Christmas Takeover 9: Adam Davies: Black Mistletoe

Black Mistletoe

A Story by Adam Davies
3,582 words

Ah, Christmas. Festive cheer, overindulgence, and kissing under the mistletoe.

What do you know about Mistletoe? Probably nothing beyond its puerile festive kissing connotations. Well let me educate you.

It’s a parasite. That’s right. It attaches itself to a living host tree and leeches the water and nutrients it needs to survive. It thrives and flourishes whilst slowly killing its unwilling host. Long before it became associated with festive fumbling it had a much darker and more sinister history. In Norse mythology it was an arrow made of mistletoe that killed Baldur, one of the most beloved of Norse gods. In ancient Celtic Britain, mistletoe was an integral part of rituals that involved the sacrifice of bulls – and certain human body parts – to improve fertility. But you can google all of this and more for yourself, suffice to say there is much more to mistletoe than you probably understand or care about. One thing a cursory google search won’t find is a reference to black mistletoe.

But black mistletoe is only part of this story. This is a story about love, about a boy and a girl. Me and Tilly.

You don’t know me, but you know someone like me. You would have called me a loser at school, and you wouldn’t have been wrong, but you would have been an asshole for saying it. The fact that you and your friends said it to me over and over and over again – for so many years – means that you share the blame for what I did, what I’m going to do.

You made me. I used to be a loser, but now I’m something worse, much worse.

I live near Leeds in Yorkshire, it’s in the North of England if you don’t know. I “live” with my grandmother, but I don’t think many of you would call what I have a life. I never knew my dad and my mother passed away from lung cancer when I was fourteen, so I moved in with Nana into her bleak, isolated old farm cottage back then.

It’s hard for me to talk this way. To be so honest about the broken, wretched horrible human being I am. I need to tell you. I need you to understand what it’s like to be me, to help you understand what happened last Christmas, and why.

I’m overweight, chunky, obese. No, I’m fat, a disgusting fat pig. No careful words or phrases can diminish what I see in the mirror. Since puberty, I have suffered with a medical condition known as Hyperhidrosis – excessive sweating to the uninformed – so I smell constantly of stale, sweaty body odour. What makes me so angry is that I’m obsessively clean. I know I smell, and it makes me feel sick. I shower three or four times a day and the constant drying of my skin and use of soaps means my pale, veiny blubber is covered in painful, angry red sores and eczema. My breath is rancid. No matter what I do to clean my teeth and tongue, and no matter how much or what brand of mouthwash I use, my breath plain stinks. Lank, greasy, shoulder-length hair of a dirty brown completes the pretty picture.

But I’m not just ugly on the outside. Years of name calling, abuse, occasional violence and the subsequent self-imposed isolation means I have a cruel and venomous tongue to complement my utter lack of social skills. I pretty much hate everyone I come across, you are all such mewling, self-obsessed fools, and you’re all so god-damn stupid. It’s like you people know nothing. I, on the other hand, know so much. I haven’t had anything you would call a friend since my mum died eight years ago, so books and the internet have been my constant companions. I’m clever. I read, I study, and I learn.

I fought my destiny for years. I tried so hard to do something about my appearance, my smell, my increasingly unpleasant personality. I would buy clothes, use deodorant and cologne to try and become a little bit more normal. I craved the acceptance of fools. When I was twelve, I spent a few years as part of a role-playing group who would meet every week to play Dungeons & Dragons, Runequest and the like. Even then, surrounded by nerds and losers, I was the outcast. I was unliked and unwelcome, but it kindled my interest in the esoteric and occult. I became fascinated by magic and rituals and started looking out for any material I could get my hands on. There was a rare bookstore on the outskirts of Leeds city centre, and I began to visit it at age fourteen looking for books that could give me some secret power or arcane knowledge. I would spend hours in the solemn, dusty quiet of that store with its crowded dark aisles formed of floor to ceiling bookshelves. The fragrant haze of incense gave a dream like quality to the dimly lit store and time obeyed its own laws inside. A whole day could pass in an instant, then at other times an eternity of trawling through the shelves might pass just a single hour. I never saw another customer, and the owner, a distracted old Methuselah, would flash me a toothless grin when I squeezed through the tiny entrance, so nondescript you could sometimes miss it from the street and walk straight by.

I spent hours in that store. It looked tiny from the outside but was labyrinthine within. I never truly mastered its layout. A left turn at the end of a familiar, dark aisle might open up a new, unseen shelf or even a stairwell down to a previously unvisited basement. That was were I found the book that fascinated me and became an obsession. It was a nameless, old leather-bound tome filled with gruesome illustrations. It described ingredients, rituals and methods. It was clearly translated from an older tongue and the stilted Olde-English lent it a morbid tone. I felt something when I touched that book, a pulsing, malevolent feeling of power and life. I asked the old store keeper how much it cost.

“I can’t sell that book to a child,” he told me his voice thick with accent, German perhaps, or eastern European?

“Are you kidding? I need to be eighteen to buy a book,” I snapped.

“You need to be… ready,” he said by way of reply.

