Chilling Chat: Episode 170 | Tim Reynolds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NTK: Do you have a favorite horror TV show?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NTK: Do you outline and plot the story?

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

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

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

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

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

NTK: Awesome! Looking forward to them!

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Chilling Chat: Episode 169 | Nancy Kilpatrick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NTK: How did “Root Cellar” come about?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NTK: What makes good erotica?

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

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

NTK: What is your favorite horror movie?

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

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

NTK: Do you have a favorite horror TV show?

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

NTK: What’s your favorite horror novel?

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

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

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

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

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

NK: Thank you, Naching, for having me.

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

Odds and Dead Ends: Scary Shadows | Analysis of H G Wells’ ‘The Red Room’

 

H. G. Wells might be more known for his science-fiction novels, such as The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds, but some of his short stories might as well have been written by H. P. Lovecraft. The Red Room is a straight up ghost story in the same vein as M. R. James. It’s a little gem of a story, and I’d like to share some of my thoughts as to what makes it such a delight.

The Red Room details the protagonist taking up a challenge of sorts to stay in a cursed castle bedroom overnight. The opening sets this up nicely in what might now seem a cliché. The opening line that ‘“I can assure you,” said I, “that it will take a very tangible ghost to frighten me,”’ is reminiscent of Jack Torrance in Kubrick’s The Shining saying ‘“That’s not going to happen to me”’ when Ullman speaks of the previous caretaker going insane.

This single line perfectly sets up the beginning of the character’s arc (from skeptic to believer), tells us the genre of story (supernatural), and the character of the protagonist. His skepticism is reinforced when he says that ‘I half suspected the old people were trying to enhance the spiritual terrors of their house’. He is ‘abbreviated and broadened to an impossible sturdiness in the queer old mirror at the end of the room.’ He sees himself as a rock, immovable against anything that passes his way. However, the mirror has changed his appearance, and just as he sees himself to be a rock in a storm, his faith is soon to be changed.

The protagonist’s disbelief in ghosts is due to a fear of age and dying. It is said that he is ‘“eight-and-twenty”’, which is twenty-eight for those who don’t speak century old English, making him a young man. This is in contrast to the three elderly people who apparently live in the castle. This fear of their age presents itself when the protagonist remarks that ‘There is, to my mind, something inhuman in senility.’ Age removes human qualities, and so something very old is to be seen as disgusting, or feared. Spirits, dead for many years, must be terrifying to him.

As the protagonist leaves the group for the room, they are described as ‘dark against the firelight’, which is one of the many allusions to shadows peppered throughout the opening. This further links them to the spirits that will eventually come to haunt our protagonist. Just a little later the protagonist himself expands on this idea, even remarking that ‘their very existence, thought I, is spectral.’

Along with this is the line ‘“It’s your own choosing.”’ This line is repeated like a mantra throughout the opening, and though it may be a bit overdone, the message is clear. By disobeying the warnings given, he brings the doom upon himself. This cliché also gets played up in The Cabin in the Woods, when the group ignore the warnings not to go up to the cabin. You get what’s coming to you.

Soon, even before we enter the room itself, Wells drops the recurrent image that will pervade the remainder of the piece, that of moving, sentient shadows fighting against the candlelight. There’s something very primal about this opposition, very simply a play of light against dark, of good against evil. ‘My candle flared and made the shadows cover and quiver.’ That the shadows are anthropomorphised, being said to have ‘came sweeping up behind me, and another fled before me into the darkness overhead’ is disturbing. Light has to be controlled by man, dependent on him, but the dark can move as it wishes.

The repetition and enhancing of this play of ghostly shadows is what drives the remainder of the piece. ‘The door of the Red Room and the steps up to it were in a shadowy corner.’ The protagonist must move into the realm of darkness if he is to attempt to hold out against it. The room itself is a ‘huge shadowy room with its black window bays,’ full of dust and ‘black corners, its germinating darkness.’ And against all this the candlelight has very little effect, ‘a little tongue of light in the vast chamber; its rays failed to pierce to the opposite end of the room.’

