Guest Blogger Todd Crawford: Origins of The Black Season

You can imagine how thrilled to pieces I was when Todd Crawford made the offer to appear on my blog. He is a writer who holds his own, and at the same time he was more than willing to make any changes per my suggestion, though I had none. How can you make a suggestion upon perfection?

I was quite surprised by all of the kind things Todd had to say about me. It was very flattering to say the least! I adored this piece from start to finish, and as a lover of all things Halloween, it really kept my attention. Also, scroll to the bottom if you would like to find the official Todd Crawford links. Listed are the links to his new Youtube channel, Facebook Fan Page, and links where you can purchase his books.

Thank you, Todd, for allowing me the privilige of featuring your writing here.

~JC

Origins of The Black Season

Typically I save my Thank You’s, personal messages, and other formalities for the end of my analyses, but to mark the special occasion I’m going to start things off a little differently this time around. In fact, I’ve made it a personal goal to make everything about my month this calendar around a little different than any year past, but that’s another topic for another post (which has already been made in the format of a video by the time this shall have be “live”). Before we get all professional on this I’m going to give you readers and followers (Joslyn’s as well as my own) some insight into the conception of this holiday treat. In any case, the prompt of this article does not begin until the next paragraph, so feel free to skip my ramblings in favour of what you surely came here to read up on. A very short while back, I was feeling utterly dejected about the futility of what was then this coming month (October 2012, for you archivists out there) and how it would never live up to that of last year, especially with that having been the host of the first book signing I have ever attended (I refer to it as my own, but only in the context that the memories of it belong to me.) on a ritual walk which I try to perform nightly for two or more hours. Things since then have gone quite far downhill, leading me to this modern spleen, as Alexander Pope would have it, making it quite easy to reach my hand into any bushel flourished over the last year and pluck my daily excuse for not being happy or productive. It was on this monotonous journey traced time and time again over the map of Clarion that a Newtonian epiphany shone down upon me in the form of a brilliant ray of light. Things don’t have to be this way; this absolute voice of reason spoke to me in my moment of clarity. You don’t have to remain a slave to your former days; your best have yet to come. It commanded me to rush home, even more quickly than Charlie Bucket and to contact the names listed upon the address of my Golden Ticket querying of fun, seasonal promotions. Having recently reposted my history of the vampyre mythos, titled “Bloodlines,” and being so enthusiastic/supportive of that, Joslyn Corvis was at the top of my list. I don’t know each and every one of you readers here, (heck, I’d be surprised if I knew more than two of you!) or how aware you are of the rigorous scheduling involved in these guest posts, interviews, or any other blog event, but typically in my experience with bloggers, promoters, and authors is that these things are all set in stone at least one month ahead of time, leaving little-to-no room for walk-ins such as myself unless some cancellation occurs, Golden Ticket or no. Joslyn, on the other hand, was more than willing to put up with my impulsive query to make this guest post, much to my surprise. Even knowing Joslyn to be an altruistic, kind person, I was surprised that she didn’t reject my offer, and then chastise me for my hurried, excitable proposition about writing “something” for Halloween. She just made it happen. For all of these things I thank her, and I thank you all for giving me this time (whether I am worthy of your time is up to you, but your consideration is much appreciated) by reading my informative, personal history of Halloween. I hope that you all have a magickal, memorable holiday. (Well, except Lee Porterfield. I hope yours sucks.) I look forward to one that would be worthy of taking a vacation from Neverland to visit.

Halloween, as half of the four major religious holidays have, began as a Pagan celebration of the seasonal equinox (when the sun is neither away or directed towards the Earth, making it parallel to the globe’s equinox; the source of the other half of Pagan holidays would be the solstice, when the sun is either at its highest or lowest point in relation to the Earth). The Pagans, not to be confused with Wiccan or Neo-Pagan groups of today, were polytheistic tribal societies that populated Europe during the Iron Age. One may be familiar with gods such as Taranis, the god of thunder, or as we modern folks might know him as: Thor (literally making him the oldest member of The Avengers team), which are rooted in classical Pagan beliefs. Being an agricultural society, the seasonal changes were a major factor in their lives (much more so than simply having to put windshield wipers on their boats). The approaching of Winter (the season which Pagans believed to be the season from which the Earth began), or any other season for that matter, was truly something to be acknowledged. Samhain (later known as “Halloween”) was the season which the spirits of the dead travel on to the netherworld, and more so than any other time period they were an active factor in the lives of the mortals. Tributes such as bonfires, produce, and animal sacrifices (again, not to be confused with Neo-Pagan traditions of modern times, I assure you) were offered to the disembodied in order to preoccupy them until their spirits were at rest in the afterlife.

