Friday, 31 October 2014

#CoffinHop Day 8: Ravens for Halloween

It’s Halloween my ghastly ghouls! And today I conjuring some grave magic with a creepy story, and a bit of Poe in the form of a video I made. I hope you enjoy this last offering, and...

 Happy Halloween!


A raven flutters from the burnished sky to settle atop her gravestone; an avian silhouette against the twilight. The creature stares at me with yellow eyes and caws, its squawk a guttural noise, harsh against my ears. It hops once, and flaps its wings, before it flies away.
“No.” The gasp escapes my lips. I recognize the creature. A spy for the Cabal.
A shiver of dread shakes through my bones. I kneel beside the grave marker, and place my trembling hand on the earth that conceals so much more than a mere body.
“They have found us, Mistress, sooner than I hoped.”
The thought of how flits through my mind. A misstep on my part, or perhaps they simply grew smarter over the years? It matters little, though, the reason. This struggle will soon end, most likely with my demise. But I don’t fear death, no, we are old companions. I fear failure, however. If I die before resurrection , they will control her forever.
I must not let that happen.
I must finish the ritual before the Cabal soldiers arrive.
The wind ruffles my hair, as a mother might a child, and I take reassurance. My efforts will not be in vain.
“No, Mistress, I have not searched for one hundred years, evaded the Cabal, protected our secrets and your burial site to fall short now. You will be set free from your prison, that wretched corpse where they trapped you.”
I glance at the sky. The sun paints the clouds a deep crimson, and dusk lengthens the shadows in the graveyard. I smile. That tonight, All Hallows Eve, will be the time of her resurrection seems appropriate. People used to believe the ghosts of the dead roamed on this night. I can only hope they will do so once more.
I pull the bag I brought with me closer, and open it, removing the necessary ingredients. I arrange them carefully—three glass jars, a black feather, and a pouch—and begin the spell.
I burrow a small hole in the loose earth, the dirt cold under my finger tips, the pungent smell of decay and filth scenting the air. Dusting off my fingers, I pick up one of the jars and pour the contents—dried twigs from an oak tree—into the hole I dug. Rummaging in my pocket, I remove my lighter and pick up the second jar. Then I set the twigs aflame as I recite the words embedded into my memory.
Awakened in Fire.”
I open the next jar and spill out the hallowed earth of a thousand graveyards to bury the flames. Smoke plumes from the dying embers
Strengthened in Earth.”
I lift the feather and drop it through the dissipating smoke, over the now filled hole. It drifts slowly to the ground.
Air to give you wings.
I raise the last jar and douse the feather in a cascade of liquid.
And Water to set you free.”
I feel the ground shudder and the air splinter with a frisson of electricity.
It’s working.
I snatch at the pouch, spilling its contents into my palm. The pieces of bone feel glacial against my skin, their inscribed runes shimmering a faint red. Carefully, I place the bones on the grave in the correct pattern, the symbol that will summon her back, and then survey my work.
I let out a sigh. “It is ready, Mistress.”
Only one more thing to accomplish, and I reach into—
My hand never finishes its task. I feel the bullet rip through my abdomen before my mind even realizes it heard a shot. I pitch forward, but quickly halt my fall by seizing the edge of the gravestone. I laugh, though I hear running footsteps, shouts and caws behind me, for my blood drips into the earth, and onto the bones. They are too late.
I roll away from the grave as tremors crack the ground and dirt spews upward. The stone marker splits and an intense, crimson light erupts, illuminating the sky. I shield my eyes against the glare, but I cannot block out the screams.
When I once again venture to look, I see her. She crouches on the ground, her black wings unfurling, and around her lay the bodies of Cabal soldiers, their own ravens scavenging among the dead.
I rest my head upon the ground and gaze at her daunting presence. “Welcome back, Mistress.”
She twists her head, staring at me with her fierce, obsidian eyes. In a voice both forbidding and soothing she speaks, “Thank you. For releasing me, and for your sacrifice.”
I nod, emotion robbing me of a reply, and see her rise toward the clouds, soaring high above the sanctified graveyard, her obsidian wings of bone and skin stretching wide, trailing smoke and aether. I smile as I watch her fly away, the ravens following, a magnificent black shadow against the sunset, and I wave farewell.
“Goodbye, my mistress.” My whisper catches the autumn breeze and chases her into the sky. I lower my hand, weakening from the pain and injury.
My breath slows, and my blood seeps into the dark loamy earth, but I do not care. My fading life does not matter, in fact I welcome its end. My demise means I succeeded. She is reborn, and this unnatural, immortal world will know the touch of Death again.