Despite being disturbed by ‘some impalpable quality of that ancient room,’ the protagonist tries to ‘preserve my scientific attitude of mind,’ and examines the room ‘systematically.’ He lights several candles throughout the room, illuminating all that he can, but despite this he still puts his revolver ‘ready to hand.’ Have all his efforts been in vain? He tries to maintain that he is in control of his emotions and that his ‘precise examination had done me a little good,’ and yet ‘I still found the remoter darkness of the place and its perfect stillness too stimulating for the imagination.’ All the build up at the beginning of the story begins to pay off, as our anticipation for ghosts and ghouls overrides the common sense saying that there is nothing there. Every mention of a black spot, a shadow in the rafters, is somewhere we search for ghosts in between the lines, looking for subtext. We are literally jumping at shadows.

A draught enters the room, and soon the candle in the alcove begins to flicker, which ‘kept the shadows and penumbra perpetually shifting and stirring in a noiseless flighty dance.’ An attempt to light more candles gives us his humorous remark that ‘when the ghost came I could warn him not to trip over them.’ Though this line is obviously a joke to himself, he’s brought ghosts into his everyday vocabulary, thinking of them as existing in his world. He’s begun a path away from disbelief into acknowledgement.

And then the candles start to go out.

Now that Wells has ratcheted up the tension by implication alone, he brings on the scares. The alcove, where the deepest shadow has been, is suddenly in darkness again. A candle has gone out. When trying to relight it, two more go out. The shadows do not give him time to bring back the light, and immediately move in for the kill. Again the comparison of the darkness to calculated activity is drawn, as ‘the flames vanished as if the wick had been suddenly nipped between a finger and thumb.’ The protagonist moves closer and closer to hysteria, and ‘a queer high note getting into my voice somehow.’

The protagonist, hysterical, again breaches into the realms of ghostly belief by exclaiming that ‘“those candles are wanted… for the mantel candlesticks.”’ He begins to fight against the shadows’ continuous extinguishing of the candles, ‘the shadows I feared and fought against returned, and crept in on me, first a step gained on this side of me, then on that.’ It is a fight that he can only lose because as was said many times at the beginning, it was a fate of his own choosing.

And yet the ambiguity is still maintained, because the draught was never initially shown to be ghostly in nature, and when he picks up another candle, ‘abruptly this was blown out as I swung it off the table by the wind of my sudden movement.’ Wells continually holds the reader in suspense of wanting to see something overtly supernatural, so that we voraciously follow the protagonist’s stumbling with our own clumsy speed, running headlong through the pages. It is Wells at his finest.

His escape from the room is even deliberately non-supernatural, battering himself up by his own stumbling in desperation and anxiety. And in the end, the final revelation of the nature of the malevolence in the room is a beautiful touch. ‘“Fear that will not have light nor sound, that will not bear with reason, that deafens and darkens and overwhelms.”’ It is described as being a supernatural force, but it is entirely possible to view it as a kind of mass hysteria. Somewhere creepy that instills fear that causes people to essentially, accidentally kill themselves in terror. The disorientation of a sudden acceptance of the possibility of spirits, of the loss of a guiding light, combined with his fear of age and decay, all fuel a Todorovian fantastic story. It’s a wonderful touch to end the piece.

In conclusion, The Red Room is a masterfully crafted ghost story that should be remembered with the best. A great build up to a frantic fight of the rational vs. the irrational part of the brain, with memorable descriptions of the sentient shadows, in a spooky gothic castle. It’s inspired my own work[1], and I hope that you’ll find something delightfully spooky from it as well.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: KJudgeMental

Bibliography

King, S., 1977. The Shining. United States: Doubleday.

The Cabin in the Woods. 2012. [Film] Directed by Drew Goddard. USA: Mutant Enemy.

Todorov, T., 1975. The Fantastic. New York: Cornell University.

Wells, H. G., 1896. The Red Room. [Online]
Available at: https://repositorio.ufsc.br/bitstream/handle/123456789/157356/The%20Red%20Room%20-%20H.G.%20Wells.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
[Accessed 23 06 2019].

Wells, H. G., 1897. The War Of The Worlds. United Kingdom: Pearson’s Magazine.

Wells, H. G., 1931. The Time Machine. New York: Random House.

