WIHM8: Author Vs Editor – Loretta/MF Wahl

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, eyeglasses, tree, outdoor and closeup“I enjoyed working with Loretta on my novel “Disease”. She’s respectful of the author’s vision for their work while at the same time being a stickler for the rules of writing. What was really fantastic about the way she works is that she would explain the thought process behind many of her edits, as well as educate when issues were purely technical and could have been avoided.”

“I enjoy the editing process when the editor and I click. It’s like have an extreme beta-reader in my corner, and Loretta was a fantastic extreme beta-reader.”

Loretta is currently working with M.F. Wahl on her novel, “DISEASE” currently featured on WATTPAD! Show some love. Go read and vote!

Loretta is a retired paralegal secretary and loves crafty projects (StampinUp), reading and cooking!

Not Like It Used To Be

Families line the streets. Kids are bundled in coats, hats, gloves and blankets. Adults stand or sit in folding chairs, hands in pockets or laps, their excitement matching the children’s. A chill hugs each person tight. Teeth clatter, legs shake and dance; people trying to stay warm. Hot chocolate and coffee work for a while, but fade, leaving shivers along spines.

“How much longer, Momma?” they asks, young eyes and hearts waiting, hoping to catch a glimpse of an elf or reindeer or even Santa Clause. Maybe some candy will get tossed their way.

“Not much longer,” mothers and fathers announce, some happily, others with a chagrin that sits in their stomachs like heavy rocks. Christmas isn’t like it was when they were kids, back when December meant presents and eggnog and feasts, parties and family get-togethers, Christmas lights and holiday specials on television. Snow-filled streets meant sledding and snowmen, snow angels and snow ball fights.

There’s no snow this year; streets are covered in dust and dirt, debris from crumbling buildings, worn by time, weather and the passing wars. Few trees have stood the test of bombs and bullets. Fewer windows remain intact.

A breeze blows along Main Street, lifting grit and trash into the air. Many cover their faces, kids cry out from the sting of sand in eyes; some adults shake their heads and wonder why others choose not to wear protective goggles.

“Here they come,” a kid shouts. Others echo his words, sending a buzz along the road. Eyes open wide in anticipation and little ones squirm in their seats; blankets come off as they stomp their feet, kicking up clouds of dust.

Down the street a truck appears, adorned in reds and greens, its lights shining. The driver honks and waves a meaty hand as he passes through the crowd of onlookers.  Three fingers are missing. A pinky and thumb form an odd shaped L. “Merry Christmas,” he bellows. It comes out “Mare-wee Cwis-moss.”

The next vehicle inches along, yellow and orange lights cling to its exterior. The top of the car is missing, shorn off pieces of metal still jut out where the top use to be. A real beauty sits on the trunk, her feet inside the car. Her blond hair is singed at the ends, her once youthful face scarred on one side, an eye drooping, the eyebrow gone. A rusty crown sits atop her head. An unraveling sash across her faded blue dress reads Miss WW III 2038. She smiles. Her teeth are missing.

A marching band follows, horribly out of sync, no rhythm, none of them marching in unison with the ones in front, behind or beside them. Damaged horns squawk and squeal, bells clatter, hollow drums are rapped on with broken sticks from fallen trees, all forming a cacophony of noise that no amount of rehearsing could fix. Some of them are missing limbs, a foot here, an arm there, both legs over there, being pulled along in a wheel chair by a man with no arms and a limp, a rope tied around his waist. Distorted faces and twisted torsos make the rag tag orchestra a crowd favorite. Several other bands would follow, strategically placed along the length of the parade, but none quite as spectacularly grotesque.

A semi pulling a trailer creeps up the street. Women dressed in red and white striped bathing suits dance along poles to ancient Christmas Carols that few of the children have ever heard. Adults sing along to Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and Holly Jolly Christmas. Few even notice the women. The new wave of freaks—the beauties of a long forgotten yesterday who have no blemishes on their faces and who aren’t walking with limps—stare out at nothing as they dance, cringing with fear at those gawking at them. Tears fill their crystal blue, green and brown eyes.

Cars proclaiming the holiday season inch along, large men behind the wheels; motorcycle riders doing wheelies and criss-crossing figure eights, careen about, almost going into the crowds, but pulling back at the last moment, much to the dismay of the thousands of onlookers. It is rumored that once a year a bike goes off course, taking out several spectators to the delight of those who are fortunate enough to take in the carnage. Smoke billows from rusty mufflers, engines growl, spit and sputter during turns, but none of the bikes slide out of control, maiming or killing folks along the streets. Children poke out their lips. The pain would be worth not being like the freaks dancing on poles for men and women alike to ogle and insult, to abuse as they see fit when the parade is over.

