Another Short Hiatus!

This summer has been quite a whirlwind and I’ll be busy road tripping for the next two weeks, so I’ve decided to take another short hiatus! But don’t worry, The Inblotters will be back TUESDAY, AUGUST 24! In the meantime, stay safe my friends!

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Happy Pride Month & Short Hiatus!

Due to circumstances out of my control I’ll be going on a short hiatus due to travel, deadlines, and all around having a ton to do. But don’t fret! The Inkblotters will be back JUNE 22!

In the meantime, celebrate Pride by supporting queer authors and artists (you can purchase Unburied: A Collection of Queer Dark Fiction here).

Stay safe, darklings and spread the love.

New Release: Unburied: A Collection of Queer Fiction edited by Rebecca Rowland

Photo by Anthony on Pexels.com

June is Pride Month and this year one of my short stories, “Some Kind of Monster” will appear in the Queer Anthology, Unburied. Proceeds from book sales will be going to a LGBTQ charity, so what better way to read some cool stories AND help out for a good cause!

PURCHASE THE BOOK HERE

Below is an excerpt of my story:

It was dark in the monster’s belly.

That’s how the nightmares always began.

I could never see the monster, I just knew that it was large because anytime I found myself in his viscid stomach, I was swallowed whole. Never chomped up in little pieces.

Last night, once again I had the same nightmare. I was in the monster’s belly, the acrid scent of his stomach acid made me gag as I floundered in it, blind. I can’t ever see the inside of it because of how cavernous it is. All I can feel is the stifling sense of being wrapped in an unwanted hug.

The nightmare usually laves me feeling unsettled. No amount of hot tea and buttered biscuits can comfort me back to normalcy. After one those nightmares, I tend to spend the rest of the day jumpy and tense, my shoulders sore from my inability to relax. Another side-effect of this reoccurring nightmare was that whenever I woke up, drenched to the bone and shaking, it would leave me so wound up that attempting to fall back to sleep was futile, even if I had three hours to spare before my alarm would sound off.

There I was, sitting my cubicle both in dire need of sleep and also very afraid of being met with the same feeling of dread and anguish that the nightmare always delivered. My eyelids felt heavy, like keeping them open was a task in itself, and one that I was certain I’d fall victim to if I didn’t get my ass out of the chair and mainline some caffeine into me stat.

I hurried to the break room not caring that I had already taken a break twenty minutes ago. My sanity depended on staying awake. I felt like those scream queens on A Nightmare on Elm Street where they conjured up inventive ways to keep themselves awake, lest they become savory kebabs for Freddy’s expert razor claws.

“Another coffee? Tough morning, huh?” My co-worker Jack asked with an easy shiteating grin that made the other girls in the office swoon but that I despised. His dockers were perfectly pressed and the button down shirt impeccably ironed. He ran a hand through his sandy blond hair.

I knew I looked as much as disaster as I felt. My curls still tangled and pinned to the top of my head in a messy bun, yesterday’s eyeliner smeared under my eyes, and a gel manicure outgrown its natural stay that my half-moons where visible. I just shrugged not wanting to commit to an answer. Hoping that maybe this would dissuade him from small talk.

“You look like you could use some sleep, Sharon.”

No shit, Sherlock.

I plastered a fake smile and replied, “You’re so very astute, Jack.” I silently begged for him to leave the break room so that I could have a few moments to myself. But Jack lingered with his dopey grin.

“What’s this?” He pointed to something on the side of my neck.

I hope it’s not a hickey, although I haven’t made out with anyone in weeks. I went towards the mirror placed above the sink, to inspect and oddly enough there on the side of my neck were three punctures holes. I carefully touched the wounds, not understanding where or how I could’ve gotten them.

“That’s strange….” I murmured more to myself.

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Review: Paradox Lucky Stars Blemish Patches

What It Is: Blemish Patches

What It Does: Visibly reduces the size of pimples and helps promote healing.

