My Schedule for Stokercon 2018

In a little over a week, I will be heading to Providence for this year’s StokerCon. If you’ll be there too, you can catch me on panels or at my reading! (Or you know, you can also use this schedule as a guide for how to avoid me! Either or.)

So just where exactly can you find me in Providence? I’m glad you asked…

StokerCon 2018Shirley Jackson: Master of Horror panel on Friday, March 2nd at 12pm
The moderator for this one is Jack Haringa, and my fellow panelists are Jennifer Barnes, Karen Bovenmyer, Nicole Cushing, and Paul Tremblay. I was on a Shirley Jackson panel at NecronomiCon last August, where Jack was the moderator and Paul was a panelist, so I already know this one is going to be a lot of fun. I’m also super excited to meet Jennifer, Karen, and Nicole; I know their work, and it will be great to get to know them too! Also, I could basically talk about Shirley Jackson all day, every day for the rest of eternity. So yeah, this panel will definitely be a great time.

Universal to Hammer: The Classic Screen Horrors on Friday, March 2nd at 4pm
I’m moderating this one! I know, right?! I grew up on Hammer and Universal films, so to get to lead a panel in a discussion about the movies that really shaped my childhood and my love of horror is so cool that I’m truly giddy about it. Also, if that wasn’t cool enough, the panelists are Ramsey Campbell, Michael Gingold, Christopher Golden, and Amanda Trujillo. Obviously, with huge names like that, the pressure’s on for me to do well, so light a candle for me, will you? I prefer Creature from the Black Lagoon green, thank you.

Happy 200th Birthday Frankenstein! Mary Shelley in the 21st Century panel on Saturday, March 3rd at 11:30am
The moderator for this one is John C. Tibbetts, and the panelists include Michael Arnzen, Jennifer Barnes, Leslie Klinger, and Victor LaValle. At NecronomiCon, I was also on a Mary Shelley panel, which you can actually listen to over here at The Outer Dark if you’d like. Naturally, I’m so excited to be discussing Shelley’s work again, especially with such an incredible group of authors! ( I know, I know; I keep using the word excited a lot in this post, but that’s only because it’s true.)

Fairy Tales: A Child’s First Taste of Horror panel on Saturday, March 3rd at 2pm
The moderator here is Leslie Thomas, and my fellow panelists are Edward Ahern, April Grey, Charie LaMarr, and Trisha Woolridge. Anyone who is at all familiar with me or my work already knows how much I love fairy tales and all the darkness and creepiness contained therein. With this one, I’m not-so-secretly hopeful that the conversation will steer toward Angela Carter’s work for at least a moment since her dark fairy tales are among my favorite stories of any genre.

Reading Block on Saturday, March 3rd at 4pm
Just in case panels aren’t enough for you, you can also see me spouting off my fiction, most likely in a rather animated voice (hey, that improv and acting background has to help me somewhere in life). I will be reading one of the flash pieces from my collection as well as teasing an excerpt from my novel, The Rust Maidens. Authors Marc Abbott and John F.D. Taff are also in the 4pm reading block, and I can’t wait to hear them read their work!

And Her Smile Will Untether the UniverseAnd finally, on Saturday night, Bill and I will be attending the Stoker Awards ceremony! EEEE!!! I’ve always wanted to go to the Stokers, and um, you might have heard, but this year is a bit special to me (as in very, very special). I’ve talked about this a lot already on social media—talked so much, in fact, that people are probably sick of hearing about it—but I very much want to announce it here too: my collection, And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, is nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection! That’s an insane sentence to type out, but here’s a link to the final ballot in case you need external verification.

Also, because I have the best editor in the world, she also put together that updated cover you see to the left with an official Stokers seal and everything. Thanks, Jess!

So it will certainly be a busy couple days in Providence, and for that, I’m quite grateful and excited. Honestly, I’m downright thrilled. This will only be my second writing convention after NecronomiCon last summer, and I’m looking so forward to meeting a lot of new people as well as catching up with everyone I already know, either online or in person. It should be a truly wonderful weekend! *cue excited screaming*

Happy reading, and see you in Providence!

The Underrated and the Political: Part Two of Our Women in Horror 2018 Discussion

Welcome back to part two of our Women in Horror 2018 round table!

Last week, we discussed how our nine featured authors became enthralled with the horror genre and what Women in Horror Month means to them. This week, we’re delving into how the current political and social climates have affected their work as well as those tales from other female horror writers that deserve even more attention.

So without further adieu, let’s get started!

Far too often, women are underrated in the genre. So to shine a light on those who aren’t as appreciated as they ought to be, what recent story (or stories) have you read in the past year that was written by a female horror author but didn’t get as much attention as you think it deserved?

Anya MartinAnya Martin: That’s a tough one because there are so many women writing great horror today. In terms of collections from the past year, everybody should absolutely get their hands on Nadia Bulkin’s She Said Destroy (Word Horde) and Selena Chambers’ Calls for Submission (Pelekinesis). I was particularly struck by their powerful realistic portrayals of female protagonists. I hope to see both receive awards nominations this year. Also Christina Sng writes incredibly powerful cosmic horror poetry. Her collection A Collection of Nightmares (Raw Dog Screaming Press) is a must-read, especially if you don’t think poems can profoundly disturb. And for a collection, Sycorax’s Daughters (Cedar Grove Books) features horror stories and poetry by both established and up-and-coming African-American women. I was so happy to see that on the Stoker Awards preliminary ballot and hope it makes the final (Gwendolyn’s note: And it did make the final ballot! HOORAY!). For a more classic author I read last year worthy of discovery, Zenna Henderson is better known for her science fiction People stories, but her horror short stories like “Hush,” in which a little boy creates a “Noise-eater” and his babysitter is helpless to halt its hunger, pack a really tough punch. Start with her collection The Anything Box.

Sumiko Saulson: I’ve been really swamped, but I have managed to read some new and not so new women’s horror… How to Recognize A Demon Has Become Your Friend by Linda Addison, Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra by Anne Rice and her son Christopher Rice. You should check out the black female horror writer’s anthology Sycorax’s Daughters, which came out in 2017. I was in an anthology called Forever Vacancy: Colors in Darkness, which includes a lot of black authors, many of them women.

Catherine Grant: KL Pereira’s A Dream Between Two Rivers: Stories of Liminality is a gorgeous, well-written collection that I don’t see on enough lists. Margaret Killjoy’s anarcho-horror-mystery novella The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion was also really well done but I didn’t see it on any lists. Both KL and Margaret write clean, beautiful prose in a very distinct, fresh voice that is engaging to the reader.

Denise TapscottDenise Tapscott: I agree that women are underrated in horror. Female horror authors never get as much attention as they deserve. One of my all time favorite horror writers is Eden Royce. I have an affinity for Southern gothic tales and each of her stories is a treat. When I mention her work to other people, they give me a blank stare. I remind people that there’s more to read than just Stephen King, Then I insist they buy her collection of short stories. Of course, there is also you, Gwendolyn. I love your work! After I drop Eden Royce’s name, I mention you. Your book And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe is a great collection of short stories. I won’t drop any spoilers, but there is one story in particular that creeps me out and I love it! I can hardly wait to read Pretty Marys All in a Row. There are many women in horror that inspire me, and both of you lovely ladies stand out in my mind first when it comes to current writers.

Rebecca Allred: Grass by Anya Martin – This was released as a limited chapbook from Dim Shores, so only 150 copies were available, but I really dug it. I hope Anya finds a good reprint market (or includes it in a future collection, hint-hint) so more people can read it.

Nadia Bulkin: I never have a good sense of how much attention anything gets, but I’ll note here a couple stories by authors I hadn’t read before – I really liked “Mental Diplopia” by Julianna Baggott in Tor, a very soulful yet creepy take on an apocalypse, and “The Name, Blurry and Incomplete in His Mind” by Erica Mosley in The Dark, a really nifty interpretation of a broken family.

Carrie LabenCarrie Laben: Chavisa Woods’ incredible collection Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Country wasn’t marketed as horror, but it contains some of the most chilling fiction of the year including a story called “Zombie” that contains no zombies and a story called “Take the Way Home That Leads Back to Sullivan Street” that does contain a ghost. There are also aliens and devil-worshipers, and goths of course, and the vast horrors of the geopolitical situation and the tiny horrors of living in a close-knit small town.

