Ginger Nuts of Horror
“Darkness, imprisoning me, all that I see, absolute horror!”
My book, The Darkness of the Womb, is about a pregnant mother who journeys into her unborn child’s subconscious to prevent him from miscarrying himself. A lot of people always say, “Wow, where the hell did you get that idea from?” and I always answer with, “Uh, I don’t know. Lots of places.” Which is the honest to God truth. So many different things have left an impression on me growing up that it’s really difficult to pinpoint just where I get my inspiration from when I write a book. Let’s just say I get inspiration from everywhere.
You know this is going to be serious when I have to break out the gut wrenching horror of Barney and Friends.
There is a common misconception that people like me make a lot of money from running a horror website like Ginger Nuts of Horror. You'd be wrong, very wrong. If I actually sat down and worked out my hourly rate of pay from the money that I receive from affiliate links I wouldn't even get 10p and hour.
So why do I do it? Truthfully it's something I have to do, not for some sort of ego and morale boost, that would be soul destroying. It's certainly not to lay the foundations of a media empire. No it's just something that I have to get out.
Yes I am obsessed by this site, every spare minute of my life is caught up with thoughts about the next interview or review. It's hard work, and at times it feels like there is very little reward. And to be honest it can get very lonely here.
I know you read my site, the viewing figures are always increasing, and thanks to my website host I can see who is real and who is a bot. So I know there are lots of you out there reading this post. And I am eternally grateful for your support, it really makes me happy, your support is great.
But can I just ask two tiny little things from you. If you enjoy any of the posts could you please, please share the posts. All you have to do is click on the social media icons at the bottom of the article. Sharing these posts will help to spread the word of some brilliant authors, which just might help them to sell some books.
Secondly if you liked and article please leave a comment, hell even if you didn't like and article leave a comment. I would love to have some sort of feedback from you.
Horror websites like mine can make a big difference to the sales of a book, but inly if you lovely people help to spread the word.
Please welcome Colin F. Barnes to Ginger Nuts of Horror. Colin has kindly agreed to do a guest post about the ten things he has since becoming a writer.
First of all, I just wanted to say thanks to Jim for hosting this guest post on his excellent blog. Jim does a great job in supporting new writers, and his passion for the genre is a boon to us all. Now, with that said, let’s crack on. I’m going to start the post with the good things I’ve learned, and end on some not so good things for balance.
I had been contemplating doing a post like for a couple of weeks, with a focus on how some websites, and bloggers just can't seem to stop themselves from being a douche. I wasn't going to name names I was just going to point out some of the practices these sites use to discredit other sites. But then something happened, something happened yesterday that set a little corner of Facebook on fire. Something that made my heart sink.
Some idiot of a horror "author" took it upon themselves to make a total arse of themselves by posting this
"This one's going to sting a little folks...
I like women.
Both as humans and as sexual partners and either and neither and both.
As long as they do the same amount and quality of work I believe they should receive the same amount of pay and vice versa.
But do you seriously think that a sideways vagina dentata with a huge clitoris is a great logo for your feminist horror movement?
I've read the feminist horror film theory and criticism have you?
If that's not a vagina dentata, then a knife plunging into a female victim isn't a substitute metal male penis being used out of impotence frustration.
Stay classy ladies.
Oh, and anyone that finds this offensive, grow up.
Every single one of you was shoved out of a vagina at birth and if the picture on the right of the attached image arouses you, you have a serious school book sex-ed diagram fetish.
Let's see how long this stays up before someone complains."
Really, you think this is a good idea for a Facebook post? Do you really stand by what you just said, or is it just another one of your ploys to gain attention. Yes another ploy, you see if you look back at some of his other posts a vast majority of them seem to designed to rouse up some rabble. Now I'm not going to go into the details of why that above post is so wrong, I'm sure that those of you with more than one braincell can figure it out for themselves. I am however going to talk about what happens when an author acts like this.
What so many of you authors forget is the horror community is not just a small one, it's a community that talks to itself. It doesn't take long for one act of douchebagery to make its way through the genre. And if there is one thing we all hate it's stuff like this. You see posts like that one do nothing to help push horror out of the ghetto. All it does is affirm the notion horror is written by and read by meat heads.
