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.

Author Interview – Mark Cassell

UK author, Mark Cassell is the best-selling author of The Shadow Fabric, a novel so rich with dark mythos he couldn’t keep it contained in one book. From page one, I was sucked right in, thankfully not by the actual Shadow Fabric. I haven’t read a book so fast in a very long time and am eager to learn more about the world Mark’s created as well as the writer himself.

1.Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Mark. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got started as a writer? Was it childhood dream or something you fell into more recently?

I blame my English teacher, Mr. Brown – Damn, that was way back in 1991. He told me I had more potential than just the class jester, so I wrote a werewolf story titled “Moons of Blood” and gave that to him. At first he accused me of plagiarism, but when he saw my scribbled notes he soon believed it was my work.

2.Every writer I know is also a big reader. What books were you reading as a young man that got you started down this dark road of horror? Which author’s influenced you the most to become a writer yourself

It was James Herbert and his magnificent novel, Magic Cottage that started it all. From there, Clive Barker and Brian Lumley massively inspired me. And I guess you can’t be a horror writer without reading at least one novel by Stephen King. These days, I don’t read as much as I’d like, though when I do I may occasionally pick these guys up again. Back to my roots, you know?

 

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Hell Cat of the Holt: http://mybook.to/Holt

3.As I mentioned earlier, I just loved The Shadow Fabric. There’s got to be a mountain of research behind this whole series. What was the inspiration behind the story and mythos and how fleshed out was your research before you started to actually write it?

 

The Shadow Fabric as a title came to me in 1992 and it remained precisely that until 2013 when I figured I was big and ugly enough to start taking this writing game seriously.

As far as the research goes, I began jotting down all the typical horror tropes we’ve come to drown in. Anything to do with demonology and witchcraft, I set about turning it all on its head. I never intended to rewrite history, it just happened. It took hours of head scratching, planning and plotting.

Though I must say, I am shocked and humbled at how well received the Shadow Fabric mythos has become. And it’s still unravelling.

4.You haven’t limited yourself to strictly horror, either. You’ve also done a book of Sci-Fi short stories. Tell me a little bit about Chaos Halo 1.0: Alpha Beta Gamma Kill. Can fans of this genre look forward to anything more substantial from you in the future?

The guys from Future Chronicles are keen for me to pick this up again so one day there will be more. It was through their cosplayers that Chaos Halo became a thing. Maybe there’s a novel there somewhere.

 

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In the Company of False Gods: http://mybook.to/companyof

5. You’re most recent release, In The Company Of False Gods, looks very intriguing. You’ve dubbed it Lovecraftian Steampunk Horror. Would you explain more about what that actually means and could you give us the elevator pitch for this latest title?

 

Inspired by HP Lovecraft’s cosmic horrors, In the Company of False Gods is a novelette set in an alternate Victorian era. The story follows wheelchair-bound Attacus whose clockwork creation runs amok and leads him to the threshold between worlds.

6. Thanks for taking part, Mark. Where are all the best places to find out more about you and your work?

 

My website is the best place to visit: www.markcassell.co.uk

Thanks for having me!

More about Mark:

Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK where he often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, dark fantasy, and SF stories have featured in numerous reputable anthologies and zines. His best-selling debut novel The Shadow Fabric is closely followed by the popular short story collection Sinister Stitches and are both only a fraction of an expanding mythos of demons, devices, and deceit. The novella Hell Cat of the Holt further explores the Shadow Fabric mythos with ghosts and black cat legends.

The dystopian sci-fi short story collection, Chaos Halo 1.0: Alpha Beta Gamma Kill, is in association with Future Chronicles Photography where he works closely with their models and cosplayers. His latest release, In the Company of False Gods, is a Lovecraftian steampunk horror story about one man who had no idea his creation would take him to the threshold between worlds.

Mark’s work has been compared with British horror authors such as James Herbert, Clive Barker, Dennis Wheatley, and Brian Lumley. Also, his influences spread over to the US where he admits to having been first inspired by Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Dan Simmons, and H P Lovecraft.

