Laughter and Freaks: Interview with Nicole Cushing

Welcome back! Today, I’m thrilled to feature the awesome Nicole Cushing. Nicole is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Mr. Suicide and The Sadist’s Bible, as well as numerous short stories.

Recently, Nicole and I discussed her forthcoming books, A Sick Gray Laugh and The Half-Freaks, as well as her inspiration and advice to new writers.

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

I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was still a kid. But I didn’t actually get off my ass and do the work to achieve that goal until I was thirty-five.

As for favorite authors, well, here are some names: Ligotti, Kiernan. Poe. Kundera, Ugresic, Miller, Herlihy, Gombrowicz, Andreyev, Hedayat.

Congratulations on the release of your forthcoming novel, A Sick Gray Laugh! What was the inspiration behind this book, and how did it develop from concept to finished version?

A Sick Gray Laugh has a lot of layers, and each layer had its own inspiration.

Part of the book was inspired by my experiences with depression and obsessive compulsive disorder, and by my various experiences with trauma and grief. Another part was inspired by my life in small Midwestern towns largely devoid of color; towns where the Grayness seems palpable, menacing, and almost sentient. Another part was inspired by my long-held interest in the strange Utopian cults that settled in the Midwest throughout the nineteenth century, and by my general interest in magick and the occult. Another part was inspired by my feeling that the world, in the present day, keeps getting weirder—and not in a good way. From where I sit, each and every social institution seems to be devolving into something absurd.

As you might imagine, weaving all of those subjects together into a single, coherent whole was a challenging task. Thankfully, I was able to learn quite a lot from Milan Kundera’s nonfiction book The Art of the Novel. His discussion of the so-called “polyphonic” novel was a revelation.

Readers absolutely love Mr. Suicide and The Sadist’s Bible. How do you feel that A Sick Gray Laugh fits in with those two books? On the other hand, how does it build on your previous work?

The common thread linking all of my books seems to be their preoccupation with themes of trauma, madness, and foulness (sometimes seasoned with a bit of gallows humor). A Sick Gray Laugh is no exception.

That having been said, A Sick Gray Laugh uses several approaches I’ve never tried before. To take just one example, a significant stretch of the book is historical fiction about a town established by one of those Utopian cults which I mentioned earlier. The novel traces the fate of this settlement over the span of two hundred years. So the book encompasses a much wider canvas than anything I’ve written before. Accordingly, it’s about twenty-thousand words longer than Mr. Suicide.

You also have a novella, The Half-Freaks, due out from Grimscribe Press later this year. What can you share about that book?

The main character of The Half-Freaks is a man named Harry Meyers. He’s a troubled fellow in his fifties who does odd jobs for the residents of a working class subdivision. Unfortunately, he’s also prone to a sad array of sexual compulsions.

Harry has lingered in my imagination since 2014, demanding that I tell his story. I had a perfect image of him in my head. I knew how he talked. I knew how he thought. But I also knew that those details weren’t enough to support a good story. He had to grow into something more substantial than a creep.

Eventually, I found I was able to give Harry more humanity by pointing out the freakishness of the world that surrounded him. For example, his mother dies in the early part of the story and he’s forced to interact with the health care and funeral industries (which are both motivated by a freakish combination of kindness and greed). The Half-Freaks is the story of Harry’s attempt to rebel against the forces of inhumanity and unreality.

What’s your writing process like? Do you write every day, and do you have any writing rituals? Also, is there a certain part of writing (e.g. establishing setting, crafting dialogue, developing characters) that’s your favorite? Conversely, is there a part of the process that’s your least favorite?

I tend to write Monday through Friday. I start my work day at around eight or nine a.m. by reading for an hour. Then I print out the last three to five pages of my work in progress, edit them, and try to add a thousand new words. This keeps me busy until about one or two p.m. Anything after that time is devoted to household chores and/or the business side of writing (reviewing contracts, blogging, posting videos to Youtube, keeping up with my lesson plans for The Nightmare Institute, etc.).

You are an awesome award-winning author with several books and several years of experience behind you. What’s the most important thing you feel that you’ve learned about writing over the last few years? In that vein, what advice do you have for writers who are just starting out?

The best advice I can offer to any writer (whether new or experienced) is simply this: writing isn’t a race. While many writers feel a need to constantly crank out new books, I think quality wins out over quantity.

After all, learning the craft takes time. In fact, I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning new approaches. I want to continually improve. And once you learn about the existence of any given technique, you may need to conduct a lot of failed experiments before you finally figure out how to best integrate it into your work-in-progress. Then, even after you’ve finished integrating it into your work-in-progress, it can take time to polish the completed book.

What projects are you currently working on?

In April I launched The Nightmare Institute, my platform for teaching horror writing classes. That keeps me pretty busy. I’ve also started work on a new novel.

Where can we find you online?

You can find out more information about The Nightmare Institute over on my Patreon page,

Of course, I’m also available on Facebook and Twitter. I pop up on Instagram every once in a while. And my website is

Tremendous thanks to Nicole Cushing for being part of this week’s author interview series!

Happy reading!

Memes and Other Unusual Ghosts: Interview with S. L. Edwards

Today I’ve got a real treat: none other than the indomitable S. L. Edwards. Sam is an author, reviewer, and a very active member of the horror and weird fiction community (if you haven’t been parodied in one of his memes, don’t worry; he’ll probably get to you soon). He’s also someone I’m happy to call a friend.