You may think that your post was "controversial" and will have helped to boast your public profile, sorry pal, but your wrong, all that post did was confirm that you are a douche, and your follow up comments cemented your douchbaggery.
I'll let you into a little secret, there are groups of bloggers out there who regularly talk to each other, most of the time it's to bounce ideas of each other, however when shit like this happens, the only thing that's talked about is how much of a plonker you are. You will start to find that a lot of the sites that hosted your interviews / reviews will start to take those down, and sites that hadn't already posted you stuff will forget to post them.
I hosted an interview with you, and it's coming down. I don't support douchebags, I don't care if you are a self published author or a household name douchebags have no place at Ginger Nuts of Horror.
When Kate Jonez at Omnium Gatherum Media invited me to co-edit an anthology, we discussed a few possibilities for our theme. Our hope was to create a cohesive set of stories and at the same time allow each writer to convey his or her own voice and style, as well as a personal connection to the material.
Obsession implies disturbance and mental imbalance. Yet preoccupations and compulsions fuel our imagination. The tension in that contradiction is what we were after. We decided to let the writers decide on their particular interpretation. The obsession could be personal or literary, or both.
Lynda E. Rucker is a writer I've long admired for her ability to marry setting and psyche. Her stories often evoke a sense of the past and present collapsed into one point of view. "The Receiver of Tales" is an excellent example. The central character exists emotionally in past, present, and future simultaneously as a compulsive storyteller.
In "Needs Must When the Devil Drives," Cory J. Herndon explores temporal obsession overtly. This is a deft and surprising portrait of a man who knows he's addicted to gaining knowledge and control over his life through his technological discoveries. He ought to stop, but he never will.
"A Thousand Stitches" is a Kate Jonez tale about a seamstress with ambitions that exceed her potential. She's biding her time at a dead-end job. Her belief is so at odds with her situation that the reader can't help noticing the contrast. We wonder how she will achieve her dream. But sometimes delusions carry people to places where common sense fails.
"The Point" is Johnny Worthen's contribution. The story demonstrates the cost of devoting one's full attention to one fact or one fear. A man has been thinking far too much for too long about his inevitable fate. Everything else has become an illusion to him.
James Everington's "Calligraphy" pulls the reader into a dreamlike atmosphere. It's a strange, poetic encounter between a young man who finds he's physically marked with language for an unknown purpose, and the mysterious congregation at a church he's never attended before. Here the compulsion is layered in, with various characters taking the meaning they want from the words the young man bears.
"This Many" is a story I wrote last year and then set aside because I wasn't sure what lay at its core. My contribution is about a woman who wants her little girl's birthday (and life) to be perfect. The anthology made me realize I was trying to tease out of it a parent's natural desire to shape her child's world, and the potential folly of that enterprise.
Brent Michael Kelley surprised the hell out of me with "JP." I thought I over-identified with my cats until I read Kelley's ode to a beloved canine. It's gruesome, sad, and horribly funny at the same time. Also recognizable and not as absurdly far-fetched as it seems at first, given our modern attachment to domesticated animals.
"Kestrel" by Mary Borsellino takes us to a somewhat quieter life, the internal struggles of a girl who lacks physical sensitivity. This story and "The Receiver of Tales" offer a shard of hope, a possibility that a deep-rooted talent, once expressed and encouraged, can provide what we need for a fulfilling, creative life.
The next story, "An Unattributed Lyric, In Blood, On a Bathroom Wall" by Ennis Drake, takes us to a darker place, a haunted backroom of the soul. We've all been there. Drake has nailed the self-destructive part of the artistic temperament. If "Kestrel" shows how a young artist can strike out and claim identity thanks to obsession, "An Unattributed Lyric" reveals the way in which the necessary darkness can occlude our ability to use obsession for a creative purpose.
Like so many of her stories, "Black Eyes Broken" by Mercedes M. Yardley struck a perfect note, portraying a young woman whose love kills its object. Yardley's work is startling, a high-wire act employing charged, poetic language and shocking twists of fate. I'm swept away by her juxtaposition of innocence and violence in stories such as this one and "A Pretty for Polly" in the Ross Lockhart anthology Tales of Jack the Ripper.
