GUEST POST: Jeff Parsons

True story

Long ago, I worked as an usher at a Boston movie theater. One of the movies playing was Poltergeist. Very popular, it stayed there for almost a year. I got to watch that movie over and over and over. I’d seen it all. And also the reactions of people in the audience: jolted out of their seats, involuntary screams, covering their eyes, reaching out to hold their partner’s or friend’s hands…

I saw one thing at a late-night show that has stayed with me.

A guy was helping his distraught friend leave the Poltergeist theater. Let’s call them Guy and Friend.

Friend collapsed onto the red carpeted floor with a long, low moan. Guy asked for someone to call an ambulance. One of my coworkers ran off to tell management.

Foamy spit bubbled from the corners of Friend’s mouth. His whole body was trembling. Not something I’d ever seen from a body builder type. Friend went into a fetal position, rocking his head back and forth slightly, sobbing softly. This wasn’t convulsions or a seizure. Something else was going on. This man was terrified.

My manager showed up – the frothy behavior went on for a while – we all felt helpless.

Two Boston policemen appeared, quietly, surprising everyone. Unlike any other experiences I’ve ever had with cops, before or since, these guys were oddly detached, cold, and menacing.

One of them prodded the shoulder of the prostate Friend with his shiny black shoe tip. That policeman laughed, then said, “Soft as a grape.”

In a disgusted voice, the other asked, “What happened to him?”

The Guy said, “We were watching the movie and he started saying no, no, no, not again.”

“Whaddya mean?” the disgusted cop asked.

The Guy answered, “Something about the ghosts scared him.”

The paramedics arrived on scene. The policemen reluctantly helped lift Friend’s limp body onto the gurney. He was taken away.

It makes me wonder what caused him to react that way?

In addition to his two short story books, The Captivating Flames of Madness and Algorithm of Nightmares, Jeff Parsons is published in The Horror Zine, The Horror Zine’s Book of Ghost Stories, Aphelion Webzine, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volume 4, Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine, Chilling Ghost Short Stories, Dystopia Utopia Short Stories, Wax & Wane: A Coven of Witch Tales, Thinking Through Our Fingers, The Moving Finger Writes, Golden Prose & Poetry, Our Dance With Words, The Voices Within, Fireburst: The Inner Circle Writers’ Group, Second Flash Fiction Anthology 2018, SNM Horror Magazine, and Bonded by Blood IV/ V.


The Captivating Flames of Madness
This book’s title comes from the reality that – like a moth to the flame – we’re all just one event, mishap, or decision away from things that could change our lives forever.

What would you do if fate led you astray into a grim world where you encountered vengeful ghosts, homicidal maniacs, ancient gods, apocalyptic nightmares, dark magic, deadly space aliens, and more?

If you dare, why not find out?

Read for yourself the twenty-two gloriously provocative tales that dwell within this book – but be warned, some of my dear readers have experienced lasting nightmares…


Meghan: Hey, Jeff. I decided to wait and have your day as the last one in this year’s Halloween Extravaganza, so it’s been a wait, but I’m glad you’re here today. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Jeff: I loved taking my young girls out for Trick or Treating. The fresh mystery of experiencing this unique adventure through their eyes, well, it reminded me of my youth. It was a joy dressing up in costumes, visiting stranger’s Halloween-bedecked houses, and asking for candy.

[Spoiler alert] Nowadays, I like watching the interesting variety of movies that come out on television during the Halloween season. I’ll sometimes also deep dive into my personal stock of scary movies.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Jeff: As you know, I like watching scary movies, but along with that, I like splurging on a accompanying buffet of finger food, ice cream, and candy. Essentially anything contraband that violates common sense, my diet, and long-term health. Just sayin’, this includes chicken wings and home-made candy apples.

I haven’t done this yet, but I think going to haunted house events would be fun. I appreciate great acting and stage work.

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

Jeff: As a child, Halloween was second best, right behind Arbor Day Eve. Just joking, we didn’t worship trees. Much. The idea of getting Halloween candy was mind blowing for a kid. I’d run from house to house, carrying a shopping bag in each hand, nearing exhaustion but determined (can’t stop now). When I made it home, my loot was cross-examined by a board of family experts (hmmm, that large candy bar looks unsafe, we’d better eat it for you). After that, I was free to gorge myself silly into a weeks-long sugar frenzy.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Jeff: Black cats, ladders, step on a crack, nope, nope, nope, no superstition.

