A Frightful Halloween Giveaway

halloweenhaunts2Today I’m over at HWA’s Halloween Haunts talking about one of the coolest and scariest places to go trick-or-treating as a child: Burke’s Circle. The neighborhood looked like it was plucked from a Halloween movie and planted just for us kids to enjoy. Almost every house was decked for Halloween and giving out candy, and each home you visited made you double check the doorways and watch the shadows.

Be sure to comment at the site to be entered to win a free physical copy of Not Your Average Monster Volume 2, which I’m proud to report still has a 5-star rating on Amazon. It features my own creature horror story, “Tiny Necks”, which I talk a little bit about over here: Outside Your Comfort Zone.

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Old, Scary Folktales

Storytelling was a big thing when I was a kid. The internet was just getting started back in the early 1990s and generally it was used for research more than entertainment like it is today. I remember gathering a handful of friends in a rarely empty band room and exchanging scary stories together. It became a game of successfully creeping your friends out, and so each story upped the stakes.

My elementary school even brought in a professional storyteller to share scary stories with us once. How cool is that? I don’t even know if professional storytellers even exist anymore! She sat in our stoic school library in a rocking chair, an old woman in her element as we sat down on the floor around her.

She told us old folktales, stories that are pretty hard to find these days. Living in the South in the U.S., you get to hear all kinds of interesting, terrifying stories. This is one that used to creep me out, and usually got a shudder out of my friends. I’ve taken massive creative liberties with it of course, since the original is fairly sparse. It’s sometimes referred to as The Keyhole, and there are countless retellings of it. I’m happy to add mine to the pile.

If you want to read more scary stories, Creepy Campfire Quarterly Volume 1 came out today!

Enjoy!

The light drizzle turned into a downpour as I navigated my way through the poorly marked Georgia back roads. I cursed my grimy windshield as I barely turned in time to avoid plunging into a deep, muddy ditch. I knew I had to find a place to stop. I still had an hour before I reached my aunt’s house, and it was well past midnight. The rain was slowing me down and my exhaustion was catching up with me.

I grinned as the dimly lit motel sign came into view. It stood like a barely readable beacon amid the sheets of rain that fell from the dark skies. There was only one other car parked as I pulled in, and the parking lot was a muddy mess, but I hoped that the rooms were at least clean. I made a dash for the front door and braced myself as my shoes skid on the linoleum floor.

A curious receptionist poked his head around the corner, “Coming down pretty hard out there, isn’t it?”

I gave a nervous grin and shook out my hair. “Sure is. You have a room available?”

The man nodded and took my info down. He didn’t use a computer, just a large pad of paper that might have been used for drafting. He pulled an old fashioned key off the back wall marked 112 and handed it to me. I noticed he had skipped the one marked 111 and thought of the car parked outside.

“I guess I’m not the only person trying to get out of the rain tonight, am I?”

He gave a small smile but didn’t answer. “Your room is on the next floor up, the first room to your left.”

I nodded, figuring he was probably a bit tired himself considering the time, and went up to the next floor. I knew the building was older since they used heavy keys instead of the cards used by more upscale places. The steps were shorter too, which isn’t unusual in older buildings. I did have to take my heels off though as I padded up the stairs.

The carpet was ugly, but not terrible. It just looked dated, much like the cold key I held in my hand. As I made my way to my room, I passed room 111, where the other person was staying. I could see light from the old-fashioned keyhole, so I knew the person much be awake. I recalled the receptionist’s odd behavior and wondered what would keep someone up at this hour with the weather so terrible outside.

Regardless I entered my room and peeled off my wet clothes. The place was old but clean, and I stretched out on the bed, thinking to relax for just a moment. Instead I fell asleep.

When I awoke, the rain was coming down even harder outside. I could hear it beating against the window, but I could also hear a siren just above it. I was worried that someone had gotten injured, and in a sleepy haze, I crept to the window and peeked out the curtain. The parking lot was a flooded mess, but I saw no ambulance or any cause for the siren I heard wailing over the rain.

That’s when my sleepy brain realized that it wasn’t a siren, but a wail I heard. Someone was crying their heart out.

I pulled on my clothes from the day before, still cold and damp, and I went out into the hallway, intent on notifying the receptionist downstairs. That’s when I realized the wailing was coming from the room across the hall, room 111.

I gave a quick knock at the door, “Excuse me, but is everything alright?” The wailing turned into sniffling inside. I knocked again, “I could hear you from my room and wanted to make sure you were okay.”

