Monthly Archives: May 2020

Stay Scared: Horror Events to Keep You Busy in Quarantine

So we’re entering our thousandth week in quarantine, which means we’re all past due for our Jack Torrance moment. The ennui of not being able to be out in the world coupled with the gorgeous summer weather are definitely getting many of us down. But before you pick up the nearest ax and chop down your family’s door just to say hi, consider attending one of these fabulous online events instead! That way, you’ll get some obligatory human interaction and have a whole lot of fun in the process.

Profs and Pints Online: Folkloric Felines
What could be better than learning about folklore? Learning about folklore AND cats, that’s what! Brittany Warman and Sara Cleto, the co-founders of Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic, are hosting Folkloric Felines, an exploration of cats in folklore and fairy tales.  From the Yule Cat of Iceland to Puss in Boots, this lecture has got all the best tales for you cat lovers out there. This one is coming up tomorrow night, Friday May 29th, so if you’re interested, get to registering here!

Nightworms’ Celebrate Horror 2020 with Mother Horror
The incredible Mother Horror is having a birthday this month, and to celebrate, she’s hosting a weekend-long reading series from May 29th to 31st with authors of some of her favorite books she’s read so far this year! (Full disclosure: yes, I’m one of the authors, but even if you don’t want to hear me read, there are plenty of other fantastic authors to check out!) There’s a special Nightworms YouTube Channel, and you can learn even more about this event on the official Nightworms site!

Howard David Ingham’s Lecture Series
If you follow my social media, you’ve probably already heard me yelling from the rooftops about the awesome writing of Howard David Ingham. I met Howard last year at StokerCon, but I already knew their work from their incredible Stoker-nominated book, We Don’t Go Back: A Watcher’s Guide to Folk Horror. Howard also does unbelievably great lectures on topics as unique and vast as folk horror, cult cinema, and identity horror, and they’ve even served as moderator for a masterclass last year with Ari Aster of Hereditary and Midsommar fame. Now Howard has taken their lectures online; you can find the whole series here, with the first seminar, “The Scam from Atlantis: The Occult Roots of Fake Archeology,” scheduled for June 1st. Be one of the very cool kids, and get your ticket now by heading on over here. As someone who’s attended Howard’s past lectures, I can tell you with gusto that you won’t regret it.

Sundays with Dracula
Several years ago, my husband and I were fortunate to visit The Rosenbach Museum in Philadelphia. A beautiful historic 19th-century building packed with so many incredible treasures, including countless rare books, it’s a must-visit locale… once the world opens back up. For now, however, the museum has been hosting Sundays with Dracula, a live virtual conversation featuring one chapter of Dracula every week from now through November. It’s a great way to take a fresh look at the classic novel. Plus, they’re also featuring rotating guests including Dacre Stoker, Leslie S. Klinger, Grady Hendrix, and yours truly. Come to support a fabulous museum; stay for lots of vampire discussions!

Boroughs of the Dead: Macabre New York City Walking Tours
Author Andrea Janes not only writes about ghosts, she also hangs out with them. As the owner and founder of Boroughs of the Dead, a tour company based in NYC, she knows all the best spooky stories that will leave your horror-loving heart chilled and thrilled. Right now, with the city and the nation still under social distancing orders, all the tours have gone virtual. From the spooky history of Greenwich Village to Edgar Allan Poe’s connection to the city, you can learn all about the specters of Manhattan and then some. Best of all, the virtual tours are currently available for free, so check out their next virtual tour date and get ready for some hauntings!

Raw Dog Screaming Press’s Literary Events
Even before quarantine, Raw Dog Screaming Press has been championing online events as a way to ensure that those who can’t travel to conventions still have a way to interact with those in the community. In keeping with that commitment, they’ve been hosting some fabulous author launches. Next up is the book launch for Albert Wendland’s new science fiction poetry collection, Temporary Planets for Transitory Days: Poems of Mykol Ranglen. The event is on June 20th and will feature a reading and an interview with the author.

