Hot New Horror Releases!

 

Dark Visions: an anthology of 34 horror stories from 27 authors (The Box Under The Bed Book 2) by [Alatorre, Dan, Ruff, Jenifer, Maruska, Allison, Park, Adele, Walker, MD, Allen, J. A., Farmer, Dabney, Cathcart, Sharon E., Kindt, Heather, Lyons, Bonnie]

Our anthology, DARK VISIONS, made Amazon’s list for Hot New Releases and bestsellers!

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It features thirty-four spine-tingling tales from twenty-seven authors. (Three by me ūüôā )

Kindle downloads are only 99 cents, or FREE with Kindle Unlimited. With only thirteen days till Halloween, now would be the perfect time to order yours! Get your copy HERE.

Read ’em if you dare.

 

 

 

 

 

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Hans and the Scary Fairy Tales

 

He was a weaver of tales who brought us The Little Mermaid, The Wild Swans, The Emperor’s New Clothes and the Ugly Duckling.¬† In the course of his lifetime he wrote novels, travelogues, and over three thousand fairy tales which have been translated into 125 languages. His stories have universal appeal, transcending age and nationality. He created a unique mythology which continues to¬† haunt us and remains part of our collective consciousness.

Hans Christian Andersen was born on this day, April 2, 1805 in Odense, Denmark. His own life story is a classic rags to riches that could have been one of his fairy tales.

His father, also named Hans, was a struggling tradesman and his mother Anne Marie a washerwoman.  Hans Sr. died in 1816. Two years later Anne Marie remarried. It was then decided that  Hans Jr. should no longer remain in the house. At the tender age of eleven, Hans was sent away to a boarding school. (Evil stepfather, banishment. Do you see a pattern here?)  Although the family was poor, Hans was somehow allowed to study and receive a good education. (Fairy godmother perhaps?)

At boarding school, the boy was expected to fend for himself and he earned money as a tailor’s apprentice. He showed a natural talent for singing and at age fourteen, he was accepted into the Royal Danish Theater.¬† However, as luck would have it, Hans hit puberty that year, experienced the voice change, and could no longer sing the soprano part he has been assigned.¬† But all was not lost — Jonas Colins, the theater director, saw something special in Hans and made arrangements that he could¬† attend prestigious school in Elsinore. (Another fairy godmother?)

Young Hans might have been considered privileged, but his story goes a bit dark here. He was sent to live with a school master who routinely abused and bullied him and discouraged him from writing. He went into a deep depression, and later wrote that his days at Elsinore were the darkest of his life.

The story, however, has a happy ending. Andersen graduated school in 1827 and almost immediately became successful writing short stories, plays and poetry. King Christian VIII of Denmark was so impressed with his work that he gave Andersen a grant to travel around Europe. Hans felt most comfortable on the road and later wrote, “To travel is to live.”

All these fairy godmothers may not have been an accident. There was a rumor that Hans Christian Andersen was actually the illegitimate son of King Christian. This rumor, however, has not been substantiated by any reliable source. (If true it would make a great story!)

It was during his travels across Europe that Andersen began writing fairy tales. While his early stories were not greatly received, he continued. In 1838 he wrote Fairy Tales Told for Children. New Collection. First Booklet. This book earned him immense popularity when, in 1845 it was translated to English and other languages. It became a best seller.

Andersen’s tales were often dark and creepy. His heroes and heroines often go through enormous difficulties. Although the endings are usually happy, they pay great prices for that happiness, often undergoing physical, mental and spiritual changes. For example:

— Karen, the protagonist in The Red Shoes, loves to dance and wear her beautiful shoes. However, it gets to the point where she cannot stop dancing and eventually her feet must be cut off!

 

 

— The Little Mermaid trades her fish tail for human legs. In the process she undergoes excruciating physical pain,¬† is¬†betrayed¬†by¬† a handsome prince, and even commits suicide before she is freed to the Daughters of the Air.

 

— In The Wild Swans,¬† Eliza wants to free her brothers from a terrible curse, but to do so she must knit sweaters made of poisonous nettles that cause her fingers to bleed.¬† To make matters worse, she has taken a vow of silence! During this time she is arrested for witchcraft and thrown in the dungeon.

