HorrorAddicts.net Press Presents: Two Book Birthdays Today/Horrible Disasters and Plague Master Sanctuary Dome

Horrible Disasters

hahdfront-coverA Horror Disaster Anthology
Available now on Amazon.com

HorrorAddicts.net proudly presents Horrible Disasters. Thirteen authors from around the globe share their visions of terror set during real natural disasters throughout history. Travel back in time to earth shattering events like the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D., the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, and the Winter of Terror avalanches, 1950. What supernatural events went unnoticed? What creatures caused such destruction without remorse? Stock your emergency kit, hunker in your bunker, and prepare for… Horrible Disasters.

Cover Art by: Thierry Pouzergues

Edited by: Larraine Barnard

authors:
Emerian Rich
H. E. Roulo
Dan Shaurette
Steve Merrifield
Mark Eller
Laurel Anne Hill
Timothy Reynolds
Ed Pope
Jennifer Rahn
Chris Ringler
Philip Carroll
Mike McGee
Garth von Buchholz

Proceeds to benefit Disaster Relief by way of the non-profit agency, Rescue Task Force.

Women in Horror Month: Always the Fool by Melissa R. Mendelson

Always The Fool by Melissa R. Mendelson

I was meant to be home today, but they called me in, ignoring the pass day. The operator was vague. Some kind of babble about someone calling out sick, but we were all assigned to certain days. If something came up, if someone was sick, the deliveries would be held until the next day, but if I dared question the system, the fine would be heavy. I was already broke.

I reported to the dock at nine a.m. My pay was docked one hour. The system did not care for traffic or construction or any other kind of delay. Work started at eight a.m., and my locker was stuck. It took forever to jar the door open, throw my stuff inside, and slip into that uncomfortable, gray plastic suit. The gloves were even more uncomfortable, and I couldn’t find my face mask. But they didn’t punish me for that.

“One delivery,” the guard said to me as the door opened. “Take it down to the inferno.”

“One delivery? I was called in on my pass day for one delivery?”

“You got a problem with the system?” The guard watched me shake my head. “Good, and where’s your damn face mask? Those fumes will kill you.”

“I don’t know. I think someone was in my locker.”

“Well, you got one delivery, and then you’ll be sent on your way. Just hold your breath.” He signed the clipboard that he held, making a strange, red mark by my name. “Cart’s waiting.” He raised his eyebrows up at me, and I slowly moved away. “What a waste,” he muttered.

I steadied my hands along the cart. Sometimes, they were so heavy to push, but this one was light. The grab slab on the flatbed was the same size, width and height, but it weighed nothing. I was tempted to open it, but I never wanted to look inside those things. I never wanted to know what it was that I was pushing into the inferno. I would not question the system. One delivery, and then I would be on my way like the guard said.

I stepped into the warehouse. I pretended that the cart was heavy, taking my time to the inferno. I could smell it already, an ugly, burnt smell. Where the hell did my face mask go, and who would have taken it? I glanced up at the corridors along the warehouse, spotting others pushing their gray slabs to the inferno, some returning this way with empty carts to reload. One delivery. What a joke.

“Put a face mask on,” a youth remarked as he skid by. This did not bother him. Instead, if he racked up enough deliveries, he could leave early and game all night. That’s what he lived for, but those older knew better. There was no escape from the system.

“Delivery.” I finally made it to the steel doors. Maybe, I should have quickened in pace. I wanted to go home not to game but to sleep. My dreams were pleasant, unlike this harsh reality. I swiped my badge over the panel, but it did not turn yellow. “What the hell? It worked yesterday,” and I swiped again.

“Supervisor notified.” The operator’s voice boomed overhead. She was always cold, indifferent, hardly human, but that’s how she survived. “Please, wait,” she said.

My stomach flipped. I had the rationed meal. One bowl of oatmeal and a glass of milk with a few lumps. I was not privileged for more better quality food or drink. Sometimes, after a successful week, I would be rewarded with a chicken or fish dinner and not that gray stuff that they called meat. I haven’t had that kind of dinner in a long time.

“Collar?” The supervisor appeared on the scene. He stood six feet back. “Collar,” he repeated.

“6543219,” I said.

“Right. Pass day?”

“Today,” I answered, and he caught the annoyed tone. “Called in,” I said. “One delivery.” I hid my tone that time. “Here to deliver.”

“Come inside.” The supervisor swiped his badge, and the steel doors opened. “No face mask?”

“No,” I answered.

“Try not to breathe.” He smiled as he said that, and I did not like that smile. He followed me inside. “You were here for the visit last week?”

I pushed the cart into the dim room, pretending it was still heavy. I felt the fires from the inferno, an ugly machinery with various doors for various floors, all leading to the same end result. Burned. “Yes, I was here,” I said, trying to hold my breath, but I could already taste that smell.

“And you saw him?”

“What?” I realized that the supervisor was close, and I cringed. “Saw who? The Auditor?”

“No. Not the Auditor. Him.”

I knew who he was talking about. I passed by the dining room and saw all that food stretched out on the decorated conference table. I was so hungry, but I did not dare to venture inside, even for a bite. That’s when I realized that he was there at the head of the table, eating like a pig.

“You saw him.” That was not a question. “You watched him eat.”

“Okay. Yeah. I saw him, and I watched him eat. Can I throw the delivery in now?”

“He didn’t like that. You watching him eat.” The supervisor walked away from me. He approached the gray slab on the flatbed. “He reported you, and that’s why you are here.”

“That’s why I was called in on my pass day for one delivery? Because of that? Watching him eat?”

“Yes.” The supervisor did not look at me. He stared at the gray slab. “Do you ever question what it is that you are always burning?” He watched me shake my head. “These gray slabs are large, large enough for a human body.”

I paled at his words. “Excuse me,” I said.

“They are large enough for human bodies,” and he threw open the gray slab, revealing nothing inside. “Get inside,” he said.

“What? Wait. We’re burning people? Alive?”

“Get inside.” I noticed the gun in his hand. “Your choice. Alive or Dead.”

“For what? Watching him eat his fucking food?”

The supervisor’s finger wrapped around the trigger. “You offended him, and this is your punishment. Get inside the gray slab.”

“There has to be another way. Please,” I begged, and the gun went off. The bullet pierced my leg. The next hit my shoulder. I realized that he did not want to kill me. He wanted to burn me alive. I burned so many people alive, and I never realized it. But my supervisor knew, and he knew exactly what he was doing now. And for what? The system? “Please,” I screamed as he lifted me up and threw me into the gray slab.

“Save it,” and he slammed the gray slab shut.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Melissa R. Mendelson is a Horror and Science-Fiction Author.  She has been published by Sirens Call Publications, Dark Helix Press and Transmundane Press.  Her short stories have also been featured on Tall Tale TV.  She is currently working on completing her Horror novel, Ghost in the Porcelain, which surrounds an evil, porcelain doll.

HOW CON: Preventing the End

Preventing the End

by Michele Roger

Remember the voice? She spoke to you the moment when it became clear that combining sounds and letters made words, words made sentences, sentences made stories, and stories made friendships in other worlds. She was the one who opened the door to the first book that swept you away and kept you up all night.

Go ahead,she said. Heres the key to this door.Then she handed you a ring of keys (or she did back then, now kids tell me she just shows them how to use the retinal scanner.)

Later on, it was her who reminded you that while Asimov could take you to other planetary systems, if you didnt stop reading him and start studying for your physics test, youd never get into college. Part of you argued.

College-smollege, as long as I have the library Ill be fine. It worked for Ray Bradbury.

Ooooh,she smiled. You never said you wanted to be a writer.

Wait, what? I didnt say that.

Yes you did.

No. I distinctly remember saying the library worked for other authors…”

Mmm Hmm.

Ok, fine. I admit,I myself confessed at this point. Hence why Im a writer. I wasnt cut out for interrogation. Your experience may be different when it happens to you.

And then it started happening.

They walk (and sometimes crawl) across the earth at night. Sometimes they fill the moonless sky. The ghosts just float up and hover over my bed, chilling my bones in an attempt to tell me their story. The witches arrive next and recite terrifying incantations in my ears. Vampires politely wait outside in the garden. They havent been invited inside but they wait patiently. They have a lifetime to sit outside my window and wait for me to fall in love with one of them on a starry, sleepless night.

The broken-hearted lovers who have died tragically are the worst. All they do is cry and moan, begging to tell their tragic story to anyone, particularly me, who will listen. I toss and turn and put the pillow over my head. I tell them to go away. I have a real job I have to get up and go to in the morning. Go haunt another writer.

Instead, they come. Night after night they become more insistent.

Tell our stories or well cast a spell that makes your door to the hallway return back here to your bed.

I protest, But I have to go to the bathroom!

They shrug, Tell it to someone who cares. Better yet, tell our story first.

The weeping ghosts of dead lovers moan louder as they reach for one another in a perpetual, unattainable grasp.

If she tells our story, we might help prevent someone from befalling our fate.

Now, the vampire is spread out impossibly in my window ledge wearing Armani and drinking a glass of wine. A spider is dancing across his fingers.

I could keep you busy for a million lifetimes.His dark, alluring double meaning isnt lost on me. I have to take a deep breath to prevent myself from swooning.

Enough!I shout out to the voice. I didnt ask for this! This feels crazy. I feel crazy!

The reply isnt shouted back. No. Shes far too calm and clever for that. She giggles and its kind of a whisper at first.

Do you remember all the Ann Rice that you read in college? The Clive Barker, the Poe, Steven King, Nancy Farmer? Not to mention your obsession with Pratchett and Gaiman?

Yes. So?I hold up my keys as if to say that I had permission. I jingle them for effect.

She coos. Permission? Yes. But you couldnt possibly think that all those worlds and friends came free.

Uh,is all I manage to say.

No, no. And all those authors you came to love? Theyve paid their debt back as well. Just look at Gaimans basement cave of a library. You must pay back at least a fraction of what you take. Thats how it works. Other writers, librarians, and even ancient historians have always known this.

But, you never said.

She interrupts me. No. I never did say. You did. You said you wanted to be a writer. Here are just a few of the stories that need to be told.She presents the creatures crowded around my bed. When youve finished with these, I will send more.

More?I ask.

Reading and writing never stops,she explains. If they ever do, it will be the end.

The end of what, exactly?I ask.

She sighs. Everything.

Women i n Horror: Infection by E. A. Black

Hello, Horror Addicts! I write horror as E. A. Black. I’m on social media as Elizabeth Black. I live in Lovecraft country on the northeast coast of Massachusetts. If Innsmouth were a real town, it would be a ten minute drive from my home.

My story, “Infection”, which appears below, originally appeared in the anthology “Teeming Terrors”. Here’s the blurb for the book:

Nature. Filled with wonder, beauty, majesty and mystery. Also filled with things that want to kill us. Normal things, little ordinary things. Things that creep and crawl. Things that fly, swim, scuttle and slither. Things that you might expect and be rightfully phobic about … as well as things you may have never imagined as a threat. Individually, maybe they wouldn’t be. But that’s just it. They aren’t coming for you individually. They’re coming for you in swarms, in flocks and hordes, in masses and multitudes. They’re coming for you by the thousands. They are … TEEMING TERRORS.

“Infection” is one of my favorite stories that I have written, and I’m happy to share it with Horror Addicts for Women in Horror Month. Enjoy!

Infection

By E. A. Black

April Jones was cursed with a stubborn husband. John Jones had been weeding the garden and mowing the lawn this hot July 1st when he ran over strange circles in the grass. Fearing a wasp infestation, he dug into the grass around the circles and poured bug killer into them, despite Mrs. Jones telling him she thought that was a very bad idea. As usual, he wouldn’t listen to her. At least a swarm of nasties didn’t emerge from the grass and sting him.

Oh, no, it was worse than that.

The wound on his calf started as a rash accompanied by fever and chills. A day later, the flu symptoms had passed but his lower leg swelled up, and it was painful to put any weight on it. Tiny pustules erupted where she presumed the bite originated, but there was no bull’s eye so it wasn’t a brown recluse bite. Maybe there were wasps in the grass and one of them stung him, but she had never seen a wasp sting as angry as this. She begged him to go to the doctor but he refused, having the temperament of a mule.

By dusk on July 4th, the pain was excruciating and she finally succeeded in talking him to going to the emergency room. The wound nurse took one look and immediately ordered him to a room overnight for observation. She feared MRSA. Being ordered to stay in the hospital terrified Mrs. Jones. She wasn’t used to being on her own, and who knew how long her husband would be hospitalized? This wound could have been more serious than she and Mr. Jones had originally had thought, and MRSA was nothing to sneeze at. The nurse also ordered a CAT scan since she suspected he had an abscess. Mr. and Mrs. Jones waited in his room for the CAT scan results when he began to squirm with an uncomfortable look on his face.

“April, something’s very wrong. It feels like something’s moving in there.”

“What do you mean, moving? Why didn’t you tell the nurse?”

“I was too scared. It’s probably just my imagination. And the rash is warm to the touch. Are rashes normally like that?”

“None that I’ve seen. I told you to not dig up the lawn. You never listen to me.”

“Don’t nag me now.”

“Something stung you?”

“What else could it be?” He doubled over, gripping his belly in his arms. Mrs. Jones placed a hand on his shoulder to comfort him, but in her fear she really had no idea what to do to help him. She had never before felt so useless. “Oh, God, I’m gonna be sick. Something’s wrong. It’s bad. I don’t like this.”

Blood erupted from the center of the boil to trickle in a thin line down his leg. Pus oozed from the small opening. The tissue around the wound had darkened, turning nearly black. In a panic, since she knew enough about wounds to know black tissue meant dead tissue, Mrs. Jones rushed into the hallway to see if the doctor was on his way. She overheard the nurse said something to the doctor about necrosis, and her stomach seized in fear. The doctor turned her way and caught her eye. She saw alarm and concern on his face as she waved him down.

He quickly made his way to Mr. Jones’s room with the wound nurse on his heels. Mr. Jones had turned on his side on the bed, clutching his stomach. All the color had drained from his face, and Mrs. Jones knew the color had drained from her own as well.

“I think I’m going to throw up. It’s open and I’m bleeding. The pain is terrible. Can’t you give me something?” Mr. Jones wailed.

“I’m Doctor Frisorra, Mr. Jones. I’m going to open it up and scoop out the infection.” The doctor said. He was a surly sort but his caustic demeanor didn’t hide the alarm in his eyes. “The CAT scan revealed an abscess about the size of a baseball, but your entire lower leg has swelled up. I don’t know why you feel sick. You shouldn’t, but once the infection is gone I’m sure you’ll feel better. We’ll put you on an i.v. of antibiotics and keep you here overnight for observation. Let me get it out of you first and then we’ll give you some painkillers.”

“Something’s moving in there. I feel it crawling around, lots of things, tiny things. Oh, God, it hurts.” Mr. Jones buried his face in his pillow. “Please, get it out of me. Now!”

“Okay, Mr. Jones, I need you to calm down. I can’t open your leg with you thrashing about. Lie on your back and I’ll get started.” The doctor said.

“John, lie back.” Mrs. Jones said. “You’re going to be alright but you have to do what the doctor says.”

He turned onto his back and shoved a fist in his mouth, squinting his eyes in pain. The doctor turned to the wound nurse.

“Gauze and alcohol.” He said.

She handed him both. He poured alcohol onto the gauze and then swabbed the wound and the rash around it. Then, he tossed the waste into a trash can with a red bag inside with biohazard symbols on the plastic.

“I’m going to inject a numbing agent into your wound, Mr. Jones. This will help you with the pain. It’s a topical painkiller.”

The wound nurse prepared the injection and handed the syringe over to the doctor, who injected close to the wound’s opening. A high-pitched but faint buzzing droned around Mrs. Jones, as if it came directly from the wound but much like a cricket’s chirping it was hard to tell exactly where it came from. It sounded similar to air being let out of a balloon. The noise was shrill and angry, but so faint she thought she imagined it. Maybe it was an I.V. alarm going off down the hall. The nurses let those things beep forever, but somehow, Mrs. Jones doubted that was the case. That noise came from her husband’s wound, and it scared her.

“Did you hear that?” Mrs. Jones whispered.

The doctor looked up. “I’m not sure what that was. Let’s get the wound opened and cleaned out. Scalpel.” He said.

The nurse opened a small package to reveal a sterile scalpel, which she handed to the doctor. Mrs. Jones held her breath as the doctor’s steady hand approached the wound, which by now had turned a deep shade of rose with black edges and yellow pustules erupting on the surface. Mr. Jones gripped his t-shirt in his fists so hard his knuckles had blanched. Terror etched across his face. What the hell was wrong with his leg? Was it a brown recluse bite after all?

The doctor leaned over his leg and cut down the center of the boil. Blood gushed out, running down his leg and staining the bed linens. Creamy yellow pus filled the wound. As the doctor picked up the instrument to scrape out the infection, that shrill keening sounded again, coming directly from the opening he had cut.

Mrs. Jones backed away, closer to the bathroom.

The doctor inserted the instrument into the wound, and Mrs. Jones was shocked to see it disappear nearly an inch into his calf. When he scraped along the inside, Mr. Jones cried out in agony, but Mrs. Jones barely heard him. Hundreds if not thousands of tiny mites flew from the wound’s opening, covering the doctor’s white jacket so thickly it appeared to be crawling. They flew onto the nurse, who swatted at them, screaming and howling with surprise and terror. Mr. Jones screamed and crept up the bed towards the wall, but the mites surrounded him, flying in his face and against his arms and legs until they held fast.

Then they began to bite.

A cloud of the creatures attacked Mrs. Jones, but she managed to swat them off as she ran to the bathroom and shut the door. They nipped at her arms and face, biting her with their sharp, tiny teeth. They tore into her skin, drawing blood and stinging her as if she were dying by a thousand paper cuts. She slapped at them, pulled them from her hair, stomped them onto the floor. 

As she wrestled with the creatures, the screaming started outside the bathroom door. She recognized her husband’s shrieking and feared opening the door to rush out to help him. What were those things doing to him? Getting a closer look at the ones she had swatted, she leaned over a dead one on the sink.

The creature was about an inch long and dark green. It had two legs instead of the usual six or eight she expected from an insect or arachnid. It also had two tiny arms with fists it held into balls. She pried one fist open with a fingernail to reveal talon-like claws, sharp as needles. What was left of its head sported blonde hair and a strangely humanoid face. Gossamer thin crepe wings folded along the back.

What kind of insect was this? Was it an immature locust? These creatures moved in swarms, just the way locusts did. The problem was she’d never seen a locust that looked like this. She’d never seen a live locust period, but she had seen pictures of them. This was no locust.

She thought back to the rings her husband found in the grass as he mowed the lawn, and how he dug into a few of them to see the damage they did to the soil. She wracked her brain until she remembered where she had read about rings in the grass.

Fairy rings. Her husband had disturbed a nest of fairies. She stared at the creature as if she viewed a particularly noxious bug. These were not the sweet little Tinkerbelles of Disney movies. These fairies were the vicious and malevolent beings from folklore – and they took up residence in her lawn and in her husband’s leg.

And now they were loose in the hospital.

Screaming in the room and down the hall intensified until it reached a crescendo. Heart racing with dread, she leaned against the door, holding it shut as tiny bodies slammed into the opposite side. Scraping sounds like needles being dragged along the door grated from the other side as if they tried to claw their way in. She stared at the tiny being on the sink, wondering how something so small could cause so much damage.

It twitched.

She wailed.

It shrieked a sound like a tea kettle boiling. As it reared up it split open down the back. Another larger creature emerged from the shell. Now, it was nearly three inches long. Mrs. Jones wondered how many others had molted. She recoiled from it, fearing to even approach it, but as it cried in outrage she gathered her resolve and picked it up between thumb and forefinger by the hair. It writhed in her grip, wings flapping, jaws snapping, trying to claw her with those talons. Glaring at her, it hissed the word “die” over and over again. She started at the sound of its high-pitched voice hissing in English. She nearly dropped it, but she held fast.

Her fingers felt sticky, as if they were covered in slime. The same sticky substance smeared on her arms, legs, and face. She used her free hand to wipe it off her cheek only to streak it further along. It smelled of violets. In fact, the fairies themselves smelled of wildflowers. Mrs. Jones wore a perfume similar to the scent. Could the stickiness have come from their bodies as they rubbed up against her? 

The screaming from the other side of the door had stopped. Fearing what lay behind the door but knowing she had no choice but to free herself, she opened the door. As she took her first two tentative steps out of the bathroom, the fairy in her hand ceased struggling and became quiet. When Mrs. Jones looked into the room, her heart nearly stopped in shock.

The stench of gore and feces slammed Mrs. Jones in the face amid that strange scent of wildflowers. Doctor Frisorra lay on his side, hands clawed in front of his mangled face. His white lab coat was covered with so much blood and tissue it had turned crimson. Heart racing with dread, she looked to the hospital bed where her husband lay. His mouth was open in a scream cut off by violence. Lips and nose decimated and eyelids gnawed away, his face forever would hold a surprised and outraged expression. The skin had been clawed and eaten away from his forehead, cheeks, and chin, leaving muscle and tendons exposed. His hands could not protect his face from the onslaught, since his fingers had been gnawed down to the bone. Blood covered the bedsheets. Mrs. Jones clamped a hand over her mouth, trying to hold back a wail of grief and horror. In her fear, she let go of the fairy in her other hand, and it flew out of the room and down the hall. 

Following the creature, she walked into the hall to be greeted by carnage. Moans of pain and wails of terror echoed along the blood-smeared walls. Nurses crawled along the floor, many with their eyes gouged and eaten out, groping about blind. Stunned, Mrs. Jones made her way down the hallway dodging bodies and slipping in blood. She never before felt so alone. Normally her husband took charge, but now she had to fend for herself. She didn’t think she’d last long, not in her frazzled and frightened condition. She paused by every open door, expecting a wall of the detestable vermin to attack her. She sped down the hallway until she reached the Emergency Room exit. 

The creatures were gone but they couldn’t be far. Where did they go?

An ambulance idled in the entryway. Two EMTs sprawled on the ground at the back of the vehicle. The sky was strangely dark. When she took a closer look upward, panic took over and she urgently sought a place to hide. The creatures filled the sky, blocking the setting sun. They swarmed like insects, attaching themselves to the hospital buildings and rapping their soft bodies against glass. Several grasped rocks and slammed them into windows, attempting entry. Red brick teemed black with the creatures. 

She froze in place, fearing if they noticed her they’d attack. Where had they all come from? They certainly couldn’t all have come from her husband’s wound. She didn’t have time to ponder. What to do, what to do? Her car was in the parking lot across the street. If she walked slowly they might not pay her mind. It was only 50 feet away. If she could make it inside her car and drive away – maybe home – she’d be safe.

Maybe. It all depended on how widespread their reach was.

She held her arms against her body and cradled her head close to her chest, trying to make herself look as small and as unassuming as possible. The creatures flew above her, making a high-pitched humming sound presumably from the flapping of their wings. A few zoomed in front of her as she walked, and she gasped at the sight of them, but they ignored her. She wasn’t sure why, but they had sniffed at her and then went their merry way. Maybe her violet perfume and the residue they left on her skin sent them away? Could they have mistaken her for one of their own?

They flitted about in a hurky-jerky motion like hummingbirds, but not nearly as endearing. Several of them dive-bombed her, nearly getting caught in her hair. It took all her resolve to resist swatting them away. One stopped long enough to give her a quizzical look. It hissed at her, tossed a pebble at her face, but then it flew away, paying her no more attention. 

That one was much larger than the one she held at in the hospital bathroom. It was at least four inches long and a vivid blue. Most of the ones flying about her were the size of the palm of her hand. She passed a tree and saw bodies clinging to it, but upon a closer look she realized she gazed at empty shells – molted skin left behind as the creatures grew.

Finally reaching the road, she was about to take a step into it when a Toyota roared past, wavering all over the asphalt and even jumping onto the sidewalk. Mrs. Jones leaped out of the way before the car could hit her. As it sped by, she saw the driver inside fighting a cloud of creatures so thick the inside of the car had darkened to pitch black. The car zoomed past only to crash into a utility pole and burst into flames. The explosion hurled Mrs. Jones backwards onto the grass. Human screaming amid the shrill cries of the fairies assaulted her ears, and she clamped her hands over them so she would not hear the terror in that person’s voice. The clouds of creatures overhead flew to the wreckage, giving Mrs. Jones time to race to her car without being noticed.

She fumbled with her keys, her fingers not working well enough to grip them. She dropped them as she watched the creatures wailing around their fallen comrades. Stooping over to pick up her keys, her trembling fingers dropped them again. Damn it, woman, get your act together! One last time, she gripped the entire keychain in her hand and shoved the car key near the lock but missed, scraping the blue paint on the door. Finally, she aimed the key at the lock and nailed her goal. Turning the lock, the audible click attracted the attention of the creatures. 

She tore open the door and hauled herself inside just as a swarm of bodies reached the door. Three of them were caught on the door, hissing, spitting and cursing her. When she slammed the door shut, they sliced in half. Their bodies fell to the car’s floor, convulsing in their death throes. The rest slammed against the door and window, howling their outrage at her getting away from them. A cloud descended upon her car, slapping the glass and banging their fists against the sides and roof. Thankfully, they had grown so much they were too large to fit into her ventilation system so they didn’t get into the car through the air conditioning and heating vents. She put her key in the ignition, turned over the engine, and high-tailed it out of the parking lot. 

She needed to get home. Alone, she cried as she drove, not sure what to do to get herself out of this miserable situation. If only Mr. Jones were with her. He’d know what to do.

With a start, she remembered her 24 year old son Paul was home. She grabbed her phone and dialed his number but he didn’t pick up.

Oh, God, I hope he’s alright. 

It was hard to see the road through the bodies but she drove in as straight a line as she could. Turning on the windshield wipers, she shoved fairies aside until she could see her way in front of her. Fireworks celebrating Independence Day lit up creatures that flew overhead. She hit the accelerator until she reached 40 MPH and then hit the brakes. Bodies hurtled from the car, landing on the road in front of her. She pressed down on the gas again and drove over a multitude of little bodies, the car bumping as she drove. They crackled and squished as she drove over them, and she used her squeamishness to continue on her journey. The clouds of creatures seemed to go on forever. Could she safely make it home? First, get onto the main road into town, and then she could worry about her son.

