Thursday, December 17, 2015

Robert E. Dunn's The Red Highway - Guest Post and {Giveaway}

Getting Better at Things

THE RED HIGHWAY is not my first novel. My first long piece was a novelization of a comic book series by the great Jack Kirby, Kamandi-The Last Boy on Earth. I think I was eleven. It was hand written and ran through a couple of full spiral bound notebooks. I remember it fondly but without the illusion that it was any good. As a matter of fact I’m glad it no longer exists. My early efforts still have the power to embarrass me completely. The thing is though, I’m just as proud of the childish notebook scribblings as I am mortified. They were a beginning. My beginning.

Writers write and that has to start someplace. I imagine that there are people who decide, out of the blue, to set down at the word processor and pump out a hundred thousand words. I imagine also, most of them are celebrities given sacks of cash to do so. Most of us start writing early and fail through a couple of million words before we do anything we are truly proud of. But we can take pride in the effort. We can take a great deal of pride in the progress.

Let’s face it, writing is hard work. Beyond time and commitment, it requires a creativity that stands up to the daily grind. Then when it’s done, everyone and their cousin, you know the one, the know-it-all that can’t understand why cutting his own hair is a bad idea, gets to judge your work. That can kick your ass.

The amazing thing, and that one little thing that separates most of us writers from almost-writers, is the getting better thing. We do it and suck. Then we do it and suck a little less. We suck for a long time but keep up the work and finally we don’t suck completely. In fact, there are some things even we can admit shine. Then someone tells us it shines but in the wrong way or that shine has gone out of style, or that there are too many shining in too similar a manner on the market. Then we start all over. Each starting, each ending, is a little bit better.

My first published novel was my second completed and after many short stories, screenplays, corporate writing, journalism, advertising copy, travelogues, training scripts, college plays and bad poetry. That’s the way it goes. Bad poetry is the price we pay for getting to a full novel. That first novel was written as a ZomCom, a zombie horror/comedy that I had originally titled Redneck Zombie Rodeo. The publisher felt that was too American and not scary enough. It became The Dead Ground. I still get notes from readers that say it was not what they expected. But that’s okay because what they (mostly) don’t say is, it sucks. After it, I rewrote an alien abduction novel that I had originally blogged as a serial. Then I let it sit and wrote another novel, a mystery that became a romance. That was published under my other, secret name. I dare you to find it. Then, again I returned to the Alien novel and worked it over again. It was published as, Behind the Darkness Alien Abduction.

All of this has been the long way to tell you about THE RED HIGHWAY. I took the long way because I wanted you to understand the work that goes into a book isn’t just writing a long story. The real work is years of writing the books, stories, and bad poetry that become the foundation a writer builds his or her house of titles upon. THE RED HIGHWAY is the best book I can give you right now but I don’t think it’s my best book. That one hasn’t been written yet. I hope you will keep your eye out for it.

Now I'd like to tell you a little bit about THE RED HIGHWAY and give a fair warning, there runs through it, a small theme of bad poetry.

In January of 1992, the fading life of Paul Souther, a homeless veteran, is changed by two events. He witnesses a murder committed by a big black man who, for a moment, seemed to have wings. And, as Paul hides from the man in a XXX theater, Mary Prince, the adult actress on screen, begins to speak directly to him.

On the other side of the country, the real Mary encounters the same big man when she visits the site of the Rodney King beating. He infests her life and her mind then traps her in a mental health ward, impossibly, pregnant.

In LA, two other black men, a tabloid reporter, and a celebrity TV preacher, are on the trail of the same mysterious man. They follow the tracks of rage and race leading throughout the city. At every hot spot the man is seen pulling strings and spreading the message of race war.

Paul and a mix of outcasts is called to Mary’s side just as the baby is born. None of them have any idea that the city of LA is sitting on a ticking bomb of anger. As riots explode, the big man, who now claims to be a god, reveals himself to be an ancient, dark power using the rage of the people to stoke his own, literal, fires. He demands the child as sacrifice to keep the city, and perhaps the nation from burning. It falls to Paul, a faithless man, and a drunk with blood on his own hands, to make the impossible choice between a child or a city and to save the people he has come to care about.

Twenty years later, as the grown child is spreading her own message of practical faith, as protesters picket and shout a new hate, a mysterious man shows up in the new crowds. This time his message is, God Hates Fags.

About the book
Necro Publications/Bedlam Press
PAGES: 282
ISBN: 978-1-939065-82-7 Trade Paperback (List: $12.95)
Distribution: Trade Paperback: Amazon, LSI and CreateSpace eBook: Kindle, Smashwords, Baker & Taylor, Nook, LSI, Apple, Kobo, Sony and others

In 1992, as Los Angeles begins to simmer in the heat of racial injustices, one dark man appears everywhere, spreading his message of race war. At the same time, Paul Souther, a homeless drunk, joins a strange group of outsiders. Some black and some white, they all carry the weight of broken lives and lost faith. They are all drawn to LA, for the arrival of a child, impossibly carried by Mary Prince, a sterile porn star.

Through back roads and freeways everyone is pulled into LA and Mary's side just as the baby is born. None of them have any idea that the city is a ticking bomb of anger. As riots explode, the mysterious man reveals himself to be an ancient, dark spirit using the rage of the people to stoke his own, literal, fires. He demands Mary’s child as sacrifice to keep the city, and perhaps the nation from burning. It falls to Paul, a faithless man, and a drunk with blood on his own hands, to make the impossible choice between the child and the city, and to save the people he has come to care about.

About the author
Robert E. Dunn was born an army brat and grew up in the Missouri Ozarks. He wrote his first book at age eleven, stealing, or novelizing, as he called it at the time, the storyline of a Jack Kirby comic book.

His college course of study, philosophy, religion, theatre, and film/TV communications, left him qualified only to be a televangelist. When that didn’t work out, he turned to them mostly, honest work of video production. Over several years he produced everything from documentaries, to training films and his favorite, travelogues. Still always writing for the joy of it he returned to writing horror and fantasy fiction for publication after the turn of the century. It seemed like a good time for change even if the changes were not always his choice.

He lives in Kansas City with three daughters, a young grandson, and an old dog. He tweets sometimes as @WritingDead but makes no promises how interesting those little posts will be.

Praise for The Red Highway
“The Red Highway is not one of the best books that I’ve read so far this year, or that I’ve read in a long time…it’s one of the best books that I’ve ever read! It was an incredible read, one that has so many layers that I was completely enthralled with the story.” –2 Book Lovers Reviews

"A thoroughly gripping read. Dunn is a writer with guts and the chops to grab his readers by the eyeballs and dare them to look away." –Hunter Shea, Author of Tortures of the Damned

Buy the book
Necro Publications

Enter for your chance to win either a copy of The Red Highway, Behind the Darkness, or a print of the beautiful cover artwork from The Red Highway done by Erik Wilson! You can do multiple things each day to gain more entries! Just click the rafflecopter link. Forward any questions to Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at

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Monday, December 14, 2015

Matt Manochio's Twelfth Krampus Night and Krampus (the film) - Reviews and {Giveaway}

My thoughts
Krampus, Krampus, Krampus...we're hearing a lot of that name this year. It seems the beast of legend, one of Santa's helpers with the not so nice on the list, is finally making his way into our modern world consciousness. I find it exciting actually. I love the old legends surrounding holidays so I welcome Krampus as the dark alter ego of Santa. After all, everyone has a dark side, whether it be small or large.

