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The Psychology of Horror Books

The Psychology of Horror Books

The Psychology of Horror Books

By Gillian Bridè Duce Madell


I am often asked about writing, books and articles that I have written. Usually, it is questions on how to pull together a good book when they (the person asking) are writing. As a well published author of books, articles and philosophical works, it shocks some that I could also write anything with brutality or gore in it when it comes to writing my Historical fiction/fantasy works. There is nothing out of the ordinary in such scenes in this particular genre – it is merely my love/studies of myths, legends, traditions and philosophies that is carried throughout all of my writing and works.

History was no rainbow and joyous time. It was a time of caution and where most people were on edge most of the time. A time where even the neighbor had to be viewed with care. It was the horror stories of old that kept the children safe. Stopping them from entering a forest on their own where all sorts of death awaited them. Being young, vulnerable and edible – so easy it would be for a predator. Even a lone adult entering the forest was an unwise move when a pack of wolves might venture around at any time. Stories warning of water monsters, cave ogres, fire giants and even air fiends that would snatch them as they slept if they were not careful. Horror has been on the tongues of humans since the first parent was concerned for their child wandering off and the first confused person that saw something that they could not otherwise explain.

This is well and good for the ancestors, but, what is it that draws modern man now to horror, as we, supposedly, are so much more knowing.

A paper in 2004 by Dr. Glenn Walters said that there must be three main elements for a horror movie to work – tension, relevance and (somewhat of) unrealism.  This transfers also to any books written in the genre of horror/slasher/gore. There are those that enjoy the shock and fright that comes from reading such works, but it is the knowledge of it ‘not being real’ that allows a psychological buffer between them and that which is depicted in the book.

History was not pretty, but write it in a manuscript, with all of the gore of battle fields or acts done from one to another (even if a real historical events), the reader has the buffer of ‘it not happening actually at that moment’(the unrealism factor), which gives them freedom from feeling terrified or concern after finishing the book. Cannibals read of in books, might have been real at some stage (or still are), but the reader can shake off the feeling of shock after putting the book down, knowing that they are not in his/her home (or are they). Zombies, vampires, slashers, aliens and horrifying monsters might not (or might) be real… written well, the tension factor will rise. The relevance factor, such as fear of death and other psychological essentials, raises the book’s status as a horror.

There are factors within the mindset of those that read horror books too. Some read to overcome their fears. Some read horror because they need to ‘feel’ or, as it is called by some, ‘sensation seek’ (sometimes even going as far as to identify with the slasher/killer/monster). Some like the excitement and are far more grounded. It is, to captivate all these readers (if possible) with one book that is the holy grail of horror books. Such authors, in their day, as Mary Shelley, author of “Frankenstein”, and Bram Stoker, who wrote “Dracula”, were cutting edge writers for their ability to pull together all of these elements and put them into books that still sell today (even though the ‘horror’ level is nothing compared to what is out there now). Pooling together these fundamentals made the material that they wrote, immortalized.

So, in conclusion, if you want to write a book that will go down in history, find a way of incorporating all the above elements. The essentials behind being a good horror writer is the best example of what it takes to be great in any genre of writing. To understand the basics of the horror genre, give one the leading edge in all genres.

Coming, July 1st, 2018 and available now for pre-order on Amazon Kindle

Coming, July 1st, 2018 and available now for pre-order on Amazon Kindle

“In deep space, a colony is devastated by a horrific plague, unleashing a nightmare beyond imagination. A team of mercenaries battle against and army of living dead to save the Earth from a hellish fate where death is just the beginning…”

Originally published in 2001, THE DEAD SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH has received a well-deserved update – cleaner, sharper, faster, yet still as brutal.

“Space, ultra-violent zombies, a team of mercenaries…take a bunch of good things and combine them and you always get something better. Vince Churchill’s debut is scattered with brilliantly horrifying moments, and his zombies are some of the nastiest – an extrasolar colony infected by a disease that highlights their most violent instincts. The novel is imbued with an unsettling atmosphere of alienation and fear that should hook any zombie horror fan. Also check out Churchill’s equally brutal The Blackest Heart.
XBOX Magazine
ZOMBIES! – The 37 Greatest Zombie Triumphs”


99¢ Birthday Kindle Countdowns Event!

99¢ Birthday Kindle Countdowns Event!

