<![CDATA[Ginger Nuts of Horror - FEATURES]]>Wed, 18 Oct 2017 17:16:01 +0100Weebly<![CDATA[​Fire and Bleach: A few notes on childhood horror]]>Mon, 16 Oct 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/fire-and-bleach-a-few-notes-on-childhood-horrorby Stephen Hargadon
‘How much is this?’ I asked.
‘2p,’ said the vendor, a large woman with a kindly round face and a pink shiny doorknob of a chin.
‘2p?’
‘A bargain. It’s all there, see. Not a piece missing.’
I studied the coins in my hand, warm and sweaty. I could almost smell them. I mumbled an excuse and walked away. I did not know if I wanted a jigsaw depicting the Solar System.
        
I loved those jumble sales. A weekly ritual. A Saturday afternoon treat, almost an adventure, sandwiched between the waxy gloom of the confessional (‘Forgive me Father for I have sinned … I have lied, I thought bad thoughts …’ ) and Kendo Nagasaki versus Mick McManus on television. Or at least that’s how it feels now, as I peer into the shadows and corners of a suburban childhood that seemed as long and never-ending as the road from Forest Gate to Romford. But at least there was plenty to see on the Romford Road, especially from the top deck of the number 86. I never saw anything exciting from my bedroom window.

There were so many jumble sales back then, perhaps a dozen or so every weekend. They were listed in the local paper: I scanned the columns for events that sounded promising or venues I’d not visited before. Jumble sales seem to be a thing of the past, superseded, I suppose, by the entrepreneurial scrum of the car boot sale. (I have nothing against car boot sales. I went to one last week, perusing tables heaped with domestic detritus: viperish wires and cables, chipped crockery, naked dolls, phone chargers, hair tongs, souvenir postcards, elaborate steak knives and winded teddy bears. All of which looked like props from a horror film.)

Part of the pleasure of going to a jumble sale was visiting an unfamiliar street. There was a sense of anticipation as I walked past houses and churches I knew so well: the newsagent with a collage of scrawled postcards in the window; the clothes shop displaying its patterned cardigans and pleated skirts behind a sheet of amber film; an enemy school; and an unkempt, dreary house bearded with shadow, its garden overgrown, the weeds as tall as myself, perhaps the house of a murderer or madman, someone who would bring gory glamour to the neighbourhood. In my young mind (which did not think it would ever grow old or slow or sad), the suburbs seemed to stretch forever in every direction, an endless Sunday of terraced houses and parks smelling of mud and faeces; and yet I knew there was variation to be found in every step, on every corner. I never tired of walking those streets, for new thoughts and dreams bubbled up everywhere. Walking was a mode of thinking. And writing is a kind of walking.

 I dreamed of unlikely discoveries at those jumble sales, unbelievable bargains: a 10p Atari console, the first issue of Roy of the Rovers, a signed Cup Final programme, a fossil or postage stamp worth a million pounds.

I look back at all this with what feels like fondness, or hope, as if trying to find a friend among the memories, a familiar face, and then I realise I am alone, still alive, still waiting, still writing.

Those venues. The draughty church halls, the rickety scout huts, the outhouses and annexes, forlorn community rooms of indeterminate use, often with grim gymnastic equipment – ropes, vaulting horses, stained and threadbare springboards - clustered at one end. The halls felt like places where bad things were supposed to happen, places of ghosts and weak tea.

You paid your money and entered. I could tell, almost immediately, whether a sale was good or bad, a carnival of bargains or a pile of tat. The smell of old clothes, a warm, knitted smell, as if the clothes were still alive and might rise off the tables, an army of unwanted shirts and jumpers looking for new owners – vampiric tank tops, parasitic slacks. Coffee and tea and sugary yellow cake. Floor polish, disinfectant, damp, sweat. A noticeboard, a curling poster, sometimes a portrait of the Queen, faded behind glass. I headed straight for the tables laden with comics, books, toys and games, the important stuff, while my mother negotiated tussocks of clothes.

How I remember those comics: Roy of the Rovers, Whizzer and Chips. Topper. Krazy. Shiver and Shake. I searched for annuals too. I built up quite a library.

It was at one of those jumble sales that I bought an evil book. Ghost Special Number 2. A sordid, frightening tome. I forget how much I paid for this Mephistophelian text. A collection of cartoons, puzzles, quizzes, true stories, photographs, film reviews. None of it was very scary. The cartoons were entirely whimsical, with ghosts that looked like deflated speech balloons. There was an article on a haughty ghost called something like the Grey Lady, which I found dull and unthreatening, and a piece on a headless horseman, another mediocre specimen, and rather ridiculous, too. (I wasn’t likely to see a headless horsemen clip-clopping down Ilford High Road, and if I did, I’d probably welcome him as an entertaining and wholesome alternative to the little bearded ranter with his Bibles and apocalyptic predictions.)  

But there was a malevolent force at the heart of this book. A factual article on Borley Rectory, the ‘Spookiest House in England’. I had never heard of the place. It was in Essex, my county, and this only increased my fear and fascination. The photographs showed a melancholy, rambling red brick mansion, a classic haunted house. I remember blotchy photographs of supposed ghosts, as formless as smears or stains – shadows from hell or some other grim place. The longer I stared at the them the more I found, the deeper I went. A sorrowful face, a bleak frown. The murky, indeterminate nature of these photographs only served to increase my fear. I saw demons and death in the shallows and hollows of each black and white image. I read about objects thrown by unseen hands – violent upheavals and scrapings, things being smashed in the dark. I read about threats and messages appearing on the walls. There were mournful nuns glimpsed on landings. Black figures hovering on the stairs. It was old house full of ornate, sulking terror, a kind of angry melancholy. In every alcove or vestibule, in every airless corridor, on every squeaking stair, behind every door, there lurked some cruel, satanic entity. The old house was suffused with a sense of threat, danger, imminent madness. All this seeped from the pages. I was appalled. I was terrified. I was drunk with fear. But I could not stop reading. I soaked up the details, filled my head with the sickness. I needed this knowledge. I needed to know more about this minatory world peopled with unhappy, hostile souls, a world which seemed to exist alongside or inside the world of buses and school and homework. This other realm might roll like a wave through the night and claim me.

These things terrified adults as much as children. I sucked in this secret knowledge, the black truth. I savoured the ghosts and violence, the sadness, the malevolence. But there was another feeling accompanying my terror. Shame. Guilt. I felt soiled by what I read. Sullied. I had done wrong in bringing this knowledge into my house, into my very bedroom. What if the book was somehow cursed? What if the evil of Borley Rectory leaked out and filled the family home? This was a very real fear. That night I could not sleep. I thought of Borley Rectory. I thought of death. I lay in the dark, attuned to the slightest movement, fearing the jigsaws and games on top of the cupboard would be thrown across the room, that the heavy wardrobe at the end of the bed would fall and crush me, that the crucifix on the wall would come flying at me. I would see ghosts and hear screams. Cold hands would grip my neck and squeeze. The house would burn down.

In the morning, I decided to put the book away. I hid it in the cupboard, under a pile of football magazines. Out of sight, out of mind. But later, when I went to bed, Borley Rectory came back to me. Another long night of sweat and guilt. The fear, the panic. It burned into me, this squalid knowledge.

I could not get rid of it.

So the next day I got rid of the book.

I did more than get rid of the book, I destroyed it. I ripped the pages into tiny pieces, a laborious but necessary process. The covers were more difficult to wreck. In the back garden I set fire to the remains. I doused the ashes in bleach. I then deposited what was left, a blackened mush, in the bin. I wasn’t going to have Borley Rectory and all its types of foulness in the house ever again. What was left of the damned book would rot on a landfill site in some obscure part of the borough.

