A Million Biting, Stinging Deaths…

*Possible Book Spoilers Ahead* (book links at the bottom of the post)

Before I started reading this anthology, I erroneously equated Crypt Gnats: Horror You’ve Been Itching to Read with delightfully gruesome (and ravenous) killer insects. Yes, I know I was quite wrong in my conclusions. Instead, these horror stories were dug up out of the the graves of the authors’ imaginations. But they were no less gruesomely delightful.

Emphasis on “grue”. As in Dan Lee’s story “The Grue,” which opens with the my-generation-nostalgic first line “You are likely to be eaten.” (If you have to ask…*shakes head*)

Crypt Gnats brought me back to a a simpler time, all the way back to magic nights of blood-thick Jagermeister and clove cigarettes and we all “looked good in ribbons”. Nights where we were immortal and painfully mortal all at once. And we thought the night would never end. We thought we would always be safe in the dark.

But it did end, for some of us permanently, and maybe it ended for the ones left behind to grow old, and alone, and stripped of that immortal magic we once held in our black-hued hearts.

And that’s what seeps out of the pages of Crypt Gnats, as oozily as a graveyard fog. Every reader reads with different eyes, and mine read the heartbreak (Art Lasky’s stories get me every time), the futility of the human condition, and that death always comes with a twist. Even if death is the means we come to life, as related in Ben Fitts’ “Born in a Casket. Or death as a means of liberation, as revealed in Beverly T. Haaf’s “The Saint”.

But, lastly, Crypt Gnats reminds the reader to not tempt fate. Because the dead are lonely, too.

If, though, you’ve finished reading Crypt Gnats, and still want to have a dance or two with death (or more!), pick up a copy of Choose Your Own Death–an interactive horror zine by Ben Fitts. The reader may not be “eaten by a grue” but, rest assured, death is imminent no matter what choice you make. Speaking of nostalgia, remember those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books from the 80s? This is like that, except for grownups. Or weird kids like me that read Clive Barker and V.C. Andrews at a very young age.

It will definitely provide you with a macabre laugh or two, to take your mind off the fact that you didn’t die before thirty like you were supposed to, and spend all your time wandering around saying to yourself “What the f**k do I do now?”

Oh, and if you want to continue on this morbid-yet-humorous literary path down memory lane, pick up one, or more, copies of Ben Fitts’ Rock N’ Roll Horror Zine. (I just finished reading Issue #6).

Because, you know, we were never as cool as we thought we were. But we were cooler than a band that performed at a Tampa nightclub in the 1990s, led by some singer who called himself Marilyn Manson. Right?

Crypt Gnats: Horror You’ve Been Itching to Read: https://bookshop.org/books/crypt-gnats-horror-you-ve-been-itching-to-read/9781948899055

Check out Ben Fitts’ Rock N’ Roll Horror Zines (and more!) over at his website: https://therocknrollhorrorzine.blogspot.com/.

I’ll be reading his My Birth and Other Regrets soon. Or digging out my fishnet gloves and flailing, I mean, dancing, around my living room.

Because I’m THAT cool.

“Five Things Friday” Interview with Author Angelique Fawns! #WIHM

 

afawns
https://www.instagram.com/angeliqueiswriting

Willow Croft: I’ll start off with a question that probably plagues many of us writers out there—time management! How do you balance life on a working farm (not to mention parenting!) with writing and your day job?

Angelique Fawns: Balance? What balance? If I am into a writing project, it’s like a mania grips my life. Eighteen hour days, seven days a week, until the story or book is finished. I get up early, write until I have to do my day job, then get right back to it after I’m done cutting TV promos. I only stop when my neck and back get so sore, I have to quit. Then I lay awake obsessing about the next words….

The dust bunnies grow to monster size under my furniture, my husband scowls until he has to make dinner, and my daughter takes over the farm chores.

Willow Croft: Your topics for writing speculative fiction, et al, seem to be pretty diverse—what’s your favourite source of inspiration(s) and is there an overarching theme to your written works? How do you tailor your writing space to nurture your creative writing?

Angelique Fawns: The majority of my stories will have either animals or farm life flavouring the piece. Readers are touched by authenticity, so the old adage “write what you know” is solid advice. I’ve been working as a freelance journalist–writing equine and farm stories–for years. Those stories seem to be what “other” people want me to write, and the weird speculative stuff is mainly for entertaining myself. My current strategy is to take what I have a lot of experience with–reporting, interviewing, journalism–and combine it with my true passion; writing the tales that lurk in my subconscious. Hopefully I am creating a hybrid product that is unique and helpful.

