Archive for Denisse Montoya

Update 05/17/2020: Morbidezza eBook

Posted in Chapbooks, Denisse Montoya, Morbidezza & Other Denizens of the Dark with tags , , on May 17, 2020 by Manuel Paul Arenas

This morning I came into work to put in a few overtime hours and was greeted by an email from my partner in crime, Denisse Montoya. Attached was a PDF of the eBook version of my chapbook, Morbidezza & Other Denizens of the Dark. It looks fantastic, and I cannot wait till I can officially announce it’s availability. The cover art is great and there are a few spot illustrations which are appropriately creepy. I will let you all know the moment it becomes available.

Update 04/15/2020: Quarantine Blues III

Posted in A. Lee Martinez, Antonio Margheriti, Barbara Steele, Black Sunday (1960), Boris Karloff, Bram Stoker, Carlo Rustichelli, Christopher Lee, Contes cruels, Count Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy, Cryptozoology, Denisse Montoya, Doom Metal, Dracula, Full Moon Features, Giallo, Gil's All Fright Diner (2006), Guy de Maupassant, Halina Zalewska, Hammer Horror, I tre volti della paura (1963), Johanna Sadonis, John Langan, Kiss (band), La frusta e il corpo (1963), Lamberto Bava, Lucifer (band), Lucifer III (2020), Mario Bava, Motörhead, Paul Stanley, Puppet Master (franchise), Rue Morgue Magazine, The Fisherman (2016), Tim Lucas, Updates, Zachary Strupp with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 15, 2020 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Well I believe it has been around a month since I have visited either family or friends. My only social interactions are with co-workers and the staff at my local coffee shop, both of which are necessarily brief. I cannot wait till this is all over and done with; although, as I told my cousin when I called her this weekend to relay my good tidings for the holiday, even when they lift the quarantine edict, I am not sure that I will feel safe enough to see anyone right away. We’ll see what happens whenever they do.

A colleague at work made me a mask, but I am having issues with the fastening buttons, trying to get them into the thread loops. I am just not that nimble with my arthritic fingers anymore. I may have to attach a safety pin or something the get it to stay in place. My friend Denisse says she is going to try to procure some quilter’s cotton, which apparently is good for filtering out the virus. If she does, she promise’s to hook me up with a mask. Fingers crossed…

In the interim, I try to stay connected through calls and text, as I have none of the gadgets that people are using to keep in touch. My good friend Zach Strupp sent me a care-package, which I received Saturday. It was loaded with goodies: first off, there were two novels which he wanted me to read, one is Gil’s All Fright Diner (2006), by A. Lee Martinez, which he has been trying to have me read for some time, and the other is The Fisherman (2016), by John Langan, a weird tale about two widowers and their encounter with a figure called The Fisherman. I started reading the latter, since he was anxious that I should do so, so we can talk about it. So far I am wrapping up the 3rd chapter, which is the set up. The action is supposed to begin in the 4th chapter, which begins the second section of the book.

The Fisherman, by John Langan (2016, Word Horde).

Also in the box were two notepads, both a red and a black pen, 3 issues of Rue Morgue magazine (one of which was one of their special themed publications-from their Rue Morgue Library-this one featuring the creatures of cryptozoology), a DVD of the Puppet Master franchise from Full Moon Features, various supplies and paper products and, last but not least, some plastic Easter Eggs filled with little malted egg candies! Zach has begun a blog where he talks Horror films and various other topics which you may find at http://www.filthyhorrors.com. Also, if you’re looking for a fun read you can check out his Killing Heart book series available on Amazon in both trade paperback and eBook formats.

Rue Morgue Library: Monstro Bizarro.

Saturday I picked up (curbside; a popular service these days during the lockdown) a CD I ordered from Zia records of the latest album by Johanna Sadonis & co., Lucifer III. The sound is a continuation of the more streamlined, 70’s rock sound from the previous album replete with Johanna’s customary occult themes. Sadly, it seems the Doom Metal of Lucifer I is definitely a thing of the past, but once one accepts that, it’s not a bad album. In fact, I rather like the song Midnight Phantom, which is featured in one of two videos made to promote the album. There is no new ground treaded here, but overall the quality of the remaining album is consistently decent if not exactly revelatory. What can I say? I just Like Johanna Sadonis. Oh, by the way, she is now Johanna Plowtow Andersson, having married her writing partner, drummer Nicke Plotow Andersson.

