Saturday, August 22, 2015

Guest Author Brian Kirk: A History of Mental Health

Today’s guest writer Brian Kirk shares some historical background for his debut horror novel, We Are Monsters, a cautionary tale about pushing the boundaries of science while in search for a cure for mental illness. This is Part II of a two-part article. You can read Part I at author Catherine Cavendish’s blog.

A History of Mental Health
Part II
The brief history of remedies used to restore mental health was so long it had to be broken up into two parts. CLICK HERE FOR PART I, which includes such exotic therapies as "The Chinese Temple," otherwise known as an iron cage used to submerge patients underwater until they drowned. And gentle physicians such as Henry Cotton, who removed his patients’ teeth, tonsils, colon, gall bladder, appendix, fallopian tubes, uterus, ovaries, cervix, and seminal vesicles in order to eliminate their pesky insanity-causing bacteria. So far it’s hard to tell which was more insane, the patients or the methods used to treat them.

Now let’s continue where we left off, moving confidently in the direction of convulsion therapy. Another sure-fire cure.

For some reason, inducing seizures has long been regarded as an effective way to treat mental illness. It started in the 1930’s with the use of a seizure-inducing drug called metrazol, which triggered a seizure so explosive it could fracture bones, tear muscles, and loosen teeth. In one hospital, 43% of patients treated with metrazol suffered spinal fractures.

But check out these positive effects! As patients regained consciousness from the treatment, they would be dazed and disoriented. Vomiting was common. Many would beg doctors and nurses not to leave, calling for their mothers, wanting to be "hugged, kissed, and petted." Some would masturbate, some would become amorous toward the staff, and some would play with their own feces. All of this was seen as evidence of a desired regression to a childlike level. Sure looks like progress to me.

Whatever positive effects attained from seizures were thought to arise from a dulling of the brain. Which led to experiments in surgical techniques and anti-psychotic medications, the modern day approach to psychotherapy.

Most notable of the surgical techniques was the lobotomy, which is where a long icepick-like needle is inserted into the frontal lobes of the brain, by way of the nose, in order to scrape out the brain matter.

People who underwent lobotomies passed through various stages of change. In the first weeks following the operation, patients were often incontinent. They would lie in their beds like "wax dummies." To stir patients, physicians and nurses would need to tickle them, pound on their chests, or grab them by the neck and "playfully throttle" them. When finally prodded to move, patients could be expected to behave in unusual ways. For instance, patients may vomit in their soup bowls and keep eating before the nurse could take the defiled food away.

Lobotomy fell out of favor in the 1950’s, giving way to the advent of antipsychotic medications; the first of which, Thorazine, was introduced in 1954. First tested in the asylums of Paris, the new treatment was dubbed, "hibernation therapy," (ooh, cozy) as medicated patients became "completely immobile" and could be "moved about like puppets" with a "vacuity of expression" on their faces.

While the general public may think that "crazy" people are more likely to behave in violent ways, this was not true of mental patients prior to the introduction of antipsychotics. This violent behavior is, in large part, due to a side effect of certain antipsychotic compounds called akathisia.

A 1990 study determined that 50 percent of all fights on a psychiatric ward could be tied to akathisia. Another showed that 79 percent of mentally ill patients that had tried to kill themselves suffered from akathisia. And case reports have linked akathisia to several bizarre murders. In one case, a thirty-nine-year-old man – after a haloperidol injection made him feel like he was "falling apart, and that all of the bones in his body were broken" – bludgeoned his mother with a hammer, an act he later found incomprehensible.

A twenty-three-year-old man given haloperidol in an emergency room, escaped, tore off his clothes in a nearby park, and started attacking everyone he saw. Over the course of forty-five minutes, he tried to rape a woman walking in the park, broke into a house and beat an eighty-one-year-old woman to a pulp, fought with a policeman and escaped, and then stabbed two women before being subdued by eight cops. Rather than cure this poor man, they appeared to have turned him into a super villain.

Learning about how we’ve historically treated the mentally ill not only inspired the subject of my debut novel, it influenced its title, We Are Monsters.

In this book a brilliant, yet troubled psychiatrist is working to develop a cure for schizophrenia. At first, the drug he creates shows great promise in alleviating his patient’s symptoms. It appears to return schizophrenics to their former selves. But (as you may imagine) something goes wrong. Unforeseen side effects begin to emerge, forcing prior traumas to the surface, setting inner demons free. His medicine may help heal the schizophrenic mind, but it also expands it, and the monsters it releases could be more dangerous than the disease.

I have tremendous sympathy for the mentally ill, and am horrified by the way they have been, and continue to be treated. This book, in many ways, pays homage to all who have had to endure these inhumane treatments by monsters in human disguise.

Anyone interested in checking out We Are Monsters can order a copy here.


