SHORT STORY: Interview with a Mad Doctor by Somer Canon

Interview with a Mad Doctor
By: Somer Canon

I was in the reception room of a bar in my local regional airport.  The man I was there to interview requested this venue specifically, and my career would implode if I did anything to jeopardize this opportunity.  Grungy and old, the room just barely met the classification of “clean” and I opted not to order anything to eat.  Ice water was fine.

My interview walked in.  I’d seen photographs of him and knew the basics of his appearance, but I found myself surprised by how ordinary he looked.  There was nothing particularly noteworthy about his face or his height.  It could all accurately be called “average” and nobody would argue that.  But that’s what made it weird.  This man was nothing even close to average or normal and the only thing I observed about him coming towards me was the way he walked.  There was a regal quality to it, a gliding gait that conjured images of the Caesars or Habsburgs.

He held out a hand with a smile and I noted the immaculate manicure and state of his hands.  His grasp was warm and firm, but not overly so.  He unbuttoned his suit jacket and sat in the grimy chair with no notice of how it would look pressed against his pristine and obviously expensive attire. 

“I’m so glad that I have the opportunity to talk to you,” I began. 

“Of course,” he smiled back.  “I’ve read some of your work and I admire your lean style.”

This man was a fugitive and I wondered for the millionth time since that first correspondence whether I would survive this encounter.  He’d contacted me, with a fake name at first, but after several emails back and forth, his real identity came out.  Up until the moment he walked into that reception room, I harbored thoughts, and a slight hope, that I was being pranked.

“I’d like to ask you, when I write my piece, do you mind my naming you?  Do you mind if I name this location as well?  I’m sure it would compromise you, but I can omit certain details.”

“There is no fear in the truth,” he replied lightly.  “My name and this location will not compromise me, I promise you.  I chose you for this interview, but there is much going on that you know nothing about, and I’ll be keeping it that way.  You have access to publications that can tell my story in a way that isn’t a sad, sensational squawking that I so dislike.  And you needn’t worry about my focus on you making a turn for the worse.  You’re a tool and if you maintain the manners I’ve seen in you thus far, there’s no reason to believe you won’t be getting the story that the rest of your career as a journalist will strive to meet in terms of renown and respect.”

“O-okay,” I stammered.  “Well I’d like to start with this meeting place.  From what I understand of your usual haunts, particularly those in Baltimore, it’s a few big steps below where you usually like to eat.  How did you happen upon this?”

“Make no mistake, I would not eat the food offered in this place, it was simply convenience that brought us here today.  As for this general area, well we’re only a two hour drive away from Baltimore and when I liberated myself from my federally imposed confines, I had to make my way back to Baltimore, my home, for a few provisions before I went into total hiding.  Being several states away, or even several countries away, is obvious on a level that I find vulgar.  I was as safe as a baby in this area, an overlooked town in Eastern Pennsylvania.  And this unkempt bar in this small regional airport happens to not have any security cameras aimed towards it.”

“And you’ll be gone from this place before I’m back home, I assume?”

“I’d avoid certain specificities if I were you,” he warned me, his polite tone never wavering.  

“Of course, I’m sorry.”  He nodded magnanimously. 

“Well I have you here, a man of no small amount of celebrity…” I began.

“I detest that word and that categorization,” he interrupted.  “I was a man of respect, a man of influence and great education.  I’ve been reduced to tabloid fodder and the subject of papers written by little men who consider themselves intellectual titans of the psychiatric field.”

“This fame bothers you?”  I asked.

“In the filthy form that it has taken, yes.  I prefer to be known for my accomplishments.” 

“Forgive me, but I believe that you are known for your accomplishments.” I said.

“I’m known for certain acts that I committed.  My time as a consultant with the criminal profilers at the FBI, or my time as one of Baltimore’s most respected psychiatrists, or my extensive experience in the medical field, they’re all lying forgotten in the shadow of the more sensationally-friendly acts that caused the criminal justice system to see fit to lock me away in a dark room for the rest of my natural life being studied by halfwits and made to tolerate the rough rudeness of the staff.”

“Surely you can understand why those acts would supersede your previous accomplishments,” I prodded.

“Of course,” he said, crossing his legs and folding his hands in his lap.  The way that he was looking at me made me feel studied…scrutinized…and I was uneasy.  “The public at large prefers broad strokes of simplified information, wrung dry of nuance and detail.  I am what I did, not what I accomplished.”

“If I may,” I began, “I’d argue that your impressive level of accomplishments and education and sophistication is what made you so ripe for sensationalizing.  If an average joe had committed the crimes that you had committed,” I noticed here that his right eye twitched ever so slightly.  I redirected.  “The things you were accused of,” I corrected.  “There would still have been extensive media coverage because of the horrific nature of those actions, but they wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting.  There is a long history of people who, erm, commit such acts, and they tend to fit certain molds as you know.  They mostly walk around unnoticed.  They’re actually extremely normal.  But you, you’re an extraordinary character.  There’s nothing about you that flies under any sort of radar.”

“Therein lies the fallacy of the techniques of the criminal profilers,” he responded.  “Too many factors are too easily dismissed.  My extraordinariness, as you call it, was what protected me for so long.”

“May I ask why you did those horrible things?”  I knew I was taking a chance.  His gaze on me was steady and unwavering and I tried not to fidget or look away from him.

