One of the most important statements HWA Colorado will ever make

This is our original June 30, 2022 statement. We thank the horror community for their support in getting it reposted.
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The HWA Colorado Chapter’s statement regarding the SCOTUS ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and its overturning of Roe v. Wade:

As of this writing, the HWA Colorado Chapter is young and still growing its legs. But we do know that in the growing process, some national events require a group to declare where those growing legs are standing, as it profoundly affects their future. We are a group of horror writers and creatives who want a good, progressive, inclusive, and bright future.

HWA CO’s Chapter Officers and Advisory Team believe that regarding the decision reached by the Supreme Court of the United States in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, this has taken a wrecking ball to women’s rights and personal medical autonomy. To further illustrate this, we cite excerpts as bullet points from the dissenting opinion composed by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan as our own opinion:

~ “…[Court] settled freedoms involving bodily integrity, familial relationships, and procreation” are in serious peril.

~ “Whatever the exact scope of the coming laws, one result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens.”

~ “[The ruling] …says that from the very moment of fertilization, a woman has no rights to speak of.”

~ Regarding the 14th Amendment and its ratifiers being all men: “So it is perhaps not so surprising that the ratifiers were not perfectly attuned to the importance of reproductive rights for women’s liberty…When the majority says that we must read our foundational charter as viewed at the time of ratification (except that we may also check it against the Dark Ages), it consigns women to second-class citizenship.” [Please note the previous parenthetical statement is the dissenting Justices’ and not ours, though we wholly agree with its implicatory condemnation.]

~ “Either the mass of the majority’s opinion is hypocrisy, or additional constitutional rights are under threat. It is one or the other… We fervently hope that does not happen because of today’s decision. We hope that we will not join Justice Scalia in the book of prophets. But we cannot understand how anyone can be confident that today’s opinion will be the last of its kind.”

As horror creatives and as Coloradans, HWA Colorado not only fully supports women’s rights, we support the imperiled rights of contraception use, the right to same-sex marriage, and the right to marriage equality, generally. “Diversity” and “freedom” aren’t just cheap sentiments thrown around for recruitment purposes. We believe they are real, and we believe they are vital to us and the rest of our country. We support the State of Colorado’s legislative and legal efforts to not only protect those ideas, but to expand those protections and services to Coloradans and our Fellow Americans.

I think HWA Colorado’s legs just got a little bit stronger, and we are grateful for our Chapter Members and anyone who stands with us.

Signed,

The HWA CO Chapter Officers and Advisory Team:

Angela Sylvaine
Shannon Lawrence
Travis Heermann
Jeamus Wilkes

Creepy Craft Corner

by Angela Sylvaine

Welcome to “Creepy Craft Corner,” which features HWA members who are also artists, crafters, makers, or creators. I hope to provide you, the reader, with the tools and inspiration to try creating something new! *Please note- I am now open for submissions! If you would like to be featured on Creepy Craft Corner, find my social media links at angelasylvaine.com and reach out.

If you’re like me, you lament spring and the pastel palette of clothing choices it brings. You suffer behind lowered blinds and closed curtains, beseeching the dark lord to answer the prayers of a humble but fashion conscious goth and lover retro threads. Well, dear reader, your prayers have been answered. Brianna Malotke is here to show us all the secret to constructing our own ghoulish clothes, including a Zombie Pinup Dress that has me dusting off my old Singer!

*Insert Zombie Dress Front & Back Pic

Welcome, Brianna, tell us a little about what you write and any upcoming projects you’d like to promote.

My main focus in the horror genre is poetry, especially body horror pieces. I have been branching out during the past year and have enjoyed working on flash fiction and short stories. I’m currently working on my own personal collection of horror poems but I have a few things coming out this year that I’m really excited to share.

First, I have two body horror poems included in the upcoming “Under Her Skin: A Women in Horror Poetry Collection,” by Black Spot Books. It’ll be available April 5th. Here is the link: vesuvianmedia.com/under-her-skin. Secondly, I have a non-fiction piece that will be included in the “Out of Time: True Paranormal Encounters Anthology,” by Timber Ghost Press. My story details a childhood paranormal experience that I’ve only ever disclosed to a handful of people. It’ll be out this October 2022.

You can follow me on Instagram: @briannamalotke.

My website is: brimalotke.wixsite.com/malotkewrites

My personal costume & sewing blog: malotkesews.blogspot.com

I share a lot of my costume work on my online portfolio: brimalotke.wixsite.com/malotkedesigns

What creepy craft or creation have you decided to share with us today? 

My background is in Apparel and Costume Design. One of my favorite things is to take a very basic, potentially structured or tailored, garment and use a very fun or quirky fabric. While I sew a lot for myself, I do enjoy costuming plays. Luckily my city has a vibrant theater life that I’ve been able to be a part of and do a variety of shows. My most recent costume job involved designing the costumes for “She Kills Monsters,” by playwright Qui Nguyen. It was great combination of the 90s and fantasy Dungeons & Dragons characters. 

For this dress I took a very simple look – sleeveless, collarless, with princess seams, a back zipper, and a gathered waist – and used a very fun, pin-up girl zombie fabric that I found at Joann’s a few years ago. I wanted to keep the dress simple in style to show off the fun print, which is why I made my side panels and inside facings out of a plain black fabric. I picked my favorite zombie girl to be featured front and center. Then I cut out my other pattern pieces to allow the zombies to not be sliced up too much.

What instructions or tips do you have for our readers who might be interested in trying this craft for themselves?

A lot of the time I draft my own patterns but for this particular dress I used a pre-made/store bought pattern (Kwik Sew K3929 Vintage Misses Dress) and then altered it based on my own sizing. Also, if you’re wanting to alter a pattern to fit you better, don’t be afraid to make a mock-up out of a basic, solid fabric then mark on it to show the changes needed. Then take it apart and use those pieces as your own pattern. This method really helps me when I want to see where the stitching and the fun fabric print will lie on the body.

If you’re wanting to match up prints, I recommend having a lot of pattern weights to help you out during the cutting process. Depending on your fabric selection, using clips to help the fabric from slipping while you cut it out could also be beneficial. See the photo for how I laid out my pattern pieces to get the Zombies I wanted to appear on my dress. I hate to waste fabric but I really wanted to feature the main Zombie pinup on the center front of the bodice and skirt.

Thank you so much to Brianna for sharing her craft with us this month! Until next time, keep it crafty, HWA.

Angela Sylvaine is a self-proclaimed cheerful goth who still believes in monsters. Her debut novella, Chopping Spree, is available now. Her short fiction has appeared in various publications and anthologies, including Places We Fear to Tread and Not All Monsters. You can find her online angelasylvaine.com.

Special thanks to our logo creator, Maria Abrams abramstheauthor.com

Creepy Craft Corner

By Angela Sylvaine

Welcome to “Creepy Craft Corner,” which features HWA members who are also artists, crafters, makers, or creators. I hope to provide you, the reader, with the tools and inspiration to try creating something new! *Please note- I am now open for submissions! If you are an HWA member and would like to be featured on Creepy Craft Corner, find my social media links at angelasylvaine.com and reach out.

As writers, many of us have old or damaged books on hand that we don’t plan to read but can’t bear to part with. We’re attracted to the beauty of book bindings, old maps, and imagery that catches our eyes, but how can we use books and other interesting trinkets in ways that pay homage to such treasures? Hillary Dodge is here to help us transform old and damaged books into Altered Book Art

Welcome, Hillary, tell us a little about what you write and any upcoming projects you’d like to promote.

I write dark speculative fiction, mostly through a sci-fi lens. I find the future and all its variations and possibilities fascinating. I think there is a lot of space for horror in science fiction and more recently, I’ve been exploring folk and fairy tales as well. Although to be honest, I never gave away my books of fairy tales from childhood – filled with images of the Baba Yaga and her iron teeth and misshapen giants with spiked clubs – it’s fun to read them again and find ways to retell the stories. My most recent project was very much aligned with dark fantasy, folk horror, and urban legends. Shadow Atlas: Dark Landscapes of the Americas is a rare and exciting collection of dark fiction, poetry, and art tied to places in the Americas. I co-edited this anthology with Carina Bissett and Joshua Viola and it was a blast. Right now, I’m working on a science fiction retelling/mash-up of the Japanese fairytale The Bush Warbler. Set in the distant future, a woman on the run finds herself taking on the job of caretaker for an ancient rambling house deep in the trash heaps of a remote sector.

