Wednesday, February 22, 2017

#Books + #Movies That Scared Me #Horror #Suspense

I read all genres, with horror and psychological thrillers being a few of my favorites, but not many fictional things actually succeed in scaring me, as far as books and movies go (although someone in my family walking into a room unexpectedly will almost always result in my screaming and jumping—but that’s an entirely different story having to do with how tightly I’m wound these days).  While many people avoid scary stuff like the plague, I love it…I think it has something to do with the thrill of a heart-pounding adrenaline rush accompanied by the comforting fact that on some level, I know I’m actually safe, sitting on the couch reading or watching.  So I read plenty of horror, paranormal, and suspense, and I love watching scary flicks (find a list of my favorite ghost movies here) although I prefer supernatural and psychological horror over the kind that feature gore or torture.  So for fellow adrenaline junkies, here’s a list of three movies and two books that did truly scare me.  Any spoilers will follow a “Spoiler Alert” sentence, so you can safely stop reading about something you want to try for yourself.  I’d hate to ruin any future scares!

Movie:  The Exorcist.  I can’t imagine it would be possible to spoil anyone regarding the plot of this movie (based on the book by William Peter Blatty), since it was released in 1973 and also, if you’re reading this, you probably like scary things and have certainly watched it.  Even though the film is a bit dated, it’s still one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen.  When I saw it as a child (on TV—not sure who approved that—some solid parenting there lol), I related more to the viewpoint of the child, Regan.  Could something like that happen to me?  And if it did, would I be subjected to those giant needles and painful tests?  Would a demon turn my head around and write on my skin from the inside out?  Those scenes struck a visceral chord with me.  As an adult, my fear stems more from the mother’s point of view—talk about a nightmare situation.  An evil entity taking over your child?  It’s not hard to imagine the horrifying helplessness a parent would experience, watching a demon not only possess but also injure his or her child. 

Probably the most chilling thing about The Exorcist is that the book was based on an actual incident which occurred in Maryland, not far from where I grew up.  And then there were the frightening real-life events surrounding the making of the movie which led people to wonder if portraying a demonic possession actually conjured up some evil forces – more on the “Curse of The Exorcist” in this post

Book:  Pet Sematary.  I read a lot of Stephen King, and this is the book King calls the most frightening he has ever written.  That should tell you something right there.  I can’t speak regarding the movie, as I haven’t seen it, but I clearly remember reading the book even though it was years and years ago, when I was a teenager.  And I remember so vividly for two reasons: (1) I stayed up until 3 a.m. reading to finish it, and it was a school night.  And (2) I spent the rest of the night (early morning, actually) scared out of mind, waiting for **!!spoiler alert, stop reading here if you haven’t read the book or seen the movie and have plans to now** …a shambling, undead, murderous toddler wielding a scalpel.  No wonder King found the manuscript so horrifying he almost didn’t finish it!  Very few books have affected me like that, and for the rest of the night, my lights stayed on and every creak in our old home had me watching the bedroom doorknob, waiting for it to slowly open.

Book:  Red Dragon.  The precursor to Silence of the Lambs, also by Thomas Harris.  This is likely to sound twisted, but this book was actually recommended to me by my father, who instilled a love of reading in me early and knew that like himself, I enjoyed a good adrenaline jolt as long as it was fictional.  I was probably about 14 or 15 when he asked if I’d read it, and he then told me it was the scariest book he’d ever read.  Obviously I had to run out and get it.  This is the book in which Harris introduces the now-iconic Dr. Hannibal Lector character.  But the more terrifying aspect of the book was the psychotic serial killer nicknamed “The Tooth Fairy” by the press.  More specifically, it was not only what he did to the families he murdered, but how he got inside their homes, and especially how he chose his victims.  **!!Spoiler alert ahead, I can’t remember when this is revealed in the book, but best to stop reading now if you don’t know**…As it turned out, the killer had a job developing film and movies, and he used this visual information to select families and learn layouts of the houses.  So, yeah, this scared me so much, I actually stopped having my pictures developed for a while, which was a major inconvenience.  When a fictional character makes you change your behavior, you know that book has made an impression!

