As part of the SPFBO (details here) all the bloggers taking part have been assigned 30 books. By the end of a six month period the aim is to choose one book to put forward into the next stage. So, I’m aiming to check out 5 books a month. My list first appears here and I’ve picked and […]
“Finger bones and toe bones rattled inside the oracle’s shaking fist, clacking and clinking as if the bones themselves were angry. When she opened her hand, the pieces fell from between her fingers like heavy raindrops in a thunderstorm.”
Click below to listen Xina Marie Uhl narrate my horror short story “Talebones” and learn if Meela can win justice for her murdered mother….
And then visit Amazon Kindle for more stories:
On this week’s Thrills and Mystery podcast, my horror story “Talebones” http://bit.ly/1ScjQQq Give it a listen for free! And let the dread seep through your own bones. Then go buy my ‘Skin and Bones’ story collection on Amazon Kindle (where you’ll find the written version of “Talebones”)
The 2015 Shriekfest Film Festival…considered to be one of the top up & coming film festivals is fast approaching, but…alas…I am once again a semi-finalist. But I’m neither saddened nor discouraged. In the last seven years, I’ve entered four times (always in the short script category) and have been a semi-finalist twice and finalist the other two times. I think that’s a pretty good track record and, as friends pointed out, shows I’m headed in the right direction. I just have to try again next year.
2009 Mother’s Day (finalist)
2010 Babies in the Backyard [version 1] (semi-finalist)
2012 Babies in the Backyard [version 2] (finalist)
2015 Santa Needs a New Red Suit (semi-finalist)
You’ll notice the first three entries sound familiar, especially if you’ve read my Skin and Bones horror collection available on Amazon Kindle. Or if you’ve read my Mother’s Day collection – which has since been incorporated into Skin and Bones for its third edition. In fact, the 2009 entry, Mother’s Day, is an even earlier version of the same story and, of the three, is truest to the short-story on which the trio is based. I greatly enjoyed playing around with the story and its characters, seeking to better define my “senior citizen serial killer” Mrs. Fortenberry (who doesn’t make an actual appearance in the Mother’s Day script or the original short story except for her name)…her motivations…her true nature (avenging angel or crazed executioner?) and she certainly hasn’t been forgotten, but it was time for a completely new entry to Shriekfest and my neighbor’s 8-year-old son provided just the right idea at the right time: did you ever wonder just where Santa gets…uh…that red coloring for his toys? (Yes, an 8-year-old came up with the gem which eventually became “Santa Needs a New Red Suit,” but then I’m told that young boys tend to be rather creative when it comes to concocting bizarre methods of death and dismemberment. Parents out there: is that true??)
I haven’t decided if I’ll rewrite the Santa script or perhaps turn it into a short story. We’ll see. Meanwhile, old Mrs. Fortenberry keeps knocking at my brain. I don’t think she wants to offer me milk and cookies. Instead, she keeps whispering at me…inviting me into the jungle of tangled ivy vines that have long held dominion over the backyard of our rental house. For that is where she was born: that tangle of ivy. You saw the ivy if you happened to see the cover of the Mother’s Day collection when it was available on Amazon Kindle. Mrs. F was born, like baby after baby to the family in the yellow house behind mine back in the early 2000s. Hidden behind the ivy and trees and bushes, every spring (or so it seemed) I would hear the wail of a newborn for a few days or few weeks…and then nothing. I could never see signs of life between the fluttering leaves, never hear the squeals of excited toddlers. My imagination began to run wild, wondering what had happened to those babies.
And then, one morning, I stepped outside onto the back patio to find a dead mother possum, with two pinkies – who had somehow wiggled out of their mother’s pouch while still attached to their umbilical cords – squirming, covered with ants. We didn’t know what to do. The pinkies obviously were too young to survive on their own and we couldn’t get animal control to come out before they succumbed to the elements and the ants. My whirling, sometimes crazy brain, put the two pieces (never seen crying newborns & dead possums) together as Babies in the Backyard.
Those children in the yellow house did eventually appear. I’ve caught glimpses of them playing in their yard in the years since…although I’m not sure I can count as many seen as I heard crying. See…there goes my imagination again.