I promised my gods that I would never dabble in the black arts again.

That night I went to bed and waited for the terror to arrive.

But it did not arrive. The exorcism, with flame and bleach, had worked. I was free. I was cured.

The memory of that book has stayed with me. Ghost Special Number 2 was, I think, my first encounter with the horror genre. But I have not sought it out in bookshops. I have a fondness for those two nights of terror and shame. Perhaps I have falsified them. Perhaps the passage of time has warped my recollection.

The internet is a kind of jumble sale. Every perversion and idiocy, every footling thought and dark lust is there for us to enjoy. I log on. I search for Ghost Special Number 2. And there it is, the article on Borley Rectory. Someone has scanned the pages.

I read the text. It is a rather bald catalogue of supernatural happenings. I can see how I was terrified. The prose is bland, matter-of-fact. And there’s the photographs. The only one that really strikes at my heart shows a pile of Borley rubble, mostly red brick. I remember studying this photograph. I do not know what I was looking for.

I come away from the computer. That Madeline wasn’t very tasty.

I did not watch horror films as a child, although I knew of Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, werewolves, zombies, and all the other characters who lurked in graveyards and nightmares. I remember reading Peter Haining’s short story anthology, The Ghost’s Companion. I still have the book. It has a marvellous cover featuring a skull and a black cat and other symbols of the macabre. How old was I when I read book? I’m not sure. The Red Lodge by HR Wakefield petrified me. Some of the other stories left me bored or baffled. But The Red Lodge, like Borley Rectory, oozed an atmosphere of foul intent, of almost unbearable dread. A kind of soft terror, inescapable and insinuating, a mist of fear. For some reason, however, Wakefield’s story, although frightening, did not induce in me the kind of nausea inspired by the spookiest house in England. I did not have to get out the bleach.

At school, there were rumours of Ouija boards and of terrible happenings at the local mental hospital. A little older, I found some copies of Fangoria at a jumble sale. Now this was potent stuff, full of gouged eyeballs and sloppy innards, fangs and talons, busty women in blood-splattered gowns. I had to hide these magazines from my parents. Fangoria, despite its gore, did not scare me. The pictures were too explicit, too clear, too literal: they did not thrill or provoke my imagination. I simply grew bored of the slippery magazines and threw them away.

As an adult I began to watch horror films. I enjoyed them. Some more than others. But they’ve never engendered in me the fear I felt on reading about Borley Rectory in Ghost Special Number 2. Of course, adulthood brings new terrors. The evening news is a dark pageant of corruption, torture, murder, lies, corporate violence and sexual depravity. Children are murdered. Old people are abused and forced to pay for the privilege. Workers are cheated out of their pensions. The real horror is all around us. We vote for fools and liars who keep us in chains. The world is cesspit, a vast factory of enslavement and starvation. We are all guilty. The ghosts of Borley Rectory are quaint in comparison.

Do I exaggerate?

True horror lies, I think, in the crevices of the mind, in the ordinary, in the chat and shadows of everyday life, the weird and the eerie. My story ‘A Short History of Tedium’ in Dan Coxon’s anthology Shadow Booth is set mostly in an office. The jargon, the meetings, the other people. Life in an office is ritualistic, a kind of dull ceremony. Each day is the same as the last. Here I am at the photocopier, printing off slices of my soul. This is not really horror, it is not even particularly terrible. I think of that wonderful line in A Matter of Life and Death: ‘Some people would think it heaven to be a clerk’.

I don’t know where horror begins. Or where it ends. Perhaps it begins in the dark, in the black depths of night. But I find solace in sleep, in that temporary death with its outlandish dreams: the night is to welcomed, despite whatever lurks under the bed, for when we open our eyes we cannot escape the light and all its information.
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Born in London, Stephen Hargadon now lives and works in the north of England.

His short stories have been published in a number of places, including Black StaticStructo and Popshot magazines, the Irish Post, and on the LossLit website. His non-fiction has appeared on Litro.co.uk (including a well-received article on the joys of secondhand bookshops).

He has recently finished a novel.

To support this wonderful Kickstarter click here for the full details 

RELATED POSTS 

ENTER THE SHADOW BOOTH: AN INTERVIEW WITH STEPHEN HARGADON
FACE THE STRANGE: A CASE FOR THE WEIRD AND THE EERIE BY DAN COXON
ENTER THE SHADOW BOOTH: AN INTERVIEW WITH JOSEPH SALE
ENTER THE SHADOW BOOTH: AN INTERVIEW WITH DAVID HARTLEY
ENTER THE SHADOW BOOOTH: AN INTERVIEW WITH ANNIE NEUGEBAUER
ENTER THE SHADOW BOOTH: AN INTERVIEW WITH SARAH READ

CHILDHOOD FEARS: LEX JONES RETURNS TO HIS PAST
FACING THE FEAR: ​RETURN TO OZ BY PENNY JONES

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<![CDATA[CHILDHOOD FEARS: LEX JONES RETURNS TO HIS PAST]]>Mon, 16 Oct 2017 02:35:54 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/childhood-fears-lex-jones-returns-to-his-pastBy Lex H Jones 
I loved the idea for this series. It got me thinking, as the best subjects always do. This site is top notch when it comes to providing interesting content, and my brain immediately went searching for things to write about. And I was surprised (and a little dismayed) when I started to realise I couldn’t think of anything that immediately seemed to fit the mould. I went through all the obvious things…clowns, spiders, monsters under the bed…but no, I have no memory of being actively and consistently afraid of any of these things.

That’s not to say I was a confident little atheist who always dismissed such thoughts with a wave of his hand. If I’d just watched a horror film, probably one far too old for me that I’d managed to sneak a VHS of from a friend, then yes, chances are my childhood sleep pattern would be interrupted for a few days. I remember some specific examples of keeping my head under the covers and being frightened of the shadows on the walls. There was a lamppost not far from my bedroom window, and when cars would pass by, the long thin shadow of that lamppost would travel from the left side of my room around the walls like a proto-Slenderman figure. On most nights this wouldn’t bother me in the slightest, but on a night when my nerves were on edge from having watched, or just as likely read, something scary, then this simple shadow casting became a source of fear. But this isn’t quite the sort of thing I’d describe as a childhood fear. I wasn’t constantly afraid of it, refusing to go into my bedroom in case the lamppost shadow would get me. It was an infrequent response to the heightened nerves brought about by frightening external stimulus. I know some adults who are still like this after watching a scary film. Hell, I live with one. And yes I do wind her up when the occasion arises. I’m that kind of an arsehole. All this taken in mind, I don’t really feel that these experiences can be classed as a genuine childhood fear.
                 
There’s other examples of this sort of feeling, the random ‘one-off’ moments where I felt that creeping dread of the supernatural, but I wouldn’t really class them as being part of some bigger overall fear. I was never scared of ghosts, or monsters or anything like that, because I never believed in them. I think I disappointed my niece when she asked me recently if I ever believed in Father Christmas, and I said that I didn’t. Because it’s true, I don’t recall ever accepting it. It was always too nonsensical. Not the flying reindeer and all that, I could buy into that. I was no anthropologist, what did I know about the varied species of reindeer and how fast they might be able to fly? No, what never sat right with me was the presents themselves. I’d see my parents buying them, hoping my young eyes would be too distracted by Christmas lights and music to notice the bloody great Bat-Cave poking out of the Debenhams bag my Mum was carrying. I wasn’t. I even remember finding my presents in the loft on more than one occasion. Now, I wasn’t looking for them, I was never that type of child. I just happened across them when helping to get the festive decorations down or something. And yet, I wasn’t shocked or saddened by this. Even when my Mum tried the old ‘we send them to Santa and he sends them back’ explanation, I wasn’t buying it. What the Hell was the point in that? I may have been six, Mum, but I wasn’t convinced you’d be wasting that amount of postage at peak parcel delivery season. No, I never believed in Father Christmas, or anything that required a belief in the supernatural. That included all the Jesus stuff we were force-fed at school, but that’s another topic.
                 