And finally, Steve Duffy is one of my favorite writers. Has been ever since I read his extraordinary story, "The Lion's Den" in the Ellen Datlow annual, The Best Horror of the Year Volume Two. With "Bears: a fairy tale of 1958" he revisits our bizarre connection to the animal kingdom. "Bears" stunned me with its flipside exploration of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears." Now that I've read it, I'll never side with Goldilocks again. Duffy has slapped that quaint story in the face and put the focus where it belongs, on our obsessive need to anthropomorphize our world, the better to control and subjugate it.
Eleven stories. Eleven obsessions. Each one is followed by an author's note describing its context in the writer's life. Together they offer a glimpse into the mind of an individual grappling with reality in order to create fiction.
S.P. Miskowski's stories have appeared in Supernatural Tales, Horror Bound Magazine, Fine Madness, Other Voices, Identity Theory, and in the anthology Detritus. Her non-fiction has appeared in Nightmare Magazine. Her debut novel, Knock Knock, and her first novella, Delphine Dodd, were finalists for a Shirley Jackson Award. Both are part of the Skillute Cycle, a four-book series published by Omnium Gatherum Media.
Purchase a copy from the link below
A journalist recently asked me why it’s taken so many years and a dozen or more novels to get round to writing horror. The answer is that I never really needed to do it till now. I had a subject – the strangeness of small towns – and I needed a way of writing about it. I could have done a literary novel with a broad canvas and lots of subtle twists and turns (or at least I could have tried) – but that wouldn’t have captured the sense of threat and alienation that I feel in those places. So I tried a horror story – and that did the job. Of course people in quaint English coastal towns don’t do the disgusting, deadly and illegal things that are depicted in Grim, but I always feel as if they could.
I’ve turned my hand to a few different genres in my time – erotica, chicklit/blockbuster, literary fiction – and one thing I’ve learned is that each genre does a fundamentally different job. Erotica has one obvious purpose: to turn the reader on. Literary fiction engages the mind and the feelings through the exploration of character. Horror should scare – and, most importantly, should make the reader see the potential for strangeness and fear in apparently mundane things. That’s what I needed to do in Grim. I wanted to make people walk down the streets of small towns and think ‘Hmmm, that fat, depressed-looking goth could be a cannibal’ or ‘that sweet little gran in the teashop could be a plaything of Satan’. After spending a lot of time on the north Norfolk coast, where Grim is set, that’s how I started to feel. It’s about being a fish out of water, about feeling like a misfit in an essentially hostile environment.
The horror novels and films that I like are the ones that use fantasy and gore as a way of exploring everyday life and communities. I don’t like horror that is just violent and disgusting for its own sake, and I don’t like total fantasy. It has to be rooted in reality, and it has to acknowledge the essential ridiculousness of the paranormal stuff. That’s why I revere Stephen King, because his subject matter is always communities, not evil clowns/special powers/aliens etc. King no more believes in this stuff than I do, but he uses the genre conventions like a surgeon uses a scalpel.
Grim is about two outsiders – a widowed American archaeologist and his strange, withdrawn teenage son – who come to the fictional English seaside town of Besselham to uncover the truth about their wife/mother’s death. Along the way they get involved in a teen suicide cult, witness the emergence of a prehistoric temple from the sea bed, and do battle with a bunch of very sinister locals. By the end of the story we’ve strayed a long way from its realistic beginnings, but I hope every step down the path of madness has a gruesome logic. And I hope, if you brave the terrible train service or wiggly A-roads that are the only way of getting to north Norfolk, that you will understand the weirdness under the surface that inspired me to turn to horror in the first place.
Rupert Smith is the author of several novels and non-fiction titles.
He was born in 1960 in Washington DC, grew up in Surrey and moved to London in 1978. Where he has lived ever since. After a few years pursuing an academic career, which really wasn’t his cup of tea, he got into journalism where he stayed for over 20 years, writing for a wide variety of dailies, weeklies and monthlies in the UK and elsewhere. It was fun, he met pretty much everyone, and he learned to drink like a man.
He currently writes under three names: Rupert Smith for your literary fiction, James Lear for ‘adult entertainment’ and Rupert James, who has done some sizzling blockbusters in the manner of Sidney Sheldon.