Active Ingredients: Hydrocolloid, Calendula, and Tree Tea Oil

Verdict: I’ve been wanting to try these blemish patches out ever since they were sent to me, but lately I’ve been blessed with clear skin. However, not so since the humidity levels have been insane, so I finally got to use them and honestly, look how freaking adorable they are! Unlike other blemish patches you can easily sport these outdoors because a random black star positioned just so on your face will give off major glam Marie Antoinette vibes. But enough of me gushing about how darn cute they are – the real question is: do they work? I can wholeheartedly say that YES THEY DO! These patches truly work wonders! They suck out all the gross pus and impurities while you’re sleeping or going out and about your day allowing the temptation to pick or squeeze said zit to diminish. And I know how tempting picking can be! For my particular zit, it went down with one patch kept on overnight. But by the second one, it made it disappear completely. I cannot recommend this enough if you have a pimple and wish to banish it stat. Not to mention that no one would be none the wiser of what you’re truly concealing beneath the black star.

Price: $18 (for 40 patches)

Where To Buy It: shopparadox.com

Waking up to perfect skin!
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Book Review: Whisper Down the Lane by Clay McLeod Chapman

Inspired by the McMartin preschool trials and the Satanic Panic of the ‘80s, the critically acclaimed author of The Remaking delivers another pulse pounding, true-crime-based horror novel.

Order On Amazon!

Release Date: April 6, 2021

Publisher: Quirk Books

Price: $18.30 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

Richard doesn’t have a past. For him, there is only the present: a new marriage to Tamara, a first chance at fatherhood to her son Elijah, and a quiet but pleasant life as an art teacher at Elijah’s elementary school in Danvers, Virginia. Then the body of a rabbit, ritualistically murdered, appears on the school grounds with a birthday card for Richard tucked beneath it. Richard doesn’t have a birthday—but Sean does . . .

Sean is a five-year-old boy who has just moved to Greenfield, Virginia, with his mother. Like most mothers of the 1980s, she’s worried about bills, childcare, putting food on the table . . . and an encroaching threat to American life that can take the face of anyone: a politician, a friendly neighbor, or even a teacher. When Sean’s school sends a letter to the parents revealing that Sean’s favorite teacher is under investigation, a white lie from Sean lights a fire that engulfs the entire nation—and Sean and his mother are left holding the match.

Now, thirty years later, someone is here to remind Richard that they remember what Sean did. And though Sean doesn’t exist anymore, someone needs to pay the price for his lies.

Grade: B

Review:

This is my second sampling of Clay’s writing and I must say that I really enjoy how strong his novels begin. This novel is steeped in reality as it’s based off of the 80’s Satanic Panic that made people suspect of anyone in getting caught up with witchcraft. In the 80’s a California preschool was in the news for the teachers were accused of being Satanists. Obviously, it all ended up being one big lie, and this book explores what happens when a little boy delivers a lie that changes not only his life but that of many people. Sean is five years old when he accuses his kindergarten teacher of worshiping the devil. Years later, we see how that lie comes back to haunt him.

Some parts of the book were creepy (I really enjoyed the Gray Boy) and some of them were kinda slow. I liked how it explored the Satanic Panic craze as I was too little to recall any of it when it was happening, not to mention that since my parents weren’t the crazy types, they never thought that Cabbage Patch Kids or The Smurfs were “Satanic.”

I did enjoy the dual narratives between Sean in 1983 and Richard in 2013 as it amped up the mystery of what happened and trying to figure out what exactly what went on. The imagery was dark and creepy and I was compelled to keep on reading as more and more of the mystery began to unravel. I liked how the book ended but it felt like the novel began to drag towards the end, so I would’ve preferred a more tightened end, but I did like how we were left with a question rather than all answers.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Quirk Books for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Excerpt: “Boys of Summer” by Azzurra Nox

The Lost Boys has been my favourite movie ever since I watched it for the very first time at 8 years old. The film has everything I love – vampires, rock music, and a combo of humour and horror. In light of my adoration for The Lost Boys and the fact that I spent most of 2020 writing so I wouldn’t have to deal with the stresses of a global pandemic – I decided to write a short story inspired by The Lost Boy, entitled, “Boys of Summer.”

