Monthly Archives: February 2016

Feathers, Friendship, and Skulls: The Story Behind “Baby Bird”

February is rapidly slipping away, and what a month it’s been! A great Women in Horror Month to be sure, in which I met lots of new creators in the genre. If you haven’t been keeping up with all the great goings-on, I definitely recommend catching some of the final horror-laden events.

Before the month evaporates entirely, let’s talk a little about fiction. I am a fiction writer after all! Earlier this month, I was thrilled to see my story, “Baby Bird,” debut at Triptych Tales, a fantastic website that focuses on a broad range of speculative literature.

Like my tale, “Something Borrowed, Something Blue,” that appeared in the fall at Three-Lobed Burning Eye, “Baby Bird” delves into avian body horror. It’s strange how cyclic creativity can be. 2015 was definitely a birds sort of year for me. There was even a third bird story that never reached the light of day (c’est la vie, unfinished projects!). However, the similarities between this story and “Something Borrowed, Something Blue” pretty much end there. “Baby Bird” is much more of a coming-of-age tale with some darkly fantastic twists. This story follows two outcasts named Calla and Rhee as they forge an unlikely friendship in an unwelcoming small town.

The inspiration for “Baby Bird” was simple enough: my husband surprised me with a bird skull necklace (all pewter bones, so no actual birds were harmed in the making of this story). It was such a fun gift and an unusual one too that I immediately knew I had to write a story about it.

While this tale definitely has some grisly elements, the process behind “Baby Bird” was a joyous and straightforward one. I started the first draft back in early December, and the story was finished and ready for submission less than two weeks later, about four days before Christmas.

Accompanying the story on the Triptych Tales site is an incredible original illustration by Wendy Quirt. Wendy is a nature illustrator, and she uses the bird skull mentioned in the opening line as the focal point of her wonderfully simple artwork. It’s exciting enough to be published, but to also get an original piece of artwork just really puts the experience over the top.

So if you dig offbeat tales of friendship—that spotlight a healthy dose of the macabre—then head on over to Triptych Tales and catch my tale, “Baby Bird.” Calla and Rhee will thank you.

Happy reading!

Mysterious and Horrific: Interview with Sarah E. Glenn

Welcome back to our final Women in Horror spotlight of 2016! My, how February went too fast!

Women in Horror Month 7Today, I am super excited to present editor and writer Sarah E. Glenn. With her wife, Gwen Mayo, Sarah is the purveyor of Mystery and Horror LLC, a fantastic small press that recently received two nominations for the Agatha Award! In addition to her editing, Sarah is also an accomplished author in her own right with stories in State of Horror: Louisiana and Fish Tales: The Guppy Anthology.

Sarah and I recently discussed the genesis of Mystery and Horror, LLC as well as the trajectory of Sarah’s fantastic fiction writing career.

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

Sarah GlennI knew I wanted to be a writer when I was still in elementary school. I loved to read, and couldn’t imagine anything nobler than creating stories like the ones I enjoyed. Now that I’m older, I have a greater appreciation for the other people who helped bring those wonderful books into being.

Favorite authors: I know this sounds corny, but I enjoy Stephen King. I started with Carrie when I was eleven. Anne Perry and Louise Penny are also favorites due to the depth of their characters and plots. I loved the Chris Claremont era of the X-Men, and, later, the Neil Gaiman Sandman tales;  as a teen, I had a burning desire to work for Marvel Comics.

Then, there’s Robin Cook. His best books explore current issues in medicine, like the impact of genetic research on who may and may not be able to buy health insurance. Lately, he’s taken on nanomedicine. Very technical stuff, but he presents it so it makes sense.

What inspired you and Gwen Mayo to start your own small press? What’s been the most surprising part so far about running Mystery and Horror, LLC?

I’ll take ‘Indie Press Folds’ for $300, Alex. Our first novels were published by Pill Hill Press, a great small press that frequently published stories that were nontraditional even by speculative fiction standards. The owners’ family expanded, and they decided to close the press for the time being. I hope Pill Hill resurfaces – they had a good crew of authors on their forums and took suggestions for anthologies.

