Manor of Frights review

I know it’s tacky to review a book that one has a vested interest in, but one of the things I enjoy the most as a writer is discovering new (to me) authors. One of the ways I do that is to read the anthologies where my stories appear.

I’ve just finished reading Manor of Frights, Emerian Rich’s latest anthology for Horror Addicts.Net. I know I’ve written about it the past couple of weeks, but in case you’ve missed it, Manor of Frights is a little bit haunted house, a little bit Clue played with monsters in every room, a little bit Upstairs, Downstairs…if the gentry were homicidal. It is really fun, because you never know what to expect next.

Rather than rundown all the stories in the book, I’ll just tell you about three of my favorites:

Beyond the Ensuite by Barend Nieuwstraten III leads the reader in one direction, then zings around unexpectedly. In the 1970s, the titular manor has been turned into a hotel. Our hero discovers a secret bathing pool.

The Desiccated Heart by Sumiko Saulson is about a punk band who get together to practice in the mansion’s garage. The characters are so perfectly drawn that you’d swear you’d heard their music in a club.

Missing by R.L. Merrill takes a crew of theatre nerds into the mansion to pose as re-enactors  for charity. I love me some theatre nerds! You know things are going to go wrong from the very first sentence.

For the next couple of days, the contributors to Manor of Frights are throwing a party on Facebook. Stop by, comment on a post or two, and you’ll be entered to win prizes!

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Manor of Frights interview with Emerian Rich

Emerian Rich is the creator of — a podcast, blog, and publishing house — catering to horror enthusiasts. She served as editor or co-editor for five books under that imprint. She’s also the author of the vampire book series, Night’s Knights, has been published in 40+ fiction anthologies, works for two magazines, is a voice actress, and graphic artist.

She also works at a cemetery.

I wanted to ask her some questions about her latest book, Manor of Frights, which just came out last month.


Manor of Frights

Imagine a Victorian house where every room is cursed with a frightful existence. Are monsters in the halls? Ghosts left to fester in the library? Or are the rooms themselves enchanted with malevolent energy? What was summoned long ago and what doorways were left open? Manor of Frights is a collection of tales all set in different rooms of the same house.

With authors: Loren Rhoads, Judith Pancoast, Daphne Strasert, Mark Orr, Michael Fassbender, R.L. Merrill, Sumiko Saulson, Ollie Fox, Barend Nieuwstraten III, Rosetta Yorke, Amanda Leslie, Lesley Warren, BF Vega, DW Milton, D.J. Pitsiladis, Jason Fischer, and Emerian Rich.
Here’s an interview with Emerian Rich, editor of Manor of Frights:

Have you ever seen a ghost?

Yes, I have. It’s weird… Every time I have seen a ghost, I’ve thought it was a real person I was talking to. My clearest vision of one happened when I was a little girl. A girl in a yellow dress — I thought she was part of my sunbeam troop — beckoned me to follow her. I did, then she was gone. When I asked where the girl went, the other people there didn’t know who I was talking about. I also saw some little kid ghosts in the same church. It was a creepy place.

What is it like to work in a cemetery?

Nothing like I thought it would be. Much more customer service and people-related than spooky. People who are grieving are all different and handle it differently. Sometimes I console them, sometimes I am their therapist, and other times they’d rather just sign papers and get out of there without many words spoken. I try to read the situation and give them what level of human understanding they require at the time.

Has anything spooky ever happened at the cemetery when you were there alone?

Not really. I’ve gotten scared by noises out there, but it’s always ended up being a deer or squirrel. I’ve had people (ashes) in my office for a while and nothing has happened. I thought maybe when we have had to disinter the ashes because the family wants to move them, they might get mad and be a restless spirit, but so far… nope. The creepiest thing for me was when we had the recent storms and a huge tree fell over, bringing headstones up out of the ground with it! Those gaping holes near the roots kinda reminded me of a hellhole, but it was just dirt. Ha!

What’s your favorite haunted house?

Probably the one in The Woman in Black. It’s so cool to watch. I mean, I’d get someone to go in and remove the blasted cymbal-clanging monkeys, but after that, I’d be right at home. Haha.

Where did the idea for the Manor of Frights anthology originate?

I have always loved haunted house stories or stories where something is going on in a house and the residents don’t know what it is or what it wants. I’ve lived in so many different houses in my life, I love to see how people live differently. I thought opening up a fictitious house for people to fill would be a great way to see lots of different rooms through the eyes of some imaginative writers. I was right. I got so many stories I enjoyed this year, I had to turn half of the ones I wanted away. It was a great problem to have.

What can you tell us about the variety of stories/monsters in Manor of Frights?