Raw Dog Screaming Press is also organizing Writing in the Dark, a three-day conference in September led by Tim Waggoner, so consider this your early notice about that fantastic event as well. It’s sure to be a seriously great opportunity that horror writers won’t want to miss.

Fright Girl Summer
With all the in-person conventions canceled for the summer, it can be so disheartening to not have the sense of community that so many great cons foster. Fortunately, authors V. Castro and Sonora Taylor have got you covered. Their Fright Girl Summer is a book festival dedicated to women in horror, with a particular focus on women of color and QUILTBAG authors. This event will last all summer and will feature everything from interviews, readings, and essays to book promotion, free fiction, and an artist bazaar. Head on over to the brand-new website to learn more, because this is going to be one truly fantastic event series!

That’s all I’ve got for now, but if you know of even more awesome online horror events, please feel free to comment on social media!

Stay safe in quarantine, and happy reading!

Roller Skates and Horror: Interview with Jessica Guess

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today I’m thrilled to spotlight Jessica Guess! Jessica is the author of Cirque Berserk, a new novella from Unnerving’s Rewind or Die series.

Recently, Jessica and I discussed how she got started as a writer as well as her working process and what awesome horror she’s got planned next.

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

In my junior year of college, I watched a Ted Talk on creativity by Elizabeth Gilbert and she said, “Why are we afraid to do the thing we feel God put us on this earth to do?” Until then I was trying to be a doctor or a lawyer, you know, really safe career choices my Caribbean parents would approve of. I hated it. The only thing I enjoyed, the thing I felt compelled to do, was write. After I watched that Ted Talk, I decided to go for it. Some of my favorite authors are Stephen Graham Jones, Gillian Flynn, and Marlon James.

Congratulations on the release of Cirque Berserk! What can you share about how this story developed?

I got the idea after watching The Strangers Prey at Night. The way they used 80s music in that movie was immaculate. That night I got the image of a character on roller skates doing something horrible to another character while DeBarge’s Rhythm of the Night played in the background. I asked myself, why are they doing that? Why are they on skates? Where are they? And the story developed from there. Another thing that helped the story develop was that I wanted to see a slasher story with a strong emotional center. A lot of times, slashers are considered shallow, but I wanted something with a heart that was as strong as the hook.

What in particular draws you to the horror genre? Do you remember your first horror film or horror book?

I know this goes against evolutionary instinct, but I like being scared. It’s kind of a rush. When I was younger, I considered it a challenge. Like, if I could watch something scary and not be completely terrified, then I won. That’s where it started, but now I love it because horror is a genre where the stakes are always high, so it feels like it really matters. I don’t remember my first horror film, but I always say it’s either Brides of Dracula or A Nightmare on Elm Street because those are the earliest in my memory. As for books, it’s probably The Girl Who Cried Monster by R.L Stine. I read that one in elementary school and loved it.

You’re the founder of the fantastic site, Black Girl’s Guide to Horror. When did you first decide to create the blog, and what’s been the most exciting or surprising part of running the site?

I decided to create Black Girl’s Guide to Horror when I finished graduate school and the job search was going terribly. I needed something to take my mind off everything and I wanted to talk about horror movies, so I made a blog and it grew from there. I don’t know if anything is exciting, but there’s a lot that’s been educational. I like learning about all kinds of writing and blogging is its own specific genre. It’s taught me a little about search engine optimization and what audiences like to hear about when it comes to horror.

Your short story, “Mama Tulu,” appeared in Luna Station Quarterly. What was the inspiration for this piece?

Both my parents are from Jamaica and there are always stories about obeah women or obeah men. For clarification, obeah is just what we call voodoo. My mom especially told me some pretty scary stories when I was a kid about obeah women. One day I got this image of a girl walking through some tall grass and bushes in Jamaica. She was on her way to a wooden shack in the middle of the night and I decided to write it. I had to ask why would she be doing this at night? In Jamaica, it’s taboo to go to obeah people. You can be shunned, so it would have to be done in secret and I realized that’s where the girl was headed. The story grew from that.

