Available for preorder on Kindle, Castle of Horror 4: Women Running from Houses, including my story “The Ghosts of Glenmirror,” has a publication date of October 13, and will also be available in trade paperback.
“Women running from houses?” you might be saying. “What’s that about?” If you Google the phrase, you’ll see for yourself, but I provide an example at left. Gothic romances of the midtwentieth century established a visual trope for cover design, commonly featuring a woman, well, running from a house, usually a mansion or even a castle. Motifs of the story proper, popularly established in the classic Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, include a romance with a man in a position of power over the woman, mysterious deaths, and a significant other woman. Additionally, some gothic novels include supernatural elements, and that’s where the Castle of Horror anthology series enters the picture. For this volume, the fourth, editor Jason Henderson decided upon “women running from houses” as the theme, drawing on all the classic motifs of gothic literature.
As previously posted, I really wanted to get back to writing this year, so finding some external deadlines to get me motivated was just the thing I needed. Plus, I’ve never written a gothic horror/romance before, and diving into a new genre is always fun. So when I spotted the call for pitches, I went for it. Jason liked my pitch and asked me to write the full story.
My lead character is Dr. Moira Ready, fresh from getting her doctorate in neuroengineering and continuing her research while in residence at the Northwoods Sleep Center. Her breakthrough technology uses a brain-computer interface to essentially program scenarios for lucid dreams; it’s like an X-Box, but the game runs in your brain while you’re in an induced REM sleep state. While writing her dissertation, Moira, a computer geek looking to reinvent gaming, also realized the therapeutic potential for her device. It could be used to treat people with various sleep issues, nightmares, PTSD, or more, and that’s why the director of the sleep clinic brought her on board. But their relationship turned into something more than professional, and now she’s having problems with the tests she’s running: her dreams are turning into gothic-themed nightmares . . .
I had a blast writing this story. The dream sequences allowed me to go full-on gothic, but they’re intrinsic to the story, to Moira’s work, not just nightmares stuck in for atmosphere. To avoid spoilers, I’m not saying anything else! But I do want to thank my beta reader, Kelli Fitzpatrick, for insightful and helpful comments done under last-second conditions. Finding the right balance between the classic gothic motifs and the portrayal of a smart, modern woman was tricky, and Kelli really helped me focus on the right emotional beats in both the dreamworld and the real world. I also had a fascinating conversation with Dr. Wajahat Khalil, a sleep medicine specialist, for background on the current state of sleep engineering. If he builds Moira’s dream machine, I want royalties!
*Photo caption: A woman runs from a house in this detail from the cover of Castle of Horror 4; cover designed by In Churl Yo.
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