Book Review Body of Christ: A Novella by Mark Matthews

Every year since 1987 the Horror Writers Association (HWA) presents the Bram Stocker Award in recognition of superior horror writing. I browse the list of nominees and choose one or two to read every year.

This year, I choose one that was on the preliminary ballot, but sadly not the final one. Body of Christ: A Novella by Mark Matthews*, in my humble opinion, should have made the final ballot!

Perhaps it is my Catholic upbringing, but horror with overt religious tones scares me the best! This story is a terrifying twisting of sacrament and the comfort faith can bring in the face of death. The more gruesome aspects of the tale complete the squirm factor. I really don’t want to say more because you really have to read it for yourself to understand the depth of disquiet this story brings. The characters will compel you to simultaneously cheer for them and be repelled, it’s a delicious roller coaster ride of horror from every direction.

I thought about this story long after I finished it. I’m not easily scared off, but at a couple of points, I was asking myself if I could go on. I’m so glad I did because the ending left me slack-jawed and wanting more .

4 out of 5 black hearts! I’ll be looking for more from this author for sure.

Until next time, Never Turn Off the Lights!

*Affiliate link

Christmas Horror Story Tradition

illuminated-3106843_1920

Phew! Just made it this year! Thank you for checking out my traditional Christmas spooky story. This year I have a special treat, an audio recording for you to listen to in front of your crackling fire.

Be warned Dear Ones. It is dark and gruesome, so if you are easily offended or freaked out you may wish to pass. I won’t be offended. However, if you choose to listen and then can’t sleep and Santa has to pass up your house…well…I won’t be held responsible.

Scary Christmas everyone.

Spooky Inspiration In New Orleans…part 1

2

My husband and I celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary this year and decided to take a rare trip by ourselves. You see we have/are raising five kids and haven’t gotten away by ourselves for more than a night in over 8 years! We decided to go somewhere we had never been before, New Orleans! It seemed like an interesting place to explore and maybe I could get my spooky creative juices flowing.

In part one of this two-part blog series, I’ll share some of my overall impressions of the city to warm you up for the spookier entry of part two!

You never know what to expect when going someplace you’ve never been. If our hotel was any indication of what the rest of our experience was going to be like, we were in for a good time! The Roosevelt New Orleans, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel is classic elegance and charm. From the people to our suite, to the hotel bars, to the food, to the rooftop pool and bar, every little thing was spectacular.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We got a full view of some of the damage left behind by Katrina from our room. It is a shocking contrast between the scene from the window and the elegance of the sitting room of our suite, most notable was the back side of Charity Hospital.

Founded in 1736, The Charity Hospital for the Poor is the second oldest public hospital in the US. The now abandoned building, built in 1939, was at the time the second biggest hospital in the US and was primarily for the poor and needy.

The story of how the rising flood waters in the wake of the winds and rain from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 trapped 360 patients and 1200 staff inside the large art deco style building for five days is both inspiring and heart-wrenching (click here for more). It was difficult to imagine the situation as it unfolded from here in the Rocky Mountains, not so much looking at it with my own eyes. It would be no wonder if lost spirits roam the empty hallways. We didn’t explore it any further as it felt that would be somehow disrespectful to the heroism of the doctors and nurses and the anguish of patients and their families.

As you can see by the nearby cranes and construction, the city is thriving and plans for redeveloping the old hospital site are being explored.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To celebrate our anniversary (the whole reason for this trip) we took a River Boat Cruise down the Mississippi on the Creole Queen. It was pretty incredible. I have never been on a big boat like that or seen the Mississippi River! Here in Colorado most of our rivers have rapids, but not this one! It was hotter than Hades, but the breeze off the river was wonderful. The food was delicious, and the sunset was quite romantic!

 

 

As far as spooky juices flowing. The river served up some various sights that may work their way into a storyline or two.