Following suit with other spiritual holidays, the original event of Samhain soon came to an end after Christian missionaries caught wind of this “season of the dead” business. As one is inclined to assume, (rightfully so in this case) anything associated with Pagan religions was considered blasphemous to the Christians, and must be done away with. As efforts of simply vanquishing the festivities did not prove as fruitful as his people had hoped, Pope Gregory The First had the brilliant idea of converting these Pagan rituals into Christian celebrations just as they intended to persuade the Pagans into the concepts of their religion. This, as we all probably could have guessed, paid off in spades. Those who remained faithful to their beliefs were persecuted as witches and cast into hiding, marking the origin of the term “Druids,” as well as that of the “Season of the Witch” (and you kids thought that Halloween III was the first recorded instance of its use)! Halloween itself is derived from the term “All Hallows Eve,” which soon translated to “Hallow Evening,” and finally “Hallowe’en.” (For a more in-depth recital of this history, check the source listed below from which I fact-checked this document. What is recorded here was merely meant to give a sufficient understanding of the backstory of the season.)

Just as the Celtic tradition fell prey to Christianity, all traces left of morality were soon forfeit upon the eve of Capitalism and what we now have today was born: a consumerist holiday ripe with candy, costumes, and late night Horror marathons. And I, for one, loved it as a child! It was around this time that I was presented with many classic icons of fright that have haunted my mind for years to come such as Michael Myers, Pennywise the Clown (otherwise referred to as “IT”), and Marlon Wayans’ afro in the original Scary Movies. The culmination of this obsession with the macabre accumulated in my 9th Grade year when I watched over one hundred holiday-themed films in the month of October, topping it off by watching the four Phantasm movies (let’s get moving on that fifth, Coscarilli and Co.!) and the entire A Nightmare on Elm Street series (starring Robert Englund, none of that remake nonsense). The next two years it was spent with high school friends who held no interest in the Horror genre, which is perfectly fine. I realized during this time that Halloween isn’t about being frightened, or who watches the most Horror movies, but rather enchantment. I used the comparison to Peter Pan earlier, and I think that is the most appropriate example out there, as left-wing (or the right, I don’t care, whichever the goblins are on) as it may be. The Black Season, my third book, and what I consider to be a “narrative anthology” was titled in part after the Autumnal season, in fact. The book debuted the weekend before Halloween, and had very Horror-esque themes to it (a dramatic inversion of martyrdom and also “Hansel & Gretel”, to name a few). What began as a superficial title meant to reflect my favourite time of year later became an introspection of my own state of mind, The Black Season itself representing a long period of time I spent depressed and how with the passing of this allegoric season, I could return to my former creative self. I think that really encapsulates what the “season of the witch” means to me, expressing yourself creatively in ways typically viewed as unacceptable and finding the fantastic in the literal world (rather than the literary). Perhaps spirits and demons don’t make visitations at this time of year, but that doesn’t make it any less grotesque. My challenge for those of you participating in Halloween this year is to become something that you never thought you could be, if only for this one Eve. I don’t care if you achieve it by putting on a mask, make-up, or just by indulging in a side of yourself kept locked away for a long time (please, nothing violent). I think that by taking this challenge up, we may find that whatever it is inside of us all that we are afraid of is actually quite delightful!

