Over the River and Through the Wood

I grew up celebrating Thanksgiving on the edge of a Florida swamp. Our cabin was perched in the crook of a bend of the Little Withlacoochee River. It stood on eight-foot posts because sometimes the blackwater river would come out of its banks and spread through the swamp. You’d have to wade to the cabin then, shuffling to find the hidden logs, your legs lost in the dark water. It was pretty great.

Thanksgiving Day was spent fishing, exploring the woods and making holiday crafts my mother devised. One year, we traced each other’s outlines on butcher paper. Everyone, even the adults, went home with life-sized paper dolls of themselves dressed as Pilgrims and native Americans. Another year we made cornucopias filled with nuts and dried corn cobs that the squirrels dragged away and ate.

We even had turkeys for a while, in a pen on the edge of the woods. My dad was still building the cabin, and they gobbled whenever he hammered.

Blam! Gobble gobble gobble.
Blam! Gobble gobble gobble.

I ate their giant eggs for breakfast. Then one day, we didn’t have turkeys anymore. Something came out of the swamp and tore them to bits.

When I reach for writing inspiration, the swamp and river emerge again and again. Florida swamps are layers upon layers of living and dead things. The trees are covered in lichens and air plants. Their roots are sunk into dark muck, built from the decomposing bodies of leaves and other living things. Water runs through it all, giving life to some things and drowning others. It’s fertile ground for monstrous stories to grow.

Fall nights came early at the cabin, hemmed in by swamp. Creatures lived in the woods that roamed at night, and you could hear them rustling just outside the lights of the cabin. From the porch you could here things sliding in and out of the river, and occasionally a splash from something too large to be a fish.

On Thanksgiving, consider that the true horror story isn’t whether the turkey was properly cooked. It’s the story of how they were torn to bits by something that came out of the woods. The storyteller’s question is whether you would rather see the monster, or do you want to keep wondering what’s there.

Keep listening to it rustle. Try to make it out amongst the trees. And wait.

Over the River and Through the Wood is an American Thanksgiving poem by Lydia Maria Child.

 

CHANNEL ZERO: NO-END HOUSE Is Disturbingly Great

I really, really enjoyed the first season of SyFy’s Channel Zero series, Candle Cove. While it had its rough spots, the premise of a super creepy kids’ show coupled with some great imagery carried the season.

Season two of the Creepypasta-inspired series is not short on frightening imagery either, but it’s so much deeper and consistently disturbing that it surpasses the first season in almost every way.

Titled “No-End House,” this season’s story begins with the legend of a haunted house that appears in a random location once per year. The house allegedly has six rooms, and each one gets progressively scarier than the last. Most people who go in bail before they get to the last room, and those that venture in it are allegedly never seen again.

That’s a fantastic setup, but where last season rested a bit on premise, the horror of this season lies in the baggage that each character takes into the house. Grief, relationships, memories and loss are themes that are explored for each character, and who you relate to will likely depend on the baggage you take into this series. There are some gut punches along the way, made all the more powerful by the fantastic performances of Amy Forsyth (Margot), John Carroll Lynch (The Father) and Aisha Dee (Jules).

I cannot recommend this season of Channel Zero enough. At six episodes, it’s not a huge time commitment, though I would advise against binging the whole thing in one sitting. There’s a lot to think about here, so maybe spread it out over two or three sessions.

Have you seen Channel Zero: No-End House? Let us know what you think!

Blog Tour: Monsterland by Michael Okon

Hello boys and ghouls,

Welcome to Monsterland, the scariest place on earth.

When I first heard of this book, I had some serious RL Stine vibes in my head. One Day at Horrorland, anyone? Which was exciting for me because I freaking love RL Stine and I was pumped that someone else was writing a story about a dangerous theme park filled with monsters… Seriously, that would be like a dream date.

This concept has been done with Jurassic Park or Westworld, but it hasn’t really been done in YA before, with vampires and werewolves. I was super excited about this book and what would happen…

Oh yeah, there’s a sweet giveaway at the end so make sure you read down all the way!

