Author Interview – Michelle Garza & Melissa Lason

Welcome to July’s Author Interview. This month we’re in for twice the fun with twin sisters, Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason, also known as The Sisters of Slaughter. Let’s get right to it, shall we?

  1. Every writer has a story on how it all began for them. When did each of you first begin to realize you shared a knack for story telling? And what made you decide to write together instead of separately?

We wanted to become storytellers before we even realized what writers actually do. Before we learned to read and write we loved using our imaginations and our dad used to tell everyone scary stories around campfires while we were on family vacations and that magic really stuck with us. We started writing stories when we were eight years old and the need to write never went away. We didn’t start trying to get published until we were turning thirty. We figured we needed to try, it was time to cast aside the self-doubt and go for it.

  1. There’s a set of twins in the town I live in that everyone agrees are a bit on the creepy side. They always dress exactly the same and you never see one without the other. As twins, why do you think other people find twins so unusual apart from the obvious? Have you had any experiences that you would define as a ‘twin thing’, such as the much talked about Secret Twin Language or something akin to mind-reading?

Being a twin is like being born with a best friend. We did have a twin language when we were babies. We would jibber jabber to each other and understand what one another was saying even when no one else did. We’ve often showed up for family gatherings wearing outfits nearly identical even though we never planned it and so on. Twins really do have a deep bond that goes beyond anything, our motto is “from the womb to the tomb.” That’s how much we love each other.

  1. In my experience, writers are also avid readers. It’s easy to assume you both enjoy reading dark fantasy and horror, but what genre or other types of books do you enjoy that your fans might be surprised about?

Our favorite genres are horror and dark fantasy but we’ve always read regular fantasy as well and we cut our teeth on Roald Dahl and Gary Paulsen. Books like “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien changed the way we saw storytellers when we were younger and Cormac McCarthy is one of our favorites. It’s important to read everything you possibly can, it expands the imagination and your capacity as a writer.

  1. I’ve tried a few times to write with others and it was always an epic fail. I don’t like other people telling my characters what to do, I guess. What is your process for writing together and who comes up with the ideas? Is it pretty much 50/50 or do you feel one of you is stronger in some areas than other? Is one person stronger with characters and dialogue and the other more into plot twists and describing locations and moods?

Our writing process is natural to us because we’ve done it since we were little girls. Writing with other people might not be so easy because we know each other better than anyone in the world. We share the mutual vision of what we want to achieve. It sounds strange but we’re like one person split in two. We don’t fight over pieces of the story, we compromise and work together always. We start by sharing our ideas for stories, whichever ideas and decide which one we’re going to write then we outline it and split up the work equally. One of us works on a couple chapters before handing it over to the other. We always read each chunk of work out loud to be certain it’s something we both enjoy. A lot of it is handwritten first and then typed up, that is our first draft. While typing if something needs to be elaborated on or taken out we discuss the change and proceed. That’s how we’ve always done it, except as kids we only had handwritten books with illustrations.

  1. I see you have new novel coming out with Bloodshot Books this summer. What’s the elevator pitch for “Those Who Follow” and do you have an official release date yet?

those-who-follow-kindle-cover “Those Who Follow” is a sequel to a short story we wrote for a benefit anthology called “Widowmakers”. The pitch is a young woman goes up against a serial killer who takes his prey to another dimension to torture and kill them to try to rescue a sister she never knew she had.

  1. Where can readers find Michelle and Melissa hanging out on the internet and how can we get a hold of your books?

We are on Facebook and Twitter if anyone wants to follow along in our shenanigans. There’s definitely more news on the writing front for us so please stay tuned.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sistersofhorror/?fref=mentions
Twitter:@fiendbooks
Sinister Grin Press: http://sinistergrinpress.com/authors/michelle-garza-melissa-lason/

In addition to “Those Who Follow”, the sisters’ first novel MAYAN BLUE was one of the five Bram Stoker Awards nominees this year in the category of Superior Achievement in a First Novel.

 

New Release – No Rest For The Wicked

Every ghost has a story. Not all of them want it told.

HellBound Books Publishing and I are happy to announce the re-release of my haunted house tale, “No Rest For The Wicked“.

Initially released as a self-published title back in August 2016, NRFTW has gone through a few minor changes (let’s call them improvements) and been given a brand spanking new cover. All 452 pages of this paranormal battle between the living and the dead (and the dead and the dead, too) can be yours for $16 paperback. eBook version is coming out very soon, too.