The first hour pushes well into the second one. As the end draws near a burnt orange fire truck looms in the distance, its tires dirty, ladder crusted in grime and rust. A wooden chair sits at the back, elevated. A large man with blush red cheeks and flowing white and gray hair, a beard down to his stomach and a red jump suit sits on the throne. A hole is in one knee, no black belt at the waist. His black boots are scuffed and his red cap is missing the dangly white ball that should be attached to its tip. At his feet sit several packages and bags, wrapped in newsprint and tied with twine.

The children scream, “It’s Santa Clause.” They laugh and cheer and clap; some of the adults cry. Santa didn’t look like this when they were kids. He wasn’t a scraggly old man whose rosy cheeks came from drinking a pint of illegal liquor before the Christmas parade. He wasn’t a man with a sack not full of goodies, but something much worse. He wasn’t this vision of insanity that the younger people know and somehow love.

The fire truck stops. Santa stands, reaches behind his throne, hefting a gray bag onto his shoulders. He waves a black glove at the crowd as he turns in a circle, a toothless smile noticeable even with the thick tufts of gray and white that cover most of his face from ears down. His eyes fall on a group of people huddling around a metal barrel, flames licking up from it. They warm their hands and roast marshmallows; the perfect picture of happiness.

Santa points. “Onward, Rudolph.”

The fire truck veers to the left as the driver mashes the gas. The engine revs, the truck lurches forward, black smoke spills from the exhaust. Bodies scatter as the grill and bumper strikes the crowd. A brilliant flash of orange, yellow and red emits from Santa Clause’s bag of gifts. The explosion follows, ripping the back of the fire truck apart. Santa evaporates in a spray of metal, flesh and shredded wrapping paper. The front of the truck smashes into a dilapidated building that collapses. Brick, metal and glass tumble to the ground, taking with it several more people and kicking up a large dust cloud. Fire engulfs the truck, the building and many onlookers. Others scramble about, searching for body parts, tossing pieces aside, frantically looking for…

“I found it,” a woman yells and lifts Santa’s head from a pile of rubble. His jaw is missing, along with one ear. An eye dangles from an empty socket. Her family and friends pat her on the back, congratulating her, some grudgingly, others with the genuine sincerity only offered by loved ones.

A collective groan emits from those seeking the Christmas prize. People gather their blankets and meager belongings. Kids shuffle with parents back to their cold homes, devoid of windows and heat, misery greeting them at their doorways.

A green car pulls alongside the woman, the back door opens but no one gets out. A white gloved hand extends from the darkness, and beckons her to get in. The woman hugs her family, tears streaming from her eyes.

“I’ll miss you all,” she says and steps toward the car.

“We love you, Mommy,” one little girl says and hugs her leg tight. She lets go, steps back. “You’ll be the best Santa ever.”

“You bet I will,” she says and lifts Santa’s head high in the air. Blood spatters her and her family, but she doesn’t seem to notice. She gets inside the car, to little fanfar. It speeds off, leaving the family waving. The little girl bends down, picks up Santa’s stocking cap, turns it over in her hands, and places it on her head.

“Daddy, do you think I’ll ever be Santa Clause?”

Her dad kneels, puts both hands on her shoulders. “Anything’s possible, sweetheart. Anything’s possible.”

The family leaves, father and daughter holding hands. They chatter about the parade, the fireworks and wonder about the body count. Still, some adults stand, shocked, dismayed by the events. Christmas wasn’t like this when they were kids…

 

The Ghastly Glittergrieve – A Christmas Cautionary Tale

At the same precise time every year,
come dark on Christmas Eve,
A blighted spirit springs to life,
the ghastly GLITTERGRIEVE.

As children try to fall asleep,
it’s scurrying ‘cross your ceiling,
A shadowy nook it’ll find itself,
(one prime for self-concealing).

No bigger than a walnut yet,
this nasty little shade.
Observing from his darkened perch,
to watch festive tables laid.

Invisible at first, he is,
for his acts of misfeasance.
But before the day’s events are done,
you’ll feel his Christmas presence.

He’s there for every opened gift,
for all wrapping ripped away,
for every garish Cracker pulled
each fateful Christmas day.

He’s watching, in the shadows hid,
for each present you reveal.
(This is a task he undertakes
with fervor and with zeal).

In small black claws, he holds his book
with your name etched within.
A black mark will be noted down
for every spotted sin.

For every time you grimace
at your gift of aftershave,
the demons sat there thinking,
“That is no way to behave.”

With each half-hearted “Thank you”
that trickles from your lips,
Against your name, he’s sad to see,
Another black mark slips.

Each cardigan you toss aside,
each pair of socks rejected –
To the scrutiny of the Glittergrieve,
you’re silently subjected.

The demon’s purpose is laid bare,
once revelries have ceased.
For every black mark in the book,
The beasts size has increased.

