Chilling Chat: 10 Quick Questions with Sumiko Saulson

chillingchat

Sumiko Saulson is a cartoonist, horror writer, editor of Black Magic Women – on the 2019 Stoker’s Recommended Reads List – and 100 Black Women in Horror Fiction. Author of MauskaveliSolitude, Warmth, Moon Cried Blood, Happiness and Other Diseases. Comics Mauskaveli, Dooky, Dreamworlds, and Agrippa. She writes for SEARCH Magazine.

1) How old were you when you first discovered horror?

My parents were both big horror fans, and I was watching horror movies in the theater when I was 4 or 5 years old. My mom told me dad took her to see Rosemary’s Baby when she was pregnant with me, but of course, I don’t remember that. I do remember watching Dark Shadows with Mom, Outer Limits and Twilight Zone with Dad, and going to see It’s Alive, the first horror movie I actually remember, when I was about 5 years old. It was about a horrible monster baby who ate people. I loved it! The first horror novel I read was Peter Straub’s Ghost Story when I was 11. I was also reading a lot of horror shorts among the sci-fi shorts in Asimov’s Science Fiction.

2) Who is your favorite author? Who has influenced you?

My favorite writer changes a lot and at the moment it is Toni Morrison, who isn’t even a horror writer but is one of my most-read writers nonetheless. My influences are all pretty mainstream. I picked up The Talisman when I was 12 and added Stephen King to my favorite writer’s list along with Edgar Allen Poe. Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Anne Rice, Dean Koontz, Christopher Rice, Susan Cooper, Frank Herbert. I have ingested so many books by a few favorites that I am sure my writing style has been affected. I am also a huge fan of anthologies and sci-fi, horror, and fantasy magazines where you can gain exposure to lots of different writers in small tastes, and see who you like. I read a lot of Weird Sisters and other horror tale magazines as a teen. Those affected me. Mythologies have affected me a lot. I read a lot of Greek, Roman and Norse mythology as a kid, and as an adult, I casually read both historical mythologies and created mythologies. I should have listed CS Lewis because the created mythology in Chronicles of Narnia impacted me heavily as an adolescent.

3) What inspired you to write your piece?

The song’s title “Under the Water” is from the song of that name by the artist Jewel from the movie The Craft. The story I wrote is about a ship that is being seduced by a giant cephalopod (squid or octopus) type sea monster such as a Kracken who wants her to become a ghost ship. Both the ship and the monster are female. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest was definitely an inspiration, as were Greek and Roman myths about sea monsters such as the Kraken and the Charybdis – a monster whose mouth created whirlpools to drag ships to the bottom of the ocean. The ship would have to sacrifice her human cargo to the monster, so they would become part of a ghost ship. As the ship is dragged deeper into the depths by the cephalopod, she begins to doubt the sincerity of the sea creature because she sees lots of dead seamen from the past and torn up ships. Then, the monster starts talking to her like Armand in The Theater of Vampires did to the woman he drained on stage, about how even if she’s being lied to it would be a glorious noble death so she wins either way. That part of the story was inspired by my former fiance’s battle with drugs, which ultimately ended his life, not long after. I had written a lot of sea stories the year prior about the drowning man sort of feeling being dragged down into the depths of addiction gives one. So this is sort of an allegory. Drugs are seductive and so is the sea creature.

4) How much control do you exert over your characters? Do they have free will?

Some of my characters have more free will than others. It depends on whether the story is world-driven or character-driven. The vast majority of my stories are character-driven, which means that about a third of the way into the story, the world is built, the scene is set, and the characters sort of begin to write themselves. The more free will the characters have, the less technical and more moving the writing is.

5) What did you learn from participating in the contest?

I do my best work short story when I have more time than was allotted during the contest. I have great story ideas, but my ability to follow through and edit them on such tight deadlines is severely inhibited. I’m good at taking, absorbing, and responding to criticism but I dislike it. I am very absent-minded, probably due to having post-traumatic stress disorder. Greg – my ex-fiance – overdosed May 26, 2017, and I could have pulled out of the contest, but I didn’t. I didn’t want to. I am a very determined person. I found out I am tougher than I think I am. I found out I CAN work on those tight deadlines, even if it isn’t my forte. And sixth place out of hundreds who applied and I think 15 or so who competed is not too bad. I also learned that it is really important to have clever story titles. And that I need someone else to proofread my work before I send it in.

6) Would you do it again? What would you do differently?

I don’t regret doing it so I absolutely would. I regret not asking for help after Greg died. I literally sent in the wrong manuscript, and I lost 10 points for not reaching the right word count and dropped from 4th place to 9th place overnight because I made a mistake and sent in the wrong file. It makes me want to cry when I think about it to this day. I had a version of the story that was completed, and I could have sent it in and I definitely would have placed higher – maybe 4th place, if I hadn’t slipped up. I can’t prevent people from dying, but I can ask for support when I need it from my family and friends. On the bright side, I did get the story accepted for Loren Rhoads’ charity anthology, Tales from the Campfire. She said it was her favorite one in the whole anthology! Of course, I edited it twice – once for an anthology Dan Shaurette was working on called Not Today  – he rejected it – and then for a Mary Shelley work honoring anthology of some kind that rejected it. Getting rejected and doing re-writes seems to be a part of the business. And I finally took the judges’ advice and changed the damned story title! It was called Experiment IV, it is now called Unheard Music from the Dank Underground. The advice about avoiding dull story titles was some of the most memorable from the contest. I would say it was an educational experience and that I notice the people who were in the top five are all popping up all over the place and quickly moving ahead in their careers so I think it’s educational, and good experience and people should go for it!

nghwedpsm7) What is your favorite horror novel?

         The Vines by Christopher Rice

8) Favorite horror movie?

        Candyman

9) Favorite horror television show?

        Supernatural

10) What does the future hold for you? What do we have to look forward to?

As you may know, I am the only black author who completed the contest, and even though I made it in sixth, not first place, that alone makes me a winner just because I decided to stick it out and to represent. I totally hate it when I am watching Face/Off or some other horror related contest and the black guy gets voted off in the first or third episode, so I was very determined to stick it out.

I got a lot of interest from black anthologies and people who are interested in horror authors of African heritage. I got three stories in Scierogenous II which is edited by Valjeanne Jeffers and Quinton Neal. I also edited Black Magic Women, a horror anthology on Mocha Memoirs Press. It ended up being on the Bram Stoker’s Recommended Reads list in 2018 and did quite well critically and in terms of sales. I edited Crystal Connor’s YA horror story My 1st Nightmare. I am editing my second anthology, Wickedly Abled, a collection of stories horror, dark fantasy and dark sci-fi by and about disabled people. I am working on Akmani, the fourth book in the Happiness and Other Diseases series and Disillusionment, the second in the Solitude series. I am starting to appear at conventions nationally and not just locally. I’m still churning out short stories and getting into more and more anthologies.

From the Vault: The Inimitable Tony Todd by Sumiko Saulson


From the Vault – So Good, it Bears Repeating.
Heroes of Black Horror History: The Inimitable Tony Todd

By Sumiko Saulson

My first exposure to the versatile and prolific Tony Todd was in 1990, when he starred as Ben Jones in the remake of George A. Romero’s 1968 horror classic “Night of the Living Dead.” Too young to have seen the original performance by Duane Jones, Todd’s take on the role was indelibly etched in my mind moving forward. My budding infatuation with Tony Todd became a full-fledged love affair two years later, when he acted in what many consider his career-defining film, “Candyman.”

Not having seen the original “Night of the Living Dead” until well after I watched the reboot, my first exposure to black representation in horror films had instead been the second in the Romero series of zombie films, “Dawn of the Dead.” In it, Ken Foree starred as the musclebound action hero type character Peter Washington. I was only ten years old, but I loved and rooted for its hero. Like many African Americans, I was proud to see such a positive portrayal of a black man in horror.

Watching Tony Todd in the 1990 remake of “Night of the Living Dead” was a much different experience. By then, I was a twenty-two year old woman and immune to neither an actor nor a character’s sex appeal. Ben Jones as portrayed by the unusually tall and thin Tony Todd, who is 6’5, was not a powerful man of action, but a soft-spoken, thoughtful character that remained poised and dignified in the most unusual and dire of circumstances.

Although both films are about humans trying to survive a zombie outbreak, unlike the action packed “Dawn of the Dead,” “Night of the Living Dead” spends a lot of time with its main characters in hiding or isolation. Ben Jones and Barbara Hamilton, a young white woman portrayed Patricia Tallman who is attacked by a horde of zombies at her parents’ gravesite at the start of the film, first discover and then gradually begin to rely on each other. Ben is a sensitive, soft-spoken character whose demeanor goes against stereotypical portrayals of black men. He rarely loses his temper, even when faced with racism on top of adversity. Along with other characters, the two struggle to survive against unfavorable odds by keeping their wits. Brains and calm and collected mind become more important than brawn and weaponry. Ben’s upbeat attitude in the face of tragedy gives the film heart. Because the Barbara character has more agency in this version than in the original, the Ben character is less the clear-cut protagonist of this film and Barbara’s role is more active and central.

After Candyman came out, I wasn’t the only one swooning over Tony Todd. His portrayal of the story’s iconic urban legend inspired title character was both nuanced and provocative. The movie was written by British horror master Clive Barker and directed by fellow Englishman Bernard Rose. Its subject matter, however, was distinctly American. Set against the backdrop of Chicago’s Cabrini-Green Public Housing Projects, it tells the tale of Helen Lyle, a white graduate student portrayed by Virginia Madsen who is investigating the true histories behind urban legends.

Despite the presence of a central white or white-passing character (the character is allegedly a distant descendant of Candyman), the backstory’s premise is steeped in the history slavery and the restoration. Most of the supporting cast is African American, including Helen’s bestie, Vanessa Williams, played by Anne-Marie McCoy, and Helen’s Cabrini information source Bernadette “Bernie” Walsh, played by Kasi Lemmons. There are several other key African American characters and a wealth of lesser or background characters.

None of the characters, including the protagonist, steal the show in quite the way Tony Todd’s charismatic and frequently sympathetic villain Candyman does. The brooding bad man approaches Helen in a provocative and often flirtatious manner, imploring her to understand the dark history of injustice and terror that lead to his monstrous afterlife. His deeply resonant voice is seductive and haunting. His character evokes such pity and empathy in the viewer that even as a villain, he could be considered a Byronic hero. When pleading fails, Candyman resorts to threats and bargaining. Helen is the hero and the catalyst for the story, but Candyman is clearly its star. In spite of this, and his stand out performance, Todd didn’t win any awards (he was nominated for one, “Fangoria”), while Virginia Madsen won three.

From the start of his acting career, Tony Todd seemed poised for the world of speculative fiction. Although “Night of the Living Dead” was his first starring role, his motion picture debut was as Barrington in the 1986 fantasy “Sleepwalk,” about a Chinese manuscript with mystical powers. Fantasy and horror weren’t his only speculative acting roles. Some of you will remember his appearances on sci-fi television program “Star Trek: The Next Generation” as Worf’s younger brother, Kurn.

Todd is often cast in villain roles, and horror is the genre he is most solidly associated with. He played the villain Grange in 1994’s classic dark fantasy film, “The Crow,” starring the ill-fated Brandon Lee, who died during production. The movie, based on a dark super hero comic book, contained many elements of horror. Grange, a gangster, is merely a henchman of the main villain Top Dollar. However, in classic Tony Todd character style, Grange is the one who discovers that the crow is the source of hero Eric Draven’s powers.

His characters often have dark mystical knowledge, even when they are neutral, or on the side of good. William Bludworth, his character in the “Final Destination” series, is a coroner who has some special magical knowledge of how death (the entity, not the action) operations. Like Grange, William Bludworth can be considered somewhat problematic as a cinematic trope known as the “magical black character.” These are token black mystics who use their special magical knowledge to aid the story’s white protagonists (or in the case of Grange, villain). However, he is a notable character in the series by virtue of being the only repeating character besides Clear Rivers, the original protagonist (played by Ali Larter) to appear in more than one film. Since death never appears in the flesh in the movies, the Bludworth character acts as an anchor for its personification, performing as a medium or mystic of sorts. He appears in more than half of the movies.

The movie “Candyman” spawned two sequels, Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (1995) and Candyman: Day of the Dead (1999).  While “Farewell to the Flesh” was well-received and succeeded as a sequel, it lost much of the Afrocentrism of the original 1992 Candyman film. Fay Hauser as Pam Carver plays a significant enough role to prevent Todd from being the token black actor, but the significant decrease in black actors in both speaking and background roles makes certain elements of the backstory a bit more problematic.

In the story, Candyman originally existed as a free black man Daniel Robitaille.  He was an artist and the son of a slave. His eternal torment is the result of having been tortured, maimed, and murdered by a white mob for sleeping with a white plantation owner’s daughter whose portrait he had been commissioned to paint and getting her pregnant. Candyman’s central targets as victims are women who are descend from his bloodline.

The story becomes increasingly problematic with each sequel as the viewer begins to wonder why these descendants of Candyman’s biracial daughter are predominately white. By the third film, one begins to wonder why the blonde starlet (Donna D’Errico) is the descendant instead of her black girlfriend Tamara (played by Alexia Robinson). In a seeming effort to relieve the second movie’s lack of color, the third film takes on a Day of the Dead theme, a series of Latino secondary characters, and a new Los Angeles location. None of this saves the movie, which is by far the worse of the three. Some of the other acting performances were so bad that not even Tony Todd could save it, and it ultimately killed the franchise.

Although these are his best-known horror series, Tony Todd’s notoriety as a horror actor has landed him a number of parts both large and small over the years. He played a parody of himself as an obnoxious, entitled actor in two episodes of the television show “Holliston” entitled “Candyman.” Some of this other movie roles include Ruber in “Dead of the Nite,” a story of ghosts, ghost hunting, and murder; Reverend Zombie in “Hatchet II,” and Reverend Abraham Stockton in “The Graves.”

Tony Todd remains very active in acting and other pursuits and at 61 years of age, is still widely regarded as a sex symbol. He was a voice actor in a 2015 animated treatment of “Night of the Living Dead” subtitled “Darkest Dawn.” Other 2015 forays into horror for the busy actor included Eddie in “Frankenstein,” Detective Johnson in “Scream At The Devil,” Dr. Murphy in  “Agoraphobia,” and the pastor in “Live/Evil.” “Frankenstein” was written and directed by Bernard Rose, co-wrote and directed “Candyman.” Tony Todd also keeps up his creepy bad guy image with a recurring role in the television series “The Flash” as Zoom, an arch-villain who is kind of the anti-Flash. He stars as Detective Sommers in the horror film “Zombie,” currently in post-production.

In addition to his successful movie career, Todd has a substantial history in both Broadway and off-Broadway theater. His onstage credits include Donkeyman in Athol Fugard’s “The Captain’s Tiger,” the title role in August Wilson’s “King Hedley II,” and Reuben Tate in “Zooman and the Sign.” He continues to be active in theater, and is currently starring in Jack Megna’s “Ghost in the House,” a historical piece about Jack Johnson (March 31, 1878 – June 10, 1946), the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion. A victim of Jim Crow laws, the boxer convicted of violating the Mann act in 1913 for traveling with a white woman across state lines for “immoral purposes,” despite a lack of evidence. One of Tony Todd’s personal causes is working with other celebrities to ask President Obama to issue a posthumous pardon to Jack Johnson for his unjust imprisonment.

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sumiko armband

Sumiko Saulson a horror, sci-fi and dark fantasy writer. Her novels include “Solitude,” “Warmth”, and “Happiness and Other Diseases.” She is the author of the Young Adult horror novella series “The Moon Cried Blood”, and short story anthology “Things That Go Bump in My Head.” Born to African-American and Russian-Jewish parents, she is a native Californian, and has spent most of her adult life in the Bay Area. She is a horror blogger and journalist

Kidnapped! The Revival of the Psychological Horror Film by Sumiko Saulson

The Revival of the Psychological Horror Film

Many believed 2016 was hexed. A strange rise in celebrity deaths and rampant international terrorism reinforced the impression. There were viable explanations for the trends, such as Baby Boomers entering their golden years. Nonetheless, the superstition persisted.

The media responded with excessive coverage of real-life brutality. It often included graphic video imagery, such as ISIS executions. News footage became more violent than the latest episode of The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones. To worsen matters, with the popularity of social media, people were getting instant updates on the world’s latest tragedies twenty-four seven. Oversaturated by non-stop coverage, our appetite for bloodthirsty gore-centered horror began to taper off. In theaters, we saw a resurgence of the psychological horror film in theaters. Torture porn like Purge: Election Year became harder to find. Creepy, suspenseful horror movies like as Lights Out and The Boy abounded.

Psychological horror relies on suspense and character development. It preys upon primitive fear of the unknown. Classic psychological horror films include Rosemary’s Baby, Psycho and Jacob’s Ladder. While not completely free of the gore and nerve-shattering jump cuts splatter films rely upon, these movies use mystery and dramatic tension to weave a sense of dread.

The VVitch, one of the most successful films of 2016, fits into this subgenre. It creates a chilling atmosphere by introducing supernatural elements gradually to build anticipation. It doesn’t rely on special effects for its punch. Using character behavior to convey danger, like The Shining and The Amityville Horror before it, the movie creates a portentous atmosphere before any real danger comes into play. Ouija: Origin of Evil is another psychological horror film which combines the suspense of psychological horror with more traditional creature makeup, special effects and sound effects. This is similar to classic supernatural thrillers such as The Exorcist, and The Omen

Not all psychological horror films are supernatural. Jordan Peele’s debut horror film Get Out combines science-fiction elements with horror, akin to The Stepford Wives and Invasion of the Body Snatchers before it. Like many films in this subgenre, it involves mystery, placing a skeptical protagonist in an unnatural setting that prompts his investigation. In this film, a black man, Chris Washington, goes to meet his white girlfriend’s parents, who live in a gated community. As the audience follows the protagonist through this seemingly ordinary town, a series of surreal, strange events ensue. He notices something is very wrong with the people of the town, and the fabric of reality begins to unwind around him.

While some psychological horror movies such as The Forest and The Conjuring 2 are not very good, award-winning non-comedy horror tends to fall into this subgenre. Only 14 horror movies have ever won Academy Awards. Oscar-winning psychological horror films include Sleepy Hollow, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Misery, and Black Swan. They use careful plotting, excellent writing, and convincing acting to engage audiences instead of cheap thrills, gimmicks, and special effects.

 

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 About the Author: Sumiko Saulson is Sumiko Saulson is a horror, sci-fi and dark fantasy writer, winner of the StokerCon Scholarship from Hell and 2nd Place Carry the Light Sci-Fi Short Story Award. Born to African-American and Russian-Jewish parents, she is a native Californian and has spent most of her adult life in the Bay Area. She ranked 6th place in the Next Great Horror Writer Contest.

Kidnapped! The Rise of Count Slackula by Sumiko Saulson

The Rise of Count Slackula

Come here, one and all! Read for the first time anywhere the true and mysterious origins of the spooky supernatural mouse heroes known as the Mauskavelians. Here the amazing story of the undead superhero mouse Count Slackula.

Once upon a time, there were three laboratory mice. Their names were Mauskaveli, Petricio, and Rogue. The three lived together in a cage for so long that it became quite natural for them to snuggle up at night in a cuddle puddle. They were friends, and lovers, being three mice trapped together in a single cage. The only downside to their carefree life was the presence of annoying genetic research scientists who experimented on them day and night.

