Master Class: Interview with James Dorr

Welcome back! Today’s author interview is with the prolific James Dorr. James is an accomplished author of over a hundred short stories published in such outlets as Daily Science Fiction, Abyss and Apex, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, among others.

Recently, James and I discussed his inspiration as a writer, his work as a Renaissance musician, as well as his tips for time management 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?

James DorrHi Gwendolyn.  I came to writing somewhat late, being more involved in visual arts up through college, but doing a little bit of writing on the side (for example, I became art editor on the college humor magazine, but then occasionally did fill-in writing, when an article didn’t come in or something).  But then as a graduate I became editor of an arts newspaper, that had me writing (but doing occasional fill-in illustrating) which led to a job as a technical writer for an academic computing center and several other writing jobs including some non-fiction freelance.  However, aside for occasional amateur work, my actual entry into serious fiction and poetry didn’t come until the lateish 1980s, with my first paid fiction, an S&S story called “The Fourth Attempt,” published in the long-defunct magazine Fright Depot in Spring 1988, for which I received a one dollar bill.  I immediately made a little frame, and it’s still hanging on my wall somewhere, although buried under many, many more recent notices.

For authors, there are four that I would consider mentors:  Ray Bradbury who injected beauty into even his darkest work; Edgar Allan Poe as the master of the combination of love and death, eros and thanatos, that informs much of my own fiction — and, indeed, is a driving force in my upcoming Tombs:  A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth, due out this June from Elder Signs Press; Allen Ginsberg for poetry, in combining the ugliness of everyday life with the beatific along with his use of what he considered natural rhythms; and Bertolt Brecht for his theories of “epic theatre,” of artistic distance but at the same time an emotional intimacy as in a play like Mother Courage.

You are a widely published and prolific author with stories appearing in hundreds of publications around the world. What does a typical day as a writer look like for you? For instance, do you write every day, and do you have any specific writing habits (e.g. listening to music while writing, etc.)?

I’m really a very undisciplined person, especially now that I’m retired from my day job.  I also prefer to work in fairly long stretches (some, to be sure, taken up by warm up time because I’m a procrastinator too) so what I do now is still a reflection of habits of a few years ago when most of my new writing was done on weekends, where I could plan for at least four-hour stretches, and weekdays after work were used for editing, marketing, researching, etc. in more bite-sized chunks.  Nowadays walks downtown to the library (my one good health habit, plus faster internet) substitute for days in the office, and “honorary weekends” (that is, days planned for being at the computer all day long, or a good part thereof) can come any time of the week.  As for habits, I don’t listen to music when I write.  I will have the TV on in a different room, though, with perhaps the news on or, in season, football, which I can’t really hear while I’m working (think “white noise”), but if I break to refresh my coffee, I’ll check on the score (or headlines) then.

Since you’ve been so widely published, you’re clearly skilled at being able to consistently produce as a writer. What tips do you have for new writers about time management? How, if at all, have your habits changed as you’ve progressed as a writer?

TombsWell, if on deadline, that’s when honorary weekends come more frequently.  Prior to that, to some extent I could force myself to work occasional longer weeknights — not to be lazy, but too many can lead to exhaustion however, which in the long run is counter productive — or on some occasions write out an informal sort of outline and just make myself slog through, say, a scene a night, an hour at a time.  To new writers out there, though, I’m not the one to ask about time management.

To add to that, though, my “bad” habits may come from my newspaper and magazine college experience, where deadlines had to be planned around academic requirements.  But deadlines came every month anyhow (every week on the arts newspaper, though ideally you might have two teams working on alternate weeks, only stopping in briefly to check on things on the “off” week), and emergencies happened, so one became used to all out spurts of work sometimes when something simply had to be done NOW.

In addition to your writing, you are also a semiprofessional Renaissance musician. Do you find that music often influences your writing, or even vice versa?

I think music does, but in what might be considered an odd way.  Remember that poetry is music too — they both have rhythms, beats — but in my opinion the best poets are also very aware of the sounds of individual words.  Poetry is meant to be read aloud (well, maybe not all of it, concrete poetry for instance, but a lot of poetry).  But prose is made up of words as well, with harmonies, rhythms, and sounds and, even if fiction may not be read out loud, I think music can inform styles of writing.  Think of Hemingway compared to Faulkner.  So in a sense I really believe my interest in music, including in my case hands-on experience performing it, has helped me become a better writer.  (A quick example:  My 2013 collection, The Tears of Isis, has received at least two reviews making a point that there is a difference in styles between various stories, matching styles to the type of story, which they thought was good.  This is something I try to do consciously, and I think a feel for music helps me to do it.)

From your website, I see that something we have in common is that we both share writing space with beloved cats (congrats on the recent addition of your rescue kitty, Triana!). Do you have any favorite anecdotes about writing while trying to share your space and time with a curious feline?