It’s midnight now, on Christmas day.
And everybody’s resting.
But you’re awake from too much wine,
stomach noisily protesting.

The tap’s turned on, to wash your hands –
your bladder now relieved.
But in the mirror, there it stands,
the ghastly GLITTERGRIEVE.

Dark eyes poke out through masks of skin,
all evil, black and hateful.
The faces from which it peers behind
peeled away from the ungrateful.

Atop his face of ruined flesh,
a faded paper crown.
A tinsel wreath hangs round his neck,
cracked baubles draped around.

It rises up, towering o’er you now,
a weird and twisted shape.
Red, Green and Gold and shimmering,
its crude wrapping-paper cape.

With practiced claws it steals your soul,
Your watcher’s now your killer.
In one fell swoop, you’re doomed to be
A demons stocking filler.

The lesson here? Be thankful for
your gifts, which are meant well.
And if you’re good, you will receive
Good tidings and no Hell.


meDavid Court was born and resides in Coventry, UK with his patient wife and his three less patient cats. A few years back David achieved minor internet notoriety under the pseudonym FoldsFive for his animated GIFs telling the entirety of the Star Wars Trilogy, a fact that he’s still jolly well proud of and insists on telling anyone at any opportunity. When not reading, blogging angrily on http://www.foldsfive.co.uk or http://www.davidjcourt.co.uk, drinking real ale, being immune to explosions, writing software for a living or practicing his poorly developed telekinetic skills, he can be found writing fiction.

A CHRISTMAS GUEST BY M.F. WAHL

The tree stood in the corner, it’s dark green boughs weighed down with long soft needles. They remained unadorned despite the wealth of glitter and sparkle in a storage tub nearby. The tub’s lid sat slightly askew, balancing on the rim, where it had been placed down the evening before. Nothing in that corner had moved since then, as though the Christmas decorations had been preserved in ice, much like the yard outside.

In a way they had. The coldness of a marriage on the rocks had taken it’s toll. Marty and Nadine had been at each other’s throats all night. Many of the barbed comments and dirty looks passed right over the children’s heads, but they felt the darkness, even if they couldn’t truly understand it.

Tempers flared, no one was immune. Like a swirling tempest, the sour mood sucked the joy from every little moment. At fourteen, Clara was the oldest of the four children, and the first to rail against her parents. “I hate this family!” she yelled, shoving her younger brother to the side as she stormed from the room.

Marty called for her to come back, insisting she participate in the festivities, but short of physically dragging her from her room there was little he could do. It wasn’t long before he and Nadine were openly screaming at each other, and the younger children took refuge in their own rooms. So much for the Norman Rockwell Christmas decorating scene they had been trying to cobble together.

The next evening Clara sat in front of the TV, her arms wrapped around her knees, watching a show she only marginally enjoyed. That was fine, because her parents were fighting in the kitchen once again, and her three little brothers raced in circles powered by batteries that never seemed to run out. The house was loud and she tried to focus on smiling faces and the laugh track coming from the TV.

Before the end of the show she heard the front door bang closed, followed by the deep rumble of her father’s car as he fired up the engine and pulled out of the driveway. A few minutes later her red-eyed mother stepped into the living room and turned off the TV.

“Hey! I was watching that!” Clara snapped at her mother.

“Too bad,” Nadine replied, and crossed the room to the tub full of decorations. “It’s time to decorate the tree.”

“Yay!” cried Clara’s youngest brother, Jeremy. He was only eight and always eager to please. He skipped over to the tree, followed by Nathan and Bradley.

Clara stood and crossed her arms. “I don’t want to.”

Nadine pursed her lips unhappily and walked over to Clara. She wasn’t much taller than the teen anymore, but was still able to throw her weight around. Clara glared defiantly into her mother’s eyes. “This is stupid.”

Nadine was fast, and before Clara could react her mother lashed out, striking her across the mouth with her palm. “You’d better watch your mouth, young lady.”

Tears stung Clara’s eyes, but she blinked them back. Not wanting to be struck again, she slunk over to the Christmas tree and accepted a red metallic garland her mother held out to her.

That’s how the night went, the family nearly smothered by a cloud of anger, decorating the tree, trying desperately to cling to a thread of happiness. Except Clara, she didn’t see the point of decorating, or clinging, and with each bulb she hung her resentment grew, like the scowl on her face.

Soon enough the tree was laden with beads and bulbs and tinsel and twinkle. Nadine went back to the kitchen to cook dinner, and her brothers began playing again. Clara with the last golden decoration in her hand, searched for a place that wasn’t already festooned. The back of the tree had the least on it, so she slid between it and the wall. As she reached up to hang the ornament a black spot on a red bulb caught her eye.