Recently, Sam and I discussed his debut collection, Whiskey and Other Unusual Ghosts, as well as his inspiration as an author.

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

I honestly can’t remember if I ever said, “I’m going to do this.” I remember dictating stories to the staff at the day care center I went to. I must have been three or four. Then through Middle School and High School I was writing for fun and for friends. I used to write a lot of them into my stories, tell them at parties. That kind of thing.

The more impactful story for me, I think, is when I was going to give up writing. I decided I wasn’t cut out for it, and the decision really broke my heart. I think I’m like a lot of people who are happier when they’re writing, or at least when they have ideas, so the idea of just ending what I had come to think of as a part of me was devastating. And that lasted for about two years. I’d like to think I was happy enough, but not nearly as happy as I could be.

Years later, on a bored whim I sent stories out to Benjamin Holesapple and Travis Neisler, who were opening up Turn to Ash and Ravenwood Quarterly respectively. I sent a story called “I’ve Been Here A Very Long Time” to Ben and one called “Movie Magic” to Travis.

They both said they enjoyed my work, and I didn’t believe them. Then they said that my stories were going to be accepted and I was still skeptical. Finally, I had the printed products in my hands, and I was in disbelief. I had a way back in to this world I wanted to be a part of, and I’ve treasured every bit of it since!

I’d saved a bottle of rum for when I sold my first short story, back when I was confident that such a thing was possible. I invited all of my friends over and shared it, kept what was left in case I sold anymore stories. The rum is long since gone.

Favorite writers…woof.

In my adult life I went through a Russian Literature phase. I worked out in New Mexico at a ranch and really got on my co-worker’s nerves talking about my reading habits. Boris Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago and Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate have really influenced me and my writing. Zhivago tends to get written off as a love story, but to me it was really a demonstration of what horror is. Yuri, as good of a man as he thinks he is, is swallowed up by his times. As much as he tries to stay above politics and violence, it finds him. There’s a sequence towards the end of the book, when Yuri has been captured, forced to work for the Forest Army Brotherhood, who are fighting the Whites. And there’s very slow build up, through all of the picturesque descriptions the reader knows this can’t last forever. I won’t get into the details of what finally happens when it becomes clear that the Whites are going to surround the Forest Brotherhood, but it was one of the most gruesome scenes I’ve read in literature. A real master class in what terror is.

Of course, there’s Tolstoy’s War and Peace too, which I read and reread. Those three works really inform my characters and my terrors. They really showed me how to make the macro, political world the more micro and intimate one. For all of the turmoil in those three works, there are still characters trying to live everyday lives. I think there’s something really profound in that.

But that’s really where my “realistic” reading habits drop off. Bolgokov’s Master and Margerita is a wonderful, subversive fantasy story. As is really anything by Gabriel García Marquez. From there, Neil Gaiman is at the top of my “I would die if I actually got to meet them” list. I love his writing. To my mind, Neil Gaiman can do no wrong.

In terms of our weird little world, I’ve made quite a few friends who are some of my favorite writers. S.P. Miskowski, John Linwood Grant, Matthew M. Bartlett, Jordan Kurella, Jon Padgett, Gwendolyn Kiste (hi), Betty Rocksteady, Orrin Grey, Christopher Ropes, Sean M. Thompson, Duane Pesice, Ashley Dioses, KA Opperman, Mer Whinery and Jonathan Raab. Thomas Ligotti is another writer, albeit one who I’ve never met or engaged with, who had a really profound impact on me. Jon’s done a really good job of highlighting how important Ligotti’s influence on the field is through editing and publishing Vastarien. I’m very jealous of what Kurt Fawver and Christopher Slatsky do, and I don’t think I’ve ever read a bad story by Autumn Christian, Brooke Warra or A.C. Wise. My two favorites right now, above all others, are Nadia Bulkin and John Langan. There’s no one else doing what they do right now. It’s incredible and awe-inspiring to watch.

Then there are a few writers who are working on the ground floor of our community, people who are climbing up high and fast. Rob F. Martin has a novella out called “The Doll Keeper,” that’s criminally under-read. Russell Smeaton is someone who walks humor and horror in a way I haven’t really encountered since Robert Bloch. John Paul Fitch writes like he’s fighting for his life, every word is just another bleeding cut. Then whenever I see a table of contents with William Tea, Sarah Walker, Can Wiggins, or Premee Mohammed I pay attention.

I just mentioned Robert Bloch, I think is one of my favorites. The guy leaves such a huge shadow! Yeah, he wrote Psycho, but he also had a touch on all of the anthology-style television shows that came out of the 1950s really all the way up through the 1980s. He had a way of balancing heartbreaking horror and absurd irony that made you laugh and cry at the same time. Matheson was good for that too, but in my opinion not like Bloch. And if I’m going to talk about Bloch, I need to give due deference to Lovecraft, who was one of Bloch’s mentors. For all the flaws I can find in his writing, to this day no one can invoke dread in me like Lovecraft, just like I go back to Clark Ashton Smith if I want to be in awe of what the English language can do.

And then there is Poe. I am a collector of all things Poe. Poe coffee mug, Poe action figure, Poe lunchbox. All Poe all the time.

Congrats on your debut collection, Whiskey and Other Unusual Ghosts! How did you choose the stories to include in the table of contents, and what was the overall process like in putting together your first collection?

