Saturday, October 31, 2015

THE GAL'S 31 DAYS OF HORROR: Jonathan Janz


Halloween as Therapy
By: Jonathan Janz

I write horror for a great many reasons, but one of those has to do with my need to work things out on the page.  See, I've only recently realized this, and yes, I'm a slow learner and a late bloomer, so I should have realized it a lot earlier.  But there are things that bother me, problems that many don't talk about or others might ignore, and that only makes my irritation grow.
            I'm not, however, and irritable person.  I am, in fact, a pretty kind person.  At least I hope I am.  But yeah, I have negative feelings, too.  Frustration.  Anger.  Incredulity.  A sense of injustice.
            All of this does have a point, I assure you.

But first, one more thing about me - and no, I swear I don't talk about myself this way all the time... which is exactly the sort of hollow disclaimer a narcissist would make, right?  I guess you'll just have to trust me on this.  Or not.
            My wife used to train people in the whole Myers-Briggs personality subject.  She could tell straightaway whether you were an INFP, an ENTP, or a JERK, and she had a blast identifying people when they'd request it.
            Yet she could never identify me.  On some days I was an introvert.  On others, I was so gregarious people fled screaming from my vicinity.  There were moments when I was so pensive that I'd take two hours to choose the right verb for a sentence; at other times my spontaneity was darn near impossible.

Maybe this is why I need to write.  Essentially, in my head, I'm insane.  I'm convinced the thoughts I have, the worries that plague me, and the dreams I dream are straight out of some turn-of-the-century asylum.  The sort of notions that would cause doctors to lobotomize me, or at least administer some robust shock treatment.  
            The only way I know how to deal with these issues is by writing.

Here's an example...

I'm fascinated by the things that happen in a small town.  More specifically, I'm fascinated by the manner in which certain behaviors occur while everyone looks on and pretends they're perfectly normal.
            Take the town slut.
            This guy's had a relationship with her, this other guy's discarded her.  One dude, he met her at a party, and you'll never guess what they did!  And everybody grins about it and elbows each other's ribs and marvels at what a piece of trash that chick is.
            Yet nobody thinks about her.
            I mean, really think about her.  They don't wonder about her thoughts.  They don't factor in her feelings.  They couldn't care less about her background, her experiences.  She's just this one thing, and man, do they enjoy ridiculing her.
            This is what happens in small towns.

Another thing that gripes me:

If you're a young man, and you're reasonably handsome, and the girls seem to like you... well, the best thing you can become is a lady's man!  See, in a small town, "dog" is not a pejorative term, at least not for the guy.  No, the more women you can bed, the cooler you are, and if you can go from female to female and cut a swath of conquests as wide as a cornfield and brag about it and high-five your friends regardless of the emotional damage you might be doing, well then brother, you are the man!

An interlude: I'm not vilifying physical relationships.  Please don't misread me.  I'm not trying to channel Cotton Mather here, nor do I think there's something inherently wrong with physical desire or expression.
            What bothers me is how it's transformed into a weapon.  How for this woman it's a metaphorical gallows or for this guy it's a high school letter jacket that jangles with medals and bristles with patches.  And I'm also not saying that guys are all evil and women are all victims.  What I'm pointing out are two patterns I noticed growing up in a small town.  I also noticed how people would admit that this one guy was racist and sexist and homophobic, but they'd let it slide because, well, he's one of us, and he's just a little politically incorrect, right?  But we keep him around because he's funny and, well, we've known him our whole life, you know?
            When what that guy really needs is a good smack in the face.  Or jail.

By the way, I've just described three characters that were bitten by a werewolf in my upcoming novel Wolf Land.  I wanted to see what happened when the woman everybody mocked was faced with becoming... something else.  I wanted to know how my ladies' man would respond to urges that were truly, actually out of his control.  I wanted to know what that jackass that everyone keep around despite the fact that he's a reprehensible human being would do if he transformed into a werewolf.
            In Wolf Land, you get all that and more.  Check it out on November 3rd.

And thank you, Meghan, for having me tonight.  Happy Halloween, my friends.


About the author:
Jonathan Janz grew up between a dark forest and a graveyard, and in a way, that explains everything.  Brian Keene named his debut novel The Sorrows "the best horror novel of 2012."  The Library Journal deemed his follow-up, House of Skin, "reminiscent of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House and Peter Straub's Ghost Story."
            In 2013, Samhain Horror published his novel of vampirism and human sacrifice The Darkest Lullaby, as well as his serialized horror novel Savage Species.  Of Savage Species, Publishers Weekly said, "Fans of old-school splatter punk horror - Janz cites Richard Laymon as an influence, and it shows - will find much to relish."  Jonathan's Kindle Worlds novel Bloodshot: Kingdom of Shadows marked his first foray into the superhero/action genre.  Jack Ketchum called his vampire western Dust Devils a "Rousing-good weird western," and his sexual to The Sorrows Castle of Sorrows) was selected one of 2014's top three novels.  His newest release is called The Nightmare Girl.  He has also written four novellas and several short stories.
            His primary interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children, and though he realizes that every author's wife and children are wonderful and amazing, in this case the cliche happens to be true.  You can learn more about Jonathan at his website.  You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, or on his Goodreads and Amazon author pages.

About the book:
An unholy predator is on the prowl!  The small town of Lakeview offers little excitement for Duane, Savannah, and their friends.  They're about to endure their ten-year high school reunion when their lives are shattered by the arrival of an ancient, vengeful evil.  The werewolf.  The first attack leaves seven men dead and four wounded.  And though the beast remains on the loose and eager to spill more blood, the sleepy town is about to face an even greater terror.  Because the four victims of the werewolf's fury are changing.  They're experiencing unholy desires and unimaginable cravings.  They'll prey on the innocent.  They'll act on their basest desires.  Soon, they'll plunge the entire town into a nightmare.  Lakeview is about to become Wolf Land.