Despite my lack of fear of the mystical and such, my thoughts on the topic of childhood fear dug up a deeper, perhaps not quite as light-hearted fear which stays with me to this day. I suppose the best place to start it is with one very specific memory of laying in my bed after watching Hook at the cinema. Now, I loved that film, I still do. The story of a man who’s forgotten what it was that made him so happy is all the more poignant with the tragic suicide of its star, Robin Williams. But nevertheless it remains a fun family film, and I loved it the first time I ever saw it at the cinema when I was six years old. However, there was one scene which I remember being rather frightening, and that’s quite near the beginning, when Hook comes into the house at night, scratching his namesake along the walls as he goes, and then enters the children’s bedroom and takes them away from their family.

How he gets them back to Neverland, I never quite figured out. Does his pirate ship fly? Maybe it does. He’d probably struggle to get some kidnapped children onto a passenger jet unnoticed, and how many of them actually charter flights to Neverland anyway? Ryanair probably does, but you’d have to pay extra for that imaginary food. But I digress. That scene, followed shortly afterwards by the parents’ horror at what’s just happened, stayed with me. And even after the joy of the rest of the film, the colour and the adventure, that part stuck in my head. It frightened me and wouldn’t let go. That night, I lay in bed with my covers brought up tight to my face, peeking out over the top and watching the doorknob. I actually swapped the end of the bed I usually slept in, just so I could clearly see that doorknob. At any moment it would turn, and Hook might come and take me away. I have no idea how long I stayed awake, but I daren’t do anything else. And then, the doorknob turned. I didn’t imagine it, it really did. And I screamed. Actually screamed, the only time I remember doing this as a child (apparently I was rather nonchalant as a little boy, which hasn’t really changed that much.)

The turner of the doorknob was my Mum, who’d come into my bedroom with my sister. I don’t really remember why. There was a reason, and what little I can tear from my memory tells me it was a nice one. Something like a surprise announcement that we were going on holiday, or something of that nature. I really don’t know, but I do remember their happy faces on entering my bedroom turning to shock and worry given my unexpected vocal reaction. I don’t remember spending any more nights watching that doorknob. I think my Mum was able to calm away my irrational fears (which she is still able to do now, which for an adult like me who suffers with anxiety is an absolute joy). But thinking about this topic made me prod a bit further; why had that scene scared me so much that I actually lay awake like that? Why do I remember that so well, and not specific incidents where the shadow of that lamppost might have caused me to hide beneath the covers?

I think the answer is my Dad. No, no, we’re not going into anything bad or sensitive here, get that out of your head. My Dad is a wonderful and kind human being who’s simultaneously the most and least Yorkshire person you could meet. He has that no-nonsense, matter of fact Northern charm to him, but he doesn’t have the old fashioned set-in-your-ways side that many a Yorkshireman does. Neither did his dad, my Grandad with whom I was very close. Both of them loved, and in my Dad’s case still does love, progress, advancements in technology and the continuing betterment of society. Neither were of the belief that ‘things were better in the old days’. That aside, I think my primary fears as a child centred on my Dad, specifically the thought of losing him. Or of my being taken away from him and my Mum.

This was the 1980’s, not an easy time for the North of England. The assumed (and fairly accurate) North/South divide when it came to the attention given to the economy by the government was never more apparent than under She Who Shall Not Be Named. As a result, and a desire to keep his family in comfort and with a decent roof over their heads, my Dad made the decision to work down in London, commuting back home every two weeks. So for long weeks at a time, my Mum, sister and myself wouldn’t see him. That’s not the end of the world, I know. And I also know there are people with fathers, mothers, wives, husbands, sons or daughters in the armed forces who suffer greater periods of absence and far greater worry than this all the time. But there was something else.

My Dad was in London, at a time when the news….to which I did pay attention even as a child…was constantly full of stories about the IRA. I didn’t know who they were, what they wanted, or how valid or not their cause might be. All I knew then was that a group of men liked to set bombs off in London, the very place where my Dad was working away from us. Bombs, but not like the big round ones you’d see cartoon characters hold before they became covered in black soot. No, these were the loud, horrible kind of bombs that led to mass panic, to screaming and fear and death. I have never experienced the last one, for which I am very fortunate, but the first two I have, as a child. I was with my family visiting my Dad in London, and the tube station we were on was evacuated because of a bomb scare. The fear, the grown adults running up those stairs in panic, my Mum gripping mine and my sister’s hands so tight she probably cut off the blood flow….that was all I knew of the IRA. And this was on just one day, when we’d come to visit. To my mind, this must surely happen every day, and my Dad was in the middle of it. Nothing happened at that tube station, of course. Nothing went off, it might even have been a prank call. From what I gather there were as many people pricking about pretending to be the IRA as there were genuine calls of such a nature. But that didn’t matter, it was just further evidence to support the vague fear I had now decided I would carry with me.

It’s important to make clear that I didn’t go about each and every day anxious and worrying that my parents would be taken from me, or I from them. It wasn’t a constant overpowering fear. But it was there, and in my more troubled moments, it would affect my sleep. Perhaps that’s one reason that monsters and ghosts never really had much power to scare me. A vampire or a man wrapped in bandages never seemed that scary when placed next to a human being in a balaclava that might take away all you loved in a loud, terrifying instant. But still, rather than a constant thought that was with me, it just sort of settled into the background of my young, overthinking mind. I remember having a very vivid nightmare of being sat in a cinema with my family when a bomb went off just in front of the screen. I don’t remember much more of it than that, and nor do I want to.

The fact that terror attacks seem to happen with greater frequency now, even if the perpetrators sing a different cause, is not lost on me. My opinion of them remains the same. They’re wrong. Whatever their cause, they’re wrong. It’s that simple. Some harm may have been done to your country or religion or culture by successive governments, as the IRA believed, and you want to make them aware of it in a way they can’t ignore. OK, if I stretch my tolerance to the limit I can accept that. But you know what? The perceived harm done wasn’t caused by people just going to work in their office building. It wasn’t caused by people relaxing on a beach. It wasn’t caused by teenagers and children attending a concert in Manchester. There is no power on this fucking earth or beyond it that will make me see these things happen and still be willing to listen to your point. Whatever it may have been, it no longer matters. You’re just wrong.

Bombs weren’t the only thing that sparked this childhood fear, though, and nor were they the last thing to do it. I was allowed to play out alone as a child, something increasingly lost on successive generations, but I was always armed with warnings about talking to strangers, getting into cars, accepting sweets and such. I was sensible enough to pay heed to all of this, but the fact I needed to be aware of it served to create the view that there must be many such people out there ready to take me away. Frankly I’m pretty sure they’d have brought me back. But there was something else that threatened to rob me of those I loved most.