Now here's a bit of a salute to Poe...

Be sure to check out the rest of the Coffin Hoppers on this last day at

And if you haven’t yet, please enter my contest before it disappears.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

#CoffinHop Day 7: An Interview with Balthazar

A strange indulgence today Coffin Hoppers, as this odd transcript of an interview came into my possession, and I felt I had to share…

“Welcome everyone, to another Fireside Chat. I’m Richard Dale, your host. Today, the demon Balthazar (from the Killers and Demons series) has stopped by and kindly consented to talk with—”

“I have not consented to anything. I was ordered here by… never you mind who. I rather be anywhere else. Even watching one of those insufferable reality TV shows would be preferable to this torture.”

Unnerved, Mr. Dale fidgets. “Very well, then. I’ll try to make this as quick as possible—”

“Please do.”

Richard Dale frowns, but continues. “First, tell our audience a bit about yourself.”

“Why would I do that?”

“If you don’t answer, it will just prolong this interview.”

Balthazar sighs. “Oh, very well. If I must participate in this inane ritual, I must. I’m a demon, and a bounty hunter for Hell. I track down escaped souls and send the worthless wretches back where they belong. Satisfied?”

With a smirk, he replies, “Very. Now do you have any hobbies?”

“Killing, maiming, disembowelment, incinerating humans with Hellfire.”

A rather frightened look passes over Mr Dale’s face. “Um, very cheery pastimes. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?”


He swallows, turning slightly pale. “Which living person do you most despise?”

“Must I pick just one? I quite despise your whole race.”

Mr Dale weakly laughs. “Well, you must be fun at parties. Next question:  What do you consider the most overrated virtue?”


“Of course.” Richard Dale loosens his tie, smiles briefly and continues. “What is your idea of perfect happiness”?

“What kind of a question is that? Happiness is for weak humans… ” Balthazar pauses, and an unsettling smile crosses his lips. “Although, I rather miss my days as a pirate, during the early 18th century. Such good times back then. The smell of salty sea air mixed with blood, the cannon fire, the killing, and generally wreaking of havoc. Yes, such good times.”

Mr Dale pushes his chair backwards, away from his guest. “What is it that you most dislike?”


A tiny gasp escapes Richard Dale’s lips, and his hands tighten around the arms of the chair where he is seated. “What one word best describes you?”

Balthazar snorts. “Where do you come up with this drivel? Who goes around describing themselves? But to answer the question, I’d use the word ruthless.” He smiles again.

Trembling, Mr Dale squeaks out a final query. “Last question. What is your first memory?

“Wonderful, it’s over.” Balthazar reaches down and pick up his hat. “My first memory is snapping the neck of a lesser demon and eating its bones. I was two years old by demon standards and my father was so proud. May I leave now?”

“Yes please do. I think I need a drink, anyway.”

“I recommend the whiskey. I had some before you arrived. Goodbye. I hope we never meet again.” In a cloud of smoke and the stench of brimstone Balthazar disappeared.

Richard Dale fainted.

