How a Fender Bender Inspired a Terrifying Book Series with Author Richard Crofton

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Browsing some horror titles, looking for my next read, this cover caught my eye. I don’t usually read series because of time constraints and a very long “to read” list, but I bought it. Boy, am I glad I did! A terrifying premise and superb writing hooked me.

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Would you believe that a secret group with dark powers to control your mind are at work to take over the world? If you don’t, you just might after reading this book. What’s the most terrifying aspect is that the members of this group could be anyone, including that friend or lover that you think you know so well! Richard Crofton gives you just the right amount of story to keep you guessing and wanting more. I’m dying for the rest of the story and I apologize to others on the “to read” list but you might get bumped.

I’m super excited to tell you that I reached out to Richard Crofton and he agreed to share some insights about himself and his books!

Richard, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Originally from Wilmington, Delaware, I currently reside in Florida with my wife and our three children. I taught English Language Arts for ten years but now work as an instructor in the art of Shaolin Kempo Karate. I’m an avid lover of animals, backpacking/camping, bowling, chess games, baseball, and homemade Italian food (also love my Philly cheese steaks!). However, creative writing and martial arts are my two main passions, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to pursue both avenues.

Teacher to Karate and Writer! That’s quite a career range. What led you to become a writer?

It’s always something I’ve enjoyed. I’ve been writing stories off and on since I was a kid, but I never held onto any of my work. When I was a school teacher, I used to create short, silly stories and turned them into grammar exercises for my students. I only recently became more serious about writing to publish when I came up with the idea for The Keepers of White series about four years ago.

Here’s something I get asked all the time and I’m always curious how other horror writers respond. Why do you write in the horror genre?

For some reason, I get drawn very deeply into the movies I watch, as if it’s real for me when I know it’s now. Therefore, in truth, I hate horror movies (except a select few of the classics). They actually still scare me, especially the stories in which the conflict is not resolved. The characters are desperately trying to stop the evil entity, but in the end, they fail and usually die. Or they think they win, and then there’s a twist at the end where we see that they actually failed. Then after it’s over, I still can’t stop thinking about it. But when I write horror, I have control over what happens. And with the horror stories I write, there is usually a powerful and evil supernatural entity, just like in the films, but I also like to create a character who is equally powerful to fight against it. In my mind, there has to be a balance of power between the things that cause fear and the things that cause hope. And having characters brave and strong enough to face that evil head on kind of helps me feel better about the not-so-pleasant outcomes of all those scary movies that freaked me out as a kid.

As a horror writer, I’m always thinking about what scares people. Besides being helpless against evil, what else scares you?

In books and movies: The intense music, tiny whispers and/or giggling sounds, and mostly little girls dolled up in dresses with blank expressions on their faces (It all started with The Shining).

In real life: Old, abandoned, haunted-looking buildings, snakes, flying (well, only the part right when you first land), and nuns. My two biggest fears are drowning, and most of all, someone stealing or harming one of my children.

Something happening to my kids is a big one for me, too. Thanks for sharing. I will file these away in my ‘how to freak out readers’ file!

Many writers have rituals unique to them. Do you have a writing ritual?

For some reason, I cannot work at home. When I was an English teacher, I could not focus at home to grade my students’ essays. It’s like that with writing as well.

My only ritual: Sitting with my laptop at a table at Dunkin’ Donuts with a large hot coffee.

Yuunmm! Donuts!

Your book The Keepers of the White, Book I: Agents of Shadow has a very spooky premise. Where did you get the idea for your story?

I’m actually working on my next blog article about this. I still can’t explain it. In the fall of 2010, I wrecked my car in an accident, so for a few days, I drove a rental to work. I had forgotten to transfer my I-pod from the wrecked car to the rental, so for the first time in years, I turned on the regular radio on my way to work (who listens to local FM stations anymore?). As soon as I hit the power button, “Black Magic Woman” was playing (I can’t remember if it was Santana’s or Fleetwood Mac’s version). Listening to the lyrics and the tune, my imagination suddenly created the character Diana Palmer from my
book, who, as readers will see in the upcoming second book, is the most ruthless of the Agents of Shadow. A woman so wicked, but also so beautiful, enchanting, and seductive, that no one can resist her powers of manipulation. From there it just grew, and the entire story just started forming in my head.

What’s next for you?

Books II and III of The Keepers of White series have already been written. I’m currently working on Book IV. I’ve also been writing a few short stories here and there, and when I have enough, I will compile them into an anthology. Further, in the future, I’d like to try my hand at non-fiction and write a light-hearted and humorous memoir about my experiences as a middle school Language Arts teacher.