Every day at midnight (PST), starting June 10, one title in the Dark Recesses Press library will be available for $.99 cents on Kindle Countdown. So if you’ve been waiting for your chance to check out some new authors, or old favourites, now is your opportunity! See below for the list of titles and when they will be in the 99 cent pool.

and due to some technical requirements


Pique Dame by Mark Orr

Pique Dame by Mark Orr

Pique Dame

by Mark Orr


In July of 2017, my wife and I disembarked from our cruise ship for the first of two days to be spent exploring the old imperial capital of St. Petersburg. After surviving the interminable process of gaining admittance onto Russian soil, we found ourselves on a catamaran proceeding expeditiously down the Neva River towards the village of Pushkin. I asked our local guide if I was remembering correctly that the village was named for the writer, Alexandr Pushkin. Martina was pleased that an American would know anything at all about her country’s history, and confirmed that the village had been so renamed in 1938 in celebration of the centenary of Pushkin’s death. I mentioned that his 1833 story, Queen of Spades, AKA Pique Dame (Pikovaya Dama in Russian), was one of my favorite short ghost tales. At this point, my wife interjected herself into the conversation and reminded me that I was not allowed to talk to tour guides because it embarrasses her that I like to show off how much more educated I am than the average tourist. She’s wrong, but I’ve learned over the past thirty-seven years to not dispute her opinions, no matter how erroneous, lest I be shouted down and beaten about the head and shoulders.

Queen of Spades is not only one of the greatest short ghost stories of all time, but it is, as far as I have been able to determine, the most adapted into other media. And yet, I venture to guess that the majority of modern horror fiction readers are barely aware of it, if at all. I won’t bother with a synopsis; the story is readily available online here, Classic Reader – Queen of Spades by Alexandr Pushkin , or in audio-book form here: LibriVox – Queen of Spades.

While Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is without doubt the most adapted ghost story of all time, that is a novelette. I contend that Queen of Spades is the clear front-runner among all the short stories dealing specifically with ghosts that have ever published. It has been turned into three operas, numerous films and a variety of television and radio plays. And yet, you know it not.

The first operatic version was in 1850, by Fromental Halevy. I have not been able to find any recordings of a performance of this opera. There is one of Franz von Suppe’s supposed 1864 operetta version available, but it doesn’t appear to contain any of the supernatural story elements and barely references the source material at all. The overture is frequently performed, although not as often as Suppe’s best known work, The Light Horsemen. And yes, you do know that piece, although you probably don’t realize that you do. Dah-dah-dump, da-dump, Dah-dah-dump, da-dump, Dah-dah-dump, da-diddle-dah-dum-dum… You get the idea.

Pyotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky’s 1890 opera is much better known, and is frequently performed. It is the basis for several of the films, rather than the original story itself. The libretto, by the composer’s brother, Modeste, significantly altered the events of the story, but the basic plot is visible in the structure of the opera. I have several different audio or video performances in my collection, by a variety of companies around the world. A few are available on YouTube. I’m rather partial to the 1993 version recorded by the Kirov Theatre company in St. Petersburg, conducted by Valery Gergiev. The score, with libretto in English, can be found here:

The earliest film adaptation I have been able to find is a 1910 Russian short, also available on YouTube. As noted above, it is an adaptation of the opera, rather than the story, although being a silent film the point seems moot. You can find it here:

There have since been at least twenty-four more film or television versions through 2016, plus two radio adaptations. One of the latter, a September 11, 1947 broadcast of the program, Mystery in the Air, is available at the Internet Archive:

Mystery in the Air was a short-run summer replacement show starring Peter Lorre in eight adaptations of tales of mystery and horror. Queen of Spades was the sixth.

The story was also adapted for the CBS Radio Mystery Theater and aired on March 8, 1976. It can be heard here:

Of all the film adaptations, the best known is undoubtedly the 1949 version starring Anton Walbrook as Herman. Walbrook may be better known for his role as the conniving husband in the original, 1940 English version of Gaslight. This particular Queen of Spades also stars Dame Edith Evans as the Countess, future television Sherlock Holmes Ronald Howard as Tomsky, and future Bond villain (Dr. No) Anthony Dawson as Fyodor. It pops up on Turner Classics Movies occasionally, and is very much worth catching.

To quote the immortal Joe Bob Briggs, “Check it out!” Queen of Spades will, I suspect, please the true connoisseur of horror in any or all of its various manifestations. You know who you are.



