CHRISTMAS TAKEOVER 2023: David Quantick

Driving Home for Christmas

I can hear her.

 “Can we have the radio on?” my daughter said. 18 years old, Sandi with an “I”, coming home from college for the first time and she likes rock music – real rock music like Deep Purple and Biffy Clyro and Black Sabbath. I didn’t think kids liked rock music any more, but it seems they do. They also like covering their arms with tattoos and colouring their hair weird shades of urgh. (I can cope with the tattoos and the dye – I’ve been there too and at least it’s not drugs – but why is the dye always such a horrible colour? What’s wrong with bright colours? These kids colour their hair in pastel shades and it’s just wrong).

I shook my head.

“It’s broken,” I lied.

It wasn’t broken. I just couldn’t take it anymore. The voices, howling in the static. The voices of the dead.

I can hear her voice.

The dead, it turns out, have their own stories to tell, and no-one to tell them to. Elvis, his voice echoing in the dark. John Lennon, telling me how he feels for ever and ever. Kurt Cobain, Freddie Mercury, Ian Curtis, all wanting me to hear their stories. They don’t know that I’ve already heard them – how can they, where they are there’s no rock press, no ultimate guides to the music of – and they probably don’t care. They just want to talk. And I drive, and I listen, and sometimes I tune out.

“ – I still love her, even after what she did – ”

Elvis was the first, I think. I had the radio on, some gooey oldies station playing Misty or something like that, and I was about to press the button, put on another station, when I heard the voice. It sounded like a drowning man, but who drowns on the radio? The voice was familiar too, the deep Southern drawl, and at first I thought it was the idiot DJ, trying to sound like Elvis. But what he was saying was wrong.

“ – if you see her, tell her how I feel. There never was anyone else, she needs to know that – ”

That sort of thing, over and over. I pictured him, tumbling into a well, lost in a tunnel, wondering what the darkness all around was, kept going only by the need to talk to someone, to tell his story.

“It’s broken,” I told Sandi.

“No it’s not,” she replied, with the directness of youth, and turned the radio on. Immediately the car filled with the sound of stadium metal.

“Yeah!” Sandi shouted. “Ozzie!” And she made a devil sign.

“Don’t do that,” I said.

“Why not?” she asked, giving it full-on devil sign jazz hands, and I didn’t say anything, because I couldn’t think of a reply. Or rather I could, and it was ‘because you’re four years old and it’s weird’, but she wasn’t four, she was eighteen and she was coming home from college for Christmas.

Elvis was the first, but he wasn’t alone for long. The next voice came soon after, though it was hardly a voice at all, more of a shiver in the dark.

The stereo was playing an oldies playlist I’d made, soul and doowop and r’n’b, and the song playing at that moment was Why Must I Be A Teenager In Love?, a goofy gallop of a song that I’d always loved. The singer was Frankie Lymon, a real teen idol who’d lost his life to heroin, and now Frankie was fighting against his own voice on the stereo. As his 13 year old self whooped and soared and bemoaned the trials of love, another Frankie – older, emptied of all excitement – tried to fight his way in.

“ – it’s cold, why is it so cold, why am I here, they said they’d come for me, they said it would be OK, it’s cold, they should be here by now, why am I so cold – ”

Frankie’s voices mingled and twisted together like a whirlpool until it was hard to tell who was singing and who was crying out. Even before the song ended, I had to turn the iPod off, and drove the rest of the way in silence.

The song Ozzie was singing was called Crazy Train, and it wasn’t bad if you like that sort of thing, which I don’t but Sandi definitely did. She was doing air guitar to the solo now, and head-banging, which was quite an achievement in the passenger seat of a small family car.

“ – no – we’re out of control – help us – ”

Ozzie wasn’t dead, but – I suddenly remembered – his guitarist was. Randy Rhoads, died in a plane crash. As Sandi rocked out, Rhoads’ thin, panicked voice began to scream.

“ – no – shit – we’re going to – ”

I changed stations.

“I was listening to that,” Sandi said, slumping into her seat for a sulk.

The next day I went to the Christmas tree farm outside town, and it was not a good drive. The radio had started playing itself, as though the backlog of voices wanted to be heard had burst a dam inside the transmitter, and there was a constant stream of songs overlaid with voices.

Buddy Holly, killed in a plane crash with Richie Valens and the Big Bopper.

Otis Redding, killed when the plane he was on crashed into a lake.

