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Silent Hill — Guest post by Sairento Hiru

Originally published November 15, 2016 on

(This post contains massive spoilers for Silent Hill.)

Flashback, 1999: I was working as an assistant manager at Blockbuster, diligently prepping new games for rental, when bright red lettering caught my eye on one of the cases.  “SILENT HILL” was written above a gray and white picture of a man staring to the left with a concerned look on his face while a little girl walked away.  I flipped the game over and read the back cover:

“Harry Mason and his daughter Cheryl are driving to their favorite vacation spot.  Late that night, a figure suddenly appears from out of the darkness.  Harry turns the wheel in panic, and the car careens off the road, knocking Harry unconscious.  Awakening sometime later, he realizes that Cheryl is missing.  Stumbling out of the wreckage, he heads towards the small town of Silent Hill.”

Well, color me intrigued!

I…well, this is embarrassing to admit, but the statute of limitations has long since passed and Blockbuster Video has gone the way of the Betamax, so I’ll just confess.  We weren’t allowed to check out new items for free on our employee accounts, and I was pretty sure I wanted to take my time with it, so I, uh, marked it as used and sold it to myself for $20.  (I wouldn’t ordinarily do something like that, but I had recently worked a 16-hour shift because the closing manager never showed up and then I had to open the store the next morning on all of 5 hours’ sleep, so let’s just say I was feeling a little bitter, and getting a brand-new game for half price did quite a bit to salve that emotional wound.)

Fortunately, I had the next day off work, so when I got home that evening, I took my prize down to the basement.  At the time, I was living with my dad, and I had turned a section of the basement into my own little corner of paradise: TV, VCR, huge stack of constantly replenished anime fansubs, Playstation, and a beanbag chair.  There was a bathroom about 10 feet away, a futon for 15 minute power naps to recharge my batteries during particularly long play sessions, and a mini-fridge stocked with Coke and bottled water.  Aside from being (COUGH) years old, still living with my father, and working at Blockbuster, I was living the dream!

I started up the game and flopped into the beanbag chair.  The words “The fear of blood tends to create fear for the flesh” popped up on the screen, and even though I had no clue (and still don’t) what that meant, it sent a delicious little shiver up my spine.  I thought I knew what to expect because I had logged so many hours playing Resident Evil, but I had no idea what was waiting for me.  If Resident Evil’s fun house scares are Friday the 13th, Silent Hill is more akin to Jacob’s Ladder.

The opening cinema, set to absolutely haunting music by composer Akira Yamaoka, is made up of several scenes, most of which don’t make any sense until after the game is completed:  a couple finding a baby in a graveyard, a nurse crawling on the ground, an old woman chewing gum in a church, a female cop wearing a uniform straight out of a stripper’s supply catalog.  Then the car crash referenced on the back cover occurred, the title screen popped up, and my heart swelled up in anticipation.

When the game begins, our protagonist Harry Mason has just woken up in his crashed car, but the passenger side door is open and his young daughter Cheryl is missing.  Harry gets out of the car and sees Cheryl standing there, but when he goes after her, she runs away.  Eventually he winds up in an alley, where he finds a mutilated corpse chained up to a fence.  A group of skinless, knife-wielding children attacks Harry, and…he dies.

Yes, you read that right.  He dies.

Of course, my initial reaction was that I had done something wrong.  Had I taken a wrong turn somewhere?  No, that couldn’t be it; up until that point, the game had basically held my hand and shown me exactly where to go.  Did I miss a weapon?

Oops, no, it was a dream or a hallucination.  Harry wakes up with a gasp in a diner with Stripper Cop staring at him.  She introduces herself as Cybil Bennett, and she’s from the next town over.  She acknowledges that some weird shit is going down in Silent Hill, and she’s determined to get to the bottom of it.  She tells Harry to stay in the diner while she gets backup, but he wants to look for Cheryl, so Cybil gives him a gun (because, you know, it’s standard operating procedure for cops to give a weapon to a civilian) and tells him to be careful before she heads out.

To detail the plot of the entire game would be lengthy, so I’ll be skipping to the highlights from here on, starting with Harry’s trip to Midwich Elementary.  This school was named after John Wyndham’s novel The Midwich Cuckoos, which was the basis for the movie The Village of the Damned, and guess what’s stalking around the school?  Why, it’s the skinless knife-wielding children from the beginning of the game.  I’ve played dozens of horror games in the 17 years since Silent Hill’s release, and I can honestly tell you that Midwich Elementary remains the most terrifying area in any of them.  The children grab at Harry and moan while stabbing him, and there are also creatures called “larval stalkers” that are translucent.  They do not harm you, but the first time you see one, you will empty your clip into it out of sheer panic and it will squeak and disappear.  (Fun fact: the skinless children were deemed too controversial to be included in Silent Hill’s Japanese and European versions, and were replaced by monsters with a much less childlike appearance.)