From beyond the grave, a murderous wife seeks to complete her revenge on those who betrayed her in life; a powerless domestic still fears for her immortal soul while trying to scare off anyone who comes too close; and the former plantation master – a sadistic doctor who puts more faith in the teachings of de Sade than the Bible – battle amongst themselves and with the living to reveal or keep hidden the dark secrets that prevent any of them from resting in peace.

When Eric and Grace McLaughlin purchase Greenbrier Plantation, their dreams are just as big as those who have tried to tame the place before them. But, the doctor has learned a thing or two over his many years in the afterlife, is putting those new skills to the test, and will go to great lengths in order to gain the upper hand. While Grace digs into the death-filled history of her new home, Eric soon becomes a pawn of the doctor’s unsavory desires and rapidly growing power, and is hell-bent on stopping her. Enter the

Winchester Society of Paranormal Research; could the solution lie within the humble ranks of this group of investigators? It seems unlikely, but the crew is eager to try. Is there any force powerful enough to put to rest the wickedness that demands complete control, not just over its ghostly adversaries, but the body and soul of Eric McLaughlin?

“If you’re looking for a chilling ghost story filled with mystery and escalating tension, look no further. No Rest for the Wicked is the real deal – an expansive, unfolding riddle between the living and the dead.” Hunter Shea – author of “Tortures of the Damned” & “We Are Always Watching”

Get your copy of NO REST FOR THE WICKED at Amazon for a wicked summertime read.

new logo transp back Visit HellBound Book Publishing for even more dark and gruesome reads!

The Horrors The Grew Me – Roddy McDowall

Actors like Robert Englund who played Freddie Kruger in the A Nightmare on Elm Street movies, Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes in Stephen King’s Misery and her various creepy roles in the American Horror Story series, Vincent Price or Lon Chaney, and Linda Blair in her unforgettable performance as the possessed Regan McNeil in The Exorcist, are well known for their roles or series of roles in classic horror movies. Someone that most people don’t think of as being a horror actor, however, is British actor, Roddy McDowall.

I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t totally in love with Roddy McDowall, nor do I remember the first of his films I saw. All I really knew is that save for one, who is still my bestie to this day, most of my friends had no idea who he was other than the guy who played Cornelius in The Planet of the Apes movies. He also played Galen in the TV series, by the way. But, oh, he did so very much more than that. As a fan of horror and thrillers from a very young age, his work within those genres is what I was most drawn to. For the sake of brevity and the purpose of this blog series, that is also where my focus will be.

HeartDark The earliest film of his that I’ve seen is based on the Joseph Conrad book of the same name, Heart of Darkness written in 1899. The film was presented by Playhouse 90, a television show that ran from 1956-1961, in 1958 and starred Roddy as the lead character of Charles Marlow alongside a man whose name is nearly synonymous with Horror, Boris Karloff, as Mr. Kurtz. Eartha Kitt did an amazing job as The Queen. Though not technically labeled a horror film, Heart of Darkness does, as the name suggests, delve into the very dark corners of man’s psyche and the corruption of the soul when given a taste of power.

Roddy made numerous appearances in popular paranormal or unexplained-themed television programs as well. McDowall starred in a 1960 episode of The Twilight Zone titled People Are Alike All Over, as well as appearing on the Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1964 in episodes The Gentleman Caller and See The Monkey Dance. In 1980 and 1981 episodes of Fantasy Island, Roddy played the ultimate entity of horror and evil, the very devil himself, Mephistopheles.

My all-time favorite, however, was his role as Jeremy Evans in another Rod Serling NightGalleryseries, Night Gallery, which first aired in 1969. In this first episode of the first season titled The Cemetery, McDowall plays a heartless and greedy nephew who’s chomping at the bit to get at the inheritance. In fact, Jeremy flawlessly orchestrates the uncle’s death and quickly steps in as heir apparent before his uncle’s body has even begun to cool. All is well and good until Jeremy realizes one of the painting his uncle did years before is different. It’s a view of the family cemetery located near the house. Suddenly, there’s a freshly dug grave in the painting that wasn’t there before and Jeremy is convinced he’s hearing footsteps from beyond the grave.

Roddy also starred as comic-book villain The Bookworm in the Batman series in 1966 and was the voice of The Mad Hatter in the Batman cartoon series. Not exactly horror, but another example of the actor’s versatility as playing the bad guy. In 1964 Roddy appeared as Martin Ashely, a murderous gardener, in Shock Treatment and had the leading role as Arthur Primm in the creature-feature IT! (1967). Both of which I have already reviewed.

