BOOK BLOGGER INTERVIEW: Becky Narron

Meghan: Hi, Becky. Welcome to Meghan’s House of Books. It’s always a pleasure to have a fellow blogger join us. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Becky: EVERYTHING!!!!! I mean really what’s not to love? We get to decorate and be all creepy and let our inner goofballs out on parade. No one cares and we seem all normal and stuff! I really love the decorating, I mean…. No one knows if that is really a dead body in my yard or a bag with leaves tied up…. Oh I’ve said too much…. [runs off giggling]

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Becky: When I was a kid we used to have a hay ride, my brother would always try to scare the hell out of me. Most of the time it worked, just don’t tell him I said that.

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

Becky: Halloween is my favorite holiday!! I love the time of year. The smell in the air, the cool crisp breeze, the colored leaves and everything that goes bump in the night. Kids getting excited and dressing up as their favorite characters. I guess it’s the kid in me that makes me love it and believe all things are still possible.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Becky: I’m not sure I am superstitious about anything really, more anal? Can I say that? Oops!

I go out the same door I came in from, if I spill salt I will throw some over my shoulder. Mostly I just use that as an excuse to throw it at my brother. Lol

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

Becky: Leatherface beyond a doubt!!!

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Becky: This one is easy! The Black Dahlia

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Becky: The Bell Witch – I’m from Tennessee and it’s not far from where I grew up.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Becky: Jack the Ripper. The entire thing amazes me. He was so selective and precise. Not random and just killing people. How he laid them out. How extreme he was.

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

Becky: My parents were devout Southern Baptists. So the first horror movie I ever saw was Alien. I will never forget it. Mom was out of town and dad decided to watch it and let me see it too. I was around 9 (I think). I sat in the floor between his feet with a blanket over my head peeking out.

The first horror book I read was Stephen King’s The Bachman Books when Rage was still in it, god I don’t remember how old I was. They left me alone at the library too long and bam I was hooked.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Becky: Housemates by Iain Rob Wright and Bad Games by Jeff Menapace

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Becky: A Nightmare on Elm Street

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Becky: I was a witch for Halloween as a kid and had a wicked green mask with black curly hair.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Becky: I’m not sure I have one to be honest.

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

Becky: I love candy corn, I don’t like the sticky peanut butter kisses.


Boo-graphy:
Becky Narron is a southern, born and raised. Learning to love books at an early age when her dad read Lord of the Rings to her chapter by chapter before going to sleep. She has read most everything she could get her hands on from King to Barker and then falling in love with the indie world. Her main love is poetry and she has several poems published in different anthologies. Her love of poetry only grew as she read Poe and then met an amazing poet named Alfred Gremsly who’s dark poetry could rival Poe. He was the driving force in getting her to share her book with others.

Her first introduction to the indie world was Iain Rob Wright and his book Housemates. She couldn’t put it down then read everything he has written. Her next was Jeff Menapace and then Matt Shaw. Soon she was friends with several authors and William Cook talked her into writing reviews and starting her blog Roadie Notes. Later she started doing interviews with the authors as well and the blog exploded. The first year it had over 15,000 views. It became a way of life for her and something she was passionate about until she started working for a small indie press. She learned everything she could from several different publishers before starting her own publishing company Terror Tract Publishing LLC starting as an online magazine and then in the next few months published their first book. We haven’t looked back since then. We means Horr With An Attitude for a reason.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Joseph Sale

Meghan: Hey, Joseph. Welcome to this year’s Halloween Extravaganza. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Joseph: I love Halloween. For me, it’s all about the change in energy. There is a wildness that comes with Halloween season. It’s okay to dance around like lunatic in the street. It’s okay to jump out of a doorway and scare people. It’s okay to flirt with the totally un-politically correct (a friend of mine once attended a Halloween party as the ghost of an S.S. officer; reprehensible though it was to see him in the uniform, swastika and all, you have to admit: that’s pretty God-damn scary!).

In Elizabethan times, the “Twelve Days of Christmas” was a Festival of Misrule in which the strict, hierarchical mores of British society were overturned temporarily. Jesters became kings. Idiots became teachers. And the wealthy aristocrats were led like dogs on collars through the shit-caked streets. This yearly “blow out” was essential to the cultural psyche of the nation. In many ways, it was their version of a Purge, though of course it stopped short of allowing murder or serious criminal activity.

In my view, Halloween is the closest thing we have to this age-old and vital tradition. It’s a great equaliser. We live most of the year repressing our Shadow selves, but on Halloween, we step into the world of Shadows, and we see them in their natural habitat. There is something wondrous and liberating about the change in energy where, for just one night, all bets are off.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Joseph: I don’t really do fancy dress, except on Halloween! I have become many dark figures in my time. I used to do a lot of acting, and there is something empowering about quite literally stepping into the shoes, or putting on the face, of someone else. We can learn a lot if we engage with this healthily, I think.

