AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Mark Cassell

Meghan: Hi, Mark! Welcome back and thank you for stopping by today. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Mark: Seeing how imaginative people are with costumes. I’m not talking about the shop bought ones. It’s those that’ve been homemade always catch my eye. You know, those that have been stitched together with love and attention.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Mark: It will always be carving pumpkins. It’s fun getting messy!

Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?

Mark: For me, it’s a good excuse to watch crappy horror movies. Sure, no matter the time of year we can do that, but Halloween comes along and all the streaming channels show many I’ve never seen before. So that’s always great.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Mark: Haha! Superstitions are an absolute waste of brainpower. I am in no way superstitious. Even as a kid, while my friend avoided stepping on cracks or walking under ladders, or even shriek when spotting a black cat, I’d happily run under the ladder and stroke the cat while standing on all the cracks.

Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?

Mark: Pinhead from Clive Barker’s The Hellbound Heart was always a favourite of mine, especially once the Hellraiser movies reinforced the mythos. Such a great premise too, and don’t get me started on Lemarchand’s puzzle box and the wonderful lament configuration.

Having said that, there is a close second and he’s from the movie, Sinister. The soundtrack composer, Christopher Young, did a fine job in hammering home how sinister the antagonist was. Bughuul is so damned menacing.

Those two villains, a hell priest and a pagan deity, would make an awesome duo. I’d pay to see, or read, that.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Mark: Well, you have me here. I have no idea. The horror that I write leans towards the supernatural rather than humankind’s real-life horrors.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Mark: Nothing scares me. Only heights, but that has nothing to do with Halloween. How about cats, though? Can I talk about cats?

I live in Hastings, East Sussex, England, that’s famous for its roots in history: the 1066 Battle of Hastings is the big one. Research for my novella, Hell Cat of the Holt, led me to learn that in the 19th century, two mummified cats were discovered in the chimney of the Stag Inn while under restoration.

These cats were apparently the familiars of a local 17th century witch. Friendlier than most witches of that time, Hannah Clarke was seen to help prevent the Spanish Armada reaching Hastings, often using her powers for the town’s protection. For whatever reasons, she moved on yet her familiars remained. Until the Great Plague hit.

Cats, rather than rats, were commonly assumed to be plague carriers and having been owned by a witch, this pair of animals were the first to succumb to accusations. For fear of any bad omen to befall the people by killing the cats, a decision was made to wall them in at the pub which led to their mummification.

This all was supposed to have happened. I swear the owners of the Stag Inn have always played on that story, and it’s just good marketing so they can sell more beer.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Mark: Again, because my horror doesn’t fall under the human hand category, I don’t believe I can name any serial killer and their kill numbers. Real life horror doesn’t fascinate me. I’m in it for the demons, devils, and spirits… The stuff that Halloween is truly made off!

Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? How old were you when you read your first horror book?

Mark: I remember watching Steven Spielberg’s Poltergeist at an early age and was absolutely mesmerised. The children, the parents, the haunting itself. Everything from that movie held me in awe.

As for a book? Just into my teens, I nabbed a novel from my dad’s horror shelf. It was undoubtedly the book that kicked my love for horror into overdrive: James Herbert’s fantastic The Magic Cottage.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Mark: I once read a book by Mark Morris. I think it was Toady, though I may be wrong. There was a scene of child abuse. That kind of shit unsettles me. It disgusts me. This is the horror I detest, in the knowledge that it actually happens in this world. Humans and their actions are the real horror, and it’s because of that I side-step it to delve into the darkness beyond our four walls of reality. Give me ghouls and ghosts any day.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Mark: I’m still waiting…

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume? (This could be from when you were a child or after you became an adult. Or maybe something you never dressed as but wish you had.)

Mark: I once made a Hellboy costume. I trawled charity shops for the perfect trench coat, and made the massive hand from foam out of our old sofa. I fashioned stubby horns and glued them onto a bald cap, and laboriously attached sections of a long black wig to it. All this took many, many hours on my days off work on approach to the big day. I even grew the appropriate facial hair and dyed it. Lots of spray paint and face paint later, I did it. I received a lot of attention that night.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Mark: Oh, it will always be Danny Elfman’s “This is Halloween” from the movie Nightmare Before Christmas.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?

Mark: Wow. That’s a question. I haven’t touched candy in years… Decades in fact! I used to love Drumsticks though, and absolutely hated anything liquorish.

Meghan: This has been great, Mark. As always. Before you go, what is your one go-to Halloween movie?

Mark: I will always rank Halloween 3: Season of the Witch as my favourite. I mean, seriously, that haunting theme tune and those masks! Love it.


