Tales Beyond The Hollow

Now that Dark Hollow Road is reaching the finish line of being out and about in the world, I thought I’d step back and recap on the other titles I have out there for those who may have missed something along the way.

Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon is a Murder-Mystery full of paranormal elements.
A mysterious death sends one investigator deep into her hometown’s dark and bloody past. It’s a past the local coven of witches would rather keep buried. Can justice be served or will the witches succeed in keeping their centuries-old secrets intact?
Available on Kindle and in paperback here: Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon

That’s What Shadows Are Made Of continues the paranormal Murder-Mystery theme.
Everyone thought the local undertaker was such a nice guy, until someone murdered him.
As the police look for a flesh and blood killer, a witches’ coven discovers dark magic may be the culprit. Is the shadowy figure being seen around town stalking for its next victim real or something much more diabolical?
Available on Kindle and in paperback here: That’s What Shadows Are Made Of

No Rest For The Wicked takes a sharp turn away from the previous two releases. Oh, there’s murder, but the mystery isn’t who did it, but the dark reasons behind the violent deaths.
Every ghost has a story. Not all of them want it told.
A sadistic doctor hell bent on controlling both the living and the dead, would rather keep his final year of life a closed book. It’s a classic ghost story with a twist; it’s told, in part, by the ghosts themselves.
Available on Kindle and in paperback here: No Rest For The Wicked

The Witch’s Backbone Part 1: The Curse is a creepy coming-of-age tale.
It’s 1980 and five friends take it upon themselves to prove there’s nothing to their local urban legend and its deadly curse. That legend has other ideas.
After one of their number believes she’s seen the local urban legend, five young friends head deep into the woods to prove it’s just a story. Except in trying to do so, they may have discovered this old wives tale isn’t quite so fictional. And if the subject of the legend is real, does that mean her deadly curse is, too?
Available on Kindle and in paperback here: The Witch’s Backbone Part 1: The Curse.

Dark Hollow Road is all that the name implies, a journey into the darkest hollows of the human condition, where the real monsters of this world are made.
In the quiet Pennsylvania countryside, on a dead end road, she waits.
What does the 1948 rape of an eight-year-old girl have to do with the disappearance of a six-year-old boy seventy years later? They have one thing in common, a house on Dark Hollow Road. Empty now, the house stands as a warning to all who dare enter and take from it what isn’t theirs.
Kindle pre-orders happening now. Paperback release Mar. 23: Dark Hollow Road 

UrbEx & The Dawning of Dark Hollow Road – Part 4

In the previous posts about the creation of my upcoming Psychological Horror Dark Hollow Road, we’ve done a whole lot of spelunking. Apart from a small building located creek side in Salado, Texas that I wandered into back in 2013, my urban exploration days are pretty much over. The desire to continue the hobby is still strong. I’m just not so brave and nimble as I was back then. But, how does all that exploring old, and sometimes empty, houses back in the late 80’s translate into writing a Horror novel in the early 2000s? Therein lies the dark and mysterious magic, dear reader, a magic that even we authors struggle to understand.

All those experiences aside, the case for Dark Hollow Road began with the title. It literally flew past the right corner of my eye, barely seen, quickly read, and instantly understood for what it was to be. If you Google Dark Hollow Road, you’re going to find a whole mess of them. From Oregon to North Carolina, Pennsylvania to Texas, and who knows how many others betwixt and beyond; Dark Hollow Roads seem to run rampant.  The one I spotted was in Pennsylvania which boasts no fewer than six of them.  My exact words the moment I saw it were, “If that’s not the title of a Horror novel, I don’t know what is.” For that reason alone rural PA became my setting.

But, what would this story be about? I had absolutely no idea, none.  For a good six months, that would remain the case. It was just a title and a vague setting, no characters, no nothing really. With other projects keeping me busy, I didn’t dwell on it. I knew the people involved in the telling of this dark tale would speak up when they were good and ready to do so. Stories and their titles flow in and out of my head all the time; this wasn’t anything new. Or so I thought at the time.