I also do love the more laid-back and classic Halloween tradition of putting on a scary movie. I don’t need Halloween as an excuse, of course, as I love horror, but Halloween is a time of year when even people not usually inclined to horror might overcome their doubts for one night. I will watch horror movies alone, and that can be its own unique experience, but there is something about the genre I believe is best suited to communal viewings. Perhaps it connects back to the old “tales around the campfire”? Regardless of where it comes from, enjoying a horror movie with good friends is hard to beat. There is a special bonding that takes place when you “survive” a terrifying experience together!

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

Joseph: Halloween is my favourite holiday. Don’t get me wrong, Christmas can still get me excited like a child. The cynicism hasn’t gotten to me yet. But Christmas is in many ways the reverse of Halloween. Christmas is about family, about expectations, generosity, and more conventional togetherness. Many people I know feel very stressed at Christmas and I have felt it myself from time to time. I’m not in any way denigrating the value of family, but the fact remains there are certain obligations that come with the notion of Christmas and where and how we spend it. Halloween creates no obligations. In fact, it actively asks you to discard them in the spirit of Misrule! Halloween isn’t spent with family, or rarely is, it’s generally spent with unruly friends.

This isn’t to say that when I was younger my parents didn’t throw some humdinger Halloween parties, and this is perhaps another reason Halloween has to be my favourite season. My mother is an artist, my father a writer, the combination was perfect for creating memorable Halloween experiences, one of which will stick with me and my friends for all time: they converted our spider-filled old garage into a ghost-train haunted experience. It didn’t take much, to be honest, the place was so dank and dark, but it was truly mythical and memorable. That kind of joy (and terror), the exhilaration of stepping out of mundanity and entering the story, stays with you forever. So, I’m eternally grateful to my parents for that, and you can blame my Halloween obsession on them!!

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Joseph: As an occultist, I consider myself very open to weird or supernatural phenomenon. I’ve had many spiritual experiences. Some transcendental. Some hellish and indelible. So, the truthful answer to this is: I’m superstitious about virtually everything! Or at least, open to it. However, one also has to recognise our own agency in these matters. Rarely do spirits or demons, or whatever the preferred terminology is, seize us out of the blue without warning, just as the past only holds power over us if we invest it with authority. We invite demons in. We play a role in their habitation, and their enlivening. We feed them with psychological abherrance and desire. What we repress returns in sevenfold horrifying form.

One might look to Clive Barker’s immortal film Hellraiser to see exactly what I mean by this. The cenobites only come when they are called. The horror that was once Frank Cotton is invited into the house by Julia Cotton’s desire, and then subsequently fed by her with human blood in an act that is far from subtly psycho-sexual. Whilst fiction, there is a lot of truth in this. Whether you view the demons literally or figuratively as expressions of psychological malady is up to you.

So, I’m not afraid of being randomly attacked by ghosts or demonic entities, terrifying though that would be. I’m more like the vertigo sufferer. People with vertigo aren’t afraid of heights, but rather what they might do if they stand on a ledge. I don’t really fear demons, spirits, ghosts, but I do fear what I might do should I glimpse the infernal plane, or should one such entity make me an offer I cannot refuse. The greatest blindness is to think we are beyond temptation. After all, those beings really do have “such sights to show you”.

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

Joseph: This is such a tough question to answer, as there are so many great villains in Horror. One of my favourites is a rather obscure character known as Melmoth The Wanderer, who is featured in the novel of the same name by the oft-overlooked Anglican curate Charles Maturin. Maturin wrote a number of novels, and Melmoth The Wanderer is his Gothic masterpiece. It is equal parts Faustian legend and Miltonic evocation. Melmoth is a deviously complex character, both a tempter of souls and one who was tempted. He is, like Milton’s Lucifer, strangely heroic at times. He tries to fight against his darker nature but knows he can never win. The novel is almost ludicrously convoluted, with no less than six layers of framed narrative (perhaps more if you include certain interludes) but this convolution is intentional, because it begins to draw you into Melmoth’s own warped psyche. The labyrinth of his mind is not a place I will forget in a hurry and the sheer intensity of his hatred is awe-inspiring to behold. He is a true compelling villain, and one who deserves far more recognition among the greats.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Joseph: I do find unsolved murders fascinating, but I find unsolved disappearances far more so. I am not sure why, perhaps because there is even more mystery when no body is found?

In the UK, there are few cases more unusual than that of Madeleine McCann. Some might find this a predictable choice, but it is one of those cases that, whilst it may not seem particularly weird at first, becomes stranger and stranger the longer you look at it. She disappeared in Portugal and was one of the most widely televised and reported on disappearances of all time. How, then, were investigators completely unable to make any headway at all? It seems impossible that in 2007, with so much surveillance and technology, with her face plastered on every TV over the world for years, that we could not find her.

I have oscillated from believing wholeheartedly the parents did it, to swinging wildly the other way. Then my writer’s brain goes into overdrive with more bizarre possibilities. For example, could she be still alive? If she were, she would be seventeen or eighteen in 2021. What horrors would she have experienced and overcome to have survived until now? How would that shape someone’s understanding of the world?

