Category Archives: dark

The Dead of Winter

Here it is again. Winter. I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan. Where others see beauty in a fluffy white glazing of snow, I see only three months of hibernation. Because I hate the stuff.

It’s no mystery why my mind tends to wander to the grim topic of death. I’m in the dead of Winter here in Missouri, after all. I’ve been thinking about the dead – more specifically, how different cultures remember the dead – and decided to share what I know.

Winter takes my mind to dark places. Perhaps its icy clutches haunt me…

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Over the years, humans have honored their dead in peculiar and sometimes macabre ways.

Ever heard of post-mortem photography? Straight from Wikipedia: “Post-mortem photography (also known as memorial portraiture or a mourning portrait) is the practice of photographing the recently deceased. These photographs of deceased loved ones were a normal part of American and European culture in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Commissioned by grieving families, postmortem photographs not only helped in grieving, but often represented the only visual remembrance of the deceased and were among a family’s most precious possessions.”

No disrespect intended, but having grown up in a different century, some of these photos seem a bit disturbing now…

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Look closely. The youngest child on the far left is deceased, propped up with a wooden stand. You can see the discomfort and sadness in her brother’s face.

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The story goes that the photographer drew pupils on her closed eyelids to make her more life-like.

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Sometimes even a man’s best friend wanted to say goodbye.

Then there’s the following photograph, which has become somewhat of an urban legend, because no one can prove or disprove the story behind it. People say the reason all the children seem to be frowning, or even grimacing, is that they are being forced to pose with a classmate who died the day before.

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They say the deceased student was propped up with a wooden board and her head was tied to the board by means of a head scarf. Do you see her? Look closer…

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Urban legend or not, that’s pretty creepy.

And then there are cultures like the Toraja people of Indonesia who keep their post-mortem loved ones around for weeks, months, or even years after death, until enough money is raised for a fitting and proper funeral. During this time, the deceased relative is symbolically fed, dressed, cared for and taken out, and is very much a part of their family’s lives.

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But if you think post-mortem photography and mummification is strange, the thought of drinking from a human skull might push you over the edge, right? That’s probably why the Aghori tribe of India are considered taboo among their neighboring communities. They ritualistically smear themselves with cremated ashes, consume human flesh, and drink from skulls to become closer to the spiritual world of the dead.

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To each his own, but that’s not quite my cup of tea.

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So there you have it. THIS is what Winter does to me, people. The dead of Winter… when the deceased whisper to us on the icy breeze, telling us to cherish our precious days, albeit bitterly cold. Winter will pass, just as humans pass, and the world will continue to spin.

Well, as usual, this has been a bit of uplifting cheer from your admin here at Dirty Little Horror. Happy Winter, folks.

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Interview with author Mark Sheldon

Crystal Lake Publishing just released Sarah Killian: Serial Killer (For Hire!) and I had to know more about this book, so I tracked down author Mark Sheldon for an interview. Here’s what he had to say…

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How long have you been writing?

Pretty much ever since I could. As early as Kindergarten I was writing little stories and making booklets out of construction paper and drawings. Before that, I’m sure I was making stories up and telling them, though I naturally don’t have too much recollection of that period of story making.

 

What draws you to dark fiction?

I think I’ve always had something of a morbid fascination. Earliest memory, I used to watch Murder She Wrote with my parents every Sunday night, and then act out the murders afterwards with my stuffed animals. That was definitely a hint that I was either destined to be a sociopath and/or a horror writer. And then I watched Jaws with my dad in the third or fourth grade – that was definitely a major turning point in my addiction to the macabre.

 

In your latest book, Sarah Killian: Serial Killer – For Hire, you take the reader into the secret world of assassins for hire. Was it fun writing an anti-hero novel?

It was fun – and very challenging, too. I’ve always loved the anti-hero stories that take the stereotypical villain and turn them into the good guy. Wicked, Dr. Horrible, etc. So that part was very fun. Normally, once I start writing I don’t stop until it’s done (other than to eat, sleep, and go to my day job, of course). Sarah, however, was a very difficult person to live inside the head of for too long a period, and the fact that the book is told from the first person made that connection to her brain even more visceral. As such, I had to take frequent breaks after writing a chapter or two, to work on something else for a while before going back to Sarah. That was a very unusual process for me.

 

What is your favorite personality trait of main character, Sarah Killian?