More fireworks burst overhead, competing with the full moon. Mrs. Jones turned on the radio, hoping for some answers.

‘… lock yourself in your homes and board up all entryways including doors and windows. The cause is unknown. The Army has been notified and is on its way to town…”

Switch to a different station.

“… seems to be contained to Norwich, Massachusetts. There are no reports of infestations in nearby Rockport, Ipswich, and Gloucester…”

She lived on the edge of Norwich. If she could get home, get Paul, and get out of town they might be safe.

The ten minute drive home seemed to stretch on for hours. A yellow corona exploded overhead followed by myriad red starbursts. The fireworks provided a strange backdrop for the clouds of fairies following her home. They slammed into her windshield, grasping at the wipers and trying to break them off but they did not succeed. Spraying them with windshield washer fluid only pissed them off even more. Why did John have to go dig up those infernal rings in the grass? 

If he hadn’t, would they have only emerged later to catch them even more unawares?

Neighbors had been ravaged as the creatures had attacked. The Clark children two doors down from her home lay sprawled in the grass, bodies torn as they had played with a Frisbee. The scent of burned meat wafted from a smoking grill. Mrs. Clark lay facedown on the porch, her head on the bottom step and her feet on the top. A tray of burgers spilled onto the ground. The paperboy’s bike lay in the middle of the road. The boy himself had made it as far as the tall oak in Mrs. Jones’s front yard. Fairies squatted on him, tearing at his clothing and chattering amongst themselves. They stopped chattering to watch Mrs. Jones drive by. The sight sickened her. She knew the paperboy quite well. Gave him a gift every Christmas. She didn’t get along with the Clarks but no one deserved an end like that.

She pulled into her driveway, crushing the creatures beneath her tires as she put the gear into park. Paul’s car was in front of her, and it was covered with bodies that by now had grown to be nearly a foot long. They gaped at her from inside the car. Only a half hour ago they were the size of mites. Molting and growing quickly, their formidable natures astounded her. How much larger would they get? Their colors ranged from vivid blue to deep hunter green and violet. Some stretched their wings and wrapped them around their bodies as if they were chilled. Every one of them stared at her from the porch, the stairs, inside Paul’s car, the sills and the roof. Thousands of glowing eyes glared at her. How was she going to get into the house? And was her son alive?

The shutters on both floors had been pulled and locked. The creatures had torn her prized rose bushes to shreds, and she felt a pang of sadness over the loss. There would be many losses today. Before stepping out of the car, she doused herself with perfume hoping to keep them at bay. Fearing her son had succumbed to their attacks, she unlocked her car door and quietly opened it one inch.

The fairies didn’t move. They only continued to stare at her. Why were they so quiet? Was it her perfume? She could only hope.

She opened the door, gently moving several of them out of her way. They appeared to be resting, as if exhausted but not exhausted enough to sleep. Dormant, their hive mind dozed enough for her to emerge from her car and take tentative steps to the porch. One or two lashed out with their sharp claws, drawing blood on her ankles, but she didn’t flinch. With slow movements she took five excruciating minutes to make it to the porch and the front door. She took her key, turned it in the door’s lock, and opened the door enough so she could slip inside her house without the creatures following.

The living room was quiet and dark. No fairies lurked within. Smoke filled the first floor. Ah, Paul must have cooked steak again. He always smoked up the house when he cooked beef. The smoke may have repulsed the fairies enough to keep them outside.

There was no sign of Paul. She resisted calling out his name or making any noise out of fear she’d attract the creatures’ attention and they’d swarm again. 

The only way to find him was to go door to door until he revealed himself. What if she found him as mangled as she found John? No, don’t think about that. Just find him. 

She walked through the empty kitchen and opened the bathroom door to find no one. That left the second floor. She climbed the stairs, careful to not make the third step creak the way it always did. Moving with stealth, she reached the landing and heard thumping sounds coming from one of the back bedrooms. Fearing Paul was being mauled, she raced to the door, opened it, and went inside.

“Paul, we have to get out of here…”

Fairies perched on tables, chairs, and shelves. They clung to the curtains in front of a broken window. When they heard Mrs. Jones’s voice, they came to life and flew from their perches to swarm around her, clawing at her face, her hands, and her bare legs. Wailing, she waved her hands in front of her to fend them off but they only came on stronger; wave after wave of bodies crashing into her. Sliding down the wall as they tore at her hair and bit her forearms, she crumbled in a ball on the hardwood floor. They pushed on the door behind her, slamming it into her lower back and causing pain to shoot into her spine. Then, she felt two large hands grab her feet and pull her through the door’s opening.

“Mom, are you hurt?” Paul said as he shut the door and locked it. The fairies beat against the frame from the other side in a futile attempt to get out.

“I’m okay. What are we going to do?”

“I’ve packed for us. I called you but you didn’t pick up.” He pointed to two suitcases. “Where’s John?”

Mrs. Jones cried. “He didn’t make it.”

“The radio says they’re only here in Norwich. If we can get in the car and make it out of town, I think we’ll be fine.”

“I hope you’re right. I told John to leave those grass circles alone but he wouldn’t listen to me–”

He squeezed her shoulders. “They’re coming from those holes in the back yard. I watched them from the window. I already called 911. The Army is coming to plug them up but we have to get out of here. Now.”

They quietly walked downstairs, Mrs. Jones holding one suitcase and Paul holding the other. More than anything, she wanted to hole up in her house and wait until the Army dealt with the miserable vermin, but she no longer felt safe in her own home. The only thing to do was to leave with her son and wait until it was safe to return, assuming it would ever be safe. She’d never feel safe in this house again.

Before he could open the front door, Mrs. Jones explained their curious behavior in light of her perfume and the sticky substance they left on her skin. She sprayed Paul all over with violet scent. She prayed the fairies wouldn’t attack.

Paul opened the front door, drawing it out as slowly as he could. The bodies on the porch had increased. To her surprise, the creatures had moved but they continued to sit as if dozed. Some sprawled in circles on the porch – large circles, small ones, several where they sat stacked atop each other. They chanted in a language she couldn’t understand, but what they sang resembled an incantation. While they acknowledged her presence as well as Paul’s, they neither attacked nor lashed out. It was as if they operated from one mind and that mind was too preoccupied to pay any attention to the two humans who made their way to Mrs. Jones’s car.

Mrs. Jones swept them aside in slow motions with her feet as she made her way the four feet to the steps. She gazed at her destroyed garden in the direction of the holes where her husband had dug out the fairy circles. Rather than pour from the holes as she expected to see, the creatures flew into them, searching for what remained of their stomping grounds. Fireworks continued to illuminate the clouds of fairies that flew overhead. Such a strange sight – a festival of independence marred by creatures that rendered all humans in Norwich helpless to defend themselves. 

Once they reached the car, Paul placed the suitcases in the back seat, all the while moving as slowly as possible. Neither he nor Mrs. Jones called attention to themselves lest they attract unwanted and tragic attention. Rather than slam the door shut, he closed it with a gentle click. The sound boomed in Mrs. Jones’s ears, and she watched the fairies but they did not attack. Mrs. Jones walked to the passenger side, opened the door, and took the front seat. Paul made it to the driver’s seat without difficulty. Once inside, he placed the key in the ignition, turned it, and the car roared to life.

They sat in total silence, watching how the creatures reacted to the car’s engine. A few pounded on the windshield and stomped on the roof. One stood in front of Mrs. Jones, gnawing at the windshield wiper and scratching its substantial claws against the glass. It was nearly a foot long with filmy wings the hue of an oil slick and a body the color of brick. The malevolence on its face terrified Mrs. Jones, but she clenched her jaw in silence. Paul put the car in reverse and pulled out of the driveway. 

“Let’s head to Gloucester.” Mrs. Jones said. “The radio said they didn’t get that far.”

Paul turned the radio knob.

“… have invaded Rockport, Gloucester, and have been seen as far as Beverly Farms.” Beverly Farms was 15 miles away. She checked the gas gauge.

There was less than a quarter tank of gas in the car.

Maybe by the time they reached Beverly Farms the creatures would have moved on. She gazed out the window. Fairies converged on the grass, tore apart bushes, and danced on telephone lines. Starting up the car must have roused them from their stupor. She turned her head away in horror as a gang of them attacked a German shepherd chained to a pole outside a split-level. Paul drove along the narrow one-lane road out of town, and Mrs. Jones closed her eyes in her futile attempt to ignore the sound of bodies crunching beneath the tires. Her heart raced and she picked the cuticles on her fingernails as they drove in silence save for the radio that just announced the fairies had been seen 40 miles away in Boston.

Maybe they’d make it safely out of town before they ran out of gas.

__________________________________________________________________________________

The idea for this story came to me after my husband spent some time in the hospital with an infection in his leg. It was pretty gross. I based John Jones in the story on him, and he got a major kick out of me killing him off, LOL. We have very bent senses of humor. Here’s a conversation we had about his leg.

Me: “Your wound is really disgusting. Make sure you do what the doctor tells you. Don’t be stubborn.

Him: Me? Stubborn? Never!

Me: Yes. You. Stubborn. That thing looks like it’s going to burst any moment. You know what’s going to come out of it?

Him: Puss?

Me: Spiders!

Him: You have watched far too many horror movies. That’s why I love you.

Me: I love you, too!

Here’s where to find me on the web:

Elizabeth Black – Facebook https://www.facebook.com/elizabethablack

E. A. Black – Blog and Web Site http://eablack-writer.blogspot.com

E.A. Black – Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/E.A.-Black/e/B00BBWHMFM

E. A. Black – GoodReads (I didn’t create this page. I’d like to thank whoever did, if I knew that person’s identity.)

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6468111.E_A_Black

Elizabeth Black – Newsletter http://eepurl.com/b76GWD   

I’ve just started a new writing gig with a game company. It’s so new I don’t have much to report yet, but I will say I’m having a blast. I’m now a game developer! I’m also finishing my first horror novel. Here are my latest appearances in anthologies:

Jester of Hearts – my story is Trailer Trash Zombies

Wicked Women: An Anthology of the New England Horror Writers – my story is The Fetch

The Horror Zine’s Book of Ghost Stories – my story is The Storm

Horror For Hire: Second Shift – my story is A Job To Die For

Fark in the Time of Covid: The 2020 Fark Fiction Anthology– my story is A Skirmish Outside Beaufort

 

 

 

Book Review: Blackwater Val by William Gorman

Blackwater Val  by William Gorman
Reviewed by Ariel DaWintre

This story revolves around a place called Blackwater Val. The main characters are Richard and his daughter Katie, who is six-years-old. He takes her back to where he is from to take care of some personal things. Richard realizes right away that he has forgotten a lot of his past, but that he is starting to slowly remember. Blackwater Val seems so normal at first, but strange things are starting to happen and a dark past is being uncovered. Although Richard starts to remember his past, what he thinks he knows is not always accurate or true and we learn along with Richard.

I found myself writing a list of what I perceived to be the monsters, ghosts, demons, or bad guys in the story. There seemed to be quite a few. I kept wondering who the bad guy was and was he controlling them all. I liked that even though I thought I knew who the bad guy was, it wasn’t that simple. The story also brought in true facts from the past about the Indians in the area and the wrong that was done to them. Although Blackwater Val is not a true place, the locations around it are. I also found myself looking up things on Google, wondering which parts were real and not. I can now officially say I know a lot more about Suak Indians.

This is a definite horror story and there is blood and guts aplenty. This is a classic good vs evil tale, but nothing is simple as lines are drawn and a battle unfolds. The details and story are clear and you will stay up and be kept engaged and rooting for the good guys to win. The story has several twists that will make you go, “Wow.” There is also an element of magic and special gifts introduced into the story. There is not really a romance in the story but it has a romantic element with a strong sense of family and friends.

The main evil in the story is very twisted and scary and relentless throughout the story. Clearly, Blackwater Val brings out the worst in some people. The author does a great job of bringing his characters to life and keeps you wondering how the story will end and who will come out okay. The story gives a good ending but leaves an opening that not all is settled and done. Can’t wait to read the sequel.

Women In Horror Month: Why Do Women Writers Write About Monsters or Ghosts?

Why Do Women Writers Write About Monsters or Ghosts?

Why would women write about monsters or ghosts? I am sure some readers say stick to writing romance or fantasy. But women have just as much right to write the scary stuff and about monsters as do their male counterparts. After all, in the long run, it’s all about the story.

At BBC.com, an article mentioned how women writers “often found the supernatural a way to challenge and condemn their role in society.” It seems male writers have dominated supernatural fiction, like M R James, Edgar Allan Poe, HP Lovecraft, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, Oliver Onions, and others. But female writers have been on the horror scene in the past, too. Shirley Jackson, for instance. She wrote The Haunting of Hill House, the only story that has scared me in the daytime, in a room full of people. Others had to do it at night, with me in a room alone. Susan Hill, who wrote Woman in Black, is another. A classic ghost story from 1892 is Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.” The author’s nameless narrator, suffering from post-natal depression, is confined to bed rest under the care of her doctor husband, when begins to lose her mind. Confined to an old nursery with ghastly wallpaper, she sees strangled heads and unblinking “bulbous eyes” in its pattern. Eventually, a skulking female figure appears, seemingly trapped behind the bars of its design. Is it the narrator’s own hidden self? When her husband enters to find her tearing down the wallpaper, she tells him, “I’ve got out at last. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back!”

Do women authors use ghost stories to exorcise their resentments over societal restrictions? The ghost in their tale is the ultimate outsider – an absent presence, all-seeing and yet unable to partake of life in any meaningful way. Do we have insight differently from male writers? Can what a woman writes be more downright frightening than what a man writes? Does the way we pen the words on paper or type onscreen haunt the person as they read? Maybe we even make the monster sympathetic. Still horrifying, but a monster the reader will care about and cheer on. Or not.

Looking for some great spooky reads? Next time, check out female horror authors. I am sure readers already know about; Anne Rice, Sarah Pinborough, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Caitlin R. Kiernan. Others you can check out are Tanith Lee, Elizabeth Massie, Lisa Morton, Yvonne Navarro, Carrie Ryan, Cherie Priest, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Kari Kilgore, Susan Schwartz, and much, much more. Take a step away from traditionally published authors and try out indie writers as there are great reads by them, too. An excellent place to find more women horror writers is at Horror Writers Association. Try someone new today. 

Instead of picking up the latest Stephen King novel or of books written by other male horror authors, try several feminine writers instead. We just might bring “SCARE” to a whole new level.

Journey to worlds of fantasy, beyond the stars, and into the vortex of terror with the written word of Pamela K. Kinney.

Https://PamelaKKinney.com

Bio:

Author Pamela K. Kinney gave up long ago trying not to listen to the voices in her head and has written horror, fantasy. science fiction, along with six nonfiction ghost books ever since. Her horror short story, “Bottled Spirits,” was runner-up for the 2013 WSFA Small Press Award. Her horror poem, “Dementia,” included in HWA Poetry Showcase Volume VII, won “Best Poem: for 23rd Annual Critters Readers Poll (2020).

Besides writing, Pamela has acted on stage and film and investigates the paranormal for episodes of Paranormal World Seekers. She is a member of Horror Writers Association and Virginia Writers Club.

Women In Horror: Regrets by Jess Chua

Regrets by Jess Chua
“Sophia was a bohsia, okay? End of story.”Irfan put out his cigarette as he strolled home with his best buddy, Dinesh.“What is it with girls and women nowadays?” Dinesh said sadly. “They used to be so sweet and gadis baik (good girl types).”

“Nowadays, love stands for legs-open-very-easily.” Irfan looked around at the leaves rustling in the breeze. “Glad Sophia was just a one night stand. That’s all she was worth.”

Sophia, he thought. Pretty face…cute curves…and a little bit of a birdbrain.

She had a thing for bad boys with motorcycles. Irfan was the hot bad boy that many girls found irresistible.

It was too bad that she had recently gotten into a terrible highway accident involving a drunk rider. Sophia hadn’t made it out alive.

“Do you have any regrets?” Dinesh asked.

“About?”

The two young men let the silence in the air do most of the talking. Sophia had become a stage five clinger relatively quickly after hooking up with Irfan. Perhaps her absence was somewhat of a relief if Irfan wanted to be honest about it.

“Anyway, I’ll see you tomorrow. I—” Dinesh froze for a second as he felt something ice-cold rush through his body. The impact was almost enough to knock him off his feet.

The voice of a banshee screeched: “The baby was YOURS!!!”

When Dinesh turned around, Irfan was lying eviscerated on the ground. A pale ghostly image with Sophia’s face and bloodied hands hovered over Irfan’s dead body before vanishing off into the woods.

Perhaps Irfan would have expressed some regrets, if he was still able to respond.

###

Author Bio: Jess Chua is a writer and editor for a personal development podcast. Her microfiction was a runner-up in the Mysterious Photograph contest at Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. She enjoys yoga, healthy cooking, and spending time with her pets. Her website is www.jesschuabooks.com

Meet the Author: Brian Craddock

Brian Craddock is widely published in horror anthologies, establishing a lead in character Richard Dalziel to navigate the majority of his short fiction. Collected, these stories are The Dalziel Files, set around the globe. Of these, “Ismail’s Expulsion”, set in Pakistan, won the Long Fiction Award at the 2018 Australian Shadows Awards. Brian has two novels available: Chuwa: The Rat People of Lahore (set in Pakistan) and Eucalyptus Goth (set in Australia).
CHUWA: THE RAT PEOPLE OF LAHORE
This novel is set in Pakistan, about a woman caught up in conflict between mafia and monsters. The book was shortlisted in the 2019 Aurealis Awards.
I have a sequel in development.
THE CEMETERY CHILDREN
This horror/sci-fi short-story is set in Indonesia, in the future. I was inspired after meeting a group of children in Jakarta who use their local cemetery as a playground, due to lack of public parks to play in. They would put “makeup” on the angel statues, using chalk and crayons.
THE DALZIEL FILES
My collection of horror short stories (free to read on Kindle Unlimited), nominated as a finalist for Collected Works in the 2018 Australian Shadow Awards. Several stories are set in Asia:
  • Ismail’s Expulsion is set in Pakistan (inspired by alleged true-life vampires told to me by a local when I first visited Lahore)
  • Ikiryo is set in Japan (about the Japanese legend of the Ikiryo, the living-dead)
  • Masala Nightmares is set in India (demons and body-snatching)
ATISHFISHAN
A short story, using Lovecraft’s mythos, set in the southern deserts of Pakistan, included in the Lovecraft tribute magazine The Arkham Diaries.

Asian Horror Month: What’s Your Lens? by Geneve

Geneve Flynn is a freelance editor from Australia who specialises in speculative fiction. Her horror short stories have been published in various markets, including Flame Tree Publishing, Things in the Well, and the Tales to Terrify podcast. She loves tales that unsettle, all things writerly, and B-grade action movies; if that sounds like you, check out her website at www.geneveflynn.com.au

 

What’s your lens?

By Geneve Flynn

There are rules of craft and objective reasons why a story works and why it doesn’t. Without interrogating which lenses we see through, it can be easy to assume that what makes a story good is universal.

However, writing and editing is very much subjective. There are stories that resonate with me that ring false for you. So much of the reading experience isn’t just the text on the page, but all the stuff you bring to it as a reader. What you’ll imagine will be different from what I imagine, simply because your life experiences, your lenses, are different from mine.

For avid readers, a good chunk of our experiences are based on what we read. The problem is that much of what’s been published historically has been limited in diversity. When we only see stories that show the world through a monolithic lens, we can start to think that’s the only way to read and write.

That can be particularly harmful for a writer, even more so for an editor. There’s a risk of guiding and limiting a narrative to characters, settings, and storylines that are familiar.

When award-winning author and editor Lee Murray and I got chatting at the biennial Genrecon convention in Brisbane, we realized that there were few stories that truly reflected our experiences. We’re both of Asian descent, both women, both writing horrorwhere were those stories? There was an absence of perspective that we wanted to answer.

We went digging and unearthed a wealth of fiercely talented Southeast Asian horror writers, and set about putting together an anthology. Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women was published this September through Omnium Gatherum, and to our great delight, the reviews showed that the anthology was doing exactly what we hoped.

The unique anxieties experienced by Asian women were so masterfully penned here that reading it really was an eye-opening experience. Gingernuts of Horror

“The preconceived notions of both the authors’ identities and of the limitations of the horror genre itself will be smashed to pieces, to the delight of readers.” Library Journal

One of the benefits of fiction from diverse perspectives is that it makes us acutely aware of our own perceptions. It helps us examine how we experience a story. There’s an opportunity to become cognizant of the lenses we carry within us, and to magnify them, or switch them out for something new.

Black Cranes and other publications like it, written by and centering diverse voices, are holding up lenses that show readers, writers, and editors new ways to see. They’re expanding the boundaries of what’s possible, and that can only be a good thing.

If you’d like to read Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women, head over to OmniumGatherum’s site: https://omniumgatherumedia.com/black-cranes

Here’s a list of the authors who contributed to Black Cranes. Check them out if you’d like more brilliant dark fiction.

Contributors

Nadia Bulkin: https://nadiabulkin.wordpress.com

Grace Chan: https://gracechanwrites.com

Rin Chupeco: https://www.rinchupeco.com

Elaine Cuyegkeng: https://twitter.com/layangabi?lang=en

Gabriela Lee: https://sundialgirl.com

Rena Mason: https://www.renamason.ink

Lee Murray: https://www.leemurray.info

Angela Yuriko Smith: http://angelaysmith.com

Christina Sng: http://www.christinasng.com

Foreword by

Alma Katsu: https://www.almakatsubooks.com

Asian Horror Month: Lily Wong Books by Tori Eldridge

Review: Lily Wong Books by Tori Eldridge

If you think a ninja’s life is all about throwing stars and black pajamas, think again. For Chinese-Norwegian born Lily Wong, it’s a mixed bag of fighting domestic abuse, family dynamics and this little issue with the Los Angeles Ukrainian mob. No big deal.

Lily Wong is a heroine for modern times. Gutsy, humorous and bad*ss, she takes on injustice wherever she finds it, using her skills to defend women against those who would enslave them. Loads of action will keep readers turning pages faster than Lily can break a knee cap. There’s even a little romance thrown in to round out the story.

There’s more to Lily than martial arts, however. Author Tori Eldridge brings personal struggles to the table as Lily faces issues of being mixed race, loss of a loved one and how to preserve non-traditional values with a domineering grandmother. Despite her prowess with martial arts, Lily is far from being an inaccessible character. Flawed and conflicted, she’s easy to identify with.

