From the Collection Trenches: The Reviews (and Paperbacks) Are In!

So it’s been a week since the release of And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe. And what an insanely exciting week it’s been! I mean, I have a book that’s been turned loose upon the world!

And Her Smile Will Untether the UniverseI’m also thrilled that I’ve been hearing back from those reviewers who received advanced reading copies, and I couldn’t be more honored and thrilled at the responses so far!

It’s an almost mythical ride through the Weird, blending and deconstructing different themes to create some powerful tales and lasting images.” — greydogtales

The voice and themes here shake the expected and reinvent the norms so easily the fantastical aspects fit everywhere… If there’s another collection as good as this in 2017, I will be surprised. I certainly won’t hold my breath on it.” — Unnerving Magazine

If you like to think and feel deeply about the weird quiet places of the world, then Gwendolyn Kiste’s work is for you. It was written for you. You should read it.” — Ancient Logic

It’s like a quiet horror that builds with every page. Tales that you will want to read again and again.” — Book reviewer, S.J. Budd

Obviously, as a writer, you always hope that your work will resonate with readers, but the initial response to And Her Smile has definitely been above and beyond what I’d hoped for/dreamed of/demanded from the Elder Gods, so I want to thank everyone who’s read the collection so far, and I hope that the stories continue to resonate with readers as they delve into the collection.

There are several more reviews over at Goodreads and Amazon, so head on over there for even more collection-y goodness. In particular, visit the Goodreads page for the awesome giveaway that JournalStone has set up; ten lucky readers will receive copies of the paperback edition! Hooray!

Speaking of paperbacks, they have started arriving (as evidenced above!), so if you pre-ordered the collection, it should be arriving forthwith! Also, if you did support this very enthusiastic author right here and purchased the collection, I would seriously love it if you shared a picture of the collection on Facebook and Twitter, so that I could see my stories, nestled happily in their new home. It will do this little writer’s heart good to see the book out and about in the world!

Next week, I’ll be checking back in with more collection updates as well as a feature on a few of the very cool books I’ve been reading this year, in particular from some of my favorite female authors of horror, dark fantasy, and the weird. The official Women in Horror Month might be over, but around here, we support those ladies of the macabre year-round!

Happy reading!

RELEASE DAY: My Debut Collection Is Now Available!

And it’s official: I have a book. An honest-to-goodness, this-is-for-real, my-name-on-the-cover, out-in-the-wild book. And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe is now available, both at the JournalStone website as well as through Amazon.

Seriously. This is real. And surreal.

And Her Smile Will Untether the UniverseToday is truly one of the most thrilling and overwhelming experiences of my life. Even as I’m writing this blog, I wonder: how do you encapsulate all the highs and lows that lead up to an author’s first book?

Well, for one, I want to give a major shout-out right here and now. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again (and again and again): tremendous thanks to Jess Landry, my amazing editor at JournalStone. If not for her, this book would not be making its debut in the world. While there were certainly plenty of challenges over the course of writing these fourteen stories, the experience working with Jess was nothing short of a dream. She is the most wonderful, professional, and extraordinarily talented editor (and writer!), and it was beyond an honor to work with her on this project. I’m still in awe and shock that I had such a fantastic editor and fantastic experience for my first book. Writing’s a tough, tough business, but every once in a great while, the stars align in your favor. Jess made those stars align, track changes and all.

While today marks the official debut of the collection, this is hardly the end of the journey. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be back at this blog to highlight the stories from the collection, in particular the five brand-new tales. I’ll also be making a few virtual appearances elsewhere. I recently recorded a very fun and very lively interview with the terrific guys at Miskatonic Musings; we discussed the collection in-depth and also talked about everything from Oscar winners and outsiders to the terrors of childbirth. Good, gory stuff all around!

Also, please check out my interview on Hellnotes where I give a peek behind the curtain at the making of the collection as well as a second feature that spotlighted “All the Red Apples Have Withered to Gray,” one of the fourteen tales that appears in And Her Smile‘s table of contents.

So as if it weren’t already obvious, you’ll be hearing lots from me in the next month, both here as well as out and about in the great ether of the internet. After all, a writer only gets their first book once, and I plan on relishing every minute of this process!

In the meantime, if you’re one of the very awesome people who purchased the collection, please let me know what you think! Obviously, reviews are always terrific, but if you’d rather just drop me a note via my website or in a message on social media, that would be incredible too. I’d absolutely love to hear your thoughts on the stories! After all, books are merely dead trees if they don’t have readers to enjoy them!

And if you don’t have a copy yet, head on over to the official Goodreads page, and enter to win one of ten paperback editions of the collection! Hooray for free books!

Finally, to everyone reading this post, I want to thank you so much for your support of my writing. I appreciate it more than you will ever know!

Happy reading!

Spring into Writing: Submission Roundup for April 2017

Welcome back to this month’s Submission Roundup! Lots of fabulous opportunities for all you writers out there, so if you’ve got a story looking for a home, one of these venues might be the perfect place for you to send it!

Before we get started, let me note that I am not a representative for any of these publications; I’m merely spreading the word! If you have any questions, be sure to direct them to the editors at the venue in question.

And now let’s dive in to this month’s Submission Roundup!

