PR: “Leaving the #9” by E.M. Markoff

Tomes & Coffee Press Presents: “Leaving the #9” by E.M. Markoff

 

A bewitching tale of life and death, of dreams and nightmares, of the real and surreal. Mexican folklore meets The Twilight Zone in this short ghost story.

Adelia is confronted with strange happenings that threaten to pull her into a dark labyrinth.

Spoiler free interview by L.S. Johnson:

Tell us a little about your story, “Leaving the #9.”

 The story follows Adelia, a working class cook who has worked long and hard for a better life and is finally able to take that next step. With her are her brother, Miguel, and a client turned best friend turned “the grandma I never had.” Her sense of reality is shaken when strange occurrences begin to disrupt her attempts to achieve her dream. The setting was inspired by the ongoing gentrification and displacement of the Mission, San Francisco’s historically Latinx neighborhood. A reader described it as “[a] wonderful ghost story with some excellent unexpected tidbits.”

Your story includes both Spanish and Nahuatl words. For readers unfamiliar with the latter, can you tell us more about Nahuatl, and why you wove it into your story?

I am fluent in Spanish since my mom never learned English, but I only recently began learning Nahuatl. Nahuatl is one of the many native languages of Mexico, and is still spoken today by 1.5 million people. I wove it into the narrative because I wanted to see all aspects of my culture represented in the story. All my works are like this, including the books in my main dark fantasy series, though the references there are not as overt.

Buy the ebook of “Leaving the #9” on Amazon

 


About the Author

Latinx author and publisher E.M. Markoff writes about damaged heroes and imperfect villains. Growing up, she spent many days exploring her hometown cemetery, where her love of all things dark began. Upon coming of age, she decided to pursue a career as a microbiologist and spent a few years channeling her inner mad scientist. Her works include The Deadbringer, To Nurture & Kill, and “Leaving the #9.” She published the charity anthology Tales for the Camp Fire under her imprint, Tomes & Coffee Press, to raise money for California wildfire recovery and relief efforts. She is a member of the Horror Writers Association and is mostly made up of coffee, cat hair, and whiskey.

Check out author readings, blogs, and other events at www.ellderet.com

Stay connected on Instagram, Facebook, & Twitter@tomesandcoffee

Sign up for her newsletter: www.ellderet.com/newsletter

It Came From the Vault: Traditions by Stephen Kozeniewski

vault

TRADITIONS

by Stephen Kozeniewski 

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

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

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

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

“Yes, grandma.”

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

Giggling, Benji did as he was told.

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

“So that they last, my dear.”

“And why do we want them to last?”

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

“Because it’s a tradition, my dear.”

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

“A t’adition?”

Granny nodded.

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

“That’s right.”

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

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

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

******************

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

Requiem in Frost LIVE Reading Event, October 2nd – TONIGHT!

San Francisco Bay Area residents
can hear author Jonathan Fortin read
Requiem in Frost  LIVE
Wednesday, October 2nd @7 p.m.
at the San Mateo Public Library
Other guests will include Emerian Rich, Trinity Adler,
Loren Rhoads, E.M. Markoff, Laurel Anne Hill,
Ben Monroe, R.L. Merrill, Mercy Hollow,
Sumiko Saulson, and J. Malcolm Stewart.

 

Requiem in Frost LIVE Reading Event, October 2nd

San Francisco Bay Area residents
can hear author Jonathan Fortin read
Requiem in Frost  LIVE
Wednesday, October 2nd @7 p.m.
at the San Mateo Public Library
Other guests will include Emerian Rich, Trinity Adler,
Loren Rhoads, E.M. Markoff, Laurel Anne Hill,
Ben Monroe, R.L. Merrill, Mercy Hollow,
Sumiko Saulson, and J. Malcolm Stewart.

 

Book Review: Her Dark Inheritance Meg Hafdahl

Book Review: Her Dark Inheritance by Meg Hafdahl

Don’t be alone. Not at Night. Not in Willoughby.

Willoughby, Minnesota is an idyllic small town in Middle America. It boasts one café, one motel, and a population of five-hundred-nine. But, there are more than small town secrets hiding in the shadows of the town square. Something lurks just out of sight—and out of mind—from the residents. A bloody history of accidents, violence, and murder plagues Willoughby and threatens the town even in the present.

In July 1982, someone brutally murdered three members of the Bergman family with an ax in their Willoughby home. For decades, town suspicion has fallen on the sole survivor of the bloody massacre: Caroline, the Bergman’s teenage daughter.

But Daphne Forrest knew her mother not as Caroline Bergman, but as Jane Downs-Forrest. It wasn’t until Jane’s death that Daphne found out that her mother was the suspected murderer that newspapers had dubbed The Minnesota Borden.

Daphne visits Willoughby for the first time, looking for answers to questions about the woman she thought she knew. She may not have grown up in Willoughby, but Daphne quickly finds that she shares a connection with the town that not even the residents can fathom. Willoughby wants to show her something, something that can save the town and, maybe, Daphne herself.

Thrust into memories of unfathomable violence and fear, Daphne must face her own mistakes and find a strength that her mother never had. If she wants to get out of Willoughby alive, she must face an evil that has stalked the small town since its founding.

Her Dark Inheritance follows in a glorious tradition of American ax murderers, but it’s far from the typical tale.

Meg Hafdahl creates characters real enough to climb off the page, including a monster that stalks you long after the novel’s last sentence. The town of Willoughby itself is as real as any character. Vividly described, it’s delightful and terrifying in equal measure. It embodies an abusive relationship that traps the residents in a situation where manipulation masquerades as protection and “this is for your own good” can be just as sinister as any threat. The story raises questions that strike to the core of all of us: What does it mean to be evil? What does it mean to be weak?

Hafdahl weaves an intricate tale of betrayal, murder, and small town intrigue. Her brilliant narrative style keeps you guessing from beginning to end about the next shocking twist. Whether it’s the truth about the Bergman murders or Daphne’s ultimate fate, Hafdahl keeps you at her mercy through every page.

I haven’t read a book in one sitting in a long time, but I couldn’t put down  Her Dark Inheritance. ‘One more chapter’ led to ‘one more chapter’ and ‘one more chapter’ after that. The book is labelled for Young Adults, but is just as gripping for adults. I recommend it whole-heartedly, especially for those who like to see the darker side of the American Dream.

