I have to admit, my fascination with witches has extended to Witchy-Poo from Bugs Bunny, Hocus Pocus and the TV show, Charmed, mostly because it had Alyssa Milano.
When it came to witches in horror fiction, I hadn’t even dipped my toes in the water until I read Brian Moreland’s THE WITCHING HOUSE, which was so good, I knew in an instant I was hooked on a sub genre. It came just in time, because I was getting pretty damn bored with vampires and zombies.
So imagine my delight when I found out that fellow Samhainer, Catherine Cavendish, came out with her own witch’s brew of horror, THE PENDLE CURSE. It only took two pages for me to realize I was in the capable hands of someone who is at the top of their game, and with that, I settled in for one of the best novels of this very young year.
Four hundred years ago, ten convicted witches were hanged on Gallows Hill. Now they are back…for vengeance.
Laura Phillips’s grief at her husband’s sudden death shows no sign of passing. Even sleep brings her no peace. She experiences vivid, disturbing dreams of a dark, brooding hill, and a man—somehow out of time—who seems to know her. She discovers that the place she has dreamed about exists. Pendle Hill. And she knows she must go there.
But as soon as she arrives, the dream becomes a nightmare. She is caught up in a web of witchcraft and evil…and a curse that will not die.
As someone who has a chronically ill wife, my biggest fear is losing her. So right away, I’m completely sympathetic to Laura, a woman trying to cope with the loss of her husband. There’s a little touch of a ghost story here, too, just enough to make you wonder what’s coming next and to feel her pain and curiosity about the strange things happening in her home.
Cavendish expertly takes us on a ride between past and present as Laura is cast under the spell of the Pendle Curse. A simple trip to get away from things and heal turns into an absolute nightmare. She does a fantastic job creating what could have been cookie cutter characters into fully fleshed out human beings with strengths and faults that make you love them one minute and hate them the next. I literally had no idea what was going to happen, and for someone who knows how the sausage is made, this is high praise indeed.
Now, the witches in The Pendle Curse aren’t sporting warts or riding around on brooms, but they are terrifying in their own right. And there’s a little something extra within these pages for fans of classic VC Andrews yarns. I’m not giving away any spoilers, because you have to get the book and read it yourself.
Catherine Cavendish is now on my top 10 list. I give it 5 out of 5 brooms!
I’ve never been a big fan of Women In Horror Month, and for a very good reason. If you love horror, every month should and can be filled with great books by great writers who just happen to be women. True, horror is a male dominated genre, but you don’t have to look hard or far to find plenty of tales penned by the fairer sex that are just as good if not better than what the male chimps dream up. Just off the top of my head, I’m thinking of some of today’s best in the genre like Mary Sangiovanni, Kelli Owen, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Sephera Giron, Melanie Tem, Catherine Cavendish (who I’ll post about next week), and Kathe Koja. That’s literally the work of about 5 seconds.
Well, you can add one more to the list – J.H. Moncrieff. I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of her debut horror novella, THE BEAR WHO WOULDN’T LEAVE, part of Samhain horror’s Childhood Fears series. I was never a teddy bear kid. I did have a three foot tall Bugs Bunny that I literally dragged around everywhere until every stitch came undone. Bugs wasn’t scary at all, even though I watched him daily shoot people with cannons and guns and drop them off cliffs.
The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave is about a disturbing teddy bear named Edgar (right there, you know this plushie just ain’t right) given to young Josh by his bastard of a step-father. When I first saw the title, I thought of the John Belushi SNL skit, The Thing That Wouldn’t Leave, about a piggish house guest that way overstays his welcome. That skit was as funny as Moncrieff’s tale is chilling.
Sometimes evil looks like a fuzzy teddy bear.
Still grieving the untimely death of his dad, ten-year-old Josh Leary is reluctant to accept a well-worn stuffed teddy bear from his new stepfather. He soon learns he was right to be wary. Edgar is no ordinary toy…and he doesn’t like being rejected. When Josh banishes him to the closet, terrible things begin to happen.
