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

Two Frightfully Fun Books Written by Women

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

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

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

Inside
By: D.M. Siciliano

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

1987 “Does it burn in the dark?”

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

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

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


C.R. Richard’s Review:

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

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

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

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

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Pumpkins!

Banshee 1:
Midnight Screams
By: Sara Clancy

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

When Benton dreams, people die…

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

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

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

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


C.R. Richard’s Review:

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

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

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

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Pumpkins!

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


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

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

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

Author Website
Blog: Deep Thoughts & Junk
Facebook Author Page
Amazon Author Page
Goodreads
Twitter

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Christina Bergling

Meghan: Hi Christina! Thanks for stopping by. I know you’re busy, what with your book release today, so let’s get started right away. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Christina: Not to be the cliché horror author but… EVERYTHING! I have loved Halloween since I was a child, and I probably indulge in every part of it. If I had to select a favorite, it would be the costume. When I was young, I loved dressing up (on Halloween or any other day). The same is still true and likely contributes to why I like to dance and perform on-stage (costumes!). Yet the excitement of selecting a costume held me rapt for months. My mother often made my costume, so I had full creative freedom. Then we made the costume together. It all culminated when I could wear the final product, which of course had an elaborate backstory, to school, then later around the neighborhood trick-or-treating. Then the costumes lived on as long as they fit me. The best was when my mother made me a mermaid costume with a shimmering tale and shiny shells sewn on a flesh-colored bodice.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Christina: As a child, trick-or-treating was the best part of Halloween. While I still enjoy taking my children, we have struggled to find a neighborhood that is really into it. As an adult, my favorite has evolved to horror movies, especially at Telluride Horror Show every October, and/or haunted houses. Telluride Horror Show allows me to watch horror movies with genre fanatics in gorgeous mountain scenery for three straight days. Nothing but horror movies and maybe some horror movie trivia. And I love a good scare at a haunted house. I startle very easily, so the actors (and my friends) have plenty of fun with me.

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

Christina: Are there other holidays? Halloween is undoubtedly my favorite. It always has been. Christmas with Santa and presents did not even compete when I was young. Halloween always had my heart. Perhaps it was because my heart was always dark. I was always drawn to the macabre and the spooky. I am not sure why, but it resonated with me. Then with the addition of costumes and candy and running around in the dark and fear for fun, I was in for life.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Christina: I am not a superstitious person. However, I am a habitual person. If I do something and I love it, it becomes a “thing.” Traditions are forged very easily in my circle. Halloween has started to take over my life because I seem to add a new tradition every year, and I am completely unreasonable about skipping some or simplifying at all. It is never “or.” It is always “more.”

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

Christina: My favorite monster is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I love the psychology involved in his character. I think he embodies the wild duality in all of us. My horror villain is Hannibal Lecter. Once again, psychology. He is brilliant and yet profoundly savage. That duality, the way he blatantly ignores social convention to define his own ethical code makes his fascinating. Both have a deep intelligence under the evil, monster, and violence in their character. They are not mindless killing machines. They make very calculated decisions, which I think make them all the more terrifying.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Christina: I want to know who Jack the Ripper is. I know there are plenty of solid theories, and I’m not anywhere near researched enough. But I want to KNOW.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Christina: The Licked Hand haunts me. Of all the urban legends I have heard or read, that one left a mark on the back of my brain. To summarize, a girl puts her hand out of bed for a dog to lick it all night. Later, she finds the dog dead and realizes the killer has been licking her hand all night. I have heard many different versions of this same legend, but all versions just cause me to shudder. It used to keep me up at night when I was babysitting or home alone. And I surely never let my dog lick my hand at night.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Christina: I find Ted Bundy very interesting. His charisma and pathological lying make him quite fascinating. Plus representing himself in court and jumping out of the courtroom window to escape and continue his killing spree. His story is consistently so outlandish. The fact that he was able to get away with so much and garner so much attention for being attractive says some very frightening things about our culture.

