After my appearance on an episode of his Bizzong! podcast, the esteemed Mr. Frank described me as “the Martha Stewart of extreme horror.” Now, there’s a moniker I never would have expected, but, nonetheless, gleefully embraced.
(The invariable immediate follow-up question is usually “so then who’s your Snoop?”, the answer to which is equally invariable and immediate: Jeff Burk, forever one of my favorite people in the world!)
Anyway, this came about because of my propensity to bake creepy cookies and cupcakes, and make creepy crafts, many of which I like to bring to events or present to my fellow creepy creatives. They’re great for book launches, readings, conventions, surprise gifts.
Many of these demented experiments spring from my own imagination, or are inspired by the works of others; I’ve done doll-mods, crafts, and baked goods inspired by book covers, characters, concepts, etc. I made death’s head moths for the fine folks at Death’s Head Press, sent the publisher at Bloodshot Books a giant painted ceramic bloodshot eyeball, and gave Brian Keene a batch of handmade “clickers.”
But, for the purposes of this post, I’m going to focus solely on weird shit I’ve made based on some famous horror films. Doll-mods, mostly, with a few other odds and ends (mainly odds) thrown in.
The earliest of these, chronologically speaking, was this nut-people version of Carrie at the prom, which I made for my daughter:
Also from the nut-people line, a nice little nightmare I like to call the Pecan Centipede:
Which, by the way, had a much larger cousin one year for Halloween:
Now, at some point along the line, I’d ordered a bunch of craft supply ‘book boxes,’ which aren’t boxes to store books but boxes shaped like books. A DIY Necronomicon was, of course, a must!
The doll-mods, though, always provide the biggest challenge, and tend to be the most fun. I’ve included pics from the movies I used as my reference in most cases, to see how close I was able to get with little more than a hot glue gun and paint.
Whenever I’m asked my favorite horror monster, the answer has got to be the classic Gill-Man. He was my daughter’s fave, too; while other kids were checking out cartoon movies from the library, she would beeline right for Creature From The Black Lagoon every time. So, naturally, I had to make a doll of him for her!
Now, sometimes there are moments in movies maybe meant to be horrific, but turn out more hilarious instead. For me, one such moment is in the original Fright Night; hello, Amy!
If some of your friends are so obsessed with a franchise they even have a Friday the 13th themed wedding, well …
Speaking of things providing challenges, by the way, the hardest part of this build was having to make the damn tricycle!
One challenge, however, I did not undertake was my roommate-at-the-time’s suggestion to make this one spew green goop:
Occasionally, I will make something that creeps even me out, so I am very glad the awesome Mary SanGiovanni agreed to give this one a good home:
As terrific and fun as was Cabin in the Woods, I think we all agree the by-far best bits came when we got to see all the other options, and dream of the alternate versions of the movie that could have been. Like, say, either of these two:
Hail to the king, baby. ‘nuff said.
And, to finish with a drastic departure from crafts into cooking, who’s hungry for some SHARKTATO MEATNADO?
Yes, that is a bacon-wrapped meatloaf tornado with potatoes carved into sharks. Life is too short to make plain old boring loaf-shaped meatloaf. I could do a whole other post about those culinary experiments too.
Do I deserve the title Mr. Frank so graciously bestowed upon me? I am far from an expert, far from having my own entire multi-million-dollar brand name and empire. But, for now, I can just say — and after seeing her as a judge on Chopped, I know she’s one of the scariest people alive — your move, Martha!
Boo-graphy: Christine Morgan recently quit her night-shift job and moved from rainy Portland to sunny Southern California to help out her mom and hopefully make a plunge as a full-time writer. Several months later, she’s still reeling from the culture shock of adjusting to daytime life, but finally has a real office/library full of bookshelves and critter skeletons, as well as a dinosaur-themed bedroom. Because she is a) a grown up and b) a professional.
It’s that time of year again. Summer has come to an end, the days are getting shorter, and the color orange is starting to saturate our world of capitalistic vice and consumption. There’s pumpkin spice, well, everything and the general cozy feeling that comes with the season, and then we have the people who are annoyed with the deliriously evangelical followers of the autumnal cult of joy. Fall is the favorite season of many, and the favorite punching bag of others. Personally, I’m a big fan of the season and the mood it sets. I haven’t even touched on the best day of the season, in my opinion at least: Halloween.