The disappearance of a three year old is a truly terrible, ugly thing, and one cannot help but think there is some dark secret buried somewhere, unlikely to come to light save on Judgement Day.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Joseph: My God, this is a great question. It would have to be the Slenderman. What’s funny about this is I know full well that the Slenderman is fake. I researched him extensively for a novel I wrote back in 2013. It is not a brilliant book, as I was very young then and still learning my craft, but some of the stuff I dug into for research stills scares me, even knowing it was created by photoshop experts and Creepy Pasta lore enthusiasts. I think it was partly how meta the book became. I was writing a book about a man writing a book about becoming obsessed by the Slenderman, and in the end, I became obsessed by the Slenderman. The old Nietzschian adage is certainly true: stare too long into the abyss, and it really does stare back into you.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Joseph: Fictional or real, now that is the question! If I was saying fictional, it would have to be Ghostface from Scream. This is a bit of a cheat answer, of course, because Ghostface can be, and has been, many people, but that is precisely the genius of him. Ghostface is a character in his own right, but anyone can don the mask and become him. That is, in some ways, infinitely more scary than an iconic killer whom we all recognise. Ghostface could be anyone. He could be you or me (and of course can be “she” for that matter). Similar to my comment on superstition, Ghostface asks us to look inward and confront the question of what we are truly capable of, in the darkest sense.

If I had to pick a real-life serial killer, I would not use the term “favourite” to describe them, because we then run the risk of glorifying degraded and immoral killers; they are scum, at the end of the day. However, I do find Ted Bundy particularly fascinating. That may be a cliché to some, but there are a number of unique things about him. The sheer depravity of his crimes sets him apart: not just murder, but torture, necrophilia, and worse. His charm is another weird factor. The transcripts of his trial show him actively flirting with the female judge and succeeding. If you wrote this scene in a novel, no one would believe it, especially not in today’s age of female empowerment. I’m personally not interested in Bundy’s pseudo-philosophy and God-complex. But I am interested in the fact he escaped – twice, no less – and was only really “caught” when he turned himself in. It reminds me of the quote from the original 1986 Hitcher movie in which Rutger Hauer’s nameless killer answers the question “What do you want?” with perhaps the most chilling answer possible: “I want you to stop me.” This is the epitome of evil, I think. The hitcher knows what he is doing is wrong. He knows he is a mad dog that’s slipped the leash. But he can’t stop himself, so he wants someone else to rise to the challenge. Bundy’s story is similar. I think he wanted the electric chair, in the end: to return to the nothingness he believed in.

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

Joseph: Far, far too young! Weirdly, I saw horror movies before I ever got to horror books. I am not sure I could even name the age I was when I saw my first horror film, but I was definitely not yet eleven years old. Probably the first horror movie I remember was the Terminator movie. It isn’t really that gnarly by comparison with other ‘80s Horror, or even by modern standards, but it is unrelenting in its tension. The thing that made Terminator so great to me was the idea of the truly unstoppable evil, and the film still conveys that idea far better than many modern attempts. The terminator isn’t invulnerable: the flesh-suit rips, the metal skeleton is damaged, it is even cut in half. But despite all of these things, the terminator keeps going. That is truly scary. Though the terminator is a robot, we sense something beyond that: an evil willpower and determination that is frightening.

In terms of my first horror book, I was actually quite late to that game, although I had read classics such as Frankenstein and Dracula. I primarily read Fantasy until the age of about seventeen, when I discovered Stephen King. I read The Stand (genuinely my first King!), and it totally blew my mind. It opened doorways in my consciousness that I didn’t know had been locked. Apart from being so inspiring, reading The Stand really liberated me and was the first step on my road to becoming a half-decent writer. Previously, everything I’d been writing was very much generic fantasy pap, and I steered away from dark themes, sex, and violence. But when I read The Stand, King blew the doors wide open.

The two scenes that stick with me in terms of being exposed to horror for the first time – or at least, modern horror for the first time – were number one: the scene with The Kid and the Trashcan Man in which the latter is sodomised with a shotgun. The second was the scene in which Randall Flagg pulls an unborn child out of the womb with a coat-hanger hook (although it turns out to be a dream sequence). Reading these was like having a nuclear bomb detonate inside my skull. I couldn’t believe they had been committed to paper.

The Stand gave me permission to explore my own darkness. Many moments in that book are still indelibly printed on my brain, not just the horrifying ones. Perhaps the greatest of them all from my point of view is the final scene with The Trashcan Man. That is a moment of divinely inspired genius, I think. True epic.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Joseph: It takes a lot to scare me, especially in fiction. For some reason I find films infinitely scarier. Perhaps because films are more intense, whereas horror novels tend to be a slow burn that accumulates over time? Each of us is more or less vulnerable to different types of horror, I suppose, and for some perhaps the slow burn effect is creepier!

However, there are certainly books that have genuinely scared me. I’ve already mentioned Melmoth The Wanderer. It was written in 1820, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it lacks punch: I was genuinely unsettled, and the further in you go, the worse it gets. It isn’t just the events or what’s transpiring, but the weird and brain-jarring structure, the elliptical storytelling that starts to disconcert and unbalance you, rather like a discordant soundtrack.

I also found The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson to be uniquely terrifying. The scene with the hand in the bed (anyone who’s read it knows exactly the one I mean) actually shat me up for days afterwards, and I became frightened every time I had to go to sleep. I get that Jackson is a mainstay, but she is so lauded for a reason.