They experimented on Mauskaveli to see if they could give her super intelligence. She is now one of the smartest mice in the world. They worked on making Petricio highly sexually attractive and seductive – to other mice, that is. It’s a good thing they’re polyamorous because Petricio is a regular mouse Cassanova. Rumor has it scientists intended to use his musk for human perfumes someday. He didn’t look forward to being dissected. Rogue was originally a test subject for curing male pattern baldness, but the injections they gave him to try to regrow his hair had no effect on his bald spot. However, they did give him strange regenerative powers. His wounds began to heal on their own.

One day, the scientist’s formulas spilled into the bottom of the cage, causing a transmutation process in the uncleaned poop in the tray below. That process leads to the creation of a small, feces-based life form named Dooky. Dooky calls himself a cat-batz and insists that cat poop, not mouse poop, is his true origin.In their free time, the mice and their flying pet poop Dooky played games and pretended to be superheroes. But superheroes didn’t live in cages.

Mauskaveli knew they had to escape.

The three of them busted out of their cage one night and moved into a nice, warm storage room at a print factory. That’s where Mauskaveli formulated her plans to organize a rodent rebellion against the oppressive humans. They snuck in at night to print tiny comic books to educate other mice about the dangers of eugenics scientists and other anti-mouse forces.

Their little team of three was happy, listening to the radio, throwing dance parties for other mice, and loving each other. They called their band of mice Micki Menage. Soon after the escape, they found out that Mauskaveli was pregnant. They weren’t sure which one of them was the father, but they suspected Rogue-9 because the baby was born with the power of necromancy. They named their spawn DeathAngel, because he was a MauzReaper.

Unfortunately, Rogue-9 had a tragic mousetrap accident when DeathAngel was just a pup. The baby mouse shocked the grieving Mauskaveli and Petricio by resurrecting Rogue-9 from the dead. That’s how they found out he was a mouse necromancer.

I am Count Slackula,” Rogue-9 cried as he rose from the grave, “enemy of Nazi scientists and friend to the poor and disenfranchised.” From that day forward, he was known as Count Slackula.

Perhaps you would like to know more about Count Slackula, Mauskaveli, Petricio, DeathAngel the MauzReaper, Dooky the CatzBatz and friends you haven’t met yet like Tumimaus and Joe. Come one, come all, and read the Mauskaveli comic book. Color the Mauskaveli coloring book!

                                                                     Mauskaveli Online 

                                                                 Mauskaveli Facebook 

                                                                 Mauskaveli Comic Book (Print) 

                                    Mauskaveli Coloring Book (Print)

 

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  About the Author: Sumiko Saulson is Sumiko Saulson is a horror, sci-fi and dark fantasy writer, winner of the StokerCon Scholarship from Hell and 2nd Place Carry the Light Sci-Fi Short Story Award. Born to African-American and Russian-Jewish parents, she is a native Californian and has spent most of her adult life in the Bay Area. She ranked 6th place in the Next Great Horror Writer Contest.

Kidnapped! The Ride of Herne and Hespeth by Sumiko Saulson


This story was originally written for the Next Great Horror Writer contest’s campfire story contest. An excerpt ran on the Horror Addicts Podcast Episode 145, but this is the first print of the entire story. The story has since been edited to improve the transitions between the teacher’s storytelling and the student interruptions.

The Ride of Herne and Hespeth

What kind of mother sends her preteen to Halloween Camp? That’s what Denise wanted to know. She could have been trick or treating with friends. Instead, she was listening to spooky stories and having cook-outs. She gazed drowsily into the campfire. The marshmallow on the end of her stick was finally melted. She smashed it onto the square of chocolate atop the graham cracker in her hand. She was about to eat the S’more when Miss Foster’s shrill voice interrupted her reverie.

Children, gather round!” Miss Foster cried. “Pull close to the fire. Watch the sun end his nightly dance with the moon. Can you feel the chill night air rising around you, fog, cloaking your neck? Gather closer to the fire, and keep warm.”

There had been four children gathered round the fire before her rousing speech. Denise winced as a dozen more rowdy kids from Camp Mather crowded around the bonfire, bringing their hot dogs and body odor with them.

The story I am about to tell you is strange but true!” Miss Foster shouted. “The slaughterhouse down the road… did you know was haunted?

Almost on cue, a spine-chilling lowing sound pierced the bushes behind them. It sounded like a wounded man moaning in the distance. Lucy, the girl sitting next to her, jumped, knocking Denise’s S’more into the fire.

Damn it, Lucy!” Denise cried.

The groaning rose to a crescendo before dissipating in the wind. Towards the end, it became distinctly bovine. Could you hear the cows from the slaughterhouse a mile away?”

Sit still, Lucy! Don’t swear, Denise!” Miss Foster barked. “Why are you children always so unruly? Anyway, on with the story… where was I?

It’s haunted by ghosts, but not the ordinary kind. These are meaty ghosts, the skeletal remains of the dead cattle prepared for sale at your local delis and grocery outlets. The tattered bits of flesh that remain on the bone after the carving process begins to stink as the cow carcasses await burial in their mass graves. Have you ever smelled five day old hamburger? Naturally, the meat attracts maggots. The fervent breeding of insects causes the dead cow’s ribcage to rise and fall, almost as if breathing.”

Gross!” Wide-eyed Daniel squealed, quickly spitting out his hamburger.

Gross indeed,” Miss Foster approved. “And an affront to the vegan witch Hespeth. She walked by and saw the cow corpses writhing. Thinking a young calf survived, she ran into the deep pit full of rotting animals. But it was no calf! It was maggots! Some evolved into flies and few into her face. She was quite put off, and immediately hexed the place. She’d been meaning to for a while. Vegan witches hate slaughterhouses, don’t you know.”

If she loves animals so much, why doesn’t she love flies?” Lucy asked.

What she said,” Denise seconded. “Circle of life and all that. Doesn’t she respect it?”

She would respect you becoming part of the circle of life, meat eater!” Miss Foster hissed, pointing an accusatory finger at Daniel’s burger and Lucy’s hot dog.

That’s why she cast the spell… to put humans into their proper place on the food chain. The accursed skeletons lurched forth from their graves. The stink of rotting meat was cloying. A cloud of green malodorous E.coli bacterial surrounded them. Soon, the maggots began to hatch, sending out waves of hungry, carnivorous flies. The angry mob of dead cattle marched towards Camp Mather, looking for filthy meat eaters upon which to enact their revenge.

What’s wrong, Lucy! Are you having trouble eating your hot dog? You keep looking away as I tell this story, almost as if you feel guilty. There are some vegan marshmallow substitutes to roast if you’d prefer vegetarian S’mores…”

Lucy rolled her eyes and kept eating her hotdog.

Fixing her with an accusatory glare, Miss Foster continued. “Frothing at the mouth, hungry jaws snapping … Herne, the head of the heard, moved at preternatural speed towards Camp Mather.

Their first victim was Charlie, a hitchhiker eating a dollar menu hamburger. The herd charged towards him, hooves pounding the dust below. Herne snapped into Charlie’s flesh… angry molars munching his fingers like fresh cud. Green slime oozed from Herne’s open maw and dripping nostrils, mixing with Charlie’s blood as the fingers snapped one by one. The cannibal cow even ate the burger in his hand!

Why are you doing this to me?” Charlie screamed. But he got no answer. Cows can’t speak, you know. They lowed and mooed in laughter. Herne’s accomplices began with the man’s other arm. Soon, they’d ground him between their teeth into a human hamburger. Leaving the blood puddle that had recently been Charlie behind, the hungry pack of roving skeletal cows continued its rapid descent upon Camp Mather.

Am I making you nervous, Denise? Why did you stop eating your beef jerky?”

I’m not afraid of imaginary cow monsters,” Denise smirked.

You should be,” Miss Foster warned. “With no digestive tract to speak of, the herd had no way to digest the well-chewed bits of Charlie. Chunks of Charles fell out of their ribcages and down to the ground, trodden below angry hooves.

The stampede rushed into the side of a Safeway delivery truck, butting against it repeatedly until it toppled over. The driver’s blood-curdling screams were so ear-piercing they were heard by our camp director, Gwen Littleton. If you don’t believe my story is true, just ask Gwen!

Herne himself leaped into the cabin of the eighteen-wheeler and tore his blood-soaked teeth into the tattooed bicep of the driver, Daryl. The driver yelled, “What are you? Friggen zombie cows?” Irritated, Herne bit into the man’s juicy tongue, and yanking his foul-smelling head back, ripped it from his jaw.”

Miss Foster cast an irritated look towards Lucy once more. “Have you ever eaten cow tongue, Lucy? I see you’re eating an all-beef corndog. Do you think Herne would approve?”

Lucy shrugged, stuck her tongue out, and slathered ketchup and mustard on her corndog. Denise rolled her eyes.

Unlike Hespeth,” Miss Foster continued, “Herne was far from vegan. His large, square teeth sunk deep into the man’s lower lip, pulling at it rending flesh from bone. Blood spewed over the steering wheel as another stampeding cow slid it’s incisors into the driver’s jugular vein. The gushing maroon fountain pitched its moist payload with every breath, every heartbeat, and the smell of iron invading the cabin as the windshield was painted in clotted crimson.

The green bile and mossy rot of the original moldering cow flesh combined with fresh human blood and carnage as they tore in. One of Daryl’s extruded eyeballs detached from his head and plastered itself to the center of Herne’s skull. The feast was done. Like a festering wounded cyclops, Herne climbed out of the cabin and headed this way.

Herne’s spectral eyes glowed like goals in the dark. The moment his formed so did like eyes appear in the cattle behind him. Herne, the sole bull in the stampede, was an oddity for a slaughterhouse. Where did he come from?

Some have associated him with Herne the Hunter, the stag antlered aspect of Cernunnos, the Horned God. Others have associated him with Baphomet, the goat antlered god the idolatrous Templars worshipped. Still, others say he descended from the Golden Calf the Jews worshipped coming out of captivity in Egypt. But who cares? I mean, really? If a molding dead cow skeleton is eating you, do you really need to know its backstory?

Like the world’s worst case of acid reflux, the beef from the local slaughterhouse kept coming back up towards Camp Firestone. I suppose it’s because we order so many hamburger patties to keep you kids happy during summer camp. I would, if I were you, consider a vegan lifestyle.”

Suddenly, Miss Foster stood and raised her arms to the sky. There was a gleam in her eye. The gleam quickly rose into a flash, and that flash turned bright red. The hidden moon rose from behind a cloud, round and full, and in its warm glow, the camp counselor began to transform. She stretched out, growing taller and leaner. Bones exploded from below her flesh, upon her skull, a headdress of bovine teeth.

It is I, children. It is Hespeth!”

Looking back over her shoulder, Denise saw two glowing eyes in the dark forest behind her. They were accompanied by a smell… rank, like the meat that went off in the refrigerator last month after the blackout. The electricity had been out for two days. The stench was heavy, cloying. Before she knew it the creature was before her… beside her… hungry.

Denise stared in shock as the zombie bull Herne chomped down on little Lucy’s skull. Jaw agape, tongue dangling, eyes bulging, arm hanging loose to one side, Lucy dropped the half-eaten beef hotdog into the dirt before crumpling to the ground.

 

********

About the Author: Sumiko Saulson is Sumiko Saulson is a horror, sci-fi and dark fantasy writer, winner of the StokerCon Scholarship from Hell and 2nd Place Carry the Light Sci-Fi Short Story Award. Born to African-American and Russian-Jewish parents, she is a native Californian, and has spent most of her adult life in the Bay Area. She ranked 6th place in the Next Great Horror Writer Contest.

 

 

#NGHW News: Interview with Contestant: Sumiko Saulson

 

What do you love about horror?

Horror is the genre we use to tell cautionary tales, to warn humanity of the folly of our ways. It’s the genre that celebrates the struggle of the spunky underdog against nearly impossible odds. Win or lose, we are so deeply mired in the life of that character that we are concerned about his or her future. Horror is a character-centered genre because we need to care about the protagonist in order to relate to his or her fear. For all of the criticisms about how horror desensitizes us, it also forces us to learn empathy for those unlike ourselves, whose struggles we do not often consider, by asking us to take a cold, hard look at man’s inhumanity to man. Using monsters and other supernatural creatures to convey the story creates enough distance from our bad behavior as a species to allow us to think things over without immediately going on the defensive.

What was the first horror movie/story/book/show that you fell in love with?

Although “Planet of the Apes” is generally considered sci-fi, as a child the subtextual plot about the destruction of humanity that replaced us with intelligent apes was my first exposure to dystopic fiction, which many consider being horror. I was terrified when they showed the Statue of Liberty and revealed that this had all happened on Earth and was pretty obsessed with the movie when I was about five. However, the first purely horror film I fell in love with was “Ben.” I saw it with my dad when I was eight – he thought I’d like it because I had a pet mouse. It was a double feature with “Willard”… I absolutely loved it, and the Michael Jackson song as well. I was 8, so you know I thought Michael Jackson was cute – every little black girl in America did back then. But he wasn’t the one I was in love with – it was Ben. I was totally incensed by the cruel treatment of the poor, beleagured Ben by the evil rats and the cruel humans who picked on him because he was a rodent.

Can you describe the sort of horror stories you write?

My primary genre is psychological horror, such as you see on “Twilight Zone,” “Outer Limits,” or movies like the “Stepford Wives” and the recent Peele film “Get Out.”  I also write gothic horror and dark fantasy, but there is always an element of psychological horror, even when there are monsters like zombies. My horror stories are character-driven usually involve multicultural or Afrocentric characters, and often have strong female characters as their central protagonists. There is a lot of range in terms of goriness, depending on the type of supernatural threat and what the audience is, but some of my stories are really violent and relatively disgusting.

Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what?

I often listen to gothic or alternative rock music, punk, grunge, or metal. I also listen to rap, hip-hip, R&B, and soul. It really depends on what the story is. I usually pick out music that I think the character I am writing would listen to. Because it helps me to get into character and visualize the world that character lives in.

Do you have any hobbies besides writing?

I enjoy drawing and painting… in fact, I make comic books and little zines that are mini-comics. I work primarily in acrylics on paper, but also, on canvas or wood. I’ve had paintings exhibited in galleries and cafes. I also enjoy fashion, music, and going dancing.

What is your favorite part about writing?

I find writing very therapeutic.

What is your favorite word?

Proactive.

What is your least favorite word?

Ulcerated.

What turns you on in a book?

Humor. If I don’t like an author’s sense of humor, I am unlikely to find the story particularly interesting, regardless of the genre it’s written in. I can usually identify a particular author by his or her sense of humor once I am familiar with their work.

Why should people be on team Sumiko?

My stories make people think. I think I have something important to bring to the world of horror.

 

Follow the #NGHW Contest, this season on HorrorAddicts.net!

Guest Blog: Disheveled Dreams: Happiness and Other Diseases by Sumiko Saulson

guestblog2 
For the month of March, Sumiko shared an excerpt of her series, Happiness and Other Diseases.  
Sumiko says,
“It deals with the Demos Oneiroi, which is the Greco-Roman land of dreams. The book is titled Somnalia after Somnuts (Sleep Party).
In this specific series, his foil is his twin brother, Thanatos, the god of peaceful death (not to be confused with the god of War, Ares).
It’s a horror story with a paranormal romance at it’s center: Charlotte “Happiness” Metaxas, heir apparent to the throne of the kindgom of erotic nightmares, is in a constant struggle with relatives who want wrest control from her. Her dad, the classic philandering Greek God Brash, ran the kingdom like a really cool night club for kinksters. He reincarnates and leaves her to run things. to turn her paranormal romance kingdom. Her uncle, Phobetor, the god of Nightmares, thinks she doesn’t know how to run things, and tries to take over, accidentally turning paranormal eroticaville into the land of torture porn. Her sister, Mercy, doesn’t like being trapped in the world of dreams, and wants to creep into the real world like Freddy Krueger and take things over with her sidekick, sister Sympathy, the queen of hentai.
 