Sam Cooke, killed by a jealous lover.

Bobby Fuller, famous for one song – I Fought The Law – murdered by gangsters.

Eddie Cochran, killed in a car crash.

They kept on coming. Sometimes I didn’t know who they were – they might be a drummer or a bass player, or even a backing singer, it didn’t matter, if they were dead, they wanted to be heard.

The Christmas before, we’d bought Sandi a home studio. Not a literal studio, but a plug-in or something for her laptop which apparently was just as good as a real studio. She even looked pleased, so maybe it actually was a home studio.

I used to look in on Sandi, working out how to multi-track guitars or add drums. One day she caught me standing outside.

“Don’t listen!” she shouted.

“I wasn’t,” I lied. “I just wanted to see how it works.”

 She sighed.

“OK,” she said, and for the next ten minutes showed me how to move faders and add tracks. It all seemed a bit difficult and she must have seen my confused look, because she reached under her desk – her childhood desk, which I’d bought from Argos and assembled myself – and brought out, of all things, a tambourine.

I tried to pull the radio out of its housing, but it was welded or glued in. I tried to pull the wires out, but nothing happened. And then while I was hitting the stereo, perhaps, or rummaging through the glove compartment for a manual  – when I was distracted, anyway – I looked up to see the front of a truck hurtling towards me.

Sandi pressed a letter on the keyboard, and a click track began to play.

“Hit this in time,” she said.

 “In time to what?” I asked.

“To the clicky noise, Dad,” she said, almost as sarcastically as possible.

 I don’t know if it was my fault or the truck’s fault, but it really doesn’t matter anymore.

 For the next four minutes, I hit the tambourine as close to the beat as I could.

 “Now what?” I asked.

 She gave me a look.

 “Do not say anything,” she said. “Do not laugh, or say it’s not as good as the Beatles, or anything.”

 She pressed a key and suddenly my tambourine was one of ten other instruments – drums, guitar, bass, piano, synthesiser, and vocals. Her vocals. Sandi, singing a song I’d never heard before.

She sang beautifully, and the song was good too.

“Did you – ”

“I said be quiet.”

She stopped the track, saved it to her hard drive and looked at me defiantly.

I mimed zipping my lips together.

She gave me the finger, but she was smiling.

I am in air.  All around me is movement, and light.

There are voices. Some of them I’ve heard before, and some are new.

I can hear her voice.

She is singing.

Sandi has her own car now. She likes to play metal stations but sometimes, when she’s coming back from a gig, she takes out her mp3 player and she puts on her demos, the songs she made with the home studio plug in. She sings along to her songs, with her own guitar and her own keyboards. She listens for improvements that she could make, better basslines or melodies or drums.

 I think that when she plays one of the songs, she listens out for the tambourine. It’s not exactly session musician quality, but it’s there. And I think that one day, she’ll hear me.

I don’t know what she’ll say when she does.

Boo-graphy: “David Quantick is one of the best kept secrets in the world of writing. He’s smart, funny and unique. You should let yourself in on the secret.” ~Neil Gaiman

David Quantick is an Emmy-winning writer who has written for Veep, The Thick of It, Avenue 5 and many other shows. Night Train is his second novel for Titan.

Links to his work, including free downloadable short stories, can be found on his website.


Meghan: Hey, Jon. Welcome back! It’s always an… interesting pleasure… to have you on. To be honest, I think your day is one of the ones I look most forward to during this thing. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Jon: A long time ago, it was the first Nightmare on Elm Street. At the time I had two rooms in my parents house (I was maybe 15 or 16). My main bedroom was in the basement. The horrors of my parents basement scare me more than anything I have ever read or seen on a screen.

It was late at night and I was in the living room by myself. The scene where a body bag was being drug through the school halls was the last bit for me. I turned it off and couldn’t go near the basement that night.

The problem of course, to get to my other room, I needed to pass the stairs to the basement. It took a bit of convincing myself I could do it.

Meghan: Do you get scared easily?

Jon: Monkey Shines. I can still see the damn wind up monkey smacking its cymbals.

Meghan: What is the scariest movie you’ve ever seen and why?

Jon: The older version of vampires. I don’t really care as much now because of how they are seen in modern culture. The thoughts of them have been romanticized so much that they are more a misunderstood creature than something from the bowels of hell.

Mind you, this could be part of the issue we face in many aspects of our lives. We spend so much time trying to take the power away from things outside of ourselves that we relegate things that should scare us to banal tropes.

