HWA Mental Health Initiative: THIS IS ALL OF US by Mark Matthews

“Humans, as a rule, don’t like mad people unless they are good at painting, and only then once they are dead.” ~Matt Haig, the Humans. 

If it’s true that some of the greatest horror fiction comes from the deepest personal pain, that the torment of the writer weaves itself into fiction, then Horror, the way it shines a light on the darkest parts of humanity, is in a unique position to look at mental health. 

The Horror Writers Association is continuing its initiative to honor Mental Health Awareness and how it uniquely affects the horror community, as well as ways to support anyone grappling with mental health issues. 

And this is all of us.

Nobody exists outside the realm of mental health, same as our physical health, it is always in flux and will deteriorate if not tended to. At times we do things for preventative care, at times we drag ourselves into urgent care in crisis, but mental health affects every human. Nobody is in perfect mental or physical health; it exists in scales that continually shift. 

Yet we so often see mental health as existing separate from physical health. We publicly share pictures of ourselves recovering in a hospital bed or openly ask our boss for time off to see a doctor, but talking with a mental health professional is treated as a weakness, something done only in private, for if others know, that seed of shame will sprout inside us and grow.  We offer simplified, insulting solutions, telling those with anxiety or depression, “try taking a walk,” or shame them with, “other people have it worse, be grateful you don’t live in that devastated city of WhatAboutIstan.”

These kind of statements, perhaps spoken with kind intent, are not only unhelpful but misunderstand the complexity and depth. It’s akin to telling someone with cancer to try getting some sleep or eating less carbs. Perhaps something healthy, but it’s throwing stones at giants, and something deeper is most likely needed.  

Talking to a therapist needs to be received the same as going to the dentist. It’s an act we do to take care of ourselves, a sign of self-care and courage that should be emulated. You are no less of a magnificent human being for having depression, anxiety, or any mental health condition than you’d be for having a broken leg from a biking accident, having a cancerous mole, or getting that colonoscopy.

Therapy, in all its facets and components, saved my life. That is not hyperbole. By age 23, I woke up each morning with a drink (god forbid there was no alcohol in the house) and I’d done every drug I could get my hands on.  I had been hospitalized multiple times, was bleeding internally, had alcoholic hepatitis of the liver and a swollen pancreas. I was spiritually despondent, wishing for death, but couldn’t seem to die. Finally, when it seemed my only option, I dragged myself bruised and bloody into a treatment center. I followed that up with years of therapy, major lifestyle changes, and have maintained sobriety ever since. 

Upon relying on the help of others, I went back to get my Bachelors in English and continued on to get a Masters in Counseling. I’ve worked for years with other addicts and alcoholics trying to give back what I had received, and branched out to work in behavioral health.

If only addicts could grant some understanding on what it is like to live with such a diagnosis, I believe the compassion for addiction would grow. Despite years of sobriety and having shed my skin, the snake still persists. I still have it inside me. I can taste it. Hear it. Point to the part in my body where it exists. 

I am quite positive that those suffering from any disorder would wish the same, to give others a taste of understanding of what it is like to live with the disorder so we could stop minimizing and distorting it. Depression isn’t cured by a walk. Anxiety isn’t just a mild discomfort. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a perpetual internal beast that isn’t slayed by exercise alone. 

I still seek therapy and seek it eagerly. I have had a therapeutic relationship that has lasted years and still go back in times of need.  

Fiction has a powerful therapeutic component, for if we want the truth, what better way to find it than through a story? My work is full of addiction horror, with compassion for the plight of the addict but a look at it substance abuse in all its hideous forms. Nothing new to say that the greatest fiction comes from the writer speaking from the wound, those personal places when we stick the proverbial knife in our heart and bleed it all over the page (Que Mick Jagger). Show me someone’s most powerful work, and you’ll see what’s inside. 

Horror writers will always write about mental anguish, with settings such as mental health hospitals and cemeteries, anything that portrays our darker sides and is charged with trauma and the vulnerable parts of our fragile psyche. While I think a certain level of creative license should be granted, there is a duty, I believe, to write about mental health topics with accuracy. We need to do our research. Ask a colleague. Get a beta reader who knows the subject.  This will avoid clichés, simplifying, stigmatizing, and stereotyping. People are not their condition.

Have you seen a piece of fiction where a character who takes medications is a sign of their strength rather than some dark foreshadowing? Nope, that tab of Risperdal is a version of Chekhov’s Gun, bound to have some negative effect in the next chapter.  Works which show a degree of empathy for those suffering, even in the midst of villainous intent, can be the most powerful. 

So much horror fiction is a battle for mental health, navigating the minefield of the external darkness that matches our internal landscape. Heroes, anti-heroes, or whole communities, face down the monsters, and the reader understands they are taking an inward journey, tackling their internal demons personified.

The question then becomes, are we able to do in our personal life what we will have our characters do in our fiction? Look inside ourselves and navigate whatever darkness we find, shining a light through the cracks the way we want our protagonists to do? 

While we are all the heroes of our own story, we are also minor characters in the journey of others. Do we see it just as noble to help others on their quest?   Do we support each other tackling and addressing mental health symptoms, same way we might herald someone in horror fiction? 

By doing so, we can become the empathic catalyst to help each other.

I think Horror Writers have some of the finest hearts around because they are in touch with the fragile nature of humans. In body, mind, and spirit. Among writers of dark fiction are those who are ‘not afraid to go there ’ both in fiction and internal introspection, and also, I suspect, that among us are some of the most hurting, tormented people, who have overcome adversity enough to spin fantastic art.  There can certainly be redemptive value in suffering.  I’ve latched onto this quote from the Virginia University basketball coach:  “If you learn to use it right, adversity will buy you a ticket to a place you couldn’t have gone any other way.”

I write horror not so much to scare others, but because I am the one who is scared; scared of what’s inside me, what’s inside you, but writing about it makes me feel less alone, more okay with bleeding on the page. It takes courage to show yourself through your words, so we connect when we write and read in a way we never could, had we not faced the fear.    

Disclosing our own battles with maintaining mental health, while it’s nobody’s damn business and shouldn’t matter, can free others to drop the false shame and share openly.

If she’s talking about how Zoloft helped her but Prozac didn’t, maybe I can do the same.  

If he’s sharing his social anxiety and how it feels so disabling, maybe I’m not so strange. 

If he’s offering a sober safe place at StokerCon, maybe I’ll say hello if I’m struggling with the same. (Raises hand – I’ll be in Denver) 

Horror writers can be an example of those who openly support each other with compassion and understanding while writing characters who display humans in all their frightening darkness and magnificent brilliance. The HWA Mental Health Initiative reminds us that we are on the same journey as each of our characters, and can decide how to respond when facing our monsters, and to be the supportive agent of change in the journey of others. 


