Category Archives: October – Horror

Alternate Media Picks: Horror

Before we close Horror Month, we’d like to share our alternate media picks with you! 

Check out some of our staff’s favorite horror games, music, TV shows, and movies!

Kayla’s Picks





Carol’s Picks





Mayra’s Picks



  • The Walking Dead

Tara’s Picks





Setting the Mood for Horror

Horror is one of the few literary genres that becomes an experience as you read it.  Great horror will get your heart rate up, have you glancing over your shoulder, or suspiciously watching dark corners even after you’ve put the book down.  You can intensify this by surrounding yourself with a horror themed ambiance to make it a truly spine tingling experience.  Here are some suggestions to set the mood for reading (or writing) horror!

Music & Sound

The ambient sound in the room plays a big part in your immersion experience.  For horror, especially, music or sound effects are often very important for setting the right tone.  For reading, however, many people prefer to have the least intrusive of music or noise.  So finding the right balance between creepy background music which sets the right mood and something which doesn’t distract from the pages before you is important.  There are plenty of options out there for ambient sounds like thunder storms, cursed caves (, and haunted houses (  These more “natural” sounds are likely best for those who are distracted easily because they are meant to blend into the background while still creating a nice bit of spooky white noise.  With sound mixers ( you can take the basic storm or forest noises and add some disembodied whispers, footsteps, wolf howls, and screams.

For those less prone to being distracted from their reading, there are literally thousands of options for horror themed music.  Plenty creepy instrumental pieces available can be found in hour long loops, which can be played back to back, avoiding the interruptions of having to change songs or jarring stops.  Options include creepy doll music, dark carnival, or sad vampire inspired music.  Check out our horror playlist on YouTube ( for even more spooky music!

Lighting & Decorations

Having the right lighting is very important for reading to be sure you don’t put too much strain on your eyes.  However, horror stories are often filled with dark and gloomy settings so it can be difficult to find the right balance.  We recommend having a very good light source right next to you so you can see clearly, but the rest of the room can be in total darkness if you like.  Having some candles or flickering lights scattered throughout the room can add a highlight to your favorite creepy décor without spoiling the overall mood.  If you have access to a fireplace, a roaring fire or strategically placed candles there will certainly help the ambience.  And while none of us can control the weather, a thunderstorm always helps to set a creepy vibe, so having a lightning strobe and a sound machine can help create a faux storm of your own!

Once you have your lighting situation squared away, you’ll want to get some spooky décor set up.  There really is no limit to what you can do with decorations, and with so many horror sub-genres you’ll have some opportunities to explore.  If Victorian horror is what you’re reading, you can grab some old tintype pictures ( in ornate frames, some amber glass apothecary bottles ( with mysterious contents, and flowing, black mourning material.  Or, if Lovecraft is your current read, you can get some specimens in glass (, black books full of unreadable runes, and something with tentacles (  Of course, for nearly any horror sub-genre, you really can’t go wrong with skulls!  Here are some other suggestions for your creepy décor.

Oil lantern (, an old fashioned style oil lantern will not only offer fantastic reading light, but will help set the mood for some old fashioned horror.

Candelabra (, for a more overtly creepy light source, without the worry of an open flame.

Storm machine ( ), who needs to wait for the weather to cooperate with your haunting reading atmosphere?  You can make your own thunderstorm with one of these machines so you can have that perfect dark and stormy night while you cozy up with a good ghost story.  This machine can also make your own lights flicker to thunder (or any other sounds, which can really add to the haunting ambience, but make sure you still have a steady light to read by!

SFX Ghosts ( ), these ghostly apparitions can be projected onto walls, windows, and even a holo-screen you can put up in a door way or hall!  There are several options to choose from, so these ghosts are sure to offer a nice, haunting ambience you can have looping in the dark corners behind you or in a nice window next to you while you read!

SFX Haunted Portraits ( ), like the ghosts, these portraits will animate with various scary actions such as slowly rotting over time or jumping out to scare passer-by.  You can disguise a flat screen tv as a painting by putting a frame around it, and then set one of these creepy portraits to idle above the mantle while you read.  

Skull ( ), a realistic human skull is always a good choice when creating a creepy setting.

Fog machine ( ), because fog is creepy, no doubt about it.  Just be sure to have it on a low setting so you can still read without straining your eyes!