Brooke Warra: Oh wow, there are really so many fantastic women in horror, yourself included, whose stories have resonated with me over this last year especially. Without giving too much away about the stories themselves, I recently read Tales from a Talking Board and Anya Martin’s “Weegee, Weegee, Tell Me Do” as well as S.P. Miskowski’s “Pins” have been haunting me ever since. I think both stories, for me, were about the secret lives we often live as women, and being more than the sum of crimes that have been perpetrated against us, but also, in the end, having to bear the consequences for those crimes, and really, that can be more horrifying than anything supernatural in the plot, or at least it was for me, personally.

How, if at all, have recent political and social upheavals figured into your work? Do you feel that horror as a genre is uniquely suited to address the current state of the world, or not?

Looming LowAnya: I’m not sure about horror per se, because some horror can be intrinsically conservative, i.e. maintaining the status quo. But I’d definitely say Weird horror fiction is. The political sphere in the United States is distinctly and disconcertingly Weird. I addressed this directly in my The H Word column, “The Weird at the World’s End” (Nightmare Magazine, Feb. 2017), and Helen Marshall said she sensed a shift already while editing the Year’s Best Weird Fiction, although Trump had not taken office yet in 2016. The challenge may be with the world so Weird, what is Weird any more? I tried to explore the growing sense of unease in “Boisea trivittata,” which I wrote for Looming Low anthology (Dim Shores). That story came out of an infestation I experienced of these seemingly pointless harmless insects which appeared suddenly at my house last January. In my case, they strangely mirrored the building unease for so many of us during the transition of power from President Obama to Trump. In the story, I tried to suggest a fascist shift without making it heavy-handed—which I think is the challenge whenever directly addressing politics in a story, not overpowering the horror or the Weird with too much explanation.

Kenya Moss-Dyme: Horror and sci-fi are perhaps the best genres to address the craziness in the world we live in! When we see social themes occur in comedy, I think it’s too easy to be entertained and then dismiss it. But when we apply an element of horror to something going on in our world, it gets people to pay attention and it unnerves them. They start out thinking, that’s ridiculous, it could never happen. But then, they wonder…could it? Sometimes you need to really scare people to make them listen. I’m working on a couple of things that have strong social themes that might be a little upsetting to read. But if it makes you emotional then that means you’re thinking about it and talking about it, instead of just reading it and walking away.

Sumiko: More and more of my stories seem to resemble the movie Get Out, or an old Twilight Zone or Outer Limits episode, so I would have to say that I’ve had an uptick in political horror, as well as afrocentric horror. I’ve always written female-centered, multicultural stories. Feminism has commonly been a theme, but increasingly, I find that issues of racial injustice are taking front and center in my stories. It’s a turn off for some of my original audience members, but I’m more popular than ever and being invited to more and more conventions, and to Sycorax's Daughtersparticipate in more and more anthologies, so I guess it’s a trade-off. I am much more competitive as a political horror writer than I was trying to compete with a bunch of mainstream writers and become the next great horror writer or the next Stephen King or Anne Rice. I’m better off sounding like Octavia Butler, even if some find it preachy.

Catherine: Recent political and social upheavals have left me feeling depressed and hopeless, which has affected my work in that it has staunched my productivity. I struggle to form a single, cohesive thought that could translate into a story or novel because I am feeling and thinking so many things at once. Most of my fiction is rooted in a theme that is deeply personal. It is usually a time capsule of a thought that I’ve rolled over in my mind repeatedly, blended with a “what if” scenario. For example, a recent story I wrote is about how siblings often remember their childhoods differently. What if the way they experience a ghost or apparition is affected by how they perceive their memories of that person? I have an inkling that all of what I’m feeling right now about our current administration will eventually roll around in my head until it either is dust or becomes something substantial and is written down.

Denise: Political and social upheavals seem so scary and so painful these days to me, that as a writer I have challenged myself to find a way to address what’s going on. Horror as a genre is perfect for that. We have a larger palette to draw our stories upon.

Rebecca: Parts of my story “When Dark-Eyed Ophelia Sings” were inspired by recent events. And I wouldn’t say horror is uniquely suited to address the current state of affairs, I think sci-fi, bizarro, and other genres also lend themselves quite nicely, but I feel like horror might be the most natural fit for those kinds of stories.

She Said DestroyNadia: I think so much of human existence is horror, unfortunately – the horror we inflict upon each other and upon ourselves. People are cruel. People are desperate. People are afraid. And horror begets horror, of course. I absolutely believe in hope and heroism and virtue; but I believe those things are rare and precious and on a massive uphill battle. That being said, I rarely write directly about things that are actually happening in real-time. I think that’s because I write for the sake of processing, and if events are still ongoing, you don’t have the complete picture yet; maybe also because I believe in putting a little bit of distance between fiction and current events. So I still write about Indonesia in the 1960s-90s through the early years of the post-Suharto era, and then I stop. My story “There Is a Bear in the Woods” (quoting a Reagan campaign ad) is part of an extended alternative universe inspired by a combination of the American Tea Party and the George W. Bush era (which defined my high school and college years), and that’s about as recent as I’ll go. I still believe everything is political, and even a story that doesn’t directly focus on political themes is still written and still read in modern political context. It’s up to the writer to decide how they want to use that fact.

Carrie: Everything that addresses the current state of the world certainly contains elements of horror, so there’s that. For me the source of tension in my writing has always been how precarious life is because the basic assumptions we use to make it bearable are just that – assumptions. I started with the assumption “families love each other” and I’ve recently moved on to the assumption “there’s virtue in hard work” and we’ll see what I termite-chew through next and what collapses.

Brooke: I think now more than ever, the female voice is so powerful and I think horror, and in particular women in horror have the opportunity to address the current social and political climates. Horror has always had the ability to put a face on evils of the real world around us, whether it’s apathy, or prejudice, or violence, horror gives the underdog, the outcast, the preconceived “weak” among us a fighting chance, and so often the things we believe are holding us back turn out to be our greatest weapons in horror. I think it’s a genre that crosses a lot of imaginary lines we draw around ourselves in our daily lives and we can all come together and unite against a common enemy and fight back.

And that’s part two of our Women in Horror Month round table! Come back next week as we discuss these authors’ advice for up-and-coming female writers as well as their hopes for the future of horror!

Happy reading, and happy Women in Horror Month!

For the Love of Horror: Part One of Our Women in Horror 2018 Discussion

Welcome back, and welcome to Part One in our Women in Horror Month 2018 round table discussion! This year, I’m thrilled to interview nine incredible female authors who are creating some of the very best and most cutting edge work in horror literature today.

So let’s get started with the celebration of these awesome women in horror!

As a writer, what attracts you to the horror genre? Was there a particular story or film or even character that made you say, I want to do that, when you were younger?

Sumiko SaulsonSumiko Saulson: Horror is the genre best suited for exercising personal demons and I have enough of them to give me an endless supply of psychologically disturbing and thought-provoking plot ideas. If I didn’t have such a trauma-filled past and sometimes, present, I might have been attracted to a less spine-tingling, chilling kind of genre. When I was a child, my parents took us to tons of horror movies. I think Dawn of the Dead, It Lives, and some sci-fi dystopian films you don’t necessarily think of as horror such as HG Wells’ Time Machine most influenced me to write horror. I also read a great deal, and from an early age, so reading had more of an influence on my decision to write horror than you might imagine. I read my first novel in the fifth grade; Peter Straub’s Ghost Story. I inhaled Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe throughout junior high and high school. Some of the young adult and juvenile fiction I enjoyed was on the scarier side, such as Susan Cooper’s relatively dark fantasy series, Over Sea, Under Stone, of which The Dark is Rising is the most well-known title.

Anya Martin: That’s a tough question because I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawn to horror and monsters. For me, the earliest “gateway” that I remember is Dark Shadows, which my parents were watching daily from when I was 2. By the time I was 3 or 4, my dad started me watching monster movies on TV and my earliest memories are seeing AIP, Universal, and Toho films. The only nightmare I ever remember getting as a child from a horror movie was after seeing House of Wax, with Vincent Price. I always rooted for the monster to survive and find a safe haven away from the mean human race. I also was drawn to the giant monsters, King Kong, Godzilla and Gorgo—which probably was connected to my other early passion—dinosaurs. At age 6, I wanted to be a paleontologist and I’m still a huge dinosaur buff. The one thing that did creep me out, to my mother’s frustration, was dolls. They even smelled bad! That rancid rubber smell—ewwwww!!! I got to confront that fear years later with artist Mado Peña in the comics short, “Stuffed Bunny In Doll-Land,” which appeared in Womanthology (IDW, 2012).