My mum was taken into hospital the first time when I was about 9 years old. I wasn’t told why. My sister, three years older than me, was probably aware. But for a nine year old boy, particularly one who worried and overthought as much as me, there are some words you don’t want to say. She was fine, it all went well, and she came back right as rain. I did find it odd that shortly before this stay in hospital began, my Dad took me to Toys R Us at my Mum’s instruction to buy me anything I wanted, because ‘she might not be able to for a while’. I remember being very worried about that comment. If I’d been told the reason she was in there, that would have been even worse. I’d have broken the toys I bought that day and refused to play with them.

That wasn’t the last time the C word (not the rude one) would haunt my Mum either. About seven years ago she found a lump on her neck, and the process began again. It was worse this time. I was a grown adult in my late twenties, there was no hiding from what the cause was. People still seemed unwilling to use the word, as though saying it might give it more power. I still hate that word. The toll it took on my Mum was worse this time too. My memories of that time as a child are patchy, but if it had wracked her body the way it did this second time, I’d remember. She says now that she came close to giving up that second time. I never saw that in her. She wouldn’t show that to us, that’s not who she is. My Mum’s half German, and half Yorkshire. That combination means showing such moments of weakness is doubly difficult, and often unnecessary given the strength that she has. Naturally my childhood fear came back at this time; losing one of my parents. The other one, this time. Not from angry men with loud bombs, but from a disease. A horrible, cruel disease that strikes a teetotal healthy person like my Mum as readily as it does a chain smoking alcoholic. It’s arguably the worst thing that exists in our world.
                 
But fears can be overcome. They almost always are, in fact. We may sit and talk about them, dwell on them, remembering that time we were scared out of our minds, rationally or otherwise. But we’re still here. We endured whatever it was that scared us, be it the clown under the bed or the angry men in balaclavas. And my Mum endured too. Two weeks ago she went to the doctors for her check up at the Oncology ward. She’s been having to go there less and less frequently since she recovered, which is a good sign. But this appointment was different. This time the doctors told her that she doesn’t need to go anymore. That she’d been in full remission for enough years now, with no trace whatsoever of that dreaded word still in her body, and that it was no longer necessary for her to go back there. She’d won.
               
Both of my parents are nearing retirement age now. My Dad is spending less and less time in London now too. The fear of being without them is still there, of course. It always will be, even if it no longer takes the form of Captain Hook (no offence to Dustin Hoffman, but I’m pretty sure I could take him in a fight these days). And of course there are still angry men with bombs, but they’re not as concentrated in London as they were back then. You might think this would make me afraid of everywhere the way it made me afraid of London, but strangely it doesn’t. Rather it makes me resolved to go where I want when I want. If I let them stop me, they’ve won. If my Mum wasn’t letting a biological version of cancer stop her living her life, then I’m not letting the human version stop me living mine. Fear is fear. It goes away. Life doesn’t.
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Every once in a while, God and Lucifer visit the earth and make a wager. Now it’s time for the next one; the most daring yet, and quite possibly the last. “This venture to live as men for a full year had been such a hilarious idea to start with. Prove Abe wrong… again… then head back to their respective domains and gloat about it forever. Only it hadn’t worked out that way. Things were different now. Having omniscient sight removed from him actually made Nick see things more clearly than he ever had. There’s harm in getting too close to a picture, but a different sort of harm comes from getting too far away from it.” What starts as a simple contest becomes something more as their newfound humanity forces them to revaluate their relationship not only with the world, but with each other as father and son. Seen through the eyes of two men, on opposing sides of a family feud of epic proportions, each of them faces trials, heartache, love and real pain as they learn what it means to be human. Can old wounds ever really be closed? Can the past truly be forgiven? And can anyone ever fall so far that it’s too late for them to be caught? “After the fall? You rise.”

click to purchase a copy of nick and abe

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<![CDATA[THE PROBLEM WITH CLICKBAIT ARTICLES]]>Thu, 05 Oct 2017 08:08:38 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/the-problem-with-clickbait-articlesGOTCHA 
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<![CDATA[Facing The Fear: ​Return to Oz by Penny Jones]]>Thu, 05 Oct 2017 05:01:07 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/facing-the-fear-return-to-oz-by-penny-jonesBy Penny Jones 
I was six years old the first time I was really scared, and although that was the year that I first read my parent’s Pan books of Horror; and the year I watched American Werewolf in London, and Nightmare on Elm Street for the first time. It was none of those things that were the cause of my many sleepless nights. Sure I was scared by them, I was six. But I was expecting to be scared, expecting to twitch at the curtains and turn on the lights. They were horror. But what I wasn’t expecting to be utterly terrified by was a PG rated film.

My parent’s had rented a video recorder from Rumbelows, and as a treat they rented a couple of films for me to watch. Although they knew I liked horror films, they thought it would be more suitable for a six year old little girl to have some children’s films. One of those videos was Disney’s Return to Oz.
The start of Return to Oz is reminiscent of The Twilight Zone. The camera angles and the melancholy music set the scene for what is to be a disturbing movie. Dorothy (who is played by Fairuza Balk, who went on to play Nancy Downs in The Craft) is unable to sleep; we cut to Dorothy’s Uncle Henry looking at an advert for electric healing. Aunty Em talks about the fact that it is six months after the tornado and Dorothy hasn’t been herself since, that she talks constantly about somewhere that doesn’t exist. So Aunty Em in her wisdom takes Dorothy to see Doctor Worley at his hospital.

Now for the first, really freaky part of the film. Aunty Em leave Dorothy in the care of the seemingly kindly Dr Worley, and Nurse Wilson (who looks like she kills children and eats them for breakfast), so that Dorothy can have electro-shock therapy (just to remind you again this is a kid’s film). Dorothy is taken to a sparse cell-like room. Outside a storm is brewing, and in the distance Dorothy listens to the calming sounds of screams and thunder. A strange girl turns up, hands Dorothy a jack-o-lantern and disappears whilst her back is turned. But that’s fine, Dorothy isn’t on her own for long, as Nurse Wilson and two freaky orderlies soon turn up. They restrain Dorothy on a gurney with a squeaky wheel (that’s straight out of a horror film), and roll her in for her ECT. Luckily there’s a powercut, and the freaky girl from earlier runs in to save the day, and as she is un-strapping Dorothy, the screams begin again. Dorothy asks what they are and the girl responds…
 
“They’re patients who’ve been damaged, locked in the cellar.”
 
WTF! This is a children’s film remember. So to cut a long story short, they escape and Dorothy wakes up in Oz in the deadly desert (this time she has a talking chicken called Billina with her). Now the deadly desert surrounds Oz and you can’t touch it or you die and turn into sand. I’m not freaked out by this as most six year olds would be, because I still can’t get over the people locked in the frigging cellar. Dorothy makes her way to the ruins of the Emerald City, and finds that everyone has been turned to stone, and several of them have been decapitated (Gee this is the film that just keeps giving). Then we are introduced to the Wheelers (imagine psycho stilt walkers on wheels, with a bit of Mad Max thrown in, and you’ll have a pretty clear idea of what these insanely giggling creatures look like). These creatures work for Mombi and guess what? She’s not nice. She’s the reason that so many of those statues are missing heads and now she wants Dorothy’s. Cut to a headless witch bellowing ‘Dorothy Gale’, whilst all the other heads scream as Dorothy tries to escape.

Now Dorothy has picked up a little band of friends as always; a Gump (no I’m not going to explain, you’ll just have to watch the film), Jack Pumpkinhead (really annoying, I spent the whole film hoping he would die), and Tik Tok (who for some reason reminded me of Windsor Davies). They get to the Nome King’s mountain and save Oz, blah, blah, blah. Not going to bother telling you about this as it’s just standard Disney scary, not freaky why is this film a PG scary.