Manochio's Twelfth Krampus Night is set in medieval times when people were very superstitious and believed in such legends as Krampus and Frau Perchta. But even the people of the time found themselves having to suspend disbelief when they encountered these individuals, especially Krampus, the demon/man/goat monstrosity. Turns out, these two have a score to settle with a very naughty individual. Little do they know...they're not after the same person. When they decide to join forces, all hell breaks loose...literally.

This novella is a short read, but it packs a lot of punch. It's not really Christmas-y, but it is set during Twelfth Night so still within that window of the festive season. Manochio shows a real talent for spinning a good, scary yarn, with some humor thrown in for good measure.

Krampus, the motion picture which came out this past weekend, is what I would describe as a dark take on the Home Alone story...sort of. Max is having a rough time this Christmas (a la Kevin McAllister). There's a altercation at the Christmas pageant and then when Max and family return home and the relatives arrive for the holidays, things escalate to Max stating he hates them all (again, a la Kevin McAllister). However, that's where the similarities end. The family doesn't leave and forget Max. Instead, Max's disappointment draws the attention of something much darker than the "wet bandits". The rest of the movie is a myriad of scary creatures (and kind of cute) from living Gingerbread men/boys (the cute ones) to some kind of creepy and disgusting jack in the box "worm" that...well, don't want to give it away. Let's just say...yuck.

There are some very festive parts in this movie and a lot of not so festive moments. And in the end, as with any good Christmas movie, we are reminded to cherish what is important. In this case, it's not all apples and sunshine...but I won't say more. You'll have to see it to find out...and you should definitely see it!

Be sure to stop over at The Christmas Spirit tomorrow to read Matt's guest post about the legend of Krampus. And a giveaway of an eBook copy of Twelfth Night Krampus!

About the book
“This is a macabre, dark tale with a timeless quality about it. An atmospheric landscape, complete with Bavarian castle; characters that could have stepped out from your worst nightmares. It kept me thoroughly and enjoyably entertained in a dark, scary way. Full marks!” –Cat Cavendish, Author of The Dark Avenging Angel

Follow the tour with the hashtags: #TwelfthKrampusNight #TKN

Print Length: 121 pages
Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd. (December 1, 2015)
Publication Date: December 1, 2015

Dark servants clash!

Medieval maiden Beate, who’s grieving over the mysterious evisceration of her best friend, Gisela, must escape a Bavarian castle under siege by sadistic creatures.

Standing in her way—beyond towering walls and crossbow-toting guards—are Saint Nicholas’s demonic helper, Krampus, and Frau Perchta, a belly-slitting hag who prowls the countryside during First Night festivities to punish naughty teens.

Beate wants out. Krampus and Frau Perchta want in, determined to breach the castle to snag their prey. Beate has no idea why these monsters want her, but she must use her wits to save herself from horrors both human and inhuman—lest she wind up like Gisela.

About the author
Matt Manochio was born in 1975 in New Jersey and graduated from The University of Delaware in 1997 with a history/journalism degree. He spent the majority of his 13-year newspaper career at the Daily Record in Morris County, New Jersey, where he won multiple New Jersey Press Association Awards for his reporting.

He wrote about one of his passions, rock ‘n’ roll giants AC/DC, for USA Today and considers that the highlight of his journalism career. He left newspapers in 2011 for safer employment.

His debut novel, The Dark Servant, was published with Samhain Horror in November of 2014. His second novel, Sentinels, was release November 2015, just prior to Twelfth Krampus Night in December 2015. He currently lives in New Jersey with his son.

Praise for Matt Manochio
“Twelfth Krampus Night is an enjoyable read and a strong horror story. Manochio is a very strong writer and his talent is evident in this novel. I easily slid into the world that Manochio creates and was fascinated by Frau Perchta and Krampus.” –Minneapolis

“The Dark Servant is everything a thriller should be–eerie, original and utterly engrossing!” — Wendy Corsi Staub, New York Times bestselling author

“Beautifully crafted and expertly plotted, Matt Manochio’s The Dark Servant has taken an esoteric fairy tale from before Christ and sets it in the modern world of media-saturated teenagers–creating a clockwork mechanism of terror that blends Freddy Krueger with the Brothers Grimm!” — Jay Bonansinga, New York Times bestselling author

“Matt Manochio is a writer who’ll be thrilling us for many books to come.” — Jim DeFelice, New York Times bestselling author

“Matt Manochio has taken a very rare fairytale and turned it into a real page-turner. Matt has constructed a very real and believable force in Krampus and has given it a real journalistic twist, and he has gained a fan in me!” — David L. Golemon, New York Times bestselling author

“In The Dark Servant, Matt Manochio has taken the tantalizing roots of Middle Europe’s folklore and crafted a completely genuine modern American horror story. … I fell for this story right away. Matt Manochio is a natural born storyteller.” — Joe McKinney, Bram Stoker Award-winning author

“Could there be a dark side to Santa? And if so, what would he do to those kids who were naughty? Matt Manochio provides the nail-biting answer with The Dark Servant.” — John Everson, Bram Stoker Award-winning author

“If you want some pure escapism on a quiet afternoon and you don’t mind a little–okay, maybe a lot–of blood, SENTINELS is exactly what you’re looking for. Manochio is a talented author with a bright future and someone who’s work I will follow with great interest.” –Shotgun Logic

Purchase Twelfth Krampus Night
Samhain Horror

Test your luck and enter to see if you’ll win a $50 Amazon Gift Card and a print copy of The Dark Servant (Matt’s Krampus book from 2014). Anyone can enter and you can enter multiple times per day in various ways.

Also, if you review Twelfth Krampus NIght and send the link to Erin Al-Mehairi, Publicist, at, and click you’ve done this on the Rafflecopter section for it, you will get 5 extra entries!! Any questions, defer them to Erin as well. Click on the Rafflecopter daily to enter!
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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Matt Manochio's #Sentinels - Guest Post

Researching History for My Horror Novel

History can be tricky. You don’t want to get it wrong. Throwaway lines—even one word—can expose a flaw in your research or lack thereof.

I set my new novel, Sentinels, in post-Civil War South Carolina. It’s a rough place. The KKK is killing freedmen and their supporters. Northern soldiers are dispatched to keep the peace in the South. Oh, and there are supernatural forces going around killing both sides, and nobody can figure out why.

People die. Which leads to the question: How were funerals held in the 1870s? What were the customs? What tools were used? Well, the mortician traveled to your place (assuming you died and your viewing is being held at your home, where your spouse lives). That’s right. They fixed you up right there in your sitting room. Oh, and superstitions at the time involved shrouding mirrors, windows, even doorknobs, in black cloth. (Seeing your reflection in a room with a dead body can be bad, apparently.)

Some people might find research annoying. I dig it. I majored in history in college, and even though my fascination lies with WWII (I’m more a fan of modern history), life in the decade following the Civil War was horrendous in the United States. That’s a period of time that many people know little about. I was one of them until writing Sentinels.