And the list goes on. These stories remain popular because they entertain in a way that enables problem solving — while giving kids the scare of their lives! ūüôā The message is always that virtue will be rewarded.

Andersen never married, although he courted several women and wrote a few love letters to men as well. Some historians believe he was bisexual. He seems to have harbored terribly romantic ideas about love and often chose partners that were either unavailable or inappropriate.  At one point he proposed marriage to the Swedish singer Jenny Lind.

She turned him down, but this did not stop Hans from writing a fairy tale which was inspired by her. It was called The Nightingale, about (you guessed it) a precious and beautiful bird that serenades the emperor.¬† After that, Jenny Lind was given the nickname “The Swedish Nightingale.”

Andersen had a long and prosperous life. He died in Copenhagen on August 4, 1875,  His death is thought to be caused by complications of liver cancer and other injuries.

Andersen’s stories are still widely read. Many have been adapted as Disney features, including The Ugly Duckling, The Little Mermaid and Frozen —¬†adapted from The Snow Queen. In the original story the Snow Queen was an evil kidnapper, nowhere near as kind as Elsa!

Tribute statues to Andersen have been built all over the world, including New York’s Central Park, California, Sydney Australia and Rosenborg Castle Gardens in Copenhagen.

And of course, if you ever happen to be at the Langelinie promenade in Copenhagen, you can say hello to The Little Mermaid herself!

Happy Birthday Hans!

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Lewis Carroll

 

Lewis Carroll

Today we celebrate the life of Lewis Carroll, best known for his books Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and Through the Looking Glass.¬† He was an author, mathematician, Oxford don, part time babysitter, photographer, inventor, and a bit of an all-around¬†inscrutable¬†person.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you already know of my big obsession with Alice in Wonderland. I have long been fascinated by its white rabbits, mirrors, painted rosebushes, flamingo croquet, and the man who brought all these tales to life.

His given name was¬†Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, but I will call him Lewis, since he is best known by his pen name Lewis Carroll. He was born on January 27, 1832 in Daresbury, Cheshire, England.¬† Yes, Cheshire! No evidence as to whether or not he had a cat ūüôā

Cheshire_Cat

Carroll’s father was a conservative minister in the Church of England, one in a long line of Dodgson men who had respectable positions in the Anglican clergy. Lewis was home-schooled until the age of twelve and developed an early love for reading amd writing. He attended grammar school at Rugby in Warwickshire, and began study at Oxford University in 1850.¬† He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics and graduated with high honors.¬† In 1855 he won¬†the Mathematical Lectureship for the college of Christ Church at Oxford,¬†which he held for the next 26 years.

In 1856, a man named Henry Liddell took a position as Dean at Christ Church. Henry arrived in town with his young family, all of whom would eventually serve to influence Lewis’ writing. Lewis became close friends with¬† Liddell’s wife Lorina and their children, particularly the three sisters Lorina, Edith, and Alice Liddell.

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It was this Alice Liddell who served as the inspiration and namesake for the fictional Alice.¬† Lewis frequently took the children on outings. It was on one such outing, a rowing trip, that the girls begged to hear a story; the result eventually became¬†Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

It is said that Carroll never intended to publish Alice’s adventures, but his friend, fairy-tale author¬†George MacDonald convinced him to do so after Macdonald’s own children read the stories and and loved them.¬†Good thing they did! Can’t imagine a world without Alice.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was first published in 1865. The book quickly became an international hit, and was liked and promoted by Queen Victoria herself! In 1871, Carroll published the sequel¬†Through the Looking-Glass. The Alice books are still among the most popular in the world. Reportedly they are also among the most quoted, second only to the Bible and Shakespeare.¬† And many of those quotes are¬†really phenomenal, full of wisdom and humor.¬† Some of my favorites:

‚ÄúI’m afraid I can’t explain myself, sir. Because I am not myself, you see?‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúI give up,‚ÄĚ Alice replied. ‚ÄúWhat‚Äôs the answer?‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúI haven‚Äôt the slightest idea,‚ÄĚ said the Hatter.¬†

“I wish the creatures wouldn’t be so easily offended,” Alice thought to herself.