I really don’t have a “nurturing” writing space. I write everywhere, every chance I can get. Before Covid, I used to love tucking myself into a corner of a pub and type for hours. The background noise is brilliant, no one bothers me, plus I can sip on a glass of chardonnay. Heaven.

Willow Croft: Here’s the food-based question I always try to include! I imagine, perhaps romantically as an urban-raised individual, that life on a farm offers some exciting meal opportunities/food-based pathways. What culinary adventures do you/your family embark on?

Angelique Fawns: We aren’t really “foodies”, and I suffer from the omnivore’s dilemma. I am an animal lover, and have many pets. Some of our beef cattle often become lifers. (I name them. We have some REALLY old cows on our farm.) I also keep freeloading chickens that don’t lay eggs, retired horses that can’t be ridden, and barn cats that live in the house and refuse to catch mice. That being said, I am not a vegetarian. I do eat what we grow, but I make sure they have a quality ethical life. We raise free-range meat birds on grass, and they live far longer than conventional chickens. “They only have one bad day.”

Willow Croft: If you time-travelled into the future, how would the world, or worlds, look like? How would you wish the world would have changed by then?

Angelique Fawns: I would love to see a world where humans live in eco-sustainable tree houses with carbon neutral power sources. Animals would reclaim the sea and land and we would live in harmony with them. Pollution, extinction, and war would no longer exist. Other planets would be discovered and peacefully colonized. Now there’s a fantastic (if unrealistic) vision for a future…

Willow Croft: What creepy monster would you want to have as a pet? Alternatively, what sort of paranormal entity would you want to share your livespace with? If you already have a supernatural entity sharing your livespace, or a creepy monster haunting your landscape, tell us all about it!

Angelique Fawns: Well, there are those monstrous dust bunnies… How about a real life creepy monster? I recently lost my llama (to old age). Coco was the most ferocious creature I’ve ever lived with. She had huge long teeth, and sharp talons on her hooves. Llamas are the best guardians for other livestock. If a coyote threatens, they will rip them open with their teeth, and slash them with those hooves. She would bugle like a motorcycle revving if she saw any suspicious animal at the far end of the field. We had ZERO livestock loss when she was alive. Now I’ve lost quite a few chickens, and predators are getting precariously close to the house.

I also believe in ghosts. They lurk everywhere…

 

Find ghosts, animals, and more on Angelique Fawns’ website, and around the web!

Author Website: www.fawns.ca and www.fawns.ca/farm

 

Check out her great guides for submitting stories (and spooky places to submit them) here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08QDX1PD6
 
 

Throwback Thursday’s Book Review: The Wreck of the Mary Deare by Hammond Innes

Throwback Thursday’s Book Review: The Wreck of the Mary Deare by Hammond Innes (published 1956)

I’ll read just about anything, so I’ll still plow through older books resolutely, even if they are a little more on the archaic side, unless they are so dated (*cough* sexist) that it’s hard to even read, much less finish.

*spoilers ahead*

To my surprise, The Wreck of the Mary Deare was a fantastic read. A little tropish characterization with at least one of the women in the story, but not anywhere close to as bad as my own bias led me to suspect. Probably better than some films and books we have even today.

In general, the author was fairly balanced with his depiction of women for the time in which the book was written. One of the directors of the shipping/trading company was a woman (if I’m remembering my history correctly, not so unusual), and she was called as an “important witness” to give expert testimony in the book’s pivotal court case. Of course, (or, even better!) she was not only knowledgeable and informed, but also devious and corrupt, and was an active agent in the company’s scheme to commit insurance fraud.

The book was just so well put together with its writing style that it holds its appeal even in 2021 (almost seventy years later). It’s exciting, suspenseful, and even spooky at times in its imagery and set-up to the climatic events of the book. It reads like a true-life adventure, but I didn’t realise until after I finished the book as to why–it had to have been based on the real-life events surrounding the Mary Celeste and her mysterious fate. (The Wreck of the Mary Deare was also made into a movie.)

My favourite line from the book? I’m glad you asked!

“He was a seaman. He was used to boats, not to the sea itself as an element in which to exist…”

And the ending is very…satisfactory!