Movie:  Jaws.  Based on the book by Peter Benchley, this movie released in 1975, so of course, the special effects aren’t really appreciated by younger generations.  Still, the fear of being grabbed and eaten alive by something unseen, under the water, is pretty much universal, so that alone is enough to seriously frighten most people.  And then there’s the way it was filmed, often from the shark’s point of view as it honed in on its victims, along with the terrifying score that accompanied the hunt.  Part of the horror is the randomness of the attacks—it can and does happen to kids and teens as well as adults in this movie—and it often happens right out in the bright sunshine, at a beautiful place usually associated with relaxation and family fun.  

This movie was filmed on Martha’s Vineyard, very close to where I live now, so if you’d like to see some of my photos of iconic movie spots, that post can be found here.  And I have to say, this movie is even scarier to me now, because Great White Sharks have become very commonplace off the Cape Cod shores since the seal population became protected and then exploded.  The last time I went Full Moon Paddling (a once-a-month nighttime kayak expedition I sometimes do), we were out in open water and something hit against the bottom of my kayak, setting me off balance for a moment with a hollow thump.  I’m sure, now, that it was just a sandbar, but at the time, in the almost complete darkness, my heart nearly exploded and I was certain I was about to be an evening snack.  So while I enjoy the nighttime paddles, I’m sticking to the lake and pond excursions for now.  Thanks, Jaws.

Movie:  The Blair Witch Project.  First of all, another horror film set near where I grew up—Burkittsville, Maryland, not far from where I spent a lot of time at our friends’ farm and where I set one of my own books.  So already, the proximity alone creeped me out.  But the even bigger part was that this movie was promoted as being ACTUAL “found footage”, all that remained after the three film students go missing--a brilliant marketing strategy that went "viral" and purposefully added confusion to the question of whether the movie was fact or fiction.  And it was very, very effective, at least in terms of scaring me.  First off, the three went into the remote woods of the Black Hills in search of the ghost of The Blair Witch, a woman accused of witchcraft and banished from the town.  During preliminary interviews, they had also heard horrific stories of a kidnapper who lived in the woods in the 1940s.  Soon the three are lost in these spooky woods, with no way to contact anyone for help, which is a fear most people can identify with.  When creepy things begin happening, all recorded on shaky, hand-held cameras which increase the tension, it’s like we’re watching these helpless people being stalked by some unseen, possibly supernatural entity, and it’s completely unnerving to say the least.  Similar to (and inspired by) early scenes in Jaws, this movie uses the viewers’ imaginations to fill in the predator’s image, and the “not knowing” gives our minds unlimited reign to conjure up something bone-chilling. 

When this movie came out, I was living in a house that backed to the woods, and after seeing it, if I had to go out at night to get my dog in, my heart would be racing, my ears straining for random snaps of twigs, my eyes searching the shadows for dark figures.  And I’ll never look at a pile of rocks or sticks again without a little ripple of unease.

So those are a few fictional stories that scared the daylights out of me!  I tend to aim more for spooky suspense in my own novels, but readers and reviewers have told me certain scenes gave them chills, which is exciting for an author who writes about hauntings to hear.  And since I am such a fan of ghost stories in particular, I’ve made previous lists of My Favorite Ghost Stories and My Favorite Ghost Movies, for more ideas to get your paranormal fix.  And if you have a book or movie that scared you, I want to hear about it!  Thanks for stopping by and happy reading/viewing.   


Monday, February 13, 2017

History of #ValentinesDay ~ Happy #Valentines Day!

Valentine's Day is fast approaching, and in the tradition of dedicating my blog to a bit of history about certain holidays and traditions (See New Year'sSaint Nick and Santa ClausFinding Easter's Date, and Saint Patrick for a few others), I decided to look into the facts behind St. Valentine and the reasons we celebrate love and romance on February 14th.  Turns out, there is quite a bit of conflicting information regarding this particular saint and the holiday named for him. Disclaimer: as always, please keep in mind I am a romance author by trade, not a historian!  

The name Valentine comes from the Latin word "valens" which means healthy or strong.  The derivation Valentine was a popular name between the 2nd and 8th centuries AD, which could explain part of the confusion surrounding this saint.

St. Valentine Kneeling in
Supplication by David Teniers III
Public Domain *Attribution below
The Valentine remembered on February 14 was a third century Roman Saint martyred and buried in a cemetery on the Via Flaminia, an ancient Roman Road.  It's possible that early references to Saint Valentine actually referred to several saints with the same name.  Sources including The Catholic Encyclopedia mention three Saint Valentines connected to the February date: a Roman priest and a bishop, both buried along the Via Flaminia, and a saint in a Roman province of Africa. Some information points to the first two Valentines actually being the same person.

