Tag Archives: Dean Koontz

Her Parents’ Masks

I know I haven’t updated in a long time. I finished The Wulf and the Tiger – now simply called WULF – and have been sending it to agents, as well as working on ideas for its sequel, SLADE. Because of this I haven’t really been writing anything else and haven’t had the motivation to put anything else up, invested in this new series as I am. I also didn’t want to add any more WULF material here, if I still have a thin hope it might be published one day.

That changed today where I wrote a mini story called Her Parents’ Masks, based on something that I was scaring myself visualising last night in bed. I hope you like it and I’m not too out of practice.

 

Her Parents’ Masks

By Set Sytes

 

They were huge and looked like bison heads, if bison had at some point mated with cockroaches and vague dark crustaceans. The thick brown hair obscured the eyes, but she wasn’t allowed to brush it out of the way. She’d known that from the beginning. Seeing the world through curtains was the only way she’d ever seen it. There was a small hole under the long fur of the snout; you had to put the fork or the straw back and up, so even when they fed she couldn’t see her parents’ mouths, and even tipping her head back in the mirror she couldn’t make out her own lips.

At thirteen years old Aran had never, ever seen her real face and she had never, ever seen those of her parents.

The masks stayed on. Always. In the bath. Asleep. There were no doors inside the house, no privacy in which to reveal herself. She struggled to remember clearly what had happened when she had questioned it all when she was younger. She only remembered her parents’ responses as a feeling, that of dread and implied threat. Whispers that circled in her mind, and sometimes words would appear out of the fog, words like cut and pain, but whether these were words that had actually been spoken to her or merely given form in her mind she didn’t know.

Her parents had never spoken above a whisper, and they rarely spoke at all. She thought she’d get used to those silent bison-roach heads looking down at her every day, that there would come a time when they would no longer fill her with fear. She thought it when she was eight and shivering in bed, feeling them out there, downstairs, or on the landing, always listening and watching. She thought it last year, sitting at the dinner table and hearing her father’s head whisper – the only thing said all meal – that she was a good girl.

She thought she’d get used to it. She hoped. But the fear never went.

What did she look like? She only knew human faces from pictures in books. She’d never left the house and its grounds, and as far as the eye could see there were no other houses. There were cars in the drive, and sometimes her parents would drive off, and come back with food. She wondered where they went, and if they took the heads off when they’d left her sight. Did other families wear these masks, or different ones? Did they wear masks at all? Were other children afraid of their parents?

It was a Saturday night in late autumn when she couldn’t take it anymore, and she crept out of the house into the garden while her parents were upstairs and she took the mask off.

The feeling of the wet wind on her face, the coldness. The sight of the undraped world. The stink of the mask she’d never really noticed until it retreated. She was shivering again, but not out of fear this time. She took in deep clean breaths for the first time in her life and shuddered, marvelling at the air and how it bit at her teeth. She reached up slowly and touched her skin. It felt soft and warm and damp. She started to run her hands all over herself, catching her tears on her fingertips.

This is what it’s supposed to be, she thought. We’re not supposed to wear masks.

I need a mirror. I have to have a mirror.

She turned back to the house, and saw the shaggy dark bison heads of her parents watching her from the window.

She cried out and it sounded like the whimper of a small animal shot in the dark. It felt like spiders were marching in formation up her spine. She picked up her mask and shoved it back on her head and ran back to the door, but she knew it was too late. They’d already seen. They saw everything.

Over the next three days, they didn’t leave her alone. They’d stopped speaking entirely, but in every room she was in they were there. They stood at her bedside looking down at her as she tried to sleep. She didn’t know what was worse, keeping her eyes open or closing them and knowing those heads were still there watching. She didn’t sleep.

By the third night she felt like she was going mad. Just moving around the house felt like moving in a nightmare. Everything was hazy and clipped, things jumped out at her. She slipped on the stairs and her parents were there watching until she picked herself up again.

At midnight on the third night her parents were gone from her room. She didn’t know when they’d left, because she’d started to see them in the shadows. She wanted to feel relief that they’d gone, if only for a while, but the truth was it was too late.

She stood up and took off her mask once more, and placed it on the bed. There was a mirror in the bathroom and that was where she was going. She didn’t care anymore. Even the fear couldn’t hold her.

