GUEST BOOK REVIEW by C.R. Richards: Inside & Midnight Screams

Two Frightfully Fun Books Written by Women

Crisp wind dances through the falling leaves, sending a blanket of burnt-orange and yellow across the damp ground. I shiver, my gaze drifting along the landscape. Pumpkins smile an ominous warning from their sentry post beside the front door. I catch the distinct aroma of cinnamon and cloves in the air. Someone is baking. I quicken my pace as thoughts of hot tea, and pumpkin cookies make my mouth water.

A warm glow beckons me. Home. Smiling down at my furry walking companion, I climb the stoop and open our front door. My cozy reading chair waits inside. I run anxious fingers longingly across the small stack of books resting upon a table beside the armrest. I’ve been looking forward to my evening read all day.

Hot tea at the ready, I sit down in my chair and scan the scary books on my Halloween Reading List. Will it be The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson? Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, perhaps? No. I want to begin my Spooky Season reading with two new favorites, written within the last decade by talented women authors.

Inside
By: D.M. Siciliano

Genre: Horror, Ghosts
Publisher: Parliament House Press
Publication Date: October 2019
Pages: 354

1987 “Does it burn in the dark?”

Reid is a bully, but he’s still Alex’s best friend. When Reid pushes Alex and their friends into invading a historically haunted Massachusetts house, Alex knows it’s a terrible idea, but indulges his friend. What could go wrong?

Inside, a mysterious Shadow looms in the darkness. The door to the house vanishes, leaving them trapped. The group flees through the tiny, one-roomed house that defies logic, constantly shifting, presenting them with new doors, hallways, and rooms that seem to be plucked from their memories and fears. One by one, the Shadow hunts them, intent on burning them all from within.

Is there any way to escape? Or will they be burned from the inside out?


C.R. Richard’s Review:

It’s 1987. Five teens dare each other to go inside a haunted house in the middle of the Massachusetts woods. What could go wrong?

The one-story house waits in the wood as it has done for centuries. Locals know it by reputation as being haunted, so naturally, a group of friends go inside to explore. Reid, their leader, is a bully and enjoys asserting his dominance on the group. Not wanting to be a victim of his best friend’s teasing, Alex agrees to go inside with the rest of the group. But the friends soon find the house has deadly games of its own to play. Portals and constantly changing rooms keep the characters and readers guessing.

Time and space are fluid in this house of horrors. What seems like a simple shack in the woods turns into an evil predator with a wicked taste for psychological cruelty. I was both fascinated and terrified by the story’s concept. Warning. This is NOT a lightweight read. The emotional torment of the characters can be draining. We, as readers, become emotionally invested in their well-being.

Author D.M. Siciliano is a modern-day master. Expertly layering emotional torment with threats to the physical, the author guides her readers through the terrifying paradox that is the single-level house.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Pumpkins!

Banshee 1:
Midnight Screams
By: Sara Clancy

Genre: Horror
Publisher: Scare Street
Publication Date: May 2017
Pages: 144

When Benton dreams, people die…

Every time Benton sleeps, he becomes a trapped passenger within a murderer’s skin; able to hear, see, and feel every part of their kill. When he wakes up, he knows it’s only a matter of time before his dreams become reality. No matter how hard he tries to stop the murders, it always ends the same way – with death.

After ten years of constantly relocating, his parents have decided to settle in Fort Wayward. A quiet Albertan town where Benton could focus on graduating high school and living an idyllic teenage life. That is, until he finds a dead body in his backyard.

Benton’s hopes for normalcy come crashing down as something new begins stalking his dreams. Something that’s not human. And, for the first time, he’s not the only one watching.

As his dreams and reality collide, Benton finds himself facing a monster beyond his understanding. In his fight for survival, Benton soon discovers why death follows him, why monsters draw close, and why he always wakes up screaming.


C.R. Richard’s Review:

Nightmares are terrifying. Trapped inside the deepest realm of our psyche, we are helpless against the brutal torture exacted by our subconscious. Escape comes with the aid of a clamoring alarm clock or an unexpected nudge toward reality. Sweating and afraid, we laugh with a heavy sigh of relief. It was only a dream!

Imagine if the dreamscape won’t let go. Something imprisons Benton, forcing him to witness horrific scenes of violence as if he were the one committing the atrocities. Each night he sees a new murder and experiences it through the killer’s eyes. He wakes, knowing the killings will soon become a reality.

Author Sara Clancy draws us into the troubled life of Benton, the high schooler who is desperate to live a normal life. Clancy has created a sympathetic and interesting character. Being the new kid in high school is awkward enough, but throw in visions of murders, and you have the perfect setup for horror. The author adds ‘literary salt’ to Benton’s wounds as she expertly builds the tension between him and his anxious parents.
Midnight Screams is a wonderful mix of heart-stopping horror and crushing emotional angst.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Pumpkins!

