Friday, November 30, 2018

A Twist in the End

No, I'm not talking about the twists and turns in some of my trickier cat and mouse novels. Nosiree! This is a true tale of torrid trauma. Stay for the shock in the end if you know what I'm talking about (and I think you do).
Years ago, I never bothered settling on a regular doctor. So when the time came that I got sick enough to go (a herculean effort in itself), I'd just pick one at random based on the criteria of location and if my insurance covered it.

Enter Doctor FeelGood (of course that wasn't his real name, and he definitely didn't make me feel good, but I can't remember his name. I'm old!). Located in the Plaza shopping district and covered by my insurance, the good doctor was accepting new patients. Sold!

For you see, I'd developed a strange headache that had lasted about ten days. Naturally I was convinced I had a brain tumor and this was before the days when I started diagnosing myself via the intronets.

Off I trundled, my head a-pounding. When I was finally summoned into the doc's chambers, something didn't seem right. An older, very tall man sat behind a desk in what could best be described as a large, stylish office with an examining table. He gestured for me to have a seat across from him so we could chat.

Very inquisitive, he put me through the ringer.

"What the hell brings you in today?" (Those were his exact opening words.)

"Um, brain tumor, I guess."

"Uh-huh, mm-hmm. I see. What do you do for a living?"

"I'm a graphic artist."

"Interesting. Interesting." He rubbed his chin, very professorial. "So..." His chair swiveled back and forth as he perfected his grilling technique. "Do you ever put hidden faces or messages in any of the designs you work on?"

"I'm sorry?"

"Do you ever hide things in your artwork? You know, like little people or obscene messages?"

"Um, no."

"Okay, here's my card." Reaching across his desk, he handed me a card that read, "Dr. FeelGood, Psychiatrist and M.D."  

Uh-oh. How'd I miss that?

"I don't think you have a tumor," he said, without once physically examining me. "But I'll give you a prescription for some extra-strength Ibuprofen."


"Say, how old are you anyway?" For the first time, he sat up, suddenly interested.

I told him.

"Okay, you're old enough."

For what, I wondered. FOR WHAT?

"Go on over to the examining table, drop your pants, and lean over," he ordered.

"Wait...what?" Clearly my brain tumor had affected my hearing as well.

"You're old enough to get your first prostate exam."

"But...I have a headache, not--"

"Get over there and drop your pants!"

Blindsided, I had no choice but to obey. Next thing I know he's got his finger in my backside, wiggling and twisting.

He finished with a sigh. "Nope. You don't have prostate cancer. But don't sit on the toilet and read and all that crap. You'll get hemorrhoids." (Actually, he proved to be prophetic there, but that's a different tale of horror.)

While I was totally freaked out and in shock, he hurried me out the door. Done and out in seven minutes.

Now I know everything in the human body is connected, but I thought this was taking that idea to an extreme end (if you catch my drift). I need a T-Shirt that says, "I went to the doctor for a headache and all I got to show for it was a finger up my yazoo."

Speaking of twist in the ends (see what I did there?), my short story collection, Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley, is full of 'em! 

Friday, November 23, 2018

Marry Within Your Thermometer Range

For those about to marry, pay heed. Most folks will tell you to go to counseling, seek religious guidance, look at the astrological charts, bla, bla, bla.
None of that matters more than recognizing your future partner's thermostat level and deciding if you can live comfortably within said range. It's that easy.

Once you have the temperature set, you lovebirds are on an amazingly compatibly temperate adventure!

My lovely wife and I lucked out. We're among the 1% (not the rich 1%) who, together, get cold easily. We have no problem coexisting peacefully in warmth.

Unlike my last job where thermostat wars ensued between an evil, menopausal, cocaine-addicted woman and myself. She'd crank the thermostat down to 63 degrees. In Winter. We'd yell through the thin wall...

"G@dd@mmit, I'm cooking in here," she'd scream. "I'm hawt, you stupid, jack-ass son-of-a-bi%#h!"