HellHouse One of my all-time favorite Roddy McDowall movies is The Legend of Hell House (1973) based on the novel Hell House by Richard Matheson. Here Roddy plays the role of physical medium Benjamin Franklin Fischer, the sole survivor of a previous group of investigators into the house of Emeric Belasco, a sexual deviant of Satanic proportions. Fischer and three others are hired by millionaire William Deutche, the home’s current owner, to investigate the house and prove or disprove life after death. Known as Hell House, the Belasco home got its name from the various perversions that took place there during Emeric’s lifetime and lays claim to the title as most haunted house in the world. Amazing, amazing movie!

You can’t discuss the subject of horror movies and Roddy McDowall without mentioning his portrayal of vampire slayer, Peter Vincent in Fright Night (1985) and Fright Night II (1988). In all honesty, the world probably could have done without the sequel, but the first movie is another huge favorite of mine. I mentioned it last month when I discussed that other horror that grew me, vampires. If you missed that post, here’s a quick link back to it – The Horrors That Grew Me – Vampires.

DeadWinter In 1987 the movie Dead of Winter came out. It starred Mary Steenburgen as Katie McGovern, a struggling actress who answers an ad placed for open-call auditions. When Katie walks into the room, the man conducting the interviews, Mr. Murray played by McDowall, pays her little mind until he looks up. She’s hired instantly. The role will involve Katie traveling with Murray to an isolated location where she will study the role and replace another actress who suffered a nervous breakdown some time earlier. Katie was hired because of her striking resemblance to this other woman, Julie Rose. However, there’s a lot more to all this than just replacing a fellow actress. A lose remake of the 1945 film My Name Is Julia Rose, Dead of Winter takes some remarkably dark twists and turns, not the least of which involves Katie finding a notebook full of Polaroids of Julie’s corpse!

On October 3, 1998 Roderick Andrew Anthony Jude McDowall died of cancer at the age of 70. I was devastated and heartbroken. Maybe he wasn’t a heart throb actor to the rest of the world, but for me, he was a huge and deeply loved part of my childhood. He was the one and only actor I ever wrote to requesting from, and later receiving, an autographed picture of. That picture is now safely tucked away with other important papers like my marriage license and property survey, in a locked, fireproof box. It’s simply that precious to me.

To end on a light note, I can’t help but share this wonderful video put together by fellow Roddy McDowall fan, Melanie Hall called Roddy Gets His Sexy On. Again, not horror at all, but a wonderful tribute to a man who acted and smiled his way into my Horror-loving heart.

The Day I Wore Fangs

I seem normal enough on the surface. I don’t have crazy or colorful hair. I don’t dress in any shocking manner. The only piercings I have are in my ears and the few tattoos I have aren’t seen all that often. Yup, just a normal, everyday kind of gal …until you start asking around, that is.

If you were to approach some of my childhood friends, mainly from my high school days, you’d get the inkling that maybe this normal thing is all an act. Or maybe I’ve just outgrown the black fingernails, eyeliner, and lipstick. Maybe dressing all in black every day, muttering in Latin, and sitting in the corner of the school cafeteria at lunchtime alone with my nose buried in some sort of occult-themed novel or research book was all just a fad; something I’ve grown out of as my mother so fervently prayed I would.

Or maybe in my dotage, I’ve just toned those things down a bit, just a bit. I still have my moments, like the day I wore fangs.

It was about ten years ago, making me about forty years old at the time.

Ever since I first began watching all those vampire movies, I’ve wanted a pair of realistic-looking fangs. I wondered how Hollywood did it. I considered talking to my dentist about it, but never did. Even if had dental insurance, I’m pretty sure they’d not cover something like that. I attempted to craft my own numerous times, adapting those cheap plastic things, buying different sorts every October hoping against hope that at last I’d found The Ones! I even tried to make some out of wax, but nothing had that real look I was striving for.

And then, the internet and online shopping happened. I found a site that looked promising, vampfang.com , but I didn’t get my hopes up too high. I’d been disappointed before. $30 seemed an awful lot for fake fangs, but my primal urges screamed out for satisfaction. I ordered them. They arrived in a little coffin-shaped case. I remained skeptical.

One day while I was home alone, I decided it was time to put that $30 to the test. The results? Amazing! I couldn’t have been happier! Not only did these fangs look real, they allowed me to drink (no, not blood – I’m not QUITE that off) as long as I was mindful and to eat, though somewhat awkwardly.

The following July, I bought them in October, I decided to step up my game. I was no longer satisfied to just wear them around the house and yard. It was time to go public and what better way than to just pop them in on a Friday morning after brushing my teeth while getting ready for work?