[1] For those interested, the piece in question, The Voice-Snatcher, will be released in The Sirens Call #45 at the end of June/beginning of July.

My Darling Dead: Episode Six | The Queen

Queen Hespa stood at the window slit of her tower, looking over the same woodland that Prince Heyworth had so recently considered counting, as she contemplated his death. She had known of his robust reputation and had hoped her daughter’s temper would dispatch him. Now his death would be recorded as nothing but a lover’s quarrel, slain in an act of self-defense. Unbidden, the queen felt a surge of affection for her daughter and just as swiftly quashed it.

Over the years she had seen the results of the succession of nannies who had grown close to the little princess, only to die with no mark or warning in the night. The castle and its servants had been questioned by the royal guards numerous times but no one had any idea why the nannies were dying. The queen had not told anyone but Bortix, the Captain of the Guard, what the fairy’s curse had been. The wizard Sapius knew without being told, and the three of them did not share the knowledge with any other as the death toll mounted. She was able however to surreptitiously maneuver those who had lost her favor to the position and disposed of them thus. This had gone on for twelve years until the princess had been judged old enough to take care of herself, to the relief of the matrons of the kingdom.

The Princess Alasin proved to be a nightmare in the castle under her own charge. She was demanding, bossy and on more than one occasion had a serving girl thrashed for taking too long to appear when summoned. The queen was not to be questioned, certainly, but there was a certain amount of muttering about “ the little hell-child” who treated them all like dogs. Hespa was well aware of this and encouraged it, knowing that only their unanimous dislike of the princess was keeping them from forming any sort of meaningful bond with her and sealing their fates.

Hespa pulled the red velvet cord which ran along the ceiling and down to the floor of her chamber. From the depths of the castle, she could hear the distant tolling of a bell. Within seconds a figure appeared, clad in the same red velvet as the cord, hooded in black.

“Lady.” The voice came from the red-clad figure, though it seemed to come from everywhere.

“See that Prince Heyworth’s body is satisfactorily removed,” she said, draining her glass. “That task will have been delegated to the castle guards, and I would not credit them with any maneuver outside of the defense of the castle.”

“Nor would I, madam.”

“See that it is done, and send the wizard to me.” The queen dismissed her royal guard with a wave of her hand and took a deep drink from her glass.

Sapius stood atop the south tower and studied the stars. They were bright, and the darkness around them was dark, but apart from that, he could discern nothing. He shook his head in frustration and brought up his pipe, stoking it with a special blend of dwarf tobacco he imported under an understanding. Sometimes the stars were obstinate, and it was better to just enjoy them.

A spark flew from his fingertips, igniting the leaves in his pipe. He closed his eyes as he inhaled before a banging at his door wrenched his attention away. His eyes opened, holding the smoke for a moment before exhaling a mighty cloud as he said “Enter.”

Bortix, the Captain of the Guard, stood framed in the doorway, his frame filling it. His sword hand rested on its hilt as though it were born there. “Her Royal Highness bids you come before her, Master Wizard.”

Sapius allowed a thin smile on his bearded face. “I’m sure she does. Let us go.”

They marched in silence down the tower stairs, Bortix following Sapius who was puffing on his pipe as though he were out for a midnight stroll. When they came to the queen’s chamber, Bortix rapped three times on the door.

“Milady, the wizard awaits your pleasure.”

“Send him in and go away.”

Sapius entered, closing the door behind him. The queen stood before the fire, her back to the mantle, her arms crossed.

“My lady,” he said inclining his back. “You wish to see me?”

“What is my daughter taking?” Hespa asked, her voice businesslike.

“As you stipulated, it is a harmless composition made to increase her metabolism and raise her natural aggression.” The wizard’s thin smile returned. “I daresay it is working?”

Hespa snorted. “She has slain that troll-hunting lummox without exerting herself halfway. I fear the day her temper should turn on me.”

“She would never,” Sapius said. “You would have to provoke her.”

“All I can do is provoke her,” the queen snapped, pulling a bejeweled flask from her bodice and drinking deeply from it as she crossed to the window, looking moodily out at her kingdom. “I’ll not run the risk of my daughter feeling anything for me but indifference.”