Despite my actual spelunking days being a thing of the past, I still love to seek out and stop to look at the empty places that are local to me. I don’t go inside anymore, but I do try to take some atmospheric pictures from the outside at least. One such house is located only a few miles north of my home. It’s highly visible and there’s no place to park and hide your car. In fact, the roadside along the front of the place is marked with No Trespassing and No Parking signs galore. The safest option would be to park at the nearby church, cross the stream, and cut through the cornfield, which I’m really not so keen on doing.  For all the years I’ve known of this place, since I moved to the area in 1995, I’ve never known it to be occupied.  The memories and experiences of other houses we’ve already discussed came to mind, adding a layer to the story. We have a road. We have a house. We need some people.

The first whispers of characters arrived as I passed by my husband’s (then boyfriend) car and looked at the sticker I’d seen hundreds of times before in his back window. It said Brown House. It was a band he sang and played for in Texas. A gear clicked into place. The last known people to live in my fictional house on Dark Hollow Road were the Browns, but I still didn’t know anything about them.  What had happened that they would seemingly leave their house behind? Was the place haunted? That seemed too cliché to me, besides, I was already in the midst of writing a ghost story with “No Rest For The Wicked” and didn’t want to repeat that theme so soon.  No, there had to be something different about the Brown house and those that had once lived there, but what?

One summer night as I sat alone by a twiddling campfire in my back yard, a man appeared. He was old and grizzled. He was no stranger to hard work and it showed on his large, calloused hands and weather-worn face thick with wrinkles. Somehow I knew his name was Lee Yagar. He came out of the darkness of my imagination, studied me sitting there for a moment and remarked, “I know what happened at the Brown house.”  When I asked him, he refused to say anything further. He was there and gone, tingling my spine and twisting my mind to know more. He wasn’t going to talk or make things easy for me. He was going to be a tight-lipped, cranky, pain in the ass – not just to me, but to those who desperately needed his help. I went to bed that night thinking and thinking, trying to will Lee Yagar back so he’d tell me his story. But, it wasn’t his story to tell.

Much to my surprise, a very sad and frightened eight-year-old girl stepped forward next. This was Mary Alice Brown. This was the person Lee Yagar did not want to talk about. This was who had last lived in the house on Dark Hollow Road, the sole survivor of some nightmarish life everyone wished they could forget.  Mary wanted to talk. It had been a long time coming for her. The first words she said to me were, “I was eight years old in 1948 the night Daddy Clay came into my room and pulled the blankets down for the first time. “

This would become the novel’s opening line and the first steps down a long dark, hollow road indeed. As Mary began to open up about her life, I sat and listened, typed and envisioned.  As the months went by and even as I also learned about her new neighbors, Samantha, Renee and their son, Brandon – it was clear this story truly belonged to Mary.

There are some who would believe that on that day we first drove past the original and very real Dark Hollow Road in rural Pennsylvania, that the restless spirit of Mary Alice Brown reached out and found me, knowing in her unique supernatural way that I was someone she could trust with her tale.  I would tell it without bias and that I was more than willing to share it with the rest of the world on her behalf.  It didn’t matter if it was being presented as a work of pure fiction. Maybe it was her hope that in the telling, she’d find some level of peace. I like to think I’ve brought her a little bit of that.

Is all of this merely the culmination of what’s been said in Parts 1-3 of this series mixed with an active imagination? Probably.  Or, could the inspirations for this and so many other novels really be the actual lives and souls of people who once were, or those living in some sort of alternate reality? I guess that’s possible. Maybe it’s some weird combination of the two.

The only thing for certain is that Dark Hollow Road was a story that desperately needed to be written down and shared. If it gives some poor, lost soul peace, that’s great.  If it creeps out my readers, keeps them up at night reading, and makes them think twice about what lurks in the darkest corners of a seemingly forgotten empty house, that’s even better. Thank you for joining me on this little walk in the paranormal darkness. I hope you’ll find Dark Hollow Road worthy of even more of your time once it’s released this coming spring.

UrbEx & The Dawning of Dark Hollow Road – Part 3

When last we met, I was leaving the property of an old brick mansion once located just outside of Watkins Glen, NY, contemplating a 1990s adventure in Urban Exploration (UrbEx) or if you prefer Urban Spelunking. This particular trip left a lasting impression and raised several questions to which I still do not have answers. But, thanks to my overly-active imagination, I was able to make one up and use it as part of the creation of my upcoming novel Dark Hollow Road.