First, I had no idea there were five military districts, manned by Northern soldiers, scattered throughout the South to ensure stability. (When you think about it, it makes sense. I mean, we left troops in Germany, Japan and South Korea following war.) But just that one realization helped shape the course of Sentinels. And it’s great when that happens.

And what kind of horse carriages did people operate back in the 1870s? How were outhouses physically built and how far back were they situated from the living quarters? What were the most commonly used firearms? How much did an acre of land cost?

As I said, even throwaway lines can get you in trouble. I mentioned that a character put on a T-shirt and was informed by a reviewer that T-shirts, as we know them, weren’t invented until the 1900s. Words matter in that regard. Undershirt probably would’ve been a better choice.

Such are the perils of writing historical fiction. But those little details matter, even if a large part of your story involves creepy things that physically cannot happen.

About the book
These are no ordinary killers.

They don't distinguish between good and evil. They just kill. South Carolina's a ruthless place after the Civil War. And when Sheriff's Deputy Noah Chandler finds seven Ku Klux Klansmen and two Northern soldiers massacred along a road, he cannot imagine who would murder these two diametrically opposed forces.

When a surviving Klansman babbles about wraiths, and is later murdered inside a heavily guarded jail cell, Noah realizes something sinister stalks his town. He believes a freed slave who's trying to protect his farm from a merciless land baron can help unmask the killers. Soon Noah will have to personally confront the things good men must do to protect their loved ones from evil.

About the author
Matt Manochio was born in 1975 in New Jersey and graduated from The University of Delaware in 1997 with a history/journalism degree.

He spent the majority of his 13-year newspaper career at the Daily Record in Morris County, New Jersey, where he won multiple New Jersey Press Association Awards for his reporting. He wrote about one of his passions, rock 'n' roll giants AC/DC, for USA Today and considers that the highlight of his journalism career.

He left newspapers in 2011 for safer employment, and currently lives in New Jersey with his son.

Praise for Matt Manochio
"Matt Manochio is a natural born storyteller." -Joe McKinney, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Savage Dead

"A real page turner. Matt Manochio has gained a fan in me!" -David L. Golemon, New York Times bestselling author of the Event Group Thriller series, on The Dark Servant

"Beautifully crafted and expertly plotted. A clockwork mechanism of terror! Highly recommended!" -Jay Bonansinga, New York Times bestselling author of Shattered, on The Dark Servant

Purchase Links 
Barnes and Noble 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Glenn Rolfe's Blood and Rain - Review and {Giveaway}

My thoughts
Anyone who thinks the werewolf thing has been done...and done again...well, you need to read Blood and Rain. I haven't been this captivated by a werewolf story since seeing "American Werewolf in London" when I was a girl...or maybe "The Howling". It seems these days, werewolves have become less scary, as we get to know their human side before we really know their beast side. I'm talking about "True Blood" or Anne Rice's new werewolf series. Not to discount those awesome storytellers (everyone knows Rice is my favorite author), but it's just refreshing to read about a werewolf and to be really scared and horrified. Rolfe did not pull any punches in this book. We get the fear and we get the gore...and it's luscious (for lack of a better word). I've been reading a lot of great horror lately (via the terrific publicist, Erin of Oh, for the Hook of a Book fame) and this one ranks near the top.

Blood and Rain is a riveting monster novel that keeps you guessing until the end. Thanks for bringing me back to the scary werewolves. It was a wild ride!

About the book
The light of a full moon reveals many secrets.

Gilson Creek, Maine. A safe, rural community. Summer is here. School is out and the warm waters of Emerson Lake await. But one man's terrible secret will unleash a nightmare straight off the silver screen. Under the full moon, a night of terror and death re-awakens horrors long sleeping. Sheriff Joe Fischer, a man fighting for the safety of his daughter, his sanity and his community, must confront the sins of his past. Can Sheriff Fischer set Gilson Creek free from the beast hiding in its shadows, or will a small town die under a curse it can't even comprehend? One night can-and will-change everything.

Find Glenn Rolfe at: as well as Facebook and Twitter.

Stan Springs stared at the curse in the night sky. His curse. He clenched his jaw, and bit back the grunts that demanded release from within his sweat-covered body. His muscles tightened and took turns throwing fits. He could feel his heartbeat’s thunderous barrage at work inside his heaving chest. It was only a matter of minutes before the changes would come.

He ripped his gaze from the clouds, moved away from the window and knelt down next to the bed against the concrete wall. He slipped one shaky hand beneath the mattress and found the small incision he’d made when he first arrived at the institution. He had traded a guard, a heavyset fella by the name of Harold Barnes, his prized Ted Williams rookie card in exchange for a copy of the key. Parting with this gold mine had been necessary. Stan Springs had nothing else of value with which to barter. Harold trusted him enough to make the swap; he told Stan there were crazies here by the dozen, but he could tell that Stan was not one of them.

No, Harold, I’m something far worse.

Key in hand, Stan stepped to the unlocked door and cracked it open. The hallway was clear. He moved down the corridor, as stealthily as during his heydays working on the force in New York. Hearing footfalls ahead and to his left, he fell back and pressed his large frame against the custodial door. Hidden by the entryway’s shadow, he watched Nurse Collins—a tall, thin woman with a dark complexion—pass fifty feet from where he stood, before she disappeared into the nurses’ break room.

Barefoot and dressed in only a Red Sox T-shirt and his sleeping shorts, Stan made a break for the staircase across the hall. His breaths were coming faster now. If he didn’t hurry, he wouldn’t make it outside. He crept down the steps leading to the main hallway.

Through the small window on the stairwell door, he could see Harold Barnes’s haunted jowls illuminated by the laptop screen in front of him. The old man’s eyes were closed, his mouth open. Harold hadn’t even made it an hour into his shift before he was out. Stan knew Harold also ran his own antique shop in the neighboring town of Hallowell. He’d told Stan that working both jobs on the same day, which was sometimes unavoidable, made it difficult for him on the night shift. It was another shared nugget Stan had stored away for nights like this one—the nights the beast in him needed to get out.

Easing the door open, Stan skulked his way along the shadows on the wall, and tiptoed to the main entrance door. Despite the cramps now rampaging through his calves and thighs, he slipped the procured key into the lock, slow and steady. The door clicked open, and he stepped out into the night.

As the cool breeze brushed against the sweat of his brow, the tendons and bones in his face began to shift. The rest of his body followed suit. He dropped to one knee and cried out. His skin, his scalp, his eyes, his muscles were all too tight. He reached behind him and managed to push the door shut.

If you could see me now, Harold.

The private roads out front were deserted. He launched from the building’s stairs and landed on the lawn below, making a beeline for the woods to the left of the large property.

He was twenty feet from the forest when the change hit him like a massive wave, crashing him to the ground. His muscles clenched and squeezed and tore, while the bones of his face continued to crack and grow. His teeth began to fall out in place of the monster’s. Down on all fours, he crawled to the tree cover and vomited. A mix of last night’s cafeteria meat loaf, black coffee, loose teeth, and blood splashed the ferns before him. Stan’s fingers extended as his claws dug into the soft soil of spring’s floor. He moaned and grunted his way through the rest of the fluid process.