I really don’t think I’m superstitious about anything, but I’m very interested in seemingly unconnected patterns in the way things turn out. There are too many coincidences beyond direct cause and effect. It’s almost as if we’re tapped into a greater connectivity, aren’t fully aware of it, but it keeps reminding us from time to time. Resorting to a thermodynamics explanation, our planet is essentially a closed system, so everything affects everything else in various degrees of effect.

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

Jeff: I think Clive Barker’s Hellraiser Cenobites are interesting. They were once ordinary people. Turned into demons, their real selves were trapped inside, undoubtedly in a state of perpetual torment. Kind of like working in a dead-end job? All this happened because they were insatiably curious about something best left alone. How often does the voice in our head warn us about things like that for no real discernable reason? Maybe we should listen to it more? Ya know, like, take a pass on solving extradimensional puzzle boxes?

Dexter on Showtime is fascinating. He protects the innocent by killing evil murderers. Despite being a monster, lacking in many emotions, he does care about people in his own way, and he’s shocked at the depth of evil in this world. Essentially, he’s dealing with a great chasm of emptiness inside him. When he was young, he was troubled about feeling nothing. This apparently can be just as bad as feeling too much. That is the path he has chosen – seeking a way to be emotionally connected to others.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Jeff: The original unsolved case – Jack the Ripper. The killer terrorized the dark alleys of Victorian England, wielding medical instruments with great precision… crazy, dangerous, and unstoppable. It was the modern genesis of pure, unspeakable evil. What sickness would drive someone to do that?

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Jeff: This is more like a rural legend – the Night Hag – this scares me the most. The legend is part of my Newfoundland heritage. Hearing about it firsthand made it personal to me. Imagine a creature that attacks you when you’re most vulnerable: asleep, paralyzed, and helpless, but aware of everything happening to you.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Jeff: I don’t idolize serial killers. I’m fairly sure they don’t idolize me either. Well, maybe they could idolize my lifestyle, thinking, “Wow, I wish I could be boring too, maybe if I cut back on the killing, get myself into a good 12-step program.” But, all that said, I do find serial killers to be interesting. Evolution probably required sociopaths who could be fearless and unemotional. Good for dealing with sabre tooth tigers, telemarketers, and such.

For me, the most intriguing serial killer is John Wayne Gacy. He was an upstanding citizen in his community, yet he held such a horrible secret life. It’s frightening to know that we live alongside so many crazy people. Googled it – guesstimates ranged from 1 in 7 to 1 in 100 sociopaths amongst us. It’s quite likely you passed by one when you were at work, out and about, shopping, walking the dog… Hmm, might be a good idea to try your best to get along with people lest you anger the wrong one.

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

Jeff: First movie: Wizard of Oz. That’s uncut street-grade horror for a 5 year old. Flying monkeys. Haunted forest. Wicked Witch. Shiver.

When I was about 9, I started reading horror comics, but it took me until 13ish before I read my first horror book. To date myself, it was a short story anthology edited by Karl Edward Wagner. The pace of the stories was slower back then. That allowed for a bigger buildup of suspense that didn’t seem rushed or artificial. All the better to intrigue me…

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Jeff: City Infernal by Edward Lee. To actually experience what hell would be like is as disturbing as it is interesting. It’s like watching a slow train wreck – you can’t pull your eyes away from the overwhelming tragedy.

For cosmic level horror, most H.P. Lovecraft stories give me a lasting chill.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Jeff: The Exorcist. I’m spiritual, so anything intensely supernatural can have a lasting effect on me. I do watch many supernatural movies, sometimes out of curiosity or a face-my-fears kind of challenge.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Jeff: I never did this, but they have realistic skull faced masks now. Sold by King Trends. When going Trick or Treating, I’d wear a simple, black hooded cloak for simplicity, and keep my face hidden until greeting someone (then, the full skull face reveal). Of course, not in front of kids – don’t want to traumatize anyone.

Remember the clown frenzy a few years ago? Online, it almost appeared to be a supernatural manifestation. Think about this… If something evil wanted to appear to be harmless, a silly clown outfit would do the trick. Fodder for nightmares.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Jeff: Disney’s Haunted Mansion CD of sound bytes. It brings back fond memories of Disneyland. For truly scary, the classical Night On Bald Mountain by Mussorgsky is thought provoking.

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

Jeff: White chocolate covered Reeses are the bomb. The worst comes from the past – wax bottle candy, liquid sugar-fueled shots, instant manic energy with a subsequent crash and burn quicker than a paralyzed falcon falling from the sky.

Meghan: Thanks again for stopping by. Before you go, what are your go-to Halloween movies?