I don’t work with the public much, but I do have a few office mates. My goal was to just act natural and go about my day, not to flash the fangs at everyone I met or spoke to. Let’s see who notices! There’ not a lot of chit-chat in my office, but my boss did eventually take note. She rolled her eyes and laughed. “Only you, Pam,” she said. “Only you.” By the end of the day, half a dozen people were aware I was in vampire mode.

It being the Friday after payday, it was also grocery day! Directly after work I headed over to one of the bigger grocery stores in town. No one noticed as I picked out my fresh fruits and vegetables, coffee, milk, butter, and eggs. I was paid no mind at the check-out as I unloaded the cart and helped bag things up. And then the cashier, a young man in his early-mid-20s, told me my total and glanced up. I gave him a slight smile as I opened my check book. There was a flicker of surprise in his eyes. His mouth dropped open for a fraction of a second, then he looked away and refused to make further eye contact.

A few minutes later, I pushed my packed cart out of the store and towards my car, wondering about the conversation that likely arose from the lad’s encounter with the normal-looking lady with fangs who had just exited the building.

I did this several more times, but the first time was the sweetest and most memorable. Now I just need to get some of those weird-colored contact lenses …maybe something along the lines of lizard eyes.

 

Grave Robbing – 21st Century Style

At what point does it become okay to dig up someone’s final resting place, photograph them, and put them on public display?

Archaeologists have been doing it for hundreds of years. Museum curators scramble to acquire the most popular corpses they can afford to draw in the crowds. Early funeral directors and embalmers would often put an embalmed corpse on display in their front window as a type of advertising so people passing by in the street could see what a great job they did.

But, if Cousin Joe goes to the cemetery where great Grandma Eunice is buried, digs her up, and displays her respectfully on his kitchen table, suddenly he’s some sort of sicko. Yet, perhaps a one or two hundred years from now, maybe the cemetery Grandma Eunice is at is discovered anew by a historian, he and his team dig her up, photograph her remains, and sell them to a museum for public display, and suddenly it’s okay again?

How is it okay for government approved “professionals” to loot the graves of the Ancient Egyptians, Mayans, or a Chinese emperor, yet not okay to poke around in Civil War cemetery or the wreck of the Titanic, out of respect for the dead and their families?

I don’t get it. How is one the act that of a sick and twisted individual while the other is perfectly acceptable and rewarded? Both are grave robbing. Both are disturbing the dead.

What do you think? Where do we draw the line between grave robbing or desecration and calling something being done in the name of science and anthropological research?

My Writer’s Book Bag

How wonderful it is to be able to open all my doors and enjoy some fresh air or better yet, to sit out on the back deck in the morning with a cup of coffee and a good book. It seems summer has finally arrived in the Finger Lakes.

LochN_SheaI must confess I haven’t done a whole lot of actual reading the past four weeks, but I did  finish up Hunter Shea’s Loch Ness Revenge quickly enough. It’s no wonder he’s been banned from Scotland. Poor, defenseless Nessies, just innocently swimming along minding their own business! Or… maybe not so much that. Great fun!

Although I’ve not been reading quite so much, I have been listening to audio books. I found two old favorites I’ve not read since my high school days and decided it was time for a refresher. I think I love them even more the second time around.

Wicked_BradburyFirst, Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. This is by far my favorite Bradbury novel. When the evil carnival folk come to town, it’s best if you just stay away even with nary a clown in sight! Our heroes have a lot more horrifying things to worry about that some silly, old clown. The slow and steady built up to the end is pure delight. And, the movie that was based on this book, I have to say, a wonderful job.

Castle_JacksonShirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived In The Castle is equally as well-written. I’d forgotten a lot of this story and after this re-introduction, I am wondering if there was a certain aspect of it that stuck firm into the back of my brain and took deep roots all these years until I came to find myself writing Dark Hollow Road. They aren’t the same by any stretch of the imagination, but a few scenes struck familiar chords in the story I created around Mary Alice Brown compared to the life of Merricat (Mary Catherine Blackwood), including the first names! It never even occurred to me until I was listening. The middle names differ, but I did name my Mary’s little sister Katherine. Also, I was delighted to see there’s a movie adaption in the works for this book. Looking forward to that especially after I saw that Crispen Glover is cast as Uncle Julian!

Boggy_BlackburnWhat little actual reading I have been doing is Lyle Blackburn’s, Beyond Boggy Creek. If you have any interest in the many names, sightings, and stories of Bigfoot as found in the American south, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma and the rest, this is the book for you! I had no idea there were so many.

Short and sweet this time around, but I still have plenty of books in my TBR pile that I’m determined to get through.