After searching the school and solving classic survival horror puzzles (figure out a riddle, play a piano, get medallions and put them into a pillar), Harry finds himself in the alternate version of the school.  This is, of course, Silent Hill’s trademark: an area suddenly becomes rusty, bloodstained, and even more dangerous.  The demon babies are out in full force, cockroaches have joined the party, Harry opens a locker to find a cat (who escapes into the hall and is killed, thankfully off screen, by a monster), and Harry gets a phone call from Cheryl, who understandably sounds terrified, but the call is cut off.  Harry eventually faces his first boss, an enormous lizard.  After defeating the lizard, Harry blacks out and wakes up in the school, which is back to normal…well, at least there are no creatures roaming around.  Harry hears church bells in the distance, so he decides to make his way there, and this is where we first meet Dahlia Gillespie, the gum chomping old woman from the opening cinema.  She spouts off a bunch of mumbo jumbo, and Harry is frustrated, but she seems to know a lot about Cheryl, so he indulges her.  She tells him about an object called the Flauros, which will stop the supernatural events happening in Silent Hill, and tells him to go to the hospital.  With no other leads to go on, Harry takes the Flauros and heads out.

When Harry gets to Alchemilla Hospital, he meets a man named Dr. Michael Kaufmann.  (Another fun fact: he’s named after cult movie producers Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufmann of Troma Studios.  Toxie would certainly be busy cleaning up in Silent Hill!)  Dr. Kaufmann is holding a gun but doesn’t seem interested in using it on Harry, or for that matter, interested in Harry’s predicament, so he takes off.

After doing some exploring, Harry gets into the elevator and goes to the second floor, but he can’t exit.  The same thing happens with the third floor, but then a button for the fourth floor mysteriously appears, and that’s where Harry is able to get off.  If you’re familiar with Japanese culture, you know that hospitals typically don’t have a fourth floor because the word for four, shi, sounds like the word for death.  It’s another big red flag for our hero, but Harry has no choice, and he steps off the elevator to find the alternate version of the hospital, populated with scalpel-wielding doctors and nurses with strange wriggling humps on their backs.  He makes his way down to the sub-basement and finds a room with a framed picture of a girl with the name Alessa written underneath.  When he leaves the room, he meets a nurse named Lisa Garland, who has no idea what’s going on and says she hasn’t seen Cheryl.  Harry blacks out and wakes up with the hospital back to normal.  Dahlia Gillespie decides to pop in for a visit, and she explains that the strange mark Harry has been seeing everywhere is the Mark of Samael.  She thoughtfully leaves a key for Harry and he heads back out onto the streets of Silent Hill.

Oh look, it’s our friend the stripper cop!  How does Cybil fight crime in those pants, I wonder?  Anyway, Cybil tells Harry that she tried to get out of town but wasn’t able to leave.  She mentions that she saw a young girl walking through town, but the girl disappeared before Cybil could reach her.  Harry winds up back in the hospital with Nurse Lisa, who finally comes through with some important information.  She tells Harry that Dahlia Gillespie’s daughter died in a fire, and ever since then, Dahlia has not been all there.  Lisa thinks Dahlia might be involved in a cult that’s trying to invoke a god, and Harry blacks out.

When Harry comes to again, he’s in an antique shop, and Silent Hill has gone evil again…well, MORE evil.  He leaves the antique shop and eventually enters a mall, where he finds a hunting rifle.  Of course, anyone familiar with video games knows this means a Big Bad is on its way, and this time around, it’s basically a Dune sandworm that spews toxic gas at Harry and knocks him over.  Once the creature is defeated, Harry backtracks to the hospital, where Lisa is waiting for him.  He wants to get to the lake, but Bachman Road is blocked off.  Lisa tells him that he can get there by going through the sewers, but she doesn’t want to be alone and she doesn’t want to come with him, either.  Harry shrugs off her concerns and takes off.

Another boss fight!  This time around it’s Mothra.  I don’t know if this enormous moth is the mother of the sandworm that Harry killed in the mall, but either way, she ain’t happy.  A few shots from the boomstick and a WHOLE lot of dodging, and Harry defeats the beast and goes to the sewers.

Oh my god, the EFFING SEWERS.  They are very confusing and filled with reptilian critters.  At one point, something crashes down and I just about leaped out of my skin.  I was glad to get out of there, but not too thrilled to wind up on a houseboat talking to Cybil and getting interrupted by Dahlia, who’s rambling about the darkness and that the only way to stop it is to use the Flauros, the pyramid-shaped object that she gave to Harry earlier.  Cybil heads to the amusement park, and Harry takes a scenic detour to the lighthouse and then heads to the amusement park via the sewers.  God, not the effing sewers again!  They’re just as confusing as before, and now they’re infested with monsters that look like Gloomy Bear, only not as amusing as that sounds.