HorrorAddicts.net 150, Cure for the Holidaze Special

Horror Addicts Episode# 150
Cure for the Holidaze Special!

Hosted by Emerian Rich

Guests: Dan Shaurette, Ariel DaWintre, Camellia Rains

Intro Music by: Valentine Wolfe

———————

Cure for the Holidaze

http://traffic.libsyn.com/horroraddicts/HorrorAddicts150s.mp3

Find all articles and interviews at: http://www.horroraddicts.net

Music this episode by Midnight Syndicate from Christmas: A Ghostly Gathering

https://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Ghostly-Gathering-Midnight-Syndicate/dp/B014JP8EOU

“Dance of the Sugar Plums”
“Night of the Krampus”
“Coventry Carol”
“Winter Storm”
“Up on the Rooftop”

 

Russell asked, he received.

 

holiday shopping ugliness, relative madness, horrible family experiences, helping the needy – what about me? best horror gifts, snowglobes, nightmare before christmas, vampire gifts, buffy the vampire slayer board game, walking dead glasses, they live, walking dead yahtzee, firefly yahtzee, horror gift guide, movie tickets, ulta, paxton gate, skeletons, taxidermy, bones, pirate store, diy, craft store, etsy.com, evil dead, regretsy, homemade gifts, amazon gift certificate, midnight syndicate, frankenstein salt and pepper shakers, forever knight season 3, monster fluxx, booooopoly, take friend out, chat about horror, loren rhoads, 199 cemeteries to see before you die, ipso facto, goth show, morbid curiosity, highgate cemetery in london, cremation, honoring the dead, morbid meals, zombie cookbooks, the walking dead cookbook and survival guide, flesh burgers, brains, theme song band, game, guess the thing, courtney mroch, haunt jaunts, haunted shops, restaurants, castles,  crazy skeleton lady, wax works, jekyll island in georgia, spooky holiday events, escape games, serial killer in your mailbox, hellraiser, evil dead, nightmare on elm street, underworld, scream, phil rickman, dickens, king, woman in black, lucy blue the last winter night, dead mail, jeff, IT, exorcist, pennywise, stranger things, amanda, midnight texas, karysa, krampus, a christmas horror story, silent night, deadly night, jack frost, russell, post halloween depression, vincent price cookbook, danny elfman, night of the comet, ginger snaps back, the thing, snowglobe, herbig brown eyes, dead like me, reaper, new movies coming, another wolfcop, shape in the water, guillermo del toro, insidious the last key, cloverfield, winchester the house that ghosts built, strangers prey at night, ready player one, a quiet place, slenderman, the purge, hotel transylvania 3, the nun, predator, meg, cadaver, the little stranger, goosebumps horrorland, the house with the clock in the wall, edward gorey, john bellaires, Halloween H40 and more… have a great spooky holiday!

 

“Broken Pieces” by Valentine Wolfe

http://valentinewolfe.bandcamp.com/track/broken-pieces

HorrorAddicts.net blog Kindle syndicated

http://www.amazon.com/HorrorAddicts-net/dp/B004IEA48W/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1431022701&sr=8-1&keywords=horroraddicts.net

HorrorAddicts.net Facebook group.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/208379245861499

 

———————–

Write in re: ideas, questions, opinions, horror cartoons, favorite movies, etc…

horroraddicts@gmail.com

————————

h o s t e s s

Emerian Rich

s t a f f

David Watson, Stacy Rich, Dan Shaurette, KBatz (Kristin Battestella), Mimielle, D.J. Pitsiladis, Jesse Orr, Crystal Connor, Lisa Vasquez, Adelise M. Cullens, Kenzie Kordic.

Want to be a part of the HA staff? Email horroraddicts@gmail.com

b l o g  / c o n t a c t / s h o w . n o t e s

http://www.horroraddicts.net

It Came From the Vault: Traditions by Stephen Kozeniewski

vault

TRADITIONS

by Stephen Kozeniewski 

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

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

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

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

“Yes, grandma.”

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

Giggling, Benji did as he was told.

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

“So that they last, my dear.”

“And why do we want them to last?”

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

“Because it’s a tradition, my dear.”

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

“A t’adition?”

Granny nodded.

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

“That’s right.”

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

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

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

******************

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

David’s Haunted Library: Housebroken and Night as a Catalyst

David's Haunted Library

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00075]Blake is a rich man with a wife and teenage son. Things look perfect on the outside and he thinks they are about to get better when he moves across the country to a new home in a gated community in California. After they settle into their new home a strange person comes to their door selling magazines, Blake refuses to buy and sets off a chain reaction of events. Now Blake and his family are at the mercy of two sociopath kidnappers.

These kidnappers don’t want money though or to torture them. What they want is to observe Blake and his family for one week to see how they became so successful. There is a catch, though if you break one of their rules the kidnappers have promised to torture them and they have proof to show how vicious they can be. Blake is caught in a game of survival  his perfect life starts to erode  and he has to reevaluate what is most important.

 I loved the concept behind Housebroken by The Berg. You can tell that the kidnappers come from a rough background and the idea that they just wanted to see what made these rich people different is an intriguing idea. After awhile you start to see that Blake’s life isn’t as perfect as it looks and it doesn’t take a lot to make everything come undone. What I liked best about this book is that all the characters were shades of gray. There were times that the kidnappers came across like they weren’t bad people and you could have sympathy for them and there were times when Blake’s family showed that each one had a dark side. I cared about all of these characters to an extent and in the beginning, I even liked the kidnappers and could understand their point of view, though the story gets more complex as it moves along.

As much as I loved the characters though there were also scenes in this book that came across as so ridiculous that I almost wanted to stop reading. I don’t want to give anything away but at one point there was a scene with a car and also by their pool where I was asking how was that even possible and then there was an escape attempt where I was just scratching my head in confusion. There was also a scene with a doctor that I thought wasn’t necessary at all.

Despite its flaws I did enjoy this book, there are some well-written scenes and I loved the depth given to the characters and how their feelings are described. The best part of this book though is how you feel for the family. At first, they come across as a normal slightly dysfunctional family, then it gets revealed that they may be even worse than the reader thought. You still care for them though because you see how despite their conflicts they are still counting on each other to survive. Housebroken is a page turner and even though the story has its problems, it’s still good enough where I was wondering what else has this author written.

