Wanted: New Blood (Old Blood is Okay Too)

The Dolls are looking for new blood.

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Are you a speculative and/or dark fiction author looking to expand your marketing opportunities? Are you ambitious, motivated and at least a little curious about working with a group of like minded souls to take your book sales to the next level? (Or at least get yourself a few more sales than you have now?) If you’re nodding your head to all of this, then we might get along.

If you’d like to be a part of Deviant Dolls, then we’d love to have you. No, we are not a publisher. We’re a group of authors who’ve combined our efforts to publish and promote our books (both traditionally and independently).

Of course, there are some criteria in terms of what we expect for potential members. This seems cruel and maybe petty, but we need to make sure every member brings something beneficial to the table. We’ve been down some troublesome roads in terms of participation, and we’d rather avoid the potholes, thankyouverymuch.

And yes, we check out all of this before we let any new victims members into the group.

So, if you can say yes to all of the following, we’d love to hear from you:

Social Media presence: This means you MUST (at minimum) have a blog, a Facebook page AND be active on Twitter. Active on Twitter means you tweet regularly, and not just about your books. You engage others (RT’s, replies, etc.) and you have a solid number of followers (we like around 1,000, but that isn’t a firm number if your presence elsewhere is strong).

Publishing credits: Minimum of two books published (independently or via a publisher, and yes, anthologies count), with the most recent being published this year. This sounds arbitrary and maybe unfair, but we can’t market you if you’ve got nothing to promote. We’re not mentors, nor are we publishers. This group is meant to help each other get the word out there about our books. If you’ve got none, or haven’t published any in a really long time, we can’t help you and you can’t help us. We need to have equal give and take in this relationship.

Ambition: As I said earlier, we’ve had trouble with member participation in the past, so you MUST be willing to participate in group projects, write the occasional post for the group blog, share links, promos, etc. from other members, and if you’ve got ideas, you must be willing (if not eager) to share them. Marketing is a constantly changing thing that baffles even the smartest of us, so new ideas, no matter how silly, random or cliché are a must.

An open mind: Our members write in a variety of speculative genres. Some love comedy, while others prefer the serious side. Some mix erotica into their work, while others like to keep it clean. If you have any reservations about promoting anything because of its themes or graphic content, then we’re not the group for you. We don’t expect members to promote everyone all the time, but we do require that you be able to at least support each other in some way. If you have strong objections to specific content, that’ll have a negative impact on what you give/get from the group.

A sense of humor: We’re a motley crew here, some of us have rough edges, so a sense of humor goes a long way. Some of us are conservative, wouldn’t say shit if our mouths were full of it, while most of us can get a little… well, as far from conservative as you can imagine. We don’t censor anyone (but we do expect members to be RESPECTFUL of each other) and we encourage openness. You do you, is our motto. For some of us, weird and/or “deviant” is just as natural as breathing. So, if you can’t handle that kind of thing, then, again, we might not be a good fit for you.

So, still interested? Send Renee an email at deviantdollspub@gmail.com. She only bites when she’s in a bad mood.

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December of Darkness: Unnerving, Year 1 Giveaway

We’re offering all kinds of goodies in December, but the best of all might just be the super fantastic horror lover’s colossal giveaway awesome prize package Eddie Generous, from Unnerving Magazine, has generously offered to one lucky reader.

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This prize pack includes:

Unnerving Magazine Issues 1 – 4

ALLIGATORS IN THE SEWERS

BREATHE, BREATHE by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi

BONESPIN SLIPSPACE by Leo X. Robertson

CHURCH by Renee Miller

DARKEST HOURS by Mike Thorn

FESTIVAL by Aaron French

That’s 10 e-books for one very lucky reader.

Readers will have a chance to enter to win from December 1st to 24th.  Entries (comments/shares) made BEFORE December 1st will NOT be counted.

What do you have to do to be entered to win? Just two steps. First, share this post via the Twitter and/or Facebook buttons on this page. Second, comment on this post with your email OR your Twitter handle. (So we can let you know if you’ve won) That’s it!

Winners will be selected randomly on the afternoon of December 24th. (EST) We’ll announce the winner on Twitter and our Facebook page on December 24th.

Good luck and happy holidays!

December of Darkness

It’s almost December, kittens, and that means the Christmas season is upon us. The Deviant Dolls will use any reason to toss some deals and freebies at our readers, so here we go.

Buckle in. Ready?

From December 1st to December 25th, we’ll be offering weekly sales, free promotions AND giveaways.

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The first week of December, we have these fine titles for just 99 cents.