Fine, I could wait. The book called to me, sang to me. I flicked through its leathery, waxy pages countless times over the next few years. I became fascinated and obsessed by it’s dark content. I would try to memorise the words and rituals but they would slip from my mind as soon as I was away from the store. My dreams became dark enactments of the spells it contained. I became popular and loved each night, only to have salvation taken from me each morning upon waking. I was in high school and the book fuelled my resentment and hatred of my classmates.

You’re probably reading this thinking “Yeah, I get it. You were the smelly fat kid at school who got picked on. Get over yourself, everyone can make friends and there is someone for everyone.” You’re an utter moron if you think this, you can’t begin to imagine the torment and pain of being constantly shunned and reviled, knowing that every snigger you ever heard was directed at you. I was a virgin at 23 and hadn’t even come close to kissing a girl… until last Christmas.

Everything can be traced back to me being sixteen at high school. Already a loner and ostracised, I was about to have the most humiliating experience of my wretched life. It was the last week of the Christmas term – twentieth of December – a date painfully etched into my memory. As I walked down the main corridor and turned into a classroom to spend my break in seclusion, Tilly, and a group of her friends were walking out.

Let me tell you about Tilly, Matilda Sipsmith. She is…was, the most beautiful and perfect creature in all of creation. She was willowy with delicate features and luxurious brown shoulder length hair that framed her picture perfect face. She was the typical “most popular girl in school” being stunning, clever and had a look that exuded purity & innocence, but when she wanted, there was a wicked glint in her eye.

I tried to step back out of her way but one of her friends called out.

“Oh Tilly, you’re going to have to kiss the freak,” she was cackling whilst she pointed to the mistletoe hanging over the door frame.

I was frozen, desperate to get away but the flow of bodies in the hall had me trapped. Time slowed and everybody in the hall stopped and turned to stare at the horrible farce that was about to play out before their eyes. Tilly looked at me and in her smile, I thought I saw compassion, and maybe just a little pity.

“It’s OK,” she whispered and slowly started to close her eyes and purse her lips.

I couldn’t believe it. I knew it was just because of the mistletoe, but this Angel, this object of so many of my most frustrated desires was willing to kiss me. So, I did the same and closed my eyes.

The sting of the slap on my cheek shocked my eyes open but the impact of that slap, that betrayal, on my soul broke something inside of me that can never be fixed.

“Oh my god you actually thought I would kiss a disgusting pig like you,” she sneered. I remember the laughs and jeering, howling faces.

After school I went to college and after college the best I could manage was to hold down voluntary roles in charity shops and the occasional few months of paid work before my personal hygiene and acid tongue would find me back in my bedroom in Nana’s cottage, jobless. Money wasn’t an issue I had a life insurance payout from when mum had died so I never worried about my lack of a real job. I spent more and more time on the web exploring darker and darker content. I would order occult books from specialist book dealers but none of them scratched the itch created by that one book. I was depressed and began to self-harm. I turned my emotional scars to physical ones as a way to find some release.

I went back to the bookstore on my eighteenth birthday. To my horror, I could not find the book.

“Have you sold it?” I asked the storekeeper.

“No,” he told me.

“Then where is it?”

“You can only buy it when you are ready,” he told me again.

It was October of last year when I took an IT support role at a small insurance firm that needed some short-term cover, and there she was, Tilly Sipsmith, working in the main office. If she recognised me in anyway it didn’t show, but I recognised her. She was as beautiful as ever, more so. Her girlish charm had blossomed into a true and perfect beauty. The sight of her made my chest constrict and I struggled to breathe. Painful, humiliating memories of that horrible day in school seven years earlier sprang unbidden from my memory.

Over the years I have tried many things through desperation, pheromone sprays, hypnosis tricks and even spells to try and change the wretchedness of my life. My mind was reeling when I got home that night and my restless sleep was punctuated by strange and vivid dreams, dark dreams of revenge of blood and a shining silver moon that turned completely black as I gazed upon it. It those dreams I could I hear the book calling to me, its too sweet whispers of power and vengeance still echoing in my head. I rushed out after work and went to the store.

“The book,” I demanded when I say the grinning old fool.

He pulled a pre-wrapped package from beneath his counter and I paid him an extortionate sum of money without hesitation.

I hurried home and went to my bedroom – sweating and breathless – to study the tome. I opened it at random I found a simple page that I swear had never been there before on any of the countless times I had read this book cover to cover. There were no illustrations and just a few words.

Black Mistletoe: A ritual to compel a lover to your bed.

On the night of a full moon, at exactly midnight, bury something beloved of the object of your desire amongst the roots of an Oak tree where mistletoe grows. On the night of the next full moon, at midnight on that same tree, a black mistletoe berry will grow. Eat it and harvest the bough it comes from. Under this cursed bough take a kiss and the ritual is complete.

You have to understand, my whole life has been a succession of misery and abuse, and Tilly became the focal point for all of the hatred and anger that had built up inside me. I had tried “magic” before, but nothing had ever worked. But I was desperate enough to try anything and the only thing holding me back was that I didn’t know or have access to anything she loved. I spent the next day constantly finding reasons to walk past her desk in an attempt to find some clue as to what I could bury. I had almost given up when I caught a glimpse of the screen saver on her mobile phone showing her cuddling her pet cat.

