When did I begin my love of horror? Well, like a lot of people I became addicted to Stephen King books as a teenager, but it goes much farther back than that…
My earliest dream that I can remember was about a plane crashing in my back yard when I was about five years old and as I watched from the window over the sink in our kitchen, a “man” stepped out and started staggering drunkenly toward our back door. The little dog we had at the time was in the dream too; I think she was a Cockapoo? (That’s half Cocker Spaniel and half Poodle). I think her name was Ladybug. Well, Ladybug barked at the tottering man has he proceeded to open our back door. I wake up at that point in the dream because somehow I knew he was a zombie. Way too scary to stay there…
Years later, I found out I was not born with knowledge of zombies, but had snuck in the living room at night as my parents watched late night zombie movies on TV. It would have been 1970 or there abouts, so I’m guessing my first horror movie was none other than, George Romero’s classic, Night of the Living Dead (Well that’s my story and I’m sticking to it).
My mother said that though my infiltration was discovered and I was promptly removed from said living room, that I would return in what I thought was stealth mode, only to be removed again. I think, I just really liked zombie movies!
As Time’s Arrow marched on, my love and knowledge of the genre increased as I was introduced to such greats as Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff:
Then in my early teens came the arrival of the unforgettable, Jason Voorhees (well technically a vengeful mother came first):
But one of my favorites of all time came next because this monster came to you in your dreams! So scary!
So many scary books and movies later, I am now writing my own little horror vignettes. A quote from the forward for The One That Got Away written by Gwendolyn Kiste: “Growing up, I always lamented the lack of female characters, both in horror and literature at large. While there are certainly many memorable women in books, there still weren’t nearly enough. That in large part was due to a dearth of female authors being accepted in largely insular literary communities. But times have fortunately changed for the better in this regard, and more than ever before, we’re finally seeing female characters in horror that are written by women.”
I feel both proud and humbled to join my fellow Women in Horror doing something that we’ve loved all along as much as “the boys”. I have found the Horror Family to be welcoming to all lovers of horror, regardless, of age, sex, gender, etc… It’s a place for us all to come together to share our love of the genre!
Bio: Trading in a police badge and then classroom, Janine is a full-time Splatterpunk Award nominated writer, whilst also being a mum, wife and Disney addict. Influenced by the works of King from a young age, she likes to shock readers with violence and scare them with monsters – both mythical and man-made. When she’s not killing people off, she likes to chew the fat with other authors – reviewing books and conducting interviews for her podcast and YouTube channel. You’ll likely find her devouring work by Glenn Rolfe, Hunter Shea and Tim Meyer. Her biggest fan, beta reader, editor and financier is her loving husband. He just wants her to write a story about werewolves that wear shoes on their hands …
Guys! I’m doing my first author interview with Janine Pipe, my kindred spirit of horror!
Thank you for being my first interview victim, Janine! Here goes…first question:
CC: I’m sure you’ve always been drawn to writing as many of us are, but at what point did you decide to pursue writing with publication in mind?
Janine: A couple of years ago I was made redundant due to budget cuts. My daughter was school age so I suddenly had some time on my hands. I had been blogging in the travel genre for a while but my passion for fiction had always been horror. I started writing a few bits and pieces, just the kind of stuff that I would want to read and fully immersed myself in the community to learn about how to sub, who to sub to etc. which was vital and as with most people, I had rather a lot of rejections. My first ever proper acceptance was with Kandisha of course and the rest as they say is history. It is still nerve-wracking though for sure, each and every time something gets released as you are putting yourself out there. But that’s the game.
CC: Why the horror genre? What specifically drew you to it?
Janine: Horror and dark, psychological thrillers have always been my bag. Right from a young age, I was drawn to the more macabre side of things and had a fascination/deep terror of all things supernatural. To this day ghost stories both excite and scare the crap out of me. As a teen I loved the cat and mouse type fun of Point Horror and the character driven small town narrative of King. I also read a lot of crime books as I always wanted to be a police officer. Lore in particular has always really interested me too, I love the origins of certain legends and growing up near Glastonbury and Stonehenge was just the icing on the cake.
CC: Who are your greatest influences in the horror genre?
Janine: It would be remiss of me not to say King as the genesis of my love of this genre and his work like Carrie, Salem’s Lot and IT have had a great impact on me. But more recently, I am for sure inspired/influenced by my own 3 favourite authors – Glenn Rolfe, Hunter Shea and Tim Meyer. Also, women like Caroline Kepnes and Kenzie Jennings and although not best known for her fictional writing, Sadie Hartmann for her passion and spark.
CC: Okay, here’s the really cliché question, where do your ideas come from?
Janine: Sometimes I’ll just be hit with a spontaneous idea and that it almost always somewhere inconvenient like in the shower, lol. Then it’s like some sort of fever dream as I desperately try to write it all down. Other times, I get ideas from things I have read or seen. Not copying obviously, but taking the initial idea and growing it, changing it, making it my own. An example being The Special by James Newman and Mark Steensland – that is a story ultimately about sex addition and a dude that fucks a box. I turned my version into teen boys and a hole in a tree but it definitely originated from that. I actually sent James my story and he liked it. Thank god 😉
CC: Once you have an idea, how do you flesh out a story?