"Shut up, you crazy biker," I would lob back, very maturely. "Take off your leather jacket!"

Well. The dial went up and down. So did the name-calling. It wasn't pretty. Nor was I proud of my behavior. But when confronted with the prospect of frostbite, I resort to bestial behavior, the call of the wild.

I think my ex-co-worker did eventually die from frostbite.

On the bright side of life, my wife and I are cozy doing 73 degrees in the Summer and even higher in the Winter. Together, we bask in the heat. (Okay, sometimes I sweat, but she positively glistens.)

Let this be a (global) warning: Be aware of your potential partner's thermal tolerance.

There's a whole lotta freezing going on in my novel, Dread and Breakfast. Taking place during one of the worst winter storms in the Midwest's history, that's the least of all the guest's worries!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Stranded on a Terrifying Island with author Cheryl Low

SRW: Author Cheryl Low's terrific new book, Infernal (out by the fine folks at Grinning Skull Press), is a mixture of riveting suspense, action, and horror, perfect for my needs and I'll bet yours, too. Hey, let's "spontaneously" chat her up!

Howdy, Cheryl. Your book is a riveting read. I enjoyed it thoroughly, particularly as I went into it blind, the way I would recommend to all readers. So, readers! Don’t read blurbs and reviews. Just go with it. Please tell the readers what they can expect without tossing the baby out with the bathwater.

CL: Thank you! Infernal is an island horror splashed with nature turned deadly and something oh-so evil lurking between the trees. I am so happy you enjoyed it!

SRW: (Having said that, this interview will be spoilery, so…you’ve been forewarned.) Cheryl, I liked how the book started out as a rousing adventure tale. Then…not so much. The entire genre of the novel seemed to change a quarter through. Intentional?

CL: Definitely! I like getting to know the characters before things go bad and I think the island/ocean setting really builds something eerie. There’s already a sense of danger, because really, the world was dangerous even before the supernatural element. 

SRW: In the opening chapter, you refer to the ocean as female. I know sailors and songs of the sea have been attributing all things nautical as feminine since the dawn of apes. Is this a comment on female empowerment, particularly since the forces of nature play such an important role in the book? Or am I reading way too much into it?

CL: Honestly, it just came naturally. Like many others, I attribute female pronouns to forces of nature. Maybe it’s a touch of ego on my part? I like writing female characters that are forces of nature themselves, so it seems only right.

SRW: Cheryl, you’re from Sweden, yeah? To my knowledge, there aren’t too many jungles in Sweden. What was the inspiration of this novel?

CL: Ha! No, no jungles in Sweden. And I grew up in Northern California—again, with no jungles to be found, just a whole lot of forests. I have been watching nature programs since I was a kid, though and I never miss a shark week. 

SRW: Speaking of jungles, my wife and I spent time earlier this year in the Amazon rain-forest (I like to lift a snooty pinky finger and say, “Back in the jungle…”) Your book captures the sound, smell, sight, and—most importantly—the absolute fear of being in a totally wild environment. Have you been to a jungle?

CL: Never! I love oceans and jungles in that far away, never to be experienced, sort of way. I wrote what I fear/love in Infernal. You will never catch me on a boat, shark-diving, or trudging through uncharted wilderness. I don’t have a single adventurous bone in my whole body.

SRW: Good! The world needs more couch explorers.
Quick! Word association game! Nature!

CL: Struggle. Power. Inescapable.

SRW: What’s the opposite of Nature?

CL: Parking lots!

SRW: (I would've gone with air-conditioning.) I toss these rapid fire questions at you, Cheryl, in hopes of understanding you better. Frankly, I know the answers from your book. Just wondering if you—as a person and separated from your characters—believe in such challenging personifications of what rules us.