Boo-graphy:
Mark Cassell lives on the south-east coast of the United Kingdom with his wife and plenty of animals. His jobs have included baker, lab technician, driving instructor, actor, and was once a spotlight operator for an Elvis impersonator. As the author of the best-selling Shadow Fabric mythos, he not only writes dark fantasy horror but also explores steampunk and sci-fi.

He has seen over fifty stories published in anthologies and zines, and remains humbled in the knowledge that his work shares pages with many of his literary heroes. The 2021 release of the short story collection SIX! from Red Cape Publishing shines a light on just how weird Mark can get. More can be found at his website.

Six
From Mark Cassell, author of the Shadow Fabric mythos, comes SIX! Featuring a variety of dark tales, from the sinister to the outright terrifying, this unique collection is a must for horror readers everywhere. Includes the stories Skin, All in the Eyes, In Loving Memory, The Space Between Spaces, On Set With North, and Don’t Swear in Mum’s House.

Monster Double Feature: River of Nine Tails & Reanimation Channel
From the author of the Shadow Fabric mythos comes Monster Double Feature, a 78-page chapbook featuring two stories – a duo of abominations.

A British traveller desperate to escape his past finds himself at the heart of a Vietnamese legend, and learns why the Mekong Delta is known as ‘River of Nine Tails’ (originally published in In Darkness, Delight: Creatures of the Night anthology by Corpus Press, 2019).

And a regular parcel collection from a neighbour becomes a descent into terror through the online game, ‘Reanimation Channel’, (originally published in The Black Room Manuscripts, Vol. 4 anthology by The Sinister Horror Company, 2018).

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: John Everson

Meghan: Hey, John! Welcome back to Meghan’s (Haunted) House of Books. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

John: The imagery! Halloween is when all of the gothic, spooky stuff comes out to play. Haunted houses, giant spiderwebs, eerie candlelight emanating from grotesquely carved pumpkins… I love it all. In Chicagoland, the weather turns from the fading light of summer to the crisp and bone-chilling cool breezes that signal the coming of winter, and the leaves that were so vibrantly red and orange just a couple weeks before litter the ground as brown, dried husks. Desiccated memories of the vibrance of summer. Halloween is the between time, the dying time between the days of warmth and sunlight and the frozen deathscape that freezes and kills the land in December and January. I can’t imagine Halloween in a warmer climate because the weather provides as much a part of the chill as the dying landscape and early nightfalls.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

John: My personal Halloween tradition is pretty standard — I watch horror movies. I do that year-round, of course, but I used to spend a whole weekend binging on horror movies leading up to Halloween, which was awesome. I’d get through a handful each day. I haven’t been able to wallow in the creepy crazy for that much dedicated time the past few years… but one of these days I’ll be able to do nothing but watch old Euro-horror movies for a solid weekend to celebrate Halloween again! And host the Halloween movie nights for friends that I used to before everyone’s lives got so crazy busy we couldn’t get them scheduled anymore!

Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?

John: I love everything spooky, supernatural and gothic, and Halloween is the one time of year that everyone in the world gives a nod to the creepy stuff that I love to see and talk about all year round. For a little while, everyone is into horror movies and lawns are decorated with all manner of “haunted house” style decorations. I love it.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

John: I don’t know that I’m really superstitious. But sometimes I do wonder if my pinball machines are possessed by a spirit who likes to taunt me. Anyone who knows me knows I love pinball almost as much as horror and music, and I own five classic machines in my basement that I play all the time. Some nights, particularly if I hit the restart button because I start a game with a bad ball and don’t feel like finishing the game with a handicap, it’s almost like the machine knows I’m “cheating” and starting over – and the next half dozen balls will all go straight down the middle or side with no chance for me to hit them with the flipper. It’s as if the game demon says “oh, you want a do-over do you? Take that. And that. And that. C’mon, can’t you handle it sucker?” It’s creepy when it feels like the game suddenly turns on you and consistently does unusual things with the ball.

Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?

John: The title character of The Living Dead Girl by French director Jean Rollin. She is both a horrific and pathetic character – a “zombie/ghoul” who slowly comes back from the dead and rebels against her blood-drinking nature and her best friend who feeds her with victims out of misguided love.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

John: I honestly couldn’t name one. I don’t ever read or watch anything about “true crime.”

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

John: Bloody Mary used to creep the hell out of me as a kid. Some people call her Mary Worth. The whole idea of going into a dark candlelit room, saying her name in the mirror multiple times and having her spirit come through the mirror in answer to potentially claw your eyes out… it’s such a perfect way to build dread. Kids do it on a dare, but all you need is just a hair of fear that the legend could be true and by the time you say Bloody Mary’s name the third time, your heart is racing.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

John: Again… don’t like true crime stuff, so none of them. I read “escapist” supernatural horror so that I don’t have to be faced with the real life monsters that walk the earth.

Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? How old were you when you read your first horror book?