A comic-book spin off “Dreamworlds” is a Cool World-like take on the series, where the dream world attempts to seep into the real world through this author in particular.”
Read an excerpt from Happiness and Other Diseases by Sumiko Saulson Act I: The Arrival of Happiness Nightmares
It was the same dream he’d had every night for the past year, but every time it haunted him, little details changed. Minor changes in setting and action were not the only differences in his bedtime story. Each time he had the dream, things went a little bit further than the last. The last couple of dreams had taken place in a powder gray office chair behind the plain white Formica-coated IKEA computer desk in his cubicle at work. He was tired of staring at the navy blue cubicle tiles. Four mismatched pushpins secured a print out of the company’s phone directory. He was more than a little relieved for the change of scenery. This time he was sitting on a barstool at Murphy’s Tavern. A half dozen co-workers from the call center were seated around the bar, sucking down shots of tequila and pint glasses of domestic beer poured out in abundance from the various ten-dollar pitchers purchased for the party.
Richard and Cindy from accounting were on stage, belting out their drunken rendition of “Summer Lovin’” from the musical Grease. Richard hammed it up with gratuitous hip gyrations, winking and serenading the secretaries seated in the front row. By contrast, Cindy failed to make eye contact with anyone, keeping her doe-eyed gaze fixed firmly on the karaoke monitor. Flynn remembered that part of the dream from last October. It was a going-away party for someone from the constantly rotating administrative pool temporary staff. He couldn’t remember the girl’s name, but he remembered her suits. She was in her late twenties or early thirties, yet she wore these tailored pink and powder blue designer suits that put him in mind of Nancy Reagan, of all things. They seemed very incongruous for a woman of her age and economics. He had always wondered if they were hand-me-downs from a formerly fashionable maiden aunt.
Richard and Cindy finished their song right after he finished his beer. Four drunken, obnoxious dudes from the IT department were half way through their voluminous and off-key rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” when that thing finally showed up. Just like in every previous nightmare, it materialized suddenly, out of thin air. One moment he was looking at his own dog-tired mug in the mirror on the bar back, the next he was staring into the gaping maw of whatever it was that terrorized his dreams. It rarely took the same form twice. This time, it was shadowy and semi-translucent. It had withered legs and arms resembling the gnarled branches of a lightning-struck tree. They were almost humanoid, yet woefully emaciated. The creature was straddling his lap, facing him, with its talons resting on either side of his shoulders. Flynn gasped as he felt its claws sliding effortlessly into the flesh of his right shoulder. He felt a hot gush of blood flow out of his wounds and then slowly trickle down the back of his white t-shirt.
He would have screamed, but he knew from experience no one in the bar would hear him. His breath came in ragged, gasping pants as he struggled to maintain his composure. That creature knew it was hurting him, but Flynn didn’t want it to see him sweat.
“So,” he hissed under his breath, “The last time you showed up as a foxy-looking redhead. You aren’t bothering with pretenses this time I see?”
“This isn’t my true form, either,” the thing cooed back, leaning over and licking the side of his face with its wide, green tongue.
In the mirror, Flynn could see a thick trail of snail-like goo on his face where its saliva touched him. Its breath was mossy and tepid, but not entirely unpleasant. It smelled like the inside of a cave on a camping trip he remembered from childhood. Without wanting to, he found himself relaxing into the short leather back of the barstool. He felt warm and a little dizzy, but he knew it wasn’t the alcohol.
“I thought I would see if you like it rough this time,” the creature whispered in his ear.
Flynn turned away and lifted a hand in front of his face. “Don’t, please don’t,” he begged to know before the words left his lips that all of his pleas would be in vain.
A slender tendril of quivering flesh extended from a spot in its forehead, above and between where its eyes would have been. Instead of eyes, it had a row of five vacant dimples, each a shallow, empty socket lined with a membranous gel that breathed in and out like the gills of a fish. The appendage was as thick around as a large earthworm and lengthened rapidly, engorged until the throbbing tip touched his skin. He could feel it writhing its way up his cheek. Although he knew what to expect by now, his body convulsed involuntarily. He felt the tendril wind its way up to his nose. It thrust itself into his nostril, sliding in deeper until it penetrated his brain. In this incarnation, the creature’s mouth was as wide as his own head. Behind the series of fleshy polyps that jiggled, dangling from its moist lips, its hideous jaws were lined with sharp, jagged teeth. Its voice was wet and sucking, the sound a puddle of hot shit in a clogged up bar toilet would probably make if it started to speak.
Flynn hated its voice. “I can do whatever I want to you,” it cruelly purred.
“I can even make you like it.” A mucilaginous blue fluid pulsated through the fleshy appendage, and Flynn watched helplessly as the drug traveled through the tendril and entered his bloodstream, headed directly for his brain.
Wave after wave of chemical stimulation hit his nervous system and as he succumbed to the intoxicant, his fear gradually gave way to intense, almost painful arousal. The air molecules surrounding the creature’s form trembled slightly, in a way only Flynn could see. He watched as its form slowly shifted, reverting to the familiar freckle-faced buxom bar girl with the rust-colored hair. Over her shoulder, he could see his face in the bar-back mirror. He could feel something foreign invading his flesh, throbbing under his skin in perfect counterpoint to his heartbeat. As each fresh wave of euphoria hit him, he observed a strange, orange glow pulsating in the veins that were pounding out a rhythm in his temples. When the girl bent over and bit his neck, he whimpered. “I don’t know what you’re doing to me,” he mumbled, “but I don’t really want you to stop.”
It laughed at him. “But you should want me to stop,” the woman told him.
“I am a parasite and I’m feeding off you. I will gradually drain the life out of you, and leave you a dead and empty husk. And you would like that, wouldn’t you?”
“Yes,” Flynn muttered compliantly.
“Yes, you should eat all of me until there is nothing left.” His reflection stared back at him, slack jawed and vacant.
The whites of his eyes were clouded by bubbling peach-colored swirls of viscous alien matter, like tiny ocular lava lamps. There was even a slightly pink tinge to the tear that was sliding down his cheek. Cindy and Richard were standing on either side of him now, watching the scene unfold in eager anticipation. Four drunkards from the information technologies department joined the telemarketing team. The whole group was riveted by the theatrics. The secretarial pool held him in its hungry gaze as the temp with the pastel Bill Blass suit pulled out a pair of orange-handled office scissors and slit open the front of his t-shirt.
“I love playing with my food!” the monster shrilly announced to its admiring sycophants.
The crowd oohed and aahed appreciatively as she used her razor sharp fingernails to shred the rest of his t-shirt before removing it from his body. It was white cotton, the perfect medium for absorbing the blood that had been expressed from the many little abrasions she’d clumsily left on his torso while removing the garment. When the creature bent down to bite his nipple, Flynn threw his arms around its neck and arched his back to make it easier for the thing to completely devour him. His labored breathing gave way to moaning and trembling with anticipation as he resolved to give himself over to this monster completely. Then he woke up.
“Fuck you, bitch!” he screamed at no one in the room.
“I want to live!” “Fuck you, too!” his neighbor screamed back from the apartment above, punctuating the exclamation with a stomp on the floor.
A stream of further expletives followed. They were laced with creative suggestions for what kinds of objects Flynn, and the whore the old man upstairs imagined he must have been banging last night, could unceremoniously shove up their collective ass. Flynn jumped up from the soiled beige frameless futon mattress he called a bed, and ran into the cramped little closet-like bathroom of his tiny apartment. He barely reached the toilet in time to grasp the sides of it and lean his head forward in order to evacuate his meager stomach contents into the bowl. Waves of unrelenting nausea caused him to vomit repeatedly until his stomach was empty. After all of the food was gone, he sat on the floor for another half an hour feeling his throat burn as he dry heaved and spat up stomach acid. He was sick like this a lot lately. Flynn stood up and turned to face the sink. There was no walking necessary… it was about two feet away from the toilet.
The room was so small he could extend his arm and touch the plastic curtain of the claustrophobic, coffin-sized shower. He looked into the mirror in the medicine cabinet. It was about three feet high and two feet wide, bordered with a thin strip of discolored chrome, covered in a film of soap scum, and occasionally dotted with random drops of toothpaste and dried dirty bathwater. He didn’t look so hot. Under his eyes were bags deep enough for a weekend shopping spree. His solemn brown eyes were bloodshot and red-rimmed. His once golden skin was now sallow and jaundiced. His cheeks were the gaunt, his eyes were sunken. He decided he looked like a junkie.
“This shit is killing me,” he told his reflection.
He could still feel pain in his shoulder blade where the witch had impaled his flesh with her claws in the dream. His body hurt in other places, but that was the worst. He lifted his hand and touched the side of his neck. When he pulled away his fingers, they were covered in blood. He stood back from the mirror and observed a dozen tiny lines on his chest, minuscule scabs where she barely grazed the skin, and the blood had already dried. His nipple was still bleeding a little bit, and it was sore when he touched it. Flynn sharply sucked in his breath. He was very shaken up. He was afraid he was going to burst into tears. Pulling himself together, he stumbled into the nearby shower and stripped off his boxer briefs. He tossed them out past the slightly moldy plastic shower curtain with the gaudy tropical fish and seahorses painted on it.sumikodreamcover
They landed inside out, and he shook his head a little when he noticed the stain from last night’s involuntary emission. He turned on the shower and enjoyed the hot water coursing down over his aching flesh. He was exhausted, but he knew he had a doctor’s appointment that morning. He didn’t want to walk into Dr. Lester’s office smelling like jizz, sweat, and shame. He tried not to think about his night terrors, but the harder he tried to forget about them, the more persistently they prodded at his waking mind. Soon, he found himself with a raging boner. It was hard to deny that he did like it rough. Still… that was not something he wanted that nightmare succubus to know and he most certainly had no desire to be eaten alive. Of course, there was a very good chance this succubus creature did not exist.
Flynn had begun to doubt his sanity sometime last summer, about a month after the dreams began. His therapist had assured him this monster did not, could not, actually exist. He must be hurting himself somehow in his sleep. The exhaustion must be a sign of his depression. Lots of depressed people felt tired. He would feel better soon, when the medications started working. Dr. Lester had an explanation for everything. She even told him he should not be ashamed of his fantasies, no matter how perverse he might deem them to be. They were only fantasies, and everyone has fantasies. In fact, his fantasies weren’t even all that uncommon. There was no need to be embarrassed by them. With that in mind, he decided it would be very therapeutic to beat off in the shower. Commentary Nyx was impatiently waiting for an answer.
“Plot and scheme?” her son Thanatos, the god of death protested.
“We would never.” “Settle down, brother,” Somnus interrupted.
“Mother, it is not his fault. I know what you speak of. It is the work of my son, Brash, and his children.
They’ve grown unusually bloodthirsty as of late. “I apologize for their behavior.”
“Aaahhh,” his mother said. “I am aware of what you speak of and I appreciate your honesty in this matter. It seems Brash and several of his children have been dissatisfied with their rightful place in the underworld in the Demos Oneiroi and have instead decided to enter the mortal realm and inflict themselves upon the living like some plague or disease.”
“I will speak with them,” Somnus reassured her.
“It has gone beyond that,” Nyx warned.
“They threaten to disrupt the natural order of things and to cause war between myself and those of greater power than even myself. I have decided they must be tested, and punished if necessary.”
“How will you test them?” Somnus asked.
Nyx lifted a burdensome scroll to the table and partially unfurled it, revealing a spot in the middle. It was a map of the Demos Oneiroi, the Greco-Roman mythological realm of dreams. She pointed to a tiny spot on the map with the very tip of her slim, tapered finger.
“Do you see that young man there?” she asked, tapping the spot twice.
“Look closely, and you will see him. He is the one begging your granddaughter Mercy for his life.”
“I see him,” Somnus responded.
“The fate of the entire line of Brash lies with him.” she said.
“Let’s say that mortal is able to persevere. Let’s say he is able to survive for the short span these fragile creatures are intended to live. Perhaps he will become the progenitor of a bloodline, for offspring are the closest any mortal being comes to immortality. If he is able to thrive, then they shall as well. If not…”
“If not?” Thanatos asked a little too eagerly.
Being the god of death, he had a pleasant feeling about where this might be going.
“If not, then as they so envy the mortals, let them be mortal. Let their endless lives, with which they have become so bored and tired, come to an end,” Nyx ordered. “Let them die, like all the rest.”
“He is my son,” Somnus protested.
“Surely, you will at least allow me to call forth a champion, to protect this mortal upon whose fragile shoulders you place such a heavy burden?”
“Very well,” Nyx relented, after a moment of silent consideration.
“You may, but you must call forth a champion from your own line. More specifically, this champion should be one of Brash’s progeny. To the best of my knowledge they are cruel, brutal and irredeemable, but if you have one with whom you might trust such a charge, name him.”
“Her,” Somnus corrected.
“Happiness. I name her. She will protect him.” Nyx furrowed her brow. “I have not heard this name before. Who is she?”
“She is a demigoddess,” Somnus explained.
“She is the offspring of the most recent dalliance between Brash and a mortal mistress.” Nyx laughed.
“You mean a demisomnali? To be a demigoddess, she would need to be the child of a god, and surely we are not elevating your wayward son Brash to the same status as you or your brother?”
“Very well,” Somnus conceded, not wishing to offend his mother.
Certain among his thousand sons the Oneiroi were considered gods. Morpheus was the god of dreams, and Phobetor the god of nightmares, for example. Brash would have been the god of erotic nightmares, but he was obscure and had no worshippers.
“A demisomnali, as you say. I name her.”
“For their sakes, I hope she’s a great deal gentler than her sisters,” Thanatos remarked. “They’ve sent many a mortal my way.”
“I am a parasite and I’m feeding off you. I will gradually drain the life out of you, and leave you a dead and empty husk. And you would like that, wouldn’t you?”
“Yes,” Flynn muttered compliantly.
“Yes, you should eat all of me until there is nothing left.” His reflection stared back at him, slack jawed and vacant.
The whites of his eyes were clouded by bubbling peach-colored swirls of viscous alien matter, like tiny ocular lava lamps. There was even a slightly pink tinge to the tear that was sliding down his cheek. Cindy and Richard were standing on either side of him now, watching the scene unfold in eager anticipation. Four drunkards from the information technologies department joined the telemarketing team. The whole group was riveted by the theatrics. The secretarial pool held him in its hungry gaze as the temp with the pastel Bill Blass suit pulled out a pair of orange-handled office scissors and slit open the front of his t-shirt.
“I love playing with my food!” the monster shrilly announced to its admiring sycophants.
The crowd oohed and aahed appreciatively as she used her razor sharp fingernails to shred the rest of his t-shirt before removing it from his body. It was white cotton, the perfect medium for absorbing the blood that had been expressed from the many little abrasions she’d clumsily left on his torso while removing the garment.
When the creature bent down to bite his nipple, Flynn threw his arms around its neck and arched his back to make it easier for the thing to completely devour him. His labored breathing gave way to moaning and trembling with anticipation as he resolved to give himself over to this monster completely. Then he woke up. “Fuck you, bitch!” he screamed at no one in the room.
“I want to live!” “Fuck you, too!” his neighbor screamed back from the apartment above, punctuating the exclamation with a stomp on the floor.
A stream of further expletives followed. They were laced with creative suggestions for what kinds of objects Flynn, and the whore the old man upstairs imagined he must have been banging last night, could unceremoniously shove up their collective ass. Flynn jumped up from the soiled beige frameless futon mattress he called a bed, and ran into the cramped little closet-like bathroom of his tiny apartment. He barely reached the toilet in time to grasp the sides of it and lean his head forward in order to evacuate his meager stomach contents into the bowl. Waves of unrelenting nausea caused him to vomit repeatedly until his stomach was empty. After all of the food was gone, he sat on the floor for another half an hour feeling his throat burn as he dry heaved and spat up stomach acid. He was sick like this a lot lately. Flynn stood up and turned to face the sink. There was no walking necessary… it was about two feet away from the toilet. The room was so small he could extend his arm and touch the plastic curtain of the claustrophobic, coffin-sized shower.
He looked into the mirror in the medicine cabinet. It was about three feet high and two feet wide, bordered with a thin strip of discolored chrome, covered in a film of soap scum, and occasionally dotted with random drops of toothpaste and dried dirty bathwater. He didn’t look so hot. Under his eyes were bags deep enough for a weekend shopping spree. His solemn brown eyes were bloodshot and red-rimmed. His once golden skin was now sallow and jaundiced. His cheeks were the gaunt, his eyes were sunken. He decided he looked like a junkie.
“This shit is killing me,” he told his reflection.
He could still feel pain in his shoulder blade where the witch had impaled his flesh with her claws in the dream. His body hurt in other places, but that was the worst. He lifted his hand and touched the side of his neck. When he pulled away his fingers, they were covered in blood. He stood back from the mirror and observed a dozen tiny lines on his chest, minuscule scabs where she barely grazed the skin, and the blood had already dried. His nipple was still bleeding a little bit, and it was sore when he touched it. Flynn sharply sucked in his breath. He was very shaken up. He was afraid he was going to burst into tears. Pulling himself together, he stumbled into the nearby shower and stripped off his boxer briefs. He tossed them out past the slightly moldy plastic shower curtain with the gaudy tropical fish and seahorses painted on it. They landed inside out, and he shook his head a little when he noticed the stain from last night’s involuntary emission. He turned on the shower and enjoyed the hot water coursing down over his aching flesh. He was exhausted, but he knew he had a doctor’s appointment that morning. He didn’t want to walk into Dr. Lester’s office smelling like jizz, sweat and shame. He tried not to think about his night terrors, but the harder he tried to forget about them, the more persistently they prodded at his waking mind.
Soon, he found himself with a raging boner. It was hard to deny that he did like it rough. Still… that was not something he wanted that nightmare succubus to know and he most certainly had no desire to be eaten alive. Of course, there was a very good chance this succubus creature did not exist. Flynn had begun to doubt his sanity sometime last summer, about a month after the dreams began. His therapist had assured him this monster did not, could not, actually exist. He must be hurting himself somehow in his sleep. The exhaustion must be a sign of his depression. Lots of depressed people felt tired. He would feel better soon, when the medications started working. Dr. Lester had an explanation for everything. She even told him he should not be ashamed of his fantasies, no matter how perverse he might deem them to be. They were only fantasies, and everyone has fantasies. In fact, his fantasies weren’t even all that uncommon. There was no need to be embarrassed by them. With that in mind, he decided it would be very therapeutic to beat off in the shower. Commentary Nyx was impatiently waiting for an answer.
“Plot and scheme?” her son Thanatos, the god of death protested. “We would never.”
“Settle down, brother,” Somnus interrupted. “Mother, it is not his fault. I know what you speak of. It is the work of my son, Brash, and his children. They’ve grown unusually bloodthirsty as of late. I apologize for their behavior.”
“Aaahhh,” his mother said. “I am aware of what you speak of and I appreciate your honesty in this matter. It seems Brash and several of his children have been dissatisfied with their rightful place in the underworld in the Demos Oneiroi and have instead decided to enter the mortal realm and inflict themselves upon the living like some plague or disease.”
“I will speak with them,” Somnus reassured her.
“It has gone beyond that,” Nyx warned.
“They threaten to disrupt the natural order of things and to cause war between myself and those of greater power than even myself. I have decided they must be tested, and punished if necessary.”
“How will you test them?” Somnus asked. Nyx lifted a burdensome scroll to the table and partially unfurled it, revealing a spot in the middle.
It was a map of the Demos Oneiroi, the Greco-Roman mythological realm of dreams. She pointed to a tiny spot on the map with the very tip of her slim, tapered finger. “Do you see that young man there?” she asked, tapping the spot twice.
“Look closely, and you will see him. He is the one begging your granddaughter Mercy for his life.”
“I see him,” Somnus responded. “The fate of the entire line of Brash lies with him.” she said.
“Let’s say that mortal is able to persevere. Let’s say he is able to survive for the short span these fragile creatures are intended to live. Perhaps he will become the progenitor of a bloodline, for offspring are the closest any mortal being comes to immortality. If he is able to thrive, then they shall as well. If not…”
“If not?” Thanatos asked a little too eagerly.
Being the god of death, he had a pleasant feeling about where this might be going. “If not, then as they so envy the mortals, let them be mortal. Let their endless lives, with which they have become so bored and tired, come to an end,” Nyx ordered.
“Let them die, like all the rest.”
“He is my son,” Somnus protested.
“Surely, you will at least allow me to call forth a champion, to protect this mortal upon whose fragile shoulders you place such a heavy burden?”
“Very well,” Nyx relented, after a moment of silent consideration.
“You may, but you must call forth a champion from your own line. More specifically, this champion should be one of Brash’s progeny. To the best of my knowledge they are cruel, brutal and irredeemable, but if you have one with whom you might trust such a charge, name him.”
“Her,” Somnus corrected.
“Happiness. I name her. She will protect him.” Nyx furrowed her brow.
“I have not heard this name before. Who is she?”
“She is a demigoddess,” Somnus explained.
“She is the offspring of the most recent dalliance between Brash and a mortal mistress.” Nyx laughed.
“You mean a demisomnali? To be a demigoddess, she would need to be the child of a god, and surely we are not elevating your wayward son Brash to the same status as you or your brother?”
“Very well,” Somnus conceded, not wishing to offend his mother.
Certain among his thousand sons the Oneiroi were considered gods. Morpheus was the god of dreams, and Phobetor the god of nightmares, for example. Brash would have been the god of erotic nightmares, but he was obscure and had no worshippers. “A demisomnali, as you say. I name her.”
“For their sakes, I hope she’s a great deal gentler than her sisters,” Thanatos remarked.
“They’ve sent many a mortal my way.”

Dead Horse Summer by Sumiko Saulson

Dead Horse Summer

By Sumiko Saulson

The things that frighten us most are those that remind us of our fragile existence and the terrible ways we can die; like the frozen grimaces on the face of a peat bog man or the ashen screams on the faces of a child found under Mount Vesuvius at Pompeii. Kilauea is the most dangerous volcano in the country according to the US Geological Service – yet thousands of tourists walk on it every day, as though nothing bad is ever going to happen there again. My father didn’t think anything bad would happen there in the summer of my twelfth year. We moved to Hawaii from Los Angeles, and after a brief stay with his mother on Kaneohe, on the island of Oahu, we moved to the Big Island, where he’d found cheap land for sale. He took us on a tour of the subdivision, driving us down the pitted and dusty, unpaved and rust colored roads made up of ground down red volcanic rock. The weight of his car bore down onto the already grooved dirt road, deepening the pair of tire tracks left by the vehicles that traveled this way before us.

It was during our first summer when I came across a pathetic festering corpse of a dead horse in Kalapana, on Black Sands Beach. It was lodged within the rough, onyx-colored sands made of lava rock. The sand had only arrived on these shores mere hundreds of years earlier; they were still sharp and rocky, not smoothed by erosion. My toes poked from rubber-heeled plastic thong sandals called zoris. Hard rocks protruded from the sands, and I smashed my heel painfully against one, causing me to shrink back away from it in pain, blood oozing out against hot skin.