If forced to choose, which is your favorite part of the writing process: brainstorming new ideas, working on a first draft, or polishing an almost finished story?

If I had to choose, I’d say brainstorming is my favorite. I love coming up with an idea and plotting it out a bit before I write it. I always have to know who my main characters are and what they want and why they want it before I write anything. That’s my favorite part.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on an erotic horror story and a script about a haunted childhood home. Both of them are in the early stages meaning I’m still getting to know the characters.

Where can we find you online?

I’m on Twitter at @jessiguess90 and @BlackGrlsHorror and you can always stop by Black Girls Guide to Horror dot com. You can also pick up my book Cirque Berserk on Amazon.

Tremendous thanks to Jessica Guess for being part of this week’s author interview series!

Happy reading!

Dark Blood and Poetry: Interview with Emma J. Gibbon

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today, I’m excited to be talking with author Emma J. Gibbon! Emma’s debut collection, Dark Blood Comes from the Feet, is set for release later this month from Trepidatio Publishing.

Recently, Emma and I discussed the inspiration behind her new collection as well as what draws her to the horror genre.

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

It didn’t come all at once for me, I sort of realized in stages. I’ve always been a reader. As soon as I knew how I just read whatever I got my hands on. I started writing poetry at first, in my teens, and then went on to short stories mainly. I think confidence was part of it, and also not really knowing where I fit in, in all of it so getting very close to publishing but not quite. Weirdly, something clicked when I turned forty—just being a lot less afraid of failure and really not caring what people thought. I began making connections in the horror community and getting my work out there and it worked! I started getting publishing credits and such very quickly. I feel like one of those actors who get called an overnight success when actually they’ve been working at their craft for years!

My favorite authors! I know I’m going to forget someone but off the top of my head: Shirley Jackson, Angela Carter, Daphne du Maurier, George Saunders, Kelly Link, M. Rickert, Neil Gaiman, David Mitchell, Donna Tartt, Stephen Graham Jones, Sarah Monette, Mervyn Peake, V. C. Andrews. I do read a lot of horror, but I’m pretty omnivorous when it comes to books. I read all kinds of things.

Congratulations on the forthcoming release of your debut collection, Dark Blood Comes from the Feet! What can you share about this book? How did you choose the stories to include, and is there a particular theme or themes in the collection?

Thank you so much! Dark Blood Comes from the Feet is a collection of seventeen stories. Some of them have been previously published, but most are original to the collection. I would say that they come from the last decade of my work. They’re mostly horror, but they do dip into other genres too. “Sermon from New London” is post-apocalyptic, for example. As a reader, I like to see a range of different stories in a collection so as this is my first, I really wanted to show people what I could do. I went for the most variety of styles and moods and settings. I know that one of my strengths is my versatility and I heavily favor first person narrative so I wanted to show that. That said, there are themes and motifs that do reoccur because my own preoccupations find their way into my work. You will find a lot of references to illness and in particular, tuberculosis, you will find women characters who have deviated from “normal” lives, there are geographical places I return to and I often make people who are not usually in the limelight the protagonist. I have a huge chip on my shoulder about being a woman from a working class background so that comes through. In my stories, the monsters usually win and are not necessarily the ones you should fear anyway.

What draws you to the horror genre? Do you remember your first horror film or horror book?

I think it’s just in my DNA, honestly. I come from an ex-mining town in Yorkshire in the UK. There’s a saying “It’s grim up North” and it’s not just the weather! I say this with a lot of love but my people are a morbid, darkly comic bunch. I tell stories to my husband (who’s American) about my childhood and it just sounds…Dickensian. I intend to write a short nonfiction piece about it all. I just need to find a publisher interested in Yorkshire Gothic!

At a very young age, I used to beg my mother to let me stay up to watch Hammer Horror films and Tales of the Unexpected (based on Roald Dahl’s short stories for adults.) I was too young to remember actually watching them now, except for Tales of the Unexpected’s intro, which I highly recommend on YouTube, it’s mesmerizing. When video stores became popular, my brother and I used to go and look at all the covers in the horror department. Our favorite covers were The Lost Boys and Fright Night, but I think the first one we could convince someone to rent was Love at First Bite. When we finally got our hands on Lost Boys, we watched it every day. I still know all the words.

