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Midnight Movie Madness: Part Two of the Violent Vixens Roundtable

Welcome back for Part Two in our August roundtable! We’re celebrating this month’s release of Violent Vixens: An Homage to Grindhouse Horror, which made its debut last week and is already earning rave reviews. Today, I’m talking with eleven of the fabulous authors from the anthology about their favorite cult films and their best memories of the drive-in and midnight movie screenings.

So let’s take it away, shall we?

SARAH READ: My favorite drive-in movie memory is seeing Jurassic Park when I was 10 years old. It was nighttime in rural Colorado, and the only thing you could see was this giant, illuminated T-Rex stalking through the landscape. I also saw Twister at that same drive-in a few years later. There was a thunderstorm during the show, and then the scene where the tornado rips through the drive-in played (and bonus points that the movie they’re watching is The Shining–right at the axe-to-the-door scene). I guess I like it when the scene and setting blur a little and make things more immersive or scary!

I don’t know that I could pick a favorite cult classic horror movie. I like a lot of them! But the one I’ve certainly seen the most is The Exorcist.

ROB E. BOLEY: Probably my favorite cult classic is actually pretty recent. It’s the 2006 slasher mockumentary Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. It’s a crying shame that more people haven’t seen this movie, because it’s truly a brilliant balance of horror and comedy. I’d say it’s mandatory viewing for any fans of the slasher genre. Another favorite is John Carpenter’s They Live. It’s maybe more sci-fi than horror, but wow, it’s scary how the film only gets more relevant with each passing year!

I’d say my favorite drive-in memory is the time a few years ago when my wife and I took my daughter to see a special screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Dixie Twin Drive-In here in Dayton. It was her first time seeing the movie, and I’ll never forget doing the Time Warp amidst all the parked cars. Unfortunately, it rained later, so we had to watch the rest of the movie in the car.

SOPHIE LEAH: My favourite horror movie // movies seem to vary at any given moment as I constantly watch new stuff or become particularly attached to old loves. As far as more ‘culty’ favourites go, I’ve always had a soft-spot for Rob Zombie’s The Devils Rejects and House of 1000 Corpses. I don’t think a day goes by where I don’t wonder what 3 From Hell would’ve been like had Sid Haig not died. Others – off the top of my head – would be: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Terrifier, I Spit on Your Grave, Inside (2007), A Serbian Film, Last House on the Left, From Dusk ’till Dawn, The Hills Have Eyes – I could go on and on. I’m also a huge fan of extreme cinema in general, which is pretty cult-based in itself (we seem to congregate a lot over at effedupmovies.com). The nastier, the better.

Unfortunately – all that said – I have no real experience with actually going to Grindhouse, or attending a drive-in movie, as here in the UK they’re not such a thing as they are over in the US. I guess my last fond ‘grindhouse’-esque experience was a first date at London’s Prince Charles Cinema (where they sometimes do Friday the 13th marathons) where we watched Kill Bill: Volume I and the volume with all the talking back-to-back. If that counts at all? I would love to go to America one day and do various horror-related things over there (from the Saw escape room in Vegas to Hollywood’s Museum of Death and more), so hopefully there’s still time to make some more spooky memories there!

MARK WHEATON: Not sure how culty it is anymore, but I’ve always been fond of The Devil Rides Out, based on the Dennis Wheatley novel. The great twist of having some innocent kid discovering that his girlfriend is getting caught up in a cult only for his own uncle, played by Christopher Lee, to turn out to be a more powerful practitioner of magic is so much fun. As for a favorite drive-in movie memory, I grew up next to a South Dallas drive-in, so remember countless nights seeing but not hearing endless movies projected onto screens a block over once the stars were out. Everything was quiet, both audience and picture, like some mysterious communion. It’d make anybody romantic about drive-ins.

MATT NEIL HILL: In terms of favourite cult classic horror movies, I’ll always have a soft spot for Evil Dead / Evil Dead II, and John Carpenter’s The Thing is perhaps the one I’ve watched the most. But Near Dark is the one that springs to mind in connection with this story—its explosive and remorseless violence, but also the quiet, melancholy moments; the simultaneously feared and longed-for dusk and dawn, the whispering dust and the letting of blood.

Growing up in the UK I have no drive-in movie memories, but I remember signing up for an all-night movie marathon at a comic book convention in London in the mid ‘80s. They played about six or seven movies I think, although I slept through a lot of them and can only really remember Crimes of Passion, Ken Russell’s lurid neon psychosexual drama starring Kathleen Turner and Anthony Perkins. It left an indelible impression on me—as you’d hope any movie with a death by vibrator would—before I drifted off into dreamland.

S.K. CAMPBELL: Besides the ridiculous romp of Planet Terror, I enjoy campy horrors like Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein. We don’t often think of horror as funny, but grindhouse movies and parodies like Young Frankenstein really take advantage of the potential there. Both comedy and horror raise tension in their viewers, and have this inherent exaggeration of their subjects. So the genres can be married with fabulous effect. To that note, some of my favorite midnight movie moments have been because the audience laughed during what was supposed to be a horrifying scene. I have a fond recollection of a close-up of an demonic eyeball in The Grudge, a lingering shot which caused an eruption of giggles in the theater.

NIK PATRICK: My favorite cult classic horror is Behind the Mask. I hope more people watch that mockumentary classic.

My best memory of a midnight film was a one-weekend late showing of Midsommar Director’s Cut. I had watched the original version the prior month alone, so it was fun going with friends this time. My friends had not seen the original version so it was my job to tell them what was new afterward. The characters who were unpleasant in the original version were even more so in the Director’s Cut. This of course is a plus in the horror genre.

SCOTTY MILDER: My favorite grindhouse film is and will always be The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. But—like many children of the 80s—I came along just a little too late to catch it at the drive-in. Instead, I watched it on a washed-out VHS tape that I rented (way too young, thanks to the wildly irresponsible teenage clerk) at our local Safeway. I was nine or ten at the time, and the movie definitely bent my brain sideways. I made a secret dub and watched it over and over and over again until I finally got my hands on a legit copy when I was in high school. I did catch it in my late 20s during a Halloween midnight-movie showing. It screened as a double feature with Eaten Alive, and that was a truly glorious experience.

BUCK WEISS: I grew up in Southern Illinois, where Sammy Terry ruled the midnight movie every week. When I was seven, I had a friend stay over, and my mom let us stay up to watch Son of the Blob! I made it about halfway through before I was too freaked out to go on. It scared me to death and started my love of horror and grindhouse films. My favorite drive-in memory was seeing the movie Signs at a Drive-in surrounded by cornfields on all sides. Everyone was a little more on edge, knowing that anything could be standing just within the rows.

SHANNON BRADY: The cult classic that popped into my head first was Repo! The Genetic Opera. Set in a future where organ failures are an epidemic, a corporation promising cures becomes powerful enough to rule the world. If customers fall behind on payments for their new organs, Repo Men are deployed to repossess company property with lethal force. It’s one of my favorite horror musicals and by far the goriest I’ve ever seen. I think it’s very much a love it or hate it movie, and I fell instantly in love with it in high school.

My drive-in experience is sadly limited. The only time I’ve ever been to a drive-in movie was with my family in the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, in which we were hoping for a nice time while the theaters were closed, but ended up leaving early due to the promised safety restrictions not being followed at all. The movie we’d gone to see was The Sandlot, but when we got home my brother and I watched Dead Alive in our basement instead, so it was a considerably different viewing experience than expected. I’ve never seen a midnight movie screening, either, so that and a proper drive-in are two things I would love to attend someday.

PAUL MAGNAN: One of my favorite cult grindhouse movies is Death Race 2000. I’m talking about the original 1975 movie, not the recent remakes. The movie was made by grindhouse king Roger Corman and is set (well, obviously) in the year 2000. The world economy has collapsed in 1979, and the United States is now run by a totalitarian government. A violent, televised sport is created to placate the masses (a common theme for dystopian movies during this time. Another example is Rollerball). Thus, the Death Race. Each year, a number of drivers, with navigators, drive specially designed killing machines cross country, and the more people they kill with their cars, the more points they accrue. In a charming plot twist, children and the elderly are considered extra points. Also, they are not adverse to trying to kill each other.

In this, the 20th annual Death Race, the favorite to win is a driver called Frankenstein (played by David Carradine). He is dressed all in cool black leather, with a mask that hides most of his face, with only a hint of horrendous scarring underneath. This is Darth Vader before Darth Vader. Apparently, he has survived multiple catastrophic crashes, yet keeps coming back for more. This year, however, there is a new twist: a resistance to the government has formed, and they are taking out the Death Race drivers one by one. This, according to the TV announcers covering the race, is hilariously blamed on the French (there is a lot of dark humor in this movie). Another plus is that one of the other drivers is a young Sylvester Stallone, who plays a character called Machine Gun Joe Viterbo, a ’30s type gangster with a huge knife affixed to the hood of his car, which he uses to good effect when he takes out a man operating a jackhammer. The movie does have a bit of a surprise ending, and I highly recommend it.