I stumbled away from the rock and landed almost directly on the dead horse, partially hidden beneath a palm tree – the kind that grew out of the tide pools, and were bent sharply inland through some natural force. The crook of the low, bent palm hid the corpse until the last moment, and then I saw it. The water had come up over this dead horse several times, and receded, and what the low tide revealed now was skeletal, with a few places where the hide covered partially protruding bone. It didn’t smell. I had the sense that sea creatures had torn away at most of the flesh, leaving bone with flaps of leathery skin waving over it.

Although the horse’s life was gone, the bones were nonetheless reanimated with teeming life of the tidal pool: green slimy mold-like seaweed, plump brown seaweed, happy little hermit crabs in stolen shells with ambitions of making a new home here in the reclaimed corpse of this horse. The creatures were cranking away, creating this whole new aquatic ecosystem.

But I was only twelve, and unconcerned with the joys of the under denizens of this dead horse suburbia. My pre-teen mind would not absorb the entire ecological gestalt of this thing – in my mind, it was gross, disgusting, nastier than stepping in a pile of dookie. I was just a kid, not some teenager in the throes of an experimental philosophical phase where I was interested in examining the brevity of a jaunt with a livid life condescending into a sleepy death in a fantastic realm of either amazing or horrific possibility where even a horse might sleep with the fishes.

I threw death out the window, and instead turned and ran – screaming! Screaming, running, far, far away from the death of horses into the life of a safe public restroom with its comforting public showers.

I left behind pomegranate waving colors of sea stalks taking root in wet spots on yellowing bones in the red rocks covered in rusty blood into the cold concrete square encasings of cubicles, stalls, with closing casket doors but water… hot and cold water, descending in rainy rivulets from the faucet. Warm water and lily-scented shampoo poured over me, enveloping me, caressing me like love. They washed away hard little black pebbles stuck to my heel by hot gushes of blood, and terrible memories of a dead horse, all down the shower drain and back out to sea.

It is a motion the earth itself would repeat over the years, as the lava eventually poured over the beach, the showers, the streets and the houses, destroying them all. Five years later, the angry volcano came to wash it all away, burying the dead horse beach under fifty feet of lava.

A dead horse wouldn’t have angered Pele, for her battle was with Kamapua’a, the wind god, who looked like a man-pig. He was in love with her, and wouldn’t leave her alone. My aunt told me once when we were traveling from Hilo to Kailua-Kona over Saddle Road never to cross Saddle Road with any pork in the car, because it would anger Pele and she would cause the car to stall. We were to throw any ham sandwiches off to the side of the road as an offering to Pele.

My aunt by marriage is Hawaiian and Portuguese, and she was the one who told me about Ka wahine ‘ai honua, Pele, the earth-eating woman. She taught reverence of her heritage and her ancestors. Not all who lived in Kalapana in the time of my Dead Horse respected Pele. My dad is haole. That means stranger but is used for Caucasian. He and his friends grew marijuana, or pakalo. Back then the high quality weed of the area was known as “Puna Butter” because it tasted so smooth. My brother and I were called hapa – meaning half. We were called hapa-haole or hapa-papolo. Papolo, meaning purple, is the name of a plum – we had a tree of these small, very dark purple plums in our yard in Kalapana – they always splattered down on the hood of my daddy’s Lincoln Continential. Papolo was also the name for the color of the plum, and for African American people.

I don’t think that my dad’s friends growing the marijuana awakened Pele, but I could be wrong. The marijuana plants attracted many loud helicopters that were part of the police drug enforcement program called “Green Harvest”. Maybe it was these copters, swarming over the top of the hillside like flies over a rotting guava that disturbed her? They were generating wind against the hillsides. Hawaii legend says that a huge battle over control of this area took place between Pele and Kamapua’a,. Maybe the helicopters made Pele think Kamapua’a was back to sexually harass her or try to pressure his way back into her favorite home?

Or maybe she was awakened by another thing: My dad and his friends hunted wild boars in the forests but they never left any pork for Pele. Maybe if they had, she wouldn’t have grown angry and taken back her land.

I remember a family that painted the lava rocks gold and sold them to tourists, knowing it was considered unlucky to remove them from the island. They lived high on Kilauea, much closer to Halema`uma`u crater, which was supposed to be Pele’s favorite home. Maybe they were the ones who made her angry. They lived in Royal Gardens Subdivision, which was one of the first places to be hit by the volcano in 1982, the same year we moved away to Hilo.

Pele consumed our old home in Kalapana Gardens in 1986, just six months after the last time we came over from Oahu to visit it. By the time I was back again in 1991, so many landmarks of my childhood were gone. I would never go back to visit the Queen’s Bath in Kalapana, a fresh water spring in a collapsed lava tube surrounded by high cliffs from which we used to jump. I remembered it being as big as an Olympic swimming pool and about eight feet deep, but I would never be able to go back there and dive in. I would never find out it would seem smaller because I grew four inches between the age of fourteen when I last swam there, and adulthood.

The half-dozen neighbors we visited in homes that dotted the sparsely spotted Kalapana Gardens subdivision live somewhere else now. The Star of the Sea Painted Church, where I once attended Catholic services with my friend Stacy, had been moved somewhere else to prevent its being swallowed by lava. It is far away from the long-gone beach, where people used to worship amongst the paintings of the famous and sainted father Damien of Molokai doing his work with the lepers. Two girls giggling outside of the church about the number of times the pastor had them stand up and sit back down again, are long grown. The past has been swept away from Kalapana, along with the landmarks of its remembrances.

The beach of my Dead Horse summer is gone. Pele gave us all an eviction notice. The thick jungle smells of wetland underbrush along the ten mile trip between Pahoa High School – where I attended seventh and eighth grade – and Kalapana Gardens continued for the first eight miles as we headed in. All of the lush greenery ended two miles from my old house on Duff Street now, and the lush smells of sunshine and overripe papaya disappeared giving way to lifeless odors of dust and tar. The ground itself was singed and blackened, and within the coal tar colored surface were rifts and breaks, like the top of an overcooked brownie. The whole area looked like it had been left in the oven too long. I knew then I would never again experience the smell of fresh banana nut bread in the little store at Kaimu.

Where I used to live, there is new coastline stretching out a mile and a half into the sea. We walked out on the rocky surface built of the stuff I once cut my heel on. From here on the roads were destroyed. Our car could not pass, so we walked. Pele’s scorched-earth policy removed all of the palm trees, killed all of the sand crabs, and replaced whatever I remembered with this rugged, uneven surface that cracked like a bleeding skin. The colors were all shades of dark gray and black. Only the clear blue sky with its all-too-high clouds far and away in the distance remained the same. We approached the higher elevations from another angle after we returned to the car: there, we would see hot lava still bursting forth from tubes like fireworks in the night sky, thick and red as blood, blood from the heel of a frightened little girl running.

It is a testimony to the lesson of the Dead Horse of my twelfth summer: the uncomfortable knowledge that old things have to die to make way for the new, even if we don’t want them to. The consumption of Kalapana by Pele continues to this day; and during the month of my fortieth birthday, in 2008 there was an explosion at Halema`uma`u crater. Pele finally completely decimated the Royal Gardens subdivision by taking its last house. She covered what remained of my early adolescence in her hair and her tears – balls and strings of lava – which were flung from Halema`uma`u for the first time since 1982. There are five volcanoes on the Island of Hawaii, also known as the Big Island. There are five, but Kilauea is a favorite of Pele and tourists alike.

But by 2009, the US Geological Survey would know that America’s most active volcano was a lot more dangerous than she looked. While there was never a great city the likes of Pompeii to be covered with ash, there was evidence of giant rocks the size of baseballs flung in the air all the way to the shore. The things that frighten us most remind us of our fragile existence and the terrible ways we can die. They make us understand our insignificance.

 

 

*******

alley-cat-books-1

Sumiko Saulson is a science-fiction, fantasy and horror writer. Her works include the reference 60 Black Women in Horror Fiction, novels Solitude, Warmth, The Moon Cried Blood, Happiness and Other Diseases, Somnalia, Insatiable, Ashes and Coffee, three graphic novels, and the short story collection Things That Go Bump in My Head. She writes for the Oakland Art Scene segment of the Examiner.com. She is a native Californian of African American and Russian-Jewish heritage.

Press Release: Crystal Lake Publishing Presents: Tales From The Lake Volume 3

Crystal Lake Publishing has just released Tales From The Lake Volume 3 and includes a story from Sumiko Saulson. Sumiko was the featured author on episode 109 of the horroraddicts.net podcast, she has also written various articles for the horror addicts blog and has an article in The Horror Addicts Guide To Life. Sumiko Saulson’s story is called Enclosures and you can find out more about her here:

https://sumikosaulson.com/

The TALES FROM THE LAKE legend continues with volume 3 in this popular series.

Dive into the deep end of the lake with 19 tales of terror, selected by Monique Snyman.

31437640Tales from the Lake Vol. 3 features ghosts, monsters, assassins, alternate dimensions, creatures from the deepest depths and the darkest parts of the universe.

Join “Maybelle” by Mere Joyce in a world where books become real enough to cause both pleasure and pain. Avoid the sounds of “The Cruel” by Harper Hull, lest you want to come to a terrifying end. Travel across the world to see what terrors lurk in an abandoned hospital with “Hush” by Sergio Pereira.

This non-themed horror anthology is filled with suspenseful stories, terrifying thrillers, tragic tales, mystifying mysteries, and memorable adventures that will leave you wanting more. Let these modern urban legends prickle your imagination, share it around a campfire, and revel in the magic of Crystal Lake’s exceptional authors.

The Owl Builder by D. Morgan Ballmer
Tragedy Park by Chris Pearce
Enclosures by Sumiko Saulson                            Woe Violent Water by Lily Childs
The Cruel by Harper Hull
Red Scream with Little Smile by Paul Edmonds
Maybelle by Meredith Cleversey writing as Mere Joyce
Rodent in the Red Room by Matt Hayward
The Deeper I Go The Deeper I Fear by Natalie Carroll
The Pigmalion Pigs by Mark Allan Gunnells
Chemical Oasis by Tommy B. Smith
Hush by Sergio Pereira
The Reaper’s Fire by Kenneth W. Cain
Effigy by Kate Jonez
Scents of Fear by Steve Jenner
The Bet by Amy Grech
A Hand from the Depths by Dave-Brendon de Burgh
The Monster of Biscayne Bay by Roxanne Dent
The Song at the Edge of the Unfinished Road by Patrick Bates

Foreword by the editor, Monique Snyman.

Proudly represented by Crystal Lake Publishing.

“A solid anthology representing the best in horror fiction, with tales that will stay with you for some time.” — Ben Eads, author of, Cracked Sky

download


Links:
Amazon:
http://getbook.at/Lake3
Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31437640-tales-from-the-lake-vol-3

http://www.crystallakepub.com/

Bad Egg by Sumiko Saulson

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 Bad Egg by Sumiko Saulson

 

       Susan Dunphy sniffed and frowned as she crossed the foyer. A putrid stench oozed into the room. It was the unmistakable stench of a rotten egg. She began to panic! Her persnickety mother-in-law was on the way over. The source of the odor must be found and eliminated immediately. Rushing under the arched doorway into the kitchen, she investigated the contents of the garbage. She wrinkled her nose and waved her arms
theatrically as she hysterically tore through the inlaid cabinets. She still couldn’t find it. The foul emanation must be coming from somewhere!
      Visits from the mother-in-law seemed to have a negative effect on Susan’s mental state. Like the Humpty Dumpty in the old nursery rhyme, she was cracking up, and no knights in shining armor were on hand to put Susan Dunphy together again. Her father passed away last year; her benevolent father-in-law the year before that. Now it was just her, her overworked husband Andrew, and her cantankerous mother-in-law Rachel.
      In a sing-song rhyme, she crooned to herself and to no one in particularly; “I sweep all this. I dust and whisk. Her deadly ire, I dare not risk.” It was either a paranoid ranting or an ill-conceived warding spell to prevent her mother-in-law from locating any
hidden dust bunnies to bitch about.
     To make matters worse, the ball of her foot was beginning to ache. She remembered stepping on one of the neighbor kid’s jacks while wearing her house shoes out on the driveway earlier.  “The fetid thing is not in the kitchen,” a hissing voice in the back of her head warned. Susan trembled. She heard these voices more frequently lately. They were often accurate in their predictions. When she was young, she thought they were aspects of herself.
  She attributed them to some sort of innate, hereditary psychic powers. Her mother had them, too. That was before her father had her mother locked up in a mental hospital and put on a regular schedule of heavy medication. Whatever her mother told her about them
was probably a symptom of her psychosis and not to be believed. Besides, they weren’t always right. She did her best to ignore the voice.
     Next, she systematically sorted through the fresh goods in the refrigerator. Some of them were no longer so fresh. The refrigerator was home to a few different questionable aromas, although none as nauseating as the unidentified sewer-stench. She tossed out a moldy cabbage and threw a quarter pound of questionable lasagna down the
garbage disposal.
      On the bottom shelf of the refrigerator was a pair of blue foam egg cartons. She carefully opened it and looked inside. After examining each egg to make sure it fully cooked and smelled fresh, she closed the cartoons and the refrigerator door.
She walked over to the kitchen, washed her hands, and proceeded to a cup of bleach and a quarter cup of dishwashing soap into the garbage disposal to make sure nothing was festering in there.
    She was about to run the hot water and the disposal when a loud noise in the living room startled her. Bright lights began flashing in the narrow arch that separated the kitchen from living room. She ran into the other room to see what was going on.
    The television had turned itself on. “Damn cats!” Susan shouted. “You keep stepping on the remote!” Then she remembered she’d let the cats out so they wouldn’t interfere with her cleaning.
     “Ishtar!” a red-faced televangelist shouted from the big screen television. The man’s face was enormous on the 60-inch screen Andrew picked up last Christmas.
    “It’s not Easter, it’s Ishtar, a Babylonian fertility goddess, and you’re worshipping her, you with your eggs and your bunnies.”
    “You’ve got to be kidding me right now!” Susan screamed, running up to the television. The man’s face was distorted, monstrous. She watched in fascination as a single bead of sweat traveled over the pitted acne scars in his rosacea-spotted cheeks. She pressed the button over and over again, but it wouldn’t turn off.
    “It must sting, having your mother-in-law come here with all of her brats when you can’t give her any grandchildren…,” the man on the television sneered, looking right at her. The sweat bead fell into a crevice alongside one of his varicose veined nostrils.
     “Shut up!” she howled at the man, hunting around for the remote. “Go away!”
      “All of Andrew’s nieces and nephews will be hunting for the eggs,” the man on the television taunted.
      “You can’t know my name!” she shrieked, leaning behind the television and unplugging it. “Go to hell! And take the rest of the voices with you!”
    She decided the cats were probably the source of the terrible odor. She marched right into the bathroom, ready to empty the litterbox. She’d just emptied it yesterday, but you could never be careful enough, especially now that they were eating the wet food.
    She dumped the box into the little trashcan in the bathroom, pulled out the bag and tied it in the knot. She was dragging it through the living room when the television came back on.
     “Yours are the bad eggs!” the ruddy-faced old man bellowed from behind the screen.
      “They’re broken wide open now, your ruined eggs, rotten and stinking inside of your barren carcass.”
      “Shut the hell up, douchebag!” Susan screamed, pressing the button on the front of the television over and over again until it finally turned off. She didn’t have time for this madness! She had to get the garbage bag out before it burst open. Afraid it might rip, she hoisted it up into her arms.
    “The bag isn’t what’s bursting!” the vulgar man on the television shouted. How the hell did it turn back on again? Hadn’t she unplugged it? She leaned over to look behind it, trash still in her arms like a baby, the man still lecturing…
     “It’s you, Susan!” he rambled on. “You’re where the bad eggs are hidden! Dead and putrid, excreting themselves from your body as pus, a toxic sweat expressing they through itself through your skin.”
    The television set was unplugged. A terrified Susan spun around on one heel and hauled ass towards the door.
    “You’re the root out the rot!” he screamed, his voice following after Susan as she fled through the front door. She damned near ran smack into Rachel, her mother-in-law, as she stood poised to press her finger on the doorbell.
    “Good afternoon, Mrs. Dunphy,” Susan calmly greeted her mother-in-law. “You caught me a little off-guard. I had no idea how late it had gotten. I was still taking out the trash. Come in and have a seat.” Susan carefully lowered the trash bag so it sat unobtrusively at her him, and walked out to the front yard looking as composed as she was able to.
    “Can I help you with that?” Rachel asked, gesturing towards the garbage bag.
    ”No,” Susan answered meekly. “I’ve got it. I can take the trash out.” She started out towards the trash room, but her foot was really starting to bother her now, and Rachel was looking at her funny.

    “Are you okay?” her mother-in-law asked. She was following her around the corner to the trash room. Resigned, Susan let her accompany her. There was a door on the trash room to keep out the raccoons. She shoved it open and walked over to the row of metal trashcans. They all reeked worse than the bag in her hand. She lifted the lid and dropped the bag into the closest can. She hoped her ordeal was finally over…

 

 

    I’m fine,” Susan said mildly, heading out of the trash room back to her living room. “Something smelled just awful, and I had to get rid of it before you got here. I know you and Andrew like a tidy house!”

     She continued into the kitchen, smiling vacantly. The television was still blaring, but it didn’t bother her. She took a seat on the couch and removed her house slipper. She began rubbing the sole of her aching foot. She could feel a big blister coming up at the heel. She kneaded it with her fingers.

     Suddenly, she noticed that Rachel was staring at her, mouth wide open. “What’s wrong?” Susan asked
    “It’s… it’s just the smell,” Rachel said, putting her hand over her mouth. She was beginning to gag. “It’s just awful. Oh God, Susan! Look at your foot!”
    “What about it?” Susan mumbled, stunned. In a state of shock. She looked down at the blister. It was under sheer stockings, so she stores
open her hose with long fingernails.
    She found it! There it was, pulsating on the bottom of her foot. She shoved down on it with her finger. “Ow!” she cried, “it hurts!”
    She pressed down a little harder, and puss began to ooze out. There was something in the puss, something black and slithering, alive. She could feel it moving inside of her. It was sliding out like, the man on the TV said it would!
    Susan could hear sounds coming from nearby. After a moment, she realized it was Rachel, screaming and vomiting. But she couldn’t pay her hateful mother-in-law any mind. She was busy. It was finally happening. At long last, she was giving birth.
********
sumiko armbandSumiko Saulson a horror, sci-fi and dark fantasy writer. Her novels include “Solitude,” “Warmth”, and “Happiness and Other Diseases.” She is the author of the Young Adult horror novella series “The Moon Cried Blood”, and short story anthology “Things That Go Bump in My Head.” Born to African-American and Russian-Jewish parents, she is a native Californian, and has spent most of her adult life in the Bay Area. She is a horror blogger and journalist

An interview with L.C. Cruell

I recently had a chance to talk to L.C. Cruell who has worked on such independent horror movies as 31 and Cemetery Tales. She is currently working on a new horror anthology called 7 Magpies which features some writers who we have showcased at HorrorAddicts.net in the past:

When did you start writing?