“A wise choice, lady,” said the wizard, and puffed at his pipe.

Hespa turned, opening her mouth to lash out at the puffing fool for his sycophancy but the wizard was gone. A second later, a single rap came at the door.

“Mother.”

She stiffened, the mask she had worn since her daughter’s christening slipping effortlessly over her face. “Daughter.”

Alasin stepped into the room, her face sullen and splattered with red. “Prince Heyworth is dead. I presume this comes not as a shock to you.”

Hespa restrained a smile, instead affecting a look of cold disgust. “It has been told already. How did this happen?”

Alasin moved toward the dresser which held a crystal decanter of the cellar keeper’s finest aged brandy, pouring herself a glass. “His very presence was unwanted and he was unwilling to accept that fact. He kept mentioning you as if it mattered. Let me express my appreciation, O queen, for bestowing that oaf upon me.” She drained the glass, glaring at her mother.

The queen had foreseen this, having gathered intelligence from the local peasantry in Heyworth’s kingdom, for there are no greater wagging tongues than those who toil beneath royalty’s lash. Now, the kingdom’s aging ruler, the last of his line, would be hard-pressed to father any heir, leaving themselves vulnerable to being usurped by the kingdom of Dandoich when the monarch passed. The wizard’s drug had done its job perfectly and it was hard not to feel delighted.

“Daughter, you have a few things to learn about how to treat royalty from another kingdom,” Hespa spat with ire she did not feel. “Heyworth was our guest and you were his host. You should have done whatever it took to make him feel at ease. The good of the kingdoms are more important than your petty feelings.” She registered the look of hurt in Alasin’s eyes and crushed her own hurt for causing it, turning away as if in dismissal. “Get out of my sight, you little pestilent, while I try and fix the damage you have caused.”

Hot, angry tears filled Alasin’s eyes as she left her mother’s chamber. She could not think of a time she had not left the chamber thus, nor a time that ascending to it did not fill her with dread. As usual, upon leaving she went up to the very top of her mother’s tower. She had come up here after her first big fight with the queen when Hespa had informed her that she would be caring for herself now and would no longer have a nanny. The thought had sent her into a tantrum and she had run from the chamber after screaming at her mother that she would kill herself by jumping from the battlements.

Now, years later, atop the same tower, she considered, not for the first time, throwing herself from her perch, forever ending anything she knew in favor of the unknown void before her. Once again, fear mastered her, and she shifted her balance away from the void. She looked up, taking a deep breath. The air, damp from the recent rain, was rich and fragrant. She smiled. It could be worse. There were some things worth living for.

Kill Switch: An Overview

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During the early months of 2018, Emerian Rich and Dan Shaurette began brainstorming the theme of the next HorrorAddicts.net anthology. Dan approached Emz with an interesting idea. He wanted to create an anthology inspired by Tech Horror, something like the NETFLIX television show, Black Mirror. The prospect excited Emz. All they needed was a name.

They came up with several during the coming weeks. Everything from Glitched, to Future Dark to Kernel Panic to Digital Dread. Nothing clicked until January 19, 2018.

Dan: Kill Switch?

Emz: That’s it!

And, Kill Switch was born.

Dan chose the Vampire/Android cover and the submission call went out. Authors responded to the theme and the submissions began to roll in. Everything went smoothly until Father’s Day, 2018. That was the day Dan suffered a medical emergency. He would survive but he wouldn’t finish the anthology.

Emz was torn. She didn’t know whether to shelve the book or not. After weighing the pros and cons, a single thought came to her mind. What would Dan do? The answer was simple. He would press on.

That’s where I came into the picture. I’d joined HorrorAddicts.net as an interviewer, reviewer, and publishing assistant just a few months before. As Emz took over editing the anthology, I stepped in as Head of Publishing. We assembled a submissions team with Laura Perkins and J. Malcolm Stewart (followed later by Kate Nox and Cedar George) and went right to work.

A month passed as the team sifted through manuscripts looking for technical gems to fill the pages of the anthology. In the end, they decided on thirteen stories. The authors were notified and the anthology announced. Phase one was complete.

