Faith’s Favorite Frights #5

Are you ready to tour the web with Faith’s Favorite Frights? It’s Wednesday, and I’m your undead host, Faith McKay.

Let’s start with a book…

 

People whisper rumors about a family murdered at Ashburn House. They say its old owner, Edith, went mad in the building, and that restless ghosts walk the halls at night.

When Adrienne arrives on the gothic house’s doorstep, all she has is a suitcase, twenty dollars, and her pet cat. She doesn’t know why her estranged Aunt Edith bequeathed Ashburn to her, but it’s a lifeline she can’t afford to refuse.

Adrienne doesn’t believe in ghosts, but it’s hard to rationalize what she sees. Strange messages have been etched into the wallpaper. Furniture moves when she leaves the room. And a grave hidden in the forest hints at a terrible, unforgivable secret.

Something twisted and evil lives in her house, and Adrienne must race to unravel the decades-old mystery… before she becomes Ashburn’s latest victim.

Fans of The Conjuring and Stephen King’s The Shining will love this chilling novel.

Darcy Coates has written a whole catalog of haunted house ghost stories, all of them standalones. The Haunting of Ashburn House caught my eye and while I’m only a little ways in, it seems promising.

Speaking of unpleasant houses, The Guardian came out with a list of Top 10 Horrible Houses in Fiction. What say you, Midnighters? What I like about lists like this, is that it shows how Horror may really own the nightmare, haunted, horror house–but all other genres borrow from horror. People often claim that horror isn’t that popular, but I argue that it’s because they’re not seeing where horror slips into other genres (or gets outright rebranded) or offers inspiration elsewhere.

BuriedDiamond on etsy has these in other colors. A ouija planchette keychain so you’re always prepared… you never know what will come in handy when you’re locked in a haunted house, afterall.

An anatomical heart night light? Yes, please.

This Hocus Pocus shirt is just the cutest.


Oh, god. You’re still here? What more do you want from me? I gave you an anatomical heart for a night light! Go. Creep in the comments. I’ll have more for you next week, you spooky weirdos.

Urban Legend of Kuchisake-Onna

Our theme for the month of May is urban legends!

YAY!

I’ve been watching the TV show, Constantine and have found many urban legends intertwined in the show. One of my favorites is the one involving Kuchisake-Onna…aka the slit-mouthed woman. The story has it that a beautiful Japanese woman cheated on her samurai husband. In a jealous rage, he cuts her mouth open with a pair of scissors. Giving her a permanently haneous smile, he asks her, “Who will think you’re beautiful now?”

The woman dies and then returns as a malevolent spirit known as Kuchisake-Onna, the woman who haunts the streets of Japan. Wearing a surgical mask, she is said to approach people asking whether or not they think she’s beautiful. If they say no, she cuts them in the very same way she was. If their answer is yes, she takes off her mask and asks, “How about now?”

In episode 5, “Danse Vaudou”, a single woman walks down an alley only to find a beautiful woman wearing a surgical mask. She is quickly killed by the scissor wielding woman, while an off-duty police officer watches. Chas is the only one who can keep the ghost off guard by asking her continuous questions until John Constantine can come to the rescue as always.

If you haven’t watched this show, it’s available to stream for FREE on the CW Seed.

Want to learn more about this legend? Here’s a short video from The History Channel:

xoxo,

A

I <3 Middle Grade Horror

Hello, lovelies!

Sorry for the lame title but I can’t think of any other way to express my fondness for middle grade horror. I LOVE it, and not just because I write it. There’s something so magical about scaring kids. I remember hiding in the back shelves of the library, pouring over SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK. I was hooked on the shivers and the adrenaline I felt coursing through my veins when that girl’s sore split open and spiders went ALL OVER HER FACE.

As if this still doesn’t give you the chills

When I read IN A DARK, DARK ROOM (and other scary stories), I became obsessed with the story, “The Green Ribbon.” It became my go-to story to tell my brothers and sisters. I would always try and scare them the very second Alfred untied that green ribbon.

Okay, like what the f**k, Jenny. Couldn’t take that one to the grave? Just had to horrify your husband? Was he a dick? I bet he was a dick. 

Anyhoo, since I love MG so much, I just have to share some with you. I asked fellow Midnighter and MG Horror writer, Erica, to share a snippet of her work with us.

