GUEST POST: Karissa Laurel

Halloween Spirits:
A Pairing of Scary Movies & Contemporary Cocktails

Midnight Mass
Really more of a limited series than a movie, Midnight Mass is the latest Netflix entry from Mike Flanagan, the director who brought us The Haunting of Hill House, The Haunting of Bly Manor, and many more. He’s quickly becoming one of my favorite horror directors, and if you like scary movies but haven’t seen Midnight Mass yet, you really must: “The arrival of a charismatic young priest brings glorious miracles, ominous mysteries and renewed religious fervor to a dying town desperate to believe.”

The movie centers around a devoted population (most of the inhabitants of a tiny, isolated fishing village) who attend mass in a small catholic church. The congregants regularly participate in communion and eventually discover the sacramental wine is more than merely the symbolic blood of Christ. With that in mind, I’m paring this movie with “The Devil’s Margarita,” a tequila cocktail with a red wine “float.”

1 1/2 ounces blanco tequila
1 ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed
3/4 ounce simple syrup
1/2 ounce red wine

Add the tequila, lime juice and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass. Float the red wine on top by slowly pouring it over the back of a bar spoon so it pools on the surface of the drink. Garnish with a lime wheel.

The Shining
The Shining—directed by Stanley Kubrick, based on the novel by Stephen King about a haunted hotel, starring Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duval. It’s really one of the best horror movies out there and one of my perennial favorites. I can watch it over and over. That wild look in Jack Nicholson’s eye as he peers through the hole he just hacked into the door of the bathroom where his wife is hiding and snarls “Here’s Johnny!” will never not be scary as hell.

Fun movie fact: How is it that Kubrick, infamous for his painstaking attention to detail, allows Jack Torrance to order a glass of bourbon, only for the ghost bartender to pour from a bottle that is clearly Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey? Anyway… as for a cocktail pairing, I thought to find something older and classic that might have been served at The Overlook Hotel in its glory days. Instead of that, I cheated and checked Google. A website called 12 Bottle Bar has a recipe for a drink based on the movie. It’s called the “Jack Torrance”.

1 oz Jack Daniels
3 oz Advocaat
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters (optional)

Place all ingredients in a mixing glass half full with crushed ice. Shake and pour, without straining, into a rocks glass

Or, if something sweeter is more to your taste, maybe you’d prefer a little REDRUM Punch:

1 cup of orange juice
1 cup of pineapple juice
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup rum
1/4 cup dark rum
1/2 cup of grenadine

In a pitcher, combine the juices, the rum, and the grenadine. Stir. Pour into ice-filled glasses and serve with an orange slice and maraschino cherries.

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
From the hapless victims’ points of view, Tucker and Dale are the worst kind of psycho killers, but the audience is in on the secret. They’re really just a couple of good ol’ boys who want to spend a weekend alone in the woods getting back to nature and cracking a few cold beers. What happens during their vacation is really just a series of unfortunate, hilarious, and grisly events. With that in mind, you could probably crack a few Pabst Blue Ribbons to enjoy with this movie, but since cocktails is the theme, cocktails (made with beer) is what you’re going to get. The classic Shandy:

6 ounces pale ale or lager beer (Your favorite cheap beer works great for this!)
6 ounces ginger ale, ginger beer, lemon lime soda (Sprite), or sparkling lemonade
For the garnish: lemon wedge (optional)
Optional: 1 dash bitters adds a complex flavor

Add the beer and mixer to a glass and stir gently to combine. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

Cabin in the Woods
Similar to Tucker and Dale Vs Evil, Cabin in the Woods is another movie that brilliantly subverts the most cliché horror movie tropes. “Five friends arrive at a secluded cabin with clear rules for their retreat. But when protocol is broken, punishment is swift — and everyone will pay.” While Tucker and Dale use irony and humor as their main tool, Cabin in the Woods sticks to its horror roots. It’s got gadgets and gizmos a-plenty. It’s got monsters and nightmares galore. You want dismembered body parts? It’s got twenty (at least)!

Don’t watch the end if you have a weak stomach, but if a little (okay, a lot) of blood and gore is your thing, then a classic Bloody Mary might be the perfect movie refreshment for you.

