Monthly Archives: October 2018

Cover Art and the Future of Horror: Part Two of Our October Author Interview Series

Welcome back for part two in our October Author Interview series. Last week, we talked about these eight awesome authors’ new books. Today, we’re discussing their fantastic cover art as well as the directions they hope to see their favorite genres head in the future.

So let’s take it away!

While there’s a wide-range of wonderful titles being featured as part of this interview series, one thing all your books share is that your cover art is incredible. Who designed your cover, and how much input did you have in the process? How in particular do you feel the cover reflects the overall feel of the book?

Soul BondedLORI TITUS: That’s a great question! This cover is part of the reason I decided to go ahead and write Soul Bonded.

Andreea Vraciu had this cover posted on her premade store. I’ve bought other covers from her before, but when I saw this one, it felt perfect for Natasha. I bought it and got to work on the story right away.

I’ve been lucky to have some really talented cover artists through the years. The cover is the first impression your reader has of your book, and it can do so much to set the mood for the reader.

Sleeping with the MonsterANYA MARTIN: The cover art for Sleeping with the Monster is a photo of a porcelain sculpture by the amazing Kate MacDowell who is known for her wonderfully bizarre works merging animal parts and human organs. My publisher Steve Berman suggested it and I thought the entwined hearts with tentacles were not only a compelling image but a great fit metamorphically for my stories. Her Website is www.katemacdowell.com if you want to see more. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have my fiction paired with a number of fantastic female artists including Jeanne D’Angelo (Grass chapbook, Dim Shores), Mado Peña (“Stuffed Bunny in Doll-Land” in Womanthology) and Kim Bo Yung (Passage to the Dreamtime chapbook, Dunhams Manor Press).

glass slipper dreams, shatteredDOUNGJAI GAM: my cover was done by Robert Ford of Whutta Design—he’s designed most (if not all) of the covers for LampLight magazine. I had zero input; it was all Jacob and Bob because I had no idea what I wanted. I saw a few designs and pointed to the one I ended up with and asked for more blood, haha. I’m thrilled with the work Bob did and it conveys exactly what I didn’t realize I had wanted for the cover—the feeling of being broken and bleeding yet somehow managing to hold it all together.

Lee FormanLEE FORMAN: When I first saw the concept design, I knew straight away it was the right cover for my book. I was shown a variety of samples at once, and it stood out immediately. Nina D’Arcangela of Sirens Call Publications and Pen of the Damned did my cover. She did an amazing job of capturing what the book is in one single image. And as I imagine is the case with a lot of authors, it’s completely different than my original idea. I had a lot of input in the process, but ultimately I liked what Nina came up with more than any idea I had. Although I will say, the design of the title originates from my original idea for the cover, so there’s still a piece of that in there. The cover reflects the feel of the book exceptionally well. It has elements of all the ideas conveyed in the story. It represents warped reality, skewed perception, psychological horror, and something that could be human, or not so human. The anguish the characters experience in the story really shows on the cover as well.

Something Borrowed, Something Blood-SoakedCHRISTA CARMEN: My cover was designed by Unnerving’s Eddie Generous. I had input in the process in that one of the stories in Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked, “Lady of the Flies,” prompted Eddie to recall a piece he’d worked on in the past, and upon revising it, he felt it would be representative of both that story, and the collection as a whole. As far as how the cover reflects the overall feel of the book, I have to admit, I had a moment of doubt a few months before the collection’s release, that the cover represented the more hardcore horror stories in the book, like “Red Room,” “Lady of the Flies,” and “The Girl Who Loved Bruce Campbell,” and would perhaps not appeal as much to those consumers of more psychological horror who would enjoy stories like “Flowers from Amaryllis,” “Wolves at the Door and Bears in the Forest,” and “This Our Angry Train.” But this doubt could be likened to any felt before embarking upon a novel experience, and I was, of course, wrong, as the cover—dark, beautiful, and perfectly macabre as it is—has been praised by hardcore and psychological horror readers alike, as well as commended for being generally eye-catching and gorgeously haunting.

The Human AlchemyMICHAEL GRIFFIN: Both my collections have cover art by Jarek Kubicki, an artist and graphic designer from Poland. I love both covers, and feel very lucky to have found art that I feel corresponds so closely with the tone and feel of the writing. I love the balance of beautiful, almost Gothic elegance with dark, gritty textures. Scott R. Jones did the layout of both covers, and deserves credit as well.

In choosing cover art, I had as much input as I could’ve hoped for. While planning The Lure of Devouring Light, Ross Lockhart of Word Horde asked me to make a wish list of three artists to consider for the cover, and Kubicki was at the top of my list. Ross looked at Kubicki’s online portfolio, suggested an image he liked very much and asked what I thought. I said “Yes, wonderful, if you can get it!” Ross went out and got it.

For The Human Alchemy we agreed we’d like something that felt similar to the first book. While I looked at other artists just in case, I was delighted when Ross said he’d see if we could get Drawn Up from Deep Placesanother piece from Kubicki. That’s how it worked out, and I love that the covers make the books look like they go together. My satisfaction level with both covers is as high as it could possibly be.

GEMMA FILES: Trepidatio crowd-sourced both collection covers, and I love them a lot. I was very involved in the sorting process, which was wonderful. CZP, on the other hand, usually relies on the brilliant Eric Mohr to design almost all of their covers—he’s certainly designed all mine, and they’re perfect. I’ve been very lucky thus far.

The Sea Was a Fair MasterCALVIN DEMMER: The editor over at Unnerving designed both the eBook and paperback covers. I had a lot of say, but what also worked well is that he had read and worked on the stories before designing the cover. So, when he came back to me with ideas, he had a good feel of the collection. I think with it being a flash fiction there was a quite a bit of room to have some fun, and I love how the black eBook cover and white paperback cover kind of represent the darkness and lightness in the stories. I think together they perfectly balance the horror and heart in the collection.

All of you write horror and/or weird fiction. What are your hopes for the future of these genres? How do you see the evolution of horror and weird fiction in the years to come, and if you could have what you envision for publishing, what would you like to see more or less of in the genres? In that same vein, which authors in horror and weird fiction do you wish more people were reading right now?