I hope you enjoyed this adventure, and don’t forget to keep hopping for more fun. You can find the list of participants at

And here’s my contest.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

#CoffinHop Day 6: Dark Drabble Wednesday

I've lured my new Drabble Wednesday feature into the Coffin Hop, along with guest writer Michael Brookes, author of The Cult of Me, Conversations in the Abyss, and other chilling books. So come and join with me in reading Michael’s scary offerings…

China Doll

Her cold lifeless eyes are staring into mine. Her perfect porcelain features, without expression, hold me transfixed where I stand.
"Genuine haunted doll", was the description on eBay. Of course I thought it was a gimmick, just something to push up the price. I thought it was pretty cool, so I bid and won.
It arrived yesterday, it looked pretty creepy. I placed it on the table and here I am. I cannot move. I'm hungry and thirsty. I can't even look away; I'm locked in this death stare.
Oh God! Will anybody find me here? Before it's too late?


Lying on my bed and see my room full of clowns. Happy clowns, sad clowns, laughing clowns, even
a tall gaunt clown with spindly legs. My mummy thinks I like them and keeps buying me more. I wish I could tell her how much they frighten me. Everywhere I look, I see another clown's face.

One hundred different clowns, none of them the same. I say my prayers with mummy then count them before I sleep. Snuggled in my duvet I count them once again. This time the number comes up short and there's a rustle under the bed.

Dirty Shoes

Will you look at that? A spot of blood on my finest shoes. I spent a fortune on them only a few years ago. Finest Italian craftsmanship.

It's my own fault, I'm normally more careful. I wear those elasticated baggies so I don't spoil them. But tonight I gave into temptation. I spotted a delicacy so sweet God himself surely put her on that path.
She didn't hear me creep up behind her and with a savage motion sliced open her throat. I pushed her away quickly to avoid the arterial spray. Not quickly enough. I've ruined my favourite shoes.

Are the chills creeping up your spine yet?
My thanks to Michael for stopping by and sharing. 

And don’t forget to enter my contest, or creep over and check out more of the Coffin Hoppers.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

#CoffinHop Day 5: Thoughts on Horror and Halloween

Today I’m bringing you some ghoulish ruminations on horror and Halloween, and some delightfully dark novels by some very talented authors. Come in, read, browse, just be careful what you touch…

My name is Julianne Snow and I love Horror.
I’m not ashamed to admit that either. Some of my earliest experiences are entrenched in the seat of all that horror entails. My first memory is of opening my eyes as a young toddler and witnessing the underbelly of a large Daddy Long Legs spider; its eight legs radiating outward over my field of vision. I can remember being frozen, unable to move, unable to swat the spider off of my face.
To my young mind, it was agonizing hours before that spider moved. Paralyzing hours before my limbs became mine to control again. Harrowing hours before my lungs could propel the pending scream past my trembling lips. I was terrified, but once the spider had moved off of my face, the moment of fear passed and I was okay again.
Believe it or not, the resulting rush from the adrenaline coursing through my body was addictive, even as a young child. Not that I would have realized the addictive pull for what it was at the time; that realization came much later… Now I’m a junkie and I’m always looking for my next hit!

From the mind of Julianne Snow comes an undead collection of stories that feature the gamut of emotions and situations. Presented in flash fiction and short stories, the tales are sure to leave you wanting more and checking over your shoulder.

How would a group of children handle an uprising of the undead? What would you do to save a loved one only to find out that you’re facing a different threat altogether? How would a country react to a timely warning at the end of a war? What happens when a vampiric Romeo hits on an unsuspecting human? In a world where the undead are common place and protected, what happens when speed dating produces a love match?

The Treehouse
Vanier’s Blueprint: A Zombie Tale
Must Love Zombies
Flash Fiction Duo: Fight and Hunger
Love Bites: A Valentine’s Day Misadventure
An Excerpt from Days with the Undead: Book One


How can I not write horror? There are monsters among us: real ones. There is homicide, matricide, patricide and infanticide, as well as domestic violence and abuse of all kinds. Any being perceived as vulnerable often suffers abuse and that certainly includes animals. Along with terrorism, our world is a pretty grim place sometimes. We can choose not to think about it, but it’s there, waiting. And the very fact that we know it is, scares us.

It has been suggested that horror films and fiction cause violence. I don’t agree. I think we write about it and make films about it because (sadly) it’s part of our world. It always has been and it always will be. Writing about what we fear helps to exorcise some of those fears. If our world knew no violence, I don’t think horror as a genre would exist.