My IT role meant I had a fair degree of systems access, so it was easy for me to get into the personnel system and pull her home address. I drove to her house under cover of darkness for the next three nights to watch her and find out her routines. Her cat, whatever the stupid creature was called, seemed to slither out of its cat flap when she retired to bed at eleven o’clock.

On the third night, I came armed with a towel, a kitchen knife and a pouch of cat food.The greedy, trusting fool came straight over and even rubbed against my legs as it became aroused by the vile, fishy smell of the bait. I hesitated, could I really plunge my knife into this innocent feline? I heard the book whispering to me of vengeance, and the chance to be with Tilly. I closed my eyes and pushed the knife in. It felt exhilarating as the blade sliced through the thin resistance of skin and slid deep into its flesh. I pulled out the knife and watched the blood drip from its wicked edge. A frenzy seized me, and I stabbed again and again unleashing my fury on this wretched symbol of Tilly’s cruelty.

The cat was a bloody ruin. I wrapped the body in the towel and stashed it in Nana’s unused coal shed at the back of the house.

There were two more nights until the full moon and I had already located the tree I was going to use. It was about a half-mile into some seldom visited woods just off a lay-by in the nearby countryside. I had no belief at all that this would work, but it hardly seemed important. I had chosen this dark path, or had it chosen me? Regardless, I knew that I would see it through to the end. I buried the cat’s stiffened and stinking body on schedule on the seventeenth of November and spent the next month on tenterhooks waiting for a visit from the police to answer questions about a murdered cat. I was paranoid that some nosey neighbour must have seen me, but the police visit never came. The month passed, and on the seventeenth of December I went back to the tree. I was panting and breathless from the short hike. It took me twenty minutes of searching by torchlight, but there it was, the single black mistletoe berry. I eat it there and then, half expecting to get sick and drop dead from eating the poisonous thing, but I had come too far now. I swallowed it whole and harvested the vine, then returned home in the cold, darkness.

Fate decreed that our office Christmas party was the twentieth of December, exactly 8 years on from that fateful encounter. A winter chill fell suddenly over the city, as the office emptied for the trek to the nearby pub, snow began to full. I spent the whole time alone in the pub corner nursing a drink and glowering. My co-workers went out of their way to ignore me while they laughed, joked and got drunk. Tilly sat resplendent, the centre of attention worshipped by the men in the office and revered by the women. At ten-thirsty Tilly visited the toilets alone and I knew this was my chance. After a minute, I followed waiting to catch her on the way out. There was a mirrored sign in the small corridor. I caught my reflection. My eyes had sunk deep into black rings, my lips had turned a veiny black. The door to the ladies opened and out she walked. She stopped when she saw me and the alarm on her face told me she recognised me, and that knew what she had done all those years ago. She had brought this on herself.

“Hello, Tilly, remember this?” I said and held the mistletoe vine over her head. Her eyes glazed over and her face became expressionless. I leaned forward, eyes open this time and kissed her. For a second she neither resisted nor joined in, it was like she was frozen to the spot and I could feel my black lips burning. Then, without warning, she embraced me and began to return my kiss passionately. My heart sang.

There was a door leading outside to a smoking patio. I led her through and out into the misty cold of the snow kissed car park avoiding the rest of our colleagues. She got into my car without question and we drove back to my Nana’s house. The icy roads were treacherous made worse by the dense, freezing fog that had settled.

That night was exquisite, and her noiseless tears only heightened the pleasure.

I offered to drive her to the office the next morning, but instead she rang in sick. I presumed that come morning the rituals dark magic would wear off and she would come to her senses. Instead, she was dream-like and detached. I offered her tea and breakfast, but she refused everything. I thought she may have been hungover, but we had left early, and she did not seem too drunk. She said she just wanted to stay in bed. Her lips looked dark and her skin so pale it was almost white.

I expected she would be gone when I returned home but she was still there in bed. She hadn’t even risen to go to the toilet. I had to wash the stinking sheets and change the bed before joining her for another night of pleasure. She rang in sick again the next day, and the one after that. By the end of the second week they told her not to come back. I said nothing in work, and no one had seen us leave together. Who would suspect?

Back at the farm we were together every night, and soon her stomach began to swell. On the night of the next full moon she birthed a white-skinned, shrivelled thing, it looked more like a hairless kitten than a human child with black, sightless eyes and translucent, veined black lips. I threw it in the coal shed and its cries stopped after a few days. There have been nine full moons since then and there is a stinking, rotten mass in the coal shed where the bodies of those blasphemies have decayed.

Tilly is not so pretty now. She is weak, she barely eats, and she hasn’t spoken for more than six months. Her hair has all but fallen out and her skin is so pale and thin I can see the blood flowing through her black veins. She is a living skeleton, little more than bones. I have to dress her each day and clean her when she soils herself. She never eats and only drinks a little water. We are still together at night, but I don’t think she will survive the next birth.