Her sarcasm. Definitely her sarcasm. That’s the part that I think allows us to look past her rather significant emotional character flaws and accept her as a human, and not just a psychotic sociopath. Also, she would probably murder me if she knew that I said this, but she’s something of a closet geek, which is just cute considering she murders people for a living.

 

Where can we pick up a copy of Sarah Killian: Serial Killer – For Hire?

It is available on Amazon and other online retailers, and also through your local book stores (though you’ll probably have to specially request it at this point!)

http://buff.ly/2aC0Y2S

 
In what ways have you grown as an author since deciding to become one?

As with life in general, growth like that is difficult to measure. With every sentence you write, you improve a little bit upon the one before it. The hardest thing is not going back and re-attacking the stuff I wrote ten years ago and just letting it be what it is.

 

Do your personal experiences affect your characters?

Definitely. Sarah a little less so, what with being a female and a sociopathic serial killer, but I definitely still managed to work myself into her character. Her mutilation of the Barney doll in the opening of the book was very therapeutic for me.

 

Recently you’ve been writing a 12-part series, The Noricin Chronicles. Wow. 12 parts! Please tell us more about this series.

This was actually my first series, and is all done now – I published the last book back in 2013. It wasn’t a horror/thriller series like Sarah Killian, more of a sci-fi/fantasy adventure. In a nutshell, I would describe it as Harry Potter meets the X-Men and The DaVinci Code. It tells the story of Dan Regal, a 12 year-old boy who finds out that he is a member of a secret race of humans with super powers, and goes to a school to learn how to harness and control those powers.

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Which authors do you read for personal pleasure?

JK Rowling, Rick Riordan, Dean Koontz, Dan Brown, and Michael Crichton (currently re-reading Jurassic Park) to name a very few.

 

Are you working on any projects we haven’t discussed?

I have a sci-fi space thriller that is currently in the sketch phase. Sort of a mash-up of Lost, Aliens, and the game Doom. And then of course I will be starting on book 2 of Sarah Killian hopefully soon.

 

Where can we find you on the web?

My Facebook page is www.facebook.com/Author-Mark-Sheldon-237502636284937, and the page for Sarah Killian is: www.facebook.com/SarahKillianSKForHire

Now that I have something other than The Noricin Chronicles published, I will be working on getting a more generic website for myself up and running, but in the meantime my non-Facebook home base is the Noricin homepage, at noricin.webs.com

 

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The Dirty Dozen: Top 12 Horror Comedies You Might Have Missed

Charlie Chaplin once said, “A day without laughter is a day wasted.” I don’t know about that, but I know laughter is one of my favorite things in the world. Life can be grueling. Humans need comedy. For my next countdown, here are 12 movies that will keep you laughing AND sate your hunger for horror. Most of us have seen Army Of Darkness, Tucker & Dale Vs Evil, and Dead Alive, but here are a dozen you might have missed.

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COTTAGE COUNTRY (2013)

When a man accidentally kills his brother with an ax, his fiancé is determined not to let even murder stand in the way of their happiness.

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THE PERFECT HOST (2010)

A criminal on the run cons his way into the wrong dinner party where the host is anything but ordinary.

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WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (2014)

Undead housemates try to cope with the complexities of the modern world while showing a newly turned hipster some of the perks of being a vampire.

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4

THE VOICES (2014)

A likable guy pursues his office crush with the help of his evil talking pets, but things turn sinister when she stands him up for a date.

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5

ZOMBIE STRIPPERS (2008)

A zombie epidemic spreads throughout a strip club in Nebraska.

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LET’S KILL WARD’S WIFE (2014)

Ward’s wife is a bitch and everyone in his life wants her dead, Ward most of all. But when his friends’ murderous fantasies turn into an (accidental) reality, they have to deal with a whole new set of problems.

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BUBBA HO-TEP (2002)

Elvis and JFK, both alive and in nursing homes, fight for the souls of their fellow residents as they battle an ancient Egyptian Mummy. Starring Bruce Campbell and based off a short story by Joe Lansdale.

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KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM (2013)

Live-action role players conjure up a demon from Hell by mistake and they must deal with the consequences. Starring Ryan Kwanten (who played Jason Stackhouse in True Blood).

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MURDER PARTY (2007)

A random invitation to a Halloween party leads a man into the hands of a rogue collective intent on murdering him for the sake of their art, sparking a bloodbath of mishap, mayhem and hilarity.

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DEAD BEFORE DAWN (2012)

A group of college kids accidentally create, and then unleash, a curse that makes anyone they come into contact with kill themselves and then turn into zombie demons.

