Guest Blog: Bishop’s Curse Part I By: J. C. Eickelberg

Bishop’s Curse Part I 

By: J. C. Eickelberg

Emerald Valley was a fertile valley valued by many groups. Three roadways lead into the mountains to major cities. Skirmishes had been fought over the fertile land for decades. No single power was ever able to lay claim to any portion of the valley.

As the Great Pestilence swept through cities and towns, armies stopped fighting in the vicinity of the valley. People fled cities to settle away from diseased and decaying neighborhoods. Farmers took advantage of the lush landscape and settled there, ignoring rumors from soldiers about winged creatures. These creatures were ready to bother any and all travelers moving through the valley. As groups settled, small towns grew. Populations sang praises of their good fortunes in finding fertile farmlands and plentiful wildlife.

Rumors of flying creatures became widespread as these communities merged and supplies from cities arrived. Travelers new to the area reported most of the sightings of the winged creatures following them. Residents had grown accustomed to the flying creatures. Groups not from the area were stopped by cloaked figures and searched. Wagons of goods were stopped and any vermin found were dispatched and wagons sent back empty. Drivers reported these imposing men wearing dark cloaks as harsh and persistent in keeping pests out. Fear of them drove the wagon drivers away from their scattered loads.

Shopkeepers sent hunters and scouts to search the roads for overdue shipments. When supplies were found, figures emerged from the landscape to confront the scouts. Questions were raised when they found the abandoned supplies. These ‘cloaked’ people became known and trusted to the scouts after persistent questioning. With trust came knowledge of the ‘Cloaked Ones’ true identity. Scouts found their identity at first disturbing, but were quickly soothed by their purpose; protecting all living things in the valley from plague and invasion. They were a local clan of gargoyles. Appearances varied greatly with the gargoyles, each chosen for a specific job. More animal appearing gargoyles scared away unwanted groups. The more human appearing gargoyles interacted with residents of the valley. The humans showed appreciation for what the gargoyles did by singing.

Songs related their thanks for keeping sickness and war away. All armies and bandits avoided entering the valley fearing for their wellbeing. Gargoyles were the saving angels of the valley, keeping danger out. The human population held their faith and pursued their lives in peace. Songs to keep the human spirit in check and uplifted were appreciated by the gargoyles. They, in turn, helped hunting parties and shepherding duties. Outsiders and invaders never learned about the cohabitation and coordination of the gargoyles and humans. News from outside the valley came readily, but news of the gargoyles true identity never left the valley. Residents and their trusted allies made sure of this.

When the population grew large enough a vast cathedral was built. Artisans worked on the interior with images equal in grandeur to the exterior architecture. Appreciation of music was shown by countless aerial sorties and acrobatics by the gargoyles. People enjoyed their protection and awed at their aerial feats. Musicians joined in with the wandering singers. In quick succession, the cathedral soon added its own voice. The largest pipe organ ever built was installed. With doors and windows open, the cathedral exuded the sound of organ music across the landscape.

As the organ played, it drew more gargoyles from farther out. The more organ music, the more they flew around town like bees around flowers. Their displayed love of music was highest when the churches and cathedral were full and everyone sang. In markets, wandering minstrels performed for market-goers, keeping minds off the wrath of the Great Pestilence in distant cities and wars. Watching from rooftops and balconies, gargoyles were equally entertained. Organ music regularly brought more clans in enjoy the organ’s voice. Visitors were rare any time in the best of weather. Royalty and church elders almost never ventured so far from home.

Bishop Cornelius was the rare church cleric to make the trip. He had heard about the prosperity of the Emerald Valley population and wanted to experience the music first hand. His arrival was announced first by the gargoyles, then by two squads of lightly armored soldiers traveling with him. Most of the mounted soldiers were kept at the edge of the valley. Their leaders did not want to endanger any more soldiers than necessary.

As the Bishop’s entourage entered town musicians stopped performing. Gargoyles disappeared from view as the music faded. The most curious gargoyles remained statue still to watch the procession. Moving through town, Bishop Cornelius witnessed more peace than seen anywhere else. At the cathedral, he was amazed by its size and grandeur. Elaborate stained-glass windows and ornate statues decorated the facade. Hearing the Bishop was making his way through town, the local clergy gathered at the doors of the church. Bishop Cornelius dismounted and approached Monsignor Marcus.