Several months of formatting and editing followed. We worked hard on every story, cutting and polishing the technical gems until they were perfect diamonds. At last, on May 9, Kill Switch was ready for the world.

And so, with pride and a deep sense of accomplishment, HorrorAddicts.net presents to you… 

KILL SWITCH

Edited by DAN SHAURETTE and EMERIAN RICH

With stories by:

DANA HAMMER / MOW-BOT

Mike’s new Mow-Bot is the answer to his weekend chore dreams until the neighbor’s cat disappears.

TIM O’NEAL / REMS

A doctor eager for publication and fame unethically tests a wound debridement technology with disastrous results.

NACHING T. KASSA / PHANTOM CALLER

An elderly woman enlists the aid of two repairmen when her pest elimination program goes haywire and begins attracting ghosts.

EMERIAN RICH / SOULTAKER 2.0

A game programmer in the final stages of launching a new version of the MMORPG “SoulTaker,” finds a bug even he can’t fix.

DAPHNE STRASERT / IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

Daemon is willing to do whatever it takes to get the girl of his dreams and if his Iriz eye implant can help him do that, he doesn’t care what else it does.

GARTH VON BUCHHOLZ  / HAÜS

A five-year-old boy is left home alone while his parents travel overseas, but his smart-house will keep him safe, right?

JERRY J. DAVIS / TRAVELS

In a near future world where viewers are addicted to a television station featuring a hypnotically seductive sphere bouncing on an endless, surreal journey through unspoiled natural environments, Dodd is the only one who is “awake” enough to fight back.

GARRETT ROWLAN / GO GENTLY

In a future world where no one except fake grandparents live past the age of 65, Enid needs to land the job that will save her life, but a trip down memory lane may prove more difficult than she expects.

CHANTAL BOUDREAU / STRANGE MUSIC

An audio-sensitive college student is the only one who can hear the difference in a mechanical birdsong that attacks her little sister.

H.E. ROULO / ANGELS DON’T FEAR HEIGHTS

A man uses technology to control his daughter from beyond the grave, will she ever be free?

BILL DAVIDSON / INTELLIGENIE

A terminally ill woman discovers a frightening secret when she issues a deadly order to her personal robot.

LAUREL ANNE HILL / 13TH MAGGOT

A scientist working with bioengineered medical maggots fails to document her obvious erroneous observation, only to later realize her horrific mistake.

PHILLIP T. STEPHENS / SUBROUTINES

A computer programmer looking for his missing children in a legendary ghost house encounters a malevolent AI.

And, though I’ve stepped in as Head of Publishing, I could never fill Dan’s shoes. With much love, we dedicate this book to you, Dan. Thank you. We hope you enjoy it.

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4 DAN

 

 

Logbook of Terror: Jump! (the dog suicide bridge)

Overtoun Bridge, Scotland

The voices screamed in my head. Insistent, unrelenting, the words pounded against my skull with their morbid demand: “Jump, Jump… JUMP!”

I hovered between the final two ramparts on the right side of the bridge. In crossing the structure, I’d neared the end of the bridge, I was almost to safety, but the voices stilled my movement. A malignant force beckoned me to the edge of sanity until I stood trembling, preparing to throw myself onto the rocks below. How did I get here? I was just out for an evening stroll. I must remember…

Ah, yes. Following dinner, I’d gone out for my customary evening constitution. I wandered aimlessly through the Scottish countryside, absorbed in the beauty that surrounded me, making mental notes so not to lose my way back to the inn where I was staying. After some leisure minutes had passed, I felt a presence behind me. Turning, I saw a large dog of an unknown breed, dirty and soaking wet, some paces behind me. Thinking strays were probably common here in the country, and not feeling threatened, I continued on. A short time later I again sensed that someone or something was following me. I glanced back and there again was the same large mongrel, only this time, the canine was joined by another dog of large size, yellow eyes, and filthy black, wet, mud-caked fur. The crisp air rushed over me, chilling my bones. Something about those dogs wasn’t right, something… I stopped, not giving my imagination another inch, and merrily pressed on with my country walk.