25459659Night As A Catalyst by Chad Lutzke is a collection of 18 horror stories that are short but pack a punch. Most of these stories would be considered flash fiction and while I admit to not liking short horror stories a lot, I thought the atmosphere in these stories was really good. Another thing I liked was at the end of each story Chad Lutzke tells where he got the idea from, which made each story more personal.

One of the stories in this book that I really liked was One Up A Tree. It’s about two hikers lost in the woods that come upon a cabin. When the owner comes home and finds the two people, he shoots first and doesn’t ask questions. One gets away but is soon trapped by the sadistic cabin owner. For such a short story I was surprised at the depth of the characters here. In the beginning, we find out that the two hikers are friends that drifted apart over the years and are trying to rekindle their friendship. Being able to relate to them makes it that much scarier when they meet the cabin owner. There is a scene in One Up A Tree where the cabin owner gives one of the hikers some meat. I knew where the scene was going when the hiker starts to eat but it was still terrifying to think about.

A good flash fiction piece here if you are a cat lover is Collecting Cats. It’s about someone who finds injured cats and nurses them back to health. What makes this story interesting is how the cats react when they find out about the one injuring them. This book has a lot of good short ideas and another story that follows this formula is Moving Made Easy which is a story about teleportation. This one has a really good Twilight Zone ending.

My favorite story here is Birthday Suit. It follows a group of friends who are at a house for a birthday slumber party, they go up into a tree house and one of the kids sees something amazing and horrifying. This one mixes nostalgia and horror. In particular, I liked the conversation the kids have in the tree house as they look into other people’s homes. They talk about things like what old people do all day, girls at school and of course horror movies. This one reminded me of sleepovers I had as a kid and the shock ending made it a great tale.

Night As A Catalyst is a perfect book for horror fans who like to read but don’t have a lot of time. I say that because each story here is quick, to the point and packs a good scare. As a fan of the genre what more could you ask for, this book is a lot of fun and a quick read. If you like horror anthologies then Chad Lutzke’s book is one you shouldn’t pass on.

The Serial Scribbler: Read, Practice, and Challenge Yourself

SerialScribbler

 

As a publisher and as a writer, I’m often surprised that I hear authors say they don’t read very much because they’re too busy writing. I have to ask the question, “Do you trust a doctor that doesn’t continue their education?”

Practicing writing styles and reading other books helps the author to expand their skills. We’re inspired every day by things we expose ourselves to. It would seem only logical that you would surround yourself with the works of authors that you respect but also seek new works and authors.

The indie publishing age is upon us. No longer are we limited to what one big house publisher thinks we might like. We now have the power to tell them what we are interested in.

One of my favorite things to do is learn about other cultures. Many times, listening to someone talk about their family or tales from their culture will inspire something that I write. I also gain inspiration from reading other authors and seeing how they portray their characters or their scenes. I love seeing how another author constructs their stories, laying them out for the reader to discover the plot.

The art of storytelling relies on the author’s imagination and passion. If the only passion you have is for your own work, it seems rather narcissistic but it also seems rather naïve. Break rules and be a trend-setter but remember there are others who readers will flock to for good reason.

Challenge yourself to be well-versed. Read something outside of your normal genre. Read more in your genre from the past and also current works. It’s similar to studying music. Everything you hear is derived from the masters of the past and the unique sounds inspired from it of today.

I always advise authors to join active writing guilds who challenge them to push past their comfort zones and push their writing limitations. I also practice what I preach and do the same. I can say from personal experience it has only enhanced my craft.

Weigh in! Who inspires you to be a better writer?

All I Want for Christmas by Chantal Boudreau

All I Want for Christmas

by Chantal Boudreau

“Chris – did you eat any of these Christmas cookies?  I told you they were for a work function and that you absolutely were not to touch them.”

“I didn’t touch them.”  Christena tried not to sound indignant, but she hated being accused of something she hadn’t done and Ben did that to her all the time.

“Well then explain why there are three missing.  I brought home two full dozen from the bakery, but I’m short three.”

“Are you sure the bakery didn’t short you?”  The moment the words escaped Christena’s lips she regretted them.  Ben never would have left the bakery without counting and double counting them, obsessive compulsive as he was.  Even suggesting otherwise was new cause for strife.  He gave her a harsh glare.

“Do I even have to answer that? How could you do this to me?  I had one for every person at the office party.  I could have forgiven one – I would have foregone my own, but three?  Now what am I supposed to do?”

“Buy a box of doughnuts on the way in to make up the difference?”

That response was met by a disgruntled huff and the slamming of their front door as Ben stormed out.

Christena slumped into the couch.  It was her day off, even though her husband had to work.  Unlike Ben she was never guaranteed that her free time would fall on a weekend.  As a personal caregiver, she couldn’t keep regular Monday to Friday office hours because people needed care seven days a week.  Ben had often belittled her for it, suggesting a real job would pay more and offer set hours – as if somehow crunching numbers the way he did was more valuable than caring for the sick and elderly.

As soon as she was sure Ben was long gone. Christena spoke out.

“Peeve? Peeve – come on out.  I know you stole those cookies.”

Two beady eyes peered at her overtop one of the branches of the Christmas tree.  Peeve, or that was what Christena had taken to calling the gremlin-like creature, had started appearing shortly after Ben had completed his internship and had gotten his current job.  Since then, every time Ben treated Christena with any disdain or talked down to her as if he were more important than her, Peeve would exact some sort of revenge.  It was getting worse, as was Ben’s treatment of her.

“You have to stop doing these things.  I end up getting the blame for them and he leaves here irate.  When he gets home later, he’ll be a grouch for the entire evening.”

Peeve blinked at her and grinned, as if he enjoyed being the instigator of Ben’s foul moods.

Christena heaved a gargantuan sigh.  Things were bad enough between her and Ben without Peeve complicating them – not a welcome intrusion at all.

Life had been different while Ben and Christena were in college. He had been more relaxed then.  After setting his sights on her, he had broken out the charm that he now saved only for networking.  He had romanced her very diligently, with promises of a family and a pleasant future and he had kept it up until she had agreed to marry him.  She realized now that his courting had all been a calculated ploy to get himself the pretty, docile wife he saw as a requirement for a successful businessman.  She was just another notch in the post where he marked his achievements in life.