I sit pretty comfortably in the opinion that Halloween is one of the best holidays. I’m not even close to being alone in that belief. In 2019, almost 70% of Americans celebrated Halloween. It dropped a bit in 2020 and looks like the downward trend may continue this year, thanks to the pandemic. But still, more than half of Americans, pandemic or not, are going to be indulging in the spooky, in the morbid, and in the deliciously decadent delights that horror can give. Children and adults alike love Halloween. Horror fans and otherwise love Halloween. The love of Halloween spans various belief systems and religions. How is this so? Why is Halloween such a hit?
I think that it has a lot to do with the fact that it happens at the end of October, just as fall is getting into full swing. Like Christmas, we start celebrating Halloween before the actual day with trips to pop-up stores for new costumes and goodies for our homes, visiting haunted houses and hay rides, and scary movies play on the television every night. Summer is the season that we spend mostly out of our homes, away on vacations and with school being out, mostly on a relaxed or nonexistent schedule. Fall begins with school going back into session, the return to routine and to the end of the vacation season. We’re home, we’re settling in, we’re getting cozy, and we get to do that as the lush beauty of nature prepares to wow us one last time. In the autumnal season, nature proves that she saves the best for last. The sweet smell of dead leaves and their lovely crunch under our feet as we walk, it romances us. Death woos and charms us. Pumpkins start appearing everywhere, flanked by decorative baskets of chrysanthemums. But alongside that magazine-cover pretty picture, there are skeletons, spiders, black cats, corpses, vampires, bats…all of the ambassadors of the decidedly spooky. And they go together wonderfully. I put a seven-foot werewolf on my front porch, but I’ve also got mums and pumpkins. I put out a small cemetery in my side yard with zombies and skeletons climbing out of the graves, but they’re surrounded by beautiful falling leaves from the large tree. The beauty of nature’s death pairs nicely with the human macabre.
Halloween also has the distinguished position of being a holiday that normally doesn’t come with family obligations. Every season comes with a holiday that carries some sort of requirement that can stress us out. Halloween has no such demand. It stands as one of the special days on the calendar that is set aside purely for fun. Obligations are minimal, usually, and having to eat a big dinner next to your judgmental aunt is still at least a month away. Halloween is so much more casual. I know the history of Halloween and I know the pagan-held beliefs of the day, but it has become a day of laughter, fun, sweets, and ridiculousness. It has a few songs, it has a lot of movies, and it has costumes. Halloween is an absolute delight, and I know that I start looking forward to it every August. I sometimes hold out through September before bringing out my spooky and corny decorations, and sometimes I don’t. But, at the very least, the month of October is dedicated to Halloween in my house. My giant porch werewolf and the many other outdoor decorations pale in comparison to what I have inside of my house. A disassembled skeleton hangs from my dining room chandelier, I drink my coffee from Halloween mugs and have my evening tipple in Halloween glasses. For crying out loud, I have Halloween bedding and bathroom hand towels! I love every stitch of it. All of it.
The U.S. is an enormous country with many different regions and not all of them necessarily have four seasons, and yet, they still celebrate Halloween. I live in Eastern Pennsylvania where we certainly experience the full four seasons, but Halloween is pervasive in this country of ours regardless of whether autumn happens or not. Again, why? I’m not an academic and I have no deep philosophical answer for you. What I do have is my observation, and my knowledge of both your average person and the horror community. Halloween is popular because it’s fun. Being scared is fun. Horror carries a stigma of being sick and taboo, and yet I rarely meet a person who doesn’t have a favorite scary movie. People tell me all the time that they don’t like horror, but they love Halloween. Yes, it’s the day for the horror-lovers, but it’s also the day for the “normies” to take a walk on the spooky side and it turns out, they have just as much fun as us horror folk. It’s fun! That’s not a deep answer, but it is an obvious one, and a truthful one.
