Guest Post: Why Ghosts Haunt Me by Mark Allan Gunnells

I’ve been a lover of horror since, let’s see… Well, I don’t ever remember not being a lover of horror.

One of my earliest memories is of my family watching the original Salem’s Lot miniseries when it first aired in 1979. I was five. In the intervening years (no, I won’t tell you how many, and how rude of you to ask!), I’ve delved into every conceivable type of horror there is, and I love it all.

Mark Allan GunnelsBut when it comes to subgenres within the wider genre, I must admit I have a favorite.

Ghosts.

Tales of spooks, apparitions, and hauntings really hit my sweet spot. I enjoy other subgenres—vampires and serial killers and werewolves and, yes, even zombies—but ghosts thrill me most.

I’ve written many ghost stories. Hell, I published a haunted house novel, 324 Abercorn, last year, and my latest release, 2B, is about a haunted apartment. I can’t get enough of exploring this subject.

Why, you ask? Good question.

It boils down to my penchant for atmospheric horror over the more graphic. Don’t get me wrong, blood and guts don’t bother me, but when it comes to what really scares me, I favor more subtle things and the ambiguous. Uncertainty and the unknown haunt me, pardon the pun, longer than something more concrete and in my face.

Ghost stories aren’t the only types that employ the atmospheric approach, but they do it most effectively. At least for me.

Ghost stories often start out subtly, with things slightly off kilter, the characters questioning if it’s all in their minds. This early part, when things are uncertain, is what I find the most suspenseful and unnerving, because we’ve all been there. Did I move my wallet from the table to the counter and simply don’t remember? Did the glass fall because it was sitting too close to the table’s edge? Is that noise like footsteps only the house settling? (After years of watching haunted house movies, “the house settling” has become to me a euphemism for “This house is haunted as shit, and we should get out before blood starts pouring out of the walls!”)

In my favorite ghost stories, such as The Dwelling by Susie Malonie and Stephen King’s The Shining, suspense gradually builds and tension tightens as events escalate. Even then there can be ambiguity. Some ghost stories intentionally leave you unsure if the haunting was real, suggesting the main character had a breakdown and was imagining it all. This in itself can be horrifying. I’d rather have an undead spirit in my house than realize I’m losing my mind and my grip on reality.

One terrifying implication of ghost stories is that we can never truly escape toxic or dangerous people. If death cannot stop some folks from tormenting us, then what hope is there?

2B by Mark Allan GunnellsThe flipside is that those we love and cherish may never really leave us and, in this respect, some ghost stories can end on an uplifting note. This doesn’t make them any less horror, as I don’t believe all horror stories must end with the death of hope.

These thoughts are why ghost stories are my favorite horror subgenre and why I keep going back to it.

To see what I mean, check out my new novel, 2B, available in ebook and paperback on Amazon. “When your ex wants you dead, they will take you to the grave with them!”

Mark’s blog is at https://markgunnells.livejournal.com/. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter @MarkAGunnells, and Instagram.

Book Review: Writing in the Dark by Tim Waggoner

The Best of How-to-Write Horror

I’ve read a ton of how-to-write-fiction books including a number of texts on writing horror, but Tim Waggoner’s Writing in the Dark is the best of them all.

Writing in the Dark by Tim WaggonerIt opens with an intro by Tom Monteleone of Borderlands fame demonstrating why Waggoner is qualified to write the book. He’s a prolific writer of both horror/dark fantasy and media tie-ins. In the preface, Waggoner reveals why he writes horror. We’re of roughly the same age, and his journey in many ways mirrors mine. (It’s great to meet a new member of the Horror Family. Weirdos unite!)

He progresses through chapters such as “Why Horror Matters” and “Things Unknown” and turns a corner with “Everything You Know Is Wrong.” He covers various subgenres of horror, generating unique ideas for stories, and building one-of-a-kind monsters. I especially enjoyed the chapters “The Horror Hero’s Journey” (Poor Bastard’s Descent into Hell) and the importance of including an emotional core relayed through immersive POV.