You’d think that emerging from a monster-filled (and no doubt odoriferous) sewer into an amusement park would be a welcome reprieve; you’d be wrong, because Harry finds Cybil at the merry-go-round, and she’s been possessed by a demon.  Harry has to fight her, and the first time I played, I wound up killing her, which certainly didn’t sit right with me.  It turned out that earlier in the hospital, when you see a puddle of dark liquid on the floor, you’re supposed to scoop some up and then toss it on Cybil during this scene, which saves her.  Yeah, I don’t know why they didn’t make that more obvious either.

Assuming Harry saves Cybil, she asks him if he knows why Silent Hill wants his daughter.  He tells her that Cheryl isn’t actually his biological daughter; he and his late wife found her on the side of the road near Silent Hill and kept her in flagrant violation of about a thousand different laws.   Harry thinks Cheryl must have some deep connection to Silent Hill.  Alessa, the young woman who stepped in front of Harry’s car and causes the accident, appears, and Harry demands that she return Cheryl to him.  Alessa ain’t having it, and she telekinetically pushes him away.  But hark!  A wild Flauros appears!  It rises from his hand and causes Alessa to fall to the ground.  Dahlia, who seems to have some sort of magical teleporting abilities, shows up and tells Alessa that it’s time to go home.  They disappear, and Harry blacks out yet again.

When Harry wakes up, he’s in an area called Nowhere, and even though it’s relatively safe, it’s one of the creepiest areas in the game, made up of rooms from all of the different areas he’s already visited.  One room has rusty metal grating on the floor and the sound of breaking glass; another has an empty birdcage in the middle and the sound of an unseen bird frantically fluttering around.  Harry eventually runs into Lisa again, and she’s had a horrifying revelation: she is “the same as them”, a monster created by Silent Hill.  She begins bleeding profusely, and Harry backs away from her in horror and runs out of the room, barricading the door with his body as Lisa cries.  It’s one of the saddest scenes in the series (and trust me, there is some serious competition), and I generally liked Harry as a protagonist but I thought that was a real dick move on his part to let Lisa die alone and in pain.  When the noises finally stop, he goes back inside and there’s no sign of her, aside from a diary she left on the ground.  It turns out that Lisa was Alessa’s nurse, and she begged to be relieved of her duties caring for Alessa because she was frightened of the fact that Alessa was so badly injured but couldn’t die.  Lisa was addicted to a drug called PTV (a nod to noise band Psychic TV, perhaps?), and withdrawal was causing hallucinations of insects and a faucet running with blood and pus, so she was forced to stay at the hospital in order to gain access to PTV.

As Harry continues through Nowhere, he sees a flashback of people huddled over Alessa’s hospital bed.  It turns out that Alessa was ritually sacrificed by the cult in order to bring forth a god.  The trauma of being burned alive caused Alessa’s soul to split into two, part of which was reincarnated into a baby…the same baby Harry and his wife found on the side of the road, Cheryl.  Cheryl has been irresistibly drawn back to Silent Hill in hopes of completing the ritual once and for all.

And now it’s time to face the final boss: Alessa.  There are four endings, not including the joke ending, depending on whether certain conditions were met throughout the game.  As it turns out, Dr. Kaufmann was in cahoots with the cult all along, and he wants the deity resurrected once and for all.  He throws aglaophotis, the magical liquid that can also be used to save Cybil, at Alessa, which forces the demon Samael out of her body.  Once Samael has been defeated, Alessa reappears, manifests a new baby (a combination of both herself and Cheryl), and gives it to Harry.  Lisa emerges to drag Dr. Kaufmann to the hell he so richly deserves, and Harry and Cybil escape with the baby and, hopefully, to a happier life.

When the ending credits began to roll, I flopped back against my beanbag, exhausted in the best possible ways.  I knew I had just played something that would stick with me for a long time.  I have a shirt with the iconic “The fear of blood…” quote on the front, as well as one that says “Harry & James & Heather & Henry & Alex”.  When I decided to get a tattoo, I strongly considered getting one based on Silent Hill.  My Twitter name is an homage to the series.  And I even have a framed picture of Alessa in my bedroom, the same one you find at the side of her hospital bed.  I know it must sound strange to have a picture of Silent Hill’s antagonist in my home, but in some ways I consider Alessa a patron saint of the abused and bullied, because she took the pain inflicted upon her and grew to be far more powerful than her oppressors.

Is Silent Hill my favorite game of the series?  Not by a long shot; that would be Silent Hill 2, which is also my favorite video game of all time.  Its graphics were nothing to write home about even when it was first released, and it looks downright primitive now.  But its masterful soundtrack, alternately horrifying and heartbreaking story, and visceral chills remain unblemished by the march of time.  It got under my skin the first time I played, and it has never left.

Sairentohiru is an OG horror fan who still has fond memories of perusing the over sized VHS boxes in the horror section of her hometown video store. She’s a big fan of all aspects of the horror genre, but especially video games. She evens out the macabre aspects of her personality with an intense love of cats and candy. You can find her on Twitter here 

Archives Movie Reviews Reviews

Strangers: Prey at Night Review

(Caution: Minor spoilers ahead.)