I’m so glad to know the rest of the story is waiting for me! Working in Middle school certainly gave me lots of laughs as well. I’ll look for that one, too!

Where can we find out more about you and your writing?

Best place is my blog: https://richardcrofton.wordpress.com/ I blog three different categories. One is “All About The Keepers of White,” where I talk about the background, the inspirations behind, and the characters of my series. I also write book reviews for other authors. But the third category is called “The Little I’ve Learned,” in which I write about my experiences as a writer, a father, and a teacher. I think that’s the best way for readers to get to know me as a person.I can also be followed on:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/richardcroftonauthor/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/WriterCrofton
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16367519.Richard_Crofton
Amazon: Richard Crofton’s Amazon Page

Thank you so much for your time, Richard. I truly enjoyed reading your book and look forward to the rest of the story!

And thank you, dear readers! Check out Richard’s book The Keepers of the White, Book I: Agents of Shadow if you dare! I promise you will be thinking about it long after you close the cover. Until next time, Never Turn Off the Lights!

Exorcists Take Over

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I always wanted to read The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. I wanted to know how scenes from the movie looked in written word. How did he use vocabulary to express the sights and sounds and smells? When I found an audio version, read by the author himself no less, I snatched it!

I will tell you that there is no other way to delve into a book about demon possession other than with an audio version. I got chills from the places of the text where the demon speaks. At one or two points I felt like I should pull my earbuds out and douse them in holy water! Weirdly, this book became my soundtrack as I trained for a 10K and anticipating the next installment served as wonderful motivation to get that next workout in.

As I was deep in the midst of my unique routine, I heard that FOX was making a television series based on The Exorcist. I was very curious to find out how the writers of the television series would develop their storylines. On the premier evening, I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch. My men were out at an overnight campout, and I was alone with my girls. It might sound weird, but it was the first time I found myself without my spouse overnight since my home security system, a large German Shepherd named Carmen, passed away. What if I freaked myself out and in turn scared my girls? As is true most times, my need to know won out.

I tucked them into the family room with a Disney movie and crept up the stairs to my room. I wanted to turn the volume low on the TV, I didn’t want them to overhear it, but it was stormy out, and the wind was howling through the eaves of the house. I adjusted the volume so I could hear and hoped the sound wouldn’t carry over the happy sounds of Disney.

The opening scenes with the lone priest walking through a ghetto, dark things scurrying in the shadows, and screams in the night had me expecting to go through the house turning on all the lights. Just when I thought I was going to be fine, the final scenes from the attic rolled across the screen. It takes a lot to scare me, and I was not disappointed!

It would have been easy for this show to be a rip-off of the movie, but it forged its own path into terror. As the story went on it got deeper, twistier, and scarier. The way the story intertwined with Blatty’s original tale was brilliant

Towards the end of the season, Ben Daniel’s character, Father Marcus, said the most profound line to ever be uttered on television, IMHO. Satan’s allies were torturing him, and all he had to do to make it stop was join them. He refused. The head baddy expressed his disbelief that Father Marcus would rather die for the Church that had excommunicated him than be a part of the evil that would welcome him. To this Marcus replied, “I’m not dying for the bloody Church, I’m dying for Him.”

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There is something terribly appealing about a character who reveals that his principles are deeper than you thought. He walks the talk to the bitter end, a man of integrity who knows where his true devotion lies.

These tales intrigue me, and maybe many of you, because they are scary to be sure, but deeper. Not just shock and jumps. They explore the ancient human question of what faith is and how hard it can be to hang on to that faith. It challenges us to ponder what exactly is it that we have faith in? And why. It begs the question, what is the purpose of suffering? They show us the power of mercy, sacrifice, and service to others. Most importantly, they tell us that we are not powerless against evil. Contact with evil will change us, but we can fight back. There is hope that we can overcome it.

William Peter Blatty passed away on January 12, 2016. I’m glad I got to hear his classic novel read with his intended character inflections and tone. It was fantastic. I let his word usage wash over my brain, I hope something stuck!

bookcoverexorcismJust when I was about to move on from this theme of possession that organically emerged in my life, my library app told me that a new addition to the collection might interest me. My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix. I loved HorrStor by this same author, so of course, I borrowed it! Not as chilling as the tales above but still good. I was a teen in the early 80’s like the characters, and it brought back some delicious (can you say TCBY) and cringe-worthy memories. It’s a coming of age story with the added challenge of a terrifying chain of demon-inspired chaos. Check it out!