THE GAL'S 31 DAYS OF HORROR: AMONG THE STACKS: Kealan Patrick Burke


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hey, Kealan!!  Welcome to The Gal.  Thanks for stopping by.  Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Kealan Patrick Burke:
Starting with the easy one, eh?  Well, I'm from Ireland.  I write books and design covers, but all of this is just a facade to keep people from figuring out who and what I really am.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

Kealan Patrick Burke:
People know pretty much all there is to know about me.  At least the stuff that's worth knowing.  I'm mouthy and don't have many secrets.  The few I do have, obviously I'd rather not say or they wouldn't be secrets anymore.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

Kealan Patrick Burke:
A tattered old hardcover book of fairy tales with creepy illustrations.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

Kealan Patrick Burke:
The Power of the Dog by Don Winslow.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

Kealan Patrick Burke:
A combination of discovering Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King early on, and watching horror movies with my mother on Friday nights, led me to my fascination with storytelling.  I've been writing since I was about eight  years old.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

Kealan Patrick Burke:
I have a home office, away from the hustle and bustle, but if inspiration strikes, I can write anywhere.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Kealan Patrick Burke:
None.  I'm very boring.  Unless procrastination can be considered a quirk, in which case, I'm prone to frequent periods of quirkiness.  

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Kealan Patrick Burke:
Overcoming self-doubt.  There comes a point in every story where my enthusiasm takes a hit and I start questioning myself.  It's always been this way, and I suspect it always will.  Most of the time I soldier on, but there are times when it can kill a story.  That's the worst.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What books have most inspired you?  Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Kealan Patrick Burke:
A lot of Stephen King's early stuff inspired me, as did the work of Charles L. GrantRamsey Campbell, and a whole host of others.  These days I like to read Dennis LehaneJohn ConnollyCormac McCarthyKen Bruen, and many more.  I'm a voracious reader.  Naming favorites is cruel and unusual punishment, but in one way or another, I get inspired by almost every book I read.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

Kealan Patrick Burke:
Good writing, characters, dialogue, and plot.  A good balance between technical mastery and the ability to draw in the reader.  All the flowery prose in the world doesn't make a good story unless all the other elements are there.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What does it take for you to love a character?  How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Kealan Patrick Burke:
I think to create a character you love, you have to imbue them with the best qualities of people you know and admire, people you love in real life.  That's what brings them alive on the page and keeps you, and the reader, invested in their journey.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Kealan Patrick Burke:
Probably Timmy Quinn.  I learned at a very early age that the world had teeth.  Substitute his ghosts with my own demons and we're one and the same.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Are you turned off by a bad cover?  To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Kealan Patrick Burke:
I loathe bad book covers, and while I might forgive it if it's a book by an author I love, there's little chance I'll pick up a book by a writer I've never heard of if the cover is atrocious.  I design all my own digital book covers and a fair amount of the print editions, too.  Even when I haven't, I've been fortunate enough to work with professional publishers who feel the same way I do about the cover art: if you want a reader to notice the book, the cover is critical.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What have you learned creating your books?

Kealan Patrick Burke:
Writing is as much a learning process as reading.  Every sentence I write teaches me something, whether about the mechanics of writing, or about myself.  With the advent of digital publishing, I've also learned a lot about technical requirements for making a book look good.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Kealan Patrick Burke:
There have been many, but the one that stands out is the end of my short story The Grief Frequency.  I wanted very badly for things to work out for the main character and knew that if I made that happen, I'd have been chickening out and betraying the organic direction of the story.  Ending it the way I did, the way I had to, left me quite upset.
            Also, the description of Momma-In-Bed from Kin.  Shudder.  I had to take a shower after that one.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Kealan Patrick Burke:
Every writer has a different perspective on life, love, death, fear, and horror.  My books are my way of exploring those themes in the voice I've developed as a result of my own experiences.  So reading my books, you're getting inside my head.  I apologize in advance.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Kealan Patrick Burke:
I rarely have difficulty coming up with a title.  Sometimes it's the first thing to suggest itself.  Other times it comes to me midway through the story.  And sometimes it'll change a dozen times before I settle on the right one.  It's a fun part of the process, and easily the least taxing.  But a good book title is as important as a good book cover.  Imagine how much harder a sell The Shining would have been if King called it: The Alcoholic Who Beat His Kid.  Oh, and There's a Creepy Hotel in Colorado with Dead People in It.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Kealan Patrick Burke:
A novel is a much bigger undertaking, thus I feel more of a sense of accomplishment when I type THE END on something I've been working on for months to years.  But I love writing short stories, too.  It's less the length of the tale than the telling.  That's why I'm here.  I love what I do, no matter the length.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Kealan Patrick Burke:
I'm primarily known for the Timmy Quinn series of books, which follows the life of a young boy whose life is altered drastically by a  chance encounter with a ghost on the banks of a local pond when he's eleven years old.  These books have proven pretty popular over the almost ten years it took me to complete them.  Another fan favorite tends to be my novel Kin, which is at the opposite side of the spectrum.  While Timmy's stories are quiet, creepy ghost stories, Kin is an ultra-violent exploration of the emotional aftermath of a Texas Chainsaw-like event.
            I'd like for readers to have a good time with my books, that's all.  I think unless you're writing an instruction manual or academic volume, it shouldn't be the writer's place to dictate what the reader should take away from the books.  That's half the fun of it, after all.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Kealan Patrick Burke:
I don't really retain much about the stuff that gets cut from my novels, though I do remember that The Turtle Boy had a much different ending in the first draft.  Once I realized it was going to be a series and that there were more stories to tell, I changed it a great deal.  Generally, though, if something gets cut from my books, it needed to be, and it fades rather quickly from memory.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is in your 'trunk'?  (Everyone has a book or project, which doesn't necessarily have to be book related, that they have put aside for a 'rainy day' or for when they have extra time.  Do you?)

Kealan Patrick Burke:
I don't have any completed novels or stories in the trunk, but I have roughly a million works in fragments, some of which will die there and others which will be revised as time allows.  I've been able to cannibalize some good stuff from those fragments over the years, so they're nice to have around.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

Kealan Patrick Burke:
I'm currently working on two novels.  The first is a series featuring Cassandra Quinn, Timmy Quinn's daughter, called Night Falls on Memory Lane; the second is a sequel to Kin.  Other than that, there are the usual plethora of stories in various magazines and anthologies, and a top secret project I'm quite excited about that will hopefully see the light of day next year.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where can we find you?  (You know, STaLKeR links.)

