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Hallowe’en musings

By M.L. Doyle

My siblings and I have always enjoyed having the bejesus scared out of us.

Our mother sometimes worked a swing shift. Our dad worked odd hours so we never really knew when or if he’d be home. By the time my older sister was about 12, my middle sister, my brother who was the youngest, and myself – all of us about two years apart from the next one — were pretty much on our own after school, living on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, casseroles warmed in the oven (there weren’t any microwaves back then), or stovetop cooked cans of tomato soup.

Growing up in Minnesota, there are many days when it’s just too dang cold to go outside. While alone in the house, our most favorite thing to do was to watch scary movies. Of course this is before VCRs, or DVRs or even cable. We had five measly channels to choose from, but somehow, we were able to find movies that scratched that horror itch. On Sundays, when the weekly listings came out, we would go on a search making note of any movies that might make us scream in terror and then plan all activities around it.

Dracula, The Werewolf, The Blob, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Monster from the Surf, Godzilla, The Creature From the Black Lagoon. We’d sit side by side on the sofa, a shared blanket clutched to our chins, looking forward to the thing that would make us jump and scream.

As we grew older, the fright somehow changed to hilarity. By the time The War of the Gargantuas,  came out, we were ready to laugh, and laugh hard. The story is about two Godzilla-sized creatures, hairy and monstrous looking, who rise from the sea, one good and one evil. At one point in the film, a woman is in a rooftop lounge singing a song that includes the line, “… the wooooords get stuck in my throat.” She repeats the line over and over. “The wooooords get stuck in my throat.”

Then one of the Gargantuas picks her up, eat her and spit out her clothes. To this day, all we have to do is sing that line and we all crack up.  

As we grew older, our tastes developed and the reruns of The Mummy, or the Three Stooges or Charlie Chan versions of those films didn’t interest us anymore. We wanted the truly scary films, like The Thing. That Artic mission, the discovery of the space ship under the ice, the isolation, the killer vegetable and the dry wit and snappy dialogue, had all the makings of a classic. The remakes have never lived up to the original black and white.

Another favorite starts with a little blond girl, obviously in shock and standing alone in the debris of her destroyed home, clutching a stuffed animal. Someone asks her what happened. All she can do is scream THEM! Those giant ants were no joke. 

Alfred Hitchcock rocked our world. The Birds, Rear Window, even his TV show became a favorite. My brother had to work hard to convince me to watch Halloween. I don’t know why I ever hesitated. Then I started reading Stephen King –Carrie, Cujo, It—I couldn’t put them down. Since we’d always had dogs and cats for pets, Pet Sematery was particularly horrifying for me.

One Saturday morning, I got up early to find my older sister sitting at the kitchen table, her eyes bloodshot, her hands clenched in front of her. She looked like she hadn’t slept all night. I asked her what was wrong. She said she’d been to a movie the night before with some friends. “The Exorcist,” she said, then refused to say more. She’d seen it the first night it was released. I think she’s still scared from it.

We’ve never really grown out of our love of fear. Several years ago, I went home to Minneapolis just so I could go with my siblings and a few friends to a place called Scream Town. The massive, outdoor park had five different themed areas, darkened and filled with things and people that jumped out at you. We were, by far, the most senior people at the theme park, all of us in our late 50s and early 60s. We didn’t care. It may be our age that made so much of it hilarious.

From Scream Town, Minnesota

In one room, you had to walk through a space with what looked like bodies wrapped in plastic, hanging from the ceiling. They were so numerous, you had to bump and bang your way through this horror, the “bodies” swinging sickeningly. We clutched each other, heads ducked, stumbling around in the dark, and laughing our asses off, screaming too.

In another place, you rounded a corner to come face to face with a man in a glass-encased electric chair. The red light in the small booth where he sat cast a horrific, shadowy glow over him. The rubbery, trembling and smoking dummy, wrapped in a straightjacket, its mouth gapping open with chilling screams piped out of the box, was so life-like he was fascinating.

