AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Jeff Parsons

Meghan: Hey, Jeff. I decided to wait and have your day as the last one in this year’s Halloween Extravaganza, so it’s been a wait, but I’m glad you’re here today. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Jeff: I loved taking my young girls out for Trick or Treating. The fresh mystery of experiencing this unique adventure through their eyes, well, it reminded me of my youth. It was a joy dressing up in costumes, visiting stranger’s Halloween-bedecked houses, and asking for candy.

[Spoiler alert] Nowadays, I like watching the interesting variety of movies that come out on television during the Halloween season. I’ll sometimes also deep dive into my personal stock of scary movies.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Jeff: As you know, I like watching scary movies, but along with that, I like splurging on a accompanying buffet of finger food, ice cream, and candy. Essentially anything contraband that violates common sense, my diet, and long-term health. Just sayin’, this includes chicken wings and home-made candy apples.

I haven’t done this yet, but I think going to haunted house events would be fun. I appreciate great acting and stage work.

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

Jeff: As a child, Halloween was second best, right behind Arbor Day Eve. Just joking, we didn’t worship trees. Much. The idea of getting Halloween candy was mind blowing for a kid. I’d run from house to house, carrying a shopping bag in each hand, nearing exhaustion but determined (can’t stop now). When I made it home, my loot was cross-examined by a board of family experts (hmmm, that large candy bar looks unsafe, we’d better eat it for you). After that, I was free to gorge myself silly into a weeks-long sugar frenzy.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Jeff: Black cats, ladders, step on a crack, nope, nope, nope, no superstition.

I really don’t think I’m superstitious about anything, but I’m very interested in seemingly unconnected patterns in the way things turn out. There are too many coincidences beyond direct cause and effect. It’s almost as if we’re tapped into a greater connectivity, aren’t fully aware of it, but it keeps reminding us from time to time. Resorting to a thermodynamics explanation, our planet is essentially a closed system, so everything affects everything else in various degrees of effect.

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

Jeff: I think Clive Barker’s Hellraiser Cenobites are interesting. They were once ordinary people. Turned into demons, their real selves were trapped inside, undoubtedly in a state of perpetual torment. Kind of like working in a dead-end job? All this happened because they were insatiably curious about something best left alone. How often does the voice in our head warn us about things like that for no real discernable reason? Maybe we should listen to it more? Ya know, like, take a pass on solving extradimensional puzzle boxes?

Dexter on Showtime is fascinating. He protects the innocent by killing evil murderers. Despite being a monster, lacking in many emotions, he does care about people in his own way, and he’s shocked at the depth of evil in this world. Essentially, he’s dealing with a great chasm of emptiness inside him. When he was young, he was troubled about feeling nothing. This apparently can be just as bad as feeling too much. That is the path he has chosen – seeking a way to be emotionally connected to others.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Jeff: The original unsolved case – Jack the Ripper. The killer terrorized the dark alleys of Victorian England, wielding medical instruments with great precision… crazy, dangerous, and unstoppable. It was the modern genesis of pure, unspeakable evil. What sickness would drive someone to do that?

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Jeff: This is more like a rural legend – the Night Hag – this scares me the most. The legend is part of my Newfoundland heritage. Hearing about it firsthand made it personal to me. Imagine a creature that attacks you when you’re most vulnerable: asleep, paralyzed, and helpless, but aware of everything happening to you.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Jeff: I don’t idolize serial killers. I’m fairly sure they don’t idolize me either. Well, maybe they could idolize my lifestyle, thinking, “Wow, I wish I could be boring too, maybe if I cut back on the killing, get myself into a good 12-step program.” But, all that said, I do find serial killers to be interesting. Evolution probably required sociopaths who could be fearless and unemotional. Good for dealing with sabre tooth tigers, telemarketers, and such.

For me, the most intriguing serial killer is John Wayne Gacy. He was an upstanding citizen in his community, yet he held such a horrible secret life. It’s frightening to know that we live alongside so many crazy people. Googled it – guesstimates ranged from 1 in 7 to 1 in 100 sociopaths amongst us. It’s quite likely you passed by one when you were at work, out and about, shopping, walking the dog… Hmm, might be a good idea to try your best to get along with people lest you anger the wrong one.

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

Jeff: First movie: Wizard of Oz. That’s uncut street-grade horror for a 5 year old. Flying monkeys. Haunted forest. Wicked Witch. Shiver.