I enjoyed being exposed to new concepts like the kunoichi, a female ninja. Unafraid to touch the hard topics of racism and human trafficking, Eldridge doesn’t disappoint in the second book of her series, The Ninja’s Blade. Lily will go to any means to protect those who would otherwise be victimized. If you are looking for a fast-paced action read with plenty of social value, Tori Eldrige’s Lily Wong series will not disappoint.

~~~~

Tori Eldridge is the bestselling author of The Ninja’s Blade and The Ninja Daughter (Lily Wong series), nominated for the Anthony, Lefty, and Macavity Awards for Best First Novel and named one of the “Best Mystery Books of the Year” by The South Florida Sun Sentinel and awarded 2019 Thriller Book of the Year by Authors on the Air Global Radio Network. Her short stories have been published in horror, dystopian, and other literary anthologies, and her narrative poem appears in the inaugural reboot of Weird Tales magazine. Tori’s screenplay The Gift earned a semi-finalist spot for the Academy Nicholl Fellowship.

Before writing, Tori performed as an actress, singer, dancer on Broadway, television, and film. She is of Hawaiian, Chinese, Norwegian descent and was born and raised in Honolulu where she graduated from Punahou School with classmate Barack Obama. Tori holds a fifth-degree black belt in To-Shin Do ninjutsu and has traveled the USA teaching seminars on the ninja arts, weapons, and women’s self-protection. Look for the third book in the Lily Wong series in September 2021.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

About Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith is an American poet, publisher, and author with over 20 years of experience in newspaper journalism. She co-publishes Space and Time magazine with author husband Ryan Aussie Smith. For more information visit SpaceandTime.net

Asian Horror Month:The Genetic Alchemist’s Daughter by Elaine Cuyegkeng

This story was originally published in Black Cranes edited by Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn

‘The Genetic Alchemist’s Daughter’

by Elaine Cuyegkeng

She dreams of death and rebirth on her mother’s table.

The smell of antiseptic: chemicals, artificial cherries and other-fruit. The specimen on the table. Herself, slipping a needle under the specimen’s skin to obtain samples for reconstruction. Finally, the disposal of the body while the new one grows inside her crimson egg, kicking her little amphibian feet. Later, a telepathic matrix imparts an (edited) library of the Prodigal’s memories. This reinforces the desired traits, knitted carefully into the genome.

In twelve days and twelve nights, there will be a single, perfected being: waking in the specimen’s old room with only a vague, uneasy sense of displaced time. There will be no official record, no trace of the original (save for the genetic profiles, buried deep in her mother’s libraries).

Everyone dreams those strange, mundane dreams of themselves performing their daily rites. The genetic alchemist’s daughter is no different; why should she be? But still, Leto Alicia Chua Mercado wakes as if she were a child waking from a nightmare. Leto thinks: there are fragments of bone and marrow in her pyjamas, in her blankets, her bed. For a moment, her hands are viscous with ruby red.

The Genetic Alchemists

Leto is her mother’s daughter, and so, when she wakes, blinking out crimson dreams in the pre-dawn, the day’s business is the first thing that occupies her. Nothing in Leto’s creation was left to chance; the same is true of Chua Mercado Genetic Alchemy.

Below, the family’s laboratories gestate the fruits of several lucrative contracts. Tiny mermaid embryos, for a techno-prince’s private aquarium. A new variant of winged cat: Bengal Beauties, with jade eyes and leopard spots, jewelled peregrine’s wings. Luminous Moths, ordered by an exclusive fashion house for their silk. There are the Prodigals, the human specimens who will be delivered to their families’ holdings, waking in the original’s old room as if from a dream.

And finally, there are the little Seraphim, tiny embryos swimming in their exo-wombs. The bulk of these are still ordered by foreign CEOs—grateful for the assurance of a rarefied offspring, grateful to be spared the inconveniences of caring for pregnant wives. One day, Leto’s mother hopes, the world will be full of them. There will be no Prodigals, no broken creatures in need of repair.

(Leto feels a tenderness for them. She doesn’t know why—perhaps it’s their shared origins. The fact she knows, and they don’t.

Leto’s mother scoffs at that. You’re not a specimen. You’re my daughter.)

But Leto has always been what she is: the girl with all the gifts, Ofelia Chua Mercado’s irrefutable proof. All the world had seen Leto in her womb, the tiny crimson egg Ofelia created. It made Ofelia’s fortune and her infamy. How the Manilero elite were scandalized! Ofelia had created Leto without the help of a husband, without the blessing of the Holy Apostolic Church (or any church), simply because. Priests cried about the dissolution of the family from their cathedrals, pastors from their multi-million-dollar pulpits. But hereditary heads of state, foreign billionaires, Hollywood queens—all of them came clamouring for Ofelia’s service.

Leto’s mother waits for her at the breakfast table. She is a slender woman, not beautiful but magnificent. She has a cruel mouth, a hard face, a hooked nose as if she truly were the witch the more poetic among the Manila elite call her. Her black hair falls in rivulets down her back. No matter the demands of the day, Ofelia Chua Mercado insists on taking this time: the time to sit down and have a meal with family. She didn’t create a daughter just to neglect her. She prides herself on having better husbandry of children. On the table are buttered toast, salted duck eggs, slices of chilled fruit.

“Today’s clients will need careful handling,” Ofelia murmurs, handing her daughter the day’s dossiers. “I know you’ve managed them before, but darling, today, I need you to resist the urge to gloat.

Leto opens the dossiers. She understands the moment her eyes fall on the client’s name. She doesn’t smirk; she knows it’s unladylike.

Ever since she was a tiny thing, old enough to be presented in a sad little classroom with portraits of saints, every single one of her classmates had hated her. They called her soulless. They said: You don’t have a papa. And yet, over time, so many of them ended up on Leto’s table. She carefully explained all the reasons why their families elected them for the procedure. She feels that they’re owed an explanation, but she can’t help feeling some satisfaction. She had never disappointed her mother.

“Not one Prodigal,” Ofelia says, sipping her tea, “but three. Can you imagine that, darling? Imagine if they’d come to us from the beginning. It would have spared them so much trouble.”

It’s an old, old story. It is the puzzle that so many familial dynasties have tried to resolve. How does one halt the decline that seems to seep in the third, fourth generation? Sixteen, eighteen, twenty years old, and their beloved offspring showed signs of delinquency, addiction, general malaise, rebellion, depression, of all things. They showed poor scholarship. How does one save a child from themselves? Eighteen years of Mandarin lessons, ballet or music, and Catholic school didn’t fix them. The Church and the promise of heaven can’t fix them.

Manila might have been horrified by Ofelia, the woman who made a daughter. But as the decades passed, one by one, they crept to Ofelia’s door, and begged her for her help. They turned to her genetic alchemy and, over the years, a whisper network has formed between desperate, gossiping mothers, patriarchs over games of golf and exquisite lunches.

Leto feels her fingers itch. Thinks of the discarded original, turning to ash in the furnace while a new, tiny creature emerges whole from Leto’s artistry. All her fellow heirs have hated her: have always hated her. But here she is anyway, granting them a gift unbidden. They will never even know.

Her mother rises and kisses her cheek. “Good hunting, my sweet girl,” Ofelia murmurs, and Leto blushes.

Her mother knows her, inside and out. Better than she knows herself.

The Dowager

When Leto goes to meet clients, she brings her mother’s wares as if they are the trappings of their self-appointed office. In her arms, she brings a winged cat with snow-white plumage, her little feet ending in owl’s talons and one blue eye alongside jade (feline specimens with heterochromia fetch three times the price). A speckled serpent with a forked tongue wraps himself around Leto’s neck like a regent’s gold necklace (base specimen: Atheris hispida). And finally, after a moment’s consideration, Leto carefully selects amber earrings made from the chrysalises of Luminous Moths. She picks up a rose as white as a funeral, a present for the Dowager. She paints her mouth with a neutral pink (edging towards a baby pastel); lines her eyes with modest shadow (Industrial Revolution—a shade popular among her peers). She takes her little slate and programs the nanites in her hair; they colour it a deep black with only the faintest streaks of a foreign autumn.

Leto understands what the heart wants: it wants a useful young woman, modest and helpful, who will solve all their problems with a flick of her manicured fingers. Leto meets clients because her existence says: you could have a helper, a dutiful, reliable heir. The child you need, if only you had asked for our services from the beginning. She revels in clients’ gritted teeth and fingers pressed into their palms—how they hate being proven wrong! She sits herself at the little table, waits for the client to arrive.

And when the Dowager slips into Chua Mercado’s rooms, dressed as if for a funeral (or a cocktail), Leto can’t help it. She rises up and kisses the Dowager’s cheeks like a fond niece. The Dowager closes her eyes; she smells, very faintly, of very fine, expensive whiskey. She shudders; or perhaps, it’s poor Leopold that terrifies her, the gorgeous speckled band winding himself around Leto’s neck, or Anne-Marie, the snow-white cat purring in her arms. Here is Leto, an unnatural thing, decked out in unnatural things. But the Dowager needs her help.

“I have three daughters,” the Dowager says with a rasp. “And they will all be the ruin of me.” Her elegant hand trembles as she sits in the client’s chair. Outside, Leto smiles; inside, a frisson of schadenfreude ticks upwards in spite of herself. She knows the Dowager’s daughters: they are just like every other classmate who’s ended up on her mother’s table.

“Why don’t you tell me what you need, Tita?” Leto asks. Like the witch in the story. What do you need? What do you lack? What price are you willing to pay?

The Dowager is Eva Maria Romano Iglesia—scion of a saintly house, married to a handsome media pastor in her baby-faced youth. She was a woman alone of all the multi-million-dollar pastors: having inherited the position after his untimely death. She preached in Chanel and pearls, wasp-waisted dresses with billowing skirts, and spoke of love and deference to husbands and fathers. She spoke of the sanctity of the family, this woman with no husband, and adoring crowds of women threw money at her. She was the most vicious of Ofelia’s detractors, when Leto and the exo-womb were unveiled. She called Leto soulless. She called Ofelia a fallen woman, creating a child outside the sanctity of marriage, outside the bounds of God’s intended methods.

But now two tiny granddaughters are dead. A son-in-law is set to be buried tomorrow, and the daughters are locked in their rooms in the family compound.

“I need you and your mother to give me the daughters I should have had from the beginning,” the Dowager says. She almost spits. How it humbles her, to be abandoned so by the God who showered her in gold but gave her delinquent children on which to build her church.

“Our congregation needs us,” the Dowager whispers, clutching her Chanel pearls. An entire congregation of lost souls—expensive women with husbands who loathe them, girls who became pregnant too early. They all find solace in the Dowager and her family of perfect women. What happens when the image that gives them so much comfort comes crashing down?

Leto is never really interested in all the clients’ reasons why this has to be done. She’d rather hear from the specimens themselves. Console them on their deathbeds.

“We’ll need to stagger them out,” Leto says. “One by one, to accommodate schedules for other clients.”

“I want it over and done with, as soon as possible.”

“I understand,” Leto says evenly. And nothing more.

(Really, Leto just wants her to anguish over it, just a little longer.)

Silence settles between them. Leto feels the Dowager acquiesce. No one else can help her. She can’t disappear three young women and gain their replacements, their better selves, on her own. She can’t create a replacement daughter, and raise her, not at her age.

The Dowager is old. She is running out of time.

“No one will know?” The Dowager’s hands tighten around her cane.

“No one will know,” Leto says softly. “From head to toe, down to their cells, they will be exactly the same.”

Leto takes the pale white rose, as perfect as a faerie dress. They named it Blanca Nieve. It smells like a perfumed night. She gives it to the Dowager. Places it carefully on the table, along with a lacquered box containing its food. Ten little nightingale corpses.

“People need to see you leave with it in your hands,” she tells her. “So you’ve had a reason to come to us. Feed it with ten nightingales. You won’t be disappointed.”

The next day, a funeral for the Dowager’s son-in-law is held in her stained-glass church. The cathedral arches are snow-white with roses, and they spill down the steps of the church, singing with bell-like voices.

No one even sees the bones.

Faith

She starts with the youngest. Why not?

They take her from the family compound. They place her, fast asleep, on Leto’s table in the lab. Faith is a delicate snow-white beauty: long limbs, a small head, the fair skin that Manileros prize so much. It’s at odds with Faith’s reputation.

Leto waits, and watches as the specimen slowly blinks herself awake. The upsurge in fear when she realizes that she’s strapped to the table. When she realizes that she’s not alone.

Leto doesn’t see what she does as revenge, as former classmates have accused her when they have woken up to find themselves in her lab. She sits with the specimens, waits for them to wake up. It feels wrong to her, simply destroying the originals without explaining why their families requested the procedure. She hopes that a vague memory of that conversation settles into the client’s cells. When they perform the process, create the new, perfected specimen, the Prodigal will not relapse.

“Faith?” Leto says. Her words come out muffled behind her mask. The girl stops struggling; she recognizes Leto’s voice.

“Oh God,” says Faith, and the pretty girl laughs. “All the stories they said about you are true.”

Leto’s hairs prick up at the back of her neck.

When they were children, Leto was the witch’s daughter. Now, as adults, she is her mother’s right hand, her coolly competent heir and that is where her story ends. All the specimens returned to the client families have had their memories edited: they know nothing of her mother’s labs. But her classmates know nothing of Prodigals, of Leto’s part in the process. They know nothing of the Procedure. It’s in their parents’ interest: that their children know nothing. They’d rather forget the unpleasantness and have their baby back (they never really will).

“Do you know why you’re here?” she asks Faith. Faith laughs and pulls at the straps.

“I killed my sister’s husband,” Faith rasps. “We did it together, you know. Me. Charity. Harmony. We pushed him off the balcony.”

They’d said it was an accident. Pat del Rosario—beloved husband, beloved son-in-law—falling over the balcony in the family’s multi-million-dollar compound. Thank God, the Dowager had board positions on various media boards: his death was announced without mention of murder or suicide. They had locked Faith in her room until the funeral and she had appeared with the rest of the family, her stony face easily interpreted as a perfect mask of dignified grief.

“I did it knowing you’d show up,” Faith whispers.

“You knew nothing of the sort,” Leto says. Her voice is even, but under the table, her hand shakes.

Faith has no reason to believe Leto would show up. She has no reason to believe in her mother’s lab. Leto is not a fairy tale, the way the Prodigals she perfects are fairy tales. They emerge perfect and whole under her fingers, blessed with cool-eyed competence, the smothering of their genetic demons.

“Do you even want to know why?” Faith asks.

“I know you want to tell me,” Leto says.

It doesn’t matter what they tell her; the procedure will go ahead anyway. But it’s as if she’s a confessor tending to a penitent on their deathbed. How can she say no?

You’re not a specimen, Ofelia had told Leto. You’re my daughter.

But still, the fact remains: Leto was created to prove the viability of her mother’s product, the efficacy of her mother’s services. Ofelia edited Leto’s genes. She edited them for beauty, for genius, for musicality, an affinity for maths and languages, all those things that the ultra-rich crave in their children. They like to feel as if their genes have given rise to better stock, better product.

Leto was engineered for obedience, which meant she was inclined to recognize her mother’s authority in all things. Her mother had been frank about this: there was no point in raising a child who spurned all her gifts. From the moment Leto stepped inside a classroom, she had excelled, surpassing her peers. It gave the elite of Manila something to consider, even as they called her soulless. When their beloved babies grew up, showing signs of rot by the time they reached their teens, they turned to Ofelia Chua Mercado and her helpful, perfect daughter. Who swap out imperfect specimens for better ones. Or at least, they edit the genetic code, so they are more inclined to conform to their parents’ expectations. They’re like fairy godmothers, granting obedience as a gift.

Faith had failed from the beginning. Even when she and her sisters were little, when the Dowager paraded them around as her little saints, Faith was infamous for her rage. There was a party, when a group of boys held her down to take her photo (wasn’t it sweet? Babies and their games!). She’d pushed one of them down the stairs, and he broke his leg, right there on the Dowager’s immaculate floors. When they were all older, there was another incident, another more grown college party, when she’d taken out someone’s eye.

The Dowager said: they’d hoped she’d grow out of it. That time and patience and their guidance would temper her. It honestly surprised Leto that it’s taken Faith this long to come to her table.

(Leto’s mother said, scoffing, that they should have edited Faith’s anger out of her, long ago. Leto had wisely kept quiet. She doesn’t blame Faith, the way her mother did. But she knows what traits are desirable and what aren’t—they don’t like rage in little girls.)

And now there’s a dead body that they’ve had to cover up with bribes and ritual, and a snow-white funeral.

“He killed Charity’s babies,” Faith snarls. “Did Mommy tell you that? He killed her girls.”

It was in the dossier—a sad obituary in the Manila Times of the Dowager’s twin granddaughters. But babies often die for strange, unknown, and unknowable reasons. Especially when they’re so small.

“He put stuffed toys in their crib,” Faith says. “It’s a SIDS risk: everyone knows that. They kept telling him to stop; he laughed and kept doing it. Look, she loves her little teddy. What’s the harm? Everyone said: Men don’t raise children, it’s not in them. You can’t expect them to understand. It was Charity’s responsibility: after all, she was their mother.

“Charity couldn’t stay awake forever. She tried. We all did. He found reasons to keep us away. And one day she found him standing over their crib with a pillow—and her baby girls were dead.” She closes her eyes. “A house full of people who were supposed to love them, and they all said she was hysterical. They didn’t believe her. Poor Charity. He barely cried.

“Why would he do that?” Leto asks.

She really shouldn’t have asked. All Faith wants is to unburden herself.

“He wanted boys,” Faith says. “It’s not as if he hid that. He was so disappointed when they came out! And Charity was so happy—his disappointment was such a small thing to her, at least in the beginning. That she loved something he didn’t.”

“Annulment was an option, you know.” It’s not that she objects to what Faith did; it’s that she should have been clever about it. She starts thinking of ways to snip the rage out of her, or at least temper it. They can modify memories to reinforce caution.

“Annulment isn’t part of our brand,” Faith says. “It’s not an option for us. Can you imagine the scandal? Lola would kill us first. Mommy would.”

That, Leto thinks, unfortunately is true.

“I’d have been more careful about it than you,” Leto says. Faith laughs.

“We were past careful,” Faith says. “After he killed the girls. After they all said Charity was hysterical and not thinking clearly. They even blamed her: Lola, Mommy, our aunts. We shut them up when we threw him down the balcony.”

Leto starts prepping her needle. She needs to draw blood; their work is easy, really. They have such a rich source of DNA.

“So what are you going to do?” Faith asks. “Replace me with a soulless little drone? A more palatable version of me?”

“Don’t be so dramatic,” Leto says. “I can’t make or remove a soul. I’d make a version of you that wouldn’t have gotten caught.”

It’s not quite what Faith’s mother would have wanted. It’s not what Ofelia Chua Mercado would have wanted. But there is no one here to gainsay her decision.

She’s not sure why or how she decided this: that Faith is entitled to her anger. But here she is.

“It’s alright,” Leto says, and she is back on familiar ground. “It’s alright. You won’t even remember this happened. The you that wakes up won’t even remember this.” And if the new Faith doesn’t remember and the old Faith is simply erased, does Faith even suffer?

She lets Faith see the tiny little selves, swimming in their little crimson eggs, before she puts her to sleep. It seems to calm Faith: watching tender little creatures made from her bone and marrow. Leto dresses the new specimen herself when she emerges, perfect and whole. The new Faith will be little more calculating, a little less given to rages. If the new Faith does need to act on her rage, she will take better care not to get caught. The Prodigal is returned to the family. The Dowager sends back a message, saying: Faith is much improved. Leto imagines the Dowager breathing a little easier even as Faith is counting her grudges and biding her time. Counting down the days, until it’s all done.

Leto schedules the next two procedures. She takes her time.

Charity

She was the last person Leto had thought would end up on her table.

The middle sister: kind-hearted and soft, the kind of girl who deflected other people’s faults. The fairy tale girl people say they want but, in reality, isn’t equipped to keep a dynasty together. Still, she had that fairy tale wedding, married the boy her family picked for her. The Dowager was very clear about her specifications: they want their sweet girl back, before she went wrong.

Really,” Leto told her mother wearily, over chai tea and congee for breakfast, “they want a Charity who doesn’t remember how much her family failed her. They want a Charity who won’t make them feel guilty, every time they look at her.”

“If that’s what they want to believe,” Ofelia said. She shrugged her elegant shoulders. It’s cheating, but it’s not quite cheating, is it, if a Prodigal is exactly the same, just slightly improved? It’s the improvements they focus on.

Leto didn’t tell her mother about what Faith had said. It’s not that she believes Faith, exactly, but…

When Charity wakes up, when she sees Leto, she looks almost resigned. There’s no shock. Ice pricks at the back of Leto’s neck. Charity should be shocked. Charity should cry for help. Why doesn’t she?

“I knew something was wrong,” she says. “When Faith came back… She wasn’t herself.”

Leto doesn’t answer.

“Poor Faith. Did she feel anything? Was it fast?”

“What can you possibly know about the procedure?”

Charity laughs, a sad little laugh that almost sounds like affection.

“We all talk about it, you know,” she says. “All our old classmates, all our old friends.

None of you were ever my friends. Leto digs her nails into her palms. She is not…she is not supposed to be the monster in anyone else’s story. She’s more than that unveiled creature in the womb, more than the girl in the schoolroom, more than the witch’s baby everyone decided they should hate.

“I’m frankly surprised that you don’t know. I would have thought that your mother would have told you. We could never match you in scholarship, but we’re not stupid. Sometimes an old classmate would show up and…they weren’t quite themselves. They would remember things—but in slightly different ways. We heard about the oldies’ little whisper network. They say there’s a little dungeon somewhere—where all the bodies are kept. There’s a little lab where you clone tiny little creatures to replace us. That you sell our souls yourself.”

Leto’s heart is beating fast.

There is no reason. There is no reason why Charity and her friends should know. The specimens’ memories of her mother’s workshops are wiped. The Prodigals are returned to their rooms, and they don’t remember—they don’t remember anything of their time as tiny little creatures in blood-red eggs, their hatching.

If what Charity says is true and there are whispers of the process, and Leto’s part in it… How could she not know that she has turned into a story she has no control over? How could her mother not know? She feels like she’s back in that dreary little room again: her classmates whispering poison, spinning stories she has no control over.

Charity watches her face. “Do you remember?” she asks. “Do you remember anything—from before?”

“Before what?”

Charity closes her eyes and sighs, as if she is very tired and ready to go to sleep. She opens them again, and her eyes fix on Leto. “I wouldn’t tell your mother about this conversation if I were you.”

“We tell each other everything,” Leto says.

“Do you?” Charity asks. “Do you really? Do you ever wonder about the little gaps in your memory—”

She doesn’t have to pay attention to this. She doesn’t.

“Look at me,” Charity says, her voice soft and urgent. “I did everything my mother wanted. I married a boy she wanted. I gave up the idea of a master’s degree in science. And still—look at where I am right now.” Leto twitches, remembers her dreams of little feet, a crimson world.

“I wasn’t expecting to have to destroy everything I was when I married,” Charity whispers. “I wasn’t expecting to destroy everything I loved. That wasn’t the bargain I thought I made. Do you remember your Bella Norte?

When she was fourteen, Leto had engineered little bees who sang like bells and were nocturnal. As sweet and docile as Charity. She’d been frankly surprised that the Dowager had purchased a specimen from Chua Mercado Alchemy. A birthday gift for her middle daughter, who later became obsessed with beekeeping.

“They never really caught on,” Leto says. That was the trouble with new patents.

“Do you remember?” Charity asks. “Do you remember making them for me?”

Leto just stares. She’d done nothing of the kind. She made them, Charity ordered them, and that was the end of it. Charity sighs, softly.

“I kept beds and beds of nocturnal flowers to feed them. I did everything you told me to, even when you stopped answering my letters.

Nocturnal roses, honeysuckle, lavender. Leto can’t even remember why she made them: only that she did.

“Mommy and Lola never approved. Pat wanted me to stop: they were dangerous to me and the baby. Who knew what they were picking up while they were dancing in the dark? Who knew how reliable the patent was, how docile they really were? I went on a trip to the States; I came back to find most of my hives burned. Lola said: But it’s such a little thing. Mommy said: You have babies now. You won’t even notice they’re gone.”

Charity closes her eyes. “And then the girls turned out to be girls. We didn’t even want to know—he was so sure God would give us what he deserved. I took their blood. I cut their hair. I wanted something to remember them by, just like I kept the bees to remember you.” She breathes in, breathes out. Looks over at Leto, whose face is carefully blank.

She would have no reason. Her mother would have no reason to remake her. Leto is perfect, has been perfect, since the beginning. She was engineered for beauty, for intelligence, reliability. There is nothing that Leto wants, outside of what her mother needs.

“They were right,” Charity whispers. “Oh God, they were right.”

Leto doesn’t answer. She preps her needle.

Listen to me,” Charity says, before she slips off to sleep under Leto’s needle. “You’re not so different from us. Someone should have told you that from the beginning. I’m sorry we didn’t.”

Charity is easier, in many ways. They keep the base genetic profile. They edit her memories. Faith did it. Harmony did it. Charity just watched. Leto goes through an entire album of memories, editing things out, snipping inconvenient ones.

When the new Prodigal wakes in her room, she is more certain of her mother’s authority, of her mother’s love and adoration. The need to defer to her authority. She won’t remember that conversation with Leto, in the lab below.

Leto should talk to her mother. She should talk to her, but something stops her, every time. Leto stays in the lab, watching over the dreaming specimens. Cinderella, over the turtledoves that shake gold and silver over her. She thinks of the ashes of every discarded specimen, feeding her mother’s roses. Faith, Charity, an endless, endless parade of names before them.

And she wonders, she wonders. How many of them were her? How many dreams has she had, of a crimson world and kicking feet? Can she count all the times she might have been remade? She wouldn’t even know when it began, what had been the starting point. She walks into the garden at twilight, where the apiaries of little Bella Norte are kept. Their little feet brush against her cheek like a kiss.

Do you know more of me than I do? she asks them.

Do you?

Harmony

The eldest daughter escapes.

She must have seen the writing on the wall, Leto muses to herself when it happens. The Dowager is beside herself. It would not have happened, it would not have happened, if Leto had done all three of them at once like she had asked.

You should have known better than to let the other girls out, is all Leto thinks. Ofelia lets the Dowager know, calmly, that matters are being handled and shoots Leto a look. Leto understands: she wants Leto to fix it. The foundations of the world her mother is building depends on Chua Mercado’s reliability, their reputation. She needs to undo the damage she’s caused.

But Leto spends some time in the garden, among the specimens and patents that never quite caught on. She spends some time with the Bella Norte bees, waking in the moonlight, settling on Leto’s dress like golden dust.

You made them for me, said Charity. Why would Leto do that? What did she owe her?

She considers that Charity and Faith may be right, that her mother has been wiping her memory, altering her like a story that she can’t quite perfect. She should be terrified. She should be outraged, but all she feels is hollow. She wonders if anger was edited out of her too.

“I don’t know what to do,” she says, honestly, to the Bella Norte bees, as if they could answer her.

They track Harmony down in a shabby little street in Binondo, in a shabby little room. Leto insists on going herself. After all, it was her mistake.