I’m still open to this theme of possession! I’d like to read some Indie authors on the subject. I’m taking suggestions! I just watched Hostage to the Devil, a documentary about real-life exorcist Father Malachi Martin, and so now I think I’ll have to read his book by the same title.

What have I learned from all this? Well, if you happen to see someone you love speaking with an imaginary friend, acting strangely, and speaking in strange voices…you might need a Father Marcus. Or maybe…just maybe…they are a writer!

Until next time Never Turn Off the Lights!

What a Year

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What a year. 2016 had ups and downs, losses and gains, twists and turns. I don’t know about you, but I feel a little sea-sick! I’m hoping 2017 is a little less crazy. A girl can dream, can’t she?

It’s been a good writing year. I finished writing and revising DREAD and published! I’ve sold some copies, and not just to my family, LOL! Some of those readers even left five-star reviews. Weirdly, I miss my characters a little bit. I spent almost every day with them for over two years, after all. I’m sure they don’t miss me but are enjoying new life every time they spring to life in a reader’s imagination. I *heart* you Nate, Garrett, Sophia, and Lindsey!

I stretched out of my writing comfort zone and wrote a short story in the Dystopian Horror genre. Dystopia always felt overwhelming to me. Seriously, how in the world do you create a whole new world…out of your words? I spent a large part of my summer working on Code Yankee Sierra 7 so I could enter it in the  Pandora’s Box of Horrors Challenge. Guess what? It tied for the win. Pretty exciting!

I’ve made amazing writing friends and connections this year. Their stories captivated, spooked, entangled, and encouraged me. Thanks, guys!

I wrote three other short stories. One was originally posted as a Thanksgiving story, but I revised it to a Christmas story (All Through the Night) and popped it up on WattPad for fun. Another one is also a Christmas story (The Kalli-Who) that was published on this blog as a playful holiday share with you, the readers! Lastly, just for grins, I reworked a story I wrote a very long time ago (Best Night Ever) and also shared that on WattPad.

My current WIP Shiver is coming along. I’m still getting to know the characters, and so far, I like them. Too bad I’ll have to terrorize, burden, and maybe knock some of them off *evil giggle*. What?  I’m a writer, it’s what I do.

A writer. You’d think I’d feel perfectly fine calling myself a writer by now, wouldn’t you? But it still feels awkward. When I think writer, I think of Anne Rice, Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, and the like. When I say I am a writer, it seems arrogant and like a big overblown fishy tale. Despite the list of accomplishments above, it feels like I am the biggest poser in history, play acting a childhood fantasy and hoping the world buys it. I wonder if the people I mentioned before ever feel that way.

For 2017 my resolution is to own it. To boldly submit works and laugh in the face of rejection letters! To shout, I AM A WRITER! Well, maybe just say it in an inside voice.

Here’s wishing you an adventurous, thrilling, spooky, joyous, own-your-truth new year. I hope you get some of that through reading something I wrote for you.

Until next year, Never Turn Off the Lights!

Horrifying Mother’s Day!

The day we set aside to celebrate moms is here. Motherhood is usually portrayed as a noble and saintly pursuit, which it is, most of the time. But anyone who has done it for more than two minutes knows it’s not always rainbows and unicorns. It can be a thankless and overwhelming job. But society expects moms to persevere through the tough times, their unconditional love for their offspring propelling them onward.

But there is another side to mothering we rarely see portrayed. A darker side that no one talks about and rarely admits to. Like many uncomfortable aspects of society, horror and thrillers are the perfect vehicle for dragging these facets of being a mom out into the open. So in the spirit of Norma Bates, here are some equally horrifying mommies you may want to check out.

Coraline.svgThe Other Mother, Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, book and movie. So, she wanted to pluck out Coraline’s eyes and sew on buttons instead, probably how she planned on stealing her soul. So, she wanted to keep Coraline a prisoner. So, she kept the souls of other children imprisoned, is that so bad? A beldam from a parallel universe has to find love somewhere.

voorheesPamela Voorhees, Victor Miller; Sean S. Cunningham; Ron Kurz; Friday the 13th. Some mothers live out one of motherhood’s worst fear, the death of a child. For Pamela, the pain of losing her son, Jason, was compounded by the fact the death was, in part, due to the negligence of others. A little revenge, of course, is better than a long-drawn-out lawsuit, right? So what if all the people she killed had nothing to do with it. Perhaps it was her evil blood sacrifices that led to the resurrection of Jason so he could carry on the family business of murder for many, many more films.