Thank you! I’m very excited to share it with people. I had a lot, lot of support over the years. In a lot of ways, Whiskey is a dedication to a lot of friends and a big, supportive family. I know the stories are a bit dark, particularly when it comes to relationships. But honestly, that’s what scares me. In so many ways I have been very, very fortunate in my life. My characters, not so much. So, I hope that these people who held me up every step of the way recognize the collection for what it is. I hope my fellow authors enjoy it, and I hope readers are willing to give me a chance.

Regarding putting the collection together: my favorite stories are ghost stories, or they’re about deeply troubled people. I like ambiguity in my characters, an uncertainty if you’re supposed to be rooting for them or not. I particularly like to see that in antagonists. So, some of the stories in Whiskey have that element to them; certainly stories like “Cabras” and “Volver Al Monte.”

But in Whiskey I wanted to give folks as cohesive and comprehensive a sample of what I like to write and to do so in a way that was thematically connected. If I did my job right, the stories in this collection should be ones where you can remove the supernatural element and still be left with a horror story. Not in the sense of “oh the narrator is insane,” but in the sense that the supernatural is only a catalyst for things that are already there. Depression, self-isolation, addiction, cyclical violence. These are things that scare me quite a bit more than monsters.

And with that, hopefully there’s a sense of humor to some of the stories. I have one about animal hoarding, a puppet show, and movie theatre. There are funny things in our lives that can scare us just as much as the more irregular violence.

What is it about speculative fiction that attracts you as a storyteller?

Oh, the fluidity! It’s constantly changing and that makes it exciting! You have this laundry list of great writers and they’re all doing these phenomenally different things! Some are more sci-fi, some are more horror or fantasy. And increasingly I’m seeing speculative fiction adopting more magical realist elements. It’s really a good time to be a writer, because you’ve got so many peers constantly rewriting the rules.

In terms of my own writing, I’ve always enjoyed horror as a reader. You’ve got an opportunity to tell a really, raw emotional story and to do so in fantastic ways. It gives you a bit of elasticity, because you don’t have to stay in just one sandbox. You can bring in a ghost and give it as little or as much attention as you want. There are no rules.

I think that allows a writer an opportunity to pay as much or as little attention to themes like plot and theme as they want. Now this isn’t always the case, and I don’t want to talk like I’m an authority on the subject, but when I think about fantasy and science-fiction, there are lots of rules. You need to build up a whole world in order to tell a story that could take place over a few hours. Granted, there is a very loud movement in both of those fields to do new and exciting things, but as a writer fantasy and sci-fi seem too intimidating to me.

I like to play fast and loose, to focus on theme and character and not worry too much about the details of the world around them.

In addition to your fiction, you’ve also done reviewing and written nonfiction. How does your approach differ between your fiction writing and your nonfiction work?

Oh wow. When I started writing reviews, it was because I could get paid to read books, which was insane. But I decided pretty early on that I wanted to avoid two types of reviewing: summarizing and commenting. So many reviewers just list the stories and their plots, they don’t really offer an insight beyond “I liked or did not like this.” Then some get into a habit of only commenting “I understand this” or “I don’t understand this.” And they leave it there. That really frustrates me.

So when I was reviewing, I wanted to comment on what I liked about a work, other than just summarizing it or simply stating that I thought it was good. I tried to identify a unifying theme, discuss it and compare it to a few other works. It didn’t hurt to use vivid language in reviews either, it shows a certain amount of enthusiasm for the reader and a certain amount of understanding for the author. I think at the end of the day, authors want to be understood.

When I write nonfiction about literature, it’s a little different. There the purpose is purely commentary. It’s connecting with the theme of what you are analysing and putting it into dialog with something else. To my mind, when I write about someone else’s work, I want to bring something else in. To say something meaningful by bringing my own knowledge and experience to someone else’s body of work.

What’s your favorite part of the writing process: outlining ideas, crafting a first draft, or polishing up a nearly completed work?

It’s gotta be drafting. I’m a big fan of vomiting on the page, just writing at a breakneck speed and coming back later. I always have outlines, but I tend to deviate from them when I get into the actual writing. And there’s something about it. I’m a runner, and I’d compare writing like that to a runner’s high.

I also edit as I write, so usually by the time a “first draft” is finished, it’s polished in terms of plot, character and style. But I am notoriously bad at typos, so I always have to give things a second look-over.

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

Oh, that’s hard. There’s a set of stories that did not make it into Whiskey that I quite like. The Bartred family is one of occult detectives, and Joe Bartred is the main protagonist in those stories. Joe is an interesting character to me, very young and deeply sceptical of himself. Those stories can be found in Occult Detective Quarterly, and ideally once I have enough of them, I can put together a whole Bartred collection!

For individual stories, it’s tied between “Cabras” and “Volver Al Monte.” Without spoiling the fun for those who haven’t read them, I consider “Cabras” to be the more “horror” of the two. It was also the story that I think was the most influenced by my love for Dr. Zhivago. “Volver Al Monte,” feels a bit more like fantasy or science fiction. The terror is muted for tragedy, particularly when it becomes clear that the main character is not a hero.

What’s next for you?

Ideally, I keep writing short stories. A few folks keep telling me that writing a novel is the way to go, and I’ve got an idea, but not the time or discipline.