Desperate to be rid of the bear, Josh engages the help of a friend. As the boys’ efforts rebound on them with horrifying results, Josh is forced to accept the truth—Edgar will always get even.
I have to tell you, I had a total blast reading this book. At times brutal, especially with the portrayal of a child terrified and abused by his step-father, and his mother’s inability to stop it, once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. Edgar is one freaky teddy bear. I mean, just look at the cover above. You sure as hell don’t want that glaring at you all night. What makes things even worse for Josh is the sense of isolation. Sure, he has a friend that helps him out, but what he needs is an adult to swoop in and save him from this nightmare. It’s that sense of desperation, paired with a killer bear that recalls the glory days of Child’s Play, that makes this a hell of a read.
J.H. Moncrieff has arrived! And I’m so glad she’s part of the Samhain family.
There’s even a trailer for the book if I haven’t convinced you to pick up a copy. Watch it and keep your eyes on that giant bear your man gave you for Valentine’s Day. It just may be out to kill you!
File this one under “How didn’t I think of this first?” Keith Rommel’s latest book. THE DEVIL TREE, is a story so strange and compelling, I can’t believe it flew under my radar! Thankfully, the true story has gotten the full horror treatment by a master at the top of his game.
I mean, Jeez, the name alone is worth the price of admission (or Ebook/print). The fact that the actual tree still stands in Port St. Lucie, Florida, the scars of its sordid history visible on its bark, makes this tale all the more chilling.
Over the past couple of years, Keith Rommel has become a true friend – a friend I’m envious of because he can walk to Mets spring training games. Yes, I can drive 20 minutes to CitiField to see them during the regular season and playoffs (fingers crossed), but spring training is something special. Kinda like Keith, and just like The Devil Tree.
Based on the Port St. Lucie Legend …
Back in the 1970s, a series of bizarre incidents occurred at what has since been known as “The Devil Tree.” Beneath this ancient denizen, evil was wrought by a sick serial killer, calling upon forces most evil and dark. People were hung there … and bodies buried there … exhumed by the police. Overcome by superstition, some tried to cut down the tree, to no avail. Since then, it has stood in a remote section of a local park — left to its own devices — quiet in its eerie repose — until now!
Best-selling psychological-thriller author Keith Rommel has imagined the whole tale anew. He’s brought the tree to life and retold the tale with gory detail only possible in a fiction novel. Action-packed, with spine-tingling detail, this thriller is beyond parallel in the ground it uncovers … one author’s explanation of what may have really been said — what may have really happened — under Port St. Lucie’s “Devil Tree.”
Now, I’ve talked to Keith about the writing of this book. Basically, it was like a fever that came over him, and the only prescription was….not more cowbell…but to write until his fingers bled. In just a few weeks, he wove a fictional story around the tapestry of truth, plucking the most sinister aspects of what happened at the Devil Tree and amping up the scares. This is his most visceral book to date, a departure from his previous work, and he nails it.He even includes pictures taken of the tree in its current state. To me, the scariest stories are always the one that contain a kernel of truth. This one has enough kernels to send tiny demons dancing up your spine.
What happens at The Devil Tree is not for the faint of heart. Read the book, then visit the old, twisted tree if you can find it. Just don’t try to bring harm to the tree, and cleanse yourself in holy water when you’re done.
Visit Keith Rommel’s website to learn more and order your copy today!
OK, I realize that was a bit of a cheeky title, but it’s true! The Monster Men take a deep dive into a wonderful book about the vixens of Hammer. It’s the ultimate coffee table book for horror fans. We also give some reading recommendations to warm up your cold winter nights.
Crack open a beer, turn down the lights and step into the Monster’s Lair!
I had the honor and privilege of reading an advance copy of Russell James’s latest foray into the world of magic and dark terror, Dreamwalker. I absolutely loved it and think it’s his best to date. It’s finally out and ready to be devoured by hungry horror readers. Here, in the Magic Man’s own words, is how the fiction became stark fact…
This time around, my novel creeped me out.