In full beast mode, Stan Springs stood and howled at the cloud-covered sky. The creatures of the night became ghosts among the trees. He felt the strength flowing through him and the hunger begging to be sated.

He burst forward, headed north. Despite Stan’s best effort to control the beast’s killing zone, he found himself heading home.

About the author
Glenn Rolfe is an author, singer, songwriter and all around fun loving guy from the haunted woods of New England. He has studied Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University, and continues his education in the world of horror by devouring the novels of Stephen King and Richard Laymon. He and his wife, Meghan, have three children, Ruby, Ramona, and Axl. He is grateful to be loved despite his weirdness.

He is the author the novellas, Abram's Bridge, Boom Town, and the forthcoming, Things We Fear (March, 2016), the short fiction collection, Slush, and the novels The Haunted Halls and Blood and Rain (October 2015). His first novella collection, Where Nightmares Begin, will be released in March, 2016.

He is hard at work on many more. Stay tuned!

Praise for Blood and Rain
“A major new talent rises from the Maine woods…Rolfe is the real deal, and Blood and Rain is a classic monster novel, full of blood and teeth and the kind of razor sharp writing that makes the pages sing. Small town horror is back, with a vengeance!” –Nate Kenyon, award-winning author of Sparrow Rock, Diablo: Storm of Light and Day One

"With slashing claws and blood-soaked fur, Blood and Rain will have you howling in terror and delight. A welcome addition to the werewolf mythos, and proof that we're in the presence of a rising star in the genre. Highly recommended!" -Ronald Malfi, author of The Floating Staircase

“Rolfe tells a tale that captures your attention like King without all of the wordiness. He also spills the red stuff like Laymon…” – Into the Macabre

“Blood and Rain is a monumental piece of horror fiction. It represents everything I love about werewolves, creature features, siege films, and everything else in between. It is still early in the year, but this is a clear cut candidate for my favorite book of 2015.” — Horror Underground

“Wow! Easily one of the best werewolf books I’ve ever read.” – Hunter Shea, author of Tortures of the Damned and The Dover Demon

“Some good ‘ol fashion violence and gore…” – Jason Parent, author of Seeing Evil

“Glenn Rolfe takes a swing at the werewolf genre and hits a home run.” – Russell James, author of Q Island and Dreamwalker

“…not just another werewolf story, Rolfe has managed to take the werewolf to a-whole-nother level…” – Horror Novel Reviews

“The best werewolf novel I’ve read since Jeff Strand’s Wolf Hunt.”–Horror After Dark

Buy the book

For a chance to win a print copy of Glenn Rolfe’s short story collection, Slush, or a chance to win your choice of any of his titles in e-book format, go to the link below for the Rafflecopter sign-up. Good luck! The print copy is only good for those in the United States. Questions can be referred to Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at hookofabook(at)hotmail(dot)com.

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Sunday, November 1, 2015

Extending Season of the Witch & In Honor of Day of the Dead, a Scary Story by Julie Dawn

Playing With Markers
by Julie Dawn

I fumbled for a marker. Damn Backpack.

“Hurry up. You’re going to get us busted,” Lila said as she smacked her gum.

“Would you quit that?” I whispered, but it echoed off the graffitied walls. The school had been abandoned when grandfather was young. He won’t talk about it, it’s like asking him about the war. Mom says he was changed by the war, he saw things, and I mustn’t talk about it with him.

A long hallway was the only other entrance into the bathroom we were in—other then the broken window we had entered through. It probably led to the classrooms, decorated with picture books and ABC banners. I thought about my days in elementary school, the conformity—the long hours staring out of the windows—the boredom.

Something moved—banged, rolled?—in the hallway. A can, beer bottle?

Lila elbowed me.

There was no way I had come this far to give up now. Probably a stupid mouse.

Lila elbowed me again.

The bottle clinked against the wall. Vibrations rippled through the abandoned school. The floor beneath our feet moved.

Lila’s hand slid off my arm as she fell to the tiled floor.

I glanced at the hallway, but I couldn’t tell. There didn’t seem to be anybody there. Then I thought I saw a … no. There was nothing. Shit. Mom and Dad had warned me to never go to the old school at the top of the hill, through the forest, and set beside the most gorgeous lake one’s eyes could lay upon, glistening beyond the broken window.

In the doorway, a shadow appeared. It looked like a man, only bigger. Its shoulders blocked the threshold.


“Shit.” Lila climbed to her feet and ran past me, to the broken window, clearing it with one jump.

The shadow raised its chest. When it fell back down, another ripple of vibrations crashed over the room. My weight shifted onto my heels and pushed me back, stumbling, caught against a sink.

Lila screamed out my name. I looked at her, but her eyes led me back to the man—now charging me. He rushed me, full force, and then disappeared. A gust of wind puffed against my face. He vanished right in front of my fucking eyes.

I looked at Lila, but she was gone. I can’t believe she left me. I glanced back at the doorway—nothing. A chill rippled down my spin. I grabbed the straps of my backpack and took a step to leave—run like hell—and then yell at Lila for being such a punk. I took another step, but the weight of the marker in my backpack restrained me—stopped me.

Fuck it. I’m doing it. I can’t believe I just said fuck. Man, mom would kill me if she …. I dug through the bag. Where is it? I pushed maxi pads, pencils, and my phone out of the way and then … there it was. I grabbed the marker, but as my fingers tightened, I felt weird. Whatever. I shook my hands out and pressed the marker against the mirror.

A glass bottle rolled down the hallway.

My throat knotted.

The bottle clinked against the wall.

Julie Dawn grew up in southern Jersey, spending the summers collecting bee stingers in her feet. After graduating from Richard Stockton College, she dipped her toes in the environmental field for a few years, got married, moved to North Carolina, and finally got to become a mom. Four years of living in state parks was enough to make her relocate to the Oregon Coast. Under bright stars, she started writing again, determined to change the world one story at a time.


Yosemite Rising: A Zombie Novel by Julie Dawn

A legend that will change the world.
It’s been 150 years since the Ahwahnee Indians lived where Yosemite National Park now stands. Their last surviving Chief appears to Elizabeth Hutchings, a twenty-year-old biology student, the very day her parents die. Within 24 hours, she too is clinging to life as his whispers echo in her thoughts.

An ancient prophecy has begun. A plague rips through the world’s population, taking everyone and everything she has ever cared about. As agents of a mysterious organization called Meadowlark hunt her, she must find the strength to fight the infected even as she struggles to keep herself alive.

Just when she thinks she can’t go on, a man from her past arrives. He holds the key to understanding the prophecy. If she can unravel its secrets, she not only may change her own fate—but the fate of the entire world.

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Jason Parent's Seeing Evil - Exclusive Excerpt and {Giveaway} #SeeingEvil


Stepping back so as not to alarm the child, Samantha scanned Michael for wounds, but she couldn't find the source of the blood. She hoped it wasn't Michael's, but she saw no evidence, no tracks or prints, that suggested Michael had been anywhere near the bodies. Then again, shouldn't he be in a crib or something? What's he doing in here? There's no part of this that he should have been forced to witness. 