 

 

* Mark Matthews is a graduate of the University of Michigan and a licensed professional counselor who has worked in behavioral health for over 20 years. He is the author of On the Lips of Children, All Smoke Rises, and Milk-Blood, as well as the editor of Orphans of Bliss, Lullabies for Suffering, Garden of Fiends. In June of 2021, he was nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award. His newest work, The Hobgoblin of Little Minds, was published in January, 2021 and tackles the subject of mental health treatment. Reach him at WickedRunPress@gmail.com

 

HWA Mental Health Initiative : Out of the Darkness: A Conversation with Lee Murray and Dave Jeffery

Lee Murray:

I write horror. I also suffer from anxiety, and sporadically from depression. Most of the time, I’ve managed to keep this to myself, but, in recent years, I’ve tried to be more open with friends and family about my mental health. The interesting thing is, in doing that I learned that a lot of my horror colleagues are also pacing to and from at the ramparts checking for danger or engaged in all-out battles with kaiju of epic proportions. Was it time to open a discussion about horror writing and mental health? I consulted my friend, Forever Man author, and psychologist Brian Matthews, who agreed that a discussion was timely, and with his help we put together a panel for 2018 StokerCon, Providence which we called Writing From a Dark Place. We were able to enlist some incredible panelists too, including Brian Kirk, Leslie Klinger, James Arthur Anderson, and Eric J. Guignard. The conference committee welcomed the proposal, and the resulting panel conversation was frank, informative, and warming. Then, some months after the convention, I shamelessly used the panel discussion as the basis of an essay, which was later published in Victoria University Press’ Headlands anthology, along with 33 other New Zealand writers with their own personal stories of anxiety. The Headlands project has led to an upcoming hui (gathering) to bring the writers together for further discussion and a possible documentary on the topic. It seems when you open a conversation about mental health and lift it out of the darkness, a lot of good things can result. For that reason, I welcome this new initiative by the HWA to support Mental Health Awareness. I’m excited (and a little anxious) to contribute to the blog series and to an ongoing conversation about horror writing and mental health.

Dave Jeffery: 

I have worked as a mental health professional in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) for 35 years. I have been a writer of dark and obscure fiction for considerably longer, writing my first horror novella at the age of 13. The novella was poor, but my experience of working with those who endure mental illness over the years has been nothing short of amazing. It is an honour to work with those who endure mental health issues on a day to day basis, they are the brave and mighty, they know true suffering and they have fought for light in the darkness. I know this because I have seen it, holding the hands of troubled souls, witnessed the tears and the trauma. It leaves a person humbled beyond words. 

In his 1964 publication, Madness and Civilization French philosopher Michel Foucault writes, “Mental illness has its reality and its value only in a society that recognizes it as such.” In other words, how we define mental illness as a society reflects how we ultimately treat it. There is truth in that those with severe mental illness are marginalised, the stigma associated with acts and behaviours making more of an impression on how they are viewed rather than on what these people endure. As a mental health professional and a horror writer I have a duty to readdress the balance and ensure the social stereotype of ‘lunatics’ and ‘maniacs’ are challenged from the beginning. Nothing puts me off a book quicker than the thoughtless misrepresentation of mental illness. 

Lee Murray: 

Thanks so much for agreeing to chat with me, Dave. I’m looking forward to hearing your perspective as a mental health professional and a horror writer. 

Naomi Arnold, my editor in Headlands says, “Clinic anxiety is a chronic crushing panic. Sometimes you can function fine, with a faint residual fluttering and a few deep breaths,” She writes. “Other times, it grows until it takes over your mind, your gut, your heart, your breath, your limbs, and everything in your life until your entire being feels reduced to the nub of your earliest brain. The one that pumps adrenaline through your system, puts everything on red alert, shuts down all your body systems and makes every cell scream.” 

I waited until I was 50 for a diagnosis of anxiety. “Oh and by the way, you have depression, too,” the doctor said. 

When I tell them, most people can’t believe it. “But you’re so bubbly and outgoing,” they say. “So smiley.”

It’s true, I do try to be cheery. But it strikes me that a person’s mental health isn’t always evident from their demeanour, and sometimes those who we least expect are suffering the darkest demons.

After the Writing from a Dark Place panel, panelist Brian Kirk wrote to me, and what he said interested me because it’s something I’ve noticed too. He said: “I’ve always found it curious that, in general, horror authors are some of the friendliest and most optimistic people I know. Whereas comedians are typically morose and depressive.” Would you agree with that comment?

Dave Jeffery:

My experience of the horror writing community is indeed one of warmth and inclusion, and an almost overzealous need to help others. I often wonder if there is a compensatory element in that writers are, by nature, insecure entities and perhaps coming to the aid of others has a basis in the desire to create climates in which they, too, feel safe. In their study of personality types, Ando, Claridge and Clarke (2014) concluded that comedians have traits not dissimilar to those who suffer psychosis, so I would certainly agree that comedians overall tend to be somewhat distant in real life. 

Lee Murray:

Kirk also says, The basic commonality I see between works of profoundly troubled people is an extreme kind of sensitivity. A brutally insightful look into our basic human condition.” If what Kirk says is true and people with mental illness have an ‘extreme sensitivity’ and ‘insight’ into the human condition, do you agree that horror writers who suffer from mental illness, make better writers? After all, many of our best-loved horror icons, past and present, are known to have struggled with mental illness—writers like Sylvia Plath, Stephen King, Ann Rice, and Mary Shelley.

Dave Jeffery:

I’m comfortable with the view that those who are ‘in tune’ with the darker side of the human condition can make better sense of how to translate that onto the page. There does need to be balance, of course. My view is that one-sided worldview, for example: the terrible actions of one person or one group of people somehow defining humanity, makes for a dull, cliched narrative, no matter what the intention of the writer. The links between mental illness and creativity has been long established, so I’m not surprised by Kirk’s view on this perspective and would support it wholeheartedly.

Horror and mental illness are effective bed-fellows. Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart is a classic example of how this can be used to incredible effect as the narrator questions his own sanity following his heinous act of murder, and the guilt this generates. Robert Louis Stephenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a less subtle take on the dualities of man and the consequences of wanton action. This concept of two sides to a personality has plagued public perceptions of schizophrenia for centuries. This cannot be laid at Stephenson’s feet as the book is of a time where the renaissance of modern-day psychiatry was a few years away. Do you have any favourite examples of where horror and mental illness have been used effectively? 

Lee Murray:

I was afraid you were going to ask me that. Let’s start with Hamlet, given that I spent my high school years quoting Lady Macbeth’s ‘Out, out damned spot’ soliloquy whenever I washed my hands in someone’s hearing. Other fiction titles addressing mental illness that resonated for me while growing up include Madge Piercy’s classic A Woman on the Edge of Time, The Madness of a Seduced Woman by Susan Stromberg Schaffer, and The Bone People, by New Zealand’s Booker-prize winner, Keri Hulme. More recently, I could add The Drowning Girl by last year’s StokerCon guest of honour, Caitlin R McKiernan and there’s Mark Matthew’s grueling anthology Garden of Fiends with its stellar line-up of authors writing addiction-inspired stories. Your own novella Bad Vision effectively addresses how the system fails sufferers when a man faced with a debilitating mental illness is unable to find support from his doctors, his community and even his wife. And there is Kirk’s We Are Monsters, which won him a Bram Stoker-nomination for First Novel. The book examines two doctors’ approaches to a schizophrenia: one, Drexler, who uses his patients as guinea pigs for his experimental drug treatments, and the other, Alpert, who advocates for therapy. As the story unfolds, a serial killer named Crosby becomes the test subject for Drexler’s latest treatment, but something goes wrong: the medicine alters Crosby’s mind, dragging him, and everyone with him, into a parallel plane where they are forced to face their demons. If we’re talking about translating the darker side of the human condition onto the page, then Kirk has definitely achieved that. 

I’m going to stop there, and let you jump in with a couple of favourites because so many of our horror colleagues are doing excellent work addressing mental illness in their fiction that this could become a very long list.

Dave Jeffery:

Gosh, there are so many to cite, outside of those I’ve mentioned earlier. If I’m looking at recent examples, I would have to say Gary McMahon’s excellent What They Hear in the Dark which focuses on the cost of terrible loss. I also add King’s novel, Pet Sematary, Richard Farren Barbers’s novella, Closer Still and James Everington’s Trying to Be So Quiet as wonderful stories that capture grief and its impact on the psyche. One that certainly lingers in the memory is Phil Sloman’s Becoming David which is a subtle and brilliantly executed exploration of the descent into madness. 

Lee Murray:

For anyone who would like to read more widely, I’ve found an excellent summary of more than 250 mainstream titles featuring mental illness (non-fiction and fiction) on the Bookscrolling website. The page also includes 22 other sources listing mental health and illness titles. 

