Odds and Dead Ends : New Slains Castle / Dracula’s Scottish Home

You always find stuff that you didn’t know when preparing these articles, and this little nugget it happens is my find of the week. It’s been well reported that Stoker got part of his inspiration for Count Dracula from Vlad Dracula III (Vlad the Impaler), though retro-actively working the figure into his idea, rather than being originally inspired by him. I was also aware that one of Stoker’s colleagues, actor Henry Irving, who worked at the Stoker-owned Lyceum Theatre, was widely considered another inspiration for the character. However, I was not aware that one of the largest inspirations may have come from New Slains Castle, up in Aberdeenshire, in Scotland.

Admittedly, my Stoker knowledge is, depressingly, severely lacking. The extent of it goes to lots of Dracula and its various adaptations, my undying devotion to The Jewel of Seven Stars (which people who read my section here a lot will know I bang on about constantly, but damn you, it’s an incredibly bleak and unnerving novel), and Lair of the White Worm on my phone which I’ve sadly never gotten around to. So it surprised me to discover that this castle, which is mentioned in The Watters’ Mou and The Mystery of the Sea (more well-read readers can confirm this for me), may not only have inspired the castle in Seven Stars, but also Dracula’s castle, particularly a specific octagonal room mentioned in the novel. It turns out that Stoker frequently went on trips to the area on holiday, and so would not only have known the area very well, but most likely been very familiar with the castle, both its location and grounds, and its interiors.

A brief history lesson first. The old castle was built in the early 14th century by John Comyn, part of the Comyns family who held it for many years. In 1594, it was attacked by King James VI of Scotland (who was also James I of England, successor of Elizabeth I, final ruler of the Tudor family) as the then-owner, Francis Hay, 9th Earl of Erroll, was leading a rebellion against him. The old castle was mostly destroyed with gunpowder and cannon-fire, though remnants of it remain to this day. It remains a ‘scheduled monument’, a title given to architecturally important monuments in the UK and as such protected against change and modification.

The new Slains Castle (The one we’re interested in) was built by Hay upon his return from exile (the uprising hadn’t gone too well) a little ways up the coast. Originally a tower house and courtyard, it was expanded and changed over the years, with wings and towers built up as the centuries went past. In the mid 1800s, a complete redesign was ordered, turning what was there into a more contemporary, Baronial-style castle, giving it granite facing update. Large gardens were designed and laid out only a few years before Stoker visited for the first time. The whole thing was eventually unroofed not long after WWI, and has remained derelict ever since.

The history lesson over, this brings us back to Dracula, and the octagonal room in question. The novel has a small passage which reads as follows: ‘The Count halted, putting down my bags, closed the door, and crossing the room, opened another door, which led into a small octagonal room lit by a single lamp, and seemingly without a window of any sort.’ (my copy, p 21). It turns out that New Slains Castle has a similar room, specifically octagonal in design, and considering Stoker knew the castle well, the very unusual design seems to be a big red flag alerting us to the fact that New Slains is indeed where he got it from. Coupled with the fact that Stoker is rumoured to have been staying in, or near, the castle at the time he was beginning to plan, or even write, Dracula, it’s not too far a stretch to say that, even if parts of the castle weren’t intentionally lifted and transported to the rugged hills of Transylvania, there was more than likely a subconscious application.

Obviously, the location in the novel is nothing like the coastal views of the Scottish ruins, and there doesn’t seem to be any reports or rumours of ghouls, ghosts, or sunlight-fearing vampires lurking in Slains Castle. I would assume it’s now in the ownership of the National Trust, or some other organisation, so I’m not sure if you could just rock up and have a look around, but if you are ever in the area, might be a fun time to go and check out the real Castle Dracula.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: @KJudgeMental

Postscript: People interested in following up on this topic might want to check out When Brave Men Shudder: The Scottish Origins of Dracula, by Mike Shepherd. I haven’t read it, but it’s got an introduction by Dacre Stoker, great-grand-nephew of Bram, and plenty of 5 star reviews on Amazon. Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/When-Brave-Men-Shudder-Scottish/dp/1907954694

Chilling Chat: Episode 175 | J.D. Horn

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J.D. Horn is the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Witching Savannah series (The LineThe SourceThe Void, and Jilo), the Witches of New Orleans Trilogy (The King of Horn_JD-3251-EditBones and AshesThe Book of the UnwindingThe Final Days of Magic), and the standalone Southern Gothic horror tale Shivaree. A world traveler and student of French and Russian literature, Horn also has an MBA in international business and formerly held a career as a financial analyst before turning his talent to crafting chilling stories and unforgettable characters. His novels have received global attention and have been translated into Turkish, Russian, Romanian, Polish, Italian, German, and French. Originally from Tennessee, he currently lives in California with his spouse, Rich, and their rescue Chihuahua, Kirby Seamus.

J.D. is an amazing and talented writer with a wry sense of humor. We spoke of writing, a frightening phobia, and future plans.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, JD! Thank you for joining me today.

JDH: Happy to be here. Thanks for having me!

NTK: How old were you when you discovered horror?

JDH: Oh, goodness. I’m going to say three years old. My mother had to spend a couple of weeks in the hospital, and before she left, she forbade me to watch Dark Shadows with my siblings. Needless to say, there was no keeping me away from the television after that.

NTK: Is Dark Shadows your favorite horror TV show? What is your favorite horror Tv show?

JDH: Well, Dark Shadows is my perennial favorite, but now I am living for The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. I totally excited to learn, though, that CW is attempting another Dark Shadows reboot, so maybe Sabrina will get a run for her money.

NTK: Maybe, she will. What do you think of reboots?

JDH: Reboots can obviously be hit or miss. Battlestar Galactica was flipping amazing. The Night Stalker? Well, they meant well, didn’t they? If the creators have something new to say and aren’t just mining nostalgia, great. Otherwise, look elsewhere. That being said, I will be over the (full) moon if they land a quality reboot of Dark Shadows.

NTK: Have you seen the reboot of IT? If so, what did you think and how do you feel about Stephen King?

JDH: Okay. I have not seen the reboot of It, because I am truly terrified of clowns. Like panic attack terrified. I live part-time in Palm Springs, and there’s a guy who walks around dressed like a clown. He walked into the restaurant where I was having dinner and totally triggered my fight or flight response. Luckily, I had friends who know my phobia who saw him and escorted me straight out.

King. What can you say about King? He’s a living legend. I still reread The Shining and Salem’s Lot every so often. Cujo really lost me as a King reader, but I guess it’s time for me to suck it up and give his newer works a chance.

NTK: Would you say King is one of your influences? What authors have influenced your darker writings?

JDH: I think King has influenced every contemporary horror writer. Anyone who says he isn’t an influence is, well, I don’t want to say deluded, but come on, get real, his work is seminal. Of course, Anne Rice has been a huge influence on me, but perhaps my greatest influence horror-wise is Michael McDowell. He did paranormal/occult Southern family sagas (as well as writing the screenplay for Beetlejuice.)  I also borrow from the Cthulhu mythology but find much of Lovecraft problematic.

NTK: Do you have any Russian influences? Do you like Dostoevsky?

JDH: My BA was in Comparative World Literature. I studied French in original and Russian in translation. I love Dostoevsky (The Brothers Karamazov more than Crime and Punishment) and Pasternak (I’ve read Doctor Zhivago around six times). My all-time favorite novel is The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (hilarious, heartbreaking, and terrifying all at the same time).

ShivareeNTK: Your style is reminiscent of these authors, especially what I’ve seen in Shivaree. What inspired Shivaree and what inspires you in general?

JDH: Funny that you land on Shivaree. I consider it my ugly baby. It seems the readers who like it really like it, and the readers who don’t, well, let’s just say they’re less than enthused. Shivaree is my one book that grew out of a dream, a nightmare, really, though not more than a flash of one. Just an old woman walking through a cornfield at night calling the name Ruby again and again. I woke up covered in a cold sweat and my heart pounding.

Shivaree was supposed to be a novella, but I was having a hard time completing the project I was contracted for and was beginning to panic. I knew I had to keep writing something or I’d freeze up. Jilo, the project I was supposed to be working on wasn’t coming, but Shivaree kept falling into place. I finally called my editor, admitted I was going to miss the deadline on Jilo, but told him I had another book I was, um, sure, ahem, he’d really like (squeaky voice at the end).

Oh, and in general, I love telling stories. Always have.

NTK: Do your characters have free will? Or do you plan their every move?

JDH: Oh, good lord. If I planned everything, I wouldn’t have had so much trouble finishing Jilo. I’m a total pantser, and my best writing comes in collaboration with my characters. I don’t want to say they totally run the show, but, well, okay, they do.

NTK: Love it! Always good to see a writer enjoy a relationship with his characters. Do you like character-driven books? What is your favorite horror novel?

JDH: The Haunting of Hill House. That’s my favorite horror novel. That’s how you get a horror novel done.

I enjoy plot-driven, rip right through the book books, but yes, for me, the books I love, they’re all about character. I’ve recently become obsessed with Liane Moriarty. The plot in Nine Perfect Strangers doesn’t begin until around 85% of the way through. To be able to pull that off? Well, let’s just say when I grow up, I want to be Liane Moriarty.

NTK: Do you have a favorite horror film?

JDH: Favorite horror film? It’s a three-way tie. I know King didn’t like The Shining, but I think Kubrick created magic. (Although I feel terrible about what he is said to have put Shelley Duvall through. Actors know how to act. Ya don’t got to torture them.)

Then there is Rosemary’s Baby, Mia Farrow AND Ruth Gordon. That’s all I got to say. The third is The Fearless Vampire Killers. Of course, both of these were directed by Roman Polanski (speaking of problematic creators).

Oooh! Honorable mention to the original Carnival of Souls.

NTK: Do you have any advice for the budding horror writer?

JDH: Write stories you love. Some readers will adore your stories, some will grab pitchforks and light torches and do their damnedest to storm the castle. Just make sure you’re in love with everything you put out there. It makes climbing out the castle tower at three AM using a rope of made of bedsheets a little easier to take.

NTK: JD, what does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to The Final Days of Magiclook forward to?

JDH: I recently came across some pages of a novel I started when I was twenty-seven (more than a minute ago). I am now working on a collaboration with twenty-seven-year-old me. Southern. Gothic. A lot of heart. A touch of horror. Kind of Orpheus meets Something Wicked This Way Comes meets—there it is—The Master and Margarita.

NTK: Wonderful! Thank you for chatting with me today, JD. You’re a gracious guest.

JDH: And you are a fantastic interviewer. This was fun. Thanks again for having me!

Addicts, you can find J.D.’s work on Amazon.

 

 

 

#PLAGUE MASTER Facebook Takeover Party – Today

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H.E. Roulo and HorrorAddicts.net cordially invite you to attend a Zomberrific Takeover Party. In honor of the PLAGUE MASTER: Rebel Infection release, HorrorAddicts.net will hold a special Facebook Takeover Party with hosts, A.F. Stewart, Winnie Jean Howard, McCallum Morgan, H.E. Roulo, and more! Please, RSVP and bring a friend. There will be prizes!

Date: Today

Time: Noon-3:00PM PST

Where: Online at the PLAGUE MASTER Facebook Takeover Party

Be there and Be Spooky!!

Sincerely,

H.E. Roulo and HorrorAddicts.net

#PLAGUE MASTER: Rebel Infection Sneak Peek

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HorrorAddicts.net is proud to present a sneak peek into Plague Master: Rebel Infection by H.E. Roulo. Please enjoy this excerpt from Chapter 14.

Hillside Threats

Trevor is hailed as a hero for returning with a vaccine for the zombie infection. His celebrity also makes him a dangerous threat to the powerful Founders of his homeworld. Revolution is in the air, and Trevor is caught in the middle. He is forced to seek help on other worlds and becomes trapped on a snowy hillside.

He rushed a dozen steps up the steep incline, barely noticing a soft shifting sound. A gray hand reached from the snow and yanked his arm. Caught unaware, Trevor fought for balance, instinctively reaching toward the ground for balance. A gaping mouth opened in the snow. The ice-coated zombie who’d grabbed him caught Trevor’s fingers between oil-slicked teeth, snowflakes pristine on its cold lips. Its tongue squirmed against his woolen glove.

Twisting his hand into a fist, Trevor rammed it forward with his momentum, scraping between gaping teeth and into the back of its throat. His other hand slammed his wrench into its bottom jaw. The joint shattered. Torn muscle flexed uselessly in the cheek his blow laid open.

The jaws tried to close, gnawing weakly at mitten and coat sleeve. Trevor lifted the wrench again and slammed it into the temple of the zombie. It lay still.

Panting, he yanked his hand out, not stopping to retrieve the soggy glove that bunched against the back of the skull’s teeth.

He stared at the stranger’s broken face, heart pounding. Man or woman, he couldn’t tell, but no cure would bring this zombie back.

“It’s not because you’re infected.” He yanked his wrench out of the zombie’s head, flicking away blackened matter. “It’s because I’m human.”

He’d started with the best intentions, but he’d fight for his life, even if someone else had to die.

Snow shifted on the hillside.

Trevor hopped several paces to the side, wrench held ready. Up and down the hillside, more zombies stirred. Dozens had followed him over the cliff, making random buried mines of teeth and grasping limbs. Traveling uphill was impossible with so many lying in wait.

PM Rebel InfectionGrateful he hadn’t broken a limb when he fell, he ran downhill at an angle, hoping to find a less steep and treacherous way up.

Snow rustled and crunched as they stirred behind him. The zombies pursued. He hadn’t meant to be such a good distraction.

Read more excerpts and see behind the scenes of the PLAGUE MASTER trilogy.

Find H.E. on Twitter, Facebook: Her Blog, Goodreads, and Author Central. 

Plague Master: Sanctuary Dome (Book 1) and Plague Master: Rebel Infection (Book 2) are available on Amazon.

#PLAGUE MASTER Facebook Takeover Party

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H.E. Roulo and HorrorAddicts.net cordially invite you to attend a Zomberrific Takeover Party. In honor of the PLAGUE MASTER: Rebel Infection release, HorrorAddicts.net will hold a special Facebook Takeover Party with hosts, A.F. Stewart, Winnie Jean Howard, McCallum Morgan, H.E. Roulo, and more! Please, RSVP and bring a friend. There will be prizes!

Date: September 21, 2019

Time: Noon-3:00PM PST

Where: Online at the PLAGUE MASTER Facebook Takeover Party

Be there and Be Spooky!!

Sincerely,

H.E. Roulo and HorrorAddicts.net

Odds and Dead Ends: Hyde and Seek

Why Stevenson’s classic still haunts us

It’s hard to think that Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, could be anything like a surprise today, with the story so deeply ingrained in the popular conscious, at least at a basic level. But when the story was unleashed in 1886, it changed the face not only of gothic fiction but everyday thought. It altered how we look at ourselves. Its names are used so frequently as short-hands that we don’t even realise we use them. Its story is so potent because, at some instinctual level, we’ve known it all along.

That both Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are two halves of the same person is so obvious to us now, that it is hard to remember that this was the novella’s major twist. Although the concept of the doppelganger had been used before; never quite like this. In an age of scientists beginning to look at the mind, Stevenson kick-started the psychoanalytic influence of popular culture. That later Freudian theories of the ‘id’ and the ‘ego’ would so closely mirror Henry Jekyll splitting his consciousness into its good and evil sides, is only to be expected. Studies into schizophrenia, insanity, and other levels of mental illness,  still the property of the scientist in the asylum, just beginning. That this madness could spill into the streets of London was unthinkable.

What I think captivates us most is that the moral dilemma proposed in the story is so deeply personal and human. After a single transformation, Jekyll gets a taste of his new, unrefined freedom. The dark activities that Hyde participates in thrill him, excite him so much that he voluntarily changes over and over again. When he realises that it’s getting harder to remain as his good side, something seems to change in Jekyll’s narrative. This is something much older, instinctual, a kind of self-possession. And when he thinks he is rid of Hyde for good, temptation strikes again, leading to the downward spiral that spells out his doom.

Therefore, we ask ourselves questions. Is evil inherent in all of us, and is it only a matter of time until temptation unleashes it? Once a single crack appears, have we set up an inevitable chain of events that will lead to our final demise? Though Jekyll’s potion may have rattled the initial cages, eventually Hyde possesses the key to his own lock. What about those of us who are perhaps weaker than he? Will one day our darker sides discover that the cell door, if rattled hard enough, will break on its own?

By now, the doubling trope is so old and worn down that it is hard to see it as new and refreshing. And yet, just like most of our movie monsters, time and time again it crops up. The reveal in Fight Club is one of the most well known in cinematic history, and even The Usual Suspects has a trace of it. Primal Fear (another Ed Norton movie, and another movie from the 90’s; perhaps there’s a follow-up article on the prevalence of doppelgangers in that particular decade?) also follows through on this concept. Psycho is perhaps one of the most influential examples of this theme being carried across, and Stephen King has used it several times in his various writings. Any ‘evil inside’ story is dubbed ‘a modern-day Jekyll-and-Hyde’. How many stories can you think of that receive this kind of treatment?

One of the best doppelganger movies of recent times is Jordan Peele’s Us. If you haven’t yet seen it, I highly recommend you do so immediately. Peele takes the concept and fills it with additional meaning. It isn’t just evil inside, but all of our lost hopes and griefs, all of the unfilled desires. The Untethered are our lost childhoods let loose and raging at the world. Life has crushed its dreams into the cookie-cutter pattern of capitalist aspirations that never manage to satisfy.

Never before have we been so aware as a people that, sometimes, we’re just as bad as the monster’s we have dreamed up to take our place. When before we created entities to embody our fears, we now project them as altered versions of ourselves as an attempt to come to grips with the evil inside. We don’t create avatars and fill them with our darkness anymore, because the avatar staring back at us is every bit ourselves as we are right in the beginning.

Even in The Exorcist, Karras must eliminate all doubt that the disturbances in the McNeill household are not being caused by Regan herself, before he can convince the Church that an exorcism is needed. He must go into the investigation with the initial belief that Regan, as a result of the breakup of her parents, the overworking of her mother, and her journey through puberty into adulthood, has unleashed a subconscious identity with parapsychological powers. In this story, demons are less readily-believed by the Church than Regan unknowingly having a ghostly Mr Hyde.

And so the legacy of Stevenson’s story lives on. Through its dozens of adaptations, its thousands of reworkings, and the endless imaginations his characters have inspired, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde has touched us all because, very simply, it gets us to ask ourselves a very potent, and disturbing, question. “Am I evil?” I don’t think there’s a person in the world that hasn’t at some point thought they had a bad side waiting to destroy the world, and perhaps this little novella is the reason we all started looking at others, and ourselves, with a little more trepidation than we did before.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: @KJudgeMental

Bibliography

Fight Club. 1999. [Film] Directed by David Fincher. USA: Fox 2000 Pictures.

Primal Fear. 1998. [Film] Directed by Gregory Hoblit. USA: Rysher Entertainment.

Psycho. 1960. [Film] Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. United States of America: Shamley Productions.

Stevenson, R. L., 2006. Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. In: R. Luckhurst, ed. Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Other Tales. New York: Oxford, pp. 1 – 66.

The Exorcist. 1973. [Film] Directed by William Friedkin. USA: Hoya Productions.

The Usual Suspects. 1995. [Film] Directed by Bryan Singer. USA: Blue Parrot.

Us. 2019. [Film] Directed by Jordan Peele. USA: Monkeypaw Productions.

Chilling Chat: Episode 173 | H.E. Roulo

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H.E. Roulo’s short stories have appeared in several dozen publications, including Nature and Fantasy’s special Women Destroy Fantasy issue. She is the author of the Plague Master series. Fractured Horizon, her science-fiction podcast novel, was a Parsec HE ROULO 1Award Finalist.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Heather. Thank you for joining me today.

HER: Happy to be here, Naching. 

NTK:  Could you tell us a little about Plague Master? What is this series about?

HER: Sure! I’ll throw a few buzz-words at you then dig into it a bit more. It’s a dystopian, sci-fi/horror, zombie YA trilogy. The series takes place in a solar system colonized by humans, but there’s a new infection raging on the planets.

There are a couple storylines, but the biggest one is Trevor, who grows up on a downtrodden planet that really didn’t need a zombie infection to make it even worse. There’s also a dome for infected who haven’t become zombies to go to, but of course, nothing is as it seemed.