“Shall I never get any older than I am now? That will be a comfort, in one way — never to be an old woman. But then — always to have lessons to learn? Oh, I shouldn’t like THAT!”¬†

“How am I to get in?” asked Alice. “Are you to get in AT ALL?” said the Footman. “That’s the first question, you know.”¬† It was, no doubt; only Alice did not like to be told so.

“Well, now that we have seen each other,” said the unicorn, “if you’ll believe in me, I’ll believe in you.‚ÄĚ

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Lewis Carroll was also an amateur photographer. He ran in artistic circles with pre-Raphaelites Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Christina Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and photographer Julia Margaret Cameron.

He took this photo of Alice Liddell. dated 1868. Alice would have been about six.

Alice LIddell

Years later, Julia Margaret Cameron photographed the grown up Alice.

Alice LIddell 2

Despite the fact that the Alice books brought him fame and fortune, Carroll never left his position as don at Oxford. Other than traveling a bit throughout Europe, he seems to have lived modestly. He wrote a few more books —¬†The Hunting of the Snark, a fantastical “nonsense” poem, and¬†Sylvie and Bruno, a fairy tale which satirized English society. Neither had the astounding success of the Alice stories. He also wrote several treatises¬† on mathematics, which he published under his real name, Charles Dodgson. His writings included works of geometry, linear and¬†matrix algebra,¬†mathematical logic and recreational mathematics.¬†Yes, complicated stuff!

Carroll/ Dodgson’s mathematical contributions are noteworthy. Apparently, he¬†was exploring The Matrix long before Keanu Reeves.

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At Oxford he developed a theory known as the “Dodgson Condensation”, a method of evaluating mathematical determinants and patterns within equations. His work attracted renewed interest in the late 20th century when mathematicians Martin Gardner and William Warren Bartley reevaluated his¬† contributions to symbolic logic. This¬†led them to the “Alternating Sign Matrix”¬†conjecture, now a theorem.¬†The discovery¬† of additional ciphers that Carroll had constructed showed that he had employed sophisticated mathematical ideas in their creation.¬† Perhaps he understood that through mathematics and chemistry, humankind may eventually reach the kind of alternate worlds he created for Alice.

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‚ÄúWhy, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.‚ÄĚ

Lewis Carroll died of pneumonia on 14 January 1898 at the age of 65.

Some Fun Facts:

  • He was one of eleven children, the oldest son
  • As a young child, he suffered a fever which left him deaf in one ear
  • He was six feet tall — really tall by Victorian standards.
  • A self- deprecating guy, he often referred to himself as “the dodo” and is said to have modeled the Dodo in Alice after himself!
  • In actuality he was hardly a dodo, more like a near genius.
  • He invented the earliest version of Scrabble — a type of word ladder in which the words were changed by adding one letter.
  • He was an ordained deacon of the Anglican Church.
  • Don’t let the stoic pictures fool you. Although he never married, his letters and diary entries indicate he had relationships with several women, both married and single, which would have been considered “scandalous” by Victorian standards.

 

Happy Birthday Lewis!

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We Beat Stephen King?

 

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It looks like Friday the 13th brought us luck after all!

Hard to believe, I know — but I am proud to say that our horror anthology¬†The Box Under The Bed¬† outranked Stephen King on the Amazon bestsellers list!¬† Who’d have expected it?

box beat King

 

I thought I heard someone applaud,

but alas!

In my distracted state of mind I could not be quite sure…

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If you are seeking supernatural thrills, bloodthirsty revenge, mystical ghosts and a plethora of eerie events, please take a look. CLICK HERE to get a copy.   (And if you are so inclined, please write a short review! )

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Calling All Fans of the Macabre and Supernatural…

 

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Are you tempted by terror, hungry for hauntings and scintillated by the supernatural? Are you a surveyor of cemeteries, giddy for ghosts, enticed by the eerie?

If you are a regular reader of this blog, I suspect you have a penchant for the Dark Side.  As such, I have an offer for you! (Okay, a shameless plug. But you will like it, I promise!)

A while back, bestselling author and WordPress blogger Dan Alatorre ¬†requested submissions for an anthology of scary stories he was putting together, to be available around Halloween. ¬†Naturally, the minute I heard ‘scary’ and ‘Halloween’, I was IN!!