Celery salt
1 lemon wedge
1 lime wedge
2 ounces vodka
4 ounces tomato juice
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
2 dashes Tabasco sauce
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 pinch ground black pepper
1 pinch smoked paprika
Garnish: parsley sprig
Garnish: green olives
Garnish: lime wedge
Garnish: celery stalk

Pour some celery salt onto a small plate. Rub the juicy side of the lemon or lime wedge along the lip of a pint glass. Roll the outer edge of the glass in celery salt until fully coated, then fill the glass with ice and set aside. Squeeze the lemon and lime wedges into a shaker and drop them in. Add the vodka, tomato juice, horseradish, Tabasco, Worcestershire, black pepper, paprika, plus a pinch of celery salt along with ice and shake gently. Strain into the prepared glass. Garnish with parsley sprig, 2 speared green olives, a lime wedge and a celery stalk (optional).

The Lost Boys
This was the first “real” horror movie I remember watching as a kid. I still love the soundtrack to this day. It was fully of great 80s cheese and glamorous vampire boys that would put poor Edward Cullen to shame. Classic duo Corey Haim and Corey Feldman use every tool in their arsenal—holy water, wooden stakes, and of course garlic—to battle a coven of blood sucking fiends and save their hot, broody older brother from supernatural, evil influences. If you want a drink that’ll keep away the vampires, too, then a Black Garlic Mojito might be just the thing for you:

1½ ounce dark rum
1 orange wheel, sliced into halves
3 basil leaves, plus 1 sprig for garnish
1 ounce black garlic simple syrup*
Soda water

Muddle basil and half an orange wheel in the bottom of a rocks glass filled with ice. Add black garlic syrup and rum. Stir, and top with soda water. Garnish with orange and basil.

*Black garlic simple syrup
½ cup hot water
½ cup Demerara sugar
3 cloves black garlic
1–2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

To make syrup: Bring water to boil. Stir in the sugar until it dissolves. Pour the syrup into a blender and add garlic. Blend until the garlic is finely ground. Use a fine-mesh strainer to remove any solids. Add the vinegar and taste. It should taste slightly acidic with a sweet, earthy finish.


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

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

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

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Jack Rollins

Meghan: Hey, Jack! Welcome back to our annual Halloween Extravaganza. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Jack: Although I enjoy opportunities to get into a costume, as a dad, it’s all about my sons at the minute. I can never remember the UK being as into Halloween as it is now. These days there’s more of a build-up, and the kids get excited for days in advance. Decorations go up earlier and earlier each year. It’s becoming a mini-Christmas, really. My boys get excited about Halloween, and I get to go along for the ride.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Jack: Last year I started something that I hope will become a tradition. My boys and I played some board games together, all around the Halloween theme. We played Cluedo (I think you call it Clue in the States), so we solved a murder, we played King of Tokyo, so we had Kaiju battling over a city, then we played the fantastic Horrified, which has become a firm favourite in our house, all year round. I set it up so the boys won sweets and treats throughout the games, and we all had a blast.

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

Jack: I grew up in the 80s, so Christmas was always great. So many great toys back then – especially anything related to Ghostbusters. So Christmas was very much my favorite holiday.

Halloween is a close second, and it’s becoming a closer race each year now. Like I say, we Brits are getting more into Halloween these days. We seem to be shifting closer to what I always liked to see in TV shows and movies from the States.

I live in the North-East of England, so when we hit Autumn, the days get really short. I used to feel quite depressed about that, but I’ve grown to enjoy the change, and try to slow down and bit and appreciate it more.

There’s something about the time of year, that autumnal shift: you’re well past summer, but it’s not uncomfortably cold like the depth of winter. By day you’ve got all the lovely colours of autumn around you, and the smells – unlike winter, when it’s so cold that nothing smells of anything. You get wrapped up in an extra layer or two, and have this night where kids are encouraged to go out into the darkness, at a time where they’d usually be winding down towards bedtime. They’re excited about that, and even though the theme is ghosts and monsters, they aren’t afraid. It’s one night when kids aren’t afraid of all the things that usually scare them.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Jack: I don’t have any really traditional superstitions. I have a couple of family members who are very superstitious, though. For instance, if one of my aunties turns up or gets in touch randomly one morning, you know she’s had a dream that you died. The only way she thinks she can stop it happening, is if she speaks to you before noon. Unless she dislikes you, I suppose, in which case she’d probably hide all morning and wait to see if you got hit by a bus or something.

