Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Another Ghostly Encounter

Remember last time I mentioned the legend of 'The Crying Lady'? Sometimes is also called 'The Weeping Woman', but in most Latin-American cultures we know her as La Llorona and in every country you go to, you'll hear different versions of the story. The oldest one and, probably, its true origin is pre-colonial, Aztec to be more precise. In this ancient culture she was known as Chocacihuatl, which translates to 'the woman who cries'. She was supposed to be a goddess, mother of all the Aztecs. As their mother, when some imminent danger (like the conquistadors) was about to take the lives of her brood, she was heard at night crying for the death of her children through the streets. The lament was painful and scary because, if you confronted her, she might mistake you for the killer of her kids and take your soul. Clearly, she was bad news. Some ancient records of the times say that when the spaniards came to Mexico, she was heard not only by the Aztecs, but by the newcomers, inspiring fear in everyone.

The Aztecs own set of beliefs were so hard to eradicate that the old catholic friars just came up with new virgins, saints, or religious celebrations that incorporated in some way those believes. It worked like a marvel and very soon every indigenous person was a catholic. The Weeping Woman became now, the story of an indigenous woman who was abandoned by her spanish lover with two small kids and no money to raise them. In desperation she drowns them in the nearby river and then takes her life. As a punishment she's condemn to cry for her babies through the night and will kill every man in her path as a revenge for that other ungrateful man who caused her so much pain.

Ok, so, why am I telling you this? Well, this is were things get interesting. If you were to believe my paternal grandmother, her father was killed by The Weeping Lady.

This happened a long time ago, when my grandma was a young child, barely ten. She lived with her parents, brother, and two sisters in a small town something like two hours, in todays mode of transportation, from Mexico city. Back then it couldn't have been farther if it were another country. My grandfather was a member of the old Rosicrucian Order (what a figure!) but that's food for another post. In small towns like those, it doesn't matter if you are rich or poor, you worked your ass and then finished the day with some drinks in the company of fellow men.

My great-grandfather was precisely going back home, late at night, after one of such evenings. He and a friend who was going the same way, were horseback ridding through the woods on their fifteen minute trip and kept chatting when a cry pierced the night. It was the voice of a woman; at first they couldn't understand what she was saying but a couple of minutes later it became clear, she was calling for her kids.

"Oh, my babies!" she was saying. The voice sounded close and they got scared.

The legend says that if she sounds close, it's time to run because she's still far from you, but if she sounds far, then hide 'cause she's real close. If a man looks at her, he becomes like enchanted and will follow her to his death without even knowing it. So they hit the horses and rode through the forest fast, with the crying sounds echoing behind them. The problem was that instead of getting closer, (remember, closer is farther) the voice sounded farther!

They got desperate and changed directions so many times, trying to get away from it, that they got lost. At that moment, from behind the closest trees, they saw a white dress floating in the air. It was a woman, she had her back to them and kept moving in the opposite direction. My grandma says that later her dad had told her he couldn't remember anything clearly after that, just thinking she was very beautiful and wanting to talk to her. They both kept going forward and a few minutes later, my great-grandad's friend fell through a precipice. They had been moving towards it without realizing it. The scream of his friend awoke my grandma's dad, and in that exact moment, the woman turned to face him.

The apparition was floating in the air and had a face like a horse. She screamed with fury and darted to him. The horse turned around and went as fast as it could for what seemed like an eternity, eventually reaching the train tracks. My grandma's house was very close, so my great-grandfather tried to push the horse to go faster but the poor animal was exhausted and fell. From that moment on, he ran home and got there crawling, out of breath, and almost dead. His whole head was white.

After that he got sick and spent a month in his bed, but he never recovered. He died looking a lot older that his real age and my grandmother never cut through the woods ever again.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Coffin Blog Hop Giveaway

Halloween is encroaching on us and as part of the Coffin Hop Blog I'll be hosting my first Giveaway. I'm very happy to announce I'll be giving two hard copies of the book Isolation, an anthology of new horror that includes amazing stories of sixteen authors, among which lies one of my own.