In the new book, Plague Master: Rebel Infection, Trevor returns to his homeworld with a cure for the infection, except it stops working and he has to find out why. It’s not just politics and secrets, of course. There’s space travel, avalanches, and diving through zombie-filled tunnels.

NTK: Sounds exciting! What inspired you to write about zombies in a space setting?

HER: I’d released a sci-fi book, Fractured Horizon, and was looking to write something that would catch people’s attention. I saw a call for an audio drama and wrote a short, 40-minute script. They loved it (it’s out there in the Omega Road Chronicles.) I wrote a related short story, and that sold. It was obvious that zombies were good sellers and I felt like I had a different enough approach to stand out. I took what I’d learned and wrote the full novel. Plus, writing zombies is fun!

There are a lot of zombie stories out there. Fewer space zombies.

NTK: I have to ask…do you prefer fast zombies or slow ones?

HER: Oh, good question.

I promise I’ll answer that. First, let me say that I didn’t have to choose. In my world, the infected becomes violent and crazed as they first change—so you have the terror of the fast zombie. However, after a while, they slow down and become almost docile unless riled up, so you get your slow zombies.

This allowed people to think zombies could be kept in herds, like sheep.

Anyway, in general, I like the fast ones.

I loved 28 Days Later.

NTK: Are you a fan of George Romero?

HER: I think you have to give him credit when you talk about zombies. I wouldn’t risk calling myself a fan, though. I’m not nearly knowledgeable enough. 

NTK:  How much control do you exert over your characters? Do they have free will?

HER: Characters always act in ways logical to them, so sometimes they can’t take the path I had planned. Still, I always know the end of a story before I begin and it’s just a matter of steering them where they need to go.

NTK: What’s your writing process like? Do you outline?

HER: Oh, you may be sorry you asked that.

NTK: (Laughs.)

HER: I am a true believer in outlining. I have an entire process, and my most successful blog post ever was on how to outline a book—it gets tons of hits every fall as people gear up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). It’s called, “A Simple Novel Outline – 9 Questions for 25 Chapters.”

I have to know my beginning and end. I need at least two or three scenes I’m really excited about.

Plague Master Sanctuary DomeAfter I have those, I plug them in to a chapter framework and start filling in around them. I used to do it in Word, but I’ve found the Scrivener is especially good for that. However, I usually end up pulling it back out as I get the story more filled in. Then I work in Word again.

Once I have the outlined chapters, I start at the beginning and work from front to back, never going back! I used to rework and rework. Now I just leave myself notes to go back if something changes along the way.

When I’m deep in a novel, I try for 2000 words a day.

I did warn you.

NTK: (Laughs.) You did. What is your favorite horror novel?

HER: Favorite questions are hard for me. I rarely have that kind of loyalty to anything. I like novelty. My favorite things are the stories, songs, and televisions shows I haven’t seen yet and that surprise me. I rarely consume anything twice. Today, I’ll fondly recall the horror of certain stories in the anthology Unaccompanied Sonata by Orson Scott Card.

NTK: Favorite horror movie?

HER: I’m a big fan of anything post-apocalyptic and dystopian. I had to read Cormac McCarthy’s grim and hopeless The Road after seeing the movie. I also love time travel and alternate realities. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind impressed me when it came out. Coherence and the movie Primer kept things interesting.

NTK: What attracts you to Dystopia?

HER: I’ve always loved dystopian stories. The Girl Who Owned a City was one of my first favorites. So was Z for Zacharia. I also loved Island of the Blue Dolphins and My Side of the Mountain. I think it’s about starting over, relying on your abilities to survive, and simplifying things

 

—not that most people think of dystopia as simple, but it does remove superficial troubles for real and basic needs.

So for me, it isn’t about the breakdown of society. I know that Island of the Blue Dolphin isn’t traditionally considered a dystopian story—but it’s about surviving with whatever you find yourself with. Starting over, and being able to build something new. Things get messed up—I’m sure we all look at the world and wish it was simple and basic, and about our own skills and ability—so a reset sounds great.

I wouldn’t actually want that, though. I have a family and comfortable things. (Laughs.)

Structure keeps us safe. These stories are about what happens when that safety net isn’t there.

NTK: Have you read The Stand by Stephen King?

HER: I haven’t. He wasn’t in the boxes of garage sale books my dad brought home each weekend—I’m not sure why. Eventually, I deliberately went back and read a few things by him, like The Long Walk, and was so impressed that I read his book On Writing.

Excellent advice in there, for any writers looking for a book.

NTK: What’s your favorite horror television show?

HER: The Black Mirror series has me hooked.

NTK: You’re a fan of the original Star Trek, do you have a favorite frightening episode from that series?

HER: Oh, that’s a new question!

I am a big fan of Star Trek, TOS, and of Next Generation, too. A lot of the series, actually.

What comes to mind is “The Devil in the Dark”, which is the one with the Horta, who seems like a monster but in the end we realize isn’t. There’s so much that’s fantastic in that episode.

I love creatures that are more than they seem.

I love subverting expectations, actually. I dislike predictable stories—give me something new!

NTK:  What does the future hold for you? What do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

HER: Well, we’re talking about the second book in the Plague Master trilogy, so you know PM Rebel InfectionI have to write the third and final one. I’ve had the series finale in mind for a long time, so I’m thrilled to finally write it.

I have a few other short stories that will no doubt come out. I tend to submit a lot except when I’ve got a book coming out.

And I’d like to sell a novella about a villain superhero called Heart of Marble. It’s dark and funny.

I also have an urban fantasy story that I’ve been trying to finish for about a year. It’s got four or five point of view characters, and bringing them all together for a satisfying ending has been tricky.

I think it’s a novel, but I need about ten more chapters to be sure. (Laughs.)

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me, Heather.

HER: I had a great time. Thanks!

 

Horror Addicts, you can find Heather on Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter.

Her new book, Plague Master: Rebel Infection, is available now!

 

28 Days Later Twitter Watch Party – Tonight

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Horror Addicts, in honor of her new book release, Plague Master: Rebel Infection, H.E. 28 Days LaterRoulo would like to invite you to her Twitter Watch Party! She’ll be watching the fantastic 2002 zombie film, 28 Days Later starring Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, and Christopher Eccleston. HorrorAddicts.net will be tweeting along with H.E. beginning at 8 pm PST, so get your popcorn, put the movie on, and join us tonight!

WHAT: 28 Days Later Twitter Watch Party

WHERE: Twitter

WHEN: Tonight at 8:00 pm

FOLLOW: #ZombieGrr

Stay Spooky!

28 Days Later Twitter Watch Party

PM2BANNERHorror Addicts, in honor of her new book release, Plague Master: Rebel Infection, H.E. Roulo would like to invite you to her Twitter Watch Party! She’ll be watching the 28 Days Laterfantastic 2002 zombie film, 28 Days Later starring Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, and Christopher Eccleston. HorrorAddicts.net will be tweeting along with H.E. beginning at 8 pm PST, so get your popcorn, put the movie on, and join us Thursday, September 5.

WHAT: 28 Days Later Twitter Watch Party

WHERE: Twitter

WHEN: Thursday, September 5, at 8:00 pm

Stay Spooky!

#Plague Master: Rebel Infection Blog Tour and Events

H.E. Roulo and HorrorAddicts.net are pleased to present Zombies in Space! Join us as we tour the web and hold live events.

#PLAGUE MASTER: REBEL INFECTION

See the videos, read the excerpts and posts,  join our celebrations, and sample the wonders of the Plague Master Universe.

August #Plague Master: Rebel Infection Blog Tour and Events
25 #Plague Master: Rebel Infection Press Release / horroraddicts.net
26 #Plague Master: Rebel Infection BLOG TOUR Begins / horroraddicts.net
27 28 DAYS LATER Twitter Watch Party Announcement / horroraddicts.net
28 Recap of #Plague Master: Sanctuary Dome / https://www.hauntjaunts.net/blog/
29 YouTube Book Trailer Miniseries Announcement / horroraddicts.net
29 YouTube Book Trailer Miniseries Part 1 / https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjwWhMpEXWIluDOlUVWhFSQ/
31 #Plague Master: Rebel Infection Chapter 3 Excerpt / https://emzbox.wordpress.com/
SEPTEMBER
1 World Building in the #Plague Master Universe / https://thetaooftim.wordpress.com/
2 #Plague Master: Rebel Infection Chapter 5 Excerpt/ stephanieellis.org
3 #Plague Master: Trevor’s Got Trouble at Home / www.SumikoSaulson.com
4 YouTube Book Trailer Miniseries Announcement / horroraddicts.net
4 YouTube Book Trailer Miniseries Part 2 / https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjwWhMpEXWIluDOlUVWhFSQ/
5 28 DAYS LATER Twitter Watch Party Announcement / horroraddicts.net
5 28 DAYS LATER TWITTER WATCH PARTY / https://twitter.com/hroulo
6 Chilling Chat: Episode #173 | H.E. Roulo / horroraddicts.net
7 HorrorAddict’s.net Episode #173, H.E. Roulo / horroraddicts.net
7 #Plague Master Series Timeline – What’s Up with the Zombies? / https://girlzombieauthors.blogspot.com/2019/09/new-zombie-series-plague-master.html
8 Some Stories Just Won’t Die: A Zombie Book’s History of Survival  / https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com/post/sunday-surprises
9 #PM2 Did I Just Make a Miniseries? / https://nicolegivenskurtz.com/category/pulp-reports/
9 #PM2 Did I Just Make a Miniseries? / https://mochamemoirspress.com/uncategorized/did-i-just-make-a-miniseries/
10 #Plague Master BLOG TOUR Announcement / https://richandroulo.wordpress.com/
11 #Plague Master: Rebel Infection Chapter 7 Excerpt / https://chantellyb.wordpress.com/
12 YouTube Book Trailer Miniseries Announcement / horroraddicts.net
12 YouTube Book Trailer Miniseries Part 3 / https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjwWhMpEXWIluDOlUVWhFSQ/
13 #Plague Master: Rebel Infection Chapter 12 Excerpt / https://elliotthorpe.wordpress.com/
14 Zombies in Space / https://davemstrom.wordpress.com/
15 Meet the Characters of Plague Master: Rebel Infection / http://selahjanel.wordpress.com/
16 5 Questions with Loren Rhoads / https://lorenrhoads.com/blog/
17 Facebook Takeover Party Announcement / horroraddicts.net
17 Hitting the Action in the Plague Master Series / https://samaireprovost.com/
18
Finding Romance in a Zombie Apocalypse / mmgenet.com
19 #Plague Master: Rebel Infection Chapter 14 Excerpt / horroraddicts.net
20 A SIMS Character’s Take on Characters from the Plague Master Series / https://frightenme.weebly.com/frighten-me-blog
21 Facebook Takeover Party Announcement / horroraddicts.net
21 FACEBOOK TAKEOVER PARTY / https://www.facebook.com/events/377070086259488/

Odds and Dead Ends : An introduction to the Giallo

Most people have a fair understanding of the classic slasher flick. Made popular by Halloween in 1978, with predecessors including The Town That Dreaded Sundown, Black Christmas, Psycho etc, the idea of killing people off one by one has been immortalised by the formulae refined by films of this type. However, the slasher film is very closely linked to the Giallo (roughly pronounced jea-low), a type of Italian film which was very popular in the sixties and seventies, and bred a slew of filmmakers still admired and imitated today. This article won’t be a comprehensive discussion of the Giallo, as I’m a fan of the genre and not a scholar of it, but it will hopefully provide an introduction to those not aware of it, and give you a couple of movies to add to the ‘to-be-watched’ list.

Originally, gialli were cheap crime paperbacks, a bit like pulp novels, that were printed by Mondadori and trademarked with an instantly recognisable yellow cover. Hence this gave birth to the term Giallo, meaning ‘yellow’. These were mostly translations of Agatha Christie, Edgar Lee Wallace, Arthur Conan Doyle, and other similar authors. It’s important to make a distinction between the types of crime fiction, however. Gialli focused more on the graphic violence and the sleuths, rather than gun-toting noir police work. As Gary Needham says:

The publication of gialli increased throughout the 1930s and 40s, however, the importation and translation of the 1940s “hard-boiled” detective fictions from the US were prohibited from publication outright by Mussolini on the grounds that their corrupting influence and glamorisation of crime would negatively influence “weak-minded” Italians. (Needham, 2002)

Despite some of the restrictions, the Italians began writing their own gialli, and the literature boomed in the ’30s and ’40s. By the late ’50s, it had started to make its way across to film. The main mastermind behind its initial translation to the screen was Mario Bava, a film legend in his own right. After all, it was his film, Black Sabbath, which gave the band their name, who helped invent and pioneer the Heavy Metal genre of music.

Though he made a splash in ’63 with his film The girl who knew too much, it was his 1964 film, Blood and Black Lace, which really kicked things off. Dispensing with the police-procedural elements of previous films, Bava upped the sex and violence, turning the stalking sequences into major set pieces in their own right. Despite being a financial failure at the time, it has gone on to be critically appreciated and influenced dozens of filmmakers after. It set the template of what was to come after. It also introduced the killer in a black coat with black gloves, very much like Jack the Ripper, which would be the usual getup for Giallo killers as time went on.

A few years later, the most influential Giallo filmmaker would take up the mantle. Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage incorporated a twisted, convoluted plotline with stunning visuals that earned him the nickname ‘the Italian Hitchcock.’ The film was an international success, and still has one of my personal favourite twists of all time. He followed this up with Four Flies on Grey Velvet a few years later, and then release one of his masterpieces in 1975, Profondo Rosso (Deep Red).Deep Red Poster

Around the early seventies, Sergio Martino also released films such as Torso, All the colours of the dark, and the incredibly titled, Your vice is a locked room and only I have the key. Lucio Fulci also breaks onto the scene here, directing films such as A lizard in a woman’s skin and Don’t torture a duckling in the early seventies. I’ve already written an article on Fulci here on HorrorAddicts.net, and I’ll include a link to that at the article’s end.

Because of their frequency of production and release at this time, gialli ended up like the Saw films did, with each film trying to out-do the previous in terms of twists and turns. I recall hearing Luigi Cozzi talk about this in relation to when he and Argento were batting around ideas for a film in which someone foresaw their death, then had to try and explain how it happened without psychic powers. The film, Profondo Rosso, was eventually made without Cozzi’s involvement, but he does own a horror memorabilia shop in Italy named after the film.

The gory death sequences continued throughout the seventies, continuing into Argento’s most famous film, Suspiria, which had a remake released last year. The brutal opening death scene with a body crashing through a stain glass window is as in horror history as Johnny Depp’s demise in the original Nightmare on Elm Street, and Goblin’s score for the film is something you find yourself humming walking down the street. Filled with vibrant colours and haunting imagery, it’s still shocking even today.

By the time the eighties came around, however, the Giallo was beginning to fade. Fulci’s return to the genre after doing his Gates of Hell trilogy were fairly laughable (Murder Rock is just funny, and there’s not a person in existence that can’t think of The New York Ripper without saying ‘quack’. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it and you’ll understand what I mean), and Argento has been making movies to this day, but nothing of any real note after the mid-eighties with Phenomena and Opera. The American slasher had taken the spotlight, and even that was, by the late eighties, beginning to run down its original formula.

These films are still influential, however. The film Abrakadabra, released last year by the Onetti Brothers, is a wonderful homage to the giallo, nailing everything from the groove-rock soundtrack to the quick zooms and grainy footage. Gialli are a wonderful time, those made around the late sixties/early seventies especially, as they have their own unique vibe, shooting style, and soundtracks. Unlike the slasher or the ghost story, it’s something that I highly doubt will ever make a proper return, but will stay immortalised as the brilliant pieces of cinema that they are. Sleazy, shocking, suspenseful; the Giallo is one of a kind.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: KJudgeMental

FURTHER READING ON HORRORADDICTS.NET

Bibliography

A Nightmare on Elm Street. 1984. [Film] Directed by Wes Craven. United States of America: New Line Cinema.

Abrakadabra. 2018. [Film] Directed by Nicolas Onetti Luciano Onetti. Argentina/New Zealand: Black Mandala.

All the colours of the dark. 1972. [Film] Directed by Sergio Martino. Italy: Lea Film.

Black Christmas. 1974. [Film] Directed by Bob Clarke. Canada: Ambassador Films.

Black Sabbath. 1963. [Film] Directed by Mario Bava. Italy/France: Emmepi Cinematografica Societe.

Blood and Black Lace. 1964. [Film] Directed by Mario Bava. Italy: Emmepi.

Don’t Torture a Duckling. 1972. [Film] Directed by Lucio Fulci. Italy: Medusa Produzione.

Four Flies on Grey Velvet. 1972. [Film] Directed by Dario Argento. Italy: Seda Spettacoli.

Halloween. 1978. [Film] Directed by John Carpenter. United States of America: Falcon International Productions.

Lizard in a Woman’s Skin. 1971. [Film] Directed by Lucio Fulci. Italy: International Apollo Films.

Murder Rock. 1984. [Film] Directed by Lucio Fulci. Italy: Scena Film.

Needham, G., 2002. Playing with genre: an introduction to the Italian Giallo. [Online]
Available at: http://www.kinoeye.org/02/11/needham11.php
[Accessed 20 07 2019].

Phenomena. 1985. [Film] Directed by Dario Argento. Italy: DAC Film.

Profondo Rosso. 1975. [Film] Directed by Dario Argento. Italy: Seta Spettacoli.

Psycho. 1960. [Film] Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. United States of America: Shamley Productions.

Saw. 2004. [Film] Directed by James Wan. USA: Twisted Pictures.

Suspiria. 1977. [Film] Directed by Dario Argento. Italy: Seda Spettacoli.

Terror At The Opera. 1987. [Film] Directed by Dario Argento. Italy: ADC Films.

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. 1970. [Film] Directed by Dario Argento. Italy: CCC Filmkunst GmbH.

The New York Ripper. 1982. [Film] Directed by Lucio Fulci. Italy: Fulvia Film.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown. 1976. [Film] Directed by Charles B. Pierce. USA: Charles B. Pierce Film Productions, Inc..

Torso. 1973. [Film] Directed by Sergio Martino. Italy: Compagnia Cinematografica Champion.

Your room is a locked vice and only I have the key. 1972. [Film] Directed by Sergio Martino. Italy: Luciano Martino.

Chilling Chat: Episode 170 | Tim Reynolds

chillingchat

Tim Reynolds grew up in Toronto, Ontario, but has called Calgary, Alberta home since 1999. He lives a quiet, peaceful, cluttered life with his dog, two cats, and a collection of Tim Reynoldsmusical instruments he has neither the talent nor the self-discipline to play. 

An internationally-published writer/photographer/artist he writes his stories “from the character on up”.

Tim is an intelligent man with a terrific sense of humor. We spoke of writing, inspiration, and night terrors.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Tim. Thank you for joining me today.

TR: Thank you, Naching! It’s wonderful to be here!

NTK: How old were you when you first became interested in horror and dark fantasy?

TR: I was going to say I was 12 when I saw the chillingly bizarre movie The Other but then I remembered that I was much younger, probably less than seven, when I was sick in bed and Mom had moved the TV into my room but not checked what was on the channel. It was The Incredible Shrinking Man. She caught me watching it right about the time he was being chased by the giant— to him—spider. As for reading the literature, I was probably 17 or 18, after I discovered The Lord of the Rings in English class. It was much darker than the detective stuff I’d been reading leading up to then.

NTK: Did Tolkien influence your writing? Who is your favorite horror writer?

TR: He did have a huge influence because I’m pretty sure every fantasy author I read after him was influenced by him, so it was inescapable. This is going to sound strange, but I had to stop reading horror. I got night terrors as a kid and still get episodes as an adult, and what I read or watch has a big influence on my very vivid dreams and nightmares. That said, I was once a voracious Stephen King reader, as well as Dean Koontz. King would be my favourite, though, because his stories can terrify without full-on horror.

NTK: I’m sorry to hear about your night terrors. Do they keep you from watching horror movies and TV shows?

TR: They do, for the most part. I do try to watch the critically acclaimed ones like Bird Box, where it’s more about suspense than pop-up scares.

I also don’t mind the occasional zombie one—World War Z is my favourite—or vampire one— 30 Days of Night.

NTK: Do you have a favorite horror TV show?