Janine: So, I’m a total pantster, I’ll have like an egg of an idea and then I’ll just write and let the rest come organically. Sometimes even I have no idea where we are headed until said egg hatches and I’m like woah I did not see that coming haha. One of the things that I enjoy writing and developing is banter between my characters and I have had some lovely feedback about how realistic it is, especially between male characters. I’m not sure how I can delve into the teen boy mind quite so well but it seems to work!
CC: You have your first book coming out, could you tell us a little about it?
Janine: Sure. Whilst I am super proud of all of my anthology contributions, I really wanted to work on something of my own and something longer. Cue two WIPs that will hopefully see the light of day some time, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I realised that what I enjoy writing most is flash and shorts. I had quite a few already that I had stored waiting for the right anthology to come along and I just thought to myself, why don’t you put them altogether and see what you got? Alongside two of my favourites which we already published – Footsteps which is my Splatterpunk Award nominated work and They from Glenn Rolfe’s Alien Agenda Sampler, I had another twelve stories that were ready. I wrote three more, two which would be considered extreme/splatterpunk. There are seventeen stories in total, varying in sub-genre from creature features to gothic, to haunted houses to urban legends. They are mainly set in the 80s/90s and are tied together with an overseeing narrator who has happened upon the collection along with a mixtape which contains the songs which are the titles of the stories and three more relating to the others. I created a Spotify playlist to go along with it and honestly because I love the 80s, it was just so much fun to litter it with pop culture references.
CC: You’re also an editor and publicist for Kandisha Press, could you tell us a little about that as well?
Janine: Jill was the very first person who accepted one of my shorts for the Kandisha Women of Horror Anthology Volume 2 Graveyard Smash. After working with her for that, we became friends and as well as contributing to Volume 3, she asked if I would help out with some publicity too. The next logical step was to become an editor and we have some amazing plans already for 2022/23 and beyond. Jill is one of my very best friends and working with her is like a dream come true. We have the same hopes and aspirations for Kandisha and between us, we hope to amplify women in horror and become a place for more of us to have a voice.
CC: As you know, I loved your story, “The Invitation” which was featured in the second anthology, Graveyard Smash, put forth by Kandisha Press. It seems that you and I both have a love for the TV show, Supernatural, because I felt a real vibe from that show in your story. Am I right?
Janine: 100% lol. I didn’t actively channel Sam and Dean when I wrote that but I guess it’s always in my subconscious as it is for sure my favourite TV show. One of the things I love most about SPN, asides from the great characters, is the humour and a lot of my work shows that. Even if I’m trying to write a genuinely creepy piece, I usually end up breaking the tension calling someone an ass-hat or the like. I can’t help it. I love my horror to be funny too. I have another story in TTT which is a definite nod to Dean. Now if someone can just ask Jensen if he wants a copy …
CC: What advice would you have for writers like myself that are just starting out?
Janine: The best advice I can give is keep at it and just write as much as you can. Once you have words on a page, you can edit, change, play with it. You can’t do that with a blank space. Read as much as possible too. Support other indies but also read some of the classics. There is a reason people like King, Ketchum, Keene and Laymon are considered the Masters. Learn from them. Books like King’s On Writing and Tim Waggoner’s Writing in the Dark are essential too to hone your craft. Also you need a super thick skin. Everyone gets one star reviews, everyone gets negative comments because not every reader will like your voice, your style. I roll that dice often with my more extreme stories. Some people dig that, others really, really don’t like it and will tell you. And it hurts because that’s your baby but you have to just accept it, learn from it and move on. As has been seen over and over, never ever retaliate as it is their right to have an opinion. Be kind, civil and respect reviewers. They matter. Which shouldn’t need to be said, we should all just always be civil all the time.
CC: What’s your favorite part of the writing process?
Janine: Characters. I love creating these people. Sometimes they are a mixture of real-life friends or an homage someone fictional e.g. I love Richie from IT. I love the camaraderie of Sam and Dean. I love the shit the kids give each other in again IT and more recently, Malignant Summer from Tim Meyer. Building relationships with my creations is one of the best things about writing 100%.
CC: Thank you for being my first ever author interview! Any parting words of wisdom for me and my readers?
Janine: Thank YOU for taking the time to talk with me and letting me be your first victim, I mean guest. Ha. Words of wisdom from me? That’ll be hard. The best advice I was ever given and I live by it, is write what you would read. That way it feels authentic in my opinion. If I tried to write in one of the sub-genres I don’t like, my heart wouldn’t be in it so it wouldn’t feel so real. That’s not always the case of course and as you become more prolific you are likely able to put yourself into any character, setting, plot with ease. But when you’re starting out, writing something you know and enjoy makes it far easier. This is why a lot of my stories involve creatures, cryptids and cops. It’s what I know.
Reed placed his hand on his brother’s arm, “Jack…”
But Jack jerked his arm from his brother’s grasp, strode toward their mother and repeated, inches from her face, “What truth, Mother?! What’s going on?!”