Dave Jeffery: 

As highlighted in my introduction, the stigma of mental illness is an ongoing issue in society. For someone who works in the mental health field, the frustration when inroads in challenging these issues are swept away by negative, inflammatory media stories is beyond description. Yes, some people have committed terrible acts of violence when they have been in the throes of psychosis, but statistically the mentally ill are more likely to be the victims of crime. It is my view that those with extreme forms of mental illness have become a soft target for society’s ills. When someone commits heinous crimes, they are often labelled ‘insane’ or ‘crazy’ when it has more to do with deficits in their personality or behavioural programming. Perhaps they are just bad people. Many atrocities have been undertaken by governments all over the world and throughout history, after all. These constructs became the motivation for writing Finding Jericho and has been, if it hasn’t come across already, a passion of mine for most of my working life. 

Lee Murray:

I agree the stigma surrounding mental illness is perhaps the most significant barrier to getting support to people in need. As an example, for several years I sat on the committee of our local Alzheimer’s Society, providing community support to the families of sufferers. At that time, the region had two part-time field officers and a growing number of clients. With growing demand, the committee discussed the possibility of purchasing a vehicle, which the field officers would share and which we would brand with the Alzheimer’s Society logos to improve community awareness, another of our stated goals. The field officers were against the idea, preferring to use their private vehicles despite personal cost to themselves. We wouldn’t understand it. Field Officer  ‘Anna’ explained: “As it is, several of my clients have asked that I not park in the same street, and to please come to the back door when visiting, so that the neighbours don’t see.” The field officers were concerned that an Alzheimer’s-branded vehicle would mean clients would refuse valuable help, for fear of friends and neighbours finding out they were suffering from a mental illness. Even the words used to describe mental illness have stigma attached, our local field officers using the less offensive term ‘memory loss’, rather than Alzheimer’s or dementia, when speaking with clients and their families. It’s clear, the stigma of mental illness is a monster in itself.

Dave Jeffery: 

The associations between horrific acts of violence and mental illness in genre media can be exacerbated when such misguided links are assumed in horror fiction. As a horror writer, do you think we have a responsibility to temper this view when we write our narratives? 

Lee Murray:

I think we have a responsibility to write with authenticity. My Writing From a Dark Place panellist, Eric J. Guignard, is of the same mind. He says writers should: “create empathy with real life sufferers by sharing authentic experiences by way of storytelling”. To do that I believe we need to write complex rounded ‘real’ characters, including characters with mental illnesses. And if we also show the missed opportunities for help, those pivotal moments for connection that might have averted those acts of violence, then perhaps we would also see opportunities to affect change. 

I guess that gives us an altruistic reason to write horror, doesn’t it? 

Something interesting I learned recently is that while New Zealand’s Māori and Pasifika population currently have the country’s the highest rates of mental illness and suicide, a study conducted in the 1940s showed that, by contrast, Māori had no discernible incidence of mental illness at that time. Mental illness is a new phenomenon in Māori communities and is largely a product of the pressures of our modern society, arising because the traditional support networks provided by family and community have been broken down.

Baker (1988) reports: “Society had this fear of contamination from mental disease and also a massive denial that it even existed. These concepts were alien to Māori people whose whānau (family) members suffering from trauma were always included within the whanau (family), hapū (subtribe), iwi (tribal) boundaries and given special status.”

I think we have a lot to learn from the traditional Māori approach of inclusiveness and care when dealing with mental health issues.

Dave Jeffery: 

I would agree with your viewpoint. There is certainly a recovery-based ideology prevalent in Baker’s description of Māori culture, and this can be seen in Western values throughout the history. For example, in 1796, Quaker William Tuke set up The Retreat, a facility built in the city of York, UK that was to become the cornerstone of a philosophy of what was called The Moral Treatment. The programme involved giving patients purpose, including them in their decision-making and giving them a meaningful life through the sanctity of work. These are key tenets that we see in the recovery paradigm that is so fundamental to mental healthcare in the 21st Century. Community and inclusion are essential to the concept of reducing stigma. With celebrities using their high profile to share their experiences of mental health issues, I have to say we’ve come a long way, but it is nowhere near enough. 

Lee Murray:

Whether or not it is therapeutic, writing has been known to save people. 

Janet Frame is one of New Zealand’s most iconic writers of dark fiction and the subject of Jane Campion’s 1990 film An Angel at My Table. Almost all of Janet Frame’s work, including her debut novel Owls Do Cry (1957), addresses mental illness and is thought to have been drawn from her own experience. After a suicide attempt, Frame spent eight years in mental hospitals and received 200 electroshock treatments. She was about to undergo a lobotomy, but the New Zealand Society of Authors sent a letter advising the hospital that she had recently won a major literary prize, and instead she was released.

Later, a panel of psychiatrists determined that she didn’t have schizophrenia, a fact which Frame resented, as she wrote in her third autobiography: “Oh why had they robbed me of my schizophrenia, which had been the answer to all my misgivings about myself?”

It introduces a chicken and the egg aspect to the horror-mental health debate, doesn’t it? Which comes first, the horror writer who suffers mental illness, writers who suffer mental illness who are then drawn to dark themes? Why exactly do we choose horror over happier more light-hearted themes, anyway? As a mental health practitioner and a horror writer yourself, do you consider dark themes are therapeutic in any way?

Dave Jeffery:

 I think if done with integrity and skill then, yes, it can be therapeutic. I say with the caveat of recovery, of course. If people relate to the experiences of characters then it reinforces the concept that they are not experiencing these things in isolation, that social context is has given them common ground through the characters. Where it becomes less helpful is where the narrative is delivered in a clumsy way by those who prefer to shock, reinforcing those ever-present societal views of the salivating lunatic who kills anyone they see, a human monster terrorising the innocent. My advice to those who are planning on writing about mental illness in horror fiction is to treat it with the sensitivity as they would gender and race issues. That way you will take the time to consider what the pitfalls are and ultimately write something interesting and, above all, authentic. 


Lee Murray and Dave Jeffery are current co-chairs of the HWA Wellness Committee.

Lee Murray is an author, editor, screenwriter, and poet from Aotearoa New Zealand. A USA Today Bestselling author, double Bram Stoker Award® and Shirley Jackson Award winner, her work includes military thriller series, the Taine McKenna Adventures, supernatural crime-noir trilogy The Path of Ra (with Dan Rabarts), and short fiction collection, Grotesque: Monster Stories. Lee is the editor of nineteen volumes of dark fiction, among them Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women (with Geneve Flynn). Other works include non-fiction title Mark My Words: Read the Submission Guidelines and Other Self-editing Tips with Angela Yuriko Smith, and several books for children. Her short stories and poems have appeared in venues such as Weird Tales, Space and Time, and Grimdark Magazine. Lee is co-founder of Young NZ Writers and of the Wright-Murray Residency for Speculative Fiction Writers, an HWA Mentor of the Year, NZSA Honorary Literary Fellow, and a Grimshaw Sargeson Fellow. Read more at https://www.leemurray.info/

Dave Jeffery is the author of 17 novels, two collections, and numerous short stories. His Necropolis Rising series (Severed Press) and yeti adventure Frostbite (Severed Press) have both featured on the Amazon #1 bestseller list. He regularly contributes both articles and short stories for the prestigious genre publication, Phantasmagoria Magazine. His YA work features the Beatrice Beecham supernatural mystery series (Crystal Lake Publishing & Crossroad Press). Jeffery is also the creator of the critically acclaimed A Quiet Apocalypse series (Demain Publishing). His contemporary mental health novel Finding Jericho is currently being optioned as a TV miniseries. 

