AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Michaelbrent Collings

Meghan: Hey, Michaelbrent. Welcome to this year’s Halloween Extravaganza… extended edition. It’s always a pleasure to have you here. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Michaelbrent: I’m a dad, so my favorite part is definitely stealing candy from my kids after we trick-r-treat, then scratching my head and positing on the possibility of candy-stealing gremlins when my kids notice all their Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups have disappeared.

Meghan: Do you get scared easily?

Michaelbrent: Absolutely. I’ll scream (loudly) during horror movies, because I love to let myself go and just enjoy the terror. And my kids love watching me when I play a scary video game. It’s like watching someone tapdancing during a seizure. And I’m okay with that: at least my cowardice is entertaining.

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

Michaelbrent: Hmmm…scariest movie would be a toss-up. There are just so many good ones out there! But if you define “scariest” as “biggest effect on ME,” it would probably be either The Shining or Watcher in the Woods, both of which I saw when I was around eight years old, and both of which sent me (literally) screaming down the hall when it was time for bed. I’ve rewatched both since then, and no longer scream about it (at least, not as much), so I feel very brave as a human. Conquering fears for the win!

As an adult, I do scream and shriek with the best of ‘em in the theaters, but I rarely STAY scared long after credits. Though there was a film called Aterrados (in English, Terrified) that just hit me in the right spot: I not only screamed during the movie, and that night I woke up FREAKED because someone was looming over my bed. Turned out it was just a hat on the bedpost, but sleep had pretty much gone bye-bye at that point.

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

Michaelbrent: Probably the one with the four colorful children with bizarrely stretched bodies and faces. Teletubbies is a nightmare in the waking world.

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

Michaelbrent: Nah. Though there are definitely plenty that I’ve said, “Looks like that’s not for me.” I love horror, but there are still images and ideas that I think are not great for me, so I avoid those things. Not a judgment on others who might think differently, just there are definitely “no-go” areas in media that I choose to avoid for personal reasons.

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

Michaelbrent: Probably Prom Night or one of those ilk: something where pretty much everyone who gets killed is a super-good-looking teen. I’d be safe on every level.

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

Michaelbrent: Final Girls. I wouldn’t make it through to the end, but at least I’d have fun deconstructing the movie before I died!

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

Michaelbrent: Hmmm… I don’t think I have one. There are SO MANY GOOD ONES!

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Michaelbrent: Definitely that “stealing candy from my children” thing.

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

Michaelbrent: I love the Halloween main title song. Awesome, and so iconic!

MeghanL Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Michaelbrent: Probably The Shining by Stephen King. Not so much for the story, but because I remember reading it as a kid in the one room in my house where I wasn’t going to be disturbed by parents or siblings: the bathroom. So there I am, sitting on “my thinking spot,” and I turned the page to the part where the topiary animals come alive…and right then an earthquake hit. The unsettling part was trying to decide if I should play it safe and run for cover (but sacrifice my dignity as my pants were still around my ankles), or just sit tight, as it were, and hope for the best.

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

Michaelbrent: I’m no longer allowed to discuss this due to the terms of the settlement. But it does have to do with six rubber bands, a rabid penguin, and a single phone call made to the Bolivian Embassy in Uruguay.

Meghan: Which unsolved mystery fascinates you the most?

Michaelbrent: Probably the Jack the Ripper one. Not about who he is (I know that, but am prohibited from revealing it due to the terms of the above-named settlement), but how he got so many of the bloodstains out of his clothes!

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

Michaelbrent: The Haunting of Hill House, hands down. Shirley Jackson’s book is one of the greatest pieces of horror literature ever written, and still sends shivers down my spine every time I read it.

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

Michaelbrent: I’d like to say “crowbar” or “M16” or “grenades,” but honesty compels me to ask if “whimpering” can be considered a weapon. Because that’s probably what my go-to would be.

Meghan: Okay, Michaelbrent… let’s have some fun —

Would you rather get bitten by a vampire or a werewolf? Werewolf. I’d have hair again!

Would you rather fight a zombie apocalypse or an alien invasion? Z-poc, definitely. Stay out of crowds, aim for the head. Seems simpler.

