Monthly Archives: October 2010

Scary poetry redux, for a good cause

During the month of October, some fellow book lovers have been conducting an online fundraiser called BookOrTreat in support of UNICEF. I know, I know, with the approach of the holiday season it seems as if everyone wants your money and the pleas can get to be pretty tedious. I’m not about to tell anyone what to do with their money, but you could do worse than contributing to this effort on behalf of UNICEF. They do good work.

Whether or not you decide to donate to this project, I do hope you’ll consider giving some amount of your time or effort or hard-earned dollars to those who are less fortunate. Their number seems to be growing ever larger.

At least the folks at BookOrTreat are having fun with it, encouraging people to write blog posts with a Halloween theme that are added each week to their “Blog Party.” So I figured, what the heck, I’ll join in and recycle the post from last year. Okay, and from the year before. Hey, I’ve heard traditions can be comforting. Sit back and be comforted:

Halloween is just a few short days away. This is what my sister, Booko, does to pumpkins this time of year:

Yes, she carved each and every one of them. Amazingly talented, is my sister. Here are more:

Being much less adept with a knife, I think of Halloween as the annoyingly predictable day when the neighborhood kids come to ring my doorbell, sending The Wonder Dog into frenzied fits of insanity and the cat into traumatized seclusion, interrupting my solitude with their insincere and unconvincing cries of “trick or treat!”

Of course, there are the practical souls who stand there silently, petulant, stubbornly holding out their buckets and pillowcases, recipients of a largesse earned by mere entitlement rather than effort or threat of force, their young faces costumed in ghoulish aspects of expectant greed.

No, this is not my favourite holiday. How could you tell?

Ah, but it is also Samhain, the dark twin of Beltane, sometimes known as All Hallow’s Eve — a night when it is said that the veil between the worlds of the living and of the dead is at its thinnest. Some say it is a night of unimaginable power. A night cloaked in mystery and pagan ritual, shrouded by superstition and fear. A night when the spirits of the dead roam freely among us, causing mischief and harm, unappeased by meager offerings and reined in only by the approach of dawn. Tales are told of incautious souls unwary enough to be lured by curiosity to the other side, and of those unfortunate few who do not make it back before night gives way to light.

As an antidote to the crass commercialism of the modern holiday, and just generally to cheer myself up, I tried to find a poem I could post here that would convey the dark eerie spookiness of the old pagan beliefs — that the threshold between the living and the dead is easily crossed on this night — but couldn’t find any that quite fit the right mood. So I wrote my own. I hope it’s as much fun to read as it was to write. May your Hallow E’en be a night of safe travels, one disturbed only by visitations of benign spirits.

come dance with me

they come in the darkest of night
to be
afoot in the absence of light
and see
the souls who have given the right
to me
to waltz upon their graves

they come now to witness the dance
and see
how fortune has done more than glance
at me
and evil has won the last chance
to be
the footprints on the graves

and oh how they quiver with fear
of me
and how their own lives they hold dear
and flee
though fate never has been more clear
to see
’tis written on the graves

the game has already been won
you see
and night will give way to the sun
and be
the lament of words left unsung
to me
the keeper of the graves

they say ’tis sheer madness this night
to be
awash in the absence of light
and see
them link hands this unhallowed night
with me
and dance upon their graves


So, what are your plans this Halloween? Going to venture out into the night?


Filed under holidays

Things that go bump (and gush blood) in the night

A post in which I offer up that rare and elusive thing:  a book review.


A Novel by Blake Crouch, Jack Kilborn (aka JA Konrath), Jeff Strand, F. Paul Wilson

If you don’t like books with terror and blood and gore and violence and dark irreverent humour and taut seamless writing, this book is not for you. Honestly? It’s not for me either. This will not come as a surprise revelation to regular readers of this blog. I don’t usually read horror fiction. I don’t enjoy being terrorized. I’ve raised two kids to quasi-adulthood — I don’t need more fear in my life or another reason to lie awake in bed at night, worrying.

But when Konrath(Kilborn) said he and three of his writer friends had written a book about vampires, who are usually amusing or sparkly or just plain ridiculous rather than scary — um, vampires that is, not his writer friends — I thought, hey, how bad could it be?

I seriously underestimated these guys.

Easy to do, since I don’t read horror and had never heard of these other people. Um, well sure, of course I’d heard their names. Ahem. Of course I had. But I thought maybe I recognized them from the FBI’s Most Wanted List or something. The awesome cover wasn’t much help, even with proper punctuation added:

“Crouch, Kilborn. DRACULAS! Strand Wilson.”

Turns out they’re all talented writers and the cover copy is a listing of last names and not a cryptic directive to Kilborn about how to survive the vampire apocalypse. Who knew.

But I digress.

One of the reasons I don’t read horror is that my slightly warped writer’s imagination tends to take up where the book leaves off. And then I have nightmares. Well, let me tell you, there’s no worry of that happening here because this book never leaves off.

Others have summarized the plot elsewhere so I won’t do that, but I will say that the resurrection of an ancient skull with the still-potent power to create “draculas” however many centuries later is a unique and brilliant premise. The resultant frenetic replication of the “vampire virus” feels a bit like being caught up in a psychedelic blood-drenched petri dish run amok, but then I suspect horror fiction tends to be like that.

Even so, I was delighted by the brief flashes of humour. I wasn’t expecting that in a horror novel. I’m not familiar enough with it to be sure, but even much of the over-the-top gore felt like a tongue in cheek (or what was left of those body parts) tribute to the genre.

There were some tender moments, like this one:

Mortimer rolled on top of her, like a lover, blood and saliva dripping onto Jenny’s face and neck. She reached up to push him away, but as terror-stricken as she was, Jenny couldn’t bring herself to touch him.

Quite a touching scene. Without actually, you know, touching.

And then there were the balloon animals. So wrong. So horribly hilariously wrong. And that whole kangaroo thing. Words fail me.

The use of multiple point-of-view characters should have made this a confusing read. Instead, it serves to increase the tension, making you worry about which of them will survive. You’ll be surprised by who doesn’t. And who does.

I’m conflicted about how many stars to give this book. I don’t enjoy horror and so I can’t say I “liked” it. But I do appreciate a well-written book that does exactly what it’s supposed to do, even if I plan to never read another horror novel, ever again. DRACULAS delivers on its promise. I’m giving it five rather bloody stars. And I’ll be sleeping with the lights on for a while.

Once it releases on October 19, you can buy DRACULAS here. It’s only $2.99 and hey, what’s a few nights lost sleep.


Filed under book reviews