31_PosterLoResSMALLWhen I was but a wee lass. I lived in the country, so we spent a lot of time outside making up games and adventures and trying to see if we could spin at just the right speed and angle to turn into Wonder Woman. I think my very first story was called Strawberry Fields. About a cat named Strawberry who lived in a Field. As you can see my subversive tendencies had yet to make an appearance.

What were your biggest influences?

Films like 2001, The Shining, Star Wars (the originals), Indiana Jones, The Thing (80s), Tank Girl, and lots of great J-Horror, Euro-Horror, and Indie-Horror. Authors like Asimov, Pohl, Atwood, Shakespeare, and King. And, honestly, a lot of non-fiction. I was that level of geek that read encyclopedias for fun. I just fundamentally love knowledge, learning about new places, people, ideas, and possibilities. So, of course I loved all things history, sociology, anthropology, folklore, neurology, physics, astronomy, I just loved all of it. Still do. At my core, I feel that we’re here to learn as much as we can, grow, and then give back, create something new to add to the universe.

What got you interested in horror?

Horror, supernatural, fantasy, sci-fi, all deal with hypotheses and possibilities. They ask questions that start with, “What if…” Those are my favorite kinds of questions. Sometimes, they lead you to mind-blowing places, other times to dark, disturbing, places of warning. Both are intriguing to explore.MV5BMjMyMzc2NTY3NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzA5NjExNzE@._V1_

Could you tell us about your webseries 31?

31 is a supernatural horror/thriller told in 31, 31-second-long cliffhanger episodes about a character that wakes up in darkness and realizes she’s trapped, sealed in a box. She fights to get out only to discover that what lay outside the box is far worse. She has no memory and no ID besides the number “31” branded into her skin. It was initially released as a web event with episodes dropping everyday for 31 straight days at 3:31 each day.

The idea hit me in late September when I was looking forward to the upcoming 31 days of horror movies in October. It was such a trial-by-fire growth experience, as both a writer and director. I had to develop character, move the plot forward, generate suspense, and end on a cliffhanger all in just a ½ page of script! And then do it again, 31 times!!! Every word mattered. Then each episode had to be 31 seconds long, which meant we were in editing cutting down to the frame because every second mattered. It was pure insanity, but somehow it worked. The idea and the script got a lot of people excited so a lot of very talented people jumped on board and helped make it great. We shot it in 2 ½ days for $390 and released it 2 months later- also insane. We didn’t have any money for PR so it was all word of mouth and critical-acclaim. We got dozens of rave reviews and since had international festival selections and wins, Con invitations, YT partnership, and 9 different distribution deals with new subscribers and views everyday.

I’ve developed a pilot version. We’ll see where it goes. (It’s so bloody hard to break in to Hollywood from the outside.) But, I loved every moment of it!

Could you tell us about Cemetery Tales?

Cemetery Tales came about when one of the other directors came to me about putting together an anthology of short films by Atlanta directors. We did an Indiegogo campaign mainly to make ensure that we had the same great DP, Audio Sup, and Editor throughout. The stories are loosely tied together with a death theme and a wraparound I co-wrote. By the time it was finished I was one of the producers and came up with the idea of changing the name from it’s earlier Tales From Morningview Cemetery to Cemetery Tales. My segment I Need You is about a family that’s let the minutiae of life distract them from the act of living, and a house that may or may not eat people.

Because my writing comes from exploring issues and questions, there is always some deeper sociological, scientific, spiritual, supernatural, what have you, idea being explored. Otherwise, I’m not sure what the point would be, you know?

 

Where did the idea for Seven Magpies come from?

I LOVE horror anthologies. I’ve seen all the reruns of all the horror anthology shows from 60s, 70s, and 80s and all the films like Creepshow and even the old British films where in the end everyone realized they were already dead or in hell or something. So, I was so excited when ABC’s and VHS and all the others came along and made anthologies cool again. (Seriously, you couldn’t even pitch something with the word “anthology” before then. I know, I tried.) And as they kept coming, even XX, the all female-directed one, I noticed there were no black women directors, but honestly didn’t think much of it at the time. Until I started to see articles and posts even in my own women horror directors group asking if there were such a thing as black female horror directors.

I was stunned. It had simply never occurred to me that anyone would think there was a space in the world that was not occupied by people from any and every group. What could my gender or race possibly tell you about my relationship with horror, or with anything really? I don’t write characters with race in mind, but I don’t assume they’re all white or black either. They’re just people. We’re just people.

I know it sounds hard to believe but growing up in a small town where everyone knows you for being you made me horribly naïve about this kind of thing for a long time, but eventually I began to realize that “Perception is Reality.” Especially, in Hollywood, which, honestly, if I had known the depth of that town’s issues with gender, diversity, nepotism, and just general restrictiveness, I might have made different choices. A creative’s life journey is hard enough without all that BS. They don’t see us, so they don’t believe we exist, so they don’t think to hire or include us, so others don’t see us and the whole stupid loop just continues. “7 Magpies” is, I suppose, my way of yelling, “We are here! We are here! We are here!” Then after they see us and perceive us, we can all get on with the business of making great films together. Oh and this article helped a lot too:

https://thedissolve.com/features/exposition/916-horrors-scariest-trend-is-the-nonexistent-black-fi/

What are the stories that will be involved in the movie?

They’re so cool. It all takes place one sultry Southern summer when the Magpies (7 birds, 3 women) come to town. The structure is based on (and the stories were chosen to fit) the poem “One for Sorrow” –
One for sorrow,
Two for mirth,
Three for a wedding,
Four for a birth,
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret,
Never to be told
The poem along with all the lore and superstitions regarding magpies made it kind of perfect. In the screenplay I adapted stories by Sumiko Saulson, Tananarive Due, Eden Royce, Linda D. Addison, Valjeanne Jeffers, Crystal Connors, and Paula D. Ashe. There are threads woven throughout that unite them all and a wraparound that connects them as well but yeah, great stuff.

 

When will shooting begin? 

seven-magpies

I’m hoping late summer. As soon as we find the right money people to come on board, we’ll dive right into pre-pro. The script, pitch package, everything is ready. The rough budget is $1M with no “names,” but with 7 strong, stellar roles for African-American woman, I’m pretty sure we can get a few names.

What is the hardest part of putting together a production like 7 Magpies?

It certainly wasn’t a lack of eagerness by the participants. Every writer and director I chose enthusiastically jumped on board. The only issue now is funding. Like anyone coming from outside Hollywood in not just location but gender, race, lack of connections, anything that makes you an outsider, the hardest part is getting this great script/idea that directors, audiences, and actors are exited to be a part of to the people who can actually greenlight something. It is not easy. Most gatekeepers do not welcome new names and faces. But, if any such person is reading right now, call me! We’ll find a way. This is too important. It is not just about widening the audiences for the authors or launching the careers of the directors to the next level but of changing that perception and opening those doors for everyone.

Where can we find out more about this production?

@The7Magpies

@GraveyardSister

www.facebook.com/7MagpiesMovie

What other projects are you involved in?

Good god. Everything I can do to get noticed? I just finished shooting Flesh, a thriller that was chosen LCCbiopic.jpg.w180h259for fiscal sponsorship by From the Heart Productions, a 23 year old non-profit, because they believe it will have a positive impact on society and the industry. Seriously, they’re all docs, dramas, and my little horror/suspense/thriller. But that goes back to the ‘everything I write having a message/question woven through it’ thing. I did the same thing as before, wrote a script strong enough to get incredible talent on board. It’s a short that stands on its own but is also the first 15 minutes of the feature version. Mistresses of HorrorTM is a brand with over 10 directors attached that I’m trying to start for any media project from movies to comics that provides “great horror, by women, for everyone.” Cemetery Tales is on the festival circuit now. I have pilots for 31 along with 2 others (The Four and Neph). And I’m currently marketing scripts The Sitter, Crimson, and The Burning (director attached; location secured), among others. In a perfect world, one project scores, and then all the rest tumble through to create that 15-year-in-the-making overnight success story and the names Cruell and Cruell World Productions become synonymous with great horror/genre features, shows, episodes, etc. The name fits. And I’ll do my best. We’ll what happens next.

For more information on L.C. Cruell check out:

http://www.cruellworld.com/

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3145405/

https://vimeo.com/158551687

David’s Haunted Library: Two From Sumiko Saulson

60-black-women-in-horrorIn honor of Black History month I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about two books by Sumiko Saulson. The first one is 60 Black Women in Horror Fiction. This book is a compilation of interviews, essays and biographies of Black Women horror writers. Some of the writers featured in this book include Octavia Butler, L.A. Banks, Tananarive Due and many more.

I feel this is an important book because it gives writers exposure. Writers have to work hard at their craft and its hard for them to get the attention they deserve. There are more writers out there than readers and it’s too easy for a good writer to go unnoticed. 60 Black Women in Horror Fiction  shows that there are some great Black women horror writers out there. I only knew a handful of the writers in this book and after the in-depth interviews and short stories collected here, I found some new writers that I need to add to my to be read list.

This book starts with biographies and pictures of several writers and then gets into interviews with Linda Addison, Jemiah Jefferson and Eden Royce to name a few. One of my favorites parts of this book was how some of the writers talk about how women horror writers get treated differently than their male counterparts and there aren’t as many.  In the case of A.L. Peck she states that she doesn’t know why there aren’t more female horror writers and  she wants to change that.

There is also a great interview with Jemiah Jefferson where she talks about the hardships of finishing a novel while putting up with health issues, a stressful job and financial issues. This book doesn’t just give you a new perspective on what Black Women horror writers have to go through to get their work out to the public, it gives you a new appreciation for writers in general.  60 Black Women in Horror Fiction shows you what Black Women horror writers have to offer and  gives a glimpse of what goes on in the mind of a horror writer.

downloadAnother book I want to talk about is Insatiable by Sumiko Saulson. This is the third book in the Somnalia series but it does work as a stand alone novel. This book centers on Charlotte who is the goddess of erotic dreams and her sister Mercy who has been reincarnated and now has a death cult that is on a killing spree. Charolotte has tried to turn a blind eye but if Mercy continues on like she is  it could have disastrous results for all the gods in the Demos Oneiroi.

The thing I liked most about Insatiable was how the reincarnation works in the story. All of the characters have had past lives and when they come back again in another form, they’re still associated with the ones they loved in the past. At the heart of this book is a love story, but it’s not the kind of love story that you are probably used to. Insatiable looks at people who have more than one romantic relationship with several different people. The relationships seem to work though.

Insatiable has some great characters, they all have complex relationships and how they act towards each other is what makes the book interesting. There are also some moments of great horror here as we get into Mercy’s death cult and the things they do. This book made me think of a therapy session as you get into the head of several characters and find out why they are the way they are. Charlotte’s husband Flynn comes across as such a nice guy and a bit of a doormat who needs Charlotte more than she needs him. Despite his issues in this story we see him act like a hero at times.  We also have Phobetor who is driven by jealousy and power but comes across as compassionate and shows how complex he is.

Sumiko Saulson writes horror novels aimed at intellectuals. There isn’t a lot of action or suspense in this book but there is a lot of great complex characters and it was interesting watching them interact with each other. The story also creates a new spin on an old mythology and shows how a mythological family could exist. Sumiko’s books are different from most horror novels out there. Insatiable is a character driven story that comes across as a philosophy text-book at times. If you like books that make you think then give this one a try.

http://sumikosaulson.com/

Heroes of Black Horror History: The Inimitable Tony Todd By Sumiko Saulson

Heroes of Black Horror History: The Inimitable Tony Todd

By Sumiko Saulson

 

My first exposure to the versatile and prolific Tony Todd was in 1990, when he starred as Ben Jones in the remake of George A. Romero’s 1968 horror classic “Night of the Living Dead.” Too young to have seen the original performance by Duane Jones, Todd’s take on the role was indelibly etched in my mind moving forward. My budding infatuation with Tony Todd became a full-fledged love affair two years later, when he acted in what many consider his career-defining film, “Candyman.”

Not having seen the original “Night of the Living Dead” until well after I watched the reboot, my first exposure to black representation in horror films had instead been the second in the Romero series of zombie films, “Dawn of the Dead.” In it, Ken Foree starred as the musclebound action hero type character Peter Washington. I was only ten years old, but I loved and rooted for its hero. Like many African Americans, I was proud to see such a positive portrayal of a black man in horror.

Watching Tony Todd in the 1990 remake of “Night of the Living Dead” was a much different experience. By then, I was a twenty-two year old woman and immune to neither an actor nor a character’s sex appeal. Ben Jones as portrayed by the unusually tall and thin Tony Todd, who is 6’5, was not a powerful man of action, but a soft-spoken, thoughtful character that remained poised and dignified in the most unusual and dire of circumstances.

Although both films are about humans trying to survive a zombie outbreak, unlike the action packed “Dawn of the Dead,” “Night of the Living Dead” spends a lot of time with its main characters in hiding or isolation. Ben Jones and Barbara Hamilton, a young white woman portrayed Patricia Tallman who is attacked by a horde of zombies at her parents’ gravesite at the start of the film, first discover and then gradually begin to rely on each other. Ben is a sensitive, soft-spoken character whose demeanor goes against stereotypical portrayals of black men. He rarely loses his temper, even when faced with racism on top of adversity. Along with other characters, the two struggle to survive against unfavorable odds by keeping their wits. Brains and calm and collected mind become more important than brawn and weaponry. Ben’s upbeat attitude in the face of tragedy gives the film heart. Because the Barbara character has more agency in this version than in the original, the Ben character is less the clear-cut protagonist of this film and Barbara’s role is more active and central.

After Candyman came out, I wasn’t the only one swooning over Tony Todd. His portrayal of the story’s iconic urban legend inspired title character was both nuanced and provocative. The movie was written by British horror master Clive Barker and directed by fellow Englishman Bernard Rose. Its subject matter, however, was distinctly American. Set against the backdrop of Chicago’s Cabrini-Green Public Housing Projects, it tells the tale of Helen Lyle, a white graduate student portrayed by Virginia Madsen who is investigating the true histories behind urban legends.

Despite the presence of a central white or white-passing character (the character is allegedly a distant descendant of Candyman), the backstory’s premise is steeped in the history slavery and the restoration. Most of the supporting cast is African American, including Helen’s bestie, Vanessa Williams, played by Anne-Marie McCoy, and Helen’s Cabrini information source Bernadette “Bernie” Walsh, played by Kasi Lemmons. There are several other key African American characters and a wealth of lesser or background characters.

None of the characters, including the protagonist, steal the show in quite the way Tony Todd’s charismatic and frequently sympathetic villain Candyman does. The brooding bad man approaches Helen in a provocative and often flirtatious manner, imploring her to understand the dark history of injustice and terror that lead to his monstrous afterlife. His deeply resonant voice is seductive and haunting. His character evokes such pity and empathy in the viewer that even as a villain, he could be considered a Byronic hero. When pleading fails, Candyman resorts to threats and bargaining. Helen is the hero and the catalyst for the story, but Candyman is clearly its star. In spite of this, and his stand out performance, Todd didn’t win any awards (he was nominated for one, “Fangoria”), while Virginia Madsen won three.

From the start of his acting career, Tony Todd seemed poised for the world of speculative fiction. Although “Night of the Living Dead” was his first starring role, his motion picture debut was as Barrington in the 1986 fantasy “Sleepwalk,” about a Chinese manuscript with mystical powers. Fantasy and horror weren’t his only speculative acting roles. Some of you will remember his appearances on sci-fi television program “Star Trek: The Next Generation” as Worf’s younger brother, Kurn.

Todd is often cast in villain roles, and horror is the genre he is most solidly associated with. He played the villain Grange in 1994’s classic dark fantasy film, “The Crow,” starring the ill-fated Brandon Lee, who died during production. The movie, based on a dark super hero comic book, contained many elements of horror. Grange, a gangster, is merely a henchman of the main villain Top Dollar. However, in classic Tony Todd character style, Grange is the one who discovers that the crow is the source of hero Eric Draven’s powers.

His characters often have dark mystical knowledge, even when they are neutral, or on the side of good. William Bludworth, his character in the “Final Destination” series, is a coroner who has some special magical knowledge of how death (the entity, not the action) operations. Like Grange, William Bludworth can be considered somewhat problematic as a cinematic trope known as the “magical black character.” These are token black mystics who use their special magical knowledge to aid the story’s white protagonists (or in the case of Grange, villain). However, he is a notable character in the series by virtue of being the only repeating character besides Clear Rivers, the original protagonist (played by Ali Larter) to appear in more than one film. Since death never appears in the flesh in the movies, the Bludworth character acts as an anchor for its personification, performing as a medium or mystic of sorts. He appears in more than half of the movies.

The movie “Candyman” spawned two sequels, Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (1995) and Candyman: Day of the Dead (1999).  While “Farewell to the Flesh” was well-received and succeeded as a sequel, it lost much of the Afrocentrism of the original 1992 Candyman film. Fay Hauser as Pam Carver plays a significant enough role to prevent Todd from being the token black actor, but the significant decrease in black actors in both speaking and background roles makes certain elements of the backstory a bit more problematic.

In the story, Candyman originally existed as a free black man Daniel Robitaille.  He was an artist and the son of a slave. His eternal torment is the result of having been tortured, maimed, and murdered by a white mob for sleeping with a white plantation owner’s daughter whose portrait he had been commissioned to paint and getting her pregnant. Candyman’s central targets as victims are women who are descend from his bloodline.

The story becomes increasingly problematic with each sequel as the viewer begins to wonder why these descendants of Candyman’s biracial daughter are predominately white. By the third film, one begins to wonder why the blonde starlet (Donna D’Errico) is the descendant instead of her black girlfriend Tamara (played by Alexia Robinson). In a seeming effort to relieve the second movie’s lack of color, the third film takes on a Day of the Dead theme, a series of Latino secondary characters, and a new Los Angeles location. None of this saves the movie, which is by far the worse of the three. Some of the other acting performances were so bad that not even Tony Todd could save it, and it ultimately killed the franchise.

Although these are his best-known horror series, Tony Todd’s notoriety as a horror actor has landed him a number of parts both large and small over the years. He played a parody of himself as an obnoxious, entitled actor in two episodes of the television show “Holliston” entitled “Candyman.” Some of this other movie roles include Ruber in “Dead of the Nite,” a story of ghosts, ghost hunting, and murder; Reverend Zombie in “Hatchet II,” and Reverend Abraham Stockton in “The Graves.”

Tony Todd remains very active in acting and other pursuits and at 61 years of age, is still widely regarded as a sex symbol. He was a voice actor in a 2015 animated treatment of “Night of the Living Dead” subtitled “Darkest Dawn.” Other 2015 forays into horror for the busy actor included Eddie in “Frankenstein,” Detective Johnson in “Scream At The Devil,” Dr. Murphy in  “Agoraphobia,” and the pastor in “Live/Evil.” “Frankenstein” was written and directed by Bernard Rose, co-wrote and directed “Candyman.” Tony Todd also keeps up his creepy bad guy image with a recurring role in the television series “The Flash” as Zoom, an arch-villain who is kind of the anti-Flash. He stars as Detective Sommers in the horror film “Zombie,” currently in post-production.

In addition to his successful movie career, Todd has a substantial history in both Broadway and off-Broadway theater. His onstage credits include Donkeyman in Athol Fugard’s “The Captain’s Tiger,” the title role in August Wilson’s “King Hedley II,” and Reuben Tate in “Zooman and the Sign.” He continues to be active in theater, and is currently starring in Jack Megna’s “Ghost in the House,” a historical piece about Jack Johnson (March 31, 1878 – June 10, 1946), the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion. A victim of Jim Crow laws, the boxer convicted of violating the Mann act in 1913 for traveling with a white woman across state lines for “immoral purposes,” despite a lack of evidence. One of Tony Todd’s personal causes is working with other celebrities to ask President Obama to issue a posthumous pardon to Jack Johnson for his unjust imprisonment.