It was a spider. Big, and black, with long hairy legs, clinging to the side of a shiny red bulb. Clara squeaked in surprise and recoiled, bouncing off the wall behind her, and back into the tree—and the spider.

Normally, she wasn’t afraid of spiders, but the thought of having one unexpectedly dancing on her shirt kicked her baser instincts into gear. She dropped the ornament from her hand and, squealing in terror, scrambled out from behind the tree.

“Ew, ew, ew, ew, ew!”

Clara danced around the room batting at her clothes as her brothers giggled. After a few moments she stopped, and panting, looked at them. “Spider…” was all she could manage though breaths.

Dinner proceeded as normal, with Marty arriving back home just before it was served. Clara’s parents were curt to each other, but didn’t return to earlier fighting. Her father even complimented the Christmas tree before the kids had to get ready for bed.

Clara had long since forgotten about the spider by the time she was brushing her teeth. She looked in the bathroom mirror, scrubbing, as she saw it creep up onto her shoulder. She froze, toothpaste foaming from her mouth, arm stiff. She didn’t want to panic this time and lose it, she wanted to knock it off into the toilet and flush it down.

Her heart sped in her chest as she tried to move slowly enough not to spook the arachnid. It was bigger than she remembered it. So big she could make out a few details of its face in the mirror. Two sets of shiny black eyes stared forward, unblinking, with a disconcerting quietness. Just below them Clara knew there were fangs, hidden by whiskered mandibles.

She crept toward the toilet, stepping softly and trying not to jar the thing on her shoulder, all the time keeping her eyes fixed on its reflection. It moved slowly across her shoulder toward her neck, and she suppressed a gag as it reached out a thick black leg that reminded her of a pipe cleaner, and stroked her throat.

“Be calm child,” it said in her ear. Its words were raspy, said in the echo of a voice, neither feminine nor masculine. Clara widened her eyes in surprise, but other than that, didn’t move a muscle.

“Please,” said the spider. “I’m not here to hurt you.”

“Mom! Dad!” Clara screamed, and batted at the spider on her shoulder. As her hand made contact she felt the stiff haired bristles that covered its body. She spun in a frantic circle trying to see where it went. “Mom! Dad!” she screamed again, as they both came running.

On the verge of tears Clara told them about the spider, but at the last second, looking up into their concerned faces, she left out the part about it speaking. They’d just think she was being crazy.

Marty dutifully checked the bathroom for the offending arachnid, and Nadine helped Clara check her hair and clothes. After they came up empty-handed they said goodnight and saw a nervous Clara off to bed, leaving the door open a crack at her request.

“That seemed like an overreaction,” she heard her father say as her parents descended the stairs.

“It’s just her hormones,” her mother replied.

Clara pulled her blanket up to her chin and replayed the moment in the bathroom over and over again, until she managed to convince herself that she imagined a talking spider. I was just scared, she thought, fear can do strange things to people’s minds.

Still, no matter what she told herself, she had trouble falling asleep. She couldn’t help but feel every itch on her body like it was the spider crawling on her skin. Eventually, she heard her parents go to bed, and she lay awake, staring at the ceiling until exhaustion finally closed her eyes.

Clara woke to a pressure on her chest, heavy, but not unbearable by any means. Almost as if a small cat were perched on her. She didn’t know what time it was, but it was still dark.

Half asleep Clara reached up and touched the weight on her chest. It bristled beneath her palm and she yanked her hand back as her eyes popped open.

“Please don’t scream,” rasped the spider.

Clara’s lips trembled and she breathed quickly, feeling the weight of the spider as it rode her chest up and down, up and down, up and down.

The moon shone through the bedroom window, just enough to illuminate the black shadow perched atop her, glinting off its many eyes.

“I’m not here to hurt you, child.” It reached out a long leg and touched Clara’s cheek. “I’m just here to talk. To help you.”

“Help me with what?” Clara whispered, her voice fluttering past her lips.

“Why didn’t you tell your parents about me?”

“I did.”

“No. Not about me. You told them about an ordinary spider. Perhaps a bit on the bigger side, but still a bland and ordinary spider. You didn’t tell them about me.”

Clara shivered beneath her thick down duvet. “They wouldn’t have believed me.”

“They wouldn’t have listened to you.”

Clara nodded, feeling a small ember of resentment from the Christmas tree charade still burning in her gut.

“They never listen to me,” she said quietly.

“I know,” the spider replied. “I witnessed everything from the moment your family selected your tree from the lot. I saw how they treat you, and I hurt for you.”

Clara nodded in the dark, watching the spider’s eyes sparkle as it spoke, her fear slowly being consumed by the tiny flame fanned to life from the ember.

“Am I crazy?” She asked the creature on her chest.

“Does it matter? If you were, its your parents fault, not yours. Look at how selfish they are. If they truly cared about you they would just be happy.”

