Thursday, October 29, 2015


On behalf of Halloweenpalooza, thanks so much for agreeing to participate. Let’s start with some quickies:
Favorite color: deep purple
Favorite scene in a horror flick (the one that made your blood run cold): In the first Alien movie, when it goes on a rampage
Dogs or cats: I love both, but grew up with cats
Male or female friends: A mix of both
Guilty pleasure: Eating hot wings and fries at sports bars
Favorite scream queen: Jamie Lee Curtis
Have You Ever Carved a Pumpkin: Yes
Favorite monster: John Carpenter’s version of The Thing
1.       Since there are so many types of horror, can you please tell us about your work? What can a reader expect when he picks up a story written by Brian Moreland?
Wendy, thanks so much for having me as part of this year’s Halloweenpalooza. I write a mix of mysteries with supernatural horror and dark suspense. Some of my books are historical and others contemporary. I like to find strange unsolved mysteries, use the historical facts and weave a horror tale around them. I aim to write to stories that are atmospheric, have a sense of dread, and take the reader on a roller-coaster ride of entertainment. I strive to come up with fresh heroes, villains and monsters.
2.      Could you please post an excerpt from any of your works that best exemplifies what you bring to the horror picnic table?
Here’s an excerpt of the prologue from The Devils Woods:
British Columbia, Canada
Lake Akwâkopiy Cree Indian Reserve
Five days after the tragedy, Jon Elkheart returned to the forbidden forest. With a vengeful glare, he challenged the looming wall of aspen, spruce and vine-choked pines that guarded this unsacred land. The only entrance was a trail that disappeared into a black hole inside the jungle-thick brush. The darkness within Macâya Forest was an impenetrable void, a shadow world of shape-shifters, and yet its mysteries beckoned him.
There are places in the world where lost spirits never rest, Elkheart thought with a coppery taste in his mouth. And man is considered prey. Standing by a lake at the edge of the rainforest, he peered through the scope of his assault rifle, searching the woods for sudden movement. He listened for the slightest snap of a twig or brush of a leaf. The June morning was still and windless, as if all of nature sensed what he was about to do.
You should turn back. You can’t do this on your own. The scholarly part of Elkheart understood this logic. As an archaeologist, he had always put his research first, above all else. Until this last mission went haywire. Now the guilt and anger pumping through his veins would not let him rest. You have to go back in there, spoke a voice that was not ruled by logic. You have to find Amy.
“I’m here,” he whispered, noticing that his legs did not want to budge.
Elkheart looked up at the sun creeping over the mountains. Clouds drifted across the valley, as if shielding the forest from the approaching light. Soon only the tips of the branches pierced the white smoke. Stretching out his arm, he turned a small video camera toward his face. “June 10th, 7:00 a.m. My name is Jon Elkheart. I am a professor from the University of British Columbia. I am also one of the last surviving members of the Lake Akwâkopiy Cree band. Most of my people abandoned this reservation years ago. Those who stayed behind have suffered nightmarish visions from a forest that has haunted our reservation for more than a century. A week ago I led a documentary film crew and four mercenaries into Macâya Forest, an uncharted patch of rainforest located at the northeastern tip of the reservation.” A heaviness burdened Elkheart’s chest as he remembered that tragic night. The screams and gunshots echoed in his mind and guilt twisted his guts. “My crew was slaughtered by something that attacked us from the woods. My assistant, Amy Hanson, was taken alive. I’m going back into Macâya Forest to search for her. I pray the spirits of my ancestors will guide me.”
Never enter Macâya Forest with impure thoughts, Grandfather Two Hawks had warned. You must call in your animal spirit guide and enter with the heart of a warrior.
Elkheart blessed a large knife with an elk-horn handle. Grandfather had given him the hunter’s blade on his thirteenth birthday after killing his first elk. He had eaten the slain animal’s heart and earned his name. Now, Jon Elkheart dipped two fingers into a coffee can of elk’s blood and wiped red streaks across his cheeks, as if a mask of war paint could channel the ancient warriors of his tribe. The ceremony did nothing to settle his nerves. He faced the mouth of the forest where few men had survived before him. “This time I will not run.”
Nervous whimpers broke the silence. Elkheart’s German shepherd pressed against his leg. He stroked his dog’s bristled neck. Should have left him back at the cabin. “Scout, run on home.” He shooed the dog. “Go on.” But Scout refused to leave his master’s side. Elkheart sighed. “You’re just as foolish as I am.”
