GUEST POST: An Exploration of Death — Lee Andrew Forman

Hey horror fans! My name is Lee Andrew Forman, and I’m primarily a horror and dark fiction writer. First, I’d like to thank Rie Sheridan Rose for hosting me on her blog, The Rogers-Vincent Home for Wayward Spirits and Bar-B-Que Grill! Next, I’d like to talk a little about my latest book, The Bury Box.

The Bury Box is an exploration of death through the eyes of a child.

As a young boy, I found myself delving deeply into the macabre. Much like Reggie, the main character in the book, my natural tendencies were a bit on the strange side. As a child, I was consumed by the thought of death; what was it, what did it mean, and what happened after a person died? The idea of a body being put into the ground intrigued me to no end. Because I was so young, I hadn’t grasped the terms coffin or casket yet, so I called them exactly what they were, bury boxes.

When I started writing horror, I had a driving need to explore that childhood curiosity which had followed me all my life. And while my book is fiction, there are grains of truth between the pages; some of what takes place in Reggie’s world actually happened. With those things in mind, my journey into The Bury Box began.

Over the course of 7 years or so, I’d find myself putting my current writing project on hold and tapping out a few pages of the story that had been chasing me for so long. Eventually, I realized that I was spending more time with this manuscript than any other writing project. The story was telling me it was time, and I needed to get it out and share it with the world. While that might sound a bit dramatic, keep in mind I am a writer, and prone to living through my words as much as in the ‘real’ world.

My hope is that I’ve managed to convey not only the fear and anguish of those much earlier years, but also to take you, the reader, down a path you might not be expecting. I know I wasn’t expecting the story to veer in the direction it did, but I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome.

Thank you, Rie, for hosting me on your blog, and I hope your readers are as fascinated with bury boxes as I am.

Collecting Horror Ideas

We’ve talked a bit about where to submit horror, and some inspirations from folklore, but horror is all around us. (Just look at the headlines…)

Keep a notebook of ideas with you at all times. Whether it is a small physical notebook; a larger spiral; or an app in your phone like Notebooks Pro or Evernote. Have sections for names–both for characters and creatures; settings–like haunted houses you might read about or abandoned asylums; and bits of plot that might occur to you.

You can add other sections as you see fit. Folklore that strikes your fancy. Photographs that inspire you. Song lyrics or poems that create an appropriate mood. Textures, like fabric swatches, that bring in a tactile element.

You never know what will create the moment you are looking for to move along the story. Write down your nightmares. Scribble bits of conversation. Always be collecting those bits of inspiration. You never know when you might need just that one little spark you found last year.

Horror is all around you. Keep your eyes open for it.

GUEST POST: Patience, Persistence, and Partnership — Ken MacGregor

Way back in 2013, I came across a call for submissions looking for collaboration between two writers who’d never met in real life. I reached out to Kerry Lipp, whose writing style and sense of humor I admired, and asked if he wanted to write a story with me. Neither of us had ever done that, so we stumbled our way through 3900 words of a ridiculous tale of a man who wakes up physically dead but still mentally sharp. It was creepy, disgusting, and hilarious. We sold it.

I asked is he wanted to do another one, and he said, “Sure! Whatcha got?” So, I sent Kerry this scene I had written but didn’t know where to go with. It featured an aging (but bad-ass) bounty hunter interrogating a punk. He loved the character, Johnny Headcase, and wrote another couple thousand words. We went back and forth, each trying to leave the other on a mad cliffhanger or an “impossible” situation for our heroes to get out of. We laughed and said “holy shit!” a lot, and overall had a blast writing this thing. At some point, we realized that we’d been at it for a while and checked the word count. We had written over 25,000! We’d made a novella! This was kind of amazing, as we had only planned on writing a short. However, the story wasn’t done yet, so we kept at it. Somehow, we blasted past 50,000 words and…we had a book!

One of the characters, Gavin the Werewolf, was still under contract with a publisher (they had first rights of refusal), so we offered the novel to them. They loved it, worked with us to edit it so it was publication-ready, and we were stoked. Unfortunately, the publisher, after much soul-searching deliberation, realized that this book, while a hell of a fun read, did not, in fact, fit the demographic of their readership. They produce horror and romance books, and this was neither. Sure, it had monsters: vampires, trolls, goat-demons, and more. Sure, it had sex (rather a lot of fairly graphic sex). But it wasn’t really horror. It wasn’t romance. It was this weird hybrid, genre-jumping, unclassifiable thing. So, they gave it back.