Hillary Dodge is the author of several speculative short fictions as well as three nonfiction books, including Gather Round the Table: Food Literacy Programs, Resources, and Ideas for Libraries (ALA 2020). She spends a good deal of time traveling, going places that are forbidden, and eating. She once had tea with a Roma in a cave in the mountains of Spain. Another time found her eight hours from civilization in the heart of the Atacama with a mad desert hermit. She has been published in online magazines, podcasts, and print anthologies, including Pseudopod, Space Squid, Hellbound Books, and Hex Publishers. You can find her at www.hillarydodge.com.

What creepy craft or creation have you decided to share with us today? 

I am sharing my altered book art. As a librarian, I am always coming across old books – either donations we can’t add or damaged items that have been removed from the collection – with fantastic art, illustrations, maps, and schematics. I’ll buy these discarded copies and take an xacto to the pages, cutting out shapes and images that catch my interest. I like to layer images and insert hardware into my art. I rarely work in two dimensions. I find that I am most attracted to imagery of the human body and architecture. Sometimes I’ll work on canvas or board and sometimes I work right inside the old books themselves. I mostly do art for myself, but my collection is starting to get rather large, so I’ll have to be creative on what to do with it in the future.

What instructions or tips do you have for our readers who might be interested in trying this craft for themselves?

Board books make great surfaces to toy around with this form of art. You can find them cheaply from used book stores or flea markets. Scratch up the surface with sandpaper and paint a background or cover with cut imagery from old books, maps, textbooks, and magazines. Modge podge is the best way to make the paper adhere. I like to explore the hardware tucked into tea cups and cupboards in antique malls for interactive pieces.

Thank you so much to Hillary for sharing her craft with us this month! I am looking forward to rooting out old books and hardware on my next thrifting trip so I can try this for myself! 

Until next month, keep it crafty!

Angela Sylvaine is a self-proclaimed cheerful goth who still believes in monsters. Her debut novella, Chopping Spree, is available now. Her short fiction has appeared in various publications and anthologies, including Places We Fear to Tread and Not All Monsters. You can find her online angelasylvaine.com.

Special thanks to our logo creator, Maria Abrams abramstheauthor.com

Member Publication News (January 2021)

Welcome to the HWA COS chapter’s monthly round-up of member news. We invite you to scroll through our publication announcements and see what our members are up to this month: new releases, book signings, readings, conventions, and more!

Carina Bissett is pleased to announce the appearance of two new poems: “Bright Tapestry” was included in the HWA Poetry Showcase Vol. VIII, and “Ars Poisana,” a collaboration with Andrea Blythe, which closed out 2021’s offerings at Enchanted Conversation. Her story “When the Darkness Calls” was also released in December 2021 in An Exquisite Corpse: A Dystopia Rising: Evolution Anthology by Onyx Path Publishing.

In other news, Carina Bissett and Shannon Lawrence will be appearing online in A Horror Panel to Die For, along with Sumiko Saulson and Clay McLeod Chapman on Tuesday, January 18, from 6:15 PM MT to 8:15 PM MT.

Dakota Brown released Book 4 in the Pizza Shop Exorcist series in December—The Price of Souls: A Reverse Harem Tale. The Audible audiobook at The Price of Possession: Pizza Shop Exorcist, Book 1 became available in January.

*This book is intended for mature audiences. 18+ readers only! It contains language and sexual situations.

The angels want an apocalypse, and the demons want an upheaval in Hell. I want my prince back and a quiet moment with my men. Only one of us can have what we desire, and I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure it’s me.

Travis Heermann started out 2022 with the released of the boxed set of the Ronin trilogy. “A fusion of historical fiction and adventure fantasy, the first volume of Heermann’s Ronin Trilogy is a page-turning folkloric narrative of epic proportions.” —Publishers Weekly 

Ken’ishi is a young ronin, a samurai without a master, tossed on the waves of fate and fortune, orphaned as a baby when his parents were murdered. Amid ruthless crime lords, bloodthirsty demons, and Mongol spies, his only link to his past is Silver Crane, his father’s sword, a blade that holds its secrets close… Such as the secret of the family bloodline. But some secrets best remain kept.

Sam Knight co-authored a recent story with Kevin J. Anderson; the story “Following Icarus Down” is featured in the anthology Jeff Sturgeon’s Last Cities of Earth. Knight has also opened up the publishing company, Knight Writing Press. Forthcoming themed anthologies include Magic Portals, Wishing Well, Mermaidens, and Modern Magic. See open calls on the submission page.

Do you like a good story? So do we! That’s why we like to collect them all together in one place and horde them like the treasures they are! Enrapturing Tales is an anthology imprint of Knight Writing Press. We are not confined to genres or constrained by expectations. Except for the expectation that it will be a good story! From eclectic collections of stories that needed to find a home, to stories only about mermaids, you never know what we will be up to next!

Shannon Lawrence‘s cannibalistic response to the pandemic, “Psychosis,” was included in Madame Gray’s Vault of Gore.

An absolute must-read for all who enjoy their horror with gallons of blood, lashings of guts, and dollops of severed body parts!

Madame Gray has personally selected a plethora of blood-soaked tales of terror and gruesome demise, each one brutally crafted to chill the soul and turn the stomach of even the most hardened fans of the macabre.

In other news, Shannon Lawrence and Sam Knight are featured guests at this year’s COSine event (January 14-16), presenting on a variety of panels.

Over at the podcast Mysteries, Monsters, & Mayhem, Shannon Lawrence and her co-host M.B. Partlow added new episodes to the series: Sinners or Saints? (October 13 ); Sex, Drugs, & Bullseyes (October 20); Solved, but Not Forgotten (October 27), and Family Matters (November 3).

  • Werewolves & Annihilators (November 10); Barb & Bell’s Personal Hells (November 17); Indigenous in Peril (November 24); Slay-Bells & Stockholm Syndrome (December 1); Rick & At Risk (December 8); Femicide & Santa Crimes (December 15); Shots Fired & Secret Sins (December 22); Favorites (December 29); Guest Composite (January 5).

Creepy Craft Corner

by Angela Sylvaine

Welcome to “Creepy Craft Corner,” which features HWA members who are also artists, crafters, makers, or creators. I hope to provide you, the reader, with the tools and inspiration to try creating something new!

I am obsessed with podcasts, especially anything true-crime, spooky, or writing related. But what does it take to produce those wonderful auditory treats that magically appear on my phone each week? Robert Ottone and Brenda Tolian are here today to tell us!

Welcome, Robert, tell us a little about what you write and any upcoming projects you’d like to promote.

I am the author of Her Infernal Name & Other Nightmares and People: A Horror Anthology about Love, Loss, Life & Things That Go Bump in the Night, as well as a contributor to multiple anthologies and websites. I regularly blog over at spookyhousepress.com, which is the home of my small-press publishing company. I am also hopelessly addicted to instagram.com/robertottone, and scream into the void over on twitter.com/robertottone. I also have gotten back into the true crime game over at my website voicesfromgilgo.com.

My novella, The Girl in the Floor is available on Kindle Vella amazon.com/kindle-vella/story. My collection is also available at amazon.com/dp

What creepy craft or creation have you decided to share with us today? 

My creation is my very raw, self-produced, nonprofit true crime podcast, Voices From Gilgo. You can find it on most podcast platforms. It essentially was a passion project and was, in some respects, my first foray into horror, as this is a true-life horror story. I promise you it’s very raw, as it was self-produced and was a passion project after I had surgery that prevented me from teaching for a few months.

From there, I’ve been able to do a slew of lectures about the Long Island Serial Killer for a bunch of different libraries and local venues here in New York. I have a bunch lined up for this summer, they’re all free, and they’re all for wonderful institutions, so, keep your eyes peeled for dates as they are announced and register!