If you want to read something more modern and genuinely scary, Steve Stred’s The Window In The Ground is a living nightmare. No one does dread like Stred. It should be a catchphrase! He is one of the few modern writers who can genuinely unsettle me. It’s something about the way he writes, so directly, so straightforwardly, it lulls you into a false sense of security. Everything feels believable in his hands, even the most insane and awful things you can imagine. The Window In The Ground is probably still my favourite thing by him. I think about it way too often.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Joseph: Surprisingly, no conventional horror movie has the claim of scarring me for life, though certainly some films rocked me or challenged what I thought I knew. The artifact that really scarred me for life was the 1993 Japanese anime Sailor Moon. Now, this may seem odd, as all the screenshots you’ll see online of Sailor Moon show happy, colourful scenes with an enthusiastic group of young girls fighting evil with superpowers. But anyone who watched the entirety of season 1 to its conclusion will know there is another side to the show.

The final two episodes of Sailor Moon take the lovable thirteen-year-old girls you’ve followed for 44 episodes, with all their cute love-interests and side-plots, and then tortures and murders them one by one. And the torture isn’t just physical, it’s emotional and spiritual too. Characters you fell in love with betray the Sailor Guardians and then gleefully tear them apart while Sailor Moon helplessly watches. You don’t just watch them being beaten in a fight, you watch them being tormented on every level in a fashion that can only be described as totally psychotic.

One after another, each Sailor Guardian is destroyed in ignoble, hopeless ways, until only Moon remains. At this point, where you think it can go no lower, Moon is forced to kill the person she loves most in the world in an agonising fashion. It’s harrowing, undoubtedly one of the most heartbreaking and terrifying things I’ve ever seen. The fact it is an animation only makes it worse, lending a dreamlike surreal power to each mortifying frame that a live action version would lack. I was just a kid when I saw it, probably eleven or twelve, and it shook me to the foundations to such a degree I’ve never quite recovered from it. I believe it was banned in some countries, or at least shown in edited form, but the UK was not one of them. This series and the scarring it caused has heavily influenced a novel I’m working on that will come out next year (2022) called The Tower Outside of Time. It is the third and final book in my Illuminad sequence. Each book is stand-alone, but read in order they add up to something that is—hopefully—pretty cosmic.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Joseph: Oh, this is a good question, and a hard one. I used to love dressing up as V from V For Vendetta, but sadly now the Guy Fawkes mask has become synonymous with the online group Anonymous (hey, it rhymes!), so I am no longer as keen on it. I love a good wraith or vampire. Probably the latter is my favourite, though. I guess because people used to joke I was a vampire: pale skin, weird eyes, Gothic obsession, dark arts. On a side note, I have a Magic: The Gathering Commander Deck that is vampire themed. I have a soft spot for the old long-fangs!

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Joseph: Much of the music I like is arguably Halloween-themed, because it focuses on black magic, the rising dead, or some other Gothic trope! Haha.

To name a few specific songs / bands, I have recently got quite into the band Draconian. They are a kind of screamo doom-metal band, but unlike many doom-metal efforts, it isn’t all misery; there is a kind of ghostly beauty to the guitar and female vocals, offset by a triumphant growl and great melodies. They really play with the juxtaposition of fury and sensitivity well, and their lyrics have some very interesting meanings if you begin to look deeper.

Some credit has to be given to the Rolling Stones classic Sympathy For the Devil. There is something truly mesmeric about that song. I saw it live, and it was like being hypnotised when that riff rolled over the crowd!

Lastly, I adore Avenged Sevenfold’s entire album City of Evil. I think it is possibly my favourite of all time, and the greatest ever written, which I know is crazy hyperbole, but I cannot think of anything that rivals it for ambition, scope, or execution save in the classical canon. It is dazzlingly technical but also heartfelt. It soars but also screams. There is a rawness that perhaps not everyone will like, especially as we have become increasingly accustomed to touched-up voices produced in flawless studios; but if you don’t mind a bit of gravel and soul in the voice and guitars, then it’s truly startling.

City of Evil is a kind of musical interpretation of the book of Revelations, and it features such epics as Bat Country, The Beast & The Harlot, Sidewinder, Blinded in Chains, and my personal favourite: The Wicked End. The album is over 70 minutes long and most of the songs exceed 7 minutes. Rarely do you ever hear a single chorus repeated. The songs morph and change like the creature from The Thing, shifting into bridges, key-changes, and flying to previously unknown heights. If pop music bores you to tears, this is the album for you. No song is predictable. Sidewinder, for example, transitions from brutal heavy metal into a Spanish guitar that is clearly influenced by snake-charming melodies. It’s pretty unreal.

Virtually all of City of Evil is classifiable as Halloween themed, I think! But it also deals with the human quest to re-discover one’s own lost soul. If you piece together the tracks, it tells a kind of dream-logic narrative of someone setting off into the wilderness, losing everything they love, and returning from war a broken and desolate man. One of the final lines of the whole album is, “A murderer walks your streets tonight”. It’s a devastating meditation on human evil, partly inspired by the quote from Dr Johnson (which is uttered in the opening track, Bat Country) “He who makes a beast out of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.”