Kealan Patrick Burke:

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
It was an HONOR having you here today and thanks for being a part of The Gal's 31 Days of Horror.
            Before you go, do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you'd like to say that we didn't get to cover in this interview?

Kealan Patrick Burke:
I'd like to thank you for the questions and for having me on the site, and I'd also like to extend a thank you to my readers who keep me going!


About the author:
Born and raised in Dungarvan, Ireland, Kealan Patrick Burke is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of five novels, over a hundred short stories, seven collections, and editor of four acclaimed anthologies.  He has worked as a waiter, a drama teacher, a mapmaker, a security guard, an assembly-line worker at Apple Computers, a salesman (for a day), a bartender, landscape gardener, vocalist in a grunge band, and, most recently, a fraud investigator.  He also played the male lead in Slime City Massacre, director Gregory Lumberton's sequel to his cult B-movie classic Slime City, alongside scream queens Debbie Rochon and Brooke Lewis.
            When not writing, Kealan designs covers for print and digital books through his company Elderlemon Design.  To date, he has designed covers for Richard Laymon, Brian Keene, Scott Nicholson, Bentley Little, William Schoell, Tim Lebbon and Hugh Howey, to name a few.
            In what little free time remains, Kealan is a voracious reader, movie buff, videogamer (Xbox), and road-trip enthusiast.
            A movie based on his short story Peekers is currently in development through Lionsgate Entertainment.

About the books:

Kin
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Cemetery Dance Publications
Publication date: 10.25.2011
Pages: 306

On a scorching hot summer day in Elkwood, Alabama, Claire Lambert staggers naked, wounded, and half-blind away from the scene of an atrocity.  She is the sole survivor of a nightmare that claimed her friends, and even as she prays for rescue, the killers - a family of cannibalistic lunatics - are closing in.
            A soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder returns from Iraq to the news that his brother is among the murdered in Elkwood.
            In snowbound Detroit, a witness trapped in an abusive relationship gets an unexpected visit that will lead to bloodshed and send her back to the road to a past she has spent years trying to outrun.
            And Claire, the only survivor of the Elkwood Massacre, haunted by her dead friends, dreams of vengeance... a dream which will be realized as grief and rage turn good people into cold-blooded murderers and force alliances among strangers.
            It's time to return to Elkwood.
            In the spirit of such iconic horror classics as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Deliverance, Kin begins at the end and studies the possible aftermath for the survivors of such traumas upon their return to the real world - the guilt, the grief, the thirst for revenge - and sets them on an unthinkable journey... back into the heart of darkness.

Timmy Quinn 1: The Turtle Boy
Genre: Horror, Ghosts, Young Adult
Publisher: Necessary Evil Press
Publication date: 9.2.2010
Pages: 87

School is out and summer has begun.  For eleven year old Timmy Quinn and his best friend Pete Marshall, the dreary town of Delaware, Ohio comes a place of magic, hidden treasure and discovery.  But on the day they encounter a strange young boy sitting on the bank of Myers Pond, a pond playground rumor says may hide turtles the size of Buicks, everything changed.  For it soon becomes apparent that dark secrets abound in the little community, secrets w which come cupped in the hands of the dead, and in a heartbeat, Timmy and Pete's summer of wonders becomes a season of terror, betrayal and murder.

Timmy Quinn 2: The Hides
Genre: Horror, Ghosts, Young Adult
Publisher: Cemetery Dance Publications
Publication date: 5.1.2005
Pages: 156

It's been almost seven years since the events of Myers Pond.  Seven years since a child rose from the dead, seeking Timmy Quinn's help in finding a murderer, a search that left more questions than answers in its terrifying wake.  But for Timmy, the dead never leave.  They're everywhere, reaching out to him, and there is nowhere to hide from their quiet desperation.
            Following a nightmarish encounter at home, Timmy's search for peace takes him to his grieving grandmother, and a small harbor town on the South coast of Ireland.
            But no peace can exist in a place whose past is colored by hate, betrayal and murder, and it is not long before Timmy realizes his haven has become a cage.
            And in the very foundations of an old crumbling factory, the dead are gathering.
            Uniting.
            To save his life and the lives of those he loves, Timmy Quinn must step behind the Curtain, into the realm of the dead and face something far more terrifying than he has ever encountered before - a monstrous entity known only as The Hides...

Timmy Quinn 3: Vessels
Genre: Horror, Ghosts, Young Adult
Publisher: Bloodletting Press
Publication date: 11.21.2006
Pages: 137

On a remote island off the coast of Ireland, an unpiloted boat drifts ashore, watched by a man to whom the dead are something to be feared...
            In a small stone chapel that stands hunkered against the vicious island winds, a woman whispers a frantic prayer to the gathering dark as something pale and dreadful scratches at the window.
            A young girl races to the shore to meet her lover and find something monstrous instead...
            And in a confessional, a dead man waits to tell his sins...
            A gunshot in a church in Los Angeles leads Tim Quinn halfway around the world and into a nightmare, for on Blackrock Island, he will find love, murder and madness, and discover an earth-shattering truth about the Curtain, and those who hide behind it.

Timmy Quinn 4: Peregrine's Tale
Genre: Horror, Ghosts, Young Adult
Publication date: 12.20.2010
Pages: 66

The fourth volume in the award-winning Timmy Quinn series.

At eleven years of age, strange things started to happen to a boy named Timmy Quinn.  His ordinary life was abruptly thrown into chaos by the revelation that there exists a separate plane of existence reserved solely for the vengeful spirits of the murdered: The Curtain.  Worse, Timmy is a conduit for these monstrous entities, allowing them to walk freely between worlds to exact their brutal vengeance.
            His search for answers has taken halfway around the world, forcing him to endure many horrors, among them the revelation that the spiritual realm known as The Stage may have been man-made, and that the dead do not operate of their own free will, but are instead influenced by an enigmatic figure known only as "Peregrine."
            About this man, Timmy knows nothing.  But h e will learn, and in time, he will come to know Peregrine as an adversary worse than the vengeful dead.
            This is Peregrine's Tale.