Behind the net curtains of a neat seaside house, behind the chintz-covered sofa, there lies a headless body. Blood covers the ceramic figurines and framed photos, soaks into the doilies and cushion covers. The good people of Besselham, the holidaymakers, shopkeepers and schoolchildren, have no idea that this is the beginning of a wave of unexplained deaths that will strike terror into the heart of a prim, conservative community.
As bodies pile up in the panic-stricken town, visiting archaeologist John Russell makes a strange and sinister discovery on the beach at low tide. An ancient monument, perhaps – or evidence of a hideous blood cult rising from the distant past to engulf Besselham? John must risk everything to save his disturbed, lonely son Isaac before insatiable powers of evil claim and consume him.
GRIM is Rupert Smith’s first venture into horror, a thundering tale of supernatural terror set amidst the caravan parks and amusement arcades of an English coastal resort.
“A damned good read it is . . .”
—New York Journal of Books
Following on from yesterdays interview with Matt Moore. I am proud to present a guest from the man himself. Matt is a horror and dark science fiction writer who believes good speculative fiction can both provoke thought and reflection as well as thrill you. His work explores the theme of contrasting what is monstrous with what is human while inverting assumptions we tend to accept as “truth”.He write stories set in worlds very similar to ours, but with one or two very different things. By exploring those differences and their effects, he hopes to say something about our world.
Why title my collection Touch the Sky, Embrace the Dark......
Hello everyone how you all doing? Great? Brilliant I need your help. Well not me really,it's the authors that get featured on this site that need your help. (Unless you are world class psychiatrist then you might just be able to help me out)
This site works well, I've heard from a number of authors that featuring on my site has greatly helped with the sales of their books, and that makes me very happy, as that has always been the sole aim of this site. What I want to hear is that every author who features on my site gets a signal boost, and this is where you come in.
Firstly if you haven't can you please Like my facebook Page This is where i post all of the updates on the site. Secondly, come and find me on Facebook here you will find not only updates on the site, you will also find loads of posts from a slightly deranged mind.
You can also find me on Twitter these are places where you will find me outside of Ginger Nuts of Horror. Not that you have found me, liked me friended me and twittered with me, can you please share and like my posts among your friends and ask them to share. The more we share the bigger the audience that the horror writers featured here will receive. And if you really like my site please consider adding a link to it on your site.
As a side note for every 500 likes I get for the Facebook Page I will giveaway one of my limited edition hardback books, as a thank you for following.
Right, I take it you read my article from the other day "A REVIEWERS GUIDE TO GETTING YOUR HORROR BOOK REVIEWED" In that article I gave you the Rookie some solid advice on how to get your book onto the review piles of horror author review websites. I bet you thought that was it, you had done your bit. I bet you thought you could now kick back, put on your slippers and break out your clichéd writer pipe, and blow smoke rings into the ether. You thought wrong.
I'm sorry folks there is more to this game than first appeared. You see reviewers are swamped with books; just getting the reviewer to take on your book is just the first step. Yes second base might seem like fun, but if you really want to succeed, you need to get to third base, and if you are lucky and the reviewer likes you, that teenage dream of a home run will soon be in your grasp.
Right you've got to second base, the reviewer likes you, but is still a bit unsure about. He probably has hundreds of other writers all trying to get their hands on third base. How do you beat of all of these other potential suitors?
Simple it's the same basic principle as mentioned in the previous article.
DON'T BE A DOUCHE!
Reviewers like to feel special, we don't like to be used and dumped, when a more attractive offer comes along. So talk to us, if you are on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads or any other social networking site, interact with us. We like to be talked to. Reviewing can be a lonely game. Just don't talk about your book! I know what you're thinking,
“If I don't talk about my book how will anyone know that it is fantastic?"
Trust me there is more spam flying about on social networking sites than at a Monty Python musical. If you don't believe me just look at almost any Facebook group about writing, it is full of thousands of people just like you, jostling for attention. Spend any amount of time there and your eyes will defocus, you'll stop paying attention, and all you see is an ever changing sea of static, stay long enough and you'll soon drown in that sea.