My Writer’s Book Bag

It’s hard to believe it’s the middle of May already. Spring has been desperately trying to spring here in the Northeast. Here’s hoping our recent bought of warm and sunny weather is going to stick this time! April proved to bring us a plethora of rain. May has certainly blessed us with flowers. One of my four lilac bushes is literally drooping to the ground under the weight of its own flowers. The small murder of crows I’ve been trying to lure in with peanuts and cat kibble are slowly making a comeback by perching in the trees outback and cawing at me. Our back yard is mostly set up and ready to go for a summer’s worth of friends, family, evening fires, fair weather, and food. In between all of that, along with writing and submitting a couple novels and a bit of dark poetry to some publishers – one of which has already been accepted – I’ve managed to get in some reading time.

In last month’s Book Bag, I’d just started Ann Radcliffe: The Great Enchantress by Robert Miles. I’m happy to report, I’ve emerged victorious from this adventure into some serious literary analysis, yes, Sigmund Freud even showed up! It reminded me way too much of all those English classes where the instructor insists that the color of the chairs is symbolic of the four Cardinal directions as specified in some mystic’s dream book from the early 15th century. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. I don’t use a lot of symbolism when I write and the one time I tried to be clever that way, I got so bogged down in trying to remember what represented what that I completely lost track of where I wanted to go with the plot. I tend to believe the chair was blue, red, yellow, or green because the writer liked that particular color and thought it would be nice, but maybe that’s just me. That aside, I learned the difference between ‘horror’ and ‘terror’ as it was defined back in the late 1700s and that Romances weren’t considered Novels. An interesting and educational read despite the academic dryness.

While slogging my way through that, I managed to get in some good old short stories from Israel Finn’s collection, Dreaming At The Top Of My Lungs. I’ve been eyeballing this book for a good long while and finally decided it was time to give it a read. As with any collection or anthology, you’re going to find some you really enjoy, some that leave you confused, or some that just don’t hit the spot. Happily, most of Finn’s stories were very enjoyable and better still, memorable! My biggest complaint on this one is that it was way, way too short! I’m hoping to add more of Israel’s work to the TBR pile in the future.

I recently dove back into the dark and murky depths of another Hunter Shea cryptid book. This time it’s poor old Nessie that he’s picking on. Hot on Shea’s aquatic tail (see what I did there?) is a Lyle Blackburn book that takes us beyond the realm of Boggy Creek to look at other cryptids of the ‘Squatchier kind found deep in the American South, but we’ll save any further details on those for next month.

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

Book Review – Sinister Entity by Hunter Shea

Even at the tender age of eighteen, paranormal investigator Jessica Backman has seen and experienced more than her fair share of things that go bump in the night. She’s always worked alone, until a series of emails arrives from Eddie Homes, a total stranger. Who is this clown and how has he learned so much about her? Jessica has always been very careful about keeping her privacy, but Eddie knows things he absolutely should not know. When Eddie tells Jessica that her dad sent him, she takes notice. Jessica’s father died horrifically when she was only six, and boy does Dad have a job for her and Eddie to do!

Sinister Entity is the prequel to the first Hunter Shea book I ever read, Island of the Forbidden. After reading this I’m just itching to get the first book of the series, Forest of Shadows.

Backmanbooks_Shea

Whether he’s dealing with skunk apes that have run amok, zombies, the Jersey Devil, or a topic that seems so cliché and old school, like a haunted house, Hunter has an amazing talent of making it new again, adding his own twists, and drawing you into the characters and settings of each of his books. He could probably make a tin of Altoids frightening and thought-provoking. Sinister Entity is no exception.

I will say I did have a bit harder time getting invested in this one as I have his other books. Not sure why. It moved along quickly enough and the action was good, I just found my mind wandering off. That’s something I’ve never had happen before with a Shea novel. Maybe there was a bit more back story being explained than in others? Whatever it was, once I got through it, I was completely hooked and really had to know how Jessica and Eddie were going to tackle this particularly nasty and sinister entity.

4 out of 5 Ravens.

Author Interview – Isaac Thorne

For the month of April, I’m pleased to bring you an interview with ‘Dark Comic Horror” author Isaac Thorne.

As part of my New Year’s Resolution to reach out to more of my fellow authors and stop being such a hermit, I will be presenting you with a monthly author interview. The majority are of the horror genre, but I’ll slip in at least one YA and one Sci-Fi author just to mix it up a little bit.