Submission Roundup

Payment: .02/word
Length: 300-1,000 words
Deadline: April 7th, 2017
What They Want: The current theme is Medieval Mayhem. Think King Arthur, Robin Hood, Black Death, the Crusades, the Renaissance, and the like. For this issue, no fantasy or other speculative fiction; the submitted stories should focus on real-world based medieval tales.
Find the details here.

Electric Spec
Payment: $20/flat
Length: 250-7,000 words
Deadline: April 15th, 2017 for the May issue
What They Want: Open to fantasy, science fiction, and horror stories.
Find the details here.

Third Flatiron
Payment: .06/word
Length: 1,500-3,000 words
Deadline: April 15th, 2017
What They Want: The theme is “Cat’s Breakfast,” and the anthology is open to speculative satire stories in the vein of Kurt Vonnegut.
Find the details here.

Payment: .01/word
Length: 1,000-7,500 words
Deadline: April 30th, 2017
What They Want: The current theme is Afromyth, and the anthology will focus on mythical fantasy, including but not limited to gods, mysticism, mythical creatures, and fairy tales. Please note that at least one main character must be of indigenous African descent, and the editors are looking in general for diverse characters and diverse settings.
Find the details here.

SNAFU Judgment Day
Payment: .04/word (AUD)
Length: 2,000-10,000 words
Deadline: April 30th, 2017
What They Want: Open to post-apocalyptic military horror stories.
Find the details here.

Timeless Tales
Payment: $20/flat
Length: up to 2,000 words
Deadline: May 5th, 2017
What They Want: Timeless Tales focuses on retellings of fairy tales and other myths. The current theme is Arthurian legends.
Find the details here.

Payment: .03/word (up to $150) for original fiction
Length: up to 7,000 words
Deadline: May 15th, 2017
What They Want: Open to quiet horror fiction, including “the creepy, the weird, and the unsettling.”
Find the details here.

The Pulp Horror Book of Phobias
Payment: $50/flat
Length: 4,000-6,000 words
Deadline: July 31st, 2017 (but certain phobias may close early)
What They Want: A phobia-themed anthology. Because phobias will be closed out if too many submissions are received for that particular topic, the sooner you submit your fiction, the better.
Find the details here.

Happy submitting!

Spells and Stories: Interview with S.J. Budd

Welcome back! Today, I’m thrilled to feature author and reviewer S.J. Budd. Her work has appeared in numerous short fiction venues around the world. When she’s not writing her own stories, she blogs about writing, highlighting reviews of her favorite speculative fiction on her site, with a special focus on independent and up-and-coming writers.

Recently, S.J. and I discussed her inspiration as an author as well as her favorite part of the writing process.

Spells and PersuasionsA couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?

I don’t think there’s ever really been a point where I decided to be a writer as it’s something I’ve always done. About a couple of years ago I decided to give it a real go and see how far I can take it and it’s been such an adventure. I’ve had quite a few stories published and hopefully more to come.

I’m an avid reader in lots of genres and have lots of favourite authors such as Patrick Rothfuss, Daphne Du Maurier, and Stephen King.

While you are now based in London, you grew up in Cornwall and have said that the Celtic legends of the area have inspired you. Is there a particular story you’ve written that you feel is most inspired by your upbringing, or do you feel the influence is pervasive through your entire body of work? Or perhaps a bit of both?

Growing up in Cornwall definitely sowed the seeds of a deep interest in the supernatural and fairy tales and that has inspired me greatly as a writer. I think the influence runs through all my work. Quite a few of my stories such as “The Mound” published in The Wild Hunt have been set in Cornwall as it provides such a great setting with its rich history and landscape.

On your website, you often feature a number of reviews of speculative short fiction. What inspired you to become a reviewer, and what has been the most interesting or surprising part about the process?  

I began to write reviews as a way of helping other authors, there’s so many great writers out there waiting to be discovered! When someone has contacted me to say they loved a story of mine it really means so much so it’s nice to spread the love by writing reviews of magazines I enjoy reading. I like promoting magazines and stories I really like as there are some really great publications out there such as Sanitarium and Deadman’s Tome who work tirelessly to give a voice to authors.

SanitariumYour stories have appeared in numerous venues, including Aphelion, Shadows at the Door, and The Siren’s Call, among others. Do you have a personal favorite of your published works?

I think it has to be “The Little Orphan Girl” which was published in issue 28 of Sanitarium Magazine. It was my first story ever published, I had been having my stories rejected for about two years up ‘til that point and it meant so much finally breaking through! It really gave me the determination to keep at it and three years later I’ve had 16 stories published.

If forced to choose, which is your favorite part of writing: crafting dialogue, developing characters, or working on setting?

I would say developing characters. I love thinking up new characters, getting inside their heads and living in their world. I guess writing is very similar to acting in that sense.

Where would you like to see your writing career in five years?

I’ve finished a novella and am aiming to see it published with a full novel in the same series. That would be amazing!

What upcoming projects are you working on?

I’ve got a collection of short stories that will be out soon, Spells and Persuasions.  In the meantime I’m focusing on writing as much as I can and improving my craft!

Big thanks to S.J. Budd for being part of this week’s author interview series! Find her online at her author website as well as on Twitter!

Happy reading!