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

Jack: I’m watching a French series on Netflix at the moment, called Marianne. It’s very cool, really tense, but there’s a level of humour to it, too. The evil entity in that show is my current favourite. She strikes the sort of notes I aim for in my writing.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Jack: Different cases interest me more at different times. It might be a TV show like Making of a Murderer, that makes me wonder what really happened. Tiger King doesn’t count… I think we all know what happened there!

On a very local level, there was a murder in the 1990s, in the town where I live. A local organised crime figure was shot dead outside a bar. He was well-known as a wild man, really brutal. Shootings are most uncommon in the UK, and it was a bit easier to get a gun back then than it is now, but still, gun crime wasn’t common. I’d love to know if it was one of his enemies, or did someone on his own side maybe decide it was time for him to go? Maybe his reputation was attracting too much attention and they couldn’t get on with business. I guess we’ll never know.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Jack: There’s one that makes me feel sick when I think about it. All I have to say is McDonalds, and you’ll immediately think of some variant, I’m sure. The one I’m thinking of involves and woman and her child going to McDonalds, and both of them becoming very ill. Their lips, tongues, gums and all down the insides of their throats were covered in blisters and weeping lesions. Stool samples were taken, and traces of herpes-infected semen was found in the Big Mac special sauce. But it’s just an urban legend… isn’t it? Tell yourself that next time you go for a Big Mac.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Jack: Jack the Ripper fascinates me. I was thinking about his killings when you asked about the unsolved murders. It’s such an evocative case, embedded in our culture now. Everyone imagines that top-hat and cloak with the edge of a blade glinting in the gaslight. Did he do it because those women were so vulnerable? Was it purely the opportunity, and the perception that nobody would really care about murdered prostitutes? I’ve always leaned towards the theory posed in Alan Moore’s amazing graphic novel From Hell, that it may have all been to cover up a royal scandal… but of course, no member of the royal family would ever do anything sexually inappropriate, would they?

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

Jack: I was such a wimp when it came to horror. My mother described The Shining and A Nightmare on Elm Street to me, when I was really young. I think they’d made a real impression on her and she’d really enjoyed them. Of course, she had seen them. Me? I was left with an image of Freddy Kreuger conjured up from someone’s description. My mind filled in the blanks and I was terrified of the idea of him. You watch the Nightmare movies now and see how much humour was in them, but all that was missing from what I was told and what I imagined, so I avoided horror movies like the plague! Thanks, mother.

I didn’t come around to them until Scream 2 came out, so I was about 17. One of my friends wanted to watch it at the cinema, and I hadn’t seen the first one. So he got Scream on VHS, we watched it in the afternoon and I loved it, and we watched the second one that night. Those movies made the genre really accessible for me, through the slasher subgenre.

In horror books, again, I got to them late. I was probably about 19 or 20. I lived with a girl who had a great collection of James Herbert books. I started out with Haunted, which I loved. I carried on from there. I’ve read more James Herbert books than the work of any other horror writer.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Jack: Without a doubt it was Last Days by Adam Nevill. There are some moments in that book that I found really creepy. I got a similar feeling when I read The Ritual, also by Nevill. He must have the inside track on what scares me. His work always seems to get inside my head.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Jack: Last year I watched a movie called Baskin. I think it’s a Turkish film. I’m not really into torture movies. I’m not interested in Hostel and things like that. There is a certain amount of torturing goes on in Baskin, but it’s not there just for the sake of it – it has a reason for being there. There’s a character who turns up at the end, played by a guy who had never acted before, but who has this genetic condition that gives him a really unnerving appearance that played on my mind long after the movie ended. That sounds awful really, because that’s the guy’s actual face – but that’s why they cast him, and it worked.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Jack: I once dressed up as Alex from A Clockwork Orange. I loved that costume. In fact, I might just walk about like that all the time.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Jack: When I try to think of any music relating to Halloween, all I can think about is this tune called Spooky, Spooky that my kids listened to when they were really little. It’s on YouTube and we had to put it on for them a hundred times in a row when we had Halloween parties for them and their little pals, and now that I’ve remembered it, I’m stuck with it in my head again.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat?