I found Isaac’s work through the wonderful world of Twitter and now it’s time to share all that with you! Take it away, Isaac!

  1. 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?

I’ve known since I could read that I wanted to write. The very first thing I ever remember writing of any depth was an essay about overalls and why everyone should wear them. I think I was just a 6-year-old at the time. I went to a small rural elementary school where “Overall Day” was once a thing. Naturally, I didn’t write often or well in those days, but it was the spark that I attribute to this flame.

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Author, Isaac Thorne

  1. You define your work as ‘dark comic horror’. Could you explain more about what that means and maybe what inspired you to go in that direction with your writing?

I came up with the tagline of “Short Tales of Dark Comic Horror” because I thought it was the best way to describe what I do in the shortest amount of space. First thing’s first: I primarily write short tales. I like novels. I read novels. But I love short stories, especially horror shorts. Stephen King once described novels as a long love affair and short stories more like a kiss in the dark from a stranger. I think that’s what I like about them. There’s more exposition that the reader will fill in with his or her imagination in a well-told short tale than a novel.

The last three words of my tagline are “Dark Comic Horror” because I always try to mix an element of comedy into my work. Let’s face it, Freddy Krueger probably wouldn’t have had sequel after sequel after sequel if he hadn’t become such a master of one-liners. Scary is great. Horrific is even better. But if you don’t bring some comedy into your tale, you’re missing out on one of the easiest ways for your story to connect with other people. The dark comedy is also my way of letting the reader know that I’m in on the absurdity of some of what I write. I’m not typically writing some kind of inside political rant or trying to convey a message with my stories. I just want to make you laugh a little, shudder some, glance over your shoulder a bit, and scream. Hopefully.

The horror element of what I do is my favorite part, though. It’s the genre I fell in love with a long, long time ago while I was listening to my grandmother’s old Alfred Hitchcock “Ghost Stories For Young People” album.

  1. Congratulations on the iHorror Award nomination for “Diggum”. Tell me a bit about it and the process of taking it from the original short story to a screenplay? Your book trailers are great, too. Are you an aspiring film maker as well?

Thank you! I found out just recently that not only is “Diggum” the screenplay an iHorror nominee, but that it also won the honor of the 2017 BEST VIOLENCE award from Chemical Film Festival. I’m happy about that. It’s nice to have your blood, sweat, and tears recognized on occasion.

As you mentioned, “Diggum” was originally a short story that I released in ebook and audio book form back in October of last year. It’s about a cemetery caretaker who feels that his innocent wife and son were at the end of a raw deal with God after their corpses were burned up in an accidental fire. According to Diggum’s religion, their bodies can’t be resurrected for Judgment, and they are therefore lost forever. Diggum doesn’t think that’s fair, so he sets about a plan to get even with God for the slight. I wrote the story and then recorded an audio book version of it myself.

The reception to the audio book was surprisingly strong, so I started then to wonder whether I might be able to translate it into a screenplay. Specifically, I was thinking about what I call a “semi-animated” short. The way I envisioned it was a series of line drawings in the Robert Kirkman “Walking Dead” style. Those stills would have frames of minor movement in them to illustrate what was happening, but the story would mostly be in Diggum’s telling of it.

As tried to set that down, I discovered that what I was really doing was painting a slightly different visual perspective on the story. It’s hard to describe, but adapting a narrative work into a screenplay is, to me, more like painting than writing. Sure, you use active verbs and descriptive powers in a narrative, but when you’re describing a scene in a screenplay, you tend to get more specific about it. The actions and visuals in the screenplay tell as much of the story as Diggum’s narration. The visuals in my head while I was writing the screenplay were entirely different than the sketches in my head while I was writing the narrative.

As much fun as I had adapting “Diggum” and as much fun as it is to use iMovie to make my book trailers, I don’t really have any aspirations to become a filmmaker. I’ll leave that to people who know more about what they’re doing. As a matter of fact, three of my stories have already been adapted into screenplays by My Little Rascal Film Productions. They hope to begin production on those shorts this year. I think the one screenplay and the trailers are enough for me now. The trailers are relatively easy to make because I use iMovie, clips, and music that is either licensed creative commons for commercial use or in the public domain. My role with iMovie then is stitching all that together and coming up with the text.