Nadia BulkinNadia Bulkin: I grew up in ghost-obsessed Indonesia, and ghost stories have always terrified and intrigued me. I find the idea of the ghost as “a tragedy condemned to repeat itself time and again… an emotion suspended in time,” to quote The Devil’s Backbone, to be a very powerful one that incidentally relates very directly to Indonesia’s struggles with traumatic national memory and collective guilt, two concepts I write about a lot. I like to focus on social and political themes, particularly those related to fear and suffering and exclusion and revenge, and in my opinion there’s no better toolkit with which to write about the world than through horror (this may say more about how I see history than anything else!). I’ve always enjoyed the horror genre for the adrenaline and the off-kilter darkness (like the black keys on a keyboard), but it was Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House that made me buy into being a horror writer, because for the first time in any genre I saw a character that I could personally relate to: Eleanor Vance. Reading Jackson convinced me that it was possible to do what I wanted to do within horror.

Catherine Grant: My father gave me a collection of Edgar Allan Poe tales when I was ten after I asked to watch Silver Bullet. I don’t think I was ready to read King at that point, but a year later I found a copy of IT in a box underneath my father’s desk, and then I rented Creepshow on summer vacation and that was it, I was hooked. I found a Stephen King biography in the library when I was twelve. Reading it, it was the first time I realized that being a writer was a career, and I began writing stories with the goal of some day being a published author.

Denise Tapscott: One thing that attracts me to the horror genre is that there is a certain freedom you have creating stories. There aren’t any specific structures or rules you must follow as other writers do in the romance and mystery genres. There’s a short story I read when I was younger, by Stephen King called “Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut” that really grabbed my attention. I loved the idea that this woman transformed when she drove her car, faster and faster every day. I wished that it were almost true so that I could do the same (I should mention that I used to be a speed demon back when I had a little 1992 Honda CRX SI). The more I thought about it, I wished that I could come up with a clever story with an awesome twist too. It took some time, but I eventually grabbed a ticket on the writing horror train. It’s been a fantastic ride so far.

Kenya Moss-Dyme: Besides required reading in school, one of the books that made me want to write horror was The Amulet, by Michael McDowell. I read it when I was about 14 and it involved an amulet circulating in a small town; whoever possessed it would commit a horrible act of violence against someone they disliked for whatever reason. What I loved about the book is that the characters were motivated by different things, some for as little as irritation, but it had that small hometown feeling similar to a lot of Stephen King’s stories. They’re sweet normal folks who just snap, for no reason other than wearing or holding the amulet. It was still a few more years before I wrote any actual horror, because I spent the next few years writing about teens doing teen-like things.

Rebecca Allred The CAse of the Strange NoisesRebecca Allred: Writing horror appeals to me because it’s a genre in which I can, more or less, safely explore and attempt to reconcile my own fears and anxieties. Terrible things happen, but there’s a sense of control that comes from creating and resolving conflict, especially if you’re like me and sometimes feel like everything is completely out of your control! The first I’m aware of that I wanted to write stories “like that” was when I got my hands on a copy of Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark. I don’t recall which volume it was, but the story “The Furry Collar” scared the CRAP out of me. Even now sometimes when I’m half asleep and hear my cat coming down the stairs, I imagine a headless girl slowly making her way into my room… That said, I was writing “scary stories” well before I was ten. “The Case of the Strange Noises” is my earliest surviving work. Maybe someday it’ll be a collector’s item!

Carrie Laben: It’s funny, I never identified strongly with horror as a kid (although I did very much favor ‘true’ stories about ghosts and cryptids etc.) I thought I was too much of a wuss for “real” horror, which came in the form of movies where girls got cut up. Everyone around me read Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Goosebumps, and later V.C. Andrews and Stephen King and Dean Koontz – it didn’t set you apart. I do remember reading Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love when I was about 14 and thinking “wow, there’s no limit to how weird you can get and be published” so that probably helped.

Brooke Warra: I have a very vivid memory of being a young child equally fascinated and terrified of Mora (the turtle monster) from The Never Ending Story, as well as the Harpy from The Last Unicorn. There was a kind of cerebral horror in those characters, they are close enough to creatures that exist in our “real world” that the unnaturalness of them, the danger they represent becomes chilling, and I think that as a toddler in the 80’s, growing up in a house surrounded by acres of forest where such creatures could be lurking, I was really influenced by that and drawn to that sort of thing. I honestly do not remember a time that I did not want to write and tell dark stories, but that decade was a wonderful time to cultivate that dream.

As a female horror writer, what does Women in Horror Month mean to you? Do you have any specific activities planned to commemorate Women in Horror Month in 2018?

Sumiko: I’m very excited about Women in Horror Month every year since I first found out about it and participated in it in 2013. This year I am especially excited, because I am working with Nicole Kurtz and Mocha Memoirs Press to put out an anthology, Black Magic Women, which consists of 20 terrifying tales by black women who write horror. I also compile a list called Black Women in Horror, and look forward to reaching 100 women this year! There will be a book, 100 Black Women in Horror – an update to my 2014 title, 60 Black Women in Horror, slated for release in February. Black Magic Women comes out February 15. I’m also producing the third annual SecondLife Women in Horror Treasure Hunt with author Suzi Madron. Come visit us in Avalon if you’re inworld!

Eternal FrankensteinAnya: I’d like to think one day it won’t be necessary, but as long as people—men and women—rattle off their top 10 horror authors or directors, and don’t or barely include women, drawing attention to women authors/filmmakers/artists is needed. I don’t have any specific activities other than this and sharing some of the many great articles which I am sure will be posted this month on social media, but I might do something for my blog ATLRetro.com because there are a number of exciting women horror writers and filmmakers based in Atlanta such as Nancy Collins, Kristi DeMeester, Dayna Noffke, Lynne Hansen and Vanessa Wright who was cofounder of the Women In Horror Film Festival, which debuted in Atlanta last September.

Nadia: I wrote about my feelings on Women in Horror Month last year, and those feelings of frustration at being caught between a rock and a hard place in the midst of this particular culture war hasn’t changed. I think Women in Horror Month comes from a place of good intent, but it also kind of saddens me, and I don’t do anything to commemorate it. What frustrates me these days is twofold. First, the assumption that there is a special “lady-horror” genre and “lady-horror” writer that is separate in content and style from “real horror,” mostly because that does nothing to acknowledge that male horror writers are writing from a particularly male point of view, except that point of view is considered “standard,” though also because I always get nervous when people – including, often, women! – get too specific about the kind of subjects women like to write and read about. I’m all about mean girl drama and witches, but I also do war and sport. Second, mainstream horror continues to astound in its understanding of women primarily as rape victims. Really quite remarkable.

Catherine: Women in Horror Month is a time for the industry to stop doing the dance, look around, and call out peers that might not be getting proper recognition because of their gender. It feels silly writing that out. Should gender discrimination still be a thing in 2018? I’d really love to see a day when special recognition months like WIHM aren’t needed, because our society is so woke that unconscious bias and casual discrimination are no longer a problem. I plan on doing my part by recognizing female authors that have affected my writing, be it as a peer, mentor, or literary influence.

Denise: As a female horror writer, Women in Horror Month means it’s time to celebrate my creative sisters! I don’t have any specific plans to commemorate the month but I will do whatever I can do to support as many women as possible. Perhaps I will find a way to use social media to promote Women in Horror. The least I could do is buy more books! I have lots of stories to read and I’m more than happy to add more to my Kindle.

A Good WifeKenya: This is such an exciting month for us, with all of the focus on the women in horror, not just writers but I love that we spotlight the actors and curators of the genre as well. I always enjoy learning about talent that I wasn’t aware of and especially the look back at how far we’ve come and the contributions to the industry. Of course, we’re focused on US all year round, but it’s nice to have the stage for one month anyway. It really raises the exposure on just how powerful our voices are, from within. I am planning to highlight some kick-ass female-driven horror stories on my page next month so I’m putting together my list now. As authors, even our work doesn’t always feature strong heroines, so I’d like to showcase that this year!