MICHAEL GRIFFIN: I think the horror genre is strong, and in no danger of going away. Weird fiction is flourishing, and we’re in the middle of a time when an incredible amount of very strong work is being done. I expect to see many writers from this current generation find a wider audience, even if that means some shift focus a bit in order to accomplish this. Already we’re seeing a few writers make the jump to big, mainstream publishers, or into having films made of their work. Even if not everyone can make that huge commercial breakthrough, I still think the scene is bursting with skilled and wildly imaginative writers working at a very high level. There’s no question that in the coming years we’ll continue to experience a wonderful bounty of beautiful, varied and well-crafted weird and disturbing literature.

I suppose I would like to see the really unique and risk-taking work receive greater focus and popularity, as opposed to the work treading more familiar and comfortable ground, such as Lovecraftian pastiche, zombies, and traditional monsters. Even so, there’s room at this party for all of us.

It’s impossible to make a good list of all the writers who deserve more attention, because there are so many. I tend to believe that top quality work eventually rises to the top, so a writer overlooked today, if they can keep on working, they’ll begin to gain the recognition they deserve. For example, a few years ago people often said John Langan needed more attention, despite getting published in a lot of high profile anthologies, and appearing in many “year’s best” lists. Now his book The Fisherman has achieved wide recognition, and he seems poised to soon make that next jump from indie publishing to greater and wider commercial success.

A writer I always mention in response to questions like this is S.P. Miskowski. Her work is strong enough to merit that kind of jump to a wider readership. I’m not saying it’s just a matter of waiting a few years until she gets better, because she’s already that good. Her writing is not only smart and real, but also entertaining and easy to read. I’m not sure what causes a writer like that to finally make the jump to a much wider audience, but maybe it just takes coming up with the right story concept at the right cultural moment.

ANYA MARTIN: It’s an exciting time to be writing horror and especially Weird fiction, because of the number of new voices, and how it is being redefined by diverse authors (women, people of color, LBGTQ). What we’re seeing are truly “different” stories that are challenging editors to re-evaluate their expectations for what is a good horror story or Weird tale. The emergence of Michael Kelly’s Year’s Best Weird Fiction series, now in its fifth year, also has been pivotal. I’m proud to have been able to amp the signal for many of these authors through The Outer Dark podcast and symposium with Scott Nicolay. And I’m humbled to be writing among side such badass women authors as Livia Llewellyn, Kristi DeMeester, Nadia Bulkin, Damien Angelica Walters, Carmen Maria Machado, Kelly Link, Helen Marshall, Rios de la Luz, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Selena Chambers, Molly Tanzer, S.P. Miskowski, Chesya Burke, Nicole Givens Kurtz, my Lethe Press-mate Sonya Taaffe, poet Christina Sng and yourself, Gwendolyn Kiste. These names roll off my tongue but I know I am forgetting many simply because there are so many now.

In upcoming years, I see both horror and the Weird only becoming even more diverse in authorship and perspective. This trend predates the current political reality in the United States where the world itself is increasingly Weird, but it certainly also feels like The Weird is the literature of this time. That being said, I’ve heard some writers and readers worry that Weird fiction is being diluted because so many are calling their work “Weird.” I don’t think we’re at a saturation point yet, but I do think it’s something to be mindful of. I hope authors will strive not to be Weird simply for Weird’s sake but utilize The Weird as a mode that can be highly effective for exploring certain aspects of the human condition and the “objects” that make up the world in which we live. In addition to the women I already mentioned, a few more “emerging” Weird/horror authors who have impressed me include Doungjai Gam Bepko and Brookelynne Warra.

doungjai gamDOUNGJAI GAM: horror has had a wonderful resurgence in the last few years but I do wish it was seen as more than that genre that’s sitting out in the gutter drinking while all the cool kids are partying inside (though I think we all *really* know where the cool kids are hanging out 😉 ). but those of us in dark and weird fiction, in horror and so on…we’ve all heard the comments: “I don’t watch/read scary stuff.” “oh, you write horror? are you a serial killer?” and other insulting shit like that. the folks in the horror and weird fiction communities are incredibly kind and supportive. we get each other, and that’s a comfort when your coworkers or family or other writers don’t understand.

what would I love to see more of? in a word—DIVERSITY. there’s so many stories out there to be told by folks that don’t fit the straight white mold. I’m Asian, and the number of horror writers who share that genetic makeup with me…yeah, there’s not a whole lot. this is not a “write what you know” PSA—I encourage everyone to write beyond their comfort zone! but for chrissakes, if you’re a straight white guy writing gay or POC characters, maybe have someone from said community give you a beta read to make sure you’re doing it right. the devil is in the tiniest of details and if you get it wrong, you’re going to get called out on it. do the research, it’s not that hard. as for who I wish people were reading more of…where to begin? Larissa Glasser is amazing. Gwendolyn Kiste and Farah Rose Smith are both wonderful, as are Morgan Sylvia, Matthew Bartlett, and KL Pereira. and oh! Angela Slatter! I adore her short stories.

LEE FORMAN: I believe horror and weird fiction will continue to thrive and grow. I’m seeing a lot of great new dark fiction coming from authors both new to the scene and long-time household names. I see the genres evolving by expanding and mingling with one another, to eventually create new sub-genres. Personally I’d love to see more creature stories. But I’m just a sucker for monsters! As for authors I’d like to mention, Bentley Little comes to mind. His work is a bit more bizarre and obscene than a lot of other fiction I’ve read. It definitely gives him an original edge. If you haven’t read Bentley Little, and you can handle some not-so-acceptable stuff, I highly recommend him.

LORI TITUS: I hope to see the continuation to interest! We’re really at a peak with horror/weird fiction right now, and it’s up to us creators to keep inventing content that people are intrigued by. If there was anything I would like to see less of, it would just be the sort of copy-cat stories we see sometimes. I think that’s a problem in any genre, but it’s been very transparent in horror/paranormal fiction. We all have something different we can bring to the game if we work at it.

If anything, I would like to see some indie and hybrid authors get more of their due. I have a long line of people that more readers should show love for but I’ll break it down to a few: Deanna Richmond, Kenya Wright, Zin Rocklyn, Tina Glasneck, and Sumiko Saulson.

