Fear and Favorites: Part Two in Our 2020 Women in Horror Month Roundtable

Welcome back to Part Two of our Women in Horror Month Roundtable series! Last week, I talked with my amazing interviewees about their background in horror and what Women in Horror Month means to them. Today, we discuss favorite horror characters and the recent works by female creators that didn’t get as much attention as they deserved.

So let’s take it away!

Growing up, who were your favorite female characters in horror? How, if at all, did your early experiences with horror shape you as the storyteller you are today?

V. CASTRO: I am Mexican American so La Llorona was the first female in horror for me. From childhood you are told she will take you away if you misbehave.
My culture has a strong oral tradition with regards to folklore, music and the indigenous Mexican religion which is a very bloody one. We worshipped death and the sun. I like to incorporate both into my writing. I love stories within a story.

TERI.ZIN: Without a doubt, Angela Bassett’s character Mace in Strange Days is absolutely number one. Strong, vulnerable, whoops ass, asks for and deserves love and respect. Just an incredible character. Next would definitely be Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley in the entire Alien franchise. Though these two examples fall into science fiction, there is a horror element to both that is sometimes ignored due to the caliber of the films. Horror never fully gets the love it deserves.

LISA QUIGLEY: I am not the typical horror fan/writer who grew up watching EVERY SINGLE HORROR MOVIE EVER or who even really KNEW I was a horror fan. I was a teen in the 90s, and so I did watch a lot of horror movies…in addition to lots of other movies. My taste was eclectic and I loved everything from comedies to rom-coms to action/adventure to chick flicks to horror to teenage films to sci-fi to….you get the idea. My best friend and I would browse the shelves of Blockbuster or Hollywood Video for hours before we finally made our random selections. So, while I watched a wide variety of different movies, there isn’t really a single female character in horror that I can pinpoint from any film that made an impression on me. And the one I can pinpoint is probably not one anyone would expect (or even remember.)

As a pre-teen/early teen, I watched this show on the Disney channel called So Weird. It wasn’t horror, per se. I guess if I had to describe it, it was sort of like X-Files for kids. The premise: a widowed mother is a touring musician (played by Mackenzie Phillips) and she has her two kids (plus some roadies and their kids) on tour with her. They live out of the tour bus and hotels, never in one place for long. The story is from the POV of Fiona (Fi) Phillips, who is extremely smart and nerdy, and has her own website (a novelty back then!) Fi is super into paranormal phenomena, not the least because her dad has died. In every single town they visit, Fi encounters something “weird”—ghosts, time travel, UFOs, and more. It was spooky and unsettling and I loved it. But more than that, I loved Fi. She was determined, intelligent, and focused, keyed in the way many around her were not. Her family often didn’t believe her, but many times she saved their lives without them even realizing it. She was fierce and fearless and I absolutely adored her.

Even today, my horror interests veer toward the weird and unusual, rather than overt horror. I am interested in the edges of things, the slightly off-kilter, the unnerving. Like Fi, the women and girls in my stories are their own heroes. They don’t need boys to save them.

MACKENZIE KIERA: When I was younger, I was allowed to watch some very light, maybe not even true horror. I think Tremors was my first monster movie? My parents figured all they were shielding me from was some rough language and a giant worm, so that one I maybe saw at 9 or 10? Tremors taught me that women could be the smart scientists, and that a lot of horror was made to be laughed at and enjoyed. Think the next one was maybe Alien? Ripley is a solid hero. Tough, smart, ballsy women were encouraged in my house, so I really don’t accept anything less from my female characters today. My favorite one currently is Nancy from the first Nightmare on Elm Street. She’s fantastic.

LARISSA GLASSER: My first idols were mostly in Science Fiction and fantasy, actually: Barbarella, Taarna from Heavy Metal, and of course Linda Carter as Wonder Woman. Mostly because they were powerful and had independent strengths that they made seem effortless. I got into Horror after that, the first thing I remember watching was “Terror in the Aisles,” a kind of documentary overview about horror films. From there I discovered Laurie Strode (Halloween), Ellen Ripley (Alien), and Sarah Roberts (The Hunger). They resonated with me even more. But where were the trans women? Oh, there ended up being plenty– as maniacs, victims, or punchlines. That scared me most of all when I was a kid, because I loved my family and didn’t want to be seen as a monster. But when I grew older and more independent, finished school, I proved to myself and needed to be independent like those characters who shaped me. It took me a long time, and I’m still processing a lot of that conflict. I think what I want to accomplish now in my work is to focus on trans women as having agency. I wrote the protagonist in F4 as someone who saves lives against an inter-dimensional terror. Although I don’t plan on recycling that character or story, I want to continue building stronger female characters I’d have liked to have seen when I was a kid.

MICHELLE RENEE LANE: Those are excellent questions, and not as easy to answer as they might seem. Because I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, there weren’t a lot of strong female characters in horror fiction and films to admire. Looking back at most of the films I watched as a kid, the depictions of women were extremely sexist and violence against women was a popular form of entertainment in most genres, including romantic comedies. So these questions are really making me think, which is good.

I watched a lot of slasher movies as a kid, Halloween (1978), Friday the 13th (1980), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Terror Train (1980), Happy Birthday to Me (1981), Motel Hell (1980), Black Christmas (1974), and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), just to name a few. Cable TV and neighborhood video stores enabled an entire generation to immerse itself in horror films like no other generation before it. At first glance, these films seem to be telling different stories, but there are some genre-specific plot and character tropes that are hard to ignore, especially in the #metoo era. While these films are extremely sexist in their depictions of women, they also gave us final girls, which I believe inadvertently created a sense of empowerment for female horror fans. I mean running through the woods while scantily clad and tripping over your high heels isn’t very empowering, but if you’re the lone survivor of a machete-wielding psycho’s killing spree, then maybe you aren’t as weak and dumb as the filmmaker tried to portray you.

Aside from final girls, like Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween and Terror Train, I will always have a special place in my heart for Carrie White. The original 1976 film is my favorite adaptation of Stephen King’s novel. If you haven’t read Carrie, I highly recommend listening to the audiobook read by Sissy Spacek.

To answer the second part of your question, these films inspired me to write strong female characters. Unless I’m writing erotica, none of my female characters run around scantily clad, and they have more control over what happens to them in the narrative even if they are at the mercy of evil forces. Watching slasher films made me conscious of how women are depicted in film, but reading novels written by women of color like Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Octavia Butler, and Jewelle Gomez gave me the confidence to write horror fiction in my own voice about women who look like me.

ERIN SWEET AL-MEHAIRI: I can’t answer this question well as I was not allowed to experience much, if any, horror growing up unless it was in school. My mom and dad don’t believe in anything horror and I wasn’t allowed to read or watch. My parents still don’t support my dark fiction writing and they make fun of me or are scared for me if I have something with a raven on it or a skeleton/skull or the word Stephen King comes up. It’s sad really. Horror has helped me so much to heal from so many traumas.

I was able to experience in school Edgar Allan Poe and fell in love with his stories, as well as Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” which is one of my favorite stories of all time. It changed my life. It allowed me to know who I am in terms of humanity. It made me love literature and want to write. Poe, too, became an early influence. To this day, I feel they have shaped my stories as I write with humanity and a female depth as Shirley Jackson and I channel Poe techniques. I wrote my woodpecker story in Breathe. Breathe. in the vein of “The Tell Tale Heart.”

However, I’m mostly shaped by the literature I was allowed, for instance fantasy. Because I wasn’t allowed to read scary Stephen King, I was allowed to read Eye of the Dragon, which was my first by him because it’s fantasy. I fell in love. I devoured The Dark Tower then too. I read Mother Earth Father Sky by Sue Harrison, which in a way, had its own horror inflicted on women within its pages. My parents didn’t think of this as horror – but the atrocities to Native American women certainly were (to any women are). Her book and characters were major influences on me.

One thing my mom did let me have when I was young was things about witches. I’m still pondering this today (realizing for years now some nature/water witch prowess in myself) and why. But I had Tilly the Witch. I still love that children’s book. I will read anything about witches for sure and they, as well as nature, influence my writing a lot whether spoken or unspoken. I’ve written a few short stories. I enjoy reading non-fiction and fiction about witches. We are mothers of the earth, we are mothers of the sky, we are mothers of horror. Aren’t we?

Well, anyway… so yes fantasy, historical fiction, sci-fi, mysteries like Agatha Christie (somehow murders were ok haha) it all comforted me while awaiting the day I could read horror, but eventually they had me so scared of it, I was too afraid to read more than Stephen King unless it was a classic work. I laugh at this now. So yes, when I started my own business 11 years ago, and made time for more reading and writing and started the blog, I thought I’d write a children’s book and an historical novel. I’d always written poetry and wanted to write it more. I started writing about my trauma from abusive marriage, rape, illness, death and it all started meshing with my love of mystery, fantasy, monsters and spending a childhood alone in the woods with books, and it became horror writing.

Let’s take a moment to shine a light on a few great works that perhaps didn’t get the praise that they deserved. What are your favorite horror stories or books by female authors that were released over the past few years but that you wish would have gotten more attention?

V. CASTRO: I loved The Hunger by Alma Katsu. ANYTHING by Tananarive Due. Linda Addison is also an incredible talent. In general, I think all women in horror do not get their due. I grew up with Stephen King (read most of his books) and love his writing, but I’m tired. I’m tired of seeing anthologies with mostly men or not a single woman of color. Women of color are still very underrepresented across the board. I am curating a book bundle and it has been a struggle to find Latinas with novel length works of horror.

TERI.ZIN: Jessica Guess (Mama TulaMommy; upcoming: Cirque Berserk) is a brand new writer with whom I attended VONA in 2017. Incredibly talented. Vandana Singh’s Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories; just about everything that comes out of Fiyah Magazine is, well, Fiyah, lol. Danny Lore is a fantastic talent. I attended Viable Paradise (22) with them and they are just amazing. L. H. Moore. Chesya Burke. Matter of fact, pick up the anthology Sycorax’s Daughters. It features 28 Black women writing horror. (I’m in it, too!)

LISA QUIGLEY: I’m just going to list some of my favorites. They may have gotten more attention than I’ve realized, but I still think they’re all worth mentioning and reading.

Of Sorrow and Such by Angela Slatter
To Be Devoured by Sara Tantlinger
Little Dead Red by Mercedes M. Yardley
Husk by Rachel Autumn Deering
I Am Not Your Final Girl by Claire C. Holland
The Writhing Skies by Betty Rocksteady
The Possession of Natalie Glassgow by Hailey Piper
Dear Laura by Gemma Amour

MACKENZIE KIERA: ALL THE TRUTH THAT’S IN ME by Julie Berry is the hill I will die on. While it’s not straight horror, it has horror elements mixed around with a strong feminist bend. I don’t know why we all weren’t talking about how amazing, how perfect that book was (is).