John: Geez, I couldn’t answer that with any surety. I’ve watched the old black and white classic horrors since I can remember. We had WGN – Channel 9 TV in Chicago that used to play a Creature Features program on Friday or Saturday nights that I saw a lot while I was in grade school. I do remember being in probably 3rd or 4th grade and watching a PBS color production of Dracula that I really thought was great at the time. Loved the whole gothic setting with coffins and dusty castles. That probably set the stage for my love of Hammer Films later in life.

As far as first horror book… again, my memory just doesn’t go that far back! I remember reading ghost story books I bought from the Scholastic Book catalog in grade school and loving the spooky factor. And I remember buying a complete collection of Edgar Allan Poe’s fiction at a garage sale once and reading and re-reading that book (which is still on my shelf). Maybe one of the earliest printed impacts on me was a comic book that I bought in probably first or second grade. It might have been an Eerie Tales or something like that. I don’t really remember the stories, but I do know they stuck with me a long time and I still retain one image of a skeletal woman in a bridal headdress driving down the street at the end of one. Apparently whatever that twist was creeped me out enough to remember a snippet of that image almost 50 years later.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

John: Probably Clive Barker’s The Damnation Game. It was the first novel of his I read, and I read it during one of my first trips away from home alone when I was probably 22 – I’d flown to Memphis to spend a weekend with some other journalists on a “PR junket” hosted by the city. We went there to see Graceland and the Handy Blues awards and to generally get a 36-hour tour of the city to go home and write travel stories about how great Memphis was for our newspapers. I remember the first night I was in the hotel room alone, reading that novel and the scene about people being skinned alive and when I turned out the lights to go to sleep… I was severely creeped out!

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

John: I don’t know about “scarred” but Alien impacted me severely. The atmosphere, the slow brooding, building suspense, the wildly otherworldly and ominous spaceship architecture… it was a genius sci-fi horror film and has been in my top 5 horror and top 5 sci-fi movie lists since the day I first saw it. It’s an unsettling, scary and darkly beautiful film.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

John: I have never been a “dress up” person myself, but I do appreciate creative costumes and makeup. Always love good zombie, ghoul or witch makeup!

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

John: That one’s easy. “(Every Day is) Halloween” by Ministry. It’s an amazing track both for the Halloween theme and for synth pop. One of my favorite dance club tracks ever, bar none.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?

John: Best treat is definitely Almond Joy bars. Worst? Dental floss. (Assholes).

Meghan: Thanks for stopping by, John. It is ALWAYS a pleasure to have you visit. One more thing before you go: What are you top 10 go-to Halloween movies?

John: I am a huge movie buff, and literally own hundreds of horror and giallo DVDs and Blu-Rays. That makes it super hard to pick a top 5 or 10 or even 25… There are so many good ones. So… I’ve tried to note the movies that have really stuck with me the most across multiple genres of horror. Films that I’ve watched multiple times. There are dozens of films I could point to as “oh yeah, that’s a great one!” but here are films that really moved me. From the extreme horror of the French new wave in the 90s with High Tension and Martyrs to the claustrophobic indie horror of Cronenberg’s early Rabid and Shivers, I come back to these again and again. Though my main favorites tend to be older – ‘70s and ‘80s films are my jam. I’m not that much of a modern horror fan. My “Top 3” below are films that have all actually been my #1 at one time or another. I used to say Alien until the Suspiria 4K remaster happened a few years ago! And Jean Rollin’s sexy and horrible beautiful pathos of Living Dead Girl has occupied my #2 or #3 spot since I first saw it some 20 years ago:

Best Movies:
SuspiriaDario Argento (1977)
AlienRidley Scott (1979)
The Living Dead GirlJean Rollin (1982)
The BeyondLucio Fulci (1981)
The Night Evelyn Came Out of the GraveEmilio Miraglia (1971)
PhantasmDon Coscarelli (1979)
Night of the Living DeadGeorge Romero (1968)
RabidDavid Cronenberg (1977)
DagonStuart Gordon (2001)
MartyrsPascal Laugier (2008)

I have to give honorary mentions to horror-humor films which I think live in a class by themselves:
BeetlejuiceTim Burton (1988)
Shaun of the DeadEdgar Wright (2004)
Dead AlivePeter Jackson (1992)
Evil Dead IISam Raimi (1987)
ScreamWes Craven (1996)


Boo-graphy:
John Everson is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of the novels Covenant, Sacrifice, The 13th, Siren, and The Pumpkin Man, all released by Dorchester/Leisure Books in paperback. His sixth novel, NightWhere, was a 2012 Bram Stoker Award Finalist. Other novels include The Family Tree, Violet Eyes, Redemption, and The House By The Cemetery. His 11th novel, The Devil’s Equinox, was released by Flame Tree Press in June 2019. He is also the creator of the characters Danika and Mila Dubov, now seen on the new Netflix series V-Wars, based on the books and comics created and edited by Jonathan Maberry.