For the first time in her life Clara felt like she was speaking to someone who understood her. No one, not her friends, not her dumb brothers, no one understood her situation. Everyone thought her parents were so nice. They couldn’t see the cloud that hung over their house, poisoning the very air inside. Choking the life from her so stealthily that no one noticed.

Clara felt her cheeks flush with anger, and balled her fists under the covers. She hated her parents and her whole stupid family.

“What do you want to do?” asked the spider.

“I want to leave and never come back.”

“Now is as good a time as ever.”

“I can’t sneak downstairs without waking up my mom.”

“What about the window?”

The spider rose from Clara’s chest and sidled next to her on the bed. As it moved she felt the lightness of empty space and it almost felt foreign. She scooted to the foot of her bed and peeked out of her window at the white powder covering the rooftop. They were only one floor up. If she hung from the gutter it would only be a small drop into snow.

“I don’t have any shoes.”

“You don’t need them. It’s not really that cold outside.”

“Maybe I should just wait.”

“And endure one more day in this house? I thought you hated your parents, look at what they’ve brought you to.”

Clara nodded. “You’re right.”

She quickly dressed herself and layered on two pairs of socks, then grabbed her coin bank. It was a dolphin jumping from a wave, her favorite animal, but missing its dorsal fin. Last year Nathan had broken it, and although her mother tried to repair it, eventually the piece fell off and was lost.

Quietly Clara slid open the window and a cold blast of air hit her. It was almost enough to make her close it again, but she felt one of the spider’s legs on her arm, reassuring her.

“Are you coming?” she asked.

“Yes,” rasped the spider, and climbed onto her back. It felt even heavier than before. Awkwardly, Clara stepped out onto the roof.

The snow was crisp and cool beneath her feet, and the wind cut through her sweater, but now that she was outside Clara was determined. Just as she had imagined, she hung from the gutter and dropped into the snow bank near the side of the house. Enjoy Christmas without me, she thought spitefully as she headed toward the road, the big black spider clinging to her back like a many-legged backpack.

She walked, head down against the wind, shivering, and telling Spider her new plans. The coin bank she clutched to her chest probably had enough in it to buy a bus ticket. All she had to do was get a pair of shoes.

“Any charity box,” Spider whispered in her ear. “They’re overflowing this time of year. You might even find a pair in your size.”

“And a coat.”

“That’s the spirit.”

The snow was beginning to cake around Clara’s socks and her body heat melted what stayed close. She shivered as she trudged, feeling like Spider was getting even heavier.

“You’re growing.”

“You’re just seeing me more, child.”

Clara nodded, her face feeling frozen. She didn’t understand what that meant, but was running low on energy.

Soon they were out of town, headed toward the small city nearby. There she knew that’s where there’d be charity bins and a bus station. Just as the streetlights disappeared the sun began to rise.

Clara trembled uncontrollably. “You made it through the hard part, Clara,” coaxed Spider. “The sun will bring warmth with it.”

But it didn’t. Clouds obscured the sky and let loose a fury of snow and wind that pelted her chapped face, feeling like needle pricks. Her feet were numb now, as she dragged them in the slush on the side of the road. She tried not to think about them as she walked hunched over, burdened by Spider’s weight.

“It’s getting late, they’ll be looking for you, Clara.”

Clara said nothing but began peaking over her shoulder to see if there were any approaching cars. She spotted the first car’s headlights not long after and ducked into the underbrush along the side of the road. After it passed she tried to stand, but stumbled under the weight of Spider.

“You’re getting too heavy for me.”

“You’re giving up. I thought you were better than that. I got you this far, don’t disappoint me now.”

Clara sighed. She was so tired and so cold. All she really wanted now was to get back into her nice warm bed.

“That ship has sailed, Clara. What do you think will happen when they find out you’re gone?”

Tears slid from Clara’s eyes and froze on her cheeks as she stood, staggering under the weight of the enormous creature embracing her from behind. She tried to take a step forward and fell to her knees.

“Get up,” rasped Spider. Its words floating overtop of the wind. “Get on your feet.”

A sob broke from Clara’s throat as she tried to stand again. Her socks, frozen to the snow around them, pulled away and she stepped barefoot toward the road, trying desperately to carry herself on red swollen feet. Her legs wobbled again and she fell, catching herself with her hands before her face hit the icy ground.

“Get up.”

“I can’t,” Clara managed through sobs. Her eyelashes were beginning to freeze.

“You must. You’ll show them.”

Clara rose to her hands and knees, ice slicing at her bare palms, her coin bank lost somewhere in the snow far behind. She fixed her eyes on the side of the road and crawled, chest heaving as she cried.

“Not too close to the road, Clara. You don’t want to be found.”

The weight of Spider was almost unbearable and Clara felt as though she might break under it.