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

Joseph: It would have to be eyeball pops. I mean, was there ever a more perfect marriage of foodstuff and concept?! It is genuinely hard to feel like you are not biting into an actual eyeball, but then the explosion of sugary flavour wipes away the fear.

In terms of most disappointing, I would have to be jelly slugs. The taste and texture seems disappointing to me. Perhaps I am a snob?

Meghan: Thanks for stopping by today, Joseph. Before you go, what are your go-to Halloween movies and books?

Joseph: Oh, this is super, super tough. I feel like we have to define what we mean by “Halloween movie”. Does that mean a movie set on Hallow’s Eve, or simply a scary movie that is appropriate to watch on the day? In either case, it feels criminal not to give the original Halloween the ultimate trophy! I mean, it’s in the title!

However, that aside, I adore the Scream movies. I feel like they brought a manic energy to the Slasher genre when it was flagging. They tread the fine line between celebrating Halloween, masks, scary movies, and the joy we get from them, but also recognising their problematic elements. They subvert tropes but don’t fall into the trap of undermining the archetypes that drive Slashers: the faceless killer—a dark lord or monster, no less—and the dauntless heroine. The male energy of death, the female energy which is pure and incorruptible (in old-school Slashers, represented symbolically by virginity, but really this is something much deeper). They have it all, as well as being funny to boot.

In terms of a favourite Halloween book, now that is tougher! There are so many works by indie authors that could be my top Halloween book that I would struggle to list them all, but I’ll try a few top picks!

Dan Soule writes awesome Halloween-appropriate books that have that “classic” feel. His Fright Nights series is very much a callback to the horror of a young Stephen King, James Herbert, and R. L. Stine. He has a wonderful prose-style, and his characters are people you not only believe in but care about. I recommend starting with The Ash to get a taste of his work: it’s a short novel about a police officer trying to get home after a strange explosion that covers miles of the UK in ash… But when things start moving beneath the ash, the horror really begins.

I’d also recommend Iseult Murphy’s 7 Days In Hell. It’s a great creepy-town tale that is so much more than it appears. It seems a cosy mystery, until things suddenly go deeper and darker than you ever expected, including into some gnarly occult shit. Definitely a perfect Halloween read.

I think those are some good recommendations and my top picks for now. We live in a world of abundant storytelling, so there are always more brilliant authors to talk about, especially on the indie scene, which is where I feel the real action, the real boundary pushing and interesting work, is happening.

Thanks so much for having me on for your extravaganza, Meghan. It means the world!


Boo-graphy:
Joseph Sale is a novelist and writing coach. His first novel, The Darkest Touch, was published by Dark Hall Press in 2014. He currently writes and is published with The Writing Collective. He has authored more than ten novels, including his Black Gate trilogy, and his fantasy epic Dark Hilarity. He grew up in he Lovecraftian seaside town of Bournemouth.

His short fiction has appeared in Tales from the Shadow Booth, edited by Dan Coxon, as well as in Idle Ink, Silver Blade, Fiction Vortex, Nonbinary Review, Edgar Allan Poet and Storgy Magazine. His stories have also appeared in anthologies such as You Are Not Alone (Storgy), Lost Voices (The Writing Collective), Technological Horror (Dark Hall Press), Burnt Fur (Blood Bound Books) and Exit Earth (Storgy). In 2017 he was nominated for The Guardian’s Not the Booker prize.

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Dark Hilarity
Tara Dufrain and Nicola Morgan are eleven year old girls growing up in the ‘90s, obsessed by Valentine Killshot, a metal screamo band. In particular, they’re enamoured by the lead singer, the mysterious yet charismatic Jed Maine who bears the epithet “The Cretin”. In Jed’s lyrics, he describes a world beyond the Dark Stars that he hopes one day to reach. The girls think it’s all just make-believe they share together, until a freak, traumatic incident makes this world very real. As adults, Tara and Nicola try to come to terms with the devastating catastrophe that changed their lives growing up, but to do so they will have to step once more into Jed Maine’s world, and confront the man who took everything from them. Dark Hilarity is My Best Friend’s Exorcism meets The Never-Ending Story, a fantasy that explores addiction, depression, and the healing power of friendship.

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AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Feind Gottes

Meghan: Hey, Feind! Welcome back! What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Feind: When I was very young my favorite thing at Halloween was seeing The Wizard of Oz on TV. The Wicked Witch was the first thing I ever remember scaring the bejesus out of me and it also meant trick or treating was only a few days away. These days it always seems to play around Christmas which makes zero sense to me. My favorite thing about Halloween these days is watching some of my favorite horror movies leading up to the big day. COVID killed it in 2020, but I had been frequenting a local theater that played horror movies for the month of October. It’s fun to view these movies, some that I never had a chance to see on the big screen, or get to relive my youth by seeing them that way for the first time in decades.  