I’ve got two collections already completed but want to find the right publishers to work with for them. One will be pulp/fantasy, things that I enjoyed but did not fit with Whiskey and the other will be more weird-horror, with a focus on conspiracies. Mind you, not “conspiracies” in the “conspiracy theory,” sense, but conspiracies as in secrets, lies. Perfectly normal and yet horrifying things that happen in the everyday world.

Where can we find you online?

You can find me on Facebook, my blog and Amazon. I’m always posting memes on Facebook, partly because I like to laugh and partly because I like to laugh at myself. So, don’t be scared away with the memes.

Big thanks to Sam L. Edwards for being part of this week’s author interview series!

Happy reading!

Spectacular Summer Stories: Submission Roundup for June 2019

Welcome back for this month’s Submission Roundup! Lots of great opportunities this June, so if you’ve got a story seeking a home, perhaps one of these markets will be a perfect fit!

But first, a quick disclaimer: I’m not a representative for any of these publications. I’m merely spreading the word! Please direct any and all questions to their respective editors.

And now onward with this month’s Submission Roundup!

Submission Roundup

Eye to the Telescope #33
Payment: .03/word (min $3, max $25)
Length: Submit up to 3 poems
Deadline: June 15th, 2019
What They Want: Guest editor Sara Tantlinger is seeking speculative poetry with the theme of Infection.
Find the details here.

Accursed: A Horror Anthology
Payment: $25/flat
Length: 2,500 to 6,000 words
Deadline: June 30th, 2019
What They Want: Horror and horror-comedy stories about cursed objects.
Find the details here.

Nox Pareidolia
Payment: .06/word
Length: up to 6,000 words
Deadline: June 30th, 2019
What They Want: Open to black authors only until the end of June, Nightscape is seeking ambiguous horror stories in the vein of Robert Aickman.
Find the details here.

Eraserhead Press
Payment: 50% royalties
Length: 20,000 to 100,000 words
Deadline: June 30th, 2019
What They Want: Bizarro stories that are original and well-crafted.
Find the details here.

SNAFU: Last Stand
Payment: .05/word (AUD)
Length: 2,000 to 10,000 words
Deadline: June 30th, 2019
What They Want: Military-themed horror with monsters and a last-stand theme.
Find the details here.

When the Sirens Have Faded
Payment: $15/flat
Length: up to 6,000 words
Deadline: July 13th, 2019
What They Want: A Murder of Storytellers is seeking stories about what happens to the survivors of horror movies after the proverbial credits roll.
Find the details here.

Payment: Standard royalties
Length: 50,000 words and above
Deadline: July 31st, 2019
What They Want: Open to novels and fiction collections in the horror genre.
Find the details here.

Unnerving’s Rewind or Die series
Payment: 50/50 royalty split
Length: 25,000 to 50,000 words
Deadline: Submissions open in September
What They Want: Editor Eddie Generous is seeking novellas from female authors that focus on the wonderfully creepy spirit of the 1970s and 1980s horror video craze era.
Find the details here.

Happy submitting!

Spectral Nightmares: Interview with Craig Laurance Gidney

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today, I’m thrilled to spotlight the amazing Craig Laurance Gidney! I had the pleasure of meeting Craig in Atlanta at The Outer Dark Symposium, and we even got to hear him read from his forthcoming novel, A Spectral Hue. Suffice it to say, it’s going to be one of the best books of the year without a doubt!

Recently, Craig and I discussed his journey as an author as well as what we can expect from his new novel!

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

I knew that I wanted to be a writer when I was in second grade. At the point at which I could spell and make quasi-legible words, I started writing stories and making stapled chapter books. The books were accompanied by my illustrations. I can remember their titles: The Story of Dum Dum was about a hobo dog, and A Bird of Stars was a book of religious poetry. As I read more widely, my writing started to mimic whatever book I was reading. Around 10 or so I read Southern Gothic short stories—Flannery O’Connor and Eudora Welty. I think O’Connor’s love of the grotesque and her blatant use of symbolism was a formative influence. Patricia A McKillip and Tanith Lee’s work taught me what I could do with language and atmosphere. Octavia E Butler taught me the importance of theme, and that it was imperative that I center black and brown people protagonists, and Samuel R Delany showed me the importance of the queer (and black) point of view.

Congratulations on the forthcoming release of your novel, A Spectral Hue. What can you share about this book? What was your inspiration, and what was the process like in writing A Spectral Hue?

The seed of A Spectral Hue was planted during a college course I took on the Surrealist movement. One of the guest lecturers was a specialist in Outsider Art. I believe he spoke about Henry Darger, the reclusive Chicago janitor who secretly wrote and illustrated an epic science-fantasy novel about child slaves, aliens and the heroic Vivian Girls. I saw slides of his works among other lesser known artists and was blown away by their otherworldly depth. During the summer, when I was staying at my parents’ house, my father, who was a dentist, told me about a patient of his that would give him handmade books of her poetry. He brought one of the books home, and I got the same otherworldly feeling. My dad’s patient was an older African American woman, who, like Darger, had created an elaborate world that centered around a mythic figure, known as the Chocolate Soldier. She wrote cryptic poems about his adventures, and, like Darger, illustrated the work with unearthly collages.

The novel went through a few drafts before I found the right way to tell the tale. At one point, it was a YA novel! I have scores of false starts on my hard drive. The ultimate form was a result of workshopping the book in 2015.

How, if at all, is your approach different when writing short fiction versus longer fiction? Do you outline ahead of time, or is your process more free-form?

It depends on the project.