TR: I’d have to say that Black Mirror is the only one I’ll watch, and while many wouldn’t call it horror, I believe that its view of where we are headed as a species with tech is truly horrifying.

NTK: Have your night terrors inspired your writing? Where do you find inspiration?

Waking AnastasiaTR: They certainly have. My most recent fantasy novel The Sisterhood of the Black Dragonfly has a couple of monster-popping-up fight scenes and the creatures in it have a similarity to some of the ones I fled from in my childhood dreams. But sometimes my dreams inspire more than a scene. My previous novel Waking Anastasia about a young man who awakens the ghost of Anastasia Romanova came from a dream. My inspiration can literally come from anywhere. A figurine in a shop, a challenge from a friend, a smile and a wave from a complete stranger…

NTK: Do you have any advice for people suffering from night terrors?

TR: Yes, actually! Avoid dairy before bed! Especially pizza. There’s something in it that makes my dreams go off in a wild direction like I heard acid trips of the 60s do. And vitamin B complex before bed—or any time—can lessen anxiety somewhat.

NTK: Let’s talk about characters. Do your characters have free will? Or do you dictate their every move?

TR: They very much have free will. Once I create a “whole person,” meaning one in which I know their back story and motivations, I let them roll with the scene. I control what needs to happen in the scene, but I let the conversations and quite often the actions be completely organic, in other words, flowing forward from what was just said or done.

That said, I’m having trouble with my latest one because the two characters are very much based on real people, one of which is me. I keep second-guessing myself if that makes sense. And the horror, in this case, isn’t in the story, it’s the writing because it’s a romantic comedy.

Also, I recently wrote a horror short from the point of view of Jack the Ripper. However, because it was very fact-based, I couldn’t give him too much leeway.

NTK: Do you outline and plot the story?

TR: I do now, but I’m also very flexible once I start writing. RomComs are very structured, so I have to hit certain story beats near a certain page, but I usually have a loose structure/outline with everything to make sure that I put the clues where they need to be. I’m becoming much more methodical in my writing as I mature as a writer because while it’s lovely to just go off and write whatever the freak I feel like, if I want bigger publishers to notice my work and make offers, I need to use outlines to keep me on track and not let me write madly off all directions.

NTK: Going back to the works of Stephen King, which is your favorite?

TR: Oooohhhh… Tough question. I haven’t read any in a while, but I loved Hearts in Atlantis, The Stand, and the four novellas of Different Seasons. My stand-out King novel is an odd choice but I love it for its simplicity: Gerald’s Game.

NTK: Aside from the RomCom, what does the future hold for you? What do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

TR: As a reply to writing the RomCom inspired by my life experiences, I’m writing a dark, bloody, nasty 19th century urban vigilante novel in which I will kill off the types of villains that I feel are plaguing us now—child sexual abusers, rapists, one-percenters who think the rest of us are simply here for their profit or use…. or I will write the sequel to my unpublished semi-cozy detective novel that my agent is currently trying to sell forSisterhood of the Black Dragonfly me.

NTK: Awesome! Looking forward to them!

TR:  Thank you! I try to write stories that are as much fun to read as they are to write, even if they scare the bejeesus out of me and the reader. Joy isn’t all about laughs, as every horror writer/reader knows.

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me today, Tim!

TR: Thank you, Naching! It’s been fun, and I appreciate you making me think on a Friday morning when the weekend and non-thinking is so close I can taste it.

Addicts, you can find Tim at his Blog and on Twitter.

 

 

Chilling Chat: Episode 169 | Nancy Kilpatrick

chillingchat

Award-winning author Nancy Kilpatrick has published 22 novels, over 220 short stories, seven story collections, and has edited 15 anthologies, plus graphic novels and one non-nancy K.fiction book, The goth Bible: A Compendium for the Darkly Inclined (St. Martin’s Press).

Nancy is an honest and passionate writer. We spoke of inspiration, classic horror, and vampires.

NTK:  Welcome to Chilling Chat, Nancy! Thank you for joining me today.

NK: It’s my pleasure, Naching! Thank you for inviting me.

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

NK: I was a kid. We had the Saturday Night Chiller-type movies on but they were late and although it was Saturday night, I wasn’t allowed to stay up for those except on rare occasions. Horror films were my favorites and that just continued when I got old enough to watch those films. But before that, when I was in grade school (not sure of my age but likely around 6 or 7) the school visited the big library in downtown Philadelphia, where I lived, and we were each allowed to take one book out. I choose The Little Witch, which says I lot, I guess. Little did I know how famous that book was, in print for 40 years. So, my love of horror goes way back.

NTK: Who are the authors who’ve influenced you most?

NK: In horror, I tend not to mention living authors. I know way too many writers and I don’t want to offend anyone or leave anyone out. And frankly, it’s many dead authors that shaped me. Poe, Lovecraft, Carter, Jackson, Kafka, Shelley, Stoker, Byron, Bloch…even then, there are more than I’ve named. I see myself as shaped and influenced by every book I’ve ever read, even the terrible ones, and in every genre, both fiction and non-fiction. I’m kind of a lit vampire, meaning, I drink in experiences, so besides general life experiences, books and film have played a big role in who I am as a writer and likely who I am as a person.

NTK: Do you find inspiration in the books you’ve read? Where do you find inspiration?

NK: Inspiration is everywhere. I can see something, smell something, a twig on a peculiar taste, hear a sound and so on. I can have a dream and have written two stories from dreams. I daydream a lot. Many avenues lead to a story idea but the ones that lead to actually writing down those ideas in short story or novel form, those are the exceptional ideas. It’s hard to say what inspires them. One avenue for me is that I own and have read thousands of vampire novels and short fiction so I know what has been done and that always leads me to what has not been done before and how that fits into my personal view of the vampire. To a lesser extent, that works with ghosts and zombies for me, werewolves a bit less. If it’s “reality” horror, for example, nothing supernatural, more like a serial killer, there’s plenty of info on those types of killers around and that can inspire a thought. But thoughts have to connect to feeling for me because I’m essentially an emotional writer.

To keep it simple: I’m inspired when a thought or a feeling becomes a spark.

NTK: How did “Root Cellar” come about?

NK:  I lived on a farm for almost a year, 10 miles outside the small town. The house was in exchange for “fixing it up.” It was bought by a well-off Judge who didn’t want to live there but it needed repair so a few friends and I went and painted and sanded and such. When we first arrived, we explored the house. The attic was a crawl space with a peaked roof and slats on the floor. We found some creepy things there, including the coffin and the cards I put into that story. The house was also, as in the story, the “old” part and the “new” part, with all the pickled things in the stairwell down to the basement.

“Root Cellar” was originally a literary story, a story of incest. I had a phase where I tried to force myself to write ‘lit’ fiction. That didn’t last long, though I published a bit. But, I could never get over the idea that lit fic had lost its way in terms of plot. Which is one reason I love horror, because plot is still crucial and that means a story to me. Anyway, I submitted “Root Cellar” to a major newspaper that was having a short fiction contest (yes, that was exceptional!) I was the first runner up and the story was published. As I was reading it in the paper, it struck me how that story was really a vampire story so I rewrote it and published it and it’s been published several times, been in a Best-of antho, up for two awards and so on. Really, it was crucial to see that in print and recognize that what I was trying to force myself to do was not right for me. Generally, I’m pretty aware of when I’m trying to go the “wrong” way because I think it’s the “right” way, and it’s not.

Revenge of the Vampir KingNTK: You’ve written a series called Thrones of Blood. How are your vampires different from others?

NK: Because I’ve read so much vampire material and seen so many movies, and because I’ve written erotica (mainly a series of seven pastiche novels based on horror classics: Dracula; Frankenstein, Jekyll/Hyde, etc. etc.) and because I’ve seen and read erotic vampire novels and movies and wanted to infuse a series with that but not just that, I started thinking about a new series. I began writing these books about 12 or 13 or more years ago, because the idea churned for a few years before I started writing. One year in the winter I was staying alone in Florida for a month and cranked out book one and some of book two and three. Of course, all that had to be revised. I was just having fun and threw in a lot of genres and kitchen sink and had to clean up all the mess and stick to the story. There are other books, of course, with warring vampires and humans but I wanted to show the vampires as somewhat more evolved, while still violent, and that the humans might be even more violent. Ultimately, I wanted to show that because of a long life, the vampires, which are as resistant to change as humans, do have a longer perspective and can alter, at least a little. I wanted all this to come through in each book amidst the violence, the sex, the treachery, betrayals, viciousness, traitorous acts and even love and kindness where least expected.

I have not seen what I’ve done. And frankly, readers need to be a bit smart to read these books because I work with paradox a lot in my writing. It’s awfully hard to hold two opposites at the same time and that’s kind of what I hope readers will do. I also like to shift allegiances a lot. That’s kind of real life too for thoughtful people.

NTK: Do your characters have free will? Or do you plan their every move?

NK: I usually have a kind of plot overview for novels but rarely do a chapter by chapter outline. At the same time, as I write, I kind of know where I’m going. That doesn’t mean the characters want to go there and more times than not they insist on me paying attention to them. As I said, I’m an emotional writer so I have to respect my feelings and if it feels dull, wrong, just a big NO, then it won’t work for me and I have wait until something comes to me as to how to proceed. And as with all creative endeavors, one can go this way and that, both ways pretty obvious. But waiting often leads to a third way that wasn’t envisioned and that’s much better and leads to something much better. So no, I plan a bit, but I’m open to change. If I wasn’t, my characters wouldn’t work with me! (Laughs.)

What I mean by “this way and that” is that in every story, based on the conflict, there are usually two obvious resolutions of that conflict. If you go to either, the reader (who is as smart as the writer) feels bored and cheated because both resolutions are too obvious. This is where a creative solution has to make an appearance.

NTK: What makes good erotica?

NK: I was on an erotic-horror panel once with about eight or nine women and they ranged in age from youngest to oldest. At the oldest end were Nancy Holder and me. Someone asked if we writers were aroused when we wrote erotic-horror. Invariably from the younger end, there were definite and resounding “NO’s” all along and when it got to Nancy Holder, she said, kind of, maybe a little, yes. Then me, who said, “Of course I am aroused! If I can’t feel it, I can’t write it!” (Nancy H., by the way, thought I was so brave to say that, but I didn’t see myself as brave, more just honest because if I can feel the emotion of what I’m writing, I can make it believable for the reader—and that goes for the unsavory emotions too. There’s a huge difference in feeling murderous, which almost everyone has felt at some point, and committing murder. Knowing and feeling the difference is what keeps us all from acting horrifically in a spontaneous, or even a thought-out, moment.)

My seven erotic novels are The Darker Passions: Dracula; Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Fall of the House of Usher, Carmilla, and The Pit and the Pendulum.

NTK: What is your favorite horror movie?

NK: There are soooo many. I’d just be listing them. I’ll say a few. Daughters of Darkness (stylish). The Exorcist (the original, so scary). [REC] (an adrenalin rush for sure!) All of Romero’s zombie movies, especially Night of and Dawn of the Living Dead. 30 Days of Night (great concept and a horrific vampire gang). 28 Days Later (I like fast-moving zombies). Martin (another Romero, this one vampire). And I loved the original The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price, a black and white based on Richard Matheson’s wonderful novel. That, of the three films based on the novel, was very creepy. Train to Busan (from South Korea, a great zombie movie, human, touching. It’s in subtitles. I’ve seen it three times.) It Stains the Sands Red (Wow, what a surprising zombie film. Two coke heads from LA, car stalled in the desert en route to see people, and a zombie comes and does guy in. The woman, seemingly a coke-head, has to “run” from the zombie but they are in the desert. It shifts and is so amazing. I was really blown away by this movie.)

You see, there are so many more I could name. Give me a minute and I can name 100 or more!

NTK: Do you have a favorite horror TV show?

NK: I liked the original Dark Shadows, and even the remake with Ben Cross. Forever Knight was fun. True Blood was incredible. (Kudos to Harris for allowing the adaptation.) There’s a great book called Vampire TV which is incredibly thick and surprisingly stuffed with TV shows of vampires alone. I also liked the old Twilight Zone, Kolchak, those kinds of X Files TV shows. Again, many more than I can name.

NTK: What’s your favorite horror novel?

NK: Again, I can’t name books by living authors so I’ll have to go with early works. And in fact, there’s little horror I’ve read or seen that I haven’t liked, even the bad stuff, because I can see merit in just about everything, sometimes just a drop of merit, but still. So that would Dracula by Stoker, Frankenstein by Mary Shelly, The Picture of Dorian Grey, all of Poe’s work, Robert Louis Stevenson’s work, even the ponderous Varney the Vampire or, The Feast of Blood which predates Dracula by a few decades. There are all sorts of wonderful novels out there and I encourage people to find and read some of what has been done in the past because, for example, the vampire did not start with Anne Rice’s books or Buffy. You’d be surprised by some of the beautiful and intense work that came The goth Biblebefore.

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

NK: At the moment, I’m working on book five in the Thrones of Blood series: Anguish of the Sapiens Queen. Book six is next up and that should be the end of the series, published in 2020. I also have a science fiction novel just about finished. The former will be out later this year and that latter…no date yet. I’m likely reissuing my horror (non-vampire) collection Cold Comfort. And I am in discussion for a new antho I’ll co-edit. This year I’ll be traveling to a few summer/fall events: Fan Expo in Toronto, and Word on the Street. Possibly Frightmare in the Falls. Early next year I’ll be at Stokercon in England.

By the way, if anyone wants to join my newsletter, which is short and once a month via email, they can go to my website: nancykilpatrick.com. The form to join is at the top.

NTK: Thank you so much for joining me today. It was an honor to interview you.

NK: Thank you, Naching, for having me.

Addicts, you can find Nancy on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Chilling Chat: Episode 167 | Selah Janel

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Selah Janel was blessed with a giant imagination, even if it made her gullible enough to wonder if fairies lurked in the woods and vampires waited in abandoned barns outside of selahtown as a child. As an adult, she writes in various genres, including horror and dark fantasy. Her work has been published in multiple anthologies, magazines, e-books, and a short story collection. She likes her music to rock, her vampires lethal, her faeries to play mind games, and her princesses to have adventures and hold their own.

Selah is a wonderful and natural storyteller. We spoke of acting, writing, and the creative process.

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me today, Selah.

SJ: Thanks for having me!

NTK: When did you discover horror? How old were you?

SJ: Oh, man. I’ve been aware of the genre my whole life. I was such a gullible scaredy cat as a kid—relatives convinced me all sorts of things were real and coming to get me. I was also super curious—I was the kid that would sneak off at the video store and read the boxes of every horror movie even though I couldn’t even sit through the movie commercials. When I hit junior high, I began to read Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, got into urban legends, that kind of thing. In college and doing theater, I got into Anne Rice, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King…I’d hole up in bookshops on my non-show days and read when I was away working. And then, I began to do work on haunted houses, so I felt like I had to up my game and learn the genre. It’s been a slow progression my whole life!

NTK: How do you work with haunted houses? Are you a ghost hunter?

SJ: I mean haunted houses in the entertainment sense—amusement parks. For about ten or eleven years, I did a lot of work in that area. It started with performance to make some side money, and, because I also do costume work, it turned into that and character design and some concept work on ideas and themes for different houses and mazes. Not that I haven’t seen some really odd things in actual haunted places, but in this case, it’s all entertainment!

NTK: Oh, I see! What is the strangest thing that ever happened while you were performing in a haunted house?

SJ: Oh, man. It’s all on a scale of weird, really, because these are situations you just don’t walk into during normal life. Performance-wise, it was more about the people coming through. They get weird ideas of what’s allowed and tend to forget there are people under the makeup, so I got really good at being aggressive and chasing people out of the maze— I was the main character in the last room—so they wouldn’t try to grab me and try anything. Tech-wise, a lot of meetings you’re talking about things that sound insane—what’s the right amount of blood, which zombies need which clothes, etc., though a lot of that is safety and logistics, too. For me, nothing will beat the night I was walking between buildings to put some things away and these club cars zoom up and start chasing me. It’s like one in the morning and, at first, I’m blowing it off because there are people decorating, but they weren’t slowing down, so I take off running and get cut off by one. The headlights were blinding and I was already tired and freaked out, so when the guys driving these things jumped out and I saw they were covered in blood and had fangs I about lost my mind…until I realized they were friends of mine who were also working late setting things up after a rehearsal. Pranking each other during those runs is definitely a thing.

Also, I was in the Friday the 13th theme park show. Jason killed me five times a night. Six on Saturdays! (Laughs.)

NTK: That is really scary! (Laughs.) Did this job inspire your story, “Wallpaper?”

SJ: In terms of how I think of things, probably. Even doing costumes we’d usually tour the houses or zones and look at the rooms to get an idea of the environment so things could match up. As far as direct inspiration, it started with a picture I was given for the Ladies of Horror Flash Challenge—those participating get a picture and have to do a flash piece for it. “Wallpaper” started as my original idea for it, but it went long on word count so I tucked it aside and did something else. But physical places and the possibilities in them definitely intrigue me. We all go through our lives so quickly these days, it was interesting to think that something as innocent as wallpaper could change a life.

NTK: Awesome! What’s your creative process like? Do you plot? Fly by the seat of your pants? Or a little of both?

SJ: I do some of each. I like to have a beginning and end point at the very least unless it’s a flash piece. For me, those are more about moments with a small plot arc. For longer pieces, usually a concept or idea will hit me and I’ll sit with it a while. I want to make sure there’s an actual story there. If I get more ideas or feel really excited I’ll jump in and aim toward the end goal. Usually, while I’m writing things will change direction or characters will make different choices than I’d planned. I try to stay open to that because some of my better ideas and story moments have come from that instinct.

NTK: So, your characters have free will? You don’t control them?

MoonerSJ: I’d say they have input, but I’m controlling the reins. If something doesn’t feel true to them then I’m not going to do it. I’m willing to change direction to a point, but if a moment doesn’t fit the story it doesn’t fit the story. I do think that sometimes I can get really in my head plot-wise, wanting to check off boxes, so those are the times where if something comes out of nowhere, I’ll at least explore it. It’s definitely a balancing act.

NTK: What horror authors have influenced you? Who is your favorite author?

SJ: There are so many! Ray Bradbury. All of his work is exquisite, and I love his use of description and little emotional moments that build his stories. In his horror work, he’s so good at his endings. I think he said that he wanted things to feel like someone missing a stair, and that’s exactly what it feels like, this okay…wait, oh my god! I also really love Neil Gaiman. His use of folklore makes me so happy, and he just really GOES there in some of his pieces. Emotionally, he’s a dark, beautiful, uncomfortable, fantastic ride. I read Nancy A. Collins’ Sonja Blue books in my early twenties and they’re amazing and horrifying. The world building is so good underneath the layers of atrocities and nihilism. It really showed me that I can be a woman author and still go in hard if I want to. I like a lot of Clive Barker, love Shirley Jackson. I love a lot of horror comics and manga— I feel like so many people are missing out because they don’t realize how good the stories in those forms are. You can’t beat Junji Ito for creepy body horror. In terms of a favorite author, that’s so hard! Probably a tie between Bradbury and Gaiman, though there are a LOT right behind them.

NTK: So what is your favorite novel?

SJ: American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I get something new out of it every time I read it. It’s unsettling, relevant, and the world and character building are exquisite. The car raffle gets me every time!

NTK: Is American Gods also your favorite horror TV show? If not, what is?

SJ: I’ve only seen the first season so far— I’m one of those that likes to wait til a season is out so I can watch it all at once. I think American Gods does a lot right—there’s a lot of people who would like it to be more like the book, but I don’t have any big complaints on the first season, and I love that they give the female roles more time. In terms of my favorite, I’m probably going to have to say the original Twilight Zone, though I haven’t seen the new one yet to compare, so that’s not me taking a stance on anything! I love anthology shows, and to me, there was such a great aesthetic there. Not all the episodes were great, but because of sheer volume, I think people got exposed to a lot of great “what if” lines of thought that gets under the skin.

NTK: What’s your favorite horror film?

SJ: I feel like the moment I give any answer besides this, people are going to come after me, so it has to be The Lost Boys. Granted, I haven’t seen it in years, but I first saw it in its entirety at a low place in my life and when I was really getting into the genre. Despite the eighties-ness, there are real stories of family and connection going on, and the production design is so cool. It felt accessible enough to me at a time when everything felt above my head while I was still in school for theater and felt like writing could only be a sometimes hobby. Along came this movie into my life and it hit me, “Oh wow, I could do something like that.” If we’re talking any other horror movie, I still kinda pick and choose because I’m more of a wuss than people realize, but I like a lot of Japanese horror, and I liked most of A Quiet Place, loved The VVitch and The Babadook.