Kate Morgan on the Written Apocalypse - Podcast

Kate Morgan on the Written Apocalypse – Podcast

Kate Morgan, author.


Join our very own Kate Morgan as she discusses her life, her writing, her love of Swedish Death Metal, and her book THE REDEEMERS

Kate Morgan on the Written Apocalypse – Podcast Link


Kate Morgan aka Alice Loweecey Is baker of brownies and tormentor of characters, Alice Loweecey recently celebrated her thirtieth year outside the convent. She grew up watching Hammer horror films and Scooby-Doo mysteries, which explains a whole lot. When she’s not creating trouble for her sleuth Giulia Driscoll or inspiring nightmares as her alter-ego Kate Morgan, she can be found growing her own vegetables (in summer) and cooking with them (the rest of the year). Her mascot is a handmade nun doll that will only creep you out if you have a guilty conscience.

In her book Redeemers we will find. Long after the Great War life flourished again, in no small part due to The Redeemers’ help and guidance. It was a simple life, but a good one. Annie’s world made sense…until one fateful day when everything of value is ripped from her.

With nothing left to lose, Annie embarks upon a quest for the dark, disturbing truth of why – never imagining how deep the trail leads.

Contact her:

Website address:

Twitter: @KateMorganBooks



Dark Recesses stops by Zombiepalooza Radio Live

Dark Recesses stops by Zombiepalooza Radio Live

Come hang out with me (Bailey Hunter)!

Tonight (Saturday, April 8, 2017) on Zombiepalooza Radio Live from 12am – 1am EST (9pm – 10pm PST) I will be chatting with Jackie Chin about all the good stuff going down at Dark Recesses Press. Where we came from, where we’re going, and things you may not have heard/known about before. (I’ll do my best to tame the mane.)

Stop by the YouTube channel and check it out. Show runs from 8pm -1am EST. Each hour will have a different guest from around the world.

Dark Recesses Acquires Belfire Press!

Dark Recesses Acquires Belfire Press!

Dark Recesses Press is excited to announce the acquisition of Belfire Press as of April 1, 2017!

Please join me in welcoming the following authors who have joined the DR Family, adding 20 varied titles to the DR library.

Kim Paffenroth
David Dunwoody
Michael Hultquist
KV Taylor
Mark Orr
Shawn Oetzel
Christine Morgan
David Day
J. Aaron Parish
Natasha Smith
Gillian Duce Madell
William Snider
Bryan D. Dietrich

The deviously tormented novel FALL TO RISE by Lucas Pederson is slated for release this July to coincide with the Scares That Care convention in Williamsburg, VA.  With the acquisition, we also gained a new novel by Gillian Duce called NUADA which will be released this year. A firm release date will be announce next month.

We here at Dark Recesses are very excited to have all these wonderful authors join our family, and to be able to provide a home for their works.

This is just the beginning of many great things happening, so keep your ear to the ground, and your eyes on Dark Recesses Press.

Reading Slush – On the importance of critical analysis and variety

Reading Slush – On the importance of critical analysis and variety

Written by Simon Dewar
Originally Posted: February 24, 2016

I think every writer, at least every short story writer, should read slush for a while. My god, but it really puts fiction in perspective for you.

For the uninitiated among us, wikipedia informs us:

In publishing, the slush pile is the set of unsolicited query letters or manuscripts sent either directly to the publisher or literary agent by authors, or to the publisher by an agent not known to the publisher.[1]

Sifting through the slush pile is a job given to assistants-to-the-editors, or to outside contractors (called “publisher’s readers” or “first readers”).

Reading slush really gives you such a huge appreciation for the talent and skill of true professional writers. Take a run of the mill slush story and a story published by a professional writer in a magazine or anthology…most often there is simply no comparison to be made. It’s not even a case of apples vs oranges. It’s a case of biting into an apple versus chugging a pint of bleach.

And that’s not to denigrate those of us who aren’t the elite cadre of writer’s out there. God knows I’m not in that grouping (yet!! *shakes fist*). But you really have to admire those professional writers at the top of their game.   They’ve come up with a cool story idea; they’ve crafted characters who are real people; they’ve started the story at the right spot (biggest issue with most poor short fiction); they’ve placed those characters in some sort of situation or presented them with some problem that requires resolution; they’ve developed an underlying theme or motif that either overtly challenges the reader or bubbles away in the background; and they’ve written the story using finely polished prose that takes the reader through that process in an evocative and engaging manner. They made you think things. They make you feel things.  That’s no small feat!