My novella Bereft was outlined, but not excessively so. I think because it was a young adult and realistic book, I was more controlled than I was with my other stuff.

Most of my short fiction isn’t planned, per se. I’ll have an idea and a character and basic plot and go from there.

I think, though, for the most part, I am a chaotic pantser—which makes novel writing a messy experience. You know how in cooking shows, the host has everything lined up in neat little ramekins? I’m not like that At. All. I’m the flour-stained, gravy-spattered chef.

Your chapbook, The Nectar of Nightmares, was released through Dim Shores in 2015, and was also re-released last year as a standalone ebook. How did this particular book develop?

The novelette itself was one of those spur of the moment things that just jump out from your brain and onto the page. The first part was inspired by the ballet-horror movie Black Swan. The second part sprang from the fact that I was working part-time for a Native American lobbying group. The overall theme, about a sleep demon, had been kicking around in my head for a while. I wrote the story and it just sat on my hard drive, without a particular market in mind.

Then I went to World Horror Con in 2015 and met Scott Nicolay (of the Outer Dark podcast). He was the one who told me about Dim Shores and got me in contact with Sam Cowan. Orion Zangara, the illustrator, had sent me a nice note about my fiction maybe a year earlier. I loved his artwork, and Sam let me choose him for the project.

You’ve been a professional writer for a number of years at this point. How do you feel your approach or perspective on the craft or industry of writing has changed over the last few years? How has it stayed the same?

A few things have happened. There is a renaissance of speculative fiction from marginalized voices, so that there isn’t just one Black or Asian or queer writer—-there’s lots of them. And people, all people, seem to be hungry for different voices, and different stories. We most certainly have a far ways to go, but it’s nice to know that there isn’t a competition for a tokenized place at the table. Now, we are the table.

I know that Social Media can be terrible. But the bulk of my commissions come from Social Media. That’s really changed — and the fact that you don’t have to send hard copies in the mail! I remember making a trek to the post office, sending SASEs and waiting (sometimes for two years) to hear back from markets.

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

My black queer coming out fairy-tale “Circus Boy Without a Safety Net” seems to bring such joy to people. I view it as “the little story that could.”

What projects are you currently working on?

In addition to a couple of short commissions (including a nonfiction essay), I am working on a new novel that explores themes of vampirism, colonialism, gentrification and hoodoo (black folk magic). It’s in the conceptual stage at the moment.

Where can we find you online?

I have a site/blog at:, and my Twitter (very infrequent) and Instagram are both @ethereallad

Link: to Orion Zangara:

Huge thanks to Craig Laurance Gidney for being part of this week’s author interview series!

Happy reading!

Angels and Graves: Interview with Richard Writhen

Welcome back for this week’s featured interview! Today, I’m pleased to spotlight Richard Writhen. Richard is the author of A Host of Ills, The Hiss of the Blade, and his latest novel, The Angel of the Grave.

Recently, Richard and I talked about his favorite authors as well as his new book and all about his writing plans in the future.

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

I had always toyed with the idea, and wrote on and off throughout my life, but would usually just wind up deleting everything. I really didn’t get down to brass tacks until I became a copywriter for a retail website. That was very good writing practice. I had turned thirty-six. Then, I saw an ad on Craigslist that was looking for blog posters, and I thought, what the heck, go ahead and submit. When it comes to literature, I like noir, darkness. Poe, HPL, Dennis Lehane, Richard Price, Paul Tremblay, Daphne du Maurier, Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins.

Congrats on your forthcoming novel, The Angel of the Grave! What was the process like writing this book? How long did it take you, and were there any unexpected roadblocks along the way?

Thank you, very much. This book was like a miasma, a quicksand. It took over two years to write. Thankfully, I had some experience with this, as my first novella took 28 months to write as an amateur. As the second and third one took eight months apiece, I thought this one would be easy. But alas, that was not to be. Every time I wrote a couple hundred words, it became more complex. I almost thought that I was going to die before completing it, that it would go unpublished. One of the narrative arcs in the book was actually part of The Hiss of the Blade originally, but I came to feel that it didn’t fit in with the overall tough-guy-ness of the rest of the book, so I pulled it and used it in the new novel.

Your novel incorporates many aspects of the occult, including witchcraft and divination. What draws you to these subjects, and do you have any strange experiences with the supernatural yourself?

I have always been drawn to those kinds of subjects. I grew up reading Stephen King and Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. I wanted to do my take on witchcraft for this book. The first three novellas feature magic, but it’s not really the focus. So, this one was different. Also, my last novella was about toxic masculinity, and I wanted to address femininity, as it were. I remember going to see Sucker Punch and being very disappointed, as it’s very much a girl power film. Maybe Zack Snyder didn’t set out to create that, but it was the result. A vanity project. In hindsight, I feel that it will probably gain a cult following in the future. It’s kind of an experience, not so much a narrative. I think that my first novel will be like that as well, in a sense. I set out to create art. I’m sure some men will read it and probably be like, “What is this s**t …?!” But, I don’t care.

You’ve written novellas and now a novel. Do you find that the length of a project affects your approach to writing at all? Is there a certain length of story you prefer, either as a writer or a reader?

Jack London set out to write a short story, and it became The Call of the Wild. You have to be true to the work, that’s all, IMO. Length is inconsequential.