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LA FEMME FATALE by Renee Miller

SKER HOUSE by C.M. Saunders

SEX, PEANUTS, FANGS AND FUR by Renee Miller

SCENT by Liam McNalley

THE LADY IN BLUE by Kimberly G. Giarratano

You can also get these titles absolutely free! (That’s all four books in Renee’s gods series)

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FOR THE LOVE OF GODS SERIES (4 BOOKS) by Renee Miller

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But we’re just getting started. Check out the fine titles we’ll have for just 99 cents during the second week of December.

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SEX, TRANSVESTITES, ANGELS AND ASSHOLES by Renee Miller

HUMAN WASTE by C.M. Saunders

DRAGONS, DICKS, SINS AND SCRIBES by Renee Miller

And these nifty books will be absolutely free from the 7th to 11th.

FREE PROMO 7 to 11

THE RAINBOW by Liam McNalley

THE LEGEND OF JACKSON MURPHY by Renee Miller

Oh, and we almost forgot; we’ll be giving away one copy of each of these titles,

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DARKEST HOURS by Mike Thorn

X: A COLLECTION OF HORROR by C.M. Saunders

HARDENED HEARTS via Unnerving Magazine (brand new release!!)

**E-Books only for this giveaway

How are you all doing? All right? Cool. Let’s keep going. (Don’t worry, we’ll let you know how to get in on the giveaways at the end of this post)

The THIRD week has even more sales.

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THE TOTALLY LEGEND OF BRANDON THIGHMASTER by Steve Wetherell

A TALE DU MORT by Katrina Monroe

ECHOES AND BONES: A DEVIANT DOLLS ANTHOLOGY

MAD by Renee Miller

SMALLS’ SOLDIERS by Renee Miller

And don’t forget the freebies!

 

FREE PROMO 14 TO 18

FAR INTO THE DARK by Steve Wetherell

STOP CRYING by Renee Miller

Plus, you can enter to win these fine titles:

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ALL DARLING CHILDREN by Katrina Monroe (paperback)

CHURCH by Renee Miller (E-Book)

ECHOES AND BONES: A DEVIANT DOLLS ANTHOLOGY (paperback)

But if you don’t win, don’t worry. You can still get these dark lovelies absolutely free!

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IN THE BONES by Renee Miller

NO MAN’S LAND: HORROR IN THE TRENCHES, by C.M. Saunders (free from Dec. 22nd – 25th)

BAYOU BABY  by Renee Miller

And the super fantastic, best deal of all? Well, just look at the awesome prize package Eddie Generous, from Unnerving Magazine, has generously offered to one lucky reader.

unnerving dec 1 - 24

 

This prize pack includes:

Unnerving Magazine Issues 1 – 4

ALLIGATORS IN THE SEWERS

BREATHE, BREATHE by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi

BONESPIN SLIPSPACE by Leo X. Robertson

CHURCH by Renee Miller

DARKEST HOURS by Mike Thorn

FESTIVAL by Aaron French

That’s 10 e-books for one very lucky reader.

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Readers will have a chance to enter to win from December 1st to 24th HERE.  We’ll announce the winner on Twitter and our Facebook page on December 24th.

That’s all, kids. Keep an eye on our sale page, where we’ll post all of these promotions, as well as our Facebook and Twitter pages.

 

 

 

Peter Cheyney and I

(originally published May, 2016 by Mystery File)

I came across Peter Cheyney when I was somewhere between twelve and thirteen. A church bazaar or second hand bookshop, the memory is blurred. What remains clear is that being basically stupid and already with the propensity to read what I wanted to read, I assumed at first the book was a western ‘Peter Cheyenne’ being some kind of cowboy. When it became clear that it wasn’t a western, I put the book down convinced Peter Cheyenne was an American thriller writer.

I forgot all about him (well almost, the name having some kind of magic) for almost forty years. And this ‘forgetting’ is key to the whole story. Peter Cheyney was the most popular and prolific British author of his day. He was also the most highly paid. His curse perhaps is that he undoubtedly influenced Ian Fleming, for Bond is nothing more than a glamorous composite of the Cheyney ‘hero’. Cheyney created the template that Fleming developed, and the rest is history. Bond got Chubby Broccoli and celluloid fame, Peter Cheyney obscurity and critical censure.

John le Carre, when asked about spy books that might have influenced him as a child, gave the following response. He duly bowed his head to Kipling, Conrad, Buchan and Greene, and then referred to the: ‘…awful, mercifully-forgotten chauvinistic writers like Peter Cheyney and Co.’

John Sutherland made a similar point, referring to Cheyney’s Dark Series as the ‘high point of a resolutely low flying career.’ These two, wonderfully pithy, assessments are true to a point. They are also skewed by the cultural background and literary talent of both men.