1247535

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1247535.The_Wreck_Of_The_Mary_Deare

A Tide’s Breath Apart

…it’s a day of hauntings and heartbreak and loss, and maybe just missing things that you never had (but were close enough to hold on and never let go)…

…the theme of the poems I’ve been reading on people’s blogs seem to reflect this ‘strange day’ mood…

https://handsinthegarden.com/2020/11/29/2020-11-29-baked-with-love/

https://handsinthegarden.com/2020/11/29/2020-11-28-deep-love-sounds/

https://mtaggartwriter.wordpress.com/2020/11/29/poem-prosblackandwhitephoto/

https://theconfessionalistzine.wordpress.com/2020/11/25/2-poems-by-mark-tulin/

https://poeeternal.com/2020/11/29/leadnotflower/

https://punknoirmagazine.com/2020/11/29/a-strange-night-by-ian-lewis-copestick/

Here’s my ‘strange day’ experience…a kinda, sorta teasing visit from my cherished muse…

A Tide’s Breath Apart

I slept the sleep of the dead
if the dead dreamed
during their thick & heavy sleep
I dreamed
not exactly of you
but waiting for you
knowing even in the dream
that you weren’t coming
even though I knew you were
only separated from me by
a sparrow’s breath
a ripple on the tide of time
I can’t cross
except in dreams
except in this dream
where the meadow holds us close
together
and where
I’m reminded of your last
might-have-been look
before you walked away.
You, grey, clear, and so delicate;
a strand of grass, clinging
to its coat of winter frost.
I hold you close
and not at all delicately
but only in my dream.

–Willow Croft

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author G G Collins

Five Things Friday Interview with Mystery Author G G Collins!

Willow: Here in New Mexico, there’s a lot of spooky local lore. What local mysteries intrigue you and/or keep you up at night?  

 G G Collins: The whole city and environs seem to be occupied by spirits and there are multiple ghost tours to enjoy. The nastiest haunting may be the most recent. The worst prison riot in U.S. history took place south of Santa Fe at the Penitentiary of New Mexico (February 1980). For two days the killing and horrors continued. Thirty-three inmates were killed and 200 were injured. It is now an abandoned site used mainly for storing movie props and filming scenes. But in 1981 reports of strange noises and shadowy specters began. Corrections officers saw human-shaped shadows and heard cell doors banging. Once the prison was vacant, paranormal investigators continued to hear doors slamming long after electricity was shut off. It’s not easy to close them manually, but yet, that’s what they heard. Cell Blocks 3 and 4 are particularly haunted. So much so, the Travel Channel’s “Dead Files” featured it in a 2012 show.  

On a slightly lighter side is the story of Julia Staab who haunts La Posada de Santa Fe (https://www.laposadadesantafe.com/). Originally the Staab home, it is currently a six-acre hotel with casitas. When Julia lost her seventh child and several other attempts at having a child failed, she took to her room where her hair turned white. At age 52 she died. Guests and staff have seen her [ghost] in the main house. A few checked out early!  

For more on the many ghost stories of Santa Fe check out my blog post: https://reluctantmediumatlarge.wordpress.com/2018/08/13/ghost-stories-in-santa-fe-new-mexico/

Willow: New Mexico is, of course, inextricably linked to Roswell (technically, Corona) and the 1947 UFO crash. So, in light of that history, are you a “I-want-to-believe” Mulder, or a “that-is-science-fiction” Scully in regards to UFO phenomenon?  

G G Collins: At one time I owned the “I Want to Believe” poster. As an avid viewer of “The X-Files,” I was fascinated by the many possibilities. Roswell and Area 51 are rich stuff for us storytellers. “The Blue Book” TV series was another favorite. But I started young watching “Twilight Zone” reruns.  

In the documentary movie entitled The Farthest, which I highly recommend, we see the tiny blue dot that is Earth in the photo Carl Sagan insisted they take. It emphasizes in a big way how immense the universe is. I can’t make a flat-footed statement to the effect no one exists but us. And since I’ve been known to include an alien or two in my Rachel Blackstone Paranormal Mystery series, I’ll just have to go with Mulder on this one. After all, the truth is out there.

For my review of The Farthesthttps://paralleluniverseatlarge.wordpress.com/2017/08/27/review-the-farthest/

Willow: If a time warp opened, as you mentioned occurs in your Atomic Medium book, and you went through it, where (and when) would you hope to end up, and why?