Here’s a little about the book.

Welcome to Monsterland, the scariest place on earth.

When world markets are decimated by a crippling plague, philanthropist, and billionaire businessman, Vincent Konrad decides to place monsters in a theme park setting to promote education and tolerance. Copper Valley is chosen as the primary site for the park in the United States.

Wyatt Baldwin, a high school senior is dying to go to the opening and when he lands special passes to the park, he and his friends are expecting the experience of a lifetime.

After all, in a theme park where real zombies, werewolves, and vampires are the main attractions, what could possibly go wrong?

Find it: 

Amazon

B&N

iBooks

TBD

Goodreads

 

While I was looking around about this book I noticed some pretty fantastic feeback on it. Check the out. But maybe don’t just take their word for it. Get yourself a copy!

“The adventure ramps up to an enjoyably gore-soaked finale…full of both mayhem and heart.” – Kirkus Reviews

“…sure to become the next YA sensation…chock full of action and suspense.” – The Children’s Book Review

“Michael Okon’s MONSTERLAND is a fun and highly entertaining romp through the territory of all my favorite scary movies when I was a kid.” –Kevin J Anderson, New York Times bestselling author of the Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. series

 

Check out the trailer!

 

 

About the Author

Michael Okon is an award-winning and best-selling author of multiple genres including paranormal, thriller, horror, action/adventure and self-help. He graduated from Long Island University with a degree in English, and then later received his MBA in business and finance. Coming from a family of writers, he has storytelling in his DNA. Michael has been writing from as far back as he can remember, his inspiration being his love for films and their impact on his life. From the time he saw The Goonies, he was hooked on the idea of entertaining people through unforgettable characters.

Michael is a lifelong movie buff, a music playlist aficionado, and a sucker for self-help books. He lives on the North Shore of Long Island with his wife and children.

 Find Michael:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads | Snapchat

 

Giveaway Details

2 winners will receive a signed finished copy of MONSTERLAND, US Only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Want more? Check out the rest of the blog tour stops!

Tour Schedule

Week One:

10/30/2017- Owl Always Be Reading– Excerpt

10/30/2017- Abooktropolis– Review

 

10/31/2017- Books,Dreams,Life– Spotlight

10/31/2017- Texan Girl Reads– Review

 

11/1/2017- Reese’s Reviews– Guest Post

11/1/2017- Under the Book Cover– Review

 

11/2/2017- Dazzled by Books– Excerpt

11/2/2017- A Gingerly Review– Review

 

11/3/2017- Twirling Book Princess– Excerpt

11/3/2017- Birdie Bookworm– Review

 

Week Two:

11/6/2017- Books at Dawn– Guest Post

11/6/2017- Don’t Judge, Read– Review

 

11/7/2017- BookHounds YA– Interview

11/7/2017- Adventures Thru Wonderland– Review

 

11/8/2017- Savings in Seconds– Spotlight

11/8/2017- Novelties– Review

 

11/9/2017- Sweet Southern Home– Review

11/9/2017- Twisted Book Junkie– Review

 

11/10/2017- Parajunkee– Interview

11/10/2017- The Midnight SocietySpotlight

 

Spooky Empire Creators Track

Wednesday Addams, the Headless Horseman, and Velma from Scooby Doo walked into a horror convention.

They walked with me from the parking garage to Spooky Empire, along with gender-swapped Beetlejuice and more than one Pennywise. Sam from Trick r Treat greeted me when I walked in. I love Sam, and Halloween was only a few days away, but I had a writing panel to catch.

original source: Spooky Empire Facebook https://www.facebook.com/SpookyEmpire/

Spooky Empire started in 2003, and it’s grown to be one of the largest horror conventions in the nation. The self-proclaimed ‘dark side of Comic Con’ is held in Orlando, Florida nowadays, and this year included Q & A’s with artists and filmmakers, appearances by horror movie and TV stars, a tattoo festival, a film festival, a costume and cosplay contest, live musical acts, and a huge exhibitor room of vendors and artists.