Lucifer 2020 (l to r): Harald Göthblad (bass), Martin Nordin (guitar), Johanna Plotow Andersson (vocals), Nicke Plotow Andersson (drums), Linus Björklund (guitar).

Caveat emptor , I have seen several reviews of the LP on Amazon where customers complain about the album sleeve being a bit flimsy and either arriving damaged in the mail or falling apart once they open it. As usual, there are multiple collectible versions  featuring colored vinyl, a copy of the CD, and a black and white version of the above photo with autographs by the images of the respective bandmembers. As with their previous albums, there are several singles and non-album b-sides accompanying this release. Apparently Lucifer were part of some challenge where groups were asked to write a song in the style of Motörhead, the results of which were made available as part of a subscription promotion for a Swedish music magazine. The resulting single, Fire Up & Ride can be heard on YouTube, but the 7″ single was limited edition in 111 copies, presumably long gone. I rather like it and wish they’d make it available for order on their site. I have also found a recent recording of a Paul Stanley song, Take Me Away (Together as One). The cover is okay, but the song isn’t especially exciting for me. I have never been a Kiss fan, and their solo work even less so.

Fire Up and Ride single by Lucifer

I spent most of my past week and this weekend watching Italian Horror films. I have several on Blu-ray, but my player shit the bed a while back, so I turned to my DVDs, beginning with Antonio Margheriti‘s I lunghi capelli della morte (1964, The Long Hair of Death), featuring my beloved Barbara Steele. In the 15th century a woman, Adele, is put to death for witchcraft, by Count Humboldt whose advances she spurned. Her daughter Mary (Steele in one of her infamous dual roles) tries to sway him but as he takes advantage of her offer, the mother is burned in a public execution. In her dying breath, she curses Humboldt and predicts the fall of his house. When Mary finds out about his betrayal she runs, but is overtaken by the Count and pushed off a cliff into a running stream where she perishes.

Adele’s youngest daughter, Lisabeth is taken in by the Count and raised within Humboldt castle, where she grows to be a lovely, but very sober woman. This role as well as that of Adele, is portrayed by the actress Halina Zalewska. The count’s son, Kurt, has his greedy eyes on Lisabeth and hounds her till she reluctantly consents, under some duress, to marry him. He is a cad, and is abusive with her and continually forces himself on her until the arrival of a new face… or is it? This is another plague movie by the way. I seem to keep coming across these nowadays. The Long Hair of Death is sometimes dismissed as a second tier movie because of it’s deliberate pace, but I believe it’s worth wading through the slow build up to fully appreciate the devastating climax. Besides, there is plenty of Gothic atmosphere and Steele is her usual uncanny self.

Barbara Steele as Helen Rochefort, eyeing her prey.

I then moved on to a Mario Bava-thon, beginning with my favorite, La maschera del demonio (1960, Black Sunday). As I have stated before, this Gothic fantasy is unequalled in it’s decadent visual style and in Steele’s performance in the dual roles of Princesses Asa & Katia Vajda. She is lovely as the mild and innocent Katia, but it as her wicked ancestor, Asa that her infamy rests. Her mixture of passionate eroticism and vile grotesqueness are positively mesmerizing. The opening scene, featuring her execution through having a spiked mask pounded onto her comely countenance, is as graphic as anyone had seen in a film of this type previously. Neither Bava, nor anyone else for that matter, ever topped this film, within the genre, for it’s visual splendor and grotesque beauty. A final note: I especially love the scene where her identity is discovered by the romantic lead to be that of the witch and not the ingénue and we are treated to a view of her not-as-yet regenerated torso which harkens the cover art from the penny dreadful Varney the Vampire, with the titular vampire’s exposed ribcage.

Asa uncloaked.