 

The sugar factory – loading sugar and monsters at the pier! It’s how the otherworldly creatures traverse the Earth, moving to always more fertile hunting grounds. Perhaps the zombies will hold up here until the time of the apocalypse begins. Look at the pilings under the pier, beings of the night slumber under there in the daylight, waiting for darkness to fall. The murky water – perfect for underwater creatures, aliens, or mutant alligators to hide out, seeking their next meal from unsuspecting boaters gone overboard. Not to mention, it could not be better for covering bodies. Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France, standing guard during the day, but even it is overtaken by the darkness.

Oh, pardon me! I got lost there for a moment! Writers are never completely on vacation. New Orleans was a terrific choice for creative fodder, but more on that later.

We took some time to wander around the Garden District and it was everything I’d hoped it would be. If I ever strike it rich, I’m buying here! I fell in love with the distinctive New Orleans architecture. It was peaceful, dynamic, beautiful, and mysterious all at once. It wasn’t hard to imagine many of the homes being sanctuaries for sophisticated vampires!

Coming up in part two: cities of the dead, haunted places, strange sightings, and of course…bourbon street.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

fullsizeoutput_2ea0

Until next time, Never Turn Off the Lights!

Jeannie Wycherley’s Beyond the Veil, Excuse Me While I Fangirl

2

 

Crone BragI have a very long and ever-growing “To Be Read List”. Many months ago I added a book called Crone by Jeannie Wycherley after she graciously agreed to be spotlighted on this blog for Women in Horror Month, read that post here.  I was just about to read Crone when I saw on FaceBook that Jeannie was releasing a new book. With an interesting premise and amazing cover, my attention was hooked, and I began reading the second it hit my iPad.

 

BTV ebook

I am now a devoted Jeannie Wycherley fan. I tossed my current Stephen King read on the floor of my office and read Beyond the Veil every chance I got. My family had to eat pizza and hot dogs for a couple nights because I Could. Not. Stop. Reading. And I’m not even the least bit sorry.

An unlikely trio, a cop, a near-death experiencer, and a physic girl who lives in a cemetery are thrown together in the midst of a horrible crime. United in grief and horror they must face a terrifying soul warrior who will stop at nothing to collect a wayward soul, even murder! The creep factor is a solid ten, the characters (I adored them!) are a 10, the plot with eerie twists is a definite 10!

This book does everything right. From deep, believable characters to story pacing, to spinetingling suspense, and outright terror!

If you like spooky, suspenseful, mysterious tales with characters that you will be immediately invested in, this is the ticket for you!

Jeannie stopped by to answer some of my burning questions. Excuse me if I squeal in delight.

I have been stalking…er…I mean following you on social media for some time now. So, I hope this isn’t creepy, but can you tell us more about yourself?

I’m a Brit living on the coast in East Devon in the south west of the UK. Previously I worked in education, and I have a PhD in modern and contemporary history. I’m married with three dogs, love cop shows and spy movies (James Bond, Bourne and Mission Impossible) and popular sci-fi (Star Wars and Star Trek). I enjoy cooking and make a lot of one-pot meals (curry, chili, soups, etc.). I have an obsession with the forest and love British wildlife.

What led you to become a writer?

I always wanted to write, but somewhere along the line I thought that being a grown up meant holding down a soul-destroying and energy sapping career. I was in a creative wasteland, and after some counselling realised I needed art in my life more than I had supposed. I had some time off sick over the summer of 2012 and enrolled in a writing bootcamp with The Writer’s Playground. It was fantastic and started a habit of writing every day.

The things I wrote were pretty bad in the beginning, but the feeling of exploring the world using words totally fulfilled me. I kept at it and when I was offered redundancy I accepted– mainly so I could spend more time with my dog! I didn’t have much luck finding alternative work I wanted to do, so I began copywriting. I wrote for clients in the morning and myself in the afternoon, and that’s how it all started!

I had a long apprenticeship – writing constantly – and had numerous short stories accepted here and there, before embarking on novel writing. I queried a few agents for Crone, but I’m ridiculously impatient and the process is so slow, I opted to self-publish.

One of the reasons I choose self-publishing as well. I read across genres and was curious what genre or genres you write in. 