Jeffery is a member of the Society of Authors and actively involved in the Horror Writers Association where he is a mentor on the HWA Mentorship Scheme, and co-chair of the HWA Wellness Committee. He is contactable through his website: http://www.davejefferyauthor.com

References:

Ando, V., Claridge, G. & Clarke, A. (2014) ‘Psychotic traits in comedians ’. The British Journal of Psychiatry.  204(5)

Baker, R. (1988), ‘Kia Koutou’ IN Walsh, C. & Johnson, S. (eds.), Psych Nurses, 88, Wellington, p.40.

Beaglehole, E., Beaglehole, P., (1947), Some Modern Māori, New Zealand Council for Educational Research, Whitcombe and Tombs Ltd, Auckland.

Foucault, M. (1967) Madness & Civilization. Routledge, London. 

Arnold, N. (ed.) (2018) Headlands: New Stories of Anxiety. Victoria University Press, Wellington.

Tuke, W. (1813) Description of the Retreat. Alexander: York.

 

 

Guest Blog: For A Horror Writer, Inspiration Can Hit At Any Time

By Kaaron Warren

Most writers have an internal voice that runs day and night, even while we sleep. It’s the voice that points out ideas to us, that says, did you hear that, about a snippet of conversation, or see that, about a piece of grafitti or a stray dog trailing a leash, or new shoes neatly placed in the gutter. As a horror writer, that voice can show up in surprising places.

For me, ideas often come hidden in old magazines. There’s something about jumping into the past (and, in a way, seeing into the future because I can find out what happened next thanks to the internet) that sparks ideas for me.

When The Pixel Project approached me for a story for the important anthology Give the Devil His Due, I knew I wanted to write a story where the abuser truly felt the pain of regret and suffering. I just wasn’t sure how.

I flicked through an old Punch Magazine from the 1960s and came across an advertisement for cigars. Two men, one sitting in a leather armchair, one with his foot up on a stool, both completely filled with self-assurance and certainty of their importance. They were in a place called The Steering Wheel Club, which did, in fact, exist at one time.

The idea for a horror story lay hidden under the façade of comfort, companionship and wealth. There were apparently famous steering wheels mounted on the walls and with my horror writer’s imagination, I wondered what sort of men would collect steering wheels behind which someone had died.

Horror stories are a glimpse into the truth.

Glimpses of truth lie hidden in the pages of an old history book. I was glancing through a publication called The Archaeological Journal 1931, and I came across a description of an unnamed woman (who they call Kathleen, but whose name was not Kathleen) who fell in love with a priest, the author says, ‘until he gave her a thorough and well deserved flogging with a handfuls of nettles” after which she saw ‘the error of her ways’ and became a nun. In the Thomas Moore poem, the priest in fact ‘hurls her from the beetling rock’ to her death. The priest comes to regret the loss of her love (not Kathleen, but her adoration) and blesses her to be happy in Heaven, which makes her ghost, which glides mournfully across the lake, smile.

I feel a helpless fury reading this, the same I get when I read about Henry the Eighth’s wives or any other abused ‘appendage’. I’m helpless to change what happened, but through fiction I can affect how I feel about it, and to perhaps gain some small revenge. The good thing about writing horror is that I can make bad things happen. I have people come back from the dead, and ghosts haunt, and I can have Kathleen smile like she does in the poem, but in my story she’ll thrust her ice-cold fingers into his eyes so he will never see god’s beautiful creation again…

Violence against women in domestic situations can be similarly hidden. The face people present to the world (as individuals or as families) can hide the true nature of that relationship. I wanted to be a part of this anthology because while my voice gives me ideas for stories, and I can speak it aloud, there are many, many others who need help, and need the chance to ask for help.


About Giving The Devil His Due (http://bit.ly/GivingTheDevilHisDue

Giving The Devil His Due is a charity anthology featuirng stories where The Twilight Zone meets Promising Young Woman as men who abuse and murder women meet their comeuppance in uncanny ways. Edited by Rebecca Brewer, the anthology features sixteen major names and rising stars in Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror including Angela Yuriko Smith, Christina Henry, Dana Cameron, Errick Nunnally, Hillary Monahan, Jason Sanford, Kaaron Warren, Kelley Armstrong, Kenesha Williams, Leanna Renee Hieber, Lee Murray, Linda D. Addison, Nicholas Kaufmann, Nisi Shawl, Peter Tieryas, and Stephen Graham Jones.  The book includes resources for victims and survivors of VAW worldwide, making it a valuable tool for getting life-saving information to domestic violence victims still under their abuser’s control or rape survivors who are too ashamed to ask for help. 100% of the net proceeds from the sales of the anthology will go towards supporting The Pixel Project’s anti-violence against women work. Find out where to get your copy of the Special Edition via http://bit.ly/GivingTheDevilHisDue. The upcoming Classic Edition will be released on 25 May 2022 by Running Wild Press (https://runningwildpress.com/).

About The Pixel Project (www.thepixelproject.net

 

 

The Pixel Project is a complete virtual, volunteer-led global 501(c)3 nonprofit organisation whose mission is to raise awareness, funds and volunteer power for the cause to end violence against women using  a combination of social media, new technologies, and popular culture/the Arts

 

 

 

Shirley Jackson award-winner Kaaron Warren’s most recent books include the re-release of her acclaimed novels, Slights, Mistification and Walking the Tree (IFWG Australia), Tool Tales, a chapbook in collaboration with Ellen Datlow (also IFWG), a novella Into Bones Like Oil (Meerkat Press), which was shortlisted for a Shirley Jackson Award and the Bram Stoker Award, winning the Aurealis Award, and Capturing Ghosts, a writing advice chapbook from Brain Jar Press. She was Guest of Honour at Genrecon 2018, World Fantasy 2018, Stokercon 2019 and Geysercon 2019.

HOW CON: Three Ways New Authors Sabotage Themselves

Three Ways New Authors Sabotage Themselves
And what to do to stop making the same mistakes

by Emerian Rich

As writers, we have many bad habits that hinder our careers. I am just as guilty as the next author and some of us don’t even know we’re doing it. I’m going to bring to light three self-torturing habits we have, in hopes that we can all help each other stop the madness.

1. We don’t support ourselves.

Sounds weird, but it’s true. We wrote these stories, we love them, but are we going to stand up to the masses and say, “My story is good enough to pay $10 for! Get it now!” Most will back out of this quicker than dodging a trip to the dentist. We are writers and as a rule introverts. We’d rather write the 100 page essay than give the 3-minute oral report. We also sabotage any self-confidence we may have by discounting our gifts. We tend to separate ourselves from “real” authors.

What to do: Stop it. No really, STOP IT!

2. We overuse the word JUST.

I’m not talking editing 101 here, I’m talking about thinking of yourself in JUST terms. I’m JUST self-published. I’m JUST a short story writer. I’ve JUST got one book out. I’m JUST with a small publisher. I’ve JUST sold two short stories. Cut out the JUST! What is the standard you hold yourself to? Stephen King? How many millions of horror authors out there are not Stephen King, but are still living their dream of being respected, valid writers, with something to say that people will listen to? It’s okay to set your sights on the Stephen King ideal, but don’t make it all or nothing.

What to do: Believe in yourself. Believe in your message. Stop JUSTing yourself. Stop discounting your gift. Set your sights high, but reward yourself at every milestone. Keep track of your milestones and look back on them every year. This writing biz goes really fast and you’ll be surprised (if you take baby steps every week) what you can accomplish.