Evil Dead, old and new
The Thing, old and new
The Aliens series
The Witch
Sleepy Hollow
Demon Knight

Family movies:
Hocus Pocus
The Addams Family series
The Haunted Mansion

In addition to his two short story books, The Captivating Flames of Madness and Algorithm of Nightmares, Jeff Parsons is published in The Horror Zine, The Horror Zine’s Book of Ghost Stories, Aphelion Webzine, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volume 4, Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine, Chilling Ghost Short Stories, Dystopia Utopia Short Stories, Wax & Wane: A Coven of Witch Tales, Thinking Through Our Fingers, The Moving Finger Writes, Golden Prose & Poetry, Our Dance With Words, The Voices Within, Fireburst: The Inner Circle Writers’ Group, Second Flash Fiction Anthology 2018, SNM Horror Magazine, and Bonded by Blood IV/ V.

The Captivating Flames of Madness
This book’s title comes from the reality that – like a moth to the flame – we’re all just one event, mishap, or decision away from things that could change our lives forever.

What would you do if fate led you astray into a grim world where you encountered vengeful ghosts, homicidal maniacs, ancient gods, apocalyptic nightmares, dark magic, deadly space aliens, and more?

If you dare, why not find out?

Read for yourself the twenty-two gloriously provocative tales that dwell within this book – but be warned, some of my dear readers have experienced lasting nightmares…

Halloween Extravaganza: Edmund Stone: STORY: Blackjacks Revenge

Blackjack’s Revenge

I’ve always thought Halloween droll. A holiday for children and way beneath a man like me, a college professor with a master’s degree. But here I am, picking out a pumpkin to carve from the local farmer’s market. I came with my trusted friend, Bojangles. All twenty pounds of the best little Jack Russell Terrier a man could own.

This small New England town is full of charm and since I’m new to this block, I thought it a good idea to blend in. Some of the displays people put on their front porches would be better suited for Better Homes and Gardens magazine. They really get into Halloween here. Even though I despise the holiday, I don’t want a good egging or toilet paper draped around my house. So, why not?

I peruse through the selection, while the smell of hot apple cider and fresh baked donuts prick my nose. Bojangles pulls at his leash, trying to veer me in the direction of the heavenly aroma. But I persist with my hunt. I can’t find the one I like. I want it to be right. A pumpkin to say, “Hello, I’ve arrived people!” The bigger and gaudier, the better. I’ll decorate smaller pumpkins and gourds around it. It’ll look like Halloween meets harvest moon. I should get some good nods around the neighborhood.

A farmer spots me and jumps out of his lawn chair, nearly tipping it backwards. He’s the typical bumpkin with bib overalls, chewing on a toothpick or piece of straw. I notice his hat has a logo; McCormick’s farm. He puts a grubby hand out but I only smile. He looks down at his hand, seeming a bit confused, then tucks it away in his pocket.

“Mawnin’, young fella! Can I help you find somethin’?” he says in a Yankee accent.

“Yes. I think I’ll take about twenty gourds. I need lots of them for the porch I have.”

“I got all yaw need. What about punkins? Can’t have a good porch decoration without a nice punkin.”

I look around his display but find nothing large enough to suit my needs. Then, just beyond his cart, I see it! The one I’m looking for. It’s large, with nodules adorning it. They look like warts. It’s a witch pumpkin. Perfect!

“I’ll take that one!” I say, pointing behind the man.

“Which one?” the man says, turning to look over his shoulder. His eyes widen. “Why, I’m not sure where that come from. Maude? You know anything about the warty punkin over there?” he says to an old woman in a rocking chair close by.

“Billy left it this mawnin’, brought a whole wagon of ‘em. That’s the last one, fer now. Said he’d bring more tommaw mawnin’” she said, never lifting her head.

“Hmm, musta come from the patch over next to the cemetery,” he says, taking off his hat and scratching his head. “Well then, fella. Looks like you got yerself a nice punkin!”

I bid the farmer farewell, as he finishes loading my car, then stop for a few of those donuts and some cider. Two for me and one for Bojangles, who yips in appreciation. When I get home, I consider the porch layout before putting the pumpkins and gourds there. I notice my neighbor’s porch and see a fodder shock. Why didn’t I think of that? Oh well, I have more gourds to go around my large pumpkin than they do.

I set everything down and go in the house for a carving knife. As I’m looking through drawers something hits the window. I stop. Then hear it again. Are the kids starting early? I walk over and peek out the front window. Nothing. All I see is the porch with my large pumpkin in the middle. I do notice some of the gourds are out of place, scattered about the porch.