When I was about 9, I started reading horror comics, but it took me until 13ish before I read my first horror book. To date myself, it was a short story anthology edited by Karl Edward Wagner. The pace of the stories was slower back then. That allowed for a bigger buildup of suspense that didn’t seem rushed or artificial. All the better to intrigue me…

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Jeff: City Infernal by Edward Lee. To actually experience what hell would be like is as disturbing as it is interesting. It’s like watching a slow train wreck – you can’t pull your eyes away from the overwhelming tragedy.

For cosmic level horror, most H.P. Lovecraft stories give me a lasting chill.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Jeff: The Exorcist. I’m spiritual, so anything intensely supernatural can have a lasting effect on me. I do watch many supernatural movies, sometimes out of curiosity or a face-my-fears kind of challenge.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Jeff: I never did this, but they have realistic skull faced masks now. Sold by King Trends. When going Trick or Treating, I’d wear a simple, black hooded cloak for simplicity, and keep my face hidden until greeting someone (then, the full skull face reveal). Of course, not in front of kids – don’t want to traumatize anyone.

Remember the clown frenzy a few years ago? Online, it almost appeared to be a supernatural manifestation. Think about this… If something evil wanted to appear to be harmless, a silly clown outfit would do the trick. Fodder for nightmares.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Jeff: Disney’s Haunted Mansion CD of sound bytes. It brings back fond memories of Disneyland. For truly scary, the classical Night On Bald Mountain by Mussorgsky is thought provoking.

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

Jeff: White chocolate covered Reeses are the bomb. The worst comes from the past – wax bottle candy, liquid sugar-fueled shots, instant manic energy with a subsequent crash and burn quicker than a paralyzed falcon falling from the sky.

Meghan: Thanks again for stopping by. Before you go, what are your go-to Halloween movies?

Jeff:
Evil Dead, old and new
The Thing, old and new
Poltergeist
The Aliens series
The Witch
Sleepy Hollow
Hellraiser
Demon Knight

Family movies:
Hocus Pocus
The Addams Family series
The Haunted Mansion


Boo-graphy:
In addition to his two short story books, The Captivating Flames of Madness and Algorithm of Nightmares, Jeff Parsons is published in The Horror Zine, The Horror Zine’s Book of Ghost Stories, Aphelion Webzine, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volume 4, Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine, Chilling Ghost Short Stories, Dystopia Utopia Short Stories, Wax & Wane: A Coven of Witch Tales, Thinking Through Our Fingers, The Moving Finger Writes, Golden Prose & Poetry, Our Dance With Words, The Voices Within, Fireburst: The Inner Circle Writers’ Group, Second Flash Fiction Anthology 2018, SNM Horror Magazine, and Bonded by Blood IV/ V.

The Captivating Flames of Madness
This book’s title comes from the reality that – like a moth to the flame – we’re all just one event, mishap, or decision away from things that could change our lives forever.

What would you do if fate led you astray into a grim world where you encountered vengeful ghosts, homicidal maniacs, ancient gods, apocalyptic nightmares, dark magic, deadly space aliens, and more?

If you dare, why not find out?

Read for yourself the twenty-two gloriously provocative tales that dwell within this book – but be warned, some of my dear readers have experienced lasting nightmares…

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: William Meikle

Meghan: Hi, William. Welcome back to our annual Halloween Extravaganza. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

William: I have a confession.

I don’t celebrate Halloween, and haven’t since I was a kid. Back in Scotland when I was growing up, Halloween was for kids, and just for kids. I never saw an adult dressed up, never saw a house decorated for Hallowen. We kids went out ‘acting the gloshes’ which translates as ‘pretending to be ghosts’ and, as we were all poor as church mice, that mostly consisted of an old sheet with holes cut for eyes.

We went round the local houses, not trick or treating as such… we had to tell a joke or sing a song to get a reward which in those days was often a toffee apple. I always enjoyed the singing (I found out later that I perform well in front of audiences with guitar in hand).

About the only thing I recognize when watching North American Halloween is dunking for apples in a big bucket of water. Some of the old folk in town still insisted we did that before we’d get a treat… an apple usually.

It being the end of October, in the West of Scotland, Halloween was often damp, windy and sometimes downright miserable as a lot of folks didn’t bother to participate.

So my favorite part of Hallowween these days is watching in bemusement what a big deal gets made of it over here in the New World.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

William: We didn’t have pumpkins in Scotland. We carved swedes (we call them tumchies) with kitchen knives, a process that took hours and caused many a bruised knuckle, then stuck a candle in them. I can still smell the roasted turnip even now fifty years and more on.