NTK: You have experience with acting, who do you think is the best actor you’ve ever seen in a horror film? Who really made it believable?

SJ: Oh man, that’s so hard! The performance that’s really impressed and haunted me within the past few years—from what I’ve seen—is Essie Davis in The Babadook. She juggles a very real portrayal of grief with dealing with the stress of motherhood and the difficulties her child is experiencing. She just goes there in a way that for me is really raw and true. This isn’t just running away from a monster—this is dealing with so many layers and juggling emotions. You feel for her character and you dislike her in places. She comes across as so human, which can be so hard to do, to portray a role like that naturally. There’s a bit at the end when she’s been through hell and is standing in the basement just experiencing the aftershock of things—it’s intense. And when you compare that to the fact that she’s also Miss Fisher, which is WAY on the other end of the genre scale—I never would have initially believed it was the same person. Those are the types of surprises I love and the performances that really impress me.

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

SJ: I feel like I’m mid-transition at the moment. I had to really take a breath and figure out where I was going and what I wanted to do a year or so ago, and make changes Lost in the Shadowsaccordingly. I’m doing a lot of writing at the moment, a lot of submitting, so as far as concrete projects, that’s still in flux, though I think a lot of artistic life is like that, more than a lot of people realize. I’m editing some books I hope to shop around in the future that I’m really excited about, and writing things of all different lengths. I’ve also been exploring screenwriting and learning from that, so really while there’s nothing I can talk specifically about at the moment, I think there are going to be some really cool things down the road.

NTK: Thank you so much for joining me! You were a great interview!

SL: Thanks again for having me! This was so much fun!

Addicts, you can find Selah on Facebook and Twitter.

Chilling Chat: Episode 166 Isobel Blackthorn

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Isobel Blackthorn is a prolific novelist of unique and engaging fiction. She writes dark psychological thrillers, mysteries, and contemporary and literary fiction. On the dark side Blackthorn_Isobelare Twerk, The Cabin Sessions and The Legacy of Old Gran Parks. Her Canary Islands’ collection begins with “The Drago Tree” and includes “A Matter of Latitude” and “Clarissa’s Warning”. Her interest in the occult is explored in The Unlikely Occultist: A biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey, and the dark mystery A Perfect Square. Her short story, ‘Lacquer’, appears in the esteemed A Time for Violence anthology.

Isobel is a gracious and charming woman. We spoke of inspirations, influences, and surprising characters.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Isobel! Thank you for joining me today. Could you tell the Horror Addicts how old you were when you discovered horror?

IB: I discovered horror when I was sixteen and sat petrified in the movie theatre watching The Omen. Then came Rosemary’s Baby. I am not sure which was more terrifying. I could not bring myself to watch Carrie or The Exorcist. I was too easily spooked.

NTK: What author has influenced you most?

IB: Both King and Stoker were my early influences. Now I have been introduced to the novels of many horror authors, including the magnificent Sangré by Carlos Colón, a vampire tale like no other, and Return to Hiroshima by Bob van Laerhoven, which is as classy as noir thrillers get.

NTK: What inspired you to write The Cabin Sessions?

IB: The Cabin Sessions arose out of a combination of factors that were going on in my life at the time. That was how the book started out.

NTK: How much control do you exert over your characters? Do they have free will?

IB: As soon as I started writing The Cabin Sessions, a minor character stepped forward and took over the narrative. Nothing like that has happened to me as a writer before or since. It was a very dark and confronting process, giving her the freedom to express The Cabin Sessionsherself. I had my own internal horror story going on inside of me during the writing process as a result.

NTK: What is your creative process like? Do you outline before writing? Or do you just write as the mood strikes you?

IB: A little of both. I start out with an idea, which gradually gathers substance. I conjure a few characters, the setting, and the bones of a plot. Then, once I have enough, which usually takes a year, I start writing. I let the voice come, the narrator. Once I have the narrator, I write the first chapter and see where it takes me. Then, there is usually a bit of figuring out before I write the next few chapters. After that, I only plot when I have to. Sometimes I know the ending, sometimes I don’t.

NTK: Where do you find inspiration?

IB: I am inspired by everything. I follow my passion and it leads me all over the place. Every book I write is unique as a result. Horror is a vast genre and as soon as The Cabin Sessions came out and I tried to define it–it’s a dark psychological thriller–I began to explore all the other kinds of horror fiction out there and wondered where I was heading next. I decided I had an appetite for dark thrillers and as soon as I was introduced to Giallo, I was sold. My novel, Twerk, set in a Las Vegas strip club, draws on Giallo tropes.

NTK: What is the difference between a thriller and a horror story?

IB: A thriller follows certain rules and does not necessarily contain any horror tropes. Horror is all about the tropes. Horror is there to shock, to horrify, to revolt. Thrillers seek to thrill. I write dark thrillers and there is enough horror in them for all but the most hardline horror aficionados.

NTK: In your opinion, why do people enjoy horror? What attracts them to darkness?

IB: People like the adrenalin rush. It’s the same as a roller coaster. You are wobbly when you get off and kinda pleased it was over, then the rush fades out and you are in the queue for the next ride. It is very addictive.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What do we have to look forward to?A Time for Violence

IB: I have written three dark fiction novels and a few dark short stories. One has just come out in A Time for Violence, an anthology including shorts by Richard Chizmar and Max Allan Collins, Paul D. Brazill, Andrew Nette, Joe R. Lansdale, Elka Ray, and Tom Vater. My story, “Lacquer” forms the first chapter of a noir thriller set in San Francisco and Singapore.

I’ve also been shortlisted for the Ada Cambridge prose prize and my story will appear in the anthology.

NTK: Congratulations, Isobel! That’s awesome! Thank you so much for chatting with me.

IB: Thank you so much for this, Naching!

You can find Isobel on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

 

Chilling Chat Episode 163 Theresa Braun

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Theresa Braun was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and has carried some of that hardiness with her to South Florida where she currently resides. She teaches English literature, Theresa BraunCreative Writing and, in the evenings, a college writing course.  Traveling, ghost hunting, and all things dark are her passions. Her work appears in The Horror Zine, Sirens Call, Schlock! Webzine, Hardened Hearts, and Strange Behaviors, among others.

Theresa is a remarkable and thought-provoking woman. We spoke of writing, travel, and her interest in ghost hunting.

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

TB: Thanks so much for having me.

NTK: How old were you when you first became interested in horror?

TB: That’s a really great question. I think I can trace it back to Sesame Street. The Count was one my favorite characters and I’m not sure that I realized he was a vampire. Then, my Scooby Doo days came along and I was a goner. When I was old enough to read I grabbed Nancy Drew and soon graduated to darker YA books from there.

NTK: Did this lead to an interest in writing horror?

TB: I don’t think I knew I wanted to write horror all the way back then. I was also very attracted to unicorns and such. But I think reading horror and watching horror movies and television shows helped to eventually steer me that direction. I’m rather happy that my generation had The Addams Family and The Munsters, as well as Elvira.

NTK: What horror movie inspired you to write? Is it your favorite?

TB: That’s a great question. I think I’d have to say Poltergeist was an inspiration, along with The Amityville Horror. There was a period in my life where I wanted to get my hands on a lot of the classics. The Shining and Rosemary’s Baby are also big influences on me. And I’m really fascinated by The Exorcist. But I also recall watching a lot of horrible B movies like Basket Case, for example.

Laughable horror is like its own guilty pleasure!

NTK: You mentioned The Munsters and The Addams Family. Are these horror comedies your favorite horror TV shows?

TB: I watched The Munsters, but I didn’t like them as much as The Addams Family—probably because they weren’t as dark as the latter.

NTK: Your stories exhibit a certain amount of darkness. Where did you get the idea for “Heirloom?”

TB: That story came from a couple of different sources. I had an idea for that grim past life the main character experiences. And, at the time I had been talking to a good friend who is a therapist. She mentioned one of her patients to me (anonymously, of course). Since she is really petite, I started to put myself in her shoes and played around with the idea of gender power play. Then I started to think how awful it would be if that client/patient was connected to her in a big way, a way that spanned several lifetimes. What kind of lessons could be learned? The mirror kind of came in last. I’ve always had a fascination with them, and with antiques. They’re like these crazy portals, according to people who believe in the paranormal. Funny thing is that my entire living room wall is a mirror. Sometimes I wonder if spirits or energies are visiting me from time to time. Hopefully, nothing like what happens to my protagonist in “Heirloom” will happen to me.

NTK: That’s awesome! And, it’s a little frightening too. You know a thing or two about spirits. Can you tell the Addicts a little about ghost hunting?

TB: Sure, that’s one of my favorite topics. I used to live in a haunted house in Winona, Fountain Dead by [Braun, Theresa]Minnesota, which is the inspiration for my latest novel Fountain Dead that comes out in November. Back then, I didn’t really have an interest in looking for ghosts. I was more concerned with ignoring the goosebumps or the feeling that I was being watched. My dreams were pretty crazy as well. I had several vivid nightmares about these water-logged women who came out of this pool outside, a pool that didn’t exist. Anyway, I’d have to say that the hobby of ghost hunting didn’t take hold until sometime in my thirties. Whenever I’d travel, I’d take the walking ghost tour. (Venice was a particularly amazing tour, by the way.) Eventually, I started getting tape recorders to capture EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomena) and I snapped a lot of pictures of orbs and weird light anomalies. I’ve gotten some really spooky pictures and some eerie recordings. Some of them sounded rather demonic, to be honest. In Key West, I left a tape player on ‘record’ while I went to sleep. When I woke up, the device was cracked/broken. That kind of set me back a bit for a while. Now, I try to do a lot of my capturing of phenomena with apps on my cell phone, or dowsing rods. Just paying attention to vibes is another really good indicator of activity. That is the short version of my focus on the subject. I’m always on the lookout for new haunted destinations and future places to visit. The Stanley Hotel and the Winchester House are pretty high on the list at the moment.

NTK: Where do you think ghosts come from? Are they manifestations of the departed? Or are they something else?

TB: That has to be one of the deepest questions I’ve been asked in a long time. I think they come from different sources. For me, most paranormal activity is a result of either an energetic imprint of the person or their actual spirit that is at unrest. They are trapped either in a loop, like a videotape, or they don’t fully understand that they need to move on. They might have unfinished business like trying to get someone to solve their murder, or something along those lines. But, I’ve also read that some people are so psychically powerful that they kind of project things onto the physical plane. Some poltergeist activity can be that, for example. Some people think that ghosts can be a manifestation of the mind. Or maybe the spirits are able to use a person to manifest here in this dimension. I think that all of these variations are entirely possible. At a minimum, we are all made up of very strong energy. It makes sense that this has the ability to stay behind after we are gone.

To be honest, part of me regrets not having become a parapsychologist. Isn’t that a real career?

NTK: It is! (Courses are available at the University of Edinburgh.) What do you think of Ed and Lorraine Warren?

TB: I think they are really interesting. How courageous of them to go into some of the most active locations to try to find answers about the paranormal activity. There have been times that I’ve been skeptical about them, but why wouldn’t you call these experts to help you out? Although, I think that some of the Hollywood versions of them have made them look a bit like caricatures. Some have even made them farcical.

NTK: Did any of your later experiences become fodder for your books? Did you write about Venice? Or Key West?

TB: I try to weave as much of this stuff into my writing as I possibly can. I’ve used parts of the Venice experiences, but haven’t really tapped into that fully. Probably will return to it in the future. The haunted house novel is probably the experience that I’ve written the most about. It’s rather personal, since when I was writing it I had the house in mind the whole time. I was surprised at how much really came back to me. I hope readers enjoy it. As far as travels and the paranormal things I experience, I keep really detailed journals. That way I can look back at it for both the memories, and also for fiction material. A recent trip to Transylvania turned into a vampire story, for example. Even though I didn’t set out to write a vampire story, I couldn’t talk myself out of it. I’d say that trip offered more inspiration than most. The Key West trip wasn’t that eventful, paranormal wise. Other than the recorder breaking on me, not much else happened. However, the Key West ghost tour is pretty fantastic. Lots of weird stuff happens in Florida!

NTK: Are your characters usually based on real people?

TB: Not always. However, I like to look to real people to give me some material I can work with. I pay attention to the news and watch a lot of supernaturally rich reality shows. There are so many of them that are great. I do think that my most well-rounded characters have some tether to reality, though. They are either partly linked to people I know or are an aspect of myself. Write what you know, right?

I’m also not immune to listening in on strangers’ conversations in public. And I’m sure I’m not the only writer who does that.

NTK: Do you exert much control over your characters? Do they do things you don’t expect?

TB: I’m making that up as I go along, since by nature I’m somewhat of a control freak. I like to have control over myself and things around me; however, the older I get, the more I’ve had to just go with the flow often. There are times when there is nothing you can do about the traffic jam making you an hour late. I’ve had to give the same license to some of my characters. A few times I push them into corners and they scream at me—metaphorically, that is. I have a few writer friends who talk to their characters. So, far that hasn’t been my experience. Most of the time when I don’t let my protagonists do what they need to do, I hit a writer’s block that doesn’t clear until I delete the problematic scene and rework the mess I’ve gotten them into. So, they don’t talk to me, but they do throw up the red flags for me to see.

NTK: Indeed. Do you belong to a community of ghost hunters? Is there such a thing?

TB: If I had the time, I’d totally search those out. I imagine they exist. That is totally something I’d be willing to look into at some point in the future. Right now, I feel like IDead Over Heels by [Braun, Theresa ] barely have time to write.

Not enough hours in the day!

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What books and stories do the Addicts have to look forward to?

TB: One of the projects I’m looking into is putting together a collection of short stories. As my brain is recovering from finishing my latest novel, I’m wondering if I’ll write a sequel. I’ve set it up that way, just in case the inspiration strikes. Otherwise, I’m hoping that the muses have something else cooked up for me. I have several notebooks and journals I can scavenge through. To make a long story short, I’m looking forward to what story needs to be written next. It’s hovering in the ethers as we speak. I just need to tune in. It’ll probably be something ghostly. And it will probably involve a romance.

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

TB: Ah, so many curses to choose from! Those Egyptian pharaoh stories are pretty intense. Imagine discovering a tomb and thinking you hit the jackpot, only to die a short time later? And, who would think that would really happen to them? Although that is scary, I think that the more mundane curses can be the worst ones. What I mean is that whatever we say to another person can have a lifelong effect, and if negative, can curse a person to suffer with those words. Someone’s life may even fulfill a negative prophecy as a result. I tell my students to always think about that when they speak, especially when it comes to bullying. We also discuss that in literature, too. When Mercutio dies and curses those two houses that has a detrimental effect on Romeo. It can be that simple. I heard on the radio that a woman told her kid that words are like toothpaste out of the tube. You can’t put it back, once you’ve spoken. Therefore, we need to be careful when wielding our words.

I’ve played around with this idea in some of my stories. Dialogue can get rather interesting from time to time. Muhahahahahah!

NTK: (Laughs.) Thank you for chatting with me, Theresa! That was fascinating.

TB: This has been a lot of fun! Thanks so much for this!

Addicts, you can follow Theresa on Twitter, Amazon, and Goodreads.

 

Chilling Chat Episode 162 Marge Simon

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Marge Simon lives in Ocala, FL. She edits a column for the HWA Newsletter, “Blood & Spades: Poets of the Dark Side,” and serves on Board of Trustees.  She is the second womanmarge 2016 bw to be acknowledged by the SF &F Association with a Grand Master Award. She has won the Bram Stoker Award, the Rhysling Award, Elgin, Dwarf Stars and Strange Horizons Readers’ Award. Marge’s poems and stories have appeared in Silver Blade, Bete Noire, Urban Fantasist, Daily Science Fiction, You, Human; Chiral Mad 2 and 3; and Scary Out There, to name a few. She attends the ICFA annually as a guest poet/writer and is on the board of the Speculative Literary Foundation.

Marge is a talented woman with a great sense of humor. We spoke of collaborations, war, and evil women. 

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me, Marge. It’s an honor to speak with you.

MS: Thanks for doing this, Naching!

NTK: You’re welcome. Let’s begin with WAR: Dark Poems, your new collaboration with Alessandro Manzetti. Tell us a little about the book.

MS: The collaborative experience has been incredible in many ways. Alessandro invited me a couple of years ago now, at the Stokercon in Vegas. He and his lovely wife, Sanda, took me to lunch (and Paolo de Oriezo was also there.) Sanda gave me a t-shirt that said “I heart Roma” (that’s where they were living before they moved to Trieste)—what lovely folks! And, as I sipped my Chardonnay, he asked me if I’d like to collaborate on a collection. I said, “Oh, yes! And, what is the topic?” “War,” he replied. I was instantly amazed and excited and of course I said, “YES!” War is one of my topics for poems of all sorts. It’s true.

It was a totally new experience to collaborate with a man who has such a fine grasp of history—he had me researching all of our collaborative work just so I could get a grasp of what his poem stanzas were about. I learned so much (and here at my age, you would think I’d know it all—NOT!)

NTK: What’s it like to collaborate on a poetry book? Did you write poems together? Or, did you each contribute your own work?

MS: Poems together? I guess you think Marge writes one line or stanza and then Alessandro writes another until it’s done? No, not like that. Alessandro would start the collaborations—which was fine with me! He’d send me maybe five-seven stanzas and that was the base for me to go with. So, I’d write more when I had the right response in mind (“response” meaning continuation.) Sometimes, we’d move stanzas around so they worked better.

Alessandro kind of mapped out the book’s progress as we went along. Individual poems and collaborative poems—he is a maestro at such details.

NTK: That’s awesome! You drew inspiration from each other. And, the poems mesh together so well. Did you have any individual contributions you’d like to expound on?

WAR: Dark Poems by [Manzetti, Alessandro, Simon, Marge]MS: I do. The Mandingo Wars [for one.] I was going for finding wars around the world in history and was thinking, Roots and Kunte Kinte (being Mandingo) and all about the Mandingo Wars against the French, led by Samory Toure. [I ]also (being of Scottish descent) had to include the Battle of Culloden which is so well reenacted in Outlander. Found a song about it, quoted that at the start of the poem. AND, another particularly sad war which ended with the Trail of Tears and the horrors of the once proud Cheyenne Nation being moved thousands of miles on foot from their reservation and homeland. I felt very strongly about these events. Then, too, I had to address the unconscionable deeds of Dr. Mengele in “Chocolates for Twins.” No magazine would take it for publication. But, these horrors DID happen.

NTK: These horrors should be remembered and these subjects should be published! Do you think society is too sensitive when it comes to historical horror?

MS: Good question. Some PC factions don’t even want to admit or know about history’s worst realities because they involve “trigger words” or “child abuse” or POC abuse. Hey, it happened and we should face that, swallow it, and think (in my opinion.)

Niemoller is perhaps best remembered for the quotation: First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because, I was not a Socialist. Then, they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because, I was not a Trade Unionist. Then, they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because, I was not a Jew. Then, they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

There is a quote inscribed on the front of the Colorado University library “The Roots of the Future lie deep in the past.” That is my “go-to” for so many points.

NTK: WAR does make people think and it does and it does approach some difficult subjects. Vietnam is a forgotten war these days and the poem, “Little Miss Saigon,” really captures the flavor of that time. How did that particular poem come about?”

MS: Alessandro began “Little Miss Saigon,” and of course I had to go find out more about what was going on there. Then, I found out about the razor blades that the young street girls somehow ingeniously inserted in their vaginas as a way of revenge. For, indeed, you can imagine the life they had to look forward to as fodder for the occupying Yank soldiers.

And, that’s the part I contributed. I still wonder how I did it. But it was “there” waiting to be written.

NTK: It is a powerful poem. What inspires you, Marge?  And, what poets have influenced you?

MS: Oh, let’s see. WHAT inspires me? Do I have to pick? I have many contacts, many friends, read a lot of books, am on Goodreads, am with Ladies of Horror where Nina D’Arcangela gives us visual prompts and we can write poems or flash fictions—then they appear for others to see after the deadline.