  1. I recently listened to ‘Because Reasons’ over on Carmen Online Theater Group’s Chronicles of Terror. Very cool! Can we look forward to more of your stories being presented there?

That’s always a possibility. An abridged version of the “Diggum” audio book was actually presented at Carmen Online as well. Liane Moonraven is probably the reason I even attempted to adapt Diggum into a screenplay in the first place. She introduced me to scriptwriting for audio theater. The platform we used for “Because Reasons” also allows you to write screenplays and teleplays, so I just took what she taught me and ran with it as best I could.

  1. The question never seems to be ‘Are you writing?’ Writers are always writing something, or should be, I’m told. What can we expect from you in the future? Any plans for a full-length novel?

Although I don’t do outlines when I’m writing short tales, I actually do have an outline created for a full-length novel. Novels aren’t really where my interests lie, though, so I’m sitting on it for a bit. If I’m going to write a novel, I want it to be the best novel I can possibly write at this point in my life. Therefore, I’m probably not going to go headlong into it until my heart and head tell me they need to do so.

All of my short tales are stories that I felt like I needed to write. There was no waiting for inspiration or ideas; no making an effort to make something up. I just had the idea for a scene and set about trying to craft a story around that scene. I find that allowing myself to be ready to sit down and write a story works better for me than trying to force myself to do it.

  1. Where can readers find out more about you and where can your work be found?
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Latest Release : Decision Paralysis

I’ve just released a new short tale of dark horror titled “Decision Paralysis”, which is available from most ebook retailers and as an audio book. In the fall of 2017, I’ll be releasing a collection of short tales in ebook and paperback formats. The collection will include most of the stories I’ve already released plus a few that  no one has ever seen before.

Readers can find me on Twitter and Facebook under the handle @isaacrthorne. Those and my other social media links are also available from my web site: www.isaacthorne.com. My ebooks can be found for Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Apple iBooks, Google Play, Kobo, and Smashwords. Audio versions of most of them are also available at Amazon, iTunes, and Audible.com.

 

Thanks so much for the interview, Isaac! I’m looking forward to reading more of your work.

 

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

The First Ladies of Gothic Literature

I had no idea that February was Women In Horror Month when I first started researching the following article back in September 2016. I was hoping to use it for a blog post in October, but life being what it is, just never found the time to wrap it up. Therefore, instead of holding off on it, I thought it was quite topical for February instead!

As a female horror writer and a long time reader of 19th century literature, mostly along the lines of Bram Stoker, Wilkie Collins, and Edgar Allen Poe, I recently decided it was time to learn more about those ladies who have come before me in the genre. The best place to start was at the beginning, or as near to the beginning as I could find out there. That search led me back to 1778.

Before Anne Rice’s vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac told us all about Lestat in that famous Interview With A Vampire; before Daphne du Maurier introduced us to the cruel and promiscuous Rebecca; and even before the creation of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley in 1816, there was Clara Reeve and Ann Radcliffe. Reeve’s novel The Old English Baron was published in 1778. Radcliffe followed suit in 1794 with The Mysteries of Udolpho.

What passed for horror then is a far cry from what we know today, but the basic elements remain the same. 18th and 19th Century horror was more of the emotional variety. It was a mental state of being linked to unfortunate and seemingly inescapable circumstances. A sense of claustrophobia was key to these novels, be that in a physical sense as in bodily imprisonment or in a mental sense with feelings of madness and mental illness. Today’s version puts the characters in some sort of insane kidnapper’s isolated torture chamber or house of madness trying to escape as one by one as they are bumped off in the bloodiest, most gruesome ways possible. Not quite so with the works of Cleeve and Radcliffe.

Classic Gothic literature is considered to have started in 1764 with the writing of The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole. Within it contains elements of realistic fiction and romance with overtones of the paranormal. The setting included the now almost cliché isolated castle with secret passages, trap doors, clanging chains, and pictures with eyes that shifted and watched passers-by and set a standard for many, many future Gothic novels. The term Gothic stems from the setting, specifically Gothic-style Architecture that was popular during the high and late medieval period, roughly from the 12th-16th centuries. The most common use for this type of architecture was churches and castles, though hundreds of stately homes and colleges also employed the style.