We made our brother go first, hanging onto his jacket while we made our way through the corn maze, then stood fascinated at the sight of a cow suspended in air as if it was being sucked up by a UFO. Scream Town does not skimp on the props or makeup.

Now, every year when Halloween rolls around, I think about Scream Town and think about my family and consider flying home for the holiday where we have every excuse to act ridiculous, scream at the top of our lungs and laugh until our bellies hurt.

M.L. Doyle, military mystery, erotica and urban fantasy

M.L. Doyle

calls on her years of serving as an Army Reservist to write about women in combat boots. She co-authored the memoirs of two brave soldiers to ensure their stories keep their proper place in history. Her work with Spec. (Ret) Shoshana Johnson, an African-American POW of the Iraq War, was finalist in the NAACP Image Award. She also co-authored with Brig. Gen (Ret.) Julia Cleckley the story of her rise through Army ranks from humble beginnings and despite great personal tragedy.

Mary has written the three-book Master Sergeant Harper mystery series, and Limited Partnerships, a four-novella erotic romance series. Her latest release, The Bonding Blade, is the second book in her Desert Goddess urban fantasy series.

Mary’s essays, reviews and interviews have appeared in The War Horse, The Wrath-Bearing Tree, The Goodman project and O-Dark Thirty.

Check her out on Facebook.com, or Twitter @mldoyleauthor, and you can read excerpts of all of her work on her website at www.mldoyleauthor.com.

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It’s bookstore season

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Monday musings on books

By Scott Bury

The staircase at Livraria Lello, Porto, Portugal.

We’re well into the fall season now. Where I am, the bright yellow, orange and red leaves are already thick on the ground, illuminating the bicycle path where it’s covered by overarching branches with a golden light.

It also turns out that it’s a busy season for authors willing to set up a table and meet potential readers. The bookstores in my city (Ottawa, Ontario) have their schedules filled with writers who sit behind a table groaning under their books.

Usually.

Personally, I love book signings, sales and other events where I can talk with readers directly. I’ve done a number of the past couple of years. Some were terrific, with lots of traffic and interaction. Some were … not so much, where I sold one or two books. And there was one where I did not sell a single copy.

For example, last summer I set up a table at an event called Arts in the Park, which as you probably guessed is a place where local artists of all kinds show off their work and sell it. It’s a big draw every year, and I always meet a lot of readers. This year was my third time at that event. One man, John, had bought a copy of one of my books at the previous Arts in the Park. This year, he returned and bought copies of all my other books!

Selling books at Arts in the Park,

Another highlight was meeting French artist Marc Laisne and his friend, Angel Tiah. It was a hot and very sunny day, and I was so glad to be able to enjoy the shade from their umbrella over their stand beside mine.

Marc’s art helped draw more people toward my booth, especially when he started painting a picture from scratch on a canvas more than a metre wide. I’m sure it contributed to my book sales at the event.

Later last summer, I had a book signing event at a downtown bookstore, Prospero The Book Seller. That was a lot of fun, because I spoke with readers about the stories and background of my books, which led to other conversations.

I also had a great time talking with the manager, Sarah Power, about books, readers and the industry.

Last summer, I exhibited a number of times at the ByWard Market in Ottawa, alongside other authors as well as vendors of clothing, fruit and vegetables. During Frosh Week, freshmen students from Carleton University came by on a scavenger hunt and helped promote my latest book at the time, Wildfire.

What readers like you can do

Writing and reading are solitary acts. So the opportunity to actually interact with other people, to talk about books and stories, is a real treat for me.

What’s better is finding out what readers like to read, what they don’t, and what might make them pick up a book and open it.

So get out there, readers. Visit your favorite bookstore, and when you see someone proudly, or nervously showing off the books they wrote, come over and say hi. That doesn’t obligate you to buy a book. But sharing a conversation with a writer can bring more interested potential readers over to find out more, which could spur more sales.