I then watched the Italian cut of I tre volti della paura (1963, Black Sabbath). My only complaint about this version is that it doesn’t have most of the intros by Karloff, nor does it have his incomparable vocal performance  (being dubbed into Italian). That said, this version does contain the original running order of the shorts as well as the preferred edit of the giallo segment The Telephone, that dispenses with the convoluted supernatural pretense and also shows the true nature of the relationship between the two women. The Karloff segment, The Wurdalak, is loosely based on the Family of the Vourdalak (1839) by Count Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy, although it also owes a bit to Guy de Maupassant‘s story, La peur (1882, Fear) which tells the story of the traveler coming upon a home where a family is held prisoner by fear of the avenging revenant of a felled villain. Bava scholar, Tim Lucas believes Karloff’s look, as Gorca the paterfamilias, is reminiscent of Bram Stoker‘s description of Count Dracula. Perhaps, I don’t know whether that was intentional or just happenstance. It does have some genuinely creepy stuff that might not fly nowadays, like Gorca preying on his grandson. That aside, Karloff is brilliant, and this version contains some gory scenes (for the time period) that AIP cut out for the American release. The third segment, The Drop of Water, which ends the American release, yet begins the Italian cut, is based on a story accredited to Anton Chekov,  yet was later discovered to actually be based on a story called Dalle due alle tre e mezzo by Italian author Franco Lucentini. Basically, the story is about a woman who comes to prepare the body of a deceased medium for burial. The medium, who apparently died of an attack of some sort during a séance, is left with a ghastly grimace on her face, which spooks the woman, but not enough to keep her from pilfering a ring from the dead medium’s hand; an act that will incur dire consequences. I recall being terrified by this segment when I first saw it, many moons ago. Bava’s son, Lamberto Bava, says that since seeing this segment he cannot sleep at night if there is a dripping faucet anywhere in his home. The face was made by Bava’s father, sculptor Eugenio Bava. An unnamed actor wore it in the scene where the corpse rises from it’s repose, but the rest of the time it was affixed to a dummy that was rolled around on wheels to give the effect of it floating, rather than walking towards its victim.

The corpse of the medium with it’s ghastly grimace.

Next up was Operazione paura (1966, Kill, Baby, Kill). I have always felt that this film was a bit weak, although seeing it again now, I really enjoyed it. It doesn’t have any stars like Barbara Steele to recommend it, but there are some great characters, like the Baroness Graps (portrayed by Giana Vivaldi), a noblewoman fallen on hard times in the mode of Dickens’ Miss Havisham from Great Expectations. The Baroness’ daughter Melissa perished 10 years prior due to the negligence of her neighbors when she was run down by a carriage and they ignored her requests for help. Now her vengeful ghost keeps the villagers in constant fear of her deadly visitations. Melissa was actually played by a boy, Valerio Valeri, who gave her a creepy quality. Despite his androgynous look, one can tell in the murk of one’s mind that something is a bit off. This usage of a child as the instrument of evil has since become a common cinematic trope in the genre.

Creepy Melissa Graps and her dolls.

The last of the Bava Gothics I watched was La frusta e il corpo (1963, The Whip and the Body) featuring Hammer Horror star Christopher Lee and Israeli actress Daliah Lavi. This is a strange movie. Lee is Kurt Menliff, an estranged son returning to his family castle to stake his claim on his inheritance and bring discord to his brother’s recent marriage to his former lover, Nevenka (Lavi). Nevenka claims to hate Kurt, but is obviously obsessed with him and the film depicts in frank terms their sadomasochistic relationship, which upset a lot of people when the movie first came out, causing it to be seized for charges of obscenity, which were later dropped.

Kurt is killed early on and buried, but Nevenka claims to be haunted by his ghost, who comes and whips her in her bedroom when everyone else is asleep. These scenes were cut from the American release, which made the movie very confusing for viewers. All this however, has been restored in the respective DVD/Blu-ray releases from Kino Lorber. Although upset that he wasn’t asked to do the voice dub for the English version of the film, Christopher Lee was very proud of his role as Kurt, and he seems to really relish lording over the exquisite Daliah Lavi,  who gives a passionate performance as the harried Nevenka, whose true feelings for Kurt, despite her constant declarations of her hate for him, are betrayed by her ecstatic response to his flagellate ministrations: “You haven’t changed, I see. You’ve always loved violence.” Kurt growls as he lashes her.