Our efforts to explain away evil hurts us more than the evils itself.

Meghan: What horror movie murder did you find the most disturbing?

Jon: Halloween means haunted houses and weird trips through demented imaginations. My girls and I spend time in the month of October going through the haunted attractions. We go for the possibility of being scared but mostly just marvel at the work that goes into each room. And of course we spend time interacting with the actors.

I’m pretty sure for most normals we are a nightmare to go through the attraction with. Our last jaunt we lost the groups that had been attached to us. Mostly because they shifted away from us in the waiting areas.

I think they maybe go because they are searching for the scare. We go because these are our people.

Meghan: Is there a horror movie you refused to watch because the commercials scared you too much?

Jon: Freddy is the protagonist right? He’s the star of every one of his movies.

Meghan: If you got trapped in one scary movie, which would you choose?

Jon: Depends on what it is and the atmosphere of where I am. Most movies don’t really do a thing for me, not like they might have in the past. I maybe a bit more jaded than I used to be. Or maybe it’s the landscape of my mind that frightens me more than any fantasy a director tries to frighten me with.

Meghan: If you were stuck as the protagonist in any horror movie, which would you choose?

Jon: Pumpkin spice lattes and murder. (Only one of these is true)

Meghan: What is your all-time favorite scary monster or creature of the night?

Jon: See the above answer. Mind you I don’t find them disturbing now. Mostly they just make me laugh. The efforts they go to now to try and affect a jaded audience means they are pushing the limits of what might be disturbing. The sad part is, the harder they push, the less horror they are able to achieve. I have seen non-horror movies and stories now with murders and deaths that are so much more disturbing. It’s the shock value of not expecting it to happen.

With that, there is a scene in the series version of Spartacus that made me stop and stare. I don’t remember the characters but it was one of the Roman women killing another one. She slammed the woman’s head against the stone floor repeatedly. They added the sounds of the skull fracturing. Amazing work.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Jon: Do you believe in ghost stories? Because you are in one…

I have seen ghosts or visions I could not explain on several occasions. There are things out there we still can not explain with the science we currently have available.

Meghan: What is your favorite horror or Halloween-themed song?

Jon: Nightmare on Elm street. Mainly because I would be a dream beast like Freddy. I can see myself haunting people’s nightmares to feed on their fear and pain…

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Jon: Depends on the day. So much of our world and the universe is still hidden from us. New discoveries and interactions with this crazy thing called life is always something I want to know more about.

Meghan: What is the creepiest thing that’s ever happened while you were alone?

Jon: La Gripe from Squirrel Nut Zippers.

Meghan: Which unsolved mystery fascinates you the most?

Jon: Depends on the day…

Do I succumb to ennui or do I fight on and take as many of the bastards with me before they turn me into one of them?

Meghan: What is the spookiest ghost story that you have ever heard?

Jon: Actually wasn’t a horror novel at all. Neil Gaiman’s book Trigger Warning, has a story that continues the tail of Shadow (American Gods). There is a moment in that story that I was drawn so deep into the horror that it gave me chills.

I have a few in some horror books as well.

One being a Lovecraft story. I don’t remember the name of it but the story was more a description of a house. I was doing third shift gate guard duty for the Welch’s plant in Lawton Michigan. Yeah, time alone in the middle of the night and darkness all around. I ended up seeing these rabbits toward the road with blood on their fangs. At that point I knew it was time to stop reading.

And one more… I don’t remember the name of the story or the book I read it in. But the gist of it was the bombing run of World War II. One of the planes had gone of course, and dropped the bomb on a target of opportunity. It’s only as the plane is flying away that we realize they just dropped an atomic bomb on Oz, the Emerald City. Chills I tell you…

Meghan: In a zombie apocalypse, what is your weapon of choice?

Jon: My father once told me the ghost story of the man who had a premonition of his own death (though he didn’t know it was his death). In the end of it the man ends up getting hit by a train.

I grew up near the train tracks. Our house was essentially at the halfway point between Chicago and Detroit. And I grew up at a time when Shipments of cars and car parts were transported mostly by train. So there were a large number of trains going by our house on a daily basis.

On some nights if I was outside and the vibes were right I would be transported to that story where the man died trying to stop the train. I have chills every time, even now.

Meghan: Okay… let’s have some… fun??……….. Would you rather get bitten by a vampire or a werewolf?