Scents & Candles

One of the best ways to set an immersive atmosphere is with scent.  Scent associations can have a strong connection to memories or evoke powerful images.  There are several different ways you can add to your dark and creepy ambiance with scents such as incense, oils, diffusers, and candles.  The latter two have the added benefit of also providing mood lighting.  Want to conjure images of a dark, haunted wood?  Go for a musky, woodsy scent like cypress, cedarwood, or sandalwood.  How about summoning the scent of phantoms?  Airy scents like stargazer lily, moonflower, and amber can add that haunting quality.  

There are plenty of pre-made candles and oils that possess these creepy qualities, so there are likely to be options for any sub-genre of horror you happen to be reading (or writing).  Here are a few of our favorites.

Voodoo (, a soy candle with wood, citrus, and patchouli notes to help set that magic mood.

Spooky Mansion (, a musky scent with cedar wood and sage adds to that creepy, abandoned feeling of an old mansion full of secrets and ghosts.

Edgar Allan Poe (, a rosewood and black currant candle to help evoke that perfect mood of Victorian suspense.

Alternatively, you can get some strong oils, and add a few drops to water in an oil diffuser to fill your house with your choice of creepy scents.  Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab ( offers many complex, unique oils inspired by death, the occult, and many different books, movies, and comics.  Here are some examples that are sure to fit your desired ambience.

The Phantom Wooer (, with notes of stargazer lily, bone dust, tomb mosses, and honey myrtle, this scent offers the perfect “melancholy of the grave” vibe for any ghost story.  

Embalming Fluid (, a lovely, clean, clinical scent with aloe, citrus and musk notes, perfect for murder mysteries and mad scientists.  

Fairy Tales and Lies (, part of BPAL’s Crimson Peak series; lilac water, amber, and Italian bergamot pair perfectly with any grim dark fairy tale of happily never after.  

These really are a very small selection of options, with so many types of horror, there is no limit to how far you can go in creating your own reading environment!  We hope this inspires you to turn your home into your personal, cozy nightmare, and if you do, we’d love to see it so please share!  

Interview: Oliver Brackenbury

KAY HAWKINS: Thanks for agreeing to speak with us!

To start us off, could you tell us a little about your book JUNKYARD LEOPARD

OLIVER BRACKENBURY: It’s my first novel, after years of screenwriting, and I’ve been told it has a very cinematic feel as a result. Fair enough!

It’s about a young woman, Mary, with terrible anxiety problems…until she wakes up one morning feeling better for the first time in her life. Not perfect, but better. Her immense gratitude puts off questioning why her legs feel sore from running, or why there’s now, on the cupboard under her bathroom sink, a padlock she doesn’t know the combination to. Little does she know she’s started putting on a bizarre costume at night, heading down to the financial district, and using found tools from her job at a junkyard to slaughter entire floors of late working Lehman Brother types.

It’s about the ripple effects of doing what you know isn’t the right thing, but doing it anyways because damn it feels better to act than to be passively demoralized in the face of huge, complex forces beyond your control.

HAWKINS: That sounds very interesting. What inspired you to write about that?

BRACKENBURY: It was born largely of frustration. Like a lot of people, I wasn’t pleased by the lack of any real penalty being applied to the corrupt Wall Street types responsible for causing so much mayhem in society, especially since the crash of 2008. Even before you start the story, my dedication makes it pretty clear how highly I think of those guys.

I’d also had recently had a profoundly bothersome film set experience, which left me desperately in need of creating a story in a way that didn’t require large sums of cash or relying on others to make things happen. So, with these frustrations combined, I took a ball of research I’d been gathering for about a year, put on some music that evoked appropriate imagery for me, and started banging out the first few pages.

Now, that might leave someone thinking that the murders in the book were a source of catharsis for me. Honestly, that wasn’t their role! The cathartic bits for me were covering relatable economic concerns in the characters of Mary and James, as well as leaning into the descriptions of the dick-ishness of the finance sector characters like Gerald and his father. But if you get some satisfaction from reading about a corrupt banker getting their jaw knocked off by a homemade mace, hey, I ain’t gonna let the air out of your balloon.

HAWKINS: That sounds rather intense. Do your story ideas usually come to you that way?