Carrie: This is the first time I’m really actively participating in any explicitly women-in-horror themed activities. I love that this discussion exists, I’d love to see it exist all year, and I love knowing that every February I’m going to learn the names of new writers I should check out.

Brooke: It’s been a really positive experience every year to see women in this genre support and encourage each other. Every WIH month, I come away with new friends and a to-be-read list as long as my arm. This year, I’d like to focus on promoting other women in horror through my social media and blog posts, whether they are authors or bloggers, podcast producers, voice actors, I mean, the list is endless.

So that’s part one of our Women in Horror 2018 discussion! Head on back here next week as we talk about underrated horror stories by women as well as how the social upheavals of the last year have impacted these authors’ stories.

Happy reading!

Women in Horror 2018 Discussion Coming Soon!

Welcome back, and happy Women in Horror Month! Since February is now in full swing, I am beyond excited to announce that this year, I’m doing part two of my Women in Horror round table discussion here on my blog. Last year’s interview series was such a wonderful time, and the 2018 edition promises to be just as terrific.

But before I start unveiling the Q & A later this week, let’s start with introducing the incredible women who are involved with the interview series this year!

*macabre drum roll please!*

Nadia BulkinNadia Bulkin is the author of She Said Destroy, her debut short fiction collection available from Word Horde. She has been nominated three times for the Shirley Jackson Award, and her stories have appeared widely in magazines and anthologies including Nightmare, The Dark, She Walks in Shadows, and numerous Year’s Best volumes. Find her online at her author site.

Sumiko SaulsonSumiko Saulson is the speculative fiction author of both short fiction and novels, including Solitude, Happiness and Other Diseases, and The Moon Cried Blood, among others. Sumiko is also the author of the acclaimed nonfiction book, 60 Black Women in Horror Fiction. In 2016, she received the Horror Writers Association’s Scholarship from Hell. Find her at her author site.

Anya MartinAnya Martin is a fiction writer, playwright, and journalist. Her work has appeared in Tales from a Talking Board, Eternal Frankenstein, and Mantid Magazine, and her play, Passage to the Dreamtime, debuted in 2017 from Dunhams Manor Press. She also serves as the associate producer of The Outer Dark and is the founder of ATLRetro.com. Find her at her author site.

Denise TapscottDenise Tapscott is the author of Gypsy Kisses and Voodoo Wishes, a Southern Gothic dark fiction novel that is the first book in The Zenobia Tales series. When she’s not writing and traveling, Denise is also an accomplished actress, with her work appearing in television series and short films, in addition to her roles as a voice-over actor. Visit her at her author site.

Rebecca J. AllredRebecca Allred is a speculative fiction writer out of the Pacific Northwest. By day, she’s a doctor of pathology, and at night, she crafts dark and malignant tales. Her work has appeared in LampLight, the Bram Stoker Award-winning Borderlands 6, Nightscript II, and Flame Tree Publishing’s Chilling Horror Short Stories anthology. Check her out at her author site.

Catherine GrantCatherine Grant is a horror and dark fantasy author based in Providence. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Shock Totem, Wicked Witches, and Cranial Leakage: Tales from the Grinning Skull, Volume 2. In addition to her writing, she serves as an editor at LampLight, and was recently named the Assistant Director of NecronomiCon Providence. Find her at her author site.

Kenya Moss-DymeKenya Moss-Dyme is an accomplished author of both short fiction and novels. A writer since her teens, she has released numerous horror books, including Daymares, The Mixtape (Special Edition), and The Pulpit Chronicles: Prey for Me (Volumes One and Two). She is also the author of A Good Wife, an Amazon-bestselling dark romance novel. Find her online at her author website.

Carrie LabenCarrie Laben is a widely published author of horror, fantasy, and literary fiction. Her work has appeared in Clarkesworld, Apex Magazine, and Mixed Up: Cocktail Recipes (and Flash Fiction) for the Discerning Drinker (and Reader). In 2017, she won the Shirley Jackson Award for her short story, “Postcards from Natalie,” published in The Dark. Find her online at her author site.

Brooke WarraBrooke Warra is a horror and dark fantasy writer based in the Pacific Northwest. Her short fiction has appeared in Looming Low, Strange Aeons, The Lift, and Sanitarium Magazine, among other publications. She takes much of her inspiration from creepy fairy tales, Finnish folklore, and the darkness lurking in the woods and along the coast. Find her at her author site.

So those are the authors who were kind enough to take time from their busy writing schedules to be involved in my Women in Horror Month discussion. Head on back here later this week and every week for the rest of the month as these female authors sound off on everything from their inspirations as authors to how the social upheavals of the past year have impacted their work. Lots of amazing stuff to come, so definitely stay tuned. Same horror place, same horror time!

Happy reading, and happy Women in Horror Month!

Submission Roundup for February 2018

Welcome back to this month’s Submission Roundup! There are a ton of awesome calls this month, so if you’ve got a story seeking a home, then one of these markets might just be perfect for it!

As always, a reminder: I’m not a representative for any of these markets; I’m simply spreading the word. Please direct any questions you might have about these calls to their respective publications.

Now onward to the submission calls!

Submission RoundupFlame Tree Publishing
Payment: .06/word
Length: 2,000 to 4,000 words
Deadline: February 11th, 2018
What They Want: The Gothic Fantasy anthology series is open to short fiction submissions on the themes of “Lost Souls” and “Robots and Artificial Intelligence.”
Find the details here.

Uncanny Magazine’s Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction
Payment: .08/word for fiction; $30/poem; $50/nonfiction essay
Length: 750 to 6,000 words for fiction; no line limits for poetry; 1,000 to 2,500 words for nonfiction
Deadline: February 28th, 2018
What They Want: Open to speculative fiction, poetry, and nonfiction from authors who identify themselves as disabled.
Find the details here.

The Twisted Book of Shadows
Payment: .06/word (up to 5,000 words)
Length: 3,000 words to 5,000 words (though up to 10,000 words will be accepted)
Deadline: February 28th, 2018
What They Want: Open to horror fiction.
Find the details here.

Vastarien
Payment: .01/word for fiction and nonfiction ($50 max); $20/flat for poetry
Length: 2,000 to 7,500 words for nonfiction; 750 to 6,000 words for fiction; up to 50 lines for poetry
Deadline: March 1st, 2018
What They Want: Open to literary horror fiction, poetry, and nonfiction inspired by the work of Thomas Ligotti and related themes.
Find the details here.

Swords and Sonnet
Payment: .06/word
Length: up to 5,000 words
Deadline: March 1st, 2018
What They Want: The editors are seeking stories that feature a female or non-binary battle poet as a main character. Open primarily to fantasy, though science fiction and horror will be accepted as well.
Find the details here.

Happy submitting!

Marching into the Night: Interview with Daniel Braum

Welcome back! This week’s author interview is with the very talented Daniel Braum. Daniel is the author of numerous books including The Night Marchers and Other Strange Tales from Cemetery Dance Publications, The Wish Mechanics from Independent Legions Publishing, and Yeti. Tiger. Dragon. from Dim Shores.

Recently, Daniel and I discussed his inspiration as an author as well as his forthcoming projects and advice to new writers out there.

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

Daniel BraumI came across the short stories of Lucius Shepard and Tanith Lee on the shelves of one of my local libraries as a teen. They are both favorites of mine and writers that continue to inspire and influence me. I also read Salinger’s and Stephen King’s short stories as a teenager. Both had a big impact on me.

Later in life I came to the work of Hemingway, Tim Powers, and Kelly Link. I think their work is masterful. Only in the last few years I became aware of the stories of Robert Aickman. This was an important milestone for me as I discovered that my work “fits in” best with his lineage of strange tales. This year thanks to and on the recommendation of author Scott Nicolay, I read my first few Tiptree stories, the Quintanna Roo ones. These stories have been very much on my mind.

I don’t remember ever deciding to be a writer. Making the decision to attend the Clarion Writers Workshop in 2002 and to follow through with much of what I learned there is likely the best answer I can give to that.

Your work seamlessly blends elements of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Do you remember your first exposure to speculative fiction or films? What drew you to more fantastical worlds as a writer?