Drive-in movie memory: oh, so many. Yet one that has stuck with me was when I had gone with my parents to a local drive-in to see Barbarella. I think my father wanted to see Jane Fonda in a barely-there space suit, and I’m sure he enjoyed the opening credits strip sequence. As it was 1968 and I was only 6 years old, I was probably playing with my toys in the back seat of the car at the time. My mother, not a movie person and undoubtedly not having any idea what this movie was all about, was probably looking back at me to make sure my eyes were off the screen during these credits. I did watch some of the movie, which went way over my head. But there was ONE SCENE that scared the living crap out of me and gave me nightmares for weeks. Even now, over 50 years later, I remember the fear my 6-year-old-self felt quite keenly: Barbarella, in the snow, meeting up with these creepy-ass children, who place her behind steel bars. They activate a horde of porcelain-faced dolls with sharp, steel teeth in jaws that snap open and shut, who wail like the damned and walk forward as she struggles against the bars. Once they reach Barbarella, the dolls continue to wail and take chunks out of her with their teeth, as the creepy, evil children smile and look on until Barbarella is rescued by adults. Yeah, dad, thanks for bringing me to see this movie.

And that’s our roundtable! Thank you so much to this awesome group of authors, and please check out Violent Vixens: An Homage to Grindhouse Horror, out now from Dark Peninsula Press!

Happy reading!

A Bloody Good Time: Part One of the Violent Vixens Roundtable

Welcome back! This week marks the official release of Dark Peninsula’s Violent Vixens: An Homage to Grindhouse Horror. I’m super excited that my tale, “Sister Glitter Blood,” appears as part of the anthology. Told in the form of a board game instruction manual, the story follows two sisters who stumble upon an unusual game and find themselves drawn into its thrall. As a huge fan of board games–in particular during our quarantine times–this one was a lot of fun to write, and I’m so glad it found such an excellent home in Violent Vixens.

Recently, I talked with the other authors in the book about the inspiration behind their stories! So let’s have them take it away, shall we?

SARAH READ: When I was 16, I stayed in Tuam, Ireland for a week. I fell in love with the west coast of Ireland, so I keep up with it often. The recent news out of Tuam isn’t good. The local Catholic-run mother and children’s home, where unwed mothers were sent to have their babies, before being sent to workhouses or otherwise discarded by society, turns out to have been (shocker) not a nice place. Like so many Catholic institutions billed as harbors for marginalized children, the Bon Secours Mother and Children’s home has been revealed as the site of a mass grave of those same children. Their obsession with female purity birthed a legacy of illness and death, and this small, idyllic town guarded its secret for decades. I wanted to write a revenge story, and write a different ending for at least some of those mothers and children. And a different ending for the people responsible.

PAUL MAGNAN: “The Course of One’s Life On Fire”, to me, is a woman’s struggle with coping with a world that is indifferent at best and openly hostile at worst. Her anger and desperation, even at her own family, who, she feels, continually lets her down, soon pushes her psyche into sheets of angry, blinding red that reaches a critical mass. Once this happens, it is assured she is no longer taken for granted.

MARK WHEATON: KILLER OF HOGS is a bloody revenge story about a rural livestock veterinarian from Central Arkansas, Annie Saunders, who learns through a quirk of genetic testing that the killers of her mother and sister are likely members of an old, tight-knit, Brooklyn crime family. Journeying to New York to slaughter all of them to be certain she gets the culprits, Annie must employ all sorts of unorthodox culling methods common to her profession to get the job done against a veritable army of seasoned, gun-toting killers.

S.K. CAMPBELL: My story, “City Monitors,” takes place in a gritty, neon-striped city, where the streets molt in the heat and the biosynthetic residents slither around like reptiles with schemes. Denver, a jaded and handicapped mechanic, discovers her girlfriend, Minta, has gone missing. She suspects Minta got embroiled in something decidedly infernal. But her investigation may lead Denver to confront her malevolent foster mother, and face the dark truth behind her handicap.

When I saw the prompt for Violent Vixens, I got this image in my head from the movie Planet Terror of a bad-ass woman who had a gun for a leg. I thought it was a good opportunity to write a character with a disability, but have the disability be a component of the genre, as advantageous and gnarly as a gun-leg. It’s a twist on body horror that was entertaining to write, and I hope is entertaining to read.

NIK PATRICK: I wrote “Finger-Lickin’ Bad” under the premise, “what is the most absurd B movie monster concept I can get away with?” The answer of course was chickens. I am the owner of pet hens so you can say they were the inspiration. Especially the way they stand outside the backdoor waiting to be fed just…staring.

I owe the title to the way Bill Paxton delivered the line “finger-lickin’ good” in the vampire flick Near Dark.

ROB E. BOLEY: My story is called “What the Bone Says.” My wife and daughter and I listen to a lot of true crime podcasts. It’s disturbing how many of the cases start with someone finding a body tossed in a ditch, wrapped in plastic. In my tale, the discarded victim hasn’t perished. She finds a way not only to survive but to get her revenge on her attacker, though she perhaps loses her humanity in the process.

SOPHIE LEAH: Sure! “Collette” is a Natural Born Killers-inspired story about two girls (your estranged uncle would call them ‘roommates’) out on the lam – and I guess its underlying theme focuses on how much we will go along with when swept up in love. It’s probably not the most original thing I’ve ever written but it was great fun to write and hopefully it’ll be fun for others to read too.

I actually wrote it a long time ago in a much shorter, much messier, form – then saw Aric’s call for submissions and the whole ‘Violent Vixens‘ // homage to grindhouse thing was so relevant to my interests that I had to submit! My friend and editor (the wonderful Laura Major) helped me push it to a level that was more publishable before I showed it to Aric and it honestly means the world to have made it into the collection. It’s my first ‘proper’ published piece so I’m really nervous but excited about it all.

The real Collette in my life was a girl I knew from uni – an old friend who was a bit wild in her own way, though far less blood-thirsty and troubled than my protagonist. Haven’t spoken to her in some time, sadly, due to my own stuff but one day I’ll get back in touch like: “Hey, how have you been? By the way, I made you into a murderer. Hope that’s cool!”

SCOTTY MILDER: “The Whole Price of Blood” is an offshoot of an idea that I’ve had for about fifteen years. The concept initially came to me when a friend was volunteering in Albuquerque as a trauma crisis advocate. It was one of those ideas that just fell into my head almost fully formed. I tried to write it as a screenplay but—for whatever reason—it never quite gelled; in particular, I just couldn’t get Abigail to come alive (so to speak). I filed it in my mental “maybe later” file, and there it sat for well over a decade until early last year, when I decided to reapproach it as a novel. That did the trick. I’m currently about three-quarters of my way into the novel, for which “The Whole Price of Blood” serves as a prequel.

BUCK WEISS: “The Dressmaker” is about a down-trodden woman fighting back against the men who plan to harm her and her daughter. The type of men who have only ever seen her as an object that they can control. I looked at grindhouse films like Mrs. 45 and I Spit on Your Grave when I was writing it. It is a revenge story where the heroine reacts to take control and stop the violence before it can happen.

SHANNON BRADY: “The Saw House” is an action-horror piece set in post-apocalyptic Texas, where society has collapsed under a plague of demonically Possessed people, and uninfected humans must band together to survive. Daley O’Donovan is a former lone wolf who concedes that it’s time she found a group to belong to. In order to prove her worth to the Golden Eagles and their charismatic leader, she agrees to undergo a grueling initiation trial: just her and her trusty chainsaw versus a pack of Possessed.

Normally, I’m a very slow writer, and it takes me a long time to figure out how to fit everything together perfectly, sometimes well after a deadline for submissions has passed. This story, however, was a happy exception. On hearing the topic of the anthology, the image of a scrappy girl, covered in blood and dirt, wielding a chainsaw, and sprinting through a slaughterhouse came to me after only a moment of thought. (The image of Reina, beautiful and unruffled, watching from above came not long after.) Who these women were and what they were after clicked into place easily, and it all came pouring out in less than a month. It was incredibly fun to write, and I’d be happy to return to their world in future stories.

MATT NEIL HILL: “The Parts that Hurt Me the Most” started off as a very different (and quickly abandoned) straightforward crime tale about someone on the run from the other members of a heist team, although the opening image in the bus station was much the same. I think it was one of those situations where the circumstances of rewriting it changed everything about the story. It took an intense two days to complete from the opening sentence to final revisions, way quicker than anything I’ve written of that length before. The split time frames were a pacing necessity, not just narratively but so that I could take a breather every time things got worse. Because I needed hurt and rage to drive the story, I listened to nothing but Black Dresses’ albums for the memories, with Radiohead’s Videotape on a loop for the road trip sections when the brutality and betrayal had bled out into quiet acceptance. Soundtracking in that obsessive way is its own kind of altered state and I turned off my inner censor and let May do what she needed to do, figuring I could tone it down later if things got out of hand… they did, but I didn’t. After all she’d been through, she’d earned the absence of further cuts.

I think “The Parts that Hurt Me the Most” is my favourite thing I’ve written to date. It doesn’t make any excuses for what it is. From the second I finished it I had no idea if anyone would ever want it, and although that realisation wasn’t great there wasn’t a single thing I wanted to change about May’s journey. I couldn’t be happier with where the story’s ended up and I hope people like it, because I think I need to write this way again…

And that’s all for Part One! Head on back next week for Part Two of our Violent Vixens roundtable!

Happy reading!

Horror and A Sinister Quartet: Part 2 of the Mythic Delirium Roundtable

Welcome back for part two of the Mythic Delirium Roundtable! Today we talk a little more about these authors’ collaborative book, A Sinister Quartet, as well as their favorite horror films and how 2020 has affected their writing!