F4LARISSA GLASSER: I need to say right out of the gate that although I don’t consider her
a genre writer at all, I’ll sing praises for Torrey Peters at every opportunity. Reading her work convinced me to put trans narratives front and center in my own life, because I also have a lot of unresolved shit and the only way for me to deal with it, other than therapy, is to channel
these issues through story. Torrey’s writing is unrelenting. This lady actually made me want to take writing more seriously. She confronts the darkness and our own contradictions with a perfect balance of vulnerability and assertiveness that I haven’t yet found in another trans writer. I’ll find tons more voices, I’m sure. To me it’s worth it. Trans women’s experiences are denigrated so needlessly. But Torrey went the DIY route and became really successful and dare I say canonical. She’s got a new novel called Detransition, Baby coming out from Random House in August 2020.

For horror women authors who have also helped me along, I’d go with The Sisters of Slaughter (Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason)–their book Mayan Blue totally fucked me up emotionally and I keep re-reading it. Gory and grindy, full of sorrow. Also from the moment I first read Damien Angelica Walters, I was immediately hooked. She really stabs you in just the right places. I love Farah Rose Smith for her evocation of the 19th century decadent tradition, and definitely Victoria Dalpe for her versatility and for the cinematic nature of her work. These are just a few. My list would be super-long.

MICHELLE RENEE LANE: I recently read The Deep (2019) by Rivers Solomon with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes after stumbling across it in the Goodreads Awards nominations page. It has a slow start, but it is an interesting fantasy novel that tells the story of “the water-breathing descendants of African slave women tossed overboard have built their own underwater society-and must reclaim the memories of their past to shape their future.” In a word, it’s brilliant. I’ve wanted to read a story about Black mermaids my whole life so I couldn’t wait to read this book. And, bonus, it addresses slavery and how our ancestors’ traumas are passed down generation to generation through genetics and memories. I’m hoping it gets more attention in 2020, and it would make a beautiful film.

ERIN SWEET AL-MEHAIRI: Anything by Kristin Dearborn. She’s a great writer. Woman in White is wonderful. Sacrifice Island. I believe both re-released now from Crossroads Press. Crossroads is great and publishes a lot of good stuff, but we don’t hear enough about the books, this being one. Also, Stolen Away by her from Raw Dog Screaming Press is so good. I wish Kristin’s name was known more and appreciated by readers – she is well-loved among the writing circuit of course. She’s a great person.

And that’s it for Part Two in our Women in Horror Roundtable! Head on back here next for part three, as I talk more with these awesome women!

Happy reading, and happy Women in Horror Month!

Wintry Writing: Submission Roundup for February 2020

Welcome back for this month’s Submission Roundup! Plenty of very cool opportunities in February and beyond, so get to polishing up those stories and send them on out! But first, a disclaimer as always: I’m not a representative for any of these markets; I’m merely spreading the word. Please direct your questions to their respective editors.

And now onward with this month’s Submission Roundup!

Submission RoundupLuna Station Quarterly
Payment: $5/flat
Length: 500 to 7,000 words
Deadline: February 15th, 2020
What They Want: Open to female identifying authors, Luna Station Quarterly seeks fantasy, science fiction, space opera, and new fairy tales with strong characters.
Find the details here.

Payment: .05/word for fiction and nonfiction; $50/flat for poetry
Length: 750 to 6,000 words for fiction; 2,000 to 7,500 words for nonfiction; up to 50 lines for poetry
Deadline: February 29th, 2020
What They Want:  For the month of February, Vastarien is open only to non-male-identifying authors. They’re seeking nonfiction, literary horror fiction, and poetry that’s inspired by Thomas Ligotti and related themes.
Find the details here.

Triangulation: Dark Skies
Payment: .03/word
Length: up to 5,000 words (3,000 preferred)
Deadline: February 29th, 2020
What They Want: Open to speculative fiction stories that deal with extinction.
Find the details here.

Midnight in the Pentagram
Payment: .06/word
Length: up to 6,000 words
Deadline: March 31st, 2020
What They Want: Silver Shamrock Publishing is seeking short fiction about the occult, possession, demons, and satanism in the vein of Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, The Omen, and Creepshow among others.
Find the details here.

Payment: $15/flat for poetry; .04/word for fiction ($50 minimum)
Length: up to 100 lines for poetry (shorter is preferred); up to 2,500 words for fiction
Deadline: April 1st, 2020
What They Want: Open to poetry and short fiction that explores “human nature as part of nature.”
Find the details here.

Bronzeville Books
Payment: .08/word
Length: up to 3,000 words
Deadline: Various deadlines, depending on the project
What They Want: Editor Sandra Ruttan is seeking short stories for Bronzeville Books’ forthcoming anthologies, Disturbia, Rigor Morbid 2, and Happy Hellidays.
Find the details here.

Payment: .01/word (CAD) with $25 minimum
Length: 1,500 to 5,000 words
Deadline: Ongoing
What They Want: Open to stylized speculative fiction. The current theme is Cocktails.
Find the details here.

Happy submitting!

Her Own Horror: Part One in Our 2020 Women in Horror Month Roundtable

Welcome back for part one in my Women in Horror Roundtable for 2020! I introduced all of my amazing featured authors earlier this week, so that means it’s officially time to start unveiling their awesome interviews. So let’s take it away, shall we?

Welcome to my 2020 Women in Horror Roundtable! I’m so thrilled to be talking with all of you! To get started, tell us a little bit about yourself and your work in the horror genre.

Erin Sweet Al-MehairiERIN SWEET AL-MEHAIRI: I’m an author, poet, editor, publicist/PR professional, journalist. I suppose I’ve done a little bit of it all as I enjoy all aspects of publishing. I have my degrees in English, journalism, and history (yes I was crazy enough to have three majors to complete) and I’ve spent 27+ years in some sort of communication job: PR, Marketing, Advertising, Editing, writing, working in many avenues from healthcare to clothing to festivals to non-profits to publishing. I’ve owned by own PR business for 11 years now. When I decided to own my own business and freelance, to stay home with my youngest daughter for homeschool pre-school and because I was diagnosed with some auto-immune disorders, I decided to also try to read and write for pleasure again, and keep up some writing and journalism skills, by starting my blog. It quickly, due to my past work experience and expertise, turned into a business as well as an extension, so Hook of a Book was formed as well.

The blog is 9 years old now, and I’ve been reviewing horror that long, but I’ve been doing editing and PR/publicist work in the genre for about 7 maybe. I’ve worked for authors as a personal stand-alone publicist and editor, as well for many publishers. I’ve also managed coordination from covers to author liaison to finished product to market for publishers.  As well I’ve helped launch books from editing to finish for self-published authors to nice success as well. I still do I should say! As well, I still run my site with reviews and interviews for authors in the genre (and many other genres) who are not my clients (so no conflict of interest) and try to do special things during Women In Horror Month and National Poetry Month in April to showcase other authors and support the community. Though I work in other genres some, especially with editing, most of my time is spent in horror currently.

Beyond that I’m also an author and a poet. I have a collection called Breathe. Breathe. published by Unnerving that is half poetry and half short stories. I have poems and stories also in several other anthologies and magazines. I’ve co-edited a gothic anthology and I’m currently the editor of an upcoming charity anthology for this year called Survive with Me from Alien Agenda Publishing (Glenn Rolfe).

TERI.ZIN: Hi! I’m so excited to be a part of this! I write under the pen name Zin E. Rocklyn. I currently have five short stories out in the world and one essay about being an unseen, yet monstrous image in horror fiction and film as Black woman. I enjoy the brutal catharsis of horror and feel it is the most accurate genre to express obstacles in a way that is viscerally affecting to those who may not understand.

LARISSA GLASSER: Hi everyone! I’m Larissa Glasser, I’m a librarian at a large university and after about a decade playing in metal bands, I decided to get more serious about writing genre fiction. Of course, I gravitated to horror first because it was the genre I loved the most when I was a young kid renting VHS tapes in suburbia. I’ve got a few stories in anthologies but my first novella, F4, which was published by Eraserhead Press in the beginning of 2018, was the first time I let my horror freak flag fly.

V. CASTRO: My name is Violet. I am a mother of three living in London, but I was born and mostly raised in San Antonio, Texas.

Horror has been a great love in my life since childhood, however, one thing that was missing in the genre was representation. This did not hit me until later in life when I began to seriously consider writing and I looked at my own book collection. My Mexican American heritage is rich in folklore and history, and I wanted to share that with others. But horror!

MICHELLE RENEE LANE: Thanks for inviting me, Gwen. What can I tell you about myself? Well, I’m a Gen-X single parent raising a 13-year-old boy in the era of YouTube and social media. I work at a small liberal arts college and struggle to pay my bills. I have an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction and an MA in English. I’m a woman of color who is ethnically mixed — German American and Jamaican American — who grew up in a homogeneously white rural smalltown in Central PA. My origin story as a horror writer began when I was very young. My mom was a single parent until I turned 5 or 6, so we lived with my grandparents. My grandmother loved folklore and scary stories and she was an avid reader of horror novels. Stephen King and Dean Koontz were among her favorites. My grandfather loved watching spooky movies and TV shows, so we watched Hitchcock and Hammer Horror movies, The Twilight Zone and Kolchak: The Night Stalker. My mom introduced me to Dark Shadows and gave me a copy of Interview with the Vampire for Christmas when I was 11. I was raised on a steady diet of horror and monsters, while growing up in the racially charged 1970s and 1980s.

All of these early experiences have shaped my writing. I write stories about women of color struggling to understand who they are and where they fit in the world while dealing with monsters — human and supernatural. I’ve always identified more with monsters, so humans are often the most dangerous characters in my stories. My fiction usually tackles some social or political issue, but I don’t always know what that issue will be until I start writing and tap into my subconscious. But honestly, 9 out of 10 times, I’m writing about racism and racial identity in America, specifically from a feminist perspective. So, I guess you could say that I write stories about monsters while exploring the intersectionalities of race, gender, sexuality, and class.

LISA QUIGLEY: My name is Lisa Quigley. In February of 2018, I started the Ladies of the Fright podcast with my creative partner in crime, Mackenzie Kiera. We’d gotten our MFAs together in the UCR Palm Desert Low-Residency program. We’ve known we wanted to collaborate pretty much since day one, but we weren’t quite sure what form that would take until we created the podcast. What we initially envisioned as an in-depth craft show in which we’d break down horror and other dark-themed books has grown to be much more than that. We’ve interviewed many of horror’s top editors, authors, and other industry professionals on the show, and we’ve even collaborated with Library Journal and the HWA to promote the Summer Scares horror reading initiative. Producing our show is a labor of love.On the writing side, last year my first two fiction publications appeared in Automata Review and Unnerving Magazine. My debut novella, Hell’s Bells, is schedule for publication by Unnerving in May 2020.

MACKENZIE KIERA: I’m Mackenzie Kiera. I’m the other half of the Ladies of the Fright podcast where we talk about dark and stormy literature, movies, and whatever else strikes our fancy. Lisa and I are active in the horror community as we are the official podcast for Summer Scares and Stoker Con.

Women in Horror Month is amazingly in its eleventh year now. When did you first hear of Women in Horror Month, and what, if anything, does it mean to you personally as a female creator?