I love finding out that people haven’t seen Return to Oz, putting on my copy and watching as their jaws drop (it is still terrifying to watch as an adult). You can get it on DVD and it is well worth the watch if you haven’t seen it (or a rewatch if you were traumatised by it as a child). Just remember beware the Wheelers, Mombi is watching you (from several sets of eyes), and there is no-one screaming in the cellar.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTRIBUTE YOUR CHILDHOOD FEARS DROP US AN EMAIL BY CLICKING HERE
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<![CDATA[Face the Strange: A Case for the Weird and the Eerie by Dan Coxon]]>Mon, 25 Sep 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/face-the-strange-a-case-for-the-weird-and-the-eerie-by-dan-coxonBY DAN COXON 
"A lot is talked about authors finding their ‘voice’, and I was spending all my time trying to fake somebody else’s accent. It’s no wonder that I was rarely convincing."
Today marks the launch of a Kickstarter project that gets the full Ginger Nuts seal of approval.  Tales from The Shadow Booth is a new journal of weird and eerie fiction, edited by Dan Coxon (Winner: Best Anthology – Saboteur Awards 2016) and published as a mass market paperback. Drawing its inspiration from the likes of Thomas Ligotti and Robert Aickman, The Shadow Booth explores that dark, murky territory between mainstream horror and literary fiction. The journal is crowdfunding on Kickstarter from Today with a view to publication in December 2017. 

Featuring stories by:
Paul Tremblay, Malcolm Devlin, Richard Thomas, Stephen Hargadon, Annie Neugebauer, Richard V. Hirst, Sarah Read, Timothy J. Jarvis, Gary Budden, David Hartley, Kate Feld, Dan Carpenter and Joseph Sale. Tales from The Shadow Booth looks set to be a must read for fans of intelligent horror fiction.  

To celebrate the launch of the Kickstarter Ginger Nuts of Horror has a series of exclusive interviews and articles from some of the contributors to the first volume.  Today we are honoured to have Shadow Booth editor Dan Coxon over for a fascinating article about his journey and reasons for bringing this anthology together.  
As a writer, and an editor, the last ten years of my life have been filled with confusion. During my university years, and the years immediately after, I wrote strange little stories that I thought were groundbreakingly brilliant, but which few others had the time for. I remember one about a burns victim slowly peeling the dead skin from his head, another in which a psychiatric patient gained god-like powers thanks to an experimental drug. Then there was the time travel story about an erratic time machine constructed of skin and bone. You get the idea.

Thankfully I started to enjoy some limited success with these, and a number of magazines and journals published the better ones (I remember Trevor Denyer, now of Midnight Street, being particularly supportive with his Roadworks magazine). I was even published, briefly, in The Third Alternative, the seed from which Andy Cox has grown his wonderful TTA Press. I barely made a penny from any of them, but I felt as if I was slowly getting somewhere.

For someone with a degree in English Literature, however, and (at that time) a career in bookselling, these genre stories felt rather lowbrow and garish, knock-offs of pulp fictions that were thirty years – or more – out of date. I don’t recall making a conscious decision to write ‘straight’ literary fiction, but gradually I turned my sights on supposedly ‘literary’ journals and competitions. I kept my weirder impulses firmly in check, replacing them with everyday tragedies and a search for epiphanies, both literal and literary.

This, by the way, was a huge mistake.

At the time, I felt that my writing simply wasn’t good enough to ‘step up’ to that level. This, to me, explained why I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. The competition was simply too good. I, by extension, was not.

In case you haven’t worked it out, this was also a huge mistake.

The truth of the matter is that I spent a number of years suppressing the stories that occurred to me naturally, trying instead to manufacture mainstream tales that never really interested me, never mind my readers. A lot is talked about authors finding their ‘voice’, and I was spending all my time trying to fake somebody else’s accent. It’s no wonder that I was rarely convincing.

Eventually, I realised that I’d strayed down the wrong path, but things were still far from simple. The pure, genre horror ‘voice’ wasn’t mine either. To this day, I’m not a great fan of monsters and gore – they don’t scare me, they simply leave me bored (or, worse, make me laugh). I recalled authors I’d enjoyed in my teens – Alan Garner, Michael Moorcock, Jonathan Carroll – but as far as I could see, there wasn’t a name for the strange blend of fantasy and realism that got my pulse racing, that misty realm of the odd and the profane. I enjoyed King’s The Shining, but not Salem’s Lot. I read and re-read Ian McEwan’s early stories, but Atonement left me cold. I seemed to exist between genres, neither one thing nor the other.

Slowly, I started to encounter a few authors who occupied a similar hinterland. Jeff VanderMeer, Robert Aickman. There was something different happening out there, in unmapped territory. Adam Nevill’s novels thrilled me too, with their very literate, and yet muscular, take on the supernatural. Here was something genuinely scary, and genuinely interesting. Through Adam, I found Machen, and then Ligotti. I returned to Lovecraft, and found him weirder and more challenging than I remembered. My interest in the strange even started to spill over into literary realms – Andrew Michael Hurley’s The Loney is a fine example. Suddenly, strangeness was everywhere.

I suspect that some of these writers I love have gone through their own identity crises. In his Introduction to The Wine-Dark Sea, Peter Straub reveals that Aickman disliked the term ‘horror’ for his fictions, preferring to call them ‘strange stories’. Lovecraft used the term ‘weird fiction’, shifting his focus away from horror and towards ‘vague, elusive, fragmentary impressions of wonder, beauty, and adventurous expectancy’. This seemed to apply to most of the stories I enjoyed, even the supernatural ones. Fear alone was not enough.

Hopefully this goes some way towards explaining why I decided to launch The Shadow Booth, a journal of weird and eerie short stories by contemporary writers. For a long time, I felt that there were a number of authors writing and interesting stories in this hinterland – stories too philosophical and introspective to fit the horror genre, but too weird and unsettling to sit within the literary field. It seemed natural to try and give them a home. I had recently bought several second-hand Pan Books of Horror at a book stall in London, and I wanted to use them as a touchstone: broad in their range, encouraging new writers as well as established authors, and yet extremely readable and accessible. It made sense for The Shadow Booth to be a mass market paperback too, somewhere in the region of 200 pages (slim enough to still fit in a pocket). The black cover suggested itself and could not be ignored.

In his book The Weird and the Eerie, Mark Fisher does an excellent job of distinguishing the two terms, but he also brings them together. For Fisher, ‘the weird is that which does not belong. The weird brings to the familiar something which ordinarily lies beyond it, and which cannot be reconciled with the “homely”’ (Fisher’s italics). The eerie, meanwhile, ‘concerns the most fundamental metaphysical questions one could pose, questions to do with existence and non-existence: Why is there something here when there should be nothing? Why is there nothing here when there should be something? The unseeing eyes of the dead; the bewildered eyes of an amnesiac – these provoke a sense of the eerie, just as surely as an abandoned village or a stone circle do’ (italics again are Fisher’s). For me, the first half of Stephen King’s It is eerie, that unsettling image of Pennywise lurking in the sewer. The second half spirals into the weird pretty fast (and not always in a terribly convincing way, it has to be said).

I knew from early on in the process that I wanted The Shadow Booth to encompass both. Going back to Fisher again, he points out that, ‘What the weird and the eerie have in common is a preoccupation with the strange. The strange – not the horrific.’ We’re back to Aickman and his ‘strange stories’ again. I remember a song from my teenage years, around the time that I was starting to read Moorcock and explore the gothic, by the band Therapy?. The song was called ‘Face the Strange’, and if I remember rightly, the chorus went: ‘So you turn/To face the strange/You turn/To face yourself’. I had finally found my ‘voice’, and indeed, it was strange.

