about two important aspects of her life: horror and black femininity.

When R. J. isn’t writing, teaching, or reading voraciously, she can usually be found wrangling one or five of various sprouts and sproutlings from her blended family of 11…which also includes one husband and two furry babies.

R.J. can be found lurking (and occasionally even peeking out) on social media:

Twitter: @rjacksonjoseph
Facebook official:
Instagram: @rjacksonjoseph

Amazon Author Page:


Kidnapped! 5 Facts about Rhonda

It’s My Birthday!

When Stacy and I talked about the week I’d kidnap her blog, I told her this week was pre-destined because it’s my birthday week. Super excited was an understatement! So, here we are, on my born day, visiting an awesome Horror blog. How much better can a weekday birthday get?

In honor of my born day, I thought I’d fill this post with five things all about me. Not just random things…well, maybe some randomness…but mostly things about me that inform who I am as a Horror Writer. Here we go:

  1. The first novel I read all the way through was Carrie by Stephen King. I was about six or seven years old and although my parents thought it appropriate to hide all of Mama’s romance magazines and novels, they apparently didn’t think they should hide all Daddy’s horror and sci-fi novels. So there we have it.
  1. I didn’t fully come out as a horror writer until I was almost forty. Although I’ve written horror since I was a child, I never felt comfortable embracing that part of my writing persona. Writing horror was just not an acceptable endeavor for a little black, Southern Baptist girl.
  1. I always wanted to be the monster. Part of my fascination with the horror genre is totally rooted in my always wanting to be the monster. The monster was the most powerful person in the movie or the story and I wanted to get inside the monster’s head. I wanted to know what made them tick and what motivated them. I also wanted that power for myself.
  1. I’m deathly afraid of rabbits. Crazy, I know. But nothing can reduce me to quivering mass of hysteria quicker than a horde of rabbits. One spring, our subdivision was infested with the creatures and I spent many long minutes locked in my van until someone else ran them away so I could get into the house. There’s something about the way they move that freaks me all the way out. Might have something to do with Mama craving and eating rabbit throughout her pregnancy with me. Maybe some type of furry, “you’re really on of us” revenge…?
  1. I love the darkness. I’m more comfortable in the dark than in bright light. Darkness is a more natural state for me. I’ve always been a night owl, preferring to live and be more creative at night. Everything is quieter in the dark when many other beings choose not to move so much. The ones that are moving around then are doing so in stealth. I find that infinitely beautiful. And the light shone on some things reveal so many cracks or can be changed to show only what the light wants to be shown. I find it somewhat depressing to face a world illuminated in what can be manipulated so easily.

Even though it’s my birthday, I want to give away a gift. For the chance to win a free ebook, please comment.



J. Josephisa Texas-based writer and professor who must exorcise the demons of her imagination so they don’t haunt her being. A life-long horror fan and writer of many things, she has recently discovered the joys of writing in the academic arena about two important aspects of her life: horror and black femininity.

When R. J. isn’t writing, teaching, or reading voraciously, she can usually be found wrangling one or five of various sprouts and sproutlings from her blended family of 11…which also includes one husband and two furry babies.

  1. J. can be found lurking (and occasionally even peeking out) on social media:

Twitter: @rjacksonjoseph
Facebook official:
Instagram: @rjacksonjoseph

Amazon Author Page:



Kidnapped! Introduction to Rhonda Jackson Joseph

Hello, I’m The Friendly Kidnapper

You do not have to adjust your screen. My name is Rhonda Jackson Joseph and I’m kidnapping your regularly scheduled blog this week. Many thanks to Stacy for being a willing cyber captive and for welcoming me into this space.

First, let me introduce myself. I’m a lifelong horror fan, longish time horror writer, and recent horror Blackademic. I’m also an assistant professor of English at Lone Star College, so I get to immerse myself in all things writing, all the time. My life is golden.

Some of my recent publications include a story in Sycorax’s Daughters, which is the first anthology of black, female horror writers. I also have a story in Transitions and Awakenings and Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers, Volume 2. My solo venture into short horror anthologies is Monstrous Domesticity. I also presented an academic paper in Transylvania this past May, at the international Vampire Film and Arts Festival (yes, there is such a glorious thing as this!), on the absence of black femininity in vampire culture.

I hope we can talk about these stories and the horror genre in general. Thank you for lending me your eyes and ears and let’s get the party started!

To be entered into a drawing for a free ebook, please leave a comment.




R.J. Josephisa Texas based writer and professor who must exorcise the demons of her imagination so they don’t haunt her being. A life-long horror fan and writer of many things, she has recently discovered the joys of writing in the academic arena about two important aspects of her life: horror and black femininity.

When R. J. isn’t writing, teaching, or reading voraciously, she can usually be found wrangling one or five of various sprouts and sproutlings from her blended family of 11…which also includes one husband and two furry babies.

RJ. can be found lurking (and occasionally even peeking out) on social media:

Twitter: @rjacksonjoseph
Facebook official:
Instagram: @rjacksonjoseph

Amazon Author Page:


Kidnapped Week! Top 5 Favorite B-Rated Horror Movies


Horror is one of the very few genres of movies that can encompass almost all other genres. While some horror movies are a classic in their own right, there are thousands of cheesy horror movies that I just can’t get enough of. Today, I’ll be listing my top 5 favorite B-Horror rated movies. If you don’t know what a B-rated horror movie is, it is horror movies that are straight to DVD, that are so bad its good, and leaves you laughing more than frightened. A few examples are Sharknado, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, and other funny-scary movies such as these.

Now, this list is just my opinion, so if you have other favorites, feel free to let me know!

#5 – Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988).

I absolutely adore this movie! I fell in love with it when I was around ten years old. I was spending the night with one of my friends and we ended up watching it. I personally have never been afraid of clowns so I knew going into this movie that it wouldn’t be scary to me. If you love aliens, clowns, people being killed by cotton candy, then you’ll love this flick!

#4 – Slither (2006).

I remember seeing this movie my freshman year of high school in theater. At first watch, I was super confused and didn’t like it. When I re-watched it a few years ago, I regretted my earlier sentiment. This movie is balls-to-the-wall funny, crazy, and just an all around good time.

#3 – My Name Is Bruce (2007).

This movie is very groovy. I will watch anything Bruce Campbell makes, no matter how stupid it is. I fell in love with Bruce when I watched Evil Dead (1981). Yes, that’s technically a B-rated horror movie as well but I am focusing on funny-stupid movies for this list. If you love Evil Dead, Bruce Campbell, or neither, it doesn’t matter. you’ll love this movie.

#2 – Leprechaun in the Hood (2000).

It’s sassy, gangster, and fantastic. If you love any Leprechaun, Jason, Freddy, or any other “classic” horror movies that have so many sequels that you can’t keep up, I’d start with this one. This is my favorite of the entire series. After you watch it, trust me, it’ll be yours too.

#1 – Thankskilling (2009).

If you thought that Thanksgiving (American) was a safe time of year, think again! A turkey has decided it is tired of its fellow turkey is getting slaughtered and takes matters into its own hands. Or, should I say, wings. This movie if so stupid, its great. It is my go-to Thanksgiving movie and I watch it every year to bring in the holiday season.

Thanks for reading, guys! Please let me know your favorite B-rated horror movie. Let’s get a discussion going.

Until next time, stay scared.




 Kenzie is a young author who strives to create truly scary stories. Kenzie has been obsessed with the horror genre for as long as she’s been able to read. She has written numerous short stories as well as working on a novel.  She can be found watching horror movies with her pup. To find out more, go to:, or

Kidnapped Week! Horror Movie Conspiracy Theories: Jacob’s Ladder


Jacob’s Ladder is, hands down, a horror movie classic. The movie is about a man, Jacob, who has returned from the Vietnam war who is struggling with his grip on reality due to what he experienced while he was a soldier. He continues to fight off creepy hallucinations and flashbacks, all the while trying to maintain relationships. This is a great horror movie for people who love psychological horror. As always, with horror movie conspiracy theories, SPOILER ALERT.


Jacob is actually dead. He died in conflict during the Vietnam War and he’s in a continuous state of purgatory.

Why is this such a believed theory? Well, after all of the creepy hallucinations, towards the end of the movie, he see’s his dead son standing in a bright light. To me, that bright light symbolizes Heaven, or whatever you believe to be in the afterlife. The movie ends on a happy note, with Jacob seeing his son again, and his military friends saying how happy he looks. The meat of the theory as to why he was stuck in purgatory, limbo, or whatever you want to call it, is because he just didn’t want to cross over to the other side yet due to his girlfriend. He was stuck, wandering Earth, literally experiencing hell on Earth, and it isn’t until he see’s his deceased son that he feels comfortable crossing over.

What is your opinion? Do you believe the theory or not? Please let me know your thoughts!

Until next time, stay spooky!




 Kenzie is a young author who strives to create truly scary stories. Kenzie has been obsessed with the horror genre for as long as she’s been able to read. She has written numerous short stories as well as working on a novel.  She can be found watching horror movies with her pup. To find out more, go to, or

Kidnapped Week! My Top 5 Favorite Horror Board Games by Kenzie Kordic

Kidnapped Week! My Top 5 Favorite Horror Board Games by Kenzie Kordic


Greetings again my Horror Fiends. Today’s blog is about my favorite horror games. I am the writer game blogger here and for good reason: I’m obsessed. I don’t take that term lightly. Anytime a new horror-themed board game comes out, I break the bank buying it. I have over 30 horror games in my collection and let me tell you, it isn’t healthy haha. This list is my top 5 favorite horror board game, in no particular order. Please let me know what your opinions are and what your favorite horror games are.




I absolutely love this game! The first time I played it was a few years ago with a great group of people and we immediately became addicted playing five games in one night.  It is a ton of fun torturing your own family and making your opponents family so happy that all they want to do is live.  I’m a pretty morbid person so I love games like this.  I give this game a ten out of ten solely because it’s a fast pace, easy to learn, and a gripping game that will keep you begging for more torture.

Dead of Winter

I freaking love this game. I am an avid tabletop gamer and will try any horror related board game. I can spend hours playing with my friends, doing different objectives, and screwing each other over. What I love about this game, besides the obvious, zombies, is that each time you play, it is literally a different game. Each time you play you can have a different objective, a traitor, and a ton of different variables that you just don’t get in standard table-top games. It is an absolute blast and I recommend this game to anyone who has a love of horror as well as board games.

Ouija Board

I have played this game numerous times but nothing has happened to me yet.  It could be a number of factors as in there are no spirits present or the people I’m playing with don’t believe so the spirits keep away. I just love how classically scary this game is, how so many people claim to have had encounters because of this game, and how many people refuse to be in the same room with a board. Whether it is real or not, the history is so rich and I will never turn down a chance to play.

Arkham Horror

I love this game because it is pure Lovecraftian-fear. I am a huge Lovecraft fan and if you are too, I would definitely check out all of the Lovecraft tabletop horror games. This one is my favorite out of the game series because it is a period piece, meaning it takes place in the 1920’s. It is pretty cool that a board game can be a period piece and be scary at the same time. I don’t want to give too much away about this game, I just want you to play it.


I do like it because I typically enjoy horror games that I can get my friends in on after a few glasses of wine since I’m the only horror buff in my friend group. I am obsessed with anything Salem-related. If it’s a game, I’ll play it. TV series, I’ll watch it. I just love the lore behind it all. This game is geared more towards kids, but it can be fun for adults too. You can play it through cards or online on a computer. If you loved One Night Werewolf, then you’ll love this game too.

Until next time, stay scared.





 Kenzie is a young author who strives to create truly scary stories. Kenzie has been obsessed with the horror genre for as long as she’s been able to read. She has written numerous short stories as well as working on a novel.  She can be found watching horror movies with her pup. To find out more, go to:, or

Kidnapped Week! Horror Conspiracy Theories: Santa Claus and Krampus are the Same Person by Kenzie Kordic

Horror Conspiracy Theories: Santa Claus and Krampus are the Same Person by Kenzie Kordic



Greetings Horror Addicts!

I’m back once again with another horror conspiracy theory. This time though, it isn’t a movie, but a conspiracy about lore. With the holidays approaching quickly, I thought it would be cool to talk about a holiday themed horror conspiracy. I truly believe that Santa Claus and Krampus are the same person, and trust me, I’ll tell you why. Make sure to let me know if you agree or disagree because I love debating.

Santa Claus and Krampus are the same people for a few different reasons.

Santa knows if you’re naughty or nice

Santa is supposed to be the only one who has access to the list where all the good and bad little boys and girls are written down each year. I believe that instead of leaving coal in the bad children’s stockings, he goes to the children’s house and punishes the family with either torture, murder, or other dubious things.

Krampus has gotten popular within the past few years

Santa, I’m sad to say it, is a dying legend. More and more kids these days aren’t so believing in him and he’s angry. Instead of continuing to spread the holiday cheer that has worked in the past and leaving coal hat has made bad children good, he has resorted to these measures to keep the faith alive. He has given parents a scary story to tell their children in order for them to be good and believe in Santa again. Because lets face, coal in a stocking just isn’t a reason anymore for children to behave.

He’s truly a bully

Santa isn’t always nice, loving, and happy. He has been known to ban other holiday creatures from his territory, picked on Rudolph until he found a use for him, and let’s be honest, he’s a slave owner. Those poor little elves working twenty-four hours a day seven days a week forever is nothing but pure torture. He already has a knack for killing little elves souls, why wouldn’t he make the jump to humans?

All of that holiday cheer just can’t be healthy

I feel as though maybe Santa has had a psychotic break. For hundreds of years, Santa has been full of nothing but happiness, and too much happiness can make someone go crazy. He has to be worried about Christmas and spreading the cheer throughout the entire year. I can barely handle the month of December. I doubt I’d be able to handle it for twelve months out of the year.

In the end, there is proof that Santa isn’t as nice as he claims to be. He has created the Krampus folklore in order to get all of the rage out that he has bottled inside for millennia. I for one, welcome our new Krampus overlord.

Until next time, stay scared!




     Kenzie is a young author who strives to create truly scary stories. Kenzie has been obsessed with the horror genre for as long as she’s been able to read. She has written numerous short stories as well as working on a novel.  She can be found watching horror movies with her pup. To find out more, go to:, or

Kidnapped Week! Kenzie Kordic: Top 5 Favorite Women Horror Writers

Top 5 Favorite Women Horror Writers by Kenzie Kordic


Women are few and far between in the horror genre, let alone writers.  Obviously, it is a male-dominated genre because the majority of women do not like horror as a whole.  With that being said, out of the few prolific women horror writers, I have narrowed down my top 5 women authors.  I chose these women for a few different reasons: their writing quality, popularity, and the stories themselves. I didn’t include indie authors in this list, but I do plan on making a similar list for them at some point. Feel free to disagree but please do let me know who your favorites are in the comments.