Samantha moved in for a closer look. His hands rested on his thighs, the blood on them dry and cracking on his skin. Something protruded from beneath them, something dark and metallic.

Samantha gasped. "Michael, don't move, okay?"

Michael seemed oblivious to her presence, swaying to a beat only he could hear. It was as though she wasn't part of the world he was seeing. Slowly, she reached for the object with the caution of one taking a bone from a snarling dog. Only Michael wasn't snarling. He seemed uninterested in her, still rocking and staring blankly through her, unblinking and locked on that same focal point.

Maybe he's in shock. Maybe he does understand what happened here. His unresponsiveness was certainly beyond mere willful ignorance. Samantha didn't think he would notice if she lit a firecracker in front of him. He seemed out of touch with reality. For the moment, Samantha preferred him that way.

With a hand as steady as a surgeon's, Samantha reached for the pistol Michael was huddled over like a bear protecting her cub. She avoided contact with him, fearful of what would happen if she disturbed his trancelike state. Her fingers treaded over the barrel, searching for its grip.

She pulled the handgun, a black Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm, from beneath Michael. The barrel brushed against his thigh. With cold, empty eyes bulging open like those of the drowning, Michael gazed into Samantha's. She felt exposed, as if with only a look, the child could delve into the recesses of her mind, revealing her every secret. The thought terrified her. So did Michael.

With reflexes beyond one of his age, Michael grabbed the gun with both hands. Samantha quickly pulled it away. Unnerved as she was, she still had Michael's safety at the forefront of her mind. She removed the weapon from the boy's reach, at all times conscious of its threat. When she found the safety smeared in blood, she clicked it on and breathed a sigh of relief. As she'd expected, there had been a bullet in the chamber. She dropped the gun into an open evidence bag held by Tagliamonte.

Michael's eyes remained on her. They were blue and cloudy like the sky before a rainbow, a fire as bright as the sun burning behind them. His mouth creaked open as though tiny gears controlled its laborious motion. When his chin dropped so low it nearly rested on his throat, a sound, low and indistinguishable at first, emitted from somewhere deep within the boy. As it amplified, its sharp clamor made Samantha's blood ice within her veins.

At once, Samantha knew that not only did Michael comprehend what had happened to his parents, but also that he felt it in the worst sort of way. His wail was ghostly and ghastly, the cry of one seized by agony. Samantha was afraid, both for him and of him, and of what such trauma might cause him to become. Backing away, not knowing how to comfort the lost child, Samantha knew it would not be the last she would see of Michael.

About the book

Fate in plain sight.

Major Crimes Detective Samantha Reilly prefers to work alone—she’s seen as a maverick, and she still struggles privately with the death of her partner. The only person who ever sees her softer side is Michael Turcotte, a teenager she’s known since she rescued him eleven years ago from the aftermath of his parents’ murder-suicide.

In foster care since his parents’ death, Michael is a loner who tries to fly under the bullies’ radar, but a violent assault triggers a disturbing ability to view people’s dark futures. No one believes his first vision means anything, though—not even Sam Reilly. When reality mimics his prediction, however, Sam isn’t the only one to take notice. A strange girl named Tessa Masterson asks Michael about her future, and what he sees sends him back to Sam—is Tessa victim or perpetrator?

Tessa’s tangled secrets draw Michael and Sam inexorably into a deadly conflict. Sam relies on Michael, but his only advantage is the visions he never asked for. As they track a cold and calculating killer, one misstep could turn the hunters into prey.

About the author
In his head, Jason Parent lives in many places, but in the real world, he calls New England his home. The region offers an abundance of settings for his writing and many wonderful places in which to write them. He currently resides in Southeastern Massachusetts with his cuddly corgi named Calypso.

In a prior life, Jason spent most of his time in front of a judge . . . as a civil litigator. When he finally tired of Latin phrases no one knew how to pronounce and explaining to people that real lawsuits are not started, tried and finalized within the 60-minute timeframe they see on TV (it's harassing the witness; no one throws vicious woodland creatures at them), he traded in his cheap suits for flip flops and designer stubble. The flops got repossessed the next day, and he's back in the legal field . . . sorta. But that's another story.

When he's not working, Jason likes to kayak, catch a movie, travel any place that will let him enter, and play just about any sport (except that ball tied to the pole thing where you basically just whack the ball until it twists in a knot or takes somebody's head off - he misses the appeal). And read and write, of course. He does that too sometimes.

Please visit Jason on Facebook, on Twitter, or at his website for information regarding upcoming events or releases, or if you have any questions or comments for him.

Praise for Seeing Evil
“… Parent writes in such a fluid, mesmerizing and realistic way that I found I couldn’t stop!” – My So-Called Book Reviews

“Seeing Evil is one of those books that takes off at a fast pace and doesn't slow down.” – Carries Book Reviews

“Jason Parent tortures us right alongside his characters. The world building is excellent and very real.” – I’m a Voracious Reader

“…one of the best suspense thrillers I have read in a very long time. In lesser hands it would have been a decent read but the author's skill in setting the scene, character development, and story telling makes this a far superior novel.” – Book Nutter’s Book Reviews

“Seeing Evil has some very special moments and is a very fast read. There's no denying Parent has talent.” Glenn Rolfe, author of Blood and Rain, Boom Town, and Abram’s Bridge

“Wow! That was just brilliant! Every single chapter straight from the very beginning had me gripped.” – Andrew Lennon, author of Keith and A Life to Waste, a Novel of Violence and Horror

“Superbly fast paced from beginning to end meaning you will not want to put it down. A plot that will keep you guessing to the very end but not in a confusing way. Brilliant characters that gel together perfectly. A bloody good book.” – Confessions of a Reviewer

“This is one seriously entertaining, thought provoking read.” – Adam Light, author of Taken, Toes Up, and The Corpus Corruptum

“This book was a police procedural/thriller/psychological horror story-it doesn't neatly fit into any category except for: ‘damn fine read’.” – Char’s Horror Corner

“The entire story was strong, driven, and merciless in all regard from beginning to end. Even when you think you know where it's going, there's yet another--logical--twist.” Horror After Dark

“Seeing Evil is a perfectly-paced book, with intriguing characters and white-knuckle, edge of your seat tension. The villain is particularly haunting in an all-too-plausible way, and even a few days after having finished reading the events of the book are still vividly etched in my mind. Parent's writing here is top notch - sleek, efficient and with surprising emotional depth.” – Evans Light, author of Arboreatum, Screamscapes, and Harmlessly Insane.

Buy the book

Sign up to enter to win one of five books from Jason Parent! There is one print copy of Seeing Evil, one print copy of Bad Apples 2 collection, 1 e-book of What Hides Within, and one e-book of Dead Roses. All winners get Seeing Evil bookmarks! Random draw chooses winner. First name drawn receives first prize, and so on. Any giveaway questions may be forwarded to Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist,

Click the link to enter:

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Works of Xavier Axelson - Exclusive Excerpt and {Giveaway} #AxelsonBlitz #HalloweenReads

Earthly Concerns is an erotic nightmare, with a fable element. It really is a story about the power of generosity, generosity of spirit and the price of selfishness. While there is an erotic romance involved, there are forces at work in the story that scare me and hopefully will frighten readers too. Enjoy this special excerpt….