Horror and dark fantasy is where my heart lies. I love the weird, and I totally relish venturing into shadowy places – both within the mind, and in a given locality or environment. I have also written some erotica and a little erotic horror (as Betty Gabriel), and have ventured into dystopia (which I love). I also wrote a love story earlier this year. It’s a great story, but I doubt I’ll write many more of those.

I don’t want to be pigeon holed and I see myself as a story teller, but I do appreciate people who read my work may get a little confused if I genre hop too much.

What is it about those genres that intrigue you most?

There is so much about the world that is scary, and so many infinite scenarios to battle the monsters that lurk within us and around us. Plus I really love to put female characters into dicey situations and see how they react. Women are so much stronger than horror tropes (both literary and film) would have us believe. I want to work with strong women characters and find something unique that readers haven’t come across before.

I absolutely loved Beyond the Veil. It is such a unique premise with amazing characters. Where did you get the idea for the story and the characters?

Beyond the Veil grew from a sad situation. A wonderful friend of mine passed away far too young after a brave battle with cancer, and her husband made the announcement by telling us she had ‘stepped beyond the veil’.

That expression wouldn’t let me go, and I explored it for a while. I had a wonderful image in my head of a veil curtain, and I wondered what would happen if someone attempted to step back through. But also, is there just one door to the beyond? Doesn’t it get crowded? What happens if there is a mix-up? Is there anyone controlling who goes through? I did some free writing around that (some of which ends up in the prologue), and the plot came to me quite quickly. Originally I envisaged a novella, then maybe 60,000 words, but the story took over and I ended up with a full-length novel.

The characters were interesting to me too. Originally, while plotting, I had Heidi as my main character, but the problem was her injuries (terrorist attack) meant she needed to be incredibly vulnerable. I couldn’t make her strong enough to carry the story and keep the essence of who she was and what made her tick.

I played with a female detective instead but the plot didn’t work. Also the Dan character was a young woman originally, but when I started exploring the relationships I knew I needed Adam Chapple as my detective, and to explore the father-son dynamic. I wanted some real multi-faceted and dynamic characteristics of them as individuals and within their relationship. Adam has a wonderful nurturing side that is real – no toxic masculinity here! Adam is a red-headed whisky drinking, running detective and is based on my brother!

So that brings me to Cassia Veysie. Wow. Where did she come from? I have found on several occasions that I’m writing away happily – sticking to my plot sheet – and a character pokes their head up, waves, and says, “Your story needs me!” It happened with Mr. Kephisto in Crone, a character by the name of Phineas in the forthcoming The Municipality of Lost Souls, and of course here we have Cassia in Beyond the Veil.

She totally steals the show. She was the strong and weird character I needed to balance out Adam’s rational common sense approach to the world. She’s also flawed in so many ways, over confident at the beginning, reduced to a bit of a mess after she bungles the séance. Over the course of the novel her mask breaks down, metaphorically and figuratively, as we see her losing the dramatic goth make-up and stepping into her powers.

I don’t know whether there will be a follow-up to Beyond the Veil, but certainly Cassia, Adam and Polly – another character I loved (I modelled her on the actress Gwendoline Christie who is my girl crush) may find themselves resurrected because I feel like there’s more to do with them.

I am going to hope for a follow-up. I agree with you, I ended the book feeling like there was more of the character’s stories to be told.

Past me pestering you for a follow-up (please don’t block me on FaceBook LOL) what’s next for you?

A slightly mixed bag. I spent a few months experimenting earlier this year. I wrote a loveWW1 promo story (Keepers of the Flame) and I wrote a cozy witch mystery. My editor loves the cosy so much that she’s persuaded me to write a series. The first in the series is The Wonkiest Witch and will be out in October (pre-order up soon). I am plotting the second, The Ghosts of Wonky Inn, and will write that in September.

My next dark novel is The Municipality of Lost Souls, slated to go to the editor on September 1st for an October release, HOWEVER I want to make sure it’s perfect so may delay that release. It has a complicated ensemble cast so I need to make sure it works. I don’t want my readers to get confused – it makes sense to me, but then it would, wouldn’t it? Ha!