Spelunking is ‘the hobby or practice of exploring caves’. Urban Spelunkers commonly explore empty and abandoned homes, mansions, hospitals, factories, and the like regardless of No Trespassing signs. Though they are breaking the law, UrbEx-ers also have a certain code of respect for the places they enter. Unlike vandals, UrbEx-ers are there to document, not destroy or tag with spray paint. It’s considered a big no-no to take anything from the buildings or former homes. If you do touch something, you put it back where you found it. You leave with the experience, still photos, video, and nothing more no matter how tempting it may be.

And, oh man, were we tempted exceptionally hard one summer day in yet another grand home just north of Watkins Glen.

Unlike the previously mentioned brick house, this white, Greek Revival home was anything but empty. We found it during one of our many drives in the country, seeking out old cemeteries and abandoned homes to explore. This time, we had a few friends with us. Drawn curtains obscured our view from the outside. Someone tried the front door. Locked. A door on a smaller side wing, also at the front of the building, had a padlock on it, an open padlock. Bingo.

We were instantly awed and nearly speechless. The first room was filled with glass showcases and displays containing one antique item after another. Had we just walked into a museum or something? Though a bit on the dusty side, it was pristine and carefully laid out. There were even labels on many of the items stating their history.

After this room, we went into the main part of the house and became even further enthralled. It was as if we’d walked into the late 19th century. Here was a kitchen with a cast-iron cook stove and hand water pump at the sink. A prep table for cooking, glass jars filled with canned fruits and vegetables in the cupboards, cutting boards, and mixing bowls waited the cook to return any moment. The dining room table was set with white lace and china, crystal and silver. A buffet lacked only to be filled with steaming plates of food. We passed through a servant’s quarters where a pair of well-worn shoes had been placed beside a narrow bed with thin blankets. Upstairs, the owners sleeping chambers proved much more opulent. Clothes even hung in the closets. This was completely unbelievable and slightly insane.

During this surreal visit, that sixth sense of mine kicked in. Each time I walked through the dining room this almost overwhelming feeling of being watched would prickle the hairs on my arms. It was so strong that I could barely remain in that room. The room felt cold, heavy, and wet, making it hard to breath. I felt dizzy and disoriented and all around creeped out. I’m convinced we were being scrutinized by the ghostly inhabitants of the place as they made sure nothing was taken. What they would have done had anything been stolen, I don’t want to guess. Karma is freaking weird like that and I’m not taking the chance.

We stayed maybe twenty minutes before heading back out, undiscovered and as far as I know, empty handed. In the days that followed one of our number found out who the owner was – who verified that the building had once been a museum open to the public – confessed our visit, and told them about the padlock. The lock was quickly replaced and properly locked. Unfortunately, far too many people don’t have the respect or self-control we had that day.

Fast forward to 2011 and a new TV show called “Haunted Collector”. The creator, John Zaffis, is a paranormal investigator who collects items that he and others believe to be trigger objects for all manner of haunted activities. The premise is that any item can hold the memories and emotions (both good and bad) of its owners. It can be anything from a painting to a ring, an old, rusty toolbox or a gun possibly associated with a murder. Zaffis and his crew hunt these items down and theorize that by removing them from the property (with the permission of the current owner) they can end the paranormal activity.

It works for them, but what if the reality of the situation has the complete opposite effect and not on the home owner, but the person who took the item? I’ve heard many cases of people taking trinkets from places and finding themselves haunted or even possessed by the spirit who holds that seemingly useless item in very high regard. Is that a risk you, as an Urban Spelunker, are willing to take? Is that little chipped teacup or battered old postcard worth risking your life or sanity over?

Welcome to rural Pennsylvania and the Brown resident, the only house on this side of Dark Hollow Road. Since the flood of ’72 and the washing out of the bridge, Dark Hollow Road has been a dead end. No one lives there, or so it seems. The yard is a tangle of overgrown weeds. The front porch is unstable and rotting away from decades of neglect. Cardboard has been tacked over the windows from the inside on the ground floor and the window frames are nailed tight to the sills. Should you find your way inside, save for an old cast-iron cook stove and a few items of no real value or consequence, you’d find nothing but a quiet emptiness.

And yet – there’s something, isn’t there? Something not quite right. Something not quite sane. Something not quite dead. How much do you value that trinket now?

Dark Hollow Road – a disturbing psychological horror driven by hate, fear, and every parent’s worst nightmare. Due for release March 2018 from Ardent Creations.

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?