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October 28, 2012 in Author & Celebrity Interviews, Author Speak, Dark Shadows, Tribute, Writing | Tags: A Dark Plan, Armand Mastroianni, Barbara Watkins, Betty Dravis, books, Christy Bradshaw, Emily Hill, Ghost stories, Halloween, Hitchcock, Jessie B. Tyson, John Zunski, movies, radio, Six-Pack of Blood, TV, Twilight Zone | by Betty Dravis | 14 comments
by Betty Dravis
Many of our readers grew up with TV series like Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone, Tales of the Crypt and Dark Shadows, not to mention Alfred Hitchcock’s horrific heart-attack scary movies which are masterpieces of the craft. I love all those shows, as well as the horror/thriller movies directed by our top-featured guest today, acclaimed Hollywood Producer/Director Armand Mastroianni.
In the 1940s, I recall the thrill of being in the front room with my parents and siblings as we listened to a very popular radio series Inner Sanctum. The program’s familiar and famed audio trademark was the eerie creaking door which opened and closed the broadcasts. Himan Brown, the originator, got the idea from a door in the basement that “squeaked like hell.” The door sound was actually made by a rusty desk chair. The program did originally intend to use a door, but on its first use, the door did not creak. Undaunted, Brown grabbed a nearby chair, sat in it and turned, causing a hair-raising squeak. The chair was used from then on as the sound prop.
Looking back on those shows, I can vouch that that creaky door made the hairs on my neck rise and stand at attention; it was just as effective as the immensely expensive high-tech sound effects of this new millennium. I had already started to write a few little things by then and I like to think those shows all contributed to my desire to one day write some horror of my own.
I recently teamed up with the noted “Queen of Terror,” author Barbara Watkins, to produce an anthology of six horror stories titled Six-Pack of Blood. Due to the success of our first Six-Pack, we are now working on Six-Pack of Fear which will be released in a few weeks. Six-Pack of Blood had the honor of Armand Mastroianni writing the foreword; it also won Best Paranormal/Horror award from Producer/Director Dimi Nakov of Zodiac Entertainment and placed No. 2 in Germany Occult, No. 1 in U.S. Horror and No. 34 in UK Horror, thus qualifying it for international best-seller. Barbara and I thank all who helped along the way.
Don’t forget, Six-Pack of Blood is still FREE through tomorrow, Monday. If you already have a copy, please get one for a friend and please pass the word that it’s FREE. We are pushing it like crazy because we were at No. Six in Amazon Horror/Occult this morning and have our eyes set on being No. One. Are you with us? 🙂
Barbara Watkins’s most prominent links:
Betty Dravis’s most prominent links:
Now it’s Halloween and the perfect time to share some “ghost stories” (paranormal is the preferred “lump” word of today) from friends in the film and literary industries. Don’t scream too loudly, but do enjoy!
The Case of the Dirty Window
by Movie Director Armand Mastroianni
We were shooting a night scene (of course) for my latest film Dark Desire and it involved a man sneaking around the property of a mansion, looking to gain access with deadly intentions. I had the art department clean all the windows and doors with glass cleaner so that I could get a clean shot of the stalker approaching the house through the windows.
We shot most of the approach successfully until we reached the study which had two large French doors with glass panes as its exterior entry. The art crew kept cleaning one of the panes with little success. There was a stain on the glass that looked like the outline of an old woman hunched and holding a cane; at least that’s what the outline of the stain appeared to look like after staring at it.
No matter what they did with Windex and other cleansers the stain seemed to be embedded in the glass. I framed it out of the shot and the shoot went off successfully, but it wasn’t until a week later when we spoke with the owner of the house and thanked her for the use of this location that she mentioned how much she enjoyed our company…
She was feeling quite lonely because her ninety-two-year-old mother had died several weeks before. She lived there with her daughter and died in that room we were shooting with the stain in the glass.
One other thing: the owner mentioned her mother had arthritis and used to walk with a cane.
DARK DESIRE (formerly titled A Dark Plan) – Mastroianni’s latest film coming soon
For more about award-winning movie director Armand Mastroianni’s latest movie DARK DESIRE, check and LIKE this Facebook page:
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by Author Emily Hill
Midnight on Seattle’s Greenwood Avenue and I wrapped my coat even more tightly around me as the wind howled. Not a soul in sight. The cabbie had just dropped me off at the entrance to my neighborhood and zoomed off–the taillights of his cab became glowing red eyes, taunting me. My fingertips hurt from the cold.