###

A Snippet from

The House Called Ransom Oaks: An Alphagorey Story

by Erica Davis Secor

Note from the author: I’m honored to share this snippet from Chapter 11: Kelsey’s Kidding Kraken. Here, an eleven-year-old girl meets a Kraken and her comeuppance during a doomed field-trip to a sentient house of unfathomable terrors.

Enjoy.

ES

-Begin snippet-

If Kelsey’d had anything to drink that day, she would have most certainly piddled herself. A little. A thousand excuses flooded her mouth. A lie? Too risky. Flattery? Too weird. The truth? Huh. Yes! That was it. Tell the truth.

And for a moment, it was on her lips. But as soon she took a breath, her mouth had another idea. “Why did the mermaid cross the road?”

“What!” Boomed the Kraken and if it was disturbed before, it was furious now.

Oh sweet lard, mouth, you’re going to get us killed.

“WHO? WHO got out? Was it that gangly one with the big head?I knew that one was going to be—”

“No. Uh. Sir. I—it’s a joke.” Kelsey waggled her fingers like they were laughing. “Blar-ha-haha.” Shut. Up. Shut up shut up shut up.

The Kraken blinked.

Kelsey cleared her throat. “A joke. You know. Just a…pretend scenario designed to make one laugh, often applied during slightly…uncomfortable situations.”

Blink.

“Or tense moments.”

“Say it again.” said the Kraken.

“Oh. Uhm…” her pulse returned and she started, “It’s a pretend scenario designed—“

“SAY. THE. JOKE. AGAIN.”

“OH! Well, yes.” Kelsey looked everywhere except the Kraken’s eye-holes. “W-why did the mermaid cross the road?”

Blink.

“Sh-she didn’t, because she didn’t have a leg to stand on.”

Blink.

Goodbye Mom. Goodbye Dad. Goodbye Putney. Goodbye Red Bearded Lunch Lord. Goodbye—

The Kraken exploded into peals of sloshy laughter. “Bless my ink, that is funny.” And the Kraken laughed and laughed and laughed.

Oh, Gentle reader, do you know what happens when a Kraken laughs?

That laughter breaks into a million pieces and those pieces become sparkly baby dolphins, all of which immediately throw themselves into the jaws of the nearest shark to escape the horror that is a Kraken’s breath.

Pray that you will never have to make a Kraken laugh because it is a bad day for everyone.

Kelsey gagged. It was like a rotting fish and last week’s gym socks. She steadied herself on a squishy log but jerked her hand away when she realized it was a tentacle.

Though the Kraken didn’t seem to mind. And t least it wasn’t angry at her anymore.

She relaxed a little and smiled.

In fact, they ended up having a long and lovely chat.

Breathing through her mouth, Kelsey scratched its tentacles and even taught it a few more mermaid jokes. And one about a mama goat. The Kraken could not get over how funny the punchline sounded, “Just kidding!” and tried it out a few different ways. “Just kidding…Just kidding!”

Feeling confident, she said, “This was really fun, Krackie,”  and it seemed to enjoy that nickname almost as much as how ‘kidding’ sounded underwater, “but I’ve got to go now. My class is expecting me.” Liar, liar. Surely it would hear the fib in her voice.

But, in a great show of gratuity and politeness, the Kraken extended a tentacle and bobbed its bulbous head. Kelsey smiled and cordially shook extremities with it.

The Kraken said, “Thank you so much for a wonderful afternoon. Do stop by the gift shop on your way out. JUST-KID-DING! There is no gift shop.” He seemed very amused with himself.

So much in fact, that Kelsey didn’t even mind when a tip of tentacle curled gently around her wrist. She just laughed and pulled her hand back.

The tentacle tightened. “You’re not going anywhere,” it snarled.

—Goodbye mailman. Goodbye fellow Write Your Own Dang Endings fan club officers—

“JUST KIDDING. You can leave any time!”

Concept sketch by the author (2017).

“Oh gosh!” Kelsey couldn’t help but breath a sigh of relief.  “You had me. You had me for a minute there, Krakie. You’re funny. Dark. But funny. I like you.” And she laughed and laughed, wiping a tear from her eyes with her free hand.

The Kraken still had the other.

“Take care, ok?” said Kelsey.

The Kraken said, “Yes. You go on back to the
others, now,” and released her wrist.