#5 Laurell K. Hamilton 

Laurell K. Hamilton is a prolific woman in horror.  She has written over ten different horror novels, short stories, and much more.  She’s famous for her Anita Blake series.  What drew me to her originally was her writing style.  She really draws you in and holds you tight.  You feel something for the bad characters which is a rarity in the horror genre as a whole.  If you haven’t read her work before, I’d definitely recommend her.

#4 Alison Littlewood

Alison Littlewood is an up & coming bombshell of a writer that published the novel, The Hidden People, in 2016.  That book drew me in and spit me back out, leaving me to wonder what the hell I just read, in a good way.  Her writing style shows just how much foreboding is crucial in horror.  I hope to see more amazing work from her in the coming years.

#3 Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson is one of the most iconic horror writers of the past.  She has serial published short stories, novels, and more.  Her novel, The Haunting of Hill House, made me legitimately fear haunted houses once more.  If you haven’t read any of her novels or short stories I would recommend it.  Shirley will leave you breathless, making you wonder if your house is indeed haunted.

#2 Anne Rice

Anne Rice shot into horror infamy for her Vampire Lestat novels.  Most famously, Interview with the Vampire. Several of her novels have ended up on the big screen, including Queen of the Damned.  She is an amazing vampire novelist and with the current vampire craze, she knows how to make people afraid of vampires once more.

#1 Mary Shelly

What women horror author list would be complete without her?  Her Frankenstein novel rose to infamy, selling millions of books worldwide and dug deep into pop culture infamy.  As one of the first female horror writers, she will always be in our hearts as the woman who gave birth to Frankenstein.



  Kenzie is a young author who strives to create truly scary stories. Kenzie has been obsessed with the horror genre for as long as she’s been able to read. She has written numerous short stories as well as working on a novel.  She can be found watching horror movies with her pup. To find out more, go to:, or

Kidnapped Week! Kenzie Kordic Why Sarah Michelle Gellar is My Favorite Scream Queen


Sarah Michelle Gellar is not only a scream queen but a cult icon.  She has made several amazing horror movies, as well as stared in the revolutionary, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as Buffy herself.  She will always be my favorite scream queen, and here’s why.

She made the jump from television horror to movie horror

Most scream queens stick to the big screen, but not Sarah.  She was fighting off baddies and things that go bump in the night for over seven years, twenty years ago.  While she was filming Buffy, she jumped right into Scream 2, playing a side character who met an untimely death.  Once, Buffy, the Vampire Slayer ran its natural course, she jumped right into The Grudge and stared in multiple horror movies since then.

She is a female icon

Sarah was one of the very first, lead female heroines kicking butt in television history.  Most women previously played side characters while being dainty and fragile.  Not Sarah.  She sparked a revolution of female heroines in television since she appeared in Buffy.

Each Character is completely different

From Buffy to Karen, every character she plays is original, strong, and incites fear.

Thanks for reading guys!  This is just my opinion, and whether you disagree or agree, I would love to hear your thoughts or who your favorite scream queen is.  Take Care.

Stay spooky.




Kenzie is a young author who strives to create truly scary stories. Kenzie has been obsessed with the horror genre for as long as she’s been able to read. She has written numerous short stories as well as working on a novel.  She can be found watching horror movies with her pup. To find out more, go to:, or

Kidnapped! Siren’s Call: Horror: Odd and Bizarre


Horror: Odd and Bizarre

Take two steps to the left of normal and you’ll find the type of stories offered in Horror: Odd and Bizarre. Consider them the red-headed stepchildren of the genre…

From a museum process that not only preserves the dead but brings them back to life to a phone that warns you of the impending apocalypse, each tale hits on a different level of the bizarre. Maybe a killer clown epidemic that preys on everything you hold dear, or a painting that subtly changes to spell out your doom, piques your odd meter instead—don’t worry, they’re in there too.

If you like horror with a unique spin, a bizarre thread that straddles the line, or a tale that just a little off, you’ll definitely enjoy each odd morsel and bizarre bite contained within!


Phantom Pain — Kayce Bennett

All Aboard — C.R. Langille

Self Portrait — Ben Pienaar

The Process — Georgina Morales

A Man Called Cup — Jason A. Wyckoff

Fingers — Maynard Blackoak

A Clown of Thorns — Ken MacGregor

Into The Dream Never — S.E. Foley

Hi — Calypso Kane

Beep — Kristal Stittle

A Clown and a Dragon Walk Into a Bar — Rob E. Boley

Ivy’s First Kiss — Matthew R. Davis

Horror: Odd and Bizarre can be found online at:

Amazon: US | UK

Amazon Print: US | UK | Canada

Kidnapped! Siren’s Call: Twisted Yarns

Twisted Yarns

Twisted Yarns is a collection of eleven depraved stories that will warp your mind and spark your curiosity for tales best muttered in hushed tones and dark corners.

Imagine finding a baby in a dumpster; how far would you go to protect it? Picture yourself trapped in a maze with a monstrous creature that wants nothing more than to spill your blood while others bet on the outcome of your life; would you run to survive? Do you think you could – run or survive? Perhaps you’re clinging to a lost love so strongly that your rational mind doesn’t realize how strongly it’s clinging to you; is it bliss or torture? Come to think of it, is it safe to accept that tasty sample the kindly gentleman who works at the grocery store is offering you? It couldn’t be anything but harmless, could it?

If you prefer your horror twisted with a bit of grit sprinkled on top for flavor, this is the perfect anthology for you!


Blood Oranges — R.k. Kombrinck

Polandrio — Trevor Firetog

Kin — Elizabeth Allen

Dumpster Baby Blues — Bob Macumber

Dead World Protocol — Glynn Owen Barrass

The Road Less Taken — J.T. Seate

Countdown — Danielle Allen

A Walk in Moonlight — Sharon L. Higa

David — John Mc Caffrey

Geo — Micheal Lizarraga

The Garden of Love — Kevin Holton

Twisted Yarns is available on:

Amazon: US | UK

Amazon Print: US | UK | Canada

Kidnapped! Siren’s Call: Out of Phase


Out of Phase

Horror and science fiction blend seamlessly in the twelve stories contained within this anthology. Whether it’s mutation, creation, invention, machinery has gone awry, or space/time travel, each of the authors included took on the challenge of weaving a tale that not only stood up against scientific possibilities but will scare the proverbial pants off readers.

Imagine a world where the skies are protected from giant insects by men and women who climb into flying steel contraptions. Or perhaps you like the idea of nanobots quietly working in the background to effect positive change, only to find out that maybe those changes aren’t completely beneficial. How about genetic manipulation went horribly wrong? Fiction that may not be too far from fact…

All of these terrifying, yet thought-provoking scenarios are part of this collection of tales that definitely have some genuine kick!







Dead Serious: A Story of the Invaders — Paul M. Feeney

Hive Mind — Alex Woolf

The Unity Contagion — B. David Spicer

SkyDogs — Richard Farren Barber

Grey Sands — DJ Tyrer

Waiting Time — Rivka Jacobs

First Second — Jason D’Aprile

Idle Puppet — Dev Jarrett

Face Value — P.N. Roberts

The Forgotten Ones — J. D. Waye

What Really Happened on Green Moon 764… — Sergio Palumbo

Under The Twin Eyes — Matthew Smallwood

Out of Phase is available on:

Amazon: US | UK

Amazon Print: US | UK | Canada

Kidnapped! Siren’s Call : Through Clouded Eyes A Zombie’s Point of View

Through Clouded Eyes

A Zombie’s Point of View

Through Clouded Eyes: A Zombie’s Point of View: a collection of twelve stories told from the Zombie’s perspective.

They’re shambling toward you, feet dragging on the broken roadway. Arms outstretched faces slack, they move as if they’re tracking your scent on the wind. You want to run, but you know there’s nowhere to hide.

Aware of their insatiable hunger, fear paralyzes you.  These things were once human, people someone loved. Is there anything left inside them – some sliver of humanity that may save you from this nightmare? Your mind doesn’t want to accept the inevitable, a single thought consumes you: what are they thinking?

With your chance of escape dwindling, you snap out of it and run like hell knowing there is little to no hope; fate is coming for you. Soon you will see what they see Through Clouded Eyes…


The Lazarus Virus — Alex Woolf

Metamorphosis — Shannon Lawrence

Night Beat — Neal Privett

Immortal Infantry — Trevor Firetog

Through the Eyes of the Dead — Paul M. Feeney

Granny Gert’s Good Eats Café — Maynard Blackoak

Grisly — Zachary O’Shea

Scrawled Pages — Josh MacLeod

Careful What You Wish For — Mark Steinwachs

Camille’s Walk — Stacy Fileccia

Red — Calvin Demmer

La Cocina de Zombie — DH Hanni

Through Clouded Eyes is available on:

Amazon: US | UK

Amazon Print: US | UK | Canada

Kidnapped! Siren’s Call: Mental Ward : Experiments


Mental Ward: Experiments

A dank basement, shadow-filled hallways, the deep echo of a metal latch being thrown while faint screams are heard… These are the things you might experience in a place where the unspeakable happens, where conscientious action and moral turpitude turn a blind eye in the interest of advancing one’s own personal pursuits in the most deranged and unjustifiable manner. The type of place where power corrupts and depravity runs rampant among those imbued with it. A place where the unfortunate are abandoned to the devices of those who convince themselves their actions are in the best interest of science.

Mental Ward: Experiments is a collection of ten short stories that demonstrate the worst of humanity’s ambition in the interest of ‘civilized’ advancement. Step into a world where sanity is left behind, and horror is what the doctor ordered!

*This book is a collection of similarly themed yet varying fictitious short stories from multiple authors.


Anomaly – Sarah Doebereiner

Pink Dread – Guy Medley

Rorschach – L.E. White

Bell Haven – Frank Collia

Gingham Curtains and Electric Shock – Gwendolyn Kiste

Alice – Stephanie Nett

A Mutual Understanding – Nica Berry

A Taste for Lunacy – John Pham

Ambrosia – Kyle Yadlosky

No Man’s Land Dance – Vic Kerry

Mental Ward: Experiments is available on:

Amazon: US | UK

Amazon Print: US | UK | Canada

Kidnapped! Siren’s Call : Monster Brawl!


Monster Brawl!

It’s time to let the monsters loose!

For this book, we collected stories of monsters doing epic battle with other monsters! The beasts could be classical by design with a unique twist, or they could be spawned straight from the author’s imagination. The only rule: there must be a clear-cut winner at the end of each story; one of the creatures had to die!

Some of the stories in this collection pit a single monster against another, while others are all-out gang warfare. Some are campy, some serious, but all a fight for the ages!

It’s time to get your game face on for twelve tales worthy of the title Monster Brawl!

**No monsters were hurt in the writing of these stories**

*This book is a collection of similarly themed yet varying fictitious short stories from multiple authors.

Table of Contents

Market Forces — Ben Howels

The Imp, the Gadfly, and the Hourglass — Joshua Skye

The Matriarch — Mya Lairis

Monster Milk — Hunter Shea

To Fight By the Light of the Silvery Moon — Scott Harper

Vices — Sergio Pereira

Altered Beasts — Jennifer L. Barnes

Save It for the Cameras — T.R. North

Whoever Fights Monsters… — Patrick Loveland

Below the Surface — Chad A. Clark

The Rift Ripper — Kevin Holton

Kingdom of the Spiders — Paul M. Feeney

Monster Brawl! is available on:

Amazon: US | UK

Amazon Print: US | UK | Canada |

Kidnapped! Siren’s Call Wicked Deeds: Witches, Warlocks, Demons & Other Evil Doers

Wicked Deeds:

Witches, Warlocks, Demons, & Other Evil Doers

Sometimes wicked people do wicked things simply because they can…

The twelve stories in Wicked Deeds tell tales of witches and warlocks with ill intent, devilish demons bent on destruction, and other doers of evil who make the world a terrifying place. What is a mother to do when her daughter is gifted but lives under the thumb of her fanatical preacher husband who will brook no talk of the supernatural? What of a demon so desperate to free himself of a trap that he will force another to repeat his atrocities and condemn a young boy to his demonic fate? Or maybe the story of a crotchety old witch with a score to settle against the town she lives in is more to your liking – what evil will the seemingly harmless town-crazy call upon when faced with an ultimatum?

If you’re looking for wicked people with supernatural abilities doing wicked things, this is the collection for you!

*This book is a collection of similarly themed yet varying fictitious short stories from multiple authors.

Table of Contents

A Hundred Crimson Candles — B. David Spicer

Buyers and Cellars — Devin Darcy

Ghostville! — Darren French

The Devil’s in the Details — David O’Hanlon

Shiv — Jennifer Melzer

Puppy Farm — Josie Dorans

The Bone Thief of Belheim City — Kevin Holton

Broomstick and a Pointed Hat — Jonathan D. Nichols

Inquire Within — Mark Christopher Lane

Witches on Salem — Brian D. Mazur

Wicked Deeds: Witches, Warlocks, Demons, & Other Evil Doers is available on:

Amazon: US | UK

Amazon Print: US | UK

CreateSpace (Print) | Smashwords

Kidnapped Week! Guest Blog: “Characters Come in All Shapes and Sizes” by Maynard Blackoak


Characters Come in All Shapes and Sizes

Maynard Blackoak

Modeling characters is one of the most enjoyable aspects of writing for me. There are many interesting characters, both real and fictional, which can translate well into literature. As a writer, it is my job to search my database of people to select just the right person to fit the characters in a story.

Eerie Trails of the Wild Weird West is filled with characters modeled after some of my favorite people from history and film. As a fan of history, classic literature, and cinema, I had many models from which to choose. Sometimes, the vast array of choices made selecting the right person for a character a difficult task. Other times, it was a no-brainer.

One of my favorite characters was Sadie in The Culling. She is a brash, shoot-from-the-hip lady that does not mince words. As I considered her personality, Mae West stood out in my mind as the perfect model. Thinking back on her quotes and her own roles in film, I drew on the traits she displayed in life and the movies to pattern Sadie. Though her appearances in the story were limited, she makes a larger than life impression, much as Mae did in life.

Swede Hanson and Lou from The Devil’s Herds were patterned after slick talking, sleazy politicians. No matter which side of the political spectrum one falls, we all know of one or two such types that make us scowl with contempt when we hear them speak their rhetoric. These two characters were not modeled after any one person. Instead, I drew upon the qualities of several politicians both past and present to create their personalities.

One of my favorite actresses of all time is Bette Davis. Her portrayal of scandalous women was second to none. Such was her performances, oftentimes, I found myself rooting for her despite the questionable character of the women she played. A montage of several of her roles factored into the personality of Hattie in Deception at Skull Creek.

In The Jonah Herd, the actor, Arthur Honnicutt, greatly influenced the creation of the character, Hank. His roles were usually old, grizzled curmudgeon types that were never at a loss for words. He spoke his mind, whether it made sense or not. I pictured Hank much the same way.