CL: Honestly, I think it depends on the day. Sometimes I think we’re governed by some deep and epic fate, souls bounding throughout time and space—a part of nature even when we’re at odds with it. And then other days, I think everything is a random occurrence and we should just be happy we got our moment of existence in a time and place with cookies, wifi, and air conditioning.
SRW: Okay, I’m getting a bit lofty up in here. Enough! (Ahoy, maties, thar be spoilers ahead in this ruff question! Arrrr!). So, Cheryl, you spent some time building characters before the crap hit the fan. You set up a really interesting bad guy. I love bad guys. Wait, wait, don’t get me wrong! I hate ‘em like I’m supposed to, but they’re usually very entertaining. Your poorly mannered jack-ass was the first casualty. As a writer I think you could've got more mileage outta him. SO...why?

CL: Because he was exactly that, a poorly mannered jack-ass, and at the first sign of trouble he saved himself and only himself. I love stories where characters are put to the test and I do enjoy when someone turns out to be better or different than expected, but Oliver was not one of those characters. He was exactly that guy—we’ve all met him before—and we should never trust him in an emergency.

SRW: I gotta ask… Were you a fan of the American show, “Lost?” This reads like the horror-driven second-inbred-cousin version. That’s a compliment! Horror, yay!

CL: Ha! I watched the first few seasons back when it aired. I really did like the set up—a bunch of strangers stranded together on an island. I wonder if that had some influence on this…

SRW: There are many parts of your novel that leaves the reader hopeless. I think that’s the true meaning of horror fiction, honestly. Maybe even the nature of today’s world. But it’s a thing I alternately seek out and despise because it makes me feel ill. Your book accomplished both of those things. Congrats! How do you define horror?

CL: For me, horror is a mix of excitement and anxiety. It’s stressful, but in a good way! And it suggests situations where we’re left wondering how we would handle it. Would I go outside if I heard that sound? Would I run up the stairs? Would I open that obviously cursed box or touch the Ouija board? Could I save my husband? Could I outwit a witch? Repel a ghost? Survive an apocalypse? The realistic answer is usually “no” but it’s still fun to think about.

SRW: From my admittedly poor recall, there’s not a single spider to be found in this jungle tale of terror. That means I can recommend the book to my wife. I’m curious…are you an arachnophobe or did the eight-legged varmints just never occur to you?

CL: Oh no! I’m actually so terrified of spiders that it never even occurs to me to put them in writing. Ever. I honestly never thought of it until now, but in all my life, all the little stories and books I’ve written, there has never been a single spider in any context.

SRW: What scares you, Cheryl? Not as a writer, but as a person. I ask, because, generally, I try to write about things that scare me. Stupid, but therapeutic.

CL: All sorts of things scare me! Both reasonable and completely absurd. I do write about some things that frighten me, like the ocean and sharks and being hunted or eaten (reasonable). But I’m also scared of being on boats, even canoes on pleasant little lakes (absurd). Oh! And people with wide mouths!

SRW: Wide mouths...brrrr. Did you hate the heroine in your book? You certainly put her through the ringer!

CL: Not at all! I really enjoyed writing Val. She’s capable and comfortable with herself. If I didn’t like her so much, she probably wouldn’t have made it as far as she does in Infernal. (Spoiler avoidance there.)

SRW: What’s up next on your keyboard? I’ll be there to read it. Thanks for putting up with my grilling. I imagine you’re well-done by now. Tell everyone where they can find your book.

CL: I just started writing a ghost story I’ve been planning for a while—a little bit romantic and a lot bloody. I think the process of first writing a story is my favorite, so I’m over the moon right now. And this was such a fun interview! Thank you so much for having me!
Please check out Infernal on Amazon and take a second to add it to your Goodreads

Friday, November 9, 2018

The Problem with "Jonesy"

There are a lotta issues going on with "Jonesy."
That's "Jonesy," the guy smiling even though bleeding out.
Okay, let's break 'em down.

First of all, outside of war films from the '30's through the outliers of the late '70's, I've never heard this nick-name. Where'd it come from?