ERIN SWEET AL-MEHAIRI: I think I heard about it… taking a guess… maybe five years ago? I think at first it mostly really highlighted women in horror film. A lot of horror promotion was focused on film. They did a great job of highlighting that portion of the genre. See, when I started reading and reviewing horror back 7 years ago it was mostly still men in the genre with a few classic authors and less than a handful of women horror authors who’d been around a long while and even did the convention circuit (how you promoted yourself you know before social media came along and even I should say…. social media became a use for authors. I don’t think that happened even until 5-7 years ago!). Now, in the past 5 years and more each progressive year, women’s names are more known and there are more women horror authors. So though there is still work to be done, there is A LOT that is better both in women being published, working in the field, and being read.

It means a lot to have the month, no matter if other women or men give it push back. I come from the awareness side of the fence, probably because I worked in PR for so long in healthcare. I did a lot by looking at the yearly calendar and seeing what monthly and weekly awareness promotions there were! For instance, we all know that heart disease kills women, we all know there is breast cancer, and do we need to fight it every day – yes! But is it a great time, when February rolls around and it’s Wear Red for Women, or October comes, and it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, to wear red or pink and talk about the issues. Yes. Deluge the masses with information and as for Women in Horror Month have a celebration as a way for us to share what we’ve done, what we will do, and keep staking our claim. We’re a sisterhood and I hope that NO ONE ever forgets that, not even the men. And if they want to join our circle, then they’re welcome as brothers in arms.

TERI.ZIN: I believe I first heard about WiHM about four years ago and to be honest, I was dubious about it. There are few Black women writers of horror that are ever featured in lists like this. I’ve mostly read white women and women of colour in horror; the dudes eventually annoyed me with their myopic presumptions of women’s stories and voices in particular. While the shine of reading white women and women of colour in the genre was comforting for a bit, I wanted to see more Black women of horror being brought to the forefront. Scattering articles would try, but it is still irritating. There are plenty of us and yet you don’t see us. I aim to improve that.

LARISSA GLASSER: I first heard of WiHM a few years ago, when I had made more connections with horror writers on social media and went to some more cons. I remember feeling great that women in horror are being celebrated–I mean, WTF Mary Shelley wrote the original breakthrough horror/SF book Frankenstein, and her intelligence not only crafted an incredibly bleak story but she also addressed ethical issues, along with body horror. I think the world was in a lot of upheaval at that time, and as women’s voices and public autonomy were beginning to gain more traction, Shelley struck right place, right time. It also isn’t lost on me that Mary Wollstonecraft, a pioneer in advocacy for women’s rights, was her mother.

I am also of two minds about WiHM – I don’t think women in horror should be considered for just one month, we should be read, taken seriously, and respected throughout the year. There is pushback against diversity in the genre even today – even if white cisgender guys don’t intend to be dicks about it, they still manage some bad optics because maybe that is what they’re used to, or to be seemingly “against PC culture” gives them extra street integrity or whatever. Also, I am considered by some to not be a woman because I was (C)AMAB [coercively assigned male at birth]. The trans experience is as unique as one’s own fingerprints, and it’s just something that happens. We don’t ask for it, and transition is the only cure – you’ve got to be who you need to be. But I’m not going to give a 101 on that, I’ve spoken and written about it at length. But honestly the biggest surprise I had after F4 was released is that there are already plenty of trans women writing in the horror genre – I’m not going to name names because I never out anyone without their express permission. Suffice it to say I don’t feel so alone now, and meeting allies and supporters in the field has helped my confidence immensely. Cons are the best places to meet people in the field. Hover at the bar.

V. CASTRO: I first heard about it on Twitter from the Ladies of Horror Fiction. A group I hope people will follow and support if they don’t already.

Women in Horror Month is a bra set on fire and held overhead. It is a line drawn in the sand for women to reclaim their narratives and express their truth. It is 2020 and you still have women written in ways that are not realistic or downright offensive. Our stories should be told through our perspective. I’m not saying men don’t have the right to write women, however, I am saying that we should have the same opportunities to publish and receive recognition for these stories.

MICHELLE RENEE LANE: I first heard about Women in Horror Month while working on my MFA at Seton Hill University. That program not only reignited my passion for writing, but reaffirmed my belief in the scholarship of horror fiction. Horror fiction is one of the most challenging genres to write in because you have to tap into raw emotions to convey the horror happening in your stories. And, it allows you to write about the real horrors happening in the world around you, much like science fiction holds up a mirror to the present to show us a glimpse of the future. I met a lot of women who were writing horror in the MFA program and it made me realize that the myth of horror being a male-dominated genre was bullshit. Sure, more male authors line the bookshelves in the horror section, but some of the best horror writers at this moment in time are women and people of color. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. There are a lot of terrible things happening to marginalized people in the world right now. Our day-to-day lives provide plenty of inspiration for writing horror stories.

LISA QUIGLEY: It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly, but I want to say I found out about it once I really became invested in writing in the horror genre. It’s a long story, but I didn’t always know that what I wanted to write (and what I was writing) was horror. So I was kind of a late bloomer in that sense. I think I learned of Women in Horror month about two or three years ago.

What it means to me personally as a female creator? On the one hand, I think it’s awesome. In many ways, horror is perceived as a male-dominated genre (although there are lots of reasons I could argue that’s not true in actuality…but that’s a conversation for another day.) At any rate, the dudes in the genre (awesome as so many of them are!) do tend to get a lot of the attention and spotlight. I think Women in Horror month is pretty cool because it does generate the awareness that like, hey, there are tons of incredible women out there writing horror, too. On the other hand, it does sometimes bother me that women need to be “called out” in one month. I think sometimes there can be this feeling that like…okay, we spent a whole month shouting out women, and now we can go back to our regularly scheduled programming. It would be super awesome if we got to the point where we didn’t need our own separate month. I am an optimist in that way, because I do feel like in so many ways we are headed in that direction. I am not naive, though. I know there is still a long way to go, and for many, this month serves as a way to amp up awareness and visibility. I am all for it, with the caveat that I certainly hope the day will come when we won’t have the need for it.

MACKENZIE KIERA: I suspect I heard about it in college at some point, but I didn’t take notice. (Sorry!) At that point, I thought I was going to work in emergency medicine, so while I’d always been fascinated by horror, I don’t think Women in Horror month showed up on my radar until Lisa and I started up the podcast. I feel like this month is important as it highlights the fact that it’s no longer just straight white men writing horror. Not that it ever was. Seems like people conveniently forget about Shirley Jackson and Mary Shelley when they discuss horror. Like it’s only got room for three big man names. Like it wasn’t around until Stephen King claimed a couple bookshelves in the stores for himself. As a creator, I think it’s a good thing, even though a month isn’t nearly long enough to talk about all of the amazing strides women are making in the genre.

And that’s part one of our Women in Horror Roundtable! Join us next week as we discuss favorite female characters in horror and underappreciated stories!

Happy reading!

Women in Horror Month 2020 Roundtable Coming Soon!

Welcome back, and welcome to Women in Horror Month! Throughout the month of February, I’m absolutely thrilled to be featuring a roundtable interview series with a group of supremely talented female horror authors! I’ll be talking with them about their work, their inspiration, as well as their hopes for the future of women in horror.

So without further adieu, here are the awesome female authors who are part of this year’s roundtable!

Erin Sweet Al-MehairiErin Sweet Al-Mehairi is a writer, editor, and PR Professional with degrees in English, Journalism, and History. Breathe. Breathe., published by Unnerving in 2017, was her debut collection of dark poetry and short stories and was an Amazon #2 best-selling paid title in women’s poetry, behind NYT best-seller Rupi Kaur, and top five in horror short stories several times since its publication. Her work has been called raw, honest, evocative, and beautiful. She has poems and stories featured in several other anthologies and magazines, including the recent 7 Deadly Sins of the Apocalypse which was an Amazon #1 paid best-seller in horror anthologies upon release, was the co-curating editor in 2018 for the gothic anthology Haunted are these Houses, and is the editor of the 2020 anthology Survive with Me. As an editor and publicist, she assists publishers and authors in the horror, fantasy, sci-fi, and historical genres and has worked on and with many award-winning and nominated titles for the Bram Stoker Award, Shirley Jackson Award, and more.

Within the publishing world in an effort to support book communities, besides managing her own site Oh, for the Hook of a Book!, she also has conducted interviews and written reviews and features for Beneath the Underground, The Horror Tree, Machine Mean, and more in the horror genre, as well as served as an independent award judge in the historical fiction genre.

She is currently completing two poetry collections and a short story collection with more in the works. Find more about Erin at www.hookofabook.wordpress.com or follow her on Twitter (@erinalmehairi).

Violet Castro is originally from Texas, but now resides in London with her partner and three children. Her books include: Maria The Wanted; The Erotic Modern Life of Malinalli The Vampire; Switchblades and Hairspray (Feb 2020- Unnerving); Rigor Morbid: Lest Ye Become – “The Latin Queens of Mictlan”; Co-editor of Latinx Screams. A Latinx horror anthology from Bronzeville Books (Fall 2020); and Latino Book Month Curator for StoryBundle (May 2020). Violet writes book and film reviews for SciFi & Scary and Latin Horror as well as contributing articles to Ginger Nuts of Horror, Ladies of Horror Fiction, Burial Ground and Kendall Reviews. You can find out more about V at www.vvcastro.com or @vlatinalondon on Instagram and Twitter.

Larissa Glasser is a librarian-archivist from New England. She writes dark fiction centered on the lives of trans women, library science, and heavy metal. Her work is available in Transcendent 3: The Year’s Best Transgender Themed Speculative Fiction (Lethe Press) and Tragedy Queens: stories inspired by Lana Del Rey and Sylvia Plath (Clash Books). Her debut novella F4 is available from Eraserhead Press. She is on Twitter @larissaeglasser

Mackenzie Kiera holds an MFA in Fiction and Nonfiction Writing from the University of California, Riverside where she studied with Dr. Stephen Graham Jones. She is the author of over 30+ articles, essays and short stories that have appeared in Gamut Magazine, The Mighty, The Nervous Breakdown, The Manifest-Station, Ink Stains Anthology Vol. IV, and This Is Horror. For several years, she was a contributing author to LA’s The Last Bookstore’s blog Dwarf+Giant, where she reviewed books and interview authors. Currently, she is the co-host of a dark fiction podcast: Ladies of the Fright, and is the author of a forthcoming novella ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE AND A STRONG ELECTRIC CURRENT from Unnerving.

Michelle R. Lane writes dark speculative fiction about women of color who battle their inner demons while falling in love with monsters. Her work includes elements of fantasy, horror, romance, and occasionally erotica. Her short fiction appears in the anthologies Dark Holidays, Terror Politico: A Screaming World in Chaos, and The Monstrous Feminine: Dark Tales of Dangerous Women. Her debut novel, Invisible Chains (2019), is available from Haverhill House Publishing. She lives in South Central Pennsylvania with her son. You can follow her blog, Girl Meets Monster, where she talks about some of her favorite subjects: reading, writing, and monsters: https://michellerlane.com/.

