Monthly Archives: June 2019

Fearsome Lullaby: Interview with A.C. Wise

Welcome back! This week, I’m thrilled to spotlight the absolutely awesome A.C. Wise! A.C. is the author of the forthcoming novella, Catfish Lullaby, from Broken Eye Books as well as the collections, The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories and The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again, from Lethe Press, along with many incredible short stories.

Recently, A.C. and I discussed Catfish Lullaby as well as her work as a reviewer and her writing plans for the future.

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

Writing is something I’ve always been interested in, and something I’ve always loved doing. Somewhere around 3rd or 4th grade, it finally clicked in my head that writing was a thing people could do professionally in such a way that people could read their work. That’s when I decided I wanted to be an author someday.

Some of my favorites authors… I swear I’ll try to stick to just a few and not go rambling on and on. Ray Bradbury, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Elizabeth Bear, Neil Gaiman, Caitlin R. Kiernan, E. Catherine Tobler, John Langan, and N.K. Jemisin. I should probably stop there, right? I could keep going…

Congratulations on the forthcoming release of Catfish Lullaby! Could you share a little about your process in developing this story?

Thank you! The novella began life as a short story, and when Scott Gable approached and asked if I had anything novella-length for Broken Eye Books, I realized there was more to the story that I wanted to tell, so I went back and expanded it. The original inspiration came from a song I sort of half heard at a county fair. The sound system wasn’t great, so I couldn’t tell what the singer was actually saying, but my writer-brain decided he was singing about a tall tale type figure like Paul Bunyan either walking into or out of a swamp, and from that, Catfish John was born. So thank you, singer whose name I don’t know, for your song that I probably woefully misheard!

The cover art for Catfish Lullaby is just incredible! Can you tell me about the artist, and how the cover evolved?

The artist is Sishir Bommakanti, who does generally gorgeous work. Seriously, check it out! ( All the credit for how the cover came together goes to Scott and Sishir. Scott found Sishir, sent over my novella, and all I had to do was sit back and wait. I couldn’t be more thrilled with the way the cover turned out! I’ve been very lucky with covers in general, between Catfish Lullaby, and my two Lethe Press collections, which had covers done by Staven Andersen and Reiko Murikami – two more incredible artists!

Everything about Catfish Lullaby, from the blurb to that beautiful aforementioned cover art, seems to have a very strong sense of place. I feel like I can hear and smell the swamp just from reading the description of the book. What drew you to this particular setting?

The fictional town of Lewis, where the novella is set, is very loosely based on the town in Louisiana where my husband grew up. Very loosely. I cheated on the geography, made the land much swampier, and rearranged things to suit the story. I can’t imagine setting Catfish Lullaby anywhere else though. There’s a kind of quiet you get there that you don’t get anywhere else, and a sense of isolation that can be both comforting and eerie. It’s definitely the kind of place where a living myth could hide away, and where bits of otherness could easily leak through to our world.

You’re a highly prolific short story writer. At this point, do you have a specific approach to crafting a short story (i.e. specific outlining strategies, a certain rhythm to how long it takes you to finish a story, etc.), or does the process still vary greatly each time?

The process varies greatly each time. Some stories flow, to the point where it feels like they arrive fully formed, and it’s a wonderful thing. Other times, it feels like banging my head against a wall. I rarely outline my short stories, at least not in a formal sense. I do occasionally leave myself notes and waypoints so I have a rough idea of where I was going next time I sit down to work on it, but other than that, I mostly figure it out as I go along.

In addition to your fiction writing, you’re also a very busy interviewer and reviewer. What draws you to interviewing and reviewing, and what do you feel, if anything, they’ve taught you about writing fiction?

Interviewing is a fun way to connect with other writers, and reviewing is an excuse to yell about stories I love. Really, they’re both selfish activities. Short fiction in particular can often get overlooked when it comes to reviews, so that was the other impetus behind the Words for Thought column at Apex Magazine. That said, I feel like short fiction is starting to get more of the attention it deserves thanks to fantastic and dedicated reviewers like Maria Haskins, Charles Payseur, Bogi Takács, Vanessa Fogg, Adri Joy, forestofglory, and the various reviewers at Locus Magazine, among others.

I think one of the main things reviewing has taught me about writing, or fiction generally, is that different people connect with different stories. A story may leave one person cold, and it may blow another person away, and sometimes it can be a matter of that story finding the right person at the right time on the right day, or vice versa, a person just being in the wrong frame of mind for a certain story when they come across it. Which I guess is a roundabout way of saying write the story you want to tell, rather than trying to guess at what you think your potential audience might want.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on edits to a novel so my agent can start shopping it around (eep!), and I have a handful of short stories in various stages of completion sitting open on my laptop.

Where can we find you online?

I blog somewhat sporadically at On Twitter, I’m @ac_wise, and there I mostly shout about short fiction I love, and post pictures of my corgis. My regular review columns appear at Apex Magazine (monthly) and The Book Smugglers (roughly quarterly).

Tremendous thanks to A.C. Wise for being part of this week’s author interview series!

Happy reading!

Laughter and Freaks: Interview with Nicole Cushing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What projects are you currently working on?

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

Where can we find you online?

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

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

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

Happy reading!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Favorite writers…woof.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s next for you?

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

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

Where can we find you online?

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

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

Happy reading!

Spectacular Summer Stories: Submission Roundup for June 2019

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

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

And now onward with this month’s Submission Roundup!

Submission Roundup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy submitting!