Poets? A long list of past and present poets. I always say that once I read Stephen Crane’s poem in 12th grade on the chalkboard of my advanced English class, I knew the world made sense. It was like finding out I wasn’t alone.

NTK: Are you primarily a visual person? Is it easier to find inspiration in a painting or a song?

MS: Inspirations are when and where they occur. I don’t go looking for them. They happen, is all!

NTK: Do you think poets have a different perception of things as compared to the rest of the world?

MS: I think each poet, if true to themselves, has their own views and voice. But, the best express it in a way that has substance and resonates to others (not to all, you can’t reach everyone.) My husband, Bruce Boston, usually uses that as a standard—has substance, resonates. I love that. It fits well.

NTK: It does. Going back to collaborations, you’ve also written a book called, Satan’s Sweethearts with Mary Turzillo. How did you like working with Mary?

MS: Mary Turzillo and I have collaborated joyfully on numerous collections (some about cats and dragons, Dragon’s Dictionary, and Dragon Soup. We also wrote Sweet Poison together, which garnered an Elgin Award from the SF & F Poetry Association.) BUT, Satan’s Sweethearts is not fun or funny in any respect. Mary is a horrible person to collaborate with. We are not on speaking terms except all the time. I can’t wait to see her again, for a fact.

Satan's SweetheartsNTK: (Laughs.) Did you write Satan’s Sweetheart’s in a similar manner to WAR? Or was it a different process?

MS: Different entirely. We picked various very nasty, most wicked women in history and wrote independently about what we chose. But, some we did collaborate on. One being Ma Barker (who was really an angel compared to others.)

NTK: What poem are you most proud of in Satan’s Sweethearts?

MS: I’m most proud of two. “Aileen” (about Florida’s own serial killer who became the first woman to be put to death in the electric chair) and “Delphine La Lourie’s Upstairs Room” and you can’t imagine what she did to her slaves. Look her up if you want to know.

NTK: Of all the people you’ve collaborated with, is Bruce Boston your favorite?

MS: Actually, Bruce is daunting, very daunting. Our collaborations are exciting and rewarding for sure, and I must do my penultimate best—or try, anyway! It’s a challenge but that’s what life is. The best of it is to challenge yourself to exceed expectations.

Also, I don’t like to and won’t name favorites to collaborate with. I welcome challenges.

NTK: Do you have any advice to share with up and coming poets?

MS: Read. Read authors old and not that old. Read poets whose work speaks to you and think about the how and why. Don’t imitate. Incorporate. And, please—personal angst poems are fine for what they are for. They get you through the lusts and loves of yore but, you’re not the only one! Read Sara Backer, read Bruce Boston, read (I could go on and on.) But, wait! Join the SFPA (Science Fiction Poetry Association), and then READ!! You will find horror as well as dark and light fantasy, and speculative from some of the best in the field. It’s a community of poets and readers of poetry who are all grown up now. So join and learn!

And the SFPA, like the HWA, is an international association!

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

MS: I’m sorry, but I’m not into curses very much at all, really.

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

MS: The future? You hold my future in your hands, Naching. Be kind. I don’t know what’s coming tomorrow. Some irons in the fires, if that’s what you mean. And, I hope to meet lots of you readers next year at Stokercon in Grand Rapids!

NTK: I see a long and glorious future ahead, Marge. Thank you again for taking the time to chat. It’s much appreciated.

MS: Loved your questions and thanks for the interview.

Addicts, you can find Marge on Goodreads and Amazon.

Satan’s Sweethearts took second place in the Full-Length Book Category of the Elgin Awards on September 21, 2018.

Parts of this interview were published in the July 2018 edition of the Horror Writers Association Newsletter and are reprinted with Editor Kathy Ptacek’s permission.

Chilling Chat Episode 161 H.R. Boldwood

H.R. Boldwood is a writer of horror and speculative fiction. In another incarnation, Boldwood is a Pushcart Prize nominee and was awarded the 2009 Bilbo Award for creativeHR Boldwood PIC writing. Publication credits include: Killing it Softly (Digital Fiction Publications); Short Story America Volume I (Short Story America Press); Bête Noire (Charm Noir Omnimedia); Everyday Fiction (Everyday Fiction); Toys in the Attic (James Ward Kirk Publications); Floppy Shoes Apocalypse II (Nocturnicorn Books); Pilcrow and Dagger (Pilcrow and Dagger Press); Quickfic (Digital Fiction Publications); Sirens Call (Sirens Call Publications.)

Boldwood’s characters are often disreputable and not to be trusted, so they are kicked to the curb at every conceivable opportunity. No responsibility is taken by this author for the dastardly and sometimes criminal acts committed by this ragtag group of miscreants. 

H.R. Boldwood is a generous and funny woman. We spoke of her villains, writing, and evil clowns in space.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, H.R.! Thank you for chatting with me today.

H.R.: You’re welcome, Naching. It’s always nice chatting with you. Thanks for having me.

NTK: What got you interested in horror? Did it begin in childhood?

H.R.: I wrote my first horror story in the 7th grade as a homework assignment. The title was, “The Reincarnation of Sir Thomas Moore.” My teacher loved it and sent it to his old college professor.

NTK: Awesome! What did the professor think? Did this event start your writing career?

H.R.: The professor was very impressed and even though I was still in grade school, he had Northwestern University send me a card asking me to consider attending Northwestern when the time came. But, when the time came, I didn’t want to go to college. Silly girl. I finally went to college when I was in my forties. I got married and raised my children and started writing again about 10 years ago. I’ve always gravitated toward horror because it’s just too fun to write.

NTK: What writers influenced you?

H.R.: I love Poe. Just adore him. And, King and Koontz. I sometimes write in an archaic Victorian voice. In the right story, that voice can produce a massive creep factor. Now, I love Josh Malerman. His prose is out of this world awesome.

NTK: Which do you prefer? King or Koontz?

H.R.: Tough one. I love them both for different reasons. King is a masterful storyteller and Koontz’s prose is almost lyrical. I guess King, but it’s really too close to call. My favorite King novel is The Shining.

NTK: I interviewed Josh Malerman recently, and he spoke of an “invisible Wendigo drummer,” which got him into the rhythm of writing. Does the archaic Victorian voice work in that way? Or, is it your muse?

H.R.: No, it isn’t my muse. But, the cadence of the language and the crisp, articulate tone produce some of my best prose. It’s as if I’m speaking.

NTK: You’ve spoken of your characters as, “dastardly.” Could you elaborate on that? Who, of your creations, are your favorite villains?

Corpse Whisperer 2H.R.: Oh, my! My favorite villain is Mister Weasels, the killer clown. He’s featured in several of my short stories about The Barlowe Brother’s Carnival. In fact, I have a new story titled, “Mister Weasels and the Cosmic Carnival,” scheduled to appear in Kevin J. Kennedy’s Carnival of Horror anthology, due out around Halloween!

NTK: That’s terrific!

H.R.: Killer clowns in space!

NTK: (Laughs.) Congratulations! You seem to have quite a few stories set at carnivals. (“Madame Zelda,” for example.) What do you think makes carnivals frightening? Do you have a personal experience with them?

H.R.: I went to a sideshow carnival as a teen and it freaked me out a bit. The Barlowe Brother’s Carnival is eternal. There are many secrets inside the big top! Killer Klowns forever!

NTK: (Laughs.) You must enjoy horror/comedy. Is Killer Klowns from Outer Space your favorite movie? What are your favorite horror movies and television shows?

H.R.: Not my favorite but fun to watch. The Exorcist is my all-time favorite. I liked Midnight Texas, a couple of the American Horror Story seasons. As a kid, I loved the old classics, The House on Haunted Hill, and The Screaming Skull. They scared the bejebes out of me!

NTK: The classics are great. You mentioned The Shining earlier. What did you think of the movie?

H.R.: Not my favorite. They made the hotel too modern and took out the animated hedge animals. And, Shelley Duvall was too much of a victim.

I like Jack Nicholson but, like Stephen King said, the story was supposed to be about his descent into madness. In the movie, Jack was pretty much crazy from the start.

NTK: He’s a real villain, though. Who do you think is more important to the story? The hero? Or the villain?

H.R.: I think the villain. The right villain makes the hero great. Without a wonderful villain, who cares about the hero?

NTK: What makes a great villain?

H.R.: Complexity, dark humor, and spot-on dialog. Sometimes, it’s not about seeing the monster. Sometimes, it’s about seeing just enough to know you don’t want to see it. Like the creature in Alien. The creature was a mother, protecting its brood. Complex. People are not Flat Stanleys, they have complex natures, so our villains should too.

NTK: Do your creations have free will? Or, do you control them and their actions?

H.R.: The stories often write themselves so those miscreant characters of mine are always getting me into trouble. I always say, don’t blame me for what my characters do.Killing It Softly: A Digital Horror Fiction Anthology of Short Stories (The Best by Women in Horror Book 1) by [Cunningham,Elaine, Fiction, Digital, Holder,Nancy, Sydney,M.J., Rose,Rie Sheridan, Boudreau,Chantal, Blackthorn,Rose, McBride,Tracie, Gill,Carole, Rath, Tina , Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert]

NTK: If a movie was made about Mr. Weasels, who would play him?

H.R.: Well now…maybe the guy who played Boyd Crowder on Justified, Walton Goggins. He’s creepy looking with a too-big smile. Or…James Purefoy, the actor who played Joe Carroll on The Following. He’s the very essence of evil.

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

H.R.: Historically, any mummy related curse is always awesome. Voodoo curses are another favorite.

NTK: H.R., What does the future hold for you? What books or stories are in store for Horror Addicts?

H.R.: Well now, I’ve been a busy beaver. I will have a story titled, “The Haunting of Bellehaven,” in Ladies and Gentlemen of Horror. It’s an anthology that benefits the American Cancer Society and it’s coming out within the next several months. My story, “The Birthright,” will appear in Greek Myth Anthology published by Fantasia Divinity this fall. My story, “Lambent Lights,” a Victorian voiced piece will appear in an anthology titled, The Book of the Dead, published by Black Hart Publishing in Scotland. It comes out September 5th. Oh, and my stories, “Don’t Fuck with Mister Weasels,” and “Mutants,” will appear in an upcoming edition of Gruesome Grotesques. I’ve also got a couple of stories out there in pending land that may find a home.

And, finally, I’ve signed with Third Street Press to publish The Corpse Whisperer series, an adult urban fantasy series featuring my character, Allie Nighthawk.

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me, H.R. You’re a terrific guest.

H.R.: You are so welcome! It’s a blast to talk about writing with other horror lovers. Thank you for having me and I hope everyone enjoys the podcast.

Addicts, you can follow H.R. on Twitter  and Amazon.

 

Odds and DEAD Ends: Claustrophobic Killing

The Horror Legacy of Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’

Agatha Christie probably isn’t a name you’d associate with horror. She was a crime author; the writer you snuggled up in the armchair with on a rainy afternoon for a good thriller with twists and turns. For the first two decades of her career, the famous detective with the little grey cells, Hercule Poirot, was her livelihood. And yet, in 1939, she unleashes And Then There Were None. This single novel redefined strategic, rhythmic, multiple murders in fiction and would come to change horror itself.

On the documentary The Thing: Terror Takes Shape, John Carpenter cites Christie’s novel as an influence on his adaptation of Campbell’s novella Who Goes There?. In the novella, dozens of scientists find an alien imitator in their midst which is ultimately defeated with only a few deaths. Carpenter’s The Thing is much bleaker, with just sixteen men left to fight and kill, and ultimately are left with two survivors and an uncertain future, desolate and alone.

Strangely, though a larger crowd might sound initially scarier, as they could be so many people, it is when there are fewer characters that the tension mounts. The walls have closed in. There aren’t seven rooms that a killer could be in; there’s only one. And, standing in the right place, you can be sure to see them. Carpenter reduces a few dozen characters to his sixteen, and Dame Christie had already done it with just ten.

Everything about the novel has the purpose of constricting the ten, subjecting them to as much pressure as possible, crushing them. The house is cut off from the rest of the world and those on the mainland have been told not to rescue them. We’re confined to the hallways of Soldier Island’s house, chasing shadows.

Added to this the dripping theme of guilt that Christie presents us with, permeating every sentence, every word of the novel, and we see that she is pressurizing the characters emotionally. The past catching up with them; they can’t escape the killer or their conscience.

But I’m not here to discuss the novel as a whole. What I want to bring to your attention is the legacy of its setup. Just look to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Though light-hearted, there are two episodes of the first series in which the S.O.S brigade are trapped on an island with a single house, in a storm, when a murder takes place. Suddenly everyone begins casting suspicions, doors are kept locked, shadows are seen outside. Though there is only a single murder, as opposed to the many in Christie’s novel, the setup is so similar it borders on parody.

To go even further, die-hard fans of horror-thrillers will remember the series Umineko no naku koro ni, or When The Seagulls Cry. Twenty people on an island in a storm being killed off systematically to appease an old legend. This direct homage is done not just because it’s a nice reference, but because the formula is so easy, simple, and effective. No communication to the outside world, trapped in one place, being killed off by a psychopath in the midst.

This claustrophobic killing rhythm has been replicated so many times now that it’s hard to think that it had an origin of some kind. And there were stories that used aspects of it before And Then There Were None, but none of them had the same impact.

Could you conceive of the modern slasher flick without some of the points mentioned? Could you imagine Alien if it was in a city with a nuke nearby? If the bridge in The Evil Dead were intact? Perhaps Saw II would be better if only two people died in that house? Maybe if the police didn’t keep them caged in the apartment, REC would have been vastly improved?

If you want maximum terror, you keep people confined. This isn’t just a claustrophobia thing; it’s the idea of escape. Freedom. You find what a character wants, and then take it away from them; it’s storytelling 101. In Scream, Sidney says that horror movies are just girls that ‘run up the stairs when they should be running out the front door, it’s insulting.’ But when the front door opens up to a cliff-face or the vacuum of space, there’s no option. We’re trapped. We are creatures constantly in need of control, and when we don’t have control of escape possibilities, we panic. We get scared.

Christie got the formula and nailed it. It hasn’t been beaten since. It’s the reason why The Mousetrap is the longest continuously-showing production of all time. It’s why Waters of Mars was one of the most terrifying episodes of Doctor Who in recent memory. It’s because it taps into our basic instincts and then removes them. We can’t fight and we can’t run. We can only try to survive and hope and pray. And anyway, as Leslie Vernon says, letting people escape ‘is really embarrassing.’ These killers aren’t going to let us off the island.

And Then There Were None is the perfect slasher prototype and should be revered and remembered as such. Agatha Christie wrote the essential horror blueprint. Fact.

 

Article by Kieran Judge

 

Bibliography

Alien. 1979. [Film] Directed by Ridley Scott. United States of America: Brandywine Productions.

Behind the mask: The rise of Leslie Vernon. 2006. [Film] Directed by Scott Glosserman. USA: Anchor Bay Entertainment.

Campbell, J. W., 2011. Who Goes There?. 1st ed. London: Gollancz.

Christie, A., 1952 – present. The Mousetrap. London: St. Martin’s Theatre.

Christie, A., 2015. And Then There Were None. London: HarperCollins.

Doctor Who – Waters Of Mars. 2009. [Film] Directed by Graeme Harper. United Kingdom: BBC.

John Carpenter’s The Thing. 1982. [Film] Directed by John Carpenter. United States of America: Universal Studios.

REC. 2007. [Film] Directed by Jaume Balaguero, Paco Plaza. Spain: Filmax International.

Saw II. 2005. [Film] Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman. USA: Twisted Pictures.

Scream. 1996. [Film] Directed by Wes Craven. United States: Dimension Films.

The Evil Dead. 1981. [Film] Directed by Sam Raimi. USA: Renaissance Pictures.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. 2006. [Film] Directed by Tatsuya Ishihara. Japan: Kyoto Animation.

The Thing: Terror Takes Shape. 1998. [Film] Directed by Michael Mattesino. United States Of America: Universal.

Umineko No Naku Koro Ni. 2009. [Film] Directed by Chiaki Kon. Japan: Studio Deen.

 

Chilling Chat Episode 160 Michele Roger

Michele Roger is an author and harpist living and working in Detroit. Her previous novel, The Conservatory, was published in 2014. Her second book, Eternal Kingdom: A Vampire Novel, was published in 2015 and made into a film script. Dedicated to furthering the reach of women in speculative fiction, she is a founding member of, “The Wicked Women Writer’s Group.” Her short stories have been published in anthologies in both the US and UK. As a harpist, she is the founder of the Michigan Conservatory. She was a Detroit Music Awards Finalist for best classical composer in 2015.

Michele is an innovative and artistic woman. We spoke of music, the creative process, and her advice for the burgeoning female writer.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Michele! Thank you so much for chatting with me.

MR: I’m thrilled to be here. Thank you for the invite!

NTK: You’re an accomplished musician. How does your background in music influence your writing?

MR: That’s a great question. In reality, there isn’t an easy answer. The two creative outlets sometimes inspire one another. That’s when it feels like a blessing. I can be writing a conversation between two people falling for one another and the music will start to play in my head. The epiphany will hit me that it’s not a song I’ve heard before. Then, I stop writing words and start writing notes on a music paper. Sometimes, the two outlets compete for my attention. I can wake up at 3 am with a story and the theme music and the entire movie score in my head. Then, it feels like a curse. Which do you act upon first? Honestly, it’s a good problem to have.

NTK: Do you find inspiration in dreams?

MR: My biggest inspiration is walking. But, dreams do come into play. If I set a story and its characters aside to do my day job teaching music or playing Harp concerts, the characters sneak into my dreams. It’s always the same dream to start. I’m asleep in bed inside of a glass box. The characters come and gently knock on the box while I’m sleeping. The characters return each night, knocking louder and eventually pounding on the glass until I finally start to write their story. Then, the dreams end.

NTK: Did The Harpist come to you in this way?

MR: Yes. The ghost in the story, Emma, came to see me first, as I was out for a walk. That night, I dreamed of her outside the glass box. She scared the hell out of me. But as a paranormal writer, that’s an advantage, I suppose. Elizabeth and Detective Flannery came to me the next day.

NTK: That’s a fascinating process. What is the difference between paranormal and horror?

MR: Paranormal, by my definition, is like a flavor of a story. There are elements that are scary or ghostly but those elements are just tools for telling a story. The Harpist is definitely paranormal. I’ve written two horror novels. The entire story builds and builds becoming more frightening at every turn.

Paranormal uses scary elements to tell a great story. Horror uses a story to convey something really scary.

NTK: Are your stories character driven? Or, plot driven?

MR: Depends on the story. My sci-fi book, Dark Matter was definitely plot driven. So was [ ETERNAL KINGDOM: A VAMPIRE NOVEL Paperback ] Roger, Michele ( AUTHOR ) Jul - 20 - 2014 [ Paperback ]my horror novel, Eternal Kingdom. But my latest shorts, like Addicted to Love and now this new novel, The Harpist, is far more driven by the characters.

I think, as I get older, the more I like how beautiful it is when characters are vulnerable.

NTK: How much control do you exert over your characters after they come to you? Do they retain their free will? Do they come to you with vulnerabilities?

MR: They come to me dragging their huge amounts of baggage. It’s just my job to spoon their personality and flaws out to the readers as needed.

NTK: What writers have influenced you most?

MR: My first love of literature bloomed after reading F. Scott Fitzgerald. When I read that Hunter S. Thompson said he wrote passages from The Great Gatsby over and over again to learn how to write well, I tried it. That’s when I knew I wanted to write. I didn’t realize I wanted to write speculative fiction, sci-fi, and horror/paranormal until I devoured Stephen King’s short, Thinner. Then, The Visitor series in the 80s and finally, Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last, had me writing in the genre and never looking back.

NTK: Were you a reader as a child?

MR: I loved to read. It was always my escape.

NTK: What got you into horror?

MR: In 8th grade, a friend gave me a copy of Stephen King’s, The Eyes of the Dragon. It was a fantasy story he wrote for his daughter. I was already reading all the sci-fi and fantasy I could get my hands on secretly (my mom thought I should read romance) so King’s fantasy novel became my gateway drug into his other stories.

NTK: What do your parents think of your writing? Have they encouraged you?

MR: Before my dad passed away, he came to every signing and author event I had; often buying a copy of books he already had just to show his support. My mom is supportive of all my creative endeavors.

NTK: You said your mom wanted you to read romance. Do you like to write romantic scenes in your books?