“Hmm, odd. I was sure I put them in tight around the pumpkin,” I say aloud. “Better check.

I put on my shoes and jacket, then walk onto the porch with Bojangles on my heels. I start to pick up the gourds. While I’m stooped over one hits me on the backside. I turn to see who the culprit is. No one is there. Bojangles is barking furiously at the bottom step.

Damn kids, but, where are they? I pick up one of the gourds and ease down the porch steps. If they want to play, I’ll play. They can’t outsmart me. One of those little pricks is going to eat a gourd.

I ease around the end of the porch, holding the small projectile over my head. I lunge forward, letting the squash fly from my hand.

“Take that, you asshole!” I say. I see no one, except Bojangles running into the yard, after the gourd, barking the whole way. Then, I hear a noise from the front porch. Ah-ha, they doubled back. I run toward it and I’m faced with a bombardment of gourds. Three of them come flying over my head, as I duck for cover. My dog jumps up and grabs one out of the air, as if it were a tennis ball.

“Hey! Get off my porch! I’m going to call your parents!”

I hear no response, only laughter. A strange kind of laughter. It doesn’t sound like a kid. Bojangles barks, as he runs up the steps to the porch. I run close behind him. When I get to the top step, I’m confronted with a sight I can’t believe. The large pumpkin is staring at me. It has dark eyes and a mouth full of yellow teeth. It grins, then produces a gourd from its mouth, spitting it at me. The thing nearly takes my head off!

“The Hell!?” I say, as I jump back, stumbling down the steps, scraping my knee. I land in the grass on my side. Bojangles steps in front of me, his chest swelled, yapping hoarse barks. I look at the pumpkin. Its moving now, rolling toward the steps! It plops down each one and stops at the bottom. The thing considers me with empty black eyes and dripping teeth.

“Blackjack is back!” the large pumpkin calls out.

Then it rolls toward me, chomping. I get to my feet, stumbling backward, falling then getting up again. What the hell is happening? What is this creature? Bojangles makes a surprised yelp as I pick him up. I make a dash for the car, aware its right behind me. I reach into my pocket. The keys! They’re in the house! Along with my cell phone. Damn!

I turn to see the pumpkin opening its large mouth. Damn if the thing isn’t growing! It’s as tall as a man now, at least six feet, and just as wide! It chomps down, as I move behind the car. Its teeth take off the side mirror. The sound of screeching metal and cracking plastic pierces my ears. The big squash rolls around the front of the car. It’s not as fast now but picking up speed, adjusting to its rapid growth. Bojangles is pulling at my arms, frantically barking, trying to break free. I hold on, I won’t let that thing have my dog!

I scan the area, looking for help. No one is on the street. It’s Halloween for God’s sake, you think someone would be out! I must get out of here! I see a bike leaning next to a light pole. It’s a BMX style, only twenty inches tall, much too small for me, but better than trying to outrun this thing. Thankfully, the bike has a basket. I jump on. Putting Bojangles on the front and start to pedal. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a kid running toward me.

“Hey, mister! You stole my bike!”

“Run, kid!” I say. The kid looks to the street and seeing the chomping jack-o-lantern rolling toward him, decides to make a run for the bushes. Too late! The thing swallows the kid up to his midsection. He didn’t even have time to scream. Legs dangle from the pumpkin’s mouth. Another chomp, and the kid is gone!

“Blackjack!” it screams.

My, God! What am I going to do! I must get away, but I have no idea where I’m going. I don’t know this town. My only hope is, Blackjack doesn’t either. I look over my shoulder and pedal faster, as the monster is bearing down on me. What is this thing, and why is it chasing me? Is this revenge for hating Halloween?

I furiously rotate my legs, until my feet can no longer stay up with the pedals, so I start to coast. I see cars, coming fast at me. I can’t get to the brake. I’m surely going to die! A car screeches to a halt right in front of me. I swerve into an alleyway, Bojangles is standing in the basket, protesting the insurrection. Blackjack rolls onto the car’s hood, smashing the windshield and getting to the people inside. I keep pedaling, hearing the screams behind me. I want to stop but know I can do nothing to help them. I must keep pedaling!

I emerge from the alley and see a cemetery. The gate looks too small for the creature to enter. I may be safe there. I ride the bike through the entrance. Throwing it down, I quickly close the gate and latch it. In the distance, I hear the creature bellow out, an inhuman cry! Cars are crashing, and people are screaming! I cover my ears. I’m shaking and sweating, trying to catch my breath after the ride. I hold my little dog close for comfort. He’s stopped barking but utters a light growl.