 

2017 Bookshelf-To-Date

January
Montauk Monster by Hunter Shea

February
Maledicus by Charles F. French

March
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe,
The Beast of Boggy Creek by Lyle Blackburn

April
Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
Sinister Entity by Hunter Shea

May
Ann Radcliffe: The Great Enchantress by Robert Miles
Dreaming At The Top Of My Lungs by Israel Finn
Loch Ness Revenge by Hunter Shea

June
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (audiobook)
We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson (audiobook)
Beyond Boggy Creek by Lyle Blackburn

Author Interview – Jason J. Nugent

Welcome to the June edition of my monthly Author Interview blog. This month (or at least this weekend) it’s all about Jason J. Nugent, author of two short story collections and a brand-spanking new YA Sci-Fi novel called The Selection.

Pamela: Welcome, Jason and thanks for agreeing to being placed under a white-hot light bulb in an otherwise pitch-black room. Tell me a little bit about how you became interested in writing. Have you known since an early age or is this something new you’ve recently started to get involved in?

Jason: I wrote sappy poetry as an angst-filled teen. Once in college, I wrote stories in English class. Instead of pursuing a degree in creative writing, I chose History, going on to earn a Master’s Degree in Early Medieval History. I always wanted to try fiction but was too scared to. About eight years ago, I had a good friend convince me to give NaNoWriMo a try. I failed miserably! I tried the following year and failed again. I then “won” at my third try. That was all the motivation I needed. I proved to myself that I could do it and decided to make writing a priority. I started writing all kinds of flash fiction and short stories, almost all with strange or dark twists.

Pamela: Whether by choice or by fate, we’ve both gone the self-publishing route. What have been your biggest challenges and your greatest rewards as an Indie Author?

Jason: My greatest challenge—by far! is finding new readers for my work. There are so many  Jasonchoices for readers today and to get them to spend their money on a relatively unknown quantity is difficult. The greatest reward has been meeting other writers who enjoy what I write and share it with others. The indie community, in my experience, has been super supportive and always helpful. Having those advocates means everything to me. The first review I received was from writer and blogger Mike Wolff. I had no idea who he was at the time, but he gave (Almost) Average Anthology an excellent review. I’ve come to know him since then and we support each other all the time. He’s a great guy and knows his stuff. Without writing, I would never have met him or Aaron Hamilton, or Thomas Gunther, or the crew from Inklings Press (Stephen and Brent), or the excellent writer Maria Haskins, or yourself. I can list a ton of other excellent writers I’ve met and they’ve all been encouraging.

Pamela: I see you are part of a Science Fiction game development team. That’s pretty neat. Can you tell me more about ‘The Status Quo Project’, your role, and how you got involved in it?

Jason: Yeah, this has been an amazing experience. Status Quo is a game where there are seven races, seven planets, and three factions. There is combat in space and on the planets. It’s going to be one heck of a game!

statusquoI was introduced to “Cheshire,” the lead project manager for “Status Quo” through Alex (I always knew him as Dolphi) a gaming buddy of mine. He knew I wrote stories and he put me in contact with Cheshire. I was given a test assignment of writing bounty hunter missions for one of the planets and it went over so well, I was given another planet to write bounty hunter missions for. I nailed that and was offered the opportunity to write ALL the missions–three factions worth and civilian missions–for an entire planet. I did almost all of those missions so when you play the game and end up on the planet Arthas, almost every mission you do there was written by me. I still can’t wrap my head around it! The team Cheshire assembled to work on this game is amazing! I cannot wait for it to come out.

Pamela: April was a busy month for you. Your YA Sci-Fi novel, “The Selection” was released and you had a short story appear in Sci-Fan magazine. Was making the transition from short stories to a novel a difficult one for you?

Jason: Thanks! It was a pretty good month for me! The transition from short stores to novels wasn’t too difficult. I enjoy the longer form as it allows me to explore a character in greater detail. I’ve got four NaNoWriMo “wins” under my belt which helps me plan and write a longer piece of fiction. If I need a break from the novel, I’ll write a short story or revise one I’ve written so I can keep the writing going while not burning out on any one project.

Pamela: There’s an old adage that writers should ‘Write What You Know’. Can you explain how someone who’s studied Early Medieval History extensively uses that to bring life to your work as a Sci-Fi author? What sort of research is involved in all that? It must be tremendous.

Jason: Yeah, historical research can be daunting for sure! I think studying history allows me to bring a sense of realism to my writing. When I studied Early Medieval Ireland, I had to research people and incidents in depth to get at the answers I wanted. I feel that’s helped me to make my stories relatable, no matter the setting. I want you the reader to feel at home even if you’re on a planet thousands of light years away with strange creatures.