As I created the character, Devileye Bobby Chambers in Collateral Winds, I considered many notable outlaw and Hollywood heavies before settling on Jim Davis as the model. Those familiar with him will remember him as Jock Ewing from the Dallas television show. He was also known for playing bad guys in westerns long before his role as the father of one of television’s iconic characters many people loved to hate.

Several other characters are modeled after historical figures and actors from the golden age of Hollywood. Some you might recognize. While others, you might not. There might even be a few characters that remind readers of someone real or created, from the past or present. That is one of the enjoyable parts of both reading and creating stories, projecting the image of someone to go with a character in a story.

Kidnapped Week! Guest Blog: “Historical Inspiration for the Supernatural Story” by Maynard Blackoak


Historical Inspiration for the Supernatural Story

Maynard Blackoak

As a writer, I find inspiration around me. Somedays, it seems all I have to do is look outside the door. There are other times it is a task to find it. Sometimes it comes to me out of the blue, in an unexpected place. For example, listening to old legends and stories told by the elderly can spark the flame of imagination. From a simple tale that had been retold for generations, a new and harrowing tale is born.

Since I was a young child, I was told of the infamous gunfight in Ingalls, Oklahoma Territory. Many times, I have visited the old ghost town of weathered structures, and visualized in my mind what that fateful day would have been like. Often time, I would place a hand on spots that looked like decayedbullet holes, and believe I could smell the spent gunpowder.

It was a no-brainer the first tale I wrote for Eerie Trails of the Wild Weird West was Claire Simmons, a tale that revolves around that legendary gun battle. I had relived the incident so many times in my head, it was as if I had witnessed it firsthand. I knew most the ins and outs of the story. I just needed to do a little research to fill in a few blanks. Throw in an eerie element, and the story took on a whole new perspective.

Spending a significant amount of childhood in Oklahoma, I was also exposed to many Native legends. One of those old tales made it into my collection in the story, Willows of the Mourning Dove. While I did embellish on the original folklore, certain aspects remained true to the story as I remember hearing it.

Another story, Deception at Skull Creek, was based upon various pieces of gossip I have heard throughout my life. I have often overheard women, and men too for that matter, retelling a story of a certain party. Sometimes the stories involved a granule of truth that somehow had managed to grow in depravity like a snowball rolling downhill. Though not one of the stories occurred during the time of the Wild West, it was not a stretch of the imagination to apply their sordid elements to a story of that era.

Cimarron Rose was a story based partly on fact and partly on rumors of the time. Of course, imagination took the gossip to a whole other level to give it a taste of horror. Still, if not for stories I had heard about the real Rose of Cimarron, this story would most likely have not popped in my head. Besides, rumors normally make for a much juicier read than the truth.

Though, off the top of my head, I cannot think of another story in Eerie Trails of the Wild Weird West that was inspired by folklore or gossip, I am certain one, or the other, or both, influenced a tale or two—at least marginally. After all, there is not much telling what lurks in the cobwebbed corners of my memories. Sometimes, they even reveal themselves subconsciously. One thing I do believe is readers of this collection will enjoy the strange ride through the Wild West.

Kidnapped Week! Guest Blog: When Horror and the Paranormal Collide in the Wild West by Maynard Blackoak


When Horror and the Paranormal Collide in the Wild West

Maynard Blackoak

One of the most enjoyable aspects of writing horror is that it allows the imagination to run wild. Monsters and fiends come in all shapes and sizes, from the very real to the abstract and every combination in between. There are no wrong models to use when creating a frightening tale, only those not aptly given reality in words.

There are horrors to be found in everyday life. Tiny microscopic creatures capable of devouring a body from the inside out lurk in nearly every body of water. Beasts of nature prowl nearly every nook and cranny of the globe, ready to pounce on unsuspecting victims. Vile sociopaths walk our streets dressed in suits of normality. It is a dangerous world in which we live. Any of its many real terrors make for a frightening tale. When reality collides with the paranormal, a true tale of horror with a touch of plausibility begins to unfold.

When I wrote Eerie Trails of the Wild Weird West, I took some of the real dangers of life in the old west and added an element of the supernatural. Some of the storylines borrowed heavily on old legends. Others trotted out tried and true monsters of lore. One or two added an element of mythology to give them more of a unique flavor.

Growing up I was, and still am, a huge Twilight Zone fan. Besides the odd and bizarre nature of its stories, the show also touched on societal fears of the times. Writing my tales, I could feel a Twilight Zone sway influencing me. As a result, many of the stories in my Wild West horror collection touched on the fears of that era and took on the eerie feel of that classic TV show.

Another aspect of writing horror that appeals to me is creating stories with a twist. It not only keeps a reader on their toes, but also leaves a lasting impression. Adding an unforeseen turn or two in a story jolts a reader and sometimes prompts them to reread from the beginning to ensure nothing was missed. Of course, a writer should be careful not to overuse twists in their tale. Too many turns can cause a story to lose its readability and actually make it a boring read.

It is definitely a challenge when a story unfolds to add an unexpected turn. My trick is to allow a story to basically tell itself until I reach a point where I believe the tale needs to slap the reader in the face with something they never saw coming. While many of my twists come at the end, some come earlier to take the story down another dusty trail. After all, my tales revolve around the untamed west of less traveled paths.

Writing Eerie Trails of the Wild Weird West was one of the most enjoyable experiences I have had as a writer. I love horror and am fascinated by the old west. Combining the two was a rewarding experience for me. Each word that flowed from me felt like a tribute to my love of classic horror and my cowboy roots. If enough people enjoy these fourteen horror yarns of the dusty trail, there might be a volume two forthcoming in a couple years. I know this old cowboy would sure love to take another strange ride down some eerie trails.




Kidnapped Week! Guest Blog: “Memorable Characters” by Maynard Blackoak


Memorable Characters

Maynard Blackoak

The enjoyable aspect, and sometimes the most challenging, of writing is creating characters with personalities that leap off the page. I tend to think of character development as adding flesh to words. If the people in the story do not seem real, the author has not done the tale justice. When the figures of a story take on a distinct life of their own, I feel like Doctor Frankenstein—instilling life upon a creature constructed from various corpses.

Another challenge of character development is to give each their own individual voice. As in real life, we all have our idiosyncrasies and personalities. It is what keeps the world from growing stagnant, and sometimes keeps it in conflict. Characters in a story should speak in different voices, even if the variances are slight or its reading will be monotonous.

Eerie Trails of the Wild Weird West has many diverse characters, from despicable outlaws to sympathetic individuals. There are a few villainous figures that evoke mixed feelings. There are also a handful of seemingly good people whose actions are highly suspect. Choosing a personal favorite would be difficult at best. Still, a few stand out among the others.

First and perhaps foremost are the brothers, Kid Cooper and Cole the Younger from The Culling. To explain my affinity for these characters I should reveal they were modeled after my two grandsons. Using their personalities and the character of their parents as a basis, I aged them to adulthood and placed them in the old west. Perhaps I am a little biased, but I believe they made good cowboys.

Annie Shoulders from Willows of the Mourning Dove and Hattie from Deception at Skull Creek are characters that also stand out in my mind. Annie proves herself a strong woman with grit and determination. Hattie is as tough and clever as they come. Their characters are meant to showcase that strong women inhabited the wild west as well.

Some characters appear only briefly in a story, yet manage to make a memorable impact. Loki from The Most Killed Man in the West is one of those. He only appears twice in the story, though his final appearance will leave the reader with a grin.

For pure contemptible villainy, Boone Helm of Neither Friend nor Foe Wasted is as vile as they came in the old west. He cannibalized those he counted as friend and foe alike. Given that he was just as despicable in real life as he is in the story, makes him the type of character everyone loves to hate.

Rose Dunn from Cimarron Rose is a tragic figure from the Wild West. A star-crossed lover whose place in the world was unjustly removed, it is difficult to read her saga without hoping for the best for her. Her sad tale tugs at the heartstrings all the way to the final paragraph.

I am sure the readers of this collection will have their own favorites. With so many colorful and diverse characters from which to choose, I hope they find it as difficult to select a favorite as I did.

Kidnapped Week! Guest Blog: Interview with Maynard Blackoak


Eerie Trails of the Wild Weird West Interview – Horror Tree

1: What made you decide on the Wild West as a setting for these short stories?

I’ve always been fascinated by the old west. Plus, I come from a long line of ranchers and cowboys. Add in my own experiences of wrangling cattle on horseback and it was only natural that I wrote some kind of cowboy stories.

2: How do you find inspiration for writing?

Inspiration comes in many forms. Sometimes a song conjures images in my mind. Other times a story is written in the way the wind blows. There are times looking at an old dilapidated building makes me wonder about the folks who dwelt in it or the history it might have witnessed. There’s inspiration all around me. I just never know when or how it will strike me.

3: Why horror?

My first memories are of watching the old classic black and white horror films with my momma. I grew up loving them and later on fell in love with classic horror literature

4: Who are your writing influences?

I love Poe’s use of obscure words. I love the way Dickens paints images in the mind. Since I was young, I enjoyed the way Conan Doyle challenged my mind with his intellectual approach to storytelling. I’d have to say those three influenced me more than any others

5: You have a couple books under your writing career, these are much different than Wild West. What is your most favorite subject of the horror genre?

To be honest, I don’t have a favorite. Each is fun to write in its own right, but some off more of a challenge than others. Since I don’t prefer one over any of the others, it helps maintain a diverse imagination

6: Do you believe in aliens?

Only if they believe in me and buy my books

7: If you could tell your young writing self something in three words, what would you tell them?

Don’t be stupid.

And if I can add this: put down the pen in pursuit of the mighty dollar. It is possible to keep writing while pursuing a career in the corporate world.

8: What kind of music do you listen to when you write?

Like my writing, my taste in music is diverse. I listened to a lot of cowboy music writing my Wild West tales. Other times I listened to heavy metal and in others, it was goth music. Oftentimes, my playlist is filled with songs from many genres

9: As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

Being a cowboy, I’d have to be shot if I didn’t say a horse. Besides, there’s no better way to feel free than riding a horse on the open range

10: What should we look out for in the future of your writing?

Look for something totally different than the wild west. Maybe something more like classic literature of old. Also, there just might be something more contemporary and even a little depraved. You just never know what will spin through the splintered windmill of my brain.

Kidnapped Week! Guest Blog: Spotlight “Eerie Trails….of the Wild Weird West”




Eerie Trailsof the Wild Weird West

In this collection of fourteen strange tales from the wild west, Cowboys and Indians face down supernatural beings of all varieties – from vampires and werewolves; to ghosts and vengeful spirits; to mythological creatures.

Saddle up cowboys and ladies alike, once the journey begins, Eerie Trails of the Wild Weird West will take you down a strange and bizarre path through the old west that you’ve never been on before.

Available on:

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maynardblackoakAbout the Author — Maynard Blackoak is a freelance writer living in the backwoods of Pawnee County, Oklahoma. He draws upon the sights of neglect and unusual sounds around him for inspiration. A bit of a recluse, he can often be found strolling through an old, forgotten cemetery or in the woods among the twisted black oaks and native elms under the light of the moon.

Twitter: @maynardblackoak

Facebook: Maynard Blackoak

Kidnapped! Dystopian Nightmare by Jessica B Bell


Dystopian Nightmare

Jessica B. Bell

One of my favourite books of all time is Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. It is at once cynical and hopeful, and made me believe that stories were worthwhile, even if sometimes people aren’t. Bradbury believed that TV was the beginning of it all – that our attention spans would drop substantially, and that political correctness would lead to censorship on the ultimate scale. Reading his 1953 novel in a modern age, one can see with eerie hindsight how prophetic his work was. He may have never seen a Reality TV show or surfed the Internet, but the entertainment diversions he described in his book were very much in the same vein.

There was a time when dystopian literature spoke to the ills of the day, and was treated as cautionary or satirical. Now, it’s become something of a setting. Write a story and set it in a post-war setting where personal freedoms and liberties have been suspended or done away with altogether. Aesthetic versus social platform.

I started writing the story that would eventually become H(A)UNTED several years ago. It started as notes in a book – character sketches, really – about a very diverse crew of participants in a game show shot in outer space. Only my characters were all caricatures, really. Each character I developed was more ham-fisted and soap-boxy than the next, each representing a current red-button topic. We had the woman who had over 100 abortions so she could sell the tissue for stem cell research. Then there was the man who claimed to be the returned Jesus Christ and, well – you get the picture. It wasn’t a story at all so much as a socio-political statement, and transparently so. There’s a fine line between hitting someone over the head to get your point across and a laughable lack of subtlety.

So I abandoned the story – I’d flip through the book now and again, have a good laugh at myself – but still kept the plot in the back of my mind, so if I ever figured out a proper way to tell the story, I would.

I’d like to say that it came easy, but that would be a lie. It simmered on the back burner for so long, that I eventually used part of the idea as an anecdote in another story (but that’s a tale for another time). I was happy it found a home, but I was still unsatisfied, feeling it could be expanded into something all its own.

Opportunity struck a couple of years ago when I was asked to write a horror story with a sci-fi bent. So, I unpacked my old notebook, got rid of all the heavy-handed political soap-boxing, and re-invented the story as a slasher-flick in space. With, I’ll admit, a little bit of social commentary thrown in for good measure.

You can find the end result, a socio-political-sci-fi-horror tale called H(A)UNTED in Viscera, a collection of strange tales published by Sirens Call Publications and available now.



Jessica B. Bell is a Canadian writer of strange fiction. It is rumoured that she lives in a damp, dark basement, writing her twisted tales in her own blood on faded yellow parchment. Her stories have been published in various anthologies, the most recent of which is Voices. She also writes under the name Helena Hann-Basquiat, and has published two novels on the metafictional topic of Jessica B. Bell, titled Jessica and Singularity. A third and final novel is planned for 2017.

Find more of Jessica’s (and Helena’s) writing at

Kidnapped! Under the Stairs at Grandmother’s House by Jessica B Bell


Under the Stairs at Grandmother’s House

Jessica B. Bell

When I was a kid, the Bookmobile used to come and park at the end of our street in a little cul-de-sac that once had a tree that all the neighbourhood kids claimed as their own. Now there are low-income apartments there, and kids don’t read books anymore, but there was a time when we would all run, or ride our bikes down to the Bookmobile to borrow books from the travelling library. In the summertime there would be contests for how many books you could read, and of course I always won.

One of my earliest favourites was a book titled Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and its many sequels – More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Even More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, The Bride of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, The Revenge of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and my personal favourite, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark versus Predator. Okay, so I may have made some of those up, but the point is, there were a bunch, and they contained such gems as Don’t Ever Laugh When the Hearse Goes By, which I can probably recite to this day. It wasn’t just prose stories, but rather, creepy rhyming poems that were part Dr. Seuss, part Shel Silverstein, and part 1960s EC Horror Comics. It was all very tongue-in-cheek, but the laughter was often uneasy, or perhaps, the laughter was a magic talisman to keep the creeps away.

These stories and poems were some of my first experiences with horror, and I knew even at a young age that I wanted to write like that. There was a dark magic to it – so much so that I began writing stories that very summer. Were they fantastic? Not so much. But I was only about 12, so cut me some slack.