And for anyone interested in striking up a virtual friendship, please connect with me through one of the following channels. Don’t worry. I only kill my characters.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Interview with Author Russell James

Today I’m thrilled to have horror author Russell James back for an interview. Here, he discusses his latest book Q ISLANDa zombie genre infection thriller in the tradition of fun movies like Romero's The Crazies and Boyle's 28 Days Later. I had a blast reading Q Island. James delivers a rocket-paced scary story with compelling characters quarantined on Long Island, New York. This is Russell James' best book to date.

1. BM: Russell, it’s great to have you back on my blog. Can you give us details of what the story of Q Island is about?

RJ: An ancient virus that turns the infected into psychotic killers surfaces on Long Island, NY, and the government quarantines the island. Society breaks down, hard. Melanie Bailey’s autistic son Aiden get infected, but instead of getting sick, gets better. He may represent a cure, and she wants to get him off the island. But the government won’t let them go, and Jimmy Wade is another survivor of the infection who also wants him to stay. But Jimmy and his criminal gang have a pretty unwholesome reason as to why.

2. BM: I love the concept to Q Island. I really enjoyed the prologue with the backstory about the Ice Age mammoths being overtaken by a deadly virus. I thought the diseased mammoth was a refreshing way to introduce a zombie/infected outbreak into the modern world. How did you come up with the idea?

RJ: I remember watching those Russian scientists excavate a whole baby wooly mammoth from the frozen Siberian tundra. They chopped it out like a big ice cube with an elephant in it, and then an old Soviet helicopter flew it off as a slingload. My first thought was, “No way that isn’t getting cloned.” My second thought was, “What killed it?” Viruses can live almost indefinitely frozen. What might these scientists unleash? The storyline just went south from there.

3. BM: I totally missed the news about the Russian scientists excavating a full mammoth. There are so many different thrillers you could write from that news story. What made you choose Long Island, NY as your setting?

RJ: I remember watching horrified as New Orleans imploded during Hurricane Katrina. Within hours of isolation, society unraveled like a cheap suit. I wondered what would happen on a bigger scale, and how you could get more people isolated. I grew up on Long Island, where a few bridges, a tunnel and a couple of ferries are all that give people access to the outside world. It seemed like just the right spot.

4. BM: I’ve never been to Long Island, but sounds like a great spot to quarantine a mass of people. What authors influenced your writing style and in what ways?

RJ: Stephen King is amazing, and his big canvas, multi-character stories are a definite influence. Lately I’ve read a number of Samhain authors who have elements of style I wish I could do as well. Benjamin Kane Etheridge’s surrealism, Jonathan Janz’ amazing, surgically-delivered vocabulary, Hunter Shea’s mastery of making monsters scary as hell. All these guys give me something to shoot for.

5.  BM: Yes, being a Samhain author myself, I’ve read several of Samhain’s authors. They’re introducing the publishing world with fresh and unique horror stories. You seem to hammer out at least one new book a year. Can you share your writing schedule and what you do to remove distractions so you can stay focused on your book in progress?

RJ: I have no life. My day job puts me on the road a lot, so I have a lot of nights in hotel rooms with nothing to do. So I go visit Q Island, or Dreamwalker’s Atlantic City, or Dark Vengeance’s Moultrie, Tennessee and see what’s going on.

6. BM: Awe, yes, I know what it’s like to live in two worlds, your real, everyday life and the fictional fantasy world you travel to and live vicariously through your characters. Of course, in horror fiction there are monsters and bad people in these worlds. Out of all your previous books, which one has been the biggest fan favorite?

RJ: I polled my six fans and they each picked something by Dean Koontz.
Seriously, Black Magic has sold the most copies, and also garnered the lowest Goodreads review ratings. The glowing review from Publisher’s Weekly cast it as horror meets Lake Wobegon because of its emotional impact, but Garrison Keillor fans were not happy with some of the book’s more gruesome aspects.

7. BM: I personally enjoyed Black Magic. Although, Q Island is now my favorite of your books. Any new horror on the horizon?

RJ: A new novel called The Portal will be out from Samhain in June 2016. I’m working on another story from the world of Q Island for some time after that.

I’m part of a benefit anthology called Forever Out of Time, a collection of time travel short stories, that will be out at the end of the year and a time travel novella will probably go live with that one as well. I’m going to need more hotel room time.

BM: Well, it’s been great having you back. Thanks so much for doing an interview for Dark Lucidity. I wish you much success with Q ISLAND and your previous books.

RJ: Me? I’m looking forward to a new Brian Moreland book called Darkness Rising. The buzz on that one is amazing!

BM: If you haven’t yet discovered the horror fiction by Russell James, you’re in for a treat with his latest novel Q ISLAND, now available everywhere books are sold.