Playing with the cat, petting the cat, what a wonderful way to wind down from a long writing session!  Hi there, Triana.  On a practical level, she’s learned that there’s a space to the left of the keyboard of one computer I use that it’s okay for her to be in (but beware, if a paw gets on the keyboard she may get yelled at) so sometimes she’ll lie there, getting an occasional petting or scratch on the head during brief pauses while I’m working.  (On the other hand, at my writer’s group meeting just last week I pointed out, in a critique of one member’s work, a string of five or six incoherent letters as “the cat’s comment.”  A paw apparently had gotten on the keyboard when I’d gotten up for something, and I hadn’t noticed until after I’d printed it out.)  As a matter of fact, though, I’m at a different computer now, an off-line one I do most of my original composition on, and Triana is fast asleep on a work table just behind me.

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

The Tears of IsisI have two fiction collections prior to The Tears Of Isis, which I’ve mentioned above, Strange Mistresses:  Tales of Wonder and Romance and Darker Loves:  Tales of Mystery and Regret, both a little hard to find nowadays but some copies usually are on Amazon (my upcoming Tombs is a novel, however, though also on Amazon for pre-order).  Of the three I’d put The Tears of Isis as my favorite and not just because it’s newest, but because the publisher had given me an almost completely free hand in its creation — selection of stories, the order of presentation, etc. — essentially the editing as well as writing as long as it came in at more than sixty thousand words.  So if a whole book is okay, of what’s published now — which would include a poetry collection, Vamps (A Retrospective), as well — that would be the one.  Of the stories in it, I’ve also mentioned the styles are varied and which I’d like best at a given time might be a reflection of my mood, but certainly these would be among my favorites.

What projects are you currently working on?

This would have to be Tombs:  A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth, pretty much in the homestretch for a June release.  Indeed, much of this afternoon will be taken up by continued proofreading of an advance PDF.  Tombs is a mosaic novel, or novel-in-stories, in the style of books like Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club or, more directly, Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles.  It’s the story of a far-future exhausted Earth where, at the outset, a ghoul — an eater of corpses — has been exploring the ruins of one of its greatest cities in hopes of discovering the one thing that made its inhabitants truly human. This is the premise, the quest that introduces us to the book’s sixteen stand-alone chapters, arranged in five sections much like a classic five-act play (about half in fact already published in various venues as separate short stories), and loosely inspired by a pair of quotations from Edgar Allan Poe, of the most poetic subject being the death of a beautiful woman (which also informs, in its way, The Tears of Isis) and of the boundaries between life and death being “at best shadowy and vague.”  So the question implied is, if these statements be true, and in an already dying world, can love be a power to even transcend death?

Where can we find you online?

Probably the best place would be my blog, at  I also can be found on Facebook at and, for those interested, my Amazon Author Page is at

Big thanks to James Dorr for being part of this week’s author interview series!

Happy reading!

Women of Horror, Dark Fantasy, and the Weird: A Recommended Reading List

Welcome back, and happy Monday! Today, let’s celebrate with some awesome books you should add to your summer reading list. Because why not?

Now earlier this year, I returned to with an article celebrating Women in Horror Month, and since that list was so fun to write (and hopefully a fun one to read!), I would like to share a few more fabulous horror, dark fantasy, and generally weird books penned by female authors. In particular, since far too often Women in Horror celebrations are confined to one month a year, it’s important to shine a light on those ladies who are working twelve months and around the clock to bring readers the latest and greatest in strange and haunting tales. As a quick note, I was fortunate enough to receive review copies of several of these books, and I can tell you that each and every one of them is most certainly worth checking out!

So let’s get started with today’s Recommended Reading List!

Never Now AlwaysNever Now Always by Desirina Boskovich
Desirina Boskovich has spent the last few years steadily making her indelible mark on speculative fiction. With stories published everywhere from Nightmare and Lightspeed to Kaleidotrope and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, her work has been easy to find and impossible to forget. Now, with her debut novella forthcoming from Broken Eye Books, she tries her hand at longer fiction, and of course, knocks it right out of the park. An incisive story about identity and the tenuous line between dreams and reality, Never Now Always is as brutal as it is beautifully written. Although I don’t want to spoil anything here, suffice it to say that this is one story that will break your heart and open your eyes with its incredible blend of science fiction, fantasy, and the weird. Highly recommended for readers who enjoy stories that are anything but simple and predictable.
Get Your Copy Here.

Feeding the DeadFeeding the Dead by M. Brett Gaffney
Released earlier this year from Porkbelly Press, M. Brett Gaffney’s horror and dark fantasy chapbook is supremely beautiful. The delicate pages and binding along with the lovely cardstock make for a truly magical reading experience. And of course, the selected poetry from Gaffney’s ever-building (and incredibly impressive) bibliography is exquisite. My personal favorites include the horror film-themed, “The Scream Queen” and the dark fairy tale, “Hunter,” but truly, each and every piece in this book is an absolute work of art unto itself. Brimming with hauntings and otherworldly creatures, these poems will stay with you long after you close those gorgeous pages.
Get Your Copy Here.