Te rules are the following:

  • Follow this blog (if you aren't a follower already), however, old followers won't get any extra points. Sorry, guys!
  • In the comments section below write a ghost story. It can be real or fiction, your own experience or one you heard long ago around a bonfire, it doesn't matter. Just make it scary!
  • You have from this very moment until friday 31st at midnight (ET).
  • There will be two judges. Each judge will chose its favorite and publish their selected story with a blurb about what made that story a winner. The announce will be made on saturday november 5th.
  • So easy!! C'mon, scare us silly.

About our judges:

Larry Fowler the talented author of Literary Fiction. Larry's novel, Lincoln's Diary, was recently reviewed by the popular book reviewer Deborah Previte, who had this to say about it: A "tantalizing" and "intelligent"story whose protagonist, Sarah, is "a smart and resourceful character, (...) vulnerable and with a baggage that holds her back at times. Kind of a female MacGyver".

Like most people, Sarah Sue Morgan’s hackles go up when she’s held back from the truth. But when the truth includes an unpublished diary that could prove Abraham Lincoln arranged his own assassination, the truth could kill. 

While digging into her own family's well kept secrets, Sarah learns her mysterious grandfather once cherished a private Lincoln diary he’d received as gift. And when she goes to confront a professor who she believes conned her mother out of the family heirloom, she’s accused of his murder.

On the run from police and a powerful conspiracy that’s determined to destroy anything or anyone connected to the diary, Sarah turns to the only person she trusts  – herself – to find the diary and expose the real killer. But after she stares death in the face and reaches out to strangers for help, betrayal is right around the corner.

To know more about Larry or his work, visit his site DL Fowler Novels

Renee Pawlish, successful writer of bestselling novel Nephilim, Genesis of Evil. Renee is presently promoting her latest story Sallie House: Exposing the Beast Within, a tell all novel about one of the most famous haunting in America.

Due to the dangers inherent to paranormal investigations, few groups dare explore the darkest haunting cases; however, one team of investigators took the risk of going where few others had. The RIDDIA (Rhode Island Demonic Disturbance Investigative Association) has garnered a reputation as the Navy Seals of the paranormal investigative world, a team willing to pursue dark and demonic hauntings. When the RIDDIA team visited the notorious Sallie House in Atchison, Kansas, they were the first to assume that the entities infesting the house were demonic and the first to challenge the authority of those spirits. This is the story of what happened through those fateful three days to Joe Cetrone and his team while investigating the Sallie House, encountering the demonic in ways that affected them long after leaving.

To know more about Renee and her extensive work, visit her blog To Become a Writer

Friday, October 14, 2011

World War Z, My Review

Note: This Review is part of the contest 2011 Spooktacular October Paranormal Reading Challenge. For details or more reviews, please visit Sweetmarie Spooktacular October Paranormal

World War Z by Max Brooks is an iconic book. Not only it single-handily brought new life to the Zombie Genre and became a classic, but the book made zombies so cool and appealing that it kick-started the whole Zombie trend that has been sweeping the literary horror genre for years. I mean, even Stephen King cut a slice of dead meat pie with his book Cell.

For ages Zombies had been monsters for short stories and second rate movies; not since George Romero's mythic movies had the undead been so alive in our psyche. There were no novels solely dedicated to them and they were considered by most like truly dead myths, until in real Zombie-esque style Max Brooks came about and made them walk again.

These days Zombies are hot and everyone who is in the business of writing or selling horror books knows it. We, and them, owe it all to this amazing book. Rumor has it, Brad Pitt will play the lead in the movie version of the book that's in production this very moment.

Okay, back to the book.

It's written like a non-fiction story, very matter of fact, and even scarier because of that. The story starts ten years after the Zombie World War almost annihilated the human race. For twelve years every breathing being on the planet fought an all out war with an enemy that isn't organized, doesn't sleep, doesn't need to eat, and, technically, can't die; where everyone human that got killed in action, raised to fight against you. Three quarters of the world population died as a result of it, the planet got thrashed, and whole ecosystems went the same way Dinos did. Add to that the nuclear winter and you've got the scariest setting ever.