A wide selection of his short fiction has been collected in six short story collections – Sacrificing Virgins (Samhain Publishing, 2015), Deadly Nightlusts (Blasphemous Books, 2010), Creeptych (Delirium Books, 2010), Needles & Sins (Necro Books, 2007), Vigilantes of Love (Twilight Tales, 2003) and Cage of Bones & Other Deadly Obsessions (Delirium Books, 2000).

John is also the editor of the anthologies Sins of the Sirens (Dark Arts Books, 2008) and In Delirium II (Delirium Books, 2007) and co-editor of the Spooks! ghost story anthology (Twilight Tales, 2004). In 2006, he co-founded Dark Arts Books to produce trade paperback collections spotlighting the cutting edge work of some of the best authors working in short dark fantasy fiction today.

John shares a deep purple den in Naperville, Illinois with a cockatoo and cockatiel, a disparate collection of fake skulls, twisted skeletal fairies, Alan Clark illustrations and a large stuffed Eeyore. There’s also a mounted Chinese fowling spider named Stoker courtesy of fellow horror author Charlee Jacob, an ever-growing shelf of custom mix CDs and an acoustic guitar that he can’t really play but that his son likes to hear him beat on anyway. Sometimes his wife is surprised to find him shuffling through more public areas of the house, but it’s usually only to brew another cup of coffee. In order to avoid the onerous task of writing, he records pop-rock songs in a hidden home studio, experiments with the insatiable culinary joys of the jalapeno, designs book covers for a variety of small presses, loses hours in expanding an array of gardens and chases frequent excursions into the bizarre visual headspace of ’70s euro-horror DVDs with a shot of Makers Mark and a pint of Revolution Anti-Hero IPA.

Website

Voodoo Heart
When Detective Lawrence Ribaud wakes alone in a bloody bed with his wife missing, he knows this is more than just a mysterious case of murder. His wife is the latest victim in a string of bizarre disappearances. All across New Orleans, on one night each month, people are vanishing, leaving behind nothing but a pool of blood on the bedsheets… and an abandoned heart. Ribaud doesn’t believe in voodoo, but he soon finds himself moving through the underbelly of a secret society of snakes, sacrifices and obscene rituals in search of the mysterious Black Queen … and the curse of her Voodoo Heart.

The Devil’s Equinox
Austin secretly wishes his wife would drop dead. He even says so one boozy midnight at the bar to a sultry stranger with a mysterious tattoo. When his wife later introduces that stranger as Regina, their new neighbor, Austin hopes she will be a good influence on his wife. Instead, one night he comes home to find his wife dead. Soon he’s entranced with Regina, who introduces him to a strange world of bloodletting, rituals and magic. A world that puts everything he loves in peril. Can Austin save his daughter, and himself, before the planets align for the Devil’s Equinox?

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Kevin Lucia

Meghan: Hi, Kevin! Happy early Halloween! Thanks for stopping by today. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Kevin: Definitely the atmosphere. There’s something about September and October that I adore. The changing in the seasons and the leaves. The pleasant crisp air. I watch and read horror year round, of course (and write it!), but during the Halloween season, mystery hangs in the air. I know that sounds terribly dramatic, like I’m trying to channel Ray Bradbury, or something. Even so, it’s true. You feel like a kid again, when anything is possible.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Kevin: As a family, we always go and get pumpkins for Jack o’ Lanterns, and then cider and donuts at our favorite cider place, a few weeks before Halloween. I always read something Halloween-oriented on the the way.

For the past five years, my daughter and I checked out Spirit Halloween soon as it opens, and take silly pictures in front of the all the animotronics.

Last year, I started my own Halloween-movie-marathon September 1st. Doing it again this year.

My pastor and guys from my church (you read that right!) have been going to Reaper’s Revenge, the past few years, in Pennsylvania. It’s absolutely astounding. The size of the exhibits, the pageantry of it all, the communal sense of being startled with friends. Even after going several times and “knowing” what to expect, it’s an absolute thrill.

And of course, Trick-or-Treating as a family! I love seeing some of the displays folks put up.

Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?

Kevin: Pretty much for the reasons I listed above. When you’re out Trick-or-Treating, that night seems like it could go on forever. It’s slightly chilly but comfortable, maybe there’s a mist rolling around the streets, and everyone has dressed up as their favorite things, or their favorite scary things. There’s also a communal sense in the town we Trick-or-Treat in; everyone’s walking the sidewalks to and fro, and it’s quite a to-do.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Kevin: Nothing much, really. Sorry, it’s a boring answer, I know. Although, I’m STILL a little nervous about open closets at night…

Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?