Kerry and I sent it out to a couple of other publishers who passed on it. We tried not to take it personally. Then, I asked my publisher, LVP Publications, for whom I am the Managing Editor of Collections and Anthologies (impressive title, no?) if they’d take a look at the book. They said okay, to send the first chapter. The first chapter is crazy short. So, they asked for the first five. And then they asked for the rest of the book. Then for character descriptions. They accepted it!

Kerry and I had written an origin story for one of the four main characters: Lydia, a half-human, half-demon warrior, and asked if they wanted to include it as a sort of coda. They read it and asked us to write one for each of the other three. We were like, “Oh. Okay. Sure.” And, somehow, managed to crank these out too. So, after five years or so, HEADCASE is finally about to see the light of day. It’s being released serially, one quarter at a time (with an origin story attached to each), in both eBook and paperback. There will also be an audiobook available, once all four sections have been published.

This is a series of firsts for me: first novel, first time having anything serialized, first audiobook. I couldn’t be happier with the responses we’ve been getting so far! People are excited about this crazy little book. No one more so than me and Kerry, of course. We started the sequel, so you know. Hopefully, it won’t take another five years to get this one out!

So, because I took a chance and asked a virtual stranger to write a story with me, I have not only a debut novel imminent but also a solid friendship with someone I genuinely admire and get along with well. You never know until you reach out. Thank you for listening.

Here’s a link to the book trailer. If you think it’s something you’d like to read, the preorder links are in the YouTube video’s comments. You can order just the first section, the first and second, or the whole shebang.

[Since the new WordPress editor embedded the really cool video, here are the links for your convenience:


PRE-ORDER the full serial plus audiobook here: https://payhip.com/b/CTP7

PRE-ORDER Book 1 only here: https://payhip.com/b/M85X

PRE_ORDER Book 2 only here: https://payhip.com/b/JEHz — Rie]

Horror Doesn’t Have to Be Horrific

red monster night eyes closeup

Horror ranges from the silliness of Scooby-Doo to the terror of The Ring. But some of the most interesting and insidious horror comes when an everyday object becomes unexpectedly evil.

Look at Cujo. The book, and subsequent movie, are visceral and terrifying–and yet, they are about a rabid dog, not some demonic creature. Any dog can be bitten by a rabid animal and go on such a rampage. The story terrifies because it could happen to any household in any neighborhood.

Would Child’s Play have as much impact if Chucky were not a doll? One of the most innocuous toys possible…something in any little girl’s room.

If you are setting out to write horror, don’t think only of the monsters. Think of the mundane items in your world and see if there is something you can turn into the catalyst of your story. Perhaps the water fountain in the square suddenly starts poisoning people. Why? Is it a human intervention, or is there something more devious at work? Perhaps a vengeful water spirit?

Maybe a pet songbird suddenly starts singing words–words that prophesize murder. (Wait…I think I want that one…)

The point is, horror doesn’t have to be full of ghosts or demons or vampires to bring a shiver to the spine. And, sometimes, it is better when it isn’t.

RieView: What We Do in the Shadows

Bats flying on white background

Having had a chance now to watch both the original movie and both seasons of What We Do in the Shadows, I am well and truly smitten.

The mockumentary genre can be very hit or miss. Sometimes, it works; sometimes, it doesn’t. I would say, in this case, it is about 90% spot on. There are a few scenes that make you wonder about the size of the film crew that must be involved…but it generally works.

Looking first at the movie, the geniuses behind the “script” (according to the IMDB site, it was mostly improvised around an outline), Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi also directed and starred in the film, along with Jonny Brugh. The three vampires walk the film crew through a few days nights in their undead lives. It’s a fun romp, but I think the dynamics of the household work better in the TV series because of the introduction of a female perspective.

The introduction of Nadja into the house gives a lot of new possibilities to the action. The relationship between Nadja and Lazlo is really interesting to watch. Natasia Demetriou is delightful, and I always love Matt Berry. I had never seen Kayvan Novak before, but I like his style. I think having the familiar be part of the household is also an interesting twist.

The call-back to the movie in the episode “The Trial” is also nice, having the original vampires be part of the Vampire Council, as well as some other familiar faces, was a lot of fun.