Still Hungry for Horror? Check out The Horror Writers Association for more hauntingly good stories.


Boo-graphy:
C. R. Richards is the award-winning author of The Mutant Casebook Series. A lover of horror and dark fantasy stories, she enjoys telling tales of intrigue and adventure. Her most recent literary projects include the epic dark fantasy series Heart of The Warrior and the novel-length dark fantasy thriller, Pariah. She is an affiliate member of the Horror Writers Association.

Look for her paranormal dark fantasy project, The Vengeful Dead, coming in 2022.

For more information on the author’s books and upcoming events, please visit her website or social media:

Author Website
Blog: Deep Thoughts & Junk
Facebook Author Page
Amazon Author Page
Goodreads
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Halloween Extravaganza: C.R. Richards: My Most Bone-Chilling Halloween Adventure Yet

Spooky adventures are a must in October. I want to be scared during the spooky season, so as soon as I feel the chill of Fall in the air, I’m looking for scary fun. Forget haunted houses and corn mazes. Halloween is the perfect time for Ghost Tours.

I love paranormal adventures. Booking a ghost tour or hunt is part of my itinerary when visiting a new city. I’ve roamed the cobblestone streets of Alexandria, Virginia in hopes of catching a glimpse of some revolutionary war era residents. And I’ve wandered the suffocating graveyards in the August heat of New Orleans. The gardens of the Alamo in San Antonio subdued my mood as I searched for the ghostly defenders still wandering the grounds and hotels close by. None of these experiences, however, rattled me like the tour I took in my own hometown.

Denver Botanic Garden’s Colorful Past

Denver Botanic Gardens has two spectacular locations: Cheesman Park Neighborhood close to historic Downtown Denver and a newer garden in Littleton, Colorado located near Chatfield State Park. It is the 23-acre park located on York Street in Denver that draws the ghost loving crowd like me. The grounds of garden and its surrounding neighborhood don’t always fall into a peaceful sleep at night. Restless spirits roam among the moonlit trees or cause quiet mischief within the historic buildings located about the grounds. Why? What caused these souls to leave the peace of a long-forgotten grave?

The lush gardens and surrounding parks were once the site of Mount Prospect Cemetery. Denver Botanic Gardens and Cheesman Park were built on a cemetery. In the late 1890s, Congress approved a new park system to be developed on the site. There was a little matter of 5000 graves. They had to be moved before the run-down cemetery could be transformed. Denver gave the families of the deceased buried in Mount Prospect 90 days to move their loved ones. Several years passed, and only 700 graves had been moved.

Enter infamous undertaker, E.P. McGovern. The city paid McGovern $1.90 per coffin to respectfully move the graves, but greed knows no shame. McGovern hatched a scheme to make more money. He dismembered the bodies and scattered them into multiple coffins to make more money. City officials discovered the plot after McGovern had removed a fraction of the graves (roughly 1000 of the 5000 entombed there). Rather than continuing on with another contractor, the city simply pulled the remaining headstones and began building Cheesman Park and Denver Botanic Gardens. Officials estimate about 3000 graves remained. Bodies have continued to be found as late as 2010.

The disrespect of the dead has caused stirrings in the paranormal realm.

Ghosts in The Gardens

The York Street Gardens decided to embrace rumors of ghostly night strollers. They offer very limited Ghost Tours over two weekends in October. It took me several years to score tickets (Yes. The Tours are that popular). It was worth the wait.

Our tour guide was a former York Street Security Guard who’d seen his share of unexplained things happening after the gates shut at night. He led us through places in the garden’s buildings and conservatories that guest usually don’t see. Each spot we stopped had its own story of unexplained events. We passed broken elevator doors said to open on their own. Phantom workers haunted the greenhouse, still taking care of the plants.

Out in the gardens under the stars, we walked along paths lined with beautiful foliage I’d marveled at for years. Then I discovered a popular and well-traveled path was once the primary road workers used to cart the dead for burial. And the underground parking garage’s – which has always given me the creeps – construction had been halted because they found unmarked graves which had to be moved.

I’ll never look at the gardens the same again. Tales of the “Pest House” where sick people were left to die and the Robert C. Campbell House, however, put the biggest fright into me. I felt the heavy shadow of the sinister as soon as I stepped inside. Our guide seemed nervous as he told us some of the strange things that happened inside the house at night.