Gwen and I were sorry to see it go, and we decided to open our own press. We could have taken the self-publishing route, I suppose, but we really wanted to work with other writers, too. Some of the Pill Hill authors came over and submitted stories to us; Monstermatt Patterson, who had published Monstermatt’s Bad Monster Jokes with Pill Hill, has done two collections with us.

What surprises me the most is how genuinely nice most writers are. There’s a stereotype of the author who takes herself too seriously, and some of those do exist, but most of the people I’ve encountered are friendly, generous, and funny. I think I’ve found my people at last.

History and Mystery, Oh My!When you’re reading through submissions, is there something specific you’re looking for in a story? Also, do you have a preference for character-driven stories or plot-driven stories?

A good idea is what snags my interest. The idea can simply be an interesting situation (a toothless vampire, e.g.), but I also love a whodunit where the reader gets a chance to identify the killer. If you want me to follow a series, though, you need to have good characters.

How do you balance your work as an editor with your work as a writer? Is it ever difficult to make time for both?

I work full time, plus I have a long commute. Yes, it is difficult to make time. I come home during the week and just want to crash. Some people stand on their feet all day; I stand on my brain. I try to be constructive, though, and right now, editing is winning.

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

I’d have to say I’m especially pleased with the short story “Caldera of Trouble”. I’ve been to the island of Santorini, and I worked hard to capture its beauty and eeriness in words. I also drew my information on the vrykolakas from scholarly works, rather than pop culture. It was a pleasure to write. It’s still available on Amazon under my name.

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

Gwen and I have been working on a novel featuring two retired nurses from World War I. It’s called Murder on the Mullet Express, and it should come out later this year. I hope, in five years, that we’ll have a sequel published or in the works. I plan to reissue my first novel, All This and Family, Too, with revisions. I also have a separate novel I’d like to finish and publish, one that is darker than my usual material, but I’ve already entered Fantasyland in this paragraph.

As an editor: I want to publish more anthologies with interesting themes, including a Best of Strangely Funny book. I’m dealing with the fourth collection now; I don’t think that’s unreasonable. Gwen and I want to grow the press and publish more award-winning books; we’ve been fortunate with the authors we’ve chosen so far.

Big thanks to Sarah E. Glenn for being part of this week’s author interview series! Find out more about Mystery and Horror, LLC on its official site, and pick up a copy of Sarah’s story, Caldera of Trouble, on Amazon.

Happy reading!

Horror Luminary: Interview with Sumiko Saulson

Welcome back! For our third interview for Women in Horror Month, I’m thrilled to present Sumiko Saulson! Sumiko is the scribe of Solitude, Happiness and Other Diseases, The Moon Cried Blood saga, and many other fantastic titles. In addition to being an incredibly accomplished author in her own right, Sumiko is also a huge supporter of her fellow writers. In 2014, she compiled 60 Black Women in Horror Fiction, an invaluable nonfiction resource that features interviews, short stories, and biographies spotlighting some of the very best names in horror.

Recently, Sumiko and I discussed her lifelong love of speculative fiction as well as her plans this February to celebrate both Women in Horror and Black History Month.

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

I decided I wanted to write when I was very young. I was an early reader – I was three when I started to read. When I was five, my father asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I said a writer, an artist, or a veterinarian. I was writing poetry for money by the time I was in third grade. They were short poems for the inside of custom greeting cards and wedding invitations. I was on my high school newspaper. I got my first job as a writer when I was nineteen, writing for a computer magazine called The Node and its sister music publication, RockHEAD. They were local free newspapers in San Francisco.

Some of my favorite writers are Anne Rice, Christopher Rice, Stephen King., Toni Morrison, Frank Herbert, L.A. Banks, Susan Cooper, Dean Koontz, C.S. Lewis, Peter Straub, and Edgar Allan Poe.