Bishop Cornelius. What a surprise! Welcome to Castile Rosa.”

Thank you, Monsignor Marcus. I’ve heard so much about your church and town I couldn’t resist seeing it for myself,” Bishop Cornelius replied.

You’re most welcome. You’ve had a long journey. Please join me for a meal.”

Your hospitality is most welcome.”

There are stables nearby for your escort,” Monsignor said, pointing toward the armed contingent. “These soldiers aren’t needed here. You won’t find a safer town anywhere.”

The soldiers will follow me wherever I go. They will protect us and find the stable later,” Bishop Cornelius said. A few groans came from the escort.

Cornelius followed him to the doors of the cathedral. They stopped at the top to look around the vicinity. Birds circled around the buildings, singing along with the organ inside. Larger birds could be seen farther out, circling fields, looking for food. These went unnoticed by the Bishop. He watched a dog meander down the street looking for scraps. Another dog walked near his entourage, not caring how close it was to horses, or surly soldiers. Some soldiers shooed it away with a hand. A lancer swung his weapon at it. A growl drifted toward the Bishop and Monsignor as the dog gave the group a wide berth.

You have a very well-kept town. Much cleaner than everywhere else I’ve been to.”

When our forefathers built this town, cleanliness, and order were paramount. Evils of the body and lifestyles aren’t allowed here. We protect ourselves against the Pestilence as best we as can.”

They went inside. Coolness welcomed them as the two clerics walked through the sanctuary. Organ music played as people cleaned and moved throughout the building. Cornelius admired the decor inside as much as he had the exterior adornments. Light filtered through the windows in a kaleidoscope of color; the craftsmanship of the church rivaled that of any found in a larger city. A small contingent of his entourage followed the Bishop. Wherever they went, music from the organ could be heard. Every person they passed hummed or sang, happy to hear the organ. Every opening let the music escape to all parts of Castile Rosa. Grumbling from the weary soldiers faded as they moved deeper into the building. Smells of cooking food intensified.

Monsignor, how many are we expecting for lunch?”

Audrey, we’ll be needing places for six more,” Monsignor announced.

Very well, Monsignor. I’ll see his men outside will get something, as well.” She walked to an assistant and rattled off a list of goods for man and horse.

You’re too kind, Monsignor,” Bishop Cornelius stated. “My men will find accommodations later.”

You’re our guests. We take care of all of our visitors.”

They walked out to a well-maintained courtyard. In the center was a stable, holding an assortment of animals. Horse, mules, goats, and chickens moved in penned areas. At the far side of the courtyard, a sturdy staircase went up to the mezzanine level. At the top, a door opened to a large room with a table laid out for a meal. Windows stood ajar to allow a refreshing breeze to pass through. Music echoed everywhere mixing with birdsong.

Bishop Cornelius stopped to look over the courtyard. Animals were tended to as affectionately as the garden. Cleanliness and health glowed everywhere he looked. Frescoes and murals on the walls were minimal but no less impressive. A hawk rested on the railing twenty feet from the Bishop. A young man approached him holding the end of a taut cord. A medium sized mountain lion led the young man. It favored a leg, obviously recovering from an injury. Monsignor Marcus signaled the start of lunch. Bishop Cornelius turned to find food laid out on the table. He glanced over his shoulder at the predatory animal on its leash, uneasily reflecting on the relationship of the animal and the man tending to it. Sitting at the head of the table he calmed himself with the meal. Hunger overrode his desire to ask about the assortment of animals. Platters of wonderful smelling food were set out. The travelers dug in with ravenous focus. Marcus took the opportunity to check on attendants as they passed. His guests remained quiet as they ate.

With his appetite satiated, Bishop Cornelius focused on the room. At the hearth was a wicker basket tended to by a youth of about ten years. Soft noises emitted from it sounded feline like to him. The intensity of her ministrations touched his heart. He rose from the table and approached the hearth. Inside the basket was a litter of lynx cubs. A mother cat investigated the girl and her charges as it passed through the room. The cat sniffed at the furry charges, checking for herself on the welfare of the cubs before embarking on a distant mission. He followed the cat to the balcony. Outside he looked over the railing to watch the activity of the courtyard. Cornelius noticed a variety of noises in the courtyard. Dogs barking inside the main building, other animal sounds drifted to his position at the railing. The stable loft door opened to reveal an assortment of animals. Inside he focused on another mountain lion with a bandaged leg and wrapped midsection attempting to move around.