Everyone I know was afraid of the dark at one point – I’ll admit, I still don’t like going into the basement by myself – even though rationally, we know there’s nothing there that wasn’t there in the light. But there was always something about the basement in my grandmother’s house that just didn’t feel right to me. I was sure that there was something living under the stairs – it just smelled wrong down there. It was an old, sick, hungry smell, and I was terrified – no, I knew – that every single creak of the stairs as I tiptoed down them would surely wake that creature, and it would swallow me whole. I can’t tell you how many times I went down into that crypt of a basement, only to run back up the stairs, heart pounding in my chest, breath catching in my throat, sure that I could feel its hot, eager breath on the back of my neck.

Not that I dared turn around and look, of course. That’s how they get you, you know.

Under the Stairs is just such a story – about a monster under the stairs at grandmother’s house – and is told in playful rhyme, like in those Scary Stories… books. You can find it in Viscera, published by Sirens Call Publications and available now. Read it in the dark – if you dare.



Jessica B. Bell is a Canadian writer of strange fiction. It is rumoured that she lives in a damp, dark basement, writing her twisted tales in her own blood on faded yellow parchment. Her stories have been published in various anthologies, the most recent of which is Voices. She also writes under the name Helena Hann-Basquiat, and has published two novels on the metafictional topic of Jessica B. Bell, titled Jessica and Singularity. A third and final novel is planned for 2017.

Find more of Jessica’s (and Helena’s) writing at

Kidnapped! The Lighter Side of Horror By Jessica B Bell


The Lighter Side of Horror

Jessica B. Bell

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before – two cannibals are having dinner, and the one cannibal says to the other “You know, I really can’t stand my mother-in-law,” and the other one answers “So try the salad.”

I have always been a fan of grim, groaning humour – the kind you’d find in a Tales From the Crypt story or perhaps the ridiculous puns of Freddy Krueger in the later Nightmare on Elm Street movies. And of course, the slapstick hijinks of Ash in Army of Darkness are always highly entertaining. Sometimes you need a little laughter to keep the ghouls at bay.

When I was really young, I remember reading a book called The Celery Stalks at Midnight, and its sequel, Bunnicula – yes, about a vampire bunny. Even at an early age, I was drawn to the so-called “dark side” of things. Monsters are so much a part of pop culture and our collective consciousness that there are even cute, cuddly, friendly versions of them. The monsters of Monster High are by no means dangerous, and this may date me, but there was even a time when everyone wanted their own My Pet Monster.

There’s a great Canadian show called Ruby Gloom which promises to show you “the bright side of the dark side” and features talking skeletons, a Raven named Poe, and a two-headed guitarist named Frank and Len, who frequently make musical references that truly, only the parents watching will understand. If Robert Smith from The Cure made cartoons instead of music, this cartoon would be it (actually, it’s made by the same people that made the Beetlejuice cartoon from the late ‘80s). Further back than that, there was Casper the friendly ghost, and nobody was afraid of him. But even children are fascinated with ghosts and monsters – because we all enjoy being scared – it gives us a thrill, it gets our adrenaline pumping, and it makes us feel alive. But lets not go to far – I’m not saying show slasher films to children – I’m saying that by normalizing monsters, it can teach children how to deal with their fear; let them no that there are no real vampires. After all, no one’s afraid of the Count from Sesame Street sneaking into Big Bird’s house and sucking his blood while the giant yellow bird sleeps, tucking his beak under one wing and dreaming of snuffing out Snuffaluffagus. (But wouldn’t that make for a great episode?)

Someone challenged me to make a child-friendly horror story, and so, I tried to put myself back in the head of a little girl, and how she would see the world, with her limited knowledge and vocabulary. I don’t know if I succeeded completely, but Hannah Marie’s Theory on Vampires, Cereal Killers and Scary Mummies is a look into the scary world of a six-year-old in the cereal aisle of her local supermarket. Read it, and other stories (none of which are suitable for a six-year-old, I promise you) in Viscera, a collection of strange tales published by Sirens Call Publications and available now.



Jessica B. Bell is a Canadian writer of strange fiction. It is rumoured that she lives in a damp, dark basement, writing her twisted tales in her own blood on faded yellow parchment. Her stories have been published in various anthologies, the most recent of which is Voices. She also writes under the name Helena Hann-Basquiat, and has published two novels on the metafictional topic of Jessica B. Bell, titled Jessica and Singularity. A third and final novel is planned for 2017.

Find more of Jessica’s (and Helena’s) writing at

Kidnapped! Ghost Stories by Jessica B Bell


Ghost Stories

Jessica B. Bell

I am a sucker for a good ghost story – but then, I should qualify that by telling you what I think is a good ghost story. I’ve always been of the opinion that the less you see, the scarier it is. There are exceptions, of course – Guilermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak has a ghost that makes you shiver – but for the most part, special effects are, in my opinion, no match for a well-written Gothic story that hints, suggests, and frightens you with the possibility of a ghost.

Even more, I like stories where you know there are ghosts – a ghost might even be the narrator, or a main character. Or perhaps, a character whose exploits you’ve been reading is revealed to be a ghost.

There are all sorts of different philosophies or mythologies about ghosts, and when you’re writing about ghosts, you have to sort of decide what the rules of your universe are. What are ghosts? Are they demons? Are they just unlucky souls who got trapped here, unable to move on? Are they bound here by some unfinished business, like revenge? Are they aware of the living? Or is their presence merely an echo of past events, and we are only frightened by them because of a sense of violation, which is further frustrated by an inability to communicate with them.

And speaking of communicating – do they communicate? What of mediums and necromancers – can they talk to the dead? Can they be trapped? Should you cross the streams? What do you do if someone asks you if you are a god?

I think it’s great there are so many types of ghost stories – from those intended to make you pee your pants with fright, to those intended to make you laugh until you, well, pee your pants again. Not that ghost stories are only intended to make you incontinent, but it happens. One of the earliest movies that gave me nightmares was Poltergeist, and it’s still a classic. It defines an entire subgenre of ghost stories, and the horror trope of the house built on top of an old graveyard. This was the first time I’d seen a real reason behind the haunting, and it started a life-long love affair with stories about haunted hotels, creepy old psychiatric hospitals and abandoned mining towns.

I love the stories behind the ghost stories. I’m a sucker for Gothic stories, and so I want to know how the ghost died; who they were when they were alive; why they are still here. I want to know what their connection is with the person being haunted, if there is one. Because for me, a good ghost story is a tragedy. Whatever caused this soul to remain behind must have been terrible – or tragic. I’ll admit, I’m also a sucker for a ‘love conquers death’ story, where the reason the ghost stays behind is because they cannot bear to be parted from their beloved (cue Unchained Melody and bring me my potter’s wheel).

The Lessons of the Courtyard is a horror story, and it is also a tragedy – the story of a mother forced to watch her son be raised by her brutish husband, unable to temper him with a mother’s touch. Read it and more in Viscera, a collection of strange tales published by Sirens Call Publications and available now.




Jessica B. Bell is a Canadian writer of strange fiction. It is rumoured that she lives in a damp, dark basement, writing her twisted tales in her own blood on faded yellow parchment. Her stories have been published in various anthologies, the most recent of which is Voices. She also writes under the name Helena Hann-Basquiat, and has published two novels on the metafictional topic of Jessica B. Bell, titled Jessica and Singularity. A third and final novel is planned for 2017.

Find more of Jessica’s (and Helena’s) writing at

Review of Viscera by Jessica B Bell

Review of Viscera by Jessica B Bell

viscera_frontcover_promoJessica B Bell has successfully found scary, turns it nicely and ever so sweet into a bow of nightmares.

This anthology starts out with a nice little joke and moves into a nice little recipe leaving me wanting some munchies. Jessica B Bell has left me impatiently waiting for  Thirty Seven coming out on the 24th of this month… yay!  I read this book out of excitement from one story to the next and when I finished, I instantly wanted a second installment. The stories vary well enough to have diversity but go together in a perfect way to keep boosting your fear and what just happened meter.

I enjoyed a few stories in this book and she will be sharing a couple of them in the next few days. Be sure to read “A Visit to the Doctor”. This is by far my favorite poem. She has a short very short story “The Banshee” and a cute photo to accompany it. The anthology is a great showcase of Jessica B Bell’s talents and ability to scare leaving me wanting more. She will be sharing a couple of her stories in the next few days…. be sure to check them out!

Kidnapped! Jessica B Bell Interview


Interview with Jessica B. Bell 


How long have you been writing? What inspired you to be a writer?


Oh, I’ve been writing since I could hold a pencil. I’ve loved reading my whole life – my parents read me Dr. Seuss and such before I could read on my own, but once I figured out how to read stories, I knew I wanted to tell some of my own. Whether or not I’ll ever be able to do it for a living, I know I’ll always have stories to tell.


What is the best horror movie you have seen? Worst?


I am a huge fan of 28 Days Later, and even the sequel, 28 Weeks Later is great. I also love Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula, even with Keanu Reeves’ and Winona Ryder’s questionable English accents, or lack thereof (Gary Oldman redeems it all). The cinematography is phenomenal (those shadows moving by themselves were a nice touch) and the score is perfectly haunting. It came out when I was in high school, and I snuck out my parents’ car to go see it in the theater three nights in a row.

Every once in awhile, I come across a title on Netflix or Kodi that just begs to be seen, if only out of morbid curiosity. I found a movie once called The Shark Exorcist that was as bad as you think it was. Of course, I also think that there are a lot of mainstream, successful films that are just awful, but everyone has their preferences.


Why did you choose the horror genre?


I like weird things, and I like to try all sorts of different genres, but when I’m taking my writing seriously, I always seem to end up writing strange tales – not necessarily horror, but definitely strange. Like many of us, my parents read Stephen King, and when I was old enough, I started reading him, and Dean Koontz, and Anne Rice. They were okay, but I wanted more, and so I started reading classics like Poe, Shirley Jackson, Ray Bradbury, and of course, Dracula, Frankenstein, things like that. I like horror so much that I’m sort of a student of the genre. When I write, I’m very aware of the conventions and tropes that people are familiar with, and try to incorporate them into my own work.


When you want to be inspired, what do you use for inspiration?


Music, for the most part. Or I’ll go for a drive. I’ll dictate notes to my phone, which is great unless you accidentally reset your phone and lose all your notes.


Coffee or pizza?


Two of my favourite things, really, and both go great for breakfast, but if you’re talking about as a weapon (like, say, in the game of Clue), I’d go with a nice scalding cuppa joe. Colonel Mustard in the kitchen with a Venti Americano.


Which story in Viscera is your favorite? 


So, I have a few, of course, but two in particular spring to mind (this time you ask me, anyway – ask me again tomorrow and I’ll give you a different answer). Paraxenogenesis, or, What Alice Found There is the completed version of a story I’ve been trying to write since I was about 15 years old. It’s changed completely, of course, but the crux of it was a nightmare I had as a kid. The other story is the title story, Viscera, about which I initially had reservations. More than any other story in the collection, this was the one that I sent out for beta-readers to give feedback on. The story itself is a bit of chicanery, and I wanted to make sure I pulled it off successfully, and that I wasn’t being obtuse. But I didn’t absolutely love the story until I had a reader come to me in tears, saying how much the story had moved her. She’d seen the metaphors in the story that others had missed, and when you connect with a reader like that, well, there’s nothing better.


What theme do you enjoy writing about? Space, aliens, zombies, death etc etc?


Yes. Actually, it’s strange. I don’t usually like writing about space or aliens, but that’s not to say I wouldn’t. Ridley Scott’s Alien is, in my opinion, the best sci-fi horror movie ever – and Giger’s creature (as well as his other art) was hugely influential, not only on my nightmares, but in my stories as well, particularly Paraxenogenesis. I like writing about broken characters trying to make their way through unusual situations. I really like writing about cults, strange gods, human sacrifice, ancient rituals, and the like. My upcoming novel, CHUK, deals with all of those, and a swamp monster to boot.


You have a story about alien abduction in this collection, do you believe they are real?


I, ahem, want to believe.


What is a scary night / nightmare you can’t forget?


One year on Halloween night, a friend (I use the term loosely) took me to an old, unfinished tunnel that went halfway under the Welland Canal. There was a ghost story attached to the place, of course – some legend about a spurned lover who accidentally stumbled into the tunnel and dropped her lantern, burning herself to death. We went into the tunnel, in the dark, and my friend’s flashlight batteries conveniently died. So of course, we had to resort to flicking our lighters to light the way, but even that was short-lived, as our thumbs began burning. At some point, my friend stopped walking as I continued toward the back of the tunnel. We were so far in that if I turned back, the opening of the tunnel was only about the size of my fist. It was about then that my friend decided to tell me the rest of the legend – that if you lit a match at midnight, the sight of the fire would cause the ghost to scream. Well, we didn’t see a ghost, but when my friend lit a match, blew it out, and began to scream, I may or may not have ran so hard toward to the open end of the tunnel that I knocked her over and together, covered in mud and laughing, we stumbled our way back out into the night air, where I gave her hell for scaring me so.


Cats or dogs?

Either is good if prepared correctly. But you mean… anyway, I like cats but I don’t trust them. Something inherently evil about them. Dogs are great companions, but they’re dumb as dirt.


What made you want to do a collection of short stories?


I’ve been writing short fiction for years now, in between bigger ideas. Even if I was working on a novel, there would be ideas that came that were smaller. I was given a tattered copy of Night Shift by Stephen King when I was a teenager, and between that and a collection called Sandkings by George R.R. Martin, I fell in love with the short story format. I hope that readers will get a taste for my writing with these small chunks as an appetizer, and hunger for more.


I saw that there is a poem in the collection. I liked it… and woah by the way… What made you decide to include it?


There are actually a couple of poetic works in the collection, but if you are referring to A Visit to the Doctor, then I’m glad you liked it. I love the ambiguity of what’s actually going on in the poem. A lot of my writing uses normal, everyday occurrences (like going to the doctor) and juxtaposes them with something twisted. The result is something quite horrific.

***Editor’s Note: I was talking about A Visit to the Doctor and Woah… I loved it.


Last question: What should we be looking out for in the future from you?


2017 should bring at least two new books – CHUK is my first full-length novel, and is currently being edited for publication – and I am working with a handful of other writers to finish Incarnate, the third and final book in the meta-fictional Jessica series. I’m also working on a book cycle called The People of the Manatii. The first book is already written, and the second is brewing.



Jessica B. Bell is a Canadian writer of strange fiction. It is rumoured that she lives in a damp, dark basement, writing her twisted tales in her own blood on faded yellow parchment. Her stories have been published in various anthologies, the most recent of which is Voices. She also writes under the name Helena Hann-Basquiat, and has published two novels on the metafictional topic of Jessica B. Bell, titled Jessica and Singularity. A third and final novel is planned for 2017.