mommyMommy, Wes Craven, The People Under the Stairs. The acting credits simply call this character, Woman. Wes Craven was inspired to write this after seeing a news story where a reported break-in uncovered children locked away in the house, prisoners of their own parents. In Craven’s version, a twisted incestuous couple kidnap several children in an attempt to raise a boy in addition to their daughter, Alice. Kids can be naughty and a disappointment but Mommy knows how to handle them. She had Daddy cut off their tongues, gouge out their eyes and force them to live in the cellar. Although, one boy escapes into the walls. A home invasion reveals their dirty little secrets. Poor Mommy, it’s stressful to have kids misbehaving in the basement and one in the wall doing his business God-knows-where!

babadookAmelia, Jennifer Kent, The Babadook. Perhaps one of the most uncomfortable mother/child relationships, the mother who feels resentment and enmity toward her own offspring. I saw this at The Stanley Film Festival last year and it was the best screening I attended. I thought the ending could have been better, but the way the story evolves is mesmerizing. Amelia’s son, Sam, is an annoying and troubled little guy for certain, but Amelia shows more affection towards the dog than Sam, poor dog. She blames Sam for his father’s death, he was killed in an accident driving Amelia to the hospital to have Sam.  Sam finds a spooky book about the Babadook, a boogie-man like monster that begins to torment them. However, it is soon apparent that Amelia is a bigger danger to Sam than the spook. I think this story works because it touches on a secret of motherhood. That’s right, mothers don’t always feel loving toward their little ones.

Stephen King.

Stephen King.

Margaret White, Stephen King,  Carrie, book and movie. Margaret is particularly scary for her use of religion as her vehicle for abuse. The way some abusers might wield a leather belt, she uses Bible verses to inflict damage to her daughter’s very soul. She thought she was raising Carrie to be a Godly woman, but she created a monster. Carrie never stood a chance. Unfortunately, neither did anyone who crossed her. Nice parenting, Margaret.

Mother, Stephen King, Revival. I’m thankful that I didn’t have to spend too much time with her. The little she is written about was more than enough. She doesn’t want to show motherly love. No, she wants to enslave you, for eternity. I’m not sure what or whom Mother is a mother of, but you don’t want any of that. It’s a good incentive to stay healthy and live a long life if she is all that is waiting in the afterlife.

Hopefully, you didn’t recognize your mother in any of the women (I’m not sure if Mother from Revival is a woman) described above. If you did, send her your therapy bill for Mother’s Day, otherwise tell your mom you love her.

To all of us who do our best every day to raise our kids and never ever act like any of the moms mentioned here (well, at least not all the time) Happy  Mother’s Day!

Happy Mardi Gras and National Pancake Day!

It must be fate, National Pancake Day and Mardi Gras on the same day!

What an exciting time in perhaps the most haunted city in America.The origins of Mardi Gras go way back to medieval Europe and perhaps even as far back as ancient rituals of fertility that celebrated the coming of Spring. But in New Orleans it’s time for parades, throws (beads and such thrown from the floats), costumes, lavish parties, and reveling in the streets before the penitent time of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.

Some say that the excitement and energy of the events attract the dead of New Orleans just as readily as the living. Some of the parade routes include passing by cemeteries, funeral homes, and other supposed haunted locations. According to some, as the parade passes these areas they pick up some otherworldly participants and they have photos to prove it.

I found a few of these photos on line at Haunted New Orleans Tours. I know photos can be faked and manipulated, what do you think?

French Quarter Parade

French Quarter Parade

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GHOST-WALKS-THE-STREETS

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If you’re like me and can’t go yourself, books are the next best thing. Ruined, a Novel, by Paula Morris is a terrific choice. It takes place in New Orleans where we follow newcomer Rebecca as she struggles with moving into her Aunt Claudia’s strange and spooky house and navigating the alien social structures of her new life. Ghosts, a haunted cemetery, New Orleans’ lifestyle, a mystery, Mardi Gras Krewes, a cute boy, and some mean girls. What more could you ask from a book? Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

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If you are lucky enough to go to Mardi Gras take as many photos as you can. If you get anything weird, feel free to share with those of us who can’t be there. By weird, I don’t mean topless folks or broken fingers of those who tried to grab throws that hit the ground but any non-humans or former humans who might be partying with you.

If you can’t go to Mardi Gras you could head over to IHOP to celebrate with some free pancakes and make a donation to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Having had preemie babies in a NICU for many long weeks this cause is near and dear to me. At any rate, celebrate away! Tomorrow marks the start of the Lenten season.