Jon: Vampire. Vlad is one sexy beast and retains his sex appeal even as a monster. Yeah, its gotta be his type instead of the nasty things in other myths.

Meghan: Would you rather fight a zombie apocalypse or an alien invasion?

Jon: Zombies, you can’t turn into an alien. Best you can hope for is the probing to be fun.

Meghan: Would you rather drink zombie juice or eat dead bodies from the graveyard?

Jon: Depends on how you define zombie juice. I mean if its like Powerade, no biggie.

Meghan: Would you rather stay at the Poltergeist house or the Amityville house for a week?

Jon: Poltergeist. Just avoid the pool.

Meghan: Would you rather chew on a bitter melon with chilies or maggot-infested cheese?

Jon: Since both are actually a thing, I want to say both. I have to wonder if the wormy cheese still wiggles as you chew.

Meghan: Would you rather drink from a witch’s cauldron or lick cotton candy made of spider webs?

Jon: Quit trying to say Gramma can’t cook. That’s just mean.

Boo-graphy: Jon M. Jefferson writes Speculative fiction with forays into Noir and Bizarro. His stories have appeared in the 2013 Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Anthology, and the Foil and Phazer Divide and Conquer Anthology. He is a longtime fan of Science Fiction and Fantasy stories in all their forms. He has spent most of his life looking for magic in the everyday moments of life. He hails from the tundra of Southwest Michigan. The monsters in his life include his wife, two daughters and two granddaughters.



Meghan: Hey, Karissa! Welcome to Meghan’s HAUNTED House of Books! What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Karissa: I like that Halloween makes it culturally acceptable to indulge the darker side of our human natures. We can explore our feelings about monstrous and evil things without explicitly approving of them. The world is both light and dark, and most of the times we’re not supposed to acknowledge the dark stuff, but on Halloween, it’s acceptable.

I also love the aesthetics of Halloween—skeletons and bats and spiders and gothic clothing. I love costumes and how, for one night, you can be something or someone completely different. I love the idea of trick-or-treating, that we let down our guards and open our homes, even temporarily, to the community. It’s one activity that will never work as a virtual, on-line event. You only get the candy if you’re willing to go door to door and actually meet your neighbors. Some people hate that part of it, but I always liked the human interaction aspect of trick-or-treating.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Karissa: In my day job, I work in an office in a historical home in the downtown area of my city. My office/house is adjacent to one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, and that neighborhood goes ALL OUT at Halloween. They put up very elaborate decorations. The city shuts down one of the main streets in the neighborhood to keep cars out, and there’s a huge street party and tons and tons of trick-or-treating. Ever since I started working near that neighborhood about six years ago, I’ve been taking my family there on Halloween night. My kid is too old to trick-or-treat any more, but we enjoy going to see the decorations and the costumes. There’s also a Krispy Kreme nearby and we always stop in and grab some of the Halloween themed donuts.

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

Karissa: I don’t know that I have a favorite holiday because there’s something I like about most of them. I guess, if I had to choose, I like Thanksgiving most of all because it’s all the best stuff about Christmas but without all the commerciality and pressure to spend money and give gifts. I love to eat, I love spending time with my family, and there are fewer expectations. But Halloween might be my second favorite (even though we don’t get any days off from work for it. Why not? Who do I send a petition to about that?) because of all the things mentioned previously. So many holidays are similar, but there’s nothing else quite like Halloween, culturally speaking. It’s all about having fun, letting loose, indulging in fantasies.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Karissa: I am not really a superstitious person, although I do sometimes feel afraid to acknowledge out loud when something is going well or when I’ve had a streak of good fortune. Some part of me seems to think that acknowledging good luck is the fastest way of making sure that good luck comes to an end. But I’m not afraid of anything like broken mirrors, walking under ladders, or black cats.

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

Karissa: This is a hard one, mainly because there are so many good ones. I conferred with my kid (who is 19 y.o. and not much of a kid anymore) and he chose the demon from the Jeepers Creepers franchise, and I agree he’s a good choice. He only shows up every so often, but once he does, he’s impossible to kill. No matter what you do (like run him over with the car until he’s pulp in the road), he just keeps coming back. And he has the scariest face ever. That is some quality special effects make-up right there.