So, if you’re like more than half of us and celebrating Halloween, enjoy it. Have the fun. Watch the movies, eat the treats, put up the decorations, and do it with people that enjoy it as much as you. Do a Halloween night recitation of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” and eat some apple dumplings. But could you do this horror author a favor? Pick up a scary book from an author you’ve never read. Give a smaller name a chance. Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree is a terrific book and everything by Stephen King can be appropriate at this time of year. But there are so many horror authors out there who are putting out works that will surprise you with the imaginative takes and amazing storytelling and it’s a shame to only read the biggest names, or only a few names. Try something new, someone new, and allow yourself to be surprised and delighted. After all, ‘tis the season!
I’ll start you off. I’ll throw some authors at you, and you pick what thrills you most.
If you like it spicy and want your horror a little sexy, check out Sephera Giron and Jessica McHugh. But don’t be fooled by the erotic bent of these works, they are every bit as brutal and horrifying as any other horror book, just with an added bonus.
Do you like horror that doesn’t really fit into a category but can be emotional and somehow beautiful? Robert Ford and John Boden belong on your shelves, then.
Grab a short story collection from a new author. As a reader, I find the best authors out there put together amazing short story collections. Most of the authors I mention here have short story collections in their bibliography. Also, try one of Matt Wildasin’s Horrors Untold volumes. They’re wonderful and varied fun.
I’m barely scratching the surface here, and could spend all day pointing you to terrific authors, but if you start here, and do a little digging of your own, I guarantee you’ll find your new favorite author. Happy Halloween!
Somer Canon lives in Eastern PA with her husband, two sons, and three cats. She loves to read and write and although she is polyamorous when it comes to genres, horror always seems to be her favorite.
Boneyard — Halloween is a night of spooky fun…at least it is for the living. What about the dead? What kind of fun do they have? Read and find out how the no-longer-living entertain themselves at the expense of very much alive and disrespectful people!
A Fresh Start — Still hurting from her divorce, Melissa Caan makes a drastic life change for herself and her two young children by moving them out to a rural home.But the country life came with some extras that she wasn’t counting on. Doors are slamming, she and her children are violently attacked by unseen hands, and her elderly neighbor doesn’t like to talk about the murders that happened in the strangely named hollow all those years ago.Ghost hunters, witches, and a sassy cancer survivor come together to help Melissa fight for the safety of her children and herself.All she wanted was a fresh start, will she get it?
Slaves to Gravity (with Wesley Southard) — After waking up in a hospital bed, paralyzed from the waist down, Charlie Snyder had no idea where life would take her. Dejected, broken, and permanently bound to a wheelchair, she believed her life was truly over. That is…until gravity no longer applied.It started out slow. Floating from room to room. Menial tasks without assistance. When she decided to venture outside and take some real risks with her newfound ability, she rose above her own constraints to reveal a whole new world, and found other damaged individuals just like her to confide in.But there are other things out there, waiting in the dark. Repulsive, secretive creatures that don’t want Charlie to touch the sky. And they’ll stop at nothing to keep her on the ground.
Meghan: It’s been awhile since we sat down together, Somer. What’s been going on since we last spoke?
Somer Canon: Oh boy, SO MUCH! I’ve had the release of my book, A Fresh Start, from Crossroads Press as well as a few anthologies. I also embarked on a co-writing journey with my friend and talented author, Wesley Southard. Our work is still in it’s nascent form, but it’s shaping up to be something pretty amazing.
Meghan: Who are you outside of writing?
Somer Canon: Suburban wife and mother of two sons. Minivan driving menace to aggressive drivers in BMWs and grill master extraordinaire.
Meghan: How do you feel about friends and close relatives reading your work?
Somer Canon: My two childhood best friends are NOT horror fans. Not even a little bit. They’ve read one of my works and were kind enough to ask me what was wrong with me, but I am very understanding of their abstaining from reading my stuff. I can’t really help it if my family reads my works and I try not to think about it too much for fear of censoring myself, to tell the truth. If I offend, I’m happy if they don’t tell me about it.
Meghan: Is being a writer a gift or a curse?