My only gripe about The Lost Boys was the fact that the whole movie had only TWO female characters – so in my take – I made women the protagonists while I sidelined the boys into the background.

Here’s an excerpt of that story – it drops today and can be found in Little Demon Digest Volume II. You can pick up a copy HERE.

I was halfway into the cave when the drugs finally hit, and I regretted my decision. The scent of mildew, seawater, and copper hit me smack in the face before I had a chance to see the carnage. Before I had an inkling of what was to become of me too. Bugs pirouetted as I tripped over a bone. The candles scattered throughout the cave gave me tiny glimpses of a world that up to that point I never realized existed. The boys behind me laughed, their teasing casual as though I hadn’t just fallen on the remains of a decaying corpse. I screamed as I tried to move away from the maggot-infested body but unable to because the older boy with the bleached mullet and leather trenchcoat placed a hand on my shoulder to stop me.

“They’re only worms, Ashley. There’s nothing to be afraid of.” He laughed.

The others joined him. They were all in on the sick joke except me.

I blinked and saw that the body was gone and my hands weren’t dirty with blood as I thought. As the cave came into clearer view I realized that it was only seaweed tangled in my fingers and seasnails on a broken piece of surfboard ravaged by time.

The blond offered me his hand with a sheepish grin to remind me that they were just teasing. That I was in good company. That I was safe.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about all the vacant expressions of those girls whose photos were plastered all along the boardwalk. I was haunted by the words in bold hovering over their images, HAVE YOU SEEN ME? Only two weeks ago a crazed fan had shot and killed Rebecca Schaeffer, rising star of the popular sit-com My Sister Sam. Natalie and I would always watch the crazy adventures of Sam and Patti curled on the couch with Doritos and slurping Cherry Coke. A sudden dread overcame me as I saw myself as those boys saw me. Petite, lanky, unable to put up a good fight. My mouth felt dry as the aftertaste of chalk lingered on my tongue.

I know I shouldn’t have followed them there. Isolated from the rest of the world. And an isolated girl was always in danger. But I was aching for adventure. I yearned for a little thrill.

Standing up, I looked up at the blond’s unnaturally pale face.

“You never told me your name,” I whispered.

The other boys laughed and mocked me. “Go ahead, tell her your name.”

But he merely smiled without answering me. Instead, he handed me a jewel-encrusted bottle and said, “Drink.”

I knew that I shouldn’t have. But I was thirsty. Anything to rid myself of that awful taste. So I did as I was told.

The faint notes of Madonna’s hit song echoed in the night like a siren luring me back out into the world. Life is a mystery.

A misstep was made. I was never supposed to survive the night. Yet, I did. Life may be a mystery but there’s no greater mystery than death. Those who defy it are basically divine. Or possibly evil.

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Excerpt: “Chronic Chills” by Hudson Wilding from Tainted Love: Women in Horror Anthology

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

Rumor had it that Oskar Abernathy rehearsed every week after choir practice, so Orchid lingered in the pews one evening after all her friends left. As Edinburgh’s meager light fell through the stained glass windows, Orchid tried to imitate the expression an older woman might take on while meditating on something holy and somber. Soon, the opening notes of “Lacrimosa” jolted her. She squeaked. The music stopped and Oskar rose to look at her from the organ bench at the front of the hall. He was wearing the same surprised expression one might have after seeing a mouse scamper up a curtain.

“Why, hello,” he said, smoothing his hands over the cufflinks on his tweed jacket. His conscientious way of dressing always gave her the impression he was waiting for a surprise visit from The Queen. Orchid could not escape the notion that he had arrived in the 1970s quite by mistake, belonging instead to an earlier time when his delicate complexion and precise mannerisms would have seemed less eccentric.