Since then, Ben had been constantly pressuring her to give up her job and find one that would better support his work hours – office work perhaps.  She had actually suggested the night before that she would do that if they finally started trying to conceive the first of their planned children, offering him a trade-off, something he wanted in exchange for something she felt she needed.  That was when Ben had dropped the startling bomb on her.  He had changed his mind.  He no longer wanted children because he expected they would interfere with his career.  He had already scheduled a vasectomy that was to take place first week in January.  Christena had been heartbroken.  She wanted children more than anything else and she didn’t believe in divorce.  It was another reason he had chosen her.  Ben considered divorce scandalous, another form of failure.

“Just stop it – alright?” she told Peeve.  “Unless you can fix what he’s about to do to me, you may as well just go away.  I’m the one who has to live with him.”

For the first time since he had begun causing trouble, Peeve emerged from the shadows.  His impish form dropped down from the tree, where it began to grow and change.  By the time he was done, the only recognizable difference between Peeve and Ben were those beady little eyes.  The monster in the shape of Christena’s husband walked over to their bedroom and paused in the doorway, gesturing for her to follow before proceeding into the room.

Christena hesitated for a moment before following, but only long enough to consider the potential consequences.  Ben would never request an abortion – that was beneath him – and as long as the child was conceived prior to his operation, he would never try to suggest it wasn’t his, especially if it looked like him.  Condoms weren’t 100% effective, and he knew it.  She told herself she would be doing this as a gift for herself… much better than the practical, emotionless, although expensive, gift she no doubt would be receiving from Ben.

“Merry Christmas,” she said, visions of a rounded belly followed by baby smells, sights and sounds filling her head.

Peeve was about to provide Christena with the best act of revenge in the face of Ben’s heartlessness yet.  And she would enjoy every minute of it.

*********

Snapshot_20140802_2Chantal Boudreau is an accountant by day and an author/illustrator during evenings and weekends, who lives by the ocean in beautiful Nova Scotia, Canada with her husband and two children. She writes and illustrates horror, dark fantasy and fantasy and along with her Fervor Series and her Masters and Renegades series, she has had many of her stories published in a variety of horror anthologies, online journals and magazines.  Find out more at: http://chantellyb.wordpress.com

The Elf by Christine Morgan

THE ELF

by Christine Morgan

It started last Christmas, that must have been it. Weirdest thing that ever happened to me in my life – or so I thought at the time.

Now, this Christmas, I know a little better.

My name’s Belle, Clayton Belle, and I always hated this time of year.

I blame it on my folks. Sure, everybody blames their problems on their folks, but you should have seen mine.

My dad’s name was Jim Belle, but from after Halloween until round about New Year’s, he told everyone to call him Jingle. Dressed in red and green every chance he got. Decorated the house like you wouldn’t believe. My mom was just as bad, and she had no excuse … her given name was Carol.

They wanted me to swap “Clay” for, can you guess? Sleigh. No joke. I tell you, it was enough to drive a kid crazy. Here I was trying to be normal …

That was why, as soon as I was old enough to get out on my own, I gave up on Christmas. No, that’s putting it too lightly … I went out of my way to avoid the whole thing.

Maybe that’s why it happened. Maybe it was some strange message, some sort of off-the-wall Christmas revenge. Like in the story about Scrooge, except I didn’t get three ghosts. Didn’t even get one.

What’d I get? Some little freak with rabies …

I’d done pretty good at getting away from it all. I’d finally saved up enough to move out of the apartment into a house, tiny but my own. I had a telecommuting job, which spared me the yearly hassle of office parties, Secret Santas, holiday music over the intercom, and all that.

So, for the first time in years, I was expecting a nice, stress-free December.

Then it happened. Christmas Eve.

That was when I heard the bells.

Jingle-jingle-jingle, clanging and grating on my nerves, bringing back all my tension like it had never been away.

I shot to my feet, fists curled. If this was the preface to a spontaneous outbreak of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” from trespassing carolers, I was going to blast them with the hose and 20-degree temperatures be damned!

Stalking to the door, I yanked it open. But already, the sound was receding, dwindling into the distance … and even then I remember thinking that it almost seemed to be receding upward … but of course I didn’t give that idea a moment’s serious consideration.

Not then.

The people across the street were the Jaimesons. I’d seen them come home a week or so ago with a tree

lashed to the roof of their car, but they were good about it, and kept their stuff private. If they wanted to be as looney as my parents in the privacy of their own home, that was their business, and they didn’t try to inflict it on the rest of us.

But now, something was hanging on their door. Even at midnight, every house on the street dark and sleeping, I couldn’t miss it. The full moon and the snow conspired to make it almost as bright as day, and the wreath that now hung on the Jaimeson’s door was twinkling with tiny red and white bulbs, like holly berries amid the shiny green leaves.

And there was something on the porch … from here, it was a bump of scarlet and white in an uncertain shape.

I couldn’t help it … anger set in. Some nerve the Jaimesons had, sneaking out in the night to put up that wreath, thinking no one would notice. Before I fully knew I meant to, I was striding down my walk, slippers crunching through the crust of the snow. I crossed the icy street and marched up their lawn, driving deep tracks. They’d see, they’d know, but I didn’t care.

The crumpled shape was recognizable now, a stocking. A plush cranberry-red velvet stocking with a ruff of white fur. It was lumpy … it was moving.

A nasty spear of fright jumped through me before I realized that the movement was due to nothing more than a toy, a child’s wind-up toy that had been jogged by the fall to the porch.

I could see it easily in my mind – Hank Jaimeson in full Santa regalia, smuggling in the sacks of goodies he’d had hidden in the garage, but dropping a stocking as he paused to put the wreath on the door.

My intent was to pull it down and pitch it, maybe onto the roof, maybe into the bushes, I don’t know. But as I reached for it, I heard a high mewling sound from inside the stocking.

My first thought was that it was a kitten, that old Hank had gotten his daughters a kitty but didn’t notice when it fell from his bag.

My second thought was that it would serve them right, a nice gruesome Christmas surprise to find frozen solid on the stoop.

But I may have been a Scrooge, I may have been a Grinch, I may have been a sour old jerk, but I wasn’t a total bastard. Couldn’t leave an innocent kitten to freeze to death in the night.