“Not too close.”

She felt the tips of Spider’s legs, like large pointed branches, digging into her sides.

“I said not too close!” Its rasp was loud in her ear, angry, overtaking the howling wind of the storm.

“Get off!” Clara yelled, her voice cracking. She reached for the side of the road, barely able to see, dragging herself next to it, hoping she was close enough to be found.

Spider dug its legs harder into Clara’s sides, piercing her sweater, and her skin. She screamed in pain.

“Get away from the road,” it rasped.

Clara reached behind her and grabbed one of Spider’s legs with her hands. It was so big she could barely wrap her hands around it. As she tried to pull the creature from her back it dug its legs in further, jabbing points between her ribs.

Every sob, every breath Clara took now came with pain. Pain so sharp it almost shut out the cold. Almost. She was too cold to shiver, and too weak to fight. Clara’s hands slipped from the leg and she collapsed under Spider’s weight by the side of the road.

Ahead a bright pair of headlights cut through the falling snow. A pick-up truck slid to a stop and Clara could see Christmas lights strung around its bed. They twinkled merrily, as she closed her eyes.

So cold.

So cold.

So cold.

 


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Horror, thriller, sci-fi … all are synonymous with author M.F. Wahl. Dark plots and a keen focus on character development will keep you chained to each frightful word. Wahl is a proud member of the Horror Writer’s Association and her first novel “Disease” is will be released by Stitched Smile sometime next year. Visit http://mfwahl.com/ for more information, or to get on the mailing list. You can also find Wahl on Facebook and Twitter.

Beginning picture credits: “Frozen Spider’s Web” by Matthew Harrigan

Fear the Reaper – with Briana Robertson

reaperteaser2

I love Halloween. No, even more than that. I bloody love Halloween.

Not only does it mean that we’re properly into Autumn (or “Fall” for all of you lovely colonial types), but to a horror writer and fan of horror in general, it’s the perfect time of the year. For one thing, the evenings drawing in and it getting dark sooner makes for greater productivity.  It’s difficult to write anything particular sinister and atmospheric when you’re in your shorts and sweating like Donald Trump at a W.I. meeting because you’re baking at abnormally high temperatures and having to drink the best part of four gallons of water every hour.

So, in the great spooky spirit of the season, I’m bigging up one of my excellent fellow Authors who has a pre-release of her latest book this coming Halloween.

Briana Robertson is a fellow indie author and a writer for Stitched Smile Publications (who I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with in their recent “Unleashing the voices within” anthology). Her latest book is “Reaper”, a horror anthology.

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Reaper

A tattoo come to life with ominous intentions. Life-threatening panic attacks. A harmless bedroom accident. Predator turned prey.

The Reaper has arrived.

In this new anthology, Briana Robertson presents a selection of chilling tales where Death doesn’t discriminate, leaving readers in fear for their own mortality. Fatality lurks between every turn of the page, threatening all—from a daughter who’s made a deal she can’t afford, to an innocent child left unobserved.

Told exclusively from a female’s perspective, “Reaper” highlights the underlying, everyday terror of facing life’s end and bestows a grim reminder: Death comes for us all.

quadruplesizeI took the opportunity to ask Briana a couple of questions for an insight into her writing.

What motivated you to become an indie author?

I guess you could say both my family and my mental disorders. Though I’ve played at writing since I was a child, it wasn’t until after a car accident in 2011 left me with fibromyalgia, and resulting clinical depression and anxiety that I decided to tackle writing as a career. Writing, more than my medication, is how I exorcise all the demons that seem to be constant companions. In writing darker works, I can pour all my negative emotions out on the page and leave them behind, which allows me to be a better wife and mother to my family.

 How did I come up with the idea for Reaper?

Well, I was offered the chance to participate in an event called “31 Days of Hell,” which is meant to help promote horror authors and their work during the month of October. I wanted to have something that was strictly my own to promote, but knew I wouldn’t have time to do justice to a novel. I had several darker short stories that hadn’t found a home yet; some needed some expanding, others simply a good editor. But with the amount of work I already had available, I knew I could write a few more and have enough material to support an anthology. When I looked at what I had, and the ideas I’d come up with for new stories, I realized that the overarching theme among them was death; and so Death became the main character in the anthology, and he can be found in every story, even if he’s not specifically mentioned by name.

 When you develop your characters, do you already know who they are or do they develop as you write?

I don’t know that I “let” them develop, but that’s what usually ends up happening. I tend to think I know my characters when I start writing, but they usually surprise me in one way or another, because they always end up doing something I hadn’t originally planned. I do try to be true to my characters, always, so if they end up developing in a way I hadn’t intended, I will change my original story if that’s what needs to happen for the characters to remain true to themselves.

Out of all of the protagonists you’ve written and created so far, to which do you relate the most?