Since this book is more horror and dark fantasy, what’s your favorite horror film? Do you remember the first horror story or horror film that really captured your imagination?

C.S.E. COONEY: I remember a babysitter making me watch The Fly when I was four or five years old. I hated it, and wanted to leave the room, but she wouldn’t let me. It scared me for years! Not my favorite. I could probably watch it now and lance the boil of those early demons—but why spoil a perfectly wretched memory? Anyway, there are several horror films I’ve loved recently: I loved The Babadook and The Devil’s Backbone for their unapologetic primary metaphors—the monster in our own homes, our bodies, the phantom bomb in our midst—and I loved Midsommar because in so many ways it didn’t seem like horror at all. It seemed like paradise at a terrible cost, which is a little how I imagine Gelethel.

AMANDA MCGEE: Oh dear. So I can’t actually watch most horror films because I have too many nightmares. Like I will occasionally watch horror but I can’t do it alone and I have to be in the right headspace. But I will tell you that the first horror film I watched that really rattled me (and put me off of horror for a long time) was Resident Evil. I have a huge issue with zombies, actually. Super freak me out. It took watching Shaun of the Dead to get me to stop having nightmares about zombies, even years later.

JESSICA P. WICK: Hmm! Favorite horror film is tough, partly because I’m a huge wuss, so how do we define favorite here? Rewatchability? The degree to which it haunts me? I really liked the original Let the Right One In, ditto The Hunger with David Bowie, but if Pan’s Labyrinth — my all time favorite film — counts as horror (and I’d say it does), then Pan’s Labyrinth all the way. That movie has everything I want from darkness. As for what horror film first really captured my imagination, what a good question I’m not sure I have an answer to. The first horror images that really captured my imagination were the illustrations by Stephen Gammell from Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark, and one illustration of Odile by Trina Schart Hyman in Swan Lake. I was so scared of the Odile page and so fascinated-scared by the gruesome Gammell pictures.

MIKE ALLEN: It’s hard for me to pick a favorite horror flick because I enjoy many deeply flawed movies and can nitpick supposedly great movies, but my blighted soul often circles back to the Robert Wise-directed version of The Haunting, which I watched for the first time on grainy VHS as a jaded grown-up, and it still got under my skin.

My extremely traumatic first encounter with horror happened when I was in third grade, and our well-meaning teacher read us Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” for Halloween. Visions of that dismembered old man with the pale blue vulture eye consumed me. I didn’t shake the night terrors until my teen years, when I started to delight in the creative process behind horror. Clive Barker’s Books of Blood were the key to that transformation. Bonus points to the first horror movie that I deliberately went to see in a theater: Return of the Living Dead. BRRAAAIIINNNSS!

2020 has been an intense year on so many levels. How if at all has this year affected your own writing, either in productivity or in what themes you’re exploring in your work?

C.S.E. COONEY: 2020 in many ways has been incredibly productive, partly because it had to be. Both my husband and I are writers, and both of us were on constant deadlines, so in a way, writing became one of the stabilizing forces of 2020, even when everything else was melting down. I’ve not had much writing time to process current events; much of what I’m working on is several drafts old or to spec, but I have found some solace in journaling and poetry—when I can find the time at all.

AMANDA J. MCGEE: So 2020 has been ironically really productive for me. It might be the most productive writing year I’ve had for a while if we’re just counting new words. I think this is because the way I deal with stress historically is to read and write it out. Also not being able to go to the gym or hang out as much with friends means I don’t have my other coping mechanisms. I’ve mostly been writing more light-hearted stuff this go round, for obvious reasons. It’s a lot harder to put my characters in really disturbing situations when I am personally a little overwhelmed, so that’s been the biggest issue I’ve faced.

JESSICA P. WICK: 2020 has been just an awful gloom of uncertainty, occasionally punctuated by the hot radiance of anger. It’s been a struggle to write and to read. I think wistfully of those old stories of The Writer or The Artist, spilling their pain onto the page and shaping masterpieces. That’s not how I work at all. If I look back over the last few years at my projects, I’m often drawn to the question of how to do what is right. I write a lot about ‘good neighbors,’ about expectation and goodness, image and what it really means, a lot of careful what you wish for, consequences exist but they’re often unintended. I don’t think this awful year has changed any of that. I’m still interested in writing characters who are ultimately hopeful although they might not be in a very hopeful world.

MIKE ALLEN: I have to say, the stress of the pandemic and the roil of civil unrest and electoral uncertainty ground my writing down to a level of near nonexistence. (In a sense. In my day job, I’m a newspaper reporter, and in that role I’ve written plenty.) Most of my writing and publishing-related effort has gone into promoting A Sinister Quartet and my new collection of horror fiction, Aftermath of an Industrial Accident, and advertising and selling other titles in the Mythic Delirium Books catalog.

I have in 2020 managed to write a handful of new short stories, one of which I sold to Lackington’s. And it’s another “Button Bin” story, this time a prequel, called “The Feather Stitch.” It crosses over with another quasi-popular story of mine, “The Cruelest Team Will Win,” and thus ties in another monster mythos that I originally conceived as completely separate. I seem to be doing that more and more in my dotage — linking stories that originally I had no intention of tying together.

As an aside, I feel a need to step more fully into my editor hat here (hello, mixed metaphor) and note that C.S.E.’s “The Twice-Drowned Saint” in Sinister is very much of the 2020 moment in its plot and themes.

What do each of you have planned next?

C.S.E. COONEY: I have to finish edits for my novel Saint Death’s Daughter, which is coming out in Spring 2022 with Solaris. I have an idea for an 8-episode radio play/podcast called The Devil and Lady Midnight. I have a concept album I’d like to complete called Ballads from a Distant Star. I’d like to finish up a collection of novellas called Dark Breakers—which means finishing a novella I started for it, and also one last short story. I’d like to start the next novel in my Saint Death trilogy. And, oh! Various and sundry!

AMANDA J. MCGEE: Plans…yeah. I don’t have anything set in stone right now. No contracts. I’m working on a novel that ambushed me back in August. Kind of a Labyrinth meets Lord of the Rings scenario, for lack of a better way to describe it. It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve got another couple of novels at various stages of editing I need to get polished and out to query. So hopefully one of those projects goes somewhere, but I’ve been focusing on making new words this year more than anything.

JESSICA P. WICK: My plan is to finish what I call ‘the swashbuckly novel,’ which is a tale of revenge, atmosphere, carnivorous mermaids, fate witches working for a decadent government, sleeping curses, bureaucratic evil, dangerous nationalism, theatre troupes, pirates, repartee both with words and blades.

I’ve also been playing with drabbles expanding some of the folklore from my horror story, ‘The Husker,’ which is up at Strange Horizons, and I’d like to put together a collection of oddities …Possibly to go along with a poetry collection. That’s my big 2021 goal: Put out a collection of poetry.

But there are other things I’m working on (in theory), too. A murder ballad card game, a novel about Brinedrift House (it will involve devils), a horror story about a goose. You’d think I wouldn’t need to write more. Say ‘goose’ and have people sagely nod ‘ah yes, the devil bird,’ but I have a goal of getting my friend Christa to never look at geese the same way again.

So many plans! I just hope I’m ready for 2021.

MIKE ALLEN: I have a fully drafted novel, working title These Bloody Filaments, that I haven’t touched since January, in part because of the 2020 miasma, in part because I felt like I had to see how this election turned out in order to choose the directions the revisions should go, as racism and police brutality figure strongly in its warp and weft. I hope to find the strength to get back to it soon. In the meantime there’s an older novel to perhaps dust off, a new novel idea to start on, other stories to finish, future Mythic Delirium Books to discuss — and of course more promotion for both Aftermath of an Industrial Accident and A Sinister Quartet.

Where can we find you online?

C.S.E. COONEY: https://csecooney.com/ and @csecooney on Twitter and Insta.

AMANDA J. MCGEE: You can find me all sorts of places! My website is http://amandajmcgee.com, where I blog weekly, and I’m also on Twitter (@skylit1) and Instagram (@amcgee.writes) and I have a Facebook page, and technically even a Patreon where you can read little snippets of things I’m currently scribbling on.

JESSICA P. WICK: You can find me online at jessicapwick.com, foamlyre on instagram, and @lunelyre on twitter.

MIKE ALLEN: As a publisher at https://mythicdelirium.com/, as a writer at http://descentintolight.com/, on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mythicdelirium and on Facebook as https://www.facebook.com/time.shark.

Tremendous thanks to the authors of A Sinister Quartet for being part of this very fabulous roundtable!

Happy reading!

My Upcoming December Events

It’s finally December, which means the year is at last winding down. But even as quarantine marches on, I’ve been doing my best to keep myself busy over here, if for no other reason than to avoid the existential dread of 2020. So if you’re looking for something fun to do this month as you avoid existential dread as well, here are a few very cool places you can catch me virtually for the rest of the year!

Skeleton Hour: Witchcraft

First up, I’m absolutely over the moon to be part of this month’s Skeleton Hour! This is a fantastic monthly series, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be part of December’s event. And to make it even more exciting, the topic is all about witches! I’ll be part of a panel discussion with Alexis Henderson, Pam Grossman, and Zoraida Córdova, with Lisa Quigley as our moderator. This one is happening on Wednesday, December 9th at 10pm EST (or 7pm PST), so definitely sign up to hang out with us for a bewitchingly cool event!