Would you rather drink zombie juice or eat dead bodies from the graveyard? Probably zombie juice. Which I’m assuming is some kind of smoothie made of old fruit.

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

Would you rather chew on a bitter melon with chilies or maggot-infested cheese? I have no answer for this one.

Would you rather drink from a witch’s cauldron or lick cotton candy made of spider webs? Definitely the cotton candy. Cauldrons are SO last-year.

Boo-graphy: Michaelbrent Collings is an internationally bestselling novelist, produced screenwriter, and speaker. Best known for horror (and voted one of the top 20 All-Time Greatest Horror Writers in a Ranker vote of nearly 20,000 readers), Collings has written bestselling thrillers, mysteries, sci-fi and fantasy titles, and even humor and non-fiction.

In addition to popular success, Michaelbrent has also received critical acclaim: he is the only person who has ever been a finalist for a Bram Stoker Award (twice), a Dragon Award (twice), and a RONE Award, and he and his work have been reviewed and/or featured on everything from Publishers Weekly to Scream Magazine to NPR. An engaging and entertaining speaker, he is also a frequent guest at comic cons and on writing podcasts like Six Figure Authors, The Creative Penn, Writing Excuses, and others; and is a mental health advocate and TEDx speaker.

Website

I Am Legion 1: Strangers — You wake up in the morning to discover that you have been sealed into your home. The doors are locked, the windows are barred. THERE’S NO WAY OUT.

A madman is playing a deadly game with you and your family. A game with no rules, only consequences. So what do you do? Do you run? Do you hide?

OR DO YOU DIE?

I Am Legion 2: Stranger Still — Your sins are Legion… and now you belong to him.

Legion is a teacher. An avenging angel. A murderer. A madman. Born in the blood of a dying mother, raised in the underground lair of an insane father, he travels the world looking for those who keep secrets and sins. He finds those who have fallen short, and teaches them the lessons they need to leave their mistakes behind. Even if he has to kill them to do it. Because sometimes murder is the only way to teach a proper lesson.

So when he sees a man kidnap two people on the side of the road, Legion knows it is time to teach again. Soon he finds himself caught in the crossfire of a coup in a Russian crime syndicate. He is captured, beaten, bleeding, in chains; cut off and alone.

It’s just the way he likes it. Legion has found his students. And for them, life is about to become frightening and so much… stranger.

I Am Legion 3: Stranger Danger — He will teach you the lesson… he knows you’re dying to learn.

Legion is a teacher. An avenging angel. A murderer.

A madman.

Raised in the underground hideout of an insane father, he searches for those who keep secrets and sins. Then he teaches them how to leave those mistakes behind. Even if it means killing them to do it.

Because sometimes murder is the cost of a proper education.

That’s why, when he comes to a neighborhood in the grips of a vicious gang war, he knows the time has come to teach.

Soon Legion – and his imaginary brothers, Water and Fire – are caught in the middle of a vicious fight for control of the Downs, the worst part of a city on the verge of anarchy.

Legion is facing enemies on all sides. Hundreds of men will stop at nothing to capture or kill him.

Legion will teach the lessons. And the students will never forget, no matter how long – or short – their lives may be.

The students are ready.

And the teacher will never stop.

I Am Legion 4: Stranger Sins — What happens in Vegas… slays in Vegas.

Legion is a teacher. An avenging angel. A murderer.

A madman.

Raised in the underground hideout of an insane father, he now travels the world searching for those who torment the weak, who harm the innocent. He uncovers the secrets and sins of evildoers, and teaches them how to leave those mistakes behind.

Even if it means killing them to do it.

But this time, the tables have turned. The ghosts of Legion’s past have come for him; the victims of his madness have returned to torment and destroy him. Wounded, weak, near death: for the first time, Legion is not predator, but prey.

Now, aided by a woman and her daughter—who have themselves been surviving in secret terror for a decade—he must survive long enough to battle his past, to destroy the ghosts that have come for his sanity and soul…and to kill all who would harm his new friends.