I submitted a story about Jack the Ripper.  (Teaser HERE)  To my delight, Dan accepted it!

Our anthology, called The Box Under The Bed contains a collection of twenty spine tingling stories. Expect psychotic killers, psychological horror and recreations  of Yesteryear, as well as friendly ghosts and a plethora of  all things weird, wild and wonderful.   Contributors include bestselling authors Allison Maruska  and Jenifer Ruff.    The anthology is due for release on October 1.

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Now here’s the best part! You can pre-order a Kindle download for only 99 cents! ¬†Pre-orders will also include a bonus story written by Dan Alatorre which will not be included after the release date. ¬†Paperbacks will be available later.

If interested¬†please click HERE.¬† Hours of thrilling enchantment await, as we prepare for Halloween…

scary ty

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Jack Kerouac!

 

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He was a wide spirit, a dazzling voice that revealed a landscape of art and metaphor, a believer in humanity, a dreamer, a doer and an explorer of metaphysical consciousness. He was also a recluse, socially awkward, a drug abuser, an alcoholic and a man who became so overwhelmed with his own fame it ultimately destroyed him.

Yet to my thinking there are two types of people in this world; those that ‘get’ Kerouac, and those that do not. I am in the first category, of course ūüôā

Jean-Louis Lebris de Kérouac (aka Jack) was born on March 12, 1922 in Lowell Massachusetts to French Canadian parents who had emigrated from Quebec.  Little Jack spoke French as a child and reportedly did not learn English until he was six years old. Yet he went on to become one of the most prolific and controversial American  writers of the 20th century.

Kerouac’s childhood was a mix of working class roots and Catholic spirituality. When Jack was just four years old, he lost his older brother Gerard to rheumatic fever. He never quite recovered from the loss and believed Gerard followed him around as a guardian angel. After meeting ¬†Neal Cassady in the late 1940’s, the two developed a close bond and Jack always felt that Neal was possibly the reincarnation of Gerard.

Jack played football and earned a scholarship to Columbia University. It was there he met fellow writers Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs.

Jack-Kerouac (1)

Jack broke his leg playing football, lost his scholarship and dropped out of school but nevertheless he, Ginsberg and Burroughs became known as the founders of the Beat Generation. Jack went on to serve in the Merchant Marine and the Navy, later taking a series of odd jobs. All the while he was writing, writing and writing more. Some of his early books were not published until after his death.

Ironically, when people think of the word Beat, they associate it with Beatniks — those cool-cat-hip beret-wearing bongo players who eventually took over the poetry cafe scene. This idea was, however, not what Kerouac & company intended. The true meaning of Beat, Kerouac insisted, was the feeling his generation had after being ‘beat down’ by World War 2. It also referred to beatific, as in the Beatitudes of the Bible. The Beats were a marginalized segment of American society; leftover hobos, shell shocked veterans, ramshackle misfits — the exact types of characters Jack met during his cross country adventures. They shared a longing for the Divine.

His masterpiece novel ‘On The Road’ was published in 1957. ¬†It brought him almost instant fame and success. That success was, in reality, hard earned, as Kerouac had spent most of his life as a poor drifter and outcast bum. Fame and fortune overwhelmed and eventually devastated him.

A restless heart, often accused of misogyny, Kerouac was married three times and had one daughter. His life followed a nomadic pattern that he could never quite resolve.  He made his home in various places around the country, never truly settling down. On The Road is a thinly disguised memoir of his trips between the East and West coasts. He often traveled with best friend Neal Cassady.

The Beat movement represented a certain type of freedom, patriotism and love for the land. Apple pie diners, Colorado cowboys, Frisco jazz clubs, purple mountains, red rock deserts and the tranquility of nature.  Jack began to study Buddhism in his quest for spirituality.  In later years, the peace loving Hippies of Haight Ashbury would pay tribute to  the Beats.

Jack may have had a guardian angel, but his demons never left him.

Jack-Kerouac

After he achieved literary success, his privacy became a thing of the past. He was now a celebrated author, the spotlight forced upon him.  Still socially awkward, Jack took to heavy drinking. He once told his friend and fellow poet Fran Landesman that he would have liked to commit suicide, but because his Catholic faith prevented him from doing so, he had decided to simply drink himself to death.