Above the floor filled with Oogie Boogies and an original Ecto-1, the Spooky Empire Creators Track was a horror creator’s dream.  Horror has expanded in popularity through all forms of media, and this year’s track included panels of horror writers, artists, podcasts, filmmakers, prop makers, directors, actors, bloggers, and podcasters.  The diversity of horror writer and storyteller panels was impressive.  Participants included short story writers and novelists, screenwriters, and graphic novel and comic book writers.

Storycraft Panel – practical advice for horror writers from story creation through publishing and marketing

Horror as a genre is sometimes sidelined in traditional writing conferences, though many writers incorporate horrific things in their stories.  They put their characters into frightening situations that lead to romance or catching a thief. It’s still the same breathless running and racing heart. But the craft of horror writing isn’t usually a focus.

Non-fiction horror writers and filmmakers also come to Spooky Empire

It was  wondrous to be surrounded by other writers who focus on spooky elements and explore the depths of fear.  The presenters were delightful.  They spoke earnestly about using creepy settings and building tension through a scene.  They shared paranormal phenomena they’d experienced, or wished they had, and giggled together about especially bloody deaths they’d written.  These were the people who love the dark as much as we do.

Four Stories – short readings, including the terrifying Slit-Faced Woman and a scary story with a unicorn

Women horror writers were highlighted in the Women in Horror panel, but female writers and artists were on every panel and track.

For the spooky girls out there: a panel full of women horror writers

The main Spooky Empire convention is held each October, and the cost of a full-weekend pass is lower than you’d expect.  The spring Spooky Empire event is coming on April 6-8, 2018 in Orlando, Florida.

Sam says keep Halloween in your heart, and don’t blow the jack o’lantern out before midnight

 

 

Halloween…A Love Story, A Sad Story

Another Halloween has come and gone. Another season of skulls and horror movies and carving pumpkins. Another night of becoming something else, of facing that which scares us. The crunch of leaves underfoot. The colors of fall. The chill in the air. There’s nothing like Halloween.

As a kid, I couldn’t wait for my dad to get home so we could go trick-or-treating. Always proudly wearing my costume to school that day. Always ready for a bag full of candy that never lasted until Christmas like I hoped.

When we moved to this big old house with a front porch…and his kids no longer wandered the streets begging for candy…Halloween evolved. My dad set about creating a scary scene on Halloween night. I remember the first Halloween in our new house. I remember the creepy sounds and flashing lights. I remember the kids who were too scared to come up to the front door. As my sisters were up in their rooms or watching TV, who knows, I was hovering at the front window, watching Halloween.

As the years passed, Dad added new terrors to the porch, which eventually spilled out onto the front yard. This tradition continues. Each year he looks for a new scare. Each year he finds a new creepy mask. Each year he stands at his front door in his mask and robe with a bowl of candy and waits.

When I got married and moved away and into my own house…I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted Halloween. We had moved into a city neighborhood, a street lined with houses. So I got lights. I got a scary music CD. Hubs made me headstones. I constructed ghosts. I bought skulls and bones. I found a caldron to hold the candy. And the yard glowed with terror.

I stood at the door, handing out candy, smiling at the compliments for my decorations, and drinking in the night. Even after the trick-or-treaters had gone, I sat on my porch in the middle of the lights and sounds and enjoyed the chill on my skin, the gray of the night, the leaves skittering across the road.

Then one year a ‘For Sale’ sign was added to my decor. That year, many parents of trick-or-treaters told me they’d miss me, that my house was always a favorite, and a few asked where we would be moving, so they could find me. Too far, I answered. To a little town outside the city, to a street away from people.

Out here in the middle of nowhere, where miles don’t hold as many houses as that city block, where I have a great front porch, one perfect for Halloween decorations…but no trick-or-treaters. I bought candy the first year…I put out my skeletons and spider webs, to be disappointed.

In a few years, my kids were old enough to haunt the streets in hopes of candy, so we drove into town, parked, and joined the fun. I loved those years, being a part of Halloween again.

But that ended.