We never get to know the name of the author, all we know is he was in charge of writing a report for the United Nation's Postwar Commission but when he delivered it, the Commission Chair asked him to edit said report because it was all "too intimate", with "too many opinions". He had to prune his report and eliminate, as much as possible, the influence of the human factor. The author is appalled, considering it was precisely the human factor what allowed the catastrophe to occur, so he decides to write a memoir of the war with every interview he did.

The story is divided in three big sections: the first relating how it started and disseminated; the second talking about the moment of no return, when civility went out the window and panic followed suit; and the third telling how is it that the war was finally 'won'. It is redacted as a series of interviews with mostly military personal and a few first person encounters with people critical in either the creation of the problem, or its solution.

Now, allow me to say I haven't slept a decent night in three days and the fact that my husband was out of town didn't help matters. Every noise sent me into tachycardia and I kept dreaming about zombies trying to take my kids away. Seriously.

Even though the stories related to you are not always frightening, the atmosphere is very strong and gets under your skin. Because of its style, it's very easy to read and, to add credibility to it, Brooks used military terms or words in other languages when needed, using footnotes to clarify the meanings to the 'civil readers'. Brilliant.

Over all, it totally deserves the status it has gained and is now among my all-time favorites. If I had to say one bad thing about it, though, it would be that the winding down of the story is a bit slow. After it is explained how the war can be won (remember, we already know we won), the book visits a few of the most important battles fought to make it happen and it gets a bit repetitive. However, one chapter later you have utter brilliance in "Total War" (chapter 10) and you wish the book had two hundred more pages.

If you like horror, post-apocaliptic stories, zombies, or if you simply want to be part of contemporary history, you HAVE to read this book.

October Paranormal Reading Challenge

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My Own, Very Real, Ghost Story

Ok, I've gotten into all these Halloween blog hops, I've declared high an low how much I love the season, now it's time I tell you one of the reasons behind all this love.

In all honesty, I really don't know why horror stories and ghosts are so appealing to me; all I know is that from my earliest memories, I've always felt attracted to them like a moth to the light. My own culture probably helped a lot. In Mexico the dead are very much a part of our every day life; don't get me wrong, we're, for the most part, modern, advanced people who revere computers, use cars to go to work, and will believe someone broke in when there's a bump in the house, instead of chucking it all to supernatural events.

On the other hand, we're a sui generis mix of two very different, very old cultures that make us unique in our believes and customs. Catholicism is BIG in Mexico and through the conquering process, the Spaniards gave birth to a huge amount of legends that 'main-streamed' deities of our Aztec past. That's where the dead mix in.

'The Crying Lady' (La Llorona) is probably one, if not the most famous ghost of old. People, to this day, believe she exists and that you can hear her crying in some lonely nights far away from the cities, calling for her dead kids. We have one very famous small town where real witches live and will prepare specific mixes or 'works' for you for a prearranged amount of money. I actually know people who has gone there to get 'cleansed'. Now, this kinds of stories always impacted me and left me wondering what was out there. I could tell you a hundred different stories, from the beautiful legends that are a central part of our folklore, to the very personal ones, passing from the experiences with my own, very eclectic, family.

I guess I'll start with a cute story that had a great impact in my sister's life.

My sister was born prematurely, two months early, and for that reason she was very small and fragile. The worst was that her esophagus and stomach were so immature that she couldn't hold any food. My mom would feed her for an hour only to see her regurgitate most of it half and hour later, so my mom was anchored to this child and my little sister was in a serious conundrum.

My oldest uncle from my mother side is a doctor and he'd come visit my sister almost daily; he'd always have spirited words for my mom but with my other uncles and aunts (my mom has five brothers and four sisters) he'd reveal the very dire situation. Fact was, he didn't think my sister was gonna make it.