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MONSTER MAN (2003)

Two guys and a female hitchhiker are terrorized by a monstrous looking man driving a giant monster truck.

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BLACK SHEEP (2006)

An experiment in genetic engineering turns harmless sheep into blood-thirsty killers that terrorize a sprawling New Zealand farm.

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So there you have it. Twelve movies people never seem to recognize when I mention them but are truly horror comedy gold. Feel free to comment with more titles!

Interview with horror author Shaun Meeks

I’m participating in Blood Moon Rising – a month long tour of horror, sci-fi and dark fantasy authors hopping from blog to blog. 🙂 Today we’ll get to know writer Shaun Meeks and learn about the horrors he’s created. Shaun was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario. He owns his own company and is a former semi-pro skateboarder, but penning tales of terror is his true passion. Let’s pick his brain, shall we?

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Hi, Shaun. Thank you for joining us. I guess I’d like to start by asking: Why do you love the horror genre?

One of the main things I’ve always loved about horror, whether it’s watching it or reading it, is how good horror gets you right at the core and has a tendency to linger. We’re all afraid of something, and being able to tap into that primal fear is what I love to do. It’s also something I love to experience. Sitting in bed and reading a great story and feeling the need to put it down because it struck a nerve is something that most books just don’t do for me. A great example of that was when I read The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum. I actually needed to stop and take breathers during it because I felt overwhelmed by what I’d just read. Not an easy thing to do.

Your novel, Shutdown, concerns one of my favorite topics: genetic experimentation! Can you explain a little about it?

Without giving too much away, the story starts with a dig in Egypt where a forgotten tomb is found. In it, there is something that is not fully human, but there are traces of what could be a man or woman there. A genetics company, GenCross takes the body and tries to replicate the DNA and give birth to a living specimen of the mummified corpse. In a way, using genetic experiments in a story is a way to play with the themes found in books like Frankenstein and many by H.P. Lovecraft, not to mention Stan Lee. The idea of how we “play God” and try to bring a new lifeform, find some missing key to evolution can be done in so many different ways, I think there are always fresh ways to build on the theme.

Your short stories are everywhere! Congrats. If you had to pick a short story to be read by someone who’s never read your work, which one would you choose?

My first thought is always to suggest Taut. It first appeared in Zippered Flesh 2 and is one of those stories that people really gravitated towards. Even Ellen Datlow added it to her list of honorable mentions in Best Horror of the Year 6. It’s pretty good at showing what I tend to do in stories, which is go inside the character’s head and draw out emotional as well as physical pain.

In the end though, it depends on what it is you like. For YA stories, there’s Angel in the High Tower, if you like ghosts, Despair. For people who like Victorian Steampunk I’d say Miriam and for war story lovers, The Soldier.

What is the hardest part about writing a novel?

Editing. I take as much time as I can with the editing process, but I tend to be the type of person who can go over and over a story and change it each time. Even if I read it ten times over, I will want to add and cut things.

What scares you?

That’s a tough one. I’ve spent my life trying to face many of my fears as best I can so they aren’t there, but if I’m sitting around and look over and see a bug crawling on my arm, you’d see a less than cool and calm Shaun freaking out to get the damn thing off. I think that is part of why the scene in Taut is so accurate. I know how parts of it feel.

As far as any other fears, I guess the idea of isolation to a point (as an introvert, a big part of me always seeks isolation, but not too far), failure and drowning. When I was a kid, I nearly died in Lake Ontario. I was three or four, and can still see it now. I managed to get my stubby legs tangled in seaweed, tripped and couldn’t get back up. I fought and fought and after swallowing four disgusting mouthfuls of water, I stood up. My parents didn’t even notice it, but I never forgot it.

Some of the “future works” listed on your website include screenplays. As an author, I’d love to discuss this with you because I, too, have an interest in writing screenplays. What drew you to the idea? Do you have any specific plans for the production of your scripts once they’re complete?

Sometimes, when I come up with an idea and start to play with it and see what is the best medium to use to make it come out right. Sometimes it’s a short story, a novella or a novel. Other times it might be a graphic novel. A few times, it’s been screenplays. I wrote my first screenplay back in 1992. It wasn’t a horror piece, but more of an ode to Hong Kong action flicks. A big shoot ‘em piece. Not sure what happened to it, but it was fun to write and I always promised myself I would write another one day. The one that I currently have partial done, is a horror-comedy. The idea is something more akin to Troma or old school 80’s horror and the only way it would work, in my eyes, was as a movie. I’ve been writing it to keep a low budget in mind so I could produce it myself, or with some friends. There are some truly insane scenes in this that I would love to see come to life and I think it would be one of the first times people would see the sense of humor I have, so fingers crossed.