Fierce Destroyer: Interview with Nadia Bulkin

Welcome back! This week, I’m thrilled to feature author Nadia Bulkin. Nadia’s fiction has appeared in Nightmare, The Dark, Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror, and is forthcoming in The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Nine. Her debut fiction collection, She Said Destroy, is due out later this year from Word Horde.

Recently, Nadia and I discussed her development as a writer, her process of putting together her first collection, as well as her plans for the future.

Nadia BulkinA couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?

It’s kind of a cliche, but I truly just love telling stories. Before I could easily write, I would re-tell the abridged version of classics like The Prince and the Pauper to my mom, who would write it down for me. By the time I was nine I knew I wanted to be a novelist, though I only started publishing short stories to earn money when I was 21. By now it’s like muscle memory. Even when I don’t have time to write, I write – sometimes useless trash, but arcs and characters nonetheless. Nothing beats the vicarious adrenaline of a well-crafted, heartfelt, gut-wrenching story. My favorite writers who have knocked me down and dragged me through the mud are Flannery O’Connor, Graham Greene, Shirley Jackson, Franz Kafka, Paul Bowles, Joseph Heller, and most recently, Francine Prose.

Congratulations on your upcoming short fiction collection, She Said Destroy, due out in August from Word Horde! What was the process like as you put together this collection? Were there any stories you planned to include but decided to leave out? Any other surprises in the process of compiling a book?

Thanks very much! Mostly, it gave me the chance to define myself as a writer. When I first started selling stories, I didn’t really know what direction I wanted to go in, and I wrote some stuff that was well-received that I, personally, thought was really dire and not-me. It wasn’t until a little later that I embraced being a politically-themed horror writer, and only in the past couple years am I selling the sort of stories I actually want to write – so this was about boiling down everything I’d done to the core: who am I really? And what emerged were dark stories about people pushed down a supernatural road of no return; some motivated by fear, or anger (disguised fear), many motivated by love.

As you write your short fiction, do you have a certain method to crafting your first drafts? Is there an average length of time it takes you to write a story, or does each one vary wildly from the others?

I mull a lot and outline a lot. I binge on research and movies and music to help the mulling process (like mulling wine, you know?). I’m obsessed with structure and symmetry (my stories are always divisible by five). By the time I’m done with all that (which can take about a month), the story-writing itself takes a week if I’m really lucky, or a month if I’m unlucky. I edit as I go and abide by the Joe Lansdale / Nick Mamatas school of single drafts only.

She Walks in ShadowsYour settings are very rich and well-crafted, with plenty of vivid details to immerse the reader. Do you have a certain setting that’s your favorite? How much research do you do in advance when working on a setting that perhaps you’ve never or not often used before?  

Well, thank you! The easiest setting for me is contemporary semi-rural Nebraska, though my favorite is Java in the 1990s. I try hard only to write settings I have personally experienced, because I hate it when people write about places I know (especially Indonesia) in a manner that doesn’t feel genuine. If forced to use an unfamiliar setting, I try to go for overtly weird and dream-like and faintly but not specifically recognizable. I try to be really careful with how I use linguistic indicators. And if I can’t avoid it, yeah, I do as much from-a-distance research as possible and beg forgiveness from the gods afterwards.

If forced to choose, do you have a personal favorite story you’ve written?

This is tough because I have a soft spot for several, but probably “Absolute Zero,” which is included in She Said Destroy. I’m not sure I could tell you why, except that it was so tough to wrangle the themes I wanted to convey while keeping them all under control, and I was proud that I pulled it off.

In addition to your fiction, you also write nonfiction essays on your blog and other sites. How is your process similar (or different) when working on nonfiction versus fiction?

Similar in that I mull and outline obsessively. Dissimilar in that I have way less discipline with non-fiction because I’m usually really emotional about the subject matter, so it takes me far more attempts to create something vaguely appropriate for external consumption!

What upcoming projects are you working on?

In addition to making sure She Said Destroy successfully launches, I’ve got to get half-a-dozen short stories packed up for various destinations. I’m also in the longest wrestling match of my life with a novel that’s a fever-dream fictionalization of the 1965 anti-Communist coup in Indonesia. Basically House of Cards except with a post-colonial slant, chaos demons, and psychics on government retainer.

Tremendous thanks to Nadia Bulkin for being part of this week’s interview series! Find her online at her author website as well as Facebook and Twitter!

Happy reading!

Monstrous Nature: The Story Behind “Green with Scales, Gray with Tar”

Welcome back, and happy Ides of March! Today, I’m thrilled to announce the debut of “Green with Scales, Gray with Tar,” my new dark fantasy story that appears in the Gaia: Shadow & Breath, Volume III anthology. *cue fireworks & stabbing Caesar in the back!*

Gaia: Shadow and BreathSeriously, though, this is quite an exciting release all the way around. First off, this anthology is from Pantheon Magazine, and I adore working with editors Matt Garcia and Sarah Read. They are such fantastic people, and I’m so incredibly honored to have another story in a Pantheon publication after last year’s gorgeous “Hestia” issue. As if that wasn’t enough, the table of contents for this anthology is wonderful; it’s always such a treat to be published alongside the supremely talented Rose Blackthorn and other great authors like H.L. Fullerton, David Tallerman, Tim Major, and Sandi Leibowitz. As usual, the anthology’s interior illustrations from Luke Spooner at Carrion House are simply divine. And just take a gander to your left at that gorgeous cover from Verboten Valley Art! *swoons*

Since the Gaia: Shadow & Breath series focuses on nature-themed horror and dark fantasy tales, this call was exactly up my alley. Here in southwestern Pennsylvania, living amidst the ravages of nature on our former horse farm provides endless amounts of strange inspiration. How could it not when you hear coyote howls at midnight and routinely discover inexplicable animal bones spread about the earth, all beneath a canopy of green? And that’s what my Gaia tale is all about: a foreboding forest and the things who dwell in its shadows.