At that, something inside Ofelia seems to untwist and loosen. She kisses Leto on the cheek. She says: She knows Leto will make it right. Everyone makes mistakes. We all learn from them. We make ourselves perfect.

Leto lets herself into the shabby little room, and there is Harmony, waiting.

The survivors of Charity’s bees surround her, drinking sugar water. Harmony is tall and striking, even with her hair slick with the humidity and the lack of care over the past few days. Charity was the sweetheart, Faith was the baby, but Harmony was meant to be their mother, all over again. It must have galled the Dowager, when Harmony picked her sisters over her mother. That was not the natural way of things.

Leto isn’t sure what edits to make to improve those outcomes.

“We all know you’d come for us, you know,” says Harmony. She doesn’t move. The bees settle around her, as if she is their saint.

“So I’ve heard,” says Leto. Harmony raises her eyebrow.

“What do you remember?” Harmony asks, point blank.

Leto says nothing.

“What do you remember?” Harmony asks. “How many times did she make you over, so she could start all over again, a clean slate?”

Leto thinks of the ashes in her mother’s garden. Whether any of them are made up of her former selves. She wouldn’t know when her mother started. She wouldn’t even know where to begin.

“I know about Charity’s daughters,” she says, her voice hollow. “I know about the bees.”

Harmony sighs, and her shoulders slump over.

“We didn’t know,” she says, “if she’d remake you, over and over again. Just to make sure you couldn’t remember. Do you remember? Making the bees for Charity? Do you?”

Leto feels breathless. A little bella norte lands on her cheek.

“She cried when you stopped answering her letters,” says Harmony. “When we passed by each other and you acted as if you didn’t know her. And later—when classmates came back, from rehab, from sabbaticals, from tours, not quite right, well, we all wondered.

It’s like a knife to her ribs. She doesn’t—she can’t feel anything.

Harmony gives her a box.

“I’d do it again you know,” she says, between her teeth. “I would pick Faith and Charity, every time. Every time. Hollow me out, empty me of all the inconvenient things my mother wants gone, and I’d still make the same choice.”

“What’s inside?” Leto asks.

But she already knows.

The Dowager sends payment: all three Prodigals, successfully remade. She even gifts Leto with the survivors of Charity’s bees. They have no use for them, and the girl is getting married again in the fall. Another fairy tale wedding. Then: one for Faith, and one for Harmony. She’s already signed contracts for little Seraphim to be made.

“Well done,” Ofelia says, and kisses her cheek. Another death, smoothed over. Because these girls wanted something outside what they should want.

What does Leto want? Nothing except her work. There’s nothing that her mother left her.

So she creates a second variant of the Bella Norte, from the daughters of Charity’s bees. They have Faith’s anger; Charity’s love; Harmony’s loyalty. And inside, inside, they contain slivers of memory, two baby girls avenged by their mother and aunts.

Leto’s daughters have no debut: they are not presented to the world the way Leto was. Instead, she lets them fly wild.

That year, the Dowager and her congregation will be haunted at night time by bees that sing like wind chimes, that smell of baby’s breath, and build cathedrals inside her church. At her wedding, Charity will turn to look at them, and she won’t know why she feels joy and heartbreak. Faith will wonder as she lets them settle on her shoulders and Harmony will feel a strange peace, even as the bees murder her mother’s congregation.

They’ll say it’s a miracle, that the three of them are left alive.

_____________________________________________________________________________

Elaine Cuyegkeng

Elaine Cuyegkeng is a Chinese-Filipino writer. She grew up in Manila, where there are many, many creaky old houses with ghosts inside them. She writes about eldritch creatures, monsters with human faces and the old, old story of art and revolution. She now lives in Melbourne with her partner.

Elaine has been published in Strange Horizons, Lackington’s, The Dark, Rocket Kapre, and now, Pseudopod! You can find her on @layangabi on Twitter.

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Asian Horror Month: Meet Black Crane – Lee Murray

Meet Black Crane Lee Murray

Posted on November 6, 2020 by Angela Yuriko Smith

Lee Murray is a three-time Bram Stoker Award®-nominee, HWA Mentor of the Year, an Honorary Literary Fellow of the New Zealand Society of Authors, and New Zealand’s most awarded writer of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Find her website here at LeeMurray.info.

Lee, your stories are populated by such well developed characters I think they must be fragments of real people you know, reassembled. Which of your stories/characters best represents you?

My character Lucy in my Black Cranes story “Phoenix Claws” is actually me, once upon a time, and my husband is Finn, the partner who loves yum cha brunch but not chicken feet, although he isn’t a plumber and I never took accounting. Also, unlike Finn and Lucy, a new couple who are learning to navigate a relationship with the conflicting demands of blended cultures, my ‘white ghost’ husband and I have been married for more than thirty years.

But the family tradition highlighted in the story exists: I was subjected to it and, to my horror, I have unwittingly perpetuated it. My other story in Black Cranes, “Frangipani Wishes,” is based on true events, never explicitly revealed to me, but somehow understood, in a strange form of familial osmosis. It is one of my saddest memories, and I’m still remorseful that I was the wrong generation, a girl with no power and no real understanding, that I did nothing to intervene. Would I, could I, if it were happening now? I don’t know, and I guess that makes me complicit.

I also wrote myself, or parts of me into my Path of Ra series (Raw Dog Screaming Press) which I write collaboratively with my New Zealand colleague Dan Rabarts. In those stories, Hounds of the Underworld, Teeth of the Wolf, and Blood of the Sun, my character (Penny / Pandora Yee) is a Chinese-Māori woman who I believe shares many of my traits: she’s a stickler for rigour, doesn’t like to break the rules, and tends to overthink things. Like me she is still finding her way as an Asian New Zealander. She’s a scientist (as I was), who struggles to be acknowledged in her field. And Penny loves her family fiercely and would do anything for them, despite them occasionally being as annoying as hell.

I love how you have woven parts of yourself into your work. Two adjectives I would use to describe your writing is ‘powerful’ and ‘dark.’ What are some of your favorite themes to explore in your work?

Early on in my writing career, I learned that I wanted my work to address the things that frighten me, and as an anxious piglet sort who tends to overthink things, there is a lot that keeps me awake at night. If I’m lying in the darkness for hours ruminating on them, then why not write about them too? In my stories, for adults and for children, I’ve addressed global issues like the impact of technology, climate change, the importance of conserving our environment and especially our endangered species, and the very real fear that New Zealanders have of a catastrophic volcanic event. More recently though, my work has tended towards personal themes like loss, loneliness, isolation, persecution, erasure, and otherness, and horror, and in particular monsters and monstrosities, have become the lens through which

I explore those themes; they’re a staple of my work.

Tell us a bit about your heritage and your experience of ‘otherness’. Has this influenced what you write?

Recently a colleague asked me this question in an interview, so I’ll tell you what I told him: I was one of the first Chinese-Pakeha (European) children to be born to a bi-racial couple New Zealand. Not the first, but one of the first. In school, the only other Chinese children were my brother and two cousins. We ate weird food and had slanty eyes, so we got called all the usual things. “Ching-Chong Chinaman!” “Chink!” Yellow Peril!” “Wog!” “Hey, do you know Bruce Lee? Come here and I’ll show you.” Hey, you wing the wong number?”

But our cousins were full Chinese. My brother and I were only half. Which was somehow worse. Apparently, the titer of our blood was important and being only half Chinese meant we were lesser: we weren’t proper New Zealanders and nor were we properly Chinese. Our own family rejected us. My brother and I were five and six-years-old and we were other. I remember my Chinese aunt demanding that I choose whose side I was on. If there was a war with China, what side would I pick? Who did I love most: my mother or my father? How could I answer? Even then, I knew it was an unfair question.

As for whether my heritage and my otherness has influenced my writing, let’s just say that it’s beginning to. More and more those Asian ideals that I’ve grappled with all my life are creeping into my work. Perhaps it’s because I’m suddenly aware I’m fifty-five and long past the age most people ‘find themselves’. Surely by now I should have come to terms with my identity. So what if I’m all grown up and still there is no literature that reflects my Chinese-New Zealand experience? If I want to see that happen, then maybe it’s up to me to roll up my sleeves and make it happen. And perhaps that feeling is what prompted Black Cranes. And the fact that Geneve and I both arrived too early to a conference session, like the good conscientious Asian girls we’ve been raised to be.

The two of us got to talking in the lobby while we were waiting. Where were all the Asian horror writers? Where were Asian women’s experiences being highlighted? We could see a gaping hole in existing horror literature, but would our colleagues feel the same way? Was the timing was right, and would anyone would want to read an anthology of Asian horror? We had no idea. The response from our Black Cranes contributors confirmed they had been waiting for the opportunity, or perhaps they’d been waiting for something and couldn’t quite put their finger on it. And nor could Geneve and I have predicted the positive response to these wonderful stories, even though it’s only been a month or so since the book’s release. We couldn’t be prouder of these writers and their stories.

What has your experience been as an Asian writer? As a writer of dark fiction? How has this changed over time, or not?

I’ve been a full-time writer for fourteen years now, and for most of that time I’ve seen myself as a writer first, and then a New Zealand writer of mainly dark speculative fiction, so perhaps that is also the way I’ve been perceived. It’s only very recently that I’ve been brave enough to envisage myself as an Asian writer, perhaps because for so long my I’ve felt I had to hide that part of myself, make myself smaller, as if being born Chinese in New Zealand was something I should be ashamed of. Now I feel like I need to change that, to push back at that erasure, both from external sources, and also due to my own complicity.

What do you think of common depictions of Asian women in dark fiction? What, if anything, would you like to see done differently?

Geneve summed up those depictions when she wrote the back cover blurb to Black Cranes. We’re a slew of tired tropes: the tiger mums, the sly fatales, the submissive, the studious, and the conscientious. But I think you said best, Angela, in our Black Cranes online launch panel, when you said we need to see authentic diverse nuanced representations of Asian women in fiction. That is exactly what we need: characterizations which reveal us as the complex, richly layered shapeshifters we can be. Portrayals which speculate on futures for Asian women which go beyond the tropes and the traditions. Beyond the petals and the perfidy.

Oh, I love your phrase “petals and the perfidy.” Perhaps that will be another anthology—hint hint? How about other readings? Do you have any recommendations for works that have resonated for you as an Asian horror writer?

Everyone who appears in this book, including Alma Katsu and Tori Eldridge. Please check out the work of our Black Cranes contributors. There is a reason they appear in this anthology. As for other writers whose works have resonated for me, at a certain level, I’ve been intrigued and inspired by the works of writers like American Pearl S Buck (The Good Earth, 1931), Xinran (The Good Women of China, 2002), Amy Tan (The Joy Luck Club, 1989), and Jung Chang (Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, 1991), literary works likely not intended as horror but which read that way for me.

Yet my interest in those texts was tempered; I saw them as pertaining to me, but only in a detached and distant way. I recognized certain notions that had filtered through the generations and settled on me here, but also that the New Zealand context had subverted and changed them in various ways. It would have been wonderful to have explored these ideas in my reading, but when I was growing up, the Asian-New Zealand diaspora was largely ignored in literature—and still is.

Even now, I know of no stories which reflect my experience as a half-caste Chinese-New Zealander other than my own work. Perhaps, it is significant that I first saw myself in John Wyndham’s science fiction novel, The Chrysalids, as someone grossly flawed and banished to the fringes, only in New Zealand, where the only other Asian children I knew were my siblings or my cousins, there were no telepathic allies with whom to share my otherness. Finding this shared experience now with my Black Cranes colleagues has been extremely uplifting, and also a little sad.

Can you tell us briefly about your last project and what you’re working on next?

Thank you for asking. As well as Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women, this year’s projects included my debut short story collection, Grotesque: Monster Stories, which released in July from Things in the Well, Australia, and Blood of the Sun, the final book in the Path of Ra, a supernatural crime-noir trilogy co-authored with Dan Rabarts, which released from Raw Dog Screaming Press on 4 November 2020.

As far as my plans go, I’d like to carve out some time to work on a poetry project, some scripts, and another Taine McKenna novel. I also have ten short story commissions on the go, and since I’m a slow writer, barely able to complete 500 words a day, I think that’s enough to keep me going for a while.

Thank you so much for taking the time to share this with us, Lee. I have a lot of respect for you both as an individual and as an artists. I’m very happy to share you here today, and look forward to chatting again next Tuesday on the next Skeleton Hour! Remember, you can register for the online event on Facebook here.

Asian Horror Month: Interview With Writer Grace Chan

Interview by Angela Yuriko Smith

Grace Chan (gracechanwrites.com) is a speculative fiction writer and doctor. Her family migrated from Malaysia to Australia before her first birthday. Her writing explores brains, minds, technology, and narrative identity.

Her debut novel, Every Version of You, will be published by Affirm Press in 2022.

Her short fiction can be found in Clarkesworld, Going Down Swinging, Aurealis, Andromeda Spaceways Magazine, Verge: Uncanny, and other places. She was shortlisted for Viva la Novella VII. Her short story, The Mark, was nominated for the 2019 Aurealis Award for Best Horror Short Story and the 2020 Norma K Hemming Award.

Her other interests include salt-and-vinegar anything and secretly filming her friends’ post-NYE karaoke highlights. She is terrible at conveying sarcasm. In a decaffeinated state, she may cease to exist.

Grace, thank you so much for spending time with us today. Of Hunger and Fury and The Mark, both have such strong messages built into the story structure. What are some of your favorite themes to explore in your work?

This is still something I’m figuring out, which is part of the fun.

I’m fascinated by both the expanse of the universe and the expanse of our minds. I like writing about the unconscious—that can often take a dark, horrifying turn. I like writing about how technology, especially medical technology, might impact identity, relationships, and culture. I’m excited about works that centre more characters and narratives that aren’t so often centred, and I hope I can contribute to that in some small way.

You have a lot of work published from the likes of Clarkesworld and Aurealis. Which of your stories/characters best represents you?

I think I put a kernel of myself into every story…and then I craft a new character around that. Emma Kavanagh, from The Mark, is a character whose perspective and pain is silenced by society. I drew on the experience of women of colour, of being unheard and unseen, because your voice isn’t the right one for the room. 

With Fiona/Fen Fang, from Of Hunger and Fury, I wanted to explore how an individual can be compressed between two cultures. I’m an amalgamation of my Australian upbringing and my Malaysian Chinese heritage, and I’ve gained a lot of strengths from both. But there are also restrictive, sexist pressures from both cultures—in different ways. As diasporic women, it can be especially exhausting. I’ve also put a bit of myself into Lian, the rational, ambitious main character from my novelette, Jigsaw Children, and a bit of myself into Tao Yi, the protagonist of my upcoming novel, Every Version of You. I think writing allows us to explore parts of ourselves that don’t often see the light: weaknesses, strengths, dreams, fears, and so on.

I think the state of being culturally split is something that often gets overlooked as characters are often a single race in fiction. What are some of your experience of ‘otherness.’ Has this influenced what you write?

My heritage is filled with movement. I was born in Malaysia. So were my parents and most of my grandparents. My great-grandparents migrated to Malaysia from Guangdong. My parents and I migrated to Australia when I was a baby—my father came first, like a scout, and my mother came with me a few months later.

Although my parents are both tertiary educated, displacement and hardships made things difficult. I went to the local suburban primary school, where you could count the number of Asian kids on one hand. At the time, I didn’t think much of the fact that I looked different. But in hindsight, there was always a sense of being an outsider, and needing to prove my place by being a model citizen.

Like many other writers, I fell in love with the local library as a child. I devoured the YA section, but hardly ever found people like me in stories. When I first started to write, my characters were white Australian girls: Emma Smith, Hannah Brown. I remember my dad joking, “Why don’t you call her Emma Tan, or Hannah Chong!” I thought he was silly. I disliked my boring, common, Chinese name, and thought I could never be a writer unless I changed my name to a Western one.

As I’ve ventured into the workforce, I’ve become disillusioned to the myth that dominated my childhood: that compliance to the model minority mould leads to success. My eyes are gradually opening to systemic inequalities in our workplaces and society. It’s a personal and broader journey, fraught with complicated emotions.

I don’t think I purposely set out to write characters who are ‘other’. I don’t purposely make my characters ‘Asian’, or ‘different from the norm’ in any specific way. I just want to write characters that I’m interested in, who have compelling stories. I often find that the loudest voices in the room aren’t the most interesting ones. Many of the best stories are hidden in the quieter minds, in dark corners and buried places.

Wonderful points beautifully said. What has your experience been as an Asian writer? As a writer of dark fiction? How has this changed over time, or not?

I’ve only started to publish in the last couple of years, so I’m very much still in the process of finding my voice. I do feel that being part of a diaspora gives you perspective and power in writing. You’ve always lived with a sense of travelling, of not belonging, and you get rather good at putting yourself into other people’s shoes…or into alternate timelines entirely! 

I’ve gravitated towards darker themes in a lot of my writing. I think it can be a way to acknowledge the darker, more difficult aspects of existence—and perhaps to find commonality and catharsis. It’s also just feels really good to be able to challenge people’s preconceptions and to throw out stereotypes. Asian and women characters are so frequently flattened into two-dimensionality. It’s exhilarating to be able to write slippery, multifaceted, three-dimensional characters that terrify, rage, grieve, crack dry jokes and dreadful puns, and forge their own paths, fiercely.

What do you think of common depictions of Asian women in dark fiction? What, if anything, would you like to see done differently?

I don’t think I have enough knowledge to comment on dark fiction specifically, but I certainly feel that Asian women in fiction are exoticized, sexualised, stereotyped and/or silenced, which is reflective of society. In White Tears/Brown Scars, Ruby Hamad describes the archetypes of Dragon Ladies and Exotic Orientals. Asian women as perceived by the dominant culture are either controlling and unpleasant, or passive, supportive, and decorative.

I want stories about Asian women who are both good and bad, who drive their own narratives, and make up their own minds. I want stories about Asian women who get to adventure, fight, run away, fall in love, not fall in love, destroy their enemies, plot wicked plots, exact revenge, save the world, or be wonderfully ordinary. There are a lot of such stories in SFFH (and, of course, in Black Cranes!). I hope they continue to receive more attention.

I do as well! On that note, do you have any recommendations for works that have resonated for you as an Asian horror writer?

Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio by Pu Songling was a reading experience like none other. It took me fifty or so pages to get stuck in, but I became utterly immersed in a world of fox spirits, ghosts, ghost-sex, scholars, trickery, and monsters. It’s playful, eerie, and whimsical, with laugh-out-loud humour alongside horror.

I’ve also enjoyed: The Vegetarian, by Han Kang. Her Body & Other Parties, by Carmen Maria Machado. Mother of Invention, edited by Rivqa Rafael and Tansy Rayner Roberts. Elizabeth Tan’s short story collections, Rubik and Smart Ovens for Lonely People.

All those just went on my list. How about your last project and what you’re working on next? Can you tell us about these projects?

My tentacled, symbiotic, monster story, Mother of the Trenches, will appear in Unnatural Order published by the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild. I had a lot of twisty fun with that one, and I’m excited for it to venture out into the world.

I’m also delighted to share that my novel, Every Version of You, will be published in early 2022 by Affirm Press, an independent Melbourne-based publisher! It’s a near-future science fiction novel with a Malaysian Chinese Australian protagonist, and it uses virtual reality and mind uploading to explore themes of identity, change, migration, love, and loss. 

Spooky Writer’s Planner Giveaway, WINNERS!

Thank you to all those who watched the video below and entered to win the Spooky Writer’s Planner Prize Pack! Here are our winners!

Spooky Prize Pack Winner!
Willow Croft

Runner-up winning a digital copy:
Cal Lumney

Winners, please be on the lookout for a message from us. If you don’t hear from us, please email at horroraddicts@gmail.com so we can distribute your prize!

If you did not win, the planner is still available at the links below.
Also, subscribe to this blog for more contests coming your way soon.
Happy writing!

Print: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08QLMT83J

Digital: https://www.etsy.com/listing/920797923/spooky-writers-planner

PLANNER INCLUDES 13 months of monthly and weekly spreads Monthly goal and recap sheets Weekly check-ins and note pages Writing challenges, planners, and instructions. Submissions, published works, and contacts trackers. Marketing, newsletter, and blog planners. Check-off sheets for website maintenance, social media profiles, and expenses. Fun sheets to generate writing ideas, track your favorite TV series, or to be read and watched lists.

 

Asian Horror Month: Meet Black Crane Geneve Flynn/ By Angela Yuriko Smith

Meet Black Crane Geneve Flynn

Previously posted onPosted on November 9, 2020 by Angela Yuriko Smith

Next Tuesday editors and authors from the new horror anthology, Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women will be featured on the next Skeleton Hour, the Horror Writers Association’s monthly horror literature webinar series. Please join Lee Murray, Geneve Flynn, Nadia Bulkin, Rena Mason and myself for this event. You can register for the online event on Facebook here.

Leading up to this event I’ll be posting interviews with some of the Black Cranes so you have a chance to know them a little better ahead of time. Think of questions you want to ask because I believe there will be an opportunity for Q&A in the chat. Today we get a closer look at one of the minds that brainstormed this beautiful book into being—the warm and lovely Geneve Flynn.

Geneve Flynn

Geneve Flynn is a freelance editor from Australia who specializes in speculative fiction. Her horror short stories have been published in various markets, including Flame Tree Publishing, Things in the Well, and the Tales to Terrify podcast. She loves tales that unsettle, all things writerly, and B-grade action movies; if that sounds like you, check out her website at www.geneveflynn.com.au.

Geneve, thank you so much for taking the time to share your work in more depth. What are some of your favorite themes to explore?

I have a background in psychology, so I like thinking about what drives a character and why they make the choices they do. One of my favourite themes is that everyone has a hidden side, especially girls and women, because so much of our lives and our identities are about making others happy, putting others first, about shrinking ourselves. Everyone has a face for the public, and a face that no one sees. That’s the side I want a peek at.

Oh, I like that and I absolutely agree with you. How much of you as creator is hidden in your characters and stories?

I think there’s a bit of me in all my stories. When you’re able to take a deep breath and write authentically, exposing all parts of yourself – the palatable and unpalatable, that’s when a story comes alive. 

In my story “The Fledgling,” I write about a mother’s guilt at failing her children because she’s trying to hold down a career. “Little Worm” explores the dilemma of individualism vs filial duty. It’s a question of who cares for aging parents and the expectations laid at the feet of women in families, especially Asian women, who are often seen as the caretakers, the dutiful daughters, the ones whose first and only prerogative is the family. This is something that’s looming for me at this point in my life, and it was an uncomfortable story to write, but it was honest.

As I’ve matured, I find I’m very much okay with knowing that the monsters in my stories also have a bit of me in them. This goes back to the hidden side of human nature. I think as you get older, you become much more comfortable with allowing that side out, and allowing it to live. I take a certain glee in celebrating the monstrous side.

The monstrous side is my favorite side, I think. As you say, it’s where I am myself. Tell us a bit about your heritage and your experience of ‘otherness.’ Has this influenced what you write?

I’m Chinese, born in Malaysia. When I was young, my family moved around because of my dad’s work. We lived in South Korea for eighteen months, in a visitor’s compound with one wonderful Canadian teacher for all the kids. I’d gotten a taste of a western education, and when I returned to the very strict Malaysian schooling system, I was miserable. I’d forgotten a lot of Malay and Chinese, so I spent my days struggling to understand what I was learning, terrified that I would be caned because my grades were dropping.

We emigrated to Australia when I was about eight years old. The school system was a lot better, but being one of only a few Asian kids, I came up against a lot of casual and not-so-casual racism. It’s waxed and waned over the years, flaring with political campaigns against Asian immigration and multiculturalism, and media reports of Asians “taking over” certain areas with property development. 

My experiences have influenced what I write in that I can easily tap into that sense that the world is an unpredictable, unsafe, and sometimes hostile place. As a young woman, whenever I walked past a group of people, I never knew if I was going to be catcalled, told to “go back to your country,” or left alone.  

How has this affected you as an Asian writer? As a writer of dark fiction? Has this changed over time, or not?

When I first started writing, the majority of what I’d read was by white, male writers. The very idea of writing Asian characters, Asian mythology, and Asian settings didn’t even occur to me. And when it did, I shied away from it, thinking that no one wanted to read stories like that. 

I thought of myself first and foremost as a horror writer, and it’s only with Black Cranes that I’ve embraced being an Asian female horror writer. 

As I’ve attended more and more writing conventions, I’m also delighted to continue to discover the breadth of perspectives in fiction. The hunger for diversity in publishing has definitely changed.

I’ve only identified as an Asian female author relatively recently as well, and I appreciate you sharing that. It’s empowering. What do you think of common depictions of Asian women in dark fiction? What, if anything, would you like to see done differently?

I remember reading the Chung Kuo dark sci-fi series by David Wingrove back in the 90s. The premise was a world where the Han Chinese have become the dominant race. While it was sprawling and ambitious in worldbuilding and scope, the depictions of Chinese culture and women were problematic. The Chinese were seen as a monolithic people, stuck in a cycle of stagnation and tradition. Women and girls were largely sexual objects, wives, and mothers. 

On screen, there are countless examples of Asian women as highly eroticised, almost doll-like creatures. They’re passive, adoring girlfriends, dragon ladies, or martial artists. And very rarely the main character. 

Comics were where I first saw a major Asian female character. My folks owned newsagencies (kind of like corner stores where you can buy newspapers and magazines), and I misspent a lot of my youth reading comics. Seeing Jubilation Lee, an Asian female mutant, in a storyline with Wolverine in the X-Men was pretty special. I was a bit bummed that the writers gave her storyline to Rogue in the movies.

A recent portrayal that I love is from the Netflix horror series, Kingdom, which is set three years after Japan invades Korea. Seo-bi is a female healer, caught in the midst of a mysterious plague outbreak. She’s brave and smart and driven to find out what’s causing the outbreak. She has no interest in romantic relationships. She’s not a wilting flower, needing rescue. Her story doesn’t revolve around a man’s.

These are the characters I want to see and read. Complex, determined, capable women, who drive their own stories.

Do you have any recommendations for works that have resonated for you as an Asian horror writer?

Well, obviously, all work by our wonderful Cranes. I loved Alma Katsu’s The Hunger. I found the examination of the American belief in manifest destiny fascinating. I’ve also enjoyed exploring more diverse works because there’s often that sense of being the other. Chikodili Emelumadu’s writing is wonderful, and I just finished Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones, and The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValle.