Alas, the ivy which has inspired two stories (besides Babies in the Backyard, it features prominently in my erotica short: Ivy League) and made brief appearances in other stories, may have reached its end. As annoying as the fast-growing plants can be, our landlord may have to remove it (or at least most of it) thanks to the neighbors in the tan house (next to the yellow house). In an effort to tear down their garage and repair their brick retaining wall, they cut the ivy from its supports and it has crashed down onto itself, the weight of its own hardy thick branches working against it, breaking and dying, and is about to completely collapse onto our back patio.
While it might be nice to gain space in the backyard for family activities…will we have to say goodbye to our urban wildlife? The birds, possums, raccoons, squirrels, more birds, more squirrels, stray cats, wandering collared & belled cats, butterflies, humming birds, roof rats, and more insects than you can count. I won’t miss the ants, or the rats…or the raccoons (which seem to look at my cats – just on the other side of that window screen – as a potential midnight snack). But I’ll miss the rest. I’ll the miss the hum of life, the cries of newborn life…however quiet…however small.
On the heels of my first ever review (5 stars!)(Thanks Rue37!) on Amazon Kindle, I have released an updated, third edition of “Skin and Bones.” It now includes six additional stories, three of which previously comprised the shorter “Mother’s Day” collection: Wishing Well, Blood on the Scarecrow, and Babies in the Backyard. These stories continue my gruesome take on the horror genre (and motherhood, in their case).
It was after reading Wishing Well and The Wedding Tree (already included in Skin and Bones) that friend and fellow writer Xina Marie Uhl said “your imagination is a dark and scary place to visit; and apparently it hates marriage and babies.”
The three other stories offer something completely different and had originally been excluded because I didn’t feel they fit the collection’s genre theme. But, as any horror author or reader can tell you, horror takes many, many forms. It doesn’t need monsters, zombies, gruesome deaths, skeletons, bloody knives (although that helps), and strange or mysterious settings. It only needs darkness (literal or figurative) and dread.
So “Red Rover, Red Rover” – inspired by my own experiences with childhood bullying – gives you the not-so-friendly world of kids’ games…and that quiet man who lives on the corner.
“Dolls on Walls” was inspired by an episode of Animal Planet’s Animal Cops: Detroit (which ran from 2002-2006). In it, the humane society’s investigators walk into the home of yet another hoarder and are greeted by a bunch of dolls stuck to the walls. As they stare in wonder at the visage highlighted in their flashlight beams, they have a conversation that goes something like “Wow, I’ve never seen anything like this before” and “This is worse than all the others” and “What could have made this person do this? cover the walls with dolls?” I thought to myself…what could have made somebody do that?
“The Promise of Driftwood” was inspired by, you guessed it, a piece of driftwood. Of all things, it was a piece of driftwood in the campy horror classic “Lake Placid”….but don’t hold that against me…or do (if you consider that one of your favorite guilty pleasures). But my story has nothing to do with giant alligators, cranky sheriffs, or Betty White. Its horrors are more common – the fear of drowning; and more subtle – a family so disengaged they are virtual strangers.
Like most of the horror authors I read, I never had the chance to meet him, but other authors (Brian Keene, Jeff Strand, et al) have remarked on what a kind, generous man he was. He was especially known for his encouragement of new writers and for his breadth of work. While he started out in horror, he branched out into dark fantasy, crime dramas, mysteries, and even westerns – sometimes mixing genres (always with dark themes). He won the Bram Stoker award four times.
Piccirilli’s list of works is extensive, but so far I’ve only read four: November Mourns, Headstone City, The Dead Letters, and A Choir of Ill Children. The latter is cited as a classic example of southern gothic horror and is my favorite. Like much of his work, it relies heavily on themes of loss, family, and secrets. Some readers may find his depiction of severely physically-deformed individuals disturbing, but Piccirilli uses such imagery to reveal the ugliness of the human soul. I once read in an interview that Piccirilli himself did not quite understand why he often featured children who did not fit society’s definition of “normal.”
I first encountered Piccirilli in a book review section of “Talebones” – a quarterly horror/dark fantasy magazine that ran for several years in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. If my memory is correct it was a review of A Choir of Ill Children. So I’d like to thank “Talebones” editor Patrick Swenson for introducing me to him and his work. While there will be no new works forthcoming, I look forward to catching up on Piccirilli’s other works.
Condolences to his wife, Michelle.