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

Christina: Scream was my first horror movie at age 12. My father showed it to me after my parents divorced. While I lacked the genre knowledge to truly appreciate the meta nature of Scream, I adored it. I fell in love with the movie and the genre. I never looked back. I don’t think my father knew what he was starting. I don’t remember my first horror book. I started with Goosebumps and Fear Street and read numerous ones in elementary school. After that, I graduated to Stephen King. I devoured horror books at the library. Books lay the groundwork for my love of the horror genre and my eventual horror writing.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Christina: The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum deeply unnerved me. The novel is brilliant and so well written. The premise of child abuse and torture is visceral enough. However, the violence Meg endures is so haunting. I physically flinched. The prose made my nauseous. I love the book and appreciate everything it was able to do to me.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Christina: It might be a tie between the French movies Inside and Martyrs. French horror is extremely bloody. I am glad I saw Inside before I even had children because I do not know if I could handle the subject matter after being pregnant. Martyrs contained so much graphic torture. Ultimately, it influenced me so much that it helped to inspire my torture book The Waning. However, the most traumatic movie I have ever seen is by Dario Argento’s daughter, Asia Argento. The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things is traumatic to a level from which I may never recover. It just is not really “horror.”

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.)

Christina: My most fun Halloween costume was dressing up as Dora the Explorer as an adult. I had her backpack full of very inappropriate tools. I wandered around the party showing everyone what I had in my backpack and taking way too many shots. When I had my daughter, my family went as the Addams family. I made yarn braids for her to be Wednesday Addams.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Christina: I love Black No. 1 by Type O Negative. I’m definitely partial to it because I know a choreography to it and have performed to it. Living Dead Girl by Rob Zombie is another good one. And the theme song from Halloween by John Carpenter is a classic. Ice Nine Kills has a whole album (with another coming out in October) of songs based on horror movies.

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

Christina: Mellowcreme pumpkins are my favorite. I could eat myself sick on them. And also have. Those peanut butter taffy things in the orange and black wrappers are disgusting though. Reese’s peanut butter pumpkins are also quite delicious. Though candy paired with booze always makes me pretty happy.

Meghan: Before we finish, what are your Top 10 Halloween movies?

Christina:


Boo-graphy:
Colorado-bred writer, Christina Bergling knew she wanted to be an author in fourth grade. In college, she pursued a professional writing degree and started publishing small scale. With the realities of paying bills, she started working as a technical writer and document manager, traveling to Iraq as a contractor and eventually becoming a trainer and software developer. She avidly hosted multiple blogs on Iraq, bipolar, pregnancy, running. Limitless Publishing released her novel The Rest Will Come. HellBound Books Publishing published her two novellas Savages and The Waning. She is also featured in over ten horror anthologies, including Collected Christmas Horror Shorts, Graveyard Girls, Carnival of Nightmares, and Demonic Wildlife. Bergling is a mother of two young children and lives with her family in Colorado. She spends her non-writing time running, doing yoga and barre, belly dancing, taking pictures, traveling, and sucking all the marrow out of life.

Followers
Sidney, a single mother with a menial day job, has big dreams of becoming a full-time horror reviewer and risqué gore model. She’s determined to make her website a success, and if her growing pool of online followers is any indication, things are looking good for her Elvira-esque aspirations. In fact, Sidney has so many followers that chatting with them is getting to be a job in itself. More than a job, it might be getting a risky….

When Sidney is attacked on a dark trail late one night, it becomes clear that the horror she loves is bleeding into her real life. She learns that real-life horror is not a game, and being stalked isn’t flattering—it’s terrifying, and it could get her killed.

Sidney—and her loved ones—are now in serious danger. This follower isn’t just another online fan: he knows her movements, and he knows her routine. In fact, he’s right behind her… and when he gets close enough, he won’t take no for an answer.