Maddie’s bizarre book club

I like to feast my brain and eyes with things that are rather unusual, as you may have guessed. Since winter began – my official hibernation and reading time – I’ve had the joy of finding some right good ‘uns which I shall share with you now. Ooh, and on a lovely snowy night too (unless you’re…somewhere it’s not snowing). I can almost hear the ghosts outside wailing about unpaid bills and the ten pence Johnny still owes.

This is my reading face
This is my reading face

1. Wisconsin Death Trip. This collection of news stories and unnervingly beautiful photography made it’s first appearance in the 70s. At the turn of the century (the Victorian one, not the other one) small towns in snowy Wisconsin were a tough place to live, inducing some pretty bizarre activity from the locals. Flick through the articles of the time and be drawn into a very spooky – but true – world.

Incidentally the events of the time are used as the backdrop for another book I enjoyed, twisty historic thriller A Reliable Wife.

2. The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse. A humorously clever cross between Se7en and Old Mother Hubbard, the back of the book explains it better than I can:

Once upon a time Jack set out to find his fortune in the big city. But the big city is Toy City, formerly known as Toy Town, and it has grown considerably since the good old days and isn’t all that jolly any more. And there is a serial killer loose on the streets.

The old, rich nursery rhyme characters are being slaughtered one by one and the Toy better hauntedCity police are getting nowhere in their investigations. Meanwhile, Private Eye Bill Winkie has gone missing, leaving behind his sidekick Eddie Bear to take care of things. Eddie may be a battered teddy with an identity crisis, but someone’s got to stop the killer.

When he teams up with Jack, the two are ready for the challenge. Not to mention the heavy drinking, bad behaviour, car chases, gratuitous sex and violence, toy fetishism and all-round grossness along the way.

3. The Best Bizarro of the Decade. I couldn’t really have a list of weird books without it. Everyone has preferences on their choice of out-there reading material and some of these short stories will not be your cup of tea (trust me I even hated a couple. I’m not saying which). However there are others which I found brilliant and very funny. If you can keep an open mind you will be rewarded. Maybe.

4. Better Haunted Homes and Gardens. This picture book is very sweet and pretty and future goth children will love it. If you can find a reasonably priced copy I recommend it, I know it brought out the kid who still loves Halloween in me.

5. Red Velvet and Absinthe. What can I say, I love (very) risque paranormal Stiff-coverstories. These gothic tales are some of the best I’ve found and most have a different (and rude) way of looking at classic spookiness.

6. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. Mary Roach is a funny lady. This book is an entertaining read about the different and unexpected ways a human body is used (crash research, nose jobs etc) and I was particularly fascinated when it came to learning about the minutiae of rotting.

However I must admit to skipping a few chapters in the middle – I just didn’t find the bits about planes crashes etc as entertaining. Weird as that sounds. But…the majority is well written and very humorous. Enjoy!

Well, there we have it. So many words, so little time, and so little human brains to ingest while doing it. Oh, no, I found another box. Farewell till next time!

5 Reasons a spooky creative brain prefers winter

It’s that time again (almost). When a headless coachman appears out of the mist to take you to the cursed castle, and charges you double time on Saturdays (“But you went the long way round those crumbling gravestones”).

Nothing like a cup of haunted tea to warm the cockles

The good thing about being a creative type is that you can do anything and claim it as research: “What do you mean you spent the day watching the Twilight Zone?” “Shut up it’s research.”

So here are a few small reasons winter is best for anyone who likes to dally in the darkened spaces of art or literature or…something else.

1. Halloween. Yes, yes, it’s all commercialised and it’s for children etc, but who cares? Just for one year try not to be a Halloween McScrooge and celebrate the Day of the Dead with everyone else. Dress up, even if its as ‘your best friend who wears the exact same clothes as you.’ I began my first proper short story at school on the day of Halloween and ever since then its had a special place in my disturbed heart. I guarantee you’ll find some kind of inspiration, even if its a story about murdering trick or treaters.

2. Staying indoors. Let’s face it, writing or doing anything work related during summer is difficult and unpleasant. Maybe I’m alone here but I like knowing that the world outside is furiously cold while I sit indoors drinking tea and working/watching The Twilight Zone. Which brings me onto my next point.