3. We take editor responses, critiques, and reviews too personally.

Yes, our writing is our baby, but the more I’m in this business, the more I realize that it’s all about timing. Most declines have very little to do with the story content. So, what if you’ve submitted your story 57 times and never got a bite? Is it about you? Do the editors not like you? This is true in only the rarest of occasions ie… camping outside their hotel room at Con chanting “Sign me! Sign me!” all night until they give in – probably not a good idea. But to most editors, you are a nameless, faceless number. You’re number 902 in a pile they’ve received to read that month. They are under pressure to get through them all and they are looking for ghost fiction only this year, not zombies. You missed your window. It’s not personal. It’s not even about your writing half the time because they read the title: “Zombie Apocalypse” and because they aren’t buying zombies this year, bam… it’s in the reject pile.

What to do: Make sure your work is as perfect as you can make it so if an editor decides to give you a chance, your writing will stand on its own. As far as reviews go, they are completely subjective. The reviewer could be outside your target audience, against your message, or have religious differences. You may have said MOIST in the first paragraph of your book and from then on they just knew you were trying to gross them out. Every reader takes something different away from your writing. That’s what you want to happen. If you are a self-published author and you didn’t have money for a full edit, expect grammar slams. Expect them to point out errors. Don’t take it to heart. Don’t let yourself get caught up in what you did wrong in the past. And those crazy reviewers that suggest 10 different ways you should kill yourself because they hate you so much? Let it roll off your back. Anyone with that much hate over a book review obviously has emotional issues. Take what reviewers leave with a grain of salt. Try to evaluate it in a removed way, see if there is any truth in it, and then move on. Put out that next book. Do better. Learn from your mistakes and grow as a writer.


Emerian Rich is the author of the Night’s Knights Vampire Series and Sweet Dreams Musical Romance Series. She is the Horror Host for the international podcast HorrorAddicts.net and regularly commits author sabotage on herself. To find out more about Emerian, go to her website at www.emzbox.com

#HOWConference – Last chance to chat?

 

Join us tonight
Thursday, February 28
for our LAST CHANCE CHAT
Live on ShoutBox Chat
9 pm pacific / 12 mid eastern

You can still chat with HorrorAddicts.net year-round by…

Joining our FB group

Women Writer’s Group

Following us on Twitter

Subscribing to our blog

Listen to our podcast on iTunes

Hope to see you tonight!

And if you’ve missed any of our awesome articles/panel discussions, check out:

Scare Yourself and Your Readers – Dina Leacock

How to Make Your Horror Tourniquet Tight – Laura Perkins

The Embodiment of YA Horror – Laura Perkins

Gary Frank Author Interview

Overlooked Elements of Promotion – Loren Rhoads

Christine Norris Author Interview

Brainstorming 101 – Laura Kaighn

Brian McKinley Author Interview

Importance of Networking – Ilene Schneider

Of course, our HorrorAddicts.net staff has come through with several horror articles and general writing tips, too:

Submitting Your Short Story – Naching Kassa

Self-Publishing Checklist for Newbies – Emerian Rich

How Not to End a Sentence with a Preposition – Kristin Battestella

Getting Out and Staying Out of the Slushpile – Emerian Rich

Vampires versus Vampires – Kristin Battestella

Baby Steps for New Authors – Emerian Rich

There’s just so much to see and do out HOW! We’ve already decided to keep using the Forum and the ShoutBox Chat for more HorrorAddicts.net perks and events! Browse our Online Conference today, tomorrow, at your own pace anytime – and be sure to tell us What You Think of HOW!

#HOWConference – Welcome Our Guest Authors!

 

 

The HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference has several workshops, videos, and inspirations from locals near and far! Here’s a list featuring some of our Guest Authors:

 

Scare Yourself and Your Readers – Dina Leacock

How to Make Your Horror Tourniquet Tight – Laura Perkins

The Embodiment of YA Horror – Laura Perkins

Gary Frank Author Interview

Overlooked Elements of Promotion – Loren Rhoads

Christine Norris Author Interview

Brainstorming 101 – Laura Kaighn

Brian McKinley Author Interview

Importance of Networking – Ilene Schneider

 

Of course, our HorrorAddicts.net staff has come through with several horror articles and general writing tips, too:

 

Submitting Your Short Story – Naching Kassa

Self-Publishing Checklist for Newbies – Emerian Rich

How Not to End a Sentence with a Preposition – Kristin Battestella

Getting Out and Staying Out of the Slushpile – Emerian Rich

Vampires versus Vampires – Kristin Battestella

Baby Steps for New Authors – Emerian Rich

 

There’s just so much to see and do out HOW! We’ve already decided to keep using the Forum and the ShoutBox Chat for more HorrorAddicts.net perks and events! Browse our Online Conference today, tomorrow, at your own pace anytime – and be sure to tell us What You Think of HOW!

 

 

HOWConference: Live Chats!

The HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference is offering Several Live Chat Events with our Publishers, Editors, and Staff. Join us at HOW to ask Your Questions!

Sunday, February 24
CHAT with AN EDITOR!

Sunday February 24 4 p.m. Pacific/ 7 p.m. Eastern Naching T. Kassa, Horror Addicts.net Publisher and Dark Divinations anthology Editor will be chatting with HOW!
Naching is a wife, mother, horror writer, and Head of HorrorAddicts.net Publishing. She’s created 17 short stories, two novellas, a poem, and co-created two children. She lives in Eastern Washington State with Dan Kassa, her husband and biggest supporter. Naching is a member of the Horror Writers Association and a contributor to the Demonic Visions series. She took second place in Horroraddicts.net’s Next Great Horror Writer Contest and one of her poems was included in The Horror Writers Association’s Poetry Showcase Vol. IV.

 

To chat with Naching, join us in the Shoutbox at the bottom of the #HOWConference Front page. If you have a question for Naching, post a “?” comment during the chat hour and the moderator will call on you.

Monday February 25 we are having not
One but TWO Live Chats at HOW!

First on Monday February 25 10 a.m. Pacific / 1 p.m. Eastern join Emerian Rich, HorrorAddicts.net Publisher & Podcast Hostess for Publishing 101

Creator and Horror Hostess of HorrorAddicts.net Publishing Emerian Rich created HorrorAddicts.net as a place for horror addicts, by horror addicts, glorifying every aspect of the horror lifestyle. Emerian is the author of Night’s Knights Vampire Series, the Sweet Dreams Novel Series, and has been involved in dozens of podcast and story projects. She was the editor of the horror ‘zine DarkLives for ten years starting in the mid-nineties. To find out more about Emerian, visit her site at: emzbox.com

Next we are having an Evening Welcome Party!

Monday February 25 8 p.m. Eastern / 5 p.m. Pacific it’s a Shout Box Welcome Night Party with Kristin Battestella, Dark Fantasy author and HorrorAddicts.net Staff Writer. Yes, Yours Truly!

When other kids were playing with dolls and teddy bears, this South Jersey born and bred addict KBatz was watching Price, Lee, Hitchcock, Dark Shadows, Alien, anything and everything in analysis of what was scary and why. Be it vamps, scares, or weres, you name it-freaky or macabre and she is there-regardless of how you pronounce macabre. For more bent paranormal fiction and horror film, television, and literature reviews, find Kbatz’ insanity on the web at: vampfam.blogspot.com

Can’t Wait to See You at HOW!

 

By The Fire Edpisode 143: Challenge 7: Write a 900-1000 word non-fiction blog post on something horrific you experienced.

Hello again HorrorAddicts, I hope you are enjoying horroraddicts.net Next Great Horror Writer Challenge. The contest is getting more interesting as the challenges get harder. The contestants are now having to work harder as the assignments become more difficult. Writing is hard work and in order to get published, you have to challenge yourself and always find ways to make yourself better. Personally, I think writing is the hardest art form there is and this contest is making all the participants better writers.

The contest for episode 143 of the podcast is for the writers to write a 900-1000 word non-fiction blog post on something horrific they experienced. It could be a haunting, a disaster, a phobia, anything they found personally horrific and lived to tell the tale about. This will test their ability to blog, which is a part of every successful writer’s life. They will be judged on blog-ability (will it appeal to readers), topic interest, and writing quality.