Jack: There was some sort of little cake slice I found last year. I got a pack of them to eat with the kids, and as soon as I tasted it, I wished I’d hidden them and kept them all for myself. It was some sort of chocolate-covered cinder toffee, digestive biscuit bar by McVitie’s. I hope I find them again this year. No sharing this time, though.


Boo-graphy:
Jack Rollins was born in North East England in 1980. He is an author of dark fiction, including horror and dark fantasy. Best known for carving out a bloody niche in Victorian horror stories, including The Seance, The Cabinet of Doctor Blessing, and Tread Gently Amidst the Barrows, he also writes compelling contemporary stories, approaching the horror genre from unique angles. He has also published a collection of short stories, Scattered Ashes. The author lives in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England.

Website
(Visit the website for a free copy of The Seance.)

The Seance
Albert Kench is summoned back to London from his travels in Australia, and is shocked to find that his sister has suffered horrific mental and physical damage. A man of science and progress, when Albert is told that Sally attended a seance prior to her collapse and has been touched by otherworldly forces, he believes there must be another, more rational explanation. Albert learns of a man who claims mastery of the dark arts, who may hold the key to Sally’s salvation. Albert sets off in search of answers, but can he emerge victorious without faith, or will he be forced to accept the existence of a realm beyond the world around him?

The Cabinet of Dr Blessing
A chilling tale of gothic horror, told in three parts, collected in one volume. Dr George Blessing operates in his Victorian London hospital. Sympathetic to the poor, Blessing is summoned to a traumatic childbirth. There he discovers a creature of nightmarish power and malevolent intent, whose unearthly abilities he wants to harness for the good of mankind. When he reveals the secret to a friend after a dinner party, Dr Blessing’s obsession triggers events threatening to destroy his reputation, his family and the entire city. As the creature grows ever more powerful and suspicious investigators close in, the doctor is one step from death at every turn. Told in the tradition of a penny-dreadful, each part intricately spins a gripping web of secrets, lies and death, blending “Hammer House of Horror” style scares with fast paced action.

Tread Gently Amidst the Barrows
A series of night-time disappearances among the workforce of railway engineer Oliver Stroud threaten to bring the construction of a new railway bridge to a standstill as local superstitions give rise to unrest and desertion. Stroud is left with no choice but to investigate an ancient burial site to bring closure to the matter once and for all but there is no peace to be found among the barrows of Old Uppsala, for neither the dead, nor the creatures of myth who live among them.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Ben Eads

Meghan: Hi Ben! Welcome to Meghan’s (Haunted) House of Horrors. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Ben: The weather and the colors of Autumn. I love that crisp cinnamon smell in the air. Most of my fiction is written during the winter. I love taking walks in the woods and just taking it all in. I always looked forward to visiting my relatives in Tennessee. My uncle would take me for walks into the hollow behind his house. My imagination was operating on all 8 cylinders then, and it does now. I was able to bring that same hollow into my latest horror novella, Hollow Heart. Of course, my uncle called it a “holler.”

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Ben: It was handing out candy to the trick-or-treaters but, sadly, that’s come to an end. Now it’s re-reading my favorite horror novels. Also, I love dressing up as one of my favorite horror creatures. I plan to dress up as The Hell Priest this year, and I have a friend who does special effects. I can’t wait to see what he’s capable of. Hopefully, a few buddies of mine and I can get together and read short horror stories to one another.

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

Ben: Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. As a child, we could dress up and go to school as our favorite monsters. I always tried to scare the hell out of my classmates. You can’t do that on any other holiday or regular day, for that matter. It’s also a time of renewal—out with the old, in with the new.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Ben: Talking about fiction I’m currently writing. That’s the only thing. I’m sure this is disappointing. LOL