I have not seen The Strangers. I went into this “sequel” with no prior knowledge of the first film and I think Strangers: Prey at Night stands well on its own. You don’t need to see the first one to follow it. From what I’ve read they aren’t really related. So, it’s not a sequel in the sense that it’s a continuation of a story, but it does share the same villains.

Those villains though… The actors were great at communicating without speaking, their characters came across very well but, they weren’t scary. They were actually pretty amusing, I laughed out loud a few times. (No one else did though, so…maybe it’s just me?) The tension building was good, and the music choices were interesting, but overall I just didn’t find it frightening.

Now we’re getting into the potential spoilers. This movie, while entertaining, was extremely predictable. They spend so much time trying (and failing) to make you sympathize with the daughter, that you know she’s going to survive. What happened with her brother was a little less predictable, but still predicable at about half way through.

The victims were so stupid. Just. So. Stupid. I don’t want to ruin the movie so I’ll just give a couple of examples. Firstly, do people really feel obligated to answer the door when someone knocks? Especially in the middle of the night? Hell, I don’t even answer my door in the middle of the day unless I’m expecting you. Next, you are in the middle of nowhere, alone, and you have just discovered a couple who have been brutally murdered. What do you do? Split up, of course. Okay, it worked for Scooby-Doo. Whatever. But the second thing you do? Go back to your trailer, which you left unlocked, and not search it. Yeah, that’s reasonable. Which leads us to the death of the third victim. Dollface, I think, has a knife. Just a regular kitchen knife, and is cornering two of the victims. They outnumber her, do they fight back? No, of course not. Um, do they grab something, anything, to use as a weapon? Hmm? Nope. Well, one does try to find a knife, but Dollface already has it. So, they just run into the bathroom and scream “Leave us alone!” Like that’s going to help. Okay, moving on, one more thing to point out. Even after all of this, they’re running around with no direction and screaming. I… Yeah. Okay. Maybe be stealthy? No?

Overall, this was fairly entertaining, totally worth the couple bucks I paid to see it. I would watch again on a streaming service but I probably wouldn’t fork out the money for a DVD. If you enjoy amusing villains who chase down hapless, stupid people then you’ll probably enjoy Strangers: Prey at Night. However, if you want more story in your horror… keep looking.

Archives Interviews Women in Horror Month

Interview – Erin Al-Mehairi

You cohost a podcast called The Mando Method. What exactly is The Mando Method?

The Mando Method is a podcast on the conglomerate podcast system called Project Entertainment Network. It’s one of about 25 podcast shows. This one is co-hosted by the head of P.E.N., author Armand Rosamilia and his author friend, Chuck Buda. Armand does writing sprints during his days and since his nickname is Mando, it’s called The Mando Method, as an ode to his writing methods. Their show helps new and veteran writers with everything that goes into the game of writing and publishing. The idea was that Armand brought the years of experience, and Chuck, as a newbie infatuated with Armand, would learn allowing listeners to grow too.

I was asked by Armand to do a marketing segment, which I call #marketingmorsels, in which I spend 20 minutes at the end of their episode giving authors my experienced tips. I haven’t done one though in months. They are free, but it takes time to research and record, and I’ve had some major things going on, so I just haven’t had the time. I’ve done back segments on writing guest articles, blogging, hiring a publicist, Amazon pages, GoodReads, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. It’s fun, I hope to get back to it at some point and/or something like it. Writers should totally tune in to this podcast and all the other great podcasts on the network. I’d like to have my own podcast too.

In December 2017, a few of us who are authors and podcast hosts supplied our favorite story we’ve written for an anthology called, MY FAVORITE STORY. You’ll find our stories along with reasons why they are our favorites. It’s available in Kindle and print both and helps supply money to the costly business of running this network. I have a story in it, ‘Dandelion Yellow,” from my dark fiction collection, BREATHE. BREATHE. but there are also stories from really great authors and hosts like Jonathan Maberry, Christopher Golden, Brian Keene, Mary SanGiovanni, Amber Fallon, and many more.

Find Project Entertainment Network Online for a listing of all the shows and news.

Find all The Mando Method shows online HERE. As an example of one with #marketingmoresels, listen to the last 20 minutes of Episode 7 to hear me talk about the importance of blogging!

What is the hardest part of editing a manuscript?

It depends on the manuscript because each is so different writing level wise. I suppose when you know based on experience that an author really needs to flush something out more, or cut it, or add to characters, or cut characters, etc. and they don’t, then argue back. I usually know these things because I study reviews of all kinds of books, especially those by clients, to where I know what readers are consistently going to say. The hard part is when they balk at me and don’t listen to me, and after the book is published, the things I pointed out are chastised in reviews, but not only that, the reviewers have started to point fingers at editors lately. If the editor is experienced and works hard on the manuscript, the buck stops in the end with the author. They have the final say, especially if self-published, so it needs to lie with them in the reviews too. It’s hard when the author isn’t willing to learn or work WITH an editor as a team.

