And the Winners Are…

we hopped 'til we dropped!

Coffin Hop 2012, like all good parties, has left us with new friends and good memories. I enjoyed the variety and inventiveness of your Hop posts, and I was thrilled with the comments left here on my blog. I’m sure we’ll bump into one another again sometime, and then we’ll smile and say, “Remember when?”

xoxo,

-aniko

~~~~~~

Prizes were drawn by writing each commenter’s name on a slip of paper and putting it in a lovely felt basket with an owl applique. People who commented more than once got an additional entry for each comment. Once a slip of paper was drawn from the lovely felt basket with the owl applique (and green LED eyes!!), that paper was not put back for further drawings.

Haunted House Group Scream Winners

( Receive a copy of Stolen Climates )

Penelope Crowe

Erik Gustafson

Kim Koning

Carrie Crain

Milo James Fowler

Ann Michaud

Jennifer Stuart

James Garcia, Jr

Jolie du Pre

Jeanette Jackson

Jason Darrick

Bn100

Nina D’Arcangela

Joseph Pinto

Laura Thomas

The Blood-Curdling Scream Winners 

( Receive a signed Stolen Climates Postcard )

Carrie Crain

Erik Gustafson

Inion N. Mathair

Jason Darrick

Blaze McRob

fuonlyknew

Nina D’Arcangela

Joseph Pinto

Liese2

Anne Michaud

The Strangled Scream Winners

( Receive a Signed Stolen Climates Poster )

Nina D’Arcangela

Blaze McRob

The Pleasant Surprise Scream Winner

( Receives a bundle of fiction by The Emissaries of Strange )

Erik Gustafson!!!

The Grand Prize Scream Winner

( Receives the Stolen Climates themed goodies + the felt owl basket )

Kim Koning, come on down!!!

Congratulations on winning my Grand Prize! I hope you enjoy the waffle mix from Kerby Lane, which is a 24-hr diner in Austin that’s amazing. You could eat waffles and read The Haunting of Hill House, of which I’m sending you a physical copy. I’m also including a packet of cosmos seeds to grow in your garden, a signed Stolen Climates poster, and a severed hand!

All packed in a lovely felt basket with an owl applique!

Kim's Grand Prize

Happy Halloween!

Welcome, Coffin Hoppers! 

Prizes! Ghost! Spooky! Another ghost! Gross! Dark Spirit!

Quick Win: Leave a comment with the phrase “Mother Nature is not just a metaphor” to win Stolen Climates!

Today is the crowning wonder of the year for horror aficionados. It is also the last day of the 2012 Coffin Hop. I’ve enjoyed the variety and inventiveness of your posts, and hope you had a good time at my party!

Until 11:59 PM PST tonight, you can still enter to win several prizes, including the Grand Prize!

Grand Prize Scream!

Stolen Climates inspired goodies!!

One lucky, lucky reader is going to get a pack of fiction by The Emissaries of Strange, authors of Speculative Fiction.

How do you enter? By leaving a comment. I’ll post the winners here on Sunday, November 4th.

Happy Hopping!

xoxo,

aniko

One More for the Road

Welcome, Coffin Hoppers! Prizes! Ghost! Spooky! Another ghost! Gross!

Quick Win: Leave a comment with the phrase “Mother Nature is not just a metaphor” to win Stolen Climates!

The party is drawing to a close. Someone has already crashed on the guest bed. A couple of people are singing Smashing Pumpkin songs in the kitchen, wildly out of tune yet somehow in harmony. A few more are outside with the last of the absinthe and the hookah. You and I, though, we’re still on the couch, watching the candles guttering in the breezes as people bid us farewell.

“There’s just enough time for one more story,” I say.

You nod, adjusting your feet on the ottoman.

It was summertime in Coastal Virginia. The air was thick with humidity and the ozone of an impending thunderstorm was flickering in the distance like an otherworldly lighthouse. We were exploring the old center of a town that had long since moved on from it’s Old World charm. The houses were businesses: an ice cream parlor, a restaurant with a bar that sat three, an antique shop. It was the vintage shop that we were in when it happened, a place called Another Man’s Treasure. There were three of us shopping together, recent college grads on a Saturday afternoon – and just as boisterous as you can imagine. We were the only ones in the shop except for the proprietress. She sat behind her glass counter and her mechanical register, watching.