I was really surprised by the variety of stories I got this time. I mean, I would never have thought of some of these tales. We’ve got smexy sea monsters, demons, ghosts, murderous toys, flower-devouring mistresses, mistress-devouring flowers, and a study that is filled with inhuman monstrous objects. It’s lucky any of us got out of there alive!

In the book, your story about zombies is really funny. Was there something that specifically inspired it?

Thank you! To tell you the truth, I wrote it for another anthology that a friend of mine was running. At the time, I was really into watching those documentaries where they recreate the upstairs/downstairs lives of those big houses like 1940s House. My friend’s anthology goal was to make sure that at least one person survived a horror happening in the story. When he fell ill and could no longer complete the anthology, I stuck the story away and didn’t look at it for a while. Re-reading it brought back good memories of him and his vision for his book. I adapted it to go into Manor of Frights because I felt it brought a good balance into the anthology. It brings a little humor into the book and plays nicely against some of the more serious pieces.

To read Emerian’s comic zombie story and so much more, treat yourself to a copy of Manor of Frights!

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My Manor of Frights story

Years ago, I saw a call for submissions for an anthology. I wrote what I thought was the perfect story for it, but competition was fierce and mine didn’t make it into the book. I workshopped the story for a while, including submitting it to my classmates at the Clarion Workshop, but after a while I stopped sending it out. I don’t even remember why. It sat in a drawer, just waiting.

Last year at BayCon, I picked up another call for submissions. The book was an ambitious anthology that combined something like a vertical wine tasting with the mansion in Clue: each story would take place in a different room of the mansion and each one progressed decade by decade into the present day.

My story took place solely in a boy’s room. I sent it off, hoping they wouldn’t have anything else like it. The book came out earlier this month! Presents:

Manor of Frights

Imagine a Victorian house where every room is cursed with a frightful existence. Are monsters in the halls? Ghosts left to fester in the library? Or are the rooms themselves enchanted with malevolent energy? What was summoned long ago and what doorways were left open? Manor of Frights is a collection of tales all set in different rooms of the same house.

With authors: Loren Rhoads, Judith Pancoast, Daphne Strasert, Mark Orr, Michael Fassbender, R.L. Merrill, Sumiko Saulson, Ollie Fox, Barend Nieuwstraten III, Rosetta Yorke, Amanda Leslie, Lesley Warren, BF Vega, DW Milton, D.J. Pitsiladis, Jason Fischer, and Emerian Rich.
Here’s an excerpt from my story in Manor of Frights:

by Loren Rhoads
The Boy’s Room, 1965

Pooh cocked an ear. “You hear something?”

“Nothing.” Ted puffed on his cigarette, black eyes shining in the dark bedroom.
Then something scraped against the bedframe below them.

“Hell.” Ted flicked his cigarette off the bed into the darkened bedroom. It vanished in midair. He drew his gun. “Let’s take a look, Pooh.”

Bellies down, the two teddy bears crawled across the bedclothes and peered over the edge of the bed. A scaly arm quested out from below. As Ted watched it, sweat beaded under his police cap.

A second arm joined the first in its search.

“Now?” Pooh whispered as the third arm probed out.

Ted shushed him.

A scaly head followed the arms, poking out from beneath a spill of blankets. Its bat ears swiveled upward at the bears. Its muzzle twitched.

“Banzai!” Pooh shouted as he leapt off the bed. He landed on the thing’s scrawny neck and pinned it to the floor. It reached around, trying to dislodge him. One of its flailing arms knocked the slingshot from Pooh’s grasp. The weapon skittered out of reach.

“Move!” Ted ordered from his position at the edge of the bed. “I can’t get a clear shot!”

“Throw me your gun!”

The monster snarled, baring needle-sharp teeth, and struggled to sweep Pooh from its back. The pudgy bear grabbed the furry tufts under the creature’s ears and held on. The creature bucked and kicked, pinwheeling its scaly arms as it spun in a circle.

Ted watched in horror, certain his companion was doomed. He desperately tossed the pistol and hoped Pooh could spare a hand to catch it.

With uncanny luck, the squirt gun bounced into Pooh’s lap. He fired point-blank into the back of the horror’s head. The monster squealed as water trickled down its nose. Somersaulting to the floor, Pooh fired another shot right between the monster’s reptilian eyes. Hissing like a teapot about to go on the boil, the creature slunk back under the bed, dripping and defeated.

“Get outta here, ya bug-eyed creep!” From his crouch, Pooh stared into its burning eyes and brandished the water pistol, ready to fire again.

Grumbling, the monster retreated into the darkness under the bed and faded from sight.