Lisa Quigley is a writer, mother, wife, and irreverent witch living in New Jersey. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of California, Riverside’s low-residency program in Palm Desert. Her work has appeared on The Manifest Station, Dwarf + Giant, Automata Review, and Unnerving Magazine. She is the co-host of the dark fiction podcast Ladies of the Fright and a columnist for This Is Horror. Her debut novella, Hell’s Bells, is coming in May 2020 from Unnerving.

Of Trinidadian descent and hailing from Jersey City, NJ, Zin E. Rocklyn‘s stories are older than her years, much like the name she’s chosen to pen them under. Her work is currently featured in the anthologies Forever Vacancy, 2017 Bram Stoker Nominated Sycorax’s Daughters of which her story Summer Skin was longlisted for Best of Horror 2017, Kaiju Rising II: Reign of MonstersWeird Luck Tales No. 7Brigands: A Blackguards Anthology, and Nox Pareidolia. Her non-fiction essay “My Genre Makes a Monster of Me” was published in Uncanny Magazine’s Hugo Award-Winning Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018 issue. Tor.com will be publishing her latest release in March of 2020. Her personal website, terizin.com, is currently under construction, so stay tuned for all of her weirdness in HTML form. In the interim, you can follow her on Twitter @intelligentwat.

So those are our seven amazing women who are part of this year’s roundtable! Stay tuned for the interviews to commence later this week!

Happy reading, and happy Women in Horror Month!

My Nightmare story and Vastarien article are on the Preliminary Bram Stoker Awards Ballot!

So last week ushered in a very big surprise when both my short story, “The Eight People Who Murdered Me (Excerpt from Lucy Westenra’s Diary)” and my short nonfiction article, “Magic, Madness, and Women Who Creep: The Power of Individuality in the Work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman” made it on the 2019 Bram Stoker Awards Preliminary Ballot.

Seriously. WHAT?!

Now as always, it’s important to note that this is NOT a nomination. Voting on the final ballot opens tomorrow, and the official nominees will be announced next month. But to have two works appear on the preliminary ballot is such an incredible honor, and I’m still stunned just writing this post.

Because I don’t want to keep blathering on (yes, I know you’ve all heard plenty about this from me already on social media), here’s a bit about each work that’s on the preliminary ballot, and then I’ll wrap this up.

In the short fiction category, my story “The Eight People Who Murdered Me (Excerpt from Lucy Westenra’s Diary)” first appeared in Nightmare Magazine in November and is available to read for free online. It’s a retelling of Dracula from Lucy’s perspective, and it’s been called “a wonderful and subversive take on the classic story” by Curious Fictions and “a story that knows exactly what it is about, intricately framed and wonderfully complex” by Quick Sip Reviews.

As for short nonfiction, “Magic, Madness, and Women Who Creep: The Power of Individuality in the Work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman” was first published in March 2019 in Vastarien. This piece focuses on three of Gilman’s most famous short stories–“When I Was a Witch,” “The Giant Wistaria,” and of course “The Yellow Wallpaper”–and reflects on their themes of freedom, individuality, and so-called madness.

The iMailer newsletter from HWA went out earlier this week, which included links to both my works, but if you missed that email, then it’s worth repeating: if you’re an Active or Lifetime member and would like to read either my short story or my short nonfiction article, please email me at gwendolyn@gwendolynkiste.com, and I would be thrilled to send you copies of them!

Once again, so many huge congratulations to everyone on the preliminary ballot. It was another wonderful year for horror, and the fantastic authors and works on the ballot reflect that! I’m so thrilled and humbled to be among so many awesome friends and colleagues! Good luck to all!

Happy reading!

Wild Doorways: Interview with Eric J. Guignard

Welcome back! This week, I’m happy to spotlight author and editor Eric J. Guignard. Eric is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of That Which Grows Wild and Doorways to the Deadeye.

Recently, Eric and I discussed his inspiration as a writer as well as how his work as an editor at his publishing house Dark Moon Books has affected his work as a writer.

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

First, of course, thanks so much for this interview, Gwendolyn!

Now for your questions: I’ve been writing fiction with the goal of publication since February, 2011. However, I’ve been writing and drawing stories ever since I was a child. I’d just done it previously for my own interest, or for friends. I stopped in college, in order to pursue business and serious-minded life necessities… which, of course, I now regret. I don’t regret the pursuit of those things, but rather having given up writing for so many years. I only jumped into as a potential career-type desire after the realization struck me that I was missing out on something I was passionate about!

Some authors I currently adore and consider influences and inspirations include Joe R. Lansdale, Cormac McCarthy, George Orwell, Stephen Graham Jones, Jeffrey Ford, Lisa Morton, Kaaron Warren, Dennis Lehane, Seanan McGuire, Lauren Beukes, Jack Kerouac, Mark Bowden, O. Henry, James Ellroy, Neil Gaiman, Steve Rasnic Tem, Helen Marshall, John Steinbeck, Weston Ochse, and many, many others.

Your debut novel, Doorways to the Deadeye, was released last year through JournalStone. What can you share about the process of writing your first novel, and what has the release been like so far?

Since Doorways to the Deadeye was my first full-length novel, the process went pretty much all over the place, and it became a melting pot of worlds and styles.

I wrote this book for “me” (rather than for a particular market, which ultimately wasn’t the best decision!), examining insights and feelings, and also experimenting with structure, and digging into new themes as well as ones I often include in my other writings: Death and how we handle it; the fluidity of memories; explorations of uncharted territory; loss of loved ones; unexpected ways to emerge victorious from dark situations… There’s elements of Dark Fiction; Speculative Fiction; Magic Realism; Thriller; Light Horror; Urban Fantasy, etc.

Since this book is about legend-building and memories, and the search for perseverance after death, it’s also meant to go “all over the place,” as the voices change, and the stories within the greater story; it’s all meant to evolve as the book progresses, just like in life that as we tell stories they change, and so do the memories of those involved. Then I framed all this in the travels of a 1930s-era train-hopping hobo, and the homeless narrator who is trying to keep the stories literally “alive”.

I know that can sound pretty flighty, so here the P.R. synopsis: A Depression-era hobo rides the rails and learns the underlying Hobo Code is a mystical language that leads into the world of memories, where whoever is remembered strongest—whether by trickery, violence, or daring—can change history and alter the lives of the living.

As far as results of the release, I feel it’s gone well. One can always wish for greater acclaim of course (it’s never enough!!), but I’m happy with sales and reviews so far. This type of book is definitely not for everyone, and I know that … I’ve had a few people tell me they can’t understand it after the first couple of chapters and give up. But most readers and reviewers have given it solid, heart-warming praise, and some have even told me it’s changed the way they read and write stories.

If I may be so bold as to drop a few lines of reviews here, they include the following:

“…Guignard captures the depth of emotion underlying fictional terrors.”—Library Journal

“This novel is a stunner… shocking to see how powerful the author’s lines were, how well-drawn the characters had become.” —Cemetery Dance Magazine

“Rich, strange, and wonderful.” —Michael Marshall Smith, NY Times bestselling author

And I literally just got a new wonderful review five minutes ago from The Horror Fiction Review, which made my day, as well as an inclusion on the 2019 Bram Stoker Awards® Preliminary Ballot this morning!

Congratulations on your Stoker win last year for That Which Grows Wild! How did that collection of short fiction develop?

That book is a collection (my first!) of previously published works, the stories having first appeared in various anthologies, magazines, etc. Each story in itself had its own inspiration or aim, so the collection is more about which stories would work well together in a grouping. I worked with editor Norman Prentiss at Cemetery Dance to select ones that presented a wide range of material, but at the same time weren’t too far “out of the box”. Originally I had some other choices that were more “weird” or satire or dark, and Norm suggested switching out those to ones a bit more in the same mood, so voilà, the finished product, which I’m happy with!

How does your approach to short versus long fiction differ? Do you prefer one length over the other?

My favorite thing to write (and to read) has always been fiction short stories, rather than novels, so that’s usually been my focus. But I am proud to have now gotten my first novel under my belt (Doorways to the Deadeye), as there seems to be this lack of gravitas for anyone who claims they’re a writer but hasn’t put out the “full-length” book!

And interestingly, over the nine years I’ve been writing short stories, I do find them getting longer and longer on average (in word count), so perhaps it’s a natural progression that will lead into more novels.

I probably should have a more formal approach to writing as well, but I still mostly just write what I feel like, when I feel like it, and I also write more in terms of being a “Pantser,” i.e. writing as I go, although if the story becomes complicated or I get burned out, or stuck, then I turn to plotting or outlining to figure the proper direction.

You’re also an award-winning editor. What inspired you to become an editor, and how has editing informed your fiction writing and vice versa?

I started editing because I wanted to improve as a writer, and it’s helped immensely. I recommend it to anyone wishing to improve their writing. By reading submission slush I saw what everyone else was writing about, the same tropes and styles, and immediately knew to write something going the other direction. By an aggregate of stories, I would find flaws in writing that I would then recognize in myself. And I learned it’s true that you can accurately judge a story based on the opening paragraph, and in most cases the opening sentence. From editing, I gained experience in story development, author communications, layout, promotions and so on. I now look at projects from the multiple eyes of “Editor,” “Marketer,” “Distributor,” “Publisher,” and it’s made me a better person.

I find editing is easier for me than writing, although writing brings more satisfaction. Writing is emotionally exhausting, whereas editing I can do all day long. And I’m always thrilled with the chance to connect and work with other writers while editing. But I love so much to type “The End” at the end of a writing piece—it’s a wonderful, fulfilling sense. Both are different journeys to a creative destination.

As an aside, my day job is working as a Technical Writer, which can get dull at times, but it’s also definitely improved my fiction writing, by articulating stories in concise language, with focus on impact, brevity, and an understanding of audiences.

If forced to choose, which part of the writing process is your favorite: brainstorming an idea, writing a first draft, or polishing an almost-finished piece?

“Polishing an almost-finished piece” is the easiest for me, fine-tuning the details (probably more aligning with my day-job work of Technical Writing). Brainstorming ideas is my favorite, because it involves a lot of daydreaming and idea sketches and just letting my mind wander, although 99% of those ideas don’t go anywhere, and sometimes it turns into this very stressful realization of wasting time! A slightly different response is that the most satisfying part of the writing process would be to get down the first draft; this is absolutely the hardest part for me, so when completed, I feel a natural exhilaration for the rest of the day. (And then the next day, it’s back to something else, haha!)

What projects are you currently working on?

Through my press, Dark Moon Books, I’m continuing to publish a series of author primers created to champion modern masters of the dark and macabre, titled: Exploring Dark Short Fiction (Vol. 1: Steve Rasnic Tem; Vol. II: Kaaron Warren; Vol. III: Nisi Shawl; Vol. IV: Jeffrey Ford; Vol. V: Han Song; Vol. VI: Ramsey Campbell).

And through SourceBooks I’m curating a new series of books titled, The Horror Writers Association Presents: Haunted Library of Horror Classics with co-editor Leslie S. Klinger (to begin publishing 2020).

I’m also still writing short stories, and I’ve started THREE new novels, although I’m not very far into any of them! One is a pulp science fiction, one a paranormal detective series, and one a literary historical horror.