I feel safer now. Looking around the cemetery, I notice the strangest thing, there are vines growing everywhere; pumpkin vines. They snake throughout the ground and into the graves. Then I see where they are coming from. There’s a fenced in field next to the cemetery with a sign hanging from the metal lattice. It reads:


I raise my hands, letting out an exasperated sigh. I should have known those country bumpkins had something to do with this. Monsanto probably paid them to grow this stupid stuff!

I notice the pumpkins growing on the vines have lumpy protrusions all over them. Just like my pumpkin! Many of the vines growing into the graves have been picked clean. One I notice especially. Its growing into a grave, the earth looking recently disturbed. It has an ominous grave marker that says:

Here Lies the Body of Jack Burton
Better known as Blackjack Burton
The deadliest pirate and outlaw in
New England

Blackjack? No, that’s not possible. How could a GMO pumpkin take on the personality of a dead pirate? This is insane! Then I see something to help verify my suspicions. A bunching of vines growing over a post. This doesn’t seem out of place, but on closer inspection, I see it’s no post at all. It’s a man in a uniform. He’s covered with vines up to his neck and his expression is one of pure terror. His mouth is open, and vines are growing into it and down his throat. I turn away, starting to wretch, but then gather myself. Part of his outfit is showing through the vines. It’s his name tag. It says, Bill.

“Well, Billy, I guess you’re not bringing the next shipment in the morning after all,” I say to him.

A thought strikes me, what about the other pumpkins? Who will be the unwitting sap to get one, and will they be targeted also? I must do something! But what? Fumbling through my pocket, I find a box of matches. The one I was going to light the jack-o-lantern with. I’ll burn the whole patch, then no one will get an evil squash!

I sit Bojangles on the ground and go to the edge of the fence. I strike one of the matches. A whisper of smoke begins to rise. Its then I feel it, the hot wind, a smell of sulfur behind me. I turn to see Blackjack. He’s larger than before, at least ten feet tall, and just as wide; warts surround his eyes and all along his side. They’re seeping yellow goo! He doesn’t look happy. He blows the flame out before the fire has a chance to spread. His frown turns into a large smile with blood-stained yellow teeth.

“Ha ha ha. Blackjack is back!” he says to me. I jump into the pumpkin patch to take refuge. Bojangles runs ahead of me, disappearing into the brush.

“Brother’s arise!”

I gasp as I see who he’s talking too. The pumpkins in the patch start to move, vines wriggle toward me, taking my arms and holding them. I pull an arm loose, breaking a few. But they quickly regroup and pull me back. In my struggle, I drop the matches onto the grass. All the while Blackjack is getting closer. His mouth in a snarled grin. A large tongue snakes out from between his teeth and licks my face. The irony is not lost on me. I’m about to be eaten by a pie ingredient!

I look to my feet and see the matches. If only I can get free. Blackjack is almost on me. He opens his mouth and I can smell the horrid odor of rotted meat and decaying vegetables. Blood and pieces of flesh are stuck in his teeth. I close my eyes and wait for the worst. Then the brush begins to move, something is coming up quick. Blackjack and the rest of the pumpkin hoard look to the commotion. Like a cannonball emerging from a barrel, Bojangles flies from the undergrowth and attacks Blackjack.

“Good boy, Bojangles!” I say. The pumpkins release me and go for the pup, who is now chewing and burrowing his way into the side of Blackjack. The large pumpkin begins to scream, and the other pumpkins try to lend aid. But Bojangles is too fast. He’s inside Blackjack before they get to him.

Blackjack screams, bouncing erratically from side to side. The pumpkins hesitate, not sure if they should help their leader or stop me. I see my chance and grab the matches. I light one and then the whole box, sending it hurling into the dry underbrush. The wind picks up and the flames begin to fan out through the patch.

The pumpkins scream, as the flames lick at their heads. They begin to explode from the expanding heat, and whatever chemicals they are saturated in, starting a chain reaction. Screams of anguish rise from the patch, as vines wither. I look for Bojangles but don’t see him. Blackjack is tittering back and forth. He opens his mouth as if to say something and out pops an orange covered Jack Russel Terrier. He jumps into my arms. I clean the strings from his eyes and he licks my face in appreciation. The flames rise around us and I feel the heat on my skin.

“C’mon, boy! We have to go!” I say to my pup.

My shoes crunch the dry grass with flames traveling close behind. I hold my breath, shielding Bojangles from the intense heat. We step into the cemetery and I exhale the breath in my lungs. Bojangles is voicing his anger in the form of raspy protest barks. I turn toward the patch to see a large pumpkin bursting from the field, flames surrounding it; mouth open and ready to bite.