Calvin DemmerCALVIN DEMMER: I don’t think there is necessarily any trope or style I’d want to see more or less of. Every time I think like that, someone will come up with some new way of looking at the trope, or a story that fits a certain style perfectly. I have noticed a trend in more cerebral horror, stories crafted with intelligence and meaning as opposed to shock for shock’s sake. I think it’s really the originality that impresses me most. Writers keep finding ways to create new worlds, monsters, scenarios, and also ways to spice up old tropes. I’m hopeful the originality keeps going and that there continues to be more diverse voices and stories, as I think these have been big reasons why horror has had a bit of a comeback over the last few years.

There are so many talented authors out there that deserve to be read. I can’t name them all, but a few that I have read recently are: Philip Fracassi, Maria Haskins, Lydian Faust, Sarah Read, Somer Canon, Michelle Garza, Melissa Lason, Brian Fatah Steele, Karen Runge, Christa Carmen, Nadia Bulkin, Jessica McHugh, Christina Sng, Tim Meyer, and Mike Thorn.

GEMMA FILES: Less gatekeeping, that’d be good, but also less “death of the author”/“this author is a hideous trash fire and should be avoided for all time because they are bad and should feel bad and make me feel bad,” too. I’ve been rightly accused of being a rampant populist with a garburator brain, and I think that is in fact true, in that I seem to find something entertaining and useful in almost everything I consume. Sometimes the useful thing is me making a note about what not to do, or what to do better, but sometimes the useful thing is me going “oh, awesome—I’d have done that differently, so let’s sit down and sketch a bit before I forget how my version of that idea would have gone.” And sometimes it’s just something I want to steal and build something else around. Like Stephen King, I’m not proud.

Maybe it’s the critic in me, but I really try to distinguish between my own personally subjective reactions/opinions about something and my objective analysis of something. I’m put in mind of a conversation I recently had about Ari Aster’s film Hereditary, in which I found myself saying: “Hereditary is definitely a movie whose plot spins on internalized misogyny being used by women against women. It’s part of what makes it so upsetting. Agree to disagree that that means the movie itself is misogynist, let alone that that means the creators who made it are misogynists…[not to mention t]he fact just because that a film isn’t what you wanted it to be/wish it were doesn’t mean that it can’t be a carefully constructed object, which Hereditary very much is.” I feel that way about a lot of stuff.

In other words, is depiction really endorsement, and does depiction of what you wouldn’t personally endorse always cancel out merit? Shit, I hope not, considering some of the things I’ve written about. Then again, do I get to police other people’s reactions? Nope. I think the main thing I’m kicking against here isn’t (obviously) the idea of unpacking racism and patriarchy and trying to open up a worldview that goes far beyond the supposed North American cis white straight guy POV default, of bringing intersectionality to the table and owning our own shit enough to call ourselves on it and check ourselves before we wreck ourselves, but the very idea of received wisdom: that impulse to go “Oh, well, of course everybody knows/thinks/believes or should know/think/believe [blah blah blah].” To quote Thor Odinsson: “Yeah, but do they? Really?”

So yeah, the world is shit right now and maybe it always was, but there are still plenty of reasons to keep going aside from entropy—and I still believe that nothing is completely without merit or usefulness, even if only as a really good bad example. I’m not saying we should hug and debate Nazis or stop speaking truth to power whenever possible, but a lot of the time, it seems like we get all snarled up cannibalizing each other rather than the people and issues we should really be directing the full virulent stream of our creativity against. So “agree to disagree” and move on remains my standard whenever people I respect are talking about stuff, and it really helps when I’m trying get my work done.

As for people more people should read: Nadia Bulkin, Kristi DeMeester, Tonya Liburd, Sunny Moraine, Kai Ashante Wilson, Cassandra Khaw, Sonya Taaffe, Richard Gavin, Reggie Oliver, Chesya Burke, M. Rickert, Orrin Grey, Nalo Hopkinson. I just fell across Michael Shea, finally, and he is top-notch. I’m always running across people and then forgetting about them and rediscovering them and slapping myself for it. It’s one of my joys.

CHRISTA CARMEN: The horror that is being written heading into the third decade of the twenty-first century is a different kind of horror than the werewolves or ghosts that inducted many of us into the genre. That’s not to say I don’t still enjoy these types of stories; I love a great creature-horror or paranormal novel, short story, or film as much as the next horror fan. But the terrifying parts of life cannot always be represented by a sharp-fanged vampire or other supernatural being, and if you point a reader toward a window into something that truly frightens them—addiction, mental illness, marriage, childbirth, the future, dead-end jobs, not being good enough, being forgotten… war, death, the fear of loved ones getting into an accident, of being kidnapped, plummeting college acceptance rates, fake news, politics, and nuclear weapons —that window will likely become a mirror.

There’s a quote I love and constantly reference from an article written by Emily Asher-Perrin and published on April 13, 2017 at Tor.com, “The Peril of Being Disbelieved: Horror and the Intuition of Women,” and it states that, “Horror exists as a genre primarily to reflect the ugly and the despicable parts of our world back at us through a funhouse lens that makes the trauma digestible.”

Horror as a genre is built around the certainty that the world is full of horrific things. But I think that as time passes, horror writers are becoming even more skilled at expanding on this theme. The future of horror fiction, if we get it right, will tell us how to live with being afraid. It will have to. It will help us distinguish true evil from a night without stars. It will tell us how to fight back. That’s what I hope to see from my fellow horror writers, and from myself, not so much changes within the field, socially or technologically speaking, but changes within our perceived abilities to survive our fears, and changes in how we tell those stories of survival after the dust settles, the vampires are relegated back to their coffins, and we look forward to whatever new monster will assail us down the road.

As for authors in horror and weird fiction that I wish more people were reading right now, this list would include the following (many of these authors are big, but still not as big, or perhaps as mainstream, as I think they deserve to be): you, Ms. Gwendolyn Kiste, Carmen Maria Machado, Stephanie M. Wytovich, Jessica McHugh, Nadia Bulkin, Ania Ahlborn, Jac Jemc, Alma Katsu, Christina Sng, Claire C. Holland, Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, Renee Miller, Theresa Braun, Damien Angelica Walters, Caroline Kepnes, Sarah Pinborough, John Palisano, Laird Barron, John Langan, Nicholas Kaufmann, Dean Kuhta, and Calvin Demmer. Again, many of these names are giants in the horror community, but in contacting local bookstores about the prospect of in-store events for Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked, one event coordinator wrote to me, “our store doesn’t carry much in the horror genre — Stephen King is about as far as we go, so I’m not sure about the interest.” That, to me, is an unfortunate example of the way some individuals perceive the state of horror fiction, and those perceptions, I believe, are erroneous ones.