What is the best part of editing a manuscript?

I’d say overall, it’s working with a person for years and watching them grow and learn from the editing process, both in forming sentences to imagery to adding depth. It feels very successful and makes me happy. I love editing short story collections by an author and finding themes and themes within themes to tie it together. I love when they are either wholly entertaining or compelling and I get to be a small part of bringing it together.

I also like being a curating editor as well, and by that, I mean, being an editor of an anthology where I get to read all this great work, both short fiction and/or poetry, and find the ones that fit together to make an enjoyable piece of art.

With all the editing you’ve done, have you developed any pet-peeves? Mine is the constant misuse of the word Plethora.

I have a plethora of pet peeves. Kidding!! 😉 I don’t like when authors repeat the same words throughout one piece. As a writer, I have similar issues sometimes with repetition in some cases, but I mean, when a word is consistently repeated due to laziness. If I suggest in track changes to find some new words, and it comes back the same, I get even more irritated. I know they just aren’t taking the time. I often find myself suggesting alternative choices for simple descriptive words for them. One of the biggest ones though is the use of too many semi-colons.

You do Public Relations work as well, what does this entail?

I’ve been doing this for over 20 years for all types of things, from small business such as clothing or bed and breakfasts, to a healthcare system for almost a decade, to a hot air balloon festival, to many non-profits. It’s been my main career field after graduating from college. Seven years ago, I was writing, editing, and doing editorial reviews and essays on the side, but decided to branch out quickly into helping authors, especially in horror, once they found out my expertise and reached out to me. Basically, it can mean, and usually does, writing press releases, writing articles, editing articles, and coordinating appearances either in person at bookstores or locations or online on blogs, sites, radio, podcasts, and whatnot. I edit and consult on interview answers and prep. It’s also social buzz and postings, it’s being a cheerleader, it’s being a mediator and a liaison at times for publishers, organizations, or authors. It’s teaching them the art of presenting properly as a business to the world for maximum results. Often, it’s advertising. I do marketing and public relations, so I write ads, create ads, design direct ads and covers, and coordinate placements and watch return results. It’s like getting your package the most beautiful it can be as if you’re going to be unwrapped under the great big tree at Lincoln Center, each and every time. It’s also about getting the word out, repeatedly, about who you are and what you offer.

You released a collection of dark poetry and short stories last year (2017), what can you tell us about it?

Thank you, yes! Breathe. Breathe. was my debut dark poetry and short story collection last year. It was published as a limited-edition hand-made 60-page chapbook by the publisher of Unnerving Magazine during the summer and sold out. In October, it published as an expanded version, with half more content, in print and digital with a beautiful new dandelion cover. There are over thirty poems and five short stories. The cover comes from the fan-favorite story “Dandelion Yellow,” which has garnered a lot praise due to its psychological value. Though some of the poems, and a few of the stories, deal with every day domestic horror and traumas of abuse, rape, assault, illness, and anxiety, many of them are also genre blends into fantasy, sci-fi, historical, crime/thriller, and horror. There are fireflies who save a village from a plague outbreak, writings that dabble in Japanese, Thai, and Egyptian folklore, others that are murder mysteries ala Agatha Christie, some that are a little bit Twilight Zone mixed with X-Files. You can find a portion of all my various interests in this collection.

I am so very proud of it. It was fun to write some of the pieces for entertainment value, and yet, in others, it was finally a way to viscerally expend some of my revenge, hurts, and haunts. Very healing. Since writing it, I’ve never felt better about myself. I really hope that it touches others enough it can either help them too or it can help them to help others.

In December of 2017, the anthology HARDENED HEARTS from Unnerving also published, featuring my short story, “The Heart of the Orchard.” This is a fantastical crime horror story, told in contemporary times with a topping of fairy tale sprinkles (the dark kind). It was described by one reviewer as being “Rumpelstiltskin-like.” My fairy tales don’t end well. As with my other work, it has an element of revenge to it and deals with aftermath of trauma.

Also, in December 2017, Project Entertainment put out the anthology My Favorite Story, as I mentioned above in the first questions, and featured “Dandelion Yellow.”

In February of 2018, I had a poem called “Chained by Love” in the monthly issue of Enchanted Conversation: a fairy tale magazine. I was thrilled it was chosen. It’s about a mermaid from 14th century France and her lover. Things are not always as they seem nor will binding someone ever make them love you more.

This year, I’m co-editor on an anthology project at Unnerving called HAUNTED ARE THESE HOUSES, which is a Gothic-themed collection set to publish in September. We are curating reprints of classic poetry and short fiction pre-1929 and mixing it up with works by new and veteran authors and poets. The submission call just opened on Feb. 28 and will go to April 28, 2018. We are already receiving lots of poetry and short stories and I’m having a blast reading them. I think it’s cool – since Edgar Allan Poe isn’t living, but one of my inspirational idols, it’s the only way I’ll get close to being in a book with him! If anyone has questions, they can feel free to ask me, but I’d say just to keep in mind that it’s a wide theme with Gothic, so bring originality, and the book is not “just” hauntings, as in haunted houses, but rather, you know, we can be haunted by all sorts of things, can’t we? Anything atmospheric, creepy, dilapidated, historical, dark – all that comes to mind.