The New York Ghost Story Festival

Then on Thursday, December 10th at 7pm, I’ll be joining Hysop Mulero and Rudi Dornemann for Daniel Braum’s awesome The New York Ghost Story Festival! Thursday will be the kickoff evening of the festival, and it’s going to be so fun to be involved! I’ll be reading from both The Invention of Ghosts and Pretty Marys All in a Row! You can join us over at the live YouTube page right here!

The Outer Dark Quarantine Readings series

This week, I was also thrilled to spend some virtual time with the incomparable Anya Martin, as we recorded for an upcoming Outer Dark episode. I got to talk about my time in quarantine as well as my favorite books from 2020. I also did a short reading from Boneset & Feathers, so that was exciting too! This episode is slated to air later this month, likely around December 17th, and will also feature a reading from Daniel Braum! It’s always a joy to be part of an episode of The Outer Dark, so definitely keep your eyes peeled for this one!

And that about wraps it up for December events! I hope everyone is doing well and staying safe.

Happy reading, and happy holidays!

RELEASE DAY: Boneset & Feathers is now available!

So today is the day! Boneset & Feathers has officially made its witchy debut in the world!

So many thanks to the amazing Scott Gable at Broken Eye Books for bringing this book into existence! It was such a wonderful experience working with Broken Eye again after the release of Pretty Marys All in a Row back in 2017. Also, tremendous thanks to gawki for their amazing cover art. Behold the cover in all its vibrant glory!

Pre-orders have started making their arrivals in readers’ homes, which is always an exciting thing for writers. If you ordered the book, please tag me in any pictures you post, as it will do my witchy little heart good to see them!

As for advance reviews, here are a few lovely quotes about the book from reviewers so far!

“Kiste casts a spell with this original and suspenseful horror story, but it holds more than meets the eye.” — Library Journal (starred review)

“A gorgeous book featuring magic, witches, ghosts and revenge turned sour.” — S.J. Budd of Come and Behold My Dark World

“Kiste is a versatile and engaging author making this book definitely one to check out. Recommended for fans of coming of age, witches, and more.” — Sci-Fi & Scary

“By the time you hurtle toward the epic conclusion, you will be wowed and left wanting more from this master storyteller and weaver of magic tales. Buy all of Gwendolyn Kiste’s books if you haven’t already.” — A.E. Siraki at Cemetery Dance

So just where can you find this strange little book with its ghost birds and witches and witchfinders? I’m glad you asked!

Boneset & Feathers at Amazon

Boneset & Feathers at Broken Eye Books

The ebook version is also on its way and will be available shortly as well!

As always, happy reading, and thank you so much to everyone who’s already ordered and supported this novel! I know 2020 has been rife with uncertainty, and today in particular is a very tense day, so for everyone who’s shared in my book’s release, I appreciate it so much more than you know!

Stay safe, and stay witchy!

Books, Readings, and Other Fall Goodies: My October Writing Updates

So autumn is already upon us, which is strange, because it really doesn’t feel like we had a summer. Time seems sort of irrelevant this year, especially considering I’ve been sheltering at home since March. What are days anyhow?

At any rate, here we are, and 2020 is starting to wind down, and I’ve got lots of news that I haven’t shared yet on this old blog. So let’s get to it, shall we?

Two-book Deal with Saga Press

Everyone who follows me on social media has probably already heard about this by now, but just in case you didn’t know, I’m absolutely over the moon to announce that I’ve signed a two-book deal with Saga Press, an imprint of Simon and Schuster. The first book, The Reluctant Immortals, is due out in 2022. Needless to say, I’m beyond thrilled about this! Saga Press has been consistently releasing the very best fantasy, science fiction, and horror books over the last few years, and it’s an honor to be part of the illustrious roster of authors. Truly, I’m still stunned, and it’s been over two months since I signed the contract with editor extraordinaire Joe Monti. It’s surreal and exciting and I can’t wait to share these books with you.

Also, here’s the official Publisher’s Marketplace announcement!

Boneset & Feathers is almost here!

But before I get too far ahead of myself, I also have a new novel coming out this year! My second novel, Boneset & Feathers, is due out in just over two weeks! I can’t believe it’s almost here!

The cover art is from the amazing gawki, who did the artwork for Pretty Marys All in a Row! It’s also been terrific working with Scott Gable and Broken Eye Books again, and I’m very excited for Boneset & Feathers to officially make its way into the world! So mark your calendars for November 3rd, because these witches and ghost birds are on their way!

New Limited Edition Novella with Thunderstorm Books

And I’ve got one more book announcement for the year! I have a brand-new limited edition novella due out later this year with the new Tempest line from the fantastic Thunderstorm Books!

I recently got a peek at the layout, and reader, I swooned. The design is absolutely beautiful, which was truly not surprising considering Thunderstorm Books’ long history of putting together gorgeous limited editions. So many thanks to Mary SanGiovanni who’s at the helm of the Tempest line, Scott Cole for putting together the design of the book, and of course Paul Goblirsch who heads up the amazing Thunderstorm Books. I can’t wait to talk more about this book as the release draws closer!

New Short Stories & Translations

Over the summer, Filles de Rouille, the French translation of The Rust Maidens, made its debut from Editions du Chat Noir. They are such a wonderful publisher, and it’s been so much fun watching the book arrive to new readers!

Earlier this month, my Dracula retelling, “The Eight People Who Murdered Me (Excerpt from Lucy Westenra’s Diary)” made its debut in Spanish at Crononauta. This is another fantastic publisher, and one I hope to work with again in the future!

As for new fiction, my dark fantasy tale, “Lost Girls Don’t Cry,” appeared in the folklore-themed anthology, Places We Fear to Tread, from Cemetery Gates Media, and my dark fairy tale, “The Princes She’s Forgotten,” will soon appear in the charity anthology, Survive With Me, from Alien Agenda Publishing. I adore short fiction so much, and I’m super happy to have some new stories recently released or soon to make their debut.

Forthcoming Events

And finally, if you still haven’t gotten enough of me, then you can catch me at two very cool events this week! Tomorrow night, October 20th at 7pm, I’ll be joining Michelle Renee Lane, Kathe Koja, and Sara Tantlinger for Scream Queens: The History and Future of Women in Horror, an event sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh’s Horror Studies program. You can join the fun by heading right over here.

Then on Saturday night, I’ll be part of the HWA Pittsburgh Chapter Reading! There will be a big awesome group of us at the reading, and it’s sure to be a fun time, so sign up and hang out with us here!

And that’s pretty much everything for now! I hope everyone is doing well and staying safe and having a great Halloween season… or the best season we can have considering the dread is real this year. Sending lots of good autumnal vibes everyone’s way!

Happy reading, and happy Halloween!

Hope for the Future: Part 4 of Fright Girl Summer Roundtable

Welcome back for the final part of our Fright Girl Summer Roundtable! Today, I talk to our seven featured authors about where they’d like to see the horror genre go as well as what you can expect from them in the coming months!

So let’s take it away!

What are your hopes for the future of horror? In what ways do you feel like we’re making strides in representation, and where does the publishing industry still need to do the most work?

EDEN ROYCE: I hope horror eventually becomes a genre that isn’t frowned upon as “lesser”. I actually hope that happens for all of speculative fiction versus literary fiction. For as much as it’s maligned, horror can be a brilliant, sharp, and lingering way to express what we hold sacred as well as who and what and why we fear.

I’m seeing more discussions about the work of non-cis white male horror writers, more publishing announcements showing deals for these writers, and more attention being paid to writers who have traditionally been excluded from or minimized in the canon of horror writing. Much of it starts with gatekeepers – those who read slush or otherwise have the job of sorting through submissions. Have more people who understand different methods of storytelling. Look at your staff: are they all one demographic? Consider expanding that.

Also, look at how and to whom your books are marketed. Think more widely about how you describe and position your books in the marketplace. Do you want more BIPOC readers and reviewers? Seek them out; ask them if they will read your books and don’t assume they’re always aware of your releases.

GABY TRIANA: I would love to see more Latina/Hispanic voices, as well as more Black, Asian, and transgender voices in horror. There’s simply not enough. We’ve come a long way, but there’s still more work to do. One way to achieve this is by hiring editors who are Latina, Black, Asian, transgender and any other underrepresented group out there. Reading about a variety of people is how we learn about the world, how we develop empathy, and it’s time to get diverse.

LINDA D. ADDISON: My hope for horror is the same as my hope for the world: for differences to be embraced and enjoyed. The way to increase representation in writing is to have gate-keepers/editors that include the underrepresented, how else can different kinds of writing be selected. The publishing industry has to be mindful, put in extra work to seek out and include others in their platform. Old patterns don’t change by thought alone. We’ve had projects called out that are clearly not putting the work in to create inclusive anthologies, etc.

A recent example of a change in approach is The Twisted Book of Shadows anthology with editors Christopher Golden and James A. Moore. Chris put together a diverse editorial committee to read blind submissions; widely circulated the submission guidelines with a clear message of wanting work from everyone. In the end, Chris and Jim were given a list of fiction from the edit committee that could have filled three anthologies out of over 700 submissions. They made the final decisions on fiction from the committees’ selection. The anthology was on the final ballot for the HWA Bram Stoker award® 2019 for Anthology, and won the Shirley Jackson Award in Anthology.