I hope I’ve managed to bring all these elements together in the first volume of The Shadow Booth. I think I have. Some of the stories are undeniably weird (Dan Carpenter’s contribution, for example, as well as Richard Thomas and David Hartley). Some are definitely at the eerie end of the scale (Paul Tremblay, Stephen Hargadon). Others, for me at least, sit somewhere between the two (I’m thinking particularly of Malcolm Devlin’s story, and Gary Budden’s too). Whether you find them weird, or eerie, they are all undeniably strange.

On a personal level, The Shadow Booth feels like an odd kind of homecoming. This is territory I left many years ago, and I’ve spent the interim tramping through the literary wilderness. But now, unexpectedly, I have stumbled across a tiny, one-man booth in the desert sands. It looks like an old-fashioned Punch & Judy booth, the striped fabric faded by the sun and the winds. The sign is so worn I can barely read it, but I can just make out the name, and the promise of excitement, of beauty, and maybe even a little fear. The decision takes no time at all. I lift the canvas flap and step into the darkness.

The Shadow Booth is now crowdfunding on Kickstarter, until 26 October. Featuring stories by Paul Tremblay, Malcolm Devlin, Richard Thomas, Stephen Hargadon, Gary Budden, Annie Neugebauer, Richard V. Hirst and many more, it is available as a mass market paperback. Please pre-order a copy here and show your support:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dan-coxon/1853672489/

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Dan Coxon’s writing has appeared in Salon, Unthology, The Lonely Crowd, Popshot, Neon, Gutter, Wales Arts Review, The Portland Review, and the DadLit anthology Daddy Cool, amongst others. He is the editor of Being Dad, a collection of short stories about fatherhood that won Best Anthology at the Saboteur Awards 2016. He was long-listed for the Bath Flash Fiction Award 2017, and is currently a Contributing Editor at The Lonely Crowd.

He also writes weird and eerie fiction under a pen name, some of which has been published in Black StaticUnsung StoriesSpeculative 66 and The Year’s Best Body Horror. He’s starting to feel that Stephen King’s The Dark Half may have been a grittily realistic depiction of the schizophrenia of storytelling.

In an unlikely – and terrifying – plot twist, he once chaired a writers' pitching panel at the SCARdiff horror convention, and he is appearing on two panels at this year’s FantasyCon. His dark half will also be reading something strange on the Saturday evening.

He runs a freelance editorial and proofreading service at Momus Editorial, and is happy to take on private clients as well as established publishers. Find him on Twitter @DanCoxonAuthor.

Click here to check out the Tales from the ShADOW BOOTH KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN.  EVEN IF YOU CAN'T SUPPORT THEM PLEASE SHARE THIS PAGE WITH YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA NETWORKS.  

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<![CDATA[WRITING HORROR BY G.A. MINTON]]>Thu, 21 Sep 2017 06:07:30 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/writing-horror-by-ga-minton
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Horror is defined as a feeling of great shock, fear, and worry caused by something extremely unpleasant; an intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust. Edgar Allan Poe is not only recognized as the “Father of the Detective Story,” with his publication in Graham’s Magazine of The Murders In The Rue Morgue in 1841, but he is also the first American writer to popularize horror and the macabre. Poe is also credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction.  

Horror is a genre of fiction which has the capacity to frighten, scare, disgust, or startle its readers or viewers by inducing feelings of horror and terror. Howard Phillips (H.P.) Lovecraft, the master of the horror tale in the twentieth century, once said that “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”

The components of a good horror story usually include fear, surprise, suspense, mystery, foreshadowing, and imagination. A good storyline will interconnect these important elements together in one way or another.

Fear is paramount to any horror story. Scaring the reader with fears they may or may not have (fear of the unknown) is key to writing a spooky tale. A strong emotion of fear sets horror apart from the other genres, and expanding on that fear can contribute to surprise. If the author can’t elicit fear in the reader, then the story shouldn’t fall into the horror genre.

Surprise is important in order to connect with the reader. If the writer can make the fear(s) a surprise, then the story will be even more exciting. Many horror movies rely on the element of surprise to terrify its audience. By tying a surprise to the end of a long suspense, the reader will stay hooked on the storyline. 

Suspense can be used to keep the reader’s adrenaline flowing, especially if it plays off of fear. If the story is written well, then the reader will be afraid if the character is afraid. Well-placed suspense holds the reader’s interest in the story and puts them on the edge of their seat. If suspense is intertwined with fear, then it will keep the reader on a roller coaster ride. A suspenseful story is more often than not dependent on a good mystery.  

Mystery is a strong element in any horror tale. Generally speaking, the more unknowns the author has in a story, the better the read. A mystery that’s not solved until the end of the book can definitely make for a suspenseful tale. Mystery and suspense can also be used together as a hook to keep the reader’s attention. In order to surprise its reader, a story needs a convincing mystery.

What’s the difference between mystery and suspense? Mystery contains one or more elements that remain unexplained or unknown until a story’s ending. A good mystery story showcases a given character’s struggle with different psychological and/or physical obstacles in an effort to achieve a particular goal or goals. Suspense is elicited when the reader isn’t aware of what’s coming next or what the outcome of an event or conflict in a story will be. A savvy author will create suspense by keeping the reader guessing as to what will happen next. As the great Alfred Hitchcock once said, “Suspense is the state of waiting for something to happen.” A mystery story reveals the major crime or event, followed by the protagonist solving the mystery of the who, why, and how of it. A suspense story delivers twists and turns before showing the crime or event later, thus eliciting a feeling of suspense in the reader. The enemy of suspense is predictability, which should be avoided when constructing the plot. Many authors are able to create a blend of suspense and mystery in their stories, thus providing a reliable way to keep their reader’s interest.  

Foreshadowing is a way of preparing the reader for the climax of the story. By leaving well-placed clues in the plot and not giving away any answers, the author can make the mystery in his book even more enticing. Foreshadowing can be used as a tie-in to a mystery as it builds anticipation in the reader. An indication for the occurrence of future events, foreshadowing is a valuable tool for any writer.   

Imagination can be a horror author’s best friend when used to construct the events, characters, situations, and storyline of a book. The reader can also draw upon their imagination as they conjure up images and visions of what they’ve read.  When used synergistically, fear, mystery, and imagination are crucial to any good horror story. If the reader can imagine themselves as a character in a story, then the author has succeeded in his endeavors. “Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.” - Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

Why is it important to include mystery in a horror novel? Most people enjoy mysteries because it’s an intellectual challenge for them to figure out the answer to a puzzle. If  the narrative contains a thought-provoking mystery, then the reader will want to know how the plot is resolved. A good mystery will leave clues that should keep the reader hanging until the end of the story. Horror is tailored for those readers who wish to have their imaginations stimulated through fear, especially psychological fear or fear of the unknown. Given that the human imagination knows no limits, a cornucopia of scary characters have been created throughout time, including monsters, demons, and ghosts, just to mention a few. The genres of horror, science fiction, and fantasy are usually based on fear and imagination, which is why they often overlap each other. A well-written horror novel can uncover a reader’s hidden anxiety or deepest nightmare—the more mysterious the antagonist, the more effective the horror. Adding mystery to horror not only makes for a more interesting story, but it also heightens the fear. Horror authors know that keeping the narrative terrifying is a must for any tale of horror. A horror story without mystery is like a body without a soul!

