Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Vampire's Day Soiree 2018: The Arrival of Narkissa Laveau

Hello there, Dear Readers! It has been a long, cold winter here in Northwest Arkansas but we have finally arrived at a very special date. It's February 14. Most folks around these parts like to celebrate this date as Valentines Day. For me and certain other writers and bloggers the fourteenth means something else. It's time once again for the seventh annual Vampire's Day Soiree, hosted as always by my blogging friend Holly Strange on her excellent blog entitled, Holly 's Horrorland.

As I've mentioned before, The Vampire's Day Soiree always takes place on Valentine's Day as an alternative for those of us with a darker outlook on things. Besides, what could possibly be more romantic than an encounter with the right vampire? No doubt, vampires are dangerous, blood-thirsty creatures, but they are also sensual and romantic. 

If you're a blogger and would like to participate in this event, just click on the above link or the link provided at the end of this post, and it will take you back to Ms. Holly's site. Once there, simply follow the easy instructions to get signed up, and then create something on the topic of vampires on your own blog. Finally, make sure that you link back to Holly's Horrorland so that those who hadn't visited there yet will have the opportunity to see not only Holly's, but everyone else's contribution to the day's event. Also, you are free to use the above art work on your blog in order to signify that you're involved with Holly's celebration. After all, she goes through a certain amount of trouble providing unique art for every event, and this is the seventh annual. So why not take advantage of her labor of love? 

That said, it's time for my personal contribution; and as always, I am providing you the reader with an excerpt from one of my short stories. This year's contribution comes from one of my more recent tales entitled The Arrival of Narkissa Laveau, which appears in my second book called The Darkness Beyond the Misty Veil: More Tales of the Macabre.

A little background is in order. A soon-to-graduate university student named William gets on Facebook one day to discover a new friend request. As he investigates its source, he discovers that it originated from a dark but beautiful woman, who plays the part of a vampire for internet productions. He accepts her request, and over time, can't get her out of his mind. When summer arrives, he discovers upon her invitation for a visit, that she lives only a few hours away in a small Ozark town called Fox Grove. He is to meet her in the local cemetery after dark. Although he believes that she is carrying her acting role a bit too far, he agrees to the meeting. We pick up the story as he awaits Narkissa's arrival at the cemetery. 

The late afternoon heat had tempered somewhat by the time William walked into the cemetery. Evening had arrived. With its presence came the loud buzzing of cicadas emanating from the treetops and the cawing of crows, warning their brethren of his arrival. He gazed around the graveyard, hoping that Narkissa might have arrived ahead of him, but there was no sign of her.
She did tell me to meet her after dark, he reasoned. It's early yet. So, I might as well find a way to amuse myself until she arrives. He decided to explore the cemetery, and to see what he could learn about the earlier residents of Fox Grove.
He took note of a boarded up old church with its steeple and bell tower situated on one side of the cemetery. As he walked in the midst of the deceased, a feeling of sadness overtook him. The epitaphs carved into the stone markers told the tales of those who had come before. These had once lived as he lives. Yet, they are long departed; their memory nearly extinguished. Some had left this world at tender young ages. Others had died of accidents and disease. Yet, others had lived to ripe old ages. He didn't particularly care for graveyards. The burial ground upon which he stood reminded him of his own mortality; that one day he too would join their ranks and become nothing more than a fading memory.
The buzzing of the cicadas eventually gave way to an almost eerie stillness as day morphed into twilight. Fireflies arose from the graveyard's grassy bottom, beginning a nightly spectacle that would soon cast a dim, flickering illumination upon the tombstones. Bats emerged from the church steeple, beginning their erratic flight far above the resting places of the dead.
Alone and unaccustomed to the quiet darkness falling over the landscape, a sense of unease—even dread, began to swell up from somewhere deep within his soul. He walked nervously toward Narkissa's altar tomb and sat down upon it, waiting in silence as the darkness deepened.
Without warning, the sound of rustling vegetation and the snapping of fallen branches coming from the nearby woods broke the silence. Something of considerable size was moving around just beyond his limited field of vision. He shuddered as he contemplated the possibilities. William, although unaccustomed to the country, understood that black bear and even worse, wild hogs inhabited the Ozark region. He sat in silence, making not the slightest move out of fear that it would attract whatever predator might be lurking in the shadows nearby.
The last vestiges of twilight had given way to night by the time the disturbing sounds moved off into the distance. He breathed a silent sigh of relief as he gazed up at a quarter moon rising above the tree line to the east, shedding a dim, eerie light upon the grave markers and monuments, which in turn cast long but barely distinguishable shadows across the grassy floor.
I can't take any more of this, he decided. This is too creepy, and I'm not going to sit here for another minute waiting for some ungodly creature to attack me. I've been played for a fool and I'm getting out of here right now.
He stood up, turned toward the highway, and began walking toward his vehicle. He had only taken a few steps when something took hold of his shoulder. Sheer terror gripped at him as he spun around in an attempt to break it's grasp. “Augh!”
“Why William, what's wrong?”
His heart beat so furiously he thought it might jump out of his chest. Although completely unnerved and somewhat embarrassed, he now stood face to face with the beautiful Narkissa Laveau.
***
“I....Uh....” He was speechless, embarrassed, and unable to do anything more than stand before her sheepishly.
She chuckled at his discomfort before addressing him. “You are William, aren't you?”
“Uh yeah, I am.”
“Did I startle you?”
Seeing a way out of an embarrassing situation, he quickly collected his thoughts. “Yeah, I guess you did. I didn't see you coming and all of a sudden, there you were.”
“We vampires are hunters and creatures of the night,” she responded. “How could we stalk our prey if we announced our presence beforehand?”
She stared at him intently in the dim moonlight, her eyes reflecting the luminescence with a greenish hue. Narkissa's beauty ensnared him; yet, her facial expression betrayed any attempt on her part to hide her hunger—a hunger he could not define. Was it sexual? Or was it something else?
“So, is that what I am,” he asked flirtatiously, “your prey?”
“Isn't that why you came here? Didn't you imply that you'd like to be my victim?”
Although he was already under her spell, feelings of unease arose from within him once again. She's sure taking this vampire thing seriously, he admitted to himself. I sure hope she's not detached from reality. Wouldn't that be just my luck?
“Would you like to see my lair?” She asked. “You know, the one I've highlighted in some of my photos? After all, I'd like to put you at ease and make you as comfortable as possible.”
“Sure, lead the way.”
She took his hand and led him across the graveyard toward the abandoned church. Her hand was cold to the touch, but he hardly noticed, so intoxicated was he by her contact. 