I bent down and scooped up the stocking. It squirmed in my grasp, and yes, there was something warm, something alive, in there.

“Hey, kitty-kitty,” I said.

I reached in, meaning to pet the soft bundle of fur.

Instead, my fingers found skin.

And an unbelievable explosion of pain.

It was like a spring-loaded beartrap of needles, sinking into the tender web between my thumb and index finger.

I screamed or cursed, or both mingled, and flung the stocking away from me. It flew off into the snow, but the biter held on, dangling at the end of my arm. My flailing motions made it clamp down tighter, and now rockets of pain were shooting up my arm to my head, where they burst like the Fourth of July – a holiday I’ve never had a problem with.

But I did have a problem with what I was seeing. A major one.

An elf was battened onto my hand.

An elf, yes, that’s what I said.

He was about eighteen inches high, maybe two feet, it was hard to tell. Built like one of those pudgy little gnome you sometimes see on the lawns of people who should know better, but light as a feather. He was wearing short pants (winter-white), a red vest, and those dorky curled-up shoes with bells on the toes. If he’d had a hat, it had fallen off, because his pine-green hair was blowing free around a set of ears that would have made Mr. Spock blush.

His eyes were the huge winsome adorable eyes of a cartoon character, but no cartoon character’s eyes had ever glittered with such a hard and flat hatred. A snarl, muffled by his mouthful of my hand, issued from the back of his throat.

I screamed again, this time more in horror than pain, though there was still pain, plenty of it. With my other hand, I grabbed him around his potbellied middle and tried to tear him loose.

It didn’t work. Those fangs were embedded like a snake’s. But abruptly, the elf let go of his own accord. He scrambled up my arm, headed for my face.

My third scream broke decibel records. I reeled and staggered, trying to knock this deranged thing off of me. The backs of my legs hit the Jaimesons’ planter and I toppled over backward, feet flying. My breath was jarred out of me in a huge frosty cloud.

The crazed elf skittered onto my chest, his impish face twisted in pure madness. I didn’t know what he was going to do, and suddenly had a bizarre vision, one that might have been funny if it hadn’t been so hideous – my disembodied head impaled on the top of a Christmas tree in place of a star.

The Jaimesons’ door banged open, throwing a fan of light onto the snow. The elf hissed and was gone, springing from my chest in a bound that carried him into the concealing bushes.

The next thing I knew, Hank Jaimeson was there, in a robe, his eyes puffed from sleep and wide with shock. His wife and kids crowded into the doorway, all babbling at once.

Calls were made, to the police and to an ambulance. I was taken to the hospital because they thought I was having some sort of a breakdown. They had to think that, because I wasn’t wounded. The bite-mark on my hand was gone, except for a semi-circle of tiny white scars that almost looked like snowflakes.

I did some time under observation, and more time in court-ordered therapy. The consensus was that I must have snapped under the holiday strain. When I finally got home, the neighbors treated me with caution and even more distance than before.

The Jaimesons moved out that spring, the whole turn of events having been so traumatizing for their kids – waking to my panicked screams on Christmas gave little Amber Jaimeson nightmares for weeks.

But eventually, things got back to normal. Or so I thought.

I was fine until around October.

That was when I started to feel restless. Itchy, almost. Impatient, dissatisfied. I didn’t know what I wanted, but something was missing. Something I needed.

A few days after Halloween, as I was lugging the shells of my jack-o-lanterns out to the trash, I caught myself humming.

Humming a Christmas carol.

Appalled, I stopped then and there with my feet buried in a drift of leaves and a slightly mushy pumpkin sagging in my grip. I silently asked myself if I’d really been doing that, but I’d heard me. I could even Name That Tune – it had been “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

About a week later, I saw that they’d stocked the shelves in the dairy section of the local market with the first eggnog of the season, and my heart took an unprecedented and distinctly unwelcome leap of joy.

When I got home from my errands and started unloading my groceries, I found a carton of eggnog.

I wasted no time but raced right back to the market. The cashier who’d checked out my purchases was still there, and I stormed up to her, not sure if I meant to apologize for taking the eggnog by mistake or to berate her for mixing it in with my order.

But she told me that I had bought it, and had even remarked on how glad I was that they finally had some in the store. And that when she had replied with something to the effect of how it seemed the holiday season started earlier and earlier every year, I’d said ‘good!’

Good!

I had no recollection of that at all, and would have never said such a thing! Not me! Not Clayton Belle!

I decided she must have been having fun at my expense, and put it out of my mind. I planned to dump the eggnog down the sink and forget the whole matter.

I drank it instead.

I didn’t mean to … I just took the carton out of the fridge – and only then did it occur to me to wonder why I hadn’t returned it to the store and gotten my money back – and opened it.

And the scent hit me in a great rolling wave of creamy, nutmeggy temptation … and before I knew what was happening, I was guzzling it straight from the carton with such gulping greed that overflows were running in rills down my chin.

I leaned over the sink, nauseated and afraid, wondering if I was going to bring it back up. But it stayed, a thick liquid weight in my stomach, and I imagined I could feel it spreading out in there, sending out tendrils of itself, into my veins, coating my organs, being carried to every cell of my body.

Another week passed, and I was cranky all the time, missing something, needing something, not knowing what it was. Little things kept happening, distressing little things. Nothing big, nothing like the Great Eggnog Experience, but upsetting ones all the same.

Being at the drugstore, having to walk down the seasonal aisle to reach the pharmacy, and lingering over the cards and garlands that had begun to creep in among the turkeys and harvest decorations.

Shopping a catalog for some new clothes and only realizing when my order arrived that some of the things I’d bought were eerily familiar – winter-white pants, a red cardigan vest. And a green knitted cap, where had that come from?

Waking in the middle of the night with the most terrible craving for cookies, not just any cookies but specific kinds. I had to have the butter-shortbread ones crusted with colored sugar … I had to have gingerbread.

Then things started getting worse.

I bought a box of candy canes and ate them all in the car, the entire sticky red-and-white dozen of them, until my tongue and lips were bright pink and the taste of sweet mint seemed to permeate my entire being.

I found myself taking long aimless drives around town to look at the holiday lights and decorations … I even went to the mall and stood amid a smiling crowd as little kids waited for their turns on Santa’s lap.