I also have hopes to launch a new anthology series in the future, if I can ever get my publishing finances out of the red!

Tremendous thanks to Eric J. Guignard for being part of this week’s author interview series. Find him online at his author site and Dark Moon Books as well as on Twitter, Goodreads, and Instagram!

Happy reading!

The Horror Year that Was: 2019 Award Eligibility Post

So 2019 is officially in the rearview mirror, which means now it’s time for this annual post. As everyone always says, it tends to be a little weird to do an award eligibility blog, but at the same time, it’s also nice to look back at the year that was, so here we go, once more unto the breach!

For me, last year was all about new short fiction and nonfiction as well as promoting The Rust Maidens. I didn’t have any longer fiction projects released, although The Invention of Ghosts is right on the horizon, so that will be a big new project for 2020. As for 2019, I had nine new short stories make their way into the world along with five nonfiction articles. Here’s a bit of an overview on each!

The Eight People Who Murdered Me (Excerpt from Lucy Westenra’s Diary)” (Nightmare, November 2019)
A retelling of Dracula through Lucy’s perspective, this tale has got bloodlust, rage, and revenge, all while reclaiming the identity of a very unsung character of horror literature. Based on reader responses, this is one of my very best received short stories, with Curious Fictions calling it “a wonderful and subversive take on the classic story.” Plus, it’s free to read, so that’s always nice.

All the Ways to Hollow Out a Girl” (Horror for RAICES, December 2019)
An isolated teenage girl has an uncanny knack for resurrection, which makes her a target for a group of neighborhood boys. All proceeds from this wonderful anthology go to benefit RAICES.

A New Mother’s Guide for Raising an Abomination” (The New Flesh: A Literary Tribute to David Cronenberg, November 2019)
An eager mother gets more than she bargained for when her baby undergoes a monstrous transformation, joining a legion of other little girls who are more than what they seem. Part of the Cronenberg tribute anthology, this tale is a nod to The Brood as well as the overall body horror vibe of Cronenberg’s work.

When the Nightingale Devours the Stars” (Nox Pareidolia, October 2019)
Two women are trapped in a hellish small town, one of them cursed with a gift of strange magic that might just be able to save them both. This beautiful anthology is packed with so many incredible writers and has been quite well-received so far by readers.

The Girls from the Horror Movie” (Come Join Us by the Fire, October 2019)
A pair of twins were the unlikely stars of a horror film when they were children. Years later, they still haven’t escaped its cinematic thrall. Another personal favorite, this story is part of the flagship project for Tor’s new Nightfire imprint.

Over the Violets There that Lie” (Behold the Undead of Dracula: Lurid Tales of Cinematic Gothic Horror, August 2019)
It’s the turbulent 1960s, and a troubled housewife finds herself cast in a gruesome anthology film dedicated to the work of Edgar Allan Poe. 2019 was definitely a year for me and film-centric tales, a theme I most certainly hope to continue building on in the future.

A Lost Student’s Handbook for Surviving the Abyss“(Welcome to Miskatonic University, July 2019)
A college student confronts cosmic horror, displacement, and identity issues all while coping with her first semester at the famed university. This is such a fun anthology, and I love that I got to do my own spin on the Lovecraftian mythos with this tale. Another fantastic table of contents, Broken Eye Books always puts out such great anthologies.

The Woman Out of the Attic” (Haunted House Short Stories, March 2019)
A re-imagining of the Madwoman in the Attic trope. A lonely ghost haunts the grand estate where she once lived with her brooding husband. When he brings home a new wife, the ghost starts to realize that perhaps her fate isn’t as hopeless and inevitable as she thought. This one was recently reprinted at Pseudopod and is available on the podcast for free here.

Tips for How to Deal with Your Daughter When She’s Become a Monster” (Gorgon: Stories of Emergence, February 2019)
A horrifying discovery forces a mother to come to terms with her teenage daughter’s monstrous nature. True to its title, this anthology features reimaginings of the Medusa and gorgon legends, and it’s a truly fantastic table of contents with a gorgeous Daniele Serra cover.

As for my nonfiction, I had an essay featured at Kendall Reviews about holiday ghost stories, a guest post on body horror over at the lovely Ladies of Horror Fiction site, and a folk horror article and a retrospective on the 60th anniversary on Psycho in Unnerving. My most scholarly article appeared in the excellent Vastarien back in February; “Magic, Madness, and Women Who Creep: The Power of Individuality in the Work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman” examines Gilman’s legacy through her exploration of witchcraft, psychology, and feminism.

If you’re recommending for awards, I would be absolutely thrilled to provide copies of any of the works above; just feel free to drop me a line!

Last year also saw me officially earn the title of “award-winning writer,” which means provided I don’t worry myself into an early grave, I’ll one day be that old person with a bony fist, shaking it at the sky and croaking out things like “Back in my day, I won awards, and I’ve got the cool swag on my wall to prove it!” Although I suppose I’m a little like that old person now, so maybe none of us has to wait for that reality.

In all seriousness, it was a really wonderful and fortunate year professionally for me, and I have nothing but gratitude for that. Once again, thank you to all the fans of The Rust Maidens; your support is what carried it to the Stoker and the This is Horror award, and that’s still astounding to me. So thank you thank you thank you.

So that was my year. It was a very good one professionally, which leaves me hopeful that 2020 might not turn out too shabby either.

Until next time, happy New Year, and happy reading!

Happy New Year for Fiction: Submission Roundup for January 2020

Welcome back to the first Submission Roundup of 2020! Lots of great opportunities this month, both submission calls that were featured in December as well as several new ones. But before we get started, first the usual disclaimer: I’m not a representative for any of these markets. I’m merely spreading the word! Please direct your questions to their respective editors.

And with that, onward with this month’s Submission Roundup!

Submission RoundupThe Fiends in the Furrows II: More Tales of Folk Horror
Payment: .04/word
Length: 4,000 to 8,000 words
Deadline: January 7th, 2020
What They Want: The follow-up to the highly successful The Fiends in the Furrows, the editors are seeking folk horror stories from around the world.
Find the details here.

Dark Stars: An Anthology
Payment: $20/flat
Length: 3,000 to 8,000 words
Deadline: January 15th, 2020
What They Want: For their forthcoming anthology, Death’s Head Press is seeking horror-sci-fi stories (think Alien and Event Horizon). 
Find the details here.

The New Gothic Review
Payment: $15/flat
Length: 2,000 to 7,500 words
Deadline: January 15th, 2020
What They Want: Original short stories that deal with the unknown, the dark, and the atmospheric. Eerie horror, weird fiction, fairy tales, and light science fiction are all welcome so long as the stories have Gothic elements.
Find the details here.

Electric Spec
Payment: $20/flat
Length: 250 to 7,000 words
Deadline: January 15th, 2020
What They Want: Open to a wide range of speculative short fiction.
Find the details here.

The Macabre Museum
Payment: $25/flat for fiction; $5/flat for poetry
Length: 3,000 to 6,000 words for fiction; up to 3 poems
Deadline: January 31st, 2020
What They Want: Open to literary horror fiction and poetry.
Find the details here.

Triangulation: Dark Skies
Payment: .03/word
Length: up to 5,000 words (3,000 preferred)
Deadline: February 29th, 2020
What They Want: Open to speculative fiction stories that deal with extinction.
Find the details here.

Midnight in the Pentagram
Payment: .06/word
Length: up to 6,000 words
Deadline: March 31st, 2020
What They Want: Silver Shamrock Publishing is seeking short fiction about the occult, possession, demons, and satanism in the vein of Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, The Omen, and Creepshow among others.
Find the details here.

Happy submitting!

Looking to the Future: Part Four of the HWA Poetry Showcase Roundtable

Welcome back for the final installment of our HWA Poetry Showcase roundtable! This week, the featured poets share their future plans, specifically what they have in store for the horror genre!

What projects are you currently working on? Do you plan to stay primarily in the horror genre in the immediate future, or are you looking to branch out or even combine genres?

CURTIS M. LAWSON: I’m working on a series of interconnected short stories about an aging rock star trying to find himself and his place in the world after the death of his wife. It draws from and mirrors a lot of Egyptian mythology, and has weird and supernatural elements, but I don’t think I’d call it horror. Maybe surrealist dark fantasy?

As for my commitment to horror, I think anything I do will have an element of that in it, but I’ve always blended genres in my work. All of my work is dark, but I draw from anything I enjoy and that feels right for the project be it horror, black comedy, grindhouse flicks, or superhero comics.

PETE MESLING: I think the horror genre works best at the shorter word counts accommodated by poetry and short fiction, to be honest. As a result, the two novels I’ve written so far, though not yet published, are both in genres other than horror. One is a middle-grade fantasy novel, and the other is a large-scale global thriller. I also have three planned short story collections (two horror, one crime), and of course there’s much more poetry and stand-alone short fiction in my future. I have a story in the forthcoming Dig Two Graves, Vol. 2 anthology from Death’s Head Press, and I have a few things out in the marketplace that I’m very excited about but can’t discuss quite yet. I’d love to publish a poetry collection one day, but again, horror would probably only be part of the mix.

CARINA BISSETT: Everything I write is tinged with horror and darkness even though my work tends to blend multiple genres. I’m a fabulist, and there is no stepping away from horror when working with myth, fairy tale, and folklore. It’s part of the landscape. I’m currently finishing up a very strange WWI novel about monstrous women. This fall, I have plans to finish my first poetry collection, which is also centered on fairy tales and myth. When I’m not writing, I teach generative writing workshops at The Storied Imaginarium including the popular Intersections: Science Fiction, Fairy Tales, and Myth. Even though a science topic is always part of the discussion with each fairy tale or myth used as a prompt in these modules, more than ninety percent of the stories that come out of that particular workshop contain horror in some shape or form. Following the successes of these writers only adds to joy of leading a literary life, and I look forward to seeing where we all end up next.

ROBERT PAYNE CABEEN: I just handed off the adapted screenplay for my novel, Cold Cuts, to a producer I’ve worked with several times in the past. Don’t worry, I’m not a novelist who wrote his first screenplay, I’m a screenwriter who wrote his first novel. Making that transition wasn’t easy. All the things you can never do in a screenplay, you must do in a novel. Now that I think about it, the focus and economy of words in poetry is closer to screenwriting than prose fiction.  Also, the beats–you have to feel the beats in poetry and screenplays. That’s one thing I couldn’t give up when I wrote my novel. I had to feel the beats of the story, even if it meant missing out on luxurious details and fun tangents.

I’m a horror guy and I have no desire to work outside the genre. There are elements in Cold Cuts that would definitely be considered science fiction because I tend to avoid the supernatural in my horror. I rely on weird science to introduce uncanny elements. We all know horror when we see it, no matter which genre it may be hiding in.

MONICA S. KUEBLER: I’m currently immersed in writing the final book in my YA vampire series/serial, the Blood Magic saga. As far as poetry goes, the majority of my poems are not horror poems. I was a poet long before I was a horror journalist or author, so I tend to use whatever genre a specific poem requires. That said, I also don’t expect to stop exploring dark territory anytime soon.