Part of the charm of the franchise is the discovery, so I don’t want to give away too many details. I would definitely recommend both the movie and the series, and give the whole franchise 4 Bats.

Bats

 

Let’s Talk About Monsters…

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Monsters. The mainstay of horror, aren’t they? Vampires, werewolves, mummies–these are the creatures that everyone turns to when they hear the word “monster.” Perhaps that should be qualified–these are the stereotypical creatures that American readers/writers turn to automatically. And that’s why they inundate the pages of books and the frames of films we are familiar with.

But there are other dark things in the world, and some of those are fascinating. For example, here is one list of Asian monsters, and this one is specifically Japanese. Here is a list of creatures from Indian mythology.

Celtic mythology is rife with incredible creatures. They even have their own television series. Here is a list of specifically Irish mythological creatures.

African monsters are often animalistic in nature rather than humanoid.

Australian folklore has some interesting creatures to consider.

Even if you want to stick to American monsters, Native American myths are full of unusual beings.

The point is that there are so many under-used monsters in the world that putting aside the vampires, mummies, werewolves, and ghosts for awhile and exploring these lesser-known creatures in our fiction and film might be to everyone’s advantage. 😉

Here are some resources for further study:

World Mythology

World Mythology: The Illustrated Guide

Bulfinch’s Mythology

Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes, 75th Anniversary Illustrated Edition Deluxe, Illustrated, Anniversary Edition

The Book of Yokai: Mysterious Creatures of Japanese Folklore

Celtic Tales: Fairy Tales and Stories of Enchantment from Ireland, Scotland, Brittany, and Wales

The Complete World of Greek Mythology

Gods and Heroes from Viking Mythology

 

 

Finding a Home for Horror

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Photo by Toni Cuenca on Pexels.com

Horror is a lot of fun to write, but not always easy to find a home for. However, there are several small presses that feature the genre, and I thought I would highlight some of them for potential contributors. The houses below are all publishers that I have worked with personally and would definitely submit to again.

First of all, I’ll tout the house that I edit for, Horrified Press. Though we can be a little slow and the pay is based on sales, I think the product turned out is quite nice. I am actively looking for submissions for my specific imprint, Thirteen O’Clock. The following are the open calls for Horrified–and basic details of Thirteen’s calls. Our maximum word count is 5k. There are further specifications at the above link:

Twisted Time — What can go terribly wrong in the realm of Time Travel? No obvious Doctor Who fanfic, please. All of Time is at your fingertips. Let me see how time travel goes awry. 

Blood in the Cogs — A steampunk anthology! Terror in the time of Victoria! There was a lot going on during that long reign of hers. (Don’t send me ALL Jack the Ripper stories! Let me clarify–I don’t mind a mention of the Ripper, after all, he was the big news of the day. I just don’t want only stories about that one case. There were other horrors of the age…)

Dark Emporium — What is sold there? And what does it cost you? The Old Curiosity Shop you stumble into while exploring a new city; the frenetic mall with that odd shop in the bottom corner; the online venue swearing they can accommodate all your desires….the Dark Emporium takes many forms as it seeks your soul!
Chains –- Who’s chained, where are they, what are they, what are the chains holding down/stopping escaping/securing against robbers… Chains. We see them, we use them, now write about them. A good one to exercise your imaginations! [This one is almost full–one or two more stories at best.]
Horrified is also reading for the following call which I have nothing to do with:
KEK V’s CTHULHU —  Flash fiction, Poetry, Short Stories (2,000 6,000 words)
A god has risen. An elder god of chaos. A god that the Dark Land of Egypt once knew. A frog-headed abomination that dwells–where? In the gloom of the collective unconscious? In the crazy depths of the internet? In the minds of conspiracy theorists and muddle minded political fanatics? As insubstantial as a dream–or a nightmare. In a world increasingly fragmented, where right and left, atheism and religion, sanity and lunacy struggle for supremacy, who is the true manifestation of KEK?

Horrified specializes in anthologies, but if you have longer works to submit, you might try one of the following:

Mocha Memoirs Press

Zumaya Publications

 

For other short story markets, try

HorrorAddicts.net

The Horror Zine

Horror Tree

 

I also found this list in my research. It is a couple of years old now, so I suggest researching any market that you are interested in to make sure they are still in business and actively seeking submissions. And there is another list of magazines that accept horror here. Horror Tree also maintains a list of open calls.