As a child my Dad would tell me about the movies he would see that I wasn’t allowed to watch. He would also tell me and sometimes draw for me what I called “monster” stories.

As a teen, one summer my Mom grabbed a copy of Stephen King’s “The Stand” off the supermarket check-out paperback racks for me because she knew I liked to read. I was lucky because in my experience the speculative had always been lumped together and a part of “fiction”. I didn’t grow up with genre distinctions. I was aware of them but only really learned of them as an adult.

I don’t remember being drawn to writing the fantastic. The fantastic always was such a big part of the way I conceptualized fiction. I figure this is a good a reason as any as to why “the fantastic” is a major part of the stories I write. A relatively early exposure to the work of authors Tanith Lee and Lucius Shepard are also likely a big part of this. In Tanith Lee’s stories anything can happen and often does. Her settings range from the here and now to other dimensions and other planets of her own unique imagining. Her characters are men and women and beings of every shape, size, color, and gender and from every background. This was the norm and default position for me before I even knew of the politics or even ever gave the notions that go along with this a second thought.

Lucius Shepard captivated me with his Central American settings. Much of his stories presented a unique sense of wonder (and horror) in the here and now, even if often that here and now was the “far away” places of Central America. Both authors presented unbridled worlds of imagination that were not only fun they had so much more going on at face value and beneath the surface. Wanting to do the same in my work was always a given.

Your debut collection, The Night Marchers and Other Strange Tales, came out in 2016. What was the process of putting together the table of contents for the book? Were there any stories that you were planning to include that ended up being cut, or any pieces that were last-minute additions? Additionally, did you curate the order of the stories to express a certain theme or mood?

The stories for the Night Marchers were written over 15 years and appeared in publications ranging from Kelly Link and Gavin Grant’s Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet to Cemetery Dance Magazine. Some of the stories appeared in the now defunct zines Electric Velocipede and Full Unit Hook Up which both published interstitial material that crossed genre boundaries.

When the book was acquired by my editor Norman Prentiss for Cemetery Dance the only requirement was that it contain the three stories that had first appeared in Cemetery Dance Magazine, “Across the Darien Gap” (from issue #54 in 2006), “Jellyfish Moon” (from issue #67 in 2012 ), and “The Green Man of Punta Cabre” (from issue #71 in 2014 ).

I started the process of assembling the Table of Contents by thinking about what stories might go along best with those three stories within the context of trying to anticipate which of my stories Cemetery Dance readers might enjoy best and what they might expect from a collection being presented as a horror collection. Cemetery Dance has done an astounding job of publishing a wide range of all kinds of horror over the last 25 years. Reading Cemetery Dance Magazine and Cemetery Dance anthologies and publications showed me just how inclusive a genre horror is. I began to rule out stories that were potentially even outside of this wide umbrella of horror such as stories that overtly featured hallmarks of what we commonly think of as science fiction or fantasy, things like “rocket ships” and “secondary worlds”. ( Some of these stories became the core of my second collection The Wish Mechanics: Stories of the Strange and Fantastic which was published by Independent Legions in 2017 because I realized I had enough material written and published to fill several books. )

The Night MarchersOnce I had the stories chosen for the Night Marchers I worked on the sequence. Factors such as mood, theme, tense, and other factors came into play. I don’t read collections in order of the table of contents and I’m aware not everyone does. I like that the stories in the book can be read out of order and still feel like they are of a kind and of a set.

One story that was initially selected for the project did wind up being “cut”. The story is called “Tommy’s Shadow” and it first appeared in the print zine Kaleidetrope. The story received strong, positive feedback from some authors and reviewers who were reading an early in-progress draft of the book. So when my editor suggested that I select a story and make it “exclusive” for trade edition “Tommy’s Shadow” was eventually selected. But it turned out when I sold the rights to the trade edition, the trade edition publisher did not connect with the story in the way everyone else had and had reservations about including it in the trade edition. The solution was that a story I had just completed “A Girl’s Guide to Applying Superior Cat Make Up and Dispelling Commonly Found Suburban Demons” was included instead. “Tommy’s Shadow” is a story I love and one that goes over well with audiences when I read it, but the timing and series events led to it not making it in to these editions.

“A Girl’s Guide” went on to be well reviewed and reprinted in Great Jones Street project. I read the story at the Night Marchers book launch party at Morbid Anatomy Musuem and is one audiences enjoy when I read it.

I’m taking a different approach to the collections I’m working on now. I have a few collections in progress and groups of stories I am working on with the intent of the stories being presented for the first time together in the collection. This is something I’ve never done before and lends to a very different creative approach.

Also in 2016, Dim Shores released your limited edition chapbook Yeti. Tiger. Dragon., which features a trio of tales that deal with cryptozoology. What research went into crafting these particular stories? Also, since the book is now out of print, do you have any plans at this time of releasing the tales elsewhere, perhaps in another collection?

For those new to the publisher Dim Shores Press publishes small run limited editions of illustrated chapbooks and collections. It was a great experience working with publisher Sam Cowan and thanks to a robust pre-order from Dim Shores subscribers and a well-attended launch party all 150 copies of the book sold out in 5 days.

I don’t think of myself as one of those writers who revels in the research aspect of preparing to write. The three stories in Yeti Tiger Dragon involved very specific knowledge of place and setting and of crypto-zoology but most of what I needed to know to write the stories were things I already knew or “researched” as a labor of love. So I had already done the research when it came time to draft the stories.

So while I don’t have a lot about research to share, I do have a few fun fact that relates to the book. The first story “The Yeti’s Hand” is partially set at the Pangboche Monastery in Tibet. The Monastery is mentioned in Kate Bush song “Wild Man” which is also about a Yeti. While I am a huge Kate Bush fan the story was published in 2004, my first published short story, years before the Kate Bush song. However our approaches to how we portray the Yeti are uncannily similar.

The short story the “Water Dragon” from the book was reprinted in my second collection in 2017 The Wish Mechanics: Stories of the Strange and Fantastic. Due to the limited edition print runs of their books it is Dim Shores’ policy to no longer produce second printings or reprints of their titles.

A repackaged edition of the book which includes an additional story is forthcoming from Crossroads Press.

Your story in Nightscript III, “Palankar,” is a wonderfully chilling tale of what waits in the Palankar reef. What inspired this particular piece?

The story was born from the desire to write a piece about the process of trying to help a person you love- particularly the conflict of the point when one has exceeded the safe limits and would face real peril in trying to help further. This notion was with me for a very long time before I figured out an effective story to embody it within a dramatic structure.

The “surface” story is a tale of two brothers scuba diving. One of them has come to try and “help” the other by trying to convince him to come back to a family and life left behind. There is also a “submerged” story. It was my intent that the events of the story lent itself to explanations both mundane, supernatural, or psychological. With this element not being a given it was my hope that the story becomes more about the characters and their reactions to the magic and mystery of our human lives and maybe even present in roads, understandings, or awareness of mysteries larger than ourselves.

I believe the supernatural or possibility of the supernatural is a potent way to explore the human condition in fiction. In the weird fiction genre the element of doubles, twins, doppelgangers and or submerged selves are often presented. It is an element I am very interested in. I think the themes these kinds of stories lend themselves to and the tension between whether characters are experiencing something natural (such as nitrogen narcosis) or something supernatural (such as monster or doppelganger), are interesting to portray and explore in fiction.

As someone who has been involved in the publishing industry for a number of years now, what advice do you have for those writers who are just starting out? On the flip side, what was the worse piece of advice you were given in the early stages of your career?

All of my works to date have been published with small press and micro press. So what limited experience I can report on is in that area.

I think any advice or any given writers choices depends upon their individual goals and what they want out of publishing their stories. On its face that sentence seems like a given or a piece of over-generalized advice, but when one really investigates what is out there one realizes there are many models and choices to publishing a story. Each comes with benefits and drawbacks and strengths and weaknesses.

I like to recommend to those seeking advice to take the time, think about, and be clear on what you want. And thinking through in advance if the benefits and drawbacks line up with what one wants and one’s goals.

For example while self publishing might allow the “benefit” of bringing the story to market faster it also comes with the necessity that an author be proficient in design and marketing and accounting which could be a “drawback” to one not anticipating or desiring this part of the equation.