What instructions or tips do you have for our readers who might be interested in trying this craft for themselves?

I think, if you’re interested in launching your own podcast, it’s worth really dedicating time to the audio quality of what you’re trying to produce. Admittedly, mine is very raw, and I’ve taken some hits for my modulation, especially when it comes to the musical interludes. Overall, there is a lot of relaxation that comes from editing audio, and there’s actually a lot one can get from crafting the story of whatever they’re doing in audio script format. I found telling the story of the Long Island Serial Killer, along with my own personal theory as to what happened to be exhilarating in a way that was challenging, but in a good way.

Next we welcome Brenda. Hi, Brenda, tell us a little about what you write and any upcoming projects you’d like to promote.

I write and love horror. I recently signed on with Raw Dog Screaming Press who will publish my Blood Mountain soon. I also have a story coming out in the Denver Horror Collectives Jewish Book of Horror and am a featured poet in the 2021 HWA Poetry Showcase (Vol. VIII). I also paint, make music and teach High School English full time.

What creepy craft or creation have you decided to share with us today? 

Well, Joy Yehle and I love books. We are astounded by new writers, academic and indie writers work, but realized they did not get the same spotlight as more well-known writers/ creators. We decided to start a casual podcast to chat with the creators that we found interesting. This place would be safe, casual as before stated and a place to explore both the writer and their work. I think we succeeded in this endeavor, and we certainly have fun speaking to creators. We don’t make a dime doing it but sometimes you just do a thing, because you love it- That is what the Burial Plot Horror Podcast is to me-us!

What instructions or tips do you have for our readers who might be interested in trying this craft for themselves?

Everyone can make a podcast-in fact I do this with students in my High School. First write a plan- Who/ what is it for? Why? Start out simple use a service like Buzzsprout.com or Anchor.com. How long will it be- 15 min, 30, an hour? Do you need waivers? My best advice is to do your research and look at popular podcasts that you like. What are they doing that you like? What do you think you could do better? Most importantly have fun! My Co-Host for a while kept calling me her Co-Horse which became a great joke on the show. We have a heart for diving into the darkness of horror in all its shades of night and dragging our audience with us. Mostly they don’t scream!

Thank you so much to Robert and Brenda for sharing their expertise with us this month! I hope it inspired you to create. 

Until next month, keep it crafty, HWA!

Angela Sylvaine is a self-proclaimed cheerful goth who still believes in monsters. Her debut novella, Chopping Spree, is available now. Her short fiction has appeared in multiple publications and anthologies, including Places We Fear to Tread and Not All Monsters. You can find her online angelasylvaine.com.

Special thanks to our logo creator, Maria Abrams abramstheauthor.com

Note: Due to an overwhelming response from talented creators, I am not currently accepting new submissions for Creepy Craft Corner. I will post in the HWA newsletter and on Twitter when I reopen to submissions. 

Member Publication News (November 2021)

Welcome to the HWA COS chapter’s monthly round-up of member news. We invite you to scroll through our publication announcements and see what our members are up to this month: new releases, book signings, readings, conventions, and more!

Carina Bissett participated in the Munich-based project ARCANA 2021 with her interpretation of “The Tower.” To read more about Carina’s inspiration and her mash-up of this card’s symbolism with the motif of Maidens in Towers, check out her blog post on the subject.

ABOUT THE PROJECT: One card from the Major Arcana is drawn randomly and given to the participant. How the artist or writer responds to their, will be revealed this October 20, 2021 at 3 pm (CET) This year’s show will be presented completely online. —Hazel Ang

Carina Bissett, Hillary Dodge, and Joshua Viola are thrilled to announce the release of Shadow Atlas: Dark Landscapes of the Americas (November 30). This high-concept anthology includes fiction and poetry by Mario Acevedo, Colleen Anderson, Kay Chronister, Sara Cleto, David Davies, Sean Eads, Anastasia Garcia, Owl Goingback, Maxwell I. Gold, Warren Hammond, Angie Hodapp, Jimena Jurado, Starlene Justice, Gwendolyn Kiste, Gerri Leen, Josh Malerman, Juliana Spink Mills, Tiffany Morris, Lee Murray, Annie Neugebauer, Gerardo Horacio Porcayo, Cameron E. Quinn, Sarah Read, Kathryn Reilly, Julia Rios, Betty Rocksteady, Marge Simon, Angela Yuriko Smith, Christina Sng, Jeanne C. Stein, Tim Waggoner, Brittany Warman, Christa Wojciechowski, Stephanie M. Wytovich, Mercedes M. Yardley, Jane Yolen, E. Lily Yu, and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro. Illustrated by Aaron Lovett.

CSW’s horror fiction podcast Incarnation Read premiered its second season on Halloween. You can read more about his inspiration and the evolution of the podcast at “Podcasts and the Oral Horror Tradition” (HWA COS). Incarnation Read is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, YouTube, Deezer, Pocket Casts, Breaker, Overcast, Radio Public, TuneIn, Podcast Addict, and Castbox. Episodes are uploaded once every other Saturday.

Sam Knight is proud to announce the launch of Knight Writing Press. Submissions are now open for Particular Passages 2. The Particular Passages anthologies are for stories that really need a home, but maybe don’t quite fit in anywhere else. Submission deadline is 1/1/2022.

We understand the “theme” of this anthology is a bit vague. We’re looking for “trunk stories” that shouldn’t have ended up in the trunk. The theme is: you just don’t know what’s behind that door until you open it. Think of it as an author showcase. There are no genre restrictions on this anthology. (PG-13).

Shannon Lawrence is pleased to announce the publication of her story “Alligator in a Sweatsuit” in the anthology Crimeucopia – The I’s Have It. This anthology of mysteries from Murderous Ink Press features twists and tongue-in-cheek fun with sleuths of all kinds.

Shannon talks horror, short stories, and the importance of writing communities on Living the Dream with Curveball, a podcast about inspiration and aspiration. You can also find her on Stories Live, which features dark readings for the season. As a featured guest, Shannon reads a creepy tale of a child who wants to meet her mysterious night parents in “Following the Rules.”

Over at the podcast Mysteries, Monsters, & Mayhem, Shannon Lawrence and her co-host M.B. Partlow added new episodes to the series: Sinners or Saints? (October 13 ); Sex, Drugs, & Bullseyes (October 20); Solved, but Not Forgotten (October 27), and Family Matters (November 3).

Angela Sylvaine is terrified to be included in the debut anthology from Night Terror Novels, This is Not a Horror Story (spoiler- the stories are actually really scary). “Obsidian” follows a woman whose internalized pain ricochets back at those who have harmed her.

Inspired by the iconic “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” found in surrealist René Magritte’s 1929 work, The Treachery of ImagesThis is Not a Horror Story offers a collection of original fiction both abstract and haunting from fifteen bold, exciting voices writing in the genre today. Take a trip with us into this gallery of the macabre, and allow our authors to transport you into realms fantastical and terrifying; stories of the bizarre and the surreal, from deities, demons, and dictators through to tales of the marginalised and of cursed media. All of these tales are transgressive, yes—they tell the stories of the outcasts, of characters rebelling against societal norms, of the taboo and the controversial—but suffice it to say that no two are alike.

Creepy Craft Corner

By Angela Sylvaine

Welcome to “Creepy Craft Corner,” which features HWA members who are also artists, crafters, makers, or creators. I hope to provide you, the reader, with the tools and inspiration to try creating something new!

In an extended celebration of Halloween, the most sacred of holidays, I am featuring not just one but three fantastic creators. Today we welcome Mercedes Yardley and her handmade voodoo dolls, M. Lopes da Silva’s spooky soaps, and Robert Perez fashioning an Oogie Boogie costume. Let’s get our creepy craft on!

Hi, Mercedes. Tell us a little about what you write and any upcoming projects you’d like to promote.

I write whimsical horror. I write dark fairytales with a high body count. Most of my work has to do with women put in terrible positions. I like to discuss the important issues that I see around me every day. 

