Category Archives: Fiction

New Year, New Fiction: Submission Roundup for January 2022

Welcome back, and welcome 2022! To start off this new year, there are plenty of fabulous writing opportunities this month!

As always, a disclaimer: I’m not a representative for any of these markets. I’m merely spreading the word! Please direct your questions to their respective editors. And now onward with the debut Submission Roundup of 2022!

Submission Roundup

Flame Tree’s Gothic Fantasy series
Payment: .08/word for original fiction; .06/word for reprints
Length: 2,000 to 4,000 words
Deadline: January 9th, 2022
What They Want: Flame Tree’s Gothic Fantasy series is currently seeking fiction with the themes of Christmas Gothic Short Stories and Compelling Science Fiction.
Find the details here.

The Reinvented Detective
Payment: .08/word
Length: 1,500 to 5,000 words
Deadline: January 15th, 2022
What They Want: Open to a wide variety of detective stories updated for modern and futuristic settings.
Find the details here.

Deep in the Woods
Payment: $10-$25/flat, depending on length
Length: Up to 8,000 words
Deadline: January 31st, 2022
What They Want: This anthology from Sirens Call is seeking horror stories set in the forest.
Find the details here.

The Cellar Door
Payment: $25/flat
Length: 2,000 to 7,500 words
Deadline: January 31st, 2022
What They Want: The latest issue of The Cellar Door from Dark Peninsula Press is seeking stories about forbidden magic.
Find the details here.

Horror that Represents You Anthology
Payment: .11/word
Length: 1,000 to 7,000 words
Deadline: January 31st, 2022
What They Want: Open to horror short stories from a wide range of marginalized authors.
Find the details here.

Nowhere Fast
Payment: .06/word
Length: 3,000 to 5,000 words
Deadline: October 28th, 2022
What They Want: This Clash Books anthology is open to coming-of-age horror inspired by 80s and 90s movies.
Find the details here.

Happy submitting!

The Horror Is Upon Us: 2021 Award Eligibility Post

2021 is almost over, so I figure it’s a good time to do my annual award eligibility post here at the old blog. As always, if you’re recommending for awards and would like a copy of any of these works, please let me know, and I would be happy to send it over to you!

And now onward with what I’ve been up to in 2021!

Sister Glitter Blood” (Violent Vixens, Dark Peninsula Press, August 2021)
Two lonely sisters discover a strange board game called “Sister Glitter Blood.” As they begin to play in their dusty attic, they soon realize this game is watching them closer than they could have ever imagined. Framed through the board game’s instructions, the story tracks the sisters as they try desperately to outpace the ghosts they’ve conjured, only to find themselves back in the attic years later with nothing to protect them besides the roll of the dice and each other. This has probably been my best-received work of the year with Reading Vicariously calling it “Genuinely creepy” and Rebecca Rowland of Ginger Nuts of Horror saying “it’s worth buying the collection for this tale alone.”

The Mad Monk of the Motor City” (There Is No Death, There Are No Dead, Crystal Lake Publishing, August 2021)
The ghost of Rasputin descends on a broken-down apartment building in modern-day Detroit, and soon nearly all the tenants are under his preternatural sway. Only one withdrawn woman finds herself resisting his thrall as she does her best to solve the mystery of why he’s returned and how to stop him. This anthology of occult horror has a fabulous table of contents and was the first time I got to work with editor Jess Landry since The Rust Maidens, so this one holds a special place in my heart.

The Haunted Houses She Calls Her Own” (Liminal Spaces, Cemetery Gates Media, September 2021)
The famed Black Dahlia finds herself living and reliving different versions of her own death, all while demanding for her own voice to be heard and also searching for a way out of the purgatory the world has created for her. I’ve long been fascinated and horrified by the real-life murder of Elizabeth Short, and this story is my ode to her and her memory. Writing about actual people is always tricky, but I hope I did her some semblance of justice in this story.

Things to Do in Playland When You’re Dead” (Shadow Atlas, Hex Publishers, November 2021)
An ethereal patron visits an amusement park called Playland-at-the-Beach on the final night before it closes for good, meeting a variety of strange specters along the way. San Francisco’s now-defunct Playland at the Beach is such a fascinating piece of Americana, and it was so much fun to craft this short story around it. This is also another amazing table of contents—truly all of these books have incredible tables of contents—so it was an honor to be part of this one.