This anthology is packed with stories of vampires, zombies, murderous midgets, demon clowns, evil dolls, haunted cemeteries, a real shop of horrors, taxidermy gone haywire, serial killers and more! Your worst fears and nightmares dished up for you with extra helpings of blood-curdling terror!

By the way, Circus of Horrors, a novel based on some characters in this anthology, will be released soon. 

October is the month for horror writers. All year long, we endure sideways glances and polite smiles when people learn that we write stories of demons and witches and things under the bed. But when October rolls around, we are all suddenly in demand, praised, not condemned, for our delight in the macabre. As December’s festive mood culminates in Christmas, so October’s darker whispers deliver us to Halloween, the high holy day of all things ghoulish. I like to celebrate with a few new novels, something to get the chill bumps raised. A dark night, a warm fireplace, a spooky tale. That’s a celebration.

The heroes from DARK INSPIRATION are back, and new trouble is brewing in Moultrie.

A coven of witches has moved into the tiny Tennessee town. They plan to sacrifice children and resurrect a long-trapped Mayan being, the longarex, to renew its hunt of mankind.  Only Laura Locke and Theresa Grissom have the skills to defeat this supernatural danger.  But their last brush with death has shattered their relationship, and a widow in town has her own gruesome plan for Laura.  If they can’t stop the coven in time, hundreds will die, the first being Theresa’s kidnapped son.

I'd like to thank the authors for taking part today, and for their pondering on all things ghastly. Be sure to keep hopping for more horrific treats. You can find the complete list of Coffin Hoppers over at:

And don’t forget to enter my contest.

Monday, 27 October 2014

#CoffinHop Day 4: Bête Noire

For today's dark offering, I bring you writer and senior editor at Bête Noire Magazine, Jennifer L. Gifford, with an excerpt from her story, The Dollhouse, and also a bit about the magazine itself...