Every chapter is insightful, helpful, and entertaining. Each ends with exercises to enable eager writers to implement what they’ve just learned as well as three or four “voices from the shadows”—accomplished horror writers—who discuss what makes good horror and best advice for beginning writers.

Waggoner teaches college-level writing, so you’re getting a college course in a book. I love to study, so I consider it a textbook that’s also a tasty morsel of how-to darkness.

My rating is 4.6 stars. The book lost a few tenths because the type is so small. As I read through, I was hoping for a workbook that expanded the exercises. Well, Guide Dog Books/Raw Dog Screaming Press recently announced a companion workbook is coming, so I’m excited about that. I’ll be buying it, too, when it comes out. But I hope the type is a little bigger for those like me over fifty.

I can’t recommend this text highly enough. Whether you’re a beginning, intermediate, or advanced horror writer, you’ll get something useful to take your writing to the next horrific level.

Follow Tim Waggoner on Twitter @TimWaggoner. Check out his website at http://www.timwaggoner.com/.

Book Release: TALES FOR THE CAMP FIRE

NorCal Horror Authors Support Wildfire Relief with New Anthology of Scary Stories

Horror authors across Northern California have come together to release Tales for the Camp Fire, a new anthology of short stories, to support wildfire relief efforts. All profits from the sale of the anthology will be donated to wildfire relief funds administered by the North Valley Community Foundation.

On the morning of November 8th, 2018, the worst wildfire in the state’s history erupted in the foothills of Northern California. While emergency efforts were immediate, the Camp Fire burned for seventeen days before it was finally contained. It destroyed the town of Paradise and burned over 150,000 acres. At least 85 people died in the blaze. The impact of the fire was felt across the entire region as air quality became the worst in the world.

Tales for the Camp FireWhen a group of local horror authors got together, they asked what they could do. “We’re writers,” said San Leandro resident and author Ben Monroe. “How can we can help with our stories?” Soon they formed a plan to produce a charity anthology, contacting horror authors across the region to ask them to donate stories. Some wrote new pieces for the book, while others submitted favorite reprints for inclusion. In the end, the anthology topped out with 24 great stories totaling over 300 pages.

“Tales for the Camp Fire is a brilliant collection of truly creepy tales by horror’s hottest voices! Dark, funny, heartbreaking, and bizarre. Highly recommended!”
—Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of V-Wars and Glimpse

Tales for the Camp Fire is edited by Loren Rhoads and is being published by E.M. Markoff’s Tomes & Coffee Press. It is now available in both paperback and ebook formats through Amazon. Members of the publishing team are attending the Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley on May 4 & 5, and will have copies of the book available for sale there. All profits from the book will be donated to the North Valley Community Foundation efforts to support the ongoing wildfire relief efforts.

“A brilliant editor and author, Rhoads skillfully weaves together a collection of new and old yarns to create an exemplary tapestry of horror literature that will spook fans of the genre for years to come.”
—Moaner T. Lawrence, author of “The Great American Nightmare”

The book includes stories by Clark Ashton Smith, the grandfather of horror in Northern California, as well as by Bram Stoker Award winners Nancy Etchemendy and Gene O’Neill. Tales for the Camp Fire ranges from fairytale to science fiction, from psychological terror to magical realism, from splatterpunk to black humor, all rounded out by a messed up post-apocalyptic cookbook. Through these pages roam werewolves, serial killers, a handful of ghosts, plenty of zombies, Cthulhu cultists, mad scientists, and a pair of conjoined twins.

You may purchase Tales From the Campfire here: https://amzn.to/2V1ZTo0

About the Editor: Loren Rhoads served as editor for Bram Stoker Award-nominated Morbid Curiosity magazine as well as the books The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two, Death’s Garden: Relationship with Cemeteries, and Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues: True Tales of the Unsavory, Unwise, Unorthodox, and Unusual.