“Watching me in particular,” I say.

abandoned for a reasonI saw the stairs at the back of the shop as an escape from her strange attention, and I bounded up them two at a time. The top floor was a mess of old chairs, yellowing wedding gowns, and assorted taxidermied animals. I walked over to the far window, and looked out at an overgrown alley. On my way back to the stairs, I noticed a small room was blocked off by a dresser, the door covered by a shower curtain hung just above the entrance. I squeezed my way between the dresser, pulled aside the curtain, and opened the door. It was a bathroom, or what had once been a bathroom. The fixtures were gone, but it was clear where the sink and toilet used to be.  The room was lit with grainy light from a high window, and the black and white tiles were coated with a scrim of dust. At the very far end, where there should have been a tub, there hung another shower curtain.

Something was behind it. It did not move. It did not make a sound, yet I could feel it – a beastly, dark presence. If you’ve never felt something grab for your soul, be thankful, because it hurts and it is as scary as any hell that you can imagine. I staggered backwards, and bumped into the dresser blocking the door; I had forgotten it was there and a thin sound of panic escaped me. I was dizzy and close to blacking out, but a part of knew that if I did, I would die. Or worse.

There was something dark and evil, and it was trying to kill me.

I shoved my around the dresser, and kept backing away until I ran into one of the wedding dress draped chairs. The curtain swayed, a rhythmic motion too constant to be the result of my escape. Whatever had come for me, it was just beyond that curtain.

I bolted down the stairs. The old woman grinned at me. She laughed.

“The room is closed for a reason,” she said.

I told my friends I’d be waiting for them outside. In the following five years that I lived near Another Man’s Treasure, I never went back. Last I saw, the shop was closed, and the building was being gutted – and I can’t help but wonder what happened to the darkness that used to live there in the room that was closed for a reason.

Don’t forget: you can get a copy of my horror novel, Stolen Climates, and also be entered to win other fabulous prizes by leaving a comment. Remember: lurking’s for dark spirits! Comments are for people!

Going for the Gross Out

Welcome, Coffin Hoppers! Prizes! Ghost! Inspiration! Another ghost!

Quick Win: Leave a comment with the phrase “Mother Nature is not just a metaphor” to get an ebook of Stolen Climates.

Our visit to the field left us chilled, so we decided to warm up in the living room. The paprika colored walls reflect the warmth of the fire, and every now and then someone cuts through the room, dragging the cold outside air along behind them like a ghost. We’re on the couch, sipping scotch and pretending that it is only the temperature making us shiver.

When the party gets quiet, as even the rowdiest parties do, we can still hear the distant screams. The sound steals in through the chimney, moves through the flames, joins us on the couch. As the one who set the mood by telling a ghost story in the middle of a haunted field, I feel obligated to lighten things up a bit; like any writer, the only thing I can think to talk about is writing.

The most I can promise is that this particular story won’t involve ghosts. It might go for the gross-out, but that’s just the risk you take. I top off our drinks, set the bottle on the end table and move slightly closer to you.

hey how for halloween!

Not everything in Stolen Climates was inspired by other artistic creations. A bit of it was lifted from real life. From my life.

In the backyard, near the door, there is a flower bed. The first year we lived in the house, a plant that looked like a cross between a sego palm and a philodendron grew in that flower bed. We thought the drought of the following summer killed it; there were no more leaves, just a cactus stump no more than a few inches high. That fall, I crouched to pull weeds and fallen leaves out of the bed; my knees were pressed into the dirt, my gloved hands seeking. It is possible I was listening to music, and it is possible the wide sky was blue. All I remember clearly is the pain. A sudden, literally stabbing pain.

I peeled my glove from my left hand.

A thorn was shoved under my fingernail. It was a quarter inch long, and I could see the thick line of it under my nail. It stuck out of the tip of my finger, a fat wooden stake.

Apparently, the sego-philodendron grew a crown of thorns and, apparently, I had bad luck.

The thorn hurt, but it was too strange and too unbelievable not to share. I went inside, to where my husband sat in his office. I think I asked him if he wanted to see something cool.

I added that scene to Stolen Climates, although I amped up the supernatural causes for it. You can win a copy just by commenting, and every comment is another entry to win one of my Scream-y prizes. Don’t be shy!

School “Spirit”

( Welcome Coffin Hoppers!  Prizes! Ghost Story! Inspiration! Grim Reaper! )

Quick Win Steps: Leave a comment with the phrase “Mother Nature isn’t just a metaphor” and win an ebook of Stolen Climates!