When I wrote Dreamwalker, I wanted to set it in a location that emphasized the duality that the
main character, Pete Holm, lives in. I’d read about Atlantic City and how the promise of casinos hadn’t
created the promised city-wide rejuvenation. Atlantic Avenue divided the city, separating the glitter of the
high-rise hotels from the poverty of the rundown residential areas. The location seemed perfect.
I’d never been to Atlantic City, or Philadelphia, another location in the book. But MapQuest is
amazing, and I used grids of the streets to flesh out my fantasy versions. Pete takes a bus, so I Googled
the bus station locations and schedules just to make sure such places existed.
After the second draft of the story was completed, I had a free weekend in Maryland and decided
to visit these places I’d so casually created based on a few thin facts. I headed to Atlantic City, hoping I
could work in some real-life observations to the story.
I drove through the city and went into shock. Locations I’d created in my mind’s eye were here in
real life, almost doorframe for doorframe. The restaurant Pete works in, the rundown homes, the decaying
basketball court. It didn’t feel like I was exploring someplace new, it felt like I was returning to
In the late afternoon, I drove to Philadelphia, taking the same route my character takes when he
tries to find the identity of the girlfriend in his dreams. In the city, I followed my invented route to her
fictional hospice. There was no hospice, but there was a doctor’s office with an entrance that looked just
as I’d imagined the hospice’s did. It gave me chills.
Dreamwalker is about a college student who enters an alternate reality when he dreams. Did I
enter some alternate subconscious reality when I invented the locations for my book? I don’t know. If I
could, it would sure make writing the next novel is much easier.
Dreamwalker is the sixth novel that Russell James has published with Samhain Horror under legendary horror editor Don D’Auria!
Two realities. One hope.
What if you lived in two worlds, and could die in either? Pete Holm can. He is a dreamwalker, able to travel to the realm of dreams, including the devastated world of Twin Moon City, where an evil voodoo spirit holds living souls in terror with his army of the walking dead.
In the waking world, drug lord Jean St. Croix knows only the power of the dreamwalker can stop him, so St. Croix vows Pete must die.
Pete is the only hope to rescue the lost souls in Twin Moon City…unless St. Croix kills him first. Can anyone survive when two realities collide?
Barnes and Noble:
- Open reviewer giveaway: Anyone who reviews Dreamwalker on Amazon and one other site like GoodReads, etc. and sends Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, their links to email@example.com will be entered to win a $20 Amazon gift card. This contest ends on Feb. 28, 2015.
- Rafflecoper giveaway for two copies of Russell’s previous books. Two winners will each win one of two books, Black Magic and Dark Inspiration. US only, no international shipping. Must use a valid email that you can be reached by. By entering the giveaway, you consent to allow Russell to have your email for very infrequent newsletter updates. Contest ends Feb. 28, 2015. Other contest questions can be referred to Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, Hook of a Book Media at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Praise for Russell R. James
“James has a talent for combining action-packed vignettes into a powerful, fast-paced whole.”
—Library Journal on Black Magic
(Five Stars, A Night Owl Top Pick) “I loved the story so much that I’m eagerly waiting to read more from him. He carefully and very intricately wove his storyline to have elements of mystery and suspense throughout. I now have a new favorite book I’ll read over and over again.”
—Night Owl Reviews on Dark Inspiration
“The book had me at the edge of my seat. The writing is so vivid I even jumped a few times. If you’re a fan of the genre, love ghosts and are drawn to the supernatural, then do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this book!”
—Long and Short Reviews on Dark Inspiration
Russell R. James, Biography
Russell James grew up on Long Island, New York and spent too much time watching Chiller, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and The Twilight Zone, despite his parents’ warnings. Bookshelves full of Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe didn’t make things better. He graduated from Cornell University and the University of Central Florida.