“My house in Baltimore was built in the nineteen twenties. It had beautiful tiling and woodwork, but the plumbing was a disaster.  The first plumber that I called in to fix a drainage issue in my basement was two hours late to his appointment and he spit tobacco on my front steps.  He claimed that he needed specialized equipment to take care of my problem and that my bill would be double what was promised to me over the phone.  I’m happy to pay for services, but I do no appreciate being taken advantage of as a fool.  I asked him for his personal card so that I might keep him as a reference for additional services.  Two weeks later I served a lovely Loin en Croute with a side of red wine demi-glace to a medical colleague.  It was tender and delicious.  Of course, I was in need of a new plumber after that, but the next one was clean and efficient and I recommended his work to several people.  His name is Davit Sargsyan, and I’m certain he’s still thriving.”

I noticed my mouth was hanging open and I closed it with a snap.  He had a Rolodex full of personal cards in his house when it was raided.  Many were found to be the cards of missing persons who were never found.  These were thought to be among this man’s staggeringly long list of victims. 

“’Eat the rude’ was a slogan that became popular with the morbid underbelly of society after your capture,” I said.  “Do you think you were providing a service to society?  Cleaning up the muck?”

“I wouldn’t put it like that at all,” he said.  “Compulsion is a word used frequently when discussing my own brand of mania.  I can assure you, the benefit of society was not a main driving force.”

“You’ve been labelled as ‘insane’ and ‘psychotic’ since your capture.  How do you feel about that?”

“I’m erudite and have been blessed with a perfect palate, able to distinguish all five tastes with exact accuracy.  I’d rather be known for that.”

“Do you want to be divorced entirely from your reputation as a serial killer and cannibal?”

He was very quiet and very still.  I thought for a moment that he had even stopped breathing.  I started to feel that his good graces were starting to sour and perhaps I wasn’t so safe anymore. 

“There are many out there who find my credentials intimidating and the fact that I’ve been labelled a serial killer and cannibal gives them the space to assume superiority over me.  That they find my actions deviant and my psyche to be malformed gives them a sick sense of glee.  That they see me as merely insane dims the shine of my accomplishments prior to my incarceration.  I do not believe that, if I were writing my own life, I would keep those offensive labels from that reputation.”

His voice remained smooth, but I noticed a perturbed note.  Yes, I was on thin ice.  But if he didn’t want to answer the obvious questions, why sit down for an interview?  I asked him and he smiled.  There was no warmth to the way the corners of his eyes crinkled and I shivered. 

“Your line of questioning is focused on the past.  I thought perhaps you’d be interested in the future.   All this talk of the past has been hashed and rehashed countless times and is, frankly, boring.  Change your focus,” he replied. 

“Okay,” I said, taking his bait.  “What are your plans for the future? You’re a fugitive right now.  The federal government is hunting you, every police force is aware of your escape, and there are even some in law enforcement who feel they have a score to settle with you over the various deaths of police officers over the course of your escape.  Do you plan to continue to lay low or do you want to take your…umm…unique way of life somewhere else and live as you did before?”

This time there was amusement in his smile.  I’d performed my trick as I was told and my trainer was pleased with me. 

“Life is short and although I suspect that I’ve still a great number of years left on this earth, I have no intention to allow my existence to stagnate if I can help it.  I cannot get into details with you about my future plans, but I can tell you that I intend to live in a way that pleases me and fulfills my desires.  I…”

“Excuse me!  Look, I can’t let you monopolize this room if you’re not gonna order any food,” an employee of the bar exploded into the room.  He was a tall, balding man who had a red face that wore a scowl of contempt.  He looked through me and glared at my interview.

“Listen, pal,” the employee said, pointing to his “MANAGER” badge.  “I’ve got a group of Dungeons and Dragons players who want the room and they’re all gonna eat and drink and actually make this fine establishment some money.  You gotta go. So get your stuff and get outta here.”

“I’m so sorry,” I began.

“We apologize,” my interview cut me off.  “We were nearing the end of our interview anyway.  Thank you for your hospitality.”

“Yeah, yeah, I said get the hell outta here, ya fruitcake.  I’ve got hungry people to feed out there!”

I’d gathered my stuff and was preparing to race to my car and hopefully lose the subject of my interview.  The thought of being followed by that doctor terrified me and I questioned why I had agreed to come alone.  As I was heading to the door I heard the doctor speaking to the manager.

“It is a unique place you run here and although my time in this place is limited, I may want to return.  Do you, by any chance, have a personal card?”

My blood turned cold and I stopped and looked at the two men.  The manager rolled his eyes but produced a card case from his shirt pocket and thrust it at the doctor.  The doctor received the card, took a long look at the manager, and started walking towards the door. 

“Thank you for your time,” he said as he walked past me.  I was too stunned to move and instead of trying to beat him to my car, I opted to let him leave first. 

I didn’t have much for a story, but I had enough.  I had his current location and a vague hint of his future plans.  And the name of a possible future victim in the form of a very rude bar manager.  It would sell all right, but at what personal cost?  He knew where to find me, how to find me and if my story didn’t achieve what he was wanting, perhaps my personal safety was at risk. 

I didn’t fancy having to look over my shoulder for the rest of my life, not even for a story.  I did my good citizen-duty and informed the authorities before penning my tale, but who knows if it will do any good to save that poor man who was only doing his job.  Who knows if any of it will save any countless number of possible victims.  He was loose on the world again and from the sound of it, he intended to treat the world as his personal buffet, with us as the entrees. 

Boo-graphy: Somer Canon is the Splatterpunk Award nominated author of works such as Killer Chronicles and The Hag Witch of Tripp Creek. When she’s not wreaking havoc in her minivan, she’s avoiding her neighbors and consuming all things horror. She has two sons and more cats than her husband agreed to have.