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

For me, it’s connections. Easter eggs. Little flourishes that probably no one will even get. But yeah, I also enjoy all the usual processes. I don’t write like most people. I am not only writing the books out of sequence, I literally write the content of the prose out of sequence. Kind of weird. I’m going to try and work in a more linear fashion next book.

What projects are you working on at the moment?

I have one short story that I know I want to do, and after that, I will probably start book two of The Celestial Ways Saga. The title of book two will be The Crack of the Whip. I have some notes, some dialogue written, but I don’t really outline.

Big thanks to Richard Writhen for being part of this week’s author interview series. Find him online at his author site and on Facebook.

Happy reading!

Fiction for Spring: Submission Roundup for May 2019

Welcome back for this month’s Submission Roundup! Lots of great opportunities this month, so be sure to polish up those stories and send them out into the world! But first, the usual disclaimer: I’m not a representative for any of these markets; I’m merely spreading the word! Please direct your questions and comments to the respective editors.

And now onward with this month’s Submission Roundup!

Submission Roundup

Payment: .05/word for fiction and nonfiction; $50/flat for poetry
Length: 2,000 words to 7,500 words for nonfiction; 750 to 6,000 words for fiction; up to 50 lines for poetry
Deadline: May 15th, 2019
What They Want: Vastarien is seeking nonfiction, literary horror fiction, and poetry that’s inspired by Thomas Ligotti and related themes.
Find the details here.

LampLight Magazine
Payment: .03/word ($150 max) for original fiction; .01/word for reprints
Length: up to 7,000 words
Deadline: May 15th, 2019
What They Want: Open to dark, literary fiction.
Find the details here.

Selene Magazine
Payment: .06/word for original fiction; $50/flat for original poetry; $15/flat for reprint poetry and .01/word for reprint fiction
Length: 100 to 7,500 words for fiction; any length for poetry
Deadline: May 31st, 2019
What They Want: Open to speculative fiction, in particular alternate history, mystery, and romance.
Find the details here.

Year’s Best Cosmic Horror 2019
Payment: not specified
Length: Up to 12,000 words
Deadline: May 31st, 2019
What They Want: Reprint stories from 2018 that deal in the themes of cosmic horror.
Find the details here.

Accursed: A Horror Anthology
Payment: $25/flat
Length: 2,500 to 6,000 words
Deadline: June 30th, 2019
What They Want: Horror and horror-comedy stories about cursed objects.
Find the details here.

Nox Pareidolia
Payment: .06/word
Length: up to 6,000 words
Deadline: June 30th, 2019
What They Want: Open to black authors only until the end of June, Nightscape is seeking ambiguous horror stories in the vein of Robert Aickman.
Find the details here.

Happy reading!

My Schedule for StokerCon 2019

So in just a couple days, I’ll be heading to Grand Rapids, Michigan for StokerCon 2019! Here are the places I’ll be haunting this week!

StokerCon 2019Body Modification: It’s More than Just Earrings and Tongue Studs on Friday, May 10th at 1pm

This very cool panel will be moderated by Edward Rosick, and feature both me and author Donna Lynch as panelists. I look forward to the wide array of topics that we’ll cover, including all the wonderful creepiness of body horror, a major favorite horror subgenre of mine.

Librarians Day: Small Publishers, Big Voices on Friday, May 10th at 3:30pm
I’m thrilled to be part of the Librarians Day events, and equally excited to be representing JournalStone along with owner Christopher Payne. This Librarians Day series through StokerCon is so incredible, and let’s face it: as writers and readers, we can’t do enough to thank all the fabulous librarians out there. So I’m most certainly looking forward to being part of this one.

Fairy Tales: A Child’s Introduction to Horror on Saturday, May 11th at 10am
There’s nothing quite as lovely and terrifying as a fairy tale, and I’ll get to talk all about them along with moderator Carina Bissett and panelists April Grey and Donna Wagenblast Munro. This is of course one of my very favorite topics, so I can’t wait for all the great fairy tales we’ll discuss!

Reading Block 22 on Saturday, May 11th at 3pm
I’ll be sharing this spot with authors Valerie Williams and Michael Cieslak, and as usual, I’m super excited to be reading. It’s always such an honor to have people listen to your work being read live. So definitely head on over to our reading block to hang out and hear us tell you tales!

Those are all my panels and my reading block, but you’ll also be able to catch me at the Mass Autograph Session and Ice Cream Social on Friday evening at 5pm. Because, I mean, come on! Ice cream!

I’ll also be at the Bram Stoker Awards on Saturday night. All dressed up and fancy free! Spoiler: I’ve decided that I will probably break out the Disco Goth dress for the evening, since it only got a couple-hour appearance at Readercon last summer, and it’s one of my favorite pieces in my entire wardrobe. Sequins and darkness, here I come!

So needless to say, it’s going to be a fabulous weekend in Grand Rapids, and I can’t wait to meet you all there! Definitely say hello if you see me around. I’m looking so forward to hanging out with everyone! Hooray!

Happy reading, and happy StokerCon!

Spring 2019 Updates: Appearances, New Releases, & Maidens Who Rust!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted any blog updates about my goings-on, so I figured I should probably use this site for that very task. 2019 has already ushered in many new and exciting developments, so let’s dive right in, shall we?


The Rust MaidensEveryone who follows my social media already knows this, but since I haven’t announced it yet on the blog, here goes: The Rust Maidens is an award nominee! And twice over too!

First, back in February, the Bram Stoker Award nominations were announced, and The Rust Maidens made the cut for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. Then just last week, the book was nominated for a This Is Horror Award in the category of Novel of the Year. Seriously. These are real things that happened! The Stokers will be announced on May 1th in Grand Rapids, and you can still vote for the This Is Horror Awards over here!

It’s all cliche and whatnot to talk about how much this means to me, but let me say it again anyhow: it absolutely means the world to me that this book has found an audience. So thank you to everyone who’s read, reviewed, and supported The Rust Maidens. I can’t fully express my deep gratitude to all of you. Having a first novel has been a wild and humbling ride, without a doubt.


Now for another first! My very first novelette will be coming out later this year! The Invention of Ghosts is a surreal exploration of friendship, the occult, and what it means to be haunted. As part of Nightscape Press’s Charitable Chapbook series, the paperback version will feature original illustrations and will have a highly limited run, with one-third of all sales going to the National Aviary, which is among my favorite places on Earth. The release for The Invention of Ghosts is slated for November 26th, and a pre-order page should be up shortly. For the Charitable Chapbook series, each paperback copy goes for $30 while ebooks are $5.

The Yellow Wallpaper Classic Chapbook(Also, there had been some online discussion recently about the breakdown of the chapbook pricing, so feel free to check that out over here if you’ve got any questions at all. This is a truly wonderful project from Nightscape editors Robert and Jennifer Wilson, and it’s an honor to be involved.)

But that’s not the only thing I’m doing with Nightscape Press this year. I’m beyond thrilled to have written the introduction for The Yellow Wallpaper, which is being released through their Classic Chapbook series. And check out that glorious cover by the talented Luke Spooner! It’s almost too beautiful to believe. *swoons* That pre-order page is up now, so please support the incredible work that Nightscape is doing, and consider picking up a copy!


Now onward to places where you can see me hanging out in the shadows! From May 9th to May 11th, I’ll be in Grand Rapids for my second StokerCon! As always, I’m really looking forward to this event. I’ll be posting my full schedule here at the blog in the next week or two, so check back to find out where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing. It’s sure to be a fabulous time!

And in case you didn’t catch my many Facebook and Twitter posts about it last month, I also appeared in Atlanta on March 22nd and 23rd at The Outer Dark Symposium. By far, this was one of the best times I’ve ever had at a convention. Anya Martin and Scott Nicolay are doing an awesome job of fostering an inclusive and welcoming community in weird fiction and horror, and it was so cool to be a guest at the event. Over the coming months, they’re compiling all the programming from the symposium on The Outer Dark podcast, and you can check out the first episode now, which features a panel I moderated on weird fiction and nature.

If you didn’t make it to The Outer Dark—and can’t make it to StokerCon either—and you still want to hang out with me, I’m planning one or two additional appearances this year, so stay tuned for more details on those in the coming months!


Okay, one last section, and then I’ll be done with updates! So far this year, I’ve had a couple new short stories and two nonfiction articles released!

Gorgon: Stories of EmergenceIn the fiction department, my dark fantasy tale, “Tips for How to Deal With Your Daughter When She’s Become a Monster,” made its debut in the phenomenal anthology, Gorgon: Stories of Emergence, edited by the amazing Sarah Read at Pantheon. Then last month, my Gothic trope-twisting story, “The Woman Out of the Attic,” appeared in the beautiful Haunted House Short Stories anthology from Flame Tree Press. I’m very proud of both these stories, and I look forward to hearing from readers as copies make their way into the world!

Finally, in nonfiction, my article, “Magic, Madness, and Women Who Creep: The Power of Individuality in the Work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman,” appears in the new issue of Vastarien. This article was such a joy to write. I got to discuss one of the coolest classic female horror authors, and I even managed to work in a reference to Literary Witches, a beautiful book that I highly recommend.

And if you’re still in the mood for a little more nonfiction, then please do check out my article, “Violence and Violins: 60 Years of Psycho,” in the recent issue of Unnerving Magazine. It was also a lot of fun to write, so hopefully, it will be a fun one to read as well. After all, it’s about time I make use of all that Hitchcock knowledge I amassed as a kid.

So those are all my latest updates for the moment. Busy days over here, and as always, expect more interviews and Submission Roundups in the weeks to come. Never a dull moment in the life of a writer, that’s for sure!

Happy reading!

Springtime Stories: Submission Roundup for April 2019

Welcome back for this month’s Submission Roundup! Another great month for submission calls, so if you’ve got a story looking for a home, maybe you’ll find a place to send your words in the links below.

But first, a word from your blog sponsor (as in, me): I am not a representative for any of these markets; I’m merely the messenger. For questions on any of these calls, please contact the respective publication. And with that, onward with this month’s Submission Roundup!

Submission Roundup

Non-Binary Review
Payment: .01/word for fiction and nonfiction; $10/flat for poetry
Length: up to 5,000 words for fiction and nonfiction; up to 3 pages for poetry
Deadline: April 22nd, 2019
What They Want: The current issue of Non-Binary Review is seeking submissions inspired by the work of H.G. Wells.
Find the details here.

Hatchet Job
Payment: .02/word for reprints; .04/word for original fiction (query first)
Length: up to 10,000 words
Deadline: April 30th, 2019
What They Want: A horror anthology with stories about axe murderers. The editor is seeking primarily reprints, though original fiction might be accepted, providing you query first.
Find the details here.