The hardest part of this challenge for me would be reliving a horrifying experience. This is real life horror and for some people, real life is hard to write about. If you live through an earthquake or have been trapped in a haunted house, you don’t want to think about it again. These writers will have to do just that as they tell us their experience and make us feel the fear that they felt.

So the question is what happened to our writers in the past that scared them? Maybe surviving a horrible experience is what made them want to be horror writers. If you ask horror writers why they write what they do, some of them will tell you they do it to help them deal with the things in life that truly frighten them. Horror writing is not only fun, it’s also a form of therapy. So if you were in this contest what would you write about? What horrific experience do you want to share with others? What do you hope our writers will choose to write about? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to listen to Episode 143.

 

#NGHW News 138

 

Hello, Addicts!

Well, how good were this week’s stories! I can’t tell you how happy I am that our judges did not agree. This way, we were blessed with seven stories instead of the promised three. And oh my Odin, what stories they were!

So this week’s challenge was to write 250 words about a monster. Seven monsters we were given, three survived to the next round and then one was picked and deemed worthy of the mini prize – Professional audio production of the winning short story.

Our stories, this week were:
1 LARVAE #teamsumiko
2 THE PET #teamdaphne
3 LINGUA #teamJC
4 BLOODWORM #teamjonathan
5 THE ODDMENTS MONSTER #teamadele
6 THE LAUGHING MAN #teamnaching
7 ALWAYS HUNGRY #teamcat
You can read and/or listen to all these brilliant stories here.

In the discussion after the stories were read, we learned some juicy deets about our beautiful, spooky host, Emz. Our leader into the night is scared of insects and monkeys! And even though the contestants have been warned, it will be interesting to see if any of them draw on this info for their next projects. Knowing what spooks the judges could give them a leg up or tear them down. Only time will tell if any of them dare to scare our dearest Emz.

But this discussion leads me to think … What do our fearsome fifteen fear? What makes our makers of fear jump in the night? I simply had to ask. (And if you’re wondering what scares me, it’s koalas.)

We had some super interesting answers. AE Kirk – our archaeologist – was freaked out by skeletons as a child. Sumiko – the author of LARVAE – has an irrational fear of maggots, which may explain her monster. Naching – our winner for this week’s challenge (oh, had I not mentioned that yet!) – is claustrophobic. Ten points to who can guess what JC is scared of …

One story, which I really wanted to share with you, was from our sweet Daphne. I will let her tell you the story…

“I am TERRIFIED of ladybugs. Yes, the little red and black beetles that populate gardens and children’s story books. I wasn’t always afraid of them–I wore a ladybug dress to my first day of kindergarten–but that all changed when I was ten.
My parents, after twenty-plus years of marriage, finally built their dream home in the Missouri countryside: a magazine-worthy log cabin situated on five acres of wooded land. All was well. The house was completed and we moved in. But at some point during the construction process, ladybugs had laid eggs in one of the interior rooms–specifically, what would become my room.
After a few weeks, the eggs hatched. Thousands of them. While the room had been open to the environment when they were deposited, it was now sealed, locking the beetles inside the house along with me. They were everywhere: in my bed, my clothes, my hair. Their tiny armored bodies blocked out the light that streamed through my windows as they swarmed toward what they thought was freedom. My father would vacuum my room every day (taking the wriggling, writhing mass of insects outside for disposal), only for more ladybugs to appear in their kin’s place. This continued for months before a significant majority of the monsters had been rehomed outside (where I assume they went on to reproduce more of their abhorrent kind). Yet, to this day, when visiting my childhood home, I, without fail, find one of them creeping over a couch cushion or across my arm.”

So, back to the contest. The top three stories this week were BLOODWORM by Jonathan Fortin, THE PET by Daphne Straset and THE LAUGHING MAN by Naching T Kassa. But I totally already spoiled it by telling you that Naching won. Her story, set in a war zone and crossed with creepy bedtime tale, won her this week’s mini prize which you can also hear on the podcast.

Next week on the #NGHW contest is challenge number 3! Write a 450-500 word, non-fiction, blog post about anything horror. This is to test our fearsome fifteen’s ability to blog which is a super important asset for any writer’s career. This is a very different challenge that may see some different contestants take the limelight. It will be really interesting to see how the contestants handle non-fiction. They will be judged on:
• Blog ability. What will appeal to the readers.
• Topic interest. Is it something horror addicts are interested in today.
• Writing quality.
The winner will have their subject discussed on a prominent horror podcast.
So, who will you follow? Perhaps you will be on #teamjonathan – the gothic, demon lover with a taste for the unique and bizarre – or #teamfeind – Cthulu’s best friend and our favourite metal head – or #teamquentin – our filmmaking fan of Frankenstein’s monster – or #teamriley – the beautiful cosplaying gal who loves herself a little bit of Freddy. Let us know in the comments or on the social media.

Stay spooky!

Hugs xxx

Adelise M Cullens

Master of Horror L.A. Banks and her contribution to Horror

Black Women in Horror:

 Master of Horror L.A. Banks and her contribution to Horror.

“If my soul got jacked, where is it?”L.A. Banks

Happy Black History Month! I want to start this out in saying, yes, this blog post will be long and peppered in fangirl moments. I will drone on about the awesomeness of author L.A. Banks and her extraordinary writing skills in horror/thrillers. I will gawk at the idea that she is not praised as much as she should be, and I will tear up at the reality that this author’s incredible gifts have been lost to us in the literary world. This is my respectful tribute to her…it is what it is. -smile-

banks6In the world of Horror, in link with black women, there are only two names that comes to mind for me that have been cultural innovators and pop icons in this area of literature. And today I’m choosing to speak on the one that I was lead to deeply admire, Leslie Esdaile Banks. Better known as L.A. Banks. When you think of horror, the greats who founded it, and those who followed in their footsteps, oftentimes many people don’t equate women in that class.

People always are quick to name the greats, Horace Walpole, Bram Stoker, H.P. Lovecraft, and contemporaries, Clive Barker and Stephen King as the masters of horror. I take nothing away from them. However, women were also at the forefront of horror. They were the literal foundation that inspired many past and current male horror authors that we so fondly idolize.

“Humans have been telling scary stories of great danger, defeat, and triumph since we built campfires outside the caves while the wolves were howling in the hills near us.” – L.A. Banks via Wild River Review 2011

Women of horror helped craft a culture within the medium that added character to how many male horror writers developed their own stories. A level of maturity, audaciousness, sensuality, and political/social commentary between the pages of great stories that scared us senseless. Who were the women that influenced horror? These founding women were: Ann Radcliffe, Mary Shelly, and more. Later they would influence and shaped the pens of contemporary women horror writers such as Carrie Vaughn, Anne Rice, Sherrilyn Kenyon, and Charlaine Harris. However, it is black women writers such as Tananarive Due and L.A. Banks who chose to elevate the medium and bring with them a fresh flair to the foundation that has sorely been missed, the reality of the black voice and everyday man/woman.

banks5L.A. Banks contribution to horror was shaped around where she came from and the no-holds bar realities of her life in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

“L.A. Banks’s career was born out of tragedy. Years ago, her six-month-old daughter was severely burned, she was going through a divorce, she lost her job when she took time off to be with her daughter, and she was broke. Yet somehow, in the midst of all the grief, she turned to writing – creating page after page of entertainment that kept her girlfriends so entranced they submitted the complete manuscript to publishers without telling her.” – Janice Gable Bashman via Wild River Review 2011

I’m very sure if you look at the lives of the founding women writers in horror, that they too began writing due to specifics in their lives that mandated them taking pen to paper. Culture shifts, frustrations with status, political views, a sense of advocacy in the world. Horror provided the appropriate medium for these women writers to showcase our most feared secret places in our psyche and spirit. L.A. Banks had a gift for doing the same thing. Before ‘Black Lives Matter’ was shouted, L.A. Banks characters in her well-loved and known horror/thriller/pararomance series, The Vampire Huntress Series and Crimson Moon Series, were actively in the streets kicking ass, and taking names later in the same branch of protest and demand for justice. Black Lives Mattered in all her works.