Tracked by a crime family more twisted than anything he has ever seen, threatened by a madman whose strength is greater than anything he has ever experienced, Legion has never been closer to danger. They want his pain. They want his death. And they will stop at nothing to achieve their aims.

But Legion is a good teacher. So he will run. He will hide.

And then, when the students are ready…he will teach.

And his lessons are always murder.

GUEST BOOK REVIEW by Christa Carmen: Reluctant Immortals

Reluctant Immortals

Gwendolyn Kiste
Genre: Horror, Gothic
Publisher: Saga Press
Publication Date: 8.23.2022
Pages: 317

For fans of Mexican Gothic, from three-time Bram Stoker Award–winning author Gwendolyn Kiste comes a novel inspired by the untold stories of forgotten women in classic literature–from Lucy Westenra, a victim of Stoker’s Dracula, and Bertha Mason, from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre–as they band together to combat the toxic men bent on destroying their lives, set against the backdrop of the Summer of Love, Haight-Ashbury, 1967.

Reluctant Immortals is a historical horror novel that looks at two men of classic literature, Dracula and Mr. Rochester, and the two women who survived them, Bertha and Lucy, who are now undead immortals residing in Los Angeles in 1967 when Dracula and Rochester make a shocking return in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco.

Combining elements of historical and gothic fiction with a modern perspective, in a tale of love and betrayal and coercion, Reluctant Immortals is the lyrical and harrowing journey of two women from classic literature as they bravely claim their own destiny in a man’s world.

When I was a teenager, I read Jane Eyre. I also read Rebecca, The Castle of Otranto, The Mysteries of Udolpho, The Haunting of Hill House, Dracula, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Wuthering Heights, and every other classic Gothic novel I found on either my mother’s or the local library’s shelves. Like a lot of teen-aged girls obsessed with these types of novels, I pictured myself as the protagonist of each, descending to the abbey basement, journeying to an ancestral home, exploring the secret dungeon or attic or passageway beneath the floorboards. I was Jane learning her true identity, the second Mrs. de Winter gazing upon Manderley for the first time, Eleanor Vance drinking from her cup of stars. But here’s the thing: many of these women weren’t actually great role models to aspire to, or even appropriate “costumes” to try on. Their autonomy, their ability to be the heroine of their own story, was a carefully orchestrated illusion. Jane was a pawn for Mr. Rochester. Emily St. Aubert was imprisoned in Castle Udolpho by Signor Montoni. Isabella was persecuted and traumatized by generations of men who’ve ruled Otranto. In fact, I would be far, far removed from my adolescence before I found a pair of Gothic heroines truly worthy of my aspirations; I thank Gwendolyn Kiste, and her gorgeous novel, Reluctant Immortals, for finally delivering them to me.

Bertha, or “Bee,” Mason and Lucy Westenra fight back, take control, have teeth (no pun intended). They possess true autonomy in that they drive the events of their story. These are not your mother’s or your childhood librarian’s gothic heroines. They are far more powerful than either Edward Fairfax Rochester or Count Dracula ever were. And that’s one of Gwendolyn’s many talents: writing her female characters in a way that naturally balances the scales. They’re believable in their actions, admirable in their strength, understandable in their motives—and their flaws. Gwendolyn captures all the magic and beauty and excitement (not to mention the eeriness, dread, and horror) of Gothic novels with none of the misogynistic stifling of her characters. And her prose? Do we even bother talking about Gwendolyn’s prose in reviews of her work anymore? It’s transcendent (examples: “The pool glitters in the moonlight, the shape of a teardrop, blue and spotless as a phony lagoon from a movie set,” and “The rest of me turns to dust, and I can’t hold on to the urn anymore. It falls through my crumbling fingers, shattering into a thousand pieces on the floor. Overhead, Dracula’s muddy form smears across the ceiling before dripping down to meet himself, the parts of him mingling together, his body becoming stronger, while mine becomes nothing at all. I won’t watch him now. I close what’s left of my eyes and let the darkness rush in to greet me.”). Her weaving of words is on a whole other level.