MR: The first romantic scene I ever had to write, I was so nervous, I had to have a cocktail to get through it. Now, I have become much closer friends with my characters. I adore helping them find their loves. Maybe, that’s the difference between writing my first love scene in my early thirties and writing now at 46. I’m more comfortable with my own sexuality and hence, I’m more comfortable with the romance scenes of my characters.

NTK: That’s great! Do you enjoy horror movies and television shows? If so, which are your favorites?

MR: Hmm. I love Stranger Things but really, I don’t watch much TV or movies. I’m a print junkie.

NTK: What do you like about Stranger Things?

MR: I love the duality of worlds; one we can see, one only a select few can see. I also adore how much they’ve embraced the deliciousness of the 80s, right down to the plaid flannel shirts. Seeing the story through the eyes of kids is one of the best parts.

NTK: You’re a founding member of The Wicked Women Writer’s Group. Could you tell the Addicts how that came about?

MR: Early on in my writing, a publisher told me that it would be hard for him to market my work if I used my real name. Horror and sci-fi readers didn’t buy work written by women (or so he thought.) I didn’t want to hide behind a male pen name. Instead, I started a group for women who wrote speculative fiction. I wanted it to be a positive place for female horror writers to support one another. It’s become so much more and I couldn’t be more proud of all the members and our collaborations.

NTK: Very cool! Thank you for starting this group and giving women writers a place to get together. What advice would you like to give prospective women writers out there?

MR: Just this week, The Guardian published an interview with Phillip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials series, and president of a UK author society. He said that the publishing world isn’t supporting authors. Less than 30% of authors can make a living by writing solely as a career. For women, the percentage is even lower. Hence, my advice is this: 1. Buy the work of all authors you love. As a woman and a writer, we appreciate the grueling art form. Particularly, buy the work of female authors. Show appreciation with our dollars. 2. If monetary support is out of reach, support women’s writing by posting great reviews of their work. 3. Never give up on your dream.

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

MR: Curses are definitely a powerful female tool. My favorite thing about them is that they’re more frightening than a threat. A curse actually feels possible. My favorite curse? “I hope you have a kid just like you!” That curse came true in my two kids. And, I couldn’t be more proud.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What books, stories, and music do HorrorAddicts have to look forward to?

MR: The Harpist (Cursed) will be released this fall 2018. A short holiday story with Elizabeth and Flannery is in the works and the sequel to The Harpist is already outlined and taking shape. As for music, I’m working on another Celtic harp album which will hopefully be released in the spring of 2019.

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me, Michele. It’s been fun.

MR: Thank you so much for the interview.

Addicts, you can find Michele on Twitter.

Odds and DEAD Ends: Resurrecting The Queen

Resurrecting The Queen: Queen Tera in Bram Stoker’s The Jewel of Seven Stars,

When people think of Bram Stoker, they invariably think of Dracula. His novel, The Jewel of Seven Stars, is perhaps overshadowed simply by the importance of the vampire, but it is by no means an inferior novel. Detailing the attempt to resurrect an ancient Egyptian Queen, the novel went on to inspire movies such as Hammer’s Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb, and in some ways the Universal adaptation of The Mummy with Tom Cruise. In this article, I will discuss Queen Tera, and the way she is portrayed as a constant threat to patriarchal society.

To note, I’m using a copy of the novel which includes the original ending and the second, revised ending. I’m basing my discussion on the original ending because it’s darker and, presumably, the direction Stoker originally intended. Also, selfishly, because I much prefer it.

Let us first note that, aside from Margaret Trelawny (and a brief mention of her mother), Queen Tera is the only female character in the novel, and she never utters a word. Her characterization is presented through the male characters of the novel; the documentation of Van Huyn’s book, or the recounting of Corbeck and Trelawny. The power that she exhumes, therefore, may or may not be interpreted to be being played up by the male characters to increase the sense of a threat that she poses. Note that before we are given a name, we have the warning that “‘The “Nameless One” has insulted them and is forever alone. Go not nigh, lest their vengeance wither you away.’” (P.84)

With all that in mind, what is initially deciphered from the sarcophagus reveals Tera to have challenged the male-dominated society of the priests, “‘who had by then achieved immense power’” (p.87). “‘In the statement, it was plainly set forth that the hatred of the priests was, she knew, stored up for her, and that they would after her death try to suppress her name.’” (p.88). Their motivation is her strength in being able to combat their overthrowing of the monarchy, “‘They were then secretly ready to make an effort… that of transferring the governing power from a Kingship to a Hierarchy.’” (p.87) The priests, to their own gain, attempt to get rid of her, “‘make out that the real Princess Tera had died in the experiment, and that another girl had been substituted, but she conclusively proved their error.’” (P.88)

Tera, however, shows incredible resilience thanks to her own determination and learning from her father, “‘He had also had her taught statecraft, and had even made her learned in the lore of the very priests themselves.’” (p.87). She even breaks the tradition of a male ruler, though others try to align her to it. “‘In the following picture she was in female dress, but still wearing the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt, while the discarded male raiment lay at her feet.’” (P.88). She is very much her own woman, not afraid to show her sex, going against the patriarchy set up for the Kingship, and against the priesthood. “‘She seems to have seen through the weakness of her own religion.’” (p.113)

Her intelligence is noted by the present-day protagonists, who even say that the mummy’s gender may affect their knowledge of the situation, that “Men may find that what seemed empiric deductions were, in reality, the results of a loftier intelligence and a learning greater than our own.” (P.164) Mr. Trelawny also states that:

“We might have known that the maker of such a tomb – a woman, who had shown in other ways such a sense of beauty and completeness, and who had finished every detail with such a feminine richness of elaboration – would not have neglected such an architectural feature.” (P.95)

However, Queen Tera possesses a knowledge which the others do not, which ensures their eventual demise and her assumed resurrection. As is noted by Carol A. Senf, “What makes Tera so overwhelming is her violence and ability to over-power the assembled experts.” (p.107). The science and understanding of all the men in the room cannot save them from Tera’s avenging evil, just as the priests could not stop her eventual revival.

It is this knowledge of another world, knowledge beyond that of the priests and the protagonists, that they fear. Women’s rights movements are slowly gaining momentum at the time, and just a few years before the novel’s publication, in 1898, Stoker’s native Ireland had the Irish Women’s Suffrage and Local Government Association arise from the Dublin Women’s Suffrage Association. Gender politics is on the rise, and the female threats to patriarchal power could not have been far from Stoker’s mind.

This fear of female invasion to the modern patriarchal society is what makes Tera so terrifying. Killing dozens of people throughout the recorded events, based on a combination of ambition and supernatural power, fuelled by a wrath based on gender politics very closely linked to the rising gender politics of Stoker’s time, Queen Tera is an overshadowed classic villain of gothic horror. With gender politics still very much in the public consciousness in today’s world, perhaps revisiting this pushed-aside novel by one of modern horror’s founding fathers, is worth the time for all of us.

Article by Kieran Judge

Bibliography

Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb. 1971. [Film] Directed by Seth Holt. United Kingdom: Hammer.

Senf, C. A., 2010. Bram Stoker. Wales: University of Wales Press.

Stoker, B., 2009. The Jewel of Seven Stars. United States of America: Seven Treasures Publications.

The Mummy. 2017. [Film] Directed by Alex Kurtzman. United States of America: Universal.

 

 

Chilling Chat Episode 159 Patrick C. Greene

As a toddler, Patrick C. Greene created horrors in crayon before discovering comics and horror fiction. Despite nights spent hiding under covers, he was always drawn to dark tales.

After cutting his fangs on screenwriting Greene found his true calling in prose with the debut novel Progeny. He favors horror that is emotionally engaging, terrifying, and suspenseful.

Greene’s other works include the collection Dark Destinies, action-packed vampire novel The Crimson Calling, and The Haunted Hollow Chronicles: Red Harvest, coming Halloween from Lyrical Press.

Western North Carolinian Greene heeds his morbid muse when not enjoying monstrous helpings of Horror, Kung Fu, and Doom Metal.

Patrick has a style all his own. We spoke of his childhood in Western North Carolina, writing, and his fascination with Faustian themes.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Patrick! Let’s get down to business. What got you interested in Horror?

PCG: Like many small fry, I was interested in dinosaurs, and that led to Godzilla movies, which have a good bit of genre crossover.

The first exposures to real horror came via a paperback collection of Tales from the Crypt comics I found on my father’s bookshelf, which I believe he confiscated from one of his college students.

He told me about the Universal monster series so I made a point of watching all of those I could find.

The third influence was the death of my Aunt Helen, when I was maybe four or five. I was just beginning to get close to her when she passed. Death was no longer a distant abstraction. I suppose I needed to understand just what it was. I still have drawings from then with images of corpses and skeletons.

NTK: Did your father encourage your interest in horror? What was your childhood like?

PCG: Yes, and in some ways, he was not aware he was even doing so. My dad was a novelist as well as a newspaper editor and often found himself covering gruesome crime or just bizarre stories. He had a police band radio that he monitored at night. Once, I recall him rousting my brothers and me from bed and piling us in the car. There had been a UFO sighting nearby, and if there was one to be seen, he wanted us to have that experience. He and my mother were very excited, but my brothers and I—less so, and more terrified of encountering the hostile variety of spacemen we’d seen on TV.

Another such incident involved a wildcat that had been heard near the mountain community where we lived. I can’t remember if anyone had lost animals or whatnot, but my dad took it upon himself to hunt the damn thing, and I went with him. It was a crisp clear night and we hiked into the woods. Several times, we heard its cry; like a screaming woman—chilling to the bone.

NTK: Did you grow up in Western North Carolina? Mountainous areas have a reputation for frightening stories. Did the geography influence your writing?

PCG: Yes, my parents discovered a few acres outside of Asheville and had a two-story log house built on it. There are quite a few ghost stories connected to the region and my dad was not shy about sharing them on camping trips and cold nights. There are flesh and blood dangers too, such as a pack of wild dogs; runaways and strays that had come together.

Oddly, I saw greener grass on the other side, so to speak. I had a long phase of wishing to be a big-city boy. Due to this longing, I was attracted to comics, films, and books that were set in seedy metropolises. Clive Barker, my favorite author, often sets his work in urban areas.

But I am in touch with the isolation of this geography (I’m back on that track now) and I do feel uniquely attuned to its scary potential. I’ve embraced the wilderness figuratively and literally.

Stingy Jack and Other Tales by [Greene, Patrick C.]NTK: Did this “scary potential” inspire the story “Stingy Jack?” How did that come about?

PCG: In a roundabout way. I’ve tried for a few years to grow pumpkins in my front yard, largely without success. I looked up ways to improve my chances and fell into a rabbit hole, as will happen, about the origins of Halloween, the reasons for Jack O Lanterns, etc. Stingy Jack, the face of the legend struck me as an interesting character in his own right. There are a good many tellings of this story but I had never seen one done as a prose narrative. Stingy Jack has the potential to be a seasonal symbol like Ichabod Crane.

NTK: You’ve written a book called, Red Harvest, which (like Stingy Jack) features the Devil. What drew you to the theme of those who sell their souls?

PCG: I fit the classic mold of a child born into traditional Christian belief, which I later came to question. Whether you view him as a real being or an archetype, Lucifer is a character of greater nuance than he’s given credit for: a wicked being of only hate and spite, seeking to destroy good and replace it with evil. One person’s idea of selling one’s soul can be another’s idea of taking personal responsibility for your life, come what may. Alternately it can be regarded as the necessary opposite to the essential goodness; each defining the other.

To me, Stingy Jack seems to be a simple lesson in planning ahead. Both Jack and The Devil are stuck in the moment of their decisions. The tale probably served as yet another variation on the boogie man theme that parents use to keep their children from going astray, which seems like lazy parenting if you think about it—which makes it the ultimate irony. I wanted to show the consequences that Jack’s actions have on others, on the world around him. Jack’s avarice and self-centeredness rival even Lucifer’s, and that’s why he is doomed; both tragic and terrifying because he will never change.

The “devil” in Red Harvest is a very different take than that of Stingy Jack. Fair to say, these two demonic fellows would scarcely know each other at all. Both take place on Halloween as well, so I hope readers will let me share their scares this season, and for many to come.

NTK: That’s a new and fascinating take on the old legend. You spoke of Clive Barker earlier. Did he influence your writing?

PCG: Clive Barker’s work seemed almost alien to me when I first read it, whereas King’s felt like home. A scary, spooky home.

I remember seeing Barker’s Hellraiser and thinking what a perfect horror show this is, with a living corpse in the attic, demonic entities threatening to come through the walls, and worst of all: a cold murderess dominating a supremely effed-up family. Red Harvest is likewise a horrific potpourri, and hopefully as well-drawn and tightly-woven.

Hellraiser led me to The Books Of Blood, and one of my all-time favorite novels, The Damnation Game—which brings us back to the Faustian pacts, now that I think about it.

NTK: What about King and Koontz? Of those two, who do you think is the best?

PCG: As a young adult, I appreciated Koontz and King in equal measure, and Intensity will always be a favorite too. But for sheer consistency of quality to volume ratio, King will reign for many years. He continues to get better, even after all this time, and leaves us writers with no excuses for not producing.

The Stand, Pet Sematary, The Talisman and Carrie all seem to have graced me at the perfect time in my life, or perhaps were so strong they molded my life to fit their stories!

NTK: Do you enjoy the film adaptations of Barker’s work?

PCG: For the most part, yes. I love Candyman, but I’m not the fan of Nightbreed that many Barker fans are. Midnight Meat Train and Lord of Illusions are great adaptations. Then there’s Rawhead Rex. That one had the potential to be another Pumpkinhead, but just fell apart. Maybe someone will give it another shot.

NTK: What horror films and television shows do you watch?

PCG: Lately I’ve been watching Hannibal, which is heads and shoulders above most TV horror fare. I did enjoy Penny Dreadful, though I think it got a little played out. I’ve kind of given up on Supernatural. I’m eager to see The Frankenstein Chronicles.

I’m finding the superhero fad to be a bit stale, which is sad because I was an enthusiastic Marvel reader as a boy. I like what Legendary is doing with Godzilla and Kong and I’m pumped for the upcoming Godzilla: King of the Monsters!

I love the 70s and 80s feel, the way it’s incorporated into Stranger Things. I worked really Red Harvest (The Haunted Hollow Chronicles) by [Greene, Patrick C.]hard to reflect some of that in Red Harvest, along with elements of the 50s. Red Harvest’s town of Ember Hollow is like some time warp mix of 50s and 80s.

I’m about a year behind on all the big horror hits, but I’m also a fan of martial arts flicks.

NTK: Do you ever incorporate martial arts into your horror stories?

PCG: Oh yes. My novel The Crimson Calling contains several characters who are well-trained, particularly the heroine Olivia Irons, who is ex-special forces. She’s called upon to lead one faction of vampires against another. There a good many wild fight scenes in which martial arts are enhanced by the combatants’ vampire abilities.

Under Wicked Sky is a sci-fi horror novel I have had accepted by Sinister Grin Press, with plans for a 2019 release. The story centers around a post-global warming world in which the concept of law has essentially become meaningless, and guns are scarce. There are a good many brutal fight scenes.

Finally, the story “Cinderblock,” contained in the Stingy Jack collection, is about a boxer’s ghost who still has plenty of knockout power.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What projects do you have to share with the Horror Addicts? Any films involved?

PCG: I’ve become reticent to discuss film projects, as so few ever come to fruition! Both my bigfoot novel Progeny and the aforementioned Under Wicked Sky have been optioned for production and a martial arts web series I wrote is in some kind of limbo it seems.

Red Harvest is the first in a trilogy called The Haunted Hollow Chronicles, and I’m writing the second entry now with a release planned for next year through Kensington’s Lyrical imprint.

Beyond that, there are still plans for a follow-up to The Crimson Calling.

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

PCG: Stingy Jack is, of course, cursed to roam the In-Between until he finds someone gullible enough to be tricked into taking his place!

Another interesting curse that comes to mind is from King’s Thinner, with the main character wasting away, day by day, for his moment of carelessness.

The film Drag Me To Hell depicts a horrific and sinister curse!

NTK: Those are great curses! Thank you for chatting with me, Patrick. You’re a fascinating person.

PCG: Thank YOU Naching! It’s been a lot of fun.

Chilling Chat Episode 158 Mercy Hollow

Mercy Hollow was born in Florida, where she was terrorized by alligators, fire ants, rabid raccoons, sharks, drunken college students, and 100% humidity. She lived on three continents (four if you count the foreign realm of her imagination) and planted her feet in San Francisco. She has a love of hockey, motorcycles, and anything deemed weird. She writes about gritty underworlds, twists, deception, strong men, stronger women, and a hidden part of Chicago you’ve never seen. She is a freelance editor and workshop facilitator.

Mercy is a woman of many talents with a fascinating past. We spoke of forensic psychology, writing, and her take on good and evil.

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

MH: Glad to be here. Thanks for having me on.

NTK: You have traveled the world and visited many continents. What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened to you?

MH: While I’ve had some interesting, blood pumping, and challenging situations overseas, the scariest was in my home state of Florida. I was lost alone in the Everglades at night for hours with only a lighter.

NTK: Wow! How did that happen? And, how did you get out?

MH: I may have made a bad decision of who to hang out with for the evening. We had a disagreement and they left, taking the boat with them. I have a good sense of direction and a strong desire not to be eaten by alligators so I took my time, avoided the water, and eventually found a path.

NTK: Good job! Did this incident inspire you to become a horror writer? What got you interested in writing horror?

MH: With my previous career in forensic psychology, I got to delve into the darkest parts of people’s minds. See what people were capable of, both to cause ill and overcome tragedy and disaster. I love stories that capture these emotions and could get inside me. Characters that stuck with me, grabbed on, and wouldn’t let go. Writing fiction was a great escape from the real life hardships I saw every day in my job. But, I like dark things. Nighttime is my happy place, so my writing tends to flow to struggle and fight against it.

NTK: Did you solve any crimes during your time in forensic psychology?

MH: I worked with a lot of violent offenders and victims of violent crimes. I was involved in cases, prevention, and rehabilitation. I worked with all the agencies involved, from probation, parole, jails, and mental hospitals to court, police, schools, foster care, and emergency rooms. A team of people working together to make the streets and homes safer and help people that need it, including the offenders. I got to understand and see the other side of violent crime that many don’t. There are stories beneath every action and choice.

NTK: Did you draw on this experience when you wrote Scythe? Did it help you develop your villains as well as your heroes?

MH: Definitely. To me, villains aren’t evil. And, heroes aren’t good. They make the choice they make for a reason. What life throws at you and what shelters you from it is a huge influence on people. The three brothers that rule the Legion in Scythe have all been dealt a bad hand and each deals with it differently. All in their own special shade of darkness. The heroes in the Legion are trying to overcome that darkness but they struggle with the choices they made that got them Claimed in the first place. It also played a part in the Legion itself. When someone is Claimed, the antigen in their blood chooses their designation in the Legion that they will have for the rest of their life based on their personality. Who they truly are. So, they have to face and embrace this part of themselves or suffer the consequences.

NTK: This is an interesting view of good and evil. Less black and white. You’re dealing with shades of gray. Which brings me to the Paranormal Romance aspect. What makes your romance unique?

MH: It’s a blending of genres. Think paranormal romance meets Game of Thrones, in modern day Chicago with horror and suspense. Each book in the series is focused on two couples—a main and sub couple—whose storylines intertwine and influence the others. The world and plot of the Legion also impact the couples. It looks at struggles and hope in relationships, from couples to families, friends, and roles in society, as well as the society itself.

Scythe: Legions of the Claimed by [Hollow, Mercy]NTK: You’ve spoken of the choices which shape your characters. How much control do you have over them? Do you give your creations free will?

MH: Sometimes, I fool myself into thinking I have control over them. Then, they go and do something that ticks me off or they make a choice I want to yell at them for making. Or worse, I see their end coming for them and I can’t stop it. I spend a good amount of gray matter energy brainstorming and plotting, and finding character arcs but, at the end of the day, there are always surprises and places they take me. And, they always yell at me when I try to take them somewhere they wouldn’t go.

NTK: Do you enjoy psychological horror? What horror do you like to read?