I was fortunate enough to have a ton of great people around me when I was starting out and I was alerted to many pitfalls. The best advice is to focus on one’s writing and to control those elements that one can control. Write. Finish stories. Continue to improve one’s craft. And continue to keep your stories in front of editors is a solid model to follow. Try and steer clear of or at least reasonably manage anything (or all the things) that do not serve writing and submitting.

Even if it seems like one is not getting fast results, I believe readers, editors, and publishers respond to an author’s unique style, visions and stories only they can tell. Ultimately, so advice that moves one away from the pursuit of this is bad advice in my opinion. A lot of voices out there seem to have institutionalized pursuits that on their face are in conflict with this.

Unfortunately here in New York, I’ve seen bad advice thrown around from people the community expected more from–the kind of advice that hurts people and parts the innocent and unsuspecting from money and opportunity. I’ve seen new writers get hurt, discouraged, and set back as a result. Taking the time to ask questions and investigate the organizations and individuals one does business with is never bad advice.

What projects are you currently working on?

One of my next short story to published will be “Above the Buried City” in the anthology Shivers 8 from Cemetery Dance publications.

At the end of 2017 I had three short stories all come out around the same time “Goodnight Kookaburra” in Walk on the Weird Side, “Cloudland Earthbound” in The Audient Void #4, and “The Fourth Bell” in The Beauty of Death Volume 2.

I’m working on my third novel. The first two will be announced by the publisher very soon. I’ve also been editing anthologies for several publishers. The first one will be announced at the end of the month.

Tremendous thanks to Daniel Braum for being part of this week’s author interview series. Find him online at his website and his Amazon author page.

Happy reading!

AND HER SMILE WILL UNTETHER THE UNIVERSE is on the Preliminary Bram Stoker Awards Ballot!

So I’m incredibly surprised and honored to share that my JournalStone collection, And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, made it on the 2017 Bram Stoker Awards Preliminary Ballot.

Wow. Seriously.

Now it’s important to note that this is not a nomination, as it is only the preliminary ballot; voting on the official nominees starts this week, with the final ballot being announced in February. But to make it this far is beyond humbling and thrilling.

It’s been a couple months since I’ve talked too much about the collection on this blog, so I thought I would take a moment and share a few quotes about the book. Because turning it over to reviewers is probably better than me blathering on, right? (And really, I’m still so freaking out excited about the preliminary ballot that I’ll probably just blather right now.)

And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe“I loved this collection. It announces the emergence of a new writer with a strong and distinctive voice, one who is unafraid to take risks, and I can’t wait to see where Gwendolyn Kiste’s wayward talent takes her next. ” — Peter Tennant at Black Static

“Kiste’s collection of short fiction And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe is exactly the book that tears you in two… Imaginative, immersive, emotional.” — The Horror Review

“As it happens often in this collection the unlikely digs in its nails and becomes a fact, something to lose, or burn up. There are fairy tale vibes, twisted and reimagined for tales of death, and rebirth, and mystery… Gwendolyn Kiste offers such an original and wrenching distribution it would be difficult to compare her to many others.” — Unnerving Magazine

“An almost mythical ride through the Weird, blending and deconstructing different themes to create some powerful tales and lasting images.” — GreyDogTales.com

“Kiste has a real gift for pulling reality inside out in her fiction, taking situations, fairytales, and storylines that might seem everyday or familiar at first glance, and then twisting them into uniquely imagined, dark, and haunting tales.” — Maria Haskins

The iMailer newsletter from HWA already went out earlier this week, which included a special link to download And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, but just in case you missed that, it bears repeating: if you’re an Active or Lifetime member and would like to read my collection, please email me at gwendolyn@gwendolynkiste.com, and I would be thrilled to send you a copy of And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe!

Good luck to everyone on the preliminary ballot! It’s an amazing roster of authors, and I’m so incredibly honored to be among so many horror creators that I admire!

Happy reading!

A Brand New Writing Start: Submission Roundup for January 2018

Welcome back for our first Submission Roundup in 2018! Lots of amazing submission calls this month, so if you’ve got a story seeking a home, perhaps one of these will be the perfect fit!

As always, I’m not a representative for any of these markets; I’m merely spreading the word! That means if you have questions, please direct them to the respective publications.

And with that, onward with this month’s Submission Roundup!

Submission Roundup

Enchanted Conversation
Payment: $30/flat for fiction; $10/flat for poetry
Length: 700-2,500 words for fiction; no word limit for poetry
Deadline: January 20th, 2018
What They Want: February’s theme is Un reve d’amour (A Dream of Love). Submissions should focus on love in a fairy tale or folkloric setting. Re-tellings or original stories welcome, as are experimental or traditional approaches.
Find the details here.

FIYAH
Payment: $150/flat for short fiction; $300/flat for novelettes; $50/flat for poetry
Length: 2,000 to 7,000 words for short fiction; up to 15,000 words for novelettes
Deadline: January 31st, 2018
What They Want: Open to speculative fiction from authors from the African continent and diaspora. The upcoming issue’s theme is Big Mama Nature, and stories should focus on nature/climate fiction.
Find the details here.

Apex Publications
Payment: Advance and standard royalty terms
Length: 30,000-40,000 words for novellas; up to 120,000 words for novels
Deadline: January 31st, 2018
What They Want: Open to novella and novel submissions. Genre should be dark science fiction, dark fantasy, or horror.
Find the details here.

Nightscript
Payment: $20/flat
Length: 2,000-7,000 words
Deadline: January 31st, 2018
What They Want: Open to strange tales in the vein of Shirley Jackson, Flannery O’Connor, Robert Aickman, Arthur Machen, and more.
Find the details here.

Unnerving
Payment: .01/word
Length: 400-4,000 words (under 2,000 words preferred)
Deadline: February 15th, 2018
What They Want: Open to horror fiction as well as dark science fiction, dark fantasy, thriller and crime fiction.
Find the details here.

Pantheon Magazine
Payment: .06/word for original fiction; .03/word for reprints
Length: up to 2,000 words with a preference for stories around 1,000 words
Deadline: March 31st, 2018
What They Want: Pantheon Magazine has just opened up submissions for their Gorgon issue. Open to weird, dark fiction, slipstream, magic realism, and horror based on the theme.
Find the details here.

Kaleidotrope
Payment: .01/word for fiction and nonfiction; $5/flat for poetry
Length: No specific word count, though fiction will sell best if it falls between 250 to 10,000 words
Deadline: April 1st, 2018
What They Want: Kaleidotrope has just opened again to submissions. The editor is seeking well-written speculative fiction and poetry.
Find the details here.

Happy submitting!

Lawful Chaos: Interview with Gordon B. White

Welcome back to our last author interview of 2017! This week, I’m pleased to featured the talented Gordon B. White. Gordon is the author of numerous works of short fiction, and his stories have appeared in Nightscript II, Borderlands 6, and A Breath from the Sky, among other publications. In addition to his fiction writing, he is also an interviewer, including his popular Deep Cuts series at Hell Notes.

Recently, Gordon and I discussed his inspiration as an author, his recent time at Clarion, and what he has planned for the future.

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

Gordon B. WhiteWhile I can’t remember when I first wanted to be a writer, I can remember the brief period when I didn’t. I was one of those kids who loves to read – when I was in elementary school, if I couldn’t fall asleep at night by the time my parents went to bed, my mom would let me turn the light back on and read to myself. So of course I would force myself to stay up late, just so that I could read more.

I wrote all the time in school. I remember being bored in my middle school science class and instead of taking notes on chemical equations, I would write scenes of knights and orcs dueling under purple skies. Even into college, I wrote for fun (and wrote poetry for girls) and took creative writing classes and really liked it. For some reason, though, I decided that I was going to push back against everyone’s expectation that I’d be an English major and instead began a period in the wilderness of other social sciences.

By the time I went to law school, I had convinced myself that I should give up on creative writing. That lasted for a few years. Then, during grad school, my father died and all that grief came out in poetry and stories (you can still see it in some of my recent work, like last year’s “As Summer’s Mask Slips”). I couldn’t deny it any more. So I took the work ethic and discipline I’d developed in grad school, using it to write more seriously and research markets. Now here I am.