Against this ominously gorgeous background, “Green with Scales, Gray with Tar” focuses on Dani, a young girl who is navigating life in her dying village while coping with the unwanted attentions of a monster. The story follows her from the age of six up through adulthood. Somewhere along the line in my short fiction, I realized how much I enjoy tracking characters over many years as they grow up in tenuous worlds. This is true of “All the Red Apples Have Withered to Gray,” which follows the nameless protagonist over fifteen years at her family’s bewitched orchard. Likewise, in “Ten Things to Know About Ten Questions,” the two main “deviants” start out the story in middle school and end up in their senior year of high school before it’s over. It’s always a challenge to condense such a long period of time into the compact form of short fiction, but when it comes to writing, I love nothing more than pushing myself to—and sometimes past—the breaking point with ideas. So with “Green with Scales, Gray with Tar,” I once again focused on the protagonist’s coming-of-age, all while exploring what consorting with a monster would mean to her as a child and how that meaning would change as she grew older.

Green with Scales, Gray with Tar As I mentioned above, I’ve been looking quite forward to this release. I am so proud of this story, and as we bid farewell to 2016 last December, I knew this was one of only a few tales on tap for the New Year that would be forthcoming in magazines and anthologies. When it comes to writing, 2017 is already shaping up to be an entirely different kind of year for me. “Green with Scales, Gray with Tar” is only my third story released so far in 2017. Not too shabby certainly, but not the whiplash speeds I’ve released work in the past. Now of course, my short fiction will be getting its biggest boost yet next month when my debut collection, And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, hits shelves. With five brand-new stories featured in the table of contents, original short fiction won’t be in short supply (consider yourself warned!). But again, “Green with Scales, Gray with Tar” is particularly special in my little writer heart, and I’m so happy to finally see it released to the wilds of the publishing world.

So if all this talk of monsters has piqued your interest, then please head on over to Amazon and pick up a copy of Gaia: Shadow & Breath, Volume III. All proceeds benefit The Nature Conservancy. Because who’s going to protect the glorious monsters of the forest if we don’t?

Happy reading!

Devoured by the Light: Interview with Michael Griffin

Welcome back! This week, I’m pleased to spotlight author Michael Griffin. Michael’s short fiction has appeared in Apex, Black Static, and Strange Aeons, among other outlets, and his short stories were collected in The Lure of Devouring Light, released in 2016 from Word Horde. His debut novel, Hieroglyphs of Blood and Bone, debuted earlier this year from JournalStone.

Recently, Michael and I discussed his inspiration and process as an author as well as his advice to new writers.

A couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?

Michael GriffinMy journey toward becoming a writer was gradual, and unfolded in phases throughout my teens and twenties. I’ve always been a lover of books, and my desire to write grew out of my enjoyment of stories, that pleasure of visiting a world created by someone else. I experimented with writing in various genres and styles, and took a long time to find a mode that really fit. The stories I want to create take place in a world that seems exactly like our own, but transformed or shifted in some way to create a tension or confusion between aspects expected and unexpected.

Though I read lots of work that is more straightforward or less “weird,” many of my favorite writers do something more or less like what I describe. They present a world most of us would recognize, where the concerns of the characters resemble our own concerns — job, money, love, family — and add to that a level of confusion or unreality, or a distortion of time, or a confusion of cause and effect.

Some of my favorites include Laird Barron, S.P. Miskowski, Livia Llewellyn, John Langan, Richard Gavin and most recently, Michael Wehunt, whose debut collection made a big impression last year. I have so many other favorites — for example, I’m reading Brian Evenson’s latest and it reminds me “Oh yeah, another one of my very favorites,” I almost forgot — that it’s impossible to do justice to them all, either by listing them in situations like this, or reading everything they put out.

Congratulations on your novel, Hieroglyphs of Blood and Bone, from JournalStone. Tell us a little bit about your process in writing your debut novel.

Hieroglyphs of Blood and BoneThank you! A first novel is an exciting milestone for any writer, and I’m excited to have JournalStone involved. Hieroglyphs of Blood and Bone is a story I’ve been trying to tell for a while. I always struggled to convey what I imagined that it ought to feel like, until I realized it needed to be much longer. Basically, I had an idea for a novel and I’d been trying to find a way to tell it as a short story. What it needed was the time and space to intimately reveal Guy’s gradual slippage from frustrated loneliness into an obsession so deep, he begins to detach from all other aspects of his life. That change needed to be shown not from the outside, but from inside Guy’s emotional state, which required a close-focus exploration of all his fears and desires, as he looks for something to grab hold of. Now I feel like it tells the story, and reveals the character Guy, I always had in mind.

Congratulations are also in order for your fiction collection, The Lure of Devouring Light, which was a huge critical success last year. What was the process for selecting the stories for the table of contents, and what was the biggest thing you learned from putting together and promoting a collection?