Earthly Concerns Excerpt

The psychic echoes coming from the broken cars overwhelmed me. It wasn’t until Barrett spoke that I felt the vibrations settle. His voice sounded far away.

“Here it is,” he said.

I felt my heart stumble and my stomach fall. “My God.” I could hear the shock in my own voice. The entire front of the car was gone. I found it hard to drag my eyes from the missing front end. The attendant walked away, the sound of gravel under his feet crunching. “How are you not dead?” I asked before moving closer to the wreck. There were such strong vibrations, smells, and emotions coming off the remains that I wasn’t sure what to tune into, it felt chaotic and cruel.

“I don’t know,” was Barrett’s succinct answer.

I shook my head. “I bet you don’t.” I inched closer, held my hand out and resisted the urge to walk back to my car and leave. Something dark was emanating from the wreckage. I could feel my senses begin to tremble with the anticipation of a vision.

“Should I leave you alone?”

“No!” I heard the edge in my voice, looked back and saw his head drop. “No, I need you to show me where Hilary was sitting.”

“Do you feel anything?” he asked hopefully.

“Barrett, where was she sitting?” I followed him as he moved past me and walked to the back of the car.

“She was sitting just behind me,” Barrett said as he opened the back door.

A sickening smell, animal-like and fetid, poured from the opening. We both fell away from the car as if we had been hit.

“Jesus fucking Christ!” Barrett yelled and then started coughing.

My eyes began to burn and I could not only smell the horrid stench, but could also taste it, and what I tasted wasn’t just rank, it was evil. I shook my head violently, forced a hand across my mouth and edged closer. I could still hear Barrett gasping and coughing behind me when I looked into the back seat and saw the place where Hilary had been sitting now empty, blackened, as if something had reached from hell itself and burned it with a demonic blaze.

I reached forward, fingers twitching; I had to touch it. Sounds began to screech through my mind; the shrieking brakes, glass shattering and behind each sound the wail of a little girl.


Then the thing, the blackness, I saw it reach with sharp curving claws, heard the nerve shattering sound of teeth grinding and a voice that shut out all the lights in my head.

You or her?

Then it was gone.

About the books of Xavier Axelson

Earthly Concerns

Between love and loss, there is obligation…
It was a peaceful night when Barrett and his daughter were driving home… then something happened. Something sinister.

Between shadow and light, there is uncertainty…
Now the only person Barrett can turn to for help is Anson, a man gifted with psychic abilities beyond reason. But Anson is also his ex-boyfriend, a man whose heart he’d already broken.

If you can see, you have to help.
As Anson delves deeper into the circumstances surrounding Barrett’s accident, he begins to realize that he’s not only in a race against time, but in a battle against his own broken heart and the terrifying understanding that whatever has taken Barrett’s child is a force of evil beyond anything either man has ever encountered.

And between decision and consequences, there are… Earthly Concerns


What does one say when they realize their child is gone? Better yet, what does one say when that child returns, but is different?

This is the question Pryor must ask himself after his daughter, Lily, is dragged into the woods by a wolf and her body is never found. It isn't until he sees a wolf in the woods with eyes that resemble Lily's that he feels hope. And then something is whispered from deep within the woods, a promise for him to see Lily again.

One day...

But which day and for how long?

And then Pryor meets Ned, a silversmith who brings out desires that Pryor hasn't felt in years and helps him hatch a plan to keep Lily with him.

Now the question isn't about how much time Pryor will have with Lily, it's about how far he'll go to keep her with him.

About the author
Xavier Axelson is a writer and columnist living in Los Angeles. Xavier's work has been featured in various erotic and horror anthologies. Longer written works include The Incident, Velvet, and Lily. Xavier covers Fringe Culture for the Los Angeles Examiner. Connect with Xavier on his website at, on Facebook at and on Twitter at

Praise for Xavier Axelson’s work
“This book was an excellent short read. It has a little bit of everything. Lost love, tragedy, paranormal beings, and the hint at a second chance.” Close Encounters with the Night Kind

“I really liked the psychic element to the story, sometimes in books that just isn't done very well or done in a very cliché way, but I found it came across very well in this read.” Book Devotee Reviews

“Axelson writes from the emotions and in doing so he draws the reader in. It is close to impossible not to react to his stories.” Reviews by Amos Lassen

 Buy the books

Earthly Concerns


Enter to win either a copy of Lily (2 e-book format to giveaway) or a copy of Earthly Concerns (2 e-book format to giveaway). Anyone may enter. Questions can be referred to Erin Al-Mehairi, Publicist, Hook of a Book Media,

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Hunter Shea's The Dover Demon - Blog Tour and Author Interview {Giveaway}

A trip Hunter Shea made to the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine two years ago sparked the idea for THE DOVER DEMON. While he was there, he met famed cryptozoologist, Loren Coleman and talked about creatures he’s personally investigated. It turns out, he was the man on the scene in Dover, MA in the late 70s when the uber strange biped was spotted by several people over the course of two nights in April, Hunter reported. He also gave it its name, Dover Demon.

Now, Hunter’s fictional world of The Dover Demon has been published as a novel and he was able to go back to the museum of cryptids in August and have a launch party for the book with Loren Coleman! To read more about that and see photos, head over to his site via this link:

Follow along the tour using the hashtags #TheDoverDemon #HunterSheaLovesCryptids #Monsters #Cryptozoology #cryptids

Interview with Hunter Shea

CM: First of all, I would like to thank Hunter for joining me today and taking the time for this interview.

Hunter: Thank you so much for having me here! We writers love getting out of the lair every now and then and talking to the living. ;)

CM: Your new novel, The Dover Demon, was recently released. Congrats! Can you tell us a little about it?

Hunter: The Dover Demon is based on an actual sighting of a strange creature over a two night period in 1977 in the bucolic town of Dover, MA. Six teenagers saw an upright, skinny, peach-colored being with a bulbous head and large, orange eyes in the woods in three different locations. What today we might call an alien or Gray, back then was an unknown animal or perhaps paranormal entity. It truly frightened the witnesses, and no one has ever recanted their story.

With my book, I ask the question – what if it was seen by other teens those nights, and what they saw was so perplexing, so terrifying, they were not only too afraid to tell anyone, but it also changed the course of their lives? It’s present day, those teens are in their 50’s and the Dover Demon is back!

CM: Was there an inspiration behind the writing of Dover Demon

Hunter: I was visiting the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, ME and got to talking with the owner, famed cryptozoologist Loren Coleman. I was writing my cryptid book, The Montauk Monster, at the time. I asked him if there was a cryptid that didn’t get enough love and attention. He pointed me to the Dover Demon. He was on the scene in 1977 when the news broke and gave it its name. How could I resist? Plus, the story itself is so strange, almost otherworldly. I was hooked from the get-go.

CM: Horror is a great genre, but have you ever thought about writing in a different genre? Perhaps historical fiction or mainstream fiction? If yes, what would you write about?