Jehenne walked to the kitchen counter, grabbed a tissue, and wiped the spittle from her face. She then smiled at her son and said, “Say it, don’t spray it, Jack.”
Jack’s face reddened. “You’re going to joke?! With everything that’s happening?!”
“Jack, calm down,” said Reed.
Jack swung around to face his brother, “No! I won’t calm down! This weird shit probably doesn’t faze you because you’ve always lived in the fringes anyway! But I have a bright future! I’m a winner! I have big plans and I need the world to go back to fucking normal!”
Amir turned to Jehenne and said, “I told you that you should have trained them in our ways when they were young.”
“I wanted them to have normal lives, Amir. Adita grew up too fast.”
“Better to be prepared. You knew they would come back one day,” answered Amir.
“It’s been centuries, time doesn’t pass the same way for them. You sound like one of those Jesus freaks, thinking it’s time for the second coming, which if it ever does happen, it will be long after we’re all gone. And, we closed the portal, remember?”
“Well, how do you explain all that’s been happening lately? And, we’re immortal, remember?” asked Amir.
“It’s just a glitch between universes, Amir. It happens from time to time. And we are long-lived, but not immortal.”
“She’s back and you know it,” said Amir.
“Who’s back?! I want some answers!” shouted Jack.
“You need to calm down, Jack,” said Jehenne, turning to face her son.
“Calm down?! People are disappearing, weird houses are popping up out of nowhere with strange doorways that lead to nowhere or some crazy Alice in Wonderland fucking places!” Jack shouted.
Now Jack had Jehenne and Amir’s full attention. “What are you talking about Jack? What have you seen?” asked Amir.
Reed stepped forward and said, “We both saw it.”
All eyes were now on Reed, and Jehenne said, “Tell us what you saw, Reed.”
When Reed finished telling them all that had transpired earlier in the day, they were all silent for a moment and then Amir asked, “So you did see a woman?”
“More like a monster,” said Reed.
“Did you not listen to the description?!” interjected Jack.
“Yes, yes, but that may be just how she appeared in that world,” said Amir.
Jehenne turned toward Amir, “Do you really think it was her?”
“I don’t know, but if it was, we have to stop her from getting into our world.” Amir turned toward Reed and asked, “Where is the house? We need to destroy it.”
“Destroy it? We can’t. We have to get the object,” said Reed.
“Why is the object so important to you, son” asked Jehenne.
“I don’t know exactly. I just have a feeling,” said Reed.
“A feeling?! Seriously?!” Jack bellowed as he grabbed his shorter brother by the shoulders and spun him around to face him. “You’re enjoying this aren’t you?! You love this fucking shit!”
“Stop!” shouted Amir.
Jack dropped his hands from Reed’s shoulders and turned to face Amir and shouted, “Shut up old man! You don’t even care about your own daughter! Just some stupid fucking house!”
Amir was in Jack’s face instantly and even though the younger man towered over him, with his six-foot tall, athletic frame; the older, shorter, Indian man, knocked him flat on his back with one swift punch to the jaw.
“Not bad for an old man,” Amir said, looking down on Jack who was sprawled out on his back on the linoleum floor. Amir reached out his right hand, Jack took it and Amir easily lifted him to his feet. “You need to show some respect to your elders, boy,” the older man said.
“Yes sir,” said Jack.
The four of them rode in silence in Jack’s car heading toward the outskirts of town where the brothers had found the old house. Jehenne rode shotgun while Amir and Reed had settled in the back seats. Jack looked straight ahead, face stern. Jehenne reached over and placed a hand on his leg. He glanced at her for a moment, eyes liquid with emotion, and then faced forward again.
Jack drove through the center of the town and then pulled onto a side street that ran along the outer edge of the town. When he reached the end of a row of wood-framed houses on the fringes of the city limits, he pulled over to the curb and parked the car.
“Why are you stopping here?” asked Jehenne.
“This is where the house is…was,” answered Reed from behind her.
“So, the portal is closed. Good, then the worst is over,” said Jehenne.
“With the disappearances that have been happening, I doubt that was the only portal,” said Amir.
“Well, this was the one where she was spotted and it’s closed now,” said Jehenne.
“First of all, we don’t know if it was her and second of all, just because it’s gone, that doesn’t mean she didn’t come through before it closed,” said Amir.
“Jack, Reed, did you boys see the woman again after you re-entered our world?” asked Jehenne.
“No, I came back alone, or was thrown out,” said Reed.
“Did you see anyone, Jack?” Jehenne asked.
“No, Reed and I were alone when we left the house,” Jack answered.
“That doesn’t prove anything, Jehenne. She could have entered our world after they left,” said Amir.
“Amir, she’s not here! The boys said the door slammed shut after Reed was thrown through it. And the house is gone now.”
“Look Jehenne, I know you’re scared…” began Amir.
“Scared?! I’m not afraid of her!” Jehenne was shouting now.
“Really? You know how powerful she is. She’s the one who…”
“Taught me, I know. And that’s why I know her tricks. If she is here, we’ll defeat her again and this time, I’ll destroy her!”
“Well, be that as it may, let’s get out and check this area for any portal remnants, just in case,” said Amir.