MH: I do! From the classics like Frankenstein, Dracula, The Picture of Dorian Gray, to Misery, The Shining, The Handmaid’s Tale, Red Dragon, and Silence of the Lambs. I love reading about the fear of anticipation, the lengths people will go to or be pushed to, the tricks the mind plays, and how people adapt to or resist the extraordinary.

NTK: What horror films and TV shows do you enjoy?

MH: I liked the movies of the books I mentioned previously. I’m an Alfred Hitchcock fan. I liked the different take on characters in Penny Dreadful, Grimm, Game of Thrones, The Handmaid’s Tale series, The Leftovers, Black Mirror, Crazyhead. There are so many great ones. I love quirky and humorous horror as well.

NTK: Those are great shows and films. Which Hitchcock film is your favorite?

MH: Psycho, of course. But, I also really like The Birds, Rear Window, Rope, Vertigo, Strangers on a Train, To Catch a Thief. He had a great way with anticipation, getting the mind to react to things it didn’t see or fear things it projected it would see.

NTK: Do you think werewolves, vampires, and other monsters are psychological representations of the human psyche?

MH: I think we all have a little monster in us that could be drawn out in the right or wrong situation. Monsters represent our desires and fears. Our darkest moments. Our possibilities. They can be vulnerable and raw and passionate in ways people often don’t let themselves be.

NTK: Do you have a favorite monster?

MH: I have a soft spot for Frankenstein. He’s innocent yet brutal, lost but discovered. He’s weakness and strength. His life is complex, but he longs for the most basic human need—belonging and companionship.

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

MH: Cursing people to get exactly what they want and it bringing them great misfortune and ruin. I do like psychological torture.

NTK: Mercy, what does the future hold for you? What books or stories do we have to look forward to?

MH: Grim, the next book in the Legions of the Claimed series, comes out next month. I’m currently working on book three, entitled—Vegan. I’m also working on several young adult fantasy novels. I’m a freelance editor specializing in fantasy, paranormal, horror, sci-fi, and run workshops at conferences. I love getting to work with other writers and assisting them in getting their stories out for people to enjoy.

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me, Mercy. It’s been a pleasure.

MH: Thank you and HorrorAddicts.net for having me on and giving me the good fortune of being Cursed.

Addicts, you can find Mercy Hollow here on Facebook and Twitter.

Book Review: Naraka by Alessandro Manzetti

Naraka is not a novel, it’s an experience – a graphic, chaotic, mind-blowing experience.

It is not an experience intended for those faint of heart.  It is at times gory to an extreme, it is constantly profane, and sex is used more often as a weapon or a form of abuse or torture than for pleasure.  It focuses on cannibalism and the downfall of civilization.

But what else would you expect from a story about a woman who starts out life as a prostitute turned professional killer who is caught and sent to a prison on the moon where prisoners are used as meat, scientific subjects in genetic experiments or breeding stock to make more of the former and the latter.  It presents the reader with social commentary on what becomes of a society that has been deregulated to the point where crime is rampant, people act out of desperation for the sake of survival, and the rich and immoral do whatever they please because they can.

Kiki, the protagonist, is doomed from her unpleasant start.  She tries to swim through life but finds herself sunk when her life takes a bad turn and there is no social net to save her and her son.  She does what she feels she has to secure their survival, digging herself into a dark, hellish hole where things go from bad to worse. Every time she tries to change things for the better, either the outcome ends up unexpectedly bad, or she falls victim to her own personal failings.

Aside from the multi-faceted characterization rife with personality and flaws, what struck me most about this book was how well it embraced its own chaos.  It is not presented in standard chronological order, the narrative method changes from chapter to chapter, and some scenes seem almost hallucinogenic.  The imagery is exceptional – it reminded me of someone taking one of the stark, bold graphic stories you’d expect to see in a Heavy Metal magazine and writing it out, capturing all of that disturbing artwork in words (and both the cover artwork and interior illustrations support this.).

If you love dark, graphic dystopian horror, will not be dissuaded by the gruesome and scenes of cannibalism, and seek out the chaotic, artistic and extreme, this book is for you. It made for unusual vacation reading, but I found it so remarkable that I have to rate it a five out of five.

Chilling Chat Episode 156 Christine Verstraete

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NTK: What made you portray Lizzie as a hero?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NTK: Did King get you into horror?

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

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

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

NTK: Do you watch The Walking Dead?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addicts, you can follow Christine on Twitter at @caverstraete

Book Review: Sepultura by Guy Portman

Book Review: Sepultura by Guy Portman

Hello Addicts,

One of my favorite of slasher-style tales is where you get to see the crime from the killer’s point of view. Being able to get a glimpse into the mind of a serial killer to find out what makes them do what they do so brutally as well as the lengths they’ll go to remain hidden. I thought Sepultura would be a good one to try, and the results were mixed.

Dyson Devereux works in the Burials and Cemeteries Department and is a very meticulous person in his tastes, fashion, food, and drink. He has a son with Rakesha, an ex-girlfriend he still has a physical relationship with, and is very much a player when it comes to women in general. He is a judgmental person who not only looks down his nose at those he believes are beneath him because of how they dress or carry themselves. His interactions with these people give you an idea of his level of sociopathic tendencies. One of those individuals is Rakesha’s boyfriend, who Dyson refers to as Free Lunch. He hates Dyson but has no problem living off the money he provides for Rakesha and their son.

When Free Lunch gets physically confrontational, you see just how efficient of a killer Dyson is. He kills the younger man and cleans up enough of the mess to immediately spend time with one of his girlfriends in bed. Like most serial killers, he has a plan on disposing of the body and takes a souvenir to remember the act. As the story continues, you see his talent at making people disappear first hand. He gets rattled only a couple of times when he runs across people who bear a likeness to some of his previous victims but is cool when it comes to speaking with the police. It isn’t the only murder in the book, but it best illustrates just how much thought he puts into his crimes.

As I said in the beginning, I have mixed feelings regarding this book. It is the second book in the series, but the story stands alone well. You don’t need to have read the first book, Necropolis, to know anything about Dyson Devereux’s character. I can say that I wasn’t a fan of his, but because of his arrogance, pretentiousness, and disdain for people. That shows how good of a writer Guy Portman is. Dyson is one of those main characters who you either love, hate, or love to hate. Some people likened him to Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, a comparison that seems a good fit. I liked the attention to detail of viewing people he looks down on as not people, but things. With some, the only given names are the labels of what he dislikes about them.

One of the things I disliked about the book, however, is the dialog written with very heavy accents. It worked well for some, like the Italians, but made understanding others practically impossible. Multiple times I had to reread sentences to decipher what the character said. Also, how Dyson establishes himself as being above everyone else felt overdone at times. The ending felt kind of rushed as well.

Overall, I thought the book was okay, but not exactly a home run. If you can get past the heavy Cockney style accents and the heavy-handed descriptions, you will enjoy this book. If you can’t, then you might want to skip this one or go for an audio version. I recommend it for those American Psycho and Dexter fans out there.

Until next time, Addicts.

D.J. Pitsiladis

Chilling Chat Episode 154 Crescendo of Darkness with Emerian Rich

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chilling Chat Episode 153 Lori Safranek

Lori Safranek spent several years as a newspaper reporter in Nebraska before trying her hand at fiction writing. In addition to her Freaked Out series, she’s contributed to the anthologies Simple Things, Final Masquerade, Dead Harvest, Fifty Shades of Decay: Zombie Erotica, Cellar Door II, and Slaughter House: Serial Killer Edition. She also contributed a short story to Tim Baker’s novel, Unfinished Business, and has published stories in The Sirens Call eZine.

Most recently, Lori put her sideshow characters into the Zombie Apocalypse with her story, “Freaked Out Zombies,” which was featured in Tales from the Zombie Road.: The Long Haul Anthology.

Lori has a great sense of humor and a quick mind. We discussed several things, including: her past occupation, the creation of characters, and her love of zombies.

NTK: Hi, Lori. Thank you for chatting with me today.

LS: No problem!

NTK: You were a newspaper reporter before you became a fiction writer. How did this occupation shape your work?

LS: I believe, and found to be true, that every person has a story to tell. An interesting story! So, I love hearing those stories, from the person I sit next to while waiting for a haircut to an old college friend. If you listen, everyone has done something that makes a great story.

Fiction of course, can be anything I create, but I tend to call from the stories I’ve heard over the years and use them for inspiration.

NTK: Did these stories inspire your Freaked Out series?

LS: Yes, in a lot of ways. I met a woman tattoo artist on a visit to New Orleans. She was pretty much covered in tattoos, but I also met a young man who is in the Guinness Book of World Records as being the most tattooed man ever. His name is Matt Gone and he was a cook in Cooper’s, a great bar/restaurant in the French Quarter. He, like so many people, left the city after Hurricane Katrina. He’s been on TV many times. He’s a very nice guy. Anyway, their willingness to devote themselves to all this beautiful artwork inspired my character, Smudge, The Tattooed Man in the Sideshow.

The Snake Handler, Lily Dean, came from a cousin’s love of snakes. And, my fascination with the snake handling churches back in the Appalachians. I’d see TV shows about those churches and found it fascinating. And, I’ve written articles about people who own snakes and how they keep it safe, etc.

Steiner, the owner of the Freak Show, his name comes from a bar in the neighborhood I grew up in. My parents thought that was hilarious.

NTK: You also have a character called Marie. Where did she come from?

LS: Oh, Marie! I have to admit, she’s got a lot of me in her. Sassy, fat, and not willing to be ashamed about it. But, years ago, I found a graphic I was going to use in some artwork I was doing. It was a painting of a fat lady from the circus, her name was “Sweet Marie.” I fell in love with the image. She was eating in the painting but her hands were dainty and she was quite pretty. So, when I decided to do a Fat Lady, I made her lady-like and sexy, and also confident. That was important to me. I made sure Marie wasn’t stuffing food in her face on stage. And, I made her have a successful online video cam career, because wow, do you realize how many men are into big girls? I never knew until I joined Facebook!

Marie’s tattoo of wings on her back comes from my nephew’s wife, who has the same tattoo and I love it.

And, the reason I had the other character attack Marie out of jealousy was representative of how women are so often jealous of one another. We think it’s based on attractiveness but Marie weighs nearly 500 pounds! And, she’s still pulling in male fans all the time! It makes her attacker so jealous she comes to hate Marie. I think that’s so sad. Marie is my favorite character in the Freaked Out series.

NTK: Do each of your characters allow you to explore a different theme?

LS: Yes, they do. My snake charmer, Lily Dean, is a lonely person. She’s rejected by her father because she refused to use her abilities to trick churchgoers, thus making her dad and the preacher money. When Lily Dean shows up in the Side Show, she’s down to her last dollar and all she cares about is feeding her snakes. She needs a family and luckily, she is hired and pulled right into the Steiner group. Marie mothers her, of course.

One of the things about the series is that I have Steiner insist that all his freaks be honest. No trickery. If you say you can charm snakes, no tricks! Lily Dean can use her mental powers to get the snakes to do what she wants them to do. Smudge, the tattooed man, can prove his tattoos really do move around on his body. And Jason, that Alligator Man, does indeed have skin that looks like alligator hide. He has a medical condition (I looked it up, it’s real!) that causes his skin to look that way.

NTK: How much control do you exert over your characters? Some writers are god-like and decide everything their characters do, while others give their characters more free will. Where do you fall in the spectrum?

LS: They really don’t give me that much choice, the little devils! They tend to do what they want. I’m kidding. But, it does feel sometimes like the character takes over. I can have a plan in my head, but I start typing and suddenly the character is smarter than I gave them credit for or possessing traits I never even knew about. That is a wonderful feeling for a writer.

NTK: So, they become real not just to you but to the reader as well?

LS: I hope so. I have people tell me they really love Marie. And, my husband thought Smudge was a very authentic character. Smudge is a rather rough guy, covered with tattoos and very tall and built. And, he swears quite a lot. He reminds me and my husband of some of my family members, which is why he says it’s a realistic character. It’s hard not to use those characteristics, I think.

Oh, but I did get a bad review on Amazon, that said Marie was a terrible book because it was obvious the writer (me) had never been fat. Of course, I’m pretty darn big and I have no idea what she meant. Evidently, Marie did not seem real to that reader. I got a kick out of that, though.

NTK: What got you interested in freakshows? Why did you use this as a background for your horror?

LS: Good question. My good friend, Jim, is constantly going to rock concerts and when we were in college, he would often stop by my house after the concert to give me his review. One night, he tofreakshow-lori-safranek-7ld me about this really different opening act that was a freakshow. It included fire eaters, sword swallowers, people who could hammer nails into their tongues—all kinds of things. It was called the Jim Rose Circus. I thought that was amazing. It seemed after that this Circus was everywhere I looked. I watched a documentary about it, read a couple magazines about it. Pretty soon, I couldn’t get freak shows out of my head.

I also read a true crime book about a man who was known as “The Lobster Man” (Grady Stiles.) His son and wife conspired to kill him. It was a fascinating look into the circus world.

I kept thinking about the freakshows and like I said, I had that Marie graphic. One thing led to another.

NTK: Do you find your newspaper background affects your style? Hemingway and Jack London wrote like reporters. Do you write with a Who, What, Where, etc. mentality?

LS: It really does affect my fiction writing and sometimes that’s not a good thing. It can become dull. My editors have told me to “add description!!!” more than once. I sometimes challenge myself to be flowery and overly descriptive just to kind of break my “just the facts, ma’am” style. I don’t really enjoy reading overly descriptive fiction though.

Having been a reporter also impacts my ability to suspend disbelief when reading and writing horror. I’m often thinking, “Wait! That could never happen!” And, of course, it’s FICTION! Anything can happen! (Laughs.)

NTK: Were you interested in horror before writing the Freaked Out series?

LS: Sure. I had a couple short stories published in horror anthologies before I wrote Marie. And, I’ve read horror all my life.

I’m not into horror movies, though. They scare me too much.

NTK: Who are your favorite authors? Who inspires you?

LS: That changes over time, I think.

The last few years, I’ve read a lot of zombie fiction, which I love. Mark Tufo is wonderful, of course, I love how he tempers the violence with humor. His characters are well done, too. David Simpson is a new favorite, really good writer.

I’ve always been a big mystery fan, and people like Lawrence Block (who writes dark stuff) influence me.

One of my biggest influences, since I’ve been on Facebook, is Trent Zelazny. He’s been a good friend and his writing is unique and just inspires me to strive to write more clearly and with less muss and fuss.

NTK: Is Trent related to the writer, Roger Zelazny?

LS: Yes, Trent is Roger’s son.

NTK: Are zombies your favorite monsters?

LS: Yes, zombies are my favorites but I do like vampires. I was really into werewolves for a while. Zombies, though, they’re the big deal.

NTK: What is it you like most about zombies? Is it the apocalyptic aspect?

LS: That is really important to me, it creates great tension, of course. I like the driving hunger of zombies. Shoot them in the guts, they keep seeking brains! Chop off their arms, still, they move forward! It’s hard to survive them. I don’t like fast zombies, really. I like them slow and dumb. Like my men. (Laughs.)

NTK: You recently wrote a short story about zombies featuring your Freaked Out characters. Tell us a little about that?

LS: Now, that was fun! David Simpson, author of the Zombie Road series, created an anthology where he allowed writers to use his world to write a short story. He invited fans, whether they were writers or not, to contribute. The proceeds went to the Wounded Warrior Project, which is a great organization.

I love David’s books which are about a group of truck drivers, mostly vets, who survive the apocalypse and travel to Oklahoma to set up a small town. These truckers are resilient and smart. Anyway, I used my characters, Jason, Blade the Sword Swallower, Lily Dean, Smudge, and Gypsy the psychic/medium. Jason, Blade, and Gypsy were traveling to pick up Lily Dean and Smudge in an RV. They bring weapons (Blade’s swords and knives) and in exchange, get some fuel to get back to their fellow freaks who are holed up at Marie’s home.

David’s characters are all so down to earth and pretty tough and mine are really…um…freaky! It worked pretty well, though.

NTK: You said you don’t watch horror movies. Do you watch Zombie movies? What about The Walking Dead?

LS: I don’t watch The Walking Dead. I watched a couple episodes and I didn’t like it. I do like Z Nation, even though it can be silly as hell. I recently binge-watched iZombie. It’s a pretty interesting concept, but not realistic based on the usual zombie tropes of unthinking zombies. The main character eats brains, but also other foods, which isn’t normal for zombies. It’s good, though.

And, zombie movies—I loved Sean of the Dead and The Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. And, of course, the George Romero movies.

My favorite, horrifying horror movie I really enjoyed was 30 Days of Night. Awesome.

Psycho was the first horror movie I saw and it scared the pants off me. I was about 12.

NTK: What are your future plans? What do we have to look forward to?

LS: I have a couple ideas for books but the first idea just hasn’t blossomed and I may have to give up on it. The other is about the zombie apocalypse but it’s a comedy. And, I’ll keep writing short stories, which I enjoy so much. My stories have been published in a few anthologies.

NTK: In your story featuring Smudge, he must deal with a curse. And, as you know, Season 12 of HorrorAddicts.net is CURSED. Do you have a favorite curse? If so, what is it?

LS: I think curses have to be individual. As in, if I wanted to curse someone, I’d have to know them a little and make it their worst nightmare.

If someone wanted to curse me, they’d say, “Lori, you are cursed forever to watch sports on television, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year!” I would just curl up and die.

I think, with most people today, the worst curse would be to make their cell phone not work. Or, only work sporadically.

NTK: (Laughs.) Thank you for the chat, Lori.

LS: Thanks so much!

By The Fire: Episode 149: Challenge 13: This is the End

As I start to write this post the song that is playing in my head is The End by The Doors. Because that’s what this is, the end of the contest and what a trip it has been. The last challenge in The Next Great Horror Writer for episode 149 of the HorrorAddicts.net podcast is the hardest one yet. This one was only open to the semi-finalists and they had to submit The first 3 chapters of their horror fiction novel including a cover letter, synopsis, and query. Wow!!! I have the highest respect for everyone in this contest because they had to work hard to be a part of it and everyone in it has shown how dedicated they are to their craft. The winner of this challenge and the grand prize for the contest is a book contract from Crystal Lake Publishing.

To sit and think on what everyone in this contest had to do to stay in it just boggles my mind. I can’t imagine doing it myself but this little group of writers really showed us what they were made of. The contest began with almost 120 entries and we eventually saw the field get narrowed down to just few. Along the way our writers had to produce an audio drama, a commercial, short stories, non fiction blog posts, create a monster, an intro to an original character and finally the beginning of a novel.

Through the course of this contest we’ve seen all of these writers grow and improve their skills and get tested like never before. I’ve really enjoyed the journey of these writers throughout this season of the podcast and it makes me sad to see just one winner. I think everyone in the contest should consider themselves a winner and be proud of what they have accomplished. Even if you get rid of all the other parts of the contest and just look at the fact that these writers have gotten to the point where they have submitted the first three chapters of their book is a big deal.

A lot of work goes into writing a novel, the planning, the outlining, the rewrites and finally the finished product. Some people spend years working on a novel and in my opinion its the most personal art form there is. Writers have to put their heart and soul into their novels and sending it to a publisher takes a lot of guts. It’s not easy becoming a published author, there is a lot of work involved in the process and when you do get published a whole new set of challenges await you. A writer’s work is never done and the ones that keep doing it are the ones that consider it their passion.

So Addicts, what did you think of the contest as a whole? Who did you think did the best job on this challenge? what do you thing the hardest part of doing a query and a cover letter are? Have you done one? What are the experiences you’ve had? Let us know in the comments.

 

Review: Witch House by Evangeline Walton

WitchHouseWitch House by Evangeline Walton is a creepy novel written in 1945.

A doctor travels to a large ominous house on an island separated from town by a lake. This house is inhabited by evil either imprinted there or from ghosts of past family members. The doctor’s task is to confront and cure a small girl who has either been seeing poltergeist activity or causing it. Also residing in the house are the girl’s mother, and her two male cousins. The three adults must live together for the terms of the will if they wish to retain ownership, but when the ghost activity gets physical and people start dying, even the ownership doesn’t seem like that big of a loss if they want to save their lives. Most of the ghostly legends center around Aunt Sarai, a woman who ruled the house with an iron fist and who may still rule from beyond the grave.

The house reminds me of the movie The Woman in Black although it is distinctly American, but the house is also separated from the town by water. The residents of the town could be plucked from one of Stephen King’s novels in that they embody the small New England townsfolk who tell stories about the folks that “live the house.” Yet, this book was written in 1945, long before King’s career.