 

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sumiko armband

Sumiko Saulson a horror, sci-fi and dark fantasy writer. Her novels include “Solitude,” “Warmth”, and “Happiness and Other Diseases.” She is the author of the Young Adult horror novella series “The Moon Cried Blood”, and short story anthology “Things That Go Bump in My Head.” Born to African-American and Russian-Jewish parents, she is a native Californian, and has spent most of her adult life in the Bay Area. She is a horror blogger and journalist

Intro to Celebrating Black Horror History

HorrorAddicts Black History Month

Intro to Celebrating Black Horror History

By Sumiko Saulson

60-black-women-in-horrorI’m proud to be the host of “Celebrating Black Horror History” during the month of February 2016. I would like to invite you, dear reader, to join us for an entire month of guest blogs, interviews, and offerings from the usual delightful staff here at HorrorAddicts.net that honor, highlight and celebrate the current and historical contributions members of the African Diaspora have made to the horror genre. I am excited to have so many talented guest contributors who are themselves, quite accomplished.  They include bestselling author Balogun Ojetade, Bram Stoker award winner Linda D. Addison, the prolific Crystal Connor and Kai Leaks, award-winning author Valjeanne Jeffers,  and many others.

As the author of 60 Black Women in Horror, I am no stranger to the subject of where black people stand in relation to the horror genre.  In fact, I first came into contact with HorrorAddicts back in 2013, when I was working on that very project as an ambassador for Women in Horror Month. David Watson’s 2012 article on African American horror writers was one of my reference materials when I was doing research for 60 Black Women in Horror.

This month, we will be looking at not only at authors, but black contributors to all aspects of the horror genre. We will cover topics as diverse as Lori Titus’ exploration of Black Women in Horror Comics, Eden Royce’s look at Southern Conjure Magic’s Contribution to Horror – the Realities versus the Fictitious, and James Goodridge’s  take on Real World Zombies.

We will look at the black presence (and sometimes, lack thereof) in horror films with Balogun Ojetade’s article on Early Black Horror Films of the 40s and 50s, Alicia McCalla’s perspective on Sembene in Penny Dreadful, Joslyn Corvis’s treatise on Tales from the Hood, James Goodridge’s personal perspective essay On the Dearth of Black Characters in Horror Movies, my piece From Producer to Actor: Wesley Snipes’ contribution to the Blade Franchise, Paula Ashe’s Sister My Sister: An Open Love Letter to Abby and Jenny Mills from Sleepy Hollow, and my look at Horror Legend Tony Todd.

The black presence in horror writing will also be a topic of discussion from both the author and the sumiko-blog-photocharacter points of view, with Linda D Addison’s Genesis: The First Black Horror Writers,  Kai Leaks’ essay on Author L.A. Banks’ Contribution to Horror, Bret Alexander Sweet’s Magical Realism in Toni Morrison (Beloved, Sulu, Song of Solomon), Kenesha Williams’s piece on Author Tananarive Due’s Contribution to Horror, Valjeanne Jeffers’s piece on Author Octavia Butler’s Contribution to Horror, Crystal Connor’s piece on The Inclusion of Black History in Speculative Fiction, and Nicole Kurtz ‘s article on The Representation of Black Women in The Dark Tower.

I hope you will enjoy the upcoming month of black history in horror features. Thank you for joining us.

********

Sumiko Saulson’s blog “Things That Go Bump In My Head” focuses on horror fiction writing and features author interviews, writing advice, short stories and editorial pieces. She is the author of two novels in the science fiction and horror genres, “Solitude,” and “Warmth”, and a Young Adult dark fantasy series, “The Moon Cried Blood”, which was originally a novel.  Her fourth novel “Happiness and Other Diseases” will be released October 18, 2014.  She is also the author of a short story anthology “Things That Go Bump In My Head”.  She writes for the Oakland Art Scene for the Examiner.com. A published poet and writer of short stories and editorials, she was once profiled in a San Francisco Chronicle article about up-and-coming poets in the beatnik tradition. The child of African American and Russian-Jewish American parents, she is a native Californian, and was born and spent her early childhood in Los Angeles, moving to Hawaii, where she spent her teen years, at the age of 12. She has spent most of her adult life living in the San Francisco Bay Area. http://sumikosaulson.com/

Ghosts In Bones: Release party and Book Signing

Ghosts in Bones Release Party:

Sunday, August 16
4:00pm – 7:00pm at The Dark Entry:
2589 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley, California 94704
Come celebrate the release of Ghosts in Bones, There WILL be cupcakes.
Sumiko Saulson, deTraci Regula, and Elva Nelson-Hayes will be reading from their books as well.

BookCoverPreview-3

Summary:

The main theater of crime in Ghosts in Bones is a forsaken kitchen. It’s where most of the attacks on the body take place. (The body itself is no longer our protagonist, Pallas’s, true home.) It’s complicated because, while our clever and intuitive Pallas may want some mysteries solved, she doesn’t want The Beast, her internal captor, sentenced and gone. She is a possibly- perimenopausal ciswoman, and people wonder why she isn’t over her anorexia yet. It is a misunderstood, stigmatized, and lethal disease against which she has no insurance, so obtaining treatment seems unlikely. The ever-sabotaging beast—her eating disorder personified—is happy about that.

Pallas’s loved ones grow increasingly worried. Her partner, Anatoliy, is her biggest enabler, and her best friend, tattooed cat priestess Audra, isn’t having any of it. Audra, along with Pallas’s outpatient therapist, Tula, are up against a lot-—our protagonist also struggles with PTSD, bipolar disorder, and anxiety. Determined to get her accepted inpatient, Audra and the therapist connect with the desperate mother of another adult anorexic. Will Pallas eventually vanquish her beast?

Serena Toxicat scratches out dark fiction, lyrics, and poetry in English and in French. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies and has been published by Greenery, Feral House, Les Editions du Rocher, and other presses. She currently lives under the reign of her two cats, Isis (now in spirit) and Selket.

Reviews:

On the surface Pallas is a carefree, creative and beautiful woman. But the ‘beast’ that lurks in her mind tells a different story. ‘Ghosts In Bones’ shares the stark and terrifying truth about living as an adult with an eating disorder. The torrid confusion caused by this debilitating mental illness is evident, and Serena (as Pallas) lays this out with courage and honesty. Despite recent advances in the understanding of eating disorders, it is clear from her suffering and difficulties accessing appropriate treatment with state insurance that so much more needs to be done. This is an eye-opening book.
—Cate Sangster – author of ‘Ed Says U Said‘ and ‘Food to Eat

Ghosts in Bones is a phenomenal and brave story that takes the reader on a journey to the depths of the eating disorder darkness.
—Grace Summer – author of ‘I Will Not Give Up On My Daughter

To buy:
https://www.createspace.com/5152335
http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/1505389690/ref=tmm_pap_new_olp_0?ie=UTF8&condition=new&sr=&qid=
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B011UD37MI?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

HorrorAddicts.net 116, Kristin Battestella

ha-tag

Horror Addicts Episode# 116

Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich

Intro Music by: Valentine Wolfe

kristin battestella | new years day | only lovers left alive

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

111 days till halloween

jenn vix, andy anderson, cure, halloween costumes, baycon, san mateo county fair, facebook quizzes, addicts on the street, sumiko saulson, anne rice, christopher rice, supernatural, mad max, wicked women writers challenge, master of macabre contest, dungeon san francisco, where’s jack?, jack the ripper, matt gunter, spooky, entertainment, sam roberts, torture room, history of san francisco, gold miner, murder, terry west, turning face, horror addicts guide to life, james newman, pembroke sinclair, chantal boudreau, consumed, d.j pitsiladis, t.s.charles, david watson, shadylight, kimberley steele, suicide forest, jeremy bates, belfry network, cemetary confessions, the count, morbid meals, dan shaurette, blood black truffles, lovers tarot, sparky lee anderson, allure of horror, lovecraft, new years day, dawn wood, c.a. milson, defago, horror music, jesse orr, grant me serenity, paul, satan, black jack, sandra harris, kbatz, only lovers left alive, marc advice, sarah, ventriloquists, dummies, dolls, possessed, kristin battestella, fates and fangs, vampire, novella, series.

Horror Addicts Guide to Life now available on Amazon!
http://www.amazon.com/Horror-Addicts-Guide-Life-Emerian/dp/1508772525/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1428730091&sr=8-1&keywords=horror+addicts+guide+to+life

HorrorAddicts.net blog Kindle syndicated

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

VOTE FOR YOUR FAVORITE MMM / WWW contestant.

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h o s t e s s

Emerian Rich

s t a f f

David Watson, Dan Shaurette, Marc Vale, KBatz (Kristin Battestella), Mimielle, Dawn Wood, Lillian Csernica, Killion Slade, D.J. Pitsiladis, Jesse Orr, A.D. Vick

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Come meet us at BayCon 2015!

 Come to the Horror Addicts Guide to Life book release party!

Friday, May 22nd

@ Baycon 2015

8:30 PM in the Stevens Creek

Hyatt Regency, Santa Clara, CA

Freebies at the door and door prizes to boot!

Plus, don’t miss getting all these signatures on your very own copy of the book.

habayconbanner

Come meet Emerian Rich, H.E. Roulo, Laurel Anne Hill,

J. Malcolm Stewart, Loren Rhoads, Sumiko Saulson, and Lillian Csernica at

BayCon 2015

FinalFrontCoverHorror Addicts Guide to Life

Don’t miss the door prizes, favors, and your chance to see all these amazing horror personalities together in one place! 🙂

Books will be on hand for signing and purchase.

Come meet us at BayCon 2015!

 

 

Come to the Horror Addicts Guide to Life book release party!

Friday, May 22nd

@ Baycon 2015

8:30 PM in the Stevens Creek

Hyatt Regency, Santa Clara, CA

Freebies at the door and door prizes to boot!

Plus, don’t miss getting all these signatures on your very own copy of the book.

habayconbanner

Come meet Emerian Rich, H.E. Roulo, Laurel Anne Hill,

J. Malcolm Stewart, Loren Rhoads, Sumiko Saulson, and Lillian Csernica at

BayCon 2015

FinalFrontCoverHorror Addicts Guide to Life

Don’t miss the door prizes, favors, and your chance to see all these amazing horror personalities together in one place! 🙂

Books will be on hand for signing and purchase.

HorrorAddicts.net 114, H.E. Roulo

ha-tag

Horror Addicts Episode# 114

Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich

Intro Music by: Valentine Wolfe

h.e. roulo | particle son | the walking dead

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

174 days till halloween

richard cheese, down with the sickness, zombies, baycon, book release party, emerian rich, h.e. roulo, j. malcolm stewart, laurel anne hill, sumiko saulson, loren rhoads, lillian csernica, seanan mcguire, earthquakes, horroraddicts on kindle, babadook, netflix, chiller, lifeforce, colin wilson, the space vampires, tobe hooper, texas chainsaw massacre, mathilda may, siren, slasher, stack.com, death note, adam wingard, the woman in black, horror addicts guide to life, sandra harris, ron vitale, david watson, books, plague master: sanctuary dome, zombie dome, slicing bones, kindle buys, morbid meals, dan shaurette, london mess, fox uk, canniburgers, the walking dead recipe, nightmare fuel, japanese fable, slit mouth woman, surgical mask, particle son, revelation, portland band, dawn wood, stephen king, clive barker, grant me serenity, jesse orr, black jack, the country road cover up, the sacred, crystal connor, dracula dead and loving it, kbatz, kristin battestella, c.a.milson, the walking dead, dead mail, candace questions, colette, bees, david, bugs, the watcher in the woods, pembroke, jaws, gremlins, craig, devil, sparkylee, the thing, dogs, kristin, alien, robert, magic, daltha, clowns, pennywise, jaq, creature from the black lagoon, jody, night of the living dead, world book day, interview with a vampire, michael, haunting of hill house, kbatz, frankenstein, dracula, anne rice, jane eyre, sumiko, the stand, lillian,  jim butcher, changes, a.d., exorcist, mimielle, firestarter, bad moon rising, jonathan mayberry, edgar, alabama, alien from la, kathy ireland, ask marc, marc vale, mike, pittsburgh, driver’s test, what would norman bates do?, mother, voices, psycho, h.e. roulo, heather roulo.

 

Horror Addicts Guide to Life now available on Amazon!
http://www.amazon.com/Horror-Addicts-Guide-Life-Emerian/dp/1508772525/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1428730091&sr=8-1&keywords=horror+addicts+guide+to+life

 

Baycon.org

 

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

 

———————–

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, Dan Shaurette, Marc Vale, KBatz (Kristin Battestella), Mimielle, Dawn Wood, Lillian Csernica, Killion Slade, D.J. Pitsiladis, Jesse Orr.

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

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Horror Addicts Guide to Life Author Spotlight: Sumiko Saulson

23676179Sumiko Saulson has written several horror novels and has been featured on the horror addicts podcast before. For Horror Addicts Guide To Life  she wrote an article called The Addicts Guide To Cats. In it Sumiko gives us some hints on what not to do with your kitty. One thing you definitely don’t want to do is bring your cat back from the dead.  To read Sumiko’s article along with several other articles on living the horror lifestyle, pick up a copy of Horror Addicts Guide To Life. Recently Sumiko was nice enough to tell us what she likes about horror:

What do you like about the horror genre?

The horror genre addresses our deep, dark fears of the unknown. Many horror stories are about surviving or at least attempting to survive the worse. Often, they are stories about why we fight to survive against all odds. Sometimes, they are stories about the underdog overcoming, but even when our brave heroes and heroines die, they are valiant in the struggle. I’m not sure if all human beings are deeply concerned with their own mortality, but I certainly was, from an early age. How can we enjoy our life story when we know it inevitably ends in death? Or does it? Perhaps there is an afterlife. Perhaps we can continue as the Undead. If we can’t continue, perhaps our brief lives can still have meaning. I think all horror addresses some visceral fear of the unknown, where death is the greatest unknown of them all.

What are some of your favorite horror movies, books or TV shows?13564711

My first horror novel was Peter Straub’s “Ghost Story,” which I read when I was 11 years old. My first favorite horror novel was Stephen King’s “The Stand.” I don’t think “Dune Messiah” by Frank Herbert was a horror novel, but it probably should have been. It certainly gave me nightmares. Both of Christopher Rice’s horror novels, “The Heavens Rise” and “The Vines” were excellent, but I’m not sure when the will be a new one, since he’s writing porn.. uhm I mean erotica, lately.

I know this is kind of weird but, “Bones”- that fifteen year old horror film with Snoop Dog – is in fact, one of my favorite horror movies. I also love the Tony Todd film “Candyman” – and generally, I adore Tony Todd. “Bride of Chucky” and “Spawn of Chucky,” and “Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors” are other favorites, as are the original three Raimi “Evil Dead” films, particularly “Army of Darkness.”

As far as TV shows go, Supernatural.

In what way do you live the horror lifestyle?

When I had a 93 Crown Vic I used to pretend it was a Chevy Impala and I was Dean Winchester while bumping some old ass 70s tunes on the radio, does that count?

I think I’m a standard issue old school goth chick, and I have headstone book ends all over my house and a coffin-shaped jewelry box.

What are you currently working on?

I’m editing “Insatiable,” the third book in the Somnali trilogy. The first was “Happiness and Other Disease,” the the second “Somnalia.” They are dark fantasies based in Greco-Roman mythology, but the third book also has Hawaiian mythology, which makes some sense since the central protagonist is half Hawaiian. I can’t really say much more without giving spoilers for the first two books, but let me just say that things get really bad for mankind in this third book and I really feel for the humans. And there is a lot of weird, transgressive sex involved.

Where can we find you online?

sumikosaulson.com

https://www.facebook.com/authorsumikosaulson

https://twitter.com/@sumikoska

Come meet us at BayCon 2015!

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Come meet Emerian Rich, H.E. Roulo, Laurel Anne Hill,

J. Malcolm Stewart, Loren Rhoads, Sumiko Saulson, and Lillian Csernica at

BayCon 2015

May 22nd-24th

Hyatt Regency

Santa Clara, CA

Program details coming soon, but don’t wait to buy your tickets.

We will be having a big HorrorAddicts.net BOF and

release party for our book:

FinalFrontCoverHorror Addicts Guide to Life

Don’t miss the door prizes, favors, and your chance to see all these amazing horror personalities together in one place! 🙂

Books will be on hand for signing and purchase.

HorrorAddicts.net 112, Horror Addicts Guide to Life

ha-tagHorror Addicts Episode# 112

Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich

Intro Music by: Valentine Wolfe

writer’s workshop winner | lacuna coil | frankenstein: the true story

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

 

201 days till halloween

malcolm stewart, jesse orr, kathy bates, misery, stephen king, american horror story, hotel,  addict on the street, the walking dead, talking dead, salem, izombie, dan shaurette, lady gaga, poltergeist, jurassic world, mad max, fury road, unfriended, kbatz, kristin battestella, frankenstein: the true story, horror addicts guide to life, baycon, once upon a scream, laurel anne hill, j malcolm stewart, sumiko saulson, heather roulo, david watson, the undying, ethan reid, zombie, plague, top five, mimielle, makeup, vids, dj pitsiladis, nightmare fuel, werewolves, wisconsin, morbid meals, dan shaurette, berry fool, april fools, free fiction friday, emerian rich, dark soul, dawn wood, music corner, lacuna coil, swamped, jesse orr, grant me serenity, black jack, dead mail, nadine, writing, james, how to get on the show, sandra, zombie movies, scared of the dark, marc vale, advice, horror writer, inspiration, murderer, victim, jesse orr, genesis

 

 

FinalFrontCoverHorror Addicts Guide to Life now available on Amazon!
http://www.amazon.com/Horror-Addicts-Guide-Life-Emerian/dp/1508772525/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1428730091&sr=8-1&keywords=horror+addicts+guide+to+life

Baycon.org

———————–

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, Dan Shaurette, Marc Vale, KBatz (Kristin Battestella), Mimielle, Dawn Wood, Lillian Csernica, Killion Slade, D.J. Pitsiladis, Jesse Orr.

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

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Horror Addicts Guide to Life – Available now!

FinalFrontCoverHorror Addicts Guide to Life

Available now! 

Cover art by: Masloski Carmen

Editor: David Watson

Do you love the horror genre? Do you look at horror as a lifestyle? Do the “norms” not understand your love of the macabre?

Despair no longer, my friend, for within your grasp is a book written by those who look at horror as a way of life, just like you. This is your guide to living a horrifying existence. Featuring interviews with Midnight Syndicate, Valentine Wolfe, and The Gothic Tea Society.

Authors: Kristin Battestella, Mimielle, Emerian Rich, Dan Shaurette, Steven Rose Jr., Garth von Buchholz, H.E. Roulo, Sparky Lee Anderson, Mary Abshire, Chantal Boudreau, Jeff Carlson, Catt Dahman, Dean Farnell, Sandra Harris, Willo Hausman, Laurel Anne Hill, Sapphire Neal, James Newman, Loren Rhoads, Chris Ringler, Jessica Robinson, Eden Royce, Sumiko Saulson, Patricia Santos Marcantonio, J. Malcolm Stewart, Stoneslide Corrective, Mimi A.Williams, and Ron Vitale. With art by Carmen Masloski and Lnoir.