I told you earlier that mistletoe is a parasite.

Tilly’s condition would worry me if I hadn’t met Harriet at my new job. Where Tilly was all lust and hatred, it’s different with Harriet. This time it’s true love. She is plain, but still beautiful to me and she even talks to me from time to time, mostly when I lock her account out of the system, so she has to call me to reset her passwords. She doesn’t have a cat, but she has a 2-year-old son Oscar.

It will be the office Christmas party in a couple of months, I need to start my preparations.

Adam Davies writes thinking person’s horror for fun, and to free his imagination, if he didn’t, all those crazy thoughts would stay trapped in his head and who knows what would happen? Adam has six short stories published across four anthologies and is currently working on his first novel. Adam is an active part of the indie online horror community and founded the NoSleep Writers Guild in 2017 to help improve relationships between internet horror writers and YouTube horror narrators, and combat IP theft. His published works can be found in:

A Cure for Chaos: Horrors from Hospitals and Psych Wards
Monstronomicon: 100 Horror Stories from 70 Authors
Goregasm: Seductively Scary Stories
Sirens at Midnight: Terrifying Tales of First Responders

Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Nick Botic

Meghan: Hi, Tristan. Welcome to Meghan’s House of Books. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Nick Botic: I’m Nick Botic, an author/publisher from Milwaukee, WI. I’m 30 (it still feels weird to say that), and I’ve been writing since I was about 13 years old, but I’ve only really been taking it seriously since 2015.

I’m a huge fan and proponent for the horror genre, and have been my entire life. I’m a film/TV fanatic, an “aficionado” of sorts.

I am a proud and unabashed crazy cat lady. I might be 6’5” and covered in tattoos with a history of violence, but when I see a kitty, I can’t help but fawn over it like a little kid.

Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?

Nick Botic:

  • My girlfriend’s nickname for me is Penguin. Still have no idea why.
  • I have 10 cats.
  • I’m four years sober.
  • I’ve spent over a year of my life in jail.
  • I once spent $400 on boomerangs.

Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

Nick Botic: The Giving Tree. It’s one that I read again as an adult, and when I did, I really understood it. It’s a good book for both kids and adults in terms of themes.

Meghan: What are you reading now?

Nick Botic: I just finished the entire 193-issue run of The Walking Dead, and have since moved onto the ongoing Absolute Carnage storyline. And in preparation for a project I have coming up, I’ve been reading all of the classic “creepypasta” stories.

Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?

Nick Botic: A People’s History of the United States. Learning about the different cultures that all commingled to make the country we know today was fascinating

Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?

Nick Botic: I’ve liked writing since I was young, but I didn’t start taking it seriously until I found the Reddit community r/NoSleep. The stories there fascinated me, but the ones I found effective were few and far between (which is simply a matter of personal preference, I don’t mean that as an insult to any writer’s work). I continued going through the stories and thought “I can do this”, and somewhere around March of 2016, I began writing short horror stories.

Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?

Nick Botic: Most of my writing gets done in bed with a cat and my girlfriend next to me.

Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Nick Botic: Not really a quirk or process per se, but I can’t write in silence. I always need to have a TV show or movie playing in the background.

Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Nick Botic: The most challenging part for me is filling in the blanks. I know the story I want to tell, but actually getting the words down always feels like such a chore. Other than that, endings.

Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?

Nick Botic: I have a story I wrote called “I Found Something Impossible in my Backyard”, that I’ve always been quite happy with. I think it’s the fact that even as the writer of the story, I have no idea what was going on in the story.

Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Nick Botic: As far as the type of writing I do, the books of other authors who write in similar styles have always been particularly inspiring, particularly Stolen Tongues by Felix Blackwell and PenPal by Dathan Auerbach.

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

Nick Botic: A good story needs to make the reader care about what’s happening. They need to be able to relate, to find a bit of themselves in the characters, in order to really get immersed.

Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Nick Botic: As I mentioned, to love a character, there needs to be an aspect to them that the reader can empathize with. To accomplish that, I find it easiest to give characters flaws, be they small (such as a character who habitually bites his/her nails), or large (such as a character who is in recovery). Something that the reader can look at and think “ah yeah, I do that too” or “oh, my friend/family member has that same issue”.

Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Nick Botic: All of my first-person perspective work has a narrator who is essentially me; I find it easiest to imagine a situation and its outcomes when I can imagine myself in it. The character telling the story in Daughter’s Drawings, especially so.

Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Nick Botic: A cover is the first part of a book someone sees, and it sets the tone for what lies within, so yes, I would absolutely say I’m turned off by a bad cover. For my first release and its second edition (The First Collection and later The Things We Fear), I created the covers entirely on my own (probably why they aren’t very good!), and for the group anthologies and other author’s work I’ve released under my imprint NBH Publishing, I’ve been lucky enough to have the incredible Scott Savino to do the covers.

Meghan: What have you learned creating your books?

Nick Botic: The devil is in the details. From both a writing standpoint and a publishing standpoint, making sure there are no holes anywhere in the book is key. As far as the story goes, that means making sure there are no loose threads, no plot points that lead nowhere or have been left unresolved. For publishing, it means going over the book with a fine-tooth comb, reading and rereading every word as many times as necessary to make sure everything is in order.

Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Nick Botic: Not necessarily a scene but a whole piece. There’s a story I wrote called “My Little Sister’s Beautiful Imagination”, and despite writing in horror and having the strongest stomach of anyone I’ve ever met, the subject matter of a child being sexually abused made me sick to my stomach. I ended up removing the story from r/NoSleep and my website. It’s not that I don’t think it’s a well-written story – I feel as though I’ve both written far better work and work that wasn’t nearly as good – but it’s just something I’d rather have not written. I don’t think any subject is taboo in horror, if that subject is broached in a responsible, tasteful, respectful way. If I’m not 100% that’s how I’m addressing a particular topic, I generally won’t continue until I am. That’s a story I’m not 100% sure on.

Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Nick Botic: I feel as though I have a unique perspective when it comes to human suffering. I know real terror, I’ve seen true vulnerability. Combine that with what Kimmy calls “an encyclopedic knowledge of all things horror”, and I feel like I’m able to produce stories that haven’t yet been told. I’m able to, hopefully seamlessly, mix and match the most effective aspects of several different other works, to what I hope is an original final product.

Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Nick Botic: A title is most definitely important. It should hint at what the story is going to deal with but of course not give too much away. It should be the enticing appetizer that leads to a delicious meal. Titles have always been something of an issue for me. Being one of the many horror authors who got their start on r/NoSleep, I’ve been almost conditioned to writing informal titles (for example, the original title of Daughter’s Drawings was “My Family Has Been Stalked For Four Years”), and breaking that habit has been a task in and of itself. For the book I re-release every Halloween, I chose the title A Halloween in Glarus because it’s straightforward, it tells the reader what the book is about, it doesn’t give anything besides the most general plot away, and at least for me, it rolls off the tongue quite nicely.

Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story? (Explain.)

Nick Botic: I’m currently writing my first novel, but I can already say with complete confidence that that will be the more satisfying completion of the two. I can write a short story in a few hours, and while it always feel great knowing I’ve completed a piece of writing, the process of writing a novel is much more grueling and cumbersome, and therefore I know the weight lifted from finishing it will be extremely fulfilling

Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Nick Botic: My target audience is anyone who likes horror. Horror has so many subgenres, be it psychological, comedic, occult, folk, Lovecraftian, and I try to make my books, at least my anthologies, include as many of those subgenres as possible. I aim to give every fan of every aspect of horror something to enjoy. As far as what a reader takes away? I hope each reader takes away something different from every story.

Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?

Nick Botic: At the moment, I’m working on my first two novels. The first is an extended version of my viral short Daughter’s Drawings, the other another offshoot of an earlier project called “The Agoraphobic Journals, which is going to be an experimental novel, something I’m really excited about. Beyond that, I have two podcasts I’m currently in the writing phase of, one of which is the project I’m by far most excited about. I can’t say what it is yet, but I have no doubt it’s going to interest the fans of the genre to no end.

Lastly, I’ve been slowly but surely compiling ALL of my work from 2016-present, and I plan to release one huge book that showcases my improvement as an author. It’s going to include pictures, behind-the-scenes stuff, anecdotes, all of which I’m really excited about.

I also am working on my first podcast, entitled “100% True: The History of Creepypasta and Internet Horror”, in which I take a deep dive into the internet’s most famous stories. I’ve been forunate enough to have the authors of the most widely recognized creepypastas answer questios for me, as well as Nick Antosca, the creator of Channel Zero (a TV show that ran for four seasons, each of which was based off of a different creepypasta), and the star of seasons 3 and 4 of the show, Brandon Scott. I have an interview with the man who wrote what many people consider to be the very first creepypasta, “Ted the Caver”, the creator or an longest-serving moderator of r/NoSleep, and the creator of the SCP Wiki. In addition to them and the creator of Slenderman and Marble Hornets, I have a breadth of information I can’t wait to share. I’m really excited for it!

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Nick Botic: Website ** Facebook ** Twitter ** Instagram ** Reddit

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?

Nick Botic:

  • If you don’t think Black Widow is the most hardcore and talented Avenger, watch the entire MCU again.
  • Don’t declaw your cats.

Nick Botic is a 30 year old author and publisher from Milwaukee, WI. Following a stay in a rehabilitation facility in order to rid himself of a years-long heroin addiction, Nick began writing after discovering the Reddit community r/NoSleep. His first series, an 8-part saga about a hotel worker, received rave reviews, and prompted him to continue writing.

Since then, he has written over 100 short stories and series, including the viral, award-winning hit Daughter’s Drawings. His stories consistently find their way to the top 5 spots on the 13 million-plus member Reddit community, often receiving awards. His work has been published in over 10 collections, including his own anthologies The Things We Fear and An Ode To Terror and his novella A Halloween In Glarus.

Towards the end of 2018, Nick ventured into the world of publishing. His first release, the erotic horror anthology Goregasm, reached the top 10 in the new releases category on Amazon, while David Feuling’s The American Demon Waltz has been met with overwhelmingly positive reviews.