All formats can be purchased through Samhain Publishing Store
Russell James grew up on Long Island, New York and spent too much time watching Chiller, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and The Twilight Zone, despite his parents' warnings. Bookshelves full of Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe didn't make things better. He graduated from Cornell University and the University of Central Florida.

After a tour flying helicopters with the U.S. Army, he now spins twisted tales best read in daylight. He has written the paranormal thrillers Dark Inspiration, Sacrifice, Black Magic, Dark Vengeance, Dreamwalker and Q Island. He has two horror short story collections, Tales from Beyond and Deeper into Darkness. His next novel, The Portal, releases in 2016.

His wife reads what he writes, rolls her eyes, and says "There is something seriously wrong with you."

Visit his website at and read some free short stories.

Follow on Twitter @RRJames14, or drop a line complaining about his writing to

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Cover Reveal and Excerpt for DARKNESS RISING

My latest book, DARKNESS RISING, is a blood-tingling revenge story with a supernatural twist. The novella releases as an eBook on Amazon and other online bookstores September 1st. Below is a description of the book along with a sneak peek of how the book begins.

It’s all fun and games until...

Marty Weaver, an emotionally scarred poet, has been bullied his entire life. When he drives out to the lake to tell an old friend that he’s fallen in love with a girl named Jennifer, Marty encounters three sadistic killers who have some twisted games in store for him. But Marty has dark secrets of his own buried deep inside him. And tonight, when all the pain from the past is triggered, when those secrets are revealed, blood will flow and hell will rise.

“From the first page I was hooked and couldn't read fast enough. Moreland takes a wicked revenge tale and supes it up, and then when you think things are resolved and you wonder where he's going with it, he delivers the goods. Filled with brutal violence, great prose, nasty characters and ones you root for, Darkness Rising is a must read!!!!

--David Bernstein, author of Goblins and Witch Island
Here’s an excerpt from the book:
Deep in the Oregon woods, the lake watched in silence as the woman crawled across the muddy banks, dragging her wounded legs. A switchblade jutted from the back of one thigh. Moonlight glinted off the exposed bone of her hip. Hair, caked with blood and dirt, clung to the woman’s face as she clawed her way into the shallow water. She found her husband, or what was left of him, floating facedown near the shore. Hugging his butchered torso, she wailed, an animal cry that echoed across the valley. A flock of ducks took flight. Behind the mutilated couple stood the killer with the white rabbit mask, head cocked, a bloody machete resting on one shoulder. Then two more joined the rabbit, a toad and weasel, both taller, their clothes covered in dark stains. The three masked killers admired their blood work. The frantic woman released her husband’s body and attempted to swim away, flailing her arms, but Toad and Weasel waded in after her and brought her screaming back to shore. Then Weasel picked up the video camera and began filming again. White Rabbit continued torturing the woman. Then Toad had his fun. At dawn, the woman’s screams finally ended. The lake watched in silence as the three animals danced around her corpse, then slipped into the forest.


The world had always been a cruel place for Marty Weaver. His scars were many and deep. Growing up, his teachers and various foster parents had labeled him autistic, a problem child, emotionally disturbed, while the kids at the foster homes and at school called him names—nerd, wimp, dweeb, freak and worse. He seemed to walk through life with a sign that read “bully me”, even though what he wanted most was a circle of friends and family to love and love him back. 

His best friends were dead poets―Yates, Hawthorne, Keats, Byron, Frost and Poe, to name a few. They taught Marty how to pour the burdens of his soul into poetry. With each poem he wrote and read to the lake, he peeled back a layer of scar tissue and felt a sense of hope that he might one day become a man others could love, maybe even a man who could learn to love himself.

Tonight was a special night. Every full moon, in a tradition he had started as a teenager, Marty did two things. First, he visited the cemetery and put fresh flowers on his mother’s grave. Then he drove along the wooded back roads that carved between the Blue Mountains to read his latest poems to the lake. Writing poetry helped him deal with all his pent-up emotions. It had helped him through his roughest times―the loss of his parents when he was nine, all the hell he had gone through bouncing between foster homes, and the rocky period that followed when he turned eighteen and ventured out on his own.

He parked in the lot overlooking the water, eager to share more about this radiant angel who had entered his life. As he climbed out of his car, he noticed a van parked in the shadows of a tree with looming branches. It looked like one of those custom vans with flames painted down the sides. 

This gravel lot, on the farthest side of the lake, was always empty. Most people didn’t know this place existed because it wasn’t on the campground maps and it took several dirt roads to get here. He came to this spot because it was the special place his parents used to bring him to when he was a boy. The lot and beach were completely hidden by dense woods. Across the water was the most majestic view of pines and mountains. Occasionally a boat passed by, but mostly this inlet was quiet and still. His mother had called their secret spot “the Magic Cove”. She loved to swim here, sunbathe, and take him exploring in the forest.