Women in Horror Month 7What in particular drew you into the speculative fiction world? Have you always been a fan, or did your love for horror, science fiction, and fantasy develop later?

I’ve always been a fan. My parents were fans, so I started reading and watching sci-fi, horror, and fantasy at an early age – and particularly, horror and science fiction. My father subscribed to Issac Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine and I read the short stories when I was ten years old. The first novel I read was my mom’s copy of Peter Straub’s Ghost Story. I was in fifth grade. By the time I was twelve, I was reading things like Frank Herbert’s Dune and Stephen King’s The Stand

You’ve been an ambassador for Women in Horror Month in the past. Do you have anything special planned for the 2016 event?

I don’t have anything special planned for WiHM yet this year, but I am doing something special for February: I am hosting a month of African American horror blogs over at HorrorAddicts.net in honor of Black History Month. Many of the writers are black female writers I met when I was putting together 60 Black Women in Horror for WiHM back in 2012 and 2013, but the bloggers are not exclusively women. We have a lot of male speculative fiction writers involved as well.

Things that Go Bump in My HeadYou’ve written both novels and short fiction. How is your process similar (or different) depending on the length of the work?

I write character sketches and plot notes for novels. I never find that necessary for short fiction. I can outline the plot for a short story from beginning to end in my mind, and don’t have to spend much time making sure that the details don’t get away from me, or become convoluted. Sometimes I can get so confused when writing a novel that it seems almost impossible to finish it. I’m there over and over again with the sequel to Solitude, my first novel. It is called Disillusionment. I get so confused about details pertaining to timelines (since this deals with alternate timelines) that I have to go back and re-write things. I hate to re-write in the middle of a first draft. That’s almost never necessary with a short story.

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

Happiness and Other Diseases is my favorite. It’s the first romance I ever wrote. I didn’t think I would want to write anything remotely resembling a love story – not even one that takes place in a dark fantasy world, like Happiness does. I really fell in love with the characters. It’s also the first book I wrote a sequel to. I became very inspired when writing that book. It’s also one of the fan favorites, along with “Warmth.”

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

I would like to make a lot more money as a writer. It would be ideal to be able to support myself through writing within the next five years. I have that as a goal.

Big thanks to Sumiko Saulson for being part of this week’s Women in Horror author interview series! Find her online at her author website!

Happy reading!

The Deadly Mantid: Interview with Farah Rose Smith

Welcome back to our second interview for Women in Horror Month! This week, I’m proud to present Farah Rose Smith. Farah is the editor of Mantid Magazine, a brand new horror and dark fantasy publication that encourages diversity in weird fiction. The first issue premiered last month and includes stories by Sean M. Thompson, Brian Barr, Scarlett R. Algee, Joe Baumann, and yours truly.

Recently, Farah and I discussed the auspicious debut of Mantid Magazine as well as where she sees her editing and writing career headed from here.

A couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become involved in the publishing world, and who are some of your favorite authors?

Women in Horror Month 7I’ve been writing in one form or another since childhood (initially for joy more than any kind of career pursuit), but quickly became disenchanted with the “business” of writing once I shifted gears towards pursuing it professionally. Traditional publication is something we all aspire to, but there is a sense that an element of the “art” of writing has been left behind in the very commercial-oriented publishing markets. So this past year, with a great team by my side, I decided to jump in head-first and try to make some new things happen.

On a personal note, there are so many authors that I love, I’d have difficulty naming only a few. Those in the top tier would be E.T.A. Hoffmann, Maurice Maeterlinck, Gabriel García Márquez, Frank Herbert, H.P. Lovecraft, Walter Tevis, Anya Seton, Phillip K. Dick, Vladimir Nabokov, Ambrose Bierce, and Algernon Blackwood.

What inspired you to launch Mantid Magazine? Where would you like to see the magazine in five years?