Find more of Jessica’s (and Helena’s) writing at

Kidnapped! Automatism Press : “The Acid That Dissolves Images” by Loren Rhoads


A Taste of “The Acid That Dissolves Images”

by Loren Rhoads

This story was initially published in Lend the Eye a Terrible Aspect in 1994. It was republished in the Ashes & Rust chapbook.

You throw the magazine into the jumble of makeup heaped beneath the mirror. “Pretentious gory poseur,” the critic called you, “bastard love-child of Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson, and the whole 20th-century shock-rock scene.” You draw a (hopefully) calming breath. The critic obviously hadn’t stayed for the whole show.

Obviously. Medusa is an angry itch inside you, mixed in the bile that creeps up the back of your throat. You suck miserably on a beer, but the bitter taste won’t go away. How long can this sane front hold?

Your hands shake as you load the gun. The first bullet shatters the mirror, your reflection; the second silences the digiplayer. As Medusa rises, you feel the hardness returning. It feels good.

Medusa wonders: if she shot the body you share in the shoulder, could you still go on stage — despite the pain, despite your arm hanging incarnadine against the shiny black latex bodysuit? You wish there were some way to shoot her. Instead, you hold the magazine at arm’s length and blow it to confetti. It snows down around you, smelling of cordite.

Over the dressing room intercom, Carl asks, “Are you ready, Rachel?”

In response, Medusa laughs. Her low, cruel cackle has become your trademark.

To invite him in, you promise, “I won’t shoot you.” Still, the creature inside you might, just to see how Carl would meet death. He is one of the few young men you know, a conscientious objector. A couple of months ago, he claimed he would rather report to prison — with all that entailed — than join the Army. But the night his draft notice came, Medusa plucked out his eyes on stage. Carl fainted before she finished the first one.


He can’t afford cybernetic replacements, of course, and the Army won’t lay out that kind of cash for a grunt they don’t expect to see again once they dump him in the desert.

You’ve been wondering why Carl stayed in the band. Maybe, in a twisted way, he is grateful to Medusa. He’s as friendly to you as anyone dares to be these days.

Carl opens the dressing room door. He seems to regard you through the gauze that covers his empty sockets. “Did you read the review in Modern Image?” he asks.

You decide to be honest. “Why did our first national publicity have to be a slam?”

Any mention is better than no mention at all.” Carl crosses his arms on his chest and leans against the doorframe. “Sounded to me like she made up her mind about us before the show started, then left after the first song. They call the magazine Image, not Substance.” He smiled. “It hasn’t affected the size of tonight’s crowd. Maybe it helped.”

You wish he hadn’t told you that. Medusa has gotten really wild on the nights she’s had a big audience. Last time it was Carl. How can she top that? Feigning calm, you jab the pointed nail of your little finger at your eyelashes, forcing the mascara to spike still more. Finally you say screwit and pull the bone-white shock of bangs into your face. These normal gestures do not faze Medusa. She shows you white hair clotted with crimson. Behind it, your shattered reflection wears Medusa’s smile.

You follow Carl from the dressing room. The cinderblocks of the hall are covered with the graffiti of a hundred bands. Most of the names are unfamiliar. When you reach the wings, the effluvia of spilled beer and hair mousse washes over you. You envision the crowd: witch bitches in their black gowns and silver talismans, knots of mohawked punks, a tourist or two in bondage gear. Desperate women, wanting a spectacle to make them forget how lonely they are, how long ago their men disappeared into the desert. Carl gets laid every night. So does the computer jockey, Ann. It seems forever since you’ve had anybody but Medusa for company.

The band stands in a clump, passing a joint of Lydia’s one-hit weed. Though excluded, you bask in their camaraderie. Again you are glad to have answered their ad for a singer. The performances allow you respite from Medusa, when you don’t need to clutch her leash so tightly. Now that she’s grown abusive of this freedom, perhaps you should quit.

Poseur,” Medusa murmurs. “You would quit after one scathing review. I don’t need you holding me back any longer.”

You realize Medusa still holds the gun. You thrust it through the back of your belt and hope she will forget about it. How likely is that? Still, she can’t kill you. She needs you to move around in. And she needs the band, to do whatever it is she’s come to do. You promise yourself that they’ll be safe.

The houselights dim. The audience rustles, a thousand-eyed beast whose attention is suddenly focused. Your fingertips are icy as you slip the microphone over your head, switch on the box of effects at your hip. “I’ll show you gore,” Medusa teases. You wish you knew what she has planned, but you never do.

The machines kick on, spewing pale smoke that smells like myrrh. In the gloom, Ann’s computer lights glow a malevolent red. Lydia leads Carl to his drums, waits solicitously for him to find the controls. Then she lifts her bass from its cradle and turns up the volume.

A moan begins, like a graveyard wind. Lydia weaves in a rapid bass melody.

When the fog reaches your knees, you pace slowly to downstage middle. Thus ends the rehearsed part of the show.

Is ecstasy possible in destruction?” Medusa whispers through the effects box. The reverse reverb repeats each word, clarifying it before biting it off. “Can one grow young in cruelty?”

Fear becomes a chill rock in your stomach.

Do you desire to see the Truth?” Medusa asks.

A stark white spotlight pierces the smoke to strike harsh reflections off the shiny latex bodysuit. With one hand, Medusa forces your head back, caresses your throat, cups one breast, hugs your bony ribs. Yes, she is killing you. You shiver, though not altogether in fear.

Do you desire essential satisfaction?” Medusa purrs. “I do.”

With a savage tug, she rips an earring from your left ear, throws it to the stage, and mashes the silver nude beneath her boot. Blood drips on your neck, warm, sensual. Medusa touches her fingers to it, brushes it across your lips. Delicious.

Let us enjoy ourselves to the full. ’Tis Nature’s law.”


Medusa steals lyrics from Rimbaud, Crowley, Huysmans, everyone you’ve read. She has an incredible memory for cruelty.

Women crowd around the stage. Someone thrusts a black-gloved fist into the spotlight. You wonder what they derive from Medusa, why her fury attracts and binds them, mothlike, as it does you. Medusa only smiles.

A flashbulb dazzles your eyes.

Medusa stalks toward the flash, hissing lines from The Torture Garden into the microphone. The crowd washes after her, waves against the breakwater of the stage.

She halts, swaying on stiletto boot heels. Anger pounds like a bass drum inside your skull. You have to fight her to see.

The fortyish woman holds a camera at arm’s length over her head and snaps another picture. Trendy gold fans shield her ears. Her painstakingly ratted hair glows plum in the lights. You recognize her as the critic from Modern Image. Why could she be here, Medusa demands, unless to see if she has destroyed you?

Now that she has your attention, the critic shouts something. Sandwiched chest-high against the stage by the crowd, she is white-faced. You can’t hear her over the Berlioz melody Ann’s computer is generating. As you bend close to the footlights, Medusa switches on the flanger.

I can’t breathe,” the critic gasps. Your microphone Doppler-shifts the words, giving them a ghostly echo.

Like a bird of prey, Medusa’s laugh spirals up over the effects. She strides across the stage to Carl, drapes her arms over his shoulders, pinches his nipples through his black T-shirt. He freezes, rigid against your chest. “Count yourself lucky, bitch,” Medusa snarls. “Some people can’t see.”

To be continued!

Lend the Eye a Terrible Aspect:

Ashes & Rust for the kindle:

Both are available on my bookshop:

Kidnapped! Automatism Press : How Horror Writers Show Their Morbid Curiosity by Loren Rhoads


How Horror Writers Show Their Morbid Curiosity

by Loren Rhoads

Because I hosted several annual Open Mics for Morbid Curiosity magazine at the World Horror Conventions, I had the opportunity to meet a whole bunch of horror writers.  I was surprised how easy it was to get them up on a stage, baring their real lives in front of an audience.

In fact, Brian Keene opened Morbid Curiosity #7 with a story that he’d rocked at the Open Mic in Chicago.  “Kick ’em Where it Counts” is one of my favorite stories that I was ever lucky enough to publish.  It’s about an industrial accident that nearly took Keene’s manhood and his life.  You can still wince along in sympathy (even I did and my manhood lives in a drawer) by picking up one of the few remaining copies of that issue of the magazine.


Rain Graves told the story of her awakening to the powers of Ancient Egypt at work in her life, which added a mystical touch to one of the Open Mics.  Michael Arnzen told about growing up in Amityville, near the house where Ronald DeFeo killed his family. Mason Winfield unwittingly lived with the .22-Caliber Killer. Lorelei Shannon talked about discovering the Hellraiser Gopher. I even got Brian Hodge to tell the story of how he talked with angels.

Those live events were really great because I never knew what I was going to get.

Another writer who blew me away was Simon Wood, who contributed “The Road of Life” to #7.  He wrote about running into a bicyclist with his car — and he’s read it several times for Morbid Curiosity events.  The story is just chilling, especially if you don’t know what’s coming next.  (Sorry to have just spoiled it for you.)

Most of the issues of the magazine are sold out now, but you can still check out the remaining copies here:

Kidnapped! Behind “The Shattered Rose” by Loren Rhodes


Behind “The Shattered Rose”

by Loren Rhoads

When I first moved to San Francisco, I lived in between the Castro neighborhood and Haight-Ashbury. The house, an old Victorian that survived the 1906 earthquake, became a focal point for a large group of friends.

Quite often we’d go wandering on weekend nights. Sometimes we’d hike over to Corona Heights, a former quarry turned into a park that had a spectacular view of the city. Other times we’d go to Buena Vista Park, where the rain gutters are lined with broken tombstones. When we were up for a longer hike, we’d walk to Golden Gate Park.

In the late 1980s, the Haight was no safer than it is now. Men would stroll the street, chanting, “Doses, doses” or “Kind bud” or “What do you need?” When the Dead were in town, kids slept in doorways, on the neighbors’ porches or under any friendly bush in the park. People were constantly going off their meds, arguing with trees or simply ranting in the middle of the street.

So, roaming around in a pack of 8 or 10 fine young punks was very liberating for a sheltered farm girl trying to settle into the big city. Mostly, we went to Golden Gate Park to drink beer and play on the swings in the Children’s Playground, but sometimes we’d climb above the manmade waterfall on Strawberry Hill to look at the city lights and be part of the quiet darkness.

“The Shattered Rose” was inspired by those nocturnal ramblings. I adored the way the fog moved in the streetlights as if it was alive. I loved the salty flavor of the fog on my lips and the way it tingled on my face. I marveled at the way sounds could be so muted, edges so softened, as the ocean breathed over the land.

I really did see a rose thrown down on the sidewalk one night. It had been dashed to the ground so hard that its petals flew off like broken crockery. I knew the image would appear in a story someday.

And we really did startle a heron out of Hiawatha’s pond over by the DeYoung Museum. I thought the elegant bird was a statue, until it launched itself into the air, circled over our heads once, and flew away.

In addition to wandering San Francisco at night, the story was inspired by Dracula. When I read the novel the first time, I was deeply impressed by the baptism of blood, when Dracula opens a vein in his chest and forces Mina to drink his blood. For me, vampire stories – however sexy – are all about the blood.

I’d been reading the Sisters of Darkness and Love in Vein anthologies and I decided that the thing they lacked was that they weren’t bloody enough. I wanted my vampire erotica to be sticky and crimson.

“The Shattered Rose” appeared originally in the Paramental Appreciation Society chapbook, alongside a hardboiled magical detective story by Seth Lindberg, a gritty Tenderloin fairy tale by Lilah Wild, and a series of amazing fantasmagoric vignettes by Claudius Reich. San Francisco never looked so magical.

Link to the Paramental Appreciation Society chapbook: Paramental Appreciation Society

Kidnapped! The Death’s Garden Revisited Submissions Call


The Death’s Garden Revisited call for submissions

by Loren Rhoads

Twenty years ago, I was given a box of miscellaneous cemetery photos. They had been taken by my best friend’s husband over the course of his travels around the Americas. Blair was 28 years old and dying of AIDS. He wanted to know his photos had a good home.

I decided to put together a book that would feature those photos. Initially, I was going to write all the text, but as I talked to people about the project, everyone seemed to have a cemetery story to tell.

The book title expanded from Death’s Garden to Death’s Garden: Relationships with Cemeteries. I was thrilled to discover that people I knew — even complete strangers — all had a graveyard they’d connected with. Whether it be because a family member was buried there, visited it on vacation, grown up in a house near it, or for a whole bouquet of other reasons.

The contributors varied from people I met through zine publishing, a ceramics professor at Ohio State University, authors for the LA Weekly, professional artists, photographers, underground musicians, depressed high school girls, and punk rock diva Lydia Lunch. As the book came together, Death’s Garden blew away my expectations.

The initial print ran of 1,000 copies and sold out 18 months. I only asked for one-time rights to use everyone’s contributions, so I couldn’t republish it. Once the books were gone, that was it.

As the years passed, I’ve lost track of many of the contributors. Some are dead and have a different relationship with cemeteries now. Others have sunk into the anonymity of a pseudonym on the internet.

For a while now, I’ve wanted to assemble a second volume of Death’s Garden.  I think there are a lot more stories to be told about relationships people have formed with graveyards. For instance, what’s it like to be a tour guide? How are cemetery weddings different than others? What’s the strangest cemetery you’ve ever visited, or the most beautiful, or the spookiest?

This is open to anyone who has visited a cemetery where something special happened, either good or bad.  Tell me about your relationship with a cemetery.  I’d like to publish it on

What I’m looking for:

  • personal essays that focus on a single cemetery
  • preferably with pictures
  • under 1500 words (totally negotiable, but the limit is something to shoot for)
  • descriptive writing
  • characterization, dialogue, tension: all the tools you’d use to tell a story
  • but this MUST be true — and it must have happened to you!

Reprints are fine.  If you’ve written something lovely on your blog and wouldn’t mind it reaching the couple thousand people who subscribe to Cemetery Travel, let me know.

If I accept your essay for publication on Cemetery Travel, be warned: I may do some light editing, with your permission.

Also, I’ll need:

  • a bio of 50-100 words
  • a photo of you
  • a link to your blog or book
  • links to your social media sites, so people can follow you.

Finally, if — as I hope — this project progresses to becoming a legitimate book, I will contact you with a contract and offer of payment.  Stay tuned!

Send your essay to me at

Kidnapped! Automatism Press


Automatism Press is a two-person operation based in San Francisco. It was started in 1990 by Mason Jones and Loren Rhoads, went dormant for several years after the death of Morbid Curiosity magazine, and has recently returned with the books Lost Angels and Black Light, both published earlier this year.

Horror Addicts: What inspired you to start a press?

Loren Rhoads: When Mason and I first moved to San Francisco, we went to a lecture by Vale and AJ of RE/Search Books. They’d already published the William Burroughs/Brion Gysin/Throbbing Gristle book and the Industrial Culture Handbook, both of which we’d bought in Ann Arbor. At the time of the lecture, they were looking for help with their next book, which turned out to be Modern Primitives. They were very open about how they produced books, from interviewing subjects to design and layout to fulfilling orders. Working for them was a real education.