Some novels can’t help but sacrifice pacing for characterization and language, but Reluctant Immortals is not one of them. One of my favorite sections of the novel (and there are many) was Bee and Lucy’s arrival in San Francisco with Daisy, a young hitchhiker interested in helping them locate Jane Eyre after she’s inadvertently loosed some of Dracula’s ashes on Los Angeles. It’s right about the dead-center of the narrative, and yet it screams forward with as much momentum as the women’s Buick ricocheting up the 101. And the stakes (again, no pun intended) only increase from there.

The showdown between Dracula and Lucy—and Rochester and Bee—is as fantastic and satisfying as one could hope for (and surprisingly biting in its humor at times… When Lucy considers breaking an end table to use on Dracula, he points out that it’s Formica, to which Lucy replies, “Maybe it’s the ideal way to finish you. Death by tacky wood paneling.”). This climax is rife with decay and blood, secrets centuries in the making coming to light and vampires doing, well, what vampires do, and sucking the souls of innumerable victims. But the showdown also vibrates with originality and heart (Lucy and Dracula grappling atop the Golden Gate Bridge, ruin and rot against the “painfully quaint” backdrop of Playland at the Beach), and the worthiness of these Gothic women as heroines strikes me all over again. Gosh, it’s a joy to read about kickass, supernatural women banishing the classic monsters of our past.

“There are no Hollywood endings, not even in Hollywood,” Gwendolyn writes. But with Reluctant Immortals, we do get a Hollywood ending, in a sense. Without spoiling anything, the idea that Lucy and Bee don’t have to be monsters, despite coming from them, is a lifeline I’m more than willing to follow. There may still be “gloom brimming” in our heroines’ hearts, but they have more than achieved what Gwendolyn set out for them to accomplish. Bee’s story, “the one they tried so hard to steal” from her, remains unwritten. Lucy is “more than just the girl who withers in… shadow.” They are as immortal as Gwendolyn’s transcendent novel deserves to be.

Boo-graphy: Christa Carmen lives in Rhode Island, and is the author of the short story collection, Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked. Her debut novel, The Daughters of Block Island, is forthcoming from Thomas & Mercer in fall 2023, and her second novel with the mystery, thriller, and true crime imprint will be out in the fall of 2024. Christa studied English and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, has an MA from Boston College, and an MFA from the University of Southern Maine.

When she’s not writing, she keeps chickens, uses a Ouija board to ghost-hug her dear departed beagle, and sets out an adventures with her husband, and bloodhound/golden retriever mix. Most of her work comes from gazing upon the ghosts of the past or else into the dark corners of nature, those places where whorls of bark become owl eyes and deer step through tunnels of hanging leaves and creeping briers only to disappear.

A young woman’s fears regarding the gruesome photos appearing on her cell phone prove justified in a ghastly and unexpected way. A chainsaw-wielding Evil Dead fan defends herself against a trio of undead intruders. A bride-to-be comes to wish that the door between the physical and spiritual worlds had stayed shut on All Hallows’ Eve. A lone passenger on a midnight train finds that the engineer has rerouted them toward a past she’d prefer to forget. A mother abandons a life she no longer recognizes as her own to walk up a mysterious staircase in the woods. In her debut collection, Christa Carmen combines horror, charm, humor, and social critique to shape thirteen haunting, harrowing narratives of women struggling with both otherworldly and real-world problems. From grief, substance abuse, and mental health disorders, to a post-apocalyptic exodus, a seemingly sinister babysitter with unusual motivations, and a group of pesky ex-boyfriends who won’t stay dead, Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked is a compelling exploration of horrors both supernatural and psychological, and an undeniable affirmation of Carmen’s flair for short fiction.

GUEST POST: Paul Flewitt

Horror: An Origin Story

Hello, and Happy Halloween to all the readers of Meghan’s House of Books. Yup, its that time of year again, where Meghan allows me to come here and do a thing. So, I thought I’d have you all sit around the campfire and offer a bit of a short history lesson. Some of you might already know all this, but some might not. Here goes…

Any writer worth his salt is also a historian of the genre they write in. In an effort to understand how the genre works, what makes our writing that suitable for that genre, what the rules were from the outset and how they’ve changed and developed over time. We search with a rabid knowledge-lust to find out exactly where we came from, in a similar way someone might research their familial history.