Now,  my mom was an orphan; his father had died when the oldest of the children were only eleven or twelve, and my grandma died when they were nineteen or twenty. Back those days, there was no one who would step in and force the kids into relative's houses or to be adopted. The ten of them held their ground and stayed together, the older raising the younger as best they could.

When my sister was born, my parents decided to stay in my other grandma's house, with my father's parents, so they could help with me while my father was working. Since the baby was so small and could not heat herself, the bed where both, my mom and her, slept had the headrest inside a closet and they had a small lamp always on and pointed to the baby, to generate more warmth. Of course, windows were almost barricaded, and the door was always closed.

One day, my mom was sleeping next to my sister, trying to catch some rest before the next feeding time. My grandparents had taken me to buy groceries and my dad was working, so my mom was alone in the house. Then she heard the steps of two people coming up stairs, towards her room. She though we had come back and tried to open her eyes but she couldn't, and she was unable to move. Scared now, she heard the door to the bedroom open and close and felt two bodies standing right next to her.

"She's so cute and little" Said one of the voices. It was feminine and my mother recognized it immediately. It was her mom.

"Yes, she is. But she'll grow up to be a healthy kid" He laughed. It was her dad's voice.

"Are you sure, Ramiro? Will she make it?"

"Oh, yes. She'll be fine"

And the next thing my mom felt was the air brushing by her as if someone was extending her/his arm to reach the child who was between my mom and the wall. After that, the door opened again and the steps echoed outside the room. My mom opened her eyes in a hurry, trying to see them, to talk to them. Above her, the cloths hanging on the closet were swinging lightly. She darted outside but there was nobody.

My sister indeed recovered, after six very hard months she mended and nobody ever told my mom, until years later, that everyone was sure the baby would die.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Halloween Hop

As I've said before, I love October and I adore Halloween; it's a great time for fun stuff like horror movies, creepy books, and scary monsters. Now, there are many people out there who share this love and they have all kinds of cool information in their blogs about all that makes this time of year so much fun. In this spirit, I've entered the Halloween Blog Hop and I'm inviting you to check out the blogs and like those that give you the best goosebumps. If you have spooky stories, books, or movies you'd love to share, get your blog on the list!

 Here are the rules:

 1) Add your blog to the list below.

 2) Over the Halloween weekend (October 28-31) visit as many of the other blogs listed below as you wish. 

3) Be sure to mention your favorite monster movie or book and your Halloween costume this year.

4) If you like the blog, follow it!

 5) Grab the badge here and stick it on your blog for a few weeks to spread the word! (If you scratch it, it smells like pumpkin).

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Monster Book of Zombies, My Review

This is a big book and it took me a while but it was worth it as it has many great stories. Most of the authors are English and that gives the whole a fresh and different background, a departure of other anthologies I've read before; this feeling was increased by the fact that most of the stories were written a very long time ago, a century in some cases! That's also very cool because the pieces tend to be more atmospheric and there's nothing better than creepy horror. The settings of the stories vary greatly, from old cemeteries, to elementary schools, to forests that hide ancient megaliths; some are humorous, others sad, there's even romance and a whole lot of dark, twisted irony. What they all have in common, wait for it... is zombies!! So, now you know, the secret's out.

Seriously, it kind of kills a bit of the thrill when you're in the middle of a story wandering what's going to happen and you remember, Oh, right. It's a zombie. But then again, that's what you were looking for, a bunch of zombie stories, otherwise why would you buy a zombie anthology, right?

Now, it could take a while to review each one of the stories since there are more than twenty five but I'll review the first, two of my favorite ones, and of course, Lovecraft's.

The book opens with a bang, a great story by Clive Backer, SEX, DEATH AND STARSHINE, that reflects the life of long dead actors who perform in and out of stage, as they work for a company run by their living counterparts. Originally written in 1984, its poignant humor fits in perfectly with the cannibalistic appetite we show for Hollywood star's rumors and fall downs. It's funny, intriguing, and scary, all together in a great package that makes you feel so good about having bought the book in the first place.

