Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Special: The Strange Pleasures of Obsessive Dread By Catherine Stine

The Strange Pleasures of Obsessive Dread
Victorian and Contemporary Horror
By Catherine Stine

Edgar Allen Poe, Mary Shelley and Christina Rossetti—these were some of the greatest Victorian masters of horror. They wrote during a time of extreme suppression of the passions. Ironically, this repressive mood inspired a huge outpouring of dark, gritty, evocative literature. Passions manage to burst out of people no matter how buried!

In 1818, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, the quintessential misunderstood antihero. He was hideous and committed murderous acts, yet he had a human, breakable heart and sadly, understood how hideous he was. Shelley is credited with being the very first science-fiction author. Quite impressive for the time period when women were trussed in girdles and long, cumbersome skirts, and rarely had jobs much less illustrious careers.

Edgar Allen Poe is another master of mounting dread, with his ticking clocks, ghastly secrets, and moldering corpses in walled up sections of cellars. In his short stories The House of Usher and The Black Cat Poe wrote of an alcoholic’s nightmarish visions that might make even sane men murder cats and move crusty houses to snap to life.

Christina Rossetti’s brilliant poem The Goblin Market is my favorite dark Victorian gem. At first the plump little goblins selling fruits seem spunky and cute, but later, when the young women turn down their offers of treats, they become quite nasty. 

Many determine that the goblins’ aggressive behavior was a Victorian caution to women against considering sex with strange men! Here are some lines. See what you think:

No longer wagging, purring, but visibly demurring,
Grunting and snarling. One call’d her proud,
Cross-grain’d, uncivil; their tones wax’d loud,
Their looks were evil.
Lashing their tails, they trod and hustled her,
Elbow’d and jostled her, claw’d with their nails,
Barking, mewing, hissing, mocking,
Tore her gown and soil’d her stocking,
Twitch’d her hair out by the roots,
Stamp’d upon her tender feet,
Held her hands and squeez’d their fruits
Against her mouth to make her eat.

So, in Victorian times, people shared a dread of lurid, passionate sex, alcoholic-fueled visions, and creeping lunacy. In my young adult horror, Dorianna, I examine a very contemporary anxiety that emerged from social media: the dread of never having enough followers, enough Likes on Facebook, enough people Friending and following your Instagrams and Pinterest boards. It is also the hollow feeling that comes with sensing that the real problem lies way underneath—a psychological horror of alienation, loneliness, being left out of the party. 

With Dorianna, the problem also lies in what happens when she actually gets followers—a ton of them—but those rampaging followers have a very different agenda than she ever imagined. Here’s a snippet from Dorianna where she’s talking about her next party, organized online:

I spoon in a hunk of chocolate and let it slide luxuriously down my throat. Lately, I’m so famished. For food, for clothes, for fans. Nothing ever seems to fill me up.

“Can’t wait to hear.” Bailey licks whipped cream off her spoon. “How many RSVPs do we have now?” she asks. The evite went out a week ago.
“This morning we had three hundred sixty-two yeses.”
“Holy Moly!” Bailey’s jaw drops. I study the oozy chocolate blobs floating on her tongue. “How will we cram all those people in my loft?”
“It’s a good problem, right?”
“Uh, yeah, if we had a stadium. Seriously, Mom will freak, and she’s normally very mellow. Where are they all coming from?”
“Mostly from a friend who goes to a school in Fort Greene.”
“Dorianna, we need to shut this thing down—take it offline.”
“We can’t do that.” Five thousand fan page followers and three hundred sixty-two attendees is not enough. No way. I can’t wait until the third event, where I’m going to bust it wide open.

As Simon Cowell of American Idol judge fame said: The ratings come in, you’re happy for five minutes, then the insecure madness comes.

Catherine Stine

Genre: YA paranormal/horror

Publisher: Evernight Teen

Date of Publication: October 24, 2014

Word Count: 91K

Cover Artist: Sour Cherry Designs

Book Description:

Internet followers, beauty, power. It all sounded good.

Until it transformed into a terrifying reality Dorianna couldn’t stop

Dorianna is a dark twist for the Internet generation on A Picture of Dorian Gray.

When her father is jailed, her mother ships lonely, plain Dorianna to her aunt’s. There, Dorianna yearns to build a new identity, but the popular Lacey bullies her—mostly for getting attention from her ex, Ander.