But while the Creeper is high on my list, I think Tim Curry’s performance as the demon clown in Stephen King’s It is probably top of my list. He was utterly terrifying in the most subtle way. He could just stand there in his clown make-up and pointy yellow teeth and scare the bejeezus out of me.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Karissa: I do watch quite a lot of true crime shows and listen to podcasts, but I can’t say there’s one that really fascinates me more than another. I was intrigued by the story of Hae Min Lee’s death, and whether or not Adnan Syed, convicted for killing her, really did it. Check out Season one of the Serial podcast for the whole story. I have to say, based on what I’ve heard and what we know in the years since…I think there’s a really good chance Adnan didn’t do it.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Karissa: Not so much an urban legend but when I was little, I had a book of local, North Carolina ghost stories that fascinated me. Ever since then, I’ve had a special place in my heart for local stories like the Devil’s Tramping Ground and The Maco Light.

The Devil’s Tramping Ground is a camping spot located in a forest near the Harper’s Crossroads area in Bear Creek, North Carolina. Lore says that the Devil “tramps” and haunts a barren circle of ground in which nothing is supposed to grow. Things left there will disappear overnight. Of course, there are some scientific explanations for why this place is so strange, but speculating about the devil is more forum

As for the Maco Light, according to the most common version of the legend, Joe Baldwin was in the rear car of a Wilmington, NC-bound train on a rainy night in 1867. As the train neared Maco, Baldwin realized the car had become detached from the rest of the train. He knew another train was following, so he ran to the rear platform and frantically waved a lantern to signal the oncoming train. The engineer failed to see the stranded railroad car in time, and Baldwin was decapitated in the collision. Some say the head was never found

Shortly after the accident, residents of Maco and railroad employees reported sightings of a white light along a section of railroad track through swamps west of Maco station, and word spread that Joe Baldwin had returned to search for his missing head. The light was said to appear in the distance, before approaching along the tracks facing East, bobbing at a height of about 5 feet, and either flying to the side of the track in an arc or receding from the viewer. Other reports spoke of green or red lights, or other patterns of movement

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Karissa: Although I like true crime a lot, I don’t tend to care for serial killer stories. It’s one thing to get a thrill from a fictional murderer like Mike Myers, but I don’t like anything that smacks of glorification of real-life killers in any sort of way. I tend to shy away from serial killer mythology.

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

Karissa: I probably had seen movies that were considered horror at an earlier age, but don’t remember anything specific. However, I do remember having a Halloween sleepover with some girlfriends when I was in middle school, I was probably about 12 years-old, and my mom let us rent The Lost Boys. I was absolutely enthralled. I don’t know if that can actually be considered a horror movie, but Kiefer Sutherland and his band of vampire misfits were certainly no vegetarian, sparkly Twilight vampires. I still love that movie to this day.

I can’t specifically remember when I picked up my first horror novel, but I do remember that The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree was one of my most favorite books as a little kid—I was always drawn to spooky things and didn’t scare easily. I read way ahead of my grade level, and I grew up reading Stephen King, Christopher Pike, V.C. Andrews, and Dean Koontz. My mom was very open minded about reading, and I have no memory of her discouraging me from reading anything.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

As a kid, I remember reading The Tommyknockers by Stephen King and being so freaked out that I had to go outside in the daylight to finish reading it. But the most recent thing I’ve read that made me feel deeply unsettled is The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones. The whole book is full of moments that took my outside of myself in a frightening, disturbing way, but there is a climactic chase scene near the end that is one of the most downright horrifying things I’ve read in a long, long time. Jones establishes a prolonged period of heightened tension that is torturous, but in a really good way, and it’s never boring or tedious. If you love horror and haven’t read that book yet, you must.

I also have to shout out to I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. It’s nothing like the Will Smith movie, by the way. It’s one of the most gorgeously written books I’ve ever read and filled me with so much existential dread. It’s also extremely timely and relatable to the current pandemic culture we’re all experiencing.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Karissa: Horror, like comedy, is highly subjective, right? What scares one person won’t scare the next. I’ve watched tons of horror over the years and little of it has actually scared me. However, I can’t stand movies that are classified as horror but are actually just torture porn, such as House of 1000 Corpses. My husband, when we first started dating years ago, asked me to watch that movie with him and his friends. I ended up putting a blanket over my head and going to sleep instead of watching it. It didn’t scare me so much as sicken me. I still won’t go anywhere near that franchise, and I’m reluctant to watch any Rob Zombie productions because of that movie.