Another anthology that changed the paradigm, Sycorax’s Daughters, was a HWA Bram Stoker award® finalist, gathered great reviews and was edited by Prof. Kinitra Brooks, Prof. Susana Morris and myself. The original idea was Prof. Brooks’ to create an anthology of horror fiction and poetry written by Black women.

The HWA has created outlets, like the monthly column The Seers Table, to introduce membership to underrepresented creatives.

There’s much work to be done, but these are examples of what can be done.

V. CASTRO: Again, we need more people of color represented in horror, and not as characters. We need to support writers of color so they continue because it’s very easy to become discouraged in publishing. It’s falling and getting up again. The more we show writers of color it is possible to be seen and heard, the more diversity we will see cropping up. The more opportunities offered to people of color will also boost morale.

I think women are making strides everyday in publishing, however, there have been a string of stories of harassment. We don’t just need our stories to be published, we require respect and dignity. We require to feel safe. If men can’t do that then they have no place in publishing and are just taking up valuable space. They can fuck right off.

R.J. JOSEPH: I see a lot more women being welcomed into the fold, as well as an inspiring number of men in the genre who understand why they need to proactively work towards equity for all horror writers. I hope this extends more fully to writers of color, at some point. There’s still way too much policing of the types of ethnic enactments that are “acceptable” and those that gatekeepers don’t want to support. A horrifying number of reviewers who approach books by own voices authors as alien works they just can’t relate to…pretty much because they just don’t want to expand their world views to include anyone not like them or the stereotypes they’ve built up about other folks inside their heads. I’d love to see all those walls broken down so that future horror writers of color never have to read reviews of their work written by people of other ethnicities bashing how they’ve chosen to write about their own experiences, or watch everyone around them (including less talented writers) get opportunities that are never extended to them.

G.G. SILVERMAN: I’d like to see horror get the same respect as literary fiction. As for representation, I feel like more women are getting represented in horror, but I’d love to see more intersectionality, more BIPOC folks represented, more LGBTQ folks, more disabled folks. and not just as writers, but in all areas of publishing. And I’d love to see all of us reaping the financial rewards, contract-wise, that white male writers get. Representation isn’t enough. The true financial support of the industry—that would go farther.

SONORA TAYLOR: I hope we’ll see less gatekeeping, both in the fandom and in the publication world. I can’t count the number of times I see people having the “What’s real horror?” debate. Horror is wide-ranging. It isn’t just monsters and blood. It isn’t just Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft (with a passing mention of Shirley Jackson to throw women a bone). Why spend all this time debating the intricacies and shouting down fans when you can just read it and enjoy it? Though I will say for every gatekeeper, I see 10 or 20 awesome fans who are open to all kinds of stories and all kinds of storytellers.

This is where publishing needs to keep up. People are only going to talk about King if you only promote King, if you only offer your entire horror marketing budget to King, if you only ask King to blurb new books coming out; and if your non-King authors are all almost the same demographics as King. The next Stephen King doesn’t need to be another white man. All kinds of storytellers should be given a chance to have their stories told on a widespread level.

What projects are you currently working on? Also, what works of yours have been recently released or are set for release?

EDEN ROYCE: I mentioned Root Magic earlier – that’s due to be released on January 5, 2021. I’ve turned in another middle-grade to my editor, this one is a Southern Gothic fantasy (magical realism !!!) and I’m working on a YA horror novel. You’ve also got me thinking about this romantic horror crime noir, so that will be percolating in my head as well!

GABY TRIANA: Right now, I’m writing a witchy occult novel called MOON CHILD. It’s in the beginning stages, so I can’t say more than that. I’ve also co-written a paranormal horror novel with two celebrity individuals. Sorry to be vague, but they’ll be making an announcement at the end of the summer! Also, I have a short story called “Don’t You See That Cat?” coming out in DON’T TURN OUT THE LIGHTS: A Tribute to Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (September, 2020, HarperCollins) and a flash fiction piece called “Gut Instinct” coming out in Issue #365 of Weird Tales Magazine, slated to release at the end of 2020, soon available in print, e-book, and audio.

LINDA D. ADDISON: I’m finishing edits on my first novel. This has been a grand adventure because it’s a new form for me to play in. For 2020 I have work in the following anthologies: Miscreations, Don’t Turn Out the Lights, Chiral Mad 5, and Weird Tales Magazine #364. I’m also excited about the 2020 release of a film (inspired by my poem of same name) “Mourning Meal”, by producer and director Jamal Hodge.

V. CASTRO: I have 3 short stories out.
“Asylum” in Lockdown from Polis Books
Cucuy of Cancun in Worst Laid Plans from Grindhouse Press
“Templo Mayor” in Graveyard Smash Vol.2 from Kandisha Press

Next year you can expect The Queen of the Cicadas from Flame Tree Press and Goddess of Filth from Creature Publishing.

R.J. JOSEPH: My most recent academic essay, “The Beloved Haunting of Hill House: An Examination of Monstrous Motherhood” appears in the essay collection edited by Kevin Wetmore, Jr., The Streaming of Hill House: Essays on the Haunting Netflix Adaption. I also have a poem appearing in the upcoming HWA Poetry Showcase VII.

I’m currently fleshing out screenplays for my short stories “Left Hand Torment” (historical horror from the Black Magic Women anthology) and “To Give Her Whatsoever She May Ask” (contemporary horror from the Sycorax’s Daughters anthology). I’m also pulling together a story collection that I plan to have done by the end of next month. I hope to have something exciting to say about those three projects at some point in the near future.

G.G. SILVERMAN: Currently, I’m working on a feminist speculative short fiction collection that lies somewhere between dark fantasy and horror. I still need an agent, and a publisher, but my proposed collection was a finalist for the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund (for feminist writers and artists) so I feel like the collection has potential.

I’m also working on a dark, feminist poetry collection. And hoping to shop that around next year as well.

As for recent releases, I had a story come out at Speculative City’s WEIRD issue, in celebration of Weird Fiction that defies the previously white male conventions of the genre. The story is called “I’m sorry, I tried, I love you” and can be found here: http://www.speculativecity.com/fiction/im-sorry-i-tried-i-love-you/

And, in a deep nod to my immigrant heritage, my gothic Italian sea monster story, The Miraculous Ones, is in the NOT ALL MONSTERS Women in Horror anthology, from StrangeHouse Books.

Soon, I’ll also have a witchy faux micro-memoir out from Rough Cut Press, which will be available online.

I feel so lucky that I get to do this work.

Thanks again for having me, Gwendolyn! Your work inspires me, and it is an honor to be here today.

SONORA TAYLOR: Right now I’m writing short stories. I’m submitting to journals, and I’m also planning to release my fourth short story collection in late 2021. It’s called Someone to Share My Nightmares, and it will largely focus on romantic and erotic horror.

My third novel, Seeing Things, was released this past June. It follows a teenage girl who discovers she can see the dead, but none of them want to talk to her. It’s a contemporary Gothic novel and I’ve been pleased with the reader response to it so far!

I’m also featured in the anthology Women of Horror Vol. 2: Graveyard Smash from Kandisha Press. It features 22 stories, all from some of the most exciting voices in horror right now.

V. Castro and I are also talking about ways to expand Fright Girl Summer into a year-round event. Stay tuned!

And that’s a wrap on this month’s roundtable! Tremendous thanks to our seven fantastic featured authors! You can also catch even more Fright Girl Summer by heading over here!

Happy reading, and happy Fright Girl Summer!

Advice and Horror: Part 3 of Fright Girl Summer Roundtable

Welcome back for part three in our Fright Girl Summer Roundtable! This week, we’re focusing on the advice that these seven fantastic authors would offer to new female horror writers as well as what different subgenres of horror they might like to explore in the future!

So let’s take it away!

What’s the most important advice you would offer to a female horror author who’s just starting out?

EDEN ROYCE: Stick with it. Find a deep reason within yourself to write. Cling to that reason with a sweat-slick grip when you have those low points or feel your love of writing beginning to wane.

GABY TRIANA: Just write what you write. Don’t worry about industry trends, don’t listen to your agent (ha!), just write what’s inside of your heart, and your passion will come through. When that happens, like-minded readers will find you. You will become the only person who can write your story exactly the way you can. Before you know it, you will carve out your own niche. Don’t second-guess yourself. You are amazing exactly the way you are. Just write your passion!

LINDA D. ADDISON: It’s very important to write what comes/appeals to you, without editing yourself, without judging whether you should be writing it. Write it as well as possible and submit to the top markets. Why not?

Read everything, not just what you like to write, other genres, forms. Try writing other things, to exercise your writing muscles. I’ve been journaling since high school; my journals are the source of most of the writing I’ve published. I write everything that crosses my mind: themes, characters, dialogue, anything that finds its way into my mind.

R.J. JOSEPH: I haven’t pulled out of my middle-aged cynicism far enough about this genre to really offer really positive advice. Sigh. However, I will borrow some that I repeat to myself often. I had the chance to sit in on a talk with Tananarive Due a couple of years ago. As I mentioned earlier, I love her work and have been frustrated that I don’t see people paying her to be all over the horror genre. I asked her if she was frustrated at having been at this for so long and watching folks act like Jordan Peele (who’s a genius, by the way) is the first black person they’ve ever seen do horror. She basically said she didn’t have the time to be frustrated because she stayed busy writing, writing, and writing. She said that by not dwelling on frustration, she had tons of work to pitch when the door opened in horror for Black people. I see that worked for her.

