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!
You know I can’t have a book release without the Monster Men discussing it over beers and peanuts (both off camera, of course). Get the inside scoop on Island of the Forbidden and how it relates to Sinister Entity and Forest of Shadows. When I wrote this one, I added a bunch of horror movie references. Jack and I discuss a few of the horror clues peppered throughout the book.
You’ll find that the little island I’ve created is no safe place for the likes of Gilligan and the Skipper. If you like a good ghost story with teeth, this is it.
Note on the set my favorite Christmas present – actual drive-in movie speakers! I have a dream of building a working mini drive-in in my yard some day. All will be welcome to watch classic flicks under the stars.
It’s a cold and windy day here in the northeast. With the wind, it’s been below zero for a few days. A perfect day to just sit and write and look at the ice and snow outside my window. I’m working on a new cryptid novel right now. The manuscript and I are in the honeymoon phase where everything is peaches and cream. That should end in a week or so, then it’s on to the real work in this relationship. I love my muse, but we don’t always see eye to eye.
What have you all been doing to stay warm? And for those of you who live in warm weather, when can we come visit?
I am thrilled to let you all know that my latest novella, THE WAITING, is finally here. This is my 5th book for Samhain and my first based on a true and very terrifying story. In a house outside New York City, the ‘solid’ apparition of a young boy is still seen by the couple depicted in the book. It is a haunting that defies logic or explanation. THE WAITING is my attempt at making sense of an exceedingly bizarre series of events that continue to this day.
The early reviews have been great. 4 stars from Night Owl Reviews.
“It has all the makings for a classic ghost story. If you enjoy being spooked by ghastly little children with sinister intentions, this novella is definitely for you. 5 Stars!” — Tim Meyer, Horror Novel Reviews
From Long and Short Reviews : “I stayed up late to finish The Waiting, although I wouldn’t recommend doing the same to anyone hoping to get a good night’s sleep. It’s much better to read this book in the middle of the day while ignoring any unusual shadows or heavy footsteps in the corner of the room.
So, what’s THE WAITING all about?
Clinging to life, haunted by the dead.
Newlywed Cassandra Pagano lies in a state between life and death, her body fed and preserved by the machines at her side. While she struggles, unaware of the world around her, someone waits—a boy. A phantom that appears solid, real, alive. Cassandra’s husband, Brian, sees him in the house, by her bedside, running down darkened hallways. The boy walks without sound, whispers words that can’t be deciphered.
Terror and tension are driving Brian to the breaking point. Why is the boy there, and what does he want with Cassandra…and her fading soul?
You can get your ebook of THE WAITING now for under $3.00 everywhere ebooks are sold. I guarantee you will never look at life and death the same way again.
Okay, another round of shoveling, another couple of Motrin. You will not defeat me, Father Winter!
I am comforted thinking about the release of my new novella, The Waiting, in just two months. In just 8 weeks, the snow will be history and I’ll be back in shorts and sleeveless shirts (ala Larry the Cable Guy, my fashion guru). With The Waiting, I’m diving right back into the world of ghosts, but with a twist. This time around the story is real. And it’s not one I got from secondhand accounts. This is the kind of stuff that turns people into insomniacs or ‘day sleepers’.
Let me take things on step further. Here’s a sneak preview from chapter 13. You can pre-order a copy (it’ll be out as an e-book only) at Samhain, Amazon and B&N. Now turn off your EMF meter, bathe yourself in a protective circle of light and read on….
Alice worried constantly about her daughter, but it wasn’t until recently that she considered there might come a day when she would lose her. When she had first arrived at the house, she could feel the hope that crackled in the air. Like all energy, it had come and gone, morphing into something new, in someplace new.
Now the house felt cold and expectant. Her negative thoughts weren’t helping the situation. All of Cassie’s pain and their worry were building a cocoon of despair. Somehow, they had to find a way to break free of it.
Well, today she would try her best to dispel the negativity. Cassie was going to come out of it. Things always get worse before they get better. She knew Brian never left the house without making sure all of Cassie’s machines were pumping and draining away. That meant there was time for a shower before heading downstairs. Better to start clean and new.
When she was done, she wrapped a towel around her hair, put on a nice shirt and jeans and walked down the noisy stairs.
“Good boy,” she said when she saw the half-full coffee pot on the warmer. He made it a little weak for her taste, but beggars can’t be choosers.
Alice had bought a handful of gossip magazines at the bookstore. She wanted to make today a silly girl day, even if Cassandra couldn’t laugh or groan along with her. Then maybe she’d take a cue from Brian and pop in a movie and watch it with her.
As she walked out of the kitchen, she said, “Cassie, honey, you’re never going to believe who Brad Pitt is fooling around with.”
The mug slipped from her hand, bathing the floor and her feet with piping hot coffee. If there was pain, her mind was too stunned to register it.