Evening settled into dusk, and a large moon loomed on the horizon. Fog drifted over the lane. I whistled and took in a deep breath of the fresh air. While relishing the chilly air, I wondered about the dogs I’d seen. Could they still be behind me? I listened intently and only heard the sounds of my own footsteps and the breeze caressing leaves of nearby trees. No padding paws, no panting –nothing but the quiet of the countryside and the day seeping into night. Considering my fears, I laughed under my breath. Dogs don’t follow people around on their evening jaunts. The thought is preposterous!

I told myself not to turn, not to look, then promptly stopped and spun around. Before me stood a pack of at least a dozen dogs of medium to large size, all of them sopping wet, covered in mud and filth, their eyes hollow yet fixed intently on me. I gulped. I stepped back. They stepped forward. The largest dog of them all, the first I’d seen, stepped out in front of the pack, barked, and showed his teeth. My blood froze. The alpha dog leapt forward, the pack followed closely behind, and I hurled myself along the path.

Trees rushed past me while the moon lit my steps and I rushed into an unavoidable wall of fog. Gray and white covered my vision. My feet and heart pounded in unison. I smelled water and the cooing of a flowing stream came to my ears.

I looked down. I was no longer moving. I stood still, my hands on the cold stone of this ancient, cursed bridge. And, to my right, there they were –the dogs, slowly stalking toward me, drenched in fog, their voices in my head screaming as one, commanding: Jump, jump… Jump!

I clenched my eyes shut and cried out for them to stop, to leave me be, to let me go. Suddenly, cold hands were grappling at my limbs, pulling me, pushing me to the ground. I thrashed and screamed to be set free. Then, a soothing voice, telling me I was safe. I opened my eyes. A kindly woman and man knelt over me. I recognized them as the keepers of the inn.

After bringing me to my senses, the couple helped me to my feet and we began our walk back to the inn. Along the way they explained that they’d heard my terrified cries and had run out to find me at the bridge’s edge, appearing as if I intended to throw myself into the stream below. Horrified and embarrassed by my own actions, I thanked them profusely for saving me from any possible self-harm and vowed not to take another solitary evening stroll for the remainder of my stay at their lodging. As we entered the inn I remarked that I was glad the pack of dogs had not attempted to follow us back from the bridge. The innkeepers fixed me with a curious look. I’d been all alone, they said, there hadn’t been a single dog in sight.

Kill Switch Chilling Chat with Dana Hammer

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Dana Hammer is the author of several short stories which have been published in various magazines, journals and anthologies. She has never used a lawnmower.Dana Hammer

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

So young I can’t remember the age. I used to stay up late watching Tales from the Darkside and Tales from the Crypt. My family and I used to tell stories about Betsy the Child-Killing Doll. I was like, five at the time. It’s always been a pretty big part of my life, which is a good thing.

2.) What author has influenced you most?

I don’t know. I like to think I have my own style.

3.) What inspired you to write your piece, “Mow-Bot?”

My husband is very in to automation. I am not. He purchased a robot vacuum cleaner, and it was bad news. It kept trying to get my feet with its little flippers. Sometimes it ate electrical cords. Sometimes it didn’t obey me at all. It had an “accident” and now it is gone from my life forever, thank god.

A robotic lawn mower is the logical extension of these kinds of terrifying home automation appliances.

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

Of course, they don’t have free will, they’re fictional characters, who I created. I can make them do whatever I want.

5.) Do you listen to music when you write? Who do you listen to?

No, music is too distracting. I like it silent when I write. I do like to create playlists that I listen to BEFORE I write, to get me in the mood.

6.) Where do you find inspiration?

Same place everyone does.

7.) What is your favorite horror novel?

That’s a hard one! It, The Hole, The Stand, Hannibal.

KSCoverSmall8.) Favorite horror movie?

Again, so hard to pick! The Silence of the Lambs, Psycho, Get Out, The Bad Seed.

9.) Favorite horror television show?

Tales from the Crypt!

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

Right now I’m working on screenplays. My short story, “Spider” was optioned, and turned into a short film, which should be released in October of this year. My screenplay, Red Wings won the Vancouver Badass Film Festival Best Screenplay award, so I’m trying to get that produced. My novels, Dead Viking Rehab and Pazuzu Versus the Fucking Fairies are now available for purchase, so you should purchase them.