So that’s part two in our October Author Interview series. Head on back next week, as these fine writers discuss the specific inspirations for their latest tales along with so much other good stuff!

Happy reading!

New Titles and Persistent Themes: Part One of Our October Author Interview Series

Welcome back, and welcome to part one of my October author roundtable series! I’m thrilled to be featuring eight fabulous authors, all of whom have brand-new books out this year that you should be reading!

So without any further delay, onward with this roundtable discussion!

Let’s start with the basics. Tell me about your latest release. What was the process like putting this book together, and what, if any, challenges did you run into along the way?

CALVIN DEMMER: My latest release is a flash fiction collection, The Sea Was a Fair Master, which contains twenty-three dark tales, ranging from science fiction, horror, fantasy, crime, to the weird. The process was pretty smooth. I’d say the hardest part for me was deciding on the order of the stories once I had picked which to collect. I wanted a certain flow to the book, and that took a little time to get right.

DOUNGJAI GAM: glass slipper dreams, shattered is my first collection of flash fiction and poetry. it was released by Apokrupha this past August. it took me about three years to put this collection together from when Jacob Haddon first approached me about it at AnthoCon 2015. there’s been plenty of challenges along the way, but thankfully none of those issues were in a professional sense…I just had a lot of personal things going on in that period and sometimes it got too tough to balance. Jacob is absolutely amazing to work with, and the key statement he made to me more than once was that he didn’t want my first book to be something I look back on in ten years and regret ever doing, and I have no regrets about it.

Christa CarmenCHRISTA CARMEN: The stories in Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked were published in places like Fireside Fiction, DarkFuse Magazine (which unfortunately exists no more), Third Flatiron’s Strange Beasties anthology, Unnerving Magazine, Tales to Terrify, and Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volume 2, to name a few. My publisher asked upfront that a certain percentage of the stories in collection submissions be reprints, so once I’d filled that quota, I added two stories that had been published by markets no longer in circulation, changed one story that had appeared on a podcast to the novella version I’d been hoping for a chance to unveil, and chose three brand new stories to tie everything together. I think readers can appreciate a collection that includes reprints, especially from magazines and anthologies they may have read previously, and hopefully enjoyed, as well as a handful of new tales that allows them to experience an author’s latest work.

If there were any challenges I ran into along the way, it was what order to place the stories in. The stories in Something Borrowed contain ghosts, apocalypse-inciting rains, witches, depraved serial killers, more ghosts, evil shadow creatures, zombies, haunted houses, long-preserved corpses, newly-opened mausoleums, sinister trains, and out-of-place staircases. My publisher felt that “Thirsty Creatures” had the best first line to open the book with (“The trees were fire and the sky was panicked birds and the horse was made of bone.”), but aside from that, ordering the collection was a study in balancing the types of horror stories (a ghost story on the heels of another ghost story, or my take on the babysitter urban legend sandwiched between two ghost stories?) with the themes represented within.

ANYA MARTIN: Sleeping with the Monster is my debut collection, and I’m grateful to Steve Berman of Lethe Press for his longstanding interest in and belief in my fiction. I was hesitant to put out a collection until I had a solid slate of stories with a certain degree of thematic unity. And conventional wisdom seems to be not to rush. These aren’t all my published stories but I feel like they represent a “generation” of my work.

I knew which stories I wanted to include from the start, so my biggest challenge was writing “Jehessimin,” the original novella that is also included. I developed carpal tunnel syndrome in the past year and that and other health issues and responsibilities contributed to it taking months longer than I expected. Fortunately Steve was a patient and understanding publisher. On the other hand, the additional time allowed the story to gel more organically and take some unexpected twists which I think/hope strengthened it. Also recently on the final stretch before the book’s release, my mother had a medical emergency so I haven’t been able to promote it as extensively as I meant to and had to cancel my con appearance at the HP Lovecraft Film Festival. I did get to do Daniel Braum’s Night Time Logic Reading Series with the fantastic Robert Levy at KGB Bar in Manhattan on Tuesday Sept. 25 and hope to attend World Fantasy Con 2018 Nov. 1-4 in Baltimore.

MICHAEL GRIFFIN: Assembling a second collection is very different. Putting together your first collection, you have to choose from everything you’ve ever written, and for most writers that means a lot more stories to select from, and most of the earliest ones will be left out. It’s a matter of figuring out where to start, and which of the less-mature work actually does fit with the more recent stories.

For the second book, it’s more about picking up where you left off with the first. Presumably by that time, your work has become more coherent and consistent, so while you have a smaller number of stories to choose from, there are probably not as many that aren’t up to the quality standard of the rest, or which should be excluded for not fitting with the feel of the others.

One thing that made the assembly of The Human Alchemy more complicated was the connection between several stories, with characters and settings and organizations cross-threaded between them, which meant I had to consider how those might work together to best advantage.

Another consideration is that readers (and consequently, publishers) want to see at least one unpublished “exclusive” story in a collection. While when assembling my first, I had quite a few unpublished stories available to choose from, but because for the past several years I’ve been publishing stories as fast as I could write them, this time I had to create something new. I reached a stage where the collection was ready to go, except first I had to write something new and hold it aside for the book. I could’ve done more than one new, exclusive story, but the book was already pretty long, so one was enough.

Lee FormanLEE FORMAN: My novella, Zero Perspective, published recently. Putting this book together was actually a surprise. My original intention for the story was just that—a short story. I didn’t set out to make it a book at first, but the story kept growing and ideas continued worming their way onto the page. As I grew an affinity for the characters I started experimenting with them to see what they would do. I didn’t know where the story would go or how it would end, but once it reached a certain length the idea of making it a book came to me. I’d been working on another project intended to be a novel, but wasn’t happy with how it came out and decided to re-write the entire thing. Since Zero Perspective was going so smoothly, I decided to focus my efforts on that and publish it first. One of the biggest challenges was trying to meet a set deadline. There was an opportunity to promote the book at a local event and I didn’t want to miss it. I dealt with lost packages three times while proofing the book and creating promotional materials. I met the deadline within only a few days.