Kevin: I think it’s a toss-up between Pennywise (from King‘s novel It, though both cinematic renditions are pretty powerful), and honestly, Michael Myers of the Halloween franchise. In the novel It, Pennywise knows exactly what haunts us and hurts us the most, and knows how to use that with surgical precision, and his very presence brings out the worst in us. Michael Myers is an unrelenting force of nature, for some reason, far more imposing than Freddy Krueger or Jason Vorhees.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Kevin: To be honest, I’m not much interested in these, so I don’t really have one.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Kevin: Well, I can tell you this: I’ve never, ever, been tempted to say “Bloody Mary” three times in a mirror. And I can pretty much guarantee I’m never going to touch a Ouija board, ever.

The one about the truck shining high beams into the back of your car – either because they’re stalking you, or trying to warn you about the killer in your beak seat – is also pretty impactful.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Kevin: Again, this isn’t really an area of interest for me.

Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? How old were you when you read your first horror book?

Kevin: I saw my first horror movie completely by accident, and for the longest time, I couldn’t remember the title, just images. I was at my Uncle’s, flipping through channels, and I came across the movie involving mannequins, in which some guy gets impaled by a pipe, and the blood comes trickling out of the pipe. That image stayed with me, for some reason. The idea this guy’s blood was gushing out of a pipe in his gut. Also, the ending was disturbing, (I’ll avoid spoilers), because it called into question my perception of what was happening in the movie, and my perception of simply being alive and volitional. Years later, I realized the movie was Tourist Trap, starring Chuck Conners.

Not counting the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series, I came to horror late. I didn’t read my first horror novel until I was twenty-one. It was Desperation, by Stephen King. I was astounded at its depth. How it pondered the meaning of good and evil, on both a human and spiritual level. It pushed me over the edge into become a horror and a Stephen King fan.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Kevin: In Silent Graves, by Gary Braunbeck. I’ll still never forget my experience reading that. It’s about a man who loses his wife and his unborn child in a terrible circumstance, and the nightmarish horror he’s pulled into. My wife was away at the time while I read it, and her absence was exacerbated by this story.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Kevin: Believe it or not, most horror movies don’t scare me, in the whole sense. I can tell you movies which made me profoundly uncomfortable, however. One of them was 8 Millimeter, staring Nicolas Cage. Maybe it’s not considered a “horror” film, but its deep-dive into the dark underbelly of the porn industry is truly horrific. And I felt like a strung piano-wire all through Sinister.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Kevin: Believe it or not, I don’t really have one. I think my enjoyment has always been the creativity of OTHERS, and their costumes, really.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

I’m not sure if I have one, but I can tell you during the Halloween season I have the Halloween and Phantasm theme songs running through my head all the time.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?

Kevin: Hershey Kisses! Disappointing: Candy corn. Ugh.

Meghan: This was great, Kevin! Before you go, what are your top Halloween books and movies?

Kevin:

Books:
Dark Harvest, by Norman Partridge
Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
October, by Al Sarrantonio
Usher’s Passing, by Robert McCammon
The Halloween Tree, by Ray Bradbury
The Narrows, by Ronald Malfi (although this more takes place during October, rather than being explicitly a “Halloween” novel)

Movies:

List #1
Tales of Halloween
Fright Night
Haunt
Trick ‘r Treat
The Witching Season
Night of the Demons
From a Whisper to a Scream

List #2
Halloween
Halloween (Rob Zombie edition)
Halloween III
Halloween 2018
Hack-O-Lantern
Dark Night of the Scarecrow
Pumpkinhead

If you’re interested, I briefly discussed these movies last year on our Youtube Channel:


Boo-graphy:
Kevin Lucia’s short fiction has appeared in several anthologies, most recently with Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Bentley Little, Peter Straub, and Robert McCammon.

His first short story collection, Things Slip Through, was published November 2013, followed by Devourer of Souls in June 2014, Through A Mirror, Darkly, June 2015, and and his second short story collection, Things You Need, September 2018. His novella, Mystery Road, was published by Cemetery Dance Publications in 2017.

For three free ebooks, sign up for his monthly newsletter on his website.

October Nights
Halloween is a night when anything seems possible.

This is true everywhere, but nowhere more so than in the small town of Clifton Heights. October nights here are long and strange, filled with both dread and transformation, and in these four shared-world tales of small-town Halloween horror, you’ll encounter things both wondrous and terrifying, in equal measure:

-A priest hears a ghostly confession on Halloween night which will mark him forever.
-A young man is offered a supernatural chance to remake his fortune, at the risk of losing everything.
-A pastor fleeing the death of his daughter comes to Clifton Heights to face his fears, but finds himself living a nightmare instead.
-Two people with supernatural talents face-off with an engine of darkness and pain on Halloween night.