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Feind: I live in an apartment so I can’t really decorate much and I get zero trick or treaters so my tradition is usually to pick 2 or 3 of my favorite horror movies to watch on Halloween. I try to pick something old like a black & white or old Vincent Price then build to something bloody & gory to end the night. Unfortunately this is usually me alone but add a few adult beverages to the mix and I have plenty of fun anyway. 

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

Feind: As a horror writer it’s hard not to have some affinity for Halloween. It is the night we get to dress up and celebrate all the spooky things I only get to write about the rest of the year. Seeing everyone veer to the dark side always warms my heart. I won’t be the cliché horror writer who claims Halloween as my favorite holiday, for me that is Thanksgiving for completely personal reasons. Halloween is by far the most fun, or at least it can be if you’re not a stick in the mud. 

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Feind: I have to say I don’t really have any superstitions. Maybe that’s disappointing? It’s just me being honest. Send a million black cats across my path and I’ll just stare at how strange a sight that would be LOL

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

Feind: I’m going to cheat here since it wasn’t specified books or movies. In literature I have to go with the beast to beast all beasts, Cthulu! Lovecraft’s Elder God, for me, is the coolest monster ever created and as far as I know he’s never really been done very well or at all in film. This is a fact that makes me very sad.

Now for movies, there are so many greats to choose from but I think my favorite monster is The Thing even though you never even see it in its true form, whatever that is. My favorite human villain of all-time is Otis Firefly played by Bill Moseley in Rob Zombie’s Devil’s Rejects trilogy (so far). I love Otis with an unhealthy passion. Also Bill is one cool MFer who loves to engage with fans whenever he can.  

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most? 

Feind: I have two and neither are a single unsolved murder. I think all lovers of the macabre have at one time or another been fascinated by the Jack the Ripper killings which so far are still frustratingly unsolved despite numerous theories that fill several books. The other would be The Zodiac killings even though this one has essentially been solved. I picked up the book Zodiac by Robert Graysmith when I was a teenager and I’ve been fascinated by the case ever since. The fact that both of these killers managed to get away with their crimes is amazing since every other killer manages to make a mistake or mistakes that finally get them caught.  

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most? 

Feind: Again I’ll disappoint everyone here because I don’t have one. I don’t believe in any of them hence I can’t find them very scary. Sorry.  

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Feind: Wow, there are so many to pick from which is the truly terrifying part. I’m going to go with a lesser known (probably) here and say David Parker Ray sometimes referred to as The Toy Box killer. He, his wife and a group of others who, I believe, remain unknown would kidnap, rape, torture and then sometimes kill their victims. What makes Ray stand out for me is a transcript I read of a recording he would play for his victims after he kidnapped them. He would drug young women and when they awoke they would be naked and tied to a gynecologist exam table. Ray would watch remotely then play a recording when he saw they were awake. In a cold, calculated voice he would describe exactly what the woman was going to be put through. If they tried to escape as some had managed to do they were quickly recaptured or killed and another woman would be kidnapped to take their place. Some of his victims were raped and tortured over years and some became so broken they stayed of their own volition. The transcript is absolutely sick and bone chilling. Look it up if you dare! 

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

Feind: Aside from The Wizard of Oz, since that stopped being scary by the time I was about 6 years old, my first horror movie was The Amityville Horror (1979). I don’t remember the exact year I saw it for the first time, but it was after it came to regular TV so probably about 1982-ish. My oldest sister is about 5 years older than me and she would torture myself and my other sister (also older than me, I’m the youngest) by watching it. At the time it scared the living you-know-what out of me, though I find that pretty laughable now. I was determined to watch it all the way through so my sister couldn’t make fun of me anymore. I did and my love of horror was born.

I became an avid reader around the ages of seven or eight. I blew through young reader books like the Hardy Boys then moved into mercenary books which became uber popular in the early 80s. Then I needed something more. My mother was also an avid reader who had hundreds of books of all genres so I went to her for a suggestion. She knew I liked horror so she suggested I read something by Stephen King. She had several to choose from so after much consideration I picked The Stand because it was huge which I saw as a challenge. I was eleven years old. I loved it and my love affair with King was born. 

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Feind: I am a bit of a weirdo here in that I’ve never really had any book scare me very much. Perhaps a passage here or there but it will likely surprise anyone reading this to know I’m not a very visual person. I find when reading you’re only as scared as your imagination allows you to be. I think from early on I had a knack for suppressing my imagination while reading. The best answer I can give though would probably have to be Zodiac because it was about a real killer who was never caught. I still find the things that scare me most are the real human monsters that could be living right next to you.  

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Feind: Now here I could name several so the hard part is picking just one. I’d say the last one to deeply affect me would be The Human Centipede. Again when you really get into it there could be someone as demented as the doctor in the film out there right now. Also, in this first film of the trilogy, Tom Six went out of his way to see if something like this could actually be done and how it would be done. The scene where one of the girls escapes and the doctor explains to her why he is going to make her the middle segment and why it’s the worst is so disturbing and disturbingly real I had a hard time continuing to watch. Of course, I did ‘cause I’m that kind of sicko. Also “The Scene” in A Serbian Film is the only thing more disturbing I’ve ever seen (if you’ve seen it you know exactly what I’m talking about).

