Inside the Writing of Parade of Nightmares

I am super excited to announce that my first book, Parade of Nightmares, is officially published on Amazon! To celebrate the release of my very first published book, I’m going to share with you some inside secrets and interesting hidden details of this book. Please consider giving Parade of Nightmares a rating on Amazon. It really helps first time authors like myself to get feedback from readers like you! Thank you!

Parade of Nightmares is a fictional book of 8 short horror stories, each one featuring a different phobia. The cover and all 8 drawings (one for each story) were drawn by an extremely talented artist, Jimbo Tamoro, who worked tirelessly to meet my publishing deadlines. His work is truly incredible! Each one is drawn with ballpoint pens in little scribbles that make up the drawing. So Impressive! Definitely check out his work!

Parade of Nightmares was a lot of fun to write because it gave me the opportunity to delve into humanity’s deepest fears and exaggerate them to the extreme. In this blog post, I’ll go into detail (beware: there are spoilers) about what it took to write each one and any inside tidbits that I think you might find interesting!

If you’d like the chance to read the book before reading these spoilers, you can purchase Parade of Nightmares on Amazon as an ebook or paperback here. Come back and read this post once you’ve enjoyed the book! This book is not intended for children.

Fear of the Number 13

Fear of the number 13 was a fun story to write! I got to play with the idea of having a true fear without having any scary monster or ghost to invoke the necessary fear to captivate my audience. When I adjust any volume in my home or car, I always use even numbers, never odd numbers. Even if the volume seems right on an odd number, I will not use it. I can’t explain why, other than the fact that I will constantly think about the odd number until I “fix” it by making it even. It drives my husband crazy! Sometimes, he will switch it to an odd number when I’m not looking, which drives me crazy! I used this type of number thinking in the story when Bridget is sitting in the coffee shop, mentally analyzing the ticket number she received. I sometimes work through numbers like that in my head, too!

Bridget meets a guy who reveals that his birthday is on Friday the 13th. I pulled that from my real life! My husband’s birthday is on the 13th and it sometimes falls on a Friday. Although, he wasn’t born on a Friday. I love Friday the 13th so I’ve never had a problem with this! I do consider the number 13 lucky, just as her love interest does, even though I don’t like setting volume to an odd number. Yes, I know. I am strange.

Luke, Bridget’s love interest, reveals that he is a vegan as they make dinner plans. I did this as a little shoutout to Veganism since I, too, am a Vegan! I eat plant based and am still transitioning into making vegan choices with other products that I use. My husband and 3 sons are not vegan, although my oldest did try it for a few months. I did this not just for the animals but also for the health benefits. You know what they say about how to spot a vegan? Just wait a few minutes and they will tell you! ha ha!

I gave Luke a Mazda to drive because we used to have a Mazda and I loved that car! Unfortunately, our three sons got too big for that cute little “mini minivan” and we had to upgrade.

When Bridget walks into the vet holding her dead cat in a box, I was describing when my own 10 year old cat passed away of cancer. I had also been able to fight the tears back until I heard someone look up and say a hushed “Oh no” and then I absolutely lost it in the middle of the lobby. They took me straight into an exam room because I was almost hysterical. I didn’t have to search very far to describe that scene, unfortunately.

When Bridget greets Mrs. Johnstone and the elderly woman tells Bridget of her “strong constitution”, that’s a phrase my 94 year old Nanny says to this day when I ask her how she is feeling. I think it’s so cute and had to include it in the book! After all, practically growing up in her extremely haunted house is what sparked my love of all things ghostly and paranormal.

Bridget’s cat’s name is Mr. Bigglesworth. So is Dr. Evil’s cat in the Austin Power’s movies. We love those movies so that is a little shoutout to a fun comedy, hidden in a horror story. The irony of that felt right to me. ha ha

And last, but not least, I made the final scene of Bridget’s story unfold in an elevator because my youngest son is terrified of elevators. He will go into them with us but he always has to basically hug me until the doors open up again. He is currently 11 years old. And, he’s probably going to kill me for this. ha ha ha!

The Fear of Tight Spaces

I knew I wanted to write this story in the first person and as the story was happening as apposed to writing it as if the person was telling you what happen to them. I wanted the reader to go through the story just as the character was experiencing it. I had no idea how difficult that style of writing was going to be. I found myself slipping into the past tense and having to fix it several times!