Noticing that there was still a light emerging from the keyhole, I crouched down and peeked through. The room was very similar to mine, but faced the back of the motel. The curtains were thrown back and a woman sat on the end of the bed, her long black hair just sweeping along the bedspread. She dabbed at her eyes with a tissue. I knocked again, peeking down to the keyhole, but the woman didn’t move.

keyhole

With a sigh, I went back to my room. This time I got ready for bed properly, then climbed under the covers. The room felt colder, and I worried for the sad woman in the next room. A thunderclap arched its way across the sky and the room flared with lightning. Somehow I found sleep again.

Morning came with the sun. The parking lot outside was still flooded, but it was dry enough to drive on. I stepped out into the hallway, and spotted the closed door to room 111. Concerned, I crouched down and peeked through the keyhole. I was hoping the poor woman hadn’t stayed awake all night. Instead of the room however, all I saw was bright red. She must have covered it up with a piece of clothing to keep anyone from spying on her. Still I couldn’t prevent a shudder from going through me, and forgetting to remove my heels, I almost tripped down the stairs.

The receptionist this morning was a smiling blonde woman. “Everything alright?” She asked with her thick accent.

“Yes, but I was wondering about the woman in room 111. I heard her crying last night and…”

The woman’s smile faded. “Are you sure it was that room?”

“Yes, I even saw her through the peephole last night. She seemed very upset.”

She pursed her lips and looked away from me as the words stumbled out. “That’s not possible. We never lend that room out. A woman killed herself in there, we call her the black-haired lady. Three housekeepers have tried to clean it, and all of them have run out screaming about her angry, red eyes.”

Creepy Campfire Quarterly Released!

CCQ_CoverWelcome to the Campfire. Did you ever go camping as a kid and sit around the fire at night listening to scary stories? Creepy Campfire Quarterly features horror fiction from the most talented writers across the globe. Dark, disturbing, dramatic, or just down right creepy, these stories will entertain you. And perhaps the next time you are around a campfire, you’ll find yourself recounting a few of these haunting tales…

Now available for your reading pleasure at:

Amazon

A Spark of Light in the Rain

I feel like I’ve leveled up, despite the fact that I’m sitting here on the shoulder of I-75 waiting for a police officer to show up. It’s pouring down rain, lightening occasionally streaks across the sky, a long line of brake lights builds to my left, and the people who hit me on this imposing night sit in a darkened vehicle behind me. It’s not exactly the most enjoyable place to be blogging, but honestly I have nothing better to do.

Despite this turn of bad luck, I do believe things are getting better. When I sold my short story, “A Slippery Customer”, to Creepy Campfire Quarterly, I qualified to become an Affiliate member. Hence the new fancy icon on the sidebar over there. I now have access to their resources and their expertise to help me climb the slow and steady writing mountain.

To be honest, I’m still pretty floored about it. A membership like that felt like an impossibility a few years ago, back when small horror presses like Pill Hill Press and Wicked East Press were disappearing. Horror felt like an impossibly tough nut to crack, but now it appears the tides are turning – which is good news to the horror fans out there!

I took a moment earlier today to thank Jennifer Word, the editor of the upcoming anthology, to letting her know that as a writer I really appreciate her work. I think it’s because of small presses like hers that the horror genre is slowly coming back to life.

 

* Note: Most of this was written on the side of the road, but since the police showed up, I had to cut it off mid-draft and finish it the following day.

Is Gore Allowed?

If someone asks if gore is allowed, you say YES. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!)

You know, it’s been a while since I’ve had a horror story get published. Scary horror stories are especially tough to find love for, am I right?

Well don’t worry, come January you’ll have some gruesome, disturbing, creepy stories to keep you up at night.

I’m proud to announce that my gruesome short horror story, “A Slippery Customer”, got picked up by EMP Publishing. As you can guess from the title, it leans toward the weird. It’ll be included in their first publication of Creepy Campfire Quarterly, an anthology series set to be published 4x/year. Curious about what it’ll be about? Here are a few of my favorites from their call for submissions:

NO straight-up comedy. Levity is great, but we don’t want any full-tilt horror comedy, we want serious stories, designed to frighten, disturb, shock, or otherwise entertain readers.

NO YA. Remember, this Quarterly is subtitled (for Grownups).

Is Gore allowed? –Seriously? You asked us THAT?! Leave this website now. It’s a HORROR publication!

Seriously, what is not to love about this? I’ll post more details as they come in, but if you want to stay abreast of the coming bloody tides, here’s a link to the Creepy Campfire Quarterly Facebook page. Give it some love to show that there is support for these kinds of horrific anthologies!