“Portal remnants? Is that a thing?” asked Reed.
“Sometimes a small bit of the interdimensional gateway remains open, lingers around a bit,” said Jehenne.
“This just gets better and better,” said Jack as he turned off the engine and then stepped out of the car. “And what about Adita? Don’t you even care that your daughter is missing, Amir?”
Amir stepped out of the car and faced Jack, placing a hand on his shoulder. “Of course I care, son. I’m worried too, but she has trained for this all her life. I have faith in her.”
“Trained all her life?”
“You need to have faith too, Jack. There is so much you don’t know,” said Amir.
As the four of them headed to the former location of the mystery house, Samuel James appeared as if from out of nowhere.
“Dad!” Reed and Jack said in unison.
“How did you get here?” asked Jack.
“Samyaza, you’re here. Finally,” said Amir.
“I had some business to take care of, old friend,” said Samyaza.
“Business, what business is more important than what is happening here?” asked Amir.
“There are other realms besides this one, Amir,” answered Samyaza.
Jehenne walked over and embraced her husband. Even at her height of 5’8”, his 6’3” physique towered over her. He lifted her chin with his right hand, his ebony skin contrasting with her lightly tanned skin, reached down and lightly kissed her on her mouth. He then looked up and said to the group, “The portal is closed.”
“How can you be so sure?” asked Amir.
“Have you forgotten who I am, Amir?”
Amir and Samyaza stared at each other in silence. Amir looking up at the much taller angel, glaring.
“You two need to stand down. We need to take a ride to Antonia’s. She’s been searching for a dreamwalker. Hopefully her search has been successful,” said Jehenne.
“She’s right,” said Amir.
“Alright, my love, I’ll meet you there,” said Samyaza to his beloved before vanishing.
“What the hell?!” said Jack.
“It’s okay,” said Reed.
“Did you know that our parents weren’t who they said they were, Reed? I don’t understand.”
“No, I didn’t know exactly. It’s hard to explain.”
“Well try,” said Jack.
“Boys, we need to head to Antonia’s ranch, Kuhaylah Arabians. There is much to tell you,” said Jehenne.
“Much to tell us? That’s an understatement,” said Jack as he dutifully headed back to the car with the others. But then he stopped and turned toward his mother. “Why did you say Antonia’s ranch and the name of it? Why would you say both?”
“For the reader,” said Jehenne.
“The reader? Have you completely lost your mind, Mom?!”
Jehenne laughed, “Jack, when extraordinary events happen throughout the cosmos, there is always a historical record.”
“Yeah, but not exact dialogue, word for word as such.”
“You never know who’s listening son,” said Jehenne as she turned and headed toward the passenger side of Jack’s car.
Jack stepped into the driver’s seat and started the car, but before pulling off, glanced back at Reed, sitting behind their mother and their eyes locked for an instant. Jack was overcome with a feeling of calm, then faced forward again and pulled out onto the road.
“Reader,” Jehenne began. She smiled and waived her hand indicating the others, “Don’t worry, only you can hear me. I am much older than I look, and I’ve learned to never take life too seriously, just simply sit back and enjoy the ride. That’s what I’m hoping you will do as you watch these events unfold. Time is not linear for me nor for many of the creatures who are slipping back into our world through crevices that had been closed for millennia, so pay close attention reader, this adventure will be exhilarating to say the least. And one more thing, reader. I might not speak directly to you for a while, but you’re always in my thoughts.”
When I was ten years old, I had watched, helpless, as the monster killed my mother. Now, ten years later, I almost pitied him in his weakened state. But I had no time for pity, forgiveness. I don’t know why the vile, smelly creature let me live that day ten years ago. But I had promised him that one day, I would be the one to kill him and I was here to make good on that promise.
The room I found him lying in reeked of beer and cigarettes. I guess that’s what his kind subsisted on between their bloodthirsty hunts. He was lying on a small mattress in the corner of the room…mouth open and in mid snore. It was one of those nasty sounding, phlegm producing types of snores belonging to a creature who is succumbing to some illness, or very old age. But the monster wasn’t that old for his kind, so maybe he did suffer from some affliction.
He opened his eyes, but in his delirium thought I was someone else.
“Bring me some water,” he croaked and closed his eyes again.
I didn’t move. I stood there watching him and listening, but no one else was in the crappy, little, run down house. He resumed his death rattle snore. I decided I needed a little fresh air. I left the room and exited the house through the front door. I stood on the front porch of the old house and spread out before me was the most beautiful sunset I had ever seen. A mixture of different shades of pinks, oranges and reds streamed across the western sky above the grove of Cedar and Fir trees that blocked the view of the house from the long, winding, country road. The house was secluded, which made sense since his kind preferred to remain isolated from society.
As I watched the sunset, the old John Denver song came back to the forefront of my mind…sung so many years ago in elementary school. Country road, take me home…to the place, I belong… I didn’t belong here, but I guess he did…his kind.
I turned back toward the house. It was small, and the wood was grayed out from years of exposure to the elements because there wasn’t a drop of paint to protect it. There were a couple of Texas live oaks on either side of it and the skeletons of dead bushes in front, under the windows on either side of the porch. This had been someone’s family home long ago, but now the monster desecrated its memory.