Kurt and Nevenka (Lee and Lavi: note the whip in her hand.)

The film is dripping with Gothic atmosphere and tropes and has an Anne Radcliffe type twist ending that has some minor plot holes but one may forgive them when weighed against the great performances from the lead actors. The celebrated film score, known as the Windsor Concerto, by Carlo Rustichelli, who also scored The Long Hair of Death and Kill, Baby, Kill, is very lush and brings to mind the grandiose Romantic piano concertos of the late 19th century.

 

Next installment: Bava goes Giallo!

 

 

 

Goodbye 2019

Posted in 2019, Clark Ashton Smith, Denisse Montoya, Diablerie, Morbidezza & Other Denizens of the Dark, Spectral Realms, The Averoigne Legacy, The Fell Fête, Year End Review with tags , , , , , , , , on December 18, 2019 by Manuel Paul Arenas

2019 has been a year of slow advancement. I have continued to get my work published, mainly in Spectral Realms, but I still get rejected fairly regularly elsewhere. I do however have a few stories in various anthologies. I was particularly thrilled to have my story The Fell Fête be sought out for a collection of stories in the style of Clark Ashton Smith. The ebook*, The Averoigne Legacy, is available on Amazon.

Averoigne Legacy (rear blurb).

My friend Denisse Montoya and I have been working diligently over the last several  months to prepare my chapbook Morbidezza & Other Denizens of the Dark for publication. As I write, we have only to finalize the cover art then take it to a printer to self publish. I hope it will be available sometime in January if I can round up the requisite funds. I have also been putting together a manuscript for my next chapbook, Diablerie, which I hope to also get published in 2020.

On a personal note, I moved into a new one bedroom apartment, just down the block from the coffee shop I frequent, and I am excited to say that it has a gas stove, which I have made much use of since moving in. I have been cooking more and trying to eat better this past year.  After being diagnosed with pre-diabetes, I have cut down a lot on my sugar intake and even lost 20 lbs.! I am still far from svelte though. Now, if only I could do something about these dark circles around my eyes…

I don’t have a roommate anymore, so I have no one to answer to either. This gives me more space for my things, as well as personal freedom, but it also magnifies my loneliness, which is already acute. I have decided that 2020 will be the year I fix that. I wonder what Morbidezza is doing these days… Do you think 10 months is long enough a wait to call upon a widow?

*(12/20/2019) As well as the trade paperback!

Update 12/07/2019: Gruß vom Krampus (Greetings from Krampus)

Posted in Chapbooks, Denisse Montoya, Diablerie, Dick Kelly, Greetings from Krampus, Morbidezza & Other Denizens of the Dark with tags , , , , , on December 7, 2019 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Met up with my good friend Denisse Montoya last Thursday to sort out some last minute business on our chapbook, Morbidezza & Other Denizens of the Dark. She showed me the preliminary sketches for the cover art and they are very promising. We are still shopping around for a printer, but since money is so tight at the moment, I don’t expect we’ll be able to print anything till after the New Year.

It may be premature to mention it yet, but I have already been working on the manuscript for our next chapbook, Diablerie, featuring my more diabolically themed poems and stories. I have selected the pieces to be included, and have begun writing up an afterword to accompany them, but I will be tweaking them all before I dare to release them into the world, and most likely not much will be happening in that regard until it’s predecessor is published and available.

I still have several copies of the Greetings From Krampus chapbook for sale, if anyone is interested. They are $5 a piece and shipping is $3, so $8.00 total. IM me at the Manny’s Book of Shadows page on Facebook to place an order. I know the official holiday has passed, but they would still make a fun stocking stuffer for holiday horror fans.

Gruß vom Krampus (Greetings from Krampus)! Photo by Denisse Montoya.

Update 09/16/2019: Nepenthe et. al.