I considered doing a story about being buried in a coffin alive but decided that storyline had been done too many times before. I ended up going with a “Saw” movie kind of feel and really liked it. It gave the sense that you were her, trapped and being forced to figure out a life or death situation on your own. The main character’s name is Elizabeth but you would only know that if you pay close attention. It’s only mentioned twice in the entire story because it’s in the first person. She says it once in her own head and then it is used again at the very end.

Elizabeth says she plays the flute in the band. Guess who else was a flute player in their high school marching and concert band? That’s right, yours truly! I was a hardcore band nerd, too. Flute section leader and all! I played in weddings and special events as an adult but haven’t performed in roughly eight years. I still play every now and then, just for fun, but I’ve let the performing go.

The idea of breaking the glow stick open came from my sons. They love glow sticks and have broken them open in the past to paint with the glowing liquid. Thanks, boys, for the inspiration!

The Fear of Needles

Both my husband and my oldest son have a deep fear of needles. I simply had to include that phobia in this book because I have witnessed my husband almost pass or fully pass out due to blood draws so many times over our 22 year marriage! Don’t worry, I’ve given them both strict instructions not to read this particular story. I don’t want to deal with a passed out man. Again. ha ha It’s a pain but does make for a funny story!

With this story, I tried to take the needles phobia and push it to the extreme. I thought about how much a person with true Trypanophobia could take before passing out and then described that over and over. My whole goal with each story is to bring the reader to the point where they think they have to stop reading but they manage to keep going. I just imagined what my own husband and son couldn’t have handled and then went with that! This is definitely one story in the book that I think some people won’t be able to finish. Did you? Let me know in the comments!

The Fear of Spiders

My sister has legitimate Arachnophobia. We joke all the time that it is my fault! I am two years older than her and constantly tortured her with those plastic, black spiders with the little hook on the back for hanging in Halloween spider webs. I used to hook it just inside her back pack so when she opened it, a spider would be there. Or, I would hang it on her curtains or in her closet. Honestly, I hung those silly things anywhere I thought it would give her a good fright! The best part was when she came running to my room to get me to “take care” of the spider. I always played like it was real and then picked it up and threw it at her!

I realize this doesn’t make me sound like the best big sister in the world but we are extremely close, always have been. There is very little I wouldn’t do for her and she knows that. These are our funny childhood memories now!

I tell you all that so you will understand that I used her as a model for this story. How would my sister react in this situation? I also thought of what situation would push my sister over the edge when reading this story. Involving a baby seemed the perfect horrifying situation that would freak my sister out so that’s what I went with!

The Fear of Heights

Out of the eight phobia stories in this book, I wrote this one second to last. I put it off, quite frankly, because I have two phobias of my own. The fear of heights is one of them. I know for me, when I am on a balcony, I get dizzy, break out into a cold sweat, and actually tend to lean toward the fall! I realize how irrational that sounds, but I panic. In my dizzy, panicking state, I end up leaning toward the edge instead of away from it. I can’t simply look over the edge of something because I will keep leaning in that direction. Did you know that you are way more likely to fall if you have true Acrophobia? It’s true! I can confirm this! I even lean toward a picture that’s looking over the edge of something. It’s truly bizarre and I can’t explain it.

I used my own experience with heights when I wrote this story. I purposefully brought my character to the edge of an extremely high place and then pushed them closer and closer to it. The more adrenalin jolts I felt while writing the story, the more scary I hoped the story actually was. Personally, I can’t say what I would do in the same situation as Aaliyah found herself in. Would I want to save the little girl? Absolutely. Would I call for help instead of attempting the rescue myself? Yes, most likely.

I’m actually getting little adrenalin jolts now, just thinking about the situation I put her in! I put off writing this story for quite a while. When I finally did sit down and make myself write it, I made sure I justified putting it off by creating the most terrifying situation I could imagine myself being in, short of being in a crashing plane. I didn’t go the crashing plane route or the amusement-park-ride-gone-wrong route because I feared those had all been done before. I wanted to give the story a paranormal feel. Luring the main character into the frightening situation with a hauntingly creepy little girl seemed a good fit.

The Fear of Clowns

Coulrophobia is a very common phobia experienced by millions of people around the world. And who can blame them? Let’s face it. Clowns are creepy. I feel bad for people who genuinely try to make a living as a clown. I’m sure it’s an up hill battle. This story isn’t helping them any, either.

I loved writing this story! I have no fear of clowns so I had to research the subject to figure out what about them really scares people. You may be surprised that I didn’t have to look any further than actual clown school. Sometimes real life is creepier than fiction and this is definitely one of those occasions.