Kelsey’s knees gave out. She stumbled back, away from the edge of the water and dropped to the grass. Her insides felt like a ripped bag of spiders. She exhaled. And inhaled. She was going to be OK.

The Kraken gave her one final look and as if reading her thoughts, said, “Yes. You are going to be OK.” Then slipped beneath the surface.

SQUELCH. THWAP. Kelsey felt the squeeze of the tentacle before she saw it.

“Just kidding,” said the Kraken.

-End Snippet-

Erica!!! That was amazing!!! The final line ‘ “Just kidding.” Hahaha creepy and awesome.

###

One of my critique partners, Jessica Bayliss (BROKEN CHORDS COMING SOON!) writes wicked horror. Intense, beautiful stuff. She sent me over a peak at one of my favourite unpublished books of all time,

LAUNDRY DAY

by Jessica Bayliss

I stood there, the laundry basket growing heavier in my arms with each passing second, and waited for the voice to repeat its request. After nearly a minute, when nothing happened, I relaxed my muscles a little and shivered from the fresh slick of sweat drying on my skin. Just my imagination. I’d gotten myself so worked up back there I was hearing things.

“I said, yoo hoo!”

The basket slipped from my fingers and plummeted to the carpet with a whoomp!, making me jump and scramble down the hall where I waited for like ever. When my heart slowed some, I inched closer to the door: one shuffling step, pause, listen. Repeat. The smell that greeted me when I got within range was easily double what I’d left behind—no longer just the sulfur stink of a swamp marsh, it was now edged with a tangy odor I couldn’t quite place.

“That’s right, my boy,” the voice coaxed. “I can hear you, you know. Come on. A little closer.” The words bounced off the dryer’s interior with a slight echo. “A little closer, now.” It let loose a string of tittering giggles.

I couldn’t go in there, no way. I needed to run, to get as far from this place as humanly possible. But I couldn’t not go in there, either. Something had really spoken to me from inside an empty room. I crossed the threshold and paused before the machine, but unless I squatted, the facing of the dryer blocked my view inside.

“Good, now get lower, so I can see you better.” Its voice deepened to a growl with those last words, and another chuckle skittered off the dryer walls. “There’s a good boy.”

Like a slave before a king, I lowered myself to my knees until my gaze leveled straight into the bore of the appliance. Though it rested in its normal spot moments ago, now the vent plate at the back of the dryer had disappeared. An eye gleamed from within the dark like a hazy, boiled egg white. The owner of the eyeball blinked, a translucent green membrane skating over the milky surface and bathing it in oozing liquid that trickled out of view like sickly tears.

“Ah, there you are.” The note of pleasure in the creature’s tone turned my stomach. Good thing I hadn’t eaten yet.

“Who…what…?”

Chuckles bubbled out at me. “Now, now. It won’t do to get all worked up. We’ll have plenty of time for questions, Simon.”

That couldn’t be good. “How do you know my name?”

“Oh well, you see, I’m a very good listener. I’ve been listening—and watching—for quite a while.”

“This isn’t real.”

“I assure you, I’m quite real. In fact, you and I are going to become the best of chums. Fast friends. You’ll see.”

 

###

Since I’m feeling rather blah about my own writing these days, I’m going to throwbackthursday and share a bit of the project that landed me my fab agent, Gina 🙂

THE BONE TREE

By Jenna Lehne

     A woman steps – more like staggers – out of the fog. She’s all wispy and blurry, but it’s definitely a woman. She falls against a tree first, and then to her knees. She clutches her chest and then falls sideways. Her feet twitch and then all her breath rushes out in a cloud.

“Did she just fall asleep?” I ask.

Roman takes a step closer. “I think she just died.”

“Oh.” The fear in my stomach turns to sadness. I slide my hand into Roman’s, thankful that we’ve put the death stuff behind us.

Roman leans a little closer to the extra-dead ghost. “How did Grams die?”

“She had a heart attack,” I say. “Why?”

The ghost stirs and sits up slowly, like she’s just waking up.

“Don’t look.” Roman spins around and covers my eyes. “I’m so sorry, Elsie.”

I grab his wrist and pull his hand down. ‘What are you talking about?”

The ghost falls again. She’s closer now, close enough that I can see her face. I can see red seeping from her mouth as her teeth clamp down on her lip. I watch her skin break as her nails dig into her chest. She groans and falls to her knees. I fall too.