G G Collins: It would have to be Lemuria, which I wrote about in Lemurian Medium. In my research, I learned due to modern knowledge of plate tectonics it likely didn’t exist. But to even imagine a time when people lived in peace while occupying crystal houses is irresistible to me. Certainly, I would be a regular at the Temple of Knowledge studying my Akashic Record. It was a time before water had to have chemicals added to make it potable and you could taste food in its original form. Communication wasn’t by cell, but by crystal. Of course, in my story Rachel Blackstone flew on a dragon and I would definitely want to do that.  And, on her return trip to Earth, Rachel Blackstone stumbled onto a cosmic cocktail party where all kinds of interesting alien life were sharing stories. Among them were Carl Sagan and Benjamin Franklin who both believed that alien life could exist. Now that’s a party on the astral plane I would go to!  

Willow: In similarity to Taylor Browning, the protagonist of your cozy mystery series, what pet “runs the tight ship” of your household/life?

G G Collins: Oscar, the cat in the Taylor Browning Cozy Mysteries, is based on one of our cats in spirit. My deceased pets frequently turn up in my books. Oscar was indeed an Abyssinian. They are very loving, but oh so active! He had a way of communicating that was so clear—if we were listening. And that cat could swear! Only in “Cat” of course. Currently, we have Coco Pod, Coco being the Spanish word for coconut. She is very well-mannered, but expectations are such that we have been thoroughly trained to care for her every need and whim. It’s just gossip, but we’ve heard she makes trips to the Mothership to sharpen her communication skills with hoomanz.

Willow: And, finally (because you know, New Mexico!), red, green, Christmas chile or *gasp* none at all?  

G G Collins: Indeed, the Land of Enchantment has azure skies, adobe architecture and chile! Green, red or Christmas, as long there are several heaping ladles of the heavenly stuff on whatever (almost) I’m eating. My husband says I can eat flame.   

G G Collins’ Rachel Blackstone Paranormal Mystery series features journalist Rachel who flubs a Hopi ritual to return the dead. Instead of her father, an evil spirit appeared. Worse? Rachel seems to have abilities she’s never experienced before. She and best friend Chloe work together to solve whatever supernatural challenges come at them, although Rachel remains the Reluctant Medium.

Also by G G Collins, the Taylor Browning Cozy Mysteries follows a mystery editor at a Santa Fe book publisher. A young widow whose job editing mysteries leads to snooping. Her coworkers at Piñon Publishing wish she’d just stay in the office, but alas, investigating crime is too tempting. One thing is certain; she can’t edit her way out of real murder.  

G G Collins has also published two young adult fiction books: Flying Change–a story about courage and a young equestrian. and Without Notice–a story of a young girl who is grappling with the death of her mother and her father’s new girlfriend.  

 Find G G Collins’ books at: https://amzn.to/3iZ92dp

Read more at G G Collins‘ book blog, here: https://reluctantmediumatlarge.wordpress.com/ and check out Collins’ review blog: https://paralleluniverseatlarge.wordpress.com/

Follow on G G Collins on Twitter: https://twitter.com/GGCollinsWriter

Seeking Inspiration from Spirits: Guest Blog Post by Author J.H. Moncrieff

I hear dead people.

Not all the time, of course—that would be enough to drive one mad. But whenever I have encountered a ghost, it’s always been heard rather than seen.

When I was a teenager, I borrowed a Ouija board from a friend. At first, I carefully followed all the rules: I never used it alone; I made sure to move the planchette to Goodbye before taking my hands off it, etc. But the darn thing never worked.

One night I fell asleep with the Ouija at the end of my bed. I was in a deep sleep when a loud knocking sound woke me up. Groggily, I realized the sound was coming from the Ouija, but I was too out of it to process what that meant. Instead, I grabbed the board and threw it in a dresser drawer.

Before I could get back to sleep, loud knocking sounds started coming from inside the dresser. At this point, I was really annoyed, and yelled a few choice words at it. The knocking stopped, and I fell asleep.

In the morning, once it dawned on me what had happened, I returned the Ouija board to my friend.

 

JH bio photo (1)
Who is this haunting lady in red? (Photo: 2019 Copyright of J.H. Moncrieff)

Growing up, I had a very close friend. Let’s call her Morgan. We definitely had our run-ins, as we were both willful, opinionated girls, but we also had a special connection. She was one of my dearest friends from the age of seven, when we met, to the age of seventeen, when she died in a horrible car accident.

