Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Halloweird Creepfest Feature with Krista Grabowski

What Rose Saw by Krista Grabowsk
An Excerpt

The bell over the door rang, and Maggie’s family walked in. Pain stabbed Rose’s heart. Maggie’s mom pushed Maggie’s stroller, her shoulders slouched, her head down. Rose thought she must be melting under her gray cardigan and long skirt. Why would somebody wear that on a day like today? Maggie’s dad walked next to them. Rose smelled the liquor on him from where she sat, but he walked steadily, cocky as ever. He wore a white polo shirt and khaki knee-length shorts. On his head was a cream-colored Panama hat with a black band on it. Her daddy used to have a hat just like it.

Daddy never left home without his. She used to swipe it off his head when he was holding her, and put it on her own. If he was sober, he thought it was funny. He’d clap and tell her to dance with it on. If he was drunk, he didn’t think it was so funny, and would knock it off, often hitting her head and knocking her to the ground. Rose gripped her glass of milk.

“Well, good morning!” said Mr. Brown, as he set the rag on Rose’s table. He stood and offered his hand to Mr. Hopkins. Rose noticed Mr. Hopkins sway a bit as he offered his hand in return.

“Hello, Mr. Brown. Good day to you.”

Mr. Brown glanced down at Maggie. “How’s the little princess today?” Maggie seemed to be sleeping. Mr. Brown looked to Mrs. Hopkins for an answer but she simply looked at her husband, expressionless.

“She good,” Mr. Hopkins answered. “She got a pair of lungs on her though; I can tell you that. Definitely a healthy girl.”

The men chuckled, and Mrs. Hopkins smiled meekly. Rose noticed the purple edges of a bruise peeking out from underneath her hair on one side of her face. She watched, her breath shallow with fear, as Mr. Brown continued talking to them.

The bell over the door rang again, and a young woman entered the bakery with her Yorkie terrier.

“Mornin’, Miss. I’ll be right with you,” Mr. Brown said to her. She looked at the selection in the cases as he continued speaking to Mr. Hopkins.

“You know Rose Johnson and Joey Gray?” Mr. Brown asked, motioning to them at the table. Mr. Hopkins turned toward them. He glanced at Joey and reached his hand out.

Mrs. Hopkins didn’t speak, but her husband greeted Joey. “Yeah, I know Joey. How goes it my man?” He slapped palms with Joey and looked at him out of the corner of his eye as his eyes fell on Rose. They lingered a little too long for her comfort. Mrs. Hopkins remained silent, but Mr. Hopkins responded with, “Oh yes, I know Rose.”

The stabbing pain returned in Rose’s chest.

“She’s our neighbor. Nice to see you, Rose. How’s your mamma?” His head teetered on top of his neck, and he winked at her. Joey watched his every move but stayed silent. Rose couldn’t take her eyes off Mr. Hopkins, towering over her with a sleazy smile on his face. This man out for a walk with his family on a sunny Saturday morning, this man out to buy something sweet for his family—this was the same man she heard beating his family, day after day. This was the man who was capable of hurting his own family, the people he was supposed to love the most. Her heart raced, and her skin crawled.

“I think I know what I want,” said the woman with the dog. She set her purse on the counter next to the register, sending a vase filled with flowers crashing to the floor. Glass shattered, water flowed, and stalks of delicate, bell-shaped purple flowers lay scattered on the floor. Everyone turned in the direction of the noise, everyone but Mr. Hopkins and Rose. Mr. Hopkins glared at Rose with those sick, evil eyes in a way that sent a chill throughout her body.

The woman’s dog put its nose in the spilled water and sniffed the flowers.

“Don’t let her eat those,” Mr. Brown shouted. “They foxgloves. They pretty, but they poisonous to animals.”

Rose sat, terrified, unable to breathe, her eyes glued to Maggie’s dad. A warm stream of urine ran down her legs and onto the floor, soaking her dress and pooling on her chair and the floor. Tears of fear and embarrassment filled her eyes. Mr. Hopkins smiled and winked at her, rejoicing in her misery. She looked down at the mess she had created.

“I sorry, Mr. Brown. I sorry,” she said.

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This is the part where I'm supposed to tell you a little about who I am. How do you do that in a few sentences? It's always a challenge for me, but here it goes. First, and most importantly, I'm the mother of two children, both teenagers. One just started college this year and the other just started high school this year. Two very different, but completely wonderful, people. And then there's my cat – Auggie. He's my shadow, appropriate because he's black.