In 2019, Nick has secured adaptation deals, with several of his stories in various stages of production. His next release, the 25-author anthology Sirens at Midnight is due July 1st, and has already been met with positive reception.

Nick plans to continue balancing the responsibilities as publisher while also writing new material to keep his fans happy and horrified.

Sign up for his mailing list to receive updates as new stories and books are released.

Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Adam Davies

Meghan: Hi, Adam. Welcome to Meghan’s House of Books. Thanks for joining us here together. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Adam Davies: I’m forty-five and live in a village in Yorkshire in the north of England (Stark country, not as far north as wildlings). I have an amazing, supportive, beautiful wife and two incredible daughters soon to turn eight and six. My real-world job is procurement and supply chain director for a business that distributes medical consumables. Two of my three cats that passed away in the last eighteen months so I’m down to an incredibly handsome, long-haired ginger tom, Jambo.

Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?

Adam Davies: I’m a huge introvert and find people totally exhausting, but you would never know this if you met me because I can come across as quite outgoing and I like to joke and gossip. I didn’t realise this introversion about myself until well into my mid-thirties. I’m very good at conflict, I have to be as part of my job, and my colleagues would all consider me quite feisty and combative at times, but very few people realise that I absolutely hate it and it eats away at me whatever I have to disagree with somebody. This is another revelation about my character that I only discovered in later life.I’m a high-functioning insomniac but have been able to bring that under control in the last four years by following a CBT online program. If there are any insomniacs reading this, I cannot recommend CBT highly enough it has changed my life. Where I previously averaged two to three hours sleep and had bad nights four nights in seven, I now average six to seven hours sleep I only have bad night’s one night in seven. The difference is incredible.I was a stage child taking dance and drama classes from the age of three and, by virtue of being a boy in a female dominated world rather than Talent on my part, I ended up appearing on national television on Christmas day and even as an extra in a film with Michael Palin and Dame Maggie Smith.Last summer I had a panic attack on a small aerial assault course on holiday in Italy. I’ve never been scared of heights before and I was no more than twenty feet off the ground. Fear of heights is something else didn’t know about myself.

Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

Adam Davies: I have two iconic childhood reading memories. The first is Dinosaurs and All That Rubbish, by Michael Foreman. My favourite book as a young child which I recently bought for my own daughters. It was very much ahead of its time with an incredibly relevant environmental message that we as a race have failed to heed. I also remember a book called Wereboy, by Terrance Dicks. As an eleven or twelve-year-old I borrowed this from the local library dozens, if not hundreds of times to read over and over again. I’ve never linked that memory to the fact that I write horror, but I guess a seed was clearly planted.

Meghan: What are you reading now?

Adam Davies: Vox by Christina Dalcher. It’s set in the immediate future where the ultra-conservative right has the presidency and women are prohibited from speaking more than one hundred words per day. It’s thought (and anger) provoking, chilling and well written. I recommend it.

Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?

Adam Davies: I was lucky enough to backpack around the world for a year in my mid-twenties. I read a succession of medical thriller novels by Robin Cook that I picked up at various hostel book exchanges. I found them all incredibly gripping despite the fact that they are ultra-formulaic and very not my thing in normal circumstances

Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?

Adam Davies: This is probably the most interesting questionable for me. I first put pen to paper three years ago in my early forties. I never knew I wanted to write, and I’ve never had the remotest inclination to try it. My youngest was coming up to two years old so we still had a baby monitor. I had the thought what have you heard somebody whispering to your child through your baby monitor while you were both downstairs and, on a whim, I decided to try and write that story. It quickly became an exploration of what happens to a couple’s relationship when they have a baby anthropomorphized into horror. I have seventeen thousand unpublished words somewhere that I hope one day to complete, but it became clear to me writing a novel was too hard for me and I had no idea what I was doing. In parallel I stumbled on a few Creepypasta I really enjoyed, Candle Cove, Mr Widemouth and Penpal stick in my mind. The Creepypasta led me to NoSleep on reddit and I suddenly realised I could write short stories and that would be easier than a novel and would help me learn. That probably marks the actual beginning of my writing. Over the course of twelve months I wrote around thirty-five stories I posted across r/NoSleep and r/shortscarystories on reddit. Through these subs I met a bunch of Incredible, talented fellow writers who I am part of various groups with to this day. I have been lucky enough to have a few short stories published in anthologies run by groups I met through NoSleep.

If that’s the how & when, the why is less clear. Now that I am writing I realise I have always imagined stories and always wanted to tell them. I’m under no illusions, I don’t have what it takes to have a career as a writer, that’s not my goal. I just want to write what I want and tell the stories that mean something to me. If anyone wants to read them that’s the icing on the cake.

Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?

Adam Davies: Special places to write don’t really exist in a house with young children in my experience!

Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Adam Davies: In terms of quirks, due to the amount of time I spend in my car with work, around four hours a day, I do an awful lot off my writing on a voice to text app as I drive. Without that I wouldn’t get the time to write anything. It takes an awful lot of getting used to. Not being able to see the words on screen in front of you adds a layer of complexity and wordsmithing is out of the question, but it’s good for rough drafting and just getting words on paper. There is significant editing required as the speech recognition with the background noise of the car can be pretty sketchy at times. This often leads to some hilarious sentences like “Callow 10 hatch Rossi akon hashish ready 2 evade.” I then have to figure out what I was actually saying at the time and translate back.

Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Adam Davies: I never enjoyed studying English in school, so I dropped it aged sixteen. As a result, I lack a lot of fundamentals. I particularly struggle with punctuation and grammar. I seem to have a complete blind spot on how to correctly use commas despite reading dozens of articles about the rules for doing so. The fact that I find it so difficult part of the fun for me. I love mastering things I find a challenge.

Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?

Adam Davies: A short story called ‘The Worm King.’ I remember being told about the cellular memory of worms in my mid-twenties and the concept of an all-powerful worm has sat in the back of my mind for decades. It’s short and snappy, with just enough science to make it almost plausible and make it a bloody scary concept. It also elicited a really fun set of interactions with the readers who commented on the story which really made it for me.

I also have a huge soft spot for the only children’s horror story I have written ‘Granny Heckle’s Teeth.’ I have a bunch of stories planned for the formidable Granny and I’d love to publish them one day with my daughter doing the artwork. (She’s only eight but seriously talented.)

Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Adam Davies: I think writing is still so new to me that I’m not sure I actually have a style yet. I love Clive Barker. His anthology The Books of Blood remain one of my all-time favorites. He has an incredible, vast imagination and tells stories on an epic scale which is something I aspire to. In non-horror I think A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin are the best books ever written. Again, the vastness and depth of the world and character building really appeal to me.

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

Adam Davies: Engaging characters and storylines that make you think.

I’m a horror writer that isn’t scared by horror. When I get a chill down my spine, it’s because something has made me think wow, that could really happen and it’s a chilling prospect. I enjoy psychological horror and technology horror as they tend to elicit those kinds of reactions in me.

Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Adam Davies: I like a sharp wit, and a misunderstood character will often draw me in, so somebody like Tyrion Lannister is a great character for me. He is deeply flawed and thoroughly unpleasant but mostly vilified for the wrong things. He has the confidence and acid tongue to deliver some stinging one-liners.

My own character development is something I struggle with. Short form horror is by its nature plot driven more than character driven, and in venturing into writing my first novel, I’ve had to try and force myself to address that in my current work in progress. I think there are some decent characters, but I am about to overhaul my main character. I think he lacks enough depth and interest to carry the book. I can’t visualize him clearly, and I don’t always know how he will react in a situation. If I don’t know that, how can the readers care?

Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Adam Davies: William Bridge the main character in my novel (who isn’t interesting enough to carry a book!) probably represents many of the less positive things I think about myself. He is a loner, disengaged from the world and doesn’t care about other people’s live. Captain Harold Stubbs, a homeless veteran from the same novel, probably possesses some of the positive qualities I’d like to think I have. He is loyal and honorable.

Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Adam Davies: I don’t know if they turn me off as much as a good cover definitely draws me in. My published work to date is in group anthologies where I had visibility of covers, and a small amount of inout between options. When I finish my novel and get to the point of needing a cover, I’m looking forward to being heavily involved in that. I confess to having a soft spot for a gold old fashioned eighty’s horror cover.

Meghan: What have you learned creating your books?

Adam Davies: So many things! The most enjoyable thing I’ve learnt is a reminder of how important imagination is. More than anything, writing for me is a gateway back to my childhood where imagination was more powerful than reality. I am lucky enough to have a happy and stable life, but reality can still suck at times. Writing means I get to create my own reality where ultra-cool shit happens, and monsters abound. Even though I don’t write about happy things, I get to write about things I find intriguing.

Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Adam Davies: My cheating answer is some of the scenes I haven’t written yet. I find endings difficult (we all do, right?), so the fact that I can’t yet conceptualize the end of my novel makes it hard to write. I don’t do happy endings so in my head the bad guys win. I’m not sure people are going to want to read that.

I’ve found some of the earlier, more mundane, character building scenes from my novel difficult for some of the reasons I mentioned above about finding character development a challenge. Not really being in love with my own main character has been a factor, and as the scenes have intrinsically less plot, they are further away from my comfort zone. I’m a horror writer so I have my fair share grisly scenes and even a few sex scenes. (I have a story in a horror erotica anthology, don’t judge me, it was huge fun.) Unpleasant stuff I’m fine with, mundane stuff I find harder.

Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Adam Davies: I don’t know yet is the honest answer. I’m trying to write a novel that is vast and complex with intertwined stories as part of a larger narrative arc. It has a message about how I view the world today and gives a uniqueness to some tried and tested horror bad guys. If I actually achieve one of those three things, I’d be pretty happy.

Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Adam Davies: With the birth of my writing career being on NoSleep, the title e is often the single most important factor in the number of eyeballs your story gets. When it comes to a novel, I think the significance of the title drops several pegs. The cover, the promotional activity and reviews are more important for visibility, I think.