Oh, yes. The Hunger was brilliant. Can you tell us briefly about your last project and what you’re working on next?

My last project was a charity anthology. Trickster’s Treats #4: Coming, Buried or Not! is the fourth and final Trickster’s Treats anthology brought out by Things in the Well, and it raises funds for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation in Australia. 

I co-edited the anthology with fellow Australian editor Louise Zedda-Sampson, and we were thrilled with the quirky, scary, and inventive stories that came across our desks.

In terms of writing, I’m working on a story about Ching Shih. She went from a prostitute in a floating brothel to the most successful pirate in history, commanding 80,000 sailors at the height of her power. How did she do that? Of course, I have a monstrous answer.

Thank you so much for taking the time to share this with us, Geneve. I’m very happy to share you here today, and look forward to chatting again next Tuesday on the next Skeleton Hour! Remember, readers, you can register for the online event on Facebook here.

Geneve Flynn is a freelance editor from Australia who specializes in speculative fiction. Her horror short stories have been published in various markets, including Flame Tree Publishing, Things in the Well, and the Tales to Terrify podcast. She loves tales that unsettle, all things writerly, and B-grade action movies; if that sounds like you, check out her website at www.geneveflynn.com.au.

Asian Horror Month: Colors, Fox Demons, and Folklore in “The Ninth Tale”

Colors, Fox Demons, and Folklore in “The Ninth Tale” from Black Cranes Anthology

By Rena Mason

It’s never one thing that inspires me to write any story, and the same was true for “The Ninth Tale.” With the popular resurgence of a modernized Huli Jing, (Pinyin – húlijīng) or Fox Demon/Spirit portrayed in anime and video games with a blending of cultures and added superpowers, many of the original stories get muddled and lost to younger generations. Because of my mainly Chinese heritage, which I grew up knowing little about, I wanted to write a classic folktale-style story using the Chinese mythos versus the versions from other countries like the Japanese Kitsune, or Korean Kumiho. 

In Pu Songling’s Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio, a collection of myths, fables, and stories written in the mid 1600s to early 1700s, the majority of the works about the Huli Jing, Songling depicted the demon, and all women for that matter, as villains and the explanation behind men’s troubles. I knew I needed to take that and crush it. So I placed the character, traditionally seen and feared as a powerful woman, and set her in a time when the sexist practice of foot binding was at its peak yet nearing its end with changes occurring in the country’s political climate. Her complete disdain and disregard for the practice along with her sympathy for the women forced or encouraged to do it sets a character trait I wanted for my Huli Jing in the story. 

I’ve always been fascinated by the contrast between the reverence for, and fear of women in East Asian mythos compared to the treatment of East Asian women by their male counterparts throughout history. I’m certain my curiosity began with the first stories I ever heard from my mom about powerful Thai female ghosts who’d enact their rage and vengeance upon their spouses. 

Another component I wanted to incorporate in the story was East Asian interpretations for colors I’d mostly seen used in movies. It wasn’t until my early 20s that I was introduced to Zhang Yimou’s films. JU DOU was the first, and I was mesmerized by the story, but most of all by the colors that cued my emotional responses during different scenes (although I didn’t realize they were having that effect on me at the time). Culturally, I grew up knowing that different colors symbolize different things, and Yimou had tapped into this ingrained knowledge visually. It took me years and several of his movies to figure out what he’d done. Not until HERO was it so obvious and profound. So I was taken aback when I watched SHADOW this past year in its beautiful but bleak monochrome hues. Where were the colors? The lack of them made me suspicious of all the characters. I felt dread and impending doom and not much else. Then it hit me during The Black Cranes Skeleton Hour panel that every character in the movie is a shade of bad, or black, hence the monochrome hues. Yimou had done it again but with the absence of color—genius. PAINTED SKIN, taken from one of the stories in Songling’s Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio, loosely adapted by filmmaker Gordon Chang, uses colors this way in his acclaimed film as well. But could I pull it off in a written story? I had to try. 

Red or vermillion is a popular color in Chinese culture, symbolizing luck, joy, and happiness. It also represents celebration, vitality, and fertility in traditional Chinese color symbolism. Think of the red envelopes handed out for Chinese New Year and on other celebratory occasions, and the “power” tie color businessmen wear with suits. Chinese brides wear red to ward off evil. The color also represents the summer and the element of fire. Red is the only color that has two different and almost opposite meanings, as it can also represent jealousy and anger. 

—In “The Ninth Tale” the Huli Jing sets off on her journey and is excited and feeling happy, so I emphasized that with the scarlet leaves. I pictured her pale skin glowing red underneath the canopy as she headed out of the forest to complete her celestial ascension.

Yellow is an imperial color in traditional Chinese color symbolism, representing power, royalty, and prosperity. It also represents the late summer season, the central direction, and earth. 

—As the Huli Jing meets the farmer in his wheat fields, the yellow represents the future prosperity she would bestow upon him and his family for revering her. (Although banned, Fox Spirit worship is rumored to exist to this day in parts of northern China.)

Gold symbolizes wealth and riches in Chinese culture as well as most other cultures. 

—In the very beginning of “The Ninth Tale” the Huli Jing acquires a pair of slippers embroidered with a gold chrysanthemum. A double meaning, since gold represents riches and the chrysanthemum represents nobility. I also used the color gold when describing the farmer’s wheat fields because good crops are representative of wealth. 

Blue represents the element of wood, and symbolizes freedom, the heavens, immortality and advancement. 

—When the Huli Jing in “The Ninth Tale” meets Xin, her rival, the young woman is pale and underwater with a blue hue to her skin, hinting at Xin’s character being carefree. That she’s feeling indestructible, and wanting advancement.

Green is similar to blue, but also represents harmony, wealth, growth, cleanliness and purity from contamination. 

—In the story, the Huli Jing is often flying and dancing in the air with evergreen branches behind her, showcasing the Fox Demon’s ability to remain unfazed by the ordinary around her. 

Black represents water, and also symbolizes destruction, evil, cruelty, and sadness. Hei is Chinese for black, but it also stands for bad luck, irregularity, and illegality. 

—When the Huli Jing visits her lover Zhang, it is always at night, under the cloak of darkness, and his black hair, and dark eyes, and all the shadows and absence of color in his room portend his “deception” and the evil of his character in the story. 

White represents the metal element in traditional Chinese culture, and also symbolizes purity and innocence. It’s also commonly associated with death, mourning, and funerals in China. 

—From the white light that comes from the Huli Jing when she’s injured, emanating from her celestial self, to their glowing faces in the moonlight, I used a lot of white toward the end of the story to symbolize death and the Huli Jing’s ascension to the heavens. I also used the silver blade to represent the metal element of white. 

In the end, I felt I’d accomplished what I’d set out to do when I’d thought of how I’d wanted to write my Huli Jing story. I’ve never really paid much attention to what colors might mean in stories that I’d read, but I know now that I’ll take a closer look and scrutinize whether or not the author wants me to feel a certain way with the colors they incorporate into their stories. 

________________________________________________________________________________________________

Rena Mason is an American horror author of Thai-Chinese descent, and a three-time Bram Stoker Award® winner of the The Evolutionist and The Devil’s Throat, as well as a 2014 Stage 32 /The Blood List Search for New Blood Screenwriting Contest Quarter-Finalist. She has short stories, novelettes, and novellas published in various anthologies and magazines and writes a monthly column. 

She is a member of the Horror Writers Association, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, The International Screenwriters’ Association, and the Public Safety Writers Association. 

An avid scuba diver, she enjoys traveling the world and incorporating the experiences into her stories. She currently resides in Reno, Nevada but plans to relocate to the Pacific Northwest in 2021. For more information visit her website: www.RenaMason.Ink 

or follow her at:

Facebook: rena.mason 

Twitter: @RenaMason88 

Stage 32: Rena Mason

Instagram: rena.mason 

In the works, she’s co-editing and reading submissions for the next HWA anthology Other Fears slated for publication with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2022. She’s excited to be participating in an anthology that will amplify diverse voices in horror and for her role in representing the long line of great horror from the HWA Presents publications. Her next novel is near completion, and she is also writing some nonfiction, short fiction, and a screenplay. 

 

Spooky Writer’s Planner Release Giveaway

How to win: Comment on the vid about how much a planner fanatic you are or what you plan on writing in the coming year. Why do you need the Spooky Writer’s Planner? Comment on the vid on YouTube, Facebook Watch, Instagram, or HorrorAddicts.net to be entered into the giveaway drawing. Entries close on Jan. 6th, 2021. Winners will be announced via HorrorAddicts.net on Jan. 7th.

Print: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08QLMT83J

Digital: https://www.etsy.com/listing/920797923/spooky-writers-planner

PLANNER INCLUDES 13 months of monthly and weekly spreads Monthly goal and recap sheets Weekly check-ins and note pages Writing challenges, planners, and instructions. Submissions, published works, and contacts trackers. Marketing, newsletter, and blog planners. Check-off sheets for website maintenance, social media profiles, and expenses. Fun sheets to generate writing ideas, track your favorite TV series, or to be read and watched lists.

#spookyplannerparty WINNERS!

Did you have fun answering the quiz questions on our FB group or
attending the Second Life, Virtual Writer’s group at Milkwood?
Well, we had fun playing with you!

If you didn’t catch these events, join our group to be alerted for the next contest, here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/horroraddicts.net

See the link below for one more chance to win!

And the winners are…

Second Life/Milkwood event: Edmund
Digital Edition of Spooky Writer’s Planner
Second Life/Milkwood event: Blitz
Digital Edition of Spooky Writer’s Planner
Facebook Group: Michael F.
Digital Edition of Spooky Writer’s Planner
Facebook Group: Mark T.
Digital Edition of Spooky Writer’s Planner
Facebook Group: (runnerup) Irene W.
free fiction read from the HA library
Facebook Group: (runnerup) Matthew R.
free fiction read from the HA library

We will be in contact with you soon, but if you don’t hear from us, please email your info to us.

Congratulations and Happy Reading!

Did you miss your chance at winning? Not yet!
Coming up on December 30th, We’ll have a Facebook Watch & YouTube video with more chances to win.

Subscribe to this site, and like our FB page to keep informed.
https://www.facebook.com/horroraddicts.net

Historian of Horror : Here Be Monsters!

Here Be Monsters by Mark Orr

So, read the edges of maps in the Age of Discovery, that period when Europeans wandered around the planet, snatching up lands and property and natural resources from indigenous peoples, to designate those areas into which they had not yet ventured. They feared what was there, but coveted the treasures they suspected would be found in those unexplored and unexploited regions. That’s where the monsters were, they thought, never realizing that they themselves were the monsters. 

Isn’t that how it goes? The peril in staring so long into the abyss, according to Nietzsche, is that the abyss stares back into us. We become what we fear if we’re not careful. Alas, we are not very often a careful species. As Pogo Possum pointed out in the 1950s, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

And so, off the edge of the map, we sail, in search of treasures. And, in the case of the horror genre, monsters. For what would horror be without monsters?

The easy answer is, it would be suspense. There’s nothing wrong with suspense, as a genre. In many of its respects, it is very much like horror. It relies on many of the same tropes and tricks as horror. It’s just not what we’re are gathered here together to talk about. And, therefore, we must needs talk about monsters.

We love them, we hate them. We fear them, we pity them. We jump when they suddenly appear, we weep when they fall off of the Empire State Building. They are the primary and most reliable delivery system for le frisson, that delicious shiver we’re all looking for in our horror diet. That transient, delightful, cathartic physical sensation we feel when fangs pierce flesh when the mask is ripped away from the Phantom’s hideous face when clawed fingers emerge from the darkened room on the other side of the slowly opening door. The goosebumps, the dilation of the pupils, the quickening of the breath as we eagerly and, let’s admit it, sadistically anticipate the gruesome demise of some unfortunate nonentity.

Who’s the monster now?

More importantly, what is a monster?

The word comes from the Latin monstrum, from an earlier word that meant a warning or omen, often of evil events raining down upon humanity from the gods themselves. As applied to the manifestations of those warnings, it refers to beings that are disfigured or distorted in body or mind, the unnatural and the supernatural, those that are both outsized and outside the norm in other ways. In other words, those that we readily identify in our own culture as monsters. 

Fritz Leiber, Jr. is more renowned for his fantasy than for his horror, having coined the term ‘sword and sorcery’ in 1961 and being arguably its most adept practitioner over the bulk of his nearly sixty-year career, but he wrote quite a few tales of terror and one major novel in the genre, Conjure Wife. He also won five Hugo Awards for science-fiction, but that’s even more neither here nor there than the fantasy. It’s horror we’re after! And I do plan to cover the estimable Mr. Leiber and his novel in more detail later, so don’t worry that you’ve inadvertently skipped a page or something, or that I’ve gotten you turned around or otherwise lost in the narrative. All shall be revealed at a later date.

Anyhow, in 1974, DAW Books published The Book of Fritz Leiber, for which he wrote a short essay entitled, “Monsters and Monster-Lovers”. Over the course of thirteen pages – and how fitting is that? – Leiber explicated his understanding of what a monster is, whence comes our fascination with them, and how does one go about most effectively creating them and using them to summon that frisson I mentioned earlier. Along the way, he lists some of his favorites, all of whom I intend to expound upon in future entries herein. Lovecraftian menaces from the outer darknesses, creatures of folklore and science fiction, giant apes and shapeshifters and even poor old Richard III, all will have their say in this space. Feeling that shiver of anticipation yet?

No? Then let me introduce you to legendary anthologist Peter Haining, who included in his 1988 collection, Movie Monsters: Great Horror Film Stories, a prologue by the late great Ray Bradbury. In “Inviting Frankenstein into the Parlour”,  Bradbury covered much of the same ground Leiber had fourteen years earlier, with some additions. Including Vertigo, of all things. He made a fairly good case for a third Hitchcock horror film, along with Psycho and The Birds. I expect I’ll take a look at that one of these days, as well. It’s too soon to mark your calendars, but don’t be surprised when it pops up.

Haining himself deserves a lengthy entry or two, along with other great gatherers of literary horrors like Richard Dalby, Donald A. Wollheim, August Derleth, Marvin Kaye, Christine Bernard, Dennis Wheatley, Gerald Page, Herbert Van Thal, and Charles Birkin. That and more will be forthcoming in times to come, along with so much more. But for now, the central question remains:

Why monsters? What is it about the disfigured, the deformed, the gigantic and the unnatural that draws us into their world, time and again? Is it some deep-seated need to exorcise our fears, or tap into the collective unconscious, or connect with the like-minded, or some other intense but subcutaneous psychological need? 

Or is it simply that monsters are fun?

Yeah. I think that’s it. Don’t you?

I came along at the tail-end of that first generation to be inundated by the classic horror films of the 1930s and 1940s when Universal and other studios realized they had a gold mine and dumped their catalogs onto local television stations all over the United States. I was too young to stay up late on weekend nights to watch Shock Theater or whatever it was called in Nashville, but there were frequent appearance by Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolf Man and their myriad fellow denizens of the night on our local stations during the hours when I was awake. I, like a few million other boomer kids, scheduled my playtime around movie presentations like the Big Show, which came on right after Dark Shadows and had at least one classic horror film a week. Or I’d crawl out of bed at five o’clock on a Saturday morning to catch Son of Frankenstein or The Mummy’s Curse on Night Owl Theater, before settling in with a bowl of Cap’n Crunch and a morning filled with cartoons. The Universal horror films were rarely much more than an hour in length, so once commercials were spliced in, they fit very nicely into the ninety-minute slot allotted to them. I’ve always suspected that was why it was that horror movies were so widely distributed on television, and thus one of the first entire classes of films largely preserved for future generations. Thank the Elder Gods for ninety-minute time slots.

Kids today are accustomed to massive promotional campaigns for pretty much anything that shows up on TV or in the movies, but that was a fairly new phenomenon in the early 1960s. There had been such campaigns in the 1950s for TV cowboys and such, but they were very specific. Hopalong Cassidy was the first, and Davy Crockett the most extensive, but those were before my time. My earliest memories of advertising premiums were the action figures from the third James Bond film, Goldfinger, that several of my fellow second-graders had, or the lunch-boxes decorated with pictures of popular TV and movie characters. Those, and all the monster stuff. And what monster stuff we had! 

My parents frequently shopped at the old Sears store on Lafayette Street in Nashville. That building is now the Union Rescue Mission, but when I was a kid, when you came in through the garden department, you emerged into a magical world. Toys as far as you could see, and to your right a display of Matchbox Cars, back when they were actually packaged in matchbox-sized cardboard containers. Hence the name. Just beyond those was the real treasure trove, a long wall filled with plastic models, including the Aurora Monster kits. Frankenstein. The Mummy. Godzilla. Dracula’s Dragster. The Bride of Frankenstein. I built them all, at one time or another. There were monster wallets, too. I had one with the Phantom of the Opera on one side and the Wolf Man on the other. Didn’t have any money to put in it, though. My allowance was fifty cents a week, which barely covered a few comic books and some baseball cards and the occasional paperback or Whitman hardback or Big Little Book. But I had the wallet! And I had a Thingmaker, with metal molds you filled up with Plastigoop and baked in the little oven until Creepy Crawlers emerged that you could throw at your little sister and freak her out.

Best of all, when you could find one, were the issues of Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine. Articles on all the old horror films, and news of upcoming ones, with lots of pictures and groan-inducing puns. The thirty-five-cent cover price took up most of my allowance, cutting into my comic book collecting, but it was worth it to read Forrest J. Ackerman’s deathless prose about Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi and Basil Rathbone and Peter Lorre and peruse the ads in the back for Don Post monster masks and 8mm films of old horror movies and real-life venus flytraps and record albums of scary stories and all the other goodies for sale to those whose allowance was more generous than mine.

All of which I intend to examine in some detail in installments yet to come, along with all the other spooky goodies I’ve read and seen and heard and otherwise accumulated in the decades since then. Hang around and travel down my memory lane with me into dark corners of horror you might not have ever suspected existed, and meet some monsters you might not have encountered yet. 

It should be fun. Because, yeah, monsters are fun.

Slay : Message in a Vessel by V.G. Harrison

Inspiration

My inspiration for “Message in a Vessel”, started as soon as I saw the cover for the SLAY anthology. I knew I wanted a story in that book, but I wanted something different than what I usually write, which is paranormal. So, I went for a sci-fi angle under my V.G. Harrison pen name instead. There’s so much mythology out there about vampires, so I wanted my vampires to be a little different, in that if they were going to outlive humans, then they would probably be technological geniuses in the future. But I also had to ask the question of how would vampires survive, if their only nourishment was blood. “Message in a Vessel”, pays homage to the saying of “use what you know” to do what you need to do. That’s exactly what my brilliant, vampire heroine does. 

Excerpt –

Nobody knew how the disease-carrying mosquitoes would affect us. Thirty years later and a food shortage to boot, and we knew we’d pay the price. Authorities harvested those in prisons and on the streets. The ones who wouldn’t be missed. Then they went to anyone older than sixty-five. The younger you were, the more protected you were. If you were like me, who had parents that could teach you a valuable trade, then you survived the Cleansing Era. 

I sat back in my seat and breathed in a deep breath. Even though we healed better and aged slower, stress was still a part of our lives.

“You look like you need a break, Dr. Jakande.” Cora walked in like her tight pencil skirt kept her tights taped together. She kept her head held high while confidence leaked from her pores. She placed a food card on my lab table. “You’ve been neglecting your allotted daily nourishment.” 

“I’m fine.” My growling stomach probably gave me away. 

“This project means nothing, unless you eat.” She placed one of her bright red fingernails on the nourishment card and pushed it to me. 

“I’m a little busy right now. I’ll go in a minute. Just let me finish this.” I turned back to my computer to review the bioinformatic collection program my team had been working on for the last year and a half. 

“I understand the nature of your work, doctor. But protocols are in place. If you don’t eat now, I must report you.”

I hated this woman. Unfortunately, I would also give anything to be off this project permanently, too. A food break wasn’t long enough.  

“Dr. Jakande?” She leaned close. “Please do not force me to get security to escort you.” 

“Son of–” I slammed my hand down on the counter and shoved my chair away from my desk. “Are you going to lick my lips clean while you’re at it?”

She said nothing. She lifted her head higher as though protocols dictated everything right down to her cold-hearted determination to make sure I followed the rules. Every click of her heels on the marbled floors made me want to reach back and break her neck. Security would be down on me so fast and probably stab me with enough silver knives to make sure I could only work from the neck up. This project only needed my brain. 

I flashed my hand across the keypad and pressed the cafeteria icon.  A flashing arrow directed me to my designated elevator. When I entered, I went to the back and waited as more people entered behind me. 

The view from the moon never got old. The Red Giant space shuttle was the tallest spaceship in the solar system and could carry a payload of more than a half million pounds. Because of the engine thrust, it had to launch from the moon and far enough away not to kill anyone. 

Bio

Science fiction has been my love since I was a little kid who purposely tried to stay up at 11 PM to watch Star Trek. I’ve been writing for a few years now and even though I watch a lot of sci-fi, I don’t read it nearly as much of it as I do paranormal. It made sense to combine the two and come up with my Project Solstice series. From there, it’s been pure science fiction all the way. 

I like to write sci-fi that has some basis in reality. So, whenever I introduce something like the Fine Structure Constant or quantum entanglement, I do as much research as possible to make the story plausible. I don’t like to rehash something that made you fall asleep in physics class, but rather, insert just enough to stir your imagination in the right direction. I guess my overly-priced engineering degree paid off. 

Between the day job, family, and enjoying life as a North Carolinian implant, I’m either hiking, binge watching TV, or trying to connect with my daughter, Jayden, on a cool level. I’m sure I’m failing at that last one, so I’ve resigned to embarrassing myself whenever things don’t go as planned.  

For more information, check out my website at www.vgharrison.com.

Free Fiction : On Darkwater by John C. Adams

On Darkwater 

The boys had been out on the lake for hours without success.

‘You need to hold me under longer if it’s going to work,’ Gerald snapped. ‘That last time I just got inky darkness and nothing more.’

The ten year old pinched his cousin. Brett scowled back and rubbed his arm.

Gerald took a deep breath and nodded that he was ready, but something indefinable held back the usually fearless Brett.

‘Don’t blame me when yer half drowned.’

‘There’s something down there. Help me see it!’

Brett ducked Gerald’s head under and held him firmly when he struggled. The seconds ticked to a minute and beyond.

Near death. Oxygen deprivation. Terrifying visions. But Gerald was determined.

As Gerald stiffed, Brett believed for the first time that this could actually work. That it might be more than his cousin’s fancy and fledgling interest in medicine taking shape down there.

Finally, Brett gripped Gerald’s shoulders and dragged him back out of the water, flinging him onto his back. After a few terrible moments of pale paralysis, he spluttered back to life.

‘Well?’

Gerald’s smile unnerved Brett. What had he seen down there?

The silence coiled around them, its poison dripping into Brett’s veins, until he doubted his ability to tell his cousin’s truth from fiction.

Brett shivered. Gerald seemed suddenly very self-contained and insular. Perhaps, if there was something down there, Brett didn’t want to know after all.

‘That’s enough for today,’ he said.

END

________________________________________________________________________________________________

John C Adams is a nonbinary author and critic of horror and fantasy fiction, reviewing for Horror Tree, British Fantasy Society and Schlock! Webzine. They’ve had short fiction, reviews and articles published in many anthologies from independent presses, on the Horror Addicts blogsite and in various magazines including the Horror Zine, Sirens Call Magazine, Lovecraftiana Magazine, Devolution Z Magazine and Blood Moon Rising Magazine.

They have a Postgraduate Certificate in Creative Writing from Newcastle University, and were longlisted for the Aeon Award twice. John’s latest horror novel ‘Blackacre Rising’ is available to preorder now on Amazon and Smashwords.

 

 

https://www.amazon.com/Blackacre-Rising-Ivy-Spires-Book-ebook/dp/B087Z4499D/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=blackacre+rising

My Darling Dead : The Bastards – Unconscious Acts

Moonlight fell through the single barred window of the jail cell atop the castle’s west tower. A thin rectangle of it moved slowly across the floor as the hours passed, finally illuminating the rightful king of Dandoich, curled up on his side in a fetal position. A trickle of dried blood streaked the side of his face from where the ruby pommel of Sir Antion’s sword had struck him. His unconscious body shivered from the night’s cold which also seeped through the one window high above. 

Far below, Barris and Agathas had the three children taken to a large bedroom on the ground floor for the evening. The eldest had seen nearly three summers while the youngest was barely half a year old. Barris and Agathas had not the slightest idea what to do with children, and had immediately sent for the three best nannies in the castle to look after them. The nannies fed and bathed the children and dressed them in clean clothing from the castle nursery. The youngest was unable to do much more than lay on the stone floor, swaddled in cloth, looking around with wide eyes. The middle child was almost two and together with the eldest child, made the room echo with their shouts and laughter as they played with a stuffed jester provided by one of the nannies. 

When the youngest child began to cry, a nanny picked her up and held her close. Noting the little one seemed cold, the nanny moved nearer the fire. As the little body warmed, the cries stopped. The nanny found the old bear skin rug they had come in, and, thinking that familiar smells and textures may be comforting, fashioned a little nest near the fire for the youngest. In a trice, she was asleep. When the boys tired, more bear skins were summoned and before long a large furry place had been established before the fire, three children sleeping on it as though they had lived there all their lives. 

“Look at them, Barris,” Agathas said. “Like little angels.”

“They will be, one way or the other,” Barris muttered. “No matter what that lout Orteg does, we cannot let them live.”

“Of course not.” 

Above, in Orteg’s cell, a rattling at the door echoed in the small stone chamber as a key was inserted in the lock. The deadbolts shot back with a bang and Zavier entered, his black robe swirling around him in the moonlight. He stopped and looked at Orteg’s immobile form with an expression of amusement and disdain. He prodded Orteg with one boot. Orteg slept on. 

The wizard’s staff tapped the floor once, twice, a third time, then touched Orteg on the forehead.

“Rise,” Zavier said. 

Unbidden, Orteg’s eyes opened. He clambered to his feet and stood, eyes staring sightlessly at the wall in front of him. Zavier waved a hand before Orteg’s face. Orteg did not flinch, nor did his eyes. 

“Go,” Zavier said and waved his staff in the direction of the doorway. 

Orteg’s face did not change under his sightless eyes, nor did they move as he walked sure-footed across the cell and out the door. After giving Orteg a prudent lead, Zavier followed. 