The first horror book I remember was the first book I ever bought for myself at a Scholastic book fair in middle school! It was called something like Ghosts, Spirits and Spectres and was an anthology of classic and contemporary ghost stories. It had a picture of a cursed doll on the front. I read that thing so many times it fell to pieces. My favorite in there was Laura by Saki. I really have been myself for a very long time.

What is it about the short story format that appeals to you as a writer?

It’s definitely the format that I feel most confident in. I love writing poetry, but it has a lightning from the sky element to it that I can’t quite understand, whereas as I reader I have always favored short stories—I’ve always been a big reader of anthologies and collections. I’ve read a lot of them. It’s a place I feel comfortable in. As a reader, I like the way I can fully immerse myself in a space/time in one short sitting. I like the focus of them. I like open endings where I can imagine a life for the characters after.

When I was a teenager, in the golden MTV years of the nineties (in my opinion), I really wanted to be a music video director. I think what I really wanted to do, and what appeals to me about writing short stories, is to convey a very condensed, intense experience where theme and language and imagery can combine in a compact space. You have to get your characters and setting and mood established fairly quickly, and I like the challenge of those constraints.

You write both fiction and poetry. How does your approach to each form differ, and how is it similar?

They’re similar as in they tend to come out of my brain ooze in an almost unconscious way. I mull things over, worry at them, have obsessions that I read and well, obsess about, and it all turns up in my work, no matter the format, and in such a way that I rarely realize until later. I can identify what time in my life I wrote something without looking at dates because I recognize what my concerns were at the time but it’s retrospective. I have no idea when I’m actually writing it.

As I’ve said elsewhere in this interview, poetry often comes to me in a flash. That first draft comes out whole, then I leave it for a while and go back to edit when it doesn’t feel like it’s from me. Short stories are a much longer process. I am getting quicker, but some of the stories in the book took up to ten years to find their “final form.” Ray Bradbury in Zen and the Art of Writing (which I loved) compared ideas to trying to befriend cats. You have to act casual at first, like you’re not that interested. George Saunders said something similar and I can’t find where I read it for the life of me but he talked about seeing it in the corner of your eye, letting the ideas sidle up to you. This is how I write stories. Elements of them come to me and start connecting together, then eventually a piece’ll connect where I am ready to start writing. Then I have to Jedi mind trick myself into believing I’m not really writing a story, no, I’m just noodling around, no pressure…until I have something. As you can probably guess, I’m not much of a planner.

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

Dark Blood Comes from the Feet is my first book so I’m going to say this! It’s been a dream of mine to have my own collection for a long time and now it actually exists! As far as individual stories go, it’s like choosing between children but the two that stand out to me the most as I write this are “Cellar Door” and “This is Not the Glutton Club.” “Cellar Door” is a story that I really wanted to write for a long time. It has some of my favorite things in it—an unreliable narrator, a haunted house, spatial weirdness, which is something that genuinely terrifies me, and the house is based on my actual home. I wanted to write it so badly that I was scared I couldn’t do it justice. In the end, I nanowrimo-ed it so I wouldn’t get in my own way.

“This is Not the Glutton Club” is memorable because I wrote it while bedridden with double pneumonia! It’s my version of a nested story about a group of Victorian gentlemen who catch illnesses on purpose. I couldn’t sit at my desk, so I handwrote the first draft for the first time in years. I realized how much I missed the experience of writing like that, and I’ve been using that method ever since. I also crowdsourced the research I needed for that story using my phone and Facebook because I was so sick—I have very clever and generous friends.

As for my poetry, I would say “Fune-RL” which is up for the Rhysling this year! Not only did it get in Strange Horizons, which is a dream market, but it was one of those rare times when I knew I had something. I wrote it early one morning (which is unheard for, for me. I am emphatically not a morning person) and it just…came out, pretty much as it was published. It was only looking back at it that I could see all of the things that I had been thinking about and worried about all woven into one poem. It felt close to magic.