I wouldn’t say it scarred me, but George A. Romero’s ’68 Night of the Living Dead scared the crap out of my when I saw it years ago. It still gives me chills, and it’s still my favorite zombie movie, ever. With little in the way of special effects and nothing like CGI even remotely possible, Romero had to be clever. He used music and sound effects, lighting, and careful pacing to create a highly atmospheric movie that is thick with dread and horror. The opening scene, with that slow shambling zombie in the background, out of focus, slowly coming closer and closer… That was pure cinematic genius. I still prefer it over newer zombie movies that rely too much on CGI.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Karissa: As a kid, I was kind of spoiled and precocious about costumes. My mom was crafty and could sew. I always insisted that she make me one-of-a-kind costumes, and she indulged me. The biggest hit of my childhood costume career was when I went as a whole bag of M&Ms. My mom sewed me a costume that looked like a classic bag of regular M&Ms complete with the logo and barcode—it was kind of like a giant, brown, rectangular dress. I painted my face to look like a green M&M poking out of the top and put M&Ms made from balloons on my shoulders. I won a costume contest, and my mom sent pictures of me to the Mars chocolate company that owns M&Ms. They sent back stickers, coupons, and a personalized thank you letter.

I don’t sew like my mom can, but I like making things, so I’ve managed to make some pretty good costumes for my kid over the years. He’s been Popeye (that was a big hit with the old folks in my neighborhood), a Ghost Buster, the Ghost Rider, Gene Simmons from Kiss, and many more. When I used to work in a bigger office, I once made fancy witch hats for all the ladies in my section to wear on Halloween.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Karissa: Easily the answer to that is Thriller. I am Gen-X and was a little kid when that album came out. I loved everything Michael Jackson in those days. I didn’t see the video until I was a little older, maybe around seven or eight years old, and I remember being absolutely captivated by it. I still love the song and the video after all these years, even when it’s not Halloween.

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

Karissa: When my son was still trick-or-treating, I always looked forward to taking his Mounds or Almond Joys. I love coconut, but he didn’t, so it worked out well for me to take those and leave the rest for him. I especially like Mounds because I prefer dark chocolate. I absolutely cannot stand Twizzlers. They taste like wax to me. Ugh.

Meghan: Karissa, this was fantastic! Thanks for stopping by. Before you go, can you leave us with your go-to Halloween movies and books?


Top Ten Horror/Halloween Movies:
10 The Cabin in the Woods
9 It (The 1990 Miniseries)
8 Jeepers Creepers
7 Blade (1 and 2)
6 Bram Stoker’s Dracula
5 Three Witches of Eastwick
4 The Lost Boys
3 Alien (I and 2, especially 2)
2 Tumbbad
1 Night of the Living Dead (Romero, 1968)

Top Halloween Books:
10 The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (much more terrifying than the musical version)
9 Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
8 Dracula by Bram Stoker
7 Prodigal Son (Frankenstein Series) by Dean Koontz
7 The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
6 The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
5 The Tommyknockers by Stephen King
4 Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
3 The Sandman by Neil Gaiman (The BBC audio production is wonderful)
2 The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
1 I am Legend by Richard Matheson

Karissa Laurel lives in North Carolina with her kid, her husband, the occasional in-law, and a very hairy husky named Bonnie. Some of her favorite things are coffee, dark chocolate, superheroes, and Star Wars. She can quote Princess Bride verbatim. In the summer, she’s camping, kayaking, and boating at the lake, and in the winter, she’s skiing or curled up with a good book. She is the author of the Urban Fantasy trilogy, The Norse Chronicles; Touch of Smoke, a stand-alone paranormal romance; and The Stormbourne Chronicles, a YA second-world fantasy trilogy.

Serendipity at the End of the World
Serendipity Blite and her sister, Bloom, use their unique talents to survive the apocalyptic aftermath of the Dead Disease. When Bloom is kidnapped, Sera is determined to get her back. Attempting a rescue mission in an undead-infested city would be suicidal, so Sera forms a specialized team to help retrieve her sister. But unfortunate accident sets Sera teetering on the edge of death. She must fight to save her own life, because surviving could mean finding family, love, and possibly a cure.

You can find it on Kindle Vella
New episodes come out every Saturday


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

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

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

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

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

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

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

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

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

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

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

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

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

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

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

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

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

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

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

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

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

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

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

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

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

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

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


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


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

List #2
Halloween (Rob Zombie edition)
Halloween III
Halloween 2018
Dark Night of the Scarecrow

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

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

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

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

October Nights
Halloween is a night when anything seems possible.

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

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

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


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.

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).


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.