Archive for August, 2012

Horror Mounts

Horror Mounts
A guest post by Sandi Leibowitz

The noive of me, to agree to write a blog post for the Niteblade blog train.  (Forgive me, I just returned from California and am at my most New Yawkish.)  I have a confession to make:  I don’t “do” horror.  Don’t read it, don’t watch it.

The more I thought about it, I realized—well, I do in fact “do” horror, in my limited way.

I was one of those kids who rushed home from school every day to see “Dark Shadows.”  When I went off to sleep-away camp in the summers—it was agony to miss what was going on with Barnabas and the rest.  What was the big draw?

Setting, I think, came first.  Seriously, I was meant to live in the Old House at Collinwood.  I need mahogany-paneled corridors, a west wing unused by anyone but ghosts, a widow’s walk overlooking the sea, portraits of someone’s ancestors on the walls.  When the day arrives that I must use a cane, I positively will insist on one with a silver dog’s head.  Jonathan Frid, requiescat in pace.

Did I merely accept the horror aspects, because of the setting and the casting?  No.  I adored them.  I wanted to know more about vampires and witches and Tarot cards and werewolves and alternate time.   A good friend of mine, who I met in college and also was a DS fan, once mentioned that she was often scared by the program.  I never found it frightening.  I guess this version of horror lured me in because it was completely devoid of gore (which I detest), but reveled in the fantasy elements of horror.

Now that I think of it, in those days Channels 5, 9 and 11, which often aired old movies, sometimes—especially on Sunday afternoons—showed hokey horror films like the ones Vincent Price starred in.  Having gravitated towards “Dark Shadows,” I could hardly resist those.

When I was 11 or so, I discovered Poe.  My parents’ bookcase contained an old, hard-covered copy of Poe’s collected short stories, which I delved into out of curiosity—and then kept going.   I read them ravenously (no pun intended).  The main thing that attracted me was his use of language—that delicious, erudite vocabulary, that poetic use of alliteration!  Secondly, I relished the strange worlds he took me to—torture chambers, Italian castles, decaying mansions.  That shiver when you see the dark corridor he’s been leading you to all along…  The corpses that refuse to stay quite dead.   LOVE IT.

So—I DO “do” vampires and werewolves.  And ghosts.  And witchcraft.  Just no zombies (decomposition–yuck).

Ah, and later on, I was absolutely addicted to the “Night Gallery” series.  I remember going to school the morning after “Night Gallery” was on, and all my friends excitedly discussing the show.  I gave it up, however, after “The Doll” episode because it freaked me out.

So, so much for me not watching horror.  Well, I don’t READ horror.

Oh, unless you’re talking about the Anne Rice books, which I devoured in the 80s.  OK, I guess I do “do” horror, after all.

However, I’m not a horror writer.  I’m a fantasy writer, often dark.—Well, in fact last November Niteblade published my poems “The Cat Accursed” (based on a friend’s story of an Eastern European Jewish superstition, as reported by her grandfather) and “Allegory of Time”, and is about to publish “Crimson-Hooded,” a dark take on Little Red Riding Hood, where Granny devours more than just muffins.  And I’ve recently written two stories about the unruly dead and a poem about an island of creepy blindfolded crows, based on a dream.  Son of a gun, I guess I’m a horror writer.  Who knew?

So, I’ve been musing, why do people gravitate to horror?  What does it do for us?

I’m not one to run to Aristotle for my literary theory, but I do think that we enjoy horror, just as we enjoy tragedy, for the sense of catharsis.  I’m sure this isn’t a profound or novel analysis, but I think it must be true.

Life is filled with horror.  Filled.  This summer I’ve been dealing (albeit second-hand) with a lot of real-life horror.  A good friend of mine is spending over a month in Sloan-Kettering trying a new treatment for leukemia, since the last one didn’t work.  At the same time, another close friend has spent most of her summer in Florida looking after her hospitalized mother.  She’s in the same hospital where my mother died in 2008.  Talking to my friend brings me back to a place I don’t want to be.  Horror.