ClaraReeveClara Reeve was born in 1729 to Reverend William Reeve, M.A., rector of Freston and of Kreson in Suffolk, England and his wife, whose family were jewelers to King George I. Clara did not begin to write seriously until after the death of her father. Originally titled The Champion of Virtue, a Gothic Story, The Old English Baron was written in direct response, and perhaps even as a form of literary rivalry to Walpole’s 1764 novel. Very little is known about Clara’s personal life.

Ann_RadcliffeAnn (Ward) Radcliffe was born in London in 1764 to William and Ann (Oates) Ward. At twenty-three she married William Radcliffe who was a journalist and Oxford University graduate. As he often worked late and the couple was without children, Ann took up writing to help pass the many hours she spent alone. As with Reeve, Radcliffe left behind scant information about her private life outside her accomplishments as an author.

More times than not, the main character is a seemingly hapless and helpless woman destined for a life of misery should things continue as they are. More times than not she is also an orphan. This loss of parents or any sort of close, positive and loving family member to protect and guide her is only the beginning of her troublesome fate. Emotions are the biggest foe as well as the greatest ally to the Gothic Horror heroine. Time and time again she will be brought down, dragged through the emotional mud, her mind and spirit and sometimes her body taken to the very brink of doom and despair. She is ruled over by an iron fist in the form of an older man or woman who wants to control everything she says and does for their own personal gain. Usually, that gain is monetary and comes with an increased level of status. These guardians are actually more like cruel, heartless prison guards. This is where the monsters we’ve come to associate with horror novels and movies today were spawned.

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As powerful and omnipotent as these very human monsters appear to be, they have their weaknesses and their secrets. Finding that weakness and unravelling the secrets is the only way the damsel in distress is going to be set free. Most assuredly there is a knight in shining armor out there, because romance is what makes a Gothic Horror, Gothic and not just Horror, but she can’t rely on him to rescue her. And this where those emotions that have so far worked against her, become her greatest weapon.  She cannot hope to overpower them physically, but at some point in her upbringing, before she was orphaned and life went to hell in a handbasket, someone taught her some powerful psychological and emotional lessons. She may be poor and she may be destitute, but she’s far from stupid. She must use her wits and beat her captors at their own game. How she does that is what drives the plot forward.

Have you noticed that not once have I mentioned anything supernatural actually going on?

The earliest Gothic novels contained very little in the way of the paranormal. And even if there was a ghost, strict limits were often placed on its behavior. The ghost of Lord Lovel in The Old English Baron for instance, is a silent apparition. He is detectable only by sight, never heard or sensed in any other way and is never brought forward into daylight so we can have a really good look at him. There is no confirmed ghost at all in The Mysteries of Udolpho, but we do catch sight of what may be a corpse wearing a black veil.

For obvious reasons, these sorts of novels were tremendously popular with female readers and were very often targeted towards that audience by first appearing as serials in the leading women’s magazines of the day. Within the confines of the story they could see themselves portrayed as the ‘weaker sex’ and taken advantage of by men, and sometimes other women, of wealth and power.  And yet, despite the hardship, there was always hope that the main character would triumph because of her quick thinking. She may be physically weaker, but to see another woman win because of her smarts must have been a wonderful ego boost and given feelings of empowerment to the women reading. If the poor and pitiful Emily of The Mysteries of Udolpho can survive all that she was put through, surely, I, the reader, can overcome my troubles. Feminism was taking root even back then.

From Reeve to Radcliffe, Shelley to du Maurier, Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters up to our current female women in horror, Shirley Jackson, Anne Rice, Anne Rivers Siddons, Caitlín R. Kiernan and even myself, we have all strived to present horror in a way that not only frightens but may also empower our readers. Without consciously trying to target a female audience with my own work, I’ve noticed that the majority of my main characters are very strong-minded women. They face the most bizarre of situations and yet they keep fighting for what is right. They discover their inner strengths as they battle the real or imagined paranormal madness that surrounds them. In that way, I feel I am giving a very respectful nod of recognition to the female horror writers who have come before me and am proud of what I have been able to offer the genre in the past and what I hope to present to it in the future.