Timmy Quinn 5: Nemesis
Genre: Horror, Ghosts, Young Adult
Publisher: Thunderstorm Books
Publication date: 10.1.2012
Pages: 257

"We no longer need the sun to cast our shadows, for we have become them."

For over twenty years Tim Quinn has lived in the shadow of death.  Now, the Curtain has come down and the dead no longer need him to facilitate their vengeance.  As the air turns amber, the shadows deepen, and murderous revenants begin to stalk the streets, Tim and the woman he loves must race to find Peregrine, the man they believe responsible for the sundering of the veil between the living and the dead.
            While the sins of the past intertwine with the present and vicious entities old and new arise to claim dominion, Tim must learn the secrets of The Stage and uncover the genesis of those who created it before The Stage becomes all there is.
            But just as there are enemies in Tim's dark new world, so too are there allies: The Conduits, people possessed of similar gifts who share a common goal: to find and destroy Peregrine before Peregrine destroys them all.
            In the final battle, Tim will fight not only for the woman he loves and the life she carries within her, but for the very fate of mankind.  It is a battle that will transcend realms, cost lives, and at last bring Tim Quinn face to face with his nemesis.

NEMESIS is the epic novel-length conclusion of the acclaimed Timmy Quinn series, which began in 2004 with the Bram Stoker Award-winning novella THE TURTLE BOY.

Friday, October 30, 2015

THE GAL'S 31 DAYS OF HORROR: Stephen Kozeniewski


The Ghoul Archipelago
By: Stephen Kozeniewski

Genre: Horror, Zombies
Publisher: Severed Press
Publication date: 10.16.2013
Pages: 360


After ravenous corpses topple society and consume most of the world's population, freighter captain Henk Martigan is shocked to receive a distress call.  Eighty survivors beg him to whisk them away to the relative safety of the South Pacific.  Martigan wants to help, but to rescue anyone, he must pass through the nightmare backwater of the Curien island chain.
            A power struggle is brewing in the Curiens.  On on side, the billionaire inventor of the mind-control collar seeks to squeeze all the profit he can out of the apocalypse.  Opposing him is the charismatic leader of a ghoul-worshipping cargo cult.  When a lunatic warlord berths an aircraft carrier off the coast and stakes his own claim on the islands, the stage is set for a bloody showdown.
            To save the remnants of humanity (and himself), Captain Martigan must defeat all three of his ruthless new foes and brave the gruesome horrors of... THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO.


About the author:
Stephen Kozeniewski lives with his wife and two cats in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie.  He was born to the soothing strains of "Boogie with Stu" even though The Who are far superior to Zep, for reasons that he doesn't even really want to get into right now.
            During his time as a Field Artillery officer, he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where, due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star.  The depiction of addiction in his fiction is strongly informed by the three years he spent working at a substance abuse clinic, an experience which also ensures that he employs strict moderation when enjoying the occasional highball of Old Crow.
            He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor's is in German.

THE GAL'S 31 DAYS OF HORROR: AMONG THE STACKS: Tim Curran


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hey, Tim.  Welcome to The Gal.  Thanks so much for being here, and being a part of The Gal's 31 Days of Horror.
            Let's start with an easy one: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Tim Curran:
Hmm.  I grew up in Michigan.  I was a small town boy who loved catching frogs and snakes in swamps.  I liked watching monster movies and anthology TV like The Outer Limits.  I loved when the older kids in the neighborhood would tell scary stories to terrify us.  When I was five, my mom and sisters dragged me to see a Vincent Price movie called The Oblong Box.  I was terrified.  I've never been the same since.  As a kid, the words oblong...box filled me with horror.  I was a stoner in high school.  I've been a blue collar laborer most of my life (a natural progression from being a stoner).  I have three kids.  I write stories because I'm really not good at anything else.  I wish there was something interesting to say, but there isn't.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

Tim Curran:
I'm obsessed by pizza, real pizza, not that crap from the chains.  My daughter is an opera singer.  I still read children's books.  I wish the moon really was made of cheese.  I believe that people believe in Bigfoot.  I'd like our next president to be a pissed-off lesbian who happens to be an atheist and chain smokes during press conferences.  Wait...that's six.  Let's make it seven: I  have trouble following rules.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

Tim Curran:
I think it was either Go, Dog, Go! or Green Eggs & Ham.  I loved both of them.  After those early readers, I think I graduated to It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and Beverly Cleary's Henry Huggins novels.  I seem to recall being obsessed by Danny and the Dinosaur and Harold and the Purple Crayon.  I got into that book so much as a child that after I saw The Beatles' Yellow Submarine when I was like five, I took a purple crayon and drew submarines all over the walls of my room.  I was pretty proud.  My mom was not impressed at all.  I remember thinking the images in Dr. Seuss' What Was I Scared Of? were the most frightening things I had ever seen.  And I'm not kidding.  Those walking green pants terrified me!  I remember reading a novel in grade school called The Blue Man about an alien invader.  Sometime later, I started reading H.G. Wells and paperback horror anthologies I ordered from the back pages of Creepy magazine.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

Tim Curran:
I'm reading a nonfiction book called Disease and History, which is about how various plagues and what-not changed the course of historical events.  It's fascinating!  Before that, I was re-reading some novels by Davis Grubb, who was such a good writer.  Next up is The Specimen by Pete Kahle, a friend of mine.  It has an absolutely knock-out cover by Kealan Patrick Burke, a guy whose creativity in art and fiction I admire greatly.  After that, I think I'll try some more Shakespeare, even though I'm way too stupid to understand it.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

Tim Curran:
I started fooling around with writing when I was in junior high, but that was mostly just to write parodies of TV shows and things like that for my friends to laugh at.  I didn't really do any serious writing until I was seventeen or eighteen and it was really bad.  For some reason, I always believed I could write.  I never did much of it, but I was sure I could.  It makes no sense now.  It's like knowing three chords on a guitar and telling yourself you're going to be Jimi Hendrix.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