“Grams,” I whisper. I reach for her but my hand passes right through her. She bucks against the unmoving leaves. “Roman, help!”

Roman sits next to me and grabs my other hand. “I can’t do anything, I’m sorry Elsie. I’m so sorry.”

“Tell me what to do, Grams.” I suck back the sob waiting to escape. “How do I make it stop?”

“Dig the earrings up,” Grams gasps. “It hurts so much. Please, dig up the token.”

Grams gnarled hand slides against the ground in the direction of the Bone Tree.

“The earrings!” I scramble to the tree and dig up the fresh hole. I stop before I grab the earrings. “What will this do to you, Roman?”

Roman shakes his head. “I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter. Grab the earrings, Els.”

Grams shudders and dies again. I choke on a sob as a part of me dies too. I can’t believe this is what happens to the token’s owners. I feel so terrible my stomach aches. I grab the earrings and jam them into my pocket. The pointed end digs into my middle finger but I don’t care. I crawl back toward Grams, leaving a miniature trail of blood behind me. She stands to her feet, but this time she doesn’t fall.

###

Well that was super fun! Thank you, Jessica and Erica, for joining me!

Happy Friday!

x,

Jenna

Faith’s Favorite Frights #4

Are you ready to tour the web with Faith’s Favorite Frights? It’s Wednesday, and I’m your undead host, Faith McKay.

Let’s dive right in with this beauty…

That’s right! You’re looking at a glittering stache, for a vampire. With fangs. And oopsy! A little bit of blood in that mustache. Must be a hazard of the life. #VampireProblems.

I super love K. Flay’s new album. You’ve probably heard a song on there, Blood in the Cut, because it was on an EP and it was awesome. This week when I was daydreaming of seeing K. Flay in concert, I went over to the website and found Blood in the Cut socks. Do you see the little blades? And the gray blood dripping down from the top? I love it. It’s subtle, yet creepy. You can wear them out with only the best people thinking anything of it. Subtle creepy. Stealth creepy. I dig it.

 

The Midnight Society “Dark and Lovely Interiors” board, to help you build the haunted mansion of your dreams.

 

A historical romance in the Old West… with zombies. Donners of the Dead by Karina Halle.



And that’s all I have for you this week, folks! I’d love to hear of more oddities in the comments!

Upcoming YA Horror Book Alert: When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

What screams “read me!” more than a resurrection and possession?! You know me, if there’s one thing I love, it’s horror books!

I found this one today and it sounds pretty awesome.

Also, I started a YA horror 2017 reading list on Goodreads. If you’re interested, add me or keep this link handy to check out upcoming scary reads. I also have a ton of other Goodreads book lists like ghosts, serial killers, and more.

 

Book: When I Cast Your Shadow

Author: Sarah Porter

Publisher: Tor Teen

Release date: September 12, 2017

 

A teenage girl calls her beloved older brother back from the grave with disastrous consequences.

Dashiell Bohnacker was hell on his family while he was alive. But it’s even worse now that he’s dead….

After her troubled older brother, Dashiell, dies of an overdose, sixteen-year-old Ruby is overcome by grief and longing. What she doesn’t know is that Dashiell’s ghost is using her nightly dreams of him as a way to possess her body and to persuade her twin brother, Everett, to submit to possession as well.

Dashiell tells Everett that he’s returned from the Land of the Dead to tie up loose ends, but he’s actually on the run from forces crueler and more powerful than anything the Bohnacker twins have ever imagined….

 

 

Pre-Order on Amazon

 

New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Garber (Caraval) calls this book, “Darkly seductive. Sarah Porter’s writing glitters and her storytelling stuns in this twisted tale of siblings, love, and death.”

What do you think? What YA or Middle Grade spooky books are you looking forward to in 2017?

Let me know in the comments below!

 

Happy Haunting,

 

 

 

Kids Need Scary, Too: A Plea for More Middle Grade Horror

We’re celebrating middle grade horror this month. So I thought of middle grade me, and if you had asked kid-me if I liked horror, I would have said no. Maybe because Mom was all about the non-scary, about keeping us from things that she didn’t like. Maybe because Dad liked it, but being a not-so-talkative guy, there was never any discussion about it.

But when I look back on my childhood, I did like horror. If Dad was watching some crazy, creepy movie, I watched it, the whole time knowing I “shouldn’t”. I had books I loved, only later realizing they were horror. I was drawn to the weird and scary.