3. Spooky films get spookier. It’s a cliche certainly, but there’s really nothing like watching a spine-chiller while the wind and rain howls against your window. Sometimes for extra cosiness I like to pretend there are zombies stumbling around my driveway too. That way I can feel smug that they can’t get me. Or can they?

4. Your surroundings are inspiration. Whilst its obvious you need to be wary of writing/painting/whatever in cliches, its hard not to think of great ideas when wandering through a mist clouded field. Just remember, focusing on the idea rather than lengthy descriptions of nature might be best. Unless your main character is a lecturer of some kind. Even then, maybe not a good idea…

5. More time to think. Summer is filled with Gestapo-like orders to have fun, but time seems to slow down in winter. People tend to vegetate and grow moss which is perfect for ruminating on thoughts, or simply trying to occupy yourself. You can either spend your winter obsessing on why Cathy brought all the men cups of tea and not you or Sally, or you can send your brain to another place and make up somewhere better. Or much worse, depending on what you like to do to your main characters.

So this was my little thought bubble on winter. I wanted to include the wearing of fluffy socks and colourful coats but it didn’t seem relevant, so I’ll just mention them here. Happy winter!

Short story: The Thief’s Dungeon

Looking for a humorous, thrilling, fantastical and erotic adventure? Well, you won’t find it here. Oh no, wait, yes you will! Read my story The Thief’s Dungeon on forbiddenfiction.com for the the tiny price of 99 cents (Americaland money).

Read it here.

*Warning* Over 18s only

Short story: The Woods in Winter

For only 99 cents you too – yes you – can read my naughty historical werewolf story ‘The Woods in Winter‘ on taboo-ridden site forbiddenfiction.com.

It’s rude and there are spooky bits. What’s not to like? Look, that couple over there are reading it, and they own yachts. Read it here.

Warning: Over 18s only.

Sherlock Holmes and the Paranormal

I’ve always loved Sherlock Holmes, and whenever I’ve seen a TV or film adaptation I’ve often developed a hormonal response to whoever’s in the role (though Robert Downey Jr’s a given, obviously). Maybe that’s because I know he’d only hang around for an hour before ditching me to find an opium den.

Well, we won’t delve too far into my psyche lest there be dragons, but I just wanted to quickly mention this book I found on Amazon.

After the earlier post on the oddities of fanfiction this may seem strange but I was intrigued by the idea of Holmes short stories mixed with the paranormal, Victorians and ghosts being two of my favourite things.

I’ve not read Gaslight Grimoire or any others in the ‘Gaslight’ series though I will soon. If anyone already has, let me know what you think.

Farewell, bye bye, bog off all of you and never darken my door again!

No, only joking. Am I? Yes, of course. But…am I? Well, yes, but…

Fog and graphic sexual horror

I love this fog. I’m expecting a headless coachman to pull up and say, “Where to? No, it’s a bit far love.” I imagine he’ll be able to speak by paranormal forces or something.

I watched a documentary recently called Graphic Sexual Horror. It was fascinating and more than a little unnerving, and some of the images will stay with me. I liked it, it was good. It was about a website called insex that begin in the 90s which featured pictures and live feeds of consenting girls being tortured for the pleasure of the viewers. In the same way that I love Straw Dogs (though I think I’m the only one) for highlighting the complexity of human relationships and interaction, I found the grey area of consent and real fear intriguing. They may have agreed to appear in the films but at certain points they were definately not acting. As one woman said, “I felt raped, but I could have used my safe word at any point.”

Equally fascinating is the way the website ran into trouble. The credit card companies disapproved of the content so made it impossible for viewers to pay by card, thus deterring potential customers.

It’s worth watching, if you can handle that sort of thing.

Short story: The Gathering (in The Big Book of Bizarro)

Good morning. It’s not morning, it’s evening! Oh, I’m a card aren’t I? How wacky of me.

Anyway the anthology ‘The Big Book of Bizarro,’ which contains a short story of mine ‘The Gathering,’ is out to buy now. Described as ‘salacious, sacrilegious, scatalogical, scotomizing and strange,’ you can purchase it online here.

It’s sectioned into: Horror, Sci fi and Fantasy, Erotica.

Warning: my story is a bit rude and you may be embarrassed when you next see me.