You’re Mine — Insecure misfit Ioni Davis never thinks she’ll find love in her sleepy West Virginia hometown. Then the tall, fascinating stranger Raber Belliveau transfers to her school.

Their attraction is instant and red-hot. And a shared fascination with witchcraft bonds the young lovers even closer.

But while Ioni is responsibly studying her newfound religion of Wicca, Raber has chosen an altogether…different path.

Soon, Raber’s behavior becomes manipulative. Even abusive. And their love story for the ages is turning into a macabre farce. All Ioni wants to do is get out.

But Raber has discovered a dreadful way to control their relationship. A ritual which hasn’t been attempted in over a century. A spell to unleash a bloodthirsty terror which can never be satisfied.

Ioni finds herself trapped in a struggle for her life and even her free will against a once-trusted lover who has assured her…

YOU’RE MINE

The Hag Witch of Tripp CreekA NEW HOME: Dawna Temple let herself be moved from the familiarity of Pittsburgh to the wilds of West Virginia, all so her mentally exhausted husband, John, could heal from a breakdown. Struggling with the abrupt change of location, Dawna finds a friend in her neighbor, Suzanne Miller, known to the locals as The Hag Witch of Tripp Creek.

A NEW FRIEND: Dismissing it as hillbilly superstition, Dawna can’t believe the things she hears about her funny and empathetic friend. Suzanne has secrets—dark secrets—and eventually she reveals the truth behind the rumors that earned her the wicked nickname decades earlier.

OLD WOUNDS: Now in possession of the truth, Dawna has conflicting emotions about Suzanne’s past deeds, but when her husband’s well-being takes a downturn, she finds there is no one else to turn to. Will she shun her friend as others have done before? …or can she accept that an act of evil is sometimes necessary for the greater good?

Slaves to Gravity — with Wesley Southard — After waking up in a hospital bed, paralyzed from the waist down, Charlie Snyder had no idea where life would take her. Dejected, broken, and permanently bound to a wheelchair, she believed her life was truly over. That is… until gravity no longer applied.

It started out slow. Floating from room to room. Menial tasks without assistance. When she decided to venture outside and take some real risks with her newfound ability, she rose above her own constraints to reveal a whole new world, and found other damaged individuals just like her to confide in.

But there are other things out there, waiting in the dark. Repulsive, secretive creatures that don’t want Charlie to touch the sky. And they’ll stop at nothing to keep her on the ground.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Somer Canon

Meghan: Welcome back, Somer. It’s always a pleasure to have you here during our extended Halloween shenanigans. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Somer: There’s something about the coziness of the season juxtaposed next to the spooky decorations and scary movies that I just really love.  I grew up with a mother and grandmother who LOVED Halloween and I inherited some of that.  You snuggle up with those you love, have fun getting scared, eat junk, and hand out candy to kids.  What’s not to love?

Meghan: Do you get scared easily?

Somer: I startle easily, but I don’t scare easily. 

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

Somer: The obvious answer here is a horror movie, but I’ve been watching horror movies my whole life.  Like, waaaaaay before I should have been. I’ve seen movies that have gotten to me, disturbed me, and even thrilled me, but honestly, the scariest movie I’ve ever seen was the documentary Food, Inc. THAT’S scary. 

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

Somer: The Korean movie, I Saw the Devil has a death early on that really disturbed me.  Not so much the murder itself, although it was awful, but the aftermath of it.  It’s a very severe and unrelenting film, but that first murder we see that gets that ball rolling on the rest of the plot is disturbing. 

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

Somer: Nope. 

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

Somer: The Mist.  Look, you’re not safe in that grocery store, but you can stress eat before the monsters get you. 

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

Somer: Ginny in Friday the 13th Part II

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

Somer: Werewolves!

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Somer: Making a big pot of chili on Trick or Treat night and watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show after the kids go to bed. 

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

Somer: When I was in high school the gift store that I worked at opened a Halloween pop-up.  It was so much fun and we played a CD in the store that took famous music that could maybe, possibly be linked to Halloween and my favorite was I’m Your Boogie Man by KC and the Sunshine Band.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Somer: The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum.

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

Somer: We used to be neighbors with a family that…had problems, I’ll say that.  The youngest child, a boy, one night came to my house and said that there was a man in his house who kept trying to get in bed with him and would I please come over and look for the man.  I was thirteen at the time and weighed all of ninety pounds but I went over there and looked for a man in this boy’s bed and found nothing.  The next day the boy’s mom told me that he was sleepwalking and she thanked me for being so nice and not calling the cops.  I was polite and didn’t tell her that I got NO sleep that night because I was terrified that that boy was going to get murdered or kidnapped after I left. 

Meghan: Which unsolved mystery fascinates you the most?

Somer: When is Bigfoot going to make her star-making debut?

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

Somer: The folk horror tale of Tailypo. I grew up in West Virginia and Tailypo was a story I grew up hearing and it creeps me out to this day.  You can find the story on Google. It’s pretty famous in Appalachia. 

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

Somer: Oh that’s optimistic, but I assure you that I’m not surviving the initial wave.  By the time we’re at the “survivor” stage of that apocalypse, I’ll be a zombie myself…eating my neighbors. 

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

Somer: Werewolf!  As a woman I’m already on a 28-day cycle.

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

Somer: Aliens!

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

Somer: Dead bodies, for sure.

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

Somer: The Poltergeist House had hot spots, so I think I could find a cozy corner there. 

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

Somer: I’m actually curious about Casu martzu, which is a maggot cheese.  I mean, I’ll eat both.  I’m not picky. 