For those of you who would like a more thorough examination of the beginnings of Hallowe’en, I recommend this page, from which I fact-checked everything included in this document (aside from personal statements, of course):
http://inventors.about.com/od/sstartinventions/a/Samhain.htm

Author Bio:
“Todd Crawford is the author of the independently published novels a Clockwork in the Stars, The Final Gospels, and The Black Season. Born in Mercer County, PA, on February 16th, 1994, he is currently attending Clarion University of Pennsylvania. His writing style is recognized as descriptive, cynically honest yet whimsical. His works obsess over the geography of the human mind, existentialism juxtaposed with the politically religious, and nature hearkening back to the Romantic era of literature. He first published a Clockwork in the Stars through Lulu publishing, but released his latter works under the CreateSpace banner before reissuing Clockwork with his new label. Although his only currently released works have been of the literary outlet, he has indulged in other orientations of Art such as music (having composed a companion piece for his novel, The Final Gospels), film (having adapted his novella, Brighter, into a short film), and comic books. Crawford is currently working on his third (traditionally structured) novel, The Pilgrimage, an abstract commentary of politics as he is browsing agents to market the release.He enjoys and seeks collaborative opportunities with other authors such as his good friend Joslyn!”

Links:

My short story, “The Eraser” on the Amazon Kindle:
http://www.amazon.com/The-Eraser-Black-Season-ebook/dp/B007RGZ9W4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1343274168&sr=8-1&keywords=todd+crawford+the+eraser

“Brighter” on the Amazon Kindle:
http://www.amazon.com/Brighter-Constellations-ebook/dp/B007WYGK42/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1344320113&sr=1-1&keywords=todd+crawford+Brighter

My novel, a Clockwork in the Stars on the Amazon Kindle:
http://www.amazon.com/A-Clockwork-Stars-Constellations-ebook/dp/B002E1A6P2/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1343274217&sr=1-1&keywords=todd+crawford+a+clockwork+in+the+stars

A Clockwork in the Stars in paperback:
https://www.createspace.com/3680266

“Just another Star” on the Amazon Kindle:
http://www.amazon.com/Just-another-Star-Constellations-ebook/dp/B003VYBG50/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1344319986&sr=1-1&keywords=todd+crawford+just+another+star

The Final Gospels in paperback:
https://www.createspace.com/3518480

My anthological novel, The Black Season in paperback print:
https://www.createspace.com/3688627

My (new) official YouTube channel:
http://www.youtube.com/user/ToddCrawfordBooks

And of course, and finally, the link to my “professional” Facebook page:
www.facebook.com/ToddCrawfordBooks


Guest Blogger: Mark C. Scioneaux – On Hollow Shell and why the Zombie Genre is Coming Back from the Dead

Guest blogger Mark C. Scioneaux, talking about his book Hollow Shell! Mark provides a lot of insight into pop-zom-culture for those of us who are total zombuffs! Are they really becoming a dead subject, so to speak? Read on, and check out the links below. Once you read his story, Hollow Shell ( http://www.amazon.com/Hollow-Shell-Zombie-Epic-ebook/dp/B009QRX20I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1350429640&sr=8-1&keywords=hollow+shell+zombies ), I think you might see zombies as still being a driving…or staggaring…part of pop culture.

Big thanks to Mark for allowing me the opportunity to feature this wonderful piece on my blog!

~ JC

 

On Hollow Shell and why the Zombie Genre is Coming Back from the Dead

By: Mark C. Scioneaux

I cannot speak for all horror writers, but I think the first subject an aspiring writer tries to tackle is the zombie novel. There are a few reasons why the zombies are the popular choice, but mostly I believe it is due to the simplicity of the subject, and the way the story develops.

First, you have undead monsters. Scary, right? There is nothing more horrifying and heartbreaking than the thought of your mom, dad, sibling, child, etc. coming for you with no remembrance of who you were to them. All you are now is a meal. Second, it lets the writer craft a tale of survival, and doing what it takes to persevere during trying times of the walking dead. Third, and lastly, the aspiring writer can make a choice of where they want their novel to go. Gratuitous amounts of sex and gore? A cast of characters, ranging from your basic stereotypes to original and unlikely heroes? The writer is free to do what they want, for the world has ended and they are at the control panel. Writers are free to carve their own paths, and zombies help pave the way.