Pamela: What can we look forward to from you next and where can readers find out more about you and your work?

Jason: I’ve got a short story coming out in August in an anthology titled “Twilight Madness.” It will be an ebook and paperback release from Schreyer Ink Publishing. I’ve started a sequel to “The Selection” and I’m looking to rework an earlier novel as well. You can find out all about me at jasonjnugent.com. While there, feel free to sign-up to my mailing list and you’ll get a free ebook copy of my first collection of dark fiction short stories (Almost) Average Anthology.

Thanks, Jason! I really enjoyed learning more about you. Best of luck with The Selection and with its sequel.

Next month we’ll learn more about … The Sisters of Slaughter!

Promo-Sale! “The Selection” by Jason J. Nugent

For a limited time, grab the thrilling young adult sci-fi adventure novel “The Selection” from author Jason J. Nugent for only .99!

Humans colonized the planet Kepler 186f after Earth’s near total global collapse. Soon after, supply missions ended leaving the colonists to themselves, renaming the planet Anastasia and building a new society far different than Earth’s.

As population imbalance threatened stability in the settlements, a horrific and brutal institution known as The Selection was created.

Centuries later, haunted by the screams of his dead older brother, eighteen-year-old Eron fears the unknown terror waiting for him and all boys his age in The Selection. He has thirty days to survive to Victory Point and reunite with his crush Mina. He will have to endure brutal circumstances and forge unlikely alliances if he’s to survive The Selection.

Time is short. Threats are constant. Survival means life. Failure means death—or worse.

Between June 9th and June 11th, you can get this action-filled story for only .99! Go to mybook.to/the-selection today before time runs out!

Jason Jason Nugent was born in Cleveland, OH in 1974. He moved to rural southern Illinois in 1992 and lives there today with his wife, son, and mini-zoo of three cats and two dogs.

He is the author of two collections of dark fiction short stories: “(Almost) Average Anthology” and “Moments of Darkness” and the young adult sci-fi novel “The Selection.”

Jason has written for Sum’n Unique Magazine and game missions for an independently produced video game titled “Status Quo.”

He writes regularly on his (Almost) Average blog.

The Horrors That Grew Me – Vampires

Welcome to the first installment of The Horrors That Grew Me. Each month for as long as I can come up with ideas, I will be posting a blog about specific authors, actors, books, movies, and maybe even some personal experiences that have fascinated and led me down this dark and spooky path I now walk as a horror novelist.

Not long ago I wrote a blog called Why I Love Horror where I tried to explain WHY I love and prefer horror over romances, sci-fi, and other genres. Since then, I’ve given a lot of thought to being more specific because, believe it or not, not ALL horror appeals to me.

Some of my earliest and fondest memories involve sitting with my mom on a Saturday afternoon enjoying a show called “Monster Movie Matinee”. They showed all the Universal Studio classics, Frankenstein with Boris Karloff, Dracula starring good old Bela Lugosi, and Lon Chaney Jr. in The Wolfman. They were the first to bring me The Blob starring Steve McQueen, and Them a tale about giant ants. In a nutshell, as the show’s title implies, Monster Movie Matinee specialized in MONSTER movies. My favorite monsters? Vampires!

If you were to ask anyone who knew me as a teenager what I was interested in, one answer they’d surely give you is, vampires. Vampires, vampires, and more vampires. I couldn’t get enough!

LeeDracCount Dracula takes the throne, but there were so many other books and movies out there about vampires other than those involving dear old Vlad. Everyone knows about Dracula and Bram Stoker. Though I wonder how many of you have read his follow-up Dracula’s Guest that was published in 1914, two years after Stoker’s death. Odd as it may seem, I never thought of Dracula as a monster. He was the misunderstood bad guy.  I always cheered for him to escape whatever method of destruction was being employed.  This is probably why I was also a huge fan of the British Hammer Films starring Christopher Lee as the immortal count. They may have killed him at the end of one movie, but someone always found a way to resurrect him for the next.

And talk about sex appeal. Oh. My. God. For as much as I love Lee as Dracula, I must confess that Frank Langella’s version of the count langelladraccertainly made my teenage blood simmer just a wee bit more. Here’s a little secret for you, especially any of my classmates out there reading this who asked, “Don’t those books scare you?” to which I’d dreamily reply, “No, not at all.” Dear friends, do you have ANY idea how much sex goes on in vampire novels? Yes, even back in the 1970s and 1980s when I was doing the majority of my vampire novel reading, the vampire genre was chock full of the sensual.  Hell, even Dracula was considered damned racy in its day with the wanton and buxom women going down on their knees and licking their voluptuous lips. But enough about the Count, let’s move on.