The 9 Ghosts You’ll Find at Mayfair Estate” (Nine, Editions du Chat Noir, July 2021)
So this one actually marks a first for my writing career: this story made its debut in French! A tour of a vast and haunted property slowly starts to unravel in increasingly horrifying ways, as one by one, a group of unusual phantoms introduces themselves.

In addition to my short stories, I also had four nonfiction pieces published this year, all of them featured at Tor Nightfire. My articles ran the gamut from fiction based on true-crime tales and the best witchy books to re-imagined fairy tales and the creepiest cats of horror. I think I say this every year, but I’m very hopeful that I’ll have even more short nonfiction out next year. That’s definitely the goal anyhow.

Beyond my new fiction and nonfiction, it was a busy year overall. The Invention of Ghosts was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award as well as a Ladies of Horror Fiction Award. The Spanish translation of The Rust Maidens was nominated for both an Ignotus and a Kelvin Award. Additionally, the Spanish translation of my Lucy Westenra story from Crononauta was also nominated at the Ignotus Awards. The French translation of Boneset & Feathers made its debut from Editions du Chat Noir, and the German translation of The Rust Maidens was released from Festa Verlag. I’ve made a number of sales for next year, including a new nonfiction article on Terrence Malick and the uncanny to Vastarien, and a new weird horror story, “To the Progeny Forsaken,” to Dim Shores’ Looming Low, Volume 2. My work will also have new translations in French, Spanish, and Italian next year and beyond.

Also, in what is truly a dream come true, my personal writing archive is now housed at the University of Pittsburgh’s Horror Studies Collection. The drafts of my short stories and novels are now living in the same space as work from George Romero, John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Linda Addison, Kathe Koja, and so many other horror luminaries. I used to daydream about being a writer who had their archive at a major university, and now I am a writer who can say that. It’s surreal and thrilling and I still can’t believe it’s really happened.

And of course, even more big news from the year: my third novel, Reluctant Immortals, had its cover reveal and release date announced: August 23rd, 2022! In case you haven’t already heard me screaming from the rooftops about it, Reluctant Immortals follows Lucy Westenra from Dracula and Bertha Antoinetta Mason from Jane Eyre as they navigate 1967 California while trying to stop the toxic men from their past who have returned suddenly to their lives. You can find out more and read an excerpt at the Tor Nightfire blog.

All right, so that’s more than enough for one year. I’m doing my best to stay hopeful overall for what 2022 holds, but with the current state of the world, hope is all I’ve got. Fingers crossed that next year will be much better than this one.

At any rate, happy reading, and happy New Year!

Reluctant Immortals and Other News: Writing Updates for Fall 2021

Welcome back, and happy end of November! Over here at my perpetually quarantined corner of the world, we’re playing the dutiful role of hermits. I’m currently at work on my next novel, which is truly the best way to spend these darker days of fall and impending winter. Because really, what’s cozier than the blood and guts of horror?

At any rate, I’ve had some writing updates in the last few months, which means it’s about time to use my blog for another round of “if you haven’t heard it yet on my social media, allow me to chatter on about it now.” So let’s get down to it, shall we?

Cover reveal and release date for Reluctant Immortals

First and foremost, I’m beyond thrilled that the cover of my third novel, Reluctant Immortals, has been unveiled. Behold its 1960s-themed beauty…

The cover is by artist Kelli McAdams, and needless to say, I absolutely adore it. It’s gorgeous and strange and psychedelic, and it fits the mood of the novel perfectly.

Tor Nightfire did a fabulous cover reveal earlier this month, which also includes the very first excerpt from the novel! Big thanks to Emily Hughes at Nightfire for hosting the reveal, and big thanks to Saga Press for all their promotion of the book so far. Things are definitely shaping up well for the release next year!

Speaking of release, the official release date is August 23rd, 2022, and the book is already available for pre-order! So feel free to head on over to the official Simon and Schuster page if you want to learn more.

Recap of my fall events & upcoming New York Ghost Story Festival

Over the last couple months, I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of numerous panels and readings for the fall season. From the Fox Cities Book Festival and Story Hour to Flame Tree’s Hellish Helter Skelter panel and the Sturgis Library’s Poe panel, it’s definitely been a bustling fall. I was also part of the Spooky Stories II panel, a Halloween event through Editions du Chat Noir, and The Outer Dark’s monster kids roundtable at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival. Head on over here if you want to catch any of the replays, and big thanks to everyone who invited me to their events. It’s always such an honor to be able to talk about horror!

And in terms of forthcoming events, I’m thrilled to be part of the second year of the New York Ghost Story Festival. Catch me this Saturday, December 4th along with Daniel Braum, Jon Padgett, Venita Coehlo, and Steve Rasnic Tem. The event starts at 7pm EST on YouTube! Hope to see you there!

Italian translation of And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe

And finally, I’m excited to announce that Independent Legions Publishing will be releasing the Italian translation of my debut collection, And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe. It’s been almost five years (!) since that book was released from JournalStone, and it makes me so happy to see that it will soon be reaching new readers. A huge shout-out to editor Alessandro Manzetti for his work at translating my fiction in the past and for choosing my collection for his press. I’m very happy to be working together again!

So those are my updates for the moment! I hope everyone’s doing well and staying safe during these strange times. Here’s to hoping for a positive end to 2021 and to an even better 2022!

Happy reading, and happy holidays!

Spooky Submissions: Submission Roundup for October 2021

Welcome back to this month’s Submission Roundup! Lots of fantastic opportunities, so if you have a story looking for a home, perhaps one of these will be the perfect fit! As always, a disclaimer: I’m not a representative for any of these markets; I’m merely spreading the word. Please direct your questions to their respective editors.

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

Submission RoundupMirror, Mirror
Payment: .06/word
Length: up to 5,000 words
Deadline: October 15th, 2021
What They Want: Open to a wide range of speculative fiction with the theme of mirrors and reflections.
Find the details here

Escape Pod
Payment: .08/word for original fiction; $100/flat for reprints
Length: 1,500 to 6,000 words for original fiction; 1,500 to 18,000 words for reprints
Deadline: October 31st, 2021
What They Want: Escape Pod is currently open to science fiction stories with the theme of joy.
Find the details here

It Calls from the Veil
Payment: .01/word CAD (up to $60) for original fiction; $15/flat for reprints
Length: 2,000 to 6,000 words
Deadline: October 31st, 2021
What They Want: Eerie River Publishing is seeking supernatural horror fiction.
Find the details here

Negative Space 2: A Return to Survival Horror
Payment: $50/flat
Length: 2,000 to 7,500 words
Deadline: October 31st, 2021
What They Want: Dark Peninsula Press is seeking short stories about survival horror, such as Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and The Mist.
Find the details here.

Never Whistle at Night
Payment: $1,000/flat
Length: 2,000 to 5,000 words
Deadline: November 1st, 2021
What They Want: Open to original fiction from Indigenous horror writers who have no more than two books released.
Find the details here

LampLight
Payment: .06/word
Length: up to 5,100 words
Deadline: November 15th, 2021
What They Want: Open to horror fiction from authors who have never made a pro sale before.
Find the details here

Into the Forest: Tales of the Baba Yaga
Payment: .06/word
Length: 1,000 to 5,000 words
Deadline: December 31st, 2021
What They Want: Open to women authors, this anthology from Black Spot Books is seeking stories about and inspired by Baba Yaga.
Find the details here

Diet Riot: A Fatterpunk Anthology
Payment: $25/flat
Length: 4,000 to 6,000 words
Deadline: December 31st, 2021
What They Want: A fat-positive anthology, Diet Riot is open to horror short stories that feature and celebrate fat protagonists.
Find the details here

And finally, an early warning submission call!

Stories of the Eye
Payment: .02/word
Length: 2,500 to 5,000 words
Deadline: Open November 1st to November 30th, 2021
What They Want: Weirdpunk Books is currently seeking stories inspired by the relationships between artists and models.
Find the details here

Happy submitting!

Awesome Autumn Fiction: Submission Roundup for September 2021

Welcome back for this month’s Submission Roundup! Plenty of awesome writing opportunities for the month of September, so if you’ve got a story looking for a home, one of these markets might be a perfect fit.

But first, a disclaimer: I’m not a representative for any of these markets; I’m merely spreading the word. Please direct your questions to their respective editors.

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

Submission Roundup

Pseudopod
Payment: .08/word for original fiction; $100/flat for short story reprints; $20/flat for flash fiction reprints
Length: up to 6,000 words
Deadline: September 13th, 2021
What They Want: Open to a wide range of horror fiction.
Find the details here

Lackington’s
Payment: .01/word CAD ($25 minimum)
Length: 1,500 to 5,000 words
Deadline: September 15th, 2021
What They Want: Open to stylized speculative fiction on the theme of Botanicals.
Find the details here.

Mirror, Mirror
Payment: .06/word
Length: up to 5,000 words
Deadline: October 15th, 2021
What They Want: Open to a wide range of speculative fiction with the theme of mirrors and reflections.
Find the details here

Escape Pod
Payment: .08/word for original fiction; $100/flat for reprints
Length: 1,500 to 6,000 words for original fiction; 1,500 to 18,000 words for reprints
Deadline: October 31st, 2021
What They Want: Escape Pod is currently open to science fiction stories with the theme of joy.
Find the details here

It Calls from the Veil
Payment: .01/word CAD (up to $60) for original fiction; $15/flat for reprints
Length: 2,000 to 6,000 words
Deadline: October 31st, 2021
What They Want: Eerie River Publishing is seeking supernatural horror fiction.
Find the details here

Negative Space 2: A Return to Survival Horror
Payment: $50/flat
Length: 2,000 to 7,500 words
Deadline: October 31st, 2021
What They Want: Dark Peninsula Press is seeking short stories about survival horror, such as Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and The Mist.
Find the details here.

LampLight
Payment: .06/word
Length: up to 5,100 words
Deadline: Open September 15th to November 15th, 2021
What They Want: Open to horror fiction from authors who have never made a pro sale before.
Find the details here

And finally, an early warning submission call!

Stories of the Eye
Payment: .02/word
Length: 2,500 to 5,000 words
Deadline: Open November 1st to November 30th, 2021
What They Want: Weirdpunk Books is currently seeking stories inspired by the relationships between artists and models.
Find the details here

Happy submitting!

Dispatches from Quarantine: Writing Updates for Summer 2021

Welcome back, and welcome to the end of summer! Seriously, how have these months gone by so quickly? Even though I’ve been mostly just hanging around the house, it’s still managed to be a busy season in terms of writing updates. In case you missed any of my posts online and are curious what I’m up to (and since you’re at my blog, I suppose you must be at least somewhat curious), here’s all my latest writing news!

My writing archive is now housed at the Horror Studies Collection!

So this is probably the coolest thing to happen so far in my writing career: my personal writing archive is now located at the University of Pittsburgh’s Horror Studies Collection! This is the same archive that holds the George A. Romero collection as well as work from Wes Craven and John Carpenter. Plus, other horror fiction authors who have recently donated their archives include the fabulous Linda D. Addison and Kathe Koja. I truly couldn’t be in better company!

I’ve always been fascinated by archives, ever since I was a kid and learned that creators donate their work to universities for future study. It’s been a total daydream of mine that I would ever be invited to have my work housed in an archive, and it seems so surreal that this has really happened.

Anyhow, here are some pictures of the stuff I sent to the archive. It includes lots and lots of rough drafts, random lists, and scribbled notes from the last seven years as well as convention program books, bookmarks, numerous reviews, and Cassie Daley’s The Big Book of Horror Authors coloring book.

Award nominations

I’ve been really fortunate this year to have my work nominated numerous times for awards. You no doubt already heard me wax jubilantly about my Stoker nomination in Long Fiction for The Invention of Ghosts this spring. Since then, Las Doncellas de Oxido, the Spanish translation of The Rust Maidens, was nominated in the Best Translated Novel category at the Premios Kelvin Awards. Then, at the Ignotus Awards, the Spanish equivalent of the Hugos, Las Doncellas de Oxiodo was nominated in the Translated Novel category. I’m also thrilled that Crononauta’s translation of my Stoker-winning story, “The Eight People Who Murdered Me (Excerpt from Lucy Westenra’s Diary),” is also nominated in the Best Translated Story category (alongside none other than Stephen King!). You can see all the Ignotus nominees here.

As if all that isn’t enough, The Invention of Ghosts was nominated in the Novella category for the Ladies of Horror Fiction Award!

The Ignotus Awards will be announced soon, and you can see the winners for the Ladies of Horror Fiction Award and the Premios Kelvin Awards here and here. Congratulations to all the winners and nominees for these awards! It’s a true honor to be nominated alongside all of you!

I’m teaching a LitReactor course!

Earlier this month, I started teaching a four-week LitReactor course called Monster Mash, which is all about reinventing familiar horror tropes. The class sold out in just over a week, so I’m pretty stunned and incredibly happy about that. It’s been so much fun discussing monsters with the students and reading their awesome work. We’re already over halfway done with the course, which is just further proof that this summer has gone by way too fast.

New translations of my work!

I’ve got several really exciting updates on the translation front. After the great success of our collaboration on The Rust Maidens, Dilatando Mentes will be translating three of my books into Spanish! Next year will see the release of Boneset & Feathers, followed by my debut collection, And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, in 2023 and Pretty Marys All in a Row in 2024. It’s worth noting that this is the very first time my collection or any of its stories have ever been translated, so this is beyond thrilling. I’m also so excited to be working with Dilatando Mentes again; they’re a truly amazing publisher.

Meanwhile, Editions du Chat Noir will be publishing French translations of my novella, Pretty Marys All in a Row, as well as my witchy novel, Boneset & Feathers. As seen above, both of those covers have already been revealed, and they’re beyond beautiful. I’m so excited to be working with Editions du Chat Noir again after their fantastic translation of The Rust Maidens, so once again, this is definitely great news all around!

I’m also delighted to be working with Festa Verlag on the German translation of The Rust Maidens. Die Rost Jungfern is available for pre-order and will be available later this year! This is the first time my work has ever been translated into German, and given my own German roots (my last name isn’t Kiste for nothing), this is a really great honor.

And finally, my story, “The Eight People Who Murdered Me (Excerpt from Lucy Westenra’s Diary),” will be appearing in an upcoming issue of Molotov Magazine. This will be my work’s first appearance in Italian and my first time working with Independent Legions Publishing!

Reading for the Nighttime Logic Series

Earlier in the summer, I was part of the Nighttime Logic Reading Series, hosted by Daniel Braum. Daniel has long been one of the biggest supporters of my work, and it’s always an honor to be part of the incredible events he puts together. I got to read alongside Mike Allen, Laurel Hightower, and Jeffrey Ford, which was such a lovely experience. If you missed the event live, you can catch the replay here!

Short Fiction Sales

I’ve also made four recent short story sales! “Sister Glitter Blood” is available now in the Violent Vixens: An Homage to Grindhouse Horror anthology from Dark Peninsula Press. This creepy little horror story is told as though you’re reading the directions for a vintage board game, and it follows two sisters desperate to escape their own personal haunted house. An early review is already up thanks to reviewer Rebecca Rowland, and it singles out my story, noting “Kiste’s voice is simply genius here, evoking amusement, heartbreak, and suspense.”

My strange dark fantasy story, “Things to Do in Playland When You’re Dead,” will be out later this year in Shadow Atlas: Dark Landscapes of the Americas from Hex Publishers. This tale is set in the waning days of Playland at the Beach, a once beloved amusement park in San Francisco, and follows a bevy of local ghosts as they haunt the derelict rides, searching for new patrons to claim as one of their own.

Next up is “The Haunted Houses She Calls Her Own,” which is told through the point of view of Elizabeth Short, better known as the Black Dahlia. This one will appear as part of Liminal Spaces: An Anthology of Dark Speculative Fiction, which will be out soon from Cemetery Gates Media. Editor Kevin Lucia has been making announcements with new authors from the table of contents, and it’s been so exciting to see everyone who’s on board. This is sure to be a fabulous book, and I’m so thrilled to be part of it.

And finally, my horror story, “The Mad Monk of the Motor City,” which is all about a lonely woman dealing with the ghost of Rasputin in her run-down Detroit tenement building, will appear in There Is No Death, There Are No Dead, which comes out tomorrow from Crystal Lake Publishing. This particular anthology is edited by Aaron J. French as well as Jess Landry, the editor extraordinaire who worked with me on And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe and The Rust Maidens. It was so much fun to work with Jess again and definitely felt like old times in the best possible way.

I was a guest on the This Is Horror podcast!

And last but in no way least, I returned as a guest on an episode of This Is Horror in June! We talked all about witches, writing, breakfast foods, and how to stay optimistic even in trying times. It’s always so much fun to talk with Bob Pastorella and Michael David Wilson, so give the episode a listen if you haven’t already!

… so those are the updates in my world! I’m expecting the rest of the year to be a bit quieter in terms of announcements, but either way, I’ll still be here at my laptop, toiling away at my latest fiction and nonfiction. I hope everyone’s staying safe and enjoying what’s left of their summer!

Happy reading!

Cruel Summer: Interview with J.A.W. McCarthy

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today, I’m thrilled to spotlight author J.A.W. McCarthy. J.A.W has written numerous short stories which have been featured in publications including Vastarien, Apparition Lit, and LampLight among others. Her debut collection, Sometimes We’re Cruel, was released this week from Cemetery Gates.

Recently, J.A.W. and I discussed her inspiration as a writer and why she loves the horror genre so much.

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

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I started writing novels as a kid, always something dark involving ghosts and angsty teens. My mom would read to me and illustrate the stories with her own drawings, so she instilled those interests in me from the start.

I love Shirley Jackson and Angela Carter, of course. Jackson’s Merricat Blackwood in particular has been a big influence on my characters. As for contemporary dark fiction authors, I’ve found inspiration in works by Paul Tremblay, Hailey Piper, Michael Wehunt, Nadia Bulkin, Damien Angelica Walters, Mona Awad, and Silvia Moreno-Garcia, to name a few. We’re living in a truly rich time for dark fiction with so many excellent authors working right now. Yourself included! And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe is one of the best collections I’ve ever read.

Congratulations on the forthcoming release of your collection, Sometimes We’re Cruel! What can you share about the book? How did you select the stories, and is there a particular theme that connects them?

Thank you! Sometimes We’re Cruel is my debut collection, out August 17th from Cemetery Gates Media. It’s 6 reprints and 6 new stories that focus on obsession and body horror. The collection covers work from the last three years, each connected by the theme of human cruelty. I didn’t set out with this theme in mind; I realized later, as I was selecting stories, that almost all of my work deals with the terrors humans (and the not-quite-human) inflict on each other, intentionally or not.

Why horror? What in particular makes you love the genre? What are your hopes for the future of horror?

I’ve always loved horror and I can’t even pinpoint how that started. I was a voracious reader as a child and my parents didn’t limit my reading, so eventually I found my way to the darkness. Even when I was trying my hand at writing more traditional lit fic, dark speculative elements crept in. Maybe it’s a way to explore and understand why this world can be so awful. When I’m creating the horror, it’s the only way I have control.

I hope to see more women and BIPOC get recognition. We’re getting there, and I think our progress is best reflected in the indie horror scene.

What draws you to writing short fiction? Did you grow up reading short stories, or did you develop an appreciation for them as an adult? Also, what are a few of your favorite short stories?

Aside from fairytales, I grew up reading mostly long fiction. My first serious writing projects as a kid were novels. In fact, I struggled with short fiction as an adult. I’m long-winded, with a passion for elaborate descriptions. When I started writing again, I didn’t expect that I’d be able to write an effective short story. One day I got an idea I had to run with, not expecting it to be successful… but then it was. Before I knew it, short fiction was all I was writing. My critique partners have really helped me sharpen my prose so that I can not only stay within word count but also write with purpose.

One of my favorite short stories is Joyce Carol Oates’ “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”. It’s a masterclass in using pacing and small details to build tension.

Recent short stories that lit a fire and inspired me:

“A Heart Arrhythmia Creeping Into a Dark Room” by Michael Wehunt
“Resilience” by Christi Nogle
“The Smell of Night in the Basement” by Wendy N. Wagner
“Though Your Heart is Breaking” by Laurel Hightower
“Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” by Alyssa Wong

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far as a writer?

I have two: Aim High and This Is Not A Competition. When I first started writing short fiction, I didn’t do my research. I just wanted to see my work in print, even if no one else was likely to read it. Self-doubt told me I wasn’t good enough to get into any major publications, that my work wasn’t worth much money. While my early work was not there yet—I think most of us have to sharpen our skills and work our way up—I sold myself short in the beginning. There are so many indie publishers who are passionate, support their authors, and are doing amazing work on a shoestring budget. There is room for all of us.

If forced to choose, which part of the writing process is your favorite: developing characters, crafting dialogue, or establishing setting/mood?

Characters. I don’t outline and I usually don’t have more than a loose plan when I start a story, so I love developing my characters as I go and seeing where they take me. If I can develop interesting and strong enough characters, they will show me their story.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’ve got two novellas that are both two-thirds of the way finished. Both were shelved for the past seven months while I concentrated on my collection. Now that I’ve got time again, I’m eager to get back to them, particularly the one I’m currently calling “Merch Girl”, which is about a woman who sells merch for a nomadic band and her experiences on the road. She’s a monster, a mother, a caretaker resigned to her role, but then she comes to a crossroads when she finally meets someone like her, a woman who reminds her who she really is.

Where can we find you online?

I’m on Twitter and Instagram @JAWMcCarthy, and at jawmccarthy.com. I’m most active on Twitter, if anyone wants to say hi!

Big thanks to J.A.W. McCarthy for being this week’s featured author!

Happy reading!

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!

Summer Writing: Submission Roundup for August 2021

Welcome back for this month’s Submission Roundup! Lots of fabulous opportunities in August and beyond, so polish up those stories and send them out into the world!

As always, a disclaimer: I’m not a representative for any of these markets; I’m merely spreading the word. Please direct any questions to their respective editors.

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

Submission Roundup

Arthropod
Payment: $20/flat
Length: up to 7,500 words for fiction; up to 45 lines for poetry
Deadline: August 7th, 2021
What They Want: Open to speculative fiction and poetry about arthropods (e.g. insects, arachnids, crustaceans).
Find the details here.

Xenocultivars: Stories of Queer Growth
Payment: .08/word
Length: up to 10,000 words (up to 7,000 words preferred)
Deadline: August 7th, 2021
What They Want: This anthology is seeking speculative fiction featuring queer characters and themes of plants and growth.
Find the details here.

Chromophobia
Payment: .01/word
Length: 1,500 to 6,000 words
Deadline: August 31st, 2021
What They Want: This new Strangehouse Books anthology edited by Sara Tantlinger is seeking horror stories inspired by color from female authors.
Find the details here.

Ladies of Horror Fiction Scholarships
Payment: $100 scholarships
Deadline: August 31st, 2021
What They Want: Open to all women authors, the Ladies of Horror Fiction are currently offering ten $100 scholarships.
Find the details here.

Lackington’s
Payment: .01/word CAD ($25 minimum)
Length: 1,500 to 5,000 words
Deadline: August 31st, 2021
What They Want: Open to stylized speculative fiction on the theme of Botanicals.
Find the details here.

Kaleidotrope
Payment: .01/word for fiction; $5/flat for poetry
Length: 250 to 10,000 words
Deadline: August 31st, 2021
What They Want: Open to a wide range of speculative fiction and poetry.
Find the details here.

New Gothic Review
Payment: $50/flat
Length: 1,500 to 5,000 words
Deadline: August 31st, 2021
What They Want: Original short stories that explore the Gothic tradition in the 21st century.
Find the details here.

A Woman Built By Men
Payment: .05/word
Length: 2,000 to 5,000 words
Deadline: September 5th, 2021
What They Want: Open to all female-identifying authors, this anthology from Cemetery Gates is seeking horror stories about women built or shaped by men.
Find the details here.

 And finally, an early warning call!

Negative Space 2: A Return to Survival Horror
Payment: $50/flat
Length: 2,000 to 7,500 words
Deadline: Open submission period from September 1st to October 1st, 2021
What They Want: Dark Peninsula Press is seeking short stories about survival horror, such as Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and The Mist.
Find the details here.

Happy submitting!