I should have known horror was for me when we saw Poltergeist at the drive-in. My dad casually announced, probably at my mom’s request, that my sister and I might not want to watch certain scenes. I peeked. So did my sister. The difference? My sister promptly hid her face. I kept watching. My sister has never watched a horror movie since. Me? Well, Poltergeist is one of my favorites.

Seems that, overall, kids are encouraged not to watch scary things. They are told they will have nightmares. They are told they won’t like it. My sister had her kids so scared of the basilisk in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, that they wouldn’t watch Harry Potter at all. They never saw Sleeping Beauty because the dragon was too scary.

Did my nieces not watch it because they wouldn’t like it, or did my sister influence them that much?

Me? I let my kids watch all sorts of things. I watched Buffy with my toddlers in the room. As they got older and noticed what I was watching, we talked about the monsters, the demons, the ghosts. I exclaimed how cool the monsters looked. We talked about how people reacted. We talked about how the things they saw on TV were made up…ISN’T THE IMAGINATION FANTASTIC!?!?! Of course, all this bleeds into real life. It’s not all made up. Some movies and books are based on true events. When my kids asked if I believed in ghosts, I told them the truth. I do believe in ghosts and demons and everything supernatural… and THEY ARE COMING TO EAT YOUR SOULS…

Okay…I didn’t say the last part…out loud…

Now, neither one of my kids ever jumped on the HEY-THIS-HORROR-STUFF-IS-SUPER-COOL wagon, but they appreciate that I like it. They get that I find it incredibly fascinating. And my daughter loves books with magic and demon battles, so there’s that. (Note to self: Make teen girl-child watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer.) They were exposed to it. Decided that it wasn’t their thing and moved on. But they never cowered in a corner certain they wouldn’t like it because someone told them they wouldn’t.

How many kids missed out on the wonder of creepy because their parents decided they couldn’t handle it? Or was it the parents who couldn’t handle it?

Middle grade needs more horror. Show kids the marvelous world of terror, maybe they’ll like it. Don’t treat it like a horrible thing that will devour their very essence. (I’ve been scarred for life and I’m fine. I think.) Don’t change the channel telling them that they can’t watch that. Let them watch, if they seem interested…I mean don’t strap them to a chair and duct tape their eyes open…unless you want to. Talk about what they see. Let them tell you what they like, what interests them about what they see.

And this is so fitting, because my next writing endeavor will be a middle grade horror! I have had this idea for SO LONG…TOO LONG. Finally, it has formed a solid enough story, that I can start. I am super excited to begin, to add to the pile of horror for kids.

Because kids need scary, too.

Then they grow up to be awesome horror-lovers like those of us here at The Midnight Society.

Who wouldn’t want to be like us?

*sticks knife in my belt* *grabs my chainsaw* *puts on my demon mask* *heads off to the dark cabin in the woods*

 

A reminder to join me TONIGHT at 9 EST on Twitter for the live-tweet of… #NightmareonElmStreet

A Nightmare on Elm Street movie poster

 

Cover Artists & Illustrators: The Unsung Heroes of Middle Grade Horror

I judge books by their cover. Don’t @ me.

Admittedly, I know nothing about the nuances of cover design, illustration, or typography, but I do have an eidetic memory when it comes to why I buy the books I do (spoiler: it’s the cover).

And so, here is a definitive ranking of the top 13 books in my personal MG horror collection:

13. NOW YOU SEE ME… by J. B. Mason & S. H. Stephens. Cover art by Katie Wood. I know middle grade horror is still horror, but this was a cute cover. The sparkles around ghost-boy, the funky clothes. But hold the smartphone. None of these characters look too happy. And no wonder. This was a deceptively dark story.

12. THE MONSTERS OF MORELY MANOR: A MADCAP ADVENTURE by Bruce Coville. Cover & illustrations by John Berg. Shades of Green? I’m in. So cute. But also a little disturbing given the suggested scale (see quarter). Small things give me the jibblies. (UPDATE: Turns out John Berg is also responsible for some of the Garbage Pail Kids. You Guys).

11. HAUNTED STUFF: DEMONIC DOLLS, SCREAMING SKULLS & OTHER CREEPY COLLECTIBLES by Stacey Graham. Cover design by Percolator Graphic Design. Now, I know this isn’t necessarily middle grade, but this cover would have sold me even in second grade. WHAT IS IT WITH DOLLS? OMG.