Tim Curran:
I have an office in my basement.  It's crowded and disorganized.  You have to step around stacks of books and piles of junk.  But I like it.  It kind of looks like the inside of my mind.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Tim Curran:
Not really.  I'm pretty practical in that if I know my story, I just write it.  I find that the less you think about it, the easier it comes.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Tim Curran:
The first paragraph of anything is tough because with it you set mood, tone, pacing... everything.  It has to be written carefully, I think.  After that, you can run, but that paragraph you have to take great care with, in my opinion.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What books have most inspired you?  Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Tim Curran:
I think Lovecraft and his circle.  William Hope Hodgson and Henry S. Whitehead.  Love M.R. James and his tactical horror (yes, I called it horror!  Don't know why people call his stuff ghost stories).  Having grown up in a rural area and spent my boyhood in the woods, I really love Algernon Blackwood.  Also early Stephen King and James Herbert, particularly The Rats trilogy, The FogThe Dark, and The Spear.  Probably Bradbury when he was feeling dark and Bloch when he was't writing satire.  I love Thomas Ligotti and Phil Rickman's horror.  The splatterpunk guys' from the 1980s really opened my eyes.  Robert E. Howard's short story Pigeons from Hell made me want to be a horror writer.  I read a lot of new horror writers because, good or bad, they hit the floor running and their enthusiasm is catching.  Outside of the genre, David Morrell's novel, First Blood, made more of an impression on me as a writer than anything I've read since.  I discovered it when I was eighteen and it was not only a great story, but like a writing class for me.  Everything is perfectly balanced.  To this day, when I don't feel inspired, I pick up that book and study how he puts together sentences into paragraphs and it inspires me.  Gregory Benford can combine science and mainstream fiction better than anyone since Arthur C. Clarke, I think.  Cormac McCarthy amazes me with his simplicity.  Dorothy B. Hughes always wowed me with her clear, sparse style and incredible imagery, particularly in Ride the Pink Horse.  Dennis Lehane is one of the few writers around that makes me think I really know nothing about writing.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

Tim Curran:
A good story is just that: an interesting tale with some interesting characters to support it.  People don't have to like your characters, but they should be able to understand their motivations, good or bad, right or wrong.  And they must be real people with all the quirks, anxieties, and neuroses that people have.  The greatest characters in the world can't make a bad story/idea/plot/execution work and the best characters will sink fast if the story has nothing to sustain them.  But that's just my opinion.  The New York Times Bestseller list is crowded with bad writing, silly plots, and cliched characters... sometimes readers just want comfortable, worn-out ideas and situations.  That's why cozy mysteries exist.  That's why James Patterson is rich.  Sometimes, though, it's not the writers, but the publishers who are afraid to break from the tried and true path.  I was contacted by a mass market New York publisher last year who wanted me to do books for them.  I thought it was great until they explained that there was a template that had to be followed.  The protagonist had to be 100% good, and the antagonist had to be 100% bad.  By chapter three the love interest had to be nailed.  Any monsters introduced should not eat children (even though they're the softest and tastiest) and not too much time should be spent on graphic descriptions of gore or violence.  Also, characters shouldn't say anything that might be construed as being blatantly sexist, racist, or religiously intolerant.  In other words, they couldn't be real people.  But the most important thing was to avoid violence or cruelty to animals because, you know, in the scheme of things, dogs and cats are so much more important than human beings.  I guess they wanted me to write something for the Sunday church supplement.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What does it take for you to love a character?  How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Tim Curran:
I no longer get emotionally attached to my characters, if possible.  I found that when I did, I couldn't kill them off when they needed to go.  Being older and maybe wiser, the blush of youth being long faded from my cheeks, I know that bad, horrible, ugly things happen to good people all the time.  So now I act like God - I'm a merciless, heartless sadist when I need to be.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Tim Curran:
They all are in bits and pieces.  Something of an author goes into every character you write, even the bad ones.  You might meet some guy at a party and think, wow, what a fucking weirdo, he'll make a great character.  But even so, you filter him through your own mind, through your personal likes and dislikes and everything else so he makes sense to you.  If he or she doesn't make sense, it's hard to write about them.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Are you turned off by a bad cover?  To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Tim Curran:
I like a really good cover.  A good cover won't save you if the book stinks, but if you've got a good story, well-written, and a good cover, you're on your way.  As far as my book covers go, it depends on the publisher.  Some want your input, some don't.  Very often, my opinion is asked, but rarely followed.  But that's okay.  You can't run the whole zoo.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What have you learned creating your books?

Tim Curran:
That when I was young I had absolute confidence and I knew exactly what I was going to do and how I was going to do it.  Now that I'm older, my confidence is shaky and I have no idea what I'm going to do until I do it.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Tim Curran:
Nothing comes to mind.  When I'm feeling lazy, they're all hard to write.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Tim Curran:
I'm not sure.  I tend to get into very detailed descriptions of monsters.  I really hate it when an author describes things generically.  That's boring.  I think it's important to launch strong imagery into the reader's head.  That's my quirk and I like to work it.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours?

Tim Curran:
I find it hard to write without a title.  Sometimes I change it three or four times, but I have to have something in the back of my mind, an image of some sort.  I think Dead Sea was originally something lame like Prey.  The Devil Next Door was I Am the Devil.  Hive was originally Out of the Ice.  Regardless, I have to have something.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Tim Curran:
They're such different animals.  I like them both.  With novels, you just flow and let it happen because you've got plenty of space.  With short stories, you have to be constantly editing yourself because every sentence, every paragraph, has to justify its existence.  Short stories, in many ways, are more of a challenge.  But after you come off slogging through a novel, the idea of doing a short story is very refreshing, very exciting.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Tim Curran:
I have no idea who my target audience is.  I don't understand marketing at all.  If I did, I'd probably sell a lot more books.  I just write what I write and over the years I've developed a small, loyal following that I'm very appreciative of.  Maybe I'm doing something right.  If my readers take anything away I hope it would be that I write horror fiction because I love it and I really do respect the form.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Tim Curran:
I've had very few editors that wanted to cut scenes.  It's happened, but not often.  Most of the things that get trimmed, I do myself.  Sometimes certain parts don't add up to the whole.  Every novel I've written, I've tossed out a few things.  If you've read the Altar 13 limited edition of The Devil Next Door, you'll know what I mean.  There's something like 9,000 words of deleted scenes and alternate versions of scenes tacked onto the end of the book.  But that was only some of it.  There's still something like 5,000 words or more of other stuff I didn't include.  Hell, it might be more like 10,000 words.  That book is but one example.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is in your 'trunk'?