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

Ben: There’s a lot! I think it would be a tie between Pennywise, The Hell Priest, Charlie Manx, and Frankenstein. Freddy isn’t—and hasn’t been—scary, at least to me, for many years. Ditto Jason Vorhees and the other slashers. I love some of the other Universal movie monsters, too. But Dracula, at least for me, isn’t very scary anymore.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Ben: The murders of Jack the Ripper. Why? Because we’ll never, ever, ever, know who committed those murders. It’s left up to the imagination. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I think Alan Moore was on to something with his amazing graphic novel, From Hell. Big fan of Alan Moore.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Ben: I don’t believe in the supernatural, so none. However… people try to mimic urban legends as well as perform hoaxes. I had a friend in middle school that almost convinced the school the Jersey Devil was roaming the halls. Ha! I guess this comes close: I had a friend in high school that pulled one hell of a prank on me. He even got some of my friends in on it too. He took my Lovecraft books out of my drawer, burned my drawer, and placed a bible in their place. I literally believed that… for about a day. Then a friend called with a guilty conscious and told me about it. With friends like that…

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Ben: Jack the Ripper. Again, we’ll never know who did it. It leaves the imagination wide open, and there’s tons of conspiracy theories based on him/her. Who knows?

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

Ben: I was six-years-old when Hellraiser was playing one night on cable. I only made it ten or fifteen minutes in before shutting the TV off. I couldn’t sleep for two days after that. Thankfully, I didn’t need therapy. But it was the taboo of it, as well as me needing to face my fears that got me through the film. After finishing it, I was still scared to death, but my imagination was operating on a whole new level. Barker is a genius.

I was ten-years-old when I read The Dark Half by Stephen King. I remember not really getting it and realizing I wasn’t old enough yet. I took the book to my mother and asked her a ton of questions. She helped me out a bit but said that one twin absorbing the other fetus in the womb was impossible and, therefore, the book was silly. A month later, a co-worker told my mother that she had the same thing happen to her when she was in the womb. She came home very scared, and said that whoever Stephen King was, he’s a weirdo, sick, twisted, and demented. It was love at first sight! I have him to thank for getting me hooked on horror.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Ben: That would be tie between Stephen King’s IT, The Shining, and Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door. The former due to it being one of the best horror novels ever written, at least in my very humble opinion. The concept, the characters, the world, and how IT could be anything. The Shining had me actually believing in ghosts for a few years. That’s how well that book is written. The movie is good, but the book is so much better. The Girl Next Door has amazing characters, an amazing world, but, oh, man… that poor girl. It’s based on a true story, which shows what human beings are truly capable of. I had a very, very hard time reading the book towards the end, for obvious reasons. But you can’t put it down. You’re there, like the other kids, bearing witness to true horror.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Ben: That would be a tie between Hellraiser and Alien. With Alien, Ridley Scott’s vision, as well as Giger’s art and creature scarred me. The life-cycle of the xenomorph hits us on a sub-conscious level, too, which, when you think about it, you can’t get more disturbing than that. The sequels just didn’t hold up to the original.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Ben: The Hell Priest because it’s so damn hard to do! Ha! That’s why I’ve enlisted a friend who does special effects for a living. He told me it will take about four to five hours just to get my face and head finished. It’s going to be hard to pull off, but I love a challenge!

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Ben: I dislike gothic music, but every Halloween I love cranking up Type O Negative. My favorite song would be Black No. 1 (Little Miss Scare-all). I have no idea why, but when Halloween hits, it’s gothic music time for Ben!

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

Ben: Favorite treat would be a Snickers bar. I hate candy-corn. Whoever invented the latter should be drug out into the street and shot. I’m biased because I bit into one once and cracked a tooth. The pain was instant and immense. Not a good Halloween that year!

Meghan: Thanks for stopping by Ben. Before you go, what Halloween reads do you think we should snuggle up with?

Ben:

  1. IT, Stephen King; The Shining, Stephen King; Frankenstein, Mary Shelley.
  2. The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson; The October Country, Ray Bradbury; The Books of Blood, Clive Barker; The Cipher, Kathe Koja; Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury.
  3. The Bottoms, Joe R. Lansdale; Heart Shaped Box, Joe Hill; NOS4A2, Joe Hill; Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?, Joyce Carol Oates.
  4. The Vegetarian, Han Kang; The Woman in Black, Susan Hill; Sineater, Elizabeth Massie; The Scarlet Gospels, Clive Barker.
  5. The Great and Secret Show, Clive Barker.
  6. The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde; The Great God Pan, Arthur Machen; The Call of Cthulhu, H.P. Lovecraft.
  7. Broken Monsters, Lauren Buekes; The Turn of the Screw, Henry James.
  8. Pet Semetary, Stephen King; Misery, Stephen King.
  9. The King in Yellow, Robert W. Chambers.
  10. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson.
  11. Minion, L.A. Banks; Bird Box, Josh Malerman.
  12. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier.
  13. Psycho, Robert Bloch.
  14. The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova; The Road, Cormac McCarthy.
  15. Bubba Ho-Tep, Joe R. Lansdale.