MICHAEL ARNZEN: Non-fiction is on my front burner right now, with academic writing for the Exploring Dark Short Fiction series for Dark Moon Books, as well as some film scholarship. Although I have been placing a lot of flash and poetry here and there, I’ve not been publishing a lot lately, partly because of life, and partly because I have several “big projects” I’m juggling — a very unique vampire novel, a pair of collections, a non-fiction book I re-booted from scratch on The Popular Uncanny — and all of it will likely gush out all over the place like multiple stab wounds in the near future. Interested folks should keep an eye on my website, gorelets.com for news.

ADELE GARDNER: I love the horror genre, as well as many others, and will continue to work in all of them.  One of the current horror projects I have going is a young adult novel related to my story “Soul Cakes” in the Lost Souls anthology by Flame Tree Publishing.

RISSA MILLER: At the moment, I am working a collection of horror poems that explore the darker side of emotion seen through the lens of traditional nightmare monsters. The Temptress is a character in that chapbook. While I also write horror fiction, and have a few pieces in the works, my first novel is quite different, more like a romantic comedy, and will hopefully be out soon. Other projects include a serious stage play about the challenges women face in traditional corporate workplaces, and I’m also a history tour guide and wrote a new tour about the True History of Witches in Maryland.

E.F. SCHRAEDER: I’m working on several pieces including a full length manuscript of poems and a longer fiction project.  Most of my current projects have speculative elements, and I tend toward genre blurring (perhaps all label blurring, in general), with current fiction projects that include elements of mystery and horror, primarily.

SUZANNE REYNOLDS-ALPERT: I started writing in the scifi/fantasy genres and have steadily moved toward horror. I plan to stay here for a while—I love how supportive the community is. I’m currently tweaking some prior work, trying to get it publishable. I’ve also recently discovered that I love to paint, and I’ve been focusing most of my creative energies there. I’ll be illustrating some of my poems this summer.

MARTY YOUNG: I’ve got a very dark horror novel I’m shipping around at the moment, plus another horror-sci-fi about to go out to my editor. Then there are the short stories I (try to) work on in-between. I find myself spreading my horror wings more and more lately, delving into horror-sci-fi and exploring the darkly fantastical. The two genres work perfectly together.

ROBERT CATINELLA: Currently I am working on a series of short stories that focus on the balance between the unknown and perception, especially in regards to the natural world. I am fascinated by how much is always going on and how the world does not owe anyone an explanation of its behavior.

I am going to remain in the weird horror genre for the time being, but I hope to branch out eventually into more psychological horror.

NICOLE CUSHING: As I type this in early July, I’m looking over the final edits for The Half-Freaks, my novella from Grimscribe Press due out later this year. I’m also spreading the word about my new novel, A Sick Gray Laugh, which Word Horde will release on August 27.

As for future directions; well, I don’t think I ever consciously chose horror. Instead, the events in my life (early encounters with death, trauma, etc.) have been such that horror chose me. I don’t think I can leave horror any more than I can leave my own skin. That having been said, I think my take on the genre has evolved. After reading several books of weird, dark literary fiction in translation (works by folks like Witold Gombrowicz, Ahmed Bouanani, and Dubravka Ugresic), I have a broader frame of reference. I have more ideas about how fiction can work.

G.O. CLARK: I just sold a SF related poetry collection, “Easy Travel To The Stars”, to Alban Lake Publishing, due out 2020. Always working on new poems, and the occasional short story. I’ve been working in horror and SF genres for many years, sometimes combining the two as in my poem “Again The Night Too Deep”, and will do so till the bitter end. Thanks!

DAVID SANDNER: I have a chapbook novelette, “Mingus Fingers,” coming out from Fairwood Press in November…it’s a kind of weird fantasy, not horror. I have been writing a lot of horror lately, though (I think it has to do with the current political situation, which is a horror show itself and calls out for our genre to deal with it). I am also a scholar, and just turned in a collection I edited, Philip K. Dick, Here and Now, to McFarland, and hope to see that sooner rather than later as well. I have finished a mystery I am trying to sell. Horror informs whatever I do and is central to the larger field of the fantastic in which I like to roam around…and poetry is something I can’t escape, even if I wanted to…so I will continue to produce works like my poem for the Showcase.

INGRID L. TAYLOR: I’m currently working on a dark poetry collection that centers on folkloric, fairy tale, and plant magic themes. I’m also writing a science fiction novel set in the near future Southwest United States. I am particularly drawn to ecohorror, which provides wonderfully creative options for exploring today’s pressing issues, such as speciesism, climate change, emerging technologies, and mass extinctions, so that will certainly be a future direction for me.

JOHN CLAUDE SMITH: I am presently working on a novel, one of a couple and a novella in progress. The novel on the front burner is a curious thing, not really horror, but should appeal to the horror fan; speculative, for sure, with a strong weird element and even a nod toward something within that I would call a kind of social consciousness, though throughout the first half, there’s no way you’d think that, haha… So, I guess my answer to the second part of the question is I enjoy playing in the horror sandbox, but sense a melding of genres will be more of a regular thing as I’ve already touched on some with recent work (“The Glove,” from my latest collection, Occasional Beasts: Tales, is a prime example of something that’s weird, perhaps horror, but also SF).

TRAVIS HEERMANN: I play in many different sandboxes. Horror is just one of them. I write YA fiction under the pseudonym T. James Logan, and I’m currently working to finish the second book my Lycanthrope Trilogy, which features a sixteen-year-old girl versus the werewolf apocalypse. I would call it more of thriller than horror, however, as it’s more about action and wild chase scenes than straight-up horror. Beyond that, I’m booked up for the next several months working on two different fantasy novel series, so that’s going to keep me busy for a while.

I’m also developing my Ronin Trilogy into a comic book series and trying to get some screenplays developed and into hands that might want to produce them. I’ve had the good fortune to be a finalist or winner at several horror film festivals over the last year or so, and I’m hoping to capitalize on that.

ANN K. SCHWADER: I’ve just signed a contract with Joe Morey’s Weird House for a new collection of horror and dark SF poems.  Look for Unquiet Stars next year, I hope!

DONNA LYNCH: I’ve been working on what I hope will be my third novel if I can ever get my shit together, sort of a “but who’s the REAL monster” yarn.

I’ll certainly be working on another poetry collection, and I have a short story collection in the works that has a central character that appears throughout. My husband/ partner in our band Ego Likeness are working on a new album or EP, so I’ll be penning lyrics for that.

LORI R. LOPEZ: As well as being an author-slash-poet, I recently finished illustrating the Print Edition of my 2017 poetry collection Darkverse:  The Shadow Hours.  Not surprisingly, there are monsters.  I’m working on art for a 2018 collection, Volume Three in my Poetic Reflections Book Series, along with preparing Second Editions of the first two volumes.  New projects include a collection of ghost stories and a sequel to my rhyming tale The Dark Mister Snark titled The Darker Mister Snark.  And yes, there will be a Darkest Mister Snark.  I currently have two other books waiting for illustrations, my 2016 novella Leery Lane and my 2018 horror-fantasy The Witchhunt.  I’ll be releasing those in Print later this year.

I will definitely continue writing and drawing Horror!!  I’ve been combining genres for years, from Speculative to Horror mixed with Humor and Fantasy, Fantasy-Adventure and so on.  I write for both kids and adults.

ANNA TABORSKA: I just had a cat-themed horror story micro-collection called SHADOWCATS come out with Black Shuck Books, and the first piece in that was actually a poem. I have a collection of horror short stories called BLOODY BRITAIN coming out soon with Shadow Publishing, and I recently started work on my first novel, TALES FROM THE ORGAN GRINDER. I definitely plan to stay within the horror genre.

Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts on horror poetry with you.

EV KNIGHT: My debut novel The Fourth Whore is scheduled for release in 2020 by Raw Dog Screaming Press. On July 1st, the first episode of a podcast I cohost with my husband aired. The podcast is called Brain Squalls and in it we brain storm stories based on prompts and talk about story creation.  In the podcast we try to cover all genres. As I writer though, I tend to stay with horror as a genre.  I am currently writing my second novel, about an ambiguously haunted house tentatively titled The Last Sacrifice.

DAVID POWELL: I’ve written horror, noir crime, dark paranormal, surrealist, and science fiction. I love crossing genre lines, though learning how to describe my work for editors is a challenge. It’s worth it, though. For me, writing that’s hard to classify sticks with you the longest. I’m currently working on a novel based on something that happened in a school where I used to work–the only outbreak of genuine mass hysteria I’ve ever seen up close.

MICHAEL BAILEY: I recently finished a memoir about forever-burning California called Seven Minutes, which I wrote in a span of twenty-three days—the lifespan of the fires. It’s nonfiction, but the most horrific story I’ve ever written. Josh Malerman recently stated “You’re gonna cry” in part of his blurb for the book, and he’s right. The emotions too difficult to convey with narrative are expressed poetically throughout the book. This thing is a rollercoaster of emotion, and unbelievably honest. Prior to that, I finished a psychological thriller called Psychotropic Dragon, and The Impossible Weight of Life, a fiction collection featuring mostly autobiographical work. And while those three books are seeking homes with publishers, I am finishing Seen in Distant Stars, which I guess could be called a dark and dystopian science-fiction thriller, and then the plan is to write Hangtown, a historic western-kinda-thing set in my hometown. All these books have elements of horror. I have never considered myself a “horror” writer; I simply write what I need to write (some call it literary), and sometime later it’s given a label.

GERRI LEEN: I have a longer, middle grade speculative project I’m working on right now and a contemporary fantasy novel to finish redrafting. For shorts, I go back and forth between sci fi/fantasy and dark fantasy/horror, with little dips into mainstream fic and even romance under the pen name Kim Strattford. And of course, I’ll be working on poetry. Always poetry.

NACHING T. KASSA: At this time, I’m writing a short story about Sherlock Holmes and an Occult Detective of my creation. Everything I write has that special touch of darkness. I may combine genres such as mystery and romance, but I don’t see myself leaving the horror genre anytime soon.

LISA MORTON: I’m always exploring new paths, and have recently published stories in the mystery and young adult fields. However, most of this year will belong to a new non-fiction book: I’m currently working on Calling the Spirits: A History of Seances for Reaktion Books. I’m also having too much fun providing the weekly “Ghost Reports” on a delightful podcast called Ghost Magnet with Bridget Marquardt.

LEE MURRAY: Don’t tell anyone, but I’m not really a horror poet, or even a poet—I have more published novels than poems—but, somehow, I have managed to slip into the room. I rather like the company.

TRISHA J. WOOLRIDGE: I write all over the place! Because of all my recent medical issues and being so mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted from them, a lot of my more recent work has been some of my darkest horror. But…I’m also working on a really lighthearted paranormal adventure romance thing that…don’t laugh too hard…is inspired by the current reboot of DuckTales. I also have an epic fantasy series that I’m working on… and two separate epic fantasy stand-alone novellas or novels that came from short story attempts. I also have some dark SF… oh, and I write a lot of children’s work, too. I had three middle grade novels, two dark fantasy and one SF adventure, that are currently out of print, I have another on submission, and I’ll be in next year’s New Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. On the poetry end, I’m working on a collection based on having ADHD and some ekphrastic poems—poems inspired by photos I’ve taken. (I may have a special thing with those for October’s Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Fest!)