Another place to look for markets actively seeking submissions is ralan.com. It lists all types of markets in an easy to use format. I’ve found many submission opportunities there.

These are by no means exhaustive lists. Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments.

GUEST POST: Crymsyn Hart — Forest of Bones

Today, we have a guest post from author Crymsyn Hart about some of the influences behind her novel Forest of Bones. Having edited this book, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

ForestofBonesCover

Forest of Bones Inspiration

I love vampires in all shapes and forms. I’ve written a lot of vampires over the years and lost count on how many books I’ve read about the undead. I know how hard it is to create a vampire that is just a little bit different than the norm.

My vampires live in a world of magic. However, if they were human and turned into a vampire, they lose their magical ability. Sun and silver still hurt them, but they are different in the way they were created. Forest of Bones is a story about stopping the overall bad guy from destroying the world, but it’s also an origin story. Vampires are different in how the species were created. Let’s just say it involves a little bit of magic, a spell gone wrong, and the secret ingredient–which you have to find by reading the book. LOL.

Forest of Bones was born out of a couple of things. I had this dream about the main character, Kaya, while she was sitting in a tree overlooking this camp. They were the enemy and she was getting intel on them. I wrote that scene and I wanted to make her different. The vampire aspect of the book was more of a “Hey, what would happen if I threw vampires into the mix?” idea.

I hadn’t written a total fantasy novel with vampires so I wanted to figure out how that could work. From there, I thought it would be interesting to make Kaya the only hybrid of her kind. Of course, I had to discover how vampires and Kaya being a hybrid worked into the story. Throwing vampires into a world of magic, I learned there had to be consequences to how the magic worked on the vampires and the environment.

Forest of Bones is a great world I’d love to find more stories in. It’s not just about Kaya and her story. What happens after? Or what happens before her story? The vampire race is thousands of years old, so what other creatures or tragedies happened? I’ll guess I’ll have to find out.

Crymsyn Bio:

Crymsyn Hart is a multi-genre author of Horror, Urban Fantasy, and Romance. Her years of experience at Boston’s oldest psychic salon doing readings and her encounters with the supernatural have inspired many novels. She’s a lover of all things dark and goth. Vampires, grim reapers, and other paranormal creatures tend to end up in her books no matter how hard she tries to keep them away.

She currently resides in Charlotte, NC with her hubby and their two dogs. By day she is conquering the world of Commercial Insurance, but by night she listens to the voices in her head telling her which rabbit hole to go down to find the perfect plot bunny.

Find out more about Crymsyn:

Website http://crymsynhart.com,

Twitter: @Crymsynhart

Facebook https://facebook.com/crymsynhart

Amazon http://amazon.com/Crymsyn-Hart/e/B002BMJ1Z0.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/crymsynhart

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/crymsyn_hart/

Bookbub:https://www.bookbub.com/authors/crymsyn-hart

 

Things that Go Bump in the Night…

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Everyone is afraid of something…whether it is walking alone down a dark street at midnight or losing one’s job. These fears are real and tangible. They are depressing and often out of our control.

Perhaps this is why we gravitate to horror so readily. The monsters in a novel or movie aren’t usually real. Pennywise is not going to pop out of the sewer. Dracula is not going to swoop into your bedroom window. But the thought of these iconic creatures in our lives gives us a scare we can control–we can put It down, or pause Dracula if it gets to be too much. Campfire stories fade with the light of dawn.

When I was a kid, I would rush home for Dark Shadows. I was so in love with Barnabas Collins. Of course, fifteen years later when I watched it again in reruns, it was so cheesy and badly filmed I just laughed, but it was one of my first introductions to the horror genre. (And I still think Jonathan Frid was amazing–though Barnabas was almost his only role.) Did the camp of the series impress itself in my head even then? Is that why I like to write humorous horror most of all? Maybe.

Dracula Has Risen from the Grave was the first time I remember feeling all tingly over a vampire. He was so sexy and masculine…to the ten-year-old watching it on the couch at a friend’s house. There is just something so alluring about a cape…

So, horror can affect us in many ways. It isn’t always terrifying. It can be compelling, or attractive as well. And, while vampires and werewolves might be things of legend, I find some of the scariest horror deals with people who could live next door.

For example, Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes trilogy. Especially the first book. This story could happen tomorrow down the road. Similar stories have happened. And the only monster here is just an evil man.