More importantly, "Jonesy" always dies in the movies. ALWAYS. God bless you future Jonesies, 'cause you've got about as much chance of surviving in a movie as a "Red Shirt" does in Star Trek.

My research assistant, Prospect Google, looked up Jonesy. She found out it means "sorta cute." I fired her. My next research assistant, Professor Google, found out it's a nickname of the suffix Jones. Duh.

I'm currently looking for a new research assistant.

Okay, we all know women and men named Jones, right? How many of them do you call "Jonesy?"  Do you walk past fellow employees at your business, saying, "Hey, what's up, McCallistery? How're you doing today, Sheldsteiny? Oh, look out, here comes,  Smithy! Your time to pay the coffee fund, Feldsteiny!"

Of course not. For the love of God, please let Jones be Jones.

If nothing else, it will save his life. 

*This endorsement has been paid for by The Right To Jones' Life Foundation. 

Ain't no Jonesies in Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley! If you can find one, you've just won the right to punch me in the face. Accept the challenge!

Friday, November 2, 2018

The Devil Made Me Do It by Catherine Cavendish

In my novel – Damned by the Ancients – a young girl with acute vision is able to see what others cannot and becomes possessed by an evil spirit. My book is, of course, fiction, but in real life there are numerous documented cases of demonic possession. One infamous one led to the first time being possessed by the devil was entered as a serious defense in a murder trial. The judge dismissed the plea but the trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson will forever remain in history as a unique case. As well as a media circus.

The trial became known as ‘The Devil Made Me Do It’ case and involved the killing of a landlord, Alan Bono in Connecticut.

Eleven year old David Glatzel lived with his family, mother, father, brother Carl and sister Debbie, who soon became joined by her fiancé, nineteen year old Arne Johnson, in a rented home.

According to accounts, David Glatzel recalled that, on his first visit to the rental property that was to become their home, an old man appeared to him warning him of dire events that would happen to them should they move in. His sister and her fiancé had initially thought David was using his assertions as a way of getting out of cleaning the place up prior to their move, but David insisted bad things would happen to the couple if they set foot over the threshold and moved in.
David began to experience terrible nightmares from which he would awaken, screaming about a ‘Beast Man’ with jagged teeth, pointed ears, and horns, and also claimed to see a terrible demon who spoke to him in Latin and threatened to steal his soul. David remained the only one who could see the ghost although the rest of the family did hear strange noises coming from the attic.

As David’s nightmares became worse, he began suffering from terrible visions during the day as well as at night. Gone was the happy-go-lucky young boy he had been. He developed unexplained scratches and bruises. Debbie and her mother claimed they had seen him choking as if invisible hands were throttling him. Meanwhile the boy began to growl, hiss, bark and recite passages from Milton’s Paradise Lost and the bible. He also spoke in unfamiliar languages. 

After twelve days, renowned demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren (of Amityville and The Conjuring fame) were summoned and they witnessed a black mist forming around David – evidence of an evil presence. It was alleged that he was possessed by 43 demons. During the multiple exorcisms which followed – each performed by a Catholic priest – David levitated, convulsed, and even stopped breathing for a time. He also predicted what would happen to Alan Bono. In October 1980, the Warrens contacted the local Brookfield police to warn them of a dangerous situation developing around David Glatzel.
Meanwhile the exorcisms had resulted in an unfortunate turn of events for Arne Johnson. Normally mild-mannered and personable, he was attacked by one of the demons that fled from David’s body. It proceeded to cause him to behave in outlandish and increasingly dangerous ways, even wrecking his car by forcing it into a tree. Fortunately, Johnson was uninjured and he returned to the rented home. Here he examined an old well which was supposed to house the demon. Sure enough, the demon appeared and this is the last time Johnson claims he was lucid. The demon took possession of him at this point and from then on, his behaviour became increasingly more unstable and frightening. 