Ander takes Dorianna to Coney Island where Wilson, a videographer, creates a stunning compilation of her. She dreams of being an online sensation, as she’s never even had a birthday party, and vows she’d give anything to go viral. Wilson claims he’s the Prince of Darkness and warns her the pledge has downsides.

Dorianna thinks he’s joking. She has no idea of how dire the consequences might be.

Short Teaser Excerpt:
Though my pulse is racing, I continue to take my sweet time passing the table. Artfully, I fling off my jacket to reveal my new black pencil skirt. After Lord & Taylor, I stopped into a Brooklyn Heights boutique. With the rest of the monthly check Mom always sends me, I totally splurged on the pencil skirt. It shows off my curves and legs even more explicitly than the tight yellow dress. I have no intention of being called “out of touch” by Lacey or Ava again. At the last minute, I impulsively lean over to Charlie. “You’re Charlie, right? I know your brother, Wilson.”
Charlie looks up, startled, his square jaw slack. “Um, who are you?”

“The new girl,” Lacey says, as if that explains everything. As if I was the only new girl in the whole school. “Apparently, New Girl got a face-lift over the weekend. Cut-rate deal?”

About the Author:

Catherine Stine’s novels span the range from science fiction to paranormal to contemporary. Her futuristic thriller, Fireseed One won finalist spots in YA and Sci-Fi in the 2013 USA News International Book Awards and an Indie Reader Approved notable seal. Its companion novel, Ruby’s Fire was a finalist in the 2014 Next Generation Indie Awards. Her paranormal YA, Dorianna launches with Evernight Teen in October. She also writes new adult fiction as Kitsy Clare. Her new adult Art of Love series includes Model Position and Private Internship. She loves all things spooky, exotic and edgy, including travel to unusual locations. She also loves hearing from readers.

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Spotlight and Giveaway Feast of Fates by Christian A. Brown

Feast of Fates
Four Feasts Till Darkness
Book One
Christian A. Brown

Genre: Fantasy Romance

Date of Publication: September 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1495907586
Number of pages: 540

Word Count: 212K

Cover Artist: Brian Garabrant

Book Description:

"Love is what binds us in brotherhood, blinds us from hate, and makes us soar with desire.”

Morigan lives a quiet life as the handmaiden to a fatherly old sorcerer named Thackery. But when she crosses paths with Caenith, a not wholly mortal man, her world changes forever. Their meeting sparks long buried magical powers deep within Morigan. As she attempts to understand her newfound abilities, unbidden visions begin to plague her--visions that show a devastating madness descending on one of the Immortal Kings who rules the land.

With Morigan growing more powerful each day, the leaders of the realm soon realize that this young woman could hold the key to their destruction. Suddenly, Morigan finds herself beset by enemies, and she must master her mysterious gifts if she is to survive.

Available at Amazon and Createspace

Feast of Fates, Excerpt #2 (533 Words)

Morigan took the bracelet.
            “I accept your offering.” The Wolf’s face lit and she thought that he would leap at her. “Yet first, I have a request.”
            “Anything, my Fawn.”
            “I would like to see…what you are. The second body that shares your soul. Show me your fangs and claws,” she commanded.
            Perhaps it was the steadiness of her voice, how she ordered him to bare himself as if he belonged to her, that made the Wolf’s heart roar to comply. He did not shed his skin but for the whitest moons of the year, and even then, so far from the city and never in front of another. In a sense, he was as much a virgin as she. With an unaccustomed shyness, he found himself undressing before the Fawn, confused for a speck as to who was the hunter. The flare of her nostrils, the intensity of her stare that ate at him for once.
            I have chosen well for a mate. She is as much a Wolf as I, he thought, kicking off his boots and then shimmying his pants down to join the rest of his clothing. No bashful maiden was Morigan, and she did not look away from his nakedness, but appreciated what she saw: every rough, hairy, huge bit of him.
            He howled and fell to all fours. Bones shifted and snapped, rearranging under his skin like skeletal gears. From his head, chest and loins, the soft black hair thickened and spread over his twisting flesh. His heaving became guttural and sloppy, and when he tossed his head up in a throe of agony or pleasure, his beard had coated his face, and she noticed nothing but white daggers of teeth. Wondrously Morigan witnessed the transformation, watched him swell with twice the muscle he had possessed as a man, saw his hands and feet shag over with fur and split the soil with black claws. Another howl and a final gristle-crunching shudder (his hindquarters snapping into place, she thought) signified the end of the change.
            Her dreams did not do Caenith justice. Here was a beast twice the size of a mare with jaws that could swallow her to the waist. Here was a monster that had stalked and ruled the Untamed. A lord of fang and claw. The birds and weaker animals vanished, knowing a deadly might was near. Around her, the Wolf paced; making the ground tremble with power; ravishing her with his cold gray gaze; huffing and blasting her with his forceful breaths. While the scent of his musk was choking, it was undeniably Caenith’s, if rawer and unwashed.
            Morigan was not afraid, and was flushed with heat and shaking as she slipped the bracelet on and knelt. She did not flinch as the Wolf lay behind and about her like a great snuffling rug and placed his boulder of a head in her lap. No, she stroked his long ears and his wrinkled snout. A maiden and her Wolf. Soon the birds returned, sensing this peace and chirping in praise of it. And neither Morigan nor the Wolf could recall a time—if ever there was one—where they had felt so complete.