By Jennifer L. Gifford

I’m an artist. I confine myself to one simple medium, but my art is one of a kind. Working in fear and pain, much the way Picasso worked in oils, I utilize whatever tools I have around me to complete my dark masterpieces. I specialize in the macabre, emulating the dark essence of it, capturing it in all its dark twisted beauty. Death, sweet death, is my greatest creation.
My pieces are never seen by others, and while one day I hope that my creations bring me notoriety, I make them for the soul purpose of my own enjoyment. They are my creations, though they didn't start out that way. At first they belonged to God, but I stole them from Him, and I made them my own.
My pieces, as a novice, were rough, choppy, and out of proportion with the form. But over time I learned to correct the broken limbs, the pasty complexions, and yellowish skin that had once been a drain on my energies, not to mention the scarcity of my precious resources. Much like any other hobby, it takes practice, dedication, and commitment.
Helena was my first success. She was so breathtaking, and still is, that I sometimes sit in awe of my own handiwork. She was handpicked from hundreds of others. It was her face that captivated me, drew me to her. Helena was special.
She had a heart shaped face, soft and round with the cheeks of a cherub. Her hair flowed around her feminine features like spun corn silk. And the eyes, oh the eyes, so full and round--like her lips--were deep pools of cerulean.
I took her one night, bringing her to my studio, where I do all my work. I prepare them there, before putting them in the dollhouse. The building is old, a three story brick structure down along the Detroit River, and I own the whole thing. It’s in a seedy part of town where everyone minds their own business, and doesn't ask questions. But its quiet and I need quiet when I work.
The dolls always seemed so shocked to find themselves my helpless guest. I believe it’s because they have never been in the presence of a true artist before, so I imagine that is where their anxiety comes from.
I gave Helena a lethal dose of sedatives. It’s my own personal blend of prescription painkillers and good old fashioned laudanum.
It’s best to wait until they are fully asleep before inserting the thick embalming needle into the side of their neck, near the carotid artery. Sometimes a dolls eye’s will flutter open catching sight of the needle sticking out of her neck. It’s intoxicating to watch as the fear washes over them in their last moments. 
The needle is hollow, and with it at the neck, it’s easier to elevate the doll to let the blood drain. I empty it of blood, but not completely. That small amount of life left in them keeps them warm just long enough for me to prepare them.
I must also admit, it’s here that I get a rush knowing that their last precious drop of divinity is controlled by me.
Before the body’s temperature cools, I slowly inject heated rubber cement in the joints of the body. Several smaller injections into each of the major muscle groups of the skeletal system, allows me to move the limbs of my doll however I want them. As precious as my dolls are to me, I still like to take them out of their box from time to time and play with them. When I do, the rubber cement gives the flesh a firm, supple feel that bends, but never damages the body.
I remove all the unnecessary hair from the body. I like my dolls to have skin as smooth as porcelain. I use large strips of wax I purchase at a local beauty supply store, and strip every inch of my new doll’s precious form. It’s during this process that I start to get intimately familiar with every crevice and line of her delicate form, and in that very moment, I own my doll, body and soul. I have thought about branding my dolls, burnishing my initials onto their cool flesh, but the thought of that dark blemish, that blight upon my perfect canvas, is almost more than I can bear.
Through trial and error, I discovered that by spraying a thin coat of silicone floor sealant over the body carefully, the sealant acts as a protective barrier and completely closes the pores on the body. It also prevents the often inevitable darkening and rotting of the flesh. It’s so heartbreaking to painstakingly toll over such a magnificent body of work, only to have it wretched from your desperately clinging hands by the cruel ravages of time.
Starting with her lips, I formed the full oval into a tempting pout. Next I slowly bathe her form from head to toe before spraying her with a painting primer that serves as a sealant and top coat.
Using a small butane kitchen torch, like the ones the chefs use for making Crème Brule, I apply a small localized amount of heat to her cheeks, to naturally and permanently heat her cheeks to a pleasant rose hue.
It is here in this process as well, that my dedication, handiwork, and artistic abilities often lull me into a restful daze as my new doll, my muse, inspires me into artistic daydreams.
From past experiences, I force myself to pay close attention to the methods in which I use in my erotic taxidermy. Too much heat can blister and blacken the skin beyond all recovery. I have ruined several earlier dolls that way.
I use spray paint as a foundation. It’s cheap, and it comes in a lovely variety of shades that I can match to any of the dolls’ skin tones. After, I painstakingly airbrush on all the subtle lowlights and glowing highlights their natural skin tone had.
While the paint dried, I started on her hair. I always like all my dolls hair to have loose curls that frame and accent the face. I want to show off the natural beauty of my dolls, not hide it. I think that’s what makes them all lifelike. The rest of the embalming process is completed while I finish the hair.
Next, I use a light finishing sandpaper before applying her make-up. I want the face to be smooth. When my fingers caress her cheek, and stroke her swan-like neck, I want the cool flesh of my doll to be as freshly spun silk.
I artfully made up her face. Dramatic eyes, like a movie star. I injected super glue into the eyeballs themselves, at the corners. It keeps the eyes from decomposing, and gives their eyes that glow that seems to gaze at me with longing.

Jennifer L. Gifford is a writer and senior editor for Bête Noire Magazine

Bête Noire is a quarterly print magazine headed by authors A.W. Gifford and Jennifer L. Gifford, along with its sister publication, Dark Opus Press. 2014 sees Bête Noire Magazine celebrating its fourth anniversary, continuing to publish the best in dark speculative fiction that showcases the creative talents of both new and established authors, Bram Stoker award winners, Pushcart prize nominees, and Nebula Award winners.
Blending a mix of horror, science-fiction, Victorian, gothic, suspense, and steampunk, Bête Noire Magazine creates a unique mix that’s redefining the speculative fiction realm.
Bete Noire magazine is also a platform for photography, original artwork, and poetry that encompasses the subgenres of dark fiction, striving to uphold the talents of reputable authors, while bringing new authors to the forefront.
Remember, fear is just a point of view.

And don’t forget to enter my contest, or creep over and check out more of the Coffin Hoppers.