So how do I get people to notice me? I hear you ask. Simple talk about anything and everything except your book. Most Facebook groups are rubbish, there are some great ones that have Spam limiting regulations and actually have groups of writers talking and discussing about the writing game. However, what you will find is that most people will form groups without ever realising it. Look at your friend list, I bet you don't actively interact with more than 15% of them. They know who you are and what you do. Are there any reviewers in your core group? No. Here’s how you get noticed.
You know who we are, or you should do if you followed the steps in the previous article. Now find us on Facebook, look at what we talk about and with whom we do it with, and interact with us. We don't bite. If we think you are a decent guy, with interesting things to say, we are more likely to dig your book out of that pile. And this is where it gets interesting, you see my friends may not know your friends, so my friends will also start to find you interesting, they may even let you into their circle of friends, and that circle of friends may not know your circle of friends and they might also let you in and so on and so on.
Just be careful don't be a douche. The Horror Writer community in the UK is a small one. And when one horror writer acts like a douche, it doesn't take long for that name to spread like a zombie plague through the community.
"So all I have to do to get to third base is be normal?” Yes it's that simple, you're there chances are you've now had your book reviewed. WAIT!!! This still isn't the end; you want to get to that elusive home run don't you?
In case you are wondering, a Home Run is where a reviewer actively supports you, they go out of their way to promote your work, they'll offer you comprehensive interviews, will post news articles about your latest release, ask you to write a guest post.
Again this is a simple thing to achieve, just be nice, don't be a douche, and above all be interesting.
One of the easiest things to do is link back to the review that the site has posted. If you have a blog, write a quick entry with a link back to the review. If you have such a thing as a blogroll or a link page, add a permanent link to the review sites main page.
Secondly share the link to the review site around, retweet the sites tweets, like and share on Facebook. The reviewer will soon see you doing this, and this will make the reviewer happy. Even if the review isn't particularly great. Remember there is no space for prima donnas anywhere on the internet. The last thing the world needs is another horror writer getting all upset and having a horror author meltdown.
He might ask you to do an interview. Chances are he will ask you to do a quick standard interview initially. These interviews act as a filter, the last thing a reviewer wants to do is waste time researching you, coming up with questions specific to you and your writing, only to find out that you have answered the interview with one word and one sentence answers. This really, really pisses us off.
To put it in perspective I spend on average FIVE HOURS just researching an author, then a few more writing the review, and God only knows how long formatting and sharing the interview around. Which leads us to the second important point. If the interview as a style format, please, please stick to it. For example, in my interviews the questions are in plain font, (I am experimenting with putting them in italics) NO underlining and NO bold. The authors answers are in Bold, book titles should be in italics, NOT CAPS. And please please don't use silly indents; see how the paragraphs are not indented that's how I like it.
I'll be honest here I have a load of completed 5 Minutes With interviews to format, and there are a few that have been stagnating in my inbox for months, simply because the answer are basic at best and the formatting in them hurts my eyes.
If you are interesting and engage the website’s audience, and more importantly the author of the website you might get lucky and get offered a full on in depth interview. Congratulations, you're almost there the crowd is roaring, the ball is halfway down field, the sun is in the catchers eye, a home run is just a few steps away.
Right, you've got your interview, you've shared it, linked back to the website, now what? Simple
don't love 'em and leave them
Keep in contact with the website, you don't have to share and interact with everything, just every now and again share a link on Facebook, retweet a tweet. Add the site or even just your review or interview to sites such as Stumbleupon, Reddit Digg etc. , The more you and other writers do this the bigger the website audience becomes, and guess what that means, Yep, the audience for the next review of your work will also be bigger.
There are other things you can do, give the reviewer a shout out in the acknowledgements of your next book, hell if you really like them give use a line from their review as a cover quote.
Make us feel special and we'll do our best to make you special. If we are both lucky a true friendship may form, there are a handful of horror writers out there that I class as true friends. They know who they are and for that I am grateful for their support and friendship.
This song sums it up rather well
I am very honoured to host Christopher Buehlman as part of his blog tour for his fabulous new book The Necromancer's House. For your reading pleasure Christopher has kindly allowed me to post the prologue to his brand new book.