About the Publisher: Tomes & Coffee Press is an independent publisher of diverse and dark literature. Operated by Latinx author E.M. Markoff, it previously published The Deadbringer and To Nurture & Kill.

About the NCVF: The North Valley Community Foundation provides visionary community leadership by identifying emerging challenges in our region. NVCF brings together diverse groups of problem-solvers, mobilizes resources, and equips community leaders. We build and energize a community of engaged citizens and philanthropists who strengthen the common good.

Book Release: THE BEDWETTER by Lee Allen Howard

Dark Psychological Thriller Available Now in Trade Paperback and Ebook

“Lee Allen Howard’s The Bedwetter is an inventive psychological horror novel with a voice that’s as stylish as it is dark.” —Dustin LaValley, author of The Deceived

Armed with electric hair trimmers and a military fighting knife,
Russell accepts his dark commission.

His urination led to ruination.

The Bedwetter CoverRussell Pisarek is twenty-six years old and still wets the bed. He grew up different from other young men because his vicious mother punished him for wetting by shaving his head. When he confided this to his girlfriend Tina, she betrayed him by advertising his problem to all their high school classmates. He took out his frustration by skinning neighborhood cats.

Now Russell fantasizes about finding just the right woman—so he can shave her bald. He struggles to overcome his dark tendencies, but when his sister discovers he’s wetting again, she kicks him out of her house.

During this time of stress, the mythical Piss Fairy appears in his dreams, and Russell is driven to satisfy his twisted desires with his innocent coworker Uma, who also needs a new roommate.

When his plans go awry, the Piss Fairy commissions him for a much darker task that graduates him from shaving to scalping—and worse.

“Highly disturbing and electric.” —US Review of Books

“A brutal, dark, compulsive read… stark, powerful, and satisfying.” —Online Book Club

Read trigger warning below.

THE BEDWETTER is available now in trade paperback and ebook formats.

Purchase options

VENUE ORDER LINK
B&N Nook
B&N Trade Paperback
Amazon.com Kindle
Amazon.com Trade Paperback
Abebooks Trade Paperback
Alibris Trade Paperback
IndieBound Trade Paperback

“Grotesque, bizarre, and uniquely written, The Bedwetter will shake you and scare the piss out of you.” —Stephanie M. Wytovich, Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of Hysteria: A Collection of Madness

Warning!

This novel depicts intense violence, hardcore horror, and disturbing psychological terror in the vein of such works as Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door, Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God, Joyce Carol Oates’ Zombie, J. N. Williamson’s The Book of Webster’s, and Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me.

Although THE BEDWETTER is a fascinating in-depth character study into the mind and actions of a misogynistic and homophobic psychopath, the story events are vicious and brutal, the language coarse, and the approach to their reporting is cold and unflinching.

This book is not for the faint of heart or those easily offended by language, sex, or violence. Read at your own risk.

Read the first scene…

My mother’s lying on the basement floor of our house, where we lived when Becky and me were in school, fugly and naked on the red linoleum, with the electric hair clippers jammed up her cooz. They’re plugged in and running, eating her alive on the inside. She’s diddling herself with her big manly hands, yowling like a cat, and I can’t tell if it’s from pleasure or pain. Till I step up and piss on her. Then it’s all pain.

My arc of hot whizz hits her right in the face and splashes over her buzzed head & the pile of gray hair like dirty laundry on the tile. She gasps and spits and curses me like she always does.

I say, “Shame on you, now. Shame on you! SHAME ON YOU, YOU FUCKIN EVIL BITCH!

I spray a golden fountain down her body, over her flat tits, the bunched hysterectomy scar, and onto the mound of matted gray fur between her ricotta thighs.

When my piss hits the trimmers, she’s electrocuted and bucks like a rhino getting shock therapy. Sparks fly. She spews blue lightning out her hole, and then she bursts into flames, screaming like a demon. The flame dances up my piss stream like it’s lighter fluid, an unquenchable fire climbing the stairway to heaven.

But in the dream I never get electrocuted, I never get burned. At least I ain’t yet.