As for favorite authors, I feel like that’s a loaded question. For every one I name, I’ll be sure to have left a dozen off, greatly offending anyone who is still alive, as well as the estates of the dead. The last thing I want is angry Facebook friends and hungry ghosts on my case.

What in particular draws you to speculative literature? Do you remember the first speculative story you read or film you saw growing up?

I think there are two things that draw me to speculative fiction: First, I love speculative fiction’s ability to dramatize and externalize human emotions and conflicts. There’s so much poetic and metaphoric potential in the speculative, which makes it not only a useful tool, but also a thoroughly entertaining one to employ. By using speculative elements to create implausible situations, writers and readers can then explore thoroughly realistic and cathartic reactions within those confines. I see speculative fiction on a continuum with mythology and religion when it comes to exploring human relationships and conflicts (although speculative fiction is usually less dogmatic about explaining the “why” of things).

Second, I employ speculative elements in my own writing because I feel that I lack the authority to presume to speak for other human beings, yet I desperately want to understand them. By using speculative elements, I can shift reality enough that I’m still digging into human characters acting in real ways, but by being one step off from true, I’m more comfortable with taking that liberty. As an example, while I have anxiety over something like the demands of being a parent, since I’m not one, I don’t feel qualified to really dig those elements out in a realistic “literary” context. Of course, I can write a story about adopting an alien baby or finding a wolf-child in the woods and, with that little bit of a change, allow myself the freedom to explore.

As to my first exposure to the speculative, I grew up with a mix of fairytales, ghost stories, and too many books, so I was awash in it from the very beginning. My memory is also a bit spotty from my misspent early twenties, so, unfortunately, I cannot recall.

You’re a recent Clarion West graduate. First off, congratulations on such a huge achievement! What was the most surprising part of the experience, and any kernels of wisdom you’d like to share with the rest of us?

To me, the most surprising part was that the camaraderie with my cohorts ended up being just as, if not more, important than the instructional aspects. I learned a ton about writing, really honed in on my particular strengths and weaknesses, and stepped up my writing discipline, but going through the experience with fifteen other writers at the same time was amazing. Despite having lots of online social connections with others, the ability to talk and brainstorm and commiserate and argue with my classmates in person was fantastic. I love and miss them all.

As far as kernels of wisdom go, I’d be here for the next week trying to type out my notes if I was going to offer technical advice, but the thing that sticks with me the most is that each of us has to come up with our own definition of success. There’s no one way to be a writer or to have a writing career, and so being overly concerned with comparing your process and your position and your achievements with others can put you on a never-ending Ladder of Sadness. That, and that the only predictor of “success” is persistence.

In addition to your fiction writing, you’re also an interviewer at Hellnotes. What inspired you to start interviewing authors, and how if at all has the process shaped your own writing?

NightscriptI got started doing this back around the time I started writing seriously again and have done a few dozen since then (I have an archive on my site here). I think I saw a Facebook post or an email looking for people to do interviews and I thought it would be a good way to meet authors writing the kinds of things I wanted to write and, if possible, steal their mojo. The mojo-stealing hasn’t quite worked out, but I’ve been very pleased to be able to run into former interviewees at conventions and use our prior discussions as an icebreaker.

I started off doing mostly promotional interviews for people with new books or other projects, but Hellnotes has been kind enough to allow me to do my own feature series called Deep Cuts. In those interviews, I select an author who I admire and think is doing really interesting work, and then we do an in-depth spoiler-filled discussion on one of their free-to-read online stories. I love digging into all the “deep” aspects of a story – structural choices, themes, influences, symbolism, conversations with other works – so I really like sharing my reading of a story with the authors in order to have as much of a dialogue as the format allows.

In doing these, the process of closely reading (and re-reading and re-re-reading) has helped me become more attentive when revising my own work. Part of the process is asking myself, “Why is this story worth telling? What is it attempting to do other than merely existing?” Moreover, it’s shown me that sometimes symbols are unintentional, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. They may have been unconsciously inserted by the author or they may exist only in the reader’s eye, but they’re there and they influence the reading. This has made me more attentive to the possible interpretations of things I write, and – although I like some ambiguity – I try to write in a way that guides readers away from potentially distracting unintended interpretations.

Also, I’ve recently become an interviewer over at Lightspeed Magazine, too! I do Author Spotlight interviews for them where I try to do the same kind of questions as in Deep Cuts.

What is your favorite part of the writing process: establishing setting, crafting characters, or writing dialogue?

Of those three, I think it’s probably establishing setting, but that’s an offshoot of how my mind works. I love prose. I’m familiar with the adage that “Story is everything” and greatly envy people who can craft a compelling story with clean, unobtrusive prose, but I have no desire to do that. I love the flow of sounds, the shape of letters on the page. I love poetry and lyrics and rhythm and vocabulary, so all of that is usually at the forefront of my mind when I’m working on a project that really draws me in. Because of that, I typically start with either a speculative premise or a bit of description in prose that I really like, and then I use all my tools to build up the setting using that. In doing so, I can do extra work on building themes and tone and other stuff by hiding them in the backdrop of the setting.

Part of my preference, though, stems from the fact that I don’t have a very vivid visual imagination. I’m not completely aphantasiac, but most of what I visualize is hazy and usually only very isolated details. My drafts sometimes get the “white room” critique, but that’s because that’s how I see things in my mind. However, while I struggle with visualizing settings to translate them into descriptions, I am much more in-tune with assemblages of words and the sort of emotional effects and totality of feeling that they cumulatively elicit from a reader. That’s why neither invisible prose nor visually lush prose speaks very much to me; I need the sizzle and the slam because I feel words more than see sights. As a result, I really like the wide-open area that playing with setting allows.

That’s not to say that I don’t like crafting characters or writing dialogue, it’s just that unless one of those elements is the guiding impetus of a particular story, I tend to let them fall by the wayside a bit. It’s not that I avoid them, I just kind of . . . forget about them . . . and let “good enough” slip through. I’m working on it, though!

Oh, and since I started off by saying “of those three” before making a choice, I’ll let you in on a secret: My absolute favorite part of writing is revision. My mighty struggle as a writer is always to finish first drafts, but when the whetstone comes out, I’m ready to hone.

Out of your published work, do you have a personal favorite?

I have a sentimental spot for “Hair Shirt Drag,” which I consider my first “real” publication. It’s the story of a gender nonconforming witch in the rural South and a special coming of age ritual, as informed by RuPaul’s Drag Race. The protagonist in that story is still my favorite character that I’ve ever written. (Hair Shirt Drag first appeared in Sekhmet Press’s Wrapped in Black: 13 Tales of Witches and the Occult, and is reprinted in the charity anthology We Are Not This: Carolina Writers for Equality, as well as a forthcoming audiocast from Tales to Terrify).

I also really like “The Albatrossity Exhibition, or Why I Want to Fuck the Ancient Mariner” which appeared in Milkfist Issue 1. It’s a J.G. Ballard/Samuel Taylor Coleridge mash-up retelling of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” in alternatively supernatural and hyper-realistic detail, employing one of my most deliberately non-traditional structures and some of my favorite prose.

What projects are you currently working on?

Well, I’m using NaNoWriMo as an impetus to draft a first (trunk) novel about rural small town intrigue and ancestral memory set in an alternate 1990s where magical plants grow from people’s graves. I doubt it will ever see the light of day, but I’ve never tackled a project of novel length and I’m finding it alternatingly wonderful and horrible, so I’m okay with doing my practice behind the woodshed. While I love revision but sometimes struggle with pushing through those rough spots between beginning and end, the NaNoWriMo accountability is very helpful. I know some people dislike NaNoWriMo’s emphasis on word count, but I find that having daily goals fits in very well with my normal writing process. I definitely prefer to get a first draft down as quickly as possible and then spend my time restructuring, rewriting, and (eventually) polishing, so having to hit a certain number of words each day pushes me to get the story down bit by bit.

Other than that, I have some inchoate projects that I’m sure I’ll jinx by discussing, but here goes: A fragmented cosmic horror story involving cave paintings, but told in the form of static panels and non-narrative background information; research (fiction and nonfiction) for a Weird West legal thriller idea; background reading for something involving capital-F Fate in the mold of Greek tragedies; and some sci-fi flash pieces revolving around cyborg art and fashion.

Where can we find you online?

