My Writer’s Book Bag

Oh, how these summer days and nights are passing by all too quickly here in the Finger Lakes. The college students are not only swarming the campuses, but totally disregarding any lessons taught to them on how to safely cross a street. It’s still been plenty hot and humid with many a thunderstorm tossed in for good measure, but fall is approaching all too fast. This past weekend saw the annual carnival, parade, and fireworks come to my little town. Yes, those old-fashioned things still exist around these parts.

We’ve got a TON of things to do around the house before the first snows start to fly. In between some roof and foundation repairs, plugging a hole to keep out the damn starlings come next spring, and with any luck at all, getting our deck sealed, I’m hoping to find more time to read. LOL. Yeah, right!

The list is short this month as I’ve been buried in a very deep hole of editing my own stuff, but I did manage to squeeze in a couple of really good books!

ShadowFabric_MarkCassellFirst up, The Shadow Fabric by Mark Cassell. I’ve been stalking Mark on Twitter for a very long time and was finally able to gather up enough pennies to order his first book in the Shadow Fabric mythos awhile back. I’ll be posting a more detailed review at all the usual places (including here) in the very near future. In a nutshell, loved it! It’s been a while since I’ve been so eager to get back to reading as I was with this book. It starts out with a bang, well, more like an um, I guess you’d call it a squish and slurp? Whatever the sound of someone getting stabbed with a magical dagger and then sucked into the darkness is. I’m really looking forward to getting my eyeballs on more of Mark’s work and learning more about the incredible world he’s created surrounding the Shadow Fabric.

77ShadowStreetKoontzI’m still making my way through my first Dean Koontz (audio)book. Yes, I know, I know. I’ve been told many, many times over the years that I’d like Dean Koontz stuff by those that know me well, but for whatever reason, I never picked up anything by him before. Wow. There will be more Koontz to come on this list, I’m sure. I’ve started out with 77 Shadow Street. It seems August is Shadow Month! Just realized that. The Pendelton Hotel stands at 77 Shadow Street and undergoes some sort of paranormal time-warp every thirty-eight years. Part horror, part paranormal, part sci-fi, part Apocalyptic-disaster, filled with giant larva-like creatures, ghosts, murderers, alien assaults and body snatching, I am fully invested in this story. The narration of this book is absolutely amazing, too! Whoever this guy is, I hope he got paid well. Every character, and there are a lot of them; men, women, children, and those creatures\beings\entities that haunt the place, each has a very different and distinct voice.

And, that’s it! Just the two. There are three books sitting here on the corner of my desk waiting their turn to be read. Oddly – two of them are science fiction – a genre I usually avoid like the plague.

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

July
(Almost) Average Anthology by Jason J. Nugent
Moment of Darkness by Jason J. Nugent
The Whistlers by Amity Argo (audiobook)
The Willows by Algernon Blackwood (audiobook)
Luellen & Lucy by Dee DeTarsio

August
The Shadow Fabric by Mark Cassell
77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz (audiobook)

My Writer’s Book Bag

It’s been hot and steamy up here in the Finger Lakes Region of New York the past month. Rain, rain, and more rain. Then a few hot & muggy days before, you got it, more rain. It’s putting quite the damper on getting some things done around this old house that desperately need doing! I have been able to get some reading done, though.

We ended last month wallowing through the swamps of the Southern United States with Bigfoot and all his relations thanks to Lyle Blackburn’s Beyond Boggy Creek. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend to any and all who have even a passing interest in this cryptid. Lyle does an amazing job. My only complaint was there weren’t enough pictures. He mentions pictures that allegedly show the creature, but only shares them with us a few times.

momentsOnce I was done getting down with the various Swamp Apes, I made my way through two very short books of short stories by Jason J. Nugent, (Almost) Average Anthology – which btw, isn’t actually an anthology, but a collection – and Moments of Darkness. Both books contain some pretty creepy tales that Jason should be proud of. There were others I didn’t quite ‘get’, but hey … I’ve found that holds true in a lot of short stories even by the most famous of authors. Jason’s first novel has been steadily working its way up my To-Be-Read Pile and I enjoyed his short stories well enough to be looking forward to that.