Horror isn’t any different, especially in a world where the genre is constantly being divided into categories and sub-categories. We go back to move forward, discover where our cues came from and how we can best serve what we’re doing ourselves. By their own admission, Stephen King and Ramsey Campbell would scarcely have been the same writers if not for HP Lovecraft, MR James, and writers of their ilk. So, I thought I’d offer a few thoughts on where I think horror came from, how it developed and who were the main players in its development. Be warned, there’s some left field ideas in here, but its all about the discussion. Disagreement is allowed in any debate.

Where to begin?

Well, I would arguably go back to written works like The Epic of Gilgamesh, Beowulf, and other ancient texts which document mythologies and spoken histories. Are they horror? Well, yes and no. My view is that there are elements of horror in all of them, alongside a heavy dose of fantasy. I would posit the notion that the earliest overt writers of horror did likely look to writings like these, if not those writing specifically, and take some inspiration from some of the stories told there. Remember, this is about finding the primordial ooze which gave rise to horror, and I think this is most likely where it’s to be found. Some of the imagery in these texts is pure horror, and we still use those images today.

Homer’s Illiad is, to my mind, the first real horror story. Like the ancient texts I referenced above, it is as much fantasy as horror, but I find the two genres are inextricably linked in many ways. There are many horrific moments in that work, and many tropes we still see in horror today. There are meek and mild maidens who rise to be badass warriors, there are evil antagonists who creep you out and make you want to see them die in messy ways, and sometimes Homer shows you those deaths. For an ancient Greek philosopher, Homer was definitely a hell of a horror writer.

Taking his cue from Homer, I would cite Dante Aleghieri. The Divine Comedy, and particularly the Inferno section, is truly overt horror. It gives us a view of Hell, and one man’s trip through the seven levels of it. If we have to look hard to find horror DNA in the ancient texts I described, or in Homer, we certainly don’t with Dante. There is beauty in the horrific, and Dante revels in its description. Is he the first true horror master, the grandfather and architect of it all? Well, I’ll leave that for you guys to debate.

Goethe is another one from a little later than Dante. His Faust poem has given rise to the term “faustian,” which is a trope often used in horror. Clive Barker is a great proponent of the faustian pact trope, where a protagonist accepts a gift or an offer, only to be confronted with unforeseen and often horrific consequences. In Goethe’s Faust, the title character makes a pact with Mephistopholes, or Mephisto in some translations, and finds he has actually sold his soul to the devil himself. Is this horror? I’d say so.

Another early writer who often saw beauty in the horrific is William Blake. Alongside his paintings, Blake was a polymath who certainly delved into the darker literary arts. His work is often cited by horror writers as an inspiration.

Which brings us to, quite likely, the more familiar architects. I’ve skimmed through several hundred years of history here, highlighting writers who shaped the future of what would become horror. When we hit the 19th century though, we see a massive shift in sensibilities and matters which suddenly become acceptable to write about. Horror, the supernatural and erotic are no longer the things of taboo they once were, particularly in Britain, where horror and science fiction seem to take root first and strongest.

Robert Louis Stevenson and Mary Shelley are perhaps the first real horror writers we would think of from this period. Stevenson wrote Jekyll and Hyde, which has all the hallmarks of horror and science fiction. There is a psychological element to both, as we witness a descent into madness for the main characters in both those works. For me though, it’s Mary Shelley who truly broke the boundaries and addressed what horror would become later. It’s Shelley who confronted the idea that mankind may really be the monsters. I would ask, is Prometheus really the monster in Frankenstein, or is it the doctor who creates and abandons him? This is the question which horror writers wrangle a lot of the time, whether the monsters in their tales are archetypes for the worst of human traits, or whether mankind truly is portrayed as the monster for their treatment of anything they consider other. For me, Mary Shelley was the true risk taker of this generation, and her work certainly pushed the boundaries of taboo like few others dared.