And it’s a great way to find out about new books and writers you just might enjoy reading. You might find someone who would be thrilled to talk to your book club.

Marc Laisne and Angel Tiah set up a lifesaving umbrella right behind my table.

As I write this, on July 16, 2019, I am getting ready for my next event, a book signing at Prospero The Book Company on Bank Street in downtown Ottawa. I’m hoping it goes well, but so far all the events I’ve attended at actual bookstores have gone well. I’ve never done a midweek event, though. The manager promises that mid-weekday is when this downtown location gets the most traffic, so we’ll see.

In the meantime, here are some pictures from my previous, successful events.

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Thursday teaser: Finding You

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A free sample of the romantic suspense

By D.G. Torrens

Eden’s eyes struggled to adjust to the darkness enveloping her. Her heart pounded in her chest when she realised she could hardly move. Her breaths quickened and panic was setting in fast. She could just about move her arms. She extended her arm above her and felt around. She was enclosed…

Fear consumed her. Her body trembled. She screamed – but her cries were ignored. She utilised all the force she could muster in the tight space. She tried to push the top of the box, but all that achieved was a rush of loose soil slipping through the cracks, covering her face.

She shook her head vigorously feeling the impending danger. Her lower lip trembled. Her eyes were gritty and sore. She sobbed.

Who would do this? What is happening to me? Where am I?

Her eyes widened, aware that someone was there… She froze. The person is silent – not a sound. Then all she could hear was the sound of footsteps fading into the distance.

Finding You

Eden Marshall catches the eye of the wealthy and mysterious bachelor, Noah Ainsworth. Noah has been hiding away in his ivory tower for far too long. He decides it’s time to start living again. Eden Marshall is his motivation – captivated by her, he begins to trust in love again. Until a dark secret from his past threatens all that he loves…

Get it on Amazon.

D.G. Torrens

is the author of 14 books, including the bestselling trilogy, Amelia’s Story #1, Amelia’s Destiny #2 and Amelia The Mother #3. This is an emotion-charged true story that the author wrote for her daughter.

D.G is a mother/writer/blogger who has a dream to inspire as many people as possible through her story. To show those with little hope that dreams can come true.

Born in England, passionate about writing, D.G. Torrens is married with a daughter. Her first book, Amelia’s Story, has inspired people all over the world. Amelia’s Destiny, book #2 is the sequel and is followed by Amelia The Mother book #3 in this awe-inspiring trilogy. A memoir that remains with D.G.’s readers long after they have put the book down …

D.G is a prolific writer and in 2013, her works were recognized by BBC Radio WM, where she has given several live interviews in the BBC studios in Birmingham, UK. Thereafter, D.G. became a regular Headline Reviewer for the radio show for the next 12 months.

Visit her on:

And follow her on Twitter @torrenstp.

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Why Hallowe’en? Because we love to see fear in the mirror

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By Scott Bury

mage courtesy Things Gunjan Draws http://thingsgunjandraws.blogspot.com

Ebola. Totalitarianism. Pandemic. Mass migration. Climate change. Terrorism.

Judging from hyperbole in social media, we are out-and-out terrified of these things. Even to the extent of people getting angry at climate activists for “spreading fear.”

We’re afraid of fear, like Franklin Roosevelt said.

And yet, at this time of year, we choose to scare ourselves by going to movies like the latest iteration of the Joker.

What does that say about the creators of things scary?

The job we have chosen as writers of fantasy and speculative fiction is to reflect our audience’s fears back to them in symbolic way. Perhaps this is a way to help deal with them, but mostly, it’s because through fantasy, we can take some joy from our fears as well as, well, fear. It’s like riding a roller-coaster: it’s fun because it scares us, but we’re really safe.