I realized, for the first time, that the land in the Greenwood District does go downhill into what–a hundred years ago–could have been, as the cabbie said, a cemetery.
I rued uttering the words, “Drop me off here,” as I walked east. My high heels clipped against the sidewalk. The sound bounced between the houses, revealing my whereabouts. The smell of musk hit my nostrils–turned earth.
A wave of arctic wind whipped around me, tangling my hair. My eyes were tearing, and blurring my vision. As I blinked toward the distant street lamp I saw the most curious thing: an orb of light moved across my vision.
My first reaction, “Fog?”
I heard a skittering noise behind me, like a rat scratching its way up a retaining wall, a frantic noise. It was that sound that drove me forward, toward the orb.
I squinted as the vision took the shape of a woman. A milky white “presence” dressed in a turn-of-the-century gown, she was proceeding across my path. I hid in a neighbor’s shrubbery, fascinated. She never noticed me; she just stared straight ahead as she moved. What had been a “fog” was now a full apparition, unaffected by the cold. The spirit of a woman who had lived in this same neighborhood–my neighborhood–going about her business, just as I was going about mine.
Only she was on The Other Side of the Great Divide.
SPECIAL NOTE: Emily Hill is an author of ghost stories, and a publishing coach for A.V. Harrison Publishing. Her story, Seattle, Haunted, is a true story based on an experience she had while living in Seattle’s Greenwood District. She has since moved from Seattle, and now lives in Edmonds, Washington…a safe distance from that city’s cemetery. http://www.emilyhillwriter.com/ghost_hunters_page.html
The Ghost Chaser’s Daughter in Paperback (Full Collection) and e-book (five New stories)
839 Agnes Street: A True Haunting
by Barbara Watkins
Forty-five years ago, in 1967, I experienced my first encounter with the paranormal. My family and I (Mom, Dad and older brother and sister) settled into our new home at 839 Agnes Street. I was so excited to finally have my own room and a huge backyard to play in.
But my feelings of excitement soon turned into fear.
I slipped into my Winnie the Pooh pajamas, kissed my mother and father goodnight and crawled into bed. I closed my eyes when I felt the presence of someone, or some thing, take a seat on the foot of my bed. When I opened my eyes, I saw an indentation in the mattress as if someone had just sat down, but no one was sitting there. Frozen with fright, I pulled the blanket over my head and screamed for my mother.
My mother tried to assure me that it had only been a bad dream, but I knew better. Exhausted, she kissed me goodnight and tucked me back into bed. I curled up into a ball at the head of my bed and watched and waited for it to happen again. Although the strange occurrence did not happen again that night, it did many times after. Many nights I would get up and sleep in the corner of my closet because I did not feel safe in my own bed.
A few months after we moved in, my father was killed in an accident at work. Almost immediately, on a nightly basis, lights in the house began to go on and off by themselves. We saw dark shadows lurking about the house and often awoke to our names being whispered in our ears. Closed doors would mysteriously open and slam shut. Various items disappeared only to reappear somewhere else. I awoke one night to see a hooded figure dressed all in black standing over my bed starring down at me.
My mother tried desperately to make some kind of logic out of what was happening, but could not. We were frightened to stay but could not afford to move…
The house has since been demolished, but the ghostly events that we all encountered there will forever be imprinted in our minds.
For more about this author’s literary works, visit:
Why the Ghosts in ‘White Heaven Women’ are Blue – A True Story
by Jessie B. Tyson
We were two teenagers, miles from civilization. The last bus had left long before schedule. Home was eight miles away. There were no street lights. We couldn’t see the road to walk…but walk we must. A white car pulled up beside us and a cold ominous feeling ran through me, as if I’d been thrust into a freezer or a new ice-age. The driver offered us a ride home. As we arrived at Barbara’s village, I exited the car to see her safely across the now-busy main street.
A firm voice said, “Do NOT get back in that car!”
I turned to see who’d spoken. No one was there… Tired, I ignored the warning and climbed in. The car slowed, turning deeper into the countryside.
“You’ve turned the wrong way.”
“No, I haven’t,” said the driver with a distasteful snigger.
I felt frightened.
The voice spoke again. “Stay calm. Do not panic and do exactly as I tell you!”