Cheyney was chauvinistic, and no great shakes in terms of vocabulary and style, but he shouldn’t be forgotten ‘mercifully’ or otherwise. Cheyney’s success as the most highly paid writer of his time does not necessarily qualify him as a literary giant, but it does show that his work reflected the attitudes and mood of a huge swathe of the population, amplified it and played it back to them. Cheyney talked to the popular mood rather than the concerns of an educated elite. It was ‘everyman’ who bought his work in droves.

During the dark years of World War II and the austerity that followed, Cheyney’s novels were taken into battlefields, were exchanged for ten cigarettes in POW camps, and at a time when fabric was rationed, women fantasised about the glamorous Cheyney femme fatales in their satin and silks, sheer stockings, ruffles and bows. Read Cheyney and you’re reading violence and brutality set in a fashion catalogue.

For those jaded by pilgrimages to Baker Street, Cheyney provides a welcome alternative. Most of his many heroes, villains and victims live in a very small area of London. Some are unwitting neighbours, and all jostle each other on the same roads and streets, ghosts in parallel worlds. These are mapped, allowing the reader to go on his or her own ‘Cheyney walk.’

Cheyney, Behave recaptures a lost world and provides an eye-opening analysis of a popular culture we might prefer to forget. The book examines the importance of cigarettes and alcohol in Cheyney’s world, his attitude to ‘pansies’, racism, women, and the unconscious but jaw-dropping sexism of his age. It analyses the significance of Cheyney’s ‘Dark’ series in terms of war propaganda and how Cheyney accurately captured the effects of war on prevailing morality.

In his books you will find misogyny, homophobia, racism, sexism and chauvinism and, at their core, idealism and a deep vulnerability. In terms of market forces they reflect a world long past, one far different from ours but fascinating and worth understanding. Read Cheyney, Behaveand judge for yourself.

Happy Halloween

by Steve Wetherell

 

I guess I was maybe five years old or so when my dog died. Her name was Sherry, a big loafy German Shepard who I assume was brought as protection, but whom I never recall even snarling. I had come down into the hallway on an ice white morning, barefoot in my pajamas, my parents not yet up. I found her lying there in a way that I must have known wasn’t natural. Her eyes were open, she had a dried trickle of blood on her nose. I suppose I must have been old enough to process this as ‘dead’ rather than ‘sleeping’.

I don’t remember being scared, horrified or even sad. I found my siblings and we told our parents. Then Sherry was taken away. It was just a thing that happened.

If I remember one emotion I attached to the event it was excitement. Let me explain, because I know that sounds pretty awful.

As a kid I was obsessed with the paranormal. Ghostbusters was my favourite movie, even though the librarian gave me nightmares. Thanks to a big sack of pirated VHS tapes and our parents often leaving us to our own devices, my brothers and sisters let me watch a whole host of horror movies we shouldn’t have. If you think the furry scene in The Shining is disturbing as an adult, try processing that shit as someone who is only a few years removed from learning where poop is supposed to go.

The night before the death of Sherry I’d been up with my brother and cousin, swapping tales about the White Lady. No, she wasn’t a pumpkin spice obsessed yoga instructor. She was a typical Victorian apparition of a long dead lady who had flung herself from a balcony. She was rumoured to haunt the private school my brother attended, but I later found out she was sort of a franchise operation, claimed by any old building with a balcony that wanted to jazz up their history. When I found the corpse of my dog, I didn’t process it as a natural death. I clearly remember exchanging hushed whispers with my siblings. It was the work of the White Lady. She had come in the night. Our dog had died protecting us.

This would similarly link up to the next time we saw a dog corpse. We were creeping around a junk yard, that same brother and cousin and I, when amongst the majestic piles of abandoned appliances and spindly old bikes, we saw a dog, lolling out of a pile of trash-bags as though frozen mid catch. Clearly this dog was another victim of the White Lady’s gaze.

I guess it’s understandable. I guess it’s just taking a big, complicated shape and squeezing it into something a child can hold in his head. What should have been at least a little traumatic became a jump scare in an ongoing game.

That obsession with the supernatural never really left me. I don’t believe in ghosts (except the brief moments when I do, before I remind myself I’m a 250-lb grown up with a Quarter 4 planning meeting early in the morning,) but I sort of want to. Maybe that’s just ingrained in me now. That when something awful happens, it’s because of something.

This is not a healthy habit, and I wonder how many other writers, comedians and creators have it at their core. That little part of you, in the midst of disaster, is already weaving this awful news into punchlines, blog posts and prose.

That thing that, when finding a pet dead on the floor, won’t let you stay with it. Is already licking the tip of its pencil.