Moving on to Bram Stoker, and the later 19th century writers. Stoker wrote Dracula, and we know what that one book gave rise to. It’s a franchise before anyone knew what such a thing was. Another taboo breaker, which gave us horror with a hint of the erotic. He provided another element to throw into the primordial ooze of the horror blueprint. I would also cite Lair of the White Worm too, which has elements of Lovecraft’s weird fiction before such a term was ever coined.

Writers which may seem like left field choices here would be Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle. Although their work is not, in the strictest sense of the word, horror, there are certainly elements to be found in their stories. Hounds of the Baskervilles certainly leans heavily into our world, and Dickens was a great writer of ghost stories which he often incorporated into his studies of life in Victorian London. Both are more than worthy of deeper investigation.

Edgar Allan Poe needs no introduction, and is widely accepted as one of the true architects of modern horror. His poetry and short stories are the inspiration for many modern writers, with such absolute classics as The Pit and the Pendulum, The Masque of the Red Death, The Telltale Heart, Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Fall of the House of Usher, and so many, many more besides. He touched on so many different forms of horror that it’s difficult to argue with anyone who asserts that Poe is among the most important writers of horror we’ve had. I would tend to agree.

In the early to mid-20th century, horror still continued to burgeon. It was, however, branching out from the gothic sensibilities of the previous decades. Writers like HG Wells and Aldous Huxley were writing with a far more futuristic vision, imagining new worlds and visitations from warrior races from other planets. Some would call their writings science fiction, but there is certainly horror in there too. Tell me The War of the Worlds or Brave New World are not both works of horror. Shirley Jackson and MR James flew the flag for gothic horror and ghost at this time. Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, a staple which entertained and inspired for generations to come, while MR James’ short ghost stories are a staple diet for many modern writers trying to learn and hone the craft of creating atmosphere. But, the real trailblazer of this time was HP Lovecraft. Totally unappreciated at the time, Lovecraft’s contributions and importance didn’t gain popularity until the 60’s and 70’s, but his ideas have been the springboard for a good many writers since. He’s more than just the Cthulu mythos though. His ghost stories, tales of rats in the walls, and other gothic style stories are absolutely as important as the Old Ones stories.

All of these writers, in some way or another, have shaped horror in the last century. Without each of them, or some combination of them, we would not have had Ramsey Campbell, Robert Bloch, James Herbert, Stephen King, Clive Barker, and the other horror masters who have rightly taken their place in the pantheon in the years since. Horror writers like me look back on these creators in awe of their inspiration, their vision, their bravery to explore ideas which were certainly counter to societal conventions and often considered dangerous or immoral. Without that bravery, none of us would be here.

So, I raise a toast to all of those who went before. All any of us who write can hope for is that we honour their legacy, and keep the flames of their creations alive for the generations to come.

Boo-graphy: Paul Flewitt is a horror and dark fantasy writer from Sheffield, UK, where he lives with his wife and two children.

Paul began publishing in 2012, beginning with the flash fiction story, Smoke, for OzHorrorCon’s Book of the Tribes anthology. He went on to pen further short stories, including Paradise Park, Climbing Out, Apartment 16c and Always Beneath.

In 2012, he also published his first novel, Poor Jeffrey, which was received to much critical acclaim.

His novelette, Defeating the Black Worm, was released in 2021, through Demain Publishing.

Paul cites writers such as Clive Barker, Stephen King, James Herbert, and JRR Tolkien as inspirations on his own writing.

Paul continues to write, contributing to Matt Shaw’s The Many Deaths of Edgar Allan Poe anthology in 2020 with The Last Horror of Dear Eddie. He also began releasing free short stories and fanfiction on his Wattpad account for fun.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: C.R. Richards

Meghan: It’s been a bit since you and I sat down last to talk. Welcome to this year’s Halloween Extravaganza. Thanks for stopping by. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

CRR: I love to read spooky stories year-round, but the special Halloween vibe takes “the scary” to a higher level. There is nothing like curling up under a blanket on a spooky October evening with a gripping ghost story.

Meghan: Do you get scared easily?

CRR: It takes some doing to scare the jaded adult me, but it can be done!