Why am I rambling about this? A few weeks ago, I received an email from a publisher. He was cancelling an anthology of which a story of mine had been submitted. His reasons were honest and understandable, but one didn’t sit well with me. He said the genre was flooded with bad zombie books. He wouldn’t make any return on his investment for the anthology he’d planned. The zombie genre was dead; a bullet put right between the eyes of the literary ghoul. To a point, I agreed. With the surge of self-publishing, it appears any and all aspiring authors, who don’t venture through traditional publishing venues for their work, have a zombie novel uploaded to Kindle. I’ve read more than my fair share. Some are great. Plenty are bad, often filled with poor editing and even worse writing. With the popularity of The Walking Dead leading the way, zombies have infiltrated every aspect of our pop culture. The public is burnt out, and who can really blame them? But I think they can be saved and restored back to the prominence and respect they deserve. It is my hope that my serial, Hollow Shell, assists in the revival of the zombie book.

When you start Hollow Shell, you’ll see I jammed my foot on the gas, and very rarely do I let up. The tale centers around one central character, Chris. He isn’t special, really; just an ordinary guy trying to do the right thing. He’s not a super soldier, or someone who can make headshots while sprinting through a field. He’s you. He’s me. I wanted to make him that way so you, the reader, would feel for him, think like him, and ultimately place yourself in his situation and contemplate over the choices you’d make if you were in his shoes. There is another character, Dawn, who joins Chris on a most epic journey. I won’t spoil it for you where they are going, or why, but it will be something pivotal that drives our main character forward, much to the dismay of the young woman accompanying him.

Chris and Dawn make a good pair, and I think they represent real people in a tragic situation. There is tension, violence, sex, and gore; all things one expects to happen when the laws and rules of society have been thrown out the window, but it’s kept in check. It’s balanced. It’s real. When I write, I try to put myself in my character’s shoes. How would I react? What would I say? How would I get out of this predicament? The result, I feel, is a story with realistic consequences to actions. I want to show the reader that yes, zombies are scary, but humans are so much worse. There will be times when you cheer for the zombies. Hopefully I’ve written enough moments that make your jaw drop and your fingers fumble your e-reader when you go to turn the page.

I plan to update the series every quarter. It will take time to not only write, but also go through the proper editing and proofreading channels. Self-publishing isn’t a bad thing. As a person who has been traditionally published and is co-owner of Nightscape Press, I feel this is what the Kindle was made for. But the key is you have to give the customer a professional product, and one you’d be happy to put your name on. I hope I have done this for you, the reader.

Hollow Shell is violent and tragic. It also has moments of humor and raw emotion. It is charged with a certain tension that I feel would exist in a situation like the one our two characters are thrust into. What I love the most about zombie literature isn’t so much the zombies, but the interaction of characters as the world falls apart. There are so many great opportunities for me as a writer to explore the human condition and psyche. That’s what draws me to post-apocalyptic books. The zombies are awesome. They give your characters a reason to act the way they do. But they’re only a part of the story. In Hollow Shell, you’ll care about the characters and realize that these are normal people trying to survive with the zombies as a backdrop. I hope you will keep up with Hollow Shell, because it’s going to be a wild ride.

In closing, I’d like to thank Joslyn Corvis for allowing me to share my thoughts on zombies. I hope you enjoy Hollow Shell and follow the series to the end, whenever that may be. Don’t abandon the zombie story. There are many good ones out there, and like the undead, they are going to just keep coming!

Aim for the head,

Mark C. Scioneaux

To Buy Hollow Shell: Part 1 – http://www.amazon.com/Hollow-Shell-Zombie-Epic-ebook/dp/B009QRX20I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1350429640&sr=8-1&keywords=hollow+shell+zombies

Talk about it on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HollowShellAZombieEpic

Friend the author: https://www.facebook.com/mscioneaux

A sample from Hollow Shell: Part 1

“What have I done?” Chris said as he slid down the living room wall.

A faint trail of gray smoke rose from the gun, slowly dissipating into the atmosphere and stinging his running nose. His hands shook uncontrollably, so bad the gun almost fell from his limp grasp.

“Why, God? Jesus…Why?” he gasped, the tears starting to roll down his stubbly face.

With each passing moment, panic at the realization of what he had just done started to settle in. It was a sickening feeling developing deep in the pit of his stomach. He felt a wave of nausea wash over him. He closed his eyes, drew in a deep breath, and let it out slowly.