Hunter: Absolutely. I’ve been mulling over a few non-horror ideas for a couple of years now. I’ve led an unconventional life, always shunning the easy road. I think because of that, I’ve had several lifetimes of experiences, both wondrous and strange. I’d like to write a mainstream novel about a family going through hard times and how they cope, or don’t cope, with the obstacles they face or even put in their own way. My wife and one daughter are handicapped, and I keep leaning toward writing something about coping with those challenges that goes beyond not sweating the small stuff. We’ve been through hell together, and I don’t think we’d be as strong a family without those diversities. Any kind of debilitating ailment takes its toll on the person with it and the people who love them. I think we’ve done a pretty good job facing everything. Maybe there’s something we can teach others going through the same thing.

CM: Over the past few months, I’ve read Island of the Forbidden and Tortures of the Damned, two novels I enjoyed immensely. How do these books differ from The Dover Demon

Hunter: If I was to categorize them and drop them in buckets, they would be Ghosts, Apocalypse, Cryptids. Island is the third in a series of novels I’ve written about a ghost hunting family. When I walk into that world, it feels familiar, like coming back home to a haunted house. Tortures is a non-stop thriller with real-life horrors. With The Dover Demon, you get a cool monster story, with that little niggling knowledge that it’s based on something real, which makes it all the more terrifying.

CM: I read in your Goodreads bio that you’re an amateur cryptozoologist. I think that’s incredibly cool! I’ve always had a fascination with Bigfoot (I wrote a report on it when I was in the 7th grade) and I’ve passed that fascination on to my 14 year old son. Have you learned anything interesting in the field that I can report to my son? 

Hunter: Yes, with all the technology we have at our disposal, we still, incredibly, don’t have many answers. No matter. I like to think that our world is vaster and stranger than we think. I’m beginning to fall into the rising school of thought that things like UFOs, ghosts and cryptids/monsters all come from the same nebulous place. People who study these phenomena need to pool their resources and see all of the commonalities. I don’t know what it all means, but I think it may be hiding in plain sight.

CM: Tell us a little bit about your Monster Men podcast with Jack Campisi. What can we expect when we tune in? And how do we tune in, by the way? 

Hunter: The Monster Men is two guys who love horror. We talk about movies, books, monsters, going on ghost hunts, interviewing people who create fresh horrors and just have a lot of fun with it. The list of people who want to be on the show is enormous now! We’ve had to step up our game so we can meet the demand. Expect a ton more interviews with authors and directors very soon. You can find us on our YouTube channel, Monster Men 13, or our website, We’re the most watched video horror podcast in the world and coming up on our 100th episode!

CM: Have you been inspired by any particular books or movies? What is your favorite horror novel and/or movie? 

Hunter: I’m inspired by tons of horror books and movies. It’s impossible to pick one or even a few out of the bunch. They all banded together to make me who I am. I do love Robert McCammon’s Boy’s Life. Pure perfection in storytelling. Some of my favorite movies are Alien, The Haunting, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and The Funhouse.

CM: What books would we find on your nightstand? Any recommendations (besides your own books, of course)? 

Hunter: Got a few on the nightstand now that it’s Horrortober. For horror I have Darkness Rising by Brian Moreland, The Deep by Nick Cutter, We Are Monsters by Brian Kirk. I also have a Joe Picket novel by C.J. Box, going to reread The Garden of Eden by Hemingway and a few others at the bottom of the pile. There is never a shortage of reading material in my house.

CM: And last, but not least, what do you have in store for your readers next?

Hunter: Well, in 2016 I’ll have another cryptid novel out through Pinnacle. I can’t reveal the monster yet, but I know it will have people excited. My next Samhain novella, I Kill in Peace, will be released in April. This is a total departure for me and I took some big chances. It won’t be for the faint of heart and definitely not for the politically correct. I’m also hoping that my first novel for Severed Press, They Rise, will be out next year, too. It’s a sea monster book that is just flat out crazy.

CM: Thanks again for joining me today, Hunter. I look forward to many more years of great horror to share here at Castle Macabre.

Hunter: Thank you! Keep on flying the horror flag!

About The Dover Demon
File Size: 1032 KB
Print Length: 242 pages
Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd. (September 1, 2015)
Publication Date: September 1, 2015

The Dover Demon is real…and it has returned.

In 1977, Sam Brogna and his friends came upon a terrifying, alien creature on a deserted country road. What they witnessed was so bizarre, so chilling, they swore their silence. But their lives were changed forever.

Decades later, the town of Dover has been hit by a massive blizzard. Sam’s son, Nicky, is drawn to search for the infamous cryptid, only to disappear into the bowels of a secret underground lair. The Dover Demon is far deadlier than anyone could have believed. And there are many of them. Can Sam and his reunited friends rescue Nicky and battle a race of creatures so powerful, so sinister, that history itself has been shaped by their secretive presence?

Barnes and Noble

Praise for Hunter Shea~
“This wholly enthralling hulk of a summer beach read is redolent of sunscreen and nostalgia, recalling mass market horror tales of yore by John Saul, Dean Koontz, and Peter Benchley.” — Publishers Weekly — Voted one of the best reads of summer, on The Montauk Monster

“Bloody good read! This guy knows his monsters!”- Eric S Brown, author of Bigfoot War and Boggy Creek: The Legend is True, on Swamp Monster Massacre

Hunter Shea Biography~
Hunter Shea is the author of the novels The Montauk Monster, Tortures of the Damned, Sinister Entity, Forest of Shadows, Swamp Monster Massacre, Evil Eternal, and The Dover Demon. His stories have appeared in numerous magazines, including Dark Moon Digest, Morpheus Tales, and the Cemetery Dance anthology, Shocklines : Fresh Voices in Terror. He’s currently working on or completed a few more manuscripts set to come.

His obsession with all things horrific has led him to real life exploration of the paranormal, interviews with exorcists and other things that would keep most people awake with the lights on.

Hunter is proud to be be one half of the Monster Men video podcast, along with his partner in crime, Jack Campisi. It is one of the most watched horror video podcasts in the world. Monster Men is a light hearted approach to dark subjects. Hunter and Jack explore real life hauntings, monsters, movies, books and everything under the horror sun. They often interview authors, cryptid and ghost hunters, directors, and anyone else living in the horror lane.

He lives in New York with his family and vindictive cat. He waits with Biblical patience for the Mets to win a World Series. You can read about his latest travails and communicate with him at or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

On this tour, win one signed print copy of The Dover Demon if you are in the U.S.! Just sign-up at the Rafflecopter link below:

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Friday, October 9, 2015

Season of the Witch is here! The Bell Witch - Discussion Week I #witchseasoncm

It's officially October and Season of the Witch has arrived! We are reading along the book The Bell Witch by John F.D. Taff (in conjunction with my TuesBookTalk read-a-long group on Goodreads). There will also be some spooky guest posts this month and I'm hoping to share some interesting stuff and perhaps more Edgar Allan Poe (because his stuff never gets old, right?). I'd still like more guests so if you're game, just let me know. 