She left her room and met her father in the low light of the landing. He was standing outside the bathroom, at the top of the stairs, facing her. His arms hanging loose at his sides like they always did.

There was silent, frozen dread, for long, far too long, just her and him standing on the landing. And then the words crawled into her ears, like they were the first words ever spoken. ‘You’ve been a bad girl, Aran,’ her father whispered.

She was struck with a new wave of terror, fragile human face confronted with this monstrous beast. He wasn’t moving, but before she knew it she was, moving in a surge of fear and anger and desperation.

Her shove sent him tumbling down the stairs. She heard a crack as he hit the bottom and that huge head lolled.

For a minute she couldn’t move. She’d never been so scared, her hands were all over her face and she couldn’t get air. She wanted to bite her fingertips off. Everything was at once sharp and swaying.

She took the first step down. Then another.

He wasn’t moving. A shard of moonlight from the front door of the house lay cold and blue on his fur.

She felt like she was descending into Hell, some pit of nightmare, of bison beards like wet mud shuffling in the night, of shifting plastic carapaces and twitching antenna. At the bottom of the stairs things swam in the moon-sliced shadows, and in the corners of cabinets and between her father’s legs she glimpsed the shells of crustaceans that clicked their way from out of the void.

There was no sound. The house had been drained of it. Even her own panic had been muted, and she couldn’t know if she was still drawing breath.

She stood at the feet of her father and she bent down and she lifted the bison-roach head off his face.

She screamed and fell back against the stairs. There was a huge staring eye that took up almost the whole face. Stretched lips ran in a split grin from corner to corner. The skin was wet rubber. Inside the gap in the lips there was a very real grin like a wolf.

Her father stood up like he was made of sticks at the same time as her mother joined him out of the darkness of the next room. She too wore that bald and earless rubber mask with the giant eye and stretched smile. She too was grinning under it, the bison head clutched in her arms. They stood next to each other and looked at their daughter as she scrambled backwards up the stairs.

She stopped halfway up, paralysed by those faces as they continued to grin.

‘You’re not an adult yet, Aran,’ her father whispered through his teeth, as he started to climb the stairs.

 

bff3773017571269c9fb4f89552f5984

Ianthine Interviews: Brian Moreland

It was my pleasure to interview the horror author Brian Moreland.  You can find him at his website, where you can read a wealth of his stories,  or by following him on Twitter.

 

Brian Moreland All Books horizontal band

When did your obsession with horror start, and what were (and are) your biggest influences for your own writing (whether other authors, films, music, art etc.)?

For me, my fascination with horror started from a combination of things. I remember loving monsters at a very young age. I watched scary movies on TV every weekend, and got scared out of my wits seeing movies like Alien, Jaws and Prophecy (1980 version) at the theater. I always enjoyed a good ghost story with my friends, and exploring spooky places like caves and abandoned houses. I collected monster toys, read magazines like Famous Monsters in Film Land and Fangoria. I also read my share of comic books, the creepier the better. Then in my teen years I discovered Edgar Allan Poe, Stephen King, James Herbert and Clive Barker and was opened to new worlds through horror fiction. Maybe all of that interest in scary things warped me, but I somehow linked fun and adrenaline rush with confronting things that scared me. I would say because I had the most fun reading horror fiction, I decided to write some of my own stories and discovered writing and making up your own world of characters is an absolute blast

What do you find inspires you most for writing horror? Do you find the real world has more inspiration to offer than your imagination?

It’s a mixture of both. I like real-world drama, so I do my best to write about characters with real, everyday problems. I also have a wild imagination and the supernatural elements, the monsters and villains are mined from that dark place in my mind where nightmares live.

I get inspired by lots of things–unsolved mysteries, legends about mythical monsters, and watching movies.

What are your favourite horror movies? Favourite director?

Aliens, John Carpenter’s The Thing, Dawn of the Dead, the Star Wars Saga [Set: That Wampa was pretty scary…!], The Shining. My favorite director is James Cameron. The guy is a visionary.

What are your favourite ever books (of any genre)? Favourite author?

I love reading Dean Koontz, Robert McCammon, Richard Laymon and Clive Barker. Clive Barker and Koontz are my favorite and most influential.