The car halted in an unlit lane with no buildings nearby. The driver groped at my firm young body. I cried and beseeched God to help me, not wanting to lose my virginity through an assault.
“God will not help you, girl!” laughed my vile attacker.
Suddenly, a brilliant burst of blue light lit the lane. I noticed a female hovering three feet from the ground, her arms outstretched toward me. She was glowing blue! Electricity seemed to burn through my veins. I felt fortified with the strength of an army. The voice dictated what I must do. “Turn in your seat, pound his face with your feet, exit the car, break the car aerial off, pretend it’s a knife, push it against his gut and say, ‘Touch me again and I’ll stick this knife right through you!’”
All the while, the glowing blue female hovered, arms outstretched toward me. I did everything the voice told me. Speechless, the man returned to his car and drove away.
Trembling, I headed toward my village as the brilliant blue light guided my way.
The voice returned. “He’s coming back. Quick, jump into the meadow, crouch down and hide.”
Strangely, I felt no pain as long thorny spikes ripped at my clothes and face as I dived through the bushes headfirst as if into a swimming pool.
The man yelled, “Come on, girl. I will not hurt you. I’ll take you home.”
“Hush. Stay quiet ‘til he’s gone, then amble toward the main street. You know the way. You played here as a child.” I wondered how the voice knew this.
I scurried alongside the hedgerow ‘til I reached a solitary house and pounded on the door, “Help, I’ve been attacked. Please call the police.”
An elderly man let me inside. My attacker drove away.
The voice whispered into my ear, “Bye, my dear. You’re safe now.”
I turned, hoping to see my unearthly adviser and saw no one. I glanced down the lane…but the lady in the blue light had vanished!
To view video of Jessie B. Tyson reciting this story, go to:
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For Free promo copy of White Heaven Women visit Jessie’s Amazon link on October 29th and October 30th:
by Christy Bradshaw, M.Ed.
My family moved into a 1960’s-built home. A man that was wheelchair bound and his wife built this home. She passed away from brain aneurysm rupture, and then later he passed of cancer. We lived in this home for eight years.
There were paranormal occurrences in this home over the time that we lived there. About six months after we moved in, I had a brain aneurysm rupture (stroke). I suffered through all of the recovery from that and then one afternoon I saw our elderly neighbor outside so I walked over to speak with her. She told me the story about the previous owners. I thought that was extremely interesting, of course: the brain aneurysms that we two women had shared in that home.
Not long after this conversation with the neighbor, the lights in the house began to come on and go off by themselves at times. Once again, I stopped to think… hmmm…but again I passed it off in my mind as I was imagining things. You see, always the children and I would see these things and the children were very young. I never had a credible witness or anyone that could confirm things that were happening. A couple of years passed with occurrences of the children’s toys playing by themselves with no batteries in them. The lights flashing really often, and then it finally happened…
My daughter was around four years old. I had put her down for a nap and closed her door so I would not wake her. Doing dishes with the baby monitor on I thought that I heard something through the monitor. I stopped for a second to listen. Then boldly I heard children laughing through the monitor. It sounded as though they were playing. I dropped the dish in the sink and listened some more. Of course I was thinking that I really didn’t hear what I thought that I heard.
Quietly I stood at the sink, waiting to hear the sounds once more–and then all of a sudden the laughing began again, so loud that I grabbed the monitor and turned it off quickly. The laughing of these children playing did not sound harmful in any way. It was just really loud and very creepy knowing that the sounds were coming from my baby’s room. I slowly walked to her bedroom door…
I stood at the door with my hand on the door knob, listening for a second or two, but hearing nothing. I was afraid of what I would see when I opened the door. Finally, I used the courage that I could muster and opened the door:
There she was, quietly sleeping, the room was still and I was relieved. That was the very day, that I stopped using baby monitors in that home. From that point forward she took her naps on the sofa in the living room.
For more about Christy Bradshaw, visit her at:
A Ghost Named Kermit
by John Zunski
Some say our little town is haunted. I can say that the little ol’ bar that sits on the main drag has things that go bump in the night. I’ve heard them… I’ve felt them… I may have even seen something…
The weirdness started the week my wife and I took possession of the multi-dimensional watering hole. After closing one night, I was going about my business when I was overcome with a heaviness, like distant eyes pressing down upon my shoulders. I stopped what I was doing and turned around. Surprised faces stared at me. My heart stopped. It took me a second to realize it was my own reflection in dozens of mirrors. I took a deep breath and shared a nervous laugh with the room before burying myself in work. The feeling persisted. Every time I turned around, my freaked-out face returned my stare.