Monsignor, I’ve seen many unusual things in my travels, but your church is unique,” Cornelius said. “All around me is beauty and peace. It seems those who’ve taken refuge here are animals.” He pointed to the lynx cubs on the hearth and a young man waiting at the door with an injured bird.

Bishop, we are all God’s creatures. Man, and beast alike,” Monsignor said. “Our town founders have obliged future generations to share with the animals we’ve run off to build our town,” Monsignor replied firmly. “I will not turn away the injured animals brought here.”

In the silence, he heard only the sounds of the courtyard. The organ was no longer being played. Members of his staff stopped to listen. Murmurs arose at the lack of sound. There were times no music played. This was not a time of rest for man or instrument.

In seeing all the animals you care for here, I’d like to know where the human flock is tended to,” Cornelius said. “I’ve seen doors to many rooms, but very few townsfolk.”

Our town takes care of anyone in need. Neighbors help neighbors. When man can’t get help, they come here.” He saw an elderly man approach, an urgent expression on his face. Marcus watched him approach. He signaled the man to come closer. “Yes, Walter.”

Monsignor, there’s an incident in the sanctuary.” He looked to the Bishop. “One of the soldiers is involved.” Walter led the way.

Everyone made room for Marcus and Cornelius as they went back to the church proper. Birdsong and women whispering were the only sounds along the way back to the sanctuary. All present watched a soldier hover over a prone figure. Marcus went to the organist laying across the aisle.

This man is dead. Why?” Monsignor stared at the soldier. In the choir loft, and on every available ledge, Marcus saw a mass of fidgeting figures watching the scene. Shadows fluttered across the windows.

I asked him to stop playing. The music hurt my ears.” The soldier’s expression was grave. “He wouldn’t stop.”

It’s not your place to ask him to stop playing,” Bishop Cornelius stated. “Your actions are inexcusable.”

 

 

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J.C. works and lives in Wisconsin.  He has a beautiful wife and two active boys.  He enjoys spending time with family, reading, and, time permitting, writing.  Haunted and spooky places have always intrigued him.

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Guest Blog: Gland by Hormones

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Artist: Hormones

Track title: Gland

“Conventional music laws” absolutely doesn’t describe my music… It’s more like musical impressionism, instrumental, not based on melody at all, but rhythms are the interesting thing about those tracks. Rhythm, in my creation, is an ALGOrithm, which a listener need to think about and figure out. Combination of math and music. So when the listener figures out the “abstract” beats and bars, it gives him more than a satisfaction from the sound, melody, atmosphere, etc. but also a feeling like solving a mystery. Obviously, the listener would have to play the track more times so he could think about that… Algorithm instead of normal, 4/4, boring, for ages overused rhythm gives a new dimension to the music.

So I explained all the weirdness about my music and now I should be more specific about the “genre”. Instrumental, an atmospheric/abstract, dark/horror, cacophonic, low tuned sharp guitar sound (the main guitar sound is played on bass guitar with hard distortion) combined with a sweet soft guitar that makes a contrast. Dirty bass, regular drums, piano, some sythns.Sounds good when home alone, or walking in a city at night…

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Bio: Karel Fošumpaur, CZE, 17 y.o. “Hormones” (one-man-band). Track “Gland” from the first self-titled album “Hormones”.

Kidnapped! Horror Blackademic is a Real Thing by Rhonda Jackson Joseph

Horror Blackademic is a Real Thing

It seems surreal that I have the best job ever, writing, teaching, and speaking about horror as a creative, a fan, and an academic. I have a confession, though: I’m an accidental horror blackacademic.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always known I was a writer. I couldn’t not write. Ever. Stories haunted me day, night, and whatever falls in between. So that was a definite career goal. I’ve also always had the gift of gab. As a child, I wasn’t too sure that folks would pay me to talk, so I didn’t factor it into life planning. And I’d always been told I’m good at teaching people stuff. A stint in banking confirmed this, and for years, I was paid to be a corporate trainer. All other facets of my life included some type of teaching, so I embraced it on a small scale.