“You have the most beautiful handkerchiefs,” she told him, her high voice echoing across the large auditorium.

“They’re for my chronic chills,” Oskar replied as if her non sequitur was a completely ordinary attempt at conversation.

She walked closer to him, approximating the hip-sway of one of the older girls in the choir. “Your chronic chills?”

“Here,” he said, reaching out. “Feel my hand.”

She hesitated a moment before approaching the organ. Then she pressed two fingers gently into the skin of his outstretched palm. His fingers enveloped hers like a Venus flytrap closing around an insect at the Royal Botanic Gardens. The biting cold of his flesh shocked her. She’d heard rumors of his strange illness but had always assumed it was just town gossip.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to interrupt you.”

Only then did his grip relent. “I believe I was the one who interrupted you.”

***

Read this and other chilling tales in Tainted Love: Women in Horror Anthology! Check out the pre-order giveaway here!

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Book Review & Author Interview: Children of Chicago by Cynthia Pelayo

Don’t forget to pay the Piper…”

Pre-Order on Amazon!

Release Date: February 9, 2021

Publisher: Agora Books

Price: $26 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

When Detective Lauren Medina sees the calling card at a murder scene in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood, she knows the Pied Piper has returned. When another teenager is brutally murdered at the same lagoon where her sister’s body was found floating years before, she is certain that the Pied Piper is not just back, he’s looking for payment he’s owed from her. Lauren’s torn between protecting the city she has sworn to keep safe, and keeping a promise she made long ago with her sister’s murderer. She may have to ruin her life by exposing her secrets and lies to stop the Pied Piper before he collects.

Grade: A

Review:

I decided to dive into Cynthia Pelayo’s Children of Chicago with no notion of the plot summary. I recently had read her harrowing true-crime poetry collection, Into the Forest and All the Way Through, as well as her short stories featured in the female driven anthology she edited with Gemma Amour and Laurel Hightower, We Are Wolves, and decided that I would take a leap of faith. I never could’ve been happier with my choice. I’m an avid reader of fairytales and the fact that Children of Chicago expertly weaves the fairytale of The Pied Piper and giving it a Candyman angle, made it a very intriguing read. The writing is both lush and concise, allowing the reader to be emerged in the Chicagoan city life as well as the dark realms of the fairytale forest. It’s a deep dive into darkness and for readers of horror, you will love this.

We follow homicide detective Lauren Medina who’s tasked with trying to figure out who is killing the teens of Chicago, in a city, notorious for its bloody past and violent present. Reality fuses with the supernatural and the reader is never certain if we’re witnessing true events or if the characters are simply victims of a mass hysteria.

The novel is part police procedural and part supernatural horror with hints of magical realism all coming to head with a very explosive truth about the protagonist that will leave readers reevaluating everything that’s happened throughout the novel. Fast-paced and eerily dark, Children of Chicago is the perfect winter read.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Agora Books for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

SHORT Q & A WITH AUTHOR:

I’m a huge fan of fairytales so reading the novel, this really drew me in. There are so many fairytales to choose from, and of course the Brother Grimms are the most popular, but what exactly drew you to the tale of the Pied Piper and why is he the bad guy in the novel?

It’s very odd, but I usually get an image for my stories before I start writing them and I had an image of a man in a black suit and a black top hat standing outside of a hospital waiting to whisk a small child away. That was all I had. Ultimately that image didn’t make it into the novel, but that’s where his story started. Then I started thinking about who he was. Why was he dressed in such old-fashioned clothes and why did he want to take a child? For a long time I thought maybe he was Slenderman, but that wasn’t quite right. Then the Slenderman stabbing happened in Wisconsin in 2014 and I put the story away in my head, because it just felt like it was in bad taste to continue on with the story during that tragedy.