WhistlersAs I did last month, and as I’ll likely be doing again next month, I also enjoyed a couple of audiobooks as I sat at my desk at work, slaving away over more piles of books. I just can’t escape them! For July I treated myself to two very awesome tales of terror. The first was The Whistlers by Amity Argo over on the No Sleep Podcast. Wow. Creepy-deepy, my friends! Very, very creepy! It’s wonderfully narrated and just over two hours long and you can find it here: https://www.thenosleeppodcast.com/episodes/s5/5×25

willowsMy second audio story for the month was The Willows by Algernon Blackwood. This was a Chilling Tales for Dark Nights presentation. They do a wonderful job over there and I highly recommend you give them and No Sleep Podcast a listen. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QN_bbDrW7_M  I’ll be heading over to one or the other soon to find more spooky things to give a listen.

luellen My final completed book for the month of July, Luellen & Lucy by Dee DeTarsio, was bought on a whim. Historic Romance is NOT my genre of choice, but hey … it’s set 12 years after the US Civil War, a period in American History that I am keenly interested in, the cover had the same lady on it that one of my erotica’s does, and one of the main character’s is named Lucy, again, as in three of my erotica’s and my most recent release, “No Rest For The Wicked”. Not thrilled with it, was I. You can find my review over on Amazon if you really want to know more. Let’s just say here that I read it as fast as I could just to get it over with. I’m not one to stop reading a book I don’t like. I will always do my best to see it to the bitter and confusing end – as was the case here.

And oh, the joy … when I was done and could move on to my current book in hand, Mark Cassell’s The Shadow Fabric. Back to the Horror, baby! And I have to say, so far, so very good! I’ll get into more details next month after I’ve finished!

So, there you have it! Hope you all are having a wonderful summer and reading some good books of your own!

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

July
(Almost) Average Anthology by Jason J. Nugent
Moment of Darkness by Jason J. Nugent
The Whistlers by Amity Argo (audiobook)
The Willows by Algernon Blackwood (audiobook)
Luellen & Lucy by Dee DeTarsio

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

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.

My Writer’s Book Bag

Blathering on about my own writing may get a bit monotonous for folks at times. For a change of pace, I’m going to blather on about what I’m reading instead.

I’d never given a lot of thought to keeping track of what I’m reading until joining Goodreads.  Now, I seem rather obsessed with not only keeping track of the titles, but where I am in the book by updating my progress on a nearly daily basis and meeting an annual goal of so many books read. I set my goal at twelve for 2017. One book a month seems pretty reasonable.

What other authors, especially horror writers, read interests me, too.  If they liked it, maybe I’d like it as well. Other than two books about Ann Radcliffe and a third bought on a whim, the bulk of my TBR pile is based purely on what my writer friends have recommended in their blogs or Tweets. On the downside of that, I don’t read eBooks so I fear I’m missing out on a lot of great stories out there. Sorry about that all you people who only have work in an eBook form. It’s just too difficult a format for me to focus on and enjoy beyond the occasional short story.

For the latter part of 2015 and into the summer of 2016, I nearly choked to death on Stephen King in an attempt to get somewhat caught up on his work. I fear I shall never get caught up as I spent far too many years away. However, I now have the entire Dark Tower series under my belt along with Doctor Sleep, which is the sequel to The Shining.

It took me six months to make my way through The Mysteries of Udolpho that began the whole Ann Radcliffe tangent. Last weekend I started Ann Radcliffe: The Great Enchantress I can already tell it’s going to be a tough, very academic, read. I’d much rather be reading other things, but as someone interested in genealogy, I believe learning about where and from whom we have sprung is important. As Radcliffe is considered to be one of, if not THE, mother of Gothic Horror\Romance, I consider her an ancestor in the Horror writer sense of the word. Who knows, maybe I’ll become obsessed with writing a more traditional gothic horror and/or romance one of these days!

Currently, I’m plowing my way slowly but surely through Hunter Shea’s collection of cryptid mayhem and paranormal horrors. I just finished Sinister Entity a couple nights ago. It’s one of his older books, from 2013. The first Shea novel I read was Island of the Forbidden. I’ve been Hooked-On-Hunter ever since. Not only is he a great writer, but from our various online chats and email exchanges, I know for a fact he’s an all-around awesome guy and a bit of a mentor, too. I hope he doesn’t mind my saying that.

So, there you have it, what I’m reading here in the middle of April. I’d like to believe I have the discipline to make this a monthly feature, but pft. Who am I kidding?

Until next time, kiddies – READ ON!

Year 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

 

Featured Image: A Good Book by Paul Gustav Fisher

Why I Love Horror

How can you watch that stuff? Don’t those books give you nightmares? I’ve been hearing these questions for as long as I can remember. That’s what happens when you’re a horror fan. I recently put up a link on my Facebook page directing people to Lyndon Johnson’s blog where he explains why he loves horror. It’s a great answer to a question millions of us have posed to us as Horror fans.