Somer Canon: It’s a mixed bag, honestly. I think creatives are some of the most empathetic and wonderful people to know and I love being in their midst. By knowing them, I’ve learned to embrace the parts of myself, my creative self, that have for so long been hidden by me for fear of them being weird or off-putting by members of polite society, and not just because I am a horror writer, although that comes with its own cabinet of weird. We notice things some other people don’t, we’re sensitive and vain, and we tend to be frightened of putting to paper parts of the lush and colorful wilderness that is our imaginations. That place in our heads is where we do most of our living and sharing it is difficult, and yet most of us, myself included, are compelled to put it down and get it out. It’s freeing and wonderful, but also terrifying and loathsome.
Meghan: How has your environment and upbringing colored your writing?
Somer Canon: Well, they certainly color ME, so they would have to bleed into the work that I wring out of myself, you know? My upbringing wasn’t a happy one, so I tend to not write child protagonists because I hated so much being a child…I don’t want to revisit that. Things that anger me make it into the books, things that scare and hurt me make it in. My weird preoccupation with snack cakes made it into my book Killer Chronicles! The things in my past and in my surroundings can’t help but be part of the creative process and I think it’s good for the final product. It makes it more relatable, I think.
Meghan: What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research for your books?
Somer Canon: Crime scene photos. I’ve had to describe some horrible things and in order to keep it grounded, or at least semi-grounded in reality, I had to get a good look at it. I’ve lost sleep over a few of those.
Meghan: Which do you find the hardest to write: the beginning, the middle, or the end?
Somer Canon: Endings are HARD. Not to say that beginnings and middles are easy (they’re SO not) but endings have a lot of responsibility towards the overall tone of the book. Where do you end it? How do you end it? What questions do you answer or leave hanging? How many of your readers do you want sending you angry emails? I consider books to be like thrill rides and they’re absolutely more about the journey than the destination, but if the destination is ill-fitted and all wrong, it certainly has influence over your impression of the overall experience.
Meghan: Do you outline?
Somer Canon: I might do a page-long idea of the overall story sometimes, but mostly I pants it.
Meghan: Do you start with characters or plot?
Somer Canon: Plot.
Meghan: Do you just sit down and start writing?
Somer Canon: It might look like that from the outside, I suppose, but my mind is totally bent on that current work in progress. Every waking moment is spent thinking on it.
Meghan: What works best for you?
Somer Canon: I need to do things that are quieting. By that I mean, my hands are busy, but my mind is in this really great, quiet, almost zen place and I get my best ideas when I’m quieting. I bake, work out, do yard work, or clean my kitchen cabinets. It helps a lot.
Meghan: What do you do when characters don’t follow the outline/plan?
Somer Canon: My characters start off as cardboard cutouts of the more well-rounded people they become in the process of writing the story. If they want to go off script, I’m okay with it.
Meghan: What do you do to motivate yourself to sit down and write?
Somer Canon: I want this. I’ve always wanted this. Hard work has never scared me off. Someone once said to me, “Just sit down and write the damn thing.” Reciting that like a mantra actually helps me a lot!
Meghan: Are you an avid reader?
Somer Canon: I try to be, I really do. I don’t read as much as I’d like.
Meghan: What kind of books do you absolutely love to read?
Somer Canon: I love haunted house books. I’ve never passed on one. I also love a good biography.
Meghan: How do you feel about movies based on books?
Somer Canon: I’m always dubious about it because so many movies change parts of the original story that… WHY. There was no need to change that, why did you do that? I watch plenty of movies based on books, but I’m usually left cold.
Meghan: Have you ever killed a main character?
Somer Canon: Yes.
Meghan: Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?
Somer Canon: It’s not that I get joy from it. There is something to learn from pain and there’s an opportunity to grow or learn something about yourself if you make it out of the suffering intact. It has to happen, but I don’t necessarily love it.
Meghan: What’s the weirdest character concept that you’ve ever come up with?
Somer Canon: I have my idea book where I jot down little ideas for stories or characters. I used to keep it by my bed so if I woke up with a thought I could jot it down. I stopped keeping it there after I found an entry with only two words and, for the life of me, I have no idea what I was thinking. Grandma Boobie is the entry. I just… HUH?
Meghan: What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever received?
