#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!

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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

guestblog2

 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/

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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/