Taking a deep breath, Elkheart sheathed his knife. He gripped his M4 Carbine. The semi-automatic assault rifle had belonged to one of the mercenaries who had died for this mission. Trying not to think of the soldier who had been decapitated, Elkheart turned on a flashlight that was attached to the barrel. A long beam pierced the dripping gray gloom that shrouded the rainforest. Wary of every sound, he passed through the threshold. His dog followed.
As Elkheart crept down the narrow path between spiky pines, firs, and cedars tangled with spruce, ghostly voices filled his head, pulling his thoughts in every direction. His Cree ancestors would not give him peace until he returned to these unsacred woods and exposed its secrets.
A blanket of dew covered the bracken and surrounding leaves. Only splinters of sunlight lanced the dense canopy. The morning fog drifted between the trees, making visibility even more difficult. Elkheart could only see a few feet around him.
Scout sniffed along the ground a few feet ahead, a silhouette in the haze. They weaved between trees, crossing cold-water creeks and climbing up fern-covered hills. The darkness faded into a gray gloom, as the morning sun finally filtered through the tops of the trees.
Untying his green parka, Elkheart loosened the hood to cool off. Sweat soaked his black and silver hair. Slightly winded, he inhaled the pine-scented air. A branch shook above him, dropping pinecones onto his shoulders. He jerked the rifle upward. An owl swooped from its perch and disappeared into the mist.
Elkheart released his breath. Okay, stay alert. Be ready for anything.
Steadying his rifle, he stepped through a thicket. Large fern leafs and dangling vines made his efforts difficult. Only the twisting path separated the trees and underbrush enough to travel through the woods. To venture from the trail would be like wandering into an uncharted jungle.
The fog thickened. Smokey plumes circled his feet, covering his boots and the moss-covered trail. Scout began to fade in the mist. Elkheart bird-whistled the German shepherd to come back. Elkheart’s heavy backpack burdened his spine. Easing the pack off, he leaned against a tree. Scout sat on his haunches, watching the forest.
Fishing into his backpack, Elkheart retrieved his video recorder and a bottle of Stoli. The vodka had been a birthday gift from Wynona, his…what? Ex-girlfriend? No, their relationship had never been that formal. Ex-drinking partner was more fitting. “Friends with benefits,” his students would say.
Studying the clear liquor, Elkheart felt a brief tightness to his chest, remembering the drunken, lust-filled nights he and Wynona had shared before the whole mess started. He still loved her, still caressed the empty spot in his bed where she once slept. But some pasts just couldn’t be healed. And Wynona’s wounds ran deep as canyons. Letting her image fade, Elkheart swallowed a gulp of vodka. He glanced around warily, thumbed the camera’s record button.
“So far, so good. I’m about a half mile deep and all’s quiet.” Elkheart paused to listen to the forest a moment, turning his camera toward the surrounding trees. “For over a century, my people have feared Macâya Forest. The landscape here is different from the woods that surround the reservation’s compound. Here, the trees tower to enormous heights and intertwine with one another as if trying to conceal something the land never wanted man to discover.” He gazed up at the giant trees, the sacred elders, wondering if they were listening. He felt as if eyes were watching him. “I’m about a quarter mile from the strange ruins my team and I discovered before their deaths. I only got a glimpse, but what I saw was beyond belief. I should be there shortly, where I hope to find Amy. If I come across what killed my crew, this time I’m prepared.”
Elkheart hit the stop button. A strong wind blew along the trail, and the fog began to swirl. He half expected an ancient trickster to emerge from it. Or a threat much more real.
Elkheart rubbed the antler handle of his knife, drawing courage from his spirit animal. When that didn’t work, he drank another fiery gulp of vodka. He then slipped his backpack over his shoulders, grabbed his rifle and stepped toward the swirling fog. Scout sniffed the trail a few feet ahead.
As Elkheart grew closer to the ruins, his asthma kicked in. The fifty-year old professor started wheezing. Fear paralyzed him as questions rolled through his mind.
What the hell are you doing here? Why is revealing the secrets of this forest worth more than your life?
Part of him wanted to return to Vancouver with the evidence they had found. He had plenty of artifacts and footage to open up an investigation. He would be on CNN and every major talk show around the world. Time and National Geographic would cover his story. He would finally be respected in his field, and more importantly, earn the respect of his three grown children. But Elkheart couldn’t leave Amy behind. He took another step, a warrior’s vengeance surging through him. He jerked his rifle at a sudden sound. Low, huffing grunts.