Orteg walked down the spiral stairs, never missing a step and turned right at the corridor at the bottom. After several more twists, turns and stairways, all made with no hesitation, he came to a bedroom door on the ground floor. Making a fist, Orteg pounded twice upon the door. After a moment, the door creaked open. Barris stood there, his bloated face grotesquely lit by torchlight. 

“Your Highness,” said Barris, his tone one of surprise. “We did not expect—”

“The children.” Orteg said. His voice was devoid of any inflection. 

“They are here, Sire,” Barris said. He observed the lack of movement in Orteg’s eyes with some interest. Barris had seen this lack of movement before in enchanted individuals, and he opened the door for Orteg. “Won’t you come in?” 

Orteg moved forward, his unmoving eyes scanning the room, zeroing in upon the pile of bearskin rugs and the three little ones asleep on it before the large fireplace. Agathas stood in front of them, looking as surprised by Orteg’s appearance as Barris. 

“My Lord King,” she said, with the hint of a curtsy. “We just succeeded in putting them to—”

Orteg shouldered her aside, not looking at her, causing her to stagger. Her bewildered face fell upon Barris. The look of elation on his own features told her much. Quietly, she stepped back from the fireplace as Barris closed the door softly and moved to join her. He slipped an arm around her, fondling her breast as Orteg sunk to his knees on the bearskin. Barris and Agathas held their breaths as Orteg reached down and put both hands around the neck of the eldest child. 

Zavier stood outside the locked door to the chamber containing the children, their father and the two prefects. There was not a sound from inside. The wizard’s face was lit by a smile. There was a green flash as a stone he held in his hand ignited with an emerald light burning deep within. The light turned clear and inside the stone he could see the occupants of the room, moving in real-time. Zavier watched as Orteg methodically strangled his two eldest children before snapping the neck of the youngest as though he were dispatching a chicken. Getting to his feet, he turned and walked past Agathas and Barris, opening the door just as Zavier melted into the shadows behind it. Still not present behind his eyes, the king shuffled down the hallway, back to the king’s chambers.

Zavier waited in the shadows for some time, watching the figures of Barris and Agathas in the emerald stone. Finally, he marched forward, stowing the stone in his cloak as he did so, and threw the door open wide with a bang. 

“Honorable Prefects!” barked Zavier, striding into the room and slamming the door behind him. He turned to face Barris and Agathas on the bearskin rug, grinning as they moved awkwardly to cover their nakedness. He stared, eyes wide and mad as they pulled their clothing back on, breathing heavily, darting their eyes at the bodies of the three children, now arranged against the wall like an audience for their coupling. 

“This will be the talk of the kingdom for years, don’t you agree, Barris?” Zavier said, his voice light and musing though malice shone from his every feature. Barris cursed the wizard mentally as he continued. “For some time now, it has been known to me that you and your sister Agathas have been having relations, Barris, but until now it has been of no consequence to me. Now, I have reason for wanting your bloated behind out of this castle, and I daresay that those you have governed so harshly for so long would perhaps be sufficiently moved by your incestuous ways to make an example of you. As for you, Agathas—” Zavier grinned at her, so much like a shark she flinched. “It will reflect very poorly on you if it is known that it was your idea to use the bodies of three dead children to simulate an audience for your coupling.”

“What do you want, wizard?” Barris asked, his voice filled with anger and fear. 

“If you are never seen nor heard from again, there would be no reason for me to say anything to anyone,” Zavier said, extending a hand. “The choice is yours.”

Check These Out : Available from A. Craig Newman

Our friend A. Craig Newman invites Horroraddicts.net readers to enjoy these books:

Modern Myths and Fairy Tales https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0864X2V64/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_L15GEbNQX7CKN

Four stories of sex, madness, magic, and murder:

CIrce’s Music Shop – Sorceress makes music with a mobster.
Randall’s Visit – A ghost interrupts a patient’s visit to his therapist.
Archer Nash – Archer says to the dead what he can’t seem to say to the living.
Dierste Hamelin and the Pied Piper – DIerste thought she was playing The Piper until it was time to pay him.

Wages of Sin

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0848T49V4/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_X25GEb6NCGGNB

Anne Marie Thomas and Tonya Jacobs are lovers who were caught in the act, a crime under the law of this warped future. Each will face unspeakable punishments designed to correct their errant behavior and adopt ways that will conform with society. Neither will ever be the same.

Burn

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B084G7NYVL/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_n35GEbF1BGMR0

A lonely, heartbroken man’s world is afire. With the right drug, it freezes solid. In this drug-addled state, he goes home to confront the man who has taken his life.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

A. Craig Newman ~ Writer of short stories, screenplays, and poetry. Genres include horror, sci-fi, fantasy, action, comedy, and erotica. 

Multimedia Opportunities at HOW Con 2020!

Don’t have time to read everything at the HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference this week? Prefer to Learn with Audio? Enjoy Video Workshops instead? HOW has you covered for a Multimedia Writing Experience!

Browse a variety of Technological Teaching Tools including:

Next Great Horror Writer Podcast Series

HorrorAddicts.net African American Multimedia Conference Video Coverage

Horror Podcasting with Nancy Kilpatrick

Back to Basics: Writing Like We’re 10 Video Prompts

SecondLife Workshops with Sumiko Saulson

Even when our Live Conference Events end, HOW remains as an Online Archive to browse Chat Transcripts, Author Panels, and Writing Workshops brought to you by HorrorAddicts.net!

 

HOW Con: New 2020 Workshops!

If you can’t take time out to be part of the Live Shout Box Events happening at the HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference Feb 25-27 never fear! Our forum based conference has numerous workshop for your Publishing, Writing, and yes, Horror inspirations!

In addition to our Previous Articles and Video Panels from last year that attendees can still access, New Workshops for our 2020 Conference include:

Speculative Author Diane Arrelle Interview

Using the Imagination Game to Inspire Ideas by Emerian Rich

How to World and Character Build in Horror by Charles F. French

What to do When Real Life Interferes with Writing by Kristin Battestella

Back to Basics: Writing Prompts Like We’re 10 Video Exercise

10 Things to Remember when Planning a Writing Event

How to Plan Workshops and Oral Presentations

And MORE!

Remember to Sign up and Log in so you can experience all HOW has to offer! 

#HOWCon 2020: Live Shout Box Events!

It’s that time of year again! Time for the HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference! Take a little winter time out with us February 25-27 at http://horroraddictswriters.freeforums.net/ to focus on YOUR writing thanks to our writing articles, author interviews, and publisher how-tos. Browse at your leisure regardless of time zone or pajamas, or join HOW for our Live Shout Box Chats featuring noted editors and horror authors!

 

Here’s the Schedule for our Live Shout Box Events:

Tuesday, February 25 8 p.m. est/ 5 p.m. pst HOW Shout Box Welcome Party

Tuesday, February 25 9 p.m. est/ 6 p.m pst NGHW Winner Jonathan Fortin.  Jonathan is a winner of The Next Great Horror Writer Contest. His LILITU: THE MEMOIRS OF A SUCCUBUS will be available on March 27th, 2020, on both Paperback and Kindle. It’s being published by the award-winning horror publisher Crystal Lake Publishing. Visit www.facebook.com/pg/JonathanFortinAuthor for more!

Wednesday, February 26 12 noon to 1 p.m. est / 9 a.m. pst Horror Author Charles F. French. Charles is a college professor and the author of Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society, Book 1; Gallows Hill: The Investigative Paranormal Society, Book 2; The Investigative Paranormal Society Cookbook; and French On English: A Guide To Writing Better Essays. For more information about Charles visit
www.charlesfrenchonwordsreadingandwriting.wordpress.com

Wednesday, February 26 9 p.m. est/ 6 p.m. pst Naching T. Kassa Chilling Chat Hostess and HorrorAddicts.net Publishing Editor

Thursday, 2 p.m. est 11 a.m. pst Horror Author Nancy Kilpatrick. Nancy has been a 4 time Bram Stoker Award finalist, a 7 time Aurora Award finalist, a 2 time Paris Book Festival winner for anthologies, the ForeWord Reviewers Award silver winner for collections, the winner of the Murder, Mayhem & the Macabre award; The Standing Stone short fiction winner award; Interzon winner; and winner of the Arthur Ellis Award for best mystery story. For more information, visit nancykilpatrick.com/

Thursday, 12 est 9 p.m. pst Shout Box Late Night Finale Party

See you at #HOWCON2020!

Black History Month : The State of Speculative Fiction: Why Race Matters

The State of Speculative Fiction: Why Race Matters

by Valjeanne Jeffers

Why is race, why is diversity, important in speculative fiction? Why is it important, why should it matter, what race one’s characters are?

As a child, I devoured YA fiction, filled with ghosts and goblins. My TV interests were the same: I gravitated toward the weird, the fantastic, so much so I often had to look under my bed to make sure Dracula hadn’t found his new resting place there.

But there were, with few exceptions, no characters who looked like me. There were no characters from neighborhoods like mine. What was far worse was that many of the characters who later came, and are still around today, didn’t act like me or anyone else I knew. I wonder if my life would have been more enriched if there’d been a brown-skinned girl or boy who starred in the fiction I so greedily devoured? If he or she had walked across the TV screen of my youth? Of this I’m sure.

Diversity is important because we, people of color, need heroines and heroes to people the landscape of our imagination … to point the way, to help us dream, to help us see something better in our tomorrows. We need characters to help make us proud of who we are and where we came from. In short, we need characters to identify with. Characters who are coming from the same space. We need role models, most especially ones who don’t die in the first fifteen minutes of the story, ones who aren’t caricatures and stereotypes.

Now don’t get me wrong. I continue to enjoy literature and films created by white authors. But I still need, I’d venture to say we still need stories that emerge from the Black experience. And we aren’t the only ones who need this. Diversity in speculative fiction is important for folks of all races.

If you want to know what’s going on in my neighborhood, if you want to know what moves me politically, and socially, if you want to know what I dream, who better to ask than me? In other words, SF/fantasy/horror written not just by Black folks, but by Native Americans, peoples of Latin descent, written by the full racial spectrum, goes a long way toward making folks more intelligent, more tolerant … to moving our world a little bit closer to global humanity and understanding.

Racial inclusiveness, diversity, is just as important in speculative fiction as it is in every other aspect of our lives. And in 2019 it is becoming an everpresent reality. 

I’ve always hated it when folks overgeneralize and paint everyone with the same broad brush. So here’s what I have to say: to those white creators who are trying so hard to be racially sensitive and accurate. We are not talking about you. I myself, create Native American, Asian, Spanish and White characters based on folks I’ve been fortunate enough to meet in my lifetime. As I’ve said before, I hope that I do a decent job. Only my readers can answer that.

The authors and screenwriters we’re trying to move forward are those who have no idea how to create a nonwhite character and don’t even try to learn. Who just dig in their bag of stereotypes and throw something together. Personally, I’d rather be portrayed as a White woman with a deep tan, not perfect mind you, but better, rather than a “Yuk, yuk missus … I’s a-comin’” myth.

As writers, we’ve all heard of publishing companies that strong-arm authors into making their characters white or racially ambiguous, so they can attract white readers. Again, all publishing companies are not equal. But these stories have made me glad I decided to self-publish. I’d also like to say, since I have white readers, to these companies (you know who you are): you aren’t giving your readers enough credit. You should stop treating them like children. Folks will read good writing, no matter where it comes from, and who writes it.

And now to Hollywood. Oh man, don’t get me started!  On the stereotypical characters that make us all cringe, the people of color (yes, not just black folks) who die fifteen to thirty minutes into the film, to the scores and scores of films made with no people of color at all.

So what do we do? We keep on keeping on. In 2019, the speculative fiction landscape is filled with more films, books and animation created by folks of color than I have ever seen in my lifetime.

Our numbers will continue to grow. We are coming. We have arrived. We are here. 

And we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Valjeanne Jeffers is a science fiction writer and the author of Immortal, Immortal 2: The Time of Legend and Immortal 3: Stealer of Souls. She is a graduate of Spelman College, NCCU and a member of the Carolina African American Writers Collective (CAAWC).

This Week! : HOW CON 2020 Coming February 25-27!

We’re BACK and once again The HOW Conference is open to Any Genre and General Writing Topics, not just Horror!

Authors, Editors, Agents, Publishers, Readers, and Writers are invited to be part of The HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference February 25-27, 2020. Learn HOW to hone your literary craft thanks to interactive online forums, live chats, writing exercises, and more FREE opportunities to sharpen your skills wherever you are and whatever you write.

Workshop Submissions for HOW are Currently OPEN!

What kind of workshops are we looking for at HOW you ask?

~Interactive forum based workshops, worksheets, writing exercises or prompts in any genre or writing skill level
~Articles and essays with writing tips, experiences, or references, again in all genres or on technical tips, formatting, grammar, etc
~Editor, Agent, and Publisher essays, experiences, or feedback
~Articles and tips on marketing, networking, promotion, and social media for authors
~Genre-specific essays, tips, trends on world building, characters, genre perimeters, etc.

If you are an author, editor, agent, or publisher and would like to do a Q&A, chat, or live audio/visual event, let us know! Shoutbox Chats and Live Events are currently being scheduled for Tuesday, February 25 and Wednesday, February 26. Have an idea? Don’t hesitate to ask! If it is technologically possible, we want to do it at HOW!

Register now on our Free Forum at horroraddictswriters.freeforums.net for more information. Don’t worry, it’s free and Easy! Workshop submissions can be done directly through the forum system or by emailing your workshop proposal no later than February 7 to horroraddicts@gmail.com. Please use the subject heading ‘Horror Addicts Online Conference Query’ so we recognize your message.


To participate in HOW, you must register at our Online Writers Conference Forum. During the week of the conference, the Workshop boards will be open. Each board will contain the workshop threads, conveniently sorted by genre so our experts can present their tips, worksheets, brainstorming, and more. All you have to do interact – host your workshop, browse the forum, participate in one, two events or as many aspects as possible and get inspired with HOW!

Thank you for your participation and we look forward to seeing you at the Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference!

 

Revisit the Writing HOW-tos from Last Year’s Conference:

HOW Video Workshops

HOW Guest Authors

HOW Chat Transcripts

 

Reminder : HOW CON 2020 Coming February 25-27!

We’re BACK and once again The HOW Conference is open to Any Genre and General Writing Topics, not just Horror!

Authors, Editors, Agents, Publishers, Readers, and Writers are invited to be part of The HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference February 25-27, 2020. Learn HOW to hone your literary craft thanks to interactive online forums, live chats, writing exercises, and more FREE opportunities to sharpen your skills wherever you are and whatever you write.

Workshop Submissions for HOW are Currently OPEN!

What kind of workshops are we looking for at HOW you ask?

~Interactive forum based workshops, worksheets, writing exercises or prompts in any genre or writing skill level
~Articles and essays with writing tips, experiences, or references, again in all genres or on technical tips, formatting, grammar, etc
~Editor, Agent, and Publisher essays, experiences, or feedback
~Articles and tips on marketing, networking, promotion, and social media for authors
~Genre-specific essays, tips, trends on world building, characters, genre perimeters, etc.

If you are an author, editor, agent, or publisher and would like to do a Q&A, chat, or live audio/visual event, let us know! Shoutbox Chats and Live Events are currently being scheduled for Tuesday, February 25 and Wednesday, February 26. Have an idea? Don’t hesitate to ask! If it is technologically possible, we want to do it at HOW!

Register now on our Free Forum at horroraddictswriters.freeforums.net for more information. Don’t worry, it’s free and Easy! Workshop submissions can be done directly through the forum system or by emailing your workshop proposal no later than February 7 to horroraddicts@gmail.com. Please use the subject heading ‘Horror Addicts Online Conference Query’ so we recognize your message.


To participate in HOW, you must register at our Online Writers Conference Forum. During the week of the conference, the Workshop boards will be open. Each board will contain the workshop threads, conveniently sorted by genre so our experts can present their tips, worksheets, brainstorming, and more. All you have to do interact – host your workshop, browse the forum, participate in one, two events or as many aspects as possible and get inspired with HOW!

Thank you for your participation and we look forward to seeing you at the Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference!

 

Revisit the Writing HOW-tos from Last Year’s Conference:

HOW Video Workshops

HOW Guest Authors

HOW Chat Transcripts

 

Reminder : HOW CON 2020 Coming February 25-27!

We’re BACK and once again The HOW Conference is open to Any Genre and General Writing Topics, not just Horror!

Authors, Editors, Agents, Publishers, Readers, and Writers are invited to be part of The HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference February 25-27, 2020. Learn HOW to hone your literary craft thanks to interactive online forums, live chats, writing exercises, and more FREE opportunities to sharpen your skills wherever you are and whatever you write.

Workshop Submissions for HOW are Currently OPEN!

What kind of workshops are we looking for at HOW you ask?

~Interactive forum based workshops, worksheets, writing exercises or prompts in any genre or writing skill level
~Articles and essays with writing tips, experiences, or references, again in all genres or on technical tips, formatting, grammar, etc
~Editor, Agent, and Publisher essays, experiences, or feedback
~Articles and tips on marketing, networking, promotion, and social media for authors
~Genre-specific essays, tips, trends on world building, characters, genre perimeters, etc.

If you are an author, editor, agent, or publisher and would like to do a Q&A, chat, or live audio/visual event, let us know! Shoutbox Chats and Live Events are currently being scheduled for Tuesday, February 25 and Wednesday, February 26. Have an idea? Don’t hesitate to ask! If it is technologically possible, we want to do it at HOW!

Register now on our Free Forum at horroraddictswriters.freeforums.net for more information. Don’t worry, it’s free and Easy! Workshop submissions can be done directly through the forum system or by emailing your workshop proposal no later than February 7 to horroraddicts@gmail.com. Please use the subject heading ‘Horror Addicts Online Conference Query’ so we recognize your message.


To participate in HOW, you must register at our Online Writers Conference Forum. During the week of the conference, the Workshop boards will be open. Each board will contain the workshop threads, conveniently sorted by genre so our experts can present their tips, worksheets, brainstorming, and more. All you have to do interact – host your workshop, browse the forum, participate in one, two events or as many aspects as possible and get inspired with HOW!

Thank you for your participation and we look forward to seeing you at the Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference!

 

Revisit the Writing HOW-tos from Last Year’s Conference:

HOW Video Workshops

HOW Guest Authors

HOW Chat Transcripts

 

HOW CON 2020 Coming February 25-27!

We’re BACK and once again The HOW Conference is open to Any Genre and General Writing Topics, not just Horror!

Authors, Editors, Agents, Publishers, Readers, and Writers are invited to be part of The HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference February 25-27, 2020. Learn HOW to hone your literary craft thanks to interactive online forums, live chats, writing exercises, and more FREE opportunities to sharpen your skills wherever you are and whatever you write.

Workshop Submissions for HOW are Currently OPEN!

What kind of workshops are we looking for at HOW you ask?

~Interactive forum based workshops, worksheets, writing exercises or prompts in any genre or writing skill level
~Articles and essays with writing tips, experiences, or references, again in all genres or on technical tips, formatting, grammar, etc
~Editor, Agent, and Publisher essays, experiences, or feedback
~Articles and tips on marketing, networking, promotion, and social media for authors
~Genre-specific essays, tips, trends on world building, characters, genre perimeters, etc.

If you are an author, editor, agent, or publisher and would like to do a Q&A, chat, or live audio/visual event, let us know! Shoutbox Chats and Live Events are currently being scheduled for Tuesday, February 25 and Wednesday, February 26. Have an idea? Don’t hesitate to ask! If it is technologically possible, we want to do it at HOW!

Register now on our Free Forum at horroraddictswriters.freeforums.net for more information. Don’t worry, it’s free and Easy! Workshop submissions can be done directly through the forum system or by emailing your workshop proposal no later than February 7 to horroraddicts@gmail.com. Please use the subject heading ‘Horror Addicts Online Conference Query’ so we recognize your message.


To participate in HOW, you must register at our Online Writers Conference Forum. During the week of the conference, the Workshop boards will be open. Each board will contain the workshop threads, conveniently sorted by genre so our experts can present their tips, worksheets, brainstorming, and more. All you have to do interact – host your workshop, browse the forum, participate in one, two events or as many aspects as possible and get inspired with HOW!

Thank you for your participation and we look forward to seeing you at the Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference!

 

Revisit the Writing HOW-tos from Last Year’s Conference:

HOW Video Workshops

HOW Guest Authors

HOW Chat Transcripts

 

Guest Blog : Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter by C.A. Verstraete

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt directly from the author, C.A. Verstraete to introduce her writings.

What if everything you heard about the Lizzie Borden story isn’t true … that is, it isn’t complete?

Could it be that the spinster Sunday school teacher picked up an axe that horrific August day in 1892 to fight off an unexpected horror? 

In Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter by C.A. Verstraete, Lizzie Borden does the unthinkable for the most unexpected of reasons… her parents have become zombies. Now Lizzie must not only help save her sister, Emma but try to protect her hometown and even the neighbors who view her as nothing but a murderess, from this deadly scourge.


        Excerpt:

Chapter One

Q: You saw his face covered with blood?

A: Yes sir.

Q: Did you see his eyeball hanging out?

A: No sir.

Q: Did you see the gashes where his face was laid open?

A: No sir.

—Lizzie Borden at inquest, August 9-11, 1892, Fall River Courtroom

August 4, 1892

Lizzie Borden drained the rest of her tea, set down her cup, and listened to the sound of furniture moving upstairs. My, my, for only ten o’clock in the morning my stepmother is certainly energetic. Housecleaning, already?

THUMP.

For a moment, Lizzie forgot her plans to go shopping downtown. THUMP. There it went again. It sounded like her stepmother was rearranging the whole room. She paused at the bottom stair, her concern growing, when she heard another thump and then, the oddest of sounds—a moan. Uh-oh. What was that? Did she hurt herself?

“Mrs. Borden?” Lizzie called. “Are you all right?”

No answer.

She wondered if her stepmother had taken ill, yet the shuffling, moving, and other unusual noises continued. Lizzie hurried up the stairs and paused outside the partially opened door. The strange moans coming from the room sent a shiver up her back.

Lizzie pushed the door open wider and stared. Mrs. Abby Durfee Borden stood in front of the bureau mirror, clawing at her reflected image. And what a horrid image it was. The sixty-seven-year-old woman’s hair looked like it had never been combed and stuck out like porcupine quills. Her usually spotless housedress appeared wrinkled and torn. Yet, that wasn’t the worst. Dark red spots—Blood, Lizzie’s mind whispered—dotted the floor and streaked the sides of the older woman’s dress and sleeves.

Lizzie gazed about the room in alarm. The tips of Father’s slippers peeking out from beneath the bed also glistened with the same viscous red liquid. All that blood! What happened here? What happened?

She gasped, which got the attention of Mrs. Borden, who jerked her head and growled. Lizzie choked back a cry of alarm. Abby’s square, plain face now appeared twisted and ashen gray. Her eyes, once bright with interest, stared from under a milky covering as if she had cataracts. She resembled a female version of The Portrait of Dorian Gray. Another growl and a moan, and the older woman lunged, arms rigid, her stubby hands held out like claws.

“Mrs. Borden, Abby!” Lizzie yelled and stumbled backward as fast as she could. “Abby, do you hear me?”

Her stepmother shuffled forward, her steps slow but steady. She showed no emotion or sense of recognition. The only utterances she made were those strange low moans.

Lizzie moved back even further, trying to keep some distance between her and Mrs. Borden’s grasping fingers. Then her foot hit something. Lizzie quickly glanced down at the silver hairbrush that had fallen to the floor. Too late, she realized her error.


Another Side to the Tale:

But even as Lizzie Borden fights her own battles in court and off, another story begged to be told—that of her long time neighbor and family physician, Dr. Seabury Bowen. He suddenly found his life turned upside down after being the first professional to witness the unexpectedly brutal murder scene firsthand.

Dr. Bowen was a doctor, of course, a man of science used to life and death. But what could prepare him for the scene that awaited him at the Borden household? Would he, and his life, ever be the same?

In The Haunting of Dr. Bowen by C.A. Verstraete, the doctor finds his life changed, even haunted, by what he witnessed that morning. Dare he find the truth and find peace? Will the love of his precious wife, Phoebe, help heal his shattered heart? 

This is a tale of everlasting change… and everlasting love among the darkest of shadows.

Prologue:

“Never did I say to anyone that she had died of fright.

My first thought, when I was standing in the door, was that she had fainted.”

                                      —Testimony of Dr. Seabury W. Bowen, Trial of Lizzie Borden, June 8, 1893

“Why won’t anyone believe me? Why, Phoebe, why?”

Dr. Seabury Bowen shoved back the shock of white hair hanging over his forehead and wiped a wrinkled hand across his stubbled chin.

His appearance, like his surroundings, could stand a bit of major housekeeping, not that he cared a whit. 

“Here, it’s here somewhere,” he mumbled.

The old man rummaged among the giant pile of documents, books, and what-not littering the large walnut desk in his study. Several minutes later, and after the search through dozens of loose papers, he saw the faded red book lying beneath a tottering pile. He pulled at it, sending the rest of the stack falling like so much unwanted garbage.

The good doctor, but a shadow of his once-robust self, flipped the pages. He stared at the offending journal entry before setting the book aside with a heartrending sob. 

Chapter One

“I saw the form of Mr. Borden lying on the lounge at the left of the sitting-room door. His face was very badly cut, apparently with a sharp instrument; his face was covered with blood.”

—Testimony of Dr. Seabury W. Bowen, Trial of Lizzie Borden, June 8, 1893

The man reached toward him with long, lean fingers. Dr. Seabury Bowen blinked and tried to make out the features of the unknown figure standing in the corner. The unexpected visitor had a broad, dark face and what looked like a band across his forehead. Bowen stretched out his arm in turn and jumped when their fingers touched, the jolt surging through him like the electricity he knew would soon replace all the gas lights.

“Seabury, dear, are you all right?” His wife, Phoebe, sounded concerned. “What’s wrong?”

Bowen breathed hard. He bolted upright and held a hand on his chest, trying to catch his breath. Still stunned, he gazed about the room, disturbed at the odd shapes until he recognized familiar things… the bureau, the armoire, the paintings on his bedroom walls. He swallowed and nodded.

 “Ye-yes. I-I’m fine. A bad dream, that’s all it was. Just a dream.”

“A bad dream? Dear, you’re breathing so hard, your heart must be pounding like a drum in Mr. Sousa’s band! Are you sure you’re fine?”

The doctor took his wife’s hand and kissed it, relieved to feel his heartbeat return to normal. He had to admit his reaction worried him for a minute, too. “I’m fine now, Phoebe. Really, it’s all right. Go back to sleep. I’m too wrought up to rest. I think I’ll go downstairs and read awhile.”

He gave her a loving smile before he rose, and slipped on his robe, his thoughts in a whirl. To tell the truth, these dreams or hallucinations or whatever they were, appeared to be getting stronger and more frequent.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

BIO: (C.A.) Christine Verstraete has had fiction published in various anthologies including 100 Word Horrors 3 and upcoming in 100 Word Zombie Bites. She is the author of the Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter series and The Haunting of Dr. Bowen, plus other books. Learn more at her blog, http://girlzombieauthors.blogspot.com or visit her website, https://www.cverstraete.com for more details.

Free Fiction: Smart Machines | A Short by Kay Tracy

It was a Saturday, before the holidays. I had to pull some overtime on a few reports for the boss. Friday night, in the winter, now well after dark, and I couldn’t get the door to open. Something moved behind me low on the floor. A mouse? 

That was three weeks ago, and I am still here. I can’t get out. Gods help me, I truly wish I could say it was because of my boss.  How I wish a mouse was what I had glimpsed!

The firefighters who broke open the door keep trying to tell me I was in shock.

People sometimes ask about it, but no one really ‘knows’. Folks really don’t want to know. 

You have seen them in many offices, those machines that will print, copy, and, staple.  Oh, to be sure, there is someone who is designated to change the ink or toner as it calls for it.  And usually, office etiquette says, if you empty the paper, then you are supposed to put more into the machine.  Easy enough, but there is one thing most people never think about. I know I never did. At least, not until now. 

It was trivial at first. I started noticing little things go missing. It was easy enough to think it was my co-workers.  Steph had run out of paperclips and took some from my desk. No worry there. The odd safety pin that I would keep in my drawer was next. I did think it was a bit rude for folks to go into the drawers of my desk without asking first. I mean, really!

In talking to others, I found out that they too had had things go missing from their desks. Small stuff at first.  Then James complained that his new steel mug and thermos was gone. Julia’s power cord to her computer was next. Harold had an entire desk lamp disappear. The objects were getting larger, and stranger. Soon, anything that was made of metal was going missing.  Small pocket change, keys, it seemed odd. Then William asked when we got the pretty staples. Everyone came to see, and there on his desk was a stack of reports with copper-colored staples. I wondered about all those pennies that were once in the coffee fund can, which was now missing.  But then, so too was the coffee maker!

I am desperate now, trying to find a way out of here.  The parts inside the phone are gone now. The thing grows longer snakelike arms every day.   The larger, more complicated items it brings to me for disassembly. I have no idea when it will have all it wants or needs, maybe then I can leave.

People really should know about these things.   Maintenance includes more than just the paper and ink.  More than just the “machine guy” every three months for a cleaning and lube. The staples should not be overlooked on these ‘smart machines’.

Haunt Jaunts with Courtney Mroch: An Introduction

Hello, boos and ghouls!

Self-introductions are always awkward, aren’t they? There you are, in front of strangers, trying to tell them who you are.

Maybe you’re in a room. Maybe it’s just a small office before a job interview or something. Maybe a larger one, like a presentation room at a convention.

Or, maybe like I am now, via the World Wide Web. Which in some ways makes it less awkward. Or at least less intimidating. I don’t have to see how many people have shown up –or have not shown up, as the case may be. (Which is even scarier. No one wants to feel ignored and unseen.)

So who I am, this new Addict joining the writing team here at HorrorAddicts.net?

Well, for starters, my name is Courtney Mroch. From the time I was able to read I wanted to be like them. The people who created the beloved books I’d devour one after the other.

I didn’t know what kind of author I wanted to be, apart from fiction. But as far as genre? No, that wouldn’t be decided for a few years.

Speaking of genres, I have published fiction in a few different genres: romance, mystery, thriller, suspense, and horror. Usually as some combination of two or more of them. For instance, my last novel, The Ghost of Laurie Floyd, was what I like to call a romantic suspense meets whodunnit with a paranormal twist.

But in my late 20s/early 30s I also felt called to write non-fiction. Mostly personal and travel essays. My essays tend to be more mainstream, but my travel interests are much like my fiction reading interests: dark, scary, spooky and macabre.

I had no confidence in my early travel writing because it wasn’t genuine. It was imitation. I was trying to emulate other travel writers people found popular. I hadn’t found my voice yet. Or, again, my “genre.”

By my late 30s, thanks in part to a battle with cancer and my fascination with jaunting to haunted places, I found the travel niche I wanted to work in: paranormal tourism.

I launched my blog, Haunt Jaunts, in 2009 and have continued to write about my haunted travels ever since.

Well, sort of. I’ve actually traveled quite extensively since 2009, both internationally and domestically. From Alaska, California, New York and Georgia to Turkey, England, Greece, and Singapore…these are just a few of the places I’ve been.

But I rarely write about my own travels. I always mean to, but…I don’t. Why? I don’t know. It’s complicated. It’s like I want to share what I’ve seen, but I also want to save it for some other time that never seems to come.

Odd, right? It is. So what do I write about then? Haunted places themselves, people within the paranormal community, spooky events, horror movies…I am at no loss for things to write about. In fact, that’s why I applied to write for HorrorAddicts.net. I’ve got 50 Evernote notebooks full of post ideas. (And that’s no exaggeration. The exact number is 51.) I could put them all on Haunt Jaunts, I guess, but… I’d also like to bring some more awareness to Haunt Jaunts. I’ve heard one way to do that is to put myself out there on different blogs and in different spaces.

So here I am.

What will I write about here? I’ve already got an Evernote list with some ideas, such as:

  • Would You Use Scaryrentals.Com If It Was a Real Service?
  • 10 States Where Clowns Will Be Delivering Donuts This Halloween
  • Come Unhinged This Fall with the Winchester Experience
  • A New Reason to Make a Trek to Dubai: Zombie Apocalypse Park
  • Places You Can Watch Horror Movies Where They Were Filmed

The titles aren’t set in stone, but it gives you a taste of what’s to come. We’ll start there and see what other dark paths we find to explore on this journey.

For now, I’ll thank you for your time. I look forward to getting more acquainted with each other. (You can give me a sense of who you are and your likes by checking-in with comments and such. You never know, something you may say or suggest may spark my muse and be the catalyst for another post. Love when that happens!)

Until next time, stay spooky (especially when others discourage it!) and ciao for now! ~ Courtney

Book Review: Coyote Rage by Owl Goingback

5/5 stars

My first introduction to Owl Goingback’s writings was his collection Tribal Screams, which I loved. This book also contained a taster to Coyote Rage and I was pretty certain I would read the novel when it came out. Here I am, some months later and the book lies finished at my side. Goingback weave’s his story between the modern world and Native American mythology, creating a unique blend of fantasy and horror.

Kindle EditionAs the last human member of the Great Council of Galun’lati lives out his remaining days in a nursing home, Coyote hatches a plot to eliminate him and also the daughter who would take his place. He tells the other creatures it is time for those of ‘fur and feather’ to take back control of their world. His target, Luther Watie, evades him and so the hunt begins for both Watie and his daughter. Not all creatures are on Coyote’s side, man has some friends, in this instance Raven and Mouse, but are they enough? This is a wonderful tale of shape-shifting and magic and the prose is pure poetry when the story slips into the otherworld of Galun’lati. Owl Goingback is a writer of quality and one I know I will return to.

My Darling Dead: Episode 5 – The Suitor

Prince Heyworth had come from the kingdom of Duyuwan, over a hundred leagues away, in troll country. He had grown into a tall strong man and had made quite a name for himself in his home kingdom thumping trolls before turning his attention to a far more unwinnable prize: the princess Alasin of Dandoich. Over a dozen suitors had left the kingdom with their hearts in tatters after attempting to tame the princess. Heyworth had been at the task for a week and was unable to admit, even to himself, that his goal was likely to be a doomed one.

The first night, he had arrived to a feast in his honor. The queen had seated Heyworth and Alasin together and, installing herself on his other side, proceeded with an interview clearly meant to highlight his virtues to the sullen princess to his right who was doodling on a scrap of parchment with a quill she had brought to the table. The queen continued in this vein for some time, making it difficult for Heyworth to consume any amount of food set before him, he was so occupied with his narrative. By the end of the feast, the princess had met his eyes once, and she retired early to her bedchamber without inviting him to join her. Each night had ended thus, and he felt as though he had spent the week trying to woo a brick wall.

Now it was approaching the evening meal and he had not laid eyes upon his target since that morning when, in response to his inquiry, she had curtly told him she was going out and would be back later. He had spent the day wandering the castle, yet again. He had gathered some knowledge from questioning the farrier as to the shoeing preferences of the castle’s horses, admired the swords in the armory and endured a highly uncomfortable tea with the queen, at which she had hinted extensively that any prince worth his salt should have her daughter smitten by now. He was just about to go up to the tallest tower and start counting the trees he could see through the gathering dusk in the distant forest when he heard the lookout’s shout.

“Princess Alasin returns! Have open the gates!”

An unconscious set to his jaw, Heyworth strode to the battlements overlooking the gate, watching the princess’s litter draw closer up the roadway leading to the castle. He tapped his fingers, glancing to the sunset. Nine hours she had been gone.

If he was to win her, he would have to instill respect.

He started down from the battlements as the drawbridge clanked down, the gate clanked up, then the process reversed itself as the litter came to a stop in its accustomed place near the stable. Without delay, the litter bearers dispersed, eager to put as much distance between themselves and its inhabitant as possible. As Heyworth stood there, waiting for the princess to emerge, he could hear a loud sniffing sound, as though one were sampling the fragrance of a good meal. No sooner had the sound dissipated than the Princess Alasin emerged, eyes streaming and a manic grin on her face that only fell slightly when she beheld him.

“Hey…it’s you…Haystack, am I right?” Alasin giggled, nearly losing her balance as she stepped down from the litter.

Heyworth reached out a hand to steady her. “Princess…please allow me to assist you.” He stepped forward, intending to put an arm about her waist. She pushed him away.

“No touching! Seriously, Haystack, I require no assistance. Please leave me.”

He caught her by the upper arm, tightening his grip so she could not pull away. “Well, my lady, I would like an explanation where you have been lo these many hours with no word of your whereabouts to your mother or suitor.” His grip tightened further.

Alasin snorted, her gaze sharpening. “I’m not sure who you think you are, by the gods, but I owe my mother nothing, and you less than that. Unhand me this instant!”

Heyworth felt a minor explosion in his chest as rage flooded through him. He grabbed her other arm. “That is all the disrespect I will tolerate from you, princess or no!” Digging his meaty fingers in, he pulled her toward the door leading to the castle’s sleeping quarters he was currently occupying. Alasin scratched and bit but Heyworth’s muscles had grown up fighting trolls and she was dragged, cursing, up the stairs toward his bedchamber. Fight though she did, the thought of screaming never entered her mind.

Slamming his chamber door behind them, Heyworth threw her from him, sending her flying across the room and knocking her head into one of the four poster bed’s pillar. She sat down hard, swaying. The world swam before her as the rug beneath the bed came into focus. She could see clumps of dust clinging to the fibers and she thought dazedly, must remember to thrash the cleaners for that.

She heard the sound of panting, like a dog’s. He was breathing fast as his hands worked his belt buckle and there was an ugly glint to his eyes. “Need a lesson in manners,” he muttered as he jerked the belt from his pant loops and adjusted himself. “Respect. Deference. You WILL give them to me.” Snapping the belt between his balled fists, he started toward her. “Princess, I regret that you’ve made me do this, but if you just–”

He stopped, mid-stride, narrowed eyes taking in the small blade poised to throw in Alasin’s hand from where she crouched on the floor beside the bed frame. Now she rose to her feet, keeping the blade leveled at him.

“Listen, cretin,” she said flatly, her breathing rapid, “the only reason you are not dead where you stand is that the fact of your death would benefit me less than your survival. Depart from here immediately and never darken the land near me for the remainder of your days. I am the princess of the realm and I have spoken. Now depart, before I am forced to end you regardless of the ramifications.”

Heyworth licked his lips, feeling the blood drain a little from his loins. The belt drooped. He attempted a sneer. “You’re just a princess. You haven’t got what it takes.” He stood a little taller to enhance his stature. “I have single-handedly slain more trolls and enemies than I can recall if–”

“Listen to me Heyworth,” Alasin said, stepping closer to him, her teeth bared. “You have no idea of who I am, nor what I am capable of. I suggest you leave, before I show you. You have no more warnings.” Her eyes never left his.

In other circumstances, this may have worked. But Heyworth’s trollish pride had been wounded, and the ugly look returned to his head. A grin that may have been a leer appeared on his face. He raised the belt and took a step closer as well. “Listen here, brat, wave that knife of yours in my face and your mother–”

Quicker than the eye could follow, an expression of fury flashed across Alasin’s face and letting out a scream, her arm flicked out and she cut his throat as deeply as she could, scraping her knife on his vertebrae. Blood spurted across her face and she wiped it from her eyes as Heyworth sank to the floor, dropping his belt and clawing at his throat as though he could mend the damage she had done. Alasin smirked as she sank to her knees, her eyes following those of the dying Prince Heyworth, waving the blade in front of his face as it drained of color.

“I told you, pig,” she hissed, wiping the knife on Heyworth’s cheek, leaving a bloody smear and a fresh gash as the keen blade kissed his cheek. “I owe my mother nothing.”

She pushed him and he fell backward, striking his head hard against the stone floor. Dazed and struggling for breath, he sank back, his view of the ceiling impeded by the large dark circles that had begun to spin in the forefront of his vision. He remembered hearing rumors throughout the kingdom that the princess carried a poison blade. He had discounted it as just the rumors of common folk. Now as the dark circles claimed him, for the first time, he wondered if he could have been wrong…

“Princess! Princess Alasin!”

The door crashed open. Alasin looked up to see three of the castle guards struggling to be the first through the door. The first guard came forward, uncertainty on his features. “Lady, the wizard bade us come to aid with the greatest of speed. Do you require assistance?”

She rose to her feet, looking disdainfully down at the dead prince. “Yes,” Alasin said, and prodded Heyworth’s corpse with her foot. “Remove this from the castle and inform the queen that her latest suitor is rejected.” She felt the bottle hanging between her breasts and her pulse quickened in anticipation as she hurried out the door.

The three guards looked at each other and at the body on the floor of the bedchamber. Together, the two older guards looked at the youngest. The eldest guard gestured at the corpse as they took their hasty leave of the room.

“Mind you soak up the blood after you move him.”

Chilling Chat: 10 Quick Questions with Riley Pierce

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Riley J. Pierce lives in Wisconsin with her family, and her growing collection of books. Always fascinated by horror and science fiction, she finds inspiration for the macabre DSCN4277everywhere. When she’s not writing, she can be found binge-watching the latest horror film alone in the dark.

1) How old were you when you first discovered horror?

In second grade, in our school library, we were each assigned a section to keep clean and organized. I was assigned the horror section. I spent hours in that section reading all about the paranormal, haunted civil war battlefields around me, and spooky folklore.

2) Who is your favorite author? Who has influenced you?

I’ve always loved to read, so I truly believe that my love of writing came from discovering the writing of Alvin Schwartz.

3) What inspired you to write your piece?

I love nautical folklore. I loved that sirens and mermaids were beautifully lethal in some legends, and I wanted to take that, but look at it a bit differently.

4) How much control do you exert over your characters? Do they have free will?

Yes and no. I’m a meticulous planner in my everyday life, so when it comes to a character, I tend to let them have free will only when it suits their chosen path. I would call it more of an implied free will.

5) What did you learn from participating in the contest?

Being challenged to write in so many different formats with various word limits and themes taught me to step out of the puzzlebox (hi, Hellraiser fans) a little bit more than I would have on my own.

6) Would you do it again? What would you do differently?

I would most definitely do it again. I believe next time around I would allow myself the time and space to brainstorm more before choosing the first or second idea.

7) What is your favorite horror novel?

Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

                                                                      8) Favorite horror movie?

NGHWEdPSmThis is a tough one! I would probably say Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but that’s on a masterpiece classic level. For my favorite villain, Nightmare on Elm Street. For something that’s a fun watch, I’d choose Hereditary, Drag Me to Hell, or Hellraiser.

9) Favorite horror television show?

Masters of Horror.

10) What does the future hold for you? What do we have to look forward to?

I’m still working on a few projects, but to share my love of writing with others, I’ve been leading workshops at my local library on creative writing, novel outlining, and blogging.

Chilling Chat: 10 Quick Questions with Cat Voleur

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Cat Voleur is a horror blogger and writer of dark speculative fiction. She is following up her traditional education with studies in linguistics and parapsychology. When she is notMe at work or school, she’s enjoying a nice book or stressful video game in the company of her many feline friends.

1)  How old were you when you first discovered horror?

I was about 8 when I acknowledged that horror was a genre, but I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawn to it. I grew up loving scary stories and some of my first favorite movies were the black and white horror classics.

2) Who is your favorite author? Who has influenced you?

My favorite author would be Joe Hill. He consistently amazes me with his work, and has written some of my favorite novels and short stories. I’d say Stephen King is one of my strongest influences, for better and worse, because reading him taught me to include a lot of detail – much of which has to be edited out later. Some of my more recent influences would be Clive Barker and Max Lobdell.

3) What inspired you to write your piece?

The piece I have included in the collection is actually nonfiction. When I read that prompt, it was just the event that I was taken back to and I tried to write it as faithfully as I could remember.

4) How much control do you exert over your characters? Do they have free will?

I think a lot of that depends on the project. The longer a piece is the more the characters control me, but I feel like I have a certain level of authority when writing something a little more structured, like flash fiction.

I remember recently I was trying to explain my writing process to a friend, and I described myself as a sort of “Jigsaw” in regards to my less polished ideas. I set up these really dark scenarios based off of my assumption that I know the characters who will be experiencing them, but sometimes they surprise me with their will to survive or think outside the box.

5) What did you learn from participating in the contest?

I learned a lot of things about myself participating in the contest, a lot of personal things regarding my limits as a creator and my writing process.

The most important thing that I learned about writing horror though, would be how connected it is to other genres. I think one of the hardest aspects for me was that it required the contestants to write in many different tones for many different mediums that I would never have expected from a horror contest. The challenge I found most difficult was the comedy commercial script. Some of my favorite horror films are the self-referential slashers that rely very heavily on dark comedy, but I had never considered writing comedy as something I should try to improve on until this contest.

It was difficult, but learning about all the things that tie into horror made me a  better writer.

6) Would you do it again? What would you do differently?

I would absolutely do it again.

The one thing I’d do differently is I’d stick it out to the end. At the time I was participating in the contest, there were just so many personal things going on in my life that felt out of my control. I ended up switching jobs, moving across the country, there was a lot of my drama with my extended family, and I was struggling with a relationship that I didn’t realize was very unhealthy and actually harmful to me. When I also fell ill, it felt like one thing too many, and I just wasn’t turning out the quality of work I wanted to be submitting, so I dropped out.

That might have been the right thing at the time because I got worse before I got better, but I’ve learned a lot since then. I have more control over my life than I realized, so if I got another opportunity to compete in something I feel this passionately about, I’d feel confident in prioritizing it higher than I did last time around.

7)What is your favorite horror novel?

My favorite horror novel is The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker.

Aside from being an intimately disturbing read, I’ve never found a horror novel that reads quite so poetically. It’s some of the most beautiful body horror ever written.

8) Favorite horror movie?

My favorite horror movie is Cabin in the Woods because it’s got a little bit of everything. It’s funny, it’s scary, it’s emotional, and it’s so intelligently written. It pokes fun at the genre while simultaneously expressing a deep love for it, explaining tropes along the way. You can enjoy it as a casual fan, or watch it over and over to pick up every last horror movie reference they squeezed in. It’s been my favorite movie since I saw it in theater, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

9) Favorite horror television show?

NGHWEdPSmThe Haunting of Hill House, hands down.

I’ve been a Mike Flanagan fan for years now, but he handled the source material so brilliantly that I don’t even have to worry about being biased; the show’s just good. It’s scary, it’s gorgeous, and there are always new things to discover if you are in the mood to watch it again.

10.) What does the future hold for you? What do we have to look forward to?

Now that I’ve had plenty of time to recover and get my life back on track, I feel confident in saying that the future holds more horror writing for me.

I have a few very dark, experimental short stories under consideration right now and am about to start querying for my first two longer projects. Of course, I’m still blogging about the genre whenever I can find the time.

You can find Cat on Twitter and please, check out her Portfolio Site.

 

 

 

 

 

Irish Horror Author : Iseult Murphy

 Irish Horror Writers Month – Interview with Iseult Murphy

Tell us a bit about yourself? Name, State or country? What is your connection to Irish Heritage? Do you know what part of Ireland your ancestors came from? Do you live close to where they lived? Have you visited there?

Hello! My name is Iseult Murphy. I live in County Louth on the East Coast of Ireland, about 40 minutes from the capital city of Dublin.

How and when did you start writing?

I am fortunate to be the youngest of a large family, and I have a lot of siblings who are interested in reading and writing. I started writing my first novel when I was 7. In my teens, I won several short story competitions, and in my twenties I began to take writing more seriously and started submitting my work to publications.

Why write Horror?

I have always been drawn to horror. The world is a scary place, and I think the horror genre gives us the most freedom to explore our fears. They can be surface fears, or societal fears or deep seated existential fears. Horror is a safe place to shine a light on the struggles of life, revealing the best of us in the worst situations. It is also great fun.

What inspires you to write?

I get inspiration from everywhere. Sometimes my dreams inspire my stories, other times it is an overheard conversation or a headline in the news. I am very inspired by the natural world. I love animals and finding out about their behaviors and life cycles. There are some creepy things happening out there in nature! I also am very interested in myths, legends and folklore. Most of those tales are pretty dark, which is why I like them. One of my stories, ‘The Village Shop’, was inspired by a speech and drama festival I attended. One of the trophies was sponsored by ‘The Village Shop’, but village was spelled wrong, and it made me wonder what kind of things were sold in a vile-age shop.

Does being Irish inspire any part of your writing?

I think so. I love the myths and legends of Ireland. I’ve written several stories that deal with elements from Irish mythology. My short story ‘Heart of Gold’ has leprechauns, Irish gods and the amadan – a creature from Irish folktales who is said to wander the roads in August, and if you see him you will go insane.

What scares you?

Zombies. They are everywhere now, so most people have a plan on how to survive the ZA, but I’ve been planning my strategy since childhood. Body horror always gets me. Scott Sigler’s Infected made my skin crawl in all the best ways. I am very interested in transformation, both physical and psychological, and anything that explores having your identity being destroyed, or being trapped in a way that stops you from being able to communicate, really scares me. I read Kafka’s Metamorphosis when I was in my early teens, and the idea of being trapped as a giant bug without being able to communicate, and being forced to accept the changes to your life because of your physicality, really got to me. I know it has a deeper message, but the actual surface level story really made my skin crawl and stayed with me. Jeff Vandermere’s Southern Reach Trilogy gets to me for those reasons as well.

Who is your favorite author?

I have so many! My top 5 are Bram Stoker, Richard Matheson, Garth Nix, Peter S Beagle and J.R.R Tolkien.

What is your creative process like? What happens before you sit down to write?

I like to plan everything out in meticulous detail. I love world building, drawing maps and character sketches and filling notebooks on theme and mood. I have an atmosphere, or color palette, that I want to come across with each piece I write, so the story is percolating in my head for a while to work out the best way to bring that across. I like to shut off the internal editor, which is hard to do, and write the first draft as quickly as possible. The second draft is for bringing the story closer to my original vision.

Tell us about your current projects.

I have recently finished a novella about a woman who sets out to discover what she is, after surviving being burned at the stake. I am also working on two dark fantasy novels, and I’ve just started planning a horror novel, as I’m in the mood to write something gritty and dark.

Zoo of the Dead and other horrific tales by [Murphy, Iseult]What have you written and where can our readers find it?

My collection of 9 horror short stories, 6 previously published and 3 new, is called Zoo of the Dead and Other Horrific Tales and is widely available wherever eBooks are sold. Subscribers to my newsletter at http://www.iseultmurphy.com get a free short story every month. This month’s story, ‘Return to Hades’, is the story of a space mutant who journeys into the past to be reunited with a loved one.

 

 

 

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Iseult Murphy lives on the east coast of Ireland with two cats, five dogs, a kakariki and a couple of humans. She writes horror, fantasy and science fiction short stories and novels. Her work has appeared in over a dozen venues, including The Drabblecast and Alban Lake’s Drabble Harvest. A collection of her horror short stories,  Zoo of the Dead and Other Horrific Tales’ is available on Amazon and other eBook retailers.

Chilling Chat: 10 Quick Questions with JC Martinez

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JC Martinez writes fantasy, science fiction and, of course, horror.  An author still living his dream of telling stories as best as he can, JC Martínez will try his hardest to make your skinIMG_0346 crawl, give you delightful nightmares, and take your breath away.

1) How old were you when you first discovered horror?

Honestly, too young to remember how old I was. This past December, while I was cleanin’ out my closet, I found some short stories I wrote when I was less than ten years old, and even though they don’t scare me right now, they were a way to express that feeling of nervousness that horror had created in me. Sometimes, I think I’ve always had a fascination with the unknown, with the things that lurk in the dark. I like that uneasy feeling that makes your spine tingle. It tickles pleasantly.

2) Who is your favorite author? Who has influenced you?

Ray Bradbury. He, of course, has been an influence, and all the other authors and artists that I like have been essential for my development as a writer. It’s impossible for me to build a list of every single person that has made me the man I am today, so let’s just say I am grateful I can experience the works of the countless masters that have shaped my taste in art.

3) What inspired you to write your piece?

My feelings. I have a certain disaffinity to tongues and saliva in general. They make me feel uncomfortable, the traces of a viscous liquid left by a damp limb as they slowly enter your body through your pores. Yeesh. Most of my writings stem from what I find unagreeable, but taken to a dreadful extreme.

4) How much control do you exert over your characters? Do they have free will?

I can’t help but think that this one is a trick question. On the one hand, my characters only exist because I create them. On the other, most of the times, I don’t know what they’ll do until I make them do it. For me, that counts as free will, but not for the characters. That makes it sound as if I had a god complex, but I really don’t. It’s just that my brain, even when I don’t actively acknowledge it, will always continue the process of creating worlds and giving the characters the most appropriate actions under any given circumstance. The only thing they can do is fall to command.