Well, there you have it; my contribution to this year's Vampire's Day Soiree. In years past, I've been light-heartedly teased by the readers due to the stories not yet being available during the time of their reading. This year is different. The full story is published and available. I have already placed a link above to my other site where you can gain access to The Darkness Beyond the Misty Veil: More Tales of the Macabre in print, ebook, or Kindle. I will place another link to my promotional website right below that leading to Holly's Horrorland. There you will find information on both my books as well as story excerpts I do twice monthly as part of my Creepy Samples Offering. Please though, visit Holly's website first. After all, we're celebrating the special event she has created for our enjoyment. 
 

To sign up or access other Vampire's Day Soiree material follow this link.

To access Ms. Holly's full website follow this link.

Tales of Dark Romance and Horror
  



Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Spooky Christmas

One cold December night back in my childhood, I sat with my father and watched Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol for the very first time. Many film versions of Dickens' classic have been produced since the invention of the film projector, but I believe that the presentation we watched that night was the one released in 1938. And why not? They knew how to do things right back in those days. 

The part of the film that fascinated me the most however, was not Ebenezer Scrooge's conversion from miser to benevolent humanitarian, but rather, the scenes during which he encountered the various ghosts. First, there was the ghost of his old employee Jacob Marley, who was wrapped in chains. I found that scene quite intriguing. The progression of encounters continued until Scrooge had finished with with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. For me, the whole affair culminated when this fourth and final spirit, took Scrooge to the local cemetery and showed him his own grave. Now that was downright spooky; and although I didn't think about it until much later, I realized that there was a Gothic and even creepy side to Christmas that needed exploring. 

These days, I have to confess to not really being a celebrant of the holiday. Instead, I observe it, meaning that I watch it from a distance. There are the fond memories the holiday invokes from my childhood days, but its religious and commercial aspects I'd rather avoid. It does encompass the darkest time of the year however, and that's a cause for celebration in its own right. So, after the passing of many years since that night in my childhood, I try to keep it spooky. 

In my piece entitled The Cellar: A True Story I relate a tale my father once told me about my great grandfather, who on one Christmas Eve, unknowingly predicted his own death, which incidentally occurred exactly one year later when the clock struck twelve midnight. That story always remains close to me as the holiday season deepens. 

For those of us in the northern hemisphere the trees are bare during this time of the year and for me, it's pure pleasure to go walking through the woods and the nearby cemeteries on a moon-lit night. There's just something about looking at the full moon through the tangled web of tree branches and the shadows cast by the grave markers that gives this time of year a creepy feel.. 

Then there's Gruss vom Krampus, the companion of Saint Nicolas, otherwise known as the  Christmas demon. He kidnaps and then punishes children who have been naughty instead of nice. Krampus figures primarily in the lore and legend of Central Europe. Krampusnacht occurs on December 6. I only learned about Krampus in recent years, but he helps present a spooky edge to an otherwise cheerful holiday season. Interestingly enough, a film entitled Krampus was released a couple of years ago--and just in time for Christmas! I found it quite enjoyable. Sure, a few parts of it were a bit on the silly side, but all in all I think it's a good film. 