It is nearing midnight. We are walking across the street to the field I told you about earlier, the one where you either hear an owl or a something else. I can’t say for certain the spot is haunted, but it is always cold.

We walk up the abandoned side street, past the cracked pavement falling prey to waist high weeds. We step around two boulders, and into the field. A path cuts through the center of the clearing; it is nothing more than cracked earth, trampled grass, and the souls of sunflowers left to wither when the Summer left. Wind whispers entreaties that draw us forward, right into the center of the field. I  stretch one hand out as if to grasp the difference in temperature, while you try to huddle within yourself against the cold.

“How long do we wait?” you ask.
“I don’t know,” I say. “Would you like to hear a ghost story?”

You either of shiver or nod, I can’t tell which, but I start the story anyway.

A Gate into Mary Washington College

Credit snakepliskins, via flickr.

I attended a small liberal arts college that happened to be built on a Civil War Battleground. One of the dorms was used as a hospital, and the road running along the base of the hill upon which the college perched was the repeated scene of bloodshed. What is now a bucolic Campus Walk was once peopled with soldiers but, on the night I’m going to tell you about, I was alone on the mile-long length of brick road.

At about the midpoint of  Campus Walk, there was a bridge. It crossed a stream, and then Campus Walk continued up the hill on the other side. Most of the time, the area was full of students, full of activity. That night it was cold and, at 3 AM, even the partiers had taken refuge. The campus was silent except for my echoing footsteps.

At first, I wasn’t sure what I was seeing. There was a figure in the distance. It appeared to be moving very quickly, but was not getting any closer and I couldn’t tell if it was moving away from or towards me. I stopped and watched, conscious of my isolation.

I could not see his face, and I still couldn’t tell which direction he was going. His legs moved with a strange stop-animation motion, like a really bad video revving forward and backward in a jerky loop. His long blue coat fluttered around his neither-this-way nor that-way legs, but he didn’t get closer to the other end of the bridge, nor did he recede into the distance. I looked behind me, at the long walk back the way I came. I looked forward, at the soldier – for by now that’s what I thought he was.

I started across the bridge, my heart pounding and my armpits slicking with nervous sweat despite the cold turning my breath into a hazy gray banner announcing my approach.

When I reached the midpoint, the soldier disappeared. I stopped again, just as freaked out by this as I had been by his appearance. I took a deep breath and made a run for it. I got to the philosophy building and I spun to look behind me.

There was no soldier.

In fact, no matter how many late nights I walked that campus alone, I never saw the soldier. To this day, I can still picture the oddity of his movement, the bewildering way in which he went nowhere while moving very fast.

Just as I wrap up my story, you say:

“Listen!”

In the distance, there is something screaming. The air is colder now, almost unbearable. The scream echoes, and is impossible to pinpoint.

We run.

Don’t forget: you can get a copy of my horror novel, Stolen Climates, and also get a chance to win some other fabulous prizes by leaving a comment! Remember: lurking’s for ghosts! Comments are for people!

To the Nines

Welcome Coffin Hoppers! Prizes. Ghost Story. Inspiration.

In the garage the donut games have begun: the string is strung, and the donuts hang from it, light, sweet Krispy Kreme gems. The competitors have donned garbage bags to protect their costumes. The bags rattle and float, turning them all into ghosts. The Grim Reaper presides over the festivities, final arbiter as to who has eaten her strung donut fastest without using her hands. He’s an ironic Reaper, with a tag that says: 

Reaper's Humor

He’s not at all like the real thing, I say.

Not so very long ago, I had a cat named Beanie. Beanie was a spiteful, angry creature. Beanie was a meanie. She was was prone to scratching people who tried to pet her. She carved the Roman numeral nine into the soft flesh of a friend’s hand. IX: the number of her bitter lives. Beanie was my pet, but I can’t say I loved her – or that she loved anything. In her final month, though, she became kind. She purred, and allowed herself to be petted.

In late September, she weighed almost nothing and no longer could be convinced to eat. As I did every night, I wrapped her in blankets and settled her into a nook with a heating pad before I went to sleep. Sometime later, I heard her struggle out onto the hard tile floor; she was having trouble walking, and I rolled over to turn on the light.

And stopped.

The Grim Reaper stood in the corner, between my white dresser and the closet door.