The light was fading fast, so I walked back into the house to finally exact my revenge and feel the closure I desired so much…after all these years.
I walked back into the dank, musty, bedroom. He was sitting up…a gun in one hand and a beer in the other.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“You don’t recognize me?”
“Um, no. Should I?” he asked as he took a swig of the stale beer and pointed his gun at me.
“So, you’re going to murder me too? And you’re using a gun? You were a little more hands on with my mother, but I guess you’re weaker now,” I said, taking a step toward him.
“I don’t murder…” he began as he was overcome with a violent coughing fit and dropped the gun, while managing to hold onto the beer.
I stepped closer and snatched the gun from the floor. The monster laughed and downed the rest of the beer before smashing the bottle against the wall beside the mattress and then pointing the broken, jagged, end that remained toward me.
“I won’t go down without a fight,” he said.
“No, your kind never does,” I answered.
“My kind? I’m no monster. I save lives.”
“Not a monster?!” I shouted, “You save lives?! You murdered my mother! She was innocent!”
“I don’t kill innocents. Only evil scum. Those that deserve to die. I’ve always been careful not to kill those that do no harm.”
“My mother never hurt anyone!”
“Look boy, if I did kill your mother, she deserved it. You just weren’t aware of your mother’s crimes.”
I wanted to kill him right then, the self-righteous bastard. But I needed him to remember. I wanted him to know who I was.
“Think back old man, to ten years ago. Do you remember murdering a young woman in her own home in front of her ten-year-old son?”
The monster just looked at me with dead eyes.
“You can’t remember a ten-year-old boy who made a promise to you?”
It finally sinks in. I see it in his eyes. But there is no fear in them, just realization.
“Well go ahead and kill me. It’s better than the Big C anyway, as Stephen King likes to call it.”
I just stare at him, while he stares back. This is not how I envisioned it. I raise the gun and point it at his face. He just sits there. I shoot him and it’s over in an instant. I look at his lifeless body slumped over on the aging mattress and I feel nothing. Ten years of hating and hunting, but I feel numb. Closure is not a thing.
I walk up to his lifeless body, letting the gun drop from my hand and summon the six-inch claws to extend from my fingertips. I then drive them into his chest and pull out his heart. It’s still beating as I rip into it with my fangs and devour it.
Tremble is a fun ride! A page turner for sure, or button pusher if you’re reading on Kindle. 🙂 I could hardly catch my breath as I read it, and almost lost my job because it was so hard to put down!
It’s both a psychological and paranormal thriller! The suspense and surprises along the way keep the reader on her toes. The main character, Becca, has been recently widowed, but thought she had found love again with someone she had considered a friend. It turns out that her friend/lover has a very dark side which he was expert at hiding from everyone, as truly sinister people often are. She returns to her childhood home to escape him, in spite of the the tragic memories of an abusive mother that she had escaped so many years before. But the haunting of memories in the old house is nothing compared to the actual haunting that she had forgotten about. Her childhood imaginary friend, was not so imaginary it turns out.
Becca manages to find true love in the form of a helpful neighbor soon after she returns to her childhood home, but she and those around her are in constant danger from her psycho former lover and the supernatural. Nikki Freeman even delves into the mind of the serial killing ex-boyfriend as he relentlessly pursues Becca by any means necessary.
I’d like to think Ms. Freeman is a Supernatural fan like me because at one point a ghost hunter in the story says, “Son of a bitch! That’s awesome!” Seems like she’s paying homage to Dean Winchester there! 😉
I loved this book and there’s even a twist at the end, which I really love! Sequel maybe?! Tremble by Nikki Freeman is a 5 star read for sure!
This is the second horror anthology I’ve read from Kandisha Press and I’m about to start the third. This publisher with Jill Girardi at the helm are experts in finding the best horror stories I’ve ever laid eyes on and they are all written by women! Jill Girardi noticed that most stories in horror anthologies are written by men, so she found her niche in publishing, supporting and promoting women horror writers. I just love a good horror story and I don’t care who writes it, so I have been thrilled with the talent that is compiled in these anthologies put forth by Kandisha Press!
The reader is immediately sucked in by the first story, Holes, by R.A. Busby. It’s a page turner and draws you helplessly into the entire anthology. The stories that follow provide tales of ghosts, djinn (one of my favorite mythical creatures), zombies, a mummy, ancient gods, etc… supplying something for all horror tastes! There’s even one with monster hunters, and I can’t list the title because it gives away the big twist in the story. I was particularly drawn to that one because, yes, that’s right, (say it together, my small bevy of blog followers) I love Supernatural! (Or I guess you guys would say, she loves Supernatural!)
I give 5 stars to this anthology and to every author! As with the first Kandisha Press anthology, Under Her Black Wings, I almost lost my day job because it was so difficult to stop reading the exciting, suspenseful and entertaining stories between its covers and get a little shut eye! Not to mention the lingering, haunted feeling one feels when reading great horror!