My current WIP title comes from a prediction made in the story by something called ‘The Reaper App’ that predicts how and when people will die…with unnerving accuracy.

Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Adam Davies: Short stories give instant gratification. Write it, get it out, look at the feedback and move on. It’s a really nice feeling. But for me, the real sense of fulfillment has to come from the novel. It’s a huge challenge for me on so many levels. I’m a rank amateur, I lack the fundamental skill set, I don’t have the time, all of these are challenges I can overcome and get a big, bold story out there.

Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Adam Davies: I want to tell stories that terrify by making you think. I want them to unnerve and unsettle because they are a dark spin on a reality that is a little too close for comfort. My only real target audience is people like me, who read horror stories that are tropey and come away feeling a little disappointed that the book didn’t just go a little bit further.

Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Adam Davies: I have an extremely graphically unpleasant scene that may not make the final cut. It’s a transformation scene where a character is basically tortured into taking their own life to escape the agony. It’s borderline gratuitous, but it is important for the story. I’m on the fence.

Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?

Adam Davies: I have two. My Granny Heckle stories and the completion of my first baby monitor story that I suspect would end up as a novella.

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Adam Davies: I love #vss365 and do a horror themed tweet every day, so If nothing else there will be that.

All current efforts are focused on the first novel. I’m at 50,000 words so making decent progress, but it could easily be another year before I even have a finished first draft at the rate I write.

I also have a second novel idea and about 15,000 words written. I would describe it as ‘Dune, with Faeries,’ so yeah, that one’s a bit left field.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Adam Davies: Twitter ** Facebook

I have a lousy website that needs an overhaul, nothing to see there currently.

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?

Adam Davies: Just a huge thank you for interviewing me. I’m a complete nobody but I’m having a whale of a time writing and this is a huge opportunity for me that I really appreciate. The questions were thought provoking and I enjoyed the process.

Adam Davies writes thinking person’s horror for fun, and to free his imagination, if he didn’t, all those crazy thoughts would stay trapped in his head and who knows what would happen? Adam has six short stories published across four anthologies and is currently working on his first novel. Adam is an active part of the indie online horror community and founded the NoSleep Writers Guild in 2017 to help improve relationships between internet horror writers and YouTube horror narrators, and combat IP theft. His published works can be found in:

A Cure for Chaos: Horrors from Hospitals and Psych Wards
Monstronomicon: 100 Horror Stories from 70 Authors
Goregasm: Seductively Scary Stories
Sirens at Midnight: Terrifying Tales of First Responders

A Cure for Chaos: Horrors from Hospitals and Psych Wards

Life is chaos. Death is the only cure. 

You’re never so vulnerable as when you surrender your body to a hospital.

You trust the doctors to know what is best, but these stories show what happens when they have other plans.  

What if a maternity doctor pretends your child died during birth just so he can steal it? Or a simple operation is used as an excuse to harvest parts? Discover the truth of the asylum in the woods, take the pills which induce mind-bending phobias, and try to escape when you’ve been institutionalized against your will. 

A CURE FOR CHAOS is an anthology of horror stories from 30 authors, each with a unique way to thrill and terrify you. From stalking supernatural monsters to the psychopaths hiding in plain sight, these quick reads are perfect for adding excitement to your daily life. 

Monstronomicon: 100 Horror Stories from 70 Authors

THE MONSTER BOOK OF MONSTERS is a collection of 100 stories from around the world, inspired by the legendary book from Harry Potter. These aren’t your everyday Werewolves and Wendigos either. Each story is told by the survivor of an encounter with a unique and mysterious creature more wild and varied than you can imagine. This book has something for everyone with a dark mind, so read now to find the perfect monster for you.

Some monsters are quirky and friendly, while others are apocalyptic behemoths crawling up from the depths. Some stories are heartwarming, funny, or profound, while others are a blood bath.

Goregasm: Seductively Scary Stories

Goregasm is a compilation of the hot and the horrifying, the sexy and the scary, the titillating and the terrifying. Featuring X stories from over X authors, Goregasm contains the most vile tales of lust the human mind can conjure. 

From a father’s bequeathal of his sordid sexual proclivities, to a glory hole made by the devil himself, to a computer program that allows its users to partake in their most depraved fantasies, Goregasm takes a frightening dive into the sexual psyche, with blood-curdling tales that are presented with the hardest, deepest, most throbbing details the written word allows. 

Prepare to be aroused and appalled as Goregasm brings you to what will unquestionably be the most divisive climaxes you ever achieve.

Sirens at Midnight: Terrifying Tales of First Responders

Each and every day, first responders are thrown into situations most of us can barely comprehend. These brave souls are pushed to limits far beyond the average imagination, be it physically, emotionally or something…else… 

Like a police officer who arrives at a scene that defies all logic and reason… 

A firefighter who rushes into a house only to be met by the very flames of Hell… 

A paramedic who can’t restart a heart…because the patient doesn’t have one… 

A 9-1-1 call from beyond the grave… 

With 40 terrifying tales from 31 authors, join the heroic men and women of those professions and more as they attempt to rise above the darkness…and avoid having the last sounds they ever hear be… 

Sirens at Midnight