HA: Tell us about Automatism Press’s first book.


Loren: It was called Lend the Eye a Terrible Aspect, after the St. Crispin’s Day speech in Shakespeare’s Henry the V. We published it in 1994. It was a collection of stories and essays about North America on the brink of the 21st century: very earnest, very punk rock. In fact, it includes an essay by Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys about legalizing marijuana. One of my favorite essays is about the human need to form tribes by Claudius Reich.


HA: What inspired your second book, Death’s Garden: Relationships with Cemeteries?

Loren: My best friend’s husband was dying of AIDS in the early 90s. Blair gave me a bunch of photographs of graveyards he had visited. Originally, I was just going to publish his photos, but the more people I spoke to about the project, the more personal essays I got for it. Death’s Garden has been out of print for years, but I’m still really proud of it.

HA: How did Death’s Garden lead to publishing zines?

Loren: Mason started an indy record label called Charnel Music, which brought a lot of Japanese bands to the US. He hit on the idea of interviewing the bands and reviewing Japanese records, movies, candy – every part of Japanese underground or pop culture – so he started a zine called Ongaku Otaku. He would get the best things in the mail for the zine…and I got jealous. I wanted cool stuff in the mail, too. I realized I needed to publish my own zine.

I’d really enjoyed the process of assembling Death’s Garden, particularly the part where I got true stories from strangers. So I decided I wanted to receive confessional essays from people I didn’t know.

I never considered any other name for the project than Morbid Curiosity.


HA: Morbid Curiosity magazine was published annually for ten years. What was it like putting it together?

Loren: It was an amazing amount of fun. I was always impressed by the things people would confess to, from deeply personal medical issues to coming in contact with serial killers to adventures that might possibly get them arrested. I never knew what was going to come in the mail next.

Even better were the live events. I started out hosting yearly release parties at Borderlands Bookstore, which brought together hundreds of people. I just adored hearing people confess in front of an audience. Those readings led to open mics at the World Horror Conventions and then on to being on NPR and all kinds of crazy stuff.

HA: Why’d you quit?

Loren: By 2006, the world had changed. Stories that would have come to Morbid Curiosity were going up on Livejournal instead. Tower Records had been one of my biggest distributors, so when it closed down, it was suddenly a whole lot harder for me to sell magazines. I lost thousands of dollars in their collapse. And I had a kid by then, so I didn’t have the time or patience to make the magazine great any more.

Ten issues seemed like a good place to go out: while the magazine was still good, still loved.

HA: What came next?

Loren: Automatism published a couple of chapbooks. The first was Ashes & Rust, which Alan at Borderlands Bookstore recommended I put together after he invited me to read at my first Litcrawl in 2005. Ashes & Rust collected up four of my science fiction stories that had been published in little magazines. I described it as “Sex. Drugs. Rock’n’roll. Space aliens. Demonic possession. Murder. Friendship.” All the best things in life.

After that, we published the Paramental Appreciation Society chapbook. The Paramentals were a writing group that I belonged to for six years. It included Claudius Reich (who had been in both Automatism anthologies and most issues of Morbid Curiosity), Lilah Wild, Seth Lindberg, and A.M. Muffaz, all of whom I’d worked with on Morbid Curiosity. Mason was a member of the group, too, for a while.

The chapbook contains my erotic vampire story set in Golden Gate Park, a witchy fairy tale set in the Tenderloin, a dragon slayer’s adventure set in Lower Pacific Heights, and then explores what the BART trains are really running from.

HA: Then the press went silent for a number of years.

Loren: Yeah, my own writing and editing career took off finally. I sold Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues, a best of Morbid Curiosity book, to Scribner, which led to a collection of my cemetery travel essays called Wish You Were Here on Western Legends, a novel on Black Bed Sheets, a space opera trilogy at Night Shade, and a bunch more short stories published in books and magazines. I was too busy to be a publisher for a while.

HA: What brought you back?

Loren: The contract expired on my succubus novel and I got the rights back. It had always been planned as a two-book series, so I released the first book, Lost Angels, in April with my preferred text and a new cover.

HA: How did you publish the next book?

Loren: I served as a beta reader for Martha Allard’s Black Light. It is an amazing, aching ghost story with psychic vampires set in the rock-n-roll world of the 1980s. Martha had been planning to self-publish it when Mason heard me raving about it. He suggested we do it for her. I can’t say enough good things about the book. It’s beautiful and devastating.

HA: What’s next?

Loren: The second succubus novel was meant to be out this month, but I got offered a big project on a short deadline for a big New York publisher, so Angelus Rose is on hold until that monster is turned in. I’m still waiting on the contract, though, so I can’t announce its name yet.

When the second succubus novel finally does come out, Angelus Rose will complete the story of Lorelei and Azaziel. They burn down most of LA in the process. I’m excited to see it in print finally.

HA: Any plans beyond that?

Loren: I want to update Wish You Were Here, my cemetery travel essays. I’ve been collecting essays for a second volume of Death’s Garden called Death’s Garden Revisited. Emerian Rich has written a lovely piece for that book, actually. I’m hoping to kickstart the funding for that book next summer.deaths-garden-cover001

In addition, I’m going to experiment with putting a dozen of my Alondra short stories out as singles on Amazon. “The Shattered Rose,” from the Paramentals chapbook, is one of them.

But everything is on hold until I get my mystery project written. It’s supposed to come out in October 2017, so time is very, very short.

Lend the Eye:

Death’s Garden:

Morbid Curiosity:

All the available books on my bookshop:


Kidnapped Week: Nightscape Press


The Red-Headed Step-Children of Literature

Since the dawn of time, the illustrious high-nosed literary snobs have looked down upon us lowly genre scum from their gleaming mighty towering pedestals:

“Science fiction?



“Double Bah!


“Oh dear me oh my. BAH!

“These are not literature! They hold nothing of substance! Nothing of value! No understanding of the real world! And say… pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?”

Let’s face it. Horror, SF, fantasy… are all considered the red-headed step children of modern literature. And to the literary snob, anyone who reads these ill-fated genres should be shamed, pitied, ridiculed. Intellectually eviscerated.

And yet… genre fiction makes up the largest-profiting market of all fiction sales. Genre fiction arguably converts a far wider number of non-readers into book worms (just look at the Harry Potter series for instance!). Genre fiction leaves all boundaries at the door, and lets the writer and the reader consider the most fantastical, horrific, and/or amazing possibilities of the mind.

Genre fiction digs headlong into the deepest possible definition of unreal and relates to us—in shades and details and angles we could never otherwise have known—the very real.

And, in recent times, genre has gone on to do so much more in the very real. Through the magic of modern small press publishing and charitable organizations, genre fiction has gone on to help fight, treat, and perhaps maybe even some day it will heal, sickness and disease. Poverty. Famine.

In September of 2011, Mark C. Scioneaux and I began taking submissions for a small horror anthology with a very big idea behind it. Charity. More specifically, a charity that was deeply meaningful to one of the anthology’s creators. And in March of 2012, HORROR FOR GOOD: A CHARITABLE ANTHOLOGY was born. HORROR FOR GOOD includes stories by Jack Ketchum, Joe Lansdale, F. Paul Wilson, Laird Barron, Ray Garton, Lisa Morton, Joe McKinney, Nate Southard, and many more and continues to this day to give 100% of its net royalties to amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research.

On the heels of HFG’s success, Mark and I and my wife Jennifer went on to form Nightscape Press. Nightscape was simply a small press publisher, nothing more. We went on to produce award winning novels and novellas and two more charitable anthologies: BLOOD TYPE: AN ANTHOLOGY OF VAMPIRE SF ON THE CUTTING EDGE (includes stories by William F. Nolan, Peter Watts, Mike Resnick, Laird Barron, Stephen Graham Jones, Tim Waggoner, and more. 100% of its net royalties go to The Cystic Fibrosis Trust) and FANTASY FOR GOOD: A CHARITABLE ANTHOLOGY (includes stories by George R. R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Piers Anthony, Roger Zelazny, Kevin J. Anderson, Michael Moorcock, Katherine Kerr, Jay Lake, and more. 100% of its net royalties go to the Colon Cancer Alliance).

But now we want to create something altogether new. We at Nightscape Press feel that the literary snobs are wrong. We know that genre fiction has so very much to offer. And we know it has even more still to offer for the future. So, in 2017 we will officially be relaunching Nightscape (and our young adult imprint Past Curfew Press) under a new business model. One that focuses on giving to as many charities as possible. From 2017 on, all of our novels and novellas and collections will here on split the largest share of royalties to both their authors and the charity of their choice.

And we’d like to offer for you to be a part of the fun! Not only have we started a Patreon for both the launch of this new model and the launch of a new magazine as well…

(Introducing: DreamSpan Magazine, a future pro-paying premiere magazine of science fiction, fantasy, and horror!)

We will also be looking to more fully staff our operation with volunteers like you! That’s right. We need people who care about genre fiction as much as we do. People who know what these red-headed step children are capable of! We need editors, artists, proofreaders, promoters, designers, and really anyone else who would like to help out in any way they can.

Because Nightscape Press believes in genre fiction and genre fiction writers and readers and, together, we want to use the fantastic, the dark, the creepy, and the awe-inspiring and amazing to make this world a better place!



Robert S. Wilson is a Bram Stoker Award-nominated editor, and the author of the Empire of Blood dystopian vampire series comprised of the novels SHINING IN CRIMSON, FADING IN DARKNESS, and RISING FROM ASHES. His short fiction has appeared or will yet appear in DarkFuse Magazine, Nameless Digest, the Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing newsletter, PMMP’s One Night Stands series, as well as a number of anthologies including The Best of the Horror Society 2013 (ed. Carson Buckingham), Fear the Reaper (ed. Joe Mynhardt), Bleed (ed. Lori Michelle), and Gothic Lovecraft (ed. Lynne Jamneck and S.T. Joshi). He is also Editor in Chief of Nightscape Press.

Nightscape Press:


Nightscape Press/Dreamspan Magazine Patreon:




Past Curfew Press on Facebook:

Horror For Good:

Blood Type:

Fantasy For Good:

Kidnapped Week: Nightscape Press


World’s Collider – Building the Apocalypse

From the very beginning, World’s Collider was a tough sell. The idea bounced around at least four small presses before landing a home as one of Nightscape Press’s debut trio of horror offerings. In its initial stages, it was simply an outline on a piece of paper, and was then called Unto The Breach. Here’s the original brief.

The anthology begins with the Large Hadron Collider on the border between Switzerland and France, ten years in our future. Experts have told the doom-mongerers that there is zero risk of experiments causing “dragons to appear and eat us up”. But what if the nature of the experiments progresses from observing the basic components of creation to trying to manipulate them?

Given that science is pushing into the unknown, and nobody knows for certain what will happen in the future if this machine is used for riskier experiments, I envision a short story collection that depicts the worst case scenario. The machine explodes, flattening a large chunk of central Europe, and opens a massive rift – known simply as the Breach – into somewhere unknown. All sorts of unimaginable horrors tumble out. They don’t all come through at once, and they won’t be just demons and creatures from hell, like Buffy’s Hellmouth. How about new diseases? Could the souls of those who have died under mysterious circumstances be drifting through? Maybe alien gasses leak into our atmosphere and cause environmental catastrophe. Perhaps dragons really are waiting on the other side, eager to eat us all up. The imagination of the writers is the limit here.

This will not be a series of isolated “what if?” stories, each taking the experiment as its starting point and then pressing the reset switch at the end. Instead, the stories will build on each other, so the writers will work together with the editor to make their ideas fit into a common narrative. Some stories might have global impact and will strongly influence the rest of the collection. Others might be smaller scale and won’t directly affect anybody else. Perhaps the “leaks” into our world are subtle at first and nobody realises the damage the machine has caused. During a ten year period, events will build to apocalyptic levels of chaos. Earth will be changed forever and humanity is on the brink of extinction. The second half of the anthology will be set in a post-apocalyptic world, culminating in the closing of the Breach by the last human survivors. Perhaps they even pass through…

The plan is to invite 30 to 40 writers to pitch ideas for stories involving creatures or things or concepts that might come through the Breach and then to select about fifteen for inclusion. An internet mailing list will then be set up to discuss ideas and link stories together. Writers will need to be flexible in adjusting their stories to fit in consistently with this new world being constructed, but the result will essentially be a novel written by many voices, complete with a common, evolving setting and recurring characters and themes.

In retrospect, the final anthology ended up a lot like the brief describes. I put out the call and received around eighty story ideas, far more than I was expecting. At this stage, none of these submissions were linked together or had anything in common beyond what was in the original outline. Pitches ranged from a paragraph to a detailed outline of every scene in the proposed story. At this point I realized I had set myself an impossible task and was facing the first of many giant hurdles.

Some stories could be rejected right away due to the quality of the pitch itself, the nature of the storyline being something that didn’t appeal or could not be adapted to the shared-world concept, or the writers didn’t follow the guidelines. But most of them were amazing, really interesting, compelling ideas, which made my job much more difficult. Some were from “name” writers, some from friends and other less-well known writers who were known to me, and many were from total strangers. The temptation was to fill the anthology with friends I could trust and names who might help sell copies, but that would have meant rejecting some terrific ideas that ended up being integral parts of the overall story and great stories in their own right.

The exciting part of all this for me was that, as the brief describes, the ideas weren’t mine. I wasn’t storyboarding some grand master plan and telling people what to write. Just as I had hoped, mashing together the ideas and characters from all these talented folks allowed me to shape an overall storyline.

My final selections fell roughly into four categories. The first were lynchpin stories, ideas that worked so well in and of themselves that I didn’t want to make significant changes to them. These stories tended to generate major characters which then made reappearances, or earlier appearances, in other stories at my request. James Moran’s Innervisions was one, which introduces the anthology’s main character, Scott. Jordan Ellinger’s The Last CEO is another, as story introducing the anthology’s main antagonist: soulless killer Joseph Tern.

Other chosen stories were fairly self contained. I reused elements of them in other stories, but the ideas stayed pretty much intact from outline to final story. The Rise And Fall Of The House Of Ricky by the endlessly talented Kelly Hale was one such example, a story that wasn’t suited to being adapted and changed to fit with others, but which had such a delicious idea at its centre and such a brilliant writer who I knew could pull it off, that I couldn’t say no. Trent Zelazny’s Black Whispers is another, a story with few links to the rest of the anthology but a great story from a writer whose distinctive voice fit perfectly with the feel of the anthology.