It worked. Jack Kerouac died on October 21, 1969 at the young age of 47. ¬†The official cause of his death was internal bleeding due to alcohol abuse.¬†Jack had once said he wrote his novels because “we’re all gonna die.” ¬†Luckily for us, his words live on.

Natalie Merchant of 10,000 Maniacs wrote this musical tribute ‘Hey Jack Kerouac’:

This short documentary (30 minutes) captures some of the most important parts of Kerouac’s life. Hope you enjoy it!

 

 

 

An Analysis of Alice

 

Alice vogue

I am a huge Lewis Carroll fan.  The Alice stories (In Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass) are among the best ever written. To my thinking, they are worthy of analyzing and revisiting many times over, always with something new to be discovered.

Because the original work is presented with a good deal of¬†abstract¬†symbolism, readers often misunderstand, or are completely baffled by the text. (Especially if they are trying to decipher it on an adult level.) ¬†Hence, film makers tend to go ‘over the top’, often presenting the story with a lot of bells and whistles that were not included in the original story. (Tim Burton and Disney both did this.)

It is, at its core, a story about questioning authority. Carroll pokes fun at just about every Victorian institution. His attack at  child rearing, for example, is evident in the fate of the baby that turns into a pig.

Alice pig

He pokes fun at the school system, evident in the ‚Äėreeling and writhing‚Äô classes of the mock turtle. He makes fun of he British monarchy (‚ÄėOff with her head‚Äô is a reference to its once frequent be-headings.)

Alice flamingo

The War of the Roses is also mocked, with the servants painting roses from white to red (representing York and Lancaster dynasties.) The court system is criticized in the Knave of Hearts’ trial. There is a message about being controlled by schedules in the rabbit‚Äôs obsession with his watch and the idea of ‚Äėbeating time‚Äô.

The Alice books¬†show a test of one‚Äôs ability to adapt. Alice finds herself in the strangest of circumstances and tries her best to fit in. In the end she discovers the Wonderland creatures are ‚Äėnothing but a pack of cards‚Äô and thus no better than she herself. (Lower than she herself actually…)

As in any quest for knowledge, and as is frequently the experience of one ‘growing up’, Alice often becomes ‘too big’ for her own surroundings.

Alice house

She may be terrified at the changes within her own mind and body – frequently the experience of adolescents and young adults. And yet, as the frog footmen, the lizards and rabbits scurry about, Alice is aware of their silliness, much in the same way an enlightened being becomes aware of the triviality of the world.

Perhaps most importantly, the books teach self actualization. Alice is frustrated, but in the end she realizes her nuanced¬†opinions have some validity. Her experience is just as important as anyone ¬†else’s.

No wonder Wonderland became so popular!  First published in 1865, it has never been out of print. The first fans of the Alice books included Queen Victoria and Oscar Wilde.  The Alice books are also reportedly the most quoted books in the English language, right up there with the Bible and the works of Shakespeare.

Carroll was among the first to use a dream sequence in a novel — a technique that became more popular with the work of Sigmund Freud in the early 20th century. Today dream sequence in film is almost passe’. We have seen it a hundred times, and it is frequently uses as a cliffhanger, or to ‘trick’ the viewer. ¬†But back then it was certainly innovative.

Ironically, although Carroll is frequently accused of drug use, the kinds of drugs they associate him with were not discovered until much later. For example, ‚Äėmagic mushrooms‚Äô were discovered in 1955, and LSD was first synthesized in 1938, which I guess proves that Carroll had a brilliant imagination.

alice mushroom

So, forget Tim Burton and all other fabrications. Here I give you a movie which is actually very close in sentiment to the Real Alice!

This 1972 film, directed by William Sterling, captures the intent of Lewis Carroll. Using most of the book’s original dialogue, script writing owes credit to Carroll as well as Sterling. The talented cast includes Fiona Fullerton, Dudley Moore and Peter Sellers.

Although the film is lacking in super-duper mind blowing special effects (it was, after all, made in 1972 on a limited budget) it nonetheless does a great job of capturing Carroll’s ¬†ideas.

Running time is about 1 hour 30 minutes. Hope you get a chance to watch it!