Now on Halloween, I decorate my house. I watch horror movies and remember.

For Halloween goes on without me, away from me. I live for texts from my mom showing pictures of Dad’s yard, for updates on the kids that wouldn’t climb the stairs or set foot on the sidewalk to approach the big man in a mask.

I miss it…a lot. I love my big house in the country, but if I could have one thing from the city, it would be Halloween. The one night I want to be around people, that I want to be among the crowds. So I will do what I do to make me happy on that bestest of nights and wait…for maybe Halloween will evolve again.

 

Unforgettable

 

Oh, hello there,

 

It’s been a while since we had a good chat. Too long, if you ask me. I took some time off. My brain got a little twisted but I’m back. I spent this week thinking about what I wanted to chat about. The obvious would be Halloween. It is, after all, nearly here.

So I started checking out cool Halloween movies that flew under the radar and googling weird Halloween traditions from around the globe but I just kept thinking about death. Not mine, mind you. No, not yours either. I’m thinking about theirs.

**TRIGGER** Actual death descriptions about to take place **TRIGGER*

I won’t say their names. I wouldn’t want to read about my friends/family dying on some stranger’s blog on the internet. It was a man and a woman and their motorcycles.

We were coming home from dinner with my parents. We’d passed many, many bikers. It was a gorgeous night and the sun was setting and everything was bathed in dusty pinks and bruisy purples.

A group of bikers roared up behind us…two started to pass us. They didn’t see the trailer turning in front of us, blocking the lane. He couldn’t slow down – she was right on his tail.

Bam.

I called 911. I was a coward. I wouldn’t look at them. The operator needed me to tell her what was going on. I ran to him. He looked up at me and said her name.

“You’re going to be okay! Hang in there!”

I counted out CPR for the woman hammering on his chest.

1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 1 and 2 and 3 and 4. You’re doing great. You’ve got this. 

The woman was thirty feet away, surrounded by her friends. She was groaning and twisted up but alive.

1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 1 and 2 and 3 and 4.

I pressed towels against a gash in his chest and put my phone on speaker.

Damnit, where is the ambulance?

Sirens. Finally. It had only been ten minutes but it felt like a decade.

They ran to her. The slowly put gloves on for him. They covered him with a blanket.

Paramedics came. She crashed. They loaded her up.

We waited.

And waited.

And waited.

The helicopter landed and special paramedics rushed into the ambulance.

We waited.

and waited.

and waited.

They came out slowly and boarded the chopper alone.

One of her fellow riders screamed into the black night. Sobs filled the air.

It had only been 54 minutes.

I saw their faces and heard those screams every hour for weeks.

It took a while before I realized I never saw any blood. Femoral arteries were severed and gravel was heaped upon the carnage left on the gravel road but I didn’t see any blood. Only the spatter on the CPR-giving-woman’s cheek and a bloody fingerprint on my phone. Funny how the brain works.

I used to be fascinated by death.

I’m not so much anymore.

All That You Touch, You Change

You wake up alone, locked in an empty room. You lift up the phone from its cradle, and a scratchy voice intones, “All that you touch, you change.”

The message repeats, no matter how many times you try to use the phone. It’s flat. Insistent. Its cadence is off, like something trying to sound human.

So begins Cube Escape: Seasons, the first in a series of surreal horror games set around, and beneath, Rusty Lake. On the surface, the Cube Escape games are lovely, pastel escape rooms. Haunting music plays as you explore. You find objects while exploring each room, and you figure out how they work together.

Harvey could use a little bird seed

The deeper you explore, the more unsettling things seem. The Woman first appears in Cube Escape: Seasons, and you play from her point of view. But time is tricky, and you see hints that something terrible has happened to you.  That voice comes through the phone again, but this time it says, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

And yet, Cube Escape: Case 23 opens with The Woman’s bloody corpse.

The Rusty Lake games are set in the same mysterious place as the Cube Escape games, and they build on the story.  The denizens of Rusty Lake – shrimp, snails, fish, other creatures – show up in unlikely places, often with secrets to reveal. There are mystical forces at work, and people trying to exploit them.  Rusty Lake: Roots follows generations of a family on the lake, and the artwork is dark and gorgeous.