So what’s this got do with reading slush? The vast majority of fiction in the slush pile fails at one or more of the above mentioned things. The more things it fails at, the more the story’s ‘apple’ dissolves into ammonia.   At first, some of these failures (usually outright omissions.. e.g no plot, no real people, no situation/incident, etc) are hard to spot, and that’s the beauty of it.  Reading slush hones your ability to critically analyse stories and prose. It might be hard at first, but I guarantee you by the time you’ve read 100 slush stories… you will  be spotting issues with many stories with ease. You’ll look at a story and think “Geez, three pages went by before I found out what the issue/problem/incident to be resolved is!” and bang, there you go.. you know the story started 3 pages too early. Your own writing will improve dramatically.  When you’ve picked out unnecessary filtering of action and emotion in 100 manuscripts, you’ll really start to notice it popping out in your own. Conversely you’ll start noticing where a more distanced point of view might be of benefit to the story.  With 200 stories under your belt your repertoire of issues that you’ll catch during your analysis will increase and you’ll develop strategies and a process or workflow that you use when analysing a story.  With 300 stories under your belt, you’ll develop a true confidence in your analysis. (Obviously we’re all different I’m just throwing out some ballpark numbers here, but you get the drift.)

It is extremely hard to notice flaws in your own fiction, even some of the real pros struggle with it, which is why they continue to get critiques and beta-reads done by other writers. You need some serious writer/editor-fu to be able to do it, and this only comes with time and experience.   I believe this is where slush reading is of a huge benefit because via repetition and exposure to an endless variety of writing styles, it provides that experience.  Slush reading, for me, is the equivalent of basic routines and katas in martial arts.  In martial arts, you perform the move a hundred times, two hundred, three hundred – block-punch-kick. block-punch-kick. block-punch-kick.  It seeps into you and becomes part of your subconscious and your muscle memory, to the point where if someone throws a punch at you, your immediate response is block-punch-kick!  When you’ve seen and noted 300 different authors filter the actions and emotions of their point of view character, then you have the literary muscle memory response of block-kick-punch, and you blow away that filtering and you write in a more active and close point of view into your own manuscript.

Beyond critical analysis skills, slush reading provides a writer variety and exposure to a variety of ideas, narrative styles, prose styles, grammatical techniques, story telling techniques. This is invaluable. As humans, from the time we’re born we’re copying others. First our parents, then our teachers and friends, and later in life even other adults. This is how we learn and grow.  Sure, we often put our own spin on something we’ve learned or we innovate in a particular area, and we can still create extremely unique art, but our ability to do this is extremely limited if our exposure to new ideas and methods is limited.  I am currently doing an interview series where I’m chatting with Women who work in the horror genre. Almost every single response to the question “what’s the best advice for new writers” is “Read a lot and widely.”  Reading slush is a perfect way to do just that.

This blog post was originally posted on Simon Dewar’s blog on February 24, 2016.

Looking for Slush Slashers

Looking for Slush Slashers

Dark Recesses Press needs Slush Slashers (readers).

If you are interested, please fill out this questionnaire. We are currently looking to build our slush slasher group for the resurrection of the Dark Recesses Press Magazine.  We will only be pulling from those who fill out the questionnaire.  Once the positions are filled, anyone who has filled out the questionnaire will get priority selection when new slush reader positions arise.

A few notes:

  1. This is an unpaid volunteer position.
  2. Slush readers & other staff are prohibited from submitting stories or articles to the magazine.
  3. You will be expected to read and provide comments on an average of three to five stories per day.



Welcome Simon Dewar - New Executive Editor

Welcome Simon Dewar – New Executive Editor

Simon Dewar – Executive Editor

We at Dark Recesses Press are incredibly pleased to announce a new member to the Dark Recesses Press staff.

Simon Dewar joined us February 4th, 2017 as Executive Editor. His presence will be an excellent addition, bringing skill, experience and insight. The timing is perfect as we start building on new concepts and offerings.

Welcome Simon!

Simon Dewar is a writer and editor of horror and dark fiction.
He is the editor of the Suspended in Dusk anthology series, and his own writing can be found in various anthologies.
He lives in Canberra, Australia, with his wife and 3 daughters.