LORI TITUS: This is a book that I’ve been waiting to write for a long time. Back when I first started writing The Marradith Ryder Series, I had an idea for another set of characters, existing in the same world. I wanted the characters to be older, harder, and a lot messier than the teenage heroine and her crew in Hunting in Closed Spaces.

In Soul Bonded, the main character is Natasha Taylor. She owns a small business, cares for an ailing mother, and between the two doesn’t have much time for a life of her own. She’s in a financial bind. There’s only two choices; take out a loan on her family home to save her business and possibly risk losing both, or close the store. Worse than that, her mother’s early onset Alzheimer’s has gotten to the point she may soon need to be put into a nursing home.

Natasha is a witch, and her family has had dealings with the supernatural. Particularly her deceased father, Ezekiel. He was a former priest who left the church but never stopped performing exorcisms.

Enter Henry Pollard, an enigmatic businessman with a proposition: give up part of her soul for a number of years, and work for a firm that deals in demon contracts. In return, her mother will be returned to health and her financial problems solved.

This novel is the beginning of a possible series. It’s really about the line between what we say we’ll do and how far we can bend the rules of our personal ethics. Natasha has to tread and sometimes cross the line of right and wrong to get what she needs and wants.

The biggest challenge to writing this book was scheduling. I had several other projects that were slated for completion first and a few other projects in progress when I started it. I’m happy that I was able to pull it off!

Gemma FilesGEMMA FILES: Well. I’m supposed to be writing a new novel—Nightcrawling, for ChiZine Publications—and I am, though it’s taking longer than I expected. Like Experimental Film, it draws on aspects of my own history, probably plumbing a much more traumatic time period, yet I’d somehow managed to convince myself it would be easier this time around! Anyhow, it’s not, so I’m taking a slight hiatus from banging my head against it to write a book of essays about horror culture instead, for CZP’s new nonfiction line (Dark Comforts, which starts by taking the usual non-horror fan question—ie, “Isn’t real life horrible enough for you?”—and answering it: “Yes, which is why I decompress by enjoying horror I can actually control.”)

That said, my “new book” right now would probably be Drawn Up From Deep Places, from Trepidatio, which is really a collection of older short fiction (much like the collection I have coming out at some point later on from Cemetery Dance, called Dark Is Better). It’s a sort of companion to my first Trepidatio collection, Spectral Evidence, which was published earlier this year. In both cases, the most challenging thing about putting the books together was going through all the stuff I’ve written since my first two collections (Kissing Carrion and The Worm in Every Heart, released almost twenty years ago) and seeing how it might go together. Luckily, there are stories in both books which share the same characters and make a sort of story cycle of their own if read in order.

In Spectral Evidence, those stories involve the Cornish Sisters and A-Cat Chatwin, two monster-killers (one half-monster) and a demon-descended holler witch who meet in jail, help each other escape then keep running into each other, but there’s only three of them and the rest of the stories—though equally chick-heavy—are about very different sets of oddballs operating within a dark urban paranormal contemporary universe like the one from my book We Will All Go Down Together. In Drawn Up From Deep Places, meanwhile, things are A) a bit more historical and B) a bit more dude-centric. The two story-cycles threaded throughout it either play around in the same Weird Western world from my Hexslinger series or involve two magician-pirates and a witch directly related to WWAGDT‘s Five-Family Coven. And…that’s the pitch, basically.

There’s a new collection of my poetry coming out soon too (Invocabulary, from Aqueduct Press), full of witchcraft, gods and monsters and monster-gods, because that is how I roll. So in other words, I’m reaping the rewards of my success, and it frankly rocks. My main challenge is thus the extremely first world problem of trying to meet too many deadlines because “too many” people I respect and want to work with want stuff from me. That and the eternal struggle against my own body (insomnia, peri-menopause, anxiety), my son’s recent transfer to high school, plus the general current flaming trash fire of global reality. Etc.

Most authors have certain ideas or concepts they return to over and over. What themes interest you most as a writer, and how do those themes play into your current book?

Soul BondedLORI TITUS: Family and loyalty are big themes in my writing and I return to both of those here. The way we act in the closest of our relationships really informs how we live our lives. I love playing with the consequences involved when love or familial ties are at stake.

LEE FORMAN: I tend to write a lot of creature stories and dark, emotive fiction. I find them thoroughly enjoyable to create. I grew up loving horror films with monsters and all things inhuman. They’ve been my favorite aspect of horror film and literature as long as I can remember. These themes worked great for Zero Perspective, as they allowed me to incorporate both concepts into the horror / sci-fi combination.

GEMMA FILES: “Monster pride” is a concept I come back to a lot: the idea that maybe the ways in which we’re broken and odd and freakish—the qualities that make us pariahs or monsters according to “normal” standards—are the very things which prepare us to not break when true monstrosity comes on the scene. I’m a big fan of characters like Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, for example, who knows he’s supposed to be the Great Beast of the Apocalypse but nevertheless says “screw THAT shit” and fights the same cosmic horrors he’s kin to instead, partially out of sheer perversity. My favourite gods have always been Loki and all the other tricksters, shape-shifters and thieves who can straddle several liminal spaces at once, powered as much by black humour as by any sort of thirst for revenge or victory. And while I’m capable of appreciating how difficult choosing to be good really is, it’s the scoundrels, villains and antiheroes who remain my very favourites. I’m interested in people who pay prices, who go through hell and come out changed (maybe for the better, maybe not), who make their own wounds into weapons.

Part of this probably comes out of having spent a good portion of my life thinking I was just inherently “bad” somehow, unfixable, weird, unable to bring myself up to code; giving birth to a boy with special needs sort of helped in that regard, especially once I realized that if people had been looking for autism in girls at all when I was the age he is now, I might have gotten an Asperger’s Syndrome diagnosis. But then again, part of this probably also just comes from being female, geeky, angry and neuroatypical. Of feeling like everything I encountered socially was a joke or an attack, a total chore, and just not realizing the reason it did was because I was probably channeling my social intelligence through a part of my brain usually meant for doing math problems.