It’s a very old tradition. Carved swedes have been found in old graves all the way back to the Neolithic.

And there’s something spooky about the manic grin on a carved turnip that no amount of artistry in pumpkin carving can match. That was always my favorite part of the night.

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

William: See above. I do like seeing kids enjoy themselves, but I’m a bit bemused as to how much adults get into it here in North America.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

William: Not a lot really. I am a believer in the supernatural, having had several encounters that leads me to think that the land of Faerie is close by us, so if I’m somewhere with a faerie tradition (there are more than a few places in Scotland and also some here in Newfoundland) I try not to piss off the wee folk and always say hello and thank you when crossing ‘their’ bridges.

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

William: The same one it has been for fifty years. It’s not strictly horror, but it has to be KONG. I first saw the big guy back in the late ’60s in his 1933 incarnation, and around the same time I caught the Japanese Godzilla vs Kong movie, and that was it, I was hooked on big beasties.

The recent resurgence, firstly with Jackson‘s Kong ( which I loathe in places and love in other places) through to Skull Island and Godzilla vs Kong has me like a kid in a toy shop.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

William: It’s always been the Whitechapel Ripper case. I’ve read numerous books, seen all the movies, and remain no closer to having a clue as to who Jack might have been.

His crimes cast a shadow over the whole late-Victorian era in London, and his effect on popular culture down the years has been remarkable. He’s become almost mythic. I wonder if the perpetrator had any idea what he was starting… and indeed, was that the point?

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

William: Back in the 1950s, in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, about 20 miles north of where I lived, stories were going around about missing children, believed killed. The culprit was said to be a seven-foot vampire, with iron teeth, lurking in the Southern Necropolis graveyard.

One night after school, hundreds of children of all ages armed themselves with blades and crosses, stakes and dogs and descended upon the Necropolis to hunt it. The children prowled the graveyard as night fell, checking behind trees and headstones for the awful creature that might be lurking.

They never caught it of course, but the story passed into legend.

I heard about it when I was around ten years old in ’68 and it gave me a recurring nightmare that still pops up every few years.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

William: I don’t have a ‘favorite’ serial killer. I find the idea of having that kind of empathy with them to be a strange concept. But there’s one or two that intrigue me.

Again in 1968, which was kind of a formative time for my horror roots, a serial killer was operating in Glasgow, as I said before only 20 miles from us. Bible John, as he was known, was stalking a nightclub, quoting bible verse, abducting young women and killing them. It filled the news at the time and we schoolkids were obviously fascinated.

There were 3 confirmed deaths, several other possibles.

He was never caught.

When I was at university in the late ’70s in Glasgow rumours spread that he was still around, still working the same area. We all kept a close eye on our female friends when we were out and about town.

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

William: The first time I remember being terrified at the movies was not at a horror movie as such, but at the transformation scene in Jerry LewisThe Nutty Professor which I was taken to see by my mum… I can’t have been more than six years old at the time. All that strobing red lighting and screaming soundtrack had me getting out of my seat and heading for the door before fascination had me turning back to see…

The first horror movie I remember seeing was a rerun of the original The Blob in around 1967 when I was nine. I thought it was a hoot and loved every minute of it, and it gave me a lifelong love of big blobs in film. There’s a particularly good one in one of the early B&W Hammer movies X-The Unknown that I love to bits.

The first X-rated horror movie I saw in the cinema was when I sneaked in to The Exorcist on its first run in 1973. I’d already read the book so knew broadly what to expect, but it certainly made an impact.

As for books…

I got early nightmares in around ’67 from a first read of The Hobbit, my dreams being plagued by Gollum and red eyes in dark places for a while.

The first outright horror book I remember reading was one of the Pan Books of Horror collections, probably some time in 1969 IIRC. My granddad was an avid reader and had boxes of paperbacks lying around. I’d pick them up and read them, which is how I discovered the likes of Alistair MacLean, Ed McBain, Louis L’Amour and many more. One day I picked up #6 in the PBOH series and was immediately hooked. That led me on almost directly to Dennis Wheatley, then H.P. Lovecraft and then, in ’74, a chap called Stephen King came along and everything changed.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

William: T.E.D. Klein‘s The Ceremonies

Dread is a word you don’t see used much in association with horror fiction any more. And it’s a shame, because used properly, slow building dread can be more horrific than any gore or bloodletting.