I have quite a few things coming out, actually! I have a beautiful, sad story titled “The Rhythm of Grief” that just came out in the FRIGHT TRAIN anthology.  My story “Sand and Salt” (about an Irish banshee trapped in the San Rafael desert) is coming out this month in the SHADOW ATLAS anthology. Also releasing this month is the CLASSIC MONSTERS UNLEASHED anthology, which features my story “The Picture of Doriana Gray.” My poem “Afterlife” is coming out in the HWA Poetry Showcase Volume 8 book. And my Southern Gothic novel, DARLING, is releasing in 2022. It’s a wonderfully busy time! They’re all available on Amazon, and you can learn more about them at mercedesmyardley.com.

What creepy craft or creation have you decided to share with us today? 

Today I’ll be showing you my handmade voodoo dolls. They’re sweet, sinister, darling things. I started making them several years ago when I needed a craft to keep my hands busy while I watched true crime or Labyrinth. I use felt because it’s a perfect texture for the dolls. Each one has its own unique personality. While most voodoo dolls are full of menace, mine are full of good feeling and just the tiniest bit of malevolence.

These little things sell like you wouldn’t believe. They outsell my books by a large margin. There’s something about having a basket of them on the book table that draws people in. Some people genuinely seem creeped out, but as soon as they hold one, they get over those feelings quite quickly. “They’re cheery little things that want to watch over you,” I’ll say, and then I’ll wave goodbye as a voodoo doll finds its way into its new owner’s pocket or backpack. That really makes me happy. I have one strapped to the neck of my ukulele.

I actually gave a book and matching doll to Lisa Loeb, who is one of my favorite singers. It was an honor to see her cradle these two things I created.

Anyone interested in their own doll can contact me at mercedesyardley@gmail.com, or find me on Facebook at Mercedes Murdock Yardley. They’re currently going for $15 plus shipping.

What instructions or tips do you have for our readers who might be interested in trying this craft for themselves? 

First, make yourself a doll pattern out of cardboard or cardstock. Also, make yourself a heart pattern as well. Trace it on felt, cut two pieces out, and then work on the face. You can use buttons. You can use thread or embroidery floss. You can draw on it. Just do the face before you sew it together. Next, sew the heart on. Then you’re ready to hand-sew all the way around the doll. You can use a blanket stitch or any stitch you’d like. Be sure to leave a gap in an inconspicuous place like under the arm. You’ll use that hole for stuffing the doll. You can stuff it with cotton, batting, fabric, grass, or anything you’d like. I also like to take a felt disk and put a few drops of essential oil. I’ll slip it inside with a few special charms, like feathers or stones or good wishes written on paper, and then finish sewing the doll up completely.

Feel free to personalize them! Add bunny ears. Give them stars for eyes. It’s a wonderful, easy way to express your creativity. They’re so much fun.

Next, we welcome M. Lopes da Silva. Tell us a little about what you write and any upcoming projects you’d like to promote.

I’m M. Lopes da Silva (she/they) – a non-binary, bisexual, white Latinx horror author and artist from Los Angeles. I create queer California horror. I like to dip my hand into other genres now and again, but horror is often at the heart of what I make. I have short stories coming up in IN SOMNIO: A Collection of Modern Gothic Horror and ANTIFA SPLATTERPUNK, respectively; two horror anthologies that are going to pack a lot of great indie horror talent between their covers! IN SOMNIO contains a story of mine about a woman losing pieces of her identity to a haunted house in Malibu, while ANTIFA SPLATTERPUNK is going to publish a fictional story about the pressure of rising anti-homeless and hostile architecture in Los Angeles. I also wrote a book called HOOKER that was published by Unnerving Magazine last year. It’s about a bisexual sex worker who hunts a misogynist serial killer through the streets of 1980s Los Angeles using hooks as her weapons of choice. I’m currently working on a fictional novella about a real apartment building I used to live in that had a strangely high rate of awful things happening on and around it all the time.

What creepy craft or creation have you decided to share with us today? 

Last year I became a soap maker, acquiring my skills first online and eventually through practice. I’ve become very passionate about soap making, and even started a business this year on Etsy called SaltCatSoap. It’s named after my cat, Luca, and my favorite soap additive – salt! Salt is a wonderful natural exfoliant that’s great for hands and feet, but can be rough on more sensitive areas. Always be careful when trying out a new exfoliant, and be sure to discontinue use if you experience ANY irritation on your skin. With that warning out of the way, I’d like to announce today’s craft project: Lady Macbeth Hand Soap!

These blood-red hand soaps have coarse sea salt in them – perfect for removing any damned spots! – and contain cedarwood essential oil and Siberian fir needle essential oil to invoke Birnam wood’s perfume. 

What instructions or tips do you have for our readers who might be interested in trying this craft for themselves? 

Let’s start by assembling our materials!

Necessary Materials:

-First you’re going to need a silicone mold. I chose this one on Amazon, but feel free to use another vendor or mold shape – the important part is that it’s silicone!

-You’re going to need a long-necked pitcher to microwave your soap in. I like using these from Bramble Berry because they can hold two pounds of soap pretty comfortably.

-You’re going to need something to stir your soap with, and I like to use this silicone spatula that I also bought on Amazon (it’s in a set of three, but you only need one).

-You will need a spoon to add salt to your soap. I just salvaged one from a take out container that I like to clean and reuse, but you can use any spoon. Metal is fine, too.

-You will need pipettes to add your essential oils to the soap – one pipette per oil type. I usually buy a very large quantity of pipettes at once, but you can buy them individually, too.

-You will need something to cut soap with! This is a crinkle edge soap cutter, and if you’re going to really get into soap making I recommend having one, but you can just use a kitchen knife.

Ingredients:

-One pound of clear soap base. I recommend using a brand like Bramble Berry to begin with. It’s stable and lathers very well for melt and pour soap (which is what we are making today).

-Approximately 8 ounces of Coarse Sea Salt. Any brand is fine, but I do not recommend using Dead Sea Salt, because it has a tendency to destabilize your soap.

-Suggested Essential Oil Number One: Siberian Fir Needle Essential Oil from Bramble Berry. One of my favorites, it has a strong, pleasant pine fragrance. If you’re not fond of pine notes, you can omit this one.

-Suggested Essential Oil Number Two: Cedarwood Essential Oil from Wooden Wick. Wooden Wick is a little pricey so I actually recommend getting the same thing from Bramble Berry, especially if you’re picking up other items there at the same time. This wood fragrance is a little musky, and if you’re not fond of musk notes, you can omit this one.

-If you really want to get into soap making, I heartily recommend “Da Bomb Liquid Soap Dyes” from Nature’s Garden. These colorants are wonderful for beginners, and easy to use. The colors pop, and there’s a handy color mixing guide posted on their website.

Optional Materials:

-A bottle of 99% Isopropyl Alcohol (for popping tiny bubbles).

A small spray bottle that comes with a tiny funnel to fill said small spray bottle with isopropyl alcohol (also for popping tiny bubbles).

Other Stuff You Will Need:

-A microwave to melt your soap base down.

-A clean surface to cut soap on.

-Nitrile gloves to handle the soap if you plan on giving it to others.

Got all your stuff? Awesome! Now it’s time to get to the making!

Step Zero: BEFORE You Start Making

-Whoops! Before we actually start making soap, we need to do some calculations first. Don’t worry, a website is going to do most of the calculating, but first you need to make a couple decisions – are you going to use one essential oil or two? And how strong would you like these fragrances to come across? Once you know the answer, you can use a Fragrance Calculator like the one on the Bramble Berry website to find out how much essential oil is safe to add to your soap. Every respectable soap making website will have one of these, and you should always use the calculator to figure out how much fragrance or essential oil to use.

-The input field will ask what kind of soap you are making – this is a Melt and Pour Soap recipe, and there are sixteen ounces in a pound.

-We went for a “Medium” fragrance range and added about 0.3 ounces of Siberian Fir Needle Essential Oil to our batch. Feel free to adjust according to your own preferences!