So yeah, I have a lot of investment in the idea that people who think they aren’t good for much may eventually discover they’re meant for something special, or at least for something particular. Does it mean that everything bad or wrong they ever did is forgiven? Not necessarily. Does it mean they’re good and perfect now they’ve discovered their purpose in life? Depends on the purpose, I guess. But I do like finding ways for my characters to love at least other people, even if they can never entirely love themselves. And become proud of whatever monster they happen to be, too, if only because that IS what they are, after all. No other way around it.

DOUNGJAI GAM: for me, the themes I keep coming back to are fear, love, sorrow, revenge, being haunted, and their motivating factors. as I alluded to in the previous question, in the time period I was writing the pieces for my collection, there was a lot going on: in a fourteen month span, there were at least seven deaths that hit me hard (the worst one being my brother’s sudden death); I went through a separation and eventual divorce and then unexpectedly fell in love; there were a few hard lessons learned. I joked with my editor about having the book subtitled, “stories of love and death,” because that’s like 90% of the collection.

The Human AlchemyMICHAEL GRIFFIN: For me the themes I’ve returned to repeatedly have come about without my having intentionally tried to make them a particular focus. I’ve just kept circling around and around certain elements due to my own obsession or compulsion. People have pointed out that most of my stories have a major focus on relationships, often in a state of breakdown or disconnection, as well as feelings like frustrated desire. Many of my characters are creative people. Also certain geographic places have recurred in my work, especially the Portland area, the Oregon coast and Mt. Hood.

One aspect of place that really interests me is following a character who departs from their usual, comfortable place, their home, and goes to some new, different place, which shifts their equilibrium and makes every moment a new discovery, sometimes full of wonder, and other times bringing uncertainty or fear.

I only recently came to understand that I often follow this pattern where a main character leaves a place they’re familiar with and goes to a new, special place. In some cases, as in “The Smoke Lodge,” the place isn’t unfamiliar to the main character but it’s unfamiliar to the reader, and there’s one or more other characters who make the journey of discovery at the same time.

ANYA MARTIN: Definitely, yes, though those themes have evolved over my writing life. For this first collection, all the stories deal with relationships to some extent or another. Not all the stories have explicit “monsters,” vis-à-vis “Grass,” but I do find that “monstrous” behavior by humans and its impact on others can sometimes be explored more effectively through a lens other than realism. Otherwise, I can’t say I did this on purpose but almost all my protagonists are women, except a male dog and a gargoyle, and even in those two stories, there’s a central female character. I am sure I will write a male protagonist when that makes sense for a story, but there has been so much male point-of-view fiction that I don’t see any rush just to prove anything. Finally if the collection has a “theme song,” it would be “Illusions” by Frederick Hollander, sung by Marlene Dietrich in the film A Foreign Affair (1948). I wanted to quote its lyrics at the front of the book but it’s always complicated and can be expensive to get permissions. It’s easy to find on YouTube if you want to give it a listen.

CALVIN DEMMER: There are definitely certain themes I return to, but I also try and push myself to explore new things. At the moment, I do seem to focus on the evil humanity can do. Even when my stories have monsters or other dark cosmic happenings, I do tend to have characters that walk a fine line between good and evil. I’ve often explored how love can create some extreme scenarios, the loss of innocence, or how continuous struggling can lead people to do things that don’t seem to fit their character. The sea also played quite a role in my latest book, mainly because I think it has a certain mystique that is interesting to play with.

CHRISTA CARMEN: The themes that interest me to the point where I return to them over and over are society’s treatment of those suffering from substance abuse and mental health issues, the way individuals themselves react to struggling with these issues, persistent misogyny in the world today, the concept of redemption, or at least, of second chances, how humans deal with death and grief, and why men just don’t seem capable of trusting their girlfriends, wives, sisters, mothers, and mistresses, etcetera, when these women say that something is not right, or when they beg not to go into that isolated cabin in the woods. These themes play into my collection in that I try to approach them from disparate angles. The characters suffering from addiction in Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked are numerous and varied. They are regretful ghosts, broken mothers, desperate young women, and reanimated Deadites.

It is important for me to tell the stories of characters who are struggling with or have struggled with addiction because I have been privy to so many of these stories in the real world. The people who want to vilify those suffering from addiction project the same story onto everyone: they are bad, lazy, selfish people who knew the risks when they first used drugs, did so anyway, and so deserve their lot in life. Sadly, many individuals tasked with helping those struggling with substance abuse also assign the same stories to the sufferers. But everyone’s path into addiction is different, as is their path out. What that means is that their stories are profoundly unique, and I’ve yet to hear a story that wasn’t worth sharing. This insight has led me to want to explore themes of addiction and recovery within my fiction, believing as I do, that those characters will have rich, interesting, albeit sometimes tragic lives to lead.

I’ve also found the idea of second chances worth exploring in my fiction because the concept of second chances in the real world is such a tricky one. Our society is based on a very unjust, nonsensical system of who is deserving of a second chance versus who is not. Ultimately, the reward of pursuing any theme that really speaks to you as a writer is in the journey itself, the exploration that takes place over the course of writing a story. I’m certain I will tackle the themes I’ve discussed here in other stories in the future, and who’s to say if that path will look anything like the one that led me to the pieces in Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked?

So that’s part one in our interview series! Join us again next week as we discuss book covers and the future of horror and weird fiction!

Happy reading!

All Hallow’s Fiction: Submission Roundup for October 2018

Welcome back for this month’s Submission Roundup! There’s a great group of submission calls below, so if you’ve got a story looking for a home (or you’re eager to write a new one just for the occasion), then these publications might just be the perfect fit! As always, a quick reminder: I am not a representative for any of these markets, so please direct your questions to the respective editors.

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

Submission RoundupFlame Tree Press anthologies
Payment: .06/word
Length: 2,000 to 4,000 words
Deadline: October 14th, 2018
What They Want: Flame Tree’s latest anthologies are now open to submission. In particular, the American Gothic call looks perfect for the horror fiction writers out there.
Find the details here.

Escape Pod Holiday Special
Payment: .06/word for original fiction; $20/flat for flash fiction reprints; $100/flat for short story reprints
Length: up to 6,000 words
Deadline: October 15th, 2018
What They Want: Open to holiday-themed science fiction.
Find the details here.