After a tour flying helicopters with the U.S. Army, he now spins twisted tales best read in daylight. He has written the paranormal thrillers Dark Inspiration, Sacrifice, Black Magic, Dark Vengeance, and Dreamwalker. He has two horror short story collections, Tales from Beyond and Deeper into Darkness. His next novel, Q Island, releases in 2015.
His wife reads what he writes, rolls her eyes, and says “There is something seriously wrong with you.”
Visit his website at www.russellrjames.com and read some free short stories.
He and his wife share their home in sunny Florida with two cats.
To find out more about Russell R. James, please visit his Website or follow him on Facebook! Join him on Twitter, @RRJames14. Also, feel free to drop him at a line at email@example.com.
January can be one long, boring month, even for a guy like me who loves the winter. Hopefully I’ll get to enjoy watching my Seahawks right through to the first Sunday of February. Other than that, it’s huddling in the house while the wind rattles our windows most nights.
The up side is that means I get to catch up on my reading. To inject a little oomph into January, I’ve laid out my reading list with enough monster and thrills to keep me warm and feeling like a little kid reading deep into the night by flashlight.
So, here’s my reading list. I hope yours includes my latest, ISLAND OF THE FORBIDDEN. When you’ve gotten your chills with the ghosts from that one, feel free to pluck one of these from my TBR pile…
IT WAITS BELOW By Eric Red (Alien sea monster! Hell yeah!)
It waits no more!
In the 1800s, an asteroid carrying an extraterrestrial life form crashed to earth and sunk a Spanish treasure ship. Now, a trio of salvage experts dives a three-man sub to the deepest part of the ocean to recover the sunken gold. There, they confront a nightmarish alien organism beyond comprehension, which has waited for over a century to get to the surface. It finally has its chance.
As their support ship on the surface is ambushed by deadly modern-day pirates, the crew of the stranded sub battles for their very lives against a monster no one on Earth has seen before.
BIGFOOT TRACKS – A CREEPSQUAD COLLECTION By Steve Vernon (Gettin’ squatchy!)
Everything that you have HEARD about Bigfoot is the truth!
Enjoy three stories from the files of The Creep Squad – that pack of cryptids, legends, and nondescript rumors who fight crime and misjustice anywhere that you aren’t looking.
What if ALL the stories were true?
What if Bigfoot really did exist? What if he depended upon people’s belief in him for his very existence?
TOXIC BEHEMOTH By David Bernstein (Freakin’ kaiju by one of my favorite writers!)
Weeks after its inception, the monster rises from the deep and attacks a cruise ship, alerting humanity to its presence.
The United States armed forces are called in to stop it, but with its human like intellect, mammoth size and organic, alien-like weaponry, the toxic behemoth will prove the most formidable enemy humanity has ever seen.
ABRAM’S BRIDGE By Glenn Rolfe (New Samhain blood with some serious writing chops!)
There is a darkness in this town, and it’s buried beneath Abram’s Bridge.
When Lil Ron meets Sweet Kate under Abram’s Bridge he is mesmerized. And when he realizes this beautiful girl is a ghost, it frightens him, but also draws him to her. Curiosity and a drive to make things right lead Lil Ron into a tangle of small-town secrets involving his own father and other members of this otherwise quiet community. Bit by bit, he will uncover the truth about Sweet Kate, a story of heartbreak, violence…and fear.
DEVOURED, THE HUNGER BOOK 1 By Jason Brant (Honorary Monster Man. I have been dying to dive into his series)
After he lunges in front of a car to save a sick and disoriented woman, Lance awakens in a quarantined hospital. A devastating plague is spreading worldwide, driving those infected with it insane. Their bodies begin to mutate into horrors that have haunted mankind’s nightmares for centuries.
The world descends into chaos as the infected flee to the shadows, emerging at night to devour the remnants of civilization.
With the help of an unlikely ally, Lance must navigate through the collapsing city of Pittsburgh, striving to escape the madness of the apocalypse that unfolds around them.