BoundlessBoundless by Miracle Austin
I’ve said it before, and I will be quite happy to say it again: Miracle Austin is always awesome, always surprising, and always worth reading. So naturally, her latest book—the fiction collection, Boundless—is a rollicking good time. A combination of short stories and poetry, these tales explore darkly fantastic worlds and characters who come to unexpected crossroads where they must make the ultimate choices that decide their fate. But through even the most dire circumstances, Austin’s writing brims with flair and whimsy, making Boundless a supremely enjoyable ride from first to last.
Get Your Copy Here.

Seeking SamielSeeking Samiel and The Bookseller’s Secret by Catherine Jordan
Catherine Jordan is an author to watch. Thanks to Horror Writers Association, I’m proud to call myself the mentor of this fantastic writer, though truthfully, working with her has undoubtedly taught me as much about the craft as I have taught her. Need proof of her immense talent? Look no further than this pair of horror books—the devilish Seeking Samiel and its equally engrossing sequel, The Bookseller’s Secret—which are both enthralling explorations on the nature of good and evil. A perfect two-for-one, I would recommend these titles to anyone who enjoys fast-paced and dark horror that takes inspiration from the varied worlds of Gillian Flynn and Ira Levin. Jordan’s work is ambitious and effective, and her name is one you’ll see for years to come in the horror fiction world.
Get Your Copies Here and Here.

Spells and PersuasionsSpells and Persuasions by S. J. Budd
Over the last few years, S.J. Budd has been making appearances in numerous publications as a short fiction writer, and she’s also a devoted reader and reviewer at her regular blog. Now, in her debut collection, Budd goes all in with these nine beautiful dark fantasy stories of magic and loss. A wide-ranging group of tales, you’ll find broken friendship, lost dreams, and a variety of strange beasts and bargains in these pages. Eminently readable, Spells & Persuasions is the perfect bedside book, one that will unnerve you just enough to ensure you keep the nightlight on.
Get Your Copy Here.

In the Crocodile GardensIn the Crocodile Gardens by Saba Syed Razvi
Saba Syed Razvi is an author I only recently discovered—once again, thanks to Horror Writers Association—and wow, am I so incredibly grateful for having found her work. This beautiful book of poetry, released from Sundress Publications, weaves an intricate tapestry of fairy tale imagery, cultural explorations, and political discourse. Her faculty with language is undeniable, and the ease with which she crafts her words is as lyrical as it is profound. These poems never take the simple way out and instead challenge readers to look beyond and ponder the all-too-difficult world in which we live. A weighty journey to be sure, but quite a beautiful and worthwhile one.
Get Your Copy Here.

Blood RelationsBlood Relations by Lori Titus
With a new and always fantastic book out nearly every few months, it’s no stretch to say that Lori Titus is one of the most talented and hardest working authors in dark fantasy and horror today. She crafts spell-binding stories steeped in history, magic, and mystery. Blood Relations is among her most recent releases, and it’s a beautiful and haunting novel that will burrow beneath your skin and stay there long after you’ve read the final pages. Also, if somehow you’ve missed Titus’s previous novels, including her fabulous Marradith Ryder series, then Blood Relations might be a perfect place to start, since it’s a standalone novel. But really, once you read this one, you know you’ll want more, so be sure to check out all her many other books, each of which is absolutely worth moving to the top of your to-read list.
Get Your Copy Here.

The Kraken SeaThe Kraken Sea by E. Catherine Tobler
Last year, I featured E. Catherine Tobler and her work on this blog, but it bears repeating: read The Kraken Sea. Read her other incredible Traveling Circus stories too. Read pretty much anything E. Catherine Tobler has written or edited. She is a fabulous storyteller, and her fiction should always have a place on your bookshelf. The Kraken Sea in particular has stuck with me since I first read it many months ago. This gloriously strange and gorgeous novella interweaves aspects of Tobler’s wider Traveling Circus universe while still delivering a standalone story, which is no easy feat. But of course, her mastery as an author makes this a highly readable story that gets its claws in you and never lets go. And that cover seriously haunts both my dreams and my nightmares, a perfect combination that fits the tone of this beautiful tale all too well.
Get Your Copy Here.

Happy reading!

Fear in a Flash: The Story Behind “By Now, I’ll Probably Be Gone”

Welcome back, and happy Friday! Hopefully, you’ve got some fabulous plans heading into the weekend! Here in Gwendolyn-Land, I’ve sadly been marooned at home with strep throat all week, meaning that the last five days are a blur of doctor offices, giant pink pills, and the proverbial water drinking and rest. A majorly boring way to spend a week, but hey, we authors must soldier on, right? Especially when we’ve got books to talk about!