I would say to a new female horror writer: things aren’t as equitable as they should be for us just yet, but if you keep writing, writing, and writing, you’ll have a slew of work up for grabs when the door finally gets kicked down. Just don’t let the lack of opportunities get you to stop writing. If you can stop writing, you probably should.

V. CASTRO: Don’t compare. It is so hard to not to compare your journey to someone else’s journey. You can be happy for someone’s success and feel like a failure if you are not achieving the same.

Publishing is full of rejection and false starts. Keep going and put on blinders if you must. Write what feels right for you. No one else can tell your story.

G.G. SILVERMAN: First and foremost, embrace the darkness and write what you want to write. Ignore anyone who says that because you’re a woman, you can’t (or shouldn’t) write horror. Stick to your guns.

Also, horror, historically, has been treated as the lesser-loved stepchild of the literary world, but I think women are changing that viewpoint because of the nuances and expansion they’ve brought to the genre, and I think all writers benefit from having women in the genre.

So, ladies, if you’re writing something that feels bold and risky and you’re unsure of it and afraid to go forward, dig deep and keep going, because what you’re most afraid of is exactly the kind of work you should be doing, because it’s work that hasn’t been done yet, and the literary world needs it.

SONORA TAYLOR: Don’t be afraid to promote yourself, your books, and your accomplishments. Women are raised to be silent or, at best, humble about their accomplishments. Saying “I wrote a book and I’m proud” is not arrogant. Posting a link to your book and asking people to buy it is not being annoying. You need to market yourself! And, you need to market yourself with confidence. If you’re nervous about putting yourself out there, keep it simple. Something like, “My novel, X, is now available! Give it a read.” Easy, nothing asshole-y, and honestly, if someone thinks that’s annoying, that’s on them, not you.

Are there any subgenres of horror (e.g. body horror, sci-fi-horror, etc.) that you haven’t explored yet in your work but would like to? Likewise, are there any mediums (e.g. poetry, long fiction, nonfiction, novels) that you’re looking forward to writing one day or perhaps exploring more than you already have?

EDEN ROYCE: I’d love to tackle a horror romance and a horror crime noir. Possibly in the same book. My debut novel, Root Magic, is a first for me in many ways. Not only is it my first novel-length work, it’s my first work for a middle-grade age group (8-12). But I’ve found a lot of adults love reading middle-grade work, as well. Especially this kind of Southern Gothic with folklore, monsters, and magic.

GABY TRIANA: I’ve always wanted to write sci-fi horror. ALIEN is still one of my most favorite movies ever, and it’s always been in the back of my mind to write something set in space. Besides that, I think I’m perfectly happy writing witchy occult novels. It’s taken me a while to find my way home. Now that I’m here, I’m going to explore more. The only other format I’d be interested in writing, only because they say I write in a cinematic, scene-setting way as is, is screenplays. Otherwise, I’m perfectly happy with full-length novels!

LINDA D. ADDISON: Per subgenres, I write what comes to me without knowing what labels it would fit. I’m also inspired to try new things, so I can’t tell you what may come next, but I suspect something different.

I’ve avoided novels most of my career because I was afraid of starting one and getting lost in it, but I just finished my first novel! I have plans for several other novels. So we’ll see how that works out.

R.J. JOSEPH: I’m always dabbling in poetry because I just love how words feel and look and I like playing around with the space they take up. I’m not nearly as good at it as I’d like to be, so I’ll keep practicing. I haven’t written a novel length work since my grad school thesis (which was a romance novel, anyway), so at some point, I would like to write a horror novel. That goal is quite daunting, though, because my brain mostly works in short story or comic book form for horror. I’ve started but not finished a couple of horror novellas that I want to get back to at some point. My most recent forays in a slightly different direction has been towards screenplays. When I write poetry or short stories, I always see the stories in my head. A couple of short stories I wrote won’t stop haunting me until I finish their screenplays and give them some chance to be seen in film.

V. CASTRO: I just go for it. I explore all areas because I feel life generates experiences that can be expressed in all subgenres of horror. For me, the story dictates the length. You never know until you begin walking the path.

G.G. SILVERMAN: In truth, I feel as if I could stand to explore body horror a bit more, especially since my whole life as a woman, with experiences of disability, feels like body horror, haha.

As for future mediums, someday I will likely plunge into long fiction again, and I want to continue to get better at poetry.

SONORA TAYLOR: Hmm, that’s a good question! I actually love body horror but struggle with writing it. My short story, “Always in My Ear,” actually started as one that was more body horror-oriented, with the devices that people use to listen to podcasts 24/7 having dangerous effects. However, my story kept struggling until I shifted the focus to the two women and their violent personalities instead (though the devices still make an appearance). Maybe I’ll take another crack at body horror in the future, but a lot of what I write is centered on the mind.

I’d love to try writing a screenplay. I love writing dialogue and would find it interesting to write a story in my head truly cinematically. I’ve written short scripts and a treatment for a TV show once (it was a class assignment, nothing actually on TV), and would like to do it again.

And that concludes part three of our Fright Girl Summer Roundtable! Head on back here next week for the final installment in our series!

Happy reading, and happy Fright Girl Summer!

Challenges and Triumphs: Part 2 of Fright Girl Summer Roundtable

Welcome back for part two of this month’s Fright Girl Summer Roundtable! Last week, we met our seven featured authors and learned about what inspired them to become horror writers. Today, they share some of their challenges as well as the female horror authors they love and recommend.

So let’s take it away!

What are the biggest obstacles for you as a writer? Conversely, who are some of the publications, editors, or other writers who have made your journey through publishing a more positive one?

EDEN ROYCE: Self-doubt can be an enormous burden. As writers, many of us live in our own heads and negative self-talk can keep even the best creatives from producing work.

I’ve been lucky enough to work with some wonderful people in publishing, though. Everyone at Fiyah Lit Mag (past and present) is fantastically supportive and encouraging – they deserve all the kudos for the stunning work they do. Sandra O’Dell at the Drabblecast is a phenomenal editor as are Vajra Chandrasekera at Strange Horizons and Kerrie C. Byrne at Augur Mag. Last but not least, my editor Jordan Brown at HarperCollins loved my novel Root Magic from the start and his input helped make it shine.

GABY TRIANA: My biggest obstacle has always been branding. Because I cover a lot of ground, I can’t for sure say I’m a “horror writer” or a “YA writer.” I write stories about people. The one theme all my stories have is self-discovery, learning about the powers buried deep inside oneself, because this is how I’ve felt all my life, like I’ve slowly been uncovering supersecret hidden powers. But there’s no “Supersecret Hidden Powers” shelf in the bookstores, so I end up all over the place.

My journey through kid lit was difficult, though it started out easy. I got my agent as soon as I finished my first novel, and he sold my manuscripts to HarperCollins in two 2-book deals right out of the gate. Everyone thought I had it made. But then, the industry changed, I was asked to write more Latina heroine books, which I did, but they didn’t sell, so I tried going back to paranormal horror, but I was advised against it, because the “trend was dying.” I got lost. Really lost. But I finally decided I’m going to write whatever the hell I want. I’ve slowly been making my way back to my heart, mostly on my own, but I can definitely thank a few people. My agent, Deborah Warren, who’s been “new” for about 8 years now, Jonathan Maberry, who couldn’t understand why my books weren’t more widely read and has been instrumental in lifting my voice higher, Michelle Zink, who went indie and guided me through the process with such a generous heart. Too many people to name, but they’ve all been such an inspiration to me.

LINDA D. ADDISON: The obstacles now are very different from the beginning of my writing career. Now that I’m retired from day job you would think I have nothing but time to write, however, I’m also involved in projects with other creative folks, so it’s a constant learning process to balance my time.

I could fill pages with publications, editors, or other writers who have been invaluable in my career (including family and friends), a few highlights are: There are many small press magazines (Pirate Writings, Epitaph, Lore, etc.) and anthologies (Dark Voices, Rough Beasts, GSHW In A Fearful Way, Dead Cats Bouncing, etc) that published me early on. Asimov’s SF Magazine (after getting published in 1997 after years of rejections); Space & Time Books editor Gordon Linzner (whose editing/advice/friendship has meant everything to me & published my first three books, two received HWA Bram Stoker awards), CITH (Circles in the Hair) workshop from NYC, which came together in 1990 and have had so much to do with the evolution of my writing. Meeting Tananarive Due in 1997 at a World Horror in NYC when she was on the final ballot for a Stoker in Novels was completely inspiring.

Game changers like having a story published in Sheree Renée Thomas’ Dark Matter anthology; workshops with Terry Bisson, Nancy Kress and others, who became supporters and friends. There are so many I met at conferences like NECON, WHC, and groups like HWA who became my mentors/friends.

There are people who are no longer with us, who believed in me before anyone else knew of my work: Tom Piccirilli, Jack Ketchum, Charlee Jacob, Stephen M. Wilson, Rick Hautala.

V. CASTRO: The biggest obstacles are time management with home life and protecting my mental health with the chaos in the world.