I work a full-time job with a health insurance company to pay the bills and pursue my writing and editing passion every spare moment. Besides “What Rose Saw” I have one other published short story titled “Daddy's Girl”. It was published under a pen name, Sonia Fogal, by James Ward Kirk Fiction in their Indiana Horror Review 2013 anthology. I am Assistant Editor for James Ward Kirk Fiction and also do freelance editing.

What Rose Saw” is the first in a series that I'm currently thinking will have five installments. I'm currently working on “What Joey Saw”, which will look at the same situation that is given in “What Rose Saw”, but from Joey's perspective. We'll learn his background and what the events that unraveled in “What Rose Saw” mean to him because of his background. Each installment will do the same thing but from a different character's perspective.

I am very excited about a new endeavor I am beginning on November 1. I can't say what it is right now but it's awesome! If you friend/follow/contact me at any of the links below you'll hear the big announcement!

What's the weirdest or spookiest thing that's ever happened to me? Hmmm. Guess I've been pretty lucky in that department. There was a time though, when I was still living at home, I was probably about 18. I was sitting in the den with my family; we had just returned from a movie I think. We were just sitting there talking, all of us in the den, when we heard footsteps in the basement. (The den had an open “wall” that consisted of a railing leading down to the basement, so every sound in the basement was easily heard in the den). As we were all staring at each other, we heard the basement that leads from the basement to the backyard open and close. We continued staring at each other for a minute, then my dad went downstairs to check it out and found nothing missing or disturbed. There was nothing missing or disturbed in the rest of the house either. Spooky!

Follow/friend/contact me through any of the methods below.

My personal Facebook account
My Twitter handle: @authorkclark
Email: authorkclark@gmail.com
My editing services website

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I recently co-edited an anthology I'm very proud of – Terror Train.

The Terror Train rides, from city to city, from village to village, through states, across rivers and mountains. If only it could tell its tales of grisly murder, of demonic pacts, black holes into different dimensions and portals to other realms where the ghosts of train robbers hunt in perpetuity for that elusive bullion filled carriage that cost them their immortal souls. Behold the terrors the train has witnessed, see firsthand the horrors it has lived through and when you get on board, pray, pray you've entered the right one, on the right track, the one that does not lead to oblivion...

Terror Train contains stories by new and established authors, with a guest story by William F. Nolan.

All aboard!

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What Rose Saw by Krista Grabowski
Kindle Edition, 42 pages
Published October 3rd 2014

One man terrorizes his family and neighbors. Everyone knows but no one says anything. Through the innocent eyes of childhood, Rose sees things she knows are wrong and doesn't understand why people watch in silence. This story is about her fight to deal with a reality she doesn't understand.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Horror Review: Figures of Fear by Graham Masterton

Having completed my literary journey through this stunning collection, my only question is how the hell have I not read more Graham Masterton before? Figures of Fear is an anthology of 11 tales that, for me, had the same impact as Stephen King's Night Shift or Clive Barker's first Books of Blood. It's a short story collection that opened my eyes to a new must-read author, leaving me giddy with anticipation for more, more, more!

Ex-Voto kicks things off with an interesting, classic sort of horror story about strange lands, misunderstood artifacts, the power of prophecy, and the perils of ignoring it. Nice twist at the end.

What the Dark Does is a fantastic story, full of atmosphere and chills, that really gets at our primal fear of the dark . . . and of what the dark disguises. Trust me, you'll never look at that shadowy bathrobe hanging behind the bedroom door quite the same way ever again.

Saint Brónach’s Shrift is an interesting story about guilt, choices, and the consequences they have. Definitely a sad ending to this one, almost a cruel sort of twist that really hit me hard and made me pause to think the whole thing through.

The Battered Wife is the one story in the collection I didn't care for. I felt the end was cruel, and seemed to blame the wife for her abuse, but since it came from the Shadows and Light anthology, which was published to benefit the Women's Aid charity in the UK, I'll give it the benefit if the doubt and assume I missed something. Regardless, it's another on the theme of choices and consequences.

The Night Hider is the first of two back-to-back portal stories, this one about a haunted wardrobe that is revealed to be the very same wardrobe that haunted C.S. Lewis and inspired his classic children's epic. I'll be honest, I loathed Lewis' saga for the saturation of Christian allegory, and thought the ending was the cruelest, most pandering thing I'd ever read as a young man, but Masterton manages to provide both a summary and a justification for what Narnia represents . . . and then goes all dark on us with the ending. Fantastic stuff.