STEPHANIE ELLIS: I’m currently working on a folk horror novel on and off whilst I try and home two other novels (one folk horror, the other industrial horror). I have just started writing a new poetry collection, tentatively called Dietary Requirements and am planning a collection of mixed poetry and flash fiction with friend and fellow horror writer Alyson Faye. I am also part of an online writing group which keeps me developing my craft in short stories.

I think I will probably remain primarily in the horror genre, or more accurately, dark fiction. I do have an idea for a book whose overall premise is very dark but which might fall into the thriller category. I have a weakness for Scandi noir and would like, one day, to write something which falls more in that field. I can guarantee though, I will never write a Mills and Boon!

PETER ADAM SALOMON: My new poetry collection, PseudoPsalms: Revelation should be out soon, and my next novel, MORSUS, should follow later this year. PseudoPsalms: Onan is scheduled for some time in 2019 and it is a completely new experiment for me, not so much horror as psychological and questioning, in all the best ways.

My latest novel, EIGHT MINUTES, THIRTY-TWO SECONDS, is a Young Adult Science-Fiction/Thriller which touches on horror and is, perhaps, the scariest thing I’ve ever written.

SARA TANTLINGER: I am currently working on a historical horror novel, but I have a vague idea of what I’d like to do for my next poetry collection, too! I think no matter what I write, horror will always be the dominant genre or element, but I’m a big fan of hybrid and cross-genres.

OWL GOINGBACK: I’m currently working on a few short stories for horror anthologies, along with a follow-up to my recently published horror novel Coyote Rage. I also have a few scripts in the works, including a couple for comics. Having won the Bram Stoker Award, I’m best known for horror novels and stories. But I’ve also written fantasy, science fiction, children’s books, comics, self-defense articles, even ghostwritten for Hollywood celebrities, so you never know where I might turn up in the future.

LISA LEPOVETSKY: As for the future, after my first book of dark poetry, VOICES FROM EMPTY ROOMS, I have two volumes of poetry in the works: one is another book of dark poetry generated from my fear of circuses and carnivals, and the other is a more literary series of persona poems based on the life of an ancestor of mine. Thanks for this opportunity to share my love of poetry and the dark side.

MARGE SIMON: Mary A. Turzillo and I are putting together a poetry/prose collection, VICTIMS. I’ve been combining genres since I started writing. It’s what I do!

Thanks for creating this forum for the Showcase poets!

DEBORAH L. DAVITT: Honestly, I’m rarely not working on things! I freely move between and bend genres. I have a poetry collection forthcoming from Finishing Line Press later this year called The Gates of Never (here, have a link! https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/the-gates-of-never-by-deborah-l-davitt), which moves smoothly between science and myth, fantasy and science fiction, and sure, there are pieces in there that could be considered horror. I have short stories sitting in a dozen slush piles, and two novels that I need to get back to once life finally quiets down a bit for me. And of course, I have another poetry chapbook making the rounds, and an eye towards writing a themed collection of historical-with-fantastic elements sometime . . . soonish? We’ll see if life decides to give me the space to do so, though.

COLLEEN ANDERSON: I often write dark but once in a while something brighter is born. And I write some mainstream poetry as well. I’ve been exploring a lot of forms lately and I want to keep doing that. I’m also working on two poetry collections, mostly of poems published over a host of years. But I’m thinking of doing another new collection. It’s just I keep sending it out there to the world and they’re published before I get anything together. But it’s time to get a book out. Overall I’ll just write what ever pops into my mind, but when it does it’s usually dragging something strange and disturbing behind it.


And that’s Part Four of our roundtable! Thank you so much to our featured poets for being part of this month’s author series! Please be sure to check out the HWA Horror Poetry Showcase, Volume 6! It’s a fabulous anthology and one that will feel quite at home on your horror-loving bookshelf!

Happy reading!

Poetry Favorites: Part Three of the HWA Poetry Showcase Roundtable

Welcome back for Part Three in our author roundtable series for December. This week, the poets of the HWA Poetry Showcase, Volume 6 are talking all about their love of horror poetry along with some of their favorite horror poets, both past and present!

What is it about horror poetry in particular that appeals to you as an author? Also, do you have a favorite horror poet or poem?

CURTIS M. LAWSON: I’ve only recently begun to explore horror poetry, but I played in black and death metal bands for years before pursuing writing, so some of my earliest notebook scrawlings were lyrics. There is a clear overlap between strong lyricism and poetry, so I guess it was only natural that I’d develop an interest in exploring dark verse.

I find that horror is extremely conducive to the kind of intense imagery and metaphor that poetry allows one to explore. Verse also allows me to explore interesting concepts and atmospheres that might not have enough “meat” to create a longer form narrative.

As for a favorite horror poem, I would say Annabel Lee, which is probably a dreadfully typical answer, but it’s true. It’s an incredibly powerful piece in word and meter.

PETE MESLING: Sometimes I like to think of horror as a mode, or mood, rather than a genre. Great literature that wouldn’t be labeled as horror is often filled with horror moments. Sykes’s murder of Nancy in Oliver Twist is a great example. That scene was written with the relish of a horror writer. To bring this idea back to poetry, Shakespeare is probably as good an example as any. Picking a favorite poet, in any genre, is as hard as picking a favorite short story writer or novelist, but Poe is certainly a contender (both for short stories and poetry), and The Raven is probably my favorite of his poems. It’s so dreadful and atmospheric, not to mention musical.

Carina BissettCARINA BISSETT: For me, horror in poetry, especially women’s poetry, is the horror present in everyday life. My favorite poet is Anne Sexton; her Transformations changed the way I view poetry, and her work in this series continues to shape the pieces I write today. More recently, I read Ada Limón’s Bright Dead Things, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. I keep circling back to the poems in this collection because they resonate with me. They offer a glimpse of mundane horror through a slanted lens. I love the sound of her phrases as they roll off the tongue. I love the way her words haunt the reader long after the book is closed. What poet doesn’t want that power? I certainly do.

ROBERT PAYNE CABEEN: I love the way horror poetry is so damn gluey. It sticks inside your head like a long remembered song lyric or ad jingle. When I was in high school, I’d gather a crowd of friends together, and we’d take over the local IHOP on Friday nights. I’d jump up on a table and recite poetry—Poe, Kipling, Coleridge. As much as I loved those poets, I felt the need to write my own poetry–and I did. Later, when I joined a rock band, I realized that a song is just a poem with music. Several poems in my collection, Fearworms, are actually song lyrics–as if there’s a difference. Like music and film, poetry has the element of time. It begs to be performed. I hope some of our readers become reciters.

MONICA S. KUEBLER: For me, it’s another way to explore the dark and unsettling – in a more lyrical and often more personal manner than I do in fiction. But please don’t make me pick favourites. It’s too hard!

MICHAEL ARNZEN: I write in all the modes except scripts, but poetry is my go-to for capturing a crazy idea that won’t otherwise work for fiction.  I always love unique approaches to the genre, and poetry seems to have the utmost flexibility in experimenting with old familiar tropes. I mean, a sonnet in iambic pentameter on the surface sounds the most rule-based form you could get, but writing a sonnet about a zombie eating a brain… well, that would be unique, you know?  I fuel my creative brain by reading everything, and I’ve always enjoyed the surprises lurking in the poetry of the pulp era and such. But as a poet, mostly I’m just playing around with ideas, and I tend to write poetry in common language and free verse, just lending it a cadence to the concepts that feels disturbing.  That’s all I’m after.

ADELE GARDNER: I love the compressed shiver!  The way a poem can haunt you–enchant you–refuse to leave you alone, with the power of a spell–or a demon.  My favorite dark poet?  Edgar Allan Poe, bar none.

RISSA MILLER: It would be wonderful to say there was a precise moment when I was curled in a shadowy corner of a library and stumbled into a rare volume that made me fall in love with horror poetry. Alas, that would be a big lie. I didn’t even realize I loved horror poetry – or that is was a genre – until about three years ago! Duh! I was at a conference called HallowRead and signed up for “The Pleasures of Horror Poetry” class taught by a local poet named J.A. Grier. How had I not realized that Poe wrote horror poems?! I live in Baltimore, after all, where the Raven casts a plumed shadow across our city.  So embarrassing! Of course I’ve loved the gothic and nightmarish all along, and simply didn’t have a label for it. My writing career had focused more on journalism and scripts, and until recently, my love for horror in all categories (film, fiction, poems, history, even autumn’s haunted houses) had simply been hobby. Since discovering that both stage plays and poetry can also fit into the horror category, I’ve been crafting them non-stop!

E.F. SCHRAEDER: As an author, the appeal to horror poetry in part centers on the openness- writing with no limits on possible worlds and virtually no taboos. As a reader, there are many qualities to adore about horror poetry, not least among them the range of voices, styles, and topics— there’s so much layered, complex feminist horror work happening now (across multiple forms) that it’s very exciting time to be a horror reader.  There’s a raw urgency to horror poetry that I appreciate, a striking attention to undercurrents and hidden possibilities, that sense of unearthing the unseen. Favorites are tricky (too many to list!) but one of my longtime favorite collections of horror poetry is Anne Sexton’s Transformations.

SUZANNE REYNOLDS-ALPERT: I also write short fiction, but poetry allows a greater range of expression that lends itself nicely to the horror genre. My favorite horror poem? The Raven.

MARTY YOUNG: Sorry, I’m a real novice when it comes to poetry. My poetry, before now, has only ever been a very personal thing, written for me as a means of dealing with internal demons. I know a lot of poets but I’m ashamed to admit that I rarely read poetry. So I’m certainly looking forward to reading this anthology!

ROBERT CATINELLA: I subscribe to the school of thought any short work should invoke a singular emotion. Poetry is a crystallization of this, existing as an elegant scarcity of words. This spike drives into the human brain via the eye. Once there, the key parts unfold and draw on the victim’s imagination. What blossoms is personal yet timeless and infect the host so they are never the same again.

My favorite Horror poem is Night-Gaunts by H.P.Lovecraft. It is about a sleeper transported to a vast dream realm by faceless, flying creatures. I love how it gives the sense these objectively terrifying nightmare creatures are just beings like the rest of us. The vast world is shown as a nightmare but everything described sounds like it could be viewed with wonder if only for the individual’s relationship with the unknown.

NICOLE CUSHING: Horror poetry can evoke the most deliciously primal aspects of fear, because it often has the flavor of an occult chant. But, in my opinion, the best horror poetry balances this primal aspect with a touch of beauty (or at least, a touch of grandeur). The collision of these two forces is fascinating. It’s a fun energy to play with. As for a favorite poem, I can narrow it down to two:  Lord Byron’s “Darkness” and Poe’s “The Conqueror Worm”.

G.O. CLARK: I enjoy writing horror poetry, as it helps to exorcise my dark demons. That said, many of the poems have a humorous twist to them, which reflects my personality. Marge Simon and Bruce Boston are favorites when it comes to horror and SF poetry.