So it’s now been a month since the release of And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe. Happy one-month birthday, my book! And as promised in my post last week, let’s dig into the stories that are original to the collection! We’ll start small… as in the shortest of the brand-new tales: “By Now, I’ll Probably Be Gone.” Without divulging too much (it’s only 900 words, after all), this is a dark—and darkly humorous—breakup tale that features one of the most whimsically wicked characters I’ve ever created. How’s that for a teaser?

By Now, I'll Probably Be Gone

I’m sure I’ve said it before, but I will say it again: I love flash fiction. The table of contents for And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe includes two flash stories, the other being the mother-daughter horror tale, “Find Me, Mommy” (perfect for the impending Mother’s Day holiday, if I do say so!). As for the only new flash story from the book, “By Now, I’ll Probably Be Gone” started as a weird love letter to my husband, but immediately turned into something… more sinister. My husband, of course, thinks this is particularly humorous—in a wonderfully diabolical kind of way—and takes it as a serious compliment. So perhaps “a poisonous Valentine” is the best way to describe this story, which contains perhaps the most sweetly caustic voice of the entire collection. Because you need at least one mordant narrator to round out the protagonists, no?

And Her Smile Will Untether the UniverseUnfortunately, in my never-ending searches for places to submit, I’ve found there aren’t nearly enough markets out there for bite-sized fiction. I’m not sure what it is about flash fiction that puts off some editors and readers, but ever since I was young, I’ve always been a major fan, especially of super short horror tales. Packing a creepy wallop in less than 1,000 words has always seemed to me to be quite an underrated skill. Furthermore, as a writer, I’ve found that flash fiction has been incredibly helpful to my own development. I have no doubt that my longer fiction has benefited from my writing flash. The word limit forces me to whittle down a tale to the bare essentials of storytelling while still focusing on character development, plot, voice, setting, and theme (and all those other important elements that make literature so fabulous). So while flash might not be exactly en vogue right now, I will always adore it nonetheless, both as a reader and a writer.

Do you love flash fiction as much as I do? Here are six fantastic markets where you can submit your own flash fiction as well as read other authors’ flash stories!

Grievous Angel
An eclectic blend of tales, Grievous Angel focuses on genre (namely, fantasy, science fiction, and horror). Also, flash fiction stories are capped at no more than 700 words, so plan your submissions accordingly (and keep in mind that the editors accept poetry too!). You never know exactly what kinds of wonderful and strange tales you might find at Grievous Angel, but one thing is certain: the stories are consistently unique and entertaining. So if you’ve got an especially pithy flash story, this might just be the market for you.
Read More Here.

Although LampLight’s bread-and-butter fiction tends more toward short stories, that doesn’t mean there isn’t flash lurking in the magazine’s pages. LampLight has long been one of my very favorite horror markets, and I can’t recommend it enough. So if you’ve got a short and terrifying work of “quiet horror,” then get submitting to LampLight; submissions close on May 15th, and won’t reopen until September.
Read More Here.

Mithila Review
One of the newest publications on this list, Mithila Review is only a handful of issues into its run, but already, this magazine is proving itself to be among the very best speculative fiction markets out there today. While the publication does not focus solely on flash fiction—the editors look for a wide variety of submissions, including poetry, short stories, novelettes, and visual art—at least one or two flash stories make the cut each issue, so this is definitely a publication to keep in mind for your super short submissions in need of a great home.
Read More Here.

Like flash fiction, there aren’t enough markets for magic realism. Fortunately, Bracken has you covered for both. Word count for general submissions tops out at 2,500 words, so Bracken most certainly makes the list for awesome markets that accept flash fiction. And while the editors are currently open to regular submissions, the magazine is also running a flash fiction contest (judged by yours truly!), so if you’ve got a magic realism tale looking for a home, then consider sending it Bracken’s way!
Read More Here.

Daily Science Fiction
When it comes to flash stories, Daily Science Fiction has long been a favorite of speculative fiction readers—and for good reason. The bite-sized stories featured on the site run the gamut from humorous to deadly serious and include everything from fairy tales and swords-and-sorcery fantasy to hard science fiction and horror. This site is a joy to read and an absolute must for flash writers looking for places to submit their work. After all, it’s quite the badge of honor to have a rejection from this market but just keep on submitting.
Read More Here.

Flash Fiction Online
One of the few pro-paying markets out there that focuses solely on flash stories, Flash Fiction Online lives up to its name, providing an outlet to a wide array of speculative and literary flash tales, all of which are available to readers for free online. Each issue features a terrific table of contents (I love Maria Haskins’ new story this month!). So read Flash Fiction Online (if you aren’t already), and send your best flash fiction to the editors, too. It will be great literary times all around.
Read More Here.

Happy reading!

Even More from the Collection Trenches: Updates Galore!

Welcome back! So it’s now been three weeks since my debut collection, And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, was unleashed upon the world, and let me just be honest: I’m still every bit as thrilled and honored and ineffably giddy about it as ever. You’d think the enthusiasm might wane with the weeks, but nope. Not at all. Not even a little. After all, a writer only gets a first book once, and I’ve been savoring every moment of it.

And Her Smile Will Untether the UniverseThe paperback copies of And Her Smile are still arriving, so if you’ve ordered one and haven’t gotten yours yet, fear not! They are on their way. Also, I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ll say it again for good measure: if you have a copy of the collection, I would love it if you shared a picture of it! It brings this writer’s heart a tremendous amount of joy to see the book out in the wild with readers!

So what’s new in these parts? Plenty! My podcast interview with the awesome guys at Miskatonic Musings is now available; it was a super fun and wide-ranging episode that covered everything from Ava Gardner to Amish Romance. I was also recently spotlighted over at Unnerving Magazine in a very lively interview with editor Eddie Generous.  We talk outsiders, Shirley Jackson, and The Berenstain Bears, though not necessarily in that order. And finally, a fantastic new review at Hex Libris says the stories in And Her Smile “show a familiar world with deep currents of bizarre beauty, pain, and sheer anomaly running through it that create a tapestry of weird horror unlike anything I’ve read before.” Big thanks to Aaron Besson for those incredibly humbling words!

Starting next week on this blog, I’ll be highlighting each of the brand-new stories in the collection. It will be great to talk more about those tales, since all five of them are quite near-and-dear to my macabre little soul. That means if you like my posts about the behind-the-scenes development of my fiction, then you’re in luck! And if you don’t like those posts, consider yourself warned!

Also, speaking of updates, now is the perfect time to announce that I’m currently a guest judge at Bracken Magazine! That’s right: I’ll be at the helm for the flash fiction contest! The theme is home, and I’ll be looking for beautiful and devastating stories of magic, forests, and faraway places. If this sounds up your alley, then please find all the details here!

So that’s my month so far! A couple big writing announcements are forthcoming (even though I’m bursting at the seams to announce them now!), and I’m also working on a spotlight on my favorite recent releases from a host of talented speculative fiction writers. So head on back here soon for more fiction-loving goodness!

Happy reading!

Spring into Fiction: Submission Roundup for May 2017

Welcome back to this month’s Submission Roundup! Today’s post features some great calls for May, plus a couple early warnings for submission windows not closing until June and July!

As always, I am not a representative for any of these markets; I’m only spreading the word! That means if you have any questions, please direct them to the respective publications!

And now onward to this month’s Submission Roundup!

Submission RoundupBroad Knowledge: 35 Women Up to No Good
Payment: .06/word
Length: up to 5,000 words
Deadline: May 30th, 2017
What They Want: Dark speculative stories by authors who are female, non-binary, or a marginalized sex or gender identity. Stories must highlight the theme of knowledge, and also “feature female protagonists whose knowledge is integral to the plot/conflict.”
Find the details here.

Chiral Mad 4
Payment: .06/word
Length: up to 20,000 words
Deadline: May 31st, 2017
What They Want: Open to horror stories that are collaborations between two or more authors.
Find the details here.

Corporate Cthulhu
Payment: .03/word
Length: 2,000-7,000 words
Deadline:  June 1st, 2017
What They Want: Lovecraftian stories based in corporate or other large, private-sector bureaucratic worlds.
Find the details here.

Eternal Haunted Summer
Payment: $5/flat
Length: No specific limits, though stories over 5,000 words will probably be serialized
Deadline: June 1st, 2017
What They Want: Open to original stories and poetry about gods and goddesses in the pagan tradition.
Find the details here.

Welcome to Miskatonic University
Payment: .08/word
Length: up to 6,000 words
Deadline: June 30th, 2017
What They Want: Lovecraftian stories based at Miskatonic University.
Find the details here.

NonBinary Review: The Tales of Hans Christian Andersen
Payment: .01/word for fiction and nonfiction; $10/flat for poetry; $25/flat for visual art
Length: up to 5,000 words
Deadline: July 31st, 2017
What They Want: Poetry, visual art, fiction, and nonfiction based around theme of Hans Christian Andersen’s tales. All submitted work must have a clear connection to Andersen.
Find the details here.

Happy submitting!

From the Collection Trenches: The Reviews (and Paperbacks) Are In!

So it’s been a week since the release of And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe. And what an insanely exciting week it’s been! I mean, I have a book that’s been turned loose upon the world!