I always wake up. And I always wet the bed.

___

Please share this post in email, on Facebook, Twitter (@LeeAllenHoward) or Instagram (@LeeAllenHoward1).

Cover art by Jeffrey Kosh.

Trade paperback, 246 pages.


Goodreads Giveaway of THE BEDWETTER

I’m giving away ten paperback copies of THE BEDWETTER, my new horror/psychological thriller.

Follow the link below to enter. Good luck!

Enter Goodreads Giveaway


Interview: Matthew Brockmeyer Releases UNDER ROTTING SKY

I recently interviewed horror writer Matthew Brockmeyer. He lives in the redwoods of Northern California and has been writing about all of his life, although the path to making a career out of it, he says, has been a long one. “I write dark fiction and horror, usually with a both literary and transgressive edge to it.”

Under Rotting Sky by Matthew BrockmeyerTell us about your latest project. What’s it about?
Under Rotting Sky is a collection of short stories I’ve written over the past four years, including previously published tales and new work. It’s a good example of who I am as an artist, for it really runs the gamut from literary fiction to historical fiction to classic horror to extreme horror and splatterpunk.

What else have you published, and where?
I have one novel out: Kind Nepenthe, a ghost story set in the far back hills of Humboldt County. It’s gotten a lot of critical acclaim and done pretty well. I’ve had short stories published all over, in anthologies, magazines, journals.

What are you working on currently?
I’m working on a new novel about a young runaway punk-rock girl who falls into a cult of blood-worshiping pornographers. It takes place in San Francisco in the early 1980s.

Kind Nepenthe by Matthew BrockmeyerDo you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Both, actually. I’d like to have each of my works stand on their own, but there are connections that run through them. Most of my stories take place in Northern California, so there is always an interconnection of place. But there are also recurring characters as well. Like the work of Irvine Welsh and Louise Erdrich, all the stories take place in a shared world.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I don’t think it really did, honestly.

How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?
Hmmm, interesting question. I want the story to be clear. I don’t want readers confused, but at the same time I like to drop red herrings and have some misdirection, the way a magician will divert your attention for a moment during a trick. Surprises and twists are great, but clarity is extremely important as well. It’s a balancing act, I suppose.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I do pretty exhaustive research. I’ve written a couple of historical fiction stories and became a member of the historical society, visited local history museums, sought out experts. I’m a voracious reader and will search out books on particular subjects, both fiction and nonfiction. I also love documentaries. I’ve been having a blast researching the early punk scene of San Francisco for my new novel.

What period of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager, young adult)
I find myself writing about kids and childhood a lot, but I’m also a parent so a lot of that comes from there. I’m also obsessed with subcultures, hippies, punks, beatniks, goths, back-to-the-landers and cults of sorts.

How do you select the names of your characters?
Oh, I have some fun there. I have some wild character names: Coyote, Calendula, Diesel, Slug, Garbage, Roach, Eight Ball, just to name a few. I like nicknames that stand out and are unforgettable. But I also like to juxtapose names, for instance in my novel Kind Nepenthe, while most of the characters have crazy names, the main protagonist is simply Rebecca, because I wanted to show that she was lost in this crazy world.

Sometimes the names I choose are references to books I love; sometimes the names just have a great ring to them. Dickens always had the greatest names: Ebenezer Scrooge, Uriah Heep, Pip, Fagan, Artful Dodger. He even had a Master Bater!

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I usually read them, but it’s all subjective, so I don’t take bad reviews badly. People either like things or they don’t. It’s just the way it is; nothing is universally liked. Positive reviews are an affirmation, though, so they’re nice. You’ve got to have really thick skin to be an artist and put your work out there.

What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
White bread and soda pop.

What is your favorite childhood book and why?
As a wee child Where the Wild Things Are. The theme of releasing your inner beast is one I return to often. I see it really as a werewolf story.