Everyone reading this has probably heard of Anne Rice’s Interview With The Vampire (1976) and all the books that followed. Frankly, I got my fill of Lestat after Memnoch The Devil and haven’t read much beyond that of the Vampire Chronicles. I’d even bet the majority of you are aware that Stephen King wrote a vampire novel back in 1975 called ‘Salem’s Lot, so that’s all I’m going to say about either of those.

FeastOfBlood_CollinsI have a little book of short stories that was published in 1967 called A Feast Of Blood that contains my all-time-favorite vampire short story, Blood Son (aka Drink My Red Blood) written by Richard Matheson in 1952. Matheson always penned I Am Legend (1954) which I first saw as a movie titled The Last Man On Earth (1964) starring Vincent Price. I still prefer it to the Will Smith version. I loved Blood Son so much that for my pubic speaking class final, I chose it as one of my readings for my final … in a dark room, with a red spotlight. Jules, the young boy featured in the story, is totally obsessed with vampires. I found the story completely relate-able. The first time I read the ending I got all goose-bumpy.

DracTape

In 1975 Fred Saberhagen came out with a little something called The Dracula Tape. Love! This is Dracula told from the perspective of the Count on a series of cassette tapes found in the back of a car owned by Arthur Harker of Exeter, England. As mentioned above, another story that spoke to my sense of Dracula not being the horrible monster everyone makes him out to be.

ColdHand I have the short story Pages from a Young Girl’s Journal in the 1977 collection by Robert Aickman called Cold Hand In Mine, although I believe the story itself first came out in 1975. This is the tale of two journeys. The first is a journey of the traveling-across-land kind. The “young girl” in question, who is English, is touring with her parents in Europe, mainly to Italy, in the mid-1800s. The second journey, and the far more interesting one, is the mental and physical transformation of the girl from one of an innocent virgin into a creature of the night. As with Jules in Blood Son, the character’s thoughts and desires were completely relate-able to me as a vampire-obsessed young girl.

Anne Rice wasn’t the only author back then working her way through a series of vampire novels. I was equally as enthralled with Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s leading man, Saint Germain. The thing with St. Germain is, he’s based on a real person. The legend of Saint Germain is explained in Wikipedia as:

Count_of_St_Germain“St. Germain, as one of the Masters of the Ancient Wisdom, is credited with near god-like powers and with longevity. It is believed that Sir Francis Bacon faked his own death on Easter Sunday, 9 April 1626, attended his own funeral and made his way from England to Transylvania where he found lodging in a castle owned by the Rakóczi family. There, on 1 May 1684, Bacon, by using alchemy, became an immortal occult master and adopted the name Saint Germain and became one of the Masters of the Ancient Wisdom, a group of beings that, Theosophists believe, form a Spiritual Hierarchy of planet Earth sometimes called the Ascended Masters.

Thus, according to these beliefs, St. Germain was a mysterious manifestation of the “resurrected form” (or “resurrection body”) of Sir Francis Bacon. Some write that his name St. Germain was invented by him as a French version of the Latin Sanctus Germanus, meaning “Holy Brother”. In the Ascended Master Teachings (but not in traditional Theosophy), the Master R, or the Master Rakóczi, also known as the Great Divine Director (a term introduced by Guy Ballard in the 1930s) is a separate and distinct being from St. Germain – the Master Rakoczi is regarded in the Ascended Master Teachings as a name used by the Great Divine Director when he was functioning as Saint Germain’s teacher in the Great White Brotherhood of Ascended Masters.”

Whether or not he was Sir Francis Bacon aside, there was a man named Comte de Saint Germain who was an adventurer in Europe during the 1700s with a very obscure birth and history. He was also an acclaimed occultist. Wikipedia has a pretty good biography on him to get you started if you’re curious about the real man behind the legend and the books of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. Count of St. Germain – Wikipedia

What Yarbro did was make him into a vampire HotelTrans and with that she follows him on his various adventures through the ages and around the world. Starting with Hotel Transylvania in 1978 she published five St. Germain novels that were followed up with many, many other shorter works in later years.  Wonderful stuff, though be prepared to read a lot of description. Yarbro likes to put a lot of detail into what people are wearing and the world in which they live, at times, a bit too much. But still. She and her hero were certainly main contributors to my love and understanding of vampires.