Debbie continued to stand by him although the couple decided to move out of the house into a flat owned by Alan Bono. (Debbie had recently gone to work for him as a dog groomer.) Soon after they moved in, Johnson’s behaviour started to deteriorate until it mirrored that of David’s before the exorcisms. Debbie witnessed her fiancé falling into a trance-like state, barking and hallucinating, yet having no recollection of anything untoward when he returned to normality.

Then on February 16th, 1981, Alan Bono took his sister Wanda, employee Debbie, Arne and Debbie’s nine year old cousin Mary to lunch. Bono drank heavily. The group returned to the dog kennels after lunch but Bono had become irrational. He grabbed Mary and refused to let her go. This angered Johnson whose behaviour became wild, animal-like. He growled, spat and set upon Bono with a five inch pocket knife, stabbing him repeatedly.  Bono died of his injuries a short time afterwards. 

Lorraine Warren stated to police on the day following the killing, that Johnson had been possessed by a demon at the time of the stabbing. Once the media got hold of the story, they went wild. All roads led to Brookfield, Connecticut – a town which had never before experienced a murder.

Johnson’s lawyer, Martin Minnella decided to go with a plea of demonic possession and consulted with lawyers and exorcism specialists all over the world. He even threated to subpoena the priests who conducted David’s exorcisms if they refused to co-operate with the defence of his client. Meanwhile, the Warrens insisted every word was true, resulting in a movie deal, books, interviews and other coverage.

The trial began on October 28th 1981 in The Superior Court in Danbury, Connecticut where the plea of not guilty by virtue of possession was summarily dismissed by Judge Robert Callahan who asserted that such a claim could never be proved. The jury were instructed to not even consider it.
On November 24 1981, the jury convicted Johnson of first degree manslaughter and he was sentenced to 10-20 years in prison. He served five.
All these years later David Glatzel and his brother Carl have denounced the Warrens’ version of events and even sued authors and publishers of books about the alleged possession.
Arne and Debbie, however, take a different line. Debbie stood by Arne and the couple married. They support the Warrens’ version of events and say that Debbie’s brothers are merely looking to cash in.

Whatever the truth of it, David appears not to be troubled by any demons now.

In Damned by the Ancients, the Mortimers’ happy life is about to be turned upside down when little Heidi sees something in the cellar…


Vienna, 1908

Gabriele Ziegler is a young art student who becomes infatuated with charismatic archeologist Dr. Emeryk Quintillus. Only too late does she realize his true designs on her. He is obsessed with resurrecting Cleopatra and has retained the famed artist Gustav Klimt to render Gabriele as the Queen of the Nile, using ashes from Cleopatra’s mummy mixed with the paint. The result is a lifelike portrait emitting an aura of unholy evil . . .

Vienna, 2018

The Mortimer family has moved into Quintillus’s former home, Villa Dürnstein. In its basement they find an original Klimt masterpiece—a portrait of Cleopatra art scholars never knew existed. But that’s not all that resides within the villa’s vault. Nine-year-old Heidi Mortimer tells her parents that a strange man lives there.

Quintillus’s desire to be with Cleopatra transcends death. His spirit will not rest until he has brought her back from the netherworld. Even if he has to sacrifice the soul of a child . . .

Damned by the Ancients is available from:

About the author:

Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Catherine Cavendish is now the full-time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories. Cat’s novels include the Nemesis of the Gods trilogy - Wrath of the Ancients, Waking the Ancients and Damned by the Ancients, plus The Devil’s Serenade, The Pendle Curse and Saving Grace Devine.

Her novellas include Linden Manor, Cold Revenge, Miss Abigail’s Room, The Demons of Cambian Street, Dark Avenging Angel, The Devil Inside Her, and The Second Wife

She lives with her long-suffering husband, and a black cat who has never forgotten that her species used to be worshipped in ancient Egypt. She sees no reason why that practice should not continue. Cat and her family divide their time between Liverpool and a 260-year-old haunted apartment in North Wales.

You can connect with Cat here: