Category Archives: Fiction

The Sisters of Slaughter: Interview with Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason

Welcome back! This week, I’m thrilled to feature the incredibly talented duo, Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason! The aptly-named “Sisters of Slaughter” are the Bram Stoker Award-nominated authors of Mayan Blue, Kingdom of Teeth, and Those Who Follow along with numerous short stories.

Recently, we discussed the twins’ love of horror, their inspirations as authors, as well as how they write together and what they’re working on next!

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

Sisters of SlaughterWe decided to become writers after listening to our older brother read to us. He always read all the Goosebumps books which were some of our favorites because we have always loved monsters and Halloween. We also felt the pull to become storytellers from our father who liked to tell ghost stories around the campfire when we were on family vacation in the woods. Some of our favorite writers as children were R.L. Stine, Roald Dahl, Shel Silverstein, and Alvin Schwartz but as we grew we latched onto Mary Shelley, Anne Rice, Ursula K. LeGuin, Clive Barker, R.A. Salvatore and Stephen King. We still greatly enjoy reading a mixture of genres and among our favorite books are The Dark Tower, Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Pet Semetary, among many others.

What first drew you to horror? Do you remember the first horror film or horror story you read? Also, did you both come to love the genre at the same time, or was one of you a fan before the other?

We were first drawn to horror because of our mother. She is a big horror fan and let us watch all the old universal movies with her and stuff like Hocus Pocus and Ernest Scared Stupid. As we got older we were allowed to see classics like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies and Just Before Dawn and The Thing. We have always gravitated towards monsters and spooky things, it’s kinda like some kids become obsessed with astronauts or pirates. For us it was werewolves and witches that became our heroes. Also, living in Arizona, the fall is a time when you feel like you’re coming back to life after hiding from the summer heat. The nights felt cool and brisk and getting to dress up in homemade costumes and celebrate felt so magical. October has always been our favorite month of the year even surpassing December and Christmas time.

Because the two of you write together, I have to ask: what’s your writing process like? Do you work in-person, over the phone, or online to collaborate? Do you find that you often want to go in different directions with a story and have to figure out how to compromise, or are you mostly in sync with one another’s working style?

Those Who FollowWe have been writing together for a long time just for fun so it has become a ritual for us to get together a few times a week or if it’s really busy we talk over the phone. We zero in on a project we want to work on from the lists of stories we keep around at all times. We always write an outline for the story, unless it’s a spontaneous short story that leaks out on occasion. We divide the writing by chapters and get to work and then we sit together and read it all out loud to make sure it all jives and is going in the direction we envisioned. Once it’s complete we send it off into the wild and await our acceptance or rejection. If it’s accepted we go over any edits or changes requested and Michelle handles those. We think so much alike that we work very well together and there usually aren’t any arguments over the plot and such.

Your debut novel, Mayan Blue, came out in 2016 and earned a Bram Stoker Award nomination. How did the idea for that book come about, and what was the most surprising—or even most rewarding—part of writing a novel?

Mayan Blue was an idea that Melissa came up with after watching a television show about American mysteries and some believe that the Mayan people migrated up into the southern states of America. She wasn’t sure how it would work but I (Michelle) suggested adding some dark mythological twists to it and it worked out really well. To see it nominated for a Bram Stoker Award was like some kind of crazy dream. The most rewarding part of it all was having people we looked up to like Brain Keene read it and praise it. We are so happy everyday just to be able to share our imaginations with people. It makes us feel very special.

Is there a specific part of the writing process you consider your favorite, or alternatively, that you consider particularly challenging?

Our favorite part of writing is creating story ideas and following them until completion. The part we don’t like so much is the editing process, haha.

What do you think the future of horror has in store? What would you personally like to see more of or less of in the genre?

We truly believe we are going to see Horror start to thrive again and people won’t be so apprehensive about admitting that they enjoy reading it. For too long there has been a stigma shrouding horror that is being stripped away by writers like Paul Tremblay, Josh Malerman, S.P. Miskowski, Victor LaValle and Jessica McHugh. They’re taking the genre to a whole new level. They use words like weapons to fight the nonbelievers and we love that. We also like to see the women in the genre banding together to kick ass, women have always been some of the most talented and brutal writers in the genre, but our voices are growing louder by the day and we’re really starting to show people what we can do, what we’ve always been doing but weren’t taken seriously. We will shake the foundations of the genre and form it into something beautiful and deadly with our pens. It’s really exciting.

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

We don’t really have a favorite child (story) but Those Who Follow is a story that is dear to us because it involves twin sisters.

What projects are you currently working on?

We are currently finishing up Silverwood: The Door with Brian Keene, Richard Chizmar and Stephen Kozeniewski. It’s being published by Serialbox which has been dubbed the HBO of reading. It’s serialized fiction sold in episodes and also includes audio along with the digital version. It will be out in October and we’re super excited about it. After that we will be working on a novel and short story collection.

Where can we find you online?

If you want to follow along in our shenanigans we are on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sistersofhorror and on twitter at SistersofSlaughter@fiendbooks

Huge thanks to Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason for being part of this week’s author interview series!

Happy reading!

Subs in the Summertime: Submission Roundup for July 2018

Welcome back for this month’s Submission Roundup! First off, yes, the month is indeed almost over, but July’s post is here, in just under the wire! Some of these deadlines are coming up quickly, while others are still a couple months away, so please check the guidelines, and plan accordingly.

A perennial reminder: I am not a representative for any of these publications, so if you’ve got questions about anything, please direct them to the respective editors.

With that out of the way, onward with this month’s Submission Roundup!

Submission RoundupFIYAH
Payment: $150/flat for short stories; $300/flat for novelettes; $50/flat for poetry
Length: 2,000 to 7,000 words for short stories; up to 15,000 words for novelettes
Deadline: July 31st, 2018
What They Want: Open to speculative fiction from authors from the African continent and diaspora. The upcoming issue’s theme is Pilgrimage.
Find the details here.

Sorry We’re Closed
Payment: $15/flat
Length: Up to 10,000 words
Deadline: August 13th, 2018
What They Want: Open to horror stories about dark, abandoned places and what lurks within.
Find the details here.

Tor.com
Payment: Advance plus royalties
Length: 20,000 to 40,000 words
Deadline: August 13th, 2018
What They Want: Open to speculative fiction novellas.
Find the details here.

A Punk Rock Future
Payment: .06/word
Length: 350 to 500 words for flash; up to 6,000 words for short fiction
Deadline: August 15th, 2018
What They Want: Open to futuristic speculative fiction that incorporates aspects of punk music.
Find the details here.

Twelfth Planet Press
Payment: $300 advance plus 40% royalties
Length: 17,000 to 40,000 words
Deadline: Open from August 1st to August 31st, 2018
What They Want: The editors are seeking festive-themed novellas with a positive, joyful spin. Open to speculative fiction as well as romance, contemporary fiction, and crime.
Find the details here.

American Psychos: A Serial Killer Anthology
Payment: $100/flat
Length: 3,500 to 5,500 words
Deadline: October 1st, 2018
What They Want: Open to horror fiction about serial killers.
Find the details here.

Happy submitting!

A Man and His Dogs: Interview with John Linwood Grant

Welcome back! Today’s interview is with the awesome John Linwood Grant! John is the editor at Occult Detective Quarterly, the webmaster for Greydogtales, and the author of numerous works of fiction, including his collection, The Persistence of Geraniums and Other Worrying Tales.

Recently, John and I discussed his editing work, his inspiration for his site, Greydogtales, and how he put together his collection.

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

John Linwood GrantI normally try not to break ice, because I can’t swim, but if you must… it’s a story of two halves. When I was in my late twenties, I began a long process of constructing really complex novels, based on everything from Mayan mythology to medieval Islamic tolerance. This was not a great idea. I was the only one who understood what I was doing, and what I was doing did not bode well. Only one, out of the four or five novels I drafted, appeared worth pushing. And that one was deemed by a big UK publisher to be excellent but unmarketable. As in, the commissioning editor really liked it; the Marketing Department said No.

I didn’t have a lot of spare time, so I shelved most of that stuff and worked in ‘normal’ jobs for thirty years. Trying another novel seemed like too much hard work. Then someone persuaded me that short stories and novellas might be a more productive route. I sold the first story immediately, at the age of 58. Then a novella, ‘Study in Grey’, was taken up straight away, and almost every other short I wrote sold, in fact. Go figure, I believe people say.

My favourite authors? Too hard. The poetry of Edith Sitwell, the wry works of Jerome K Jerome. Saki. Roger Zelazny and Samuel Delany; Daphne Du Maurier and C J Cherryh. I find Chinua Achebe’s books fascinating. David Sedaris, to be more up to date. I ought to spare contemporaries in the weird field, because there’s always an incestuous longing to cite authors who you like both as writers and as people. The trilogy of collections which I read more than once last year was composed of Bartlett, Padgett and Kiste (surely that should be ‘Kistett?), closely followed by a marvellous quartet of tales by J Malcolm Stewart. Purely because they offered things that resonated with me, not because there weren’t other fine works around. This year, who knows?

You are an editor at the ever-awesome Occult Detective Quarterly. How does your editing work differ from (or overlap with) your work as a writer?

Occult Detective QuarterlyI’m not a natural editor. I’m slow and compassionate. Editors should be crisp and savage. As a writer first, I go through agonies seeing what people wanted to express in their story, and how they missed the mark. I get submissions that I would rewrite entirely just to get over a genuinely original idea that someone’s come up with, and not quite got there. I should never be allowed to edit anything. Occasionally I get to commission and edit something wonderful, for ODQ or an anthology project, and that makes up for it. Sort of. Editing pays even worse than writing, generally, and ODQ is one of those projects that earns me precisely nothing.

The other curious aspect of being an editor is that you have to bring out the other writer. It’s tempting to see how you yourself might push a story up a notch, but it’s not your story. So you have to encourage them to up their game, without being an interfering ass-hole. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Did I tell you that I shouldn’t be an editor?

Your website, Grey Dog Tales, is a wonderful combination of book reviews, interviews, and posts about lurchers. What made you decide to start the site, and what has been the most enjoyable (or heck, even the least enjoyable) part of running it?

Greydogtales (yep, all one word, but no one ever bothers about it) is an utter nightmare which absorbs far too much time. It was pointed out to me when I Re-Emerged that I should have An Author Site. The name comes from our late grey lurcher, Jade, a rescue who was quite mad but we loved her deeply.

In practice, I got bored covering my own stuff in the first fortnight. So I decided to lose the plot and fill greydogtales with whatever occurred to me. Within a month I wrote the first ‘Lurchers for Beginners’, about the hounds themselves, which pretty much went viral. After that we spent a month on William Hope Hodgson, a major influence. And then we had some artists on, including the magnificent Sebastian Cabrol from Argentina, who became a friend and has contributed works of genius to Occult Detective Quarterly. So it turned out that it was more fun to feature other authors and artists, and do what we call signposting. If we see something cool, we signpost it. We regularly cover things like unusual late Victorian writers, folk horror and black SFF. Because they’re cool. We also try to notify people about interesting small press publications as they come up, and run the occasional opinion piece by others.

The most enjoyable part is writing long features now and then about mad subjects for no apparent reason. Like my three part piece on the true origins of the ghoul or ghul, going right back to Mesopotamian mythology, which turned out to be hugely popular. Closely followed by the fact that weird fiction/art people will give us awesome interviews, and we would have loads more of them if I had the time to follow up and get the damned things completed. The queue is scary. The least enjoyable part is that queue. We are so waaaay behind.