About the Author:

Christian A. Brown has written creatively since the age of six. After spending most of his career in the health and fitness industry, Brown quit his job to care for his mother when she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2010.

Having dabbled with the novel that would eventually become Feast of Fates for over a decade, Brown was finally able to finish the project. His mother, who was able to read a beginning version of the novel before she passed away, has since imbued the story with deeper sentiments of loss, love, and meaning. He is proud to now share the finished product with the world.

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

How I Met the Headless Horseman By Jocelynn Drake


To celebrate the release of the Final Asylum Tales book, I wrote a short story about the time Gage met the Headless Horseman on Halloween.  Strange things tend to happen when you wander through Low Town …

I generally think the world is a scary enough without needing to embellish stories, particularly those aimed to scare.  Isn’t it enough that we’ve got vampires, shapeshifters, and trolls — all of whom can shred a human in the blink of an eye?  Do we really need to invent more horrors?  Of course, when it comes to Halloween, I guess anything goes.

It was All Hallow’s Eve a few years back and I was sitting in the Cock’s Crow, watching a rugby match on the television while nursing a beer.  The bar was quiet.  I was near closing and most people had already left for another bar or a costume party.  I had no plans and was enjoying the quiet after the chaos earlier in the evening.

Dolan stood behind the bar, chatting with some regular while drying some glasses.  The minotaur looked relieved that the night was nearly over and the bar was still in one piece.  Catching his eye, I held up my empty beer bottle and gave it a little shake.  He nodded and dropped the towel he’d been holding before reaching into the cooler to get me a fresh beer.  I slid to my feet and crossed the short distance to the bar where I set down my empty bottle and picked up the fresh.

“Last call,” he said as he tossed out the empty.

“Sounds good,” I replied.  Reaching into my back pocket, I handed Dolan my debit card.  “Close out my tab.  It’s time to head home.”

Dolan snorted, turning to ring up my three beers.  “Yeah.  Be careful.  All the lunatics are out.”

My laughter was trapped in my throat as the front door was thrown open and a large headless man walked in dressed in black with a head tucked under his right arm.

“Hey Lester,” Dolan called as he turned back to hand me my card and receipt.  “It’s last call.”

The head sighed and his shoulders slumped as he walked over to the bar.  “That’s fine.  I just need a quick one before heading home.  Give me a single-barrel on the rocks.”

The headless body approached an empty stool a couple down from me at the bar and set the head down on the shining surface before dropping heavily on the stool.

“Damn it, Lester!  Head off the bar!  I just wiped everything down,” Dolan growled as he turned around with the drink.  He slammed it down and picked up his cleaning rag.

The body grabbed the head and placed it on the neck with a practiced ease.  The accompanying sucking noise was something I could have done without hearing, but then I had seen and heard worse.

Lester picked up his drink and downed half of it while I focused my attention on my new beer.  He sighed again with relief and reached into his pocket, pulling out a ten dollar bill to throw on the bar for Dolan.

The minotaur snatched up it and went back to wiping down the counter.  “You know, you should talk to Gage,” Dolan drawled, jerking one large horn in my direction as he spoke to the former headless man.  “He’s pretty good with tattoos and potions.  I bet he could get your head to stay on.”