Looking back, I’m going to have to guess that this horror madness all started with Nancy Drew. No, the series isn’t known as one of horror, but it’s certainly chock full of spooky settings, mysteries, and possible paranormal activities. A lot like Scooby-Do without the hippie van.

Following Saturday morning cartoons, we were treated to a show called “Monster Movie Matinee” broadcast out of Syracuse, NY. They featured all manner of horror movies, mainly creature features like Godzilla or Creature from the Black Lagoon.

As I entered my teens, my reading and movie choices got a little bit darker. By high school I was reading Stephen King, Anne Rice, along with the truly bizarre world of Tanith Lee, and ANY vampire novel I could get my hands on. I graduated to watching Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, Kolchek: That Night Stalker, and Night Gallery along with the late night horror movies brought to me courtesy of “EIVOM” that tended to favor Hammer Films or such fantastic movies as The Other, The Legend of Hell House, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, or my all-time favorite horror movie, The Haunting of Hill House.  The arrival of cable TV to our little town in the early 1980s was mind-blowing! Horror movies I wasn’t old enough to see in the theater were brought to me through HBO or Cinemax, not to mention the craze that was sweeping the nation … Blockbuster movie rentals!

But, all this doesn’t really answer the question of WHY I love horror so much. Why horror instead of Science Fiction or Romance, for example?

Romance novels were in a word, yawn. My grandmother read them by the hundreds. She’d come home from work every now and then with a big box full of Harlequins. Sometimes there’d be a few Westerns in there that she’d give to my grandfather. I did read a few of the Harlequins, but very quickly I realized they all followed a very set plot. Oh, there was some variations, but not much and they became SO predictable I lost interest after only a handful.

And maybe that’s part of answer, in a way, predictability.

Every now and then, in that big old box of books, there’d be a horror novel. I still have two of those books from those days, The Owlsfane Horror by Duffy Stein which was the first (and I think only) book that ever scared me so much I had to stop reading it at night. The other is Edmond Hamilton’s sci-fi novel, City At World’s End. Both made lasting impressions, but I definitely enjoyed the fear created by Owlsfane more. Why?

Apart from the Planet of the Apes series, I’ve never been able to really get into the Sci-Fi scene. Though, I do love aliens and anything to do with UFOs (as long as they’re real-life accounts) and was a huge fan of Logan’s Run, they never thrilled or chilled me like the scary movies did.  They didn’t make me wonder what was going on. Was it something real that would be explained away at the end, like the Nancy Drew books and Scooby-Do cartoons? Or would it be something paranormal like a haunting?

Outer space, the future, or beings from another world confuse me. Even though I’m fascinated by UFOs, have SEEN a UFO, and accept the probability of there being others out there, I can’t relate to it on a personal level. My smart phone all too often bewilders me so how can I even begin to try and comprehend or visualize something that describes technology of the future? It’s interesting, but not enthralling.

Horror enthralls me. It captures my known senses of fear, apprehension, and profound curiosity. It ignites in my imagination the questions of what may or may not be dwelling beside me at any given moment in any given place. Are the spirits of the dead beside me? Can we really talk to them? Photograph them? Do some people possess supernatural powers and the abilities to manipulate their surroundings? What other beings, considered paranormal, exist right here on this very earth we call home and why can’t we all see them?

Horror piques my curiosity. It makes me wonder. It inspires me to delve deeper into the history of unexplained events that have been happening on Earth for hundreds of years. It gives me goosebumps and it makes me feel alive. It’s not predictable, it doesn’t make me yawn, and because of personal experiences, I can totally related to it.

That’s why I love Horror.

To find out why Lyndon Johnson loves horror  CLICK HERE

Write What You Love: The Joys of Genre Hopping

Back in November of 2015, I blogged about The Horror of Women . It dealt with the difficulties women have getting published in the Horror Genre. Though I still struggle with the reality of that whole situation, I’d much rather write horror than what I was initially published in, erotica.

For centuries women have been viewed by the publishing world as inferior writers. For that reason they have used more masculine or gender neutral nom-de-plumes . What many people may not know is that some of their favorite female authors have also written in multiple genres.

Judy Bloom, known best for her “Fudge” series took a walk on the trampy side with her novel, “Wifey”. Anne Rice took a side trip from her witches and vampires to explore kink with the “Sleeping Beauty” trilogy.  Joyce Carol Oats wrote gothic horror, murder and crime fiction, romances, historic fiction, fantasy, realism and surrealistic novels. All these woman are successful writers who dared step outside of their comfort zones and explore beyond the old adage of “write what you know”. I’m more inclined to write what I enjoy writing and I’ve had several different loves.