Here’s the link for Graveyard Smash:
And for Under Her Black Wings:
And for the new anthology, The One That Got Away, that came out just in time for Women in Horror Month:
So Stephen King was right when he said, writers have to read; or is right I guess, because he probably still says it. I would like to add, that writers need to watch TV too. There is so much great writing on television now and I get so many ideas there. My latest short story idea came to me from both reading, and binge watching on Netflix.
So I just finished reading this little ditty and it’s awesome by the way! I’ll be writing a review very soon. Kandisha Press has outdone itself with the horror anthologies that they publish. Here’s the review I did for the first one, Under Her Black Wings. Their third anthology, The One That Got Away, is coming out on February 1, 2021:
These collections of horror tales, all written by women, are some of the best I’ve ever read. Jill Girardi is chief honcho at Kandisha Press and she and her crew are sweeping the internet and the world with thrilling tales of terror!
So my newest idea for a tale of the macabre comes from a combination of reading and TV watching as I said. For those who follow my blog (all 12 of you!), you know about my fascination with the television show, Supernatural:
No, I’m not an obsessed fan girl, although, I like watching pretty people doing cool stuff as much as the next guy. I really love the writing and creativity on this show and the humor inserted amongst all the serious, scary stuff is what I love the most about it. Anyway, so I was watching Season 7, Episode 3, “The Girl Next Door”, and it’s one of the episodes where they leave something dangling. Dean kills a kitsune who happens to be a mom, and her ten year old son sees him do it. For some unknown reason, Dean lets him live and of course the boy vows vengeance. Well of course that character never shows up again in the series. (SPOILER ALERT-if you haven’t finished the Supernatural series yet.) They must have forgotten about him because he should have been the one to kill Dean. Anyhoo, I filed this kid away in the back of my brain.
The next day, I’m reading, Graveyard Smash again, and I’ve gotten to the story, “The Invitation” by Janine Pipe, and all of a sudden as I’m reading it the kid pops to the front of my mind. So long story short, between that short story and the TV episode, it totally clicked in my mind. I grabbed my handy dandy spiral notebook (I like to write by hand first) and I began the story. I love it when a plan comes together!
So coming soon, my review of, Graveyard Smash and my newest horror tale, “Monster”! And read, everybody, read!! Oh yeah, and watch TV!
Tears streamed down Bella’s face as she gulped down more cheap wine and watched an episode of Supernatural on Netflix that she had seen a thousand times before. It was the one where dead loved ones “phoned home” to their grieving relatives. One of them even used AOL Instant Messenger because the episode originally aired in the mid 2,000s.
Bella hadn’t showered in two days and she wore the same pjs for said two days. Needless to say, she reeked, and her TV watching domain reeked too. She had been drinking for almost the entire time too. There were two empty wine bottles on the TV tray next to her recliner and a third one already half empty. Empty chip bags were strewn about the floor around her and the current bag of Ruffles that she was working on was in her lap; a lap that was covered in chip crumbs and spilled wine.
This season of Supernatural was the one that featured the beautiful, but troubled character also named Bela, except with one l. But the name was more fitting for that character because she was truly beautiful. The real-life Bella who lounged in her own filth was not so beautiful. She was middle-aged, fifty pounds overweight and alone. She regularly had her gray hair touched up with blonde highlights, but she put no effort into anything else on her aging, sagging body. She had given up on wearing makeup long ago.
Bella, the real one, shoved more chips in her mouth as crumbs showered over her lap and then washed that down with more crappy, red wine. As she watched the dead contact the characters on the episode, she entertained a crazy thought. She found herself in this current state of despair because her grandmother had just died the day before. Even though their meetups often ended in arguments, she had truly loved the old woman.
Bella’s iPhone was on the TV tray amongst the army of dead soldiers that had done their duty and given their lives in contributing to her current state of sloppy drunkenness. She set down her wine glass and carefully removed her cell from amongst the sentinels. The back of it was sticky with wine residue, but Bella was too drunk to care. She typed in her passcode and after two failed attempts managed to type it in correctly the third time. She looked at her recent calls and the third one down said, Granny, because she had just talked to her grandmother a few days prior.
She looked at it for a moment and then pressed it and placed the phone to her ear. It rang a couple of times and Bella was about to put the phone back down because even in her current mental state, she knew she was being stupid and crazy…
“Hello, honey,” the familiar crackling, Texas accent of her Granny said through the phone.
Bella jumped from her chair, chip bag flying from her lap and phone launched from her hand as if it were on fire.
Bella stood, trembling all over as Netflix continued to the next episode of Supernatural as if nothing had happened. As Bella watched, her phone lit up and vibrated as apparently her Granny called her back. She watched the phone move about the carpet, while she remained frozen in place. Her heart raced as she stared at it. The phone went dark and just as Bella had convinced herself that she had imagined the whole thing, the phone resumed its antics.
Bella said out loud, “Fuck it!” and swooped up the phone and answered it.
“Hello,” said Bella.
“Why did you hang up on me honey?”
Bella was sobbing now as she listened to the familiar voice.
“Bella? Why are you crying?”
Bella got herself under control and asked, “Is it really you, Granny?”