I was humming again, and then singing low, and finally singing aloud, whenever I heard the carols … and I knew every single word.

I had been flipping channels and happened across a Christmas movie, the one about the boy who wanted a BB-gun. And, telling myself that nothing else good was on, wound up watching it. And then, worst of all, realizing it was a marathon, 24 hours of that same movie, and I stayed up all night watching it and fell asleep in my chair and woke up and kept watching it, until noon the next day.

The day it all came crashing down on me, I was at the park. It was December 22nd and I’d gone for a long brisk walk, hoping that the cold air and exercise would snap me out of this constant state of alternating trance and terror.

A woman said ‘Merry Christmas!’ to me, and I said it right back at her.

She passed without looking back, which was good, because my expression would have horrified her. It horrified me and I didn’t even have to see it; I could feel it. That was the first time those words had passed my lips in almost twenty years, but I hadn’t just been saying them.

I’d meant them!

I uttered a rusty screech and ran for home. Something was happening to me … I had to get help … there had to be something they could do …

I reached my yard and the strength ran right out of me like water through a sieve.

Lights sparkled along the eaves and around the windows of my house. More lights, string after string of them, wrapped the fence and the tree in the front yard. A red ribbon had been wound around the post that supported the mailbox, giving it an effect that could be construed as barber-pole but I knew better! A plastic reindeer with a red lightbulb for a nose stood beside the walk, and a wreath hung on the door.

It was the wreath that pushed me over, because it was practically identical to the one that had been on the Jaimesons’ door last year. Their house had sold but the current owners were spending the winter in Arizona with their grandkids, and thus hadn’t seen the terrible thing that had taken place across the street.

Someone had decorated my house!

No … I had done it. And couldn’t remember doing it.

Haltingly, scared to death of what I might find inside, I went up to the door. The wreath seemed to stare at me like a big round eye, laugh at me like a big round mouth.

I wanted to rip it down, rip all of it down. What would people think if they saw this? What would they say?

I steeled myself and plunged inside.

If I could have drawn breath, it would have been last year’s business all over again, for I would have screamed and screamed until the neighbors called 911. But my breath was stolen from me by the sight of the interior of my house.

It was a nightmare made real. That’s all I’ll say. I can’t bear to describe how tall the tree was, how many garlands festooned the stairway banister, what horrors awaited me on the mantle. I can’t stand to think of the candles, the presents, the three-tiered tray of cookies and fudge and divinity.

Even the bathroom wasn’t safe, because the shower curtain, the towels, even the toilet-lid cover, had been replaced by new ones in a poinsettia pattern. But despite that, the bathroom was still the least objectionable place in the house, and it was there that I collapsed in a dead faint.

I woke over twenty-four hours later to unbelievable pain in my hand and arm. Dimly sure that I must have been laying on them, I pushed myself up and looked.

The scars … the tiny semicircle of snowflake-shaped scars … they had faded nearly to invisibility over the year but now they were back. Standing out in vivid relief, almost seeming to wax and wane in time with the throbbing I felt in every nerve.

And yet, even with the throbbing, even with an ache that seemed to burrow into my bones, I felt full of a hectic, wild energy. Mania, almost. No, not almost … it was mania. I wanted to do something, had to get up and get moving, but I didn’t know what.

I tried to rise, shakily got as far as the sink, and caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror.

But at first, I didn’t know it was me … I had never in my life worn a silly little pointy cap with a bell on the end.

I cried out, thinking it was a stranger, an intruder, that I’d surprised in my home. My reflection reacted along with me and then I knew, but that knowing was untempered with relief.

I looked … different. It wasn’t just because of the cap.

My hair looked wrong. Longer.

My eyes were huge, but I attributed that to shock and fear.

My ears …

I didn’t want to see any more, and fell back onto the bathmat.

The ache intensified. I could hear the radio playing in the other room, tuned to the nonstop holiday music station.

I felt as if I was being crushed, slowly crushed under an impossible weight. I imagined I could hear my bones crunching, feel myself being squashed, compressed. An appalling, stretchy sensation tugged at my ears.

A dark corner of my mind knew then what was happening to me, but the rest of my mind rejected it. Ignoring the pain and the horrendous things that were going on in my body, I got up to splash cold water on my face …

And couldn’t reach the sink.

I was standing, but I was on eye-level with the cabinet where I kept the cleanser and spare rolls of tissue.

Very, very slowly and very much against my will, I looked down at myself.

Yes, I was standing … assuming those were my feet in the curly-toed shoes about eighteen inches below my head. Assuming that was my torso I was seeing, pooching out into a potbelly.

A wavery, uncertain noise came from my throat. I started to bring up my hands, to explore my head, but paused and let them drop. I had to see.

With strenuous effort, I clambered onto the toilet, and from there onto the counter. I edged out around the basin, keeping my eyes on my shoes – my horrible curly-toed shoes – until I was there.

Then I looked.

An elf looked back at me.

It had my blond hair, only grown long and silky. My brown eyes, cartoon-character cute. My features … changed and made sharper, fairer, more … elfin.

I opened my mouth to finally voice the scream that would rouse the neighborhood, maybe even the town. But before I could finish drawing my breath, my gaze fell on what was also shown in the mirror, the reflection of my dining room beyond the half-open bathroom door.

The table was covered with things. With tools, and paint-pots, and lengths of wood, and stuffing, and wheels. Half-finished toys were scattered all over the table, and a box of finished ones rested underneath. The mania that had been surging in me now came roaring up full-force.

Because time was short! Time was so very short! Tomorrow was Christmas Eve!

Tomorrow was Christmas Eve and I was behind in my work!

I yipped in alarm, sprang down from the sink in a sprightly hop, and rushed to my workbench.

And I knew, as I picked up my paintbrush to apply rouge-spots to the cheeks of a dolly, what I was. I knew what would happen to me this time every year, not ruled by the phases of the moon but by the seasons, when the change would set in.

Helpless to resist, caught in the grips of the dreadful transformation, compelled by my hungers and driven to do unspeakable things … with no folklore, no gypsy woman, no one to help me or tell me how to break the curse …

The terrible curse of the were-elf!