I mean, that’s sick, right? That’s got to be some sort of obsessive compulsive narcissism? Or maybe it’s just sad, maybe it’s just a human looking through a window at a sky full of terrible void, and writing something distracting in the condensation. I dunno. It’s pretty scary.

Happy Halloween.

 

My Favorite Monsters

By Renee Miller

Happy Halloween, Dolls! For my installment of the spectacularly spooky whatever this is, I’m going to talk about my favorite horror monsters. In this genre, authors have crafted all manner of terrifying, dark and weird creatures. I love them all, but I do have a few favorites.

Vampires

Yes, I know. So cliché! But I’m not talking about Twilight vamps here. I love vampires of the old days, with a hint of modern romanticism and (of course) sex. A dash of stoker with a sprinkling of Rice. A bit of Supernatural poured over a morsel of True Blood. I enjoy the dangerous, dark vampires that scare the bejesus out of you, but I also crave a glimpse into their minds. They can’t live forever and be completely without thought or emotion, right? What must it be like to live in the shadows like that? To dance so closely with death that your very existence depends on it?

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Yeah, like The Lost Boys vampires. Look at all that hair.

I like my vampires bloody and murderous, but I also enjoy knowing what makes them tick. That means, they can’t be “just” monsters. Some of their humanity has to have remained behind. Maybe it’s only the bad parts. That’s okay.

Ghosts

Not regular ghosts that are just hanging out for whatever reason. I’m talking dark spirits. Things that go bump in the night because they’re plotting to kill you. I tell myself I don’t believe in ghosts. I don’t believe that anything lurks in the shadows around us, because when you’re dead, you’re dead. But I’ll admit, there’s way too many unexplained things out there for that to be entirely true. And it scares the hell out of me. This is pretty much how I imagine them, and why I’m not really a fan of The Grudge.

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After my dad passed away, there was this ratty old robin who would sit in the windows, staring at us. Sometimes, he’d peck at the glass. If we moved from one room to another, he’d follow. He’d sit on the fence when I took the dogs outside, just staring. Some might say, oh, it’s the spirit of your father. How comforting.

No.

Sea Creatures

After watching Jaws at a probably too young age, I refused to go into any body of water I couldn’t see the bottom of. No, I wasn’t afraid of sharks specifically. That movie made me terrified of EVERYTHING that might be lurking in the water waiting to kill me. I went two whole summers not swimming anywhere but pools. So, when I read or watch a film featuring a monster sea creature, I’m already scared. Listen, I can’t even dream about swimming anywhere without it turning into a nightmare where I get drowned and then dismembered by something slimy and horrific.

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Skin-Walkers/Shapeshifters

In Navajo legend, a skin-walker is a creature who has the ability to turn into, possess, or disguise themselves as any animal, usually for the purposes of harming people. Shapeshifters are similar, but they just shift, no possession. Most of the time, these things aren’t doing it for shits and giggles. They’ve got murderous intentions and I don’t like them.

The idea that something/someone can look like something/someone else, and I’d never know terrifies me. The idea that something could be inside you, just roaming around, getting cozy and shit before it kills you? No thanks.

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Humans

Did you see this one coming? Too predictable? Well, I think humans have to be one of the most terrifying monsters I’ve ever encountered. We continue to surprise ourselves with the depths of our cruelty and depravity. I don’t even like watching the news anymore, because we just keep getting worse.

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And we’re real, so that makes us scarier than the rest.

 

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got. What monsters scare you the most?

Before you go, don’t forget to pick up a copy of our new anthology, ECHOES & BONES, which is dark, like Halloween, and sometime funny. You can also enter to win a copy on Amazon. ‘Muricans only, because them’s the rules. Folks from other countries can go to our Facebook page for chances to win book goodies.

The Grave of the Female Stranger…

by Frank E. Bittinger

October, and thus Halloween, are upon us, and since the anthology in which I have a tale—Echoes & Bones—has also been released I thought sharing the tale of something I have found intriguing and creepy for many years would be appropriate.

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Like Nadine Earles and Rosalia Lombardo, I wrote about the story of the female stranger in my third novel Angels of the Mourning Light. Having spent time in Leesburg, VA, not far from Alexandria, of course I’d heard of the story and wanted to investigate further. It intrigued me even more when I found out the small amount of details known.

The grave in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Cemetery has become more than merely a local landmark; it has become a tourist attraction visited by those who want to see if for themselves and by those seeking the identity of the grave’s occupant.

The tale has been in the telling for nearly two centuries, and that only adds to the romanticism of the story.