  1. Starting with our clean surface, our soap, and our soap cutter, we unwrap and cut the soap. You want to end up with small cubes that are roughly the same size. I start by cutting the one pound block into four sections.
  1. Then I cut each quarter in half to form two strips.
    1. And each strip into quarters.
  2. Once you’ve cut all your soap into cubes, put it in the pitcher and give yourself a hand.
  3. Now you need to take the soap to the microwave and start melting it down in 30 second intervals with your regular microwave heat setting. Check after each 30 seconds to see if your soap is melted properly. You don’t want to see any cubes left in the pitcher, but if you overcook your soap it will bubble up a lot. You want it to look something like the next picture. Ta-da! The soap in this pitcher has melted.
  4. Now to add essential oils and colorants! These are going to give your soap a lot of its character. Luckily, you followed Step Zero and calculated how much essential oil to add at this point, so you just pick up a pipette and carefully add your desired amount of essential oils to your batch, then stir.
  5. Add colorant one or two drops at a time, stirring as you go, until you get your desired color. I added about 8 drops of Da Bomb Red Dye. Try to mix slowly to avoid a lot of bubbles. Once the colorant and essential oils are added and thoroughly mixed together, it’s time to pour into our silicone mold.
  6. Make sure that you have your mold, the sea salt, and your spoon ready to go for the next part. Optional materials will be used during the pouring, too.
  • Start by pouring a small amount of soap into a mold cavity. Then pause and add a spoonful or two of sea salt.
  • Repeat this process: pour some soap, spoon some salt, until the cavity is full. A soap is poured!
  • Fill up all the cavities in your mold. If you have soap left over in your pitcher, you can save it for another batch later.
  • Now if you want, you can do the stuff that requires optional materials (or just skip to step 11). If you see any tiny bubbles that you don’t want on the back of the bar, spray a little bit of isopropyl alcohol on them and watch them pop away.
  • Now you need to wait between 4-6 hours for the soaps to set up in the mold. Try to keep the soap in an area that’s relatively dry or free from humidity, or you may end up with glycerine dewing (harmless drops of moisture on your soap that resemble sweat).
  • After 4 or 6 hours have passed, check to see if your soap is ready to unmold by gently tugging the silicone mold away from the side of the soap. If it releases with relative ease, it’s ready to go. If not, you might need to let it sit for a bit longer.
  • If the mold pulls away from one side easily, continue to release the soap by tugging all the sides first.
  • Remove the soap from the mold cavities!
  • You’ve now made a soap fit for a special (regicidal) Lady – congratulations! Any Shakespeare fan would be happy to lather with your lovely creation.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed taking a peek at what goes on behind the scenes at SaltCatSoap, and that you get a chance to visit the store. I have a lot of fun designing these, and we release new horror-inspired soap designs (and normal ones, too!) every first Saturday of the month. If you decide to stop on by, we’ll have Lady Macbeth Hand Soap waiting for you in our Soap to Scream For section, and plenty of cat stickers.

And finally, we have Robert Perez. Tell us a little about what you write and any upcoming projects you’d like to promote. 

My work is a tapestry of genres but horror is weaved throughout. Horror is my heart. I currently have something special shortlisted and something to look out for at the end of the year. Follow @_TheLeader on twitter for updates and come say hello!

What creepy craft or creation have you decided to share with us today? 

As a child I watched The Nightmare Before Christmas year round and have the movie lines memorized! As an adult I still cherish this movie! One of my favorite opening lines is from Oogie Boogie, “I am the shadow on the moon at night, filling your dreams to the brim with fright!” 

The idea of the Oogie Boogie costume coalesced because I wanted materials that would be cheap for construction and burlap was perfectly affordable. I already had a bunch of fake bugs stored away for Halloween that I liked to hide in candy bowls, so I planned on incorporating them in the design.

What instructions or tips do you have for our readers who might be interested in trying this craft for themselves?

The costume construction will require burlap (the amount of which varies depending on body type, but since Oogie Boogie is round the more the better)

Aluminum foil

Poster board or other robust cardboard

Fake bugs

Glue gun/ sewing machine/ needle and black yarn

I drew an overalls-like shape onto the burlap, and flared out the legs like a cartoon cowboy to emulate Oogie Boogie’s shape. The arm sleeves and mask I constructed separately. You can use a glue-gun, sewing machine, or needle and black yarn, whichever you feel comfortable using, however a glue-gun may be required to adhere the fake bugs. A black marker can draw stitches onto the burlap and emulate a hand stitched look. Get creative with the bug placement!

For the mask I first cut out an oval from the rigid cardstock. I then smashed a bunch of aluminum foil together to sculpt the face. Try to make Oogie Boogie’s hard brow and protruding mouth, then glue the back of the foil sculpt onto the cardstock oval. Next glue the burlap over the front of the foil mold pressing it into the crevasses for detail to create a truly awesome mask! Be careful when pressing the burlap over the hot glue as it can easily seep through and burn your fingers! The top of Oogie Boogie’s head has a cone line construction inside of which is a great place to hide a fake spider. Glue the spider to a thread of yarn and then glue the end of the yarn within the cone so that if you throw your head forward the spout will flop forward and the spider will dangle out.

Thank you so much to our three talented writers and creators for sharing your work with us this month! I hope it inspired you to create something new in honor of Halloween. 

Until next month, keep it crafty!

Angela Sylvaine is a self-proclaimed cheerful goth who still believes in monsters. Her debut novella, Chopping Spree, is available now. Her short fiction has appeared in multiple publications and anthologies, including Places We Fear to Tread and Not All Monsters. You can find her online angelasylvaine.com.

Special thanks to our logo creator, Maria Abrams abramstheauthor.com

Note: Due to an overwhelming response from talented creators, I am not currently accepting new submissions for Creepy Craft Corner. I will post here in the HWA newsletter and on Twitter when I reopen to submissions. 

Podcasts & the Oral Horror Tradition

By Shannon Lawrence

Horror has a long oral history, from fairy tales being passed down to keep children safe to the notorious radio broadcast of War of the Worlds, which sent people into a panic. Of course, it existed in one form or another long before that, with our cave dwelling ancestors likely telling tales around the fire to keep their children wary of the predators that waited with teeth and claws in the surrounding darkness. Even the monsters of Greek mythology started out as oral tradition before meeting pen and paper.

In our modern era, this is where podcasts come in. No more do people have to turn on the radio at a specific time to hear frightening stories. Podcasts can be streamed on phones and computers, making them conveniently portable and close to hand. They fill the insides of cars while people commute to work and filter through earbuds and headsets wherever there’s a signal. If someone won’t have access to the internet or wi-fi at a specific time, they can always download the next episode of their favorite podcast ahead of time and listen to it offline. While books and movies will always bring a strong current of horror, podcasts are entering their prime…and bringing horror with them.

To get to know some of our members’ podcasts, I asked two of our podcasters a few questions.

Our first podcaster is C.S.W., host of the Incarnation Read podcast.

Tell us about your podcast.

My podcast is called INCARNATION READ (pronounced “red”). It’s a horror anthology podcast of 20-30 minute fictional horror stories, all written, edited, and narrated by myself.

Where can it be found and how often do you post a new episode?

Incarnation Read is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, YouTube, Deezer, Pocket Casts, Breaker, Overcast, Radio Public, TuneIn, Podcast Addict, and Castbox. Episodes are uploaded once every other Saturday, with Season 2’s upcoming premiere slated for Halloween 2021.

What made you decide to start a podcast?

I feel that audio is one of the strongest mediums for eliciting fear, both in the story that is told and in the sounds that accompany it. In the scariest scenes of horror films, what a character hears is often the first thing that truly frightens them, so a podcast (being an audio-first art form), seems to me the perfect medium for such an emulation.

If you could give one reason why someone should listen to your podcast, what would it be?

I suppose it would be that with Incarnation Read, I try to avoid telling the listener a story, and instead make the listener experience the story, all through the use of sound design as a means of storytelling. So if you’re looking to be scared by the very sounds you are hearing, Incarnation Read is for you.

Are there any other horror/true crime podcasts you’d recommend?

My personal favorites are the podcasts Mabel, The Magnus Archives, and Knifepoint Horror.