And Her Smile Will Untether the UniverseI’m also thrilled that I’ve been hearing back from those reviewers who received advanced reading copies, and I couldn’t be more honored and thrilled at the responses so far!

It’s an almost mythical ride through the Weird, blending and deconstructing different themes to create some powerful tales and lasting images.” — greydogtales

The voice and themes here shake the expected and reinvent the norms so easily the fantastical aspects fit everywhere… If there’s another collection as good as this in 2017, I will be surprised. I certainly won’t hold my breath on it.” — Unnerving Magazine

If you like to think and feel deeply about the weird quiet places of the world, then Gwendolyn Kiste’s work is for you. It was written for you. You should read it.” — Ancient Logic

It’s like a quiet horror that builds with every page. Tales that you will want to read again and again.” — Book reviewer, S.J. Budd

Obviously, as a writer, you always hope that your work will resonate with readers, but the initial response to And Her Smile has definitely been above and beyond what I’d hoped for/dreamed of/demanded from the Elder Gods, so I want to thank everyone who’s read the collection so far, and I hope that the stories continue to resonate with readers as they delve into the collection.

There are several more reviews over at Goodreads and Amazon, so head on over there for even more collection-y goodness. In particular, visit the Goodreads page for the awesome giveaway that JournalStone has set up; ten lucky readers will receive copies of the paperback edition! Hooray!

Speaking of paperbacks, they have started arriving (as evidenced above!), so if you pre-ordered the collection, it should be arriving forthwith! Also, if you did support this very enthusiastic author right here and purchased the collection, I would seriously love it if you shared a picture of the collection on Facebook and Twitter, so that I could see my stories, nestled happily in their new home. It will do this little writer’s heart good to see the book out and about in the world!

Next week, I’ll be checking back in with more collection updates as well as a feature on a few of the very cool books I’ve been reading this year, in particular from some of my favorite female authors of horror, dark fantasy, and the weird. The official Women in Horror Month might be over, but around here, we support those ladies of the macabre year-round!

Happy reading!

RELEASE DAY: My Debut Collection Is Now Available!

And it’s official: I have a book. An honest-to-goodness, this-is-for-real, my-name-on-the-cover, out-in-the-wild book. And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe is now available, both at the JournalStone website as well as through Amazon.

Seriously. This is real. And surreal.

And Her Smile Will Untether the UniverseToday is truly one of the most thrilling and overwhelming experiences of my life. Even as I’m writing this blog, I wonder: how do you encapsulate all the highs and lows that lead up to an author’s first book?

Well, for one, I want to give a major shout-out right here and now. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again (and again and again): tremendous thanks to Jess Landry, my amazing editor at JournalStone. If not for her, this book would not be making its debut in the world. While there were certainly plenty of challenges over the course of writing these fourteen stories, the experience working with Jess was nothing short of a dream. She is the most wonderful, professional, and extraordinarily talented editor (and writer!), and it was beyond an honor to work with her on this project. I’m still in awe and shock that I had such a fantastic editor and fantastic experience for my first book. Writing’s a tough, tough business, but every once in a great while, the stars align in your favor. Jess made those stars align, track changes and all.

While today marks the official debut of the collection, this is hardly the end of the journey. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be back at this blog to highlight the stories from the collection, in particular the five brand-new tales. I’ll also be making a few virtual appearances elsewhere. I recently recorded a very fun and very lively interview with the terrific guys at Miskatonic Musings; we discussed the collection in-depth and also talked about everything from Oscar winners and outsiders to the terrors of childbirth. Good, gory stuff all around!

Also, please check out my interview on Hellnotes where I give a peek behind the curtain at the making of the collection as well as a second feature that spotlighted “All the Red Apples Have Withered to Gray,” one of the fourteen tales that appears in And Her Smile‘s table of contents.

So as if it weren’t already obvious, you’ll be hearing lots from me in the next month, both here as well as out and about in the great ether of the internet. After all, a writer only gets their first book once, and I plan on relishing every minute of this process!

In the meantime, if you’re one of the very awesome people who purchased the collection, please let me know what you think! Obviously, reviews are always terrific, but if you’d rather just drop me a note via my website or in a message on social media, that would be incredible too. I’d absolutely love to hear your thoughts on the stories! After all, books are merely dead trees if they don’t have readers to enjoy them!

And if you don’t have a copy yet, head on over to the official Goodreads page, and enter to win one of ten paperback editions of the collection! Hooray for free books!

Finally, to everyone reading this post, I want to thank you so much for your support of my writing. I appreciate it more than you will ever know!

Happy reading!

Spring into Writing: Submission Roundup for April 2017

Welcome back to this month’s Submission Roundup! Lots of fabulous opportunities for all you writers out there, so if you’ve got a story looking for a home, one of these venues might be the perfect place for you to send it!