A long, grisly, nasty yet honourable tradition

This is what fantasy writers have always done: writing stories about mythical, legendary and magical symbols and themes, stories that give us another way to look at what’s really bothering us. It has a long history in a technological era:

  • Godzilla, the monster awakened by atomic radiation and that could breathe out “atomic fire,” reflected our fears of nuclear war and radiation.
  • Zombies, like those in World War Z, Night of the Living Dead or The Walking Dead reflect our fear of incurable, virulent and especially contagious pandemics, made even more horrifying and destructive by their ability to instantly render their victims as vessels of further transmission.
  • US, Misomar, Saw and other recent horror films and books play on our current fears, sublimating everything from surveillance, to loss of home, and of course, the old standby, the Other—people not of our tribe, and therefore a threat.
  • Dracula, the Un-Dead, the progenitor of nearly all the vampire books since, plays on several fears. First is the fear of contagion—Bram Stoker’s heroes thought Lucy’s affliction was a blood disease, after all – but also the fear of being infected with something that will change your nature (becoming a vampire). There is also the fear of the Other, the foreigner, the intruder who by his very nature is dangerous. But mostly, Dracula was a sublimation of the greatest fear of the Victorian era: sex.

Yes, I am saying that sucking up blood was the only way that a Victorian era writer would portray sexual lust without getting banned or arrested. Don’t believe me? The vampire was ultimately defeated by a woman’s sexual attractiveness. Oh, sure, Dracula said he was only interested in her blood. But he was lured to his doom by a beautiful young woman, who invited the vampire into her bedroom and made him stay all night long. Now tell me Stoker was not writing about sex.

Still holding onto that argument? Watch Francis Ford Coppola’s film based on the book and try to sustain it.

Today, writing about fear of pandemic is just too easy. Vampires or zombies with ebola-like symptoms is obvious.

But what about climate change? What sorts of fantasy tropes symbolize that without being overly literal? Now there’s a challenge for this capable gang to take on.

The biggest fear, though, that I can see is the fear of change. Any new idea still evokes howls from predictable corners. How would fantasy writers deal with that? What about fantasy readers? What suggestions or challenges do you have for your favourite writers?

Leave your suggestions in the Comments.

Scott Bury

can’t stay in one genre. After a 20-year career in journalism, he turned to writing fiction. “Sam, the Strawb Part,” a children’s story, came out in 2011, with all the proceeds going to an autism charity. Next was a paranormal short story for grown-ups, “Dark Clouds.”

The Bones of the Earth, a historical fantasy, came out in 2012. It was followed in 2013 with One Shade of Red, an erotic romance.

He has several mysteries and thrillers, including Torn RootsPalm Trees & Snowflakes and Wildfire.

Scott’s articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia.

He has two mighty sons, two pesky cats and a loving wife who puts up with a lot. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

Learn more about Scott on his:

Website   |   Blog    |  Facebook    |   Twitter

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Happy Labor Day from your favorite BestSelling authors

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Thursday teaser: The Eastern Front

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By Scott Bury

Maurice stepped to the table. “Good morning, sir. I know you’re busy, so I would like to quickly help you resolve an error—my draft letter is a mistake.” He put it on the table in front of the officer.

The officer looked up, arching one eyebrow. “That’s a new one. What kind of mistake?”

“I am not eligible for service, as I am not a citizen of the Soviet Union. I’m a Canadian.” He showed his birth certificate.

The officer struggled to sound out the Roman lettering. “Doh-meen-i-yon off Kanada,” he read. He frowned, then shook his head and looked Maurice straight in the eyes. “You are still required to report for duty, comrade.”

“But I’m a Canadian citizen.”

“It doesn’t matter, tovarisch. You live here now, and you must help defend the Motherland.” He was already looking at the next man in line. “Report to the train station by seven tomorrow morning or you’ll be arrested. Next.”

Maurice’s flash of anger was quickly replaced by a despairing acceptance. He had known all along the Soviet army would never care about such an insignificant detail as his citizenship.