I had taken courses in my MFA in Writing specifically on fairy tales, and so I have a lot of fairy tale books, and just a fascination with them and their history. It probably was not until I started going back to those books and reading them to my children that I found the Pied Piper again and it clicked. The man in the black suit was the Pied Piper and he wanted to lure the children of Chicago away. Then from there, it was just a manic rush to write the story while it was fresh in my head.

There are some accounts that claim that part of the Pied Piper story is true, to an extent, that children were led away from the town of Hamelin and they never returned. So, I wanted to speak to that tragedy, of this mysterious figure with only ill intent to destroy a society by taking away what was most precious to them, their children.

I also discovered that it wasn’t just the Pied Piper that needed to be weaved into the story, but much of the foundation of fairy tale lore, and other fairy tales, because so many fairy tales are based on some small, and gruesome, truth.

Chicago is as much a character in the novel as also the setting. What made you pick Chicago as the setting as opposed to any other big city instead?

I live in inner city Chicago. Not in the suburbs. Not in a fancy neighborhood in the city, but in a regular working class neighborhood in the city, with a high immigrant population, and a high poverty rate. I went to college, have a great professional career, but it was important for me to stay in the community that raised me, and what I later discovered was that Walt Disney was born just a few blocks away from me in a wooden house. L. Frank Baum who wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz wrote parts of that legendary book at the park that I have frequented my entire life. So, it was magical to learn that in my neighborhood, comprised of regular people, that magic was made here.

In addition to that, I can’t ignore the violence of the city that I grew up with, and that I live with still. So, there’s this strange dichotomy, a city that was founded on a lake and that has been home to creative legends that gifted us wonderful works of art, but a city that is plagued by violence, and historically has been plagued by violence – its founding was based on violence.

I wanted to then showcase this place where I live and love and to tell people that Chicago is the prime location for a dark fairy tale.

I feel that Children of Chicago can be read as a fairytale, meaning that most original fairytales served as cautionary tales. I feel that in the novel, we’re cautioned not to put our faith in supernatural entities because the price you have to pay may be bigger than you expect. And yet, I feel like humans tend to lean towards the supernatural if even on a low-key base such as sharing chainletters or keeping lucky charms or totems to ward off evil. Why is that?

Yes, I really would love if people read it as a fairy tale about fairy tales. There’s a lot that I was hoping to accomplish that I hope the careful reader catches on to, like my mentions of other fairy tales, and fairy tale devices, Chicago history and how I tried to hold a mirror up to the city and show the city its beauty, but its cruelty as well.

What I was hoping to communicate with the payment is due aspect of the story is that whatever energy you put out into the universe is the type of energy you are going to receive. If you are putting out negative energy, that is the energy that will return to you and serve you. I’m pretty spiritual and part of my path teaches me that we are all one consciousness, you, me, everyone. So, if I do or wish harm to someone else then I am doing or wishing harm to myself.

We turn to the supernatural for protections for a variety of reasons, religion, faith, but ultimately for the belief that the supernatural can shift our experiences and reality. For example, with regards to violence and harm, these things can sometimes be random, or there are people who just live in toxic situations or places. They turn to these things for the hope that the supernatural can guide them to a safer position.

I believe people need to do what gives them comfort, as long as it is not harming anyone, with regards to owning supernatural devices. However, I want to stress to anyone reading that if you are in a violent or harmful environment then please seek help and do so in a safe manner.

I also believe our words and actions are spells. I believe in being positive and speaking positively so that this is the type of energy we are granted.

This is a loaded question, but what is your favorite fairytale and why?

I love this question.

I love so many of them, but the one that I think about often and have written about is Hansel and Gretel.

It’s about the cruelty that can be done to us by those that are meant to love and protect us, and the tragedy of even when you find what you think is safety you aren’t really safe. There is betrayal. Ultimately, it shows that the only person you can trust is really and truly yourself, or in this case little brother and little sister who trust and save each other in the fairy tale. Hansel and Gretel teaches us that no one in the outside world can ever truly be trusted.