Your story, “The Horse Road,” which appeared in Lackington’s, was a striking and haunting tale. What was the inspiration for this particular piece?

Thanks. My usual approach is to conceive of characters who have lives and emotions outside of, and regardless of, my writing. Then I look at recording what might happen next, almost cinematographically. ‘The Horse Road’ is one of the results. It’s the pure core of a series I write called ‘Sandra’s First Pony’. Those stories are deliberately ludicrous blends of folk horror, Enid Blyton and H P Lovecraft. This one was different, totally serious, and is simply about a girl and her pony, gifted with mutual inter-dependence and accepting that fact. It’s partly inspired by the Yorkshire I know, the bleak moors and the potential threat of a liminal world.

On the other hand, it’s Mr Bubbles. I receive more comments on that slightly psychotic pony than I do on most of my characters, and maybe that’s because he’s a fixed point, when we have no idea where to place our trust. He is what we want, what Sandra (his constant companion) wants. Living with a powerful, somewhat mad equine who stamps on things can solve a lot of problems. He’s the antithesis of mealy-mouthed, vacillating and untrustworthy politicians.

Last year saw the release of your collection, A Persistence of Geraniums and Other Worrying Tales. What inspired you to put together this collection, and how did you decide on the final table of contents? Additionally, were there any surprises along the way as you were compiling, editing, and promoting the book?

A Persistence of Geraniums‘Geraniums’ is, in many ways, a taster. More than half of my work concerns the theme I call ‘Tales of the Last Edwardian’. This spans from the 1880s to the present day. So it seemed like a good idea to make a start somewhere. Every story in it is connected, but sometimes the connections are incredibly loose. The difficulty was in deciding about the inclusion of Mr Dry. In the end, half of the collection is about him. I write a re-imagined but faithful and dark late Victorian/Edwardian world, and if anyone spans that period, it’s the Deptford Assassin. I was delighted when one kind reviewer recognised that he was neither hero, anti-hero nor psychopath, but something else – a human being who happens to think and work differently from us.

This meant that ‘Geraniums’ was two collections in one – some of it supernatural, some of it about madness and murder. If I’d had the time, I might have added more stories about Dr Alice Urquhart, my alienist, and her attempts to separate insanity and the paranormal. I did at the last minute decide to include ‘Grey Dog’, a sort of deconstruction of the classic occult detective Carnacki the Ghost Finder. As with ‘Horse Road’ it’s not a pastiche or parody, but a completely serious reverie on life and the presence of death.

Ideally, the collection would also have included Mamma Lucy, but again, time. The ornery 1920s black hoodoo-woman is a natural extension of what comes before, and of terrible events in the early twentieth century. She embodies a different way of facing inhumanity, but she’ll have to wait.

Do you have any writing rituals, such as writing to music or writing at a specific time of day?

Not a one. I write near the back door, so I can let the dogs in and out, and that’s about it.

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

‘Grey Dog’ certainly. ‘Messages’, from the Cthulhusattva anthology, my challenge to classic Lovecraftian tropes, which involves a mother and daughter who have made choices. Strange, yet fully informed, choices. They represent a way of being which is understandably human, and also incomprehensible – or I hope they do. Though I particularly enjoyed one reader’s dismissal of them as ‘the good guys’, after they had driven people to insanity, been satisfied with the extermination of an entire civilisation, and if allowed to continue, would seek the extinction of all life in the Universe. ‘Good’ is a relative term, I suppose.

And I have a fondness for ‘The Jessamine Garden’, which was in the Lambda-award winning anthology ‘His Seed’. It was pointed out to me afterwards that it relates directly to Hawthorne’s ‘Rappacini’s Daughter’ – a connection I’d missed at the time, as I’d actually been contemplating how many of the plants in our own garden were toxic. I wondered if someone might find a purpose in that, beyond simply poisoning everyone who annoyed them.

What projects are you currently working?

I’m almost finished with my new novel ‘The Assassin’s Coin’. It’s an accident, a chance suggestion by writer and artist Alan M Clark. He noticed an aside in ‘Geraniums’, and wondered if I might take it further. So I did, and started risking long fiction again. It concerns a brash young psychic with an unreliable gift, Catherine Weatherhead, and her unwilling entanglement with Edwin Dry, the Deptford Assassin.

Barring the occasional presence of Mr Dry, the book is almost completely about the women of the 1880s. It’s also a dismissal of Jack the Ripper, a negation of the importance of a pathetic, disturbed individual who killed women unable to defend themselves. There have been many men like that before him, and many after, sadly. I’ve no time for the mythologising about him, and ‘The Assassin’s Coin’ will tell you what I think. Alan is writing a complementary novel called ‘The Prostitute’s Price’, and the plan is to issue them separately at first, but later as a single volume of interlaced chapters. I think we should go the whole hog and print alternative words from each book, just to see if any passages still made sense.

Otherwise, I’ve recently completed a novelette which is a sequel to (and complete rewriting of) Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘The Musgrave Ritual’; ODQ Presents, an anthology of longer supernatural fiction by some cool folk; a weird novelette of sculpture and artists in the 1970s, and the anthology ‘Hell’s Empire’, the Prince of Darkness versus Victorian Britain. An anthology for which I’ve had some truly surprising submissions, subtle, complex and moving. I’m a touch excited about it.

I also have about seven short stories under construction, but that’s how I pay for dog food. The chicken carcasses must flow…

Where can we find you online?

Greydogtales.com, usually updated once a week or more. And I’m on Facebook a lot, and post much nonsense there. It’s a scribble-pad for what’s going on with me (or the pups).

Big thanks to John Linwood Grant for being part of this week’s author interview series!

Happy reading!

Upcoming Releases, Readercon, and The Rust Maidens: A Long Overdue Update!

It’s been a busy few months, and as these things often go, I’ve sadly neglected my beloved blog far too much this year. That being said, I have updates—several of them, in fact—so let’s get to it, before a shiny, writerly object distracts me again, and I wander off elsewhere.

Trepidatio PublishingThe Rust Maidens
First and foremost, I have a novel coming out this year! My debut novel, as it happens! And it’s getting some press, too! The Rust Maidens recently appeared on a horror lineup list for Library Journal’s July cover story, and this inspired several people to tell me they didn’t even know I had a novel coming out. So yeah, I should probably work on promotion a bit more. Let’s give it a whirl now, shall we?

The Rust Maidens is forthcoming from Trepidatio Publishing, an imprint of JournalStone, and to be honest, Becky Spratford at Library Journal had a much more succinct synopsis for it than I’ve been giving, so here’s her quote: “The Rust Maidens [is] a story told in two chilling time lines. In 1980 Cleveland, young girls are transforming into grotesque creatures right before everyone’s eyes, and in the present, a now-grown woman is coming to terms with her part in the horrific events.”

The release date has been updated for November, so if you’re a reviewer who’s interested in an advance review copy, let me know, as the arcs will be ready ASAP.

Look at that! I just properly promoted. This blog post is going swimmingly so far, right? (Please nod at home to keep me encouraged.)

Readercon
Next week, we’ll be heading up to Boston (or technically just outside of it) for Readercon! I won’t be there in any official capacity, which means if you want to find me, it will probably be best to check the gloomiest corners of the hotel. (I was going to say “spiderweb-filled corners,” but the convention is at a Marriott, so there likely won’t be nearly enough free-range spiders there for my taste. But hey, you can’t get everything in life.) Oh, and I bought a really glittery black dress for the occasion, one that can best be described as “Disco Goth,” so feel free to use that as a marker for locating me as well. Just follow the trail of morose sparkles!

Seriously, though, I’m really looking forward to attending Readercon, and I’m usually pretty friendly, in particular once I’ve had my morning coffee, so definitely say hi if you see me!

Forthcoming Fiction
Suspended in Dusk 2Other than the upcoming release of The Rust Maidens, I’ve got some short fiction set to make its debut in the world very soon. Suspended in Dusk 2 will be out later this month and is already available for pre-order. In true stealth fashion, I managed to sneak my way into a stellar table of contents that includes Ramsey Campbell, Paul Tremblay, Sarah Read, Stephen Graham Jones, and Damien Angelica Walters, among others. My horror story, “An Elegy for Childhood Monsters,” follows two sisters who must fight off a creature who comes after them night after night in their room, and this one is truly among my favorites I’ve ever written, so I’m super eager to see it out in the wild!

Chiral Mad 4 will be out soon as well! It’s another completely fabulous table of contents, which includes my dark fantasy collaboration with Emily B. Cataneo, “In Her Flightless Wings, a Fire.” That novella is all about witchcraft, ballet, and the price we pay for pursuing our dreams. Once again, it’s crazy to be lucky enough to share the pages with so many luminaries of the genre, and I’m downright giddy for that release too.

I’ve got a couple other stories in the pipeline, though I’m not sure I’m authorized to discuss those quite yet, so I will go all secret agent now and tell you to stay tuned. So yeah, stay tuned! Semi-regular updates returning soon to this blog!

And that’s all I’ve got for now! It’s been an exciting summer, and it’s not over yet!

Happy reading!

Summertime Fiction: Submission Roundup for June 2018

Welcome back to another Submission Roundup! This month features an array of wonderful writing opportunities! It’s worth noting that some of these markets close to submissions ASAP, and some are open for a while longer, so as always, be sure to check the deadlines! Also, a quick note: I am not a representative for any of these publications; I’m just spreading the word! Please direct any questions you have to the respective editor.

And with that, onward with June’s Submission Roundup!

Submission Roundup

Twice-Told: A Collection of Doubles
Payment: $22/flat
Length: 2,000 to 7,000 words
Deadline: June 22nd, 2018
What They Want: Original stories about doubles or doppelgangers.
Find the details here.

Nowhereville: Weird is Other People
Payment: .08/word
Length: 3,000 to 7,500 words
Deadline: July 1st, 2018
What They Want: Open to original short stories of urban weird fiction.
Find the details here.

Shimmer
Payment: .05/word
Length: up to 7,500 words
Deadline: July 14th, 2018
What They Want: This is an incredibly bittersweet one—the fabulous Shimmer will soon be closing up shop. While my heart is broken over this, the editors are still seeking stories to fill their final issues. They are looking for unusual and beautiful speculative fiction tales. Submit to Shimmer while you still can!
Find the details here.

FIYAH
Payment: $150/flat for short stories; $300/flat for novelettes; $50/flat for poetry
Length: 2,000 to 7,000 words for short stories; up to 15,000 words for novelettes
Deadline: Open to submissions from July 1st to July 31st, 2018
What They Want: Open to speculative fiction from authors from the African continent and diaspora. The upcoming issue’s theme is Pilgrimage.
Find the details here.

Lackington’s
Payment: .01/word CAD
Length: 1,500 to 5,000 words
Deadline: Ongoing until filled.
What They Want: Open to stylized speculative fiction. The upcoming issue’s theme is Magics.
Find the details here.

Truancy Magazine
Payment: .02/word for original fiction; $25/flat for reprints; $15/flat for poetry
Length: 1,000 to 3,000 words for fiction
Deadline: October 30th, 2018
What They Want: Open to original retellings of folktales, myths, and legends.
Find the details here.

Happy submitting!

The Unlanguage of the Weird: Interview with Michael Cisco

Welcome back! This week, I’m pleased to spotlight the fantastic Michael Cisco. Michael is the author of The Divinity Student, The Tyrant, Celebrant, and MEMBER, among numerous other books and short stories.

Recently, Michael and I discussed his latest book, Unlanguage, as well as how he defines weird fiction and what projects he’s working on next.

What first inspired you to become a writer? What is it about speculative fiction or the uncanny that led you to genre writing in particular?

Michael CiscoBeing a writer never seemed like a decision. I wanted to write from a very early age. When I was a boy, I remember being struck by the idea that, while the people, places, and events in the books I loved weren’t real, the writers were. I couldn’t be those people, do those things, or go to those places, but I could write my own.

I grew up reading fantasy, science fiction, and horror. What I think interested me about all of them was the kind of relationship of wonder they established between the world and the reader. My version of The Hobbit came with maps printed on the end papers. I was eight, and I was astonished at the creativity, almost the arrogance, of inventing maps of imaginary places. To create entire languages for these places struck me as an audacious thing. So then I realized this would be “allowed.”

Horror was always important to me, mainly because I had my fair share of fear and that perverse tendency to use the imagination to trump up greater fears for myself, but also because horror was about re-enchanting the world around me, however darkly. If, for example, I’m told that one of those boring suburban houses over there is haunted, then they suddenly become interesting.

I knew I wanted to write as imaginatively as possible, and I felt a condescending disdain for realism that I hope I’ve outgrown now. I knew I wanted to write that kind of fiction, but at the same time my vanity wouldn’t allow me to do anything in the usual way. So I went about writing genre fiction almost deliberately incorrectly, to see if I could create something new.

Your new novel, Unlanguage, just debuted from Eraserhead Press. What can you share about your process for this book? What was your initial inspiration, and how long did it take to develop into the final version? Also, any surprises in the writing process along the way?

Gahan Wilson created a little comic about someone visiting an unnamed, weird foreign country; he’s studying a handbook of useful phrases to learn, and they include “Please come up to my room, as I have been clubbed and am bleeding profusely” and “I think those people over there are lepers.”

I was studying a language textbook that included a series of linked readings connected to each lesson. In one reading, we’re on board a ship. A man goes wild and starts trying to chop the bottom out of the boat with an axe. Pursued by the sailors, he leaps overboard. The main character of these readings asks the captain if he intends to let this man drown in the ocean. The captain replies, “He was a bad man and he’ll die a bad death.” And I thought — this? This is what the writers of this book thought was a representative and appropriate introduction to their language? I enjoyed the story, don’t get me wrong, but it got me thinking.

Since my Tolkien days I’d been haunted by the idea of inventing a language, but this has been done already, and by far better qualified people. Coming up with vocables and arbitrarily assigning them meanings didn’t sing to me, but I have always been mystified and intrigued by other languages and the possibilities for expression that come out in the unlanguage, the non-place between two languages in translation.

So I came up with the idea of an ominous language textbook with linked readings connecting across different grammatical explanations.

UNLANGUAGE took roughly two years to write, which is about typical for me. I spend a year banking ideas, and a year writing them up.

Your work is often classified under the weird fiction label. But weird fiction itself often defies easy definition, with writers and editors having different ideas about what encapsulates the weird. So in that vein, what is weird fiction to you?

This is something I’m currently struggling to do in a critical monograph. I don’t think that weird is the opposite of normal, but that the two are inseparable. My go to example here is the beginning of David Lynch’s film, Blue Velvet. The discovery of a severed, greenish ear in the grass is set alongside a montage of exaggeratedly ordinary images invoking small town Americana. I don’t think it’s enough to say that you can’t have the strangeness of the one without the normalness of the other, because the normalness becomes strange and the strange becomes normal in that movie.

If a story is nothing but weird events, then it ceases to be weird, weirdly enough, because it has turned into something like fantasy. For me, the weird is about the normal, simply by not taking the normal for granted. It’s like the seduction of the ordinary.

Throughout your career, you’ve written a lot of both short fiction and longer works. Do you find your style or approach differs depending on the length of the project? Do you have a preference for short fiction versus longer forms? Also, has this preference changed at all over the course of your writing career?

I much prefer longer forms, and always have. I gather ideas and heap them up with the intention of shoving them all into one thing, instead of breaking each one out into a separate thing. Writing short stories usually entails an adjustment to this approach.

Writing novels, I still start at the beginning and write through to the end, but over time I’ve gotten better at roving around inside the manuscript. I am still experimenting with different approaches to writing short fiction; I have no one set approach there.

In addition to your own fiction, you’ve also written nonfiction, you’ve done translations, and you teach. Do you find that these various elements of your work often impact your fiction?

They all connect. My nonfiction grows out of the preoccupations I have in my own writing. My translations don’t necessarily have much bearing on what I write, except in the broader sense that I draw ideas from the interaction of languages. I have tried writing passages in other languages and then translated them into English, to see if I could add a certain kind of disoriented feeling to the “normal” English flavor. Teaching means encountering all sorts of different people and learning from them; it has made me a much quicker and more ruthless editor of my own work.

What projects are you currently working on?

I have a new novel that is nearly done, called PEST; the theoretical part of my academic book on weird fiction is done, and I’m now doing some case studies to see how well it holds up in application.

Where can we find you online?

Here’s my blog: https://michaelcisco.blogspot.com/

And I tweet.

Big thanks to Michael Cisco for being part of this week’s author interview series!

Happy reading!

Submissions and Springtime: Submission Roundup for May 2018

Welcome back! This month’s Submission Roundup has some absolutely fantastic opportunities, so if you have a story or even a book looking for a home, then perhaps you can consider sending your work off to one of these fine outlets! First, a reminder: I am not a representative for any of these publications. I’m just spreading the word about these submission calls! So please direct your questions to their respective editors.

And with that, onward with May’s Submission Roundup!