Not All Monsters anthology
Payment: .01/word
Length: 2,000 to 8,000 words
Deadline: Opens on November 1st, 2018
What They Want: Character-driven and beautifully written grotesque stories about the monsters in women’s lives. Open to all female-identifying writers.
Find the details here.

Immersion: An Asian Anthology of Love, Fantasy, and Speculative Fiction
Payment: $20/flat CAD for flash; $40/flat CAD for short stories
Length: up to 1,800 words for flash; up to 6,000 words for short fiction
Deadline: December 31st, 2019
What They Want: The editors are seeking stories of Asian main characters in an alternate past, present, or future. Open to authors with a geographical Asian heritage.
Find the details here.

Breach
Payment: .01/word for fiction ($20 maximum); $5/flat for poetry
Length: 500 to 2,000 words for fiction; one page in length for poetry
Deadline: Ongoing
What They Want: Open to speculative fiction from New Zealand and Australian authors.
Find the details here.

The NoSleep Podcast
Payment: between $40/flat and $125/flat depending on length
Length: No specifics, though over 3,000 words is preferable
Deadline: Ongoing
What They Want: Open to first-person horror stories.
Find the details here.

Happy submitting!

October Author Roundtable Series Coming Soon!

Happy October! For this wonderful month, wow, oh wow, do I have a treat for you! For the rest of October, I’ll be featuring a roundtable interview of eight fabulous authors, all of whom have new releases out this year!

Ever since I started doing the author roundtable series for Women in Horror Month, I’ve become very fond of the idea of the group interview. It’s a perfect way to highlight multiple authors at once while also keeping this blog lively with new content.  (And guess what? I’ll be doing the Women in Horror roundtable again in February, so if you like this format, you’ll have lots more where this came from!)

So without further adieu, here are the eight amazing authors who will be part of this month’s roundtable series!

Gemma FilesFormerly a film critic, journalist, screenwriter and teacher, Gemma Files has been an award-winning horror author since 1999. She has published two collections of short work (Kissing Carrion and The Worm in Every Heart), two chap-books of speculative poetry (Bent Under Night and Dust Radio), a Weird Western trilogy (the Hexslinger series—A Book of Tongues, A Rope of Thorns and A Tree of Bones), a story-cycle (We Will All Go Down Together: Stories of the Five-Family Coven) and a stand-alone novel (Experimental Film, which won the 2016 Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel and the 2016 Sunburst award for Best Adult Novel). Most are available from ChiZine Publications. She has two new story collections from Trepidatio (Spectral Evidence and Drawn Up From Deep Places), one upcoming from Cemetery Dance (Dark Is Better), and a new poetry collection from Aqueduct Press (Invocabulary). Find her online at her blog.

Lori TitusLori Titus is a pet lover and cynic who is simultaneously a hopeless romantic. She lives in California and enjoys crafting dark little novels and stories that (hopefully) surprise and tantalize. In between writing sprints and coffee breaks you can find her on Twitter or Instagram as Loribeth215. Check out her latest on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Lori-Titus/e/B00450JMMI/.

Christa CarmenChrista Carmen’s work has been featured in myriad anthologies, ezines, and podcasts, including Unnerving Magazine, Fireside Fiction, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volume 2,  Outpost 28 Issues 2 & 3, Tales to Terrify, Lycan Valley Press Publications’ Dark Voices, Third Flatiron’s Strange Beasties, and Alban Lake’s Only the Lonely. Her debut collection, Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked, is available now from Unnerving. Find her online at her website.

Calvin DemmerCalvin Demmer is a South African dark fiction author. His debut collection, The Sea Was a Fair Master, was released in June 2018. When not writing, he is intrigued by that which goes bump in the night and the sciences of our universe. You can find him online at www.calvindemmer.com or follow him on Twitter @CalvinDemmer.

doungjai gamdoungjai gam is the author of  glass slipper dreams, shattered, a collection of flash fiction and poetry. her short fiction and poetry has appeared in LampLight, Distant Dying Ember, Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, Wicked Haunted, Tough, and Lost Highways. born in Thailand, she currently resides in Connecticut with author Ed Kurtz and their cat Oona. Find her online at her author site.

Lee FormanLee Forman is a writer and editor, and journalist from the Hudson Valley, NY. His fascination with the macabre began in childhood, watching old movies and reading everything he could get his hands on. He’s a third-generation horror fanatic, starting with his grandfather who was a fan of the classic Hollywood Monsters. His work has been published in numerous magazines, anthologies, websites, and podcasts. He’s an editor for Sirens Call Publications and writes, edits, and is an administrator for the horror fiction website PenoftheDamned.com. He’s a regular contributor of non-fiction articles for Living Paranormal Magazine, and he often writes for two podcasts: The Lift and The Wicked Library. His debut novella, Zero Perspective is available from Amazon and other retailers, as well as a collection of short fiction titled Fragments of a Damned Mind. When he’s not crafting horrifying creatures and tales of terror, he spends his time playing guitar and writing music. For more information and a list of publications go to www.leeformanauthor.com

Michael GriffinMichael Griffin’s books include a novel, Hieroglyphs of Blood and Bone (Journalstone, 2017), short fiction collections The Lure of Devouring Light (Word Horde, 2016) and The Human Alchemy (Word Horde, 2018). His stories have appeared in magazines like Apex and Black Static, and the anthologies Looming Low, Eternal Frankenstein, The Children of Old Leech and the Shirley Jackson Award winner The Grimscribe’s Puppets. Find him online at his author site.

Anya MartinAnya Martin’s debut collection, Sleeping with the Monster, is coming autumn 2018 from Lethe Press. Her novella Grass, illustrated by Jeanne D’Angelo, was a Dim Shores limited edition chapbook, and her play Passage to the Dreamtime, illustrated by Kim Bo Jung, was published by Dunhams Manor Press. Her fiction has appeared in such anthologies and magazines as Tales from a Talking Board, Looming Low, Eternal Frankenstein, Cthulhu Fhtagn!, Giallo Fantastique, Cassilda’s Song, Xnoybis #2, Resonator: New Lovecraftian Tales From Beyond, Borderlands 6, Mantid and Womanthology: Heroic. She co-produces, with host Scott Nicolay, The Outer Dark podcast, featuring interviews with contemporary Weird fiction authors, on This Is Horror. Find her at www.anyamartin.com and on Twitter at @anya99.