#1 and #2: The October Country, Ray Bradbury; Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury. Both are some of the best Halloween reading one can find.


Boo-graphy:
Ben Eads lives within the semi-tropical suburbs of Central Florida. A true horror writer by heart, he wrote his first story at the tender age of ten. The look on the teacher’s face when she read it was priceless. However, his classmates loved it! Ben has had short stories published in various magazines and anthologies. When he isn’t writing, he dabbles in martial arts, philosophy and specializes in I.T. security. He’s always looking to find new ways to infect reader’s imaginations. Ben blames Arthur Machen, H.P. Lovecraft, Jorge Luis Borges, J.G. Ballard, Philip K. Dick, and Stephen King for his addiction, and his need to push the envelope of fiction.

Hollow Heart
Welcome to Shady Hills, Florida, where death is the beginning and pain is the only true Art…

Harold Stoe was a proud Marine until an insurgent’s bullet relegated him to a wheelchair. Now the only things he’s proud of are quitting alcohol and raising his sixteen-year-old son, Dale.

But there is an infernal rhythm, beating like a diseased heart from the hollow behind his home. An aberration known as The Architect has finished his masterpiece: A god which slumbers beneath the hollow, hell-bent on changing the world into its own image.

As the body count rises and the neighborhood residents change into mindless, shambling horrors, Harold and his former lover, Mary, begin their harrowing journey into the world within the hollow. If they fail, the hollow will expand to infinity. Every living being will be stripped of flesh and muscle, their nerves wrapped tightly around ribcages, so The Architect can play his sick music through them loud enough to swallow what gives them life: The last vestiges of a dying star.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Christine Morgan

Meghan: Hey Christine! Welcome back. As always, we love to have you here. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Christine: The weeks leading up to it, when all the good stuff starts hitting the shelves, the Halloween stores appear overnight like mushrooms, the various cooking channel shows like Halloween Wars and Halloween Baking Championship, the horror-themed episodes of shows such as Forged in Fire, there are horror movie marathons. Also, the half-off sales in the days after.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Christine: Trick-or-treating, seeing all the costumes, the fun and excitement, people really getting into it, the kids, the parents. These past few years haven’t been the best for that, partly because of living in the upstairs unit of an apartment complex that didn’t see much trick-or-treat traffic. This year, however, I’ve moved into what was my grandparents’ house, in an established neighborhood with community activities, so I’m optimistic (aside from the damn pandemic, that is).

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

Christine: Just always been a spooky weirdo at heart! Didn’t hurt that my dad was always a kind of closeted weirdo, with Halloween being the one time he could cut loose. Later in life, he’d come out and go nuts as a Civil War reenactor, but before that, dressing up and having fun on Halloween was his favorite thing. I remember one year, he went as Jesus — he already had long hair and a full beard — and we used red nail polish instead of fake blood for the wounds, which is a helpful trick I’ve never forgotten.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Christine: I’m into folklore, so I’ve picked up several of the little habits over the years, if not to the full point of observing or following them, at least to the point of feeling uncomfortable letting them go unacknowledged. I knock on wood, I toss salt over my shoulder, when I first see the moon at night I say the little rhyme I learned somewhere as a kid, that sort of thing. Except for black cats crossing my path; I have no problem with that. Black cats got a bad rap, very undeserved.

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

Christine: Of the movie classics, always had a soft spot for the Gillman. He wasn’t bothering anybody, just swimming around in his lagoon, until arrogant know-it-all humans came along to interfere. Then HE got the blame. I tend to sympathize with those kind of “monsters,” who are just doing their own thing. Even sharks. We go into their environment, then get upset when they do what’s only natural? So bogus.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Christine: Unlike many in my middle-aged white woman demographic, I don’t seem to have as much obsessive fascination for serial killers, unsolved crimes, and murder shows. If it counts, though, I really want to know what’s up with all those severed feet that keep washing ashore. Why just the feet? Is it the shoes? Where’s the rest of the bodies? What’s happening out there?