He took the long way home, stopping in a café for hot tea as much for the warmth as to delay telling his family the bad news.

He returned to the little farm by lunchtime. Tekla and Hanya wept quietly when they heard. His mother even helped him pack warm clothes and tried to hold out some hope.

“Maybe there won’t be a war. Maybe you’ll serve your two years and then they’ll let you out, and then we can all go back to Canada.”

“Who would we go to war with, anyway?” Hanya asked, joining in. “Russia and Germany are allies now. Germany is fighting England, and they’re too far from us.” She did not mention what they all thought: Finland remained a dreaded enemy.

“That’s right,” Tekla said. “Germany is our ally. There’s no reason for Russia to fight them.”

Maurice agreed, and they sat down to a subdued supper. Tekla poured too much of her homemade vodka, and Maurice drank it all.

The next morning, the women drove Maurice to the train station in the horse-cart. His mother gave him a big basket of food for the journey east: sausage, bread, a small flask of hot tea, some apples left from the fall, a jar of preserves.

The train station was surrounded by military policemen carrying rifles. Maurice also saw other men in peaked caps with maroon bands—the NKVD, the Soviet security police. They strutted, ordering people around in rough and guttural Russian, smoking and looking officious.

The platform was crowded with young men and their families saying goodbye. Like Hanya and Tekla, all the inductees’ parents fussed over them. Mothers wept, fathers gave their sons brave smiles and manly kisses on each cheek.

Maurice thought of his father in Canada and wondered whether he worried about his family in Russian-dominated Ukraine.

“Write to us as soon as you’re settled and tell us where you are and how you’re doing. Please don’t forget, my dear,” Tekla said. She tucked his scarf closer around his neck. She had to stand on her toes to kiss his cheek. She cried, but Hanya smiled bravely.

“Be careful, Maurice. Look after yourself.”

The train rumbled and squealed into the station. MPs pushed the young men onto the cars. Maurice found a seat with three fresh-faced, silent young men, all holding baskets from their mothers, looking at him as if seeking some kind of hope or comfort.

Maurice waved at his mother and sister through the window as the train chuffed away. He felt lonelier than ever before. He patted a secret pocket he had sewn under the waist of his pants, inaccessible from the outside, which held his Canadian birth certificate.

He made himself a promise: he would never part with it until he got back to Montreal.

The Eastern Front Trilogy

A Canadian in the Soviet Red Army

He was a man in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Drafted in the spring of 1941, Canadian-born Maurice Bury found himself facing Operation Barbarossa—the greatest land invasion in history.

Unprepared for the assault, the Soviets retreated and were captured by the millions at a time. By the fall, Maurice and his men were starving in a POW camp.

As the last of their strength ebbed, Maurice conspired to find an escape for himself and his men. After a nightmarish journey across Ukraine, he joined the underground resistance against the Nazi oppressors.

He risked death time after time, but he also found ordinary people who risked their own safety to help him. Not only in standing against the Nazis, but an even more dangerous ambition: to return home to Canada.

It’s a story that reads like fiction. It’s not.

The Eastern Front Trilogy is available as a paperback through Amazon or wherever books are sold.

Scott Bury

can’t stay in one genre. After a 20-year career in journalism, he turned to writing fiction. “Sam, the Strawb Part,” a children’s story, came out in 2011, with all the proceeds going to an autism charity. Next was a paranormal short story for grown-ups, “Dark Clouds.”

The Bones of the Earth, a historical fantasy, came out in 2012. It was followed in 2013 with One Shade of Red, an erotic romance.

He has several mysteries and thrillers, including Torn RootsPalm Trees & Snowflakes and Wildfire.

Scott’s articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia.

He has two mighty sons, two pesky cats and a loving wife who puts up with a lot. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

Learn more about Scott on his:

Website   |   Blog    |  Facebook    |   Twitter

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