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Feind: Well it wasn’t for Halloween but I would totally do it if it didn’t make such a mess! When I was young my mom and I were part of a “simulation team.” We did accident simulations to help local fire departments and first responders deal with real crisis situations. It was a lot of fun but my favorite scenario we set up was a simulated industrial accident which was actually at the factory my father worked at. I was given dual injuries. I wore a disembowelment prosthetic as well as a severed arm both were complete with blood bladders for me to pump out at the appropriate time. The emergency team that found and worked on me unfortunately failed miserably as they found and treated my disembowelment but completely missed my severed arm. This is why we did these things. So if I had the prosthetics and available fake blood I would totally do something like this for fun on any given Halloween (or really any day of the year just to freak people out)!

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Feind: Music is a huge part of my life and I honestly couldn’t write without it. Since I’m a huge heavy metal fan most would consider much of what I listen to, at least, somewhat horror and Halloween themed. However, I think my favorite classic Halloween themed song would have to be Monster Mash by Bobby Pickett. I’ve always loved that one.

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

Feind: I honestly don’t eat very much candy but if you want to make me happy a simple peanut butter cup will do nicely! However, if you try to slip me licorice I may have to kill you in real life not just in print! Also there may not be anything worse than chomping down on what you think is a nice, fruity Mike & Ike’s only to find out it is actually a vile, disgusting Good & Plenty. This is a capital offense requiring the death penalty!

Meghan: Thanks for stopping by, Feind. But before you go, let’s talk Halloween books and movies.

Feind: I know some like to read on Halloween and that’s fine, as a writer myself I won’t discourage it. If that’s what you like to do on Halloween then I would go with an anthology of short stories like Stephen King’s Skeleton Crew or Clive Barker’s Books of Blood though I have stories in several that should fit the bill nicely as well! That said, I prefer to watch some horror films on good ol’ Halloween. You can never go wrong with a classic like John Carpenter’s Halloween (or even Rob Zombie’s remake) or The Thing. If you only have time for one movie you’ll just have to pick your favorite – I have a fondness for The Shining when this is the case. However, if you have time I always prefer to watch two or three films. Sometimes I’ll choose a progression from something old up to a new favorite. For example, a couple years ago I went with Steve McQueen in The Blob followed with Evil Dead II then ended with The Devil’s Rejects. I also find it fun to watch trilogies if possible. I’ve done the Evil Dead or Rob Zombie’s Reject trilogy. I even did a marathon of Ash Vs Evil Dead one year.

I know I was supposed to give you a list of my best but, honestly, it really depends on my mood as to what ends up on such a list. I am a life-long lover of all things horror from the old Universal monster movies to the 50s giant radioactive creature features through the slasher era to low budget Troma horror-coms and everything in between. It would probably be easier to tell you what I don’t like and that is the modern PG13 era horror films that have nothing to offer other than jump scares which is weak sauce to me. I like a good, well-written story that chills you to the bone. It doesn’t have to be bloody and gory but I don’t shy away from any of that either. I also don’t like films that only offer blood and gore with no story. A lesser known film that is a personal favorite is High Tension or Haute Tension which is the first film of Alexandre Aja (Piranha, The Hills Have Eyes, Maniac). I love the story and it has some over the top bloody kills along the way. For me, Halloween is a time to celebrate and revisit your favorite horror films or books. Leading up to it is a good time to check out some new stuff too but to a horror nut, like me (us?), I’m on the hunt for new great horror all year long to have as a new favorite for future Halloween marathons.


Boo-graphy:
Feind Gottes [Fee-nd Gotz] is a horror nut, metal lover and an award winning horror author. Feind currently resides near Omaha, NE

Feind has short stories and flash fiction appearing in over a dozen anthologies with more to come. His novella, Essence Asunder, unleashed by Hellbound Books in 2018 was his first solo release. Feind also gained his first editing credit by co-editing the anthology, Blood From A Tombstone, with Don Smith Jr in 2019. Lastly Feind’s debut novel, Piece It All Back Together also published by Hellbound Books, was released in Spring 2021.

The first draft of Feind’s debut novel won the 2016 Dark Chapter Press Prize followed in 2017 by a Top Ten finish in The Next Great Horror Writer Contest and winning the Vincent Price Scariest Writer Award from Tell-Tale Publishing.

Piece it all Back Together
Deliciously gruesome, original, and highly innovative!

Private Investigator Jamie Windstein has a dark secret: she collects her victim’s heads.

When millionaire Thomas Combs hires her to find his long lost friend, Jimmy, Jamie’s world is turned upside down. Ghosts of the past pile mystery atop mystery while ghosts of the present add grim new riddles with no solution.

Jamie is determined to get answers even if she has to kill her way to the truth. She must tiptoe a fine line when she learns her only friend’s police officer husband has been assigned to a special task force on the hunt for Jamie and her head collection.

Dark secrets abound as the past is dragged kicking and screaming into the light. It’s serial killer versus serial killer versus the police in a race to the answers.