The old man walks from the cabin to the porch behind, palming his whiskey glass from the bottom and swirling the ice in it. A drop of water falls from his knuckle, falling on the head of the beagle mix snaking near his feet. This distracts the dog so that it halts long enough to get underfoot, almost tripping the old man, who swears viciously in Russian that Khrushchev might have barked, then apologizes in Pushkin’s honeyed tones. The dog wags halfheartedly but steers starboard in case his master kicks at him. The kicks are infrequent and never hard, so the evasion is lazy, and the kick never comes. An observer would note how balletic the interaction is, how practiced each is at his part.
But no one is watching them.
The man lips at his glass and sits facing the sunset.
The dog curls at his feet and begins a snorting, chewing hunt for a flea that has disgraced him near the base of his tail.
“Kill that fucker,” the man says in a jovial Slavic growl, scratching under his left tit in sympathy.
The sun has already performed its nightly slow-motion dive into Lake Ontario; it has slipped behind its blue veil like a bulb of molten glass, so beautifully that a man on Fair Haven Beach, one town west, spontaneously proposed marriage to his girlfriend of less than six months, and a group of actors on the McIntyre Bluffs, near the bird sanctuary not a mile away, silenced their chatter about the day’s rehearsals and broke into applause. Now the aftershow is wrapping up; the surface of the lake has turned an iridescent color reminiscent of mother-of-pearl, a hue that has proven irreproducible in watercolor; an ephemeral purplish-silver that even the great Eastman Kodak an hour and change away in ashy Rochester has never brought to shore alive.
The old Russian’s nearest neighbor, a former comparative religions professor in a nearly identical summer cabin a hundred yards down the ridge, once told him, “These sunsets have been rated the second-best sunsets in the world.”
“Rated?” the Russian had said, “Who rates a sunset?”
“The photographers of National Geographic.”
“Oh,” he had said, pushing his lower lip out and nodding. The professor, who is renting long-term and working on some atheistic magnum opus, loves sharing that piece of trivia with other visitors just to see them first reject and then accept the idea that sunsets might be rankable. He had been disappointed that the Russian did not ask the usual follow-up question, so he had answered it unbidden.
“The best sunsets are over the Sea of Japan, looking toward Russia.”
Now the lake spreads squid’s-ink black beneath a sky like a luminous bruise. The Russian wants a cigarette, but it is a mild want that only comes with inebriation and goes away when ignored. He looks at the dog, at the white in his face that stands out from his black-and-tan body like a cheap plastic ghost mask.
“Go get us a pack of Marlboros, Caspar. Caspar the son-of-a-bitch ghost.”
His wife comes to mind.
She had called the dog Caspar. She had made him quit smoking. She had taught him to say son of a bitch correctly, separating and emphasizing bitch where he had always run the three words together and accented son.
This ache for a dead woman will be harder to chase away than the ache for nicotine.
Here is the devil!
It is too beautiful an evening to wallow in melancholy again. Maybe the professor will consent to play chess? The thought bores him senseless; the man is a good conversationalist, but he can’t smell a trap, is too lazy to think more than two moves ahead, and understands nothing about keeping force in reserve—he will jabber away about the Upanishads, or about the cowlike stupidity of evangelical Christians, and send his pawns out too far, the light shining on his bald dome, stroking his orthodox-thick beard, crossing and recrossing his legs and saying “huh” as if surprised that the center of the board, which he thought he had in his fist, is turning into a kill box.
Besides, he is enjoying the night air and doesn’t feel like going anywhere.
He toys with the notion of turning on his computer and looking for an escort, but the connection is sketchy at best, and waiting for the pictures to load on the escort site will be purgatorial. Besides, once he has selected one, assuming he can talk her into a last-minute meeting far away with an unknown client, she will have to come from Syracuse or Rochester, and that will be two hours. Perhaps three. Perhaps there are prostitutes in Oswego, half an hour east, but he shudders to think of what one of those might be like; the profile, so poorly written even a Russian could correct it, will lead to some pale, plain-faced girl raised in the shadow of the nuclear plant and plumped on foldable pizza; he can see her now with her bad tattoos and her mouse-brown hair, undressing clumsily, asking him questions about his life and interrupting with “uh-huh” when he answers; then, after ten grim minutes of fucking, slipping one of his liquor bottles into her backpack while he discards the prophylactic and struggles to begin a postcoital piss.