I recently had to do a bit of re-branding by incorporating my middle initial into things, as there is another Gordon White who is very active in chaos magick and other esoteric areas. As a result, things being published since August 2017 are under “Gordon B. White” and so is most of my web presence.

My website is at www.gordonbwhite.com and I hope to start getting it spiffed up soon, although it currently redirects to my original website (www.grizzlyspectacles.com) where you can find links to all my publications and interviews. I’m also on Twitter as @gordonbwhite and on Facebook.

Huge thanks to Gordon B. White for being part of this week’s author interview series!

Happy reading!

Lilies in Bloom: Interview with Vanessa Fogg

Welcome back! This week’s featured writer is the amazing Vanessa Fogg. Vanessa is the author of The Lilies of Dawn, a fantasy novelette from Annorlunda Books. In addition, her short fiction has appeared widely in outlets including GigaNotoSaurus, The Future Fire, Mythic Delirium, and Luna Station Quarterly, among others.

Recently, Vanessa and I discussed her inspiration as an author as well as what she hopes to see for the future of the fantasy genre.

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

Vanessa FoggI was one of those kids who was writing, always making up stories; I remember stapling pages together to make “books.” I wrote throughout my childhood and adolescence—short stories, sketches, and wretched poetry. In college, I even minored in creative writing. But I majored in biology, which was another love. After college I took a long break from creative writing as I concentrated on trying to build a scientific research career. I only slowly made my way back into writing, after more than a decade away. I started off submitting a little bit here and there to literary journals. In 2013 I left the laboratory bench for good, and decided to finally take my writing seriously.

Early writing influences: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series, Ursula LeGuin, Patricia McKillip. Current authors and works I love: Lev Grossman’s The Magicians trilogy; Sofia Samatar’s Olondria novels and everything else she writes, everything. Ken Liu. Carmen Maria Machado. Aliette de Bodard. Short fiction by Alyssa Wong and Isabel Yap. I could keep going forever.

Your novelette, The Lilies of Dawn, which was released last year through Annorlunda Books, is such a beautiful work of fantasy. What was the inspiration for the book, and what was your process as you were writing it?

Thank you for your kind words!

The Lilies of DawnThis story grew from a single image: a girl standing in her boat on a lake of blooming lotus flowers, staring up at a flock of cranes.

Where did this image come from? Two different sparks. The first one: this travel article about a beautiful lotus flower-covered lake in northeast Thailand. The second spark: a crane sanctuary that my family and I stumbled upon while visiting the Wisconsin Dells. I’d never seen crowned cranes up close before.

The central image came to me, and then I had to work slowly to understand what it meant and to unfold the plot.

As for my process? A lot of brainstorming and mulling of ideas before ever setting anything to paper (or Word document, as it were). I usually need at least the basic plot points and ending set in my mind before I can begin writing. The writing itself is slow, for I often revise as I write. I usually know where the story is going, broadly speaking, but the unexpected twists and details along the way make the journey all the more fun.

You have written both short fiction as well as longer works. Do you find that your process differs depending on the length of the story?

Not really. I suspect my typical Outline-Only-in-my-Head-and-Revise-as-I-Go method would not fly for a novel, but I’ve yet to attempt a novel. I think novel-writing would probably kill me. But as the saying goes: never say never.

In addition to your fiction writing, you also review fiction on your site, It’s a Jumble. What inspired you to start reviewing, and how, if at all, has it affected your own fiction writing?

I’m gratified to see my reviews getting more attention of late. When I wrote those first reviews, I don’t think anyone was even reading. I wrote them for myself, and for the off chance that someone might stumble upon them and be inspired to read the linked story or book. I wrote on the off chance that the author of a story might stumble upon that review and know that someone loved their work. But at the beginning it was really for me. There is a pleasure in analyzing a book or story and trying to figure out what makes it work. Trying to articulate what I loved about it, and why. My short story recommendations tend to consist only of short summaries (because I don’t want spoilers for such short works), but I’ve written more extended analyses for some books. Now that I know that people actually are reading these posts—well, that’s a big motivator now, too! I just want to boost the stories I love, and metaphorically grab others by the shoulders and say, “Read this!”

As for how reviewing has affected my own fiction writing? I can’t point to anything specific, but I am sure it has helped me. To critically review something is to pay attention to it—real attention. It means looking at craftsmanship, at how the story is put together and how it has its effect. That attention to others’ writing can only help my own writing (or so I would think!).

Fantasy is a constantly evolving genre. As a writer whose work is mostly in the realm of fantasy, where do you see the genre going over the next ten to twenty years? What would you like to see more of? Conversely, what would you like to see less of in fantasy?

Oh, what a question. The future is often unpredictable (as this last year of geopolitics has driven home). But there are certainly trend lines, many of which I’ve found hopeful for fantasy publishing if not elsewhere. Literary forms are always evolving, and in speculative fiction I think there’s always been a particular hunger for the new. And what I’ve been seeing the last few years is an impressive influx of talented new voices representing new backgrounds and perspectives that were not represented well before. Tolkien basically established medieval European-based epic fantasy as a genre. I think Tolkien-esque fantasy is still popular, but we are now seeing more and more books and stories exploring fantasy worlds based on other myths and cultures—African, Asian, Central American and South American, and more. We’re seeing these new perspectives, these global voices, extended into urban fantasy and other fantasy modes as well. No one can stop the increasing globalization of our world, and I for one think it’s great to find writers from Singapore, Malaysia, Nigeria, India, and more in the pages of my favorite journals. And of course, there are the many Western-born and-based writers who have cultural connections to non-European cultures and draw literary inspiration from them–of which I am one.

Another trend I notice is the increasing overlap between “literary” writing and “fantasy” writing. I always thought it was a false dichotomy, but the boundaries between the two seem more porous these days, and I know of writers who are publishing in both prestigious literary journals and prestigious genre magazines. I see “experimental” literary techniques appearing in genre work. Style and technique are always evolving, of course. I’m very interested in seeing how these techniques will change fantasy writing. As an example, Sofia Samatar and Carmen Maria Machado are very different writers, but I think they both bring what many would term a certain “literary” feel (though very different “literary” feels!) to their works.

I think overall that fantasy publishing is becoming more accepting of different voices, styles, and stories. I think that can only be a good thing. I think American publishing is becoming more open to voices right here in America which were not well-represented before, and I think that is a very good thing.

Stories are always reflective of the real time and place of their authors—even when they’re fantasies of dragons and spaceships. The political upheaval of this time is certainly going to be reflected in the stories told now. I don’t think we’ll fully appreciate how until much later.

As for what I want to see more of? What I want to see less of? I want to see more good stories. That’s it. Stories of all kinds, stories of all types of people, stories told in mind-bendingly innovative ways as well as more traditionally-told narratives that still delight and break my heart. I want to see fewer boring, cliched, badly written stories. I want stories that surprise and dazzle and move me. That’s all.

What is your favorite part of the writing process: outlining new ideas, crafting a first draft, or polishing an almost finished piece?

This differs for each piece. There have been stories where I loved revising, and it was my favorite part. There have been stories where revisions were painful and like pulling teeth. There were first drafts that went down easy and first drafts that were hard (usually the latter). I will say that background research is most consistently fun. To the extent that research often becomes a procrastination tool against actual writing.

Out of your own published work, do you have a favorite piece?

The Lilies of Dawn is one of my favorites. But I will also always have a soft spot for another fantasy novelette I published, “Between Sea and Shore” which appeared in GigaNotoSaurus in 2014. This was the first story I wrote after leaving academic science and deciding to finally get serious about fiction writing. I still think it’s one of my best in terms of character development and emotional complexity—there are things you can do at novelette length that you simply can’t achieve at shorter wordcounts. Like Lilies, “Between Sea and Shore” is set in a secondary world which draws inspiration from Southeast Asia, and like Lilies it draws on themes of family, duty, and belonging. There are ways in which I think Lilies and “Between Sea and Shore” are in conversation with each other. Although I guess you can say that an author’s works are always in conversation with one another, at some level.

What projects are you currently working on?

Ooh, I hate talking about works-in-progress because I always think I’ll jinx them! Um, I’m doing some background research for a dark fantasy that might just veer into horror.

Huge thanks to Vanessa Fogg for being this week’s featured author! Find her online at her author site as well as on Twitter and Goodreads.

Happy reading!