10. THE GHOUL NEXT DOOR by Suzanne Nelson. Cover art by Liz Adams. Those four letters in the window brought me back to that episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark in which “help me” was written backwards over and over. The shades of purple also resonated for some reason. Cute, but creepy.

9. GOOSEBUMPS: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DUMMY by R. L. Stine. Cover art by the inimitable Tim Jacobus. I don’t know what’s worse: the eyes or the mouth slit. Or the shiny reflection on the cheek. FU nightmare dummy. But I still needed it. These books were not allowed in my house. Mom thought the covers were gross. She was right. But that doesn’t mean the story didn’t deliver. Boy, howdy, did it ever.

8. YOU’RE INVITED TO A CREEPOVER: THE RIDE OF YOUR LIFE by P.J. Night (text by Ann Hodgman). Cover art by Aly Turner (Note: I could only find an “Aly Fell” when I looked up Aly Turner and the style is virtually identical. Let me know if you find a page for Aly Turner, though!). Stranger danger to the infinity power. Ugh. Why would you go on this ride? I know I’ve seen this guy at every grocery store, ever. INSTANT WANT. (Unrelated: I may or may not have a hero complex of defeating a kidnapper).

7. WAIT TILL HELEN COMES by Mary Downing Hahn. Cover Illustration by Larry Rostant. Nope. Noope. Noooope. FU LITTLE GIRL IN THE GRAVEYARD. Sold.

6. THE NIGHT GARDENER by Jonathan Auxier. Cover Illustration by Patrick Arrasmith. Are you kidding me with this tentacled death tree? Plus, stranger danger carved out in silver? Sold.

5. THE CABINET OF CURIOSITIES: 36 TALES BRIEF & SINISTER by S. Bachmann, K. Catmull, C. Legrand, & E. Trevayne. Cover Art by Alexander Jansson. Hand lettering by Ryan O’Rourke. I want to go to there. Sky art and/or fantasy air machine art are an instant win for me. I’d live in this thing if I could. Couple that with the subtitle, I instantly knew this was going to be a good read. My mom got it for me for my birthday. This year. At my request.

4. A HOUSE CALLED AWFUL END: THE EDDIE DICKENS TRILOGY by Philip Ardagh. Cover and illustrations by David Roberts. This is straight out of my dream journal. It’s like Edward Gorey and Tim Burton had a baby and that baby crawled into my dream journal.

3. YOU’RE INVITED TO A CREEPOVER: NO TRICK-OR-TREATING! by P. J. Night (text by Ellie O’Ryan). Cover art by Aly Turner. As kid-friendly as Turner’s art is, I’m a sucker for halloween. And that freaking girl is see-through. And those are some pretty nasty jack-o-lanterns BUT WHY IS THE GIRL SEE-THROUGH OMG.

2. SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK by Alvin Schwartz. Drawings and cover illustration by Stephen Gammell. This gorific horribleness was all but forbidden in my house growing up. I think the airy sketches caught my eye, but that little house in the background got me. The stuff of nightmares.

1: ALL THE LOVELY BAD ONES by Mary Downing Hahn. Cover illustration by Greg Spalenka. Are you kidding me with this matron of hell and ghost children? Sold.

Faith’s Favorite Frights #3

It’s time to find some creepy things from around the web! I’m your undead host, Faith McKay. Today we have…

 

This iron on patch from BrightonBabe on etsy is just the cutest. It comes in two colors!

 

I don’t know what it is about this crop top that I love so much, but I do. I think it’s just the right amount of creepy. I don’t know. I freakin’ love bats, guys.

 

YES.

I’m sure I’ve told you to pick up Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper before, but I’m going to go ahead and tell you again. This book is an excellent ghost story. Smart woman works as a ghost investigator, handling the hauntings of Savannah, Georgia. It stands well on its own, but you’ll want to keep going with the series. The next book gets scarier and holds more of the Savannah, Georgia atmosphere. Go forth and read! The first book is free!

A Portrait of the Horror Writer as a Teen

My entire adult writing life has been about writing adult horror. Creepy, atmospheric locations to set the tone. Plenty of blood and gore, as the story allows. Strange and unusual twists to set the reader off-kilter. it’s what I like to read, and what I love to write.