The stranger slowly turned his glass with his blunted fingertips and he looked at me.  His eyes were brown and surrounded by a web of lines and wrinkles that were accompanied by threads of gray through his brown hair.

“Human?” I asked.

He snorted, straightening on his stool.  “Of course!  You think I’m some pixie?”

“You’re the first human I’ve ever seen who could remove his head.”

“Yeah,” he grumbled, deflating before my eyes.  “Doubt there is too many like me around.”


Lester grabbed his drink and downed the last of it with a small wince.  “Yeah, not that I did anything to deserve it.  My great-great-grandfather – or something like that – pissed off a witch.  Probably killed her cat.  Anyway, she cursed him so that his head would fall off every Halloween.  Of course, the curse is hereditary – follows down the line to every first-born son.  The curse will leave me and pass on to my son in ten years when he reaches eighteen.”

I nodded, shoving my debit card and receipt in my wallet, while pulling out a business card.  My first thought was that he should be grateful the witch didn’t make something else fall off every Halloween.

“I can’t get rid of the curse, but I think I’ve got a potion and tattoo that could lock your head to your neck,” I said, sliding the Asylum business card across the bar to Lester.

He picked it up and frowned.  “Well, I don’t know about getting a tattoo.  That’s kind of dangerous, right?”

“No more than you losing your head,” I said as I stood.

“I’ll think about it,” he said and I knew his answer was already “no.”

I shook my head as I pushed away from the bar.  With a wave to Dolan, I walked for the door.  “At least be sure to tell your son he’s got that option when the time comes.” I called before walking out of the bar.

Lester wasn’t going to come see me because he had found a way to make the curse work for him.  Judging by the black attire, he was probably renting himself out for Halloween parties and fake haunted houses.  As long as the curse was helping pad his wallet, he didn’t feel the need to have his head permanently affixed to his body.

I just hoped he didn’t lose his head as he made his money.

Demon's Fury
The Asylum Tales
Book 3.1
Jocelynn Drake

Publisher: Harper Voyager Impulse
Release Date: October 14, 2014

Book Description:

Jocelynn Drake continues her successful urban fantasy series, Asylum Tales, with Demon’s Fury, set in a world where elves, faeries, trolls, werewolves, and vampires walk free among humanity.

Powerful warlock and tattoo artist Gage has managed to escape the magical Ivory Towers who terrorize the rest of humans and monsters – but at a price.

Now he must join forces with his nemesis Gideon to stop an unknown entity who is using old magic to commit gruesome murders. And if that’s not keeping him busy enough, an investigator recruits Gage to help her track a killer … who might be targeting tattoo artists.

Available at Amazon

Demon's Vow
The Asylum Tales
Book 3.2
Jocelynn Drake

Publisher: Harper Voyager Impulse
Release Date: October 21, 2014
ISBN 006235941X
ISBN13: 9780062359414

Bestselling author Jocelynn Drake continues her urban fantasy series with the second installment of the Final Asylum Tales, Demon’s Vow.

Book Description:

Tattoo artist and warlock Gage is having a rough week. He’s trying to track down a mysterious murderer in Low Town while also chasing a powerful entity using forbidden Death Magic across the nation.

When Gage discovers the two forces may be trying to unite, the stakes get even higher. With Gideon’s help, Gage is determined to stop the murderers before anyone else gets hurt – including his girlfriend, Trixie.

Available at Amazon

Inner Demon
The Asylum Tales
Jocelynn Drake  

Publisher: Harper Voyager Impulse
Release Date: October 28, 2014
ISBN 0062359428
ISBN13: 9780062359421

Gage is a powerful warlock in Low Town, where elves, faeries, trolls, goblins, and vampires walk free among humanity. But there are two dangerous entities murdering families and children, and Gage needs to stop them before anybody else gets hurt.

When Gage discovers a demon locked away it offers him access to dark magic in exchange for its freedom – a dangerous opportunity, but one that could save his loved ones. Gage must choose between what is right and what is easy … except he’s running out of time.

Available at Amazon

About the Author:

By day, Jocelynn Drake is a clean-cut financial editor, picking apart stories about Wall Street and the global markets. But in her free time, she writes about a dark underworld where vampires and warlocks rule.

The author of Dark Days and Asylum Tales series, she lives in Florida with her husband, dog, and cat. When she's not working on her next book, she's usually hiding from the sun by playing video games.

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