Albert’s masks are a delight

The scores of Cube Escape and Rusty Lake fully immerse you in the world. Game play is almost soothing, set to a melancholy soundtrack. Machinery churns. Lake water laps against buildings. You are lulled into the dreamlike story, until music crashes around you, terrifying things happen, and you scramble to escape.

If you see a disembodied hand, reach out.

If you see a cube, take it, but know you’ll likely be changed forever.

Rusty Lake: Mental Health & Fishing

Cube Escape and Rusty Lake games were created by Rusty Lake, an Amsterdam-based indie game studio whose goal is to become the “Twin Peaks of gaming.” The Cube Escape games are free on iOS, Android, and online. Rusty Lake: Hotel and Rusty Lake: Roots are available at a low cost.

Join Us on 10/30 For Part One of Our SLEEPING BEAUTIES Chat!

If you’ve been following the blog or our #FrighteningFall hashtag on Twitter, you know the Midnight Society is reading Stephen and Owen King’s Sleeping Beauties for our fall book club.

Since the book is broken into two main parts, we’ve decided to have two book chats about it! So, we’ll be discussing Part 1 of Sleeping Beauties on October 30th at 9pm EST, using the hashtags #MidnightBookClub and #FrighteningFall.

Come discuss the book with us–we want to know what you think! You have over a week left to get halfway through. We’ll be coming back in November and discussing Part 2.

Horror Movies…My Obsession to Watch Them All

I have a slight obsession with horror movies. Whenever I end up at a store, it is impossible for me to pass the movie section. Those big bins filled with cheap movies? Yeah…I lose hours of my life.

Always on the look out for horror movies I haven’t seen, for scary tales I haven’t heard of, it has become a problem. The horror movie drawer is full…and yet, I buy.

October is the perfect time for this.

Horror movies get their own Halloween-y section! And so many of them are $5.

SyFy channel is on its 31 Days of Halloween…playing creepy movies all the time, some old, some new, and some original SyFy productions.

Now, I have learned through the years that picking up a $5 movie on a whim or watching a SyFy original can be risky.

I have been disappointed. I have gotten to the end and cringed. If I’m lucky, it had an intriguing image or idea. Though I have a few movies, I should just toss out.

Most are okay. Nothing incredibly special, but fun.

Every once in a while, I find one that I really enjoy, a movie I hadn’t heard of, that sent my brain into happy-horror land. So the risk is worth it!

Tuning into TV horror is also a risk, but…

This month has been SUPER!

I have seen movies I have somehow missed:

Silent House…DUDE…just dude.

Trick ‘r Treat…THAT WAS A FUN TRIP!

Jennifer’s Body…I didn’t think I’d like it, BUT I DID

Jeepers Creepers…AH!

Texas Chainsaw Massacre…TWISTED.

Hollow Man…not my favorite…but interesting premise.

Drag Me to Hell…Whoa.

Odd Thomas…OMG HAS ANYONE ELSE SEEN THIS?

Joy Ride…A crazy ride.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose…NICE!

Saw…Ouchie.

And a shout out to all the original movies SyFy has given us this month. I never have high expectations for these, but some have been so fun! I am loving the…

House of the Witch

Truth or Dare

Neverknock

The Sandman

This weekend, something called…Stickman…

I am DVRing so many things. Thank creepiness that the month isn’t over yet. Anyone else out there watching these horrible/wonderful movies?

I have never been in such a happy horror movie place.

CAN IT BE OCTOBER FOREVER?!?!?!

Broken Chords, Bayliss, and Ballads

Hello, darlings!

 

It’s been far too longed since I’ve graced this graveyard. I had an unfortunate turn of events that knocked me off kilter for a while, but I’m back. And what better way to return to the crypt than to bring a touch of fresh meat with me? Though she’s no stranger to the dark side, I’m still absolutely thrilled to have her grace our little corner of the woods. Welcome, Jessica!