This flavor of horror is almost too real. We can dismiss the supernatural as unlikely to interfere with our lives. We can’t dismiss the evil that men do so easily…

What scares you? Do you like monsters better or the wickedness of the world? What do you recommend watching or reading if someone likes to be scared in a way they can control?

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RIEVIEW: American Horror Story

AHS Title

Welcome to the first of the Friday RieViews. Today, I am going to talk about one of my favorite fascinations, American Horror Story. For those of you who haven’t stepped into the world of AHS, it is an anthology horror series that has been running for nine seasons and shows no sign of stopping…at least for now. IMDB has placeholders through 2022.

Starting from the top, here is the list of seasons as aired:

Murder House set in a haunted house (retroactively given a name to match the others).
Asylum — run by nuns with pasts to overcome filled with patients who don’t belong.
Coven — a group of young witches learning to harness their powers in New Orleans.
Freak Show — a group of carnival freaks dealing with the world’s perceptions of them.
HotelCalifornia hotel patterned after the Murder Castle whose owner has a secret.
Roanokereality show about the goings-on at an old house filled with restless spirits.
Cult — dealing with reactions to the 2016 election and its aftermath.
Apocalypseit’s the end of the world as we know it.
1984Summer camp shenanigans with serial killers.

I’ll give you my opinion of them from best to worst at the end of the review.

This series is fascinating for a lot of reasons. For one, it harks back to the early days of television when there were stables of stars in anthology series. It’s kind of cool to watch familiar faces in new roles from one year to the next. It’s given a lot of those stars a chance to show their chops. And given some of them mental exhaustion along the way.

Let’s list some pros and cons to the series.

PROS:

  1. The aforementioned stable of characters. I love seeing the same actors year after year. I keep waiting for them to show up in the season. It was disappointing not to see Evan Peters or Sarah Paulson this year, but after the time they’d put in, I can see needing a break. Evan has a new series coming up, and, then there’s the X-Men… Sarah is also doing a new series. I do hope we may see them pop in here and there in the future. And I have to mention that Denis O’Hare’s Liz Taylor was one of my favorite characters of all time. Plus, it is worth noting that Hotel gave Lady Gaga the acting creds that helped land  A Star is Born. The cast is full of brilliance–Kathy Bates; Emma Roberts; Billie Lourd; Jessica Lange; Joan Collins; Zachary Quinto…and many more–too many to list them all.
  2. The pop-culture references. I love the Easter-eggs–like in Apocalypse when one of the witches tells BD Wong he might have seen her on a police procedural…
  3. The self-references. Several seasons have featured locations or characters from previous seasons. It adds a sense of continuity to the whole story arc.
  4. The costuming is usually period-appropriate and fun.
  5. It has some of the best music ever.

CONS:

  1. Sometimes they seem to be struggling for a season’s plot hook. Not all of them are successful in my opinion.
  2. The trend of the last few seasons to split the story and have more than one arc going on. It waters things down a bit in my opinion. Especially when it jumps back and forth in time.
  3. The way they deal with ghosts. Both that the spirits are locked into one location and not allowed to move on and that they interact with human beings like they aren’t dead. It’s cool when they don’t know they are dead, but when they do and still act like they aren’t, it can get old.

Those are just my thoughts, of course. Yours may differ, and that’s cool.

Now, I promised I’d tell you how I rank the seasons–again, this is all my opinion, and yours can be quite different. From best to worst, having just watched them all again, I would list them like this:

BEST:

Freak Show  — I love the way the characters are dealt with. Respectful and thoughtful.
Hotel — Lots of intriguing characters and interesting concepts in this one.
Murder House — Cool characters, nice dynamics.
1984 — Starts with a fun send-up of slasher films…but splits off to silliness.
Apocalypse — Nice tie-backs to previous seasons.
Asylum — Despite Joseph Fiennes and Zachary Quinto, it falls a bit flat to me.
Coven — The witches aren’t treated with as much respect as I would have liked.
Cult — This one edges toward ridiculous. Yes, there were people upset in 2016, but…
Roanoke — Definite least favorite. Premise dumb. Split between TV show’s seasons awful.

WORST

 

What do you like about the show? Or hate about it? Let’s discuss it in the comments. 🙂

That’s it for this week’s RieView.

And don’t forget–Overheard in Hell is free till Sunday, July 12. 2020.