What drew me to read Witch House was the intriguing cover. I wanted to see the scary witch painting come alive and attack the poor little girl. It never happens that way, but the woman called Aunt Sarai does seem to terrorize the child. Although the book is slow and much of it is about how the doctor tries to convince the girl that the objects and people tormenting her are harmless, there was a spookiness to the tale that I enjoyed. Because it’s slow, the payoffs take a long time to present themselves. Scary corridors with no end, strangely solid ghost figures, and a large black hare all add to the scare in this book. In the end, I felt the scare never was as scary as the build-up. However, passages like…

“Broken through the dark webs of her destiny…”

and

“The full moon should give that watching figure this semblance of flesh as well as shadow…”

…kept me reading. It’s evident the writing is from another time, but instead of irritating me, the style drew me in. Sure, the ending is not as scary as I would have liked and looking back nothing truly frightening happened that I’ve not read a hundred times before, but her language and description kept me in the world of Witch House and I’m not sad I gave it a try. If I were a child experiencing these things, I would truly be terrified. It’s just not up to our 2016 standards as far as fear. I’ll leave with you one last passage which is my favorite.

“The room was dark now, totally dark, too dark for the dangerous half-light that aids materializations…but at the windows there were touches of moon-silver twilight. Presently they enabled him to distinguish…something darker than the darkness—the skirted silhouette of a woman. He knew the shape and the folds in which the dress fell; he had seen them in Aunt Sarai’s portrait… Each detail appeared gradually now, thickening and blackening into perfection, out of the nebulous darkness…”

Tonight in bed don’t let Aunt Sarai’s silhouette in the window scare you. She’s not real. She’s a figment of your imagination…or is she?

Press Release: Chaos Territory

On May 5th 2016 Marc Severson released his first novel called Chaos Territory: Book One in the Chaos Series. Here is the blurb:

29602612Welcome to the Weird Wild West! Matthew Sandstrom is a Government Land Office agent in Chaos, Arizona Territory ca. 1900. He is drawn into a series of disturbing circumstances involving a family of homesteaders who are missing and a trading post that serves a mysterious tribe known as the Su’mok. When the wife of the trader at the post is found wandering in a nearly catatonic state and her husband has also disappeared Sandstrom is alerted to the dark advance of ancient dangers. Discovering that a primordial terror has been unleashed he sets out to do his best against unknown powers. With the help of some Indian allies and his friend Mose Broadaxe he challenges indescribable forces for control of humanity’s future on earth. Set in the southwest at the end of the most famous era in American history, the Old West, the story seeks to engage the reader in a historically sound adventure that also incorporates the eldritch charm of Lovecraft with primal lore and legend. This is the first book in a series that take place in the spectral, dying, mining town of Chaos, Arizona Territory.

https://www.createspace.com/6229483

Amazon.com

About Marc Severson:

Born in Elgin, Illinois as a life-long Cubs fan I know how to write of despair, terror and sadness. The move to Arizona in the mid-sixties allowed me to become a confirmed desert dweller of the first rank.

Trained at the University of Arizona as an archaeologist and educator I also am a self-taught raconteur. Despite the many rewards I have garnered, both physically and spiritually, from these disparate professions I have always said that one day, when I grow up I would like to become a writer. Recently I’ve decided that I don’t want to wait that long so I’ve entered the ranks of the published.

I no longer work as a teacher (after 32 years) or an archaeologist (I started in 1972) though I remain vitally interested in both professions and each has contributed greatly to my writing. I love to tell stories whenever anyone wants to listen or the spirit comes upon me. I have performed several times at Tucson Meet Yourself, Tucson Festival of Books and at various schools and libraries across Arizona. I am a member in reasonably good standing of Tucson Tellers of Tales, a professional storytelling organization that you may find more information about on Facebook.

Married for over forty years to the same incredibly patient woman, Susan, we have four daughters and currently spend much of our time herding six grandchildren.

“Chaos Territory” is the first book in a series that is based on several Lovecraft inspired short stories I wrote while in college. It is intended for adult readers due to language and situations.

I have completed the first drafts of the next two books in the series and hope to see them published soon. I am also at work on the first book of another series of mysteries set in prehistoric Arizona and a novel about archaeology called “Bits of Sky”.

A critical issue for me is finding some way to preserve the stories that I tell, at least those of mine that are personal ones and several that I have created for children. Because of that I have recently started uploading some of my storytelling from the Tucson Festival of Books on YouTube.

Thus shortens my story . . .

Review: The Green-Eyed Monster by Mike Robinson

The Green-Eyed Monster by Mike Robinson

A Review by Angela Estes

13440327It was one of those days where I wanted to read an entire book in one sitting.  Luckily for me, I chose The Green-Eyed Monster by Mike Robinson.  The best horror stories leave the reader lost in a miasma of wonderment.  Securely safe in our awareness we have but read a work of fiction, our mind keeps retracing and testing the plot’s connection points for weaknesses.  The best horror authors craft characters and worlds who pop back into our minds while at the grocery store or surfing online.  The best fiction never truly leaves us.  The Green-Eyed Monster Robinson, while not quite achieving that stature of greatness yet, shows enormous potential to get there in his future works.

The story takes place in a fictional Northern California town called Twilight Falls where a respected and celebrated author has just been found dead.  Another author, who is the dead man’s greatest rival, is the main suspect.  If you’re expecting 200 pages of crime and mystery, however, you would be mistaken.  What you get instead is a novel that left me shaking my head at the end, amazed at the size and scope of the story, Robinson attempted to tell.

It isn’t what I would call “an easy read.”  The story of the two authors is told largely by other characters.  It is as if someone wrote a biography of Stephen King, but only included impressions of him from people who spoke to him once to ask for the time.  Or it would be if the tale then proceeded to show how a sole meeting with King changed that individual’s life forever.  Even then it would have to address why we exist and what is the purpose of life itself to be on par.  It’s a lot for a writer and his readers to wrap their minds around.

In The Green-Eyed Monster, Robinson has given us an entirely new world and mythos to consider and I am looking forward to see what he does with it in the sequel, Negative Space.

To find out more about Angela Estes: https://plus.google.com/+AngelaEstesangiece/posts

 

SUBMISSION CALL: NOVEMBER NOVEL MONTH

Subject: NOVEMBER NOVEL MONTH
Deadline is October 18th.

AUTHORS – Free advertising.

HorrorAddicts.net is offering a special opportunity for authors of horror/dark fantasy/steampunk/fetish/thriller etc… Feel free to share this with anyone you think would be interested. As we all know, November is National Novel Writing Month. Everyone participating will be busily trying to make their goals and seeking fun, inspiring, writing-themed posts to distract them when they fall into a lull. We would like blog posts talking about your work and what inspires you. We are looking for tips, suggestions, info on how you did research for your book, or simply a deconstruction of your novel and what you were trying to accomplish by writing it. This is not simply a description of your novel, but how you wrote it, when, what inspired it, what your message is, etc… At the end of the post, please include your bio, url, and attach a cover pic and author pic. 

Send all submissions to: horroraddicts@gmail.com with the appropriate BOLDED subject line.

The Colony: Descent

18924947Book 3 in The Colony saga starts with a small band of humans still trying to out run the zombie horde which has taken over Earth. It took only a few hours for society to crumble but a few humans still managed to survive and this is their story. The Colony: Descent by Michaelbrent Collings is a story of hope, survival and zombies.

Descent is just a little different then the first two books. The story begins with 8 people trying to get away from fast-moving zombies who are just as smart as the humans and can’t seem to be destroyed. The survivors have to run through an empty skyscraper and a wrecked aircraft but they finally manage to get to a safe place. There escape comes at a cost though, they are still trapped and they are not in good shape. They need food and medicine and they have no supplies.

One thing that sets this book apart from the last two is it has a little humor and there is a little downtime for the characters. I liked the non stop action that’s in the first two installments and the first half of this book but I liked it that things slowed down in this one, you got to know the characters better and it sets up some really creepy scenes. The action picks up again towards the end and when the zombies find their way to the survivors it is one of the scariest things that I’ve ever read in a zombie novel.

My favorite part of this story is the relationship between Ken and his wife Maggie. In a stressful time Maggie has turned against Ken but when things get  harder they come together. There was one scene I liked where Ken sees two of the other survivors show affection for each other and feels jealous. Another scene I liked was when Maggie sees all the survivors working together and thinks to herself “my family.” I love how all the survivors work together against the zombies despite their differences.

Descent also has one of the funniest lines that I’ve ever read in a book. After Ken has been passed out for a long period of time due to infection, he wakes up and asks how long they have been where they are and his daughter answers: “We’ve been here for seven poops.” I also loved the zombies who were trapped in the airplane and how decapitated zombie body parts start to come after the survivors in the sewer tunnel.

Descent has some great moments, I think this was the best in the series and I’m glad there is a part 4 coming. This one may have less action but it is scarier than the others and all the characters really had a chance to shine. My only complaint about this book was that there are lots of questions that get brought up and I figured they would get answered in this one. Instead the book ends with another major cliffhanger. On the bright side I’m curious what Michaelbrent Collings has in store for the survivors. Considering how each book had something that made it more terrifying than the last one, I have to see what Michaelbrent Collings comes up with next.

The Colony: Genesis

18338529Giant insects on the windows, planes falling from the sky and students trying to eat each other. This is what teacher Ken Strickland has to deal with as his world falls apart in less than 10 minutes. Half the world’s population has been turned into zombies and most of the other half were bit and turned, so 99% of humans have perished. There is not much hope for Ken but he is still alive and determined to see if his family has survived.

The Colony: Genesis by Michaelbrent Collings is the beginning of a series. It’s a pretty simple premise that has been done in a lot of novels, a man sees humanity fall apart in a short period of time and he wants to find his family. This book is non stop action, it proceeds like a freight train from beginning to end and its one heck of a ride. Despite this premise done many times before, it still works. I like the simplicity in this book, I liked Ken from the beginning and even liked his students even though they were killed quickly.

What I liked most about Genesis was that the chapters were very short and each one ended with a short cliffhanger. I’ve always liked books that keep the action going and this one was no exception.

Though the action is the most important part of the story, Michaelbrent Collings also makes you care about the characters by giving little glimpses of their personalities as the action progresses. For instance there is a character named Becca in the beginning, she is not there long but we learn  that she is a know it all that is constantly looking for recognition. I love it when characters that are hardly in a book get a good description. I also liked how another character that is hardly in it gets described as intelligent but people don’t notice him because he doesn’t have an opinion. It shows that Michaelbrent cares about all the characters in a story, even the less important ones.

The zombies in this book are fast-moving zombies which is a good thing for a book which relies on  action, the swarms of insects in the story was also a nice touch. The chase scene through a collapsed building was my favorite part as Ken learns that sometime you have to trust people. Also I enjoyed how Ken keeps hearing a voice in the back of his head telling him to give up but then he thinks of how his family may be trying to escape the zombies and he has to carry on. One scene in particular has Ken deciding there is no hope anymore and then he looks at the other survivors that have joined him along his journey, he once again feels there is hope for humanity.

The only things I did not like about this book was that it seemed to take Ken forever to decided to try his cell phone and the idea of going upstairs in a collapsed building should have seemed like a bad idea to the survivors. I loved the scenes where these events happened but they seemed far-fetched. The Colony: Genesis is a good action adventure which is in the style of World War Z. Anyone who is in to books combining action and horror will love this one.

HorrorAddictsCon: Jeri Unselt – Free Fiction – Ringo

Free Fiction: Ringo

by Jeri Unselt 

I ran as fast as my paws would let me go, once I saw what they were gonna place the mask over my head, I knew what those humans had in mind, a one way trip to doggy heaven. There’s was no way in hell I was gonna let them put me to sleep, that
was how I saw my parents die when I was still a small pup. I had to go back to where it all happened, I had to see if my girl Megan was ok.

The house was in my sights, anytime now, I was going home. Megan was waiting for me, I knew it, I could feel it in my bones. As I got close, I stopped dead in my tracks. What the hell? The entrance of the house was covered in some sort of big gigantic yellow tape. With each step I took, the black words on the tape got bigger and bigger, so big that I feared they would fall on me.

“Crime scene,” I read. “Do not cross.”

Maybe humans couldn’t go inside, but I was a dog, an American bulldog to be exact, I went inside like I didn’t have a care in the world.

Right away the bowl of water in front of the kitchen caught my eye. Thank goodness, I thought, all that running left me so thirsty, that I could be peeing sand. I ran towards it with excitement only to stop mid stream. There isn’t water in my bowl, I realized. At least it wasn’t the clear stuff I normally drank, no I saw a light pinkish color inside. What is that? My eyes turned to the right of the bowl to see something red, I didn’t want to but I took a quick lick. Almost immediately, I wined at the realization.

Blood, I looked around, there was blood everywhere in the living room, in the kitchen, even along the upstairs steps.

I let out a howl and barked, it was the only way I could get Megan’s attention.

She has to be ok, she just has to be.

“Shh,” a voice behind me said. “Careful, people can hear you.”

I turned around to see an old man staring back at me, it wasn’t the first time I had locked eyes with him.

“Everyone’s gone kid,” he explained. “All but one were taken
away in body bags.” The man knelt down and scratched my head, “I can hear your voice kid, I have that ability. What’s your name?”

“Ringo,” I answered. “What happened? Where’s my girl?”

“They took her away in the ambulance, she was hurt bad.”

“Take me to her,” I begged. “Please?” My mind wondered to the day she fell off her bike and broke her leg. She had said to me, I had made her recovery easier. I couldn’t let her down.

“I can’t kid,” the man answered.

“Why?” I let out a wine to let him know how serious I was. “Megan needs me.”

“Don’t you remember Ringo?”

“Remember what?” as I asked the question, a sudden loud scream brought me to focus. “Yes,”

Megan and I awoke at the sound of the scream. A lady she called grandma rushed inside and closed the door.

“Oh my god,” she cried. “OH MY GOD!”

“Grandma, what is it?” Megan asked holding me close.

“They’re dead,” she answered. “Your grandfather, and Robbie are dead!”

“Dead?” Megan got to her feet and hugged Grandma. I in turn went to the door and started growling. “Ringo, no, come back.” I wanted to go out but I was trained to respond to Megan’s command and so I went and stood by her side. “What happened Grandma, who did this?”

“The demons your grandfather warned us about,” she explained. “The one’s your father sold your soul for!” She sat on the bed crying. “Oh god!”

“What are we gonna do?” Megan took a couple of steps to the door.

“No Megan,” Grandma got up and wrapped her arms around her pressing against her like a cobra.

“They want you, don’t you get it!”

“Why?” she answered. “I haven’t done anything wrong.”

“That’s why they want you Baby,” they hugged each other again. “I won’t let them hurt you ok,” Megan nodded and sat back down on the bed. Grandma the. Turned her attention to me with eyes so big that I wanted to hide under the bed. “I’m gonna go back out, see if I can find a way out. If I don’t make it, you keep Megan safe, you hear me!” I wined and ran to Megan’s waiting arms.

“Grandma, you’re scaring Ringo,” Megan scolded.

“When I leave,” she said. “You and Ringo get in the closet and hide.” Grandma stared at both with tears in her eyes. “I love you Megan,”

“What happened next Kid?” the man asked.

“We stayed in the closet for a long time,” I began. “It was so silent that I think Megan began to fall asleep. But then,”

“No!” Grandma screamed. “You can’t have her!” Megan opened her eyes and held me close. “Take me instead you spawns of Satan!” Once again neither Megan or I could hear anything.

“What’s going on?” Megan whispered. All of a sudden Grandma’s scream brought us both to our feet. “Grandma!” She rushed out of the closet with me behind her. “Grandma!”

Megan stopped at the middle of the staircase and screamed, “No! Grandma!”

We watched helplessly as the body that was her grandmother was being torn and then eaten away by creatures unseen by the human eye, but I could. Two dobermans stood over their meal like they didn’t have a care in the world, no way would I allow them to have Megan.

“Ah,” all of a sudden a third creature knocked Megan down the stairs. She tried to get up, but the pain held her hostage. “Ringo!” she screamed as the three demon dogs surrounded her, sharp fangs ready to feast. “Help me!”

I ran downstairs and knocked one of them away from her, my teeth grabbed onto it’s neck and began shaking it’s body like a rag doll. Somehow I managed to throw the beast so far against the patio door and disappeared. Wow, I thought. Did I do that?

“Stand aside Bulldog,” one of the doberman creatures stared me with eyes of fire. “The girl is ours.”

“You stand aside,” I answered. “The only way you’re getting to my girl is threw me.”

The creature gave me a most menacing smile, a part of me wanted to run, but there was no time for that. “With pleasure.”

Within moments, the dog had me on the floor, but I pushed it back against the wall. It got up and came back for me. I sighed, so your gonna make this difficult for me huh. Just as it got close to me, I heard a loud a pop and the dog fell at my feet. I looked to see the other creature had run for it’s life. Good riddance, I thought. I turned back to see the creature had disappeared just like it’s friend. It was then I saw the man with a shotgun.

“It was you,” I said to him. “You saved Megan’s life, and mine.” By the time I could get to her, she was unconscious from the fall.

“I’d been tracking them for years,” the man explained. I wanted to know more, but there was someone else I was worried about. “Is
Megan ok? Please take me to her?”

“I can’t do that kid.”

“Why not?”

“Because as far as the rest of the world is concerned,” the man explained.

“You’re responsible for all of this,”

“Me?” I looked around. “Why would they think I did this? I’m just a dog.”

“Yes, but you’re a bulldog Ringo,” the man answered gently. “Your breed has made you a scapegoat. I’m sorry Kid, I should’ve realized that or I would’ve taken you with me before the police and paramedics arrived.”

I wined as tears came out of my eyes, “It’s not fair.” I looked at him. “It’s not right,”

“I know that,” the man gave me another scratch on the head. “Come on, let me do what I should’ve done, before those bastards in animal control find you to finish the job.”

“But what about Megan?” I allowed him to pick me up.

“I’m certain you’ll see her again,” the man promised. “We just gotta keep you alive long enough for that to happen. I’m certain those monsters will want to come back to finish you off.”

“Yeah,” I could sense their presence getting closer. “Let’s go.”

Jeri Unselt is a native of Colorado who has been writing stories ever since childhood. She started podcasting her first novel, Inner Demons, in 2008. The print book will be released in 2012 alongside a podcast prequel, Inner Demons: Turmoil. She is a member of the Wicked Women Writers, has been featured on several HorrorAddicts.net episodes, and will be in the up-and-coming Wicked Women Writers anthology. To find out more about Jeri, go to: www.jeriunselt.org

HorrorAddictsCon: Jeri Unselt on December by Phil Rickman

A Review of December by Phil Rickman

by Jeri Unselt 

In my search for literature that is horror with the element of progressive rock, one such novel stands out in my mind. In Phil Rickman’s 1996 novel December, a prog band called The Philosopher’s Stone was assigned in 1980 to record a concept album about and inside an abbey that possessed a sinister dark history. A horrifying death brings everything to a standstill, and the band members agree to destroy their work and disband. However, not all the master tapes are destroyed. Thirteen years later, the music resurfaced as a bootleg called The Black Album a The Philosopher’s Stone get back together at the abbey for one final performance.

As I read the book, I was picturing it as a movie complete with the music. If it ever happens, I would love to see John Payne in the role of the tragic character of Dave Reilly. I guess what I’m trying to say is maybe I would have enjoyed the novel more as a movie.

I had a hard time understanding Mr. Rickman’s writing style, I kept skipping pages to get to the story. Otherwise, I did think the story was good and worth checking out.

You can find December (pub. 1996) by Phil Richman on Amazon.com*

Jeri Unselt is a native of Colorado who has been writing stories ever since childhood. She started podcasting her first novel, Inner Demons, in 2008. The print book will be released in 2012 alongside a podcast prequel, Inner Demons: Turmoil. She is a member of the Wicked Women Writers, has been featured on several HorrorAddicts.net episodes, and will be in the up-and-coming Wicked Women Writers anthology. To find out more about Jeri, go to: www.jeriunselt.org

*Editor’s note: There is a listing for a deluxe edition (hardcover, limited, signed) coming out in December 2011 by M H B Press. Find more information here: December Deluxe Edition