This year, two former students of mine were in the news.  The first was a teenager arrested for attempting to bomb synagogues and rabbis’ homes.  This would-be murderer was once a child to whom I read stories and taught the ins-and-outs of the Dewey Decimal System.  I helped him pick out books.  I wonder if he was one of those boys who only read R.L. Stine—I can’t remember.  Horror.

The second one was a boy who, with his older brother, was the victim of a freak accident; a metal laundry pole crashed onto them while they were playing in their back yard, injuring one and killing my student, the kindergartener.  Horror.

As I started thinking about writing this blog, the tragic shootings occurred in Aurora, Colorado.  What better example of real-life horror does one need?

We all know that at any moment, we could be hit by a car, or stricken by a disease, or become a victim of a fire or a mugging.  In July, I stayed home from my beloved monthly writers’ critique group meeting because of a massive thunderstorm going on at just the moment I was leaving my apartment.  I’ve never seen such intense, frequent lightning strikes.  Next day the news reported that a woman was killed by lightning not far from where I live.

Part of the pleasure of reading/watching horror is that we get to contain the things that terrify us.  Leukemia, mad gunmen, lightning—nothing you can do about those.  It will happen to you or you’ll be spared.  But ah—the horror in a book or movie—you feel the terror—but, no matter what happens to the characters, you survive unscathed.  And you don’t have to suffer from survivor-guilt.

What’s curious about the Aurora killings is the fact that they occurred in a movie theatre.  The people attending the movie were there to experience violence and horror and adventure vicariously—not in the flesh.  What was the gunman’s reason for picking a movie theatre?  This movie?  Is it that the vicarious experience of horror for him wasn’t enough?  It didn’t provide him with catharsis.  It only egged him on in wanting to partake of the creation—but not in an actually creative way.  Instead of writing a horror novel, or a dark fantasy poem, he felt the need to make it happen in real life.

Here’s to facing our terrors, our dark sides, in creative rather than destructive ways.  Read Niteblade, paint a portrait of a vampire, write a poem about succubi.  Keep the nightmares where they belong: in our actual dreams and in our art.

Well, I have survived my trip to California.  I’m afraid of heights and not keen on driving.  I’d been concerned about all the driving (alone) on Route 1, along the coast (but not down on the shoreline; up on the cliffs).  Parts of it were just as terrifying as I had feared.  Some parts worse.  I mean, no guard rails?  One false step and it’s—car off the road, tumbling down the cliffs, splashing into the ocean.  I spent days and days and days driving.  As time progressed, my fear didn’t lessen; it grew.  I cut three days off the northernmost portion of the trip because I was incapable of enduring yet another moment of “cliff-crawling.”

Having lived through terror (the red lines incised in my palms from gripping the steering wheel while cliff-crawling are proof), I am now ready to sit back, relax, and ride the Niteblade blog train.


A Note From Rhonda: The blog train continues on with a stop at Andrew Patterson’s blog tomorrow, and in case you didn’t see it, yesterday’s stop was at Sharon K. Reamer’s blog.

My Love Affair With Niteblade

My Love Affair With Niteblade
A guest post by Marge Simon

Where did the years since 2007 fly to? I remember that I was smitten from the start with Niteblade when I discovered that Editor Rhonda, mother of a sweet young girl, sought work that went where no P.C. editors dared venture. You know what I mean. Most all of the zines (online or otherwise) warn, “We don‘t want stories about children coming to harm”. So Rhonda says, “Well, I do want stories and poems like that, so have at it!”

Okay, so I taught elementary art to cherubs for over thirty years, have a lovely daughter and two grandchildren of my own. But I loved where Rhonda’s objectives took my questionably warped mind. I approached her first as an illustrator (later as a writer and poet, and was welcomed, by the way.) And suddenly I was given the bulk of the illustrations for Issue Numero Uno. The cover was done for R.K. Gemienhardt’s grim story, “Dark Angel”. It shows a innocent tot with a teddy bear sitting up in bed waiting for her grandfather’s good night kiss. You see him approaching from the shadows, and he doesn’t look very much like a doting granddaddy at all. A shocking concept, akin to the folk tale “Rawhead and Mr. Bloodybones” bedtime story told to scare little children out of their wits.

After that, Rhonda approached me to be her “in house” artist. I was thrilled! I got to illustrate the stories (and a poem) for coming issues. She must have been crazy and still is, because I’m still doing it. Of course, each issue is different and children might or might not play into the stories of any one issue. Just knowing that such may be included on the keenly whetted blade of night was enough for me.

I’ve had the pleasure of illustrating some fascinating stories and challenging poems (and vice versa) along the way by such as Joe McKinney, Beth Cato, Megan Arkenburg, Greg Schwartz, BD Wilson, and many more extraordinary talents!

An additional perk is that Rhonda has generously included me in announcing new issues stating that my art is available from me both to the authors and the reading audience for a very affordable sum, postage paid. I love it when the authors want to have the work that fired in my imagination! I feel it belongs with them, not in my files.

So this is thanks to Rhonda, to her wonderful and talented husband Jonathan, BD and now Alexa for empowering one hardly saintly, but most unique online publication of dark literature to carry on. Here’s to keeping it moving onward and upward!

Marge Simon


Note from Rhonda: In case you missed it, yesterday’s stop on the blog train was at Ash Krafton‘s blog and tomorrow’s is at Stephanie M. Wytovich‘s. Check them out 🙂

Also, for the record, I didn’t/don’t specifically seek out stories where children are in danger (well, except maybe for that one time), I just don’t want a policy in place to specifically exclude those types of tales 😉

Choo Choo!

Hop aboard the blog train! 🙂

Niteblade published our first issue in September 2007 and we are now creeping toward Issue #21. That will mark our fifth anniversary. Five years, can you believe it? That’s like, a lifetime in internet time, right?

To celebrate we decided to host a small blog train. It starts right here with this post, then tomorrow it will move on to its first stop. Over the rest of the month the train will visit 23 blog entries that all have something to do with Niteblade. C’mon, it’s going to be quite a trip!

Blog Train Schedule:

August 8th: Niteblade News ~*~ Choo Choo!
August 9th: James Dorr ~*~ The Niteblade Blog Train, What’s That? – Jazzy Vampires
August 10th: J.E. Taylor ~*~ We Always Remember Our First Time
August 11th: Aubrie Dionne ~*~ Niteblade Blog Train
August 12th: Beth Cato ~*~ “I Wish”: A Tale for the Niteblade Blog Train
August 13th: Joseph Zieja ~*~ Respecting Your Roots: Niteblade’s Blog Train
August 14th: Ash Krafton ~*~ Niteblade: The Bloooooog Train
August 15th: Marge Simon ~*~ My Love Affair With Niteblade
August 16th: Stephanie M. Wytovich ~*~ All Aboard the Train to Hell
August 17th: Alexandra Seidel ~*~ The Niteblade Blog Train: Poetry Central
August 18th: Brenda Stokes Barron ~*~ Niteblade Blog Train – What a Difference
August 19th: kaolin fire ~*~ Niteblade Blog Train
August 20th: Chris Lewis Carter ~*~ Next Stop on the Niteblade Blog Train
August 21st: Rhonda Parrish ~*~ Control Issues
August 22nd: Alexis A. Hunter ~*~ Niteblade Blog Train: Stop 15
August 23rd: Heather R. Peterson ~*~ The One Website Every Writer Should Know
August 24th: Mark Rigney ~*~ Freight Train, Freight Train, Going so Fast…
August 25th: Sharon K. Reamer ~*~ Niteblade: Let’s Celebrate
August 26th: Sandi Leibowitz ~*~ Horror Mounts
August 27th: Andrew Patterson ~*~ Niteblade Blog Train
August 28th: John Clewarth ~*~ The Niteblade Blog Train keeps on rolling!
August 29th: Pete Aldin ~*~ Because Business is Personal: Why I like Niteblade
August 30th: Amber Stults ~*~ Interviews at Niteblade
August 31st: Jonathan Pinnock ~*~ Happy Anniversary, Niteblade!
September 1st: Niteblade News

James Dorr is going to kick off the train for real over at his blog – James Dorr. Be sure and stop by there tomorrow and read what he has to say 🙂