Four connected Halloween tales, evoking echoes of Ray Bradbury and Charles L. Grant, taking place in a town where every day is All Hallow’s Eve. Spend the Halloween season in Clifton Heights… if you dare.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Ben Eads

Meghan: Hi Ben! Welcome to Meghan’s (Haunted) House of Horrors. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Ben: The weather and the colors of Autumn. I love that crisp cinnamon smell in the air. Most of my fiction is written during the winter. I love taking walks in the woods and just taking it all in. I always looked forward to visiting my relatives in Tennessee. My uncle would take me for walks into the hollow behind his house. My imagination was operating on all 8 cylinders then, and it does now. I was able to bring that same hollow into my latest horror novella, Hollow Heart. Of course, my uncle called it a “holler.”

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Ben: It was handing out candy to the trick-or-treaters but, sadly, that’s come to an end. Now it’s re-reading my favorite horror novels. Also, I love dressing up as one of my favorite horror creatures. I plan to dress up as The Hell Priest this year, and I have a friend who does special effects. I can’t wait to see what he’s capable of. Hopefully, a few buddies of mine and I can get together and read short horror stories to one another.

Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?

Ben: Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. As a child, we could dress up and go to school as our favorite monsters. I always tried to scare the hell out of my classmates. You can’t do that on any other holiday or regular day, for that matter. It’s also a time of renewal—out with the old, in with the new.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Ben: Talking about fiction I’m currently writing. That’s the only thing. I’m sure this is disappointing. LOL

Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?

Ben: There’s a lot! I think it would be a tie between Pennywise, The Hell Priest, Charlie Manx, and Frankenstein. Freddy isn’t—and hasn’t been—scary, at least to me, for many years. Ditto Jason Vorhees and the other slashers. I love some of the other Universal movie monsters, too. But Dracula, at least for me, isn’t very scary anymore.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Ben: The murders of Jack the Ripper. Why? Because we’ll never, ever, ever, know who committed those murders. It’s left up to the imagination. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I think Alan Moore was on to something with his amazing graphic novel, From Hell. Big fan of Alan Moore.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Ben: I don’t believe in the supernatural, so none. However… people try to mimic urban legends as well as perform hoaxes. I had a friend in middle school that almost convinced the school the Jersey Devil was roaming the halls. Ha! I guess this comes close: I had a friend in high school that pulled one hell of a prank on me. He even got some of my friends in on it too. He took my Lovecraft books out of my drawer, burned my drawer, and placed a bible in their place. I literally believed that… for about a day. Then a friend called with a guilty conscious and told me about it. With friends like that…

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Ben: Jack the Ripper. Again, we’ll never know who did it. It leaves the imagination wide open, and there’s tons of conspiracy theories based on him/her. Who knows?

Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? How old were you when you read your first horror book?

Ben: I was six-years-old when Hellraiser was playing one night on cable. I only made it ten or fifteen minutes in before shutting the TV off. I couldn’t sleep for two days after that. Thankfully, I didn’t need therapy. But it was the taboo of it, as well as me needing to face my fears that got me through the film. After finishing it, I was still scared to death, but my imagination was operating on a whole new level. Barker is a genius.

I was ten-years-old when I read The Dark Half by Stephen King. I remember not really getting it and realizing I wasn’t old enough yet. I took the book to my mother and asked her a ton of questions. She helped me out a bit but said that one twin absorbing the other fetus in the womb was impossible and, therefore, the book was silly. A month later, a co-worker told my mother that she had the same thing happen to her when she was in the womb. She came home very scared, and said that whoever Stephen King was, he’s a weirdo, sick, twisted, and demented. It was love at first sight! I have him to thank for getting me hooked on horror.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Ben: That would be tie between Stephen King’s IT, The Shining, and Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door. The former due to it being one of the best horror novels ever written, at least in my very humble opinion. The concept, the characters, the world, and how IT could be anything. The Shining had me actually believing in ghosts for a few years. That’s how well that book is written. The movie is good, but the book is so much better. The Girl Next Door has amazing characters, an amazing world, but, oh, man… that poor girl. It’s based on a true story, which shows what human beings are truly capable of. I had a very, very hard time reading the book towards the end, for obvious reasons. But you can’t put it down. You’re there, like the other kids, bearing witness to true horror.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Ben: That would be a tie between Hellraiser and Alien. With Alien, Ridley Scott’s vision, as well as Giger’s art and creature scarred me. The life-cycle of the xenomorph hits us on a sub-conscious level, too, which, when you think about it, you can’t get more disturbing than that. The sequels just didn’t hold up to the original.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Ben: The Hell Priest because it’s so damn hard to do! Ha! That’s why I’ve enlisted a friend who does special effects for a living. He told me it will take about four to five hours just to get my face and head finished. It’s going to be hard to pull off, but I love a challenge!