 

HorrorAddicts.net 111, Horror Addicts Guide to Life

Horror Addicts Episode# 111

Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich

Intro Music by: Valentine Wolfe

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horror addicts guide to life | xy beautiful | the twilight zone

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

 

216 days till halloween

valentine wolfe, catch up, new staff, lillian, don, jesse, other contributors, crystal connor, killion slade, voodoo lynn, what are you watching, dead filed, z nation,citynewsnetpodcast.com, artistic license, zombie cruise, wicked women writers challenge, master of macabre contest, tarot, books, somnalia, sumiko saulson, horror addicts guide to cats, david watson, it came from the library, dean farnell, kings of horror, touched by death, forbidden fiction, voodoo lynn, nightbreed, phillip tomasso2, madness, mimielle, stephen king, the golden notebook, emilie autumn, morbid meals, dan shaurette, carne adovada, serpentine delights, lillian csernica, nightmare fuel, d.j. pitsiladis, rawhead, old betty, xy beautiful, dawn wood, jesse orr, black jack, dead mail, advice from marc, marc vale, kbatz, twilight zone, horror tv shows, the munsters, twilight zone, alfred hitchcock, horror addicts guide to life, david watson, killion slade, j. malcolm stewart, ron vitale, h.e. roulo, james newman, eden royce, chris ringler, sumiko saulson

 

Horror Addicts Guide to Life
https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/horror-addicts-guide-to-life/

Horror Addicts Guide to LifeDo you love the horror genre? Do you look at horror as a lifestyle?

Do the “norms” not understand your love of the macabre?

 

Despair no longer, my friend, for within your grasp is a book written

by those who look at horror as a way of life, just like you. This is

your guide to living a horrifying existence. Featuring interviews with

Midnight Syndicate, Valentine Wolfe, and The Gothic Tea Society.

 

Authors: Kristin Battestella, Mimielle, Emerian Rich, Dan Shaurette,

Steven Rose Jr., Garth von Buchholz, H.E. Roulo, Sparky Lee

Anderson, Mary Abshire, Chantal Boudreau, Jeff Carlson, Catt

Dahman, Dean Farnell, Sandra Harris, Willo Hausman, Laurel

Anne Hill, Sapphire Neal, James Newman, Loren Rhoads, Chris

Ringler, Jessica Robinson, Eden Royce, Sumiko Saulson, Patricia

Santos Marcantonio, J. Malcolm Stewart, Stoneslide Corrective, Mimi

A.Williams, and Ron Vitale. With art by Carmen Masloski and Lnoir.

 

 

———————–

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, Dan Shaurette, Marc Vale, KBatz (Kristin Battestella), Mimielle, Dawn Wood, Lillian Csernica, Killion Slade, D.J. Pitsiladis, Jesse Orr.

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

Review: Somnalia

10423262_10153131197557246_7282674637382451459_nLast time we saw Flynn and Charlotte in Happiness And Other Diseases things were not going well for the young couple in love. In Sumiko Saulson’s Somnalia things have gotten worse for them and the gods of the underworld. With Brash the god of erotic nightmares gone, Phobetor the god of nightmares is looking to expand his kingdom. He tries to win the trust of Flynn and Charlotte, while another god releases two dream demons in the form of children into the real world to wreak havoc. Chaos reins supreme in the land of dreams and in reality. Earth’s only hope is in the hands of two lovers who have been separated after making a supreme sacrifice.

The best part of this book for me was the interactions between Phobetor and Flynn. The early scenes with these two were like a therapy session and as the book goes on, you see their relationship change. Both characters manage to learn something about themselves from the other. While Phobetor does have an agenda, Flynn is too trusting and they are both different characters by the end of the book.

One thing Sumiko Saulson does well in her novels is use characters that you don’t see in most books. Some of her characters suffer from mental illness,  many are minorities and the main hero in the book, Flynn is a person who doesn’t want to be a hero. Flynn is someone who fell in love and got much more than he bargained for. He has power over a kingdom and other gods want him dead. All he really wants is to be with Charlotte and be happy. The characters are what really make this book interesting because they all are like people whom you would meet in everyday life.

Another character I liked was Sympathy. She starts the book as part demon and works with her sister Mercy to bring destruction to everyone they come across. As the story moves along Sympathy changes and the story gets suspenseful as she tries to escape with her sick mother.  Somnalia is an interesting look at what makes a person do what they do and how they change when they see the error of their ways.

Somnalia is not your average horror novel. There are no monsters jumping out at people, it’s light on the gore and, until you get into the last half of the book, there isn’t much suspense. Somnalia is a psychological thriller or in other words an intellectual horror novel. Sumiko brings a lot of different mythological figures to life and lets you see everything that’s going on in their heads. This book also gets heavily into the theme of redemption, loyalty, love and even has an interesting section that focuses on the grieving process.  Somanlia is a book for readers who like complex characters and like to look for a deeper meaning in literature. It also has some good humor and some good horror scenes. You might not look at twins the same way again.

Sumiko Saulson on Horror Writing

Gender Role Reversal in Happiness and Other Diseases

by Sumiko Saulson

Happiness and Other Diseases is a dark fantasy set in contemporary times but rooted in Greco-Roman mythology. These are not the gods who sit upon high in Olympus; these are darker creatures that reside in the Demos Oneiroi, the world of dreams. It is conveniently located in Hades, at the point where dead souls arrive. It is no accident, when everyone knows that Somnus and Thanatos, the deities of Sleep and Death, respectively, are very closely related. They’re twin brothers.

While Happiness and Other Diseases is strictly speaking, neither horror nor romance, it has elements of both running concurrently through it, in the same way that James O’Barr’s The Crow and the movie franchise it spawned, and Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale do. As such, it can also be considered a dark romance.

I didn’t set out to write a novel. I set out to write an essay about role reversal with regards to the archetypal role of Damsel in Distress.  I studied some modern examples of this kind of role reversal in movies, television shows, comic books, and video games. I remarked upon how modern portrayals of women in these situations often produce a feminist outcry because such characters are frequently helpless, one-dimensional, and complicit in their personal victimization.

10687036_10152720329052246_3965942528566808353_nI started out by describing the nature of the relationship between the damsel and her Knight in Shining, or as it may be sometimes, Tarnished Armor. Next I wrote about the inevitable erotic underpinnings of such a character, who frequently appeared in Greco-Roman mythology stark naked and bound to a rock. We see that in the case of Andromeda, bound naked and waiting, sacrificed to the Kraken. Perseus rescued her. Although she is clothed in our modern adaptations such as Clash of the Titans, the story remains otherwise the same.

Of course I always preferred Apuleius’ tale of Psyche and Cupid. Psyche was similarly offered, but in marriage to a winged terrible monster. The monster turned out not to be so terrible, and they fell in love. In either case these women were guilty of no crime except for being beautiful and having braggarts for parents who angered the gods by crowing about aforementioned beauty.

These sexually charged images of virtuous women, bound and helpless, awaiting a punishment of ravishment and torture are politically contentious these days. They can be pandered to and condemned in the same breath, as in Zack Snyder and Steve Shibuya’s movie Sucker Punch. They can be couched in romance, as they are with the mousy, meek, and regularly rescued Bella in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series.  They can also be recognized as the grist for the sexual dominance fantasies they are, the way the Marquis de Sade did in Justine.

In modern times, the later seems ironically, the least controversial. There are far fewer feminists up in arms about E.L. James’ 50 Shades of Grey or Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty trilogy than about Twilight. Perhaps it is because in the later, these are clearly sexual fantasies. Perhaps we’re just less concerned about what grown women consume than we are about impressionable girls.

Of course, the essay wasn’t about them. It was about men. Men are frequently seen bound, naked, and awaiting torture in movies. In fact, there is even a television trope named for it, the Shirtless Captive trope. These generally hunky, well developed men are chained in prison cells or otherwise strapped down and tortured in everything from Braveheart to Wolverine.

Happiness and Other Diseases is not about those kinds of muscle bound heroes. Although it does have a strong female character, as so many stories do nowadays, she is not the central protagonist. Flynn Keahi is the main point of view character in the story, the Alice who goes down the nightmare rabbit hole.

Like Andromeda and Psyche before him, Flynn has unfortunately attracted the dangerous attentions of the Greco-Roman gods. He is being punished, not for being too beautiful, but for being masochistic, and passive. These sadistic little nightmare deities find that very attractive, and a particularly nasty one named Mercy has attached itself to him. She finds his nature so amusing that instead of killing him outright, she spends a year feeding off of him.

That is how he finds himself in this Damsel in Distress role.

Like any good Damsel in Distress, he is quickly placed into a life or death situation. Mercy and the rest of Somnus’ grandchildren, the somnali, are just supposed to give humans dreams or nightmares. They are not supposed to do actual bodily harm to them or kill them! They are out of control, and need to be stopped. Somnus’ mother, Nyx, swears that if Mercy kills off that young man she’s been playing with, their entire line will be punished. She’ll turn the lot of them into mortals!

This kind of plot device is typical for Damsel in Distress stories, especially ones in Greco-Roman mythology. Flynn is not a princess. He’s a lovable loser, a guy with mental health problems, economic and housing woes, who tries really hard to have a normal life but never can seem to get on his feet. It is his everyman charm that makes him a heartbreakingly tragic character. Life has been unfair to Flynn since before he ever got dragged into this mess. I knew that if people reading the story didn’t fall in love with this character, they weren’t going to fall in love with the story. I needed people to root for him, so I became very invested in making him a multifaceted, layered character.

In David Watson’s review, he said that he got to a point where he felt like he was just going to just lose it if the lovebirds in this story did not get to have a happy ending.  When I read that, I had two thoughts. First I thought, “Great!” I did it!” I thought the same thing when two of the other beta readers told me that certain parts of the story made them cry. Because that’s what I set out to do, use three strategically placed characters to break your heart. That’s not easy to do. In fact, it’s emotionally draining.

I did not intend to write a romance, but it is an issue for romance novelists, and authors in other genres who heavily feature a romance. If your lovers don’t get a happy ending, or the two people they feel should be together don’t end up together, people want to show up on the author’s doorstep with torches and pitchforks.

David asked me to write about how or why this story was better than other romances. I said, “Probably, because I didn’t set out to write a romance.” If I had been writing a romance, Flynn would not spend the entire story with the metaphorical Sword of Damocles over his head. This story is about the differences between tragedy on a personal scale and tragedy on a global scale. We might on an idealistic level, say that we care about the problems of the world, the hungry, the poor, and war overseas.

The truth is that it is only human to be clouded by our love for our closer associations. And that’s what this story is about.

Flynn starts out as someone who is alone, abandoned by his friends and loved ones because of his mental illness. When he gets into trouble, Somnus sends his half-human granddaughter Charlotte aka Happiness down to rescue him. The fate of humanity and the somnali rest on Flynn’s fragile shoulders, but his shoulders rest on Charlotte. She’s his knight in tarnished armor.

I think that people who understand the subtext of this story will understand why I’ve taken the time out to develop its secondary characters. In your typical, or formulaic, horror story as well as in your formulaic Damsel in Distress story, the pure, innocent, virginal female is the sole survivor. Everyone else become a one-dimensional adjunct to the need to maintain her purity.

In Happiness and Other Diseases, these other characters are very important. While Charlotte is constantly trying to rescue and redeem Flynn, Flynn is constantly running a silent calculation in his mind about the cost of his life. We need to know who they are because we need to understand something about him: Flynn is a very humble guy. He doesn’t think that he is more important than his friends. Love is what makes him important. Charlotte’s love for him, and the way love always makes us biased towards those we love.

I felt slightly perturbed by attempts to edit down the stories of four characters, one of them relatively minor: Hannah Cohen, Shelby Baptista, Sunshine Green and Howard Lowe. These people matter because Flynn is relating to them. He does not think that his love is more important than Hannah and Shelby’s, that his housing and stability are more important than Sunshine’s, that his mental and physical health are more important than Howard’s.

I spent a lot of time getting into these character’s heads. I spent a lot of time letting Flynn get into my head, because I’m already like Charlotte in some ways so she was much easier to write.

The people who wanted to edit out the secondary character development are probably more like Charlotte, too. “What? Why are you developing these characters? I don’t want to think about homelessness? What’s this shit, let’s go back to the good stuff.  You know, like Charlotte molesting Flynn in the back of the nightclub. Fuck this noise!”

Which would be more like formulaic erotica or romance. Supplementary sex, added romance, less psychological development, and not as much giving a shit about how many side characters die horribly as long as the hero and heroine live happily ever after.

That story has already been written multiple times and it’s not the story I wanted to write. I don’t even want to write the kinky BDSM version of that story.

Flynn is very submissive, but he’s also idealistic. He wants to be the hero. He reads comic books and plays video games. If he can’t play the hero by shooting guns and wielding swords, then he’s going to try to play the hero by throwing himself on a landmine to save his comrades. He’s a man, a very thoughtful and gentle one. He wants everyone to know it and understand what being a man means to him He may be in distress, but he is no damsel.

So I think that if you deconstruct Happiness and Other Diseases you will see that it is very often about gender roles. It is about how a man like Flynn, being unstable, troubled mentally and having difficulty maintaining a job or a house, will be told he is unlovable. It is about how a woman like Charlotte, ambitious and self-assured, can be told that she is cold and unfeeling and cannot love.

It is about fate, and the ultimate horror story mortality that all of us humans are faced with on a daily basis. Life is short, and you can die in an accident, of some horrible disease, at the hands of supernatural parasites… you can even die happy.  But we all do die, don’t we?

If you have terrible nightmares, and petty, vindictive ancient deities haggle over your life, then maybe it’s not the nature of your death that is of concern, but the quality of your life.  Because we don’t all truly live, do we?

That alone is enough to make a strong woman archetype cry.

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

Sumiko SaulsonSumiko Saulson is a dark speculative fiction writer.  She writes horror, dark fantasy, and dystopic or apocalyptic science fiction. Her works include Solitude, Warmth, The Moon Cried Blood series, Things That Go Bump In My Head, and Happiness and Other Diseases. The child of African American and Russian-Jewish American parents, she grew up in California and Hawaii. Her works are frequently set in these places and generally feature culturally diverse characters. She has spent most of her adult life living in the San Francisco Bay Area and currently lives in Oakland. “Things That Go Bump In My Head” blog http://www.sumikosaulson.com Happiness and Other Diseases http://www.HappinessAndOtherDiseases.com

 

Review: The Vines by Christopher Rice

The Vines Brings Allegorical Horror to the Modern Age

Review by Sumiko Saulson

the-vines-final-coverSpring House is built upon mysteries and secrets, blood and lies, and Caitlin Chaisson is its mistress. Betrayed and scorned by her duplicitous, cheating husband Troy, she accidentally unleashes something evil by spilling her rage-tainted blood on the ground. It is blood magic that compel flora and fauna rise up and exact retribution upon her enemies, but like most supernatural allies, the vines have a tortured past and minds of their own. Perhaps her enemies will not be enough. Perhaps the corrupted nature she has unleashed will not be satisfied until it punishes all of the members of the mankind that desecrated it.

The Vines is a modern horror story. It is a finely crafted parable about the difference between vengeance and justice, and how things can go terribly wrong when one confuses the two. The novel combines the non-stop action roller coaster ride pace and mystery of the suspense thriller with the allegorical nature of traditional horror such as seen in W. W. Jacobs’ The Monkey’s Paw, or those old episodes of Twilight Zone and Tales from the Crypt.

Like this author’s previous entry into the horror genre, The Heavens Rise, elements of horror in The Vines are not confined to the supernatural. Often, the most frightening thing in the story is the human factor. The vines remain dormant until human rage and revenge awaken them. What makes it so scary is that the motivations characters have for doing so are so common and relatable readers are left wondering if we have enough moral or intestinal fortitude to resist the temptation that Caitlin gives into.

In a jealous fury, Caitlin Chaisson opens the Pandora’s Box of mythological-proportioned perpetrating plant-life. The promotional materials put Caitlin Chaisson first and foremost, but in fact Blake Henderson is the primary point of view character the hero of this piece and its reluctant hero. Nova Thomas is equally obviously its heroine. The only reason they aren’t headlining is that we really and truly do not live in a world that can easily accept the idea of a gay man and a black woman being in these roles in a mainstream fiction work, and rest assured that this is indeed, mainstream horror. The same situation occurred with Niquette Delongpre in The Heavens Rise, and as some other reviewers noted, she wasn’t in fact, a very present character in the narrative. Caitlin is considerably more present here, but she is also primarily a catalyst or a conduit for these otherworldly events. She is also the crux around which these relationships are woven.

Caitlin makes a deal – a trade, the blood of the wronged for the blood, flesh and bone of the wrongdoer – not a taste of it, but a human being hungrily devoured in his or her entirety. The novel leverages the ever popular revenge fantasy against the moral compasses of not only the characters, but the readers. What crimes are deserving of supernatural vigilante vengeance? Are any? What is the cost? And if Caitlin, the poor little rich white privileged orphan with a hang-up about her ordinary looks, gives into temptation, then how will her tragically wronged gay best friend and the newly political daughter of her black gardener deal with it? Won’t they want revenge? And is that really justice?

Blake and Nova are both people who have spent much of their lives shoring Caitlin up in one way or another. Now, they find themselves reluctant allies in cleaning up her mess. They don’t know each other well, and they’re in culture clash. It soon becomes very evident that they’ve both suffered greater injustices than a cheating spouse. Blake lost his high school sweetheart to a hate crime. Nova is constantly faced with her father’s kowtowing to Caitlin, and is stuck living on a former plantation built on the backs of slaves because of her father’s codependent servile relationship with Caitlin.

This novel rife with both obvious and subtextual daddy issues, Caitlin’s lost both her parents and her daddy made her feel ugly. We don’t see Blake’s daddy, but his murdered lover John’s flesh and blood daddy issue keeps stalking him. Nova is angry because her daddy Willie keeps acting like Caitlin’s daddy instead of hers.

Willie Thomas and Blake Henderson are disenfranchised men who do not have the money and power of Caitlin’s jackass father or the swagger and bravado of her unfaithful cop husband. These are the kind of men whose sexuality is deemed somehow threatening, so they keep it cloaked. Their sexual existence comprised of lost loves and secret trysts. But they are men, trying to figure out who they are as men in a society that offers them few options.

Unable to protect his first love, Blake is in hyper-cranked up rescue mode. Willie barters away his personal agency to provide for his motherless daughter, and loses her respect for doing so. Both of these men overcompensate by hitting the gym and blanketing the women in their lives with protective, paternal affection. But it is always there, bristling under the surface with frustrated, stifled virility. At some point in the book, when Blake surmises that the only thing he has to give Nova is a hug, you really feel for him and for every other kind of disenfranchised man. As quiet as it’s kept, the masculine urge to protect is as natural as its feminine adjunct in maternally nurturing behavior. Stripped of all of the other things a society associates with masculinity, and taken under Caitlin’s wealthy wing, these men are still men. They project their masculinity by instinctively assuming the mantle of protector.

Nova Thomas resents her father’s coddling attitude towards Caitlin and his general tendency to kowtow towards white people. Her relationship to both Caitlin and her father underscores something very essential that is missing from the mainstream feminist understanding of how black women relate to men. While white women are currently up in arms over the occasionally obnoxious nature of men who want to rescue women, black women are suffering from a history of not being considered sufficiently womanly to warrant that kind of male intervention. She wants her daddy back, and doesn’t take issue with Blake’s sometimes protective attitude towards her either. However, her resentment towards Caitlin borders on sibling rivalry.