Jamie Windstein’s life will change forever if only she can Piece It All Back Together.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Kristopher Triana

Meghan: Hey, Kris. Welcome back to Meghan’s House of Books and our annual Halloween Extravaganza. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Kristopher: As a kid, it was being out on a cold night with the leaves blowing about, seeing the jack-o-lanterns glowing, running down the street in my costume and pretending I was a werewolf or vampire or whatever. That was even better than the candy! As an adult, I cherish those memories. Now, my favorite part of the holiday is its rich traditions, and the way adults can return to that childlike wonder for a night.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Kristopher: The horror movie marathon, especially when it’s with a significant other or a good friend. You carve pumpkins as the sun goes down, put on scary movies, and hope to get trick or treaters.

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

Kristopher: It is my favorite, hands down. I’m a horror writer, and also a horror fanatic. Halloween is the time of year everyone is into what I’m always into all year long.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Kristopher: Nothing, really. I don’t believe in that stuff. Give me a black cat to pet!

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

Kristopher: Oh, that’s a tough one. As for the old monsters, I’d have to say The Wolfman is my favorite. I’ve always related more to a tortured soul trying to contain his inner beast than some undead bloodsucker being all suave and perfect. I also dig The Blob!

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Kristopher: The Black Dahlia. It was such a brutal crime and so shrouded in mystery.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Kristopher: I’ve always loved the hook, with the teens at lover’s lane who hear on the radio about an escaped maniac with a hook hand, then find the bloody hook on the handle of the car door after they drive home.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Kristopher: I wouldn’t say I have a “favorite” one because I don’t like when people glorify someone like that. I see someone at a horror con wearing a Richard Ramirez t-shirt and I’m just like, “You know he raped and murdered old ladies, right?”. It’s just messed up. People need to differentiate between horror fiction and reality. But I do find true crime stories very interesting. Edmund Kemper’s story is so beyond messed up. Well worth a read if you can stomach it!

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

Kristopher: I can’t remember exactly, but probably eight or nine, watching the old Universal monster movies. I was about eleven when I saw my first slasher film, which was John Carpenter’s Halloween, and I was hooked.

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

Kristopher: I read the Crestwood Monster Series and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark as a kid. Then I moved on to Stephen King and Clive Barker. I think The Mist by King was my first adult horror story, and my first novel read was The Dark Half. Then Barker’s The Great and Secret Show opened my mind to the limitless possibilities the genre could offer. By the time I was fourteen I was devouring what is now referred to as “Paperbacks from Hell”, all the novels from the horror boom of the ’80s. I knew early on that I wanted to be a horror author too.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Kristopher: King’s The Shining was the first book I ever had to put down for a few hours because I was so freaked out. Since then, there have been many that got under my skin—brutal books like Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door and Off Season, or more recent thrillers like Come With Me by Ronald Malfi. There are even books that don’t qualify as horror but are deeply unsettling, such as Last Exit to Brooklyn and The Demon by Hubert Selby Jr. His books are incredible.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Kristopher: I saw part of Prince of Darkness when I was way too young and it scared the crap out of me! I never knew what is was, and then one day I’m watching this movie, and the scene I always remembered—the hobo impaling a man with a bicycle—comes on and I’m like, “Holy shit!”

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Kristopher: I loved being Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers, but dressing as Leatherface was the best because I hid in the bushes and then chased kids with a real chainsaw! I had removed the chain, so it was totally safe, but still loud and terrifying. They came back for more every year.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Kristopher: Again, it’s hard to pick a favorite. But I do love Tim Curry’s song in The Worst Witch.

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

Kristopher: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are my Halloween staple. Even the old school label screams Halloween with its autumn colors. The worst in the world is that horrible abomination known as candy corn.

Meghan: Thanks again for stopping by, Kris. Make sure you send Bear our love. But before you go, what are your go-to Halloween movies?

Kristopher: My ideal Halloween movie/TV marathon is:

John Carpenter’s Halloween
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
Ginger Snaps
Trick or Treat (1986)
A Nightmare on Elm Street
The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror episodes
Night of the Demons (1988)
Night of the Demons 2
The Exorcist III
The Monster Squad


Boo-graphy:
Kristopher Triana is the Splatterpunk Award-winning author of Gone to See the River Man, Full Brutal, The Thirteenth Koyote, They All Died Screaming, and many other terrifying books. His work has been published in multiple languages and has appeared in many anthologies and magazines, drawing praise from Rue Morgue Magazine, Cemetery Dance, Scream Magazine, and many more.
 
He lives in New England.

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And the Devil Cried
When Jackie is released from prison, his boss Pino sends a limo to pick him up. Even fresh out of the joint, ruthless Jackie is ready to work, collecting money for the mob and using his special training to take care of bad accounts—permanently.

But when a drunk driver kills Pino’s young son, he gives Jackie a task that goes against every moral code. The drunk driver has a pre-teen daughter, and Pino doesn’t just want vengeance—he wants an eye for an eye.
Jackie accepts the job, but once he finds the girl he starts making plans of his own…

And the Devil Cried is a dark thriller from Kristopher Triana, the award-winning author of Gone to See the River Man and Full Brutal. It is a vicious, unflinching novel that’s bound to keep you burning.

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).