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Ben: I dislike gothic music, but every Halloween I love cranking up Type O Negative. My favorite song would be Black No. 1 (Little Miss Scare-all). I have no idea why, but when Halloween hits, it’s gothic music time for Ben!

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?

Ben: Favorite treat would be a Snickers bar. I hate candy-corn. Whoever invented the latter should be drug out into the street and shot. I’m biased because I bit into one once and cracked a tooth. The pain was instant and immense. Not a good Halloween that year!

Meghan: Thanks for stopping by Ben. Before you go, what Halloween reads do you think we should snuggle up with?

Ben:

  1. IT, Stephen King; The Shining, Stephen King; Frankenstein, Mary Shelley.
  2. The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson; The October Country, Ray Bradbury; The Books of Blood, Clive Barker; The Cipher, Kathe Koja; Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury.
  3. The Bottoms, Joe R. Lansdale; Heart Shaped Box, Joe Hill; NOS4A2, Joe Hill; Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?, Joyce Carol Oates.
  4. The Vegetarian, Han Kang; The Woman in Black, Susan Hill; Sineater, Elizabeth Massie; The Scarlet Gospels, Clive Barker.
  5. The Great and Secret Show, Clive Barker.
  6. The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde; The Great God Pan, Arthur Machen; The Call of Cthulhu, H.P. Lovecraft.
  7. Broken Monsters, Lauren Buekes; The Turn of the Screw, Henry James.
  8. Pet Semetary, Stephen King; Misery, Stephen King.
  9. The King in Yellow, Robert W. Chambers.
  10. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson.
  11. Minion, L.A. Banks; Bird Box, Josh Malerman.
  12. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier.
  13. Psycho, Robert Bloch.
  14. The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova; The Road, Cormac McCarthy.
  15. Bubba Ho-Tep, Joe R. Lansdale.

#1 and #2: The October Country, Ray Bradbury; Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury. Both are some of the best Halloween reading one can find.


Boo-graphy:
Ben Eads lives within the semi-tropical suburbs of Central Florida. A true horror writer by heart, he wrote his first story at the tender age of ten. The look on the teacher’s face when she read it was priceless. However, his classmates loved it! Ben has had short stories published in various magazines and anthologies. When he isn’t writing, he dabbles in martial arts, philosophy and specializes in I.T. security. He’s always looking to find new ways to infect reader’s imaginations. Ben blames Arthur Machen, H.P. Lovecraft, Jorge Luis Borges, J.G. Ballard, Philip K. Dick, and Stephen King for his addiction, and his need to push the envelope of fiction.

Hollow Heart
Welcome to Shady Hills, Florida, where death is the beginning and pain is the only true Art…

Harold Stoe was a proud Marine until an insurgent’s bullet relegated him to a wheelchair. Now the only things he’s proud of are quitting alcohol and raising his sixteen-year-old son, Dale.

But there is an infernal rhythm, beating like a diseased heart from the hollow behind his home. An aberration known as The Architect has finished his masterpiece: A god which slumbers beneath the hollow, hell-bent on changing the world into its own image.

As the body count rises and the neighborhood residents change into mindless, shambling horrors, Harold and his former lover, Mary, begin their harrowing journey into the world within the hollow. If they fail, the hollow will expand to infinity. Every living being will be stripped of flesh and muscle, their nerves wrapped tightly around ribcages, so The Architect can play his sick music through them loud enough to swallow what gives them life: The last vestiges of a dying star.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Edmund Stone

Meghan: Hi Edmund! Welcome to Meghan’s HAUNTED House of Books. I know you’ve been a bit under the weather, so I’m glad that you were able to take a little bit of time to sit down with us today. Let’s get started: What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Edmund: Decorating and family time. I love to put together a little impromptu party for my children and grandchildren every year. We decorate the house with scary and funny items and make soups and sandwiches. Then the kids watch scary movies. It’s such a great family time tradition.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Edmund: Trick or treating. My imagination was always on alert, and I would think of scenarios where things could happen while out on a trek. From going to haunted houses to watching the corn field for the scarecrow to come after me. In those days our TV options were limited, so a good imagination was a must.

Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?

Edmund: Probably the mystery of the time. All things are dark and dreary, and night comes on quicker. So, it only adds to the mystery. When I was a kid, me and my friends would deliberately find an old house to walk by and see who could go up and knock on the door. All the fun and costumes are great. A time of year you can be who you want and get by with it.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Edmund: Very little. I do pick pennies up when I see them lying on a parking lot, although in today’s time, probably not a good idea to be honest. I live in an area where superstition abounds, and science is looked on as evil. It’s backward and rural but the perfect back drop for many of my stories. The people are nice here and never back down from a good story.

Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?