I don’t want to tell you too much, because part of the tour’s fun is the surprise of finding things out while you’re there…in the dark. Sometimes the scariest adventures are the ones we have in our own backyard.

C.R. Richards’ literary career began when she interned as a part-time columnist for a small entertainment newspaper. She wore several hats: food critic, entertainment reviewer, and cranky editor. A co-author of horror and urban fantasy novels, her first solo fiction project – The Mutant Casebook Series – was published by Whiskey Creek Press in 2013. Phantom Harvest (Book One in the series) is the winner of the 2014 EPIC eBook Awards for Fantasy Fiction. Cynthia is an active member of the Horror Writers Association, EPIC, and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. For more information about her books, visit her website.

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Heart of the Warrior 1: The Lords of Valdeon

A new series from award winning Author, C.R. Richards: The epic tale of two men begins. The first – a man of honor trying desperately to turn his country from civil war. The other – a boy struggling to discover his destiny before agents of evil find him first.

Coveted by two ancient enemies of a long forgotten age, the continent of Andara holds the key to victory in an endless struggle for dominance. Eight hundred years have passed since the god-like Jalora struck a bargain with the first King of Valdeon. The Lion Ring, symbol of the covenant and conduit of power, gives its bearer incredible abilities. The ring’s borrowed magic protects the people of Andara from covetous evil, but there is a price. As with most predators, the Lion Ring must feed. Only the blood of the D’Antoiné family line will satisfy its hunger.

A rival for Andara’s treasures, the Sarcion has waited impatiently for its time upon the land. Whispers of treason in the right ear aid its treachery. The King of Valdeon mysteriously disappears, leaving his lands in danger of a civil war by the hand of a murderous usurper. His Lion Ring is lost and the covenant is broken. The Jalora’s power begins to seep away from the land. Evil’s foot hold grows stronger. Can the Lords of Valdeon, Sacred Guard of the covenant, stop the tides of war? Or will Andara fall into chaos? The future rests in the blood of a boy…

Heart of the Warrior 2: The Obsidian Gates

A new series from award winning Author, C.R. Richards: The epic tale continues. A new covenant has been forged in the chaos of war. Its price is nothing less than the Bearer of the Lion Ring’s soul.

The rivalry for dominance over the continent of Andara has taken a dark turn. Eternal enemies – the Jalora and the Sarcion – pit their forces against one another in bloody battle. Good weakens, betrayed by the very humans it has sworn to protect. Valdeon, its stronghold on Andara, falls to sword and flame. The fires of its destruction are set alight by barbaric invaders from across the sea. Their brutal hand conquers the land in a night, exiling the Lords of Valdeon – Sacred Guard of the Covenant. Cut off from the center of their power, the Jalora’s greatest heroes are helpless to defend their homeland. 

Hope still lingers. Seth D’Antoiné, Bearer of the Lion Ring, journeys to the great Obsidian Citadel seeking a magical relic, the Book of Ancients. Its power could hold the key to Andara’s defense. He alone can open its pages, sparking the magic into life and restoring the Jalora’s waning power. Finding the book won’t be easy. Elusive Obsidian Gates – appearing and then vanishing again by their own will – keep the secret of the book’s location well hidden.

In the depths of the mountain fortress, he finds treachery and intrigue hiding within its walls. Can Seth open the Book of Ancients before the Sarcion’s men find him? Or will the power of Good leave the land forever? Andara’s future awaits behind the Obsidian Gates…

Heart of the Warrior 3: Creed of the Guardian

Protect the Innocent. Punish the Guilty.

Seth the Ice Lion, now an Apprentice in the Jalora Legion, reluctantly travels aboard ship with his new battalion. Western Beta’s mission seems a dull assignment. Guarding miles of bogs and old ruins should be a simple task, but Seth soon learns nothing is easy for the Bearer of the Lion Ring. The Jalora is the embodiment of Good and the source of Seth’s power. It commands he search North Marsh for a relic capable of saving his homeland from the ravenous appetite of the Jackal invaders. Surrounded by deadly bogs and savage beasts, he must find the relic before the Lion Spirit inside of him takes control of their shared body.

Invaders from across the sea hold a firm grip on Valdeon, but their thirst for blood remains unsated. They lust for the riches of Andara. Using fear and greed as weapons, the Jackal enlist aid from the continent’s unscrupulous mercenaries to prepare for a larger invasion. They build a stronghold – Stone Fang Fortress – in the Bloodtooth Mountains of the north. It is here they prepare to conquer the free world.

Will Seth find this powerful relic before the Jackal swarm invades Andara? Or will his people be enslaved under the iron fist of the Jackal Lord? Seth’s answers hide in the deadly bogs of North Marsh…