What projects are you currently working on?

Oof, that’s the question. I’m in a bit of limbo at the moment, partially pandemic related but not entirely. I think it’s about time I wrote a novel and I did write some notes before Covid hit but I’ve got quarantine brain right now and concentrating on anything is hard. I think I’ve got enough material for a poetry collection so that’s a possibility and I have some short stories that I want to write and edit. For now, I’m in input rather than output mode. I’m reading in short spurts (quarantine brain, again), catching up on shows that I missed, re-watching favorite movies. I know that my brain is churning away in the background and I’m hoping it’ll let me know what project I should do next.

Tremendous thanks to Emma J. Gibbon for being part of this week’s author interview series! Find her online at her website and on Twitter!

Happy reading!

Crows and Corpse Flowers: Interview with Ronald J. Murray

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today, I’m thrilled to spotlight Ronald J. Murray. His debut poetry collection, Cries to Kill the Corpse Flower, is forthcoming from Bizarro Pulp Press, an imprint of JournalStone.

Recently, he and I discussed his inspiration as a writer and how the Pittsburgh area influences his work as well as what he’s got planned next.

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

My only vivid memories from elementary school are sitting in the library, listening to our librarian read to my class, so I guess it’s fair to say that I’ve always been fascinated by the art of storytelling. However, I found out that writing was a part of me when my seventh-grade literature class took turns reading paragraphs from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.” My parents got me The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe the following Christmas, and with a mind full of terrors and mysteries and vicariously experienced losses, I began experimenting with my own stories and poetry.

I’d have to say that my favorite authors are (have I mentioned Poe?) Neil Gaiman, Josh Malerman, Patrick Rothfuss, Steven Erikson, Junji Ito, Sara Tantlinger, Claudia Gray, Timothy Zahn, Robert W. Chambers, and H.P. Lovecraft. This is probably cheesy to say, since you’re the one interviewing me, but I really enjoyed your collection And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, and it’s definitely listed among my favorite books.

Congratulations on the forthcoming release of your poetry collection, Cries to Kill the Corpse Flower. What can you share about how this book developed?

Thank you, thank you! The funny thing about Cries to Kill the Corpse Flower is that I consider it to be an accidental poetry collection. I was going through a pretty severe depressive episode at the time I was writing it. I’d take cigarette breaks at work and just write these bursts of emotion in my notepad app on my phone. I’d go out for cigarettes at home and do it again. I’d just jam my thumbs onto the touchscreen keyboard any time I felt the fiery whirl of anxiety rise in me, whether I was in bed or taking my dog for a walk or drinking my morning coffee. Then, I put them all in a Word document so I didn’t lose them and realized I had forty poems about the same thing, using the same metaphors. So, I put them into a manuscript and gave them a collective title and sent them to Jennifer Wilson to be edited. From there, Nicholas Day and Don Noble acquired the collection for Bizarro Pulp Press, and here we are, with Cries to Kill the Corpse Flower available in print on June 29th of this year.

What draws you to horror poetry in particular? Is horror your favorite genre of poetry, or do you widely read other genres as well?

I feel like I am drawn to horror poetry because dark imagery packed into powerful sentences just resonates with me as a person. I’ve always been a dramatic, emotional person, and I’ve always been drawn to the dark side of life.

I’ve been reading a lot of horror poetry lately! I just finished the HWA Poetry Showcase, Volume VI. There is a lot of great work in there! Other recent horror poetry collections I’ve read is Stephanie M. Wytovich’s Hysteria, Sara Tantlinger’s Love for Slaughter (for the second time; god, I love that collection), and Donna Lynch’s Choking Back the Devil. But, I am a fan of poetry in general, especially love poems and just anything generally moody.

How does your approach differ when writing poetry as opposed to fiction?

Fiction, for me, takes a lot more planning to write than when I am writing poetry. Though, lately, I’ve been playing with discovery writing, or “pantsing,” and just taking notes on important story elements that I want to revisit later in a separate notebook so I don’t forget them. It is more careful and calculated.