Humans often have motives that are beyond cruel, they are deadly.

What are you currently working on and do you have any other releases on the horizon?

I’m working on a middle grade novel I’m hoping to finish and get to my agent in a few days. I’m also working on a novella I hope to deliver in June. I’m not sure when that will be published but I will announce that soon. Then, I am working on the sequel to the “Chicago fairy tale series” which is not really a sequel to Children of Chicago but another fairy tale that takes place in the city. I also have a few short stories I’m working on. I’ve been very busy but it’s a great kind of busy and I am grateful for all of these creative opportunities.

AUTHOR BIO:

Cynthia “Cina” Pelayo is the author of LOTERIA, SANTA MUERTE, THE MISSING, and POEMS OF MY NIGHT, all of which have been nominated for International Latino Book Awards. POEMS OF MY NIGHT was also nominated for an Elgin Award. Her recent collection of poetry, INTO THE FOREST AND ALL THE WAY THROUGH explores true crime, that of the epidemic of missing and murdered women in the United States. Her modern day horror retelling of the Pied Piper fairy tale, CHILDREN OF CHICAGO will be released by Agora Books on 2/9/21. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, a Master of Science in Marketing, a Master of Fine Arts in Writing, and is a Doctoral Candidate in Business Psychology. Cina was raised in inner city Chicago, where she lives with her husband and children. Find her online at www.cinapelayo.com and on Twitter @cinapelayo.

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Pre-Order Giveaway For Tainted Love!

Pre-Order Tainted Love: Women in Horror Anthology in ebook or paperback format from Amazon before February 16, submit an image of your receipt with the date and email it to: azzurranox (@) yahoo.com Then you’ll receive a gift pack that includes:

An exclusive never released before short story from Azzurr Nox

An exclusive high-res digital poster of the book cover

An ebook copy of My American Nightmare: Women in Horror Anthology

A chance to win even bigger prizes, including swag & signed books because your name will be put in a raffle ( one winner will be selected at random).

So what are you waiting for? Pre-order your copy of Tainted Girls: Women in Horror Anthology today!

PRE-ORDER HERE

Happy New Year & 2021 Goals

Although 2020 will definitely go under as one of the toughest years all of us had to live through in our lifetimes (and that’s saying a lot living in a post 9/11 world and economic meltdown of 2008 in which most of us are still trying to recover from). But for some creatives this year of solitude has somehow ignited a fire. And although I haven’t been in lockdown due to my job’s office being open throughout the whole pandemic, I suppose the possible threat to my own mortality and desire to hide away in a daydreams is what has turned out to be one of the most prolific years for me in terms of my writing.

What I accomplished in 2020

*Released Strange Girls: Women in Horror in February

*Some Kind of Monster will be published in Unburied 2021

*Baby Teeth was published in Midnight in the Pentagram for Silver Shamrock Publishing

*One for the Money, Two for the Show appeared in the Crystal Lake Publishing contest Summer 2020

*Boys of Summer will be published in 2021

*Fragile Fruit was published in Running Wild Stories in June 2020, and was also nominated for a Pushcart Award Prize 2020

*Lost Girls Go Everywhere: Poetry & Prose was released in October 2020

*Silent Ivy Hotel made the final Top Ten cut for a short story contest (still waiting for final results)

*I wrote over 15 new short stories

*I began writing a screenplay Terror! about the French Revolution

2021 Goals

*Complete my screenplay Terror!

*Complete my horror novella I Want Candy

*Finish editing Girl that You Fear for the nth time

*Read at least 50 books (I read only 46 this yr)

*Release Tainted Love: Women in Horror Anthology on February 16, 2021

*Be more active on Instagram (create more content)

*Maybe put together a collection of my short stories

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR GOALS FOR THE NEW YEAR?

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