The Lure of Devouring LightAgain, thanks. It’s been a great experience in too many ways to list. I was so fortunate to find a publisher as great as Word Horde to release my first book. That helped give it a nice boost, sort of an instant credibility based on all the other great stuff Ross Lockhart has released through Word Horde before and since.

As to how it came together, I had some early guidance from writer and editor Joe Pulver, who really pushed me to begin preparing for the future possibility of that first collection, even before all the stories were ready. His idea was that I should start thinking in terms of a cohesive collection and build toward it, rather than just handing over whatever stories I had available whenever some publisher came calling. Often writers assume a first collection should come out as soon as they’ve written enough stories to fill a book, but it’s important to exclude anything, especially earlier work, that fails to match the quality or the “feel” or what the book ought to be.

That was the most important lesson that was reinforced through this process. You’ll only ever have one first collection, so it’s important at that stage to respect the notion of the book as a somewhat lasting artifact, rather than just flinging together random stories in a kind of giddy exuberance.

You’ve now written both short fiction and novels. Do you find your approach is different depending on the length of the story?

My approach is definitely different, and I’m still learning how best to write an effective short story, even though I’ve written many. The reason I struggle with this is that I tend to want to cram in too much story, too many scenes and details, and end up with an agonizing process of cutting words, shaving down every scene, struggling to reduce and pare away. Often I’ve work months on a story, with most of that time spent just going over and over it, evaluating every word and sentence, really obsessing way too much about every last detail.

With a novel, and really the same is true for novellas, I can spend more time and effort developing the world and the characters, and seeking interesting ways of making everything more complex or resonant. I’m able to write sentences that unfold more naturally, and seem to have an easier rhythm. I compare writing longer works to jogging or hiking at a comfortable, consistent pace, whereas writing shorter pieces feels to me like trying to do a very precise and complicated dance within the confines of a tiny room.

That may sound as if I don’t love short stories, which isn’t really true, but given the kind of narrative voice which seems most naturally to flow out of me, as well as my preference for telling stories with a lot of inward psychological intimacy, I have an easier time working within wider boundaries. More and more, I will probably shift toward working more on book-length stories, which will mean writing only a handful of short stories per year, rather than a dozen or so.

What advice do you have for writers who are just getting started in publishing and are finding all the rejection a bit daunting?

My advice would be the same bit of insight that helped me get through it myself, which is to recognize that it’s something everyone must go through, and an essential part of the growth and maturation process for every writer. Finally I stopped worrying about whether it was taking longer than it should, or whether the rejections were “fair” or not, and focused on what I could control. I decided to focus on writing the very best stories I could, and to aim higher than merely to write well enough to be published. I wanted to write stories so compelling, editors would want to find a way, even with limited slots available, to publish my work.

Soon after I shifted my focus to aspects under my own control, such as writing more often, working harder and acting like a professional even before I actually was one, I began to break through in terms of quality. Then publications began to rack up quickly. When I see writers saying “My goal is to have five acceptances this year,” I think they’re doing it wrong, because they’re setting a goal over which they have zero control. It’s a recipe for frustration and self-blame, which is how those nagging thoughts of “I’m not good enough” and “I’m never going to make it” come about.

The sooner the writer moves beyond that stage and focuses on themselves in a mature way, the sooner they’ll make progress, if they have it in them as a writer.

What projects are you currently working on?

I spent February trying to work my way out of a weird lack of rhythm, a kind of halting productivity, since we sold our house and moved across town at the latter part of 2016. I’ve always been good at working steadily, and have rarely taken breaks longer than a day or two. Luckily, I had several finished works in the pipeline, so I have stories coming out throughout the next year or so, not least of which is this new novel.

The projects I’m shuffling and trying to start moving forward soon include a longer spec novel, five or six short stories for anthology invites which I’ll spread throughout the year, and several planned novellas which I see as a series exploring the backstory of one of the characters from my story “Firedancing,” a man called Old Mallard who is “One part Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Man in the World, one part Kwai Chang Caine.”

Big thanks to Michael Griffin for being part of this week’s author interview series. Find him online at his author website as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

Happy reading!

Heart of the Story: Interview with Juliana Spink Mills

Welcome back! Today, I’m thrilled to spotlight author Juliana Spink Mills. Juliana is a speculative fiction author based in Connecticut. Her debut novel, Heart Blade, the first in a multi-book series, debuted last month from Woodbridge Press.

Recently, Juliana and I discussed her evolution as a writer as well as what’s she’s learned so far from writing her Blade Hunt Chronicles series.

A couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?

Juliana Spink MillsThank you for inviting me. I love your interviews, and I had so much fun answering your questions. As for writing, when I was a teen I always told myself I was going to be a writer someday. But somehow it got sidelined for way too long. Finally, when I turned forty, I picked up my dream, dusted it off, and told myself to stop messing around. I finished my first novel, a middle grade adventure story, two months later. It didn’t matter if it was good or bad; it was a ‘real’ novel, with a beginning, middle, and end. I was hooked! I haven’t stopped writing since.