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

Somer: I’ll take my chances with the witch’s cauldron!  It might be punch!

Boo-graphy: Somer Canon is the Splatterpunk Award nominated author of works such as Killer Chronicles and The Hag Witch of Tripp Creek. When she’s not wreaking havoc in her minivan, she’s avoiding her neighbors and consuming all things horror. She has two sons and more cats than her husband agreed to have.

You’re Mine — Insecure misfit Ioni Davis never thinks she’ll find love in her sleepy West Virginia hometown. Then the tall, fascinating stranger Raber Belliveau transfers to her school.

Their attraction is instant and red-hot. And a shared fascination with witchcraft bonds the young lovers even closer.

But while Ioni is responsibly studying her newfound religion of Wicca, Raber has chosen an altogether…different path.

Soon, Raber’s behavior becomes manipulative. Even abusive. And their love story for the ages is turning into a macabre farce. All Ioni wants to do is get out.

But Raber has discovered a dreadful way to control their relationship. A ritual which hasn’t been attempted in over a century. A spell to unleash a bloodthirsty terror which can never be satisfied.

Ioni finds herself trapped in a struggle for her life and even her free will against a once-trusted lover who has assured her…

YOU’RE MINE

The Hag Witch of Tripp CreekA NEW HOME: Dawna Temple let herself be moved from the familiarity of Pittsburgh to the wilds of West Virginia, all so her mentally exhausted husband, John, could heal from a breakdown. Struggling with the abrupt change of location, Dawna finds a friend in her neighbor, Suzanne Miller, known to the locals as The Hag Witch of Tripp Creek.

A NEW FRIEND: Dismissing it as hillbilly superstition, Dawna can’t believe the things she hears about her funny and empathetic friend. Suzanne has secrets—dark secrets—and eventually she reveals the truth behind the rumors that earned her the wicked nickname decades earlier.

OLD WOUNDS: Now in possession of the truth, Dawna has conflicting emotions about Suzanne’s past deeds, but when her husband’s well-being takes a downturn, she finds there is no one else to turn to. Will she shun her friend as others have done before? …or can she accept that an act of evil is sometimes necessary for the greater good?

Slaves to Gravity — with Wesley Southard — After waking up in a hospital bed, paralyzed from the waist down, Charlie Snyder had no idea where life would take her. Dejected, broken, and permanently bound to a wheelchair, she believed her life was truly over. That is… until gravity no longer applied.

It started out slow. Floating from room to room. Menial tasks without assistance. When she decided to venture outside and take some real risks with her newfound ability, she rose above her own constraints to reveal a whole new world, and found other damaged individuals just like her to confide in.

But there are other things out there, waiting in the dark. Repulsive, secretive creatures that don’t want Charlie to touch the sky. And they’ll stop at nothing to keep her on the ground.

GUEST POST: Somer Canon

The Halloween Mood

It’s that time of year again. Summer has come to an end, the days are getting shorter, and the color orange is starting to saturate our world of capitalistic vice and consumption. There’s pumpkin spice, well, everything and the general cozy feeling that comes with the season, and then we have the people who are annoyed with the deliriously evangelical followers of the autumnal cult of joy. Fall is the favorite season of many, and the favorite punching bag of others. Personally, I’m a big fan of the season and the mood it sets. I haven’t even touched on the best day of the season, in my opinion at least: Halloween.

I sit pretty comfortably in the opinion that Halloween is one of the best holidays. I’m not even close to being alone in that belief. In 2019, almost 70% of Americans celebrated Halloween. It dropped a bit in 2020 and looks like the downward trend may continue this year, thanks to the pandemic. But still, more than half of Americans, pandemic or not, are going to be indulging in the spooky, in the morbid, and in the deliciously decadent delights that horror can give. Children and adults alike love Halloween. Horror fans and otherwise love Halloween. The love of Halloween spans various belief systems and religions. How is this so? Why is Halloween such a hit?

I think that it has a lot to do with the fact that it happens at the end of October, just as fall is getting into full swing. Like Christmas, we start celebrating Halloween before the actual day with trips to pop-up stores for new costumes and goodies for our homes, visiting haunted houses and hay rides, and scary movies play on the television every night. Summer is the season that we spend mostly out of our homes, away on vacations and with school being out, mostly on a relaxed or nonexistent schedule. Fall begins with school going back into session, the return to routine and to the end of the vacation season. We’re home, we’re settling in, we’re getting cozy, and we get to do that as the lush beauty of nature prepares to wow us one last time. In the autumnal season, nature proves that she saves the best for last. The sweet smell of dead leaves and their lovely crunch under our feet as we walk, it romances us. Death woos and charms us. Pumpkins start appearing everywhere, flanked by decorative baskets of chrysanthemums. But alongside that magazine-cover pretty picture, there are skeletons, spiders, black cats, corpses, vampires, bats…all of the ambassadors of the decidedly spooky. And they go together wonderfully. I put a seven-foot werewolf on my front porch, but I’ve also got mums and pumpkins. I put out a small cemetery in my side yard with zombies and skeletons climbing out of the graves, but they’re surrounded by beautiful falling leaves from the large tree. The beauty of nature’s death pairs nicely with the human macabre.