DAVID SANDNER: I wonder about that, actually. I consider myself a fiction writer, but I produce poetry, too. The poetry tends to demand to be written, and then to force my attention on matters of style and poetics in a way that breaks prose. I am able to contemplate and set out writing stories, but the poetry tends to follow inspiration. For my piece in the Showcase, once the first line popped in my head, I had to set to work planning and working on it, but the first thing, characteristic for me as a poet, was just something weird that seemed to imply a dream logic to its form if I could only work it out. Mr. Poe is my favorite practitioner of the form; “The Raven” my favorite poem. I think I’m not alone in this.

INGRID L. TAYLOR: I love the imagery of horror poetry, and the freedom to really explore dark aspects of the human psyche in ways that are moving and beautiful. I particularly like Linda D. Addison’s collection Consumed, Reduced to Beautiful Grey Ashes, and I find that I return to the poems in this book over and over for inspiration. The field is full of fantastic poets, including Stephanie M. Wytovich, Christina Sng, Donna Lynch, and many others whose works have informed and inspired me. They motivate me to always strive to become better with my poetry.

JOHN CLAUDE SMITH: Darkness of vision, that’s what works for me. Doesn’t have to be bloody or gross—though it can–but eeriness and, again, darkness of vision is key. As for a favorite poem, I was going to say something by Clark Ashton Smith would rank high as he’s one of my favorite writers, though with the mention of darkness above, I am reminded of Lord Byron’s brilliant apocalyptic poem, “Darkness.” Definitely my fave!

TRAVIS HEERMANN: I like horror in general, and poetry is just another means to express it. The reason horror poetry works so well, I think, is that poetry is concentrated language, a distillation of words that heightens emotion, and what is horror if not heightened emotion?

Ray Bradbury’s mastery of language never fails to astonish me, whether he’s writing outright poetry or just incredibly poetic prose.

ANN K. SCHWADER: Favorite dark poet, probably Georg Trakl (in translation, sorry).  I love being part of the centuries-long tradition of caging fear in verse.

DONNA LYNCH: I was young enough that I only sort of understood ‘The Conquerer Worm’ but that was the first Poe piece I was drawn to. I didn’t get into other horror poetry until much later in life, but what really hooked me were poets who were not genre, but just wrote the occasional extremely dark piece. I saw it with Dorothy Parker, with Emily Dickinson, Charles Bukowski.

Later, I got into Nicole Blackman and Lydia Lunch, who were nothing BUT dark, but all of them wrote a very different kind of horror. It was emotional and personal and spotlighted the hell that people create every day. That really spoke to the little kid in me—haunted by both real experiences and by her own device.

Poetry is such a great medium. You’re forced to choose your words and phrases carefully, so as to make the biggest impact. There’s no room to pull punches.

LORI R. LOPEZ: Growing up, in addition to Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker and others, I became a fan of Edgar Allan Poe, primarily from movies based on his stories.  But one poem stood out, “The Raven”, along with “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes.  The stories they told!  The atmosphere!  I was also fascinated over ballads such as “Barbara Allen” and “Tom Dooley”.  Coleridge’s “Ancient Mariner”.  I’m a big Alice fan.  Lewis Carroll’s poetry and prose may be more humorous than dark but has moments of malice or madness, and I like to include humor in my horror.  Going way back, I must mention Doctor Seuss and The Grinch!

ANNA TABORSKA: In poetry every word counts, even more so than in other forms of writing. I enjoy the opportunity of creating an atmosphere of horror or a mini horror story within the discipline of poetry – choosing words sparingly and with extra care. Horror poetry also allows one to concentrate on getting across a particular feeling or atmosphere without the absolute necessity of plot, and this can be quite liberating. I realise I’ll score no points for originality here, but my favourite horror poem has to be THE RAVEN by Edgar Allan Poe. I am also very fond of what is in many ways the opposite of The Raven in terms of the kind of language used (chillingly understated as opposed to emotional and Gothic in tone): MY LAST DUCHESS by Robert Browning. I realise that rock lyrics aren’t generally considered to be poetry, but there are many heavy metal songs that would, to my mind, qualify as great horror poems.

EV KNIGHT: I love horror poetry because it takes something traditionally considered ugly and makes it beautiful. Like Caravaggio’s Judith Beheading Holofernes, you can truly appreciate the artist’s talent for capturing a scene, even if that scene itself is horrifying. You can write a grotesque sequence in a novel and make it work, but to take that same thing and put it to prose takes a specific talent not everyone has. Classically, my favorite horror poet is Poe, but right now, I am in love with Sara Tantlinger’s and Stephanie Wytovich’s work.

DAVID POWELL: The first poems I remember were the parodies from Alice in Wonderland.  I knew “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” and realizing you could turn the language around like that was fun, but also a bit unsettling. I also grew up in Appalachia, and terrible things happen in those folk songs I learned. It was a short hop from “Long Black Veil” to Poe’s poems. Though not strictly horror, Allingham’s “The Fairies” pops into my head every time I hike in the woods.

MICHAEL BAILEY: Poetry is the shortest form of writing, simple, yet complex. Good poets can express more with a few words than some writers can convey with entire chapters, with entire books! Horror poetry, in particular (at least the stuff I enjoy), expresses the emotion I seek in all written work. Emotion is power. If I am not moved by a book, or by a story, or by a poem, then what’s the point? Linda D. Addison can move me with as little as three words, so I guess she’s a favorite.

GERRI LEEN: I like to go dark. I like a twist. And you can really experiment when it’s the shorter, looser form of a poem, especially free verse. Favorite horror poem? W.B. Yeats’s “The Second Coming.” To write like that…

NACHING T. KASSA: I love the imagery of horror poetry and the symbolism behind the verse. My favorite horror poet is Edgar Allan Poe and I love “The Raven.”

LISA MORTON: I’ll be the first to confess that I’m a much better prose writer than poet (!), but I love the challenge of condensing everything down to just a few words. I’m a big fan of the work of poet K. A. Opperman, since he often explores one of my favorite themes – Halloween (and in the interest of transparency – I provided the introduction to his forthcoming collection Past the Glad and Sunlit Season).

LEE MURRAY: Horror poetry is to horror fiction as Brussel sprouts are to the cabbage: equally layered and nuanced just more intense and immediate given they’re packaged in a single mouthful. (For the record, I love Brussel Sprouts!) It’s impossible to choose a favourite poet: I love so many, including those in this table of contents, but I’d love to draw readers’ attention to a mentee, New Zealand poet, Emma Shi, the author of Somewhere Else. While still in high school, Emma won our 2013 Young New Zealand Writers writing competition with a horror poem called this heart beats faster than normal. She later studied creative writing at Victoria University, going on to win the Poetry NZ Prize in 2017 with skipping dead insects across the ocean. As a poet, she is as humble as her work is startling. I expect her to one day make New Zealand Poet Laureate. Watch this space.

TRISHA J. WOOLRIDGE: The first time I distinctly remember feeling horrified by a poem was from a book of childhood verses; I came across “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” where, spoiler alert, whilst spewing a bunch of nonsense at each other, they decide to kill and eat an entire school of “child” oysters! Even as a kid, I saw how much truth was hidden in that nonsense, how people use nonsense to hide horrific acts. And while I also remember feeling physically ill after reading that poem and not being able to read for a day or two after, wanting to find more like that because it created such a real and potent feeling. That’s a bit divergent from the question… but the crux of it is that poetry, to me, is a vehicle of concentrated truth about the world. And the world has a lot of horror in it hidden by nonsense and fancy language—I like to turn that on its head and use fancy language and nonsense to shine a light on that truth.

STEPHANIE ELLIS: I write in a number of forms but I enjoy writing poetry when I can, something I have neglected for a while but now, particularly after my inclusion in this book, something which I intend to remedy. I have always loved words, and I love to paint images with these words, play with them until they create just that right hint of darkness, bring the fears crawling out of the shadows, make you shiver. I love the subtlety of poetry, the scope to simply hint, to be ambiguous, to play on a person’s emotions and fears. That such a small piece of work can have such a huge impact is amazing.

I have recently been reading the work of Alessandro Manzetti. I enjoyed his No Mercy collection and am currently reading The Place of Broken Things co-written with Linda D. Addison.

PETER ADAM SALOMON: Horror poetry is a place for courage, bravery, and exploring the absolute limits of imagination. There is a freedom in the ability to discover the shadows, the deeps, the breadth of the human experience and beyond. It is a safe space thanks to a rich and vibrant community that supports and encourages everyone, that welcomes everyone, that is everyone.

I have so many favorites I’d be sure to leave people out if I started listing them, but I am honored and thrilled to be included with all the brilliant poets in Volume VI of the Horror Poetry Showcase.

SARA TANTLINGER: Poetry is amazing at training yourself to create strong, poignant scenes and imagery with tight structure and without wasting words. Adding horror to the mix really appealed to me because it continually challenges me to try different themes, rhythms, and sensory descriptions in order to create something new every time. There are so many incredible horror poets and poems out there, but one of my biggest inspirations has been William Blake’s darker works. He had an incredible mind.

OWL GOINGBACK: I like that horror poetry can convey emotions, create chills, and provide lasting mental imagery with only a few words. I don’t have a favorite poem or poet, but do find myself rereading Poe’s work more often than other authors.

LISA LEPOVETSKY: As far as favorite contemporary horror poets are concerned, I’m a fan of Stephanie Wytovitch, Bruce Boston, Marge Simon and Mary Turzillo, among many others. There’s a lot of talent out there right now in the dark arts. I think the compression of poetry lends itself to darkness.

MARGE SIMON: Poetry affords a wonderful opportunity for expressing fear, anxiety, angst and remorse. The world is not a bowl of cherries.

DEBORAH L. DAVITT: Horror poetry appeals to me because you can get down to just that crux, that moment, in which the horror of the situation, of the person, becomes manifest. It’s that lightning flash that usually occurs at the climax of the novel or the short story, the epiphany moment for the character or audience (or both) that this is unsettling or wrong. Poetry in general lets you go for that brilliant burst of the flashbulb on the subject, but it’s particularly effective with dark materials, because in that moment of illumination, everything becomes so stark and clear. Or at least, I like to think it does.

COLLEEN ANDERSON: Horror poetry allows us to explore themes with beautiful and terrifying language. Poetry can condense a feeling, an image, a tale to its essence, like a distilled poison. My mind just goes there. When we explore the shadow side, without succumbing to it, we can balance ourselves better in the world so in a way, as horror poets we are shamans and witches realigning the world. Edgar Allan Poe is a classic poet who influences me. There are many great modern poets such as Christina Sng, Deborah Davitt, Linda Addison, and I do adore Sandra Kasturi’s poetry. Ursula LeGuin was another brilliant poet and the world is poorer for her absence. Really, any of the poets in the Rhysling anthology is a great indicator of the breadth and depth of good spec and often horror poetry.

That’s all for Part Three of our Poetry Showcase roundtable! Please stop by next week for the fourth and final part of our series as we find out what all these authors have in store for us next!

Happy reading!