Spooky Season is Upon Us

Local Haunts: a HorrorTube Anthology is now available in print and paperback, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the reception. Word has been spreading on social media, and sales have been good. This project was so much fun, we may do it again. Hint. Hint. Keep your eyes open for that announcement coming soon. You still have until Saturday, October 10th, at midnight to enter the Local Haunts giveaway. Check out the video below for more details.

But for now, we are in the Halloween season, which is every horror lover’s favorite time of year. What are you doing for Halloween? COVID has changed a lot of plans, and I’m not even sure if my little town will be letting the kids trick-or-treat or not. Either way, Batilda, Lilly, and I will be ready with our annual Halloween BookTube special. This year we are pulling out all the stops, so be sure to check it out. I’m also planning to go live on Instagram during Halloween week while I visit a few local haunts around my neck of the woods (which just happens to be steeped in ghost legends). Go figure.

I’ve been doing the #HalloweenReadingExtravaganza readathon that is currently making the rounds on BookTube and Instagram. The first book I’m tackling in the challenge is Jersey Devil by Hunter Shea. So far, I love the old-school horror vibe. Considering I may have seen the Jersey Devil a very long time ago when I was driving through the Pine Barrens at night, this book is giving me extra chills.

Lilly is not intimidated by the Jersey Devil.

I’ve also been watching plenty of horror movies on Shudder and other platforms. In particular, I’ve been enjoying some new and old takes on the Frankenstein story. It’s my favorite novel of all time, and I never tire of revisiting its timeless themes.

A bone-chilling tale of murder gone wrong.

I know we have a few months until winter, but if you’re looking for a new story to chill you to the bone, you may download a FREE ebook copy of my new novella SNOWBLIND when you sign up for my email list.

This holiday getaway includes a wife, her sister, an abusive husband, a secret lover, and a murder plot. What could possibly go wrong?

If you like to purchase Snowblind, digital copies are for sale on Smashwords along with some other scary treats. As always, I appreciate your support.

Until next time, I hope you have a safe, and fun, spooky season.

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Check out the authors involved in Local Haunts.

Local Haunts: A HorrorTube Anthology is now available for pre-order on Amazon Kindle. The ebook and print versions will be go on sale October 1 on Amazon and other platforms. Local Haunts is a compilation of short stories from some of your favorite BookTubers so make sure you check it out. The proceeds for this anthology will be donated to the literacy charity, First Book. Cameron Roubique designed the awesome book cover.

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The creepy allure of (Virgo) cult leaders

Keith Raniere, former leader of a “self-improvement” company called NXIVM and unwilling star of the new HBO series The Vow, demonstrates the creepy allure I’ve observed in other cult leaders.

At first glance, this schlumpy guy with a penchant for V-necks doesn’t look like your average seducer, but after watching the first two episodes of The Vow, I get it. Seeing this guy in action, and listening to the testimonial of his most gullible mark (also named Mark), a clear picture of Raniere’s mind-fuckery emerges.

The boyish manner, the weird fashion statements, and volley-ball obsession are part of his quirky charm. His claim to be child concert piano prodigy (the video of him plunking out a very basic Moonlight Sonata while other ooh and ah is particularly amusing) and a math genius with the “highest I.Q. ever recorded” help to secure his status as Vanguard of NXIVM.

In other words, he’s special, the guy with all the answers for people searching for meaning in their lives. But not everyone is so easily fooled. Watching Mark’s beautiful and sensitive wife trusting her gut and pulling away from the cult even while her husband, who thinks he’s found his soulmate in Raniere, digs in his heels is truly riveting.

In the course of my Wikipedia search, I noticed Raniere is a Virgo, which ups the creep factor a bit. Having a female Zodiac sign gives the Virgo male an extra dose of mystery. Like Mercury, you can never pin them down. “Try to catch me between sets at volley-ball tonight.” They appear boyish and oddly asexual. But behind the scenes, it’s a different story.

If you haven’t been following the case, Raniere was convicted of a slew of criminal charges. One of the most shocking revelations to emerge was his secret society of chosen women in the group who were required to be branded with his initials. The particulars of those events are quite nauseating. When it really gets down to it, for all of the bells, whistles, sashes, and Dalai Lama blessings, Keith Raniere appeared to only be about satisfying his own ego and sexual proclivities under the guise of enlightenment. Pretty basic stuff.

The closest thing I ever came to being in a cult was when I spent four weeks studying Shakespeare in the beautiful Berkshires. I recall that Werner Erhard, the founder of EST and also a Virgo, was somehow involved in the organization’s start. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, but some of the exercises we were required to do had an EST vibe to them, including not allowing us to use the bathroom during a three-hour movement class. I wasn’t having any of it. I rebelled early and kept up the rebellion throughout the training duration, despite the cold shoulders from my peers who seemed all too willing to drink the Kool-Aid. The view out my dorm window reassuring me my car was still in the parking lot, and I could leave at any time helped me get through it. The experience stuck with me through. I even parodied it in one of the episodes of my web series, Gemini Rising.

Cult leaders won’t fool everyone, but they always seem to find their marks, the people who want to believe someone outside of themselves has the answers. It can, and has, led to tragedies. Here’s my recent discussion of a true crime story that happened near my home in late 1970s. Bill Bradfield, with his own creepy “Vanguard” Jay Smith, only held sway over a few willing victims, but the results were deadly. I wonder if Bradfield was a Virgo.

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