Halloween also has the distinguished position of being a holiday that normally doesn’t come with family obligations. Every season comes with a holiday that carries some sort of requirement that can stress us out. Halloween has no such demand. It stands as one of the special days on the calendar that is set aside purely for fun. Obligations are minimal, usually, and having to eat a big dinner next to your judgmental aunt is still at least a month away. Halloween is so much more casual. I know the history of Halloween and I know the pagan-held beliefs of the day, but it has become a day of laughter, fun, sweets, and ridiculousness. It has a few songs, it has a lot of movies, and it has costumes. Halloween is an absolute delight, and I know that I start looking forward to it every August. I sometimes hold out through September before bringing out my spooky and corny decorations, and sometimes I don’t. But, at the very least, the month of October is dedicated to Halloween in my house. My giant porch werewolf and the many other outdoor decorations pale in comparison to what I have inside of my house. A disassembled skeleton hangs from my dining room chandelier, I drink my coffee from Halloween mugs and have my evening tipple in Halloween glasses. For crying out loud, I have Halloween bedding and bathroom hand towels! I love every stitch of it. All of it.

The U.S. is an enormous country with many different regions and not all of them necessarily have four seasons, and yet, they still celebrate Halloween. I live in Eastern Pennsylvania where we certainly experience the full four seasons, but Halloween is pervasive in this country of ours regardless of whether autumn happens or not. Again, why? I’m not an academic and I have no deep philosophical answer for you. What I do have is my observation, and my knowledge of both your average person and the horror community. Halloween is popular because it’s fun. Being scared is fun. Horror carries a stigma of being sick and taboo, and yet I rarely meet a person who doesn’t have a favorite scary movie. People tell me all the time that they don’t like horror, but they love Halloween. Yes, it’s the day for the horror-lovers, but it’s also the day for the “normies” to take a walk on the spooky side and it turns out, they have just as much fun as us horror folk. It’s fun! That’s not a deep answer, but it is an obvious one, and a truthful one.

So, if you’re like more than half of us and celebrating Halloween, enjoy it. Have the fun. Watch the movies, eat the treats, put up the decorations, and do it with people that enjoy it as much as you. Do a Halloween night recitation of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” and eat some apple dumplings. But could you do this horror author a favor? Pick up a scary book from an author you’ve never read. Give a smaller name a chance. Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree is a terrific book and everything by Stephen King can be appropriate at this time of year. But there are so many horror authors out there who are putting out works that will surprise you with the imaginative takes and amazing storytelling and it’s a shame to only read the biggest names, or only a few names. Try something new, someone new, and allow yourself to be surprised and delighted. After all, ‘tis the season!

I’ll start you off. I’ll throw some authors at you, and you pick what thrills you most.

If you love monster books, authors Hunter Shea and Mary SanGiovanni write some of the best monster-based fiction out there. Wile E. Young is really climbing the ranks here as well.

If you love a good haunted house book or gothic horror, check out Catherine Cavendish.

If you like really strange, creative horror that takes unexpected turns, Wesley Southard, Stephen Kozeniewski, and Armand Rosamilia deliver.

If you like it spicy and want your horror a little sexy, check out Sephera Giron and Jessica McHugh. But don’t be fooled by the erotic bent of these works, they are every bit as brutal and horrifying as any other horror book, just with an added bonus.

Do you like horror that doesn’t really fit into a category but can be emotional and somehow beautiful? Robert Ford and John Boden belong on your shelves, then.

Grab a short story collection from a new author. As a reader, I find the best authors out there put together amazing short story collections. Most of the authors I mention here have short story collections in their bibliography. Also, try one of Matt Wildasin’s Horrors Untold volumes. They’re wonderful and varied fun.

Lots of authors write Halloween-themed works. Ronald Kelly, Kevin Lucia, Douglas Clegg, and yours truly have Halloween works out there.

I’m barely scratching the surface here, and could spend all day pointing you to terrific authors, but if you start here, and do a little digging of your own, I guarantee you’ll find your new favorite author. Happy Halloween!


Somer Canon lives in Eastern PA with her husband, two sons, and three cats. She loves to read and write and although she is polyamorous when it comes to genres, horror always seems to be her favorite.

Boneyard
Halloween is a night of spooky fun…at least it is for the living. What about the dead? What kind of fun do they have? Read and find out how the no-longer-living entertain themselves at the expense of very much alive and disrespectful people!

A Fresh Start
Still hurting from her divorce, Melissa Caan makes a drastic life change for herself and her two young children by moving them out to a rural home.But the country life came with some extras that she wasn’t counting on. Doors are slamming, she and her children are violently attacked by unseen hands, and her elderly neighbor doesn’t like to talk about the murders that happened in the strangely named hollow all those years ago.Ghost hunters, witches, and a sassy cancer survivor come together to help Melissa fight for the safety of her children and herself.All she wanted was a fresh start, will she get it?

Slaves to Gravity (with Wesley Southard) —
After waking up in a hospital bed, paralyzed from the waist down, Charlie Snyder had no idea where life would take her. Dejected, broken, and permanently bound to a wheelchair, she believed her life was truly over. That is…until gravity no longer applied.It started out slow. Floating from room to room. Menial tasks without assistance. When she decided to venture outside and take some real risks with her newfound ability, she rose above her own constraints to reveal a whole new world, and found other damaged individuals just like her to confide in.But there are other things out there, waiting in the dark. Repulsive, secretive creatures that don’t want Charlie to touch the sky. And they’ll stop at nothing to keep her on the ground.

Halloween Extravaganza: Somer Canon: Adventures in Candy Soliciting

I always love it when people share their experiences trick or treating when they were younger, especially when they compare it to what their kids experience now, because trick or treating was always such a huge thing for me and my sister.