5) What did you learn from participating in the contest?

Many things. Mostly, how to deal with emotions and that the only thing a writer can do is to make the best they can with the ideas they find interesting.

6) Would you do it again? What would you do differently?

Sure. Probably. If I got in again with a good 100-word story. I don’t know what I’d do differently. Speculation has never been my strong suit outside fiction. They say humans are like rivers, in that they change through time. Under a different perspective, and amidst other circumstances, I really don’t know how I’d behave.

7) What is your favorite horror novel?

I don’t have one. The Martian Chronicles is hands down my favorite book, and while it has some scary bits, it’s not a horror novel. I’m fond of way too many stories, styles and ideas to have just one favorite. I like John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Let the Right One In, and Bram Stoker’s portrayal of a genuinely monstrous Dracula. I like Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend and the transgressive fiction that is Chuck Palahniuk’s Haunted. I’m fond of the funnies that are David Wong’s John Dies at the End and Joe R. Landsdale’s Bubba Ho-Tep.

NGHWEdPSm8) Favorite horror movie?

I don’t have one either. There are just too many sub genres that it’s impossible to pick a single movie. Alien, The Omen, The Exorcist, Halloween, Fright Night, 28 Days LaterConstantine.

9.) Favorite horror television show?

Hannibal.

10) What does the future hold for you? What do we have to look forward to?

All I can say is that from now and until I leave this mortal coil, I’ll continue to deliver the best stories I can come up with.

 

Irish Horror Writers Interview With Sean Murray

Irish Horror Writers Month – An Interview with Sean Murray

Tell us a bit about yourself? Name, State or country?

Hello, my name is Sean Murray and I am from New York.

What is your connection to Irish Heritage?

My family is from Cork.   I live far away in the US.  I haven’t visited yet, but I plan on it!

 

How and when did you start writing?

I started writing at the age of 14, short stories and lyrics. The themes usually leaned heavily toward the macabre.  After writing many songs for bands such as HERSISTER and Black Cat Sessions, I switched gears and began writing screenplays.

Why write Horror?

I’ve been a fan of the genre since I was a kid. In all forms:  movies, books, magazines and beyond.  I write other stuff as well, but horror is my usual output.  I’ve always been drawn to explore the darkness.

What inspires you to write?

Ideas flow through my head all the time, I’m not sure what it is that makes me write, but just being alive is inspiring. I don’t know why I feel the need to write stuff out,  I just do it.

Does being Irish inspire any part of your writing?

I feel that is connected in ways that are really hard to explain, but yeah. Certain characters and settings are based on my personal cultural experiences.

What scares you?

What scares me most is the fragility of life. How any one of us can go at any given time.  Life can change in the course of a second, and to me that is terrifying.

Who is your favorite author?

Mary Shelley. Frankenstein was emotionally brutal.  For me that’s where horror works best-when it’s emotionally driven.

What is your creative process like? What happens before you sit down to write?

I write everyday, usually at night. I get ideas all the time, and I let them spin throughout my mind over the course of the day.  When I hit the keyboard in the evening, I refine those ideas.  For me the process is pretty smooth, as I’ve already worked the idea out in my head.

Tell us about your current projects.

Interment – a horror film, currently in post production, which will be released later in the year. This film is also my directorial debut.

Unto Decease – currently filming.

What have you written and where can our readers find it?

Interment , which will be released in April, 2019. This is a horror film which was                                                   produced by MDMN Films. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt865664

 

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Sean Murray is an actor/writer-director from upstate NY.  Early roles in horror films such as “Sociopathia”, and When Blackbirds Fly” led to a desire to work behind the camera as well as in front of it.  After serving as assistant director on the films “A Line Between All Things”, and “Crush”, Sean focused on directing.  The feature film “Interment” is Sean’s directorial debut, and will be released later this year!

Chilling Chat: 10 Quick Questions with Feind Gottes

 

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Feind Gottes [Fee-nd Gotz] is a horror nut, metal lover, and an award-winning horror author. He resides near Omaha, NE with his girlfriend and one crazy cat.  Feind has Feind Gottes author photostories appearing in seven anthologies with several more to be published in 2019, and is currently editing his debut novel.

1) How old were you when you first discovered horror?

For me, I was probably about 4 years old. The Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz absolutely terrified me. I got over it, of course, only to have my older sister torment me with The Amityville Horror (1979) until I forced myself to watch it. Once I did I was hooked. I think I was about 9 or 10 years old at the time.

2) Who is your favorite author? Who has influenced you?

My favorite author without question is Clive Barker. I’ve never read anyone else whose prose affects me the way his does. As for influences I have many since I was an avid reader for about thirty years before I began writing myself. A few of the major ones would be Stephen King, JRR Tolkien, Frank L Baum, John Grisham and, of course, the absolute master of the macabre Edgar Allan Poe.

3) What inspired you to write your piece?

I like to think I write horror for fans of horror which means I write with the expectation that my readers already have some horror background. My essay was the first time I have written anything that was expected to be humorous so I tried to throw in a few references for horror fans like Ash (Bruce Campbell) from The Evil Dead, Dr. West (Jeffrey Combs) from Re-animator, and Dr. Satan from House of a 1,000 Corpses. Some may not get these references and that’s ok. I did that simply as a wink and a nod to horror fans who do know.

4) How much control do you exert over your characters? Do they have free will?

I think I try to balance the two. I control the actions of my characters but as I write and develop a character how they enact those actions or react to them may differ from my initial plan. That is part of the fun of the process in bringing a character to life. Sometimes you have to change your plan on the fly which is why I don’t make a rigid plot outline before I begin a new work.

5) What did you learn from participating in the contest?

The biggest thing I learned from the NGHW contest was writing in styles completely out of my comfort zone. I had never even attempted anything humorous, I hadn’t written a serious poem in years and I had never attempted writing an advertisement script. Whether I write any of those specific styles again matters little, doing it forced me to grow as a writer. Having to meet all the deadlines didn’t hurt either.

6) Would you do it again? What would you do differently?

I would absolutely do it again if I had the time. I’d do nothing differently though, everything I write is the best thing I can write in that moment. The contacts and friendships formed from participating in this contest are absolutely invaluable. I didn’t look at the other participants as my competition but simply as fellow writers struggling to have their voices heard. Writing is not a competitive sport despite this being a contest. I don’t think anyone who participated lost anything. We all gained knowledge which is more important than anything else.

7) What is your favorite horror novel?

I have to say It by Stephen King since the category is “horror novel” but my favorite novel is Imajica by Clive Barker. Both are absolute masterpieces.

8) Favorite horror movie?

Tough one for me as I’ve seen literally hundreds, if not thousands from the Universal Monsters to Cannibal Holocaust. I usually give one of two answers to this one so either High Tension (2003 – Alexander Aja’s 1st film) or Phantasm (1979).

9) Favorite horror television show?

Hands down it’s Ash vs Evil Dead. Bruce Campbell is simply the best!

10) What does the future hold for you? What do we have to look forward to?

nghwedpsmThe truth is VERY MUCH! In fact, people may get sick of seeing my name this year. As of today, I’ve had one anthology released, 100 Word Horrors: Part 2, (I get to share pages with some truly great authors in this one) and I have 9 more anthologies scheduled for release this year (including NGHW: Editor’s Picks!) with another half dozen pending. Also if I can kick my butt in gear my debut novel, Piece It All Back Together, will be unleashed by Stitched Smile Publications before the end of the year. I’m not looking for any pats on the back, these publications are the result of a few years of writing my butt off non-stop. If you want to be successful you have to work hard, plain and simple.

I’ve also been contributing some horror movie reviews to a friend’s website, Machine Mean, and recently launched my own website, Feind’s Fiends, to try keeping everyone (including myself) updated on what I have in the works. All while now working 45 hours/week at the day job, gotta pay those dang bills! Regardless of what success I achieve, or do not, I will be writing terrible things until I have faded into the void. I’ve adopted the motto… Stay Positive & Make Good Art!

You can find Feind on Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter

 

 

Chilling Chat: 10 Quick Questions with Sumiko Saulson

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Sumiko Saulson is a cartoonist, horror writer, editor of Black Magic Women – on the 2019 Stoker’s Recommended Reads List – and 100 Black Women in Horror Fiction. Author of MauskaveliSolitude, Warmth, Moon Cried Blood, Happiness and Other Diseases. Comics Mauskaveli, Dooky, Dreamworlds, and Agrippa. She writes for SEARCH Magazine.

1) How old were you when you first discovered horror?

My parents were both big horror fans, and I was watching horror movies in the theater when I was 4 or 5 years old. My mom told me dad took her to see Rosemary’s Baby when she was pregnant with me, but of course, I don’t remember that. I do remember watching Dark Shadows with Mom, Outer Limits and Twilight Zone with Dad, and going to see It’s Alive, the first horror movie I actually remember, when I was about 5 years old. It was about a horrible monster baby who ate people. I loved it! The first horror novel I read was Peter Straub’s Ghost Story when I was 11. I was also reading a lot of horror shorts among the sci-fi shorts in Asimov’s Science Fiction.

2) Who is your favorite author? Who has influenced you?

My favorite writer changes a lot and at the moment it is Toni Morrison, who isn’t even a horror writer but is one of my most-read writers nonetheless. My influences are all pretty mainstream. I picked up The Talisman when I was 12 and added Stephen King to my favorite writer’s list along with Edgar Allen Poe. Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Anne Rice, Dean Koontz, Christopher Rice, Susan Cooper, Frank Herbert. I have ingested so many books by a few favorites that I am sure my writing style has been affected. I am also a huge fan of anthologies and sci-fi, horror, and fantasy magazines where you can gain exposure to lots of different writers in small tastes, and see who you like. I read a lot of Weird Sisters and other horror tale magazines as a teen. Those affected me. Mythologies have affected me a lot. I read a lot of Greek, Roman and Norse mythology as a kid, and as an adult, I casually read both historical mythologies and created mythologies. I should have listed CS Lewis because the created mythology in Chronicles of Narnia impacted me heavily as an adolescent.

3) What inspired you to write your piece?

The song’s title “Under the Water” is from the song of that name by the artist Jewel from the movie The Craft. The story I wrote is about a ship that is being seduced by a giant cephalopod (squid or octopus) type sea monster such as a Kracken who wants her to become a ghost ship. Both the ship and the monster are female. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest was definitely an inspiration, as were Greek and Roman myths about sea monsters such as the Kraken and the Charybdis – a monster whose mouth created whirlpools to drag ships to the bottom of the ocean. The ship would have to sacrifice her human cargo to the monster, so they would become part of a ghost ship. As the ship is dragged deeper into the depths by the cephalopod, she begins to doubt the sincerity of the sea creature because she sees lots of dead seamen from the past and torn up ships. Then, the monster starts talking to her like Armand in The Theater of Vampires did to the woman he drained on stage, about how even if she’s being lied to it would be a glorious noble death so she wins either way. That part of the story was inspired by my former fiance’s battle with drugs, which ultimately ended his life, not long after. I had written a lot of sea stories the year prior about the drowning man sort of feeling being dragged down into the depths of addiction gives one. So this is sort of an allegory. Drugs are seductive and so is the sea creature.

4) How much control do you exert over your characters? Do they have free will?

Some of my characters have more free will than others. It depends on whether the story is world-driven or character-driven. The vast majority of my stories are character-driven, which means that about a third of the way into the story, the world is built, the scene is set, and the characters sort of begin to write themselves. The more free will the characters have, the less technical and more moving the writing is.

5) What did you learn from participating in the contest?

I do my best work short story when I have more time than was allotted during the contest. I have great story ideas, but my ability to follow through and edit them on such tight deadlines is severely inhibited. I’m good at taking, absorbing, and responding to criticism but I dislike it. I am very absent-minded, probably due to having post-traumatic stress disorder. Greg – my ex-fiance – overdosed May 26, 2017, and I could have pulled out of the contest, but I didn’t. I didn’t want to. I am a very determined person. I found out I am tougher than I think I am. I found out I CAN work on those tight deadlines, even if it isn’t my forte. And sixth place out of hundreds who applied and I think 15 or so who competed is not too bad. I also learned that it is really important to have clever story titles. And that I need someone else to proofread my work before I send it in.

6) Would you do it again? What would you do differently?

I don’t regret doing it so I absolutely would. I regret not asking for help after Greg died. I literally sent in the wrong manuscript, and I lost 10 points for not reaching the right word count and dropped from 4th place to 9th place overnight because I made a mistake and sent in the wrong file. It makes me want to cry when I think about it to this day. I had a version of the story that was completed, and I could have sent it in and I definitely would have placed higher – maybe 4th place, if I hadn’t slipped up. I can’t prevent people from dying, but I can ask for support when I need it from my family and friends. On the bright side, I did get the story accepted for Loren Rhoads’ charity anthology, Tales from the Campfire. She said it was her favorite one in the whole anthology! Of course, I edited it twice – once for an anthology Dan Shaurette was working on called Not Today  – he rejected it – and then for a Mary Shelley work honoring anthology of some kind that rejected it. Getting rejected and doing re-writes seems to be a part of the business. And I finally took the judges’ advice and changed the damned story title! It was called Experiment IV, it is now called Unheard Music from the Dank Underground. The advice about avoiding dull story titles was some of the most memorable from the contest. I would say it was an educational experience and that I notice the people who were in the top five are all popping up all over the place and quickly moving ahead in their careers so I think it’s educational, and good experience and people should go for it!

nghwedpsm7) What is your favorite horror novel?

         The Vines by Christopher Rice

8) Favorite horror movie?

        Candyman

9) Favorite horror television show?

        Supernatural

10) What does the future hold for you? What do we have to look forward to?

As you may know, I am the only black author who completed the contest, and even though I made it in sixth, not first place, that alone makes me a winner just because I decided to stick it out and to represent. I totally hate it when I am watching Face/Off or some other horror related contest and the black guy gets voted off in the first or third episode, so I was very determined to stick it out.

I got a lot of interest from black anthologies and people who are interested in horror authors of African heritage. I got three stories in Scierogenous II which is edited by Valjeanne Jeffers and Quinton Neal. I also edited Black Magic Women, a horror anthology on Mocha Memoirs Press. It ended up being on the Bram Stoker’s Recommended Reads list in 2018 and did quite well critically and in terms of sales. I edited Crystal Connor’s YA horror story My 1st Nightmare. I am editing my second anthology, Wickedly Abled, a collection of stories horror, dark fantasy and dark sci-fi by and about disabled people. I am working on Akmani, the fourth book in the Happiness and Other Diseases series and Disillusionment, the second in the Solitude series. I am starting to appear at conventions nationally and not just locally. I’m still churning out short stories and getting into more and more anthologies.

Chilling Chat: 4 Quick Questions with Naching T. Kassa, Daphne Strasert, and Jess Landry

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Naching T. Kassa is a wife, mother, and horror writer. She also serves as Head of Publishing for HorrorAddicts.net and as an intern for Crystal Lake Publishing. She lives in Eastern Washington with Dan Kassa, her husband and biggest supporter. Naching is a member of the Horror Writers Association.

Daphne Strasert is a horror, dark fantasy, and speculative fiction writer from Houston, Texas. She has been published in several anthologies including Crescendo of Darkness and Postcards from the Void. 

Jess Landry’s fiction has appeared in several anthologies, including Fantastic Tales of Terror, Monsters of Any Kind, Lost Highways: Dark Fictions from the Road, and the forthcoming Twice-Told: A Collection of Doubles, among others.

1) What did you learn from participating in the contest?IMG_1979

NTK: I learned so much from the contest. Most of which is detailed in my little op-ed in the book. But, if I had to pick one thing it would be learning how to submit a novel for a publisher’s consideration.

DS: The Next Great Horror Writer Contest was my first time making short stories. I learned about keeping my writing tight and making sure that my stories had no extra fluff that they didn’t need–especially for a short story that really needs to keep the tension high.  I learned how to proof my writing (especially on a deadline) and make sure that I was submitting my absolute best work.

JL: As cheesy as it sounds, I learned that if I put my mind into something, I can do it. It was daunting at first—we basically had 1-2 weeks per assignment to whip out a smorgasbord of different stories…albeit not all at once, but still. My brain can pretty much only concentrate on one idea at a time, so the struggle was real, y’all.

2) Would you do it again? What would you do differently?

NTK: I wish I could. I loved the challenges and I miss them. Receiving an assignment from Emz was like the prelude to a writing adventure. Unfortunately, I won’t participate in another #NGHW contest. As a staff member of HorrorAddicts.net, I’d have to recuse myself from it. But, even if I weren’t part of HA, I couldn’t do it. I had my chance. It’s time to step aside and let others step up. I’d love to be a judge though.

As to what I’d do differently, researching more comes to mind. Some of my work suffered because I didn’t know what to write. I’d never written a full blog piece before. If I’d been smart, I’d have gone to the HorrorAddicts.net website and studied the pieces they’d accepted in the past. This is a big mistake we writers make. We submit to magazines, anthologies, and publishers without studying what they produce.

Daphne StrasertDS: I would do the contest again in a heartbeat, if HorrorAddicts.net would let me (though I’m sure they’d rather have a whole new batch of newbies!). Maybe if the contest runs again, I could act as a judge or a writing mentor.

For what I would do differently, I would spend more time prepping my novel through the duration of the contest. When I was lucky enough to present to Crystal Lake, I wished that I’d had more time. Even if I hadn’t been in the top three, the work on the novel never would have gone to waste.

JL: Heck yes. It was a great all-around experience, and – most importantly – it got me writing. A lot of the work I created during the contest has gone on to find wonderful homes, so I couldn’t be happier with how everything turned out.

3) What inspired your piece?

NTK: Like most of my ideas, it came out of the blue while I washed dishes. Dishes are boring. So boring, I have to distract myself with stories to get through them.

I think I was washing a big pot with spaghetti noodles stuck to the bottom when Father Lopez’s character came to me. But, I could be wrong. It might’ve been macaroni.

DS: “Audio Addict” was inspired, in part, by the Crescendo of Darkness prompt itself Jess Landrywhere it mentioned “the lack of music”. That inspired the idea of a world in which there was no music, or at least, not pervasive the way it is in our world. Once I hit on the idea of music as an illicit commodity, the structure of “Audio Addict” was almost fully formed.

JL: Wesley Snipes. In particular an interview with Patton Oswalt where he said that during the filming of Blade: Trinity, that Mr. Snipes stayed in character the whole time, even signing notes he had for the director of the film as ‘Blade.’ I thought, hell, if he’s that in character, does he keep his teeth in when he goes to sleep? Or when he goes out to get gelato? Wouldn’t he want something with a little…sparkle? From that train of thought, FangBlingz was born.

4) What does the future hold for you? What do we have to look forward to?

NTK: I’m editing an anthology called, Dark Divinations, for HorrorAddicts.net. We’re accepting submissions until Halloween. Each story must be set in the Victorian age (1837-1901) and involve some element of divination.

I have a few stories coming out too. My story, “War Beads,” will appear in the Dead Light Publishing anthology, Not Just a Pretty Face. “Phantom Caller” will appear in Kill Switch. And, “Second Strike,” will be published in the anthology Dark Transitions by Thirteen O’clock Press.

nghwedpsmDS: I have a few stories slated to come out in 2019, including one for the HorrorAddicts.net anthology Kill Switch. I will also be completing a mystery novel and submitting to publishers.

JL: The future is full of deadlines, glorious deadlines. I have several new stories scheduled for some awesome anthologies coming out later this year (my lips are sealed on the specific details!), and one of my short stories, “Mutter” (from Crystal Lake Publishing’s Fantastic Tales of Terror), has been nominated for a Bram Stoker Award in the Short Fiction category, which is exciting (beyond exciting, really. I’m just trying to contain myself).

You can find Naching on Facebook and Twitter.

Jess can be found on Facebook.

Chilling Chat: 10 Quick Questions with Jonathan Fortin

chillingchat

Jonathan Fortin was named the Next Great Horror Writer by HorrorAddicts.net and is a graduate of the Clarion Writing Program. His novel Lilitu: The Memoirs of a Succubus is a JonathanFortinAuthorPhoto_Sepiaforthcoming release from Crystal Lake Publishing.

1) How old were you when you first discovered horror?

I remember getting into horror as early as first grade when I started reading the Goosebumps books. Then in middle school, I became obsessed with Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow and wrote a trilogy of short vampire novels. However, I was an anxious, easily-terrified child, so I didn’t fully embrace horror until later in life. Now, I’d always been drawn into darkly magical worlds, even in the video games I adored (American McGee’s Alice, Planescape: Torment, Vampire the Masquerade, etc.) But because I was so sensitive, it was rare for me to watch horror movies in my youth. That changed when I went to college, and began trying to face my fears and challenge my limits. I realized then that I’d been a horror fan all along–I had just been too scared to accept it.

2) Who is your favorite author? Who has influenced you?

My favorite author is Neil Gaiman. Not always horror, but certainly dark. Other authors who have influenced me include China Mieville, Alan Moore, H.P. Lovecraft, Holly Black, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Carlton Mellick III, Dan Simmons, Clive Barker, Patrick Rothfuss, Haruki Murakami, and Junji Ito. Lately, I’ve been digging the work of Joe Hill and N.K. Jemisin.

3) What inspired you to write your piece?

“Consumption” is about the anxiety of losing your identity in a homogenized office culture. For my day job, I work in a call center. Environments like that make it difficult for people to be authentically themselves, as you can easily be judged by coworkers if they learn that you’re different from them in some way. For work to run smoothly, you must conform to a larger whole–losing your identity in the process. I’ve always been highly individualistic, and struggle to conform to social expectations, so I’ve never liked the idea of being consumed into something larger than myself. I didn’t get to explore this theme as deeply as I wanted because of the length requirements, but that was the fear that drove me to write this story.

4) How much control do you exert over your characters? Do they have free will?

Generally, I develop characters so that their behavior will naturally drive them into the stories that I want to tell, but I love it when they surprise me by doing things I don’t expect or react to each other in ways I never planned. In the past I’ve tried to force characters to act in ways that didn’t feel authentic to me, but as any writer will tell you, that just doesn’t work. So in my experience, characters NEED free will if you want the story to feel real. That doesn’t mean I won’t carefully manipulate the world around them, though.

5) What did you learn from participating in the contest?

You never know whether you’re really all that into a story idea until you try to write the damn thing.

6) Would you do it again? What would you do differently?

Since I won, I don’t really see the point in doing it again. I’m too busy trying to live up to the title, haha. But if I were to do it again, I would try harder to strengthen my nonfiction submissions (articles, interviews, etc.).

nghwedpsm7) What is your favorite horror novel?

Hard to choose, but a few that have stuck with me are Joe Hill’s NOS4A2, Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Caitlin R. Kiernan’s Silk, and Dan Simmons’ Drood. If I could include graphic novels, Black Hole by Charles Burns and Providence by Alan Moore would also be serious contenders.

8) Favorite horror movie?

Crimson Peak, Oldboy, The Thing (1982), and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, among many others.

9) Favorite horror television show?

There seems to be a pattern of four here, so I’ll say Carnivale, Hannibal, Penny Dreadful, and Stranger Things.

10) What does the future hold for you? What do we have to look forward to?

At some point, my novel Lilitu: The Memoirs of a Succubus will be released from Crystal Lake Publishing. HorrorAddicts is also putting out my short story Requiem in Frost, from the contest’s musical challenge. I’m working on a few other novel projects right now, and have a completed (if rough) first draft of one that I’m very excited about. My hope is to complete a polished, publishable draft of my second novel and then find an agent for it.

You can follow Jonathan on Facebook and Twitter.

Jeff Carlson’s Frozen Sky, Volume 4: Battlefront

When Jeff Carlson left us in July of 2017, we didn’t think we’d get a chance to read any more of his work. Such a sad prospect for those of us addicted to his high-octane, post-apocalyptic and science fiction writing.

But now, thanks to his family, we have a second chance to enjoy his work. His new book is the fourth and final installment of his Europa Series. The Frozen Sky: Battlefront is now on sale on Amazon for Kindle.

“Reeling from their battles against the People’s Supreme Society of China, the allied forces detect a radio signal from inside Europa’s vast, black depths. Rallying the survivors, Vonnie assembles an interspecies team with NASA and the sunfish for a do-or-die mission into the Great Ocean. What they find will turn their worlds upside down…”

According to his wife, “Battlefront, the fourth and final volume of Jeff Carlson’s Europa Series has been published. It is available now on Amazon as an eBook and the paperback version will be available soon. Jeff’s manuscript for Battlefront was nearly complete at the time of his death in July 2017, and the final editing and assembly was done by his father, Gus Carlson, as a tribute to Jeff and a service to his many fans.  Whether you are Jeff’s family, friend, fan, colleague, or professional contact, we hope his final creative vision will find a place on your shelf (or device) and in your hearts.”

We at HorrorAddicts.net thank his family for bringing this new work to us and especially to Gus who spent time to make sure we got the chance to read it. Thank you.

If you haven’t yet heard about Jeff, we have many episodes, interviews, and his tribute on this site to explore:

Click here to read Jeff’s tribute.

Frozen Sky 2: Betrayed by Jeff Carlson, A Review

A Jeff Carlson Double Header, A Review

13 Questions with Jeff Carlson, An Interview

Jeff Carlson on Post-Apocalyptic Fiction, A Blog by Jeff

Podcast Episode #051, Featuring Jeff’s work.

Podcast Episode #027, Featuring Jeff’s work.

Podcast Episode #020, Featuring Jeff’s work.

Podcast Episode #001, Featuring Jeff’s work.

#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!

 

 

HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference: Chat Transcripts!

 

Did you ever want to start a podcast but don’t know how?

Do you want to submit material but don’t know what the editor wants?

Never fear! At The HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference, our Podcast Hostess Emerian Rich and our Head of Publishing Naching T. Kassa have answered your questions in two live chat sessions via our HOW Forum.

 

Missed the chats, did you say? HOW Con has you covered once again with our chat transcripts! Emerian discusses podcasting, publishing, and the changing trends in horror while Naching, editor of the upcoming Dark Divinations anthology, shares insights on the submission process and the Next Great Horror Writer Contest.

Both transcripts can be found in HOW’s Horror Workshop section alongside more articles and tips from authors including Dina Leacock and Mercy Hollow and video interviews with witch author J.L. Brown and vampire writer Brian McKinley. There’s so much to see and read at HOW!