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Christine: After the previous question, this is going to seem even stranger, but, the one where gang members, as part of their initiation, would hide under a lady’s car in a dark parking lot and then slash her Achilles tendon and steal her shoes as proof. Maybe it’s that I can imagine it all too vividly. Even as I type this, I shifted my feet up onto the coffee table, though I know damn well there’s nobody under the couch with a straight razor. Also, that was the scene in the original Pet Sematary movie to freak me out the most.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Christine: See above, was never all that into them the way a lot of people are. The old-timey ones, though, like H.H. Holmes with his entire murder hotel, or the angel-of-death types, nurses who’d smother patients in the belief it was putting them out of their misery and doing the right thing.

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

Christine: It probably wasn’t the first I ever saw, but the first movie to scare the crap out of me as a kid was that old black and white sci-fi Invaders From Mars. The sand whirlpools were bad, but the people with the alien takeover staples in their necks… legit gave me nightmares. There was a DVD of it among my late uncle’s movie collection and I kept it for nostalgia, but have no intention of watching it! As for books, my grandfather kept a shelf of horror paperbacks in the garage (Grandma didn’t want them in the house), so I’d browse those whenever we visited. Lots of nature-run-amok books, killer critters, but I still have the copy of The Shining I found out there when I was ten.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Christine: I read, and dearly love, a lot of sick, sick, wrong, evil, grotesque, extreme horror. And yet, none of them have gotten under my skin a fraction so much as I Am Not Sam, by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee. So subtle. So masterful. It lets/makes your own mind do all the work, with results far more traumatizing and horrifying than if the scenes were spelled out on the page.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Christine: Again, see above, Invaders From Mars when I was little. Lately, I’ve been viewing too many cinematic masterpieces suggested by Edward Lee, and if “stabbed me in the eyes and gave me brain-damage” sheer WTF-ery counts as being scarred for life, well, I now have a whole list. Such as Birdemic and House Shark. Also The Greasy Strangler, though I can’t blame Lee for that one; if anything, he should blame me, even if it was Gina Ranalli who told me about it in the first place.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Christine: One year, Dad went as Captain Hook and I was Peter Pan (the chonky little girl version) and my baby sister was Tinkerbell. I love it when people coordinate their costumes like that, and the whole family gets into it. My craft and makeup skills may be pretty good, but my sewing skills are basically nonexistent, so I am somewhat hampered in that regard.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Christine: Forever a soft spot in my heart for Thriller, I gotta say. I am old enough to remember rushing home from school to turn on MTV and wait anxiously for the video’s world premiere. The Vincent Price bit is perfection. And, hokey though it is, I love how the zombie dance permeated the entire culture.

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

Christine: The fun-size 100,000 Dollar Bars. Full-size ones are too hard to eat before they melt and get all messy. Fun-size Twix, too. I’m a fan of the fun-size because then I can tell myself it’s not like I’m eating a whole candy bar, right? So I can then eat like six of them and it’s still all good. Also, because it seems to come up every year, I am pro-candy corn. Yes, it tastes like sugary wax and leaves a filmy coating in your mouth, but, you can tuck them under your upper lip like vampire teeth and that’s what matters. As for disappointing, anything with coconut or licorice is a hard NOPE from me.

Meghan: As always, Christine, it has been a pleasure. Before you go, though, what are your op Halloween movies?

Christine: I may lose some horror cred for this, but when I think of Halloween movies, the first place my mind goes is Tim Burton. The Nightmare Before Christmas, obviously. Sleepy Hollow, Corpse Bride. Even stuff like Edward Scissorhands (Vincent Price again, yay!) and Sweeney Todd. Okay, so maybe a mad crush on Johnny Depp has something to do with it — my own, I mean, not Tim Burton’s, though you know he totally has one. And as long as I’m losing horror cred anyway, I’ll go ahead and say I liked Halloween 3. It didn’t belong in the franchise, and should have had a different title, but on its own, it’s a neat premise/idea and lots of fun.