“It’s like the old-timers were watching me. Checking out the new guy,” I told my wife.
And that was it–for a while. Then my wife complained that five or ten dollars would be missing from her till. She would walk away before returning and recounting only to find it all there.
“Big deal,” I can hear you say. I agree, but it happens to me all the time. We decided it was Kermit, our name for the ghost. Kermit was also a customer who had passed away a few months after we bought the bar.
One night, years later, I had closed the bar. I thought everyone had stumbled out the door when in the casino, a Keno machine printed a ticket, footsteps marched across the floor and the Men’s Room door slammed shut. I didn’t think too much of it, reasoning that I had somehow missed a lingering soul.
Minutes passed… No one came out… I investigated…
The Men’s Room door was open and I was alone.
“Okay, John, they climbed out the bathroom window,” you say.
I would agree, if there were windows.
That incident has repeated itself over the years; twice with me and thrice with other bartenders. I don’t tell new bartenders about Kermit. When they report the weirdness, I share my experiences, including the one that leaves me with gooseflesh with each retelling:
It was a late summer morning… The sun was shining… I was opening the side door and securing it when legs walked past me into the bar. I stood up, turned around and said, “Excuse me, can I help you?”
I was answered by a compressor kicking on. Nobody was there…
This past May, a bartender asked: “Why didn’t you tell me about the ghost?”
“What did you see?” I asked.
“I was closed and I heard a Keno machine print. I looked up. A man in a long beard was staring at me and then he faded away.”
Did I mention Kermit had a long beard?
For more information about Zunski and his literary works, visit him at:
August 16, 2012 in Author Speak, Books by the Dames, Dark Shadows, Friday Favorites, Writing | Tags: Armand Mastroianni, award winning authors, Barbara Watkins, Betty Dravis, books, Dames of Dialogue, Dimi Nakov, horror, paranormal, Six-Pack of Blood, Zodiac Entertainment | by Betty Dravis | 8 comments
by Betty Dravis
As you might know, we Dames take turns posting first chapters (and/or excerpts) from our books from time to time. Dame Maggie Bishop reminded me that it’s my turn to share something from my latest e-book Six-Pack of Blood. I’m honored to be joined by the talented, award-winning author Barbara Watkins as co-author of this book. I love her writing…
This book just hit the market when it ranked No. 1 for a very short period of time on U.S. Amazon Kindle/horror; No. 5 in Germany/occult, and if I recall correctly No. 53 in the UK/horror. Since then it has done even better: Last week it was No. 5 in U.S./horror; No. 2 in Germany/occult; No. 34 in the UK/horror. We are humbled and pleased.
We’re also delighted that our book has been awarded the coveted Best Paranormal/Horror by award-winning filmmaker Dimi Nakov of Zodiac Entertainment and the foreword was written by the acclaimed movie director/producer Armand Mastroianni (TV’s Dark Shadows and Friday the Thirteenth; movies Pandemic, The Celestine Prophecy and many, many more). Thanks, gentlemen, for your faith in us.
Now, without further fanfare, let me share an excerpt and an illustration from “The Collector,” the first story in our Six-Pack of Blood; it happens to be one of mine. I hope you are enticed by this offering that gives a peek into the “other side” of my funky (at times whimsical; at times malevolent) mind. 🙂
As a young boy, The Collector had an innocent collection of items he’d crafted from Popsicle sticks. His current collection was far from innocent…
He had always been an odd child, but developed into a likable adult…a bit weird, but sexy and mysterious, as most Italian men are. His favorite food was Italian. His drink, California Red… His cigarette, Marlboro… His most revered singer was Luciano Pavarotti.
And he definitely favored large-busted women with red hair.
The Collector was a tit man!
His wife, Bianca, was small and dark with boobs as lumpy as cottage cheese, but he’d married her for her practical homemaking skills, her meekness and for child-bearing. (“Must marry Italian–keep those fine Sicilian lines going, y’know,” his father had insisted.) The Collector’s wife was simply a figurehead to give him a show of respectability, giving him children…
Yeah, Bianca’s Italian all right–from her frigid crotch to her crooked nose. And the kids are nothing but pawns–boys to cater to the Mob, girls to wed into The Family, The Collector mused bitterly.