I hope to be invited to contribute poetry and short stories to more places in the next few years, submit some of my work to targeted places, and work on my novels and short story collections. As well, I’m working on a water-themed dark poetry collection, as water is such a big part of my surreal and often angst-filled dreams and nightmares. I’m in search of a publisher.

On your website you mention a love of Tudor England so I have to ask, York or Lancaster?

Ha! Wow, you really read it all. I have a history degree and am a lover of all things historical. For a while, I had a bit of an obsession with Tudor anything. I love anything medieval as well. I know I should pick one side, most people are good at that, demand it, then they fight it out to the death (even on social media). So please, no one draw their sword, but you know that the Lancaster line and York lines were brought together under the Tudor Rose! I especially love reading and watching about the Tudors, and really anything about Henry VIII’s wives, but especially about his daughter, Elizabeth I. Alchemy and magic wasn’t technically allowed then as part of the Protestant religion, but she did have a certain affinity to it that intrigues me.

How can our readers support your work?

The obvious answer is to purchase copies of my work, either Breathe. Breathe. or the anthologies for which I’m featured, Hardened Hearts and My Favorite Story. Also, leaving reviews even one paragraph or one sentence is so helpful on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and GoodReads. Also, adding the books to their TBR via my page on GoodReads. They can read pages on Kindle Unlimited. But honestly, I’m very happy when readers like my stuff if they let me know how it makes them feel or if they want to discuss topics with me. I am very appreciative even of shares on social media.

They can follow me on my site – Oh, for the Hook of a Book! – and leave comments, or on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. There are accounts for Hook of a Book as well on Twitter and Facebook.

Any advice to budding writers and editors?

With writers, don’t over think it. Just write. Write even badly. Don’t censor or filter yourself. Don’t worry about anything but writing it all down. Then go back and edit your sentence structure, look for repetitive words – then get out your thesaurus. If it’s a longer piece, of if you have time, put is aside for a few weeks, then go back to it. You’ll see it in a whole new light and where everything is you need to fix. Make sure you miss the characters. And finally, look for diversity within your work. Can all sorts of people identify with it in some way, or at least, in some of your pieces? The next step would be to send your work to trusted beta readers in several different areas – a friend or family member is okay, but make sure also to have eyes on it from other writers you hold in high regard or a reviewer or reader you admire or someone with expertise in a topic in your book. After this, look for a great editor with experience not just for self-publishing, but also if you are looking to submit a piece to a publisher. A good polish will better your chances of getting through the selective process.

As for editors, please make sure you don’t just consider yourself good at picking out a few grammar mistakes and decide to call yourself an editor. I am all for people living their dreams, but you’ll do everyone a disservice if you feel your qualified because you catch a few mistakes in a book your reading. That’s proofreading, and possibly your good at it, but to be an editor, it’s going to take work. Not only do you help with grammar and sentence structure, but you help with character development, descriptive and detail elements, themes, and at times, end up seeing valuable things in work that even the author sometimes doesn’t see. This comes, at least for me, from over 20 years of reading and dissecting works, reading through reviews on works that are popular or award-winning or poignant each year as well as combing through classics, looking at the lives of authors and the themes they choose, deciding where their writing style fits, sensing creativity, watching the market, and also, working with similar authors over time, getting to know them deeply. I’m an editor that likes to challenge people to propel their insides outward. My advice can be found in all the above. Work on it as a craft. Just as you must practice to perfect knitting or making three-point shots, you must work on being the best editor you can be as well. Good editors help keep genres afloat and make sure voices are heard clearly.



Archives Articles Guest Articles Women in Horror Month

Guest Article – Why I Love Horror by Rebekah Ross

I’m walking in the woods. There’s no one around, and it’s 2005 so I don’t have a cellphone. Out of the corner of my eye, I spot him – Edgar Allan Poe. To his left a raven flaps its wings and quoths its lore of some sad sorrow nevermore. To his right, the ghost of Annabel Lee floats eerily far from her graveside by the sea. This horror drew me in with a sort of inevitable curiosity to look at the things I was told didn’t exist. It reaches out to the misshapen in all of us: the still-bleeding wounds, the aching scars, the hidden traumas. The monstrous side of us refuses to be shut out from our lives, and it’s only by embracing it that we find our humanity.