Oswego is for chicken wings and beer.
Oswego is not for pretty girls.
Not that he is any prize himself, with his shirt open on his hard, round, Florida-brown belly and his toenails that barely fit in the clippers, but a man need not be a horse to buy one.
His father said such things.
His father had ridden bare-chested into Berlin on a tank and had paid a month’s wages for the privilege of taking a shit in Hitler’s bunker.
If his father were here, he would call the Rochester escort and the Oswego hooker and send his mother out for cigarettes.
Which is why he loves and hates him thirty years after his death.
He will call no escort.
“Caspar, the son-of-a-bitch dog. Go get us a woman.”
Caspar squares his black lips and makes a barely audible whimper, as he often does when a command word like go is followed by something he does not understand.
Now Caspar’s nose twitches.
The Russian smells it, too.
Foul and tidal, as though something has washed up from the lake.
He had just been remarking how sweet the night air was, and now this.
Has a whale beached itself?
“Lakes have no whales,” he tells Caspar, pointing a nut-colored finger gravely at him. The dog doesn’t seem to understand, so he tells him in Russian, too.
Now Caspar looks toward the lake.
He wags his tail a little as he does in lieu of barking when a stranger approaches.
“I thought I heard Russian,” a woman says, in Russian.
The light from his cabin lights the area of the porch, ending in the sun-grayed handrails at the top of the stairs leading down to the beach.
As though the world ends with those rails.
Beyond is lake and night, as black as the black behind a star.
“Ha!” he says, and then, in Russian, “You did. And so did I. Come up the stairs and say hello.”
“In a moment,” she says, in accented English. “I’m changing.”
She sounds young.
He feels the small thrill a man feels when he is sure he is about to meet a pretty girl. Of course, one can be disappointed making such assumptions, as she will be if she thinks him handsome for his deep, rich voice.
That smell again.
“Do you like whiskey?” he says, matching her English, suppressing the old-man grunt he usually makes when he gets to his feet.
“Oh, very much,” she says. “Is it scotch?”
“Oban. You know it?”
“No. But it smells good.”
“You can smell it over that”—it wouldn’t do to say shit before he knows her character—“other smell?”
“I can smell it. It smells like peat and burned seaweed.”
He enters the house and fills two glasses, pleased at the turn the evening is taking. He glances at his nearly transparent reflection in the hutch, thinking he doesn’t look so good. But not awful for almost seventy. He walks out back again, managing the screen door with more difficulty, burdened as he is with two dripping glasses now.
Still no woman.
The wooden handrails stand out, brilliantly illuminated against the primordial darkness behind them.
He looks down to see if Caspar is still wagging his welcome at her.
But Caspar is gone.
He sets the glasses down and whistles.
He walks to the rickety stairs and hoists himself down to the level of the beach, his back deck bathed in light and receding with each step down. He steps onto sand that soon gives way to rocks, his eyes adjusting to the darkness. He listens for the sound of Caspar’s collar, the jingling of the tag with the dog’s name and his master’s information, and the legend Help me get home!, but all he hears is Lake Ontario’s languid whisper and a gentle breeze in the crowns of the maples and birch trees behind him.
His sandaled foot plunges into a puddle, which some precivilized part of his brain registers as incorrect—the tide doesn’t come this far and it has not rained—but he walks on.
“Girl, you didn’t take my dog, did you?” he asks in Russian.
He walks farther down the beach, closer to the water, the smooth rocks pushing up against his sandals’ bottoms.
“Caspar?” he says, his concern for the dog growing and mixing with anger. Has this bitch with the Leningrad accent taken his dog? Is there a market in upstate New York for old mixed-breed dogs who flatulate like dying grandmothers?
Here is the devil, he thinks.
Now he hears the jingle of the collar behind him.
Is the old bastard actually going up the stairs on his own power instead of whimpering to be carried?
He remembers the smoky amber of his whiskey and feels happy to be making his way back to it.
He climbs up, hearing the jingle inside the house.
“You little fucker,” he says, smiling.
Warm light spills from the windows and door of the cabin.
He looks for the whiskey and finds only two wet rings on the table.
That is incorrect.
Another sound registers as incorrect, though familiar.