Underbed is, by far, my favorite story in the collection, partially because I see so much of my childhood self in it, and partly because I loved the ending. Martin is an imaginative young boy who likes to slip under the covers and imagine he's an astronaut or an explorer, working the darkness and the claustrophobia into his fantasies. One night, he goes a little too far, and crawls out of his fantasy into a real adventure that takes him even deeper underbed, into the land of fear and darkness. The ending is quite sad, an all too plausible tragedy . . . with one last scene to follow that grabs hold of the dagger in your heart and twists it with devilish glee.

Night of the Wendigo got off to a slow start for me, and doesn't approach the power or the stylistic majesty of some of the other stories here, but was still a solid 'classic' story of monsters in the night. A lot of atmosphere to this one, with some quick scenes of brutality that are extraordinary in their impact.

Spirits of the Age was a rather surprising tale, part traditional ghost story, and part historical exploration. It all begins with the ghost of Queen Victoria wandering the darkened halls of Osborne House, spotted out of the corner of the eye or at a distance. When Michael finally manages to confront the regal old woman, and we find out precisely why she's returned . . . well, it's a mystical bit of historical reinvention that's handled very, very well.

Witch-Compass is probably my second-favorite of the collection, a story that's gleeful in its darkness and playful in its malicious evil. At its heart are familiar themes of being careful what you wish for, and of wishes having a price, but Masterton goes completely over the top and takes Paul completely over the edge with a tale that will leave you feeling guilty about every chuckle.

Resonant Evil is a bit of a weird story, relying so heavily as it does upon the study of synaesthesia, but it slowly builds to a climax that's both creepy and clever. You're not quite sure whether it's a ghost story or a tale of madness, until the final reveal, when an already dark tale gets darker still.

Beholder is the saddest of the lot, a story that's very much about theme of beauty being in the eye of the beholder. When Fiona accidentally catches a glimpse of her distorted reflection, she's initially horrified, but decides that too many beholders must have looked upon her and stolen away her beauty, leaving it trapped inside their eyes. If you think you can imagine the lengths to which she'll go to get her beauty back . . . well, you're halfway there.

There are several common themes in Figures of Fear, primarily those of portals, hidden worlds, the consuming power of fire, and the consequences of our choices. Don't go looking for happy endings or big moral lessons, though, because these are dark tales, with dark conclusions, and even darker twists to follow. A perfect collection for fans and newcomers alike. Just astounding.


Hardcover, 208 pages
Expected publication: March 1st 2015 by Severn House Publishers

Saturday, October 18, 2014

From the Shelf to the Page: This Week in the Ruins

Here we are, halfway through October,and well into our Halloweird Creepfest. A lot of activity haunting the ruins this week, including:

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Stacking The Shelves and Mailbox Monday are a pair of weekly memes that are about sharing the books that came your way over the past week, and which you've added to your shelves - whether they be physical or virtual, borrowed or bought, or for pleasure or review.

The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley is a title I was originally offered back in August, but which just landed in my inbox this week. Described as a book that shakes up the New Weird, in which the beautiful and the terrible exist side by side, it encompasses post-apocalyptic science fiction and horror.

The After House by Michael Phillip Cash is a new release that, if I can, I will do my best to work into this month's reading schedule. Michael has been kind enough to gift me with most of his new releases, and the idea of a haunted 300 year old cottage with a secret occupant lurking about definitely caught my eye (as you can expect).


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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is another weekly meme, this time focused on what books are spending the most time in your hands and in your head, as opposed to what's been added to your shelf:

• The Deep by Nick Cutter
The 'Gets is one of the most intriguing (and terrifying) plagues ever unleashed on humanity, and that's just treading the surface of this underwater ocean horror.

• Not Quite the Classics by Colin Mochrie
Whose Story is it Anyway? Sometimes you just need to laugh, and for that reason Canada's own funnyman recreates classic stories in 'Whose Line' fashion.

• Figures of Fear: An Anthology by Graham Masterton
Halfway through this stunning collection, my only question is how the hell have I not read more Masterton before? So far, 'Underbed' is my personal favorite.


What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Horror Review: In the Shadows of Children by Alan Ryker

In the Shadows of Children is a slow-burning tale of forgotten fears, family secrets, childhood tragedies . . . and the boogeyman in the closet. Alan Ryker takes his time getting started, slowly building a backstory for his protagonist and building the atmosphere of his childhood home, but it's all necessary to create the sense of mystery needed to drive the story forward.