Forty years later, he was still longing for “the love-of-his-life,” the beautiful, auburn-haired, Irish lass he’d been forced to give up to please the Mob. “Ah-hhh…” The Collector sighed as he thought of his lost Katie.
Then: But who the hell needed love? Everything he needed could be bought.
The Collector–legal name, Frank Joseph Fitelli–was generally in a good mood when he had a collection to make, but not that night. It was Friday and he was trying his usual method of priming himself by gorging on his favorite things, but it wasn’t working.
After rutting with his latest whore–dyed red hair, he’d noted contemptuously–he had paid her off and kicked her out. Then he sat at his desk in the custom-designed library of his luxurious Scarsdale mansion, nursing a crystal goblet of vintage rose flown in from his Uncle Sal’s California vineyard.
“O Sole Mio…” Pavarotti’s lush tenor burst forth with grandeur from the large speakers of a built-in CD system. The talented Italian’s voice brought back memories of The Collector’s mother who had always played Mario Lanza records–the volume sky-high–as she bustled about the kitchen of his childhood Jersey home.
A wry smile curved the man’s lips as he inhaled deeply of the harsh, calming tobacco of a “real man’s” cigarette. He’d switched from Camels to Marlboros years ago when Tom Selleck was The Marlboro Man, and fantasized they were the same macho breed of man.
Beneath the huge skylight that dominated the dome of his library, the man was locked in an inner struggle. There were no phones, no computers and no windows in this private room, but glancing up at the sky-light, The Collector saw that it was completely covered with snow––the worst blizzard of the year. Could he make it to Miami?
His thoughts about the weather were not idle thoughts; they figured heavily in his plans. He had a collection to make and it was different this time. The dastardly deed had to be done that night, and he planned to use his private plane. There could be no witnesses!
Procrastinating, his cold, cruel, brown eyes absently trailed gray wisps of cigarette smoke as they curled up to the skylight. He fancied this room to be a gigantic snow-dome–like the small ones he passionately collected–and he was the lone figure inside. In this room, surrounded by all his favorite things, nothing could touch him, he told himself.
The walls that flanked the man’s desk were floor-to-ceiling bookshelves–over twenty feet high–that contained books on every subject…impressive, but mostly unread. Behind the desk was a portrait painted in the stately parlor of his childhood home; it depicted him, at age twelve, with his mother and father. He gently ran a diamond-adorned, pudgy finger along his mother’s portrait, muttering, “I’m sorry, Madre mia,” then glanced at the surrounding smaller photographs. Most were of his father with other infamous Mafia chieftains–“Lucky” Luciano, Al “Scarface” Capone, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel–and several showed The Collector with his Godfather, Joseph “Fruitcake” Borelli.
The fourth wall, the one facing his desk, was dominated by an elegant green marble fireplace, and also held his priceless collection of snow-domes.
Setting aside the wine goblet, the man crossed to the cherished display, flicked on the custom lighting, captured his favorite dome with a well-manicured, shaky hand, and carried it to his desk. Placing the precious object reverently in the center of the blotter, he rocked it gently and watched the snow drift down to caress the pleasant scene: a lovely, red-haired mother and a dark, dashing father with four smiling children, two dark, robust boys and two dainty, copper-haired girls. The father was reading an article from the Wall Street Journal to the sons, while the mother was reading a fairytale to the attentive daughters.
That could’ve been me and Katie with our big, happy brood, he mused darkly.
The Collector played with the dome for several minutes, swiveling in his chair to watch the small family in the sanctity of their home, their private, pristine world. Then he leaned back to peer across the room at the lights reflecting off the rest of his collection. The chair tilted backward, squeaking noisily–infringing on the stirring music–as it took the full bulk of the man’s enormous weight.
The Collector prided himself on this beautiful collection, but jealously guarded his other one–the ghastly, secret one–hidden behind the others at the back of the intricately designed revolving shelves. Rising slowly, he crossed the room, replaced the family dome, then pushed a button to release his “real” collection–the one he was paid to collect.
As he lifted the first gory snow-dome, he heard loud pounding coming from the hallway.
Thunk! Thunk! Thunk! Thunk!
End of excerpt! Barbara and I hope you enjoyed it well enough to want to finish it and read the other five creepy stories in our collection. Here is the Amazon order link:
And here is the link to my Amazon Central page where all my books are listed, along with a bio, book trailers, and more…
Thanks for your time and happy reading.