Boo-graphy:
Christine Morgan recently quit her night-shift job and moved from rainy Portland to sunny Southern California to help out her mom and hopefully make a plunge as a full-time writer. Several months later, she’s still reeling from the culture shock of adjusting to daytime life, but finally has a real office/library full of bookshelves and critter skeletons, as well as a dinosaur-themed bedroom. Because she is a) a grown up and b) a professional.

Christine Morgan’s World of Words
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AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Katherine Silva

Meghan: Hi, Katherine! Welcome welcome. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Katherine: There are so many facets to love about celebrating Halloween. My favorites are decorating, baking spooky-inspired treats, and watching horror movies.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Katherine: We don’t tend to get many trick or treaters at our house, so we’ll often go to my parent’s place just to see some of the fun costumes that the kids have. They will usually get between 100 and 150 kids that night (and this is a small midcoast town in Maine!).

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

Katherine: I’ve always had a love for horror films, scary books, and haunting decor. Halloween is a celebration of all of that and is my favorite season of the year with autumn being in full swing.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Katherine: I’ve definitely tossed salt over my shoulder when I’ve tipped over a salt shaker. I also tend to think that Friday the 13th is usually an unpredictable and chaotic day.

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

Katherine: The shark in Jaws, Dracula, and Rose the Hat from Doctor Sleep.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Katherine: I watched a documentary about Cropsey, a boogeyman myth originating in New York. This is a particularly haunting case (and a brilliantly filmed documentary).

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Katherine: The Red Spot. I remember reading the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark version when I was younger and having nightmares about it long after.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Katherine: The most interesting serial killer to me is Jack the Ripper.

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

Katherine: I saw Jaws when I was probably ten or eleven. It was edited for television, so there were parts edited. I loved it. I’ve had a fascination with creature features, sharks, and monsters ever since. My first horror book was actually more of a Halloween book called The Old Lady Who Wasn’t Afraid of Anything. I was probably four or five and learning to read with my mom. We’d read that year round and I absolutely adored it.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Katherine: When I was in fifth grade at school, my class took a trip to the library. I pulled Stephen King’s IT off the shelf and read the prologue. I didn’t get any further. I’ve had a fear of clowns ever since.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Katherine: The Ring. I’ll never, ever watch that movie again.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Katherine: One year, I dressed up as Ernest P. Worrell. Absolutely no one knew who I was. It was hilarious.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Katherine: It’s a tie. I love “This is Halloween” from The Nightmare Before Christmas but I also really love “Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon.

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

Katherine: Snickers were always my favorite. As a kid, I was always disappointed with Mounds or Almond Joy (love them now though!).

Meghan: Before we go, what are your Top Halloween Movies and Books?

Katherine:
Movies: Scream, The Nightmare Before Christmas, What We Do in the Shadows, Underworld, Blade, Hocus Pocus

Books: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix, In the Forests of the Night by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, The Shining by Stephen King, The Night Will Find Us by Matthew Lyons


Boo-graphy:
Katherine Silva is a Maine author of dark fiction, a connoisseur of coffee, and victim of cat shenanigans. She is a two-time Maine Literary Award finalist for speculative fiction and a member of the Horror Writers of Maine, Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, and New England Horror Writers Association. Katherine is also the founder of Strange Wilds Press, Dark Taiga Creative Writing Consultations, and The Kat at Night Blog. Her latest book, The Wild Dark, is due out October 12th.

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The Wild Dark —
Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Raleigh has lost everything: her job as a police detective, her partner, her fiancé, and her peace of mind. After a month of solitude at a cabin in the woods, she finally feels as though she’s ready to move on.

But in one terrifying night, everything changes. Liz’s partner, Brody, appears in the form of a ghost. He’s one of millions that have returned to haunt their loved ones. Brody can’t remember how he died and Liz is determined to keep the secret of it buried, for it means dredging up crushing memories. Along with him comes an unearthly forest purgatory that swallows up every sign of human civilization across the world. The woods are fraught with disturbing architecture and monstrous wolves hungry for human souls. Brody says he escaped from them and that the wolves are trying to drag him and others ghosts back.

As winter closes in and chaos erupts across New England, Liz fights desolation, resurfacing guilt, and absolute terror as she tries to survive one of the most brutal winters she’s ever seen.