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In the autumn of 1816, I’ve also heard the end of July, a ship from the West Indies docked at Alexandria and a handsome English gentleman and his beautiful wife, who was very sick with typhoid fever, got off. They rented the best room above The Bunch of Grapes Tavern, which was actually Gadsby’s Tavern, and the husband assisted his wife upstairs and then sent for the doctor, allegedly Samuel Richards.

Descriptions of the lady vary, from blonde to brunette, and she was said to have a pale, perfect complexion. Although I find any descriptions of her suspect when most of the stories I’ve come say she wore a veil. Even when the husband hired two woman, possible nurses, to assist with her care, she remained veiled.

Over the weeks, I’ve seen ten weeks reported, which would make some sense if the arrived at the very end of July, the lady did not recover; in fact, she got progressively worse until she passes away. Sometimes it’s reported the husband claimed she passed away in his embrace; other times I’ve read she passed away in the middle of a kiss.

Either way, the husband came downstairs on 14 October 1816 to report she had indeed passed away, and he set about making funeral arrangements, allegedly borrowing money from several businessmen to pay for the services. Still fearing someone might lay eyes on his beloved, he prepared the body himself, going so far as to seal the body in the coffin himself. And she was buried.

What appears to be a stone, sex-legged table marks her grave. It was originally surrounded by an iron railing, but that is gone, having been scavenged during the first World War.

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After the funeral, the husband exited town, leaving nothing behind.

He allegedly returned one year later on 4 October to visit the grave, staying only long enough to place flowers on the grave. Some versions tell of him returning each year close to the date of her death for twelve years to check on the grave and place flowers for her. After his visits stopped, for whatever reason. no one came to visit. Then some years later, an older man and woman, sometimes it’s said two men and a woman, distinguished, seemingly of British upper-class visited the grave, claimed to be relatives and ordered a more costly headstone–the top of the table–bearing the same inscription with the addition of another verse. Some stories state they claimed they would return with papers proving her identity and standing, but there were no other reports of them visiting again.

Other versions of the tale says the husband returned at some point, whether it was the year after or a few years after, with seamen from the ship to exhume her body and take it with him. There is a bit of a dip in the ground where it is suspected the coffin collapsed in on itself, but no other evidence to support the claim the husband ever returned to exhume the remains of his wife.

The grave marker is a stone table with six legs. On top the table is the inscription:

To the memory of a
FEMALE STRANGER
whose mortal sufferings terminated on
the 14th day of October 1816
Aged 23 years and 8 months
This stone was place here by her disconsolate
husband in whose arms she sighed out
her latest breath and who under God
did his utmost even to soothe the cold
dead ear of death

And allegedly the last verse, from Acts in the Bible, was added by that mysterious older couple who came to visit years later. Without evidence, the entire inscription could have been done at the behest of the husband. One a side note, could this older couple visiting years later have been the husband with another wife or companion?

Visitors will look up at the window of room 8 of Gadsby’s Tavern to see if they can catch a glimpse of her, for she has been known to look out the window while holding a candle. She has also been seen standing by her grave.

Who was the Female Stranger? Although there have been many guesses, the identity of the female stranger remains unknown to this day.

Don’t forget to pick up a copy of our new anthology, ECHOES & BONES, which is dark, like Halloween, and sometime funny. You can also enter to win a copy on Amazon. ‘Muricans only, because them’s the rules. Folks from other countries can go to our Facebook page for chances to win book goodies.

A Halloween Rant

by Liam McNalley

 

Let’s just say that Halloween is not my favorite holiday. My dislike of this bizarre cultural ration of insanity only grows worse as I get older.

The creepy, sometimes disturbing “decorations” my neighbors put out to give small children nightmares is only the beginning. The worst part is that Halloween seems to be the time that all the stores start putting out all the cheesy Christmas stuff. Seriously? Can’t I enjoy Thanksgiving before I get inundated with wretchedly bad Christmas music, and visually assaulted by over-commercialized yuletide crap?

Halloween is also a stark reminder that autumn is slapping me in the face, and all the things I wanted to do during the summer never got done. It makes me feel old.

Speaking of feeling old, I dare not leave the house on Halloween. The idiotic tendency of people wearing dark clothing to walk right out in front of me while I’m driving makes me go bat-shit crazy. Delinquents tossing eggs on my truck makes me want to do Halloween the original way… by instead of carving a face in an oversized, vine grown, hard-skinned fruit, making a real jack-o-lantern. Originally this was done by hacking the head off an enemy, and tying it by the hair to a tree branch. “Get off my lawn.”

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Sure, pumpkins look cool, but butternut squash is much better in beer, and sweet potato pie is hands-down more flavorful.