BRACKENBURY: No, blessedly. Funny enough, in trying to kick off brainstorming for a new original screenplay idea, I went back through my notebooks from the past few years and listed the ways I came to past ideas. In no particular order, they were…

  • Dreams
  • Irritated by A Thing (and want to do something positive with that feeling)
  • Wanting to invert/play with a genre or trope
  • Wrestling with climate change / other social issues
  • Playing about with gender & sexuality
  • A  specific, self-made writing challenge
  • A dumb one-liner that just came to me
  •  ???
  • Easily the number one origin of my story ideas is my voracious non-fiction reading, which often leads to disparate dots being connected in my head to form an interesting picture. I’m not saying you could influence my writing via my Amazon or Indigo wishlists but, uh, you could totally influence an author’s writing via those lists is what I am getting at here… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

HAWKINS: When you started writing it was it what you expected?

BRACKENBURY: In some ways! Coming from almost exclusively writing screenplays, I expected more room to breath with things like descriptions of setting or character’s clothing, and boy howdy did the medium deliver. My experience in film taught me to scale back that stuff because, as I was literally told more than once, “You’re not writing a novel”, and because you don’t want to backseat drive the costume designer, set designer, director etc etc. As the son of two goldsmiths, who grew up reading Vogue in one hand and Batman in the other, it was very gratifying to be able to dig deeper into the fashion of the characters, and I’ve leaned even harder into that with my current manuscript.

What I didn’t expect, and was delighted to discover, was how writing this particular story led to things I was very happy to do, yet hadn’t thought about at all until I found myself doing them. Gerald, for example, is a character who acts more or less as the platonic ideal of these finance criminals – and he’s blinded shortly after his introduction. I ended up writing what I’m told is a pretty good portrayal of a person with a disability, in that he doesn’t let his new condition define him, wallow in self-pity, or constantly have to explain his condition to others. This was almost entirely a side-effect of his incredible arrogance, which causes him to refuse to acknowledge any change he doesn’t like for as long as he can.  A happy accident!

HAWKINS: Was horror a genre you planned to write in, or did it just kind of happen?

BRACKENBURY:  I can’t say as it was. I felt like I’d just write the story, then look back over the thing and figure out the genre afterward. However, while I’m not too concerned about someone imitating The Figure – the costumed killer side of Mary – in real life…I didn’t want to sell the violence as an actual solution for anything, which is how it might come off if I made it cool n’ stylish, no matter how many characters openly condemned it. So I made a point of making the violences unsettling, as horrific, as I could. This made calling it a horror novel feel correct, even if I hadn’t explicitly set out to write a genre piece.

HAWKINS:  When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?

BRACKENBURY:  I fulfill that “wanting to write my whole life” cliche, even dictating a story to my mum that I got the local library to carry – with illustrations by yours truly, of course. Many years later I made a goofy video out of it. Aside from an incredibly teenage attempt at a novel, a post-apocalyptic tale set in Not My Small Hometown, about Not-Me and Definitely-Not-A-Girl-I-Liked….I wouldn’t do more than write the odd short story until early 2013.

Then, for the reasons I gave in my answer to your second question, I got properly started down this path. I’m currently putting the final touches to my next manuscript and hope to properly begin my third before the year ends. It’s safe to say I’d like to keep writing novels the rest of my life.

HAWKINS:  Who would you say has inspired you most in your writing?

BRACKENBURY:  When it comes to authors, there’s a trifecta who are rarely too far from my thoughts. William Gibson for his thoughtful, engaging descriptions, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. for his sweet & cynical humanism, and Hunter S. Thompson for the fire in his belly. The last comes easiest, but if I can touch upon all three of those qualities in something I write then that’s a real home run.

That being said, I do go out of my way to read authors who aren’t Classic White Guys, and search for inspiration from sources other than fiction. Frequent visits to the Art Gallery of Ontario, and a love of building playlists to go with specific manuscripts or screenplays, have both inspired a great deal as well.

HAWKINS: One more question to wrap things up.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

BRACKENBURY: Figure out a system that works for you, knowing it will never really stop evolving. Read about other writer’s systems for research & writing not to be intimidated by them or to copy outright, but to see if there are any parts you can pilfer to improve what you’re already doing. There’s no Perfect Way To Write, and there never will be, so don’t stress about figuring that out. Just keep a healthy headspace while periodically tweaking the knobs on your own imperfect machine.

HAWKINS: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today. It was a pleasure speaking with you.