Before we get started, let me note that I am not a representative for any of these publications; I’m merely spreading the word! If you have any questions, be sure to direct them to the editors at the venue in question.

And now let’s dive in to this month’s Submission Roundup!

Submission Roundup

Payment: .02/word
Length: 300-1,000 words
Deadline: April 7th, 2017
What They Want: The current theme is Medieval Mayhem. Think King Arthur, Robin Hood, Black Death, the Crusades, the Renaissance, and the like. For this issue, no fantasy or other speculative fiction; the submitted stories should focus on real-world based medieval tales.
Find the details here.

Electric Spec
Payment: $20/flat
Length: 250-7,000 words
Deadline: April 15th, 2017 for the May issue
What They Want: Open to fantasy, science fiction, and horror stories.
Find the details here.

Third Flatiron
Payment: .06/word
Length: 1,500-3,000 words
Deadline: April 15th, 2017
What They Want: The theme is “Cat’s Breakfast,” and the anthology is open to speculative satire stories in the vein of Kurt Vonnegut.
Find the details here.

Payment: .01/word
Length: 1,000-7,500 words
Deadline: April 30th, 2017
What They Want: The current theme is Afromyth, and the anthology will focus on mythical fantasy, including but not limited to gods, mysticism, mythical creatures, and fairy tales. Please note that at least one main character must be of indigenous African descent, and the editors are looking in general for diverse characters and diverse settings.
Find the details here.

SNAFU Judgment Day
Payment: .04/word (AUD)
Length: 2,000-10,000 words
Deadline: April 30th, 2017
What They Want: Open to post-apocalyptic military horror stories.
Find the details here.

Timeless Tales
Payment: $20/flat
Length: up to 2,000 words
Deadline: May 5th, 2017
What They Want: Timeless Tales focuses on retellings of fairy tales and other myths. The current theme is Arthurian legends.
Find the details here.

Payment: .03/word (up to $150) for original fiction
Length: up to 7,000 words
Deadline: May 15th, 2017
What They Want: Open to quiet horror fiction, including “the creepy, the weird, and the unsettling.”
Find the details here.

The Pulp Horror Book of Phobias
Payment: $50/flat
Length: 4,000-6,000 words
Deadline: July 31st, 2017 (but certain phobias may close early)
What They Want: A phobia-themed anthology. Because phobias will be closed out if too many submissions are received for that particular topic, the sooner you submit your fiction, the better.
Find the details here.

Happy submitting!

Spells and Stories: Interview with S.J. Budd

Welcome back! Today, I’m thrilled to feature author and reviewer S.J. Budd. Her work has appeared in numerous short fiction venues around the world. When she’s not writing her own stories, she blogs about writing, highlighting reviews of her favorite speculative fiction on her site, with a special focus on independent and up-and-coming writers.

Recently, S.J. and I discussed her inspiration as an author as well as her favorite part of the writing process.

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

I don’t think there’s ever really been a point where I decided to be a writer as it’s something I’ve always done. About a couple of years ago I decided to give it a real go and see how far I can take it and it’s been such an adventure. I’ve had quite a few stories published and hopefully more to come.

I’m an avid reader in lots of genres and have lots of favourite authors such as Patrick Rothfuss, Daphne Du Maurier, and Stephen King.

While you are now based in London, you grew up in Cornwall and have said that the Celtic legends of the area have inspired you. Is there a particular story you’ve written that you feel is most inspired by your upbringing, or do you feel the influence is pervasive through your entire body of work? Or perhaps a bit of both?

Growing up in Cornwall definitely sowed the seeds of a deep interest in the supernatural and fairy tales and that has inspired me greatly as a writer. I think the influence runs through all my work. Quite a few of my stories such as “The Mound” published in The Wild Hunt have been set in Cornwall as it provides such a great setting with its rich history and landscape.

On your website, you often feature a number of reviews of speculative short fiction. What inspired you to become a reviewer, and what has been the most interesting or surprising part about the process?  

I began to write reviews as a way of helping other authors, there’s so many great writers out there waiting to be discovered! When someone has contacted me to say they loved a story of mine it really means so much so it’s nice to spread the love by writing reviews of magazines I enjoy reading. I like promoting magazines and stories I really like as there are some really great publications out there such as Sanitarium and Deadman’s Tome who work tirelessly to give a voice to authors.

SanitariumYour stories have appeared in numerous venues, including Aphelion, Shadows at the Door, and The Siren’s Call, among others. Do you have a personal favorite of your published works?

I think it has to be “The Little Orphan Girl” which was published in issue 28 of Sanitarium Magazine. It was my first story ever published, I had been having my stories rejected for about two years up ‘til that point and it meant so much finally breaking through! It really gave me the determination to keep at it and three years later I’ve had 16 stories published.

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

I would say developing characters. I love thinking up new characters, getting inside their heads and living in their world. I guess writing is very similar to acting in that sense.