If you liked this post, you might find my The Horror of Women blog post of interest, too.

Book Giveaway – FINAL COUNTDOWN!

There are only 10 days left of the book giveaway going on over at Goodreads!

People have this to say about No Rest For The Wicked

Hunter Shea (author of Island of the Damned & The Jersey Devil) – “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. It’s a true haunted house tale with a delightful twist.”

J. Williams – “It’s hard to scare me, but all three books I’ve read by this Author have managed to give me nightmares.”

S. Cobb – “I couldn’t read it at night….It picks you up from the very beginning and you don’t want to put it down until the end.”

Click Here To Enter: NO REST FOR THE WICKED GIVEAWAY!

 

 

Movie Review – Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead (2006)

Genre: Horror-Comedy-Soft Porn-Musical. Directed by: Lloyd Kaufman. Starring:  Jason Yachanin, Kate Graham, Allyson Sreboff, & Robin L. Watkins. Cameo appearance by Ron Jeremy.

Fast food franchise, American Chicken Bunker, sets up shop atop a Native American Burial ground. Never a good idea. Not only are the locals up in arms over the sacrilege, but so are the spirits of those buried beneath and the carcasses of the chickens being slaughtered for mass consumption.

As my fellow viewer remarked, “[This was] the worst movie I have ever been unable to stop watching.” I’m not sure where to even go with this review. If you are easily offended by folks not being politically correct, you’ll want to pass by this one. Pretty much every race, religion, and sexual orientation is pushed to the limits of its current controversial stereotype. If you can let that kind of thing slide and understand it’s just a movie, you’ll be fine. Likewise, if images of explosive diarrhea and projectile vomiting leave you feeling queasy, again – you’ll want to skip this, or be sure to have a puke bucket near at hand just in case.

However, if you’re the sort that enjoys a bit of youthful T&A, folks getting dismembered in a variety of ways, gallons and gallons and gallons of blood flying sky high, campy comedy and even a bit of song and dance to help lighten the mood between horrific deaths, Poultrygeist may just be what you’re looking for. The special effects and make-up were actually pretty damn impressive. And who doesn’t love fried chicken … especially fried chicken with ‘flavor pods’? MM-mm-good.

As we sat there watching, it was remarked that this came out of someone’s mind. Which in and of itself is a terrifying thought. On top of that people invested in this; real money was spent to the tune of around $500,000.

It was certainly entertaining, but not in the way either of us watching expected it to be. It delivered at being a horror and a comedy. We were horrified and we did laugh. The musical element, well, not the best songs or choreography, but there you go. As for the soft-porn, meh … it really didn’t do a thing for me but then I’m neither a hetero-male nor a lesbian, so … do with that what you will.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Ravens.

Author Interview – A Very Haunted Plantation

Happy Halloween, Everyone!

As promised, I have something special to share with you all today, a couple of somethings actually.

First off, I bit the bullet and No Rest For The Wicked will soon be available as an eBook through Amazon. I make no promises about the precision of the formatting. If it’s a mess, I apologize. I was having a heck of a time doing it. Some of it looked as if it had been done before, other parts, well… I beg your forgiveness. Self-publishing has its drawbacks and this is one of them. UGH! I’m a writer not a formatter!

And now the BiG NeWs!

I’ve been reading, loving, and reviewing the works of Horror author Hunter Shea for a couple of years now. So, imagine my surprise when Mr. Shea contacted me and asked if I’d send him one of my books. I was both delighted and terrified at the notion. As the first Hunter Shea novel I ever read was his haunted tale Island of the Forbidden, it seemed appropriate I respond with a ghost story of my own.

This resulted in the following interview with Hunter not too long ago.

A Very Haunted Plantation – Interview With Author Pamela Morris

I can’t thank Hunter enough for showing interest in my work and inspiring me to keep doing what I love so much to do – writing horror that keeps people up into the wee hours reading and sleeping with a light on after.

Have a happy and safe Halloween night, everyone!