The third category of stories did much of the heavy lifting with regards to the plot. I took elements of the original outlines and changed things up, asked the writer to switch out their main character for someone else from another story, but tried to allow these writers enough space to explore their original ideas. Displacement is a piece that follows the same storyline as in the original brief by Aaron Rosenberg, but was tweaked to introduce the same psychopath antagonist who features in several other stories, including The Last CEO. Simon Kurt Unsworth graciously allowed me to reconstruct his storyline for The Coming Scream into something that worked with our main character in a role that showcases his unique relationship to the rift, while incorporating the original idea of a terrible sound that passes into our world through the breach. A brilliant story idea about a scientist who thinks her dead daughter is on the other side of the Collision forms the backbone of Pete Kempshall’s Closure, but much changed with the introduction of another recurring character, Natalie Murphy, a military woman who makes it her mission to close the rift.

The last category were special commissions. These were stories that became the glue between all the others, filling in important gaps and plot points, while being exciting stories in their own right. Dave Hutchinson’s Beyond The Sea is a terrific story, which reads at a breakneck pace. It’s all the more astonishing to know that Dave wrote the story in two weeks, from a detailed brief I provided, to provide a middle-of-the-book encounter between our main protagonist and antagonist, which would then kickstart the second half of the storyline.

Then there was the final story, undoubtedly the most challenging of the bunch to write. Pity poor Steven Savile, a prolific and highly successful writer, who agreed to pen the final chapter. Tying up all the threads and producing a coherent and satisfying ending was a Herculean task, especially when the clearly-bitten-off-more-than-he-can-chew editor kept changing his mind, or adding more elements he’d forgotten to deal with earlier, or switching the structure of how the book had to end as he continued to wrestle the various plot threads across all the stories. Then Steven went and broke his arm, which threw a wrench in the works somewhat. Thankfully Steven’s friend and previous collaborator, Steve Lockley, stepped in to help, and between the two of them they managed to wrangle a thrilling barnstormer of a final story, with just enough resolved and just enough threads still hanging loose so as to satisfy this very picky and rather flaky editor.

Once all the stories were in, the late nights began. With a regular anthology of stories that might be entirely unconnected, or share a common theme, the editor needs to ensure the running order works (do I have two long, downbeat stories back to back? Am I kicking off with a great story that really showcases the theme?), he or she needs to edit the stories for internal consistency, (ensuring the writer hasn’t transposed a character name incorrectly, or jumps location without warning), along with cleaning up any awkward sentences, proofreading for typos, checking verifiable facts – all these types of things (and many more) are the job of an editor when putting together the manuscript. With World’s Collider, there was a much bigger and more complex task ahead of me.

When you edit your own novel, it’s tricky enough to keep all the characters consistent, ensure you are revealing enough to the reader without giving away too much too soon, excising or combining passages that drag, and a thousand other considerations big and small). But in this case, I had a novel-like story written by multiple authors. When it’s your own work you can chop and delete at will. When it’s someone else’s, you have a duty as an editor not to steamroller a writer’s voice with your own. When they came on board the project, all the writers said they were happy to have me rewrite their work as necessary to make the overall plot work. Even so, the strength of this anthology is the combination of styles, voices and ideas into a (hopefully) coherent whole, so if I as editor just rewrote great chunks of each story, that unique element would be lost and I would end up with a novel by Richard Salter.

So it was a balancing act. Yes I edited an awkward sentence here, a small mistake there, but any sizeable changes I made tended to be specifically to serve a character’s ongoing development or to move an element of the overall plot ahead, or to bring two stories into synch where they shared story elements.

For example, Megan N. Moore’s awesome story, Lead Us Not, is almost entirely her own work with just a handful of minor edits on my part. The last section was written entirely by me, and features two of our recurring characters investigating the events of the story sometime after the fact. I wrote that last section and showed it to her to make sure she was happy with this appearing at the end of her story. She suggested a few changes, and we were done.

Making everything work together was tough, very tough. It took me a good number of very late nights reading and re-reading various stories and keeping elements together in my head so I could ensure we weren’t contradicting each other, and that the right balance was held between mystery and reveal, and that the plot was progressing well.

I don’t remember specifically what it was, but I do remember waking in the middle of the night and realizing that at no point in the book did we mention a vital piece of information about our main character. So vital was this detail, that without it a significant portion of the ending would make no sense. It would come out of nowhere and leave readers scratching their heads. In the end, I put that detail into two different stories, to firstly introduce it and then to reinforce it, so that when the reader gets to the end it all makes sense and there are none of the “wrong kind” of surprises in the book.

Eventually, it was all done, a finished manuscript, a novel by twenty writers.

For the cover, we had intended to use a wonderful painting created by artist Carolyn Edwards, of a ruined Eiffel Tower. We still did use it as a cover image and for the first page of each story, and I still love that image very much. However, Steven Savile put us in touch with a cover artist named Lukas Thelin, who did us a cover that really captured what the book had become. I went back and forth between the images but eventually decided on using Lukas’s cover. Carolyn was very gracious about it because she’s a professional, and I highly recommend her work to anyone in need of an artist. You can find her at

When Nightscape Press launched the book as one of the imprint’s three debut releases, it seemed to find a receptive audience. It was exciting to see the Amazon rankings soar on those first couple of days. When the reviews came in, people really seemed to get it. There’s no greater feeling for a writer or editor than to deliver a work to the public and have them understand the intent and appreciate the result.

World’s Collider was a lot of work, but I would love to do it all again. Maybe a sequel, or a completely different scenario, but whatever it is I intend to follow the same process and produce another shared-world anthology. If only I had the time!

You can purchase World’s Collider here

KIDNAPPED WEEK: Nightscape Press


by: Simon Kurt Unsworth 

So I offered to do this blog about me and my writing, because I figured it’d be easy (because I’m optimistic) and because all writing is ultimately about ourselves anyway (so I’m told) and it’s about my favourite subject (according to my detractors). And then the deadline is upon me and the Mac’s screen is showing me a lovely white page and I have no idea what to write.

Literally no idea.

I’ve incentivised myself – no pizza or beer until after I’ve finished – which should get my creative juices flowing, but while we wait for that to start I’d better tell you the boring stuff. I’ve been a published author for just under 10 years, have three collections of short stories under my belt (Lost Places, Quiet Houses and Strange Gateways) so far with a fourth (Diseases of the Teeth) on the way in the next couple of months from Black Shuck Books. I’ve been nominated for a World Fantasy Award (didn’t win) for my first published short story, ‘The Church on the Island’ and appeared in seven volumes of The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror. I’ve appeared in a book alongside Stephen King, Joe Hill, Peter Straub and Harlan Ellison which is a something that makes me happy (and convinced people are reading said book and thinking, We like these proper stories but who’s this Unsworth bozo?). I’m tall, have a beard (when un-groomed I look, according to my mother, like the wild man of Borneo), I’m married (sorry folks, I’m off the market) and have a son and two step-daughters, and I live in a rambling house in England’s Book Town, Sedbergh. I’m mostly cheerful, partly organised and occasionally dreary and I’ve been known to rage about things and use immoderate language. My son calls me “big dude” but only because I call him “little dude”, and my wife calls me “SKU”. I’m in my forties and I like (probably more than I should) good whiskey, dry white wine and Japanese lager (although not all at the same time). I’ve been writing as long as I can remember, and my favourite authors are Stephen King, Junji Ito and M R James.

I write horror.

My first novel, The Devil’s Detective, came out last year in both the US and UK, and while some bookstores put it in the crime section (and my US publishers Doubleday put it out in paperback under their Anchor classic crime imprint), I consider it a horror novel (albeit one that happens to wear a thriller’s clothes). It’s the story of Thomas Fool, one of three Information Men (kind of like policemen) in Hell. It’s not a usual version of Hell, though: it’s more like the New York of Carpenter’s Escape From New York or Taxi Driver with added demons, a place where the underbelly is bigger than any veneer of organisation or order. There are pointless rules, little or no safety and random acts designed to generate hope in the inhabitants, hope which can then be crushed. Demons use people for food or sex or sport and the Bureaucracies of Hell squabble with their heavenly counterparts over various arcane and torturous trade agreements.

And there are deaths. Thomas Fool is tasked with solving a series of particularly brutal murders, and the novel is the story of his growing understanding of the nature of being a policeman and his uncovering of the conspiracy that lies at the heart of the savagery. My own favourite scenes include a man turning into foliage having an orgasm, a demon masturbating in the street and a battle in an orphanage where the babies make the child from It’s Alive look like a particularly cheerful CabbagePatch Doll.

Am I selling it to you yet? Well, if further persuasion is needed, there’s a riot, a mortuary where the dead can talk (after a fashion), a secret love affair and a group of farmhands that fertilise Hell’s earth in a very odd way. A lot of people die during the course of the story, but in Fool the reader can possibly see a hope of redemption and improvement, of victory and autonomy.

Remember what I said about hope?

Then there’s the sequel. I never intended The Devil’s Detective to be part of a series but the publishers were keen for me to do a second book featuring Fool, so my standalone story grew a second instalment, The Devil’s Evidence, which came out earlier this year. When I came to write it, I knew that another murder-mystery in Hell would risk being too similar to the first book, so I made a logical step and sent Fool to Heaven, where he gets involved in more death and destruction and, ultimately, in trying to prevent the war between Heaven and Hell. Along the way he meets the kindest angels (who are lovely) and the saddest ones (who are not). The wild hunt makes a (sort of) appearance, a major character returns and there’s a new demonic villain in the form of Mr Tap, who runs a new department in Hell called The Evidence. The Evidence is staffed (if that’s the right word) by little tusked demons call Bauta, and they’re essentially complete bastards. There’s a character named after one of my comedy heroes (who died while I was writing it) and scenes set in fairgrounds, swimming pools and a cave full of sleepers. There’s a demon made of maggots and creatures that even the demons are wary of. There’s a lot of death.

Heaven is not how you imagine it being.

The Devil’s Evidence was mostly written in cafes, with my iPod on shuffle blocking out the sounds of the people around me, drinking cup after cup of coffee and muttering to myself as I worked out plot points. I treat Fool very, very badly in the book but that’s okay, because he’s used to it: I treated him very, very badly in the first book too. In Heaven and Hell I made worlds that were exactly how I wanted them to be, were exactly as horrifying or confusing as I needed them to be for the story, and I had a whale of a time doing it. Writing is, with the possible exception of pizza taster, probably the best job in the world.

Of course, not everything I wrote was used. There were scenes written that didn’t make it into the final manuscript, and ideas that I’d jotted down that never got written. Books twist and renew themselves as you write them, I’ve found, creating new shapes and taking unexpected turns that force you to react on your literary feet. That sounds like arty, pretentious authorness, doesn’t it? Well, I can’t help that because for me at least it’s true – when I’m writing well, the thoughts and ideas seem to bypass my conscious thought process and jump straight from my brain’s creative centres to my fingertips and into my Mac in rapid, unconscious streams. What emerges often needs neatening (all writing does, to some degree), and the more exuberant bits might have to be massaged into a manageable shape to make it fit the larger narrative, but it’s also when writing is at its most fun. While the real world unspooled outside the café’s windows, I was inside my own head writing about things that I hoped would be creepy, would disgust and appal and thrill, that would make people smile. I was killing people and demons, starting wars, giving a good man a hard time, and I loved every last minute of. I can only hope that some of the fun I had in writing The Devil’s Evidence is felt by the readers too…

In the spirit of sharing, I thought that, rather than simply give you a bit of the book to read, I’d give you the equivalent of a DVD extra. Below is one of the scenes that I started to write that didn’t fit where the book needed to go and much as I liked it, I eventually had to cut it out and start it again. It’s a first draft, very rough and ready, and unfinished but I hope you’ll enjoy it. No context, just roll with the mystery of it all:

The fall into the flames had only lasted a moment. Fool experienced a moment of terrible, searing heat and then it was gone and he was crashing into a hard surface. A bolt of pain, like the memory of his last few days, jolted across him and his head cracked painfully into something’s edge. He lay still for a second or two before risking opening his eyes.

Above him, a huge creature with thousands of eyes and long, insectile legs was hanging in the sky, mouth full of fangs gnashing.

He didn’t have the energy to scream or move. He was too tired, his entire body ached, his head ached, his violated skin prickled against his clothes and he could still taste Rhakshasas in his mouth. If this was it, if this was where he died, then so be it. Let it kill him.

The thing, whatever it was, scuttled sideways, and the multi-jointed claws at the end of its legs scrabbled against a barrier between it and him, invisible yet apparently unbreakable. The more he watched it, the more the creature looked wrong somehow. Not simply ugly or dangerous, Fool was used to that; he saw grotesqueries every day in Hell, demonic flesh twisted into shapes and functions that were terrifying and lethal. No, the creature looked insubstantial somehow, as though it was a projection on the inside of some vast curved surface above him. It was solid, he thought, had a form because he could hear the sound of its feet as they skittered, but it was made of angles and shapes that his eye couldn’t quite hold. He’d almost have it, could see the shape of it in his mind and then it would flip away, be impossible to visualise, as though it was shifting between a shape and the imprint of the same shape, or between A picture seen from one angle and then seen in reverse in a mirror.

Fool closed his eyes, opened them again. How far away was the thing? It looked close to him but he realised it wasn’t, it was distant, was huge. Around it, the space was filled with smaller versions of it and other things, creatures made of tentacles and beaks and claws, all of them shifting and moving, testing the same invisible barrier. The was no space between the creatures, they fitted to each others’ edges, moving in tight formations. They were the colour of oil spilled on water, green and grey and blue, constantly mutating and flowing, and still his perspective on the would not hold, could not grip them. Fool looked away, not liking the way that staring at the things was making him feel.

He was lying on the deck of a boat.

Sitting up, he saw that it was long and narrow. The three demons were sitting on a bench ahead of him, still and silent, and beyond them was a tall, thin figure standing in the prow. It was dressed in a long robe that swirled as it used a pole the move the boat serenely along, digging it into the water on one side of the boat and then on the other. The water the boat sailed through was entirely black, its surface unmarked by ripple or swell. When the boatman took the pole from the water, it did not splash.

“We are sailing on the shadow of all the oceans in all the worlds,” said a voice from behind Fool. Turning, he saw a wooden head, humanlike, carved and rising from the stern. It was handsome, a pointed goatee curving from its chin, its nose long and aquiline.

“This is the river between all worlds,” said the head, its voice a rasp that reminded Fool of the sound of the Man of Plants and Flowers, manipulating stalk and stem to create his speech.

“What are they?”

“They are the things from the Place Outside of Everywhere.”

“The Place Outside of Everywhere?”

“Where there is nothing and no worlds exist.”

“But the things?”

“Do not exist, yet they are there nonetheless.”

I’m talking to a wooden head, he thought, sitting on a boat that’s sailing across a river.

Well, that’s me pretty much done. I never did get any clues as to what to write in this guest blog but hopefully this ramble has diverted you for a few minutes. If it’s whetted your appetite for reading more of my stuff, you can get The Devil’s Evidence from Amazon UK here:

Or from Amazon US here:

And you can pre-order my new collection from here:

But you know what? If you don’t fancy reading my books that’s fine and cool, there are other books to read and love. Go find them, go read them, go love them.

Now, where’s my pizza?