His shower is running.
A sly smile creeps onto his face.
The girl. What game is she playing? This night will be very good or very bad, but at least it will produce a story.
This was the sort of thing his father said.
He takes his sandals off and opens the screen door, stepping in. He finds the floor wet. He goes to the hallway and stands before the closed bathroom door—God in heaven, it stinks of the lake in here—and then he turns the handle. The shower is running, the curtain pulled back to show the rusty showerhead and the bad grout.
No steam, though.
The water runs cold.
He turns it off.
An empty rocks glass sits in the sink, one very long auburn hair coiled near it. He plucks this from the off-white porcelain and looks at it—how coarse it is!
Hearing Caspar’s jingle, he goes into the hallway again, and his heart skips a beat.
A woman stands in the hallway, pale and nude, her hair thick and russet-colored and wetly quilting her shoulders and breasts. His eyes trail down to her tight, alabaster navel, below which a scud of curly hair leads to the kind of prodigious bush one doesn’t see on young women these days except on specialty Internet sites.
The second whiskey glass drips in her hand.
With the pointer finger of her other hand, she makes her collar jingle. Caspar’s collar, more properly, which she wears on her neck.
The man has bounced between shock, worry, anger, and glad surprise so precipitously that when he speaks he only sounds old and bewildered.
“Where’s my fucking dog?”
“Help me get home,” she says, showing yellow-gray teeth that don’t belong in the mouth of a first-world girl. “That is very sweet, Misha.”
The smell that pollutes his cabin is coming from her, maybe from that thick, cabled wet hair, maybe even from her mouth or cunt. How can something so beautiful smell like that?
He notices now how scarred and sinewy she is, how strong her limbs look.
“You didn’t hurt him, did you?” he asks in Russian.
“You’ll kiss me now even if I did,” she says in English, moving the mouth with the bad teeth and the beautiful lips closer.
He thinks to pull away, but he does not.
Something about her eyes fixes him in place.
How green they are.
How cold her mouth is.
He tries to pull away, but her hand has found the back of his head and anchors it where she wants it. His mouth is too full of cold tongue for him to yell.
Past her, he sees his collarless dog pad from the kitchen, squaring his lips and wagging gently, unsure what to make of the struggle in the hallway.
When she drags the old Russian down the stairs and to the lake, the dog follows, even down the stairs, but he only walks to the lip of the water, where he paces back and forth as the woman who does not smell like a woman pushes his master’s head below the surface.
He thrashes, but she holds him under with ease.
The dog has enough beagle in him to make him howl.
She howls back at him playfully until her head goes under, and the dog is alone.
Christopher Buehlman is a native Floridian and author of the literary horror novels 'Those Across the River' and 'Between Two Fires.' He is the winner of the 2007 Bridport Prize in poetry, and the author of several provocative plays, including Hot Nights for the War Wives of Ithaka. Many know him as comedian Christophe the Insultor, something of a cult figure on the renaissance festival circuit. He lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. His first novel, 'Those Across the River,' was nominated for a World Fantasy Award for best novel in 2012.
The Necromancer's House
“You think you got away with something, don’t you? But your time has run out. We know where you are. And we are coming.”
The man on the screen says this in Russian.
“Who are you?”
The man smiles, but it’s not a pleasant smile.
The image freezes.
The celluloid burns exactly where his mouth is, burns in the nearly flat U of his smile. His eyes burn, too.
The man fades, leaving the burning smiley face smoldering on the screen.
“Oh Christ,” Andrew says.
The television catches fire.
Andrew Ranulf Blankenship is a handsome, stylish nonconformist with wry wit, a classic Mustang, and a massive library. He is also a recovering alcoholic and a practicing warlock, able to speak with the dead through film. His house is a maze of sorcerous booby traps and escape tunnels, as yours might be if you were sitting on a treasury of Russian magic stolen from the Soviet Union thirty years ago. Andrew has long known that magic was a brutal game requiring blood sacrifice and a willingness to confront death, but his many years of peace and comfort have left him soft, more concerned with maintaining false youth than with seeing to his own defense. Now a monster straight from the pages of Russian folklore is coming for him, and frost and death are coming with her.
Praise for Those Across the River
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