“Of course it’s me, honey,”
“But, but, you died…”
“Well yes, but there is an afterlife, honey. You know that” said Granny.
“There are phones in the afterlife?” asked Bella.
“Not exactly, you’re actually imagining all this, honey.”
“Imagining this? I’m not really talking to you?”
“Oh, you are talking to me honey, but not on a cell phone.”
“The caoineag has you,” said Granny, “She’s bringing you to me.”
“Bringing me to you? What’s a caoineag, Granny?”
“Have you heard of a banshee, honey?”
“Yes, but banshees just announce upcoming deaths in a family. They don’t take the living anywhere.”
“Well, think of this caoineag, as a souped-up banshee. She’s been with our family for centuries. She came over to America with our Scottish ancestors. She harkens all the way back to our Norse origins. She was once the human granddaughter of Godred Croven, King of the Isles. Her name is Ragnailt ingen Amlaíb. She was a great queen who was relegated to the history books as simply the wife of the ruler of southern Hebrides when he had her murdered and took control of their kingdom. Being a descendent of Odin, death could not stop her. She has stayed with the women in our family, growing stronger with each passing century…”
“Why have I never heard of her before?” asked Bella.
“It just never came up,” said Granny.
“Never came up?! A creature haunts our family, and it never came up?!”
“Well, the conversation never took that direction.”
“What?! Oh god, I am so drunk! I’m joining AA tomorrow, I swear!”
Bella opened her eyes. She had passed out in her recliner. She smiled because for a glorious second, it seemed to have all been a dream. But then she saw the creature, a hag wearing a shredded, sooty gown. Her thick white hair hung in voluminous waves around her ghoulish face. She hovered in the room between the TV and the recliner. She looked down at Bella, opened her gaping, toothless mouth and wailed.
Bella screamed, then with a waive of her hand, the caoineag snapped Bella’s neck. The hag opened her mouth further and sucked Bella’s troubled soul from her body.
The last thing Bella heard was the theme music as the Supernatural episode ended and the creature whisked away carrying her soul to join that of her Granny’s in eternity.
Bella’s last thought was, ‘why can’t Sam and Dean be real’, as she was carried to her impending doom. Well, she was pretty sure she was doomed anyway. She and her Granny hadn’t been the nicest people in the world…
Arbitrium is a noun which means, the power to decide. The three tales contained in this volume are all about choices and the consequences of said choices. These are haunting stories that will keep you thinking long after you finish them.
Esther Howard is an up and coming writer who is originally from Trinidad and Tobago. She is currently working on her PhD in Victorian Literature with a sub focus in British Caribbean Colonial Studies. Esther brings a diverse background and extensive knowledge of classical literature to her writing. She is also a big Marvel fan, because, well, who isn’t?!
This is a five star effort from a future household name! Can’t wait to hear her interview on NPR one day!
The book is available on Amazon for 2.99 for Kindle and free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers. Here’s the link:
Rebecca Williams struggled to pull her foot free from the railroad track. The train was barreling toward her, so she was running out of time. She cursed herself for not paying attention as she jogged across the railroad crossing that she had traversed so many times before.
Her ears throbbed with the sound of the train hurtling down the track as it drew nearer. The train made no attempt to slow down. Maybe it wasn’t possible to slow down by the time the conductor saw a young black woman stuck on the track, Rebecca thought to herself, or worse, he didn’t care. But then the train whistle began to sound repeatedly as if in a panic. Okay, the conductor cares, thought Rebecca as she yanked her foot from the brand-new Nike and jumped from the tracks just in time.
She watched as the Nike was obliterated while holding onto her knees and catching her breath. Rebecca had been so proud of the new brand of running shoes her husband; Thomas had brought her back from California on one of his business trips. She was the first of her friends to have a pair and though she knew it wasn’t very mature to gloat, she couldn’t help but be proud of the success of her young husband. The train was a short one, so it sped into the distant track quickly as Rebecca watched.
She looked again toward her decimated shoe to see a woman on the other side of the tracks also looking down at it. The woman was not dressed appropriately for the Texas heat. She wore a long, old fashioned, black dress. Her thick long black hair was braided in cornrows. The woman lifted her head, and a gaping hole was all there was where a face should have been. She screamed at Rebecca, “Come back!”
Rebecca turned and sprinted toward her house; missing shoe be damned. As she ran, a black and white Ford, Crown Victoria came toward her, lights, and siren blaring. She entertained the thought that a black woman sprinting in a mostly white neighborhood might have resulted in a quick call to the police, but she didn’t slow down, and the patrol car passed her, as it headed in the opposite direction.
She reached her house and sprinted up the white steps of the Victorian era dwelling she had purchased with Thomas a few years ago. Well, he had actually bought the house without her present because they were afraid the realtor would put the kibosh on a “mixed” couple moving into the neighborhood.
Rebecca slammed the door behind her and held onto her knees again, gasping for breath. Once her heart stopped racing, she decided that she had imagined the faceless woman in her adrenaline-fueled state. She suddenly felt exhausted. Thomas was out of town and the summer sun was starting to set, so she just skipped dinner and collapsed on the couch, losing consciousness immediately.