The neutral mask that is featured in this story is a real thing! It is actually used in clown school just as it is described in this story. I took that mask, and it’s use, and twisted it a bit. I thought about what would happen if murderers ran a clown school. How would they teach their students? How could they twist what is normally taught so it is used for evil instead of good?

A fun, hidden detail in this story is the body count at the end. 23 deaths and 1 missing person. If you were paying close attention, you may have realized that Scott is the 1 missing person. He was not a member of the clown school but quickly jumped on board after his first lesson. He obviously had some inner demons that really wanted out. The School of Laughs gave him permission to embrace the dark side that he was suppressing up until then. When they finished their murderous rampage, he left with them. Scott literally ran away with the circus, as they say.

The Fear of Dolls

As some of you might know by reading my true ghost stories, my grandparents have an extremely haunted house. I spent an incredible amount of time there as a child. My grandmother loves dolls, of the porcelain variety, and kept most of them in glass cases in the large library in her Victorian mansion of a home. Their house truly looks the part of a haunted house, if ever there was one! I love them dearly and I love their house, too!

I could have easily gone with a porcelain doll in this story but, to me, the creepiest of all the dolls is the ventriloquist dummy. I don’t have a fear of dolls but even I get creeped out by those things. There’s something about sticking your hand inside one of those things and making it appear to talk that just doesn’t sit well with me. I thought long and hard about that and decided this particular ventriloquist dummy wouldn’t allow it’s host to remove their hand from it. How terrifying would that be?!

I was actually inspired to write this story by a drawing someone posted of a dummy. It was posted in one of the scary story Facebook groups I’m in, not my own True Hauntings Group. I was so struck by the picture, that my mind immediately started making up a backstory for this dummy I was looking at. I knew there was a story in my head for this doll that I just had to get out or I was going to lose sleep over it. Clayton’s story was born that same day! I refer to it as Clayton’s story and not David’s because Clayton truly is the star of that story. He had enough resentment stored up for two lifetimes and he took it all out on poor David.

I went with a ventriloquist dummy and a corn field for the final showdown because what’s more creepy than being lost in a corn field with a murderous doll?! Very little, if you ask me! Who knows, maybe we’ll hear from Clayton again some day. Or, should I say, Tom…

The Fear of Drowning

I saved the most disturbing (for me) for last. Drowning is truly my phobia. Heights is bad. Drowning is worse. I put this story off until I finally had to write it. My deadline was fast approaching and there was no more putting it off. You may ask why I didn’t just pick another phobia if this one bothered me so much? I insisted on doing both of my phobias because I figured I could relate to them and understand them. I hoped I could put that touch of true terror in them because I could truly feel that terror. You’ll have to let me know in the comments if I was successful…

Just as with the heights story, I got that adrenalin jolting, stomach dropping feeling throughout the writing of the second half of this story, when he is actually in the water. I even called an old friend from high school to chat about diving so I could understand how that works, since I am never going to experience diving for myself. I tried snorkeling only once and was completely unable to do it. As soon as my face was under the water’s surface, the panic set in and I had to get my face out of that water! I can’t even go under water without holding my nose and I’m a grown woman! Ugh.

I wanted to start the story by establishing that this main character is a jerk. And, I don’t mean he’s just a pain. I mean, he is an absolute asshole who has a real control freak problem. He needed to be obsessed with controlling everyone and everything around him. When you are cave diving, you must have good control over your equipment and your emotions or you die. There is no other alternative. You control your situation or you die. I wanted him to be a character that the reader disliked so much that they enjoyed his defeat, just a little. He needed to be cocky enough to think that he had everything under control, only to learn that the water still has the final say when you are trapped in a Florida spring with only the oxygen strapped to your body and no escape.

I did consider doing a story about going over a bridge in a car or being lost at sea but those things have been done. Once again, I wanted to give the story a paranormal type feel so I created a monster that Michael would have to share the cave with. It didn’t go so well for Michael, of course. It didn’t go so well for me, either! I dreamt of drowning for several nights after finishing that story! But, I did finish it. I’m pretty proud of that!

I’m super curious to know if there was a story in this book that you were not able to finish or had to stop midway and take a break before finishing. Please let me know your experience in the comments! I’d also love to know what your phobia is! I may do a part two for this book someday. Maybe I’ll use your phobia in it!

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2 thoughts

  1. You know I read it in one sitting the night it released on Amazon. The one that got me was the story of Michael drowning. I mentioned it the group, but, it actually had me waking up gasping for air several nights in a row after reading it. Superb job Cynthia

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