Favorite books:

Phantoms and Watchers by Dean Koontz

The Night Boat, Stinger and Swan Song by Robert McCammon

Island, The Cellar and The Woods Are Dark by Richard Laymon

The Books of Blood: Volumes 1-6 by Clive Barker

Short story collections by H.P. Lovecraft

Do you aim to scare and otherwise provoke yourself with your own writing, or does your own writing not affect you like that? Should a horror author try and scare themselves first if they wish to scare their audience?

Absolutely I write to scare myself. My books are emotionally-driven and I write from my characters’ points of view. In order for my characters to feel scared, I must feel it too. So I write scenes that terrify me and hope that transfers to the page to the reader can experience what the characters are feeling.

What is your personal favourite of all the books you’ve written? The book you are most proud of.

Definitely Dead of Winter. I had such a blast writing it. It was my second time writing a historical horror novel (my first being Shadows in the Mist). In Dead of Winter I had fun doing all the research of fort colony life in 1870 Canada. I learned about the history of Canada’s fur trade, the superstitions of the local Ojibwa tribe, discovered some strange real-life mysteries involving cannibalism and Jesuit priests, and how to exorcise a demon. When writing the book, I let my imagination run wild. I came up with several complex characters that I fell in love with. It’s a detective mystery, exorcist story, demon and cannibal story, and historical adventure all rolled into one. Dead of Winter continues to be a fan favorite and my bestseller to date.

The ‘creator’s curse’ is the idea that one learns and improves while developing a project (in this case, writing a book), and so always finishes a step ahead from when they started, thus are always disappointed with the strength of their previous project, now and always believing themselves of doing better than before. Are you familiar with this curse with your own writing? Are you always pursuing producing something better than your last?

I always strive to outdo my previous books. I’m always challenging myself to be a better storyteller.

Following on from the last question, are there any books of yours that you are displeased with, that you would like to one day rewrite?

No, I worked on all of them meticulously until I felt they were the best books I could write. They’re not all perfect. Like humans, they have flaws, but I love every one of my books.

How long have you been writing for? Did you always want to be an author?

I’ve been writing for over 25 years, since college. That’s when I fell in love with reading books and decided I wanted to be an author.

What is a passion of yours that has absolutely nothing to do with horror?

Watching sports. I love NFL football, NBA basketball and World Cup soccer. I also love cooking. I can make a zesty pot of Texas chili.

I nearly always write a story while visualising it as a movie. While writing do you visualise the scenes played out as if you were watching a movie?

Yes, I studied screenwriting in college and that experience taught me how to write dramatic scenes with action and dialogue. All my books are scene-driven and are designed to play like a movie in the reader’s mind. I think a few of them would translate well to the big screen.

Which of your novels or short stories would you most like to be made into movie? Any thoughts as to who would play the main characters?

I’d say it’s a tie between Dead of Winter and The Witching House. I’ve already entertained movie offers on both books. I see Dead of Winter as more of an epic series that could span a few seasons. I’d love HBO or Showtime to produce it.

The Witching House, which is about a group of urban explorers who sneak into a haunted house with a bloody history of witchcraft, almost reads like a movie script. It would be a blast to see The Witching House produced by the right director and watch it on the big screen. My free short story, The Girl from the Blood Coven, a prequel to The Witching House, would also be cool to see as a movie.

There was some strange dialogue in The Girl from the Blood Coven courtesy of the character Abigail. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the otherworldy langagues spoken in the works of Lovecraft. Am I completely off-base?

I think you’re spot on. H.P. Lovecraft was a big influence on me during my early years of reading horror fiction and sometimes I attempt to emulate his style. I would be honored to think that Abigail Blackwood’s dialogue was channeled from his genius. There is a point in the story where she sings a Gaelic song, which I found haunting. Another story that was heavily influenced by Lovecraft is my novella The Vagrants.

Do you think now is the time of the self-published author, or are the downsides still too great?

Now is an excellent time for indie authors to self-publish. I originally published my first novel, Shadows in the Mist, and that kick-started my career. I’ve since sold the publishing rights to that book to four different publishers and published my other books through Samhain Horror.

Are you disciplined with your writing? Do you make yourself write every day? Or are you a brilliant procrastinator?