Halloween also tweaks a pet peeve of mine… Just for the record, Cider is NOT that unfiltered apple juice everybody on the planet calls “apple cider.” Cider is by definition, an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting apple juice. There is no such thing as “hard” cider, since ALL cider is alcoholic. A person is either drinking apple juice, or they are drinking cider… period. Adding the word “apple” in front of cider is as redundant as saying “I made an apple, apple pie.” Just because one idiot misuses a word doesn’t mean everybody has to. I recently saw some pear juice marketed as “Pear cider.” This is a labeling abomination. Cider consists only of apples, and if the pear juice was fermented into an alcoholic beverage, it is called “Perry.” This stuff wasn’t even fermented, so they failed miserably on all counts.

My favorite memories of Halloween are not even of dressing up in a silly costume, and guilting adults into giving me candy; they are of the food my mother used to cook. Roast pork and mashed potatoes drowned in rich gravy, and my favorite: melt a half cup of butter in a big cast iron skillet. Add a half cup of brown sugar, a couple of teaspoons of cinnamon, and one of nutmeg. Let this cook for a minute, and add a bunch of sliced tart apples, and some water. Let them cook until tender. YUM!

Staying up late to watch scary movies on a black and white television set, while stuffing my face with popcorn, was pretty fun too. But I can do that any night I want now, and the television is actually in color!

So there you have it, my take on Halloween. While you are enjoying whatever fun crap you have planned, I’ll be the drunk guy muttering profanities with all the lights turned off.

Why don’t you pick up a copy of our new anthology, ECHOES & BONES, which is dark, like Halloween… and me, I guess. You can also enter to win a copy on Amazon. ‘Muricans only, because them’s the rules. Folks from other countries can go to our Facebook page to find chances to win book goodies.

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Two Ghost Stories

By Michael Keyton

 

There was, and maybe still is, a great tradition in our family of naming a son after the father. This in effect has turned us into a franchise of ‘Robin Hood and his Merry Men’ with: ‘Big John’ and ‘Little John’, ‘Big Frank and Little Frank’, ‘Big Mike and Little Mike’, ‘Big Dave and Little Dave’, ‘Big Owen’, and ‘Little Owen’ — and ‘Very Little Owen’

Very Little Owen (we didn’t really call him that) was my Uncle Owen, and his wife Pat lived close to us. I have very clear memories of my Aunty Pat, and I think something needs to be said: very young children recognise a beautiful woman well before all the nonsense of puberty kicks in. My Aunty Pat was beautiful and she died very young leaving two small children. My uncle was distraught, understandably drank a little more than he should, and sometime later took up with another woman who treated the children poorly.

One day she was found at the bottom of the stairs, scared out of her wits and claiming that she’d been pushed. Her account was quite graphic. She’d been walking up the stairway when a woman materialised out of thin air and pushed her down. The first time I heard this story I was about eight, sitting under our kitchen table attempting to turn the Liverpool Echo into a Magic Carpet with scissors and some complex origami. I remember closing my eyes, trying to visualise the scene. I wanted to pop out from under the table with a whole series of questions, but wisely stayed put. The general consensus was that it must have been Aunty Pat, coming back to protect her two children, and I remember waving my scissors in glee.

Now this, I confess is a second-hand story, though in a family Celtic through and through accepted as more probable than possible.

My second ghost story is a personal experience – and you can take it or leave it.

I was a student at the time, lodging in 17 High fields Road, Langland, Swansea. It was an interesting place, run by an ex officer in the RAF and his wife with the help of a small hunch-backed lady. Husband and Wife resented the fact that they had to take in students, and their servant was forever trying to explain away their distaste for us.

One night I woke up in pitch darkness, and there was a woman, standing at the foot of my bed. There was no colour to her apart from a generalised whitish glow. I remember easing myself on to my pillow in quiet excitement. There was no fear, just this intense excitement that something inexplicable had just occurred— was occurring —she was still there. The thought crossed my mind that it had to be a dream, so I scratched and pinched myself. Then came the fear that despite all this, in the cold light of day, I might well try and convince myself it was after all a dream. I pulled some hair— kept on staring— and slowly she disappeared. (And no, I hadn’t been drinking that night)

The interesting thing is that she came back a few months later. This time I was at home in Liverpool, and I woke up in the middle of the night to see her standing over me at the side of the bed. Again, no fear— a sense of peace— AND, possibly more significantly, instant recognition. It was the same lady. Don’t ask me how I know. Again I went through the pinching of the flesh routine; she faded a little more quickly than previously, but was there long enough for me to be sure I was awake.

I know all the quasi-scientific explanations that can explain most things away, and there are others who’d claim it was my Guardian Angel. People believe what they will whether ‘New Age’ or ‘Materialist’. My only regret is that I haven’t seen her since.

PS: For those who enjoy ‘real life’ ghost stories, ‘Bus Stop’ in Tales from the Murenger is based upon one such, though suitably embroidered. It was told to me by the brother of the bus conductor involved when I was a student working in a biscuit factory.

And, in case you missed it, don’t forget to check out ECHOES AND BONES, an anthology of dark fiction written by myself and the other Dolls. If you’re an American, you can enter to win a copy on Amazon. Live in another country? Keep an eye on our Facebook page for a chance to win.

 

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The Top 10 British Comedy Horror Films

By C.M. Saunders

That time of year again, eh? I was going to write about the history of Halloween and how it’s mired in ancient Celtic folklore. But all that stuff is freely available online and not very exciting. I wanted to do something special for you instead. So how about a Top 10 Horror Movie List? Not special enough? OK, how about a Top 10 BRITISH Horror Movie List? Still not good enough? Well, taking it to the next level, you know how us Brits are renowned for our unique, irreverent, occasionally wacky yet sophisticated sense of humour? No? Well, we are. Sometimes it can be as subtle as an autumn breeze. Other times it can be fast, bloody, and brutal. Like a good bout of period sex. So… how about a Top 10 British COMEDY Horror Movie List? Yeah, let’s do that.

 

10: I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle (1990)

vamp motorcycle

Once upon a time, in a faraway land called 1980s Britain, there was a very popular comedy drama TV series. Boon was its name, and it was about a courier service-cum-private detective agency. It was so popular that at its peak that a shrewd production company hired its two main stars, Michael Elphick and Neil Morrissey, to appear in a riotous low-budget horror romp in an attempt to capitalize on its burgeoning success. They only partially failed. In the beginning there are satanic rituals and rival biker gangs, climaxing in a motorcycle getting possessed and then purchased by an unsuspecting Noddy (Morrissey) who, coincidentally, is a courier by trade. And then, people start having terrible ‘accidents’ and it appears the motorcycle is to blame. This is like Boon with the gloves off and the volume turned up, with blood, gore, dismemberments, swearing, lewd behaviour and even a talking turd. I shit you not.

9: Inbred (2011)

inbred

This late-night Horror Channel stalwart sees a group of thuggish inner-city young offenders taken to an isolated Yorkshire town to do some community service. During a run-in with a group of local louts, one of their carers, Jim, falls and cuts open an artery in his leg. In a panic, the young offenders take him to a nearby pub to get help. Unfortunately, the locals (aka, ‘inbreds’) don’t like strangers in them parts. Not at all. They quickly decapitate poor Jim with a meat cleaver and lock the young offenders in the cellar, until they are taken out one by one to provide the village entertainment. Daft, disturbing and deeply offensive, the most puzzling thing about Inbred is just how far the makers managed to stretch a measly £109,000 budget, which is about half the cost of the average house in the UK.

8: Doghouse (2009)

doghouse

It’s got Danny Dyer in it, and it’s about a boy’s night out gone terribly wrong. Therefore, you just know it’s going to be crude, filthy and unashamedly misogynistic. What did you expect? At its core, it’s a parody of lad culture riffing on men’s supposed inherent fear of women. Luckily, it’s funny enough to compensate for all the Cosmopolitan schtick. Dyer, helped out by Noel Clarke, Stephen Graham and a few other less famous faces, head to a fabled town where women allegedly outnumber men 4-1. When they get there, they realize this is by no means a good thing as every female in sight has fallen victim to a biological toxin that turns them all into frenzied, blood-thirsty zombie types. It’s a battle of the sexes for sure.

7: Carry on Screaming (1966)

carry on screaming

Apparently, very few people outside Britain have heard of the legendary Carry On films. Quite frankly, this appals me. The films (all 30-plus of them, including such gems as Carry On Teacher, Carry On Behind and Carry On Doctor) are a British institution. Where else are you going to get fart jokes and edgy one-liners about hard-on’s and knockers on terrestrial telly at Sunday tea times? This particular outing is a parody of the Hammer Horror films, which were peaking in popularity at the time, and tells the story of a series of mysterious disappearances in the English countryside, which ultimately leads police to a mad doctor in a castle and a monster called Oddbod. Admittedly, the plot is a bit thin in this one, but the gags are timeless.