Fortunately, there are writers who understand this, and one of the best examples can be found in The Ceremonies, which starts slow, gets slower, but accumulates dread along the way like a wool suit collecting cat hairs. And it’s a marvel of timing, precision and skill, with its cast of great characters all circling around the central motifs, each of them catching glimpses of the whole but none completely understanding what they are being shown, or why.

The slow build, taking care and attention to let us get to know, if not like, the main characters, gives their respective fates at the climax emotional resonance, and a depth that’s often lacking in fiction in the field.

The book is one of the wonders of modern weird fiction.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

William: Don’t Look Now

I was only 17 when I first saw this classic, and wasn’t really prepared for the depth of sadness and misery that has hold of the main characters all the way through. It’s a simply stunning piece of work, with the director Roeg keeping us unsure as to what’s going on all the way through to the shock at the end. It’s lived with me ever since. Donald Sutherland‘s best movie, Roeg‘s best movie, and one of the all time great horror movies.

As an aside, Roeg‘s use of color, in particular red, to highlight important plot points meant that when I first saw The Sixth Sense and saw that Shamalyan had done the same, I saw the end coming a long way off…

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

William: I still have a nostalgic fondness for that white sheet I mentioned earlier but if I were to do it today (and had the money) I’d splash out on a good gorilla suit and go round as KONG for the night. That would be lovely.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

William: That would have to be THE MONSTER MASH, not the Boris Pickett version but the one by the very silly Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, a bunch of English eccentrics who did a brilliant cover version.

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

William: As I don’t really do Halloween, I don’t really have one. And in Scotland we didn’t have ‘candy’, we had ‘sweeties’. My favourite as a lad was black liquorice dipped in sherbet – I’m weird that way.

I remember being disappointed as a kid by a very old and sad Tangerine.

Meghan: Thanks, William. This has been great, learning more about you. Before you go, what are your top three Halloween movies and books.

William:
Top films

Top books


Boo-graphy:
William Meikle is a Scottish writer, now living in Canada, with more than thirty novels published in the genre press and over 300 short story credits in thirteen countries.

He has books available from a variety of publishers including Dark Regions Press, Crossroad Press and Severed Press, and his work has appeared in a number of professional anthologies and magazines.

He lives in Newfoundland with whales, bald eagles and icebergs for company.

When he’s not writing he drinks beer, plays guitar, and dreams of fortune and glory.

Website

The Green & the Black
A small group of industrial archaeologists head into the center of Newfoundland, investigating a rumor of a lost prospecting team of Irish miners in the late Nineteenth century.

They find the remains of a mining operation, and a journal and papers detailing the extent of the miners’ activities. But there is something else on the site, something older than the miners, as old as the rock itself.

Soon the archaeologists are coming under assault, from a strange infection that spreads like wildfire through mind and body, one that doctors seem powerless to define let alone control.

The survivors only have one option. They must return to the mine, and face what waits for them, down in the deep dark places, where the green meets the black.

William’s Halloween Giveaway

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Henry L. Herz

Meghan: Hi, Henry. Welcome to Meghan’s House of Books and thank you again for agreeing to take part in this year’s Halloween Extravaganza. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Henry: As a kid, my favorite part of Halloween was the candy, of course. Now, it is the costumes. Any excuse for a party is a good excuse.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Henry: Seeing groups of kids happily wandering through the neighborhoods, their pillowcases bulging with sugary loot.

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

Henry: Free candy and costumes! What’s not to like? It gives us all an excuse to slip into an alter ego.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Henry: Nothing.

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

Henry: Dracula. Think of how terrifyingly unstoppable a vampire would be with its powers and wisdom from existing for centuries.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Henry: The murders committed in 1888 London by Jack the Ripper. Who was he? Why did he do it?

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Henry: The Licked Hand – a scared girl hears an ominous dripping coming from within her home. She is reassured by her faithful dog, who licks her hand from under the bed. Eventually, she investigates the noise only to find her dog slaughtered and a message written in blood – “humans can lick hands too”.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Henry: Hannibal Lecter because he is so intelligent, depraved, creepy, and sophisticated. If he sets his eyes on you, you are toast… with some fava beans and a nice bottle of Chianti.

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

Henry: I think my first horror movie was Jaws. I did not want to go swimming for quite some time after that. I unexpectedly slipped into reading horror when I discovered how good a writer Stephen King is with Different Seasons, which was comprised of four novellas, more dramatic than horrific. So, after that, my first horror book was Salem’s Lot. Vampires, yeah. Scary.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Henry: I was less scared by Cujo, Christine, or Carrie than I was It. An alien clown. Why did it have to be an alien clown? Preying on kids. Want a balloon, little boy?