My first love will always be kid lit. I grew up on a lot of classic English authors such as C.S. Lewis, E. Nesbit, and Arthur Ransome. Tolkien was my gateway into ‘adult’ fantasy. Currently, some of my favorite authors (I have too many to list them all!) include Brandon Sanderson, Cinda Williams Chima, Rick Riordan, and Victoria Schwab. I read a lot of YA and middle grade fiction in between huge tomes of epic fantasy, and I love snappy urban fantasy by authors such as Jim Butcher, Seanan McGuire, and Elliott James.

Congratulations on your debut novel, Heart Blade, from Woodbridge Press! What was the inspiration behind this book?

Thank you! I’m so excited. I can’t wait to share Heart Blade with everyone. As for inspiration, I needed a break from a novel I’d been querying with no success, so to take my mind off things I blasted out a ten-thousand-word short story in two days. Afterwards, I couldn’t stop thinking about the main character, Diana, a half-demon. I imagined she had a younger sister, a runaway named Del, and I wrote a short scene about her. Heart Blade evolved from that one scene in my head.

You have a sequel to Heart Blade, also forthcoming from Woodbridge Press. What challenges did you face in expanding the universe of your characters, and was there anything easier about the second book when compared with the first?

I’m working hard on Night Blade, the second book in the Blade Hunt Chronicles series. I think one of the main challenges in writing a sequel is making sure not to lose track of all the plot threads I set up in the first book, while at the same time expanding the story to show new sides of it and to embrace new plot and character arcs. It’s so much fun getting to broaden the Blade Hunt world, but at the same time I’m constantly worried I’ll forget to include something important from the first novel. Also, with two more books planned in the series, I need to remember to leave space for the story to grow.

The easy bit is not having to create a whole new world; I already have the set up to play in, and I already knew most of my book two characters.

Heart BladeYou’ve written both short fiction and novels. Do you find your approach is different depending on the length of the story?

Definitely! A short story is like a streamlined version of a novel, pared down to absolute basics. You need to be able to give readers a feel for a much wider world, while at the same time focusing on a tight storyline and remaining within the constraints of word-count and format. I find short stories a lot harder to write, to be honest. I always want to add either too much detail, or not enough. I used to be a regular in the flash fiction competitions, and when I first started trying my hand at short stories they were either way too short, flash fiction style, or too elaborate, with novel-length pretensions.

In addition to your fiction, you are also an interviewer on your blog! What inspired you to start your interview series, and what’s the most important thing you’ve learned through talking with other writers?

I love interviewing other authors. When I first started writing, I obsessively read writer blogs for clues on how to figure out my own approach to it all. I think the interviews came from that curiosity, the desire to understand a little about someone else’s process and inspiration. I think one of the most interesting things I’ve learned is just how vast and varied the writing world is. Everyone is unique; there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to do things, only what works or doesn’t work for you.

If forced to choose, which is your favorite part of the writing process: crafting characters, developing dialogue, or establishing setting/mood?

Setting and mood come first, I think. Because that usually inspires the rest. But my favorite bit is figuring out the plot. My first drafts are all plot-focused. It isn’t until I start revising and editing that I start adding layers to my characters and fine-tuning the dialogue.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m finishing Night Blade, the sequel to Heart Blade, and on the side I’ve been outlining book three, Star Blade. I also have a half-finished science fantasy YA that I’m itching to get back to at some point, inspired by the 1980s gold rush in the Brazilian Amazon.

Big thanks to Juliana Spink Mills for being part of this week’s interview series! Find her at her website as well as on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Happy reading!

Writing Under the Spring Equinox: Submission Roundup for March 2017

Welcome back to this month’s Submission Roundup! March has ushered in some wonderful writing opportunities, so if you have a story looking for a home, be sure to check out these magazines and anthologies!

As always, please note that I am not a representative for any of these publications, so please direct any questions you have to the respective editors.

So let’s get to these fabulous submission calls, shall we?

Submission Roundup

Nightmare Magazine
Payment: .06/word
Length: 1,500-7,500 words (5,000 or less preferred)
Deadline: March 14th, 2017
What They Want: Open to original horror and dark fantasy stories.
Find the details here.

Payment: .01/word
Length: up to 1,000 words
Deadline: March 15th, 2017
What They Want: Open to original speculative flash fiction and poetry.
Find the details here.

Payment: up to .10/word
Length: up to 9,000 words
Deadline: March 27th, 2017
What They Want: Cicada is a YA magazine that seeks both realistic and speculative fiction. The current theme is Hauntings.
Find the details here.

Payment: .01/word
Length: 1,000-7,500 words
Deadline: March 31st, 2017
What They Want: Adult science fiction stories featuring diverse settings and diverse characters. Specifically, at least one character should be of indigenous African descent. This submission call has been extended, so be sure to get those stories in before the end of the month!
Find the details here.

Killing It Softly 2
Payment: .01/word
Length: 3,000-7,500 words
Deadline: March 31st, 2017
What They Want: Open to reprinted horror stories from female authors. The editors will only consider reprints that appeared originally in a pro or semipro market.
Find the details here.

Would But Time Await: An Anthology of New England Folk Horror
Payment: $75/flat
Length: 2,000-10,000 words
Deadline: March 31st, 2017
What They Want: Original stories based in New England that focus on folk horror. This includes a broad umbrella, from Shirley Jackson to Stephen King and plenty of tales in between.
Find the details here.