Tim Curran:
About six or seven novels I wrote early on.  None of them are completely wretched, but they'd need a lot of work if I was to ever put them out.  One of them I actually did re-write as House of Skin a few years ago.  It was published by Comet Press.  It was so bizarre I had to do something with it.  Maybe I'll do something with the others one day.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

Tim Curran:
I have more novels and one novella coming from DarkFuse.  I'll be doing some things with Thunderstorm Books.  I'll be finishing off my ongoing Hive series with Hive 3.  It's already a huge, huge book that I've been sitting on for years.  Because of its size, I'll probably be self-publishing it.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where can we find you?

Tim Curran:
I'm on Facebook and I have a website, but I haven't updated it in like a year.  I plan on having it professionally designed.  But there's lots of stuff about me and my books if anyone's interested.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Thanks for stopping by, Tim.  It was amazing having you!! :)


About the author:
Tim Curran hails from Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  He is the author of the novels Skin MedicineHiveDead SeaResurrectionHag NightThe Devil Next DoorLong Black CoffinAfterburnerSkull MoonNightcrawlers, and Biohazard.  His short stories have been collected in Bone Marrow Stew and Zombie Pulp.  His novellas include The Underdwelling, The Corpse King, Puppet Graveyard, Sow, Leviathan, Worm and Blackout.  His short stories have appeared in such magazines as City Slab, Flesh&Blood, Book of Dark Wisdom, and Inhuman, as well as anthologies such as Shivers IV, World War Cthulhu, Shadows over Main Street, and, In the Court of the Yellow King.  His fiction has been translated into German, Japanese, and Italian.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

THE GAL'S 31 DAYS OF HORROR: Evans Light


- Dream of Halloween -
By: Evans Light

WHEN IRIDESCENT SUMMER NIGHTS fade into sullen autumn gray, as the world marches grimly towards the slow, cold death of winter, something changes.  Dark spirits strengthen, emboldened by lengthening shadows and huddled masses.  
            The sunshine of youth once kept these phantoms at bay, but the doors to my soul creak slowly open with the passing years, the seams of a skeptical mind loosen as the autumn of life approaches.
            Might the celebration of Halloween obscure an underlying truth, a frightening reality that modern man fervently attempts to bury under mounds of candy, costumes and cacophonous celebrations?  Does our collective unconsciousness know that some malevolent power reaches an apex at this time of year, our Halloween mimicry of all that we fear nothing more than an autonomic protective response?
            If so, it doesn't work for me.  Trust me, I've tried.
            I don't believe in ghosts, but they believe in me.
            One phantom in particular has taken hold, has pried its way into my life.  I hesitate to write about it even now, in the daylight, lest it read these words over my shoulder as I type them; and, having read my confessions here, redouble its efforts to take up residence inside my head.  If I acknowledge its existence, cede that it possesses power enough to affect the living, to make me believe it is real - might it, in fact, become just that?
            I don't know.
            An avowed realist and espouser of logic, nothing attributed to the paranormal could ever convince my conscious mind to believe when fully awake and alert.  But now, this thing - this spirit, if I dare call it that - has found me, honed in on the precise moment when my defenses are at their lowest, and commenced tormenting me.  There is a window of vulnerability through which I must pass daily, the time when this imp can successfully get inside my head: the fraction of a second each night, when under the covers of my bed I cross over from wake to sleep.  Somehow, it senses the gap between the two, and slips through.
            It started several years ago, in an autumn season not at all unlike this one, as the leaves outside my window turned red and the sun bled long shadows as it perished upon the horizon.
            The first manifestation of this presence was a loud clamor in the darkness inside my house, just as I was about to drift away into dreams - as though a frying pan had been slammed down violently upon a granite countertop.  A single blast of noise, not repeated.
            The disturbance happened night after night, with increasing intensity as Halloween approached, though I didn't recognize the connection with the holiday at the time.  One moment I'm in bed floating blissfully into oblivion, and the next I'd be panicked and alert from the noise, searching through the house with a flashlight for intruders while my wife and children rested peacefully, undisturbed and incognizant of my distress.
            But nothing was ever amiss, no pictures fallen from hooks on the wall, all the brooms standing upright in the utility closet; the doors locked, windows secure.
            On some nights, after being startled awake by the loud noise, I'd shake my wife from her slumber in the hope that she had heard something, too.  I longed for proof that I wasn't alone in my madness; that something had merely tipped over, that there was a logical explanation for the sound that yanked me from the precipice of slumber night after night.
            "It's all in your head," my wife would say, annoyed at my insistence that she participate in my anguish.  She was right, I hoped, and it certainly made sense.  The physiological transition from wake to sleep causes the release of a variety of neurotransmitters - gamma-aminobutyric acid, serotonin, melatonin - any imbalance of which could short-circuit the neural pathways responsible for hearing, could easily trigger an internal sensory perception of a loud "bang" inside my mind, a spatially-displaced auditory hallucination that only I would hear.
            I kept reciting this rational explanation to myself, night after night, while my wife snoozed beside me.  It was a futile endeavor, as the noises were soon joined by movement in the shadows, by frigid breezes that drove me beneath the covers.  
            This happened year after year, always starting in the fall and reaching a crescendo with Halloween.  Then I'd forget about it, the noises and shadows easier to dismiss as mere silliness once they stopped, at least until the world would begin to die around me once again the following autumn.