*******************

christChristine Morgan works the overnight shift in a psychiatric facility, which plays havoc with her sleep schedule but allows her a lot of writing time. A lifelong reader, she also reviews, beta-reads, occasionally edits and dabbles in self-publishing. Her other interests include gaming, history, superheroes, crafts, cheesy disaster movies and training to be a crazy cat lady. She can be found online at https://www.facebook.com/christinemorganauthor

Free Fiction Friday: Jeremiah Donaldson

Something This Way Flutters

By Jeremiah Donaldson

A breeze brought Carl some relief. Then the wind dissipated and he felt the Florida heat again. The exhaust from the highway didn’t help.

He stuck the hedge clippers in the ground and picked up his water jug. He’d had a heat stroke before, making him more sensitive to heat, and he didn’t relish the idea of a second. He drank half and dumped the rest over his head.

He tiptoed inside the house again to check on his eight month-old daughter, Rhianna. She still napped soundly in her crib. Just like he knew before going inside since the monitor bouncing on his hip was silent. He kissed his fingers and touched her forehead before exiting the house to go back to shaping the hedge that grew on three sides of the house. Only one bush remained when someone tapped on his shoulder.

Carl spun around.

The gaunt woman stood taller than himself by several inches. Rumpled clothing looked like she’d drove all day, and greasy hair spilled over her shoulders. Makeup had been smeared time and time again. Her eyes were rimmed with red. A burgundy Ford Explorer with tinted windows and Ohio tags sat in his driveway. Noise from the highway had masked her approach.

“Are you lost?” Carl pushed his sweaty hair back from his face.

The woman nodded. “My cell phone died. Can I use yours?”

“Uh, sure.” Carl handed her his cheap flip-phone.

“Thank you.” The woman smiled, draining blood from her lips and making her look years older than her indistinguishable age.

Carl nodded and went back to clipping the last bush while the woman walked to the front of the house. Moments later a paper fluttered against his leg. Road garbage. He always had to pick up stuff thrown from cars. He waded the paper up and noticed the driver’s door stood ajar on the Explorer. So his visitor littered the yard.

He looked and didn’t see the woman in front of the house. Carl approached the SUV, trying to see through the tint.

“You dropped something.”

No answer. Maybe she didn’t hear. He knocked on the window. No response.

The door opened with a slight pull to reveal a pigsty of empty soda bottles and chip bags in the floorboard. The rear seat overran with sheets of paper covered in writing. Another piece slid out from under the seat. He grabbed it and dropped it immediately. Goosebumps rose all over his body while his stomach flipped end over end.

He picked it back up. Both sides were covered in tiny print that repeated one phrase over and over: I killed my baby. His shaky hands held two sheets next to each other. They were the same. Not copied either. The woman had written it all with pencil. Thin lines gave way to thick as the pencil she’d used wore down before being sharpened. Carl reached into the back and grabbed a handful of the loose pages. They were identical. All several thousand of them from what he could see.

“Rhianna.”

Carl bolted to the front porch. The door stood half open. He reached Rhianna’s room just as the woman picked her up, making her cry. His stomach knotted. The monitor on his hip repeated every sound a quarter second after it happened.

“Such a pretty girl.”

“Put her down!” He couldn’t tackle the woman. Yet. “I won’t call the cops if you just get out of here.”

“And leave such a baby behind.”

“Fuck, yeah!”

The woman put Rhianna back in the crib. “Then we’ll have to find out who walks out, won’t we?”

Carl tensed, looking for her to pull a weapon. She drove her shoulder into his chest, pushing him backwards to the floor. His right arm caught under her leg, and he took two boney fists to the face that made spots dance in his vision before he managed to ward off the blows. He grabbed her forearms only to be rewarded with a headbutt that brought tears to his eyes and a rush of warmth from his nose. He rolled her into the glass coffee table, shattering the glass under her weight.

The woman groaned while Carl found his feet and steadied himself with the TV. A deluge of blood poured from his broken nose, dripping to the floor like rain. He kicked the woman in the ribs. She slipped on the broken glass, going down on her hip. Rhianna cried louder in response to the noise.

“Get the hell out of here!” Carl knew they were useless words while he watched the woman struggle to her feet, cutting her palms on the glass. “Don’t make me hurt you. More.”

“You don’t know.”

Carl waited for her to finish the sentence. She didn’t. “I don’t know what?”

“YOU DON’T KNOW!” The woman charged across the short space.

Carl caught her knee in the thigh, but that didn’t hurt, being knocked into the corner of the TV table did. Her hands groped for his face. The manicured nails gouged down his cheek. One broke off and stuck in his skin. He grabbed the offending arm by the wrist and elbow, twisting. Something gave in the woman’s shoulder with a wet pop that he heard and felt. He gagged while she screamed so loud in his ear that he feared for the eardrum. He pushed her back. Her arm hung at a bad angle.

“Get out of here!”

The look on the woman’s face didn’t change. She aimed a kick at his crotch. He caught her foot and flung upward. Her other leg came out from under her and she went down, hitting her neck on the edge of the coffee table frame. She went into convulsions.

He waited for the body to stop moving before calling the police.

———————————-

Jeremiah Donaldson lives in London, Ky with his daughter and pets. He’s currently working on multiple projects, including two that will be available later in 2014. He can be found at his home on the web at:www.ephiroll.com

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.

How did you start reading?

Did you all get books, eBooks, or audiobooks for holiday gifts? I did and can’t wait to rip into them, which got me thinking about how I started reading.

I always loved to read, I was good at it and it was one school subject I could always excel in. I don’t think I would have got into the habit of reading so many books if my parents didn’t start a contest where I would get a penny for every book I read in a year. I remember always striving for a 100 so I would get a dollar. I usually surpassed it, but they quickly put a cap of $1.00 on it. I also remember in Alaska, I had access to a thrift store and was allowed to get any five books I wanted and then switch  them back out when I finished them. Being a poor kid, this was a definite perk! I would stay up late reading because it was light all night during a lot of the year. We had these thick shades over the windows to keep out the light, but I kept mine cracked open a little so I could read all night. I remember being so sad when winter started and it started getting dark all day cause then I would have to try and sneak a flashlight!