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

CRR: My mom and brother took me to The Omen (1976 version with Gregory Peck) when I was eleven. I remember we were at the drive-in, so I spent most of the movie hiding on the floor of our station wagon. That movie had a profound impact on me. It was the first time I contemplated what Evil was and how it could potentially harm me. I think my mom regretted taking me to see that movie. It gave me screaming nightmares for weeks. I haven’t watched the movie since.

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

CRR: Slasher movies have made viewers desensitized by fake gore. I feel it is true-to-life murders like the little girl’s killing in The Lovely Bones (2009 film based on the book) that are the most disturbing. It could happen to anyone in any neighborhood.

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

CRR: Yes! Paranormal Activity. I don’t know why, but it’s too creepy for me.

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

CRR: One of the classic Alfred Hitchcock movies like Psycho or The Birds. I love that era in Hollywood.

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

CRR: The Mummy (1999). It would be awesome to hang out with Brendan Fraser.

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

CRR: Dracula. He is the ultimate scary vampire (as they should be. No sparkly vamps, please).

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

CRR: I love handing out candy to the trick-or-treaters. Some of the costumes are so clever.

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

CRR: The theme from Psycho (1960). It’s immediately recognizable.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

CRR: There are two classic Occult novels by the same author team that keep me up at night. The First is The Cabinet of Curiosities by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. FBI Agent Pendergast chases a madman who mutilates his victims via dissection. The Second is one of my all-time favorite books, Still Life with Crows.  Killer in a small town who disappears without a trace.

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

CRR: I visited Boston several years ago and stayed in an old mill the owner had converted into condos. One night I heard someone slam open the front door. A man’s heavy boots stomped down the hall past my bedroom. I flipped on the light and crept to my sister’s room. We were the only people staying in the condo at the time. The front door was undisturbed, and I couldn’t see any uninvited guests. My sister told me the old mill was supposedly haunted by some workers who’d perished there over 100 years ago.

Meghan: Which unsolved mystery fascinates you the most?

CRR: I am fascinated by the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA. Why did Sarah Winchester, widow of the famous rifle’s founder, build a house with stairs going nowhere and room layouts that don’t make sense? Was she really trying to avoid the ghosts of the rifle’s victims? Or was she insane? Visiting the house is on my bucket list.

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

CRR: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. It’s a hard one to beat.

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

CRR: I’d go with a cricket bat as an homage to the movie Shaun of the Dead with Simon Pegg.

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

CRR: Vampire!

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

CRR: Let me at those zombies!

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

CRR: Zombie juice, of course!

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

CRR: Poltergeist house.

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

CRR: Yuck! I think I’d have to take the melon.

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

CRR: I wouldn’t mind trying the spider web cotton candy if I could add pumpkin spice.

Boo-graphy: C. R. Richards is the award-winning author of The Mutant Casebook Series. Her literary career began as a part-time columnist for a small entertainment newspaper. She wore several hats: food critic, entertainment reviewer, and cranky editor. A lover of horror and dark fantasy stories, she enjoys telling tales of intrigue and adventure. Her most recent literary projects include the new historical dark fantasy thriller The Vengeful Dead and the epic dark fantasy series Heart of The Warrior. She is an affiliate member of the Horror Writers Association.

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The Vengeful Dead
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The Dead don’t always rest in peace.

Dunham Raynor is a second-rate psychic traveling with a rundown medicine show. Months after the end of the American Civil War, Dun and his partners head west with dreams of easy wealth. They finally have a chance to make some real money when they cross paths with a murderess in a s small Missouri town. The blackmail job is sure to give their band of swindlers the stake they need to reach San Francisco. But luck is a fickle mistress.

Marked by magic as a youth, Dun isn’t the fake he pretends to be. His mysterious tattoo of an Ouroboros allows him to see and speak with the Dead. When the ghost of a Confederate soldier arfrives with a dire warning about the little town’s imminent destruction, Dun must choose between loyalty and his own skin.

The Undead never forget.