A small boy sat at the end of Cassandra’s bed. One knee was bent and most of that leg was on the comforter. The other was locked straight, his foot flat on the floor. He looked at Cassie with beautiful, shining eyes and a round face with skin as flawless and smooth as fresh cream.
He didn’t look away, despite the crashing of the coffee mug and her sharp gasp of surprise.
The sun filtered through the window. It bathed him in a diffusion of soft, yellow light.
Alice’s heart raced and her hands began to tremble. She found it hard to keep her grip on the tabloids.
The boy moved with surprising grace, shifting off the bed and seeming to glide to the head of Cassandra’s bed. He bent forward, and Alice lost sight of him for a moment. When he straightened, he smiled, then reached out to the control panel of the infusion pump.
Part of her wanted to yell at him not to touch it. If she thought a real, living boy was in the room with her daughter, she would have.
But she knew what she was seeing was not an actual boy.
The certainty of what she beheld kept her mouth from opening and her legs from propelling her into the room.
She watched him turn his back and walk around the bed until he left the view within the doorframe. She was struck by how quiet the house was. The boy’s footsteps didn’t elicit a single tick from the cranky wood floor.
When he was gone, the infusion pump started to howl. It broke her trance and she walked over shards of ceramic, leaving coffee and crimson-colored footprints in her wake. She was not surprised to see that the boy had disappeared.
She was concerned about the warning chime on the pump. When she looked down, the floor by the bed was covered in a foul-smelling miasma of blood and clots of infected tissue. The drain tube in Cassandra’s stomach had slipped out. Her digestive acids must have flared up, spewing rot and gore from the open wound the surgeon had left until it spilled onto the floor.
The smell was overpowering. She clamped a hand over her mouth to keep from vomiting.
What do I do?
Don’t you love paranormal protagonists, like Koontz’s Odd Thomas? I do. Any fictional character with paranormal powers—abilities that most readers consider supernatural—moves your story into one of the speculative genres. This could be sci-fi, fantasy, horror, paranormal, or magic realism. Actually, you can blend the paranormal with any genre, as I do in DEATH PERCEPTION, which is a supernatural crime cake iced with horror and sprinkled with dark humor.
In fantasy, a character’s abilities may be a given, established in your story’s genre ruleset from the very start. For instance, Tolkien’s Gandalf is a wizard, and there’s no explanation for him. In The Wizard of Oz, monkeys fly, and that’s that.
Other stories with a mooring in everyday reality require that a character’s supernatural abilities be explained. There must be a reason why the character can do the things she does, and this explanation encourages readers to suspend their disbelief. We often see this technique in books and shows that put the character through some accident or experience (in backstory or the present) that changes him and grants him supernormal powers.
It happens to Johnny Smith in Stephen King’s The Dead Zone, when he’s injured in an accident and revives from a coma after five years. It happens to superheroes (or antiheroes): Dr. Bruce Banner becomes the Hulk after he’s accidentally exposed to the blast of a gamma bomb he invented. The same for Peter Parker/Spiderman. Or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (it works for villains too).
In DEATH PERCEPTION, Kennet has suffered childhood abuse, making him hypersensitive to changes in mood energy. He’s also encountered an old Pentecostal prophetess, who lays her hands on him, prophesies his future, and imparts a gift to him.
Most characters who develop paranormal abilities go through a period of denial when they refuse to believe or accept their new faculties. That is, until they encounter a situation where their powers must be used, giving them no choice but to accept them, usually because a loved one is endangered.
Kennet discovers his psychic abilities in his late teens when he toasts marshmallows over the ashes of someone he’s just cremated. Later, after a near-death experience, his mediumistic abilities flower, enabling him to see and hear the dead—and solve murders. Kennet comes by his abilities both naturally through his past and supernaturally through the ministry of the prophetess. Through an accidental consciousness-expanding event, his prescient inklings develop dramatically into something useful in avenging victimized ghosts, a call he must accept based on what’s most important to him.
Whether a story is based in the realm of fantasy or the real world, the writer must establish the rules and then stick with them throughout the story. This entails giving the character not only extraordinary strengths (with limits), but human weaknesses too. If your characters have psychic abilities, keep them real and relatable, and readers will follow your story to the end.
DEATH PERCEPTION is available in trade paperback, Kindle (.mobi) and Nook (.epub) at http://leeallenhoward.com/death-perception/.
Lee Allen Howard writes horror, dark fantasy, and supernatural crime. He’s been a professional writer and editor of both fiction and nonfiction since 1985. His publications include The Sixth Seed, Desperate Spirits, Night Monsters, “Mama Said,” “Stray,” and DEATH PERCEPTION, available in various formats at http://leeallenhoward.com.
You can keep in touch with Lee on his Facebook author page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lee-Allen-Howard-author/117844011639457. Follow him on Twitter @LeeAllenHoward.