You can watch a book trailer for, and purchase, Junkyard Leopard

Some places you can find Oliver and his work:





Witch’s Brew

Bubbling cauldrons and cackling witches often grace the pages of classic horror stories, so what better way to kick off horror month than with a witch’s brew?  This is an easy drink recipe that can be enjoyed by spell casters of all ages, and it’s got lots of juice in it too!  So grab your cauldron (or punch bowl), your broom, a toad, and these ingredients:

  • 4 cups of Orange Juice
  • 4 cups of Sparkling Apple Cider
  • 1 cup Club Soda
  • 1/2 cup Lemon Juice
  • Dry Ice

Combine your Orange juice and Apple Cider with the Lemon juice in your bowl.  Add the Club Soda and be sure to taste it.  If it’s still too sweet, you can add more club soda, but be sure not to fill the bowl up too high or the dry ice will cause it to spill over!  When the flavor is to your liking, slowly add the chunks of dry ice for that spooky potion effect.  You can add smaller pieces of dry ice to the individual adult’s glasses, but it should not be given to children!  You can also add some red food coloring to the bottom of your glass to add a bloody touch to your potion.  This recipe will serve at least 12 witches, so be sure to invite the whole coven and enjoy!  


Image courtesy of Drury Lane

Spooky Teas

Obligatory Pumpkin Spice Tea

Pumpkin Spice tea with some added cinnamon and almond milk. Will keep you warm and healthy in this fall season. Steeped at 195° F or 90° C for 3 minutes.

Cthulhu tea

An old Pu-erh tea steeped at 208° F or 98° C for 3 minutes. Serve with 6 gummy worms around the side of the cup.

Freddy’s Dream Tea

A herbal tea with vanilla and lavender to help put you into a deep sleep and dream the night away. Steep at 208° F or 98° C for 5 minutes. Pleasant dreams.

Frankenstein Tea

Take your leftover tea leaves from all your near-empty tea boxes. Blend them together to make the perfect tea! Steep at 175° F or 79° C for 2 minutes. Drink and wonder, did you create a monster or a beautiful tea? Will you be able or willing to do it again?

Black Cat

A simple black tea with added cat nip. Steeped at 195° F or 90° C for 5 minutes. Drink well and enjoy that this tea crossed your path.

Slasher Cider

Apple Cider Rooibos tea mixed with a pomegranate tea. Steep at 208° F or 98° C for 5 minutes. Let it sit for 8 minutes if you want your tea to be cold when the cops show up.

White as a Ghost

White tea with a bit of peach to remind the ghost of their former life. Steep at 175° F or 79° C for 2 minutes.

October Horror Prompts

pexels-photo-14398October’s Genre of the Month is, of course, horror!  So we have some horror themed open writing prompts to get your heart racing and your spine tingling!  Use as many as you like, and feel free to share the results with us, we’d love to read them!  

1. I woke from a coma in a military hospital.  With some effort, I managed to get down into the lobby which was full of armed soldiers, all standing battle ready before the doors.  Outside, monstrous creatures with multiple limbs, twisted and exposed bones, and dozens of gibbering maws were slowly breaking in.  When I asked one of the soldiers what the hell those things were, she looked at me and said, “They used to be human.”


Recipe: Call of Cthulhu (Alcoholic)

In honor of horror month, we’re descending into liquid madness with a Cthulhu inspired drink recipe.  “All dripping with green ooze and sinister with latent horror,” this Lovecraftian drink is sure to bring you delirious dreams of grotesque, tentacled monsters!  As dense and complex as the unfathomable depths in which the old one sleeps, this cocktail will be the perfect compliment to any late night summonings of cosmic abominations!  So grab your creepiest glass, a cocktail shaker, and these ingredients:


Literary Halloween Costumes

With Halloween fast approaching and this month’s genre being horror, we’ve put together a list of creepy literary inspired costumes for you.  These are just some examples of bookish costumes which are primarily of the spooky or dark persuasion, but of course there are countless other characters to choose from out there, so pick up your favorite book and get creative!  Here’s our list with suggestions on what your next lit inspired costume could be!

Gashlycrumb Tinies

This macabrely cute lesson in the gashlycrumb_tiniesABC’s is a great source of inspiration for those looking for a unique literary inspired costume.  The cover of the book features a grim reaper waiting to take all the unfortunate kids who meet their untimely deaths as you go through the alphabet.  This would be a relatively simple costume, if you can get the long black dress coat, a top hat, and tatty umbrella you’re halfway there!  Paint or print large versions of the kids on poster board and attach them to the bottom of the coat.  Put on some skull makeup and you have a cute and slightly unnerving bookish costume!  Take a copy of the book with you to parties and start reciting the alphabet every time someone asks what you are!