A Christmas Horror Story, also a 2015 release, is a film that truly captures the darkness of the holiday, and in particular, Christmas Eve. During the opening credits and before the plot begins to unfold, the viewer is treated to a special rendition of The Carol of the Bells. It's a very well known seasonal piece, but this version is slightly off key; off key enough in that it sounds downright creepy while still being recognizable. The music begins quietly, but eventually builds to a wonderful crescendo complete with choir and heavy orchestration, thereby creating a very Gothic feel. Before the actual film opens at Santa's workshop by the North Pole, the viewer is already enthralled. 

I don't want to say too much about the production's content as I don't want to spoil anything for those of you who might be interested in watching it. Still, I will say that this film has it all. Yes, it certainly puts the viewer into the Christmas spirit, but it contains all the elements of classic horror while featuring four separate but somewhat related tales. Of course, there's Santa, but there are also zombies, ghosts, a dangerous changeling and yes, even Krampus. I can't speak for anyone else, but I've got to say that the film's ending rocked my world. A Christmas Horror Story has earned a place with my favorite horror movies of all time.


The holiday season and Christmas in particular, is a difficult time for some people, and I'm one of those. Most folks seem to embrace it; but there are those that do not. Still, most of us are deeply affected by it whether or not we're willing to admit it. As the special day approaches, now many of us sit in the dark of night reminiscing about how it was during our childhoods and earlier times? How many of us miss the company of those who used to celebrate with us but are no longer here to do so? As with Ebenezer Scrooge, the ghosts of Christmas past continue to haunt us no matter how much we might believe that we've moved on. So, perhaps we would do well to embrace these ghosts in ways that will do our Gothic hearts glad. This is a great time to walk a dark road in the moonlight, to embrace the darker legends, lore and stories that accompany this holiday, or to enjoy tales of sheer horror that fit so easily into the spirit of the season. I don't know about you, but I plan on keeping it spooky.

Photo source: Unknown  



    

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Vintage Halloween Photos 2017

As I write this post it is Saturday and Halloween is just three days away. For the past few years or so the Gothic Embrace has commemorated the event by celebrating the art of Halloweens gone by. This year, I have chosen more great art from the past to make this upcoming All Hollow's Eve just a bit more traditional and to help maintain the magic some of us used to feel with the arrival of this special night back in the day, so to speak.






This picture, although simple, contains many of the elements we consider a part of Halloween; a grave marker, a female Jack O' Lantern mourning the loss of her loved one, and an owl and crow sit atop the marker even as a black cat approaches. Notice the spider descending the length of the stone. Even the tree has come alive.















What's not to love about a little back kitten popping out of a Jack O' Lantern?
















This photo must be quite old, judging from the dress the child is wearing and the furniture behind her. Still, this visual would work well with any modern horror film.











Notice the corn stalks behind the Jack O' Lantern and in the background. Back in the old days there seemed to be more of a connection between the harvest, the changing seasons and Halloween than we see now.








A ghost, Jack O' Lanterns and a black cat beneath a spooky looking tree along with an eerie house in the background? What's not to love about a picture like this?












May your Halloween be dark, spooky, enjoyable and fill you with long-lasting memories!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Cape of The Guardian

On the left you see my old friend The Guardian. He has appeared on this blog before and quite frankly, has been hanging around for quite some time now--literally hanging around. 

You see, he hangs on a small stretch of clothes line just beyond my back door. His job is to ward off, and even terrify if necessary, any unwelcome intruders who might emerge from the woods that lie on the north side of the cabin. In general, I like my privacy and not everyone who has come out of that wooded stretch has amounted to what you would call good company. 

Truth be told, I can remember only one such intruder who managed to slip past The Guardian, and he accomplished this under the cover of darkness. on a stormy night. Perhaps it was the high volume of alcohol content in the stranger's blood that saved him from being overcome by sheer terror, thereby allowing him to beat upon my back door. In any event, this is the only time I can remember anyone getting past my spooky sentry unscathed.

A few days ago, a bit after sunset, I walked to the rear of my abode: and as is often the case, gazed in the direction of this noble helper. Noticing a tear in the fabric of his cape I approached for a closer examination. Sure enough, there was a large tear right behind his shoulders. When did that happen? I wondered. I touched the cape in an attempt to see if I could pin the two pieces together. At that moment a large creature emerged from underneath The Guardian's vestment. I heard the fluttering of wings and I caught only the slightest glimpse of a dark object flashing by me as it took to flight. The creature moved so quickly that I was unable to determine what it was. 

The first thought that came to mind was that the frightened being must have been a bird, which had chosen to nest under The Guardian's protection. Still, all I saw was a flash of black as the creature zoomed on by me. Could it have been a bat? I pondered. Now how cool would that be; a bat lodging under the cloak of such a ghoulish individual? Bats are here, and I often see them meandering above the cemetery in search of food.

In any event, I must admit that whatever had taken refuge under The Guardian's cape will always remain a mystery as the creature has apparently not returned to seek his protection. Still, I find it almost ironic that in this case, it was not The Guardian who induced terror into the soul of an intruder; but rather, it was me.