Reyna, the protagonist from “Phobia.” And I say that because I based Reyna so closely on myself. Her fears are my fears. Her panic attacks are my panic attacks. Her insecurities are those I’ve battled all my life. So even though the story is fiction, not an autobiography, and there are aspects of Reyna that are distinctly her own—she is a character after all—I relate to her because I know her and understand her the best.

Tell me about your writing process and how you brainstorm ideas.

My ideas usually stem from real life events and personal emotions/reactions. As I mentioned above, writing is how I exorcise the negativity that accompanies my depression and anxiety. So I write about the things that depress me, the things that make me anxious, the things that scare me. I put my own worst nightmares on the page, but allow them to happen to someone else. (My characters probably find that terribly unfair.) I find inspiration in images as well, prompts and the like, but the core story ideas, even when they’re adapted to fit a specific inspirational image, are those that are real and relevant to me.

As to my writing process, I tend to write from beginning to end. I don’t like to jump around; I find it hard to remain consistent that way. If I know where I want the story to go, or if I have a sentence jump into my head that I find especially brilliant, I’ll pause and jot it down, but I don’t jump scenes or write the end before the beginning (though I often know the end of the story before I know the beginning). And I’m more of a “pantster” than an outliner. And that is strictly because my characters never follow the outline anyway.

Thanks very much, Briana!  As part of the Halloween festivities, come join the Halloween pre-release party fun on the Stitched Smile Groupies facebook page and the launch party page which can be found here  And watch this space for the details closer to the release of Reaper!

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authorpicBriana Robertson is an emerging speculative fiction author, working primarily within the genres of fantasy and horror. Her love of authors such as Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, Patrick Rothfuss, and J.K. Rowling has developed her own need to put pen to paper. Her short stories have been published in several anthologies, and broadcast on online podcasts. Her debut novel is in the works, set to release in 2017. She currently lives in the Midwest, with her husband, three daughters, and their Maine Coon, Bagheera. Find out more about Briana on her facebook or twitter pages.

 

 

 


meDavid Court was born and resides in Coventry, UK with his patient wife and his three less patient cats. A few years back David achieved minor internet notoriety under the pseudonym FoldsFive for his animated GIFs telling the entirety of the Star Wars Trilogy, a fact that he’s still jolly well proud of and insists on telling anyone at any opportunity. When not reading, blogging angrily on www.foldsfive.co.uk or www.davidjcourt.co.uk, drinking real ale, being immune to explosions, writing software for a living or practicing his poorly developed telekinetic skills, he can be found writing fiction.

 

 

 

 

Every bitter thing is sweet – Talking “Low” with Mike Duke

“To a hungry soul, every bitter thing is sweet.” – Proverbs 27:7

One of Mike Duke’s favorite quotes from his new novel LOW, soon to be released. Here at SSP we couldn’t wait to share what Duke has in store for you, so we convinced him to share a little bit. A little sneak preview, if you will. A tiny tease, an amuse bouche, something to whet your appetite and make you hungry for what’s sure to be a dark and terrifying ride.

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Officer Mark Adams is fed up with God, his wife and the legal constraints of his job. He longs for a life he can enjoy and to see true justice meted out.

Chad Bigleby is a lawyer thrown into a deadly moral quagmire, forced to decide whether he will abide by man’s laws or make his own.

Each man is being driven to the edge of his limits.

Both men are on a collision course.

All because something wicked has arrived in Pleasant Grove, something ancient and obsessed with vengeance, eager to punish the souls of men for their sins.

How LOW will they go to get what they desire most? And what will it cost them in the end?

Hell only knows…

I sat down with Duke and asked him a few questions about LOW.

MF: Mike, how long did it take you to write LOW?

Mike: I started writing it in 2009 and finished the rough draft in 2012. I submitted it  multiple times and took the feedback from each rejection and did numerous rewrites to refine the story.

MF: Where did the idea come from?

Mike: I got the initial kernel of an idea for LOW out of the blue one day, riding down the road listening to my iPod. Two songs played in a row and the two themes just kind of meshed in my head. Metallica’s “All Nightmare Long” and “Testament’s Low”. I envisioned some kind of entity that torments people in dreams and night terrors, and combined it with the thought of how low will we go to get what we want. There was a lot of work to do after that, but that was the initial spark.

MF: What do you think sets this story apart?

Mike: One, I think the premise, though Dante-esque in some ways, is original as far as the nature of the supernatural entity and his motivations. In dealing with moral issues and weaknesses more common to men, I believe I’m able to present it with a voice of authenticity and authority. I was a cop for almost 12 years so I have first hand experience seeing how low people can sink to get what they want.