One of my favorite stories was Charles L. Grant's QUIETLY NOW. This one was originally published in 1981; it tells the story of a writer who's been trying to finish a book his editor has been waiting for more time than it was supposed to. The author befriends a few boys from his building and gets too involved when other kids from the school close by start disappearing. I loved the mysterious atmosphere Grant creates when there are several instances of persecution that take place in the woods; you can just feel the tree branches snapping under your feet and the scary monster looking at you hidden from the bushes to the left. So freaky.

My definite outstanding pick would have to be for Basil Copper's THE GREY HOUSE. There are so many great stories in the anthology that the idea of picking just two simply tortured me but, alas, there has to be a winner and Copper's 1966 story made it easy to choose the top spot. It goes to describe the life of a couple who have just bought a house in the english country side; a house with a very bad reputation, mind you. The previous owner lived there almost a century before and slaughtered half of the town and all of his servants in an intent to win eternal life that seems to have evade him. However, the feeling in the house is very dark and haunting, particularly at night, when strange noises from the woods carry on to the house and scare the poor wife half out of her wits; meanwhile the husband seems to be possessed by a desire to renovate the house to its previous glory when the old master was in charge. This story creeps under your skin and leaves you sleeping with the lights on.

Ok, the last of the bunch is Lovecraft's REANIMATOR. I know Lovecraft has a huge fan base; I, for one, love his stories but in this case the story was written very early on his career and only published after his death, when he had achieved fame. The story lacks the classic stamp of his future work and feels a little disjointed and like it could've used a bit of editing before publishing. It isn't at par with what we are used to read from his twisted mind but, in any case, it's interesting. The narration starts with the ramblings of a Dr. who seems to be on the brink of insanity as he recollects how his assistant died and who he suspects to be the murderer. The character is a man with no scrupulous that won't allow something as small as ethics get in his way to become the medical community's star child by achieving to reanimate corpses and halt altogether the process of dying. Attaboy!

There you go, a few of the most representative short stories, and not so short, in this amazing galore of zombie love. Get you newly furbished zombie apocalypse bunker and have a happy comfy reading!

October Paranormal Reading Challenge

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pedro Paramo, A Review

Note: This Review is part of the contest 2011 Spooktacular October Paranormal Reading Challenge. For details or more reviews, please visit Sweetmarie Spooktacular October Reading

This is a very unusual selection to review for an anglo reading/reviewing contest, I get it, but I think this is a master of Literature and deserves a space in any paranormal to-read list.

First I read it for school when I was some sixteen years old and I remembered I liked it very much but all details had been washed away by the many , and believe when I say MANY, years that have passed since. I decided to re-read it since this time around I have a better appreciation for fine writing and good stories and this one for a change, lived up to my young impressionable memories.

It is the story of Juan Preciado, who at his mother's deathbed promises to go back to his old town, Comala, to meet his father Pedro Paramo. He then goes back, though it's suggested he didn't intend to at first, but ominous visions of his mother convince him otherwise. The narrative is fragmented and very confusing at times and intentionally so, as the author is knitting a web to capture the reader and we don't really know how much of what's happening is real, even though we think we know, until the very end.

Think about James' Last Turn of the Screw; Pedro Paramo has the same feeling where you are certain something's not going quite right but there's no way to be sure if it's all a figment of the imagination. The story is interspersed with fragments of dialogs and occurrences from Paramo's life, who lived in a time when the little town was booming, instead of the ghost town it has become. Juan talks to many of his old acquaintances but one after the other, they all seem to have an ethereal sense to them; like if they were dead. The second half of the story happens in the time of Pedro Paramo and the narrative is more lively.

The whole story is told by two contrasting points of view, the one where everything is active and in bloom, and the other where everything seems unchanged, ghostly, and quiet. I don't want to give up too much but this book has it all, romance, mystery vengeance, death, love, hate...

It is a prime example of Magic Realism that mixes everyday elements with unreal ghostly situations so masterfully, that we are swept from our feet and feel like the whole life of Pedro Paramo is flying pass in front of us. Don't miss this great example of classic latin-american literature at its best.
October Paranormal Reading Challenge