I don’t think you’re ever prepared to lose your best friend, and certainly not at that age. To say I was devastated would be a massive understatement.

Soon after her death, there were plenty of signs that my friend’s spirit was still around, but they could all be dismissed as a coincidence or accident. Her portrait fell over during her funeral, right on her casket. The area around her grave was mysteriously warm, even in the dead of winter, with a wind howling and no shelter in the entire cemetery. Sometimes I’d be walking down the hall at school and hear someone call my name, but when I turned, no one was there. And that’s when I’d recognize the voice.

Mysterious Woman in the Mist

When I moved away, Morgan really made her presence known. It was my first year away from home. I was living hundreds of miles away from my family and friends in a shitty little apartment in yet another isolated northern community. For some reason, even though Morgan had never been to this place, I felt her around me all the time.
One day I found a mix tape that she’d started making but had never gotten the chance to finish. I was alone in the apartment, cleaning up the kitchen, so I put the tape into my boyfriend’s stereo.

The tape played just fine until it got to my friend’s favorite song. When it got to the end of the song–which was in the middle of the tape–the stereo suddenly auto-reversed, and played a song on the opposite side. It then auto-reversed again.

It was at the beginning of her favorite song once more.
I froze.

I said her name, very tentatively, my heart beating a million miles a minute. “Morgan?”
My kitchen cupboards went nuts. It sounded like someone was knocking on each one very hard with a fist. The knocks went down the row of cupboards and then started coming toward me again.
I ran to my bedroom, threw myself face down on the bed, and yelled something along the lines of:

“No, Morgan, go away! I’m not ready for this!”

The knocking stopped.

I’ve never felt my friend’s presence again.

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J.H. Moncrieff’s visit to Poveglia (Photo: 2019 Copyright of J.H. Moncrieff)

When visiting Poveglia, the world’s most haunted island, I was standing in the abandoned asylum with only a few minutes left when I felt brave enough to speak.

“Hello?” I said, stupidly, before remembering I was addressing Italian-speaking phantoms.

As soon as I repeated the greeting in Italian, there was a noise from the next room. Was it something falling or shifting? The building settling?

Or was the soft-yet-deliberate thud someone’s attempt to communicate?

I’m not sure, but I do know I convinced myself that spending the last ten minutes outside on the shore was a fantastic idea.

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The natural decay of an old building, or someone trying communicate? (Poveglia Photo: 2019 Copyright of J.H. Moncrieff)

When I moved into my hundred-year-old house, I put a collar with a bell on my anxiety-ridden cat to ensure I could find her if she went into hiding. The collar didn’t last long, and soon I found it on the floor upstairs. Exhausted from unpacking, I left it there. One evening, while I was downstairs watching TV with the kitties, that bell rang, clear as day. We all heard it. And that’s not the only strange noise that occurs in this house, either. For years, every night right after I went to bed, the front door would make a strange clunking noise—the best way I could describe it is as if the cylinders of an ancient lock were sliding into place, but I have a modern door. People have waited up to hear the noise and see if they can find the cause of it, but none has ever been found.

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Is there ever a final resting place? (Poveglia Photo: 2019 Copyright of J.H. Moncrieff)

There are many more stories, but suffice it to say—for a writer of supernatural suspense, inspiration is everywhere.

Can you relate to any of these stories? 

–J.H. Moncrieff

 
J.H. Moncrieff’s new release, Forest of Ghosts, was inspired by her real-life experiences in Romania, including Hoia Baciu, the world’s most haunted forest.

J.H. loves to hear from readers. To get free ebooks and a new spooky story every week, check out her Hidden Library.

Connect with J.H.: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Read on for a spooky sample of Forest of Ghosts:

Jackson Stone is sick of ghosts. With his love life in shambles, he heads to Romania for a horror writers’ retreat, hoping it will be a break from the supernatural and breathing space from his relationship with medium Kate Carlsson.

But as his fellow writers begin disappearing or losing their minds, he realizes he needs Kate’s help. 

When Jackson loses his own memory, Kate’s love is the only thing that can bring him back. But she’s falling for the man responsible for the evil in Romania. A man who claims to be her soul mate. Will this master of wraiths forever break Kate’s bond with Jackson?

 

Intrigued yet? Purchase your copy today to uncover more about Kate and Jackson’s fate!

Mysterious Galaxy

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