So those are our incredible authors for this month! Check in again next week when the interview series officially commences!

Happy reading!

Sheet Music and Hysteria: Interview with Stephanie M. Wytovich

Welcome back! Today I’m super excited to spotlight author Stephanie M. Wytovich. Stephanie is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of numerous poetry collections, including Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare and Brothel. Her debut novel, The Eighth, was released in 2016 from Dark Regions Press, and her fiction has appeared in Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, Shadows Over Main Street, and The Best Horror of the Year, Volume 8, among other publications.

Recently, Stephanie and I discussed her evolution as a poet and fiction writer along with how witchcraft impacts her writing and what she has in store 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?

Stephanie M. WytovichI can’t remember a time when I didn’t associate myself with writing, but I think the first time I declared it to the world was in third grade during career day. Some of my favorite writers are: Caroline Kepnes, Josh Malerman, Paul Tremblay, Sylvia Plath, Shirley Jackson, Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Seanan McGuire, and Grady Hendrix, to name a few.

Your most recent poetry collection, Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare, came out last year through Raw Dog Screaming Press. As you look back over the last five years, in which you’ve been published widely and become an award-winning author, do you feel like your style or your process has changed since publishing your first book, Hysteria: A Collection of Madness?

Oh, yes…drastically. While I still tend to use body horror, sex, and violence in my work, my voice has matured over the years and my structure, especially with poetry, has focused more on line and syntax rather than emotion and shock value as it did early on. I’ve also started to put more and more of myself in my work over the years, which was a goal of mine when I first decided that I wanted to pursue writing professionally.

BrothelIn addition to your poetry, you’ve also written short fiction and a novel. How, if at all, does your approach to writing differ based on the medium and the length of the work?

I write poetry a lot faster than prose because in some ways, it feels more natural to me. Because of that, when I sit down to write short fiction, or a novel, I actually write each scene as a poem first to 1) keep me motivated and 2) to act as a sort of outline for the chapter. This keeps me organized and it also helps ground me in the story because if I think of it as this big, 300 + page story, I get overwhelmed and then start doubting my ability to finish the project. Poetry is usually my solution to most problems in life.

You recently had a short story appear in the Lana Del Rey and Sylvia Plath themed anthology, Tragedy Queens. How have Lana’s music and/or Sylvia’s poetry affected your own work?

It hasn’t been until recently (within the past three years or so) that I got into Lana Del Rey’s music, but Sylvia Plath and I go way, way back. I started reading her poetry in high school, and then I read The Bell Jar in undergrad, and now every so often, I’ll flip through some of her journals. What I love about both of these women is that they aren’t afraid of their darkness, and rather than run from it, they embrace it, channel it, and use it to their advantage. Plath showed me how to use myself as the subject for my work, how to look inside my memories and my pain and write poems about the human condition. Lana Del Rey’s music, on the other hand, helps me get in touch with the more animalistic sides of my personality, the parts that yearn and ache for something or someone to bear witness to the burning, the rebirth.

When I wrote my story for Tragedy Queens, “Because of Their Different Deaths,” I used themes of sisterhood, the occult, rebirth, and pain, all of which Lana Del Rey and Sylvia Plath write/wrote about.

The EighthYou’re a practicing witch, and you often share tips and pictures of your projects and spells on social media and at your blog. How does your practice as a witch affect your fiction, and vice versa?

I’ve always viewed writing as prayer, even before I recognized or acknowledged that I did. For instance, I’ve been building altars since middle school, but they weren’t the stock photo image that probably comes to mind when you hear the word “altar.” For me, it was always my writing space. I would build it up to my mood and what was inspiring me, add rocks and crystals, leaves, pictures, and charms, and then when I felt that I needed to be recharged, I’d switch it up.

As I got older, I started to realize that my writing space (which now, is an entire room), is where I go to meditate, pray, create, and relax. I’m surrounded by flowers and candles, crystals and all my favorite stories, and this helps me get to a state where I feel comfortable and honest in my vulnerability. For me, getting in this mindset helps my writing to become raw and visceral while simultaneously allowing me to purge mental negativity and darkness. It’s a win-win for me and my fiction.

As though you’re not busy enough, you’re also a college professor. Can you share with us a few of your favorite stories you’ve assigned for your classes this semester? How has your reading list for students evolved over time?

This semester, I’m particularly excited to teach the gothic works of Bram Stoker (“Dracula’s Guest), John Polidori (“The Vampyre”) and Sheridan Le Fanu (Carmilla). Over the years, I’ve made it a personal goal to teach classic literature along with speculative fiction, so students can help to bridge the gap that seems to be ever-wedged between the two. For example, last week I taught D. H. Lawrence’s “The Rocking-Horse Winner” and had students compare and contrast it to “The Oval Lady” by Leonora Carrington. It was fun to watch them map out how two seemingly different stories essentially sent the same message in the end.

Sheet Music to My Acoustic NightmareOut of your published work, do you have a personal favorite?

It’s actually really hard for me to pick a favorite, because like most writers, I’m sure, each book was its own catharsis, its own journey. Hysteria was a stand out because I spent months writing in abandoned asylums and prisons, chasing down the trauma and pain that still lined its walls. Brothel was the book I always wanted to write, and the fact that it won the Stoker makes it even more special to me, but when it comes down to it, Sheet Music and The Eighth were both steps outside of my comfort zone, and the challenges they posed to me as a writer elevates them to my favorites. I’d never written a novel before, so finishing that project and then presenting it as my master’s thesis was a feeling unlike no other, and half of Sheet Music is a memoir, a confessional dirge from my time on the road, and I don’t think I’ve ever written anything more painfully charged than the pieces on those pages.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on three separate projects at the moment and am hoping to have them all finished by the end of the year (fingers crossed!). The first is the audiobook for Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare, and the second is a weird horror novelette titled The Dangers of Surviving a Slit Throat. Lastly, I’m finishing up an apocalyptic science fiction poetry collection titled The Apocalyptic Mannequin. It’s been a fun year trying new approaches with my writing and I’m excited to see what my readers think!

Tremendous thanks to Stephanie M. Wytovich for being part of this week’s author interview series! Find her online at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and on her blog.

Happy reading!