As a young adult I dreamed of writing Children’s fiction and even took college level classes in Children’s Literature and Illustration to pursue that goal. Somewhere along the lines for reasons that are unclear to me, my first novel turned out to be in the Fantasy genre. Beyond what was require of me in high school and the reading of The Hobbit, fantasy’s not my thing. On an awkward dare from a friend, I began writing erotica. I never saw that one coming (pun intended). Five published novels later, I’d had enough.

Having always loved murder-mysteries, horror, and anything to do with the paranormal, that was my next genre pick. This, I feel, is where I truly belong. Witches, ghosts, and bogeymen, oh my! In 2013 I saw my first paranormal murder-mystery published and was on cloud nine until, about six months later, my publisher announced they were going out of business. Now what? I already had another novel done and in the editing process for these people. Heartbroken, but knowing this was where I wanted my writing to go, I carried on and finished the second book and began the whole query, query, query, submit, submit, submit, rejected, rejected, rejected process all over again.

Had I messed up? Should I go back into the closet and return to the erotica where I was still seeing decent sales and a monthly royalty deposit in my account? Don’t get me wrong, the erotica was fun to write and I learned a great deal about some aspects of the publishing business, but my heart and writer’s soul wasn’t into it. No. I just couldn’t do it. I’ve never felt so creative and productive and pleased with my writing since making the genre hop. With fans of the first murder-mystery contacting me at least once a month over when I’d have another book out, I realized it was time to change tactics … again. The traditional publishing Gods were not with me. I was letting everyone down. I had to do something drastic and decided to self-publish.

Because of that, I had the pleasure of being invited to five author events in 2016. I’m hoping to do at least that many for 2017. It’s rather difficult to peddle your erotic-wares in public knowing your mother’s pastor is likely to walk by and say hello or you’re going to see old friends and teachers and try to explain how you know about “those sorts of things”.  It’s called research, people. As I’ve said before, I like vampire and murder-mysteries, too, but that doesn’t mean I believe I’m a vampire or that I’m going to go out and murder someone. Sex may sell, but not in a small town family-friendly community center or a privately owned bookstore. It’s a lot easier when it’s a murder-mystery or something about haunted houses or Shadow People or urban legends.

With three paranormal novels now out and another on the way later in 2017, I may not be raking in the dough as much as I one day hope to, but I’m having a lot more fun and I’m getting much needed exposure. I’m mingling, setting up displays, doing book talks and signing and, though I write under my maiden name, I’m not really hiding behind a pen-name anymore. I’m being myself and sharing my love of the macabre.

I’d still love to put out a Children’s book, too. Maybe I will one of these days.

If you’re considering writing something different than what you’d normally do, do it! Don’t limit your imagination to a single genre. You have a slew of successful female (and male) writers who have already dared to be different. Georgette Heyer, who is better known for her romance novels, has also dabbled in detective fiction. Children’s book author Sonya Hartnett wrote a rather sexually graphic novel that created a bit of a stir. You’re in good company no matter where you decide to let your writing take you, just don’t be afraid to explore.

Taking that step could very well lead you exactly where you want to go. Start walking!

In Search Of… Horror.

Visited our local *Buns & Noodles store this afternoon. As we wandered the aisles I came to realize something I’d never noticed before and frankly, I’m annoyed.

We always seem to gravitate towards the YA section first so Jim can see if Cousin Scott has come out with something new we’re unaware of. He’s sneaky like that. This time I wanted to check out Book #3 of the Peculiar Children series. I’m in the middle of #2. It’s only available in hardcover now so I’m going to wait for the paperback. Sorry, I’m cheap like that.

After the Young Adult section, we’re on our own. They have the Children’s section, the Romance, and the Sci-Fi sections. There’s History, Mysteries, Cooking, and Self-Help. Manga and Graphic Novels have their own section as does Religion, Travel, and Crafting.  All of these are nicely labeled with big, bold signs over the tops of the shelves making them oh-so-easy to find. What they do NOT have is Horror section. WTF B&N!? If I want to find Horror I have to search through the ‘Fiction & Literature’ section. How much more vague can you possibly get?