He didn’t have a scythe, and I couldn’t see enough to tell if he wore the traditional cowl. I couldn’t see enough because he was an absence of light, a darkness so complete I’ve never seen anything like it, not even in Hurricane Isabel’s aftermath when all of the power was out. It was a darkness beyond anything you can imagine, and I was afraid that if I moved to help Beanie, he would take me instead.

Beanie’s struggles got worse. A lot of things about horror are trite, it turns out. Her breathing and bodily functions rattled: a death rattle.

I turned on the light and dropped down out of my bed to cradle Beanie; the entire time, she stared at the space between my dresser and the closet.

When she breathed her last, she was staring at the Grim Reaper.

We both jump a little at the sudden shouts and clapping. The donut game is finished, and all the participants are laughing, their faces covered in donut icing and joy. The ironic Reaper puts a plastic medal over the winner’s head, and he raises her arm: mock triumph.

Remember: you can win an ebook copy of my novel Stolen Climates by leaving a comment with the phrase “Mother Nature isn’t just a metaphor.

Spooky Inspiration

( Welcome, Coffin Hoppers! Prizes. Ghost story. )

I’m not surprised the sexy gypsy won the costume contest, but you were robbed. Your costume is more authentic, especially the way your innards dangle over your belt. How are you getting your eyes so glassy?

Okay, not much of a talker, are you?

The keg’s just been replaced. Now it’s Devil’s Backbone, named for a road near Austin that’s claimed its share of travelers. Guys who probably look about as bad as you do, now that I think of it!

It’s funny stuff like this, the little coincidences or glimpses that inspire the horror I write. Stolen Climates is the Muse-child of a few major artistic inspirations. Since you’re so quiet, and the line for beer is long, I’ll fill the space by telling you about one.

front porch of Hill HouseI love The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson. I enjoy the supernatural aspects of the story, but what really captures my imagination is the main character’s stubborn insistence on fabricating a better, more interesting version of herself. She lies to everyone, building a story of a life that doesn’t exist. Just as I pluck details from the chimera of reality to weave my tales, so too did Jackson’s character. Her stone lions and ‘cup of stars’ make cameos in Stolen Climates. My character, Prentice Feyerbach, is the male, iPhone-toting version of Jackson’s character. That’s why I include a copy of The Haunting of Hill House in the ‘I Won the Grand Prize!’ Scream; they are companion pieces, meant to match up like two stone lions on a high-rise balcony.

Where did that guy with the bad-ass fatal car crash costume go? You didn’t see him? He was right here a moment ago…

Don’t forget you can get a free ebook edition of Stolen Climates just by leaving me a comment that includes the phrase, “Mother Nature isn’t just a metaphor.”

May you find your blue cup full of stars,

-aniko

Dreams, Hauntings

( Welcome, Coffin Hoppers! Read about prizes here: The Scream System!)

The Coffin Hop party here at the happy horror writer’s is in full swing. A group of people are bobbing for apples, and the costume contest is about to start. Let me put another log in the chiminea, and then I’ll tell you a story. A scary story. No Halloween party is complete without one, right?

ghost

My sister and I have a long, shared history of supernatural experiences. The most recent one happened earlier this year. We had a girl’s night out, just the two of us. When we came back to my place it was later than we intended, and still we stayed up talking. When we finally went to sleep it was after two AM. She took my little Yorkie into her room, and I put my phone on the charger in the kitchen, washed my face, and tumbled into bed.

I fell into a dark dream. In it, I woke up in my bed. Outside the house, there was what sounded like an eighteen-wheeler idling, followed by the terrible clattering, slamming noise. Someone was trying to get into the house! My sister ran into my room. I could see her silhouette in the door way, back lit by the lava lamp in the living room.

“Someone’s trying to get in,” she said.

I woke up then, for real. Loud clattering noises came from the front of the house. My sister appeared in the doorway.

“Someone’s breaking through the window in my room,” she said.

Together we walked across the house to the guest room where my sister was sleeping. We flicked on the overhead light and gasped. My cell phone – which I left on the charger in the kitchen – was scattered across the room! Battery, backing, rest of the phone – all in separate pieces. Worse though, was the window.

The metal blinds were twisted and tangled. It looked like something huge had fought its way through the blinds, bending and twisting every slat in the struggle. It was mangled, but the window behind it was locked, closed, intact.

My sister told me that what what woke her, even before the blinds went all poltergeist, was my little Yorkie.

“He was crying,” she said. “I’ve never  heard anything sound so terrified in my life.

