The Bronx Zoo’s Extinct Species Graveyard

Extinct Species 1 - Headstone

The Extinct Species Graveyard at the Bronx Zoo’s BOO AT THE ZOO Event was fascinating–and sad.

Nathan and I love to visit the Bronx Zoo, which is just about an hour from our house—it’s like being on vacation for a day, and it could be said the zoo is part of our lives (we’ve “financially adopted” many of their animals over the years, everything from a bat to a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach we named Mountain King). Since we’re members, we try to make it down for the zoo’s special events throughout the year.

October brought Boo at the Zoo: weekends full of activities such as a beer garden, pumpkin carving demonstration, not-really hay rides, marshmallow roasting pits, candy trails, a corn maze—and my favorite, a Haunted Forest in the abandoned World of Darkness Building. Little known fact about me? It was my first-ever walk-through Haunted House, and I did pretty well!

It was lots of fun to see kids in costume.

Look who I ran into in New York City!

…and to visit our hissing cockroach, Mountain King.

The exhibit that struck me most was the Extinct Species Graveyard, which was set up in a little-used grove of trees next to The Mouse House. It wasn’t there for a Halloween thrill, nor was it there as just another decoration to fill up space; it seemed part educational, and part memorial. I was surprised by the profound sense of sadness I felt as we wandered through the headstones.

Here’s a tour!

Extinct Species 6 - Falkland Islands Wolf

Officially discovered in the late 1600s, the Falkland Islands Wolf’s tame nature spelled its doom—it hadn’t learned to fear humans, so settlers could easily trick it into coming close enough to kill it. They were hunted for meat and fur, and were considered threatening to sheep. The last one was killed Read the rest of this entry

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Happy Halloween!

My Ouija Board costume. It’s missing the leggings in this photo–I only got the leggings so that it would be more appropriate in certain situations; it’s a little short, and HALLOWEEN IS COLD SOMETIMES!!

I’m too old to Trick or Treat and we live in an isolated spot where no costumed reveler would venture, but I still like to wear a costume every year…I go to the day job and pass out candy to everyone in the building. I have so many costumes that most years I don’t have to put together or buy anything—I just go in and yank from my stash.

This year was different. My sister came down for a visit, and we decided to hit up the mall for some retail therapy. We wandered into Halloween Spirit, where I was drooling over Day of the Dead accessories (I’m always looking for more to go with my wedding gown, which I’ve used as a costume on occasion). We went to the check-out, and I saw a Ouija Board costume display.

Ouija Board Costume Display

The Ouija costume display at Spirit of Halloween in the Danbury Fair Mall. The dress I bought is on the top left; the leggings (which I went back and got later) were on the lower right. Too bad they didn’t have a hat or a bag!

After a lifetime of being told that Ouija was evil, I defied all that in college and tried one – and ended up having a very bad experience. I will never touch one again. So no one was more surprised than me that this costume struck me as fresh, different, creative—and my choice for this year’s costume.

Happy Halloween everyone!

TOT TERRORS: DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK (1973)

I often get asked about what influences my work as a writer. Inspired by the amazing website Kindertrauma–which is right up my alley–I’m compiling all of my childhood (and some adult) terrors.

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (1973) 1

I first watched 1973’s Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark on a Sunday afternoon in the late 1970s—at my grandmother’s house, on one of the channels that always ran repeat made-for-TV films.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, which aired on October 10, 1973 on ABC, stars Kim Darby as a nervous homemaker who inherits her grandfather’s massive—and decrepit—mansion, complete with a caretaker who’s constantly warning her that “some things are better left alone” when she finds a tightly sealed fireplace in a shadowy room under the staircase. Which, of course, she opens in the name of “updating” the home. Soon, she’s Read the rest of this entry

DARK DISCUSSIONS dives 47 METERS DOWN

 

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47 METERS DOWN collage by Philip Perron.

Shark Week may be a long 10 months away, but there’s still plenty of thrills to be had in this year’s much-delayed Mandy Moore vehicle 47 Meters Down, which had been titled–and even briefly released, as I understand it–under the moniker In the Deep.

Dark Discussions delves deep into what works and what doesn’t in this film (which personally I didn’t get all the hate for–it’s a friggin’ shark thriller, for God’s sake, why are you all expecting high art?) which is available on Blu-Ray and DVD today. Pick it up here — http://a.co/20Q1UNs — then dive into what we thought!

You can listen to our episode on Stitcher, iTunes, and here: http://www.darkdiscussions.com/Pages/podcast_293.html

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TOT TERRORS: THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK

I often get asked about what influences my work as a writer. Inspired by the amazing website Kindertrauma–which is right up my alley–I’m compiling all of my childhood (and some adult) terrors.

Legend of Boggy Creek 1

The menu of my DVD edition. I have no idea which edition this is, but I know I got this at least a decade ago, maybe more. What I love about this menu is its featuring of what I think is the scariest episode in the film: the creature’s assault on the Fords and Turners.

I wouldn’t be surprised if 1972’s The Legend of Boggy Creek—an In Search Of…esque docudrama chronicling the hair-raising encounters of the people in Fouke, Arkansas with a sasquatch-like creature—spawned an entire generation of Bigfoot hunters: it certainly inspired me to not only fall in love with Bigfoot, but with what-none-of-us-knew-then-would-be-called found footage.