“Sure, I’ll get it,” said John, rolling his eyes.
John opened the door to a forceful morning sun. He shielded his eyes, blinded momentarily.
“Package for John Sullivan,” the man hidden by the brightness said.
“Thank you,” John said, extending his hands and taking hold of the large box offered him.
John closed the door and stood for a moment until his eyes could adjust to the dimly lit foyer. He then checked the box’s cover. All that was displayed was: Costume.
“Who was that?” Ilene asked as she met John in the living room.
“I guess it’s the costume I ordered for the Halloween party we’re attending. All it says is ‘Costume’ on the box.
“Well it’s about time. Mine arrived three days ago. Not a minute too soon with tomorrow night being Halloween,” said Ilene.
John found a pair of scissors and cut the binding on the box, saying, “Let’s make sure this is the costume I ordered.”
Peering inside the box, the corners of John’s mouth turned down.
“I distinctly told them the Superman costume.”
“Oh my, that thing is ugly,” said Ilene, putting her hands to her mouth.
John sighed, “Well. It’ll have to do. It’s too late to exchange it, especially since we ordered it from so far away.”
“You’re right there. Oh well, we don’t have to change into our costumes until we get there, thank goodness,” said Ilene as she used a hand mirror to gaze once more at her unlined face.
John closed the lid on the box, saying, “I think this is going to be the biggest and best party we’ve been to in a long time. The Jeffersons are known for their lavish bashes.”
“Yes, and to think we got invited. I bet there will be three-hundred people there,” said Ilene.
“Think they’ll notice my face-lift and breast enhancement?”
“How could they not with that revealing costume you chose?” said John as he turned and rolled his eyes again.
John and Ilene arrived via Limo, supplied to all guests of the Jefferson’s. Once inside the huge mansion a butler showed them the way to the changing rooms.
“I’ll meet you downstairs,” Ilene said, taking the box with her costume inside a large room with a gold ‘Female’ nameplate on the dark cherrywood door.
John glanced at his watch: 11:59, almost the “witching hour.” As he entered the lavish guest room, he looked out the large window. A sudden wind whipped at the oak trees near the balcony. Opening the box, he removed the costume, laid it on a nearby stand and got undressed. As he reached to pick the costume up, something leaped onto him, plastering itself to his body. It oozed under his skin, invading his body, his brain… his entire being. Thick, dark hair now grew all over him. The costume had sprung to life and some malevolent being had taken control of him. John screamed, but it came out as a loud, guttural howl……and then his thoughts turned dark, evil.
Ilene stood with the Jeffersons. Surrounding them, the large hall was filled with costumed guests. “I wonder what’s taking John so long?” she asked, impatience in her voice.
Mrs. Jefferson, in her Queen’s costume, barely able to cover her three-hundred pound body, said, “Oh, I’m sure . . . He’ll be down any minute.” Her words were interrupted as every light in the mansion suddenly went dark.
“Oh, Mrs. Jefferson, you are always so resourceful!” said Ilene with a chuckle.
The immense hall was suddenly filled with the loudest, most horrendous roar imaginable. It was as if a hundred lions had let the contents of their powerful lungs loose at once. Agonizing screams erupted from near the bottom of the stairwell which led to the second and third floors. Something hit the floor, sounding like a large melon dropped from five-feet or more. More thunderous roars and frightening screams drowned out all terrified inquiries as to what was happening.
The police arrived in caravans a few hours later. What they discovered sickened the most hardened of them. There were bloodied body parts everywhere. Heads lay on the crimson marble floor. One was Ilene’s, her eyes wide and her mouth opened in a silenced scream.
Upstairs, in the guest room, John opened his eyes. He lay on the floor, naked and drenched in blood. Near him was the box with the costume nicely folded and put away. Its wolf’s head staring out…
– The End –
RICHARD NEAL HUFFMAN served in the U. S. Army during the Vietnam War and later became a police officer, working his way from patrolman to assistant police chief; he also served as a village councilman and then a mayor of his hometown. He has published two books. Dreams in Blue: The Real Police and Rubal, a fascinating story about a Civil War soldier with mysterious powers of survival and longevity. “Dreams in Blue is my story,” Huffman says.
Today I’m pleased to introduce our guest—an author who has brought us delightful paranormal tomes.