Unnerving headed by Eddie Generous has always been great with publishing women. Flame Tree Press has bought two of my books that are very much inspired by my culture.

All the women in horror have made this journey truly special and amazing. I love how we support each other through the good and the bad. By us continuing to do this, I truly believe we can all achieve what we want on our individual writing journeys. We are stronger together.

G.G. SILVERMAN: My biggest obstacles, currently, are the unfolding horrors of the political landscape. I do believe that writing is an act of resistance and reclaiming one’s voice is ever more important as the days progress, but I sometimes wonder if I should be doing something else—as in, are the lives of Americans in clear and present danger? I’m constantly evaluating our emergency supplies, making sure we have enough food, medicine, for the humans and the dog. And though I’m checking on the mental health and wellbeing of friends and family when I can, I’m always wondering if it’s enough, if there’s someone I’ve missed.

As for those in the writing field who’ve made my publishing journey a positive one—there are so, so, so many people. I think the ones who’ve impacted me the most are the teachers—they’ve given me a huge gift by teaching me what they know. Most of them write in genres outside of horror, but I feel that’s what makes my work richer. Some of those teachers are Alexander Weinstein, Amelia Martens, Sequoia Nagamatsu, Matthew Gavin Frank, Christopher Citro, and Francine J. Harris. Without them, I don’t think I’d have as many tools as I do to write, and I’d probably be floundering a lot more.

R.J. JOSEPH: Being a Black, female horror writer is the biggest obstacle for me, by far. I’ve been writing in this genre for years, albeit, doing so undercover for much of that time. I grew up in the 70s and 80s, so my first readings in horror were by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and John Saul. I didn’t see work being published by other Black women in the genre. Even the inimitable Toni Morrison’s Beloved wasn’t immediately embraced as horror when it was first published. When I finally found Tananarive Due and Octavia Butler in the 90s, they never got the fanfare I felt they deserved. Even now, I ask myself, “If those queens with their masterful and passionate wordplay couldn’t get a huge break, who are you to think you can do this?” I’ve seen how long Due has been at this. She’s incredible and humble. My all time favorite writer. But I haven’t seen her works in movies, as they all should be. Granted, things are moving for her now, but she should be held up as a standard in horror.

I have to give a lot of credit to the faculty, mentors, and fellow students in the Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program. They were the first people, besides my mother, who made me believe I could write horror. They accepted me as I was and the horror writing pod embraced me as one of theirs. Elsa Carruthers and Stephanie Wytovich are a part of this awesome family. I walked in a duality there, writing a romance thesis but workshopping horror short stories. The faculty and mentors gently prodded me along towards the things they knew I could do that I didn’t think were possible, especially in academia. I also have to give a lot of kudos to so many newer horror family members I’ve met more recently, like Linda Addison who is simply exquisite. She’s not only a brilliant writer, but she always makes opportunities to bring the rest of us along with her. Cina Pelayo, John Edward Lawson, V. Castro, Gabino Iglesias, Nicholas Diak, the Ladies of Horror Fiction…just about all the horror peeps I engage with regularly on Twitter are people I look up to and folks who’re fighting the good fight. They all make this thing worthwhile.

SONORA TAYLOR: I have a hard time writing down a bad first draft. I want each sentence well-written and each plot point fleshed out as soon as I write it. As such, I don’t write when I feel like I can’t do that, and I have to force myself to open the document and just start writing. It can be especially hard when I’m stressed. But, I always feel better having written, even when I know I need to revise.

I’ve been lucky to work with really good editors and publishers. Evelyn Duffy, who edits my novels and short story collections, has been a blessing. She’s given me so much helpful advice as well as encouragement. She’s also a hell of an editor: all of my work has improved with her edits.

Sirens Call Publications has an amazing team behind them. I frequently submit stories to The Sirens Call, a free online eZine; and they always take good care of my work. They were even kind enough to feature me last summer! I also had an amazing experience with Camden Park Press, which published Quoth the Raven. It was my first time being published by a third party, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.

What books from female horror authors are you most excited to read this year? Which female horror authors do you feel more people should be reading?

EDEN ROYCE: I’m so behind on my reading. This year has been … interesting. I’m looking forward to reading The Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland, Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and Out of Water by Sarah Read as well in indulging in rereads of Fledgling by Octavia Butler, White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi, All the Fabulous Beasts by Priya Sharma, and New Music for Old Rituals by Tracy Fahey.

GABY TRIANA: BONESET & FEATHERS, baby! Anything by you, Christa Carmen, Ania Ahlborn, Sonora Taylor, Catherine Cavendish’s THE MALEN WITCH, Sara Tantlinger, Briana Morgan, Stephanie Wytovich, Alethea Kontis, Sarah Read, Kiersten White…there’s so many!

LINDA D. ADDISON: Female horror authors with work out or coming out I follow: Sheree Renée Thomas, Kaaron Warren, Christina Sng, L. Marie Wood, Cindy O’Quinn, Stephanie M. Wytovich, Sara Tantlinger, Tananarive Due, Gwendolyn Kiste, V. Castro, Silvia Moreno Garcia, Cynthia Pelayo, Nicole Givens Kurtz, Sonora Taylor, B. Shares Moore, Claire C. Holland, Valjeanne Jeffers, Mercedes M. Yardley, EV Knight, Lisa Morton, Lee Murray, Tonya Liburd, Marge Simon, Sarah Read…

V. CASTRO: I have such a back log of books I don’t even know where to begin! Between editing and writing new stuff with my family life, it has been a challenge. I’m excited for Laurel Hightower’s new book, Crossroads.

I will always say read more women of color. Read more Black women in genre fiction. Black Lives Matter is not a fad or trend, it is a call for fundamental change. That begins with what we consume and purchasing power.

Women of color are still sorely underrepresented.

R.J. JOSEPH: I have SO MANY unread books in my Kindle app right now! I’m happy to have reached a point where I can set a book buying budget and just buy books. I can hardly wait to dig into Cirque Berserk, by Jessica Guess, Hairspray and Switchblades, by V. Castro, the first two Graveyard Smash Women of Horror anthologies, Worst Laid Plans: An Anthology of Vacation Horror, and Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. And I know there will be many, many others to come when I’m done with these.

Everybody should be reading everything Stephanie Wytovich and Cina Pelayo touch in any way. They should devour V. Castro’s work. I really feel like everyone who writes should read or re-examine all of Toni Morrison’s works. Chesya Burke is a phenomenal writer who I don’t hear enough people talk about. And Kinitra Brooks writes extensively about Black women in horror, so she’s a must read writer.

G.G. SILVERMAN: I’m excited to read Wonderland by Zoje Stage, and waiting with bated breath for Karen Russell’s Sleep Donation, her first horror novel, I believe! I’ve also heard Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic is exquisite. I also need to delve into Alma Katsu’s work, which I’ve heard is gorgeous.

It’s hard for me to single out one female horror author (read them ALL!), though if anyone hasn’t read Mona Awad’s Bunny, I recommend you drop everything and do it now. It’s the ONE horror novel that so deftly weaves so many pop culture and literary influences, and is therefore mind-bogglingly fun. Comedic horror doesn’t get as much attention in the literary world as it does in the film industry, and, as an author who has also written comedic horror, Mona Awad’s Bunny was so “me.”

SONORA TAYLOR: I’m so excited for the upcoming releases in Unnerving’s Rewind or Die series. I just heard about All You Need is Love and a Strong Electric Current by Mackenzie Kiera, and I’m stoked. I loved Hairspray and Switchblades by V. Castro and Cirque Berserk by Jessica Guess; and I’m currently reading Food Fright by Nico Bell. The whole series deserves some kind of special award.

I’m also looking forward to Crossroads by Laurel Hightower. I see everyone talking about it and I’m so jealous because I preordered and have to wait!

I think more people should be reading horror by women of color. Women are making a name for themselves in the horror genre, but I still see a lot of conversations, promoted books, and talked-about horror reads dominated by white women. Extending horror readership and publication to women doesn’t end with white women. Read Black women. Read Latina women. Read Asian women. There’s a wide world of stories to be told, and the most exciting voices are the ones as far away from your own as possible.

And that’s all for Part Two! Join us next week as our Fright Girl Summer roundtable continues!

Happy reading!

Horror Beginnings: Part 1 of Fright Girl Summer Roundtable

Welcome back for a brand-new horror roundtable! In case you hadn’t heard, we’re currently in the middle of Fright Girl Summer, an awesome online book festival organized by V. Castro and Sonora Taylor. This festival, which kicked off back in June, celebrates female horror authors, especially authors of color, QUILTBAG authors, and indie authors.

So in honor of Fright Girl Summer, I’m beyond thrilled to spotlight seven incredible female horror authors for the entire month of August! For the next four weeks, we’ll be discussing what horror means to these authors, how they got started in the genre, and where they hope to see horror go in the coming years.

And without further adieu, let’s get started with Part One!

Welcome to this month’s roundtable! Thank you so much for joining me! Please tell us a bit about yourself, your work, and how you got into horror.

Eden RoyceEDEN ROYCE: I’m Eden Royce and I write a variety of genres, most often Southern Gothic, dark fantasy, and folk horror. I grew up on horror; many of my weekends growing up were spent with my mom and grandmother watching those old black-and-white Hammer movies. I’m from a culture of storytellers and I’m from Charleston, SC, a city of ghosts, and that’s always been a part of my writing.