* * * *

THIS OCTOBER, the damned thing has brought along a new bag of tricks, or maybe it's a whole new ghost.
            I honestly don't know, don't want to know.
            I just want it to stop.
            Now my wife is hearing and seeing things in the darkness, too.  The loud slamming noises somewhere off in the house have since been replaced by tapping and rapping sounds inside my bedroom.  They start near the door, always after we have turned off the light and are just about to fall asleep.  The thumps are subtle, insidious, maddening: fingernails clicking on the hollow wooden door across the room as if to say, "I'm here."  I come back from the edge of sleep, fully awake - but I lay still, eyes closed, feigning sleep.  I don't want it to know that I heard, hoping to convince it that it has missed the window of opportunity this time, has already lost me to the unyielding grip of unconsciousness.
            It fools me, too.  Tricks me into thinking it is gone, has given up.  I listen, motionless in the darkness.  Extended silence lulls me into serenity; as I begin to doze, a series of sharp taps ring from the glass screen of the television near the foot of the bed, dancing even closer.  I pretend to ignore it, motionless, heart pounding, sensing a presence but determined not to let it know my fear.
            Two feet from my head, on my nightstand, a plastic water bottle crinkles as though being squeezed by a hand.  I feel that familiar coldness hanging over me.  I wonder what will be looming inches from my face if I open my eyes, but I don't.
            Then it leaves.  I know... I can feel it depart, a shift in the atmosphere.  Relief swirls in its wake.
            "I think somebody just went into the laundry room," my wife whispers beside me.
            I open my eyes to find hers wide and bright in the slats of moonlight that squeeze through the blinds.  She never gets scared, but it's clear that she is.
            "Just go to sleep, it's nothing," I say, more to convince myself than her.
            In the living room, around the corner from our bedroom, we have a nightlight with a motion sensor.  It's handy when I get up for a drink of water in the middle of the night.
            "Please, go check the doors," she pleads.
            I sit up in bed, wanting to obey but reluctant to follow the thing into the darkness.  
            Then the motion sensor nightlight comes on.
            "Go look," my wife growls, so I do.
            The nightlight goes off the instant I set foot into the hallway, plunging me into darkness.
            It's toying with me, I know, as I fumble for a light switch.
            Around the corner, I think I hear soft footsteps running up the stairs, heading towards the kids' rooms.  Before I can find the lights, my son starts talking loudly in his sleep - it's half of a conversation with someone, but I can't make out the words.
            I find the lights, and scan the doors, the front, the back.  All locked.
            Upstairs, my son screams, "Get out!"
            I'm running and in his room in less than three seconds.  He's sitting up in bed, mumbling and rubbing his eyes.  No intruder, everything appears to be in order.  I tuck him back in and check the rest of the house.
            Nothing.  Doors locked.  Windows sealed.
            I go back to bed and finally manage to fall asleep.  My wife wakes me up several times that night, talking in her sleep.  I listen closely and realize that she's reciting our address.  Backwards.
            The last five days have been rough.  I haven't slept much.
            Halloween is tomorrow, and the sleep deprivation is getting to me, the lines between consciousness and unconsciousness are blurring to the point where I'm no longer sure if I'm awake and nodding off, or if I've already fallen asleep and am dreaming of writing this.
            It's possible I'm unconscious at my keyboard and still typing.  I wonder what will be written if my fingers keep moving after I've quit controlling them?
            The thing, this daemon, has finally gotten inside my head.  It's telling me stories now, directing my dreams, like movies unfolding on a screen in my mind.
            In my dreams, it's Halloween.
            I'm in a shopping mall and it's after hours.
            A little girl with long blond hair is dressed up as a princess and carrying a plastic pumpkin full of candies wrapped in shiny foil.  She's a little thing, at most four or five years old, and her silky turquoise gown swooshes as she tries to keep up with her parents.
            She's blind.  Her bright eyes roll unfocused in her blinking sockets, but it does nothing to diminish her smile, her joy at having gotten to trick-or-treat at the shopping mall's Halloween celebration.
            Her mother and father work in the mall, own a small shop there, and the little blind girl follows her parent's footsteps down a long echoing corridor that runs behind the shops, not accessible to the public.  Her parents are talking, but the little princess isn't listening to their conversation.  She's thinking about the candies in her plastic pumpkin.
            She wonders if she's got anything good, and can't wait to explore her sweet treasures with her fingers, to see if she can tell what they are before she tastes them.  She could ask Mommy and Daddy, but that would take away the fun.
            The miniature princess in blue suddenly realizes that the world around her has grown silent.  She listens intently, but doesn't hear her parents' footsteps.  She calls out for them, but the only sound that greets her finely attuned ears is her own hollow voice, echoing back from the cavernous hallway. She grows fearful for a moment, as she's never lost track of her parent's voice or touch in a place like this before, but then she hears footsteps running towards her.
            A game!  Mommy and Daddy are playing a game.
            The footsteps gallop past her down the hallway, not slowing for an instant.  Without hesitation, she pursues.
            The footsteps slow, and disappear inside a doorway to the right.  Even though she's blind, she knows exactly where it is and how far away.
            Princess steps into the storage room off the main hallway.  She hears Mommy and Daddy inside, their breathing hard and heavy in the far corner of the room.
            "You're funny!" the little girl laughs, a bright, shiny laugh that sparkles as brightly as the foil-wrapped candies insider her plastic pumpkin.  She reaches in and pulls one out.
            "You want a candy, Mommy?" she asks, and walks towards the corner, reaching for her mother, wanting to feel her, to reconnect, simultaneously frightened and excited by this unexpected game of hide and seek.
            Her hand finds Mommy's face.  It is hard as plastic and smooth.  Is Mommy wearing a mask?
            The little girl giggles as she pulls the wrapper from the candy and pushes it into the hard gap formed by the mannequin's mouth.
            "Eat the candy, Mommy.  It's good!" she squeals, as the sweaty man hiding behind the mannequin nods at his accomplice, thumbing the safety of his handgun into the "off" position.
            A loud bang, like the firing of a gun, wakes me up from the unfolding story, from the dream.  Whispered voices flutter past my ear.  Ticking sounds dance across the room, across my TV, along my bedroom door.  The sensor-activated night light comes to life in the living room as I sit up shivering in bed.  A few seconds later, I hear my son talking loudly in his sleep upstairs.
            I am defeated, helpless, as sleep comes to drag me away.