The_Outsiders_book

That Was Then This is Now

I don’t remember the name of my first book love, but it was a gothic romance with a picture of a stormy sea, lighthouse, and haunting woman on a cliff. Even though I wasn’t a horror addict then, that sort of dark romance was always a draw to me. I do, however, remember my favorite adolescent series was by S. E. Hinton. The Outsiders; That was Then, This is Now; and Rumblefish were my favorite books in junior high. I wanted to know kids like Ponyboy and Sodapop. I think Ponyboy was my first crush – even though he was just a book character. I didn’t see the movie until I was an adult and even though I enjoyed it, it didn’t come close to the feeling I had reading the book for the first time. The fact that the books had character cross-over was a plus.

728541n11862This love affair with books continued and I have been so wrapped up in a book storyline that I think of it while I’m not reading. Some of my favorite characters feel more like family members or friends rather than fictitious people. In college, I connected with many of Anne Rice’s characters, but when Marcel’s heart gets ripped out by his father’s betrayal in Feast of all Saints, I felt like it was my heart breaking.  Her Cry to Heaven actually had me crying on a city bus as I read. Andrew Neiderman’s Bloodchild entertained me to no end and Poppy Z. Brite’s Drawing Blood made me have the most glorious nightmares. These are just pinpoints in my life that have been changed by authors.

I asked how our Horror Addicts started reading, and here are some of the answers:

David Watson: I remember my mom taking me to library story time as a kid and always having a stack of books for me when it was done. The books I was drawn to the most were always horror, baseball, and superheroes. I’m pretty sure the first adult horror novel I read was Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot.

A.d. Vick: Hmm…I’m not sure what inspired me to start reading, but I do know that I could read a few words before I started school. I don’t remember all the authors I read, but I was into a lot of sci-fi as well as nonfiction.

Kristin Battestella: My dad was building this giant custom entertainment unit, so all the books meant for the future bookshelves were piled in the corner while he worked. There was a set of those big old-fashioned leather bound volumes of classics, and I used to just make forts out of them and build myself in and pick a book off the top and start reading. Some I remember being so disgruntled with at the time. Like what, Jane Eyre isn’t a scary story after all! Paradise Lost ugh, but The Twain, Shakespeare, Poe, Dickens, wow. But primarily, I had a lot of books to play with. I think that inspired me to a life of readership. I don’t really believe in this new tablets for toddlers stuff. I think children should be surrounded by tangibly intangibly things, if that makes sense, not pressing some buttons.

Murdo Morrison: Family lore has it that I was reading before I went to school. I don’t know if that is true but I have been reading since I was a small child. My father, who was not particularly bookish, did bring me books and comics so he was also an influence. For a working class kid though the public library was a great resource. I think you had to be ten to graduate from the children’s section and I couldn’t wait. I have always been an ecletic (and voracious) reader. I was one of those kids who read under the covers with a flashlight. In the summers, when school was out, if I got interested in a book I might read it until dawn came or I finished it, whichever came first. A lot of what I read back then, old classics, are probably not much read by young people today. Today my interests lie more at the non-fiction end of the spectrum, particularly history and science, but I also like biographies.

Steven Rose Jr.:  When I would check out ghost story anthologies at my grammar school’s library or the public library when I was about 8 or 9.

So how did you start reading? What interested you? What is your favorite memory of reading as a child? What author inspired you to read their whole series? What story did you read years ago that has become a part of your belief system, your way of looking at the world? Please share in the comments below, we want to know.

Manga Review: Doors of Chaos by Ryoko Mitsuki

doorsofchaosI happened upon Doors of Chaos by accident while on vacation in Los Angeles, visiting a store called Anime Love. This manga by Ryoko Mitsuki is about twin sisters who control the four doors that protect their world from descending into chaos. Clarissa is the key to open the doors. Mizeria is the key to close the doors. On their “coming of age” day, their guardian and teacher, Rikhter, kidnaps Clarissa and begins to open all the doors through which demons pour through. Mizeria, the sister left behind, is suddenly introduced to a race of people who have been sent to protect her. She is completely confused. She thought she was the less powerful sister and that Rikhter was noble. She soon finds he is using her sister Clarissa for his own gains and that Mizeria is the only one who can stop the destruction of her world.

This manga’s art stays true to the intricate goth-loli style. The girls are clad in multiple petticoats and long hair in ribbons with elaborate tattoos trailing all over their pale skin. The men of this world are clothed in a mix of traditional Victorian frock coats with ascots and French Renaissance breeches with knee boots. The other worldly creature that comes to protect Mizeria is more of an anime waif with bandages like Rei Ayanami from Neon Genesis Evangelion. He wears what looks to be animal skins, chains, and sports the same sort of tattooing the girls do. There’s also a freaky guy cloaked in what can only be called a trenchcoat length straightjacket.

The art in this manga is top shelf. If for no other reason, pick this up to stare at the excellent artistic style of this manga. It doesn’t have much of those annoying reiterations that some anime books have when the chapters switch. The story is good and the dialog makes sense. There is a touch of the slave fetish in this book as well as very mild nudity. Demons are a touch gorier that normal, but violence is nothing out of the common way.
I recommend this manga for any anime reader and one of the few I would read a traditional novel about.

Clocks, keys, demons, and an excellent story, what more can you ask for in a manga?

Horror Christmas Tales – Staff Picks!

Hope all of you Addicts are surviving the holiday season.

Some of the staff here at HorrorAddicts.net have given us suggestions for horror holiday reading/listening!

Dan-  One of my favorite Christmas horror stories is from my man Jack Mangan, which made it’s way to Horror Addicts #52, called “Santa Thing”. What a great, creepy, and exciting twist! Click below to listen.

David- I liked Michele Roger’s Santa Claws which was on HorrorAddicts.net #13 and has recently been printed in a new anthology called Ain’t No Sanity Clause. You can buy it now on Kindle.

Emz- My favorite holiday horror story- and most won’t think this is horror – is a story I read when I was little called Christmas Every Day by William Dean Howells. A little kid wants Christmas every day… but it all goes horribly wrong as presents keep showing up and are so many in number they block the door to the house and cause all sorts of problems! It was written in 1892 and can be read here at project gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/22519

Looking for more holiday horror? How about listening to the Wicked Women Writers Challenge show again? “The Secret Ingredient” by Rebecca Snow is a tale that will give you chills, even if you aren’t out shoveling snow.

Do you have a favorite Christmas horror tale? Please share in the comments.

And if you’re in the mood for some Christmas Quiz-y fun! Check out Mike Bennett’s fun Christmas Quiz on Youtube.