“Blackjack is back!”

I turn to run, as Bojangles jumps from my arms, leaping toward Blackjack.

“Bojangles! No!” I scream.

He jumps into the open mouth of the great pumpkin. Blackjack snaps his teeth together and grins.

“Mmm, tasty,” He says, as he laughs.

An October wind picks up, blowing the flames out on Blackjack, but giving fuel to the fire in the field behind him. It chills me to the bone, as he rolls toward me, I’m sure to deal the death blow, just as he did to my pup. Then he stops, looking at me with a pained expression. In the distance, I hear the faint yapping of a small dog.


The little terrier comes bursting out of Blackjack’s eye. The pumpkin screams, rolling and undulating to the side; his eye spewing orange and black liquid. The gargantuan squash lands in the fire and begins to spin, protesting the barrage of heat. But to no avail, he succumbs to the torrid blaze, as pieces of pumpkin burst in every direction.

“I think we can say the pumpkin pie is burnt. Hunh, Bojangles?” I say relieved, as he licks my face. The flames rise high into the dusky Autumn sky. Small sparks fly above them and go out, raining ash below. I sigh and turn to the road. Bojangles is at my feet, yipping and dancing in approval. We walk down the main street through town. My dog begins to bark and growl.

“What is it boy? That old pumpkin won’t bother us anymore.”

Then I see it. People running. A car screeches onto the road and swerves into a pole, knocking it down. An electric line sparks, as it falls across the street. It looks like a large black snake wriggling on the ground. It moves along until it hits the car. I see something rolls out that makes my blood go cold. It’s a warty pumpkin. It’s grinning with blood stained teeth. It hits the electric line and explodes along with the car. Bojangles is barking incessantly. I step back and look around at the houses. There are no pumpkins for decoration anywhere to be seen. I call for Bojangles to jump into my arms. I stroke his fur.

“Oh my, boy. This is going to be a long night.”

Edmund Stone is a writer and poet of horror and fantasy living in a quaint river town in the Ohio Valley. He writes at night, spinning tales of strange worlds and horrifying encounters with the unknown. He lives with his wife, a son, four dogs and a group of mischievous cats. He also has two wonderful daughters, and three granddaughters, who he likes to tell scary stories, then send them home to their parents.

Edmund is an active member of The Write Practice, a member only writer’s forum, where he served as a judge for their Summer contest 2018. Edmund’s poetry is featured in the Horror Zine, Summer 2017 issue and in issue #6 of Jitter by Jitter Press. He has two poems in issue 39, one poem in issue 41, and a story in issue 42, of Siren’s Call ezine. He also has three short stories in separate anthologies, See Through My Eyes by Fantasia Divinity, Year’s Best Body Horror anthology 2017 by Gehenna & Hinnom, and Hell’s Talisman anthology by Schreyer Ink Publishing. Most of these stories can also be read in Hush my Little Baby: A Collection by Edmund Stone.

Website ** Email ** Facebook ** Twitter ** Instagram

Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Dean H. Wild

Meghan: Hi, Dean. Welcome back to my annual Halloween Extravaganza. It’s been awhile since we sat down together. What’s been going on since we last spoke?

Dean H. Wild: On the writing front, I will have a short story published in CrashCode, an anthology of technology-based horror tales to be released by the end of 2019. My story is called “The God Finger.” I’ve also been working with The Horror Zine on an anthology of ghost stories and I have started another novel.

Meghan: Who are you outside of writing?

Dean H. Wild: Some people call me “organized.” Some call me “thorough.” I recently had someone refer to me as “gentle.” I suppose you need to have most of your marbles in the can to do what I do, and I have quite the soft spot in my heart when it comes to the animals of the world. A lost and lonely kitten can nearly break my heart in two. But I’m mostly your typical introvert with a tenacious commitment to the comfort of guests in my home and a gentleman’s appreciation of a fine whiskey.

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

Dean H. Wild: I have no trouble with it. They already know about my dark and twisted core, so if some of that leaks into my work (and it always does) I have no shame or concern. They are aware of what they’re getting into.

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

Dean H. Wild: The answer is Yes. Ha-ha. I love the organic feel the flow of ideas brings when I’m in writing mode. It is an experience that defies words. And to have someone read the work later and relate to it is an author-reader connection that is rewarding and precious. However, the drive to put words to paper, especially when those words are coming hard, spurred on by the need to move forward with a piece and bring it to fruition can be brutal. It consumes all thought, making the rest of your life a state of distraction. Performing any other task, however menial and/or necessary, becomes a source of guilt. And there is no escape from the misery, because once the manuscript-at-hand is complete, there is utter helplessness against taking up the pen and starting another.