Somer Canon: I’ve been really lucky to work with editors that have helped me catch some annoying habits in my writing. I can’t imagine how tedious I must be to them. What’s the worst? I once had a fellow author tell me that I’ll never again hit the high of the experience of signing my first contract and it was all downhill from there. I disagree with that. Big time. Every time someone wants to publish one of my tales, every short story acceptance, every invite to do a blog tour or a convention… it all means so much to me and I let myself be humble and flabbergasted by all of it. I’m living my dream and I don’t want to let myself become numb to it.
Meghan: What do your fans mean to you?
Somer Canon: We have to hide how demoralizing this writing thing can be. Rejections happen, things go quiet and you’re forgotten, self-loathing is the grease that keeps my writing engine going and I’m very hard on myself. And then, in those darkest times, someone will message me and tell me that they liked my story, or send me an email asking when my next book will come out. I can float on those tiny nuggets of encouragement for a week at least. My fans startle me and lift me up and I really don’t know if I could handle the drudgeries without them.
Meghan: If you could steal one character from another author and make them yours, who would it be and why?
Somer Canon: I would love Larry Underwood, from Stephen King’s The Stand. Larry is such a mess and I’d like to play with him in a timeline where I can continue his storyline and Captain Trips never happens. He’s a victim of good intentions swallowed by pride and vanity, until everything goes to hell and he has to lead with his better side. His better side is full of mistakes, but it perseveres.
Meghan: If you could write the next book in a series, which one would it be, and what would you make the book about?
Somer Canon: I’d like to write another Southern Vampire Mystery book (True Blood was based on them). I love the character of Sookie Stackhouse as she was in the books (don’t make me talk about the show… I get loud) and I feel that Charlaine Harris got tired of writing in that world, which I understand. But as a fan I would geek out so hard.
Meghan: If you could write a collaboration with another author, who would it be and what would you write about?
Somer Canon: I AM writing a collaboration with someone, the previously mentioned Wesley Southard! But fantasy-wise? I think it would be cool to write with one of my high-minded, intelligent friends like Mary SanGiovanni or Catherine Cavendish. They’re so much smarter and more eloquent than I am and it would be a real experience to live in their process.
Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?
Somer Canon: I’m not stopping! I’m working on a novel right now that will be my homage to both Clive Barker and Tobe Hooper! After that, who knows?
Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview or the last?
Somer Canon: Thank you to anyone who has given any of my words even a cursory glance. It’s easy to feel lonely and alone and to every person who has ever interacted with me in even the smallest way, thank you so very much. And thank you, Meghan’s House of Books, for having me again! This interview was a doozy!
Somer Canon is a minivan revving suburban mother who avoids her neighbors for fear of being found out as a weirdo. When she’s not peering out of her windows, she’s consuming books, movies, and video games that sate her need for blood, gore, and things that disturb her mother.
Still hurting from her divorce, Melissa Caan makes a drastic life change for herself and her two young children by moving them out to a rural home.But the country life came with some extras that she wasn’t counting on. Doors are slamming, she and her children are violently attacked by unseen hands, and her elderly neighbor doesn’t like to talk about the murders that happened in the strangely named hollow all those years ago.Ghost hunters, witches, and a sassy cancer survivor come together to help Melissa fight for the safety of her children and herself.All she wanted was a fresh start, will she get it?
Dawna Temple let herself be moved from the familiarity of Pittsburgh to the wilds of West Virginia, all so her mentally exhausted husband, John, could heal from a breakdown. Struggling with the abrupt change of location, Dawna finds a friend in her neighbor, Suzanne Miller, known to the locals as The Hag Witch of Tripp Creek.
A NEW FRIEND
Dismissing it as hillbilly superstition, Dawna can’t believe the things she hears about her funny and empathetic friend. Suzanne has secrets—dark secrets—and eventually she reveals the truth behind the rumors that earned her the wicked nickname decades earlier.
Now in possession of the truth, Dawna has conflicting emotions about Suzanne’s past deeds, but when her husband’s well-being takes a downturn, she finds there is no one else to turn to. Will she shun her friend as others have done before? …or can she accept that an act of evil is sometimes necessary for the greater good?