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

I’ve finished a novella and am aiming to see it published with a full novel in the same series. That would be amazing!

What upcoming projects are you working on?

I’ve got a collection of short stories that will be out soon, Spells and Persuasions.  In the meantime I’m focusing on writing as much as I can and improving my craft!

Big thanks to S.J. Budd for being part of this week’s author interview series! Find her online at her author website as well as on Twitter!

Happy reading!

Fierce Destroyer: Interview with Nadia Bulkin

Welcome back! This week, I’m thrilled to feature author Nadia Bulkin. Nadia’s fiction has appeared in Nightmare, The Dark, Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror, and is forthcoming in The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Nine. Her debut fiction collection, She Said Destroy, is due out later this year from Word Horde.

Recently, Nadia and I discussed her development as a writer, her process of putting together her first collection, as well as her plans for the future.

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

It’s kind of a cliche, but I truly just love telling stories. Before I could easily write, I would re-tell the abridged version of classics like The Prince and the Pauper to my mom, who would write it down for me. By the time I was nine I knew I wanted to be a novelist, though I only started publishing short stories to earn money when I was 21. By now it’s like muscle memory. Even when I don’t have time to write, I write – sometimes useless trash, but arcs and characters nonetheless. Nothing beats the vicarious adrenaline of a well-crafted, heartfelt, gut-wrenching story. My favorite writers who have knocked me down and dragged me through the mud are Flannery O’Connor, Graham Greene, Shirley Jackson, Franz Kafka, Paul Bowles, Joseph Heller, and most recently, Francine Prose.

Congratulations on your upcoming short fiction collection, She Said Destroy, due out in August from Word Horde! What was the process like as you put together this collection? Were there any stories you planned to include but decided to leave out? Any other surprises in the process of compiling a book?

Thanks very much! Mostly, it gave me the chance to define myself as a writer. When I first started selling stories, I didn’t really know what direction I wanted to go in, and I wrote some stuff that was well-received that I, personally, thought was really dire and not-me. It wasn’t until a little later that I embraced being a politically-themed horror writer, and only in the past couple years am I selling the sort of stories I actually want to write – so this was about boiling down everything I’d done to the core: who am I really? And what emerged were dark stories about people pushed down a supernatural road of no return; some motivated by fear, or anger (disguised fear), many motivated by love.

As you write your short fiction, do you have a certain method to crafting your first drafts? Is there an average length of time it takes you to write a story, or does each one vary wildly from the others?

I mull a lot and outline a lot. I binge on research and movies and music to help the mulling process (like mulling wine, you know?). I’m obsessed with structure and symmetry (my stories are always divisible by five). By the time I’m done with all that (which can take about a month), the story-writing itself takes a week if I’m really lucky, or a month if I’m unlucky. I edit as I go and abide by the Joe Lansdale / Nick Mamatas school of single drafts only.

She Walks in ShadowsYour settings are very rich and well-crafted, with plenty of vivid details to immerse the reader. Do you have a certain setting that’s your favorite? How much research do you do in advance when working on a setting that perhaps you’ve never or not often used before?  

Well, thank you! The easiest setting for me is contemporary semi-rural Nebraska, though my favorite is Java in the 1990s. I try hard only to write settings I have personally experienced, because I hate it when people write about places I know (especially Indonesia) in a manner that doesn’t feel genuine. If forced to use an unfamiliar setting, I try to go for overtly weird and dream-like and faintly but not specifically recognizable. I try to be really careful with how I use linguistic indicators. And if I can’t avoid it, yeah, I do as much from-a-distance research as possible and beg forgiveness from the gods afterwards.

If forced to choose, do you have a personal favorite story you’ve written?

This is tough because I have a soft spot for several, but probably “Absolute Zero,” which is included in She Said Destroy. I’m not sure I could tell you why, except that it was so tough to wrangle the themes I wanted to convey while keeping them all under control, and I was proud that I pulled it off.

In addition to your fiction, you also write nonfiction essays on your blog and other sites. How is your process similar (or different) when working on nonfiction versus fiction?

Similar in that I mull and outline obsessively. Dissimilar in that I have way less discipline with non-fiction because I’m usually really emotional about the subject matter, so it takes me far more attempts to create something vaguely appropriate for external consumption!

What upcoming projects are you working on?

In addition to making sure She Said Destroy successfully launches, I’ve got to get half-a-dozen short stories packed up for various destinations. I’m also in the longest wrestling match of my life with a novel that’s a fever-dream fictionalization of the 1965 anti-Communist coup in Indonesia. Basically House of Cards except with a post-colonial slant, chaos demons, and psychics on government retainer.

Tremendous thanks to Nadia Bulkin for being part of this week’s interview series! Find her online at her author website as well as Facebook and Twitter!

Happy reading!