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I’m sure by now, dear reader, you’re itching to read LOW, but you’ll have to wait just a bit more. It’s slated to be released this November. Until then, you can placate your appetite with this short excerpt, and if you’re really keen to get more, join us on Halloween night for the LOW per-release party on Facebook.

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Glenda Harris was leaving the Gas N Go, a large colorful coat covering her heavy dark skinned frame, when she saw a creepy old man and his dog lingering beside the building, almost invisible, the shadows wrapping them like a shroud, eating the streetlight’s glow. If her skin hadn’t prickled when she passed them she might never have even glanced over much less paused to stop and stare. The man’s lips parted in a smile and white teeth was suddenly all she could make out clearly, the brightness casting a cloak over what she had seen before. Like some Cheshire cat, his smile hung in the darkness, tilting slowly to the right and then to the left before righting itself at last and revealing his face. She stood frozen, struggling to find words to break the spell of fear gripping her. “Umm…sir…this ain’t no place for an old white man to be all by himself at this time of night. Are you lost?” Her heart was beating out of her chest. She gripped the aluminum foil packet in her pocket that held the blessed roots and herbs and prayed they would do their job of warding off evil.

A voice, smooth like sand sliding over glass, a southern gentleman’s accent, projected from the shadows as the teeth disappeared. “Why, mah lady, how absolutely kind and considerate of you. I appreciate your effort but I assure you, I am quite dandy and in need of no assistance. You may be on your way without the slightest worry for my well-being.” The man tipped his head down and in her direction in parting recognition, then raised his right hand up and waved his fingers up and down to say goodbye, each finger falling and rising in succession.

Find out more about Mike Duke and LOW on Facebook,as well as his blog, Twitter, and on Amazon.

Don’t forget to sign up for the SSP mailing list to stay up to date on this and other horrifying new releases.


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Horror, thriller, sci-fi … all are synonymous with author M. F. Wahl. Dark plots and a keen focus on character development will keep you chained to each frightful word. Wahl is a proud member of the Horror Writer’s Association and her first novel “Disease” is will be released by Stitched Smile sometime next year. Visit http://mfwahl.com/ for more information, or to get on the mailing list. You can also find Wahl on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

 

Getting personal with Jack Ketchum

By Becky Narron and A.J. Brown

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I have been honored to meet, talk to and interview many talented and amazing authors. This next man certainly needs no introduction. I am thrilled that he was more than willing to take time to talk to me and let me do an interview with him. He has been nominated for seven Bram Stoker Awards and won four of them. Many of his novels have been adapted into movies, including The Girl Next Door. He is a super nice and intelligent man who I’m very proud to have met and with whom I have become friends. Please make welcome Jack…

How old were you when you first wrote your first story?

I’m guessing I was ten or eleven. I know I was copying stories like those I’d read by Bloch, Bradbury, and Theodore Sturgeon. Never Lovecraft, by the way. He slid by fast in my imagination. Old Gods never got to me like people did.

How many books have you written? And what’s your favorite book you wrote?

Twenty-nine books to date. Novels, novellas, nonfiction, poems, story collections. I’m not going to name a favorite. Would you do that to one of your children? Of course not!

Anything you won’t write about?

Nothing. Though some stories are harder to write about than others, places I’d rather not visit in my imagination for any period of time. Usually, I go there anyway.

Tell me about you. Age (if you don’t mind answering), married, kids, do you have another job, etc…

I’m sixty-nine, be seventy in November. Ancient hippie, so I never cared much for marriage, though I’ve been with the same woman since the seventies, quite happily. No kids. Five cats. And no other job except writing since 1976, thank you very much.

Who or what inspired you to write?

Pre-teen angst? I don’t really know. I just loved reading so very early and loved escaping into those worlds books afforded us, and I guess I had worlds of my own I wanted to explore and escape to, however, strange and grim sometimes. It just seemed natural to write, as a natural extension of reading.

What do you like to do for fun?
Read, write, mess with my cats, travel, watch movies, spend time with good friends in good conversation.

Any traditions you do when you finish a book?

I usually have a scotch whiskey. Maybe a couple.

Anything you would change about your writing?

I can’t change much about my writing. I do what I do. Though that doesn’t stop me from reading something and saying to myself, hey, how’d he get that effect? Think I’ll take a shot at that sometime! I’m still learning. That’s part of the fun.

Where do you live?
New York City.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

Total immersion in the process of putting it together, of having the idea, the characters, the themes, the places and times, the sensory factors, and going into that wonderful zone where all these things have to converge in order to make a story. Magic!

 

 

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Photo credit: Steve Thornton

As always, Jack it was my extreme pleasure to talk to you. Thank you for taking the time to let us get to know you better. I wish you much happiness and continued success.

You can connect with Jack:
Twitter@JackKetchum

http://jackketchum.net/

A big thanks to A.J. Brown for helping me on this one 😊