Payment: $10/flat
Length: No specific lengths mentioned in the guidelines
Deadline: April 1st, 2017
What They Want: Monstering is a new magazine that specifically seeks stories from disabled women and nonbinary people. The first issue will focus on monsterhood and what that means to the individual writer.
Find the details here.

Happy submitting!

Looking to the Future: Part 4 of Our Women in Horror 2017 Discussion

Welcome back to the fourth and final part of our Women in Horror 2017 Discussion! To close out our month-long series, these amazing authors and I chat about their hopes for the future of horror as well as what each of them has planned for the coming year! And once again, if you need to familiarize yourselves with my featured authors (and all their varied accomplishments), head on over here for a quick refresher!

So let’s finish this up in style! Take it away, ladies!

What is your hope for the trajectory of the horror genre over the next couple decades? What would you like to see more of in horror, and what would you like to see less of?

Kristi DeMeester: I’m hopeful quiet horror becomes more mainstream. With I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House on Netflix, I’m hoping for an uptick in less gore and more atmosphere.

Miracle AustinMiracle Austin: I hope that all women will be paid more attention to and offered diverse opportunities to have their works exposed in various outlets. So many still have no idea how many women love to write and read horror tales.

K.Z. Morano: The horror genre is constantly evolving and that’s one of the many things I love about it. This is what makes this genre immortal. Already, we’re enjoying a vast selection of subgenres from fantasy horror to noir horror to bizarro horror. Even so, I’d very much like to witness the revival of extreme horror done the right way. You know, the way Poppy Z. Brite did it. I’d like to read horror that’s ferocious and fearless and emotionally honest and raw. I hope that fewer horror authors would be forced to “tone down their voices” in order to be accepted.

Wendy Wagner: I think that after the success of The Conjuring, The Witch, Blair Witch, and Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s novel HEX we’re going to see a lot of witch stories for a few years. There’s already a lot of weird witch SF coming out, and I think that will ripple through horror a bit. I’m down with that. I think it’s time for a witch renaissance! But I’m never going to get enough haunted house stories. 🙂

Lori Titus: I would like to see more women, people of color, and non-Western settings in horror. I want to see less torture porn and more movies with substance. Stories about flawed humans can be just as scary (if not more) than the serial killer/monster like Freddy or Michael Myers. And it’s not to say that those creatures don’t have their place, too. It just seems that horror goes through these phases where it’s only one thing—all serial killers, all vampires, or all Bigfoot. Variety is always good.

Farah Rose Smith: I hope to see horror make a distinct turn away from using sexual assault and misogyny as the primary platform for female characters. I’d like to see diverse authors make strides. The flourishing of the intersectional horror movement. It’s important that we move towards destigmatizing mental illness as well, by incorporating greater sensitivity and research when writing about it. Ultimately, I long for the death of the male gaze in storytelling, but we are a long way from making that happen.

Eden Royce: I’d love to see the definition of horror widen. It has a tendency to be dominated by the Eurocentric male view of what is fearsome or frightening. Chesya Burke’s article in Nightmare Magazine explains this well. Also, I want to see more horror films and webseries written and directed by women. I also hope we can throw off the stigma that comes with horror, especially for women writers. I see so many books that are categorized as “paranormal” in order to avoid using the term “horror” when the works clearly fit into the latter category.

Scarlett R. Algee: Well, I’m hoping to see more women 🙂 Less zombies. I am sick unto death of zombies and I’ve never quite worked out what their appeal is. I’m not a Walking Dead fan, and I can count the number of good zombie novels I’ve read in the past year on one finger. More psychological horror. Stories and films that don’t rely on outside monsters, but that show us we’re the monsters. Keep the gore offscreen and give us the dread, give us those subtle little touches that keep us awake at night.

Julia BenallyJulia Benally: I’d like to see horror that actually makes me shiver. Some horror should be classed in the genre of “stupid” because the story had no meat to it. I want to see better endings. How many stories choke at the end because somehow the evil ghost is a victim? WHATEVER! EYE ROLL! I’d like to see less of women’s privates. One can argue it shows vulnerability, so why are mostly women naked? That dude who wrote the story for the Silent Hill movie said women are good in horror because they’re ALREADY vulnerable. AKA she’s there to satiate horny sickos in the name of vulnerability. The only scary part about that is making rapists think about getting me. House of Wax with Vincent Price did the naked thing, but they showed the woman shoulders up. The focus was not her body, but the actual scene.

Tell us about your latest writing and/or editing projects. Also, what upcoming projects can we expect from you in the next year?

Lori Titus The Art of ShadowsKristi: Currently at work on stories due to anthologies and waiting to hear back on a handful of stories out on submission. Once those are off the list, I can circle back to working on my third novel. My debut novel, Beneath, is forthcoming from Word Horde in April.

K.Z.: I’m happy to share that one of my stories will be included in an anthology with tales written by Filipino authors. The stories are all set in the Philippines (or an alternate version of the Philippines). It’s not a horror antho but is instead made up of various stories in different genres. I’m actually looking forward to introducing more Filipino readers to my work.

Miracle: I’m in the process of working on edits for my upcoming YA/NA eclectic collection, Boundless—a work that almost was not published, which is another story of course. It will possess free-verse poems and short stories, which I hope will evoke many emotions. The expected release date is late January 2017. I’m also working on a short story for a YA Anthology to benefit Autism with 12 more amazing authors. It’s titled Ever in the After—fantasy and supernatural tales. Spring 2017 is expected release date.