But then I met Dr. Kinitra Brooks. I’ll never forget that moment at World Horror Convention 2013 that had me moving through the halls of the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans and running into another black woman, not a common sight at horror events I’ve attended. A thrill coursed through me as I saw that she was talking to someone at the time. I decided to just linger in the area until she was done. And then I felt a tap on my shoulder and I turned around to face a brilliant gaze and beautiful face. I was hooked.

If it sounds like a cheesy “love at first sight” kind of thing, that’s because it was exactly that for me. Over the course of the conference, we spent some time together. She did my make-up for the awards show…my face was BEAT! We had lunch together a couple of times during the conference and I was enamored of her. One of those lunches was with the ever fabulous Linda Addison and I struggled with that meal to not go all creepy fan girl on both of those amazing writers.

This chance meeting had an invaluable impact on my life. I was looking forward to receiving my graduate degree later that month. I came out of the Writing Popular Fiction program at Seton Hill University a much better writer. I also literally came out as a horror writer during my stint there. Having met Dr. Brooks gave me a focus for my academic career I hadn’t originally considered.

She and Linda Addison later contacted me about a project they were working on, an anthology of horror written by black, female writers. I was super excited to talk with them. One of the best edit suggestions I’ve ever received was when I expressed concern over the length of my short story and Ms. Addison basically told me, ”The story is as long as it needs to be.”

I now find Dr. Brooks’ research and writings to be the main anchor on which I base my own research work on the horror genre and black femininity. I’m now, proudly, an accidental horror blackademic.

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R.J. Josephisa Texas based writer and professor who must exorcise the demons of her imagination so they don’t haunt her being. A life-long horror fan and writer of many things, she has recently discovered the joys of writing in the academic arena about two important aspects of her life: horror and black femininity.

When R. J. isn’t writing, teaching, or reading voraciously, she can usually be found wrangling one or five of various sprouts and sproutlings from her blended family of 11…which also includes one husband and two furry babies.

R.J. can be found lurking (and occasionally even peeking out) on social media:

Twitter: @rjacksonjoseph
Facebook: facebook.com/rhonda.jacksonjoseph
Facebook official: fb.me/rhondajacksonjosephwriter
Instagram: @rjacksonjoseph
Blog: https://rjjoseph.wordpress.com/
Email: horrorblackademic@gmail.com

Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/rjjoseph

 

Kidnapped! Excerpt and Story Notes II: “Mama’s Babies” by R. J. Joseph

Blog Post 6

Excerpt and Story Notes II: “Mama’s Babies” by R. J. Joseph

Excerpt:

I smelled expensive cologne on him and knew he was probably lying. If he left, I couldn’t even load up the kids and go to the pharmacy myself. “The café doesn’t open until nine. It’s only four now.”

I got stuff to do, Zenobia. Get off my back about it.” He left out, slamming the screen door behind him.

I turned to my babies, lined up in the kitchen behind me, Evaline moaning more incessantly than usual. “Okay, Mama’s babies, let’s go put in a movie. Ray, Jr., it’s your turn to pick.” My sweet-faced baby boy smiled at me with uncharacteristically tired eyes and ran into the living room. I unlocked her wheelchair and followed Janey to the couch.

Two movies later, Evaline and Janey were burning with fever. I thought Ray Jr. felt warm, too, so I gave them all fever reducer before putting them to bed a little earlier than usual. After my shower, I sat in bed with a book, too preoccupied to really read it. Instead, I stood and went to the bedroom window. The room overlooked the backyard, which bordered the Brazos River.

I hated that old stinky river, hated the river critters even more. I was glad to only have to chase two kids out to the fence. Janey and Ray Jr. always wanted to take Evaline with them on adventures, and I was glad her wheelchair made them move too slowly to get completely away from me. They loved their sissy and I knew they’d take care of her when I passed on. We really couldn’t count on their daddy to do much of anything.

After I finally fell asleep, Evaline cried out loudly. I stumbled into the girls’ room. Her bed was full of diluted blood, still leaking from her eyes. The fever seemed to be breaking, but she thrashed around like she had severe gas pains. Janey tossed in her little bed, too, but she seemed to stay asleep. I changed Evaline’s sheets and rocked her until she calmed. Then I lay her back down and pulled up the bed guard. Ray Jr. slept peacefully in his room.

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Mama’s Babies” found a home in the anthology Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers, Volume II after haunting me for years as a nightmare that needed to be exorcised. One of the most horrific aspects of navigating life for me is through the various terrors of parenthood. Those fears rode me like the demons they are in this story.

Twitter: @rjacksonjoseph
Facebook: facebook.com/rhonda.jacksonjoseph
Facebook official: fb.me/rhondajacksonjosephwriter
Instagram: @rjacksonjoseph
Blog: https://rjjoseph.wordpress.com/
Email: horrorblackademic@gmail.com

Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/rjjoseph

 

Kidnapped! Excerpt and Story Notes: A Woman’s Work by R.J. Joseph

Excerpt and Story Notes: A Woman’s Work by R. J. Joseph

Excerpt:

Jamarcus was on that crazy tip before he hit the door. I could smell it on him, underneath the sweat that drenched his dingy wife beater tee.

He clumped into the kitchen, sucking his teeth. “Hamburger again?” He slammed a plastic grocery bag of empty, stinking food containers into the sink, ignoring the clean dishes already there, waiting to be rinsed.

Ten years of marriage had taught me that the conversation could go badly, whether I answered or not. I remained silent.

You don’t hear me?”

I waited a couple of beats while my own anger leaped inside my chest. My neck prickled from the fire bubbling inside my skin.

The whole block hears you.” I turned from the sink and faced him. He needed to back off. He didn’t always. Jamarcus was a handsome man, with chocolate colored skin that stretched over tight muscles and gleaned from his long day at work. I had loved him dearly once, warts and all. But I was getting tired of his shit.

He stared at me a moment and threw himself into a chair like a petulant child. “I work hard, you know. I’m sick of eating the same old thing every night.”

It’s the best I can do, Jamarcus, when you spend money we don’t have on that bike of yours.” I placed a plate with the hamburger meat and macaroni in front of him.

Oh, I’m gonna get my bike tricked out. And you nagging won’t stop me from going to Bike Week next month, either.”

Do I ever nag you, Jamarcus? You do whatever you want all the time and I don’t say a word.” He wouldn’t meet my eyes and mumbled under his breath instead.

I held myself in check long enough to gently set a glass of ice on the table next to him, along with a pitcher of fruit punch. A roach scurried underneath my feet as I walked down the hall towards the children’s room.

The furious tears I’d held at bay slipped down my face as I ran my hand along our oldest son’s cheek. He’d been running a fever earlier, and I was thankful he felt cooler. I didn’t know where the money would have come from if I’d have had to take him to the urgent care clinic. Jamarcus would have told me the boy was alright, and to not baby them so much. But I knew when they were really sick, and Jr. was fighting some kind of kid cooties.

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A Woman’s Work” appears in the anthology Transitions and Awakenings and has a pretty dark history. Borrowed heavily from a kernel of an idea, I wanted to play around with the idea that feminine agency often looks monstrous in our society. What evolved from that was the story of a harried housewife who struggles with fitting into the boxes society would have defined her existence.

 

Kidnapped! Love Letter to My Boo, the Horror Genre by Rhonda Jackson Joseph

 

Love Letter to My Boo, the Horror Genre

Horror, I love you. I’m down for you, for life. I can’t breathe without you. Your weird darkness has comforted me through childhood, whispering decadent terror to my drowning soul. You encouraged me to die in your faith that there were worse things than eternal blackness, that I’d live blissfully forever with the monstrosities borne from your roots.

I live and die in you. Nevertheless, I need more from you. I need you to do better.

You could love me more deeply by embracing horror shown through a feminine lens as true horror, and not simply as women’s fiction gone wrong. I would exist in delicious ecstasy if you welcomed race-centered terror as a natural part of your canon, acknowledging that it is horrific and sits squarely in the definition of horror.

Let’s ride together to fight those who wish to divide you into warring factions that proclaim some of your spawn as “smart”, immediately deeming the others “not smart”. There is room within our forever squad for all your babies. I will help you nurture and protect them all.