I’ve stumbled around various arts and literary communities for years. Consistently aggravated with what I considered to be detrimental undercurrents that created a less-than-welcoming environment for unsung artists, writers, and different people in general, I consulted with various acquaintances and we began to develop the concept for this publication. Though opportunities are better than they once were for diverse media creators, they are nowhere near where they should be. We want to help change that.

Mantid Magazine LogoIt has been our hope to offer a platform that could begin to bridge the cultural gaps that still have yet to be addressed in full across various artistic mediums.

To truly fulfill our mission to the best of our ability, first and foremost, it is important that we elevate Mantid enough so that we can make it a paying publication. That is an immediate goal. In five years, we would definitely like to be generous with what we offer to our contributors. Ideally the production would evolve from its current state into more of a committee-structure in order to address the needs and perspectives of everyone we hope to forge a community with. Ultimately, we hope to serve as a platform for both current and emerging artists and writers on a notable scale.

Something we would also like to develop are Mantid Magazine-oriented events that benefit both the evolution of the magazine, its contributors, and various causes that align with our philosophy.

As one of the first authors published in Mantid Magazine, I might be a little biased, but I have to say this: the web design and debut cover for the magazine look fantastic! Too often, poor design is something that holds back publications in their early stages, but Mantid does not have that problem at all. Do you do all the graphic work yourself, or do you collaborate with others on it?

Thank you so much! The border illustrations were done by Lev Earle, our contributing editor and literary consultant. The model on the cover is Alex Janny, a film editor currently living in Los Angeles. I photographed the cover and managed the remainder of the design work for this issue. We have aspirations regarding the expansion of internal illustrations, so that will hopefully be something that will flourish once we gather adequate funding for further issues.

As someone very active in the publishing world, what tips can you share for balancing schedules and making time for editing and writing?

Mantid Issue 1I wouldn’t call myself very active in publishing yet, although I certainly hope that is the eventuality. I struggle with time management, as most do, especially working across several different mediums and trying to manage multiple sizable projects at once. Rotating blocks of work time and breaks keeps productivity going for me, as does establishing a set of six to eight tasks per day with either hourly or word count goals attached. I’m still trying to fine-tune that process, but I think the structuring of time management is something that ebbs and flows. There’s no concrete path to sanity when it comes to conquering time. And some days I don’t get a thing done. People need to know that it’s ok to utterly fail sometimes!

February is Women in Horror Month. Do you have anything special planned for the month?

I’m currently brainstorming a few ways that we can celebrate Women in Horror month at Mantid, although we don’t have any official plans. Regarding my personal plans, I’ll be spreading the word/bringing news of Mantid Magazine to the Boskone literary convention in Boston, although not in an official capacity. Ultimately, it will be a month of catching up with the novels and collections I have sitting in my to-read pile.

What projects do you have coming down the pipeline?

After a break, the Mantid team will be shifting gears and starting to plan the fundraising campaign for our next issue. As for my own personal projects, I will be self-publishing a collection in early Summer with a novel to follow soon after. I think people tend to either love or hate the idea of self-publishing, but I’ve always been a fan. There are some brilliant collections out there now, particularly in the weird fiction genre, that were self-published. I think it’s good to encourage people to forge their own path, especially if they keep running up against brick walls.

Big thanks to Farah Rose Smith for being part of this week’s author interview series! Find her online at her personal site, and be sure to check out the debut issue of Mantid Magazine available now!

Happy reading!

Arachnophobia: Interview with Betty Rocksteady

Welcome to our first interview of February! As you might already know, it’s Women in Horror Month! That means for the next four weeks, I’ll be featuring some awesome spotlights on those morbid females like me who like our genre blood and guts-filled.

Women in Horror Month 7For our kickoff interview for Women in Horror Month, I’m pleased to present author and artist Betty Rocksteady. I first discovered Betty’s work through her illustrations at Theme of Absence. She created an incredible black and white image for my story, “One Wish for the Wishing Well.” That’s when I went down the rabbit hole and learned about her other illustration work as well as her illustrious career as a fiction writer.