GABY TRIANA: Thanks for having me, Gwendolyn (ever since I interviewed you for my blog The Witch Haunt, I have wanted to call you Gwednesday)!

About me, I have been writing since I was a child and publishing books since 2002, everything from YA comedy, to romance under a pen name, to paranormal suspense, to witchy horror. I’ve published with Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and Entangled, and I’ve indie published under my own imprint, Alienhead Press, as well. Ten novels are under my own name, five under a pen name, and 50+ as a ghostwriter. My most-read novels are The Haunted Florida series starting with ISLAND OF BONES, WAKE THE HOLLOW, and CAKESPELL.

I got into horror because I loved reading anything scary, occult, paranormal, or terrifying as a child. I was never into the books other kids were reading. I wanted my stories intense, so I was already reading adult suspense by the time I was 10. To this day, I have no idea how I ended up writing YA or romance comedies, because I never read books in those genres until I was an adult, ghostwriting for clients. In my heart, the occult still reigns supreme.

LINDA D. ADDISON: Hi, I’m Linda D. Addison, the second oldest of 10 children. I have been living in an active imagination from my earliest memories; meaning I saw magic and strange unreality in what others call Reality forever. I’m known for my horror poetry, but I also have published fiction in horror, SF and fantasy. I’ve received five HWA Bram Stoker awards for poetry and received their Lifetime Achievement award. Writing horror wasn’t a conscious decision, it evolved out of exploring my own pain/fears and my reactions to the shadows in the world.

V. CASTRO: I’m Violet, or V.Castro. I am a Mexican American woman originally from Texas.

I like writing horror that incorporates my Mexican American culture, Mexican folklore and urban legend, and writing Latinas for all the leads. I also write a lot of sex because I’m sick of our sexuality and bodies being misrepresented. If I don’t write it a man will.

I got into horror because as a mother of 3 I found myself missing something. I love my children, yet wanted something for myself. As a long time horror junkie I decided to just start. I sat down and have not got up since. Also, there is very little Latina representation in horror. I wanted to infuse my culture into my stories and old tropes.

R.J. JOSEPH: I’m a Texas based writer with the second very best day job of teaching college English classes. I got my MFA through Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program. I went in as a romance writer and a closeted horror writer and came out a better writer all the way around. I also sort of fell into academia and loved it, so I stayed. I now write primarily horror creative pieces and academic pieces about horror. I mostly write about the intersections of race and gender in the horror genre and popular culture.

I’m a lifelong horror fan, having read Stephen King’s Carrie at a really, really young age. His works helped to feed my obsession with monsters, real and imagined. I come from a reading household where everyone read heavily. My father was a horror and sci-fi fan, my mother was a romance reader. It was the South, kissy kissy was bad, so they hid the romance novels and magazines. They didn’t hide the horror novels or comics. This is what they got for those half efforts.

I also have a lot of teenagers at home. My husband and I have a huge blended family of eleven. Four of those are grown up. The other seven are always around the house, devouring everything that doesn’t eat them first. They’re my locusts.

G.G. SILVERMAN: Hi, Gwendolyn! Thanks for having me! I’m a female and feminist author, currently living just north of Seattle, Washington—the conceptual home of Twin Peaks, and the real home of Sasquatch, allegedly. I’m also the daughter of immigrants.

As for my work, currently I’m focusing primarily on short speculative fiction, which lives somewhere in the shadows between horror and dark fantasy, with a bit of SF thrown in there on good occasion. I also write poetry, and it tends toward the darkly fantastical, with elements of horror.

I’ve been a horror fan since I was very young, when I got up in the wee hours on a Saturday morning and flicked on my family’s small, grainy, black and white television, and was greeted by some late night/early morning horror film. The imagery wasn’t graphic in the sense of blood and guts, but it was shocking in the sense that it portrayed a sibling potentially drowning another sibling, if my memory serves me. I remember having this sense of awakening to the frightening potential of humans to hurt each other. It made me wonder, did I have that potential? I loved my younger brother deeply, and would have been devastated if anything happened to him, so the film scared me and made me view horror as a way of learning about the world. I think this was really healthy for me, because it made me realize that though the world wasn’t 100% safe, that one could navigate it, with enough preparation.

Then I was introduced to Stephen King’s THE SHINING at the ripe old age of 9. A friend had loaned it to me, after he swiped it from his older brother. It was definitely forbidden reading material, and I snuck it home in my backpack, then read it under the covers, by flashlight. It was deeply terrifying, especially the bathtub scene, and that image has been seared in my memory ever since.

After that, I couldn’t get enough horror. Though it would be a while before I got my hands on anything adult again, I was reading everything I could find in our small town library that had anything to do with the paranormal. I remember being scared so thoroughly by vampire stories as a kid, that I locked the windows shut on hot summer nights and sweltered. Good times.

Shortly after that, I wrote my first short horror book in 4th grade, “Tara and the Haunted Doll,” named for my friend. I did the illustrations myself with fruity-smelling markers. My friend Tara was not impressed, but I had fun. The rest is history, I guess.

SONORA TAYLOR: Thanks for having me! My name is Sonora Taylor. I’ve been writing stories off and on my whole life, but got serious about it in 2016. I began to publish my work in 2017, and got my first anthology acceptance in 2018.

I like to keep my horror varied, but my work tends to be character-driven, especially with anxious minds. I also like taking innocuous things in daily life–stick figure families, a bulletin board with children’s accomplishments on them, etc.–and give them a sinister twist.

This interview series is in honor of the fabulous Fright Girl Summer, an online book festival for women in horror fiction. This year has seen many book events go to an online-only format for obvious reasons. How has this year changed your own approach to writing?

EDEN ROYCE: It hasn’t changed my approach to writing, honestly. I’m a homebody for the most part so I don’t attend many events. I’d planned to have a book launch party closer to my novel’s release date, so I may need to rethink that, but I still hole up in my office and write most days.

Wake the HollowGABY TRIANA: I was born for quarantine. I’ve always written about 2,000-3,000 words daily, and COVID hasn’t stopped that. My kids are older now, so I don’t have to keep them busy or entertained like other parents do. Only thing that has changed—my reading habits. I’m a lot more anxious these days, worrying about the state of the world, so my reading has suffered. I can’t concentrate. Instead, I find myself reading the news or going down the YouTube rabbit hole of dermatologist videos at 3 AM.

LINDA D. ADDISON: My day job until six years ago was computer software development, so it was easy to accept events going online. However, I didn’t realize how much I was used to traveling to other locations for conventions, etc. and now without that travel I’m saving money and time, but I also greatly miss spending time with other writers. There are days when I am writing more and other days that getting writing done is difficult, because the entire planet is in stress, not just my own life.

V. CASTRO: With my children around I had to get creative with time. The anxiety that comes with all the uncertainty has also required me to take more time to clear my head. With that said, writing is always a safe haven for me. I have actually managed to write a lot.

R.J. JOSEPH: I absolutely love what V. Castro and Sonora Taylor have done with Fright Girl Summer. I hope Fright Girls have the entire year of seasons, for eternity! One thing about the pandemic is I get to spend time in my favorite place: my home. I’ve always felt most comfortable in my little cocoon, surrounded by our things, puttering about. My commute to work is super long because of Houston traffic, so when I go to campus, I have to time comings and goings to avoid the longest times. By the time I get home, I’m exhausted and the kids are wanting to know what’s for dinner.

Sycorax's DaughtersNow that I’m already at home, I have time to do so much stuff. Like, pretend to be a domestic goddess who cooks and makes all these crafty things. I get to be the doting abuela to my darling little grandboo. The biggest impact: I’ve felt relaxed enough to start writing again. Frustration with the genre gatekeepers and so few opportunities held me in a perpetual state of anxiety about even attempting to write while I was also juggling work and home. With the escalation of the Black Lives Matter movement and what just might be sincere overtures by some publishing gatekeepers, I’ve found myself willing to start submitting more.

G.G. SILVERMAN: This year, in truth, has been difficult, because it seems that basic survival is about ten times harder (I’m looking at you, pandemic!), which makes writing time more fractured. That said, I’m committed to continuing the work, and having to find ways to cocoon away from the distracting news cycle. I did somehow write a slew of poetry so far this year, and one piece of new short fiction, and have to remind myself that any progress, however small, is progress. Those other stories that are halfway done, they will eventually be born.

Regarding events moving online due to the pandemic, I must say that as a person who has struggled with disabilities, I think the move toward more accessible events by streaming them is fantastic. There are so many people who were previously shut out to certain things because of physical limitations. Now I can attend classes or readings anywhere from the comfort of my home. I hope that after the pandemic, we as a society consider making physical events more inclusive by streaming them for the sake of those who are physically prevented from attending in person.

SONORA TAYLOR: Honestly, it’s made writing harder. You’d think being home more would mean more time to write and to write even more. I certainly thought so. And while I’ve gotten stuff done, the mental toll has had a greater effect on my ability to sit down and write than I anticipated.

It’s made me learn to be gentler with myself and understand that it’s okay to pace myself when it comes to writing stories. What’s meant to be done will get done.

So that’s Part One of our roundtable! Join us again next week as we discuss these fantastic authors’ journeys through the publishing industry as well as the books on their TBR list!

Happy reading, and happy Fright Girl Summer!