You can find C.S.W. and the Incarnation Read podcast at the following links:

Website

Twitter: @CSW_Horror

Facebook

Instagram: @IncarnationRead

YouTube 

TikTok: @csw_horror

Our next interview is with Jeamus Wilkes, host of The Jeamus After Midnight Show.

Tell us about your podcast?

My podcast is The Jeamus After Midnight Show, and it covers heady, philosophical, and aesthetic topics in horror through interviews and discussions with horror creatives (writers, artists, poets, performers, and such). I have conversation-starting questions, but I also give the guest the freedom to talk about any of the horror genre things that pique their interest or affect them profoundly in some way. I have no time limit, though most episodes right now seem to be finishing at an hour and fifteen or an hour and thirty minutes.

Where can it be found and how often do you post a new episode? 

It can be found on Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, and on its base at Podbean. There’s also a handy little player in the left column of my Jeamus After Midnight blog. I’m easy to find in a Google search. The podcast stalled out in 2020, but I am about to drop several episodes soon after many hours in editing. After getting over the 2020 hiccup, I hope to post 2-3 episodes a month. If I can get a successful patreon/support campaign going, I hope to do it once a week. I’m obsessive about the audio presentation and editing of it. I have environment- and thematic-based ambient sounds coupled with tight editing throughout the episodes; I don’t just throw up episodes and slap music onto the beginning and end. It’s a creative project I take seriously that takes hours and hours. In the coming weeks and months I will also increase the podcast’s linkage to my baby, the Colorado Horror Channel.

What made you decide to start a podcast? 

Other podcasts that were inspiring, or provoked an inquisitive response in me to research the person, place, or thing they discussed. Other podcasts that were bombastic, annoying, and a bit too fannish helped me in knowing how I didn’t want to produce a podcast. I love having philosophical, spiritual, and deep dig discussions with other horror creatives, and decided to use that to help promote them and to also help selfishly scratch my horror-centric soapbox itch.

If you could give one reason why someone should listen to your podcast, what would it be? 

You will get inspired by many things in every episode you hear. You’ll want to chase down a million things you hear. I try to provide references in episode notes, but you may want to keep paper and pen at hand.

Are there any other horror/true crime podcasts you’d recommend? 

The Evolution of Horror is outstanding, and fun. Projections is an incredible podcast that tackles cinema from a psychoanalytic perspective, so naturally horror and horror-adjacency comes up quite often in its episode subjects and themes. The Burial Plot Podcast is new and great in its tone and theme. Josh’s Worst Nightmare is fascinating in its biological horror approach to discussions. Aside from those I randomly visit podcasts that have fiction committed to an audio presentation. I love storytelling. The original cut of the Creepy podcast episode, “1999,” (based on a creepy pasta posting) is one of the most frightening stories I’ve ever taken in.

You can find Jeamus and The Jeamus After Midnight Show at the following links:

Blog: jeamus.blogspot.com

Facebook: facebook.com/jeamuswilkes/

While not strictly horror, true crime podcasts have taken a popular place among the populace, with listeners enjoying (so to speak) stories about modern day bogeymen, the serial killers and murderers that decorate our headlines, now and in the past. Neighbors, co-workers, family, and friends have long talked in quiet voices about the weird guy down the street or the woman in the decrepit house. When their suspicions are proven out by real-life violence, there’s a satisfaction alongside a tingle of fear, and their eyes slide on to the next strange townsperson who poses a threat. For those who prefer their horror in true crime fashion, I also answered the questions about my true crime and paranormal podcast, Mysteries, Monsters, & Mayhem.

Tell us about your podcast.

My co-host, MB Partlow, and I do the Mysteries, Monsters, & Mayhem podcast, which features stories about true crime, the paranormal, cryptids, and random mayhem that catches our eye. All with a sense of humor.

Where can it be found and how often do you post a new episode?

We can be found pretty much everywhere you get your podcasts, including Apple, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Google, Stitcher, Amazon, Pandora, and our own website, mysteriesmonstersmayhem.com. We put up weekly episodes, and are in our second season.

What made you decide to start a podcast?

I’d been listening to a couple true crime podcasts when the pandemic started, and I thought, “I can do this!” When I contacted MB about it and asked if she wanted to start one of our own, where we could also discuss books, movies, and food, while getting to hang out and chat, she was all in. And a podcast was born. (After tons of research, of course.)

If you could give one reason why someone should listen to your podcast, what would it be?

While we cover a lot of the more popular topics, we also tend to include lesser known crimes, such as historical axe murders, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), the sordid origins of various sayings and myths, cryptozoological creatures, and haunted buildings and people. There was even an episode about a famous maple syrup heist. In other words, we mix things up and try to keep it fresh.

Are there any other horror/true crime podcasts you’d recommend?

The one that got me started was My Favorite Murder, followed closely by The Murder Squad. Small Town Dicks is another good one, as is the Macabre London Podcast.

You can find me (Shannon Lawrence) and Mysteries, Monsters, & Mayhem at the following links:

Shannon Lawrence author website

Mysteries, Monsters, & Mayhem website

Shannon Lawrence author Facebook

Mysteries, Monsters, & Mayhem Facebook

Shannon Lawrence Instagram

Mysteries, Monsters, & Mayhem Instagram

Shannon Lawrence Twitter

So tell us, do you have any favorite horror or true crime podcasts? Post them in the comments!

About the Author: A fan of all things fantastical and frightening, Shannon Lawrence writes primarily horror and fantasy. Her stories can be found in over forty anthologies and magazines, and her three solo horror short story collections, Blue Sludge Blues & Other Abominations, Bruised Souls & Other Torments, and Happy Ghoulidays are available now. You can also find her as a co-host of the podcast “Mysteries, Monsters, & Mayhem.” When she’s not writing, she’s hiking through the wilds of Colorado and photographing her magnificent surroundings, where, coincidentally, there’s always a place to hide a body or birth a monster. Find her at http://www.thewarriormuse.com.


DEAREST by Shannon Lawrence

Copyright @ Shannon Lawrence. “Dearest” was originally published in Tales From the Moonlit Path (August 2019). This story may not be reproduced in any form without the author’s express written permission.

DEAREST

by Shannon Lawrence

My Love,

            The need for your touch is a craving I cannot withstand. I hunger for you each moment we’re apart, imagining your tender hand upon my cheek, your soft, hungry lips upon mine. I want nothing more than to feel the hard lines of your body pressed against me. It won’t be long now until we’re together forever.

            I remember the first time I saw you, sitting at that bistro on the corner of Baptist and Red Oak, your chestnut hair haloed red and golden by the sunlight. You sat deep in conversation, eyes intent, leaning forward. No one could ever say you’re not a good listener.

            Then you smiled.

The first time that smile graced your lips it caressed my insides, stroked every single inch of me. I froze where I stood, letting the heat of you fill me, build to an eruption. You stole my heart in that moment, imprisoned it. We’re soulmates, the passage of time having only made this all the clearer to me.

Nobody can ever keep us apart. We are one.

            My memories have all been tied to you. There is no moment I remember without you in it somehow. You are the sun of my emotional solar system, the bright shining beacon that gets me through each day. My every need is fulfilled by you. I can’t imagine life being just me ever again.

It is you and me forever.

            There have been dark times through these many months. I’m the first to admit that things have not been perfect. Hard times have come and gone. Times I thought we’d be kept apart, that our bodies and minds would be forever estranged. We’ve made it through the bad, survived it and come out the other side. True love brought us through.

            You are my destiny. And I yours.

            Soulmates.

            Flowery words don’t forge relationships. You already know we’re meant to be together, though sometimes your behavior makes me wonder. At times you can be so aloof, so self-involved. I don’t understand why you do this to me, why this selfish beast tears forward from inside you. What have I done other than adore you?

            When you ignore me, fail to acknowledge my feelings for you, fail even to acknowledge me, my presence, it hurts more deeply than you could ever imagine. It shreds my soul, rips my heart out. I have ruined more pillows with the stains of my grief than you could possibly grasp. Love should not be buoyed by a sea of tears. It should be made of laughter, smiles, and kisses. I should be able to come to you when I hurt, not flee, hide, because it is you who hurts me.