But it hasn’t always been that way. I had to start somewhere, and that somewhere was in a high school English class.

Okay, so I wrote short stories before then (though I’m not sure my story about a talent show for aliens back in 7th grade would make the cut), but it was an assignment in one of my high school English classes that had a big influence on me.

Our teacher introduced us to a book called The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by  Chris Van Allsburg.

ABOUT THE BOOK

If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a picture book with intriguing illustrations, each accompanied by a title and one-line blurb. In class, we were each handed a random photocopy of one of the images and instructed to write a story.

I ended up with “Mr. Linden’s Library” and wrote a fantastical tale about a lost world, intricate vine tattoos, and a pair of middle schoolers with a unique connection. Even though it was more fantasy than horror, it definitely whetted my appetite for telling tales that, I hope, make my readers just as curious and enthralled.

MR. LINDEN'S LIBRARY

MR. LINDEN’S LIBRARY
He had warned her about the book.
Now it was too late.

The funny thing is…the current book I’m revising is about tattoos too, which is what made me think of that class assignment and how we can sometimes be inspired by the smallest tidbit of conversation, a random encounter with someone or even just by an interesting image that piques our curiosity. How those formative influences can start as a seed in our early writing lives and continue as we grow and explore.

I liked the process so much that I also wrote stories inspired by “The Harp” and “The Third-Floor Bedroom”.

Heck, even Stephen King has written his own tale  inspired by “The House on Maple Street” illustration, which you can find in his most excellent collection Nightmares & Dreamscapes.

If you haven’t seen this cool book, I encourage you to grab a copy or seek it out at your local library. There’s also a collection of stories inspired by the illustrations called The Chronicles of Harris Burdick (though Stephen King’s tale is not included in the collection).

Now you know! Sometimes, we authors are inspired in the most peculiar ways! And whether you write horror or fantasy, MG, Adult or some other genre, you can still make your stories creepy-cool!

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THE VOID is a Love Letter to John Carpenter

John Carpenter is my director of all time. Not even just my favorite horror director–my favorite director. The three biggest influences on my writing are Clive Barker, H.P. Lovecraft and John Carpenter, and it’s my love for Carpenter that is most easily seen in every story I write.

So as a lifelong fan of Carpenter’s work, I can truly appreciate what a love letter The Void is to three Carpenter films in particular–Prince of Darkness, The Thing and Assault on Precinct 13. And while the movie does not execute on everything it sets out to do, it’s a solid horror film that is definitely worth your time.

The Void begins with Deputy Daniel Carter finding encountering a wounded man who seemingly escaped from a the scene of some kind of home invasion. He takes the man to the hospital, and things start to get very weird after that, because the next time he goes outside, there’s a large group of cultists who seem to have the place surrounded.

I’m not going to spoil anything else, because as I said, it’s totally worth a watch. But I do want to touch on those Carpenter movies I mentioned earlier, and how they influence The Void.

Assault on Precinct 13 took place primarily in a police precinct that has been decommissioned and it about to be closed. The Void takes place in an old hospital that recently experienced a fire, and is about to be closed. In both movies, an outside group is threatening the small group of both “good” and “bad” people inside, who must band together to help one another.

The Thing featured an alien life form that could take on the appearance of any living creature it came into contact with. It also has a very Lovecraftian design. Without spoiling too much, I’ll just say The Void has some clear parallels, both in the design department and in the “don’t trust the person next to you” department. The Void adds its own twist that I think works well however, and is more of a nod to Lovecraft.

By far the biggest influence on The Void–at least in my opinion–is Prince of Darkness, which is one of my absolute favorite Carpenter films. The themes of rebirth, the prophet and followers aspect, and a particular plot point that is a direct nod to Prince of Darkness had me smiling throughout the movie.

I know I’m being cryptic, but I really do want you to check out the movie. As I said, it has it’s flaws. There are some pacing issues, some under-cooked characters, and some missed opportunities in terms of the story. And the most glaring issue is the poor lighting, which makes it almost impossible to see at certain times. But none of those things should keep you from watching this movie. The practical effects work alone make it worth seeing. And in addition to Carpenter, there are plenty of other classics that The Void gives a nod to (Hellraiser being a very notable one).

So go check out The Void. As I said, it’s a love letter to John Carpenter, and it made me want to revisit all three of those films for the billionth time.