Why am I calling out to God? he thought, as the idea of asking an all-mighty and benevolent creator for help had proved to be a waste of time. God didn’t seem to be present at the moment he put a bullet right between the eyes of his loving parents and once beautiful sister. Those same eyes that gazed down on him the day he was born. Eyes at one time filled with unconditional love, now glazed over in a pale aqua-blue glow. The look they once bore replaced with an insatiable hunger. Chris couldn’t let them live like that. His sister, so beautiful and caring; so young and full of dreams, had been turned into a deformed creature. There was nothing left of who she once was. The same sister Chris beat up a playground bully for. The same sister whose ice cream cone hit the floor and Chris readily gave her his. The thought of her pain made him tear up and the urge to scream rushed up through his throat like vomit.

She had come toward him with the same look as his parents, those hungry, lifeless eyes. His hand made steady by a surge of adrenalin gave him a brief moment of clarity and precision, though his vision had become blurry with tears. The sound of her moaning and shuffling feet became louder as she moved closer. He aimed, closing his eyes as he pulled the trigger, feeling the hammer kick back and the gun jolt in his hand. The abrupt discharge was followed by a soft thud. He opened his eyes and in that moment came to the sick realization that he was an only child and an orphan. All done by his own hands.

One more bullet left in the chamber, he thought to himself, and that one is going to be for me.

The searing heat of the gun singed the inside of his mouth, but he didn’t care. One squeeze and everything would be all right. Just a loud noise, maybe a little pain and his troubles would cease to exist. Or maybe there wouldn’t be any pain at all. It would be a coward’s way out, but given the current events and his decaying mentality, it felt like the right thing to do. He closed his eyes tight as his finger slowly depressed the trigger. Just a little more, he thought. Just do it!


BookZoo was so great I’m almost speechless…

I couldn’t be there, but I can watch it now thanks to the wonders of technology!

Sumiko Saulson

Not that I was speechless on the night of the Book Reading, as you’ll see in the first of two videos from the reading… you can see it there above, me and Howard Brad Halverson…. this video is fifteen long. I’ll process another fifteen minutes of me reading in the future.

But it was great! A picture is worth a thousand words, right? So here are some pictures:

BookZoo event

The one, the Only, the Banner from the Event (above)

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Interview with Shawn C. Phillips: Horror Icon of The New Generation

Every generation has a symbol that defines horror. Someone who represents our demographic. Someone we find we can relate to in some way. Someone with adoring fans all across the map. Someone that just leaves an imprint on the genre.

That someone in the new generation of horror is Shawn C. Phillips. I began watching him on youtube ever since I stumbled upon his channel a few years back. I was impressed by his movie knowledge and by how genuine he comes off on video; the camera does not lie! And don’t forget to LIKE his Facebook fan page!
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Shawn-C-Phillips/205339310744?ref=ts

You can also check out his youtube channel, where you can also find his other links, such as his IMDB page and Twitter:
http://www.youtube.com/user/coolduder?feature=results_main

Without further delay, here is my interview with SHAWN C. PHILLIPS!

JC: What drew you in to horror?

SCP: Have always loved horror films. Not sure what it was about them but ever since I can remember when I used to go rent videos and buy movies I would always go right to the horror section. Just have so much fun watching horror.

JC: I love your “Collection” and “Review” videos on youtube. I’m particularly fond of your 80’s horror movies since that’s what I grew up with. What’s the best decade for horror in your expert opinion?

SCP: I love 70s and 80’s horror. Hard to pick but I think I own more 80s horror. I think when it comes to my horror section of movies just about half are 70s and 80s horror.

JC: For me, the “crabwalk” in The Exorcist defines horror, even though I believe it was deleted from the original. And I gotta say the sleeping bag scene in one of the Friday the 13th movies was one of my favourites as well. What are some scenes that come to your mind when you think of classic horror at its finest?

SCP: I would say the ending to Sleep Away Camp is a horror moment I dont think I can ever forget. Same goes for the Tar man zombie for Return of the Living Dead, which is one of my all time favorite horror films.

JC: Some movies are just *bad*, but you know those movies that are so bad they’re good? What would you say falls into this category?