I’m aware of a good many Horror novelists, but I sure as heck don’t know them all and those that I am most aware of, like Stephen King, Clive Barker, Dean Koontz, and Peter Straub have been around for decades and are maybe considered a bit Old School. If I’m looking for something or someone new, I’m rather clueless. Directing me to the ‘Fiction & Literature’ section isn’t going to be very helpful. And for as much as I love to browse a bookstore or library, damn it, at least let me be in the section I am most interested in so that I know that every book I pick up is a Horror contender.

I ended up getting Stephen King’s “Doctor Sleep” because I’ve heard of him, know he’s good, and know he mostly sticks to the Horror genre with a few exceptions. I’d love to have given a lesser-known writer some business, but pft … damned if I have the time to stand there reading every single back cover of very single book that looks like it might be what I’m interested in.

*Barnes & Noble and all you other bookstores, big and small, can you PLEASE create a Horror Section? I and so many others like me would truly appreciate it.

Book Review – Dark Tower Series by Stephen King

Instead of going through and reviewing each of the books individually, I’m going to do a simplified, overall review of the series as a whole. You and I will both be glad I did.

I started reading “The Gunslinger” Book 1 of 7.5 in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series back in August 2015. As the pages went by, so did the months, until eventually I wrapped it all up last month by jumping slightly backwards to read what King places as Book 4.5, “The Wind Through The Keyhole”.

There’s so much here! King has truly created a world eerily familiar while at the same time completely different than our own. A future date is never specified for the time that the Gunslinger, Roland Deschaine, comes from, but it’s at least a few hundred years from now, if not a thousand or more. The world has changed, it’s ‘moved on’ as is worded in the books. Well-populated cities are few and far between. Machines and the electricity to run them are even more rare. We, you and me, or those closer to our timeline, are known only as The Old Ones. We are the faceless, nameless creators who pretty much screwed everything up at some point in the distant past.

Enter Roland, the Last Gunslinger, whose only mission in a long and troubled life is to reach the Dark Tower. He will do anything, go anywhere, kill anyone, in order to reach that destination. Roland is a highly trained killing machine and he does it all 19th century American Southwest cowboy-style, with a pair of ivory-handled revolvers that once belonged to his father. But, he can’t do it alone. He needs his posse, his ka-tet, to share in the adventure. And this is where the time travel comes in.

Through a series of free-standing, hovering doors scattered here and there along Roland’s route, he starts pulling people through into his own time. The first is heroin addict, Eddie Dean from 1987. Not to be confused with the Texas-born country and western singer of the same name. Next, comes Odetta\Detta Holmes aka Susannah Dean who is ripped from the year 1964. Again, try not to get her confused with the Civil Rights activist, singer and songwriter from the 1960s.  Last but not least we have eleven-year-old John “Jake” Chambers, who is rescued from an abandoned and seemingly possessed house in 1977 and brought into Roland’s ‘when’. The final member of the ka-tet is the billy-bumbler, Oy. A sort of long-necked dog that talks who very quickly wins over our hearts as Jake’s tried and true friend and loyal companion.

Obviously, if I spent somewhere around eight months reading this series, I must have enjoyed it. Very true. It contains a little bit of every genre out there; sci-fi, western, horror, fantasy, adventure, and yes, there’s even some romance going on. I really think it’s a must-read for any Stephen King fan. He does some pretty awesome writing here and yet…

For as much as I was impressed and for as much as I grew to love Roland and all the members of his ka-tet and their bond and adventures, I also found myself feeling disappointed with it. Some scenes felt like fillers and cop-outs. It was like King felt he needed to make this thing as thick and long-winded as possible so let’s add in this and that and the other thing and tie it all together in some obscure way that sort of makes sense. I questioned these scenes and their purpose in the grand scheme of it all; for example, the entire “Wizard of Oz” portion. Why? I honestly can’t recall for the life of me what this was all about. Why did we go there? Why did the dog need ruby slippers? And if King was going for some sort of how many other book references can he smash into this series theme, the shoes should have been silver as they are in the L. Frank Baum books. It all felt too contrived to me.

The other element I didn’t care for at all was the way King included himself in the end of the series, like some omnipotent God. I am King, the Great and Powerful. You are nothing without me.  If I die, you die. It seemed so self-glorifying and self-righteous and honestly, on some level, more filler to make this series much longer than it needed to be. Just get to the point already. Let’s get Roland and his ka-tet to the Dark Tower and let’s see what’s in there.

And once we finally do get there, all that time and build-up will be worth what Roland finds at the top, right? Um. Not so much. King should have spent less time blathering on about connecting this series to “The Wizard of Oz”, or “The Stand”, or “Salem’s Lot” and more time on this ending. It turned my whole perspective of the who, what, and why of Roland and his quest upside down.