Scout growled.
Elkheart tensed, raising the rifle. “Shh, boy.”
The shepherd silenced, but remained poised to attack.
Ahead, something lumbered through the pines with heavy footfalls that sounded like a grizzly. But this predator had run off all the bears from these woods.
Remain still. Wait it out. It’s only passing.
The heavy footsteps tramping over damp earth echoed off the pines.
Scout watched the path, waiting for his master’s command to attack.
Elkheart remained still, holding his breath. Out here, the slightest gasp could be heard a great distance. The asthma tickled his lungs like centipede legs.
The unseen animal lumbered away, its thundering footfalls and cracking branches growing softer.
The wind carried the beast’s familiar stench, stinging Elkheart’s nose, and memories filled his mind: images of a moonlit night, gunshots firing, his crew wailing as their shredded bodies flew through the air. Amy screaming as the thing dragged her off.
Now, Elkheart’s lungs clenched up. He groped for his inhaler, sucked in.
Somewhere beyond the trees, the beast stopped walking.
Elkheart fought to control his wheezing, pumping several gasps of asthma medicine into his lungs. The centipede legs abated and he finally silenced his panicked breathing.
Too late.
The snapping of branches rushed toward him.
Scout turned and barked.
The predator circled them, staying hidden within the fog.
Elkheart hugged his rifle with shaking arms. Staring through spiky branches, he aimed at the forest. God, the beast’s right here! Behind the fog! His heartbeat quickened as he realized he was about to see the thing in the light.
“Come on! Show yourself!”
A cacophonous roar erupted from within the forest.
Barking, the German shepherd dashed into the mist.
“Scout! No!”
The dog’s growling soon blended in with the roar of the unseen beast. Branches cracked, or were those bones? A fatal ripping followed by a canine yelp.
A long, drawn-out shriek echoed across the valley. Branches snapped. Snarls filled Elkheart’s ears. He raised the rifle and fired a three-round burst into the fog. The shots whizzed between the trees, their final reports echoing across the valley. At least one bullet hit something solid.
The forest grew silent again.
Was it dead?
Elkheart flattened against a tree, watching the mist swirling with the wind. He dug through his backpack. Pulled out the vodka bottle and a jar that contained a rag soaked in kerosene. He stuffed the rag into the bottle, allowing a long strip to hang out. I will not back down. Holding the flame of his lighter beneath the wick of the Molotov cocktail, Elkheart advanced along the path. The forest remained so dead calm he could hear his own heart hammering his chest.
From somewhere in the infinity of trees a twig snapped.
Elkheart stiffened. He listened for the faintest sound. The surrounding pines, like silent observers to this game of cat and mouse, offered nothing.
Another twig cracked, this time sharper.
He lit the wick of the Stoli bottle and threw it toward the sound. The make-shift bomb exploded against the trees, torching two of them. A tall shadow beyond the flames roared and lumbered back into the fog.
Elkheart gripped his gun, backing away. The research couldn’t end like this. Not after all his work. Twenty years of expeditions. Who would be left to warn the ignorant world? He had to escape. He was the last Cree descendent who knew enough to expose the secrets of Macâya Forest.
A woman screamed.
“Amy!” Elkheart left the trail, running between the evergreens toward her crying voice. Branches clawed at his clothes with wooden talons. The girl’s moans echoed off to his left, then shifted to his right, and then strangely, back behind him.
He stopped, confused. “Amy, where are you?”
Her crying changed to mocking laughter, and then Elkheart’s heart seized as he realized he had been tricked. He tried to fire his rifle, but it jammed. He tossed the gun and pulled out his knife. He challenged the fog, “Show yourself!”
From above, hot, blistering air heated Elkheart’s scalp. Something wet and sticky hit the nape of his neck, oozing down his back. He tilted his head up toward the tree and saw a large mouth with a rack of fangs. A shadowy thing was hanging upside down from the branches. Its hands gripped Elkheart by the throat, lifting him high into the air. He released a warrior’s howl and stabbed at the beast with his knife. Elongated fingers noosed around his throat, choking off his air. His dangling legs kicked the tree. His beloved knife fell from his limp hand. As the forest went black, Jon Elkheart heard the lost spirits of his ancestors calling him deeper into the cold and visceral darkness of Macâya Forest.