What’s on your reading list? Convince me to add your fave to my February list, when the days seem even longer!
I first met Ira this past March at Horrorhound in Cincinnati. Everyone at the Samhain booth was very happy to meet him. What a super nice guy. You’d think horror writers were all trolls and serial killers. We’re actually normal. Now, don’t get me started on romance writers.
But I digress. Ira now has his own book out, The Things in the Darkness. Let’s kick things off with his fab 5 horror flix, a taste of the book and where to find it. Take it away Ira…
October is such a great time of year, which is why I chose to launch my book then. Though it came and went like a flash, I’m still enjoying fall. The leaves change color and drift to the ground. The sweltering heat of the summer is past yet the icy cold of the winter is yet to come. Best of all, it seems as if Halloween being at the end of the month makes it the unofficial national horror month and sometimes, for some of us, that carries over into November! Displays full of horror films can be found in every local store, in theaters, and creating a buzz or fond memories. I know many friends who are so busy, they put off the rest of their movie marathons till the start of November. So it seems appropriate, with October closing, and the month of Thanksgiving upon us, to look back at my five favorite horror movies. After all, I am thankful for them too! I happen to love horror films.
- Re-Animator – What is there not to love about this film? You have a story based on the work of one of the most influential horror writers to ever live, H.P. Lovecraft. You have the screenwriting and directing talent of Stuart Gordon at the helm. Amazing and versatile actor Jeffrey Combs gives the best performance of his career as the mad scientist, Herbert West. Rounding out the astounding cast is Barbara Crampton, Bruce Abbott, and David Gale each playing their roles to perfection. Last, but not certainly not least, is the musical talent of Richard Band, who has 87 composing credits to his name for a good reason. Oh, and we can’t forget the fact that this movie gives a whole new meaning to the term “getting head.”
- Night of the Living Dead – George Romero redefined an entire sub-genre and gave us a new creature to fear in the form of the living dead. Although Romero never once uses the word “zombie” throughout the entire film, he is now considered by most to be the Godfather of the modern zombie movie. Whether or not Romero intended on creating a new take on zombies, he did push every limit of what was acceptable on film in 1968. Watching the feasting zombie mob scene still kills my appetite to this day.
- A Nightmare on Elm Street – It’s hard to believe now that the man who once auditioned for the role of both Luke Skywalker and Han Solo and was turned down for both would become one of the most iconic supernatural killers in cinema history. While the series may have gotten progressively cheesier as it went on and Robert Englund’s one-liners a little more absurd, the first stands as a masterpiece. It also holds a special place in my dark and twisted heart as one of the first horror movies that ever traumatized me. I still remember screaming and crying on my way back to my room at five-years-old after sneaking into the living room and watching Freddy Krueger drag a screaming and bleeding Tina across the ceiling.
- Candyman – Taking its cue from the legend of Bloody Mary, this is a movie that still sends shivers down my spine today. This movie was the perfect example of all of the elements of filmmaking coming together into one cohesive unit of greatness. I can’t think of a single actor that could have nailed the role of the Candyman like Tony Todd. Although Todd is a great actor, no role that he has played since will ever stand out more. Virginia Madsen stars in this film and watching her descent into belief of the urban legend she set out to study it genuinely scary in ways that no modern horror film manages. Next, whether it be the written word or screen horror, nobody has the skill and talent for terror like Clive Barker. This man brings images to life that portray some of the darkness things to ever see the light of day. Finally, and being a fan of many different composers, I don’t say this lightly, but Candyman may have one of the most simple, yet eerie scores that I have ever heard in a film. Philip Glass takes a great film and turns it into perfection with the score. Will you look in the mirror and say his name five times?