Rebecca awakened to the sound of helicopters and gunfire. She bolted straight up on the couch, but then realized the sound was coming from the television. Thomas made good money, so it was a large console TV that dominated the room. The morning news was depicting images of the war. Rebecca was happy once again that Thomas had lost the hearing in one ear as a child and didn’t have to go to Vietnam. A pointless war in her opinion that had already required the sacrifice of many in her extended family. She rose from the couch, walked the short distance to the TV and turned it off. Funny though, she didn’t remember turning it on.
Rebecca headed into the kitchen, her favorite room. The kitchen was bright and cheerful, wallpapered in bright green and rose-colored stripes. She had chosen the wallpaper herself because she knew she would spend a great deal of time in this room. She loved cooking and baking and every Sunday they had family over for traditional Sunday dinner just like in a Norman Rockwell painting.
She put fresh water in the kettle and set it on the stove. She always felt better after her morning cup of tea. Thomas hadn’t called, but he was probably in meetings. Rebecca didn’t want to disturb him, especially since now in her bright, cheerful kitchen, she was sure she had imagined the whole thing.
She made her cup of tea and sat at the small round table looking out at her perfectly landscaped back yard through the bay window. Rebecca had spent hours in that yard, pruning rose bushes, pulling weeds, and tenderly caring for every bush, tree, and flower. She felt at peace now as she gazed upon her creation. But as she watched, she noticed someone moving under her favorite pear tree. It was probably her neighbor, Genevieve, she thought to herself. Rebecca picked up her cup of tea and headed out the back door to visit with her neighbor. Rebecca was very fond of the older woman because she had welcomed her and Thomas with open arms. Genevieve had been all over the world in her youth and was very progressive despite her advanced age.
Rebecca headed toward the woman, who was leaning over with her back to Rebecca. Genevieve was wearing black. Had someone died, Rebecca wondered. She was halfway across the large yard when the woman stood up and looked back toward her home. Rebecca hadn’t seen her face yet, but was sure it was Genevieve, so she called out to her neighbor, “Genevieve, hello!”
The woman was still looking away from Rebecca. “Genevieve,” Rebecca called out again. Genevieve turned and looked right at her, but said nothing.
Rebecca picked up her pace, sloshing a bit of the tea out of her cup and called out, “Genevieve! I’m so happy to see you!”
Genevieve didn’t respond, but turned and stepped back into her own garden.
“Genevieve!” Rebecca shouted. She noticed the elder woman didn’t have her glasses on, so maybe she didn’t see her, and Rebecca decided she must not have been wearing her hearing aid either. She decided she could talk to Genevieve later, so she turned back toward her own home.
Rebecca’s cup crashed to the ground as she gazed upon the faceless woman standing on her back porch. The woman screamed, “Come back!” and then vanished.
Rebecca stood there, her entire body trembling. The apparition was gone, so Rebecca being the rational person that she was, talked herself back to her senses. She reasoned that the woman was a figment of her imagination caused by the adrenaline rush which probably lingered from yesterday’s experience. She gathered up all her courage and walked back into her house.
She walked through the kitchen and into the den. She walked past the monolithic TV and stepped in front of Thomas’s rolltop desk. She picked up the phone to call him. She knew his voice would soothe her nerves. There was no dial tone. The phones were out again. Just her luck…
Rebecca spent the rest of the day bustling about from one task to another. She tried to finish the current novel she had been reading, A Wrinkle in Time, but despite it being considered a novel for teens, she couldn’t seem to focus on it. She busied herself throughout the day with menial tasks until the sun finally set on the never-ending day.
She was exhausted, even though by all accounts she hadn’t done much. She trudged up the staircase that led to the upstairs bedrooms. She peeled off her clothes and left them where they landed on the floor. She shimmied into a thin nightgown and then slid under the blankets.
The dream came quickly. She was five years old and her mother was setting the table for dinner while she watched.
“Can I help, Mommy?” little Becky asked.
“May I help, baby,” her mother smiled reaching down and caressing her face.
The dream felt so real, Rebecca felt safe watching her mother move about the kitchen as the beads on her cornrows clinked against each other. Rebecca remembered how her father had begged her mother to wear her hair in a more traditional way. He would say that it was hard enough blending in in a small Texas town when your skin is dark, much less when you’re foreign. Her mother would laugh and say she was quite sure her accent gave away her Jamaican roots, and she would add more seriously, that she refused to be ashamed of her heritage.
Rebecca’s father had grieved terribly when her mother died giving birth to her younger brother. He insisted that she leave our world sporting her beloved cornrows.
“Becky look at me,” said Rebecca’s mother.
“I am looking at you, Mommy,” the child answered.
“Rebecca look at me,” said the faceless ghost.
Rebecca woke up screaming. She opened her eyes, and the faceless specter was leaning over her. Rebecca continued screaming as she gazed up at her.
Rebecca was standing now, but before she could run, the ghost grabbed her by the shoulders and wailed, “Rebecca look at me! Do you see me?!”
The walls of the house dissipated around Rebecca. She was standing near the railroad tracks. She gazed upon the face of the ghost and then she did see. “Oh Mommy,” she said as she embraced her mother.