The Municipality of Lost Souls is a fantastic story – my favourite so far. It’s a kind of Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn meets TV’s The Walking Dead but with ghosts instead of zombies (of course – because I love ghost stories). It is a bit of an homage to Charles Dickens (my literature hero) and it is set on the rocky coast of Durscombe (the same as Beyond the Veil) but in the autumn/winter of 1861 rather than now (I knew my background in history would come in useful one day LOL). We get to meet Cassia’s foremothers.

It’s a story about how social cohesion can rapidly break down when we look the other way and follows the fortunes of three ‘witchy’ cousins, Agatha Wick, Sally Parrett and the inimitable Amelia Fliss.

It’s such fun! In a scary Mary kind of way, of course.

Those sound amazing! See, now I’ll be too busy reading these to pester you too much for a follow-up to Beyond the Veil! 

Being a horror author, I keep a running tally of things that scare people, so I have ideas on how to spook readers. What kinds of things scare you?

Politics. Brexit anyone? What a mess.

Ugh. It seems like a global time of political dumpster fires.

Heights! I freak out just climbing the stairs LOL. The first novel I wrote explored the whole height fear thing I have. I haven’t redrafted it yet, because it is a nasty piece, shocking in parts, but at some stage I will do some serious work on it, and publish it. It needs an audience.

Crowds and noise. I’m very introverted and get tired and stressed in social situations rather too quickly. I’m happiest in my study with only a snoring dog or two for company. My idea of hell is doing a presentation or a book signing. Happy to leave that to other authors. I know it’s not a particularly great idea to self-publish and hide your light under a bushel but I prefer to let my writing do the talking.

I hear you. I’m ridiculously shy. Doing all that mingling with folks is on my list of things I’m scared of, too!

Jeannie, I adore your writing and will try to wait patiently for anything and everything you write. Crone is my now current read, Stephen King will just have to wait. Where can readers find out more about you and your work?

Stalk me!

http://author.to/JeannieWycherley

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jeanniewycherley/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Thecushionlady/

I will stalk away and if you are a fan of strong female personas, interesting characters, dark stories, and other assorted deliciousness you should stalk her too!

Until next time, Never Turn Off the Lights!

 

The Paranormal World Sees the Passing of a Legend, Brad Steiger

1

Screen Shot 2018-05-15 at 11.26.55 AMI first discovered Brad Steiger and his amazing books when I heard him on a paranormal podcast that I listen to rather regularly. He was chatting about a variety of topics including, vampires, parasite spirits, and aliens. I was very happy to find that he has over one hundred books, yes you read that right 1-0-0, on various paranormal topics. A few of his tomes are in my reference library of the strange and terrifying. The book “Real Vampires, Night Stalkers, and Creatures from the Dark Side” has so many bookmarks in it you’d think it was a favorite cookbook! He wrote many of the books with his wife, Sherry Hansen Steiger, and his work also includes tales of animal miracles, angels, and Atlantis. Check out his Amazon Author page to learn more.

Sadly, he passed away May 6, 2018, at the age of 82.

Thank you for your gentle wisdom and willingness to share what you learned and believed. Good journey Mr. Steiger.

Meet Nate Camden From my Novel DREAD

nate.jpgI’ve done a few author interviews for book blogs and such, but never has someone asked to interview one of my characters, until now! Author and blogger R.J. Davies asked just that and I think it is probably the coolest interview I have ever done!

I didn’t realize how much I missed the main character of DREAD, Nate Camden, until he started answering the interview questions. The photo to the left is an image I used to help me create his character(unable to find photographer or model credit other than it first appeared on the internet in 2009). Check out the interview here:  http://rjdavies.tumblr.com/post/172642019516/interview-with-protagonist-nate-camden-from-joy

Then check out DREAD to get the rest of Nate’s story. Until next time, Never Turn Off the Lights!Screen Shot 2018-04-07 at 12.38.00 PM

Women in Horror Month a Peek Behind the Pages: Women Who Create Nightmares, Final Thoughts

I hope you have enjoyed meeting some female horror writers and I hope you will check out their work. To wrap up Women in Horror Month, I’ll leave you with a few thoughts of my own.

Thank goodness I write better than I speak! Until next time, Never Turn Off the Lights!