From my teen years, Lord of the Flies. It’s really a horror story. It’s an amazing look at the ease in which humanity falls into tribalism. The scene with the talking pig’s head on a stake is so surreal and wonderfully grotesque. Extremely well-defined characters. That enigmatic ending. Just a fabulous story.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you and your work?
Although I like to entertain, I also strive to say something about our existential nature and what it means to be human. But while many of my stories are nihilistic, I’m actually a pretty positive guy. Many times I am literally writing out my worst fears, which is why some pretty horrible things often happen. In the end it’s just a wild rollercoaster ride.

You can connect with Matthew Brockmeyer at his website: http://www.matthewbrockmeyer.com

Kind Nepenthe on Amazon


Guest Post: The Gift Trilogy by Michael Keyton

The Morgan family and Tredegar House have always fascinated me, in particular Evan Morgan, Papal Knight, sexual predator and Satanist, along with his more tragic sister, Gwyneth Morgan, who died in mysterious circumstances.

In ill health, weakened by enteric typhoid and drug abuse, Gwyneth was a severe embarrassment to her family and was all but incarcerated in the “Niche,” a large house in Wimbledon.

In the early hours of Thursday, December 11, 1924, she slipped out of the house and vanished. Six months later, her body was fished out of the Thames near Wapping.

The mystery is manifold. By all accounts, Gwyneth was severely ill, unable to walk far without feeling tired, and spent much of her time in bed. On the night she disappeared, London was shrouded in one of those legendary fogs, an impenetrable “pea-souper,” and the nearest entry point to the Thames was Putney Bridge, four miles from where she lived.

It’s hard to believe that a semi-invalid could walk four miles in thick fog through unfamiliar streets and fall into the river at Putney Bridge. The fact that her decomposed body was found in Wapping, even farther away, compounds the mystery. It would have to have floated along one of the world’s busiest waterways beyond Hammersmith and Rotherhithe without being seen.

Nature abhors a vacuum and so does the press. In the absence of hard facts, newspapers had a field day with theories involving white slavers, Chinese opium lords, and lesbian lovers.

In this context, The Gift was born.

Whilst the ostensible heroine in The Gift is an orphan, Lizzie McBride’s interaction with the Morgan family drives the story.

Born in a Liverpool slum, Lizzie McBride is the daughter of an Irish seer who dies when Lizzie is twelve, leaving her in charge of two younger sisters and a grieving father. When her father commits suicide, Lizzie is caught between two worlds. An aunt and uncle decide the three orphans would be better off with them in America. Just as they are about to board ship, Lizzie, on impulse, runs away, and her life changes forever.

Pursued by a vengeful aunt, Lizzie cannonades into the young and charismatic magician, Aleister Crowley, who for his own reasons introduces her to Lady Gwyneth Morgan, daughter of the richest family in Wales and sister to the flamboyant occultist, Evan Morgan.

The Gift by Michael KeytonUnknown to her, Lizzie possesses one devastating gift. When the occult world discovers this, governments and powerful individuals seek her out. Only one man can protect her: the magician John Grey.

Though there are elements of the fantastic, the novel is grounded in historical fact. It involves real people and historical events as it explores the occult underbelly of the English aristocracy and its links with the emergent Nazi movement.

The Gift is the first book of a trilogy, beginning in 1912 and ending in 1941. The three books trace the occult rivalry between two sisters, Elizabeth and Elsie McBride, and interweaves historical events and the cracks between—the ultimate prize, the unlocking of Hell.

Bloodline by Michael KeytonThe second book, Bloodline, traces the corruption of Elsie and the love/hate relationship between the two sisters.

The final book will describe Elsie’s attempt to engineer a bloodbath—World War II—through the occult manipulation of diplomacy; it ends in a struggle to the death between the two sisters as Operation Barbarossa begins.

The three books are inspired by the rich but wasted lives of Evan and Gwyneth Morgan, and the dynamics of three fictitious characters, Elizabeth and Elsie McBride, and the magician John Grey.

—Michael Keyton

The Gift on Amazon.co.uk

Bloodline on Amazon.co.uk