Submission Roundup

Gehenna and Hinnom Books
Payment: $300-$400 advance & royalties for novellas; .02/word ($150 min, $300 max) for novelettes; .02/word ($30 min, $100 max) for chapbooks
Length: 15,000 to 40,000 words for novellas; 7,5000 to 15,000 words for novelettes; 3 to 4 short stories of 1,500 to 5,000 words each for chapbooks
Deadline: May 31st, 2018
What They Want: Open to novellas, novelettes, and chapbooks of weird fiction and cosmic horror. Chapbook themes are more specific and include nightmares, interdimensional horror, and deep space horror.
Find the details here.

Unnerving
Payment: .01/word
Length: 400 to 4,000 words
Deadline: June 30th, 2018
What They Want: Open to horror, dark fantasy, crime, and dark science fiction stories.
Find the details here.

Sanitarium Magazine
Payment: $5/flat for fiction and poetry
Length: 500 to 10,000 words (though 1,500 to 7,000 words preferred) for short fiction; up to 25,000 for serials; no line limits for poetry
Deadline: July 15th, 2018
What They Want: After a long hiatus, Sanitarium Magazine is back and under new management! The editors are seeking all forms of horror fiction, in particular body horror, psychological horror, and other supernatural horror. New and emerging authors are especially encouraged to submit!
Find the details here.

Bracken Magazine
Payment: .02/word for fiction; $15/flat for poetry
Length: Up to 2,500 words for fiction; no limits for poetry
Deadline: Ongoing
What They Want: Open to strange and beautiful stories about what lies in the shadows of the woods and beyond.
Find the details here.

JournalStone
Payment: Standard royalty terms
Length: Minimum word count of 50,000
Deadline: Submissions open on July 1st, 2018 (Do NOT submit before then, or your submission will be deleted.)
What They Want: Open to novels and short fiction collections. I’m obviously a big fan of JournalStone, so this one comes highly recommended!
Find the details here.

Happy submitting!

Gloom and Heirlooms: Interview with Theresa Braun

Welcome back! This week’s featured author is the talented Theresa Braun. Theresa and I connected last year when we were both part of Unnerving’s Hardened Hearts anthology, and since then, it’s been so much fun to get to know Theresa and her awesome body of work!

Recently, she and I discussed her inspiration as a horror writer, her favorite Women in Horror, as well as her writing rituals and future plans as an author!

What first drew you to horror, and who are some of your favorite authors in the genre?

Theresa BraunWell, I’ve been a bit of a Goth since as far as I can remember. My closet is almost entirely black, with a sprinkling of shades of gray and a bit of red. Also, I’ve always liked reading dark, creepy fiction and watching scary movies. There’s something fascinating about the shadow side of life. Maybe it’s partly the adrenaline high that goes along with dangerous things, like the supernatural or evil people. The element that’s beyond our control is also part of that. So, I suppose the subject matter and the psychological aspect of horror really inspire me.

Some of my favorite horror authors: Stephen King is one, and Edgar Allan Poe is another. I also love lots of classic writers such as Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, and Robert Louis Stevenson. I’m also really into what Hulu is doing with Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. The adaptation is a gripping reminder how relevant that novel still is today. There are many contemporary authors in my TBR pile, which is something I’m working on—reading more current writers. There’s so much to read, so little time…

You’ve written short fiction as well as longer works like Groom and Doom. Do you find your approach differs depending on the length of the story? Do you plot out a piece in advance, or do you allow a story to evolve as you write?

Writing short stories allows you to experiment with various characters and settings, while writing a novel requires that you stick to the same set of characters and situation for a longer haul. Both have their positives and negatives. The publishing process is also quite different when it comes to short stories. You’ve got to do your homework, and more often. However, one of the most exhilarating things about being in a publication with other writers is the added bonus of networking. Connecting with other writers and with editors is important for countless reasons. For example, in addition to knowing you aren’t alone in the face of rejection, lots of times another author will tell you of a submission call you hadn’t heard of or they might recommend that your style fits a certain magazine. It’s a lot of fun to build up writing credentials, while also getting to know new people in the writing community. Often, I’ve bonded with others who have also been in the same collection. (*ahem, Hardened Hearts is just one example*). I’ve really enjoyed that.

As far as hunkering down with a novel? To be honest, I’ve been avoiding that for awhile. It’s possible to get lost in the creative and editing process. When you hit a wall, it can feel insurmountable. I’m forcing myself to face that beast right now with Fountain Dead, which will come out later thanks to Unnerving Magazine. I have a rough outline of markers I want to hit, and pray daily that the new ideas/scenes that I’m working on are leading me in the right direction. Right now I have a white board where I jot down things to keep adding, or new ideas that pop into my mind. So, to some degree things are evolving as I write. I’m hoping the more I force myself to do it, the easier it will be. People who don’t write don’t necessarily understand how much love, sweat, and tears go into a finished product. Some days it’s a creative high, and other days it’s a waking nightmare. As I write more novel length books, I hope there will be more creative high, less waking nightmare.

Your story, “Heirloom,” which appeared in last year’s anthology, Hardened Hearts, has been very well-received. What can you share about your process for this particular story?

Hardened HeartsWe have to write what we know, right? I decided to focus on a few ideas that I’m passionate about. “Heirloom” contains several of those elements. Past lives and how they might affect our present existence is something I think a lot about. And then there’s also the idea that we are constantly evolving and often change to fit the circumstances and dynamics around us. On top of that is this interconnectedness we have with others. I wanted to explore those things, as well as the complexities of empowerment. What does it mean to have power in a given situation, or over another person? With all the talk of gender inequality and the #metoo movement, I thought a lot about who has the upper hand and why. And, does that trump other qualities such as emotional intelligence or empathy? That’s what I set up for my main character, who’s a therapist. Enter a magic mirror (because the supernatural is always fun) that sends her into the past. Add a difficult client who not only threatens her in present day, but also has a role in the past. How does it all play out? Well, that’s the story. A fun fact is that I worked for a few years on this one. Several drafts and several transformations later, and presto…

Do you have any writing rituals? For example, do you write every day? Do you write with music or without? Is there a certain time of day when you prefer to write?

