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Monday, October 6, 2014

The Creepiest Monster of All

Halloween is fast approaching, that time of year when every TV channel brings out its creepiest movies and programming. While waiting in a grocery store line recently, I heard two people behind me talking about the creepiest movie monsters ever.
One voted for Dracula, the one in the modern remake of Bram Stoker’s novel. The other mentioned an angel-demon character in a movie I hadn’t seen, adding, “There’s nothing creepier than that.”
I guess I wasn’t good at hiding my snigger. “Oh you think you can do better?” the first one said.
“Hannibal Lector,” I responded without pause. “The scariest monsters are always human.”
“You have a point,” the first shopper said. Both of them nodded and started talking about scary human monsters.
It’s that belief that humans are always the scariest that led to my creating the bad guy(s) in my paranormal murder mystery, MAGGIE RISING: Adventures of a Part-Time Psychic. Maggie is a 17-year-old high school senior who works part-time in her great aunt’s shop doing psychic readings.
“There’s nothing paranormal about it,” she assures the reader as she explains away her ability to see auras and read people’s thoughts. It doesn’t take long before readers, and eventually even Maggie, start to realize this “normal” teen isn’t quite as ordinary as she seems.
          For instance, here’s the scene at the end of Chapter One:

I closed the door carefully, checking to see how sensitive my alert bell was. It chimed despite my best efforts. Good bell! The fact that I’d never yet been able to fool it encouraged me to think it would always let me know when someone came in. Mr. Haskins made a good point: a girl who often works alone can’t afford to be too careful.
I walked through to the back of the house, the low-ceilinged kitchen, bathroom and back porch with its laundry set-up. It’s also where the ladder goes up to the loft. That loft isn’t tall enough to stand up in and is almost certainly a building code violation. But since the house is more than a century old, nobody paid much attention when Betty bought the place last spring. She’s worked in an old, tumble-down shack on East Avenue for as long as I can remember. It was only when she chose to bring me in as a partner that she bought this larger place in a busier location and moved the business here.
 My mom and dad don’t know this yet, but once I start college, I plan to move in here and take on more hours in the reading parlor. If I sleep in the loft, I can move out of their home but avoid paying rent and Betty can still keep the whole upstairs as a separate apartment for Merc. She needs his rent to make her payments. 
Sorority Chick’s crisp new twenty went into Betty’s strongbox under the sink. I was just reaching the parlor when the alert bell rang again. I looked up to see a clean-cut college guy at the counter. Another man behind him was reaching to shut the door.
My first thought was Cool. Mr. Clean-Cut Guy brought a buddy. Two times twenty is better than… Then the other man began to turn.
The hair on the back of my neck stood up. There didn’t seem to be anything weird about him unless you counted his super-short hair that clearly showed his scalp or his whole left arm covered in blue, green and red tattoos from his shoulder to just above his wrist. Still this was a university town and neither the skinhead look nor the tattooed sleeve was that unusual. I couldn’t explain it, but that second guy was creepy. He just was. As he turned to meet my gaze, our eyes connected. All the hair on my body prickled, and an icy chill slithered down my spine.
Creepy? Oh yeah. And the man she comes to know as Creepy Rich isn’t the scariest monster Maggie encounters. This Halloween, when you’re thinking of ghosties, ghoulies, and non-human monsters, remember the terror a true monster can generate. And shudder with fright. 

Susan Aylworth is the author of 13 published novels. Her lucky 13th, EASTWARD TO ZION, is available now. Her recent release, MAGGIE RISING: Adventures of a Part-Time Psychic, has just come out in paperback as well as e-book. Mother to seven, she is "gramma" to 23. She lives in northern California with Roger, her husband of 44 years, and the two spoiled cats they serve. She loves notes from readers. Write her at, or @SusanAylworth. You can also follow her on Pinterest and Instagram. 
Find MAGGIE RISING at Amazon,, or anywhere you buy quality books and e-books.