HWA 2019 Poetry Showcase
Payment: $5/flat
Length: no more than 35 lines
Deadline: April 30th, 2019
What They Want: Open to HWA members only, this year’s Poetry Showcase is edited by Stephanie M. Wytovich, Cynthia Pelayo, and Christa Carmen. They’re seeking all varieties of horror poetry.
Find the details here.

Nox Pareidolia
Payment: .06/word
Length: up to 6,000 words
Deadline: April 30th, 2019 (June 30th for black authors only)
What They Want: Nightscape Press is seeking ambiguous weird and horror fiction in the style of Robert Aickman.
Find the details here.

Tiny Nightmares
Payment: $100/flat
Length: up to 1,200 words
Deadline: May 1st, 2019
What They Want: Open to very short horror stories that push the boundaries of the genre.
Find the details here.

Across the Universe anthology
Payment: $200/flat
Length: 1,000 to 4,000 words
Deadline: June 14th, 2019
What They Want: Speculative fiction stories about the Beatles.
Find the details here.

Happy submitting!

Love and Death: Interview with Serena Jayne

Welcome back for our first interview of April! Today, I’m thrilled to spotlight Serena Jayne. Serena is the author of Kiss Me Dead along with numerous short stories, and she’s also a frequent reviewer and incredible supporter of her fellow writers.

Recently, Serena and I discussed her new book as well as her inspiration and her future writing plans.

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

Serena JayneReading has always been a passion for me. I dreamed of becoming a writer, but pursued science, while taking every single writing class offered in college. After a few years doing laboratory work, I turned my focus to technical writing and eventually management. By 2009, I was burned out. After too many moments like the one in Eat Pray Love where Elizabeth Gilbert describes sobbing and lamenting the course of her life on her bathroom floor at three AM, I knew I needed to make some changes. With a new determination to follow my dreams, I sought out online writing communities, joined the Romance Writers of America, and enrolled in Seton Hill University’s MFA program in Writing Popular Fiction. I met a bunch of phenomenally talented people whose belief in me helped me foster belief in myself.

Some of my favorite authors include Jim Butcher, Laurel K. Hamilton, Randall Silvis, Kresley Cole, Don Winslow, Rainbow Rowell, Blake Crouch, and Sara Wolf. I loved your short story collection, And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, and your novel, The Rust Maidens. Your other works are at the top of my To-Be-Read list.

Congratulations on your new book, Kiss Me Dead! What was the inspiration behind this story?

I took an outstanding intensive course on using tarot cards in writing taught by Devon Ellington. I drew the death card for my protagonist and my reaper hero was born. My draw for the story included a number of major arcana cards, including the magician, the star, and the hanged man. I expanded the story by adding in elements from Greek Mythology and Death’s personal assistant.

I absolutely love Matt Andrew’s art for your cover! What can you tell us about how that cover artwork developed?

Kiss Me DeadAs a huge fan of Matt’s art and writing, I was thrilled when he agreed to do the cover. His attention to detail makes his work shine. We both love retro-style pinups and his vision brought the elements of horror and romance together in a fun and sexy way. He absolutely captured the heart of the story with his stunning artwork. I couldn’t be more pleased.

Your work spans numerous genres, including horror, dark fantasy, noir, mystery, and romance. Do you have different approaches to a story depending on which genre you’re writing?

The genres tend to put me in different emotional headspaces. With romance, I know the main characters are going to end up in a good place. With noir, horror and other dark genres, happy ever afters aren’t necessarily in the cards. One of my professors at Seton Hill taught me that paranormal/dark romance is a subgenre of horror. Everything is connected and life is a mix of all the things—and I want to write about them all.

With all my stories, I tend to come up with the situation or the protagonist or some other seed and let it stew in my mind until I know enough to get started. My process tends to be different depending on the length of the piece, rather than on the genre. For shorter works, I’ll brainstorm a bit and then get writing. With longer works, I need to plot more. It’s not enough to have a beginning and end. I need a more detailed map or else I tend to get lost. My go to move when I am stuck is to hop in the shower. There’s nothing like some hot water and suds to get my subconscious cooking.

Neon DruidIn addition to your fiction work, you’re also a reviewer. What inspired you to become a reviewer, and has it changed your approach to fiction writing at all?

Reviews are crucial to me, both as a reader and as an author. I’ve one-clicked books based on reviews or recommendations from friends. Book seller algorithms make books with numerous reviews easier to discover. A friend got me hooked on NetGalley. Advanced reader copies are the best. I wouldn’t say it’s changed the way I write fiction, but becoming a reviewer has taught me the importance of blurbs. When I find a book on NetGalley that looks interesting, if the blurb doesn’t grab me, I won’t request it.

What’s your favorite part of the writing process: crafting dialogue, developing characters, or creating a sense of setting?

My favorite part of the writing process is developing characters and those precious ah-ha moments when things start to gel. I’ve found each story to be unique. Some are easier to write, while others need to be scraped out of my brain and heart in tiny, bloody chunks.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on several horror short stories and a noir novel. There’s a romantic comedy novel series featuring generation-X characters bouncing around in my brain. I’m hoping to get the first installment written this year, while I’m submitting my thesis, an urban fantasy novel, to publishers. I haven’t published anything 20,000 words or longer yet. I’m hoping to change that soon.

Tremendous thank to Serena Jayne for being part of this week’s author interview series! Find her online at her website as well as on Twitter and Instagram!

Happy reading!