This is a short tale, even for a novella, so it's hard to talk about much of the plot without getting into spoiler territory. The set-up is pretty simple, with a young man returning home to deal with the death of his mother, and being forced to confront the long ago disappearance of his younger brother. The house unsettles him, triggering fragments of memories, but it's not until a voice calls to him from the closet that he begins to remember why he fled that bedroom for the freedom and security of a college deliberately far away.

It's a creepy tale, with some really effective moments, both creepy and ordinary. It's at the point where Aaron calls home to talk to his son about the boogeyman that story really gets interesting, and it's with the twist that follows that Ryker provides the ultimate payoff. Aaron is largely unlikable as a protagonist, and while we sympathize with him, it's hard not to blame him for the role he played in that childhood tragedy. Oddly, that coldness is why the story works, making us confront what lies In the Shadows of Children.


Kindle Edition, 61 pages
Expected publication: November 11th 2014 by DarkFuse

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Halloween is a State of Mind by Lisa von Biela (GUEST POST)


Welcome to the first guest post of this year's Halloweird Creepfest, featuring Dark Fuse author Lisa von Biela!


Halloween is a State of Mind
By
Lisa von Biela

I love this time of year, and if you’re reading this post, I imagine you do, too. It’s that Bradbury time of year, all magic and fallen leaves. It’s that time when everything is mysterious, everything is possible. No wonder so many great horror novels are set in the fall (or mention the fall—Bradbury could never resist getting a fallen leaves reference in, even in a novel set in the summer!). It’s a state of mind to take with you and enjoy throughout the year.

It’s the state of mind that lets you imagine the smell of burning leaves. Breathe it in, that wonderful sharp-sweet smell drifting from somewhere off in the distance. You can just see the leaves swirling in the twilight, alight with hungry flames. They’re riding the heat currents among pinpoint orange embers. Watch the embers wink out, each in turn. You can see that, can’t you?

It’s the state of mind that lets your imagination carry you away. Did you just hear a rustling in the dark over there? Is it leaves? Is it a rat—or something else? It’s coming closer, isn’t it? Quick! Glance toward it if you dare. Did you see something lurking just at the edge of your vision? Did something move in the shadow there? What do you think it was—something innocent, harmless?

Or maybe something dangerous, something demonic?

What scares you? Ghosts, gliding beside you on a trail of ether? Skeletons, bones clicking as they follow behind, holding you in the focus of their dark, empty eye sockets? Or something more predatory, something built from fears uniquely yours?

Did something just touch the back of your neck? Was it cold, clammy? Did it singe like fire? Was it sharp or was it soft? Will you spin around to face it—or run like hell, never looking back? (Personally, I’d run like hell.)

That chill in the air, that chill in your spine. That’s what makes this time of year so special—conjure it up whenever you want to, when you need a Halloween fix. Enjoy the season!


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Lisa von Biela worked in Information Technology for 25 years, and still claims there is no application she cannot break in testing. She left the field to attend the University of Minnesota Law School, graduating magna cum laude in 2009. She now practices law in Seattle, Washington. One of her legal articles, a research piece published in the Food and Drug Law Journal, was cited in an amicus brief before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Just after the turn of the century, Lisa began to write short, dark fiction. Her first publication was in The Edge in 2002. She went on to publish a number of short works in various small press venues, including Gothic.net, Twilight Times, Dark Animus, AfterburnSF, and more.

She is the author of THE GENESIS CODE, THE JANUS LEGACY, ASH AND BONE, BLOCKBUSTER (coming January 2015), and SKINSHIFT (coming June 2015).

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: The Last Passenger by Manel Loureiro

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

As part of this month's Halloweird Creepfest, I'll be focusing on some horror-themed pre-publication releases:

The Last Passenger by Manel Loureiro
Expected publication: Jan 1, 2015 by AmazonCrossing 

Reporter Kate Kilroy accepts an assignment to travel on the Valkyrie, a German ship veiled in secrecy for decades after it was discovered adrift in 1939 with only one passenger aboard, a baby boy named Isaae Feldman.

Obsessed with understanding his origins, Feldman has spent a small fortune restoring the Valkyrie to try to solve the mystery. Assembling a team of experts and sparing no expense, he aims to precisely recreate the circumstances of the Valkyrie’s doomed final voyage. Little does Feldman or his team know that the ship has an agenda of its own. As the Valkyrie begins to weave its deadly web, Kate realizes that she must not only save herself, but the world as she knows it.


I'm generally wary of translations, but this comes from a man hailed as "the Spanish Stephen King" so I will admit to being curious . . .