What are your favorite horror movies?

That’s one of the harder questions. I grew up watching horror movies in the 80’s, so I’m always drawn to them. I loved the serious toned ones, the funnier ones and just bizarre movies. For that era, I’d have to say some of my favorites are Brain Damage, From Beyond, Night of the Creeps, John Carpenter’s The Thing, Fright Night, Nightbreed and Dead Alive (aka Brain Dead).

A lot of people hate on the new horror out, but I can think of some real gems over the last few years. I’ve tended to look at more foreign horror as well, since there seems to be some real gold coming from all over the world. I think some other favorites would be Clive Barker’s Dread, Martyrs, Ichi the Killer, The Babadook, Oculus, May, Three Extremes, The Descent, and if I keep going, this would go on forever.

Favorite authors?

This is another list that could go on and on, but over the years I’ve always tried to keep it to a list of ten. One of the best things about this list though, is how it’s always changing. Depending on what I’ve been reading as of late and the mood I’m in, the list can vary. For right now I think it would be as follows: Stephen King, Clive Barker, H.P. Lovecraft, Elmore Leonard, Joe R. Lansdale, Tim Lebbon, Edward Lee, Jack Ketchum, Ray Bradbury and Caitlin R. Kiernan. I’ve had it pointed out that Elmore Leonard seems to be an odd choice in the group, but I’ve learned a lot from him as a writer and he has played a role in how I’ve developed my own style.

I have to mention the anthology Fresh Fear: Contemporary Horror because you and I both have stories in it! I really enjoyed yours, entitled “Perfection Through Silence”, and one part in particular made my toes curl because I could almost feel the character’s pain from his injuries. The story had a nice balance between gore and suspense. My question is: Do you decide beforehand how much gore a story will have (a lot, a little), or do you just let the bloody details work themselves out?

Thanks for the mention of Perfection Through Silence. That was a fun one to write and is a great example of the process I go through. When I’m writing a story, much of the details like gore, violence, suspense and even how it ends, never come into play until I’m writing. I tend to be one of those people that will start off with an idea or just an opening sentence and I go from there. I explained that to a friend once and he thought it was strange, told me it sounded too much like the story writes itself, and in a way, he was right. I think if you go into something, meaning to make it over the top and super gory, it could backfire. At least that’s how it is with my process. Everyone is different. I tried to write a bizarro piece for a magazine, the only idea was to make it really over the top and it just didn’t come out that way at all. I learned a long time ago to just let things go the way they want, to let the blood run free.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever written?

That is actually an easy one. Whenever someone mentions my story Treats from At the Gates of Madness, they usually add in “what the hell were you thinking/smoking/drinking?”. To be honest, it was a story that got away from me. Originally, it was only supposed to be about a lonely man on Halloween night, watching humans disguised as monsters running the street when in the end he was a monster disguised as a human, hiding in his house and memories. Somewhere along the way, I decided to go down another road and there was Treats. If you’ve never read it, it’s not an easy one to get through as there is some very strange, disturbing and disgusting subject matter in it. That’s all I can say on it, hate to be one to spoil it for anyone curious.

What are you working on at the moment?

Right now I’m working on the edits of a new novel called Maymon. It’s a crime/occult/end of days horror novel full of monsters, demons, zombies, killers of the human kind and mayhem. Should be fun.

I also just started the second novel in the Dillon the Monster Dick series. This one, Earthbound and Down is a follow up to the soon to be released The Gate at Lake Drive and continues the story-line of Dillon, a monster/demon hunter.

On top of all that, I’m putting the finishing touches on Dark Reaches, my third short story collection due out in August, and seven different short stories. I tend to write 3000-5000 words a day and go back and forth between projects to keep it all as fresh as I can.

Where can we find you on the web?

My website is www.shaunmeeks.com
I can also be found on Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Shaun-Meeks/106128562748355
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/ShaunMeeks
On Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/100357493474555506507/posts
On Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/5818641.Shaun_Meeks
On Amazon: www.amazon.com/Shaun-Meeks/e/B007X5KZLO/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1430468112&sr=8-2-ent
On Tumblr: http://shaunmeeks.tumblr.com

Thanks so much for the great questions. This was a blast!

My pleasure, Shaun. I look forward to reading more of your work.

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