When I write poetry, it’s like I’m quietly screaming whatever comes crawling out of my heart at my notebook or notepad app or word processor. Then, I step away from the piece for a couple of days until it becomes a stranger and edit it then.

You reside in the Pittsburgh area. With Romero’s zombie legacy looming large over the region, do you find that living in such a horror-centric city influences your work?

I know that I like to work in the café at the Monroeville Mall Barnes & Noble because it feels good to say I’m writing in the Dawn of the Dead mall! I do feel like the general air of horror interest in Pittsburgh helps to keep me exploring the horror genre. There is also a lot of amazing artistic talent in this city, especially in horror, and being around that talent definitely influences me to keep pushing myself forward in the constant development of my skills as a writer.

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

Developing characters would have to be my favorite part of the writing process. I love figuring out what makes my characters click, what makes them do what they do and where that will lead them and how the consequences of their actions will affect their changes as the plot rolls forward.

What are you working on next?

I just finished a new chapbook of poetry about the pain of failed love, which uses a lot of dark, sad imagery to get its message across. Once I edit that and send it to a second set of professional eyes, I’ll start shopping it around for publication. Otherwise, I’m playing with a lot of ideas for pieces of longer fiction, including trying to solve some seemingly insurmountable issues with a novel I’d been working on for some time. But those projects are still in their infant stages, so I can’t say much about them.

Big thanks to Ronald J. Murray for being part of this week’s author interview series. Find him online at his website as well as Twitter and Tumblr.

Happy reading!

Spring Prose and Poetry: Submission Roundup for May 2020

Welcome back! I hope you’re all doing well out there, and that everyone is staying safe. This month, there are plenty of great submission calls, so if you’ve got a story seeking a home, then perhaps you’ll find a place to send it from the list below! Or if you’re looking for a bit of inspiration right now, maybe one of these calls will get the creative juices flowing.

Either way, let’s get on with this month’s Submission Roundup, shall we?

Submission RoundupLuna Station Quarterly
Payment: $5/flat
Length: 500 to 7,000 words
Deadline: May 15th, 2020
What They Want: Open to a wide range of speculative fiction from female-identifying authors.
Find the details here.

HWA Horror Poetry Showcase
Payment: $5/flat
Length: up to 35 lines
Deadline: May 31st, 2020
What They Want:  Open to HWA members, this annual anthology features horror poetry of all subgenres. Also, along with Carina Bissett and editor Stephanie M. Wytovich, I’m pleased to be one of the judges of this year’s showcase! Send us your best and coolest horror poems!
Find the details here.

Occult Detective Magazine
Payment: .01/word for fiction ($50/max); .01/word for nonfiction ($30/max)
Length: 3,000 to 6,000 words for fiction; 2,000 to 4,000 words for nonfiction
Deadline: June 5th, 2020
What They Want: Open to fiction that features characters who “investigate or explore the strange and unusual” as well as articles and essays about occult detectives.
Find the details here.

Typehouse Literary Magazine
Payment: $15/flat
Length: up to 5,000 words for fiction and up to 6 poems
Deadline: July 31st, 2020
What They Want: Open to a wide variety of genres.
Find the details here.

Cemetery Gates Media
Payment: .05/word
Length: 3,000 to 6,000 words
Deadline: August 1st, 2020
What They Want: This horror anthology is seeking short fiction about “local lore or location-based oddities.”
Find the details here.

Violent Vixens: An Homage to Grindhouse Horror
Payment: $50/flat
Length: 2,000 to 8,000 words
Deadline: August 1st, 2020
What They Want: This anthology is seeking horror fiction inspired by Grindhouse cinema and featuring a strong female lead.
Find the details here.

In Darkness Delight: Fear the Future
Payment: .03/word ($150 maximum)
Length: 2,500 to 4,500 words preferred (up to 7,500 words will be considered)
Deadline: November 15th, 2020
What They Want: This Corpus Press anthology is seeking horror fiction with futuristic themes.
Find the details here.

Happy submitting!