I’m a brilliant procrastinator. I’d love to write every day, but my career currently involves working on client projects that demand my time and focus. When I really get into a book and have lots of free time, I can write for long stretches.

What is your personal most effective remedy for writer’s block?

Funny, I wrote an article called “7 Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block.” I’ll give you the first one of that list.

1.) Step away from whatever you’re writing and do anything that’s creative. Paint pictures, write poetry, design images in Photoshop, make a scrapbook or collage, or if you’re masculine, build something in the garage. Work on another creative project for a few hours or days and then go back to writing. When I’m stuck, I paint paintings or work on my website or blog. Jumping to other projects really activates my creativity. The key is to keep exercising the creative part of your brain and eventually you’ll tap back into the flow of writing.

For the other 6 techniques, you can read the article here.

If you had to be one of the classic Universal monsters for the rest of your life – The Mummy, Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolf-Man etc. – which would you be?

The Invisible Man. I’d love to be able to make myself invisible at will.

My dear old mother just can’t understand how people can be attracted to all these dark, bloody and morbid stories, whether it be books, movies, videogames or art. Would you have an answer for her? Why are you drawn to such things?

I had always loved monsters ever since I was a little boy. Whenever I had paper and crayons, I’d draw monsters–Frankenstein, Wolfman, Dracula, and my favorite the Creature from the Black Lagoon. From age 7-12, I used to watch monster movies with my mom every Saturday when one of our local TV stations played a double creature feature. These were all the black and white horror movies of the Fifties and Sixties–Godzilla, Day of the Triffids, the original The Thing–and some of the color movies of the Seventies like Squirm, Snowbeast, Horror Express and Let’s Scare Jessica to Death. I collected monster toys and comic books, and was drawn to werewolves, vampires, aliens and any other creatures that roamed in the shadows. For me, watching scary movies is an adrenaline rush, a couple of hours of absolute fun and terror.

Zombie survival situation. You get a ranged weapon and a melee weapon – what do you choose?

M-16 with grenade launcher and a Samurai sword. Eat this, Zombies!

You’re suddenly inside your own stories. Fight or flight?

Fight. When facing monsters, all my characters typically hunker down and battle to the bloody end. Given some weapons, I would do the same.

Are you a ‘beginning to end’ kinda guy, or when you write do you do it completely out-of-order and just fit it together?

I start from the beginning and will write several scenes in order, but then about midway through the book I start to bounce around, revising previous scenes or jumping ahead to later scenes I’m itchin’ to write.

Finally, what can you tell us about your next book?

I’m currently working on a collection of short stories, a novella and plotting my next novel. Since it’s too early to go into details about those stories, I’ll leave you with a description of my most recent release The Vagrants.

While most of my books are set in the woods, The Vagrants takes place in Boston. It’s a mix of Clive Barker and H.P. Lovecraft.

Here’s the synopsis:

Beneath the city of Boston evil is gathering.

Journalist Daniel Finley is determined to save the impoverished of the world. But the abandoned part of humanity has a dark side too. While living under a bridge with the homeless for six months, Daniel witnessed something terrifying. Something that nearly cost him his sanity.

Now, two years later, he’s published a book that exposes a deadly underground cult and its charismatic leader. And Daniel fears the vagrants are after him because of it. At the same time, his father is being terrorized by vicious mobsters. As he desperately tries to help his father, Daniel gets caught up in the middle of a war between the Irish-American mafia and a deranged cult of homeless people who are preparing to shed blood on the streets of Boston.

Thanks for the interview Brian!

Set, thanks so much for having me as a guest on your site.

Brian

———————————————————————————————-

Brian Moreland at Killer Con 2013

Author Bio: Brian Moreland writes novels and short stories of horror and supernatural suspense. His books include Dead of Winter, Shadows in the Mist, The Girl from the Blood Coven, The Witching House, The Devil’s Woods, and The Vagrants. Brian lives in Dallas, Texas where he is diligently writing his next horror book.

Website: http://www.brianmoreland.com/

Follow on Twitter: @BrianMoreland

Like Brian’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/HorrorAuthorBrianMoreland

Brian’s blog: http://www.brianmoreland.blogspot.com

Now available in audio book: The Devil’s Woods and The Witching House.