I was instantly fascinated by the dissonance inherent between the melodiousness of Poe’s language and the brokenness of his characters. Call me a sucker, but any fool with a thesaurus and a solid grasp of assonance can lure me into their wine cellar for a good time. The beauty of it beats like a still thumping heart under your floorboards. Poe’s characters all had some idée fixee that we do not understand and perhaps do not entirely wish to understand, and it drove them further and further into the territory of the morbidly inexplicable and societally incorrect. Nevertheless, the horror is real whether or not we want it to be real and whether or not we can believe it to be real. The story is right there on the page, solid in black and white. It cannot be untold.

It’s 2010. I’m walking through a foggy town. The cars lining the sidewalks are empty and still, and the houses lining the streets are dark and void. I shiver. Before me looms the brick-and-mortar school where my dad works. It was built in the 30s, and hasn’t been renovated in at least twenty years. As I enter, I can almost hear the shriek of mouldering monsters behind me, lonesome forgotten things that have never seen sunlight. Each step of the old wooden staircase creaks with age and memory, the ghosts of schoolchildren that have long since grown and gone. It isn’t Silent Hill, but it could be.

That could-be is enough to make me quicken my walk and rush to the safety of electric light where nothing can lurk in the corners unseen. There isn’t anything out there, of course; but the thought that there could be makes me more careful in places where I’m at my most vulnerable. I think twice. I watch where I’m going. The memory and resonance of horror keeps me safe, because it keeps my eyes open and my feet fast.

It also raises questions. Silent Hill has two states of being: the Otherworld, and the real world. The real world is an abandoned small town, foggy and isolated; the Otherworld is a rusty distortion of that same place, bleeding and populated. The one place can rapidly shift into its double with little to no warning. The monsters themselves are psychological amalgamations of the protagonist’s fears and leftovers from previous games – but it’s never entirely clear if they’re humans you see as monsters, or delusions of your drugged imagination. In the same way, it’s rarely clear whether or not the protagonist is as much of a monster as the ones they fight. The question raised is this: what makes a monster?

It’s 2013, and my first year away from home for college. I’m alone and don’t know anyone in the area yet. I do the research; I learn the risks; I calculate the odds. One out of 8 women get sexually assaulted during their lifetimes, and it’s rarely the stranger they have to worry about; it’s the people they already know. The Gift of Fear teaches me how to watch out for myself and for others, how to trust my instincts, and how to see boundary-crossing for the dangerous thing it is. I learned how not to excuse the inexcusable, even if making excuses is easier. I know what things go bump in the night, and I bump back.

It’s 2014. I’m looking for fun things to do on the internet, and I find Fallen London – a Victorian Gothic interactive fictional take on history, if history had included London being stolen from the Surface to far below the earth’s crust. The overriding theme of Fallen London is complicity. What are the things you’ll say yes to and the things you’ll say no to? You start the game dropped in prison and have to fight your way out into the city. Any purity you could lay claim to is vanished. As soon as you escape, you’re plunged into a world of hanged men’s clothes and whispered secrets. While the status quo may level out to an ersatz normal at first, the things beneath the normalcy are far stranger and mysterious than could possibly be imagined.

Small horrors grow in the gaps between larger ones, and they all become commonplace through exposure. It just stops being weird to have primordial shrieks and stolen correspondences in your inventory. Scams become organized crime, and a cut-throat becomes a policeman. Jack-of-Smiles could possess any passerby in a murdering frenzy, and no one would blink. You simply get up, heal your capacious wounds, and go on with your day. Your Cheerful Goldfish can become a Haunted Goldfish without very much effort on your part.

It takes all your wits to survive. Devils want to purchase your soul – after all, it’s not as if you’re using it, dear. Something eternally hungry walks of nights and calls you delicious friend. Rubbery Men, weird tentacled things, slosh the streets in ill-fitting human suits of clothing. Clay Men speak little and do much. And the rumors about the Royal Family are scarcely to be believed! You can’t thrive in Fallen London if you don’t compromise on something, somewhere. It’s a world where there are no good choices and the line between human and other is continually contorted.

In a place of such fluid moral ambiguity, monstrosity is a matter of definition. Anything can become normal; anything can become horrific. Your choices drive your failures as much as your successes.  For me, this was a liberating narrative. In Fallen London, you are free to do as you will, with all the consequences that result from such agency. The only thing you have to carry is the memory of the things you’ve done. The monster at the end of the book, so to speak, is you – even in a darkness of larger ones with sharper teeth and stranger skins. They’re coming to eat you, if you don’t eat them first.

It’s 2018. Because of horror, there’s now more monsters in my closet than clothes. Flannery O’Connor’s short stories whisper strange truths to me about the toxic tincture of violence and love: how violence can warp and mold a person, how love can be selfish and self-sacrificing all at once. Frankenstein’s monster is still sitting on an iceberg, having isolated itself from the world it wanted so much to know – forever rejected and three times a murderer. The Phantom of the Opera is here, inside my mind.

I admit some slight hyperbole, but that illusion of closeness matters. That these things can wind themselves into our imaginations and haunt our nightmares – it makes a difference. You don’t get that kind of impact without some sort of connection. The horror is in our relation to these creations of our unthinkable uglinesses. They are us, at our most socially unacceptable. They are us, when we look into the mirror in the middle of the night. They are us, when we don’t want to be ourselves.

So what does it mean, really, to look at the horrific and see humanity? The monster in the closet is yourself; or a reflection of yourself you’d rather not look at; or worse yet a reflection of other people through the filter of your imagination. They are a transgression. You can run and never truly escape from the fear that pursues you, or you can choose to reach out and touch the thing that scares you. Choosing to embrace these things is the way I find I have to approach horror. It’s a place of empathy – of looking at the ugliness and refusing to look away – and it has defined so much of my approach to life that I could never be ungrateful.

Archives Interviews Women in Horror Month

Interview – Christa (Wojo) Wojciechowski

How long have you been writing for?

I started writing and illustrating short stories when I was a little kid. I also kept journals documenting everything in my life, which was not very interesting but that didn’t stop me from thinking every moment of life is important. I think writers have an innate compulsion to process what they see in the world through writing. Humans learn through stories and writers are the record keepers of the evolution of the human psyche.


What is it about horror that made you think ‘This is the genre for me’?

I actually didn’t choose horror. I wrote a book series based on a nightmare. I didn’t know where it fit, if anywhere. Then other readers and reviewers began to refer to it as horror. Still, it’s not like mainstream horror really. I think it’s more like psychological horror or dark fiction with gothic elements. Now that I know where I more or less belong, I’m going to explore horror more.


Any tips for combatting writer’s block?

Sometimes if I write through it, I can get wade through the crap and get back to the bones of the story. On the other hand, sometimes it’s best to just walk away and do something totally unrelated. Writers tend to be reclusive and live in their own world, and believe it or not, it helps to go out and do something with real live human beings. Scary. I know, but different activities and different people give your mind a rest from actively trying to work everything out. Then when you come back to your work-in-progress, your subconscious usually has figured out the problem while you’ve been otherwise occupied.


Any rituals you have before starting a new story?

I like to build a playlist in Spotify that I can listen to before I write. I may or may not dance around my office in my pajamas before sitting down at my desk. I also like to make videos to get me into the zone. It’s a great way to keep focused on your theme. Just make sure that the creation of your playlist or video doesn’t turn into a tool for procrastination.


How do you handle character creation? I find using Dungeons and Dragons character sheets helpful but it’s fun to see the many ways other people go about this.

Dungeons and Dragons character sheets are a brilliant idea. My characters usually come from dreams or an amalgamation of an actor who recently impressed me, a person I know or used to know, and a facet of my own personality that wants to make a performance.


Any projects coming up (or currently out) you’d like to share with us?

I’m currently working on a story for Project 13Dark, a unique Indiegogo dark fiction project created by Joseph Sale that showcases both the written and visual artwork of some of this century’s greatest creatives (you can see the video for it on my YouTube). I’m also working on a few short stories I plan to pitch around to indie lit mags. I’m taking a break from novels for a little bit.


How can we support your work?

Naturally, the best way to support indie authors is to buy their books and leave reviews. My current offering is The Sick Series. It’s a collection of three novellas about a woman whose very sick husband is not as innocent as he seems. They are easy to enjoy and digest (though palatable for everyone). Amazon

You can support by checking out Project 13Dark and helping to fund our next issue.

If you have a book review blog or would like me for an interview or guest post, hit me up. I’m a big believer in community and I love to work with other horror and dark fiction authors.

You can contact me on social media.






Any advice to people just starting out in their writing careers?

Don’t be afraid of yourself. Especially when you’re writing horror, you’ll be surprised what comes out of your mind. You think, “should I be allowed to roam free among the general public?” I’ve been frightened and disgusted by parts of my books. Everyone always asks me, “how did such a nice girl write such a sick book?” And I shrug because I don’t know. I can’t tell you where exactly these ideas come from. But, like I said in the answer to the first question, I’m processing whatever I absorb from the world around me. I’m documenting the human psyche. I’m not going to try to shape it into something that everyone will be comfortable with. As a writer, if you hold back, if you’re not true and honest, your book will be flat. It might be really good, but it won’t give people that punch-in-the-gut reaction.

Be brave, dig deep, and go all out. As we say here in Panama, do it con cojones (with balls).

Christa (Wojo) Wojciechowski is the author of The Wrong David, The Sick Series, and is working on a series called The Sculptor of New Hope. Her characters explore existential turmoil, mental illness, and the complexity of romantic love. She uses her stories to compare the dark, carnal nature of humanity with its higher qualities of creative expression and intellectualism.

Christa currently resides in the mountains of Panama with her husband and a house full of pets. She works as a freelance digital marketer and helps thought leaders, podcasters, and fellow writers develop their marketing platforms. Christa enjoys foreign movies, yoga, wine, and rambling around in the cloud forests near her home. Most of all, she’s passionate about books and writers, and loves discussing them on social media.