Legend of Boggy Creek 2

I remember seeing this title card on my grandmother’s kitchen television set — and it totally creeping me out. I’m thinking I could also attribute my love of found footage to this film.

This is yet another of those movies Read the rest of this entry

Short Story Sunday: One Last E-Ticket Ride

Going Postal Cover

As you’re reading this, I’m in Walt Disney World (really…I’m enjoying Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival at the moment). So I thought it’d be apropos to recommend Dominick Cancilla’s “One Last E-Ticket Ride.”

This twisted, hilarious tale of a loyal Disney Cast Member who is fired and seeks revenge conveys a powerful message about loss of identity in one of the most interesting environments possible, but what makes it stand out is its consistent, sardonic voice. It manages to be humorous and depressing at the same time, and the result is one hell of a ride (groan).

What’s sad about this story is it’s difficult to find. It was originally published in a collection called Going Postal, edited by Gerard Daniel Houarner, in 1998. Still, keep your eyes open. Disney Parks fan or not, this one is a must-read. Although the publisher (Space & Time) still exists, I could find no mention of how to purchase this through them even though it’s rumored to be available there, so, I guess we’re relegated to watching this link for used copies: http://a.co/1n8ip4d.

Off to write at Rudyard Kipling’s Carriage House

I’ll admit it’s not been a great year for me. To put it plainly, I was sick most of the year with bouts of nausea that turned out to be the result of an out-of-control ovarian mass. Taken care of…a week before one of the busiest Septembers of my  life. In fact, I write this on August 25, two days after surgery. I’m dreaming of Thursday, September 7, when I’ll be leaving to go up to Rudyard Kipling’s Carriage House in Dummerston, Vermont, for a much-needed writing retreat with my friends Meghan and Stacey.

As you’re reading this? I’m picking up Meghan at the bus station and we’re on our way! You can take a photo tour and get a feel for our visit last year here: https://kristipetersenschoonover.com/2016/09/27/the-landmark-trust-properties-for-writers-the-perfect-quiet-places/

Although it says it “sleeps four,” we really feel that it more comfortably sleeps three, as one of the rooms has an old-fashioned full-sized bed (which is really close quarters for two people to sleep on). There is ample room in the living room, I suppose, to throw down an air mattress, but the couches aren’t something you really want to sleep on, either.

Last year, Meghan had to unexpectedly cut her stay short by one day, leaving me and Stacey in the house alone for the last night.

That’s when things got a little weird. I’ll leave you with Stacey’s rendering of it–way better than mine–here: http://staceylongo.com/my-blog/retreat

 

Creative Spark: Melissa Crandall on ‘Three on a Match’ (Q&A)

TODAY IS THE BIG DAY! THREE ON A MATCH – which contains my novella, “Splendid Chyna,” gets released! Here’s an interview with one of the writers, Melissa Crandall! Stay tuned for more!

johnbvaleri

Today, I have the pleasure and privilege of sharing virtual space with Melissa Crandall.

Melissa is a contributor, most recently, to Three on a Match (Books & Boos Press)—the second title in the publisher’s “Terror Project,” following Triplicity (2016). A Pushcart-nominated author, she writes narrative nonfiction and speculative fiction, and recently sold a short story–“The Last Zookeeper”– to The Wild Musette. Her book, The Man Who Loved Elephants: 30 Years at Oregon’s Washington Park Zoo, is currently being shopped to publishers by agent Bonnie Solow. Melissa’s work has appeared in Tricks and Treats: A Collection of Spooky Stories by Connecticut AuthorsChicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness, and Allegory, and has been featured on The Drunken Odyssey; she made her professional literary debut with media tie-in novels for Star Trek, Quantum Leap, and Earth 2. A member of The Authors Guild, Melissa…

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INVOCATIONS coming soon!

Invocations Cover 2

Just in time for Halloween season, Great Old Ones Publishing reveals the cover and table of contents for Invocations, an anthology focusing on all those things we shouldn’t be summoning.

The cover is by Mj Preston, author of The Acadia Event.

Invocations Cover 1 by MJ Preston

My short story “We’ve Always Been Here” – a little bit of a different take on killer clowns – will be featured alongside these other fantastic contemporary horror writers. I’ll keep you posted on the release date. The TOC is as follows:

Foreword by Dan Lench
1. High Tea with Ancient Gods by Judi Ann Calhoun
2. Uncanny by E.g. Smith
3. American Macabre by Gregory Norris
4. Hunger by Dan Szczesny
5. Mirror, Mirror by Edwin Berne
6. Black Eyes, Blacker Soul by Patrick Lacey
7. Down Time Children by Irene Gallant
8. Hell and Back by Marinda Dennis
9. Let’s Go See the Honeyman by Kyle Rader
10. One Shot, One Kill by Eric S Brown
11. The Snow Lion by Coopersmith Black
12. Eyes by Tony Tremblay
13. The Butterfly Queen by Shannon Grant
14. Penance and Pressure Cookers by Philip Perron
15. We’ve Always Been Here by Kristi Petersen Schoonover
16. The Leyak by Mj Preston

DARK DISCUSSIONS pays tribute to George Romero

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Montage by Philip Perron

Dark Discussions pays tribute to George Romero in the wake of his passing. We discuss his life, his work, and the controversies that sometimes surrounded him, and some of our thoughts might surprise you! You can listen in on Stitcher, iTunes, and here: http://www.darkdiscussions.com/Pages/podcast_297.html

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