Wendy: Editing-wise, I’ll be doing my usual stuff over at Nightmare this year, which is always fun. I love reading horror slush and working with horror writers—it’s an absolute joy. I have a story coming out in Pseudopod’s Artemis Rising project—it’s called “Drift Right,” and I think it’ll be podcast in early March. (It has creepy sea lions in it!) I also have a slightly spooky science fiction novel coming out this summer. It’s called An Oath of Dogs, and it features corporate cover-ups, murder, creepy alien beings, and some very scary dogs.

Sycorax's DaughtersLori: I have a lot on my plate. This month (January) I will have a new novel out called Blood Relations, about a religious cult and their enemies, who practice magic. There have been disappearances of young people in town, and the local sheriff struggles to solve the mystery before something worse happens. I will also be promoting The Art of Shadows, the second book in The Marradith Ryder Series. In this installment Marradith is tasked with finding Rafael Castillo, her missing boss. But as it turns out there are bigger enemies around than the one who abducted him. My plans are to write the third installment of Marradith’s story this year. But first, I have a new story I have already started on which I want to complete. Meanwhile I am also doing my usual ghostwriting work and some editing for author Kody Boye. Also, [I have a story in the anthology] Sycorax’s Daughters, along with a lot of other, great female black authors.

Farah: I am pretty swamped with projects at the moment. The third issue of Mantid Magazine will start coming together in late Spring. I’ll be posting updates to the submission guidelines in early February. I’m always in the process of writing short fiction and poetry, though the most important writing at the moment is a novel I’ve been working on for 4 years that is (finally) almost finished. An extended philosophical essay is in fragmentary form on my desk, as is the concept art for an interactive art exhibition that I’ve been developing over the past few months. All of this will have to take a back seat to some short films I am slated to produce this Spring. All in all, quite busy, and feel quite fortunate to be, especially with the excruciatingly slow pace that I need to work at.

Spook Lights 2Eden: Spook Lights 2: Southern Gothic Horror was just released in January 2017. I’m working on a novelization of one of the stories from my first collection, Spook Lights. I have a story in Sycorax’s Daughters, a collection of horror fiction and poetry by black women authors coming out this month (February 2017) and one in Shadows Over Main Street 2 (publication date TBD).

Scarlett: I’ve done copy editing and proofreading for two upcoming Woodbridge Press releases (Explorations: First Contact at the end of January, and Heart Blade by Juliana Spink Mills, coming in February.) I’m terrifically pleased with both of those and I think they’ll be phenomenal. I’ve also just written another episode of The Lift, for you podcast fans, that will drop later this year, and I’m hoping this is the year I get a good novel/long novella plot dropped in my brain.

Any final thoughts on Women in Horror Month for 2017 (or any thoughts about your plans for Women in Horror Month for the years to come)?

Kristi: We’re here every other month of the year as well. 🙂

Miracle: I hope that Women in Horror Month continues to receive hot attention by the industry and readers. One day, I also hope that there will no longer be just one month dedicated to women horror authors because there will be so many women involved in so many media vehicles, which will become the norm. I’m very grateful that a few doors have opened for some women, but it sure would be nice if all the doors opened for anyone who wish to transform her dreams into reality and to become visible by all.

SanitariumK.Z.: A lot of people are still wondering if women really have a place in horror. Let’s show them that we do. WIHM is a start. Soon, hopefully, it won’t take a month-long celebration every year for people to recognize that women have and always will have a place in the genre.

Wendy: I always see people complain about the need for Women in Horror month—and about the need for Black History month, Indigenous Peoples Day, etc. Yes, it sucks that white male cultural products get the lion’s share of attention. It sucks that we need to have special occasions to call out the contributions of other kinds of creators. But I know I’ve learned a lot from these kinds of promotional activities. Working on Lightspeed and Nightmare’s Destroy series taught me more about women, LGBTQ, and people of color working in my field that I learned in a lifetime of library use. So I’m glad these things exist. They’re a great way to help people broaden their genre experience. And heck, they’re fun, too!

Lori: I just hope everyone will take the time to sample work from some of the excellent women writers who grace the genre.

Farah: I do hope people will take the opportunity to celebrate Women in Horror Month by reading works by women and diverse authors and attending screenings of films directed, written, and produced by women. Regarding the future, it is a mission of mine to grow Mantid Media into a full-fledged small press, releasing works by women and diverse fiction writers as a matter of course. I would encourage people to keep their eyes on Mantid Magazine and submit fiction to us when we are open to them, hopefully on May 1st.

Eden: I’m just so pleased at the success Women in Horror Month continues to achieve and I love chatting with the women authors and artists I meet and delving into their work. For Women in Horror Month in the years to come, I want to be able to promote more of their work as well as release more of my own.

Scarlett: I’m going to spend this year’s WiHM reading a lot and finding new favorites. In years to come, I hope to be more physically involved. We’re voices to be heard. We’re the future.

Tremendous thanks to these nine fantastic authors for being part of my Women in Horror Discussion. Please read their work, now and every other month of the year. The horror genre is so much stronger thanks to their contributions!

Happy reading!