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

Dean H. Wild: I grew up in a very colorful blue collar environment populated by some very hard-smoking, hard-drinking adults. This was offset by the honest, peaceful, almost idyllic lives of some kind and nurturing relatives. Therefore I was exposed to two very contrasting lifestyles, and being the quiet, introverted and nearly “invisible” child that I was, I often observed how these two groups interacted with their chums and, more interestingly, how they intermingled. I feel this gave me a very up-close view of how people interpret, judge and play off of one another. How they speak differently when in the company of their cohorts vs. in mixed company. It gave me a good sense of character, I feel.

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

Dean H. Wild: Aside from the usual weird stuff (how to pick a lock, various homemade explosive devices, other things that have, no doubt, landed me on some sort of watch list or other) I would have to say it would be the decay and anaerobic gases produced by our garbage as it breaks down in the depths of our landfills. Pretty savory stuff, right?

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

Dean H. Wild: Most often, for me, it is the end. I know far in advance where the book is headed, so “what” is going to happen isn’t too much of a challenge, but I find it critically important “how” the ending falls into place. I require the ending to be satisfying in relation to the story and in regard to the characters as well. It needs to be more than a finish. It must be to be significant, and the prose needs to be just right. I often struggle with endings to get them fine-tuned to suit my needs.

Meghan: Do you outline? Do you start with characters or plot? Do you just sit down and start writing? What works best for you?

Dean H. Wild: I’m a pantser through and through. No outlines here ever. I will make notes as I go along to make sure I hit a desired plot point or include an incident that has popped into my head while working on the story, but that’s about all the preplanning I do. At the very, microbial level, when I’m first hatching a book idea, my main character is typically the starting point. Certainly not every minute fact about them, but basic characteristics that make them relevant as a protagonist. Plot follows closely, to be sure that character’s relevance applies. Day to day, it is a butt in chair/pen in hand method.

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

Dean H. Wild: Sit back, shake my head and figure out how to write myself (and them) out of the predicament. Or sometimes I follow them down that new path. It’s scary when a character’s intuition is stronger than mine, but I love it.

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

Dean H. Wild: Sometimes the story calls out to me. Sometimes I need to seek it out. But it all comes down to the fact I think about the current work-in-progress all the time. No matter where I am, no matter what I’m doing at the moment. The story/novel/whatever is always working in the back of my mind like a perpetually running machine. It makes me ready, at a moment’s notice, to sit down and get to work on it, whenever those precious moments are available. I guess, with me, it’s not motivation as much as it is staying in an “always ready” state.

Meghan: Are you an avid reader?

Dean H. Wild: I read as much as I can. Not sure that makes me “avid.” But I’ve always got two books going at once, sometimes three. I still can’t keep up with my TBR pile, however!!

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

Dean H. Wild: I prefer fiction over nonfiction, and I like to invest for the long haul, so I prefer novels over story collections or anthologies when I read. Horror makes up the bulk of my reading choices, but any novel with striking, memorable characters faced with obstacles and challenges hold my interest. Especially novels with good pacing.

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

Dean H. Wild: For me, the two mediums are vastly different, with their own unique methods of storytelling. I do not compare book to movie since what works for one might fall flat for the other. I consider each on its own merit and don’t trouble myself with picking nits over why the book’s blonde protagonist is a redhead in the film or why the dragon was fought on a rickety bridge instead of on a mountain spire.

Meghan: Have you ever killed a main character?

Dean H. Wild: In a novel, no. In short stories, yes.

Meghan: Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?

Dean H. Wild: I do not. I do, however, understand this is an element of storytelling which must remain present. Often, my characters come with a lot of built-in anguish so a lot of their suffering comes from within. That being said, a character who remains unchallenged can be a largely uninteresting character, so I have learned how to make the going rough to enrich the story.

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

Dean H. Wild: An ancient, soul-hungry entity that takes the form of a huge, rolling, wooden wheel. It’s in a novel I’m shopping around right now, something I wrote back in 2012. Watch for it one day!!