So, this is week one of our discussion of Part I of The Bell Witch and boy were we treated to a lot of information in this first part. Before we jump in, I would like to share a little bit of the story of the Bell Witch, as this is based on a legend surrounding a real Tennessee family from the 19th century. I live in Tennessee so it's really a story of interest in our neck of the woods.

The below information was found on Wikipedia so may not be completely accurate. For a more detailed and extensive account, visit The Bell Witch Website.

An artist's sketching of the Bell home, originally published in 1894
The Bell Witch or Bell Witch Haunting is a poltergeist legend from Southern folklore, centered on the 19th-century Bell family of Adams, Tennessee.

John Bell Sr., who made his living as a farmer, resided with his family in Adams, Tennessee in the early 1800s. In 1817, his family came under attack by a witch, who was believed to be a lady called Kate Batts. Various accounts written afterward, tell stories similar to other poltergeist legends. It began with noises in the walls and grew to include unusual sounds, people being slapped and pinched, objects being thrown, and animals being spooked without visible cause.

In the 1894 book An Authenticated History of the Bell Witch, author Martin Van Buren Ingram claims that the poltergeist's name was Kate, and that she frequently cursed the Bell family out loud. The activity centered on the Bells' youngest daughter, Betsy, and worsened after she became engaged to one Joshua Gardner.

Several accounts report that during his military career, Andrew Jackson was intrigued with the story and was frightened away after traveling to investigate. Other stories relate that the family was haunted by scratching noises outside their door after Bell found a half-dog, half-rabbit creature. Some stories end up with Bell being poisoned by the witch. Accounts vary about the witch being someone who had been cheated by Bell or a male slave whom Bell had killed.

The only known account of the haunting prior to Ingram's publication was in 1886, more than 60 years after the events. This one paragraph in the Goodspeed Brothers book History of Tennessee does not mention Andrew Jackson or the death of Bell Sr.:

A remarkable occurrence, which attracted wide-spread interest, was connected with the family of John Bell, who settled near what is now Adams Station about 1804. So great was the excitement that people came from hundreds of miles around to witness the manifestations of what was popularly known as the "Bell Witch." This witch was supposed to be some spiritual being having the voice and attributes of a woman. It was invisible to the eye, yet it would hold conversation and even shake hands with certain individuals. The feats it performed were wonderful and seemingly designed to annoy the family. It would take the sugar from the bowls, spill the milk, take the quilts from the beds, slap and pinch the children, and then laugh at the discomfort of its victims. At first it was supposed to be a good spirit, but its subsequent acts, together with the curses with which it supplemented its remarks, proved the contrary.

Paranormal investigator Benjamin Radford, as well as Brian Dunning, conclude that there is no evidence that Andrew Jackson visited the Bell family home. During the years in question, Jackson's movements were well documented, and nowhere in history or his writings is there evidence of his knowledge of the Bell family. According to Dunning, "The 1824 Presidential election was notoriously malicious, and it seems hard to believe that his opponent would have overlooked the opportunity to drag him through the mud for having lost a fight to a witch."

All of the above accounts of the legend are drawn from two sources. In part, the Goodspeed article was a source, but newspaper publisher Martin Van Buren Ingram provided most of the material. Seventy-five years after the Bell Witch events, he wrote An Authenticated History of the Bell Witch. Ingram states that he based his book on the diary of Richard Bell, who was a son of John Bell Senior. The events happened when Richard Bell was 6–10 years old, but he didn't write the diary until he was 30. According to Brian Dunning no one has ever seen this diary, and there is no evidence that it ever existed: "Conveniently, every person with firsthand knowledge of the Bell Witch hauntings was already dead when Ingram started his book; in fact, every person with secondhand knowledge was even dead." Dunning also concluded that Ingram was guilty of falsifying another statement, that the Saturday Evening Post had published a story in 1849 accusing the Bells' daughter Elizabeth of creating the witch. That article does not exist either.

According to Radford, the Bell Witch story is an important one for all paranormal researchers: "It shows how easily legend and myth can be mistaken for fact and real events and how easily the lines are blurred" when sources are not checked. Dunning wrote that there was no need to discuss the supposed paranormal activity until there was evidence that the story was true. "Vague stories indicate that there was a witch in the area. All the significant facts of the story have been falsified, and the others come from a source of dubious credibility. Since no reliable documentation of any actual events exists, there is nothing worth looking into."

Dunning concludes, "I chalk up the Bell Witch as nothing more than one of many unsubstantiated folk legends, vastly embellished and popularized by an opportunistic author of historical fiction." Radford reminds readers that "the burden of proof is not on skeptics to disprove anything but rather for the proponents to prove... claims".

Joe Nickell has written that many of those who knew Betsy suspected her of fraud and the Bell Witch story "sounds suspiciously like an example of “the poltergeist-faking syndrome” in which someone, typically a child, causes the mischief."

Interesting stuff!

An artist's drawing of Betsy Bell, originally published in 1894
So, now that we have the history of the legend, we can delve in to the first part of the novel. In Part I, we get the set up. Betsy Bell has been tormented frequently by nightmares, but they're more like waking nightmares, as she feels like someone is literally lying atop her, holding her down, forcing themselves on her. Did anyone else hear alarm bells going off? Then we're treated to the next morning with Betsy's mom, Lucy, asking Betsy about her nightmares and then, when Betsy says she doesn't want to talk about it, this: "Part of Lucy, buried and ashamed, relaxed with Betsy's answer." Now what exactly is behind that reaction? 

The same night that Betsy experienced another dreadful waking nightmare, the chimney exploded. Another strange occurrence. And then, not too long after these events, Betsy falls ill and then falls under a coma-like state. 

I won't go into too much detail about the various events in Part I, as we all read it. But I will say that there were definitely some creepy moments. How about when the three young Bell brothers go into that cave and the voice speaks to Williams Bell? Terrifying. 

At the root of this story, there are definitely some family problems. Jack seems to be a tyrant-like family leader and possibly abusive, physically perhaps...definitely emotionally. He is also abusive toward his slaves. There is also the belief that he is having an affair with the Batts woman which is another betrayal of the family. Then we have various innuendos throughout, such as "Then he saw something in Lucy's face, something unfamiliar and alien, angry and knowing. He turned away, staring at the floor." This was Jack after he tried furiously to wake Betsy from her newfound coma state. It really makes me wonder what's really going on at the root of this story. 

More insight into the family trouble issue is seen when schoolmaster Richard Powell (who has a thing for Betsy) shares his thoughts with Lucy on the theory that the occurrences in the house and with Betsy could be from a form of hysteria experienced in young girls of Betsy's age. This immediately had me thinking of Stephen King's Carrie. Perhaps Betsy has experienced some type of abuse from a man in her social circle which could perhaps bring on a form of telekinesis...a way for her to vent her frustration and anger. Of course, this is all theory and speculation on my part as well. HaHa.

Oh, and let's not forget that mysterious horned and cloven hoofed figure Jack Bell keeps seeing. Another decidedly creepy aspect of this story. It seems the devil is at his door. What has Jack done to warrant such attentions, I wonder? 

All will be revealed (I hope)!

What were your thoughts on this first Part of The Bell Witch?

Note: "Cursed: The Bell Witch" an A&E series premiers October 26th. Details here.

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