6: Lesbian Vampire Killers (2009)

lesbian vampire

Before James Corden became a late-night TV host (or got his driving license) he starred in films like this. The critics hated it, with some bloke from the Times calling it an, “Instantly forgettable lad mag farce.” But that isn’t really saying too much. This was an era when it was fashionable to lamblast lad mags at every opportunity and besides, the Times don’t like any films. Even today it’s rare to see a film get more than two stars out of five, unless it’s an artsy fartsy French drama you need multiple degrees to understand. Personally, as far as low-brow humour goes, I thought this unofficial companion to Doghouse was a riot. When Jimmy (Mathew Horne) is dumped and Fletch (Corden), is sacked from his job as a clown for punching a kid, the duo decide to escape for the weekend to an idyllic village in Norfolk. A village which, unbeknownst to them, has been cursed, leading to a sizeable percentage of lesbian vampires. And you thought Eastern European immigrants were the problem.

5: Grabbers (2012)

grabbers

This is one of the more slick, big-budget entries on this list. Most of the time you just wouldn’t think it, which I guess is the point, as self-defeating as that is. Grabbers is essentially an alien invasion creature feature, the comedy aspect fueled primarily by the fact that alcohol is found to be toxic to the invaders, which encourages the inhabitants of a small Irish village to lock themselves in the pub and get rat-arsed as a defense mechanism. Think of this one as Father Ted crossed with the Blob and garnished with a liberal sprinkling of Cloverfield. It’s not a feckin’ lobster!

4: Severance (2006)

severance

Severance mixes humour, bravado, and some of the most brutal body horror this side of the Saw franchise to great effect, making it one of the stand-out Brit Horror films of the past two decades. The plot revolves around a group of office staff who are sent to Hungary on a team building exercise. As you would find in any office, the cast is made up of an eclectic and varied group of characters, all living up to certain long-held stereotypes. Danny Dyer pops up again, playing every-man caner Steve, who sees the getaway as the perfect opportunity to get off his tits. He’s munching magic mushrooms and puffing on a spliff in the toilet before the coach even stops (“Have I pissed meself?”). All in all, Severance comes off like a mash-up between Hostel and The Office. Brill.

3: Dog Soldiers (2002)

dog soldiers

There haven’t been many British horror films over the past decade or two more worthy of praise than Dog Soldiers. From the opening scenes, when a couple camping in the Scottish Highlands are ripped apart by a ferocious beast, you’re left in little doubt that this is a werewolf flick. If you like your horror bloody, funny, and gore-tastic, you can do a lot worse than this. You’re probably never going to see another northern bloke holding a flare aloft and singing, “Come and ‘ave a go if you think you’re ‘ard enough!” to a group of rampaging lycanthropes ever again. That man, incidentally, was played by an actor called Chris Robson, and he’s a French teacher in the north of England now. One of the few genuine, undisputed cult classics. Miss it at your peril.

2: An American werewolf in London (1981)

american werewolf

Some films you see during your impressionable formative years make an impression on you. Others scar you for life. For me, An American werewolf in London belongs firmly in the latter category. The subway chase scene gave me nightmares and years later when I first moved to London I remember going out of my way to incorporate Tottenham Court Road station (where the scene was filmed) in my daily commute. It never failed to give me chills, largely because the only thing about the station that has changed in the past 35 years are the fucking posters on the walls. The story goes that when director John Landis first started touting it, he had trouble securing finances with most would-be investors claiming the script was too frightening to be a comedy and too funny to be frightening. Eventually, PolyGram Pictures put up the $10 million, and were glad they did when it went on to become a box office smash and win an Academy Award for its special effects (Rick Baker went on to win six more from eleven nominations. A record). The story? It’s about an American werewolf in London, innit?

1: Shaun of the Dead (2004)

shaun dead

Could any other film really take top spot in this list? Not on your nelly. This, the first instalment of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s so-called Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy (the others films being Hot Fuzz and The World’s End) is a bona-fide modern classic. Whilst dealing with feuding housemates, a demanding girlfriend and a shitty job, Shaun (Pegg) wakes up one morning with a hangover to find he’s in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. We’ve all been there. Naturally, the only place to go to wait for the world to restore order is the local pub. Brilliant performances by the cream of noughties British comedic talent and commendable special effects, topped off by a hilariously witty script. The perfect introduction to a positively booming sub-genre.

Honourable Mentions:

Cockneys Vs Zombies (2012), the Cottage (2008), Sightseers (2012), Stitches (2012), Boy Eats Girl (2005), Horror Hospital (1973), Nina Forever (2015) Stag Night of the Dead (2010), The World’s End (2013), Ibiza Undead (2016)

Human Waste: A Short Splatterpunk Story by C.M. Saunders is out now.

human waste

 

 

And don’t forget to pick up a copy of our new anthology, ECHOES & BONES, which is dark, like Halloween, and sometime funny. You can also to enter to win a copy on Amazon. ‘Muricans only, because them’s the rules. Folks from other countries can go to our Facebook page for chances to win book goodies.

 

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