About G.A. Minton
 
From his early childhood, G.A. Minton has always been a diehard fan of science fiction and horror. Whenever a scary movie was playing down at the local theater, he was there in attendance with his friends, loudly screaming in terror alongside them. G.A. enjoys many hobbies, but the game of golf is one of his favorites, having lettered on his high school golf team. Besides writing, he also enjoys reading, traveling, fishing, swimming, snorkeling, working out, listening to hard rock music, and watching great movies—especially those genres that encompass horror, science fiction, mystery, and comedy.

Strangely enough, it was only after G.A. was rear-ended by a drunk driver and suffered a closed-head injury that he developed a newfound passion for writing (even though this story has the makings for a bizarre Stephen King horror novel, it is nonetheless true). After numerous visits to a neurologist and months of taking medication used by patients afflicted with  Alzheimer’s Disease, his injured brain slowly began to mend itself. When the damage to his brain finally healed, G.A. noticed something very different in his thought patterns. Now, there was an overwhelming urge, a compulsive drive to put on paper fascinating stories that had formed de novo in his mind. That’s how Trisomy XXI, his first novel and recipient of multiple awards, was born. One could surmise that the damaged neurons in G.A.’s frontal cortex had rearranged themselves into a different pattern, thereby enhancing the creative elements in his brain (a rare medical condition, known as “acquired savant syndrome”). God only knows… stranger things have happened! G.A. is now referred to as “the savant horror writer” by many of his friends.

G.A. has recently completed his second novel, Antitheus, a dark supernatural tale of horror that takes Good vs. Evil to a whole new level. Currently, his brain is busy at work, meticulously processing the text for another story of the macabre that will both entertain and horrify its unsuspecting reader. One of G.A.’s trademarks is that his stories contain an O. Henry or Rod Serling surprise ending that would baffle even the likes of the great Sherlock Holmes! G.A. lives in Texas with his wife, a son and daughter, and two Bengal cats named Phinneas and Shamus.
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Trapped by a blizzard in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, a group of clergymen attending a religious conference find themselves thrown into a gruesome battle with evil incarnate itself. One by one, the holy leaders are being brutally slaughtered by an unknown, malevolent entity. Facing impossible odds and running out of time, the survivors must work together to match wits against their deadly adversary. It’s an epic battle of Good versus Evil, with the winner taking all. . .the fate of every man, woman, and child on Earth hangs in the balance! 

Conjured up from the vivid imagination of G.A. Minton, the award-winning author of TRISOMY XXI, comes a tale of unspeakable horror. Akin to Seven, The Prophecy, and Angel Heart, ANTITHEUS takes the forces of light and darkness to a whole new level—holding an unforeseen ending that will both surprise and amaze its reader. Prepare yourself for a terrifying trip into the world of infinite evil! 

“ANTITHEUS is a masterfully executed story that will entertain fans of horror and stay with them for a long time. Couldn’t put down!” – Christian Sia’s 5-STAR Review from Readers’ Favorite.

“ANTITHEUS is written to read like an irresistible spell for fans of thrillers and realistic tales of horror.” – Readers’ Favorite 5-STAR Review from Romuald Dzemo.

You can find out more information about G.A. Minton and his books at:

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<![CDATA[THE PICTURE OF LEON BRITTAN BY DANIEL RAVEN]]>Wed, 06 Sep 2017 23:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/the-picture-of-leon-brittan-by-daniel-raven
I leaned closer to examine the designs and was startled to discover that they depicted, in grossly caricaturised form, human sexual organs.  Yet this was no simple gallery of antique erotica, for not one of the organs in the pictures was shown to have a human owner.  They didn’t even seem to have human skin: the phalluses were covered in interlocking plates much like a suit of armour, while their female counterparts – which more than anything resembled a maniac’s attempt to copy a diagram of the female reproductive system from a biology textbook – were translucent enough for the viewer to discern a tangled network of blood vessels and nerve fibres beneath the surface of the uterus.  This network became more or less visible depending on the angle from which it was viewed – a singular quality which I spent a minute or so experimenting with.  But when I started moving away to inspect the reliefs on the other side of the tunnel, one of those uterine tubes suddenly throbbed, and an unidentifiable black fluid appeared to surge through it…!

    I was so alarmed that I dropped my Zippo, which stayed alight for a moment after it struck the ground.  I looked down at the area thus illuminated and saw that the soft grass I had slept upon wasn’t grass at all – it was curly, wispy hair, sprouting from a smooth grey surface whose spasmic twitching beneath the naked flame suggested a monstrous kind of flesh…!

    I choked with fright and ran, choosing to abandon my lighter rather than risk direct contact with that abhorrent parody of turf.  As I pelted through the tunnel – following it around to the left, then to the right, down a slight declivity and at last sharply upwards – I commenced going ‘La la laaa’ at the top of my voice in a desperate bid to drown out the slapping of my trainers against that repellent sod, and clenching my fists as hard I could lest I became too acutely aware of its loathsome undulations.  Eventually I was able to make out a patch of light in the distance which seemed too pale and bright to have been created by those hellish bas-reliefs, and the further I ascended the more certain I grew that it was daylight.  Daylight!  It was the first time in my life I’d ever been genuinely excited by the prospect of going outdoors.

    The light was streaming from an opening on the right-hand side of the corridor, and as I drew nearer it became apparent that this offered my only possible escape route; the tunnel I had been following terminated in an impassable barrier of fallen rock a few feet beyond it.  In view of this I stopped beside the aperture, which was more or less twice the size of a standard doorway, and cautiously put my head around it.

    What I saw then was enough to make me doubt my own sanity, yet it was so palpably real that my first instinct was rather to doubt the sanity of the universe.
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'The story I’m about to tell is true in every detail and you must try to believe it, no matter how hard that may seem, because it proves that my "impotence" was never anything to do with me not loving you, or not thinking you were gorgeous, or being a secret gaybait. It was to do with primal forces of inhuman evil.'

That’s how I put it to my ex-girlfriend. I’m not quite sure how to put it to YOU – let’s face it, you’re capricious – but that doesn’t alter the fact that you MUST read this book. Not only does it relate the full story of how I met and fell in love with the most extraordinary woman who ever lived, it also offers a genuinely plausible explanation for all the terrible wickedness in this world AND exposes a monumentally revolting cosmic conspiracy that implicates the whole human race, as well as several others you’ve never even heard of.

But I wouldn’t want to alienate you, so please try also to keep in mind that it’s basically just a lovely light romantic comedy for much of the time, with lots of droll observations about university life in the 1990s blah blah rites of passage blah blah end of innocence blah blah beautifully evoked. It only really starts to go all H.P. Lovecraft about halfway through, and even then you’ll need your sense of humour as much as your strong stomach (it IS strong, isn’t it? Oh do please say that it’s strong!). Moreover, I can promise – in fact positively guarantee – that you will never, ever be able to forget it...

PURCHASE A COPY HERE
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<![CDATA[COMPETITION: WIN ONE OF THREE PAIRS OF TICKETS FOR LIVERPOOL HORROR CON]]>Tue, 22 Aug 2017 12:06:03 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/competition-win-one-of-three-pairs-of-tickets-for-liverpool-horror-con
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Ginger Nuts of Horror and The Mega Liverpool Horror Con have joined forces to give you the chance to win one of three pairs of tickets to the event on the 7th and 8th of October.  

Fans of the fear-provoking prepare yourselves, Horror Con is coming to Liverpool and it’s looking FRIGHTfully good!. Meet a range of authors, film & TV guests, and shop with a huge array of traders selling everything from prints to films and masks to movie props. View the exhibits and get your photos taken within our special features to enhance your day. Collect your autographs and photographs then relax and unwind, watching film screenings or listen to the panels and talks with guests discussing their previous and current work. This two day event promises no-stop fun this Halloween on October 7th & 8th.