- Hellraiser – With my admiration for Clive Barker, it is no surprise that there are two films credited to this master of terror on my list. What amazes me most about Hellraiser is that it is one of the few films that really deviate from its source material, yet remains an amazing adaptation. Most people don’t realize that the stars of Hellraiser, the cenobites, had very little mention in the novella by Clive Barker, The Hellbound Heart. In fact, Pinhead, performed with terrifying skill by Doug Bradley, was not even a named character in the original story. He was simply referred to as “lead cenobite.” This tale of human obsession and lust, about the thin boundaries between pleasure and pain is captivating from so many different perspectives. It is equal parts fear and gore without the slightest hint of failing. For me, no Halloween season is complete without at least one viewing of Hellraiser. Just how does Barker bring all of these elements together to make such an amazing viewing experience? Maybe that is a puzzle best left unsolved.
So what do you think? What are your favorite horror movies? What tales of terror completed your Halloween season? Which ones are you still trying to fit in watching? Let’s pull up a seat closely in the darkness and talk a little. After all, it’s not like there is anything in that darkness that can hurt us, right?
The Things in the Darkness, debut novel by Ira Gansler, October 2014
An accident puts Kevin Tremmel into a coma. Upon waking, he is not the same. Is it psychological trauma or something darker at work?
Until recently, Kevin Tremmel was at peace with his life. He had a wonderful family, a meaningful career, and his life is finally settling down. Everything seems to be going great – until the night he dies in a car accident.
When the doctors revive him, it’s evident that he’s not the same. Strange urges and images haunt his waking hours, and he finds himself fighting frightening new impulses. Has the trauma of the accident caused a mental illness — or has he brought some malevolent being back with him?
In order to save his sanity, his sense of self, and his family, Kevin must discover what force is at work on him and how to overcome it. It’s that, or give up all he loves and become a servant to the things in the darkness.
“Terrifying and engaging, impossible to put down.” Henrique Couto, Writer/Director of Babysitter Massacre and Director of Haunted House on Sorority Row and Scarewaves.
“Creepy, contemporary riffs on Lovecraftian themes!” John Oak Dalton, Screenwriter – Among Us, Haunted House on Sorority Row, and Scarewaves.
Author Ira Gansler, Biography:
Ira M. Gansler is the father of three girls whom he adores and hopes to one day mold into fellow horror fans! He has been married to his fantastic, supportive wife for almost twelve years. Ira focuses on honing his writing craft through fiction, blogging, and screenwriting. He was one of the writers for the film Scarewaves, having written the screenplay for the “Office Case” segment.
Ira has been an avid horror fan since the time at age five when he ran screaming back to his bed after having witnessed the scene in A Nightmare on Elm Street where Freddy was dragging a bloody and dying Tina across the ceiling. Since then, he has embraced all types of horror. The Shining, anything by H.P. Lovecraft, and the original Night of the Living Dead will always hold a special place in his twisted heart. He prays that when the zombie apocalypse does come that it consists of slow zombies and that the Elder Gods show mercy on us all.
You can follow Ira M. Gansler on his blog, The Rage Circus Vs. The Soulless Void at http://ragecircus.blogspot.com, on twitter @RageCircusBlog, or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ragecircusblogger. Ira also writes reviews and conducts interviews for the From Dusk Till Con Network at www.fromdusktillcon.com.
Enter to win one of two great prizes during the #DarknessEmerges Tour. Ira is giving away a GRAND PRIZE of a signed print copy of his book, The Things in the Darkness, plus a signed copy of his “Office Case” segment from the movie, Scarewaves. As a second prize, he’s giving away another signed print copy! Enter to win through the Rafflecopter below. Enter now until Dec. 1, 2014. This is a tour wide giveaway, and open to U.S. Residents only due to shipping. If you want to enter from outside the U.S., and you can, but if you win, you’ll receive an e-book.
Giveaway for Reviewers!
Anyone on the tour, or outside the tour, who reviews The Things in the Darkness on Amazon and GoodReads and sends their review link into Erin (Publicist for Ira Gansler) at firstname.lastname@example.org, now through Dec. 31, 2014, will be entered to win a $20 Amazon gift card.