Recently, she and I discussed favorite authors and artists as well as her recently released novella, Arachnophile.

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

Betty RocksteadyI decided to be a writer when I was about 6 or 7 years old. I was an avid reader and I wanted to be the youngest published author, but I could never seem to finish anything. I had quite a few stops and starts with writing over the years since then but never really took it seriously. When I started approaching 30, I realized it was up to me to make it happen. For a long time I believed I wasn’t a writer because it didn’t come as naturally as I wanted it to, but then I realized it was a skill like anything else and if I was willing to be bad at it for a while, I could end up being pretty good at it. So I wrote a story a week for a year or so, and read a ton of books on writing, and took some workshops, and things are starting to come together for me! I’m really proud of how far I’ve already come.

I read a lot of horror, and Stephen King has been my favorite since I was around 12. I still read everything he writes. I also like the usuals – Clive Barker, Joe Hill, Jack Ketchum, John Wyndham, Richard Matheson. Ira Levin, Nick Cutter. Mo Hayder writes some really really weird crime fiction. Lately I’m into Kealan Patrick Burke, Max Booth, C.V. Hunt… Oh god, this is a huge list.

My favorite artists are Edward Gorey, Virgil Finlay, Sam Keith. I like pen and ink illustrations and weird comic book art.

You are both a visual artist and a fiction writer. Is your approach different when creating a story versus creating a sketch or a visual piece? Do you often illustrate your own stories?

I’ve illustrated a couple of my own stories, and I also do illustrations for other people’s fiction monthly on Theme of Absence. Drawing and writing are actually more similar in process than I realized until you asked! Usually they both start with a seed of an idea that I chew on for a few days, turning it over in my mind. Eventually I progress to sketching/brainstorming on paper. When I’m writing, I like to know where I’m going and how I’m getting there. I always know beginning middle and end when I start, but sometimes it goes differently than I expected once I start pounding the rough draft out. Drawings start rough and loose and get tightened up with each stage of drawing.

Your sideshow poster art is incredible! A fantastic combination of the vintage and the macabre! Have you ever daydreamed of joining a sideshow, and if so, what would your special performance talent be?

Thanks! I love sideshow lore and I used to read a lot about it. If I were in a sideshow I would be some sort of cat trainer. Or a fortune teller. Or I would combine the two and train cats to help me tell fortunes.

ArachnophileYour recent novella, Arachnophile, involves a man who becomes romantically entangled with a spider. Tell me a little about the inception of this story.

I was invited to submit something for the New Bizarro Author Series, and my editor, Garrett Cook helped me brainstorm some pitches and we tossed ideas back and forth. The one he liked best was one that I wasn’t all that sold on, but he encouraged it into fruition and a lot of strange and unexpected things happened. I’ve always been really creeped out by spiders, much like the protagonist of this book. Things sort of changed as I researched and wrote it though… also like my protagonist, although not quite to the same extent! The whole book has a warped Eraserhead vibe to it, and it plays on a lot of my personal fears and disgusts, and I’m really happy with how personal and strange it ended up being.

You’ve written short fiction and now novella-length fiction. Any plans for writing a novel in the near future?

I would love to write a novel some day. I have another novella I’m finishing edits on now, and it’s really terrifying. I’m also working on some more short fiction. A novel is definitely going to happen, but I’m not sure whether it will be sooner or later. Once an idea comes that needs a novel to breathe in, that’s when it will happen.

Out of your published works, visual or fiction, do you have a favorite?

I’m really proud of Arachnophile. I have a brand new story called These New Appetites in F*cked up Fairy Tales Volume 1 that has some of my favorite characters I’ve ever worked with. It’s an unsettling story of when girl meets wolf.

Big thanks to Betty Rocksteady for being part of this week’s author interview series. Find her online, and be sure to check out the official Women in Horror page for ways you can get involved this wonderfully bloody February!

Happy reading!