Am I glad I read it despite what I felt was a horrible and disappointing ending? Yes, very much so. There’s a lot in the series to love and admire and at one point I found myself crying, yep. King wrung the tears out of me. For a writer to be able to get you so in love and involved with his fictional creations, you know he’s done an amazing job of drawing you into their lives and caring. Damn you, King!  Damn you, for being so awesome even if you disappointed me a bit at the end.

It’s not your typical King story. It’s not pure horror by any stretch of the imagination. Non-King fans will like this just as much as those who have been with him since the beginning.

I’d love to this is 5 Ravens, but… that ending.

4 out of 5 Ravens.

What Scares You? Reading, Writing, & Watching Horror

As some of you may know, I’ve been reading Stephen King’s Dark Tower series almost exclusively since last August. I’m over halfway through the final book of seven. Yesterday, the damn thing had me crying into my Ramen noodles at lunch time. Seriously, tears fell into my bowl of Ramen. I mentioned this to one of my fellow car poolers, Jean, who has also read the series and she smiled and nodded. As I’m still not done with the series, I’m going to hold off on a lengthy review just a little while longer, but at the mention of Stephen King the other car pool lady, Irene, piped up about King being scary. We explained that these particular King novels aren’t really all that scary. They are more adventure-scifi-western-weird creature-fantasy-love story type things. Irene then asked if King, in general, scared me. After a moment’s pause I said, “No, not particularly. I’m pretty hard core.”

There has only been ONE book that ever truly scared me to the point I had to stop reading it at night before bedtime. That book was The Owlsfane Horror by Duffy Stein. I’ve been reading all sorts or mysteries and thrillers and horror for as long as I can remember, so it’s not like reading a ghost story novel was anything new to me while I was in high school. I still have that very same book sitting on my bookshelf. I really should read it again after all these years to see if it’s as frightening as it was 30+ years ago. The only other book that has left a long-lasting creepy impression on me was Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. I’d read the book before I saw the movie and, well, damn. The original adaption, The Haunting made in 1963, is just downright insane and ranks as my #1 favorite horror movie of all time. Seriously, don’t bother with the 1999 remake. It blows. It blows hard and in a very bad way.

All this got me to thinking about why I read, write, and enjoy horror, thrillers, and mysteries so much. Obviously it’s not as cut and dry as liking to be frightened because if there are only two novels that have done that, why do I keep reading it if it doesn’t truly scare me? It’s not for the gore because I’m not a fan of slasher stuff at all. It’s much more subtle than that. It’s the build-up of events, the leading me into a darker and darker place as far as the human psyche goes. Scary things can happen in broad daylight just as well as in a dark, hidden back alley. Show me what is normal and then twist it around and show me what happens when things start going horribly wrong. And, as if we humans aren’t cruel enough to each other, add some element of the paranormal in there to drag me even deeper. When I finish a chapter, make me lean back and think, “Damn, now what are they going to do? How are they going to get out of this mess? What exactly is going on here?” Those are the questions that make me want to keep reading! And because those are MY questions, they are also the ones I try and leave my readers with as I wrap up each chapter.

As I work my way through the first draft of DARK HOLLOW ROAD, I’m finding and exploring some very dark elements of what it means to be human. This is why I call it Taboo Horror. When people are raised under terrible, abusive circumstances, to what lengths will they go to survive? What happens when everything they have done to try and keep their sanity intact is taken away? What if people, completely oblivious and innocent, find themselves in the cross hairs of that sanity no longer kept in check?  My kind of Horror happens, that’s what.

I ask myself a lot what scares me. If it scares me, surely it will scare someone else, right? I can’t be alone in my fears so that’s what I try to write about. SECRETS OF THE SCARECROW MOON takes on scarecrows. Yeah, I’m not a fan of those at all. THAT’S WHAT SHADOWS ARE MADE OF deals with a paranormal entity that has freaked me out, not to mention fascinated me, for decades, Shadow People or The Hat Man. This fall will see the release of NO REST FOR THE WICKED which explores my love of the classic haunted house and the story behind what generated the hauntings to begin with. You’ll get a look inside the minds of the ghosts themselves as some try and tell their stories while others work like hell not to be ratted out. With DARK HOLLOW ROAD I am trying to take that concept a little bit further and a little bit darker.

I’d love to know what scares you. What draws you to read horror or watch horror movies? If you’re a horror writer, what attracts you to the process?  Do you actually enjoy being scared or is it something else?