Being a child of trick-or-treating age is a magical time. The concept of going door to door and threatening your neighbors with mischief unless they pay you off with candy is hilarious to me now as an adult with children of my own. Children tend not to question the whys of such things and just go with the flow, and when the flow includes free candy, asking too many questions would be a waste of time. You want to get going, show off your cool costume to your friends and get to those delectable treats!

But, as memory serves, trick-or-treating was also a bit of a mixed bag. I was a small child in the 1980s and early 90s and I experienced some really weird things when doing my yearly candy-fueled reign of adorable terror. Times were just changing when I was a kid. I remember when we had to start closely examining our candy and we couldn’t eat anything homemade given to us anymore unless it was a family member that provided it. That sucked because so many nice old people used to hand out popcorn balls back then and homemade popcorn balls are the best.

I’d like to share a few of the stranger things that happened to me as a kid trick-or-treating in my weird little town in West Virginia. We never had anybody spray us with garden hoses or offer us whole barnyard animals or anything, but we ran into some real characters that my classmates and I would talk about in school the next day.

One year, my mom took us to a different county for trick-or-treating. It was the neighborhood close to where my grandma lived and I think she talked my mom into bringing us down there with the promise of more candy and less time out walking to get to it. There were two strange encounters on that night. The first was this big, beautiful house with an honest to goodness white picket fence around it. I kept seeing camera flashes from the front door and assumed that the homeowners had relatives stopping by and they were taking pictures of the cute costumes. We got to the door and were greeted by a man and a woman smiling at us.

“Ah, Jesus loves the little children,” the man said, patting my little brother on the head. “On this night of darkness, His light will guide you to glory!”

He then dropped copies of a book titled, Good News America, God Loves You into our bags and then posed with us while the lady took our picture. Now, we were churchgoers and there were some people that were part of our congregation who were very much opposed to Halloween festivities. We understood that it happened, but that guy creeped my poor little brother out and, yeah, I was uncomfortable.

Later that night, we got our second strange occurrence. We stopped at a house that had the front screen door propped open. When we peaked in, we were greeted by a room full of very old men and women slumped in armchairs. An excited woman greeted us at the door and took us by the hands and led us inside.

“Say hello to these nice men and women,” she commanded. We did as we were told and the lady dropped generous handfuls of candy into our bags. We said our thanks and turned to head to the door where our mother was watching.

“Stay for just a minute!” the excitable lady said to us. She then picked up my brother and sat him in the lap of an old, barely conscious man and led me by the hand to stand next to an old lady who looked slightly more awake. She snapped a couple of pictures and then my mom came into the room, all smiles, and led us away. My brother and I were deeply unsettled and when we said as much to our mom, she got mad at us and scolded us for not being charitable to those “nice old people.” I don’t know. Times have changed and I know I’d have a problem with someone plopping one of my kids on a heavily sedated stranger’s lap.

This last one made an impact on everybody I knew. In college, I ran into an old classmate and we were talking about Halloween and he said to me, “Hey, remember that Lurch guy at the insurance house?”

A little background: my usual trick-or-treating route consisted of trailers, old tract houses, and your basic run-down lower-class domiciles. But there was one house, a grand old brick house that was used as the office for a local insurance agent. It was a neat place that they decorated beautifully every Christmas and it stood out like a sore thumb among the poverty around it.

It never had the porch light on for trick-or-treaters. Why would it? We understood that it wasn’t a home and that nobody actually lived there. We usually just drove past. But that year, there was a light on and there were other children on the porch, so my mom stopped the car and my brother and I got out.

“Oh boy,” we thought. In a place that big, we were sure to be getting the holy grail of trick-or-treat conquests: the full sized candy bar. We met some kids on the stairs as they descended the porch. I greeted a girl that I knew, but she hurried down the steps gripping her little sister’s hand. I shrugged, assuming she hadn’t heard me or that her mom would be grumpy if they kept her waiting.

My brother rang the doorbell and we smiled at each other excitedly. When the big door opened, our perky greeting died in our throats. A very pale man in a tuxedo ducked in order to clear the door frame and loomed over us. He was holding, and I swear this is true, a silver platter. He looked down at us with a bored expression. I’ve never been so terrified of a well-dressed man in all my life.

He said nothing. We said nothing. Finally, remembering my manners, I squeaked out a “trick-or-treat,” and my brother followed suit. The large man said nothing, just picked up two small silver bundles from the tray and dropped them into our bags. We said our thanks as quickly as we could and ran down to get back into our mom’s car. She was excited to hear what they had given us and I took the bundle out of my bag and looked at it. It was five pennies wrapped in aluminum foil and my brother had the same.

As an adult, I have to think that it was an act put on by the festive people who made that house so beautiful during the Christmas season. It was a one-time deal, though. That porch light was never again turned on for trick-or-treaters.

The next day at school we couldn’t stop talking about it. We all had our little bundles of foil-wrapped pennies but that was nothing compared to the big-scary-butler-guy who dropped them into our bags. We all got lots of candy, yeah, but that experience was what made Halloween for us that year. It was one of the better years, actually.

As a parent now, I watch to see what my kids experience as trick-or-treaters. The sweet old lady down the street who gave them old VHS tapes reminded me of the sweet old lady who handed out old cough drops, mistaking them for hard candies. They still get shiny apples like I did and they love, as I loved, those lollipops that look like jack o’lanterns. As much as things change, so much stays the same. I hope so very much that my kids can accumulate a wealth of weird experiences from their own childhood jaunts on Halloween.

Somer Canon is a minivan revving suburban mother who avoids her neighbors for fear of being found out as a weirdo. When she’s not peering out of her windows, she’s consuming books, movies, and video games that sate her need for blood, gore, and things that disturb her mother.  