KIDNAPPED WEEK: Nightscape Press


Sometimes fortune does smile on us; I’ve been lucky enough that the excellent publishers (Jennifer and Robert Wilson) at Nightscape Press decided to reprint two of my books: The Gentling Box and Deathwatch, and have now further asked me to provide a behind-the-scenes look at both of them for this blog.


During what was probably one of the best evenings of my entire life, The Gentling Box garnered The Bram Stoker Award for first novel the same year Stephen King won for Duma Key in 2009. It’s always a heady experience to be nominated or win an award, but in this case it was validation—the culmination, really—of a very protracted span of years when my work was essentially consigned to the realm of oblivion. The Gentling Box had two major NY agents who forwarded a slew of lovely compliments to me from various editors at the big houses, but couldn’t sell it. My mother (to whom I dedicated the book) loved it—along with several enthusiastic friends, but that book (and in my mind, my career as a novelist) seemed dead in the water. Winning the award felt like a wonderful tribute to my mother and to the very small part of me that continued to believe in the book despite numerous rejections and which wanted to keep working.

To this day, people ask me if the hideous surgical procedure of “gentling” is real and if it was practiced by the Hungarian Roms. No comment. Grin.

A brief synopsis:

Imre, a half-gypsy horse trader, is on his deathbed suffering from a hideously disfiguring disease called glanders; though the infection can be passed from horses to people, his antagonist, Anyeta has afflicted him. He knows he can save himself, his wife, his daughter from the sorceress–but only at great personal cost. Narrating the story, he recalls the events that have led up to the terrible choice before him.

Tricked into believing she can save their daughter, his wife, Mimi has cut off her own arm to claim the power of a savage gypsy charm called the hand of the dead. Those who claim it have the power to bring healing; but Anyeta, who is Mimi’s mother, knows that those who own its power are doomed to eternal unrest: They lie awake, aware, paralyzed within their graves, their minds churning endlessly. Anyeta finds a way to escape the torment by possessing the minds and bodies of those she dupes into claiming the hand.

One by one Imre finds his circle of loved ones falling under the sway of the sorceress as Anyeta sets out to destroy them. He learns from Joseph, an aged Lovari gypsy horse trader, and Constantin, a mute cursed by the sorceress, the only way to make an end of Anyeta, to grant her victims peace, is gentling–a crude surgery performed on wild horses in order to tame them. Imre’s most hellish childhood memory is witnessing his father opening the crate-like gentling box and placing wood and leather devices around the heads of the horses. Jutting inward from the circular wooden bands are metal spikes which penetrate the horses’ brains, and Imre cannot forget the sight of the blood or the dimming of the horses’ huge glossy eyes. Though he is a horse trader, he has never gentled a horse–nor can he bring himself to face the fact that ironic as it seems, he can free Anyeta’s victims if he gentles them.

In failing to do so, he sets up the final conflict. His wife is possessed by the sorceress– her mind and personality shattered; his daughter, Lenore, will certainly claim the hand of the dead and suffer similar tortures–unless he can bring himself to intervene. His decision, then, is whether he can summon the courage to heal himself of his disease by claiming the hand of the dead, knowing that once he does so, he must ultimately face the terror and the freedom of the gentling box.


My wife sits in the corner of our caravan, because this morning it is her personality which has come to the fore. Her hands are folded quietly in the lap of her skirt. Just above her left hand is a thick purplish scar that circles her wrist like a hideous bracelet. I don’t want to think about the scar, about how it is the source of the evil afflicting our lives.

If I raise my head from the sweat-soaked pillow I can see her bare feet splayed against the worn floorboards, but it is her face I find myself staring at: small, kitten-shaped, dominated by her huge dark eyes. She has gypsy eyes. They were very bright when we were both younger; now they are ringed by deep gray shadows like bruises and filled with pain. Meeting mine, they beg: Save Lenore.

My wife is right of course, and she is living evidence of what will happen to Lenore, our daughter, if I don’t intervene. But Christ, I think, how can I save her when the foul disease I’ve taken is ravaging through me like a brushfire? I close my eyes and instantly hear the swish of skirts, so I know she has gotten to her feet, she is moving toward the bed. And now I feel her hand tapping my shoulder urgently.

I open my eyes; her face is full of defiance. Her black brows contract angrily and she points at her wrist. Again.

Yes,” I say, my voice a ragged whisper, “I know.” I know we will die shut up in this stinking grave of a caravan and Lenore will be possessed by the same hungry spirit that has taken my wife’s life, that has killed Joseph and punished me.

No. She shakes her head, and suddenly her thin hands go to her face; her shoulders hitch and great wracking sobs shake her small frame. She is crying, and the wailing voice I hear is the first sound she has made as Mimi, as my wife, in more months than I can count. She speaks when she is Anyeta, I think bitterly, but never as Mimi. Anyeta has taken that from her, too.

She sinks onto the edge of the bed, her long hair falling forward, and I want to comfort her. I sit up but my chest burns. I cough, my throat a column of fire, but it’s so hard to breathe. I make myself cough harder and up comes a wad of greasy yellow phlegm streaked with blood. I manage to hide the clotty mess in a handkerchief before Mimi turns her head and sees it.

I put my arm around her shoulder. Her eyes flick toward my fingers. She whirls around and points at the livid scar on her wrist. I nod. Mimi is reminding me again. She has tried to save Lenore herself, but her powers have fled. I admire her courage. It wasn’t failure.

Not your fault,” I rasp before the rumbling cough cleaves me again. We both wait until the fit passes. I let my hand rest on her knee.

All at once, Mimi seizes my wrist hard. Her grip is like iron, like steel pincers, and I’m suddenly terrified the change is on her and in a second her eyes will blink and I’ll see Anyeta’s demonic eyes, hear her mocking screams and taunts.

But Mimi throws my hand back at me and runs to the oval mirror. She jerks it from the plastered wall so fiercely the nail pops out with a shriek and she nearly loses her balance. The silvery mirror sways between her hands, she holds it to her chest like a shield, she moves toward the bed. She is making a grunting noise, trying to tell me something. I concentrate on her lips. She is moving them carefully, slowly. Then I have it:

Look, Imre.”

In the mirror I see my features are blurred with thick scabs and crusts. My face is overrun with the red weeping sores and I would weep for the sight except I think she has seen it spreading and nursed me and never shown revulsion or fear.

Mimi thrusts the mirror toward me again and makes a furious sound, shapes the word, “Look!”

She wants me to know that time is short, that I’m dying, that the pustulent blisters will eat through my lungs, completely consume my flesh—

Mimi hurls the mirror to the floor. The sound is deafening inside the caravan. I see her feet moving among the splinters from the shattered mahogany frame, the chunks of broken glass. She squats. Heedless, she clutches a long sharp shard and I see drops of blood welling from her palm and fingers then running down and staining the white filmy sleeve of her blouse. She points at her wrist with the glass knife, then at mine, and pantomimes sawing.

And then, Christ, then I know what she wants. A sick feeling eddies through me, and I feel the vomit rising in my throat. I push it down because Mimi is asking me to be strong, to save Lenore. I look into her dark eyes and I know what she wants. She wants me to claim the hand of the dead.




I get a kick out of people’s responses to both novellas in this collection—with some preferring the Bram Stoker-nominated “Dissolution,” and others just as adamantly standing up for “The Sheila Na Gig.”I rather like them both and am thrilled that “Dissolution” will soon be a feature-length film directed by Paul Leyden.

Dissolution,” set in upstate New York in the 1890s, is about a young medical student thrown out of his university who travels north thinking he’ll be a tutor to twin girls only to discover that they are conjoined and their father—also a doctor—has hired him because he means to separate them surgically.

Two excellent books that influenced the novella’s winter-bound isolation heavily are ETHAN FROMME by Edith Wharton and GHOST STORY by Peter Straub.

The Sheila Na Gig,” which bookends the previous novella,and is also set in the past, is about a young man whose grandmother uses witchcraft in Ireland to ensnare him and his whole family. His struggle to escape the horror of dysfunction in the extreme is both harrowing and poignant. A few of my Beta readers noted that parts of the story made them weep.

As Elizabeth Massie wrote in her introduction to the collection, “…pushes us headfirst into nightmarish, claustrophobic worlds where families cling together even as they try to destroy one another.”



I was twenty when I first came to Hyde Park, New York and fell in love with the child who was both woman and ghost. And God help me, it was my infatuation–or obsession–if you prefer, that spawned both her strange shadow life as my bride and–later, much later–her death.

It was December, and the Hudson River was frozen. I hailed from the Carolinas, and after a bleak train ride north, my first, my strongest memory of the region was that solid white mass like a road, of wind blowing and the sight of tight-lipped red faced men hauling blocks of ice on sledges, the horses straining for purchase on the slippery surface.

Their shouts were muffled by the heavy quietfall of snow, even the sound of the train whistling as it left the depot was deadened, and standing on the wooden platform, the chill of the boards penetrating my thin-soled shoes, I thought, I have come to a lonely place. White and cold and deathly still.



“They made Brigantia a saint.”

Tom looked up from the bench where he was polishing his brother Bob’s boots. His grandmother had a wild, faraway look in her brown eyes. She was huddled near the fireplace with a bowl of milk and bread in her lap.

“The stupid Irish, they made Brigantia a saint!” Rose Smith said again.

Tom knew she might go on with this–or another equally meaningless phrase–for hours. He skinned the bristle brush against the leather instep and gave out a sigh.

“Tom,” Cedric said. “Show some respect for the aged.” He rustled in the drift of manuscript pages–most of them halved scraps–that covered his desk. “What does it matter if she prattles a bit? She can’t help it.”

“Right.” He left off shoe blacking and got up. But it did matter, Tom thought, because his father was spouting a lie. Cedric urging tolerance of his grandmother had nothing to do with respect and everything to do with his own motives. Rose was said–not by the family, but by the local farmers and their wives–to be a hag, a witch. Cedric liked to hear her talk because in some way, Tom knew, his father secretly believed she would come out of her mania and empower his failed writing, set right the wreck of his life.

He’s just waiting for a chair to fly across the room so he can put it in his bloody book. Tom didn’t know if Cedric felt his mother leant atmosphere or just spurred a flagging imagination, and he didn’t care. What he did care about was the way the snarly-haired old woman gave him the flits.

Tom glanced at her. Her head was canted sideways, her wrinkled mouth, dripping milk. She was staring at him; then her tongue flicked out and she licked the warm milk from the corner of her mouth. She began to chuckle lightly.



Stop by and check out my author website, or visit my virtual haunted house,

KIDNAPPED WEEK: Nightscape Press


H. P. Lovecraft. A name that conjures images of frozen landscapes, long dead cities, and tentacled, alien gods. If I recall correctly, he was the second horror writer I ever read—the first being Stephen King, of course. He was certainly the first “cosmic” horror writer I ever read. As a teenager, the bulk of the books in my growing collection consisted of sci-fi and fantasy novels by authors such as J. R. R. Tolkien, Isaac Asimov, Stephen R. Donaldson, Frank Herbert and the like. Reading Lovecraft, with his limited dialogue, dense, overwritten prose, and themes of futility and madness undoubtedly made an impression on the much younger version of myself. An experience shared by many others, judging by Lovecraft’s enduring legacy and influence over a large number of today’s practitioners of dark fiction. Though his style may seem a bit dense and overwrought to the modern reader, there is no arguing that his ideas—in particular those dealing with his “mythos,” the pantheon of unknowable, uncaring “gods” he created, incarnations of a mindless, uncaring universe—still hold a particular resonance in today’s world, maybe even more so than they did at the time of their creation due to humankind’s ever expanding knowledge of the universe, our ever dwindling place within it.

Which brings me to my cosmic horror novella, DAYS OF RAIN, published by Nightscape Press. While it bears little resemblance to Lovecraft’s style, it owes much to the man’s ideas. When a storm settles in over the fictional, coastal town of Hidden Bay, the people living there find themselves drawn into an ever deepening nightmare unleashed by a monstrous, unknowable force. Regarding the book’s aforementioned style… DAYS OF RAIN is what I consider a “flash novella” as I placed a maximum count of a thousand words on each of its chapters, the generally accepted limit for what is considered a “flash fiction” story. (A similar approach, by the way, to what I’ve undertaken for my ongoing zombie apocalypse “flash novel” series, YEAR OF THE DEAD.) After writing a trilogy of Choose Your Own Adventure style novels (my One Way Out books), I found that I enjoyed working in what would be considered non-traditional story formats. So I came up with the idea for a narrative unfolding day after day, each day a chapter, with limitations in place as to how much detail I could go into regarding each chapter. Limitations that forced me to get to the point, to not dawdle, to move the story along. In the end, I was happy with the results. I was also happy when Nightscape agreed to publish my cosmic horror novella, one that I have agreed to expand upon with a pair of sequels, tentatively titled DREAMS OF RAIN and DARK GOD OF RAIN.

I look forward to returning to the world of Hidden Bay, to revealing the extent of the plan waiting to be enacted by the monstrous, unknowable force residing nearby—too close, by far—biding its time beneath the ocean waves…



In the cold, lightless depths of the ocean, something stirred. Something that, had there been human eyes to witness its stirring, would have been initially mistaken for a section of the ocean floor come to life. Shaking off the silt that had settled onto the broad expanse of its head during the years it had lain there, silent and unmoving—but not unthinking, no, never unthinking—it rose upward through the frigid darkness, causing the strange and varied creatures that had made of this place a home to flee in primal, animalistic terror. For here was something alien and unknowable, something that caused alarms to scream within the most primitive of brains. Here was something before which even the mightiest and most ferocious of predators residing within this vast, liquid realm would cower. Here was a nightmare made flesh, the embodiment of everything the planet’s dominant lifeform, humankind, had learned to fear throughout its brief history. And as it ascended, it pondered the names it had plucked from the psychic babble infecting the world above, the very noise that drove it down into the ocean depths for years at a time so that it might find peace. Names like:




After making its way toward one of the planet’s larger land masses, it slowed then stopped where the water remained deep enough to hide it from detection. It knew this place, had visited it some two decades earlier, had returned in order to set an experiment in motion, to see if its presence had a more noticeable effect on the nearby human settlement than it had before. To see how much of its strength had returned, how its powers had grown.

As it hovered there, less than a mile from the shoreline, it reached out with its mind, felt the waters surrounding it grow warmer, become more active, sensed a gathering of the clouds in the night skies high above. And it heard the dream voices of those who lay sleeping throughout the town of Hidden Bay raised in fear as something ancient and inexplicable revealed itself to them. Come morning, it knew, the fear would be explained away, rationalized and ridiculed when the logic of the waking world had once again reasserted itself. But it would not be fully exorcised. No. It would lie in wait and, given the right conditions, bloom like a flower bearing poisonous fruit. It only needed to be fed, to be nurtured as its roots took hold within the fertile soil of the human imagination.

Just before sunrise, the front line of thunderclouds reached the shoreline.

And, shortly thereafter, the rain began to fall.

Amazon link:

Days of Rain