SCP: I find myself liking alot of films that most people dont. There are so many. One I always think of which I know has a following is Troll 2.

JC: Out of all the movie monsters, which one would be your absolute favourite?

SCP: That is a tough one. Really is hard to pick.

JC: If you could be any character in any movie remake, who…or what…would you be?

SCP: I always love to be the victim in horror films. It would be awesome to be killed by a character like Jason or Chucky in a horror remake.

JC: I’m sure that since you see the behind-the-scenes magic during your performances that very few roles would scare you, but as a viewer I always wonder how the actors are able to sleep at night! Are there any existing movies that you would have declined a part in because it would’ve been too disturbing?

SCP: Well on some films if you have a very crazy death scene and are screaming all day, it can be tough to sleep at night. I also try and make myself feel as upset and terrible as possible during a death scene so sometimes that can follow you a bit that night.

JC: What do you love most about acting?

SCP: It is such a fun time and getting to work on the kinda films that I watch is such a blast. I feel like with each movie I’m learning more and growing. I will admit looking back on some of my early films I really feel like I have learned a lot since then.

JC: Aside from acting, do you plan to write or direct in the future?

SCP: I have made a few shorts in the past. Some are in the Treasure Chest of Horror series. Part 1 of that series is on dvd now and part 2 and 3 are on the way.
But I will admit, I don’t love directing. Don’t have as much fun with it.

JC: What are some of the things you enjoy in your spare time?

SCP: Watching movies, Going dvd shopping, Going to the movies. As you can see I do love movies. Lol

JC: Do you have any plans for Halloween?

SCP: No major plans. I do plan to go to Son of Monsterpalooza which is a fun horror con in Burbank.

JC: As most of my friends can tell you, I’m really into zombies. Maybe to an annoyingly obsessive degree. Since you’re actually in horror movies, do you think you would be more prepared for an outbreak than the average person? What weapons and tactics would you use to survive a Zombie Apocalypse?

SCP: Sometimes for fun I think of places to hide if a zombie outbreak happened but I think if it somehow did happen I would be in trouble.

JC: Is there anything you would like your fans to know about you?

SCP: I would say that I owe it to them for helping me to find what I love doing.

I would like to thank Shawn C. Phillips for taking the time to do this interview.


P. A. Douglas – Release of ‘The Darkman’

Greetings, Horror Fans!

P. A. Douglas has a brand-spankin’-new book out called The Darkman. Available in print and on Kindle. Click here to get your copy:
http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Man-P-Douglas/dp/1479367710/ref=la_B006XWFXBU_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1349064074&sr=1-1

You can also check out his website: http://www.indie-inside.com

The horror genre has become richer with the addition of Douglas’ books. P. A. Douglas is the author of Watchers, Rancid, and several other Must-Reads as well as his latest book, The Darkman! It’s sure to be a hit with P. A. Douglas fans, as well as lovers of the horror genre.

There is something to be said of a writer that can make you feel pity, fear, hate, love, and anything in between toward his characters, and make you experience the action from a storytelling P.O.V. as if it had actually happened. As if it actually could happen. That’s what makes this author stand out the rest. And that’s why I’m really excited about P. A.’s online book tour to promote The Darkman! Seven days only, don’t miss it!

http://www.facebook.com/indieinside?ref=ts&fref=ts#!/events/115307871953922/
(Link will be available as an archive after October 8th, 2012, but until then, don’t miss out on what’s to come! Join, participate, and be part of the action!)

Wanna know more about The Darkman? Read the summary below.

“The human mind holds within its infinite reaches many of the greatest mysteries in the universe. Some are vast and wondrous, while others are chilling and nightmarish. Some mysteries are better left hidden in the dark corners of our minds, never breaking free of our subconscious. Six high school students set out to explore these depths by sharing a mind altering substance on a night meant to be filled with both wild hallucinations and crazy antics. But the fun and games come to a shuddering halt when a strange man appears. This isn’t just any stranger. He is the Dark Man. Haunter of dreams and purveyor of nightmares. Dressed in a black suit and top hat, his pale skin and twisted grin promise a very deranged night of entertainment.”