Posted in Denisse Montoya, Edward Stasheff, Fairy Tales, Morbidezza & Other Denizens of the Dark, Pickman's Press, The Averoigne Legacy, Updates with tags , , , , , , on September 16, 2019 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Well, so far there is no news on The Averoigne Legacy. I assume Mr. Stasheff is busy making last minute edits on the various submissions, as he was shooting a publication date around the end of September. This weekend I did read the rough draft for Morbidezza & Other Denizens of the Dark and jotted down some notes for revisions and typo clean up, which I plan to do this coming Thursday when I meet up again with my friend Denisse.

In other news, I had some time to burn this morning, so I went through one of the many boxes cluttering my living room floor and found the manuscript for an unfinished fairy tale I wrote back in the early 2000s. It is part of the Gothilocks universe and has a guest appearance by Amos from Felo-de-se. It is called Nepenthe: Healer of Sorrows, and I hope to get back to it again soon. I read it this morning, in it’s entirety (at least was is written so far, some 10-15 un-numbered pages) and was quite pleased with what I saw. More on that as things develop.

Update 09/06/2019: Morbidezza chapbook and revisions for Fell Fete

Posted in Averoigne, Denisse Montoya, Edward Stasheff, Pickman's Press, The Averoigne Legacy, The Fell Fête with tags , , , , , , on September 6, 2019 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Last night I sent out my revisions for The Fell Fete to Mr. Edward Stasheff of Pickman’s Press. Once they are approved and finalized I will receive payment and the story should appear in the Averoigne Legacy due out by the end of the month, if all goes according to plan.

I am also still working with my friend Denisse Montoya on my chapbook Morbidezza & Other Denizens of the Dark, which should be ready just in time for Halloween.

Update 04/11/2019: The Grimoire of the Dark Young, Satanic Sonata, The Fell Fete, etc.

Posted in Averoigne, Black Hymeneal, Clark Ashton Smith, Corporate Cthulhu: Lovecraftian Tales of Bureaucratic Nightmare, Denisse Montoya, Edward Stasheff, Eyvind Kang, HWA (Horror Writer's Association), Mac Randall, Old Burying Ground, Pickman's Press, Prose Poetry, S.T. Joshi, Satanic Sonata, Spectral Realms, The Dark Young, The Fell Fête, The Grimoire of the Dark Young with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 11, 2019 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Well, I have had lots of stuff going on lately that I haven’t gotten around to mentioning till now. For starters, I asked my old Dark Young brother Mac Randall to write up a little something for the Grimoire of the Dark Young collection and he wrote a lovely tribute. I cannot wait to include it in the chapbook. Now I have to work on putting it together. By the way, in case any of you still care, I am closer to putting out my Black Hymeneal collection. I’m just waiting on my friend Denisse to make a few minor adjustments to accommodate a new afterword I just gave her, then she has to do the cover art, then we should be good to go.

Next up, I have recently completed a rewrite of my old prose poem Satanic Sonata which I wrote back in the 90s when I lived in Seattle, WA. Inspired by the avant-garde violin piece Universal by Eyvind Kang, I wrote it in 3 “movements”; the first, a prelude incorporating a real life scene I’d witnessed of preschool children running amuck in an Old Burying Ground in Cambridge, MA; the second and third parts describing a fantastic scene featuring devils and doomed souls. I am rather fond of the original, but it just wasn’t up to par with publishing standards, so I rewrote it. I think it is a lot more refined now. I shall be sending it soon to Mr. Joshi over at Spectral Realms for consideration.

Last, but certainly not least, I got a couple of messages this week from editor Edward Stasheff of Pickman’s Press. Apparently, they are putting together a collection of stories set in the imaginary province of Averoigne, for a Clark Ashton Smith tribute. Somehow, they came upon my story The Fell Fete, and they want to include it in the anthology. I asked around on Facebook and I did some research on line and they appear to be legit and I even got an endorsement in regards to their professionalism from one of the authors on their roster. I have agreed, tentatively, to allow them to use it, but I need to review the contract they sent me before I sign over any rights to anything. Their collection Corporate Cthulhu: Lovecraftian Tales of Bureaucratic Nightmare has decent reviews on Amazon.

I am excited, because their payment offer would be the most I have gotten thus far for one of my pieces and it would qualify me for affiliate status in the HWA (Horror Writer’s Association). I am currently only an honorary member.