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

Dean H. Wild: I will relay the best in the form of an anecdote. I submitted a manuscript to be professionally edited, and the editor was very helpful and very knowledgeable. One thing she pointed out (and I realize now that deep down I was aware of this but never gave it any real thought) was my overuse of the letter “C” when it came to character names, place names, etc. Almost every character had a “C” either in their first name or last. Restaurants, street names, towns, contained “C’s” without number. One character even drove a Camry, for crying out loud. It was a bit jarring for me to rename most of my beloved characters after spending so much time with themand knowing them so well as Cora, Cassidy, Clark, Charlene, etc. But the editor was right. And I came to realize in the piece I was currently working on, the same thing was occurring again, this time with the letter “T”!!! I’m not sure why my brain works that way, but it is something I am cognizant of now and avoid without fail.

As for the worst feedback, I was advised by an editor to get rid of a secondary character because he didn’t like her. Well, she may have been secondary but some of her actions and predicaments were pivotal to the plot any my main character would have zero motivations to learn or to act upon his intuitions without her presence (she was his ex-wife) so I’m not sure if the editor actually read the whole book and was aware this or not. To excise her would mean monumental rewrites and a huge change to the entire storyline. I didn’t do it. (I did, however, change her name so it didn’t have a “C” in it)

Meghan: What do your fans mean to you?

Dean H. Wild: To those who’ve read something of mine, said “this was pretty good” and look for more work with my name on it, I say a thousand thank you’s. The need to write is the throbbing heart and the driving conscience of an author’s craft, but the constant reader is the surging blood. Would I continue to write even if no one read my creations? Of course. But knowing there is someone out there experiencing the tale I created and realizing at least a little enjoyment from it is a reward all its own. I write for that unseen audience (readers, fans, whatever name you want to give them) as much as I write for myself, and in the act hope I am creating a connection. “Here is my story, stuff I like to read. I hope you like it, too.”

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

Dean H. Wild: That would be Ben Mears from Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. He is everything I find intriguing in a main character. He’s troubled, yet sincere. Levelheaded yet unsure. He’s an every-man philosopher, impassioned and humble. I think you’ll find snips of him in most of my main characters.

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

Dean H. Wild: To be honest, I don’t often read many books that are part of a series. I’m a fan of the stand-alone novel so I’m not sure how to answer. Most of the series I have read are such broad-scope endeavors I would not presume to step in and attempt an installment of my own. It would feel like trespassing.

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

Dean H. Wild: I’m usually entrenched up to my eyeballs in my own work—I’m in it all or nothing—so it’s difficult for me to imagine collaborating. What I have thought about is a sort of “tag-team” story collection, perhaps something with a theme, where two authors, or perhaps three, take turns weaving their tales; one by me, one by author #2, then one by author #3, then back to me again, round and round. As to with whom I might collaborate—the list is endless. There are so many talented folks out there. I would like to see some dark humor threaded into this fantasy tag-team. Jeff Strand or Larry Hinkle come to mind.

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

Dean H. Wild: Now that The Crymost is on the shelves and selling, I have begun to work on a new novel. I also have a nearly-completed novella which I need to finish, but since I’ve been away from that tale for a while, it will be a challenge to get back into the groove with that one. And I have notes on two other novels which I would like to tackle after the current one is done. Lots of irons in the fire or ready to be consigned to flame. We’ll see what comes of it.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Dean H. Wild: My website is the cleanest, clearest path.

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?

Dean H. Wild: Only that I appreciate every reader who picks up a book, however briefly, and finds enjoyment within its pages. To write is a fulfillment of a striving energy greater than the soul. To be read is a validation beyond words.

Dean H. Wild grew up in east central Wisconsin and has lived in the area, primarily in small towns surrounding the city of Fond du Lac, all his life. He wrote his first short horror story at the tender age of seven and continued to write dark fiction while he pursued careers in retail, the newspaper industry, and retail pharmacy. His short stories have seen publication in various magazines and anthologies including Bell, Book & Beyond, A Feast of Frights, Night Terrors II, and Horror Library 6. His novel, The Crymost, is an exploration of tradition, superstition, and encroaching horrir in a small Wisconsin town. He and his wife, Julia, currently reside in the village of Brownsville.

The Crymost

There is a place just outside of town where the people of Knoll, Wisconsin take their sorrows and their worries. They don’t talk much about it, and they don’t discuss the small tokens they bring as offerings to the place known as the Crymost. After all, this is Knoll, where certain things are best left unsaid. The Crymost, however, will not remain quiet for much longer. Something ancient has awakened in that remote, sorrowful place, and time is running out for its inhabitants. Long-kept secrets will need to be unearthed before the entire town succumbs to the will of a powerful, dark stranger who works hand in hand with a hungry entity crossing Knoll’s borders, invading its homes and executing a soul-draining grip on its citizens.