If I can travel, that’s my ideal environment. I like to completely detach from the world as I know it. My whole body and soul get into a different mode. I love to sit at a café in an exotic location or in a hotel overlooking a place I’ve never been. When I’m not traveling, I prefer to write in my bedroom. I pile up lots of pillows and my cats are snuggling nearby. I drink buckets of yerba mate tea or decaf coffee. I can really get into the zone in that comfortable space. Depending on my mood, I’ll play some music, or not. The type of music also changes. Sometimes I’ll put on some M83, and other times it’ll be Marilyn Manson or Nine Inch Nails. By nature I’m a night owl, but my day job forces me to be up around 5:00 a.m., so I have to sort of make it work whenever I can find the time to write.

Daily writing is a fantastic practice, but I can’t say that I stick to it consistently. Life just sometimes gets in the way. So, I switch to editing mode or reading mode, if I’m not writing. Ideally, I would love to write for a minimum of an hour every day. However, when I’m really on a roll, I tend to write for about five hours at a time, sometimes more. It makes me a little delirious, but it’s a wonderful feeling to have been able to spend a chunk of time on a project.

At my blog, I believe that Women in Horror Month should last all year long. So in that vein, as a woman in horror yourself, do you have any favorite female horror authors writing today that you’d like to signal boost?

Oh, dear. I won’t be able to do this list justice, as there are so many female horror writers that deserve praise. Off the top of my head, here’s a list of some who should be read: Kelly Link, Lisa Mannetti, Nicole Cushing, Gemma Files, Helen Oyeyemi, Tananarive Due, Gillian Flynn, J.H. Moncrieff, Christa Carmen, Somer Canon, Catherine Cavendish, Amy Grech, Larissa Glasser, Lee Murray, Patricia Davis, Renee Miller, S.P. Miskowski, Jac Jemc, (someone named Gwendolyn Kiste), and on and on. Seriously, there are so many more worth mentioning. There’s no shortage of talent out there.

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

Isn’t that like asking a mom who her favorite kid is? I’m pretty attached to “Heirloom” for a number of reasons. The layers of the story and the message are pretty important to me. And, you either love or hate something you’ve spent so much time on. I’m also pretty fond of my vampire story “Dying for an Invitation” inspired by a trip to Transylvania. But, I’m really hoping that Fountain Dead ends up being one of my overall favorites. It’s partly a coming of age tale based on a haunted house I lived in with my family up in Winona, Minnesota. I think that being a teenager in itself is scary enough, but this kid has to navigate paranormal activity that threatens his family. It’s up to him to grow up fast and figure it all out before someone gets killed, literally. There are several threads of social judgments and expectations he wrestles with along the way, including gender identity issues and racism. I’m pretty excited about the project and am really throwing myself into it at the moment.

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

I’d really like to see some other novels come to fruition by then, as ambitious as that sounds. My constant goal is to find a way where I can write more consistently for longer periods of time. That schedule change would require a shift in the day job situation, however. Although teaching can be extremely rewarding, it makes the writing process an uphill battle. The ultimate fantasy is to write full-time and be able to pay the bills, but there are so many talented writers struggling to get to that very same place. Although I think there is enough success to be had by all, I think it’s harder and harder to make that reality come true. But that’s a whole rabbit hole of a discussion in itself.

Where can we find you online?

I practically live on Twitter at @tbraun_author. My website is undergoing a makeover, but that’s www.theresabraun.com. I’m also on Goodreads and Amazon…

Big thanks to Theresa Braun for being this week’s featured author!

Happy reading!

Queen of Tragedy: Interview with Leza Cantoral

Welcome back to this week’s author interview! Today my featured author is Leza Cantoral. Leza is the author of Cartoons in the Suicide Forest as well as the editor-in-chief at Clash Books, which has just released the absolutely incredible Tragedy Queens: Stories Inspired by Lana Del Rey and Sylvia Plath.

Recently, Leza and I discussed the Tragedy Queens anthology as well as her inspiration as an author and editor!

What first made you want to become a writer and editor? Who are some of your favorite authors?

I began writing poetry in high school. I don’t think anyone wants to become a writer. It is kind of a shit career. I never wanted to be a writer, it is just the thing I am the least bad at. I am an artist & I need an outlet. I am not that great at painting or drawing or film or willing to do the bullshit to be an actor or filmmaker. Writing is the career the artist takes who has the lowest bullshit threshold.

I started editing Mandy de Sandra as well as nonfiction posts for the yesclash.com site. I learned that editing is so much more than doing line edits. I love working with writers & helping them find their voice & tell their story. As Editor in Chief of CLASH Books I have so much fun doing just that.

Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Lewis Carroll, Hans Christian Anderson, Vladimir Nabokov, Angela Carter, Gillian Flynn, Anne Rice, Poppy Z. Brite, Joyce Carol Oates, Leo Tolstoy, Charles Baudelaire, Clive Barker, Jonathan Franzen, Bret Easton Ellis, Roberto Bolaños, Scott McClanahan, Sam Pink, Kim Addonizio, Melissa Broder, Lisa Marie Basile, Rios de la Luz, Juliet Escoria.

Big congratulations are in order for the Tragedy Queens anthology! Before we dive deeper into the process of creating this gorgeous book, let me ask you this first: do you remember the first work by Sylvia Plath you ever read? Likewise, do you remember the first Lana Del Rey song you ever heard? What was it about these two artists that inspired you to bring them together for an anthology?