A lesser-known George Romero movie called Martin is like no other vampire movie out there. Honestly, and I’ve seen hundreds! Martin’s parents have died and as part of his uncle’s family-duty, Martin is sent to live with him and his cousin, Christine, in Braddock, PA, a small town just outside Pittsburgh. Martin His uncle believes the young man to be cursed and immediately sets to work hanging up garlic, crucifixes, mirrors, and even arranges an exorcism, all of which Martin, rather sadly, shakes his head at, sighs, or just ignores saying, “It’s not like that.” The ending was a real gut punch. At my first viewing I just sat there, stunned into being able to utter only one word, “No,” with tears trickling down my face. It really is a must-see.

It’s hard to even fathom it’s been 30 years since The Lost Boys came out! Talk about my dream movie! Vampires on motorcycles! Who could ask for more? I was riding my own motorcycle back in those days (1985 Honda Rebel, for those who are curious) so may have done a bit of day dreaming about such things while on the road. Not a huge fan of Kiefer Sutherland, but I’ll make an exception in this case. He was pretty hot as the lead vampire.

sarandon_dandridge

Chris Sarandon as Jerry Dandridge

Finally, and to serve as a segue for next month’s Horrors That Grew Me, I must mention Fright Night starring Roddy McDowall and the oh-so-sexy Chris Sarandon as the vampire Jerry Dandridge.  As with Frank Langella in his role as Dracula, Chris Sarandon was, um …yeah. Is it getting warm in here or am I just having a hot flash? I’m feeling a little light-headed now, too, so we better stop there. You get the idea.

I could go on forever.  Once upon a time I had no fewer than 200 vampire novels and research books on my bookshelves. In recent years, I’ve whittled that down to about thirty of my all-time-favorites while keeping all the research material. Although my totally obsessive days may be behind me, (to which my mother is surely saying, “Thank, GOD!”) vampires played a huge leading role in The Horrors That Grew Me. I’m in the early stages of re-writing a vampire novel I first had published close to ten years ago and look forward to sharing it with you sometime soon.  It’s time to release my own vampire bad boy back into the night again.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this first installment. I look forward to writing again next month on the actor I so adore and his role in growing my love of horror – Roddy McDowall.

Reviews – Two Books & A Movie

According to my Blog Calendar, this is the weekend I should be posting some sort of review, be it a book or a movie. This time around, being as I’ve been so intent on finishing up the first draft of my next Barnesville Chronicle novel this past month, reading anything too long and deep just hasn’t happened.

I haven’t watched any movies worth reviewing. Unless stating that The Adventures of Baron Munchausen isn’t my cup of tea, counts as a review. Technically it’s not a Monty Python movie, but Terry Gilliam and Eric Idle were both involved in its creation, as was Robin Williams! You’d think with that sort of line-up, it’d be something more amazing than I found it to be. It just left me confused and wondering what sort of drug Gilliam was on when he came up with all this. About halfway through, I decided I had more interesting things to do, like sort through my dresser for old clothes worthy of being donated somewhere.

Moving along, I did do a bit of reading.

Dreaming At The Top Of My Lungs by Israel Finn is a collection of short stories of the horror variety. There’s always a touch of envy in me for people who can pull off a successful short story. In a mere 112 pages, Israel managed to keep me fully engaged and amused for about ten days. As with any collection or anthology, by even the most famous of writers, there are going to be stories that readers will enjoy more than others. I have to be honest and say that there were a few in this collection I didn’t quite ‘get’ or felt like they were lacking somehow. However, the majority of them I thoroughly enjoyed and enough so that I’d easily consider picking up more work from this up-and-coming author. My biggest complaint about this book is that it was far, far too short.

Loch Ness Revenge by Hunter Shea was another quick read for me, coming in at 141 pages. Hunter is a pro at sucking the reader in and half-chewing them before spitting them back out covered in blood, goo, and whatever other sorts of partially digested stomach contents may have been in there at the time. And I mean that in nicest way possible. If you enjoy monster killing mayhem and madness, you really should check out not just Loch Ness Revenge, but all his other cryptid tales. I have the same complaint with this as I did Israel’s book – too short. I wanted more details about the characters and their lives, but with these shorter books, Hunter’s skills and talents as a story teller aren’t being put to their full potential. I really do prefer his novel length works. For me, a story is only as good as how well I get to know the players.

Short and sweet this time around, folks. I have some thicker works reaching the top of my TBR pile now and with first draft of my latest Barnesville Chronicle, The Witch’s Backbone finally done, maybe I’ll find some breathing room to do more reading.