^^That’s Jessica Bayliss ^^

Let’s get things going, shall we?

 

What inspired you to write Broken Chords?

BROKEN CHORDS was born because I had to pee in the middle of the night while camping on Martha’s Vineyard with my husband. Hahaha! I get my best ideas at the weirdest times. If you’ve ever gone camping, you know the bathrooms are never conveniently located. The fastest route from our site was through the property’s playground. So, there I am, wee hours of the night (no pun intended—okay, pun intended), and it’s all cold and misty; and I think: If those swings start moving right now, I’m so out of here.

Lucky for me (and my bladder), that didn’t happen, but once I was safely back in my tent, I knew I’d write a story about a haunted playground someday. The other major inspiration is a bluegrass festival we like to attend. The layout, the campgrounds, the crepes and gyros, the pirate truck, even the creek behind the clearing in the woods—it’s all inspired by that festival.

Another huge inspiration was traditional acoustic music. Once I decided on that the book would take place at a music festival, certain songs just called out to be included. I mention three bands in particular in BROKEN CHORDS: Crooked Still, Nickel Creek, and The Greencards. They’re probably best described as New Grass or Progressive Bluegrass, and OMG, all three are awesome!

The two songs that were my biggest inspiration are Wind and Rain, and Undone in Sorrow. Wind and Rain is actually based on ballad that is literally hundreds of years old (here’s a great article about it). It’s had different names: The Twa Sisters, Rollin’ a-Rollin’, Binnorie, and it’s just SO creepy. Basically, it’s about two sisters, and the older one pushes the younger one into a river. Not surprising, the sister drowns, which is twisted by itself. But, then a fiddler comes out of the woods, and he takes the drowned sister’s bones and makes a fiddle out of them. One line goes like this:

And he made fiddle pegs of her long finger bones.

Oh, the wind and rain.

I mean, SHIVER. Right? That song is the anthem of some of my creepiest entities in BROKEN CHORDS (actually, the very ghost children who haunt my playground). Probably the most chilling version is THIS ONE, by Gillian Welch, David Rawlings & David Steele. (But if you want to hear the one Crooked Still did, which also features a fiddle—I mean, apropos—you can hear that HERE.)

The other song that features in this book is Undone in Sorrow, which was originally written by a woman named Ole Bell Reed. That one is still under copyright, so I couldn’t use the words in BROKEN CHORDS, but when you read the book and Lenny and Jeb talk about playing their song, that’s the one. Crooked Still’s version is just so haunting and sad. There’s a cello in their band, and the cello solo is one of my favorite musical moments of all time. Then the fiddle comes in and it literally sounds like the embodiment of a tortured heart.

 

What about a favorite line?

Gah! I’m terrible at that, but here’s a favorite (brief) excerpt. And I haven’t shared this with anyone, so it’s an exclusive. This takes place when Lenny first becomes aware of one of the consequences of her astral projection. This entire scene is maybe one of my favorites of all time. I rarely give myself feels from my own stuff, but this scene definitely does. In it, Lenny & Jeb are playing their song, Undone in Sorrow, and she suddenly feels a (maybe magical) connection between them.

Every twitch of his lips became a kiss. Every motion of his hands, a caress. He touched me with his sound, tickled me with his breath – breath that was my breath too.

 

But you guys came here for the scares, so here’s an exclusive peek at the entrance of BROKEN CHORD’S main entity, the demon:

What do you like most about this book?

What I love most is how all these little parts—the music, the festival, the astral projection, my creepy kids on a scary playground—all came together. This book ended up having so many layers and there are themes that are so prominent, and it just makes me happy. I can’t say any more than that, though, because I don’t want to give anything away. BROKEN CHORDS is definitely a scary, creepy ride, but readers will be getting something that has depth and true emotion too.

Thanks SO much, Jenna and all The Midnight Society writers, for having me and featuring my new release. I am in love with this book, and getting to talk about it with you has been so much fun.

 

No, thank you! You can check out Jessica’s book here.

 

Congratulations on the release, Jessica!!!