These are very well crafted characters, and I was surprised that so much character development could occur in the middle of such a concisely-written and fast paced novel. My copy – an already well-worn Advanced Reader’s Copy – is only 232 pages long.

I found The Vines to be a brave novel in that it openly tackles the issues of societal injustice in a privilege system. Speculative fiction usually deals with such issues on a metaphorical level because the often confusing and painful reality of bias in America is just too hard to face. Usually, we have to substitute blue aliens so that readers and audiences don’t cringe in horror.

I usually avoid reviewing books because I can’t help but approach them from the point of view of an English major. I also avoid reviews because I am a slow, thoughtful reader who can’t help but dissect them. You will have to forgive me if at any point here I have started to sound like I’m formulating thesis paper on gender and race relations in the U.S.A. No one ever wants to graft her own political agenda onto another writer, but we all have points of view and they seep into our reviews, our conversations, and everything else we touch.

That said Christopher Rice was recently quoted as saying that one of the reasons he liked the horror genre is that it is about underdogs. That being the cause, one can’t really believe that the political overtones and subtext in this novel are accidental. It is natural for me to admire anyone tilting at the same windmills I tilt at, or if not the same ones, related and somewhat adjacent ones.

This reminds me that, before I even had a chance to read this, someone else with a review copy who is white and male and shall remain nameless, private messaged me saying how excited he was about the idea of me reading this and having an opinion about >gasp< The Black People In This Book. I had a wtf moment, because I am not, in any way, shape or form, the arbiter of all things black in horror fiction. I do realize that since I compiled 60 Black Women in Horror, some people may have that impression, but in fact I am a California girl who has never even been to the South, so you might as well be asking my opinion on Jamaican characters. By the way, other black people probably don’t want me being the Arbiter of all Things Black, I’m only half black. I’m also half Jewish American Princess. Ahem. Nuff said.

But since I was asked, I’m going to repeat what I said in private before reading this book. “Yes, I have noticed that there are often black people in Christopher Rice books. Unlike in mainstream horror fiction from the 70s and the 80s, they aren’t universally acting as stand-ins for Jesus who must sacrificially die to save the universe.”

If a black person not automatically dying in horror fiction is the start of new trend I’m totally in favor of that. If white people like Christopher Rice want to continue to write black characters as well developed as Nova Thomas, I’m very happy with that. The way the character is written, you get the impression that >gasp< the author has actually known more than two black people in his life, and is able to write authentically human black people who are not stereotypically archetypical icons standing for persecution. Shocking, I know!

If you want to send me a shitty “colorblind” politic email message about using the terms “white people” and “black people” in this review, then in the immortal words of Blake Henderson, “fuck off.”

Thank you, and have a nice day.

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

Sumiko SaulsonSumiko Saulson is a dark speculative fiction writer. She writes horror, dark fantasy, and dystopic or apocalyptic science fiction. Her works include Solitude, Warmth, The Moon Cried Blood series, Things That Go Bump In My Head, and Happiness and Other Diseases. The child of African American and Russian-Jewish American parents, she grew up in California and Hawaii. Her works are frequently set in these places and generally feature culturally diverse characters. She has spent most of her adult life living in the San Francisco Bay Area and currently lives in Oakland.

“Things That Go Bump In My Head” blog http://www.sumikosaulson.com

Happiness and Other Diseases http://www.HappinessAndOtherDiseases.com

HorrorAddicts.net 109, Sumiko Saulson

Horror Addicts Episode# 109

Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich

Intro Music by: Cancer Killing Gemini

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Click to listen!

26 days till Halloween!

sumiko saulson, poe, strap on halo, house of usher

dream within a dream, edgar allan poe, the bells, phil ochs, costumes, edgar allan pie, master of macabre 2014 announced, writer’s workshop, band theme song contest, best band poll season 9, events, the black cat, poe, look back in horror, j. malcolm stewart, axes of evil, heavy metal anthology, eulogies 2, tales from the cellar, electric funeral, mark slade, darker edge of desire, gothic tales of romance, mitzi szereto, happiness and other diseases, devil-m, the antichrist, strap on halo, repentance, crystal connor, the sade cafe, c.a. milson, house of usher, poe, horror documentaries, anne rice, tell-tale heart, poe, dead mail, jack-o-lantern pizza, flesh burger, the walking dead, buried alive, the premature burial, end of the world radio, sumiko saulson.

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s t a f f

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Happiness And Other Diseases

10687036_10152720329052246_3965942528566808353_nLets face it, love isn’t  easy. No one knows that better than Flynn and Charlotte, they fell in love at first sight but the world seems to be against them. Flynn has been having nightmares and they are starting to cross over into reality. No one believes Flynn and his therapist decides it would be best if Flynn spends a little  time in a mental hospital, where he meets Charlotte.

Charlotte is half human, half somnali and is the daughter of the Greek God of erotic nightmares,  Brash. Being somnali means that Charlotte can enter dreams and prey upon humans, causing them to die in their sleep. Nyx, The Greek goddess of the night, knows that Brash’s children are killing humans and decides to put a stop to it. She states that if Flynn survives the torture from the somnali, she will grant Brash’s family more power, but if Flynn dies, she will turn all the somnali into humans.  Which is a fate worse than death for god like creatures.

So now Flynn is under the protection of Charlotte and the fate of the world hangs in the balance. If Flynn lives, many humans will die, but if he dies, somnali can no longer kill humans in their sleep. To say that Charlotte and Flynn have a complicated relationship is an understatement. The big question in this book is: does true love really conquer all?

Happiness And Other Diseases by Sumiko Saulson is a tragic love story that includes dark humor, greek mythology and some moments of pure horror. I love how the horror and humor are mixed, such as when one character is getting eaten by an animal in a dream. Another character shows up in the dream with popcorn and does commentary on the nightmare. I also liked when Brash describes how Charlotte handled a cockroach problem.

The main reason why you should want to read Happiness And Other Diseases is for the love story. This is not your average romance that you see in other books. Both Flynn and Charlotte have issues, their relationship starts in a mental hospital and that should tell you something. Flynn has no friends, no jobs and a mythological creature wants him dead. Things can’t get worse, but then Charlotte comes along and his life starts to get better. Of course things getting better for Flynn isn’t necessarily a good thing. Which is where the tragedy lies in their relationship. One scene that I thought was beautifully done was when one of Charlotte’s sisters makes living voodoo dolls from Charlotte and Flynn’s DNA. Then she demonstrates that even when she separates the dolls, they struggle to get back together.

Another thing I liked about their relationship is that their roles are reversed. When they meet for the first time Charlotte kisses Flynn’s hand, Charlotte is like a knight in shinning armor and is the leader in the relationship. Flynn is a broken man and Charlotte puts his pieces back together, he gets his life back and even though Charlotte likes to torture him, Flynn likes it. One scene I thought was funny is was when Flynn is in Brash’s home. Brash makes him bow and then laughs to Charlotte saying “He’s just so subservient.” Flynn is a strong character though, he knows the responsibility he has to the world and takes it seriously.

One thought I had while reading this book was that given the circumstances of Flynn and Charlotte’s relationship  there is no way this book can end happily.  I also thought that if Sumiko doesn’t give Charlotte and Flynn a happy ending, I’m going to be upset. Well I can’t tell you what the ending is but I will say that I was satisfied and you should give Happiness And Other Diseases a try. There are not many romances out there like this one.

HorrorAddicts.net #106, Bob Nailor

Horror Addicts Episode# 106

Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich

Intro Music by: Cancer Killing Gemini

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68 days till Halloween!

bob nailor, dead animal assembly plant, silent hill

silent hill, master of macabre, vote, wicked women writers, most wicked, voter winner, dead animal assembly plant, memorials: lauren bacall, robin williams, p.g. holyfield, events, jeremiah donaldson, plague aftermath, malcolm torres, sailors take warning, necroplolis, guy portman, recipe for murder, esterelle payany, hannibals express sweetbreads, my sucky teen romance, the bunnymen massacre, dead kansas, the remnant into the collision. p.a. davis, tentyrian legacy, elise walters, zombie attack, devan sagliani, deep black sea, david m. salkin, snafu, flash fiction friday, david watson, sumiko saulson, bob nailor

PG Holyfield – family support: http://www.gofundme.com/pgfund

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HorrorAddicts.net 101, Ann Wilkes

Horror Addicts Episode# 101

Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich

Intro Music by: Cancer Killing Gemini

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138 days till Halloween!

ann wilkes, murder weapons, lee, cushing, price

vincent price, baycon, horroraddicts.net panel, laurel anne hill, j. malcolm stewart, ha facebook page, buffy the vampire slayer, christopher lee, peter cushing, vincent price, horror addicts guide to life, look back in horror, j. malcolm stewart, a treasury of recipes by mary and vincent price, fashion avatars, world goth day, hr giger, band poll, end of the world radio, murder weapons, perish, even hell has standards, chantal noordeloos, tim lichtenberg, zombie nights, 60 black women in horror fiction, sumiko saulson, camp 417, web of deceit, smothered, deep like a river, tim waggoner, ghosts of punktown, jeffery thomas, events, halloween, jamie lee curtis, michael meyers, lost boys, goonies, joel schumacher, buffy the vampire slayer, joss whedon, kate beckinsale, wesley snipes, dead mail, not for norms, writer’s block, flash fiction friday, anne wilkes.

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Murder Weapons, “Perish”

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Sapphire Neal, David Watson, Dan Shaurette, Marc Vale, KBatz, Mimielle, Dawn Wood

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Cheap reads

21949677First up I want to talk about Even Hell Has Standards: Pride by Chantal Noordeloos. This book is available on amazon for 99 cents and its a great story. Adolf Zakerny is one evil man. He has lived his life as a tribute to hell. He is a serial killer who has killed and tortured hundreds of people and he believes that one day he will go to Hell and become a demon because he was so good at making people suffer.

Finally one day he is gunned down by police, his only regret is that he didn’t make it to 1,000 murders. As he arrives in Hell he finds that things aren’t what he thought they would be. He leaves one body and enters a new one which isn’t as good as the one he had. Also there is no fire and brimstone, just darkness and people waiting in long lines for their punishment. Adolf doesn’t get the hero’s welcome he thought he was going to get, he’s just another soul waiting to learn his fate in Hell.  Adolf doesn’t think of himself as the average soul and demands to see Lucifer.  Adolf is determined to make a name for himself as one of the greatest demons in Hell but Lucifer is not the person Adolf thinks he is and the devil has other plans for his soul.

I’ve read various works by Chantal Noordeloos, she is a great writer and this is another story by her that I couldn’t put down. This story works as a psychological horror story, a disturbing shockfest and a philosophical tale on how to live life. In some horror stories that I’ve read, the author tries hard to shock and terrify the reader but Chantal doesn’t have to try to shock you. The horror in her stories is organic. Chantal’s writing is scary without her even trying to be scary.

It’s hard to talk about my favorite parts of this book without giving to much of the story away but one part I did like was when Adolf gets to take a tour of Hell. In one of the rooms he sees Tantalus. Tantalus is a Greek mythological figure who is being punished for feeding his child to the gods.  When Adolf sees him he tries to prove himself to Lucifer by making Tantalus suffer more. This ends up being an impossible task and not for the reason you might think.

Another thing I liked about this book was how complex of a character Lucifer was. Lucifer also has a servant who is hardly in the story but comes across as being a sympathetic character when you realize who he was talking about when Adolf sees him for the first time. I also love the way he looks at Adolf as he leaves Lucifer’s chamber. At this point I would love to talk about the main theme that Chantal brings up in this story but I can’t without ruining this novella. So I’m just going to say that Even Hell Has Standards: Pride is only 99 cents and you should really go buy a copy.

7940988Here is a book you will find for free on Amazon. It’s Zombie Nights by Tom Lichtenberg. “Being a zombie, not so easy”. That could have been Dave Connor’s six word memoir. “At first he couldn’t remember how he’d ended up in that shallow grave; he just knew it was hell to claw his way out, and that the taste of its dirt would remain in his mouth for the rest of his time on this earth” … Expect the unexpected in this existential resurrection thriller.

The Book’s Review of Itself:

This is not really a story about zombies, for of course there are no such creatures,only maybe that some people are more dead than others, and while some people may have 20947585all the luck, others have very little of it. This is an absurdist fable at heart, whose moral is that no matter where you go, there you are, even after death.

One more book for 99 cents that I’m proud to have a small part in is 60 Black Women in Horror Fiction by Sumiko Saulson. February is African American History Month here in the United States. It is also Women in Horror Month (WiHM). This list of black women who write horror was compiled at the intersection of the two. It consists of an alphabetical listing of the women with biographies, photos, and web addresses, as well as interviews with nine of these women.

 

Guest Blog: The Creepiest Job I Ever Had

Written By : Sumiko Saulson

When I was a young newlywed, in need stable part time employment in my field of internet technology in order to support my family, I got a job working in a genetic research facility. The place had a creepy, Resident Evil vibe to it with its long, poorly lit, frequently empty hallways, and the elaborate series of card keys we had to use to get into the various laboratories. Every lab was equipped with emergency washing stations for washing your eyes in case you should some caustic substance in them, special foams to spray down in case of chemical spills and instructions on what to do if you should accidentally release any airborne pathogens and how to call in Hazmat so that their team covered from head to toe in protective gear that looked something like a space suit could clean up the mess if things should go terribly awry.

There were laboratories for the experiments on live rats, and I would find myself being alone in rooms with nothing cages full of laboratory rats.

When I was hired, I was told that they did animal research, and they asked me during the interview process before I was hired if I would be comfortable with the fact they were experimenting on rats and mice. They were particularly concerned since I admitted that I had pet rats at home, but I told them that if a rat’s life had to be sacrificed for something like developing a cure cancer, I was okay with that, and didn’t think it was any worse than my eating dead cows… actually, maybe not as bad, since my eating hamburger definitely won’t help anyone develop a cure for Alzheimer’s.

The facility was researching cures for genealogical conditions and disease, but I was not a scientist. I was a computer repair technician. In fact, I was one of only two repair techs and the company was on a large, old campus composed of aging brownstones. Despite the efforts to modernize the interior with long, identical-looking mazes of sterile corridors such as you might see in a hospital, the main halls suffered from a dank, musty aroma and the ancient overhead fluorescent lights hissed and buzzed and flickered. You had to use special key cards and key chain dongles to access every new area, and I had a massive keychain for these passkeys and for thumbprint reads for special areas and equipment. The overall effect made me feel like I was walking through a live version of the laboratory areas in the first-person shooter game series “Doom”.

I also had to repair computers in the clean rooms, which are laboratories where cannot enter without a mask over your face, dust covers over your shoes, rubber gloves, and a knee-length labcoat that seals on the front and the back, like a hospital gown. A double-door system where you entered one door, put on your gear, and then entered another kept out dust and unauthorized personnel. Because I am nearsighted, and the rooms were often hot and muggy, I did my best to do my job from behind glasses that were frequently fogging up from my body heat.

Most of the time, I was completely alone in the room, or worse… it was just me, and rows of cages of genetically altered rats.

In one of the labs, there were rats that had been genetically altered to be perpetually overweight so that the scientists could study obesity; in another were rats that were bred with the genetic tendency for Alzheimer’s. In still other laboratories, the rats were altered in ways that I could not understand, or imagine.

Not knowing what diseases the rats had, or what contagions were in the laboratory was part of what was so nerve wracking about working in the research facility, and the many signs reminding you that there were dangerous disease all around you and that you had to be extra careful not to trip and break anything of the test tubes people had sitting at their workstations produced a certain amount of anxiety. Sometimes people had computers on workbenches in laboratories, connected to electronic microscopes and other specialized equipment, and I had no idea what kinds of things might be in those test tubes and beakers.

Sometimes, I would walk into a lab when the research assistants were handling rats who had reached the end of the line in terms of their usefulness as live animals. They were put down, with a shot of some sort, and although I knew that they were using the least cruel method possible, I still felt a little sad. Sometimes the rats were baby ones, or very young. In spite of my cavalier speech when they hired me, I loved my pet rats the way people love their cats and dogs, and that made it hard for me.

Later in my job, I was involved in creating a database system for bar coding the rats. The system used little UPC codes such as you find on packages of groceries at the market. I was very disturbed by this, as I imagined all of the horrible Frankenstein-like ways they could adhere barcodes to living rats, through some sort of tattoo or branding process, as if they were miniature cattle – cattle, like the future hamburgers I callously described during my interview. I cringed to think about metal objects injected under the skin, or tagged to their ears.

I guess I really let my imagination get the better of me.

As it turned out, the barcodes actually weren’t being attached to the rats, but to the outside of their cages.

For more information about Sumiko Saulson, author of Solitude, be sure to check out these sites:

Buy Solitude at Amazon.com
Oakland Art Scene, Examiner.com

Solitude

13564711Imagine being in your car one day and suddenly all the people vanish. The cars, trucks and buildings are still there.  The animals are still there also but they’re not how they use to be. The world is a different place, there are forces at work that are changing everything and they may never be the same.

This is the story behind Sumiko Saulson’s Solitude. Solitude is about seven very different people and how they react to being alone after civilization disappears. One of them goes mad and talks to people who aren’t there. One goes to the zoo and frees all the animals and two others treat the whole situation like they are trapped in a video game.

When I first heard of Solitude I really liked the idea. The concept of being totally alone is a fear of mine and I was curious as to how each character would react, but there is more to the story then that. Solitude also gets into mythology and the supernatural as you find out why things are the way they are.

There is a lot to like about Solitude. One of those things is how the city of San Francisco itself is a character. Even though I’ve never been there ,  I felt I had been when I was done reading it. Sumiko really did her homework in the writing of this book. Each time there was an isolation as its called in the book,  it corresponds to an earthquake that really happened. The book also gets into religion and touches on the subject of how something sinister can effect us on a personal level and how our world can be changed when something wants what we have.

One of my favorite scenes in the book was when a spirit takes over one of the character’s bodies and cries as he realizes that another character has died. At this point you are thinking that the spirit is evil and even the person whose body the spirit takes over wonders if the spirit is faking, but you soon find out that the spirit is not what it seems. I also liked the character of Angela who seems to be at the mercy of several external influences. I looked at her as a tragic character, she comes across as evil in the book but she doesn’t try to be, she just reacts to things in her environment the wrong way.

If I was to compare Solitude to anything, it would probably be to Stephen King’s The Stand or Beneath The Dome. You can also compare Sumiko’s writing to Anne Rice. The subject matter may not be the same but Anne Rice  got into her character’s heads and Sumiko Saulson does the same thing. By the end of the book I felt I knew each character personally and it was hard to see them suffer.

I would classify this book as psychological horror. Because Sumiko doesn’t seem satisfied giving you a book that will entertain you and give you a couple of quick scares. No that’s to easy, Sumiko wants to make you think and then give you nightmares. Twice while reading this book I stopped and thought about the ideas that Sumiko was trying to get across, such as being at the mercy of forces greater than yourself and the idea of a world within a world.

The tone of the book is a little depressing and I would have liked a couple more action scenes but  this is a great read. A sequel to Solitude is on its way called Disillusionment and I for one look forward to seeing where Sumiko goes with it. If you ever wondered what it would be like to be alone and at the mercy of powerful spirits, you should check this one out.