Edmund: When I was younger my favorite would have been Freddy Krueger hands down. I loved his one liners and way he could turn into different manifestations of the persons fears. In recent years the new Pennywise is my favorite. Tim Curry’s was great, but Skarsgard delivers the goods for the new generation. Great stuff.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Edmund: The Lindbergh baby. Although a man went to the electric chair for the crime, the evidence against him was circumstantial at best. Just bad policing all around. It’s similar to the JonBenet Ramsey case.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Edmund: I have two. Bloody Mary is the scariest because I’ve tried it. Of course, nothing happened, but I feel she’s waiting somewhere ready to strike. The legend of the kidneys being harvested when you wake up. That one I think has some fact behind it. Very disturbing.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why? Aileen Wuornos. The one in the movie Monster. I thought she was kind of given to her circumstances. It makes you almost feel sorry for her. Richard Ramirez, The Night Stalker was another. His crime spree was on the news when I was a kid, so I remember it well. He would go in a house and kill the husband then rape and kill all the women. Pretty cold.

Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? How old were you when you read your first horror book?

Edmund: I believe I was seven years old. My cousin made me stay up and watch Chiller Theater with him. The old Blob movie from the fifties was playing. Scared me to death. The first horror movie I remember watching the whole way through was The Thing. It gave me my first true love of horror films. I was hooked afterward and became an insatiable watcher. My sister remembers waking up to the sounds of screaming because I’d rented a bunch of films and spent the whole night watching. She wasn’t surprised at all when I became a horror writer.

I was late to the horror reading game. I cut my teeth on Edgar Allan Poe when I was around fifteen years old. A friend I lived next door to let me borrow his copy of the unabridged works. I read and read. It was so good. Then I moved on to the Books of Blood. Very unsettling but I couldn’t get enough of them. I read King’s Skeleton Crew. I liked it but wasn’t a big fan of King’s until I was much older. Clive Barker was the one I read the most then. It gave me inspiration to start writing short stories. Some I still have buried in notebooks.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Edmund: I don’t know if it’s technically considered a horror novel, but The Road by Cormac McCarthy would be the most unsettling to me, more for the subject matter than anything. The other I’d mention would be The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum. The things that poor girl endured were horrible and hard to read.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Edmund: They were more like documentaries, but Faces of Death gave me nightmares when I was in my teens. I watched lots of horror movies then, but after seeing those, nothing really compared. Recently, a movie that disturbed me was The Green Inferno. It’s an indie film about a group of Greenpeace kids getting caught in the Amazon with a cannibalistic tribe. Gory and strange.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Edmund: Wow. I have so many. My mom was a seamstress. She could put together anything I wanted. One year I wanted to be the headless horseman. We came up with this elaborate cardboard and cloth get up with a plastic jack o lantern for the head. It was a great costume, but the head wouldn’t stay on.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song? Probably the one from Nightmare before Christmas. This is Halloween I think it’s called. That gets stuck in my head, and I can’t get it out. I love the Halloween theme too, so recognizable. When I was a kid, it was Monster Mash.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat?

Edmund: Mary Janes. I love those chewy peanut buttery treats. My kids couldn’t figure out why I always wanted to steal them from their stash. They would give them up no problem. What is your most disappointing? Gobstoppers or jawbreakers. I never had a like for hard candies.

Meghan: Thanks for stopping by today, Edmund. Before we go, what are your Top 6 things we should take the time to watch or read at Halloween?

Edmund:

  • Halloween movie. I love the Halloween movies and at least watch the first one during Halloween.
  • American Horror Story Halloween episode. The dead walk the Earth. Can it get any better?
  • Hocus Pocus. We always watched this one with the kids and now the grandkids.
  • Goosebumps. I read these stories to my kids when they were little around Halloween. I also told them scary stories so they would have a hard time sleeping.
  • Trick r Treat movie. I watched it last Halloween on a whim and it’s become a favorite of mine.
  • Tales from the Darkside Halloween pilot episode. It was called Trick or Treat. The one where the man ends up going to hell and the devil tells him he’s getting warmer. That creeped me out back in the day.

Boo-graphy:
Edmund Stone is a writer, poet and artist who spins tales of strange worlds and horrifying encounters with the unknown. He lives in a quaint town on the Ohio River with his wife, a son, four dogs and two mischievous cats.

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Tent Revival
Salt Flat, Kentucky is a sleepy town. Until a mysterious Tent shows up one day, with a charismatic preacher, inviting the people to an old-fashioned tent revival. Everyone’s mesmerized by his presence, entranced by the magic he performs.

Sy Sutton isn’t fooled by what’s going on. But as his son becomes entrenched in the craziness around him, he has no choice but to get involved. With the help of an unlikely friend, He’ll try to save his son and the town he’s fond of.

Unknown to him, something lurks below. An ancient being with an agenda. When she comes to the surface, all hell will break loose on the night of the Tent Revival.