‘Lorelei,’ is the first poem of Sylvia Plath that I read that grabbed me. Then I read the Ariel collection & it changed my entire life. That collection always has a strange effect on me when I read it. I think it has mystical powers.

I don’t remember if I heard Born to Die or Cruel World first, but they both grabbed me right away & I was hooked for both albums.

Lana Del Rey has made herself into a channel of feminine archetypes. Her songs are like stories from the perspectives of different characters/aspects of herself as well as American icons like Jackie Kennedy & Marilyn Monroe. Sylvia Plath did that too. She drew from Greek Tragedy, the Tarot, mystical lore, and fairy tales. I wanted this anthology to bring a full range of female voices to life. Male dominated narratives often put women into boxes. You are either a whore or a good girl, a sex object or a scary crone. It is very limiting. I wanted to challenge these stereotypes about femininity & I thought these two incredible artists would be the perfect muses.

What was the process of putting together Tragedy Queens? Did you know exactly what you were looking for going into the slush pile, or did you let the book evolve naturally as it went?

I came up with the title & the idea & put out the submissions call. The call described the themes of the anthology. My inbox was flooded pretty quickly. I was looking for lyricism & strong character arcs. There are some stories that are more on the dreamy/lyrical side, & others that are more plot driven. I did not care about genre, just compelling stories & characters. I left submissions open for quite a while, because I cared more about getting the right stories than publishing this on some kind of schedule. The goal for Tragedy Queens was for it to feel like an album. The stories are the playlist & it is a killer track list.

Of course, you’re also an accomplished, award-nominated author in your own right. 2016 saw the release of your collection, Cartoons in the Suicide Forest. What can you share about that process? How did you choose the stories for the table of contents, and were there any surprises along the way in writing the book?

Most of the stories I had written at that point made it in to the collection. ‘Star Power’ was the first story I wrote that felt like my voice. It was a piece of flash fiction that I wrote for a writing workshop, based off a Tarot card prompt. That one & ‘Fist Pump’ were written years ago. The rest were written in the couple years leading up to the release of the collection. I left out a couple that relied a little too heavily on dream logic for their narrative structure. The title of the collection appeared in my mind one day & I wrote a story based off the title. It was more literary horror than the other stories. There are also a couple nonfiction pieces in there. This collection was very therapeutic to write. It is the journey of me finding my voice as well as a love letter to fairy tales, surrealist poetry, & horror movies.

In addition to your writing and editorial work, you run the podcast, Get Lit With Leza. What inspired you to start the show? 

Whenever I go to cons or readings I have such fun conversations with other writers, but I live in a very isolated place, so I do not get to hang out that much. Talking on videochat kinda bridges that loneliness gap. I used to drunk-dial my writer friends, now I get them on my podcast. The podcast is a great way to have a conversation with a cool artist & make something entertaining out of it. I was inspired by shows like Between Two Ferns, The Eric Andre Show, The Tom Green Show, & Da Ali G Show with Sacha Baron Cohen. I like talk show hosts like Crag Ferguson, who are not scared to show their flawed & awkward parts or talk about their dark past. It is very human & I connect with it. Get Lit With Leza began to take shape when I started to think about the charm of the bad interview. I am often not sober when I record episodes. I am not trying to kiss ass. I am just trying to have a real conversation.

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

‘Saint Jackie.’ It’s a short story in the More Bizarro Than Bizarro antho. It is a conversation with the ghost of Jackie Kennedy about relationships, alcoholism, & growing up.

What upcoming projects are you working on?

A poetry collection called Trash Panda, a personal essay collection called Never Cursed, & a novel about badass witches called Operation Bruja.

Big thanks to Leza Cantoral for being part of this week’s author interview series! Find her online at her website as well as at Clash Books and her podcast page!

Happy reading!

Spring Fiction Has Sprung: Submission Roundup for April 2018

Welcome back to this month’s Submission Roundup! Lots of great writing opportunities in the coming weeks, so if you have a story looking for a home, perhaps you should send it the way of one of these markets!

First, a quick note: I am not a representative for any of these publications. If you have any questions, please direct your questions to the respective editors.

And now onward with April’s Submission Roundup!

Submission RoundupHaunted Are These Houses, an anthology from Unnerving Magazine
Payment: .01/word for fiction; .12/line for poetry
Length: 400 to 6,000 words for fiction; up to 500 lines for poetry
Deadline: April 28th, 2018
What They Want: Open to Gothic fiction and poetry.
Find the details here.

FIYAH
Payment: $150/flat short fiction; $300/flat for novelettes; $50/flat for poetry
Length: 2,000 to 7,000 words for short fiction; up to 15,000 words for novelettes
Deadline: April 30th, 2018
What They Want: Open to speculative fiction from authors from the African continent and diaspora. The upcoming issue’s theme is Music.
Find the details here.

Battling in All Her Finery from Mad Scientist Journal
Payment: .02/word
Length: 500 to 8,000 words
Deadline: April 30th, 2018
What They Want: This special submission call is seeking original first-person speculative fiction that focuses on female leaders in any field.
Find the details here.

Unidentified Funny Objects 5
Payment: .10/word
Length: 500 to 5,000 words
Deadline: April 30th, 2018
What They Want: Open to humorous science fiction and fantasy stories.
Find the details here.

Apex Magazine’s Zodiac-themed special issue
Payment: .06/word for original fiction
Length: 1,500 to 5,000 words
Deadline: May 1st, 2018
What They Want: For this special issue, guest editor Sheree Renée Thomas is seeking speculative stories that explore and/or rework themes of the Zodiac and Zodiacal archetypes.
Find the details here.

Eraserhead Press
Payment: 50% of net revenue
Length: 20,000 to 100,000 words
Deadline: June 30th, 2018
What They Want: Open to unique, well-crafted weird stories that fit within the Bizarro Fiction genre.
Find the details here.

Happy submitting!