Full details of the event and the stellar lineup of guests appearing at the Con can be found here


For a chance to win one of the three pairs of Tickets all you have to do is head to their Facebook Page and give it a like, share this post

​Tagging The Ginger Nuts of Horror in the share so we can keep track of who is sharing it.  The three winners will be picked at random and announced Thursday 14th of September.  
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<![CDATA[MASTERS OF HORROR, AND WHY I AM QUITTING THE GAME BY MATT SHAW.]]>Wed, 16 Aug 2017 08:39:07 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/masters-of-horror-and-why-i-am-quitting-the-game-by-matt-shawBY MATT SHAW
Anthologies are not a new idea. If anything, they are becoming two a penny. Every week someone is releasing another anthology filled with authors who are hungry for their name to be seen in a book that they, wrongly, believe will be seen by more people than if they released their story on their own. If you hadn’t guessed, I am not a fan of anthologies in general. Too many publishers out there prey on desperate, mostly-new authors - give us your work for free and new readers will come flocking to you. It doesn’t work like that though, especially in this day and age.
What was once a thriving marketplace is going the same way as extreme horror. It’s the same with conventions, and I know I will annoy a fair few people by saying this: You can have too much of something. With so many titles to choose from, so many conventions - people are spoiled for choice. When they make a decision and realise it’s a quick cash-in job, they lose faith, and the genre’s reputation is damaged a little further. There is no thought behind what people are releasing these days. People who were once readers become writers and they, in turn, become publishers and “experts” in their field - rushing out anthology after anthology with the same names involved. Good luck to them, and I truly mean that. The market is a cruel, unforgiving place and if you abuse the system too long, or mock the readers with rushed releases and general crap - all the hard work you put into it gets damaged.  The only question is: Do you become bored before the public are bored of you are do you tire first? I don’t know the answer, but I do know that this is why I quit.

Now you might be asking why I am quitting this game. I prefer not to think of it as “quitting” as such as - instead - taking a step back with a grin on my face while I look for the next thing. You see, publishers are so pre-occupied with releasing their next anthology - the same as convention organisers are pre-occupied with their next show - they are can’t see the bigger picture. The audience is spreading thin, and they might not admit it, but they’re most likely desperate to see something new come in. Thankfully, I have a few ideas up my sleeve but - I can’t go into it until a plan is formulated and the actual book is out there. After all, if I put my thoughts down here, tomorrow - someone else will be claiming similar thoughts as their own. That is what this community is about now sadly.

Hell, there was an argument on Facebook not so long ago where an anthology was announced (another one) and an author was turned down for it. The very next day, he had announced a similarly themed anthology, and all hell broke loose with the other publishers saying he was ripping them off and blah blah blah… Now, this might paint a bleak picture for you, especially if you’re new in this area, but just watch. People you think are close to you will soon turn. You will be chewed-up, used, abused and spat out before you realise what the hell just in happened. And even when you cotton on to certain ways, you will also see new ways of tricking people crop up too.

Another example: How about an anthology that promises to give x amount of profits to charity? You are not paid to appear in the anthology, and only x amount goes to the charity so what happened to the rest of the money?! Yep - authors are being ripped off (again). Anyway, I’m going off on a tangent. Not everyone on your “friend-list” will be out to get you. Thankfully I have made some great friends through this game but - sadly - there will be more than you will realise.

Speaking from personal experience again, I’ve seen a backlash in the first 24 hours of this title being announced. Other authors calling me “arrogant” for calling the book “Masters of Horror”, people questioning the right for certain authors to appear in such a title as - in their opinion - they aren’t exactly masters… The writing community is an ugly place and more bitchy than the notoriously bastard-like film industry. 

Another reason to leave the anthology compiling to someone else is also to do with Kindle Unlimited. When you release an anthology, you sometimes use original stories and sometimes use re-prints. Well, if an anthology comes out that contains a re-print, and the author has also decided to publish the same story as a stand-alone short then - well - you aren’t allowed to have the title in Kindle Unlimited. This also happens if you have paid for an original story. Eventually the author have some rights back to the story and can publish it elsewhere (either in another anthology or by themselves) and - hey presto - you’re pulled from Kindle Unlimited again. A program that is seemingly designed to lined Amazon’s pockets only, forsaking the publisher and the authors. With seemingly more people moving over to Amazon’s reading program, it has had a direct impact on actual book sales. It raises the question: If people have Kindle Unlimited - will they bother purchasing a book that’s not part of the program or will they just go out of their way to find one that is a part of the scheme? It’s a question I can’t answer, but I have my suspicions.

So anyway.

“Masters of Horror” will be the last anthology that I put together and, with that in mind, I have decided to try something a little different with it. Unlike other anthologies out there - including some I have released myself - there is no theme other than each story needs to be set in the horror genre. The only rule I put in place: Paranormal Romance is not welcome.

Why?

If you take a look at Amazon’s horror charts, it is filled with such titles. Covers depicting the ripped torsos of studs, some dolly-bird cuddled up to them and titles suggesting it’s a werewolf love story, or something similar. It’s a depressing sight for someone who’s heart is black and filled with “old-school” horror of ghosts, things that go bump in the night, psychological horror, serial killers, extreme horror and - God - the list is endless. And it’s because this list is endless that I have approached a number of different authors to get involved with the book (and I approached a lot more than those who simply agreed and appear in the title but sadly a good number were too busy with their own projects).

Brian Lumley, Adam Nevill, Guy N. Smith, Ramsey Campbell, Gary McMahon, Shaun Hutson, J. R Park, Peter McKeirnon, Jim Goforth, Wrath James White, Craig Saunders, Matt Hickman, Sam West, Kit Power, Daniel Marc Chant, Matt Shaw, Adam Millard, Anton Palmer, Clare Riley Whitfield, Jaime Johnesee, Jeff Strand, Andrew Freudenberg, Shane McKenzie - to name but a few. Although the book is up for pre-order, there are still some authors left to submit their work to me. I won’t jinx it and name them but - trust me - there are some more heavy hitters (even though one of the funny comments I have seen stated a certain reader - completely clued up on horror and the genre - has heard of none of the mentioned authors above…).

​In these names, you will find masters of their craft and different styles of horror, and it’s the style-point that is important to me: I want to bring back horror to the readers. This book exists because I want to remind people what horror is really about. There are no sparkling vampires; there are no cute werewolves, there are no witches trying to romance people in the modern world… There are just stories designed to strike fear, play on your mind, make you uncomfortable and keep you awake at night… This is what horror is really about. Come with me, one last time, and remind yourself what horror really stands for. 
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Masters of Horror

A selection of some of the finest horror writers of today were invited by Matt Shaw to bring him their twisted tales for this anthology. A book put together with the sole purpose of reminding readers what the horror genre is really about. Each author was told they could write about any subject matter they wanted so long as it was set in a world of horror. The only rule they had: No Paranormal Romance. Vampires do not sparkle, werewolves do not date, Witches do not scour Tinder for Virgins and ghosts do not declare their undying love whilst tidying the apartment... This is horror...

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<![CDATA[MOVIE NIGHTMARES: FILMS THAT HAVE BEEN SCARING AUDIENCES FOR GENERATIONS.]]>Tue, 08 Aug 2017 06:48:40 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/movie-nightmares-films-that-have-been-scaring-audiences-for-generations]]>