Meet Denise Verrico.
1. Welcome, Denise. One of the first things I noticed on your website was your reference to Dark Shadows, the TV series that broadcast during the sixties. I loved that show! What remnants, if any, inspired your current writing?
The character Barnabas Collins was the first sympathetic vampire character I’d ever seen. He was very complex. Of course as a child, I wouldn’t have said that. To me he was just really neat. I can’t say anything specific that inspired me, but it sparked a lifelong interest in dark stories and vampires. I did meet Jonathan Frid, the actor who portrayed Barnabas, when I was living in New York back in the eighties. A friend was his personal assistant. My husband and I were invited to Mr. Frid’s home to see a preview of a one man Shakespearean show that he did for libraries and colleges. At the time he lived on Gramercy Park, a charming old neighborhood situated around a gated park. As a tribute to Mr. Frid, I have Mia living on Gramercy at one point in the novel.
2. Your interest in the Beatles resonates with me. What, if anything, in their music inspired your writing? I love the Beatles, but there isn’t anything in the first two books.
You must be clairvoyant, because the POV character in the third book, Cedric MacKinnon embodies my love for rock music. In the fourth novel he and Mia are brought together, and he does sing Across the Universe to her. I chose that song because it’s one of my favorites and it has the mantra Jai Guru Deva Ohm. Cedric is an adept of the ancient arts, a temple artist in service to the Immortyl Tantric cult of Kali.
3. Can you share your experiences in the theater, and what, if anything, contributed to your current writing style or trend?
I majored in theatre in college, starting out in musicals but becoming much more enamored of classical theatre. I love Shakespeare, Marlowe, Ibsen, Shaw, Wilde and Chekhov. You’ll find lots of references to Shakespeare in my work. Here’s a guy who lived over four hundred years ago and the characters he created are still relevant today. The problem is that some teachers tend to treat it as dry text when it’s meant to be spoken and performed. If good actors who can convey the emotion perform the plays in an accessible way, the text comes alive. I’ve seen nine year olds completely captivated by The Tempest. Here’s a story with spirits and monsters, romance, intrigue and betrayal. Kids totally get it. Cara Mia uses Ibsen’s Master Builder as a thematic motif. My theatre training has given me a lot of insight into character. I create a character much in the same way I would flesh out one I’m acting. I do a lot of homework and create complete back-stories. Playwrights have a very short period of time to tell a story and only dialogue in which to do so. A story is boiled down to its essential dramatic elements. I think like a playwright and actually sketch out dialogue before writing any descriptive passages.
I was a strange child. I played court dramas with my Barbie dolls and liked to dissect grasshoppers and catch snakes. Adults always said I had a vivid imagination. I loved to read and I always have a movie going on in my head. Observation of the world and people around me has always been important in my life.
5. How do you see your vampire stories, in terms of how they compare or contrast with the popular “Twilight” books?
Twilight is a young adult romance. My stories are definitely grown up and although they have romantic elements they can’t be really called romance because they don’t have a relationship as the main plot and they lack a “happy ending.” I don’t want to knock the Twilight books because obviously the writer got something right, but I prefer a darker story and more complex situations and relationships. Even my good guys have their darker moments. My villains have agendas that make them act as they do. They just happen to be in conflict with the heroine and hero’s agenda. My vampires drink human blood. It has to be human, just as a human can’t get a transfusion from an animal. They can survive on donated blood, but they get off on the thrill of taking it from a living victim. Mia is not a character that waits around for a man to save her. She’s a tough woman, who has suffered a lot and has strong passions and opinions. My hero isn’t an “alpha male”. I’m tired of that stereotype. Kurt is five six and a hundred and thirty pounds soaking wet, but he’s a genius and a born leader. Ethan, Mia’s master, is the stereotypical alpha male punched full of holes. My vampire society is based on ancient ones and the characters in my books are for the most part bi-sexual. I’m more like Anne Rice here. I love the complex world she created, but I wanted mine to be different. I like science and wanted a scientific basis for the vampirism. I just read about a book called The Passage that is getting a lot of press that also deals with sci fi vamps. Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend is an early example. Most sci fi vampires are either genetically engineered or caught a virus, mine harbor a symbiotic organism.