Well, that costume party is starting! Oh, come on! A little ghost story didn’t scare you, did it?

Remember, even if you don’t have a costume, you can still win. Click here to find out how! Don’t forget to leave a comment with the phrase ‘Mother Nature isn’t just a metaphor‘ to win an ebook edition of Stolen Climates!

Welcome, Coffin Hoppers!

 

welcome to the happy horror writer's Coffin Hop stop!

Help yourself  - the keg’s full of ice cold Oktoberfest cheer. There’s candy corn, multicolored popcorn balls, assorted cheeses, and crisp apples. Feel free to explore the yard and relax near the chiminea. If you feel adventurous, take a short walk across the way to the empty field where there’s a cold spot that is always chilly, even in the brutal Texas summer. If you stand there long enough, you will hear either the owl or the other thing. If you hear the owl, you are in good company. If you hear something else –  run!

No Halloween party is complete without door prizes, and the Coffin Hop is a week long party! To participate, all you have to do is be a registered member of the Coffin Hop. To win, all you need is a little luck or the help of spirits conjured over candlelight and cauldron.

Prizes ( Ranked by Scream )

The Haunted House Group Scream:

Leave a comment with the phrase “Mother Nature isn’t just a metaphor,” and I will give you Stolen Climates, my horror ebook.

The Bloodcurdling Scream:

Ten commenters will get a signed Stolen Climates postcard.

The Strangled Scream:

Five commenters will win a signed Stolen Climates poster.

The  Pleasant Surprise Scream:

One commenter will win a  delectably twisted set of dark fiction ebooks by #TESSpecFic  authors, including:

The Imaginings, by Paul D. Dail

Valknut: The Binding, by Marie Loughin

Corridors of the Dead, by Jonathan D. Allen

100 Unfortunate Days, by Penelope Crowe

Stolen Climates, by Aniko Carmean

The ‘I Won The Grand Prize!’ Scream:

One person will receive a Stolen Climates themed goody pack! This includes:

Gauss Hotel’s Award Winning Waffle Mix (just add sytra!)
Helena’s Cosmos Seeds
Margot’s Hand – It’s Not Just for Breakfast Anymore!
A (previously enjoyed!) paperback of The Haunting of Hill House
A signed Stolen Climates poster

Come back and comment often! Multiple comments mean multiple chances to win. And you know you want a prize to go with that fine beer buzz and the thrill of walking out into the haunted field!

xoxo,

-aniko, the happy horror writer

Mother Nature isn't just a metaphor!

Autumn, awaking.

October.

The name conjures earlier nightfall, crisp air, and the advent of all things spooky. It is thirty-one days of horror movies, pumpkin lattes, and the possibility of weather cool enough to open windows. It is a time of afternoon coffee, fresh radishes crisp as apples and nearly as big, and the first bowls of lunchtime soup.

When I moved to Central Texas five years ago, I thought that there were really only two seasons: Summer and not-Summer. I was wrong. There are seasons, but they are subtle. The trees may not erupt with the Autumnal fire of cooler climes, but they do change. The live oak mellows from a dark green to a gentle golden-green and the lush emerald of the cedars deepens. Insects and flowers that the sun killed return, making October a month of understated rebirth. Dragonflies float on sunlight-reflecting wings, glittering bits of consciousness hovering above the changed trees. Fireflies drift amongst dying thickets even as multicolored zinnias blow in the cooler breezes. On cloudy mornings, Austin’s ambient light reflects from the muzzy atmosphere, and a surprising profusion of sunflowers glow bright as good omens.

My creativity, which had grown sluggish beneath the constant blue of Summer’s onslaught, is also flowering. My work on expanding and revising the first book in my sci-fi/horror series is going at a good clip, and connections between characters and themes ricochet through my dreams to appear on the pages. In addition to work on the novel, I’m also preparing a short story for inclusion in an anthology. The story is a strange little gem inspired by Ouida Sebestyen’s novel, Girl in the Box. Not including reviews and blog posts, I have written close to four-hundred pages of new material this year. To put that in perspective, the final draft of Stolen Climates weighs in at just over 240 pages. I have never been this productive. I welcome my awakening!

***

October is also the month of horror blog hops. This year, I am participating in the Coffin Hop. Mark your calendars, because I’ll be giving away fun prizes, copies of Stolen Climates, and writing a post a day!

Coffin Hop 2012!