“Fear, hatred, oppression – that’s pure evil and it never lasts. Love endures.” – L.A. Banks via Wild River Review 2011

banks4         L.A. Banks was proud of being a woman writer in horror, paranormal fantasy and more. She was proud of her place as a black woman in the literary world as well. This is why she was ahead of her time. She created a culture where young and old could come together for a cause in saving ourselves from the pains of the streets and the political strife in our governments. Her characters bucked the system of global oppression without batting an eye.

Bloodshed, hearts being snatched out, fangs tearing into necks, demon possessions, werewolves and jaguars, naughty sensual sex. L.A. Banks world was intense and oh so good. What is masked as vampires and demons, monsters snatching people from their beds or in the streets, was a well-written allegory for issues such as police brutality, martial law, government cover-ups, drugs and poverty in our communities. Her works were even crafted as a way to speak about the disconnect between young and old in how we all viewed the lens of civil rights and social rights.

Again, L.A. Banks was ahead of her time.

“The vampire represents a lot of what we see in society. They’re scarier because of that; because the vampire can be anybody. He just blends in and looks perfectly normal. Like serial killers often look like normal people… the fear factor is that they’re among us.” – L.A. Banks via Wild River Review 2011

Her grasp of writing to reach those of us not only in the Black community but also in the Latino, and even white community was something that not many authors today can effectively balance. Listen, when you have a supernatural team of people tasked to save us from the apocalypse, and these characters come from every walk of life. Young, old, street kids, Jews, Latino priests, bikers gangs, southern folks, and more? You then have a mix for how we should be coming together to build ourselves up before we fall into destruction and also shows that on a human level, we all should be able to come together without issue. It makes reading her books immensely relatable. This is why L.A. Banks works resonated well with her fans.

“The more I know what is going on in the world, the more it effects my choices, how I vote, how I spend my money, how I relate to others. I am empowered by what I know, laid bare and ignorant by what I don’t know.” – L.A. Banks via Wild River Review 2011

banks3As a means to reach us all, L.A. Banks used her medium of scaring the hell out of you, while educating you without being preachy unless needed to be. Her style was deftly smooth and gripping, that in my opinion it influenced not only her readers but Hollywood as well. Case-in-point, before her passing L.A. Banks had been featured as a commentary for the behind-the-scenes look at HBO’s True Blood as it was premiered. Like many writers, we research our craft to create our worlds.

Not only did the writers do the same in shaping author Charlaine Harris popular book, but they also used the influences of many other writers to make it a richer environment. Once such influence was L.A. Banks slang and flair. “Dropping Fang” came from her works and found a way in the language of True Blood.

“…Vampires had taken the mantle as the perfectly dangerous lover – the forbidden, kinky, deep dark sensualist. Move over, vamps, somebody in pop culture let the dogs out. So we now have the phenomena where injustice, rage, plus the phase of the moon, means that the otherwise mild-mannered individual who is playing by the rules of society just gets fed up and rips your face off.”– L.A. Banks via Wild River Review 2011

banks2L.A. Banks had a powerful influential gift for writing. Had we not lost her, I believe that she and her works would have continued to not only help in our current climate today, but also changed the diversity of Hollywood.

As she stated back in 2011, “There is always a mentor, a Yoda, a Sensei, a learned master that helps the young initiate along their path of trials and tribulations until they emerge victorious.” Mama Banks you were our mentor, and master in the world of Horror, paranormal speculative fiction and more. August 2, 2011 is the day L.A. Banks parted from this world. It still saddens me that she is not celebrated more, because to me, she is right there in the ranks of Octavia Butler. Women in Horror have been overlooked and oftentimes ignored, especially with fellow women writers like myself. One day this will change.

We women are proud to take on the task of holding up the mantel of women horror writers like I’ve mentioned previously. It’s now up to the readers to turn a willing eye our way and step into our creepy, sinister, maliciously evil works and join us on our journey into greatness. Besides, we’ve been the inspiration for many male writers already. Why not continue the ride?

“Knowledge is Power.” – Carlos Rivera (VHL series)

L.A. Banks, also known as Mama Banks (to us fans), we miss you dearly. Thank you for being a beacon of light for myself as a writer and many others. I only hope that I become the same way as you were for me because when no one else will speak your name, I will. This is your right of honor as is your place at the Queen’s table for us black women writers. Thank you again and happy Black History Month!

 

***********

Born in Iowa, but later relocating and raised in Alton, IL and St. Louis, MO, Kai Leakes was an imaginative Midwestern child, who gained an addiction to books at an early age. The art of imagination was the very start of Kai’s path of writing which lead her to creating the Sin Eaters: Devotion Books Series and continuing works. Since a young childScreenshot_2016-01-31-15-02-55-1-1-1, her love for creating, vibrant romance and fantasy driven mystical tales, continues to be a major part of her very DNA. With the goal of sharing tales that entertain and add color to a gray literary world, Kai Leakes hopes to continue to reach out to those who love the same fantasy, paranormal, romantic, sci/fi, and soon, steampunk-driven worlds that shaped her unique multi-faceted and diverse vision. You can find Kai Leakes at: www.kwhp5f.wix.com/kai-leakes

l.a.banks
Read more of L.A. Banks interview with Wild River Review here: http://www.wildriverreview.com/Interview/L.A._Banks/From_Tragedy_to_triumph/bashman/October_09

 

Horror Addicts Guide to Life Author Spotlight: Catt Dahman

24520262Catt Dahman has written several horror novels including Circle Jerk. For Horror Addicts Guide To Life  Catt wrote an essay called “Writing Extreme Horror.” In it Catt talks about being a horror author and the trends she sees in horror. To read Catt’s article along with several other articles on living the horror lifestyle, pick up a copy of Horror Addicts Guide To LifeRecently Catt was nice enough to tell us what he likes about horror:

What do you like about the horror genre?

The versatility. I can write about romance or anything within horror because it supports the theme. I think I haven’t even scratched the surface of all there is in horror because “horror” can be in so many forms.

What are some of your favorite horror movies, books or TV shows?

I am a Richard Laymon fan. I like Ira Levin and Stephen King as well but too many to name.

In what way do you live the horror lifestyle?

In my house, discussions about cannibals is normal. A ‘relaxing” show is found on crime t.v. We embrace my persona and everything is “She’s a horror writer” as if that is a reason for anything at all. Spilled milk? Blame the need for a particular horror scene and call in inspiration.

What are you currently working on?

I finished some nasty monsters and a Gothic horror novel and am working on a few projects that cover themes such as cannibals (always!), the Donner party with a friend, D.A. Roberts, monsters in a cave, and an apoc-book. I generally write (begin) 3-4 at a time and then focus on one until it is finished.

Where can we find you online?

You can find me at www.cattd.com or http://www.jellingtonashton.com/

African American Horror Writers Part 2

devilswakeLast Febuary to celebrate Black History Month, I did a post on African-American Horror Writers which you can read by clicking here. Some of the authors in that post included L.A. Banks, Maurice Broaddus, Wrath James White, Brandon Massey, Octavia ButlerJermiah Jefferson and a few others. Since that post went up I’ve had other authors leave comments so I wanted to expand my list. So if you’re looking for a good read I’m sure you will find something by the authors listed below.

First up, I want to mention Tananarive Due. While Tananarive is primarily looked at as a Science Fiction writer some of her novels can also be looked at as horror. In 2012 Tananarive co-wrote a zombie novel with her husband Steven Barnes.  The book is called Devil’s Wake, its set in a post-apocalyptic future where a school bus full of  young people try to escape the walking dead and human raiders as society crumbles around them. Tananarive Due is also the writer of the African Immortals series which has been compared to Anne Rice’s Vampire chronicles. The storyline is about an Ethiopian sect that traded their humanity to be immortal.

15823995Also I briefly mentioned Andre Duza in my previous post on African-American horror writers. Andre writes hard-core horror mixed with with humor and social commentary. He has written several short stories and novels including Dead Bitch Army about a zombie woman out for revenge after the apocalypse. Another of Andre’s novels is  Jesus Freaks which takes place on Easter morning in 2015. Detective Phillip Makane woke up to a world of bleeding rain, a homicidal ghost and thousands of zombies along with two men with powers claiming to be Jesus.  Andre Duza has also written the hardcore pulp novella about dog fighting and black magic called Son of A Bitch with Wrath James White.

Just recently I heard of another author named Sumiko Saulson. She has written three novels and a collection of short stories called Things That Go Bump In My Head. One of her novels is called  Solitude which is about people who wake up and find they are all alone  in San Francisco. The story follows the characters as they try to figure out what happened as they explore the deserted city. One review I read for this book compared it to Stephen King’s The Stand and The Dark Tower. Another one by Sumiko is The Moon Cried Blood which is about a woman named Leticia who is growing up in Los Angeles in 1975 and has just discovered she comes from a long line of witches.

bumpheadcoverGetting back to the zombie theme you might want to check out George L. Cook III’s The Dead War Series. There are three books in this series, they are set in the future and tell the tale of an army battling the undead. Some of the reviews on this one say its a fun time and not to read it on a full stomach.

Another author with some good horror titles to her name is L. Marie Wood. Her debut novel is Crescendo: Welcome Home death Awaits. This one is about a man haunted by a family curse. When he dreams, people die and now he has to try to break the curse and keep from going insane. Some of her other works include Caliginy and The Promise Keeper.

Next up is Qwantu Amaru who’s book One Blood won a 2012 international book award, a National Indie Excellence award and several other honors. One Blood tells the story of Lincoln Baker a man in prison who orchestrates the kidnapping of the daughter of the governor of Louisiana. He also  resurrects a family curse which goes back to slavery. This book has received great reviews and has been recommended by Brandon Massey.

Writing more for the young adult audience is A.J. Harper. A.J. started the Night Biters series which is geared towards fans of Harry Potter and Twilight but with much more ethnic diversity and in an urban setting. The story follows 16 year old Jamilah and 14-year-old Omari who arrive in Oakland to live with their aunt and Uncle. They are given a mysterious CD that gives them information about the danger of vampires and they soon became caught up in a street war between vampire gangs.

Another Author that I need to talk about is Tize W. Clark. Tize has been 6136585referred to as the new king of horror. His first novel is called The Maze which is a horrifying journey from the streets of New York to the Mountains of New Mexico and back. Another book by a new author is The Dark Side Of Grace by M.L. Cooper. This is a paranormal romance novel about two lovers that try to uncover the truth about their family’s haunted slave past.

Keeping with newer authors, If you are into short horror fiction check out Afro-American Stories Of Fright From The Old South by Darnell Wright which also comes with a down home southern recipe. If you like psychological horror check out Abstract Murder by A.L. Peck. The description of this one says that if you like Pulp Fiction and Silence of The Lambs then you will want to check this one out. One more independent author that was brought to my attention by Sumiko Saulson is Ron Huston whose first novel is called The Rogue Prophet. This is a classic tale of good versus evil set in a place of worship. I also don’t want to forget to mention J. Malcom Stewart who wrote The Eyes Of The Stars which I have reviewed on this blog.

This is an incomplete list of African-American writers and comes mostly from comments made after my first blog post on the subject. If you’re looking for more authors check out Nerdy girl’s blog post here. If you have anyone else to add, please leave a comment.

African American Horror Writers

With February being Black History Month I thought it would be nice to do a blog post talking about African American horror writers. I knew of four writers when I started this post but managed to find  more as I was writing. I’m sure there are quite a few more out there that I missed, so if you know of any others please leave a  comment on the end of this post.

The first author I want to talk about and probably the most popular is L.A. Banks. L.A. Banks was born in Philadelphia. She has written under several different names, has written in multiple genres and has won many literary awards. L.A. Banks is the author of the Vampire Huntress series of novels and comics. There are 12 novels in this series along with one graphic novel and a YA novel. Some critics have called her work: “fresh, hip, fantastic and far superior to Buffy.” Some of her vampire novels include Minion and The Awakening.

L.A. Banks has also written a series of six werewolf novels called the Crimson Moon series. Some of the titles include Never Cry Werewolf and Left for Undead. L.A. Banks was also the co founder of The Liar’s Club, a networking group for professionals in publishing and other aspects of entertainment. Sadly L.A. Banks died of adrenal cancer in 2011. You can find out more about her career at leslieesdailebanks.com.

Next up is Maurice Broaddus, he was born in London, England but now lives in America. He graduated from Purdue University and is a senior writer for Hollywoodjesus.com. Maurice has written in several genres, his horror novels include: Devil’s Marionette and The Knights of Breton Court: King Maker. Maurice now live in Indianapolis Indiana and is part of the Indiana Horror Writers Association. You can learn more about him at mauricebroaddus.com.

The next author I want to talk about is Brandon Massey, he was born in Waukegan, Illinois in 1973 and has published three novels a year since  1999. Brandon loved watching horror movies growing up and he was a life long reader. He then decided that he wanted to start telling his own stories and became a horror writer. Some of his novels include: Thunderland and Covenant. Brandon has also edited two collections of short stories by African American Horror writers called: Dark Dreams and Voices From The Other Side: Dark Dreams 2. To learn more about Brandon Massey go to: brandonmassey.com.

Next on the list is Wrath James White. Wrath is a former MMA fighter and hard core horror author.  In 2011 Wrath wrote a book of dark poetry called Vicious Romantic which was nominated for an HWA Bram Stoker award and a movie just went into production based on his novel The Resurrectionist.  some of his other works include Succulent Prey and Population Zero. Wrath James White also has a great blog which I’ve been reading for the last 5 years where he talks about politics, religion and anything else that he finds worthy to talk about, to check it out go to wordsofwrath.blogspot.com.

Jermiah Jefferson is another author who like L.A. Banks has written a series of vampire novels. Jermiah grew up listening to disco music and watching horror movies. She also loved to daydream and read. She has written non fiction, erotica and has written four books in the Voice of Blood vampire series. Some of her works include Wounds and A Drop of Scarlet. For more information about her go to: jemiah.com.

The authors above were authors that have written more then one horror novel but there are also some authors that have only one horror novel or is a writer of horror flash fiction or poetry that I wanted to mention also. One writer that I have to mention is Octavia Butler. Octavia wrote mostly science fiction throughout her life but she did write a vampire novel called Fledgling. Another great science fiction writer that has written some novels that could be considered horror is Tananarive Due; one of her horror novels  is called Joplin’s Ghost.

Another author I want to mention here  is Angella C. Allen who edited a vampire anthology by African American Horror Writers called: Dark Thirst. I also can’t fail to mention Michael Boatman who wrote a book about monster hunters called The Revenant Road which I will be reviewing on this blog in the next week or so. Last but not least is Andre Duza who has written a book about a zombie woman out for revenge against a serial killer called Dead Bitch Army. Once again, this is an incomplete list if you know of any authors that I forgot to mention please leave a comment.