6. What can you share about your book Cara Mia, and what inspired you to write that particular story?
The task I set out for myself was to create a plausible cause for vampirism and the subsequent immortality. I’m a sucker for a story about the little guy or gal fighting the forces of evil. My heroine and hero are underdogs. Mia and Kurt find they’re in sympathy because they find the strictures and cruelty of their society too much to bear. They become outlaws who rebel against their masters and give the secrets of immortality to science. Mia and Kurt are survivors who have suffered a lot, but her narrative reflects her irreverent humor and spunk. Within all this science and intrigue, there is a love story.
7. In your lifetime, who were the important people who inspired you?
Wow, first I’d have to say my parents. They always encouraged me to learn and get an education. There were always books to read when I was a kid. I’m inspired by anyone who fights injustice from Rosa Parks to Mahatma Gandhi. I grew up in a time when women didn’t have many heroic role models. My confirmation name is Joan after Joan of Arc. I’ve always found the image of a woman in armor fighting for what she believes in to be compelling. When Princess Leia picked up a gun in Star Wars and started shooting, I cried, “At last!”
8. In your second book, Twilight of the Gods, your excerpt fascinated me. Can you share a bit about what led to this particular story?
Kurt has always been my favorite character. He was imprisoned in Dachau at fifteen and his entire family killed in the Holocaust. While in the camp, he was sexually abused by an SS officer. There’s something so inherently decent in Kurt. He struggles with his vampirism and when he lapses he does so in a bloody way. No one understands quite like him how easily a person can become a monster. He’s driven by a desire to right wrongs, both in his past, the Immortyl world and in the world in general. For the downtrodden among the Immortyls, Kurt becomes an almost messianic figure when he rebels against his masters. This book focuses on Kurt’s rise to leadership and his war with Gaius, the elder of a rival house who wants to harness the power of immortality for nefarious purposes. Kurt, however, isn’t immune to the pitfalls of power. To his distress it’s often Mia who is hurt.
9. Are you currently working on another book, and, if so, what can you tell us about it?
Fearful Symmetry is book three and it tells the story of the beginnings of the revolution from the POV of an observer within the ruling class. It’s set mostly in India at the court of the Chief Elder, Kalidasa. Cedric MacKinnon is the hero and as mentioned before, an adept of the ancient arts. Immortyls practice a unique form of Tantrism and an adept is a devotee of the goddess, Kali. They sing, dance, play instruments and are witty conversationalists, but they are also trained to take part in sexual rituals. These artists are exploited as a courtesan and used by the Chief Elder to woo supporters. I like to say it’s the story of a boy who becomes a vampire and then fights to become a man.
10. Can you describe for us your typical writing day?
Usually it begins after work, when I sit down on my sofa with my laptop. I read through what I wrote the previous day and either edit or continue on for about two hours. On my days off, I try to write at least four hours or more.
11. What can you share about your family and the setting where you live and write?
I live in a rural town in Ohio. I’m such an urban creature, but I love nature. We have a big back yard with all kinds of birds and wildlife visiting. My husband and teenaged son live with me. We all love roller coasters and are writing a roller coaster guide. My husband is an actor and director who co-founded The Oberon Theatre Ensemble in NYC. My son is a punk rocker about to enter his senior year of high school. He’s into music and taught himself to play bass and guitar. He also plays the tuba. I work in the school year as an instructional aid to a child with special needs, and I do marketing jobs sometimes on the weekends and in the summer.
12. The Dames love pets, and on your website, parrots are mentioned. What can you share about them and any other pets you may have?
I have seven birds in the parrot family. One Timneh African Grey named Gromit, three cockatiels, Pippin, Galadriel and Toby and three budgies (parakeets) Wacko, Yacko and Dot. All were adopted except for Pippin, who we bought when he was a baby. I love parrots because they are such intelligent creatures. African Greys have the innate intelligence of a five-year-old child. Gromit knows when it time to go to bed, no matter what time of year it is or how dark. Promptly at nine he starts saying, “Night-night the bird!” When I sweep and vacuum the house he scolds, “Messy bird!” All he has to do is hear me pick up my car keys and he yells, “Bye-bye, Mom!” Gromit carries on extended phone conversations with my deceased lovebird Ziggy and they’re never the same twice. Pippin and Toby both speak and whistle Eine Kleine Nacht Musik and Yankee Doodle back and forth.
Denise, thank you so much for joining us today. In the links below, you can explore some of Denise’s sites.
Denise’s Presence on the Web: