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"THE POWER OF MOONLIGHT" - EXCERPT

May 17, 2015

It's been a busy spring! Thought I'd check in here and leave an excerpt from one of the short horror tales included in my eBook, "The White Death and Otherly Ghastly Ghost Stories."  It's called "The Power of Moonlight" - a teenaged girl wants to bring back her dead lover by using a special kind of magic. (To read more, check out my author page on Amazon.)

THE POWER OF MOONLIGHT

Bobby Lee Blackburn got killed exactly three weeks before he was to marry his childhood sweetheart at the New Hope Baptist Church. He died just the way he feared he would--deep underground, alone in the dark, his body entombed forever.

Priscilla Stevens had decided to worship Bobby Lee when they were seven years old. On the day she fell in love, he’d been chasing her around Old Man Griffey’s fish pond and she’d tripped and fallen in. Bobby Lee had grabbed hold of her long, strawberry-blonde ponytail and had yanked her out of the water before she could drown.

That boy would always be her hero, even after he broke her heart.

The first time he left her was when they were twelve. His daddy found a better job over in Virginia, and he and his parents moved away from Harlan County. Pris had cried herself to sleep every night for two weeks, keeping her Granny Maeve awake.

About a month after Bobby Lee had gone away, the old lady woke Pris late one night and told her they’d be taking a walk up the winding mountain trail behind their farmhouse. The two of them sneaked down the back staircase and left without waking Pris' mother.

The full October moon revealed the goldenrod in bloom, and the air smelled crisp and clean and dry. Granny Maeve’s knees cracked and popped a little during the climb, but otherwise no sound could be heard except for a light wind rustling through the trees. Nestled in the narrow valley below, the coal town of Russell Fork had fallen silent, with only a few lights left twinkling to give away its presence.

They kept going until they reached a rocky plateau, barren except for a lone sycamore tree. Granny Maeve found a large flat stone to sit on and motioned for Priscilla to join her.

“This spot will do. We can see the Blood Moon and it can see us.”

Pris wondered why it was called a Blood Moon when it wasn’t even red, but she stayed quiet and watched as her grandma fished around in the pockets of her gray wool sweater. The old woman pulled out a small vial of what she called her “sacred” oil, and then a photograph. The picture had been taken at Pris’ birthday party in January. Her mother, Dorie, had snapped a photo of Pris and Bobby Lee sitting next to each other at the kitchen table. Pris was leaning forward, getting ready to blow out the candles on her chocolate cake.

“An only child and an only child,” Granny Maeve muttered. She smeared a dab of oil onto the picture and handed it to Priscilla. “You want your friend to come home again, don’t you?”

Pris stared at her grandmother, and nodded.

“Well, you can use the power of moonlight just like your granny can. Most folks around here don’t believe in such things, and them that do don’t think it’s right to use the gift, so you best keep quiet about what we’re up to--don’t you even tell your mama.”

“I promise I won’t, Granny.”

“All right, then. For this spell to work, the moonlight’s power has to be mixed with the truth, girl, and the truth is in your tears. You have to cry for Bobby Lee if you want him back--show your love and your need for him--and let your tears fall like rain on that picture so he knows how you feel.”

Pris held the photograph up close to her face. Moonlight reflected off the shiny oiled surface. Bobby Lee’s perfect dark eyes smiled up at her. She missed him so much her body ached with the pain.

The tears came easy.

Granny Maeve patted her gently on the back as she sobbed. “That’s good, my darlin’. Now talk to him, out loud, and tell him what you want.”

Pris took a deep, shaky breath, tasting the saltiness of her own tears. She gazed up at the moon’s brilliant face.

“Bobby Lee, come back to me. Come back to me, please.”

She repeated the phrases several times until her grandma told her she could stop. Wispy gray clouds had drifted across the moon.

“There now, child. It’s done.”

Granny Maeve spoke the truth. Bobby Lee and his parents moved back to Russell Fork right before Christmas, giving Priscilla the best present she had ever received.

                                                                                        ***

During their sophomore year in high school, Bobby Lee fell for Kara Chambers. Pris wasn’t surprised--Kara was half-Korean and seemed exotic compared to all the other girls they knew. Her family had made a lot of money during the coal boom of ’74. Now they owned the flower shop in town and they also ran a catering business out of their grocery store.

Everybody talked about how perfect Kara and Bobby Lee were for each other and what a striking couple they made with their dark good looks. It wounded Pris to see them together, but she felt certain that one day Bobby Lee would realize Kara wasn’t right for him and that his best friend was also his true soul mate.

Even though Granny Maeve could have shown her how to speed up such an epiphany, Pris didn’t want to win Bobby Lee’s heart by using magic. No, his love for her had to be real or it would never last.

It was better to remain hopeful and suffer the wait.

In the meantime, Pris learned all she could from her grandmother about the power of moonlight. She dated a few boys who bored her and a few who didn’t. She talked to Bobby Lee whenever he made time for her. She never complained about the times he wouldn’t.

And when Kara dumped Bobby Lee right before graduation, Pris was there to pick up all the fragile little pieces of his heart. In June--on the summer solstice--she took him for a drive up to the top of Black Mountain, the highest peak in Kentucky. Pris made love to Bobby Lee on a rough blanket under the Rose Moon. He was her first.

She opened his eyes. He opened his heart.

Pris felt the power of their love and knew it was real.

“Bobby Lee, will you marry me?”
 

  

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"THE WHITE DEATH & OTHER GHASTLY GHOST STORIES"

March 15, 2015

Thought I'd remind everyone that the Kindle edition of my short story collection, "The White Death and Other Ghastly Ghost Stories" is still available on Amazon. The collection includes ten dark tales - eight reprints and two new tales (see link for story descriptions). The eBook can also be found on iBooks, Kobo, Lulu.com, and online at Barnes & Noble as well.

Here's the Table of Contents/Story Titles:

 

1.   The White Death

2.   Little White Casket

3.   Ghost Writer

4.   Angeline

5.   Flower Girl

6.   What Happened in the Cellar

7.   Frankie Revetta's Favorite Chair

8.   Red Barchetta

9.   Playground for the Dead

10. The Power of Moonlight

 

The cool book cover is by English artist, Danielle Tunstall. Check out her page here.

I hope all of you have a sunny, spring-like St. Patrick's Day.

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FLASH FICTION FRIDAY - "HOTEL CALIFORNIA"

February 13, 2015

Happy Friday the 13th! Thought it was time for another flash fiction story from yours truly. This one mixes horror with humor: A salesman takes an unwise detour on his way to a Vegas convention. Hope your Friday the 13th isn't unlucky, and your Valentine's Day is memorable.

 

HOTEL CALIFORNIA

 

 

Lonnie Maitland was less than an hour away from Vegas and he felt dangerously tired. He had opted to drive to the mandatory software convention all the way from Sacramento because he absolutely hated to fly – the very thought of it made him queasy.

He yawned and switched on the radio. He got static at first, but then The Eagles blared forth with their classic hit, “Hotel California.” He turned the volume down and hit the scan button.

Another station was playing the same song.

Lonnie hit the scan button again. He could only pick up three stations in that area of the desert and “Hotel California” was on all of them.

“Hmm. Funny.”

He switched off the radio, thinking he should find a place to spend the night. Vegas would be there in the morning, but he wouldn’t be if he fell asleep at the wheel. Besides, the convention didn’t start until noon.

Another five miles raced by and then Lonnie noticed a blinking neon sign on the right side of the highway. It said, “HOTEL CALIFORNIA – Next Exit.” Strange coincidence, but still, it sounded like an interesting place – even though it was in the middle of nowhere.

Lonnie exited I-15 and followed the signs. He maneuvered his Taurus into the hotel’s deserted gravel lot and pulled up next to the entrance. It wasn’t what he’d expected. The rustic building was three stories tall and had a front porch that ran its entire length. The structure looked like it belonged in Dodge City, circa 1888.

He hoped it had a restaurant.

Lonnie entered the old-fashioned lobby and heard a TV on low volume, broadcasting a game show.

The place had a musty, rosewater smell. He walked up to the front desk, where he could just see the top of someone’s head on the other side.

“Excuse me. I need a room, please, just for one night.”

The old man got up slowly and turned around. He was dressed like a saloonkeeper. Without hesitating, he took a key out of a cubbyhole and handed it to Lonnie.

“Room 312. Pay in advance.”

Lonnie settled the bill.

“Is the restaurant still open?”

The old man shook his head and sat down again. “Vending machines are out back.”

Lonnie sighed. “Thanks.”

At least the place had an elevator that worked.

The interior décor was Victorian – including all of the furniture. Lonnie’s four-poster was almost too short for his long frame. He collapsed on it and switched on the little black and white TV across from his bed.

There was only one station and it was broadcasting an episode of The Twilight Zone. Lonnie tried to watch the show, but his stomach wouldn’t stop growling. He decided to grab a soda and some junk food.

Once downstairs, Lonnie nabbed a 7-Up out of the only vending machine that worked and reluctantly returned to the elevator.

Something didn’t feel right, and he hesitated a moment before stepping inside. When he pressed the button for the third floor, the contraption took off with a jolt.

The elevator reached the third floor – and continued climbing. Its speed increased.

“Whoa. What the hell?”

The elevator whined, reaching Floor 50, Floor 80, Floor 100. It finally stopped on the 200th level with an abruptness that sent Lonnie sprawling.

He got to his feet, his 7-Up wasted, just as the elevator doors opened.

Lonnie let out a girlish giggle. This was just a dream. He’d fallen asleep watching The Twilight Zone and now here he was in La-La Land.

He stepped out of the elevator into a circular, dimly lit room that was half the size of a football field. It looked like a garish lounge bar.

A waiter in a white coat appeared in front of him. He bore an extraordinary resemblance to Rod Serling.

No worries, Lonnie thought, I’ll go along for the ride.

“It’s good to see you again, sir,” the waiter said. “Your party is waiting.”

Lonnie noticed there were other people there, and grinned. He recognized all of them.

Elvis sat in a pink Cadillac, next to the lovely Miss Monroe. Abe Lincoln was engrossed in a philosophical discussion with Jim Morrison. Liberace tickled the ivories on a raised platform.

Lonnie followed the waiter over to a large, round table. It was set with crystal and fine china.

“Have a seat, Mr. Maitland.” The waiter rang a silver bell. “Attention, everyone, our guest of honor has arrived.”

“What’s the occasion?” Lonnie asked, as the dead celebrities gathered round.

The waiter smiled. “Your 40th birthday, your latest promotion, your recent divorce – the
occasion is whatever you wish it to be.”

That made sense – it was his dream – although he couldn’t figure out why Liberace had been included.

“I only invited the people you miss and admire most, sir.”

So Rod Serling could read minds? He still wasn’t perfect.

Lonnie smiled apologetically. “But I don’t like Liberace.”

Rod the Waiter snapped his fingers and the flamboyant pianist was instantly replaced with Frank Sinatra, who began belting out the lyrics to “My Way.”

“Later, Frank,” Elvis yelled, grabbing a seat next to Marilyn. “It’s time to eat.”

The party of six was treated to a sumptuous feast – all of Lonnie’s favorite dishes. The waiter was quick to clear the table and refill their champagne glasses.

Lincoln solemnly proposed a toast in Lonnie’s honor.

“I’m not sure this soirée was such a good idea,” Marilyn cooed.

“Take a valium, sweetheart,” Frank scolded, lighting a cigarette.

Jimbo slid underneath the table.

The waiter brought out a towering hot fudge sundae and presented it to Lonnie with a flourish.

Everyone watched as he shoved a hefty spoonful of ice cream into his mouth.

“Aren’t you guys having dessert?” he asked, licking his lips.

The celebrities laughed hysterically, as if they were all in on a private joke.

When the room fell silent, Lonnie was allowed to see their true, grotesque forms. The lounge bar became a Mother Ship.

He was trapped in a nightmare.

“This is no nightmare, sir.”

As a dozen green tentacles snaked around his waist, Lonnie suddenly remembered why he was afraid to fly.

 

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"HORNS" (DVD REVIEW)

January 12, 2015

“Horns” is based on the novel by Joe Hill, and for the life of me I can’t understand how I never got around to reading it. I’ve read all of Joe’s other books and loved them. That’s why I didn’t pay much attention to the mixed reviews this movie received upon its release last fall.

I have no idea how the film compares to the novel (screenplay by Keith Bunin), but I’m happy to say I got a kick out of this flick, which was directed by Alexandre Aja. Part horror-fantasy, part comedy, and part murder mystery, it’s a genre-bending blend of fun.

Twenty-something Ignatius Perrish (Daniel Radcliffe) is in a sorry state. Grief-stricken over the murder of his longtime girlfriend (Juno Temple) and wrongfully accused of the crime, he is now a pariah in the Washington logging town where he grew up. Even his parents (James Remar, Kathleen Quinlan) and his drug addicted older brother (Joe Anderson) think he’s guilty of the brutal rape and killing. The ethereally beautiful Merrin was found slain beneath the idyllic treehouse hideaway she shared with Ig, her head caved in by a rock. Ig and Merrin had had a very heated, very public argument on the night in question. It doesn’t help matters that Ig can’t remember anything that happened afterwards, and the only person willing to help him fight the murder charge is his childhood friend Lee (Max Minghella) – a straight-laced public defender who once saved Ig’s life when they were kids.

But even Lee thinks it’s doubtful his friend will be cleared, and Ig is soon overwhelmed by the constant harassment from the media and the town’s residents. After a night of heavy drinking and all-out debauchery, Ig wakes up with a mother of a hangover and something else he wasn’t expecting: a pair of budding horns. The painful protuberances grow fast and he can’t find a way to get rid of them. Oddly enough, his friend Lee is the only one who can’t see the horns. Everyone else is unperturbed when they notice them growing out of Ig’s forehead, and for some reason they can’t resist the urge to confess their sins and secret desires to him. Ig is horrified at first, but then he realizes he can use the horns’ power to help him find Merrin’s killer.

I enjoyed the twists and turns, the flashback scenes and the over-the-top confessions (disturbing and often hilarious). Don’t expect a positive portrayal of small town life in this raunchy, violent supernatural thriller. I also don’t agree with the comparisons to “Twin Peaks.” That TV show was a whole different sort of surreal – and it had quite a few likeable characters. I can’t say I liked any of the characters in this movie except for Ig and Merrin. (Well, perhaps Merrin’s devastated father, played by David Morse.)

Daniel Radcliffe’s intensely emotional performance is superb, as is Juno Temple’s. (They both achieve convincing American accents as well.) I think if a less talented actor had taken on the role of Ig Perrish, the results could have been disastrously corny. Even when Ig begins to embrace the dark side, seemingly becoming a real devil, it didn’t strike me as cheesy or implausible. Radcliffe has an appealing presence and it was easy to care about his unfortunate character.

I’d recommend this film to fans of dark fantasy and horror (who don't mind a hefty dose of black comedy). It’s devilishly delightful. (Pun intended.)
 

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HAVE YOURSELF A SCARY LITTLE CHRISTMAS

December 14, 2014

Happy Holidays. Like many of you who celebrate Christmas, every year when I hear that Andy Williams song "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year," I always wonder about the lyrics that say, "There'll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago." Christmas isn't usually a time for horror tales, but there are movies and TV shows that beg to differ. I've decided to list five of my favorites.

"And All Through the House" - Tales From the Crypt (British TV Series/1972)

The first time I saw this old episode on late night TV, I couldn't help but be impressed. Joan Collins plays a wife without good cheer who murders her husband with a fireplace poker on Christmas Eve. Naughty. As she's trying to dispose of the body, an escaped homicidal maniac dressed as Santa tries to break into her house. Alas, she can't call the police because she's just committed a dirty deed. Love it! 

"How The Ghosts Stole Christmas" - The X Files (TV Series/Season 6, Episode 6/1998)

The X Files is one of my favorite TV shows of all time. In this holiday offering, agents Mulder and Scully end up investigating a house on Christmas Eve that's supposedly haunted by a pair of doomed lovers who killed themselves eighty-odd years before. Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin are wicked and delightful as the ghost couple, Maurice and Lyda. The two string the FBI agents along, while providing insights into Mulder and Scully's relationship and personalities. This episode is in my top ten favorites.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (Movie/2010) 

This is a Finnish film, based on the premise that Santa Claus has always been evil. (Think of the early European myth of the horned Yule Goat who demanded gifts on Christmas Eve, and who worked with a sidekick called Krampus - a red demon who punished naughty children.) Trouble starts when an archaeologist digs up Santa's old tomb. Now no one in the Finnish village is safe. This flick is a mix of horror, fantasy and comedy - definitely off-kilter.

Gremlins (Movie/1984)

Everyone is probably familiar with this flick. A salesman (Hoyt Axton) buys his son Billy (Zach Galligan) a magwai for Christmas. But the cute, furry little creatures have a very dark side, and if you feed them after midnight or get them wet, you will find out how much trouble they can be. Of course, Billy can't follow the rules, and his town soon suffers the consequences. Phoebe Cates also stars as Billy's girlfriend. (Her story about her dad's gruesome death struck me as funny, though it wasn't meant to be.)

A Christmas Carol (TV Movie/1984)

Yeah, I know. Dickens isn't scary, really, but there are some spooky moments in the beginning, when Ebenezer Scrooge (played by George C. Scott) is visited by his late business partner, Jacob Marley. I love this movie despite the sentimentality, and this is my favorite version out of all of them. But still, I often ask myself why I let Tiny Tim gut me like a fish every December.

And there you have it. Speaking of spooky tales, if you like scary fiction, please check out my latest eBook release, available on Amazon and other online stores, called "The White Death and Other Ghastly Ghost Stories." It definitely isn't for kids!

Hope all of you have a safe and happy holiday season.

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