Dun tries to escape his past by traveling west along the Santa Fe Trail, but vicious killers haunt his every step. Their ruthless games turn deadly as Dun’s new traveling companions are brutally slaughtered. Are the supernatural hunters bent on delivering justice, or is the Necromancer holding their leash after revenge? The answer lies in the living Ouroboros embedded in Dun’s chest.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Lynn Hightower

Meghan: Hi, Lynn. Welcome to Meghan’s HAUNTED House of Books. It’s an absolute pleasure to have you here today. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Lynn: Halloween is a family favorite. I love the delicious spooky aura, the costumes, and the candy.

Meghan: Do you get scared easily?

Lynn: No

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

Lynn: The Haunting of Hill House – both versions, the oldest and the newest – because of the dark threatening presence that is unexplained and utterly malevolent.

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

Lynn: The original movie for Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The scene where the hero gets in the truck and finds all the people pods and realizes what has really been going on haunts me to this day.

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

Lynn: No, I’m brave. If the story intrigues me, nothing will stop me from watching it.

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

Lynn: A vampire movie set in turn of the century Paris.

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

Lynn: The Conjuring so I could throw myself on the mercy of Ed and Lorraine Warren to get me out of the mess I was in.

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

Lynn: I always loved Barnabus Collins of Dark Shadows which was a thing when I was a little girl.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Lynn: Trick or Treat.

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

Lynn: Ghostbusters

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Lynn: The Haunting of Hill House

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

Lynn: When I wrote The Piper, I was living in a haunted house and so all the stuff in the book I did not have to make up. That is not as good an idea as it sounds. We moved.

Meghan: Which unsolved mystery fascinates you the most?

Lynn: I love those mothman appearances that happened before the bridge collapsed and all o those people died. So mysterious.

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

Lynn: The true life events behind The Conjuring.

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

Lynn: Shotgun

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

Lynn: Vampire

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

Lynn: I can run faster than a zombie.

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

Lynn: I’ll take a glass of red wine instead.

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

Lynn: Poltergeist

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

Lynn: Melon

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

Lynn: Pass on both. I have standards.

Boo-graphy: Lynn Hightower grew up in Kentucky, and graduated from the University of Kentucky, where she studied creative writing with Wendell Berry and earned a degree in Journalism. She also teaches novel writing in the Writer’s Program at UCLA. Survival jobs include writing television commercials, catering waitress, and bartender for one day.

Her books have been included in the New York Times List of Notable Books, the London Times Bestseller List, and the W.H. Smith Fresh Talent Awards. She has received the Shamus Award, and been nominated for the Kentucky Literary Award, the Kentucky Librarians First Choice Award, and the Mary Higgins Clark Award. Hightower’s books have been published in numerous foreign countries, including Great Britain, Australia, Japan, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Israel and The Netherlands.

Hightower spends ridiculous amounts of time curled up reading, but also enjoys small sports cars and tame horses. She is married to The Frenchman, writes full time, shares an office with her Belgian Shepherd, Leo the Lion, plays bad but fierce tennis, loves to dance and is learning to Tango.

Hightower enjoys canoeing and is witty after two glasses of wine. She has studied French and Italian, but is only fluent in Southern.

Hightower is a Kentucky native, and lives in a small Victorian cottage with a writing parlor.

Noah Archer is a renowned neurosurgeon, with an impressive success record. He has a happy home, with his beloved wife Moira, their two adopted sons, and a dog who’s a very good girl.

But Noah keeps a dark secret, shared only with his old friend Father Perry Cavanaugh. When he was just a boy, he was possessed by a demon – and it was only thanks to the exorcist priest that he survived.

Now, Noah works at the cutting edge of medical science and religion, researching the effects of spirituality on the brain. His current research study – The Enlightenment Project – promises breakthrough treatments for depression, addiction and mental illness, and preliminary results are astounding.

But after a late-night emergency surgery, Noah returns to his office to find Father Perry waiting for him, with a terrible warning. The Enlightenment Project may not be closing the door to the darkness at all . . . but instead letting it in.

Demonic possession is now a recognized psychiatric condition, and the number of exorcist priests in the US has quadrupled in the last decade. As well as being a thrilling read, THE ENLIGHTENMENT PROJECT is an intelligent and fascinating view into the complex worlds of both the medical and the supernatural.