* * *
3.     Uh-oh! A mad magician has just cast a spell that would bring all your characters to life! Whats the name of the one character you would most not want to meet and why should she, he or it never be unleashed on the unsuspecting public?

That would be Mordecai from The Vagrants. He has the power to brainwash people and force them to join his underground cult. He’s also connected to some evil forces that I would not want to unleash onto the public.
4.      What scares you? Have you had any encounters with the supernatural?
As a kid it was monsters in my closet, beneath the bed, and the dark itself. Now, it would be real-life terrors like fanatical terrorists killing innocent bystanders or suicidal gunmen unleashing bullets on an unsuspecting crowd. I guess it’s sudden, extreme violence against innocent people going about their day. It can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere.
5.      Given the popularity of ghost hunting, would you be up for spending a night in a haunted location? If, yes, where would it be and what would you like to find out? If, no, why not?
Absolutely. I’m game for any haunted house that’s proven to have regular ghost encounters. Also haunted hospitals like Greystone Park in New Jersey and the Molly Stark Hospital in Ohio.
6.      In terms of Halloween, what’s your best memory of the holiday?
I love Halloween. When I was a kid, it was all about dressing up in costumes and going Trick-or-Treating and then afterward, pouring a large bucket of candy onto the floor with my sister and friends to go through our spoils. We would barter and trade for the candies we wanted so that our collection of sweets would be mostly our favorites. I always loaded up on candy corns, mini Reese’s peanut butter cups, bags of Peanut M&Ms, Snickers bars, Twix, and Krackles. I was more a connoisseur of the chocolate variety than the hard candies. I think my favorite Halloween was when I dressed up as a werewolf. I painted my face brown, glued on some fur, pointed rubber ears and wore these long claw-tipped fingers and fangs in my mouth. I was a huge fan of the Wolf Man.

 7.     What is it about Halloween that makes it so popular?
I think because it allows people to dress up in costumes and express an alter personality. You get to be someone else for day, or possibly your secret self. And there’s something fun about the horror theme of the holiday.
8.      What’s the best thing about writing horror?
Making up scary stories. Growing up I used to watch horror movies. Some of them would be riveting experiences that delivered a mind-blowing experience by the climax. Most movies started out intriguing but then when the mystery or monster was revealed, I’d be let down. In those cases, I always had a different idea where I thought the story was going to go. Writing allows me to write the stories how I would most enjoy them to play out. And the creative process, building the characters, the fictional world, is a whole lot of fun, as well.
9.      If you could channel one master of horror that’s passed, who would it be and what do you think the result of your collaboration would be?
Hands down, that would be Richard Laymon. I love his books and strive to write entertaining stories like he does. I think the collaboration would be his loveable characters and witty dialogue with my cinematic style of writing. He’d get most of the credit, but I’d relish the chance to write with Laymon and learn from him.
10.    What’s next for Brian Moreland? What can your fans look forward to reading?
My newest release is Darkness Rising, a story about love, revenge, and what happens when bullies mess with the wrong person. Here’s the synopsis:
It’s all fun and games until...
Marty Weaver, an emotionally scarred poet, has been bullied his entire life. When he drives out to the lake to tell an old friend that he’s fallen in love with a girl named Jennifer, Marty encounters three sadistic killers who have some twisted games in store for him. But Marty has dark secrets of his own buried deep inside him. And tonight, when all the pain from the past is triggered, when those secrets are revealed, blood will flow and hell will rise.
* * *
To win: go to the Official FB Event Page; find the post announcing  today’s giveaway; and comment, “I WANT TO WIN” in that post and you just might!!!
Brian Moreland writes novels and short stories of horror and supernatural suspense. His books include Dead of Winter, Shadows in the Mist, The Girl from the Blood Coven, The Witching House, The Devils Woods, The Vagrants, and Darkness Rising. Brian lives in Dallas, Texas where he is diligently writing his next horror book.
Follow on Twitter: @BrianMoreland
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Darkness Rising
It’s all fun and games until...
Marty Weaver, an emotionally scarred poet, has been bullied his entire life. When he drives out to the lake to tell an old friend that he’s fallen in love with a girl named Jennifer, Marty encounters three sadistic killers who have some twisted games in store for him. But Marty has dark secrets of his own buried deep inside him. And tonight, when all the pain from the past is triggered, when those secrets are revealed, blood will flow and hell will rise.

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