His father liked this cove because the fishing was good. He taught Marty how to work a rod and reel, gut a fish with a knife, skin it and flay it. Mornings were always spent with the two of them fishing for whatever the lake offered that day, while Marty’s mother read her books or did yoga. Then they’d have a picnic and cook their fish over a campfire. Those were the best days of Marty’s childhood, before The Bad Thing happened.

That someone had discovered his private cove made Marty feel invaded. He watched the van for a moment, but it looked dark and empty. Maybe someone had abandoned it there. Or some hikers had gone on a long trek around the lake. He didn’t see anyone, so he didn’t concern himself too much about the van.

He walked down the hill to the water’s edge with his journal. The moon’s glow cast his shadow across the lake’s glassy surface.

“Hello, old friend. It’s been a few weeks. I’ve got some new poems for you.” 

He opened his journal, feeling the worn leather cover against his palms. The oversized book, filled with hundreds of pages of his handwriting and drawings, was a memoir of his inner world from childhood to now. The stiff, heavily inked pages crinkled as he turned them, and that sound always made him feel a sense of nostalgia. 

The book had been a gift from his mother on his eighth birthday. Across these pages he had written countless poems, short stories, and glued-together collages of magazine pictures of things he wanted to one day own or become. At age eight, he had wanted to be Batman and pasted cutouts from a comic book. At age nine, it was Aquaman. As he got older, the pictures changed from superheroes to cars, to girls, to the things he now aspired to have as an adult, like an education, professorship, someday a wife. 

Next to a pamphlet of St. Germaine College was a photo of him and Jennifer at the campus gardens where they had taken a selfie standing in front of a fountain. The last fifty or so pages were filled with his love poems, some so sappy he felt embarrassed to read them. Most of his poems were amateurish musings, while every now and then he wrote something he was proud of. The only one who had ever heard any of his writings was the lake.

Marty held the big book open like a preacher about to give a sermon, only his congregation was the frogs and the reeds and the dark water. “I’ve been seeing Jennifer around campus more and more. Today she gave me a gift and kissed me on the cheek. The way she acts around me sometimes, I…I think I might actually have a shot with her.” He felt his heart expand just thinking about her. “Her beauty has awakened something in me that I’ve never felt for anyone. I can’t stop writing about her. I’ve got at least a dozen new ones. This first one’s still a work in progress. The beats aren’t quite right, but this is what I’ve written so far.”

He read the poem aloud:

In her eyes, fireflies
Sparks from my caress
On our faces, warm smiles
Cannons in our chests

Time's first gentle touch
Feathers along our flesh
Tall grass all around us
We whisper, touch, undress

Butterflies in our heads
Opening wings together
Taking flight in purple skies
Evaporating like the weather

The sound of hands clapping startled Marty.

“That is the most beautiful piece of shit I ever heard,” a man’s voice echoed off the water, followed by laughter.

Marty turned to see three silhouettes walking along the shoreline towards him.


“Just finished Darkness Rising and still reeling from the conflict, terror, horror and emotional rollercoaster that Brian Moreland has weaved so magically into this novella . . . Weaving its superbly crafted way through demons, vengeance and an indomitable spirit, this is a real winner. 5 star horror all the way!

--Catherine Cavendish, author of Dark Avenging Angel and The Pendle’s Curse
Darkness Rising is now available for pre-order:

Thursday, June 18, 2015

New Book by Horror Author Latashia Figueroa

When I'm not writing books, I provide editing, book design, and publishing services to other authors. I'm happy to announce that today my client, up and coming horror author Latashia Figueroa, releases her dark suspense / horror novella Ivy's Envy (Book One of the Want & Decay Trilogy) on Amazon. It's a great story and I'm proud to have gotten the opportunity to edit the book and design the cover. I also formatted the eBook and posted it on sale at Amazon. 

Here's a synopsis of the story:

Latashia Figueroa’s riveting Want & Decay Trilogy follows the entangled lives of three people tormented by lust, jealousy, madness and murder. In this first book, Ivy’s Envy, Ivy James has had a history of violence with the men she falls for. Her grandmother and parents know what Ivy is capable of when things don’t go her way. 

Now Ivy has become obsessed with Thomas Miles, a man who works at her office. She is certain that Thomas loves her too. But there are people who stand in the way of Ivy and Thomas finally being together, like his wife, Deana. Determined to have the love that is their destiny, Ivy will go down a very dark and twisted road to make Thomas hers, and hers alone. But Ivy is not the only one who has dark secrets, and everyone involved will soon learn that pursuing love and passion to the extreme can lead to terrifying consequences.

Coming soon, Book #2 of the Want & Decay Trilogy: Thomas’ Want.

If you haven’t yet discovered Latashia Figueroa’s dark fiction, I highly recommend reading her books. Ivy's Envy is the first of three books. She also has a short story collection called This Way Darkness.