            Through much soul searching, I know there’s only one way to fix this, to strip away the distractions and make us one soul as we should be.

I need to take care of Her.

I know all about you two. She may temporarily possess your heart, but it’s on loan from me. Always from me. You have allowed her to steal from me for the last time. I have given you time to work through this on your own, but it seems I allowed you too much rope. It has reached the point that I either let you hang yourself with it or save you from yourself.

And, my love, I cannot let you destroy yourself or us. I must do whatever it takes.

            I look at Her and see what it was that attracted you. Believe me, I do. She’s the type of woman they cast in movies, with a face meant to be on screens and billboards, and curves that would stop traffic. It’s true She bears more physical beauty than I do, but I can give you so much more than She can in the way of love, of consistency, of dedication. I am smarter than She will ever be, and you and I have more in common.

From that moment on the street corner you were mine.

Even as you sat across from Her, we became one.

            When you married Her, I thought I’d never breathe again. I watched, you know. The audience at these weddings is so big that anyone can lose themselves in the crowd. I sat in the back next to your great-aunt Sandy and her breathing apparatus, her wheezing a steady background to despicable vows being exchanged at the front of the church. It took everything within me not to kink that tube as I rolled it between my fingers, to let her suffocate, much as my heart was doing right then. But sense prevailed, and I held myself back. You should be thanking me. That old wretch begged for it, sobbing away, the scent of mothballs a suffocating cloud of putrescence around us.

            You put on a good show with those empty vows you spoke at the altar. That woman you call your wife ate it up, lapping at your voice like a dog at the water bowl. The dress was perfect, and She was flawless in it. I bet Her brain weighs half what a normal person’s does, and it showed in the vapid expression She fixed on you as you spoke those falsities, poisonous vows pouring from your tongue. I nearly threw up on your Uncle Gene, there in the pew ahead of me, his bald dome reflecting the church lighting like a beacon. How I wanted to eradicate that light, to crack his skull, to flail at anyone near me and kill the smiles they wore in their ignorance.

            You looked so handsome in your tuxedo. I want you to wear it when our time comes to wed. We’ll need to exorcise Her stink from it first. Then again, there’s probably no way to clean that off. We’ll find you an identical tuxedo instead. I don’t want a church wedding. Rather, a small wedding on a vineyard is my preference. Rolling hills of green, luscious grapes, the blue sky above us.

            Yes, we’ll make this right. She can take the baby with Her when She leaves, that devilish spawn. No child should be born of false love, but that will be Her problem, not ours. You and I will have our own children, products of real love. Forget that ugly, squalling little wretch. Who knew babies could be so hideous? Ours won’t be. They’ll have your hair and lips, and my nose and eyes. They’ll be healthy and quiet, not like that thing currently sleeping in its crib, snot-stained and foul. I hear it breathing, smell the spoiled milk odor it constantly exudes.

            It’s time for me to clean up this final mess, as I am always forced to do when it comes to you. I’m not sure you understand how much I do for you. How much time I’ve put into this relationship, what an investment I’ve made. It all seems so one sided when I think of everything I’ve done and how little you’ve given. A true relationship takes two, not one slaving away and the other taking advantage.

            That all changes soon.

            Tomorrow, we meet in person. I will finally get to touch your skin, feel that smile directed at me. It will be me you embrace, me you caress, me your voice strokes. I’ve waited all this time for you to look at me the way you look at Her, but without the deception. All this time I have been right here, sometimes inches from you, and you have looked right past me, ignored my presence. Surely you’ve seen me in all those public spaces. I can’t have been invisible to you, not really. You just had to act like I was so She wouldn’t know what existed between us.

            I’m sure it will be a relief for you to be able to stop play acting this way. You want me as much as I want you. I know this. Every touch from Her must feel like sandpaper across your skin. Every laugh must grate on your nerves the way it does on mine. The time for pretending is done. Your freedom awaits, along with our future together. The gods smile down upon us, urging us toward our destiny.

            You’ll know when the time is right, when the clock chimes the time of our first meeting on our anniversary tomorrow. I’m ready for you, for us. As I lie here in the spawn’s closet, listening to the sound of your voices downstairs, I steel myself against the false sounds of happiness, knowing that at every moment you await our meeting, that every touch and laugh is one you intend to share with me.

While neither of us wants it to come to this, I am prepared in case She fights to stay. How deliciously ironic that it may be Her own gardening tools that end Her life. And the baby, if it comes to that. If She dies, so must the baby. After all, we can’t move forward saddled with baggage from the heresy of your flawed relationship. It would be a curse upon us.

Wait for me tomorrow, dearest. For I will come for you once I have finished here, so that we may forge ahead with this love that was meant to be, released from the shackles that have held us for the past two years. Our destiny will be realized.

            All my love,

            The Woman of your Dreams.

A fan of all things fantastical and frightening, Shannon Lawrence writes primarily horror and fantasy. Her stories can be found in over forty anthologies and magazines, and her two solo horror short story collections, Blue Sludge Blues & Other Abominations and Bruised Souls & Other Torments are available from online retailers. When she’s not writing, she’s hiking through the wilds of Colorado and photographing her magnificent surroundings, where, coincidentally, there’s always a place to hide a body or birth a monster. Find more at thewarriormuse.com.

Happy Ghoulidays
Family time can lead to murder and mayhem, especially during the holidays. A turkey with a tale to tell, elves under attack, sorority sisters putting on a killer party, a woman’s desperation to save her family, and a stranger ringing in the New Year. These and other tales of woe await you beneath the mistletoe.

Be careful who you offer a kiss. It may be your last.
Universal Link: https://books2read.com/u/49lnPX

THE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE by Angela Sylvaine

Copyright @ Angela Sylvaine. “The Beautiful People” was originally published in Dark Moon Digest (January 2021). This story may not be reproduced in any form without the author’s express written permission.

THE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE

by Angela Sylvaine

Emmeline hitched the tote bag up her shoulder and raced across the morgue’s tile floor, past row upon row of contestants. Two to four children worked at each station preparing their entries. Forgetting the supplies in the transport had cost Em and her sister valuable time.

“Took you long enough.” Brigitte snatched the bag from Em and dumped the contents on a wheeled metal table.

Em pushed her sweat dampened curls from her forehead and cinched the ill-fitting pants of her scrubs tighter. “I ran as fast as I could.”

“Get started on her nails, then.” Brigitte plugged the air supply unit into an outlet set flush into the floor.

“Everyone else’s entries are so young,” Em said in a harsh whisper.

“Exactly. We’ll get extra points for difficulty.”

Em cast a glance over her shoulder at the contestants beside them. The three siblings seemed focused on their own corpse, a handsome young man in his early twenties. She hoped Brigitte’s idea to use an airbrush to decorate their entry would be enough to push them over the top. It had cost them each a full week’s worth of food in trade.

Em rolled her stool closer to the metal table where their elderly woman laid, hands crossed over her midsection. She looked so peaceful, like she could be asleep. Em had always wished for a grandmother, a kind older woman to comfort and protect her, and said, “I’m going to call her Oma.”

Brigitte shrugged and mixed brown colorant with water in a small glass jar and attached it to the airbrush.

Em wrinkled her nose. “That color is ugly.”

“It’s used to create shadows, like contouring. She’ll look more alive this way.” Brigitte raised an eye brow. “Nails?”

Em grabbed a bottle of glitter lacquer and pulled one of the old woman’s hands closer, cringing at the resistance of her stiff joints and the feel of her cold, papery skin. Em should be used to it by now, given her caste, but death still upset her.

“You’ve got this, Emmy.” Brigitte gave Em’s shoulder a squeeze. “You’re stronger than you think.”

Em straightened and gave a firm nod. She had to be tough now, like Brigitte. This was their only chance to get out of Lowtown. If they won, they would live in one of the glass towers and have beds to lie on instead of dirt floors. They’d be able to sleep the whole night through, never having to take turns or keep watch. Em wouldn’t even need her little homemade knife, the one she’d used to stab the boys who’d tried to hurt Brigitte. 