A Fresh Start

Still hurting from her divorce, Melissa Caan makes a drastic life change for herself and her two young children by moving them out to a rural home.But the country life came with some extras that she wasn’t counting on. Doors are slamming, she and her children are violently attacked by unseen hands, and her elderly neighbor doesn’t like to talk about the murders that happened in the strangely named hollow all those years ago.Ghost hunters, witches, and a sassy cancer survivor come together to help Melissa fight for the safety of her children and herself.All she wanted was a fresh start, will she get it?

The Hag Witch of Tripp Creek

A NEW HOME

Dawna Temple let herself be moved from the familiarity of Pittsburgh to the wilds of West Virginia, all so her mentally exhausted husband, John, could heal from a breakdown. Struggling with the abrupt change of location, Dawna finds a friend in her neighbor, Suzanne Miller, known to the locals as The Hag Witch of Tripp Creek.

A NEW FRIEND

Dismissing it as hillbilly superstition, Dawna can’t believe the things she hears about her funny and empathetic friend. Suzanne has secrets—dark secrets—and eventually she reveals the truth behind the rumors that earned her the wicked nickname decades earlier.

OLD WOUNDS

Now in possession of the truth, Dawna has conflicting emotions about Suzanne’s past deeds, but when her husband’s well-being takes a downturn, she finds there is no one else to turn to. Will she shun her friend as others have done before? …or can she accept that an act of evil is sometimes necessary for the greater good?

Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Somer Canon

Meghan: It’s been awhile since we sat down together, Somer. What’s been going on since we last spoke?

Somer Canon: Oh boy, SO MUCH! I’ve had the release of my book, A Fresh Start, from Crossroads Press as well as a few anthologies. I also embarked on a co-writing journey with my friend and talented author, Wesley Southard. Our work is still in it’s nascent form, but it’s shaping up to be something pretty amazing.

Meghan: Who are you outside of writing?

Somer Canon: Suburban wife and mother of two sons. Minivan driving menace to aggressive drivers in BMWs and grill master extraordinaire.

Meghan: How do you feel about friends and close relatives reading your work?

Somer Canon: My two childhood best friends are NOT horror fans. Not even a little bit. They’ve read one of my works and were kind enough to ask me what was wrong with me, but I am very understanding of their abstaining from reading my stuff. I can’t really help it if my family reads my works and I try not to think about it too much for fear of censoring myself, to tell the truth. If I offend, I’m happy if they don’t tell me about it.

Meghan: Is being a writer a gift or a curse?

Somer Canon: It’s a mixed bag, honestly. I think creatives are some of the most empathetic and wonderful people to know and I love being in their midst. By knowing them, I’ve learned to embrace the parts of myself, my creative self, that have for so long been hidden by me for fear of them being weird or off-putting by members of polite society, and not just because I am a horror writer, although that comes with its own cabinet of weird. We notice things some other people don’t, we’re sensitive and vain, and we tend to be frightened of putting to paper parts of the lush and colorful wilderness that is our imaginations. That place in our heads is where we do most of our living and sharing it is difficult, and yet most of us, myself included, are compelled to put it down and get it out. It’s freeing and wonderful, but also terrifying and loathsome.

Meghan: How has your environment and upbringing colored your writing?

Somer Canon: Well, they certainly color ME, so they would have to bleed into the work that I wring out of myself, you know? My upbringing wasn’t a happy one, so I tend to not write child protagonists because I hated so much being a child…I don’t want to revisit that. Things that anger me make it into the books, things that scare and hurt me make it in. My weird preoccupation with snack cakes made it into my book Killer Chronicles! The things in my past and in my surroundings can’t help but be part of the creative process and I think it’s good for the final product. It makes it more relatable, I think.

Meghan: What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research for your books?

Somer Canon: Crime scene photos. I’ve had to describe some horrible things and in order to keep it grounded, or at least semi-grounded in reality, I had to get a good look at it. I’ve lost sleep over a few of those.

Meghan: Which do you find the hardest to write: the beginning, the middle, or the end?

Somer Canon: Endings are HARD. Not to say that beginnings and middles are easy (they’re SO not) but endings have a lot of responsibility towards the overall tone of the book. Where do you end it? How do you end it? What questions do you answer or leave hanging? How many of your readers do you want sending you angry emails? I consider books to be like thrill rides and they’re absolutely more about the journey than the destination, but if the destination is ill-fitted and all wrong, it certainly has influence over your impression of the overall experience.

Meghan: Do you outline?

Somer Canon: I might do a page-long idea of the overall story sometimes, but mostly I pants it.

Meghan: Do you start with characters or plot?

Somer Canon: Plot.

Meghan: Do you just sit down and start writing?

Somer Canon: It might look like that from the outside, I suppose, but my mind is totally bent on that current work in progress. Every waking moment is spent thinking on it.

Meghan: What works best for you?

Somer Canon: I need to do things that are quieting. By that I mean, my hands are busy, but my mind is in this really great, quiet, almost zen place and I get my best ideas when I’m quieting. I bake, work out, do yard work, or clean my kitchen cabinets. It helps a lot.

Meghan: What do you do when characters don’t follow the outline/plan?

Somer Canon: My characters start off as cardboard cutouts of the more well-rounded people they become in the process of writing the story. If they want to go off script, I’m okay with it.

Meghan: What do you do to motivate yourself to sit down and write?

Somer Canon: I want this. I’ve always wanted this. Hard work has never scared me off. Someone once said to me, “Just sit down and write the damn thing.” Reciting that like a mantra actually helps me a lot!