After blowing imaginary smoke from its barrel, Pooh tossed the squirt gun back up to Ted.

“I got this playing hero, you know.” Ted scowled down at him and lifted his cap, displaying a tattered ear.

“But…” Chastened, Pooh climbed hand over hand back up the bedclothes.

“Just think and be careful.” Ted grabbed the collar of Pooh’s shirt and hauled him up over the edge of the bed.

They both sat on the comforter for a moment—legs stretched in front of them—and caught their breaths. Pooh replayed the fight in his mind and tried to figure out how he could have done things differently. The outcome was exactly what he wanted to happen, so it was hard to see how he could have done things better.

Eventually, Ted asked, “Want a beer?”

“I sure could use one.” Pooh grinned as he tugged the too-small red T-shirt back down over his round belly. Already opened beer bottles appeared in Ted’s paws. He handed one to Pooh.

“Thanks.” Pooh lounged against the sleeping boy’s pillow. His gaze roamed past the Arthurian adventure books on the shelf to the abandoned cardboard castle in the corner, over a jumble of Hot Wheels cars to the karate uniform. Jimmy was growing up quickly and they wouldn’t be able to protect him for much longer. The thought made Pooh terribly sad.

To read the rest, treat yourself to a copy of Manor of Frights.

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The Morbid Curiosity zine

July is International Zine Month, which I think is cool. Back before the internet was much of a thing, in the days before Google…jeez, before LiveJournal and Myspace, I made a zine called Morbid Curiosity. I published the first issue in 1997. I can’t believe it’s been 26 years.

Morbid Curiosity collected true confessional stories from authors around the world. Some of them were professionals. Others I published for the first time. Topics ranged from bad medical experiences to brushes with serial killers, from what we’d call Dark Tourism to, let’s say, experiments in altering one’s own chemistry.

I loved putting the zine together each year. It introduced me to people I still consider friends, all these years later. Through it, I met artists like Chris Bale, M. Parfitt, Erik Quarry, Kimberlee Traub, and Mike Hunter, who made amazing illustrations for each issue. I was the first reader for adventures that I was thrilled people would admit to in public. I could not have been prouder of what we achieved.

Morbid Curiosity #9 was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Nonfiction. By then, I’d already decided to close things down. Blogging had taken off and it was harder to find unpublished stories when anyone could tell their story on LiveJournal. Distribution had always been a pyramid scheme, but once Tower Records and Borders went out of business, I lost my biggest venues for reaching new readers. (Facebook didn’t start to explode until 2008.)

Still, I was really proud of Morbid Curiosity #10, the final issue, which came out in 2006. It contained confessional nonfiction by horror authors Alan M. Clark, John Everson, Seth Lindberg, and Simon Wood. That issue’s topics included drinking human blood, serving as a public defender for a hammer murderer, surviving temporal lobe seizures, planning a home funeral, watching UFOs, living through complications in childbirth, and much more.

Every year when a new issue of the zine came out, I hosted a huge reading for local contributors and anyone else who could make it to San Francisco. In 2006, I called the event a wake. It was held in what would become Borderlands Cafe on Valencia Street, although at that time the space was huge and barely lit, the walls torn open to the studs.

Me, giving the eulogy for Morbid Curiosity.

The Washington Post published a great piece about the magazine called “The Morbid the Merrier? Alas, No More” that was picked up by newspapers across the country. I took the Morbid Curiosity show on the road, to Alameda and Sacramento. We raised money for breast cancer research. I hosted the last Morbid Curiosity Open Mic at the World Horror Convention that year.

Morbid Curiosity #10 is the only issue of the zine still in print. Get a copy for $10 postpaid in the US and satisfy your curiosity. Order it direct from me here.

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New Short Stories

I’ve had a handful of brand-new short stories (very short stories!) go up on the internet lately. You can check them out for free!

The most recent is a little piece about a mother, her son, and the sea that appeared as part of the Ladies of Horror Flash Project. Alondra has settled in to watch the sunset on her vacation in Cinque Terre when a man asks for her help. It’s called “Far from Home.” You can read it here.

Need a break from real-life horrors? I’ve got you. “Dumb Supper” is the little Mardi Gras horror story I read for Strong Women, Strange Worlds. Jambalaya fixes everything. You can watch it on Youtube: 

Elaine Pascale read my “Petrichor Gothic” for another Ladies of Horror Challenge. Sometimes all you want is to get out of the rain in a cozy little ghost story. I’ll embed it below, or you can listen to it on Youtube.

All three of these stories are about Alondra DeCourval, the heroine of my series of chapbooks on Amazon. You can learn more about her stories here.

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