I long for you to genuinely seek and welcome diversity, to actively invest in writers from varying states of existence. Allowing the majority of stories to be stolen from original voices and told in the same voice over and over again induces more fright than anything in your repertoire does. It’s not the delicious kind of fear I crave from your influence. Let’s agree to simply swallow gatekeeping and sensitivity readers into your endless void, for them to never again see the light of day.

I’m your chick, your ride or die. I live in you and I will die in you. I will help you be better. Because I love you more than you love me right now.

For a copy of a free ebook, please leave a comment.

 

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R.J. Josephisa Texas based writer and professor who must exorcise the demons of her imagination so they don’t haunt her being. A life-long horror fan and writer of many things, she has recently discovered the joys of writing in the academic arena about two important aspects of her life: horror and black femininity.

When R. J. isn’t writing, teaching, or reading voraciously, she can usually be found wrangling one or five of various sprouts and sproutlings from her blended family of 11…which also includes one husband and two furry babies.

R.J. can be found lurking (and occasionally even peeking out) on social media:

Twitter: @rjacksonjoseph
Facebook: facebook.com/rhonda.jacksonjoseph
Facebook official: fb.me/rhondajacksonjosephwriter
Instagram: @rjacksonjoseph
Blog: https://rjjoseph.wordpress.com/
Email: horrorblackademic@gmail.com

Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/rjjoseph

 

Kidnapped! From Whence the Ideas Flow by Rhonda Jackson Joseph

From Whence the Ideas Flow

One of the questions I am asked the most is, “Where do your ideas for horror come from?” The answer seems easy and complicated, all at once. I get my ideas from everywhere. Any little, innocuous thing can trigger a story inside my head. Discussion with other writers unveils the discovery that our brains really do work differently than other folks’: we literally see the world in varying shades of possibilities that aren’t explored by everyone.

However, after further examination, I realized the answer could be narrowed down to four main sources for me:

  1. Nightmares. This is by far the main source of my horror stories. I’ve been immersed in horror stuff for most of my life and yet a scary dream can make me break out into a sweat and worry all day about something my imagination conjured up. If the nightmare is bad enough, it can become a recurring torture until I exorcise it and put it into a story.
  2. Submission calls. I’m notorious for missing submission calls. I see an idea that editors put out for a collection of stories and I think, “Yes! I want to write THAT story!” But then I play around with the words until the deadline has passed and it’s too late to submit to that call. I don’t know why regular, formal writing prompts don’t elicit this same excitement from me. At any rate, even though I miss the calls, I always get a good story out of the ones that get my attention.
  3. Other stories. Sometimes I read the work of other writers, in various genres, and I find inspiration in the stories they did not tell. For instance, I can read a story about two characters in a place and the things that I want to know are along the lines of: “Why are they at THAT house?”, “How does the tree feel about them carving initials into it?”, or “What if they had gone down the road the OTHER way?” These musings often turn into stories that have nothing at all to do with the original inspiration.
  4. Real life. Real life offers story ideas that can be overwhelming sometimes. Literally, any event has an element of the unknown, in my mind, and I’m often struck by stories in unsuspecting places. Many a creative writing workshop hinges on the question “What if…?” and this is how I view the world. Every occurrence has something that did not happen, and it’s those things that interest me most.

Surrounded by all this inspiration, I’ll never run out of ideas to write. This is a great problem to have because I know my creative well will never run dry.

Have more story inspiration you want to talk about? Hit me up in the comments section if you’d like the chance to win a free ebook.

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R.J. Josephisa Texas-based writer and professor who must exorcise the demons of her imagination so they don’t haunt her being. A life-long horror fan and writer of many things, she has recently discovered the joys of writing in the academic arena about two important aspects of her life: horror and black femininity.

When R. J. isn’t writing, teaching, or reading voraciously, she can usually be found wrangling one or five of various sprouts and sproutlings from her blended family of 11…which also includes one husband and two furry babies.

R.J. can be found lurking (and occasionally even peeking out) on social media:

Twitter: @rjacksonjoseph
Facebook: facebook.com/rhonda.jacksonjoseph
Facebook official: fb.me/rhondajacksonjosephwriter
Instagram: @rjacksonjoseph
Blog: https://rjjoseph.wordpress.com/
Email: horrorblackademic@gmail.com

Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/rjjoseph