Meghan: Are you an avid reader?

Somer Canon: I try to be, I really do. I don’t read as much as I’d like.

Meghan: What kind of books do you absolutely love to read?

Somer Canon: I love haunted house books. I’ve never passed on one. I also love a good biography.

Meghan: How do you feel about movies based on books?

Somer Canon: I’m always dubious about it because so many movies change parts of the original story that… WHY. There was no need to change that, why did you do that? I watch plenty of movies based on books, but I’m usually left cold.

Meghan: Have you ever killed a main character?

Somer Canon: Yes.

Meghan: Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?

Somer Canon: It’s not that I get joy from it. There is something to learn from pain and there’s an opportunity to grow or learn something about yourself if you make it out of the suffering intact. It has to happen, but I don’t necessarily love it.

Meghan: What’s the weirdest character concept that you’ve ever come up with?

Somer Canon: I have my idea book where I jot down little ideas for stories or characters. I used to keep it by my bed so if I woke up with a thought I could jot it down. I stopped keeping it there after I found an entry with only two words and, for the life of me, I have no idea what I was thinking. Grandma Boobie is the entry. I just… HUH?

Meghan: What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever received?

Somer Canon: I’ve been really lucky to work with editors that have helped me catch some annoying habits in my writing. I can’t imagine how tedious I must be to them. What’s the worst? I once had a fellow author tell me that I’ll never again hit the high of the experience of signing my first contract and it was all downhill from there. I disagree with that. Big time. Every time someone wants to publish one of my tales, every short story acceptance, every invite to do a blog tour or a convention… it all means so much to me and I let myself be humble and flabbergasted by all of it. I’m living my dream and I don’t want to let myself become numb to it.

Meghan: What do your fans mean to you?

Somer Canon: We have to hide how demoralizing this writing thing can be. Rejections happen, things go quiet and you’re forgotten, self-loathing is the grease that keeps my writing engine going and I’m very hard on myself. And then, in those darkest times, someone will message me and tell me that they liked my story, or send me an email asking when my next book will come out. I can float on those tiny nuggets of encouragement for a week at least. My fans startle me and lift me up and I really don’t know if I could handle the drudgeries without them.

Meghan: If you could steal one character from another author and make them yours, who would it be and why?

Somer Canon: I would love Larry Underwood, from Stephen King’s The Stand. Larry is such a mess and I’d like to play with him in a timeline where I can continue his storyline and Captain Trips never happens. He’s a victim of good intentions swallowed by pride and vanity, until everything goes to hell and he has to lead with his better side. His better side is full of mistakes, but it perseveres.

Meghan: If you could write the next book in a series, which one would it be, and what would you make the book about?

Somer Canon: I’d like to write another Southern Vampire Mystery book (True Blood was based on them). I love the character of Sookie Stackhouse as she was in the books (don’t make me talk about the show… I get loud) and I feel that Charlaine Harris got tired of writing in that world, which I understand. But as a fan I would geek out so hard.

Meghan: If you could write a collaboration with another author, who would it be and what would you write about?

Somer Canon: I AM writing a collaboration with someone, the previously mentioned Wesley Southard! But fantasy-wise? I think it would be cool to write with one of my high-minded, intelligent friends like Mary SanGiovanni or Catherine Cavendish. They’re so much smarter and more eloquent than I am and it would be a real experience to live in their process.

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

Somer Canon: I’m not stopping! I’m working on a novel right now that will be my homage to both Clive Barker and Tobe Hooper! After that, who knows?

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Somer Canon: I’m on Twitter and I’m on Instagram and I have a website.

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview or the last?

Somer Canon: Thank you to anyone who has given any of my words even a cursory glance. It’s easy to feel lonely and alone and to every person who has ever interacted with me in even the smallest way, thank you so very much. And thank you, Meghan’s House of Books, for having me again! This interview was a doozy!

Somer Canon is a minivan revving suburban mother who avoids her neighbors for fear of being found out as a weirdo. When she’s not peering out of her windows, she’s consuming books, movies, and video games that sate her need for blood, gore, and things that disturb her mother.  

A Fresh Start

Still hurting from her divorce, Melissa Caan makes a drastic life change for herself and her two young children by moving them out to a rural home.But the country life came with some extras that she wasn’t counting on. Doors are slamming, she and her children are violently attacked by unseen hands, and her elderly neighbor doesn’t like to talk about the murders that happened in the strangely named hollow all those years ago.Ghost hunters, witches, and a sassy cancer survivor come together to help Melissa fight for the safety of her children and herself.All she wanted was a fresh start, will she get it?

The Hag Witch of Tripp Creek

A NEW HOME

Dawna Temple let herself be moved from the familiarity of Pittsburgh to the wilds of West Virginia, all so her mentally exhausted husband, John, could heal from a breakdown. Struggling with the abrupt change of location, Dawna finds a friend in her neighbor, Suzanne Miller, known to the locals as The Hag Witch of Tripp Creek.

A NEW FRIEND

Dismissing it as hillbilly superstition, Dawna can’t believe the things she hears about her funny and empathetic friend. Suzanne has secrets—dark secrets—and eventually she reveals the truth behind the rumors that earned her the wicked nickname decades earlier.

OLD WOUNDS

Now in possession of the truth, Dawna has conflicting emotions about Suzanne’s past deeds, but when her husband’s well-being takes a downturn, she finds there is no one else to turn to. Will she shun her friend as others have done before? …or can she accept that an act of evil is sometimes necessary for the greater good?