The details surrounding the acts and eventual martyrdom of Valentine are also hazy.  Common threads point to an account of Valentine performing a miracle (restoring the sight of a young girl), aiding Christians and encouraging others to embrace Christianity.  While imprisoned, he refused to renounce his faith and was executed.  

Pope Gelasius I established the Feast of Saint Valentine on February 14 in 496, acknowledging that while not many details were known about Valentine, his acts were known to God.

The more modern traditions connecting Saint Valentine's Day to romantic love date to the fourteenth century and are generally attributed to Geoffrey Chaucer, "the Father of English Literature", and his circle of friends.  In the Middle Ages, birds were thought to pair in mid-February, and in his poem "Parliament of Foules" there is mention of February 14th being the day birds as well as humans find a mate.  

Now that St. Valentine's Day is linked to celebrating romance, common themes include cards, flowers, candy, hearts, and of course, a focus on love stories.  Why not download a page-turning romance novel and enjoy the thrill of the characters' journeys as they fall in love?  For steamy romance mixed with spooky suspense, try #1 Kindle Bestseller GULL HARBOR, where a medium encounters both a dangerous ghost and an ex-boyfriend in a sleepy Cape Cod town. SILVER LAKE also involves a haunting mystery as a group of estranged friends reunite to try to solve their friend's disappearance...and two star-crossed lovers fight for a second chance.  In DIVINE FALL, an award-winning Young Adult Paranormal Romance, forbidden first love meets supernatural secrets as the last Nephilim seeks his revenge.

A little teaser from GULL HARBOR...

You can also send an ebook to a friend to enjoy for less than the price of a card!  (Note - Feb. 14th is also International Book Giving Day!)  Just check on the right hand side for "Send as a gift" and fill in the email address.

Happy Valentine's Day and Happy Reading!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Cape Cod #ValentinesDay #Book Event! #CapeCod #Romance

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a special Cape Cod literary event offered by A Book in The Hand!  “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” will feature readings of romantic scenes by eight local authors, everything from flirty to steamy.  I can’t wait to share some of my favorite sexy scenes, as characters I cherish finally succumb to their desire, despite all the obstacles in their way!  The only problem is – which books do I choose?  I’ll probably share some passages from GULL HARBOR and HAUNTED SOULS, since those are my steamier stories, and they are also the two novels set on Cape Cod.  For more info on this event, please read the official flier from ABITH below!  Hope to see you there.

"Hot damn, these two are smokin' hot!" ~
Romance 4 the Beach review of HAUNTED SOULS

ABITH (A Book in the Hand) will meet on Monday, February 13, from 7 to 8:30 pm, at the Jacob Sears Memorial Library, 23 Center Street, East Dennis. This time, ABITH will celebrate Valentine’s Day with a special program: *Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered* and we will explore love in all its literary carnations: good, bad, happy, sad, unrequited, reunited ― and red hot sex.

Eight local authors: Jennifer GostinKatie O’SullivanKathryn Knight, Claudia DillaireArlene KayWilliam H. Richmond, Barbara Struna, and Elizabeth Moisan, all novelists, will read from their published works, and you’ll hear the soft, shy, first flutterings of new love all the way to the steamy afterglow.

There will be time for some Q&A and a bit of discussion. Plus, there will be some Valentine goodies which you may enjoy as the evening progresses.

February 14 is also “International Book Giving Day”. Designed to encourage children to read, it’s a reminder that books make fabulous gifts for people of all ages. All the participating authors will have books for sale ― and they will make great presents for others, and for you!

A little teaser from GULL HARBOR ~ this scene will probably be read!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Love #Romance? A #ValentinesDay #Bloghop #Giveaway! #Rafflecopter

A Time For Love Blog Hop ~ 

Steamy Romance 
Spooky Suspense

Welcome to my stop on the Blog Hop!  February is a time to celebrate love, thanks to St. Valentine's Day on the 14th.  As it turns out, there are conflicting stories regarding the identity and works of the actual Saint Valentine, but what is known for certain is that Pope Gelasius I established the Feast of Saint Valentine on February 14 in 496, acknowledging that while not many details were known about Valentine, his acts were known to God.

So how did that turn into a holiday associated with romance, paper hearts, chocolates, and cupid?  These more modern traditions date to the fourteenth century and are generally attributed to Geoffrey Chaucer, "the Father of English Literature", and his circle of friends.  In the Middle Ages, birds were thought to pair in mid-February, and in his poem "Parliament of Foules" there is mention of February 14th being the day birds as well as humans find a mate. In the eighteenth century, it became common for lovers to exchange flowers, cards, and sweet treats.

Cupid is the God of Love, and in Roman mythology he is the son of Venus (Goddess of Love) and Mars (God of War).  In Greek mythology, his counterpart is Eros.  Cupid's power came from his bow and arrow:  those he shot would be struck with overwhelming desire.

Desire, passion, and love are present in all novels in the romance genre, of course, but there are many, many subgenres within romance which serve to appeal to a variety of reader tastes and to create unique stories.  My specialty is steamy romance meets spooky suspense.  I write sexy, tension-filled romance spiked with haunting mysteries to send a few shivers up your spine as well.  It's a mix of genres known as "paranormal romantic suspense", and my #1 Kindle Bestsellers are bound to leave you breathless!  And for lovers of more traditional paranormal romance and/or less heat, I have a Young Adult title as well, featuring a rogue half-angel bent on revenge.

My latest title, Haunted Souls, combines a damaged military hero, a secret baby, and a haunting mystery into a page-turning read set on the shores of Cape Cod.  One of my favorite reviews of this new release came from Romance for the Beach: "Hot damn, these two are smokin' hot!".  Yes, the chemistry is there, but this is also a tale of forgiveness and redemption, "packed with angst, turmoil, danger, and romance" (Splashes Into Books).

You can find this title on: Kindle ~ Nook ~ iTunes.  

A sexy teaser from GULL HARBOR!

And as a thank you for stopping by, I'll gift one lucky commenter an e-copy of either Gull Harbor (a dangerous ghost and an ex-boyfriend await Claire...) or the YA novel Divine Fall (Revenge, romance, and a rogue fallen angel...) for Valentine's Day!  Please remember to leave an email or Twitter handle in the comments if you'd like to enter, so the winner can be reached.  And for our overall blog hop giveaways, we have TWO $50 gift cards, which will go to two lucky entries into our Rafflecopter below (click the arrow on the top of the Rafflecopter to make sure you enter that one too!).  And don't forget to Hop along all the blogs involved for more prizes and Valentine's fun ~ list of links is below.  Good luck and Happy Valentine's Day!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

To WIN prizes, collect freebies, and meet awesome authors simply visit each page below

1.The Perfect Time For Love ~ Casi McLean2.Spunk & Hunks ~ Anna Durand
3.Love in the Month of February ~ Mary Morgan4.Love Potions and Charms ~ Sorchia Dubois
5.He said he wasn't the romantic kind of guy, but... ~ Peggy Jaeger6.Love and War ~ Gini Rifkin
7.Sexy Chocolate Cakes ~ Kayden Claremont8.50 Great Date Ideas ~ Devon Mckay
9.Hearts Abound ~ Tena Stetler10.Love Every Day ~ Darlene Fredette
11.Importance of Valentines Day ~ Maureen Bonatch12.Souls Forever Bound ~ Judith Sterling
13.Mysterious Origins of Valentine's Day ~ Barbara Bettis14.A Romantic Valentine Dinner ~ Jana Richards
15.Steamy Romance Meets Spooky Suspense ~ Kathryn Knight16.Book Bling ~ Elizabeth Alsobrooks
17.Sweet Romances ~ Katherine McDermott18.Historical Heartbeats ~ Brenda B. Taylor
19.An Awesome Bewitching Author Valentines Day ~ Lisa Voisin20.Idea City ~ Kitsy Clare/Catherine Stine
21.Welcome to the ABA Valentine Hop ~ Linda Nightingale22.Bridie Hall YA Author ~ Bridie Hall
23.A Time For Love Valentine Blog Hop ~ Amber Daulton24.'Out Of This World' Romance ~ Hywela Lyn
25.Time Travel For Love ~ Karen Michelle Nutt26.Valentine's Day - A Family Tradition ~ Holland Rae
27.Historical Heartbeats

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

My 5 Favorite #Ghost #Movies ~ #haunted house #haunting

I have a bit of an obsession with ghosts, as anyone who has read my books knows -- three of my novels feature a haunting as well as some steamy romance (HAUNTED SOULS just released as of June 2016!).  I've made lists before of my favorite ghost stories in terms of books, but I do enjoy the movies as well...whenever my sister comes to visit, we usually have a marathon watch of creepy films.  Anything paranormal will do, but the ones with a spooky and convincing ghostly presence get top billing.  Over the years, a few have really resonated with me, and helped inspire my novels.  Keep in mind, I'm no movie critic...I just found these films to have the solid backbone of a believable ghost story, with a decent mystery behind the haunting, as well as a lack of the plot holes I find in so many others.  The suspense kept me guessing, and certain scenes gave me serious chills.  I'll try to throw a little blurb out there for each one without revealing too many spoilers, in case you'd like to give one a try!

Such a spine-chilling scene
The Changeling - 1980 - George C. Scott stars as a widower who moves into a spooky old house in Seattle in the beginning of this film.  The ghost of a young boy inhabits the house, and the tragedy that befell him will eventually expose a cruel plot.  Now, the ghost wants justice, and Scott's character, plagued by scary surprises and terrifying noises, begins to investigate the mystery.  Admittedly, it's an oldie...and at the risk of dating myself, it was one of my favorites when I was in middle school.  In fact, my best friend had an upstairs bedroom that opened upon an attic that bore a spine-tingling resemblance to the one in the movie...late at night, we'd scare ourselves silly imagining that ball bouncing down the stairs.

A Stir of Echoes - 1999 - a film starring Kevin Bacon, loosely based on a novel by Richard Matheson (also the author of Hell House and I Am Legend, among others).  Bacon's character, Tom, has a son who seems to possess the ability to speak with the dead...and there is something in their house that wants to be heard.  After being hypnotized at a party, Tom begins to experience visions as well, of a violent altercation which is tied to a neighbor's disappearance.  Clearly the desperate spirit wants its body found, but there are others with a vested interest in making sure that doesn't happen.

Such a creepy poster!

What Lies Beneath - 2000 - starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford (two of my favorites!)  Claire (Pfeiffer) and Norman (Ford) are a married couple living in Vermont; Claire is suffering from a memory lapse due to an accident.  When strange occurrences begin plaguing Claire, she investigates a possible killing in the neighborhood.  There is a ghost trying to communicate with Claire, but it's not who she first believes it is...and the spirit is not the only one hiding dangerous secrets.  (Update: a reader recently left a review of my debut novel SILVER LAKE, saying if you liked What Lies Beneath, you'd like this book.  I was thrilled with the comparison!)

The Orphanage - 2007 - a Spanish film set in...yes, a closed orphanage...along the Spanish coast in 1975.  My sister and I watched this one with subtitles, but I believe a remake is in the works.  This movie is dark, but full of creepy atmosphere and amazing cinematography.  The basic plot involves a couple and their adopted son returning to the orphanage where the mother once lived.  The family's plan is to reopen the old building as a home for disabled children, but their son soon claims to have befriended a boy named Tomas.  Terrible things happened here, and the truth will come out before the spirits can rest. (Side note - I recently signed a permission slip for my son to watch this in his high school Spanish class!  I was so jealous and of course, he, being a fan of ghost stories like his mom, loved it.)

The Others - 2001 - Nicole Kidman plays Grace, a mother residing in a remote manor with her two young children after World War II.  Both children must avoid exposure to sunlight due to a rare condition, so as you can imagine, the shadowy, secluded house presents itself as the perfect gothic setting for the mysterious events to unfold.  There's quite a bit of psychological suspense in this one too, so I don't want to say too much about the plot for fear of spoilers. 

In most of these movies, there is a very similar theme: a desperate spirit who cannot rest because of unfinished business.  The ghost seeks revenge or justice, or wants its story told or its remains found.  Barriers to communication make this difficult, but not impossible.  These are all ideas that inspired my first two novels, SILVER LAKE and GULL HARBOR.  Of course, there are many other ghost movies I've enjoyed that rely more on terrifying imagery than an underlying mystery to ramp up the screams, or that veer more into what I would categorize as demons/possession tropes.  Still fun to watch, but my mind usually can't stop looking for an answer to the question, "Why is this happening?" (ie, motive - even ghosts should have one imho).  But even if the motive turns out to be shaky, or the plot leaves a few unfilled holes, I'll take a creepy thriller over gunfights and explosions any day!  So please share your favorite ghost movies below, especially any "lesser-known" ones, so I can add them to my list!  Thanks for stopping by :)