* * * *

I'M EXHAUSTED as the first light of dawn awakens me on Halloween morning, frustrated by the night of torment, yet happy to know that this haunted season will soon be at an end.
            I wander into my library, where shelves burdened with tomes of fictional horror rise from floor to ceiling, enveloping me in a comforting cocoon.  As my eyes flit across the spines, I briefly wonder if maybe one of those books I've brought into my home is cursed, possessed, the culprit.
            I settle into my reading chair, and close my eyes, trying my hardest to steer my thoughts towards pleasantries, contemplating the fun I'll have trick-or-treating with the kids later that evening.
            A ring at the door stirs me from my all-too-brief slumber.
            I'm startled to see that the sun has vanished from the sky, draping my library in darkness.  How long was I asleep?
            I walk out into the foyer and find the house empty and quiet.  The doorbell chimes once more, and I open the door to see who is calling.
            A dozen eager trick-or-treaters are gathered at the door, and more are streaming up the sidewalk toward the porch.  The front light is off, burned out, but still they come, pushing towards me with outstretched hands, mouths mumbling as though their words are made of caramel.
            I grab a bucket of candy and fill their greedy, grasping paws until it is gone, but the crowd keeps growing.  The yard fills with clusters of children, hundreds of them, until the masses spill out onto the sidewalk, the driveway, flooding the street.
            The costumes of the new arrivals are even more ornate, the grabbing hands increasingly insistent.  They push and growl until finally I retreat back into the darkened house, trembling, shoving the door closed behind me.
            After a bit my courage returns and I venture a peek through the blinds.  The yard has grown vacant and dark, except for a low rolling fog from a nearby smoke machine, glowing in the ghastly orange and purple lights of a neighbor's decorations.
            The sight of the empty yard fills me with relief as I head for the bedroom to search for my phone, so I can discover the whereabouts of my wife and kids.  Why would they leave me  home alone sleeping, especially on Halloween night?
            I take no more than five steps towards the bedroom when the front bell rings once more.
            I don't want to look, but I do.  I'm surprised to find that the porch is empty, save for a small pile of shiny foil-wrapped candies scattered in front of the door.
            I step out to clean up the mess.
            "I can see now!" a small voice proclaims from my right side, causing me to jump back against the brick wall, scraping my skin, causing my heart to thrum in my chest.  It's the tiny blind princess from my dreams, seated in a rocking chair, smiling brightly.  Her eyes are gone, replaced by empty sockets that gently weep blood onto her turquoise gown.
            "I can see now," she joyfully repeats, opening her palms to reveal glistening plucked eyeballs with trailing optic nerves.  They resemble freshly sucked lollipops.  "These were in the way.  Now I can see everything."
            I turn to flee back into the house, but I'm bound, held tight from shoulder to ankle.  I try to twist away, but the snare in which I'm caught only grows tighter.
            In the distance, a loud crash startles me awake.
            I sit up in my bed, tangled in covers, sweating.
            Across the room, invisible fingers tap across my television screen.
            My wife murmurs in her sleep briefly before the motion activated light comes on in the living room.
            I wait, wondering if I'm awake or if this is all part of the dream.  It's always worst on Halloween.
            I pull the covers over my head as, in his bedroom upstairs, my son laughs loudly and then begins to scream.
            Have I become the ghost inside my head, the life I thought I had not real, not what it seemed? Perhaps I am the phantom, nothing more than a dream of Halloween.


About the author:
Evans Light is a writer of horror and suspense, and the author of Screamscapes: Tales of Terror, which includes ArborEATumCrawlspace, and many more.
            His stories can also be found in Bad ApplesDead Roses, and the recently published Bad Apples 2.

About the books:

Screamscapes: Tales of Terror
Genre: Horror, Short Story Collection
Publisher: Corpus Press
Publication date: 10.10.2013
Pages: 323

Screamscapes: Tales of Terror is a collection of uniquely twisted tales designed to delight fans of modern horror.  Razor-sharp scares and Tales from the Crypt-style mayhem lurk within these dark stories of possession, obsession, deception and revenge...

This collection includes:

Crawlspace
Fooling around on your wife can be hazardous to your health.  
            Just ask Tom.  He's a man with a lot to juggle: a frustrated wife, a secret new girlfriend, and the unpleasant task of trying to keep his deteriorating vintage farmhouse from falling down around him.
            Now, with his wife out of town, Tom is eager to get busy under the covers with his beautiful new lover - but first there's something he has to finish up in... the Crawlspace.

Whatever Possessed You?
A strange encounter and a cryptic message leaves Gerard Faust a changed man.  Now a novel he can't remember writing is burning up the sales charts, but is something other than his own talent lurking within?

ArborEATum
When a band of westward pioneers - lost, starving, and desperate - stumbles upon an unlikely oasis in the middle of a barren prairie, Micah wonders if his family has finally caught a lucky break... or does this new Garden of Eden hide a forgotten terror behind a veil of earthly delights?

Curtains for Love
When Claire and James move into a beautiful Victorian home together, she soon discovers that he is being seduced by a secret from his past, one thought buried long ago.

Gertrude
"Tell me something interesting about yourself."
            "Well, I have a symbiotic twin named Gertrude.  She lives in a small cavity under by ribcage, next to my spleen.  If I lie still in bed at night, I can hear her.  I think she might be crying."
            So begins this short twisted tale where an obvious lie faces off with the truth.

Black Door
William and his brothers are on their way to summer camp.  But when a wrong turn leads them to an abandoned campground, things start to get weird in this nail-biting and suspenseful short story.

The Mole People Beneath the City
Late at night in the subway, a little girl and his father wait for a train that runs deep beneath New York City.  It will be a ride they never forget.

Pay Back
Stephen Hill has been heaping abuse on poor Joe King since second grade.
            Now they're grown men with nothing in common, and Joe still patiently endures Stephen's unrelenting ridicule.  But when friendship is only a matter of perspective, PAY Back might be just around the corner in this irreverent and darkly humorous tale of revenge.

Nose Hears
A man thinks he might be losing his mind when he starts to hear voices inside of his nose.

The Package
When a world-famous personality discovers there's a way to enlarge his "package" to become the world's biggest, he finds it an opportunity too enormous to resist.