Em unscrewed the bottle of lacquer and leaned close to apply a layer to each nail.

A loud alarm sounded, silencing the children’s chatter, followed by a voice. “Sixty minutes remaining until judging.”

#

Em gripped Brigitte’s hand, too hard, but her big sister didn’t let go.

“I hope they appreciate our creativity,” Em said. “Maybe we should have done something more traditional.”

“She’s a tribute to the Matriarch. They’ll love it,” Brigitte said.

Still clothed in their scrubs, the sisters joined the rest of the contestants in the fiftieth-floor ballroom, where they filed onto a set of bleachers against the far wall. The room itself was spectacular, boasting a huge crystal chandelier, jeweled sconces on the walls, and three hundred and sixty degree windows offering a view of Uptown Em had never seen before.

Lowtown was a jumble of wood and corrugated metal shacks crowded along dirt roads isolated beyond the wall. Here, she was surrounded by shimmering glass and metal structures, skyscrapers Brigitte called them, rising up in every direction. Lights twinkled in the buildings and scattered across the ground far, far below like a blanket of stars. Em gazed out at the city scape, trying to commit it to memory. Just in case.

After all the children were seated, the double doors of the ballroom opened to let in men in brightly colored tuxedos, orange for the Clergy, green for the Financiers, blue for the Soothers, and so on, and women in gowns adorned with all manner of sequins, feathers, and beads, again in the colors that matched their station. Many carried glasses of Froth, a pinkish bubbly liquid Em had heard stories of but had never seen or tasted.

The crowd applauded as figures began to descend from the blackened cavity of the ceiling. There must have been cables suspending each entry, but they were so thin the bodies looked to be floating. They stopped their descent just a few feet from the floor, and were left to hover, like angels without wings.

A small group of men and women emerged from the larger crowd, each with a white orchid pinned to their collar. The judges.

“Where is she? Do you see her?” Brigitte asked.

Em craned her neck, trying to locate Oma. The other bodies were dressed in the finest clothes and made up to look as if they still lived and breathed, but there, at the center, Oma stood out among the rest, sparkling and reminiscent of royalty.

“How long do you think they’ll take?” Em asked, conversely wanting to get the judging over with and to drag out this night as long as possible.

“It’ll be okay, Emmy.” Bridgette put her arm around Em’s shoulders. “No matter what happens, we still have each other.”

Em blew out a breath, focused on the spectators. She’d never seen a single person who was so beautiful, much less an entire crowd.

A murmur ran through the bleachers as the hanging bodies began to move. One by one they were lifted up and away, disappearing into the ceiling, dwindling the selection from several dozen to just six.

Spot lights illuminated the remaining entries.

Em leapt to her feet. Oma still hovered near the center of the ballroom floor.

All around them, children began to cry. Their entries hadn’t made it. Em’s stomach twisted at the hopelessness in their cries, knew this was all they’d ever see of the city of light.

“Contestants 2, 7, 15, 22, 23, and 31, please take your places beside your entries.”

Em followed Brigitte down the bleacher stairs on legs so shaky it was a miracle she could even walk, but she managed it. They were so close now.

She huddled at her sister’s side as they reached Oma. Brigitte had been the one to suggest they choose the elderly woman to showcase their potential as Preservers, but it had been Em who came up with the designs, reminiscent of the ornate jewelry worn by the Matriarch. Em had pored over the pages of every newspaper she could find, each one sure to have at least one picture of their sublime ruler.

The lights played off the silver scrollwork they’d stenciled around Oma’s eyes, down her neck, across the backs of her hands. The jeweled barrettes they’d used to fasten back Oma’s snow-white hair sparkled under the lights, only outmatched by the silver snakeskin fabric of Oma’s wrap dress.

A man clad in the purple suit of a Decanter stopped to admire their work. “How old was the specimen?” He looked down at them with eyes the exact shade of his suit.

“Oma was eighty-three,” Em said, beaming. 

“Remarkable.” He sipped his Froth and moved on to the next corpse.

The sisters watched and waited as the judges inspected each entry, until they seemed to reach an agreement and called all the remaining contestants to the front. Em wiped her palms on her pants and tried to look as calm as Brigitte. They stood with the other children, twenty of them in all, waiting for the judge’s final decision.

The man in the purple suit touched a button on his collar, activating a hidden microphone. “We had some outstanding entries, but one stood out among the rest as a demonstration of the true beauty that can be achieved in death.” He paused and looed out over the crowd. “Entry 7.”

Em threw herself into her sister’s arms. They’d done it. Everything would be different now.

The remaining contestants were led, sobbing, from the room. Belonging to the Death caste, this had been a once in a lifetime chance to rise up, to become an Uptowner. A Preserver spot was only offered once per decade. Now, the children would return to Lowtown, to the violence and rot, where they’d become Diggers or Cutters. Em felt a flash of pity, then it was gone. She and Brigitte had earned this new life.

“Well done, children. Well done.” The man ushered them forward as the crowd clapped and cheered.

“Thank you, sir.” Em gripped her sister’s arm to stay standing.

The man raised his hand and the applause died. “There is one last challenge you must undertake so we may decide which of you will stay.” His eyes shone with excitement.

“What?” Em asked. “Our entry won, we earned this. Both of us.”

 A tittering wave of laughter rolled through the crowd. Em glared out at the beautiful people, whose faces had cracked and twisted into cruel smiles.

The man held out a vial filled with a vibrant blue liquid. “We must also test that you can preserve the young. One of you will die, and the other will preserve them.”

Em looked at Brigitte. She’d fix this. She’d know what to do.

Her big sister had gone completely still, completely white, as if she were one of the corpses.

“We’ll go back then. Just send us back,” Em said. They’d return to Lowtown, but at least they’d still be together, still have each other.

“I’m afraid that isn’t an option. If you refuse to choose, then both of you will be executed.”

Em began to tremble, all the muscles in her body protesting. She eyed the vial sitting in the evil man’s palm and willed herself to reach out and grab it. Her body was frozen, unable and unwilling to follow her commands, and before she could force herself to move Brigitte snatched the vial, pulled out the stopper, and tipped the blue liquid down her throat.

“No!” Em screamed, lunging for her sister, but one of the beautiful women wrapped an arm around Em’s chest and held her tight. 

Brigitte frowned, licking her lips. “It’s sweet.”

“The choice has been made.” The man in purple swung on his heel to stare at Em.

Em felt a sting in her shoulder and cried out. She looked back at the woman, who now held a syringe in her hand.

“What was that?” Em whispered.

“Just a little paralytic mixed with pain killers. Won’t hurt a bit, dear.”

Brigitte grabbed the man’s arm. “But I volunteered.”

The man in purple laughed, a booming sound that hurt Em’s ears. “We don’t want cowards.”

Em slumped to the floor. I’m going to die, she thought. Tears burned her eyes, scorched a path down her face.

“I’m so sorry, Emmy. I didn’t know.” Brigitte fell to her knees and clasped Em’s hand.

Em hugged her sister. She was the smart one, the pretty one, the brave one. Brigitte deserved to live. And now Em had to be strong.  “Promise you’ll make me look pretty?

“I promise.” Brigitte choked out the words before someone grabbed her, pulled her away.

She was one of the beautiful people now.

The muscles in Em’s body began to stiffen and she struggled to breathe. Fear spiked in her veins, then swam away on a stream of whatever drugs they’d given her. She felt weightless, carefree.

In the back, hovering above the crowd, Oma watched.

And Emmeline joined the angels without wings.

Angela is a self proclaimed cheerful goth who still believes in monsters. Her short fiction has appeared in many publications and anthologies, including Places We Fear to Tread and What One Wouldn’t Do. A North Dakota girl transplanted to Colorado, she lives with her sweetheart and three creepy cats on the front range of the Rockies. You can find her online angelasylvaine.com.

Angela Sylvaine’s debut novella, Chopping Spree, is available now. This fast-paced, fun tribute to slashers, the 1980’s, and mall culture is the perfect fall read. Pick up your copy now in paperback, kindle, or kindle unlimited at Amazon