Terror and Tidepools: Interview with Nicole Willson

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today I’m thrilled to feature Nicole Willson. Nicole is the author of the forthcoming debut novel, Tidepool.

Recently, Nicole and I discussed her inspiration as an author as well as why she loves the horror genre.

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

I truly cannot remember a time when I wasn’t writing. If it wasn’t a comic strip about cave girls and dinosaurs for my grade school magazine, it was Star Wars fanfic, which I didn’t even know was called fanfic back then. I decided to start pursuing publication in high school, when I typed up some of my best stories and sent them off to places like Twilight Zone Magazine. (They didn’t get accepted.) Although I gave up on that dream for a while in my 20s when the rejections got to be too much for me to handle, I never completely lost the drive.

My favorite authors include but are by no means limited to Cherie M. Priest, Erin Morgenstern, Adam Nevill, Neil Gaiman, Alma Katsu, and Gwendolyn Kiste.

Congratulations on your new book, Tidepool! What can you share with us about the inspiration behind the book?

Thank you! I like to say the book is Lovecraftian cosmic horror with a heavy dollop of American Horror Story in the mix. Someone who read it said it reminded them of Hammer horror films, which made me happy all day.

I started thinking about the story while I was walking along the beach in 2015. What if the ocean was full of terrifying creatures and one woman was the only thing standing between these beings and the town they were threatening? Who was she? Why was she the only one who could protect everyone? What if she commanded an extremely high price for her services and the townspeople were getting tired of paying it—what then? That central image evolved quite a bit as my initial idea became Tidepool.

What attracts you to writing dark fantasy and horror? Do you remember the first horror movie you saw or horror story you read?

I’m a fairly anxious person, and writing horror feels like I’m forcing my various demons into a form that I can control and (sometimes) conquer. Given that life feels more and more unpredictable by the day, turning the things that are bothering me into actual monsters is great therapy when I’m feeling especially helpless. Win or lose, at least I’m completely in charge of the outcome.

The first horror movie I have a clear memory of is the 1932 version of The Mummy from Universal Pictures; a local TV station showed weekend creature features, and I think The Mummy might have been the first one I was allowed to watch. Even though I could have outrun that creature easily, it still scared me.

The first horror story I remember reading was “The Cask of Amontillado.” It was so unlike all the other dry, deadly dull stories in my school reader, and the characterization, the growing sense of dread, and the story’s stunning ending made me aware for the first time of the true power of the horror genre.

You’ve also written a number of short stories. Do you find your approach to fiction varies depending on the length of the project, or do you have an established pattern for writing regardless of length?

My processes for both are similar in that I generally start with an idea and then imagine the characters who might be in this particular situation. However, I tend to be a lot more freewheeling when I’m writing short fiction. I might start with the ending and work my way backwards, something I don’t think I’d ever be able to pull off with a novel. Or I might write different fragments of the short story and link them together, whereas I try to work straight through from beginning to end with a novel draft—I’ve found that if I write fragments of the novel, I may or may not do the work involved in connecting them and filling out the entire story.

Do you have any particular writing routines (e.g. writing at a certain time each day, playing music, etc.)?

I tend to keep vampire hours when I’m writing; for whatever reason, I prefer working at night. I don’t generally play music unless I’m feeling particularly inspired by a certain song or if I’m looking for the music to set a certain mood in the story, but I’ll light some candles and incense before I start.

If forced to choose, what’s your favorite part of the writing process: drafting dialogue, creating characters, or establishing setting?

For me, a novel will stand or fall based on how strongly I feel about its characters. Give me good, memorable, vivid, complicated protagonists and antagonists and I’ll follow them just about anywhere. I love developing worksheets and backstories for all my main characters, even if most of what I come up with for them never makes it into the books.

What projects are you currently working on?

I am working through a round of edits for a YA horror novel that I consider a modern-day cross between The Haunting of Hill House and the Bluebeard tale. I also have an adult horror novel about a survival challenge and a vampire soap opera in the works.

Where can we find you online?

My website is http://www.nicolewillson.com and you can also find me on Twitter as @insomnicole and nicolewreads on Instagram.

Huge thanks to Nicole Willson for being this week’s featured author!

Happy reading!