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Henry: There’s a scene in An American Werewolf in London when the two friends are out walking in the fields at night, scared by wolf howling. One slips and falls and they have a good laugh. Right in the middle of that comic moment, the werewolf slams into one of them. Scary!

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Henry: Being a fantasy fan and San Diego Comic-Con attendee, I’ve seen some amazing costumes. Inside jokes, like the cabbage merchant from Avatar: The Last Airbender crack me up. I also like authentic “recreations”, like a group of eight women dressed as Adapta Sororitas (Sisters of Battle) from Warhammer 40K. I love mashups, like a little girl in a pastel-colored Predator costume and tutu, or a mashup of Boba Fett and the giant chicken Ernie from Family Guy.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Henry: Ooh, it’s hard to pick just one. Dragula by Rob Zombie, Thriller by Michael Jackson, Ghostbusters by Ray Parker Jr., Dead Man’s Party by Oingo Boingo. Don’t Fear the Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult, and of course, Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon.

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

Henry: The 100 Grand candy bar from Ferrero is the king of Halloween candy. Fight me. Chocolate, caramel, and krispies, undiluted by gratuitous peanut butter, coconut, or whole nuts. The three most disappointing candies of my youth were candy corn (all the candy corn ever made was made in 1911), elephant “peanuts” (stale marshmallow formed into large peanut shapes, flavored with a hint of self-loathing), and Necco wafers (sad pastel-colored discs of brittle chalk).

Meghan: Before we go, what are some of your top Halloween movies and books?

Henry: Some of my favorites scary movies include Ghostbusters, The Silence of the Lambs, Se7en, and Kiss the Girls. For scary books, you can’t go wrong with horror written by Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, and Neil Gaiman.


Boo-graphy:
Henry L. Herz is the author of 11 traditionally published children’s books. He also writes scary adult and young adult stories, including: “Cheating Death” in The Hitherto Secret Experiments of Marie Curie anthology (Blackstone Publishing), “The Castle on the Loch” in Castle of Horror IV anthology (Castle Bridge Media), “Demon Hunter Vashti” in the Jewish Book of Horror anthology (Denver Horror Collective), “Gluttony” in Classics Remixed anthology (Left Hand Publishing), and “The Kelpie of Loch Ness” in If I Die Before I Wake: Tales of Nightmare Creatures anthology (Sinister Smile Press).

Website

I Am Smoke
Smoke speaks in mesmerizing riddles: “I lack a mouth, but I can speak…. I lack hands, but I can push out unwanted guests…. I’m gentler than a feather, but I can cause harm….”This rhythmically powerful narration is complemented by illustrations in which swirling smoke was captured on art paper held over smoky candle flames, and the dancing smoke textures were then deepened and elaborated with watercolors and Photoshop finishes. With this unique method, Mercè López “let the smoke decide how the idea I had in mind would dance with it, giving freedom to the images.” The resulting illustrations are astounding, and they resonate with the otherworldly text.

Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes
Enter an enchanted land of mythical creatures where manticores reign and ogres roar-a land of mystery and fright. A unique twist on traditional rhymes of everyone’s youth, “Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes” presents a more sinister approach to these childhood classics, and yet the sing-song nature of the poems renders them playful and jovial at the same time. Little Witch Muffet is not frightened by a silly, little spider; she simply adds him to her stew!

Rotten zombies, giants, dwarves, and goblins mingle with werewolves, centaurs, and fauns. Follow along the skeleton stepping stones, scale up a palisade, claw at the window of a tasty child and bake him into a pumpkin shell. Monsters cook up delicious elvish pie, too! Every kid who has an eensy weensy bit of sense wants a pet with feathers white as snow, who flies like an eagle and bleats like a goat-a hippogriff, of course!

Six forest sprites with four times as many pixies escape from a loaf of bread atop the elaborate table of the fey queen; her feast has flown away! If you enjoy mischief and have a penchant for the morbidly hilarious, the Herzs’ rhymes will satisfy your mythological curiosities.

Larson’s illustrations give new life to these ancient figures, and her artistic style employs the bold lines and colorful movement of an action-packed comic book. The author also includes a “bestiary” with information about the book’s legendary creatures, which hail from Scotland, Germany, Italy, Persia, Haiti, and Scandinavia.